Gaming Uber Alles

Gaming Uber Alles
Games Even Mom Knows

Joe Blancato | 12 Jul 2005 08:08
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Having the coolest mom ever means I'll never have fun. How many kids have protested, "You just don't understand!" to their bewildered parents, who have just committed social faux pas number 2,739? But, let me tell you from experience, it is not all sunshine and rainbows when parents "get it." Drugs, for example, were completely ruined for me by my super cool mom. In early high school when I brought up my curiosity, she said, "Whatever you want, I'll buy, and we'll try it together."

She didn't stop there. I was nine when Mortal Kombat released on consoles. I'd played it a bit in the arcades, and after the media went into a feeding frenzy over the violence and gore, I knew I had to have it. Tomorrow was zero-day, and I knew I was the only kid on the block with a chance at getting my hands on the game. My speech was prepared. Mom was a worrier, and tended to err on the side of caution when it came to media in front of which she knew I'd be drooling for hours. I went to bed rehearsing my lines: "It's not as bad as it looks on the box"; "You only play good guys, really!"

The next morning, when I reached for the alarm, my hand brushed against something cardboard. Through bleary eyes, I read "Mortal Kombat" in bold letters, and the attached note: "I saw this and knew you would like it. Good luck beating Goro - Mom." Wow, I thought, Mom knows about Goro! Wait... what else does she know?

This moment was my first inkling that our little hobby is quickly outgrowing its training wheels. The worlds we flitter off to for hours on end are becoming more and more mainstream. As word of mouth advertising picks up speed across the internet and the media begins to sniff out exactly how much money games generate, Mom and Dad (and in more than a few cases, Grandma and Grandpa) are more cognizant of how gamers spend their time.

Don't believe me? Just ask. I spoke with my father, who works for the government, recently. In this conversation, I brought up EA's business practices, specifically, how they treat their employees. He cut me off mid-rant, declaring that everyone in management looks to them as an example of what not to do. But business ethics don't necessarily correlate to superior game knowledge. So I walked around a local Wal-Mart and accosted everyday people and barraged them with questions about the "top sellers" aisle.

I brought an empty clipboard with me, because most humans have an intrinsic curiosity which is only intensified when someone looks official. I slicked back my hair, made sure my glasses were clean, and did my best to appear as scientific and authoritarian as possible. I'd entertained putting on a white lab coat, but there's such a thing as overkill; the odometer will roll over.

The majority of the time I spent at the retail magnate was casually watching people and looking down at my empty clipboard, trying to ascertain what it was they were buying. Much to my chagrin, no one bought Deer Hunter, a staple of Wal-Mart's gaming revenue. However, I did see a few kids pester Mom and Dad until they picked up something out of the bargain bin. This was my chance to strike.

I introduced myself, clipboard leading the way. I explained what I was looking for, and Dad began talking about his Commodore 64 and all the great games he had for it.

"Was that the thing with the tapes?" Mom asked.

"Yeah, it took 30 minutes to get Striker to load!" Dad replied. Their children owned all three consoles, and both parents said they liked to play through at least the first few stages of any game they buy with the kids, both to bond and monitor. Dad also knew what wasn't on the table for his boys, ten and eight respectively.

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