It was Grand Theft Auto IV that drew my father to the Playstation 3 and it was to that same game that he withdrew to after hitting a frustrating bottle neck in Metal Gear Solid 4.
"I needed to just play a game for a little while, " he told me during a late night call earlier this week. "I got stuck in Metal Gear Solid and it was so frustrating playing it over and over again."
At 70, my dad isn't probably the typical Metal Gear Solid gamer, probably not even the typical gamer. But after watching me play through chunks of Grand Theft Auto shortly after its release he vowed to pick up the Playstation 3. Why the PS3? Because the original Xbox, now a magnet for dust in his house, got a chance and it was the Playstation's turn, he told me.
So on launch day my dad made his way to the only GameStop in Moultrie, Georgia, a town of pecan trees, tobacco warehouses and business-stopping high school football games. He got there before opening and stood in a line of one just to pick up the PS3 Metal Gear bundle.
After the set-up, the tweaking, the firmware updates, he settled down to play some Metal Gear Solid 4, his first experience with the franchise. I didn't hear from him for days. I imagined him sitting, cocooned in the self-exile of a tiny town in a tiny county, playing unshaven, the last great moments of Snake.
After a few days I called him up to check in, make sure he hadn't gone down the rabbit hole of virtual unreality. I asked him what he thought of the game.
"I think," he said slowly, "that they need to decide if they want to make a game or make a movie."
Had he given up, I asked. No, he hadn't done that, instead he had buckled down and muscled forward, enjoying a lot of what he had experienced.
I told him I had suggested the game because I thought he would like the themes of military and espionage, and that unlike the shooters he was so used to playing, he didn't have to worry so much about his slowing reflexes?
You can take your time, and let the action and the story unwind slowly, like a good book, I said.
Oh, he replied, I play it like a shooter. I don't sneak around really. I just die a lot.
But despite what has to be the frustrations inherent in tackling a stealth game with guns blazing, my dad was showing signs of getting into it, digging it. He had one night after dinner, for instance, "accidentally" played the game well into the morning hours, going to bed not much before the sun rose.
But his brief love affair with hardcore gaming came to a crashing halt Thursday night when Snake met Vamp and the mounting deaths finally sapped his will to game.
"I don't understand why they have to force me to beat Vamp," he said. "I mean it's completely stopped me from playing the game. I can't go do anything else. I just want to have fun, but I can't."
I hooked him up with some help, tips, a walk-through on how to deal with his Vamp problem, but I think, perhaps, it might be too late. Straddling the line between hardcore and easy entry games, my dad just got stun-knifed out of the game.
Old Man and the GTA [Kotaku]