My friend Trevor was putting on his coat.
“Are you okay to drive?” I asked.
“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine,” he said, waving his hand.
“No, really.” I put my hand to his shoulder as he tried to walk past me, out the front door. “Are you okay to drive?”
“I think so.”
“How much have you … you know …?”
He thought for a second. “I dunno. Maybe five or six?”
I gave him a look.
“Okay, fifteen. But I started a couple hours ago.”
“Fifteen? That’s quite a lot. Maybe you should come back in and play Flow or something.”
“I’ve driven after much more than fifteen races.”
“But this was Motorstorm. Remember what happened after Saints Row?”
“Don’t remind me. I keep meaning to get new hubcaps on that side of my car. No, no, I’m fine. But thanks for checking. Really.”
“Okay, okay, don’t get all gay on me. Get out of here.”
We call it bleed-through. It’s when a game seeps into the real world. But you probably already know about it. You’re probably like us.
It happened to me just today. I was standing in line at Starbucks, behind some girl with a Post-It note who had apparently taken orders from everyone in her office. I had nothing to do but zone out and wait my turn. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a blue circle on the ground, so I turned to see if it was one of the guns I already had. But it was just someone’s coat laying on the ground, the exact shade of blue as the circle indicating dropped guns in Crackdown. Out of the corner of my eye, for that split second, I was in Crackdown instead of the real world. Bleed-through.
Bleed-through has earned Trevor two weeks of paid vacation. “It’s a workman’s comp thing,” he beams, holding up the cast on his arm. It’s for a hairline fracture in his ulna. He has to wear the cast for six weeks.
“But you didn’t do that at work.”
“So? They don’t know that. Besides, it wasn’t really bothering me until work, so as far as I’m concerned, it’s my job’s fault.”
Trevor and I had been playing Crackdown, taking turns flinging ourselves through the air, leaping from rooftop to rooftop, climbing skyscrapers with our fingertips, scorning gravity, hopping around like monkeys with incredible upper body strength. The Prince of Persia? Ha! An effeminate Gymkata wannabe.
When we took a break to get frappuccinos, Trevor bounded out of the car and sprinted toward the railing that separates Starbucks from the sidewalk. He planted his hands on the railing and hefted his body over it. At least that was the plan. His left hand slipped, and his right arm gave way under the weight of his body, which isn’t insubstantial. His shoulder caught the railing as his body went over, spinning dramatically and sending him into the concrete and against the back of some lady’s chair.
I saw it all happen, but it was mainly the sound that made an impression on me. Two hundred or so pounds of out-of-shape gamer in the clutches of the gravity we’d been scorning. It makes quite a noise. It was a sort of smack/splat/thud.
He quickly stood up and checked to see if anyone had seen. There were, of course, about twenty people in the patio area. Most of them had seen it. The rest of them were turning around to see what made the smack/splat/thud noise.
“Yeah!” Trevor called out, as if he’d meant to do that. He was looking at me, almost to see if I’d play along. It was like that moment when a little kid falls down and looks at you. He’s checking for a reaction. If you look worried, he’ll start bawling. If you laugh, he’ll be fine. But you have to be careful in those situations. Once I laughed at a kid who needed twelve stitches. I never heard the end of it from my girlfriend. “I don’t want to be with someone who thinks it’s funny when children are injured” was among the litany of complaints I heard when we broke up. She was also counting my reaction to certain America’s Funniest Home Video clips on YouTube.
So there was Trevor’s looking at me, which partly deflected attention from the people looking at him. The guy nearest him was half way out of his seat to see if Trevor was okay.
“Woo,” I said, almost like a question.
“Yeah,” Trevor repeated.
Once I got hit while I was riding my bike. I got bounced off the hood of a minivan and thrown to the pavement. My first reaction was to spring to my feet and make sure I could stand up. I could. I was fine. It wasn’t until nearly a half hour later that I realized my knee had swelled up to the size of a grapefruit and most of the skin was gone from my elbow.
“You okay?” I asked as Trevor and I continued into the Starbucks.
“Yeah, fine,” he said, gritting his teeth. “Fuck, that hurt. Fuck fuck fuck,” he was muttering. “Order me a caramel frappuccino.” He limped to the nearest chair. “Extra whipped cream.”
To be continued…
Tom Chick has been writing about videogames for fifteen years. His work appears in Games for Windows Magazine, Yahoo, Gamespy, Sci-Fi, and Variety. He lives in Los Angeles. Shoot Club will be appearing in this space every Thursday.