My best mate crapped himself playing video games.
It happened when we were in Grade 6. He'd been holding back for hours. We were going turn-for-turns playing a game on his Amiga 500, trying to see who could stay alive the longest, and time had gotten away to the point where it was midnight. The competition was nearly as intense as his intestinal urges. We were pushing each other to the limit.
He pushed too hard.
Video game pic via Shutterstock
To be fair, though, one could argue that he was push-ee rather than the push-er.
His brother, eight years our senior, was a master troll before such a thing existed. He was decades ahead of his time, a Michelangelo of pure malevolence. Unbeknownst to either of us, he had crept to the threshold of that darkened games room with a megaphone – it was one of those early Nineties ones with a sweet beat function. The brand and model escapes me now, but I do have a vivid memory of them being taken off shelves after they deafened some kids.
My buddy can attest to its loudness. We'll call him Mathew from here on out. Because that's his name.
On the verge of besting my high-score, I watched Matt hitch in a deep breath for some trash-talk.
He never got to finish.
Trollbro chose this exact moment to leap in behind us and unleash the loudest “Yeehawwww!” that mankind has ever yeehawed. You may have heard it from your house. I'm confident it ripped space-time to make all parallel versions of me jolt with shock. For Matt, it was the only thing needed to make his wild horses bolt out the back paddock.
I won't scar you with the details of what followed. You don't need to hear of a young man's shuffle of shame to the commode, nor the amplified laughter and fresh beats of what could have been MC Hammer '2 Legit to Quit' that chased him. What I will say is this: we could not have been playing a more aptly titled video game. Boulder Dash.
The whole thing was incredibly pooetic.
Of all the gaming anecdotes I've collected in my time, this is by far the most treasured. It's certainly not one I bring up at dinner parties – though I do reserve the right to do exactly this if my primary school ever has a reunion dinner. It's ok, Matt has the goods on me for other mishaps which we won't go into here...
To tell you the truth, I'd almost forgotten about this incident until the memory got stirred up during a recent flight home from LA to Sydney. As a huge fan of Fight Club, who hopes to one day meet his very own version of Tyler Durden — and then subsequently destroy society as we know it — I'm always receptive to conversations with “single-serving friends” on a flight.
On this particular day, my plane-pal on the window side was a 52-year old M.D. who we'll call Steve. (Also his name.) He was very apologetic about making me get up every time nature called, and a conversation bloomed about how, yes, the air-pressure on planes do adversely affect the human bowel. After an hour or so of politely and literally talking shit to one another, I mentioned The Great Nugget Rush of '91. Steve woke up half our section with his laughter.
I also went on to explain that Matt's self-fertilising might have been averted had we known which key was bound to the pause function.
“Do all of your video games have pausing?” inquired Steve. “Because if not, that could prove unhealthy.”
This really got me to thinking.
I explained that many of them didn't. Gaming has increasingly moved into the online space where players like myself feel compelled to stay in a never-ending loop of lobbies and matches. Or, we are sometimes held in thrall by “single-player experiences” that also feature drop-in co-op functions that we might not always use. In that case, the pause function is removed anyway, to prevent players from turning the game into a Powerpoint presentation for others.
Incidentally, I had another mate who used to deliberately do this as a tactic when we all played Street Fighter on SNES. He'd mash Start to screw with your combos whenever he was in a dazed state. But that's a story for another time. (Cliff notes version: another friend dead-legged him so hard for repeat offending that he had to hop home.)
Interestingly, Steve then began to tell me of all the unpleasant things that might befall a gamer who doesn't take the time to sit and emit. Holding off for a little while, maybe to get in a more socially comfortable place to offload, is fine, but problems arise when you get into the bad habit of regularly stifling your urges. Continue to choose “one more go” over going potty, and you may cause dysfunction in the muscles used for pooping, or cause outright constipation.
While you're there denying yourself release and sucking up extra XP in the latest game, your colon will be absorbing water from your stool with similar enthusiasm. If that stool is constantly being put into a holding pattern, well, the colon is a very good at what it does – a stool that was once 75% water will be rendered dry and hard. You're going to feel that come eject time. Maybe you'll even unlock yourself a few haemorrhoids, or in extreme cases, an impacted bowel.
I ask Steve how often gamers should be going.
“It varies a great deal,” he says. “Once a day is the popular average, but that does not necessarily make it the norm. It's more about listening to urges rather than chasing a certain frequency.”
Once again then, it's not about the high-score.
I nod sagely. He asks me if game developers could be swayed into re-implementing “time out functions” for their games, lest he cop an influx of bowel-related cases in the future. I briefly imagine a petition.org urging people to “Join the Cause for Pause”. It vanishes quickly.
I also think of mentioning the urban legends I've heard of competitive gamers resorting to adult diapers. I don't think that particular revelation would make me a great ambassador for our hobby, and so I stop short.
I explain that if online-only video games continue to take the number 1 sales spot, the worse things will look for the next generation of number 2s waiting, w-a-i-t-i-n-g to be born. He chortles.
“So, what you're telling me is: shit's gonna to get a-hole lot worse before it gets better,” he fires right back.
Best. Single-serving friend. Ever, Steve.