Life’s a little structured — and that’s OK
“It’s tricky to rock a rhyme, to rock a rhyme that’s right on time, it’s tricky, t-t-t-tricky, tricky, tricky.”
The catchy chorus of Run-D.M.C.’s “It’s Tricky (K-Rec Remix)” blared from the television speakers. At eight years old, I had no idea who the legendary hip-hop group Run-D.M.C. even was. I knew nothing of their success in the music industry or their significant influence on hip-hop culture. At the time, I didn’t know the title of that particular song, or even much of the lyrics. However, I did know one thing — every time that chorus played, it meant that I was doing well in my favorite video game. As one of the theme songs for the snowboarding video game SSX Tricky by EA Sports, “It’s Tricky” played whenever the gamer successfully landed a difficult snowboarding trick during a race. By accomplishing various tricks and winning a certain number of races, the gamer could unlock special characters and snowboard equipment. These locked characters and equipment had better stats than the given characters and equipment available at the beginning of the game, so a player could achieve greater speed, trick moves, and precision by unlocking these items. It was my adolescent goal to unlock every single one of the more elusively prestigious characters and snowboarding equipment.
Interestingly enough, SSX Tricky wasn’t even my game.
I didn’t own the DVD with animated snowboarders displayed with arms crossed and a smirk on the cover, yet I was able to play often because of my friend Robina. My best friend in the second grade, Robina owned SSX Tricky and lived close by to me as well. Many of my childhood days were spent at her place — watching movies that resonated with our prepubescent souls, playing catch with her rowdy black dog Toby, and picking ripe blackberries in her backyard so we could wash and eat them as soon as we went back inside. The list of things to do with Robina was seemingly endless, yet I always found myself spending at least a small portion of my time at her house playing SSX Tricky.
We would lounge around in Robina’s living room, trading between sitting on the small black leather couch or on the rug in front of it. Toby would often join us inside and excitedly bother whoever was sitting on the rug for attention, so I always chose to sit on the couch whenever I was adamant about unlocking a specific character.
As an elementary school student, I was very small, very shy, and very polite.
Robina was essentially the same, so we naturally became great friends. However, when it came to playing this video game, the aggressive sides of us were awakened and we would suddenly become two enthusiastically vocal little girls with Playstation 2 controllers in our hands and a clear mission to accomplish.
At my own home, I didn’t have many video games so I didn’t spend a significant amount of time playing games on a game console. Instead, I often watched television, played simple computer games like Bejeweled on online sites, or ran around in my backyard playing badminton or basketball. I thought being able to play SSX Tricky was a rare treat that was incredibly special to have. With my limited resources and limited scope, I thought Robina was one of the luckiest girls I knew for owning such a game and having parents who allowed her to play it so often. It is only in retrospect that I realize how circumstantial our gaming was as a result of the role of family.
Robina’s parents were extremely lenient with us playing video games for various reasons, one being the authority they had over us as we played in one of the public areas of the home. Robina’s living room was the largest room of her home, and essentially at the center of the one-story house. The family television and Playstation 2 and games were all located in the living room, and that was where we coincidentally always played. Robina’s parents could easily see us from the kitchen and the hallway that led to the bedrooms, so they were able to keep a watchful eye on us from all around the house and walk in on our activity at any time. According to HOMAGO, having public media spaces allowed Robina’s parents to have more control over the types of media we engaged in because they were able to keep a constant watch on what we were doing. I remember the many times Robina’s mom would stroll into the living room with a plate of snacks in her hand to give to us, casually asking what we were up to. Back then, I used to think she was surely an angel for offering treats so often. Only now do I wonder if she had ulterior motives to her seemingly benevolent acts…
On top of that, Robina and I were able to enjoy the freedom of playing video games at her home because her parents were able to provide the type of environment that could nurture that sort of activity. Robina’s parents were both teachers at relatively wealthy neighborhoods, so they made a decent income that allowed them to occasionally purchase the latest technology. My parents made significantly less than Robina’s and, even as a child, I noticed the difference in our material possessions. I remember noting that Robina’s television was much bigger and newer than mine, and she owned Apple products like an iMac computer. In the same way, Robina’s parents were able to provide their family with the latest video games because they had the financial resources.
The leniency Robina’s parents had with us playing video games also stemmed from the fact that they trusted the content of the games they purchased. At the time, Robina’s uncle was a high-ranking employee at EA Sports, the company that created SSX Tricky. Because Robina’s uncle approved SSX Tricky as a game fit for kids, her parents did not have the same anxiety that many parents hold when it comes to gaming content for minors. This allowed for them to give Robina the freedom to play the video game without their constant supervision, and trust the game enough to even extend the game to children not their own, like me.
Even though hanging out at Robina’s house was always a fun experience I looked forward to, I realize now how heavily technology influenced our time together. Often times, our activities were centered on technology, which shows how gaming was largely a friendship-driven practice in our case. When playing SSX Tricky, we took turns watching each other try complex tricks, shared secret routes that we discovered, and occasionally raced each other, too. It was never a huge competition between us, but rather a method through which we were able to spend time together and find common ground on. Gaming was a great way for us to connect as adolescents, as it created a mutual interest and a means of relating with one another during a time when we were still figuring out our personalities, our likes and dislikes. Over the years, we naturally drifted apart. But despite the changes in schools, address, and friend groups, it’s a good feeling to know that even now, thirteen years later, these recollections of gaming consistently bring only positive memories.