Outrun

"You just going to sit there all night, dork?" My friend's smile has gaps in it from advantages taken with the tooth fairy's kindness. "Come skate with us."

"You know I can't. Besides, I don't have any money to rent skates." I sigh.

His grin turns into a scowl, "I know for a fact you have 20 dollars in ones in your pocket."

"I said I don't have any money for skates. This is for the arcade. You know? The thing I'm actually good at?" I shake my head from side to side to punctuate my sarcasm.

"Suit yourself, nerd." He rockets himself back into the circle, cutting off a young couple holding hands.

The sounds of the skating rink soak into my skin like the steam of a hot shower. Carpeted walls on the interior absorb the roar of a hundred conversations and spit it back out as a dull white noise. Other kids fly by me with a whoosh as I sit on the bench next to the hardwood floor. My friend skids and stutters across the floor on his new rollerblades. He hasn't quite got the hang of them yet.

I get up and start to walk backwards to flash him an inappropriate hand gesture. I never see the lightning bolt that strikes the small of my back. Another impact comes before I can regain my balance. I trip over my own shoes and the ground springs up with a hard slap to my face. The impact knocks the wind out of me and I end up gasping in stale popcorn and the red fibers of the Pepsi stained carpet. I try to turn to see what hit me and this time the pain explodes in my stomach. The air I so desperately acquired not a second before is shot out of me along with some spit. Two more impacts into my chest put me on my back and I think I'm seeing stars until I notice them strobe with the music. A voice comes to me from a nightmare.

"Not so tough now are you, punk?" The voice is cold and much older than my seven years. It is the first time I hear rage in someone's voice who is addressing me. I open my mouth to ask why and he closes it with his boot. My body naturally rolls with the kick and now I'm on my right side facing the wall of the building. I thank God that I landed with my stomach protected, until I start to feel the sharp staccato of my attacker's foot falls on my spine. Over and over again I am slammed against the wall and kicked in the shoulder blades. I can't feel the difference between the heel and the toe anymore. I clench my teeth to keep from screaming. I can feel the grit of dirt from his boot on my tongue and taste copper on my lips.

A new voice pipes up over the thud of the base speakers. I can barely make out the words over my own sobs, but I know it is the voice of an angel, because it stopped the kicking. "Dude, that's not the kid! We got to go right now!" There is a grunt of frightened anger and a final strike to the back of my neck that leaves me dazed and coughing. By the time I roll over and wipe the tears out of my eyes the assailants are gone, like they were never there at all. My only evidence of the last few minutes is the bruising all over my back and the nauseous feeling when I stand up.

My friend skates up to me, his eyes wide with rage or terror. He takes a step toward me onto the carpeted floor and I wave him away. I'm too confused and humiliated to report it.

I don't know who attacked me or why.

Who got spared tonight from their possibly deserved beating because of a mistake on the part of an angry lummox? I can't even bear to think about it. There is only one thing I feel like doing. Only one thing that calls to me as my body screams in pain when I start to walk. I reach into my pocket for my money and stumble over to the token machine.

My hand shakes as I try to flatten my dollar out for the feeder to take it in. Finally the machine accepts my currency and spits out the little brass coins I need. I clench my fist around them like a baby picking up Cheerios and stumble over to the biggest machine in the arcade, Sega's Outrun: with working pedals and gear shift and the seat that actually reacts with the car on the screen. It is my favorite game at this point in my life and I need to play it. The thought of doing anything else at this moment makes me want to start crying again.

I lift myself onto the seat and sit back to get a feel for her. Satisfied, I lean forward and drop my tokens into the slot. POW! 1 / 2 CREDITS. POW! 2 / 2 CREDITS. I lean back and take a deep breath and when the game says "go" I slam my foot down onto the chrome pedal. The chair lurches and something happens. The car peels its tires and rushes out toward the 2D horizon and I am right there with it. I'm driving along the beach in a Phoenix red Ferrari and a beautiful blonde by my side. I can't hear the music of MC Hammer anymore. I can't hear the hum of resin wheels on polished wood. I can't feel the weight of the game tokens shift in my pocket as I take a turn. I can't even hear the beeps and booms of the other arcade machines around me. There's no more copper taste in my mouth. No more pain in my chest. No more aches in my back. The only thing left is just the sweet rush of speed and adrenaline numbing all the throbbing pain and outrage.

I am racing towards a turning point in my life. I have just decided to use an outside influence to dull the hurt of reality. Whether this day is my first taste of an addiction that will follow me for all of my days or it is the day I am born again as someone that won't let stress and pain rule my life, I will never be the same. With every turn of the wheel, every jerk of the gear shift and every gentle sway of the seat, I drive farther and farther away from my childhood hobby of video games and closer and closer to the true escape of gaming.

My friend runs up in his socks, "Damn Steve! We've got to go tell the rink manager! We've got to get you some band-aids or something! We have to call your mom!" I don't hear him. I'm going too fast to hear anyone. I've shifted into H and left this world. I'm gone, and I'll never be back.

Comments

Very well written and shocking to boot. I play games for a similar (though not as bruised) reason.

Jesus, Chig... you just took me back to a couple of incidents from my own childhood that I would just as soon have kept on blocking. Damned well written, and I sympathize with that kid you used to be. Hope he never went through anything like that again.

Wow, Chig. That was a truly excellent piece. I was completely entrhralled when reading it. Thank you for pulling back the curtain a little for us.

Nicely written - I really enjoyed it.

This is the sort of article I come here for.

Very enticing piece, Chiggie. Well done indeed!

Great write up, Chiggie.

Superb article, hits a little too close for comfort. I find it amazing how quickly and easily I can get immersed in most games, and how it can (for me) wipe out any worries or stress.

Its been detrimental at times, however, as I've escaped to my sanctuary in games when I should've actually confronted and dealt with that reality. I was listening to NPR this morning on the way to work, heard about Iran probably making a breakthrough in their Nuclear program, and the first thought in my head was how would i finish all the games I wanted to if the world degraded into war...... dc traffic will do that to a guy.

Yeah, wow. That, that struck home. Amazing article.

Escape is so often shown as a bad thing but when something as simple as 50 cents in tokens can dull the pain, lift the spirits, and give strength it can often be the best medicine there is.

Great article Chiggie. Thanks.

Wow. Good writing, Chig.

A fine effort, it gave me shivers.

Certis wrote:

A fine effort, it gave me shivers.

Me too. Only 2 tokens for a full-chassis game? *brrr*

I'm really glad you all enjoyed it. I'm also sad and intrigued that it touched so close to home for some of you. This is one of those things that I wish never happened but has been an important factor in my personality, so, I guess it is a defining moment. Anyway, it's also pretty impressive in print, apparently.

Chumpy_McChump wrote:

Only 2 tokens for a full-chassis game? *brrr*

:)

This was in '95 I think.

Certis wrote:

A fine effort, it gave me shivers.

The boss liked it! *shiver*

Fine article Chiggie. Even if I've been aware of doing the same thing I never gave much thought to it. You skillfully put that feeling into words

Chiggie Von Richthofen wrote:
Chumpy_McChump wrote:

Only 2 tokens for a full-chassis game? *brrr*

:)

This was in '95 I think.

Jeez, you were seven in '95? I was in college!

Wish I could have been there for you, man.

Excuse me, that would have been in 90-91. I don't know what the hell I was thinking.

I was born in '83. So, check my new math if you like.

Chiggie Von Richthofen wrote:

I was born in '83. So, check my new math if you like.

Ugh - please stop with the dates. You're making me feel REALLY old.

Yup - there were kids experiencing the same thing you write about a decade earlier than 90-91 - or so I hear.

*Man - look at all this gray hair - where the hell did THAT come from?*

Wow is all i can say about this piece. Brilliant and absorbing as the games we all retreat to.

Although i never experienced anything like this, the complete absorption into games i have. Unfortunately it seems as though it takes more and more in a new game to absorb me and i find myself losing interest in gaming as a whole (not the inventions of the new games yet to come but the one's i already have). Already i've started buying games and then not playing them before moving onto the next thing.
I'm seriously cutting back the amount i spend on my hobby... the only problem is that i have nothing else to fill my time. I'm not into movies much, or music. I like art and design and books... but again i feel a lack of energy inside me to do anything.

There is no hope, only continuation...

Don't worry, tmembrino. Anyone with a "little wooden boy" avatar can't be that old.

I'm really psyched that you all liked this so much. Before the new articles push this one completely out of the public stage, I just wanted to thank everyone for their supportive and ego boosting comments.

Lovely article, it compelled me to register after being a lurker for... jeez it must be a couple of years.

of course the article raises a very important question:

Are you a "Magical Sound Shower","Splash Wave" or "Passing Breeze" kinda guy?

I never kept it on one station the whole time. Remember, the chassis had a radio button on it, but if I had to pick it would probably be Splash Wave.

Welcome to the board.

Great writing Chiggie, was completely drew me in.

Chiggie Von Richthofen wrote:

I was born in '83. So, check my new math if you like.

EIGHTY FRACKIN' THREE...

I give up. I quit. Check me out of the writer hotel, and my bill ain't gettin' paid.

You have NO BUSINESS writing like this and being twenty years old. Hey, you have no right being twenty years old and even REMEMBERING Outrun. That was a damned 68000 game.

Every time I feel like I'm not in the middle of a midlife crises, one of you idiots pulls something like this. I feel so damned old.

And yes, I know I robbed you of three years and I don't care.

Still an awesome piece man.

Um. Thank you?

Don't worry, rabbit, you'll get there too.

Honestly, isn't Lobo 24? 25?

I'm 22.

Come to think of it, that Outrun machine was kind of beat up.

The front-pagers get younger and younger all the time.

Great article! I never got my ass kicked like that, but I do remember the first time I used games to dull physical pain. One summer I had horrible, severe sunburn on my stomach and chest. It was an incredibly painful recovery, but I found that falling into marathon sessions of Lords of the Realm II was my saving grace. Sucked me competely in and I forgot about the pain. I must have logged hundreds of hours that summer.