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June 26, 2011 / jwaxo

Soul Reaver (Staying Home Sick)

Kind of, uh, kind of violent.

I was a bit of a sickly kid, growing up. Heck, I still get random flues in the middle of summer and can’t do anything about it, although I normally push through and just put up with the headache, nausea, whatever. In middle school, though, there were a few main differences: namely I really didn’t like school, and thus had a great excuse to skip it for a day or two every month or so. Even better is when it was something that caused a horrible, physical change, like rivulets of bacteria running down the back of my throat, or a constant, hacking cough. Doctor-confirmed was the best, and something you’d always hope for. Then you wouldn’t get the guilt-inducing tricks parents would play: “Oh, well, you’re sick, so I guess you can’t go to Dairy Queen with us.”

These times weren’t always the joyful, hooky-playing times that they might seem to be. I mean, you’re still sick. Vomiting would occur at the worst times, and you’d get sick of toast and soup and the normal fare. The worst part, though, was the boredom.

I’m pretty sure that was our mom’s main way of “healing” us, when we were down for the count: try to keep us as bored as possible so that going to school would seem like a treat, and maybe even we would will ourselves to get better. I’ve said (or at least I think I have, though I can’t find evidence) that video games were off-limits when sick in our house. The only options for things to do were to read, watch TV or movies, or… well, that was about it. You were generally confined to the couch, although Mom would normally tell us to take naps every few hours. On the years that we didn’t have cable this was even worse, and we had to watch the same old movies over and over and over again.

Short Circuit 2 loses something on the twentieth viewing. Dumb & Dumber doesn’t.

This original post was going to be about not playing games when sick, but I realized that was a weird cop-out. Sure, I could tell you about the time that I discovered the Chooser Your Own Adventure-style gamebooks in the bookcase that offered a single-player role-playing experience. I rolled dice and tracked my inventory and health like there was no tomorrow, imitating something I wouldn’t do for real for about a decade. Or I could talk about… well, that’s it, really. And then I realized that there were plenty of times that we sneaked games into being sick.

Like when the Zelda Oracle games had just come out, and I hid under my sheets with a flashlight and my GameBoy when I was supposed to be napping, doing my best to save princess Zelda for the umpteenth time. Or played Perfect Dark all day when my parents were both out for whatever reason, then, when they came home, it was now Friday and school was over for the day, and who’s sick on the weekend? No one.

The time that most comes to mind was when my brother and I played Soul Reaver all day, though, mostly because it was so inexplicable.

The boredom of being sick is pretty much cut in half when someone’s sick with you, and with my brother and I sharing a room for most of our lives, if one of us got something contagious, so did the other. On days where we both woke up sick, we’d normally unhinge the hideaway bed, roll out the blankets, and watch movies and horrible TV shows all day, joking and making fun of each other. So, you know, a normal day, just with less physical violence.

Soul Reaver has been brought up a few times before, and it was one of the games my brother got with his PS1, but we never really played it until this one day. And the craziest part was that Mom was home at the time! It’s a mystery for the ages.

This is the only situation I can imagine.

This seems like something minor that I’m making a big deal out of, but it really isn’t. My parents were and are extremely good at sticking to their guns. For the twelve years that my siblings were in school, I can think of few times that the “no TV on school days” rule was violated without punishment. Church every single Sunday. Schedules kept to, chores always handed out and close eyes kept on them, rules always followed. Few if any exceptions.

And in this case I’m pretty sure both my brother and I were exaggerating our symptoms just because we were bored and it was very early spring and Summer Break was so far away.

And Soul Reaver was so cool!

I said it months ago, but the voice-acting is top-notch, most notably with the late Tony Jay as the almost-malevolent Elder God, his amazingly deep voice booming out across the vast brown wastelands. The ability to shift between the Physical and Spectral realms was also a huge feature and notable part of puzzle-solving, taken far deeper than A Link to the Past ever did. And besides, fighting each of Raziel’s horribly mutated brothers and sucking his soul out of him to gain a new ability, Mega-Man style, was just always awesome. This guy is a vampire that looks and acts like a spider? Awesome, can’t wait to have a wall-climbing ability.

On our second day of being sick we were all going to a doctor and my brother and I would not stop talking about how to solve whatever puzzle we were on. It was probably one of those infuriating block puzzles that was mixed with Pipe Dream, where we had to redirect the flow of air. We had gotten so far without cheating, we were stunned at our own abilities! But Mom heard us talking about it and dropped the hammer: “Maybe no more Playstation until you two are better.”

That one instance, though, lives on in my memory. We played video games. Legally. While sick.

Of course, how much I actually “played” is up for debate.

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