Author’s Note: To fully appreciate this story you must understand all of the important details and key players. Peoples names and the locations in this story have been changed to protect the innocent. Also, I’m relying upon my memory of events from nearly 20 years ago, so God help us all. Enjoy.
Video games will always be a part of my life. I have many great memories playing video games by myself, with friends, my wife, my kids, and with other members of my family. I was born in ’73 in Ohio and my childhood was a time when arcade games and video game consoles coexisted in a happy little universe. It would be interesting to know how many quarters I dropped into arcade games or how many hours of my life were spent in front of a television screen trying to conquer a game on one of my various consoles. I would not give up one quarter or a minute of video game playing time because video games have provided me with an arsenal of interesting tales to share with the faithful followers of the Two-Headed Nerd Comic Book Podcast.
As a kid, I never had a console of my own because my parents thought owning a personal computer was more important that owning an Atari 2600, Intellivision, or a ColecoVision. Looking back, I can see their point of view, but playing Karateka and Montezuma’s Revenge on an Apple IIc was not as fulfilling as playing a game at the arcade or on a console. I lived near some department stores, convenience stores, and some drive-thrus that had arcade games, so I would jump on my bike and play some great games like Mat Mania and Rampage. In case you’re wondering what drive-thru’s are, they are buildings where you can pull up in your car and order beer, wine, or pop. There was one in my hometown that had Super Mario Brothers, but they had the arcade game outside of the building, so you’d have to find some old cardboard boxes to create a sun visor so you could see the screen. That’s video game dedication right there, ladies and gentlemen.
My childhood friends had consoles and I’ll admit that I was nice to certain people as a kid based on their video game collection. Johnny Steppenwolf was a kid that went to school with me and he had an impressive collection of video game consoles. He was really cool and Johnny also had an impressive collection of rock music and Playboy magazines. I spent many hours at his house when I was in junior high. Maybe I’ll share some of those stories, but I want to share with you a video game moment from my college days.
I attended Southwest Ohio University in New Ravenwood, Ohio as an undergraduate from 1992 until 1996. My freshman and sophomore years were spent at home and commuting became a total drag. Frank Winger was a guy I had known since kindergarten and he also commuted to Southwest Ohio University. One day he asked me if I was interested in getting an apartment close to campus. Frank said rent would be easy on our wallets if we had four people sharing a three bedroom apartment. He told me that we could share the large master bedroom and pay a lower rent than the other two that had their own rooms. I was willing to share a room with Frank, but he told me the other two were people he knew from his computer science courses. I wasn’t rolling with that crowd because I was keeping it liberal arts as a history major.
Frank said that Rodney Cheddar was interested in being our roommate. I didn’t need to think twice about that idea because Rodney was – and still is – one of the nicest people I ever met. Rodney could have killed me when I pulled a Dukes of Hazzard move with his grandma’s car in the Fifth Third Bank parking lot, but he didn’t. Frank and Rodney were inseparable during their freshman year of college, plus Rodney was a big ol’ teddy bear of a guy who never drank, but was always the life of the party. He called everyone ‘dude’. I once witnessed Rodney devour the half of a large pizza in under one minute. Rodney at one time attempted to pay our cable bill by mailing his paycheck to the cable company. I was on the receiving end of a WTF?! phone call from the cable company and from Rodney’s mom. Never change, Rodney. Never change.
We needed a fourth for the apartment hunt and the final person was Kurt Ashton. Frank and Rodney knew Kurt from their computer science classes. Kurt was something of a Casanova that drove a ’92 or ’93 Geo Metro convertible and it was a tiny ass tin can of an automobile. Kurt eventually sued the car company that made the Metro because according to Kurt it was the poster child of lemon laws for automobiles. I spent a few days searching for apartments with Frank, Rodney, and Kurt, but Kurt dropped out of the apartment hunt because he found a better roommate option. Rodney’s take on the situation was, “That’s a bummer, dude.”
Frank and Rodney knew a guy named Sebastian Daniels, who was also one of their computer science buddies. I sort of knew Sebastian from hanging out with Frank and thought he’d be a good fourth. Sebastian was cynical and a total smartass. We clicked. Sebastian quickly dropped out of the race after getting an incredible deal on an apartment with some other guys.
Frank, Rodney, and I had found a great three bedroom apartment near Southwest Ohio University. The community was called Plymouth Rock Village and we really wanted a fourth roommate to make the rent affordable for everyone. Frank called me one day and said Rodney knew a guy named Kevin Gilbert and he really wanted to be our fourth roommate. Rodney told me, “Kevin’s really cool, dude.” If Rodney said the guy was cool then the guy was cool.
Frank and I met Kevin briefly when we signed our lease. Kevin was really quiet and didn’t say much, which was fine by me. I was excited to be living on my own with some totally chill roommates.
We moved into our apartment at Plymouth Rock Village during the summer of 1994. Frank and I were the first to move in, Rodney moved in a week or two later, but Kevin was MIA. Kevin eventually moved in and the apartment was complete. Kevin got his room together on a Friday afternoon and then went to sleep. The guy slept for fourteen hours straight. I’m not kidding. Rodney asked, “Think he’s dead, dude?”. Kevin eventually woke up, trudged down the steps, and planted himself in front of the TV wearing a robe that would make The Dude from The Big Lebowski proud. He grumbled a few words and then zoned out watching TV.
As the weeks went by, we started to get the full Kevin treatment. The guy would sleep on average for 12 to 18 hours and when he would wake up, he would plant himself in front of the tv, sometimes in his Lebowski robe, for roughly four to six hours and completely zone out to some piece of goofball programming. We had gentleman’s bets on how long Kevin would sleep. The Kevin world record is at 20 hours. Kevin’s routine had me wondering how he paid the rent and utilities. My initial reaction was that his parents paid for everything, but Rodney set me straight. “Kevin made like $2,000 selling his original set of Magic cards, dude.” At the time I had no idea what Rodney was talking about, and that’s a whole other set of T-D-Dubs tales.
Rodney and I had full access to the world of Kevin because Frank had a girlfriend and he was staying at her house almost every night. Thanks for abandoning us, Frank. Kevin’s long sleeping and lazy roommate routine earned him the nickname ‘Sluggo’, so at this point of the story I will refer to Kevin as Sluggo. Sluggo is Kevin. Remember Sluggo.
How did we go from Kevin to Sluggo? Sluggo would make a gigantic pot of homemade macaroni and cheese on Sunday night and use that as his lunch and dinner for the remainder of the week. He kept the mac and cheese in this big ass pot, which took up an entire shelf in a fridge where space was a luxury. Making that pot of macaroni was the only bit of physical exertion Sluggo did to benefit our apartment. The guy never washed dishes, took out the trash, cleaned up after himself, or vacuumed up the pile of potato chip crumbs he would leave on the carpet. Nothing. He slept, watched TV, played video games, and left a gigantic mess for Rodney and I to deal with. Today I am a parent with two small kids. Sluggo makes my kids look like a couple of Howard Hughes’.
Rodney and I were the ones that had to take care of Sluggo’s mess. A couple of roommate interventions did not work. We tried the good cop/bad cop approach and nothing worked. Nothing. Cracks were starting to form in the nice guy foundation that held Rodney together. When Rodney would use “dude” in sentence that involved Sluggo, it would be used in an angry manner. Sluggo had tainted the use of “dude”. Rodney even admitted that he knew Sluggo as a nice guy at school, but had no idea he was a terrible roommate.
One day, Sluggo wanted to talk to me about the dish washing situation for the apartment. I was expecting him to apologize for not helping, but Sluggo handed me a magnet to put on the dishwasher to let him know if the dishes were dirty or clean because he found it irritating opening the dishwasher to dirty dishes because he didn’t have time to wait for someone to turn on the dishwasher. I thought to myself , “You f—ing c—sucker!”
Sluggo’s habits were not the only things that made him a less than endearing as a roommate. Sluggo’s girlfriend, Naomi, would show up at any hour, and let’s just say that when they were intimate, Naomi was what we in the intimacy department like to label ‘a screamer’. That was not the wakeup call I needed at 5:00 AM.
Every Batman has a Robin, and Sluggo’s Robin was a guy named Cornelius Van Brocklin. Cornelius was a gangly creature with a mullet who would have all night RPG (role playing game) and video game sessions with Sluggo and then he’d crash on our couch and sleep for eight to ten hours. Cornelius had that inquisitive Jeff Goldblum thing going on, which seemed funny at first, but after awhile you just wanted to slap the guy. Rodney informed me that Cornelius was a dual major in physics and in dance. Yeah, you just read that last sentence correctly. Cornelius shared Sluggo’s slobish tendencies and Cornelius will be forever remembered as owning two t-shirts. One was some yellow PRG tournament shirt with a viking looking dude on it while the other was this navy blue t-shirt with a giant glass of beer on it with something along the lines of the following statement printed on it: NO MEANS NO! That shirt was quite possibly one of the most f’ed up anti-sexual assault shirts ever created.
I remember one morning Rodney and I walked downstairs to find the living room and kitchen trashed by Cornelius and Sluggo following an all night video game session. Plates with dried up macaroni were on the floor along with all kinds of crumbs and trash. Sluggo was asleep in his room and Cornelius was on the couch. Rodney was at his breaking point, and all he could say was, “Dude!”, and I knew from the tone that Rodney’s “Dude!” meant, “Let’s get these motherf—ers!” Rodney grabbed all of the plates and placed them at Sluggo’s bedroom door as a way of giving him the message that we were tired of cleaning up after him, and in hopes that Sluggo would walk out bis bedroom door and trip over them. Cornelius was next on our list. Now Cornelius was a deep sleeper and nothing could wake him up. Blasting a stereo would not budge Cornelius. Believe me, we tried. Rodney and I decided to take a different route. We had a vacuum cleaner that had a base which was large enough to stick on someone’s face. I was able to gently place it on Cornelius’ nose and mouth, so Rodney turned on the vacuum. The vacuum was able to suck up Cornelius’ face which caused him to wake up in a complete panic. That was a special roommate bonding moment with Rodney. I don’t recall Cornelius crashing on the couch that often after the vacuum cleaner incident.
I’ve set you up perfectly with the apartment situation, and now let’s move into a special video game portion of this story.
One day, Rodney purchased an Atari Jaguar. This was the first 64-bit system console, a step up in graphics over the original Sony PlayStation which was a 32-bit system. Sluggo and I were totally impressed with the Jaguar, and one of the games that Rodney had for the console was Alien vs Predator, a first-person shooter that allowed you to play as the alien, predator, or colonial marine. Rodney, Sluggo, and I took turns playing the game and it was a cool roommate bonding experience. It gave me the chance to see Sluggo as a nice guy, so I decided to give him another chance. Sluggo would change. Right?
Sluggo thought it would be a cool idea for us as roommates to beat the game. That sounded like a great idea, and I recall starting a mission as a colonial marine around 10:00 pm one evening while Sluggo was watching me play the game. I called it quits an hour later. As a gamer, I like to play an hour and then take a break. It was 11:00 pm, so I decided to call it a night. Sluggo asked if he could play a little bit longer using the game I had just saved. It was cool with me and I went to bed.
When I woke up nine hours later, Sluggo was playing Alien vs Predator. I asked when he woke up to start the mission and Sluggo replied, “I never went to bed. I’ve been playing eight or nine hours straight.” Part of me was impressed with Sluggo’s dedication while the rest of me was annoyed by the fact that Sluggo spent eight hours playing this game non-stop and defeating the purpose of having us roommates work together on a video game. I thought that Sluggo would be worn out from this marathon session, but I believe he lasted at least another hour before calling it quits. Sluggo then enjoyed one of his 14 to 16 hour sleeping sessions. We had one controller for the Atari Jaguar, so I decided to play some Alien vs Predator after Sluggo’s session, and the controller felt warm, sweaty, and slightly sticky. Awesome.
Sluggo continued his marathon sessions of playing Alien vs Predator. The guy would be playing for a minimum of two hours every time he fired up the Atari Jaguar. Those two hour sessions were rare. Conquering Alien vs Predator using all three characters became Sluggo’s goal, and that goal was achieved. Rodney, Cornelius, and I were all there when he made history. Rodney told Sluggo, “That’s awesome, dude.” The statement from Rodney might have sounded like a nice bit of congratulations, but deep down I knew that Rodney meant to say, “Thanks for hogging my Atari Jaguar, bitch.” I thought Sluggo would be finished with the game, but then he decided to win the game using a harder level. God was punishing us. Rodney was a defeated man. The cracks in the Rodney foundation were worse than ever.
For some reason, and I don’t know why, Rodney purchased another game for the Atari Jaguar. It was Iron Solider, another first person shooter where you went on various missions as a 40 foot robot destroying towns and enemy bases. Sluggo had a new game to play for hours upon end. Cornelius had another reason to come over and freeload for hours upon end. Sluggo would defeat the game on one level and then try defeating it again on a harder level. The cycle was never ending.
The Atari Jaguar fun came to an end one weekend. Sluggo had been playing for hours upon end when the console died. I was there with Cornelius when there was this dying noise from the console and a burning smell. The Atari Jaguar went dead and we all surrounded it to see what had happened. Sluggo tried and tried to start the game but nothing happened. Cornelius noticed that the console was very hot and we all knew that it was totally fried. Sluggo shrugged it off as a junky console and went up to his room. Cornelius and I had to break the news to Rodney when he came home. It was like Cornelius and I were two detectives telling Rodney that a loved one had been killed and he needed to come with us to identify the body.
Rodney examined the Atari Jaguar and all he could say was “dude”, but it was a “dude” filled with frustration and defeat. Cornelius tried to offer some sort of technical explanation, but all three of us knew that Sluggo killed the Atari Jaguar from hours upon hours of non-stop playing.
It was not long after the Atari Jaguar incident that Rodney told me he was moving out. He said his sister had purchased a home in the area and she offered him to live in her basement almost rent free. Rodney tried to convince me that the nearly free rent was hard to pass up, but I knew that Sluggo’s act of killing his Atari Jaguar was the proverbial straw that broke the proverbial camel’s back. This moment in the video game history of Plymouth Rock Apartments was not the last moment involving Sluggo. Rodney’s departure allowed Sebastian Daniels to move in and have his own video game experience with Sluggo. More on that event later.
TonyDoug Wright (aka The T-D-Dubs) is the owner and head writer at Champion City Comics, a webcomics community. He is also a proud father of two amazing kids and is married to the coolest and most beautiful girl on the planet.