Sunday, November 06, 2005

How the Wookie crumbles

The best present I ever bought for my wife Kara was the PlayStation2 I got for her college graduation. She hasn’t touched the thing in four years, but I just finished playing “Star Wars: Battlefront” for three hours. I wish every gift worked out so perfectly.

Back when I bought the PlayStation for her, I told my buddy about it, expecting him to tell me what a thoughtful present it was. “That’s great,” he said. “Why don’t you just get her a bowling ball with your name engraved on it?”

“But I don’t bowl,” I said.

It honestly seemed like a better present for her at the time. She didn’t have a DVD player, so I figured that a PlayStation2 was the same thing, but with the added life-sucking feature of being a video game console as well. Plus, she was always bragging that when she was twelve, she beat the original Super Mario Brothers Nintendo game without dying even once. Her sister corroborates this story, but I still have my suspicions. I just can’t believe that anybody with skills like that would rather read books with titles like, “The Lustful Rogue of Vagabondville” than blow up storm troopers with grenade launchers.

Kara and I moved in together shortly after her graduation, partly because we were in love and getting married, and partly because I didn’t have any video games at my place.

I may be a nerd for still playing video games, but I recently read a news story that made me feel like maybe I’m actually not so bad. A Korean guy recently played video games for so long that he died. In real life. The police said that he had played for almost 50 hours straight, barely taking breaks to eat or go to the bathroom. He died from shear exhaustion.

The way to tell if you’re a nerd or not is simple: if right now, you’re thinking, “Well, what game was he playing?” then you are a nerd. Oh, and it was StarCraft.

So as long as you are still alive, your video game habits are not as bad as some people’s. I’ve never had a fatal bout of video game playing, but my ferret Chopper just helped me realize how messed up my priorities actually are.

While I was trying to get some work done at home one evening, I got distracted by a ridiculously stupid game on the internet, in which the only objective was to keep heading soccer balls into the air by moving a little guy underneath them with the arrow keys.

After a couple of hours of not getting work done, I was like Rain Man at this game. My little soccer guy was a blur of motion, juggling eight balls into the air at once. Try as I might, though, I always died before I could get to 500 points.

Then I started a magnificent round – truly one for the ages. I was up to 400 points with my last life. I couldn’t miss. The heavens began to shake, sweat was pouring off of my forehead and with each second, I grew closer to my goal, whizzing back and forth, heading the soccer balls into the air.

At this moment, our ferret Chopper strolled across the room, walking towards his litter box, which was right next to my chair. 470 points. But he did not get into the box. 475 points. He backed up right next to the box, onto our good (480 points) white carpet.

“No, animal. Nooooo!” I said, trying to push him into the litter box with my foot while still (485 points) tapping the arrow keys furiously. But he was determined to go right there, unphased as my foot (490 points) waved ineffectually in his face.

I came to my senses and made a dive for the ferret (too late), as the dreaded whistle signaled that I’d dropped the ball at 495 points. At least I still have my health.

You can kick Mike Todd into the litter box online at

On-line exclusive! Check out the dumbest game ever here: If you score over 600 (my new high score), you will be my hero, along with MacGyver.


  1. Ok - I admit I tried that game twice. My high score was 23 and the sound of the crowd and whistles was driving me crazy. OMG - how the heck do you get to 500? You must be a master of patience and one step from the loony bin.

  2. Video Games...Haven't played in years but was addicted to Mario...could always beat my husband. My kids play WOW online...they talk to each other and far things have come.

  3. I'll have to try the soccer ball game at home, if I can drag myself away from the Civilization IV game I just bought. I would like to try Battlefront, though...

    Congratulations on your syndication! When did that happen?

  4. Why don't you just challenge everyone to a game of EuroHeaders, Mike?

  5. you should go see Prime, there is a whole thing there about buying a PS2 as a gift, very funny....

  6. I dont know the game in question, but it sounds like the perfect one to play at work - if anyone asks you to do something for them, you can just say "Sorry, I can't, I have a lot of balls in the air right now."

    I reckon that's the first time I've ever done a clean joke involving a pun on the word "balls" - I hope you all appreciate it, folks...

  7. Dudes -- don't waste too much time on the soccer game. I put it there only as an indicator of what a freakin' loser I am. Sheri -- you should definitely keep at it, though. You're a natural, I can tell.

    Scott -- if any real syndicated people saw me calling myself syndicated, they'd probably beat me with their laptops. A few other papers in the same family as "the venerable Conshohocken Recorder" picked up my column -- I'm psyched about it, but I'm not sure it counts. If anyone knows any other papers with extraordinarily low standards, send 'em my way!

    In the meantime, y'all follow JL's advice and keep your balls in the air.

  8. I have only played our playstation was some race car game and my 4 year old beat me. I will never play again.

    Also, we use it as a DVD player and I have no clue how to work the thing. I believe this is a sign of my old age.

  9. Ahhh video games. I still love 'em, though I don't get to play 'em nearly as much as I used to. I'm hatching a plan though. I'm entreating the wife to allow me to build a PC. I'm not sure how, but so far she's biting at the idea. The thing is, I'm making an "HTPC"... which is basically a computer you plug into the TV that will record TV shows for you. It's gonna be superbadass cuz you know what? I'm gonna be able to play video games on it, too. I hear they just came out with a new Quake game... drool.

    Usually I would say soccer is for suckers... but I just saw Shaolin Soccer last night, and at the moment it's officially just as cool as Kung Fu.