Great Moments in Videogames

So this thread is for those moments in videogames (and computer games, if you’re the type who makes a distinction) that took you by surprise and made you feel that you were in the middle of something really cool and different. I’m not interested in the pre-scripted events, like a spectacular cutscene from a Final Fantasy game or the death of a major character that’s part of the main storyline. I’m talking about the kinds of moments you can only get from interactive entertainment – they were planned and scripted, of course, but you feel as if you’re seeing them “by accident” or that you somehow had a role in making them happen. For instance:

I was playing Seaman. It’s a Dreamcast game where you raise a weird talking fish-creature with a human head; you interact with it by speaking into a microphone attached to the controller. The game is fascinating, but the voice-recgonition could be kind of hit-or-miss. There’s a database of recognized words and phrases, and it could sometimes confuse one phrase for another, or just plain not recognize what you’d said. It helped that they designed the Seaman to be kind of obnoxious and insulting, because if it didn’t understand you it would come back with some smart-ass reply and didn’t “break the fiction.”

At one point the Seaman swims up to me and gets into a discussion about entertainment, and he asks what’s my favorite movie. I figure I’ll give my answer, and then when he doesn’t recognize it I’ll just answer Star Wars, because that’s got to be in the database. So I say “Miller’s Crossing.” The Seaman gets this weird expression on his face and replies, “Oh, so you’re a Coen Brothers fan! I bet you and your friends just sit around and quote lines from Raising Arizona to each other all the time.”

At that point, I dropped the controller and backed slowly away from the TV. I’m not saying it’s a super-high-falutin’ obscure movie, especially among people in the videogame industry who were likely to be translating the game (it was originally a Japanese game), but it was just obscure enough to give me the creeps and convince me that there really was something living inside the machine.

Mine is from Clock Tower, an early Playstation adventure game. My character was being stalked by the serial killer in an office building, and I hid under a desk. The killer comes in, looks around and leaves… Just as I breathe a sigh of relief and crawl out from under the desk I hear a phone ring. It’s the fax machine, which starts printing out a message: “I’m coming to get you.”

Needless to say I crapped my pants. Later tries at the game showed me that the fax machine event was triggered randomly, but it was creepy as hell in that instance.

Well, the scariest thing (Well, one of the scariest things) I’ve ever seen in a game was in the old “F/A-18 Hornet” sim for the mac.

I’d been working with a scenario editor on the “Training” mission, which takes place in Hawaii. (Not that location matters, I suppose. Anyway…) I’d switched the aircraft model to be used for my wingman from an F/A-18 to a B-52. I’d wanted to get a screenshot or two of a B-52 in flight, or something like that. It wasn’t even the most important thing I’d planned on doing that mission.

So I take off from the air force base (Naval Air Station?) to the west of the inlet to Pearl Harbor, and start flying east at a modest altitude, just on autopilot…But after a couple of minutes of cruising, the cockpit shook violently, and I could hear the telltale sound of 20mm shells riddling the airframe. Not expecting anything like this to happen at ALL, I switched to a rear view from the cockpit…

…And saw the huge, and I mean HUGE B-52 on my “6,” blazing away at me with forward-facing cannon (Not standard equipment on a strategic bomber, by the way). After about a second, almost like it knew I saw it, it banked away to the left. Slowly, gracefully, but with such a sense of purpose that I knew it was going to circle back for a second try at me. Words can’t describe terrible beauty of that moment…

After QUICKLY quitting the program, I found out what had happened…when I switched the wingman F/A-18 into a B-52, I had inadvertently switched it’s “side,” AND left the “dormant” fighter AI programming intact, so the sim treated the B-52 like an enemy fighter, and sent it on patrol.

So, yeah, the scariest moment I’ve ever had playing a video game. And I started playing Maniac Mansion when I was 6.

Another great moment in videogames was when I figured out I could have a gay Sim in The Sims.

Grand Prix Legends. It’s a simulation of the 1967 season, the graphics and physics model are amazing. But it’s very hard to drive it fast. I was going through a full season; full-length races, about two hours each. I found a hack on the net so the AI drivers weren’t at full strength. They’re still very quick, and without that the game’s next to impossible.

Got to the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa. The old Spa, eight-and-a-half miles, Eau Rouge and the Masta kink. I’m driving a Brabham. I managed to get into the lead early, and stretched it about a second or two per lap. Every time by the pit board I could check what the gap was. And about halfway through the race that number starts coming down. Jim Clark is catching me in a Lotus 49. I start trying to run the numbers while I’m driving, how fast he’s closing and how many laps are left. If I push too hard, I can still crash; I want to win the race but I also want points for the championship.

Brilliant game.

Some years ago, I was showing a friend this great little shoot-em-up called “Wolfenstein 3d.” It was very impressive; no Ultima Underworld, mind you, but fast, smooth, and bloody. I was demonstrating some of my favorite moments (handily saved at) in the episode, and running through the final battle, which was against this big Nazi steroid freak wielding two chainguns.

Now, I’d run through this combat dozens of times, and each time it played out the same way. Go to the side room, load up on ammo and max out the health. Go back into the main room, slide on down to the door, then backpeddle furiously as it opened, emptying chaingun into bad guy. At about the 2/3rds empty point, I’d be able to strafe right back into the side room, dart around to refresh health and ammo; and then Big Steroid Guy would follow me in into the finishing hail of bullets. Dozens of times it played out like that.

Except this time, as I backpeddled and retreated back into the room. Grabbed health and ammo, spun around to face the entry corridor, and…

Waited. Waited. Waited some more. “You sure he follows you?” asks friend.

“Huh. Never seen that before,” says I. So, time to take the fight to him; I charge back into the main room, spin around at the opposite wall to…nothing. No sign of Aryan the Steroid; leading to a tense circuit of the main room. I creep back down into the sideroom, move around the corner, looking left, right, nothing.

“What the h…” I’m musing, thinking a bug erased the endboss, as I turn left again, to face the massive pixelated in-my-face Steroid Nazi just as the pc speakers boom 'GUTENTAG!" and poor BJ Blastowitz meets his end. Like to have jumped out of my chair.

The Thief series had any number of “random” great moments – nick-of-time getaways when you could hear the guards coming down the hall. Things like realizing a guard was coming, not seeing an exit or dark spot to hide, and then at the last moment glancing up and seeing a wooden beam, pulling out a rope arrow, and ascending to safety. Cool stuff.

I’m no audiophile, but damn the sound in that game was incredible.

Also in Thief: attempting to blackjack a Hammerite guard only to discover that I’ve instead managed to piss off a Haunt. From the back they look identical.

I’m jonesing for Thief 3. In time, in time.

Most comic moment for me was in the Thief 2, the first time I met one of the few guards with a full metal helm. Carefully sneaking through dark streets, creeping closer, closer. Blackjack out, tiptoe behind, raise blackjack, and…

BONG!!! as it bounces off the helmet.

Whereupon the guard, very much not knocked out, whips around and hacks me to death.

Learned to pay attention to headgear after that.

I’m by no means calling you a liar but I never ran into an unblackjackable in Thief 2. Were you playing on a higher difficulty level or was it just something I accidentally avoided? I got all the way to the last level before I made the mistake of loaning the CD to a coworker. I’ve never been able to play it again :(.

There were, IIRC, guards that could not be blackjacked in Thief 2. They had helmets that covered the back of their necks.

Aye. They were scattered few and far between; there was at least one somewhere on the streets in the early mission where you had to get back to Garrett’s house. I believe I only ran into him by going out of my way to knock out absolutely everyone (which is a real good way of laying low, I imagine).

There were others in later missions, but were never quite so memorable as your first.

“I’m sorry, but our princess is in another castle.”

At a relatively early age I learned that hard work is rarely rewarded.

Half-Life was the first FPS with a respectable AI that I played. I remember when I first played the demo knowing only the way Wolfenstein/Doom bad guys would react.

I decided to lure some marines into a typical Doomian trap by shooting at them while I was far away, running inside the gap between two cargo containers and crouching, waiting to mow down the grunts as they turned the corner.

I waited and waited. I then heard a bouncing clank behind me and whipped around to see a grenade tossed into the gap. I ran out in a panic and was mowed down by the grunts. I was flushed out in a by a 450MHz processor. Freaked me out.

In Tenchu Stealth Assassin on the Playstation, watching the skin-and-bone monks flailing harmlessly towards me - which was mildly disturbing in itself - and then jumping as they suddenly breathed fire, singing my nice ninja robes.

Hmmm, every time I start out a family they always turn out gay, despite my best-laid plans. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” but I figured I’d like to have at least one straight family in the neighborhood. (This is a long story, but I think it has a pretty good payoff.)

The first time I played the game, I noticed that they start you out with the Roomies family – 2 women and the instructions “Melissa and Chris are new in town; help them make friends.” So I figured, I’ll start a family with two guys, they’ll interact with the Roomies, follow the music career path, inter-marry, and it’ll be just like ABBA.

I start out with my two guys, “Logan” and “Tubbs.” Nice house, all the stuff they need to stay entertained, etc. I want them to get along with each other, so I have them talk to each other. Usually, the Sims stop talking to each other after a bit, but these guys are really hitting it off. They keep talking, and talking, and their “relationship” bars keep going up. The next chance I get to intervene, I have Tubbs go off to make dinner, but Logan comes up and wants to talk some more. Eventually, when I click on Logan I get a “Flirt” option. I’m, you know, curious, so I give it a try. Works like gangbusters on the two of them, they both have little hearts pop up over their heads, they’re smitten and whenever I leave them alone they’re hugging each other or giving each other backrubs. From that point on, whenever the Roomies girls come over, the guys pay no attention to them but just sit on the couch and make out.

So one time Melissa is over at the guys’ house, and I try to salvage my original plan and get her and Tubbs together. They’re hitting it off pretty good for a while, until Logan walks in. Awkward! He catches Melissa giving Tubbs a back-rub, walks up and slaps her around, then storms off to the kitchen to make dinner. While he’s doing so, of course there’s a kitchen fire. Tubbs runs in and tries to put it out, but is consumed in the blaze.

I move Tubbs’ urn to the backyard to make it a gravestone. Logan heads out and mourns at the grave. He’s standing there crying, but of course Melissa is still at the house and she’s bored. She heads out to the back yard to see what Logan’s doing. She asks him to dance. He agrees, and they dance on Tubbs’ grave.

In You Don’t Know Jack, apparently when you start it up, it’ll say something about “Merry Christmas”, or whatnot, on the appropriate days. Well, the one time I saw the game, it happened to be Mardi Gras… And the game said happy Mardi Gras! Since the date of Mardi Gras is a very involved calculation, I can only assume that they had some list of precalculated dates for it. I do wonder when that list runs out…

Fallout 2, on the offshore oil rig. I’ve been going about things very stealthily, and have left all of my party members aside from my gay husband on the top floor so they don’t get in the way. We trigger an alarm, the whole base comes to life and I’m fighting for my life when the mechs activate and kill hubby… The very next turn, I level up and get to choose a perk- I take Slayer and start knocking the shit out of the mechs… I sent one flying for a good ten yards into the wall. I just had this cheesy action movie image of the wanderer yelling his beloved’s name as he massacres the robots…

A number of my greatest moments appear in multiplayer, where strategies and luck have a big part.

When my friends and I play Goldeneye, we have a rule that you can’t shoot somebody who doesn’t have a gun yet (that is, they just respawned) - barring monumental stupidity on the unarmed guy’s part. He can’t go sprinting through a firefight shouting “No gun! No gun!” and expect to stay alive, but we can’t go around stalking him either.

At one point I ran into a room where an unarmed player was running for a gun on the floor, and he stopped. I circled around to the other side of the gun from him. We looked back and forth at each other; both us punks felt lucky.

“Well, I don’t have a gun, so you might as well go away,” he said. I knew that the instant I turned around he’d pick it up and blast me, and I didn’t want to back out since the other players knew where we were and were converging to the area. So instead I shot the gun, which bounced into the air and right into his hands. Another shot to the forehead finished him off.

I forgot all about You Don’t Know Jack! The “Movies” edition is probably the best-written videogame I’ve ever played. Apart from the category called “I Said Chisolm Trail!”, I loved this question: “What was the name of that movie, you know, it had Bill Murray, and he played a weatherman who went to this city in Pennsylvania, and he kept living the same day over and over again?” If you answer it correctly, the next question is “What was the name of that movie, you know, it had Bill Murray…”