Just the other day I found myself in an unusual spot, which was way more unusual than most of my unusual spots that seem to happen everyday.My mom was asleep, my son was with his dad, and, I had an hour where there was nothing for me to do. That’s right one whole hour, 60 minutes, 3,600 seconds in which not one thing claimed my time – well, theoretically work could claim the time, but that’s the way it always is right? The point is I had all this free time, and, I wasn’t quite sure what to with it.
An hour seems like a lot of time to fill, until I actually started to try and fill it. With the seconds ticking away I cast around in my limited brain cavity for something to do. I wanted to indulge in something that I normally wouldn’t do – no, chocolate wouldn’t be it, I indulge in that a little too much. I wanted to do something spontaneous and unusual, like the time itself. But, there was one caveat, I had to stay home.
So there I was as seconds turning into minutes when I came upon a eureka moment. I would attempt to play a game on my son’s gaming system. I mean he’s always angling to play it, so there must be something there right?
I must say that back when I was young there were no gaming systems, just video games that followed closely on the heels of text based games where you sat in front of a black computer screen with greenish writing, typing in what you wanted to do in the game as the text told you what was happening – this was so frustrating mainly because I was never able to get past the first corridor without being eaten by a troll. With a nostalgia bordering on sentimentality, I remember going over to my friend’s house and playing Pong, Space Invaders and Pac-Man on her Atari system. There was also this very odd game where you were a clown with a baby carriage that ran along the bottom of the greenish screen trying to catch a baby as it fell from the top of the screen. If you didn’t catch the baby, the word ‘splat’ appeared right above the little black blob where the baby fell to the ground.
Gaming systems never actually made it into our household when I was young, and even in my household today my son’s systems have only been allowed admittance for about a year – don’t feel sorry for him, he’s far from deprived, before a year ago he had access to games on the computer. Anyway, now we have a gaming system or two – my nephew handed down his system to my son – so I decided that with just a little less than an hour to go, I was going to play a game.
I settled into the chair and picked up the controller and looked at for awhile as the realization set in that I couldn’t see any discernible way to turn it on. My readers sat perched on my nose as I turned it this way and that, until I finally saw a little input on it. I reasoned that it must need to be connected to the main system, and get its power from there. But, that didn’t quite make sense to me as I went to get an HDMI cord because I had seen my son hunt up AAA batteries to use in the controller before he began playing. Ignoring the obvious – that it probably ran on batteries not an ambient electrical signal from the system – I plugged the controller into the system, looked down at it and saw some lights were flashing in its handle. I pushed some buttons, and nothing happened. I tried again. Still nothing. So I did what any parent would do, I texted my son and asked him how to turn it on.
Within seconds he texted me back, telling me to push the button in the middle of the controller. The one that looked like a decoration with the company logo on it to me. I pressed the button, and lo and behold, the little controller sprang to life. Feeling like I had conquered something with the controller in hand, I began to look through his games to figure out what I wanted to try to play. Nothing too violent, which left me with two choices, Little Big World and The Sims.
Little Big World it was. Settling into the big, comfy chair I waited as the game loaded. Finally, a little figure covered in string came on the screen and began to bounce around. After I got the hang of how to make it move and changed its string color from brown to multi-colored plaid, I started to get bored. It seemed that all the little figure did was walk on a path and bounce around.
Finally I’d had enough of the cute little figure, and decided I’d try playing The Sims. I slid the disc in the player wondering what the popular game would be like. It took me awhile to set my character up, which was kind of fun, choosing hair color and style, clothing and personality options. It was like custom building an alter ego or something. So when I got to the part of the game where it actually started, I was kind of looking forward to seeing what would happen. Until I couldn’t get my character to move of the sofa, that is. After a little fiddling, I was told my character had to look for a job, answer want ads and go on interviews. Even after I did all that, I couldn’t figure out how to get her off the sofa. Honestly I couldn’t blame her.
With my hour almost up, I set the controller down, turned off the game system and sat for a bit enjoying the quiet. As I sat there, I realized that maybe there’s a reason why the violent, action filled fighting video games are the most popular ones. When we play those types of games instead of the Utopian, bouncing around gentle ones, they give us something way beyond ourselves to pursue, fight for and do, something that can be a lot like real life in many ways except without all the bloodshed. Which, after my hour was up, gave me room to pause because maybe without all the conflicts, blindsided happenings, unexpected twist and turns and all around general happenings in life, both good and not so good, we’d all be pretty bored.