That left one choice. The Dreamcast. Ahh Dreamcast, the last great gasp of hardware from the mighty Sega corporation. The one true hope of gamers everywhere on 9/9/99. A simpler time. A time when Bill Clinton was in office and this country wasn't headed in the crapper. I was 17, it was Autumn, and my first semester of College, which turned out incredibly badly.
That's right. Hooked on Everquest and in a dorm room I absolutely despised I stopped going to class and nearly flunked out of school before having to take a Medical leave of absence. Upon returning, staying at home this time, I finished with a 3.8617 GPA in 3.5 years, but back then I was at the absolute low point of my life and I wanted to kill myself almost every day. I played EQ to escape and that just made my existence more hellish. I was scared to go out, scared to meet anyone, and I saw myself as headed down a long slow spiral into oblivion. I gained like 100 pounds, which I've never taken off, and broke my dorm chair. I ran home when I had to use the bathroom, since I hated the unisex one in the dorm full of pranksters and assholes, and I didn't always make it in time. My life was hell.
But Sonic was there for me. That's right. Sonic the Hedgehog was always there to put a smile on my face and say "Don't kill yourself just yet, you can spare an hour for a little Blue Blur in a cartoony world." And when Sonic wouldn't do it NFL 2K would. "Life isn't so bad when Tiki Barber is racking up 210 yards on the Redskins, now is it?" The game would ask, and I would grudgingly answer "I guess not." Ready 2 Rumble almost made me friends, as people came in to check it out, before I shut and bolted the door and refused to answer if anyone knocked, like some sort of fat, junior Howard Hughes. I didn't pee in bottles, but if I'd had bottles to pee in I would have considered it.
I can't claim that Dreamcast saved my life. A lot of things did that. My psychologist, reading, my personal trainer Roberto, whose gym sessions gave me a reason to get out of bed on occasion and whose stories of almost beating up Robert DeNiro amused me to no end. I will claim that the Dreamcast made that time a lot more bearable than it might have been otherwise. I bought the latest games on a credit card and felt okay for awhile, the same as eating an entire bag of Nachos or Hohos and not confronting the fact of my father's death (A favorite past time.) Looking forward to the new games gave me something to hope for. The VMU pleased me to no end.
The Dreamcast was a great little machine for me, and I was very sad when they stopped making games for it. I'd already moved on to the Ps2 and the Xbox at that point, but I still loved the feel of the Dreamcast controller in my hand, it's ungainly rough angles making it feel like something real and tangible.
I haven't played it in years but it remained in my setup, plugged in and as ready for a game of Zombies Revenge as on the day it shipped. I should have bought a backup unit but never did, I guess I knew that eventually I would grow tired of it (though it still has some GREAT fucking games) and move on. I don't know if it still works to be honest, and I don't want to know if it doesn't.
Today it lost its spot on that wooden rack. It was exchanged for TiVo. Something newer and bigger and entirely different. TiVo doesn't unlock anything, it's just a management tool for the TV you already have. It represents the needs not of a young boy desperate for SOMETHING to fill his meaningless empty horrible life with light and color and fun, but of a young man who has a lot of stuff to get done, though not as much as he'd like, and wants to cut some of the fat out of how he spends his time. It is meant to cut me loose of the tether of TV and let me do what I want to do when I want to do it without missing programming. Right now I have "24" on Pause while I write this. I want to do a treadmill session and I want to be able to skip the commercials. I also want to finish the entry without time pressure. TiVo is paying off already.
As for the Dreamcast, I'll put it in a box somewhere near the thousand dollars of games I bought for it, some never even opened. I don't consider them a bad investment. Waiting for the mail gave a rhythm and reason to my days. The games were a drug, sure, but they were a relatively harmless one and they got me through in one (enormous) piece. It's just a hunk of metal and plastic, and it won't feel any different in a box then it did on a shelf. ChuChu rocket can go unplayed for another few years. The ChuChus need the rest.
Still I can't help but feel that I am abandoning an old friend. Dreamcast was there for me at my darkest hour, promising pleasure and fun and something to light the abyss. Now I feel better, I'm doing better, and I don't need it. I have the fancier system and less time to game. I have better things to do, so it has to go. It's like The Giving Tree, I imagine some day I'll use it to prop up a table or hold down the pages of a script. It gave me everything it had in its little white (now off-white) plastic body and asked for nothing in return except a little electricity and some button presses.
R.I.P. my little friend, you may be hidden from sight now but you are not forgotten. The Skies of Arcadia will continue to live forever in my mind. Powerstone, Crazy Taxi, Jet Grind Radio, your love is still reciprocated.
The Dreamcast has a modem in it, one of the many innovations that made it so wonderful. Maybe I'll plug it in one last time for old-time's sake and navigate on over to this page with its primitive web-browser. Let it know how much it meant to me. Then it will be banished to the back of some closet, to gather more dust and wait for the day I move out of this place and put it in another closet. I just hope that somewhere in its 128 bit processor it has an inkling of how much it meant for me and how much I love it still. Best $199 (plus tax) anyone ever spent.