Tuesday, December 29, 2009

the end of an age

I am quite positive that the majority of people on the earth hate losing memories. I don't know anyone who goes around saying, "I wish I could forget things more often." There are, of course, *bad* memories. Like Christmas during 7th grade. Or the argument leading up to and following every family photo ever taken by mankind. For the most part, however, people like keeping their memories. In fact, it is quite difficult not to keep them. Those who have memories they wish to get rid of find the task extremely challenging.

For a lot of people... memories are all they have to hang on to. When you are old and you live in an acrid nursing home with plastic-covered mattresses and are given a Dixie cup full of pills every morning, you will rely most days on nothing but memory. You will sit in your wheel chair, or your rocking chair, or your toilet chair (those things really freak me out) and you will reminisce about "the good ol' days" when your hubby still kissed you good morning and goodnight and your children still saw you more often than during awkward holiday visiting hours. And when those nice people who volunteer with the elderly come to read to you or sew or bring a fluffy puppy to be annoyed by, you'll tell them stories about what life was like when you were their age. Your eyes will twinkle with nostalgia those young whippersnappers will have no idea what you're talking about, for the most part.

But I'm not here to talk about old people today. No, not at all. In fact... I am here to talk about video games. Let me explain.

You know how when you're a kid, everything that you think is cool has this stigma of remaining cool forever. The years go by and you might not think about that awesome board game or battery-powered toy for a while, but then one day someone mentions it, and you say, "Oh! I had one of those! Those were the best!" Or even worse, someone will mention a favorite childhood movie or cartoon, and again you will exclaim its wonders and glory and remember clearly how great it was.

For instance, The Brave Little Toaster. This used to be a childhood favorite of mine. I am sure that this cartoon both enthralled and terrified young people for decades, and probably still does every once in a while. I loved and hated that movie because these odd, common household items are in such peril. The concept was just a little hard to wrap my little head around. But I liked it. I reveled in it, just like every other kid my age did.

During my junior year in high school I was in a marine biology class, and on a free day our teacher asked if we wanted to watch a movie. So I and the only other junior in the class traipsed across the school to our teacher's old closet (he'd recently moved classrooms) and picked out a movie. It was, of course, The Brave Little Toaster. Now I could tell you that it was exactly how I remembered it and I loved it just as much then as I did as a child. Instead, I'm going to tell you that it was just how I remembered it but multiplied by a billion and therefore... I realized what a stupid, horrible movie it was. WE WERE ALL IN LOVE WITH IDIOCY, PEOPLE. I'm pretty sure I didn't finish watching the movie.

My memories, you see, were my downfall. I remembered being slightly scared of the movie and also enjoying it. But upon watching it again I realized the true folly in the script, and the animation, and what good memories I had were ruined by a lifetime of experiencing good movies.

So tonight (this morning, I should say) I wanted to play a computer game. I was searching through the shelf of disks when about five of them slid off the shelf and made a huge noise and right into the center of my desk slid Age of Empires II: Age of Kings. Now... I love this game. I will tell you that until the day I die, even after the ridiculous game I just played. I will stand by AOE forever. It is one of the first computer games I ever played and therefore I must be loyal. However, I had forgotten my real intentions when I play this game.

Like most computer action games, there's some killing. Violence. Little tiny cavaliers fighting other tiny two-handed swordsmen. But that's not why I play! I like the building, the upgrades, the "making" of itty-bitty lumberjacks and miners, and of course the cheat codes that make all those mini-people's lives meaningless. Not getting gold fast enough? Type "robin hood" into the screen and WHAM-O you are now 1000 gold units richer. THAT, my friends, is why I play. Instant success.

This time, however, was different. I put the disk in and began to play and after a while, the other players began to attack me. For no reason. This has never happened before, as far as I remember. Usually I can play my game in peace and I won't have to kill anyone or get myself killed. But this time the blue people and the yellow people started to attack me so I was distracted from my little farmers and shepherdesses and fishing boats. SO distracted that when I tried to cheat-code the blues and the yellows to death, I accidentally killed the reds.

And then I won. And it was all over. I almost cried. All that effort and mess (and injury) to find the game, and it was done in ten minutes. All those good memories of playing AOE into the early hours of Christmas break, just as I did in elementary school... tainted. Tainted by evil, violent, travesties of Byzantine emperors and swordsmen on little white horses and minuscule battering rams come to vanquish my barracks and burn my market to the ground. They came and trampled my farms and raped the farmers (ok, ok, not really) and tied up my monk as they ransacked the monastery! The horror! The horror!

So what did I do? Rather than face defeat like I did when I was twelve, what did I do?!

Cheat code entry: TORPEDO BLUE, TORPEDO RED [oops, but now I'm still dying], TORPEDO YELLOW.

AOE (in fancy script): You are victorious!

Me: "Aw, dangit."

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