Leopold Broom Investigates: Phillip Byrne – The Player of Games

by Lee Cross

leopold-broomThis is the story of Phillip Byrne, a good mate of mine and long term barman on the Dublin scene. You only really need to know one thing about Philly – that he doesn’t read.

I don’t mean ‘can’t read’ (he’s fully literate), I mean not “a reader”; he has the skill set to do so, it’s just that he prefers not to.

If I was to pick a word to describe myself and interests it would be Bookworm or Raconteur or… well, I don’t know but something that expressed my love of wordplay.

If you were to ask the same question of Philly, his answer would be near instant – “Gamer.”

When I think of the term gamer, Dungeons & Dragons is what springs straight to mind (showing my age; right?) but to Phillip and his circle, it means – online interactive gaming. PS4’s and X-Box whatever’s (honestly I can’t remember the name of the latest Microsoft console), open-world games and… I’m out, that’s pretty much the extent of my knowledge.

Computer games were different when I was a kid – you couldn’t even save the first edition of Sonic the Hedgehog I had (if you’re too young to remember – I’m being serious!); I can even remember when you needed a tape machine to load the games… and the fucking thing failed half the time!

My point is that Philly exists in a world I know next-door to nothing about; even though I’ve been pretending to listen to him for six years.

Pretending wasn’t ever something I felt guilty about BTW because I knew he was never listening to me when I prattled on (…at great length…) about books!

Then, you know what the lanky bastard did? …he asked me to borrow a book! …even worse, he read the bloody thing and loved it!

How much of a dick did I feel; for years I thought we were operating under a mutually held assumption that we weren’t paying attention to each other… and it turns out he was listening all along!

I’m bringing up Phil not because he is (apparently) a much better friend than I am, but because this experience has done my soul good.

I’ve blogged before about my fear that novels might die because the last generation of readers will; but Philly’s story gives me a glimmer of hope.

The kid is a walking talking poster boy for the way the world is moving forward; he’s tech savvy, unknowingly measures information, assimilation and reaction-speed in microbursts… in short, he is from a world completely alien to my own; so if he can enjoy one full-length novel, he can enjoy more! and maybe his friends might too!

Ultimately it all comes down to finding that perfect book, because everybody has one. In the case of my mate, it was Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Carson, and who is to say that story of Andrew Wiggin isn’t a great novel?

What the fuck does story structure, amazing prose, multi-layered/meaning text and blah blah blah etc mean to the novice reader? – about as much as knowing the difference between MMO and RPG gaming means to me…

Ender’s Game, at least to Phil, could be a perfect book; a truly great read that will live with him forever and might spark an interest in literature that blossoms over a lifetime.

And that’s about the end of my blog. Phillip is still reading, currently on his fourth book this year (I guess a record for him), who is to say where it will take him… perhaps he’ll end up reading more books than all of us put together.

[NOTE: thanks to Phil for agreeing to let me write about him]

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