Gaming can demand much of a protagonist of the pad and despite best efforts by governments around the world call to cocaine experienced in the eighties has never repeated itself in the manner all that tax-funded expenditure would have really loved it to, the pictures of smack addled skeletons looking for their teeth is a strangers crotch not finding favour with the fashionably hip youngsters wishing to make their heart explode through their ribs Chest burster style whilst slurring racial taunts across their online battlefield of choice. Traditionally a bag of Cheetos and a unironic Coke have taken centre stage when imagining appropriate sustenance for the long haul gamer, occasionally complemented by a bucket of Espresso only slightly darker than the bags under their eyes.

' I can't come in to work today, I'm too tired...'
‘…no I can’t come in to work today, I’m too tired…’

But thanks to science and man’s continuing quest to remain unsatisfied by the plethora of food-stuffs and edibles readily available we have a healthy glut of heavily caffeinated sugar-water variants clogging up the shelves of the discount stores and school tuck shops, all much of a muchness and each the cost of a single one pound coin they carry the promise of an immediate burst of energy and focus and an intense experience comparable to anything your mum does that makes dad do that weird squealing sound last night when I was about to go to bed.

So what should you be looking through Amazon to find if they can ship in orders greater than pallets for? Which drink delivers more power to pad per cup or can consumed? Espresso or x-treme? Name brand or shops own? Moo-cow or Monster? Shot-drinks or Man-Cans?

'Addiction? Oooh-yeah!'
‘Addiction? Oooh-yeah!’

To see which is best I picked the five brands I most often find empty in my front garden and down the local discount shop with the view to consume each one whilst playing a game; cataloging the experiment, I shall endeavor to uncover which of those are best suited to giving a gamer that much-needed edge over their opponent in the virtual battlegrounds of gaming and which just give you gas. I’m not going to get all science and start quoting caffeine content and carbs and such; we all know no-one’s buying them for their health benefits or taste, and frankly if you’re looking at the caffeine content to see if you can find the highest one maybe it’s an intervention you should be looking into instead.

(The game I shall be starting with is that seminal classic of the PS1, Final Fantasy 7. A healthy mix of quick thinking in battles, keen eyes during conversations, and adaptability in gaming as yet another random battle buggers up your trot across the marshes.)

The Daddy
The Daddy

The camera pulls back and already I can feel the surge of acid reflux burning the back of my throat, my first guzzle of gaming go-go-juice like a barbed wire douche to my palette. But I notice the way the flowers don’t move in her basket, and wonder if I’ve ever noticed that before or if it’s the drink giving me sharper senses already. A second swing confirms the reflux as my companion in this test, but doesn’t clear up whether I’m confusing the imagined effects I’m experiencing with the numerous playthroughs I’ve done of this game before, an entire memory card filled with saves just to get the whole gang up their on my memory card manager screen.

They weren't kidding, either...
They weren’t kidding, either…

The sudden cut to a thundering train causes me to lash out at the screen in self-defence, the pad rebounding off the television and against my shin which had snapped itself upwards in a protective reflex from airborne attacks.
Sudden on-set Girl Syndrome isn’t listed in the Wiki page I checked as one of the potential side-effects, though I put this down to an under-working staff rather than my own lack of manly, and once I’d changed my underwear and let the seat dry out a bit it was onto contestant number two..!

Coming in a Man-Can size this particular brand of Yoof Juice looks similar in stature to those drinks that make daddy cry and regret having children. With Tekken 5 booted I leave the Midgar slums for the Mishima corporation and instantly the twitching and spasming of my idle hands are a blur of complicated combo’s and joyous juggles, the action on-screen becoming a crude interpretation of the mastery of Zen I am currently feeling with the game. It and I are one; its moves are my moves; I can predict what will come next and repost with aplomb. Either we’re in the Matrix or I should see someone about these green dripping letters I’m seeing…

Tekken-where reality and fantasy really have no business being together...
Tekken-where reality and fantasy really have no business being together…

Arcade mode is shunned in favour of Survival, the upswing in AI difficulty with each subsequent challenge perfect for testing the focusing powers and half bag of sugar found within. And eight straight wins later would suggest I’m as focused as a group of mum’s on that strange man in the park. But a sudden twitch in my right thumb breaks my killer ten hit combo mid-flow, brings an advantage to Paul who grabs it with both fists and me along with it right into an unstoppable floor wiping.

Thinking naught for my own safety or very much at all that would remain there for longer than a nano-second it was time to put down the pad, pick up the PSP and break open the next tincture of trying times…

A more reasonably priced entrant whose natural habitat is the pound shops of the UK shores it’s a much more fruity tasting drink then so far encountered. It has none of the lip pursing after taste or hell-fire burps to follow, and with four for a pound I’m on the third can before the first wave of Lumines blocks has changed to a different pattern. With it comes a change in background music also, and through headphones it disorientates me to the point I misplace my move, lose my gaming groove and string words like birds fluttering from ungodly roofs.

Stop judging me..!
Stop judging me..!

A second go compounds my confusion apace, as the once simple matter of ‘make pretty pattern go flashy bye-bye’ has become an irritating nail down the blackboard of my soul; the background music jarring with its bleepy-boop bounce, the colours too bright and the change of patterns too soon as they misstep me each time they change and reduce my well planned execution of Blockbuster Run screen edge to screen edge proportions to a bunch of crap clogging up the two outer thirds of the screen and a slightly smaller pile of crap in the middle.

Disoriented but not discouraged it’s down with the PSP and on with the 360 – and done with such poetry.

Grown-up Go-Go juice!
Grown-up Go-Go juice!

Being a coffee drinker by default an even measured regular cup of joe has as much effect on my state of being as a glass of water does on a fish, so for those in a similar situation the following test conditions should be adjusted according to your own personal Fair Trade’s finest preference.

If we take the unspoken standard of one-spoon-per-cup to be sufficient to see one turn from duvet troll to desk jockey before the school-kids have issued you with an invite to their Happy-Slapping Live Feed Special on the bus to work, then no doubt we could work out the exact amount needed for optimum gaming performance over a certain period of time.

(*insert beginning of montage music here*)
(*insert beginning of montage music here*)

A lid full of golden brown granules thrown into a steaming mug later and the taste puts me in mind of the La Brea Tar Pits but my god does it perk one up!

F1 2011 becomes a lumbering trawl, each race a yawn-fest of slow-mo in several minutes; the blurring and noise uniting to become a pulsating mass I not so much see as feel in front of my eyes daring me to play chicken with the cardboard cut-out crowd.
I’m also starting to feel a bit sick, so thankfully the final test-thing is not only sugar-coated and small but the only other caffeine based product in the shop.

Bit of a wild card this one but my stomach’s started making worrying noises of dissent and I’m buggered if I’m going into town proper in this crappy weather.
With the same modus operandi as their liquid based buddies the idea behind them is after swallowing one or two tablets you will feel a perking up of the mind and body and blah blah focus and something about concentration.

'...for the last time, it's called a 'jumper', NOT a 'pullover'..!'
‘…for the last time, it’s called a ‘jumper’, NOT a ‘pullover’..!’

As the two I popped from the pack get stuck in my throat I take a mouthful of Emerge to help the down whilst waiting for Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit to load.

With the bright flashing lights of the Police, the instant playbacks snapping you from the immersion of the game and smack bang into a fourth wall breaking trawl, and the ever Metal playlist that accompanies damn near every EA game released since man first made music on the back of his enemy’s wife I’m not entirely certain I’m in control of what’s happening either on-screen or in my guts.

The crash n’ tumble plod pursuit action seems to bumble along like a fart from a greased weasel before me, no appreciable difference in the outcome of events whether I turn for upcoming corners or wait for the guy behind me to breach the road-block ahead of me by pretending neither I nor they are there (though the replay and missing front-right assures me we both were).

'Bwarrr! I'm a god! Behold my fuzzy pixels and badly rendered genitals!'
‘Bwarrr! I’m a god! Behold my fuzzy pixels and badly rendered genitals!’

I feel a certain completeness, a n (E)merging of sense between mine and those of the digital world, becoming an almost Lawnmower Man in my mind from my mighty throne of battered old front room chair.

The world around me hums like a distant bee cloud; everything in my vision has odd circles pulsing out from their centres that fade as they pass my line of sight. My ears have suddenly grown nerves in their lobes, and I can literally sense the holes filled with the metal of several flesh tunnels as if my body is somehow acknowledging and mourning the loss of its flesh.
There is a sharp taste of tin in my mouth, and with a tingling in my fingers and numbness of the arms there can be no other explanation than I am being readied to be absorbed into the systems of 1’s and 0’s represented by a Porsche pin-wheeling down the desert straights before me. The hum of the PlayStation’s fan is a mantra of code passed down in the ether by the fallen programmers taken from us in the Bit Wars of the late eighties, early nineties.

You know the rules; only one strong black character per trilogy..!
You know the rules; only one strong black character per trilogy..!

A comforting voice asks me kindly to consider the harvesting of Andy Dufresne’s chums of Shawshank, and with ne’er a rock hammer nor desire for anal interaction in sight I begin to scout suitable locations to leave a dues ex machina for Morgan Freeman to dig up and look all cool and aces with despite never having been cast as a Jedi.

In Confusion
Clearly the imbibing of any liquid or food containing ninety percent pure Kiddie Crack is going to bring you to a peak of gaming excellence you never thought possible – but only for a temporary time. Once the sugars and adrenalin juice wears off there’s only the caffeine crash to come, whereby you go from playing like a champ to chump mid-level save.

A good night’s sleep and a full gut sets any up for a marathon slog at the Seat Of Gaming, and if a fat burger and fries is the best you got then hell; grab some napkins, turn voice chat off, and spatter that pad five ways beef if you like. Any of the drinks featured here will do the job just as well, though for bang for buck and no backwash burps it’s got be Emerge – a new advertising slogan there for you marketing bods at Emerge; I accept Paypal.

A Winner Is You


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