The Day After

The Day After
Every Game Is the End of the World

Nick Halme | 15 Jun 2010 12:14
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"What we call the beginning is often the end, and to make an end is to make a beginning: The end is where we start from."

- T.S. Eliot

I live in Vancouver, but I was born on Vancouver Island, which means that I take a large ferry whenever I head home to see the parents. These ferries are equipped with laymen arcades - arcades that are outfitted with whatever salvage can be put into a room to entertain the kids.

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Recently, I found myself engaged in a game of Galaga. Just a quick game of Galaga before this boat stops and I have to explain the last few months of my life in short to my parents. Just a quick game of Galaga so I don't have to mull over whether I should talk to the girl who was eyeing me; so I don't have to think about why I won't make good on my eyeing back.

I thought I'd just go to level ten; I'm a terrible Galaga player. Some time later I'm far past ten, only slightly aware of just how much I'm annoying the parents attending their children with the obnoxious bleep-bloops of the Galaga machine. Every time the gut-wrenching "ship destroyed" sound is broadcast, I chuckle self-consciously. The parents aren't quite sure what they're watching. I might as well be an alien at a science fiction control console full of twinkly lights and metal switches, scanning the universe for background radiation.

Once I get past level twenty, I realize I'm on a roll. I can't leave this machine unless these side-winding alien bastards make me. I start getting to the good part of Galaga; dodging missiles and incoming alien ships within a couple inches of screen-space. Nudge left, nudge right, nudge nudge. Double tapping the hell out of that red button. I notice a shadow to my left, a man in a red shirt. One of the parents I assume. He says nothing. I say nothing. He watches me play and goddamnit, I play. I get to level 36, mentally worn and physically done. I turn around and give a shrug; but he says "Pretty good!" past my earbuds, blasting music. I walk away, smiling. Pretty good.

All videogames are the end of the world - individual worlds. We shut out our problems and long rambling trains of thought and explore Azeroth, clear dungeons and coordinate infantry assaults. We fly planes, swing swords, build cities. The term gamer still refers to a subculture, I think; we are the somewhat nerdy, the somewhat shut-in, the somewhat rule-obsessed who share a love of games.

If that's true, and we are a subspecies of the classical nerd, the machine-like, overachieving introvert, then the apocalypse is a thing that we must grasp onto as a place where we become powerful. I have a friend who makes his own chainmail. No doubt, he would be wearing a chainmail shirt after the apocalypse, fighting off zombies with a suitably nerdy katana. That doesn't fly now, but nobody would have the mind to argue after doomsday.

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