Thursday, 21 September 2017

Too little money and too little patience

I have a quandary.  I work long hours in a high(ish) pressured job (but aren't they all?) yet earn a relatively paltry amount of money (I know, first-world problems and all that).  I am also currently on leave from work so I have time to peruse Boardgamegeeks and Amazon as well as numerous retail websites which offer lovely deals on fantastic table top games.  This has left me wondering where to go next in my quest to further indulge my geekiness: do I go for Star Trek Attack Wing or build my paltry collection of X-Wing and Armada miniatures?  Do I dip my toe into a Kickstarter for an amazing looking game with lovely, well-cast miniatures?  Or do I save money and use it all for something more adult, such as a car or a home of my own?

As I grow older and slightly more disappointed with life I am often left with the familiar dilemma of many forty-somethings: who am I and where am I going?  Do I 'grow up' and dump those interests which have given me so much respite from the last few years' of turbulence, or do I continue to forge an identity based on a genuine and growing interest in the worlds of gaming, fantasy and SF?

These are such first-world problems that I feel ashamed to raise them, privately or publicly.  But with time on my hands I have the advantage of seeking out some truths, or at least some fresh perspectives on what I want to do with my remaining years on this planet and whether I choose to enjoy this time or look to pursue my previous interest in trying to develop an average salary career in an organisation which will chew me up and spit me out without a flicker of genuine concern.

Of course, this all comes down to what I do - prevarication and introspection may offer an occasionally fun diversion but the risk is disappearing up my own backside and never living the life I am actually trying to map out.  There's some irony there, possibly.  Certainly, I think it's all meant to mean something but I suspect it's just waffle from my pampered ego.  It's also been an excuse to actually write something, which is an activity I've ignored for far too long, especially considering my interest in writing more.

Lesson learned: procrastinate less and do more!  Maybe I should carve out a career as someone who creates vapid quotations for furniture and cushions.  Or is that my inner demon working its cynical magic, as it likes to?

The Monkey

Sunday, 14 June 2015

And the monkey is reborn . . .

I began this blog some time ago with the intention of filling it full of my ill-considered opinons on gaming and its role in contemporary popculture.  Or some such arse water.  However, after considering my ambition to become a writer (a long standing ambition but one which is still very much unfulfilled) I have decided to use this space to wax lyrical, or screech illterately, on various topics.  Books, games, people, and maybe even some politics and sport will all be discussed, dissected and generally waffled about in the pages of this blog.  So, basically, a mishmash of crap which encourages me to actually write something in an effort to hone my skills.  If it remains unread, undiscussed and unappreciated then so be it: it'll keep me off the streets and give me something useful to do with my time, other than killing orks/bandits/space pirates etc or looking at my collection of edifying literature and tying myself up in knots about how my brain has atrophied as the result of a culture based on celebrity rather than talent.  Yes, that's it: my brain's rapid decay is the result of society and not the enormous amounts of booze and junk food I used to shovel into my maw.  If in doubt blame 'the man' and his attempts to pacify us through a soporific diet of Girls Aloud and Britain's Got Talent.

I must take a breather now as my temper wanes and the dark spots gather before my hypertensive vision.



Monday, 3 March 2014

Be careful what you wish for . . .

It's been a while since I spouted my ill thought out opinions on the internet but after many hours of gaming I have discovered some incontrovertible truths:

1. I prefer games with deep, involving storylines and environments, such as The Last of Us. Games are the modern alternative to films insofar as they offer the chance to be a part of a world similar to our own yet removed in some essential way. Fallout 3 offers us a post-apocalyptic Washington DC which has many of the landmarks of the real US capital but also offers us an alternative world inspired by 1930s to 1950s Americana. And, unlike films, you get to blow the head off zombies/robots/mutants etc.

2. Modern stealth games are really quite fun. Dishonored and Thief have both provided me with some excellent gaming experiences recently and the stealth element of TLoU was actually really rather well done (unlike the combat, which is never Naughty Dog's strongpoint).

3. The best way to win an RTS is to produce as many units as you can and basically steamroller the enemy. Strategy is very often auxiliary to this approach, unless one includes targetting enemy resources and securing your own power/materials/population or whatever the particular RTS demands you do so you can build lots of units with big guns and an apparent lack of concern for their own safety.

My ideal game, then, is one which allows me to play through an amazingly well written campaign involving the production of multiple stealth units which can be tasked with crippling the enemies' logistics with swift efficiency. However, I have also discovered a final incontrovertible truth - as a gamer I am honour bound to complain if ever such a game is created because it will fail to meet my expectations. And this is a huge problem for modern gaming: as with films, the hype surrounding new releases has become so great that nothing can match our expectations.

Thief is a good case in point. Before the game's release I cast an eye over the reviews and found a great deal to disappoint me. Only one video review seemed particularly positive and the game looked to be a damp squib which could only disappoint fans of the original trilogy. Now, I'm not a massive fan of the Thief series but I do enjoy them and consider them excellent examples of stealth gameplay in a well-drawn fantasy world. However, upon playing a good five or so hours of the lastest Thief title (on the PS3) I have to say that I'm really enjoying it. Its combat is uneven, its not as open world as it pretends to be and there have been some graphical glitches (but then it probably has been optimised for the new generation consoles) but it's a fun challenge with some really solid gameplay. Of course, although this impression may all be due to the indifferent or even negative press the game received before launch, my enjoyment of the game may be partly due to the metal case this 'limited edition' (in other words, this one of several-hundred-thousand copies) came in! But, no, seriously, try Thief. It's fun, has a deep, dark and involving world and offers the chance to feel like an amoral badass in a crumbling world.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

WarZ: Ditching my Kudos

So Steam had a sale on WarZ, the much derided zombie MMO and, being a curious type of fellow with an eye for a bargain, I bought it. I haven't played it that much so far (about an hour and 20 minutes) but it hasn't been such a terrible experience. I've deliberately chosen quiet servers so as to give me a chance to learn the gameplay and also not get shot by random bandit types, which is often cited as one of the game's least attractive aspects. The graphics are pretty good, the mechanics aren't too bad but with some minor glitches and the zombies are fairly easy to deal with, although without body armour you do take serious damage quite quickly. I haven't fired a gun yet, although I do now have a shotgun, so it'll be interesting to see what happens when I attempt to splatter a zombie/another player's head all over the place. It'll be interesting to see how this game pans out so I'll keep this blog updated with my anti-zombie adventuring. At least until other players keep killing me and I permanently rage quit the game.

Friday, 17 May 2013

The Immersive World

The Immersive World

One of the things which truly impressed me about Metro 2033 was the world it was set in. There was a genuine sense of a post-apocalyptic society trying to survive while terrors, known and unknown, threatened their fragile existence. After about forty-five minutes of Metro: Last Light I can confirm that, for now at least, that living, breathing world continues to exist.

I think that an immersive world is important because it offers gamers the opportunity to take full advantage of what videogaming offers, compared to other forms of media, such as television or film. By its interactive nature, gaming draws (or at least should draw) players into a different world, a different role, a different sense of reality. This is where gaming should excel but often it falls short because too much time and energy is expended on producing games which look great but play and 'feel' like shit.

But then perhaps our so-called 'meh' approach to the world is also to blame. Should we sacrifice knowing cynicism for an opportunity to feel our experiences more passionately, even at the risk of being duped in the real world? Or is that pushing a link between gaming and the outside world a little too far?

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Metro: Last Light

Of all the wonderful Xbox 360 games I am currently waiting to get my grubby mits on, Metro: Last Light is the most anticipated. There are two reasons for this:
  1. I really enjoyed the first one in the series, Metro 2033, both in terms of story and visuals (although the gameplay wasn't fantastic) and
  2. I want to see if the collapse of THQ has affected the new game's development
I realise, of course, that 4A Games are the actual developers but I suspect that the change of publisher must have repercussions for game development. What those effects might be we will have to see but I really do hope that this new game has improved on some of the issues of the first and that it maintains the same atmosphere that the first had. Any new or young IP is exciting as long as it offers something fresh to gaming and the first Metro was one of the most immersive experiences I'd had since Bioshock.


Other gaming issues which have my attention concern the next generation of consoles. Will the Nextbox always be online? Will the PS4 be easier to code for than the PS3? Will I need to sell some internal organs to afford one of these new machines? I think that what gamers will want is fairly obvious: better graphics, better gameplay, larger and more reliable online experiences and the ability to play one's back catalogue. What we Xbox 360 gamers will probably get is a multimedia device which will offer limited or no playability for old games and will have too much of a focus on acting as a media hub to really make it worth buying within the first 3 to 6 months of its life cycle. But then I am a born again cynic so I just hope that someone, somewhere at Microsoft really gives a damn about how wonderful gaming can be and will ignore focus group bullshit to give us a console which will really make us want to sell our kidneys in return for the best gaming experience ever. But that won't happen because existence is suffering, according to Buddha. Now, where's my copy of System Shock 2 . . .