So, I've finally jumped on the bandwagon and masturbated using the Rez Trance Vibrator.
It was a bit of a lonely night. Not two hours prior to this would-be gorgeous situation, I'd been having some splendid, saliva-boiling sex with a girl whose psychology, if X-rayed, would reveal the image of a horse on fire approaching a brick wall. She was a secretary for the yakuza. She was medium-pretty and proud of it. She had a good pair of hand-filling breasts and an actual ass. It's really hard to find an ass like that on girls in this country. I'm not bragging about this situation -- it was something that the two of us did, because it was available to us. Man! Nothing like a girl who can sweat. She had absolutely no shame about dripping all over the place. And there were techno lights just blaring everywhere; she was a writhing human disco ball. Just six months prior, I'd met her and didn't like her. She didn't even like me, either. Man! We were really angry at each other. And then time flowed by a little bit, and we were like two pistols pointed at each other. She had lovely lips; I guess that was her best feature, if you're going to catalog her features in a place for public consumption.
The techno lights were brought to me live courtesy of an Xbox 360. Just a hazy month-fragment prior to this caged miracle, Microsoft had given me one for free. I kept the box on a floor in a friend's apartment, next to a Emerald-Hill-Zone-blue-painted pressboard pantry box full of plastic bags of onions. That friend kept emailing me maybe every ten or fifteen minutes. Get your fucking Xbox out of here! It's getting very difficult to reach my onions and potatoes! I hang out with a lot of people prone to exaggeration.
I would have put the Xbox 360 in my own house, if I'd even had one. I didn't. I was here in Japan, working a seriously important job for an extremely large videogame corporation for four whole months, homeless as I'd been for the last two years. I had something of a personality breakdown maybe two years and some change prior to that saliva-boiling evening; something involving time. Basically, the flow of things had kind of started to bother me. I had become very hateful and very cynical of, well, most of the world, especially videogames. A self-branded agent of chaos, I infiltrated something I hated, with the basic idea being to reach a position where I could stand, arms-akimbo like, and rotate in the middle of a room full of people I didn't like, and not once collide with anyone. Meanwhile, everyone -- all these people with other places to be walking, other things to be doing -- would stand off in the corner with a plastic cup of Ocean Spray Cranapple cocktail and a Chinet plate with three partitions -- all of them full of deviled eggs -- and whisper, "Look at that guy over there. I fuckin' hate that guy. How the fuck did that guy get in here?" I wanted to assume this role for no real reason. I just kind of wanted to be somewhere, doing something. It'd be like church, or the dentist; whether or not you believe Jesus healed a blind man's eyes with his touch, or whether or not you believe the dentist really cares that you'll be able to keep the porcelain filling ten years longer than the computer-crafted one that's fifty-thousand yen cheaper, all you need to know is that when the organ plays and the people begin to sing, or when the drill begins to spin and whine, and when it digs in to a place the Novocain hasn't reached, you will find yourself knowing that something is happening right where you are. You're building a promise-fortress out of the moment, is all. In other words, what I'm trying to say here (typing very quickly) is that I managed to become something of a "videogame journalist" with a "cult following" as a means of, really, just making money while I planned to attack the world with a rock and roll band. Somehow my writing managed to boost me into a job working with the creators of one or two videogames I have almost vomited while playing, because they were so good, and many dozens of other games that rank among the worst in existence (with the rest of, well, all videogames ever); they make some decent products and some truly wretched products. My position is to sit in a desk, and eventually make the boss guffaw from his desk ten meters away when an email from me arrives and it says something absolutely hilarious, or else to make three or four white-haired Japanese men literally spit out tea during stiff board meetings. I walk in wearing a leather jacket (custom-made, bought with The Money) and one of my Three Favorite Shirts. I used to pound my fist on the table and deliver stirring screams on concepts like "We need to let the old people die; we need to stop trying to reach out to them with 'simpler' mobile phones", or "Why trademark so much stuff? Why trademark 'Mountain Dew(R) Code Red(TM)?' Do you possess a nanochip in your brain to cause you to spasm into pumping your fist with manufactured glee whenever a guy shopping at 7-Eleven says 'Give me a Mountain Dew(R) Code Red(TM)?' Do you shout, 'Shitchyeah, we own like four out of seven words of that guy's sentence! That's what we call a majority, baby!' Why not be kind? Why not, I don't know, just make three or four different colors of Mountain Dew, put them all into clear bottles with the same logo, and let the guy at 7-Eleven say 'I'll take a Mountain Dew.' Let a conversation ensue! 'Which Mountain Dew?' 'The red one.' Let the customers express themselves through your products." The white-headed dudes used to raise their bushy eyebrows at ideas like these. Every once in a while, one guy would clap once and then stop when no one else joined in. Unfortunately for my upward movement through this company, I never got the same guy to clap twice. Though I think I got each of them to clap once. I guess that says more than something about how I present myself to other people.
I worked the first four months or so of this job as a homeless person. My company wouldn't hire me unless I already had an address. I had to beg my friend to let me use his address. He's the kind of dude who won't sip a Coke direct out of the bottle if you've already taken a sip with your own straw, if you catch my drift. "I don't want your mail showing up at my house!" Eventually, he was convinced. It took a long time to come back into the world. As Toni Morrison once said, "Anything dead coming back to life hurts." That's a great quote. I'd had a terrible couple of years. I tried to capsulate them in something of an iconic style, and gained a lot of good friends, a lot of self-declared enemies (to be frank, I like to think of myself as having no enemies; all previous references to enemies were, well, just me being a jackass), a lot of confused haters, a lot of would-be parodies (I consider the very act of these mangled fingers touching a keyboard to be a parody of, say, swans in flight, to be careful about the matter; hence the "would-be"), and a giant, swelling stack of free videogames. I also, somehow, currently own four PSPs, and hate about three and a half of them. One has ROMs on it, though, which is a hell of a thing; however, I so despise the feeling of the PSP's power switch against my finger that I can't be bothered to ever turn the fucking thing on. I'm not even exaggerating about that. Really, though, my life was pretty bad. Attempts at humor or kitsch were not accidental or even incidental -- they were the exact opposite. I am guilty of premeditated murder of my own feelings. I had a horrible time. I had all these ideals and principles. I sang in a terrible hardcore band; I played drums in a worse one (probably because the drummer kind of sucked) and I had a lot of sex with drunk punk girls in places with red or orange light bulbs. Always warm colors. Though everyone was always older than me (until this vortex-like point in time when, suddenly, no one was), I felt curiously like a pedophile. I had high standards; I was in love with a girl, and sooner or later she'd be gone, and I made a lot of weird-bad judgment calls leading up to and including the devastating moment when I realized that I'd had a situation in my fingertips that lived up to my standards of "good enough". That moment was devastating because, by then, someone had already died. I guess everyone will remember where they were the first time one of their peers died. It's a bit of a curse.
I was dead to the world. At the same time, I was full of the world. Somehow I ended up in an apartment with a weed-headed insurance scammer and a faithful employee of yakuza-owned love hotels. The insurance scammer, who was paying most of the rent (what with his insurance scamming), got arrested, which was kind of good because we hated that fucking guy and kind of bad because we couldn't pay the rent. We raged at the future, like a pair of heterosexual unicorns wreathed in blue flames, careening toward an ogre taking a shit in the forest. Eventually the ogre turned around and clubbed us something rotten. Still! We played a lot of videogames in that time! I met Hideo Kojima, and interviewed him for Wired magazine! I did that on a day I was so hungry I thought I was going to die. That day, like today, was in winter, yet the sky was Sega Blue and the temperature was so high it felt like the world was retarded. Global Warming? Or was there an earthquake coming? The answer to either of these questions was "Doubt it!" We took our time; I played a lot of videogames on the toilet, we got evicted, the Kojima interview eventually "appeared" in Wired in heavily edited form (if by "edited" you mean "entirely rewritten in 150 words"; if by "edited" you mean "Reader's Digest Back Cover Blurb"), and then was featured uncut in gamesTM, a semi-fine magazine that had, to that date, never paid me for anything. By the time that month's issue rolled around, I was in my sixth house of the year, if you don't count my mainstay, Ueno Park bench number 108. First in that shaky building out by Itabashi; next in a fortress of an apartment inhabited by the young owner of a moving service, dead parents, much real estate, and a girlfriend we called "THE MOST GORGEOUS SITUATION IN TOKYO"; third in a house by the sea where I was free to walk a Welsh Corgi named Tuffy down by the beach, or to the supermarket -- I ate nightly dinners with a man who wrote science-fiction novels that didn't sell, and claimed genetic ownership over a bisexual daughter who can play trumpet, fire a pistol, and holds a pretty high degree in karate; the fourth was a place I paid for on my own, and eventually got ousted out of by my own impression of what my roommates would think when I told them that gamesTM would not, as they had promised, be able to pay me for anything I'd written for the last two years; fifth was, yeah, intermittently, that park bench, in clear view of the ravens and the homeless men who always looked like they were chewing popcorn, when really, that was impossible, because they had no teeth, and thus no popcorn (the logic made sense when I was filthy); sixth, it was (when I wasn't in the park) on a friend's floor when she was at work. I remember the one day in 2005 I developed a kidney infection somehow and lay in a crumpled heap on her straw-mat floor. I was white as a sheet of paper, sweating liters, and cooking up a fever in excess of 104. My friend came in and shrieked to see my shoes in her entryway. "What the fuck are you still doing here? I told you to be gone before six o'clock so there would be no chance of my coming here to see you. Get up! Get up!" I ended up having to be hauled to the hospital in a taxi, where I was told I could have died. How the kidney infection showed up, I don't know! This was only a few days after I'd properly met the girl I'd be having real-time action sex with on New Year's Eve, half a year later. When I finally came to a week later -- well, I did two things. First, I looked at myself in the mirror and my skin was perfect. Horrible fever plus short hair plus new glasses -- it wasn't bad.
The second thing I did was check my cellular phone email -- which would be from then right up until the moment my supposed drummer barged into a bathroom stall with a broken lock, hitting me in the back with the door while I was fumbling with my zipper and a phone mail simultaneously, sending the phone toward a plunk in the toilet, my "game of the year 2005" -- to notice that I had, at one point, high on the fumes of death, told this girl that I would give her everything I owned if I died. I gave her my friend's email address. I told her to contact him if I didn't reply to her in three days. It had been four days. So I had emails from my friend, in which he told me it was the lowest of the low things to do while "in a relationship" -- to tell one's girlfriend one's friend's email address while one is still alive. "What was I supposed to do? Hide it somewhere and email her a scavenger hunt the first clue of which is unlocked using a key I have always kept around my neck at all times?" "Not exactly. Still, something like that would have been nice. Christ, you don't have to be so snippy dude." I was so delirious I couldn't be hilarious. Give me six months, though, and this girl who would sit in front of me at terrible restaurants and silently argue with me every point I tried to accentuate about the "future" would sooner or later resemble a rumbling teapot in my presence. I made that poor girl hate me. Hell, she made me hate her. Everything was disappointing me in those days, back in that not-so-great age. She was something to chase. She had a PSOne in her apartment, sitting atop the tacked-on carpet, yellow curtains on a window overlooking a hill that bicycles grinded down. Somebody import some WD-40 to this fucking island, please.
"I hope to be relaxing in your place over new years" she said, back then, back after the kidney infection had flowed out of me. I was food-poisoned the next week; that incident wasn't very funny. I was collecting boy scout merit badges for that shit. I was a walking horror movie, with a perfect complexion. Back in those days, a puff of tobacco in my face would have hit me like a bitching power chord, and set me scattered, dust to the wind. You couldn't have counted my particles on all of God's fingers. Yet there was this turning point, blank-faced, short-haired: the owner of a guitar and proud frontman for a fantasy band called "Large Prime Numbers" suddenly pulled a shiny silver robotic rabbit out of a hat already full of diarrhea. Suddenly, the shoujo manga I'd been translating whenever I was able to sit in front of a computer started paying me. I had a job interview for a very serious job at a very large Japanese videogame corporation. For the first several months of my employment, I was homeless, my friend wouldn't let me stay in his place because he had a girlfriend, or so the story went. I'd show up happily at work four hours early to wash my hair in a sink in the basement. A guy in my office discovered I was doing this, and took it to mean I was staying in the office until morning every day. "I know you must work pretty hard on those research projects of yours" he said, laying a hand on my shoulder. I spun around, "I'm perfectly fine, thank you very much!" I was full of the sick of the world, the suck of life. I had a bank account with nearly fifty thousand US dollars in it, and I couldn't rent an apartment because my company refused to act as guarantor for a man who apparently already has a guarantor (how did I have that other apartment? they would ask). Paychecks started piling up. I became a wino with regard to terrible food bathed in olive oil. Finally, without anyone losing face, I got my friend who is also a coincidental millionaire to act as my guarantor, after securing a promise from him: "Don't you ever get kicked out of that place. You take some responsibility from now on." "Yeah, yeah." The apartment was originally intended for just girls; when I said I was interested in it and my name was Tim Rogers, they didn't realize that "Tim" wasn't not a man's name, and they didn't want to be racist. They ended up accepting my deposit, and then telling me that the place was for girls only, apologizing five hundred times, and then telling me they could only refund one month's rent's worth of my deposit. They would have to keep the other month's rent's worth. Remembering the words of my friend, I raged against them until they promised to give that money back.
They ended up telling me they'd just let me move in because the landlord had taken "interest" in my plight. Due to Christmas being on a Sunday, and my being unable to get the key until Monday, I sent off my homeless life by seeing that girl on Christmas Eve, and then retiring to a family restaurant with a good friend, waiting out the morning, waiting out freedom. Friday night, I moved into the place, with a just-bought MUJI lamp in hand. I plugged it in and slept on the bare floor in my clothes. I woke up the next morning and took a picture of myself, thinking I could probably audition for the part of Doctor Who if it ever opened up again. I would silently refer to my winter attire of choice, from then on, as "The Thirteenth Doctor". This was before I got that leather jacket and turned into an asshole, yeah.
Things were looking brightly colored for me; they were also looking a little fatter. I'd rounded out my resume in the past few months, if you catch my meaning. The marketing analyst machine requires a lot of fuel. It can actually run for weeks on end on olive oil alone. I thought for a while about getting my life in order and then maybe starting running again. I didn't get to do this until much later. That's getting a little ahead. Hell, it was getting ahead even back then -- first, I needed a sofa, a rug, a table, a washing machine, a microwave, a refrigerator . . . so I went and paid for them all at MUJI. They wouldn't show up until January had already hit the ground running. I bought an Emergency Coke, and stored it in the compartment in the floor near the bathroom door, prompting my friend Nick Can to look in there and say, "I bet you never thought you'd be smuggling yourself, huh?" Nick is such a laid-back kind of guy that he can make a corny Star Wars reference and still not lose his cool. You can still imagine him smoking a cigarette in a detective's office, leather shoes on the desk, waiting for a girl in a red dress to show up. The point of the Emergency Coke, as you may or may not be able to deduce, is to present yourself with an ultimatum that dips below all other ultimatums. It's a slap in the face on days when you don't feel like doing shit for shit. You put it in the refrigerator and then promise not to drink it. You designate it as drinkable only in emergencies. Then, you set the semantic bar so high it cannot be jumped: you realize that whether we work or whether we play all we do until time kills us is kill time. In this life, there are no emergencies. Especially when there's a vending machine just down the street.
I am happy to report that, despite my live-in lead guitarist Zazen Joe Hardpuncher's attempts to joke about drinking it one day while I was at work, the Emergency Coke is still in the back of the fridge, still burning silently, months after my having been ironically diagnosed with diabetes. I wouldn't drink it even if I wanted to.
You can do this with whatever drink you like. Go ahead, try it. Have an "Emergency Guinness".
I wore a green shirt, with a yellow and blue scarf; this yakuza secretary wore a pink and white sweater that I always liked. The light at the end of our tunnel together was a preschooler with bloodstained lips and a flashlight, unfortunately: when she came over to my apartment on New Year's Eve, it was because of that promise she'd made me. She said she'd be there. December 31st is the only day of the year when the trains run all day. She showed up around eleven-thirty. I was sitting on my futon on the floor, playing Perfect Dark Zero on my Xbox 360 -- I hereby declare its box the GAME OF THE YEAR 2005 (amazing that everything could fit in there) -- and making curse-like sounds through my teeth at how dumb the story was. The main character's dad dies, right? And then she just kind of shrugs it off. And when she executes the final boss, she says in that California accent, "You killed my dad!" Yeah? It just all felt so flimsy and fake. Maybe it was the fact that I was playing with a wireless controller while sitting not two feet from the console. The thing heated up the room like a jet engine in an igloo.
It'd been a hair-raising experience to get all of that stuff in there -- it involved two combo-linked taxi rides, followed by a trip up to my old place, collapsing in upon itself as it was (the former roommates were to flee before the new year); the trip ended up getting delayed by two hours on the way back due to a year-end suicide. Angry old guy on the train platform spitting semi-unintentionally in the train station employee's face, like he really believed someone could simply snap his fingers and make the world move again once it'd stopped. I was very tired of everything at the end of last year. I let it all pass. I had earned my freedom -- I had a lamp and blankets and a tiny TV and an Xbox 360 and everything! -- and there I was, free to . . . get unreasonably angry at a videogame.
"What the heck is this?" she said, sitting next to me. "Turn on the New Year's Eve countdown." I did as was suggested. We watched a whole five seconds of it before becoming hopelessly bored. "Do you have some music?" I put BORIS's album "Flood" into my Xbox 360; to my amazement, though the machine wasn't connected to the internet, it had all the track names. I mean, BORIS isn't even a huge band.
"What's with that thing in the corner?"
"Oh, you mean . . . the visualizer?"
"Yeah. It looks like tie-dye."
She was right. The visualizer was a weird kind of gray, with irregular tea-brown lines wobbling and wavering while a green laser spun around like a little kid pissing on an elephant's leg.
"That looks pretty shitty," the girl said. "It reminds me of this night club I went to with my boss. In Korea. Or maybe it was Thailand."
I changed it to something else. I sat there, fascinated, stumbling through all the visualizations. Information from months before popped back into my head. Me and Brandon Sheffield had been interviewing Cliffy B, lead designer of Epic's Gears of War for the Xbox 360 (which was one of the reasons I'd accepted the free console, in fact -- I was looking forward to playing it). We had a bit of a rollicking interview session, in which Cliffy B admitted to being the high score for Super Mario Bros. in the very first issue of Nintendo Power, admitted to crying at the end of Lunar, and joked about how the unique grenade-targeting system in Gears of War could be implemented in a Wii game by throwing the controller at the screen. There was this PR guy who was pretty big and pretty scary. I think he was a PR guy. Ever since that Reggie Neanderthal at Nintendo popped onto the stage at that E3 press conference and said "I'm Reggie and I'm about kicking ass and making games" even though he'd never played a game in his life (not even "Connect Four") much less made one, all the PR guys in videogames are big and scary. The guy (I forget his name) kept asking us, "Is this for the interview? Is this going into the article?" He didn't seem to get the idea that with us -- me and Brandon that is, yes, we're a team, yes -- it was always all for the article. Once the end of the demo tour ended and me and Brandon had played enough of the game to wander toward something the PR guy didn't want us to see, he turned the game off and accessed the Xbox 360 dashboard, and put on some music. Oh my gosh! It was the Gears of War soundtrack! "This is performed by a real orchestra!" Oh damn, a robot one would have been better--"Hey, is that Jeff Minter's thing?" Brandon was pointing at the visualizer in the corner. Cliffy B wrenched the controller away from the dude. "Yeah," he said, pressing a button and maximizing it to full screen size. "Shit dude, let me show you--"
The PR guy grabbed the controller back: "No. We're not going to talk about Minter's thing."
He was a single hyperventilation away from appending an "Again".
What had Cliffy B wanted to show us? The girl put her chin on my shoulder. I furiously flipped through pages. Shit, man. Most of those visualizers were, like, something you'd see projected on a white bed sheet taped to a painted-black wall in a basement disco party full of accountants giving each other testosterone injections. I let the girl fiddle around with the analog sticks while I turned up the heater. "You can make it move." "Yeah." "God it's making me so dizzy."
She'd say the same thing about Final Fantasy XII on the same TV, three months later, just several weeks before she moved to Egypt for good. "Yakuza stuff" was her explanation. Deadpan. She left a sweater in my house after a lousy night of my being tired and trying to learn how to actually play the blues on the guitar. It wasn't coming out. Maybe because I wasn't blue anymore. I was very red and orange. I was tie-dyed. I was like something projected on white bedsheet at a party. Eurobeat sirens, synthesized trumpets! Get out of my head! By the morning time, it was unseasonably warm (there's a too-warm for every season, see), and so she could forget her sweater without looking like a ditz or a clinger. (She had left face cleanser in my bathroom and other things on the bedroom floor; no tampons, however, meaning that she was not my "girlfriend.") After the sex and before the sleep, she had cried and said she never wanted to see me again. I told her I was sorry for making her feel that way. I tried to play some blues and it didn't come out. She told me I was being insensitive. This was in the end of March, yeah. I asked her what she wanted me to do -- she was the one committed to going to Egypt. Did she want to pawn me off to her friend Kumiko, the one she introduced as "This is Kumiko. She's 23, and a dental hygienist." "Hi, Kumiko. What are your hobbies?" [Giggles] "She wants to marry a man who makes more than 500,000 yen a month. Like you do." "Oho. And then what will you do?" "Quit my job." "Abandoning all of that dental training?" "I like to take care of my teeth. And other people's." "Would you brush your husband's teeth for him?" ". . . No." "Not even once?" "Okay, leave her alone; you'll confuse her."
Flash forward nine months to last night: I made eye contact with my dental hygienist, whose teeth I have never seen because she's always wearing a surgical mask. This was in Ginza, at one of the top dental offices in Japan. I was in for a routine cleaning. Clicking foot pedals and steering the blazing waterpik. She had this look of sincerity in her eyes. In the lobby there's a page from a magazine that calls one of the dentists in the office "The Most Beautiful Female Healthcare Professional in Japan". This magazine, Japan's equivalent of "TIME". See what direction culture leans here. Feel it like gravity, pulling your blood down to the tips of your toes. I was looking the dental hygienist in the eye because I could see my teeth reflected in her goggles. Her eyes flicked and locked with mine, and the tartar pick slipped. Just one millimeter in any of the other possible directions, and I'd have been earning experience points.
Back nine months ago, I was telling this girl, her makeup all runny, making me think I was color-blind momentarily, "So, what, you want to hand me off to Kumiko? I wouldn't marry her. You know those people who can have a favorite band for two decades and not even know what the lead singer looks like? I don't even think Kumiko knows what a guitar looks like." "No! I'm saying I wanted -- I wanted so badly -- I wanted you to tell me not to go." So it was that between the two of us, Fire became a Ghost. It was like the mask pulled off of a Scooby-Doo villain. Years go by and you keep thinking it should cease to surprise you, and then it doesn't. The next day, she'd email, asking for her sweater. I told her, I'll put it in the mailbox. You come get it yourself. The combination is "2, 6" -- two numbers, I know. Kind of pathetic. "No. You come to my house. Bring the sweater." "Out of the question. You said you don't want to meet again." "I won't let you in." "Then I'll put it in your mailbox." "My mailbox is dirty." "Oh, whatever. I'm putting it in my mailbox." "Your mailbox is dirty, too!" "I'll put it in a plastic bag!" "That's not the point!" "Alright then! You're not getting your sweater back!" "Oh yes I am!" "Not if I eat it first." "Stop being so childish. You would not eat my sweater." "Oh yes I would! MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM it smells just like [girl's name]!!"
"You son of a bitch how could you do that to someone's sweater -- that was made in France."
"I . . . washed the pot before I put it in there. And there's no water."
". . . I love you!!"
She was a furious flame that night, and I never saw her again.
Less than four months prior to this, fifteen minutes before the New Year rang itself in on an unseen television station, I found Cliffy B's Holy Grail.
Erupting out from dead blackness was a ribbon of white smoke. Colored lights punctuated its sentences. We stared at it for two minutes of droning and pounding (though not on each other). She tweaked the right analog stick and the ribbon began to spin. She tweaked the left stick and shifted the whole thing into the screen. "No -- not like that," I said. I centered it on the screen and let it move by itself. The symphony of the night began. Sooner or later the lights were off and we were connected and sweating and breathing.
The only day of the year when the trains run all night, as I've said. She left after one in the morning to go up to her parents' place way up north. She left in such a hurry she forgot one of her socks. That couldn't have been just a "girl thing", either. She was particular about her socks. It had a picture of Korean drama star Byung-hun Lee on it. Little did I know, just ten days before 2006 ended, Capcom would release a game starring that guy. I folded the sock up and put it in my little sock drawer. I sat back down on the futon, glanced over at my bookshelf, and saw Rez and the Trance Vibrator. The Vibrator was still in its box. I bought it to send to my friend Andrew Toups. I ended up never sending it to him for the same reason my friend never sips a Coke after someone else, even if they were using a different straw. That is, some weird hybrid of common courtesy and shame. (Which, yes, are sometimes the same thing, even.)
I took a shower and came back into the room. The music played on by itself. I turned off the 360, and ended up not touching it (except to remove the CD) until some time later, when I bought Ridge Racer 6 and Dead or Alive 4 for 800 yen (about $6.25) each from the Bic Camera bargain bin. I set up the PS2 and turned off the lamp. I played through a bit of Rez in my underwear. I unlocked the final level. I kept the vibrator clenched in my bare knee. Man, the room was sweltering. I tried to touch the Vibrator (inside its protective sock) to the tip of my penis through my boxer shorts, and it just didn't do anything for me. I thought if I got to the final boss the thing would be vibrating like madness, though man -- it just didn't work. It hardly vibrated at all. The rhythm was too regular and dull. My nerve endings demand better.
How do I get this thing to stay on? I sat pondering how I could tie a tube sock around it to keep it right under the proper part of my penis while I played the game. I felt really silly thinking about that. The idea of stretching something of a super-condom over the vibrator and my penis, combining them into one, struck me at some point. I apparently didn't have the balls to try it. Nor did I possess any super-condoms. I put it beneath my clothed scrotum and it ended up kind of hurting me. The testicles clicked together like pool balls for fifteen minutes, causing a creepy kind of robofriction. Techno on the screen; heat in my heart; heat in my hand; pulsing lights: a history of human life presented in pixel-pushing pastiche. Man, Rez isn't a very good game at all when you're a man who can only think of using it to literally masturbate. Man, this description would be a whole lot better with some raw details about my penis. Man, I can't do it. I've hit the one line I can't cross. I can't talk in detail about my own penis. I told this girl I would meet later in the year, when the other girl had gone to Egypt, that "All I ever do with my freelance work is write about my penis -- I just never have the proverbial balls to actually admit that I'm talking about my penis." This girl went and wrote an eighteen-page rollicking review of my penis on her secret blog with a cult following. She docked it half a star for being "Too long and occasionally pretentious." I wish I was making that up.
I was really lonely for a couple of minutes with the Rez Trance Vibrator dead under my scrotum. I looked at the guitar against the wall. I looked at the stack of magazines by the lamp. Plus Dragon Quest Slime atop the TV, wearing an Xbox Live headset, cord trailing down to the floor, mingling with the A/V cables. What a fetish world we've grown into. What a fire hazard I was turning this place into, and I'd only been there for three days. I'd only been free of work for an afternoon and an evening (sleep didn't count). Shortly after the New Year, snow would fall; I didn't know that, though. Me and some guys from Microsoft would go out to have curry. My friend Eiji Morikawa, inventor of the Periborg devices and darling employee of Hori -- who had offered to let me stay with him and his wife in Yokohama, which was unfortunately way too far from my work to be convenient, when I was still homeless -- would show up at the curry shinnenkai ("New Year Party") with a shopping bag full of his inventions, including the Dragon Quest Slime controller and Periborgs for everyone. Just prior to the New Year, we'd had a bounenkai ("Party for remembrance of the year past"), during which I asked him a few serious business questions for my upcoming WIRED profile of him. Namely, I was asking him about the only Periborg to so far see mass manufacture -- the Ore-commander.
"Ore" is the most masculine male pronoun in Japanese; paired with the word "commander", it is both a description of what it does (it makes you the commander of your controller) and a genius play on the name of Hori's first-ever rapid-fire controller, the Hori Commander. Twenty years after the release of the Hori Commander for Nintendo Famicom, Eiji Morikawa, aged 28, has produced a clip that attaches to and then succeeds in vibrating a human finger for the purpose of pressing a videogame controller's button twenty times in one second. At age ten, Morikawa had owned a Hori Commander, and found it "mysterious". "You just hold the button, and it automatically registers like twenty shots a second? That was so weird. It felt like it would be impossible to do that on my own. Then there were guys like Takahashi Mejin, who could press the button that fast without a rapid-fire controller. Dude could split a watermelon with his thumbtip! Like, they weren't just making that up. He could really do that.
"Lately, everyone talks about how games are kind of slipping away from people. How people are afraid to pick up the controller because there are too many buttons -- it's like, games like Adventure Island, where the number of weapons you can throw at one time is directly related to how fast you can press that button are interesting, conceptually, because they give you that freedom. They award that prowess. I'd say without hesitation that Wonder Boy was the first 'Wii' game [he called it "Revolution," actually, when I think about it -- makes sense, given the time frame; this is me being authentic]. Like, other games just didn't get it. The rapid-fire controllers start to exist, and people figure, well, let's make games that use them. Sooner or later you've got dudes who sleep and breathe bullet patterns. Look at me, for god's sake." He held up his right hand. I had to squint to notice. It was shaking, silently, violently. I took a picture of it. The picture was great. It was my cell phone wallpaper for three months. "Though, heh, I might have some other quirks that do this to me. Anyway, what I mean is . . . yeah. Buttons, man. People don't want to press the buttons anymore. So game makers are trying to tell people that it doesn't have to be about buttons. You've got touch screens and remote controls. I don't know. For me the idea of pressing a button and watching it happen was always this serious, profound thrill. That I can cause something on the screen to happen without looking is an even better thrill. Like, you know those guys who can, like, beat Ninja Gaiden without looking at the screen? That stuff scares the hell out of me.
"So I thought -- why not let someone feel what it feels like to be able to press a button twenty times a second? That's what the Ore-commander is. You flex your finger, and it vibrates, and you can feel the button being pressed twenty times a second. And you know what? It kind of teaches you -- this probably isn't impossible to do on my own. It is through thinking like this that we will realize that our bodies are more high-definition than the most high-definition television. We will wake up from the long dream."
By the time the new year turned, the Ore-commander would become something of a cult success, conceptually popular with wine-sipping individuals who didn't play videogames and probably found the idea of, say, a videogame pixel art gallery the most ridiculous thing in the world.
Tetsuya Mizuguchi apparently bought a dozen of them.
Only three hours into the new year, I was making black marks in the book of my life. I had my pre-release Ore-commander on my thumb. I was using despite its being completely ineffective in a game that requires on to hold the buttons down. I thought of a couple of stupid things I could do with it, and ended up doing none of them. I thought once of trying it out on a girl. Morikawa had displayed the temple massage function to me the moment he had a working prototype he was allowed to take out of the office. He rested his head in his hand like The Thinker. I tried the pose out. It worked pretty well. Rez's menu screen pulsed on within the little television on the floor. The heat in the room was like the cold of death. Man, what was I doing? What was anyone doing? Look at all these potato-chip bags that hang on long after the snowboulder has reached the bottom of the mountain. Makes you wonder what possesses people to litter on the ski slope. I wanted to take a hot bath. I ended up doing that, though about twenty-two hours later. I realized that it wasn't that I didn't like the world; it was simply that I'd already played with it too much before anyone had properly introduced me to it. Ahh, well. Sooner than a time we can call "the future", snow was dumping down onto the world and the year had, without a doubt, started. I went on with my life, and everything else did, too. I wonder.
spoilers (highlight to view):
(the preceding has been a tim rogers unreview of insertcredit.com GAME OF THE YEAR "Wii Sports")
[next: and then there was love]