‘Coffee and biscuits’ video games
Video games are scorned and frowned upon by those who didn’t grow up with them, dismissing them as childish, time-wasting and somehow low-brow. When the goal of your life is happiness you learn to tune out the chatter of witless snobs and focus enthusiastically, unapologetically, on those things that make you happy. Video games please me.
As a seven year old boy I used to go to my school film club every third Thursday of the month with my brother. A couple of the popular teachers would put up a screen in the assembly hall and play kids movies and serve hotdogs in the intermission. Very happy memories. The hall would be full and the cool kids would lie on the big crash mats laid out on the far left. I fingered my first girl on that crash mat a couple of years later. But I digress…..
One night as my brother and I arrived home from the club my mother was in an inexplicably bad mood and send us through to the lounge. We were puzzled. But then as we opened the lounge door the surprise hit us – my father was standing next to a brand new Atari 2600 with PacMan playing on the screen. They’d set us up for the old rollercoaster emotion trick to heighten our pleasure of the present. Nice one. It’s a dear childhood memory of mine.
From that day on I was never without a video game console. Atari, Sinclair ZX81, Dragon32, Commodore C64, Amiga, Sega Megadrive, SNES, Sega Dreamcast… and on to the present generation. I’ve literally grown up with video games. My memories are littered with great gaming experiences both in disappearing solo into game worlds (e.g. the first night I played Resident Evil 1 for eight hours straight) or big post-pub Tekken sessions with fellow young professionals in London. There’s not a snob in the world can make me ashamed of being a gamer.
I’d go so far as to say the best quality art is now in video games. But that’s for another post.
Coffee and biscuits
Games allow your imagination a window into alternative lifestyles of which you could only experience one or two in real life. In the game world you can be a race car driver on Monday, a super spy on Tuesday, a space marine on Wednesday, a blue hedgehog on Thursday and perhaps a guilt-ridden murderer on Friday. Ok, I’ll admit it – Count Cervantes can be all of these things in real life should he choose….
One particular genre of game I enjoy are what I term “coffee and biscuits” because rather than rely on rapid reactions and constant input (e.g. a first person shooter) you can actually sit at your desktop and patiently plan your moves while leisurely sipping your coffee and dunking your biscuits. This genre includes the “tycoon” management simulations, God games, strategy and so on. Why are they so satisfying?
Men have a will to power and empires to build.
Take Civilisation, the classic world domination game. You start out as a little tribe of grass-skirted savages and must explore the world around you, settling in villages, shaping a local resource-gathering economy until as the centuries pass your country is a superpower churning out scientific advances, cross-continent trade routes and of course nuclear war. The whole time your minions are running rampant across the globe you are reclined in your favourite leather chair industriously demolishing a packet of Hobnobs.
Speaking of minions, Evil Genuis allows you to become a James Bond supervillian masterminding a secret criminal organisation. Ever wanted to own a lair in a volcano with orange boiler-suited minions operating banks of flashing-lighted 1960s computers around a shark tank? This is the game for you. As your criminal schemes build notoriety governments send super spies to assassinate you and you must outwit them with hidden traps.
How about commanding an army and building a dynasty. Rome Total War has both a Risk-style economic / political game of intrigue but also tactically faithfull battles. How about running a business? You can have a hotel, a shopping mall, a Jurassic Park theme park with real dinosaurs or how about just running a vast capitalist empire?
These games speak to the man in you. The likes of Call of Duty channel your warrior energy but I tend to prefer the king games. If you were to sift through your gamesplaying history you could probably plot yourself on the Jungian King / Warrior / Lover / Magician grid without needing to trouble yourself with all the expense of pyscho-analysis.
And speaking of Warrior energy… nothing channels that more than Demon Souls. Oh my god, what a game!