Not too long after graduating college, I was able to land a sweet job as an Assistant Manager at a Blockbuster video. Turns out my degrees in English and Political Science, coupled with my thousands of dollars of student loan debt wasn’t enough to land me the Manager gig. I shouldn’t complain though I suppose. Nowadays that would probably only get you as far as cashier. At McDonalds. One of the perks of the position was the five free rentals a week. I parlayed this into a few golden years of extensive movie watching and video game playing. The game I was most addicted to was ESPN NFL 2K5. I worked retail hours which allowed me to play comfortably in leagues with people all over the United States. I had a notebook for each team I owned, chock full of offensive plays, all broken down by the formations I deemed most effective. I worked trades like I was Jerry Maguire showing everyone the money. I even faithfully played the role of ESPN copy editor, churning out reams of post game reports on our online league pages complete with coach and player quotes.
Then I grew up I guess. After mastering the Pearl Jam catalog on Guitar Hero, the only thing left to accomplish in life was to get married. So I did. Then we had a kid. I got a job working 9 to 5. As an Assistant Manager. I squirmed helplessly as I watched my Call of Duty kills to deaths ratio plummet and threw my headset in disgust as I was mocked and ridiculed by eight years olds with nothing better to do than sit inside slurping on their Big Gulps. Eight year olds, Dude. Then we had another. Child that is. A child I’m singularly aware will one day be eight.
You know that comforting green light that spins around when you turn on your 360? And we’re all familiar with the red rings of course. Well, mine has a blue ring. Of sadness. It knows that when I turn it on now, it isn’t to plunk down and immerse myself in hours of Fallout or Oblivion, (is there a more modern version of this game? I can’t think of one. It’d be cool if there was though. And if it had dragons.) but instead to fire up Netflix for a little Daniel Tiger or Phineas and Ferb. There will be the rare occasion when I let my friends talk me into buying an XBLA game like The Walking Dead, allowing myself to believe I can squeeze in the few hours required to complete it. Then after playing it for an hour or two, I’m right back to being a dad. For all I know, George Romero and Brad Pitt show up just in time to see the zombies do a little song and dance number and Clementine becomes an astronaut.
As I write this, I’m reminded of the copy of Batman: Arkham City that sits in front of my television, still unopened. I’m a huge Batman fan. I have a couple Batmobiles, every one of the films, Batman signs and posters and comic books. I even have Easter candy containers in the shape of Batman’s head. And yet, there the game sits, still in its shiny cellophane.
Don’t get me wrong, I love my kids to death and I don’t resent them in the slightest for the compromises I’ve had to make. (Although, the second often acts like the illegitimate love-child of Marcus Fenix and Queen Myrrah.) It’s just that sometimes I feel like Q*Bert jumping from one square to the next, rarely afforded a moment’s leisure. And I do attempt to play video games with my older daughter. Mostly though, she’ll sit and watch me play the latest iteration of NBA 2K or NCAA Football or FIFA. We’ve attempted to play some Kinect games together, such as Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster, albeit with limited success. It’s hard to control a machine when you don’t yet have full control of your body. She seems to be just about the right age for Super Mario Bros., so maybe it’s time to dust off the Wii (something I recently discovered is for more than just Wii Fit). Who knows, now that the government considers playing video games a legitimate sport, maybe she can become good enough to get a scholarship to a great college. And become a Manager.