Virtual Insomnia

A couple of weeks ago I was playing Call of Duty: Black Ops II. It was your standard Team Deathmatch League Brawl, first team to seventy-five kills, you know the drill. Anyway, I’m tearing through some post-apocalyptic slum in Yemen, when I see this enemy player surprise me from around the corner. I’m playing through the Internet, so I’m not up against some predictable computer program. This is a real person out there somewhere. And I’m reloading. He’s caught me by surprise, totally vulnerable. I’m dead. I think. But he doesn’t shoot. Maybe he was reloading also. I’m getting anxious.

I’m like, come on, come on, faster, come on. But I’m too anxious, too trigger happy, and just as I’m done reloading, I accidentally hit the melee button, which, instead of firing, just kind of jabs a knife outward, totally useless unless you’re completely sneaking up on somebody. I’m not even close, which, in this case, only serves to waste another precious two seconds as my avatar sticks the knife out, recovers his stance, and then cocks his gun again. I give up. No way would I be able to recover in time.

But I still don’t die. In fact, this guy isn’t even shooting at me. He’s just standing there. Is this a glitch? Have two random Internet gamers from around the world somehow stumbled upon each other in the ruins of this burnt out virtual building, only to face each other, at the same point in time, totally unprompted, thinking to themselves, why? Enough, why play by these senseless, violent rules any longer? But then his character starts walking over and over again into a wall and so, yeah, he really is glitching. I take advantage of his apparent network difficulties, walk up really close and hit the melee attack again.

But I didn’t have too much time to celebrate, because I woke up, in my bed, the whole thing was a dream. I thought it might be a sign, like the universe telling me something important was going to happen if I woke up right then and started playing XBOX. So I did, I searched every single map for a friend, somebody ready to lay down their arms with me, but nothing happened, I just wasted a couple of hours getting my virtual ass blown up, hours that I really should have used for sleeping.

And the next day at work I was so tired and cranky, and it must have been obvious, I must have been acting like a real dick, because my boss came up to me at one point and said, “Knock it off Rob. Either stop acting like a huge dick or I’m sending you home,” which, in hindsight, I probably should have taken advantage of that, an opportunity, to go home early and sleep. But I thought, no, that’s probably not a great idea for my long-term job prospects here, and also, if I go home and sleep now, I’m going to wake up at some point in the middle of the night. I’ll lie there and try to get back to sleep, but you know how it is once you’re awake. You’re awake. And maybe I’d try and kill some more time playing video games, just until I get tired. But video games keep me up even if I’m very tired. And so yeah, I could just see my sleep schedule getting permanently altered, this, my new normal, tired and pissed off all day and video game insomnia all night.

So I stuck it out at work for the rest of the shift, really half-assing everything. When I got home, I immediately fell asleep, crashed right on the couch, didn’t even get to take my shoes off or anything. And this was even worse, because I woke up and it was close to eleven-thirty. This was exactly what I was talking about, the abnormal sleeping patterns. I had to get up. I was starving. I needed dinner. I needed something to drink. The next thing I know it’s two in the morning. I’m wide awake. I have to be at work tomorrow.

So I start playing video games, not because I’m blind to the dangers of staying up all night playing Call of Duty, but I’m freaking out that my sleep schedule is permanently damaged, like I’m going to have to force myself to stay awake for a whole twenty-four hours, this night plus all day tomorrow, just to exhaust myself to the point where I can fall asleep at a decent hour and wake up again the next day like a regular human being. And so the video games are just, one, to keep me from freaking out any more, and two, if I really do have to stay up for twenty-four hours, the only thing that will keep me awake is the visual stimulation of futuristic Internet videogame warfare.

But hour after hour, right when the sun should be coming up soon, I feel my wits starting to slip, and the next thing I know I’m back in that same corner in Yemen, holding out in some bombed out room, too nervous to head out in the open, and this guy comes in but he doesn’t see me. I should have picked him off right there, he’s not shooting, obviously reloading, but I’m so tired, so totally out of it, my thumb’s not working right and I just keep walking into this wall, over and over again, and the guy stands there for a second – I’m starting to feel that connection again – before taking out his knife and offing me with a quick melee attack.

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