Mum’s The Nerd
Picture the scene: I’m quietly minding my own business, refreshing Facebook for the fiftieth time in the past half hour, when there suddenly comes a cry from the study. It’s my mother inviting me to come and watch something incredible. Knowing that my own idea of incredible is different to hers, I begrudgingly make my way through to find her grinning wildly and pointing to a link on her own Facebook page. Upon further examination, it appears I’m watching a replay of a Bejeweled Blitz game she just played, during which a large, badly Photoshopped cat’s head descends from the top of the screen and destroys a dozen or so gems, racking up some massive points. Mother turns to look at me and proudly says, “now I’m beating your Dad!”
Now, the idea that parents play computer games is not one that I’m alien to. Indeed, those who grew up playing Pong and have watched graphics enter the third dimension and become shinier, while controllers become larger and more complex, are probably parents themselves (I apologise if you’re now feeling particularly old when reading this). My own father sometimes reminisces about the hours spent spinning round in circles and firing small white dots at asteroids, but my mother dedicated years of her life trying to get me out of my bedroom. Boxing lessons, acting classes, putting a basketball net on the side of the house; hell, when times got desperate she’d simply kick me out of the house and tell me to go make friends. She placed bans on me playing videogames if she felt I was spending too much time on them, and aside from all the typical mothering things, she also got violent motion sickness from just watching me play a game. I have a distinct memory of her having to leave the room while I played Spyro because the flying was too much for her to stomach.
And then Facebook came along.
Ah, sweet Facebook, a social networking site that’s so popular it isn’t funny. Along with Facebook came the apps… and then the games, and then Farmville – a game I played once, forgot to return to so I could harvest crops, and then never played again. Mother, on the other hand, took to it like a duck to water. Soon her farm was expanding every which way, with buildings popping up like weeds and the cow count hitting the double figures with what seemed like minimal effort. She became a fake millionaire in under a month. She went on holiday once and asked me if I’d look after her farm while she was gone. The woman was obsessed.
However, even cute little animals couldn’t hold her attention for long. After pouring hundreds of hours into her farm she abandoned it in favour of the aforementioned Bejeweled Blitz, a game that is specifically designed for a quick session during work. Thing is, my mother is self-employed and so these quick sessions would become hour-long binges of one minute games. That’s sixty instances of gem swapping from a game built to provide you with two or three before you move on. She is currently level 104 (which, as someone who finds levels usually stop at 100, is astounding to me) and has racked up scores of over 500,000 a grand total of 55 times.
Now, as I write this, I can hear her violently swearing her way through a game of Bubble Island, a Puzzle Bobble knock off that my auntie got her playing. I’m not entirely sure why she’s putting herself through it; she’s been playing for a week and isn’t even halfway through, but she seems determined to one up her sister. She even told me that if she beat a level in less than five seconds she would earn an “award”. I was taken aback. I finally understood where my desire for achievements had come from.
What’s slightly more worrying is the effect this game has had on my parents’ marriage. Before, they would sit and watch a TV show together, or we’d all have a nice family meal. Now, however, my parents retire to the study where they have computers facing away from one another, and play for hours on end, desperately trying to beat each other’s scores and turning round to gloat in the other’s face should they succeed.
It is, honestly, fascinating to me to see this transformation. Over the years I have tried to get her to play videogames that I think she might be able to handle; Pac Pix springs to mind, along with a bit of Wii Tennis when the console was first released. But until Facebook, nothing stuck. Now I’m the one having to march into her room to turn the game off for her before she spends too much time on it and gets square eyes. Now, I admire her tenacity when it comes to these casual games. It takes a certain something to want to sit there for hours, playing the same mini-game over and over until the action of swapping a gem from one column or row to another becomes a subconscious movement. But there are times when I begin to worry if she’s spending too much time in front of the computer, wasting her life away when she could be outside, enjoying the rich world we live in and experiencing things she might not otherwise… oh good Lord, I’m becoming my mother.
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