Ode on a Video Game

I wrote this poem as part of the “Ode Off,” a friendly ode-writing competition with my friend Hannah Neprash. Each of us assigned the other a news story on which we had to write an ode within 48 hours. Hannah assigned me this New York Times story about the potentially salutary effects of video games on the cognitive functioning of elderly people. Here’s what I came up with:

Brain scientists have discovered that swerving around cars while simultaneously picking out road signs in a video game can improve the short-term memory and long-term focus of older adults. Some people as old as 80, the researchers say, begin to show neurological patterns of people in their 20s.”

New York Times, September 4, 2013

You oft-defam’ed bride of slothfulness
You foster-child of noise and wasted time,
Interactive plaything, who can sure express
A tedious archetype more tritely than bad rhyme;
What hackneyed action sequence marks your ends
For old folks or young ones, or for both,
In schools or home or assisted living?
What pissed off birds are these? What words with friends?
What call of duty here? What Farmville growth?
Mortal Kombat with what age is giving!

Performing one task is sweet, but two at a time
Is sweeter; therefore, you old codgers, play on;
Not for the victory tune that won’t be thine,
But to beat mental states of the moron:
The youth, beneath the trees with his iPhone
Owns that which never can be yours: Your ass.
Old Gamer, never, ever can you win,
No matter how you play—yet do not groan;
Work really hard, and though he still will grin,
Forever will you think and multitask!

Ah, angry, angry birds! That cannot stop
Those pigs, nor ever bid the swine adieu;
And Mario Brothers must always hop,
Forever jumping barrels thrown at you;
More dead aliens! More dead, dead aliens!
Forever exploding in fiery blasts,
Yet ever regenerating and, as one,
Marching down to rescue your cranium.
They leave your brain nimble as a gymnast
So at one time, you can walk—and chew gum.

What are those colored, interlocking shapes
That fall to music, my good old gamesman?
Without them, senility your mind rapes
And you become a drooling deranged man.
Those little shapes are your very lifeline,
A running wheel for your cerebral rat.
If you stop playing and they reach the top
Oh, little brain, your cells become a brine
And while you drive, to avoid a big splat,
You’d better have someone else read road signs.

O joystick! Fair touchpad! Misjudged through time
By parents, teachers, preachers overwrought,
Who want kids on their feet, to run and climb;
You, noisy game, do tease them until caught
Eternally—potatoes on the couch.
But when old age this cerebellum wastes,
You will remain, in midst of other ouch,
A friend to senile man, to whom you sayest,
“Gaming is memory, memory gaming.
That is all you know in your decrepit state—
And I forget the rest.”

Comments are closed.