Sex, geeks and video games

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 10 December, 1994, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 10 December, 1994, 12:00am

WOMEN often ask why men spend so much of their waking hours talking about sex. Well, the reason is actually quite simple. We talk about sex to draw attention away from what we're really thinking about: computer games.

The gene for playing computer games lies somewhere on the Y-chromosome, near the genes for facial hair, bad clothes, and betting pools. It serves no evolutionary purpose that scientists are aware of, although it may have contributed to the vague sense of incompleteness that sent the primitive man off to people the planet.

According to this theory, primitive man was always uneasy and unfulfilled. He wandered from cave to cave looking for what he thought might be better pasture or better hunting, but was actually a craving for high-resolution 32-bit colour graphics.

Genetics explain why women will never understand this longing, just as men will never understand why women get all glassy-eyed when they spot baby-sized sailor suits.

(Science, parenthetically, is also helpless to explain the sailor suit. It is clear that no man ever willingly purchased a sailor suit, for his own use or the use of others. How, then, did entire navies come to wear them?) Through the centuries mankind made various ultimately lame attempts to achieve his deep-seated desire for video games. The Sistine Chapel came close, but the disappointed pontiffs came to realise that nothing ever happened. The Napoleonic Wars provided full sound and graphics, but proved cumbersome and expensive.

And then came Pong.

'Excuse me, Jeff,' you find yourself asking. 'But this article sucks. No one cares about video games. Why don't you knuckle under and produce some quality writing, like an article on that hot new sex-pheromone stuff?' Well, it's like this. I was at level nine of Prince of Persia after about 27 hours of continuous play, including nine hours spent figuring out how to carve up the Grand Sword Master without getting pushed into the stake-lined pit, when I ran into the ghostly Alter Ego. Now, this may sound boring to the uninitiated, but each time you hit the Alter Ego with your sword, you lose life points yourself. I played this level over and over again for another four hours, desperately hoping that for once I'd find a way around the Alter Ego's magical invulnerability, but in the end I just couldn't do it. I had to give up.

After this happened I had a very rough time emotionally. I was in denial and also undergoing a very painful process of emotional separation from my favourite game. All I can say is that I'm mostly over it now, thanks to the love and support of relatives, close friends and editors.

Another reason I'm over my trauma is that Prince of Persia, now all of two years old, is totally obsolete. If you walk into the Golden Shopping Arcade in Shamshuipo and ask for a copy of Prince, they will probably call the Health Department to have you taken away. You might as well ask for a Rubik's Cube.

No, the new global obsession is a game called Doom. Doom is not merely a game but a way of life for otherwise lifeless computer geeks. It involves running around hell carving up demons with chainsaws. Hence its popularity. CNN has done a story on it, and the Internet has a dedicated site where compulsive Doom players can share their passion. In typical Internet fashion, the discussion veers between the inane to the incomprehensible. A typical entry goes like this: 'I saw the Doom TV ad last night. It was great! Can someone email me the ftp address for the FAQ?' This is not to say that the Internet is 90 per cent geeks talking about Doom. In fact, it is only about nine per cent geeks talking about Doom. Ninety per cent is geeks sending each other digitalised pictures of naked ladies. These are called GIFs, short for Girl Inspecting Files.

'Aha!' you say. 'This proves that men are more interested in sex than computers.' No, this proves that when men think about sex, they'd like to do it without having to turn the computer off. Any married woman can probably tell you this. They'd also like to leave the TV on, and their socks, too, and preferably have an opened beer within easy reach.

Since I'm running out of space I should forestall any criticism by pointing out that, yes, there is a computer game that women play more than men. It's called Tetris. Actually Tetris is not a game so much as a form of water torture.

What happens is that different patterns of blocks fall down from the sky and you have to twirl them so that they fit together. Doesn't that sound nice? As you will have noticed I did not mention anything about shotguns, chainsaws, or headless men - eating demons. That is why, to the purist, it is not a true computer game at all.