I'm Nik and this is where I shove reblogs, stuff I like and offcuts of the cow that is my writing talent.

My old video gaming posts can be found over at IMPACT!, where I shared things from my collection. These days, you can find my writing in Retro Gamer.

4th December 2012


The price tag on my soul

I’m running out of time. While my disgustingly young housemates constantly remind me of my advancing years, what has really put me on alert is seeing my birthday appear on the horizon - presumably as I amble over the hill. Combine this with my belief/naive hope that the world really does end this month and one thing becomes clear: it’s time to sell out.

Unfortunately, my opportunities to sell out are limited. With a lack of sporting skills and a singing voice that evokes the soulful drone of industrial cleaning devices, there was no hope that I could make it in the entertainment industry. I tried politics, but three years at university convinced me that I’m slightly too human for that. I was getting worried that no opportunities would present themselves before blissful oblivion. Thankfully, Klout was there to rescue me.

If you’re not aware of Klout, it is a site which purports to track social media influence. This makes it a premier hangout for narcissists, as well as weeping social media professionals who realise that the site is more or less an arbitrary scoreboard. My interest in Klout came when I realised that it offered Perks. Companies give you free stuff with no obligation to mention it, in the hope that you will anyway.

Using my voice in order to market products to my friends? Sounds like a sweet deal.

To get Perks, you usually need to meet a certain score. The average Klout score is 40. Mine is 50. What does a Klout score of 50 get you? Not a great deal, it would seem. Many perks require you to meet more specific requirements - influence in a specific field, location or other such things. As the Perks are predominantly US-centric and my influence is largely predicated on my ability to amuse burnt-out graduates, this leaves my options limited.

They say that every man has a price. The good people at Popchips have proven mine. As it turns out, all it takes for me to sell out is a share-sized packet of Thai Sweet Chili crisps.

Unfortunately, the actual act of selling out was harder than anticipated. I haven’t invested in home teleportation technology yet, so the crisps had to come in the post. Our local postie arrived on Friday but decided to leave a card instead of my crisps. Being busy failing to win a Magic tournament on Saturday, I wasn’t able to get my savoury treats until today.

Unfortunately, the Royal Mail delivery centre is quite a walk from my house. It was effort or the bus. I chose the bus, thus spending much more than the value of the gift I was to receive. This low point in my life was marked, appropriately, by a stroll through a desolate industrial estate. The tattered US flag outside one unit captured the mood nicely - this is a place where people come between sessions of drinking and wondering how they ended up selling windows. The smell of despair was thick in the air.

So, I arrived home after another bus journey, ready to consume the crisps and complete the contract. The Popchips people had very thoughtfully packaged my crisps in a box to protect them during transit. Once unweapped, this box informed me of the various things that had been done to keep these crisps healthy. They’re not fried, not baked, and not anything else that suggests that they’ve gone a bit far with hallucinogenics either. They’re popped, which is a kind of non-specific attribute that people want from graphic design. No fat, no cholesterol, vegan-friendly.

Oh, and you can buy them at Waitrose. That makes sense. Thai Sweet Chili is the sort of flavour that is beloved of middle class crisp ranges, Walkers Sensations and Tesco Finest and other such things. If my housemate Matt were here, I would offer him some because he is the most absurdly middle class person in existence. But Matt is never here. Come home Matt, we have normal people heating and everything now.

Now, the key thing is this: was the taste worth losing the respect of my peers? More importantly, does it beat the offer that my manager made? It was a pretty good one. She had two packets of Frazzles in her drawer, in date and everything. If I promised not to collect these free crisps, I could have those ones. This is the kind of thing that sounds like I made it up, but I assure you that this is fo’ reals.

Well, they’re pretty good. In terms of texture, they remind me a little bit of Pom-Bear. They’re pretty uniformly circular, which pleases my inner oddball. Better yet, they taste nice. I haven’t finished the bag yet - it is for sharing and they are actually reasonably filling - but that’s not for want of trying.

Below is a sample Popchip. I chose this picture because it is the only one without an evil, Terminator-esque red glare from the Virtual Boy in the background. That kind of makes it nicer. The thing is, I’m pretty sure this isn’t the scene that the Popchips people want you to see. Maybe they want to be featured as part of a buffet at little Sebastian’s third birthday, or shared out amongst Oxbridge freshers. Something aspirational. I doubt they want their crisps against a background of obsolete 1990s gaming devices and wires.

Regardless, there it is. This is a Popchip. I’m not sure this is quite what the company had in mind when sending out free samples to social media types. A few mentions on Twitter from cool people who like indie music, I think that’s what they were after. Not some classic gaming nerd asking his housemate to come home and talking about flags on industrial estates. Did this actually work out to anyone’s benefit?

Yes, it did. Mine. I told you about these crisps so that I could have them for free. Except I squandered the free bit by taking a bus to get them.


I actually don’t regret giving up the Frazzles to try the Popchips. Consider that a recommendation. Will I pay money to have them again? I can’t tell you that. See, these crisps are pretty cool, but I don’t shop at Waitrose. Friendly Popchips people, make these more convenient for me to acquire! I like your crisps but I will not be so willing to travel out of my way for them again.

Now I have told you all about the wonder of Popchips, I’m going to tell my manager about them tomorrow.

As she left the office today, she said “Don’t talk to me about the crisps.”

I’m going to tell her anyway. I’d be failing as a sellout if I didn’t tell her.

Tagged: popchipsthaisweetchilikloutselloutlow point of my lifehigh point of my lifefree stuffcrispssnacksgood things