If Matt Dance asks, Matt Dance shall receive. For whatever reason, the esteemed Number One Reader of Lusipurr.com requested an article about my home country an editorial or two ago. I expect he did not actually think I would respond, but perhaps he underestimated just how dry the well can sometimes get for a veteran writer such as myself. One might think it should get easier, but this is not the case. In fact, while ideas and opinions may form more concretely and swiftly these days, they also move further away from anything I recognize as my own writing, and as such I am often left with a stack of thoughts that have no reasonable way in which to arrange themselves into an editorial. Therefore I was thankful for this out from Matt Dance. However, this editorial about Canada comes with two hefty disclaimers of which I must get to straight away if I am to have any semblance of accountability with my readership.
1. This article is not about Canada
Surprise! I am not sure to the extent the rest of the world knows about the dynamic between Toronto and the rest of the country, but it is one of the most unifying concepts in our nation. It is also quite simple. Every Canadian, excepting Torontonians, hates Toronto. The theories are boundless on why this is the case. An Albertan might say Toronto is smelly and its people are too crude and full of themselves, and I would fully agree with them. But then a Torontonian might argue that that same Albertan is jealous of Toronto’s status as a World City and all of the resources and attention and culture that comes with it, and I would fully agree with him as well. As for me, while I adore all that I have seen and experienced of Canada, I love Toronto the most and I am happy to be hated for it. So I would not only consider myself a Torontonian before I would consider myself a Canadian, but I would also have to admit that I am not qualified to speak about Canada as a whole.
2. I must ostensibly link this article to gaming
It is true. I like to run amok and make tongue and cheek remarks about my veteran rogue status here at Lusipurr.com, but I only grant myself that privilege because I truly love this site and wish to maintain its status and personality. Therefore, although I will start the next paragraph irresponsibly summing up the culture of Toronto through purely my own experience, I will bring it around to A & C Games, an independent retro and used game store in the city which I think best sums up the greatest part of living in this city as a gamer. So here goes.
I had a conversation with the most casual of co-workers this morning, dear LusiMericans, in which he asked if I was going to attend something called the Caribbean Carnival which is one of many, many upcoming events in Toronto, albeit one of the larger and more notorious ones. He was surprised to hear that I had absolutely no interest in attending. He had pegged me as the social type, somebody who would love to become part of a crowd and partake in the antics of a group. In my reply to him, I discovered one of the most central reasons I love living in a city. I am a loner. I am a hermit who, despite being lucky enough to have a number of incredibly close friends, prefers to be alone or in very small groups the vast majority of the time. I am aware that this truth is surprising to those who only know me at a small talk level because of how outgoing and outspoken and full of energy I appear to be around other people. But this is because I know which people to expect around me and I can present myself with the illusion of control. Interactions are forced to be either social masks or else interesting dialogue, and both intrigue me for different reasons. Because the thing is, despite my aversion to large social groups or city-wide events, I love the anonymity of more ordinary crowds. I love walking briskly home, weaving through people and observing the plethora of outlandish personality that this city has to offer because I still feel so gloriously alone in this process. Everybody has different goals and timelines and nobody is expected to acknowledge any one other person.
Living in Toronto, one of North America’s most multi-cultural cities (if not the most), has afforded me exhaustive insight into the boundless motivations and eccentricities of the human mind while allowing me to maintain the sort of distance I prefer to have as I turn down my own mind’s strange passages in observation of these things around me. Toronto makes one feel so insignificant yet so important all at once that I think I take the experience for granted. It is strange to say the least, but more accurately irresponsible and arrogant that I view the city as my own, as if everybody else are characters on this stage that I have built. Although I am not sure if that is a product of the city or my own narcissistic madness.
But if I may – nearly nine hundred words later – attempt to bring this back to gaming, I must work under the premise of the city belonging to each individual in addition to being its own entity which graciously allows us cohabitation. Because amidst all the city’s grandness, or perhaps because of it, there are endless smaller cultural pockets such that two people could live their entire lives in the city and have completely opposite relationships with it. It is through this idea that amazing stores like A & C Games are able to not only exist, but thrive. The store itself is a small, unremarkable room tucked away just a block from a major intersection, and its staff are that pleasant mix of helpful and disinterested that never ignore their customers, but also never patronize or try to upsell useless disc protection to. Its new games section is almost non-existent and appears to be hand-picked and only there in case a browsing stranger happens to stumble upon the store and feels like making an impulse purchase of The Last of Us. The main star of the establishment is the shelves upon shelves of discs and cartridges from every old system imaginable, including the systems themselves. SNES cartridges line the walls like a towering shelf at a library, and boxes of a seemingly endless influx of “new” retro games that have yet to be sorted always litter the floor.
A & C Games is the personification of life-long gamers. We have little need to be flashy or corporate. We just love games. The store is a celebration of this mentality, and it is always packed with excited men and women of all ages, the nostalgia palpable in their voices. I can not say the same thing for the city’s unfortunately large number of EB Games locations. But that is why I love this city as a gamer, and it is certainly a matter I have taken for granted. Especially before the advent of sites like Amazon.ca which make searching for old games and systems significantly easier for people who do not have access to stores like A & C Games and the plethora of other independent used games shops scattered around a city like Toronto.
So does that give you any insight, Matt Dance? Do you understand my city or country any better than before? I will be surprised if the answer is yes, but I am still curious about all your reactions to this indulgent sketch of my hometown, dear LusiCities. Please comment below.