Digital Deluge Delays Progress

Thank God I only have one class. Thank God it is only a tutorial. Thank God its work consists of handing in 20 pages of fiction a week. Thank God that my GPA won’t suffer the same fate as my roommates’ because Digital Subscriber Line and Dreamcast arrived last week.

DSL came first. We were wired on Saturday and my roommate William had us set up by Monday. It was heaven. I rolled up my sleeve and injected high-speed bandwidth into my veins. I got high on my rapid connection to the Internet. Data flowed from the Web through my phone line, into my PC and into my veins. I was hooked.

It started simple. I downloaded a few MP3s that I had my ears on. Then I set up Napster. I downloaded more. I started downloading absolute crap because I could. When I downloaded an obscure Zager and Evans tune that I remembered hearing once when I was 8 years old, I realized I had gone too far with my music.

I switched to movies.

I downloaded Magnolia off of a friend’s computer _ a friend who happened to live in Charlottesville. But that wasn’t enough. I wanted more. I downloaded Star Wars: The Phantom Menace. With Arabic subtitles.

As my hard drive swelled with the new data I let the pressure out by dumping the songs and movies on to CD-ROMs. My skin grew pale. I stared at a PC day and night. I was hooked.

But my DSL was only a gateway technological drug. I ran out of things I wanted to download and hard drive space to put them. I eased myself off of DSL.

And then Dreamcast arrived. After getting screwed over by some guy on Ebay, my roommate Matt had it delivered to the house after two clicks at Kozmo.com.

He asked for everyone in the house to give him a little cash. I resisted, claiming that I was graduating and, with DSL, I wouldn’t have time for “NFL2K” and “Soul Caliber.” When it arrived, he let my try a game with him. For free.

I was hooked again. I started playing “Soul Caliber” every afternoon after work. Then I tried “Crazy Taxi.” DSL went out the window. I was injecting Dreamcast into my veins now. And it wasn’t free anymore.

It got so bad that I started playing with my roommates who were drunk. I would sit there, stone-cold sober, beating these guys who couldn’t tell their index finger from their thumb, let alone handle a video game controller.

Our games got more violent. If we lost, we’d punch each other in the leg. We swore with colorful proficiency. We wrestled when the swearing got personal. We degenerated into the lowest forms of collegiate life. We lived for beer, pizza and Dreamcast.

I’m still addicted. It hurt to leave the system for an hour to write this. I was afraid “Crazy Taxi” would go on without me. I was afraid my roommates would get more practice in “Soul Caliber,” and I would lose my edge. I felt like I was 15 again, longing to play “Mortal Combat” on my old Sega Genesis. Yet here I was, trying to write a piece of long fiction, with no job lined up come May 31, wasting brain cells on inanimate sprites on a TV screen.

I’m not free yet. I want to be. I want to give it up cold turkey, to walk past it on my way to the kitchen and ignore its come-hither glow. But I don’t think I can yet. Flashing lights and bright colors easily distract me.

Besides, if I make it through the living room and into my bedroom, I still have DSL waiting patiently on my desk.

Days on the Hilltop appears every Tuesday in The Hoya.

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