People have generally adjusted to the fact that games aren’t just for children anymore. It was a pretty abrupt change thanks to Mortal Kombat, but even so, the games industry still attracts its fair share of bad press whenever the Daily Mail discovers that a murderer once played Tetris or whatever. While the actual effects of watching simulated violence on human minds are either impossibly terrible or non-existent depending on which direction you point your brain, the potential for learning in some way from such an interactive medium is undeniable. So, in the interests of defending the thing that has kept me from becoming a productive member of society for two decades, here’s a list of positive things we can all learn from our home consoles.
God creates man. Man kills God. Man creates zombie. Zombie inherits the earth. Yes, for 6 instalments and counting, Chris Redfield and his STARS colleagues have been drawn to outbreaks of the walking dead, desperately trying to contain the situation like keeping a lid on a box of excited undead ferrets. But to find a lesson in this we must look past Redfield’s car-sized biceps, if that’s possible, and to the beginning of the series. The Resident Evil story is basically Jurassic Park with zombies, a modern allegory of man playing God and failing quite badly, retold again and again with a cavalier attitude to repetition. “Do you remember those other five times when we tried to make zombies and it went wrong? Well it definitely won’t happen again this time, lads”.
LESSON LEARNED: STOP MAKING BLOODY ZOMBIES
Even though rhythm games appear to have had their day like the landfill metal bands who provided so much of their soundtrack, it’s hard to imagine anything that’s provided such a direct learning experience, except maybe Encarta or those educational games on Nintendo’s DS received by disappointed kids at Christmas who just wanted Scribblenauts. Ironically, the controller that began it all, the guitar, is probably the least useful, having as much in common with playing an actual six-string as learning CPR by watching Vinnie Jones recite BeeGees lyrics. Genuinely, who thought that two-way strumming button was a good idea? NO ONE PLAYS GUITAR LIKE THAT. Never mind though, because the drum set made up for that, providing a genuine way of easing into a complex instrument. While the easier settings may simply be tapping things in time, once you reach the harder settings you’ll find yourself playing proper rhythms that can be replicated on an actual drum kit. And if not, there’s always bass isn’t there?
LESSON LEARNED: Literally anyone can play bass
Included here on the assumption that this cartoony manage-em-up was a big part of Jeremy Hunt’s formative years, because there’s literally no other evidence of why he thinks he’s able to manage the NHS.
LESSON LEARNED: Stop voting for the Tories
The Matrix videogame you always wanted (As opposed to the ACTUAL Matrix game, which was terrible). Ever the life of the party, alcoholic misery-guts Max Payne doesn’t actually slow time, but rather Max’s reactions are SO FAST that it appears everyone else is slower. I was quite disappointed to learn this, it seemed akin to peeping behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz. Either way, even on his third instalment of bullet-dodging, in which an aged and alcoholic Payne travels to Brazil and wears bad shirts, he is STILL quick enough to be able to do the bullet-dodge thing. He must be about 50. There’s also a film adaptation of the series, which is only really good for showing us that Mark Whalberg is the worst thing to happen to Max Payne since his family was murdered.
LESSON LEARNED: Age is not an excuse, and Mark Whalberg needs to stop making movies
METAL GEAR SOLID
While the series began with a fairly clear message about nuclear weapons being ‘quite bad’, what happens in Phantom Pain is anyone’s guess, the plot simply reading like flipping through an index in creator Hideo Kojima’s head. Still, if we refer to the original there are things to take away from it, such as taking unprescribed diazepam being perfectly acceptable in the middle of a war zone.
LESSON LEARNED: Sod the warheads, if North Korea start testing a 30-foot nuclear robot we are all very, VERY fucked
CALL OF DUTY
A magnet for surly adolescents worldwide, the Call of Duty series has covered battles from World War 2 to modern day and beyond. It may show us that as a species we have learned literally nothing from history, and will continue to learn absolutely nothing as we perennially find inventive and spurious reasons to send people into curtains of bullets for many decades to come. However, the main thing to take away from here is that there is nothing that energy-drink fuelled teenagers like more than insulting foreigners on shooting games
LESSONS LEARNED: If we banned Mountain Dew and Monster it would really empty the CoD servers out. Oh, and also war is hell and so on.
Super Mario Series
How many Mario games are there? I mean proper ones, not when he’s fucking about in go karts or he’s a walking sticker or whatever. There’s absolutely loads, and every time the plot is the same. If you take each game on its own, you’ll find yourself trotting through every castle in the kingdom until you finally find Princess Peach. Imagine the amount of trouble that would be saved if they’d just hire that fucking woman a bodyguard. I mean sure, the people of the Mushroom Kingdom may find their taxes going up a bit but you just can’t put a price on the prestige and usefulness of royalty, can you? Anyway, in every game she’s always in the very last castle on the map. The first lesson, therefore, is that if you lose something it will always be in the last place you look for it, just like your mum used to say.
For our next lesson we must look at the franchise as a whole; for every time you rescue her, she goes missing again. This shows us that life is ultimately pointless and no matter how hard you try, all the bad things you worked so hard to avoid will eventually happen anyway.
LESSON LEARNED: In the grand scheme of the universe, nothing you do has any significance.