After a nearly 20-year stint of swearing off video games, I finally gave into playing a simple little contest on Nintendo’s new Wii game system.
And I must admit: I’m beginning to feel something new transforming in my personality.
This development is so shocking you might want to sit down. If you’re sitting already, stand up and then sit back down just to be sure. OK, ready? Here it is: I’m starting to feel competitive.
Maybe I’d better explain this.
I have always been notoriously bad at being competitive. Just ask any little girl I grew up with.
When playing the stereotypical make-believe game of Prince Charming Saves the Beautiful Princess from the Evil Dragon, I—reprising my prestigious role as Prince Charming—would scale the treacherous Mount Staircase, role the heavy Couch Cushion Boulder from the doorway entrance to the Kitchen Cave of Doom, which was home to the Malicious Office Chair Monster, only to experience a sudden twinge of fear at this pinnacle moment of my noble quest.
So I would retreat down into the Secure Homeland Basement, leaving the beautiful princess stranded on the kitchen table deep within the dragon’s lair.
Looking back now, I’m not quite sure what threat a rolling chair might present to a kindergartner.
But, let it be known, this 5-year-old was not about to have his toes rolled over.
The problem with competition—as my younger self would tell you—is that there is always a slight risk of failure.
This is especially true considering my God-deprived sense of coordination.
I think I figured out at a very young age that competition was not for me: too many dropped baseballs in the backyard, too many stumbles at the elementary school track-and-field day, too many playground woodchips jammed up the sole of my foot. (Don’t ask.)
This fear of messing up has oozed its way into other areas of my life. I don’t even like entering contests in which a person is to guess the number of candies in a jar, because I might be so far off that my bozo estimate gets published in the next club newsletter.
It is specifically for this reason that, when playing soccer in the church basement 15 years ago, I was the kid standing by the chalk board making tallies of the score instead of actually kicking the ball around and causing minor damage to church property.
And it is specifically for this reason that I was the unofficial batboy on my younger brother’s coach pitch team. There is an embarrassing photograph floating around Facebook to prove it.
I tried facing this fear of competition when I went out for track my sophomore year of high school. But the most competitive spirit I could muster was mainly to not ever come in last during a race. (I never did. I was always second-to-last.)
That was it, until recently.
For Christmas, my girlfriend Shelby’s family purchased Nintendo’s Wii game system, in which the player—instead of controlling all the digital action with their thumbs—uses the motion-sensitive and wireless controllers.
I was skeptical at first; my brother has been playing Nintendo for years, but I for the most part had always avoided it.
But then I discovered billiards, one of the games that came with the Wii console, and it was like an entirely new world opened up to me.
Now, mind you, I can’t play real pool to save my life. But digitalized, I rule at it.
Within days of getting that game, Shelby and I were spending hours in front of the TV, swinging our arms back and forth and hitting billiard balls with remarkably realistic results, trying to outdo each other. We’d play rounds of billiards back-to-back-to-back, occasionally surfacing for a quick drink before diving back into the pool table.
For the first time in my life, I welcomed competition with open arms, and laughed in its face (or at least Shelby’s face) when I outsmarted it.
Maybe this doesn’t sound like much to you, but suddenly that uncoordinated kid—wearing a T-shirt closest matching his little brother’s ball team’s color—in that old photograph had found the spirit and exhilaration of competition.
I might not be the next American Idol or Olympic gold medal-winner, but gosh-darnit if I don’t kick some tushy in Wii billiards.
Which reminds me: Shelby is still stranded on the kitchen table.