Sunday, January 22, 2006

Bested By A Second Grader

Growing up I was always into video games. When I was little there weren't very many. Pong on Atari was probably the first one I played. Space Invaders, Asteroids and Defender soon followed. I mastered Pac Man and could play it indefinitely. Then came Galaga, Centipede and a host of others.

In college, there was one particular game called Robotron that I played endlessly. I was the champ at this game. I played it so much I developed elbow and forearm pain that I termed "Robotron Elbow" I had to ice my arm down after each gaming session and take a bunch of tylenol or aspirin for the pain. This went on for months.

After college I lost interest in video games until Nintendo 64 came out. My wife bought me one for Christmas one year. This was before we had kids. I loved it. I would stay up till 3 AM playing games every night. Wave Race was a favorite. So was Star Wars Rogue Squadron. I quickly became addicted again. S would look down at me from upstairs, sprawled on the family room floor, legs cramping, sweat pouring from my face and say "don't you think it's time to turn that thing off and come to bed?" The Nintendo 64 soon became a source of contention in the house.

S: All you ever want to do is play video games.

Me: You bought the machine for me. I didn't ask for it. What do you expect?

This was probably not the wisest response I could have given. The silent treatment then ensued. This is worse than a knock down drag out argument.

Me: What's wrong

S: Nothing

Me: Are you sure? You're kind of quiet.

S: I'm fine.

After a few days of conversations made up entirely of sentences with one or two words I realized someone would have to give in. Somehow I knew it wouldn't be S. Eventually, to restore peace to the house I cut back on the game playing. Things got back to normal and all was well. Then we had kids.

A first became interested in video games about age 3. He was hilarious to watch. He loved racing games the most. He would stand infront of the TV jumping up and down in place while he played. When he needed to turn whatever car he was driving he would turn his whole body to the left or the right. At this point I could beat him in any game, every time. Life was good.

He gradually got better. He played a wider variety of games with increading levels of complexity. When Gamecube came out he wanted one of those. When Playstation 2 came out he wanted one of those. How could I say no? Video games soon became his life.

He gradually got better. I think he was 6 when he legitimately beat me in a game for the first time. By age 7 it was about 50/50. A is now 8. He routinely kicks my ass in just about any game out there. About the only game I can still win is Star Wars Rogue Squadron III. But A never wants to play that game. His latest favorite is Crash Tag-Team Racing. I win about 1 out of every 10 races. Video games aren't so much fun anymore. Not when you're routinely humiliated by a second grader.

Occasionally, A will ask my help with a game. It's usually one of those single player games where you're a character who has to find his way through multiple levels, fighting bad guys along the way. He'll get stuck on a level he can't beat and then he'll ask for help. I beat Rhino for him in the Ultimate Spiderman game and figured out how to beat Electro. He then took the controller and continued on with the game.

It's good to know he still needs me for something.

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