Published on December 26th, 2012 | by Fraser Brown6
Trying to teach an old dog new tricks
As video games have been a constant in my life as far back as I can remember, I find it difficult to understand folk who don’t share my passion for the medium. Likewise, my old man — who was born when rationing was still a thing in Blighty – finds it difficult to understand why I spend so much time enjoying and, indeed, writing about things that he considers mere toys.
Whenever I visit my parents, I attempt to get my dad, Ray, to try out this game or that, usually to no avail. I once managed to guilt trip him into taking me on in a Street Fighter II Turbo bout, many years ago, but it ended after less than a minute and he vowed never to play again. Admittedly, I suspect I would have felt the same way having just gotten served by a nine year old. Slightly more recently he played Wii Sports and actually found himself mildly entertained, especially with the boxing, yet he had his fill after about fifteen minutes.
Finding myself at the family home with a Wii U over Christmas, I decided to make one last ditch effort to try and get the old fellow to enjoy a video game for once. After all, over the last couple of years I’d managed to turn him into a fan of Battlestar Galactica, Game of Thrones and Doctor Who, things he would never have consented to watching only five years ago for fear of them being too “nerdy” and “childish”. This is the chronicling of my failed attempt to turn a 58 year old man into a gamer on Christmas Day.
“Do you like zombies?” I asked my dad as he attempted to dance with the dog. He’d had some wine, thus it seemed like as good a time as any to ask such an odd question. He made a completely expected comment about having one for a son for 27 years, so I took that as a maybe. I had just picked up ZombiU, and it was going to be the first video game my father had played in five years. Clearly I was mad, but I’ve always been a subscriber to the idea of throwing people in the deep end.
Where he had found playing the Wii to be a fairly intuitive experience, he struggled a little more with the Wii U, mainly due to his confusion over needing to use both of his thumbs and two analogue sticks. I tried to explain that the left stick essentially controlled his feet, while the right controlled his head. He understood the concept, but when it came to employing this knowledge he was less than competent. Not only did he sometimes forget which stick was for movement and which was for looking, he kept forgetting to use both in tandem. I’d anticipated some issues, especially with a game this challenging, but certainly not with basic controls. I’m not the most patient of teachers, either.
“Dad, look up.” It was at least the fifteenth time I’d said this and we were yet to leave the tube station. “I am looking up!” He spoke with conviction, despite the fact that he was staring at a discarded packet of crisps while walking into a wall. He had once again forgotten which analog stick did what, but he hadn’t noticed, as he was staring at the map on the gamepad, rather than the TV. Since he had been spending quite a bit of time messing around on his recently purchased Samsung tablet, he found the Wii U controller to be right up his street, but it was definitely having a detrimental effect on his ability to survive the zombie apocalypse.
We finally reached the point where the shambling horde of undead were present, and I took a moment to teach him how to kill things. I demonstrated by caving in the skull of a zombie, much to his delight. “Its head came right off! Do it again!” The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree, I guess. He was keen to take matters into his own inexperienced hands, and I was only to happy to comply. “Remember,” I said “you need to use both shoulder buttons.” I knew he’d forgotten. “I bloody know!” He responded. Liar.
I sat on the sofa, arms folded, shaking my head as I watched my dad shoving zombies with a cricket bat. He’d forgotten to use both shoulder buttons and I wasn’t going to remind him again. In the end he started actually trying to use the gamepad itself to bash the monster, swinging it around in a way that made me, and likely all the breakables in the living room, rather nervous.
His first character became a tasty treat for two of London’s hungry corpses. I had considered the fact that a game with a permadeath system might not be the best title to thrust upon him, but the chances of him getting far enough in for it to become a problem were not great. Seeing as how he was barely out of the first area after all this time, my low expectations were vindicated.
“Well,” he sighed, as he tossed me the gamepad “get me back to that bit, then.” He wandered off to refill his glass, and I was left guiding the newest survivor to where we (I say we, I mean he) lost the last one. Why do I always end up doing the heavy lifting? I kindly dispatched his previous character with a few hits to the head, and gave dad the controller back. He at least said thank you for cleaning up his mess. Then we came to the tunnel.
It wasn’t much of a tunnel, to be honest. It was one of those inflatable disinfecting thingys you see in films like Outbreak of every zombie flick made since the 90s. Dad still hadn’t quite mastered turning around and was trying to strafe into it very, very slowly. After he managed to get to the end, he actually tried to turn, moving 180 degrees he promptly found himself back inside the tunnel and going back the way he had just come. He was proud, though, so that was nice.
Now capable of both turning and looking at the TV, my dad was well on his way to developing the skills of a toddler. Unfortunately, he was still easily baffled by the fact that the right analog stick could also make him look up and down, and he tended to find himself stuck staring at the ground. Combining his new found turning skills with his lack of ability to look up led to some disastrous results.
“I’m spinning! Fraser, I’m spinning!” He was indeed spinning. “I’m feeling a bit dizzy now.” He complained. I told him he could stop, which he responded to with a slightly disappointed “Oh.” All this horseplay had not gone unnoticed by the local undead population, unfortunately, and one was now slowly making its way towards my now somewhat unsteady old man. Once again he forgot how to attack and simply pushed his foe back, over and over and over again. My advice went unheeded and yet another survivor died.
Third time’s a charm, or so they say, but those people have clearly never met Raymond Brown, nor have they seen him play ZombiU. With no small amount of guidance and controller commandeering from yours truly, we made it back to the site of dad’s last failure and this time the old fellow actually managed to dispatch a zombie, with a great deal of glee. I swear there was a whoop. He chuckled as he landed the killing blow and I at least felt content as he’d finally been able to do something right. He was also close to reaching his objective, so things were starting to look up.
He needed to scan a surveillance cam stuck to a block of flats, and as I was explaining how to use the gamepad to do this, we both heard the ominous moans of our decaying chums. “Are you going to fight it this time, or are you going to run?” I asked him. He turned his character around (he was really getting the hang of that) and looked like he was going to flee. He was looking at some steps leading up to the first floor of the flats, but not moving at all. “Why aren’t you running?” I yelled. “I am!” He lied, once again. I don’t even know what he was doing this time, but it certainly didn’t involve going anywhere. The screen went red, the sound of a zombie chomping on flesh filled the air and yet another survivor fell to my dad’s inability to move.
“I don’t think this is your cup of tea, dad.” It really wasn’t; he was drinking red wine. We gave up. In about 45 minutes he’d managed to walk out of a tube station and die three times. It turned out that Nintendo Land was more his speed and we spent the rest of the afternoon playing that. Giving him the Wiimote certainly seemed to help him; he even managed to catch me in Mario Chase once. Out of eight matches, to be fair.
Not content with his single victory, he proceeded to tell the rest of the family that I had been cheating the whole time. Next year he will pay for that slander. We’ll be playing some Dark Souls. He also had a suggestion for Nintendo, actually, one for all console manufacturers. They should, according to my dad, make all controllers motion-control steering-wheels. I assured him I’d attempt to let the right people know.