Gameological In StereoPodcast


Episode 1: First Moments Of Mastery

Mastering a game can make the world feel a bit more manageable.

By John Teti • April 13, 2012

Who says podcasts are dead? Well, aside from every single online publishing expert I consulted while the site was under development, nobody. But The Gameological Society has a freaking podcast anyway. It’s called Gameological In Stereo. I cast my lot with my A.V. Club colleague Kyle Ryan: There’s something personal about a broadcast of the human voice that makes podcasting worthwhile, at least for this site.

I have some ideas for the format of this thing, so you’ll hear a bit of experimentation in the coming months. For the first episode, I kept it simple. I got three Gameological contributors on the Skype-phone and asked them the same question: What was the first time you felt like you had mastered a game?

Click this widget here to listen.

Spoilers. Scott Jones chose Street Fighter II on the Super Nintendo, on account of he drove himself to learn every character one summer. Gus Mastrapa chose Time Pilot ’84, an arcade game I’d never heard of before, and he reminisced about Theatre Of Magic pinball. I found a way to brag about the world record I set for the most Xbox achievement points earned in 24 hours—and look, I just bragged about it again right here, oops. Finally, Ellie Gibson (pictured above) talked about her mastery of Aladdin on the Super NES.

I don’t know why Ellie sounds like she’s recording in a roadside motel bathroom, but we’re working on it for next time. We’re also working to get the iTunes wires hooked up. Once we’ve done enough genuflection before the Apple altar, Gameological In Stereo will be listed in the iTunes directory. Then you can subscribe to it, or stream it directly into your veins, or whatever. That’s not my business.

Share your moments of mastery in the comments and relive that time when you were the best in the world, as far as you knew.

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330 Responses to “Episode 1: First Moments Of Mastery”

  1. TheOnceAndFutureCheese says:

    I can’t remember which happened first, but it was either when I got all 120 stars in Super Mario 64 and met Yoshi, or when I got all 150 Pokemon in Red.

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

      I think mine was Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island. It was also the first game that was given to me specifically because I wanted it (everything else we had at that point was my older brother’s). If you got all the red coins and flowers and finished a level with full “health” you’d get a perfect score, and if you did that for each level in a world you unlocked a bonus level and a minigame stage. 

      Still one of my favorite games ever. I had good taste as a kid.

    • Aaron Riccio says:

      All your time are belong to us.

    • root (1ltc) says:

      I’d sooner champion SM64, because finishing that at least takes some modicum of skill, whereas simply collecting all the Pokemon is just a matter of grinding, which anyone with a pulse can do.

      • caspiancomic says:

         Grinding and having friends with the companion cartridge to whichever one you have. Not all 150 doods are available in one or the other version, and certain doods can only be evolved through trading.

      • Aaron Riccio says:

        Isn’t skill something that you can achieve by grinding? That’s how I eventually got 100% on Crash Bandicoot. (And broke several controllers.)

    • GhaleonQ says:

      My 1st 2 games were for my 5th birthday, Super Mario World and King’s Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow.  I 100-percent completed Super Mario World a bit after with the help of my younger brother (who was bad enough to jump into pits/find random discoveries; curse you, Miyamoto!), but I got a perfect score in King’s Quest VI and the good ending in months.

      It’s still 1 of my best achievements in video games, just because Sierra forces you to think and play so carefully.  I can’t believe I thrived off of that at a young age.

  2. zebbart says:

    Awesome, can’t wait to try this out. As someone who used to spend hours a day gaming, but now only has about 15 minutes in 3-5 minutes segments available for it, I love hearing about games but I have no use for podcasts and writing that is really focused on the details of playing specific new games. Are there any podcasts that cover gaming as a cultural phenomenon rather than as a consumer interest? I really liked A Life Well Wasted while it was going.

  3. apathymonger says:

    If people want to listen/download in iTunes, they can enter in the Advanced>Subscribe To Podcast menu.

    Looking forward to listening.

    • John Teti says:

      And even better, here’s the link for the podcast-only feed:

      • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

        Is there a cool way to get podcasts without using itunes? I’ve always wanted to try listening to them, but never felt like going out of my way to find a way to get them to download automatically or whatever. I’m a lazy fuck who uses Foobar2000 to listen to music, basically.

        • Destroy Him My Robots says:

          There’s probably some sort of addon for Foobar2k. I use MusicBee which is pretty much exactly what I need out of the box (so basically I’m way lazier than you), and the link @apathymonger:disqus posted works for me. Alternatively, I think you can just throw Teti’s link at just about any RSS reader.

          Also, looks like I’m the first to scrobble the podcast on! I’m sure this gonna count for something some day.

        • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

          I don’t know why I didn’t even check for an addon. I found one after like 2 seconds of searching. Now I get to fiddle with it until it does what I want! HOORAY!

  4. jarviscockblocker says:

    Yay for podcasts!
    The first game I mastered was Terminator 2 for the Game Boy. No cool story to go with it, sorry.

  5. Chip_Dipson says:

    When I was in second grade, my Dad and I were playing Pitfall 2 one Saturday afternoon. He had to go do some errands, and handed me the controller and said as a joke. “Here ya go! Why don’t you beat this for me.” Only my underdeveloped brain didn’t realize he was joking. I played that game for what seemed like hours, breaking down in tears many times. My dad walked in on one of my melt-downs and explained he was just kidding, but I was determined! I finally got the diamond ring, the lady girl, and also the monkey-lion looking thing. When you beat the game you are rewarded with about 10 seconds of Pitfall Harry jumping up and down. What made the whole thing seem so revolutionary was it was the first game I ever played that you could actually beat, instead of accumulating points until you inevitably ran out of lives. It was revolutionary stuff back then.

  6. doyourealize says:

    I’ve been playing video games since the days of the NES, but I was never allowed to actually own a system until our Genesis, which didn’t stick around for long enough for me to truly master a game, though if I had to choose one, it would be D&D:Warriors of the Eternal Sun, which I’ve tried to play again recently and wasn’t as much fun as I remember.

    However, the first game I can say that, without a doubt, I’ve mastered, is Demon’s Souls.  Picked it up on release day and seriously played nothing but for months, and was still playing often a year later.  I will give it a moment of silence when it goes offline on May 31st.

    PS – Thanks for getting “A Whole New World” stuck in my head.

    • colliewest says:

       I bought a PS3 just for Demon’s Souls. It’s the first and only full size console I’ve ever bought, I just hated the idea of the full game going away before I got to have a crack at it. I got as far as getting my body back then other things took over. Thanks for reminding me to get back in.

      • doyourealize says:

        Well, you’ll still be able to play the single player game, but the online components will go away, which add amazing depth to an already deep game.  I’ll probably go through it again soon, before it goes offline.

        • colliewest says:

           Yeah, I’m going to put in as many hours as I can in May and see how far I get. I haven’t even encountered other players yet but I’m sure they’ll be more people on as the deadline approaches. Dunno if I’ll carry on after that, it might feel a little flat without the online elements.

          What did you think about Dark Souls?

          • doyourealize says:

            Don’t know how familiar you are with the online elements, but you need to be in body form, and in a level where you haven’t beaten the boss to get invaded or summon others. You can join others from anywhere, though.

            I really liked Dark Souls but for different reasons. There was much more focus on exploration in its huge (and connected!) world, but replay value was not quite so high. I could be wrong about that, but I’m sure I’ll head back at some point.

  7. LimeadeYouth says:

    I can’t remember the name anymore, but back in Jr. high there was this game on the apple 2e’s where a set of dots were put on screen and you had to try to come up with equations that would intersect as many dots as possible (with a certain margin of error). You would get 2^(n-1) points for the n-th intersection. It took at least a year of playing but due to luck in the dot placement and my use of exponents and polynomials, I was able to complete a game in one equation. I also claimed 8 of the top ten scores in the process.

    Sadly, largely due to my complete lack of hand eye coordination(math geek with no hand-eye coordination? betcha didn’t see THAT one coming!), this would not happen again until I completed what was basically a glorified Crossword puzzle book in ps2 form. I came close with Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Majora’s Mask, but was always missing 1 or two hearts.

    • Marozeph says:

      I almost managed to get 100% on Zelda:LttP, but i missed (i think) 3 pieces of heart. And back then, there was no internet to look them up, so i was out of luck.

      The first game i would say i mastered was Thief: The Dark Project. At least i managed to finish the game on the highest difficulty level, which wasn’t (and isn’t) a walk in the park.

      The first game i managed to complete 100% was (shameful, i know) Ratched & Clank: Up Your Arsenal, which is probably my favorite guilty pleasure game of all time.

      •  I’m not sure why that’s shameful – Ratchet and Clank is a great fun little game franchise, although Insomniac dropped the ball with the recent 4-player one.

      • 3FistedHumdinger says:

         I always thought the no-kill rule on Thief: The Dark Project was a fantastic idea.  So I sucked it up and I have never played that game on anything less than the hardest difficulty, which unlike me; I typically play through three or four times escalating the difficulty with each playthrough.

  8. AuroraBoreanaz says:

    I beat a lot of the old console games, but the biggest accomplishment for me (and why I support the new Kickstarter for the sequel) was Wasteland.

    The first time I played it, I stopped after about an hour, when I got my ass kicked repeatedly by underground rodents.

    Several months later, when I’d beaten or gotten bored with the other games I had, I started it up again, and was completely hooked.  There’s nothing quite like getting your team built up to where you could handle yourselves pretty well only to enter the wrong building and get slaughtered by some horrible tar mutant.  Or that one damn robot in the streets of Vegas that gunned you down from 100 yards away!  Or the psychotic priests and nuns from the Guardian Citadel.  And, of course, the triumph you felt when, after the third or fourth time coming back to one of those places, finally being able to kick their asses!

    To this day, I still love open exploration games where some areas are blocked for you, not by gates or doors, but by extreme danger.  (Also why Oblivion was so disappointing…I don’t WANT all enemies in the game to be close to my level!)

    Also, for those of you who don’t know, Wasteland (for the PC at least) had no save files.  The game files overwrote themselves as you went, so anything you did was permanent…unless you backed up your files.

    Admittedly, using regular file backups as a “save” might be considered a cheat, but it made an insanely hard game at least slightly less difficult.

  9. ToddG says:

    House of the Dead 1 in the arcades, when I get could through the entire game using both guns without having to continue either of them.

    • AuroraBoreanaz says:

      Seriously?  That’s pretty freakin’ awesome!

    • Aaron Riccio says:

      Nicely done! For me, it was the Time Crisis series — 1, 2, and 3, each of which I could beat with one credit. Which was more and more important, since I kept seeing the price go up. 

      • GhaleonQ says:

        That is insane!  Namco specifically designed certain sections to eat quarters.  You can’t automatically lose a life, but it’s incredibly difficult to avoid it.

        • Aaron Riccio says:

          A lot of long, lonely lunches, I guess. The pedal-mechanic allows you to dodge a lot of cheap hits, once you’ve memorized where most of them are — i.e., it doesn’t force you to shoot bullets or axes out of the sky, or simply hit you (Lethal Enforcers/Hogan’s Alley) if you do nothing. 

          There were two other games that I’m proud of being able to beat on *two* credits: “The Simpsons” and “Sunset Riders.” I think I did fairly well on “X-Men,” depending on how many other good players were on the cabinet with me.

  10. Binsbein says:

    I played those Initial D arcade racers back in high school, and while I’m hardly a fan of racing games, it was pretty addicting to raise your rank via story mode or versus matches and have it marked on the little card you put into the machine. I used a six-gear Impreza WRX that while not as fast off the line, the sixth gear and good handling always got me out of second place.
    If you ever see one of those machines with the default “SEGA” name on the leaderboard with a bunch of good times and versus wins in a blue Subaru, it might be mine.

  11. dreadguacamole says:

     I’d have to sort of cop out and say “really early RPGs” – the Ultimas, Phantasies, Magic Candles, Bard’s tales and Wizardries of the world. They were insanely hard, especially for someone in his early teens.
     To narrow it down to one game: Roadwar 2000. I lived that game for months on end.

     I’d love to master one of the hardcore roguelikes, but I always get bored and killed in a really silly way…
     (I did finish ADOM, but I save-scummed!)

  12. The_Asinus says:

    I’ve never been a hard core completionist and sometimes even hate finishing games that I really like. I still haven’t finished Grandia II because I don’t want it to end and I have an excuse to start it over to play again. But I think the first time I felt like I “mastered” a game (when I was a kid, that’s just what people called getting to the end) was finishing SMB 1 with the fireballs from 1-1. No, I didn’t do every level, but I hate the water levels so goddamned much.

    SMB 2 was the first game I really became dead set on finishing. The SMB thing was more of an accident one day– but I was never really that into it. SMB2 drove me to madness the first day I had it and just wanted to see it all. Now, for fun, I’ll pick a character and play all the way through with him or her. of course, the game because infinitely easier once I learned to spot the cherries and basically get unlimited free guys. Even though I don’t need them, I still obsessively grab coins and play that stupid slot machine and pile up free guys until I’m well into the alphabet once they’ve run out numbers. I still love that game, though.

    Multiplayer games are a different sort of story. I was really good at the quake games in MP, but I really wasn’t that great at the single player mode of Quake 1. But I felt like I mastered that game. Do we get to base this on our feelings?

    • Aaron Riccio says:

      Probably finishing Super Mario World, the first game I ever took “seriously,” being that it was for a brand new system, without any hints or help. Man, those ghost houses, those secret exits, the satisfaction of finding/completing Star Road — that game got more mileage than any other, to the point that I used to be terrified of a flying Bowser, out to get me. 

  13. ToddG says:

    Also, regarding the discussion with Ellie at the end, I would read the hell out of a feature debating whether or not younger generations should play any video games made in the 20th century.  I think there’s a pretty strong argument to be made that they do not need to.

    • jarviscockblocker says:

      I sometimes wonder if Duke Nukem Forever will become the Hudson Hawk of gaming in the next decade.

      • root (1ltc) says:

        I don’t understand what makes Hudson Hawk the Hudson Hawk of gaming right now.

        There’s been many instantly forgettable movie games made before and after Hudson Hawk. What else is the game remembered as?

        • jarviscockblocker says:

          I meant Hudson Hawk the Movie. Something that’s hated by everyone, considered a fiasco, a misguided display of hubris and a financial disaster, but starts gaining fans and followers decades later.

        • root (1ltc) says:

          Oh I see.

          I think the movie analog of DNF would be Phantom Menace, as in something which was rabidly looked forward to for an entire decade and shat in the collective face of the entire fan base once it came out.

        • Aaron Riccio says:

          The difference is, a horrible movie like Hudson Hawk, you can sit back and enjoy just how bad it is. A horrible game like Duke Nukem Forever, you actually have to *play*. And there’s no evil villain ranting about how one enjoys eating sushi whilst naked.

    • Binsbein says:

      I’m invoking the Deus Ex Rule, which makes any argument against 20th century gaming wrong. 

      • itisdancing says:

        Deus Ex came out in 2000, so that’s a bit marginal.

        I don’t agree with any rule that suggests people shouldn’t be encouraged to play Ultima VII.

    • Aaron Riccio says:

      I’m invoking the Grandfather Clause on those poor souls: I would never waste my breath trying to explain to them why they should play earlier games (already hurt myself trying to convince people who loved FFVII to sample pre-FFVII RPGs), and I’ll just chalk this up in the “their loss” column.

      But seriously, they’re missing out on so, so much. And while Max Payne 3 may be, say, *visually* better — and even better GAMEPLAY wise, though jury’s out until I play it — wouldn’t it be great to follow the story from the start? 

      • Girard says:

         It’s worth exposing kids to it, though, because they may be interested and might not encounter them any other way.

        I do an after-school game design class thing with some 5th-graders, and while they play a lot of contemporary games, most of them brag that they prefer “retro” games from the NES/SNES era, and have a familiarity with at least most of the major titles from the 20th century – the Marios and Mega Mans etc.

    • root (1ltc) says:

      That’s not a Yes or No question. It depends on how much the person cares about video games and having knowledge of video games.

      If all you care about is TF2 or Angry Birds or MMORPG garbage, then fine, whatever, ignore it all.

      But don’t enter a discussion about video games with someone like me, much less do something like write any sort of factual article or review about video games, if you consider anything from before the Dreamcast as “retro”.

    • The_Asinus says:

      There’s a guy on Youtube I just stumbled across yesterday called “Wiiviewer.” Some of the reviews include one or both of his kids and he had his ~10 year old son play through The Legend of Zelda. The kid really couldn’t get over how hard it was: “What’d you think of it?” “HARD!” But he also didn’t like it because it didn’t tell him where to go and you could easily wind up in a place where things would kid the shit out of you (my words).

      So, I don’t know how to answer your debate. They probably, on the whole, wouldn’t like them, but I, on the whole, hate a lot of newer games that close the world down so that you CAN’T go to those spots. You won’t accidentally end up on a small, isolated island in the bottom corner of the map that is populated by high level dragons and Marboros that can wipe your party in 1 or 2 turns. It’s almost alien to think that someone sees freedom to explore, wander, and get lost as a negative for a game.

      My exGF’s son could barely get through the first world of SMB even though he plays games. Have games just gotten that easy? Are we so entitled to win the game that challenges make a game suck? I have NEVER finished Kid Icarus without cheating because that game is fucking hard as hell. I don’t think that makes it a bad game at all; I think it’s one of the best games on the NES because it doesn’t hold your hand– it pushes you off of ledges into the black void.

      I never owned it, but I played it quite a bit at a friend’s house and have the ROM. I did borrow it from my friend for a few days once, and that was the only time pre-rom that I got to any horizontally scrolling levels.

      • Binsbein says:

        As far as PC games go, Liberty Island in Deus Ex can be considered the ‘driving exam’. If you can’t beat it on at least Normal, you’re not allowed to play cool legacy PC games.

      • ToddG says:

        I generally seem to be in the minority, but I don’t think it’s a matter of games becoming significantly easier.  It’s a matter of the nature of challenge evolving.  For example, regenerating health doesn’t automatically make shooters “easier”, necessarily, but it localizes the challenge and that combined with modern checkpoints and save systems generally mean you won’t have to replay a lot of sections to get back to one that’s causing you trouble.  That’s only a good thing as far as I am concerned; the game is designed to respect the limited time I have these days to play games.  And look at Super Meat Boy.  Punishingly difficult, but buttressed by all the trappings of good and modern game design: short levels, rapid retries, and super-precise controls that rarely if ever make you feel like a death was the game’s fault rather than yours.  A lot of older games are hard mostly through what I personally find to be bad design (imprecise controls, insufficient save systems or checkpoints, etc), things which I have no patience for now (but did as an 8-year-old, because there was no real option.  As I believe Ellie said in the podcast, it’s amazing what we were willing to put up with.)

        • itisdancing says:

          Yeah, but do you think that’s really true of Super Mario Bros.? That game, at least for the first half to three quarters, is the definition of challenging-but-fair. Smooth controls, predictable enemy behavior, clear visuals…

        • The_Asinus says:

          It definitely does depend on how the game is hard. But SMB is well recognized as at or near the pinnacle of side-scrolling platformers so it’s hard to attribute any of those poor design issues to it. There have definitely be some really, really crappy games (I have this zip with like 630 NES games and so many of them are just gawdawful from the ground up) and some poor ideas (like you mentioned, poorly conceived save points and long restart times– oh good, the 10 minute cut scene again).

          It’s entirely possible that, like with every medium, it’s just a matter of being hyper selective in how we see the past and the present. I don’t immediately remember many of the NES games that I had as having sloppy controls, but then again, I probably wouldn’t have wanted them if they did. So I selected good titles and the ones that I played the most are engrained. I don’t have any sort of real proof for this, but it seems like a lot of the sloppy control, horrible games came out around the time of generational transitions.

          Being a first persony person back then, 3rd person games REALLY pissed me off. I ended up eschewing them in general until I realized that it wasn’t the format as much as it was programmers and designers figuring out how to do it right and avoid those “it’s the game’s fault” moments. You know, where the camera is occluded by a wall or some other clutter and you fall off the ledge, or the camera (it’s weird calling it that) makes a move that messes up your current control axes and you miss a jump and, again, fall off a ledge.

          I’ll admit that I was probably over generalizing– but it’s just kind of funny that the basic, comes-with-the-system game of the NES is so challenging. I honestly thought kids used to the technologically more sophisticated batch of current games would pick up SMB and just maul it.

          But, yeah, there have been awesome advances in removing pointless frustration (everything that you cite), but I don’t know if there are many of those games that are nearly-impossible-but-fair. And I mean just that– that I don’t know– that wasn’t a euphemism for “there aren’t.” And maybe there never actually were as a percentage. I just assume that game production has gotten so goddamned expensive that they have to appeal to the most people humanly possible, so that has led to a slacking on difficulty. But that’s really for people who know way more about this shit than I do! I’m just totally speculating, I’ll freely admit it!

        • ToddG says:

          @The_Asinus:disqus  @itisdancing:disqus   You guys make fair points, and SMB is a strong counterexample.  The main point I was trying to make is just that I think a compelling article could be mined from this debate, one that I would be most interested in reading.  But maybe that’s just because I’m nerdy enough to find game design debates endlessly fascinating.

          This is only semi-related, but something else that kinda bugs me when a game is easier than I would prefer is if its achievement/trophy design is correspondingly poor.  Achievements are, in my estimation, one of the most important innovations of this console generation, and they can be a great tool for injecting extra difficulty into a game (and coming closer to striking that “accessible for new players but worthwhile for experienced” balance.)  However, they are so rarely used as such.  Look at the Test of Faith trophy from Mirror’s Edge.  It completely changes the nature of the game and bumps an already-difficult game up another significant notch.  It’s so unfortunate that it’s the exception rather than the rule.

    • caspiancomic says:

       Like people upthread have said, it depends on the type of person we’re talking about. You could argue that nobody needs to watch 20th Century movies or read pre-21st Century literature, but if a person is interested in a certain medium- and especially if they want to create works in that medium themselves- it’s damn highly recommended that those people know their history. For a casual gamer (not just a player of casual games, mind, but even a person who plays “hardcore” games as a simple passtime and not a borderline obsessive lifestyle choice like m– uh, like some people) it’s probably not imperative that he or she be forced to play Doom just because they like Call of Duty 12 or whatever.

  14. Haughty_Todd says:

    Super Mario 64.  Mario’s body become an extension of my eight-year-old mind.

  15. Aaron Riccio says:

    Everybody knows Aladdin for the Sega Genesis was much harder/better.

    • TheOnceAndFutureCheese says:

      And Aladdin for the Game Boy was hardest of all, because you couldn’t tell what the hell was going on.

    • caspiancomic says:

       Word, man. SNES Aladdin may have been by Capcom in their pre “we hate our fans and enjoy making them squirm” phase, but I’ve always felt that the Genesis Aladdin looked, sounded, and played better. Hopefully not just because the Genesis version is the one I actually had, either- I’ve actually played them both for what it’s worth.

      It’s weird, I was actually thinking about the Aladdins earlier this week. It seems like there are a lot of interesting conversations there: the nature of licensed games and how they don’t have to be sucky. Making a “multiplatform” game that’s really two totally different games wearing the same skin that each play to the strengths of their respective platform rather than being one game spread thin across two platforms and being uniquely suited to neither. Plus in the Genesis version of the game there was an interesting part where, in the level where you have to escape the collapsing Cave of Wonders on Magic Carpet, if you lose the level three times, the game is just like “hey, you did your best” and sends you straight to the next level. Like it recognized how hard that level would be for the target audience and decided not to make it a total wall difficulty-wise. (Ms. Gibson alluded to the SNES equivalent level but I don’t know if it used a similar device to temper the difficulty as its Genesis cousin)

    • Fyodor Douchetoevsky says:

      Nah, SNES Aladdin is the best version. I didn’t even know they were different until I played the genesis version on an emulator. SNES version is easily superior.

  16. root (1ltc) says:

    My recent 1CC of Pink Sweets Arrange on 360 is something I’ll trumpet for some time to come, particularly since my score put me at #7 worldwide with it.

    Beating the NES game Wizards & Warriors without continuing is something which I’ll fondly remember as well, since it just happened one day and wasn’t something I was working on. I just popped it in on a whim and ran through to the end, managing a counter stop with the final bonus points.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      Which do you prefer, by the way?  Arcade or arrange?

    • root (1ltc) says:

      Arrange, for sure. PS normal is just twenty minute boss fights of bullet eating between meticulous medal collecting and nothing which really holds my interest. Arrange’s combo system, while lenient, does demand some skill to fully exploit, and the limit on ship stock (combined with deaths having offensive power and keeping combo alive) manages to turn death into a specific game mechanic. 
      The #1 Arrange score holder is 100 million over the #2 slot, though. I can see 400 million in the game. Maybe 500 with some great luck. But nearly 700? What the hell is that about.

  17. I had about half an hour before we had to head out for school one morning, so I decided to pop in SMB3 and see how far I could get in that timespan getting both warp whistles and going straight to world 8. I ended up beating it with about 5 minutes to spare. Even though SMB3 is pretty easy compared to most games of the era, I felt like a king.

  18. caspiancomic says:

    Man, the more I think about it, the more I realize that although I love video games, I’m not really very good at them. Most of my favourite genres (particularly platformers and narrative-driven Japanese RPGs) mostly emphasis simple completion, rather than skill exercise. Even my preferred platformers tend to have gentler difficulty curves, since I know there are some genuinely punishing platformers out there.

    I do consider myself relatively “skilled” at late 90s/early 2000s JRPGs, to the degree that they require any skill whatsoever. Mostly though it’s just a matter of having played them so much and explored them so thoroughly that I know the locations of all the best junk/best character setups that allow you to totally cheese the game. Hell, like most people, my strategy for defeating Ruby Weapon was 99% character setup- if you equip Cloud with certain armour, weapon, and materia, and go into battle with your other two members dead, you can basically set the controller down and watch as the game plays itself. The skill is in recognizing what setups potentially lead to borderline unloseable scenarios.

    (Also, briefly, I’m decent at Sonic Generations. Although I place nowhere near the top in any of the online leaderboards, my best times are actually equivalent to or better than a lot of Youtube speedruns. The ones that play the game straight, that is, not the God-tier sequence breaking guys)

    • The_Asinus says:

      Yeah… I was actually disappointed when I threw KotR at bizarro sepheroth/jenova and killed it in one round.

  19. GhaleonQ says:

    John, you hadn’t heard of Time Pilot?  The predecessor to the 19-series and the beginning of Yoshiki Okamoto’s illustrious career?  His 3 multi-directional shoot-’em-ups are some of the best ever!

    I bet that’s why Okamoto left Capcom to form Game Republic, produce 1 good game (that bombed) and a few bad games (that bombed), and why he’s not likely eating dog food.   ALL BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T BUY CAPCOM CLASSIC COLLECTION VOLUMES 1 AND 2.

  20. Logan Haislip says:

    Awesome podcast! Very well done and I loved the discussion. Can’t wait to hear the next one.

    I guess the first game I mastered was Super Mario World because it came bundled with my Super Nintendo and it was the only game I had for a while.  I still go back to play it once and a while and the muscle memory is still there letting me breeze through every level :)

  21. Elite on the Acorn Electron. I had wanted it SO much, because it was a huge deal at the time to get such an advanced game, and on the somewhat underpowered mini-BBC. On my birthday I unwrapped it feverishly and loaded it up, to immediately fail, as many others did, at docking with a space station and then to immediately fail to hide my disappointment (I was only 12).

    But then I persisted, got a docking computer and soon enough I was smuggling narcotics (which at the time I thought were fur coats, for some reason) across the galaxy. And slowly, over a few months, I became ‘deadly’ and that the game and I had reached a zen-state that I would later probably equate to driving (ie, performing actually quite tricky feats of co-ordination – stick, not auto – without thought, being totally focused and oddly loose at the same time). Reaching Elite status is still my greatest gaming achievement. Well that and launching the bloody gnome in Episode 2.

    • The_Asinus says:

      A few years back, someone told me about this game and Frontier (they had played it on an Amiga 1000) and I didn’t really believe how complex the game could have been. I had managed to completely miss it on PC. Anyway, I remembered that my great aunt had an amiga that she had used for graphics design and asked her if I could take it. It had been living in her garage but was completely functional.

      It already had a videotoaster, a scan deinterlacer, a PC bridge board, and a 030 + fpu upgrade (this thing probably cost her close to 10 grand at the time). I downloaded Frontier and, yeah, wow. I don’t think it would have looked anything like this on my PC at the time or would have been able to run as smoothly, but it’s an amazing game. It was really a geeky game that kept the space physics fairly accurate compared to other space sims. That made it frustrating at times, boring at others, but over all an amazing, ambitious game.

      Since then, I came into a cache of Amigas (I now have a 2, 3, and 4K), upgraded their OS, got some video cards (including a Picasso II, I think), and really wondered how Commodore screwed up and lost the home computer race. A multitasking, 32bit OS? Awesome sound and video right out of the box? Efficient as all hell, too, in what it they can do with the basic 68000 processor (though mine are all running 030s and 040s).

      But, yeah, Elite is an unfortunately lost series. Well, not exactly lost, a lot of people into computer gaming know about it, but it’s largely forgotten.

      Oh! it looks like there was an Elite 4 in production from 98 – 2011 but is now on hold. Wow, with computers, consoles, and storage media of today, they could make an amazing game that could really bring the role-playingish qualities to life and wrap it around a great sim. Too bad.

  22. OhHaiMark says:

    First time I mastered a game was when I was really young (before 5 years old) and my dad and I would play Punch-Out!! every day.  We would struggle after we got to Soda Popinski and finally I beat him.  And then I continued on, and on, and on.  Beating Mike Tyson seemed impossible, improbable.  But I finally did it and man, all my efforts felt validated when my dad took me out for ice cream for being the champion of Punch-Out!!.  I am still pretty great at all of the games in the series because I will play them from time-to-time because it makes me remember how awesome my dad was when I was a kid, and how awesome he still is today.  He will often call me up and ask if I can play some games with him online, even as he nears his 60’s.

    • MSUSteve says:

      I played a silly amount of Mike Tyson’s Punch Out! as a kid, but never beat Tyson.  I could get to him consistently, and probably still could, though Macho Man sometimes gave me fits.  Tyson was so stupidly hard that I never beat him without aid of the Game Genie.  My hat is off to you, @OhHaiMark:disqus.

  23. Girard says:

    Mario Kart Double Dash (my absolute favorite Mario Kart) encouraged a weird sort of cooperative mastery that bordered on ESP. You rode with a team-mate on the same car, and P1 steered while P2 controlled weapons and sideways dashes (which could be attacks, or last-ditch dodges from hazards).

    I played so much with the same ‘co-pilot’ they we eventually got into this weird brain-share zone where I’d imagine commands (“dodge left!!”), and they’d happen on-screen, because my partner who controlled those elements was in synaptic synchronicity with me. It was kind of cool.

    And I don’t know if it counts as “mastery” per se, but the first game I ever beat was Chip N Dale’s Rescue Rangers for the NES. Until that point, I’d never ever considered beating a game (partly because they were so hard and partly because I’d had an Atari 7800 most of my early childhood, and most of those games didn’t have proper endings). But beating that game definitely shifted my thinking, and my playing became much more deliberate. I no longer just played to idly kill time, but to “finish” the game the way I would a book or film.

    • GhaleonQ says:

      The 1st 2 paragraphs are not the only reason that it’s the best Mario Kart, but it is the best reason.

    • Aaron Riccio says:

      Oh, man, I can still remember that final battle against Fat Cat, with him dumping cigarette ash down on you from his big desk while you scurried about beneath him. That game was hard, but if memory serves, Duck Tales outclassed it, and in turn, Quack Shot. Add this to that thread we were having elsewhere about SNES v. Genesis Aladdin, and it really reminds us all how Disney adaptations were once allowed to be difficult.

  24. ClaraCWhitsett says:

    Are there any podcasts that cover gaming as a cultural phenomenon rather
    than as a consumer interest? I really liked A Life Well Wasted while it
    was going.

  25. feisto says:

    I’m not the greatest gamer skill-wise, but the first time I felt like I’d actually “mastered” a game rather than just completed it was the first time I finished an Infocom text adventure (Trinity) without using a single hint. With any game that require reflexes, I realize that no matter how good I get, I’m never going to be good enough to, say, record a great time attack or play with the kind of fluid rhythm that far better players can. And with RPGs (especially modern-day ones), I’m always acutely aware that I’ll never discover every secret dungeon and every rare item without hints because of the enormous time commitment. But completing an adventure game (with a few exceptions) makes me feel like I’ve done everything possible in the game to win it; even more so with text adventures, because I can’t just randomly click around in hopes that something happens. Finishing Trinity was the first time I really felt like, yeah, I totally mastered that game, and I did it on my own.

  26. apathymonger says:

    I remember being pretty great at Tetris on the Game Boy Color when I was in Primary School, but only compared to everyone else I knew. 

    I also seem to remember knowing Pokemon Blue inside and out.

  27. Brian Marino says:

    To be honest I’m not sure I’ve ever mastered a game.  I’ve gotten pretty good at some, and beaten a lot, but I was never as good at games as I wanted to be.  When I replayed FF 9 with my girlfriend last year I finally had the time to level as much as I had always wanted to in the past and wouldn’t be bored while doing it (basically, my girlfriend and I had a rule that we couldn’t play any story parts unless we were together, so whenever I wanted to play and she was in bed or she was out I would level for hours).  By the end of the game we were pretty much unbeatable.  Other than that, i feel like games were a constant source of frustration for me as a kid.

  28. Max Johnson says:

    Rather ballsy for the third guest on your podcast to be someone with terrible taste in video games. All the Tomb Raiders? Farmville?!

  29. MSUSteve says:

    I finally had a chance to listen to the podcast this weekend and really enjoyed it.  I was very happy to hear Mr. Jones and Gus as well.  I didn’t have any experience with Ellie Gibson before this, but I found her utterly delightful as well.  Of course Mr. Teti did a fantastic job.  He’s a congenial and engaged host and I find his voice to be very calming but also brimming with enthusiasm.

    I’m not sure that I have ever mastered a game.  I got to a point with the original Super Mario Bros. where I could consistently and quickly beat it, but World 8 always presented problems.  I got pretty good at the N64 version of Tetris back in college because my girlfriend loved playing it too.  We both became cyborgs at making the silver and gold super block things.  

  30. Tyson Stecklein says:

    Megaman (the first one, on NES). I remember mowing a lawn for 25 bucks for our landlord, then heading to Walmart to pick up Mega Man. I spent a solid week on it, figuring out which boss’s gun beat which boss most effectively. The hardest part was mastering Wiley’s level. Especially beating that big, yellow-orange boss that transfers himself across the screen one chunk at a time. It’s only much time afterward that I learned I could use the select button pause exploit to beat him. That game was hard, but I mastered it.

  31. Gwilym Wogan says:

    Months too late to be properly pertinent, but this old song of mine is close as dammit to a paraphrasing of Scott’s thumb-plight:

    If it doesn’t hurt, it’s not mastery. In that sense it’s much like love. In fact there are some deeply rich similarities between the two concepts that would be well-suited to being explored in a future podcast if you ever run short of ideas.

    And now I shall slink away out of the embarrassment at having genuinely not been able to recall my first experience with mastery.

    It may have been Dune II, but the benchmark for having ‘mastered’ that game is pretty low.