USA Shootings could’ve gotten me days off school


Contra III: The Alien Wars (1992)

At time of writing, we are at 154 mass shooting incidents in the USA since 2018 started. I make that about one incident every 36 hours, and it is an amazing coincidence that these seem to take place in the United States on a regular basis and are almost alien anywhere else in the world. It is also a tad worrying, for such a God-fearing country, that ‘thoughts and prayers’ don’t ever seem to deter any prospective shooters either.

Even more amazing coincidences are that these incidents all tend to involve overwhelmingly powerful assault weapons; they seem to never result in changes to legislation; the shooters are all mentally ill; there are always apologists and conspiracy theorists lining up to calm things down in case any intelligent or sensible debate breaks out; and eventually, somewhere down the line, the wilfully ignorant blame video games.

I can almost see the logic behind it. Old grey men in greyer suits look at the weapons used, they look at the age of the perpetrators, and they try putting two and two together. And there’s no point in even mentioning Trump, or any other legislator in US history, because this has been the norm under several presidencies. Not only that, but games are becoming more and more graphic and violent, so it makes sense doesn’t it?

Of course, it kind of falls down when you remember that even highly celebrated movies have featured arms being torn off by chainsaws, curbstomping scenes, and there was even that bit in Who Framed Roger Rabbit where Judge Doom put a poor defenceless squeaky shoe into the Dip. If ever there was a scene that would put us normies off our lunch while appealing to the incel nutters out there, it was that one.

But we all know that these incidents are music to the National Rifle Association’s ears. Shooting incidents like the Stoneman Douglas school in Florida are some of the best advertising campaigns that the NRA could possibly hope for. Ask yourself, how can people defend themselves from psychotic shooters without themselves being armed?! If you hold your breath long enough, it almost starts to make sense. Better than that, to avoid having to confront the issue of the Second Amendment, the US government floated the idea of arming teachers. This was actually stated with a straight face.

Christ, it may even happen. Armed teachers! I can see it now. The students are being taught geography, with not a single bit of the curriculum focusing on anywhere outside of the Fifty Yoonited States of Murca. Eventually, having grown tired of 10/10 girls constantly refusing to be his prom date, Elliott Rodger Part Two snaps.

Lifting his desk and producing a Ruger SR-556 AR-15 style semi-automatic rifle with collapsible buttstock and three full magazines, he is locked and loaded and ready to go. Game Over for the rest of the class then, and probably the rest of that corridor as well until Elliott Two’s adrenaline runs out and he finally turns the gun on himself.

But wait! The teacher has come well-prepared for this one. Mr. Conrad Hauser has never received any kind of firearms training and lives nowhere near the firing range, wouldn’t even know what way to point the gun and probably thinks “trigger discipline” refers to the punishment his dominatrix puts him through when she hasn’t received half his paycheck that month while his wife is away on “business”. But he has been told what to do here, and quick as a flash he produces his SIG Sauer SIG516 with 30-round detachable magazine and tactical scope as standard.

After that, it’s the blind versus the stupid. Whoever gets their finger on the trigger first will win, and will probably rack up a kill count of six or seven in doing so. If the teacher takes down half his class in the crossfire, will he be disciplined? A verbal warning, perhaps? Or would those hapless victims be ruled as Acceptable Losses? Given posthumous honours? Their coffins given a guard of honour at their funerals?

I know that’s all very macabre to say, but isn’t the whole thing ridiculous? Can’t risk alienating the NRA, so better go on TV, deadpan, and tell everyone the real scourge of the nation. If it’s not rap music, it’s games, and if it’s not games then it’s Moslems. If it isn’t any of those, then it’s because the teachers need to be tooled up. And when the teachers start going postal, it’ll be because the janitors are only carrying old service pistols while the teachers are dual-wielding Uzis, a complete mismatch. They’ll even find some behavioural psychologists and bend them round their finger – anything to keep the guns flying off Walmart’s shelves.

But maybe these so-called behavioural psychologists actually have it right and they have me down to a tee. Maybe, because I’m a dab hand at Contra III and tend to fire about a gillion bullets every 10 seconds, maybe I should be marked down as a big fat red hazard warning and kept away from all schools in future. Maybe I should become their test case. You know, just in case I should walk into a Walmart, purchase a high calibre sub-machine gun with minimal clearance and even less trigger discipline, and then go to town on whatever poor gaggle of schoolchildren were getting theirs that week.

Christ, I used to rack my brains thinking up reasons why I wouldn’t have to go to school that day. I’d rewatch Ferris Bueller, read archaic medical books and swot up on all kinds of exotic fevers, sleep with my head against the hot radiator, perfect my overly dramatic croaky brogue… At one stage I was even able to ‘think’ myself sick if I needed to, and my body would comply for as long as necessary. Now that’s what you call harmony between man and machine.

But throw guns and school shooters into the equation? Seriously? It would have been the dream. All I would have needed to do was mention to my overprotective mother that some oddball in a Matrix-style trenchcoat stared at me at the school gates that day, and I’d have had the whole week off to follow his example and blow suckers away on Contra III.

Whether this weirdo had ended up spraying the school during lunch break or not would have been quite immaterial – I would have the time off I needed. Quite honestly I’d have probably welcomed his hail of gunfire if he’d let rip during classes with my old Irish teacher. Duck and cover? Run, Hide, Fight? None of that please mate, just give me a salvo of white-hot rounds and do us both a favour.

It’s tough for us sensitive Eurovirgins to imagine a situation like that. Well, Germany had our delicate eyes at heart when their laws against video game violence prompted Konami to remove all Rambos from Contra III, change its title and insert even blander robots instead, just as they did with Contra/Probotector for NES. Good stuff, Germany, having those laws. You wouldn’t have any violence there, would you?

They would have had our virgin ears at heart as well, except oddly the robots still make a human yelp when they die. And you will die a lot, although probably nowhere near as much as the NES original. Which is just as well because you can forget about the Konami code helping you here.

You can, however, change the difficulty setting and choose to give yourself a not-so-whopping 7 lives per continue. This does make the game more newbie friendly but you’ll still get a pain in your backside trying to play co-op with whatever pilchard you decide to introduce the game to. They will die an awful lot, and so will you actually, until you learn what’s what. And the game may seem insurmountable in that regard until you realise that there isn’t really that much substance here, and the SNES entry actually has less in it than the NES ones.

The original Contra is rightfully regarded as a classic, but bringing it to the 16-bit era slows it down a little bit. Less stages overall? Odd top-down levels? No Konami code outside of Japan? The graphics are nice and the feel is the same, but you’re playing the lesser relation here.

Go back to the NES ones, blow a million suckers away with the Spread gun in 8-bit instead, and try not to let the games turn you into a homicidal maniac. After all, we’re still waiting for a Contra 5, and if the suits ban it because of you and your collection of assault rifles, then you’re gonna have me on your hands.

07 September 2018

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