I was away earlier this year. Maybe you noticed.
I was away from writing short stories and comic book scripts. I was away from Life On Mars, Mantracker and The Office. Sure, work had kept me extremely busy but it was my disappearance from “regular” life, from the writing of blog articles for Biff Bam Pop! that my good friend Andy B reminded me about on numerous occasions. He wasn’t the only one who noticed.
I had gone away for a time. Where was I, you ask? Well, let me tell you.
For a short amount of time in early January, I was busy being a bit of an adventurer, trying my hand at archeology, avoiding poisonous snakes and spiders in South America. It might sound dangerous but really, it was a lot of fun. Then I got busy playing football in the European Champions League, arguable the world’s most competitive sports tournament, setting up goals while scoring a few myself. Exciting, huh? I joined the army next and fought Japanese infantry across blood-stained beaches in the Pacific. When my personal call of duty ended and I finally came home, I found my city overrun by crazed zombies and had to either battle my way to freedom or be left for dead.
For a while there in early 2009, I found myself in an unyielding grip, a powerful desire for adventure, for horror, for thrills – for a youthful exuberance. This feeling would not yield, would not ebb. It hooked me with a sense of accomplishment, enthralled me with a sense of pride. Surprisingly, it also came with a sense of community.
My XBOX 360, of course, came with a wireless router.
It’s the wireless router, you see, that makes it all worthwhile. Yeah, I know I was living the stereotype: locked in the basement, staring at a television screen, oblivious to the real world. But I was still being social! I had my XBOX headphones accessory on and was talking to my friends online or messaging their gamer tags with attempts to set up evenings where we would attempt to emancipate the South Pacific from Imperialist Japan in Call of Duty: World At War or escape the city underground system, destroying the walking dead in the process in the shooter game, Left 4 Dead. This was a whole new way to interact with my pals now that we were all grown up and living in an adult world of jobs, family and responsibility.
Guys like Andy B, Denny B and Geflon Don had been playing on-line with their XBOX’s for years before me. I was virtually the last to the party but not before I brought a friend or two along with me.
It’s a different world online. I’m a rookie with games like these, fumbling with a controller, not sure how to move a character on the screen, poor with marksmanship and strategy. I was warned by Geflon Don to not use the headphones when playing games like Call of Duty in open forums as a beginner. Unless, of course, you enjoy being called names that question your masculinity by 12 year old boys who all posses uber skills in the games they play.
Our buddy Pete, who got online at the same time as me didn’t heed that message. He had been playing Call of Duty against all of the brats in the world secretly so that he could get better than the rest of us at the game. Still, the poor guy set himself up as a “serious gamer” even though he was the furthest thing from. He attracted all of the hardcore crazies that populate the Xbox 360 Live world, eventually confessing that they regularly belittle him, his skill, his age and his manhood every chance they get. So cocky were these punk kid players that they wouldn’t even pull a gun when playing against him. They’d simply run up to him, Pete defensively letting bullets fly helter skelter into the air, finishing him with a simple and belittling knife to the chest or worse, the back. Needless to say, his kill-to-killed ratio was a giant turd of a number and I’m sure there were times where he wept a single tear each time he turned his XBOX off.
Serves him right for secretly practicing.
Over time, Pete’s gotten much better at the games and I have too. I’m the proud recipient of the “Blind Luck” achievement in Left 4 Dead and not many have unlocked the “Jump Shot” kudos like I have. I’m quite proud of that one, although it was probably blind luck too. While collecting these achievements like virtual hockey cards or comic books, I’ve also met up with old friends Scrubby Lee and the Gaz while playing these games online, not to mention having conversations with my pal, The Sultan, who currently resides in Dubai. Not a long distance charge to be found, either.
Over time, the novelty of the console has worn off a bit. I’m no longer getting messages from my internet provider telling me I’ve exceeded my allotted bandwidth usage for the month. Still, I haven’t spoken to some of those guys in a while. Maybe it’s time to set up another game night. If life keeps us from physically getting together, my friends and I can still have our beers and our stories and our jokes via the XBOX 360. Besides, I’d love to show off my new uber game skills to them. No knife in the back for me. I’ve secretly been practicing.
Until that happens though, I’m just a guy with a lot of talk and a console.