Friday, November 17, 2006


I am old. Old and out of touch. I keep seeing these news stories all over the internet about the debut of a new gaming console called the Playstation 3. Apparently there have been long lines across the country, and a number of heated altercations, as people fight to be the first to own one. And here I am, oblivious to this nation's insatiable hunger for cutting-edge electronic entertainment. I just don't understand the hype at all. It's a GAME box - I'm pretty sure Sony is going to be making more of them. Are these collectors editions? What does this demand for hand-eye stimulation come from?

When I was a kid, we had Atari. 2600, baby. And that was a pretty big deal when it first came out. But it was revolutionary because you no longer had to trek out to the J.J. Peppers convenience mart around the corner from the park to play Space Invaders. For the first time you could play arcade games on your television in your home. It was breakthrough technology that shaped the way we live and interact. The medium, as you know, is the message. Instead of gathering in public places every once in a while to share in the gaming experience, people could now enjoy the same games at home on their own. And these machines soon became an appliance staple, like a toaster or a can opener. Every home had one.

Today, a lot of homes have multiple gaming machines, from multiple makers - in addition to personal computers, which are also chipped and equipped to accommodate a massive PC gaming industry. Where personal gaming had once been an entertainment novelty, it is now deeply woven into our nation's social fabric. Children are often born with them already in the house, and grow up devoting countless hours developing post-modern maladies like "Nintendo Thumb" and "Playstation Posture." And a lot of parents don't mind because, as every parent knows, Nintendo is a relatively cheap babysitter.

I understand the dazzling allure of modern gaming consoles - the graphics are so real they stop me sometimes when I'm doing laps at Best Buy. But when I see people lined up outside of buildings in the cold, willing to fight over an appliance that will still be available tomorrow and next week, I have to wonder what's happening to us as a people.

But then, our parents used to fight over Cabbage Patch Dolls in the aisles of Toys 'R' Us. So maybe it's less about an addiction to new technology and more about a competitive sense of entitlement that comes with life in culture of mass consumption.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I have a high score of Tetris to beat.

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