By Hugh Welsh
In my former life as a car salesman, the hours were long — typically 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. — and we were given one instruction by management: always keep “an eye on the lot.” This order was often ignored.
One time, a man journeyed through the truck lot and two lines of SUVs before stopping at one. He pointed at the vehicle and waved his arms frantically, shouting “hey” and “anyone got a key?” No one, including myself, bothered to raise their heads. The manager’s voice over the loudspeaker: “Is anyone going to help the gentleman next to that Equinox?”
One salesman, a cigarette dangling from his lower lip, was cursing through another session of Monsters Ate My Condo, in which the user’s objective is to appease the monsters while building a tower taller and taller. Another salesman had just plunked a fresh wad of chew into his mouth for yet another round of Punch Quest, a fists of fury masher. As for myself, well, I was in the middle of an NBA Jam white knuckler. Dan Majerle was on fire, raining threes — my double-digit lead had been whittled to two.
The guy had been in the day before, test driving SUVs, diesel pickups, cargo vans and a Camaro.
Suddenly, the salesman playing Punch Quest screamed, shoving me off the curb in a fit of jubilation. He’d defeated the boss for the level, Haunted Megaskull. “I got this dufus by the Equinox,” he said, casting his chew onto the pavement and popping his knuckles. Fifteen minutes later, the customer was gone and the salesman was reacquainted with his phone.
What makes mobile games so addictive, anyway? Is it the portability, the convenience? Or something else? Why brush aside potential money in your pocket — not to mention your job description — for a game? It depends on the person.
The salesman playing Monsters Ate My Condo is the type of guy who can never be content with his home as stands; every paycheck goes to some kind of home improvement, be it a deck, a fence or an additional floor. The salesman engaged in endless bouts of Punch Quest? He’s the sort of guy who greets fellow males with a punch to the kidneys and, when a promising customer does appear on the lot, he’ll badmouth, trip, kick and headbutt every salesman who dares to look upon the customer. He refers to the toilet as the “domination station.”
As for myself, I have a hankering for simple-minded games with minimal controls and storylines (Zelda excluded). I tend to play games featuring sports that require what I don’t have: eye-hand coordination. There’s something about smacking a homerun off a 96-mile-per-hour fast ball when you yourself whiff at softballs tossed underhanded.
I guess it’s safe to say that we are what we play. Or, in my case, we are who we wished we were.