An entire generation didn’t graduate from Clarion College in 1992 because I installed Civilization into the computer labs.
No, I’m serious. Just a few weeks ago I went back to the reunion and about half a dozen guys I used to know were missing -- never did graduate. Someone was asking, “What ever happened to Derek Russell? Did he ever finish his Senior Thesis?” and someone else said, “No, he never did. Just played video games in the night study all his last semester. Just the other day, he cornered me outside of Subway and asked me if I could loan him money to buy a 40.”
Hearing that, I slinked away, trying to bury my head into my shoulders. See, the game Derek was hooked on was Civilization, the original PC game. And that was my fault.
I came back from Summer break my Senior year with a handful of floppies that held Civ on them. My brother was into it, and I wanted to show it off to my boyfriend when we got back to campus. Now, that idiot Sociology professor was hogging the main lab in the Quigley building all the time, so I slipped down into that little room under the library, the Night Study that hardly anyone knew about, and installed it on the network drive there. I wasn’t supposed to have access to the network drive, but the Student Admin got to feel me up when we were dating Sophomore year so -- yah perks. Anyways.
There it was, on the network drive, and my boyfriend loved it. So much so that now he’s my husband. But I really can’t credit the game... I credit the Mongols in the game. I’m getting off topic.
My point is, a couple of weeks after that, I saw that someone else was playing Civ down in the Night Study. At first I thought that maybe someone else had brought the disks in, but then I realized he was using the network drive. Ah well. Sharing is good. That’s what they told me in Kindergarten.
Anyways, by mid-terms there was definitely a little ‘Civ-Club’ down in the basement there. You know ... rule number one: You do not talk about the fact that Civilization is on the network drive at school. Rule number 2: You do not TALK about the fact that Civilization is on the network drive... I knew it came to a head when I wanted to go down there to type up my final paper for my European History final.
It was 4 AM and the snow had been falling thick all night long. I stomped down the steps into the basement, trying to hit the snow off of my tennis shoes. I unbuckled my coat and threw it down next to the cubbys at the entrance, then wiped my glasses on my scarf to rub away the steam. But when I stepped inside the lab itself I was startled to find that the normally-abandoned night study was full; every computer in there was taken up by guys playing Civilization. It bordered on creepy, like the scene from the cloning vats of some sort of sci-fi movie.
Derek Russell was right there, front and center, wearing the same flannel shirt that he was wearing when I’d seen him there yesterday evening. He had a scrubby shadow of growth on his chin and several empty mugs of coffee overturned nearby. I was going to ask if he’d be done soon, but he had such a grim determination in his unwavering eyes that after peering over his shoulder for a few minutes, I decided not to bother him.
Instead I turned to Keith Meyers, another Senior who was sitting just inside the door. “Any word when I can get on this computer?” I asked.
He didn’t look away from the screen. “As soon as I finish killing the Zulus,” he said. I nodded, sympathetically.
And then I left. Because, hey, I knew how it was with the Zulus.
Anyways, those guys in the computer lab? All of ‘em? That’s right. Not a single one graduated. And it was all ... my ... fault. How do you atone for something like that? I dunno. I just dunno.
To be fair, I think the Zulus should share some of the blame.
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