Pat Freestone : Back in the Game
December 17, 2002
While conducting research for last week’s NINE CLASSIC VIDEO GAME BLUNDERS list, I was eventually forced to admit to myself, with no small amount of shame and regret, that time has passed me by. The world has changed right under my nose. No, I am no longer the video game master that I was in 1982.
There was a time when I, Pat Freestone, could take command of any digitally simulated tank, plane, or alien hovercraft and easily defeat even the most wily of opponents, human or otherwise. I possessed equal dexterity in both hands with both the joy-stick and the track-ball, and could prodigiously manipulate button and knob configurations of all kinds with astounding speed and timing. Perhaps it was my astigmatism that gave me such natural ability in the flat screen gaming format. Maybe it was my interest in the emerging computer technology that provided me with an intrinsic feel for the various systems. But probably, it was the tens of thousands of hours I spent honing my craft alone while unanimously ostracized from my peer group. But don’t cry for Pat Freestone. For he was once a great Commander of Missiles, a Keeper of Galactic Peace, and a Level 24 Robotron Hero.
And yet, I have realized that while I, Pat Freestone, was busy becoming a big, hot-shot video rental store Assistant Manager, the computer gaming industry was exploding in a thousand new directions, leaving me behind every step of the way. Today, I am but a discarded relic. I am a flightless Joust bird. I am a withering old Miss Pac Man, habitually chasing after some long-forgotten strawberry.
But I shall soon return to greatness. Oh, yes, I shall. It is my destiny.
Mark my words,
December 19, 2002
A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. And then all you need to do is take about 10,000 steps a day for the next 175 years.
So it is with today’s video games.
I have begun my journey to regain my former status as a video game master, but I can already see that this endeavor will not be without difficulty. Not only have the games changed dramatically, but my reflexes and hand-eye coordination have been greatly de-conditioned from four years of operating the Big Screen Video cash register. To make matters worse, my current financial woes make it nearly impossible for me to afford the necessary long-term training on the local arcade circuit. Therefore, I must make do with my only option at this point: to offer to baby-sit my co-worker Ruth’s nephews Brian and Bradley.
Aged nine and seven, respectively, Brian and Bradley are capable of literally driving the will to live out of any nearby adult within 30 to 45 minutes. I know this from a previous experience in which I naively accepted Ruth’s proposal to look after the small hellions for an afternoon, for what seemed like the fair price of $30. Little did I know at the time I accepted the offer that I would soon be lying face down at the bottom of a basement freezer, fighting off hypothermia as I involuntarily participated in a re-enactment of an unfamiliar scene from the film Starship Troopers.
Luckily, I am aware of a certain "Playstation 2" video game console that was recently purchased by the boys’ parents, who certainly by then had exhausted all other options for keeping their demon spawn occupied. According to my calculations, I could set up a regular weekend baby-sitting arrangement through Ruth, practice my video gaming with the boys, and earn enough to purchase my own game system within four months.
My plan has to work. Because it’s the only plan I’ve got.
Pray for me,
December 20, 2002
So far, so good.
I’m all signed on to begin baby-sitting Brian and Bradley starting tomorrow. As the children will be out of school for Christmas break for the next two weeks, I will be their regular sitter until after the New Year. Thus, I should be able to earn enough money to purchase my own video game system much sooner than I originally anticipated. Plus, "Santa" should see to it that there will be plenty of new games available for us to play.
However, learning these new games will not be easy. The technology has become slightly more sophisticated since 1982. Below is an example. On the left is a "screen shot" from a current video game. On the right is the exact same type of game, as it looked when I was a high score champion.
As Yogi Bear once said, "Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing."
December 23, 2002
As the workaholics say, T.G.I.M.
In terms of success, my weekend of baby-siting for Brian and Bradley Teresovich fell flat somewhere between the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. I did manage to earn $60, eat my fill of delicious microwaveable entrees, and supervise two of the country’s most dangerous pre-teen miscreants for two solid days without incident or personal injury. But unfortunately, my plans to develop some fundamental Playstation2 abilities during my weekend at the Teresovich house were foiled by Brian and Bradley, who refused to allow me to join them in even a single minute of game play.
But as you know, Pat Freestone is a man who knows how to make the best of a bad break. So rather than sulk in a corner for the entire weekend, I watched intently, taking down careful notes on every level of every game the selfish little bedwetters saw fit to amuse themselves with. I compiled over 180 pages of detailed notes (see sample page below) on everything from Streetfightin’ Pimps 3 to the Adventures of Kruck and Glorf: Menace Mountain. For now, I am content to be the pupil. Because it is inevitable that I will soon be master once again.
MERRY CHRISTMAS, ETC.
January 2, 2003
Happy New Year!
It was certainly an exciting year, and in spite of the fact that 2002 brought me injury, surgery, molestation, assault, concussion, death threats, addiction, bankruptcy, forced prostitution and a visit from my mother, I’d say it was the best year ever.
But Pat Freestone is not one to live in the past.
So, in the spirit of making a brand new start for 2003, I am publicly declaring my New Year’s Resolutions:
1. Spend more time looking at black and white photographs and of course,
2. Create a cross-referenced list of my high school grudges
3. Attend more Vaudeville shows
4. Replay in my mind over and over the painful childhood memory of the time I accidentally threw up on the buffet table at cousin Emma’s wedding
5. Reclaim my title of Video Game Champion
January 3, 2003
2003: A LOOK BACK
As of today, January 3, 2003, I have accomplished four of my five New Year’s Resolutions, and am well on my way to achieving the final and most arduous of them all—returning to my former glory as a mid-1980’s Video Game High Score Champion.
Shortly before Christmas, as you may recall, I concocted a plan to baby-sit my co-worker Ruth’s nephews Brian and Bradley Teresovich, in hopes that I could utilize the time to redevelop my video game skills on the boys' new state-of-the-art gaming console. At first, the two waxy little brats refused to let me join them in game-play, but I was eventually able to distract them for a few moments by throwing some chocolate candies behind the sofa. While they clamored around amongst the dust-balls in search of the savory sweets, I grabbed the game console and all its accessories and broke for the front door.
I have since been locked inside my apartment, avoiding the authorities, and in particular avoiding Ruth and the Teresovich family, who I am sure have put a contract on my head by now. I am also sure that my position at Big Screen Video is in jeopardy, as I have not shown up for work since December 28th. But such are the sacrifices a Video Game High Score Champion must make. The old Pat Freestone might have cared about things like career or the law. But that was the old Pat Freestone. The new Pat Freestone is sitting here playing Crash Bandicoot: Crash Team Racing on a stolen PlayStation, and he just doesn’t give a good goddamn.
Eat my dust, Penta Penguin.
January 6, 2003
After a week of hiding out in my apartment with my stolen PlayStation, not eating, sleeping, or reporting for work, I am faced with a grim reality. I’ve made a terrible, terrible mistake.
I should have stolen the instruction book.
Up until yesterday, I was under the impression that I had not lost any of my video gaming abilities, as the following journal entry demonstrates:
From the moment I loaded the PlayStation game disc, I knew I had reclaimed my destiny...indeed, each new course I race in “Crash Bandicoot: Crash Team Racing” is as effortless as the last, with my joystick speed and dexterity a virtual constant. My tiny marsupial-piloted car instinctively whizzes around turns and over difficult jumps, as if I had been racing these tracks for years. Not even the ominous “Dr. Neo Cortex” can keep up with my blistering pace. My return to greatness in the gaming world is, at this point, inevitable...
But unfortunately, as I realized sometime early Sunday morning, I had never bothered to select NEW GAME from the on-screen menu and as a result, I had spent the entire week in DEMO mode. All those effortless laps and spectacularly timed jumps were merely demonstrations created and displayed by the console’s computer program. Now that I have selected NEW GAME and opted to control the car myself, I have only gotten as far as the cliff immediately following turn number 1.
January 7, 2003
Now that I’m becoming familiar with the world of Crash Bandicoot and his nemesis, Dr. Neo Cortex, I can honestly say that the video games of today are not significantly different from the ones I conquered back in the 1980’s. Other than the fact that today’s games include realistic sounds, cinema-quality graphics, three-dimensional environments, multi-function controllers, faster action, vastly superior digital technology and more than one screen, not much has changed.
So, to get you up to speed (pun intended!) on the world of Crash Team Racing, here are a few special "hints" on defeating your opponents:
1. Slow and steady might win against a hare, but not against a nine foot tiger in a turbo-charged, unlimited-fuel vehicle with on-board weapons and missile-lock capability.
2. Leaning or angling with your body, head, arms or hands while playing will not keep your car from careening off the edge of Papu’s Pyramid, no matter how much you want it to.
3. Brakes will not significantly slow your vehicle during an accidental Dingo Canyon freefall.
4. Tapping the L1 button three times during a power slide, when timed correctly, will allow you a brief turbo boost. Then again, that extra boost won’t help much if you are headed directly toward a stone wall.
5. Before furiously slamming down the controller in frustration, make sure that you do not own a glass-top coffee table.
Tiny Smash Puny Cars!
January 8, 2003
I am willing to accept the notion that a flightless bird such as a penguin can somehow gain access to a turbo-charged vehicle for the purposes of competitive racing. It is, as I am well aware, just a video game.
But how in the name of all things holy can he steer, downshift and fire missiles at the same time?
GODDAMN MOTHERFUCKING PENGUINS DO NOT HAVE HANDS!
January 9, 2003
That which does not kill my Bandicoot only makes my Bandicoot stronger.
And that which kills my Bandicoot only makes me hit RESTART.
With steely determination,
January 10, 2003
Oh, those were the days!
January 13, 2003
For a Bandicoot, it was the kind of race you never forget. Dramatic. Turbulent. All-or-nothing. For two and a quarter laps around Crash Cove, I laid low in the back of the pack, waiting to make my move. I played it safe. I played it calm. But I could see the unsuspecting Dingodile just a few clicks ahead. He would be the first to get a taste of Pat Freestone’s new command of the Bowling Bombs.
From there, a bit of good luck came my way. As I rounded the wide turn by the pond and ducked under the pier, I smashed a Wampa Crate, and in the commotion passed Pura and Polar. I skidded across the wooden bridge, wildly out of control, but somehow managed to veer sideways into a Weapons Crate. Inside it, as I had desperately hoped, was the mysterious and all-powerful Aku Aku Mask.
Charged with Aku’s speed and invincibility, I tore across the sand towards Dr. N. Gin. In seconds I was upon him, ruthlessly knocking him aside as I made my way towards Crash Cove’s penultimate Turbo Pad. With my Aku powers giving me courage, I made a quick last-ditch power-slide and hit the Turbo-Pad at full bore. The force of its boost sent me rocketing past Tiny, the gigantic spike-wearing tiger, and across the finish line in a respectable Third Place, just a few seconds behind second place finisher Coco Bandicoot and the top finisher, the evil Dr. Neo Cortex.
I pity you, Dr. Cortex, for the Trophy shall not be yours for long.
January 14, 2003
In a moment reminiscent of my video game glory days of the 1980’s, I, Pat Freestone, have been awarded the Adventure Mode Trophy for the Crash Cove Race Course.
Although I have been drinking large tumblers of Sauza Comemorativo in celebration since sometime early this morning and am quickly losing consciousness, I can tell by the endless, on-screen celebration loop that my victory was indeed real and not imagined. All I remember now in my distilled agave stupor was that at some point, I acquired the N Tropy Clock, and then went on to disable the rest of the field with the fully-juiced Warp Orb I picked up near the last turn.
Victory, and the sudden need to throw up, are mine.
January 15, 2003