Death Ain’t What It Used To Be

I’d like to say that my kids play a lot of computer games but that would be a fib, given that I don’t actually have any kids. It’s me, okay? I confess. Some evenings my Xbox does overtime. None of that mamby-pamby feel-good rot here. I like killing things; Aliens, Japanese, Vietcong and especially Germans. Except animals. No, I draw the line at hunting games. Let the wildlife run free! I say. But put a Nazi in my sights and it’s all on. It’s cathartic, I tell myself. I can vent my frustrations on shadowy pixels. Save my good natured self for actual people. But on dark nights I will lay in bed and wonder, is this prurient joy I feel a sign of something altogether more sinister? Then I push the thought down into a place with all the other baggage and try to think of nicer things.

And, of course, these games are about as real as a Nigerian bank cheque.

Sure the scenery is getting more realistic and convincing with each new generation. The enemy characters, more human-like, the weapons, the history, the cries of agony and blood are becoming closer to reality. But they can never tell us the true nature of war. How can one know the adrenaline and fear of being shot at if, when you finally get clobbered – and you will – a lot, all you need do is go back to the last save point and try again? No harm, no foul.

No. If you really want a realistic war-game make one where you have one life. If you get splattered the disk wipes clean, or, better still, your game-consol explodes in smoke and flames. Yeah, that’s the way. You get one life, buster, and if you cock it up you’re buggered. Then, when you are old and wrinkly, you will have something to tell the grand kids.

“Boy, come and sit on your Grandpa’s knee and I’ll tell you about the time I fought off the Japanese in Burma. Knee-deep in mud and blood for weeks, I was. It was amazing. And I got right through to mission 13 without blowing the Zplaybox thingy.”

“Really, Grandpa,” would come the wide eyed response. “Tell us more.”

But there’s still a problem. Let’s say you did get swiss-cheesed half way through mission 9. You’d still be able to go down to the pub and moan to your mates that your Wiiplay whatsit blew up, leaving scorch-marks on your mum’s coffee table.

I fear the only way to really get the palms to sweat and the heart to pound is to build in some punitive devices. Large steel spikes that sproing out of the game paddle when you virtually die and a tazar that flies out and electrocutes you if you become seriously virtually wounded. Then, my friend, you have a game that might possibly come close to suggesting the approximation of reality.

Even this, though, would not be perfect. You’d still have the option of not playing.

As for me, I think I’ll just have a wee go at the last mission again. There’s a very naughty kraut who has virtually killed me five times now and I think I can virtually get him this time.

Death Ain’t What It Used To Be

Mike Rowley

Normanby, New Zealand

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Artist's Description

A sort of journal entry I tried to sell to the local newspaper

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