We all know the difference between inside the computer and out in the real world, don’t we?
Of course we do.
Yet the lines between the two are not clear cut. Angelina Jolie is Lara Croft of Tomb Raider. Yet we watch her work the red carpet and be an ambassador for the United Nations. The Wii fit series and many others allow us to create our own avatar and become something in cyberspace.
And the merchandisers recreate cuddly 3D representations for which children are primed to yearn.I had little time for them until Felix came home one day with Knuckles.
Knuckles first made an appearance in Sonic The Hedgehog 3: a well- entrenched game with a huge following. Sonic is a bright blue dervish who tackles acrobatic challenges through ever more taxing assault courses called levels.
However Knuckles is not blue, but red. And while novices to the game might assume he is also a hedgehog, they would be woefully wrong. He is in fact a spiny anteater or echidnas. He was tricked by the game’s baddie into fighting Sonic. Knuckles defected to become Sonic’s best friend.
He is bright red with snub nose, huge eyes and crazy coiffure, and with cartoon-large boots on the end of his stubby little legs.
Felix was besotted with Knuckles, and he still is.
Today my extended family trooped in to top up on early breakfast and, for one day only, play as a group on our Wii.
As the children tackled the Olympics with Sonic and Knuckles, Al trailed in and his eyes grew large. For wasn’t one of the stars of the show sitting on the sofa, large as life?
He ran to Knuckles as if to an old friend and embraced him. Ah, he announced, there you are: I have been looking for you everywhere.
A nursery morning later, as I prepared the pasta at lunchtime, Al rediscovered Knuckles and got to work busily introducing him to all the other inhabitants of the toybox. This accomplished, he secured a decent pair of wheels and parked Knuckles in the driver’s seat.It did not take long before Knuckles was airborne.
“Look Auntie Kate! Knuckles can fly up high! He can hover like a helicopter! He can zoom around!”
The evidence was before my eyes. This was one talented anteater.
Mealtime arrived quickly. “Auntie Kate,” Al said, his eyes engagingly wide and blue, “can Knuckles have a plate? And….” coming in with that final killer demand,”can Yoshi have a plate too?”
I sighed. Dinner parties with cuddly stuffed guests are notoriously hazardous. A fast-forward of the next few minutes played at the back of my mind, with highlights including a red pasta saucy nose as possible attempts were made to spoon feed Felix’s beloved toy.
But what the heck.
“Ok, Al, I said. I got two extra plates.
“Get a big one for Knuckles please, Auntie Kate, and a little one for Yoshi.”
We managed to avoid pasta disaster and before anyone could request chocolate mousse, I reached for those little iced gems – do you know them? A tiny doll-sized biscuit with a whorl of hard crunchy icing on top.
Al was in seventh heaven.
He arranged gems carefully on each plate and fed his two new friends with the air of an accomplished host.
In a heretical moment I suggested eating the gems.
A look of outraged distaste crossed the little boy’s face. “No! They will be sad! We’ll leave them over here for later.”
I think, on reflection, the dog helped himself to them shortly afterwards.
As a finale, Al and Knuckles were strapped into the car and driven to Starbucks. Al had been a very good boy at nursery: time for a hot chocolate as a reward.
Yet when we arrived, inexplicably, the order was deftly renegotiated so that Al, Knuckles and I sat down with three chocolate-covered marshmallows on a stick, sprinkled with white chocolate stars.
You all know how it goes: a bite for Al, a bite for Knuckles. A bite for Al, a bite for Knuckles.
It seemed the entire cafe had paused with their cups half way to their mouths, drop-jawed in incredulity at this ponderous marshmallow-sharing ritual.
So it’s official: Big Al has a connection with Knuckles. Sniffy about all cyberheroes, I had inadvertently introduced my tiny nephew to one of the uber-anteaters of the computer gaming world.
I am not proud of myself. Today I got off my high horse and let something step out of a computer and hook my nephew to the point of infatuation.
But he spent none of this day on a computer,and all of it creating verdant make-believe.
I am left, trying to work out whether or not I have won this level.
Written in response to Side View’s theme, ‘An Alternate Reality’, which you can find here