Thursday, March 1, 2012

On Video Games

Lily is getting old enough to play video games. I'm really fond of this picture, which I snapped when she was playing Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World with her cousin.

She's wearing a Yoda shirt and playing a video game based on a comic book. She's on a trajectory to spend every Friday night alone, and as her father, I'm just fine with that.

I like video games. I grew up with them, even moreso than the rest of my generation. My grandparents owned a business stocking vending machines, and they had expanded into arcade games by the time I was born. In the Summer, I would spend weekdays in their shop. It was video games in the back, and candy in the front, and it was just as awesome as it sounds. They eventually sold the business but I have a Space Invaders cocktail console. It stopped working a few years back and we've been using it as a coffee table, and most recently, as a stand for Lily's dollhouse.

Those of you with a keen eye may recognize Saturn Girl on the toilet.

My father worked for his family business when I was a kid, and one of the coolest moments on my childhood was when he came home with a Defender arcade game in a delivery truck and set it up in the driveway.

Video games aren't my only interest, but they've been one of my hobbies for a long time and I've got a lot of fond memories.

I wrote my college entrance essay on a video game. (Phantasy Star II) When Jen and I had our first apartment,  there was a huge snowstorm and we only had our Playstation for company and we wound up getting pretty good. One time my brother was talking smack about his fighting prowess and Jen asked for the other controller and curbstomped him without him laying a hand on her. She was like, "You just lost to your brother's girlfriend! That must have been humiliating!"

I remember when my friend Eric came over and lost repeatedly to the end boss on Tekken. He threw the controller down in disgust and declared Heihachi unbeatable. I picked up the controller and beat Heihachi with one hand with two consecutive perfect rounds.  It was so cool that I'm talking about it fifteen years later. (It was with Michelle though, and in Tekken 1 it was possible to string together combos with her just by poking at random buttons, so it's less impressive than it sounds.)

My best buddy Tim has been my video game buddy for ages. I remember we were playing the sequel to a game called Deception in 1998. You lured people into your house and murdered them at the behest of "Dark Lord Satan". (Sometimes video games get a bad rap, but it's hard to defend this one.) The thing that I remember about the game isn't playing it, (though we still quote it even today. Every character had a different quote when they died, and one of them said, "You've got to be kidding me," which is such an incongruous thing for a dying man to be saying that it still cracks me up) but remembering the conversations that we had while we played it. I remember that it must have been in 1998, because the game had the absurdly long load times that sometimes plagued early Playstation games, and we would talk about the home run race between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, despite the fact that neither of us cared much about baseball.

I was thinking about this conversation when Lily came home from school. She recently became infatuated with Castle Crashers (It has replaced "Scott & Ramona" and Little Big Planet as her favorite game), a fun game that came recommended by my friend Jake. He's a cool guy, as you can see from his own blog about Roger Zelazny and video games. She prefers the Pink Knight, who shoots rainbows and hits things with a lollipop.

She wanted to get some in-game money to buy a pet from the one store, and she realized that most efficient way to go about this was to defeat the first boss over and over again, because he's easy to beat and he reliably drops a lot of gold when you do. The fight is generally only a couple seconds long, but there are some unskippable parts like a brief animation of him entering the battlefield. And when those parts were going on, we just made small talk to pass the time, like "How was school?" and "What do you want to do this weekend?"

I suppose the funny part is that my daughter has become this person with whom I can have these conversations. (The other part that impressed me is how quickly she grasped the mechanics and formulated an efficient strategy to reach her goals) When I was a kid, I always had my best conversations with my parents when we were in the car. I think it was the combination of the fact that the conversation is only one of the things going on, plus the fact that you're generally not looking at the person under those circumstances, but it always gave the conversation a different dynamic, and we talked about things we wouldn't otherwise discuss.

The other fun part is that she asked if Mr. Tim could play, and I sent him an email saying "Quick! Download Castle Crashers and play with us online!" and I didn't think he'd get back to me anytime soon, but in what pretty much must have been the time it took to  boot up the Playstation and download the game, Tim replied with a text that said, "Ok, I have C. Crashers. How do we play?" and I think it's awesome that I have friends willing to do that kind of thing.

Lily's other amusing lines were "You bet I do!" when asked she wanted to fight Medusa and observing "A boy must have made this game" when we got to the level with all the pooping animals.

Does a bear shit in the woods? Repeatedly.


  1. Did I mention I spent my last few bucks on Castle Crashers? I've been starving since then and don't get paid until tomorrow. :/

  2. If it's any consolation, you warmed the heart of an adorable cherub.

    Also, Lily appreciated it too.