A lot of people think video games are the latest agent of our progeny’s demise and I am one of them. I can’t think of a more ridiculous and possibly sinister leading indicator of imminent doom than kids who won’t clean their room or feed their dog but never forget to flush the toilet or feed their goldfish on Sims. It scares the bejesus out of me and I strive to threaten my children with uninterrupted painful flogging if they spend more than 18 minutes a day playing video games.
I’ve also made some disparaging comments about some of the retired people I know who spend hours and hours playing video games. Bingo and solitary have been usurped by Zelda and online solitary.
To all of this I have thrown up my hands and shaken a sage and surly finger at all involved, saying they are squandering the precious few moments they have here on this little ball of dirt. Which makes me a pathetic a sad old hypocrite.
At about 1:30 in the afternoon this Saturday, I started playing a game. I just wanted to see what it was like. I’d seen the Roon slackjawed and dazed, playing this game for three hours at a stretch, which is pretty good even for him, and I wondered what was so compelling.
The game is called Civilizations/Revolution. The graphics are average. The length of gameplay is only a couple of hours. There are no car incendiary crashes or crimson head-shots. In the game, you choose to start a civilization, say the Roman Empire, from scratch and endeavor to take them from caveman to Cosmonaut ahead of all the other empires in the game. It. Is. Awesome.
I started just after lunch and a few minutes later, [My Attorney] called and asked what I fed the boys.
“Dinner? No I just gave them hot dogs just now.“
“Do you have any idea what time it is?“
“What? Uh, three?“
“It’s eleven o’clock.”
I had been playing this game for ten hours. TEN HOURS. I don’t do anything for ten hours. I don’t even sleep for ten hours. I looked around at my house, empty and dark, the dog crouched by the door with his legs crossed, the boys passed out on the couch under a protective blanket of spent Cheetos bags. I realized I was dehydrated, I was starving, and I’d been holding it for something like three hours straight because, dude, I needed to get the people of Pima to build one more Galleon so I could make a fleet and sink the new ships from Bismark, my enemy to the north.
I have never been so into a game in my life. Again, you have to understand, the graphics are sub par. But the manipulation of a tiny universe is brilliant! And it affects your world view. We started watching a movie which showed the 18th century workers of a dying factory and I instantly realised that if only there were more of them, that country could upgrade to the industrial era so, hey, it teaches history.
Late the next day the family wanted again to watch a movie and I was playing the game, my world dominating Egyptian empire having just discovered the Internet and on the brink of colonizing Alpha Centauri when the family G politely asked me to turn. Off. The. Game. I reacted ungraciously (I’m being diplomatic here) and my son started laughing. “Geeze, dad, you’re acting just like me. You’re addicted, dude!”
I’m so scared. I have two simultaneous deadlines, a huge complictaed ceremony, Bad Movie Night, and god knows what else due in the next two weeks but I am terrified that what’s gonna happen is [My Attorney] is going to come home and find the kids emaciated and me surrounded by a nest of laundry and cold pizza looking like Uncle Fester and mumbling to myself: “I gotta research steam power. I got to build more legions. I got to get a submarine …”