Over the years, my parents have done a few nice things for my brother and me. They raised me, they put me through school, they taught me not to snarl like a wolf at the dinner table, they support my dream of being the first cartoonist in space.
But nothing they’ve done has earned my never-dying respect and admiration as the time they let us keep Ghostbusters: The Game out one extra night.
We weren’t allowed to rent games for our Nintendo every Friday. Usually it had to be a special occasion, like the time my brother almost drowned in a river. In order to make us forget the bad times, my parents would take us to the local video monger and let us choose one game.
The rental policy was two nights. If we really liked a particular game, we’d ask to keep it longer, but this tactic rarely worked. The fees for keeping a game out must have been exorbitant; I imagine $4000 per extra night. My parents did not want us to live in the poorhouse (a distinct possibility every day), so they made sure we returned all our rentals on time.
Before you go out searching for Ghostbusters: The Game, know this: it is not a fun game. It is kind of like a doctor’s waiting room. You drive around a city block until a ghost appears, then you get out of the Ghostmobile and capture it. This repeats endlessly. I never figured out how to progress in the game.
Somehow this endless loop was addictive. Maybe it was the sugar comas my brother and I were in after eating too much junk food. Maybe it was the comfort of knowing exactly what was going to happen next and knowing how to deal with it. Maybe it was a combination of psychological and biological cues the makers of Ghostbusters: The Game exploited to sell their product.
I can’t say why, but when it came time to return the game we were still playing it. My parents, instead of ripping the plug from the wall and the game from the console, asked us nicely if we wanted to keep playing it an extra night. Barely raising our eyes from the flickering screen, we murmered “yes.” Gloriously, mysteriously, my parents let us keep Ghostbusters: The Game for one more night.
I never asked my parents where that particular fit of generosity came from. I probably never will. Their action’s power is partly due to its surprise. What I can say for sure is I never figured out that game. When we returned it, my brother and I never wanted to rent it again, let alone buy it. Its mysteries will remain locked forever in the game’s plastic case. But my parents’ largess will live on forever in my heart.
NOTE: This does not excuse my parents from the time they hired that babysitter who knifed me. But that’s the subject of another post.