The gamer's high fades, and I slowly shift from WoundedRiot, general of the Blood Raven Space Marines, into Brendan Sears, boyfriend. I snake my left arm around her waist and pull her bony frame onto my lap.
"I dare you to turn it back on."
She's intrigued. "You dare me?'
She thumbs the power on and drops it on my keyboard while the tinny speaker wails "WHYYYYY, SEARS, WHYYYYY?"
"I'm glad you aren't that serious about your games."
My left hand holds the walkie-talkie high, making a show of turning it off, while my right blindly AIMs an apology to Randomman.
Time passes, and I'm now with Amy, who catches me on a bad night. We didn't have plans, and I wanted to play Battle For Middle Earth. Not as good as Tolkien's books, but I'm stressed and need an outlet. She appears unannounced and things turn sour. She gets snappy and I lash back. I couldn't bring myself to say "I need a game night." So I dump her.
Amy leaves in tears and I turn off the lights and hunker down in front of my monitor. Lord help the Orcish hordes. I reclaim the land and drive back the darkness and cry and stop for four minutes to furiously beat off around one in the morning and resume playing. My best friend Alec swings by around four, stumbling in and pulling up a chair, burying his nose in the screen and offering odd bits of advice.
"Shoot that guy."
"Heal that guy."
"You just conquered land, build an armory."
"Build a farm."
"Get Gandalf up in that action."
I tell him about my evening, about my addiction to games, about being alone and pathetic.
He straightens his slouch, his epic slouch, and slurs, "Well, now you're wrong. Look at us, we aren't the best guys around but everyone tends to like us. We're nice, and even when we're losers we're honest, which is the most important thing. So what if we play games, we're fun guys and people like to be around us."
He carries on, building steam and conviction. I conquer a neighboring territory and begin to think that things aren't so bad, that I'm not such a mutant. "I can't think of a single bad thing to sa- build a farm!"
It's been four years since my relationship with Amy ended, and the realms of videogames and love still clash. It doesn't get easier, but thanks to Alec and the mistakes I've made, we have a war cry mighty as "bangarang!" or "waugh!" to loose when we fail. It doesn't fix our problems, but nothing takes the sting out of a failed relationship like climbing to the rooftops and bellowing "Build a farm!"
Brendan Sears is a freelance writer and improv comedian living in the Quad Cities area (on the Illinois/Iowa border). Drop him a line at [email protected].