11 August 2010

My Mom Comes Out of her Gaming Closet

At this point in my life I see my parents twice year: Once in the summer, once at Christmas. Last week, I endured the once-per-summer visit back East, to rural Upstate New York.

My father, now in his '60s, has never used a computer in his life. He does not have an email address. He claims, rather defensively, to have no interest in such things. When it comes to technology, me thinks my dad doth protest too much sometimes. There has always been a vast divide between my interests and his. I pride myself on being different from him, and vice versa.

Computers and books and Star Wars were always my thing. Chain saws and cheese and feats of strength were his things.

My mom, however, has managed to achieve a low level of computer savvy over the last few years. She's got a laptop--my old one--and a Verizon broadband card, which I pay for. No, I am not running for Son of the Year, but I probably should be.

When I was a kid, whenever my mom was on the telephone for longer than 10 minutes, my dad would begin shouting, "GET OFF THE GODDAMN PHONE." Now, here in the future, it's the computer that he yells about.

"Where's mom?" I asked him last week.

"I don't know. She's probably in there ON THE GODDAMN COMPUTER AGAIN," he said.

My mother likes her email. Much to my relief, she has finally evolved beyond her forwarding phase. She no longer forwards inspirational junk mail--REACH FOR THE STARS!!!!!!!!--or my uncle's dumb jokes emails, or spam. And she's on Facebook now, which was basically the final nail in the Facebook coffin for me. Ever since she spotted me online one day and decided to ambush me with an instant message--HELLO SCOTT IT'S YOUR MOTHER--I've avoided the site. No matter. Facebook was kind of on the way out for me anyway. My mother just hurried it along a little.

What I realized on this most recent visit home, is that my mom, more than Facebook or email, loves videogames. She constantly seems to have a browser window open that's connected to Bookworm, or some variation of a match-three, Bejeweled-type game.

As you might imagine, I don't mind seeing this.

A week or so before I was due to fly home, my mom phoned and asked if I'd be willing to part with one of my Nintendo DSes. I currently have three DSes with me in Vancouver--a second generation DS complete with GBA slot, a DSi (black), and a DSi XL (maroon). And I've got at least two--or maybe three; I've honestly lost count--DSes back in New York.

Not only could I afford to part with one--or two, or three--I was, sort of surprisingly, looking forward to giving my mom a DS.

My parents don't really understand what I do for a living, or why I do it. They know that I have food and shelter, and that I can provide for myself, and that I seem reasonably happy. Beyond that, my affinity for videogames and nerd stuff seems to baffle them.

But when she asked for the DS, I thought, My mom gets it. She sees the value in videogames, a least in some small way, and by association, maybe she sees the value in what I do for a living. The prospect of finally being somewhat understood, at least by one of my parents, was really exciting to me.

So I gave her a DS--the DSi XL, specifically, since it's so big that I rarely take it anywhere with me anyway. I loaded up some games on it for her--her beloved Bookworm, and Bejeweled 2, and I threw in Aura-Aura Climber, just for the hell of it. I bought her a 4 GB SD card at Wal-mart, and showed her how to take photos. I also bought Wedding Dash, a Diner Dash variation, which I thought she might enjoy.

At one point during my visit home I spotted her actually reading the tiny instruction booklet for Wedding Dash, trying to figure out how to play the game. She looked so earnest, peering at the tiny font in the tiny booklet. It broke my heart a little, honestly.

The days are kind of long and lazy when I go home. My parents can't wait for me to get there, but once I arrive, we all sort of sit around and look at one another, wondering what to do. One afternoon, out of boredom, we went for a drive to buy a soft ice cream. My mom insisted on me sitting in the front passenger seat. She chose to sit in the back behind my father, who was driving. As we sped down Route 13, I noticed that she had her DSi XL out. She was quietly tapping at the screen, working her way through another level of Bookworm.

"How is that version of Bookworm?" I turned and asked.

She looked up from her game, alarmed. She shook her head. She pointed at the back of my dad's head and made a shushing motion. I realized that the reason she was sitting in the back seat was so that she could get a little gaming time in, without having my father complain about it.

The three of us rode along in silence--my dad peering at the roadway, my mom playing Bookworm in the back seat, and me, aware of what my mom was doing, but feeling more than happy to comply with her wish to sneak in a few minutes of private game time.

All of which leads me to suspect that I might have inherited more from my mother's side of the family than just my giant, lumbering frame and my round head.


  1. My dad (55) discovered YouTube last weekend on the Internet (a very complicated concept) when they came for a visit. Now all he wants to watch is either Elvis or Paul McCartney videos. It's not as fun as watching hours of funny cat videos... my personal favourite.

    It's interesting how things that are simple everyday commodities to us but seem "extraordinaire" - almost magical - to others.

    My mom is no stranger to computer, she works with one everyday BUT from time to time she will dig out my old Nintendo system and play for a few hours. Mario Bros., Link's Adventures, Duck Hunt... you name it she plays it! Maybe I should get her a WII for Christmas... a small unpgrade if you will.

    Thanks for the well written stories you share with all of us. And, yes, you should probably run for "Son of the Year".

  2. Forget your mom, Jones. What the heck's your dad's problem? Is he such a tyrant about telephone, internet and game usage that your mom quakes in veritable fear at being caught doing any one of those three things? If you want to be son of the year you should work on helping her escape the personal nightmare that she's lived in lo these many years!

  3. Ummm...this sounds a little too much like my life when I visit MY folks in Upstate NY (minus the videogaming mom unfortunately)...I am more than a little bit weirded out by this...

  4. I miss you Jones, and your mom, and Crispy Gamers. My mom asked me the other day if I still get email at Crispy Gamers, she wondered where to send me email. :-)