Don't make me play that!

Civilization IV
Gamer: Craig Pearson

“Building a farm will increase the number of food this tile produces from two to three,” Sid Meier tells me in the Civ IV tutorial. “Mines increase the number of Production a city produces.” This is only the tutorial and I’m hopelessly out of my depth. Two to three whats? Pies? Tureens of paté? And what the heck is “Production”?

This is so frustrating. I want to enjoy the Civ games, but they’re like bananas. Anyone I see eating a banana looks like they’re having a great time; the minute I try to eat one my stomach attempts to punch its way out of my body in protest. Now my mind’s protesting. It’s hearing the words ‘tiles’ and ‘turns’ and looking for things to kill. I quit the tutorial: what’s the point in learning if I can’t? I decide to play a scenario and bestride the world like a colossus. Failure will be on my terms.

The new leader of Mongolia is I, Cthulhu. Anyone who comes near shall have to take on the might of me in a bad mood. It begins well enough: the bit from the tutorial that did stick was unit movement and building stuff. I have a city, barracks, warriors and a scout by the time Bismarck makes contact and wants to be friends. I threaten him with decapitation and return to my burgeoning empire, which seems to be made up of loinclothed natives and a few sheds. Suddenly I create Hinduism. It seems to happen without any prodding from me. How can I be a fearsome, despotic Hindu? This isn’t going well. After a few turns, others from a distant land appear and beat my scouts up.

I never feel in control in these games. Every move feels like I’m merely there to assist the computer, like it needs a brainless meatbag to press buttons. It’ll suggest moves, and I follow because this level of planning is as alien to me as car maintenance, and too removed from the action for me to care. I turn it off.

Play it again?
Not a chance.

Football Manager 2008
Gamer: Tom Francis

The three things I hate most in this world are football, management and the year 2008. So I’m not optimistic, but I’ll give this a go. Character creation: this I can do. Glorgathon, Mutilator of Worlds, favourite team Everton. Portrait? Let’s see what’s in My Documents. Ah yes, an animated gif Tim sent me of David Hasselhoff wearing David Hasselhoff briefs, which zooms into his crotch recursively, forever. Accept. The game crashes. After a while I find the only portrait that doesn’t crash the game is one of Valve’s Robin Walker grinning madly, so he is now the face of Glorgathon.

I take charge of famous Slovakian team Ruzomberok, surely mighty heroes of this ball-related game. For my first match, I employ a classic Zerg rush: it seems my non-goalkeeping units can spawn anywhere on the battlefield, so I deploy them all directly outside the enemy goal, to score before they can establish a base. I cannot fail. I fail, 8-0.

One glimmer of hope comes halfway through, when my team suddenly devastates the enemy midfielders and scores spectacularly. Craig then informs me that the teams switch territory at half-time, and that it is I who have been scored on yet again. This seems needlessly confusing. A groin injury and a 10-0 loss later, I decide to rethink my strategy. I simply copy the 2-4-4 configuration that every other team appears to use, and soon I’ve scored my first goal. We’re up 2-0 by half-time. Suddenly I care about those swarms of noninteractive dots, and the apparently random bounces of the one they call ‘the ball’. I’m almost enjoying it. But then striker Igor Zofcak strains his groin. For God’s sake people, whatever you’re doing with your groins, stop. Zofcak hadn’t scored, but without him my team seemed to fall apart, and soon my opponent Kocise had equalised, then won. I return to hating this stupid game.

Play it again?
Not for all the money in Chelsea.