INTERNATIONAL FALLS, MN—A wide-eyed gaze of childlike wonderment over the incomprehensible majesty of creation was not elicited Monday, when 7-year-old Kenny Meier, son of local high-school science teacher Stan Meier, was unmoved by the Aurora Borealis after spending an estimated 12 hours playing Tekken 3.
"I have never forgotten the magic night that my own father, like his father and his father's father before him, gently woke me, bundled me up in a warm blanket and quietly led me outside to see the Northern Lights for the first time," said the elder Meier, dejectedly sipping a cup of hot cocoa on the back porch as his uninterested son ran back inside to his Sony PlayStation. "It was a moment I'd always looked forward to sharing with my own son."
"Well, so much for that dream," added Meier, heading to the kitchen to pour the boy's untouched mug of cocoa into the sink.
The shimmering curtain of iridescent light known as Aurora Borealis is fabled in story and song as one of nature's most beautiful and awe-inspiring phenomena. For Kenny, however, it paled in comparison to Tekken 3's 3-D graphics and impressive 64-bit motion-capture animation, inspiring him to say, "I'm cold, Dad. Can we go back in now?"
The Northern Lights occur when the Earth's magnetic field interacts with the "solar wind"—charged particles blowing away from the sun. The resultant luminescent display, visible in most northern latitudes during the winter months, stretches from 40 miles above the Earth's surface in its lowest fringes to upwards of 600 miles above the Earth.
Though the sheer immensity of the glowing nocturnal spectacle makes it one of the most glorious sights in all of nature, the Aurora Borealis nonetheless fell far short of Tekken 3, Kenny said, due to its lack of interactive combat-mode features, substandard two-dimensional interface and undynamic, non-action-packed graphics.
"The Aurora Borealis, like its Southern Hemisphere counterpart, the Aurora Australis, forms a gently shifting pattern of upward-reaching striations within arcs of light, as different types of atoms produce different colors within the distorted magnetic field," said University of Helsinki atmospheric scientist Dr. Matti Roine. "Unfortunately, however, it does not render up to 360,000 polygons per second, offer full-frame motion-capture video with 360-degree camera movement, or feature any special combo attacks, such as Windmill Neck Kick, Rolldown Jawbreaker and the devastating Pseudo-Wind Godfist."
"Yesterday, I figured out you can get Dr. B as a selectable player if you beat him four times in Force Mode," Kenny said. "And if you pick Ling Xiaoyu 25 times in regular versus mode you can pick a different costume for her. My friend Jeff told me that."
Tekken 3, which Meier-household sources estimate Kenny plays 30 to 35 hours per week, was created by Namco exclusively for the PlayStation and features 28 different fully rendered combatants, compared to the Northern Lights' zero. In addition, Tekken 3 allows players to do battle in a wide range of exotic background settings, easily surpassing the aurora, which offers only one choice of background graphic, the relatively unimpressive "Night Mode."
"I guess it was that first sight of the Aurora Borealis that convinced me to become a science teacher," said Stan, gazing at the angry face of mutant warrior Yoshimitsu on the cover of one of the many Tekken 3-related video-game magazines, code guides and handbooks scattered about the house. "Yep."
"It's cool to be the giant ice bear, 'cause he's got huge claws. But I like being King, the cat-headed guy, the most," said Kenny, immersed in his 317th match of the day just minutes after his brief look at the night sky. "The stupid Northern Lights don't have any non-human warriors at all."
"Video games sure have gotten a lot cooler since Dad was a kid," Kenny continued. "Even really stupid old Pong games are better than that boring glowy blur-thing in the sky. Suck-O!"
Kenny then clutched at his throat and made gagging noises to indicate just how sucky the experience had been.