Last week, we all went way back and explored some pretty ~retro~ games, ranging from the Oregon Trail to Sim City. Among these games, I chose to explore two of them - my first encounter was with Charlie the Duck, which I quickly learned was just a complete rip off of Mario. Not even just the concept - the whole level's layout was ripped from level 1 of the classic Mario game, but just replaced with different images & themes. Instead of tunnels, plumbers, and shells, think ponds, frogs, and giant wasps! Of course, and a duck.
Next, I chose to look at the beloved game Qbert. I've heard of the game, but I've never played it - heck, I don't think I've ever seen it in an arcade before, either, which I find surprising. When I started playing, I'll admit, it was a bit frustrating - nothing was really explained, so it took me a second to figure out the controls and what the heck I was even supposed to be doing. But, as it turned out, the goal was extremely simple - jump on all of the squares so they match the target square, and avoid any snakes or other whimsical shapes trying to kill our poor Qbert.
Using the terminology we learned last week, the best way to describe both games is labeling them as Practice games. The levels don't change, and you have extra lives to try to beat them until you master the elements and challenges presented to you over and over again. The Plan, Practice, and Improvise video by Extra Credits even says that playing Practice games typically breed frustration, as sometimes you'll get stuck on a level and it'll take forever to get past it - I definitely felt like that's what was happening to me after a certain point in Qbert. My highest score was ~3,500! I was happy that I got that far, as it took me what felt like twenty times to even just get past the first level. Similarly, Charlie the Duck seemed easier because I've played the classic Mario games before - you generally know what each element does, and the first level is pretty standard. There was Practice from a different game that was transferred to that one, which is actually kind of cool.
Short story time? Short story time.
Qbert was only sure of two things. One, that he loved his work - jumping on stairs for a living may seem like a chore to some, but it was a passion for him. And two, that he did not. Like. Snakes.
When he first started his job, it seemed pretty easy. Only one side of the stairs needed to be changed, no problem. He'd hop a little here, hop a little there, and bam. Fixed. Good as how the boss wanted it to be. But no one told him about the other... difficulties.
At first it started as small bouncing circles that would follow him. It was annoying, but he worked through it, always keeping a watchful eye over his shoulder. Sometimes it would just be on circle, or two, or three... but, no matter how many, he kept at it.
Then, the job got a bit more difficult. Suddenly, two sides of the stairs needed to be fixed - then three, back to one, and so on and so forth. But, then the real game changer came - him.
It was just a normal day for Qbert. Avoiding a circle here or there, hopping along his merry way, thinking of what would be next. But then, as he was on the very last square of the day, a shadow came from behind and menacingly loomed over him.
Qbert stopped, and looked over his shoulder. "...!@?#@?"
He was face to face with none other than, you guessed it, the Snake. He was about twice Qbert's size, and could jump five times as high, too, it seemed. Qbert took a deep breath, and was going to introduce himself. After all, the Snake didn't look too intimidating - he was just huge, that's all, and had pointed teeth, and... Anyways, he wasn't going to assume anything.
Before Qbert could say anything, the Snake, who had been slightly coiled over, extended his whole body upwards. He was stretched out about his whole length, with his neck craned slightly so that he was looking down at Qbert. Uh oh. Now he looked intimidating.
And, just like that. the Snake jumped up in the air and came crashing down toward Qbert with immense power. Quickly, Qbert bounced out of the way, but the Snake kept following him. Panicked, Qbert looked around at the easiest escape - but there was none. The Snake had him cornered! The Snake prepared himself for another jump, but Qbert, terrified, decided to jump off the stairs completely.
He waited in the darkness until for awhile. When he felt like he wasn't in danger anymore, Qbert hesitantly jumped his way to the top of the stairs again - only to find that all of his hard work had been undone!!!
With a quick glance over his shoulder to check for distractions, Qbert began his work again. He shook his head. Why did the Snake want to do this?
When he was on his last tile, again, the same, coiled shadow loomed over him.
Qbert turned around. "!@#?##" He sighed.
It was going to be a long workday.