My watch sends me notification when the parking meter is about to expire. When it gives you a tap on the wrist while you’re having lunch with Mike from the Satellite of Love it’s all you can do not to shout WE’VE GOT MOVIE SIGN and leave the restaurant, because you think he probably hears that a lot, and is a few years past mustering the impression that no one’s said to him before. So you’d have to do it ironically, in a way that says “obviously I’m not doing it in a sincere fashion, but referencing the cluelessness of those who would do it. Not to say they’re bad people! No, it’s a genuine expression of affection for your work. But it has to be tiresome, years afterwards, and I recognize that. Wink wink!”
We have lunch every other month now and it’s a hoot. Reminds me that I need to get out more. I live my life traveling through these corridors - literally, in the case of the skyways I travel to get to work - and then HELLO I’M ON A SHIP WITH PEOPLE WHO READ MY WORK! And then back in the Habitrail. The last thing I should be doing is thinking about how to improve my skills on the Xbox so I can sit alone in a dark room, thumbs manipulating knobs to control a figure on the glowing screen. The next step is a VR helmet, where I am entertained by feelies while the world burns and Zager and Evans shake their heads. We warned you, dude.
Oh, which reminds me.
Xbox update. Well, I bought Doom, because I had to buy Doom. I figured it would be good practice for leaning how to shoot again, because the console controls just drive me crazy. On a keyboard, no problem. With those two little thumb-things, problems galore.
At Best Buy I was looking at the games; young fellow who was not born when the first Doom was released came over to see if he could help. Said Doom was good, but warned me, it’s got a lot of gore.
Pal, I was blasting pixelated guts when your father wasn’t even married to your mother. And back then people thought that was too much. I’m hard. I can take it.
No, I didn’t say that. But I gave him some lore. Some Gore Lore, if you will! Hah! I said that when Doom first came out in 1994, I got it for free at a computer store down by Southdale. They gave away the first few levels, just to get you hooked. You asked, and they handed you a flopping with seven levels.
"Really? A floppy?"
Yeah, the save icon on your PC? Kidding, I know you know what it is. Anyway, they were so confident the game would be a hit they just gave it away.
"What was it like?"
Don’t you look at old-school speed runs and Doom mods on YouTube? There’s a community that’s been updating and porting for years. No one on Twitch is playing OG Doom?
"No, not really. Well not anyone I follow."
Got it. Well it was basic, like 8 bit but a little extra. It wasn’t true 3d, with a level on top of another level - we didn’t get that until the first Quake engine. But it seemed like it. It felt more real than any computer game, ever. You got scared. You’d be in a dark room with flickering lights, hear the mutter of the imps, and your hair stood up. It was 640-480! And you were sweating when you got to the end of a level from sheer andrelin overdose. There was just something different about all of it. I mean, it was basically Wolfenstein, but it was so much better.
“Wolfenstein?” He said. “You mean this?” He pulled Wolfenstein II off the shelf.
“Whoa. That’s right. They made a new one. This is the third, right? The first was the pre-Doom FPS. Mein Leiben! And then there was a PC version that was really good, I think there was two of those. This is set in some fictional world, right? Man in the High Castle stuff? Bet it’s still B. J. Blaskowitz.” I looked at the description on the back. “Yes, it’s BJ. God bless that two-fisted American.”
“What was that like? I love this one. Never played the others, I’m not on the PC for games.”
“Pretty good graphics. We were impressed because when you went to a room where the Nazis had been - stealth mode, in the castle, trying to escape - you’d get health by eating the dinner they left behind. It was still hot, there’d be steam coming off it. That was realistic to us. Steaming dinner. It was the era of games where you could kick a box and it would fly across the room. That was new, too.”
“Wow, Sensei, you are rich with knowledge in the ways of the game,” he said. “You have inspired me to go back and study the history of this medium I love, and spend all my free time exploring.”
No, he didn’t say that.
He didn’t say any of that.
None of that happened. I picked up Wolfenstein and he said it was awesome and you spend the first level in a wheelchair riding around shooting stuff. He got a faraway look when I was talking about the original Doom. Whatever.
So I bought Doom and RD2, because I understand that the problems I had with RD1 are fixed, and I will not spend 20 minutes trying to figure out how to climb on a horse. That was my last gasp at gaming. Trying to master the controls so I could get on a horse, and ending up just throwing myself at the beast chest first. The right thumb, that’s my problem. It lacks finesse.
Went home and spent some time readjusting my profile, as I noted in the previous Bleat. The next day I decided it was time to play. Wife was at Tennis, no pressing work, I had read a book and a magazine, and could now do something mindless. Put in the disk.
60.6 GB UPDATE REQUIRED
The first game came on a floppy and had room for your savegames. Well, if you must. I let it update. Eventually it had enough to let me play, and I adjusted the brightness so the Left Logo was barely visible, as instructed. Started up an Arcade Mode game, since that seemed the primary option it wanted me to explore. I couldn’t see anything. I was in some red flaming pit getting eaten by demons, and couldn’t get out. Tried another level, an interior level, and could not see anything except flames. Kept getting eaten by demons.
Took some button mashing to find the settings screen; boosted the gamma, then found the actual game part of the game, and started. The last PC version was richly detailed, and gave you half an hour of exploration before the bad stuff started. Black-Mesa / Half-Life stuff. It built tension and suspense, and I loved it. This one drops me in the middle of a Demonic Infestation on the Mars base, and after I’ve cleaned the room I learn that the base cannot locate the source of the demonic infestation because the communications dish is offline.
The people who built communication dishes in the future will ensure they’re super durable, because they grew up playing games where they’re always down.
So I have to go fix the damned dish. Again. Every. Single. Game. The environment is red and murky and full of smoke, because there’s a Demonic Infestation, and the robotic female voiceover keeps warning me that lockdown protocols are in effect because of a demonic infestation. Apparently that’s a situation they’re programmed into the automatic alarm system. Like it happens every day. Maybe it does.
There’s no story, no suspense, no marveling at the details; but reviews say there’s all three elements and then some. Perhaps when I get to a level where the lights are on.
Why am I doing this? Because I did it in 1994 and 2005, that’s why. Games have been a big part of my life since I played text adventures on a Ti/99 backed up on a cassette deck, and I’m not giving up now.
UPDATE, three hours later: I gave up
Have you noticed that the Google Ads are different each day, but thematically linked? It's one of those meaningless things I worried about for a few weeks. This week it's Liquor Birds. The ads ran in Esquire; I'll put them up some day.