The electronic waste I have accumulated over the years was balanced off by the comments of a fifth grade boy. He was playing a game called "Two Truths And A Lie," in which the players each create one fiction about themselves while playing it straight on the other two. One of the suggestions he made was, "I own every game console." When I heard this, I figured this kid of eleven years was probably talking about the most recent updates to the gaming world, which itself would be a mild accomplishment. Or maybe he was lying. I waited for the other kids in the room to make their guesses about the three things he had said. Each time the video game consoles came up, he assured us all that he was speaking the truth. When my turn came, I asked, "Do you have a Sega Genesis?"
"Yes." Without a flinch.
"Really?" I decided to probe further. "What games do you have for it?"
"Sonic," he began to list several more, but I knew I was busted. Sega Genesis was the machine I played on before I was a father and "responsible adult."
Suddenly, I had no doubt that this young man did in fact have a sequence of Playstations from one to four, a Game Cube and a number of different Xboxes. He probably had an Atari 2600 kicking around in a closet somewhere. All the hardware that had driven my video gaming was now out of the house, in pieces or intact. Most of it lives with my son, who is a bit of an archivist himself. But not a full on historian like this kid. I wondered briefly about how much homework he could avoid with a closet full of various devices intended to keep that from happening. It was the teacher in me. It was the father in me.
My own video game experience probably peaked when I was in college and I owned a full-size arcade version Battlezone game. Not a console, but a six and a half foot tall, three foot wide machine that played one game and one game only. It was not a party in my apartment until that baby was plugged in, and there was just as many evenings when things were slow and there was nothing else to do except open up the front and put a dozen free games on and play until I was too tired to stand in front of it. And my homework didn't get done.
It occurred to me that I could ask my fifth grade friend if he ever owned any full-sized arcade games, but to tell you the truth, I wasn't sure I wanted to know the answer.