Adrift

What do you do when the one thing you lived for no longer fills that role?

You sit down, stare out a window at the sight of an evening summer shower. This is a common enough practice for so many people, it's become something of a cliché in written and visual mediums. But you've never done this intentionally; there had always been something to do. You knew of this very trope by way of the very hobby you've become disillusioned with.

It's sad, really. Growing, up, I used to joke with my friends that no matter what, I'd still be playing video games well into my adult life. That I'd get married, have children of my own, and show them as they grew up what I used to do when I was their age. The notion that one has to put away "childish" things as they grow up isn't unique to my generation.

But I grew up during an age where video games weren't a socially accepted hobby. Society saw it as a pointless time sink, an endless fountain of quarters at arcades where kids lose thousands of dollars' worth of allowances. This well into the new millennium, an era where arcades were a rare find in general. Trying to convince someone not into the hobby that it had grown and evolved well beyond high scores was a nigh-impossible task.

And really what makes me feel worst of all is the direction gaming is going in the social mainstream. The hobby has evolved from the niche of teenage nerds and children to an activity as diverse and widespread as television and film. Now, more than ever before, gaming can be shared with others. There is virtually no stigma attached; and even if there is, there will always be a fellow gamer around every corner ready to sympathize.

Yet here I sit. Staring out the window, watching the raindrops crash against the glass.

I'm tired. I'm tired of the hobby I once considered as vital to my well-being as three squares a day and eight hours of sleep. Half the time I can't be bothered to even turn on a video game console; the other half I grow so terribly bored of the game on screen I want to shut it off and find something else to do.

It should come as no surprise that I've discussed this very topic with others around the world. The greatest benefit of the information age is the sheer simplicity of getting in touch with someone regardless of the topic at hand. And of course I'm not alone with this dilemma. You're never really alone anymore regardless of your circumstance; there's always someone else out there feeling the exact same things as you are.

So what causes this?

A common guess is fatigue. Overdose on something and you're bound to lose your taste for it. Cleansing the palette is usually the best way to go about getting back on track. But I've experienced the fatigue in the past, and I'm certain that isn't the problem this time around.

Another belief is the influence of the mainstream masses. This is one I actually put more stock in at first: the idea is that the very hobby of video games has been tarnished by the very thing we desired in the first place. That being social acceptance.

When video games were the sole domain of a group of like-minded nerds, the providers of the hobby didn't have to look far beyond the established norms. Every genre had its devoted fan base. Trying something new was still a risky proposition, but development didn't carry with it costs in the seven-plus digits as it does today. What's more, the lack of an interconnected consumer base made us all more docile in the grand scheme of things. We would show our true likes and dislikes by our actions, not our words.

I'd be lying if I said development practices changed over the years. Things were pretty much the same even in the earliest days of video games. The difference today is the genre that draws the most attention is one I genuinely dislike. So could it be that I'm sick of it all because I'm not getting what I want? Am I just throwing the adult form of a tantrum?

Or was it just the inevitable force of time? Had twenty years of the same hobby just run its course and now needed replacing? What makes it worse is that I never invested anything in any other hobby outside this one. Am I doomed to remain adrift in life without something to dedicate myself to?

I sit and stare out the window. The rain doesn't let up, but that doesn't matter. Not like it would make a difference either way. I'd still be left with nothing to do. At least the rain provides a calming cacophony that drowns out my rampant thoughts.

And somewhere along the way, I drift off into a deep slumber.

~o~

The rain continues even after I finally snap out of my daze. I have no idea how long I was asleep, but at the same time I'm thankful I had nothing else to do, either. The nap seems to have done me a bit of good, as I feel considerably lighter now. It takes me a few moments to realize it wasn't the nap that made me feel that way. I feel lighter because I am lighter now.

Around me, my room is completely different. There's a sense of familiarity about it, something tucked away in the deepest recesses of my memory banks. I haven't seen these walls in years, not since I started plastering posters all over them. It all seems just a bit larger, too. Being half my original age and about half the size, it shouldn't come as a surprise everything feels bigger.

Naturally, a world of questions floods my conscious thoughts.

"How?" and "Why?" are the most prudent.

But if there was one thing I learned in all my years of playing video games with outrageous scenarios, it was to never waste your time trying to make sense of it all. Just go with the flow, and everything would be explained in time. And given my predicament, there were really only two possible scenarios.

One: I had gone back in time... somehow.

Or two: I had been shrunk... somehow.

It goes without saying which of the two scenarios one would prefer. I hope.

I hear a voice from outside my room. I open my door, finding the doorknob's placement in relation to my current size unsettling. Out in the hall, the walls are adorned differently, letting me know this isn't my own residence. Or rather, it is. Used to be. It's my parents' house, and it's decorated much the way I remember it from many years ago. Leads me to believe scenario one is the logical explanation. If logic can be applied here.

The voice belongs to my mother, whom is shouting for me from downstairs. My first instinct is to ask her what she wants, but I know my family too well to even bother. She'd insist I go downstairs to see what she wants personally instead. So I let her know I'm on my way, but go about exploring the second floor of the house first. Seeing it all again is a lot like taking in photographs in an album. Once you start, it's hard to stop until you finish the whole book.

My parents' room doesn't stun me all that much. Even eleven years ago it looked the same, minus a few trinkets they had picked up over the years. At least their furniture appeared to be new, now. I guess at this point in time it was new. Meanwhile, my brother's room is completely different. Toys are strewn about the place, a clear indication of the seven-year-old who ruled over this tiny patch of land. Before I can start having nostalgia trips with the toys, I hear my mother's voice again. Memory lane would have to wait.

I head on downstairs, confused for only a moment at first as I see the different furniture in the living room. It really is a good thing I saw it firsthand, otherwise I'd have claimed I didn't remember the black upholstery at all. In the present day, my parents only like beiges and tans. My mother stands in the middle of it all, looking pretty much the same as the last time I saw her. She had the good fortune of having a body that didn't seem to age no matter how old she was. If in her mid-forties she appeared to be in her early thirties, now eleven years younger she looked to be fresh out of college.

She was tapping her foot, clearly annoyed I had taken my sweet time to meet her downstairs. In one arm she had her purse, in the other hand the car keys. Didn't take me more than a few seconds to put together she was waiting for me so we could go. And of course asking her where we were going would only annoy her further at this point. It was assumed I knew already, or so I guessed.

It was still raining outside, so she opened up a large red and white umbrella and brought me close so I wouldn't get soaked. Where ever we were going had to be important, since I knew my mother would never go out during a rainy day. She would frequently claim that it only took a few drops of rain on her head to make her sick for a week. And for the most part she was right about that. Didn't stop my father or I from making fun of her for it.

Once inside the car, she asked me again why it was so important we go to the store that day. Of course, I drew a huge blank. If she couldn't tell me, I'd have no way of answering her without knowing the exact date, at least. And asking that would only make her suspect more, so I came up with the most likely answer.

"Because today the new game comes out!" Immediately afterward I clutched my throat, taken aback by how different and high-pitched my voice was now. After all, in my head I still heard my adult voice.

So that was enough of a reason for my mother, it seemed, and we were off to the store. The rain continued to fall, but it wasn't so bad as to keep people indoors. If you wanted to go out, or had to, it was perfectly fine with an umbrella. Yet as if an omen, we were the only ones on the road to the store. Not a single other car on the street, though I could tell there were some parked in various shops and restaurants along the way. The odds of this are phenomenally astronomical, as you could imagine. And really I wanted to make a point of mentioning it to my mother, but I ended up staying quiet.

In a way, this was still a crazy dream sequence to me. After all, I wasn't so foolish as to believe time travel was possible. I was still an adult, and I was still sitting in my room back in my own place. I just fell asleep in front of the window, and this crazy dream-bordering-on-hallucination was taking place. I was almost certain the end of it all would have some profound meaning.

So you could imagine my shock and confusion when the car somehow ended up back at the house instead of the store. I'll admit I pretty much tuned out the images of the road at some point along the ride, but how was it possible we end up back at home so quickly? My mother says nothing as she gets out of the car, so I follow suit.

Of course she immediately yells at me for getting out before she told me to. It was still raining, after all. Now drenched, she escorts me back into the house, still bothering with the umbrella over my head despite the damage already being done. Fortunately I was built sturdier than she was, so I wouldn't get sick over a little soak.

I was instructed to get changed before I caught something, so I did. And all the time I looked through my old wardrobe and reminisced (one's clothes when you're younger can seem so adorable in hindsight), I was still lost in regards to the chain of events. What was the point of getting into the car to go to the store if we didn't actually go to the store?

That wasn't the extent of the weirdness, however. With nothing more to do (and the wonders of the online world not yet available to young me), I turned to the television in my room. And television there was. Just nothing hooked up to it. No mess of cables and gamepads. No pile of games next to a console stacked in the order I had gotten bored of them. They were all gone. And I was certain I saw them there before we left the house.

So I did what any logical person would do: try and track them down. I started with my brother's room. He had nothing of the sort, and there wasn't exactly many places he could hide something like that. My parents had no reason to have my stuff, so I went downstairs to continue the search. Nothing but a VCR and one of those (relatively speaking) new DVD players attached to the bigger screen in the living room. My mother instantly took notice of my odd behavior and asked me what I was doing.

So I asked her: where were all my video games?

And her reply?

"What video games?"

So I went back to my room without saying another word. Anyone else would've spazzed out and been made to look like a crazy. Like in a movie. But I knew this was all part of some grand scheme of my own brain. So I went back to my room and sat down in front of the window. The rain continued.

The television alone didn't provide much entertainment. It was the middle of the afternoon on a weekend most likely, so all the programming was lame. On top of the fact I'd seen whatever was 'new' dozens of times over considering. I'll admit I did get a bit of a chuckle looking at old advertisements for 'new' technology and toys. But the novelty of that experience wore off rather quickly.

I was in a child's body, after all. I had a child's near-limitless energy. And now, I had nothing to channel it into. The very hobby I had taken for granted all my life was now missing. And in a way, assuming this situation was permanent and not just a fever dream, I was -pardon my language- screwed. Sure, I had ten or eleven years of my life back, but I still retained the memories of my life leading up to this crazy predicament. I could never experience that novel sensation with anything until time caught up with my memories.

And the cherry on top of this hell was the lack of the only thing that could potentially keep me sane. The thought of messing with the space-time continuum occurred to me. Like if I went and wrote a lousy book about vampires that kick-started a worldwide craze over the subject instead of the original author. Or I started placing crazy bets with internet strangers on how the events of the video gaming world would turn out and make myself out to be a psychic. The possibilities were diverse to not say endless.

And yet I found myself sitting in front of the window instead. All this potential given to me, and I would waste it in much the same manner this time as I did the first time. I guess I had to give my subconscious mind some credit: it made its point abundantly clear.

I really should just stop whining altogether.

Though I guess it's too late for that now, huh?

I stared out the window again. The rain wasn't letting up. Figures.

Maybe I could try dating someone while I was still in school this time 'round.