Friday, April 13, 2007

Mom, Can I be a Buccaneer?

NOTE: This post was originally published on in June, 2006

"Mom, Can I be a Pirate when I grow up?"

I don't know if I ever asked her that, but if it ment I could now shirk all my worldy responsibilites, pick up my pack, and sign on with a square-rigger bound for Port Royale, I'd call her right now.
"What is it honey?"
"I want to leave Marie and the kids and become a sailor on the Elissa, in Galveston Harbor."
"Aren't you going to paint my living room? Can it wait till after that? Come on over, I'll make you some chicken."

Actually I wouldn't go. Why?

I just taught my 7 year-old daughter how to ride a bike today. In fact, I made a bet with her cynical 13 year-old brother that I could teach her how to ride it in 30 minutes. After two hours of sweaty pursuit, running beside her in a back-breaking, knee-jarring lope, she looked up at me and said in wide-eyed amazement, "I can ride a real bike!" I was very proud of her- she accomplished something she thought she couldn't do.
And that's why I love video games...

Huh? Okay- I did a flyby, so let me explain.

I'm a father of two. I work very hard to keep my kids in clothes, my wife financially secure, and my bills paid. I will be 40 in less than 6 months. I reasearched building a sailboat in my garage this summer and after looking at the nearly $5,000.00 price tag, considered that it may be my "retirement project." So here is my reckoning:

1. I will more than likely never cross swords with a man who is trying to kill me. So I practice fencing in the backyard with a wooden beater sword, and relax by playing Devil May Cry: Dante's awakening.
2. I will probably never travel to Mexico and dig around the ruins of the Aztecs while being pursued by a demon with a grude, because I just stole a purple amythyst eye from his shrine. So, I spend an evening with Laura Croft, and delve deeper into a Tomb, jumping from ledge to ledge and avoiding the spikes below.
3. I drive a Pontiac Bonniville- and while the raw, awsome power of a true V8 engine gives me a thrill in the passing lane, I have never "checked traffic" and scored a Crash-Breaker Take Down while launching a Dodge Viper off a roof in Europe. Nope. Never done it. ...Except with a dual-shock in my hand.

I play games to experience things I can't do in my real life. Things I thought I could never do are suddenly open to me with the press of a button, the investment of a little time, and a few hours on the weekends. Like my daughter on her bike this afternoon, I beam with anticipation and feel the exhillarating sense of accomplishment when I've made it to the next level, or found a secret room. I go to lands I've never seen, breath in vistas from unreal planets, and load the cannons while I tack into the wind- my heart beating in my chest as I finally position a broadside between two enemy ships.

You see, I'm a dreamer...

But in this Walter Mitty life I lead, the guns are always loaded, and the runway is clear for takeoff as long as I have a few hours, in the dark, with the sound turned down and the glare of the TV illuminating the hallway to the kitchen. And while I take out the last ship in the drone fleet, or fell the red-eyed monstrosity that guards the Sword of Thunder, my daughter is upstairs sleeping. Dreaming of tomorrow when she finally learns to turn her two-wheeler without taking a dive into the saftey of the grassy patch above the curb-

...and there's a Nintendo DS under her pillow :)


all your Wii are belong to us

Yeah, I know I said I wasn't going to buy a new game console this year, but hear me out.

As you know, I have two kids. Justin is 14, and Hope is now 8, and incidentally- I'm 40. So I can officially decree my midlife crisis and if I want to buy a Wii, I'll gol-darn buy a Wii! Yeah, you heard me!
Oh- and the kids wanted it.

I had no interest in updating graphics for $600 "a la" PS3- and I still don't. If I want to play great looking games then I have a bad ass PC for games like Oblivion and The Battle for Middle Earth. Heck, even some of my old PC games like "Aquanox" and "Secret Weapons Over Normandy" look better than anything the PS3 has out right now. Sorry- no sale.

The Wii is a return to gameplay and that is what attracted me. At the moment the graphics are simply functional and take a backseat to control, but what you get is something closer to imersion.


That is something I haven't felt in a long time. It is a concept that sold me a Playstation all those years ago after I rented one from Blockbust and tried out games like Descent and Tomb Raider. That feeling of the living room metling away and looking through the eyes of the screen at my new world has returned- albeiet with a silly name.

My son tells me that Nintendo development follows a cycle of "Revolution/Evolution," and the Wii is the new Revolution with a promissing "Evolution" on the way. In much the same way that the Super NES was the evolution of the NES, I expect the next generation of Nintendo's Wii to be an apex in gaming history, and I'll likely be standing in a line in a late November three or four years from now with my pre-order ticket in hand.

Now if you're really smart you've probobly already figured out that I am just supplying justification for breaking my staunch hard-line refusal to by a new game console. But if you are really, really, really smart- you'll just shut up and join me for a midnight session of Wii sports Bowling practice.
Hey, I gotta get in some hours cause the boy is kicking my ass.


Thank you for earning Don Imus a bigger paycheck!

Note: The following exchange is purely fictional - but probably accurate.

Memo to: Don Imus

From: Your Agent

Hey Don. You're program is really staring to slide, dude. Some people remember you as the number 1 DJ in New York BEFORE Howard Stern. The rest either don't care anymore or don't even know who you are. Time to step up to the plate and piss somebody off. Oh, by the way, your contract is due for renegotioation next year. Better make it something racial; you've never had a good cross sectional demographic.

See you in the press clippings buddy.


Benjamin Freakin Franklin.

As a former disc jockey and news reporter, I want to call your attention to one very important element at the center of this whole stupid firestorm: PUBLICITY. Celebrities must keep their name in the public frey and if they have to create a little controversy every once in a while, then so be it.

To paraphrase my former news director, "If Angelina Jolie goes for a nude swim in the town square fountain; that's not news. If the Mayor does it; THAT"S news." One is seeking publicity, the other is a misguided representative of the community and local government who's actions have a direct bearing on his office, the law, and other civil matters. However, the media of today see this whole concept inverted- because it makes them money.

Don't worry about poor unemployed Don Imus. He will be back on the air soon enough and his ratings will temporarily soar. As a bonus, the advertising fee for a 30 second commercial spot on the debut broadcast will probably double.

You should always admonish yourself for paying attention when a celebrity makes big news. They are just like urban myths and e mail scams; the only power they have is given to them by way of attention and curiosity. And in almost every circumstance, it's a waste of time and attention.

I think the concept of freedom of speech has been pulled down from it's lofty origins and desecrated with big steaming piles of pride and greed. It's no longer about getting a message out to the public to sway hearts and minds on policy, social causes, or awareness of government injustice. It's now more about "What can I get away with?" Or in Imus' case: "My old routine is just that- old. I need to keep shocking people or they get bored, and what was shocking yesterday just won't cut it today."

Increasingly our freedoms have become slaves to the power of economics. Religion, press, assembly, speech, even the right to bare arms- if you call it a freedom someone else has found a way to profit from it.

Here is my 21st century motto for what we commonly refer to as the Right to Free Speech:

"Listen at your own risk."

If you'll think deeply about that one for a while, I think you'll find some sad truth to it.

Now, piss off.