In the late 70s I got my first writing job on a terrific magazine for fans of video games. That magazine, and it was a magazine, a magazine for fans, was called Blessed. I pronounced it Bless’d. Not sure how it was supposed to be audiblated because nobody ever said out loud. It was an underground thing. It’s readership greeted each other with a nod or a wink. At its height the publishers – Gameboy and Jeem – had to rush to a local Ryman to purchase more staples. The guy in the shop was probably thinking, what are you doing? Producing a hit magazine for fans? And he would have been bang on.
The amazing thing about Blessed is that for such a niche endeavour its contributors have all gone on to bigger and better things. One’s a Hollywood person now, one does talks on a stage. The little one married a rich Asian and the rest are creating hit interactive entertainment. Games you’d actually have heard of and not just shit. You’re thinking, what about you? How comes you aren’t famous, you work in a Spar.
*takes drag on cigarette clearly remembering the good times*
Yeah, fuck off, yeah?
Anyway, without further ado I shall now reveal some of the articles I wrote. I should really spread these out over the next few weeks but the kids break up from school soon and my kid has commandeered this computer for his online Moshi-Monsters obsession as his one suffers slowdown performing Flash heavy tasks.
Flash heavy tasks. Slowdown. Online. Man, I’d forgotten I even knew terms such as those. I guess it never leaves you… Prepare to shit your eyes out! This first one is about Phil Collins.
‘I believe that I shouldn’t believe’, said Phil Collins, the dick, in an incomprehensible intro to a live rendition of Jesus, He Knows Me. a song that Phil and his band Genesis used to sing. Maybe they still do. I don’t care, as I hate Phil Collins and the rest of Genesis, whoever they were. I’m sure I’m not the only person in the world who has a dislike for this man. Somebody else must have seen the film Buster.
I’m lucky though – I’ve never met Phil and don’t intend to, I hate him from afar. Some unfortunate soul that hangs around in Phil’s social circle must hate him, on that I would bet money. I can imagine these people walking down the road and seeing Phil on the other side with his guitar and his baldhead. Jesus – he knows me, they must think as they dive behind parked cars and wait for Phil to go. Why does he know me? How did I get myself into this mess? They’ll think as they lay there on the floor beside a Peugeot 205, listening for the blinky-blonky sound of Phil and his bouncing guitar to fade away. Imagine that, somebody who you think likes you hiding from you.
Anyway, like I said, I’m lucky that I don’t have to meet Phil Collins. I’m lucky that I don’t hang around with anybody that really gets on my tits. The people I hang around with do have one annoying person in there midst though and I’m it.
Most of the time I’m fine, you understand, it’s just that whenever I have my mates around to my place I can get a little crazy and start doing odd things. Things I know they don’t enjoy but I can’t help myself. I’ll try to stop myself but the urge will get too strong and I’ll give in. Don’t do it, they’ll think you’re a dick, they’ll think of you as their Phil Collins, I’ll tell myself, but it doesn’t stop me.
So what is it I do that my friends don’t enjoy? I bore them to death by showing them my video games. Oh why, oh why can’t I stop myself? I wouldn’t like it if I went around to a friend’s home and he made me listen to his record collection. I’d go nuts if he started showing me his favourite clips from any DVDs he may own, and yet, for some inexplicable reason, I will always make my friends endure at least half an hour of video games whenever they can’t think of an excuse not to visit.
This time will be different, I’ll think to myself, they’ll really enjoy it!Of course they won’t. They’ll enter my lounge, sit down and start to look a bit bored. I’ll panic and then it’ll hit me – I know what’ll spice things up. The horse from Ocarina of Time, it’ll blow their minds.
“I’ve got something to show you.” I’ll say in conspiratorial tone that Sir Walter Raleigh probably used when he got back to England and entered the Queen’s chambers with a sack full of potatoes on his back. My friends won’t get excited the way the Queen probably did though. They’ve seen it all before. I’ll plug in the game and I’ll be there in front of the telly saying things like “Wait there,” and, “I just need to remember the song you have to play a song to get the horse.” I’ll play the song and the horse will arrive, such a beautiful horse. “Look at the horse!” I’ll gasp and turn to face my friends on the sofa who are, in my mind, no doubt on the verge of having their socks blown off. If they are on the verge of losing their socks they don’t look like it. They’ll be sitting there not even looking at the telly.
“Look, a horse! In a computer game!” I’ll shout, trying to make them understand the groundbreaking achievement they are witnessing. If I’m lucky somebody might look up from whatever they have found more interesting, my wife’s copy of Heat magazine and nod. A nod that will seem to say, ‘Good for you!’
“They had to build a horse and sort of motion capture it, maybe they used a real horse, I can’t remember. Anyway look at the horse!” My friends will hear the desperation in my voice and they will drop what they are looking at and fully appreciate the horse.
“What are carrots for – does the horse eat carrots?” they might venture, wary not to displease me any further.
“I’m glad you asked,” I’ll say, “watch this!” I’ll then proceed to make the horse jump over things, using the carrot/energy meter.
“Cool.” somebody might say but, without looking, I’ll know they are pulling faces behind my back. Jeffrey Dahmer had the right idea, chopping up his friends and keeping their heads in boxes, I’ll think to myself.
“What did you say?” will come a voice from the sofa.
“Nothing.” I’ll reply, too busy concentrating on making the horse jump.
“You did, you said something about Jeffrey Dahmer.”
“No I didn’t – look at the horse.”
“Are we going to the pub?” somebody else will ask.
“In a minute.” I’ll sigh, disappointed that once again my friends have shown a distinct inability to comprehend the joys of video gaming. “You know you can walk for miles in this game, watch.” I’ll take Epona over to the furthest corner of Hyrule Field, dismount and start to walk back over to that village where it all began. “You see these plants, I can chop them up and find money and stuff.” I’ll charge Link’s sword for a special magic power spin. If this doesn’t excite my friends then nothing will, I concede. “Hiiiiiiya!” I’ll shout as Link unleashes all the fires of hell on the plants. I’ll then continue to walk across the bridge, into the village, ignoring the people who want to talk to Link, to warn him of dangers that are brewing in the world. I’ll make Link climb the ladder to his hut, make him stand on his bed and then I’ll put the controller down, turn off the power and sit there for awhile.
I’ll know that my friends will have snuck out the door and gone to the pub while I was busy jumping off that wall by Lon Lon Ranch. I’ll stand up, put the beanbag away and then straighten the magazines that my friends had hurriedly left on the coffee table.
I could catch them up at the pub but they’ll all be going to a nightclub later, and as Phil Collins also once said, I can’t dance.
That one was about Phil Collins who I didn’t like because he reminded me of a guy in the cycling club. He’s dead now.
This one’s about the online carping Nintendo’s business strategy was eliciting at the time.
“Arm freavor blau in babbols,” sang the large black gentlemen sat next to me – I believe he was trying to sing, I’m forever blowing bubbles. This chap was a Cockney. He wasn’t the only person singing but he was the nearest to me. I was in Upton Park watching West Ham play a game of football against Manchester City. I don’t really like football but I’d been caught up in the crowd at the tube station and couldn’t escape the flow of people without risking getting my face punched off. I don’t hate football though – after all, it’s a game and I am a gamer.
I’ve got time for all kinds of games but my passion is for the computer variety. So I sat there and tried to join in with the singing as we waited for the kick off. When 3pm arrived the crowd were very excited but I was already getting bored with the whole thing. I started to think about leaving but I didn’t want to offend the man sitting next to me – if I got up and left he’d almost certainly take it as a personal slight. I decided to see it through until half-time when my escape would be less suspicious.As the game progressed the man sat next to me became increasingly frustrated at his team’s performance. I knew this by the way he was twisting his match program in his hands and was muttering things like, “fackinell,” whenever West Ham lost the ball.
By the end of the first half I’d completely lost interest in the game and was far more excited by the man sat next to me who seemed to be swearing at nobody in particular. I changed my mind about leaving. During the interval (0-0), while the Hammerettes were dancing, I took the opportunity to talk to this guy. “That wasn’t very good was it?” I asked him. He looked at me suspiciously. I didn’t think he was going to reply to me so I started giggling nervously. I must have giggled for a good couple of minutes, getting more panicked as every second passed. I was about to bolt for the exit when I received a reply. The man lent over towards me and said, “It’s Roeder, he don’t know what he’s doin.’
“Tell me about it!” I said, adding a ‘tut’ on the end.
“I mean, it not as if there ain’t the talent in the squad – what, with Di Canio and Kanoute and Cole. They’re all quality players.” He pronounced Di Canio – Dick anyo, Kanoute – Karnooteh and Cole correctly. “I could manage the team better.” He said with a degree of finality.
Something in what he said struck an instant chord with me. I decided to share it with the man I now considered a friend. “You know what pisses me off?” I asked him. Before he had a chance to reply I told him. “Nintendo of Europe, that’s what pisses me off. I could run that better than the idiots in charge now.” The guy looked at me, enthralled. “You know Animal Crossing probably isn’t going to see a European release?” I was on a roll now, “And don’t get me started on Metroid Prime…”
The man stayed silent so I continued, “It was out in America months ago!” I said, my voice nearly cracking with emotion. I had a lump in my throat. “If I was in charge I’d make some changes, you know what you were saying about the talent in the squad? Well, it’s the same at Nintendo. You’ve got all these great franchises that aren’t being used to their maximum potential. Metroid would’ve blown Halo out of the water…”
The thought of Halo’s success was too much and before I knew it I had tears rolling down my cheeks and snot running from of my nose. The guy, after looking around, handed me his hanky and I noticed he was looking upset too.
“Take it fackin’ easy,” he said, soothingly.
“It’s… it’s just that me… you, we’re in the same boat.” I sniffed, choking back the tears. I took a deep breath and then composed myself. “You could run West Ham better and I could run Nintendo better.”
“Listen mate, I don’t know what you’re on about.” He said and I felt pity for him and his ignorance.
“They haven’t actually got any real problems, their profits are huge…” I replied, “It’s just that their treatment of Europe is shite – you know? They don’t know what they’re doing.”
“I wouldn’t worry about it,” he said as the teams emerged for the second half. His voice was beautiful, like an angel’s, and he seemed to be making a lot of sense. There was nothing to worry about, I told myself and this brought the smile back to my face. Throughout the second half of the match whenever West Ham went on the attack my mate would shout, “come on West Ham!” and I’d shout, “come on Nintendo!” and turn and smile at him.The match finished goalless and as we were heading to the exit I lost sight of my pal. I was going to ask him if he wanted to go for a drink but he’d vanished into the crowd. On the train on the way home I pondered whether he really existed in the first place.
The next one is more upbeat and about working in the glamorous World of television.
I work in TV and let me tell you – it’s exactly as good as you’d imagine it. Man, the parties I’ve been to and the celebrities I’ve seen in compromising positions! I could sell the contents of my brain to Max Clifford and retire tomorrow.
I’m not going to retire though, and do you know why? It’s because I work in TV and it rocks!
I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging here but I do have the best job in the world. If I had to work at the jobs you do, fixing keyboards or designing websites, then I’d kill myself – really. I just couldn’t do it and I honestly believe it’s beneath me. I’d get my shotgun out and suck on the end and pull the trigger. In cartoons that might only result in my head turning black and my hair standing up and smoke lines coming up from my head but I don’t work in cartoons. I work in real-life TV and if I did that with a shotgun it’d explode the brains and sinuses and that all out the back of my head. That’s what I’d do if I had to leave the glitzy world of TV.
You probably won’t believe this considering my lifestyle compared to yours but we do actually share one common interest. That interest is gaming. Here’s something else that’ll cheer you up. The other day I was outside the studio, sitting on the wall playing my Game Boy Advance SP that I’d imported from Japan, and guess who came up to me? Only Johnny fucking Vegas! He wasn’t carrying his trademark pint of Guinness but let me assure you, he is as funny in real life as he is on Shooting Stars. He was saying all this off-the-wall stuff to me and I was doubled over in stitches. What a star! Anyway, get this, it only turns out he’s a bit of a gamer himself. He’s not hardcore like me or anything and he didn’t seem interested in my new Game Boy but I found out he has an Xbox and a PlayStation 2.
We had a bit of a natter about games and stuff but then he said he had to go. I invited him around to mine tomorrow night for some multi-player madness! It’s going to be a laugh riot!
This brings me onto the news that’ll get you really excited. Are you ready?
I am going to get a computer game show commissioned for terrestrial TV.
Read that again and fully take it in. Now I know that you’re as excited about this prospect as I am. Sure, you won’t get paid for it but you will be able to watch it. It’s a gift from me to you. It’s about time isn’t it? We’ve all heard about the size of the games industry compared to other entertainment industries and yet what have you got on your TV screens? Nothing. We put up with ‘Top of the Pops’ and ‘Film 2003’ so isn’t it time we had ‘Top of the Games 2003?’ Of course it is! Fair enough we’ve got websites and magazines and I even heard about a couple of nerds who had set up a fanzine but they’re all yesterday’s media; TV is where it’s at.
At the moment all we have on terrestrial TV is that GamesCentral on Teletext and how lame is that? That’s worse than nothing!You know that Jonathan Ross who does the film show? He’s a gamer – straight up! He loves all that Japanese stuff like Hello Kitty. I met him last week and told him to come around to mine tomorrow. Just imagine Johnny and Jonathan together! They’ll both be trying to out-joke each other and I’ll be stuck in the middle like an Iraqi civilian – but instead of being showered with shrapnel from exploding ordinance I’ll be sliced to shreds by their razor sharp wit.
I’m laughing already!
I shouldn’t really be telling you this because there are still a few Ts to be crossed and Is that need dotting but, what the hell! This is the nuts and bolts of my pitch: a game show to go out weekly at 8 o’clock on either BBC1 or ITV. It’s going to be fronted by moi – of course – and I’ll be playing all the latest games from Japan and playing with all the new hardware and going and having interviews with people like Bill Gates and what’s his name from Nintendo, the one with the bad haircut. Also people from Sony and that fella who made Metal Gear Solid.
It sounds perfect doesn’t it? It gets better though. Hold onto your hats! Either Johnny Vegas or Jonathan Ross is going to co-present it with me.
That’s a very difficult choice you’ve got there! I hear you say. Well you’re right it will be difficult.
Here’s how I’m going to choose though – you’ll kick yourself for not guessing. Fucking four-player Halo. Get in! It seems obvious now, eh? So I reckon that they’ll turn up about seven and we’ll chat about what it’s like to work in TV and then, after a couple of hours of chewing the fat, BANG! – I’ll hit them with my idea. That Vegas fella will probably be all tanked up on booze by then! He’s a funny drunk though, not like my Dad, God rest his soul.
I’ve got the room set up already and luckily enough I’ve already painted all the walls black with special blackboard paint and I’m going to chalk the scores up directly like that, for a bit of a laugh. Johnny Vegas will probably wrestle the chalk off me at some stage and start drawing cocks on the walls. He’s that nutty! They’ll love it, and the great thing is I haven’t got a clue which of those three will win. I just hope they don’t get too competitive.
Hang on – did you say three? You’ve only mentioned two – are you retarded or something? you ask.
No I’m definitely not retarded. The third person who is going to be duking it out for the co-presenters job on my show is none other than Mariella Frostrup. That’s right – the gravel-voiced sexpot! Amazingly enough she’s working in my local Spar now, oh how the mighty have fallen, eh? She looks much younger when you see her in real life. She’d pass for about twenty, anyway, I do know she’ll be dead keen to get back into working in TV. She’ll be very very keen, if you catch my drift. She’d probably do anything to get on your screens again. Absolutely anything wink-wink.
I’m only joking. I wouldn’t take advantage of her. I don’t know whether she can play Halo so I’ll have to work out some kind of handicap system, you know, to make it fair. I hope the other two don’t mind. I’m sure they won’t, after all – we all work in TV and it’s like a big happy family!
I’ve thought of a clever title for the show that’ll be hitting your screens sometime this year, you’ll love it. ‘Jamie’s Gamies’! Good, eh? It’s a play on words as my name is Jamie and ‘Gamie’ is like a cross between the word ‘Games’ and my name which is Jamie.
Well, no rest for the wicked. I have to go back down to the Robot Wars studio. Sir Killalot isn’t going to drive himself!
Fuck, that’s weird. I was making fun of somebody working in a Spar there. That’s erm…
Two? I didn’t even like one. Yeah, well tough luck. It’s retro!
This one is about disgusting nerds.
Elvis was a hero to most, but he never meant shit to me. I didn’t like the way he thrust his hips, I didn’t like the clothes he wore and I wasn’t particularly happy with the way he died – the dirty, dirty man. But dead he is, so it was with some surprise that Elvis has recently spoken to me from beyond the grave and into my ears.
Before I tell you what he said to me I would first like to introduce myself and tell you my background. You know Jane Goodall, the monkey woman? I’m like her, but instead of bothering apes I study gamers. Sure, I might not have any fancy qualifications or certificates but I have learnt more on my own in the last few years than anybody. I’m the world’s number one authority on this subspecies and that is a fact.
The most remarkable aspect of my job is that I stumbled into it by accident. Several years ago I was at a nightclub on New Years Eve. I had been talking to girls all night, getting drunk and having fun – I was a world away from computer games and the people who enjoy them. As I spun around, there on the dance floor it’s safe to say that gamers were the last thing on my mind; nowadays I can’t get them off it. Anyway, on that fateful night I left the nightclub and without warning the fun turned into me falling in a hole. I was in that hole in the middle of the road for what seemed like hours. I later found out that it was hours – 56 of them to be precise.
According to police reports it seems that I was attracted to the hole by the flashing lights and police cones that were supposed to be a warning. Ridiculous isn’t it, flashing lights and brightly coloured hats are considered warnings these days. I don’t recall much about my time in the hole but I do know that when the gasmen extracted me I was sober.
A few months afterwards I bought a computer with the money that the people from Claims Direct had sent me. My initial intention was to set up a website warning people of the down side to falling in holes. Unfortunately it turned out that making a website was a real pain in the arse so I spent my time searching the web, looking for other people that had fallen down holes.
I eventually found this page called ‘Google’ where you could ‘google’ at pornography simply by typing in rude words. This was a revelation but it also made me tired and gave me a headache. One day, unable to contemplate googling at porn I typed in ‘Falling hole help.’ I didn’t expect Google to come up with anything but I was wrong.
“HELP I keep FALLING into HOLES and getting stuck” was highlighted on the first suggestion that Google offered. I clicked on it, suddenly excited again.
Somebody with a very basic grasp of the English language had written to a website called Gamefaqs, complaining about falling into a holes and getting stuck. I read more and it finally struck me that the author was talking about a computer game character that he, she or it was controlling. It was this character that was falling into holes and getting stuck. The author suggested that there was something called a glitch that was causing the character to become stuck. Was it a glitch that had caused me to become stuck in a hole I wondered? Probably. I monitored this site for days until somebody replied to this poor saps question. When the reply came it was not what I had expected.
Somebody called UKGaz297 had taken the time to reply to this question about getting stuck in the hole with a very simple statement, it read as follows:
How very odd, I thought to myself. These people need locking up or at least watching, documenting, they need to be studied. From that day on I vowed that I would dedicate my life to these ‘people’. I infiltrated a computer game forum and watched and took notes. At first it was difficult, they seemed to speak a foreign language. A language littered with abbreviations such as RGP, FPS, FPS and MMOLDG. To fit in I bought a 64 made by Nintendo. Although I never played it just mentioning now and again seemed to make me more easily accepted into the gamer’s world. I soon learnt that the 64 had to be defended against claims that it was for kids. I’d bought mine in a toyshop so this was a surprise to me. If somebody claimed the 64 was for kids I’d be the first to reply ‘Fuck Off!’ Using this simple ploy I was soon elevated to the status of a hardcore gamer, they are the alpha males of this strange group of people.
Using this status I was able to find out even more about gamers. Notable discoveries I made fairly early on were that these people enjoyed talking about games, girls, fast food and television. They disliked fields, dinner parties and talking to girls in real life.
Several years of watching and participating in this forum passed, new discoveries had dried up. They still liked talking about games, girls, fast food and television. I was about to write up all my research and send it to somebody when I noticed that a particularly brave gamer had suggested that all the other computer forum gamers meet up, in person, in the outside world! This was remarkable; they won’t go for that, I thought to myself.
I was wrong again. At first there was a trickle of people signing up for this meet but before long that trickle turned into a flood. With shaking fingers I replied and said that I would attend. The chance to study these people face to face was something I never in my wildest dreams thought I’d have.
The day of the ‘Meet’ arrived. I was up early deciding what to wear so I would blend in. Most of my clothes were normal and I knew I’d stand out like a sore thumb. I had imagined that gamers wore bath robes most of the time. Eventually I decided on wearing all the black clothing I had. There was no way a gamer was going to turn up wearing brightly coloured clothing I rightly guessed.
I turned up early at the venue, found a spot in the corner and waited. If a gamer was to approach me I’d have to remain calm I told myself, they might be able to smell fear. I needn’t have worried. I heard a shuffling by the door. I held my breath and watched in amazement as a real life gamer shambled in through the door. My eyes were wide, would the gamer look at me? Would it remove its eyes from its hand held computer game thing it was playing? Would it bollocks.
It stood there playing its game, seemingly in a world of its own and then another one arrived looking exactly like the first. This one didn’t acknowledge either the gamer or me, in fact it went to the furthest corner of the room, never taking its eyes of the game it was engrossed in, as if guided by radar. I scribbled ‘socially inept’ on my pad but before I’d finished another one came in, exactly the same as the first two! Another entered the room, then another and another! Soon the room was filled with the noise of the shuffling of feet and the pressing of buttons.
This continued for hours and I watched, transfixed. ‘Really, really socially inept’ I wrote. They’re going to do something in a minute, I thought to myself. Nope. I’m going to have to try and engage one in conversation, I realised with a mixture of dread and excitement.
It’s a dangerous vocation I have, but let me tell you, when I witness behaviour that has previously gone undocumented then I can, quite literally, explode with joy. I finished my seventh Salty Dog, wiped my face and unsteadily got to my feet. I approached the gamer nearest me. Although he didn’t look up from his game he somehow sensed my approach, winced and turned his back.
I approached another and was met with the same reaction. I was getting nowhere, fast. I steeled myself for action; I took a deep breath, cleared my throat and tapped a gamer on the shoulder. The gamer screamed when my hand touched him. ‘It’s okay, it’s okay – I won’t harm you.’ I said as soothingly as I could. The gamers face was contorted in horror, as if I’d really hurt him with my gentle tapping on his shoulder. ‘It’s okay, I just want to chat.’ The gamer’s reaction to this was as if I had said, ‘I just want to shit on your head.’
‘Noooooooo’ he murmured, the sound was guttural, like the sound a caged animal would make when waking up from a hunter’s tranquilliser dart and finding that he was no longer in the woods but was in a small cage on the back of a Land Rover. The other gamers in the room sensed something was amiss, they moved away from the gamer I was trying to talk to, even if this meant that they had to come into contact with other gamers.
My gamer, which I’ve named Big Bo, started stabbing at the buttons on his hand held computer game thing. I stared down. He was pressing the buttons too hard and he was clearly panicked. I had to calm him, I didn’t want to have a dead gamer on my hands. I imagine they’re like them animals that die when they get stressed.
‘What are you playing?’ I asked.
‘An RPG’ Big Bo replied and he seemed calmer.
‘Is it good?’ I had to be gentle with my questioning. The gamer looked around, I think to see if the way to the door was free, to see whether he could make a run for it. Luckily for me there were other gamers in the way.
‘It’s good but has flaws.’ He replied. Whoa, five words I thought to myself, he’s opening up to me.
‘What are its flaws?’ I asked.
‘You can’t skip the conversation.’ He replied. Something had changed though. The look of fear on his face had been replaced by a menacing grin. It was my turn to be scared, I noticed all the other gamers had got closer and were also grinning this same inane smile.
At that second, in unison, a mantra went up from the gamers. ‘Skip the conversation, skip the conversation, skip the conversation…’ It was getting louder.
I looked around and saw the gamers and Atari T-shirts were shuffling ever closer. I had to think quickly as I knew my life was in danger.
‘Look there’s Sarah Geller from Buffy!’ I shouted pointing to a female gamer. It was as if I had flicked a switch, the gamer’s heads dropped back to their games and there was silence again, a silence broken only by the pressing of buttons and the shuffling of feet.
I’d had enough, I edged back to the table where I had left my notebook, put it into my satchel as quietly as possible and headed for the door. To my amazement the crowd of gamers that had only seconds before seemed so threatening parted as if by magic and my exit was unhindered. It could all have been very different and I knew I’d had a lucky escape. I went to the bar down the road and ordered a whiskey sour to calm my nerves and then I caught a taxi. The taxi driver asked where I had been but I couldn’t tell her. ‘Just hold me.’ I said.
As we drove we passed the venue where the meet was being held. I wiped the condensation from the window and as we sped past I looked up and saw what looked like a room full of statues, heads down, peaceful. If I only people knew, I thought shaking my head.
‘I love this song!’ Shouted the taxi driver and I heard Elvis launch into A Little Less Conversation a Little More Action. She turned it up as loud as it would go.
Ooh, that was a long one!
Next one is about videogame logic! And the Inspiral Carpets. I just thought of a song shoehorned something about videogames around it. Around it? With a shoehorn? Well, probably not a shoehorn. A trowel.
No one ever said it was gonna be easy. Isn’t that the truth? Forget your Shakespeare, indie music is all the poetry that my soul needs.The late eighties/early nineties – what a time to be alive! I remember it like it was yesterday when in fact it was last century, how scary is that?
Baggy was the way we lived our lives, The Stone Roses and Happy Mondays appeared together on Top of the Pops and I was getting back from watching the Inspiral Carpets at Exeter University where I had had sex for the first time with a fat girl called Donna. I was ‘sorted’ as we said back then. With hindsight it seems obvious we were heading for a fall as nothing that good could last forever, and it didn’t.
When Donna dropped that 12lb bombshell my life changed forever. We named the bombshell Ian and moved in together. I don’t shirk my responsibilities and I had given her my address so I got everything I deserved. Life became tough, Ian and Donna became bigger, music became shit and I became depressed. I needed a new form of escapism and through luck more than judgement I turned to computer games. Sony’s PlayStation filled the void that Black Grape couldn’t and talking of voids the only baggy thing in my life at that time was Donna’s fanny.It would have been easy for me to just sit around moping but to be fair to me I never went down that road. I did other things; I became a racing car driver thanks to Gran Turismo 1 & 2, a monkey thanks to Ape Escape and a tomb raider thanks to Lara Croft. I survived horrors and I played football. I did it all. My piles of Select magazines were soon dwarfed in size by my piles of gaming mags. Life was bearable and I even grew to tolerate Ian. I should have known what was coming but I was blasé and my blaséness bit me on the ass. It was Donna’s fault again.For Ian’s twelfth birthday Donna had the bright idea of buying him a games console. I tried to talk her out of it. “We’ve only got one telly, where is he supposed to play it?” I’ve been asking Donna to buy me a new telly for ages now but I have to be wary of broaching the subject otherwise she comes back with the age old put down, ‘Why don’t you get a job?’
“Can’t you play it together?” she replied.
“No chance, he’ll be shit at them.”
“He’s done nothing but watch you play them for years, I’m sure he’ll be alright.”
“Okay, okay! Waste our money then.”
I relented. And that was it, the beginning of the end. The end turned out to be purple and cube shaped. I had told Donna that if she insisted on buying a console for Ian she should buy an Xbox and Halo as it had received a 10/10 from Edge magazine and I really wanted to play it. I reckoned the chances were she would then have to buy a home cinema system to get the full benefits of the Dolby 5.1. She ignored my advice though and came home with a Nintendo GameCube, and Starfox Adventures.“What did you get that for?” I asked her, unable to conceal my disappointment.
“I was reading your magazines and they reckoned that it was good for beginners, the puzzles are nice and easy and it’s straightforward. Sounded like just the job.”
It could have been my imagination but I was sure she had put too much emphasis on the word ‘job’ so I didn’t say anything more. Ian was excitedly opening the GameCube box up while simultaneously looking at the picture of Starfox on the front of the game packet. I’d never seen him looking so made up. Donna was smiling too and if you had seen us you’d have thought we were the perfect family. My smile was false though and on the verge of slipping. I couldn’t get the thought of Donna going behind my back and reading my magazines out of my mind. I’d been emasculated. Edge only gave it a 6 I though to myself smugly.
“Put it on for him.” Donna told me and with a heavy heart I complied. Donna had to go back to the Spar for her evening shift so I told Ian I’d set it all up for him. I called the file name on the memory card ‘Tool’ and told Ian that he was Tool and then we sat through the boring intro. As the game began Ian put his hands out to take the controller from me.
“Wait there, let me just find out what all the buttons do.” I told him. When Donna got back from the Spar at about 10.30 Ian was asleep at my feet and I’d managed to get to the warp stone. Donna didn’t speak to me and instead shook Ian awake and asked if he’d played the game yet. “He was asleep!” I interrupted.
“Let him play it” She said, so I handed him the controller. Ian’s sleepiness vanished as soon as he had hold of the joy pad.
“What do I do?” He asked me and I raised my eyebrows and looked to the heavens for assistance.
“What’s that warp stone saying?” I asked through gritted teeth.
“It say’s it’s hungry”
“Well feed it then.” I told him. I watched Ian expertly flick through his inventory. I was impressed but this soon turned to disbelief as Ian tried to feed the warp stone a mushroom. I couldn’t stop myself; I pushed my tongue behind my lower lip and made a strained noise.
“It won’t eat a mushroom!” Ian cried.“Why the fuck would a person made of rocks eat a mushroom?” I asked him. That was my mistake. I thought that Donna was in the kitchen but she was standing right behind me.
“Get out!” She shouted at me.
“But…but…but, it’s made of rock!” I protested.
“Get out of my house!” She screamed, she was crying and so was Tool.
“It’s a flat not a house and look, obviously Ian has to go and buy some rock candy, that’s what a rock man would eat, they sell it in the shop, it has a ruby on top of them so they look just like cakes!”Donna didn’t hear this though. She was in the bedroom stuffing my clothes into a holdall. I went to see her but before I could get to the bedroom she had appeared in the hall with the bag. She opened the front door and I took the bag from her and left. When it was obvious that she wasn’t going to open the door and apologise I opened the holdall to get a jumper. The first thing I found, though, was my Walkman, so I took this and a jumper out. When I was suitably dressed for the outside world I put the Walkman on and pressed play. Mark E Smith was shouting over the top of my favourite song ever:(I think you should remember whose side you are on)/My heart is set, harder and harder/The chance of defeat is not in my nature/(A course with a tear) I’ve set a course and you’re the receiver/(And the British scandal, one, two, three, wham bam)/I’m the retriever, I’m out to get you/(A city, anatomically, period)/I WANT YOU, RIGHT NOW AND FOREVER (AND I WANT YOU BACK)/I walked around for a while and then went to my mum’s house.
This next one I don’t even…
Looking from the inside out tell me what you find, Nothing means a thing if you’re not beautiful inside.
God, that song really makes me happy. It’s found on Louise Redknapp’s shamefully overlooked album Elbow Beach. The message of the song is strong and clear – it is inside what matters, forget outward appearances. I can’t think of anybody better to spread that message than Louise, because she is gorgeous. If it were some hound singing it you’d think, ‘Well you would say that, hound.’
Beautiful inside is the first track I put on in my car, even though my Nova is fitted out with a 6 CD multi-changer. Usually I’ll just put that track on repeat and listen to it over and over again. From my house to the shop Game Zone, in town, I can normally get seven full listens of that song. If the traffic is bad it can be as many as twelve. So I listen to that song a lot, and the message it speaks is clear. However, it was not until yesterday that the words really sank in. It wasn’t until yesterday that I understood.
Game Zone is the shop I drive to most often. It’s only small but it has a selection of videogames and kung-fu DVDs that would put a shop in a larger town to shame. I’m well known in Game Zone and spend nearly all my Saturday afternoons asking the Saturday Girl about upcoming releases for my modded GameCube. The girl who works in Game Zone is called Louise funnily enough, but she’s a bit of a minger. Her dad owns the shop but I know more about games than he does. I’d love to run my own game shop.
So I stand there, Saturday afternoon, by the counter, alternating between making Louise check on her computer to see when things like Metroid Prime are being released and checking through the front window to make sure nobody is messing with my mum’s Nova. Someone snapped off the aerial one day and she went nuts. Yesterday I asked Louise when she expected to get MKO in.
“What’s MKO?”, she asked.
“Mario. Kart. Online.”
“I can’t find Mario Kart Online.”, Louise predictably said. She doesn’t look too rough when she has a puzzled expression on her face. Her features seem to sit better that way. Her eyes seem the right distance apart when her brow is all furrowed.
“You can’t find it? Really? Ask your dad.”, I replied, looking concerned, looking like I’m not 100% sure that it even exists. Eventually her dad finished serving a woman who wanted to buy a PlayStation 2, even though just ten minutes earlier I had pointed out to her that the games for the PS2 are unoriginal and plagued with jaggies and the GameCube has much better graphics due to its texture memory.
“When’s Mario Kart Online released?” Louise asked her father who was on his way through to the office at the back.
“I’ve never heard of it.” He told her, ignoring me.
“So it hasn’t been announced yet?” I shouted to him, as if it was a question, giving him a chance to admit he has made a mistake before it was too late.
“It hasn’t been announced as far as I know.” He told me. His disclaimer about his lack of knowledge was like a red rag to a bull.
“Actually, I think you’ll find that if you check a website called The Magic Box you will see that it has been announced and is due for release early in 2003, along with GameCube Wars, the home console version of Advance Wars.” I raised my eyebrows to show I was receptive to his thoughts on his mistake, but he just walked away with his tail between his legs.
I wasn’t finished at Game Zone though. I walked over to a group of lads who were eagerly fingering a copy of Turok Evolution for the PS2. I’d had run-ins with these lads before and I saw fear in their eyes as I approached.
“That’s shit.” I told them, “but if you insist on getting it, get the GameCube version – better textures and it’s smoother.”
“I’m not planning on drinking it.” replied the mouthiest of these casual gamers. His mates laughed and that was their second mistake.
“The GameCube has a 500 megahertz gekko copper CPU. It has built in anti-analysing. The PS2 hasn’t. If you want the best looking games get a GameCube.”
“I’m not that fussed about graphics.” Said the leader of this gang, “gameplay is more important, anyway I have an XBox, the textures in Halo are amazing.”
“Shit-box, you mean.”
“No, it’s called an Xbox. Microsoft have just bought Rare, you know?”
“Rare are shit.” I told him. I was on the back foot as soon as he mentioned Rare and he knew it. My eyes wandered over to the second-hand game section and to the Rare games that I had traded in the previous week on the very day when Rare’s fate had been officially announced on the internet. I had owned all of Rare’s N64 output except for Blast Corps, because the screenshots on the back of the packaging looked uninspired.
“Rare made the best looking games on the N64.” This idiot was telling me, he must have noticed what I was staring at and he’s heard me banging on about how great Rare were for the previous five years.
“Graphics aren’t everything. Gameplay is more important.” I told him. I was suddenly on the verge of tears – like a caged tiger whose Achilles heel had been discovered.
“That’s what I sai…” He started.
“What about Tetris? WHAT ABOUT TETRIS?” I shouted at him, before he could finish. He and his mates looked frightened and I knew I had won. I ran to the door and barged it open. After three attempts I eventually managed to unlock the door on the Nova and I climbed in to the safe haven.
I calmed down on the way home and thought of a great insult for the Xbox. I’m going to call it an Ex-Box the next opportunity I get, because I reckon it’ll go the way of the Dreamcast and die within 18 months. Near the bus station I let a fat girl cross the road. She was surprisingly nimble on her feet. I watched her as Louise sang-
”You don’t have to be a victim of your egoNo you don’t have to be self-centred or deceitfulYou’ll make it happen if you’re beautiful inside”
Normally I only stop to let attractive brunettes cross the road but as this fat girl waddled across, I, for the first time, really heard what Louise was saying.The fat girl, when she was nearly all the way across the road turned to look at me and mouthed, ‘Thank you’.
I mouthed back at her, ‘I fucking hate Tetris.’