The Last of the Looking Glasses: On Videogames and Memory

 I’ve become jaded.

The passing of time has robbed me of the wonder and awe of being a child. I’ve learned how the world works, how everything comes be and the mystery is dead.

Videogames have become intellectualized, criticized, and rationalized. Every flaw has become apparent.

Gaming has made me. Its my identity. But the honeymoon is over now.
As I child I often stared at the cabinets of arcade machines, writing a story of what it would be like to push that joystick and feel it respond to me. I’d hit the buttons and wiggle the stick, imagining that I had made the characters on that attract screen dance in battle. That demo in the Chicago store window of Megaman X4 was unreachable. I’d wait hours to download the intro video of Megaman X6, and play it over and over, imagining that I was X, cutting through his enemies with the blade of his dead comrade.

These were stories that rivaled the great Greek epics.

 In a month I’ll be 21. I’ll be an adult in all manner of legal matters, and with it I’ll have all the privileges and responsibilities of being one. Its something you look forward to for years, the fantasy of the moment enticing you. In reality it is nothing but an anticlimax. The realization of how little it changes things weighs heavy on you, the toll of a million wasted thoughts is paid.

 Today I’m in a place where I have near unlimited access to whatever I could have wanted as a kid. I own nearly every modern game system, I have a collection of games that numbers in the hundreds, and anything I’ve not had a chance to experience is a web search and a five minute download away on my megabyte a second internet connection. I can realize the desires of my childhood self on my enumerable web-connected homebrew enabled dual-core social media cutting edge devices.

 But the wonder is dead.

Time has leaked reality out of every small crack and shattered the distortions and idealized images of the last looking glass. Videogames have become a collection of sounds, sprites, programming checks and triggers, the occasional glitch or bug breaking the million dollar polish we never used to demand as children.

My admiration is of the mechanics and design of the game. Every moment of awe and emotion inspired is followed by an intellectual piercing and breakdown to find out how it works.

When a game reveals a second set of levels I groan with impatience instead of celebrating, my impatience to finish the game with the little free time I have left drowning the joy of the game that keeps giving.

The exploration of new worlds doesn’t make me lose myself as it once did. It only reminds me that these places are not real and cements me in a world in which videogames are becoming a dim pleasure in my time weary world. A world consumed by work schedules, academic paperwork, juggling the debts of student loans, car repairs while desperately hoping not to get sick for lack of health insurance and always looking to fuck or masturbate.

Videogames are something I’m always eager to read about, discuss and share with others. With every near miss attempt at starting conversation I learn that its an interest that simply rarely happens to align with others, or at least their schedules. Those I frequently socialize with turn out to be not the people I know and have spent time with, but personas of people I’ve never met and live on the other side of the planet. People whose image in my mind is composed not of their faces, but of the iconography they’ve chosen to go with their digital handle. Sometimes I feel like I understand them better than people I’ve met face to face, yet I know I’ll never be close to them like the others who’ve faded into the routine of their new lives away from me.

The looking glass has fallen into shards that have been taken away with my awe and imagination, scattered in memories. Maybe a younger me would have taken upon himself this quest, tracking them down and recreating that world of rampant joy and possibility.

I can’t be bothered. I have to masturbate and get ready for work.

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