“Oh what an atmosphere!” sang no-longer-famous British comedian Russ Abbott in his magnum opus, 'Atmosphere'. “I love a party with a happy atmosphere, so let me take you there, and you and I'll be dancin' in the cool night air!” Words as poignant now as they were in 1984. Snobs out there may feel that Abbott's brand of 18-to-30s-holiday-in-Benidorm-pop lacks the emotional power and technical genius of, say, Joe Dolce but what it lacks in musicianship, it more than makes up for in evocative imagery. Listen to the music embedded below but ignore the video. The image of a shit party on a 1980s cruise ship will fill your mind's eye like diarrhoea in a water bomb.
What makes video-games art is their ability to transport the player to another world. All great artwork does it. No painting expresses the horror of the war more powerfully than Picasso's Guernica. The Wire is a brilliant portrait of modern-day Baltimore. Orwell's Road to Wigan Pier transports the reader to 1930s Northern England (then rants for a hundred pages about how socialists are dickheads). Some say art is completely superfluous but I couldn't disagree more. Art is escapism and escapism is essential, especially in a world in which the few people that actually have jobs seem to work in a call centre.
I'm in the middle of Deus Ex: Human Revolution at the moment. It's a magnificent piece of work. Seventy percent RPG and thirty percent FPS, it's extraordinarily ambitious. It falls flat in places. The FPS element is a touch under-cooked. Sometimes the conversations get rather 'Resident Evil on the Playstation' and the load times are a chore, especially when you have to re-play a few times. But it's a small price to pay when you take into account everything it does right. The story and illusion of non-linearity are all brilliantly constructed. The most striking element, however, is the atmosphere.
Walking the streets of Detroit and Shanghai is a pleasure. Sure, they're dank, dystopian shitholes but they're so perfectly crafted that you feel like you're right there. Despite being set in the future, there are enough familiar elements to help your brain fill in the blanks. At one point, I walked into a subway station and could almost smell the stale piss (I had just pissed myself but it wasn't stale yet). This hasn't happened to me since GTA4. I would happily sit in a taxi and watch Liberty City float past my window. My enduring memory of that game isn't a character, mission or spectacular building. It's watching a scabby old building go by. I've played plenty of games since then but none have drawn me in to that degree until now.
GTA4 is often criticised by the gaming community for forgoing 'fun' in favour of realism. It's not an argument I've ever bought into. Fun, as defined by these critics, appears to be directly correlated with the number of jetpacks and explosions in the game. Saint's Row 2 is presented as a superior alternative because, I dunno, you can customise your character into an obese transvestite with a shit Cockney accent. 'Fun', by definition, is something that provides amusement or enjoyment meaning 'fun' can be derived from, listening to Bitches Brew, reading Murakami, solving a Rubik's Cube or even watching a virtual city pass by your virtual taxi window. All relatively sedate activities when compared to spraying shit on a housing estate but no less 'fun'*.
When I play a game, fun happens when I'm whisked away from the drudgery of my life. Atmosphere is arguably the most important part of that. It's what tricks my brain into thinking I'm in another world being a fucking superhero and not an unemployed weirdo in a bedsit.
So yeah, more of it please.
* I don't want to come across as critical of Saint's Row. It does what it does very well and I'm not such a pretentious hypocrite that I won't admit to laughing like a chimp while battering someone to death with a giant purple rubber cock.
(Last week I decided to restart Fallout: New Vegas, play it in Hardcore mode and be as evil as possible while writing down my experiences. The task set has been very enjoyable although I think I may have reached the boundary of just how evil you can be in New Vegas. It's proving to be quite a good writing exercise so I'll keep going for as long as I can. Oh, and there are spoilers in here so if you haven't played the game but plan to, you might want to give this a miss. Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 if you wish to catch-up. Enjoy.)
Day 4 - Army of Antness (You think of a better title!)
The last time I woke up at 5am I forced myself to eat a bacon roll just so I knew I was responsible for the death of something that day. Even when I've been awake all night, I hate early morning. No such problem this time. Perhaps it's a sign of age. Perhaps it was actually mid-afternoon and only 5am in-game. I don't know but I feel surprisingly refreshed.
I head out to the NCR outpost but thanks to Tomas the X-Factor reject I'm very low on ammo. This Varmint Rifle is so shit that I might as well use a blow football pipe to propel the bullets. To avoid the Jackal gang (who may or may not have killed me multiple times in the process of working out that I have to avoid them) I head towards the abandoned race track. Two crows catch my eye in the distance. I aim at Lefty and fire a single shot. He literally explodes in a spurting shower of gore and feathers. I'm reminded of the time as a child when an older boy shot a bird with his air rifle. Its mate landed next to it and tried to wake it up by pecking at it. I leave Righty to grieve and feel like a complete arsehole.
When I arrive at the race track there's a line of Giant Ants going to and from a dead Radscorpion. One of the larger ones clocks me and charges with his equally massive mate. I immediately think “I'm completely fucked” and instinctively hit the VATS button. I aim for the head and fire away. I'm not going down without a fight. Three shots later and it collapses in a heap. These ants are rubbish. I decimate the rest of the ants and scream 'Fuck you' at Mother Nature (the ceiling of my bedsit). Who's your daddy now, bitch?
At the bottom of the hill leading towards the NCR Outpost, I find a travelling merchant. I buy all his juicy ammo from him and dump all of my worthless tat on him. A copy of the Boxing Times!? Unarmed combat is far too civilised and respectable for a self-respecting prince of darkness. There is no room in my diabolical schemes for the Marquis of Queensbury rules. I'll take the 10 caps and spend it on Vodka, if you don't mind.
Sgt Kilborn – a kindly man with the kind of gentle face that just begs to be killed over and over again - is pacing backwards and forwards outside the main base. I tell him of the Legion attack on Nipton. He acknowledges that he's facing almost certain doom then merrily strolls off on his pre-programmed path! Harbinger of sorrow is not a job to be sniffed at but I'd be a lot happier if he was reduced to a terrified hysterical mess. I speak to Ranger Jackson's moustache in the hope that he might lose his mind and open his wrists in the bath but no. He merely twiddles his fine handlebar moustache. If it wasn't attached to a good guy, I might let it live but the 'tach and Ranger Jackson are going down. It's very clear that opportunities for mischief are limited so I get some supplies and set off on my journey to Novac.
I find the Giants Ants are still feasting on the radscorpion. I try to hypnotise them into becoming my own personal ant army. Unfortunately a strange man standing in front of an over-sezed television wearing only his underpants rubbing his temples like Derren Brown has no effect whatsoever on digital videogame ants, even with an erection. Obsidian, you've failed me again. Did I need to buy a Kinect or something? I move on.
Thanks to some fairly severe pop-up, I fail to realise that I'm in the middle of the Nipton Road Pit Stop and surrounded by Jackal gang members. Luckily three of them are grouped together and only two have guns so I pick them off without any problems. I've managed to take this gang out with half my health remaining. Hardcore mode is really nothing to be feared. It just means you have to drink water and eat food every now and again. Both are plentiful, especially if you're willing to eat pets in front of their owners (I'm still really proud of that).
One of the Jackal gang is hiding in the ruins over the road like Alexis Arquette in Pulp Fiction. He bursts out guns blazing so I unload into his head. A pathetic four out of eight shots miss him completely while he manages to cripple my head (presumably that means brain dam...fluurughh de herp derp). I move to cover and use my one and only Doctor's Bag - perfect for brain injuries - recharge my AP and prepare to wax the sneaky little bastard. I jump and can't see him anywhere. I run around the building until I eventually find him cowering in some bushes behind a wall. The little prick has completely bottled it. He runs away screaming for help so I slowly follow him. First I shoot his legs. Then his torso. It's tempting to let him run off into the desert and let the Radscorpions finish him off but that was my only Doctor's Bag. I finish him off with some VATS assisted shots to the head. Terror, thy name is Jonty.
On arrival in Nipton, I enter the General Store and speak to Boxcars. He's a right moaning dickhole. You'd think he'd been crippled or something. The conversation tree fails again so I end the conversation, stand up and scream “Well, you can't use your legs when you're dead either so have some of this”. I VATS him in the face. Miraculously he stands up! It's a miracle! I am the messiah! I shoot him again and, alas, he loses the use of his legs again. Not having a head any more will do that to a man. Oh well, it was a fun ride while it lasted.
Continuing towards Novac I detect, using my psychic powers, that I'm entering gang territory. I disarm a couple of mines that I detected hidden under traffic cones. When I take some Sunset Sarsaparilla from a crate, some old damaged tat raises from the ground like zombified inanimate objects. How did this game ever get past QA? The traps on the road have been set by the Viper gang who've been hiding in the mountains. I'm sure their leader will be mightily pissed off that someone left a powerful sub-machine gun lying around. It cuts through the little savages like butter.
I arrive in Novac around 6pm and see Victor. I tell him to stop following me and he makes a thinly veiled threat. I have a feeling this fucker is following me for a story-specific reason so I decide against killing the shit out of him. It's getting late so decide to have a snoop around Nova, get some sleep then head out tomorrow. I enter a Giant Dinosaur statue (Not in a sexy man/giant dinosaur tryst. It has a door in its leg.) and speak to Cliff Briscoe. He sells me two Doctor's Bags and fuckloads of ammo. Head up to the mouth of the dinosaur and speak to Manny Vargas. He tries to get me to visit the rocket site to help clear a supply/trade route of ghouls. I agree but only because I spy an opportunity for shiftiness.
I scour the town and surrounding area for a bed but can't find one. I'm too low on caps to rent a room for the night. I head towards the Rocket Site in the hope that I'll find a bed on the way. As luck would have it, there is another manky old mattress at an abandoned guard post on the road there. Tomorrow I'll strip the place of loot and go ghoul mashing.
(A couple of days ago I decided to restart Fallout: New Vegas, play it in Hardcore mode and be as evil as possible while writing down my experiences. The task set has been very enjoyable although I think I may have reached the boundary of just how evil you can be in New Vegas. It's proving to be quite a good writing exercise for me so I'm planning on keeping it up for the foreseeable future. Oh, and there are spoilers in here so if you haven't played the game but plan to, you might want to give this a miss. Part 1 and Part 2 if you wish to catch-up. Enjoy.)
Day 3 - A robot sheriff, legionnaire and the unluckiest lottery winner ever
On the way to Primm, I bump into Barton Thorn, a shifty little scumbag who claims his wife has been trapped on a nearby ridge. I transpires that he has no wife and he just wants me to clear out - what is the collective noun for geckos? – a flange (?) of geckos and collect some loot that he'll then kill me for. Demonstrating incredible foresight bordering on actual psychic ability, I forgo this little charade and shoot him in the back of the head without even talking to him.
On arrival, I make my way to the Bison Steve Hotel to rescue Deputy Beagle. I need to install a tyrannical sheriff to replace a dead one, as well as getting the guys who shot me. I come up against a few convicts but plough through them without any problems. I find Beagle tied up and try to blackmail him into giving me the location of my attackers. My speech skill is too low so I have to release him. We escape the Bison Steve and head over the road to the Vikki and Vance.
Beagle tells me to head over to Novac for information on my attackers then the subject moves on to a new Sheriff. The good guy option was probably killed in the NCRCF attack so I'm left with a choice between the NCR or Primm Slim, a rickety security robot programmed as a tourist information booth. As enticing as martial law is, the NCR seem too much like good guys so I do my best to shaft the town by ensuring it's run by a toy. I talk to Beagle and he isn't happy because he's lost his job. However, generally people are quite happy to have a soulless bucket as their leader. I'm not pleased at all. Once I've levelled up a bit more I shall return to Primm and paint the slot machines with blood. Until then I'll have to take comfort in knowing I've indirectly made someone redundant during a time of economic austerity.
I head to over Nipton, bypassing the NCR outpost, even though I could do with some equipment repairs. I bump into Oliver Swantick who is possibly the most obnoxious character in any game ever. He has “won the lottery” by being the one chosen by the Legion to escape unscathed. I shoot his infuriating four-eyed head off his shoulders. I'm then collared by a scruffy little boy-band wannabe named Tomas. He complains that he's been attacked by a strange woman. I don't give two fucks and demand he hands his caps over. He refuses so I kill him too, but not before I run out of Magnum bullets and shotgun shells. I just manage to finish Tomas off with a varmint rifle but my health is low. I run into a nearby house and spend the next hour or so healing my gunshot wounds with a few bottles of liquorice-y soft-drink. Obviously.
I make my way towards the town hall and find the road lined with crucified Powder Gangers. I'm not impressed by their plight. It's not as if they've been properly nails-through-the-hands-and-feet-crucified. I decide the right to do – and by 'right' I mean 'evil' – would be to shoot them in the knees. Three die. One lives.
A fellow dressed as a Roman soldier named Vulpes Inculta then introduces himself and demands that I tell the nearby towns about the atrocities of the Legion. He proceeds to tell me the tale of how he'd cleared the town. The villagers were rounded up and lectured on their various sinful deeds. Each were given a lottery ticket and their family members executed in front of them. This guy's been getting tips from Jeremy Clarkson. I can't help but tell him that I like his style. I would have done the same thing in his shoes. I probably wouldn't have lectured them on their sins and told them I just found killing them funny but each to their own. Vulpes and I share a knowing look and go our separate ways.
I head to a nearby house and go to bed. I don't believe the previous occupier will miss it. I'm pleased to have made contact with the Legion. It sounds like exactly the kind of gang I should be taking control of and using to inflict tyranny and hardship on the snivelling pond-life of New Vegas.
(A couple of days ago I decided to restart Fallout: New Vegas, play it in Hardcore mode and be as evil as possible while writing down my experiences. The task set has been very enjoyable although I think I may have reached the boundary of just how evil you can be in New Vegas. It's proving to be quite a good writing exercise for me so I'm planning on keeping it up for the foreseeable future. Oh, and there are spoilers in here so if you haven't played the game but plan to, you might want to give this a miss. Part One is here if you wish to catch-up. I hope you enjoy it.)
Day 2 – Don't drop the soap
The next morning I awake at 7.30am and refresh myself with a bottle of water. What is the ideal waking time for wannabe tyrants? Nice and early to maximise the amount of daylight that illuminates their evil deeds? A truly evil bugger would do away with the 24-hour clock altogether and dictate that it's whatever time he decides it is. I hereby declare that the time is 69:69 on Titsday the 50 I notice Sunny Smiles' headless corpse baking in the sun so steal her leather armour before it rots away with her. I look at her almost-naked form and get...ideas. Foiled again! Damn you, Obsidian's moral compass! She wouldn't say no! Oh well. Maybe gaming isn't ready for corpse love quite yet.
Armoured up and with a backpack full of supplies, I make my way to the NCR Correctional Facility (NCRCF). On the way I meet a few Powder Gangers who treat me with cautious reverence. I shall allow them to live for now. I arrive at the NCRCF but, unlike the image we all have of men's prisons, it's disappointingly lacking in Pruno and bum rape. I'm greeted by Dawes, an obnoxious little pissant who fleeces me for 100 caps just to allow me into the facility while simultaneously managing to knock Joe Cobb off the top of my death-list. I walk in, ask around and discover the leader is a guy named Eddie. I find him in the main building and he greets me by threatening to kill me. I take his mission, get another sheet of paper for my death list and head South to kill some rebellious nobody named Chavez.
Chavez is a runaway rebel trying to start a revolution against the Powder Gangers. He's managed to get as far away from the NCRCF as the corner shop is from where I'm sat right now (50 metres?) and his army consist of two guys, one in dungarees. Che Guevara he is not. I kill them all with consummate ease. As missions go, it's a disappointment. Eddie is surprisingly polite when I tell him of Chavez's passing. Still a dead man walking but a polite one at least. He asks me to shake down a shifty-looking merchant and, if necessary, kill him. Regardless of necessity, he will die. When I meet him, it turns out that he is actually a bounty hunter looking for Powder Gangers. Detecting a possible business opportunity, I ask what the bounty for Powder Gangers actually is. Turns out that there isn't one so I do him in.
On the way back to the NCRCF I take a neat little shortcut that transpires to be a minefield. Quicker than you can say 'what's that beeping?', my right leg is crippled. Thankfully a doctor is just round the corner but I have newfound respect for the work of Lady Diana: The Princess of Hearts. Eddie is delighted with my work and the look of joy on his face almost makes me regret that I secretly intend to kill him. He sends me over to Primm to investigate the NCR's behaviour and report back. It's dark now so I toy with the idea of getting some rest but decide that evil deeds take precedence over beauty sleep.
I get the NCR camp outside Primm and speak to Lieutenant Hayes. When I ask about his plans for attacking the Correctional facility he reveals that such information would be classified. I snoop around Primm for a bit for more intel. On entering the Vikki and Vance Casino I get a warm greeting from an elderly gentleman named Johnson Nash. He informs me that the NCR are planning an assault on the NCRCF in a few days. I'm given two options. Report to Eddie or join Lieutenant Hayes and recapture the facility. Betrayal sounds very tempting but these NCR chumps seem a bit too goody chooses for a hot, malevolent tamale like me. Besides, I can always come back and kill Eddie when the Powder Gangers are of no further use.
On my way back to the NCRCF, I'm accosted by Malcolm Holmes who has a bit of an erection over Sunset Sarsaparilla bottle caps. I kill him because his cap reminds me of Stoke City's manager, Tony Pulis'. Football/Soccer fans understand this sentiment completely.
I arrive at the NCRCF and as soon as I tell Eddie of the NCR's plans, they attack. Eddie is happy for me to run off but that's not my style. I'm always up for a fight. Millions of NCR Troopers appear and I die immediately.
I arrive at the NCRCF and as soon as I tell Eddie of the NCR's plans, they attack. Eddie is happy for me to run off so that's exactly what I do. I picked up some missions in Primm that I need to go through with and I might have left the gas on the stove so...erm...yeah, I have to make a move.
First though, I need to find a bed so return to Goodsprings. It's 3 am so I crash out on Ringo's sweaty mattress once again. I drift off livid about Eddie and Dawes being killed by the NCR and not by my own sexy hands. Worse still, I need to find a proper bed. I bet Pol Pot didn't have to put with this shit.
Fallout New Vegas has beaten me again. Once more I find myself at the precipice, staring down at an impassable gaping canyon [insert ex-girlfriend joke]. First it was the bugs. Then it was a swarm of cannibals dressed as the Phantom of the Opera. Now the Legion has me on their shit-list and I can't get to Novac without a squad of their l33t assassins blowing me into sexy man chunks. I never had this problem with Oblivion or Fallout 3. I'd get myself into some merry scrapes but I always found a way out. Why New Vegas!? Why do you do this to me every time!?
I should make an expensive ashtray out of this game disc. After all, I am the master and commander in this relationship. Such insolence must not be tolerated. Alas, I am poor so, faced with only one option, I start again, play it on Hardcore mode and unleash my malevolence on the sad little peons of the Mojave Wastelands.
(Note – I am playing this on the Xbox 360 and don't have a screengrab facility. I do, however, have a scanner and the artistic skills of Pablo Picasso so screenshots will be replaced by my own beautiful artwork.)
Day 1 – The birth of Jonty Bastardson
I prepare for my epic quest (presuming I don't die the second I start the game) with coffee, some weird organic energy drink (half price at Morrisons) and a packet of Salt & Vinegar crisps. How can I possibly fail now? I pay no attention to the opening sequence because, well, I've seen it four times already but I am reminded of when I worked with couriers and what a bunch of cantankerous, miserable bigots they were. They were just delivering mobile phones. Imagine what they'd be like if they were shot for making a delivery. This strengthens my resolve to play the game as a complete bastard – you know, for realism - and I even toy with the idea of making decisions based on the race of other characters. I decide against it. Jonty Bastardson hates everyone equally.
I lose patience with the character creation screen. You'd think with a game that allows you to choose between good and evil there'd be a Hitler moustache and side parting. Not a bit of it. I pick a preset and give him a Hombre beard/'tache.combo. I look like a right dick. My S.P.E.C.I.A.L. ratings favour endurance and agility. Doc Mitchell's little psychology test gets the following responses.
Dog – Kick
House – Demolish
Night – Silencer (?)
Bandit – Reasonable
Light – Dark
Mother – Human Shield
Doc isn't happy about this. He's even more perturbed by my attitude to conflict, self-image, new ideas, my approach to new challenges and other people. He nearly soils himself when he does his little Rorschach test. I'm unimpressed with the skills he selects for me and make a mental note to come back later and kill the fucker.
I leave Doc Mitchell and scold him for going through my stuff. He's far too understanding about it. He will die soon. I step into the Mojave wastelands, survey my surroundings and prepare to unleash my furious anger on anything that steps in my way.
Victor, the robot who rescued me from a shallow grave, trundles past. I decide I want to call him a rusty, rectangle-headed bellend but the conversation tree is limited to questions about my attackers. I can't even threaten him. I toy with the idea of shooting him but get the impression that he could kill me just by looking at me. I make my way to Sunny Smiles instead.
Assuming that Jonty is a shameless mysogynist, I want to make lewd comments to Sunny but, again, I'm foiled by the conversation tree. It's simply impossible to be dickish in these early stages. I resolve to kill her dog, and ideally her, but until then, I decide to get my free Varmint Rifle. Now I'm faced with a dilemma. On one hand, Sunny needs help killing Geckos. On the other, I like killing things. What do I do? Tell her to kill the Geckos herself and wander off into the sunset or go with her to kill stuff? I elect to kill the Geckos during the first part of the mission then, in the second part, leave her and the dog to get attacked while I watch.
It works out quite nicely. The geckos attack Sunny's dog and kill it. Unfortunately Sunny is a decent shot so doesn't meet the same fate. I decide to strip the dog's corpse and eat it's flesh in front of her. She doesn't react but I still feel quite evil for doing it. When I speak to her, she is quite upset about the death of Cheyenne. I look at Jizz Mop, my own idiot hound, farting in the corner and can't work out why. The tutorial mission throws up no more opportunities for evil so I head back to the Prospector Saloon.
Trudy of the Prospector Saloon is the matriarch of the town. When I arrive she is being threatened by a mean-looking fellow named Joe Cobb. Obviously there's only one person here I want to speak to. He offers to meet me outside of town to discuss taking Goodsprings over. I like his style but don't like the way he talks to me when I ask about why he was in prison. I'll help him first then kill him later. No-one talks to me like that, no matter how handsome they are.
I leave the saloon to find Joe Cobb as soon as I can. Cobb demands that I kill a chap named Ringo before meeting the rest of the gang for some indiscriminate murder. Ringo is my least favourite Beatle so this presents no moral quandary whatsoever. I run to his hiding place, kick open the door and scream “Octopus' Garden this, you Thomas the Tank Engine-voicing motherfucker!” before unloading my Varmint Rifle into his poor, betrayed face. Turns out he's quite hard to kill and I'm nearly dead when I finally get to icing the little knobhead.
This presents a problem. Now I must escape Goodsprings and get to Joe Cobb but that little commotion has possibly turned the villagers against me (it hadn't but I didn't know that). I'm also unable to heal quickly. Instead, I have to sit around with my thumb up my arse slowly supping Sunset Sarsparilla before I'm in any condition to make a run for it. This is not a very enjoyable process but, hey, I'm nothing if not well-hydrated - and possibly diabetic - now.
When I do escape I'm greeted with 'What do you want now?' from Joe Cobb. I inform him that Ringo is now dead while writing a second mental note to whack the cheeky little rat ASAP. Now he wants me shake down the supplies store and Doc Mitchell for gear. I have no problem with this. Doc Mitchell is already on my death-list and I know from previous playthroughs that Chet at the supply store is an irritating little gimp well-deserving of a hot lead injection.
There's evidently some means of getting Doc Mitchell to hand over his supplies but my Speech points are too low. I shoot him several times in the head until it literally falls off. This is what you get for presuming I want to specialise in Energy weapons, you bald wanker. I steal his stuff and ransack the house. There is loads of great stuff in here. I even find a chemistry set and make a load of drugs. Can I sell them to children later down the line? I look forward to finding out. I move on to Chet - who makes the mistake of being alive - and quickly realise that I will have to kill him too. So I do...and then I steal all of his stuff. Surprisingly for a 'Supply Store' the supplies are sub-par when compared to Doc Mitchell's (no meth lab for a start) but he does have a neat Magnum pistol on his corpse which will come in very handy when it comes to massacring the entire town. Nice guys finish last is a phrase that is becoming more and more resonant.
I return to Cobb, who signs a third death warrant with his fat mouth. I hand him the supplies and we head into Goodsprings for a bit of wanton murder. Easy Pete gets it first. This was for all those times he refused to give me explosives because my skill level wasn't high enough. Then Trudy's head explodes without me doing anything. I like to think I did it with the power of my mind but suspect it was Joe Cobb (Death Warrant Number 4). Last, but not least Sunny Smiles joins her beloved dog. Thanks for the Varmint Rifle, love *teabags corpse*.
With the residents of Goodspring lying around like eviscerated, discarded shoes, everything falls silent. I have been shot a tiny bit but it's nothing a bottle of purified water can't fix. Joe Cobb is waiting for me in the saloon. I find him fully intending to shoot his face off but, when I speak to him, he directs me to a Correctional Centre. There I can find missions from the most effeminately named gang since the West Side My Little Ponies – The Powder Gangers. I allow him to live for now, not least because I'm surrounded by his gang and don't stand a chance. Besides, it's late, my bloodlust is sated and my sleep-o-meter is disconcertingly high. I retire to the late Ringo's filthy mattress and sleep on exactly the kind of surface you want to lie on with barely-healed bullet wounds. Tomorrow I have a trip to a prison to make.
I'm in my '30s and I've been gaming since the '80s. This probably makes me too old to be here and blogging on the subject but I like to think my experience gives me a perspective of gaming culture that you might find interesting.
My earliest gaming memory of gaming was River Raid on the Atari 2600 and it instilled a love that I've struggled to shake off since. Even in my teens when 'games were for kids' (and to an extent they were*), I still got a giddy thrill from moving the little man on the screen. As game content matured and as more and more people in my age group felt able to admit to their dirty little habit, it felt less embarrassing to admit that 'yeah, I love videogames and spend loads of time playing them'. It still isn't a topic I'd drop into a conversation with prospective sexual partners but I can more than hold my own when pub chat moves on to the new Call of Duty ("Of course I haven't played it! TF2 is better and it's free!").
With this in mind, I've decided to start sharing my thoughts here. At least here, they'll find an audience that doesn't get glassy eyed then change the subject to the X Factor.
* During the late '80s and early '90s games were ostensibly designed for children. There were, of course, exceptions but generally speaking they were for kids. This reputation has stuck so, to some people, admitting you play games is the same as admitting you play with Barbies - something I haven't done since my 25th birthday.