Miles from Home

China Commentary– Youthful Musings on the Environment, Culture & Development

A Reflection of Charges

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I used to play this game on my father’s “new” PC down in our basement in the ’80s, played it on one of the first computers out there, running DOS and floppy disks.  It was called “Depth Charge” or at least that was the concept.  It consisted of the brain-racking task of pressing spacebar to drop a battleship’s charges on submarines zipping left to right and back again on the screen below.  It was a mix of short green lines on a black screen, a funny bleeping noise, and a crunching explosion sound.  And I would just sit there and play it.  Spacebar.  Spacebar……. spacebar.

The more subs I obliterated, the more points I amassed.  The more points I amassed, the faster the targets blipped across my underwater sonar.  And, if I was really an ace, I would time my release in order to plunge my charge all the way to the bottom of the ocean, perilously eluding each horizontal line of traffic, and smash to smithereens a more formidable subaqueous vessel.  Spacebar… bonus points.

Now the real trick, if I recall, was not running out of depth charges.  For every sub I destroyed, my ammunition was restocked (+1).  But if I missed, or hit a mine a sub may have dropped… well, bad news captain.  Subs launched vertically ascending torpedoes, and as soon as you were out of charges, man, it was like those guys knew!  Incoming left… incoming right… damn, trapped… GAME OVER.

Somewhere, in someone’s novel, not too long ago, I read that humans reach their intellectual apotheosis at age 24.  The author attributed this fact to Einstein just to hammer home the intellectual inadequacy of his audience.  My own incapacity to create meaningful change in this world is something I have not come to terms with, and most of that incomprehension falls within my own inability to balance the bullshit I espouse against my actions.

I was staring at my spacebar, the button creating order, delivering pause to thoughts, the largest tool at one’s disposal on a keyboard.  Maybe that channeled my memories of the game.  The implications of its measurement on the yardstick of my life, on turning 25, on our coming from DOS to the Iphone, on where I float now in this cosmic creation of empty black space… well, it seemed fitting.

The cliché says we are all our own islands.  But what if we are more a community of ships at sea?  Each ship is equipped for its own level of battle, and each carries a certain quantity of ammunition for life’s obstacles.  If that’s my ship floating up there, what are my aims?  In the beginning, an unskilled player must first learn to destroy the subs closest to his hull.  The deeper targets pass by unassailable.  And as that player advances he becomes more aware of the opportunities in the seas, becomes more aware of the futility of taking only what comes easy, begins to merit focus; he becomes cognizant of limitations of time and space, mines that set one back, and other levels attainable. 

That’s me floating in a sea of blank space.  And now I feel like I have been playing this game long enough to know how.  It’s not just about survival for me, I was lucky enough to be awarded a finely-crafted ship.  No, for me, it’s about achievement, feeling rewarded for my efforts.  Am I still one of those cretinous hacks taking out easy tasks close at hand?  Or do I have the skill and patience to take down one of those rare opportunities that seem so far from within my sights?


Written by Miles

March 7, 2008 at 3:08 pm

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