So last night, I was invited to dinner.
The pro–good restaurant, free food.
The con–it was a meal sponsored by Kevin’s church for a visiting representative of the Lutheran Synod, which meant I was going to be dining with three pastors, their wives, and a couple of members of Kevin’s church, who are generally nice people, although denizens of a largely different world than mine. (Kevin’s ability to be a pillar of his community and…well…Kevin at the same time is a source of bemusement for both sides.)
Still, free food, and all artists, however successful, are starving at the bone, so off we went.
I found myself seated in the vicinity of an elderly Lutheran pastor who devotes most of his time to prison ministries.* He looked like your father. No, scratch that–he looked like your father if you yourself were fortysomething and respectable. Church elder was written on him at the molecular level. If you were looking around the room for a living definition of "avuncular" you would stop at him. Had he not been a member of the clergy, he would have been a member of the Elks.
There was no doubt in my mind that he was probably a terribly good human being, but a list of stuff we had in common would begin with "oxygen breathing, chordate, mammal" and sort of peter out after that.
Hoo boy, I thought, this is gonna be a long evening.
So the nice pastor asked Kevin what he’d been up to lately, and Kevin said something in passing about playing some video games, and Pastor Jim (his name was Jim) laughs a little and says that his son bought him a couple of consoles over the years, and he doesn’t know anything about games, just plays the ones his son buys for him. "The last video game I saw before that was Pong," he added.
Seizing a conversational opportunity, however thin, I asked what he was playing.
I will be honest with you now, O readers. I was pretty much expecting that he was playing Extreme Putting For Non-Gamers, with a remote outside chance that, like my father, he was a military history buff and was playing Call of Duty or Command & Conquer. I was asking the question mostly for that outside chance, because then we could talk Tom Clancy games, and I did enough time in the Red Storm ambit to have a decent ten minute conversation about Splinter Cell.
Honestly, though? I was pretty much betting on Extreme Putting For Non-Gamers.
He frowned. "I can’t remember the name…the first one he got me, I loved. It was kind of a puzzle game…"
My hopes sank still lower.
"It was based on a movie, maybe? Good guys vs. bad guys, sort of…puzzly…you know?"
"Spy vs. Spy?" I hazarded.
"No, no. Um….the President’s daughter had been kidnapped, and you had to go rescue her–"
A suspicion formed in my mind. No. Surely not.
"There’s all these villagers…"
"Resident Evil 4?!"
"Yes!" He sat back, looking pleased. "I loved that game! Of course, the graphics don’t hold up now…"
"I have played that game a dozen times!" I said weakly, attempting to mash "elderly Lutheran pastor" together with "zombie-headshot-splatterfest" in my mind.
"Ooh! It’s great once you win it a few times and get the typewriter–" (The "Chicago Typewriter" is a tommygun, which you unlock after winning a time or two.)
"The zombie headshots!" I said.
"The ones with the chainsaws!" he said. "My neighbor was cutting down some trees after I’d started playing that, and I nearly had a heart attack! Aaaaagh! I know that sound!"
"Resident Evil 4?" said the busboy who was supposed to be picking up plates. "I love that game! Have you played the next one?"
So a good time was had by all, and I wound up writing down a list of the "If you liked Resident Evil 4, ask your son to find…" variety for the nice man.
I wrote the words "Dead Space," looked up at the grandfatherly man who spent a lot of time telling inmates about Jesus, looked down at the list…
…and underlined it.
*He is a sort of pinch-hitter for Kevin’s church, in that he preaches when the regular pastor’s out of town. I was seated near him, because the regular pastor and I get along like a house afire, in the sense that there is much screaming and collateral damage, and eventually someone has to turn a hose on the whole mess.