John. 44. Video gamer.
There. I said it. Happy? The introvert is outed. I spend hours playing video games. Sports video games. Two in particular: MLB The Show 16 and The Golf Club. (If you are into sports video games, I’m sure you’ve heard of The Show, but maybe not The Golf Club. You’ve got to check it out.)
I didn’t realize until recently that, aside from the fun and competition these games bring, they also allow me to create a tiny, personal world in my swarthy melon on this pale blue dot we call home…Earth. We call Earth.
A tiny, personal world over which I am martinet. Ted Williams would look terrific in Yankee pinstripes. Missed a 3-foot par-putt on hole number 2: reset!
In other words, my introverted tendencies and characteristics reveal themselves in my electronic gaming habits.
But this story goes back to the days before the delicious creation of the PlayStation4. Or PS3. Even way back before a PS2 crinkled its way up the stairs in a GameStop bag and into the bonus room above the garage in my current home…
Also, it’s been a while since I’ve dropped any fictoir on my readership (reader-dinghy?), so please remember that fictoir is part fiction, part memoir. A walkway of words that is mostly true, but grouted with white lies, red herrings, and paisley fabrications.
Electronic Introvert Beginnings
‘Twas the year of Our Lord, 19 and 82. My parents bought me the newest gaming system, Intellivision. Orange you glad I didn’t say Atari? Intellivision was better than Atari in every way. Don’t believe me? Ask George Plimpton.
I learned a lot about life from that half-horse-power, gold and brown gaming system. How to bet on the horses. How to evade rattlesnakes, scorpions, and alligators in two dimensions, and how to inflict brain surgery.
Of course, there was a baseball game. It was simple. Flat. No fly outs, only force or tag outs around the infield. Intellivision did produce an add-0n that allowed folks to play against the computer, which is commonplace on today’s consoles. But I didn’t have it. My parents offered, but I convinced them to invest in Life Savers soda instead.
As such, I trained myself to play both sides of the game simultaneously. The controls were basic, so it wasn’t too difficult. Even though the game was called Major League baseball, there was nothing officially licensed about it, so I would create teams using baseball cards, and flip through them as the next guy came to bat. Occasionally, I would throw myself in there was a player, so I could play first base next to Willie Randolph at second.
Journal entry: John Lindholm, June 29th, 1982
I wonder if, someday, a company that currently makes televisions, cameras and the like will create a video game in which I can manifest myself in the minor leagues, slowly but surely improving my likeness so that I can make it to the major leagues—to, you know, “the show.”
I squeezed a lot of enjoyment out of that Intellivision gaming system, laying on my belly in the finished basement of a Cape Cod in suburban New Jersey.
Thankfully, my folks kept me on the cutting edge of home electronics, so in the mid-80s I was armed with a TRS-80 computer. TRS stood for Tandy Radio Shack, and the 80 represented the number of ways an introvert might avoid “getting help” from a Radio Shack employee upon entering the store.
I wrote a program on that ‘puter, using BASIC of course, that allowed me to enter team names and simulate basketball games. The scores would add up, powered by a function which awarded points to the competing teams randomly. Fun!
We moved over to the other side of town not long after this, so it seemed logical that we would need a new computer. Enter the Commodore 64. My father and I traveled to New York City to get it. We bought it out of the trunk of Don Mattingly’s car in the middle of a traffic jam on the Cross Bronx Expressway.
This was my first experience with Electronic Arts (which today’s childrens know as EA). One game I spent a lot of time on was The Seven Cities of Gold. It was a cross between The Oregon Trail, Sid Meier’s Civilization, and that time you dine-and-dashed at the local Friendly’s.
There was also Billy Packer’s College Basketball. It was a rich woman’s version of my TRS-80 coding, complete with text play-by-play and real team rosters of all the division 1 NCAA teams. Like the other games above, it was delivered via 5.25″ floppy disk.
Journal Entry: John Lindholm, January 11th, 1985
I wonder if, someday, Electronic Arts will become more commonly known as EA Sports, and create a video game–which will meet its demise eight years after the millennium–in which I can manifest myself as a n00b college basketball coach, and slowly work my way up the ladder to bigger and better coaching jobs.
Microchip Introvert Middles
High school and college blow by like a supermarket receipt in a hurricane’d parking lot, and so will this section.
Most of my high school gaming transpired at a buddy’s house. Two Nintendo legends: TecmoBowl and Baseball Stars. In fact, these long gaming sessions, fueled by Ecto Cooler, spilled into summers home from college as well.
Speaking of long gaming sessions, I played Sonic the Hedgehog on my Sega Genesis at The Millersville University of Pennsylvania. Got pretty good at it, in fact. So good that I could finish the entire game. But that took time, and sometimes I had to leave for class. There was no save functionality back then, so I would pause the game, slather the console with ice pops, and de-oscilate an oscilating fan so that it cooled in the console’s specific direction. This melted the chip, so I had to bring it to some repair shop in Hackensack, NJ to get it fixed.
Which I’m glad I did, because it allowed me and my college roommates to play another legendary game, NHL 94 (Enjoy some gameplay here). One night, I was playing one of my roomies and the player I was controlling kept skating into the glass like a kid driving a bumper car for the first time. I had fallen asleep with my controller in one hand and a glass of Jack Daniels (neat) in the other.
1.6 GHz Introvert Presents
I didn’t have a gaming system after leaving college. I didn’t think I was allowed to, as an adult. Then one of my friends with whom I taught got a Play Station 2, and I found myself totes INFJelly. I’m sure I owned one by nightfall.
Oh, the PS2 had EA Sports College Football and College Hoops, even a college baseball game. And Madden, perhaps the most iconic sports video game of all time. 2KSports also entered the screen around this time with its own sports titles. Still feeling a little guilty about playing video games as an adult, especially with two little ones waddling around the house, I would only allow myself to play if I was riding my exercise bike at the same time.
My guilt assuaged, however, and I constructed a gaming lair behind the couch and along the windows of the hexagonal prismic room above the garage in my current home. Resting comfortably in a recliner handed down by my dad, I efforted to steer the Yankees, Knicks, Giants and Kansas Jayhawks to Championships in their respective sports.
Then along came the next generation of gaming consoles, and I left Sony for Microsoft and purchased an XBOX360 instead of the PS3. As gaming consoles evolved, the gameplay deepened. What is commonly known as the “franchise” mode was born, in which the gamer is able to assume control of a professional sports franchise (get it?), and act as owner, general manager, coach, and player. In the professional sports games, this could mean setting ticket prices for the cyberfans streaming to the arena to watch your team. In the college games, it meant recruiting and, as thirteen-year-old me predicted, riding the coaching carousel toward bigger and better jobs in across NCAA nation.
As my daughters got older, the bonus room became a fantastic place to host sleepovers, so I would find myself without my gaming console for a night, or even two over the summer.
So my XBOX360 moved from the bonus room to my bedroom. This required acquisition of an Ikea Poäng Chair for maximum comfort. Long gone were the cardioconscious days of exercise bike video gaming.
Then my wife allowed me to convert our never-used dining room into an office (from which I currently communicate to you, reader). To the left of my desk now sits a 32-inch HDTV for my PS4, and my XBOX360, which I keep hooked up for the college football game that isn’t available on the current generation of consoles. One might argue that placing a video game console right next to a writer’s work area is a blueprint for blank Microsoft Word screens, and one would be right. But I love my little command center, and I’m not giving it up.
What do Video Games mean to the Introvert?
That should probably read, What do Video Games mean to the Introvert Who Likes to Play Video Games? but that’s way too long of a heading.
I don’t think I would have ever guessed that I would be playing video games into my 40s, but now I don’t see how I won’t be playing them into my 50s and 60s.
Journal Entry: John Lindholm, October 23rd, 1993
I love playing video games, but I don’t think I’ll play them into my 40s. But if I do, I don’t see how I won’t play them into my 50s and 60s.
These sports video games, and I’m sure any kind of video game for all kinds of introverts (and extroverts as well), give me full control over very realistic worlds involving the sports I love. The graphics are just short of virtual reality, pulling me into the screen like a 200+ pound Heather O’Rourke.
Furthermore, as my athletic body continues to fail me in amazing and unpredictable ways, these games give my competitive side an outlet.
Mostly though, when the real world gets too real, I can enter these real-ish, fake worlds over which I have poetic and athletic license. And just play, play, play.
How about you? Love video games? Hate ’em? Have your own secret lair? Tell me about it below.
IMAGE CREDITS: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intellivision, http://www.oldcomputers.net/trs80i.html, http://www.dualshockers.com/2015/03/04/the-ps2-is-15-year-old-today-sony-celebrates-with-pictures-and-video/, http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2008/11/sega-genesis-turns-20/