10 April 2010

100 Essays in 100 Days

This is the 100th post to the Phoenix Games Blog Project. What began as an exercise in discipline - post one gaming essay every day for a year - has become a devotion to the subject of people and the games they play; our fond memories of the seemingly benign video games in our lives.
Some of these posts - by myself and a small crew of writers - are beautiful. Some are the grinding of gears.
Looking back now, I'm glad the quality of these 100 essays is largely excellent and I am forever grateful to the folks who have helped to make this happen (especially the Pride of Riverside: George Morse).
Tonight I will celebrate with my wife and another couple. No one at the table (save for myself) would call themselves a gamer. I think each of them would call their relationship with video games to be marginal at best.
I would disagree. To wit:
Megan is a close friend of mine. I've known her for longer than I've known my wife and longer than she's known her husband. I respect her in every way you can respect another human being. She is funny and smart and beautiful. And when she has a few glasses of wine and the party here is breaking up, she's pretty keen on coming down to the basement and playing some video games. I've talked her into playing Rock Band and Wii bowling, but she's a Super Mario girl at heart. I was impressed with how quickly she remembered the patterns and secret passages on the NES classic. The last time we played it she had a blast and swore she would write a blog entry for me. It hasn't happened. If someone polled her on the street and asked her if she played games I bet she would say no.
But does she have fond memories that exist because of gaming?
Her husband, Jack, is an engineering type who owns a high-end bicycle shop on the East Side of Providence (www.legendbicycle.com). I've liked him since the day we met, well before he and Megan got married. The two of them fell in love at our home. Not exclusively, of course, but their courtship dovetailed with a variety of parties and dinners held here up to the point when Jack proposed to Megan on the way to our home one evening. She said yes and we drank champagne. On any one of those evenings we likely wound up in the basement, playing Warlords or some other old-school title to offset Jack's self-proclaimed ineptitude at games. He may not be a gaming champion, but he likes to play. And now he knows that his wife was a Mario junkie in the 80s. A fact that should not be kept from any husband.
And then there is my wife … my long-suffering wife. She's not a gamer. Not even close. In the near-decade I've known her we've played games maybe a half-dozen times. She claims she has a problem with depth perception or something but the truth is she just doesnt enjoy it. That's fine. No problem.
You know what one of the first things she told me about her youngest brother was?
That he owned an Xbox. We were walking in the woods on our second date and talking about our families. I told her I also had an Xbox and that he and I could link up and play together over the Internet. She thought that was cool. (She was wrong, by the way, he had a Gamecube.)
Then she told me a story about her other brother who wanted a Sega Genesis more than anything in the world back in the 16-bit days. Her parents believed any sort of media other than books or newspapers was evil so they refused to buy one for him. Not long after they ruled on this he actually won a Sega Genesis in a TV prize drawing. The first game he ever played was Altered Beast.
"I can still remember the game talking to you," she said.
"Rise from your grave!" she said.
Yup. That's a fond gaming memory.
Gaming has been in the homes of Americans since the early 1970s. We all have memories that involve video games. Whether we know it or not, these games that were once distractions have become a part of all of our lives. Some of these memories are trivial and some are as precious to us as the first time we heard a rock and roll song. On this blog we've got 265 more to go.
Thanks for coming along with us.
By Victor Paul Alvarez

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