by Lorelei Parker
I’m a child of the 70s and 80s. Growing up, I haunted the dank, musk-infused arcade deep in the belly of the local mini-mall between the novelty T-shirt shack and the Orange Julius where I dropped infinite quarters into the Breakout or Tempest machines. Then one Christmas, my brother and I became the proud owners of an Atari console, allowing us the freedom to play Space Invaders and Asteroids in the comfort of our own home. One gaming system was enough for one family, apparently, so I’d have to visit the homes of friends if I wanted to experience the power of Zaxxon on their Coleco or Mario Brothers on their Nintendo systems. Later, my brother and I successfully begged for handheld Game Boys to shut us up on the long road trips to Alabama to visit the extended family.
Once I was out on my own, I experimentally branched out to purchase my beloved 16-bit Sega Genesis unit on which I wasted much time beating down Dr. Robotnik in Sonic (after upgrading to the 32-bit). There was no way to save a game in progress back then, so when I needed to quit to go to class or work, I’d have to pause the game or hand the controller to a roommate. We didn’t know any better.
And then everything changed. With the technological leap of Nintendo 64, my obsession with Zelda was born. Caught up in Ocarina of Time or Majora’s Mask, I would literally haul my system with me even if I was only going to spend the night with my parents. I’ve owned (still do) Playstation and X-box consoles, and I’ve lost months of my life in PC games from Myst to Diablo, but I always gravitate back to Nintendo faithfully and transitioned from the 64 to the GameCube to the Wii. Like Sierra in Crushing It, I love to relax playing MarioKart. I’ve also developed an unhealthy crush on Link, and I’ve been known to drool over trailers for upcoming Zelda releases. And I still have PTSD over my role in the great Pikmin genocide of 2004.
These days I kick back and watch my kids play. This way, I get to enjoy the fun of gaming while pretending to adult as I multitask on remote work for my job or draft my next book. The kids have introduced me to their own obsessions such as Minecraft, Undertale, and Animal Crossing. When I do play, it’s with them beside me, mocking me for my inability to master Breath of the Wild, the latest incarnation of my beloved Zelda, enough to finish off the nightmare Lynels that are frankly unbeatable. And terrifying.
I’m too busy to game like I used to. I listen with envy as my friends describe the latest titles they’re playing, knowing that there are only so many hours in the day, and I have other tasks to check off the list. But I do still sneak some time to play. The siren song of a video game is hard to resist.
In life, as in gaming, there’s a way around every obstacle . . .
To pitch her new role-playing game at a European conference, developer Sierra Reid needs to overcome her terror of public speaking. What better practice than competing in a local bar’s diary slam, regaling an audience with old journal entries about her completely humiliating college crush on gorgeous Tristan Spencer?
Until the moderator says, “Next up, Tristan Spencer . . .”
Sierra is mortified, but Tristan is flattered. Caught up in memories of her decade-old obsession as they reconnect, Sierra tries to dismiss her growing qualms about him. But it’s not so easy to ignore her deepening friendship with Alfie, the cute, supportive bar owner. She and Alfie were college classmates too, and little by little, Sierra is starting to wonder if she’s been focusing her moves on the wrong target all along, misreading every player’s motivations.
Maybe the only winning strategy is to start playing by her heart . . .