When a child develops an irrational fear, the kneejerk response is the cliche, “It won’t bite.” Tell that to the floppy desk drive in my elementary school classroom.
I grew up when home computers and video games were starting to become a fixture in kids’ homes. I remember watching my mom put together the cabinet in the basement that housed our Packard Bell. Years later, my parents surprised my me and my sister with a N64 that we kept downstairs too. I would sit and watch my sister play Super Mario 64 for hours, but anytime I went downstairs to play it myself, and my heart sped up. That moment the screen went black before the game booted up freaked me out. When I fell off into that sky blue nothing of an early 3D platformer, my stomach would drop out. I was afraid something was going to jump out at me, startle me–something. I spent so much time afraid in anticipation though nothing usually happened. (We’ll ignore the time I set off a security alarm in a Nancy Drew game, hit the computer’s power button and ran out of the room.)
It wasn’t until I was in high school that I ever convinced my parents to let me have a console anywhere other than our basement or my room, but that secluded feeling made it so much worse. I think this is why for years the only games I really played with on handheld consoles. I’ve had every Nintendo handheld since the original and blew through enough batteries to power New York City after the zombie apocalypse. I was simulatneously excited and upset when I got the rechargeable Advance SP because it meant not having a weekly battery limit anymore but it being that much harder to take on family road trips.
But while I would play anything here, the size of the TV or the proximity of the computer monitor made me paranoid. I got to where I could play predictable games on my own. Puzzle games like Dr. Mario and Pokemon Puzzle League were go-to games as well as the twenty different kinds of solitaire that came with Windows 95. But no repetition, no dice.
I have trouble figuring out when all of this changed. Part of me thinks it hasn’t. Instead I haven’t been forced into the same kind of seclusion I was play as a kid. Instead of dank underground playrooms, I got to play in my own office area or in the living room of an apartment overrun with visitors. I still get nervous before booting a game on my PC up for the first time. One of my monitors is really a 32″ TV, and I don’t know how loud or crazy the game’s intro is going to be. I thought I was going to pass out from anxiety when playing Dragon Age for the first time. I may or may not have watched through fingers while waiting to see what it would be.
And see, this is the best way to do it. Out yourself as a scaredy cat after Halloween.
Do you have any ideas for things you’d like to hear me write about? Any odd sectors of the gaming community you want me to look into? Want to ask weirdly personal questions? Leave them in the comments!