Friday, June 22, 2012

Goodbye, Lucille

Our PS3 is dead.

We never had a video game console when I was a kid. My mother was of the opinion that if we wanted to play, there was a perfectly good yard outside to run circles around and that we had zillions of perfectly good toys to aid in the improvement of our imaginations. My brothers and I didn’t disagree, and I can’t ever remember us begging for any kind of gaming system.

We had friends whose parents eagerly doled out cash for the newest thing. The kid that lived down the block had a Gameboy and an NES, I can remember sitting in the basement of their house watching him play Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I can’t remember ever playing it, so I probably turned down the opportunity if it was ever offered, or I wasn’t much put out about not being asked if I wanted to play.

In high school, my best friend was a writer for a small video game review website, and he had a sweet setup in his room with an N64, a Dreamcast, and his recently acquired PS2 all plugged in to one TV which was specifically for gaming. I can remember lounging around, watching him play things like Space Channel 5 (a music game sort of like DDR but without the dance pad), Seaman (a game in which the player raised a fish/man thing from the tank to walking; the coolest part is that it came with a microphone that would attach to the controller so that the “seaman” could be controlled with the player’s voice), and Shenmue (which, I was told at the time, was supposed to have been the most beautiful game ever made).

I can’t ever remember feeling jealous that other kids had these things, just knowing matter-of-factly that they had them and I didn’t.

Then, when I was a senior in high school, there was a raffle held at school for homecoming or something of that nature. I remember sitting in the middle of the gym floor with the pep band, a tenor saxophone on my hip, as they announced the prize, a PS2, and it’s winner: my brother.

We weren’t sure what to do with it. My dad bought us some games. We figured out how to plug it into the TV. I asked my video gaming friend if we had to have a DVD remote in order to use the PS2 for that purpose.

Once we figured out what to do with it, we liked to play RPGs. Racing games and puzzle games were all right, but the best thing about an RPG was the story, and the fact that we could all enjoy it together.  Our favorites were (and still are, in our hearts) Jak and Daxter, Rachet & Clank, and Sly Cooper. We’d help each other out on the puzzle minigames, I would always hand over the controller during a racing minigame (I hate those), and if one of us would get stuck during a level, there was usually a sibling nearby to call in for backup: “Can you do this part for me? I can’t get it.”

A year or so after my husband and I were married, the hubbub in the video game world was the new generation of video game consoles, which were competing for the attention of gamers everywhere. Neither my husband or I are huge fans of the Halo series (and that’s the only way to be with the Halo series, either you’re an insanely huge fan or you couldn’t care less about it), so we weren’t terribly interested in owning an XBox 360. The PS3, with its capacity for gorgeous graphics, was too dauntingly priced for a newly married couple who needed to spend their time studying instead of gaming anyway. The family friendly Wii looked like it would be fun, and it was not only more reasonably priced but looked like it was going to have the kind of games we’d want to play.

We didn’t rush out and get anything the night it came out, like some people we knew. We leisurely purchased a used Wii on ebay for pretty much what we would have paid for a new one. The greatest thing about the Wii was that you could spend hours playing the little minigames that it came with: golf, tennis, baseball, boxing, and bowling. You could also spend days and weeks primping your “Mii,” the little avatars used to represent you during these little minigames. There were online contests to make Miis, and you could watch every one you made walk in a little parade.

Then my husband and I graduated from college. There was no more studying to be done, so we were free to pay attention to other things. One of the things my husband began to want to give his attention to was football (NFL football, to be specific). Beginning to pay attention to football again was a ritual for him, and it began with purchasing the most recent copy of Madden. And for some reason (perhaps this was part of the ritual) he was determined to have the PS3 version.

The biggest problem with this was that we did not have a PS3 at the time. We didn’t have any other games for it, and we already had a PS2 (which was on the fritz) and a Wii. I didn’t see why we needed to purchase yet another console just for his silly sports simulation game.

One of the selling points of the PS3 when it first arrived was all the shouting about how it would be backward compatibility, that is, they would not only be able to play games produced for the PS3, but also games produced for the PS2. A big draw for me is replayability. A month or so ago I broke out our dusty copy of Jak and Daxter and played it for a while (I even got through the Fire Canyon by myself, Jas!). My husband was able to talk me into getting a PS3 with the majority of his argument weighing on the fact that I would be able to play my old PS2 games on it, too.

We skipped off to Best Buy to purchase a PS3 of our very own. We were saddened to discover that though the price had been slashed, the backward compatibilty had been, too. Sony’s definition of “Slim” is apparently “less awesome.” Retreating to a nearby fast food joint in tears, we discussed our options.

One of our friends had purchased a PS3 when they were being swept off the shelves and twice the price. He’s one of those people whose gaming area looks like a museum of fun. He probably still has a working Saturn.

We devised a plan, in which my husband would be able to enjoy his silly football video game and in which I would also be able to enjoy my games. We marched back over to Best Buy and left triumphantly clutching a $300 piece of amusement. And upon our friends’ next visit, we switched the new one for the old.

Even though it sounds like it’s trying to launch itself into orbit every time we turn it on, the enjoyment of this video game console has been immense. We played the Assassin’s Creed series on it, the new Batman games, any old PS2 game I could want, and of course, every Madden game since the one we got it for.

But the other night, disaster struck. My husband switched it on and was getting ready to exercise while playing yet another round of pretend football. He was bustling around, getting out the stationery bike, and the PS3 was puffing along, playing the intro to the game.

And suddenly, it stopped.

My husband forgot what he was doing and went to poke at it. He unplugged it and devoted himself to opening the case and taking a can of compressed air to its insides. Pieces of it were spread all over my dining room table until he applied himself to putting it back together the next evening.

“Beep, beep, beep beep,” it reported, when he tried to turn it on. We translated this as: “Goodbye, cruel world, argh,” and pronounced it dead.

We never gave it a name, but if we had, it would have been something like “Judy” or maybe “Lucille.” We’ll never be able to find another PS3 like it. We can get a new one, but I won’t be able to bust out The Sims Bustin’ Out; we’ll have to make our fritzy PS2 work if I ever want to play that again. I guess Slim Jim the Reasonably Priced but Less Awesome PS3 is probably in our future.

So here’s to you... Goodbye, Lucille.

Slim Jim with Lucille

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