For a while I was really into Let’s Play videos, playthroughs of games accompanied by the gamer’s color commentary. The best LPs are hilarious, and oddly like hanging out with a friend who is both wittier and better at games than you are.
“Page, you could never do a Let’s Play,” my friend John told me.
“A full half of the screen time would be spent on the save menu,” he said.
I laughed. “True. It’d be more of a Let’s Save.”
Especially back then. Before I had any control of my anxiety or any clue how to manage my own emotions. Everything felt insecure, wildly unstable. I felt like I could lose anyone in an instant, with one look misinterpreted as hostile or a single phrase that fell upon them the wrong way. No friendship felt truly safe.
Forget about walking on eggshells. I was creeping past other people’s egos in what felt like a minefield.
I played video games the same way, saving my progress after I did anything. I’d save outside the village. Zone in. Save inside the village, at the entrance. Enter a shop. Save there. Buy a potion. Save again.
“You haven’t saved in 3 minutes,” John would say. “Living dangerously.”
I set down the controller in my lap, delicately, like it were made of porcelain. “John,” I said. “Would you consider us friends?”
He looked at me incredulously. “Of course,” he said. “You ask that so often.”
I nodded. “I’m sorry if it’s annoying. I only say it when I’m thinking it, if that helps.”
“Do you expect to get a different answer each time you ask?” he asked.
“I know it’s a possibility. I don’t know if I expect anything,” I said.
“That might be your problem. Maybe that’s why trust is hard for you. It’s built on expectation.”
“You feel like I don’t trust you?” I said.
Of all people at that time in my life, I arguably trusted John the most. He was clinically depressed and didn’t put on airs about it, or anything else. He had told me once, quite soberly, that if he were ever to kill himself that I shouldn’t feel personally responsible.
And together, we were the king and queen of guilty pleasures. In 2002, the Internet was exposing us to fresh spectacles, and we drank them up together, trading one fun house oddity after another, even if a few were horrors.
I loved John. If he weren’t my fiance’s cousin and living with a scarily possessive woman who threatened to cut off his balls while he slept (she was also 6 feet tall and built like a linebacker), well, who knows? But that’s a lot of if. Too much if. Especially since in those days, I was staunchly monogamous.
“It’s not that you don’t trust me,” he said. “It’s worse than that. You don’t trust yourself.”
I didn’t quite know what to do with that information. But as the months and years wore on, I gradually spent less time on the save screen. And became sufficiently careless that every now and then? I had to replay a section when I unknowingly wandered across the wrong bridge into an area I wasn’t meant to be in yet. Or a boss showed up that I wasn’t ready for because I’d been blitzing through the story to get through the plot.
But overall, it’s been a positive change, and games are a lot more fun to play.
And for the life of me, I can’t remember the last time I asked someone if they consider me their friend.