My Boyfriend, The Pirate King
Last night was an interesting evening. My boyfriend headed out to a videogame networking event around 7:00, and I had the apartment all to myself for a couple of hours. I made good use of the first hour by cleaning up the place and doing the dishes, but by 8:00, I had pretty much caved and was completely engrossed in my latest obsession, Kingdom Hearts. I know that anyone who reads this column is probably already nodding his or her head in recognition, but really, the fact that I’m even playing this game is a huge deal for me. Generally, I am loathe to venture into RPG territory, Disney characters notwithstanding. I don’t really do those kinds of action/adventure games. They kind of make me nervous.
That said, I’ve been playing Kingdom Hearts since Sunday now, and I’m actually doing better than expected. I’m getting through the levels with minimal assistance, and I am really enjoying seeing all of the recognizable Disney characters. The main problems I have with the game are that a) it takes forever to get anywhere, and b) I don’t have the stamina to play it for long stretches at a time. More than two or three hours of gameplay is usually enough to make me want to scream. Plus, if I play it too late into the night, I end up with stress dreams, which I find exceedingly unpleasant.
When I picked up the controller last night, I quickly finished up the Olympic Coliseum battle with Cerberus, and was eager to start unlocking new, unexplored worlds. So you will understand my frustration when, after an entire evening of play, I still hadn’t made it out of Traverse Town. I was in the midst of fighting yet another battle with the Heartless when my boyfriend finally came home from his event. It wasn’t long before he was sitting next to me on the couch, watching me play, and trying (with moderate success) to resist offering to “help”. Finally, in the interest of having a night free of gaming dreams (which, by the way, did not happen), I declared that I was done for the evening. As I reached the save point and prepared to shut off the system, my boyfriend stopped me. “Hey baby,” he said cheerfully, “before you turn off the game, want me to loot for you?”
Looting is a very big thing with my boyfriend. Truthfully, I wonder if it’s his favorite part of me playing Kingdom Hearts. I might be OK at getting through the levels, but I am not a very good looter. I have limited patience with videogames, and looting basically involves spending several hours running back and forth over a completed level and picking up all of the little goodies that you missed when you had more important things to do. Looters enjoy searching in all the hidden nooks and crannies, and always pay special attention to places that are above or below the camera’s normal eye level. Truly devoted looters are entirely happy to spend long hours looking for all those special extra items that they don’t really need but are just so cool that they can’t resist picking them up. My boyfriend is such a looter, and he also happens to be very, very good at it.
I confess, this impulse to loot videogames has puzzled me somewhat over the course of our relationship. Personally, I am a minimalist when it comes to items and accessories, and I hate wasting time that could be spent advancing through the game’s story mode. When I asked him why he loves looting so much, his response was a boyish grin and a simple, “I’m a pack rat! I like stuff!” Upon further questioning, he admitted that looting also gives him a feeling of accomplishment and thoroughness. It’s not enough to simply beat a level; you have to dominate it.
Of course, the other reason that my boyfriend enjoys looting so much (in this game anyway) is that he is totally showing off. In the real world, he may be a guy picking up hidden items in a videogame designed for 10 year olds. In the virtual world, however, he is a pirate, the Francis Drake of videogames, and the treasure he finds serves to make my character significantly faster and more powerful. Considering my gaming skill level (or lack thereof), this is actually really, really helpful. As such, I am content to give the controls over from time to time, and let him do his thing. I can always go read a book for a while. And when I return to the game, all the chores will be done and new worlds will await me. Who knows where I’ll go next?