Since just before 2015 dawned, I’ve been doing something I haven’t done in years.
Staying off the Internet for big chunks of time.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not cutting the cord or anything. You can’t really function too far off the ‘Net any more. My wife still lives on it. My kids still YouTube every chance they get, and they love “Skyping” – even from across the same, small room. But I’m stepping back from it some.
And, it’s not like I’m not doing anything more constructive with my time, either. Writing? Pff, please. Exercise? Be serious. Fixing things around the house? For what I pay for rent, I don’t think so.
What am I doing then?
For the most part, I’m playing Mass Effect wth my son.
We haven’t watched a movie in weeks, because we’re too busy playing (and…y’know…my family indulges me WAY more than I deserve), and sometimes I’m playing right through dinner. Heck, i’d be playing it right now if I could. (Far as I know, I can’t draw a paycheck from my company for that, though.)
As far as video games go, this one is very entertaining to watch. The story is good, and somewhat variable depending on your choices. And the graphics ain’t half-bad, really. So overall, it’s been a rich experience.
But I have to note, with some pride and some embarrassment, that I couldn’t be occupying myself this way at all if not for my son. He’s a brilliant gamer, and he seems to really appreciate helping others do things too challenging for their current skillset. He helps my daughter with Little Big Planet, he helped her with Donkey Kong Country, and now he’s helping me with Mass Effect.
Here’s what “helping me” looks like:
I start the game. Might be a weekend, might be a week night, just depends on what I’m doing. (If I get home TOO late, it’s not worth getting started.) I sit down. I start the game. (I can do that. I’m good at that.) Then, I try moving the character around the screen. I get stuck against a wall or obstacle. I swear, everyone jumps. I see them jump, and I apologize for the foul language. Inwardly I laugh. Hey, this is part of the experience.
Okay, so I fly my spaceship to a local star cluster and I scan planets. I collect minerals. I find objects. I land on the planet and start walking around, collecting things, like I’m supposed to. Suddenly, from out of nowhere, a band of enemies bent on my destruction show up on my HUD or radar map. They appear as little red dots I have to deal with. Except, you know…the red dots have guns and bombs and grenades, OH MY!, so I have to scramble for cover like a chicken running from a fox in the coop.
I get shot. Again. Again. AgainAgainAgainAgain. My character’s announcing he’s lost shields. Now all the rounds hit, and does my expensive, super-advanced armor help? What do you think? Be serious, I said.
So then these red reticuli, like veins or something, start growing from the sides of the screen. It means my character’s gonna die in something like two more hits.
THAT’s when I engage my super game controller and WIN!
Oh, you don’t know what my super game controller is?
It’s about 5′ 7″ and maybe 80lbs soaking wet. It’s also 13 years old. It wears glasses and won’t get dressed unless you ask. It can do other really awesome things too, like take the garbage out and change a lightbulb for me.
That’s right! Give yourself a cookie. You guessed it – my super game controller is my son! DINGDINGDINGDING! Winner, winner, chicken dinner!
So I hit the pause button, and I see him grinning with his hand out, and I sheepishly pass him the controller. He takes a breath, resumes gameplay and BAM! BOOM! KAPOW! Like an episode of Batman from the sixties, he’s knocked out ALL the enemies and there’s nothing but smoldering corpses in their places.
He scans the screen to make sure it’s clear, then he hands the controller back to me. I collect all the items I can find, and then we find a locked wall safe, crate, or encrypted terminal we have to hack. AWESOME! I love puzzles! I hit the “Start Hacking” button and watch the time dwindle. I fail. I swear loud, and everyone jumps. I apologize for swearing. Inwardly, I laugh.
Lather, rinse, repeat. I get myself into a jam, my super game controller gets me out. Every.Time.
I LOVE playing video games again. I’ve missed it. I stopped playing for close to 20 years because…well, I didn’t have a super game controller, and I stink at games without them.
I’ve learned how much skill my son has developed doing this. His amazing and fast little hands and fingers, his hand-eye coordination, sometimes just his brain-eye coordination…he doesn’t even look at the controller anymore. He just…does it.
But the game isn’t the best part of this. Not at all.
I’ve found something I can do with my son, just like all the games I can play with my daughter. He and I have become closer than we were for a while. It’s a way we can do his favorite things – “hang out”, and play video games.
It’s not forever, but it’s for now. And I’ll take it.