GameCentral – Cockroach

This column was original published on the ITV Teletext service GameCentral in 2003

I wouldn’t really want to be a cockroach. Universally despised, living in the cracks, nothing to eat but scraps of waste. Asylum seekers have it easy by comparison. But an aversion to eating toenail clippings and smegma aside, there’s a lot to be said for the six-legged life.

Cockroaches are strong – super strong for their size. Their legs are hairy and sticky enough to let them scale any surface. They can see in 6 directions and pick up the smell of a ripe turd from 8 and a half miles. They grow at a rate of 3 inches a day, and have been known to bore through solid steel in order to get to a mate. Without food they can survive for up to 9 weeks, and in the event of a water-shortage can successfully drink petrol.

Their jaws are powerful enough to bite through a bus, if suitably scaled up, and they’ve been known to mob and kill animals as large as a fox. They are, in short, monumental bad-asses.

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And who wouldn’t want to be a monumental badass? Given the chance, who would refuse to stride around in seven-mile boots, knock tower blocks down like bowling pins and chew truck engines like toffees?

And it’s what makes a game, any game, a good game. In fact, it’s what separates the neat from the chuff. Games spawn you mewling and confused into a new world – inexperienced, unarmed, innocent. And then they tutor you in themselves, until 10 levels/rounds/laps/missions later you’re fast, mean, smart: tooled up and clued up.

Sometimes it’s obvious – when you’re built like Master Chief and armed with a rocket launcher it’s hard not to feel like a God. When you roll your hijacked tank over and under and through the citizens of Vice City, no one needs telling not to mess with you. But not every game puts you in such obvious hero boots and parades you round the town.

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Tiger Woods may be fey and golf may be polite, but something still surges through your veins when you whipcrack a hole in one through the trees of Spyglass Hill. And that something is monumental badass. What do you cackle to yourself as you unleash a precarious avalanche of bubbles on your doomed Bust-a-Move opponent? Monumental badass. What does your adoring audience murmur as Ulala blows imaginary smoke from her twin shoo-zappers? Monumental badass.

So when I sit down, ready to give a game my time, my money, my long-term tendon health, all I ask of it is this:

Make me feel like a cockroach.

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