Despicable Me

My brother is five years older than me, so we effectively grew up separately. In my quest to amuse myself without involving my parents, I would often play games against myself – board games, card games, even video games. It’s my understanding that this is quite normal. However, a curious thing happened with that last entry: video games.

At the time, the games I played (on the TRS-80, Commodore 64, and Colecovision) asked the human to enter a name for each player. I recall taking some time to think about it quite seriously. Then I chose to enter my own name for me, and my name backwards for the opposing player. (‘Lee’ is not my given name, it’s a nickname derived from it. So, it wasn’t ‘Eel’, however amusing that might be. For simplicity, though, I’ll use ‘Eel’ here to refer to this figment.)

Because nothing says 'evil' like an eel.

Because nothing says ‘evil’ like an eel.

Eel had, of course, to be opposite in every way. Where I saw myself as nice and friendly, Eel was mean and rude. I had flame orange hair then, and she had drab, dull brown. She had a tidy bedroom, hated pizza, and would never ride a bicycle. And so on.

Some kids go for imaginary friends. I went for an imaginary nemesis. Just like in the cartoons, Eel always made a fatal mistake and lost. When we played games that didn’t rely strategy, like Life or Candyland, Eel cheated and I caught her. As I got older, I let her get away with cheating sometimes only to have it blow up in her face later.

It really didn’t occur to me until much later that this effort was my first foray into the notion of creating villains with motivation and quirks. Granted, Eel abused cliches horribly, but everybody starts someplace. Looking back, it’s pretty amazing how I managed to have this separate character in my head without being stark raving nuts. It probably should have been a clue about where I’d eventually wind up.

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