I remember the day my family got an NES. I think I stayed in the van as my dad ran into Walmart and bought the thing, but I definitely remember holding the box on the way home. It came with Super Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt (the combo pack). My siblings and I played it so much! Every new Mario game we got and mastered (though I still don’t know how to beat that never ending castle at the end of Mario 3).
Then it was the N64. Mario 64, Mario Kart, Mario Party (ok 4 of them), Star Fox, Zelda, and a bunch of other games were so exciting! I loved the Ocarina of Time and had to find all the heart pieces and uncover every secret.
A good friend of mine got a Gameboy, so of course Scott wanted one too. Pokemon was the game of choice, literally hundreds of hours were spent leveling your guys to the max, giving them all the perfect abilities and whatever else there was.
Then Halo came out. We didn’t have an Xbox but we soon got one and I was hooked. I went to Halo parties (which was where I first saw DDR and vowed to never play a game that made you look so stupid) and played whenever I went to a place where they had it. I also went on a Cross Country Skiing retreat and actually started to like DDR.
So far I haven’t even mentioned computer games. Command & Conquer, Starcraft, Warcraft, Counterstrike, I played them all. Everquest never really attracted me, I was too cheap to pay a subscription fee. I would tie up my families phone line for hours playing the games on the internet or with a friend.
Along came college… and Halo 2. I remember before it came out we would get a bunch of rooms in the dorm hooked up for Halo 1. The first game I played, I smoked everybody. It was a great way to meet people, I’m still friends with folks who I only know because of Halo. Halo 2 changed a lot for me though. Now that you could play on the internet with total strangers, you got your own screen and everyone was ranked?!? I played all the time. And I was good. Ridiculously good. My clan (aka team) was ranked in the top 20 in the world. My friends won money playing Halo 2 (I was so close, but somebody edged me out at the end). We got into strategy, talked about the “greats” of Halo and were all together really nerdy. I played so much that at one point, when someone turned the corner in front of me, I mentally adjusted my aim to get the headshot.
A lot of this talk brings on nostalgia, but most of it makes me sad. I wasted so much of my life playing video games. It is too easy to exchange real interactions for virtual ones, and with such consequences. Life can seem surreal now, as though I wasn’t really living it but only dealing with a system that responds with pre-programed actions that have no lasting consequences. But living does have consequences, and very real ones.
If I had spent all those hours with people, playing piano, playing a sport, reading the bible, praying, evangelizing, how much different would the world be? How different should it be? These experiences have shaped me into the person I am today, so I am not wishing I hadn’t had them. But I will be cautious raising my children. I want them to live this life, not an imaginary one of little consequence.