Sunday, February 5, 2017

Caper Envy, Big Gem, Video Game Hell

Mid-winter ennui has settled into my bones, and I find myself uncharacteristically bored and unfocused. I happened to catch a bit of the Tom Hanks movie “The DaVinci Code” on TV a few nights ago, and I realized that what is lacking in my life is a good old-fashioned, heart-thumping chase by government officials in helicopters. Tom Hanks and his lady-sidekick cryptographer are having so much fun in that movie. I know they’re on the run and it’s all very serious and Tom Hanks has to prove his innocence, but still, they get to zip all around the Vactican in one of those tiny cars, barely one step ahead of the authorities, and talk about the mysteries of the universe with a slightly drunk Ian McKellen. There is no intrigue in my life, and, as much as I enjoy believing otherwise, no one is after me. I would appreciate a little adventure. Maybe a government helicopter could just come and hover over my apartment for a few minutes to put a decent scare into me. Then again, in today’s climate, I suppose I should be careful what I ask for.

A symptom of my malaise has been a fascination with the Home Shopping Network’s jewelry sale shows. They come on around 9:00 p.m., just as I’m trying to wind down my overwrought brain, and I find them hypnotic. Don’t worry—I’m not sitting there with a credit card and cell phone in hand, as there is no scenario in which I would actually buy one of their frighteningly gaudy offerings. What fascinates me is their host’s salesmanship. If I owned a retail store of any kind, I would head-hunt every one of those HSN jewelry salespeople. They have mad sales skills and a brilliant formula: There is the main salesperson, (male or female, it doesn’t matter) with a Deep South tent-revival preacher cadence, a fiery crusade against the forces of Big Gem, and a warm, down-home, “I’m just regular folks” vibe that's a lethal combination in and of itself. But then they add the double-whammy of the submissive sidekick, whose role is to act as the gospel choir, backing up everything the main host says with cult-like sighs and ecstatic eye-rolls of admiring agreement. It’s fantastic. Every single time, they almost manage to convince me that dropping $67.90 (with Flexpay!) on a Jay King Compressed Turquoise and Blue Topaz Sterling Silver Ring is a great idea. Almost—but so far, not quite. If you ever find me pushing a shopping cart full of my worldly belongings down the street, with a giant garish ring on each of my fingers, you’ll know they’ve won. By the way, lest you think I’m the only one, my cat Buddy is just as enamored of the HSN jewelry shows as I am. He sits miraculously still on my lap and watches it with me, eyes huge and enraptured by all of the glorious shinies.

Because of my afore-mentioned ennui, I recently re-downloaded Neverwinter. It’s easy to play and a great distraction from the fact that I’m completely drained of motivation to send out my novel or work on my writing projects. I rolled a new toon--a sassy elf Rogue--and one of my early quests was to instigate a war between two opposing factions of rat-humanoids by slaughtering all of the inhabitant of one faction’s safe house and dropping propaganda literature from the opposing faction. I cheerfully accepted the quest, all the while knowing that it was an awful, immoral thing to do. That led me to consider all of the other immoral things I have done in video games, of which there have been many. I have slaughtered legions of innocents over the years. I wonder if there is some sort of special, video game hell to which a pixelated version of myself will get sent to atone for all of my video game crimes. I figure I’ll cross that bridge when I come to it. Right now, I’m too busy pillaging and instigating proxy wars. A girl can only think about so much at once!

--Kristen McHenry

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