Arcades in Ancient Cities

I’m terrible at killing zombies. I learned this fact, alongside the more conventional things you would expect – like the Hellenistic history of the hilltop ruins, or my host family’s plans to expand their guesthouse – while visiting the ancient village of Sebastia during a walk. I don’t remember too many specifics about those other things, but I’ll always remember what it’s like to let your teammate down when hordes of the undead are coming at you endless in waves in a burned-out, post apocalyptic landscape.

How did find myself in that situation? The same way anyone does: by meandering aimlessly around the center of town, and by sticking out like a sore thumb. In just a few minutes someone waved at me with an X-Box controller, and invited me to join him in the local arcade. This was my introduction to the Call of Duty video game franchise.

But it was also a window into everyday life. It was an opportunity to relax after a long day. It was a reason to try and overcome language barriers — it was a special connection with people over a common interest (even though I don’t really play video games, I’m still quick to get sucked in just like anybody else). It felt good. I won’t forget it.

So even though I can’t quite remember which king it was that built that hilltop palace, I can recall with vivid detail what it’s like to have a new friend run virtually through the burning wreckage of some abandoned factory, fend off the undead that have gathered around, and use their last medical kit to replenish my depleted health bar. But that’s ok. I’m pretty sure it’s more important anyways.