My girlfriend doesn't mind the fact that I have a mistress, because she knows my concubine can't touch me; well, apart from a soothing judder through my Dualshock. I've spent an eternity trying to convince her to take a more active role in our incestual love triangle, yet she just doesn't find the shiny-black of my PlayStation as alluring as I do.
So, I embarked upon a long and arduous journey; one that aimed to take her to distant, exotic lands. The objective was to buy a PS Vita for 'her' birthday. That way, I will never be without soft, black plastic. Mmm shiny.
It started with a bra. It was ill-fitting, and the white lace carved lines into her flesh - causing her to constantly update me on her ever-decreasing comfort levels. I tried my best to point at the screen animatedly, nodding my head in agreement , but also nodding my head towards the TV in an attempt at embodying Derren Brown. I endeavoured to get her to focus - it was fruitless, and I could tell that her interest was waning, verging on non-existent.
It wasn't my first attempt to addict her to my vice.
One year, I purchased a Nintendo DS for her birthday and she happily rampaged through the world of GTA: Chinatown Wars, for a time. That is until she reached a section where she was on a strict time-limit, and with a whimper, she yielded. So, I diagnosed the affliction as 'difficulty' and at the time, the counteragent was simple.
I loaded up Journey, promising her a unique experience, both tranquil and scenic. "So, what am I supposed to be doing?" she said after a few minutes, "I don't get it". I explained that the sole objective was to head towards the mountain looming on the horizon, and that the game was about the journey, not the destination.
Even with the pervasive landmark, the illusion of openness distorted her sense of direction and I was constantly required for input. Experienced players can pick up on the little signposts, tugging you towards the intended location; to the uninitiated though, these are just incidental details, meaningless debris.
"This game is pointless!" she said, "reach a mountain? What's the point in that?"
I tried to explain the emotions she would feel along the way, and the joy of interacting with a nameless, mute human. Alas, she thought it was stupid. And that, was the end of her journey.
It seemed that beauty, accessibility and simplicity wasn't enough; she needed a more restrictive game with a more linear template, and a strong narrative binding it all. The Walking Dead was a perfect fit: we had already watched the television show, and I was sure that she would enjoy the episodic structure of the game.
I hoped that with her occupation as a full-time mother, she would grow attached to Clementine and form a virtual bond through the controller; baptising her to my chosen religion. I also hoped that the forgiving nature of the checkpoint system would ease her into the action sequences. I believed that the narrative would draw her into the fantasy, loosening the straps that bound her.
Yes, The Walking Dead is a perfect starting point for any gamer...isn't it?
I managed to divert attention away from the bra, shutting her senses down and drowning out distractions, by lovingly placing headphones over her ears and turning off the lights. In the blackness I could sense her immersion: she was Lee Everett, sat in the back of a squad car, being ferried to a cold, dark cell.
Much like life, my beloved didn't exercise her right to remain silent in the squad car. Whilst chatting to the officer, she familiarised herself with the cursor, giving the car a good scanning. As she was flailing, I noticed the silhouette of the walker in the road, and chose to give no warning as it collided with the windscreen. She flinched. The game had her attention.
She figured out how to escape from the police cruiser pretty quickly. Upon emerging from the wreck she wasn't sure which way to go, but, after what felt like an eternity of watching her walk into a tree stump, she was on her way.
Her first encounter with a walker didn't go so well, and before she could react, she was dead. The game's forgiving nature started her at the exact point she died, alleviating the frustration of replaying long sections, as I believed it would.
The next time she managed to crawl away from the zombie, but once the controls switched from crawling with the left stick, to searching with the right, she was doomed. The third attempt saw her reach the bullet on the ground and load the Shotgun; only to miss the shot and die horribly. How she missed the shot is beyond me, but miss it she did.
I could see the look on her face; I had seen it many times before, when I had forgotten something she wanted me to do, choosing instead to lie in my underpants hitting Spriggans in Skyrim. It was a look that would have Kratos shaking in his sandals, but I encouraged her to press on. The fourth attempt saw the zombies' head splat like a catapulted pumpkin. Success!
I noticed a smile flash across her face, like that of a serial-killer. Was she convinced?.
She went over the fence and made a beeline straight for the relative safety of the house. Once inside she stood glued to the spot, seemingly scanning the surroundings with gusto, but actually she had forgotten movement was an option.
After being reminded of the existence of the left stick, she walked straight for the telephone to eavesdrop on some messages like an apocalyptic voyeur. She stood, patiently waiting for the messages to play through to the end, planted to the spot, instead of investigating the area for further clues.
Even the 'audio diary' is alien to a newcomer it seemed, yet to hardened gamers, this type of storytelling has become cliche and often allows character movement. After the messages had ended, she strolled up to a barricaded door and asked, "Can I go up"? "That isn't stairs", I replied, "it's an upturned bookcase".
This could be a long few days.
Once the house had been abandoned for search of a safer haven, Shawn Green asked about Lee's relationship with Clementine. She chose to say Lee was her neighbour.
Compulsive lies, should I really marry this woman?
Later, once the group arrived at Herhsel's farm, she proceeded to complain about the pain in Lee's leg to any NPC who would listen. I felt sorry for the NPC's. That poor AI, stuck in a perpetual, virtual existence and forced to listen to the whinings of a hypochondriac.
I questioned her parenting technique when she taught Clementine the naughty word for 'manure'. My faith in her parenting was restored however, when she chose to rescue the little boy, Duck.
Even though, in retrospect she would have chosen Shawn, because she believed he could lift more, assuming he would be her pack-horse. She expected all her followers to be automatons, mindless thralls; much like my experience with her at the supermarket.
Everything was going smoothly, until she was faced with the deadliest of puzzles – a radio with missing batteries. She spun the radio around with vigour; I could only guess she was thinking the problem was gravitational and the radio needed to orbit an invisible sphere. Around and around it went, until she decided on another tactic and put the antenna up and down - that didn't do it, so she pressed the power button...nothing.
What do you do if the power won't come on? To her, the answer was simple, and she tried to tune the radio.
I was just about to resign myself to an intervention, and then she noticed the battery compartment.
In her search for batteries, she came across an energy-bar and asked me if you used it to replenish Lee's health. This was no doubt a byproduct of my attempted indoctrination, half heard conversations about standard gaming tropes. The Walking Dead, however, is not bogged down by such conventions.
I told her she should use it on one of the survivors, and she accidentally gave it to Lilly instead of the little girl she was supposed to be protecting.
She eventually found the batteries and then left, without talking to anybody. On top of her blissful ignorance, the changing camera angles disoriented her, and she was constantly struggling to retrace her steps.
At this point I realised, I may have been terribly wrong.
During the motel encounter, I had to point out the cushion that was needed to subdue the first monster. She dealt well with the rest of the situation without direct input from me, dying on two occasions, but both at different points.
Once direct control of Lee was granted, she crouch-walked into a wall, like a senile Sam Fisher. So I pointed her towards the stairs and explained to her the difference between those and a bookcase.
At the top of the stairs, two zombies attacked, and there was audible panic in her voice as she uttered the naughty word for 'manure'. Her instinct was to place the cursor perfectly over the zombie's head. When in reality, the hit-boxes in the game are absolutely huge, allowing a lot of room for error and playing a pre-scripted animation, regardless of accuracy.
Her poor eyesight often made it hard for her to see the transparent circles indicating a point of interest, and the game would benefit from an option to make them more opaque.
During one of the action sequences she noticed that the game was 'laggy', no doubt a word she has picked up from me complaining during an online FPS battle. The frame rate does drop to despicable levels at times, which is pretty crazy, considering the game is mostly a string of cutscenes.
When she was faced with the choice of saving Carly or Doug, she chose Doug. I asked her the reasoning behind her choice, and she said that Carly was a snobby bitch, had dirt on Lee and Doug could carry more (is she with me for my skill with carrier bags?) never once taking into account Carly's proficiency with firearms.
The mind of a non-gamer does seem to be extremely different to the reflexes of a brain seasoned by years of muscle-memory. Things like backtracking at the start of a level, something we all do as gamers, ever since 2D side-scrollers taught us that behind the screen, treasures be hidden. Things like spotting potential points of interest is also another talent gamers take for granted. It's easy for us to spot a slightly different texture and see a breakable wall, or a moveable object, isn't it?
We know which choices are likely to be beneficial on a gameplay level, instead of a thinking encumberance levels were important in The Walking Dead. We instantly get comfortable with new concepts, especially in this generation, where designers try to keep control systems familiar.
The main thing is that she enjoyed herself and got wrapped up in the story, making my experiment partly a success, although she hasn't gamed since.
The Walking Dead is unique: it can break the barriers to entry, and for that alone, it should be applauded. But it is not (unfortunately) capable of convincing somebody that they want a PS Vita.