too many words by laura lemay


Last month I became the proud new owner of a Sega Game Gear. For those of you not up on your hip popular culture, a Sega is a hand-held portable videogame, a competitor to Nintendo. But its better than Nintendo causes it’s color, and, well, it’s not Nintendo.

The Sega had been something I had been gazing lustfully at for a while, but I coulnd’t really justify the cost of a dedicated video game when I have two computers sitting idle on my desk. 🙂

But I was going on a trip that involved a six-hour plane ride, and I was short on really good books. plus I had just gotten an unexpected monetary windfall, so I wandered down to my local purveyor of expensive imported consumer electronics goods and made my purchase.

The Game Gear comes with the game Columns. Columns is very much like Tetris. Having gone through an extremely bad tetris habit in college (I dreamed in tetris for several weeks, but I broke 20K points, so there), I had had enough of tetris and tetris clones, so I decided I’d better invest in another game to feed the machine, so I woulnd’t get bored. After looking over the meager offerengs (one of the problems of not being nintendo — there are something like 9,567 games for the nintendo, and maybe 12 for the game gear), I chose the Sega “signature” game — Sonic the Hedgehog. It looked rather silly, but I figured that a game in which the protagonist has a blue mohawk and wears red converse hightops can`t be all bad.

The first thing I discovered about the Sega is that is eats batteries. Six AA’s last about two hours. Munch munch. Of course, I discovered this on an airplane midway over colorado. So my Sega was dead for the duration of the vacation (mostly because I spent all my money on my vacation that I could have spent on batteries on clothing, books, and lots and lots of alcoholic beverages).

Just last weekend I took the machine down from the shelf, invested in batteries and decided to play with it for a while. After less than a day I had ripped through 24 double-As. I had singlehandedly set up the trash can in my kitchen as a hazardous waste disposal site.

So I went to radio shack to get an AC adaptor. I could have bought the Sega AC adaptor, but I figured that radio shack would have the same thing for less cash.

I wandered into Radio Shack on bright and sunny morning, and a middle-aged dweebish sales clerk asked if he could help me. Why is it all radio shack clerks are middle aged and really dweebish? The middle aged dweeb proceeeded to tell me that I had no clue what I wanted, cause AC adaptors done only deal in volts, they deal in milliamps, and I had to find out what range of milliamps I needed before he would sell me anything. I got the definite impression from this dude that my worst crime was being a *girl,* trying to dabble in difficult electrical things that I really shoulnd’t be worrying my pretty little head about. He practically came out and said “why don’t you get your boyfriend to look at your little machine and find out how many milliamps you need?” grrrr.

Terrific. Of course, the sega manual that comes with the game gear is going to tell you no such thing, so you have go out and buy the sega AC adaptor.

So I went to Target. The clerk at tagret tried to talk me into buying the Sega rechargable battery unit, which would allow me *five* straight hours of playing time, obviously a great advantage over normal alkaline batteries. Of course, I’d then have to recharge the battery pack for 16 hours, but I’d still have portability, which was the real reason I had bought the game gear, wasn’t it?

I bought the AC adaptor.

For the remainder of that weekend I discovered the real reason batteries are much more suitable for small hand-held video games. They’re better because when they run down, you have to stop playing and do something else for a while.

I sat down on the couch one sunday morning to play a short simple game of Sonic the Hedgehog. It was nine at night when I stopped.

I am beginning to realize why our nation’s children are growing up stupid.

But here then are my various Sega experiences —

Columns isn’t that bad. Its different enough from tetris to be interesting, but similar enough that you don’t end up playing it 8,583,356 times, like tetris.

Sonic is cute. I’ve made it all the way up to the 5th level. There are 18 levels. sigh.

One thing I’ve noticed about this new wave of video games is that although there have been massive advances in video technology since pong and ansteriods (including 16-bit color, tiny portable color games, lots more definition, etc), they still use the exact same stupid cheezy music that the old Atari games used to have.

And even worse, after nine hours of playing these games, you find yourself humming it.

But there is hope for me. Last night I didn’t once touch the game. I left it alone and watched TV instead.