There are many things I appreciate about my wife: the way she pours love into our home and children, the way she scours the internet for free Redbox codes, the way she gently smiles at my elderly grandmother when she says, ‘you’ve gained weight!”… the list goes on and on. But there is one recent act of love and sacrifice that tops them all: for one night she transformed from my forever girlfriend to my Splinter Cell video game battle buddy.
Now, to paint an accurate picture of the gravity of this situation, Yarei considers the best video game to be Battle Toads, a cheap 90’s knockoff of Teenage Ninja Mutant Ninja Turtles. Same concept, but with toads… it’s no wonder they never made it past a Sega Genesis one-hit-wonder appearance. Fast forward 20 years and Yarei is still in the “left, right, jump , run” world of 2D video games, and proud of it. So when I asked her to join me in a mission of Splinter Cell: Black List, a third person stealth game which incorporates real world movement and action, she was noticeably hesitant.
After explaining the Xbox 360 controls to her, I placed the controller in her hands as she muttered… “I don’t know about this. Can’t we just play Mario Brothers… or Battle Toads, Louie?” (apparently my Gamer name).
“You’ll do fine. Just remember… this is a stealth game. The goal is to sneak around and only strike when necessary… otherwise, the baddies will alert the others and all Hades breaks loose. Got it?”
She was fumbling with the combination of triggers, buttons, and knobs like a toddler with a remote control.
“Yarei! I need to know you have my back! If i’m being held hostage, you have to be able to find me without being killed!” I could only hope she understood the seriousness of the mission.
“Yes, yes” she finally said out of frustration.
The level we selected was a weapon smugglers compound in Pakistan. Our mission was to neutralize all hostiles and destroy the weapons. I instructed Yarei to use the electric shock gun to stun enemies because that required less aim. I also didn’t want to incite unnecessary killing in her tender heart.
“Ok… but what’s this other gun for?”
“That’s the shot gun… that one’s really loud and will kill anything within a close radius of your position.” I paused to make sure she understood this, only to notice her eyes widened a bit. “Let’s not use that one.”
The mission began. Yarei took a couple practice shots with the stun gun and was ready for action.
“See that guard over there? Crouch behind the rock and take him out! I’ll sneak toward the left.”
I was surprised at her agility and somewhat shocked at the precision of her first shot. Down went the guard, leaving an open path for me.
“YEAH!!!” she shouted, as if she had just wiped out an entire army.
“Shh… the kids!!” but it was too late. Something had awoken inside her that I could not contain.
In her excitement, she moved from behind the rock and started charging toward a group of mercenaries huddled behind a car. She was quickly terminated.
“OK… remember, the goal is stealth and stun. No unnecessary killing.”
“Yeah, yeah” she responded, eyes glued to the TV ; a slight twitch on her trigger finger.
The next round began and I instructed her to follow the same plan. In one sweeping motion she crouched, aimed and downed the guard. I started moving to the left when suddenly I heard a loud explosion coming from Yarei’s position. She had switched to the shotgun and was charging toward the group of mercenaries.
“BLAM BLAM!!! TAKE THAT YOU SUNAVA–”
“Yarei!! You’re going to wake the children!!”
“BAHAHAHAHA!!”She let out a blood-curdling laugh as she broke through enemy lines, taking heavy fire herself from soldiers that had been alerted by her shot gun frenzy. My sweet wife had snapped and transformed into a one-woman army with a Die-Hard death wish. I moved to her position and quickly took out her assailants with multiple rapid fire shocks. Once secure, I tried to regain control of the situation as we crouched behind the bullet riddled vehicle. The smell of gunpowder filled the virtual air.
Yarei breathed heavily. A wild-eyed look on her face.
“Me LIKE the shot gun!!” she exclaimed, eyes fixed on the TV in a trance-like state. “I can’t believe you wanted me to use that hair-dryer gun. This is war, not a hair salon.”
I took the control from her hands and switched her back to the shock gun. “Yarei… this isn’t the type of game you just run-and-gun. It takes strategy and skill to plan and exe–”
*CLICK CLICK*– it was too late. She had already switched back to the shot gun and charged brazenly toward two heavily armed guards posted by a weapons cache. She release another battle cry as she plowed into the spray of bullets, letting off two rounds before she succumbed to her wounds.
“WHERE THE HELL WAS MY BACKUP?!!” She yelled, shocking me with her un-mommylike language and jabbing her controller at the TV. I gazed at her, dumbfounded. Her eyes were wide as saucers and her hands had a death grip on the controller. Heavy breathing echoed off the walls as her chest heaved up and down.
After her adrenaline had settled she sat back in the couch. “Whoa…that was like drinking a cup of straight black coffee with a triple shot of espresso” she said with a slight stutter.
“Maybe we should stop” I cautioned, putting a calming hand on her jittery controller.
A maddened look crossed her face. “NO! You saw what they did to me… those–”
“Shhhhh… it’s ok… just… let… go.”
I pried the controller out of her hands and slowly put it down.
“Yeah, you’re probably right. I don’t think I can handle that, Louie. I don’t know what came over me when I got the shot gun,” she said as she stared off into the distance.
I snapped my fingers to get her to make eye contact and cupped her face in my hands.
“Let’s find you a nice game of Battle Toads, k?”