Screen capture of Plants vs. Zombies (PopCap Games)

Zombie Connection

Mom loved games…cards, bingo, board games, video games…especially video games. When I was growing up, the free-standing “classic” video games were starting to pop up at the local convenience stores and arcades. Mom allowed us kids to walk the half mile down the road for an evening of electronic entertainment. THE HIGHLIGHT OF OUR WEEK! We each bought our snack of choice – making sure to get quarters for the machines. We took turns playing Galaga*, Pac-Man*, Centipede**, and Tempest**. My favorite was Centipede.

Our trips down the road were abandoned when the home gaming systems were introduced. I don’t remember which one we bought…but it was a great investment. Family time was spent challenging each other for high scores. The loser for the night was “awarded” additional chores by the winner. It was during these battles that Mom started playing games with us. She was mesmerized by the images on the screen. Her favorite game was Pac-Man. She gripped the joystick with such intensity that a dent was worn into her “joystick” finger. Many a controller met its demise in her clutches.

In the wee hours of one particular morning, we awakened to her persistent nudging. She herded us into the living room to validate her high score. I don’t remember the number on the screen but I do remember the look on her face…she exuded excitement…giddy…bubbling over…beaming…so proud of herself. We were in awe of her achievement.

Her love of video games remained with her over the years. When a game console wore out, she upgraded to the next version. I think the games were her escape from the burdens of being a widow with three children to raise. The games were also a way to connect with her family. I always found it amusing that a “game party” materialized when she was stuck on a level. During the “party”charade, she invited the grandchildren to see if they could beat the level that she just happened to be stuck on. It was during these sessions that Chris, young gamer extraordinaire, would get uninterrupted play time and unlimited attention from Grandma. After the level was passed, they went back to taking turns playing…each feeling that the other was taking WAY TOO MUCH time on their turn.

The sweepstakes craze brought her out to play games at the internet cafes springing up around town. Mom exchanged her usual home games for the games of chance and frequented multiple locations. She had a whole game plan devised for visiting each location based upon the available games and the free food and drink provided. She spent so much free time at the cafes that we started teasing her (tongue in cheek) about taking trips to the “crack” house to get her fix. (Please note that I am in no way comparing time spent playing video games to a drug addiction. This analogy is intended to portray the extent of her drive to visit the internet cafes.) Mom could spend the entire evening playing games at the cafe for twenty dollars. To her it was a social event. She enjoyed the food catered from local restaurants, drank the coffee and soft drinks, and talked to anyone who sat next to her. When we teased her, she quickly pointed out that she spent less for an evening of entertainment than we did. She laughed saying that we couldn’t even go out to the movies and get snacks for what she spends. Right as usual!

She turned her attention back to playing games on her computer. She didn’t play the high-tech 3D multi-player games. She preferred the more straight forward ones like slots, poker, Bejeweled****, Jewel Quest (all varieties)***, and her favorite was Plants vs. Zombies****. I remember chuckling to myself when she and my sister came to visit after my cancer surgery. The pain medicine caused me to fatigue easily. I wanted Mom to be entertained when I was sleeping so I downloaded Jewel Quest for her. She started from the beginning and by dawn the next morning she had completed all levels. She was on a roll…having a blast…and pulled an all-nighter. That’s MY Mom!

Her computer was on its last leg. I bought a new computer and brought it with me when I traveled to help care for her after surgery. The new computer was all set up with her favorite games. Ready and waiting for her. But Mom never got to play on her new computer. Sometimes I look at the computer and imagine a smile beaming across her face when she experienced the lightening speed of the new laptop. I imagine watching her play and listening to the game tips she always shared. I miss sharing in her passion for games.

I rarely keep games on my computer. Because I spend too much time playing games instead of doing the things I should be doing. But not now…Now I need to feel close to Mom. So I downloaded her favorite game – Plants vs. Zombies. And when I click on the grave stone, I escape into a fantasy world where Mom is standing over my shoulder…excitedly calling out instructions to help me beat the next wave of brain eaters. I imagine her pride and laughter when I make it to the next level. Check out the PopCap website for more information.

Screen capture of Plants vs. Zombies (PopCap Games)
Screen capture of Plants vs. Zombies (PopCap Games)

So…can I get anyone to admit they enjoy playing this game? Or perhaps you can share your favorite way to escape the trials of life. (Strictly PG rated please.)

*Galaga and Pac-Man, distributed by Midway (in North America)
**Centipede and Tempest produced by Atari
***Jewel Quest produced by Iwin
****Bejeweled and Plants vs. Zombies published by PopCap Games

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