The Fuck Are My Custard Creams?”
It was September 2000
when I left the sunny North-East of England for the even sunnier
Midwest of America. That’s more than three years ago. You’d
think that’d be more than enough time to not just acclimatise
to, but become assimilated into, the culture. You’d be wrong.
I dunno, maybe it happens naturally with some people, but with
me, it’s just not meant to be. I’m still in culture
Obviously, things are different here, but it’s
HOW different that comes as the surprise. Even something like
making a simple cuppa takes on a whole new dimension. Teabags
are harder to get hold of for a start. Over here, the preferred
drinks include fruit-flavoured coffees and iced teas. A hot cup
of tea is relatively unusual. And if I want a biscuit with my
tea or coffee, well, that’s a bad idea – because a
biscuit over here is actually a bread item served with dinner.
The closest equivalent is the ‘cookie’ – and
there’s not a custard cream in sight.
Right biscuits. Proper biscuits.
Custard Creams – the mark of a sweet-toothed man.
When it comes to games, things are even more
maddening. The American year is split into four seasons: baseball,
basketball, ice hockey and American Football. With the exception
of golf, almost all other sports are irrelevant.
To a true footy fan (and footy game fan) like
myself, this is not good. Thankfully, FIFA ‘Soccer’
is picking up in popularity and can be found easily. A bit of
searching will even turn up a copy of Winning Eleven, but it’s
a rare find. If I want Championship Manager (and I DO want my
Championship Manager), then it’s import time – despite
the game achieving Game Of The Month in the US edition of PC Gamer
magazine. Nope, the ‘other’ football is THE game of
Rugby for lasses, etc.
Now, I’m sure in England you can pick
up a Madden game quite easily. There might even be an Activision-developed
American Football game available. What you probably aren’t
aware of is the sheer number of different titles you can buy,
all featuring the same sport, all fully licensed. It’s just
weird. Not only do they produce four or five videogames based
on the professional game, but also the same number based on the
college game. It’s all very, very strange – you can
buy games featuring college kids playing sports.
Walking into a videogame shop any time around
the start of any sporting season is hazardous to a Brit. The minute
you’re through the door, you get: “Hey, dude, you
like football?”. Now of course, being momentarily caught
off-guard, I’ll answer: “Yes!”, only to be told:
“The new Madden is out.” I don’t care. The new
Curly Madden is NOT football, “dude”.
Listening in on any discussion of the game (or
any sport) irks me, too. Here, EVERY sportsman or woman is an
‘athlete’. To me, an athlete is someone who wears
shorts and spikes and spends most of their time pegging it around
(or at least in the vicinity of) a running track. An athlete is
NOT a twenty-eight-stone man buried beneath multiple layers of
padding, whose sole purpose is to get in the way of another similarly
padded twenty-eight-stone man in pads. American Football –
it’s like British Bulldog for Big Girls’ Blouses.
In spring, a young man’s fancy turns to
love. Love of baseball, that is. College baseball isn’t
so big, so there’s no pre-pubescent rounders games on the
shelves. However, the number of major-league baseball games clogging
up the racks is horrendous. Last year, I counted seven different
titles, all licensed, all much the same. It’s all stats
and ‘franchises’, with a bit of a game thrown in,
if they could be bothered. The fact that they’re all marked
down to half price after a few weeks should really tell the games
companies something, but come March, I’ll be wading through
piles of MVP, High Heat, All-Star, Major League and the like,
trying to find something that actually resembles a game. Why are
they all suffixed with ‘2005’, too, when 2005 is a
whole year away?
The baseball season lasts for fucking AGES,
which at least increases the odds that a games company might release
a game I have an interest in. However, the autumn (well, ‘fall’),
brings a double dose of gaming indifference, via the basketball
and ice hockey seasons – which start AT THE SAME TIME. So,
not only do you get three or four ice hockey games, but you get
loads of basketball games, and loads of college basketball games,
too. Now, I don’t mind ice hockey – it’s got
fights and goals, two things which give it a significant lift
over the other main American sports.
”He’s on fire!”
Hang on. That’s not NBA Jam…
Basketball just baffles me, though, and videogame
basketball is even worse. A few blokes running one way for a few
seconds, chucking a ball into a small net, then running the other
way for a few seconds, repeated for three quarters of an hour.
I don’t find it entertaining in real life, less so in videogame
form. I don’t care if I’m seven-foot tall digitally,
pushing right then pressing a ‘shoot’ button then
repeating the movement the other direction – for an entire
game – isn’t much fun. Doing it as a schoolkid is
no fun at all. This is one sport where EA SHOULD have a monopoly,
so we don’t have our suffering multiplied with the sheer
number of games released.
Maybe three years isn’t enough. Maybe
I’m judging too soon, and in a few years I’ll be tailgating,
eating half a pig and not caring about the sport, preferring the
spectacle. Or maybe I’ll never get over the culture shock,
and will remain clueless about North American sports and their
videogame equivalents, relying on mercy packages from home to
provide me with reminders of my own culture. Now, where the fuck
ARE my custard creams?
Things to 'Make' and 'Do'.
Tea, biscuits, cakes. Ooh, lovely.
Aaaand the American
tall, basketball-loving gals.
*PaulEMoz lives in Americaland with his wife and his kid. So
we thought we'd call his regular column: 'With my kid in America'
which is a clever play on the old Kim Wilde smash - 'We're the
Kids in America - whoo oo'. PaulE is originally from Consett,
the town that invented tortilla chips and drunk fat lasses in
night-club queues, wearing only mini-skirts and boob-tubes in
fucking December, and eating chips out of each other's cleavages
so as to earn advancement towards the door. It's grim up North.