Maybe life really is just a game

Jeff Fox
Headed for trouble
Jeff Fox

I've always tried to be savvy and sharp. Keep your head in the game, read the play. Basic situational awareness. All that stuff. 

I have failed. I can now see the moment it all went south, the very wrong fork in a rough and rocky road. 

It passed by without notice. I was just running errands and trying to get on to the next thing. Or so I thought. 

My son, being an American boy child born after 1975, was into video games. But he's a good Scout, which means he's thrifty. He would gather up his old games to trade in for the must-have new thing. Then he'd talk dear Dad into driving him to GameStop. 

This is all boring to me. Maybe it's because I grew up when the graphics were bad and the games were cheesy. Yes, there was a time when I played a mean game of Ms. Pac-Man, but I grew up and moved on. 

For the longest time I clung to the idea that video games were something boys outgrew about the time they had to get serious about that last round of finals so they could finally escape college. That is not true and hasn't been for long time. I understand that but confess that on some level I still don't get it. 

There was this 007 deal that my son tried to get me into at one point, but I kept getting James Bond killed. Or something. I had a hard time keeping up. 

So I'm standing there at GameStop while my son is asking  questions and haggling over the new game. I looked around and said to myself, why don't you pick out something for yourself? 

Not one thing on the shelves held any appeal. None of it. I'll pass. 

That was it. I couldn't have remotely understood that I had just bent the arc of life in a sad direction. 

Author David McCullough makes the fundamental point that humans need stories as much we need food, shelter and clothing. Stories tell us who we are and how we find meaning. Of course his field is history, and he's talking about non-fiction. I'm a big fan of non-fiction, but there's more to this. 

Stories exist in books, movies and plays, but the world it is a'changin' – a lot – and one of those changes is in how people experience and often co-create their own stories. Video games do that. It's a big deal. 

So the advances in technology that allow us to sequence a genome or video chat from two continents away also allow us to fight Orcs. Or James Bond. Whatever. I'm still fuzzy on that.  

There's a wide, wild, interactive virtual world – or two or three – out there. I'm content with books and movies, but contentment and comfort have always been the enemies of innovation and progress. It’s something to think about. 

Jeff Fox is The Examiner’s editor. He’s on Twitter at @FoxEJC.