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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?

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Quintin Smith

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