Essays

My Son, the Gamer — fastest acceptance in history

I wrote this essay on an American Airlines flight between Chicago and San Diego, on the way to visit my mother. My first-born son had just finished his university degree, with a double major in mathematics and economics. He had begun college with something like 46 hours of credit, thanks to AP courses and taking University of Wisconsin courses while still in high school. His last semester senior year consisted of one course: Black American Music. I remember calling him one day in the spring and asking what he was studying. “We’re listening to Marvin Gaye,” he said. “I did that in college too,” I replied, “But not for credit.” He seemed to be spending much of his extensive free time honing his computer gaming skills.

I remember the act of writing  partly because there was a nice, professional-looking woman in her mid-thirties seated next to me who took an interest in the compositon. She said she’d always wanted to be an editor. When I was finished, I let her take a pass. She had a few comments, but had no general praise or specific sighs of awe over my turns of phrase, reactions which I consider to be the primary skill set for a budding editor. I wished her well in her marketing career.

For some reason I hung onto the essay for quite a while before I submitted it. Submitting personal essays is always tricky, because they don’t always have a clear connection to a particular journal. However, I figured comptuer gaming would be a natural so one morning I attached it to an email to submissions@salon.com, one of the premiere on-line magazines. Twenty-two minutes later an email response arrived, which I assumed was an automated “notice of receipt” message. Instead, it was a personal note from an editor, saying she loved the piece and would like to run it ASAP. She apologized for the amount of the standard payment. However, I figured if I had written a similarly welcome piece on the way back from California I would have almost covered the airfare. A few weeks later the piece appeared.

Here is the opening:

Not long ago I was trying to pry some news out of my reticent senior-in-college son without much success when I changed the subject to computer gaming. He’s been punching the keyboard ever since I got my first Apple II when he was 5, when electronic games were beyond Pong but not yet past Pac-Man, and I know it’s not something he’s outgrown. Still, he’s usually circumspect about his gaming life, knowing his mother and father consider it something between an addiction and a vice.

“You know that new game that I’m playing?”

I said yes, even though my knowledge of the gaming world is vague and inexact, picked up from occasional glimpses over shoulders and back-seat conversations between my two sons.

“Well, I’m currently ranked No. 1.”

“No 1? In your league or whatever?”

“Not exactly.”

“In the country?”

“No,” he said, pausing for effect. “In the world.”

For the rest of the story and the typical mix of insightful and insipid comments: http://www.salon.com/writer/lawrence_tabak/

By the way — neither the boy in the photo nor the title is mine.