8.14.2009

My Pixelated Education, Pt. 1

I grew up during the dawn of the video game age. In my early years the Atari 2600 was all the rage. Gradually it was supplanted by the Nintendo Entertainment System. My brother Rob and I desperately wanted a video game console to call our own, but no matter how much we begged for one our parents would not concede. They were of the opinion that the 8-bit graphics would enslave our senses, force us to neglect our homework, and eventually turn our brains into mush. Fair enough.

As a result of this parental embargo, we lived out our video game dreams by watching Nintendo-themed TV shows like Captain N: The Game Master and The Super Mario Bros. Super Show. But every so often we'd get a taste of the real thing at our more fortunate friends' houses and realize what we were missing.

Luckily the home desktop computer was also arriving during this time. We got our first PC when I was maybe 9 or 10. Truly it was a marvel of modern technology with its basic DOS operating system, dual floppy disk drives, and black and green hued monitor. Whatever mundane word processing functions my parents had in mind when they purchased it, Rob and I knew its true calling... video games.

Our parents soon relented on their hardline ban and got us each a computer game for our birthdays—on the condition that they had educational value. These games did in fact teach me many valuable lessons which I will periodically share throughout.

Super Solvers: OutNumbered! was the game I received. Evil genius Mortimer Maxwell, aka the Master of Mischief, had taken control of the Shady Glen Television Station for a nefarious (if nondescript) purpose. He was hiding somewhere in building, so you had to navigate through each room, solving math problems and gathering clues to help you detect his whereabouts. You were also racing against time—if you couldn't find the Master of Mischief by midnight, you lost.

What I Learned: The answer to the age old question, "When am I ever going to use math in real life?" When you have to find an evil genius who has taken over a TV Studio, that's when.

The nameless, ├╝ber cool protagonist carried a magic remote, and dressed in clown shoes, shorts, puffy coat, and a ball cap. Also, he didn't have a face. What was he hiding behind that cap and big collar?

What I Learned: Puffy coats, shorts, and clown shoes are a winning combination of coolness.

Roaming the halls of the TV station was the Master of Mischief's sidekick, a malevolent walking TV named "Telly." You had to zap him with your magic remote, then answer a series of math problems akin to flashcards. In exchange for a certain number of correct answers, he would give you a clue.

Since you were working on a time limit, you would receive more points the faster you could complete the game. Well, Rob and I discovered an options menu where you could customize the math problems you were given. We set it so all of Telly's questions would be multiples of zero, meaning every answer would automatically be zero. We soon got very quick at hitting zero, enter, zero, enter, zero, enter, etc. every time we ran into Telly. Thus we managed to shirk doing any actual math while maximizing a fairly meaningless point total.

What I Learned: If you're not cheating, you're not trying hard enough.

Once you gathered enough clues, it was time to uncover the Master of Mischief's secret hiding place. What the nameless protagonist lacked in the face department, the Master of Mischief made up for in spades. His oversized facial features, wild mane of hair, and puffy bow tie made up more than half of his body.

What I Learned: An evil genius really should be able to come up with something more clever than "Yikes! You found my hideout. You won't be so lucky again."

Next: The Oregon Trail

2 comments:

Steve-o said...

You're parents must not have been gun owners because just reading that made me want to go find one.

Jessica said...

immediately when I saw the title I thought of ORegon trail. oh what i would give to play that again!