On learning what is evil

I remember as a young child of about seven, going to the Safeway grocery store with my mother. The doors opened when you stepped on pressure-sensitive mats on the way in. That was the best part. Once inside though, things went downhill quickly.

Sometimes, if she was short on time or had the right coupons, we would go instead to the Red Apple Market, which was on the other side of town. I later discovered that she didn’t like to shop there because of the large apartment complex next door. It was populated entirely by Mexican migrant workers and the park in front of it was a hangout for drug dealers. The park was mentioned in a newspaper headline the next year and I had to ask my father what a “gang rape” was.

The grocery store across the street was much more interesting that Safeway. Why? For it had an arcade game next to the checkout line that I could gawk at while my mother unloaded and loaded the cart. The game was the 1988 Altered Beast. Now I didn’t dare ask for change to have a go at it. Just watching the demo sequence gave me the creeps – big muscled men gradually transforming into grotesque shapes and finally a dragon of sorts. Nobody needed to tell me this stuff was bad for you. Even the name, which included the world “Alter”, brought to mind some sort of perverse sacrifice. My first-grade vocabulary was too small to realize it can be another word for “change”.

My parents had told me that Nintendo was the mind-rotting spawn of Satan but I didn’t believe them. Mario was too fun and seemed harmless. Sega Genesis though, with it’s Altered Beast was certainly of Beelzebub. Kid’s who played that turned into drug dealers and gang rapists.