Sometimes the echoes of the day reverberate into our subconscious so much that we relive certain repetitive facets of the day’s activities without ever giving our minds the permission to do so.  The last “goodnights” are whispered gently into your ear by the one you love or, as was the case last night, a kick in the shin and a Sid James cackle… and you close your eyes to dream of better days.  Sometimes, however, the brain has its own idea of what you’d like to experience… all… night… long.

The all too familiar "clank clank clank" of the UFO soldiers is enough to drive you insane, even during sleep!

For years it was my little guys from UFO: Enemy Unknown clunking around all over the place from forest to alien base, desert to space craft… over and over again, tile after tile after tile.  The garbled sounds of an over-compressed audio file groans in the darkness as the lone Sectoid falls to the ground with a pitiful death rattle. More recently it’s been 720 degree flat spins, barrel rolls and other flashes from Burnout Paradise mixed in with the odd peppering of my Wasteland Wanderer trudging through the Capital Wasteland in a seemingly endless forward motion towards a destination which, to date, has yet to materialise.  After several hours of this “cloud goes up, cloud goes down” repeition, I start to come around and realise it’s all just a dream, and so I close my eyes once again and think about something a little less repetitive like cheerleaders… or more cheerleaders… but still the gaming images come.

The morning sun rips through the gap in the curtains like a raptor claw through the obligatory alluminium door and, with it, only a half full stock of energy is delivered for the day ahead.  I recall the previous evening’s looping visions and how they prevented me from achieving what would be regarded as a decent sleep, and so I muster enough drive to go about my day-to-day… because there’s no way that my gaming memories will interrupt my working day.  Right?


One man's trash is another man's treasure, and in the Capital Wasteland these are the difference between starving and eating irradiated crap. Worthless in reality though.

Even walking up from the house towards the train station, I find myself scouring the grass verge and can’t understand why.  I’m not usually this attentive, certainly not when I’d much rather be indoors lapping up the warmth, and so I drag my eyes away from the littered roadside and concentrate on reaching the station in one piece.  Several moments later the realisation hits me that I am, once again, staring at this godforsaken verge… but before I can question my reasons, the answer presents itself as I begin to mutter the words “ooh a bottle cap” and have to quickly stop myself .  A bottle cap.  The world is strewn with discarded bottle caps, and has been for perhaps my entire existence, and yet I suddenly appear to have a vested interest in those shiny little trinkets.  They have no worth.  In fact, they are nothing but a marker that someone had a good night out, and yet I am somehow drawn towards this detritus.

Fallout seems to have taken control of my subconscious in such a way that I am now thinking in game terms even when I’m not playing.  This was further reinforced when, standing in the low level platforms in Glasgow Central some months ago, my mind started to drift during a conversation with Lorna and I realised that I was scouting the tracks for railway spikes.

I don't care WHAT you say... there's a superjump at the top of that building, and I bet I'll beat your flatspin!

It’s not just Fallout though.  Other games have done the same, even games in which I haven’t completely immersed myself.  Wandering through London in the summer, we both remarked at how it was odd that the Swiss Centre was no longer there and how it had become such a landmark for Leicester Square over the years that it’d never really be the same.  The outlook would be changed forever and so our garnered memories would now seem as though something was wrong, that perhaps there was a glitch.  At that moment, I looked towards the construction site that was being steadily nurtured and immediately had the thought “wonder if there’s a superjump up there”.  Yes, my first thought at seeing a construction site was whether or not we’d be able to take our fictional vehicles, achieve a decent amount of drift on our trip to the top, possibly find a couple of smashes on the way… and take to the skies on a superjump which may actually have us tearing through a Burnout billboard.

As I explained all this to Lorna, she was smiling knowingly and told me of how she’d be walking across the platform at the station to get to the other side and think “there must be an easier way to do this” as she put herself in the mindset of Faith from Mirror’s Edge, using her Parkour skills to bounce from one sheer face to another and scale impossible heights without breaking a nail.  I knew then that I wasn’t alone, that it must be the curse of the gamer to find little strands of our most played games worming their way through our subconscious and into real life.

Is this an attempt by our minds to corrode the mundanity of reality and bring a little spice into our life, spark our imagination and relieve us somewhat from the harshness of the real world… or are we just spending too much time playing?  Either way, it can be a blessing in some cases and a curse in others.  Breaking up the mundanity is something I welcome with open arms, but I would still like to have a deeper sleep without worrying about these repetitive images interrupting my rest.  One day my salvation will come.  I just hope that, when it does, I’m not sleeping.

If you find any bottle caps on your travels, you know where to send them.

David Belle... a guy who understands that, with a little Faith, and the balls to live your life on the Mirror's Edge... travel time becomes unimportant!

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  1. Lorna says:

    Superb stuff. Any yellow fences become Burnout smashes for me and I regularly gripe about the time taken to cross bridges, descend stairs, and so any number of things which Faith from Mirror’s Edge would wall run and vault within seconds :)

  2. Kat says:

    Fantastic piece. I was just saying to Steve yesterday how I wanted to write about this. We were on the way home from the shops and there’s lots of armed forces bases etc in Wiltshire. Some kind of large helicopter went past and my immediate instinct was to aim to the sky and take it down. I didn’t physically do anything but I heard the MW2 sound effects in my head :/

  3. Edward Edward says:

    I actually think its one of the greater things when a game has such an impact on you that it starts bleeding through into your own life.
    After all, if people can do it for movies and books, why can’t we do it for the superior medium?

    (Recently, I keep thinking of conversations with the Mass Effect conversation wheel… it’s… interesting)

  4. Mark R MarkuzR says:

    I’d forgotten about this article, it’s nice to read it again… nothing’s changed you know, those bloody games are still intefering with my day to day life. The station up the road from us has these raised green cylindrical oil tanks and I’ve been so tempted to turn it into a Borderlands landscape by creating a “Jakobs” stencil and taking white spray pain to them. Perhaps one day!

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