Well-Meaning Ben Franklin Reenactor Slams Videogames; My History-Loving Gamer Son Responds

While I was at home recovering from a brief but dramatic illness, my wife took the kids to an educational event at our local library. When my son (who turned 13 last month) returned, he told this story — another example of his intersection of interest in both history and video games. I asked him to type it up.

I caught one spelling error, I’ve made the text more web-friendly by breaking up the paragraphs, and I added a bracketed clarification, but other than that, all of this — including the correctly nested single quotation marks and the accurate hyphenation — is all his work. (I suggested that he  end with his punchline, but this is the version he wanted me to post.)

At the Franklin dress-up event at Latrobe Library, and its strange lesson:

At the Latrobe Library, an actor dressed up, and pretended to be the famous, now 300+-year-old Benjamin Franklin. He spent an hour or so telling interesting stories about Franklin’s life. He made it all very colorful, and always used “I” to describe himself–so I learned a lot. He ended the talk with something like “Well, I want you children to know that reading books is one of the best things you can ever do for yourself”

He picks up in volume, as the people start to walk away, ”And don’t play any of those horrid TV games, they turn your brain to mush!”

I sat quietly, and waited for the noisiest people in the crowd to leave, then, I came up to him, and struck up a conversation. I remembered one of my favorite stories about Benjamin Franklin.

“Mister Franklin?” I began–I had picked up on his first-person sentences,  “Do you remember, when you went to France, you would pass the time during your visit playing Chess? It was a very popular game at that time. You would always end the game by capturing the King, and putting him with the other captured pieces, or even in your pocket. This was considered a barbaric practice, because

  1. it was an illegal move in chess,
  2. Chess in the area was Europeanized, and remodeled after their own warfare tactics, so you see, they would always take the king alive and hold him for ransom after they destroyed his army—putting the King Piece in your pocket was like putting his head on a pole, and the same one that his subjects’ heads were on, at that.
  3. You were considered the victor when you checkmated the King, so pocketing him was going too far.

This horrified your French opponents, but you were very respected in France, so they would try to explain to you, ‘Mr. Franklin, we do not take Kings here.’ You would reply ‘But we Americans do!’ And, to think, you were a diplomat to France!”

He congratulated me, saying “I hadn’t even heard of that story before, I liked it!”

Mommy showed up, “Peter, it’s time to go, you’ll be late for Judo!” , then I said “oh, and half the games I play are either Puzzle, or Strategy, so I wouldn’t be too worried about the Mush-Brain thing.”

All present, except Mommy and Carolyn laughed, and I smiled.

I had cleaned the name of Half-Life 2, Portal, Civilization, and so many other games that I enjoyed playing. Five days without computer games, a dose worthy of a PC gaming rehabilitation program, and on the day of my best hope for relaxation, Ben Frank, of all people, slams them all.

You see, I may not have been humble, but I did all credits due.

The victory music track at the end of Half-Life 2 played in my head as we left for Judo (a form of martial art that involves incapacitating an enemy by flipping, throwing, or tripping him, and then immobilizing him without punching, kicking, or doing bodily damage).

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