Today is Free for All Friday so I get to talk about what I want. Not quite sure how this differs from most days, but the alliteration–Free for All Friday–makes me happy, so there . This has been an awesome week, a week I have waited almost two years for. Did I get a sweet publishing deal? Not yet. Did I befriend celebrity author Sandra Brown? No, she has pretty awesome security people…and a sprinkler system. No, better than a publishing deal or a celebrity author friend… Epic Games released Gears of War Three .
Six years ago, my brother told me of this device called the X-Box. I was not interested in his silly reindeer games. Like many other Gen Xers, I grew up on Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, Centipede and Pac-Man, etc. Yes, these games were addictive, but they almost too accurately mirrored life. They started out new and fun and slow and then just got faster and faster and faster UNTIL YOU DIED. So when my brother approached me about playing a game known as HALO, I only agreed to play to shut him up.
Jaysen, where are you? Someone keeps shooting me in the back of the head.
My brother might not be the best introduction into the world of gaming. He believes that you learn by dying. Not doing. You read correctly. DYING. For two hours, I found myself trapped in corners or under staircases because I didn’t know how to work the controller, thus I spent most of the time seeing only my cyborg feet and getting shot in my cyborg a$$. Not only was I supposed to keep the aliens from killing me, but my brother would pop out of nowhere and shoot me in the face and run away while my character regenerated (respawned).
So we somehow escape the craft that has been boarded by aliens and crash-land on some earth-like planet, where we see this giant ring in the sky (the HALO and the center of the game’s storyline). I would have loved to have learned more, but my brother found a Hummer and promptly ran me over….then ran me over again…and yes, again. I finally managed to respawn and beat him to the Hummer. Ha! Revenge…
….so he threw a plasma grenade in my back seat and killed me again. Yes, I come from a family of sadists and I am their favorite object of
The odd thing, however, is how well my brother knows me. If he would have held my hand and gently introduced me to gaming, he wouldn’t have ignited my competitive nature. I was going to show him.
Shoot me in the a$$. I’ll show YOU!
The next day I recruited my six-year-old nephew Josh to teach me the Jedi X-Box ways. Josh was a better teacher. Granted, he got us lost…all the time and took ALL the ammunition, but it was a step up from being run over 42 times in less than a minute and a half. I had to grow strong and become a warrior.
*insert montage music* If you need to do a lot in a really short time, you need a montage! A montage!
I trained using HALO. Eventually I graduated to playing Dungeons & Dragons Heroes with my nephew and twin cousins (all six years old). We played all day (it was summer and they wouldn’t stay outside). We learned to fight, to cheat and to win. I gained legend-status among all 4-7 year olds on the block. I gamed three days straight until I’d finally beaten Halo and D&D. The very small kindergartener bards would long sing of my adventures and draw Crayon depictions of my many battles.
After beating HALO 1 & 2 and D&D I finally met my match….Enclave. To this day it is the only game I have never beaten.
*Note to game designers: We need to actually be able to win. Thank you.*
It took seven months of playing Enclave almost every day to finally give up and admit a game had bested me. Ah, but I never could have known how this worthy adversary prepared me for my finest hours of battle.
The Gears of War games are not games; they are an experience. What makes them so addictive really isn’t the battling monsters (cool) or even the Lancer, which is a a SAW fitted with a saw–literally it’s a semi-automatic weapon fitted with a chainsaw (awesome)–or even the Torque Bow (exploding arrows & AWESOME-SAUCE)…it is the story.
Gears is some of THE best writing anywhere. Most novels and movies cannot compare. The characters are real and it is easy to get emotionally attached. Each level reveals more and more of the overall story-problem. There is a plot and we as gamers are participating in this real-time adventure. There is tension and conflict on many, many levels, not only from the enemy, but from allies as well.
Gears is a story of the underdog–Alpha squad fails on their mission to map the enemy tunnels, and Delta Squad, the rejects, take up where their brothers fail. They rise from disgrace to become heroes. Gears is a story of family, love, sacrifice. It is a story of redemption.
Sure the shooting bad guys and making stuff go BOOM is a lot of fun and strangely cathartic, but the real draw to this game is the characters. We want to understand, to make sense of why this war ever happened. We care. We want to play the next level and the next because beating the game is the only way we will ever sleep. We need resolution. We need the bad guys to be defeated. It is a strange desire. We need the world to be saved while at the same time we are hoping the save is temporary because we want a chance to be able to save the world again.
Unlike the old arcade games, the new games–HALO, Gears, FEAR 3, etc.–have incorporated the essence of what it means to be human. Stories. We are a story people, and that is how you hook us. Stories are in our DNA…along with violent tendencies and addictive behaviors. Marry all three and you get a winner.
The Gears saga sucks you in and you cannot help but care. For those Gear Heads out there, tell me you didn’t have to pause the game in Gears 2 when Dom found his wife. You KNOW you cried. Even the dudes. You got tears. It’s okay. You’re among friends.
Sure there are all kinds of asshats out there who have played video games until they starved to death or died from their heart exploding from too many energy drinks. I can’t speak for them. I have yet to resort to wearing adult diapers during gameplay (been close, but there are lines best left uncrossed). But gaming has this wonderful way of uniting those of us who never understood football. We can have cool gamer tags (I am known as Miss Mayhem) and meet on-line to….play. We can shoot each other in the face and play King of the Hill and laugh and be childlike.
Gaming is also great for dating. It’s how I met my husband. He’d never played before. Mwah ha ha ha ha.
“Hey, little boy. Ever heard of X-Box? I have free candy.”
Hey, it worked. Less than a year later we were married.
Gaming is actually a great way of getting to know who people really are. Ladies, if you are single, dudes dig gamer chicks. Learn to game. Something about a woman and a shotgun that is infinitely hot. Ah, but there is more to gaming than just being smokin’ hot. This is one of the best ways for us (ladies) to see who a man really is.
Can this dude play as an effective part of a team? Does he lose his temper? Can he have fun? Does your gaming partner hog all the treasures with no consideration for others? Is your gaming partner an ammo whore, keeping all of it for himself? Does he share frag grenades and ammo cans?
Science shows that a man who won’t share ammo isn’t worth dating let alone marrying.
Does your partner charge off ahead and leave you to the monsters? My husband and I are such an effective alien-killing force that frequently even the game can’t keep up. THAT is teamwork. And the best part is we get to have fun, unwind…and PLAY.
Stories unite us and ignite us. Being able to PLAY is key to balance. Oh, I have to confess that after several bad bouts of tendonitis, I have learned more moderation when it comes to gaming. Yet, I still want to plunge ahead and unlock the next clue, the next key, the next adventure. And this is why I LOVE Gears. I have to confess that one of my big life goals is to write a video game. There, I said it.
So what is your obsession? How you do play? Are you a gamer? What are your favorite games? Why? What makes you passionate for your hobby? Do you love Gears? Tell us why. Here is the Gears 3 trailer for those who want a taste of what I am
babbling raving about. LOVE THIS! Yes, my leg is thumping.
I do want to hear from you guys!
And to prove it and show my love, for the month of September, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner every week for a critique of your first five pages. At the end of September I will pick a winner for the grand prize. A free critique from me on the first 15 pages of your novel. Good luck!
Note: GRAND PRIZE WILL BE PICKED THIS MONTH. I am keeping all the names for a final GRAND, GRAND PRIZE of 30 Pages (To be announced at the end of September) OR a blog diagnostic. I look at your blog and give feedback to improve it. For now, I will draw weekly for 5 page edit, monthly for 15 page edit.
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . Both books are ON SALE for $4.99!!!! And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in th biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left over to write more great books! I am here to change your approach, not your personality.