Europe has been suffering a ninja brain drain, ever since the 1990s

ninja gaiden

Ninja Gaiden (1989)

I’ve got a new scourge on my plate this time, readers, and that’s LinkedIn. It’s somehow ingrained itself as the thinking person’s social media, somewhere that’s far removed from those ridiculously unfunny impression videos posted by inexplicably popular creators, the types of videos that’ll get shared to you several times a day.

You wouldn’t have watched them when they were emailed to you on a slow day in the office, and you’re certainly not going to watch them now when they’re ten minutes long and clogging up your WhatsApp. No, LinkedIn brings us an altogether more contemptible sight – the humblebragger.

I only took a brief foray into LinkedIn, in the days when I really was unemployable. Whatever the opposite of a brain drain is, we sociologists were really feeling it. When the dole closes in and wants you to get a job, what else can you do but seek advice online from those “in the know” about how to get a job, or how to switch jobs to a nice, handy number.

The advice and lists you seek never tell you what you really need to know. For example, it’s quite ideal to know somebody within the company before you apply – preferably, he’ll be your father. Online gurus will also tell you not to dress like a clown for your interview, that you should turn up on time and you mustn’t have a sixty page CV. Well, thanks a lot for that.

It also tells you to get a LinkedIn account. So I did, and I didn’t really have any connections, since the extent of my employed life at that stage was as a till monkey. Even so, I could see that it was poser central. My God, you think modern day Facebook or Instagram is bad for trying to sell you things, here we have more than one young lad in their dad’s suit, coming out with these ridiculous stories and anecdotes as a reminder to keep you grinding every day.

You know the type, I saw a post from one the other day where he explained that he was interviewing a candidate – and keep in mind this fella was about 22 and Essex based, so you know he was some bootlicker for a door-to-door sales pyramid – and the candidate was clearly flustered, or so we’re told. He was so nervous, indeed, that instead of giving the job to the next fella who was neat and tidy and professional as all hell, the poster decides to take pity – sorry, “see the best” in the first candidate, and gives job to him instead.

He then followed up by telling everyone who read this drivel to like, share and never give up on their dreams, or some rubbish like that. This was apparently worthy of a zillion likes and simpering comments, even though it didn’t happen. Would you even want to be the subject of a “feel-good” story like that?

You can barely go on and have a snoop on LinkedIn either, since you need to be logged in to look at other people’s pages, most of the time. Worse than that, it does something that would have caused untold strife were it brought in on Facebook and its ilk – on LinkedIn, you can see who has visited your page.

Don’t ask me to verify that for you, since nobody ever visited mine. But if you were hoping to have a somewhat more sensible stalk of someone, perhaps even the secretary of your dreams, then you’d better be careful. Of course, you can take all the care in the world but still find yourself logged in, or getting logged in automatically by Google, and then you’re really in trouble if you’ve snooped on the wrong pages.

No, I had to get shot of LinkedIn in the end, and I don’t miss it. I deleted it fully, asking for no more emails or any botherance from the site. Perhaps thirty minutes after I’d done so, I got a follow-up mail from LinkedIn saying they were sorry to see me go. Now, had I not just said I wanted to unsub from absolutely everything?

The reason I’m so bitter and petty about it, I suppose, is because I never got a job off the site. I was promised my #dreamjob, once I’d “hustled” enough. A vacant position for Billionaire Gadabout never popped up, so there wasn’t much left for me.

I never saw a listing for Master Ninja either, and to be honest I’m not surprised. I’d played Ninja Gaiden for NES before, and it wasn’t an easy stint, not an easy life at all. They really work the proverbials off you. Mind you, perhaps I should have searched for Shadow Warriors instead, the European title for the game – no ninjas allowed in the PAL region, remember.

The NES became known for its rock-hard 2D platformers, some of which were not only impossibly hard, but impossibly bad as well. Ranking strongly in the platformer stakes were Castlevania and Mega Man, very good games in their series. But let’s face it, they could get pretty damn hard, and you sometimes had to be in the mood for them. I’d say Ninja Gaiden is on par with Castlevania 1 or 3, or Mega Man 1 in terms of difficulty, or maybe even tougher than those titles – it really is as difficult as scrolling through a LinkedIn feed without vomiting.

But what Ninja Gaiden does right compared to those games is that you have unlimited continues, so it really does come down to how long you can persevere you can persevere without losing the will to live. A great game to prepare you for the job market, then.

Don’t get lulled into a false sense of job security, though – there’s no passwords or anything like that in Ninja Gaiden. This was definitely one of those games that you played well into sundown, just you in a dark room, with only the bright glare of the TV and the NES controller in your hands.

By now, the cuboid controller is putting divots into your hands, as you get knocked back by the enemy into the abyss to incur yet another Game Over. This ignominy brings with it a distinctive flashing of colours, but thankfully it’s not designed to give you a seizure – the game’s sadism does have a limit.

The premise of Ninja Gaiden, naturally, is that you’re a ninja who essentially walks down a hostile street, cleaning out everyone he meets. You’ve got a ninja knife to do this with, but you can also throw various projectiles, such as the classic death stars. He’s a great climber too is the protagonist, one Ryu Hayabusa, so you’ll be doing plenty of that, as well as jumping from wall to wall.

In a LinkedIn-backed jobseeking scenario, that’s probably where I let myself down: I was never a good climber, even as a little monkey child. You’re a complete sitting duck while climbing, naturally, and you’ve got that old Castlevania bullshit that I alluded to earlier, how you’ll get knocked backwards into pits by enemies who respawn at a moment’s notice.

Keeping you going though is a nice little feature that not many NES games gave you: story cutscenes. I’m hardly talking about PS1 FMV movies here, but there are little manga style vignettes between the different Acts. They’re nicely done, they keep you interested in laying despite the adversity, and they don’t go on forever in a crappy “too much talking getting in the way of the action” style, like, Double Dragon 3.

I tried my best to get to the end of Ninja Gaiden, which would be a badge of honour for any gamer. But it broke me in the end, like it broke countless others, like most corporate jobs do. I thought learning to be a ninja in the Shinobi style was hard, when I tried to get through Revenge of Shinobi on Mega Drive. Well, Ninja Gaiden is even more hardcore – it even uses the word ‘die’, and you didn’t get that very often on Nintendo.

That makes ninjas in this game a slight bit cooler than in the Shinobi games, and dare I say it, cooler than the Ninja Turtles. I’ll even go as far as saying that if Ryu Hayabusa himself posted some attention seeking post about how he got to the end of this game, I’d lap up every word and become his follower. That’s probably why I’ll only ever be a lackey, and never the main man.

2 July 2021

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