My wife ducked her head under the blankets, trying to hide her laughter.
“What?” I’m a bit annoyed at the lack of respect for my enthusiasm, and my accomplishment.
“You’re fighting zombies with a guy named Frank!” I couldn’t understand every one of those words as she said them at the time, because of the unbelievable amount of laughter, but I was able to piece her sentence together nonetheless.
“Frank!” More laughter. I kissed her goodnight, clicked off the light, and left the room. My victory over Case West was clearly not going to be lauded appropriately at this time. Better to quit the field.
After the break, a soccer match breaks out
The next night I went in to my six-year old’s room for bedtime reading. He was hiding under the covers, as is his wont, but Wendy was standing off to the side, looking devious. I should have known I was walking into an ambush.
A hand shot out from under the covers. It had been decorated with a brand new monster hand tattoo he’d received for Christmas. The hand spoke. “I’m a zombie. Roar!”
The hand disappeared and another hand appeared, with another tattoo. “Hi,” the new hand said. “I’m Frank! I’m here to help with your video game!”
So much laughter. So much glee. Look people, I just beat the game. I beat the game! That’s an accomplishment. To do that, I vanquished a boss. A Boss! To do this I enlisted the help of a trusted friend. We beat the boss together. Don’t you see? Who cares if he was playing a guy named Frank? Without him I couldn’t have done it. How dare you belittle him because of his name. Frank has been in the shit!
We mock what we don’t understand.
I didn’t say any of this to them, of course. My family doesn’t get why I love co-op so much, and there’s nothing to be done about it at this point.
One of the reasons I chose Case West for this first game diary was the possibility of doing co-op. This did not pan out for most of the game. I wanted to make some decent progress on my own before setting up a time for my friend–we’ll call him Tom–to jump into the game. By the time I felt comfortable with my progress, schedules got wacky. But I’m so into co-op that I let a couple of random Internet dudes jump into the game with me. I didn’t do this a lot because I’m skittish about it. Not just because random Internet dudes can be wankers. I had a weird experience playing Crackdown 2 in which a bunch of folks jumped in and finished my game for me while I was trying to figure out how to jump over a security wall. True, I let this go on, but I was done fiddling with that game and so it was okay with me if they beat it for me. But the way they made fun of me the whole time they were doing it…that shan’t soon pass from my memory.
I let a couple of players join me in Case West. Let’s just say they were less than helpful. Honestly, Frank was better controlled by the computer, weapons management problems and all, than he was being inhabited by these goofballs. One guy just hid behind the door while I was combo-ing, leaving me completely vulnerable to zombies and handlers alike. What the hell? Another just wanted to chill out in the bathroom while I got overrun by some serious next-level hazmat dudes with impact hammers. I thought I was going to have to restart when the game gave me the option of booting the guy. See ya.
So I took to ignoring the requests of those who wanted to join my game. I will admit I felt special. I’m not gonna lie to you, I felt like the belle of the ball. I got hit on a lot for a time there. It was nice. But nothing ever came of it. I began to wonder if I was even going to bother giving co-op a serious try.
That’s when the soccer match I alluded to earlier broke out.
A few years ago I found myself watching a World Cup final. I’m not a big watcher of sports. I watch some NFL. A bunch of college basketball. That’s it. I don’t watch baseball or hockey or any other sports. But I was curious about this final so I gave it a try. I loved it. It was intense. Much more exciting than I expected. Once I hooked into the flow of the game I really started to get why most of the world is so in love with the sport. That is until the match ended in a tie and the entire thing turned into a different game altogether. After what seemed like hours of soccer they just threw out all the rules, placed the ball in front of the goal, and started kicking the ball at the goalie while both teams stood around and watched. I know this is going to sound stupid, but I felt betrayed. I’d hung in for this whole thing, got swept up in the drama of the game, only to watch this shootout thing happen. What the hell did that have to do with all that came before? I never watched soccer again. I can’t trust those guys.
I felt similarly here when a giant guy in a turban showed up and started kicking my ass.
At first I was just confused. I must have fallen asleep for a second. Why is there a giant guy in a turban in my zombie running game? Why is that weird Arabian music playing? Why is he so strong? Oh I’m dead. Oh…he’s a boss.
To be fair, I’m not against boss battles per se, not the way I loathe shootouts in soccer. This just felt like the game wanted me to end it in a different way than it had played the whole time. It was okay, though, because it finally forced me to throw up the bat signal and get my co-op going. I sent Tom an email with a one word subject line: “Help!”
In no time he jumped into my game as Frank and, just like that, my experience playing Case West improved exponentially. Suddenly Frank could manage his weapons and would accept food. True, he lost his indestructibility, but as a plus he could now revive me when I succumbed to the giant guy in the turban or his henchmen. And I could revive him. Suddenly, I mattered! I was actually important to someone in the world of Case West, at last. Best of all, Frank now had a sense of humor. Up to that point he’d been kind of a dick, useful though he was. In fact, at one point earlier in the game I think I told him something like, “You sure are uptight for a guy who has covered wars.” Now he was actually laughing at my jokes, in addition to working with me to take down the magical turbaned giant.
In one particular show of grace, he even stepped back at the moment of truth and let me finish the boss off on my own. Didn’t make a big deal of it, either. In the end that Frank turned out to be a real mensch.
I should have played the whole game that way, I realized as we wrapped up Case West. I would have laughed a whole lot more, and maybe, just maybe, I might have figured out how to keep my zombie killing game from turning into a running around and avoiding game.
Oh well. Thanks Frank. For helping with my video game.
(Click here for the previous Dead Rising 2: Case West game diary.)