From regret to redemption: My experience with 'Midnight Club LA'

Wayne Cunningham is an evil, evil man who obviously takes pleasure in the suffering of others. Case in point: <i>Midnight Club Los Angeles</i>. A few weeks ago he offered me a copy of the game on the Xbox 360.

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Eric Franklin
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Wayne Cunningham is an evil, evil man who obviously takes pleasure in the suffering of others. Case in point: Midnight Club Los Angeles. A few weeks ago Wayne offered me a copy of the game on the Xbox 360.

I went down to Wayne's lair office and asked for the game. When dealing with the devil there are always strings attached, and before I could leave his office he asked me to make sure I write something up on the game. Damn. OK, playing games is one thing, but the pressure to actually have to write something up on it afterward changes the experience. Now I actually have to play it sometime soon and pay attention.

Motorcycles?!! Wow, i haven't gotten that far yet. Rockstar Games

This won't be a review of the game. I haven't spent nearly enough time with it for that. No, this will be more of an assessment of how seemingly pathetic my gaming skills have gotten since I began playing World of Warcraft.

I've always considered my myself a good gamer as far as skill goes. I was never at the level of the savants who come into an arcade and beat you silly while hardly looking at the screen. My skill was always at a level where I could beat most players that I encountered, no matter the game, and I finished most games (at normal difficulty) the same day I started playing them.

So imagine my surprise when Midnight Club Los Angeles proceeded to chew me up and spit me out in the first few hours of play. The game is a street racer. You basically drive around L.A., looking for computer-controlled opponents to race.

In those first few hours, I could not for the life of me win a single race. Not even the first race, which in games is usually a freebie designed to teach you the basic concept and make you feel better about yourself by making it very easy to win.

This game required skills I apparently no longer had. Most of the races took place at night or dusk and there were times when I'd be in the lead, only to have a pedestrian car seemingly come out of nowhere and WAM! Back in fifth. Me, screaming at the TV with obscenities that would make the late, great George Carlin proud.

This would not have been nearly as frustrating if one, my gaming ego wasn't so low, and two, the computer-controlled players didn't proceed to lay into me every time I lost or made a mistake. I guess Rockstar Games did a good job on immersion as I immediately felt like I was in this world and had to prove myself as a racer.

OK, this blog was supposed to end soon after that last paragraph, with me in a virtual fetal position sobbing about my lost glory days. Then, a funny thing happened. I started to win. Easily.

I got used to the slipstreaming system--which allows you to slingshot around cars after spending a moment directly behind them. I could see parked cars in the middle of the street a mile away (well, a block away at least), and all of a sudden the comments from the AI cars were less, "Last place?! You'll have to do way better than that sucka!" and more, "It's not about being in first place during the race, it's about finishing."

And I did finish. In first place. Again and again. So forget all that emo crap I spouted in almost every paragraph before this one. Oh, and also Wayne Cunningham is a good man with good values and should be an inspiration to us all.

What did I learn? Winning is everything and losing is dumb, cause as a great man once said, "If you ain't first, you're last."