An Idiot’s Adventures In Gameland – Steve McNeil

23: The Nicest Person You’ve Never Heard Of…

As is customary, dear reader, let me begin by saying hello.


Lovely stuff. Great banter. Anyway, let’s talk about me as that, somewhat unbelievably, is my remit for this column. I assure you, no-one’s more surprised about that than me. I’m absolutely disgusted. Shame on you, London Economic.

It’s particularly galling as, this week, I really don’t have much to tell you about. Remember last week when I mentioned Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate? I’ve basically just been playing that, and writing about it. Which is more than anyone can possibly need to know. Certainly, I’ve had no ‘adventures’, nor been anywhere near ‘Gameland’ – whatever that is – unless you count playing Minecraft online from the comfort of my own armchair and pyjamas? You do? Thank goodness for that. And thank goodness for your inability to challenge my assertion that that’s your opinion, due to the uni-directional flow of words this particular medium offers us.

I’ll come clean, dear reader. Mentioning that I’ve been playing Minecraft is just a shameless tactic to allow me to shine a light on the person I was playing online with, Chris Slight.

Regular readers of this column will have heard this name before, but some of you may have not. I’ve been lucky enough to work with Chris on a number of projects live, online and for broadcast, and he is undoubtedly one of the most positive, considerate, entertaining and talented people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with. And I’ve worked in a call centre in Milton Keynes. High praise, indeed.

He’s an industrious little so-and-so too. Each Wednesday, he spends a number of hours streaming chat and gameplay to the devoted community of Loading Bar in North London, and does the same, purely for pleasure, on Sunday evenings on his own channel. It was here where I popped up at the weekend, diving into his Minecraft world for some light-hearted mischief/setting fire to his house.

Chris has done the impossible, and made me love Minecraft again. After years of enjoyment, I drifted away from it whilst making my show, “Digging Deeper” as, inevitably, I turned a passion of mine into a job that had deadlines and a pile of work that wasn’t the ‘fun’ bit (i.e. just playing the game). What was it that made me enjoy the game again? Playing with someone. Minecraft is a game that many play solo (indeed, I did so myself for the first couple of years before discovering the joys of online servers) but it’s undoubtedly a game best suited to shared play.

As with any sandbox game, it lacks direction, with players choosing what to do in the world with the tools at their disposal. Alone, this can be satisfying to a point but, eventually, loneliness can kick in – virtually, as in real life. With friends, the game becomes something else – whizzing around gathering sand to pop in Chris’s furnace to make some windows for his house might not sound like the most action packed of videogame experiences, and it isn’t, but doing it whilst having a nice catch-up with a friend makes for a pleasant evening that flies by. Chris and I have a small but dedicated group of people who regularly view our streams too (you can follow me to see mine too) so it’s always a social experience, albeit one which – to those who’ve never heard of twitch before – might sound dreadful and alarming.

On reflection I think that, in this age of frantic multi-tasking and “second screens”, chatting online with friends whilst playing Minecraft, or other games, is the 2015 equivalent of just TALKING TO YOUR FRIENDS. Whether it’s a good or bad thing I’ve no idea, but I’m certainly far more intimately acquainted with the lives of those I play games online with, than any of my other friends – even with the assistance of things like facebook and twitter to notify me of every birthday or sandwich people I met in 2009 have enjoyed or endured.

As the hours pass by when playing online, the conversation has a chance to ebb and flow during the less frantic/focused moments of gameplay, and the distraction it offers seems to lend itself to more personal, un-guarded conversation than the superficial “how’s the family” chats you might have at work or over a pint. Or maybe I’m just really lucky with the friends I get to play with. No idea.

Anyway, if you want to check Chris out, and you should, you can follow him on twitter @chrisslight where he’ll keep you up to date with all his shenanigans, or visit those links I posted earlier. If you’ve got Virgin Media, you can even catch him this Friday hosting a launch day show about the latest Call of Duty game on Ginx TV. Plus he’s the engine room behind the podcast Game Friends which I’m lucky enough to be a part of.

That’s it for this week, except to say that – full disclosure – every time I see Chris, he asks me when I’m going to write an article about him. Let’s hope this shuts him up – frankly, he’s absolutely unbearable.

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