Third-Life Crisis

When I was twenty-five, there was a concept buzzing around known as the “quarter-life crisis,” which was the mini-version of a mid-life crisis for twentysomethings, only without the baldness and new Ferrari. It dawned on me that as I approach thirty-two years old, there’s probably a “one-third-life crisis” looming. It doesn’t sound nearly as nifty though, but it might explain why I just bought a Playstation 3.

Now let me provide some context. I’m not what you’d call a gamer. This is the first console I’ve ever even bought for myself. Basically, nineteen Christmases passed between the time I unwrapped a shiny new Nintendo and the time I unwrapped a sleek new Wii. And I’d only wanted the Wii because I heard it played old Nintendo games.

And things haven’t changed much. The main reason I wanted the PS3 is because I heard it played the Simpsons Arcade game. I’m sort of obsessed with the Simpsons Arcade game. It has lived legendarily in my mind for about twenty years—it was an arcade cabinet that sat in the corner of the lobby of Chi Chi’s. My parents would give me a couple of quarters to play the game while we waited to be sat for a table.

What I’m basically saying is I wanted a PS3 as a two-hundred-and-fifty dollar Simpsons-Arcade-game-playing-machine. Three-hundred dollars if you throw in the second controller. And another ten bucks to buy the game.

I wasn’t going to justify it to anybody. Not to myself, not to the wife, not to the computer-gaming geeks who could easily download an emulator of the game for free. I imagined playing the Simpsons from the comfort of my couch—far away from the grubby, roachy corner of the Chi-Chi’s lobby where it smelled like industrial-grade restaurant cleaning solution and vats of taco beef, and reeked of the desperation of children trying to hang onto their last life because their parents only gave them two quarters. That’s the kind of thing that’ll toughen a kid up.

Modern gamers have it easy with their air conditioning and Mountain Dews and game-save features. We had to beat the games in one sitting. And really, that’s assuming the game was even beatable. Try getting past the first level, you sorry bastard. While modern games are made to be played and enjoyed, older games were made just to take your money. Whether it was all your quarters or dropping all your Christmas money on an NES game, it really didn’t matter to the game developers whether the games were even playable. It was like nobody learned the lessons from the 1983 video game crash and all those ET Atari cartridges buried somewhere in the desert.

Old-school gaming had its own mythology. Its own dark secrets in the desert. It had kill-screens and glitches and legends about whether Mario could jump over the flagpole. It went on in dark arcades and it went on in late-night phone calls to the Nintendo hotline. It went on in your friend’s basement who had the Power Pad and it went on in the grody Chi-Chi’s lobby with the roaches nibbling at your feet. Man, it went on in your head.

That snotty-nosed employee at GameStop who must be like sixteen or seventeen years old has no idea. No idea. He plays games online with his buddies all wearing their headgear. Look kid, we played a real game. It was a game called life. And as for the Simpsons Arcade game—well, you couldn’t even play the rest of your quarter because the waitress had your table ready, and your parents were really unfair. And on top of it, you were risking massive internal organ failure with each bite of your Super Cinco Sampler, risking taking part in the largest Hep A outbreak in US history.

All that for a game. A game, man. It was love. So no, I won’t justify my purchase of the PS3 to play The Simpsons arcade game to anyone. God knows I’m going to heaven because I’ve been in hell.

Talk about a third-life-crisis, indeed. But I was also eager to try some of the new games for the PS3. After some research I decided on Little Big Planet and Borderlands.

My thoughts on Little Big Planet: “How is this fun? Why would I want to decorate the level I’m playing with stickers?”

My wife’s thoughts: “I love it! The whole point of the game is to get things to design your character and decorate your house!”

My thoughts on Borderlands: I haven’t played a first-person-shooter since I had an illegally-obtained floppy disk of Wolfenstein 3D for DOS. Dear God, how do you play this thing? How does anyone remember the buttons? And where’s the Zelda cave with an old man with a sword?

My wife’s thoughts on Borderlands: (while screaming) “I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT’S GOING ON. THIS IS REALLY STRESSING ME OUT. I CAN’T SEE ANYTHING. I CAN’T SEE ANYTHING. *mashes all the buttons frantically*



Me: “You’re the one who said you wanted me to get a game like this.”

Her: “I didn’t want this. I wanted Grand Theft Auto. I wanted to sleep with hookers and stuff! OH WAIT. LOOK I KILLED SOMEONE! LOOK AT ALL THIS STUFF I CAN PICK UP!”

Jesus. Thank God for the Simpsons. Pure, sweet nostalgia. Milk and honey. Manna. And why exactly does Smithers kidnap Maggie anyway?

23 thoughts on “Third-Life Crisis

  1. I’m a fan of Borderlands. Though I stopped playing ages ago and will probably never go back.

    In my personal third-life crisis I’ve owned three Xbox 360s ‘cuz they keep getting stolen. And each time I replace one I wonder why, not because it’s signed its own death warrant by coming into my apartment, but because I hardly ever use it. There was so much more time to play video-games when we were younger. Now there’s real life stuff to do.

    And I’m calling “foul!” on the whole having to beat NES games in one sitting. Rygar may not have had a save function, but it did have a pause screen, which is what you did when you became tired. You just had to turn off the television and cover the power light so Mom wouldn’t see it was still running when she walked by it.

  2. Man I gotta tell ya, you’re so right on with this entire post. I’m only 26 but man my heart goes out to the old Nintendo and arcade games and pinball machines. The newest system I have is a ps2 and that’s only because my family back home don’t use it anymore and gave it to me with like 30 games. I get bored with new games easily and always end up spending my night playing the good ol regular NES. It’s more challenging and brings me back to childhood. And your statement about the young worker at gamestop is spot on. I visited an arcade a couple months ago and the only people working there were some young kids that don’t know shit about pinball machines and arcade cabinets. I witness them pick up a pinball machine and drop it to get a quarter out. No wonder why 8 of their games were broken down. they beat the games instead of getting them fixed. And the young kids working there had bad attitudes. I’d rather see some 50 year olds working there and fixing the broken machines. Anyways I respect your post. Keep up the awesome work. I’m a fan. Cheers!

  3. I became a gamer when I married Husband, which I imagine happened to a lot of women. Anyhow, I feel for your wife re “Borderlands,” although I have suddenly become really killer at it (so tell her to keep it up!). I’d say the biggest reason I love it so much, however, is the fact that I get to pick stuff up. That’s why people play video games in the first place, right? To pick stuff up?

  4. I got addicted to my Xbox for a while but I haven’t powered it on in about six months. Modern games are too expensive and not as unique as older games. My goal now is to build a little emulator PC for my TV and put about every game from NES to Playstation 2 on there.

  5. Spent many hours playing Russ N Attack in the local pizza place growing up. When it came out for NES surprisingly it was a lot easier. Miss the old days of a good side scrolling video games.

    1. that would be amazing if it were like a giant version of the Hostess TMNT pudding pies they used to make. Lbs of green tea filling, though .. *shudders*

  6. Best arcade ever: Tom’s Cove campground, Chincoteague, Virginia circa 1986. A giant clubhouse a short walk from our campsite, wall-to-wall games but usually had the whole place to myself. Man, how I loved the game Trojan (no relation to the condoms). Your pieces are always such a pleasure to read and I find much in common. I never got a system after the original Nintendo either–until my mid-twenties when I spur of the moment bought a Nintendo Gamecube. I played for about 15 hours straight (getting sucked right back into it like a teenager), had horrible nightmares all that night, and packed it up and returned it the next day figuring it wasn’t so good for my overall health.

    PS: I actually beat that Atari ET game. The thorns in my side with Atari were the four Swordquest games–if you leave the right random objects in the right random room you get a clue that corresponds to a page in a comic books that accompanied the games. I drew maps on graph paper, made detailed lists of what I’d left where, but never once got one single clue. Talk about frustrating.

    Thanks for the post! Awesome!

  7. Bing and I had trouble getting into Little Big Planet, too. We played it for probably 30 minutes and haven’t touched it since. We use the PS3 a lot, though.. mostly for watching Blu Ray discs, Netflix, and Amazon. If you have a prime membership, you can get the app now for the PS3 and stream stuff.

    I recommend the Lego games for the PS3 if you want something campy and fun to play with the wife. The Star Wars and Indiana Jones LEGO games are really fun and low stress. Bing plays Gran Turismo a lot, too, but it doesn’t have hookers in it. Epic Mickey 2 comes out in a couple of months and it will be on PS3 (unlike the first one, which was just for Wii) and it will also be 2-player (again, unlike the first one).

  8. For me it was the Ninja Turtles arcade game. There was one down the road, and it was a real treat to get a $2 coin from the folks to go and play that. This was Australia… games don’t cost a quarter! And I would be really impressed if you could complete those beat ’em up arcade games with only one or two credits.

  9. God, just reading this blog post launched me into nostalgia land! I too played The Simpsons arcade game, and lost quite a bit of money by doing so! I remember the level I hated most is the one where you had to fight that stupid Krusty the Clown balloon that practically took up the entire screen…AHHH!

    But I must say-that is so awesome that The Simpson’s Arcade game is now playable on the PS3!….I am actually kind of tempted to run to the nearest game store to buy the console & game myself! xD

  10. Ah, I miss the days of Nintendo and Mario, back when you tried to get past world one and you couldn’t save you had to start over every time. But, I’m a big ps3 fan also. I don’t think you’ll regret the purchase, that game console does everything! :-)

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