Frustration. Who doesn’t know this feeling? With each failure, your fingers cramp more on the keys, enamel rubs on enamel, veins pop out, tears well up in your little eyes… and then all that accumulated negative energy is released either in an input device thrown across the room or the disdainfully snorting press of the quit button. The latter is my preferred reaction. Just get out of here fast, because you never want to see that GODDAMN RECTAL ULCER OF A GAME AGAINEXCLAMATIONMARK! After you’ve calmed down, of course, you return, only to find that you forgot to save during your barely controlled tantrum.
That frustration typical of video games is not innate, but I’m convinced that certain games train it into us. At least it was that way for me. Once upon a time, I was a lovely child who excelled at one positive trait above all others: patience. I solved puzzles the size of square miles, could spend days tweaking the details of crayon artwork, or occupied myself with building a LEGO city of impressive architectural care. Adults loved that. I loved the 486 that moved in with my family in 1993. This beige tech dream had not officially been intended for me at all, but for my father’s office. An acquaintance of his, who worked in the computer business, unselfishly recommended that this investment would make a future-oriented impression when customers visited. However, he didn’t really work with it, and so I was able to have fun with it.
Because the aforementioned acquaintance of my father obviously knew very well who would use the computer in this household, there was a year’s subscription to the PC Games magazine in my name and a pre-installed game as a bonus. My first video game that I wouldn’t be pushed away from by annoyed looking cousins, as I had experienced many times before. My first thrilling excursions into a virtual world were about to begin! Through the gaming magazine that was now in my possession, I knew what wonders awaited me. Cute jump ‘n’ runs, humorous adventure games, and exciting role-playing games. And then there were those ultra brutal first person shooters, whoo hoo. I was ready for it! I had even bought a joystick for something around 10 marks! So what game was the big pre-installed surprise?
It was Microsoft Flight Simulator 5.0.
With no instructions and in English, it was the perfect game to teach a naive and tech-illiterate ten year old what frustration is all about. Over and over again, I jerked around the runway, not knowing how to take off. Over and over again, the monotonous engine noise in my ears increased to malicious laughter at my inability to master something as simple as the controls of a commercial airliner. You want to make it to high school after summer vacation, you loser? Forget it! You don’t even know how to retract the landing gear! Pull up your nose! I trained doggedly with minimal success. And so my first gaming experience on “my” own PC became a lesson in how frustrating video games can be and that perseverance is not always rewarded. I stopped doing puzzles, started including swear words in my everyday speech, and eventually the day came when I completely lost patience and gave up on Flight Simulator. Fortunately, other games would follow which meant better to me.
Microsoft Flight Simulator is not a bad game, for me it was just the wrong game at the wrong time. The series has lasted since the early eighties, and my best friend’s father had an extra controller for it that was modeled after the control horn of real airplanes. That made a big impression on me at the time, and I reverently filed Flight Simulator under “adult games” for myself because of that and my own experiences.
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