Monday, November 21, 2011

Call of Duty: MW3, Grand Theft Auto & Best of All, Death Race

This evening I pulled up Google News and one of the Top Stories headlines was, "Mitt Romney's Dark Side: Presidential Hopeful Tried Cigarettes, Beer." For a moment I thought an Onion article had wormed its way into the standard Google feed. But no, it was from Reuters.

Early this afternoon, as I pulled up to a red light at a major intersection, I noticed a fellow on a unicycle cross the street on the other side of the intersection. Riding casually across, one-wheeling his way to his destination. That's the first time I've ever seen anyone on a unicycle here in the suburbs, unless you count the performers at the circus a few years ago, which was technically in the suburbs.

Come to think of it, I can't remember seeing too many non-circus unicyclists on the streets of Chicago or Nashville or San Antonio, either. But I did see kids on unicycles sometimes in Osaka, and heard that some schools teach it in PE class.

At the grocery store today, I bought a popular soft drink whose commercial tie-in at the moment is Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. The clerk, a young man in his 20s, asked me if I'd played it. I said no, not interested. He told me that the soft drink packaging includes (I think) some kind of code that gives players extra ammo (or maybe a kit containing one forty-five caliber automatic; two boxes of ammunition; four days' concentrated emergency rations; one drug issue containing antibiotics, morphine, vitamin pills, pep pills, sleeping pills, tranquilizer pills; one miniature combination Russian phrase book and Bible; one hundred dollars in rubles; one hundred dollars in gold; nine packs of chewing gum; one issue of prophylactics; three lipsticks; and three pair of nylon stockings).

Apparently the game was released last weekend, and for some this event was a big hairy deal. I know this because Lilly told me about it. The release caused a lot of chatter at her school, especially among the boys she knows. I asked her if she had any interest in playing herself and she said maybe, but among that kind of game she likes to play -- at other people's homes -- Grand Theft Auto. You learn all kinds of things about your kids if you pay attention.

By golly, I think I'm supposed to fret that such a violent game will affect my daughter in evil ways. You know, just like the urges people my age felt to run down pedestrians because of the primitive arcade game Death Race. Ah, the screeching wheels, the screams of your victims. Doesn't that take you back? No? Wiki asserts that "because of its limited production run and the number of units that were destroyed, Death Race is very rare today. Collectors will sometimes pay $2,000 for a working unit in good condition." If it doesn't have one, the Smithsonian needs to get one.

In the late '70s, Mike, a guy I knew in high school, and I would sometimes visit the airport in San Antonio and play games at its arcade room, which was usually empty in the evenings. Death Race was one of the games there, and we played it. It was probably all we could do not to commit vehicular homicide on the way home.

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