As ‘young adults’, ‘the next generation’, and the ‘aspiration nation’ who will lead society out of its current economic chaos, it seems that there are fewer and fewer opportunities where playing games is a socially acceptable pass-time. Lad Culture has been condemned as Attempted Rape, Video Gaming has been condemned as Attempted Socialising, and sports club initiations have been driven underground and are forced to assume impenetrably coded aliases (such as ‘Bangers and LASH’, ‘Baldrick’s Cunning Plan’ or ‘One Ring to Rule Them All – That’s right lads – It’s SHARE A COCK-RING SOCIAL’) in order to continue.
It seems that games are either a juvenile thing of the past, or come with triple X rated content, but I have found the ultimate antidote. Reverting to the golden, game-laden heyday of my youth, I continue to play my own special brand of guerrilla games, and I remain adamant that if a scoring system is involved, the label Public Nuisance is redundant.
My favourite game is called Graduate Prospects. I find that there is nothing more morale-boosting than to locate a third year, swamped in a sea of revision notes – a half-written dissertation underneath a half-eaten sandwich – and ask, in the most well-meaning of tones “So, what have you got planned for next year?” The ensuing reaction is, almost invariably, a sight to behold. The eyes are transformed into orbs of fear (10 points), the whites magnifying into a milky abyss of incomprehension (10 points) and the pupils dilating as if attempting to broaden their horizon (10 points). Then the shoulders stiffen into a Post Graduatus Rigor Mortis (12 points), whilst rivulets of cold sweat appear on the brow (another 15 points). And finally the rasping whisper, with the pure unbridled terror that only a competitive job market can fuel: “I… Grad scheme… Assessment centre… Destitution” and a final 20 points can be awarded for an emotional breakdown.
The last time I played Graduate Prospects, however, I was given a good old fashioned thrashing (ooh er – ed). My opposition was a third year Theology student. Theology is about as useful as bringing a damp towel to a job interview – in other words, he was the perfect opponent. “So” I started, tremendously sure of myself, a smile of perfectly practised curiosity on my innocent face, “where do you see next year taking you?” I awaited the imminent crumbling of self-esteem, already racking up the points in my head: ‘He knows Theology was a bad choice, so there’s 15 points. Extra-curricular participation was probably poor, so that’ll be 25 points for visible remorse, and if I’m lucky he’ll have a really successful sibling he hasn’t lived up to – that’s worth a minimum of 20’.
But it never came. What I witnessed instead was far, far more shocking. He straightened his back, and traces of a smile could be seen to flicker across his face (-5 points). “Well” he paused for effect, and to give him time to take a cracker topped with smoked trout pâté (-100 points), “I’ve actually got a job” (-300). He took a sip from his champagne glass (-5000) and with an air of completely substantiated confidence announced: “it’s with an accountancy firm, in London” (- 100 million). My smile was now one of hollow shame. At – 100,005,405 points, this was the worst defeat in the history of Graduate Prospects. But it didn’t stop there. The tables were turned, the record was changed and the shoe (a suede loafer) was definitely on the other foot…
“How about you then, where are you heading?”
I couldn’t reply. My throat had constricted, beads of clammy sweat were running down my brow and my extremities were completely numb. With my final reserves of strength I rasped the words:
“I… Journalism… Very competitive… Destitution…”