For the next two years, or so, I quickly developed something of a serious PlayStation habit. While, yes, I was now into my thirties, I still dove right in, snapping up each successive chapter in the “Tomb Raider” series, and also becoming quite proficient at games like “Tenchu: Stealth Assassin,” the “Medal of Honor” series, “Bushido Blade” and various iterations of the slackjawed “Doom” series.
I was basically cured of the habit, though, when I started dating Peggy, the woman who’d later become my wife. It wasn’t her conscious doing, necessarily (while she didn’t share my love for video games, she certainly didn’t suggest I should stop), but spending hours on my PlayStation suddenly started to reveal itself as a deeply silly waste of time.
What it might have been, however, was one particular portion of one of the “Tomb Raider” games. At a certain point in the proceedings, Lara has to shoot a bunch of marauding gorillas in some underground lair. After she deals with the primates, she has to leap across a chasm. But she has to leap across that chasm just so and land in a specific spot, otherwise, she slips, twists around, and falls to her disarmingly convincing death -- with a spine-snapping “clunk” -- at the bottom of the chasm.
For one reason or another, I had the hardest time mastering that particular leap. I feverishly attempted it from any number of conceivable angles, but I continually let lovely Miss Croft down, letting her spiral repeatedly to an awful demise. It was doubtlessly exasperating for both of us. One late evening, after more failed attempts at same, I seriously considered yanking the PlayStation out of its tether to my crappy TV and DEFENESTRATING it, sending it plummeting onto East 12th Street in much the same manner Lara kept falling down that chasm.
Wisely, I decided against that, however satisfying it might have been. I sat there, red-faced, hoarse from shouting profanities and twitchy – squinting angrily at Lara’s crumpled remains at the bottom of the chasm once again and thought….”what am I doing with my life?”
I couldn’t fathom how I’d been driven into a blind, frothy-mouthed rage over something that was the quintessence of a trivial pastime. I had a moment of clarity. I didn’t quit automatically, but I gradually played with it less and less. By the time we moved apartments, I packed the PlayStation and my games into a crate. That was 2003, and I haven’t unpacked it yet.
Since then, video games have only gotten more intense, more dazzling, more engrossing and more ubiquitous. Next time you’re on the subway, take a look around you and see how many people are playing games on their handheld gadgets.
If this post is starting to sound like an alarmist rant ala “What are video games doing to us? What are they doing to our children?”, let me reassure you, it’s not. I’m not looking to take anyone’s games away.
But take a look at the clip below (which I spotted on the ever excellent page of JYuenger). Really. Press play and sit back and watch.
Now, personally speaking, upon watching that, my paternal instincts kicked in with weapons-grade potency and I started vowing up and down that I was never -- NEVER -- going to let my kids so much as think about touching a video game, lest they turn into one of these demonic, bug-eyed freaks. I mean, seriously, how fucked up is this?
Stirred by this video, I shared it with some of my colleagues. One of them, an ardent gamer and columnist, suggested that these clips were staged and that such extreme behavior was in no was indicative of the gamer norm.
Granted, this video is designed to be shocking –- invariably concocted to either promote hysteria or assert some sweeping statement (witness that it’s titled “My Generation”). But, as I’ve stated above, while I didn’t go quite as bugfuck ballistic as some of the kids in this video, I was brought to a razor-sharp edge by a video game.
What about you? Do you play video games? Do your kids play video games? Have you ever been pushed to the brink of madness by a video game? What are your thoughts?