I have a love-hate relationship with computer games / games consoles which roughly translates as 20% love and 80% hate.
I’m not sure why I should feel so ambivalent about them as in every other respect I am a tech-head and dedicated gadget nerd.
And it’s not like I never play computer games.
I have a version of Unreal Tournament 2003 on my PC which I quite happily fire up for a quick session most weekends. Only for 20 minutes mind you. A quick fix and I’m done. The best thing about this particular game is that it allows me to rename all the “bots”. This means I am able to shoot, hack, blow up and disintegrate anyone who has annoyed me during the previous week.
At any one time I can gorily fight my way through an army that comprises work colleagues, Russell Brand, assorted d-list celebrities and the ex-president of the USA.
It’s very cathartic and allows me to maintain my Buddha-like equilibrium for the rest of the week.
But most other games irritate me. Games consoles irritate me.
I see them advertised on TV – Wii, Xbox, PlayStation – and I can feel my face start to twitch like Clint Eastwood in City Heat. When I see the fake advert families bouncing around on their plush leather sofas screeching with joy as they wave their Wii consoles around like they’re tossing off the invisible man I just want to get my plasma rifle from Unreal Tournament and blast them all into little heaps of marrowbone and jelly.
This attitude, I admit, makes life difficult for my eldest boy who is a PlayStation addict. He has rationed access to the console anyway – too much makes him hysterical – but even short bursts of it turn me into Mr Hyde.
Why do these games annoy me so much?
I think a lot of it stems from countless Saturday nights at my best mate Dave’s house – back in the days before I was married (i.e. when I was a sad and lonely git)...
Dave was a true tech-head. The kind of guy who upgraded his computer every month (by hand). The kind of guy who bought every single games console the moment it came out – and as a consequence couldn’t get within 7ft of his TV because of the swamp of joy pads and tangled console cables that were a death trap for any creature unable to fly over them.
Now, when Dave generously allowed me to have a go on these games myself it was, I admit, highly addictive. I can see where my boy is coming from. But most of the time the evening was spent watching Dave play the games. Playing the kinds of games where you have to explore a fathomless computer generated world that has no cyber end. Playing the same bit over and over and over again until it was done properly.
There is nothing more tiresome, more mundane, more teeth shatteringly infuriating than watching someone else play a computer game.
The fact you’re watching it means you are unwittingly involved. Ooh. I wonder what’s in that room? I wonder what that device does? Would a 3 combi double-punch kick move work at this juncture? But you are unable to do a damned thing about it. You can’t make any decisions or moves yourself. Just watch someone else play the game possibly better, possibly worse than you.
It’s like being a disembodied spirit. Or Arnold Judas Rimmer from Red Dwarf. Or Gordon Brown when Tony Blair was still in power.
It winds me up just thinking about it. Gah!
Maybe the answer is just to grab the spare joy pad without permission and pitch in with my plasma rifle? Get involved? Give myself over to the addiction? Surrender to the dark side?
But I can’t help feeling it would just be far more enjoyable to stamp on the bloody thing until it’s dead dead dead...