The Mars Volta Channel

I’m in a field about an hour outside of Bristol drinking spiced rum mixed with Asda own brand cola straight from the two-litre bottle. It’s drizzling, or it has been drizzling, or it’s about to drizzle, but there’s that vague haze in the air like the drizzle is, has and always will be there regardless, and it’s grey and stuff, and the clouds exist, and what have you. The rum is not mine. I have recently played Scrabble aboard a double-decker bus that is also a cafe and book exchange for about forty-five minutes with two gentlemen who feel younger than they probably are. One is ill and lacking in energy, but throws quips and jokes around with ease. The other seems full of energy in an almost desperate fashion, like this is his last chance to do something fun and exciting and stupid with his life before it all crumbles back to mediocrity. He is the one who offered the rum and a beer. Coors Light. I have never liked beer but I suppose now I’m getting used to it.

A friend and I are telling these new people our life stories. They seem far more taken with my friend, whose musical prowess easily beats mine, and who, unlike myself, doesn’t hide behind modesty for fear of appearing arrogant and then inevitably appears arrogant in other ways. I’m comfortable with this. I don’t have to answer any real questions, I don’t have to worry about being misunderstood or looking strange or annoying. It will annoy me later when people can’t remember my name at all, because “quiet” is not an attribute that makes a lasting impression, but I don’t know this yet, and have already forgotten their names anyway. We ask them for their stories. We discuss the festival. We say it is our first time. We ask about the silent disco, if the others are going, what was it like.

The rum is passed. The silent disco? Oh it’s great, like, you look at everyone here and the bands playing, and you have all these obscure names and the genres and stuff, and these people who think they’re really cool, but as soon as Beyonce comes on over those headphones everyone knows the words, and they’re all singing along. It’s madness.

OH and there was the Mars Volta channel, that was weird.

Wait they had a channel specifically for The Mars Volta?

A grin. Oh yeah! They had two DJ’s and then just, like, this one channel that played The Mars Volta non-stop. It was crazy. All these people dancing to, like, Rihanna, and you’re just stood there watching and listening to The Mars Volta.

(The Mars Volta, for lack of a better explanation, are an experimental rock band, which really can only be heard to be understood.)

We laugh at the concept. Only at a math-rock festival. Of course there would be a Mars Volta channel.

Other people arrive, saying hello, being introduced. We discuss geography, determining who is the most Northern of the group, which is obviously me, it was pretty much always going to be me, and someone proclaims they have a pork pie, which they do, and that I should eat it because it’ll make me feel right at home, and I smile sardonically and eat it because I like free food and don’t mind being the butt of the joke. We talk about ages and university and subjects. We ask about the silent disco. Apparently there was a Mars Volta channel? Are they doing it again this year?

Someone pipes up that they had a chat with the guys selling the headphones, and apparently there might be, but there’s no official ruling yet. There’s a collective sense of disappointment, you can feel the air sink out of the group and into the atmosphere, which reacts and begins to drizzle (if it had not already been doing so). Oh and speaking of the silent disco, you should probably get your headphones now, they sell out fast. Oh ok. We set off.

The headphones are in abundance, it’s fine, we probably didn’t need to set off so soon, but we’re here now and there’s a screamo band playing, so why not. We queue, as we do. A discussion kicks up at the front. Will there be a Mars Volta channel this year? It was the best part!

Ah. Yes. The Mars Volta channel. That was actually a mistake. See, there was supposed to be an iPod playing through a whole load of songs, but it broke, and got stuck on these three Mars Volta songs, and we couldn’t fix it, it just looped forever. We didn’t even know people loved it so much. So no, we hadn’t really been thinking about it. Sorry.

Oh no worries.

The rum is passed. I swig just a little too much and then some more for good measure. No one else wants to drink it, and the guy with the nervous energy doesn’t want to be carrying it round all day, so he’s willing to share, and my friend and I are willing to drink, and before I even step foot in the large tent to watch a nineteen-piece indie-pop band play happy, uplifting music to a damp crowd, I can feel my footing start to loosen and my head begin to lighten and everything at that moment is great, forget the weather, I’m here amongst nice people who are drunk and high and loving everything, and I am young and carefree and have plenty of money and it’s just lovely, everything’s lovely.

The day progresses. We nap and sober up and battle through the now torrential rain to get front row positions for a band I really want to see, and they are amazing, and I eat a burrito and it’s lovely, and we decide to drink again despite the horrific prices at the bars, but the mellow feeling returns and suddenly I don’t care, and the final band say their goodbyes and the headphones begin to light up. Queens of the Stone Age come on just as I’m finishing up my third drink, just as I hit the nice point of drunk, so basically it’s perfect, and we head to the throng of soaking wet bodies thrashing around in the mud. Two DJs stand on a stage surrounded by others, making gestures to the crowd to make some noise, have a good time, dance, etc.

I flick between channels on my headphones, watching the inside of my hood light up in the alternating colours to represent which channel I’m tuned into. I switch from rock to hip-hop to rock to hip-hop to rock to a strange almost crackling sound to hip-hop and then pause. I look around and watch the mass of bodies change the channels on their headphones from red to blue to red to blue to red to green to blue and raise an eyebrow. I switch the channels again from hip-hop to rock to piano and maybe some guitar I can’t really tell to hip-hop to rock to crazy drums and my vague knowledge kicks in and I smile.

We have found the Mars Volta channel.

You can see everyone else slowly realise this too, people who have no idea what it is, people who remember it from last year and smile at what feels like a huge in-joke for the regulars, people who just really like The Mars Volta, and it’s a magical moment. People flip between the channels still, some staying longer than others, a few staying there forever, the headphones a bright green to give away the fact that they are in their own little world of Mars Volta, watching others sway to a time signature far far away.

Later the rain will become too much, my legs too tired, my alcohol level too inconsequential, but for that moment there was only the bodies, the headphones, and the Mars Volta channel, and all was good.


Viral Content, Abe’s Oddysee, The Screaming In My Head

When I was younger I used to hear people calling my name from time to time when no one was, and I knew it wasn’t real, but I had to go check anyway. I’d put down everything I was doing, wander round the house, ask anyone around if they needed me, and return to my room. It became routine. It was stupid. It doesn’t happen anymore, except when I listen to certain songs which have shreaking voices, and even then I know which songs these are and deliberately skip the points where it might trigger some unrest, so it’s OK. Still feel like there’s something behind me most of the time though, particularly at night. Not a big fan of the dark. Which makes it odd that I light my room with one small desk lamp most of the time. Torch light in a pitch-black room creeps me out more than anything.

I have a lock on my door, and sometimes when I was playing a game in the early hours, I’d flick the lock on so I could wear my headphones and know for sure that nothing was going to kill me while I was distracted and unaware (I’m most worried about like, demons killing me, so why a locked door stops them I don’t know, but we all have our things). My parents would sometimes come into my room in the morning and find the door locked, and giggle to themselves, because twenty-year-old men only lock their doors for one reason, and it wasn’t true, but then trying to explain that “I didn’t want to be attacked by an other-worldly force while playing Assassin’s Creed” didn’t seem like a less laughable reason so I let them have their joke.

The other day, a friend liked a post by one of those LAD pages on Facebook, TheLADBible or something, and it was just a picture of the box of Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, with a caption like “who remembers this classic #AbeLAD” or something. It had several thousand likes, I don’t recall the actual count and I’m too lazy to look it up. Then underneath people threw in their own contenders for “games that should be remembered that were on the PS1” like Crash Team Racing or Crash Bandicoot, and I felt kinda sad because people were ignoring what a classic game Abe’s Oddysee was, and then I remembered that an HD remake of it had come out recently so even the page’s admin team probably barely remembered it unless prompted by shiny graphics, so who even knows why anyone cares anymore.

I never played Oddysee but I did play Abe’s Exoddus. I was very young. Oddysee would’ve come out when I was 4 years old and looking it up now I would’ve only been 5 when Exoddus was released, which is crazy, I definitely wasn’t playing it then. I had a demo disc for Oddysee, which seems even crazier. I must’ve been, maybe, 7 when I was playing Oddysee. Maybe older. I was awful at it. Couldn’t hack the puzzles, already pre-conditioned to running in mindlessly and trying to kill everything in my path, thank you Crash Bandicoot, thank you Spyro. I got out of the first level, section, chapter, I don’t know, and then used cheats to jump through to other levels at will. I loved it. It made no sense to me. I couldn’t possibly comprehend the message it was trying to impart on me. It had this catch-up video explaining what happened in Oddysee and I guess I watched it a lot because I liked watching Abe accidentally kill his friends. Sadistic little bastard even in the early days.

We went to a car show once, and I sat in a car with TV screens in the back of the headrests so kids could watch DVDs in the back and shut up while Mummy yells at Daddy for not consulting the map, and I fell in love and wanted them, and somehow actually managed to convince my parents that these would be a good idea, but we weren’t going to buy a new car for them. Compromise: we had a tiny LCD set up inbetween the two front seats, which could be hooked up to my PS2 if we were going on a long journey to get to our holiday destination or wherever. Further compromise: no expensive PS2 games to be taken lest they were nicked cos that was money down the drain. I brought a handful of PS1 games instead. I recall distinctly that I had Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus and Worms: World Party.

It’s fascinating to me that one can simply post a picture of a game and instantly reach nearly twenty thousand people who all think yes, that was a video game, I remember it, I even played it and enjoyed it, we are on the same wavelength here.

My sister would nap or read or something so the PS2 was mine and mine alone, and I would revel in it, never stopping, swapping games when possible, playing whatever for however long. Worms World Party was a good ‘un because of random map generation and other aspects of replayability. The concrete donkey. I rarely got to use it but goddamn I would play for hours just trying to get it and unleash it one worm, and then die because I was dreadful at the game and usually unleashed it on myself.

I started noticing the screaming in Tesco car park while my Mum ran in to get some extra supplies for whatever holiday we were on. It was a distant screaming, one that only I could hear in my headphones, and I checked that it was the game and not my head or reality by pausing and taking out my headphones, and it was definitely the game. I think it must have been the map theme or something. Hell themed. Of course there would be screaming. I quit out and played something else. It freaked me out too much. You can’t tell people about the screams you hear because then you get things taken away from you, and I loved Worms World Party, so there was no way I was losing that.

I worry sometimes that my taste in games is too obscure, because when I rant on Twitter that one of my favourite games isn’t gonna get an HD remake, no one responds or favourites or retweets or anything.

I came into this blog post with just an idea about the screaming and hoped I would find a conclusion along the way, but I haven’t, and I feel I’ve wasted everyone’s time here, but frankly I don’t care. I write far less these days than I feel I used to, and I feel unenthusiastic a lot, and I have a job interview in twelve hours, and I just really like writing words in a cohesive way but also in an obtrusive fashion so it’s a struggle to read. If you’re a future employer and you have stumbled upon this blog do take note that this is not how I write “professionally”, or how human beings should write ever, but I doubt you even made it this far, so whatever.

I keep checking the door. Something could be coming.

Kim Kardashian And The Child Downstairs Who Wants His Mummy

“I want my mummyyyy” shrieks the child downstairs, putting on his wellies in some vain attempt to make us take him seriously on the matter. He doesn’t. We know he doesn’t. We know he knows that she’s at work. We’ll ask him this later and he will concede that he knows precisely where she is, then forget and start crying for her again, or say some piece of paper is his mummy, or ask where is teddy is, or ask what Richard’s doing, or just mumble nonsense while waving a plastic shopping basket over his head and potentially injuring himself, and that’ll have to be written up in the accident book so why the hell won’t he just put the fucking basket down.

Kim Kardashian is asking me if I want to run her business in Miami, a job everyone has told me to take because it beats folding clothes in wherever it is I’m currently working. I’ve been blowing off work for days now, jetsetting around the world to have my photo taken in the same clothes because I can’t afford anything else. I look Kim Kardashian dead in the eye and say yes, I’d love to run your business, only I’m going to attend some more photo shoots and be in commercials and try and build my own brand rather than actually run your business because I’m a free goddamn spirit that’s why. Kim Kardashian is pleased, I think, I don’t know her face doesn’t move. She shows me how to do a shift. I fold clothes. I flew from one coast of the US to the other to fold clothes while Kim Kardashian’s lifeless face stares me down.

photo 1

The child has ceased his desire to find his mother. I tell him to take his wellies off. He snaps back a short “no” but takes them off anyway. He sobs while he does it.

Kim Kardashian asks me if I like men or women. I’m not sure why I can’t like both. I ponder the question for a while. I defer to the person whose name I’m using for my character, and she says she doesn’t mind either way. We settle on men. Don’t want to mess with the status quo. Kim Kardashian wants to know if I like athletic or arty types, and let’s be honest here there’s no chance I’m gonna date someone who thinks of themself at athletic, so I go with arty. She knows just the right guy for me. He’s not even a nerdy sitcom writer. I’m a little hurt. I meet him though. He’s called Mitchell. His eyebrows are very special. I don’t find out what kind of writer he is. I spend $100 on wine. We call it a night.

photo 2

The child downstairs is asking where his mummy is. I tell him that she doesn’t love him and has left him here for the rest of his life so that we may raise him as our own. He nods solemnly and asks where his daddy is. I tell him daddy’s at work.

Kim Kardashian doesn’t know that I muted her a long time ago and replaced her soundbites with the Bastion soundtrack, but I’m not sure she cares either way. She’s resting in her mansion in Hollywood or Beverly Hills or something. I think she drives there but I have to get a bus, and I’m wearing one of those dresses that has kinda see-through bits so I feel a bit weird about taking the bus, but sometime’s that’s the best you can do in this life. My agent calls and says he’s got me a spot in a commercial for glass wipes or something. I’m not listening. I go to the filming and spend a chunk of my energy doing precisely nothing, checking my makeup, checking the lighting despite having no qualifications in the area, and then once running through my lines. I nail it. I’ll be the talk of the town in precisely forty seven minutes and twenty six seconds. It might push me onto the D-list. It probably won’t.

photo 3

The child asks where my mum is, and I tell him, and he is dissatisified, and I want to tell him all about how we can’t have the things we want in life, that sometimes we end up disappointed and stuck and there’s nothing we can do, but then he asks where his teddy is and I realise that I’m fighting a losing battle and tell him to shut up instead.

Kim Kardashian grins at me some more. It’s starting to freak me out.

photo 4

Destiny Is A Video Game And It Definitely Isn’t Halo No Sireee Bob

Destiny (DEFINITELY NOT HALO) is a game where you shoot things and sometimes you level up. And it’s actually really good.

The story is that a Ghost (DEFINITELY NOT GUILTY SPARK 313) finds a superior warrior (DEFINITELY NOT A SPARTAN) in the remains of a car and brings it to life. That it is you, by the way. Yes you. The person reading this. If you play Destiny. Which I guess you might not?

Anyway, The Fallen (DEFINITELY NOT THE COVENANT) are chasing you so you run into a wall and find a machine gun and shoot Dregs (DEFINITELY NOT GRUNTS) and some other ones that DEFINITELY ARE NOT ELITES until eventually you find a ship that LOOKS NOTHING LIKE THE ONES FROM HALO 3: ODST and fly off into space only to stop being in space and go and be on a tower instead where all the Not-Spartans live.

After you do a few missions killing Not The Covenant eventually you run into another alien race that are also fighting Not The Covenant who DEFINITELY ARE NOT THE FLOOD and include such enemies types as the easy to kill ones that DEFINITELY ARE NOT THE POPPING FLOOD and some bigger ones that DEFINITELY ARE NOT THE BIGGER FLOOD WITH WEAPONS and some bosses or something I don’t really know I was trying to find loot in a game where loot is apparently a dirty word cos THERE’S JACKSHIT TO LOOT.

At some point you can start summoning bikes that DEFINITELY ARE NOT BRUTE CHOPPERS and ride around on them but they’re not very useful unless you’re trying to get from A to B and you can’t be arsed walking which you will be cos otherwise you can’t kill things.

Killing things is fun but the levelling system is fucking stupid because you can just sit in the opening section killing level 2 enemies to level up if you really want and still get the same XP for doing so as killing a higher level enemy of the same type because it’s based on enemy type rather than enemy level I mean who the fuck thought that was a good idea.

If you get bored you can play PvP matches but like why would you do that when you could just play Halo instead it’s the same fucking game but with a class system.

I mean I love it I think it’s gonna be a lot of fun when the full game comes out but it is just a Halo MMO without a good RPG element so what’s the fucking point.

Good fun though.

Top Five Games Of 2013 That No One Else Is Gonna Talk About

Let’s get something straight, right off the bat: Bioshock Infinite was fantastic. Like, one of the best games ever made. Like, if I didn’t have to carefully manage my budget every week (which I constantly fail to do) I’d probably still have my copy, and would’ve bought the Season Pass, and would have played all the DLC to death. I fucking loved that game. I like to kill things! I like well written stories! I like Troy Baker, and I didn’t even realise it was his voice! I like to kill things! (Did I say that already?) I like exploring worlds when there’s really no point, going into side streets that can’t be gone into, looking at walls where there’s nothing to look at. I scoured almost every inch of whatever the fuck the place in Infinite was called (I DON’T PAY ATTENTION I HAD THINGS TO KILL) just because I wanted to walk into every building and just breathe it all in. Bioshock Infinite is a magnificent game.

Which is why I will now stop talking about it.

This blog post will not celebrate the magnificent games, even if they didn’t get much coverage already. The Stanley Parable is one of the funniest experiences you will ever have (if you play a lot of games); we will not be talking about it. Gone Home was wonderful; we will not be talking about it. I regularly forget Antichamber came out this year; we will DEFINITELY not be talking about it. We won’t talk about Tomb Raider (cos it was shit). We won’t talk about GTAV (cos it was dull as ditchwater). We won’t talk about Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon (cos fuck that game).

This blog post is for my top five games that no other fucker is even going to bother mentioning. The games that were magnificent in some way, but not enough to make a splash in the world. Either people outright ignored them, or the general populus just couldn’t give a damn. They are not unsung heroes, they are simply games that people thought were a bit “meh” and moved on. Unless you’re me. Cos I probably fucking loved it.

5. God Mode

“Huh?” I hear the two of you cry. Yes! God Mode! An arena run and gun set in Hades that sees you shooting at least three hundred enemies in each of its twenty minute games. Quietly released on XBLA (and probably PSN, I dunno, fuck doing research) and then quietly discounted as a Deal Of The Week, God Mode has recieved basically no attention whatsoever from anyone. And why should it? It’s a dumb shooter in the company of a million other dumb shooters that do the exact same thing only a bit better.

It attempts humour and then gives up when it realises it isn’t funny. It attempts to do interesting things with the shooter genre, but instead just occasionally puts top hats on skeletons heads or fucks with the sound just to mess with you. It also hates you. It throws far too many enemies at you at once, and expects you to kill them all while some random effect fucks with your game, i.e. bombs dropping from the sky or your ammo draining constantly. Then it laughs at you dying. Then you lose the game.

It’s a multiplayer game that no one plays. You can play it single-player but it’s supposed to be played with four people, otherwise you’re likely to die even faster. It has effects applied in game to allow you to kill your friends, but when you’ve got no friends who even know about the game’s existence, then it ends up being completely pointless.

In short, it’s brilliant.

I can only complete two of the six levels by myself, and that’s on the easiest difficulty. But I have replayed those levels again and again and again. I will happily sit down and play a few matches alone, blasting through endless waves of the undead, ranging from skeletons to minotaurs to fucking giant ogres that will destroy you in two hits. I play it over and over because my God, it is so much fucking fun. You’re always on the verge of death. You’re always running out of ammo. But you’re always enjoying yourself. There are so few games that I will play over and over, so this one has a very special place in my heart sheerly because of how many hours I’ve put into it. If you’re looking to murder hundreds of monsters rapidly and with them wearing top hats sometimes because why not, buy God Mode. It is wonderfully poor.

4. Scribblenauts Unlimited (PC)

There’s a reason I have restarted Scribblenauts Unlimited twice. That reason is because I moved from using my PC to exclusively using my laptop. I have no regrets. My laptop is way better than my PC. Like it has so much more hard drive space. The graphics card is comparably a piece of shit, but oh well. You’ve gotta make some sacrifices. Anyway my PC is now completely borked after my Dad took it as his own and apparently the motherboard is fried or something. Glad I wiped all my porn off there before he took it, lemme tell ya. Sheesh.

Wait, sorry, sidetracked.

Scribblenauts Unlimited lets you summon objects into a world to fuck with people. Sorry, help them. Well actually it depends on how you like to play it, and sometimes you really just need to summon a tiny Cthulu and watch him wreak havoc while you shotgun a doctor who’s just been turned pink. Sometimes you have to summon a bunch of scary clowns to start a band on the underground. Sometimes you have to try turning a basketball player black so he can dunk. White men can’t jump. I know this. I watched that film. Scribblenauts Unlimited doesn’t seem to like that though. He has to be big AND black (OK so he only has to be big, but whatever).

You can create a creature and call it Penis. Because why not. No one’s stopping you. It’s Scribblenauts.

Fucking buy it. It’s amazing.

3. Call of Juarez: Gunslinger


Call of Juarez has a reputation for being an intensely dodgy series of shooters that only idiots like me really enjoy (that said I only played Bound in Blood but I seem to be the only person who enjoyed the hell out of it), and after the catastrophe that was The Cartel no one really gives a shit about new entries to the franchise. It should be dead. This shouldn’t have had the Call of Juarez name attached to it. But it did. So we don’t talk about it.

But here’s the thing: it has an unreliable narrator, which is awesome because you so seldom get those in games. The gameplay is dictated by the story of an old man who is boasting to a group of strangers about how many people he killed. Most of what happens in the game is explicitly called out as bullshit by the guy narrating the fucking game. There’s a bit where you stop killing people and lose your guns and just walk up a hill in brilliant sunshine while the narrator sings a song. This follows a bit where the narrator claims he killed like, a hundred Indians, which summons about a hundred Indians for you to kill. The narrator says he was running low on ammo; suddenly your ammo drops massively. It’s beautiful.

You don’t bleed, instead holes appear in the screen when you’re shot to signify the holes appearing in his story (because why would he die in a story about his own life). Who even thinks of that shit? And then you start killing ghosts. And there’s a moral choice to make, but it makes no fucking difference because it’s the last thing you do in the whole game.

Also it has an arcade mode which is tough as nails and requires multiple plays to get so much as an OK score. It’s fantastic. Why are you not playing it right now.

2. Remember Me

Here’s a list of things Remember Me isn’t:

  • A good fighting game with a deep combat system
  • A well-scripted story with tons of interesting characters who drive the narrative in unique ways
  • A particularly good platformer

Here’s what Remember Me is: fucking amazing.

I gave it a 7/10 because it’s good, but not great, as a game. Yeah? Well fuck that score. Remember Me is one of the few games I played this year that I had to put the controller down and have a good long hard think about my life after about half an hour’s playtime. You do some horrific things to people to further your own goals, and it is fucking rough. You ruin people’s lives just so you can get to the next level. You convince a woman that her husband has died a horrific death in front of her very eyes. You convince a man to kill himself because he believes he killed his wife. You do this by fucking with their heads and messing with their memories. And no one questions this. You just move on with your life.

Switch the game into French with English subtitles and wander round Neo-Paris a bit. It’s amazing. You’ll hear people chatting at cafes in their native language, making the scene even more believeable than ever. Why don’t games let you switch languages on the fly more often? Particularly when they’re set in foreign countries? Why would everyone in Neo-Paris have an American accent anyway? Fuck that. Listen to them in French. Listen to giant robots be threatening in French. Listen to adverts for teddy bears in French. Then tell me you prefer the English dub and say it so I believe you.

You can’t.

I disliked a few core things about Remember Me, but my word it will stick with me for a very long time. Don’t dismiss it. Buy it. Now. Go! GO!

1. Rayman Legends




Rayman Origins was the absolute bomb, and then they said they were making a sequel, and I was like hell yeah, and then they actually released it, and I was like get in, and then I gave it a 9 out of 10 because I have no friends so I couldn’t play it multiplayer like it should be.

But it’s so so so good.

I shouldn’t need to tell you why. And I’m fucking lazy. So fuck this.

Buy Rayman Legends




Thoughts On “Consensual Torture Simulator”

If the title of this blog post has already got you feeling a little uncomfortable, you may want to stop reading now. I won’t be offended. It’s OK. Google “fluffy kittens” instead.

NOTE: I am a complete newbie in the world of kink, impact play, and just generally that kind of stuff. If I use the wrong terminology (like “that kind of stuff”) or say something problematic (I will try and refrain from using the word “weird”) then please forgive and/or inform me so I can be more accurate/correct in future. I don’t mean to offend or upset, I am just ill-equipped for this task.

Causing physical harm to someone has never been an appealing prospect. I have been in one fight in my life, which I instigated, and consequently lost. Most times I get into fights with people, I curl up into a ball and plead with them to stop hurting me. I don’t like pain. And I don’t hugely like the idea of inflicting pain on other people. Even if they ask me too. Which is happening with alarming frequency.

I’m not sure what about me strikes people with the idea that I would want to hurt them. Sometimes I think it might be my eyebrows. My face looks permanently pissed off, so maybe it’s that. There’s a rumour circulating that I once drunkenly barged my way into a girl’s room and threatened her (what exactly I threatened her with is a mystery) because she had broken my heart. Although apparently I also threatened to kill myself over webcam for the same reason. I don’t really know why people would believe these stories. I’m a sweet kid really.

When I saw Consensual Torture Simulator I was immediately intrigued and thought that spending $2 to satisfy that curiosity was probably a good idea. I’m not sure if the people who monitor my online traffic will think so. I haven’t received any emails from the university about it so far, but there’s always that worry, you know? So anyway I bought it. And then I played it. And then I had to sit quietly for five minutes and try to understand what had just happened and decide if I was OK with it or not.

Consensual Torture Simulator is a Twine game made by Merrit Kopas. In it, you are tasked with physically harming your partner until she cries, and then I assume you can probably keep pushing it and break the trust she has in you. I don’t really know, I didn’t experiment that far. You have three tools at your disposal; your hands, flogger and cane, and you can choose to take a break to catch your breath or just stop completely. You can, in theory, stop before you even start. But then that would completely defeat the purpose of the game.

You’re hurting your partner because she wants you to. You never have sex with her at any point, in any form. This is all about the pain, which, I’m guessing, is being done for sexual pleasure. And as the game informs you, causing someone to cry real actual tears from pain inflicted on them is a big deal. There’s a lot of trust there, like that you won’t go further to the point where it stops being fun. I can understand that. That seems fair.

I’m still not wholly comfortable with the idea of hurting people for pleasure, however. I’m sure the game wasn’t supposed to change my mind on that front, and is instead there to open people’s eyes to the idea that pain in video games can be inflicted for the recipient’s pleasure, not just as a means to an end or because you want to kill them. So on that front it’s a raving success; the writing is fantastic and (for someone not used to or particularly interested in kink) kind of arousing. Which was a strange one to take on board.

A few hours after playing Consensual Torture Simulator a girl I’ve been seeing sent me a text telling me that she couldn’t stop thinking about me hurting her, so I invited her over to play the game. She’s far more used to that whole area of sex, so I thought it’d be interesting to see her thoughts. I don’t think she quite grasped that you could repeat actions several times to amp up the pain, and she stopped before making her partner cry.

And then she threw a shoe at me in the hopes I would slap her in return. Which just didn’t seem fair.

I don’t really know what I thought about Consensual Torture Simulator. I’m still trying to piece together my thoughts now, hence the rather rambly blog post.

I think it left me upset and confused because it’s not something I particularly want to do. I don’t like hurting people. I have years of repressed anger and hate that I pushed away because its useless to me, and I fear that if I was given the opportunity to let it all go then I might go too far and do serious damage. I guess that’s what safewords are for.

I think I was conflicted because, well, suddenly I wanted to hurt someone for pleasure, and that’s an incredibly unusual feeling for someone who has never desired harm on anyone before. But the game made it sound like fun, and if the partner was willing and everything was agreed upon beforehand so that nothing got too out of hand, then surely that’s OK?

I put my hands around my ex’s throat once as a joke (only lightly, I didn’t squeeze and she was never at any point in danger), and she screamed and told me to never ever do that again. So I guess maybe that memory still resides deep in my mind, telling me not to hurt women I like.

There’s probably some darker stuff from my childhood holding me back as well, but I don’t really think that a blog that can be read by anyone on the Internet is the best place to discuss that, particularly if my parents find this.

My worldview and ideologies have changed a lot over the past few months. I think I’ve changed quite a lot as a person too. Consensual Torture Simulator acted as a reminder that a lot of things that I considered “weird” and “icky” before are actually, you know, perfectly acceptable. It’s not domestic violence, it’s consensual violence. People use the word “play” to associate with what they’re doing. I don’t think I like the word “play” in this context, but equally my linguistics brain says that it’s fine, people can use words how they like, don’t diss. So I’m trying to keep an open mind about that. It’s hard work, and it’s very confusing and scary, but I am trying.

In terms of being a game, Consensual Torture Simulator is very good. It’s well written and paced, there’s enough options available to keep things interesting, and there’s multiple endings to achieve based on how much pain you inflict. So mad props for that.

In terms of opening my eyes to kink and impact play, I still feel a little strange about the whole thing. I don’t know if it’s something I really want to explore in any great depth, but I do know now that it’s OK, so long as everyone knows what’s going on and everyone’s agreed that it’s fine. You can’t just suddenly start beating your partner during sex, for example. Which may seem obvious, I dunno? But set guidelines beforehand and it’s cool. OK. I think I can handle that.

Anyway you really should check it out. It’ll give you some food for thought, or turn you on, or maybe it might just gross you out. But any game that can inflict numerous different feelings to numerous different people is surely deserving of attention.

You can buy Consensual Torture Simulator here:


“You’ll never guess what I’ve just seen,” boasted Henry Fifteen as he rolled through the door of the storeroom. Henry’s Six and Seven attempted to roll their eyes, but found the task beyond comprehension. Henry Sixteen, who had to put up with this shit all the time, stayed quiet. In fact, the whole storeroom remained silent, save for the sound of a daddy long legs battering itself against the light-bulb dangling from above.

“You’re supposed to guess,” said Henry Fifteen, audibly pissed off that no one was taking an interest in his latest exploits. Henry Fifteen’s adventures were all of a similar nature, so the occupants of the room felt they would nail the guess in one go, but couldn’t find it within themselves to care. The awkward silence continued, as Henry Fifteen cast his gaze around the room, searching for even a glimmer of interest. He began to smirk as his eyes rested on young Henry Ten, idling in a corner, clearly trying not to make eye contact.

“You should take an interest in your elders and betters you know,” said Henry Fifteen.

Henry Ten shuffled uncomfortably.

“There’s a lot you could learn about the world, son.”

Henry Ten risked a glance at Henry Fifteen. The trademark smirk was in full view on his huge face.

“Come on then lad,” said Henry Fifteen, “take a guess.”

Henry Ten swallowed, trying to find the words.

“I don’t know, Fifteen.”

A collective groan from the crowd. Ten doesn’t know. Bloody kids. Coming in here, taking up jobs and not knowing the basics, like don’t talk to Fifteen about anything ever. If Ten’d kept his bloody mouth shut then Fifteen would’ve got bored and buggered off. But no. The smirk remained on Fifteen’s face as his verbal assault continued.

“That’s why I said to guess, lad.”

Ten thought for a little. “You found a fiver on the floor?”

Fifteen laughed. “A fiver?” He made a face as though the very thought of a five pound note repulsed him. “You think I’d come in here and tell you lot about a fiver?”

Ten wasn’t very good at guessing games, and he was even worse at trying to convince people to leave him alone. He didn’t have the aptitude for ignoring people; his mother had raised him to always speak when spoken to. He couldn’t tell Fifteen to bugger off either, since Fifteen was big and scary and older than him, and spoke so loudly and so often that Ten rather naively assumed he was the de facto leader of the pack. To disrespect Fifteen would be to disrespect the whole group, or so Ten thought. In fact, shutting Fifteen up probably would’ve made the group more open to Ten. As it happened, they continued to quietly exude disdain to the kid, who was struggling to come up with another guess.

“Someone dropped their membership card?” he tried.

Fifteen frowned slightly. “You’re really bad at this, do you know?”

Ten nodded slightly. He knew.

Fifteen sighed, looked slightly disapprovingly at the kid, and then brought his smirk back into full force and spun round to regale to the entire crowd.

“There I was, patrolling the Women’s Golfwear section,” he began. Another groan was once more collectively emitted, with a couple of “Christ”’s thrown into the mix of barely concealed hatred. Fifteen was undeterred. “I was just going along, minding my own business, when this old dear trips over me. I told her to watch where she was going, but she didn’t hear me. Probably deaf. Anyway, she drops her handbag and everything spills out. I mean, everything; bus pass, purse, Werther’s Originals, the lot. And she bends over to pick it all up – and I’m trying not to look, you know, keeping myself to myself – but I just happen to look up and you know what I saw?”

Only Ten was listening, mostly through a sense of obligation, but he waited the appropriate amount of time for a dramatic pause. Fifteen, however, was not aware of the power of silence as a storytelling tool, and so began to look around for someone to query what it was that he in fact saw. His eyes once again fell onto Ten, who tried his best to stammer out a response.

“Uh… um… her skirt was ripped?” he tried.

Fifteen gave Ten a quizzical look. “A ripped skirt? Are you right in the head, lad? You think I give a shit about a wrecked skirt?” He sighed once more, clearly annoyed at his flow being disrupted. “No, she wasn’t wearing any knickers!”

A few ears perked up, but did not actively register interest. Henry Six began to shift, and then remembered who was telling the story, and thought better of it. Only Ten, who was being stared down by Fifteen, that permanent smirk still prevalent, begging him to respond in some way, dared to provide the appropriate response.

“No knickers?”

Fifteen lit up. “Aye! It were all just there, blowing in the wind! I could see her tonsils!”

Ten considered this for a moment, but the look in Fifteen’s eye suggested the phrase should not be taken literally, so he moved to his next question.

“So what did you do?”

“I looked away, of course! Bloody hell, you think I want to stare at an old woman’s whoosit? Christ, why would I waste my eyes on that when there’s plenty else to look at? Yesterday, right…”

A third, slightly louder groan was about to find its way into the ether when suddenly the storeroom door flung open and the crowd was saved a retelling of yesterday’s upskirt adventure. A tallish woman walked in and surveyed the room. A hush fell over the room once more, but suddenly smiles were on everyone’s faces, and eyes were widened as far as they would go. Take pride in the job, the older boys said, and make it look like you want to be there.

Ten didn’t want to be there, but he didn’t have much choice. His mother had worked there until she died. His father was still there, but Ten rarely saw him any more. He’d been moved to a different department on a higher floor, so their paths seldom crossed. And Ten’s parent’s parents had worked here. And their parents. Etcetera ad nauseum. Ten was destined to work here and die here, a fate he was none too happy about. So he sat in the corner and hoped he could at least wile away his time without having to do much work.

Today he had no such luck. The others smiled and widened their eyes and waited, but the woman walked over to Ten’s corner and grabbed his handle all the same. Tuts and mutterings filled the air. Always the young kid. Lazy bastard doesn’t even want to be here. Ten was hoisted into the air as it filled up with a collection of quiet verbal abuse, and looked down at a mass of still widened eyes, staring up at him, mouths moving quick and with slight movements until one accidentally shouted “Prick!” and the whole storeroom burst into laughter as the door closed on them.

The woman heard none of this. She had grabbed number ten because it was the newest, and therefore probably wouldn’t break, and she couldn’t be arsed telling her manager about a broken vacuum again. Number ten was barely used and sometimes hard to find, but she had a sixth sense for hunting down the newer cleaners. She carried the vacuum a short way from the storeroom, set it down on the carpet, grabbed its power cord, and went off in search of a plug socket.

Ten sighed lightly to himself. Hiding in the corner never worked. Clearly someone knew something. Maybe he’d have to dig his heels in so his nose got torn, and they’d choose someone else. A broken Henry is a dead Henry, as the older guys said, and Ten didn’t see much point in continuing his existence if being dragged around a shop, day in day out, was all he had to look forward to. No; mustn’t think like that. Dad wouldn’t approve. Ten pushed the thoughts out of his mind, and surveyed the area. Which brought about his next horror.

The lingerie section.

Not that Ten had any problems with the range of lingerie on offer in the shop, of course. Wasn’t that the whole point of lingerie? He had never witnessed it worn, of course, but he understood that it was used by women to allure men, or make women feel sexy, or something. But he also understood that a man wandering around a lingerie section wasn’t exactly welcomed, unless he was buying a gift, and even then isn’t that still creepy? What’s OK about a man deciding what would be sexy for his partner to wear?

Subsequently, Ten began to panic. Only Fifteen would be pleased to be seen dragged around the undergarments of women, and he was an arse. What if someone else rolled past and saw? Would they think Ten was some lewd pervert as well? It was already pretty clear he was disliked, and this would only serve as more ammunition for the others to hate him.

(He was, of course, neglecting to realise that all Henry’s had at one point had to cover lingerie, and felt exactly the same as him about it (unless their name was Fifteen.))

The woman returned, and wondered briefly why the hoover had rolled back a little from the lingerie section, but decided not to press the issue. She knelt down, flicked the switch to ON with a snap, and grabbed the hose. She began to vacuum up the dust in front, then to the side, lifting the nozzle onto some stands that had gathered noticeable colonies of dust and stray fibres that had drifted down from a bra. Satisfied with her progress, she moved to carry on, pulling the nozzle to encourage the rest of the machine to follow.

The machine did not follow.

Ten stood his ground as best he could, which is something when you consider he rested his entire body on four small wheels. He did not want to have to look around women’s delicates, and it wasn’t as though he could avert his gaze. The best he could do was to focus all his weight down.

The woman struggled on for a moment, but gave up. She didn’t have time for this shit. She was due to finish in fifteen minutes and she was not going to let some stupid machine stop her from finishing her last job of the day and cause her to get yelled at by the boss again. She stepped over to number ten, grabbed his handle once again, and carried it to her destination.

Ten hadn’t thought of that. He realised there was no way he could win this.

The task carried on without a hitch from that point. Ten dutifully sucked up the natural detritus, while the women chatted lightly with passing colleagues. Ten didn’t listen to the conversations much; for one thing, he made a hell of a noise when he went about his job. The chance of hearing anything over his own din were slim, so phrases like “new one” and “this one’s pink” went by completely unheard. He tried to listen to the easy listening music that echoed through the store, but it was mercifully turned down low, so again there wasn’t much to hear. He resigned himself to counting how many fibres he picked up. Two thousand and seventy three. Four. Five. Six seven eight what was that?

A pink shape floated by, as though it was rolling on air. Its eyes were huge. Its eyebrows were almost as large. What so often looked like a smirk somehow appeared demure and beautiful, rather than smug. And the nose… so long, so slender… Ten was in love. He watched as the shape was carried past, transfixed. The person carrying it turned a corner and he learned her name. Henrietta Twenty Two.

Henrietta Twenty Two. Henry Ten had found his soul-mate.

The man carrying Henrietta Twenty Two saw the woman dragging Henry Ten and realised that if ever he was going to ask her out for that drink, it had to be now. He had been building up to this moment for days, nay, weeks, and he wasn’t going to chicken out now. He gently placed his machine down and wandered over.

Henry Ten suddenly found himself looking over, directly into the eyes of the woman he had just fallen in love with, who was looking back, smiling. He tried to convince himself the smile meant something. Maybe she was smiling inside. How could he know? And would it matter? They probably wouldn’t even work in the same department. She’d be shipped off upstairs to work at the restaurant and he’d be stuck down here cleaning up the oh shit oh shit he was nose deep in the lingerie section.

He began to yell something about how he hadn’t wanted to be here, share with her his beliefs about men in lingerie aisles, but the distance was too great. So here he was. Whirring loudly, a stupid smirk on his face and his eyes wide and soaking up the lace. If he could’ve turned a deeper shade of red, he would.

The man was having a bit more luck. The woman had been waiting for the man to ask her out for sometime, quietly hoping he was as interested in her as she was in him. She could never make the first move. She’d been taught better than that. But here he was, asking her what she was up to on Friday.

Henry Ten wished they’d hurry up hurry up please please stop talking and GO AWAY.

The man grinned and walked off. His day was looking up.

Henry Ten vainly attempted to look down. Despite all his effort, he failed.

The woman’s hopes rose greatly. She finally had a reason to wear that dress.

Henrietta rose into the air once more, and drifted away.

Henry Fifteen rolled by, being dragged by the nose, muttering about what a lucky bastard his young cohort was.