Updated Every Weekday!
I haven't written a short story in a while, which, I think, is generally a good reason to do so. So here's one. I call it Your Training Is Complete.
That is all. Your assignment for the weekend is to see how far you can get a knitting needle down your ear before you go blind.
I've heard about this thing they're calling Don't Buy A Game Week. An organised protest against the unfair pricing of games. I know this probably won't affect me as I can't afford to buy recent games and my computer can't run them anyway, but the idea does intrigue me. It's like going on strike, but for gamers, to show the big companies that we're not just obedient little money piles.
However, the scheme is never going to work. And I'll tell you why.
A) One can only get the message around by word of mouth, and as such a hefty amount of gamers who don't frequent certain messageboards or internet sites are never going to hear about it. To say nothing of the gamers who do hear about it but aren't taking part because something good's coming out that week.
B) It takes place on the run-up to Christmas so there's going to be a lot of ignorant parents and non-gamers buying games in that time. The companies probably won't lose too much of a profit.
C) It's eternally difficult to organise anything properly when it comes to gamers. In some cases you have to repeat yourselves three times and hammer the subject over the head with a picket sign before they'll wake up.
D) Strikes don't last for a fixed length of time. They go on until the big bosses panic and cave into demands. In this case, all they have to do is wait a week.
So, in my opinion, Don't Buy A Game Week, while a good idea in theory, may turn out to disappoint in practise. How to remedy this? Well, I put the problem to my supercomputer. It may not be able to run Deus Ex 2 but at least it can answer my questions.
Here's the printout of our little session.
+++ AWAITING INPUT +++
> supercomputer, how could a general strike among gamers work?
> oh, never mind.
+++ MY NAME IS LEGION FOR WE ARE MANY +++
So, that didn't help much, and after I'd finished bludgeoning my supercomputer to death with my stool, I decided I had to sit down and think of a solution the old-fashioned way. With a piece of paper, while sitting with my feet in a bucket of crabs. Here's what I wrote down.
"OH JESUS FUCK I HATE CRABS gamer strike won't work because there's no organisation AAH SHIT THAT WAS MY PINKY TOE miners strikes and post office strikes, they actually get taken seriously, but why? OH JESUS MARY JOSEPH HELP ONE OF THEM'S CRAWLING UP MY LEG unions. They have unions FUUUUUCK!!!!!"
The answer came to me, and after bandaging my left testicle, I am now ready to write down the answer. Gentlemen, look at this logically. Miners' strikes work because miners have unions. Therefore, before we gamers can go on strike, we need our own union.
Think about this. It'd be great! Gamers all over the world pay a small annual fee to be a member of the International Union of Electronic Gamers. Everyone who joins gets a membership card, a badge, a special IUEG T-shirt and a short novel called 'Timmy Versus The Evil Corporate Game Publishers'. Holding a union card entitles every gamer to a 10% discount on purchases of games, as well as access to the annual union convention, where people can discuss gaming issues, swap and sell games, and have a big LAN party in a huge convention hall. And if the union wants to oppose high game prices, well, each union member will be sent a letter ordering them not to buy a game until the prices go down. If anyone does buy a game, they lose their union membership. This should be quite easy to monitor, as a lot of gamers work in computer game shops.
Look at it this way. At the moment there's a huge console war between the PS2, the Xbox and the Gamecube. The Xbox is dead in the water, frankly. PS2 is streets ahead of the others. Someday we may have to face the very real possibility of there being only one console. Sony will have no competitors, they'll be able to charge whatever prices they want. In the event of this, a proper union of gamers could well be our only defence.
You think about it.
So, I've just failed my fourth driving test, and I'm packing it in. I've spent far too much money for the privelege of being allowed to drive around in someone's car for one hour a week and then get patronized by driving test people after finishing with a test sheet with more black marks than a dalmation in a printing press.
The way I see it, I now know HOW to drive a car, and that's all I need. The humdrum workaday world is not the one for me. Some day, when I have the money, it's out into the world I will go, seeking adventure and peril wherever it may lurk. And if you ask me, if I raid a jewellery store and leap through a plate-glass window to escape the local police in some foreign land and find a car with the keys left in, I'm not going to be fretting about not having a licence as I begin the car chase that will cover six thousand miles and be reported on the news all over the world. In a life of adventure, constant movement to keep ahead of the authorities and a different bed each night, the only use a driving license would be is as kindling when I'm camping out in the Black Forest.
Apparently, this time around, my driving tester genuinely thought she was going to die. So I guess I've got the cool stunt driving thing worked out.
Besides, it can hardly be my fault that it was pissing down with rain and as such I couldn't hear my engine properly and stalled twice before I was fifty yards away from the test centre. When things like that happen, I tend to lose confidence in the rest of the assessment, and do things like miss a head-on collision with another car by inches. Fuck, I'm only human.
So bollocks to it. No more costly driving tests for this little Englander. But as a celebration of this decision, I've decided to offer a little advice to other takers of driving tests all over the world, so they don't have the same problems as I.
1. As you are walking to your car with your tester, take every opportunity to compliment them in looks, personality and attitude. They will be very flattered and will no doubt allow a few minor faults as they fantasize about having mad passionate sex with you. If both you and the instructor are men, remember to make sure he is wearing bright-coloured clothing, mincing, or carrying around soundtrack CDs for a Broadway musical before executing this technique.
2. If, during the test, you notice a certain car following you for more than two turnings, immediately assume you are being tailed by the intelligence agencies. Most secret services monitor driving tests so they can choose their next field operative. In order to impress them, immediately carry out a series of death-defying James Bond style stunts. You might try driving straight over a roundabout and landing on the roof of another car, or driving at full speed over a hump-backed bridge, or pulling off a handbrake turn to end up on the very edge of a canal or river bank. If you misjudge that last one, don't worry. A drowned instructor means no more black marks on the test sheet!
3. It's a little known fact that turning on the windscreen wipers, then turning on the radio, then turning off the wipers and adjusting the rear view mirror will activate the elusive 'cheat mode' installed into most cars. The car will now turn of its own accord when the instructor says so, do all the manoeuvres itself, and pass through other traffic like mist. If you use the rear-window heater when the cheat mode is active a funny picture of the developers will appear on the dashboard.
4. Pedestrians waiting at pelican crossings are reviled by all motorists. Run them all over in one run and the examiner will disregard your next THREE faults.
5. If you fail the test, immediately kill and eat the examiner, before tipp-exing out all the black marks on your test sheet. Then wear the examiner's clothing and pretend to be them for the rest of your life, alternating between your real personality and theirs. This inevitably leads to both you and the examiner arranging dinner dates at the same place and at the same time, but don't worry, everything will be resolved by the time the end credits run.
And there you have it! All the tips you need to pass your test first time. I accept no responsibility for any criminal charges brought against you should you follow any of my advice.
Ciao for now, cats. Mrowr!
[This week's barely coherent guest ramble comes courtesy of Space Monkey. I apologise in advance.
Article. Um, yeah.
So, yeah. Space monkey here. Um. Article. Yeah. Let me think.
Well, this wonderful evening (November 2nd) was the village bonfire and fireworks display. It's one of those annual village "we're a community really, but we don't like each other much"-type of things. And this year, it rained. "Wonderful!" I hear you cry. I know I did.
Most of the village I recognised - the pub landlord's daughter, the rich kid and his gang of misfits, some friends from school, some people I recognise from school. Then it hit me - this is the most densely packed I've seen in years. And it's raining. Now, I know that there haven't been any major housing developments in the area, then the next things hits me and it's a big shock - some of these people I know aren't local. They've actually purposefully travelled here by some method, just to see the bonfire and fireworks.
Ok, ok. Now you're probably thinking, "What reason did you have for being there, if it's all so terrible, eh?" Well, I'll tell you. For years now, I've helped on the Scout Hotdog stand. It's easy work - stir these onions, fish out a sausage, open a bun, work the till (ok, it's a box with some money in, but then they always are at these things, aren't they?). I enjoy it. And this year it was in a tent, so it was the driest place on the field.
Now everything was going great. I wasn't doing any work, because I have a cough that sounds like I'll infect any food I touch (and I will), the annoying kid was stirring the onions, like he had been doing for the past hour and a half, simply because we told him to stop, and all I had to do was keep the Scout leaders talking so that they wouldn't notice that I hadn't done anything. It was paying off.
The rain dies away, and just in time too, as the fireworks display begins. Pretty colours, loud bangs, screamers, roman candles and all that stuff. Then I feel someone grab my shoulder. "Ok Ben, time to do some work!" I'm dragged into the tent, out of view of the fireworks, and made to handle money, because people don't care if you cough on money, they can always sterilise it or wash their hands afterwards. The queue stretches off some twenty to twenty-five metres away in front of me. This is going to take a while.
I look out from under the tent, just in time to see some sparks fly. Great. I've missed the best part of the show, the misfire, because the Scout leader who used to help with the display, now retired, dragged me into the tent. Ok. I've hated this guy for years, but since he's retired from active service and I see him maybe once or twice a year, it's not so bad. Back to helping.
God Damn It! I again briefly glimpse some sparks. Again, this has happened. I glare menacingly at the next customer. OOPS! The next customer is a small girl! She ran away crying. We serve a few more customers, and the girl comes back, mother in tow, or rather, vice versa. "You demand a free Hotdog for the girl? No problem. I suppose I did scare her after all. You want one too? Well, I don't know whether I can (angry glare from disgruntled mother) yes, madam, I'm sure we can accommodate five Hotdogs. With onions as well? Well, I do have other customers to serve. Yes madam, I realise I made your daughter run away, but I don't think she really minds."
A compromise of three free Hotdogs later, and I find the fireworks display ended, the crowds all but gone and the queue now consisting of five people, I begin to make myself a Hotdog. Bun, 'dog, onions, ketchup. Bite. Spit. Retch. Bin Hotdog. Release hood from 'clever' pocket on the back of the neck, inaccessible to all who are not triple jointed in both their wrists and elbows. The rain is back with a vengeance. And now to walk home.
"Ben, where are you going? We have to take the tent down. And you have to clean up the mess you made of those bread buns."
"I was working with the cash - "
Back to the grindstone readers. Who knows, maybe you'll actually see this, or maybe you'll see the sequel.
Just a few scrappy things to do today. I'll deal with them one after the other.
1. Firstly, Search for Something title. The response was surprising when I asked for suggestions, and I know I can't please everyone. Thanks to everyone who wrote in and helped to influence my decision. In the end it was a toss up between the one below and 'the young person's guide to modern piracy', which I eventually rejected for not being relevant enough. So, although for the sake of an easier life the novel will still be named The Search for Something on this site, the actual, official title will simply be:
Once again, thanks to everyone who wrote in and will probably now be tearing out their hair in horror. Hell, I like it.
3. Thirdly, Edmundo over at Monkeygames has very kindly hacked into my old Rob Blanc games, made them into Windows versions, done a bit of tweaking and removed that notorious loop bug from RB2. He also made them their very own page. Go look if you're in the mood for that sort of thing.
4. Lastly, the idea for this joke suddenly came to me last week, and I really felt I would not be doing it justice if I didn't record it and upload it. Have a listen. It may amuse. Yes, that is my voice.
Tomorrow: Guest update from Space Monkey!
material not otherwise credited by Ben 'Yahtzee' Croshaw