Guest post: Chris Matyszczyk ruminates on the arrival of Halo 3 and finds connections between the video game, lattes, aspiring snipers, Blackwater and Britney.
A couple of weeks ago, Wolf, the innocent-looking boy who makes my latte extra hot, seemed a little extra hot himself. Even his zits were a-twitching as he was chatting on his cell phone with his friend, who I think was called Dreg.
“This is the one. Nothing is ever going to feel like this,” he told Dreg. As I was thinking that Wolfie might be dealing in something with a little more zing than java beans, he turned towards me and mouthed: “Halo 3.”
Halo 3 is what those who know call a first-person shooter game, where you, the protagonist, fight to save humanity in the 26th century.
We can debate long and fruitlessly about whether humanity in the 26th century will be worth saving. (Incidentally, why are there no debating video games? Surely someone has thought of creating a game based on the British Parliament? “ POINT OF ORDER!” shouts a character in a snooty voice. BAM! You shoot him in the head and his eyeball flies through the air and splats against the wall like a water balloon. Fun, huh?)
We do seem to love shooting people and things. And the video game industry is very happy to tug at our trigger finger.
I have news that suggests things have gone even further than we might have expected.
I confess my world has been tainted because the entertainment fascists who partake of video games have never let me into their fold.
I would be prepared to pay to learn the first person shooter skills. Five dollars for every dead body. Surely Wolf and Dreg could make enough to walk over the corpses from Starbucks through Harvard.
“Teach me,” I said to Wolf. “Please. I will pay you. I will let you talk to my girlfriend. She’s very tall.” He blushed, but wouldn’t budge.
So imagine my disturbance when I got home, a little Wolfscorn rattling around my head, only to stumble upon a book that revealed the following:
A man called Sergio Bendixen, president of Bendixen and Associates in Miami, conducted a research project last year. He is an expert in public opinion and he asked 601 Californians, aged 16 to 22, what they thought they’d be doing in ten years time.
You might expect the majority to have given fairly boring answers. You would be correct. Seventy percent believed they would be working. Twelve percent thought they’d still be at college.
But there was a rather fascinating 1 percent who thought they would be military snipers.
You have, indeed, not had one drink too many. Nor one toke too few. It is not as if Mr. Bendixen had some ulterior motive here. He did not give them a list of possible answers. This was not a quiz for the hard of thinking like the SATs.
Six people declared, an expression of their personal ambition, that they thought that in the year 2016 they would be paid to shoot individuals who were not liked by other individuals. It’s not my habit to read research reports, but this one was referenced in an interesting bedtime book called "Microtrends: The Small Forces Behind Tomorrow's Big Changes" written by Mark J. Penn with E. Kinney Zalesne. He believes that Aspiring Snipers are a genuine and growing subgroup. Blackwater should have any easier time recruiting its specialized (work)force.
Mr. Penn refers us to snipercountry.com (you must be 18 to enter the site and its authors maintain that it is not a place for those who seek to overthrow any government or foment insurgency), where, in the Quotes and Poems section, one poster writes: “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot shoot, the courage to shoot the things I can, and the wisdom to hide the bodies.”
Well, God grant me the serenity to accept the utter nutter. But the truth is, I am a little jittery.
It’s not as if I have chosen to give up lattes. Or to have a quiet word with Wolf’s supervisor. Or his psychologist.
But in a few years’ time, what will Wolf do if I don’t accept his investment advice? (Oh, come on, he’s bound to end up at Morgan Stanley.) Will I go down in a hail of bullets from the 26th Century?
I think the folks at Bungie, the Halomakers, should offer me a bodyguard for protection. I hear Britney’s is available.
Chris Matyszczyk has spent most of his career as an award-winning creative director in the advertising industry. He has also been a journalist, covering the Olympics, SuperBowl and other sporting events. He brings a non-techie's perspective to the tech world and a sharp wit to the rest of the world. Check out his "Pond Culture" blog.