We all have opinions, and that is why we all love reading other people’s opinions. It’s not so much to agree with them, to dotingly follow their every thought process, as to disagree with them, to laugh at and, occasionally, seek advice from them.
My favourite columnist of all time is, of course, Mr. Charlie Brooker. His G2 column in the Guardian was a piece of journalistic excellence on which I avidly gorged each Monday. There aren’t many writers who make you look forward to a Monday morning, and take the glaze off the repetition of another working week.
His misanthropic views of everyday life on matters most people overlook and accept with indifference are narrated with deadpan humour as exasperating bombshells. Unimportant things like ridiculous Christmas adverts and buying household goods become a matter of life or death for Charlie. He is acutely aware of the small irritations in life, and the disruptions they make to his daily routine of playing video games (for, I would guess, fifteen hours a day), writing BAFTA-nominated TV dramas (approximately six hours a day, the man has to sleep you know!) and his unsuccessful search for a wife with the characteristics of a robot. Yes, a robot.
I applaud him for his satirical cynicism in an Americanised age, in which even the news is aired with a tone of optimism. In the decade of the Noughties, we needed someone to offer us a dose of British pessimism, which has largely become extinct in our transparent and superficial society of virtual worlds, celebrity and reality television.
My worst nightmare came true when Charlie announced the end of his column in a G2 article entitled ‘Charlie Brooker: Why I Love Video Games’. I should have known that something was wrong when his column was absent on the Monday, but who could have predicted this?
Yes, I knew that Charlie played video games and that his career in journalism started in games reviews. But I never thought that his miscellaneous column was under threat, and would be sacrificed by the Guardian for a weekly video games column. His introductory article was honest: he admitted that gaming was an outsider in popular culture, writing that “compared to other popular artforms, there aren’t many “personalities” in games; no George Clooneys to interview or Britneys to pap.” In other words, games lack the personable aspect that Hollywood films and pop videos still manage to retain in a digital age.
So why the move to video games? Brooker attempts to redeem their reputation by demonstrating that the lack of enthusiasm from non-gamers is not because games are shit, but because non-gamers “find them too complex, or consider them mindless, or have simply assumed that games just aren’t their bag.” At the end of this dystopian article (from my non-gamer perspective, of course), Brooker compiled a list of games showing us non-gamers ‘where to start’. So, I have a go at playing one of his ‘recommendations’.
anabalt is the first one on the list, free by download on the net, and, as Charlie says, “games don’t come much simpler than this.” And they don’t. Canabalt is basically a man running on the top of high-rise buildings and you have to press the space bar to make him jump from one building to the next. Simple, or so you would like to think; as the game progresses, he runs faster and faster, which results in you hurling him over the edge. Not because you cannot push the space bar quick enough, but because the bleeps and the nausea created from the whirling backdrop drives you to commit virtual suicide.
I hate it.
Now, as much as I love Charlie, I just cannot be converted to gaming. I will continue to read his G2 column – despite the gaming content – albeit with a resentful attitude. And I will start the New Year with a rant about how the previous decade has led to the last of the British Pessimists becoming an endorser of the computer-generation. Therefore, I propose that us digital-cynics must strive, albeit in the minority, to ensure that digital artificiality does not pervade in 2010.