Chris Freiberg is a long-time gamer who has written for newspapers from Alaska to Arkansas, as well as Hustler magazine. He currently lives in Northwest Indiana and attends law school.
Despite having a Gamerscore of more than 111,000 and the dashing good looks of a young Gabe Newell, I’ve actually dated quite a bit in the five years since I graduated college.
The first few days talking to a new girl are always filled with the same questions. “What kind of music do you like?” “What are your favorite movies?” “Who’s out there?” “Why do you keep following me?” and “Seriously, stop or I’m calling the cops.”
But on those rare occasions when the courts aren’t involved, the question usually comes up, “Do you have any tattoos?”
And then I have to think about how I’m going to answer that one.
See, back in college, a period I don’t really remember but my friends assure me was quite fun, I did something. I had the logo of the EA corporation tattooed on my right shoulder.
Unlike most of my college stories, this one doesn’t have anything to do with alcohol.
It all began shortly before midnight on Nov. 9, 2004. “Halo 2” was about to be unleashed on the world. My roommate Rick and I, along with a fragrant mix of several hundred bros, stoners and nerds gathered at the College Mall in Bloomington, Ind. to be among the first to get our copies of what I still consider to be the best game on the original Xbox.
At the mall, Rick and I ran into this guy Brent I had met a few times. He was a representative for EA, meaning they sent him games, he played games, he promoted games and then he held tournaments for other people to play games around town.
We shot the breeze for a few minutes when he said to me, “You know, I’m looking for someone to get a tattoo of the EA logo.”
“Interesting,” I said. “But what if I just got a tattoo of John Madden’s face on my ass?”
“No, no, no,” he said. “It has to be the EA logo, but there are free games in it for whoever does it.”
“Well it wouldn’t have to be anywhere visible, right?”
“No, not at all.”
Free games for a poor college kid and one hell of a story to tell. Why the hell not?
– – –
Brent and I stayed in contact for the next few months. In March of the following year, he told me that a higher-up at EA was coming to campus and wanted to record me while I got the tattoo.
Some people came to my dorm room and interviewed me, then took a few shots of Rick and me playing a game.
A guy from Ball State was also there to get an EA tattoo. He didn’t talk much, but I remember Brent saying his initials were EA, so it made a little more sense for him to get the tattoo. Still, he got it as sort of on off-center tramp stamp on his lower right back. There are some real freaks out there, people.
Then we went to a tattoo parlor in downtown Bloomington, where a guy named P-Nut needled those two vowels into my shoulder.
“You guys aren’t going to change your logo next week?” I asked as the tattoo commenced.
The needle started to hurt a bit as P-Nut filled in the logo, but just as I was about to say something, it was over.
Outside, Brent handed me the five new Xbox and Gamecube games I had just earned and again promised I would receive the new Madden game that August, which did indeed arrive on time.
Our business completed, we went our separate ways.
– – –
Reaction to the tattoo from my friends was mixed.
My mother, never a fan of tattoos in general, was not amused, and did say the one thing that did briefly make me re-think the decision.
“You know, those are my first two initials,” she said when I told her what I had done.
“Crap, you’re right. Well, maybe I’ll add the ‘C’ then.”
“Don’t you dare!”
She hasn’t really brought it up since then.
I was dating a girl at the time who technically was a midget, and she didn’t care about the tattoo. It’s not like she really saw my back much anyway. I mean, I was more than a foot taller than her. It was hard for her to see up there.
My best friend Patrick, one of those guys who posts on Reddit about how EA is the worst company ever, was less enthusiastic.
“You were a man of diminished means who was exploited,” he said the other day when I texted him about the tattoo. “It is no different than buying a part of the liver or a kidney from a homeless man desperate for booze money so a rich guy can live longer.”
Facts like “negotiation,” “consent” and “lack of regret” have never really mattered to Patrick.
– – –
It’s now been more than seven years since I got the EA tattoo, and honestly, I don’t even remember I have it most days. I mean, it’s on my shoulder for God’s sake. How many people get up and look at their shoulder every morning?
When I do catch a glimpse of it, I just think about the entire weird story and chuckle a bit to myself.
No one else I meet knows about it unless I go out of my way to tell them. It’s not like I go swimming or streaking that often, especially with my college days behind me.
When I do tell someone about it, their first reaction is surprise, and then of course they want to see it.
The reaction then is pretty much, “Well, I’ll be damned, the crazy bastard really does have the EA logo on his back.”
No one has ever shunned me for it, and even the girls I’ve gotten naked with in the past seven years (both of them!) haven’t really cared about it.
My current girlfriend, who has quite a few tattoos herself, wants a huge “Diablo” tattoo on her back and has been pretty cool with it.
“Tattoos are about reflecting who you are at that point,” she said when I asked her what she thought about it. “As a tattooed person, I think it’s a cool idea since it got you swag.”
And in the end, isn’t life just all about the swag?