Things that I think and do
When Grand Theft Auto V (which I’m told is just ‘five’ rather than some secret gangster alpha-numerical codeword) came out last year, I was surprised at how much air time and advertisement space it was getting pre-release. I was taken aback largely because video games of that ilk are often blamed for causing violence in real life – and partly because the human characters in it actually looked lifelike, a phenomenon I’m not used to with video game graphics.
I don’t really mind if you believe that digital violence engenders real (analogue?) violence or not, but something I think the authorities should look into if they are indeed concerned by this kind of thing is the censoring of football video games. Because feeble minded gamers are in terrible danger of creating unrealistic, and ultimately disappointing, expectations of actual football games from playing for half an hour on their Playboxcube 64.
The real peril comes from the use of words such as ‘realistic’ or ‘immersive’ on the blurb. If an impressionable youth playing FIFA 14 (other football simulation games are available, although I’d struggle to think of any) reads those fateful words – unlikely, but possible – he’ll start to think that the football he can play with his X-tendo-boy controller is representative of actual real-life football.
‘Codswallop!’, I hear you proclaiming. ‘It’s a game, everyone knows it’s not reality!’, I hear you arguing. ‘Hurrumph!’, I hear you hurrumphing.
But think of the children – the feeble, impressionable children! With about ten minutes’ practice, the average young chap could thrash Barcelona 6-0 with Yeovil Town – which is all very well, but how can Yeovil Town possibly live up to his expectations afterwards?
He might then toddle off to a live game, inspired by the team’s virtual success at his hands, only to see them get smacked all over the park by Plymouth Argyll on a rainy weekend afternoon in Somerset. Imagine the crushing disappointment! Imagine the rage! Going to town with his virtual gun collection on GTA wouldn’t get close.
I think that despite my exposure to FIFA 13 I’m safe. I know that these games are for entertainment purposes only and have little relation to real life; I just enjoy the utter fantasy of how they work. I’ve experienced both virtual and real-life football games, and just find it amusing to note the huge disparity between fantasy and reality.
We have a football computer game in my house at university and it’s mostly used to decide who gets the last bit of leftover dinner of an evening. As well as that a couple of us have embarked on the ‘Career Mode’ option (yes, I know it’s sad – it puts off the essays nicely though). This involves ‘managing’ a team of your choice and playing all their fixtures in a season.
Despite the colossal effort by the makers to create the most realistic football simulation possible, they’ve failed miserably because I’m ‘managing’ Charlton and am currently winning the Premier League and thrashing all comers in the European Cup. In real life Charlton is languishing at the wrong end of the Championship, as far as I know.
A few weeks ago my fake-Charlton travelled to Manchester United and scored seven goals. If real-Charlton did that, they’d be lucky to lose by fewer than seven goals.
Fake-Charlton has the top scorer in the league as well as the goalkeeper with most clean sheets. For real-Charlton to get anything like that the strikers of all the other teams would have to be in freak accidents resulting in feet being chopped off.
I went to one of their actual real-life football games the other week and even the worst gamer would be hard-pressed to produce a match anywhere near as boring on his Gamebox. I think the best descriptions would be ones I once heard from a TV commentator: ‘crushingly sterile’ and, with hilarious disregard for correct usage, ‘devoid’.
Playing virtual football involves sitting in a cosy chair in the warm (or in my student house, cold), twiddling your thumbs for ten minutes, easily controlling the ball with the deftest of deft flicks and scoring stunners in the top corner.
Real football means sitting in the coldest bit of south London for ninety minutes watching twenty blokes poncing around with the ball in the middle of the pitch, trying not to get their shirts muddy or ruin their hair. If you’re lucky, one of them will be so busy with his comb he’ll make a mistake and the other bloke will zip through and poke the ball into the net.
Well, that may be a bit unfair. That’s what watching Charlton means, at any rate.