The High Score: A journey to the top of Portal Pinball
thebigmack last edited by thebigmack
Hi EZA forums! I've never been one to blog or share much online, but EZA community is no doubt the best place to do it.
If you'll do me the honor and have a moment to spare, I have a story I've been needing to tell.
A year ago, I achieved something I never thought possible: I became one of the best Portal Pinball players in the world.
I know that sounds extremely boastful, as I too, almost don't believe it. But if you are curious to hear what it took to make that journey and how it felt when it was all over, read on after the break. :) Love & Respect! - thebigmack
Part One: The Early Beginning of the End Game
Video games are inherently special.
Unlike other forms of entertainment, video games present a challenge. A barrier between start and finish that requires you to rise above and master the puzzle. Complete the quest. Win.
The form these challenges can take are seemingly endless, like our own game backlogs. Whether it's difficult enemies, a deep test of logic or the competition of multiplayer, challenge is usually at the heart of the experience. It draws us in and meets us with a foundation to conquer it. For a human being to be given the chance to feel fully in control (in the most exciting and dynamic way possible) is an enticing concept. I am enticed daily.
At a basic level, we approach our games to fulfill the need for entertainment. For some, though, games can briefly fulfill much more. They give us accessible achievement in a time where it usually feels out of reach. They allow us to feel highly competent in a world that expects it. They open the door for us to be members of a community to share the best we have to offer. With all these things in mind, it's no surprise a game can become a part of an identity. E-sports are the best example of this that modern gaming can offer. But long before polygonal street fighters, legends of League and the internet itself, the sense of achievement, competence and community could be fulfilled in the arcades across North America. It was there that identity and video games forged together for the first time with two powerful things: your own initials and a high score.
It all sounds idyllic, but the hay day of the arcade was slightly before my place and time. I grew up in the country during the Nintendo era. The limitations of geography curbed my arcade exposure and the Nintendo absorbed my soul.
My own piece of video game identity evolved at home instead of the arcade. My friends and I were too distracted by a pixelated Italian plumber to give much thought to the outside world of competitive gaming. To us, it only existed in movies. As wondrous as it seemed, it appeared to involve too much walking to bother. The only competitive community I needed was between friends in frantic rounds of Street Fighter 2, GoldenEye or Smash Bro's. The games we enjoyed usually had some form of scoring attributed to them but the overall win state was more pertinent. The unrelenting destruction of my younger brother suggested I was good at video games, so I believed it.
I only witnessed the hypnosis of an arcade during dreaded back-to-school shopping trips. No amount of begging would detour my parents toward the cavern of strobe lit sticky carpets and screaming feral children. The promise of video games remained inside but a part of me knew it wouldn't be as fun without my own band of friends. It was only on rare birthday occasions we were set loose in an arcade. Left to our own survival instincts, we would wander past other tribes of lost boys, toward the towering cabinets of light and sound that beckoned us closer. Each machine hosted an ominous glow, displaying tables of high scores with no evidence to suggest their creation - aside from the vacant standing space and still controls. Surely these scores were left by the coolest of big kids. The kind that mark their digital territory with unshakable confidence and three letter swear words. These high scores appeared to be this untouchable thing, as if any attempts to join the ranks would summon their owner back to annihilate with a fist full of quarters.
Despite the looming fear of teenagers, we still tried our luck and quickly discovered that we weren't as good at video games as we thought. This realization and my own sense of time would eventually be lost in a euphoric, sugar based haze akin to Fear and Loathing. My only memories remaining blurred between the single handed extinction of the alligator and a budding fascination with pinball...