We'll Meet Again

Want to feel good about yourself? Actually, do you want to feel great about yourself? Play me in a video game. Seriously. You could be feeling vastly inferior, wallowing in sorrow, beat down by life, overlooked, stepped on, stomped on, and underappreciated and in just one game against me… you’ll feel like you just won the Super Bowl and are going to Disney World, baby! My video game ability, or lack of ability, has that affect on people. I suppose I should consider it a gift.

The sad fact is: I stink at video games.

Always have and always will.

Truth be told, I didn’t play video games much as a kid. When we went to the local arcade, I was more into skee-ball. When we went to Chuck E. Cheese’s for a birthday party, I was more into the pizza time theatre. Man, those mice could sing.

And at home, we weren’t exactly what you’d call “early adopters of technology,” especially superfluous video game technology. We never owned an Atari system, even though every single other family on the planet did. (There, I said it. Wow, that was bottled up for a long time.)

I do recall, however, one brief encounter with the future. One day, my dad brought home an impressive-looking plug-into-your-TV type of video game. My brothers and I went into a state of shock – Dad brought home a video game? We turned it on. To our initial delight, we watched as two rectangles and a ping-pong ball appeared on the screen. We played the game, directing the ball back and forth at an excruciatingly slow pace to the sound of annoying techno-music, for about 20 minutes until none of us could take it any longer. We searched for the menu to see what other games we could try, but were disappointed to learn that this was a one-game system. Ping-pong. That’s all. Just ping-pong. Take it or leave it. We left it.

So my brothers and I were forced to do what any video-game-deprived kid would do – we went to our friends’ houses to play cool games like Space Invaders, Pole Position, Pac-Man, and Frogger. Without being able to practice those games all day every day, though, my video game skills never really developed. I quickly realized that I was the designated doormat. While I was never the last kid picked in a game of driveway basketball, I was always the last one picked for video games that required teams. I would typically get blasted in the first round of a video game tournament by a score of something like 57,000,000 to 1,400, then spend the rest of the afternoon watching my more talented friends battle it out for video glory. Sadly, the initials “BCK” never made it onto the high score charts.  

This continued well into college, where video games were as much a part of the dorming experience as late night pizza eating and, well, all the other stuff that happens in a building full of 18-year-old guys left to fend for themselves. Back then, realistic sports-themed games were in vogue, and I remember losing many a Sega NHL Hockey game by scores of 18-1 as my buddies played the game with one hand while downing a turkey sub with the other.

After college, I went on a 15-year video game hiatus. And, truthfully, I didn’t miss video games at all. But once my oldest son entered elementary school, I knew that video games would soon be back in my life. Sure enough, the boy came home speaking of the merits of Super Mario and Donkey Kong. Hearing his friends talk about these games, and seeing them play hand-held video games on the bus, was too much for him to bear. My son had to join in.

And so this past Christmas, my six-year-old gathered his courage and asked Santa for the biggest present he had ever asked for: a Wii game system. And the jolly old elf delivered.

Right away, I helped the boy and his four-year-old brother tear into the box and set up the system. We went to work making our own Mii’s, those little video game characters resembling ourselves. I let the boys design the “dad” Mii and he came out looking a little too realistic for my taste: slightly balding with a noticeable mid-winter paunch. No matter, I thought, this would finally be my chance to be a video game champ. After all these years, I would find out what it was like to win a video game. Clearly I could dominate a six-year-old and a four-year-old who had never played video games before.

First, I challenged the older boy to a game of Wii baseball. He quickly discovered the secret to throwing a screwball and struck me out repeatedly. He also discovered how to time my pitches, allowing him to hit home run after home run. I lost by the mercy rule. Next, I took on the four-year-old in Wii bowling. Somehow, that little stinker figured out how to throw the ball in the perfect spot on his way to a 220-point game. I could barely pick up a spare and barely broke 100.

As my boys excitedly jumped up and down as if they had just won the Super Bowl and were going to Disney World, I accepted my lot in life. I was born to make champions out of my video game opponents.

Brian Kantz recently challenged his wife to a game of classic Ms. Pac-Man. That too was a massacre. Visit Brian online at www.briankantz.com or drop him a note at thenewbiedad@yahoo.com.

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