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 a game that made me think twice about my gaming purchases, “Bio F.R.E.A.K.S.”
Impulse Buys Can Be the Worst
1998 was a grand time to be a gamer. History tells the tale of many video game classics being released during the same year when pro wrestling regained mainstream prominence, President Bill Clinton denied having sexual relations with Monica Lewinsky, and Google was founded. The 1997 Christmas season blessed yours truly with an original Playstation console that would allow me to play some of those heralded digital juggernauts such as my key birthday present of that year “Tekken 3” and eventually “Metal Gear Solid” in the fall. Unlike now when the summer lull hits gaming, 1998 had enough to get me excited about spending those hot days between school years cooped up inside my home with my TV blasting the sounds of Steel Cage matches and fatalities as the year also marked the releases of “WWF Warzone” (Acclaim’s attempt at providing a more realistic wrestling video offering compared to its Midway contemporaries “Wrestlemania: The Arcade Game” and “In Your House”) and “Mortal Kombat 4” on consoles. The latter is what really had me giddy as my “Mortal Kombat” fandom was pretty ridiculous during this time in my life as I would buy (or at least attempt to buy) anything with MK on the cover be it strategy guides or even a non-cannon novel. My love for “Mortal Kombat” also created a sense of brand loyalty – meaning whenever I saw a Midway logo on a game cover I’d usually give it a chance. That brand loyalty would cost me during the month of June as I entered a KB Toys to discover a fighting game sporting the Midway logo at the bottom of the cover. The game was called “Bio F.R.E.A.K.S.” and promised to be a wilder, more visceral version of “Mortal Kombat” with interactive, full 3D arenas and characters sporting jetpacks or something similar. Since my birthday I had saved up any money I attained to ensure that come “MK 4’s” PSX release I would be able to buy it. With said savings sitting in my wallet, I informed my mom that I wouldn’t wait another week for “MK 4”, but would spend my money now on a game solely based on brand loyalty. I was a dumb, foolish child.
My initial hours with “Bio F.R.E.A.K.S.” weren’t half bad thanks to the game’s crazy characters, mostly interactive arenas for quick kills and the ability to actually dismember opponents during the fight to force impressively named characters like Bullzeye (a Guile wannabe with guns on his arms), a dancing mutant frog sporting a name like someone just slammer their hands on a keyboard, and cover boy Zipperhead. With jetpack maneuvering and shield boosting, things get incredibly hectic when playing against a friend who’s good at button mashing or higher-level AI opponents including one of the most annoying final bosses in video game history mostly thanks to where the stage the battle occurs. By day three, buyer’s remorse started setting in once I completed arcade mode with all the playable characters and pulled off a couple of “Ultimate Moves” similar to finishers from “Killer Instinct”. Ultimately the game’s overall gameplay wasn’t any deeper or shallower than some of the other offerings in the genre at the time (arguably including “Mortal Kombat 4”), but the fact remained it wasn’t “MK 4”. I eventually went through the five stages of acceptance/grief that I had no choice but to swallow my pride by admitting I was young & dumb when it came to handling my money and thankfully found an out with the store’s return policy in regards to opened purchases where one could exchange the original item with the same one or one of the same price – “Mortal Kombat 4” was the same price of the then-newly released “Bio F.R.E.A.K.S.” It was a distressing lesson learned that week: Don’t buy on impulse if you don’t know what you’re buying. It’s one thing to buy, say, a double cheeseburger from “Wendy’s” on the way home after a long day of work. It’s an entirely other thing to spend all of your money on the great unknown with the sheer hope it’ll provide some moments of entertainment when you know something that will make you happy in the long run is just waiting for you to acquire it in the near future. Don’t be like thirteen-year-old me – don’t let flash impulses cloud your purchasing judgment.
Have you learned any major life lessons from playing “Bio F.R.E.A.K.S.” or any video game for that matter? Leave them in the comments below and, as always, thanks for reading.