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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Game Boy Not Required

The other day I was over at the house of an American family and I watched as their son spent two hours playing on his Game Boy - some kind of speed driving game. And it led to a deep thought... Tanzanian children don't seem to have the same need for gadgets that American kids have.

"But wait," you might say, "Tanzanian children are poor and their parents don't have expendable income with which to buy video games!"

And if you said that, you'd be mostly right.

But still... who needs that kind of on-the-edge-of-your-seat stimulation when your life is like one big Game Boy program. For the sake of elucidating this story, let's just call this game Killer Pedestrian. (You need to say it with the appropriate gravitas... try it... Killer Pedestrian!)

I play Killer Pedestrian every single day on my way to work. My driver plays it. And the kids play it, too. The object is to get to work or school without killing yourself or an unsuspecting pedestrian. I'm expanding the term "pedestrian" to mean anyone not in a car - so it would include people on bicycles, ox-carts, wheel chairs, motocycles, and people actually on foot.

At the beginning of the game you choose your route - which selects your level of difficulty- anywhere from killer easy to killer hard.

You can also select your character. You can be the driver of a 4-wheel drive, a truck driver, a taxi driver, a Dalla Dalla (local bus) driver, an ox cart puller (although in this case, the puller is human, not an ox), a man, a woman, or a toddler. Whichever character you choose, you start by pulling out into the street and trying to avoid all the obsticles you encounter. If you are a car, obviously you are trying to avoid hitting another person, but since you get three chances before you are out, you take your chances on the road.

This is also a speed game, so you must pass slow trucks and frequently stopping Dalla Dallas .

You can collect extra points by I-Spying anomalies, like the Buddhist Monk I saw on the way home from work today, or a person wearing a Baskin Robbins uniform or Mamaroneck High School t-shirt (which I've really seen), or a person with no arms or legs being carried around by a person who is blind. (Seriously, I saw that one morning.)

If you are a pedestrian, the goal is to get to your low-paying job that despite being low-paying keeps your whole extended family from going hungry every month. You must weave in and out of pedestrian and vehicle traffic, walking as fast as possible. You get extra points for jumping on the right Dalla Dalla, but loose points if the Dalla Dalla starts moving while you are still trying to get on and you fall off.

OK, what's my point here?

I guess my point is that video games are frivolous in a world where danger lurks on the street. And I'm not talking about drugs or gangs here. I'm just talking about how dangerous it is to get to work or school - when life is a more challenging game than art.


Sorry for the bleak blog. I've been thinking about that one for several weeks and probably should have kept it inside a bit longer... perhaps the thoughts weren't ripe yet. Nevertheless... it was time to write... so voila...


Anonymous Onetallmomma said...

I'm new here. Your post struck a cord, not because it is dangerous for my 4 children to get from point A to Point B. But because they are children and should be using their minds and bodies to play. That is why I do not own, and will never allow my children to own, any sort of mind numbing gear.

2:59 AM  
Blogger Food Mum said...

It's very true - when life is all around you and in your face there's no need for the artificial stimulus of electronic games etc. There's no need for it anyway really, it's just a substitute for real life and interaction with real human beings.

I have the dilemma of my daughter being given one for a birthday present - do I ban it and thus make it more attractive or hope it dies a natural death due to battery failure or being 'accidentally' trodden on! Luckily my son has just discovered reading to himself, so has found a more acceptable form of escapism!
Sorry for the overlong comment I should have done a post myself too!

7:23 PM  
Blogger Mom101 said...

Bleak, my tuchus. This is hilarious and astute and wonderful. It makes me think of my nephew who's staying with us, and whose only frame of reference for anything at all is video games. "Wouldn't it be great if this museum exhibit were a video game?" Or "What if we all had powers like SuperMario, and could just jump across the bridge instead of driving." It's scary.

Meanwhile, who the hell was wearing an MHS shirt? If he was wearing it with a Baskin-Robbins uniform too, it must have been Seth.

4:14 AM  

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