Video Games and Tony Barlow’s Sharp Teeth

I just finished reading Tony Barlow’s Sharp Teeth. It is a brilliant novel about werewolves in L.A. written in verse. I realize that nothing about that previous sentence sounds even remotely interesting, but trust me.

Anyway, about halfway through the novel I can upon this little segment:

“Ever heard of Pong , Jason?”

The theory is simple.
Every boy, every man, is really
a bit of a golden retriever
or a big chocolate lab.
Watch any man’s eyes
at the bounce of a ball.
His head tilts slightly sideways, just a hair,
as a primitive focus
comes to life.

Follow the ball.

The basketball, the tennis ball, the baseball,
the golf ball, the lacrosse ball, or in this case
the mere symbol of a ball, a plain white dot,
floating across a dull, black screen.
And just like that, the pupils sharpen their gaze.
The game begins.

Stay with the ball, follow the ball.

The mind opens there, a psychological soft spot,
where reason’s stubborn persistence fades
and some underbelly is exposed.

Just follow the ball, stay with the ball. (158)

I don’t have any grand statements to make about that selection, but I do think that it captures the act of play almost perfectly. Obviously, I believe that the divide between the human and the animal is a thin, fictional boundary, and the animal desire to play and game is the same as the human one. I am in the middle of getting some work together to write about human/nonhuman animal cooperative gameplay, and this really resonates with me.

To ruin Li Po, we sit together, the animal and I, until only the animals remain.

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