I got an unsolicited email this morning, from someone called Nikos. "First, I would like to introduce myself. I am the administrator and webmaster of the Kick Off Association forums/website...", it began, before continuing for several hundred words of incontinent rambling drivel that I only skimmed. As alert readers will have gathered from even this meagre snippet of information, some stain on the bedsheet of humanity had taken it upon themselves to berate your intrepid reporter over a few comments I made TWELVE YEARS AGO about a piss-awful Amiga game called Kick Off.

This followed a tiring day in which Dino Dini, the author of said title, had joined a particular internet messageboard solely in order to barge into a completely unrelated discussion and hijack it in order to whine at enormous length at your weary correspondent about the comments for approximately the eight trillionth time since the Godforsaken craphole of a game was released. But we're getting ahead of ourselves.

Kick Off and its sequel were, back in the late 80s, two fairly popular Amiga titles, widely acclaimed by the press of the day. Their popularity was, in fact, the primary reason I got into videogames journalism, because on reading the reviews of the games in various magazines and subsequently playing them, I decided that videogames journalists were clearly clueless incompetent morons who couldn't be trusted further than you could vomit a buffalo, and it was about time someone did the job properly.

After that, all was well. About a year after I got a job writing for games magazines, someone released a football game so overwhelmingly superior to Kick Off in every imaginable regard that Kick Off was consigned to the dustbin of history. It disappeared from the gaming radar almost overnight, and an increasingly-desperate flood of data disks, updates, console ports, "brand extensions" and sequels all failed to revive it, scarcely troubling the lower reaches of the charts. (The console and 8-bit versions, in particular, sold about four copies between them.) Although the author refused to take the hint and just gracefully retire to count his money and thank his lucky stars that he'd cashed in while standards were low, nobody was much interested in the mediocre rehashes he put out, Sensible Soccer games ruled the charts practically uninterrupted for the next three years, and the world was a fine and beautiful place (until FIFA came along and wrecked everything, but that's another story).

So why am I telling you all this? As a warning of the perils of a life in journalism, viewers. Because no matter how honest and conscientious you might be, no matter how perceptive and eloquent your analysis, and no matter how resoundingly and unarguably you might be vindicated by history, there will always still be dribbling obsessive idiots nursing paranoid, hysterical grudges for years and years on end, waiting for the slightest chance to get your morning off to a depressing start by clogging your mailbox with hundreds of words of incoherent, aggressive, abysmally-argued ranting about a computer game that you and every other sane person in the world stopped giving even the pale shadow of a shit about well over a decade ago.

No matter how determined you might be not to become a cynic, no matter how hard you try to believe that there's hope for humanity, trust me - you simply can't start your day by hearing from unfortunate genetic accidents like these without thinking that actually, Pol Pot had the right idea all along. Frankly, the only thing that keeps me going is the thought that all these people will one day be dead, and the hope that I'll be there when that day dawns to enjoy the brighter new world it heralds.

And kind people, do not shatter this dream. Make it real. Make the dream real.


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