A truly first-time experience for Alexi Duggins – being the least geeky person in the room
I am Sven – the rogue knight. My muscular torso bulges like a onesie stuffed with bowling balls. I tower over mortals as though my veins were throbbing with giant’s blood. The monstrous blade I heft makes lampposts look like toothpicks. And whether this is overcompensation for a winkie like a button mushroom is, frankly, none of your business.
What’s more, it doesn’t matter to the patrons of Meltdown. This dusty-floored Caledonian Road boozer is Britain’s first pub dedicated to electronic sports: the multimilliondollar industry that treats computer game tournaments like Champions League fixtures. For the drinkers transfixed by TVs screening a sci-fi strategy game, there’s no difference between rugby players frotting in the mud on Sky Sports and mythical orcs fragging each other on Sky’s e-sports station, Channel XLeague TV. Though the commentators do look like their journey to the studio was spent finishing their algebra homework. So maybe it’s a tad geeky.
‘We need a local network!’ exclaims one gamer as he tries to sign me in to a role-playing game called ‘DOTA 2’. ‘Invite him to a party!’ suggests another (apparently very friendly) member of the digigaming brain trust now surrounding me. ‘Do you have “Steam”?’ one guy asks, leaning over the computerfacing, neon-fringed throne mounted on stage for gamers to use. ‘I do!’ I reply. ‘It’s East 17’s best single!’ The eye-rolling that this prompts suggests it is not the answer they’re looking for.
A barman comes over and signs me in (Steam, it seems, is a gaming account). He declares, for this match: ‘The winner is the first to make two kills or capture one tower!’ But before Sven can kill, he must go shopping. ‘You need to buy skills!’ yells Greg, my teammate, jabbing his finger at an onscreen ‘shop’ button. While everyone around me furiously battles, I’m getting entangled in
menus advertising items called ‘Ring of Protection’ and ‘Slippers of Agility’. (No Pyjamas of Destruction?). I randomly purchase some mythical tat then, finally, it’s time to hack and slash. I wander over to a group of demons. I raise my sword. I prepare to let them have it. And then… I die.
‘Game over!’ announces the venue manager. But… but… how did I die so fast? Must have been Sven’s fault. No one carries around giant phallic weaponry without some serious issues. ‘Nah, it’s not him,’ responds a bystander. ‘He’s very tanky. Great DPSer.’ Hmm. You know what? Maybe I’m just not cut out for this.