If you’ve been collecting for any length of time, then you’ve probably accumulated a lot of cool stuff. Stuff you love. Stuff you treasure. Stuff you never touch. You know how it is: you acquire something, you’re excited about it at first, but eventually you put the item away and promptly forget about it. In other words, what once was “found” has now become “lost” (get it?). ”Found & Lost” is all about delving into your collection, dusting off your favorites, finally firing up those untried games you’ve had for years, admiring the gaming memorabilia you’ve acquired, remembering why you wanted all this stuff in the first place.

Our Holy Grail is a Dixie Cup

This installment of Found & Lost will have to be a little different, because I haven’t been able to spend much time enjoying my collection recently. Strangely enough, my wife has been doing most of the gaming lately. This is unusual since Lori’s a “gamer wife” -- a significant other who enjoys games to a certain degree, but who has never really been able to get into them like her husband does. Still, like game-playing husbands everywhere, I’ve tried to find items in my collection that would interest her in my hobby. And, as we husbands know, that’s not always easy.

Collectors are used to the term “Holy Grail” referring to a particularly rare or valuable game. But wife-friendly games can be grails in their own right, because they rarely surface and are precious when they do. I’ve been looking for this species of grail for a while now, and as it turned out, my Holy Grail is a Dixie cup, because it’s made of paper. Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door is Lori’s new favorite, but it came only after a lengthy and sometimes frustrating search.

Lori’s recent grail quest is typical, I suspect, to that of many gamer wives. As a non-fanatic, her interest in videogames is necessarily narrower than mine. Lori’s not a big fan of games that emphasize reflexes, which pretty much leaves out platformers, fighting games, and shoot-em’ups. She prefers a slower-paced kind of game, one that gives you time to think about your next move. Still, she’s not looking for an experience that’s all thought and no action, which proscribes much of the tactical/strategy genre. And then, like many people, she finds games with first-person or over-the-shoulder perspectives to be disorienting, which eliminates a good bit of what’s left.

What remains, essentially, are puzzle games and RPGs. I know well that Lori likes the former -- Bust-A-Move, which is a legal form of crack-cocaine for females, is her favorite. She’s also had fun playing Puyo Pop, and enjoyed helping me figure out some of the tougher puzzles in The Lost Vikings and Joshua: The Battle of Jericho (an unexpectedly good game) back when I was playing them. But most puzzlers are “quick fix” games, not the engrossing experiences I was hoping to find for Lori.

RPGs or RPG-like games, I thought, offered the most promise. Lori had become vaguely interested in The Legend of Zelda while watching me play Zelda: Outlands, an incredible Zelda hack that remakes both original quests from the ground up. So, she tried the original Legend of Zelda… and was less than thrilled. She found the controls difficult, and she died quickly. I could tell that action-adventure games were not her thing. The adventure part was OK, but the action part was not. I thought she needed something slower. Maybe a turn-based RPG.

So I went to the source: the original Dragon Warrior for the NES. Basic and straightforward, it seemed the perfect RPG to start with. And it was -- Lori really got into it, playing it frequently and for long periods of time. She didn’t much care for the long periods of earning experience and money necessary to strengthen her character -- a weakness common to all the early DW games -- but other than that, she enjoyed the game and played it all the way to the last stages. That’s when tragedy struck. My Dragon Warrior cart’s battery, which had served me well for years, died -- its HP dropped to zero, as it were. Lori, who had spent many hours battling Magiwyverns and Axe Knights to reach the end of the game, was none too happy to lose all her progress. It was if fate was conspiring to turn her away from videogames!

Luckily it didn’t. After a time, she tried Dragon Warrior II, and liked it better than the first. Nevertheless, once she reached the last stages where lengthy periods of leveling-up were required, she started to lose interest. In the end, DWII was almost perfect for her, but was a bit too slow-moving. She needed something quicker.

It was Lori’s idea to try Paper Mario for the GameCube after seeing it on display at a game store. I wasn’t that familiar with the PM series, knowing only that it was a “light” RPG based in the Marioverse, but it seemed like a good fit. Lori had played Mario’s early outings back in the NES days. She’d never completed any of them, because they became too difficult near the end, but she’d had fun with them nonetheless. So Paper Mario was a game that seemed to bring everything she liked in games together: Mario, a perspective that was more 2D than 3D, a fun storyline, RPG gameplay that didn’t emphasize leveling up, and light platforming action that offset a turn-based combat system. Finally, Lori had found her Holy Grail.

The last thing I want to do is make blanket statements about all gamer wives (or husbands for that matter), but I think our experiences are probably fairly typical. I suspect that with very few exceptions, anybody can like a videogame. If your significant other doesn’t enjoy games as much as you’d like, it’s up to you to find one for her. (Lori ultimately found her favorite game without my help, but most husbands won’t be so lucky.) Keep your partner’s likes and dislikes in mind, pay attention to how she reacts to the games you play, gauge her opinions to the few games she does play, and use your knowledge and collection to find suitable titles. Who knows, maybe the two of you will one day be able to share videogames together, and could anything be more romantic than that?

And besides, if you fail, at least the TV will be free for you to use…

A new Found & Lost can be found here quarterly!

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Last updated: Sunday, July 10, 2005 07:53 AM