Gameplay Statistics – Week 2

Monday, September 11, 2017 – Sunday, September 17, 2017

Days of the week in which games were played: Monday, Tuesday
Total number of video games played: 1
Total video game duration: 4 hours
Communities involved: N/A

Game Platform Duration
Mario Galaxy PC/Dolphin (Wii) 4 hours

Total number of non-video games played: 0
Total non-video game duration: N/A
Communities involved: N/A
Number of supplemental game or game-related activities: 1 (Wiimote Bluetooth Configuration)

Tags: PC, Dolphin, Nintendo, Wii, Mario, Bluetooth, Wiimote


Motivation

One of the reasons I wanted to include non-video games and video game related supplemental activities in this blog is because I really enjoy these activities.  I have known this for some time now, but haven’t really given it any deep consideration as to why.  I mean, it’s plainly obvious if you look at my Steam profile that I really enjoy Steam sales, perhaps more than I enjoy playing the games themselves (note the completion rate).

560+ games

Perhaps this will be a question I can answer throughout the course of writing this blog.  I thought it might be useful for the reader to understand that, in recent years, my free time is spent tinkering with activities that feed into gaming rather than gaming itself.  The sense of satisfaction I get from solving these problems tends to be greater than the gaming.  If you read my I Player essay, you know that I’ve been concerned with my inability to recapture the zeal I had for games in my youth (Robertson).  Seeing as that tinkering with hardware and software configurations was fundamental to my experience as a nascent gamer, it makes sense that supplemental game activities are one of the avenues I use to capture those feelings of the past.  Writing this out now, I can put it into words: a real-life problem provides a profound sense of accomplishment, not only because of the task completed but also because of the lessons learned along the way.  That being said, let’s talk about one of those configurations.

My History with Dolphin Emulator

One of the biggest issues I had with the original Wii console was that it never offered high-definition display support like other consoles of the seventh generation.  Being a PC gamer, one of the most attractive features about software emulators or ported game engines was the fact that you could run old games with brand-new top-of-the-line hardware and graphics (or, at the very least, significantly improved graphics).

I first heard of Dolphin emulator about 10 years ago when it was merely a software oddity which ran Nintendo Gamecube games in Windows, albeit very poorly.  By 2016, however, Dolphin had evolved to a point where it could interface somewhat reliably with original Nintendo hardware and play a subsection of games from several different Nintendo consoles without any game-breaking bugs or glitches.  In short, it showed massive promise.  The part that intrigued me the most was the hardware interface capabilities of the emulator.  Getting the Wii Remote Plus (Wiimote) controller to interface with Dolphin running on Windows was not a trivial task, but it was exactly the type of problem that I found extremely attractive.  So in late 2016, I purchased a USB Wii Sensor Bar, Wiimote, and an ASUS USB Bluetooth Adapter.  I also found some used games for Gamecube, and Wii for relatively cheap at the local pawn shop.  I was super excited!

Once all the components arrived, it took me several hours of trial and error to get everything working.  I could go into great detail, but the part that’s relevant to this story is that I had to force a Toshiba Bluetooth Driver Stack to work with a non-Toshiba Bluetooth adapter (something you need more than a modicum of technical knowledge to even attempt).  This was the only Bluetooth driver for Windows in existence at the time which could recognize a Nintendo Wiimote.  After several hours and failed attempts, I got the hardware components working perfectly.

I was ecstatic, elated, euphoric.  I was playing Wii games in high definition on my PC with the proprietary motion controlled remote.  This was not something you see every day.  My elation was short-lived, however, because it wasn’t long before I ran into game-breaking bugs.  Super Mario Galaxy wouldn’t even load.  Super Mario Galaxy 2 crashed at the end of the first world, and The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword looked like a polygonal Jackson Pollock painting.  My efforts proved to be nothing more than a novelty, so I put everything in a drawer and forgot about it.

Dolphin 5.0

Dolphin UI showing several games

This brings me up to the point in time of last week’s blog.  To summarize, I was surprised to find Dolphin thriving and more capable than ever before with a brand new release earlier this year.  After the phenomenal initial experience I had with the Gamecube title Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader, I was eager to dust off the Wii hardware I had forgotten about and give it a whirl.

I plugged everything in and was disappointed to find that nothing worked.  The Toshiba stack I installed was still there, but it was no longer attached to my ASUS Bluetooth adapter.  It turns out that Windows had automatically updated the drivers back to the manufacturer’s default.  Things went further south from this point as I tried in vain to reinstall the Toshiba stack.  This turned out to be a big mistake because, after several hours of failed attempts, I discovered that Microsoft Windows had been updated to provide Bluetooth Wiimote support at the simple click of a button.  No special drivers, no hacky configuration, and no more frustration.  I removed all of the previous drivers and turned all the manual overrides I had in place off.  Everything worked.  I felt amazing.  The entire process took over 2 hours, but the payoff was intense gratification.

Mario Galaxy

Super Mario 64 was a seminal game in the 3D platformer genre and an old favourite of mine.  Originally released for the Nintendo 64 console, it was one of the first 3D platformers to have achieved nearly perfect controls and camera movement. With future iterations, I felt that the Mario franchise had taken a wrong turn with the release of Mario: Sunshine (and sequels) for the Gamecube platform by adding gameplay mechanics which were cumbersome and definitely not complementary (i.e. Water hoses, what?).  Nintendo was quick to correct the course with the next-generation release of Super Mario Galaxy for the Wii console.  This was a game I had always felt I had missed the boat on, so I was keen to try it out.  I was not disappointed.

As you can see, the defining gameplay mechanic for Super Mario Galaxy is gravity.  This game is so much fun to play, and it looks great running on my 2015 gaming PC.

I enjoyed the many variations of gameplay for each new “galaxy” that became unlocked, for a time.

I managed to steal a couple of hours per night for the next two nights, collecting a couple dozen stars and unlocking several new galaxies.  After a while, collecting stars started to feel like ticking checkboxes on a to-do list.  Finding my way through the puzzles and problems was pretty easy.  Not like the original Super Mario Bros. which was ruthlessly unforgivable.  I found myself with several dozen extra lives after a couple of hours of play.  It was relaxing, but soon the novelty wore off as I realized just how easy and simple this game was.  With the obligation to write the gameplay blog lingering in the back of my mind, I noticed something.  When I grabbed a new star, essentially hitting a milestone in the game, my instinct was to save and quit thus ending the game on a high note.  Reflecting back on this as I write, I realize this was not how I used to approach gaming.  As a teenager, hitting a milestone only propelled me onwards to the next one with renewed zeal and enthusiasm.  This is just no longer true.  The obligations of reality are just too omnipresent and inescapable.  For the rest of the week, I was too busy to find any more time to play.

Key Insights

Examining the behavioural clues around my time spent on these activities has lead to some interesting questions.  Recall my problem: a lack of zeal in what used to be a cherished and sacred activity in my life.  Deliberately contrasting the supplemental activities of gaming with gaming itself has revealed something interesting; it has occurred to me that my feelings towards video games have changed over the years perhaps as a result of changing personal values.  Why is it so hard to get lost in and thoroughly enjoy video games the same way I used to?

Perhaps the answers lie in the fact that I used to be an extremely lazy person.  Challenge was a rare aspect of life, and so the challenge of video games had high appeal.  Over the course of the last half-dozen or so years, my personal ethics have changed dramatically.  In short, I have risen to meet several major challenges and have changed too as a result.  General satisfaction is a relatively new concept in my life.  Challenge is now intrinsic to my life and career, and with it comes a preceding sense purpose.  This sense of purpose has filled a vacuous hole which has been with me for nearly as long as I can remember.  It seems to me that video games perhaps filled a portion of this hole before.  As normal life has become challenging and purposeful, so too have video games seemingly become more contrived and pointless.  Perhaps this is why the supplemental activities provide so much more gratification: because they are more challenging?

This is not the only piece of the puzzle, however; and there seems more to this story.  I know this to be true because I see a similar pattern with other activities which I used to cherish yet never seem to spend any time doing anymore, like reading and writing.  Perhaps I am merely making excuses for the lack of time spent doing what I used to love so very much.

Works Cited

ASUS. ASUS USB-BT400 USB 2.0 Bluetooth 4.0 Adapter. ASUS, 2013. Computer Hardware.

Dolphin Emulator Project. Dolphin 5.0. Independently Published, 2016. Multiple Platforms. Computer Software.

Factor 5, and LucasArts. Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader. LucasArts, 2001. GameCube. Console Software.

Nintendo EAD. Super Mario 64. Nintendo, 1996. Nintendo 64 Console. Console Software.

Nintendo EAD. Super Mario Sunshine. Nintendo, 2002. Wii Console. Console Software.

Nintendo EAD. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. Nintendo, 2011. Wii Console. Console Software.

Nintendo EAD Tokyo. Super Mario Galaxy. Nintendo, 2007. Wii Console. Console Software.

Nintendo EAD Tokyo. Super Mario Galaxy 2. Nintendo, 2010. Wii Console. Console Software.

Nintendo IRD. Nintendo 64. Nintendo, 1996. Console Hardware.

Nintendo R&D4. Super Mario Bros.. Nintendo, 1985. Nintendo Entertainment System. Console Software.

Nintendo. Gamecube. Nintendo, and Foxconn, 2001. Console Hardware.

Nintendo. Wii Console. Foxconn, 2006. Console Hardware.

Nintendo. Wii Remote Plus. Nintendo, 2010. Console Hardware.

Robertson, Aubrey. I Player. 18 September 2017. TS. Vancouver Island University.

Toshiba. Toshiba Bluetooth Stack 7.10.12. Toshiba, 2010. Windows. Computer Software.

Valve Corporation. Steam. Valve Corporation, 2003-2017. Multiple Platforms. Computer Software.

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