Monday, August 1, 2011

Trapped in a Video Game

I have always had an overactive imagination. I'm not sure whether my imagination grew from restricted TV/computer privileges or whether the pre-existing imagination made the restrictions bearable, but the fact remains that as a child, i was only allowed one hour of TV or computer time each day. For those of you who think you may have read that sentence wrong, allow me to reiterate: in a given day, i could watch one hour of TV, or i could use the computer for one hour. When i was in middle school, the growing prevalence of longer films such as The Fellowship of the Ring convinced my parents to extend our priveleges to three hours a day. But by then, i had already spent much of my childhood outdoors.

Keep in mind that one hour of computer time was hardly restrictive to a seven-year-old in the pre-Facebook era. I mostly used my computer time to play computer games, and i was perfectly happy to invent my own games when not reading or watching "The Magic Schoolbus". In fact, my siblings and i often invented games together. We'd play slaves or pirates or war (or some combination of the three) on the dirt pile by the deck. We'd climb to the top of the swingset and inch our way across. I'm not sure what the point of this was, but it was fun. We'd deconstruct our plastic play house and rearrange the parts into castles and businesses. We'd make whirlpools in the swimming pool, we'd prepare for an apocalypse-level natural disaster in the corner by the peach trees, and we'd build houses out of discarded tree limbs and bricks found in our grandmother's back yard. But our favorite game of all was "Trapped in a Video Game".

The fact that none of us had ever played a video game until 2000 or so did not deter us one whit. We played this game for several years, often adding sequels to the original game that had started us on this crazy adventure.

I'm not sure where the idea came from. I know we were aware of video games, and i know we'd seen Jumanji, so it's possible that it was some combination of the two.

Basically, a highly-anticipated video game was released on the black market. The reason it was only available illegally is that every single person who had played it during the testing phase had mysteriously disappeared. No one knew what had happened to them, but since this epidemic was only affecting players, it was assumed that there was some kind of link. Of course, since this story was written by Hollywood -- i mean, a bunch of homeschooled children who had never played video games -- the game continued through all the testing phases despite the ill-defined danger that threatened all players and was released, albeit illegally.

My siblings and i got our hands on a copy of the game and began playing. It was prefaced by a disclaimer, warning us of the danger that awaited all players. We ignored it, chose our characters, and began to play. Suddenly, we were pulled into the TV screen! We dissolved into pixels and found ourselves inside of a strange, digital world. We realized (because we were psychic, i suppose) that we had to play through the game and defeat it in order to escape and rescue the other players. None of them had been able to finish playing yet because none of them had our intelligence, strength of character, physical fitness, or resilience. (Also, though we didn't know enough about video games to think of this, because most of them were testers who were stuck in a beta test version full of bugs and half-written story lines.)

We were eventually victorious, of course. The game involved a number of dangerous challenges, such as climbing on top of swingsets and jumping around on dirt piles and battling fierce (imaginary) foes. The sequels that i mentioned before all happened as a result of our cunning and courage. After everyone had been freed (and made up some more plausible excuse for their disappearance than "sucked into a TV screen and trapped in the video game"), the makers decided that their game wasn't so dangerous after all. And since we had "defeated" it, ordinary citizens could now play without danger of entrapment. So the weird rumors died out, the game became immensely popular, and the makers decided to capitalize on their success by creating a sequel. Whose testers all mysteriously disappeared.

By the time we got to the third or fourth sequel, the world had pretty much figured out the pattern: testers all disappear, game somehow gets finished anyway, banned because of disappearances, sold on the black market, and then somehow everyone shows up again and the game is fine. So legally, of course, the games couldn't be sold, but no one in our imaginary universe really cared if the games continued to be made and sold. And so my siblings and i were able to buy all the sequels as soon as they were released, and save the world over and over again for many years. You're welcome, world.

And if you're thinking that this all sounds a lot like Spy Kids 3, i'd remind you that these games had pretty much ended by 1998 or 1999, while the first Spy Kids movie didn't come out until 2001. And also that we didn't use any lame 3D special effects.

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