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Tales from the Trenches

Post-Traumatic Stress

I once had the great misfortune to be assigned to a licensed superhero game for the Game Boy Advance. This was, sadly, before the SP came out, so the stupid thing had no backlight. I had the PA strip “Lame Boy Advance” posted in my cubicle, where I sat with the GBA tilted at the one exact angle that allowed my fluorescent tube lamp to illuminate the screen without reflecting glare directly into my eyes.

But I digress.

The true horror wasn’t the hardware, it was the software. The main game wasn’t particularly difficult with all the superpowers the main character could use, and it was short, only ten or so levels. I could perform multiple full playthroughs in a day. But in order to unlock the Final Boss Stage, I had to score a 3/3 rating on every level on the Fist Meter. What is the Fist Meter, you ask? Excellent question! It’s the meter that scores how often the player defeats enemies by punching them to death instead of using, you know, the main character’s world-famous iconic powers.

So I had to pretend that an awesomely powerful hero was actually just some dude in tights who really liked hitting people in the face.

After a movie about this superhero came out, my friends and I were walking down the street discussing that character’s rogues gallery and speculating who would make a good villain for the sequel. My friend mentioned the villain that just happened to be the Final Boss who I had come to despise so much. I despised him not because he was a pain in the ass to kill (he was) but because the asinine conditions to unlock him took away the one pleasure that the game afforded, which was being an unstoppable force of destructive might.

I stopped dead and bent over, hyperventilating. The memories all returned at once, suddenly filling me with the anger, the loathing, the relentless tedium I experienced more than a decade ago. I clutched my hands to my head and shouted “NEVER MENTION THAT NAME IN MY PRESENCE!”

I think I was mostly hamming it up for effect. I’m pretty sure I was. I mean, it was just a game, right? Not some genuine trauma that left permanent scars on my psyche that will haunt me until the end of my days.