Unglued: The Casual-Gaming Olympics

Games Features
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Major League Gaming, or MLG, is a professional video gaming organization founded in 2002. Its tournaments draw the hardest of the hardcore out of their dank, Doritos-strewn warrens to compete for bushels of prize money, lucrative endorsement deals, and the envy of carbuncular, homophobic, Vitamin-D deficient fragsters across the world. (The hardcore gamers Paste queried for this article declined to comment, standing on the principle that magazines are “gay.”)

Hardcore gamers scoff at the ascension of casual games, whose pick-up-and-play simplicity caters to traditionally non-gaming demographics like the elderly, young females, housewives, and debauched heiresses. (Paris Hilton has her own casual cell phone game, Paris Hilton’s Jewel Jam, which capitalizes on the success of her wildly popular non-interactive adventure One Night in Paris.) Thanks in no small part to Nintendo’s casual-friendly DS and Wii platforms, casual gaming has become a market force unto itself. So while ESPN and other gaming journalists flocked to MLG’s Halo 3 tourney at the Sands Expo Center in Las Vegas last October, Paste deployed me to the modestly appointed function room of the Poughkeepsie Elks Lodge for the CLG’s inaugural Casual Gaming Olympics, where the casual-est of the casual-core would compete for a fifty-dollar Crate & Barrel gift certificate. My assignment was to secure an interview with one Ms. Hazel Mumgood (screen name: Nuttin_But_Knittin), currently the top-ranked Cooking Mama: Cook Off player in the world.

I clipped my press laminate to my complimentary Brain Age lanyard and wandered around cadging sponsor swag from Good Housekeeping magazine, Depends Adult Undergarments, and MGA Entertainment (the manufacturer of Bratz, which is like Barbie for slutty babies). The Red Bull and Mountain Dew that’s usually plentiful at gaming tournaments was nowhere to be found, so I loaded up on comped calcium supplements, lemon throat lozenges, and Starbucks-brand Caramel Macchiatos (which turned out to be ginormous milkshake-things with no apparent relationship to actual cafés or lattes macchiato). I spotted the septuagenarian Ms. Mumgood’s blue-rinsed bouffant towering over a promotional Bejeweled display. She was staring daggers through her pince-nez at Julie Packer (a.k.a. BratzBabe12039), her eleven-year-old arch nemesis, who was at the Wii Fit warm-up station across the room, doing intricate calisthenics with her grotesquely hypertrophied “Wii-mote arm” while blowing an enormous pink bubble and looking terminally bored.

Ms. Mumgood is a paragon of casual dedication. She has bridge twice per week, and bingo, and of course, her knitting, yet she still manages to log an astounding “hour or two” of Cooking Mama practice time every week. She claims not to own “one of those game machines,” but discovered her preternatural aptitude for pretending to cook when her grandkids brought their Wii over to her house. She doesn’t know what a n00b is but gets by just fine on her Social Security checks without pawning anything, thanks very much. When asked about her strategy for defeating Packer, Mumgood looked around to make sure no one was eavesdropping, and then confided to Paste in a conspiratorial whisper, “I’m just going to grab this doohickey here,” indicating the Wii-mote, “and shake the aitch-ee-double-hockey-sticks out of it.” Unfortunately, the interview was abruptly terminated when I asked Ms. Mumgood to weigh in on the hardcore community’s heated debate over whether Cooking Mama was “for girls,” “lame,” “gay,” or some combination thereof.

[Editor’s note: In a shocking upset, Julie Packer would go on to win by default when, after 15 minutes of official play, Ms. Mumgood quit the game despite her comfortable lead, citing “boredom” and the imminence of what she referred to as her “programs,” apparently referring to syndicated reruns of Dallas and General Hospital. When asked how it felt to be the new Cooking Mama champ, Packer rolled her eyes while texting arcane clusters of letters and diacritics to someone called “Suzie,” to whom she’d like to say “hi” via this article.]