Under the Tree

Under the Tree
We Always Play Videogames

Leigh Alexander | 4 Dec 2007 08:05
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When I published my very first gaming article, my cousin was the first one I emailed. But aside from occasional contact, our trio hadn't been together in the same place in years. Then, just a few months ago, when my grandfather passed away, I got on the next train home; I couldn't wait to be with my family. Most of all, I needed to be with my sister and my cousin again. As a trio, we'd sustained the loss of Grammy; now, with Papa gone, too, we needed to reconvene.


My aunt picked me up at the train station. Our "new" cousin was 8 years old, now, and she rode in the back seat with her Nintendo DS in hand, oblivious to grief in that way small children are. Aware of my interest, she could barely restrain herself from asking about my Pokémon, despite her mother's frequent reprimand that this was a very serious, very sad time. But although she endeavored mightily to be respectful, the little girl had serious challenges restraining her enthusiasm in my presence. While we made preparations for the mourners at my mother's house, my girl cousin begged to play, whispering low so my aunt wouldn't chide her.

I wondered if, perhaps, her insistence on playing DS was a sort of odd defense mechanism from grief; the resilience of children is well documented. Loath to think of her feeling emotionally alone in a painful time, I took her aside. We had a talk. We cried. And then, out of earshot of our mothers, we played Elite Beat Agents in vs. mode, her pink DS vs. my black one.

My trio had reconvened to grieve, and now we had one more. It was comforting to us, and to her, to play together. And I was more than a little proud at how good she was at EBA, how many Pokémon she'd collected and how impressed she was that I could trade her some rare ones. The loss of our family patriarch was immensely painful, and in a lot of ways, it woke old grief of Grammy's death over a decade ago. But still, we had each other. And still, we could play.

When I was leaving to go home to New York, she clung to my leg. We'd forged a strong bond during my visit, and she didn't want me to leave. "No one else knows how to play videogames with me," she complained. "When are you coming back?"

"Hanukkah," I told her. "Probably Hanukkah."

"Can we play EBA again at Hanukkah?" She asked. She looked excited, obviously visualizing the holiday, when perhaps she could play more games, make more noise, without the encumbrance of mourning on her heels. Even round after round, incomprehensible to our relatives, hadn't been enough for her this time.

"Of course we can," I promised. I began thinking of games I could get her for presents, wondering if she'd like Ouendan just as much, thinking of the Pokémon toys and posters in her room. "We always play videogames at Hanukkah."

Leigh Alexander is Editor of WorldsInMotion.biz and writes for Gamasutra, Destructoid, and her blog, Sexy Videogameland. She can be reached at leigh_alexander1 AT yahoo DOT com.

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