9 November 2008





Partus V: Some Other (Kinds Of) Things – Like: This 

The modern gaming PC is an amazing piece of hardware. With much more raw power than any console, capable of far superior graphics and glorious surround sound, equipped with near-infinite versatility of control and able to access data with lightning speed from massive hard drives, the PC is the greatest games machine in the world. Or at least, it would be if it wasn’t for YOU.

I doubt if there’s any single factor that more sharply demonstrates the huge, gaping abyss between PC gamers and their console counterparts than game naming. And it’s a comparison where PC gamers come off horribly badly – assuming, that is, that they don’t actually want to look like embarrassing pompous Dwayne Dibley caricatures. (And if you’re about to write in to point out that I’ve spelled “Duane Dibbley” wrong in that sentence, then oh no! It’s you!)

Let’s have a quick look through some of the more recent console releases featured on a nearby multi-format games website, shall we? We’ve got Haze, Everybody’s Golf, RooGoo, Monster Madness, Everyday Shooter, Singstar, Lair, Poker Smash, The Club, Ninja Reflex, Ghost Squad and Nitrobike. One or two words, punchy and evocative. Before you know a single thing about them, who doesn’t want to play “Poker Smash” or “Monster Madness”? Who doesn’t want to be a member of “Ghost Squad”? The names have invisible exclamation marks on the end – they’re already exciting before you’ve even got the box out of the cellophane! You could even swap almost any of the words around and come up with another brilliant-sounding game – “Monster Smash”! “Ninja Squad”! “Ghost Madness”! “Golf Club”!

 [[SUB: check that last one]]

And now let’s scan down the same site’s list of PC titles. There’s Command And Conquer 3: Kane’s Wrath – well, I nearly stayed awake all the way to the end of that one, I guess. How about Universe At War: Earth Assault? I suppose it can’t be TOO bad if it’s got a number of syllables you can still count on your fingers, right? Or there’s The Lord Of The Rings Online: Shadows Of Angmar (a dozen, damn). Picture yourself in GAME, reading your way along the shelves, following up those with the toweringly meaningless Supreme Commander: Forged Alliance and Heroes Of Might And Magic V: Tribes Of The East. Already a little punch-drunk from that pummelling, we blunder into Warhammer 40,000: Dawn Of War – Soulstorm, a hideous THREE-section monstrosity that you get bored of halfway through the mere act of saying it, and when Phantasy Star Universe: Ambition Of The Illuminus swings in with its full 16-syllable weight it’s down and out for the count.

PC game sales aren’t falling because the games are getting less good or people have less money to spend, it’s that nobody who wants to buy one can make it to the end of a single shelf or website page without either collapsing face-down onto their keyboard into a terminal coma, or being so overcome with shame that they scuttle out of the shop rather than have to go up to the counter and face the piercing, contemptuous eyes of the other customers in the queue burning into the back of their neck as the assistant shouts to his colleague to fetch a copy of Europa Universalis III: Napoleon’s Ambition from the back room.

There’s a reason every PC game of the last five years has a colon in its title, after all. Because at the end of the day, chums, you know where the colon is found, don’t you?

Stuart Campbell used to write about videogames in the 1940s, but was widely ignored as they hadn’t been invented yet. Nowadays he mostly revisits those happy times for our fabulous sister publication Retro Gamer.

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