I am sure there are many joys to be had from our post-reinvention, out-with-New Labour, cuddly coalition Britain. For starters, all those years of worshipping at the greasy altar of the Free Market mean that we no longer have to put up with all those pesky, ugly workshops, factories, foundries or mines that used to so clutter up our wonderful countryside. In fact, many of us also no longer need to be bothered with either being able to find a job or qualifying for benefits.
Regardless, a manufacturing industry was clearly too messy and dogmatic an irrelevance for modern, exciting Britain. In fact, now we’ve got rid of all of that outdated practical crap, there’s so much more space for derelict, formerly industrial buildings to be redeveloped into overpriced, miniature and unsellable flats pitched at Trustafarian financial services wankers.
Hooray for true progress! Nasty socialist ideas of communal care are out. Laminate flooring is in. Brilliant.
Another of our genuine and unquestionable triumphs is that we’re all so much cleverer these days than we used to be. Having gone to school in the 80s, I’m only just dimly clever enough to be able to understand how clever we now are. That's partly because no one used to teach us to count as high as you have to be able to count just to comprehend how clever our exam results make us nowadays. We are, in fact, so clever now that we even talk about being clever in new, exciting, and most of all clever ways. For example, I believe that as well as cleverly inventing A-star grades, we have also recently invented irony. I didn’t even know star was a letter.
If only I was younger and cleverer, like that lovely hypocrisy-powered fraud Nick Clegg perhaps it would all make more sense.
Now, Chaucer might be surprised if we told him that we’d invented irony, but that’s because he’s not just physically dead, but also, like, you know, culturally irrelevantly dead. He’s nowhere near clever enough to understand how clever we are now. Poetry? Pisspots, I say. Sure, he might have broken the fourth wall a bit, but he didn’t really know what he was doing, did he? Accidental cleverness isn’t the same thing at all, unless someone clever says it is in a knowing and clever way.
Because the greatest joy of all to be had from modern, exciting, clever life in Britain is that we are now so brilliantly clever that it has become virtually impossible not to break the fourth wall constantly. We’re so self-referential that it’s equally difficult not to reference how clever our self-referentiality is while at the same time referencing ourselves even more cleverly. Not only have we invented irony, but we’ve become so good at it that it is now impossible to achieve sincerity even at the moment of ejaculating into the face of a beautiful whore.
I know this is true, because Nintendo proved it to me the other morning. Well, not the whore part, although admittedly I would love to live in a world where Miyamoto came to my house and forced me to ejaculate into the face of a beautiful whore solely to prove that I was lacking in the capacity for sincerity. Sadly, however, no. Beautiful whores aren’t officially part of those disgusting self-help infomercial-style carnivals of misshapen soulless ego-driven wanksplatter that Nintendo use as marketing. Even though media whores clearly are.
The beautiful whore in question was in fact the lumbering, monosyllabic epitome of fun, Mario, a character who it is impossible to describe as super with sincerity. The ejaculation is, sadly, therefore simply a weak and overstretched metaphor for a videogame controller. I told you I wasn’t clever, after all.
As you may be able to tell from my sunny and upbeat demeanour, I am occasionally given to insomnia. And after a recent and protracted outburst of this inability to sleep – even, dear reader, while I was being cosseted in the forgiving and loving arms of the joy of living in a clever and ironic New Britain - I gave up on bed. Abandoning the sensual hug of pleasant night-time thoughts, I got up and lurched to the couch to continue my unremittingly bleak and unrewarding compulsion ongoing quest to collect more pointless fucking stars in the second fucking pointless Mario fucking Galaxy game. Not ‘A Stars’ – real fucking stars, you clever young fuckers. For such is recreation in the modern world, and who has time to sleep, anyway?
Behold, at 5am in the morning, my witless, tiresome, never more needlessly-overcelebrated generational Nintendo mascot, who is in no way analogous to the pathetic, post Apple-humping shell of what used to be Stephen Fry in his current ‘national treasure’ guise. Here he is on his jaunty, star-squatted-upon spaceship; a spaceship, I might add, that is startlingly shaped like some kind of felt-battered meteorite in the image of his own blunderingly overexposed head. What shall I do, faced with such a large planetoid face brimming with so much promise? Well, I shall wander to the platform that I have to stand on to go anywhere, because all ‘my-own-head’-shaped spaceships are clearly guided by panels operated by the weightless pressure of sprites appearing to press down on them.
Oh, hang on, the fatuous, sorry, I mean fat star wants to talk to me. I wonder whatever for?
I press my action button, because who does not crave action? And lo, the character of the star says to me, 'it’s a bit early in the morning for you. Why don’t you go bed for a bit?' or words very much to that effect. Not ‘Go to bed, Mario,’ you understand. No, these words have been programmed for me outside the game, should I dare to play a game I have bought at a time when they think I should instead be napping.
No pretence of in-world unity, just the sly nod that Nintendo, as designers, know that Mario – a character they created - is currently me. Nintendo, the company, is talking to me, a gamer, as if we are - whisper it - complicit in – the horror – of a game. And they know that I know that we both know that it’s a game. So in the context of a larger and very much real world, Nintendo is cleverly telling me to go to my actual bed. Not to regenerate hit points. Not to advance the plot by a cut scene (the standard unit of plot). Not even as a health and safety warning, which we all know they have to do and so blithely shrug and ignore. No – just to sleep, as a comment on the time it is and what I'm doing.
Do you see my life? Nintendo does, and it knows how to make it better even when I should be resting.
This doesn’t just break the fourth wall. It actually shatters my hope, my illusion of free will, and cunningly also makes me feel indelibly judged. Judged, I might add, by a company that has used the same idiotically awful character in hundreds of games for years and years because that’s the height of their imagination. And they have successfully judged me.
Games usually have the decency to only wink at us when they’re not being games, in the same way that we pretend that collecting a large number of arbitrary nouns is in some way a meaningful motivational exercise. But in a real world where presumably sentient people seem intent on doing nothing other than dismantle public definitions of sense, can’t I have a little computer-generated dumb even in a Mario game?
I don’t want games to talk to me as if I’m a person. I certainly don’t want them cleverly judging my sleeping - and by implication, living - habits. Wii Fit might be one thing for idiots whose aspirations and goals are as pathetic as misunderstanding the word ‘fit’. But imagine if Cloud turned round to you and told you to step away from the pizza if you ever want to be able to watch yourself have intercourse again. You see, when I’m playing a game, I’m not a person any more than they are. I’m just some submitting, time-sumping consumer they’re helping to be complicit in idiotically throwing away my limited time on games, before I die a clichéd and entirely unremarkable death.
Don’t talk to me, talk at me. Acknowledging that I exist outside the game is, paradoxically, the least immersive thing you can possibly do for my life. Reminding me of what I am doing makes the reality of it seem alien and exceptionally unreal. And it’s also not even remotely on my terms, because I only invited you in as a game. Design worlds for me, rather than commenting on my own.
In fact, don’t treat me as a person at all, or even acknowledge that I exist. Christ, it makes a man who is prepared to write publically about being forced to ejaculate into the face of a beautiful whore ashamed...
To be continued. At least, to be continued if I'm not sued.
I’ve recently given up both smoking and a carefree life without debt or responsibility in order to become a cleaner-lunged prospective flat owner. Living well and owning property are things I’ve always been perfectly comfortable sticking the knife into, as I’m sure you can imagine. However, they do say that you shouldn’t criticise a man until you’ve walked a mile in his shoes, and I have to admit that, until now, I have not done this. I have instead sat on my tar-stained arse with my tar-filled lungs in a series of tar-stained rented flats refusing to walk even ten yards to the tar-streaked toilet in my own tar-stained shoes as long as there was an empty bottle within reach. Or an empty enough bottle. Or as long, in short, as most of the piss wouldn’t end up on me.
This has all changed. Now I’ve walked a mile in the shoes of the man I’m going to judge, because the man I’m judging is me, and the shoes in question are my own. And frankly, these shoes have led me to the brink of collapse. I’ve walked a path of madness, of nicotine withdrawal, imminent respectability and the certainty of forthcoming DIY. I’ve walked in these sensible grown up shoes not just for a mile, but for a bloody month. And do you know what? They’re shit shoes on a blind alley in an unlit town run by madmen and bastards. They’re the kind of shoes that would read the Daily Mail. They’re the kind of shoes that most of the piss ends up on.
Someone has jackbooted my life with reality and gloom. And it stinks. I know it stinks, because I have got my sense of smell back. Isn’t that a gift that keeps on giving if you, like me, have to use public transport?
It’s highly likely that all these sensible lifestyle choices have ravaged my capacity for reason, and my ability to be able to pretend to empathise. I’m also bitter because any profound changes at my age should really take the form of a second childhood rather than that of a first adulthood. If the preceding rant is, therefore, less coherent than normal, you understand why.