February 16, 2007 Last week while reading the Daily Bull, one of Hamilton’s student-run news and miscellany publications, I came across a strongly worded lost ad. Apparently someone had stolen a number of video games from one of the dorms. The ad offered a reward for the stolen games and a solemn oath to take revenge on the thieves. At first, I sympathized with the “victims.” My suitemates and I play video games and we even have an XBox set up in our common room. As a matter of fact, I spent the better part of the afternoon shooting holes through belligerent aliens. By the time I finished, my thumbs were sore, my eyes were glazed over, and I was inexpressibly sad (the aliens had won). Trudging back to my room where piles of work were waiting for me, I imagined how nice it would be if someone were to steal our video games.
I rarely played video games as a child—my parents wouldn’t allow it. At the time, I thought their policy to be cruel and unusual. How could they deny me access to the pixilated world that was all the rage among my friends? The upshot was that not having video games helped me develop my rhetorical skills. I made impassioned speeches to my folks, asking them if they wanted a son with poor hand-eye-coordination. When they offered to sign me up for Little League, I was forced to change my argument. “Do you realize that video games are an essential social component among first-graders?” I would shout. “Not having a Nintendo puts me at a social disadvantage! Can you imagine how far up the creek a businessman would be if he didn’t play golf?” After a while, my parents finally budged and got me a Nintendo. The Nintendo actually belonged to my cousin who, after suffering recurrent nightmares that she was being molested by two Italian plumbers, decided to give it up. I was elated.
I cannot say whether my hand-eye-coordination improved—Nintendo replaced my desire to do things like play catch or eat with utensils. I don’t recall Nintendo improving my social life either; after hours of staying up late with the Nintendo, my friends and I developed a zombie-like manner and our conversations suffered. If we were feeling particularly talkative someone might mumble, “Nintendo good,” and everyone would nod automatically. It did not take long for my parents to notice the attendant physical changes; I actually began shrinking and my lithe first-grader body withered into a clammy ball of fat. Even stranger was the thick black mustache that had suddenly sprouted on my face. My parents soon realized that their worst fear was coming true: their little boy was becoming a Mario Brother. Something had to be done: intervention, rehab, exorcism? My mother, being a Catholic, and my father, having a penchant for strange and unusual things, quickly decided on the latter. A priest was summoned and soon the Nintendo demons were gone.
I consider myself a survivor. Though I suffer the occasional relapse, video games are becoming a smaller part of my life with each passing day.
To those victims of video game theft, I ask you to consider the extent of your loss. Someone has liberated you from a parasite that feeds on your time and intellect. Though I do not condone theft, I would ask you to view these events as a blessing in disguise. And to those of you who are thinking about coming to Hamilton, let me leave you with the following advice: don’t bring your video games to college.