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Down the Pipe:
Birth of a Gamer

By Russell "RadPipe" Lauzon
Vol. 2, Issue 2 
November 19, 1999 

Kids that age don’t know how to be egotistical. Zach plays for love of the game. I see traits in him that I see in great gamers. He tries things just for the heck of it. He sees straight through problems to simple solutions. I remember once in Q2CTF, he had grabbed the flag and was heading back to base. I stood behind him saying, “Run! Back to your base! Run!” He stopped right in the middle of the map, despite my urging, and started flipping through his weapons. “What are you doing?” I cried. He switched to grenade launcher, resumed running, and started laying a path of grenades to catch the enemies in his wake. Shut me up pretty good.

I often come across Zach playing a game, completely oblivious to what is going on in the game around him. He’s played for hours upon hours with the grappling hook, seeing where this odd device will take him. I’ve found him sitting on wall lights, on other players, on small outcroppings that can’t be seen unless you’re standing on them. I once watched him play for over an hour using nothing but the railgun. He was missing almost every shot but it didn’t bother him at all. He just kept shooting. I’ve only see dedication like that in hardcore gamers. Me, I’ll use the railgun for all of 5 minutes before giving up in frustration and returning to a weapon I can actually use.

I loaded up the Unreal Tournament demo and was very pleased it had a system for loading bots much like the Eraser. Zach loves it. And it kills me the stuff he comes up with. He can show me something I didn’t know almost every day. For example, when you use the Shock Rifle and secondary fire, it shoots an exploding ball of, um, something that looks like electricity or plasma. Bud did you know, if you quickly switch to primary fire (which shoots kind of like a railgun) and shoot, you can use it to detonate the ball before it hits? I came across Zach using this technique just other day. There was an enemy shooting out of his line of sight, so, he shot the ball, then exploded it after it passed a corner. It makes me want to shout, “Kid, you’re only 3 years old! Who do you think you are? Stop it already!”

There’s no fanfare. No bravado. He doesn’t jump and shout, “Look what I can do Daddy!” He doesn’t gather his friends around so he can gloat on some technique he has learned. He does it because it works. He does it for love of the game. And he moves on.

Where does it end? I came home the other day and found Zach checking my e-mail. He can’t read, and can’t make heads or tails of what’s coming in, but that doesn’t matter. He dials the ISP, loads e-mail, clicks “Send and Receive”, and watches it come in. I have to be careful and stop him before he starts trying things, though.

I know what you’re thinking. Can he whup me? No. The reflexes of young children are nowhere near as refined as adults or teenagers at such an early stage. My 8 year old can show some resistance, but he’s got a ways to go too. I own them every time.

How special is Zach? As I said before, I’m a parent and so I’m proud as all heck of my little boy, as I’m sure all parents are. So I’ll give the masses the benefit of the doubt, and it’s why I talk about the next generation of gamers. If our kids are all like Zach, what’s in store for us? Will we one day fall prey to our little tykes, as they jump online and “own” us in droves? Will we one day start all our stories with, “in my day...” while we watch the next generation inherit the online community? I dunno. I bet this is how it starts.

- Russell "RadPipe" Lauzon is currently exhausting all his free time researching Beer Goggles.


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Credits: Illustration © 1999 Dan Zalkus. Down the Pipe is © 1999 Russell Lauzon. All other content is © 1999 loonyboi productions. Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited, biznitch.