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               dave green on games
What’s the worst game of all time?     3D reels, or 8-track cassettes, or Ma-
What can video games teach us          cintosh computers - but text adven-
about life? With the help of his broth-tures were fairly rapidly replaced
er Simon, London Games Festival        by graphical ones like The Hobbit
Fringe organiser Dave Green (also of   and then even they started to seem
NTK.net and snackspot.org.uk) talked   like hard work to play, compared to
to ATR about his wasted youth...       the fairly instant rewards you can
                                       get in more action-oriented games.
do you remember the first game Obviously I’m quite possibly misrep-
you ever had?                          resenting an entire genre, but I’m
                                       perfectly capable of enjoying fiction
First electronic game? I can’t be
                                       without needing to control or inter-
completely sure but it was probably
                                       act with it - I’d rather see what the
a close-run thing between a Bina-
                                       author thought should happen at
tone Mark 6 TV game (4 variants of
                                       each point, rather than keep trying
Pong, plus two “shooting galleries”
                                       to second-guess it...
that you needed an extra light-gun
for) - I think they were around in the
late 1970s, then by around 1980 my In life, what have you learned
uncle had an Apple II with 5.25-inch from video games?
floppy disks full of mostly text-only Mostly, how to play video games,
spectaculars like “Lemonade Stand”, but my own apocryphal contribu-
where it forecasted the (fictional)    tion to the “video games violence”
weather and you had to decide how debate goes like this - once, in the
many lemonade ingredients to buy offices of Amiga Power magazine,
to maximise your profits. It was the we were reviewing a light-gun
“Sim City” of its day, in a way:       game like Virtua Cop where you
(coolmath-games.com/lemonade)          basically blasted away at bad guys
                                       that popped up on screen like an
                                       old-fashioned fairground shooting
IFComp is just around the corner;
what are your views on interac-        gallery.
tive fiction?                             A friend of mine claims he’d been
Can I first just say that this is my      playing it all morning and “getting
personal opinion and not that of          really good”, then a window-cleaner
the Fringe or the wider London            appeared in the first-floor window
Games Festival but - I don’t get it!      immediately behind the screen
I mean, it’s great that people still      he was playing on, and my friend
create stuff for formats that no-one      instinctively pointed the plastic gun
really cares about - like ViewMaster      at this new target in his field of vi-
sion and let off a couple of imaginary      up on take-off and never saw more           sections, where we talk about games           pretty much gone off the rest of the
shots. Fortunately, the window cleaner      than the first few locations. And it was    as art, games as girlfriend substitutes,      Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy - the
didn’t fall off his ladder in surprise or   30 quid, which was a lot of money in        and games as… well, games.” Why?              fake-CGI graphics in the G’Gugvuntts
anything, but I’m sure there’s a mes-       those days.                                 Because, although it’s rarely discussed,      and Vl’hurgs battle in the TV series look
sage there somewhere.                       And just to get completely heretical        the experience of playing videogames          fantastic (then the entire battle fleet
                                            now, the graphics were cool but I never     when you’ve just broken up with your          gets “swallowed by a small dog” - tee-
If you could only play one game for         really rated the gameplay in Ultimate’s     girlfriend is some of the most desper-        hee!)
the rest of your life, what would it        Spectrum games, like Knight Lore, or        ate, absorbing, world-ignoring videog-        But let’s not overlook some of the
                                            AticAtac, or Jetpac, or Lunar Jetman,       aming you can ever experience - am I          great made-up games from more “liter-
be?
                                            or... pretty much anything with a smug      right, lads? Well, am I?                      ary” works: Azad from Iain M Banks’
Poker, specifically No-limit Texas Hold
                                            jetpack-wearing technocrat protago-                                                       Player of Games, Ender’s Game (from...
‘em - but against peoplerather than
                                            nist, I guess.                              Have you ever tried writing your              Ender’s Game), and - my personal
computers or online. As country singer
                                                                                        own game?                                     favourite of the lot - Spads and Fokkers
Kenny Rogers has pointed out, it’s
                                             What do you think of second Life?                                                        from Dogfight by William Gibson and
oddly analogous to real life - in Texas                                                 See: http://tinyurl.com/davesgame
                                                                                                                                      Michael Swanwick, which may still be
Hold ‘em, there’s only two cards distin-    are you offended they’re not ‘true
                                                                                                                                      the best piece of videogaming writing
guishing you from the other players         games’?
                                                                                        What do you think of the new spore            ever (I just Googled it and the whole
and five community ones that every-         Not really my cup of tea (at some                                                         story is online, I strongly suspect it
                                                                                        thing?
one can use (ahhhh, nature vs nuture,       point in this interview, we’re bound                                                      shouldn’t be but there you go).
do you see?), plus all the action is kind                                               Oh God I’m not really coming across
                                            to find something I actually like...), I
of related to player’s personalities and                                                as a proper gamer here - I’m sure it’s
                                            think they’re basically 3D construc-                                                Which is the best fictional comput-
the balance between seizing the mo-                                                     great if you like that sort of thing, but
                                            tion environments, like virtual Lego -                                              er?
ment and biding your time. Or “know-                                                    it sounds like a lot of effort and I didn’t
                                            and real-life Lego isn’t a “game” per se,   even like The Sims - was it just me, or
ing what to throw away and knowing                                                                                              Well do you mean the best computer,
                                            but it’s still a brilliant toy.             was it really difficult to find stuff to
what to keep”, as Kenny puts it - also                                                                                          or the software it’s running? Fortu-
                                            Plus, that means that whenever              blow up?                                nately, the movie Tron is very clear on
excellent advice when clearing out a
                                            someone announces “We’ve built a                                                    this distinction, so I’m going to have
fridge.
                                            million-dollar virtual shopping mall        What is your favourite fictional        to go for the Master Control Program
                                            in Second Life, complete with work-         computer game? (eg. the one elijah      - played by David Warner, designed by
 What’s the worst game you’ve ever          ing eco-system,” I can always mentally      Wood plays on in Cafe 80s or space      Jean Giraud Moebius, and he even has
come across?                                substitute “in Second Life” with the        machine in soylent green or Wes-        his own prophetic-for-its-time laser-
Around 1988, my brother and I had           phrase “out of Lego”, and then carry        ley’s weird addictive headset game      powered supermarket-style self-scan-
an Amiga “Cinemaware” game called           on with my day.                             in star Trek)                           ning checkout which he uses to distint-
Rocket Ranger (along the lines of                                                       Thanks for the suggestions! My brother egrate Jeff Bridges at the start of the
1930s jetpack superheroes like King Of                                                  also suggested “Domination” the 3D      film - talk about an “Unexpected item
                                            What are you looking forward to                                                     in bagging area!” Plus the MCP has the
The Rocketmen and The Rocketeer),           most at the London games Festival?          electrocution deathmatch played by
which looked amazing but played                                                         Sean Connery and Maximillian Largo      best catchphrases too: “End of line!”
                                            Lots but I’m particularly intrigued
like a pig. There was one particular bit    by Infinite Lives: How Video Games          in the casino in the rogue Bond movie London games Fringe, oct 25-nov 2
where you had to press a key at just        Hacked Literature (8pm Fri 31st Oct,        Never Say Never Again, and - while I’ve www.londongamesfringe.com
the right time in order to fly to differ-   Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, £3
ent locations - we never got the hang       on door) - “a mix of stand-up, perfor-
of it and consequently kept blowing         mance poetry, music, and interactive
                                              BreugeL’s games
                                                                                                                  The stereotyped image of a Bruegel          synonym for folly, and it is as a theatre of
“Life itself, Bruegel           ‘The playing of children’, mused    A truth is revealed when the adult
seems to be saying,                                                                                         painting is a bustling canvas packed with         folly – the folly of the adult world – that the
                          Michel de Montaigne in book I of          world is reshaped into children’s
slides inevitably from                                                                                      incident and populated by a multitude of          painting must be understood. The paint-
                          his Essays (1575), ‘is not just play;     play, a truth that adults may not
innocence into chaos,                                                                                       rotund peasant figures. His pictures seem         ing shows a view of a town, with a river,
hurried there by chance   it’s the most serious thing they do’.     wish to acknowlege. Child’s play
                                                                                                            to be theatres of vulgar amusement: his           trees, a main square and streets crowded
and thoughtless folly”    Serious for children, utterly             is truly a ‘re-creation’ as well as a
                                                                                                            first biographer, Karel Van Mander, wrote of      with life. It is an inverted reflection of the
                          absorbed in an activity that, for         ‘recreation’.
                                                                                                            his works in 1604 as ‘burlesques’, his fig-       adult world: a town with no adult authority,
                          them, is not an alternative to life
                                                                         In late medieval and early         ures as ‘higgeldy-piggeldy’, and remarked         entirely populated by children. There are
                          but is the business of life itself; and
                                                                    modern Europe children’s games          that ‘one sees few pictures by him which a        nearly one hundred identifiable games in
                          serious for adults too, for child-
                                                                    were often used in literary and         spectator can contemplate without laugh-          progress, many of them instantly
                          hood’s games are a mirror for the
                                                                    artistic form to teach lessons about    ing’. Children’s Games, with its countless        recognizable:
                          adult world. Children, warns
                                                                    human society. Psalters and bre-        tiny figures engaged in numerous types of         marbles,
                          Sebastian Brant’s 1494 moral al-
                                                                    viaries, books of hours and secular     games and play, certainly appears to fit this     skittles, blind
                          legory The Ship of Fools, mimic the
                                                                    prints frequently featured children     stereotype. Yet, as with all Breugel’s work, it   man’s buff,
                          adult activities they see around
                                                                    at play as a means of commenting        is a profoundly serious image and a rigor-        playing with
                          them: ‘In children’s presence take
                                                                    on the passing of time, the phases      ously organized one. It has a moral to teach.     hoops, rid-
                          great heed / They’ll copy you in
                                                                    of life, the role of folly and chance       The Flemish title of the painting is Kh-      ing a hobby
                          word and deed’.
                                                                    in human activities. It is within       inderspell, which is directly translated into     horse. The
                              The suggestion is that the            this context that Pieter Bruegel’s      the accepted English title of Children’s          games chosen,
                          child’s interpretation of the adult’s     painting of 1560, Children’s Games,     Games. In Flemish literature and proverbs,        however, and the
                          action will reveal the latter’s folly.    should be approached.                   however, ‘khinderspell’ is also used as a         manner in which
they are represented, are not random. This resolved in favour of a flowering of fertil-      the wheel of life with all its associations of   corner a boy blows bubbles, signifying the
is not a mere catalogue of popular           ity and the affirmation of life. It was the     chance. Then the games on the right-hand         transitory nature of life and the emptiness
juvenile recreations.                        year’s love-fest, a season for lovers, a time   side of the canvas become darker and more        of material possessions. On the right, two
                                             for courtship and conception.                   violent: rough-and-tumble predominates,          boys       with building bricks argue, the
     It is important to note that a specific
                                                                                             with the harsh play of hair-pulling,                          bricks scattered around them
time of year is shown. The rich foliage of        The children who crowd Bruegel’s
                                                                                             pushing and throwing games,                                   in a meaningless, disordered
the trees and the presence of character-     painting act out these very adult notions
                                                                                             and running the gauntlet. Blind                                  jumble. In the left middle
istically outdoor activities such as swim-   in their childish games, and as they do
                                                                                             man’s buff gives way to the                                            ground two girls joust
ming shows that it is midsummer, and         so they demonstrate their inherent folly.
                                                                                             rougher and more frighten-                                              with rakes, their mock
other clues enable a more precise iden-      Their games reveal that the rituals which
                                                                                             ing forms of blindfold games                                            fighting subverting
tification of the date. In the upper right a lie at the heart of the adult world, those
                                                                                             known as ‘blind hood’ and                                                both the chivalric and
bonfire can be seen, along with a proces- governing the relations between men
                                                                                             ‘around the                                                              the gendered order of
sion of children wearing paper crowns        and women, are themselves playthings of
                                                                                             blind man’.                                                              society, while behind
and carrying loafs; baskets of flowering     foolishness and chance.
herbs can be seen hung outside some                                                              Further down the street is                                        them, against a wall, a
                                                  On the left a game of blind man’s buff                                                                       boy busily defecates, re-
of the houses. As contemporaries would                                                       the St John’s Eve bonfire and its
                                             is in progress, representing courtship: one                                                                       minding the viewer of what
have recognized immediately, these are                                                       associated celebrations, but the
                                             person groping for and seizing another                                                                           all the world comes to in the
activities characteristic of midsummer,                                                      festive mock processions are sur-
                                             in a game of blind chance. Courtship                                                                        end.
and in particular of St John’s Eve and St                                                    rounded by fighting and violence. Life itself,
                                             leads to wedding and to baptism, and
John’s Day, the 23rd and 24th of June.                                                       Bruegel seems to be saying, slides inevitably      At first sight Bruegel’s Children’s Games
                                             also on the left-hand side of the painting
                                                                                             from innocence into chaos, hurried there by   might appear to represent a lost world of
     The midsummer revelry that              we find a wedding and a baptism pro-
                                                                                             chance and thoughtless folly.                 innocence, where children live out their
coincided with St John’s Day was a cele-     cession being acted out. These activities
bration of the richest and most plenteous may seem purposeful, but at the bottom                 Other figures scattered around the can- days in endless play – a representation of
time of year, a time of fecundity, when the left of the canvas, in their path, girls play    vas emphasize the point. On the left, a boy   the happy state that all must leave behind
natural world was present in all its rich-   knucklebones – a game of crude chance           raises his popgun to shoot an owl, the em-    as they grow to adulthood and maturity.
ness. It was a time for lovers, associated   which was strongly associated with love         blem of wisdom. From a window above him Yet its message is in reality quite the op-
with courtship, when the eternal tension     and marriage. A girl who was unlucky at         another boy looks down on the scene, his      posite. The games of children show us that
between life and death, fertility and bar-   knucklebones would be unfortunate in            face hidden behind a mask that shows not      the adult world is no more than a game
renness, summer and winter – a tension       courtship and marriage. And inside the          a child’s face but that of an adult – are all itself, and that all the roles and activities
represented, perhaps, in the tug-of-war      house on the left more girls play with          adults, then, merely children, wearing masks which adults value are mere instances of
game that occupies the front centre of       dolls, making a plaything of parenthood,        that emptily mimic maturity? Elsewhere        play. Bruegel’s playful children teach their
the canvas, and which can be found in        and indeed of childhood itself. Moving          small figures totter on stilts, representing  adult viewers a lesson, with their mimicry
other Bruegel paintings such as The Battle across the front of the picture, spinning         the folly of conceit, while acrobats view the of the grown-up world: that all is folly, futil-
Between Carnival and Lent (1560) – was       tops and hoops echo the concept of              world upside-down; in the bottom left-hand ity, and the chance of the game.

                                                                                              Amongst other things, Ralph Harrington is an academic.
                                                                                              Read more of his ideas on greycat.org.
                                                                                             that happens. I don’t really know what       virtual ten pin bowling, as I am rubbish
                                                                                             goes on, but I can hear hoots of laugh-      at the real thing. I didn’t pursue it. The
                                                                                             ter, shouting, arguing from behind the       Wii fit then came onto the market, but
                                                                                             door. All I know is that it’s saved us a     we weren’t going to be caught a second
                                                                                             fortune in holidays and outings as the       time – they were firmly told that if they
                                                                                             ladies now prefer to spend their free        wanted it they would have to club to-
                                                                                             time in week old underwear and pyja-         gether and pay for it themselves. We still
                                                                                             mas sitting in a darkened room creating      don’t have one. This is for two reasons.
                                                                                             horrible lives for characters that eerily    They haven’t coughed up, and you can’t
                                                                                             resemble people they dislike in real life.   get a Wii for love nor money.
                                                                                             That’s nearly everyone they know, judg-           It turns out Daddy played with the
                                                                                             ing from the complaints I have to listen     Wii the most. He is often caught flailing
                                                                                             to on a daily basis.                         his arms around late into the night, play-
                                                                                                  Until now, Daddy has been the sup-      ing golf.
       THe sIms guIde To Happy FamILIes                                                      plier of these games. The ladies gang        Indeed, he developed the infamous
                                                                                             up on him in W H Smiths and he is pow-       Wii Shoulder, much to my amusement.
                                                                                             erless to resist their demands for new       Other injuries have been suffered due
(Or ‘How we learned to love computer           and one game. I found myself asking for       versions of the Sims. Unfortunately I        to the Wii. Any passers-by have to be
games’)                                        a handset in Woolworth’s, and off they        got caught up in this cycle of intimida-     extremely careful to keep their distance
    I thought that we were safe, having        went, charging into a mystery world           tion when I joined the millions of frantic   from a flailer as sudden arm movements
three daughters, from the dreaded gam-         that the adults couldn’t understand.          parents last winter trying to source a       can cause all manner of upset and bruis-
ing industry. On entering our living room,     They spent hours willing a small dragon       Nintendo Wii for Christmas. I signed up      es. Not good at all, I can assure you.
many visitors would express surprise           through any number of obstacles, en-          to all the find a Wii websites, sidled up         The Wii now sits gathering dust in
at the lack of gaming machinery – the          couraged on by a young neighbour who          to spotty greasy youths in game stores       our sitting room, its novelty long waned.
wires, the boxes, the handsets, the empty      was too shy to play himself, but was an       around London, all to no avail. Finally,     Us parents are now bracing ourselves
drinks cans. OK, so we did have empty          expert at telling others what to do.          just when I was about to write an IOU        for the next big thing. It’ll be Christmas
drinks cans around, along with empty               The ladies then moved on to com-          from Santa, John Lewis had some on           soon – what is it? And where won’t we
crisp packets and plates full of crumbs, I     puter games – I blame the BBC for entic-      its website for about two minutes and I      be able to get it from?
must admit, but no games paraphernalia.        ing young children into their websites        managed to bag one.
    When they were younger, we skipped         and showing them the world of gaming.              The screams of joy that wafted up-
the computer games corner in the shops         My children certainly got hooked, and to      stairs on Christmas morning were almost
with a smug smile as we witnessed other        this day they’re still wriggling at the end   a pleasure, tinged with the feeling that
parents parting with huge sums of cash         of that line.                                 we’d been sucked into another scam.
for a small box with death car raider, or          Club Penguin is a current favourite.      And we had been so proud to resist that
some similar title, written on it. Our chil-   Although it has to be played with the vol-    whole business with the Teletubbies all
dren                                           ume turned down – has anyone thought          those years ago!
demanded Disney videos, vast amounts           how irritating that tinny music is?                For about a month, everyone who
of stationery, but no games. We were               The Sims plays a huge part in our         came through our door had to have a go
fleeced in our own way.                                                                      on the blessed thing. Even I was per-        Sylvia Bellini occasionally blogs at
                                               lives, especially during the holidays. It
                                                                                             suaded to flail my arms around in an at-     milenadellefortezze.blogspot.com
    Then some kind soul took pity on the       allows the player to create a complete
ladies and gave them an old PlayStation        fantasy world and control everything          tempt to bowl. I was even as rubbish at
                                                                                        Not only do we indulge in the sorts   say “Where to?” and they reply “Drip-
                                                                                    of games which have rule-books and        ping gobbets of time waltz with my
                                                                                    Associations and special equipment        paranoia”, they have blatantly broken
                                                                                    and torn hamstrings, we also play         the rules of the Taxi Journey game -
                                                                                    many more subtle games, known as          although they may be abiding by the
                                                                                    “mind games”. These are generally re-     rules of the Budding Surrealist Hop-
                                                                                    garded as being less fun, and certainly   ing For A Grant From the Arts Council
                                                                                    less sportsmanlike, than, say, rounders   game. In this situation you may choose
                                                                                    or kickboxing, yet have proven im-        either to consider the game a forfeit
                                                                                    mensely popular, especially with cou-     and throw them out of your cab, or to
                                                                                    ples, who are often immersed in mind      “play them at their own game” by driv-
                                                                                    games even when they ought to be          ing them to the pomegranate planet
                                                                                    concentrating on doing the shopping       of unreason and charging them four
                                                                                    or walking the dog or not screwing up     nightmares and a goldfish. You might
                                                                                    their kids.                               even get a grant yourself.

                                                                                          So much so that an official             (Interestingly, if someone gets into
                                                                                    version is expected to hit the shelves    your bed and you say “Where to?” and
                                                                                    this Christmas. It will automate the      they reply “Walthamstow”, then you’re
                                                                                    previously vague points-scoring sys-      playing another game entirely, even
                                                                                    tem and play appropriate celebratory      though exactly the same conversa-
                                                                                    sound effects with flashing LEDs when     tion transpired as in the first scenario
                                                                                    particularly spectacular moves are        we considered. This raises fascinating
                THe games peopLe pLay                                               completed, such as the risky “You’d do    questions about the effects of context
                                                                                    it if you loved me” manoeuvre or a        on the implied rules of games with
    The temptations of the game are       daily burned down by Chartist mobs,       successful response to the “What do       identical content, and even more
everywhere. When we’re not carving        stolen by lowlifes or simply fell down    you mean by that?” gambit.                fascinating questions about your
increasingly irritated numerals into      because they were rubbish), consum-                                                 personal life.)
Sudoku grids, we’re trying to think of    ing a small quantity of thin gruel and          Another important human activity
a nine letter word for ‘sock’, and when   then heading out to the local tavern to   which has been regarded as a game             One thing that distinguishes lan-
we’re not massacring our children         knock back eighteen pints of adulterat-   is our use of language, particularly by   guage from most games is that it is
at Grand Theft Auto we’re prancing        ed ale, get into a fight and be knocked   the later Wittgenstein (but not by the    usually engaged in for some external
around our living rooms clutching a       unconscious for half an hour before       early Wittgenstein, who had just wo-      purpose, not just for the sport of it. You
Wii or participating in board games       having to get up for work again.          ken up so was far too grumpy to talk      don’t go into the greengrocer’s merely
which shackle our self-esteem to our                                                about games). Language does share         for a bracing round of Haggling For
capacity for remembering terrible pop      Now we have more free time than          some features in common with games        Parsnips, and then home for another
songs from 1987.                       our ancestors would have known what          - it can be used playfully, competi-      hungry evening without parsnips. The
                                       to do with, we can really enjoy it by        tively and according to particular sets   parsnips are key.
     It’s something to do with our not playing relaxing online games which          of rules in different contexts. For ex-
having to work twenty hour shift down simulate the simplicity of an earlier         ample, if someone gets into your taxi         Perhaps we could try to see the ul-
t’pit anymore. Back in the day, our    age, such as the ever-popular “Twenty        and you say “Where to?” and they reply    terior benefits of our language games
recreation consisted of trudging the   Hours Down T’Pit”, now featuring add-        “Walthamstow” then you are playing        as trophies, prizes for our mastery of
fifteen miles back to our rude hovels, ons for Trudging, Hovel Construction,        the Taxi Journey game. However, if        language gamesmanship, thus render-
rebuilding our rude hovels (which were Gruel and Brawling.                          someone gets into your taxi and you       ing the purchase of a bus ticket or a
treadmill job in customer service just a little
more exciting.
                                                      Or perhaps a game where conversations
                                                  start at the end, with decisions made or tears
                                                                                                    IvF Is TurnIng me InTo a paedopHILe
                                                  shed, and work back to greetings and awk-             We’re all aware of the game ‘would        beauties lined up for me to sleep with
    But if language is a game, isn’t there a      ward small talk. Or a language game where        you rather.’ It has a simple format - would    (along with a pre op shemale), but also
danger of stifling conformity creeping in? To     every statement draws upon the rich seam of      you rather a or b? The fun in the game         that due to biology the choice is often
succeed, you must “play the game”, do the         wisdom and imagery contributed to our cul-       comes from choosing two options that           quite difficult. Sure, if I head back to
same as everybody else, only better. Well,        ture by the vintage sit-com “Open All Hours”?    you’d rather not do – would you rather         Aldershot, the thirteen year difference
why not express yourself by making up your        The only limit is your vocabulary.               suck the sweaty goodness from a tramps         between mother and daughter presents
own games? Other people are sure to be                                                             pants, when he’s just finished a mara-         a fairly easy choice, until the daughter
drawn into your new language games so                 And just think, if you pep up your lan-      thon (the run, not the eighties chocolate      hits at least their late teens. If you head
long as you make them fun enough (either          guage game, you won’t have to waste so           bar) or lick out the nose of Pete Doherty,     to Hampstead though or the baby boom-
that or you’ll be regarded as clinically insane   much playtime on other recreations, so you’ll    when he’s decided to resolve a heavy           ing Hearn Hill, where first time mothers
                                                                                                   cold, with a coke fuelled binge in heav-       are reaching their mid to late thirties, the
and studied with clipboards, depending on         increase your free time enormously. You
                                                                                                   ily dry iced room, before being given          choice between a fifteen year old
what sort of crowd you run with). What about      might even get some work done.
                                                                                                   a bloody nose by a passing paparazzi           daughter and her fifty three year old
a language game where every third syllable                                                         (granted Doherty could probably be             mother is slightly more tricky and thus
must be the name of a fruit, and every eighth     Emma Russell juggles the                         used for both rathers.)                        the fun in the game.
syllable must be the name of a musical in-        complementary pursuits of coding
strument, which your opponent must then                                                                 When playing this game it’s para-              On January 17th 2005 Adriana
imitate during his next utterance, whilst eat-    and stain glass - check out her site:
                                                                                                   mount that every option is considered          Iliescu, a Romanian lecturer, gave birth to
ing the relevant fruit salad?                     holyfool.co.uk                                   in some detail, visualising each scenario      twins. Now this isn’t a remarkable fact in
                                                                                                   and assuming that when you finally             by itself, but, by the magic of IVF, Adriana
                                                                                                   reach the doors of hell, you will have to      had become a mother at the age of 67.
                                                                                                   enact all of the answers you have given.       Now I’m not going to state that I’m not
                                                                                                   It can reveal quite a lot about someone’s      a paedophile, solely because whenever
                                                                                                   personality, should certainly be used in       I hear people say ‘I’m not a …’ it tends
                                                                                                   job interviews and I don’t believe you         to be followed by a story or view that
                                                                                                   truly know someone until you know              demonstrates that they clearly are … I
                                                                                                   whether they’d rather sleep with a             have snogged a thirteen year old before
                                                                                                   beautiful shemale, who was pre op or a         in a bar, when I was of legal age, but
                                                                                                   lesbian who’d taken so much testoster-         that was more down to mood lighting, a
                                                                                                   one she looked 100% male, but still had        few drinks and the belief that she was at
                                                                                                   a heavenly highway. The game is great          least 17. Romania is a place I know well
                                                                                                   for long journeys, drinking games etc.         and often visit, but that’s going to have
                                                                                                   etc, but there’s no real point in playing it   to stop. I can’t risk being faced with the
                                                                                                   by yourself.                                   choice between a ten year old and a 77
                                                                                                                                                  year old, a fourteen year old and an 81
                                                                                                        When I’m bored and people watch-          year old. I honestly don’t know what I’d
                                                                                                   ing, instead I play a similar game called      choose, especially as whatever I chose, I’ll
                                                                                                   ‘higher or lower.’ It only works with          no doubt go straight to hell for it, where
                                                                                                   mothers and daughters or fathers and           of course I’d then have to enact with my
                                                                                                   sons and you have to decide who you            chosen lucky lady!
                                                                                                   would rather sleep with. The beauty of
                                                                                                   the game is not only the knowledge that        David Hellard is single and available to
                                                                                                   when I head to hell I will have a bevy of      book for children’s parties
        BIOSHOCK
            VIDEO COMPUTER SYSTEM
         GAME PROGRAM

  1   PLAY     TRAVEL TO UNDERWATER CITY
              COLLECT ADAM, EVE & MONEY
     MODE       WATCH OUT FOR BIG DADDY




           1 PLAYER AT A TIME USING
           DUAL ANALOG CONTROLLER

ATARI MODERN CLASSICS           THE MINUSWORLD.COM




             InTervIeW WITH THe-mInus WorLd.Com
                                                                                                   Does Drugs” jokes.                         tance between your bed and your laptop.
               They’re the guys behind the popular     that video game journalism had become
           Atari modern classic game covers you        too serious for itself and that there was   Can you tell us a bit about the background Have you ever got into trouble for something
                                                                                                   to the site and yourselves?                you’ve published on the site?
           might have seen doing the rounds on the     way too much inherent hilarity in this
           web recently (see above - and our cover!)   medium to go ignored.
                                                                                                   The core group of us here are mostly com-      Not really, but we’re trying as hard as we can.
           Their site is packed with very funny and        Somebody needed to drag things                                                         Our favorite moments are when we catch
           often very impressively-designed pixelly    into the spotlight and remind gamers        prised of disgruntled graphic artists and
                                                                                                                                                  some e-rage from a commenter who didn’t
           spoofs and they took time out of their      that the big picture is about having fun.   writers who wanted to break off on their
                                                                                                                                                  realise a “news story” was fake and that he’s
           busy retro-gaming schedule to talk to us.   The site name an odd reference to a         own and start something original. Some-
                                                                                                                                                  reading a comedy site, even though it’s bla-
           Meet The -Minus World.                      glitch-world in the original Super Mario    thing we were all passionate about.            tantly labeled as such.
                                                       Bros. The name became a metaphor for            For anybody out there stuck in the
           How did the-minusworld start up?            our sites’ focus: exist on a completely     cubicle with a great idea, we urge you to do   What kind of things tend to be the most
           Where does the name come from?              different and disruptive sub-level to the   the same. It’s liberating, empowering and      popular?
                                                       usually comfortable method of tackling      you can work in your pyjamas. It’s nice when
           The site started with the basic notion      gaming. Plus “Little Mac From Punch-Out     your morning commute consists of the dis-      Spontaneity is something we pride ourselves
in, but the more we grow, the more          our jokes, too.                               sible. The Atari Modern Classics piece,   video game journalism approach to
we understand what people tend to            What are the best and worst sug-             for example, took around 3 hours per      just walk away and leave gamers bored
gravitate to more frequently. Making        gestions you’ve been sent in by ‘the          completed image. Picture meticulous       and sleeping at their keyboards. This
children’s activity books out of violent    public’?                                      attention to detail getting in bed with   industry is about entertainment at its
games is one of our signature trade-        The best? We hired one of our blog-           rampant insanity and you’ve got our       core, and ultimately, retaining that is
marks. We also love to mesh the worlds      gers instantly based on an article pitch      work ethic down to a T.                   more important to us than anything.
of video game characters with reality       about Lego movie-based video games
and emphasize their struggles. Some-                                                                                                    That’s why we never forget that
                                            that need to be made and the article          do you have any plans for the site in     gaming is supposed to be entertain-
body should be looking out for them,        was a big hit. The worst? We got a            the future?                               ment, first and foremost. But even
right?                                      butchered, typo-ridden trainwreck of          We’re not stopping anytime soon, if       when it gets serious, we want to be
                                            an email from a “writer” who said she’d       ever. We’re way too against the typical   around to remind people that it can
Looking at pixel parodies it seems          lose her apartment if we didn’t hire
like some of these games are more           her on the spot. Hopefully her current
than distant memories to you. do                                                                                   Check out more of their work at the-minusworld.com
                                            cardboard box mansion is comfy and
you guys play a lot of retro games in       we wish her all the best.
your spare time?
We’re pretty rabid classic gaming fe-       are you worried about the new
tishists at heart and on a night of great   prince of persia film? do you think
accomplishment, you can catch us            Jake gyllenhall will be able to do the
winding down with a complete co-op          slidey foot thing?
playthrough of Bubble Bobble or the         Extremely worried. Then again, his
original Contra. Obviously, we instantly    sister banged Batman, so maybe a
fell in love with Mega Man 9, despite       magnetic attraction to death defying
how much it tries to kick our asses.        acrobatics runs in the fam.
I saw the letter from pacman to
namco and it made me cry a bit.              What do you think of the new wave
What do you think of those joysticks        of mario games, super mario galaxy
                                            etc?
that you plug into your telly?
                                            If our website had a girlfriend, we
Anything that gets modern gamers to
                                            would cheat on her to be with Super
respect the roots of what made their
                                            Mario Galaxy. It’s that good.
favorite facet of entertainment cool
gets a thumbs up from us. Every child       How long does it take you to work
should experience the gaming golden         up one of these images?
era before they jump into Halo Laser        A lot of gaming blogs use public art as-
Eye Surgery 3D Projector VIII so that       sets to illustrate their articles but we’re
they can learn from the its humble          much more hands on and like to high-
lineage. They’d understand more of          light original artwork as often as pos-
                             parLour games
                                                of a category of concepts known as ‘oxy-          nation of Rohypnol, scrumpy and phero-        hootenanny or shindig, remember to take
                                                morons’.                                          mones and lock them in a cellar together?     with you a jumbo bag of tea lights (avail-
                                                    If needs be, I’ll play chess. I could prob-   Or hold a weekly Fight Club in the village    able from Ikea) and one of those pump-
                                                ably learn to like bridge if I could begin        hall for friends and neighbours to over-      action water bottles for misting the leaves
                                                to grasp what was going on in the typical         come their natural shyness and reticence      of plants.
                                                game. But no part of me will ever experi-         in an atmosphere of cathartic bare-knuck-
                                                ence an urge to doodle competitively,                                                                At the first hint of organised fun,
                                                                                                  led bloodletting?                             excuse yourself for a trip to the loo, locate
                                                whisper anything to anyone on cue, or
                                                divest myself of all dignity or discretion as          And if that works out, can this impa-    the fuse box for the house and apply a
                                                part of some scheme to break hypothetical         tience with the natural pace of events        few determined squirts of atomised H20.
                                                social ice.                                       be profitably applied in other areas? For     In the subsequent blackout you’ll need
                                                                                                  instance, who has the patience to listen      to come up with your own story as to
                                                    I suppose to the careless observer,           to a hushed TV commentator announce           why you happen to have a hundred little
                                                quiet conversation seems awfully reserved         the appearance of a hesitant badger on        candles in your possession, but any of
                                                and perhaps superficial. I mean, how can          the grainy, light-enhanced footage of a       the twinkling circles of light cast by the
      Consider these phrases: “Darling, I’m     you really know what someone’s made of
unexpectedly pregnant,” and “Not so fast.                                                         hidden camera? Let’s bulldoze the tops off    dozens of tiny flames provide the ideal
                                                until you see them pass a tennis ball to a        those badger sets and haul the buggers        atmosphere in which to recount your
I’ll need to see your papers,” and “I thought stranger using only their chins?
rather than relax among friends we could                                                          out by the scruffs of their necks on a nice   formative experiences in tornado-ravaged
all play a game.” Depending on your view-           But as far as defining or revealing situ-     sunny day so that we can get a proper         Oklahoma where travelling with a boot
point, you may find some or all of these        ations go, this is pretty weak stuff. If you      look at them.                                 full of tinned beans and kerosene lamps
phrases chilling. Or not. For instance, if      can’t bear new relationships to take their             Likewise, why not combine newspa-        was considered very much the norm.
you’ve been secretly hoping to start a fam- gentle and sedate course, then at least               per obituaries with personal ads? “The             Or you could recall how even exten-
ily and you’re such a fan of a well-regulated contrive a really effective way to strip all        dearly departed leaves behind a devoted       sive de-programming hasn’t quite erased
society that you wouldn’t want anyone           social veneer from the human psyche. Sign         wife of twenty years (GSOH, non-smoker,       the effects of five years in a survivalist cult.
to be allowed to flee elsewhere, yourself       up your party guests for a tour of duty in        WLTM professional gentleman, ideally          The danger here, of course, is all manner
included, then you’ll probably find the first Iraq, for instance. Or arrange a sailing trip
                                                                                                  with probate experience.)”                    of follow-up questions and background
two utterances reasonably comforting.           around the coast of Australia and scup-
                                                                                                       In fact this instant-results-oriented    queries, which if you’re not very careful
      But you’ll still have trouble with that   per the boat in shark-riddled waters. Lead                                                      might lead to an evening of story-telling
third one, surely. After all, don’t people get a doomed expedition to the Antarctic for           approach to the gradual unfolding of life’s
                                                                                                  little ups and downs has already given        and conversation, with the party frag-
together for the purpose of flirting and        a group of old friends from work and/or                                                         menting into numerous intimate little
gossiping and catching up and getting to        university and see what a few months of           us gardening shows which avoid any
                                                                                                  need for nurture or the unhurried turn        groups, each no bigger than the range of
know each other better and creating new         frostbite and surviving on raw seal blubber                                                     a handful of candle flames.
friendships, as opposed to, say, attempt-       does for any lingering standoffishness.           of the seasons and instead hammer in a
ing to mime the phrase One Flew Over the                                                          few hundred pre-grown shrubs while the             And if that prospect suddenly seems
                                                    What I haven’t figured out is whether
Cuckoo’s Nest in under a minute to a drunk the impulse to create socially undignified             homeowner is at the shops. And it can’t       daunting you can always hedge your bets
stranger.                                                                                         be long now before Time Team takes a          by also carrying around a few battery-
                                                situations for fun is a form of bullying or
                                                                                                  leaf out of Brainiac’s book to produce an     powered floodlights and a thunderously
      You see, ‘games’ – at least the ones that simply comes from a well-meaning over-
involve groups of people combined with a correction when faced with the prospect                  archaeology show with its own resident        high-end karaoke machine.
strong theatrical element – are really just     of a lacklustre gathering. Is it simply impa-     explosives expert.
one subset of activities known collectively tience? In which case, should you go one                   But it’s possible to fight back. Next    rob Jones lives in the Cotswolds and
as ‘organised fun’ – which in turn are part     better and dose your guests with a combi-         time you’re invited to a dinner party,        writes thrillers.
                                                                                                                 his calls and knee him in the balls if he tried   they look glassy-eyed and scary to me,
                                                                                                                 to sleep with you on the 53rd date. It was a      like members of some cult. A month or so
                                                                                                                 fascist, reactionary doctrine claiming to be a    ago Ellen Fein managed to nab herself an-
                                                                                                                 solution to a problem that we all recognise:      other victim, sorry husband, using her tried
                                                                                                                 men generally don’t like women who like           and tested rules. She’s married (again). And
                                                                                                                 them. Did you ever play kiss chase in the         I’m not.
                                                                                                                 playground at school? That is what modern
                                                                                                                 dating is like. If you like a guy and try to go        But somehow I feel the better person as
                                                                                                                 kiss him, he’ll run away screaming. Okay,         at least I know that when I do find a man it’ll
                                                                                                                 he won’t, he’ll kiss you back, shag you and       be not through game-playing but through
                                                                                                                 never call you again in case you invoice him      sheer bloody-mindedness. And we can all
                                                                                                                 for services rendered.                            admire and applaud that.

                                                                                                                       Admittedly some women (aka me) do           Any potential husbands can send in a CV to
                                                                                                                 have a tendency toward stalking that can          Tania via her website taniaahsan.com
                                                                                                                 be reigned in by adhering to ‘The Rules’ but
                                                                                                                 all that pent up “Why hasn’t he asked
                                                                                                                 me marry him yet? We’re already at
                                                                                                                 the mains course of the first dinner
                                                                                                                 date. What a time-waster!” aggression
                                                                                                                 has to come out somewhere. Surely
                                                                                                                 it is better that us crazy women stay
                                                                                                                 single and psycho than that we give
                                                                                                                 the impression that we’re unattainable
                                                                                                                 sane people only to ensnare some
                                                                                                                 poor bastard who then has to spend
                                                                                                                 the rest of his life acting like that cat in
                             THe games oF Love                                                                   the Pepe le Pew cartoons?

“Two weeks later, I was   In the game of love, if you don’t play      Rules for Marriage: Time-Tested Secrets         I am ashamed to admit that I tried
screeching down the       you won’t win. Tania Ahsan rolls the        for Making Your Marriage Work’ was         the rules out on my lukewarm fiancé
phone at him about not    dice and lands on some home truths          released; yes, most people guffawed        at the time. The two weeks I did the
being committed and                                                   and said unkind things. However, the       rules was the two weeks that he was
calling off the engage-        Just over a decade ago, the publish-   ladies brought it upon themselves. The     most loving, attentive and fiancé-like
ment and going out        ing world happened upon the phenom-         Rules was probably the most heinous,       toward me. Of course it didn’t last be-
to get a crew cut         enon that was ‘The Rules’. This book        evil thing to be published in the 1990s    cause – like a faddy diet – you simply
hairstyle etc”            was a precursor to such weighty tomes       (unless you count the Satanic collabora-   can’t do the rules forever so you go
                          as ‘He’s Just Not That Into You’ and the    tion that was The Celestine Prophecy);     back to cakes and pies and undo all
                          catchily-titled ‘The Player’s Handbook      women were encouraged to play games        the weight loss and then some. So two
                          Volume I: Pickup and Seduction Secrets      to win a man and there were instruc-       weeks later, I was screeching down the
                          for Men Who Love Women & Sex (And           tions on what to do to trick and manip-    phone at him about not being com-
                          Want More of Both)’.                        ulate him into marrying you.               mitted and calling off the engagement
                                                                                                                 and going out to get a crew cut hair-
                              The Rules was written by Ellen Fein         In 1995 many young women start-        style etc.
                          and Sherrie Schneider. Ellen Fein sub-      ed doing the rules. Suddenly the way
                          sequently went through a very messy         to express how much you liked a guy             The only people who can perpetu-
                          divorce just as their sequel book ‘The      was to ignore him studiously, not return   ally do the rules are the authors and
   peTer FLeTCHer’s geek mIsery memoIr
    I think it was for my eighth birth-        day Night Fry that I have just listened to      to the weekend video club meetings
day that I received a pair of binoculars.      on YouTube first entered my conscious-          that clustered in the outer lying suburbs,
They were not toy binoculars but proper        ness over half a life ago.                      and so I was excluded from the informal
grown-up binoculars, hefty, with a binoc-           It is the fate of binoculars never quite   education of Escape from New York, or
ulary smell. Naturally I was very pleased      to live up to the excitement that their         The Life of Brian, or Porkies, and from the
with them, but I was also distracted by        acquisition generates. They are in this         Monday conversations as the retelling
two items that I found in the box.             respect very much at the same end of the        lubricated and reinforced the social net-
                                                                                               works of the video-owning classes.             postscript
    The first was a small sachet of gran-      toy box as spy kits and invisible ink pens,
ules which ate moisture that would oth-        or walkie-talkies, wherein their potential           I once forced my way into one of these         My parents are now almost com-
erwise get inside the lenses and spoil         is never fully realisable in the eight-year-    sessions one afternoon by resolutely           pletely retired – my father has a part-time
them. I would of course go on to encoun-       old universe. Who is to be spied on, what       staying on the bus as the others talked        job as a tour guide at Mother Shipton’s
ter many more of these granules over the       secrets are to be encrypted, who will hear      excitedly of a trip to the video shop, and     Cave in Knaresborough, and my mother
years, in leather goods, in the packaging      my over-and-out? It doesn’t matter. The         then more or less just following them          is the pre-recorded voice of Mother Ship-
of gadgetry, even in drawers, but this         function of these playthings is not to be                                                      ton that you hear if you press the but-
                                                                                               home. They didn’t seem to mind, but the
was my first exposure to them. You never       found in their use, but in the giving and                                                      ton when you go inside the cave itself
                                                                                               video that we shared was King Frat,
forget the first time.                         the receiving, and in the first heady mo-                                                      (“I’m not a witch”, she cackles, putting
                                                                                               and I always got off the bus at my own
                                               ments of possession.                                                                           you in fear of your toes). In any case, they
    The idea of these moisture eat-                                                            stop after that.
                                                                                                                                              have quite a bit of time on their hands
ing granules intrigued me, as did the               Those childhood years of Action Man             I was further deprived of the natural     which they occupy with pastimes typical
thought that moisture might get inside         and espionage were rich and fun, but as         recourse of the awkward and excluded           amongst those of their generation - bits
the lenses and ruin the binoculars. Where      a teenager I was deprived. Attending a          teenage male, as our house contained           of gardening, DIY, medium length walks
did this moisture come from? But what          school alongside fifteen hundred boys,          neither computer nor computer games            - you know the sort of thing. My father is
fascinated me more than the granules,          my only exposure to girls were the              console. Actually strictly speaking it had     a helpful and jolly fellow, and will often
perhaps more than the binoculars               tantalising glimpses through the bus            contained a ZX81, but once I had               combine earnest nature study (befitting
themselves, was the other item, the five       or car window as the traffic inched its         deployed the customary two line program        a man with A levels in both botany and
year guarantee.                                way up the Palatine Road, the whining                                                          zoology) with popping round to a friend’s
                                                                                               to fill the left-hand part of the TV with my
    I was eight years old, and this felt to    school-boy, with his satchel and shining                                                       house to help them, say, hang a picture.
                                                                                               name, the device lost its novelty and was
me like a ridiculously exuberant promise       morning face, creeping like snail unwill-                                                      Thus it was that a while ago my mother
                                                                                               put aside. For some reason this dipping of
from the manufacturers, a Lifetime Guar-       ingly to school. Shining with grease and                                                       on inspecting my father’s knapsack was
                                                                                               the toe into the lukewarm waters of early
antee in all but name, and it made me          spots, of course.                                                                              horrified to discover that it contained
                                                                                               ‘80s home computer did not progress into
dizzy. Looking forward in time as an eight          I was not even able to take solace         the more fruitful areas of Spectrum, Com-      simply a pair of binoculars and a hammer,
year old I was holding the binoculars the      in technology, as the other boys did.           modore 64, or even Atari. Space Invaders,      and that he had apparently been walking
wrong way round, time stretching out           Our household budget somehow never              Pac-Man and Defender were therefore            around the village for several days,
impossibly in front of me. Reversing the       stretched to one of the VCRs that were          holiday amusement arcade treats only,          cheerfully innocent of the sinister inter-
perspective as I prepare to enter middle       laid out, with their gaping cassette trays,                                                    pretation that might be put on this
                                                                                               but my lack of practice meant that these
age, the telescopic lenses have a fore-        in the Littlewoods catalogue. This, com-                                                       rudimentary cargo.
                                                                                               machines just ate my money, and I always
shortening effect, as, for example, I blink-   bined with my relative geographical                                                            Peter Fletcher continues his sad life on
                                                                                               felt more comforted by the capitalist al-
ingly realise that those episodes of Satur-    isolation, meant that I was never invited
                                                                                               legories of the coin nudging cascades.         joyfeed.com
Dan O’Brien writes Oblomovka.com, co-produced the hibernating newsletter
NTK.net and is a well-known digital rights campaigner, currently working for
the EFF. Dan offered this article for a zine your editor made years ago that never
got off the ground.

								
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