Lost Humanity 5: Being THEM
Rob Florence imagines what it's like on the other side.
Do you ever wonder what it's like to be one of them?
Your name is Alex. You are 34 years old, and you work in a call centre. You sell Sky subscriptions, by cold-calling old people and bamboozling them with words and numbers. You have to make five sales a day or you will get a disapproving look from your Team Leader. Your Team Leader is a 19-year-old guy called Daniel, although he calls himself "The Dan Zone".
You first played a video game when you were about ten. It was pretty boring, and it was called Alex The Kid. Your mum bought you it because the little guy had the same name as you. What you don't realise is that it's actually called "Alex Kidd." You've called it "Alex The Kid" for years, and every time those words have left your mouth a nearby gamer has cringed.
Then, a bit older, you visited Blackpool. You played quite a few games in the arcade, while your mum and dad were getting drunk. You can't remember the names of any of them, because they were all pretty much the same as each other. Shooting or jumping about, collecting stuff, bleep bloop bleep. You remember a big line beside a Mortal Combat machine. People were putting loads of money into this thing so that they could fight each other. It looked so stupid too, really naff. Other kids were talking about how real the guys looked, like something out of a film. "Must be a really s*** film," you said. You remember thinking that the people in that line could have saved some money and just smacked each other in the face for real.
A bit later, you had a Playstation. It was actually your brother's Playstation, and he had three games. One was a racing game of some kind, set in the future, and it had dance music. The music was good, but you just kept bouncing off all the walls and it was really annoying. It also looked really fake and all jaggy and horrible.
Another game was called Tomb Raider, like the film, and it had Laura Croft in it. You'd seen her on the cover of magazines and stuff, and wondered what all the fuss was about. You fancied Kelly Brook at that time (and still fancy her now) so you never understood why people fancied a cartoon woman with pointy triangle boobs. One time you even saw a photo of the guy who'd made her, and he was this really creepy looking guy. He looked like Dr Crippen. The game was about running around a cave or something, and falling over a lot. It was really boring and really really grey. At one point your brother got excited because a T-Rex appeared, but it looked like a s****y puppet out of an old Doctor Who. It was ridiculous.
The third game was called The Final Fantasy or something, and it was like a really rubbish film with lots of stupid hairstyles. All you did was press the button every so often, and then when a fight started it was like just choosing different pages on Teletext.
Your next encounter with gaming was with your girlfriend Rebecca. She had a pretty up-to-date computer and she loved playing World of Warcraft. You're sure you have the name of this one correct, because Rebecca spoke about it all the time.
Sometimes you would watch her play it, and she would just be clicking the same little boxes over and over again. Same pattern, click click click, same boxes, in the same places, with all the same people. She would stay up all night playing it. Sometimes you'd try to persuade her to come to bed, using everything you had, and she'd tell you that she had to stay up all night to do a "raid" with some fat guys with stupid names. You also noticed that, despite Rebecca loving the game, she never got any satisfaction from it. It just went on and on, and she was never happy. She never quite managed to get enough of whatever crap it was she was trying to get. She'd say, "Oh, I need to get this!" and then it would be, "Oh, I need to get a better version of this!" And eventually that's what you did - you got a better version of Rebecca.
Then, a few years ago, you had a go on the Wii. Everybody was raving about it. "Oh, you have to play the Wii! You control it with movements!" And you were all like, "Uh, we always controlled games with movements. We control everything with movements. Do you control things with your mind or something, Brainiac?" Anyway, it was a tennis game of some kind, and all you had to do was swing your arm while holding a remote control, and the little cartoon man would hit a ball over a net. It was rubbish. You couldn't even control where the little man went, so it was pretty much just like the game telling you when to swing, instead of you telling the game. And another thing - if you were swinging your arm, you might as well be playing real tennis. And who wants to play tennis at a party anyway? Idiots.
Oh, and then there was your flatmate. Your flatmate Ben had some kind of war game, and he would moan and whine until he got some TV time so that he could play it in front of you. It was this mindless thing - I mean, don't get me wrong, he loved this crap - but it was this mindless thing where soldiers would tell you to follow them. Like, that was genuinely all it was. A soldier would say "Come with me!" and then you'd follow him and shoot some baddies, and then after all the baddies were dead he'd go, "Now come with me again!"
And you could see that the baddies were all waiting for you to arrive before they did anything. Like actors waiting for a cue. And still Ben behaved like this was some incredible, real, living thing. And then there was this one level, one horrible level, where you watched Ben just going around shooting screaming people. They didn't have guns or anything. It was just people in an airport, and Ben was shooting them. When you told him you thought it was a bit sick he told you it was "mature" and that you should grow up. It was the kind of thing a psychopath would play. You're pretty sure that the newspapers are probably right about all that stuff.
What else? Oh yeah. Last Christmas, you and your girlfriend were visiting with your sister, and they had a Connect, or a Connector or something. No, it had a K. Obviously it had a K. Games just love their cool Ks. It was called a Konnect. Something like that. Now, this was a camera type thing, and it sat by the TV and filmed you.
Everyone was pretty excited about it, because you could just use your own movements to control the games. And, again, you were all like, "Yeah, but surely these are just different movements. It's always movement of some kind, in the name of Christ. Why is moving your whole body better than moving your finger?" Anyway, there was this dancing game, and it was actually pretty fun. The kind of thing some 12-year-olds would love. But your sister has a normal-sized living room, and it was impossible to get it working properly. Not enough space or something. Even with moving the coffee table and the couches all against one wall, the Konnector thing was struggling to keep track of the movement. And about forty minutes into all of that hassle you thought to yourself, "God, is this dancing game really worth all of this? And the hundred quid that stupid camera cost?" And, in truth, it wasn't worth it. It really wasn't. I mean, your sister's carpets look like s*** and she's spending money buying her kids this nonsense?
Today, you play games on your phone. You have an iPhone, and you have some stuff that other people recommended. Angry Birds is pretty fun, but it's really just the same thing over and over again, forever. It's pretty much just passing time by moving your finger, like picking your nose. Cut The Rope is nice too, for something to do while you're watching TV, or when you're on the toilet. The fundamental problem is that it never feels like you're actually doing anything. You're not achieving anything. Not really. You're not learning anything. You're not improving yourself. And, sure, you could say that it's enough just to be playing, but isn't playing with people more fun? Chatting and fooling around and, I dunno... having sex? Just as an example?
Your name is Alex. You are 34-years-old, and you work in a call centre. You sell Sky subscriptions, by cold-calling old people and bamboozling them with words and numbers. You have to make five sales a day or you will get a disapproving look from your Team Leader. Your Team Leader is a 19-year-old guy called Daniel, although he calls himself "The Dan Zone".
And, oh my God, it totally f***ing SUCKS to be you.