Super Smash Brooker.
Published in The Student, University of Edinburgh’s oldest student newspaper
After fifteen years of conspicuous absence the prodigal son of videogame journalism has returned home with one-off special Charlie Brooker’s Games Wipe. Just don’t expect to be feasting on a pixelated fatted calf. Instead, how about some stale leftovers and bland insights pulled from the back of Brooker’s fridge? It’s a shame but Games Wipe is a rather joyless look at videogames and the people who play them.
“Videogames: bleeping, blooping masturbatory aids for emotionally crippled outcasts. Videogames are for losers like me,” Brooker sets up the stereotype in his charmingly cynical way but then inexplicably chooses to leave it alone and not expose it for the gibberish that it is. Granted, as a kid I would spend hours with Tomb Raider in awe of Lara Croft’s polygonal fun-bags, but by not talking about gaming as it stands today, Games Wipe feels like it’s been broadcast from twenty years ago.
Videogames: bleeping, blooping masturbatory aids for emotionally crippled outcasts. Videogames are for losers like me
Games Wipe is a strictly painting-by-numbers affair modelled after Brooker’s delightfully sardonic Screen Wipe and News Wipe, only with less vibrant colours. Choosing to ditch the topical wit of former Wipes in favour of a sluggish rundown of videogame genres, we are treated to a relentless montage of games from times gone by. The flashes of previous gaming giants will either set your heart a-flutter (as you glimpse a few seconds of Tiny Toon’s Adventures) or will simply leave you wondering why everyone keeps harping on about these old and ugly games.
The constant dipping into the BBC archive for more footage becomes repetitive and fails to inform the show completely. Do we really need more clips of American news reports claiming that the sky is falling because you can hire and kill a hooker in Grand Theft Auto? Brooker revisits that old chestnut of videogame violence for no other reason than it is easy to do and fills another ten minutes of screen time.
Obviously not everyone in Games Wipe is a hopeless curmudgeon: Dara O’Briain quite astutely points out the baffling act of being denied content in the likes of Gears of War because you are not deemed “good enough” by the developer to continue playing their game.
Also cheery are Rab and Ryan from the cult classics Consolevania and VideoGaiden – possibly the only successful videogame programme to be made by the BBC only to be ruthlessly axed after a mere three seasons. The Glaswegian pair gush uncontrollably about the British retro gaming scene of the 80s, making me wish that perhaps if VideoGaiden had gotten so much publicity then it might still be around today. Although Games Wipe is part of the BBC’s Electric Revolution season, it’s undoubtedly a pitch for a future stony-faced gaming series. Should Games Wipe succeed in securing a series then it’ll be thanks to Brooker’s public appeal more than anything else.
Do we really need more clips of American news reports claiming that the sky is falling because you can hire and kill a hooker in Grand Theft Auto?
Sprinkled throughout are a few needless reviews of Nazi gore-fest Wolfenstein and the delusional gangsta-simulator 50 Cent: Blood on the Sand. Both games look fantastic with beautifully produced visuals and slick editing, but are ultimately empty experiences. Replace Mr Cent in the desert with Mr Brooker on his couch and you’re left with something that feels not too dissimilar from Games Wipe.
I’d originally wondered whether Games Wipe would be for the people who buy videogames or for those who have no interest in them. Turns out it’s for neither of them; it’s for the people who like to watch Charlie Brooker phoning it in for fifty minutes.