Last week. Matt is playing Destiny. I'm wading through Faulkner.
"I guess shotguns won't change much in the future," he says.
I read to the end of the sentence and look up. "Hm?"
"It's funny to me that the shotgun is still the same. You load it like this and you pump it like this." His avatar loads some shells and chk-chks the gun like you do.
"But if you changed those functionalities it wouldn't be a shotgun anymore," I say. Matt and I both know that on the rare occasions I play video games myself instead of watching him play, the shotgun is my weapon of choice. It would also be my weapon of choice in the zombie apocalypse. (Of course we've had that conversation.)
"Future shotguns should make shotguns better," he says.
"But if you changed out the weaknesses of present-day shotguns, they wouldn't be shotguns."
"So what makes a shotgun?" he says. He asks the question in this probing genuine way he has that tells me he wants a real answer, that he's not just blueskying or joking. That the answer will offer up some other little grain of sand that makes me me, some more content regarding the wife he chose.
I don't think for long. I just rattle off the things I love about shotguns. "The shrapnel aspect of the shells, the pump action, the fact that you don't have a lot of ammo, and...the sheer power of it when you fire." My brain thinks BOOM, thinks of people jolted at the shoulder and staggering back a step. Oh, pardon me, BOOM, while I turn you into dog chow.
Matt's avatar's gun rises and falls gently with her breath while he looks at me. "That's interesting," he says. "What you think of as shotgun characteristics are like the story of the shotgun."
Huh. "Huh," I say.
"I mean not how it's manufactured or its technical specs, but what you have to do to fire it, and what happens when you do. That's the story of the gun, not what's good about it."
"I never thought of that," I say.
"It's very you," he says.
"I don't really know much about shotguns," I say. "You'd have to ask [friend who owns a bunch of guns]. I just know what I like to fire at dudes in videogames."
"Uh huh," he says. His avatar gets back to running and gunning. He favors arming her with an assault rifle for reasons I will never understand.