The UK’s Guardian newspaper – about as far, usually, as our press gets from un-researched sensationalism – published a story last week in which an education union warned of the perils of children becoming addicted to video game fantasy worlds. This article – along with the 72,016 similar articles that I have read during my many years as a gamer – quoted a great many ‘experts’ who do not seem to have reached their level of expertise by actually playing a single video game. This did not seem to stop them feeling justified in self-righteous condemnation of the games industry, warning of kids arriving to school exhausted having spent until the early hours playing games. When they got to school, they subsequently spent their time mimicking the act of throwing themselves out of car windows in slow motion. Scary stuff, I’m sure you’ll agree, if you’re scared by pretty much everything. Of course, none of the experts considered that children have always stayed up later than their teachers would like, and have also traditionally aped popular entertainment (from cowboys and Indians to wrestling) without all ending up as murderers, with the only ones not carrying out murders those that are hamstrung from being paralysed by attempting to copy something they saw on Jackass.
That said, apart from instantly dismissing the article, it did make me realise that there have been times that I have been truly addicted to video games. It doesn’t always have to be the best game per se. Sometimes it can be a certain boss that I just will not let defeat me. Sometimes it involves a sibling shaving a second off my best lap time. Others, meanwhile, involve being at university and believing the prospect of playing 118 simulated football matches to be an infinitely more productive use of my time than actually going to any lectures. Here I present to you (in two parts) the most addictive moments of my game playing career:
Sega Rally Championship
One of the few successes of Sega’s ill-fated Saturn console, 1995’s conversion of the hugely popular arcade game was an undeniable success. It may look quaint by today’s standards, with its sum total of four tracks and three cars, but what it lacked in depth it more than made up for in sheer playability. I was already obsessed with this game when my elder brother committed a mortal sin: he borrowed my Saturn and beat all my lap times. He was a student at the time, and students don’t actually have anything to do (see Championship Manager later in the piece). I, on the other hand, was still at school, studying hard for my A-Levels. Well, studying for my A-Levels. Ok, I had all my books laid out in strategic places on my desk so that I had just enough time upon hearing my mum approaching to open at a suitable page and scratch my chin in the universal symbol of learning. Regardless, I had stuff to be getting on with. Instead, I spent nigh on a week getting all my lap records back. It took longer than anticipated as I decided that once I had regained the records, I owed it to myself – nay, to humanity – to beat his times enough that all trace of my brother’s lap times were eradicated from the leaderboards. I subsequently flunked my exams, have never learnt to drive and ended up doing a succession of menial jobs. Still, it was worth it to see the look on his face. Come to think of it, I’m not actually sure I ever told him.
Another Sega arcade conversion, this time released on the Dreamcast. This is the one game I have ever been, without question, the best player I know at. In researching this article, I spoke to my younger brother (whose console it was, making the whole thing that bit more satisfying for me and humiliating for him) who kindly referred to me as an ‘undefeated f*ck’. I think he forgot to add the ‘never conceded a set d*ck’ part. Easily done. I don’t know why I was so good at this game. I think it appealed to my cruel, sadistic and competitive nature. Interestingly, though hopelessly addicted to beating people at this game, it never once made me want to commit murders, or indeed become Roger Federer.
Obviously this is a seminal game. It is also one of the most engrossing gaming experiences you will ever have. It’s possible to lose days to this game and barely do any of the game’s core missions. That’s not strictly why I have included it though. I’ve included it because I spent hours upon hours not scratching the surface AT ALL. After about four aborted attempts to start the game, I finally made it out of Vault 101, I promptly got killed myriad times for stealing things. When I eventually made it to the game world proper, I stumbled across the subway. Here, I spent days (admittedly in hour long chunks) trying to find out where on earth I was going. The map and radar didn’t click with me for weeks, leading to me feeling utterly stupid. I was absolutely obsessed with making sure that this game wouldn’t defeat me. Or rather, if it did, that it wouldn’t be from my character dying of boredom at walking up and down the same dark passage ad infinitum. A similar thing happened to me with Twilight Princess on the Wii, whereby I got lost. In a field. Which had no enemies. It was simply a way of getting from a to b. I went round in a big circle for what must have been hours of gameplay. I am probably not the best person to get information on video games from, come to think of it.
However, if it’s cheap Peyote you’re after I am certainly an authority. Dope Wars was a mid-90s text-based game in which you traversed areas of New York, buying drugs at knockdown process and selling them at extortionate ones. At least that was the idea. In reality, you more often than not finished the game bankrupt and/or dead, all for chasing that elusive deal. A copy of the game was sneakily installed onto machines at my work. Productivity went through the floor. Incredibly, however, given our addiction and relative youth, virtually none of us grew up to actually be drug dealers. I’ve just been informed that the game is now available on Facebook, Android and iOS. My life is over..
It turns out that I have been addicted to so many games, in so many different ways, that this is going to have to be a two-parter. Till next week..