As I approached a recent interview, and realized that after a lengthy cross-Atlantic flight I would be expected to hold a coherent conversation, I decited I needed a new method for coping with my fear of flying—anxiety medication is pricey and makes one dopey, alcohol tends to have an effect on the thinking process as well.
The solution: the PSP, a personal gaming unit by Sony. The arguments against buying a game system when you’re over the age of 20 are many: they are anti-social, they are dumb, and women, men, professionals, and even most children will look down as you as a short attention-span goof for tapping away at a little gismo.
However, through experience, I can argue that a PSP can definitely help with social situations in the same way braces might help teenagers. True, while you’re playing a PSP you’re in a wasteland, but the little machine offers a wholly absorbing distraction that allows you to get through things like delayed flights and turbulence without reacting—it’s the closest thing you can get to a temporary lobotomy.
My test with a PSP was fascinating even before I put the disk into the machine. For starters, a PSP has a web browser and excellent wireless modem. In a café, I was able to check email, get songs off of Myspace, and read the Reykjavík Grapevine online.
The games themselves seemed, at first, limiting. A PSP is meant to be played in a somewhat social setting—I did not want to be the guy playing a sniper game, or, for that matter, Grand Theft Auto, on an airplane. Still, I couldn’t resist picking up the adventure title X-Men Legends 2.
X-Men is a platform game, meaning it is something like Super Mario Brothers, in which you guide your heroes throughout maze-type activities, breaking random crap and fighting bad guys. Designed by Activision, the game includes digital comic books, and various side games and distractions—enough for someone bored with the idea of actually gaming to keep focused and happy. Having invested the bulk of two layovers into X-Men, I have come nowhere near winning the game or unlocking many characters, and I have no interest in continuing to battle, even if I enjoy freezing things as the uber-fey superhero Iceman. But the game has distracted well.
The main draw on the PSP, though, is the selection and quality of the movie titles. The handheld device functions extremely well as a digital movie player. Sadly, in our test run, I purchased Once Upon a Time in Mexico and Fun with Dick and Jane. The first ten minutes of each demonstrated PSP’s incredible resolution, excellent sound, and intuitive design. Concentrating as one does on the remarkable screen and sound from the PSP, the over-the-top explosions of Once Upon a Time seemed that much bigger—and, after ten minutes of boring dialogue, that much more tedious. The same went for Jim Carrey’s pyrotechnic acting style.
After one month with the PSP, I am positive the device has a future for travellers, professionals and people with short attention spans. At present, though, I have yet to see game and movie titles for the over 20, not in need of Visine and brownies, crowd. BC
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