Playing video games used to be the mark of a weirdo. It gave notice to the world that you were a nerd who liked to avoid social contact by hiding in your bedroom and indulging in 72-hour sessions on Goblin Slaughter III.
But over the years, things have changed.
We have emerged from this mouldy cocoon to reveal a more socially acceptable persona. These days we are all perky, fresh-faced twenty-somethings with asymmetric haircuts and glittering white teeth. You may have seen us in the adverts.
Gaming is no longer a sad solo activity – it is an excuse for us to lounge around our minimalist white living rooms to spend some quality time gaming with our demographically mixed network of friends.
Okay, so maybe that’s not quite how it works in the real world. But having a few mates around for a night of games/Guinness is still a great way to waste a night. And with St Patrick’s Day approaching here’s a guide to the top five Irish themed multiplayer games to play.
5. Street Fighter 4 (360 / PS3)
Anyone daft enough to have watched the second Street Fighter movie will know about this game’s Irish credentials. The film reveals the game’s iconic baddy, Master Bison, is Irish – and the actor, American born Neal McDonough, has the excruciatingly bad accent to prove it.
But that’s not the reason to load-up Street Fighter 4; that’s because this is the best fighting game ever made. This is the remake of the 90’s original which seduced a generation into parting with their small change in the arcade.
It’s the game which pretty much invented the beat-em-up genre, pioneering the use of combos. This updated version looks prettier than the original but it’s essentially the same game.
There’s nothing fancy about it –just you versus your opponent; the best of three one-minute-rounds. It’s the purest, most perfectly balanced way to beat the crap out of your mates.
Fact: Master Bison’s first name was originally Mike but they changed it because of fears that it was too similar to Mike Tyson.
4. Guitar Hero II (360)
Most people have a cupboard where they shove all the junk they don’t use: broken Christmas decorations, a sandwich toaster, a rolled up yoga mat.
But there’s something else you’re likely to find in there – it’s a toy guitar with brightly coloured buttons instead of strings.
Remember that? That’s the controller you bought for Guitar Hero; a relic from a distant time when music games ruled the world. We’re talking way back in those heady days of 2008.
Well, now’s the time to dust that thing off and relive some of those good times. Stick Guitar Hero 2 on, choose Thin Lizzy’s Bad Reputation and let the spirit of Phil Lynott take control. There’s a face-off mode so you can each take it in turn to act like a dick.
Just remember to cover any reflective objects to avoid the danger of catching sight of yourself prancing around with a small plastic guitar. It breaks the spell.
Fact: Guitar Hero is the third largest games franchise ever – beaten only by Mario and Madden.
3. Jack Charlton’s Match Fishing (Spectrum, Commodore 64)
What do we know about Jack Charlton? He’s a bit grumpy, he wears a cloth cap and he led the boys in green to the quarter finals of the 1990 World Cup.
But there’s something else about the great man – something much more remarkable: he’s the grandfather of multiplayer video games.
Back in 1985 a bizarre game called Jack Charlton’s Match Fishing was released for the Spectrum 48k; this can genuinely be considered as the first proper multiplayer experience. This wasn’t for two players – it was for eight.
The only way to achieve this was to have ell eight players using the same keyboard. This required squeezing together in an uncomfortably intimate fashion as you held your finger over your allotted key and stared gormlessly at the static picture of a lake.
This was hardcore gaming – matches could last up to 90 minutes.
You can easily recreate the seminal Jack Charlton’s Match Fishing experience by gathering together eight friends and making them watch reruns of Doc Martin while touching a brick.
Fact: Jack Charlton’s real name is John.
2. Mario Kart (Wii)
The Irish connection here is obvious. It’s almost certain that it was probably during a game of Mario Kart that Harry Redknapp broke the news to Robbie Keane; his services were longer needed at Spurs. Legend has it that it took weeks to prise the plastic steering wheel from poor Robbie’s grasp.
And there is no more fitting game with which to give somebody the boot. Because behind Mario Kart‘s cutesy graphics lies a fantastically brutal and vindictive game.
As you race around the tracks you collect power-ups which allow you to bugger up your competitors – throwing bananas in their path or smacking them out of the way with a turtle shell.
It’s this nasty streak which makes it so maddeningly addictive when battling against mates. And it has helped Mario Kart to become as much a part of the post-pub ritual as losing your wallet or falling asleep with the telly on too loud.
It’s more than a game – it’s a lesson in life. It teaches you that things aren’t fair. You can be having a perfect race and about to cross the finishing line when some git will whack you from behind and scream past you; cackling manically.
But you’ll always have one more go because next time that cackling git could be you.
Fact: French prankster Remi Gaillard was arrested for dressing up as Mario, driving around Paris in a go-cart and throwing bananas at fellow road users.
1. Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 (360 / PS3)
Here’s a dangerous thought; what if Pro Evolution Soccer was better than real football. It’s possible; especially if you’re cursed to spend your lifetime supporting a crap team.
Pro Evo is a condensed version of the beautiful game in which all the scrappy, niggly bits have been surgically removed to leave behind a warm foamy bath of free-flowing, liquid football.
There are few experiences in gaming which beat playing Pro Evo against your mates and the euphoria of crafting a classy goal. It’s one of those fist pumping moments which gives you a glimpse, just for a millisecond, of what it must be like to be good at football.
Both the Irish teams are present and correct here but for a real guilty pleasure you should play the co-operative mode against the computer. Choose England, whack it up onto the hardest setting and guide them on the most disastrous and humiliating qualification campaign in sporting history.
Fact: Mark Lawrenson was given the boot as PES co-commentator after complaints that he sounded disinterested. And his replacement…Jim Beglin. Funny old world.
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