The agony of buyer’s re­gret

One man’s race against time, one of the world’s busiest air­ports, and men­tal maths that was des­tined to leave him in the lurch.

Australian T3 - - CONTENTS -

Gam­ing by Paul Tay­lor

Afew months ago I es­caped the black hole of the of­fice and went trav­el­ling round the coastal fringes of Eastern Europe. It was beau­ti­ful. An un­ex­pected par­adise of wind­ing cob­ble­stoned streets and houses built with the graft of hands more ac­cus­tomed to wield­ing im­pos­in­glook­ing tools than tap­ping at a smart­phone or mash­ing the but­tons of a gamepad. All of it was lazily sand­wiched be­tween dra­matic green hills and azure blue seas – trag­i­cally, I couldn’t help but no­tice it would be an ideal play­ground for the next As­sas­sin’s Creed.

Then, it was over, and I was on the wrong side of cus­toms and a de­layed flight leav­ing Heathrow for Sydney. A year prior in sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances I wound up on the plane with a dead phone and a book still dry­ing out af­ter be­ing soaked in a mys­tery fluid. This year, thanks to new reg­u­la­tions, all tech had to be fully charged and able to turn on at a mo­ment’s no­tice, lest the men and women in the scary black uni­forms thought my Macbook was rigged with ex­plo­sives rather than an em­bar­rass­ingly large folder of cat gifs. Fail­ure to com­ply meant I risked not be­ing able to take them on the plane. At all.

That par­tic­u­lar air­line had an eclec­tic col­lec­tion of games, and one that stood out was a favourite from my youth MDK2. It’s a third-person shooter made by BioWare, an off-the-wall af­fair mix­ing pun­ish­ing plat­form­ing, pa­tient snip­ing and rudi­men­tary puzzles. The cast was com­prised of a man in what looked like black la­tex and a pointy hel­met, a comedic pro­fes­sor and an an­thro­po­mor­phic dog. Who­ever had the con­tract to sup­ply games had de­cided to snub the usual tried and tested PopCap gems and went for this port of the PC game and a few oth­ers from a bar­gain bin circa 2003.

While I’d had fond mem­o­ries of MDK2, this port was a sham­bles. Imag­ine try­ing to play Half Life 2 on a SNES pad, and you have a rough idea of what it was like. You could look in any di­rec­tion you wished, or you could run, but not at the same time. Shift­ing be­tween these two es­sen­tial func­tions meant hold­ing down a but­ton to then gen­tly dab at the D-pad, snap­ping in and out of each func­tion. Straf­ing was a no-go. It turned what should’ve been ex­er­cis­ing a re­flex into a crash course in learn­ing how to walk.

That wasn’t go­ing to hap­pen this year. So I turned to Google Play and thumbed through my wish­list. The time was right to down­load XCOM: En­emy Un­known, 2K’s strat­egy ti­tle. Sadly, the file was 3.63GB.

Ap­prox­i­mately 191,000 peo­ple travel through Heathrow ev­ery sin­gle day, and it seems like they all col­lide there to use the Wi-Fi at the ex­act same time. Some men­tal maths later and I fig­ured out it would take nearly five hours to down­load. My plane was leav­ing in two.

So, then, a sub­sti­tute, and fast. With my smart­phone in one hand and the last of the data from a UK SIM search­ing for some­thing less mono­lithic, and the tablet bal­anc­ing on my knee con­nected to Heathrow’s glacial but sta­ble Wi-Fi, I found Shad­owrun Re­turns for much more rea­son­able 801MB. It could be mine in 70 min­utes. To re­ward my­self for pru­dent re­search I thought it was time for a late din­ner and a quick bev­er­age. You can see where this is go­ing al­ready. One burger and two beers later, plus paus­ing to gawp at the high­lights of the World Cup, I was rush­ing to­wards the de­par­ture gate while the screen blinked FI­NAL CALL.

So in­stead I played Flappy Bird for 24 hours straight. And I’m still aw­ful at it.

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