Life without video games _______________________________.
Tag Archives: story
The story begins as I steeled myself to enter a cold, concrete archive. The building itself was a grotesque accident of twisting and turning stuff, but that did not matter. I was there to retrieve the past, to recover sources thought lost and to write you a story. Before I opened the door to the past and entered the building, though, I put a bookmark in my diary and closed it. Then I took a deep breath and walked through the door.
An archivist sneaked up beside me, and her smile seemed to melt the icy concrete exterior and interior of the building. I smiled back, but the warm exchange didn’t last long. After I exhaled and rolled up my sleeves, a huge “claw” hovered into view, dangled above my head and then prepared to swoop in for the kill.
I thought I was about to be gored by the “claw” and suddenly recalled my pet fish, Mr. Fishy, from two years ago. I covered my eyes to avoid seeing the gory spectacle unfold. Then, just as quickly as I had spotted it, the “claw” swooped away in a different direction, slicing off the tiny tips of the hairs on my head along the way. I wiped the sweat from my brow and stopped shaking.
“Whew! That was close! What is that thing anyway?”, I asked.
“It’s the Armed Book Retriever 2000,” said a different archivist who was working behind the information desk. She rolled her eyes as she replied to my question.
I watched as the “claw” backed up and beeped, like a forklift moving in reverse, then moved forward, lurched to the right, then beeped and move backwards again. It — at last — grabbed a book from the shelf only to drop it. The process of picking up the book began again.
“Couldn’t I just walk up to that stack and collect the book myself, and isn’t that machine’s claw grossly oversized to pick up tiny objects?”
“Sir,” the same archivist said, ” the Retriever 2000 is $6.50 an hour. Please stop asking so many questions and let the machine do its job in peace. It wants a safe and respectful workplace too, you know.”
At that moment, the “claw” turned around to face me for a moment and, as if it were raising an eyebrow, it lifted one of its two metal blades.
“N-n-never mind,” I said.
I backed away from the machine, and it carried on in its merry way. I decided I should do the same and carry on with my research.
I opened my diary to the bookmarked page, and landed on a quote I had highlighted, which read: “History is done in the footnotes.” The footnote to this insightful quote, yes there was one, included a list of sources I had come to collect. I showed my diary to the archivist at the information desk and said, “Excuse me, ma’am, do you know where I can find these items.”
She glanced at my diary before saying, “Video games, huh? No one has seen or played those in a long time. They’re somewhere deep inside this place. Head down the stairs there all the way to the bottom. Keep going ’til you reach the rare technology section.”
“Ok, thanks,” I said. I muttered “I guess” under my breath.
I found myself walking down a rickety wooden staircase that wobbled every time I took a step. The steps also creaked like a squeaky, old door that someone was pushing open with all their might.
My third step nearly killed me. My ankle almost twisted because my foot broke through part of the wood and got stuck for a minute. All of me could have fallen through the stairs, but I managed to break free and decided to skip a couple planks of wood.
Crickets chirped. I turned around half expecting someone to come to my aid, but I guess they had stuck their noses in books. I did what little I could: I left a yellow sticky note near the hole in case someone else stumbled upon it.
When I reached the bottom of the stairs, I waddled past doors covered with cobwebs in search of the sources. The flickering torches on the brick walls did not offer enough light to illuminate my surroundings, and I bumped my head. I could already feel the resulting mountain range with my fingertips when a voice interrupted my self concern. It seemed to come from on high and provide hope in the darkness.
“How can I help you?”, asked a different archivist. I showed her my diary and she added, “Ah, yes, this way please, sir.”
I walked past several rooms as the archivist led me toward the sources. One room was full of crates, stacked to the top of ceiling, marked “Top Secret”.
“Hmmm that’s odd”, I thought to myself, as I raised an eyebrow.
Carrying on, I caught a glimpse of a crypt complete with a badly bandaged mummy sticking out of a sarcophagus. I turned away at first and kept walking. Then I shook my head and said, “Hey, wait a minute, what the hell was that? What exactly is going on here?”
I pointed at the crypt, and the archivist laughed before saying, “Oh, that’s just our Halloween decoration room. Please follow me.”
“Okay, if you say so,” I said.
We moved forward, smiling, without a care in the wide world. Suddenly a school of bats swarmed and flew over our heads.
“Alright,” I said, “now this is getting weird. I mean…”
“Never mind, sir,” said the archivist, “we’re here.”
We entered a cavernous room with a large brown treasure chest in the center of it. I opened it and the glittering objects inside forced me to cover my eyes. I was so shocked at the discovery that I fell backwards and only caught myself by landing on my palms. When I stumbled back to my feet, I rubbed the dust off my palms and noticed a bunch of video games had tumbled out of the chest. I saw Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda and Metroid.
The archivist said, “No one has played these games for years. I’m not sure the technology even exists to run them. Sir, I don’t envy the difficult work you have ahead of you, playing all these games. There’s so many.”
“I don’t care; I’ll find a way to make it work. It may not be a pretty job, but it’s my task to make the past alive. By golly, if I have to, I’ll stay up all week to play these games. Nothing can stop me.”
“What about the writing?”, she asked.
“Oh yeah,” I said, “that too.”
The little video game sat alone on the mahogany shelf. The weight of its own existence felt like a boulder slung across it’s top corners. The weight was multiplied because it never thought to leave its place on the shelf and wonder forwards — until now.
It stumbled during its first few steps as it wandered around the store, staring wide-eyed at the other games. It saw row after row of different genres, such as action, adventure, RPGs and more. It stared at others hoping they could help it better understand itself, for it couldn’t yet read the writing on its own cover that told it who it was. It could only make out a few fragments when it glanced inward.
The other games saw the little game wandering around and approached it. They could sense that it was ruminating on existence as they started to speak.
“Look, friend, you already know who you are. But allow us to make things clear.”
They spun the little video game around and placed it in front of a mirror.
“I see it all now. I know who I am,” it said.
“Where do you see yourself going from here?”, the other games asked.
“Why, I see myself staying here with all of you. This is where I belong.”
Mike’s eyes became wide as a full moon, and a chill ran down his spine. There was a massive bear squatting in his living room! Every time the bear moved an inch, priceless porcelain fell out of the cabinet and shattered into tiny pieces. The bear cared not. And Mike cared not how his mother would react to the porcelain shower on the floor.
Mike was more worried about the bear. The saying that hell hath no fury like a woman’s scorn, Mike could now confirm, was patently false. Hell hath no fury, Mike thought, like a ravenous bear’s sharp teeth.
The hungry bear clawed at the couch Mike sat on and, in one swift stroke, sliced it in half. The bear bit into a pillow and shook it until the living room was blanketed by fluff. Then the bear moved in for the kill. Mike was the next target.
“Huh? No, stop! Ahhhh!”
Mike thrashed violently on the couch and covered his eyes. He opened them a moment later to notice the couch was once again whole. He took a deep breath and let out a tentative sigh. He was shocked.
“You were playing that hunting video game again, weren’t you?” said Sophia.
“No, I swear a bear was on a rampage in here. I swear. Please believe me.”
Mike seemed to have conveniently ignored that the room was in fine shape. The porcelain platters were fine. The pillow was stuffed.
Sophia considered the evidence against Mike. She saw a large, opened bag of Cheetos on the far end of the couch. As she dragged her eyes toward Mike, she noticed yellow crumbs on his chest. As she glanced at the floor, she saw a large orange hand imprint on a video game controller.
“The bear was here, and we better run before it comes back,” Mike said.
“Uh-huh—sure,” Sophia said, “I think it was just a bear in your mind.”
Steve was ready to defeat the mechanized T-Rex boss. He had a bowl of nachos, a strategy guide and a map spread out on his couch. The nachos, of course, were for nourishment. The strategy guide was to help beat the boss because Steve had failed to do so after 77 attempts. He would not stand for 78. And the map served as a visual reminder of his failures. You see, using large blood red blotches, Steve plotted out each place where his character had died while fighting the beast.
This map plotting was a painful exercise, but Steve felt it necessary. The large red blotches on the map reminded him where to avoid the beast, and the map motivated him to do better. This time, he thought, the T-Rex will be the one crying.
He wiped the nacho cheese off his face and set his sights on his goal: toppling the Dino king. Steve’s digital character took one bold step forward in the digital world. The character unsheathed his sword, steeled himself against the face of evil and readied his shield to deflect any particles.
“Ok,” Steve said, “remember to tap the A button exactly 14 times when the boss breathes fire balls.”
Huge bombs of fire then shot out of the T-Rex’s mouth and zeroed in on Steve’s character. The character dodged, ducked and dived until the bombs ceased. The bombardment had shaken Steve’s nerves, but on the surface, he was as calm as a cool lake on an early spring morning.
“Whew!” Steve exclaimed.
He had made it past the first stage. He only failed to get past this stage 25 times before.
Now he moved on to stage two — the dreaded laser zone. The T-Rex shot burning red lasers out of its eyes; they were so hot that they melted rocks and anything in sight. Sweat poured down Steve’s head as if it were Niagara Falls, and he took a big gulp. Rather than hide from these bright beams, his character jumped over the lasers like he was an expert at jump rope. The lasers nearly burned the character a couple of times, but he made it through untouched. Well, the T-Rex did singe some of the character’s hair, but Steve thought, “You can’t have everything.”
Steve wiped his brow. He made it past the second stage.
The final stage was to hit the boss’s tail. The massive spikes on the T-Rex’s back threatened to eviscerate the character, though, as he targeted the tail. You had to have perfect timing to execute this attack and avoid death. Or so Steve thought. He believed he’d messed up so often in this stage because he hadn’t been “perfect.”
Steve waited to attack. He knew the T-Rex would recharge after the exhaustive laser blast assault. He figured this was the perfect time to attack because the beast was not shooting, and it was vulnerable without a strong offense. Sure enough, the beast rubbed its tired eyes, and the character pounced on the tail, tearing it to shreds. The mighty king fell and left a cloud of dust that rivaled a demolition project.
“I did it!”
Steve jumped for joy and smiled so hard that his jaw hurt. It had taken him 78 tries, and he had finally done it. He had beaten the boss and the game at last.
“I guess I won’t need you any more,” he thought to himself.
He ran to open the window. Then he picked up the game disc, winded up his arm and flicked the game out like it was a frisbee.
“Good riddance!” he said.
He turned around and marched triumphantly toward the kitchen to grab a celebratory beer. But he was celebrating a little too early because the disc came spinning back. The disc returned with a vengeance through the window, like a boomerang, and walloped Steve in the back of the head.
“Owwww! Will this wretched game never leave me in peace?”
Once upon a time, a single video game sat alone on a store shelf. This lonely game wasn’t shiny like the others. It didn’t have any fancy graphics or eye-popping pictures on the box. It had no action, no blood, no violence and no aggression. The game did have layers of grey cobwebs and dust covering it.
Sometimes one could see droplets of liquid trickling down the game box, but this wasn’t someone’s attempt to clean it. The drops would trickle only in the middle of the night. Those nights in the store when feet fell silent, chatter ceased, security guards finished their last rounds and the clerk killed the lights.
Until one day when a little girl changed the story. She saw the lonely video game and heard it call to her, cleaned it off and bought it. The clerk and customers all laughed, but the little girl wasn’t going to ignore the game’s pain or let the laughter change her mind.
“Thank you for saving me from a life of endless consuming and being thrown away. I can’t wait to be free,” said the game. Then the box vanished into thin air. The little girl smiled even though she had lost the video game that called her.
Little Johnny was never more excited to start and finish his homework. He knew that if he did the work, he could play video games for one hour, not a minute more. He quickly slid his pencil over the paper and carried that last one and dotted that last “i.” He finally was free to play.
Yet a scary thought had lodged itself in the back of his head before he picked up a controller. The idea of playing for more than one hour was tempting him, but he couldn’t shake his fear of the consequences. He foresaw fireballs raining down from the sky, the ocean boiling, and trouble with his mom. The last of these images scared Johnny the most, for his mother had the power to revoke his video game privileges. The other images paled by comparison.
He did not waste much mental energy on these fearful images because he started playing mere seconds after they had popped into his head. Now he was satisfying his wanderlust by wandering around a strange digital land. He leveled up and walked down every tunnel to explore every crate and explosive barrel. With twenty minutes left on the clock, he thought he had seen all the world had to offer him. Then he tripped over a new map and tumbled into a new world.
He found everything on this new game’s map only to uncover yet another land. With ten minutes left on the invisible hour-glass, he investigated everything before him. The lake was tranquil and glassy, the sky was clear and sunny, the air smelled, he imagined, of fireplaces and burning wood. Achievements unlocked, he overcame challenges and time vanished faster than he thought possible. There was one minute left in the imaginary timer in his head. Then time was up. Better to stop playing now, he thought, before he regretted his actions.
He sighed deeply as he weighed the heavy task before him: the execution. He had to off the box. It seemed so innocent, and what had it ever done to him? It had done nothing but offer hours, or in this case 59 minutes, of uninterrupted joy. But none of the mattered now. He had to feel cold as an Arctic night and act before his mother punished him.
He got up to turn off the console thirty seconds before his imaginary timer went berserk. He clicked the power button, but it didn’t budge.
“Ugh!” he grumbled, “surely this is some kind of sick joke.”
But it wasn’t. The box didn’t have a sense of humour, and the game kept playing itself. What an awful twist, he thought, that I use the console as an object for play, but it is acting like a nonstop working machine.
He pressed the power button with so much force that the table beneath the console shook and swayed. “No! This can’t be happening.” he yelled. But it wouldn’t turn off no matter what he did, even after he unplugged it from the outlet.
Now he began to sweat as though someone had turned the furnace on during a scorching summer day. It wasn’t the console that was his problem. It was him mom’s imminent arrival and the loss of his beloved video games.
With a mere five seconds to spare, his mother’s key began turning in the backdoor. She fumbled and dropped her keys, and she gifted him another ten seconds, another opportunity to off the console. But no amount of button mashing would shut down the cursed box.
And then, before he could account for her appearance, his mother was in the same room at 5:01 pm. His hair stood at full attention as if that would help.
“I’m not playing. It won’t turn off. I swear.”
“Sure,” she sighed. She didn’t bother to verify his claim as she looked the other way. “Just get ready for bed. It’s been a long day, and I don’t have time for impossible stories.”
As Johnny walked toward his room, he glanced at the console which was now behind him. He heard snickering. And he could have sworn the console wore a sneering smirk on its half-full power button. But that faded in an instant, and then it was off. The console sat there neglected once again.