How Video Games Helped Me Go On ‘Don’t Tell the Bride’
Nothing says “Holy Matrimony” like an assault rifle with a mounted grenade launcher. At least, that’s what I kept telling myself through the three weeks leading up to to my wedding. I have no idea what possessed me to apply for BBC’s reality show Don’t Tell The Bride, and even less idea why the BBC actually picked me to be a contestant. What I do know, however, is that life is a giant RPG and I couldn’t have planned my wedding without video games.
I’ve always been a believer that the time spent playing games is never wasted. If you’re playing Forza, then that counts as practice for your driving test. FIFA? More practice for your sporting talents. But what about games like Age of Empires? Admittedly, in real life I am yet to take control of a small country and lead it to world domination, but the key skills learned in resource management over years of leading a fictitious Roman Empire to glory stood me in good stead for working within the £12k budget. After all, you don’t build a wonder before you’ve got enough civilians to mine, hunt and forage for the appropriate resources. In a similar way, you don’t go blowing huge chunks of the wedding budget on gimmicks before you’ve secured essentials like dresses, and… erm… more dresses.
This is a mistake I had seen many a groom make on Don’t Tell the Bride, and one I was firmly determined to avoid. So, just as most gamers do for video games, I turned to an internet walkthrough for guidance. I found online a list of all the things that make up a traditional wedding. From there I was able to work out precisely the amount of resources I could devote to any given part of the big day. And I was ready to get out there and start negotiating.
Having cameras follow you each and every minute of the day is enough to put even the calmest soul on edge. Every conversation I had with every shopkeeper, tailor or florist was recorded, and I was keenly aware that any slip-up in the conversation on my part would be broadcasted for the world to see. Fortunately, I had an ace up my hole: Mass Effect. The key driver of success or failure in Mass Effect is how you handle conversations with other characters. The countless hours I had spent bartering with Hanar shopkeepers, or dodging bar-fights with angry Krogans meant that negotiating a price for three ivory bouquets was mere childs-play. The florist never stood a chance.
And it really did feel like a video game – I was acutely aware that at any given moment I had three options – Paragon, Renegade, or Boring Bastard. Take the florist as an example. When I politely informed him that we had only two days to the wedding, and he had only £200 to work with, I received the inevitable sharp intake of breath – the noise perfected by dodgy tradesmen of the UK over decades of industrial development. I saw the ‘RT’ icon flash before my eyes; the next thing I knew I’d punched that florist right in the well-groomed face.
Well, I didn’t really, but I did spell out very clearly that money was non-negotiable, and that as we were being filmed it would be to his national credit if he obliged. And so he did.
Within any RPG worth its salt there will be both a main story arc, and a miscellany of side-quests woven around that central theme. Take Skyrim, for example. It is quite possible to pour close to a hundred hours into that game and barely touch the central storyline. But if you were to play the game with a strict time limit, the key to success would be prioritisation; make sure you get through the main story while picking up as many of the related side-quests as is logically possible. This was not dissimilar to the discipline required in planning a wedding in three weeks. There are so many ‘side-quests’ you could get wrapped up in – custom designing a menu, self-made favours, creating print-out instructions for guests. Prioritisation was vital to getting through the planning stages while making sure of the more important things.
An example of a side quest which I successfully completed was the six-foot rocket we launched at the ceremony. While to some a model rocket launch may not be key to the functioning of a traditional wedding, it was a fascinating side-quest that my best man and I had time and money for, due to the aforementioned budgeting and prioritisation. It really did have all the elements of a video-game side quest, straight out of an RPG. First, we were given the name of a contact in a nearby town. After travelling there, we had a conversation about what we needed and what he could do. We then had to help him do a practice launch in a nearby field which unfortunately started a stampede of horses. After escaping the stampede, we agreed the final price and were on our merry way.
The biggest (and probably only genuine) way that video-games helped me through the arduous process of going on Don’t Tell the Bride was by actually playing them. That’s right – good old fashioned escapism. After a long day of flower arrangements, fabric samples, and colour schemes all whilst enduring the unrelenting scrutiny of a BBC camera crew, nothing hits the spot like journeying to another world and blasting some goddamn’ aliens! Or racing around the streets of Liberty City, mowing down all who get in your way. Video games provided me with a much needed release, and without them my stress-levels could have overloaded and lead to a wedding melt-down. But all is well that ends well, and you can see the full episode on BBC3 iPlayer (coming soon).
Photos courtesy of jamestraceyphotography.com