When Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy was young, playing a video game meant one of two things: either we could pull out the pong console and hook it up to a black and white television, or we could gather some quarters and head to the closest 7-11 convenience store in order to play one of their approximately four to five arcade games located in the little side room.
Arcades began to sprout up afterward. What a concept…a large dark room completely filled up with video games and pinball machines of all types. Even better, if you had an entire dollar the arcades would give you five play tokens! Getting one extra game to play was every little boy’s dream. Maybe I just will try that racing game that charges two tokens in order to sit down in a faux sportscar and maneuver the game with an actual steering wheel!
Soon after this, Atari arrived, bringing video games into everyone’s living room. My siblings and I stayed up so many nights playing game after game, anxiously awaiting our turn in the rotation. The graphics were huge and pixelated, but that didn’t seem to matter much (except during Tank, when you were able to trap the other tank in a corner and win the game in about 15 seconds flat.)
Then Chuck E. Cheese took the video game even more mainstream, at the family level. Remove the more violent games, brighten up the room, add an endless loop of cheery (really?) music, place some animatronics in the far side of the room, serve pizza and pitchers of soda, and the kids will come! (We can also addict them to the whack-a-mole game, and require them to drop tons of tokens in exchange for coupons, 100 of which you might be able to trade in for a pencil.)
And after this, the history of video gaming is probably familiar to most of us…the Nintendo, the Playstation, the XBox, and for a few unlucky souls….the Sega.
While I was in the midst of a major pain flare during these past few days (they seem to be continuing each day…hopefully physical therapy later today will provide some relief) I closed my eyes and took some deep breaths. Even though I am working to embrace the pain emotionally, physically the pain is still there…and it hurts to all heck.
During these episodes, I often stop thinking about what tomorrow or the day after might bring, and I instead focus on just getting to my next activity of the day. This might be 30 minutes away, or it might be a couple of hours away. If I can get from here to there without breaking emotionally, I tell myself that everything will be okay.
All of a sudden, I felt like I was hanging from a vine. I had to avoid objects arriving from all directions that might cause me harm. If I was careful I could swing over to anther vine…if I was not careful, I would fall and crash. I had to keep moving…if I stayed still, I might be doomed.
This sounds oddly familiar. I have this experience before, no?
And before I knew it, I had a flashback to about thirty years ago (give or take a few years), when Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. were some of my favorite video games.
Jump over the barrels. Dodge the flaming barrels. Avoid the flying attack birds. Keep an eye out for the trap monsters that climb up the vines. Those items that begin to fly down diagonally instead of rolling down the ramps? Oh Rheumatoid Arthritis Donkey Kong, you really are playing nasty now, aren’t you?
I don’t necessarily want to say that I was having fun…but I definitely was having just a little more fun that I was a few minutes earlier. Plus, the overwhelming pain seemed just a little more manageable. It almost seemed like a…game.
So for the moment I will keep on putting quarters into the machine, whether I like it or not. If I don’t already, I have no doubt that I will soon have the high score. I will be a winner.
Stay tuned…for the next adventure of Rheumatoid Arthritis Guy!