Growing up, I loved video games. Probably not in a 2018 sense where kids spend 23 hours out of the day playing Red Dead Redemption 2, Metal Gear Survive or God of War (this list courtesy of the google). If my 9-year-old self had his way, I would have spent every waking hour burning my eyeballs out in front of the family boob tube. However, my parents were “so mean” and my video game habit was held to a strict 30 min to 1 hour limit and this screen time was allowed only if chores and homework had been finished. Parents are the worst.
My first game console was an Atari 2600. I can still remember the way the joystick felt in my hands as I tried to manipulate the block and square “man” or “space ship” on the screen (before blocky guys became retro cool and turned into Minecraft). For those of you younger than 30 or so, the joysticks freaking sucked and were better served as weapons to beat your brother with. Kids today have no idea what horrors we had to live through (I’m talking about having to use the Atari joystick, not the beatings).
One of my favorite Atari games was Moon Patrol. The premise of Moon Patrol was to navigate your rover over caverns, blow up rocks, shoot aliens, and generally not die on the moon. While “researching” this post, I came upon the following Wikipedia page on Moon Patrol. Apparently, Moon Patrol is widely credited for the introduction of parallax scrolling in side-scrolling video games. If this sounds cool to you, I encourage you to revisit the feature photo above and tell me if parallax scrolling still turns you on.
If memory and Wikipedia serve me, you only had (3) lives before the aliens took your soul off of their moon. Because Moon Patrol was a damn hard parallax scrolling game or maybe because of the garbage Atari controller, those (3) lives never seemed to last very long. In fact, it seemed as though I was always on “my last life.”
Anyone who has ever played a video game knows what it’s like to be on your “last life”. Your pulse quickens, the Cheetos on your hands turn into a sweaty goo between your fingers and the rubber joystick and you instantly lose the necessity to blink. Should your mom happen to yell, “dinner time Danny!” while on your “last life” you may or may not yell, “DON’T BOTHER ME WOMAN, I’M ON MY LAST LIFE!” Basically, when you’re on your “last life”, you either tap into some primordial zone and ride that moon rover into the promise land or you meet your maker (mom or the aliens). Having been on my last life many a times, I’m sure there’s some real psychological and physiological reaction that takes place, but you’ll have to do your own searching for that Ted Talk. All I know is that it “gets real” when you find yourself down to your last “man.” Like, emoji 100 real (bad Dad joke).
Now here’s the point of this entire video game build-up…we are all on our “last life.”
We’ve all heard of the adage “you only have one life”. To me, that motto has been said so many times it’s lost all urgency and fear factor. As the first Pilgrims boarded the Mayflower in England, I can imagine the Captain saying, “seize the day lads, ye only have one life and yer go’in to the New World!” Only having “one life” probably pumped up those Pilgrims right proper to face adversity and live their lives to the fullest (until they figured out the New World didn’t have any Carlsberg or Guinness). Today, having only “one life” doesn’t breed enough desperation. It’s a flat watered down saying like English hand pumped cask ales.
We need a new motto for the times. One that Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z can relate to. “You’re on your last life” is the inspirational motto you didn’t know you needed.
Now, had that Mayflower Captain said, “yer on your last life ladies and gents, make it count”, those Pilgrims would have colonized America in a week, created the hoppiest IPA in all of Massachusetts, and then equipped the Mayflower with parallax scrolling capabilities where they would sail to the moon and kill all the freaking aliens!
It’s taken me nearly 39 years, but I think I just found meaning and value behind all that video game playing. If my parents had let me play some more, I’d have been a world renowned philosopher rather than an unemployed blogger talking about your “last life.” Oh well, there’s always next life.