Press Start To Begin.

Howdy!

If you’ve stumbled across this flimsy excuse for a blog , which in reality is my flimsy excuse to write about myself and my geeky interests, you have either 1. come here because I told you to do so 2. been googling for reviews of the new Dead Space game, which I will no doubt rave about in the frothiest terms imaginable 3. been looking for information on the new David Fincher movie, which I will rave about in even frothier terms and no doubt lose my dignity in the process.

Whatever your reasoning, it’s more than likely that you’ll be disappointed. This is, after all, a thinly shaded outlet for my dork-estrian activities. An outlet for my thoughts on the various media with which I find myself – as a grown adult with a responsible job, married with a little growing family – obsessed. Not dangerously obsessed, but close enough. That list would include videogames, movies, music and quality American television shows. I stipulate American because, let’s face it, British television is by and large about as enjoyable as playing KerPlunk with a dead ferret. We’ve all been there.

The other driving force in my life is my Christian faith. I’ve been a believer for the past twenty years though if I am completely honest I would have to say that my enthusiasm has burnt more brightly at some times than at others. I have never lost my belief in God nor any of the Bible’s central tenets though there have, of course, been times of great doubt and uncertainty. This affects my life and my choices in many ways but one of the issues in which I am most interested is how I should approach the media which comprises such a large part of my life. I am fascinated by the intersection of Art and Faith in so many forms and how I can interpret and analyse cinema, music and literature from this perspective. Certainly, all of the material I will blog here will not always refer to my faith but I do think it’s important to mention it upfront.

Feel free to bale out at this point but do at least hear me out or skip forward a few paragraphs when I begin wittering about Nintendo.

There is a recurring argument that Christians or people of any faith should not involve themselves with, to use a well-worn phrase, “the things of this world.” Some particularly devout believers will abstain entirely from cinema, television and so on due to the negative and corrosive images that are presented therein. I respect that wholly and over the past few years I have certainly noticed a refining of the material which I will now absorb. Perhaps it is a sign of growing older or perhaps becoming more selective or prudish but I have become more discerning of the imagery which I will permit inside my head.

However, I am also firmly of the opinion that we also have to approach the media from an academic, thoughtful stance. Too often Christians or members of other faiths are too dismissive of the media without taking the time to investigate or analyse it. The films, novels and, yes, videogames that are currently being released have many striking things to say about our contemporary world that to ignore them entirely would seem to be folly.

I’ll come back to that.

So, videogames. Yes, I play them. I’m not ashamed of it. I’m not embarrassed, even when I do make the observation that, to use the perjorative, “computer games”, can be art. Yes, art. I’ll come back to that too.  

There’s not much to say here other than I’ve been wasting my time playing videogames for as long as I can remember. I’ve either bought or been gifted subsequent generations of various consoles. I was once a devout advocate of Nintendo but then I defected to the Xbox 360 and, most recently, the Playstation 3.

Further back, however, I was fairly addicted to gaming on the Spectrum. I use the oxymoron “fairly addicted” to make myself feel better about how much time I wasted watching poorly rendered pixels blip and blop around a black and white television screen. Leagues ahead of its time, Sir Clive’s home computer had a whopping 128k memory and came with an in-built tape player. This meant that pirating games was fairly easy. Sales of blank cassettes rose significantly during those years.

After that, I loved each of Nintendo platforms since the release of the lowly NES. Though, as memory serves, it did cause one of my few brushes with the law. Whilst a friend Charlie and I were visiting another friend, Lee, the latter insisted on playing Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles (they were forbidden from using the word “Ninja” on this side of the pond, lest impressionable youngsters risk their lives by donning hoods and fashioning nunchucks and gyping about in sewers) for approximately four hours. He refused to let us play, saying, “Wait until the end of this level” and “In a minute” and “I’m just about fight Shredder” etc. On the way home, deeply frustrated that we were unable to mess with the heroes in their half shells, Charlie and I thought that it would be wise to terrorise one of our teachers who we knew lived nearby.

We knew this because we could see his tin box of a Lada which was parked outside his house. It was cherry red apart from a sticker which he had carefully placed over a scratch on the back wheel arch. Said sticker was three or four shades lighter than the rest of the car.

We started off by playing thunder and lightning – this, as any young japester will know – involves ringing the victim’s doorbell then running off, laughing and shouting the person’s name in all pitches and timbres of silly voices. The latter is optional but we thought we might as well go for broke.

This we did with glee and kept on doing until said teacher came out of his house and began to chase us up the road. We were on bicycles, you understand, but still he swore blind – in both senses, one involving the nature of our respective parentages, and the other outlining the interface between his walking stick and our rear ends should he catch us.

The following Monday, I had double Physics first thing in the morning. The teacher, why by now had still failed to see the funny side of two young rips throwing pebbles at his house at 11pm of an evening, gave me two sets of school rules to copy out for the next day. This I duly did but the next day he ripped them up and put them in the bin, gave me another two sets to do, a Saturday detention and a verbal promise that he was going to call my parents, the police, the headmaster and, presumably, Margaret Thatcher, to report my insolence.

I think I wrote out about 8 sets of school rules. Well, I say “wrote out” when what I mean is that I wrote out one onto a sheet of carbon paper from a book of receipts. Ha!

None of this deterred me from the evil lures of gaming. I have never again rung a teacher’s doorbell (though, ironically, I’ve now become an English teacher and am waiting for the night some rapscallions come to my door – the shotgun is loaded), but I did eventually get to play TMHT for myself.

It was woeful. An anthropromorphic turtle Samurai does not look quite as impressive when badly animated in three primary colours.

But there have been dozens and dozens of brilliant titles since then. When I’m not attempting to teach youngsters the difference between Petrarchan and Shakespearean sonnets or the subtle nuances of Pentameter and Tetrameter, I write for various publications extolling the delights of Fallout 3 or Bioshock or Dead Space or… well, you get the idea.

This means that I get sent games for free – yes, approximately nuppence, something which still makes my heart do a little pirouette when I rip open the jiffy bag after it plonks on my welcome mat.

I’ll be posting some of these articles here, and sharing with you – if you have not bailed out by now – my opinions on which games, to paraphrase Philip Larkin, you would like to shoot ’em  up and which you would like to shoot ’em down.

I’ll also be blogging about cinema, music and literature and the different ways we can approach them: the academic, the geeky and, yes, the Christian.

See you around,

Ross.

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One Response to “Press Start To Begin.”

  1. sean Says:

    yay! he’s back!

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