Monday, June 18, 2018

THE PLAYSTATION WAS SUPPOSED TO RELIEVE STRESS



I can’t believe how far video games have progressed in just the past few years. I can remember the very first video game we purchased. It was called "Pong" and featured two on-screen paddles and a ball. The game basically involved batting the ball back and forth with the paddles.  Talk about a snooze-fest. And the next games progressed to stick figures of humans doing battle. They moved around like robots and had limited capabilities, such as being able to move only left and right or up and down.

Today’s games, however, are so realistic, the on-screen characters actually breathe and have beard stubble. I sure wish my husband were still around to see them. He would be as excited as a rottweiler in a butcher shop.

Back during the height of the video-game craze about 15 years ago, my husband actually had no interest in any of it. But I (unfortunately) changed all of that.

It all began when I read an article that said home-video games such as Nintendo and Playstation could greatly relieve stress. According to the article, not only did the games involve a lot of careful planning and strategy, they also allowed people to relieve their tension by smashing, destroying and blowing up things onscreen.  Seeing that my husband was under a good deal of stress at work at the time, I thought a Playstation (or mass quantities of valium) might be the perfect solution for him.

Knowing about as much about video games as I did about building my own missile launcher, I headed to the store.  The clerk was very helpful, even suggesting the most popular games and accessories to go with the Playstation system.  I arrived home about $250 poorer, but with high hopes.  To my disappointment, my purchases were met with less than wild enthusiasm.

“I don’t know when I’ll ever have time to use a Playstation,” my husband said. “I just have too much work.”

“But that’s the whole point,” I protested. “I bought it to take your mind off work.”

The next Saturday morning, he tried the two games I’d purchased - one with killer zombies running rampant and the other with a shapely woman adventurer.  He ended up  yawning halfway through them.  The Playstation was neatly put away in its box after that, never, I assumed, to see the light of day again.  Needless to say, I was not pleased.

Two weeks later, however, as I was browsing in a department store, I happened to notice a Playstation game that seemed to be tailor-made for my husband.  He’d always told me that when he was a child, no game, toy or bike ever came close to giving him as much pleasure as playing with his simple set of green plastic toy soldiers. Well, sitting right there in a glass case in the store, was a video game featuring little green toy soldiers battling little tan toy soldiers.  It also was on sale for only $19.95 instead of the usual $39.95.  I snapped it up. 


Just as I’d hoped, when I presented the game to my husband, his eyes lit up like 100-watt bulbs.  He immediately dug out the Playstation and hooked it up.  Within minutes, he was so involved in playing the game and leading his soldiers to victory by capturing “Fort Plastico” (or whatever it was called), I ceased to exist.

Hours passed…then days, weeks and months (or so it seemed) and still he played

“I’ve made it to another level!” he’d victoriously shout after completing each new mission.  Then he’d go on to another…and another.  Of course, back then, in order to play the game, he had to completely take over the TV set.  I honestly began to forget what a TV screen (without little tan and green soldiers running all over it) looked like.

“Only one more game,” he would say at 8 o’clock every night. “I’m really tired tonight.”  Whenever he’d say that, I’d nearly jump up and cheer, foolishly believing it meant I’d actually get to watch my favorite TV shows for the first time in ages.

Alas, ten o’clock would come and go, and still my husband wouldn’t be any closer to going to bed…or quitting his game.  I figured if I ever wanted to see my TV shows again, I’d have to wait for them to be released on DVD.

“The Playstation is relieving my husband’s stress,” I kept telling myself, all the while feeling more and more stressed myself.  Then, one night, my husband came out with something that caught me completely off guard.

“Did you know that two people can play this game?” he asked. “Why don’t you grab one of the controllers and play a game with me?  You can be the tan army, and I’ll be the green.”

“But I don’t even know the first thing about it,” I protested, staring at the controller as if it were contaminated with some fatal bacteria.

“Don’t worry, I’ll teach you,” he said.  

Fool that I was, I believed him.

Barely one minute into the game, his little green soldier leaped out from behind a wall and shot my tan soldier.  My soldier groaned, then keeled over backwards and landed with his feet up in the air.

I glared at my husband.

Within seconds, I had another tan soldier armed and ready to do battle.  Once again, my husband’s green soldier popped up out of nowhere (this time, with a flame thrower) and reduced my poor guy to a puddle of melted tan plastic.  My husband cackled fiendishly.

“I’ve had enough of this game!” I snapped (gracious loser that I was), throwing the controller down. “You’re too mean!”

“Oh, all right,” he said. “I’ll go easy on you till you get the hang of it.  Just give it one more try, okay?” 

Against my better judgment, I played another game. This time, I put my soldier in a big tank and went zooming toward the enemy lines, knocking over little plastic trees and bushes in the process.  When one of my husband’s soldiers suddenly sprang up from behind a rock, I blasted him with the tank’s gun and kept right on rolling.

My husband looked openly shocked that I’d actually managed to aim at something and hit it.  With his mouth set in a straight line of determination, he sent in another soldier.  I promptly flattened him with my tank.   

“Not bad,” my husband said, though he had a distinct “revenge is mine” look on his face.  He then casually added, “By the way, there’s a big black spider crawling down the wall right behind your head.”

I laughed, not taking my eyes off the game. “Good try,” I said. “But you’re not going to make me lose with a lousy trick like that!”

Even though I didn’t break my concentration, my husband’s soldier managed to get his little green mitts on a bazooka and blow most of my soldier away.  His tiny plastic feet were all that remained standing after my husband finally ran out of ammunition.

“What do I do now?” I asked. “How can I shoot anyone when I have nothing left but feet?”

“Your soldier has to find a first-aid kit,” my husband answered. “It will magically patch him up and make him whole again. But I’ll tell you right now, my soldiers are carefully guarding it, and I’ve surrounded it with land mines!”

I was determined to find that darned first-aid kit, even though my soldier didn’t even have a head to search for it with.  Just as my soldier’s feet moved around a pile of rocks, I happened to catch a glimpse of something running along the arm of the sofa - on which my arm was resting as I played.  It was the aforementioned big black spider.  I screamed and jumped to my feet, dropping the game controller in the process.  My husband immediately seized the opportunity to fling a grenade at my soldier’s feet and disintegrate them. “Green Team Wins!” flashed across the TV screen.

I scowled at him. “That’s not fair!  I had interference!”

He shrugged. “I warned you about that spider and you didn’t believe me!  Besides that, all’s fair in love and war.”

I told him exactly what he could do with his dumb old game.  Undaunted, he continued to play it alone, for hours on end.  It finally got to the point where I honestly was on the verge of taking a sledge hammer to the thing, until one night, when my husband suddenly uttered the words I’d been longing to hear for at least two or three centuries: “I’m getting sick of this game.”

I watched in disbelief as he put the game back into its box and switched the TV to an actual network program. 

I could NOT believe what one of the first commercials was (and I swear this is the absolute truth)...a colorful advertisement for a brand NEW Playstation toy soldiers game!  My husband left skid marks as he rushed to the store to buy it.

Mysteriously, when he returned with his treasured purchase, his Playstation didn’t work. No matter what he did, he couldn’t get the new game- or any other game – to play on it.

Gee…I wonder how that happened?  ☺️

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