The Old Prison in Deer Lodge, MT. A giant castle-like structure that was meant to keep murderers, thieves, other non-Catholics at bay and out of our sweet, harmless little town. A simple cruise down the main street drag provides any passerby with a glimpse into our glorious past, sometimes accompanied by a slight chill. People always try to remember the good times, when the city was bustling. It was actually running against Helena for the privilege of being Montana’s state capitol.
Yet, as if by Murphy’s Law, during the peak of Deer Lodge’s fortune, mines in Butte and Anaconda started dying down. Jobs were getting scarce so miners were leaving. Future prisoners were heading off in all directions, to places actually worth getting in trouble at. Deer Lodge, a town that ironically depended on the “filth” of the state to survive, was now dying at the feet of the men and women they imprisoned.
Deer Lodge is now a hollow shell of what it once was. Beautiful, but in the way a museum is beautiful. The streets and buildings always look dirty as if they’ve just been collecting dust, waiting for someone to find them. It’s rare to see anyone actually walking the streets and if you do it’s just from one bar to the next. The prison is still near town, maybe eight miles out, but transportation advances disallow Deer Lodge to keep the jobs for its citizens. There is also a sawmill in town now, but it’s destined to close as well. This place is empty, there is nothing really new. Only people who live in the past. Only people who cling so dearly to memories. If anything new does appear then it is immediately rejected. Such things tarnished the perfect memories of the townsfolk. Such things didn’t belong.
My family and I moved from Roberts, MT to Deer Lodge in 1990. I was just over one year old and obviously unaware of the change. Growing up was normal. I went to school in a class of about seventy kids all the way through high school. My friends and I were the “funny kids” of the town, always doing something outrageous, but never offensive. Those things were never videogames. Deer Lodge seemed to be lost, out of the technological loop. This was obvious through the ways they were regarded at school. It was strange how the second generation of the downfall of the city were so steadfast with their parents’ values and traditions. If you played games, you were a threat to these things. I always thought it was almost creepy, like Deer Lodge was straight out of the twilight zone. Everyone had these fake ways of going about things. I’m sure my parents even thought it was weird since they too had never truly belonged to the place. The tightly-knit social orders of middle-aged women and men were incredibly demeaning towards any outsiders. These ways were carried on by their replicant children throughout school, but passively.
Videogames became a large part of my life after I realized that Deer Lodge wasn’t really a place I could relate to. I loved the countryside and the location in its entirety, but the people living there always seemed to depress me. As I grew up, I learned something new about the Deer Lodge family tree every day. It seemed almost everyone was related and it seemed almost no one was leaving. The reality of this made me sad, if only because these people seemed too scared to go anywhere with their lives. The widespread insecurity and hopelessness tends to rub off on you. I knew I would do more with my life, but for the time being there weren’t many places to go to escape the metaphorical blanket of incest over the town. I would often turn to my family for support, for they too were facing the same situation as me just maybe not as philosophically. Their comfort was welcomed, but it was easy to grow tired of it during puberty. I felt a natural rift between my family and my feelings, so I turned to where else, but videogames.
The Gamecube was my first actual console. I knew it was in third place, but at that time being a Nintendo fanboy meant something to me. Hell, being different in general meant something to me. Ever since I became aware of the lifelong trends generations of families had lived by in Deer Lodge, I wanted to separate myself from the pack. Super Smash Bros. was a favorite of mine. I knew it was designed for multiplayer, but I played it alone religiously. While I played I became these characters. I identified with them. They didn’t fuck each other and they were all unique in their own magical way. The pressures of leaving this place and the confusion of the hair growing on my balls melted away. Nothing mattered and I became happy, truly and utterly happy. Years went by playing games alone. I didn’t mind, it was my “special place”. I ignored my problems and worries day after day, locking myself in my room, leaving my father to wonder if had started tossing off yet or if I was truly that much different from everyone else.
Luckily the problems I ignored throughout puberty weren’t real problems. I had played these games long enough to ease myself through what is supposed to be the most confusing time of my life. My parents were somewhat baffled to see that I kept my straight A’s, never rebelled, or got angry with them through those years like my sister had. They wondered what I did different and probably just assumed it was the furious amount of masturbation I had gone through that eased my “teenage woe”. I don’t think they will ever admit or even come to realize that it was the videogames.
As I got older my friends started to change. They were no longer replicants of their parents’ supposedly immortal generation. They started to think for themselves and open up to new ideas. This seemed inevitable with what an important role technology has played this decade. Deer Lodge was not keeping up with the times and only now, were people starting to realize it. The changes were small, but were the first spark of a new life Deer Lodge had seen in decades. The school got brand new computers, a Radioshack/Internet café opened up downtown, and most local businesses went electronic or internet based entirely. Deer Lodge was still quiet, but a walk downtown now displayed a hushed whisper, not silence. New people started moving to town from all over the country. The average class size was back up to seventy, no longer a depressing thirty. Would the change be permanent? I’m not sure, but as senior in high school I took it as a strangely encouraging gesture from fate.
The majority of the time I spent gaming that year was with friends. It wasn’t a conscious effort, it just seemed to be that way. I now realize the social aspects of it that I had been missing out on. They were hands down, the best gaming experiences in my life. Regardless though, I’ll never forget about how playing with myself helped me grow ball hair peacefully. I’ll never forget how it helped me escape the harsh and depressing realities of my small, yet beautiful community and its seemingly hopeless residents. I’ll never forget about how those games encouraged me to be unique in any way I could, but sometimes I do try to forget that I’m here, on Destructoid, as a hardcore gamer, writing this piece for you folks, because my neighbor fucked his sister.