My Best Friend, Grand Theft Auto, And Disillusionment
By Eric Reining
This post vaguely deals with the Rangers, so if you don’t want to read personal anecdotes, then, well, peace out.
My best friend is a tattoo artist. His name is Trey. We originally met as 10 year-olds discussing our Pokemon card collections in the upper tiers of a set of metal-seated bleachers while our older brothers played on the same Little League team. Unbeknownst to either of us at the time, our friendship would resurface some 4 years later as we shared the same baseball class as freshman in high school.
Even in our adolescence, while we sort of had an idea what we were doing — without necessarily being conscious of it — we each possessed an intrinsic awareness of our own perceptions, and aimed to utilize them for our advantages at any turn. This is just who we are, I suppose. For example, when we were in baseball getting disciplined for whatever the hell the coaches decided upon — which came in the form of running laps — we were painfully observant of which stretches on the field held blind spots. So when we reached these areas, we’d would walk like tortoises and be on our phones. When we made it back into the clear, without the luxury of a blind spot, we’d continue on our same pseudo-jogging pace as if nothing had happened.
On days when the baseball contingency was in the weight room, we selected each other as “workout” partners, and held each other to the same fantastically minimal accountability. A good amount of the time was spent bullshitting outside with a medicine ball, because, you know, medicine balls are awesome. To put matters simply, we were extremely lazy as 14 year-olds, and weren’t unlike most other kids our age — we would rather be on our phones than doing actual work.
Last winter (or it could have been Spring; I don’t know), Trey and I were sitting in front of his large TV in the living room at our old apartment, playing Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas — arguably the best of any game in the GTA franchise. Now, in my heavy experience playing as C.J. in the harsh streets of what is supposed to be Los Angeles, like most games, my solitary focus was to complete all the missions as quickly as possible to beat the game. During past summers, mostly in between high school years, I’d insert my iPod ear buds and listen to The Game’s Documentary album, or T.I.’s King record (you know, back when T.I. and The Game were the shit), to put myself in a slaughtering rampage type of mood. That was me.
Trey has a completely different mindset. In fact, “completely” is probably selling it short. His diametrically opposing strategy rarely even involves killing people, which is probably the most fun, and primary attraction to most people who play. He would take the dirt bike (Sanchez) up into the hills and go off-roading, propel the bike off jumps and mountains, occasionally entering races, and he could do this for hours at a time without satiating his GTA blood lust.
One night, after having watched my best friend go through his atypical non-violent video game routine, I asked him why he enjoys playing in such a way. He said, “I like my video games real and my real life fake,” which is quietly one of the most profound things I’ve ever heard him say, of the many profound statements he’s made that have resinated with me. It was so bluntly stated, but in a calm, matter-of-fact sort of way. And, ironically, it takes an incredibly real person (in real life) to create such a counter-intuitive, though completely rational, idea.
That’s one of the multitude of reasons why Trey is an artist, and why my structured, tunnel-vision approach to playing Grand Theft Auto makes me a logical, inside-the-box thinker.
However, the point I’ve been trying to arrive at with this, is that his above theory in regard to himself, is actually applicable to me, too, just in a different way; I just didn’t realize it at the time. I live vicariously through my sports teams; most people who know me would not argue that fact whatsoever. But to be more specific, I’m that way with the Rangers, if for only that I know more about baseball than any other sport.
Rarely am I ever offended discussing mundane topics with ordinary people. It doesn’t matter if it’s politics, religion, sex — things people generally feel strongly about in one direction or the other. Individuals comes from all walks of life, as do I, so everything more or less boils down to live and let live. But when it comes to talking about the Rangers, with a mass compendium of Rangers’ fans who each share a common desire to see our team succeed, I hardly ever agree.
People who disagree with me when talking about real-life, I tend to let everything lie on the surface, creating the perception that I either (a) don’t think about these things, or (b) that I don’t feel strongly one way or the other. Truth is, I just can’t conjure up any passion to argue, because I really don’t give a damn, even though the topics are what people consider to be “important,” or whatever. But conversely, if some person and I don’t see eye-to-eye talking about the Rangers, they might as well have disrespected my mom, or strangled my infant puppy. Those are fighting words.
Real life isn’t about the truth as much as the perception of the truth, which can easily be spun. In video games, or if we’re discussing sports entertainment — like our favorite baseball teams — the perception is nonexistent. There’s truth, and there’s disillusionment. The truth requires reason, which is why the way my best friend played Grant Theft Auto made a ton of sense after he explained it to me. Disillusionment doesn’t require anything.
It just means you are wrong and you don’t know it.