When I was ten years old, my family got “Pong” for Christmas. Pong was a video game in the loosest sense of the word; remember, this was before Nintendo–before Atari, even. Pong was a game where two players batted a blip of light back and forth across the TV screen to each other, using longer blips of light as paddles; the joystick was about the same size as the one you might find in the cockpit of an F-16. There were sound effects (bleep, bleep), and a speed setting (bleeep, bleeep; bleep, bleep; or, bleepbleepbleep). And that was it. I think it probably cost $400. (My stepfather was the King of the Early Adaptors–he bought a “pocket” calculator back in the 1960s that would take twenty years–until the advent of parachute pants–for there to exist a pocket large enough to put it in.)
My sister and I played Pong that Christmas morning, and maybe for a few days afterwards, but that was it. As far as games went , it was pretty dull; despite the fact that back then we only had four channels to choose from, it was still far from being the most interesting thing on the TV screen. (I guess we should have expected as much when the company’s PR department, who presumably named it, called it “ Pong,” a not-so-subtle acknowledgment of the fact that the game was only half as exciting as “Ping Pong.” When consummate liars are giving you hints, you should probably pay attention.)
In fact, for years now I have assumed that it was only Pong’s inherent dullness–the fact that it was only marginally more interesting than watching paint dry–that caused us to stop playing it. What I have come to realize now, however–after having my son Clyde–is that we just stopped playing it because we were girls.
I should have realized all of this sooner; after all, I remember back in the late eighties when guys would spend fifteen minutes playing the “monkey throwing the can of Coke” video game they put on soda machines back then. The one with graphics only slightly more advanced than Pong. The one where you didn’t win anything, not even, strangely enough, a can of Coke. The one that–did I mention?–had to be played while standing in front of a Coke machine?
Yeah, that one.
Guys would be lined up three deep.
It’s a good thing those machines went out of fashion before my son, Clyde, came along, because Clyde–who is nothing if not a guy–will play any video game anytime. Or, at least he would if he were allowed to. Here’s a typical afternoon at my house: I tell Clyde to “give the video games a rest,” so he turns off the TV and moves to the computer. When I say, “really, no more games,” he retreats to his room where he hides under the covers to play his Gameboy. When I take even that away from him he starts to look like he is suffering from oxygen deprivation.
I know, there’s a lot to be said for video games: they teach hand/eye coordination, reading skills, cooperation. And there’s also a lot to be said against video games: they contribute to childhood obesity, poor socialization skills, GAD Syndrome (Girlfriend Acquisitional Deficiency). But, really, my main objection to video games is that, from a woman’s point of view at least, they are just so damn boring.
In a world filled with interesting things, why would someone want to spend seven hours pretending to kill the same Nazis over and over again, just so they can eventually get into another room and kill another set of Nazis?
Watching Clyde do it, I can only assume that it’s a guy thing. Which means that it’s a mystery to me. Just like Pong.