Up from the basement

I’m not sure why we never came up for air.

Maybe it was a subconscious urge to be as far removed from the surface as humanly possible. All I know is, for any kid growing up playing hockey on Nintendo rather than outside, the basement was their refuge.

Like Superman’s icy Fortress of Solitude, it was cold (at least relative to the rest of the house), removed and possessed an almost mystical importance. While our parents were upstairs watching their dull, old-fashioned, non-interactive television, we were downstairs mashing mobile mushrooms or capturing creatures in bubbles. Come to think of it, maybe we had to be just that little bit removed from reality to accept what we saw on the TV screen.

I remember being jealous of my friends’ basements at times. Not that mine was particularly bad. It had both an original and a Super Nintendo, a decent TV, even Surround Sound. It’s fair to say all my gaming needs were met. But life consists of more than just games.

What was I to do if I got thirsty? I’d have to walk all the way upstairs to the kitchen just to get a glass of milk. Things got even worse when hunger set in, what with the cutlery and the cooking.

That’s where my friends had it made.

Let me put it this way: whoever invented the microwave was a genius and thanks be to God for the mini-fridge. With these, there was no reason to pull our dry, red eyes from the TV screen for more than a few seconds at a time.

Now, I don’t want to give the impression that basements were all about inactivity. That would be forgetting the key to any good basement–the fort. Before video games, even before television (Lord, how did they get by?), people made forts out of their couch cushions and blankets, but all you could do in them was lay around, talk, and maybe read a few comic books by flashlight. Being technologically advanced, we quickly learned forts could be far more.

Using a complex system of counter-weights, Lego support towers and overhead blankets, our forts always included at least the TV, if not the entire entertainment centre. If necessity is the mother of invention, comfort and laziness are at least a cousin, or possibly some sort of in-law.

Over the years, the video game generation has matured and begun to move out on their own. Consoles have moved out of the basement and up to the family room. PC gaming means, in many cases, more gaming in the upstairs home office. Old stereotypes are fading almost as fast as our feeble tans during a marathon LAN session.

While it’s sad to think the next generation may grow up without the joy a simple mini-fridge can inspire, there’s also a feeling of vindication in seeing the games moving upstairs. We grew up with them, befriended them when everyone else forced them into hiding, and can now watch proudly as they step into the daylight we so desperately avoided.

It seems we’ve finally reached the point where the basement, fittingly enough, is beneath us.

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