GameCentral – Rain

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

There isn’t anything good about rain. Not if it’s city rain. Not if it’s daytime rain. Not if it’s left your umbrella at work yesterday rain.

Rain is all very brilliant if you’re pike fishing under a rustic bridge with hot water bottles in your boots.

It’s all very manga if it’s falling in neon slices over Piccadilly Circus while you walk a girl home at midnight who you just met in a MacDonalds.

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But rain at 9.05 on a Tuesday morning is all very soaking-wet trousers, hair like broccoli and smelling like a donkey for the rest of the day.

Except I love it, because it makes me realize the world is a videogame.

See that puddle in the gutter? The one that passing cars and buses are turning into a Niagara sized spray?

You’re going to need to time that.

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But videogames have taught you how to navigate that puddle, to time the gap in the traffic and keep safe and dry.

Next, crossing the road. A constant stream of traffic in the way. If only you had a bridge to get across!

But wait, hit that switch on the left and something amazing happens. The traffic stops and a path opens up.

Hurry though! It’s a timed switch. Can’t you hear the beeping?

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Rain closes everything in, makes everything seem less real.

You tuck your head down, forget the world at large and just concentrate on the mechanics of moving around.

Suddenly all the little details matter – kerbs, gutters, awnings, lamp-posts.

You measure small distances – a single step across that puddle, a jump across the puzzle, a dash to that doorway.

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And that’s why it’s only when it’s raining that you realize just how much videogames owe to real life.

It’s not about photo-realism and sticking Hugh Jackman’s face on a stupid digital mannequin.

It’s not about injecting gallons of edgy politics and crass counter-terrorist sub-plots into something which is really just about running and jumping quite a lot.

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What makes a game real isn’t what it looks like or what the story is.

What makes it real is if your brain recognizes the things you have to to, if it can use real world skills to gain a game world advantage.

So the next time it rains, don’t despair. Dump your brolly and grab the chance to practice some Mario on the way to work. Just remember to keep the ‘whups’ and the ‘woo-hoos’ to yourself.

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Videogames and things