Get a (Virtual) Life (As Published by

I have enjoyed playing video games from time to time. I have invested in several video game systems over the years. After all, I like it better to play on my Sokitumi 3000 at home than paying a week’s wages in quarters in an arcade. There are two reasons for this: 1. Arcades are not on every corner as they were in my teenage years. 2. Given than I am in my early 40’s, my Dad no longer supplies the week’s worth of quarters (no matter how nicely I ask).

If you don’t want to invest in a Sokitumi 3000, you can go to the Internet and play a wide variety of games free of charge. You can even sometimes combine your video game system and the Internet and play games with total strangers within the privacy of your own home. The gaming world allows you to be a soldier, fight space aliens, or join a rock group. You can do all of these things awhile sitting in your pajamas with a plate of cookies. If you want something less sedentary, you can get a sports game that will have you on your feet swinging, throwing, or running (and never your living room).

I have come to understand that part of the draw of a video game is to live vicariously through the role of a virtual entity. Who wouldn’t want to be a princess saving plumber, a major league baseball player, or a heroine in painted on clothes saving the world from apocalyptic destruction? Personally, I do not wish to be a heroine in painted on clothes (but that’s just me). Who wouldn’t want to join a rock group that hasn’t recorded anything new in 30 years? Imagine if you will, the following scenario: “Hey man, can you play guitar? Ace Van Snider broke his hand.” “No, but I have a guitar shaped game controller and I know all the color patterns.” “Well, get up on the stage with us, man. YOU’RE IN!” One must admit it’s a great escape from the world.

However, I have become greatly confused of late. Players all over the world (me included) have been drawn into a different type of game. I am referring to games of simulation. You start in a virtual environment that is completely bare and build it from the ground up. You can be a virtual farmer or a virtual college girl in a dormitory. I personally do not want to be the virtual college girl (but that’s just me). You can build an amusement park or a restaurant. The simulated gaming world offers a wide variety of scenarios. What’s strange is that you can even be an average Joe living in a virtual home. You can buy virtual furniture, virtual appliances, and a virtual painting to go above the virtual fireplace paid for with virtual money. I have even seen someone seat their virtual character on a virtual couch and play a virtual video game on a virtual wide screen HDTV. That’s right. I saw someone playing a video game where there avatar was playing a video game. I was afraid that avatar’s avatar would also be playing a simulation game that would create a virtual vortex that would end the world as we know it.

What gets even crazier is that some people even revolve their real lives around their virtual characters. I got home from work the other day and asked my wife to run an errand with me. She was sitting at the computer and said she had to wait until her cookies were done. I took a sniff and noticed something strange. I couldn’t smell anything baking. My wife corrected me. “No, my ErsatzWurld avatar is baking cookies. If I leave now, they’ll burn. Do you want my home to catch fire?” I asked her to forgive my obvious thoughtlessness and ran the errand alone. When I returned she was tending her online farm. After all, you can’t let virtual blueberries go to waste.

I can’t help but wonder what will happen next. Perhaps the virtual farming industry will take an economic nosedive. This will inspire three virtual musicians to host a virtual fund raising concert. You can have virtual vendors selling overpriced virtual t-shirts. You can recruit the rock group gamers to fill the virtual bill. Maybe Ace Van Snider’s hand has healed. If not, I’ve been practicing.


Praise Her from the Rooftop (But Watch Your Mouth)

Often in my writing, I tend to throw a quotation from a historical figure, or an old friend, or my Dad. I have been recently been reminded of two that I have had to utilize in a way that I did not anticipate in nearly 16 years of marriage:

  • “Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” – Abraham Lincoln.
  • “A fool uttereth all his mind: but a wise man keepeth it in till afterwards.” – Proverbs 29:11

For the past two years, my wife has been involved in an exercise regimen at a local fitness center (actually a “wellness center” but I won’t go down that bunny trail again). Like many, she has fallen off the proverbial horse only to get back on and kick it harder. She has made tremendous strides and I am very proud of her. The problem is that with every milestone she hits, the muscles of my restraint are tested to the breaking point.

It all started innocently enough today. My wife comes home from the gym…umm…fitness…that is…wellness center. She then goes into her post-exercise ritual. She pulls at the elastic waistband on her gym clothes (or is it wellness center apparel?). She stretches the waistband about a foot from her body. At this point, she reminds me that when she first bought those pants, they fit like a tourniquet and made her eyes pop out like she was Marty Feldman. Next, she steps on the scale. She screams with the enthusiastic glee of a schoolgirl watching her favorite teenybopper star on TV. Now, I am no proverbial fool. I will not disclose the reading. Let’s just say she has lost more than 50 lbs. and it shows.

So far through these rituals, I believe I have acted with kindness and support. That was until she whipped out two more items: a “Body Composition Profile” and a tape measure. She begins measuring various parts of her body and recording the results. She begins to measure her waist and asked me to read the measurements. I began laughing because she was using the metric side. I pointed this out to her because I didn’t really want to state that her waist size was 124. Unfortunately, the laughter wore on my restraint. She asked me to read the measurement of upper arm. I looked at the measurement and said “Lessee now, if you carry the 6….” She then asked me to surf the net for a body mass index (BMI) scale. I asked her if she needed standard, metric, or Kelvin. Mind you the question made no sense and it got dirty stares from my wife and daughter. Nonetheless, it made me laugh. I gave her the reading from the BMI scale. She then recorded this result in her Body Composition Profile. Her girlish joy returns as she read the profile’s results: “I’VE GONE FROM BEING OVER FAT TO FAT”. Now, I am trying to be supportive but I cannot control my laughter. I try to picture the average husband looking his wife in the eye and saying the following: “Baby, you look great. This week you’re fat. At the rate you’re going, you’ll just be fatter than average in two weeks”. Such an utterance can only lead to the husband winding up in the doghouse. The dog will glance at him and ask “So, what are YOU in for? I chewed up her running shoes.”

In the end , I managed to get through this ordeal without my wife thinking I was a cretin. It is with this in mind I address husbands worldwide. Gentlemen, if you wife takes (or has taken) such a venture, be supportive and encouraging. The trick is in being careful about HOW you support and encourage. I’ll leave you with a final quote from Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part One: “The better part of valour is discretion; in the which better part I have saved my life”.