Category Archives: games

Nigel is only a figment of a madwoman’s imagination …

When Rocco’s mother signed up to Facebook, it became apparent she would need friends. It is, after all, a social network. One needs to be social. And if, as in Rocco’s mother’s case, one isn’t particularly – it comes to pass that necessity must be the mother of invention.

Rocco’s mother’s friendless state wouldn’t have mattered a hoot if she hadn’t, in a fit of boredom and curiosity one random afternoon, started to play one of the online games. She was perfectly happy being insular and posting pithy status updates which nobody ever read or cared about. She could have continued this way ad infinitum – and indeed, should have done so with gay abandon.  After a while, however – or a few whiles, anyway – it also became apparent one needed friends and neighbours in order to progress in the games. And at that point, Rocco’s hapless mother lost the plot completely – which was the moment of madness resulting in Nigel’s birth.

There are probably rules and laws governing Facebook which state members have to be bona fide human beings, using their real names and identities and swearing blind they haven’t airbrushed their profile photograph in order to look like Alan Rickman or the female equivalent. Rocco’s mother normally would not break laws even as petty as these – in fact, she would sooner poke her eye out with a rolled up Food-o-rama junk mail catalogue – but because she was aware other people had signed up pets, favourite toys, deceased ancestors and aspidistras in order to appear popular and, most importantly, to progress in games, she decided an imaginary friend was equally as bona fide as anything or anyone else (except, perhaps, Alan Rickman). Which was the root of the problem, really.

For Nigel, who burst into the world as an alleged archaeology student with a wicked and flirtatious nature, quickly evolved as a life force unto himself. Before Rocco’s mother knew it, he was chatting up women old enough to be his grandmother,  making somewhat lewd and unecessary comments to Rocco’s sisters, and running virtually amok in cyberspace – untamed and untrammeled. Before very long, Rocco’s mother realised with desperation she had no idea how to trammel him –  even telling him he didn’t exist was met with loud har har hars and protestations from others, (who should have known better), that they much preferred Nige to Rocco’s mother anyway, and if anyone was to be banished and exterminated, it had better be she, rather than he. Rocco’s mother realised with horror she was actually carrying out online arguments with Nigel. If the first sign of madness is speaking to oneself, which sign of madness is speaking to someone else who is actually oneself? The line between insanity and idiocy was becoming alarmingly blurred. While Rocco’s mother dug herself deeper into a mire of unreality, Rocco flourished and grew, gaining momentum, friends and admirers by the minute. It seemed he could not put a foot wrong, while Rocco’s mother appeared more bitter and twisted by the day, harassing and taunting Nigel in order to make him disappear up his own fake curriculum vitae.

Maybe the cruelest cut of all was the fact Nigel was far better at the online Facebook games than Rocco’s mother. His cafe was flooded with happy customers even when his shambolic cooking efforts left his counters empty and his stoves dirty. His YoVille houses were quirky and disgustingly filthy and fun to drop in on. Strangers requested Nigel’s friendship and were happy to send him farm animals, scented candles for his spaceship and chicken pot pies for his cafe. Rocco’s mother has warned Nigel he is absolutely NOT permitted to engage in online dalliance of any type whatsoever with random strangers. He has been told he must be completely honest with anyone who asks – and must confess to being merely a figment of a middle-aged woman’s imagination. Rocco’s mother is frightened she might log in one morning and find Nige has spent the night behaving in a most laddish manner, leaving broken hearts and shattered reputations in his wake. It keeps her awake at night, wondering what he’s doing while she’s sleeping.

The moral of this story is that it’s far, far better to have no friends at all. And that evil having been done, cannot easily be undone. And Rocco’s mother is becoming disturbingly aware she might find Nigel is drawn in indelible ink – and that she herself might not exist at all …

.oOo.

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Looking cool in a penguin costume does not make you a literary giant …

If there isn’t already, there should be a law which states clearly and firmly that fit, healthy 21-year-old lads are not allowed to always be first on the WiiFit leaderboard. This is particularly pertinent when the WiiFit actually belongs to Rocco’s mother. She should be allowed to be best at something

The Hunter Gatherer gave Rocco’s mother the WiiFit for Christmas. The frightening part was that it wanted to weigh her. Naturellement, she thought NOT. Who in their right mind wants technology to tell them they are obese?  You could argue that machines don’t know everything – and Rocco’s mother did. Therefore, she closed her eyes while the machine did its worst, and didn’t ever click on the WEIGHT button. A little knowledge can be a very dangerous thing – and Rocco’s mother wanted to venture forth into 2009 without much knowledge at all. Especially the kind which might impede her prior knowledge regarding how excellent chocolate and sea-salt potato crisps taste. And icy cold iced coffee by the gallon. And we’re not talking the low-fat kind. Why would we?

Rocco’s mother made herself a nice little avatar person and had a few happy hours trying out the games and exercises. Her nice little person happily zipped into a fetching penguin suit to compete in Penguin Slide – and was doing very well at that, and several other things. Rocco’s mother found she had surprisingly good balance. Because of this, she stupidly bragged to Rocco. A bad mistake, because Rocco has a competitive nature – and being a surfer, scoffed at the fact his aging mater might consider she could out-balance him at anything. He was sure he could do better. In a penguin suit, even.

Rocco set about making himself an avatar. A very cool one indeed – with spiky hair, sunglasses and a lime green outfit. Rocco’s mother *sigh* had to admit it was the height of coolness. Surreptitiously, in edit mode, she removed the spectacles she’d given herself. After all, she only wears them for reading and there are no reading activities to compete in. The fact she could whup Rocco’s arse in a spelling bee is her own personal and heavily guarded secret.

Rocco’s avatar zipped itself into the penguin suit – and even looked cool thus attired. He flashed backwards and forwards on the iceberg with gay abandon – not falling off once. Rocco’s mother, on the other hand, spent a fair bit of time flailing in the water. And was too obese tired to leap elegantly to catch the prized red fish (10 points each).  At the end of his turn, Rocco’s penguin leaped and cheered and punched the air. He then took his place at the top of the leaderboard. By this time, Rocco’s mother had broken out a packet of biscuits and settled down to watch whilst he took away, one by one, her records for Table Tilt, Ski Slalom and Tightrope Walking. In fact, he had so many turns at Ski Slalom that Rocco’s mother dropped off the leaderboard completely and will possibly forever remain unranked.

‘Look at it this way,’ Rocco smugly assured her, ‘It will give you something to aim for!’ There actually was something his mother would have liked to have aimed for. But one doesn’t do that to one’s only son. No matter how great the provocation. It also rankles slightly that Rocco’s body fitness test placed him right in the middle of IDEAL. In fact, it then proceeded to tell him he should aim to gain three kilos. There was no facility for file sharing – or Rocco’s mother would have happily downloaded some of hers into his fatbox.

On a happier note, Rocco’s mother is top of the leaderboard in Jogging. This is because Rocco can’t be bothered doing that. It would be beyond his dignity to run on the spot for 10 minutes in the middle of the living room when he could reap greater rewards in far shorter time at other activities. Nor will he try the yoga poses. To be perfectly honest, Rocco’s mother hasn’t attempted these either. She will wait until the holidays are over and she has the house completely to herself in order to pose in private.

There is some light on the horizon, however, Flygirl and Roo will both be visiting towards the end of the month. Flygirl has her own WiiFit and a very active, sporty partner to compete with at home. Roo is a gym junkie and jogs for miles and miles. Rocco’s mother hopes these two will prove formidable foe. Watch out, Rocco – your time may almost be up.

And bear in mind, your mother will always be able to whup your arse in a spelling bee. No amount of looking dashing in a penguin suit will ever change that …

.oOo.

Bring me my bow of burning steel …

I’m sick of being regulated. Not allowed to eat this, not allowed to park there, not allowed to do that. Pah! You’re not the boss of me! I just took a really good look at the pompous-arse sign at the edge of the park up the street, with its list of little black silhouette pictures – each of them overscored with that red circle, slashed through the middle, which means the little silhouette picture is verboten in the park.

So – no dogs, no horses, no golf, no kites, no motorcycles, no bicycles, no camping, campfires, knot-tying, dib-dib-dobbing or anything bloody else. No nudie yoga at sunrise, either, which will disappoint one of my nephews immensely.  He lives in a lovely, bohemian town which welcomes nudie yoga at sunrise, and gleefully – with quite a few Jaegerbombs under where his belt might have been had he been clothed – fronted up (at every possible level) one morning in order to dingle-dangle at daybreak. From what I gather, things were going marvellously well until the local constabulary were called and informed my nephew, amongst other official-sounding policey things; ‘… you are not in command of your faculties and it might be better if you went home, Bud.’ According to his mother, my nephew was actually semi-qualified to take part – after all, even though he’d never done yoga before, he had, on occasion, been nude. But I digress.

The point is, I’m getting more ornery as I get older and having turned 51 this week and being over halfway to a century, all these rules are making me feel as if I want to be very disobedient indeed.  I want, in fact, to get a great big motorcycle, panniers filled with dogs, kites and other random sporting equipment, and perform the shitkicker’s waltz all over that park. In the nude, too – but with a sheet wrapped around in order not to scare the horses (who aren’t allowed there anyway and shouldn’t be looking).

What was wrong with a childhood where we left the house after breakfast and only showed up in time for tea? Why was our world not populated with paedophiles and perverts? According to the Warrior Queen, you were in danger of slave traders dragging you into sinister vehicles which had blackened windows and leering men intoning, ‘Have a sweetie, little girl …’ – but I never saw any in my neighbourhood, and seeing as boredom hadn’t been invented then, none of us felt the need to cover the local shopping centres with graffiti or wrangle pensioners to the ground in order to steal their fluff-encrusted sherbert lemons and soggy tissues.

Local parks are no longer dangerous and fun. Gone are the high, steel slipperydips from which you hurtled into a hollow of hard-packed earth – which might have a few inches of mud in the bottom if your mother was unlucky – and gone also is that long plank swing, which eight kids could straddle while two more stood at the ends and made it go parallel with the top bars. Many arms were broken by the plank swing – and many more on the maypole, or from bicycles, go-carts and frenzied whirls on the Hills Hoist when no mothers were watching. Indeed, my multi-talented brother – he the inventor of so many goodly things to do – was able to sustain a marvellous head injury by hurling himself onto the bed from his top cupboard – while the ceiling fan was in full and splendid motion.

Alas, these things are merely a memory. Our park has a mean swing with a rubber sling which will only seat babies. People like me are unable to fit our legs through the legholes in order to revisit childhood even for one whimsical minute – and there would be absolutely no chance of squeezing one’s bargearse between the chains anyway . Under the swing is a pit of sawdust laid on rubberised mats. You couldn’t decently break a limb if you tried.

It’s all very well to purse our mouths, stop the fun and deprive today’s children of a proper childhood. They may not run on beaches with wild abandon and joyous dogs at their heels – nor may they eat too much icecream or climb a tree or ride a bicycle down a killer hill with no hands on handlebars nor helmet on head – and they shall not use imagination; that free and wonderful commodity which has died and been buried by technology and plastic crap.

It’s time to stick up for ourselves and be allowed to live again. Gather together in local parks this weekend with illegal animals and appliances. Build a bonfire, burn an effigy, smoke something herbal.

Bring me my chariot of fire …

.oOo.

Please let me come with you next time, Nigel …

            This is really a thank you to Jonathan Boakes – a writer of computer games which are so brilliant and so frightening you get the feeling  it’s never going to be safe to sit your arse in front of a computer again. The latest of these is a ghosthunting adventure, in which your new bestie, Nigel, is going to have to solve some spooky derring-do which is going down in a charming Cornish fishing village.

            Nigel is just lovely. He has suitably shambolic clothing, with the hems of his jeans  authentically scuffed – and he wears glasses. I like a man who wears glasses. (Will he make more passes?)  I especially like Nigel because he has no intention of listening to me when I beg him not to go somewhere. He has steel and determination. I like that in a man, too.

            When Nigel arrives in the aforementioned village and finds the only available accommodation (surprise!) is a derelict waterfront cottage, anybody with less steel and determination would have gone home. Especially as villagers were making cryptic comments such as; ‘ooh, the fens, lad!’ and suggesting Nigel’s new place of residence might be a bit suss altogether. Because Nigel didn’t seem fazed by any of this, I attempted walking him back through the fens t’railway … but the bugger wouldn’t go. He informed me he had ‘things to do in the village’.  He also kept shrugging and saying, ‘Nothing ventured …’ Well, Nigel – if you really must.

             I generally like to have the lights off when I play creepy stuff on the computer. Mistake. If you don’t mind crapping yourself, be my guest – but I’m ashamed to say I had to do a dash through the house flicking on every available light and making sure the doors were double-locked. Even kicked the fridge a few times to make it hum.  When I got back to the computer, wouldn’t you know it, Nige was patiently standing there waiting for me. He suggested we might like to do a recce of the museum at night. Excuse me? Could we not just go to bed? I tried double-clicking him onto his bed, but no cigar. Nige insisted he couldn’t possibly sleep until he’d stuck his nose into some more awful stuff which really wasn’t any of his business. Oh, okay then. Let’s break into the museum, virtually crap ourselves, and THEN can we go home to bed? Oh no we don’t. After the museum thing, Nige decided we really ought to take our sorry arses to the cemetery. As you do. *sigh* Nothing ventured …

            All this was pretty horrifying and heart-hammeringly ghastly – but there was far worse to come. I finally managed to double-click Nige to sleep (he had the most gorgeous eyelashes) – and was rather hoping that would be the end of it and we’d somehow get through until morning without further unpleasantness. Ah … no. I don’t think Nige got much sleep before he was awakened by a terrible thumping coming from downstairs. I clicked like mad, trying to make him stay put and just ignore it. But my man of steel and determination (with glasses) was having none of that, either. We had to creep down the darkened stairs, into the darkened passage, where the bathroom door (which had previously been open), was now closed. This is where the thumping was coming from – and naturally, my man couldn’t stay away! He informed me he was going to look through the keyhole. THAT was when I crapped myself. And having seen something ghastly pass across the room on the other side, naturally Nige then had to go in. With moi, of course. I can’t begin to describe how horrible it was. That would be telling.

            A nice part of the game (it’s always about the food) was that Nigel’s landlady felt pretty crap about making him stay in a horrible, haunted cottage with an unusable kitchen – and had organised with a local cafe for him to eat there whenever he pleased. Naturally (because it IS all about the food), I made Nige go in and out of the cafe as often as possible just so’s I could click in his inventory to see what he’d scored. Sometimes there was excellent booty, such as big wodges of chicken and mushroom pie. Or nice iced cakes. Or vegetarian samosas, even! After a while (or a few whiles, anyway), Nige only managed to score a stale lump of bread. (That’s when I realised I was seriously pissing him off, and I’d better let him get back to the ghostbusting.)

            So, PLEASE, Mr Boakes, can Nige go on another incredible adventure soonest? And can I come too? That game was the most fun I’ve ever had on a computer without a credit card and the Gluttons-R-Us website open in front of me. I can hardly wait for the next time!

            What was that, Nigel? Yeah, I know. Nothing ventured …

.oOo.

Grug hasn’t played in a long, long time …

 

A revolting thing which happens every now and then, courtesy of the technological age, is your computer game crashing. Usually it’s when you haven’t done a save in a while, being a little too overexcited at having pillaged a whole skeletal battalion and stolen their supply of stainless steel cryptware – then, whang! – the screen goes dark and everything you’ve worked for plummets into oblivion.

It just happened to me. Yeah, I know – I was supposed to be writing this. It’s no good getting all preachy and moralistic – I just wanted to get into the tower to find the telescope to look into the desert … THEN I was going to write this. I’ve had a few goes at trying to get it to reboot too – but nothing doing. If it had, I’d be in the tower as we speak, getting things sorted. Now I’m just damn mad.

We didn’t have these problems back in the stone age of our youth when the only choice of action was playing noughts and crosses on a boulder with a bit of charcoal. You just found some grunter to play with, got him to sit on the other side of the boulder, and the only decision you had to make was who would get to go first. Granted, there might have been a bit of biffo regarding who was a nought and who was a cross – but after this had been established, and you’d whacked Grug squarely across the bum with a brontosaurus femur or something, everything would settle down into an idyllic scene of Neanderthal camaraderie. There would follow many blissful hours of intellectual thrust and parry until either you or Grug had an urge to go invent the wheel or something. Or order up Chicken Delight.

Then there were the halcyon days of Scrabble and Monopoly. The only people who ever wanted to play Scrabble were the ones who couldn’t spell. Or worse, the ones who knew really obscure words like znqrkx – which, incidentally, means ‘to threaten an opposing player with a brontosaurus femur’. It isn’t in the dictionary either, so don’t bother checking.

Monopoly was for the terminally greedy. There would always be one person with more hotel rooms than a SOCOG organising committee, who wouldn’t give a stuff about their fellow players who were either languishing in gaol or huddled under a bench at Fenchurch Street Station with a bit of old newspaper wrapped around them for warmth and used McCain’s pizza boxes taped around their feet. When you’d beg them to lend you some money to make just one teensy little real estate transaction so you could ease your way back into the game, they’d refuse. It made you want to znqrkx.

After a while – or a few whiles, anyway – along came Trivial Pursuit. This appealed to the yups and the smartarses who thought they knew everything. Which we did, until a Sports and Leisure question reared its ugly head. Nobody can ever answer the S&L questions, because the only people who might have the remotest idea of the answers are unable to read the questions in the first place. Most of them are still sitting around the boulder deciding whether they are a nought or a cross. The most challenging part of Trivial Pursuit was trying to pry the little coloured triangle thingies out of the whatsits afterwards. This also made you want to znqrkx.

When computer games came along, you were able to be totally insular at last. Nobody would know exactly how dumb you really were. You could lock yourself away in a dark room, happily building your little empire, fighting your little battles, stockpiling treasures into the night while the rest of the family starved and the scum around the bathtub solidified and became moss-encrusted. By four in the morning, your eyeballs were dragging on the keyboard and your underarm hair was bristling with indignation out of the bottom of your sleeves. Nobody gave a damn. They’d forgotten you existed when no meal appeared on the table, and called up Chicken Delight.

Be aware I’m just doing this until I can get my game to reboot. Dammit  – the charcoal just broke.

 

.oOo.