My high school experience was—to use the official adjective of sullen teenagers—“fine.” I wasn’t tortured by jocks or mocked by mean girls. I wasn’t a nerd. I wasn’t interesting or smart enough to be considered one. I was just sort of there, doing my best to stay out of the way.
If I were to relive high school today, knowing what I know now, would I make the same sensible (i.e., boring) choices? I don’t have a DeLorean and flux capacitor, but I do have an iPhone and plenty of free time. These days that’s enough to get an answer.
Psy High is a choose your adventure story/game that allows users to step into the shoes of a psychic high school student. The player’s choices determine the main character’s personality and the plot of the story. And while there’s an overarching mystery for the player to unravel (why are the students suddenly so studious?), I began the game with a mission of my own: to turn my character into a loud, overly confident, back stabbing, two-timing, test-cheating asshat.
Why? I wanted to be a character who, unlike the real me, would be reviled by students and faculty for years to come. (Lord knows I still remember the jerks from my high school days.) Plus, bad choices are more fun, especially when there no consequences. That was my theory, anyway.
I named my alter ego Chaz and got to work by shoving a freshman in the hallway. The real me felt bad about the bullying, but I bravely powered through the guilt. The game progressed. I lied to my parents, broke curfew, ratted out my friend to the scary teacher, broke into school, and ditched my oldest pal because she wasn’t popular enough. I even started dealing drugs on campus (really, that’s possible in the game).
At first being a butthead was fun. But as I continued playing, something strange happened. I found it harder and harder to act like a jerk. The game hadn’t changed. I could still make any number of poor choices, but it was as if my natural instincts to follow the rules and do the right (boring) thing were setting in.
I got annoyed. This is a game, I mumbled to myself. Do something rebellious, Chaz baby. Don’t stay after class for extra credit. Sabotage the pep rally! Don’t be nice to the drama geeks! Threaten your rival for the lead in the school play with physical harm!
But the harder I tried to be the kind of unforgettable jerk that my classmates would describe to therapists for years to come, the more I wanted to be a nice, average guy. I had yearned to be Chaz in all his Chazziness. But 'twas not meant to be. As Sammy Davis Jr. said, I gotta be me.
By the end of the game, my character had changed from obnoxious jerk to studious do-gooder. Bad Chaz had left the building, never to return.
That’s not to say the real me always does the right thing and follows the rules. Hardly. But, if this game is any indication, I usually try. Bummer.
So, if I could go back to high school and do it all over again, would I? Nope. I've seen the future and I think my past would turn out pretty much the same way.