By Will Jordan
“What are you doing?”
“Nooooo! Don’t go that way! You’re going to get caught!”
A couple of DVDs and games fall off the TV, due to powerful vibrations from Max’s furious hopping up and down. I reach forward to try to catch one just as Peter and his siblings from a Narnia video game get busted, and the game starts over.
“Awwww! Dad? What were you thinking?”
He begins pawing at the controller and my reluctance to share makes him even madder. This makes me even more frustrated, but I bite my tongue.
“Just forget it!”
I hand Max the controller and step out of the room to take a couple deep breaths. I can’t believe how these things affect me. It’s only the first level. I remember dominating alien spaceships in Gallaga back in the old arcade. I was awesome at that game, but it was nothing like the adventures kids literally have at their fingertips these days.
I glimpse back into the room and Max is in the zone–back into the familiar world of fawns, witches and the God-like Lion. His concentration is baffling. The hopping begins again, and I see Peter tiptoe past the sleeping professor and step back through the wardrobe.
I don’t usually sit in on a video game session, but I thought it might be a nice little fun time for both of us. I work at home and typically try to end my workday before Max returns from school on the bus. Some days we play croquet, basketball or soccer, and other times he just wants to build with Legos or play with his Star Wars “guys.” Rarely do I let Max jump right into the frustrating activity of gaming, but today it was raining and I began plotting early. When the bus pulled up and he climbed off, he ran right into his room to play with his toys.
“Hey bud. How was your day?”
“Great,” he says lowering his head back to the Lego X-Wing fighter he’s constructing. I notice when he got off the bus, he had a paper bag in tow. It’s now resting on the floor of his room.
“That’s my memory bag.”
“What’s it for?”
“To put memories and stuff in it. I don’t really remember.”
He really has been doing well in school so I don’t press the issue.
“I was thinking we could run a quick errand.”
“Noooooooo! I hate errands.”
"What about to the video game store?”
That was all I had to say. He was on his feet and beaming.
“Dad there’s something I’ve been meaning to tell you. You are the bestest dad in the whole world. I mean that.”
“Thanks.” I’ll take the compliment however convenient it may be.
“Grab your money, because you are chipping in.”
Max has been diligently saving his allowances and happily hands it over to me. I take it and put it in my wallet because those games are not cheap and also because that’s what Max has been saving his money for. For those who have never been to the video store, let me describe. They’ve come a long way since ColecoVision. There are rows and rows of games from floor to ceiling with elaborate-looking pictures and descriptions—from violent, amoral, street-wise games like Grand Theft Auto to Harry Potter adventure games to funny Spongebob games to educational children’s games.
Of course anything I suggest to Max is for “little kids” as he describes, but we meet somewhere in the middle. Narnia seems innocent enough, though I had no idea how complicated it would be (at least for a 34-year-old).
Back in the living room, I’m bumbling clumsily through the maze and Max is going nuts every time I make a mistake. One minute I’m the greatest Dad in the world and the next I’m the one holding him back from winning the game. I wander into the kitchen with my head down and V looks up at me.
“Are you not playing?” she asks just as Max screams a cheer of victory as he completes yet another level.
I sigh. “I think I’m done.”
“Well maybe it won’t be raining tomorrow,” she giggles.