Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Full Electronic Jacket

I know that technology has moved forward to such an extent that you can play Street Fighting Death Ninja Zombie IV and boot the head clean off players halfway across the world by linking up your PS-thing or X-Boxed.

Sure the graphics may be pin sharp and the environments appear with absolute clarity, but for me video games reached their peak with the N64 and the quartet of games: Super Mario Kart, Goldeneye, Banjo Kazooie and Perfect Dark. With those four you can race, cock around in cartoon land, and – more importantly – kill.

If you want to kill something, do it on an N64. That way you don’t have to strain your back rolling a body into a ditch before dousing it in petrol.

You don’t have to worry about wiping blood and brain matter out from under your eyelids, especially after watching a CSI and coming to the realisation that the only way the techies won’t catch you out is if you grow a whole new skin.

And it saves having to come up with an excuse when a friend comes round and accidentally comes across the souvenirs you’ve kept in the freezer.

Bizarrely, I honed my skills not at home but in the studio. Where racking up a high kill count could be wonderfully cathartic. Especially on the days when the animators were being such stiff pricks I wanted to stuff their mouths full of shotgun cartridges, tape their jaws shut, and then set their heads on fire.

While the grubby little pencil monkeys probably thought the same about me, they harboured the idea that were creating art, while I was concerned about keeping to the schedule, safe in the knowledge that we were turning out stupid commercials for products nobody could really give a weak squirt about. Which meant I won!

On days when things got a little tense, rather than paint the walls with blood and drop kick their broken remains off the roof, the next best thing was to blow their bloody heads off. On screen. And I could be a demon!

Maybe it was because they worked in 2D, but some of them had so little spatial awareness it was pathetic. Game after game, they just couldn’t figure out the layout of the selected environment. Which meant I could sneek up from behind and burn them. One helmetoid, who was a particularly nasty thug when he wanted to be, would get so annoyed that it was worth playing him just to see how quickly he would stomp off in disgust, sticking with the excuse that he had to get the train home to his wife.

Our producer would tolerate everyone blatting each other, as long as it was after hours. Which was perfect. Because the N64 soon proved to be a good thing.

Animators and deadlines. Few knew the meaning of the word. Or didn’t care. Almost everything came last minute. And anything last minute came later than that. The last few days of production – as the various scene elements and effects runs were checked and output, ready to be sent over to the facilities house – usually meant late nights sliding gracefuly into all nighters.

Which wasn’t a problem. A problem would be forgetting to tick the right box for pixel ratio or some other techno-bullshit. So from one o’clock, on the hour, I would nip out of the digital department and fire up Super Mario Kart.

The idea was to play the simplest course imaginable. If I won then I worked another hour. If my concentration had gone to hell and I drove all over the place, trounced by Bowser or Wario, it was time to shut down the machines and sprawl out on the sofa in reception.


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