“You killed me! That’s not fair! I was about to shoot you in the head.”
These words from my five year old cousin Ryan as we played a video game with the objective of repeatedly gunning each other’s avatars down in post-apocalyptic settings. He’d been playing the game alone in the basement for hours before coming upstairs looking for opponents. My father was his first choice, but he refused to get up from the recliner and the Fox News pundits, so I would have to do.
Ryan led me downstairs to the finished basement apartment he shares with my aunt. He rattled off what the square button, the triangle button, the circle, the R1 trigger, the R2 trigger, and both tiny joysticks do. It took me a moment to realize that his little boy voice was telling me information I’d need to know. Next it was on to selecting the optimal location for our looming bloodshed. “The abandoned amusement park is my favorite, but it’s locked.” He explained that he’d have to kill many before its fun and games would be available to him.
As we began the battle I realized I had made a mistake. I hate video games. I hate them because I’m bad at them. It’s one thing to be bad at Mario Brothers, with its flying squirrels and princesses trapped in castles. It’s quite another to be bad at a game with impressively realistic graphics and noises, down to the crisp sights and sounds of shells flying and blood splattering.
In addition to my cousin’s experience and my utter lack thereof, I also had the added challenge of my aunt excitedly showing me clothes and accessories she’d just unboxed from an eBay purchase. “Isn’t this handbag great?” “Do you think these flares fit?” On one side of me pink and silver saccharine things, on the other, war and guts and masculine gore. And there I was in the middle: “That’s so pretty! Wait, which gun should I use?”
After one round I accepted that I was less navigating the muddled waters than drowning in them and politely took my leave. My cousin was disappointed. “You’re not fair!” he whined before he turned back away to reload a solo game.