Sunday, January 10, 2010

That cotton candy costs 350 tickets!

Everyone has a talent, right? And a lot of times, we end up being talented at something we never meant to become good at. It could be anything...singing, cleaning, running. Some people are talented at getting along with other people or making others laugh. As some of you know, Ava's talent is sit ups. Mine is making macaroni and cheese and random pop culture references. For one boy I dated many years ago, it was arcade games.

I'm actually serious.

I was never into video games, although I did play Super Mario Brothers as a kid. Playing the dungeon levels freaked me out though, and it turns out you really can't get far in that game without being able to handle the dungeons. The dungeon music still haunts me. Point is, video games were never my thing. In fact, I actively disliked them.

Then I ended up with a crush on this boy, and it turned out that he spent all of his free time at our local arcade/miniature golf headquarters. If I wanted to see him, it meant I had to do some serious video game playing and look like I liked it. It was a grenade I was willing to throw myself on, and apparently I did it well, because before long we were dating, and I was a regular at this place. It was in the days before we had cell phones, and I could almost always find him there, shooting something or other.

In fact, one of the first things he bought for me (and probably most romantic, in his head) was a VIP gamer's card, which meant I got a lot more tokens for a lot less money, or something. I can't really remember. I do remember that we played so many games and won so many tickets we kept a box in his trunk filled with the wooden tokens they gave us when we traded in a certain number of tickets.

. In fact, I posted about my favorite games back in 2000:

It's sad when you walk into Putt Putt and the boy at the counter smiles and waves not because it's polite but because he knows who you are. He knows you SO well in fact, that before you even make it all the way up to the counter, he's holding out your little bag of tokens because he knows you hate them in the rolls. He knows before you tell him that you have a Putt Putt Saver's card entitling you to a bajillion extra tokens free, and you don't even have to pull the well worn thing out of your back pocket. 

It's horrible. If questioned, the staff probably knows the games I'm terrible at and the ones I just, well, kick butt at. They probably know all about my soap opera life, too...who knows what kind of gossip goes on back there?! It's really bad. I should stop going. But I keep getting lured back. Just kill a little time, Ellyn...the games whisper, and I shrug and say "Okay" as I skip off to play them, dragging whichever friend I have along with me. Most of them learn to love it too, or at least to tolerate it. I'm very generous with my tokens, and on the big Semi game all I REALLY want to do is blow the horn. 

There are two games I am currently obsessed with. Triple Elevens is one and CarnEVIL is the other. I play the former because it's fun. In elementary school I would have hated it, because it's basically a math game, but now I love it and I am so obsessed that I often fall asleep adding eleven in my head until I go insane and knock myself out. I now have every possible combination of number that could be used to add eleven branded into my head. 
TenOneEleven NineTwoEleven EightThreeEleven SevenFourEleven SixFiveEleven FiveSixEleven FourSevenEleven ThreeEightEleven TwoNineEleven OneTenEleven SevenTwoTwoEleven EightTwoOneEleven FourFourThreeEleven....and so on. Eeek.
The other game I love to play is CarnEvil, and I play this one to get rid of my stress. You're basically at a carnival that has been taken over by witches and demons and zombies and such, and you just shoot everything that gets in front of you. It doesn't take much skill get to shoot stuff. I like it. Except the part where the spiders and grubs explode out of this hallway...that's pretty ucky and I don't enjoy it. But if you shoot the zombie's in just the right spot, their heads just pop off, and it's very rewarding. 
I won't play the guys in any of the games I like because I like to win and they get too competitive. I like to play the girls because they giggle about how they suck and I can kick their butts hard core. I am also "Miss Ski Ball All-State." I never get the ten thousands, but I hit four and five thousand pretty consistently, so I usually win. I won so many tickets with K playing games that we got a Sega Dreamcast. It's the most expensive prize they have at seventeen thousand tickets.

Yes, I was a dork. But what I had to show for that relationship after it ended (and for the record, after our break up we did the requisite box of crap return to one another at the arcade. We were super cool.) was a new personal talent and interest: arcade games. I was passable at Dance Dance Revolution, I was amazing at racing cars, and I was the reigning skee ball champion. More than all that, though, I will never walk into another arcade without feeling happy for some strange reason.

Of course, all talents fade without practice, and I've played skee ball literally a handful of times since those old days. I haven't sat behind the wheel of a good arcade car racing game in years, and until I recently found an app for my beloved Super Elevens game, I was out of practice at that, too.

So you can probably imagine the excitement and trepidation I felt when I walked into a local arcade recently with a friend. Would I still have fun or would I have outgrown the games? Would I embarrass myself at skee ball or win? I'm a terrible loser, would I be able to deal if I didn't win?

I'm thrilled to say I loved the games as much as ever and possibly even more since now I know just what a treat it is to get out and play for fun. And although I was rusty on many of the games, it all came rushing back after a few rounds and either I was being allowed to win or I do still possess some latent gamer's talent deep inside me somewhere. But really, the most important part was that I won a ton of tickets and came home with my very own disappearing ink, Lik-M-Aid, fake spider ring, and miniature slinky.

And I'm not letting the kids have any of it! Actually, I might share, but I'm keeping the Lik-M-Aid all for myself.

Is there anything you thought you'd hate and ended up loving?
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