A few decades ago the masses believed video games were a waste of time for lackadaisical youths to pacify themselves while ignoring their responsibilities as both kids and young adults. As more and more people started understanding the benefits of gaming so too did the perception of what a video game is and, most importantly, the benefits gaming can bestow on a person’s life changed. Hi, my name is James Bullock and I am a gamer who has spent the better part of his existence testing the laws of physics, exploring the vastness of a world ruined, and been a champion inside various arenas courtesy of digitized worlds both driven by reality and created through pure unbelievable ingenuity unlike anything seen by human eyes. And as a gamer I’ve discovered something else video games provide: life lessons. Today I examine the game that changed my thought process on what it meant to be a video game hero, “Metroid”.
Heroism Knows No Gender
Not to sound (or read) like a grumpy old man who is haggard by the rigors of old school gaming that you youngsters only know about thanks to top ten video lists and the power of Youtube, but you kids these days have it easy! Remember a “Game Over” screen? Remember spending a week’s worth of money collected by various neighboring adult figures happy to dish out a dollar or two for pulling some weeds to the point your arms are in need of iodine to avoid infection in less than an hour at the local arcade? Remember having only two days to play a rental over the weekend and barely getting past the first level before school started on Monday? If you were born before the turn of the century and owned a NES those questions would be answered with a resounding, “Yes!” The fact is video games were either really difficult, broken to the point enemies were too difficult to defeat without taking out a bank loan, or both just to get us silly kids to spend our parents’ money with the hope of either beating a high score achieved by someone you never met at the aforementioned arcade or slamming your controller down in anger because the game you rented and hoped to beat before going to bed Sunday night wasn’t made for an easy run-through. For many a gamer who had the opportunity to play the original “Metroid”, a single weekend was usually never enough. Actually, a single weekend was never enough no matter who you were.
For those who never played the original “Metroid” or its immediate successor, this game was a perfect example of the evolution platform gaming was experiencing during the time – a genre that dictated the market thanks to the success of “Super Mario Bros.” Players controlled a bounty hunter known as Samus Aran who would take on the life energy-stealing Metroid organisms including big baddies like the fire-breathing reptile Kraid in an effort to destroy the Mother Brain. Gamers talented enough to overcome the difficulty of “Metroid” (something I didn’t accomplish until the early 2000s) to see the frantic, movie-like cinematic “good” ending – an ending so shocking it shook the gaming community for years. Big spoiler alert for those who’ve been living under a rock for nearly half a century: Samus Aran was and still is a woman. For many people during that time and beyond, gaming felt like a “Boys Only” type of hobby. To add to the feeling that video games were a “guy thing”, a majority of the female characters presented during that era were either damsels in distress or feminized versions of male characters such as Princess Peach and Mrs. Pac-Man respectively. Samus was a butt-kicking bounty hunter who just so happened to be a woman – something that was greatly appreciated by yours truly as I got older because video game developers started to see the truth that heroes aren’t exclusive to a single gender. “Metroid” gave way to characters like Lara Croft, Bayonetta, Chun-Li and even Commander Sheppard being embraced as cool characters, not cool girl characters. For the budding culture of gamer girls, they had someone to relate to without having to scale back their hopes of one day having someone like them standing side-by-side with the big boys of gaming and no one think twice about gender.
Have you learned any major life lessons from playing “Metroid” or any video game for that matter? Leave them in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.