Rage Against the Machine

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My kids do this thing called “raging” when they play video games. Apparently, raging is when a gamer reacts to things not going his way in a particular game by letting loose a string of angry, vicious epithets aimed at…I don’t know, the world, the game, God, fate, whoever fake shot them? There was a term for it back in the olden days when I played video games. It was called “being an absolute jerk”. It got you not invited back to your friend’s house to play Pitfall on Atari. By his mother.

I have to admit I’m not a gamer. The last time I was seriously invested in a game was The Legend of Zelda—Ocarina of Time. I spent hours upon hours chasing chickens, exploring caves, winning fishing contests, etc, etc. They should have called it Ocarina of This Will Take Up All of Your Free Time and Most of the Time You Should Have Been Spending With Your Family. And no, letting your kids watch you play doesn’t count. I finally finished the game at 4am the morning I was due to check into the hospital for abdominal surgery. I probably wasn’t going to sleep much anyway.

So I understand the addictive nature of the gamer, though this raging thing I’m not so sure about. My thirteen-year-old son plays online with a bunch of pre-teens, teens and never emotionally matured past teens. For him, I think raging is more of a performance art. Judging from the Youtube videos he watches, I think the general consensus among online game-players is that the more ridiculous, over-the-top and vile the language of the rage, the more funny and entertaining it is for everyone. For those of my generation, I liken it to listening to Eddie Murphy comedy records as a kid. If you don’t know what “records” are, you probably won’t get the reference.

My ten-year-old is a different story. Mychal’s not playing online, just by himself. So when he hurls his poisonous invective around like hay-makers at a barroom brawl, it’s hard not to cringe. Should such venom be caused by a mere fumble in a video game? I mean, I remember how I felt when my New York Giants almost lost a fumble in the NFC Championship game, and how I made what my kids still refer to as “high-pitched girly noises” until they jumped on the loose ball. But that was real life, or at least sports. When I tell my son to calm down before he becomes the first ten-year-old to have a heart attack, this is his response: “I’m just raging! Whaddya want me to do, get an ulcer?”

These are his choices? Scream like a banshee at an inanimate object or get an ulcer? I didn’t arrive at that point until I was at least forty and he’s already there at ten?

Then I have all those “parental worries”, like “What’ll happen when he has real problems?” or “Will he have anger issues?” or the ever-present “Am I the worst parent in the whole wide world?” All navel-gazing nonsense. Kids turn us into such namby-pamby wusses. Mychal is a multiple Good Citizenship Award winner at school. The only person he ever raised his hand in anger toward was his older brother, who is such a scootch that my wife and me are secretly waiting with bated breath for when Mychal gets big enough to take him down. Mychal is a chronic complainer, a kind person, a hypochondriac, a cuddler, a comfort-seeker, a good friend and a better-than-average theater critic. Violent he’s not.

Have you ever been in a car while a mild-mannered person was driving? Remember how white your knuckles got from grabbing onto anything handy to stay alive? Remember how your heart was beating out of your chest when you finally extricated yourself from their crazymobile? Why? Because that unassuming, modest person turned into a freakin’ lunatic behind the wheel, right? Screaming out the window, flipping both birds while driving with their knees, cutting people off like Henry the Eighth after a bad marriage. Then when they got out of the car, they were Clark Kent again. What is that?

My best guess is that it’s a safety-valve. The pressure builds up, then BOOM! it’s released. Some people are loud yellers (hey, that’s me!), some are crazy drivers, and some who don’t have kids or cars yet are ragers. Rage on, Mychal! And I’ll pretend I’m not imagining you firing a rifle into a crowd from a bell tower while you do!

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    • Kae
    • October 22nd, 2012

    There’s never a dull moment at your house, Brian! And that’s what kids are all about, God bless them.

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