In Which a Gamer Strokes His Gamer Boner

I CHECK THE TIME ON MY PHONE AGAIN. I’m early. When I’m early, there’s this cafe I like to go to. I time my coffee and donut so that I’ll arrive right at opening after hustling over to Futureshop, one block over. I assemble with the 7 or so other gamers just outside the locked doors, waiting for them to open. It’s cold. We can all see our breaths pluming in the air. I peer inside and am surprised.

It’s so cold that the Futureshop employees take pity on the early birds and let them wait in the warmth of the lobby. About 25 more gamers are packed in the small foyer. They stand there like racers waiting for the crack of a starting pistol.

I don’t have to go to work today. I’ve taken the day off. I don’t always take the day off. But for this game, I will. With other games, ones I’m not so crazy about, I’ll go downtown during lunch to pick them up. While I eat, I’ll slit open the shrink-wrap and read through the manual while I slurp my noodles. But today is Mass Effect 3 day.

I first heard the term “stroking your gamer boner” on the Games For Windows podcast–otherwise known affectionately as ‘The Brodeo’ –years ago. It was coined by Robert Ashley, then a freelancer and currently the creator of another amazing videogame podcast, A Life Well Wasted, the closest we’ve ever come to a videogame-focussed version of This American Life. He called the whole process of slowly getting worked up for an upcoming videogame “stroking your gamer boner,” and it seemed to me the most accurate description of the build up to finally playing a game I’d ever heard.

It starts with the announcement. Sometimes it’s a GameInformer cover. Other times it’s a press release with a couple of screenshots or concept art images. Usually the game’s been in development for a couple years already. They don’t want to announce too early, because if the game eventually takes too long to make, you’re going to lose patience. But the announcement is the equivalent of someone you find absolutely intoxicating saying to you with their eyes, “I’m going to have sex with you.” Then comes the foreplay, the slow drip-feed of teaser trailers, and early screen shots.

Every magazine on the stands covers different details. One article has an overview of the weapons. Another lists all the enemy types. One showcases the new game mechanics.

It’s like game sidles up to you in a bar, smiles. You inhale. The official first trailer comes out. You examine it carefully, taking in all the pre-rendered video, the brief snatches of actual gameplay. Will it deliver everything it promises?

More videos appear. Developer diaries. Videos that go over the weapons, the combat, the world. It’s like the game is talking to you in a soft voice, its lip-glossed mouth shining  under bar lights. The rest of the world blurs in the background. You are beginning to believe.

Now it’s less than a month before the game launches. You’re reading articles on your favorite videogame blogs like Kotaku. It’s been demo-ed for game journalists at GDC, E3, TGS. You’ve lapped up hands-off walkthroughs, hands-on previews. Now you really want it. It’s like a girl who’s almost in your arms. You begin counting off the days on your calendar. You talk with your boss about taking the day off.

Now it’s a done deal. You know you’re getting it Day One. Now the game’s like a girl who’s sticking to your side. She keeps touching you on your arm, on your back. You’re a goner but you’re more than okay with that.

Three days. Two days.

Early reviews, free from press embargoes, are finally appearing. You’re reading just enough of them to ensure you’re not making a mistake, but not enough to spoil anything for yourself. You can hardly stand it. You are practically screaming with anticipation.

Now you’ve lined up at Futureshop, bought the game and brought it home. You put the disc in the console. You crank the volume and turn off the lights. The game’s beauty illuminates your face.

Holy shit. This. Is. Fucking. Happening.

Sherwin Sullivan Tjia is the author of 5 books: Gentle Fictions, Pedigree Girls (Insomniac Press), The World is a Heartbreaker (Coach House Books), The Hipless Boy (Conundrum Press). His latest is a choose-your-own-adventure story told from the perspective of a cat. It’s called You Are a Cat! (Conundrum Press). His most recent invention, the E-Z-Purr, is a CD with over an hour of cats purring! and is available for purchase from CD Baby.

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In Which a Gamer Fires an Actual Gun 

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