Stuff I'm Thinking About

Doing One Thing Well


I love video games. There, I said it. Ever since I was young, pixelated characters in strange environments have always entertained me — the only thing that’s changed is that the pixels aren’t so obvious anymore. At one point I was set on entering the gaming industry as an animator but soon discovered, with a little adventuring in a few programs, the work was too tedious for me. (Though I’ll be the first to admit I’m not sure why — somehow adjusting the minute spaces between letters in a headline didn’t dawn on me as tedious). Anyways, this post had a point: picking one thing and doing it well always pays off. And the video game tie-in, you’re wondering? Here it comes.

Left 4 Dead, if you’re unaware, is a game with a very simple premise: shooting zombies. There’s no accumulating experience points and selecting skills and/or abilities to upgrade; there’s no overarching story that grabs you by the stomach and makes you wonder why life is; there isn’t a plethora of things to do and explore. Okay, maybe it’s not just standing there shooting zombies, but it’s close: four survivors are stranded together in one of four campaigns of your choice, and the idea is to progress through the constantly swarming assortment of undead, regrouping at occasional safe houses, until the gang reaches the rescue point. There are a few different zombies that require different strategies in terms of approach, but it doesn’t get much more complicated.

Now obviously something like that doesn’t appeal to everyone — recently deceased people exploding in horrific (what I’d consider comical) gore isn’t going to be your grandmother’s cup of tea. (If it is your grandmother’s cup of tea, her and I need to hang out.) But for those that it does appeal to, the game is brilliant in its simple but ever-entertaining execution. (No pun intended.) The zombies themselves are some of the coolest I’ve seen: they’re super stupid but super fast. When a wave of thirty or forty screaming zombies descends on you from all around, they’re not walking slowly with arms half-raised. No, these guys sprint at you full speed, jumping, climbing, falling, or running right through fire if necessary, to get a little taste of human.

The special zombies, from one that has a tongue Gene Simmons would be jealous of to one that need only be described as the Tank, add enough variety to the standard shotgun-to-the-face type to keep things interesting. And while some might think the previously mentioned four campaigns (or levels) is stingy, it’s more than enough. Each of the campaigns consists of multiple acts and the environments are designed to keep the heart rate pretty high, going from sewers so dark only the small circle illuminated by your tiny flashlight is visible to a cornfield where the sound of the oncoming stampede of undead is enough to cause palpitations. If one wants to take a break, you can have your character idle until you resume; if anyone wants to change the difficulty or end the game, it’s put to a vote. Pretty smart.

Five hundred words later, I hope you’re beginning to see my point. While focusing on one thing isn’t going to please everyone, if you do it well enough, those that are pleased will love you for life. Now I’m off to try and escape the imminent zombie onslaught.


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