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I Am Become Psycho Poker Bitch

Susan Arendt | 12 Jun 2008 21:00
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Although she was delighted with the concept of the game, Mom found the controls a bit frustrating at first. Remembering which button did what was a challenge, and she found it difficult to think of her flat TV screen as being the gateway to a 3-D environment. She stuck with it, though, and was soon happily swimming along, playing with the fish and exploring her surroundings. She had to ask me to remind her how to do certain things (press the A button to advance the text, Mom), but she learned very quickly and swiftly progressed past the introductory tutorials to the point that the game started giving her specific objectives to complete.

Once you've learned the basics, your character begins receiving missions via email. Some are requests from tourists for a guide; others come from the foundation sponsoring your trip asking you to survey a new region. Sometimes completing a request nets you a useful item, such as a whistle you can use to call dolphins, but other times they simply unlock swag you can use to customize your character. You'll have to answer some of the mail to advance the game's admittedly thin plot, but for the most part you can let your correspondence stack up with no ill effects. An alert lets you know if you have any new mail whenever you return to your boat after a dive.

I showed my mom how to access the in-game email, and she carefully read through the first few missives she received. After that, however, she ignored it, preferring to simply swim around and interact with the sea creatures rather than tie herself down to a specific goal.

It drove me nuts.

I sat there next to her, helping her with the controls when she got stuck, reading out the encyclopedia entries about the fish if the print was too small, and silently grinding my teeth. Did she not understand there were missions to complete? Missions that would unlock new gear? Missions that might open up new areas or tip us off to the existence of new fish? How were we ever going to find everything if she didn't read her bloody email?

I was in mid-seethe when I looked over at my mom and saw her grinning like a 5-year old with an ice cream cone and a pony because she had just discovered a sailfish tang. It was then that I realized, to my horror, that I was no better than Psycho Poker Bitch.

Psycho Poker Bitch wasn't really psycho or even particularly bitchy, but "excessively competitive, overly goal-oriented card player" just doesn't have as catchy a ring to it. A few weeks back, I attended a charity casino night, the kind where you receive play money chips in exchange for a real money donation. We all started the evening with the same amount of fake coin in our pockets, to gamble as we wished at games of chance like roulette, blackjack, or Texas hold 'em poker. Roulette leaves too much to random chance, and you had to stand to play blackjack - something that I was unwilling to do, given the high heels I was wearing - so I settled myself at the poker table, curious to see if I'd actually learned anything from watching all those episodes of Celebrity Poker Showdown.

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