Video Games

When a so-called columnist expresses a desire to get jiggy with a video game character… We’ve made the call, they are coming to take him away 

In the 1980s, I had a plumber mate called Mario. He was a complete pain in the backside. We’d be chatting about rescuing a princess or something, and suddenly he’d jump onto a ledge to collect random coins. Couldn’t just go to a bank like a normal person. He was on a mushroom-only diet and insisted on being called Super Mario. What a diva. I only hung out with him because I’d fallen out with my other mate Sonic. Sorry, but if you’re blue, you can’t be a hedgehog. The only blue animals are whales, tits and the Cookie Monster. And Toilet Duck, which may or may not be a real duck.

The one good thing about Mario was his music. He had this lo-fi music that followed him everywhere. People call it “chiptune”, although you don’t have to eat chips while listening to it. A fat pasty will suffice, or a lattice of pork. Chiptune is meant to sound like computer circuits, but I wouldn’t know about that because I’ve never whanged a laptop down my earpipes.

Not for the first time, I regret to inform you that I have snuck a big fib under your schnozzle. I am a liar, like confidence tricksters, broadband speeds, and that thin raspy dude with the swirly eyes in the Jungle Book. 

My introduction was a hilarious riff on the 1980s Nintendo game ‘Mario Bros’. I didn’t really know Mario. He was a fictional character made of pixels, and not of flesh and snot and willies like a human person. I suspect he wasn’t even a plumber, despite his deeply practical dungarees. Total con. In fairness, Space Invaders didn’t do galactic incursions and Donkey Kong wasn’t an ass.

When I was young, my preferred console was the ZX Spectrum. The ZX stood for, er, Zigzagged Xenomorph because that’s what its characters looked like when you squinted. It had blocky racing games, space journeys with dots for stars, and a surprisingly scary maze thing that was like Hampton Court in the apocalypse. These days you just press a button to play a game. Not so with the Spectrum. You had to carve a reel-to-reel tape player from granite then run up Mount Sinai to ask God to load the program. He’d get a plague of locusts to make a screeching sound for half an hour, then the whole thing would crash and you’d have to start again.

Speaking of mazes, I found Pac-Man sexually alluring. Is that too much information? I adored his boundless energy. His generous appetite. His perfect yellow complexion, like an ironed canary. I’ve not read much about the reproductive processes of Pac-Men, but I’d like to marry one and start a little Pac-Man family. Move into a lovely labyrinth in the countryside, preferably near a pharmacy, what with his debilitating addiction to pills. I’d play him my favourite music, like Ghostface Killah, and records on the Ghostly International label, and ‘Ghost Town’ by The Specials. I can’t think of any reason why he wouldn’t be OK with that.

It’s the chiptune that I go back to, though. When Warp came along in the late 1980s, they took that bleep aesthetic and turned it into something more adult. As if Donkey Kong was suddenly into S&M. YOU CAN SEE IT IN HIS EYES. Without those early games, I never would have got into all that tricky disco. Love my 8-bit with added 808s. Wait! I thought of another one! Mandrills! They’ve got blue bums! Turns out there’s loads of blue animals. Come back Sonic, all is forgiven.

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