17 August 2010

Had to Find Other Ways to Waste My Time

Despite my birthdate, I’ve never gotten into video games. At least, not since I enjoyed a simple Star Trek game that worked like Battleship with photon torpedos. That was in the late 1970s, I believe; my mom was bringing home an early Apple with a shoebox modem to work on her second bachelor’s.

Once that fun was over, however, I never spent an afternoon loading quarters into an arcade machine. I never owned any home system. I helped a friend get through one challenge in Myst, and then lost interest. I like sudoku and solitaire on my handheld, but those are simply paperless versions of the original.

Last month Godson showed me a version of Lego Batman on a handheld device. The particular challenge engrossing him at that moment involved running around Wayne Manor hitting things so they turned into checkers pieces. (I suppose those are Lego coins.) Robin tagged along, every so often hopping back out of Batman’s way. I silently lamented the lack of character development.

Given all that, I might seem like a poor candidate to enjoy Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series and the new movie adaptation. Those stories reflect the outlook of a young man whose view has been colored by videogame pixels, so he thinks of life in character ratings (“awesome”), challenge levels, fights, and prizes.

But the details of Scott’s worldview aren’t hard to figure out. And its fundamentals are similar what we see in the story of Walter Mitty, Catherine Morland, or Don Quixote. All those characters try to view their worlds through the screen of some shiny, scary new storytelling form. And their basic narrative journeys all involve discovering what’s real about life, and what’s real about themselves. The rest is detail.

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