This F***ing Controller Doesn’t Work (Or How My Son Beat Me In a Video Game)

Posted: October 11, 2016 in comedy, Family, Nikola Jajic, Parenting, writing
Tags: , , , , , ,

The year was 1990, and Tecmo Bowl was my jam. I would take the rock to the house, spike the controller, and shake my ass all over my brother’s bedroom. This was my twelve-year-old version of the Ickey shuffle, and it was glorious. And if our Nintendo controller had to suffer because of this, so be it. It did so in the name of art.

Then came WCW Championship Wrestling. I would write out brackets on notebook paper, and inevitably get Rick Flair chest-chopping his way into a championship bout. After a successful title run, I would let out a “WOOOOO!” and shuffle out of the room. And occasionally, I could be heard hollering “Twelve pounds of gold, baby!” to no one in-particular.

Because that’s what WCW video game champions did. We shouted cool shit like that.

My teenage years brought with them games like Altered Beast (best when accompanied by Metallica on your Discman), as well as the NBA Live and Madden franchises.

Sports games were the last to hold my attention (even after women entered the picture), but my time spent button-mashing was quickly coming to an end. It also helped that video gaming went the online route, while I had begun to develop a case of tech-allergies (I blame 90’s public schooling).

That said, I still drank beers with buddies, while they argued with thirteen-year-olds. Thirteen-year-olds who viciously murdered them in video games, and called them “bitches” or “punk-ass bitches” over their headsets as they did so. Ah, those were the days.

Then came kids. The first seven (or so) years of child-rearing were mostly video game free. Sure there was Angry Birds, or some other iPad inspired silliness, but the console driven madness of first-person shooters and Hail Mary touchdown passes were still a ways off.

And then my kid was nine, and all he wanted for Christmas (Besides his front teeth and a BB gun) was an Xbox One. And being the exceptional, fantastic, and all-around swell dad that I am, I got him that Xbox One.

With one caveat, I pledged an oath to my wife that he’d only play age-appropriate games. And only for ten minutes each day. But soon after the pledging of said oath, other kids in the neighborhood started getting Call of Duty Black Ops.

And then everything went to hell.

Fast forward a few months, and we had an Xbox Rambo on our hands. He and his friends conducted clandestine missions in our TV room, while we yelled at them to “Turn it down”, or “Go outside!” Although I had to admit, the game looked pretty fucking awesome.

But I’m a dad, so I dad-watched from the doorway, and I shook my head dismissively. As if I wasn’t impressed by the insane graphics, and the cool, shooty-gizmos they were using. I said things like “Okay, wrap it up”, Or “Five more minutes, guys.” Or “Any of you kids ever hear of Golden Eye?”

But what I was really thinking was more along the lines of “Holy shit, dude! Is that a fucking flame thrower?!”, followed by “Holy shit that IS a fucking flame thrower!”

Then one day, my son asked if I would like to play him in Black Ops. And I was all like “Pfft, I mean I’m a really busy guy, but I’m also an awesome dad, so yeah, whatevs, I guess so.”

Truth be told, I’m a bit of a trash-talker. And yeah, maybe I spit a little bit of that old school trash-talking game in my son’s direction.

Stuff like “Kid, I’ve been playing video games since you were a gleam in my sharp-shooter eyes.”

“A gleam in your eye? What does that even mean?” He asked.

It was neither the time nor the place to try and explain the birds and the bees. That’s what a 6th grade field trip to the Robert Crown center was for.

“Er, nothing. Don’t make this weird.” I shot back.

“Speaking of eyes, you ever hear about a little game called 007 Golden Eye?”

“Jeez, Dad. No one knows that game.”

“Well, it was awesome and your old man left quite a few digital bodies in his wake.”

“Yeah, okay. You can pick your armor and weapons now.”

My god, all that armor and weaponry. I was a golden-armored god, with a machine gun forged by Ares himself. The world would have no choice but to bow before my unholy might, or it would be crushed beneath my shiny, armored boots… or so I thought.

After I finished outfitting my unstoppable bringer-of-destruction, my digital warrior king, I clicked save and awaited my son’s doomed character to appear.

My son, worried about his father’s new obsession with dressing up video game characters, tried to soften the painful lesson that was soon to come.

“It’s okay, Dad. I don’t need any armor, and I’m just gonna use a knife.”

“A knife? A KNIFE?! I have serious firepower, you don’t stand a chance, kid.”

Was he patronizing me? He was definitely too sure of himself. Was he bluffing? Was he underestimating my merciless first-person shooter acumen?

Or was I about to step into a world of shit?

The game began. Our characters spawned on different sides of a bombed-out city. I ran through the streets, aiming and shooting at random stuff. Because it just seemed like the right thing to do.

After a bit, I stopped trying to blow stuff up, and decided to find my target. Through my gun’s scope, I finally spotted my son. There he stood, maybe a hundred yards out. A sitting duck (or standing in this case). He faced me, unflinching, with nothing but a knife. It reminded me of Jason Vorhees right before he brutally murders a bunch of teenagers, in any of the Friday the 13th movies.

The kid was toast. I hooted a war-cry and opened fire. A lot of things happened then. First, I realized it was really hard to aim my gun. Bullets bounced around him, and then he began to strut toward me.

Suddenly, he was in a full sprint, sliding and jumping and doing weird slidey-jumpy moves, as I continued to fire and miss.

“Hey man! No! Hey! I can’t— just stay still!“ I cried.

John Rambo’s words rang in my ears: “I could have killed ’em all, I could kill you. In town you’re the law, out here it’s me. Don’t push it. Don’t push it or I’ll give you a war you won’t believe. Let it go. Let it go.”

I was the oafish, stubborn-as-a-mule Sherriff Brian Dennehy, as I stood my ground and continued to fire and miss. Rambo-Son scaled walls and did those slidey-jumpy maneuvers again… and soon he was on top of me.

It was all so fast, violent, and efficient. He sliced through me like butter, and I was no more.

“AHHH! What the heck!” I yelled, as he plunged the blade into my chest.

A toothy grin was all he gave in response.

I respawned a moment later. Whole once more, and ready to continue the battle. His face still held the grin, as his character appeared before me like a demon summoned.

I suddenly knew the answer to a previous question: I hadn’t just stepped into a world of shit. I was dancing a goddamn jig in it.

I fired sporadically, while I ran in the opposite direction. He gave chase, and again I was cornered, and soon after that I was dead. This process continued for the next fifteen minutes. I shot at, and around him, then I screamed and ran, then he laughed hysterically, and then he murdered me.

The controller fell from my hand.

“Dad! Don’t throw the controller!”

“What’re you talking about?… It fell… from my hand.”

“No, you threw it down. Come on, let’s keep playing.”

“Kiddo, I think this is way too violent. You shouldn’t be playing this.”

“You’re just saying that because I’m way better than you.”

He was right, mostly. Something had shifted in our relationship. I was always the best at pretty much everything we did together. And now, he had surpassed me in something. At the age of nine.

I’d like to say my chest swelled with pride at that. But after watching him bury a knife into it for twenty minutes straight, I instead gave him a pat on his back.

“You got ten more minutes, then wrap it up.”

“Ten minutes?!”

“I’ll tell you what, when you’re done, we can go outside and shoot some hoops. Sound good?”

“Aww, yeah!” He said, with that toothy grin I loved so much.

He wouldn’t be grinning soon however, because I took him to the hoop. Repeatedly.

Some might say that last part was a bit harsh, and that maybe I’m a little immature. Hell, even just a tad insecure.

But I won that basketball game 15-5. And that’s what counts. I mean, not crossing him over and taking him to the hole repeatedly. Not that.

No, what counts is we had some honest-to-god, father/son bonding time.

Yeah, that’s what I meant. Jeez.

 

 

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