The Games People Play

November 5, 2008 -

John Heald

Monopoly has no end. The rules explain how you can unmortgage a property and when you should build hotels on Madison Avenue but they don’t say, and they should, that the winner is the last player left alive.

And what about Risk? You make a calculation, based on the law of averages, that you can take the world but then you loose because the person you are playing with who think’s he is George W. Bush invades Iceland and it’s game over.

Let me explain why I am writing this. Last night I lost my virginity and, for the first time, played “Guitar Hero.” I was with the wonderful Blum family and young Max Blum was keen to show me his guitar skills. He was simply brilliant as he strummed his way through classic Rolling Stones and Guns n’ Roses classics and mastered songs by bands with names like Slayer and Rat Killers Puke Machine Death Cookie Blackeyed Carrots.

It’s no wonder that this game is so popular at our Circle C and Club O2 events onboard.
For those of you who don’t know what Guitar Hero is…………..let me explain.

Guitar Hero is one of those Xstation play box games. You have a guitar with various colored buttons on it. You choose a song and press the colored buttons as they appear on the screen.

Now, on the screen is a rock band including a very sexy looking girl who is the lead guitarist………………you.

So, you choose a song……….say “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple. You follow the flashing lights and if you press them correctly in the order they flash on the screen you and the rock band get a huge cheer and tons of applause from the crowd. If you screw up………..then the song stops in the middle of your Ritchie Blackmore impression and the head bangers in the audience boo, spit and charge the stage and rip your head off.

Monopoly or Guitar Hero?

Given the choice of moving a hat around 42nd Street or becoming Eric Clapton for an hour on Guitar Hero, they’ll take the electronic option every time.

Whatever happened to jigsaw puzzles?

I tried explaining the joy of jigsaw puzzles to Max last night. “Yes, you spend a couple of weeks putting all the pieces together so you end up with a picture.”

“Then what happens?” he asked.

“Well, you break it up again and put it back in the box.”

And it’s much the same story with crosswords. If scientists could harness the brainpower spent every day on trying to find the answer to “French soap is best kept in the arse of a yak,” perhaps then maybe mankind might have cured hemorrhoids by now.

Crosswords, like jigsaws and Soduko, are not really games in themselves. They are simply tools for wasting time. And that’s not something that sits well in the modern world.

We may dream of living the slow life, taking a couple of hours over lunch and eating cheese and drinking port on our patios until dawn, but the reality is that we have a heart attack if the traffic lights stay red for too long or the lift doors fail to close the instant we’re ready to go.

Answering-machine messages are something that drives me to despair. I want a name and a number, and that’s it. I don’t have time to sit and listen to where you’ll be at five and who you’ll be seeing and why you need to talk before then. And even if I do pick up the phone personally, I don’t want a chat. I’m a man. I don’t do chatting. Say what you have to say and bugger off.

Most of today’s love and drama movies are crap. They take three hours before we even meet the main characters. I would much rather watch a Bruce Willis say: “Yippi Ki Yay, m**********r.” before killing the entire cast and all the cameramen.

Slowly cooked tuna in a drizzled peacock urine sauce? Bugger off, I’ll get takeout.
It’s not just kids who have fallen in love with the world of Playbox thingies……’s grown ups, as well.
Take my mate Alan who has entered a weird, weird new world. No, it’s not Richard Simmons underwear drawer …………It’s something far, far worse. Allow me to explain.

Alan bought an Xboxstation 380. He has always loved video games and this is the current top-of-the-line console and when I popped over to see him during the three days I had off after leaving the Carnival Splendor…….I got to see him in action……..and it’s quite astonishing.

He was playing a game called Call of Duty 4 and he was playing online. This is where you hook your machine up to the Internet and can start playing people all over the world.

You go online and there are thousands of people round the globe just waiting to play with you. Not only that, but a set of headphones allow you to talk and listen to everyone that you’re playing with. It’s a far cry from the Victorian days when I used to sit at home on my Atari 3600 playing Space Invaders. This is the game equivalent of the Queen Mary 2.

Everyone has a gamer tag a name they go by online. These are things like Laserkiller100 or Galaxyinvader115 and sound quite frightening until you hear the voice and it turns out to be a 50-year-old housewife from Liverpool.

When I was there Alan was playing against some American chaps.

I picture them sitting in huge, leather La-Z-Boy recliners somewhere in a gated community in California, surrounded by enormous plastic cups of Dr. Pepper and discarded pizza cartons.

My Dad doesn’t like PlayStations because they “rot your brain.” And he really doesn’t like Internets because they never work.

I wonder what my parents would make of all this guitar and war stuff that kids and adults play with today.

What my Mum and Dad like are “proper” games. And so, because you don’t argue with my mother, that’s what we played and still do at Christmas. Last year was a prime example. My sister Suedrip and her kids had returned from Hong Kong and we were all together……….and that meant “parlor games”………….staring with charades.

The kids, initially, were alarmed. They think anything that doesn’t run on electricity is stupid and boring. So the idea of standing up in front of the family and acting out a book or a film and not being able to play Halo Rampage Grand Theft 34 or with a Bratz doll thingy meant there were tantrums all round.

Strangely however, as the game went on they seemed to like it. Mind you, playing with a seven-year-old is hard, since everything he acted out had six words and involved a lot of scampering up and down the dining room, on all fours, barking……….what that had to do with the title Luke had been given “Star Wars” is anybody’s guess.

My Dad on the other hand, could only act out books and films from the 1950s and give him “The Texas Chain Saw Massacre” to act out and it’s game over.

But eventually the kids got bored and it was time to play something else. So out came the pens and paper. I can’t be bothered to explain the rules of the game she chose, but in essence you have to think of a country’s or girl’s name or things you find in space that begin with a certain letter. It sounds terrible compared with watching The Simpsons or shooting an LA drug dealer in the face on your Xstation, but you know what, the kids loved this even more than charades.

Heidi and I have a Playxboxstation thingy but it’s used about as much as the George Foreman Grill and the mini disc player…….that’s because Heidi and I love to play cards. There’s no television show, no Internet site and certainly no PlayBox X game that provides you with the same thrill as sitting there, a good cup of tea in one hand and a fist full of bugger all in the other. A game of cards, it seems to me, provides everything you could possibly want out of life. It’s as exciting as any drama and as convivial as any dinner party. It’s also fun, free, environmentally friendly and something you can do as a family.

So, this Thanksgiving or Christmas or even this weekend, while you are stabbing away at buttons on your PlayStation, wondering why the Zombie manages to kill you on level seven every time, or watching a film that you’ve seen a million times before, only without advertisements, instead of picking up the guitar to become Jimi Hendrix might I suggest you flip the trip switch on your fuse box put the kettle on and break out the playing cards, the pens and the paper……..just avoid charades…… will only remind you that you could never have been an actor.

Good afternoon. In a few minutes I will be off to the office here in Miami to film an Onboard with Carnival segment and then I have treated myself to a Miami Heat game. Tomorrow I will be visiting the Ruby Princess and I am looking forward to sharing photos and blogs with you all.

I will also be answering comments later today as well. Please keep the comments coming. They are the lifeline to the blog and as always I remind you that if you need my help please mark them “John, Please reply” and I will………….as soon as I possibly can.

Let’s go see Jaime now. Her writing style is proving so very popular with you all and I thank her once again for taking the time to write.

November 4, 2008

Dear John,

Like all sea days, the day was filled with activities for all of the hosts. I got a chance to co-host some activities in an effort to make things more entertaining since we can bounce ideas off one another. Lauren and I always have a particularly amusing time since we are roommates and we can pick on each others idiosyncrasies. Lauren is very detail oriented; she is so refined that she could probably tell butter from I Can’t Believe its Not Butter.

After the full day of games, trivias, bean bag, dance class, the list goes on… My schedule worked out so that I had an opportunity to visit the Pinnacle Steakhouse/Supper Club for dinner. I must admit I do indeed love the supper club. In fact, at the beginning of the contract when I was interviewed about the Splendor, all I talk about is the food for 10 minutes… I have gotten so much harassment from the entertainment department about this interview since I regrettably did not even mention the shows.

So I would like to start to make it up to them now: The award winning shows on the Carnival Splendor are absolutely INCREDIBLE. I am proud to be part of such a talented and hardworking department… oh, and the food is good too =). In fact, the dancers and singers probably could not do their job nearly as well if they were not fed such wonderful food at the supper club. I think I was initially trying to say that these amazing meals are basically the source of all their power; that and the years of training and rehearsal. Not that it is any consolation at this point, but at least informing you the shows are amazing is a start to earning forgiveness for the hours of abuse I have faced for the statements I have made about supper club being the most important stop on the ship. That being said, dinner was nothing short of incredible. I had to savor it even more tonight than in the past because I go home in 25 days and who knows if I will have a chance to return.

As you are well aware, today was Election Day. Social Host Owen has a lot to celebrate, not only did he win the election, he can now guarantee celebrity look alike work for years to come! Goose chose to televise the results of the election on Lido deck for all to see. People were rallying up there as if the politicians were actually on board the ship. It was a very interesting atmosphere, one that is not typical of Carnival cruise as most vacationers don’t explore these political feelings to such an extent while on vacation. Usually a cruise is a chance to escape the realities of work and politics. Since I have been in this fantasy land for over a year now, it was refreshing to see guests so adamant about such important issues. Also, it was fun for me because many of the crew members asked me questions about how the American government system works with regard to the electoral college and what we were actually voting for! Thankfully, the area was well staffed and surprisingly there were no riots up on Lido this evening.

Tomorrow is our last morning of European tours. From what I understand Madeira is nearly as beautiful as Croatia, I guess we will find out together tomorrow!

Have a great day =)

Here’s some photos of me filming the “Onboard with Carnival” segment.




And so it’s all over and America and the free world now has a new leader. I thought his victory speech was very, very good, full of pure passion.

What a brilliant team of speechwriters he has……….what I would give to be able to write like that. I think he is a massively talented man and he now has a chance to lead the world.

Anyway, I wish President-elect Obama nothing but good fortune and as a Brit whose country has always stood shoulder to shoulder with America, I hope he sets the trend……….where he leads the UK will follow. I therefore hope he leads us to prosperity, peace and fun for all.

And of course………look out for Hollywood who will be chomping at the bit to make a movie about America’s first black president.

Hollywood likes Obama because he is movie-script material, an underdog endowed with supernatural skills. Let’s face it, Obama’s movie would win a whole heap of Oscars.

However………….what about the Republicans?

Mr McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin would make for a very good movie indeed. As any good casting director knows, the co-star can make the picture. Where would Butch Cassidy have been without the Sundance Kid? Who would have cared about Starsky without Hutch, Sally without Harry?
When you think about the rival tickets purely in the terms of double-act movie pitches Mrs. Palin changes everything.

Obama-Biden becomes “two lawyers go to Washington”……yawn

McCain and Palin? “Cantankerous war hero returns from the dead to storm the White House with a gun-packing, moose-murdering, salmon-trawling sex goddess from Alaska who has the head of a dead polar bear in her office.”

But I know which movie I’d rather watch.

Your friend

Hi, I’m John, and this is my blog. So please don’t mistake my opinions — or those of my dear friends, fans or commenters — for those of Carnival Cruise Line or Carnival Corporation. My apologies in advance for anything I may say that upsets you, but this disclaimer covers Carnival and puts the blame directly on me………….. bugger.