Walking Towards the 8-bit Horizon

After two years without glasses, I finally managed to see an eye doctor a few months ago. I promised myself I’d be honest on the eye exam, unlike my last trip to the DMV when I memorized the sequence of letters before reading them back to the woman at the counter.

I knew my vision was bad, but not third-line-unintelligible bad. After I failed to read virtually all the letters, the doctor slid through various lenses until we settled on a set that brought the world into focus. For the first time in two years, I started to see what I had missed.

Two months later my glasses arrived. Since then, I have been amazed at the things I have seen:

Every light emanating from a house after dark is generally a wide-screen television that is big enough for me to see what they’re watching. I feel like I’m being invited into the homes of my neighborhood every time I drive to the store. Scratch that. I feel like I’m being strong armed into their living rooms to watch shitty CGI family films, MMA championships, and football. There are no refreshments served as incentive for me to feign interest. I’m grateful that the speed limit doesn’t allow for prolonged exposure to their programs, because I would probably watch out of curiosity and subsequently be bored to fucking death.

When I was a child, one of the most compelling elements of gaming was that there were these elaborate backgrounds that the player couldn’t explore. I wanted to hike in the mountains of Ninja Gaiden II. I wanted to go to a theater in Double Dragon II’s skyline. The virtue of 8-bit gaming wasn’t what I could do. It was what I couldn’t do and that limitation’s ability to spark my imagination. I don’t see that in games as much as I used to.

The houses in my neighborhood are the same way. Before I got my glasses, I saw nothing but a blur in the neighborhood windows. I had to imagine the source of the blur. Perhaps it was a fluorescent light used to breed some obscure species of moth that my neighbor was using as his murder signature. Maybe it was a light box and someone in my neighborhood was inking his/her magnum opus: a graphic novel.

Now I see the source of these lights. There’s enough detail to ensure I’m not compelled by what I see inside. The anonymous throng of people who make up my town could easily be a ubiquitous clone of the same person placed in house after house. They’re going through the same motions, watching the same screens. And if you drive long enough, you start to notice patterns, just like you might in 8-bit games or old cartoons like Tom & Jerry where cat and mouse run past the same fridge time and time again.

For some reason all of that disappoints me. Yet I am in complete awe as I stare up at the sky, watching the same stars and the same moon traverse the same pattern every night. Glasses or no, that black canopy above me evokes the same feeling of wonder. No matter how well my sight is, no matter what magnification I view the stars through, I’m mesmerized. I notice patterns there too. Some stars radiate with the same intensity, or waver rhythmically as if the entire universe dances to the same song. But I can’t travel there, which inspires me to imagine what might be if I could. One look up at night and I become a child again. I’m staring into a 32″ screen wondering what it’d be like to walk among the green-tinted wreckage that scrolls through the background of Journey to Silius. My sense of wonder is rekindled, and sight once again inspires wonder instead of apathy.

I want to lay on the rooftop of one of those abandoned buildings and stare up at that green intestinal tubing sky.

In my short time on this planet I have watched so many people who see things clearly become disillusioned. I have fallen into that trap in the past. But from now on I’m following the things that inspire imagination and wonder when I see them clearly. When clarity reveals intricacy instead of simplicity, that inspires me to seek understanding.

When clarity reveals simplicity, perhaps it is a delusion. Something lurks beneath the surface of even the neighborhoods where every 60″ television is switched to Sunday-night football. Sometimes I think simplicity is a personal construct, a horse blinder we create for ourselves to avoid being overwhelmed by the natural intricacy that exists even in repetition and ubiquity. Then again, maybe everything can be boiled down to repetitious actions on a repetitious template. If so, many of us seem to be perfectly fine with retracing our own steps and repeating our own actions.

Speaking of which, anyone remember this video that used to air on Cartoon Network?

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