Then and Now

Gunfighter, Magnavox Odyssey 2

video games
were impossibly different
when I
was a child
my brother 8, and I, 4
sat in the living room
playing his Magnavox Odyssey
with caricatures of cowboys
on the television set
shooting stick figure guns
in a 2-dimensional
yellow arena, poor imitation
of a desert
with multicolored shroom-cacti
there were no personas
to emulate, no backstory
or introduction, just
a one button controller
and imagination
our father didn’t approve
“Video games rot the brain”,
he would say, and
I understood
the generational divide

and now:
we have more realistic
violence, more realistic
avatars, more blood, more
when it’s simulated, it’s
when it’s real, it’s
too horrific to imagine
I remember how CNN’s coverage
of Desert Storm
seemed unreal
in 146 BC, the Romans
destroyed Corinth, killing
the men, and selling the women
into slavery
in 1236, the Mongols
invaded Russia, Ukraine, and
Belarus, killing
hundreds of thousands
in 1775,
the shot heard round the world
added further proof
that as humans we will do
as we’ve always done
I wonder
how much time
I’ve spent
on childish games

I don’t watch the news
anymore, and I
don’t listen to the radio,
I don’t want to know
all the terrible things
going on in the
Middle East, or
how many children die
each year, or
who’s supplying what, to whom,
or who’s
profiting from war
streaming movies is the most
I do online, these days,
no matter how much I hate
the senselessness
I can’t stop it
you know, my parents
are divorced now, but
back then, my father
worked in logging camps for
months at a time, and
when he was home
we had to hide
the video games,
as an adult
now, I can’t blame him
not wanting to hear
the unnatural noise
from the
soulless device.

© Emerys Watchel, 2015 All rights reserved.

*photo credit to


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