And Alex Said: Web

28 February 2003

Column 17: Web, 28th February 2003

Imagine a world where people are trapped in a kind of artificial reality. Everybody is plugged into a giant network, and their pale bodies are wasting away. Is this The Matrix – or just regular multi-player Quake gamers?

Who needs friends, or to go outside, when you can stay in your room playing computer games and eating takeaways until your heart stops? More to the point, who needs enemies, when you can butcher friends and strangers alike with an assortment of heavy weaponry?

It’s good to give the youth of today the chance to practise their skills with blades and handguns before they go out into the real world. It’s nice that they can practise bludgeoning people they don’t know before they go out and do the real thing in the High Street. How lovely that they have the opportunity to try shooting at people before they’ve bought their first real gun!

So the logic goes – but do games really encourage violence? Or is it just the parents who get violent, when their small child cons another forty quid out of them for a game they’ll play for ten minutes? My computer frequently brings me near to violence. Give me a large sledgehammer and yet another pop-up advert for some crappy webcam, and I’ll be buying another monitor shortly afterwards. I’d love to throw the bloody thing out of the window sometimes, but it wouldn’t be too impressive as I live in a basement.

Computers can be dangerous machines. You could get Repetitive Strain Injury. How painful – a slight ache because you’ve used your computer for too long! You can also do yourself severe mental damage, and there’s plenty of people out there who are aiming to make you as annoyed as possible from their distant bedrooms. Some people write viruses, some send spam, and still others sit there writing columns for Felix – all to ensure your irritation level is at a comfortable maximum.

Arguing with people on the internet is great fun. On the web, you can call anybody you like a pathetic dribble of donkey semen, and you’re completely safe. Say that to a bouncer though and you probably won’t be spending the night partying away in a club – not least because they don’t tend to keep artificial respirators in clubs, and also because dancing with a broken neck can be risky.

People on the internet aren’t always who they say they are. That 58 year-old man who says he likes playing Twister in the nude could really be a gorgeous 20-something blonde. Even if they send you a picture clearly showing themselves to be a wrinkly, bearded old codger, that doesn’t mean they are – they could be a beautiful member of the opposite sex, sickeningly trying to lure you into their bed. Remember, never give out any personal information on the internet – if you tell somebody your shoe size, you could be in serious trouble. If you give out your address, some bastard with a grudge will come round to your house in seconds (if you’re wondering, I’m at 17 Palace Lane, Baghdad).

Many bastards don’t seem to have too much trouble getting hold of me anyway. Why do I get so much junk email of no interest to me whatsoever? Spam offering me the opportunity to increase the size of my penis – I’d never be able to find underpants to fit then, would I! You’d have to unravel an entire sheep or something! What about a fantastic opportunity to get a degree by doing no work? Isn’t that what I’m trying to do anyway?