Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

A long time ago, in a London borough far, far away, my klown friend Herschel had got hold of a Star Wars board game, catchily entitled Star Wars: The Interactive Video Board Game.

He’d been waiting for an opportunity to play it with someone, and that opportunity had finally arrived.

I, however, was definitely not that someone.

“Oh, c’mon!” he scowled at me through his cigarette smoke and revolving bow-tie, “look, it's this or the Barney Miller game!”

Star Wars: The Interactive Video Board Game, we discovered, is just about the most complex board game ever devised.

The board has three, count them three levels, and comes with three sets of cards. (Mission Cards, Data Cards (which comprise of Memory Bank Cards, Color Key Code Cards and Detention Block Escape Cards), and Force Cards which each contain two instructions, depending upon which side of the force you are currently on)

In addition to this, each player gets two plastic playing pieces (a Rebel figure and an R2 Droid), a Force Level Indicator (to keep track of those ominous Dark Side Points) and six coloured explosives.

It even refers to ordinary things like “rolling the die” as “using the Force.”

I might have had greater patience assembling it all had our third hand Elmo not habitually given me a running commentary on how not to.

“No Mister Gobles, that piece doesn’t go there, no, the other way around Mister Gobles, don’t hold the AC power plug that way round Mister Gobles…” (TZZT-TZZT-TZZT! GOBLE GETS ELECTROCUTED) “… Ahh! Hah-hah-hah-heh-heh, you’re really funny Mister Gobles! Okay, Elmo loves you, bub-bye!”

But the game’s crowning glory, and the thing that motivated Herschel so, was the promisingly integral VHS videotape.

With the tape lined-up and ready to play in the VCR, Herschel stood in front of his curtains and read us both our mission:

“Hey! Hey! Hey! So are we all ready to have some FUN? Hyu-hyu-hyu-hyair-hyair-hair-hyu-hyu-hyu… Eurghhhhhh.”

Ignoring his audience’s lack of reaction as usual, he continued.

“Okay. The “Death Star”” (he mimed the air quotes) “is about one hour away from destroying the planet Drinba IV. We three adventurous young rebels are going to infiltrate the “Death Star”” (again) “that’s the board, and lay all six of our charges to blow it up and destroy it before it can get there. Oh boy – this is gonna be so much fun! Any questions?”

Even Elmo was silent. Herschel continued:

“Well I sure got a question - why do they call them LIGHT sabres? Huh? I mean the way they struggle around with them – they’re obviously pretty heavy, right? Right? RIGHT? LIGHT-sabre, huh? WHAT??? You expect me to waste A-list material on your blog? Ah, run the freakin’ tape already.”

Elmo pressed play, chuckled at the button lighting up, and it began.

As we started taking turns to throw the die, a countdown appeared at the top of the TV screen to tell us how long we had to set our charges before the “Death Star” reached the good planet Drinba IV and destroyed it. About an hour.

And then the magic bit happened – beneath the countdown, Darth Vader swam into view.

And he was Darth Vader. He was played by the original actor David Prowse (who once walked in on one of my radio shows, but that’s another story), he was still voiced by James Earl Jones, he wore the same costume as in the movies and even had the same 80-something cinematographer Gil Taylor filming him.

In short, he really was Darth Vader.

And he knew what we were up to.

Approaching the screen, Darth Vader could see us.

“You.” he growled. Herschel, Elmo and myself looked guiltily back and forth at each other. I was frozen half way through throwing the die. “The rebel using the force.” Oh dear. “Come over to the screen.” Oh dear, oh dear.

I complied, as you do. Reflected in the screen I could make-out Herschel and Elmo both sniggering together and pointing at me.

With the clock still ticking, Vader growled on at me. “What is your name?”

“Err…Steve. Steve Goble. I met you once on Radio Cracker…”

But Vader cut dead my attempt to shmooze him, and punished me with a couple of Dark Side Points. Returning to the board, we all realised that this was not merely an innocent board game. Vader now knew my name, and he had made an example of me. Suddenly winning took on a whole new priority. Herschel summed it up with the words that were on all of our lips: “Eurghhh, tough crowd.”

So-called "Interactive TV" has nothing on this.

So we began to pick up the pace. We started rolling the die while the previous player was still moving his Rebel figure or R2 Droid.

For most of the next hour, Dark Side Points were amassed, wiped off, and amassed again. We all followed the “Light Side” instructions on the Data Cards. We got imprisoned and freed, began to set our six bombs and reset them every time a Stormtrooper found one.

We also realised that we would have no way off of the “Death Star” when we detonated them. We would all die, but we would take the “Death Star” with us. Grimly I wondered how fate had now dealt me the hand of becoming a suicide bomber.

But time was fast running out. There were now precious few minutes left until the “Death Star” destroyed Drinba IV, and, worst of all, Vader was back.

And this time there would be no escape – he wanted one of us to become his pupil.

Vader’s pupil would no longer follow the Light Side of the Force – from now on he would follow the Dark Side and seek to eliminate the other two rebels. The decision would rest upon which one of us had amassed the greatest number of Dark Side points.

The last 40 minutes had been fun – we had laughed together, cried together, and become a team.

Incredulously, we looked back and forth between each other. Which of us could possibly betray our friends by going over to the Dark Side now?

Me? The guy running the Christian blog about following Jesus Christ and being nice to people?

Elmo? Everyone’s favourite four-year-old muppet who parents regularly trust alone with their children?

… or would it be the short-tempered chain-smoking klown, dressed-up in scary face-paint that made him look like Satan?

(scroll down for the answer)

Elmo had gone over to the Dark Side.

With the minutes now becoming seconds, Herschel and I furiously took our moves as quickly as possible, actually making it into the Inner Level, but all the while being stalked by Elmo, his whole face now a thoroughly disapproving shade of red.

Me: “Throw the dice!”

Herschel: “Quit yellin’ at me you putz!”

Elmo: “La-la la-la, Drinba IV, is Elmo’s World!”



Elmo: “And now Elmo is going to annihilate the whooooole population of this planet!”


Herschel: (in slow-motion) ”NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!”

The music reached a crescendo, Herschel’s gaze slipped behind me at the TV screen, and I saw his green hair droop dejectedly as his cigarette fell out of his mouth.


I looked behind me, and there it was.

We gawped in silence as we witnessed the “Death Star” effortlessly destroy the good planet of Drinba IV, and then quaked as Vader reappeared to revel in his victory.

And then the credits rolled, while we just sat there in stunned silence.

The copyright notice faded-out, the tape clicked off, and the TV snapped back onto some digital channel.

Elmo himself became a saggy old cloth muppet again. Baggy, and a bit loose at the seems.

There was nothing to say.

We had failed.

I looked at my watch. It was about 9:30. It was definitely time to go home now.

“Hey-hey!” sparkled Herschel. “Of course, we could just rewind the tape and play again! After all, that one was just to get used to the controls, right…?”

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3 comment(s):

At 6:35 am, Anonymous eLmo said...

Oh, Mister Gobles. You're so funny. Hah-hah-hah.

At 3:30 am, Blogger Steve Goble said...


Please treat Mr Noodles with a little more dignity. He is, after all, a projection of your future self.

At 2:48 am, Anonymous eLmo said...

Hah-hah-hah, you're so metaphysical, Mister Gobles. But, Dorothy wants to ask someone else.


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