Video Games Saved My LifeSubmitted by Spam at 2009-04-21 09:38:35 EDT
Rating: 1.81 on 78 ratings (78 reviews) (Review this item) (V)
Back In the late nineties, video-games were a lot more honest.
There were never any illusions that what you were doing was a productive use of your time. You could never, for example, say that you played games as a way to lose weight or stay in shape, despite how energetic Super Bishi-Bashi may have seemed at the time. Likewise, you could spend literally days watching the intricate interactions between characters in Final Fantasy VII but you knew that this wouldn't make you an expert in the human condition, no matter how much you blubbed when Aries died.
Nope, in the nineties there were no pretentions about the games we played, it was pure decadence, a total and unadulterated waste of time. You knew with absolute certainty that, later on in life, nothing you ever learnt while playing playstation in your underwear as a zitty, sun-starved adolescent would EVER prove useful in 'the real world'
You were wrong.
It's also a misconception too that being good at computer games is never a cool thing, because in lots of scenarios, it really is. Nowadays, for example, there is nothing uncool or geeky about going round to a friend's house while he and a couple of others play PGR4 and being able to spank 4 seconds off his fastest lap time, in fact, there's a certain amount of kudos to go with it.
Sexist as it may sound though, I will concede that it's rarely something that impresses the ladies.
Which is why when, in my early twenties, the local nightclub bought in an old school PS1 that you could play for free on a massive projector screen, I steadfastly ignored it, refused to even look at it.
I hate nightclubs, always have. I hate the sweat, the attitude, the music, the clothes, the pushing to the bar, the overly-expensive underly alcoholic drinks, the sneering looks from the majority of the female patrons. Hate the lot. Naturally, I used to go every week. Twice a week. Without fail.
No, sorry, there's no prizes for guessing why.
But it certainly wasn't to play video games because even as a naive twenty year old, I'd already realised that, strange as it seemed, Pussy and Tekken 2 did not make good bedfellows. Even though you have to admit, you'd have definitely fucked Nina Williams.
Sometimes though, no matter how much you try and keep the compartments of your life separate, no matter how much you try and lead that dual existence, you just can't, just like all good miracle weight loss pills, you can't avoid little bit of leakage. And yeah, it's shit. This is the story of one of those unfortunate cross-overs.
I'm barely 20 and it's early on in a untypically balmy summer night out in Kettering. Kettering is a shithole so it's no surprise that club we're in is the sort of dive where the toilets smell fresher than the dance floor and the barstaff have that kind of furtive look like they've already worked out their escape routes for when the inevitable happens and one of the drunken punters finally decides to use the line of Sambuca shots that seem to perpetually sit on the bar to burn the place down. It's been a hot afternoon and that always spells trouble because it means that most of the twats in the place have been out drinking since early afternoon and just not bothered to go home and sober up for an hour because let's face it, we're Brits and we love our beer gardens almost as much as we do our casual racism.
by 10pm the sun has finally disappeared over the horizon and the bar starts to fill out almost completely with men, the women still being at home and applying their make-up or somesuch. We do our own thing, my friends and I, and just sit there drunkenly pointing out to each other how fucking terrible the place is and how, you know, one day maybe, we should go somewhere different. Of course, we never do, we're English so we crave misery.
Suddenly, over the top of the ridiculous 'Summer Tunez' (whigfield), we hear a roar from the other side of the dance floor and everybody turns their head simultaneously like big Pete Sampras serving an ace on centre court.
A crowd has formed around the PS1 and there, standing in the middle, bare chested and arms raised in some twisted parody of a victory celebration, stands a typical example of why there should be an minimum IQ requirement to be allowed to survive passed the age of 16. Sweat runs down his face and, as he lets out another unintelligible bellow, the whole bar notices the PS1 controller in his hand and Knows. It must have been some battle.
We all turn back to our conversation only, five minutes later, to have to whole scenario repeated, except this time the poor kid whose just been pounded has the pleasure of this drunken hooligan screaming in his face. Not words mind. Just "OOOOOOOoooooooooooo" in a tone he probably thought was derogatory, were he to know the actual meaning of the word.
This continues through the night and after about an hour, a huge crowd has assembled around the projector. The only people left on the dancefloor are the women as every man in the whole fucking club gathers round to watch this gorilla murder contender after contender in one of the longest running winning streaks since Morgan Freeman started entering himself into the Movie Narrator of the Year Awards.
"Who thinks they can take me? Huh? I am INVINCIBLE. Anybody. ANYBODY... I DARE YOU TO FIGHT ME"
And yeah it's was childish and melodramatic but like I say, games in clubs aint my bag so I never even considered stepping up.
"Sam Can." One of my friends shouts.
"Yeah," another pipes up "Sam'll kick your fucking ass."
An eerie silence settles over the crowd and I could fucking swear the music even stops as everybody looks at my overly enthusiastic friend.
"...erm... on the game of course..."
So the music starts up again.
I try and wave away the challenge with an uninterested shake of my head but before I know it, I'm being pushed up to the front of the crowd and a controller's in my hand and from nowhere, somebody's taken it upon themselves to be a fucking compere and shouts out "Here comes a new challenger" and all of a sudden I'm in the geeky whiteboy version of 8 mile, against a six foot behemoth of a man who draws a finger across his throat and glares at me with an expression of bulgy eyed psychosis.
"I'm gonna fuck you up" he shouts at me and for a second I'm a little scared he really means it, but in a flash his attentions back on the screen and there's a look of nerdy concentration as he tries to work out exactly which character he's gonna use to dole out his beating.
And yeah, when I notice that it's Tekken 2 and he's picked Law, I already know exactly how this is gonna end because while he may be the Morgan Freeman of videogames, when it comes to Tekken, I'm James Earl motherfucking Jones. There's 30-odd people watching though and I wanna give them a show, so I pick King.
It's one round winner takes all and the fight lasts all of 30 seconds. I take off about a quarter of his bar with standard kick/punch moves, just setting him up for the piece de resistance: The Mexican 5 throw combo. I see King duck under his guard and grab him and as soon as the hold takes, all my friends know it's goodnight, they've suffered the same fate themselves. But I wanna give it some showmanship right? So I enter all of the commands as quickly as I possibly can and then put the pad down and just walk away while the fight's still in progress. It takes about 30 seconds to go through all of the motions of that particular move so by the time the game is shouting out 'Perfect' and 'King Wins' I'm already leaning at the bar ordering myself another brandy.
A couple of people start to jeer at the loser but the majority of them are all just pissing themselves at me having the audacity to just walk away halfway through and still fucking win.
And yeah, there's one thing you don't want to do when playing Tekken 2 against a steroid munching meathead in a seedy nightclub and that's make him look stupid because predictably enough he comes back over with two of his mates and demands a fucking rematch. I hold my hands up to protest but it's in vain.
"You're fucking playing" he growls.
And so round 2. He picks Lei and I go for Bruce and hit him with the Four Hit knee combo. Fight's over.
Round 3. I really wanna take the piss now so I pick Paul and beat the guy without ever throwing a punch, I just use reversals. It's a tough fight this one but I still come through
And it goes on. For fucking hours. I hit this guy with everything I know in the game, The Yoshimitsu Hari-Kari strike, Jack's Gigaton Punch, Baeks infinite hit kick combo, Ganryu's stupid fucking dancing slap routine. Every time I win, I turn to leave and every time, he grabs me and yells in my face "You're staying until I beat you."
I look around forlornly for back-up, but my friends all think it's fucking hilarious and just hang back in the crowd and watch with wide toothy grins.
After a while it's all too much and I decide enough's, enough. The gorilla is fucking drenched in sweat from the amount of effort he's been expending on this and I kind of feel sorry for him because as much as a prick as he is, I've just consistently embarrassed him in front of the entire male population of the night club for over an hour. Not only that, but a while back people have actually started cheering my fucking name out, which would normally be cool as fuck, but somewhere along the line it got distorted so now every time I win, it's to the sound of a room full of drunken dickheads chanting 'Dan! Dan! Dan!; which is irritating to say the least.
So, for the first time ever in my career, I decide I'm gonna sell out and do the unthinkable. I'm gonna throw the fight.
I don't even make a show of it. I land one punch so as not to go out to a Perfect (obviously) and then spend the rest of the fight with one hand on the controller, half turned away from the screen. And that's when it all kicks off.
Gorilla boy looks disgusted and points an accusatory finger at me.
"You did that on fucking purpose"
He starts to walk towards me and I can tell that the crowd enjoying the game is about to get a taste of the live show. Somebody else feels it too and yells out 'Fight!' and as soon as the word's out, gorilla launches himself at me.
It's an ugly brawl, he's not sober enough to fight properly and I'm a huge fucking pussy terrified I'm gonna get my ass kicked. I think somewhere in the recesses of our minds, we so want our 'moves' to be shrouded in the video-game perfection we've just witnessed. It's over before it even get's started though which is a shame, cos I was about to hit him with my Kazuya Tenstring but a bouncer comes steaming in, splits us up and promptly twats Gorilla round round the chops a couple of times, presumably, for not picking his fave character. A couple of stamps to the guys head and he's quickly dragged out face down leaving a barely noticeable trail of blood in his wake. Flawless Victory.
The bouncer comes back to me with a grin and I cringe cos I'm expecting to get ejected in the same manner but he just puts his hand out for me to shake.
"Good game kid." He says with a smile.
Next week, the PS1 was gone, never to return.
But the worst thing, the absolute ballbreaker about the whole deal, is that my friends, who set me up for this from the start and left me there to fucking deal with it on my own, still tell this story the same fucking way.
"Hey Sam," they say, "Remember that time when that guy beat you at Tekken?"