Thursday, 24 December 2009

Rundown of the Decade

Given that this will be the final entry of 2009 (I will be far to drunk to do anything next week), I thought I might review the year in games. Then I remembered that I am not a pedant and therefore I view the end of 2009 as the end of the decade (whatever, "Year 1" enthusiasts) so why not review the decade instead?

Though I may not be guilty of pedantry, I am given to laziness, so here is an awards ceremony (actually, "list" might be more accurate) with not much writing and lots of pictures.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Love in Pixels

I hesitate to use the word "blogosphere", becasue it is a rather aggrandizing term for the landfill into which people who are in the main too lazy/incompetant to go and write professionally (i.e. me) see fit to pour their unedited ramblings. "Blogosphere" makes it sound all organised and science-fictiony, like the Matrix. Anyway, my activities over the last few months have increased my interest in the (sigh) blogosphere from nil to marginal. Alongside diary blogs, professional blogs and art blogs, there is the concept blog, in which someone undertakes some form of project and then documents it.

One such blog is 40 First Dates, in which a woman with some sort of glamorous job in showbiz goes on, yes, 40 first dates and then writes about them. Perhaps the best thing I can say about this effort is that it holds the promise that once she has gone on all 40 dates, she will presumably stop writing. This uncharacteristic bitchiness on my part comes not from the quality of her writing (which isn't too bad), but from a comment she makes about her criteria when searching for a man:

"Creative, ambitious, has travelled, well-educated, gets along with his family, reads loads of books, has great friends, does not play computer games, likes shopping (my last boyfriend loved shopping. It was a miraculous mutual pleasure I dream of repeating)."

Now she's entitled to her opinion. I also think that the fact that she requires a man to have read "loads" of books as opposed to even one "good" book means that she will probably get the boyfriend she deserves. However, as you might have guessed, my contempt derives from the fact that she does not want any consort of hers to "play computer games".

Thursday, 10 December 2009

And here's one I made earlier... Part II: The Creation of Worlds

When I was at school, I wasn't very good at English exams. Unlike Maths exams, the speed at which I had to write in order to complete them needed to be roughly equal to the speed I had to think. The problem was compounded by the fact that my handwriting was also required to be legible.

Anyway, there was one English exam in particular that has always haunted me. Not because it was important (although it was) but because of my complete failure to even begin the second of the two sections. Like most English exams given to children, it consisted of two sections: a short passage with comprehension questions followed by a creative writing question in which candidates are required to compose their own piece. Usually the creative writing section is similar in theme to the passage in section one. On this occasion, the first section featured an extract from the first Narnia book, in which Aslan breathes life into the world.


The entire second section read as follows:

Write about the creation of a world.

I remember reading that in the exam room, inwardly shrugging, and dejectedly pencilling in the picture of Stawberry the horse that had been photocopied onto the top of the exam paper. Somehow, writing about the creation of a world before I had even had my mid-morning Ribena was too much.

Friday, 4 December 2009

And here's one I made earlier... Part I

For the last few days I have been playing Saints Row 2. This game is very similar in style to the well-known Grand Theft Auto games, in that gameplay consists of hijacking cars, driving freely around a large open-plan city as you complete missions in order to climb the slippery ladder of organised crime. Both games attract criticism for their wilfully amoral and juvenile approach to robbery, manslaugter and extortion. My personal view is that one should approach such games after a) checking the content and age restriction that is clearly printed on the box and b) getting a sense of humour, but this is neither the time nor the place for such tiresome discussions.

No, for this week I am in thrall to the Promethean video game gods who have bestowed upon us the power of creation. Next week I presume I will still be in thrall, as I have already decided that the exhaltation of this gift deserves more than one article. So, although you will have to wait until next week to read my thoughts on the creation of worlds, console youself with the fact that this week I shall be discussing the joy that comes with creating your very own video game hero.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Spaced out

I recently completed Dead Space, which is a slightly-better-than-average survival horror game set in, erm, space. It looks a bit like one of Alien's bastard children, albeit one of the ones that managed to get into university as opposed to one of the ones who dropped out in order to spend more time sniffing glue. Its one innovation is that enemies are dispatched not by a carefully-aimed head shot as in most shoot 'em ups, but by dismembering their limbs, one by one.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Put that Gameboy away and go and read a book.

After listening to a deeply unsatisfying debate on on Radio 4's Today programme, I was tempted to write about violence with regards to Modern Warfare 2, but I honestly think there's been enough comment on that this week and I'd do well to leave it until the dust has settled and I can write something that draws on my research rather than my irritation.

So I decided to revert to the original plan, which was to examine the phenomenon of thirty-year-old commuters who play video games on hand-held consoles on public transport. I admit that I approached the subject with a fair amount of disdain, for what sort of grown-up plays games on the train? Grown-ups should be reading books, right?

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Tetris: The Movie

Whether or not you consider yourself to be a video game enthusiast, you're probably aware that films that are adapted from video games aren't very good. Video game adaptations of films have a more chequered and occasionally successful history, but that's another post altogether.

First, let's briefly separate adaptations of existing video games from films about fictional video games. Films such as Tron and War Games. Video games are conceptually interesting because you have control characters, so they open up questions about autonomy and reality. Although many valiant efforts prove risible - such as eXistenZ, whose questions about the nature of reality are rather lost amongst footage of Jude Law inserting a glistening "pod" into Jennifer Jason Leigh's "bio-port" - the potential is there, and everybody knows that Tron is a modern classic.

Thursday, 29 October 2009

Why I write about video games

What's the best thing about university? It's definitely not the outfits.

No, it's probably the excuse it gives you to pretend you exist on a higher plane of existence far above the corporeal realm and its petty bourgeois concerns (house prices, utility bills, food etc). Pass the Absinthe.

My degree allowed, nay, required me to spend three self-indulgent years wafting around through novels, poetry, essays, political manifestos, philosophical diatribes, films, plays, advertisements and documentary footage. The message was clear from the start: If you want to understand something, you need to look at it from all angles, through all prisms and from every point of view.

Neglect nothing.

Except videogames of course, they're for bored teenagers and itchy-fingered pot-heads.