An article by Gabez, posted on June 06. 2005.
This is a true story. The events depicted in this film took place in London in 2005. At the request of the survivors, the names have been changed. Out of respect for the dead, the rest has been told exactly as it occurred.
It was raining hard when I left the house; a blanket of tears to wash the scum off the streets. I grabbed a newspaper off a sleeping drunkard and used it as a primitive umbrella on my way to the bus stop. Once there the paper had already dissolved and I was soaked to the skin, but I didn’t have long to wait until a bus came. That’s the thing about Britain – the weather is awful but, boy, do we have great buses.
I threw some coins at the driver and settled down somewhere at the back, eyeing the vehicle’s other occupants nervously. I recognised one as Sammy “The Snake” Hodges, a man so greasy you could deep fry his face and use it to oil your car. He fidgeted around in his chair, occasionally looking outside at the downpour. He owes money to everyone in town which means only one thing here: he’ll be at the bottom of the Thames before long, and it won’t be tied to an idol that’s for sure.
GREAT BALLS OF FIRE
The bus pulled up in Oxford by which time the rain has eased off a bit. I got into a bar and ordered a whiskey, waiting for my ride to London: the 10:35 mega-bus. I sipped slowly, remembering the old days when a man could have a drink in the morning without being stared at like he was a rapist.
An hour passed with me just drinking and thinking, before I decided to meet up with Mark, a musician who worked at a nearby café playing tunes on an old piano. In his spare time he’s the project leader on Indiana Jones and the Fountain of Youth, a professional little adventure number. He also makes films and has the hefty ambition of murdering someone and being able to get away with it. I asked him about that and he said that he just needs to work out a safe alibi. That’s Mark for you – he’s always looking for an alibi for something.
The rain was getting harder at this point so we decided to make a move for it to London. The coach was full of sweaty couples and young men off to try their luck in the big city. I watched from my window as the countryside melted into the behemoth of London. The city stretched out as far as the eye could see, an unstoppable monster of urban living, a terrifying conglomeration of streets and buildings with the Thames as a blue snake weaving its way through the slime. The coach stopped abruptly at Baker Street at which point we hastily disembarked, dragging our bags and trinkets with us. Since we had two hours to kill before the Gilbo orgy began we decided to go for a walk with the vague destination of the Tate Britain gallery in mind.
We never made it there in the end, but we did get to see a lot of the city. Colossal buildings were around every corner complete with a patch of grass at the bottom to stop visitors from going insane. Shops grew on every street, their owners peddling innumerable goods from comics to Scottish paraphernalia. Statues to the dead and glorious rose out of the ground like man-made mushrooms. And against this elaborate backdrop was London itself: millions upon millions of people walking in and out of the streets and alley-ways like bacteria swarming to and fro in a drop of water. Finally Big Ben struck two and we made our way over to The Volunteer.
PLAY IT AGAIN, SHAM
The pub was lodged in a sea of traffic and pollution, squashed between a brothel and the Sherlock Holmes Museum. Upon entering Mark quickly ordered a drink, whilst I ignored the temptation – I would need all my wits about me – and instead made my way to the toilets.
The building itself was part of a Mansion owned by the Nevilles, a rich and powerful family who were as nasty as sin to the people of London. The trouble started when Richard Neville, the man who made the family so rich, suddenly went mad. Some say he died and was replaced by an identical, a doppelganger – the devil himself disguised in his skin. Others say that he wasn’t mad at all, just disliked because he was rich. We’ll never know the truth because the Mansion was set alight by a mob of locals and he was burnt along with it. His ghost wonders mournfully through the old cellars, trapped forever in another time, waiting for the apocalypse to come. The toilets were situated in said cellar, but I was too busy for ghosts and after a quick drop-off I made my way back upstairs.
When I returned to ground level Mark was no-where to be seen, but I spied a group of rowdy looking youngsters who I figured must be the people I was meant to “meet up” with. One of them had a rubber chicken, another had a Monkey Island 2 t-shirt. I approached them warily. I had stepped through the looking glass.
But before I could get my bearings Rusalka – known to many of you as Yufster – started shouting across the pub at me. “Do you know where I got THIS?”, she screamed, waving a small teddy bear around. I said I didn’t know. “Do you KNOW!?” she repeated. I said I didn’t know again. I was already getting a headache and was beginning to regret coming. “I didn’t get it in IRELAND” she says, nodding her head from side to side like a jack in the box. “I got it free with my SOCKS. Do you wear SOCKS?” I muttered something about having bad feet and sat down in the corner of the room with my back to the window. I figured that if there was a fire then I could just smash my way to safety leaving the others to enjoy Richard Neville’s fate. Maybe they’d return to haunt the toilets.
THE EVIL THAT NEVER SLEEPS
I closed my eyes and tried to relax while I waited for Ron to appear, but someone kept waving a rubber chicken in my face. I reluctantly opened one eye in the hope that the aggressor would stop bothering me, but my optical movement only made him more excited. “I’m going to get this signed”, he said emphatically, whispering each syllable hoarsely in my ear. “But it doesn’t have a pulley in the middle!” I said that it wouldn’t matter, and, anyway, a pulley in the middle of a rubber chicken seemed rather useless. This got the attention of the whole troupe, and an agonising silence followed until someone said: “Have you even PLAYED the game?”... Before I could respond with a “I prefer Doom actually” comment the others were already snorting into their drinks and slapping their thighs with mirth.
Luckily Ron entered at that point before things got ugly. He looked around wildly like a baby kitten who’s been separated from their mother for the first time. “Sit down, Mr Gilbert” someone grandly boomed, making an oversized gesture for him to join us. He shuffled forward nervously and placed himself in a corner a few heads away from where I was. More people began to flood through the doors as soon as he did this, as if him sitting down sent a message to their radars that they should all crowd into the corner at the same time. All in all there were about thirty of us... or maybe it was fifty, I couldn’t tell. It was possible that I was too drunk to know, or maybe I just wished that I were drunk. I’m not sure and I can’t remember.
As more people came over to see Ron I was pushed more and more off my seat until I had to balance precariously, one hand held aloft against the wall, all I could do to stop myself falling off. I sat like this for a while, the edge of the seat digging painfully into my backside whilst around me people were asking Ron questions. I wanted to say something but I forgot what it was and I figured I could ask him later – all I cared about at that moment was stopping permanent anal damage.
“Ron! Ron! Can you speak a bit louder?” one anxious fan called from the back of the pub; the group was so large that people at the back couldn’t hear what was being said. “Okay, I’ll see what I can do”, came the cheery reply. I half listened to the Ron hot seating, which was a mix of Monkey Island anecdotes and obscure questions, but the overcrowding in the corner was making it hard to concentrate. Eventually the ice broke and people began talking to each other in small groups, at which point more room was made and I clambered back on to the seat like a very small man who had just got fished out of a puddle.
NEVER MEET PEOPLE FROM THE INTERNET
Ron moved to the centre of the room so as to speak, Jesus style, to as many people as possible. They crowded around him, hungrily digesting his words. I turned back to Rusalka to see what she was talking about. “You!” she screamed. “YOU! You are RUPERT!” She pointed a quivering finger at a small blonde haired man with shifty eyes. “I am?” he replied weakly. “YES!” For an hour of so I listened to their conversation, the result of which was that the man was not Rupert, but merely looked a bit like him. Rusalka ceased her questioning and, satisfied, announced plans to buy a permanent marker.
Thankful for an excuse to get some fresh air I followed her to the shops. It was raining heavily outside, but I didn’t mind; it was refreshing and the iciness woke me up better than any drug. I didn’t have enough money for the pen so I slipped it discreetly into my pocket and started walking out. At the door an alarm went off and the shop owner started shouting at me in Finnish. In desperation I kicked down a display of food tins and ran back to the pub.
As I re-entered The Volunteer I noticed that there was a free space in the middle, which I quickly took because I didn’t want to be pushed off the edge again. Ron was next to me, talking about Doctor Who. I decided to take the opportunity to quiz him about adventure games in general. I spoke quickly and with too many hand gestures to illustrate my points. I looked stupid but I didn’t care; I had something to say and I was dammed if anyone was going to stop me.
We agreed that games need to mature if they’re going to be seen in the same light as other forms of storytelling. I mean, think about it – when was the last time a game conveyed a real message to you? Movies and books are full of messages, points, insights into society and the way we live – why not games? Until some developer schmuk makes a plot that’s more than just entertainment I figured that games would be light-years behind movies and books in terms of an emotional core to the storytelling. What I didn’t realise though was how hard-arsed these publishers are; the sad fact is that if a game dares to be innovative in those circles then it’s not worth taking the risk.
Games should also have more of a “coolness” factor. I said that with confident aplomb, but I wasn’t really sure what I meant. Would coolness work in a game? Probably not. And if it did the publishers wouldn’t like it. Maybe Psychonauts has coolness? I should really play that. Ron was thoughtful. I was talking faster and swearing more, but I think I got my point across. He sat there with a goblet of wine and told us of the difficulties of getting the right publisher. I was tempted to offer funding, but then I realised that I was more skint than Sammy Hodges. Still, maybe Ron will get a good publisher and make that game of his. I hope he does, because it sounded good, and if there’s one thing the world needs its more games. Actually, that’s a lie; for the amount of money it costs to fund one game you could save the lives of millions of starving children. What the world needs most is an end to third world poverty, then, but good games is a close second to that.
As I was musing in a world of ethics I suddenly realised that Rusalka was still at the store where I had got the pen. I ran outside and caught up with her. She had started talking to some Cockney Londoners but I grabbed her and threw her back into the pub. My grip hurt her arm but I was doing her a favour; those Londoners would have stolen her wallet and thrown her into the Thames. We stumbled in from the rain just as Ron was leaving. He said something about it being fun and stepped outside into the downpour. I offered him my umbrella. He looked confused. I glanced down at my hand and realised there was nothing in it; I must have left my umbrella at home. I apologised for the error but he shrugged it off and said that he liked the site and went there a lot. I wasn’t sure what he meant by that but I thanked him anyway.
Back inside the party was still going, four hours since it began. A group of aficionados were huddled into the corner, but the words “SCUMM” and “Bar” caught my attention. I shuffled nervously over to them to hear what they were saying. “What’s that NAME?” I heard one say, his brow furrowing with his cognitive strain. I asked what name he meant but he didn’t hear me. Someone else asked him though and I got my answer all the same – he wanted the name of the guy who wants to build the real life SCUMM Bar. I said it was Robby King, but they still weren’t listening. “It began with R, I’m sure of it,” someone piped. Yeah, I shouted, it’s Robby King. “God, it’s on the tip of my tongue like a miniature Guybrush Threepwood on the Scabb Island penisula...” ROBBY KING. “What WAS it!?” ROBBY KING. “Damn I wish I could remember!” They still weren’t listening to me. I was about to give up and head to the bar when suddenly someone said “I remember now! It was REMI OLSEN!”
I knew Remi would go mad when I told him; he had a thing about names. I didn’t care at that moment, though – all I wanted was a seat and a pint of vodka. I collapsed in a nearby chair, too lazy to order something. I had nearly dozed off when I began to feel that someone was watching me. I opened my eyes and saw a confused man with a shaved head. “I was sobre when I came in”, he slurred, vaguely motioning with his hand. Suddenly he began to advance. Horror of horrors, I thought: he’s going to hug me! I had to get away there and then. I jumped over the chair and made for the exit, but he was following me and gaining fast. I was in the middle of London and on the run from a drunkard who wanted to rape me - this was my lowest moment. Luckily I made it to the door just in time and the rain stopped him from following me outside. Seizing my chance for safety I quickly hailed a cab and told the driver to get me to Oxford, pronto.
Oh, sorry must've fallen asleep on the keyboard. It was boring. Just the way I like it. Was it boring on purpose?
It was my kind of article!
Thought it seems like Ron probably regrets meeting up with his fans.
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