Video games gave me much comfort in this very trying year. They also stressed me out like you wouldn’t believe.
As 2017 is coming to a close, it’s time to let go of all the worries and start anew. Before that, it’s good to reflect and confront those demons as part of a healing process. These are games with very particular moments that I just couldn’t wrap my head around or conquer. Others annoyed in different ways. One of them gave me a legit moment where my head became cloudy and I felt panicked. Let’s start with that one.
Figuring out New York City’s subway system can be an ordeal on any given day. The hustle and bustle, the jaded faces of everyone collectively dreading the start of a long work day—it’s tiring. For anyone dropped into the city for their very first time and told to find their way in that mess? Well...good luck. That’s what happens on the first day of school when our Persona 5 protagonist is told to find and attend Shujin Academy. He may not have been in New York but I understood the familiarity of his situation, having experienced similar events in NYC on a daily basis.
As I controlled him during this nightmarish Tokyo commute, going through turnstiles and pondering which hallway to go down, I started to feel sick. Would we be late to class? Would the game punish me for tardiness?! The first few moments of Persona 5 showed just how downtrodden the protagonist is. Bullied, falsely accused of wrong doing, sent away from home to the care of a gruff guardian, and on probation—it’s all too much. The pressure of potentially being late to school was one more unnecessary stress added to the pile.
But I felt a twinge of real anxiety just by aimless walking around in Persona 5's subway. For a moment, I was overwhelmed. It was the same, undeniably real nerve-racking feeling I had experienced when I started taking the subways in New York. That same panic that bubbled to the surface when I had to navigate Tokyo’s subway systems a few years ago during vacation.
Persona 5's handling of the subway scene on the first day of school was well done. Too well done.
The last time I felt competent playing a Mario game was when I played Super Mario Galaxy 2. I loved the first and its sequel for how grand they felt. I loved that I could play around in the vast beauty of space outfitted with gorgeous Nintendo-made planets.
With this in mind, I was overjoyed when Super Mario Odyssey gave me worlds to travel and marvel at. It gave me Cappy and the abilities to possess creatures along the way. How very morbid! I took full advantage of it and went a step further. If I possessed marine life, I left their bodies to dry out on the land.
Perhaps, then, when I set out in search of power moons after the credits rolled, Odyssey punished me for my cruelty. Not really but it certainly felt like comeuppance.
Some of the levels I found were tough as nails. I expected no less from these post-credit Mario levels. They are a super challenge for me, the platformer peon that I am. I found a particularly difficult one which I’ve yet to beat. Bullet bills chase me, the platforms crumble, I get frustrated, I try for at least half an hour, and then I give up until my next willing venture into torturing myself.
As my first major multiplayer game, and my first real foray into a first person shooter (I get motion sickness), Destiny 2 was a treat in the first couple of months I played. I didn’t know what I was doing but I had two dedicated fire team members (friends as I call them outside The Traveler) willing to put up with my inexperienced shenanigans. I was terrible at it. My assists were okay but my kill count was abysmal. Playing with them wasn’t stressful for me (though maybe it was for them).
We had so much fun. I improved. We predictably failed the first raid. None of this was stressful.
What was stressful were those damned platforms on Titan. Because if you remember just one entry above, I excel at failing when it comes to platform gaming. It’s embarrassing, I know. I mastered it relatively quickly but for a few rounds, my friends’ laughter made my eye twitch as I plunged to my death into the ocean’s depths. Over and over again.
This SRPG didn’t come out in 2017. It came out in 2003. I was gifted a copy about two years ago. Every once in a while I’ll think fondly of my time with the moogle, Montblanc. Then I’ll remember that I was supposed to save Ivalice from my other friend who seemed to have lost his marbles. I’ll then recall that I don’t really know what’s going on in the story because of my extended breaks in between playing. My friend could really be in trouble! What happens next is that I’ll start playing again.
Whenever I pick up where I left off in Tactics Advance, it becomes clear why I haven’t finished it yet. I get addicted to fighting every little battle trying to unlock classes.
It’s all a stressful but enjoyable mess. Until I remember I have a backlog a mile long, then it just becomes stress and a whole lot of guilt.
So, I have Tetris down. But can someone teach me how to play puyo puyo?
This was cathartic. But who am I kidding. Until next year, video games.
Share your stressful 2017 video game moments if you’d like. Let’s reflect together.