Back in, oh, 1990, I guess, Thomas’s roommate had a Sega Genesis system.
Wait. No. It goes back farther than that.
I was in high school in the early 1980s and I’ve always been something of a science fiction/fantasy geek (and I really love books and series the blur the line between the two, like Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series). Long about, oh, my sophomore year of high school, I found the science fiction geek corner of my high school’s social structure. I was the only girl in the group.
Every year we had one day when we had open lunch and the science fiction geeks would go to Friar Tuck’s arcade. Maybe it was my junior year, since Friar Tuck’s opened in 1982, but whatever. The point is that all of the science fiction geeks except for one went to Friar Tuck’s. They never invited me to come along. Not that I would have had the faintest idea what to do, but I would have figured something out. Probably. Instead, I went to the Fannie Mae candy shop with my female friends. It was a good time, but the Friar Tuck’s thing sort of put the idea in my head that I wasn’t good enough to game.
There was an Aladdin’s Castle at the mall where my friends and I hung out, but, again, girls. So I never crossed the threshold of the store, even though I really, really wanted to
In 1988, I started dating Thomas. He was a gamer and hung around at gaming places (maybe Friar Tuck’s? Not sure). I was still kind of bitter but also had internalized the idea that I didn’t deserve to learn to game and so I kept quiet about it.
*Now* it’s 1990 and his roommate’s Sega Genesis system. They were only roommates for a semester (Thomas got a single room halfway through the year), but I had enough exposure to it that my bitterness finally broke through and I asked Thomas, point-blank, to teach me how to game so that I could finally figure out whether I could do it or not.
Oh, God. I’m starting to cry. This is so stupid. Such a tiny little thing, but it’s a tiny little thing with deep, deep roots, and it hurts to dig those roots out.
In 1994, Thomas and I met Frank. Frank is also a gamer. And they’d sit around and talk about Doom or Wolfenstein 3D or whatever and I’d sit and twiddle my thumbs despite the fact that I’d talked to Thomas about this. This just dug the “you don’t deserve this” message in deeper.
Sometime in the late 1990s or early 2000s, they opened a Dave and Busters here in San Antonio. They allowed smoking in the game room and I have asthma but I didn’t want to be a wet blanket so I’d go along and wheeze while I watched everyone else play because, all together now, I didn’t deserve to learn.
Thomas offered to “teach” me on one of these outings. His version of “teach” was sink-or-swim. He wanted me to take the other controller of whatever he was doing and compete against him. Did I mention that I couldn’t breathe? When I refused, he said, “I thought you wanted me to teach you.” I didn’t know how to tell him that I was more imagining sitting on the sofa together with the controller of his PS2 while he showed me what all of those X’s and triangles, and blue diamonds and green clovers do and less competing against him when I couldn’t fucking breathe.
This is when I figured out that Thomas was never going to follow through on his ten-year-old promise and stopped going to Dave and Busters at all. It just rubbed in my lack of skill and made me feel lonely.
When Thomas and I split up in 2008 I was seeing two mental health professionals. I’d started seeing a psychiatrist in 2002 when I had my cancer and I kept going through my mom’s death in 2006 and the end of my marriage. I also started seeing a counselor on top of that. When I was at the counselor’s I suggested that maybe Thomas was so contrary because he was afraid I’d be good at it. Because several times I started working on something that I thought we were doing together (like learning Chinese) and when the rubber hit the road, he backed out because I progressed faster than he did.
He did teach me to play Tetris and Larn, which is something, and he gave me the opportunity to use the WII Fit (and left it here when he left), but so many people I know play, like, Zelda and things that use consoles and they’re still just a mystery to me, no thanks to Thomas.
In 2014, we had our pharmacy Christmas party at Dave and Busters. We ate a nice dinner and then Alex convinced me to try one of the racing games. I can’t remember if we did it once or twice, but Alex went to Dave and Busters fairly often with his paternal grandmother, so I figured he’d get use out of the cards we got with dinner even if he wouldn’t use them that night. So once someone else left, we followed suit.
In 2016, I woke up and saw one of my Facebook friends had posted a picture of a bird that looked to be made from Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and pipe cleaners*. I was kind of nonplussed but kept reading and for some reason that I’ll never fully comprehend, I decided to download Pokemon Go and give it a shot. And I’m pretty good at it, if I do say so myself. Not amazing — I’m not dedicated enough for that — but better than a lot of people I know. And several times in the last couple of weeks, when I made a new Pokemon Go friend (I’m up to 54!) they said, “Oh! You’re Olivia!” which is always a nice feeling.
I’m dabbling a bit in Jurassic World Alive and intent to give Wizards Unite a chance (particularly since I have a friend who really wants to play it and this will give me a chance to maybe see her once in a while). And one of my online friends said that I don’t necessarily need to use a console to game and that there are a lot of good games for the PC. So maybe I’ll try one or two of them.
Maybe this bitterness over gaming will pass someday after all.
Wow. What do I do for my Gratuitous Amazon Link? Something about gaming? Science Fiction? I mention Diane Duane’s Young Wizards books. Have I linked to So You Want to Be a Wizard yet? If not, well, there it is.