Dude, Where’s My Muscle Memory?
I’ve been noticing a change in myself lately as I progress through my thirties: I seem to be losing my muscle memory. Muscle memory is what allows you to go back to a game you’ve played many, many times and play it easily, even after years away from the game. The idea is that, by playing the game over and over again, you’ve memorized all the timing necessary to pass all those parts of the game that confounded you when you first played the game, and continue to confound new players today. See the Mega Man series. When Mega Man Anniversary Collection came out for Gamecube, I bought it and blasted easily through the first three games, which I’d played so many times as a child that I’d memorized every jump and shot. Mega Man 9 was hard for me at first, but by the time I got through the stages, I had them down.
When I realized yesterday that I’m losing my muscle memory, I was in denial.
In December 2006, Super Castlevania IV came out on Virtual Console. I hadn’t played through the game since the early 1990s, but I sat down with it and easily worked my way through, remembering every hidden item, every jump, every whip. Earlier this year, Castlevania III came out on Virtual Console, and I found playing the game a struggle. I’d played through the game more recently than I had IV, but still I couldn’t get the timing down right, and have yet to beat it on Virtual Console.
I gave up on III yesterday, thinking I had done something wrong in choosing Sypha as my companion through the game, and started over. I chose Grant, and found that I couldn’t even progress as far as I had with Sypha. Deciding I couldn’t play the game right now for whatever reason, I figured I’d try Super Castlevania IV, which I knew I had down perfectly… and had the exact same experience. The timing is gone, and I was dead as quickly as with III.
It’s not just Castlevania, either. I have trouble with a lot of games that I found easy even just a couple of years ago. Maybe my reaction times are slowing as I age. I’m afraid to boot up Mega Man 9, because I don’t know what I’ll find. Whatever it is, I’m not quite sure what to do about it. Is anyone else having a similar experience?
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