Video Games and Pie

Video Games and Pie

by Michael Channing

I’m riding from school on the bus. My parents will be at work when I get home. My brother will be at my Granny’s house. I will have three or four hours of solitude, and I’m planning to fill that time with two things. A video game. And a pie.

The game I’m casting forward to is an Atari game. Raiders of the Lost Ark. I'm excited by how different it is from other Atari games. Usually all you can do is mash the button as quickly as you can and jerk the joystick back and forth as the game gradually gets faster till you lose. The goal for most games is to keep your pixelated avatar alive longer than the last time. But this game is slow and thoughtful. You have to solve puzzles, match the required item with the right room or situation in order to progress to the next.

I borrowed the game from a friend. He moved away, leaving his game with me. Unfortunately he didn't give me the instruction manual, so I have no idea how to actually play. But I'm up for the challenge of figuring it out. I was in that home because my mom moved my brother and me away from my dad. He was abusive, did drugs, stole from us. Leaving was the right thing to do. But I left behind my best friend. Not long after we moved, my father moved back in. He continued to be abusive, to do drugs, to steal from us. At night I heard him beat my mother. Some days when I come home from school, my computer or my bike or the Atari would be pawned. Mom would have to buy it back. Coming home on this particular day, I looked forward to being alone and in control of my life.

That's what video games mean to me. They're not only a way to relax or escape, but a way to exert some form of control over my own life. When it all seems about to spiral away from my tenuous grasp, I at least have power over that little blob of pixels that's supposed to be Indiana Jones. I'm free to explore the limits of the world's borders and rules. I'm free to experiment. I can get frustrated, hit restart. I can fail, and it'll be okay. The world is mine for a while.

The pie, by the way, is a Jell-O no-bake cheesecake pie my mom had made the day before. I plan to have two pieces with whipped cream and some iced tea as I try to figure out what each group of pixels is meant to represent and what the game demands I do with them. Video games and pie. A quiet house. No one to hurt me, no one to disappoint. At thirteen, that time is ahead of me. At forty-two, that time is gone.

My Pixelated Heart

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Chokes and Warbles
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Chokes and Warbles, a collection of essays and poems by Michael Channing

January 22, 2018