Fallout, GTA, rapping dogs, um Theme Hospital - the games that ruined NME's life
With Gaming Disorder being declared an actual thing and news breaking that some parents in America have been sending their children to ‘game rehab’ to cure their addictions to Fortnite, the NME office dragged itself away from Call Of Duty for five minutes to confess to its own tragic tales of console mania…
Charlotte Gunn (editor) – Theme Hospital
“Doctor, attend in psychiatry please”. It’s sort of twisted really, a game for children about running a hospital, but horribly, horribly addictive. The worst part of the whole setup, which only fuelled my NEED to play, is that the game would only work on my step-grandparents’ computer, so I would crave visits only to lock myself in their study for hours treating epidemics of Bloaty Head and clearing up vomit waves. A weird childhood, when you think about it.
El Hunt (staff writer) – PaRappa The Rapper
Like most teenagers growing up in the noughties, I spent unhealthy amounts of my time tormenting my Sims, aimlessly skateboarding on Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2, and running a doomed healthcare service on my beloved PC copy of Theme Hospital. That said, I wouldn’t call my relationship with any of these games addictive. No… my true brush with potentially life-ruining obsession came a bit later, when one of my friends introduced me to the late ’90s PlayStation game PaRappa the Rapper.
For the uninitiated, the game follows a beanie-wearing dog called PaRappa, who tries to rap in order to impress a girl; a plot we’ve all seen played out far too many times at our nearest karaoke booth. I think the overall goal is to win her over with a heartfelt freestyle, but to be honest, I never made it past stage 4. Led by an irritating cookery show presenter named Cheap Cheap Chicken – who, by the way, has even fewer decent bars than Drake – I wasted entire weeks of my life sat in my pyjamas until nightfall, attempting to “M-I-X the flour into the bowl” to no avail. When I eventually went, er, cold chicken from it all, I would have recurring nightmares that Cheap Cheap Chicken was tormenting me and hitting me with her wooden spoon while I fled from her hellish studio. I still can’t look in my fridge without muttering “butter-butter-butter joins the bowl” to this day.
Sam Moore (writer) – Championship Manager 01/02
Football fans across the world should be more than familiar with this addictive title, which claimed hours, days and even months of your precious time as you built a globe-conquering side (or three). The likes of Cherno Samba and Mark Kerr – who developers Sports Interactive predicted 17 years ago would be become megastars, but IRL fell well short of the mark – became cult heroes among Champ Man aficionados, with Samba recently admitting that the trajectory of his own promising career was adversely affected by his popularity on CM 01/02.
The game still lives on in 2018 through the tireless work of the committed update team, who release two big database updates a year in order to bring CM 01/02 in line with the present-day footy landscape. And how did it ruin my life? Well, it didn’t – I stay play the game today, having started a brand new Save Game just last month (as the manager of Walsall, AaB and Malaga, in case you’re interested). Long live CM 01/02.
Hannah Mylrea (writer) – Pokemon Crystal
It was my first Game Boy game, and I honestly think I ran up 1000+ hours playing it. I got obsessed with levelling up the Pokemon (I had several level 100 Dragonites, legend) and trading them with my pals (pre-wifi, so this was using a cable that linked up the two Game Boy). Absolutely tragic.
Mark Beaumont (writer) – Fallout 3
As a grown man who lost an entire summer to The Witcher 3, to the point where my neighbours thought that the pained growls of the many, many monsters I slaughtered were actually me losing my mind and going properly feral, this is still but a brief hit of Angry Birds compared to my most intense jag of game junkiedom. Let me take you back to the long, cold winter of 2008, which you may remember for festive joy and familial togetherness, but which I spent obsessively carrying an inventory max of tin cans across a post-apocalyptic wasteland in the distant hope of one day owning my very own nuke-firing Fat Man.
Fallout 3. To this day the title alone gives me flashbacks to VATS-frozen supermutants, war-screaming in my terrified face. It was my first real introduction to the modern day open-world sandbox RPG and I went deep. Way too deep. Time-sink? This was a time-loch. Over the course of a month or two of utter obsession, I cleared every cave, vault and chicken shack in the Capital Wasteland. Realising early on that every single piece of scrap metal in the supermarket near Megaton could be exchanged with the town merchant for caps – the in-game currency – I foolishly decided to collect and cash in every single piece. Veterans of Fallout battles with their own inventory capacity will know how insane this was. For days on end I irradiated myself shitless trudging back and forth between the two, weighed down with near-worthless crap, occasionally getting killed en route by massive scorpions.
At my peak I was putting in ten to 14 hours of such drudgery a day, then working into the early hours to write the book I was on a deadline for. On the rare occasions I ventured out into the ‘real’ world I was still playing the game in my head. I saw every trip to the nearest Costcutter as a chance to notch up real-life XP, and wondered how many caps I might get for discarded KFC boxes. I went to sleep plotting the next day’s map excursions and woke up raring to finally bag myself a deathclaw. I was single-handedly responsible for Pizza Hut’s record-breaking Christmas profits in 2008.
Andrew Trendall (news editor) – Tetris
It runs in my family. There’s something therapeutic and addictive about creating order, and then the chaos ensues. We Trendells often dream about bricks sliding into place.
Nick Reilly (news reporter) – Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Who says that violent video games cause kids to go postal? My first addiction was Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, and I like to think it hasn’t changed me at all. Well, that’s not strictly true. It taught me that video game addiction is a very real thing. As an 11-year-old in 2004, GTA was pretty much the most exciting thing in my life. The violence wasn’t beyond anything I hadn’t seen in a film, but the world of CJ Johnson was a complete thrill and unlike anything I’d ever experienced before.
Causing mayhem on the streets of 90s Los Angeles never grew old and the missions were pretty good when I actually chose to do them too. Did it ruin my life? No, I’ve had no real urge to hijack cars, and I’m definitely not hard enough to join a street gang. But I do know this – it’s Grove Street for life, homie.
Dan Stubbs (Commissioning Editor) – The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past
Back when I was a freelance journalist, the greatest threat to my blossoming career was this 15-year-old game, which I played to its completion via a stolen ROM file on an emulator on my Mac – the same machine I used for work. It was always there, willing me to complete that dungeon or push on to the next area. New powers open up new parts of the map and new experiences. It was devilish in its will to suck up all of my time. Deadlines were missed. Meals were missed. If I slept, I’d dream of thrashing my way through foliage looking for rupees. Last year, I picked up the SNES Classic Edition, which comes pre-loaded with The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past. I fired it up, just to have a look. Then I remembered it starts where most games might end: a thrill-rush to save the princess before the wider quest even begins. And the next time I looked at the clock, four hours had passed. Careful, now, traveller.