Friday, 18 December 2009

Love in Pixels

I hesitate to use the word "blogosphere", becasue it is a rather aggrandizing term for the landfill into which people who are in the main too lazy/incompetant to go and write professionally (i.e. me) see fit to pour their unedited ramblings. "Blogosphere" makes it sound all organised and science-fictiony, like the Matrix. Anyway, my activities over the last few months have increased my interest in the (sigh) blogosphere from nil to marginal. Alongside diary blogs, professional blogs and art blogs, there is the concept blog, in which someone undertakes some form of project and then documents it.

One such blog is 40 First Dates, in which a woman with some sort of glamorous job in showbiz goes on, yes, 40 first dates and then writes about them. Perhaps the best thing I can say about this effort is that it holds the promise that once she has gone on all 40 dates, she will presumably stop writing. This uncharacteristic bitchiness on my part comes not from the quality of her writing (which isn't too bad), but from a comment she makes about her criteria when searching for a man:

"Creative, ambitious, has travelled, well-educated, gets along with his family, reads loads of books, has great friends, does not play computer games, likes shopping (my last boyfriend loved shopping. It was a miraculous mutual pleasure I dream of repeating)."

Now she's entitled to her opinion. I also think that the fact that she requires a man to have read "loads" of books as opposed to even one "good" book means that she will probably get the boyfriend she deserves. However, as you might have guessed, my contempt derives from the fact that she does not want any consort of hers to "play computer games".

Firstly, when screening potential paramours, it is perhaps a little restrictive to rule out an entire hobby as opposed to, say an extreme political opinion. But secondly, she is denying herself the experience of one of the most lighthearted and engaging courtship rituals that modern life has to offer. Allow me to elaborate. 

Video game centred courtship is not terribly far removed from engaging in other games or sports in the first throes of a relationship, except that video games contain the added spice of make-believe. Game courtship works in one of two ways:

1 - Competing with each other.
2 - Co-operating in order to reach a common target or uniting against a common enemy.

Both of these, as I am sure you are able to determine, have analogous equivalents in sports or other kinds of games. It's just that there is something really special about saving someone you fancy from Satan's hoardes which is missing from the execution of a devastating volley in a game of mixed doubles. Now, I happen to be a fairly competative type (at least when I am good at something, otherwise I pretend not to care), and for me potting the black or winning the final cheese for my team results in an adrenaline rush and a misplaced sense of achievement. Daringly running across a crumbling landscape amidst a hoarde of blaster fire in order to revive a bleeding teammate gives me much the same feeling, it's just that it's shrouded in fantasy.


1 - Competing with the object of your affections:

If you have ever seen, erm, a film, you will perhaps be aware of the romantic/erotic overtones of any kind of battle. Not convinced? Let's look at some examples. If you are unfortunate enough to have seen Mr and Mrs Smith, you will have witnessed a rather confusing scene in which Mr and Mrs Smith (played unconvincingly by Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) run around their expensive house in an attempt to destroy each other with a multitude of firearms. Although we are to understand that the two are trained assassins, they fail to injure each other in any way, and so (I suppose because it would otherwise be a slightly awkward situation for them otherwise) they end up engaging in conjugal relations on their kitchen floor. It's not that the scene is especially erotic (it really, really isn't), but that the fight is something of a metaphor for the building sexual tension between the couple. Not a good example? Alright, how about in The Lion King when the adolescent Simba and Nala have engage in play fights which mirror their moonlit tumble as adults? Alright, if the overtones of bestiality and peodophilia in that example are slightly too much for you, how about in the original Thomas Crown Affair where Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway play chess? And have you ever played scrabble and found only the letters of a naughty word in your hand?

Alright, now picture this:

You are at a house party. Cans of medium-priced ale and bowls of Doritos acessorise the furniture. You are sitting on a faux-leather beanbag. Your beloved is perched on the arm of the floral sofa alongside the host and two other guests. The party (a group of about 7 people, made up of friends and acquaintances) are engaged in a game of Soul Calibur - winner stays on. This, as you know, is a two-player fighting game in which noble warriors, hellspawn and  princesses battle for possession of the mythical Soul Blade. The object of your affections (let's give them an asexual name for convenience. Let's say... Hilary) has been dominating the game thus far. Because the winner or each battle is allowed to stay to fight the next, Hilary has scored five consecutive wins. She/he is unstoppable.

That is, until your mutual friend, Josephine passes you the controller in frustration after her snake-hipped dungeon guardian, Voldo is hurled to the floor by Hilary's daemon, Asteroth. It's your turn now. You select the young priestess, Sophitia, and prepare for battle.

You have not played for a while, and your fingers fumble on the warm buttons of the Playstation joypad. Hilary quickly overpowers you. You close your eyes, take a deep breath and grip your sword ever more tightly. Your sword? But I thought... Yes, my friend, your sword. For you are no longer seated on the beanbag with a plastic joypad in your hand. You are standing atop the ancient world clasping a sword that was forged upon Hephaestus' anvil. You take a deep breath, and the air fills your lungs. You look Hilary straight in the eye, and strike. You dance around each other, gasping as your blades clash against one another. The wind lifts your flimsy Grecian skirt and ruffles your long blonde hair. Hilary stumbles and you seize your chance, dashing at her/him with your sword drawn. Summoning the last ounce of strength, she/he raises his axe and stops your blade. The sweat trickles down your brow as you push against it. Hilary darts to the left and you trip sideways. As you regain your balance he delivers a sliding kick, knocking you off your feet. He lunges at you for the final time, but you roll to the right. Baffled, he turns around, but it is too late. You deliver the final crushing blow with your sparkling sword. He falls to his armoured knees and reaches up to you, helpless at your sandled feet...

You see? All that pent-up agression? Channeled into battle? You and Hilary have effectively engaged in your first bout of foreplay. Woo hoo!

2 - Co-operating with the object of your affections in order to reach a common target or uniting against a common enemy.

This is less about satifying one's carnal lusts and more about the self-sacrifice which comes with true feeling.  Let's say that you and Hilary have made it through the Soul Calibur-fuelled days of heady attraction, and now you care enough about each other to engage on something more long-term. Enter Gears of War. This game lasts for about eight hours, and features comically muscled space marines Marcus Fenix, Dominic Santiago, Augustus "Cole Train" Cole and Damon Baird. These four brave men (I think they are men, they may well be a hitherto unknown species of rhinosceros) bravely unite against the Locust, an alien species intent on the genocide of the human race (aren't they all?). You and Hilary each take control of one of these men and battle together for the lives of every human being. 

Amid the jokes and laughter that natually accompany bloodshed, there will come a time when Hilary is shot in the leg whilst running for cover. She/he falls over and lies bleeding to death as hoardes of locust swarm around him. Bravely, with no regard for your own safety, you rush over to her/him, and pull her/him up with a gruff "get up, soldier", to manfully hide your true feelings. Together you proceed to save the human race.

Another romantic experience that Miss 40 is missing out on which adds something to the above examples is the video game arcade. The neon glow and mystical sound of those sticky-floored havens creates an otherworldly atmosphere. You and Hilary get to enjoy all the excitment and emotion of battle, but in somewhere that looks like the flight deck of Hugh Hefner's spaceship:

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