Pushing Buttons

I believe I have developed an addiction to Rockband. It’s a video game that can be played alone or in groups, together or competitively. It comes with a microphone, a guitar, and a set of drums, and the display on the screen tells players what to do and when to ‘play’ a selection of popular rock tunes. A cool idea!

I’m not sure how this happened…

One minute I’m yelling at the kids to ‘Turn that down!!’, the next I’m pushing them out of the way screaming ‘Mommy dibs the drums!!’

First was the BUZZ!, now the Rockband.

And while there is something exhilarating to belting out the lyrics to Rush’s Tom Sawyer – without having to read the words! – I am beside myself in discovering the incredible release of pent up frustrations in hammering out Boston’s It’s Been Such a Long Time on the drums.

The guitars are still a little much for me. I’m stuck on easy, apparently not having the coordination or stamina to handle the medium setting… It’s just not very satisfying – yet – even though the kids are so supportive.

But those drums. Wow. I had no idea.

I’m even getting the hang of the foot pedal now.

So I was trying to figure out the allure of these video games for me. I’m a middle aged mom. I don’t condone the pretend killing of imaginary foes. I don’t enjoy the treasure-hunt type time-waster games that hide tricks and secrets from you until you’ve participated more than 37 times. I have no patience for that.

Nor do I fair well with any of the racing and driving games. This is simply because I am a driver. Therefore, I pretend drive the same way I drive – with caution, respect, and maturity. I try to avoid speeding, reckless behaviour, and -at all costs- crashes. While I score high on the ‘extra lives’ meter, this doesn’t net me many points.

The kids, on the other hand, will not be getting their driver’s licenses any time soon, as I have witnessed their complete and total inability to maneuver through even the simplest of pathways without killing both themselves and several competitors. Worse yet, they don’t seem to have a problem with this.

But when it comes to the games that don’t require much ‘training,’ the ones that any old adult can simply pick up and manage competently within an adult attention span for such matters, I am hooked!

I think it has something to do with the buttons.

There is something instinctively compelling about pushing buttons. I remember some of the biggest fights I ever had with my sister were over who got to push which button. When we would visit our aunt and uncle who lived in an apartment building, our parents decided that one of us could push the buttons on the way up and the other on the way down. I always chose to push on the way up, hoping silently that she would fall off the balcony while we visited, and then I would get to push the elevator buttons on the way back down, too.

This never happened, but I never stopped hoping.

Our dad never gave in to a push button phone. We dialed miserably until we moved away from home as young adults. And in the days before remote controls, we had to manually flip the dial through the channels every half hour, and, to our embarrassment in front of all of our friends, we had to turn the antenna dial to be able to get the signal.

I still hate anything with a dial. Even the shower control drives me nuts.

Our first microwave oven burned out in three days because we were so excited to be pushing buttons that we cooked everything from food to wet shoes. We liked the microwave.

So now we’re all grown up. And that early deprivation is catching up with us.

Those of us in our forties are now buying every piece of technology we can get our hands on because we need to make up for so much lost time. Computer keyboards, cell phones, video games. We hated letting our fingers ‘do the walking.’ Now we’re pushing buttons!! If we haven’t done it ourselves, we know someone who has developed blisters on their fingertips after setting up the contact list in a new Blackberry!

I first noticed my affliction a few weeks back when helping one of the boys with some math homework. He has this thing called a ‘graphing calculator.’ Now, I like math. I was always good at it. But this was new to me. So we sat and got familiar with it together, learning how to graph his math equations. What a toy.

Watching him, though, I had to laugh. He was using the calculator just like a cell phone, punching away at the keys in record time with both thumbs. I pointed this out to him, explaining that a calculator is meant to be used like an old fashioned adding machine – you pound away on the keys one a time with your index finger, in time to some rhythm in your head, taking an extra pause every time you hit the subtotal key. I even demonstrated the chk-chk-chk-chk-CHK patterning for him. He wasn’t impressed.

An hour later, he pointed out to me that I, too, was using the calculator in the same manner as I text on my Blackberry.

I was stunned. I don’t know when this happened to me.

So when it comes to the Rockband, I’m in! I’ll push the buttons! I don’t care how big they are or how hard I have to hit them or with what. I just really like poking something and making something else happen.

It’s like magic.

And the kids are just happy that Mommy’s playing with them.

Maybe next week we’ll try some football!!

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