Papa Spieler learned “Coming of Age!”
[Spieler Dad takes a detour from Memory Lane down Monthly Musings Drive as he regales us with a story of his ever-changing and elusive perfect gaming space. Wanna see your blog on the front page? Post a blog for this month’s Bloggers Wanted and you could see your work featured by Destructoid! – Wes]
Normally, I do not participate in Bloggers Wanted. There’s no reason I can think of ever to write in these ongoing plays, except that I imagine myself to be a loner and a rebel – like James Dean, except that I’m not famous and that I have less hair. That said, the topic of a special play space resonated with me, so here’s my story.
Growing up, having your own space was not easy to come by. My family wasn’t poor, but it was what you might call extended. I lived in a two-family house with my parents, my sister, my aunt, my uncle and their two children. Occasionally my grandparents would be thrown into the mix. This led to strict limits.
Having so many people around was a blessing and a curse. Every dinner was like a party, the holidays were festive and it always felt like there was company. That said, getting some privacy or alone time was a challenge. This was especially the case when I was trying to get time to play a video game.
I was a Sega kid growing up, so while my friends had the NES, I was the weird kid with the Master System. Like most kids of my day, my console was plugged into the main TV, which was a pain because I always had to fight people for screen time. In my case, it was with my sister AND my cousins, who wanted to watch 21 jump streetor some other shit show from the 1980s.
Some of my friends had their NES hooked up to TVs in their bedrooms, which totally blew my mind. I was so jealous of them and dreamed of one day having my own room with my own gaming setup. My hatred for them knew no bounds.
Christmas 1989 I got a Sega Genesis. It felt like vindication after years of Sega brand loyalty. Being Sega’s weird child in a Nintendo world wasn’t such a bad thing anymore, because now I had the hottest console at my fingertips. To go with the console, I also got this cheap 19-inch CRT TV from my aunt and uncle. My Genesis was hooked up to this little tray in a spare bedroom, which became my space – a refuge, if you will – and it was heaven. I’m sure it was heaven for everyone too, as it freed up the main TV for everyone to watch MacGyver.
About a year later, my parents, my sister and I moved to another house up the road. It was the first time I had my own room. I had major plans for this space, which were crushed when my mother pointed out that my ideas would never work. However, what I had now was really my own space. My bedroom has become my gaming link and will remain so for almost eleven years.
After college, my room started feeling cramped as hell. I felt like I had too much stuff, and a big TV and all my gaming stuff wasn’t helping. Sitting or lying on my bed is also an uncomfortable way to play a video game if you’re an adult.
Also at that time, I had a girlfriend who hated video games. She couldn’t bear to see them, so moving my consoles out of the bedroom was advantageous, as their mere presence ensured that no one but me would touch my ding dong. What can I say ? I was in my twenties and it was all about my ding dong. Looking back, not much has changed.
It was during this time that the entrepreneur in me came up with a plan. I was going to convince my parents to turn the unfinished basement into a den. Come to think of it, it was a better deal for them than for me. I agreed to do most of the work and buy all the materials. In turn, the value of their home would increase.
For almost a year, I struggled in that basement with a little help from my dad. The floor was tiled, the lighting put in, the walls plastered and painted. I even put some fucking moldings. I don’t even have crown molding in my fucking house.
I then furnished the room with a large comfy section and installed a big, heavy DLP HDTV for my gaming setup. After a year, the ultimate gaming setup was complete. Then, literally a week later, I had the opportunity to move to Italy, an offer too good to pass up. I dumped the girlfriend who hates video games, packed my bags and left. After spending a year building the ultimate arcade, the only game I would make would be on a Nintendo Game Boy Advance. I don’t regret the decision.
My stay in Italy was an opportunity to grow. It was life with a very small safety net. Mom and dad were on the other side of the world and I couldn’t go to them when the going got tough, nor did I want to. But I was not alone; I still had family and friends watching over me. I didn’t play a lot of games during that time, but the work I did was still game-related, so I could stay on top of what was going on. I also got to see how a different culture looks at the game, which was the only reason I was there. Eventually my time in Italy came to an end and I packed up to go home. As for my trusty Game Boy Advance, I gave it to my little cousin.
Returning to my parents after about a year away was a real shock to the system, but I didn’t stay long and moved in less than six months. I just couldn’t be under my parents’ roof anymore, so I moved in with my best friend in South Florida and got a job in Miami.
This time in Florida was awesome. We built a cool gaming setup in the condo and when we weren’t working we had a great time playing, mostly playing sports games. Funny thing is, we didn’t have much time to play video games. We were both very hard working at the start of our careers and if we had time to relax, playing video games was not on the to-do list. We were in Miami after all, and there were more interesting things two guys in their twenties with disposable income could do in South Florida.
While in Florida, I met the girl who would become my better half and we moved back up north and settled in New York. We took a small but ridiculously expensive apartment and furnished it as best we could. My girlfriend, who was not a gamer, indulged in my gambling habit, unlike my ex. Sometimes she would sit and watch me play in the small living room, which doubled as a dining room, kitchen, and guest room, because apartments in Manhattan are tiny.
Over the years, we moved up the corporate ladder, started earning more, and moved to bigger places. Eventually we bought a house. It was now that I started building my own dedicated play space again, one that would look like the one I had built in my parents’ basement.
At the new house, I finished the basement again and made it cozy. One section has been turned into my own gaming sanctuary. I have set up a large TV, section and shelves to display all of my gaming tchotchkes that I have collected over the years. It wasn’t as nice as the one in my parents’ basement, but it was damn close. The difference is that this space was completely mine and mine only… for about two years.
I was in my own play space when the girl who indulged my gambling obsession, who became my wife, told me that her contractions were getting closer. I was playing Mass Effect 3 when she told me the news. I saved my game, calmly went upstairs, collected the pre-packaged luggage and calmly drove her to the hospital.
That was a little over four years ago. That play space, the one in my own basement, which almost rivaled the one I had built in my parents’ basement, is gone. It has been replaced with a pop-up Cinderella castle, trampoline, toy boxes, paint easel, piano, rocking horse and various assorted toys. It’s reminiscent of Walmart’s toy section after a Black Friday sale, but less stabby. It’s not pleasant to watch and I pretend it doesn’t exist, because it worries me.
I learned that when you have kids, every part of the house becomes theirs. Everywhere you look there is evidence of this as toys are in every room. My daughter comes into the house, throws off her jacket, takes off her shoes, throws off her socks, asks for snacks, and my wife and I take care of it. We live in terror of our four year old.
There is no longer a place in my house that I can truly call my own – not even the bathroom. If I go to the bathroom to take one of my patented forty-five minute morning flushes, within thirty seconds my daughter is knocking on the door asking me what I’m doing. I now take my dumps at the office.
As for my current “play space”, I have a small corner in the basement. My consoles and many game-related accessories sit behind closed media cabinet doors. Things that don’t fit on or in the cabinet are on high shelves and the TV is mounted high off the floor, out of the reach of greasy, dirty little fingers. My daughter knows very well that she should never, ever touch anything in that little corner, because they are daddy’s toys and if she were to touch them, she would have to go live in the attic with her naughty brothers and sisters. Experts say telling her that could be psychologically harmful, but she hasn’t disturbed my play space yet, so I’ll just roll the dice on this one, for now.
It’s been nearly twelve years since I built this perfect play space in my parents’ basement and the quest to replicate it has become my personal white whale. It’s hard to say if I’ll ever rebuild this perfect space, but so far it’s been a fun trip and I wouldn’t change it for the world.
Maybe one day, when the kids are married and out of the house, and I’m retired, I’ll build that perfect space instead of buying a stupid sports car, playing golf, or moving house. in a horrible retirement condo community in Florida. It’s a simple dream, for a simple man.