Video games can be a real confidence booster. People who are way smarter than me have actually done research to show that the reward structure in video games is perfect for making the human brain feel good – it allows us to do stuff we can’t do in real life like actually seeing a task through to its conclusion or gradually getting better at stuff we put our minds to. It feels so good when you land that killing blow on the final boss, zip past your friend across the finish line as they spin out of control due to a well-placed banana, or get the highest ranking on a leaderboard. But for all of the times that a video game has been a source of great pride, it has also probably been a source of great embarrassment. Today we’re going to follow the advice of many a spiritual guru and let go of pride – instead, we’re talking about the times that embarrassment won the day. More specifically, my embarrassment.
These are gonna go in order from least to most embarrassing as to ease you in before things get too crazy. Brace yourself, adventurers.
EMBARRASSING MOMENT #3: SKIMPY OUTFITS IN JRPGS
If you are not actively engaged in the world of JRPGs or anime, you may not quite realize the depth of the cultural differences between Japanese and western European audiences. As an American, I’ve grown up in a society with very different views than those reflected in the games I play. This particularly comes into play when taking into consideration the clothing choices of female characters in games. Now I like to think of myself as a relatively mature human being who can manage himself alright when a skirt isn’t particularly lengthy or a bust seems a little larger than is physically reasonable. But that maturity and adultiness dissolves into sheer embarrassment when another person walks into the room.
I went through this somewhat recently when playing through Final Fantasy XV. If you’ve not played the game, there’s a character named Cindy who is the mechanic for your party. Driving is a big part of FFXV and so it’s important to keep your vehicle healthy. Cindy also upgrades it so that it can drive faster, farther, and safer, so while she isn’t necessarily a main character she is certainly one that will be on screen a lot. The thing is, Cindy isn’t exactly dressed to do labor on a car – her outfit looks a lot more like the ones on magazines than the ones you’ll see at your local Big O or Pennzoil.
Now I’m not an expert in statistics, but I’m pretty sure there’s a 95% chance that when Cindy is bent over double rubbing the hood of the car with polish, my wife is going to walk into the living room. That’s just how it is. And even though she and I are married and there are no secrets between us when it comes to the human body, I still get super awkward when a sex scene comes on in a movie or there’s an under-dressed character on screen. But as bad as it is when my wife is the person walking into the room, there were times in my life when I was not married and I had other people to worry about.
In college I had to deal with my roommate. He’s a good guy and he always knew I wasn’t up to anything weird, but it was still awkward for him to come into the room when I was playing Final Fantasy XIII and Vanille is on the screen. Or pretty much any female character in a ‘Tales of’ game. There’s that weird moment where you look at each other and the guy is like “hey man, whatever you’re into” and you’re like “no, it’s not like that” but they’re already out the door and…yeah.
Still, I don’t think anything can beat the awkwardness of playing a game with a scantily clad lady protagonist and having your mother step into the room. There are multiple layers of embarrassment in that situation. The first layer of “general embarrassment” (oh no there’s fanservice on screen and another human being is around for it) is immediately superseded by the much worse “mom embarrassment” (oh God it’s my mother and this woman is flopping around like a beach ball in a bouncy house) before finally being overwhelmed by “ideological embarrassment” (my mother expects me to engage with media that is mature and represents women in a respectful way rather than poisoning my mind with images that reaffirm the societal stereotype that women are simply objects to be enjoyed by men). That ideological embarrassment then causes you to miss a crucial moment in the game’s story – and who wants THAT, dang it?!
EMBARRASSING MOMENT #2: THE BATTLE AGAINST DEMISE
Warning: this embarrassing moment has major spoilers for the final boss fight in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. You’ve been warned.
Imagine, if you will, the finale of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. The wicked Ghirahim has finally managed to drag Zelda to the magic circle where the Imprisoned is – well, imprisoned. Her soul has been yanked out of her body and now the dark god who sought after the Triforce, Demise, stands before you. He whisks you away to a magical final boss arena in the sky and you draw your sword. Dark clouds loom above you and your sword companion, Fi, says to you:
“Master, it will not be possible to use the Skyward Strike here!”
Demise rushes towards you and the two of you begin to clash, Master Sword and weird Ghirahim demon-sword clanging together again and again in vicious battle. You gain the upper hand and manage to parry his wicked blows. Your sword strikes flesh once, twice, thrice, and it seems as if you have the advantage against this evil god. Suddenly, Demise unleashes more of his power and lightning bolts begin to descend from the sky. Now you’re dodging lightning, and meanwhile Demise has used his own perverted form of the Skyward Strike to enchant his blade with lightning as well. When he parries you, you get electrocuted. His slashes send waves of lightning hurtling towards you. Your shield is broken and shattered with ease. The only solution left available to you is to memorize his attack patterns and learn to dodge roll or sidestep every different angle.
Of course, such a feat is hard work. You die many times, more times than your fairy companions can heal you. You get game overs, you start the fight over again. Slowly you learn his patterns and each time it feels like you get slightly closer to winning. Frustrating overwhelms you when what you SWORE should be the killing blow doesn’t do the job and Demise takes your head from your shoulders. Hours pass, it’s two in the morning but you are determined to beat this boss tonight. Finally, mercifully, you manage to dodge and duck around enough of his blows and retaliate with enough sword strikes that Demise is defeated once and for all.
Sure that this battle was too difficult for the average player, convinced that this boss fight must have led to some bad reviews for the game, you take to the internet to see what other folks are saying about the battle against Demise. Your eye is quickly drawn to a forum thread all for people who “defeat Demise the real man’s way.” This thread reveals that defeating Demise the way you did is actually the most difficult method of winning the battle!
Remember when Fi said “you can’t use your Skyward Strike?” Turns out if you try to use the Skyward Strike when lightning is falling from the sky, it will infuse YOUR sword with lightning and you can send a lightning wave at Demise to stun him and make him a sitting duck. The second half of the fight is the easy half.
This totally didn’t happen to me. I just am saying, imagine if that did happen. Imagine how embarrassing it would be to realize that you spent hours working out the most difficult possible solution to a problem that could easily be circumvented by simply ignoring the most annoying character in Legend of Zelda history. Can you imagine? I can. Not because it happened, though. Totally didn’t happen.
EMBARRASSING MOMENT #1: OVERPREDICTION
Are you dying of secondhand embarrassment yet? Well let’s see if this last story can’t finish you off. I went through a phase a year or two ago where I was really into the idea of getting into competitive Pokemon. I liked to watch people play singles matches on YouTube and I felt like I had a basic understanding of the current meta, so I wanted to try it out for myself. The thing is, raising your own competitive Pokemon on a game cartridge is a serious pain. You have hours of breeding to get the perfect IVs and then specific, focus training for the ideal EVs, plus doing annoying side quests or battle trees to get items that are valuable at a competitive level – I don’t have time for that kind of nonsense. So instead I just played battles on Pokemon Showdown.
Pokemon Showdown is a website which allows you to create a team of Pokemon to battle with to your exact specifications, without all the breeding and grinding and other words that don’t sound like they belong in a game for children. You just pick which Pokemon you want to use, choose their moves, slap an item on them and jump right into competitive battling. The website supports most of the commonly accepted formats for Pokemon battling, from SMOGON (the most popular singles format) to VGC (the official GameFreak-approved competitive format, using doubles) to everything in between.
I found that I tended to do the best in the Little Cup category. Little Cup is a singles format where you can only use the most basic form of a Pokemon. Instead of seeing Charizard, you’d see Charmander, for example. The Pokemon can be no higher than level 5 and because of that, their stat investments work a lot differently than the ones for higher levels. I enjoyed Little Cup because I got to use and see Pokemon that rarely make an appearance elsewhere, and I got pretty decent at it with the team that I was using.
In one particular battle, my opponent and I were very well matched. Every time I lost a Pokemon, I managed to knock out one of theirs. He or she made some excellent plays that outsmarted me, and I managed to come up with some clever tactics to put them on edge as well. I’m usually pretty silent during matches but this person was friendly, so we spoke a bit in the chat and congratulated each other on our teams and our heated battle. When it got to the end, we each had only one Pokemon left at full HP.
Now to help understand exactly what happened at the end of this match, there are a few things you need to know. First of all, the match seemed pretty clearly in my favor at this point. My Pokemon was Gothita, a psychic type, while my opponent had a fighting-type Pokemon called Mienfoo. I had type advantage in this situation. The second thing you need to know is that my Gothita was using an item called a Choice Scarf, which makes her much faster in exchange for only being able to use one move while on the battlefield. Whatever move I chose to use would be the move I was stuck with the rest of the match. Thirdly and finally, while I did not know the moveset of my opponent’s Pokemon, I assumed it had Knock Off (a popular move that would be super effective against my Gothita) and Fake Out (a move which is guaranteed to go first and would make me lose my turn, but only works on the first turn that the Pokemon is on the field).
In my mind, I had a serious gamble to consider. My Gothita would probably be faster than Mienfoo because of the Choice Scarf. But Fake Out would override that for one turn and probably do a decent amount of damage to me in the process. Knock Off might be powerful enough to finish me off after a Fake Out – I would have to hope that my attack would deplete all of Mienfoo’s HP in one blow. Those didn’t seem like good odds to me, so I decided to take a different approach – a risky play that, if it paid off, would guarantee me the win.
You see, my Gothita had a trick up her sleeve – literally. I could use the move Trick to put my Choice Scarf on the Mienfoo and take whatever item it was holding. If my prediction was correct – if Mienfoo really used Fake Out as its first move – then the Pokemon would be locked into an attack that would fail for the rest of the match. I would be guaranteed the win because Mienfoo wouldn’t be able to use any moves against me. Now right now, outside of the heat of battle with a clear head, I understand that this plan cannot work. The Choice Scarf/Trick combo wasn’t an effective choice for that situation and literally would not work the way I thought it would in that moment. But I thought I was gonna lose and I was desperate to figure out how to outwit this very talented competitive player.
Here’s what actually happened. My opponent did not, in fact, use Fake Out. This caused my Gothita to go first and to Trick the Choice Scarf onto my opponent before he used his move, locking him in to whatever move he chose to use against me. Now I don’t remember what move he actually used against me – just that it didn’t do enough damage to kill me right away. The attack came in right around 33% of my health, so the opponent would need three hits to take me out. The thing is, I just gave him one for free – I didn’t do any damage that turn because I used Trick, and the worst part was that now, Mienfoo had the speed advantage against me because he was wearing the Choice Scarf!
When I used my attack on him, I did easily over 50% of his health in damage. Which is to say, I could kill him in two hits if I could have gotten those two hits in before he landed three. But because Mienfoo was now faster, he attacked first each round. He hit me once the first turn and I didn’t do any damage in return. Second turn, he hit me the second time and I hit him once. I could win if I attacked first the next round, but I couldn’t because of the Choice Scarf. My bad prediction caused me to lose the one thing that would guarantee me the win – speed. Because I was now outpaced, it wasn’t possible for me to win the match and my opponent took me out.
Now remember, this person and I had been talking actively in the chat. At this point, my opponent knew I had made a horrible play and gross overprediction and (s)he called me out on it. You could have won the match! I absolutely could have. If I had simply made the safe play and attacked, I would have been guaranteed to win – not even a critical hit could have ended the match in my opponent’s favor. Instead, I found myself the loser of that battle and the person who defeated me was able to easily see through my strategy and point out how ridiculously bad it was.
So there you have it, adventurers, some very embarrassing stories about my gaming experiences! If you enjoyed today’s post, then you should head over to Reaper Interactive and check out some of their content. Austin provided the question that prompted today’s post as part of my Charming and Open event here on Adventure Rules, and soon he’ll be answering the question that I asked him for your enjoyment as well. So be sure to keep your eyes open for that, and remember to stay tuned to Adventure Rules all December long to see my answers to more questions from my amazing followers throughout the WordPress community!