Archive for Monday, June 6, 2011


River City Jules: Ex-’Sim City’ mayor lays down the law

June 6, 2011


MY husband logged off iTunes and flew to the kitchen, where I would love to say my kids were preparing dinner.

“Who is buying points for something called ‘Mega Jump?’”

Three of our children went pale. Caroline, however, willingly sang.

“I bet it was Ellie. She plays that game all the time.”

Like cockroaches, the kids scattered, leaving Ellie and her dad alone. While they walked back to the office to check out the damage online, I resumed making dinner and reflected on the video games of days gone by.

Though we envied my cousins’ Pong, my dad held out for Atari, which we played in my parents’ unfinished basement daily from 1982 through 1987. If my brothers and sister and I never develop skin cancer, we have our obsession with “Space Invaders” and “Frogger” that never allowed us to see the sun for five years to thank.

Our eye-hand coordination in prime form, we could have gone on to become world-renowned sculptors or surgeons. But instead we used these powers to compete in neighborhood “Pac-Man” tournaments, usually losing to Steve Klee. I did, though, once reach the 3,000-point challenge issued by Activision for their intensely thrilling game, “Kaboom!” An achievement that, had I developed the roll of film that held my photos of the television screen to prove it, could have earned me a membership with the Activision Bucket Brigade AND a Bucket Brigade Patch.

But I failed to turn in the film in a timely manner, so you will just have to take my word for it.

Some time after my what-should-have-been-officially-recognized “Kaboom!” run, I discovered boys, thus ending my time in the basement. Playing video games.

Outside of a brief fling with “Tetris” in 1992 that ended after spending an entire week battling dreams of four-cubed structures falling from the sky, I have never given much time to gaming since.

Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for my husband. “Sim City” tested our marriage early on, a test that ultimately ended with his forced resignation as mayor. Winning out over “Dullsville, USA,” was a definitive turning point in our union, one that empowered us to emerge triumphant time and again over “Age of Mythology,” “Guitar Hero” and, most recently, “Angry Birds.”

And now this innate love of on-screen battle has carried over to our children, who have already bonded this summer teaming up to give their little red monster extra boosts of energy while he avoids the spiky things on the screen.

Their father talked with them about the importance of earning one’s own megapoints verses using one’s father’s iTunes account to buy them, and dinner proceeded as planned. With one exception.

After dinner I noticed my husband was staring awfully hard at his iPhone.

“What are you —” I asked. “Are you playing that game?”

He looked up. “I promised I would help them get to the next level if they leave my iTunes account alone.”

— Julie Dunlap can be reached at


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