Lylat Wars is off the cards. Ben is too good with the tank and it’s making us hate him. We’re tired of Snowboard Kids. My copy of Fighter’s Destiny gets vetoed for being duff, which it is but I can’t admit. We’re not even going near Mario Kart, because it’s next to Alan’s sleeping bag and he’s just unleashed the most despicable fart I have ever smelt. My eyes are watering, bits of it are getting stuck in my teeth.
So we blow up the toilets with remote mines.
We’re thirteen and at a sleepover at my friend Taz’s. It’s late. The plan is: load up the Facility level on Goldeneye, grab armfuls of remote mines and lob them into the cubicles against one wall in the toilets. Then stand back and set them off.
So basically, there is no plan. We’re just Dicking Around.
Taz and Ben are right in the cubicles, throwing mines into the toilet bowls. I couldn’t say why, though Freud might have a few theories.
“Don’t detonate until we’re out of the way,” Taz says. Alan and I look at each other.
We’ve thrown so many mines that the older ones start to disappear, because the game’s memory is full. We understand this. We may not understand girls, or sex, or delicate social matters, but we get that the mines disappear because the game can only hold so many instances of them in its memory. It feels good knowing that.
“Remember,” Taz says, “don’t deton–”
Someone detonates. I think it’s me. It might be Alan, but I think it’s me.
Shit goes crazy. Fire, explosions, smoke, noise — some rather shocking framerate issues. Taz and Ben are evaporated instantly.
“Who was that?” Taz shouts.
“You nob!” Ben shouts.
Both still very much alive, Alan and I whistle nonchalantly.
The best is yet to come. Alan doesn’t know, but I’ve put three mines on the wall behind his head. The explosions are still going off — in waves because the game can’t fit them all in at once. Alan’s going to be maaad. Come on. COME ON.
I risk a glance to my side. Alan is giggling. A little too much.
I look back at the screen, and down. I’m stood on a mine. Alan is giggling. That absolute nob.
The explosion tears me apart.
I love Dicking Around. Having a giggle, playing for play’s sake — the noblest of all pursuits.
I’m not being facetious. There’s something sinister about organised fun. Like those drinking games that are more about acquiescing to group control than getting pissed. Imbibe three digits of beverage or we’ll cast you out of the fucking Nazi circle of conformity!
Blurg. I’d rather just Dick Around, ta.
Playing video games the way they’re intended is great, usually. I trust developers to channel me towards rewarding and arresting game experiences. But I don’t want to forget that rules answer to me, not the other way round. Putting too much stock in pre-ordained regulation messes you up. You become a drug-fearing, Telegraph-reading, sexually repressed mollusc of a human being.
My answer? Dick Around. Not all the time. Not when you’re landing a jumbo jet, or putting out fires, or tackling Veni, Vidi, Vici on VVVVVV. Not when it’s serious.
But sometimes. Enough to keep the playful spontaneity of the universe alive. Enough to feel the viscous throb of freedom out beyond the social constructs that tie us down.
Balance, is what we’re talking. Life isn’t pure Chaos, yet nor is it stark Order. In the maelstrom where the two forces collide, there we exist.
Sometimes I think our society, in its quest for safety and cleanliness and accessibility, has strayed a little too far towards Order.
So I Dick Around. Jet Ski tag in Waverace, hide and seek in Counter Strike, helicopter suicide in Battlefield 2. Whatever feels so dumb it becomes vitally important, whatever makes me laugh at the glorious absurdity of it all.
Dicking Around! It’s not anti-intellectualism, or anarchism, or any other -ism. Followers of the Church of Dicking Around care not for such things; they know that the Tao that can be spoken of is not the eternal Tao, and so drop boring concepts on the shores of Knowledge and go splashing into the waves.
One caveat to the Dicking Around philosophy: to achieve the boundless heights of satori, you need a friend. An associate, a partner in crime — for silliness is always better shared. Luckily, I have my old housemate, Alex …
We’re playing World of Warcraft, Alex and I. We’ve started new characters. We love starting new characters. These are our third of the day — fearsome Orc hunters named ROBSON and JEROME.
We’re chilling in the starting area, killing scorpions and seeing who can jump the furthest off this little ledge we’ve found. Basically wasting our lives.
An Orc rogue runs past — stops, turns around, and stares at us expectantly. Rogues can go invisible and sneak up on people and knife them in the back, and they’re pretty much exclusively played by wankers. Alex’s main character is a rogue.
This guy is an Orc, like us, so we’re on the same team. He can’t kill us and we can’t kill him. He’s just standing there, staring.
We jump off the little ledge for him, do some spins. Pretty sweet moves.
“Fucking nOObs,” he says. Speech in World of Warcraft appears in bubbles above your character’s head. He’s spelt “noobs” with actual zeros.
We run over to him.
“OH, MY LOVE,” Alex says.
“MY DARLING,” I say.
“I’VE HUUNGERED FOOOR YOUUUR TOUCH.”
The rogue runs away. We follow.
“AAAAND TIIIME, GOEEES BY … SOO SLOOOWLY …”
We follow him for ten minutes, right behind, serenading him with Unchained Melody. Eventually he logs off in frustration.
“What was his problem?” I ask.
“Dunno, Robson,” Alex says. “Maybe he’s more of a Gareth Gates kind of guy.”
“Kind of Orc.”
We skip off into the sunset together, humming our mid-nineties chart hit, looking for a rock to do some ace spins off. The afternoon stretches before us, empty, waiting.