Lost in the Supermarket

[Quinns is RPS’ roving reporter. Sometimes he roves closer to home. That is, the local department store. And then he starts thinking. Then he mails us frenetically. And we post it, as it keeps him away from us with his youthful vigour and knives.]

I think games may be screwing us up more than we think. Hear me out here.

So I was out buying a breadknife recently, and I was standing there in front of this big ol’ wall of knives. And there were all kinds of them, from the department store’s own classy brand, to sci-fi looking ones with ugly transparant handles, to the top-of-the-range how-the-Hell-can-a-piece-of-metal-cost-that-much Global Knives.

Now I don’t usually buy domestic stuff like this. I’m your regular “Hey, if I eat these instant noodles straight from the kettle I can save myself from doing washing up!” class of bachelor, so I’ll admit to not knowing the standard procedure for picking out a breadknife. But what ended up going through my head was this:

“I should by the best breadknife available. It’ll minimise the time I have to spend cooking, and it’ll save me from wasting money on an inferior knife should I decide I want to upgrade it at a later point.”

Recognise that particular school of thought? IT’S FROM THE SIMS.

My first instinct when I realised this was that I couldn’t go for the Global breadknife. I mean making a lifestyle choice because it works in a game where grown adults routinely wet themselves couldn’t end well. But then I found it hard to fault the logic of tactical buying like this. In the end I chose a midrange knife and went home.

And then, when I got home. Oh God.

It was probably because of the whole Sims occurrence that I even noticed it, but I’ve just moved out of my folks’ place for the first time, and naturally that involved taking a few boxes of my stuff and finding a new place for it all. But when I got home I had a proper Hitchcock zoom moment as I realised that not just everything I’d taken with me, but how I’d chosen to place it, was exactly the same as how I decorated my home in the last two Elder Scrolls games.

I’d taken great care in putting all my collected, old books together, with the ones I was currently reading left in a pile to the side. I had souveniers from my backpacking in prominent places with candles on either side. Worst of all I’d divided my ‘equipment’ into various different categories and put them on different shelves for ease of accessibility. Except instead of ‘melee fighting’, ‘ranged fighting’, ‘thieving’ and ‘exploring’, I had ‘winter weather’ (wooly hat, gloves, scarf), ‘work’ (camera, notepad, dictaphone), ‘night out’ (lighter, ID, minicab business card). The only thing missing was an alchemical pestle and mortar. It was impossibly creepy.

I’m not sure how games effect us is something we think enough about. Sure, there are plenty of studies and fussing as to the links between games and obesity, or MMOs and murders, and I think that’s distracted us from something a little more subtle and a lot more sinister.

Long term, are games changing how we view the world? Any games done a good job of fucking you up, RPS fans?


  1. roBurky says:

    Surely Quinns is just talking about his own thought processes, which apply to stuff he does in real life and in simulated life, rather than something taken from games and applied to real life.

  2. Kieron Gillen says:

    Be quiet! Understand the subtext. QUINNS HAS KNIVES.


  3. Quinns says:

    No, see, because in The Sims knives don’t degrade over time. And in The Sims everyone eventually gets to the point where ludicrous cooking equipment is a wise investment. In my experience of real life, people tend to just masturbate a lot. Whereas I was reading £85 as 1.85% INCREASE TO BREAD CUTTING SKILL.

  4. Servitor says:

    Maybe that’s just how you like your stuff arranged, and the first place that preference happened to manifest was in games?

  5. SteveTheBlack says:

    I don’t think gaming becomes too big a problem until you are walling your housemates out of the bathroom and giggling maniacally when they water the carpet.

    That or locking clowns in an empty room to see if they carry magic holes around with them. (They don’t, FYI)

  6. dartt says:

    Hmmm, I don’t know if they’ve affected my shopping habits but after having spent the better part of a decade perfecting my first person shooting skills I now often find myself circle strafing around corners.

    It’s nice to see I didn’t train in vain.

  7. Alec Meer says:

    Top marks for getting the reference, but ouch.

  8. roBurky says:

    But lots of people buy the most expensive stuff in real life on the assumption that most expensive = best. The only complication here is that the assumption is true in The Sims, but not real life.

  9. SoS says:

    You just know that at some point in the future, Jack Thompson will read the first two paragraphs of this article and go mental.

  10. Kieron Gillen says:



  11. Janek says:

    I think the only two (somewhat related) quirks of my behaviour that could possibly be linked to gaming are some degree of compulsive hoarding of apparently useless crap (hello, RPGs/point and click adventures); and collection of mundane, relatively worthless items (pint glasses, band badges, dog figurines etc).

    Much of the joy of Morrowind for me was my quest to acquire skulls. Lots and lots of skulls. Which I put in a big pile in the master bedroom of my giant mushroom house. Itsa-itsa-itsa skull etc.

    Of course in games the hoarding thing is often a necessity, whereas in real life it’s probably just a sign that I’m going slightly insane. Being a collector of stuff is a bit more common, and I’m sure skulls and pint glasses were collected from much the same root compulsion.

  12. Tim says:

    Gaming has made us better at gaming. There are game mechanic analogies for a hell of a lot of the stuff we do. From the mundane to to complex. I don’t think that messed us up, I think it’s made us better thinkers. We abstract the problem better.
    That’s why South Korean stock broking firms hire ex Starcraft idols.

    However the one significant thing games don’t seem help us with, is concentration and patience. I think they give us shorter attention spans. So games don’t make us better at maths.

  13. FaceOmeter says:

    Once, after a Neverwinter Nights all-nighter, I went into the kitchen to get some cereal beforemy morning lecture (those were the days…). But instead of opening the cupboard with the cereal in, Ijust stood in front of it. It took me maybe three seconds torealise I was waiting for the cupboard to glow blow, as interactive objects do in NWN when youmouseover them.

    Three seconds doesn’t sound like a long time, but it really is…

  14. LlamaFarmer says:

    There was a time when I was younger and I played a lot of CS or TFC and in real life I started to bang my shoulders into every corner I went round and door I went through. I think it was because in FPSs you don’t have shoulders to worry about, and if you can see a clear path forward you can walk forward. I also think I started to stafe round corners, but I can’t remember. More recently, while at uni after playing Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, I would spend boring lectures imagining how I would run up the walls and leap onto projectors, swing off lights etc.

  15. MPK says:

    I caught myself strafing round corners in Tesco the other day, which was wierd, but it’s Tesco and it’s amazing the behaviour you can get away with in there. Also, there’s the old you-know-you’ve-played-too-much-Tony-Hawks thing of working out trick patterns as you’re going down the street, and you-know-you’ve-played-too-much-Champ when you assign monetary values to the lives of your family and friends.

    Or is that Hitman?

  16. F'yth says:

    Occasionally I’ll find myself reaching for the quicksave button or F10 (depending on what I’ve been playing). It happened again a few days ago actually. I felt somewhat pathetic (and dissapointed) when I realised that I was standing, in a shopping mall; and that even if there was a quicksave button, it would be a little unreliable for RL usage.

  17. Kast says:

    On a similar vein, I found myself reaching out my hand to a cup the other day, expecting it to float into my hand. Or possibly float mysteriously a couple of feet in front of me.

    I however didn’t feel pathetic, only mildly frustrated that life didn’t measure up to my expectations. Needs more features. Anyone want to try putting together a community patch?

  18. LlamaFarmer says:

    Everytime I go through an automatic door I pretend to open it with the force. Sometimes when I’m feeling lazy I point to light switches to turn them off…it never works.

  19. GibletHead2000 says:

    Similar to quicksave.. After playing Baldur’s Gate for any considerable period of time, I find myself reaching for the spacebar every time I have to make a decision about, well, anything really.

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  22. PoC says:

    After playing Dead Rising, I noticed that I really, really hate malls. And I now analyze a store’s content in terms of what would be most useful in the event of a zombie outbreak.