Rule Number 10 Seriously, never call this playing with dolls. Okay, it’s ostensibly playing with scaled-down characters. But playing guys is an activity, nay, a rite of passage, through which we develop spatial skills, such as how a flame-thrower would work while you’re flying. (Answer: it can also become a jet.) And while structurally the term “playing guys” is similar to “playing house,” the latter is a game of mimicry. (“Let’s bake and vacuum like we see Mommy and Daddy doing.”) Playing guys is one of fantasy, of building a world that is not just better and cooler than our own, but one that is the actual manifestation of a set of physical laws and heroic values that, we feel deeply (even at age six), codifies the way things should be. (“Let’s do 17 flips in the air like Mommy and Daddy have never done, but, look, let’s just do it, okay?”)
In fact, this is why we like action movies: they are a life-size dramatization of playing guys. That actor jumping that house on the dirt bike and the 20-minute fight scene are not ridiculous insofar as they are merely a director playing guys, a game come true. So the “action” that precedes both “movies” and “figures” is this specific type of action, an unrealistic fulfillment of a latent schema in which physical laws bend to accommodate a massaging of the ego by way of stretching what an individual is capable of — a world enchanted by the hyper-masculine. In this sense, the term “playing guys” rings with second meaning: a paraphrasing might lead to, “amusing oneself with action figures,” but “playing guys” also suggests, in a sad way, “acting like men.” (See Rule Number 6.)
Rule Number 11 A guy’s fort is his castle. I say this because I’m wondering why you continue to move the cushions back to where they “belong.”
Rule Number 12 While most guys come with movable legs, it would be absurd to manipulate each leg individually for every step they take. So we’ve devised this sort of two-legged hop motion. I know, it’s not very realistic. Humor us . . . (See Rule Number 3.)
Rule Number 13 Number of lives every guy has: one million. Except sometimes if you’re a low-ranking bad guy I encounter on my way to being head bad guy. Then you get one. Or you are particularly susceptible to getting knocked out by one punch and placed into this ambiguous not-quite-dead state that excuses my six-year-old mind from having to contemplate the finality of death.
Steve Macone is a writer living in Boston . . . okay, Medford. He can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.