Jan 262011
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Today at lunch I decided to crack into a new game. No reason really other than I like new games (and was too lazy to get up again and swap out discs). The game in question is Fallout: New Vegas.

I didn’t get far. I’m still technically in the tutorial. But I was reminded of a situation that’s stuck with me for the rest of the day.

You know the computer terminal mini-game from Fallout 3? The one where you have to try to “crack” the password? Yeah that one.

For the rest of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, a screenshot:

Computer hacking, Fallout style.

Click for a larger image. What you’re seeing here is several words “hidden” in the “code”. You select one and it tells you how many letters in that word are in the solution. 1 of 5, 2 of 5, etc. You have four guesses, and if you don’t get it right by the fourth guess the computer is locked to you and you can’t get into it at all. You can always back out and try again before the fourth guess, but then the system resets, the password changes, and you have to start all over again.

Not that complicated, yeah? It’s basically that old game Mastermind, only less colourful.

The thing is, I SUCK.

I don’t know what it is, but I just suck sweaty donkey balls at this game. I’m still in the tutorial, right, and I find my first computer terminal of New Vegas. Note that I’m not a newb here – New Vegas is basically Fallout 3 with a colour palette greater than three. But until this afternoon I’d forgotten just how horrible I was at this.

It takes me anywhere from two to three minutes just to try to deduce what my next guess should be; I have to slowly creep down the list and, word by word, letter by letter, respell the old word over the new while using my fingers to keep track of how many letters match up. I look like the world’s slowest toddler having trouble phonetically reading “See Spot Run”. And the worst part is, I still got it wrong. When I buzzed out on my third guess, I backed out and started again.

Only do have to do it again.


The only reason I’m not still there struggling to count out how many letters BARREN and ACCORD have in common is that on my fourth attempt, my first word just happened to be the right one. I’m still not convinced this isn’t the game taking pity on me.

All of this would be bad enough, but I’ve watched Mike play Fallout 3 like three times now and he’s happily zipping along in New Vegas – and I swear to god this is no exaggeration – he solves those computer hacking things in SECONDS.

SECONDS, people.

I’m still going “B … A … R … R … E” and he’s done and looted and running to the next town.


What the hell, you know? I don’t consider myself a stupid person. I like to think I have a pretty healthy working relationship with words. But when it comes to these kinds of games – this, anagrams, SCRABBLE ferfucksake – and it’s like, Nurse Ratched, table for one. I become the dumbest dummy dumbhead in Stupidtown.

Here’s us playing Scrabble:

Me: C-A-T
Mike: Z-I-G-G-U-R-A-T
Me: …… R-U-N

This happened.

I do not play him in Scrabble anymore.

I don’t get it. I hate it and I don’t get it. Something is clearly not wired right in my brain, but I do not understand what the hell is wrong with it.

Stupid brain. Stupid brain being so stupid.

  • Jason McCulley

    If it’s any consolation, look at it this way.

    I have the mad Scrabble skills, I can solve anagrams, cryptograms, &c.

    I can’t write a story to save my life.

    I am apparently incapable of writing anything longer than a twitter post.

    I find my side of the coin just as frustrating as you do yours.

    • Jet Wolf

      It’s simultaneously fascinating and frustrating to me that this happens. What part of the brain controls this? WHY DOES IT SUCK SO HARD. You know.

      But yeah, that’s a bit of a consolation, thanks. ;)

      • Jason McCulley

        And just think, when old-person-aphasia sets in, we’ll both be in the same boat! You trying to come up with the word to finish a sentence, and me trying to unscramble QWEUIZZZ into a word.

        …that…actually sounded funny before I typed it. Hm.

  • Ross

    You know the decryption minigame in the first Mass Effect? The follow-the-button-press game? I hated that game. Also I sucked at it. I got in the habit of saving before EVERY attempt to decrypt or unlock anything. At all.

    Eventually I got to the point where I was OK at it, but I think that was just sheer repitition.

    The decryption games in ME2 I found much less irritating.

    • Jet Wolf

      I haven’t really played enough ME2 yet to comment overly on the mini-games, though they did confound the hell out of me at first. “Oh god what am I looking at? There’s so many lines and they’re SCROLLING! HELP THEY’RE SCROLLING!”

      They at least seem a bit more … thought into the story, let’s say that. They look like they fit better, you know? And I’m not constantly playing “Simon” so there’s definitely that.

  • Stephanie Jane

    I am pathetic at Scrabble and worse at Boggle and boggle-style games. Frustrating, when one considers oneself a clever, literate sort.

    • Jet Wolf

      Yes, this is it exactly. You are, as ever, my brain twin. Including apparently our shared suckage.