If you ask me, online dating is easy


Prince of Persia (1992)

A few years back, when I read online about some miraculous new dating app called Tinder, I gave it my usual cynical response: a haughty snort, a derisive laugh, a stiffening of the upper lip. It all sounded pretty sleazy to me. Not that I could look down on anything for being a bit seedy, but I still had to take a pause.

Online dating? The very idea of it was sure-laugh fodder for sitcoms and stand-up funnymen for years. Surely something as tragic as online dating couldn’t fly in a society like Ireland’s? A society that still collectively points at anything non-conformative and grunts disapprovingly?

Still, I was at risk of becoming left behind, left on the shelf, left without any avenues. Dreadfully impotent, in other words. So, with secret glee, I flipped the App Store switch and made a mental note to delete my App History thereafter, in case the story got out that I, lothario Burkey, needed a little app pill to get things going.

I made sure to be alone when I researched some more online discussion of this wonderapp called Tinder. Why? In case “curiosity” (which could probably more accurately be termed “desperation”) took a hold of me and I decided to actually try the app out for real. I’d have to console my protesting & self-conscious inner voice with the words, “I just to see what it’s like, that’s all”.

But I did eventually summon the bottle to download the Tinder app, only to baulk at the fact that it had to go through my Facebook account to get going. Back up a second there, guys. What if someone saw that I was actually trying to throw my awkward hat into the ring of online dating?

And I really must continue to emphasise how socially catastrophic that concept was, way back in the early tweenies. If I had been discovered on something like this, what little street cred I had left would’ve been utterly dashed. I’d have to wear a shamefully messaged sandwich board at all times and apologise profusely any time I introduced myself.

Tinder gave me every assurance that my perversion and indiscretions would be kept strictly confidential, but you just never know, do you? A little top-tip for you all, straight from under my tinfoil hat to your government-monitored brain: nothing you get up to online is privately done. Although looking at the readership figures of this blog, you’d forgive me for thinking otherwise. Ho ho! How sad.

Still feeling brave, I ploughed on, but I shouldn’t have been surprised to learn that the app hadn’t yet become popular in Ireland; even within 100 measured kilometres around me, one hundred of the very best, I had 8 girls to choose from – one I knew already, two were po-faced, three were bots, one lived in the sea and the last one was actually a guy. I ought to have known that an online dating app wouldn’t have proven popular in Ireland. We don’t really do online dating. We don’t really do dating at all, come to think of it.

Fast forward a couple of years though, and suddenly Tinder’s popularity skyrockets. It’s now become a very viable option for teasing, sexting, how’s your father, even something as extreme as a relationship. Just about every singleton I know was on it at one stage, prior to their ridiculous decision to introduce paywalls. But nobody at the time would ever have publicly admitted to that fact. The first rule of Tinder, etc etc.

This time, on my sleazy return, I could turbo-swipe right to approve of thousands of girls, and I wouldn’t need to take a 4-hour flight to snag most of these lucky ladies in my trawler net either. It genuinely felt like I was trafficking them, and all for free too. Some Irinas and Pooshkas even contacted me directly from Moldova somehow, offering “services”.

A whole new market was open to me. Obviously, being male, I had to swipe right to everybody – even the life’s unfortunates and the males and the pets that had slipped through the cracks, I let them all into my life as well.

And I know you won’t believe it, but I actually got some matches. 200 matches of about 16,000 right-swipes. Well I’m no mathematician but I’m sure we can agree, in all modesty, that that’s a pretty excellent rate of return. So I threw some of my best verbals their way. And nothing. So I showered them with crawly, well-stalked compliments. And still nothing.

Then I hurled volleys of abuse at them for a laugh, and they finally gave me plenty of welly back. This tended to result in difficulty and animosity between the girl and I, a real kicker so early in our budding relationship. But at least we were now operating with some kind of understanding, both on the same page somehow. I didn’t expect anything from them, and in return they regarded me as something scraped off the bottom of their shoe, or probably even less than that. And fair enough, I thought. So long as we both knew where we stood

These stormy, tempestuous Tinder relationships of mine were a perfect microcosm of my experiences with controlling the Super Nintendo port of Prince of Persia. Like Tinder, Prince of Persia has you trying to bluster your way to success with all the poorly nuanced control of a hippopotamus in heat and on laxatives, and I was never destined to get very far as a result.

But what could I do? Give up on the treasure? You just have to suck it up and keep trying. Maybe you’ll get treated better the next time. Most unfortunately, while a machismo attitude and a complete ignorance of gender differences can sometimes work with Tinder’s female clientele (or so I’m told), you just don’t get that kind of leeway with Prince of Persia.

The game’s premise is simple enough: you’re a handsome rogue who needs to rescue his woman, inevitably a Princess, from evil. Except it’s in a Middle Eastern setting. Cross Mario with the Aladdin game and… you’re probably still nowhere near, because unlike those two, Persia doesn’t make for a decent platformer.

It’s one of those fancy “cinematic platformer” games (that is, barely playable but looks pleasing on the eye when someone else is struggling with it). Make your way through samey labyrinths and dungeons, occasionally engage in clunky sword combat with filthy beggars, and fall prey to ridiculous life-ending trap after life-ending trap that even the greatest gypsy fortune-teller could scarcely foresee. You suffer through all of this with controls that respond with all the readiness of a sloth getting out of bed, and the whole game is timed too, just for good measure.

So you’ve got a tough objective, a time limit, and every screen contains multiple elements clearly designed to kill you. And those are just the obvious elements, because there’s plenty of concealed traps whose location you obviously won’t be able to guess, as it’s unlikely that you were part of the game’s design team. Although if you were, I promise you this – I will shoot you.

The insta-death traps don’t even contribute much to the unenjoyment of the game really, if you can believe that, because for the most part you’ll probably just have your health constantly eroded by the shambolic running, jumping, running-and-jumping and climbing controls, all of which are infuriating. But at least your guy moves somewhat like an actual human being when you try to coax him away from nasty spikes, two hours after you’ve pressed the required buttons – I guess he has that over Mario.

The game still looks somewhat impressive and animates well. But it suffers from the same perils as Tinder: plenty of superficial beauty, but hardly any genuine substance to keep you interested. And for the nameless hero of our tale, it all seems like a bit too much horrible effort for one woman.

6 September 2015

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