Midnight in my friend’s kitchen.
He opens his bootleg of Maya.
He shows me his man with no elbows.
He can’t make them work.
They spin around. Uncontrollable. Limitless.
This deformed virtual man pulls my soul apart.
He is hysterical. His grey, featureless mass becomes everything.
His flopping arms become the universe.
I am 18 and over-caffeinated.
I smell like drunk cigarettes at Perkins.
My friend doesn’t see it. I admire what he’s done.
It makes sense in the warm idiocy of my heart:
My eyes full of tears. Gasping for breath.
I see games and worlds come undone.
I see characters flop open.
None of this was ever supposed to be so serious.
I drive home. I can’t sleep.
I go online.
I look at knives and hang out in European sex rooms.
I float in the glow.
I wait for the punchline.
Everything is mud.
Iraq. Afghanistan. Terrorism.
Games are shaped from this mud.
Brown people are liquefied in their brown worlds. Packaged.
Call of Duty. Battlefield. Killzone. Gears of War. Fallout.
Everything chokes on dust.
Everything is tired.
Financial collapse. State brutality. Systemic racism.
An honest mistrust of the foundation of the past 30 years grows.
A righteous cancer burning in focus.
What is the shelf-life of democracy?
What is capitalism without monument?
The jet fuel keeps spilling. Swirling.
Hypnotizing us in the dead heat of a grey sun.
Where else is there but this forsaken tarmac we built ourselves?
This is where we caress our children’s faces and weep into their mouths about our wounded nostalgias.
This cannot be sustained.
Acceptance isn’t worth this.
I watch the sun set.
Flying to Vegas in a blood sky.
I melt into Macintosh Plus. Floral Shoppe.
How many AOL demo discs did it take to get to Vaporwave?
Yes. There was a quiet hope at the end.
The PS2 launched.
I had a Compaq laptop with a DVD player.
Arcades still pulsed in their corners.
There was hope.
A hope based on a brief, unsustainable plurality of space.
And Sony devoured the market.
And Sega disappeared. And arcades fell apart. And PCs consolidated.
And games got bigger, stranger.
And 9/11. And GameCube. And Xbox.
Hunter S. Thompson called it the end of the American Century.
A post-modern mudslide carrying hope into a rotten abyss.
It was all too big. Too slow. Too dumb. Too mean.
No part of us made it out alive.
Our tongues bleed on the asphalt.
Our eyes crushed by humming freezers full of money.
Our glistening derricks mine the dead into a unified, hateful sky.
2015 and we’re pointing Saturn light guns at the screen.
2015 and Virtua Cop 2 still feels significant.
It carries its ancient hopes with unbroken confidence.
And I realize how long its been since I’ve had fun.
How long has it been since these worlds were fun?
We have become unacceptable.
Kirby attacked for being joyful and simple.
Animal Crossing labeled pointless.
Panoramical as a ‘glorified screensaver’.
Mobile arcade games translated as casual.
We are crumbling away.
There is too much sulfur in the air.
Too much shrapnel in our brains.
Too much guilt in the blood pool.
In the face of the obliterate, we’ve forgotten what feels good.
We are nothing more than bones piled on a barren precipice.
We never understood urgency.
Everything has to feel right. Honest. Fulfilling.
Dodging bullets in DoDonPachi.
Shooting limbs in House of the Dead.
Passing cars in Out Run.
It was all so slick. So clear.
And it was all trampled into nothing more than legend:
Fuel for ‘gamers’ stampeding towards a forged credibility.
I am selected for extra security.
I nod. I walk through the metal detector.
I stare at the dark sky across the terminal.
Security agent pulls me aside. Takes my luggage.
He opens it all. Rifles through it.
He speaks to me in French.
I shake my head.
I tell him I am American. He quickly switches.
He keeps digging. He finds my games.
His eyes grow. He looks at me.
‘Uh, PSP?!’. He points.
‘Yeah. . .’
‘Oh!! Uh, what game you play??’
‘Mostly fighting games, you know, Street Fighter. . .’
He is excited. He nods.
‘Ah! Yes! Street Fighter! Me too!’
He looks around. Reaches into his back pocket.
He pulls out his PSP. He opens it.
He shows me his Alpha 3 UMD.
‘Cool! You like it?’
‘Street Fighter my favorite!’
His boss walks up. He puts his PSP away.
She whispers to him in French. He nods.
He closes my bag.
He tells me I can go.
I walk on.
I find the CRT in my basement.
I carry it up two flights. I place it in my office.
I turn it vertical.
We are all tired.
Call of Duty is becoming strange.
Battlefield is taking on Star Wars.
Fallout is blooming.
ISIS is the shadow of our exhausting ignorance.
This is what emergence looks like.
A new hell.
A new hope:
Gunsport. Axiom Verge. Velocity 2x. Downwell. Videoball. Taiko no Tatsujin V. PAC-MAN 256.
Games with long memories.
Creators trying to nourish the world back into awareness.
Back into new experience.
Creators reconstructing the backyard gardens we have burned.
Harvesting the rain we have cursed.
The world is as tired as it ever was.
We are all exhausted.
Maybe we are too late for whatever redemption we thought we could have.
But we can reinterpret.
We can be warm and quiet for a while:
A Chernobyl reclamation for the mind.
For the heart.
For our broken fingers to remember.
To dethrone the catacombs.
To guide the vines through our lingering guilt.
To find ourselves again:
Silhouettes in a storm of candles.