I’m terrified of video games. I feel them too much.
They stress me out, they scare me, they show me the several million different ways in which I could die. I’ve seen so much bloodshed, so much explosive chaos that ends in ‘Game over,’ that I’m just not sure I can take it anymore. My hands shake when I try to eat.
Whenever I see a commercial for a new game on TV, I have flashbacks.
When I come to, I find myself threatening family members with the neck of a broken bottle, screaming things like “I’m wearing level 48 armor and an invisibility cape! Nobody come near me!”
This has been the subject of several family conferences, but I’ve been trying to find different ways to cope, and the one that has worked best has been a diary. It’s not the “manliest” thing in the world. It’s certainly not something that would convince girls that I’m “the one.” It might even be the sort of thing that causes other guys to “shove my head in a toilet,” and “pee in my shoes,” and then make me “wear my pee-shoes around all day.” You know, hypothetically. Anyway, let me show you some of what I’ve written.
0800 hours. My eyes are darting all over the screen. Lights and sounds assault at me at several hundred miles a minute, and I find myself envying the epileptics that get to have a seizure and just get the business over with. I’m pretty sure this is what it feels like to either be an anime character, or take heroin.
Ever hear of a game called “Splinter Cell”? It’s somewhat older, and the basic premise is as follows: you control a spy that has to sneak around in the shadows, gathering intelligence and silently killing a series of malcontents planning some rather seedy crap. The key in this game is to creep silently and slaughter stealthily, without getting detected.
When I play, I try to do the things I’m supposed to do, but my sneaking isn’t terribly sneaky – guards catch me all the time. They greet me with search lights and high caliber weapons (but once, just once, I wish it would be a surprise party). You know, sometimes, while going around a corner, I’ll pause the game just so I can wipe my hands on my jeans/the tears out of my eyes. But I have to press on. But I can’t press on. My bladder hurts.
The guy on the screen didn’t sign up for all of this! I think to myself. He’s just waiting for me to give him commands, but I’ve frozen up. The chain of command hasn’t just been broken, it’s been dipped in liquid nitrogen and drunkenly thrown against the neighbor’s garage. He creeps forward, and suddenly it’s carnage on the screen; my man looks like a straw that sky-dove right into the middle of a fireworks extravaganza. He might be digital, but I feel for him. All he wanted was to serve the stars and stripes. Every time I touch that controller, another good, 128-bit man dies. I imagine I feel the same way that many seasoned generals do: guilty, haunted by my mistakes, and sort of wanting to write a book about myself.
I’m in combat for 20 minutes – or maybe 20 years. I just can’t tell anymore. Time seems to shrink and dilate. I don’t measure time in minutes anymore, but rather in game deaths – by the hundreds. I’m playing “Halo 3” online, and while I believe the good Lord made me to do many things, such as taking my shirt off for the ladies, he definitely didn’t make me for this. I figure I die in-game about every 12 seconds. Of course, that’s an average; I die way faster if the little bastards I’m playing against are hopped up on Red Bull. Or tic tacs. Or angel dust. Whatever the kids are taking these days. All I know is that when these kids are old enough to join the army, Mountain Dew and Adderall are going to change the face of war forever.
I look out at a hyper-realistic battlefield over the barrel of an obscenely powerful futuristic rifle. Just looking at it, you know this is the type of gun owned by guys that can bench press yachts. The type of gun that is built specifically to make heads explode like watermelons with a grenade in it. Only it doesn’t matter how powerful that rifle is, because I can’t aim the damn thing to save my life – literally. Aliens hop out from behind crates and barrels, and slaughter me with inhuman efficiency. They laugh. I have the reflexes and combat skills of a baby gorilla that has been forced to huff paint for an hour.
The fact that I die a lot doesn’t actually bother me. I knew what I was getting into, and I knew there would be consequences. The tithes of online war are paid in hi-def blood, against a symphony of dual-stereo explosions and surround-sound gunfire. In fact, there’s a certain terrible majesty to it all. My body soars gracelessly through the air, casually launched by a grenade. The soldier that killed me runs over, squats near my body, pretends to hump it for a second*, and then sprints away, carrying a rocket launcher as big and as subtle as an enraged dinosaur.
Often, my teammates share my fate. A giggling maniac with a giant, electrically-charged hammer has broken into our base – he’s running around, wreaking utter carnage. He’s an unstoppable, terrible godling, mad with his own power. We are all parked cars, and he is a steroidal Britney Spears that has acquired the power of Thor. I realize with a sudden, surreal sense of calm that he is blocking the only exit. Our only hope is that his mom decides he has played enough tonight, and unplugs his Xbox. There is no way out. He is going to hump us all in our deaths.
In my last few seconds, I think back to what it was like before all of this. I went to school, I had friends. We use to laugh together during lunch. I had plans to use the theme from Sanford & Son as my ringtone. I think of all the opportunities I missed. I was pretty good at literature, I remember. I did alright in gym class. Maybe I could have been president.
Pitched battle is often called ‘The dance with Death.’ I wouldn’t say I’m dancing, but I am getting served by Death. I’m standing helplessly in knee socks, holding chemistry and geometry books while Death does head-spins, freezes, back-flips, and finishes by making out with the girl I’ve had a crush on for three years running.
I can think, but I can no longer move. I’m just standing there on-screen, catching bullets. Is this battle fatigue? Normandy looked so easy.
I’m playing “Mortal Kombat,” and surprise! It’s going badly. I’ve moved far beyond feeling embarrassed over getting beaten by a girl. At first I was pretty cocky, because the chick I was fighting was dressed in an unlikely costume that had clearly been influenced by the concepts of “neon highlighter” and “circus hooker.” And while she looked athletic, her massive, space-time warping breasts probably wouldn’t let her do things like jump terribly high, not to mention the potential scoliosis. I thought I was going to be fine. How very wrong I was.
This woman is an unholy ninja that cartwheeled straight out of the 6th circle of hell, with the express purpose of beating the piss out of me. She started by leisurely punching my beautiful face about 20 times, and then proceeded to uppercut me through the ceiling. Can you imagine the arm and shoulder strength this must take? She has actually kicked my ass so hard, she has to take the stairs to finish the job. She can take her time, though. I don’t think I’m going anywhere.
I try to ask her, “Why are we fighting?” But there’s no button for that. The most I can do is try to stay away from her, and hope she realizes that I mean her no harm. My hopes plummet as she pulls out two massive knives and starts towards me.
What gets to me most is the sheer viciousness of it all. A simple stabbing would have been sufficient, I think. I still don’t know why she wanted to murder me, and I certainly don’t know why she had to power up, freeze my body, and then explode it so that pieces of me bounced all over the place. We could have just talked. I could have gone home to eat a sandwich or something, and she could have gone back to killing Tyrannosaurs or making out with zombie Ghengis Khan, or whatever it is she does when she isn’t committing heinous, premeditated murder.
Still, that’s the most realistically animated rack I’ve ever seen.
That’s just a fraction of what I’ve been through. Why do I still play video games, you ask? I don’t really have a good answer. They stress me out, they frustrate me, they give me whimpering nightmares that make me cling to my bear, Admiral Fuzzby (he has a distinguished naval career). I guess it’s just because, despite all of this, video games are cool. I’m a guy, after all. I’m genetically programmed to think that.
I just want a game where there’s no specific objective, where the fate of the world isn’t at stake, and where I’m not in danger of being killed by midgets with axes, or brightly colored women with the bodies of Olympic-level porn stars and the same approach to life as the Terminator.
I want “Entourage: The Video Game.”
- * – Players really do this.