You might not know this about me, but I’m one of those extroverted types – the kind of person that feeds off personal interactions. I am energized by conversation. And I can become starved and even desperate for that kind of interaction if I don’t get enough.
Lately, my stint as stay-at-home dad has left me fairly hungry for adult company. I talk to my wife when she gets home, but the tasks of making dinner and convincing our 1-year-old son, Halford, to go to sleep, leaves only time for the most cursory of conversations – a recap of my wife’s work, a tally of Hal’s bowel movements and brief logistical discussion of tomorrow’s work and poop plans.
For a time I found myself striking up conversations with strangers. At Barnes and Noble I, too eagerly, helped a nerdy couple pick out a board game. And, to my great shame, I found myself butting into a conversation at a movie theater to explain active shutter 3D glasses.
I think I’m turning a corner of sorts. I have recently found myself at a loss for words. When parents at the La Quinta library’s story time make small talk I answer tersely and sort of walk away. Part of me thinks I’m too weird for those normal moms, so I’d rather not let something bizarre slip out of my mouth and become a story time pariah. I realized silent treatment was just as likely to get me labeled weirdo, so I’ve been doing my best to make idle conversation without seeming too desperate for company or too satanic. It’s a fine line.
It helps that a friend from out of town just moved to my vicinity. Well, he’s about an hour away from the desert where I live. But that makes him my nearest friend. We met for lunch last week and enjoyed catching up – talking about his new job, efforts to buy a new house and myriad other topics. It was good.
Then on Tuesday, Titanfall came out and I soon found myself on one of my patented extrovert tears. It happened when I joined a party with my colleague Dennis Scimeca and his online pal, Pat. Dennis, like me, is a gabby extrovert. Once the niceties of introductions and game-type selection were out of the way, Dennis and I cut loose. At first we kept the chatter to business. Pat and Dennis explained to me strategies for taking down mechs. And we played like a team, calling out the bases we were heading for and letting other players know when we had their six.
But soon Dennis and I were off on tangents – talking about postponed games and games journalism inside baseball. Pat, the third wheel, kept mostly quiet. Once, though, as Dennis and I laughed about the title of a ‘zine I’m working on, Pat commented, “I wish I could laugh about that too.” He was feeling left out. I explained the title, but didn’t get the message. Dennis and I were caught in a extrovert feedback vortex and couldn’t contain ourselves.
In my first Titanfall match I was the top performing player, but the more I gabbed (and the more beer I drank) the lower my numbers got. By the end of the evening I was barely paying attention to the fight, just kind of wandering around willy-nilly, shooting at whoever got in my way. Dennis and I talked about everything but the game. Every so often I’d blurt, “Oh my God, I just tore a pilot out of his mech,” then go right back to our conversation. Finally, after enduring nearly an entire campaign of our gossip, Pat begged out. He was through for the night. It was then I realized what had happened. “Sorry if we chewed your ears off,” I said, hoping I hadn’t made an ass of myself. “That’s okay,” he said. “I turned down chat volume a long time ago.”
Next week it’s back to radio silence.
Pretension +1 is a weekly column about the intersections of life, culture and videogames. Follow Gus Mastrapa on Twitter @Triphibian.