State Of Emergency

This review comes straight from the frontline of the riots in Birmingham.

Despite Monday and last night's considerable looting and rioting shenanigans, today was business as usual for the shop where I work. Because it's mostly shit and mostly well-hidden, the rioter bastards left us and our windows alone. Almost disappointed. Our shop not good enough for you? To be fair, I work in a camping shop. I don't think those involved are interested in camping anywhere, except maybe on Call Of Duty.

An odd atmosphere aside, work today progressed much as it usually does; lengthy periods of boredom, a lunch break and some screwing about when I was supposed to be working. I did get to leave early though, due to all businesses in the city centre being terrified of a repeat of the rioting.

As it happens, there's supposed to be more rioting on the streets of Birmingham tonight. Yesterday, people trashed Hatman and the music store next to my favourite comic book shop. I'm writing this from the confines of the safest place in the city; the only place we can be sure won't get looted - Waterstone's. Joking aside, "we're staying open," the booksellers said, "if they steal some books, they might learn something."

Claims that they cut the head off've The Bullring Bull emerged as Bullshit.

Before I got to leave work, I was visited by a charming gentleman in unmatching tracksuits who approached the counter and asked if we sell balaclavas. I don't think he was planning on going skiing. We had plenty of balaclavas, but I told him no. Such is my good deed for the day. On the bus to Waterstone's, I overheard a gang of undesirables describing their frustration at the world. No-one understands us, innit. Their point would have been more well made were they not drinking Special Brew and writing a shopping list of things to steal when the rioting starts again.

Those interested in the riots can follow its progress here. It allegedly began because of the death of a maybe gangster man in London at the hands of the po-lice during a possible shootout. (it's since been claimed the police fired first). Tensions between the police and government vs our 'underclasses' have been brewing in the UK for a while now, so this isn't entirely surprising. It's lovely that the yoof of today are so politically-minded, but I can think of better ways to make a point than trashing the shit out of JJB Sports. Also, if you need a really big bag of Basmati rice for whatever reason, the stuff's cheap enough for you to not have to loot it. Especially at Tesco's.

I only started using twitter properly a few months ago (@JoelHarley) but apparently the rioters are using it in conjunction with their Blackberrys to organise it all. They might be from working-class backgrounds and council estates, but at least they can afford a decent mobile phone.

The only experience I have with looting or rioting is with State Of Emergency, an early Rockstar game which puts you right in the middle of an inner city riot, trying to cause as much trouble as possible. It was released to the usual amount of outrage on the Playstation 2 in 2002. It was amusingly violent and stupid, but ultimately the sort of game that one can only play for a maximum of twenty minutes before getting bored. Also, I'm kinda crappy at videogames, so I got stuck on the second level. I got bored and traded it in for something like Crash Bandicoot. I do remember enjoying things like the flamethrower and hurling benches at people. The graphics were pretty good too, and there was a Grand Theft Auto sensibility to the humour, if a bit more infantile.

Much like running grannies over probably isn't really as fun as it is on Carmageddon, rioting is much less fun in reality than State Of Emergency led me to believe. That said, I am on the receiving end. I don't think I'd fit in with my Converse and correct punctuation. How am I supposed to function as an alcoholic if all the pubs and off licences are shut? I'm beginning to think that I need to re-examine my relationship with videogames. This is worse than that one time I got murdered as a result of someone playing Manhunt.

The game is good. Real rioting, not so good.

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