Chris Long's unique brand of humour has landed him in trouble more often than he'd care to reveal in writing. Nevertheless, the man who makes computer programmes on the telly has promised to set aside a few moments a month to share his views on our beloved industry...
Excuse me, but it's irritating the hell out of me. Hold on. FOR CHRIST'S SAKE BE QUIET!
Apparently the aliens have broken out and need shooting. Meanwhile I am sitting in the office trying to string a coherent sentence together. It's the chap on the opposite desk, he is shooting aliens, he says he's a lab technician in a "top secret lab thing and everything has gone horribly wrong". Ahh right.
He's just apologised for a loud clanking noise -- "that was me hitting an alien with a crowbar..." he says. When I'm finished I'm going to discuss the word 'deadline' with him -- very possibly with crowbar sound effects of my own -- if I can find a crowbar. For the record he is playing a game called Half-Life on the Internet, possibly with one of you lot.
In my quieter moments I wonder what kind of person plays these programs over the net, I mean I'm as hard as the next person -- I've played Doom, I know about these things. OK I played Doom at the least violent setting (I think I had it on the "lets talk it through" setting) but I know the score.
The irony about these terribly violent games thing is the aggression it causes in people around the players. Forget this 800x600, 256 colour, bang-bang-you're-dead-you-have-to-log-on-again violence -- if you want to see REAL violence you want to watch the person sitting opposite the game player.
For some reason the gamers I know wear headphones on the -- entirely misconceived -- idea that they won't be noticed. But after 5 minutes the 'clickalicka-clickalicka-clicka-clicka-clicka-clicka-clicka-clicka-clickal ickalickalickalickalickalickalickaclickalickalickalicka' from their keyboard gets to a point where it begins to impinge on other people's consciousness. Then the fun starts: the person playing the game starts jigging around to avoid the cyber bombs and crowbars.
Slowly at first -- they don't want to draw attention to themselves -- but the game is drawing them further and further into its world. Soon the rest of the office is glancing across to watch this uninhibited spastic dance.
The office quietly slows as more and more people watch the dancing fool. We move to the next stage as they start to notice the person sitting opposite the gamer. This person is desperately trying to get something important finished, but, like the office, is getting more and more distracted by the bouncing game player and the incessant 'clickalickalickalicka' soundtrack.
Soon the office is completely quiet, mesmerised by the scene. The gamer, focused on avoiding the cyber-assassins driven by invisible assailants across the world, is oblivious to the scene. His colleague opposite has got to the stage where they will have to say something soon -- we are reaching the white knuckle point.
In the rest of the office sandwiches and cups of coffee are suspended in mid air, as their owners, distracted by the unfolding scene, become part of a shallow breathing tableau. Then the person opposite stirs.
EXCUSE ME COULD YOU STOP THAT PLEASE
And the mood is shattered. The next bit is fun to watch. The gamer, now knows something is going on in the outside world. The problem is he has half a pint of adrenaline flowing around his body and, true to his evolutionary roots, he is 100 percent focused on the alien that wants to chop his head off. This means there are a couple of seconds where he is desperately trying to regain some sort of composure while his body is set for a violent killing.
Everyone suddenly realises that they are staring and get self-conscious, coffee is drunk, sandwiches are eaten. Apologies are made and the office gets back to normal.
But I want to know what happens at the other end of the line -- the person that was playing against our guy. I mean do the aliens wipe him out? Does the lab place get overrun?
Here we are millions of years of evolution simply to get to a point where young men can dish out unutterable carnage without seeing their opponents -- without their opponents seeing them -- and with no blood spilt.
I bet you if someone had suggested that as a Star Trek story line in the mid 60s it would have been turned down as "even too futuristic for us". There are some people on this planet that need to get out more.