How videogames make you sick

I happen to be one of the lucky people who spend 60+ minutes per day (which is an alltime low too, so pity me) in public transportation to get to work, five days a week of buses and trams. After so many years of commuting I have come to loathe it with a passion, being crammed into tiny spaces with lots of smelly people I never chose to meet in the first place, breathing down my neck or smashing their bagpack into my face as they pass my seat; preferably a single one, if I can help it. And it strikes me: PT is a little bit like the “massively multi-player” promise – lots of people, no real cooperation. Everyone is ever eager to catch an empty compartment before having to share one with somebody else.

I am the last one to complain about that, though. I consider it a twisted joke of fate that I should be so dependent on PT, truth be told I am a misanthrope on most days which is why I play MMOs and run an internet blog to reach out to the world behind the veil of blessed anonimity. Right.
Anyway, there I am sitting tired and wet in the tram (gotta love the rain) at 6PM on my way home, when I am joined by a 40-something mother and her little son. I usually stare out of the window, avoiding all eye contact, but I couldn’t help noticing the weird hairdo of the woman – the sort that makes you think somebody put a chamber pot over his head and then cut along the edges. The thing that cracked me up was that the kid had the exact same hair as she did, which made the pair appear like the freakish twins of some monks order on planet Zork or something. Hillarious.

Contemplating fashion trends in far-away galaxies, I was not ready for the conversation which ensued between the 5-ish years old kid and his mother. It was, you guessed right, about videogames and made me wonder fairly soon whether I had not indeed blundered into some fucking parallel universe without me noticing. But this was still the real world, I did check on my smartphone and the internet never lies.

So, the little boy started asking mommy if he’d be allowed to play “the game” tonight. Sadly, I never got enough info out of the conversation to guess at what game it might have been, Kirby’s Wonderland or Call of Duty 3 (which I doubt considering the mother’s hairdo). He kept nagging her about it, you could tell he was really into it. Mom not so. When ignoring him and the continuous repetition of “no, you won’t tonight” didn’t show desired effect, she started explaining: “No, you can’t play honey, these games will make you horribly sick again.” Instantly I did wonder: had this kid maybe played Wii-Sports at zero degree temperature in the backyard? Had he accidentally swallowed a button from his XBOX pad?

“Yes you will honey, they make children horribly sick”, she continued. “You remember the nightmares you got after that evening at Samuel’s house? That’s what the games do. You get really bad dreams and you can’t sleep anymore”. So, there you got it – only it didn’t end there. She went on explaining how games really spread this mysterious sickness and how it had befallen most of his friends in pre-school, that it was horribly contagious. And I could see it before my waking eye: the evil cyber-virus, spread by Koopa Troopas and piranha plants shooting out of green pipes. Beware the contagion!

All the while, mirrored in the window glass, I watched the little boy’s face. You could tell that he bought his mother’s shit and that it was really her humbug tale more than anything that started to scare him. I wondered how I would’ve felt if somebody had tried to convince me that Pacman and Wonderboy were out to get me at the age of five; how it would’ve poisoned one of the few places in my life that were safe – an untouched shelter, an island of my own. I wondered too, briefly, if I might get away with smacking someone straight in the face in the middle of a crowded tram, but scratch that.

I hate people like that; people who think to protect others is to scare them. People who scare others because they are scared and ignorant themselves. Parents who won’t give their children the chance to deal with the reality of the times they are born into, so they can be outcasts among their peers. People who don’t think or choose the lazy way. People cruel enough to cut their son’s hair like Matthew Broderick in friggin’ Ladyhawke.

I wonder what wild tales she is going to tell him when he starts asking to watch TV. Or play rock music, uh-oh. I hope Samuel invites him back real soon and that he has the sense to tell his mother he’s off to play football.


  1. Kind of makes me wish for a backpack full of heavy things that could “accidentally” slip and hit the woman in a rather painful place. “Oh, I’m terribly sorry. I’m just a bit weak from playing video games. No, don’t touch the bag! It’s full of games and I wouldn’t want you to get infected. On second thought, it’s probably too late… you should get to a doctor as soon as you can.” *cough* *cough*

  2. Wonderful …

    There I was telling myself that letting the Irish have an election about the future of the EU can’t be that bad. They certainly can differentiate between whether the Euro was maybe a mistake in the first place and what to do now that it’s there.
    Then I watched some ads on TV, watched the latest Daily Show about California’s plebiscites and now read this post.

    I am now convinced that we are all going to die … soon

  3. The nightmares seem plausible, but that’s just general good sense, to not play zombie games right before trying to sleep. Trying being the most relevant word in my case.

  4. I’ve heard both ends of this come out in parent teacher conferences for years gone past. I’ve had the parents who are stupidly rigid with their teenagers, and you can just see the teenager counting down til college where he or she will then go buck wild and maybe do real damage to their lives. On the other hand I had parents who couldn’t figure out how to make Johnny do his homework instead of playing computer. I told them to take the damn power cord.

    Parents are frequently the biggest problem in screwed up kids’ lives. Unfortunately, there’s not much we can do about it, either, but sit and sadly shake our heads at their shenanigans.

  5. @Anonymous
    I was picturing a giant, flying anvil saying ‘ACME’. 😉

    I am not even going to ask!

    Haha, I am sorry! but then we ARE going to die soon, I guess, it just depends on the ‘how’! /DOOM

    I am still convinced he was actually begging to play Kirby’s Wonderland.

    You speak the truth. although, we could probably do a bit more than that sometimes – or we should really.

  6. i like the parents most that suddenly become educational specialists just because they happened to give birth to a child, which even amebas can do.

  7. @B
    The exclusive parental guide to “ultimate paedagogic wisdom” comes with the baby by special stork airmail, you know. it’s an open secret.

  8. Wow, I can’t think what to say to that story. It reminds me of the the reactions against Dungeons & Dragons after that stupid Tom Hanks film came out (Mazes and Monsters)…

  9. That’s so mean. I’d be tempted to dispel a few myths.

    “Hey kiddo, being fed poison and lies makes you sick. Not washing your hands before eating and after going to the toilet, might make you sick. But no one got sick from playing 30 minutes of a video game. Watching scary shows might give you nightmares, but it won’t make you sick. Oh, and riding public transport: That will definitely make you sick”.

    At best, they’ll leave.

  10. I love you, Syl. 😀 Haha! Great post. I commute too, and the thing I hate the most are people who cough right out into the faces of other people and you can just feel that you have been infected by a dozen different mutations of viruses that you REALLY don’t need right now..

    Anyyhow. Funny.

    Merry Christmas o/

  11. Lily – as in Adrenaline’s ol’ beartank? 😀

    And cheers! I am very much looking forward to less PT in the coming year! Happy Xmas to you too! 🙂

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