It was a simple task, just install the C.D. and stand back and let the kids dive on the computer. I have long since stopped playing games on my computer as I seem to be out classed in all types of software by a nine-year old. The "cool-king" of spy-hunter, the "Red Baron" of the video skies as lost his high score listing to a child with a reaction time that would make -Chang-Cain blink. In short I just haven't got the old razzmatazz (or the concentration) needed for today's new video games. So I was well pleased when, after I had installed the latest game the children were still busy doing something else. This presented me with a golden opportunity to at least sample the software at a level that I felt I could manage "Scaredy-cat-level" or something equally derisive. The game presented me with a virtual-reality haunted house in which I could roam at will shooting various ghouls. I have seen similar scenarios recently and was well accustomed to blasting away at the ensuing array of hideous creatures when suddenly out of my past lurched a mummy! Any self-respecting adult knows that you cannot shoot a mummy! Anyone who has lost their packet of fruit-gums down the seat in the cinema or suffered the interminable organ music played on a rising Wurlitzer to watch Boris Karloff lurch across the screen knows instinctively that sooner or later the mummy will get you! It was at this point that I realised how useful an escape key is and promptly stopped the game. This frightening interlude on the computer made me realise that as far as computer software goes there is no REAL censorship. Admittedly there is a form of self-imposed censorship. Some makers stamp the side of the carton indicating what age group the software is for. However I sometimes feel this is more to boost sales than warn people of the contents.

Video games have changed subtly over the last few years. I should have realized that when I first saw a group of bikers queuing to play a game in the local arcade. Curiosity got the better of me and I left my "Spy-hunter" car badly dented at the edge of the road to watch the action on the other video machine. It seemed a standard game to me, the usual commando style plot; shooting guerrillas and rescuing the good guys. I was watching for a while before I noticed one feature of the game that was not quite standard. When the player shot an oncoming guerrilla
instead of the image disappearing it would stumble and fall and stagger forward (depending on how badly it had been wounded).Seeing these "maimed" creatures still trying to defend their camp surrounded by pools of blood and severed limbs made me wonder where it will stop. I found this type of screen warfare somewhat disturbing. I was more used to a pixelated image going "pop" or just vanishing from the scene.

What sort of values are these games teaching us?

One game I know of allows the user to gain extra points and a weapon by destroying telephone boxes! Another is full of people that plead with the user "Don't shoot me" while visually depicting how much time the user has left by the state of the "hero's" face (when it becomes a mask of blood you've lost). One game I tried had an "adult" switch. In this game you could remove off ending scenes from the eyes of the young while they could still play the game. I investigated the scenes (as any self-respecting adult would ahem) the offending scenes were semi- naked women that appeared in some of the buildings you visited while marauding through the game blasting all comers to hell. This form of censorship seems a little strange to me. The child is allowed to kill.. but semi-naked women?

My last foray into computer games was with a simulation called"Silent Hunter" in the simulation you are the commander of a WW2 submarine. As a fan of the old arcade submarine game where you unleashed countless torpedo's at distant silhouettes I was keen to attack my first convoy. It was then that I saw it. Leading the convoy was a 10,000 ton cargo ship with mid-ship accommodation similar to the last vessel I had served on as third mate. To compound the issue I noticed the time, 8.30 p.m. Half an hour into the third mate's watch.... I lowered the periscope and dove to 50 meters to think about the situation. Unfortunately a British destroyer had no such moral dilemma to deal with and promptly set a pattern of depth charges that sank me.