“Don’t you want to experience alternate realities?” my college roommate asked, incredulously, when I declined to smoke weed with him.
I don’t know what varieties he had at his disposal, but they were apparently good enough that he indulged every afternoon on a schedule far more reliable than that on which any of us attended class. I lived in a four-person suite for most of my college time; the pot-smoking roommate was a poetry major, but his true gift was weed marketing.
Our junior year, he created a pot palace, bringing friends over to sample various strains and enjoy meticulously-selected snacks paired with that week’s flower like a sommelier matches steak to wine. He had a selection of stoner-movie DVDs to watch, a Rube-Goldbergian fan contraption that vented the smoke through a barely-cracked window, and a shockingly reliable mental accounting of the 420-friendliness of seemingly every student at the school. His afternoon gatherings, attended by a rotating gallery of guests, were like tupperware parties for weed. From September to May, I watched as he gradually converted dozens of students into stoners.
At the center of the experience was Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, a 1999 Playstation game with an irresistible magnetic pull on all of us, whether sober or stoned. The full version of the game presented a variety of skate-able environments, asking the player to button-mash their way along rails and slopes, building up speed and soaring through blocky geometry on a skateboard with greater and greater speed.
But we did not own the full game, just a demo version with one or two levels. And so we would gather around a tiny chunky television nearly every night to play those levels over and over and over. I was too much of a good-boy at the time to indulge in weed, my sobriety eliciting pitying shakes of the head from the other regulars.
Well, those days are behind me now. Since moving to the city a few years ago, weed has become a regular component of my nightly routine, recapitulating the snacking rituals of that college dorm. And to my delight, Activision has recently released a remastered version of Tony Hawk, because while pot may not be habit-forming, the nostalgia of our early twenties is.
So I grabbed a copy of the remaster, downed some weedy candies, and waited for the alternate realities to set in. It takes a while for edibles to affect me, so while I waited I hopped over to Twitch to watch livestreamers play. It was incredible: Instantly, I was transported back to college, staring intently at a little ragdoll on a skateboard flipping and flying with impossible speed across a warehouse, a soundtrack of the late ‘90s blaring at me as my mind sank into muddled mush.
Around 1 am, I realized that I was breathtakingly stoned and still watching Tony Hawk streamers, the controller clutched tight and unused in my sweaty hands. The game, I found, seemed to have an amplifying effect on my high, sending me into the deepest reverie of my life; my mind had been raptured and my body felt encased in an invisible warm gravity blanket.
That night, I finally discovered what college stoners knew years ago: The constant bouncing motion, the side-to-side sway of each level, and the clack-clack-grind of the board induce a sort of weed trance. It’s the perfect game for getting high, whether you can muster up the strength to raise your arms and play or whether, like me, the pot and the play exerts an unconquerable gravity on your limbs.
I peeled my body up off the couch and slithered toward the bedroom to put myself properly to bed, occasionally moving on two legs but mostly on all fours. As I moved across the apartment, my journey simultaneously seeming a distance of thirty feet and thirty miles, my body and mind vibrated blissfully, at their most tranquil since I was eight years old and watching Disney’s Robin Hood for the hundredth time.
When my roommate described getting high as “experiencing alternate realities,” all those years ago, I imagined hallucinations and interdimensional travel. Watching a digital ragdoll flip around on a board was relaxing, but it was not at all that. Instead, I was comfortable, calm, and so bedight in contentment I could not even recall the sensation of worry. If this is, as advertised, an alternate reality, I see no reason to ever return.