If you ever want to shut me up for an hour and a half (a totally understandable goal) then the easiest way to do it would be to sit me down with a pulpy adventure novel, an old comic or a black and white film, TV series, or whatever. Not just any old stuff, mind. I do like my tat. A bit of the old what ho pip pip with space zombies or a rogue mummy or something, no budget too small, and I’m an incredibly happy Bob.
I’m not embarrassed to confess that a few years back, I realised that even if I never ventured past stuff made before 1960, there would still be so much stuff to keep me content until the day I climb the curtain rail and join the choir invisible. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t stick to stuff before 1960 (I’d struggle to write about videogames for one thing) but that I could was a wonderfully comforting thought.
The joy of these things for me is best summed up by Christopher Lee (for my money, the best film Dracula) describing his time in Hammer Horror films: “You’re treading such a very, very narrow line between credibility and absurdity”.
Credibility and absurdity! That’s absolutely it. You can tell me a shrubbery is a deadly weapon providing everybody around it can convince me they really believe it (or, alternately, have enough fun with it that the enjoyment becomes rather infectious). As long as it can be made to seem credible within the fiction, we’re good. And bonus! One of the many pleasures of a good B movie, pulp story or comic or whatever is that you can’t really rule out someone trying to convince you that the deadly weapon is a shrubbery.
Thinking a bit more on this whilst I sat waiting for the kettle to boil, I realised that this is precisely the thing that I look for in a lot of my favourite videogames. Not necessarily a shrubbery (though I am a huge fan) but that conviction in walking that very fine line between credibility and absurdity.
How much of this I take for granted too! Even the most ordinary of videogames can’t resist the allure of a pair of trousers that make you cast even better magic spells, a first aid box that gives your heavily armed hedgehog super strength. Credibility and absurdity! Though perhaps a little less Christopher Lee and maybe more Wile E Coyote’s shopping list. Not that I mind, they’re both titans of the big screen.
Oh, and with some of their finest work before 1960. Perfect.