Writer/Gamer Q&A: John McCarthy

Picking up the pace a little bit on our contributor Q&A series with some answers from John McCarthy, who wrote two prose poems, Mr. Grey Plays The Sims Before He Meets Lee Holloway In “Secretary” and Fox McCloud Loses His Whole Team (Slippy, Peppy, and Falco) quite a ways back.

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Cartridge Lit: What games are you playing right now, if any?

John McCarthy: I haven’t played traditional video games in so long. I do occasionally feed a dollar to this Big Buck Hunter arcade machine when I stop for coffee and gas at this all-service station somewhere near Pontiac, Illinois. It is briefly exhilarating and a nice break from sitting.

Cartridge Lit: What was your first video game system? Did you love it or hate it or feel something completely different about it?

McCarthy: I owned a Sega Genesis at one point. I was indifferent about it for the most part, unless someone put in the Bubble and Squeak cartridge. Then I turned into a hype man. I wanted to run all the jewels.

Cartridge Lit: Most nostalgia-laden memory from your video game history?

McCarthy: I did spend a whole week one summer sitting in a friend’s basement beating Diddy Kong Racing for Nintendo 64 forwards and backwards. There were a lot of good things to remember about our talks and revelations, but nothing compared to the feeling and taste of lukewarm Mountain Dew after beating Whiz-pig and the all the silver-coin challenges at three in the morning.

Cartridge Lit: Care to list your top five games?

Diddy Kong Racing
Bubble and Squeak
Rush 2049
Sonic Pinball
Dance Dance Revolution
(We all have parts of our past that we need to own up to.)

Cartridge Lit: If someone made a game about your life, what genre would it be? How would it play?

McCarthy: It would be in the racing genre, or a sub-genre of racing, maybe just called “speed limit driving.” Like a driving simulator, but less exciting than that.

I spend a lot of time driving between Carbondale, Chicago, and Springfield, Illinois on I-55. I would imagine it would be called “Casual Driving and Contemplation” or “Do You Have The Ability to Hold Your Pee until the Next Rest Stop?” Basically, you would follow a road like in those really old hand-held Digital Derby Auto-Raceway games, while at the same time spinning a toggle to keep one knee balancing the steering wheel, one hand buckling and unbuckling the seat belt to release pressure on your bladder, and the other hand sifting through a pile of unmarked CDs stacked in the center console, trying to remember which one has the most recent mix you burned for another long drive. But what makes this different from most driving simulators is that if and when you crash, you don’t start over, you just wait two hours, staring at a locked screen while AAA or OnStar send a tow-truck. While waiting, an in-game cell phone will appear and you will have to choose the best responses to say to co-workers and family members as to why you will be late to the meeting or your grandfather’s funeral.