‘Soul Calibur’ didn’t make my kid an angry mess, but it helped

Attention, nerds: Designing games containing proportions like this will, impossibly, make chicks dig you less.

Island Packet — I’ve never been one to equate childhood exposure to guns/video games with an eventual life of violence; I grew up splitting my time among G.I. Joe, pro wrestling and “Double Dragon II” on the NES, which is why I couldn’t talk to a girl without sweating like a horse until the age of 27, yet I still turned out to be a freaky hippie who has never, to this day, made up reasons to invade another country or even hit another human, although I reserve that particular right if I ever encounter any of the New Kids on the Block, Kid Rock or anyone who appears on cable with the job title of “commentator.”

But when we had the Little Man, we made a plan to try to block him from knowing that video games existed for as long as possible, much like we’re doing with “The Hills,” Burger King and George W. Bush. This is, of course, futile. Already he’s got a little friend who shows up at the house carrying a video game four times a day, asks us if we have PlayStation four times a day, and when we respond in the negative four times a day, stares at us blankly like we just tried to teach him unified string theory through interpretive dance, four times a day.

But there’s a saying about the best-laid plans for a reason, and my son arrived home last weekend to find his dad and some friends engaged in a fierce PlayStation 3 game titled “Soul Calibur.” This was big, big news to my boy’s sponge-brain, as Dad is not a video-game guy, the last game he played with any regularity being Super Mario Bros. 3 in 1993, though, to be fair, Dad rocked Super Mario Bros. 3’s face off.

The game — which is actually called “Soul Calibur IV” and subtitled “Electric Boogaloo” — is more weirdly removed from reality than Fox News; it’s a combat game in which two combatants combat one another in combat, except one combatant will be like a hell-demon samurai with nunchuks, Gene Simmons’ breastplate, a cape and the head of a pagan rhinoceros god, and the other is a pixie-faced 18-year-old nubile schoolgirl with thigh-high white heel-boots and an 84-inch chest, neither of which do anything for laying aside the stereotypes about the people who play and design video games. Seriously, if the pixie-faced girl existed in real life, fighting her would be the easiest thing in the world, because you’d just have to stand there for the three seconds it would take her to lose her balance and topple forward.

“Soul Calibur IV: The Voyage Home” is one of those games that nerds will tell you involve great degrees of skill, coordination and anticipation, but in reality here’s what happens: You relentlessly pound your controller like you’ve just drank 12 Red Bulls, and your opponent pounds his controller like he just drank 16, and fists fly and characters shout “Urgh!’ and “Gah!” and “Snuh!” and “Glop!” and some time later after no one cares anymore, a winner accidentally emerges.

Anyway, my kid walks in while this “Soul Calibur IV: Calibur Harder” is going on, and like all children over the age of fetus, when he sees the video game his eyes roll back into his head and his body automatically is drawn to the television like a bug to a porch light. “What is that game, Daddy?” he asks innocently, drool puddles beginning to form on the corners of his mouth.

I, of course, panic. All I see is 25 years of him sitting in the basement on a Mountain Dew-stained couch, his skin yellow and drawn from lack of sun exposure. Part of me wanted to throw the PlayStation into the swamp and tell him that he had been hallucinating, like I did the time he caught me wrapping a Santa present, but all I could do was explain why Daddy was playing “Soul Calibur IV: Red White, and Calibur,” and, of course, let him play a round, because I’m an idiot.

And for the next 15 minutes, he was a SAVAGE.

He ran around the room in circles, he buried his head in the couch. He fake-punched me once or twice before being told that continuing to do so would ruin his juice privileges for life, he yelled like a crazy person and shouted “K.O.” at the top of his lungs.

So no, I can’t say that there is a direct correlation between violent video games and my son’s abandoning of his basic human identity. But I can say that there might be a connection, but whatever, because “Soul Calibur” is totally awesome.

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About Jeff Vrabel

My writing has appeared in GQ, Men’s Health, Success, the Washington Post, the official BruceSpringsteen.net, Indianapolis Monthly, Billboard, Modern Bride and more. View all posts by Jeff Vrabel

2 responses to “‘Soul Calibur’ didn’t make my kid an angry mess, but it helped

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