The Ryan Lambie Column: when life turns into a videogame

Whatever happened the joy of the amusement arcade on holiday, wonders Ryan?

Mr Ryan Lambie's amazing joypad.

For those of you who wondered – perhaps with a hint of anxiety, even a little thrill of fear maybe – where the Ryan Lambie Column was last week, fear not: I was merely in Greece wearing shorts, drinking worryingly expensive drinks with sparklers attached and getting sun burn.

Embarrassingly, I had intended to find an Internet cafe and send a column while I was there; I was going to write a lively report on all the arcade games I found, and how great it was to be able to play Puzzle Bobble in an entirely different time zone or Operation Wolf when it’s thirty degrees Celsius in the shade outside (or something like that) – every other island I’ve visited in Greece has had plenty of arcades tucked away among its resorts, and I’ve never been on holiday without finding a MAME cabinet, or a knackered old light gun game (maybe Lethal Enforcers, with the pink and blue guns), or at least an air hockey table. Bizarrely however, it seems that Rhodes is something of an arcade desert. Churches and chapels it has in great number, lizards a profusion, arcades there are none (or I couldn’t find any, at least. If you’re a resident of Rodos, do leave a comment here and let me know where they are).

In fact, the only actual game I saw all week was resting on a bar – one of those dreadful touch-screen monitor things full of casual games like patience and word searches. I’ve played a few games of patience in my time – both electronically and the analogue sort with proper bits of card – and find it horribly tedious, as tedious as sorting a deck of cards into their correct order, in fact (which is what it is, except with a few extra rules to make it take a bit longer).

After a few days, my prolonged absence from the digital hinterland of gaming began to have an unexpected effect – various events and parts of my surroundings began to take on the appearance of a video game, like something from a David Cronenberg movie. My wanderings around the labyrinthine streets and arcades of Lindos (for that is where I stayed), with homicidal donkeys apparently in hot pursuit, were transformed into a form of Grecian Pac Man, with me in the title role of Pac Man, the donkeys filling in for the ghosts and ice creams, kebabs and tins of coke taking the place of the power-up pills.

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Sitting on a rooftop taverna eating over-grilled swordfish, I looked out over the other rooftops and imagined myself as Grace out of Mirror’s Edge, jumping from establishment to establishment, avoiding the Greek waiters as they threw shot glasses of Ouzo at me.

Driving around in a hire car threw me into a game of Burnout; presumably, the locals’ habit of hurtling down the wrong side of the road, regardless of any traffic coming straight at them from the other direction, is an attempt to get their boost bar filled as quickly as possible.

The regular trek up the hill back to our apartment, ducking into side alleys and other dusty niches to avoid the donkeys hurtling straight back down at me (there are a lot of donkeys on Rhodes) became an irritating sequence in The Ocarina Of Time where you had to avoid boulders rolling down a hill – I believe it was the Fire Temple stage, if memory serves.

There are numerous other examples. Crossing the road: Frogger. Swimming in the sea: Ecco The Dolphin. Frisbees on the beach? Discs of Tron.

In fact, forget Tron: if you want to be thrown into a virtual world where you become part of the fabric of video games, head to Rhodes – there’s more booze and the graphics are far, far prettier.

Ryan writes his gaming column every week at Den Of Geek. Last week’s is here.

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