Back when dinosaurs walked the earth, and video games were no more than a couple of pixilated sticks representing tennis racquets, and another pixilated object shaped like a cube that was supposed to be the ball, Video Games began. And while dinosaurs became extinct, the opposite happened with these games. Although primitive, the pixels began to more and more resemble actual real world objects.
And this excited my brothers and me to no end. Especially on those “Every Other Sundays” that my mom and stepdad, Nick, would have custody of us. Upon arriving at their apartment on Ocean Parkway, or later, W. 4th St. in The Village, we’d run to their television, flick that little stick on the back of the box, and spend hours making believe we were playing either tennis or hockey.
Why this excited us, I have no clue. Probably it was because we were playing a competitive sport where we really didn’t have to move much but our fingers. To push buttons, twist knobs, and turn the television to Channel 3. As we grew, so did video games. Those pixels came to life increasingly every year. By 1980, we were hiding green rocks, and dodging green bolts of lightning thrown at us by green aliens. We’d fire back our green missiles and blow those sons-of-bitches back to pixel purgatory.
Then, suddenly, there was color, and we were yellow dot heads (not like the ones we see driving cabs today). We had huge mouths that took up almost half our heads when we opened them and we ate pixilated periods, making sounds like “wakah, wakah, wakah.” And all the while, getting chased around by four ghosts named Binky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde.
If we were to ingest a bouncing cherry, we then could easily gobble up those ghosts; Inky, Pinky, Binky and Clyde. This makes sense, as eating too much of those bloody little blobs would probably turn you into one. Or maybe you are one already, or at least a vampire, in which case, I’d advise you to stay out of the sun. As I grew older, video games became more popular, and soon they were sharing the darkened dens of Pinball Parlors. I loved the sounds of the bells, whistles, zaps, and hard knocks, which meant you got an extra ball or game on one of the older classic pinball machines. Then came the voices. Not the usual ones in my head, but ones that came out from under those video screens that screamed “Get Over Here” or “Fatality.”
I’m talking Mortal Kombat. The first video game that made people look like people. The game looks like it used that old Ralph Bakshi trick of painted-over movies to make something seem animated. Something he did well with Wizards, Fritz The Cat, Heavy Traffic and especially Lord Of The Rings.
Yes, there was a version long before the yawn-a-thons Peter Jackson made. Bakshi’s film looked incredible, and at half the length. And the Ogres were scary. Chills down your spine, poop in your Depends Scary. If you like that sort of thing. It really made the book come alive.
And Mortal Kombat’s trick of digitizing human movements caused the same human reactions. Unlike Street Fighter or any other of the generic clone games, Mortal Kombat looked real. Like real when you tear off someone’s head, which is still attached to their spine. Real like electrocuting someone until his or her body slumps with heat rising from it. Or real knives through the chest, hearts ripped out, and my favorite, turning into a dragon and eating someone.
There were also “environmental kills” like falling into rotating spikes or being run over by a subway train. Of course I’ve never really ripped off someone’s head with attached spine, or broke someone’s heart—with my hands, but it was fun. As this all was happening, some people started got alarmed. At first it was the “blame it on others” crowd. Like the right-wing Christian groups. Ones that say kids killed themselves because Satan told them to through some heavy metal singer’s voice or lyrics.
Then there were the teachers, saying that kids spent too much time playing these violent games, and not spending “quality time” with their parents. Which I agree with, at least the spending the time with your kids part. It didn’t matter if they were doing homework or ripping off heads with spines, you’d laugh together and the sheer cartoon quality of something so silly it belonged where it was, or on film and in those comic books like “Eerie” or “Heavy Metal,” where girls had mammoth breasts.
I loved these video games. For me, it was a great way of relieving the frustrations of everyday life, love, and work. When my mom got sick from lung cancer and died at a young age, I withdrew into my Gameboy, being the plumber who saved the princess, or the long-haired blond boy who wrestled with all types of Tolkien-like beasts, again, to save the princess.
I also donned a few spacesuits, and by using advanced technology, I photon-bombed and laser-blasted space creatures into little bits. To save the princess, of course. That’s until you find out in one of the Metroid games that your character, Samus, is actually a gun-toting uber-strong wonder woman. Man, did that make me feel stupid, until I realized I could be a super-hot chick, like Samus, a lesbian, and liked other pretty girls who I could go after when not blowing the eyeball out of a rocket-shaped, transparent-brained-hell-creature’s ear.
With all this video game violence, a lot of parents, unable to find anyone else to blame, yelled and screamed about the gore and how it was so bad and evil for little Johnny’s brain to handle. They thought (but not really) that their kid’s tantrums, selfishness, and poor eating habits were all the results of these little plastic carts, or CDs, corrupting their innocent little brains. It’s not like they didn’t see any of this in movies or on TV, God forbid.
The video game companies took them semi-seriously, not wanting another PMRC nightmare, and agreed to self-rate their titles. They were rated “M” for “Mature,” or “T” for teen. And “E” for everybody, which everyone knows, was the games that sucked unless it was Nintendo. Now the precious children couldn’t get these “M” games until they were 17. But their witless parents brought them the games anyway, claiming they were unaware of all the sexuality and violence (same as on television) that was contained because the box covers only mentioned it about 10 times.
When a kid named Dustin Lynch car-jacked a poor soul, and ran some people over (later, a woman named Jo-Lynn Mishne died from her injuries), the shit really hit the fan. An attorney, known to many of those in the industry as the “loony crusader,” named Jack Thompson, got up on his soap box yelling that this was proof that video games caused bad things.
Thompson yelled and screamed about how in Grand Theft Auto, you drove around and ran over people or shot them. He claimed that Lynch, 16, was just re-enacting what he’d seen in the game, and thought life was just one big video game. Never mind he watched the same trash on television.
The whole thing blew up until the evidence showed that Lynch never even played Grand Theft Auto. And his own mother said, “It has nothing to do with the video game…” when asked about Jo-Lynn Mishne’s death.
Around this time, in the late-90s, I wrote a small piece for New York Press about how video game controllers were being tested by the military. Of course, this made sense. The military isn’t stupid: they saw The Last Star Fighter, and realized too that if a kid could beat up aliens with his space-ship in a video game, why not draft him into the real outer-space and have him pilot their fighters.
As it turns out, the tests showed that when faced with PlayStation and Xbox controllers, soldiers who grew-up honing their eye-hand coordination with games, actually out-performed those who learned to use traditional controls. As I pointed out, it was bound to happen, just as pilotless aircraft, like the ones in Call Of Duty, there called “UAV”s (Unmanned Ariel Vehicles) are now what we call drones we control from little trailers boxes in the Middle Of Nowhere, Nevada. And it would stand to reason now that most of these “pilots” got plenty of “air time hours” sitting on their parent’s couches eating Doritos and drinking super-caffeinated Mountain Dew.
In November of 2010, video game company Treyarch and distributor Activision came out with their best-selling hit series game Call Of Duty. Call Of Duty, Black Ops sold over 5.8 million copies in less than 24 hours. And at $60 a pop, that’s a hell of a lot of green. With the Prestige version of this game, for only about $120, one could also get the remote controlled I.E.D. car bomb that’s used in the game. It’s a toy, of course, but it’s remote controlled, has a front camera so you can see where you are driving it, and what was supposed to be a brick of C-4 on top of it would explode, blowing the shit out of anything over, under or near the damn thing. It was a cool toy, just like the next version released a couple of years later, except that was a drone that actually flew, and of course, had a camera and fake guns attached to it. This was the beginning of the end.
Which all brings us to Dallas. A shit-hole city in a shit-hole state that claims that “everything” in their state is bigger. Talk about small penises and over compensation. Anyway, as we all know by now, the police bragged about how they used a robot (remote-controlled) with a wad of C4, to kill a cop-killer who deserved it. The problem is that the cops said that no one left was in any danger at the time.
So why didn’t they just wait him out? Or send in the “robot” with knockout gas, a taser, or other accessories that would’ve left him standing and able to answer lots of questions we really need answers too, or to at least stand trial. Revenge. And to think that Barack Obama just recently told us he couldn’t think of any reason an “assassination by machine” would ever happen in this country. But then our Army has supplied our Police force the machinery to do just that.
It’s just like Texas to ignore “Due Process” and proceed from Judge to Jury to Executioner. Which is sick. And these fucks talked about it in broad daylight, not giving it a second thought that they just did what all law enforcement must never-ever do. So a police force that says it doesn’t discriminate against anyone just blows up someone instead? What are they, Mike Hammer? Judge Dredd?
Any smart law-enforcement officer who wanted this guy X’d, would’ve done it with much less bravado. But these idiots actually wanted the credit for violating the Constitution and our civil rights, killing this guy illegally! And after all of this, it turns out that video games aren’t trouble in the hands of any children they may be sold to, it’s the police you’ve got to worry about.
And perhaps Jack Thompson, who was disbarred from practicing law for being such a nuisance, may have been on to something. But it’s not just the video games—it’s our impatience. And is saving a bit of time really worth giving up our civil liberties for? Did all those soldiers who died in wars for our rights have their lives wasted? Can we expect law enforcement to actually make better human and legal calls after what we witnessed in Dallas?
Not if they’re playing by video game rulebooks. Not if the public accepts it. And that’s what keeps me up at night, playing video games.