Category Archives: Computer games

Art and protest at the V&A

I’d been looking forward to the Disobedient Objects exhibition at the V&A for quite some time, so perhaps it was inevitable that I’d end up being disappointed. The exhibition looks at the art and design of protest, the way campaigners create new objects to enhance their ability to protest. Most obviously, this involves items like banners or posters, but protesters can be incredibly creative, and the boundaries for this are almost limitless.

The V&A exhibition, though, all felt a little safe. There was very little here that could upset anybody. The protests could all have come from a Guardian-approved list of righteous causes, while the objects were either strung up high out of reach – inflatable cobblestones, old banners – or dwarfed by the surrounding cabinets made of cheap plywood. Not that that there were that many objects: some posters and banners, a decorated car, some bicycle contraption, a phone with a subversive game and a limited selection of T-shirts and button badges. I was particularly disappointed that the Barbie Liberation Organization, a group that placed subversive voiceboxes inside old Barbies, were represented only by a film much like one you can watch on You Tube.

It wasn’t terrible. I liked the shields made to resemble book covers, for instance, and the Suffragette china has historic importance, while the Fuck The Law pendants made by a Black Panther who has spent 35 years in solitary had a rare power. Certainly more so than the rather trite banner, below, that the V&A clearly love so much they’re selling as postcards. I liked the free sheets they were giving away, though, telling people how to make their own disobedient devices.

Bone china with transfers printed in green, bearing the emblem of the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU)Coral Stoakes, I wish my boyfriend was as dirty as your policies

Best of everything, though – and the only stuff that really felt at all dangerous even now – were the mock newspapers created by Reclaim The Streets and Class War. These supported a variety of causes, but were generally just designed to piss off the power of the establishment.

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This had a lot in common with the excellent exhibition upstairs in Room 88 called A World To Win: Posters Of Protest And Revolution, where Class War were also represented. This display takes place across two rooms which collectively contained dozens of dramatic posters from more than 100 years of graphic protest across the globe. There are items here from the Weimer Republic, Vietnam, Soviet Russia, Oman, Northern Ireland, Paris 68 and the Iranian Revolution.A lot are designed to shock – dead bodies at My Lai, Fuck The Draft, the incongruity of a poster celebrated the Ayatollah Khomeini placed just across the room from one lauding Angela Davis. The mix worked, and the images were superb.

A few of my favourites are below. but I recommend you check the collection out yourselves. Both this and Disobedient Objects are free.


Poster - So Long as Women are not Free the People are not FreePoster - Never Again! Stop the Nazi NF!

Against Apartheid. Boycott South African Goods (Poster)

Les Beaux-Arts Sont Fermés, Mais L'Art Revolutionaire Est Ne (Poster)

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Five videos of Paul McCartney’s London

Inspired by this marvellous piece of Paul McCartney-related London trivia from Mark Mason, I thought we should look at five classic Macca In London videos on You Tube.

1 Press, 1986
Here’s Macca on the tube in this little known video from 1986. Check out the modestly greying locks, and drink in the 80s atmosphere and the now lost station architecture.

2 Busking, 1984
A dream sequence from Give My Regards To Broad Street features Macca busking outside Leicester Square tube.

3 Give My Regards To Broad Street computer game, 1984
This appalling Commodore 64 game based on the film sees Macca taking a cab around London to a brilliant, blippy 8-bit soundtrack of Band On The Run.

4 London Town, 1978
Paul and Linda take a boat trip down the Thames to promote London Town. Features many bridges and some fish and chips.

5 Oxford Street, 1983
And here’s Macca nipping round the West End in the back of a cab with Lesley Ash.


Kicking off about FIFA

I call it the strawberry ice-cream paradox. I like strawberries, I like ice-cream, therefore I should like strawberry ice-cream. But I don’t, I can’t stand it. Too sweet, too tart, too unchocolate.

It’s the same with football games on the computer. I love computer games and love football, but I hate football games on the computer. I recently picked up FIFA 09 at Oxfam, but even at £3.99 it was against my better judgment. I know I won’t like it. Too difficult, too boring, too realistic. I haven’t even taken it out of the case yet, having been let down by every FIFA and Pro Evo I’ve played since the PS2.

It wasn’t always like this. In 1990, I bought Kick Off 2 on the Amiga and fell in love, despite the Palace away kit on the loading page.

I am not much of a stayer when it comes to games – the only one I’ve completed is Deus Ex – but I came this damn close to mastering Kick Off 2, and was pretty much unbeatable when I stuck R Shaw on the wing in the unfashionable 4-2-4 formation. 

The joy of Kick Off 2 – and Sensible Soccer which followed – was that it was very much a game, arcade-style, unrealistic, stupidly fast, a bit daft and a total laugh-riot. It was pretty much instant fun. This was not an attempt to recreate the tactical and technical complexities of football on your computer screen because the only games that embraced reality back then were Flight Simulators, which your dad would buy in the forlorn hope they would turn out to be educational. Yeah, nice try Dad! 

Kick Off 2 wasn’t educational and it certainly wasn’t a ‘simulation’. It was a game, thrilling, stupidly fast, end-to-end football with crazy banana shots, mad sliding tackles and a goalkeeper who could always be beaten at his near post. More like air hockey than football.

This is beautiful. I could watch it all day.

The early Pro Evolution and FIFA games on the first-generation consoles understood this, while improving the graphics, changing the camera angle and throwing in some insane ball skills. But as the hardware got better, the games got more complicated, the learning curve steeper and dread realism took over. Now, when you make a sliding tackle you don’t go from one end of the pitch to the other taking out everything in your path in the process, you just get booked. Your strikers are always offside, your wingers fall over when they try to do a trick and your midfield simply doesn’t exist unless you play 4-5-1 and try to squeeze out a tight 1-0 in every game. Ooh, but aren’t those facial expressions so real! And listen to the crowd! This must be good.

Well it’s not, it stinks.

But despite this, the FIFA and Pro Evo get great reviews and sell by the bucketload, presumably to grown men and women who enjoy suffering and teenagers who spend months at a time in front of the screen and are able to beat Brazil 8-0 with AFC Wimbledon and make their players hover in mid-air while preparing epic bicycle kicks like this final scene from Hotshot.

But for me – and sometimes it seems like it’s just me – the modern football simulation is a profoundly unsatisfying and dispiriting experience, tedious, frustrating, blister inducing and a long way from fun. 

One of the reasons I like computer games is that they let me do the sort of things I can’t do in real life, in ways that are wholly unbelievable but very enjoyable. I’m rubbish at football in real life, I don’t get a kick out of being rubbish at football in the virtual world as well.