Wednesday, February 1, 2012


This is the age of first-person-shooter video games. It began in the early 90's with "Castle Wolfenstein,"which produced "DOOM" and "Duke Nukem." Mac fans had the "Marathon" series. Now the list is legion. I've played the "Medal of Honor" series and "Call of Duty" as well. There's something soothing about what my friend R.P. calls "Blasting Bozos."

First-person-shooter video games did not spring into existence sui generous. When I was a boy it was called "Playing Army." My dad played "Cops & Robbers." These games differed from the video variety in that the player actually had to go outside and move his body through three dimensional space, rather than virtual reality.

My neighborhood was blessed to have an untended orange grove at the time I was growing up. That meant no irate California Citrus Growers ever showed up to complain about the quasi-military maneuvers, forever climbing trees and digging foxholes. In the Spring the grass would grow tall in the grove, climbing up into the lower branches of the orange trees. If you were careful, you could crawl in, mash down the grass under the tree, and from outside no one would ever be the wiser to your secret little fort.

We boys always played Army, year round. We didn't have super deluxe weapons, either. Some kids had identifiable, manufactured guns. Often we just used a stick or maybe a handy board dad cut and painted in the garage. I did have a "Monkey Gun Bazoka" once, but my proudest possessions were my Roy Rogers, pearl handled Fanner-Fifties. Until I lost them. Sometimes, even the girls played along. But not too much. The girls much preferred riding up and down the block on their Schwinn bicycles, pink tassels trailing from the handle bars.

There was one army game the girls refused to play. A particularly gruesome innovation I've never heard of outside my neighborhood. We called it "Machine Gun Nest." One kid got to be the machine gunner. Then others ran heroically at the nest, one at a time. The object was to die in the best Hollywood tradition. It could be heroic, pitiful or grisly. Flamboyance was the key. The guy who was judged the best in each round got to be the machine gunner. (There was a Naval Aviator version where you played a carrier-launched plane who got to crash and burn.)

Yeah, I can hear all the mothers and grandmothers now... "How horrible!" Tough. Fact is, we had fun, and though I still enjoy first-person-shooter games I've managed to live through most of my fifth decade without becoming a crazed serial killer.


Eric said...

Never a crazed serial killer -- how about a pastor wishing he could play "Pop the profligate parishioner"?

Don the Baptist said...

Save 'em or shoot 'em? Naaaaa.

Dan Smith said...

Man this makes me happy. I grew up on a farm and didn't have a lot of people close to me, but I still did a lot of this sort of stuff. I was just beating up my brothers instead. I think we turned out ok, except for that odd tick...Anyway, good post!

Larry Geiger said...

Been there done that. Particularly the orange groves (only in sunny FL). You did not mention the occassional citrus fruit fight? You guys never tossed fruit at each other?

Don the Baptist said...

Larry, I'll have to do a whole new post on moldy orange fights. Nothing else like them.