I’m watching Brian play Fallout 4 on the PlayStation. It’s a fantasy game set in a universe where the world got nuked during a dysfunctional alternative robotic 1950’s. It’s a world where Nuclear Bunkers were a luxury item, and the soft communies that have been sheltered in them for hundreds of years are emerging to see what has been happening in the hardened ruins of the world above.
They frequently use The Inkspots as their soundtrack so I just put them on. “Into each life some rain must fall,” they sing as Brian shoots radioactive zombies in the head with a two-shot western revolver. It’s strange how we escape on a Friday night into these worlds where everything is trying to kill us. I suppose we can become terribly powerful in these games. They trigger our reward mechanisms.
This means of entertainment has been created in my lifetime, and it has become very involved since “Breakout” “Adventure”, “Air Sea Battle” “Thrust” “Repton” etc. A multi million pound industry now and you can spend your life playing these games, and make your living designing or now even voicing them. There are still tremendous voiceover cockups. I heard an actor tell me that a defeated army had been “routed” to rhyme with “booted” in a multimillion pound release only a few years ago at Christmas. I can play a bit when I’m in consistent employment. Mostly these tricky days I don’t play them, sadly. They aren’t a place for the hungry. So it’s nice to watch Brian shooting a “Super Mutant Skirmisher” and remember how as a teenager I could wake up in the morning, switch a screen on and not move until my eyes were almost bleeding at midnight. “Eye of the Beholder.” “Pools of Darkness.” “The Secret of Monkey Island.” “Betrayal at Krondor”. “Realms of the Haunted” where they used real actors and had incredibly hammy video sequences including one where you lose and the baddie destroys the world. Joyful stupid geeky storytelling, and coming out of the “there’ll never be any money in that shit” generation, it’s amazing to see how my best friend from school has gone from strength to strength designing them. The stories are so big now. Nobody has time to play them all in all their detail. You just have to stumble through. But the studios are vast now as well and the smart people are going back to making them in the attic.
The industry has gone from a couple of geeky kids in an attic to a multistorey building where every so often the less scrupulous studios announce they’re having “a crunch” which means that everyone that works there either gives up all their spare time or is ostracised from the group. So, more and more frequently, the working environments for the people who are making these escapist entertainment products are as horrible as the worlds that are being conceived by the people that work there.
Still there’s good work to be had in that industry. If I was more organised I could make use of my spare time in my home studio drawing up a good demo reel rather than invigilating exams like I have been today. In fact, what am I waiting for? I’ve got the equipment. That’s next week sorted. So long as I don’t get nuked.