Playing in the Sandbox BFG’s

One of my first memories was when I 5 years old. My mom gave me and my younger brother some Superman and Batman pajamas. We were so excited about our PJ’s that we decided to start fighting crime right away. This was back in the late 70’s, where parents let their kids roam freely, but I don’t think they expected us to be so good at fighting crime at such a young age.

Crime isn’t always so close to home, so sometimes you have to journey a little to find it. Our destination was the local elementary school, which was quite a distance, but crime doesn’t always come to you. Since my mom didn’t also buy us a Batmobile we had to walk, which took a bit of time for a couple of pre-teens (by quite a few years). For us, fighting crime was building unsteady sandcastles in the elementary school’s sandbox. (Who knows, maybe we were destroying some bad guys from the quantum realm.) We needed to build our Hall of Justice first before we could fight crime. We were busy building our Hall of Justice out of sand, when my parents frantically appeared to stop us from fighting crime.

We were a little upset with them because apparently, they didn’t see that our superhero costumes gave us special powers. That made the villains in our book. Why would they try to squash the independence of a couple of 5- and 6-year-olds? Did they want us to be a bunch of life losers that spent all their formative years playing video games, living in their parent’s basement at the age of 7? If they ever wanted us to move out by the time we were 10 years old, they needed to allow us to make dumb mistakes and not always provide a soft-landing pad.

My parent’s obsession of “keeping us safe” lead us to moving to the New York City area (because it was much safer in 1970’s New York City). There was only Studio 54, the Son of Sam killer running rampant, and prostitutes walking the streets of Times Square. It was more Gotham City in than Metropolis in the late 70’s. It was fine though, because they found a way to suppress our outdoor flight tendencies by introducing us to the Atari 2600. This was the first taste of my unquenchable desire for games played on a TV screen.

Much like the introduction of any “game-changing” technology (literally), the first iterations of video games were bad. Really bad. The first few games that came out weren’t popular because they were fun, they were popular because you could play them on a screen. Pong was just a dot moving back and forth and a couple of lines acting as soccer “goalies”. Space Invaders was just 40 or so pixelated aliens trying to destroy a square that was your spaceship.

Pac-Man was a big hit with many kids my age, but it wasn’t for me. I couldn’t quite figure out why, until I realized that I am claustrophobic. The screen was the limit of the places you could go, and the ghosts whole objective was to squeeze you in between the four of them. As you could tell from the earlier story about me going to the elementary school at age 6, I liked going places, because there was space. Limited space is my nightmare, which is why I hate the idea of being locked in a car trunk. If you gave me the choice between jumping out of a plane, or flying in a full flight going to Australia, where’s my parachute? Not afraid of heights. Not afraid of snakes or spiders, definitely afraid of cramped spaces.

I’d rather watch sports on the comfort of my spacious couch, than go to a crowded stadium full of cramped together people. The All-Star Game is happening near us this weekend, and you can guess where I will NOT be this weekend. Anywhere near that place full of other people.

It wasn’t until SUPER Mario Brothers came out, that I could finally breathe. The world wasn’t confined to a single screen. The screen scrolled and I could explore pipes and jump on ledges, and I could eat stars that made me invulnerable. And the ultimate power was finding a rare fire flower. If I found the rare fire flower, I could shoot fireballs. But all that was just extra lives. The greatest thing that Super Mario Brothers ever did was open up the world.

To this day, I prefer games that are open world. I decide where to go, what to do, and when to do it. But most of all, I have almost unlimited space to do it. The world is no longer confining like my parents made the world when I was 6. They can’t tell me where I can and can’t go. They can’t stop me from going to the local elementary school and playing in the sandbox. My first taste of freedom happened in a sandbox. That desire for a sandbox world was so strong that I was drawn to games that became known as sandbox worlds. Gamers so revere the freedom of sandboxes, that they call open worlds in video games sandbox games.

Here are some Bitter Friday Giftures in your sandbox…

This was me…

…but with a little less attitude.

Me just leaving…

…to fight against the wind.

Me and my brother…

…saving the world.

My parents not realizing…

…the importance of our mission.

To save…

…the quantum realm.

My parents decided to move us to the much safer…

…New York area.

They tricked us into adventuring inside…

…with TV…

But mostly…

…with the “game-changing” video games.


…games like Pac-Man were too claustrophobic.

I’d rather jump out of a plane…

…than be stuck in a crowded plane.


…I finally discovered a game where I didn’t feel cramped.

And I can play in my real, yet virtual…


And this sandbox I don’t have to listen to anyone. I can punch whoever I want to punch, shoot up buildings, and jump car into the ocean, and all I have to do to not drown is to hit the A button to warp me to shore. Real freedom without consequences. Sounds like a great idea for me.

What about you guys? What is your sandbox? What do you like to do to escape the real world?

Bitter Building a Sandbox Ben


13 thoughts on “Playing in the Sandbox BFG’s

  1. Why would anyone want to take a plane to Australia? What’s there to do there besides hide from the world’s most toxic critters? You’re better off staying home playing video games. I don’t like to escape the real world so much as I like to create new worlds that are like the real world, but stranger.


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