Image hosted by

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Game On

What is it that causes us to do things we are completely against? For me, all it took was a little computer game, which incidentally was made for children.

For years there have been devices that you can add to your game consoles that allow the players to cheat. The internet brought forth oodles and oodles of cheat code websites, making cheating much too simple. What happened to the good old fashioned hardcore player who worked to beat each level and walked away with blisters on their thumbs and a challenger waiting in the wings?

I've been anti-cheat code since the Game Shark (first I knew of) came out. My son really wanted that for his Nintendo and begged me on and off for weeks. He never won that fight. I lectured him about challenges and working hard to unlock the next level. I explained that beating a video game helps with problem solving skills that he would use often in life. I rambled on about lazy people taking the easy way out. I told him it feels good to achieve things without the help of a cheating device. I think I may have even said something like, "Life doesn't come with cheat codes, son." Obviously, I was putting way too much thought into the topic.

Odyssey II was the first video game we owned growing up. The whole family played. And as many of us as there were, I don't remember fighting for a turn. Funny how times change.

When Dad played, we all loved to watch. He was so animated. If his on-screen character would move to the left, right, or jump, dad did too.

Image hosting by Photobucket

Wide-eyed and smiling, here is what Dad looked like when he was winning. (Edited to add, my dad was not nude in the photos. He was in his skivvies, which I cropped out.)

We would yell "helpful hints" at him while he tried to concentrate. And we laughed when he swore at the game through his teeth in a very Fred Flintstone kind of a way.

Image hosting by Photobucket

Eyes closed, while pouting, here is what Dad looked like when he was losing.

Several times since the Game Shark lecture, Lane 1 has asked if he could look up certain codes on the internet. Each time, I've told him no. He hasn't bugged me in a really long time. After years of the same old same old, he knows his answer without asking.

Lane 2 isn't much of a "gamer" but she does enjoy an occasional computer game and dabbles in Gamecube. She has never asked for codes. Instead, she asks me to "help" her. This is the part where I usually get hooked on one of her games.

A couple of nights ago, Lane 2 followed the house rules. "If the game gets you mad, turn it off." When she angrily closed her computer desk, I asked what was wrong. She showed me a game her friend let her borrow, School Tycoon. She was upset that she couldn't get very far and decided to turn it off before it got the best of her.

"Mom, maybe later you can help me build a school. Every time I get things nice, a tornado comes along and breaks everything, and then I have to spend the little money I've earned on maintenance."

I told her I would "help" later. As bedtime was approaching she asked if she would have to wait until tomorrow to play the game with me. I felt bad and said, "No, we can play a little now."

She set the game up on the computer and gave me the gist of the mission. You begin with $8,000 and have to build a school, classroom by classroom. As your money goes away rather quickly, the school begins to fill up with students. Money slowly starts to replenish itself and it seems like you are on the right track. Next thing you know a case of food poisoning breaks out in your cafeteria, then the buildings are hit by tornadoes and if that weren't bad enough, your students begin to leave because everything is a wreck, which makes the incoming money stop. Before long we were bankrupt and the game ended.

Together we built and watched two schools get destroyed. I told her I thought the game was too hard. She agreed. We both realized bedtime had come and gone, so I quickly tucked her in and said we would try again tomorrow.

As soon as that little girl's head hit the pillow, I was on her computer trying like crazy to build the best school in the history of ever. I was defeated two more times. I turned to my friend the internet and did a search for the game. Amazing how easily you can find information. I love these internets.

Although my search only included the name of the game, one of the first things on the search results were cheat codes. I tried not to pay too much attention to that. I was after all just looking for some... helpful hints, maybe a walkthrough, but really, that's all. When my eyeballs saw the words "Increase money cheat" the inner cheater took over the controls and went balls out with more money than she could possibly use.

Can I just say, Best. School. Ever?!

In the morning, soon after the alarm went off, which just so happens to be two hours after I finally stopped kicking that games ass, I showed Lane 2 our new school.

After she checked things out and did her oohing and aahing, I finally told her how I was able to actually make the game work. She looked wide-eyed at me as if appalled and proud, and said, "It's okay Mom. The internet is a tool, and look at how much it helped you make our game better. By the way, I won't tell Lane (her brother) that you cheated."

It feels bad cheating but good when you have a little partner in crime.