The Art of Video Gamesmanship

My name is Karl Smallwood and after you’ve finished laughing about my last name, I’m willing to bet you my left nut that if you’ve spent any time online whatsoever in the last few years, you’ve seen something that I’ve had a hand in writing. Now I’d like to say that you probably recognize me from one of the articles I’ve written for this very site, but I can’t because the odds suggest you know me from this image that shows I play games either very wrong or very right.

It's my magnum opus, apparently.

It’s my magnum opus, apparently.

That stupid joke is literally the most popular thing I have ever written, hell, even Wil Wheaton thinks it’s funny. However because the guy who originally posted the image to Reddit blurred out my name and face instead of using the version I originally publicly Tweeted, no one but my close friends (and everyone reading this I guess) knows I wrote it.

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The original, in case you didn’t believe me or were curious about if my face was really all blurry like that.

The thing is, that status was a joke leftover from when I used to do stand-up comedy, you can’t actually do that in a game of Rollercoaster Tycoon, I just thought it was a funny story I could tell a crowd of people who only kind of knew what video games where. Which inevitably means every time I see this image posted somewhere, like the time I saw someone on my own friends list copy it word for word and post it as their Facebook status, the first comment is almost always a variation on “But you can’t do that in Rollercoaster Tycoon, idiot.” I don’t like being called an idiot, but I can see why people would say that, so to make up for it and for everyone who ever wondered about what the guy behind that post does when he plays other games, here are some true stories from my childhood of times I just got sick of playing the “right” way.

Like the time I turned…

Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis Into a Petting Zoo Simulator

Jurassic Park: Operation Genesis is easily one of my favorite games of all time purely because dinosaurs are like the raddest thing ever. I loved dinosaurs so much that my prized childhood possession was a big-ass plastic ankylosaurs that I’d hit my brother with when he got out of line or asked why I kept cuddling it. I did this so often that my dad actually removed all of the ankylosaurs’ spikes with a hacksaw to stop me pimp-slapping everything across the face with it.

With that in mind, when I played JPOG I only rewarded the guests that appreciated dinosaurs as much as me. Now for those of you who aren’t familiar with the game but decided to read to the second paragraph anyway, the basic objective of the game was for you to build and design your own Jurassic Park and make it profitable. I always took issue with that last part, because I’m in the mindset that if scientists announced tomorrow that they’d cloned dinosaurs, they’d be buried in hastily thrown dollar bills before they even finished speaking.

Incarnating a rampaging green beast out of nothing but radioactive rocks is a feat of science so incredible Bruce Banner would sue it for copyright infringement, so imagine my surprise when the first time I booted up JPOG, the first guy to walk into my park said it sucked because it didn’t have a T-Rex. No it doesn’t have a T-Rex @$$#()!%, but do you know what it does have? A bunch of stuff that hasn’t set foot on this planet in over 80 million years. If you think it sucks so much go spend time in one of the other dinosaur-themed amusement par–oh, that’s right there aren’t any. I own the only one on Earth.

The thoughts of this single guest enraged me so much (as only video games can) that I shut my park and redesigned it from the ground up. My new park featured three areas:

The first area was one I dubbed “The holding pen.” Inside the holding pen was a single goddamn dinosaur, because screw you, go clone your own if you think it’s so easy. Guests could peruse this area at their leisure, if they happened to note that they liked the park or displayed any interest whatsoever in the fact I had ripped the soul of a long dead creature from the ether and put it into a cage for their amusement, I’d herd them into an area filled with free food, drinks and tons of other dinosaurs for them to gawk at. However, if they showed the same distaste for my god-like command of the animal kingdom that, that single guest had done during my first game, I’d herd them towards a third area.

Now you’re probably expecting me to say that I filled this area with velociraptor, or toilets that charged you $80 to take a dump, but no; I was much crueler than that. You see the game included an item that dispensed live cows and goats for your bigger dinosaurs to eat. If any guests expressed displeasure at the fact they could only see one miracle of science that day, they’d be quickly ushered, usually by helicopter, into an area filled with cows, goats and toilets that charged you $80 to take a dump. My reasoning always was, people would obviously remember the first human being in history to be ripped to shreds by a T-Rex because that’s metal as hell, but no one was going to pay attention to the guy who paid $200 to stand ankle-deep in cow turds because he didn’t think dinosaurs were cool. In case you haven’t guessed already, yes, I take virtual criticism very seriously.

The Last of Us Inside The Sims

If you’ve ever played one of The Sims game it’s pretty much a guarantee that you at one point tried to make your own family within the game just to see what would happen, only to decide it was a bad idea when you saw the digital likeness of your own mother getting busy in the shower with Mortimer Goth.

When I was a younger I, like many other people, tried to make myself in the original Sims game, however after making Sim versions of both myself and my two brothers, I really couldn’t be bothered trying to create my parents too. To my surprise, after trying to quit the family creation screen, the game actually let me create a family consisting of nothing but three children, I’ve tried this in subsequent versions of the game and it appears to be a feature they’ve removed, which is a shame because playing the game with a family three children was genuinely one of the greatest gaming moments of my young life.

Why? Well it’s all due to a very simple feature of the game; children can’t earn money. This means when you play the game as a family of children, it stops being about living and starts being about surviving. The second you start playing your money begins evaporating, and you can’t earn more so you have to slowly sell off the possessions (and windows) you don’t need to buy a pizza.

Seriously, if you have an old copy of The Sims lying around, try playing the game like this, it’s amazing. It’s like owning a Tamogotchi who can burn the house down. It makes you play the game in a way you never expected. Trust me, you haven’t played The Sims until you’ve had to resort to cold-calling your neighbors in the hope they’d bring around cookies because you can’t buy a fridge and you haven’t truly seen the depths a Sim will sink to until you’ve watched them eat day-old pizza out of the puddle of their neighbor’s urine (yes, that actually happened once).

You may think all of that sounds awful, but you need to remember that I’m also the kind of guy who will put all of his Sim’s furniture onto the lawn so I don’t have to pay for a house.

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The only thing I understand more than virtual suffering is pragmatism. That and being a lizard. (credit: EA)

The Boot Bandit

Like most gamers, I sunk a good 40 hours of my life into Skyrim the week it came out. However, whereas most of my friends spent their time slowly building towards playing as a nigh omnipotent being of godlike power, I played as a lizard who took things. That was literally it.

The second I had the ability to access the world of Skyrim , I made my Argonian warlock sprint directly into the woods and promptly ignored the hell out of the main quest for two solid days. What did I do with that time you ask? Well I walked into every house I came across, stole every pair of shoes I could get my hands on and punched all of their food onto the floor before leaving.

That was pretty much all I did for 40 hours. If I killed a bandit I’d steal his shoes and nothing else and every time I got close to being over-encumbered I’d fast-travel to Whiterun and dump all of the shoes into a single barrel. I still have no idea why I did that. All I know is if someone ever boots up my old Xbox and finds that save file, they’re going to assume I’m a serial killer.

The Nail Gun Murderer

The same thing would also probably happen if they saw how me and my friend used to play Hitman: Contracts. Now you probably know that the Hitman games revolve around being, well, a hitman. In Hitman:Contracts there was a cool feature at the end of every mission in which a newspaper article describes how you assassinated your target. I’m not ashamed to admit that a friend and I spent hours on that game seeing what would happen if we killed an entire vineyard full of people with nail gun rounds to the groin.

The answer is that the newspaper will criticize you for not getting headshots. We still to this day insist that paper must have been The Daily Mail.

It’s stuff like this that keep me playing video games and why I think video games are superior to most other forms of media, there’s only one way to watch a film or read a book, but there are a thousand different ways to play a video game and even if you do it wrong, you can still have a bunch of fun doing it.


Karl Smallwood is a freelance comedy writer you can hire! His work has been featured on Cracked, Toptenz and Gunaxin. You should probably click those links to make sure he isn’t lying. He also runs his own website where he responds to the various pieces of hate-mail he’s gotten over the years, in fact, he got so much hate-mail that he wrote a book about it that you can buy on Amazon. When he isn’t writing, Karl also Tweets and uploads pictures of himself drinking on Facebook.

Why stop at video games? Read about the boxer who gamesmanshipped his way to victory in Bendigo, the Trash-Talking,Back-Flipping Boxer.

"Bendigo," sounds like a Canadian porn star name.

“Bendigo” sounds like a Canadian porn star name.

More from Karl Smallwood
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