Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Friday, January 04, 2008

Let’s Play A Game

Who here remembers Manhole?

I know what you’re thinking, you floozy. But let’s take your mind off the gutter first and talk about a game that took its inspiration from the gutter.

From Wikipedia: “Manhole is a game first appeared in the Game & Watch Gold series in 1981, in which the player must close the manholes before the pedestrians fall through into the sewers.”

I remember this was the very first Nintendo we ever bought. I got so into it. The number of pedestrians and the speed in which they moved varied throughout the game, but normally the faster the speed the more pedestrians came in. Early on I figured out that the trick was to focus your eyes on the peripheral action: one must know which of the four sides a pedestrian first appears onscreen; then one should remember in sequence the other pedestrians that follow.

I wanted to always have the highest score among us siblings. Three misses and it’s “Game Over”; the highest possible score was 999. Whenever I see my high score topped by someone else, I wouldn’t stop playing until I wiped the previous high score off.

One summer I was so bored I decided to just play it for fun—no pressure, no particular goal. For the first time I broke the 900 points mark. That got me excited. But since I got that far without even intending to reach it, I screamed to myself, “Waaaaaait! Don’t get too excited! Just relax, take it easy, and just play. Just play, dammit, just play!” I roughly pushed away all “You’re not gonna make it!” and “Can you really hit the all-time highest score of 999?!” thoughts away and just concentrated on my peripheral vision. I remember somewhere in the 950+ I already had two misses; one more left. “Evil thoughts and distractions, AWAY!” I said one last time. And. I. Just. Played.

975… my god, the pedestrians are coming in fast and furious… 980… they f*ckin’ won’t let up…! 987… lord, don’t… 990… don’t… 995… 998… 999! Oh good lord.



What happened next? The score went back to 001. There was one very slow pedestrian, seemingly limping his way from left screen to right screen.

I continued playing.

When I hit the 900+ mark I said to myself, “What if…?” And when I hit 999 again I said, “Wow. Second time in a row.” I played until I got to a score of 15 or so. Then I deliberately put the game down and didn’t pick it up again. Ever.

That was the first and last video game I enjoyed playing. Prophetic choice of game, really. Cuz when I’m in the bathhouse, I put my peripheral vision to full use and I know the right buttons to push and I know which manholes I can—oh, let’s get our minds off the gutter again, shall we? (Just for now, at least.)


Quentin X said...

My parents were too stingy to buy us one. My cousin used to let me play theirs. They had Chef and Octopus. I have not played any of the consoles later than the family computer.

Anonymous said...

i also had this game&watch when i was a kid but someone stole it.

Mink: The Arabian Paladin said...

i suddenly remembered donkey kong on game and watch...