Sunday, March 05, 2006

I Love Lucidity

A couple of nights ago, I borrowed an old-school Nintendo game from a friend: Back to the Future II and III. Despite my ability to quote verbatim and do most of the sound effects from all three movies, I had managed to never play this game before. Part of that was probably because I had once tried to play the original Back to the Future Nintendo game. Once. I still remember the date that I fumbled with that awful adaptation--12/29/89. That's a long time to hold a grudge.

Fast forward to 3/3/06: I decide to open up to the sequel of one of the most frustrating games I'd ever played. I jumped into BTTF II and III, knowing full well that the game had been made by LJN, a now-defunct company that was known for its brutally hard game adaptations of popular movies and cartoons. If you've ever played Bill and Ted's Excellent Video Game Adventure, you know the frustration of having to find 20 items and match them up with 20 people across 100 screens, all the while hoping your finger doesn't twitch and force you to have to replay the entire game.

Yes, BTTF II and III was every bit as impossible as I expected it to be. I like the game in theory, and am determined to beat it because I don't like to lose (you think by now I'd have learned to accept that I usually lose at things...but I never learn). Last night, while playing a particularly tedious prize maze for the 40th time, I realized that there's a huge difference between something being challenging and it just being difficult.

A challenge brings out the best in you; it excites your sense of competition and compels you to give your best for a potentially handsome payoff. On the other hand, a challenge can cross the line into tedium; if something is nearly impossible and appears to offer a negligible payoff anyway, then persistence probably isn't worth it.

I often feel that way about life. At what point do challenging ambitions become impossible roadblocks? What is the point of connecting the dots of success when the picture you get makes no sense, and could have been drawn better without any dots in the first place? Some people cruise through life while others bust their ass, stay out of trouble and still have to live day-to-day. I've seen some of the most upstanding people I've ever known--people who got their education, Just Said No and never hurt a fly--ruined or even killed before their time, while others who never gave a crap fall into one lucky break after another. Cause and effect matters so little in America these days, it seems.

Mind you, I want everyone in life to be successful--whatever that means to them--as long as what they choose to do harms no one. I'm not resentful because people with less education or less street smarts than myself have gone further in life. Even with two college degrees, I don't feel like I deserve to have anything handed to me (which is precisely why it stings me to see people have things handed to them with no appreciation of their value).

Because of all this, I often reach that point where I want to scream, "What the hell did I do wrong?" And just as often, the answer to that question makes want to turn off the tedious game that I'm playing. But I don't, because I'm a sore loser and a delusionally persistent bastard. Which may be the only thing that gets people like me through the day.

The game awaits.


Nick said...

I never realized there was a Back to the Future III. I finally saw II a couple weeks ago, and the way it ended, I was very curious to know if there was a part III. I guess I'll now have to find it and rent it. Seeing MJFox get that Western Union telegraph cetainly had my curiosity and I was pissed that TBS didn't show a Back to the Future to follow part II.

Ian McGibboney said...

Uh, yeah. The two BTTF sequels were shot back-to-back and released within a year of each other. They're all very good and I think the third one might even be your favorite.