Gaming Made Me: Charlie Brooker, Part 1

Comedian, broadcaster, creator of Black Mirror, Gameswipe, Nathan Barley and previous PC Zoner Charlie Brooker and I went to the pub and talked about videogames. If I had to review him I would give him 9/10 for hyperrealistic beard graphics, and 8/10 for volume/sound because he was a tad quiet on my recording due to the man next to us in the corner chaperoning us and being creepy. He gets 3/10 for pint handling but 10/10 for pint buying. Submit to Metacritic. (Which should make clear that I don’t really know how Metacritic works.)

What follows is an hour and a half of chat about arcade machines, free to play games, The Last of Us, Syndicate Wars being the best game ever, Nathan Barley, Black Mirror, Portal 2 co-op, and games journalism as a whole. I also had a message to him from Martin Hollis, which went down better than expected. This is part one of Charlie Brooker’s Gaming Made Me.

Like paying to be punched in the face: arcades

Not Street Fighter II

Charlie Brooker encountered his first glimmer of the preternatural pixel when sneaking off from his parents at the swimming pool. “We used to go swimming as a family… and they had sort of a couple of arcade machines. They were the first ones that I can remember seeing: Space Invader machines, Breakout machines. Circus or something with a seesaw… two guys who had to… jump up and down?” He gestures, and I sort of shake my head and protest ignorance and say my first arcade machine was Street Fighter II at the ice rink. “Yes, see, I am about a hundred years old,” he says, grinning. “See I remember seeing those and thinking, and thinking clearly there was something interesting about them. I think it was because I was obsessed with television: it was like a TV you could control, basically. …I didn’t have money to go and play them, but I’d stand there and be and they’d be on attract mode and I’d be sitting there fiddling with the joysticks and convinced myself that I was actually playing the game even though I wasn’t. That would be the highlights of the trip to the swimming pool.”

I say something about the arcade culture in Britain seeming to not really last that long, musing foolishly on an era in which I was probably only the constituent parts of a person. Brooker seems unsentimental about the whole thing. “I wasn’t aware that there was any arcade culture in Britain. I guess if you grew up at the seaside or something there were arcades, but as far as I was concerned the only time you encountered something like that was if they were in a leisure centre or swimming pool. Or when the local fair would come round and they’d have a Star Wars arcade machine… I’d encounter things like Outrun for the first time. …They didn’t really come very often, and it was expensive – it was really expensive – 10 or 20p or whatever it was, and games were so unforgiving it didn’t last very long, you didn’t get much fun out of it. It was like paying to be punched in the face or something. You just accepted that you’d have a game that lasted 45 seconds and then it was over. That was kind of accepted.”

Less of a dick than an iPhone game but still like paying to be punched in the face

Bitter angry reviews over a 59p app

We compare arcade machines to the free-to-play balls that is going on now. “I can’t work out if [free to play iPhone games] are actually worse value or equivalent to arcade machines – they certainly were at the time. Similar, I would say.” I say I think there are some obstacles between the younger player and free-to-play. Perhaps though, the reliance on credit cards linked to iTunes accounts is becoming a tad dangerous. “I think [the free-to-play arcade style games on iPhones] are more annoying now,” Brooker says. “The implication is that you are getting something for nothing, which you’re just not. It was more of an honest transaction when you had an arcade machine, it was just flat-nose difficult and charged you for the privilege, at least you knew what you were getting. Mind you, people today wouldn’t put up with that – people leave bitter angry reviews over a 59p app that sort of lasted them less than ten hours.

“…It’s come in slowly hasn’t it, that sense of entitlement? And everyone’s got it. I’m the same. Wherever you are, you could be sitting here, and it could be free wi-fi, and if it goes slow you fucking moan about it.”

Aesthetically irritating: comments threads

I wonder out loud about the entitlement of the internet commenter. Perhaps we should do away with comments sections? “I can kind of understand the value of [comments] if you’re writing things to provoke a conversation or debate,” he muses. “Fair enough, whenever you want to hear from everyone. Whenever I’m writing things I don’t – I’m not really interested in it, I’m sort of doing a little routine basically and I don’t think comments have a place in that. Personally I find them aesthetically irritating whether they are good or bad. And I get an easy ride in the comments generally, because I’m not a woman, which gives you an extra 50% bonus where comments are concerned. And I seem to get a relatively easy ride.” But he says, “I do still find myself annoyed.” I say he must get a lot of replies on Twitter. “Well, that is expected, isn’t it, it’s just a cloud of shit. I think it just depends on what you’re hoping to achieve when you’re writing an article. I’m only ever trying to entertain. And it sort of annoys me that they put comments on the page.

“I feel it’s just a pain in the arse. It’s like if I’m reading a book I don’t want to read a fucking footnote written by a – have you ever read something on a Kindle, and you can see what things other people have underlined?” He assumes I might not be a technology neanderthal. I have never even touched a Kindle, so again I shake my head. I am currently recording his voice with a smashed-up iPhone.

“On the Kindle there’s a thing called ‘popular highlights’ or something,” he says, “if you switch that on, you can see what bits other people have underlined. Which is interesting, but also spoils the book as you’re reading it because it tells you what bits other people reading it found significant.” I said that sounds like kicking yourself in the face. He says if you’ve written a book, it’s pretty fucking interesting. “You can see what other people have highlighted and then you’re like okay, it boils down to that. Okay.”

I think one Christmas I almost choked on a chocolate coin because of a joke on TV Go Home. Brooker could have been responsible for my death

“I got my first job writing for the paper because of a website I’d done [TV Go Home], but it was sort of pre-comments. I think the big thing about it is that it’s affecting the way you write. What’s irritating is you know, whatever you’re writing, someone’s going to have a smartarse response, so you try to preempt that – just the worst – like you should have to be thinking about that. None of that should be there, but it is there, it’s part of the ecosystem now.”

I tell him about Soupgate. He looks slightly bewildered and says this wouldn’t happen to men in the same way. “What’s that about?” he says. “I’m fucking glad I’m not a woman. Because there seems to be a whole fucking layer of shit.” I say it’s probably kicking off big time because there’s a critical mass of women now, all not particularly interested in being treated differently any more. Brooker confesses he thinks the games ‘community’ we have is the result of a self-fulfilling prophecy where publishers intimate the sort of people who should be playing games – ‘imaginary adolescents’. “I mean most of the characters in major videogames are dicks,” he says. “Very very rarely are they anyone of interest.”

Something abstract, often for pages at a time: writing for PC Zone


“It’s so long since I did games journalism,” Brooker muses, “and I wasn’t very good at it I don’t think.” (I spray my pint quietly all over a man walking by.) “…I was good at certain aspects of it. What I liked about it was that you were writing about something abstract, often for pages at a time. When I was writing about videogames there weren’t many personalities involved that were really visible. And reviews were so dull… I had to write six pages or something on something fucking dull, and often they were quite abstract, or was after about two sentences, and you had pages and pages to fill with shit. And because the nature of the magazine I was writing for was irreverent, and you know, daft, it meant that you just got to indulge yourself.”

“It’s probably good training for something. But I don’t know if I was that good at being able to grade something’s worth on a long term scale. If I look back… I gave a lot of rave reviews of things that probably didn’t deserve it. I remember a review of Syndicate Wars saying ‘THIS IS THE BEST GAME EVER MADE ON ANY SYSTEM EVER’. It was just because if I really enjoyed playing something I’d get genuinely excited about it, overstating how good it was, which isn’t really fair on people who are buying it – they’d go, ‘What the fuck was he going on about?’”

I say there’s been a small rebellion against reviews being ‘buyer’s guides’ recently, some sites preferring to let the critic decide what in the game is worth expending words on. Charlie Brooker tells me ‘buyer’s guides’ were exactly what they were when he was writing reviews, although he qualifies that with: “It wasn’t, but it was. It ‘wasn’t’, but it was.” I say PC Zone practically moulded the ‘taking the piss’ form (you can read Will Porter’s lovely eulogy here). “But we still had scores,” he says. “I don’t know if anyone ever said explicitly, but there was a sense that someone would withdraw advertising. There was a sense…occasionally, that something was expected to do well. How explicit that was…? I wrote a really negative review of something once, and the company involved did… I think they actually did pull their advertising or threaten to. I wasn’t exactly hauled over the coals but I was asked if it was absolutely justified what I’d written.”

I leave flowers at this grave every July 15th

Shut up about games

It is at this point I remember that Goldeneye 007 director/designer Martin Hollis told me to call Charlie Brooker a cunt, because his adoration in the games industry seems fairly widespread. So I tell Charlie Brooker that Martin Hollis told me to tell him he is a cunt. Brooker seems slightly flattered, if that’s a legitimate interpretation: “Well I would say to him,” he smiles, “that that’s not universally true. But I guess I’m one of the few people who still continues to talk about computer games in an area that is not to do with that. That’s rare. …If I tweet something about computer games the number of people who just say, ‘Oh shut up talking about fucking kids’ games’.”

The comedian Rab Florence, RPS’s boardgames columnist (who also features in Brooker’s Gameswipe) told me he gets the same thing. When Rab tweets about games, people unfollow him. “I guess if people went on and on about sports that would be annoying. But that’s not my bag…” Brooker sort of interrupts himself. “What the fuck am I talking about? ‘Not my bag?’” I ask him if he is Austin Powers. “I dunno,” he says, a tad sheepishly. “That was a real cunty phrase I used wasn’t it.”

Games in wider media: actually really popular

I guess this is a gamer's natural state, except Brooker has trousers on

“You only ever get one item on videogames in the mainstream media generally, and they’re fairly apologetic. ‘Wow, did you know they’re actually really popular?!’ is the item you get. I looked up – I found on Netflix a video game documentary from 1999 or something that was just obviously done for like, the learning channel or something… and it’s exactly what you’d expect – it starts off ‘actually videogames are a really fucking big industry, and some of them are like movies’ and because the graphics look so fucking shit by today’s standards, I just think if I was the average viewer… Why would anyone be bought over by this argument? Trying to compare it to a movie… There’s literally a bit where… I’m not sure what year it is but it shows something like the very first Driver game or something [Brooker completely cracks up at this point] and it goes, ‘It’s indistinguishable from a movie!’ Today that looks like the Dire Straits Money for Nothing video… something running on Teletext…”

Charlie Brooker’s Gameswipe

But isn’t it the themes that are letting us down, not the graphics? Crysis 3 is beautiful, but show a clip of it on TV and it would look a little ridiculous still. “Well… I just played through the Last of Us, which I thought was brilliant. Really really really enjoyed it a lot. But it is still… My wife plays Portal 2, plays things like that, and I got the Last of Us and I was very excited: ‘Right, we’ll play this together’. And she wasn’t having any of it. After five minutes – as soon as they start talking about ‘The Fireflies’ and… I think it was pretty much the first time I smashed someone’s head against a table. And I played through the whole thing anyway, regardless of her feelings on the matter, even though it’s a brilliant brilliant game, there is something that I can’t quite square. It’s one of the best stories that I’ve seen in games, but there is still a ridiculous amount of just non-stop peril that’s slightly divorced from the story and I know there’s a logical reason for it to be all going on in the story – you’d never sit through a film with that level of violence going on for so long – like this is the most mental film I’ve ever seen.”

Murdering dick

“In Farcry 3, the guy’s making an odd journey from being a fucking dick, to a murdering dick, but he’s become like a warrior or something. The action consists of him killing about five hundred thousand fucking people.” Brooker laughs. “The best I’ve seen is probably in the Last of Us, which was really really well done. It’s got the best ending I’ve ever seen. And I understand that some people were disappointed with it.”

Speaking Esperanto

“My theory is that video games are like speaking Esperanto,” Brooker says. “Videogame players are like people who learnt Esperanto years ago. We all learnt Esperanto. And there’s all these brilliant Esperanto-language films available, to use a metaphor. They only make sense if you know Esperanto, they don’t have subtitles – but they’re brilliant. And we keep telling people how good they are. But there’s this learning curve which is that you have to learn fucking Esperanto. Because you only have to sit down with someone who doesn’t play videogames to understand how high the bar to entry still is.” Brooker goes on to talk about how his wife latched on to Portal 2 in a big way, and how conceptually it’s not a simplistic game, and yet she was willing to overlook the barriers to playing. “It’s not running and gunning,” he says. “It’s walking and thinking. She liked it because we were playing the co-op mode as well. It wasn’t like I was standing behind her going ‘no don’t press that button, you can’t open that door, no trust me that’s part of the scenery’.”

It is at this point we break for more pints. Second part of our chat can be found here, where we talk David Cage, Nathan Barley and Black Mirror, and, um, bums.


Top comments

  1. G-Lord says:

    I really agree with the esperanto analogy. It's hard to recommend most of the great games to non-gamers because they usually use mechanics that you just have to learn first.
  1. Zhou says:

    As enjoyable as I found the article, I’m not sure you need to be able to see the whole thing from the front page of RPS.

    It’s a good article, but is it that good? :p

  2. Turin Turambar says:

    Breaks, how do they work?! :P

  3. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    no trust me that’s part of the scenery

    This describes my attempts to play co-op with Lady Smingleigh so utterly accurately it’s almost scary.

    • RedViv says:

      Heh. But when the significant others actually do learn to speak our language, oh my.
      It’s either scary, or glorious. Or both. Scareorious.

    • JackShandy says:

      I convinced my sister to play Portal 2. When wheatley says “Look up” she hesitated, then slowly tilted her real head towards the ceiling.

      • Mbaya says:

        That is adorable…I wish I could go back to being an innocent gamer sometimes.

  4. JB says:

    Oh man, TV Go Home was (is!) amazing.

  5. Felixader says:

    “Submit to Metacritic. (Which should make clear that I don’t really know how Metacritic works.)”

    Neither does Metacritic.

  6. DiamondDog says:

    “a face like a paedophile walrus”

  7. WrenBoy says:

    I’m fucking glad I’m not a woman.

    Insert weak Brooker chauvinism joke here.

  8. Dethnell says:

    I loved Brooker PC Zone era when I was a teenager back in the day. The back page section where readers wrote in to basically get verbally abused was a highlight I looked forward to every month.

    I still remember Mr Brooker demolishing a poor reader who lived in Blackpool.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Yeah, PC Zone shared some DNA with Mean Machines. Like a weird cousin or something. Good times. Mr Brooker’s review of Euro Truck Simulator was masterful.

      • Taidan says:

        Don’t forget the almighty ZERO, greatest gaming magazine of pretty much all-time!

        (From the vaguest of memories, I think that ZERO and PC Zone shared an awful lot of writers. PC Zone may have even been pretty much a direct continuation of ZERO.)

    • Taidan says:

      Yeah, I remember the early PC Zone days with incredible fondness. There was a point between 1998 and 2008, whilst employed in a position with too much down-time, when I read every single damn word of every single issue. (And some of those words more than once.)

      Such a shame it went downhill after Future got involved.

      • Maritz says:

        I’m aware I sound like a miserable old bastard, but it started going downhill a while before that. The Future takeover was just the end of a downhill trend. I used to read every word of each issue but that must have stopped around 2006 or so.

        Edit: ooh, seems Future took over in 2004, so my dates must be a little out!

    • Lenderz says:

      Yeah I couldn’t agree more I’ve been a fan of Brooker ever since my misspent childhood reading PCZone and “getting it” I really loved PCZone back in the day, and it was because of Brooker and the crew writing it I Subbed right through to its death. Even when it lost its way I hoped they might rope the megastar that wrote comics such as “animal cruelty zoo” back into it, the guy who recorded hilarious and trolling phone calls with publisher customer services and put them on cover disks.

      Charlie had such an impact on me at such a young age I’ve pretty much watched his career since and considered him a generally good egg or “one of us” reading or watching most of what he puts out and remembering the PCZone days fondly.

      I’m actually slightly surprised he has never written for RPS, although hes gone all console these days it seems, his humour and insight would fit right in.

      Erm actually this might be fucking creepy of me.

      • Dethnell says:

        I actually use the phoning customer support while drunk locked inside a office story when i talk about Mr Brooker to people who have not watched/read any of his work.

        You’d never see that type of stuff these days which is sad.

    • aircool says:

      Whatever happened to Mr Cursor?

      • G_Man_007 says:

        He came back for the beginning of The End. Remember Culkus, isn’t it? I loved that mag. Future killed my beloved ‘Zone. I will never forgive them. Has it really been three years and a day since The Demise? Sad times…

        • LordMidas says:

          After ‘The Demise’ my/our PCZ subscription went over to PC Gamer. But that mag just didn’t have the same mania that PCZ had. I never renewed my sub.

  9. MichaelPalin says:

    Wow!, Charlie Brooker on games. I’m going to enjoy this article a lot. The day someone equivalent to Charlie for TV appears for video games is going to be a very important day for the medium. Not that he is changing anything on TV, it is still and will be crap, but it is important to have someone who summarized so perfectly why that is and can communitcate it with a modern format. In games we already have some low budget people doing interesting things here and there, but they are still generally too optimistic, :P

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Yahtzee? Oh wait, you said “equivalent to Charlie Brooker”, not “doing a bad impression of Charlie Brooker”. John Walker?

      • MichaelPalin says:

        John Walker is too nice to be the Charlie Brooker of games. And he also has indies. We are in a moment in which indies still can do great things and you cannot have a 100% negative critic in that situation. If indies are eventually assimilated by the industry, then you can have a Charlie Brooker of games.

      • Snids says:

        Jon “Log” Blythe!
        A very funny man indeed.

        • Lenderz says:

          Log did some videos on Youtube before going on to work at Offical Xbox Mag I think, I remember the videos were quite funny.

      • DrGonzo says:

        I think that’s very harsh. I think Yahtzee’s analysis of games is much better than Brooker’s ever was, as much as I used to like Brooker, he was pretty much a comedian, Yahtzee manages to be very funny, but also spot on about everything.

        • LennyLeonardo says:

          Maybe it was a bit harsh, yeah. I still think he’s aping Brooker, and I wouldn’t say spot on about everything either. His is a very different format, though, so maybe direct comparison is silly.

    • Jockie says:

      I don’t understand how Charlie Brooker isn’t the Charlie Brooker of games? His Guardian column quite often mentions games, he made Gameswipe for the BBC, here he is being interviewed by a PC gaming website and he used to write about games professionally.

    • frightlever says:

      I think there have been several Charlie Brookers of Games but they move on to where there’s more money to be had or perhaps more of a challenge. Games journalism is pretty low-hanging fruit at this stage. No offence to the RPS stalwarts but KG was the brightest and the best of ye and he’s moved on to the marginally more esoteric world of writing comics.

  10. DrScuttles says:

    Hey Charlie, I loved you in Hannibal. Oh and can I get Hayley Atwell’s number so I can sit on the corner of bed and look at the piece of paper it’s on and blush and cry?

  11. GAmbrose says:

    Ironic that we’re commenting on the article really.

    I’m certain he wrote my two favourite PC Zone reviews – Star Trek: A Final Unity and Wing Commander 3

    • jfrisby says:

      wow, I’d love to read that Brooker review of A Final Unity (..or other adventure games) – doesn’t seem accessible via wayback machine :/

  12. WrenBoy says:

    Thinking about the comments on comments and my own experiences as a reader has inspired me to formulate WrenBoys Law of Conservation of Internet Stupidity.

    The level of stupidity of an Internet article’s comment section expands to fill the vacuum of its intrinsic intelligence.

    The more more intelligent the article is on the internet, the more worthless and irrelevent the comments section will be. Conversely, less intelligent articles are far more likely to attract interesting, insisive comments.

    This explains why Brookers Guardian pieces contain nothing but “Brooker is a God” / “Brooker is no longer funny” comments whereas the majority of his Guardian colleagues articles are only entertaining if you skip directly to the comments section.

    • AlwaysRight says:

      RPS seems to have a pretty constant, intelligent article intelligent comments ratio.

      • WrenBoy says:

        Well they do write about videogames.

        Edit: Thinking about it though, RPS is pretty middlebrow in both its comments and articles. For a gaming website thats pretty good going.

    • MarcP says:

      Shamus Young’s blog is full of intelligent articles and incisive comments.

      Manipulative topical websites tend to attract stupid people.

      RPS falls somewhere in the middle. Great writing and insightful opinions on games, balanced by a need to ride the latest Twitter social justice. Unsurprisingly, comments also reflect that, with general stupidity on both sides and the occasional nugget of wisdom.

      You get the audience you deserve. Unless you write satire, because in the grim darkness of the 21th century, there is only “troll”.

      • woodsey says:

        Shamus Young is great. Has about the only thing worth reading on The Escapist.

      • Ross Angus says:

        I’m gently starting to dip my toe in Shamus’s comments section. Impressions are so far favorable.

    • BooleanBob says:

      Internet writers wishing away comment sections strikes me as being a little like stand up comedians wishing they didn’t have to do their job in front of a live crowd. I get it, but on the other hand I totally don’t get it at all. I mean, c’mon, Stewart Lee was joking when he said he wanted to get rid of the public and just have “me and broadsheet journalists in a self-congratulatory loop”. I think. No actual way to tell with him where the joke ends and the… whatever a hypothetically earnest Stewart Lee might do when he isn’t telling elaborate jokes wrapped in more layers of irony than battered cod in newspaper begins.

      But then I guess the tension between talent and its fans is inevitably a thing in any public-facing medium, be it football, novels, music, politics, whatever. You’d prefer not to have to deal with them, especially the abusive shits, but if you got rid of them all you wouldn’t exist. I get it – I work in retail. I know what it is to carry a secret loathing for the very people who keep you in four pairs of socks and cheap bacon.

      p.s. I’m a big fan of Cara, Charlie and Rab. Which is apparently why I’m incapable of doing the decent thing, viz. just holding my obnoxious electro-tongue and being entertained by the piece. Sorry.

      p.p.s. But I still find it bladder-troublingly funny that the article cites journos’ fear of being unfollowed on twitter as some kind of existential threat.

      • Caerphoto says:

        I think the main issue is that comments make it too easy to hammer out a response without really thinking it through properly.

  13. theirongiant says:

    Ha, he looked even more like a white Larry Fishbourne when he was younger. But seriously do another Gameswipe.

  14. realitysconcierge says:

    I never considered that gaming had a high barrier to entry.. It makes a lot of sense though. Also, Charlie is quite the handsome man.

  15. PatrickSwayze says:

    Well weapon! Keep it Trayvon!

  16. mpk says:

    Squinting eyes tag?

  17. Cinnamon says:

    Arcade culture in the UK was an older kid looking at you like he was going to punch your face in if you didn’t finish your game of double dragon right now at the VHS rental shop.

  18. AlwaysRight says:

    Pshhh Charlie Brooker, he’s just a poor man’s Yahtzee

    • goettel says:

      The folly of youth.

      • DrGonzo says:

        I used to have a PcZone subscription, I loved Charlie Brooker. But this man is right, Yahtzee is better. Charlie Brooker likes these barely interactive stories that want to be films, Yahtzee actually likes games.

  19. Josh W says:

    The previous format for “gaming made me” features has been a little more personal, “my life with games in my own words” and it’s sort of nice to be able to have that subtitle.

    Anyway, this is a perfectly satisfactory interview, but I’d prefer it if you preserved that thing as it’s own thing.

    On the stuff you were actually talking about, I think that the “entitlement” we see is two steps short of self awareness. As people, we’ve always been able to complain about things being crap.

    Even if they’re not actually crap, they’re sort of ok, we can talk about them like they are the worst thing ever, but then maybe we can get something better, or come up with something amusing on the way.

    Talking about entitlement is that same “things are crap today” feeling, but somehow applied to itself, applied to people complaining, thinking they actually have a right to complain. Why not go the whole hog:

    People today always complain about entitlement, like they can’t bear other people to have negative opinions, like everyone should just put up with stuff just because people have managed to get their voice onto some website at the top of a comments thread or into a games company, regardless of it’s actual quality…

    And so on.

    The thing is that entitlement is almost really good. It’s the feeling that we can do better than this, and we as people deserve to do better. It’s also the satisfaction of having a good moan about the state of the world. The weird thing is that thanks to our helpful worldwide communication system, we can unthinkingly address to someone the full force of everyone’s casual moaning about them x200. Or maybe we can do it somewhere else and people helpfully forward it over to them.

    We understand feedback as something good, hey guys we’re all listening to each other etc. The problem is that over-feedback leads to pointless oscilations, hopping backwards and forwards between over-correcting and not, in this case between “fuck you audience, who the hell wants to talk to you anyway” and “ugh, could they be right? Maybe one should only ever use third person tense writing..”

    It seems harsh to suggest that people should develop personal moan filters, and impractical to suggest technological ones, and we don’t really want to stop people moaning either, so the least I can suggest is to discourage people from getting too personal about it, and focus on dealing with the more important stupidities global communication is unveiling.

    I little bit of random complements would probably not go a miss either.

    • MarcP says:

      And this comment is that nugget of wisdom.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Not sure entitlement is the same thing as just having a moan, otherwise Charlie would be the most entitled man alive.

      I think “entitlement” refers to the burden we place on others to give us something we feel we deserve. Most often we don’t. I guess in this context it’s about preconceptions vs reality: we bring expectations to a thing and we complain when they’re not fulfilled, at the cost of actual critical appreciation. I think that’s how creativity gives way to fan service. Um… yeah.

      • Harlander says:

        I guess this is the point where I give up trying to support using different terms for ‘thing you’re entitled to’ and ‘thing you feel you’re entitled to’.

        Still dragging my heels over ‘lose/loose’ and ‘irregardless’, though.

        • LennyLeonardo says:

          Well, I was using the word as it was being used in the interview. Anyway, you can’t flame me because I am totally inflammable.

          Checks dictionary.


          • Harlander says:

            It’s because English has so many of those stupid things in it that people* get so wound up about using it ‘correctly’.


          • LennyLeonardo says:

            Don’t worry, I’m the same. I just heard someone in the street say “as poles apart as it’s possible to be”, and had to stop myself from going “‘THAT’S A TAUTOLOGY YOU IDIOT!” Not quite equivalent, but I had to share.

          • BooleanBob says:

            It’s a pretty impressive tautology, though. Most people know not to chain superlatives – ‘most best’, etc – but these are two of the most heavily disguised superlatives in common use. One’s a metaphor with a popular meaning derived from a more specific, even scientific one, the other’s a particularly baroque piece of phrasing. So while you might instinctively feel the mistake, the real satisfaction, for once, isn’t from pointing it out but from working out why it is one.

            I reckon you should be grateful to the tautoleer for giving your pedantry skill-set such an advanced-level work out. Don’t want your edge to dull, after all!

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            I don’t want my dull to edge.

        • Muzman says:

          It’s bad enough that it’s shorthand for ‘entitlement issues’. Injecting tedious therapy-speak into every part of life is confusing enough with them reversing the meaning of words.

      • dE says:

        But the actual use of the term “entitlement” has been derailed to a point where it almost always is used to devalue someones opinion on something. It doesn’t help that it fits so well with the image of a small child stomping its feet because it didn’t get some sweets. Come to think of it, introducing entitlement has to be the smartest move by the industry yet, the perfect word to end all discussion and turn the users against each other, while making it easy to disregard all feedback.

  20. Captain Kirk says:

    I think Ellison’s articles have been really great. RPS should commission more of them!

  21. spectone says:

    CLOWNS I had I’d on the vic20

    It was also known as Circus beforehand.

  22. Tams80 says:

    Fucking Esperanto; never was any use. Such a waste of time.

    • Ross Angus says:

      Even though more people understand Kingon, I heard once that the Esperanto community are very friendly, and if you know the language and go couch surfing, you can always find a place to stay. So: language-based free B&B?

    • The Random One says:

      Poor Esperanto, that was created decades before typewriters and never realized the folly of have every possible accent on top of every possible letter. Better luck to Interlingua.

  23. Contrafibularity says:

    I enjoy Brooker’s work immensely, and I’ve always wondered why he hasn’t written the occasional article for this site. There aren’t that many people who dare to explore our collective insanity as we approach mass extinction, and manage to do it in such form. Can’t wait for part 2 (and more Cara articles).

  24. cjlr says:

    But at least the entry barrier has moved from invisible walls to chest high walls, right?

  25. djbriandamage says:

    This is such a great read. One of my favorite pieces on RPS. Nice one, Cara.

  26. MadTinkerer says:

    For those paying attention to the Minecraft Scene, a few interesting things have developed.

    1) There is a proper “Minecraft Scene”. A subculture of Youtubers, podcasters, and others who have part time jobs creating content by playing Minecraft.

    2) Minecraft is quickly becoming a mainstream thing where it’s the active demo on a touchpad in the store and your Mom says “oh hey: Minecraft.” because other than puzzle games and Angry Birds there is exactly one other game she is able to recognize. Also, she’s memorized all of the potion and cooking recipes so you call her up for help when you’ve just made a brewing table and can’t remember the next step.

    3) Minecraft assumes you at least know the controls from the start, and gives you precisely zero help in figuring out what to do. The brilliance of Minecraft from a marketing perspective is that figuring out the game is a game within the game. It is designed and perpetually refined to be fun for new players to use their brains to figure out how to play it and gradually discover this crazy fractal sandbox landscape and most of all Family Friendly game where grandma just emailed you the details on the latest snapshot update. Good luck trying to get her to play Mass Effect, or understand why Commander Shepherd can’t recruit Vulcans, but now that Horses and Nametags have been added to Vanilla she’s creating an exact replica of her uncle’s horse ranch with all the horses she remembered from when she was a kid and why haven’t you updated to the latest snapshot?

    I know people here are sick of Minecraft news, but that bit about speaking Esperanto: Minecraft deliberately avoids teaching you Esperanto via tutorial, instead making it fun to learn at whatever your own pace is. This is important. This is so important that Minecraft is beating the snot out of the biggest AAA titles on sales charts. And it’s still selling. It looks nothing like movies. It looks nothing like most games, except maybe a 3D rendition of 2D 16 bit era games. It’s a gamey-game-game game that’s breaking into the mainstream. It’s breaking into education and architecture as a serious killer app.

    It might be the final key to making games respectable. Or maybe making (more) respectable games.

    • DrScuttles says:


    • cunningmunki says:

      I think you forgot to mention Minecraft. You can’t respond to an article about Charlie Brooker and his relationship with video games without mentioning Minecraft.

    • Sam says:

      Interesting points about Minecraft being a much more presentable game than the rest of the mainstream. Mainstream gaming has adjusted its target audience upwards in age over time, leaving quite few games of substance suitable for children (at least outside of Nintendo-land). If I were a parent I’d feel much more willing to buy Little Alex a copy of Minecraft than a copy of Call of Duty.

      However I have to say I disagree with your points about the lack of tutorials or other learning aids being a good thing. If you approached Minecraft completely free from external learning resources you’re unlikely to guess at the recipe for a wooden pickaxe, and so end up stuck only able to knock down trees and dirt. There’s definitely interesting learning and experimentation to be had in the game, but it really needs a little helping hand to get through the very start. Minecraft is fortunate enough to exist in a context where that helping hand is provided by the huge YouTube communities: I’m sure the vast majority of new Minecraft players have watched at least one “First Night In Minecraft” video before buying.

      (I hearby acknowledge that this comment has very little to do with the Charlie Brooker interview.)

      • The Random One says:

        “Mainstream gaming has adjusted its target audience upwards in age over time, leaving quite few games of
        substance suitable for children (at least outside of Nintendo-land). ”

        I have repeated the words above on account of the high degree to which they are true.

      • Pete says:

        No, the lack of tutorials is critical to Minecraft’s success because it makes it almost impossible to play as an atomised human being; you _have_ to find the Minecraft community in order to play it. Once you’ve made that connection you’re playing in the context of other people (watching their videos, reading their words, absorbing what they think is great about Minecraft or the cool things you could do).

        It’s social gaming without the inconveniences of putting social mechanics in the game or forcing people to play with strangers or harass their friends.

  27. Yosharian says:

    Charlie Brooker is one my favourite human beings on this planet. That is all.

  28. Milky1985 says:

    I quite enjoy Charlies work, his books are a lot of fun to read due to ripping the piss out of anything and everything in sometimes odd ways, that and he does seem to have good taste in video games. He’s great on 10 o’clock live as well, the second to last episode where he randomly drew a cock on the paper because he “forgot that he had to show it on camera” made me laugh so much I nearly choked on my drink .

    I suppose I’m just posting this to be aesthetically irritating however, just in case he ever bothers to read the comment section of the article about him :P

  29. LennyLeonardo says:

    I’d never heard that chiptune version of the Grandaddy song before. It’s great!

  30. SheepSheriff says:

    I can’t tell you how pleased I am to see Charlie Brooker’s face on my daily RPS visit.

  31. Lambchops says:

    Do enjoy a bit of the Brooker.

  32. G-Lord says:

    I really agree with the esperanto analogy. It’s hard to recommend most of the great games to non-gamers because they usually use mechanics that you just have to learn first.

    • SanguineAngel says:

      I don’t think I do agree with that fully. I think the far more off-putting aspect for non-gamers is the other issue he raised – about the over reliance on violence. Whilst I would agree that most non-gamers in my acquaintance have initial trouble with learning the control scheme for a game, what really puts them off is the content.

      Pretty much anyone I have spoken to regarding Bioshock Infinity will relate a tale of someone they know or love observing the first hour or so of the game and being surprisingly interested and eager to have a go themselves. As soon as the shooting starts, interest evaporates entirely.

      They’ll tackle learning to play a game if it appeals to them. But if the content appears ludicrously hyper violent (and really, in most games the levels of violence makes zero sense, even in the context) then they won’t even contemplate giving it a go.

      Most casual games appeal specifically to non-gamers with non-violent content. The control schemes involved don’t tend to be particularly simplistic and in many cases the complexities of the interfaces are ludicrous. Yet plenty of non-gamers will get along with those games with a much deeper understanding of their intricacies than I would.

      And in part, I agree with them. Certainly, I speak the language of games and so the reliance on violence as a mechanic is second nature to me. But I do not hold truck with the idea that it is impossible to create great, compelling games without it. Violence is the Esperanto of games. And there’s really no reason we need it

      • G-Lord says:

        You raise some excellent points there, and I agree that I wouldn’t recommend Bioshock Infinite to a non-gamer as the violence is off-putting indeed. I was thinking more about Portal which I would like to recommend to more people. While the puzzles are very enjoyable to most people they still have to master the 101 of FPS controls and it’s extremely painful to watch someone try a modern FPS for the first time. I honestly don’t know how many newcomers would try to get over that first hurdle.

        I also agree about the casual games which are far easier to recommend in both regards. I just have a hard time recommending Bejeweled clones to be honest. I usually end up recommending games like World of Goo, but I wish that more “core” games had a broader reach both in their control schemes and content.

  33. apocraphyn says:

    “After five minutes – as soon as they start talking about ‘The Fireflies’ and… I think it was pretty much the first time I smashed someone’s head against a table.”

    Come now, Charlie. I don’t think Konnie quite deserved that.

    As far as I’m concerned, Brooker practically shits gold; so bring on part 2! Hurrah!

  34. Radiant says:

    Angry man is smilingly angry.

  35. PopeRatzo says:

    Comment deleted by me.

  36. diebroken says:

    Damn I miss PC Zone… Booker, Pratchett, and co. great reads (and still are on their own). Those Culky escapades were insane! XD

  37. realmenhuntinpacks says:

    Char-lie boma ye! Nice to see our gnarl-faced Uber-Vater on the mothership. Always felt like there was strong genealogy between RPS and Chorlton.

  38. The Random One says:

    Call me childish, but when he said women are reaching a critical mass, I imagined all gaming women creating an Endhiran style ball of people. I didn’t imagine what they’d do afterwards, but probably destroy the industry while singing Katamari Damacy’s theme