The biggest pop culture addiction I have ever had did not come from changing to a channel, but from pushing the video\AV button on the remote. From the moment I pressed that button I was transferred to a world adorned with colorful characters and pixelated emotions. A world where the largest problems came not from making ends meet or passing a final, but from slaying a machine for the sake of wooland creatures or saving the world with a sword of infinite power, and all lifes secrets were revealed with a mechanical up, up, down, down, left, right, left, right, A, B, start. If you must, call me a geek, a shut in, a nerd, a loser, just know that my biggest addiction I have ever had period was video games.
It all started, simply enough, with a gift from my stepdad; a brand new SEGA Genesis. Complete with controllers and the staple game, Sonic the Hedgehog. I was hesitant at first, not quite understanding the point, but soon I picked up on it. As I played more I became more involved, often jerking up on the controller, knocking over glasses and other trinkets, in a futile attempt to get the main character, a blue hedghog, over a bed of spikes. This was the spark to the fire, the fuel for an unstoppable engine, and my parents saw it too. Immediately, I’m sure, they saw it in their eyes that this box was sent from the devil himself to occupy my easily molded mind with visions of technicolor landscapes and robot enemies. From this I soon learned about the Nintendo 64, a 64 bit box sent from Japan to entertain with enhanced sound and, dare I say it, 3D images! I acquired one much to my parents dismay, and soon learned about Mario, a little man in overalls that dove into pipes and battled dragons to save a princess. A fully 3D world caused me to fall in love with the adventures of this strange Italian jumping bean. I had many of the installments on this console more notably: Mario Kart, Banjo Kazzoie, Super Smash Bros, and of course, Zelda; all of this was just more coal to the fire. After that I would move unto playstation playing final fantasy, tomb raider, and Tekken. Then I moved to Dreamcast revisiting Sonic, Jet Grind Radio, and Bushido Blade. My interest still increased and soon I owned a PS2; then a GameCube; then the Xbox.
It is also important to note that I was at the forefront of most video game obsessions. Remember Pokemon? I do. Gameboy games: red, blue, yellow, silver, pearl, tv shows, plush toys, and of course the collectors cards. I was with the pokemon revolution that adults so intently puzzled over on the evening news; although I do regret not being able to catch all of them on one game. Did you ever go to the mall and see the teenagers jumping on the dance pads like a spastic four year old? I was one of those kids. Me and a group of rebellious wannabes could play heavy, the hardest difficulty in the game, and then go home and do the same thing at someone else’ house with the foam pads we shelled out 50 dollars for. And I don’t believe there’s any way to forget Halo; even if you didn’t play most video games you played Halo; even if you didn’t play Halo you knew about Halo. I was at the midnight release for the sequel, and I remember rushing to my cousins house to learn what had happened to the cyborg war hero since the last time we left him. Then, of course, came the countless hours of online play that truly made the game what it was. I may not have any recollection of the influence pop culture has had to the rest of America, but I can definitely tell you I was a junkie for the pixelated fantasy worlds.
Sadly for me though, I have grown out of what I once was. I care more about people in general and catching up on what I’ve ignored; I watch what I eat and exercise regularly in anticipation of my elderly years. I’m more active in school, and the main headache, work. That doesn’t mean that the spell is completely broken however, I still get cravings you see; even as we speak I am gearing up to head over to my friends to complete the hardest challenge in a game called Rock Band: Playing a 84 song marathon spanning music from the 70s, 80s, and 90s that is sure to make our fingers throb on the plastic frets and clicking strum that is the guitar hero guitar. I have definitely drifted from where I once was, sitting in my room with a drink in hand, intently watching the screen jump with over the top effects and colors. Needless to say, video games had made me a bit blind to other media and culture, but I wonder if that is the essence of pop culture; an idol or fountain of information that, in the grand scheme of things, doesn’t account for anything, but rather acts as a way out of a life we see as boring; for us it is like a mirror into another world that we just can’t put down, but for others it is like a virus that will eventually consume every moment of idle free time we have.