I once tried to sell unboxed, heavily used action figures that did not belong to me. I say “tried to sell” rather than “sold” only because the other party failed to buy them. Apparently Ninja Turtle action figures with scuff marks and fading paint “aren’t worth it.” I sold them because I needed money for something that I can’t remember the specifics of but that probably wasn’t illegal. And for some reason, my first thought to accomplish this unnamed venture was to fence plastic turtle warriors rather than, you know, do some actual work like mowing some wealthy-yet-infirm elderly person’s grass.
I say “for some reason,” but it’s actually two reasons that the turtle-selling scheme appealed to me more than the mowing: formulaic sitcoms and video games. Because in every sitcom, whether it was the Honeymooners or the Prehistoric Honeymooners (i.e., The Flintstones), there was always some character scheming. He always had some cockamamie plan that was going to put him and all his buddies on easy street, just you wait. And it was going to easy and fast, just like America made love in the 50s. Even in Scooby Doo–can you imagine how much money those villains would have made if they took all the time they spent pretending to be ghosts and just used it to hold down a steady job and invest well? But even though the schemes always backfired, the character always learned some valuable lesson about friendship or patriotism or Lincoln Savings and Loans, and everyone seemed pretty happy as the credits rolled. So when I was growing up and staying tuned and not touching that dial and watching these shows (heavily in reruns by the time I got my hands on them, thanks TV Land), I figured that scheming seemed like a pretty decent way to go about things.
If sitcoms are the main robber in this heist of childhood decision making, video games can be thought of as the wheelman. Because in story-based video games, there are things called side quests. These are things you can do in a game that are tangentially related to the main story, or maybe not–who cares (I’m looking at you, Zelda). So maybe the main story is you’re going to find your mom who disappeared in some mysterious incident involving something-or-other. But in order to go find your mom, you have to go get some fresh mangoes for some annoying kid because he saw where your mom went, but he won’t tell you because he’s sad and only fresh mangoes will cheer him up. And then maybe when you’re bringing him the mangoes, he gets kidnapped, so you have to go rescue him so you can give him the mangoes so he can tell you where your mom is. I wish these were extensive exaggerations of actual side quests, but they are only slight (I still see you over there, Zelda). The beauty of the side quest for a young Kevin is that there can be no task too trivial or uninvolved with what you’re actually trying to accomplish–maybe it’s a side quest on your way there! Which is why a young Kevin would often be sent off to clean his room and be found hours later searching for fresh mangoes.