When your brother is a car fanatic and you’re the only sibling who thinks he’s cool enough to hang out with, you get used to watching racing games and occasionally failing at them while he laughs at you.
Most of the memories I have of racing games involve me seeing the sights instead of actually racing. I can’t keep up with anyone, so why not take a stroll through the city streets, down the beach and into the water? It was quite a pleasant experience, now that I remember. It was certainly more pleasant than trying to actually race. The worst games were the ones on tracks, instead of in cities, because there was nothing to see but the boring old turns à la the Top Gear test track.
It seems only right, then, that my sister would marry a man who shared this affinity for virtually driving in circles and that their two sons would join in on this obsessive behaviour at the ages of five and six.
To me, they’re still toddlers, but in reality they have their own mini dirt bikes that they ride around the track created in their backyard. Their love of Motocross is prevalent both in their muddy reality and their virtual “reality” – which is why it was only inevitable that I would play MX Unleashed for Playstation 2.
With only one controller, it's a lesson of self-control for all of us as my brother-in-law is the first to play, then the six-year-old, then the five-year-old, then me. We all get to pick which track we like best. Then we pick our gear and our bikes. And then we race.
As their dad begins, he easily pulls into the lead much to the glee of the two mini-hims sitting to his right.
“Daddy’s in first!” the six-year-old tells me. “You’ll probably be in eighth.”
“How many bikes are there?” I ask.
Ouch. Six-year-old burns are harsh.
As their dad continues around the track, falling occasionally and making his kids laugh. I decide to inquire more about this game.
“Which track is your favourite?” I ask the six-year-old as he sits there entranced by the game.
“Las Vegas,” he says quickly.
“Do you know where Las Vegas is?” I ask innocently, wondering how much this little one knows.
“That’s probably a good thing.” My first understanding of Vegas came from Honey I Blew Up the Kid and it’s still the first thing I think of – other than the poison that is CSI. But Las Vegas will always conjure up images of a giant toddler playing the neon-lit guitar from the Hard Rock Café and then getting a boo-boo and shrinking back to normal size. I forget the science of it all, but I do know it was a favourite Rick Moranis role.
As their dad wins and passes the controller over, he gets up to leave the room and the six-year-old lifts up the controller cord to trip him and laughs maniacally. These kids are vicious. It’s a whole new competitive side to the sweet little weirdos I would be forced to watch Bob the Builder with. I feel as if I’ll be bullied like I was when I played Top Gear Rally with my brother. This is the not the safe environment of playing Zelda at my friend’s house. This is cut-throat.
“Oooooh, BAM!” the six-year-old screams when he drives his dirt bike into a backhoe. (I would like to note the fact that I got it right – it was a backhoe and not a loader or scraper, so these little monsters didn’t have to correct me like they usually do.)
As the six-year-old burns his way around the dirt track and the five-year-old yells at him, I notice the fact that they know the names of the turns. It’s all Greek to me, but it’s racing-speak that children know and I don’t. I’m being surpassed in knowledge by kids whose diapers I used to change and I'm not sure I like it.
“Ohhhh, come on!” he screams as I laugh. He does that thing I remember doing when I was younger (much younger) while playing racing games with my brother – you get so into it, you move the controller where you want the vehicle to go, almost unplugging it at every turn. But then again, I may still play that way. Something I’ll only find out when it’s my turn to be under the careful watch of two children.
As the six-year-old finishes and passes the controller to the right, I can hear him already making plans for his next turn. “I’m doing San Ontario next,” he says excitedly. I let this one slide – I’m not going to explain to him that Ontario and San Antonio are two different things. He doesn’t even know where Vegas is. It’s not time for a geography lesson, I tell myself.
“Is this the one where you hit the cars?” my five-year-old nephew asks his brother. “Ohh! I love this one!”
He screams with glee when he’s in first place right off the start gate – a small victory he will let no one forget. His first place lead is quickly sacrificed, though, for the chance to drive into the side of a parked ambulance and crash. Irony is lost on the young.
He, of course, thinks it’s hilarious – much like I used to think it was hilarious driving into the waves in an arcade driving game at the local arcade/mini golf/go-kart hot spot. I forget the name of the game. All I remember was that it was “the car with the green button.” I was probably their age when I would go there with the family, so I can’t be expected to know it as anything but “the car with the green button” (even though, I think, all racing games have some kind of green button…)
“Ifyou’regoingtoofastonthecornerjusthitthebrake.” My nostalgia is easily interrupted by his excitedly manic talking. Kids on video games leads to unfathomably quick speech: a PSA. At this point, he’s standing up, leaning side to side as if he was on the dirt bike – and, to be fair, they know how to ride proper dirt bikes so he’s probably doing all the moves correctly.
“I did a black flip!” he nearly screams before breaking into fits of laughter at his slip of the tongue. “I said black flip instead of back flip!”
His brother pipes up. “A black flip is when…” I brace myself for the definition. “…is when you do a flip at night because it’s dark outside.”
In ignorant bliss, the five-year-old screams out, “I’m so good at this! I’m in first place!!”
In true older brother fashion, the six-year-old feels the need to correct him. “No, you’re eighth. Because you’ve been lapped two times. No wait … [bikes go flying past the five-year-old] …three times.”
Let him have the glory, big brother! Don’t take this away from him!
“They’re stopping!” the five-year-old says innocently. “Why are they stopping?”
“Because they’ve finished,” his brother notes. Adding, in a serious and irritated tone, “We’ve talked about this.”
I finally understand why my brother was the way he was when we played racing games. Older brothers require a helluva lot of patience – more patience than I ever gave him credit for.
“Oh, final lap!” I say.
“And then it’s your turn,” the six-year-old adds, rather ominously. I think my hands just got clammy. I’m mentally preparing myself for the humiliation that may result in my being awful at a game two children have almost perfected.
“I’m doing a donut!” the five-year-old yells.
“That’s actually a fishytail,” the six-year-old corrects.
“I’m doing a fishytail! Woooohooooo!”
“A fishytail is when the front tire stays where it is and the back ones goes out like a fishytail,” the six-year-old sombrely explains to me. I would glare at him for being so condescending, but in truth I had no idea what the difference was so that little tidbit was quite helpful. I now know the difference between a donut and a fishytail. And you do, too.
They both look at me, typing away what they’re saying onto my phone. “Auntie Amy! No texting until after the game!” the one chastises. “Yeah! No texting!” the other adds. Wow. These boys are strict when it comes to gaming. I’m forced to set my phone down and prepare for total humiliation.
Thankfully, age and experience have given me the gift of hand-eye coordination and the knowledge of how to drive an actual vehicle, so I’m not as bad as I thought I was – and apparently not as bad as they were expecting.
“Whoa! You’re doing a lot gooder than I thought you would be!”
“Thanks!” I respond, secretly bursting with pride and an inflated ego.
“I thought you were gonna crash and eat bunnies!”
“Eat bunnies?” I ask. He said it with absolutely no qualms, I had to make sure that’s what he meant to say.
“Yeah! It’s funny!” Oh, I get it. Jokes. Humour from a six-year-old. …To be honest, I don’t get it, but it’s funny to him so it’s funny to me.
Even though I like to think I did fairly well, I still crashed a fair number of times. After one such crash, I expressed how I think I broke myself.
“No, you didn’t. If it was for real then you might break a leg or an arm,” the five-year-old explains.
“Or my whole body,” I add.
“Yeah, OR you would break your head right off! For real! If this was for real!”
I crash again and ask, “Where am I?”
“You’re right there,” the five-year-old says all-too matter-of-factly. “You are where you are and that’s where you are!” He says it in such a “duh” kind of way, I can’t help but laugh at the level of sass being thrown at me from so little a person.
“Sometimes in real Motocross, you get driven over. Yeah,” the five-year-old says with eyebrows so far up I’m afraid they’ll jump off his face. “In real Motocross, yeah.” Even though he sounds an awful lot like Rain Man, I take him seriously since they do watch Motocross with their dad and have presumably seen such events take place.
It’s the six-year-old’s turn again, which means the five-year-old’s mind is free to wander, much to my entertainment.
“Once, I hit my nose on stairs and it started bleeding,” he says to me as if he was telling me about the weather.
“Purple blood,” his brother adds while racing around a track in San Ontario.
“Yeah, and once I slept in the bath and my eye turned blue,” the five-year-old continues. “No, purple. Once, this kid’s eye turned purple when he fell down the stairs.”
And on that note, I can’t help but think of the wise words of Lonely Island in their Adam Levine featured song “YOLO” – “And never take the stairs / ‘cause they’re often unsafe!”
I’m not sure racing games are for me, but I doubt that’ll be my last time playing one. Now that those boys know I can play, we’ll be playing it every chance they get.