The Christmas family reunion and the niece and nephew were being very sullen and uncommunicative. They are at that difficult age. You know the age. Forty somethingish. Anyway, I was told that if I wanted to get through to them I’d have to do it on their turf. ‘Turf?’ I asked, confused. ‘Yes, the virtual world of the computer game they got for Christmas.’ So, I went to the other room and found the pair of them sat in front of the telly, which was hooked up to some sort of apparatus. They were holding control consoles and moving little animated creatures around the screen. ‘What are you doing?’ I asked them. ‘We’re playing Beaver Bedlam’, one replied. Their game shared the same name as a short film I had recently enjoyed on Spankwire but I thought better of mentioning the coincidence. ‘Can I join in?’ I asked. They threw me a console and I sat between them. There were little beavers swimming around in a river on the screen. ‘What do I do?’ ‘Collect the wood.’ ‘What wood? Where?’ ‘Collect the wood! COLLECT THE WOOD!’ ‘I don’t see any wood.’ There was the sound of a squeal and blood filled the screen. ‘Jesus, what was that?’ ‘You’re dead. Here, give me the thing.’ The nephew grabbed my console. He sighed and pressed a button or something that brought me back to life. Then he handed me back the controls. ‘OK, where’s the wood?’ ‘There! Look! See?’ ‘I see it!’ ‘Collect the wood! Collect the wood!’ Sweaty and anxious, I managed to collect some wood. ‘Now what?’ ‘Build the dam!’ ‘A dam? How?’ ‘Apply for planning! APPLY FOR PLANNING!’ ‘Quit shouting at me.’ ‘JESUS! APPLY FOR PLANNING NOW!’ There was the sound of a squeal and blood filled the screen. The niece obliged and brought me back to life this time.
I was in the panicked process of applying for planning when everything started flashing and this demented electronic melody filled the room. Then a badger appeared in the corner of the screen and it started dancing. Then the niece got up and started copying the badger’s every move. ‘What’s going on now?’ ‘BOOGIE BADGER! BOOGIE BADGER!’ ‘What badger? Badger what?’ ‘COLLECT THE WOOD! COLLECT THE WOOD!’ ‘What about the badger?’ ‘COLLECT THE WOOD! BOOGIE BADGER!’ ‘Just calm down a sec and let me know what’s going on?’ My heart almost stopped at the dreaded sound of that familiar squeal. Blood filled the screen. ‘YOU’RE DEAD! YOU’RE DEAD! YOU’RE DEAD!’ ‘Right. OK. Relax. Bring me back!’ ‘No.’ ‘No?’ ‘No.’ ‘Why not?’ ‘You’ve used up your lives.’ ‘Well, can you give me a new life?’ ‘Don’t be stupid. That would be unrealistic.’ ‘. . .oh, right.’ I got up and was leaving the room when the niece called me back. ‘You owe us a tenner each,’ she said. ‘Me? How come?’ They both made the spaz face (the one where you tuck your tongue under your bottom lip) and waved their arms about going ‘nuuuhhhh’. This did little to illuminate me. Finally the nephew spoke up. ‘You built the dam without planning. You were fined. Weren’t you paying attention?’ I shrugged and paid up. I left the room. My heart was a little heavy at the thought of the distance that had grown between us. Back in my day you’d be happy with a Boba Fett figurine and a can of Lilt. These days you are lost in a bewildering virtual universe with bizarre rules and requirements. These days you are a panic stricken God, looking through a window into another world, urgently trying to alter the fate of dam building beavers and dancing badgers. ‘It’s no wonder they keep failing the Junior Cert’, I said to myself as I sloped off to my quarters to enjoy the other Beaver Bedlam that’s more to my liking. I couldn’t get into it though. Just as Daphne Delights was hitting her stride, I heard the little shits in the other room: ‘BOOGIE BADGER! BOOGIE BADGER!’ I found myself panicking and pressing any key in sight in a futile attempt to get Daphne to put down her rabbit and collect some wood. She didn’t of course. She was preoccupied. Lost in her own little world.