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Mansfield Magazine

Family Time--Better with Plasma Grenades

Nov 21, 2012 09:00AM ● By Kristen Lamb

Jaysen, you shoot me in the butt ONE MORE TIME...

Ah, it's the holiday season. My favorite time of year. Thanksgiving is a time to be grateful, and I hope you will take a moment to check out my other Mansfield Magazine post Choosing an Attitude of Gratitude. We are supremely fortunate in this country, and I feel it is VERY important for us to count our many blessings. A roof over our head, plenty to eat, freedom, democracy...AND NEW VIDEO GAMES. My opinion? EA and EPIC games are Santa for grownups, and most of the best games are released this time of year.  Black Ops 2, Army of Two--The Devil's Cartel (yeah, they had me at "Devil"), and the new HALO FOUR! This is my favorite season for many reasons, but gaming with my family is definitely a highlight.

I was not always this way.

Seven 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 tail.

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... 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 torment entertainment.

LUZR! Muah ha ha ha ha ha ha!

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.

Shoot me in the back. 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 at the time). 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)...or sniper is the story.

Gears is some of THE best writing anywhere, and, frankly, I am a little happy that Gears of War--Judgement is not coming out until spring. My hands can only take so much.

*foot thumping* What? I'm not addicted. I can quit any time I want.

Of all the games, Gears is my favorite, namely because of the story. 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. It's a story that eerily reflects life. In war there is no clear hero or villain. Each side has good reasons for taking up arms. 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. 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.

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 or in Gears 3 when he visited his children's graves. You KNOW you cried. Even the dudes. You got tears. It's okay. You're among friends.

Sure there are all kinds of morons 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 We can shoot each other in the butt 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 hog, 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 monster-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.

I love the holidays, because I get to have fun with my uncle, cousins, husband, brother and nephews. Whether I'm hopping on the Kinect with the nephews or fighting monsters with my uncle, I know I am going to let loose, laugh and make great memories.

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 come from a family that games together? Ladies, do you game with your boyfriend or hubby?

I love hearing from you!

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