Published on February 13, 2013 at 3:56 PM | by Christopher Hall1
A Bucket List for Gaming
For those of you who are not familiar with the concept of a bucket list, let me bring you up to speed. Basically, it’s a list of things that one wants to do before they, well, “kick the bucket.” Now, many people have these lists and oftentimes they contain either gargantuan fare like climbing a mountain, or writing a novel, or, well, essentially a lot of really challenging things that would be considered somewhat of a legacy to be left behind when they finally did go, it’s not always about the challenge, sometimes it’s about enjoying a unique experience that can’t really be paralleled by anything else. This might seem like somewhat of a bleak subject but I assure you that it is not – although Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman created their “bucket list” in the 2007 movie of the same name because they were both terminally ill and didn’t have long to live, many people create lists like these long before the end of their lives simply as somewhat of an inspiration and reminder as to what they should strive for before the end creeps up on them.
So this got me to thinking – for many of us who game for the majority of our recreational time, virtual achievements (actual ones, not of the “ding!” variety that add to an arbitrary score that no one reads but you) are worth striving for just as much as the physical ones. There are also an abundance of experiences that you will only find in the world of gaming that are one of a kind! And while even the most daunting of gaming challenges might not push the absolute limits of your humanity like climbing Mt. Everest, they’re still something to be proud of, and you can be damn sure that those that know what you mean when you say that you ran Super C without losing a single life OR picking up any items will respect you for it.
That being said, here is a list of things that I feel every gamer worth their weight in cartridges needs to experience or at the very least attempt before they croak (or hang up the controller for the last time, but really, like that’s ever going to happen):
This one is kind of a given for those of us who are in our mid-twenties and beyond, and it might seem like common sense. But even for those of us who spent the late eighties and early 90s with a (WIRED) controller in our hands, there’s got to be a few gems that passed us by. It’s incredibly easy for the younger gamer to say (Imagine this in the best 12 year old over Xbox live voice you can) “But those games are easy! And boring! And the graphics are terrible! And what the hell is a VHS tape?” to which I say, young grasshopper, in order to game into the future, one must game into the past.
There’s really no limit to this one. Never completed the original Super Mario Brothers? What about 2? 3 without skipping to the end with whistles? Do it now, and appreciate the art of it. Take it in. What about The Legend of Zelda? This list could go on and on, but a quick Google search will give you any number of previously-made lists of the greatest games of all time.
On an RL list, someone might want to read as many great novels as they can, or watch the top 100 movies of all time on IMDB . This, my gaming friend, is our version of that.
Conquer One of the Most Difficult Games of All Time
This one ties nicely into the last in that some of the classics are also the most difficult games out there. Again, you can find hundreds of articles on this very topic out there on the interweb already, but it’s up to you to decide which challenges you believe you could go toe to toe with, and which challenges are best left to a better gamer than you (see what I did there? You’re getting mad, aren’t ya? AIN’T YA?)
This isn’t even limited to the games of yesteryear, although when it comes to challenge few games these days can measure up to the kind of swift kick in the arse that Battletoads can deliver to your ego. Difficulty is seeing a new renaissance these days though in games like Super Meat Boy, or Dark/Demon’s souls, and there aren’t a lot of gamers of good conscience that wouldn’t both respect you for completing them, and offer you a solemn tip of the hat for your suffering.
It’s so easy these days for people to say that they “had no trouble with Castlevania”, or that they “totally ripped through the first 3 Mega Man games last week” and then omit the fact that they accomplished these feats on an emulator, using savestates, slo-mo, walkthroughs, or any other sort of n00b-aid that the scrubs might be using these days. But the fact remains that deep down, they know that all they did was “pretend” to beat the game. So dear reader, I implore you, take on some of these monsters without the safety net and even if you do fail, it’ll be cathartic and you’ll feel great. And the next time someone brags about how big their Gamerscore is you can smack them over the face with a copy of Contra (unless you used the code, in which case, no cart-slapping for you).
Participate in a Raid (or something like it)
Look, it’s easy to harp on MMO players for the type of game that they enjoy playing. Especially for the twitchiest of FPS players, watching someone grind mobs for quest credit or experience can seem like the world’s greatest sleep aid. I think most people playing those MMOs sort of take the crap thrown at them and let it bounce of themselves, while smiling at the realization that the mundane actions in this case lead to some of the greatest challenges, and greatest experiences available staring at a screen.
If you don’t know what raiding is (shame on you!) it’s essentially party-based PvE content, but on a massive scale. Back when World of Warcraft first came out, up to 40 (frigging FORTY!) players would band together to take on massive bosses for an incredibly tiny amount of even more incredible gear. Not only was the payoff somewhat miniscule, but the challenge level was through the bloody roof. Even to this day, raiding in WoW caps at 25 players (which few players choose to do these days since you can do it with 10) but includes the option of “heroic” difficulty with the bosses exponentially more difficult to defeat, and the loot reward also much greater.
It’s not about the loot though. Loot comes, loot becomes obsolete, more loot replaces it. No, the reason you need to experience this is because of the intense feeling of companionship and satisfaction that is wrought from helping 24 other people accomplish a single goal. I imagine it’s somewhat like how it feels to win a game of whatever team sports the kids are playing these days, but from the comfort of your chair.
It doesn’t even have to be in an MMO, although PvE seems to create this kind of feeling the best in my humble opinion. There are shooter options, like Battlefield and MAG that also have enormous teams, but you’re not all focused on one thing which sort of detracts from it.
When it comes to catching a thrill off of something, few things compare to the feeling of winning. While completing a single-player experience in itself can be classified as a win, it pales in comparison to coming out on top of several other people trying to accomplish the same thing. But competition in and of itself can be a thrill as well, be it watching your name gradually move through a double-elimination bracket or just being in the list of competitors for a given event.
If your game of choice has a multiplayer component, then there’s a pretty good chance that somewhere out there is a league that you can compete in, and many of them are free of charge! Not only that but the majority of competitive games (especially with the current rise in eSports) have a built-in ladder that you can climb. Gone are the days of having to get invited into the local beer league of your sport of choice to compete one night a week – the contemporary weekend warrior can do so from the comfort of their computer chair at their game of choice. You may not win, but you’ll meet a ton of new people doing so and you’ll have some fantastic war stories to tell the grandkids when they inevitably accept competitive gaming as the norm decades in the future!
Furthermore, as an extension of the “gaming with other people” point I made in the raiding section, many games have clans or guilds forming around them in which you can actually participate competitively on a team level. Without a doubt the feeling of being the last man standing on your clan in CounterStrike and planting the bomb successfully rivals that of scoring the tie-breaking winning goal in hockey!
Create Your Own Game
Remember when you were a kid and you’d draw/write out plans for your perfect video game instead of paying attention to whatever the teacher was talking about in fourth grade with the hopes of someday having the capability of making that game a reality? For some people, they pursued an education related to game design and accomplished exactly that goal – but for the rest of us, real life lead to our devotion to another facet of life and our ideas never really got to see the light of day.
Well, the time has come where you no longer need an encyclopaedic knowledge of a programming language or access to a team of skilled individuals to play that dream game in more than just your own mind. The existence of programs like Stencyl and RPGMaker allow one person to not just start creating the “perfect” game, but also serve to inspire you to continue creating!
So while the game you create probably won’t make you a millionaire, or even be played by anyone other than you and a few of your friends, you’ll have an entire world created by you as something that you can be proud of. Who knows? Maybe with the creation of a simple game you’ll see that game design is something you’d like to follow up on as a career!
So there you have it – A few key things that I feel every gamer should experience before they hang up the power glove for the last time. I know there’s probably hundreds of other ideas that either I forgot, didn’t think of or didn’t make it into the article so sound off below and tell me what you’d put on your bucket list!