It’s another dreary day. Rain has been falling since morning and you look down on your driveway where the basketball rim is dripping with water and the blacktop is overrun with worms. A cackle of thunder rumbles in the distance. You breathe a sigh. So much for a day spent outside. That’s ok though. This isn’t the Dark Ages. Rain doesn’t have to be the end of your day, nor does darkness.
This new era of technology has made indoors as accessible to the Fun Goblins as outdoors did thirty years ago. The catalyst to this has been the video game, a simple technological marvel that incorporates multiple human senses into achieving one goal: the total, merciless destruction of the enemy.
The experience begins after some preparation. Namely it’s important you have a jug of water or some type of liquid by your side at all times. It’s beneficial because the mouth tends to hang open for long periods of time while playing a game and the resulting breathing can parch the throat. Not even the excessive drool streams can help the situation. By having the jug at hand the throat can remain liquefied and ready to shout obscenities at a moments notice when the boss kills your guy for the fifth time. Remember the punching combination, remember the combination.
Make sure as well to have a comfortable seat. Do not use the edge of the bed or a kitchen chair. Both are very bad for the back and can result in a painful stiffness that will cause misbegotten groaning that nobody wants to hear. Keep the seat confined to an office chair or a recliner. It is easy to fall asleep in either, which is a distinct possibility after surpassing the four hour mark.
Take note of the lighting of the room. You should know the kind of game you are playing before you start. Recreational games such as sports or activity games should be played in a bright atmosphere in an open space. This allows for more bodily movement that you’ll be doing plenty of. As for the other game types, suspense or action forms, the room should be more confined and dark. Confined because you will be hunched over a lot and will need less breeze interference that the big rooms have. Dark because it sets the tone for a suspenseful setting that brighter rooms cannot.
Yet the purpose of this piece is not about starting the game, it’s about knowing when to stop. So let’s fast forward. It’s five hours later, hovering around one o’clock in the morning. You can still taste the meat loaf in your teeth from dinner while four soda cans lay scattered on the floor next to you. A police car is blaring a siren somewhere on the main road. Both legs are crossed because you have to pee, bad. The right thumb is cramped from constant button pounding while the left hand is sweating and making control handling difficult. Your eyes feel like they are being sucked on by a toddler. The drool has dripped to four different spots on your shirt. Five calls have come and gone from your girlfriend, followed by a lengthy text message explaining why she was dumping you. None of that matters. The secret weapon is in your hands and the final level lay ahead.
The first tip off that you should probably take a break from the game is when you start talking to it like it’s alive. When another person is in the room, it’s fine because they’ll just assume you’re trying to get them into it too. There are problems when you’re alone, other than just the fact that it’s creepy. The next inclination is when you see the wet, yellow stain spreading across the pant area. Yes, it means you have peed your pants. There is no way to stop it from reaching the carpet, which is always a lighter color and so makes the piss stain quite visible. This means you’ll have to explain to your mother that you are not drinking too much and you are not an alcoholic and forgot where the bathroom was.
What you don’t want, though, is the third and most expensive sign. When you have played the game for so long and cannot get by a certain part that you chuck the controller at the TV screen, breaking both. It’s not the money that becomes the issue right away. Sound reverberates in case you forgot. That resulting crash will reach into the outer hallway, rousing your parents and sister from sleep, causing a stampede to your room where they find you standing, looking at a broken TV with a piss stain on your pants. Congratulations, you’re grounded and are going to see a doctor in the morning.
All these can be avoided by repeating this simple phrase to yourself, “Where’s the next save point?” Every game has them and the more a player can gear their strategy around using them, the less likely they are to earn the nickname “Packer Pants” at school. Whenever you reach the next save point, stop the game and look up at the clock. If both hands are pointing in an upward direction and you’re fairly certain that it’s dark outside, take a deep breath, reach out, and turn the system off. The numb feeling will be normal. That’s the body coming down from a five-hour mind freak. It is best counteracted by first going to the bathroom and then taking a nice hot shower. Nothing soothes the mind better than a monotonous activity like purging the skin of food crumbs, soda stains and sweat. Once you’ve dried off, slip into bed, take a deep breath and watch how fast you go to sleep. You did it.
So the next time you plan to press that button to start the experience, remember to keep one foot planted in reality at all times. It can save your pride (and your relationships) without decreasing the fun of playing. Oh, and one other thing, DO NOT rely on your ears to hear someone coming whenever you are playing alone. Tape recorders have been known to be used when doors are not secure and locked. The last thing you want is a full soundtrack of your ramblings being used as blackmail.