As I mentioned before, back in the day, I don’t really remember who decided what games to buy for our house. But somehow Xevious, the classic Namco game, made its way to our house sometime in the mid 1980s. Xevious was a top-down scroller. You controlled an aircraft that moved vertically up the screen and your goal was to hit targets on the ground below, as well as destroy flying crafts. The layout was pretty simple, green fields and yellow paths dotted serenely with gray, polygonal buildings. Your ship, a small, triangular entity, hovering above, a small target symbol hovering also to help when dropping and shooting little rabbit pellets of death and destruction.
What I recall most about the game was the difficulty. Like many old school games, Xevious was challenging. There was a lot going on, what with the stationary ground targets and the flying air targets. Come to think of it though, I don’t think the ground targets shot at you – they were meant for points. But points, c’mon…what else is there to fight for?! I actually got pretty good at hitting the ground targets. The game taught me a good bit about timing and targeting when having to compensate for movement. (And they say video games are good for nothing. Would you have rather I learned about such things on the mean streets of my rural hometown?) But what really screwed me over were the flying targets. My poor little girl brain just couldn’t handle the complex art of destroying both stationary AND moving targets at the same time. For shame, Namco, for asking so much of me at that young and fragile age! It’s probably a good thing for the nation that I never joined the military.
Anyway, as much as I sucked at Xevious, I still played it. Every now and then I actually got far enough to reach one of the large “boss”(?) ground installations, which was a big, octagonal shaped building that you had to hit specific parts of to destroy. Of course, there were those flying thingys all over the place; and when the stars were all aligned correctly, I did defeat everything, only to be moved onto the next, even harder level. I supposed I could go on a bit about my lack of fortitude with some games, but I’ve already admitted that I’m not a completionist. Those seeds of “meh” were probably sown during this early phase of gaming since, at that point, video games were just another thing to do instead of playing with Barbies, He-Man, or Gobots, or coloring books, which were all interesting sometimes and not so much at other times.
Xevious also wormed its way into my “improvement” schema, in that, every time I played it, I was determined to do a little better than the last time. I know that memorization came into play after awhile; I mean, those levels didn’t magically swap bits once the game was turned off – the stationary targets were always in the same place and the flying guys always flew the same paths. But with each play, I wanted to garner more points, and I achieved minuscule yet momentous victories every time I destroyed something I hadn’t managed to before. (It’s a little sad that this particular resolve never quite spilled over into real life; not in terms of actual destruction and mayhem – I hated being in trouble – but in terms of my schoolwork, which was truly average.)
But improving in or even beating the game never really stuck as a must-do-before-I die sorta thing. But what did stick and grow besides “meh” was a little seed of incompetence. And I don’t mean that in the she’s-stupid way, but rather in the sense that I think I really lacked the skills needed to play scrollers, aircraft shooters, or air simulators. Man, writing that, it sounds like such a cop out – I should be able to do anything I put my mind to, dammit! Yes, but…those really are types of games that I don’t enjoy playing, and if that’s due to my inability or unwillingness to push the boundaries of my skills, then so be it. Or maybe it’s because of my poor depth perception. I’ll just blame it all on the fates for letting Xevious into the house and subsequently into my clumsy and yet sorta determined 10-year-old hands.