Tag Archives: video games

Nobody cares about your dumb séance

I have this really weird friend, and she’d been talking about doing a séance for months. “Come on guys!” she’d say after nobody responded to any of her suggestions. Nobody ever responded. Because nobody wants to do a séance. Nobody but crazy people. “It’ll be so much fun!” and we’d just do our best to ignore her, to hope that after a while she’d burn herself out, maybe take a hint that nobody felt like standing around and holding hands like a bunch of wackos.


And yeah, I guess she took the hint, because one day she decided to take charge, to force us all into participating. We arrived at our friend Jeff’s place at eight, and even Jeff looked kind of shocked as we entered the darkened living room, the long candles set up around the perimeter of a folding poker table set up in the middle.

“What the hell Jeff?” we all asked without actually saying anything. And Jeff just shrugged, communicating, “I don’t know guys, she just showed up and started setting everything up.” Which, sorry Jeff, you’re not off the hook. I mean, talk about being a pushover. That’s your place. It’s your responsibility to put the foot down when someone comes over and tries to take over the direction of a get-together at your apartment. It’s like when I have people over, and Carl tries to hijack the music. “Come on guys, there’s this really cool Gypsy punk band that I found out about online. We should listen to the whole album!” Yeah, it’s a little mean, taking the computer out of his hands, password protecting the playlist. But what’s the alternative?

The alternative is shit like this, sitting around some ridiculous table getting ready to play make-believe with all of your adult friends, when all you really want to be doing is smoking pot and playing video games. “Guys, come on, hold hands! Be quiet!” that was our friend. We were all past the point of looking visibly pissed off, and half of us were muttering obscenities under our breath. She didn’t care, “Guys! Quiet!”

She turned off the lights and lit all of the candles. “For real guys, just hold hands, just come on.” And we did, probably because we realized that this was never going to stop being a thing unless we just got through it. So, begrudgingly, I joined hands with the two guys to my side, hoping that this wouldn’t take too much longer.

“Spirits from beyond,” she started her séance speech. It was too much to take. Like were these prepared words that she had written down ahead of time? Or was she just winging it, going for the whole otherworldly ghost feel? It was way over the top, the way she pronounced everything, “from beyo – ooo – oond.”

But after like a minute of this nonsense the candles all blew out at the same time. That got everybody’s attention. “Hey, how’d you do that?” one of my friends said, and someone else said, “Shhh.”

“Ghost of the departed, why do you come? What do you need to tell us?”

And then a voice started speaking. It sounded like it was coming from the middle of the table, but there wasn’t any echo or anything, nothing like the disembodied characteristics that you hear in ghost movies. With the lights out, our eyes didn’t have a chance to adjust, and so we couldn’t see anything, the source of the voice, if it was just one of our friends playing the part of the deceased.

“What do you mean?” the voice said.

“Why do you come from bey – ooo –oond?”

“I don’t know. You summoned me. What do you want?”

“Deliver unto us your otherworldly message!”

“For real? This is like something out of a bad horror movie. Come on, aren’t you guys bored? How’d you let her talk you into to any of this? I mean, I’m fine. I’m beyond the whole concept of time and space, so this isn’t really a big deal for me. Yeah, I’m bored, but it’s not like I have anywhere better to be. What about you guys? You’re just going to waste the rest of your twenties sitting around and playing video games? I’m not judging, it’s just that when I was alive …”

“OK! All right! Thank you. We get it. Thank you for visiting us. Guys, does anybody see the lighter? Can someone turn the lights on?”

And Jeff was right by the door. He hit the switch and the lights went on and there was nobody else with us. It was just a bunch of people sitting around a table, still kind of awkwardly holding hands.

Nobody wanted to talk about it anymore. Everyone felt a little ridiculous, that even if it were a real ghost that we somehow conjured into this plane of existence, that even the disembodied voices of the dead think that a stupid séance is a dumb waste of time. I wanted to rub this fact in my friend’s face, but nobody was saying anything. I think she felt bad about it. We all just quietly opened our beers and packed our bowls while Jeff blew in the cartridges of his old N64 games, trying to get Super Smash Brothers to work. Carl and Bill started fighting over who got to play as Captain Falcon. I need to get some new friends.

What’s your passion?

What’s your passion? What gets you up in the morning? Well, besides the overwhelming need to pee. I should have phrased it a little better. What gets you out of your pajamas in the morning? Really? Eleven? Yeah, that’s still technically morning, but still, come on, that’s a little late. No, I’m just saying, that’s a big chunk of the day gone, right there. I mean, unless you work nights or something. Do you work nights? No?


OK, well, when you get out of your pajamas at eleven, what motivates you to brush your teeth, take a shower, to go tackle whatever is you’ve got to tackle? Yeah, OK, your dog needs to be walked, that’s valid. But is that your passion? Is that all you’ve got, your dog?

I always ask people, if you didn’t have to worry about money, what would you do every day? Well, OK, really? Video games and movies on the couch, that’s it? Fine, what is it about video games that gets you going? Have you ever considered a career in video games? It’s not something you can do overnight, but maybe you could start off small, some programming courses here and there, a little intro to graphic design at night.

No? None of that sounds appealing? Well, yes, that’s a fair point. But do you honestly feel like you’re at the level where you’d be able to compete against professional gamers at the highest level? Because that’s what you’re talking about, right? Entering video game competitions? Are there cash prizes? I mean, are there people that make a living off of winning? How many?

I’m just thinking, is it like, “I want to be a professional basketball player?” Because sure, that’s a dream, but that’s one where you’ve got to be a little realistic. Like, if you really, really like basketball, but you’re kind of objectively looking at the possibilities that a guy in his early thirties might go from wherever he is right now all the way to the pros, it’s just … it’s one thing to chase your dreams, sure.

Well yeah, I was just using basketball as an example. In that case it’s really kind of easy to look at someone and tell them, listen, there’s not a lot of evidence or example that shows that there’s even a chance that a guy in your situation could go pro. I mean with video games, sure, age isn’t really a factor, but I mean … have you ever competed in any of these tournaments? No? Like if you play online in a randomly matched multiplayer, what are they chances that you’re going to come in the top ten percent?

OK, so facing those facts, do you really think that video games are your passion? I mean, is that how you’d treat something that you’re passionate about? Because I don’t think just casually spending your time on XBOX Live counts as a passion. And yeah, I see the number of hours you’ve accumulated, that’s … well, that’s a lot of hours. But it’s not impressive. That’s just spending time. That’s like taking a note of all of the meals you’ve eaten in the past five months and then telling me that you have a passion for eating.

All right, you know what? I’m just trying to do your mom a favor here, OK? You don’t have to be rude. Yeah, well, I don’t care if you don’t think Life Coach is a real job, I’m out there, I’m doing it, all right, whatever you’ve got going on here, this is definitely not a sustainable lifestyle. Oh yeah, great, well I disagree with you. Great, so, you know what? Why don’t you go … no, I’m just going to go. Good luck with everything, OK? I hope this all works out for you.

Beyond my wildest dreams

I want to paint my house bright green. Neon green. But just talking about it, I’ve already ruined it. This can’t be something planned. I just want to get up out of this chair, go to the Home Depot, have them mix me up a bunch of cans of the most fluorescent green anybody’s ever seen, and then I want to come home and start painting. I don’t want to have to ask my wife’s permission, or look up on the Internet how you’re supposed to go about painting a house, OK, I want this project done by the end of the day. I just want to take a wild impulse and run with it all the way to the end, straight off a neon green cliff.


OK, I want to take out a thousand dollars in cash, buy a bunch of sandwiches, hop on my bike and just start riding west. No, I won’t know where I’m going, OK, and I’m not bringing my cell phone either, so don’t think I’m going to wimp out once it starts getting dark out, looking for directions home, asking somebody to drive out and give me a ride back to town. No, no plans, nothing thought out. That’s what the thousand dollars is going to be for, I’ll have my money do all of the thinking for me. Like, where am I going to sleep? I don’t know, I’ll buy a really small tent, something I can put in my backpack, next to my sandwiches. I’ll camp out wherever. Just straight out west.

I want one of those long jobs at sea on a freighter, all right, and I don’t want to join any union or train for any certain position. No, I want to be right at the docks, I’ll already have the perfect seaman’s beard, I’ll have everything that I need, ready to go, the ship’s going to be ready to drift out of the port, I’m just going to hop on with the rest of the crew, right, I’ll blend right in. I’ll do like they do, swabbing the deck, I’ll jump in the kitchen at dinnertime and start chopping vegetables, making a nice stew for the crew. Maybe they’ll catch on eventually that I’m a stowaway, but by then I’ll have earned my spot. Sure, they’re not paying me anything, but by this point I’ll have a totally self-sufficient life, just sailing, eating, more swabbing the deck, a real marine life for me.

What I really want though is just to play a ton of video games. Like every time I go to a video game web site, all I hear about are all of these amazing games out, stuff I’ve never heard of, with fully immersive single-player stories, all backed up by massive online multiplayer fun. I don’t have enough time for video games. But that’s what I really want, nothing but time for XBOX and PlayStation. You’ll never find me in anything but pajamas. But it won’t be weird. Like when I order delivery from the diner, I won’t have to be ashamed to open the door looking like I haven’t been out of the house in weeks. I’ll just be like, “This is the best man, I am living the dream, all the time in the world to play all of the video games I want.” And the delivery guy is going to be like, “Yeah man, looks like you’ve really got it all.”

But that can’t be all there is to life. No, I’m still young enough to make something of myself physically. Wasn’t there a Disney movie about a guy in his fifties that became a rookie professional baseball player? I don’t know, all of those inspirational based-on-a-true-story movies kind of blend into each other after a while. But that’s what I’d really want to do with my life, if I could drop it all right now, I’d choose professional hockey player. Like, send me to hockey boot camp, get me hands-on training with the best hockey coaches in the world. I’ll give it my all, twenty-four seven, I’ll work like you’ve never seen anybody work before. I’m not looking to be a star, OK, but I’ve got to be of some value somewhere, a minor league franchise even, or somewhere in Russia. And then years from now they’ll make an inspirational Disney movie about me, and then an ice-capades meta-version of that movie.

I’m not asking for much out of life. Just the ability to dream. And then also the ability to wake up and make those dreams a reality. And I want them all, conflicting dreams, impulse dreams, I just want to do it, I just want somebody to give me all of these things. I want to be the first person to eat a thousand hot dogs in one sitting. You’ll see the Nathan’s Hot Dog championship scoreboard, it’ll be like 2012, some guy with 70. 2013, some other guy with 73. 2014, Rob G. with 1,000. 2015, some other guy with 75. And nobody’ll ever come close. I’ve just got to get out there and do it. I’m spending too much time sitting here writing about the life beyond my wildest dreams and not enough time actually making it happen. I’ve got to make it happen. All of it.

Player two, start

When I was a little kid I always wanted to play Super Mario Bros. as Luigi, but unless you’re playing two-player, that’s never an option, and two-player regular Mario is terrible, each person taking a turn on the same level. It was impossible, trying to sit still, having to wait around for my brother, everything taking forever, just jumping over that hole in the ground such a challenge.


But as the oldest brother, I couldn’t let anybody else be player one. And so we’d start the game up, I’d be Mario in his classic red and brown and I’d have to watch my little brother get to start up as Luigi, classic Luigi, white overalls on top of a green shirt. Was there any difference? Aside from the colors, could Luigi do anything different than Mario?

I guess because they were identical, I always assumed they were twins, the Super Mario twin brothers. But then in subsequent games, Luigi developed his own distinct personality, character traits that set him apart from Mario. He was taller, I could definitely identify with that, because I was always the tall one in my family. He could jump really high, I guess to go along with the whole tall thing. He seemed like a natural older brother, and thanks to Super Mario World 2, I was given the option to start as Luigi.

Unfortunately he’s way too slow, and that high jump, it takes forever to land back on the ground. Not that Mario’s any better. He’s just regular, as regular as he was in regular Mario One. But I hesitate to draw any significant conclusions based on that sequel, because it was a really terrible game, and everyone always wound up opting to play as Princess Peach, whatever, not for any stylistic reason, none that I’m aware of anyway. No, the Princess could fly, or float, it was a huge in-game advantage.

Mario 3, Mario 4, it’s back to basics, the focus squarely on Mario, Luigi never mentioned, not featured on the box artwork at all. He’s merely a placeholder, “Player two, start!” I’d go through the whole Super Mario Land alternating between player-one and player-two just so I could have a chance to beat King Koopa as Luigi. When I finally did it, I was disappointed to see the game scroll through the victory credits as if Luigi didn’t even exist.

“Thanks Mario! You’ve saved the Princess!” even though Luigi would be standing right there, holding the Princess. I think it was Luigi anyway. But it was probably just Mario, no height difference at all, just a Mario twin, a clone, I don’t know, maybe they were short on cash for those third and forth games and they were like, all right Mario, you’ve got to play Mario and Luigi’s parts for this one. Here, put on this green cap and overalls, it’s almost player-two’s turn.

Mario 64, Luigi doesn’t exist. Jesus, even Yoshi gets a cameo at the very end. Spare no expense for Mario’s trusty dinosaur sidekick, but what about his brother? His own sometimes-identical-twin brother, absolutely no respect. And then they’d release Mario Kart or Mario Tennis and fine, Luigi would be there, but strictly as a filler character. They don’t even give Luigi a proper villain. Where Mario has Wario, which is cool, they play on the whole upside-down M for Wario, when it came time to give Luigi his own doppelganger, they created Waluigi, like it was just, whatever, through Wa in front of Luigi and turn the L upside-down on his hat, nobody cares, nobody’s going to pick him, make him really slow and useless so that nobody wants anything to do with him.

He just gets a bad rap, Luigi, I always feel bad for him, like he’s the more relatable of the Mario Brothers. They give him his own game, finally, for the Game Cube, and it’s like purposely unplayable. He can’t jump, he can’t do anything, he’s stuck in a haunted mansion and his avatar is onscreen trembling every time he has to do anything.

I remember when I was a little kid we’d go to the skating rink or bowling alley and there’d always be a small arcade section set up somewhere by the lockers. A few places had this Superman arcade game, a pretty standard side-scrolling beat-‘em-up single player. But this being a big arcade machine, there was a second joystick, and if you somehow successfully begged your mom for a quarter, and someone else also happened to procure twenty-five cents at the same time, you’d both deposit your money and Superman would be joined by a second player.

Who was it, Batman? Green Lantern? No, it was another Superman, the exact same graphic as player-one, but they just filled in the entire costume red so as to differentiate from the original. It’s a pretty basic arcade game, you’d fly to the right and zap a bad guy, eventually the computer would be too much to outsmart, and your mom refused to give you another coin for an extra life or two.

red superman

That second Superman wasn’t meant to be anything, it was just a way to accommodate two quarters in the machine at the same time. But I always thought, man, who is this guy? Does he ever get pissed that red-and-blue Superman gets all the fame, the publicity, comic books, movies, everything, and here he is, this guy decked out in solid red spandex, he’s apparently got all the same powers and abilities as regular Superman, but that’s it. That’s all he gets, this maybe cameo on some shitty arcade stand. Is he from Krypton? Does he have his own secret identity? Doesn’t matter. He gets nothing. Not even a name. He just nominally exists. Wouldn’t that drive you crazy? Doesn’t he deserve at least a little backstory?

Six kids and one Nintendo

Growing up it was always this battle to play video games, to get some quality time with the Nintendo without one of my brothers or sisters spoiling my fun. I’m the oldest of six, we’re all really close in age, it wasn’t like I was in charge of the Nintendo, and so everybody wanted to play. We had one TV, one console, and they were shared property.


There was really only one rule that governed our video game play, and that was the principle of mutually assured destruction. Regardless of who happened to be using the Nintendo, if one of us started complaining to my mom or dad, the result was always as swift as it was consistent: “That’s it. Turn off the TV. Turn off the Nintendo.”

And if I was playing, I’d maybe start in on a defense, like, “But mom! Come on! I was playing first! I had the controller! I was playing a one-player game! Come on mom! That’s not fair! Mo-om! Come on!”

I’m talking here as if I was the victim. More than likely I was the one who got bored, decided to see what was going on in the living room, I’d find one of my brothers playing some video game, and just because of the fact that I was a huge asshole, I’d start being a jerk. “Move over, we’re playing two player.”

It was a cheap move, yeah, but that was the system by which we self-governed our Nintendo use. The rule was, as laid down by our parents, if you want to play Nintendo, and someone else wants to play Nintendo, then move over and play something that’s two-player, because it’s not your Nintendo, and if you resist, if you have to get mom and dad involved, that’s going to be the end of it.

My mom would be like, “Look, if you kids are going to fight about the Nintendo, nobody’s going to play. You want to keep fighting? I’ll throw that Nintendo in the trash. You want to try me?”

That always shut any of us up. Because even though I kind of doubted my parents’ willingness to trash something that they bought, a piece of electronics that they spent over a hundred dollars for, I never wanted to take the chance. There was always this story that my dad told about how when he was a little kid, one time he and his brothers and sisters, had so annoyed my grandmother that she cut the chord to the TV with a pair of scissors.

I mean, no, I was never really afraid that the TV would get trashed. Take away the Nintendo, maybe, but no TV? That would have been hell for my mom, having us all cooped up inside the house, no Saved By the Bell to keep us somewhat quiet.

Because that’s what we did, we watched TV and played Nintendo. We had several games, we’d get them for Christmas or, sometimes at the end of the school year we’d be surprised with a new one. I remember when I convinced my mom to buy us The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. It was awesome. For months I had read in Nintendo Power magazine about all of the different dungeons that I’d have to explore, all of the various weaponry at my disposal.

This Zelda game though, it was a double-edged sword. As a one-player game, one that I really, really wanted to play, like all of the time, it meant that the rest of my brothers and sisters now wielded an inordinate amount of power over me. Any time I sat there playing Zelda, all one of them had to do was open his or her mouth and say loud enough for my mom to hear, “Hey Robbie, can I play?”

To make matters worse, this game came with only three save files. Granted, only three of us barely had the hand-eye coordination necessary to actually play this game, but try being a ten year old kid and attempting to explain this argument to your mom and dad. Halfway through the first sentence, I can already imagine my parents shaking their heads, saying to themselves, I knew we shouldn’t have bought that Zelda. Maybe there’s still time to return it for one of those baby educational Fisher-Price two-player games. We actually had one of those for regular Nintendo. It was the equivalent of Barney & Friends for video games.

And so yeah, I complain about never really getting much quality time alone with the Nintendo, but if I really take a look in the mirror, I know that it was mostly my own fault. I’m the oldest, and I had a hand in crafting the tactic of mutually assured destruction. I’d be doing something else, I’d get bored, and I’d walk into the TV room to find one of my brothers minding his own business playing a video game.

“All right,” I’d say with a shit-eating smile, “Let’s play two-player.” And if my brother started to object, I’d say in a really low voice, “Moo-oom.” Then we’d both be sitting there playing two-player Tetris, neither one of us really interested in falling bricks, but both of us too stubborn to leave the TV alone. So we’d sit like that for hours, every time I scored a line I’d do this overblown celebration, “Yes!” just to rub it in his face.

Man, I was such an asshole.