The Big, Blue Eye

I have a sign on my bathroom wall. It's not a picture of a sailboat with my name next to it, nor is it one of those cutesy depictions of a cherubic boy and girl asking visitors to not pee in the pool. It's a street sign. One of those Neighborhood Watch signs with the giant blue eye admonishing passersby that their every move is being watched.

The exact wording of the sign is as follows: "Neighborhood Crime Watch! We immediately report all suspicions persons and activities to our Sheriff's department."

I have occasionally considered finding whoever originally hung that sign and suing them for false advertising. Because not once in the fifteen years or so since my friend Adam and I parked my Honda Civic behind a bush, grabbed a folding chair and a socket wrench from the trunk, sprinted towards the pole upon which this sign was hung and spent ten minutes removing it, have either of us received a visit from the Bexar County Sheriff. This would seem to indicate that either A) our activities on that night were not deemed "suspicious," or that B) nobody was really watching after all.

I keep this sign hung above my toilet for two reasons. The first of which is that I am amused when people emerge from the bathroom looking abashed and ashamed at having had to do their business under the accusing gaze of my big, blue eye. In addition, I find that it helps to dissuade people from digging through my medicine cabinet, which is always a good thing.

The second reason I keep this sign around is that it reminds me of that wonderful time in my life when I felt as invincible as a god. The time when I was young, adventurous and adept at, among other things, stealing street signs.

There was a gang of us, about six or eight strong. We were about as close to being trouble-makers as smart kids ever get. Yeah, by day we were top-of-the class brainiac doo-gooders, but by night we got drunk, destroyed municipal property and raced cars. Not anything fancy, mind you, just the four-bangers we had been given by our folks or had bought with the money from our summer jobs.

We raced on the newly-paved streets of a soon-to-be housing subdivision. I usually won, but only because I had less fear than my companions. I knew, for example, that if I charged at them, they would swerve out of self-preservation and slow down giving me a chance to pull ahead. I knew this because it always worked in the video games. Nothing more serious than the occasional tire or U-joint was ever damaged during these races, but I understand now that this was very fortunate, and improbable.

I also drove quickly when not racing. I thought that it was fun, and still do. One of the cars I owned at the time had been modified by someone of absolutely no conscience and a considerable amount of skill. It was a four-cylinder Honda that had been outfitted with a racing carb and a few other enhancements and had had all of the emissions controls removed. I had to be selective about where I tried to get it inspected, but damn, it was speedy.

I almost completely ignored the speedometer in that car, primarily because it pegged out at 85 MPH, but also because I just didn't care to know how fast I was going. This attitude began to change the day I was stopped outside of Fort Worth doing 125 in a 60. To say that the experience was a costly one, would be an understatement.

Several more run-ins with the law and a few minor accidents later I discovered that my success at eluding capture or injury in my youth had had more to do with luck than with skill, and like countless men before me my attitude towards life began to slowly adjust. I started to drive more responsibly, stopped stealing street signs, took fewer chances and on the whole began having far less fun.

It was no coincidence that at about this same time I began gaming with a vengeance. During the day I would do things I didn't want to do for people I didn't like in order to pay other people who didn't even know my name. Then, after driving home in an ant line of law-abiding traffic, I'd plug in a game and become a god once more.

I think that we often, as gamers, ask ourselves the question "Why do we game?" Or if we don't, we probably should. The simplest, most universal answer would be "Because it's fun." But a lot of things are fun, and many of them require far less significant investments of time and/or money than gaming. Others of us, if attempting to pinpoint an exact sociological impulse, would reference the above tale citing it as evidence that some gamers, if not most, game in order to share in experiences which are outside of the norm, beyond the possible or for which we are ill-suited in real life. I'll never be an elite commando, for example, yet I play one on my TV. Video games, viewed in this light, would appear to be an escape. From reality, from the drudgery of daily life and the lawfulness which, like the weight of the world, settles upon one in adulthood.

Our shared pastime sounds sad and slightly pathetic when viewed in this light, and perhaps it truly is. I still game, though and am not ashamed of it. I've been gaming for more than twenty-five years and if my recent gaming tendencies are any indication, I am not likely to stop any time soon. Partly because it is fun. Partly because when I lay my controller down, turn off the lights and go to sleep in my warm, soft bed, I am reminded that in spite of how little danger I face in my daily life, how few quests I am able to undertake and how noticeably free of vast piles of loot my apartment may be I've made a lot of good decisions in life, and am sincerely happy with who I am and with what I am doing.

As the years have gone by I've taken to looking upon the big, blue eye hanging on my bathroom wall, and telling the story of its origin, with far more fondness than regret. It, in return, still stares accusingly at me, admonishing me for removing it from its perch so many years ago. I think that maybe some day I'll take it back to that intersection and see if I can find someone to whom to return it. Yeah, I think I'll actually do that.

In the mean time however, I've got lots of normal, everyday things to do and, if there's time, a new game that I'd rather be playing more than doing anything else.

Comments

What would you do if the gaming as god-mode-like recreation was removed from the list of your allowable pastimes? What if it became unavailable to you? What would you do instead?

Yeah, man. You nailed it. That is why I game, too. I am not ashamed of it. If we are to be forced into demeaning and subservient positons in the real world, then we all need an escape. Gaming is the best one that I have found. Well, gaming and sex, that is.

I definitely identify with the smart kid during the day / rebel during the night concept. I outgrew that second part the same as you, although I didn't need a huge fine to start the process... when you need to maintain your security clearance & driver's license to keep your job, you tend to slow down a bit.

a lot of things are fun, and many of them require far less significant investments of time and/or money than gaming.

I don't know if it's because it's easier to hide or rationalize the cost of my gaming habit, but I don't find it to be all that expensive. A quick sampling of my co-workers' hobbies are:

-barfly; impulsive shopper
-sportbike enthusiast
-boater
-family man; outdoorsman

In comparison to all of these hobbies, I would definetly think that my gaming costs are quite a bit lower. One weekend on a boat can be $200-$300 in gas easy.

I realize that this was not the main point of your article, but it's something that jumped-out at me.

Gorilla.800.lbs wrote:

What would you do if the gaming as god-mode-like recreation was removed from the list of your allowable pastimes? What if it became unavailable to you? What would you do instead?

Kill you.

I have a road sign that I'm quite fond of too. It's one of those yellow "curvy road ahead" caution signs you see out on backroads in the country, with a black squiggly arrow. In one sense it is a reminder that it is always wise to proceed with caution, but the way I usually hang it, the arrow looks more like it is indicating the way to the bed. A good set of messages, I think.

You nailed it! That is the reason why I game. Yes, it is fun, but it also allows you to enter into a realm of fantasy and do things you could most likely never do in real life. I will also argue, though, that it is really not a very expensive hobby when compared to other forms of entertainment. I've found that I play most of my games for at least 30-40 hours. So even if I pay full retail price, I'm averaging about $1.50 per hour of entertainment. That's a hard price to beat nowadays.

Heh...memories...of the way we were...

My first warehouse abode was decorated in dozens, dozens of stolen street signs. And I got stopped so often for speeding that I learned which cities had jails with ATMs so you could bail yourself out. (Note: going 3x the speed limit *will* get you arrested 7 out of 10 times. Also, that thing about not being to outrun radio...as it happens, sound *does* travel faster than a souped up Camaro...but not much.)

But eventually, I too grew up, met the Duck, decided that perhaps I didn't want to end up a smear on a highway overpass, and restrained my chaotic nature into a chaotic gaming habit.

But truth be told, if someone gave me a Koenigsegg CC 8S, or a Bugatti 16/4 Veyron and told me that I'd have to give up gaming to get it...I'd be hard pressed to keep my foot off the pedal. I do love going fast. The signs, the bohemian lifestyle, the drugs, the all night parties, the wondering which country you're in when you wake up, the breakfasts at 2pm...that I can live without...but the speed...man, I miss going fast.

Great article. I used to park in front of a tree in my parents' driveway to which I had nailed a "Denny's customer parking only" sign. I, too, attribute some of my gaming interest to enjoying experiences that I couldn't have in real life. This may have something to do with why I like RPGs and multiplayer FPS games and have little interest in, say, sports games (not like I'm going to the Super Bowl anytime soon, but "Ye kin well what I mean."

Fletcher wrote:
Gorilla.800.lbs wrote:

What would you do if the gaming as god-mode-like recreation was removed from the list of your allowable pastimes? What if it became unavailable to you? What would you do instead?

Kill you.

Something about reading that, while looking at Ned smiling psychoticly at me, is really disturbing me.

duckideva wrote:

The signs, the bohemian lifestyle, the drugs, the all night parties, the wondering which country you're in when you wake up, the breakfasts at 2pm...that I can live without...but the speed...man, I miss going fast.

Ah, and the allure of La Duck deepens... So when can we buy your book, DD?

Chumpy_McChump wrote:
duckideva wrote:

The signs, the bohemian lifestyle, the drugs, the all night parties, the wondering which country you're in when you wake up, the breakfasts at 2pm...that I can live without...but the speed...man, I miss going fast.

Ah, and the allure of La Duck deepens... So when can we buy your book, DD?

*sigh* upstaged by the Soap Queen ... again. Things really are returning to normal around here aren't they?

Holy freaking God Fletch.. I've always thought we were separated at birth, but now I'm sure of it.

Monolei and I stole the Neighborhood Watch sign on my block while we were in high school. We didn't use anything as clumsy or random as as socket wrench. We actually pulled the whole pole out of the ground, sign attached. The irony of that whole caper still echoes today.

Even as we both enter our early 30s, we're still both avid gamers and have practically taken a blood oath to remain so for the rest of our lives. If we haven't already, our generation will expunge the idea of gaming as a juvenile activity.

Game On!

Fletcher wrote:

I'll never be an elite commando, for example, yet I play one on my TV.

I love this turn of a phrase. Sorry, I'll shuffle my writing geek back into a corner.

Good work, boss.

Fletcher wrote:

*sigh* upstaged by the Soap Queen ... again. Things really are returning to normal around here aren't they? ;)

Upstage you? 'Tis not possible, good sirrah! For you are the one with the talent. I'm just the mouthy backseat poster.

duckideva wrote:
Fletcher wrote:

*sigh* upstaged by the Soap Queen ... again. Things really are returning to normal around here aren't they? ;)

Upstage you? 'Tis not possible, good sirrah! For you are the one with the talent. I'm just the mouthy backseat poster.

You underestimate your own talent, my dear, but I shall accept the compliment anyway. Three cheers for the Queen of Soap and all things Lusty and Vivacious. Drive fast, speed turns me on, etc. etc. etc.

Brilliant. Just brilliant.

(picks up a wrench and closes door behind him, grinning)

dejanzie wrote:

Brilliant. Just brilliant.

(picks up a wrench and closes door behind him, grinning)

(I can't be the only one that read that as "picks up a wench and closes door behind him, grinning", can I?)

Chumpy_McChump wrote:
dejanzie wrote:

Brilliant. Just brilliant.

(picks up a wrench and closes door behind him, grinning)

(I can't be the only one that read that as "picks up a wench and closes door behind him, grinning", can I?)

When you've spent as much time as I have working at Renaissance faires, you'll never read the word "wrench" correctly again.

duckideva wrote:

...if someone gave me a Koenigsegg CC 8S, or a Bugatti 16/4 Veyron...

The lady has admirable taste!

Fletch: well-crafted, sir! A delight. The only stolen road sign I have is a green Peabody St. sign, and I didn't even steal it.

Another thoughtful, entertaining read. Kind of bittersweet, really. Well done, Fletcher.