Let Me Tell You Why I’m Right: My Thoughts on the Whole No Make-Up Selfie Thing

I recently noticed that my Facebook feed was inundated with photos of my lady friends with no make-up on. Actually, that’s not quite true: first I noticed an abundance of people moaning about their Facebook feed being inundated with photos of lady friends with no make-up on.

Ever the intrepid journalist, I dug deeper and discovered that the whole thing was apparently part of a new campaign (read: internet fad) to raise awareness for breast cancer. You know, in case you’d never heard of it, before.

This initially struck me as odd, because I couldn’t for the life of me work out a correlation between breast cancer –or cancer of any variety– and putting up a photo of yourself with no make-up on. Then I noticed people saying how proud they were of all the brave women doing it.

Fuck. Off.

There is nothing brave about not wearing make-up, and the fact that anyone would think it is is indicative of what a poisonous fucking society we live in. I’m not point-scoring here, but about 90% of the women I know look just as lovely with no make-up on as they do with a bit of slap. Now, maybe that’s just because I carefully cultivate a circle of extremely attractive friends, or maybe it’s because I don’t buy into that bullshit that you have to look like a celebrity on the cover of a magazine to feel good about yourself, (ignoring the fact that even the celebrities on those magazine covers don’t actually like that, make-up or no make-up.)

Aside from that incredibly superficial aspect, though, I mainly took issue with the whole ‘raising awareness’ part. Here’s why I get a bee in my bonnet about this particular fad, and ‘awareness’ campaigns in general: 90% of the posts I see regarding them never tell me what they’re actually about. Usually it’s just a post containing whatever the gimmick is and then a hashtag to ensure you get maximum exposure/attention. In other words, the only thing it’s raising awareness of is the profile of the person doing it.

I should point out that I’ve since seen several people post their photos along with a link to a donation page, or a number to text your donations to; as well as pointing out that they, themselves, were donating and, while I normally fucking detest people boasting about giving to charity, in this case I think it’s extremely important to note. Fair play to them, anyway, because, like I said, a huge number of the no make-up posts I have seen just say ‘#raisingawareness for breast cancer’ and then that’s it.

Okay, I’m aware, thanks. Now what?

This is where the line begins to blur, for me, between raising awareness for a cause and just joining in on a self-aggrandising ego parade where you can feel like you’re making a change while, at the same time, putting in the least possible amount of effort. Taking a selfie and putting it on the internet takes seconds to do. Watch, I’ll do it right now.

A thing of beauty is a, joy forever.

A thing of beauty is a joy, forever.

Okay, done. Do you feel more aware yet? More importantly have you given any money to charity? Probably not, and that’s the problem. If you don’t donate then you are contributing nothing, you’re just jumping on a bandwagon so you can congratulate yourself and pretend you’re making a difference. Just being aware of something is meaningless if you don’t act on it, and too many people are content to talk a big game and then refuse to answer the call to action.

I know that charities have come out and said that they’ve received an influx of donations in the wake of this campaign, but here’s the thing: I’d bet my balls to a barn dance that the majority of those donations would have been made at one point or another anyway; this was just as good a time as any. And here’s something else I know: the people who did donate didn’t donate because they saw your face with no make-up on, they donated because cancer is a shitty thing and a cure would be a nice thing to have.

There is a definite conflict between message and motive when, as I mentioned, a good deal of people I see taking part in the campaign make absolutely no effort to expand upon the actual campaign itself; they just put a photo up and wait for the ‘you still look beautiful’ comments to pour in. What exactly do they think that will achieve? Other than stoking their own ego, I mean.

All the women who put their photos up along with the donation links/numbers and donated themselves? Good on them. All the people running marathons and climbing mountains and shit to raise money for their chosen cause? Maximum respect. The wonderful men and women who run and participate in things like Awesome Games Done Quick and Child’s Play? Some of my favourite people.

I love those guys, and that’s not even mentioning all the people actually working  every day to find cures for the many dreadful things currently killing us on a daily basis, (and I’m including the many LGBT and other equal rights charities in that group, since ignorance is probably the most destructive disease in the world,) but do you know what all those things require that just posting a photo of your dumb face doesn’t? Sacrifice.

Whether it be your time, money or the physical stress you put your body under, (no, not the mountain climbing, I’m talking about the guy I watched playing Super Mario 64 with one god damn hand,) actually putting yourself out there and working to make a difference is worth so much more than the hollow gesture of doing something you do anyway, at no personal cost, and then like-baiting the shit out of it on Facebook so you can convince yourself you’re part of the solution.

Without going full ‘this is the problem with society today,’ this really is the problem with society today: everyone is more than happy to join in and play at making the world a better place, but not nearly enough people are willing to pony up the cash or in other ways inconvenience themselves in a manner that would actually benefit their cause. We’ve all seen that fuckwit in the pub, pounding on the bar and doing his ‘the things I could do if I were in charge’ speech and we all know that, after one day under his leadership, the whole country would go to ruin, because it’s easy to run your mouth when you don’t actually have anything on the line.

I don’t do nearly enough for charity, and I haven’t given blood recently because for about four years you’d have had more success sticking an optic in my vein and pouring a nice gin and tonic than you would getting any blood worth putting in another human, but I am a registered organ donor, and I have done things in the past to raise money for causes other than myself. I won’t list them here because this isn’t a charitability dick-measuring contest, but I just wanted to make it clear that I do practice what I preach, since I’m fully aware that the only thing the internet fosters more than pointless fads is blatant hypocrisy.

In truth, I don’t really know why I’m posting this, I just felt like I needed to vent on the subject, so let me close by saying this:

I don’t think donating to charity is dumb. I don’t think raising money is dumb. However, here’s what I don’t just think, I know: a good deal of people who take part in ‘awareness’ campaigns don’t donate money. Ever. Just like signing a petition, it’s easier to stick a picture up on Facebook or Twitter and wait for the likes to roll in than it is to actually get off your arse and make a change in the world.

If you really want to inspire people to act, next time say ‘I just donated £10 to Cancer Research/Folk with Shite Hearts/Whatever, now you do it’ so people know you can put your balls in the cooking pot when you have to; instead of just saying ‘lol no makeup girlies’ and giving them an easy, no-effort way to pretend they’re affecting change.

Change comes from action, not awareness, and not getting thirty likes on your Facebook status for doing something inconsequential.

Oh, and while I’ve got you here, go and donate to my friend who is running a marathon in aid of Cancer Research UK, or any of the other awesome charities I linked to above.

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Highlights and Massive Shites: Gaming in 2013 (The Good)

I think we’re well past the point of fashionably late, but since my hard drive decided to die on its arse just before Christmas I’ve been slightly delayed in putting out all of the stuff I had planned.

Anyhoo, I don’t think I need much more of a pre-amble for this: here are the four games I enjoyed most last year. The four worst will be dropping in tomorrow, or whenever I can bring myself to write about Dead Space 3 again without having a rage blackout.

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
metal-gear-rising-revengeance-screenshots-oxcgn-10First of all, let me just get this out of the way: a lot of people in the ‘games are art’ crowd get raging hard-ons for good artistic direction and aesthetic design. Me? I go wild for a good soundtrack, and MGR has one of the most appropriately awesome soundtracks in recent memory. Actually, just in memory, since almost every other game I have played this generation didn’t possess a single memorable tune, (with the exception of that one song from The Darkness II).

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let’s do the review, proper.

There are a lot of people who extol the virtues of a game that doesn’t babysit or handhold, and having spent the last five or six years being forced to prove I know how to look up and down in every other fucking console shooter I play, I can certainly see the merit in this argument. That being said, MGR goes a long way toward showing why proper tutorials can be so crucial in a game where a well-timed parry can be the difference between ripping a room full of soldiers to nothing and getting half your health bar lopped off by a giant gorilla robot.

When the game was first released I was initially put off after hearing a number of people talk about how broken the combat system was. In actual fact, the combat system, while perhaps not refined to the same level as Bayonetta or Devil May Cry 4, is extremely satisfying and the Blade Mode gimmick, which allows Raiden to fine-tune each of his sword swings or just go absolutely mental while the enemy is suspended in mid-air, never loses its satisfaction while also making for a lot of tactical diversity.

The big problem with MGR is that the games parry system is never properly explained, despite pretty much being the core of the fighting system that everything else hinges upon. If you can’t get to grips with the parry system, then you will be lucky to make it past the first few levels, and it will actually make progression impossible at certain points in the game. Why, then, Platinum decided to only explain parrying with one poorly diagrammed tutorial is utterly beyond me, but the odd design choices don’t end there.

Throughout the game you are able to upgrade Raiden’s stats as well as buy him new combat moves, but all of their descriptions range from incredibly vague to just a little obtuse (the quickstep move is called Offensive Dodge, for example). This issue is further hampered by the fact that the move description in the upgrade screen doesn’t include the buttons to execute the move; they are instead found in the moves list which is perplexingly hidden in the help menu, rather than being placed on the pause screen as one might expect.

I realise I’ve just spent several paragraphs trashing this game, but it’s in my top four for a reason, and that’s because the game itself is absolutely solid and a ridiculous amount of fun to play –even if the camera does occasionally blindside you, leaving you exposed to more robot gorilla beatdowns– it just does absolutely nothing to educate the player or let them in on what actually makes the game fun.

I played through the entire game without using a single one of the moves I had purchased because I assumed they just got added into Raiden’s admittedly impressive constant attack loops. It was only after watching videos on Youtube and reading up on the subject, that I realised how much more fun I could have been having.

My advice, if you are interested in getting into MGR or perhaps re-visiting it, would be to watch Chip Cheezum’s thoroughly excellent Let’s Play of the game first or, if you’d rather save the campaign content for yourself, check out the handy combat primer he made to explain all the mechanics the game doesn’t bother to.

Final Verdict: MGR is a game that thoroughly deserves more praise and recognition, it just harpoons its own chances by being about as penetrable as a marble statue of a nun.

Saints Row IV
Saints-Row-IVI was in two minds over whether or not this should be in the best or worst games of 2013, not because it’s not a good game –it’s a brilliant game– but because, while I sympathise with the fact that Volition’s slapdash approach to design is most likely attributed to it’s original publisher THQ going under and their acquisition by Deep Silver, Saints Row IV rehashes a lot of things from previous titles in the series; including a world map we’ve already seen before.

The benefit to this, though, is that it presumably gave Volition the chance to put more time into the new features, even if they are just baudily nicked from other games like Crackdown or Prototype. As I’ve said before, in regards to Darksiders, though, how harshly you should be judged for blatantly ripping off other games is dependent entirely on what you do with those ideas.

In that respect, Saints Row IV blows every other game right out the fucking water.

Everything that has been borrowed from other games is only implemented better here –which I would argue is a testament to how talented the Volition team truly are– so it feels less like shameless copycatting and more like Slash taking the guitar off that dick at the party who won’t stop playing Wonderwall over and over and then busting out the November Rain solo on top of your dining room table.

What I’m saying is Saints Row IV plays like a masterclass in how to make your gimmicks fun rather than just gimmicks.

Also present is the series’ trademark irreverent humour –my personal favourite in-joke being the ability to select Nolan North as a voice option. I don’t mean he was one of the actors that supplied Voice 1, 2 or 3; I mean the option is literally called ‘Nolan North’– and even though some of the jokes are worn a bit thin at this point and come across as trying too hard, (like once again using cheesy 80′s power ballads during pivotal moments in the story,) it’s all done with such a deliberate sense of piss-taking that, at it’s worst, it only ever feels like one of the slightly less good Naked Gun sequels, and never strays into god-awful Scary Movie territory.

The new ridiculous plot of a game within a game also gave the developers a lot of lee-way to expand on the slightly more fantastical elements we saw in Saints Row the Third, like the virtual reality cyber-demon battles, so this time around there are Tron-style bike races and giant mech destruction challenges alongside the more traditional mayhem challenges that are also improved upon by the addition of guns that create black holes and the ability to smash the ground and send out tremors to blow everything up.

My only real complaints about the game, from a design point of view, will only become evident if you’re planning to get 100% –like the challenges that require you to drive cars a certain distance in a game where you never use cars because you can jump a hundred feet in the air and fly– but, to be honest, if you actually want to fully complete the game then that kind of suggests you’re already sold on the experience, and there is plenty to distract yourself with while you put off going back to finish that one particularly annoying activity.

Also, Protip: Reducing the games difficulty markedly increases the time limits on all activities, which you may find helpful after you fail that final fucking jumping puzzle for the thirtieth time.

Final Verdict: If you’re new to the series, then Saints Row IV is a perfect diving board, acting both as a culmination of the over-arching plot but also a retrospective for the previous three games, and if you’ve been following the series from the beginning there is definitely enough new stuff crammed in to warrant a playthrough, but I would argue that it’s perhaps not worth the full £40 RRP when half the content is stuff you’ve already done before.

Rogue Legacy
RogueLegacyLast year marked my inaugaration into the world of Steam and PC gaming in general, since prior to that I was working with a laptop that literally struggled to run Flash. I arrived just in time for the famous Steam Christmas Sale and, over the course of a month, I picked up enough games to mean that I’ll probably not need to buy anymore until the Steam Summer Sale rolls around; maybe even until 2015.

The game I’ve spent the most time with, currently, is Rogue Legacy, a roguelike action-platformer made unique by the fact that, every time you die, you re-roll your starting character and pick from one of three ‘heirs’, all of whom possess different traits; ranging from the profoundly useless baldness trait to the rather handy OCD trait which restores your MP as you clear each room of furniture.

As well as genetic perks, the game boasts a moderately robust skill tree which you upgrade with the money you gather from killing enemies and finding chests throughout the castle, as well as relics, armour and swords which grant stat boosts and stackable abilities like double-jumping or leeching HP from slain enemies.

Your overall goal in the game is to defeat the boss monster in each of the castles four sections, so you can open a door to defeat the ruler of the castle and save your King, but if you’re anything like me then you’ll probably find that you spend more time just running into the castle, over and over again, to kill as many enemies as you can and amass huge sums of gold to turn your character into a war machine. The plot isn’t particularly relevant, anyway, since once you finally do achieve your goal you just get thrown into new game plus mode to run the castle again with considerably stronger enemies/better rewards.

So far this may all sound pretty bog-standard for a game of this genre, but the two things that make Rogue Legacy stand out for me are it’s charming/unique design, both aesthetic and in terms of gameplay, and the fact that the game is initially hard as balls. Maybe it’s just my years as a console gamer that have softened me, and this is standard for for the Glorious PC Master Race, but on my first few runs of the castle I was lucky to survive more than three or four rooms before I got burnt to a crisp or a ghost knight’s halberd jammed through my faceplate.

This is where the games roguelike features become hugely beneficial because, rather than abandoning the game after finding it too hard to progress, every time you re-enter the castle all the rooms change and you suddenly find you can exploit enemy weaknesses that you couldn’t before, by hiding behind walls or standing under the platforms they are on and jumping up to hit them when they leave an opening.

In terms of actual combat it’s all pretty standard stuff, common to the likes of post-SotN Castlevania, but the variety provided by the random castle generation and enemy layouts give the game that sickeningly addictive nature normally only associated with Facebook games, while marrying it to solid platforming, hacky-slashy fun.

Final Verdict: In the end, it took me about ten hours to complete my first run of the castle, but I’ve since beaten it twice again and am currently sitting at just under 30 hours playtime which, for a game I paid less than a fiver for, I think speaks pretty highly of how fun it is.

Lost Planet 3
Lost_Planet_3Lost Planet 3 does a lot of things wrong. Capcom continue to prove themselves the king of shitty optimisation by having excruciatingly long load times between absolutely everything –despite a 3 or 4GB hard drive install– which is only exasperated by some truly shitty level design that constantly forces you to run between far-away locations to advance the game.

Quick question: if you were in charge of designing an interstellar mining colony, where would you put the garage for the mechanic who works on all the giant mining robots? Right next to all the robots? Hell no, you put it two floors down and four or five loading screens away. Do, however, make sure to point out in cutscenes that your rig is capable of traveling straight down to the garage, just to make the long trips the player has to make, on foot, all the more frustrating.

Question time, again: say you were designing an on-going side mission wherein you task the player with going out into the wilderness to gather the DNA of a specific monster and then bring it back to a scientist in the colony; where would you put that scientist? That’s right, you put him three elevator rides and two overlong airlock sequences away, then you force the player to go through that ten times in a row because you neglect to mention that you have to keep going back to the scientist to get the next mission despite it being made abundantly clear the scientist in question is capable of contacting you through your comms channel because that’s how you get the first mission in the first fucking place.

Ugh.

Lost Planet 3 is littered with bewilderingly awful design choices like this, so you might be wondering why I put it in my top five. The simple reason is that, unlike so many other Triple-A titles I played this year, the game managed to create a surprising sense of immersion that even the avalanche of load times wasn’t able to dispell. Things like the charmingly odd juxtaposition of listening to country-rock on your rig’s radio while you trudge around a frozen wasteland punching giant ice beetles in the face with a giant drill went a long way to creating a genuinely believable world, and almost all of the characters manage to be likeable or at the very least relatable; even if their characterisation never went beyond the most basic Disney movie tropes.

The game also does a fantastic job of building atmosphere around about the time you start exploring abandoned facilities and uncovering evidence suggesting you weren’t the first people to set foot on the planet and, in a rare moment of creative design taking precedence over committee, not all of the planet’s backstory is forced down your throat, whether you want it or not.

Your character is initially brought to the (lost) planet to replace another miner who went a bit loopy and disappeared, but the only way you discover her fate is by actively exploring the world yourself; it’s completely possible to complete the game without ever finding out what happened to her.

I know it might seem weird to praise a game for not showing you content, but in an industry that is rapidly beginning to resemble a hyperactive child –where every dev team is so terrified you’ll miss the collapsing building they spent six months rendering that the camera twists your character’s neck right around and forces you to watch it– it’s refreshing to play a game that lets you go at your own pace and discover things for yourself.

Going back to the atmosphere, it’s all enchanced by a spot-on soundtrack that, while largely forgettable where melodies are concerned– hits the mark perfectly by incorporating Brian Eno style ambient tracks and displaying an understanding that subtlety has the power to make things all the more intense when shit does inevitably hit the fan; as opposed to the standard industry practice of throwing up violin shrieks every time a shadow moves past a wall.

Speaking of shit hitting the fan, though, combat does occasionally suffer from some pretty awful enemy balance. Your character moves about as fast as you’d expect a man strapped in enough layers to survive constant sub-zero temperatures to move, but the game constantly pits you against tiny fast moving enemies that swarm you, en masse, and are difficult to effectively draw a bead on and take out before they’ve laid at least a couple of hits into you. This is made more annoying, still, as the smaller enemies inexplicably pack the biggest punch; every death I had in the game was at the hands of the tiny facehugger rip-offs or the scutterfuck arseholes that constantly take cover and only ever expose themselves to fire several perfectly aimed barbs right into your slow-moving arse.

Fighting the larger enemies, on the other hand, is a true joy just as it was in the earlier Lost Planet games; dodging their attacks to shoot at their glowing, orange weak spots is as fun as ever and becomes even more enjoyable the first time you get to fight a giant crab bastard inside your rig and parry its attacks to jam a drill up its arse (although these sections are occasionally plagued, again, by sluggish or unresponsive controls).

Robot punch-ups aside, the game truly comes alive in the optional missions, particularly the one that tasks you with tracking down some lost colonists and discovering their fate, it’s just a shame that they are let down by forcing you to slog through more poorly designed creature battles to get to the really compelling story aspects. That isn’t something you should ever have to say about a video game.

Final Verdict: I was pleasantly surprised by Lost Planet 3 and, despite its faults I think it deserves a lot more attention than it got upon release. I also thoroughly applaud Capcom’s surprisingly clear-headed decision to streamline the series and take it back to an atmospheric story-driven campaign, rather than whatever the fuck that convoluted Lost Planet 2 mess was supposed to be.

My advice to Capcom, now, would be to take whoever was artistic director for this game and put him or her in charge of the inevitable Resident Evil reboot, and sack whatever braindead chimp they let turn RE6 into a game of soggy-biscuit between David Cage and Michael Bay.

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Search Term Serial Killers II: This Time it’s Custodial

Many moons ago I published a list of all the terrifying, confusing and occasionally sexy things people typed into Google to arrive at my humble internet abode. As well as sowing seeds for the start of a beautiful friendship, it taught me that the quickest way to rake in traffic for your blog is to mention CHUN LI MASSIVE VAGINA.

I am seriously going to retire on this shit, one day.

I am seriously going to retire on this shit, one day.

I have been planning a sequel to that article for a while, and actually finished one before my HDD crashed and I lost it, along with all my RYU FUCKS CHUN LI fan fiction. Okay, I’m done with that joke, now.

Anyway, I thought after bombarding you all with my self-important agenda-pushing in regards to the world of video games last week, it might be nice to take a break and collectively enjoy one of life’s greatest pleasures: laughing at the criminally insane. Below, you’ll find twenty of my favourite search terms, but to be honest I could have easily made an entire list out of variations on ‘man fucking a deer’.

While CHUN LI watches.

While CHUN LI watches.

[Note: All of the following search terms appear exactly as they were typed into Google; spelling errors and unnecessary punctuation included.]

“chaka demus and pliers concert performance tease me with woman dressed in see thru cat suit”
Implied female nudity AND 90′s reggae juggernaut Chaka Demus and Pliers? Shit, I want to find this video, too.

“dragon fucks furry against her will”
police seize hard-drive as part of investigation

“intestine sexy”
I’ve made fun of sex-pests before, and to be honest I can kind of understand the appeal of wearing a giant nappy –albeit more for functions sake than for erotic purposes– but I can’t even begin to fathom approaching a stage in my life where the long, internal tube of flesh responsible for pushing shit through your body could be considered arousing.

“tony mccarroll”
I know this was you, Tony.

“worlds best mullet”
Let me save you some time: there is no such thing as a bad mullet.

Part business; part leisure. All sexual typhoon.

Part business; part leisure. All sexual typhoon.

“gifts for fuckwit dads”
I just really like the passive anger in this search. It wasn’t enough to just search some novelty gifts for Father’s Day; Google had to know that the father in question was also a fuckwit.

“scare people into beliving”
I always thought my blog exclusively catered to dangerous perverts, but apparently I’ve now secured the lucrative terrorist market, too. So that’s nice.

“venom gay”
I know this person was probably trying to find information about whether or not Eddie Brock likes it rough with lads, but that doesn’t mean I can’t hope it was really a bigot trying to find research to prop up his theory that the bite of a gay man is poisonous.

"Just five more years of research, and I will prove the correlative relation between Erasure and a flair for interior design!"

“Just five more years of research, and I will prove the correlative relation between Erasure and a flair for interior design!”

“you hindu, i don’t give a fuck where you are from 15 shots in your face i’m heavy handed i dig your grandma up and rape her like a bitch and if you’re not happy i rape your father ready for the shower? i piss on you and break your ass, little son of a bitch, i fist your ass, don’t tense”
This could just be the lyrics to a specifically racist rap song, but it still doesn’t explain how it brought someone to my blog.

Also, I like that tiny, non-violent, bit of advice at the end to help make the process of having a person wear you like a puppet marginally less uncomfortable.

“how does 9 miles down end”
Why not watch it and find out?

The answer is 'who fucking cares because seriously fuck this fucking movie.'

The answer is ‘who fucking cares because seriously fuck this movie.’

“christmas is shite”
I would put good money on this being the same guy as above, with the fuckwit dad, who at this point appears to be using Google as a therapist.

“does cliff still roller skate”
This one genuinely made me laugh out loud. There are many things to wonder about Cliff Richard –like if you can still get life insurance when you’re medically considered to be a walking cadaver– but I will be first to admit that whether or not he still slowly roller skates away from the advances of nubile young women has honestly never crossed my mind.

If official merchandise is anything to go buy, he's too busy jet-skiing while also being dead behind the eyes.

If official merchandise is anything to go buy, he’s too busy jet-skiing while also being dead behind the eyes.

“i swear i left her by the river”
Sure you did, now get in the back of the van.

“man fuck deer”
Like I said, I could have filled the list, entirely, with the various different ways people arrived at my blog on the back of this concept, but I still thought it was worth pointing out that three, separate people searched for this exact phrase.

Well, either that or one very determined pervert.

“robocop fucking”
Alright, I’ll admit it, now I’m curious. Also, if there is a porn version of Robocop and it isn’t called Robocock then there is officially no justice in this world.

Although you could be forgiven for thinking the reboot was just that; the way they made him look like a giant fucking vibrator. That being said, the marketing for Robocop-brand vibrators pretty much writes itself…

Not to be confused with the Robocop reboot, which only hate-fucked our precious, childhood memories.

“Dead or alive, you’re cumming with me.”

“i hate to say such a thing but america would be so much better if obama was dead”
I just want to make abundantly clear before Interpol black bags me that I did not write that. I do, however, still find it as funny as ever that people think Google is a person they are having a conversation with.

So, just to re-iterate: I think Obama is a lovely man, and I hope he lives many more years in a completely not dead fashion. Go, USA!

“being chased by giant purple dildo”
Shit, I’ve had this nightmare. It’s okay, you’re in a safe place, here.

Amazingly, it's harder than you'd think to find a good photo of a giant purple dildo, so have Stay Puft, instead.

Amazingly, it’s harder than you’d think to find a good photo of a giant purple dildo on the internet, so have Stay Puft, instead.

“greek mythology pliers of chaka demus”
I refuse to research this further and discover Pliers went back to university to get a degree in Greek history, because the alternative of living in a world where people believe he is a beast of Greek legend is so much more appealing. Well, either that or Sony have some really weird new weapon DLC planned for the next God of War.

"TEASE ME BABY, 'TIL I LOSE CONTROL!"

“TEASE ME BABY, ‘TIL I LOSE CONTROL!”

“gifts for wine wankers”
You know, I was joking when I wrote all those Christmas articles, but it seems like someone genuinely is buying gifts exclusively for people that they hate. Takes many to make a world, I suppose.

“only quadriplegic stories and pictures of quadriplegic men of how they have sex with their white girl friends and fucks their pussys deep and hard”
The girlfriends in question, do they have to be white? They do? Oh…sorry man, I can’t help you.

Nope, not even googling that one for a joke.

Nope, not even googling that one for a joke.

————————————————————————————

Okay, that should do it for now, if you’ll excuse me I have to go bathe my soul in a bath of bleach.

Namaste, bitches.

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Why a Second Crash Would be Good for the Games Industry (Part Four)

This is it. End of the road. For those that stuck with it, I thank you; for those that didn’t, I don’t blame you. For all of us, though, it’s been one hell of a ride.

Let’s do this thing.

[Part One] [Part Two] [Part Three]

Reason Four: Gaming Can Be About Games, Again
When I was still a bright-eyed, optimistic young chap, I used to get the official Nintendo magazine every month and read that shit cover to cover. I waited six months for the release of Yoshi’s Story and played it enough times to convince myself that I didn’t completely waste my time and that hope wasn’t a barren wasteland of broken dreams.

I’m not entirely sure where I was going with that, but the point is that there was a time when I used to get genuinely hyped for the release of new games. More recently, the only thing I get truly excited for is seeing what’s going to go wrong first, and for a long time I assumed that was just the result of my growing jaded with age.

Then I discovered Steam.

Feel free to add your own celebration music.

Feel free to add your own celebration music.

In December, I acquired a comfortably specced laptop for less than an Xbone would have cost me. Since then, I have picked up over 25 games on Steam, and I have spent less than £50. Try and do that on a console. Any console. I fucking defy you to try. Even removing the price issue, because I’m aware it’s not the same bone of contention for everyone that it is for me, I did discover the strangest phenomenon while gaming on Steam…I started having fun. I didn’t realise just how bored I was with gaming and the interminable, linear cover-based corridor shootouts and set-piece explosions I’d resigned myself to until I started using Steam and suddenly it was like I was five years old again; letting the timer run out on Starlight Zone just so I could listen to the music one more time.

And now that theme is stuck in your head for the rest of the day. You're welcome.

And now that theme is stuck in your head for the rest of the day. You’re welcome.

Suddenly, instead of a procession of ruggedly handsome, predicatably flawed caucasian skinheads with troubled pasts and ‘fuck you”s to spare, I could be a lumberjack who fights werewolves, or a samurai cat person, or a flatulent midget knight, or Ryan Gosling from the movie Drive. I used to think that it was variety if the generic protagonist I was piloting down a corridor happened to also be a ghost, but after taking the role of a teenage girl just dossing about her house in a thunderstorm and getting genuinely more engaged in the endeavour than any of the countless alien wars I’ve fought in, I realised what variety actually is.

It isn’t just who you’re controlling, but what you’re doing with them, and for the longest time I’d convinced myself that ‘shoot everything until dead’ was the only acceptable answer.

Turns out, 'shoot everything until dead while dressed like a horse' is the real answer.

Turns out, ‘shoot everything until dead while dressed like a horse’ is the real answer.

Don’t misunderstand, though, I am fully aware that there are drawbacks to this freedom. The ability for literally anyone to self-publish a game means that there is a lot of shit that gets through that otherwise wouldn’t have with more stringent quality controls –Newgrounds, alone, is testament to that– but, you know what? If that’s the price I have to pay, then I am fine with that. I’d rather pan a river of mediocrity to find the odd gold nugget than just live in a sewer where I see the same shit every single day.

The beauty of living in the age that we do is that it is almost impossible for developers to pull the same cloak and dagger bullshit they got away with when print media, store employees and word of mouth was all we had to inform our purchasing decisions. Nowadays, the only way a mainstream developer can slip that shit past us is if they flat-out lie about it, and even then the only people to get hurt are that race of peculiar mutants who still buy into the pre-order business model.

Because when you blindly buy into shit for the benefit of a few gaudy trinkets, you deserve everything that you get.

Because when you blindly buy into shit for the benefit of a few gaudy trinkets, you deserve everything that you get.

For the rest of us, it took less than an hour for the story of Aliens: Colonial Marines to spread like wildfire over the internet about what a heaping pile of shit the game was and, as a result, thousands of people who would have bought it if they hadn’t known better saved themselves forty bucks.

It’s the same reason that a game like Ride to Hell: Retribution can become a community-wide joke, whereas there was a time, not so long ago, when releasing games like that was standard practice for companies whose entire business strategy comprised scamming people who didn’t know any better.  Really, in this day and age, you have nobody to blame but yourself when you end up buying a shitty game because there are an innumerable number of sources where you can gleam largely unbiased feedback.

That doesn’t necessarily mean your honest opinion will be welcome, mind you.

Even though it may require a bit more research than you’re used to, in the end the result will be your becoming a more informed buyer and, if you can’t be bothered with that, then you can always just stop playing games. Try to remember that that is always an option, by the way; there will always be other people to take your place.

So, as I was saying, while using Steam does mean having to dodge the occasional shit sandwich, meanwhile the most I have to look forward to on consoles is a procession of procedural, paint-by-numbers, pop-up shooting galleries; not including the games that are just straight-up sequels, (seriously, I thumbed through a release catalogue in GAME, the other day, and I can only recall two games that weren’t direct sequels or mash-ups, like the upcoming and utterly bewildering Professor Layton Versus Phoenix Wright game.)

Meanwhile, every time I think I’ve seen it all, on the PC side of things, a game will pop up where you play as a sheriff who is also a werewolf, or a lonely woman who kills herself and travels to Hell only to be told she has to go back and kill other people if she wants to die.

Yeah...I'm starting to think I might have problems.

Yeah…I’m starting to think I might have problems.

This stuff would never get a full-price console release, because it almost certainly wouldn’t sell as well as the procession of shooty sweary fuckers that pollute the landscape. And there is nothing wrong with those shooty sweary fuckers, in moderation, (I still hold The Darkness II in high esteem as one of my top ten games of all time,) but the entire point of a creative medium is supposed to be variety. The world of video games should be limited only by a developers imagination, not budgets and marketing figures, but instead publishers and a disinterested buying public have placed shackles on this creativity by only allowing the creation of something that looks like the last big thing.

Pictured: Fuck, I don't know; probably Call of Duty, or something.

Pictured: Fuck, I don’t know; probably Call of Duty, or something.

The world of PC gaming has opened up a world of possibilities for me, and, cliched as it sounds, my only problem now is having too much choice: I literally don’t know where to start. I know I’ve been wanking off Steam a lot in this article but that’s only because so far I’ve got so much on my plate with all the games I got in the sale that I haven’t even had a chance to check out GoG or anything else. For the first time in over ten years, I am legitimately excited about the future of games.

And the best part? None of this will go away if the mainstream industry crashes.

This is the point many people fail to grasp about a video game crash, and why it could never happen the way it did in the 80′s. When the Atari flopped it was pretty much the major shareholder in terms of gaming demographics. I won’t repeat myself, but you can read my other article to see why this is no longer the case.

If publishers like EA closed their doors, tomorrow, all it would do is free up a huge number of creative people to work on whatever they wanted. Would the money be as good? Maybe not, but success stories like Super Meat Boy –a game that was made by two people and has sold more than two million copies (a number you might recognise as almost double the number of copies that the multi-million-dollar-budget Devil May Cry sold)– make it abundantly clear that it can happen if you are genuinely passionate about what you’re doing.

Obviously, it’s a bit of a dick move to hope for the unemployment of thousands of people, but what I’ve been trying to put across in these articles is that what I’m speaking about isn’t a hypothetical situation: I’m not saying ‘oh wouldn’t it be great if you all lost your jobs,’ I’m saying that, like it or not, the way the industry is going is in no way sustainable. Studios are constantly shutting down or reporting losses, almost all new releases are failing to meet sales targets because they are based on impossible moon figures, and the people pulling the strings and holding all the power are acting like there isn’t a problem. It is not a question of if there will be a crash but simply when, and how best to prepare for it.

It’s easy to just ride the wave while the getting is still good, but eventually that wave is going to come crashing down to earth, and I’m merely suggesting that it may be in the best interests of more talented developers who are in it for the games and not solely the money to start considering a move toward more independent ventures.

And toward giving us the Sparkster successor we've all been waiting for.

And toward giving us the Sparkster successor we’ve all been waiting for.

Moreover, a big shake-up like this would send a message to the triple-A industry about how toxic their presence has become, and that their corporate strategy of stamping out originality and forcing all games to march in a dull, predictable line is a vile and acidic process; actively rotting away the foundations of the community that they’ve so consistently been leeching off of for the past twenty-odd years.

Any big transition is a frightening and uncertain time, and the collapse of the mainstream gaming industry as we know it would send shockwaves through the community that would be felt for years to come, no doubt about it, but –ham-fisted analogy incoming– even though World War II was one of the biggest, most bloody battles in human history, wasn’t it worth it just to remove some evil from the world?

So, yeah, what I’m basically saying is that EA is Hitler.

Okay, that's not really fair. Hitler was actually pretty good at PR.

Okay, that’s not really fair. Hitler was actually pretty good at PR.

[Disclaimer: I am fully aware that some of the games I championed in this article have had console releases, and I believe one was even funded by Microsoft, but given how awkward and restrictive console digital marketplaces remain, I kind of think my point still stands.]

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Why a Second Crash Would be Good for the Games Industry (Part Three)

Alright, no need for foreplay, at this point: Part One here; Part Two here. Let’s do this.

Reason Three: End the Console Wars, Once and For All
Quick question: how many times, growing up, do you remember arguing over who made the better TV’s, Toshiba or Panasonic?

There was a time when console exclusives were a necessary evil, because they provided a quick and easy way to build brand loyalty –especially in a market that was, at the time, predominantly marketed towards children– and ensure a healthy competition could be fostered between different console manufacturers. Not to mention that a giant portion of games for the original Nintendo were either developed and/or published by Nintendo, themselves, so putting them on an opposing company’s consoles would have been kind of ludicrous.

Nowadays though, with the exception of Nintendo, in-house developers are almost unheard of, and any game that gets a console release practically needs to be released across every platform if it wants any chance of making it’s money back.

This shotgun approach to multi-platform releases, along with the constant sequel-whoring I talked about before, is endemic to a dying industry. The publishers are so desperate to make back their money that they A) won’t take a risk on anything they aren’t certain is guaranteed to sell (see: how Resident Evil 6 became an embarassing mish-mash of everything wrong with modern gaming) or B) will release their game on absolutely every device that can run it. The latter may not sound like a problem, given that console exclusives are now as redundant as a lives system or laws against gay marriage, but the problem with spreading your title as thinly across as many platforms as possible is that the teams responsible for optimising the game to fifty different consoles could be using their time to tweak the gameplay or pack in some additional content to one, unique release.

That last part, by the way, is not an argument in favour of only releasing a game to one console, but entirely the opposite. If consoles were just a universal device for running games on the TV then that would mean studios wouldn’t be forced into dedicating huge patches of development time to tweaking the game and ensuring it ran in a stable condition on everything it gets released for. It would also mean we would be less likely to end up with horrendous ports like the PS3 edition of Bayonetta which was virtually unplayable until they released a patch to let players install the game on the HDD (prior to the update, even pausing the game prompted a loading screen.)

This is yet another benefit held by PC gaming, as the only pre-requisite to play a game is that your rig is powerful enough to run it (well, that and crossing your fingers that the latest incarnation of Windows doesn’t shit the bed and refuse to do anything for no reason). You’d never get a game that can only run on Dell PC’s, so why should a developer be forced to hitch their wagon only to either Sony or Microsoft? Because money, is generally the answer. Both Rareware and Bungie were acquired by Microsoft and as a result only saw their games released on Xbox consoles, and occasionally PC in the case of Halo.

But this is a tired old practice from the days when a mascot could still sell a console and fights would still break out in the playground over Mario versus Sonic; nowadays it makes no sense because there is absolutely nothing unique about either Sony or Microsoft’s consoles, in terms of their target demographics or their output. Whereas Sega were always generally about style over substance and characters dripping with rad 90′s attitude, Nintendo saw fit to maintain their family friendly image, right down to colouring all the blood green in Mortal Kombat so as not to offend the doting mothers who apparently didn’t mind as much that all that green blood was squirting out of a freshly excavated spine stump.

Fast-forward twenty years, and literally the only reason I favour the Playstation over the Xbox is because the controller feels better in my hands. I do prefer the exclusive games that are available for the console, but I would never have bought it just for that reason, and if I could plug my PS3 controller into my 360 then maybe I’d turn it on more than once a year to play Shadow Complex. As it stands the 360 in my house just sits there, gathering dust because outside of the five or six exclusive titles I own for it, I have no other use for it.

My real point with this post isn’t just to denounce console exclusives, but the completely outdated concept of exclusive consoles. Imagine if, instead of having to pledge allegiance to the flag of Playstation or Xbox, you could just go out and buy a games console that would play any game, just like you would with a DVD player. An attempt has already been made to do this with the release of the Ouya and, even though it has received middling to piss-poor reviews, the spirit of such an endeavour is definitely something I can support.

Gaming should always be about the games and never the hardware that runs them. The playground fights about Sonic the Hedgehog and Mario were always about whose game was more fun to play, not about how much RAM it took to run them, but as the Xbone reveal made abundantly clear, console manufacturers now seem to think a console should be sold on the merit of everything you can do with it that isn’t playing video games, whether it’s watching television or using Skype or Facebook to let friends know you’re a moron with more money than common sense. Again, all of this is the result of pathetic bandwagon chasing, this time with Microsoft and Sony jealously eyeing up the Android/iPhone market.

The point they’ve completely failed to grasp is that the reason Android devices and iPhones market themselves as an all-in-one media device is because they are designed to be used on the go. I have a finite number of pockets and an extremely paranoid brain, so the less things I have to carry/check are still there every five minutes, the better. When I am sitting on the couch, playing my PS3, though, I don’t give a shit. I can easily keep my laptop at my side to watch stuff on Youtube, or my phone in my pocket to ignore people trying to spend time with me.

I don’t need to have it integrated into my console to constantly interrupt me when I’m playing video games, and I don’t need any of the other countless features Microsoft proudly touted, because I already own devices that can do them better, and I have done for years.

Don’t get me wrong, one day I would like to own a dedicated device that could do all the things I use my television for, but at the moment all of this is coming at the expense of the games themselves and, with both Microsoft and Sony deigning fit to pay little more than lip service to the games they were going to be offering on their new consoles at their respective E3 events, they have made it abundantly clear that they stopped caring about the games a long time ago.

This is the heart of the problem with console exclusivity: because we can only play Xbox games on an Xbox and Playstation games on a Playstation, we are at the mercy of whatever insane bullshit Sony or Microsoft throw at us. If the consumer had alternative options, then Microsoft would never have tried even half of the anti-consumer DRM bullshit that they did with the Xbone reveal, and it’s only by the grace of god that for once people actually fought back and they changed their position.

But here’s the thing: once they have an installed user base, once everyone has bought an Xbone, there would be absolutely nothing to stop them rolling out the patch that bricks your console if you don’t check in online every 24 hours; nothing to stop them patching your console to not run used games. Because, bear in mind, there was no hardware recall to roll back on all the horrible things Microsoft tried to force on it’s users: they just changed some code and put it to sleep, for the time being.

If it happened tomorrow, if you suddenly found your console didn’t work because you, like millions of other people in the world, can’t get a stable internet connection; if you found out half of your games didn’t work anymore because you bought them second-hand, what would you do? Sell your console? Fair enough, but Microsoft already got your money, they don’t care. And now you can’t sell your games anymore because they’re all useless, unless packaged with the console you’re also selling, that’s assuming that stores would even entertain the risk of letting you trade in devices and software so fiercely opposed to the spirit of used goods.

My point is, if Toshiba announced tomorrow that they were placing a lock on all their new DVD players that meant you could only watch two hours of DVD content before the player locked up, unless you were willing to pay for the premium subscription viewing package, do you think anyone would give a shit? Would they bollocks, they’d just go and buy a different DVD player.

This is the luxury that almost every other market has, and it’s a peculiar strangelhold that is unique only to the games industry. If you don’t like how Apple do business, get an Android phone. If you don’t like how Nike exploits third-world labour, by from an ethical clothing brand. But if you don’t like how your Sony Playstation plays your Playstation games? Sorry, you’re shit out of luck.

Console exclusive games are just a tiny part of the much bigger problem that could be eradicated with the extinction of exclusive consoles, which currently make true console market competition an illusion. If the barriers to trade were broken down and several other manufacturers were allowed into the market –including ones that could make a budget range of consoles for people who didn’t have a months rent to throw away on a hobby– then it would mean an end to this frankly embarrassing tech-dick measuring contest, the chance to expand the market and increase software sales and, just maybe, a return to what gaming is supposed to be all about…

Okay, that’s it for today. Final part coming tomorrow, and gold star for you if you’ve even made it this far.

Posted in Advice, Current Affairs, Gaming, Reviews, Shopping, The World at Large. | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Why a Second Crash Would be Good for the Games Industry (Part Two)

Welcome back to my long-winded rant on why everything you like is dumb and I’m right, as usual. Read Part One here!

Reason Two: Bigger Budgets =/= Better Games

Video game budgets are spiralling out of control. Tomb Raider cost almost $100 million to make, and it was still considered a failure after only shifting 3.4 million units in its first month on sale, because it needed to sell at least 5 million just to approach being profitable. Surely all this money must be getting put toward good use, though, maybe funding extra development time to really come up with some new and exciting ideas?

Since we brought up the subject of PC gaming last time, let’s, uh, talk about it. I recently picked up the aforementioned Tomb Raider for £15, finished it in about 6 hours with a 100% collection rate, and then traded it back in because –outside of the cynically tacked on multiplayer– there is no reason to ever play it again. Meanwhile, I bought Rogue Legacy in the Steam Christmas Sale for about £3.50 and, at time of writing, I have logged 26 hours of play time. For the sake of my point, here is how the games look, respectively:

Ironically, Rogue Legacy actually involves a lot more tomb-raiding.

Ironically, Rogue Legacy involves considerably more tomb-raiding.

Why have I sunk so many hours into a game that looks like it could have run on the SNES and ousted the several-million-dollar budget, creepy beaten-up woman simulator? Well, aside from the sentence I just wrote, while there will always be an element of personal taste, Rogue Legacy is pretty challenging –and at times outright dickish to the player– but it rewards patience and perseverence: you learn to time your jumps perfectly, how to dodge attacks effectively and you are constantly upgrading your character to better tackle the castle. It’s much how I imagine my experience will be when I finally decide to take my balls out of the velvet purse in my bedside table and finally play Dark Souls.

Meanwhile, you start off Tomb Raider shooting dudes and climbing on walls, and then that’s it. Apart from some surprisingly well written audio logs that flesh out the islands history, there is absolutely no substance to the game. Sure, it looks pretty, (at least when it isn’t brutally murdering Lara in creepily graphic ways,) but if I wanted to see exotic locations or buildings of historical significance I’d watch the Discovery Channel. In terms of gameplay, there is literally nothing to bring you back after you have completed the campaign.

This happened with Sleeping Dogs, as well; another Square Enix title. While I still have at least four or five hours left in Rogue Legacy just to wrap up the games preset achievements, it took me approximately 20 hours to do absolutely everything there was to do in Sleeping Dogs; and that was including wrestling with several extremely irritating glitches, like the one that would occasionally cause my car to flip ninety feet in the air during a race. To be fair, though, my run time doesn’t take into account the games DLC…all of which costs as much or more than the full Rogue Legacy game.

"Zombies are still an original idea, right guys?"

“But zombies are still an original idea, right guys?”

Now, with all that in mind, which game seems worth a £40 RRP to you?

Tomb Raiders problem, and to a lesser extent Sleeping Dogs, is that they don’t try to do a single new thing with their respective genre. There is literally nothing in either game that you haven’t done before in at least two other titles. This is especially true in the case of Tomb Raider, which dropped all of the series traditional elements and became a shameless carbon copy of Uncharted with some estrogen injections, instead.

Rogue Legacy, at it’s bare bones, isn’t a particularly original concept, (hell, even its name is essentially an homage to the game that started the genre,) but it does enough different to distance itself from other similar games like Spelunky or Cave Story or La Mulana; in this case by making you choose a different character every time you die, each with unique and amusing strengths and weaknesses, (Knights who are too fat to be knocked back; Ninjas light enough to run over spike traps; Miners with a sweet but utterly useless headlamp, etc..)

Meanwhile, a console game is considered impressive if it can come up with one unique feature, the most egregious example in recent memory being Syndicate: a despicable nostalgia cash-in on a popular 90′s franchise that ended up being nothing but a bog-standard FPS that crowbarred in four special ‘powers’; the effectiveness of which ranged from quite useless to totally fucking pointless, like the ability to make an enemy’s gun jam for a fraction of a second.

The money triple-A publishers are pumping into games certainly isn’t going toward making them more fun to play. In fact, the longer this generation has gone on, all it’s seen fit to do is tramp down every unique series and re-purpose it into a committee-designed, focus group pleasing blob of mediocrity. And then these same people have the gall to turn around and act surprised when people don’t want to buy their pale imitation of a more popular franchise.

Dead Space 3 is easily the biggest offender in recent memory. Whatever your feelings on the franchise, Dead Space was one of the few original IP’s of the last generation and did a lot to evolve concepts laid down by the genre-defining Resident Evil 4. The real-time menus that didn’t interrupt gameplay and re-purposing of engineering equipment into weapons of mass dismemberment –along with a surprisingly robust zero-gravity mechanic– really made the game stand out, even while the story was at best ripping off most sci-fi horror films and at worst just the film Event Horizon with all the relatable characters taken out.

Then Dead Space 2 came out and pretty much abandoned any pretense of being a survival horror game to instead focus on the joyous carnage that can only come from impaling a shambling monstrosity through a pane of glass to create a vacuum that kills everything else in the room. It was a ridiculous amount of fun, and a worthy –albeit tonally inconsistent– successor to the original. There was every indication that Dead Space 3 was well on track to becoming Army of Darkness and not Spider-Man 3.

Never forget.

Never forget.

When it did come time for Dead Space 3 to take the stage, however, seemingly every member of the dev team responsible for fun ideas was fired and replaced with a marketing guy whose every creative input served only to cripple and neuter the series’ charm and individuality; the most notable of which being the fucking insidious inclusion of micro-transactions or, as EA like to refer to them, ‘CHA-CHING!’ Not content with tarting Dead Space up into a whore, though, that bold young man’s vision wasn’t quite complete, yet…

Dismemberment? That’s out. Now, instead of shooting a monster’s legs off to disable it, you can fire an entire clip into it’s face and it still won’t go down. This was presumably partly thanks to the new scavenger feature, which let you meticulously upgrade and tweak every aspect of your weapons performance. The problem was that every single upgrade that wasn’t a rocket launcher was completely useless, because without a maximum power upgrade every gun packed as much punch as gently brushing past someone in a queue.

So the gameplay has been dumbed down to appeal to the cover-based shooter crowd, but at least you’ve still got a unique setting in the form of a mysterious, abandoned space station, right? Well, yeah, and this time you even get to freely zoom around space in your jet boots to repair satellite relays, because apparently the developers felt a series about an engineer killing shambling terrors from beyond the void with a rivet gun needed more actual engineering.

The space parts of the game really are cool, though, and the absence of sound is a really neat touch, especially when an enemy you can’t hear sneaks up on you and rams a tendril up your back passage. Of course, no good idea can remain unsullied in this game, so only a fraction of the game actually takes place on the space station, with the rest of the plot unfolding on a frozen planet inhabited by giant insects with glowing orange weak spots…hey, why does that sound so familiar?

Uh, yeah. but Lost Planet doesn't have the blue bar? Original!

Uh, yeah. but Lost Planet doesn’t have the blue bar? Original!

Okay, so maybe they’re unabashedly ripping off Lost Planet with the setting, but this time around there’s side missions, too, to flesh out the planets creepy backstory. Lost Planet never had that! Well, until Lost Planet 3, anyway…Also, really, there’s just one side mission in Dead Space 3, that you do three or four times which involves moving through several abandoned warehouses, fighting off waves of ‘oh, you burst through the vents; how thoroughly unexpected’ enemies until you finally reach a room where you have to wait for a mercilessly slow elevator to descend while fighting off more waves of dull bullet fodder, whereupon you’re finally rewarded with a chest full of loot that the games aggressively small inventory space means you’re mostly forced to abandon. Don’t fret, though, like I said most of it is totally useless anyway.

I’m really not joking, by the way: at least two of the side missions I played were exactly the same, right down to the copy-pasted elevator room at the end. Sadly I wasn’t able to confirm if all of the side missions were the same though, thanks to the games other much-touted new feature: the co-op system.

citizen-kane-clappingOkay, I’m not going to complain about how adding an extra player totally destroys the horror aspect of the game because it really wasn’t that horrific to begin with, but my issue with the bewildering addition of a co-op system to a game that didn’t remotely require it is two-fold:

One: It’s that particular brand of co-op seen in other games such as Little Big Planet where, as opposed to just scaling up the enemy numbers and strength, large sections of the game are just locked to single players, with big ‘you must have this many friends to enter’ signs plastered across the door.

That’s a pretty bitter pill to swallow for a game that costs £40 at full retail; that you’re now telling me I can only play some parts of the game I own if I agree to/can find another person to play with. There isn’t even the alternative by way of a thick as shit in the neck of a bottle AI partner, like in Resident Evil 5 or Army of Two: if you don’t find someone to join your game, then you don’t get to play.

This leads me to my second point: After the co-op element was announced, the developers addressed understandable concerns by saying they were working hard to make sure it was perfectly integrated into the single player experience and didn’t impair it.

Well, I’ve already explained how that was a fat lie, but it actually goes deeper than that. First of all, if you don’t get someone to play the co-op sections of the story with you, then the plot makes no god damn sense. Whoever isn’t in control of Isaac takes on the role of a space mercenary whose name I forget because honestly who gives a fuck. Despite being initially hostile to Clarke, for no readily apparent reason other than just about everyone else is, the pair eventually foster a heartwarming bromance by the end of the game after Isaac learns all about…actually, I have no fucking idea.

At the very end of the game Space Jim, by this point picking out wedding invitations with Isaac, mentions something about his family and redemption, but aside from that there is literally no other character development for him in the single player campaign. I assume that playing through the co-op missions you get to learn more about his backstory but, as we’ve established, I am a hopeless loner, and so the game remained steadfastly tight-lipped about why I should give a single solitary shit about this dickhead.

If you don’t care about story, though, then you can probably just brush off the gargantuan plot holes as some sort of weird Space Amnesia that Space Jim and Isaac were suffering from, and then you’ll only have to face my biggest issue with the co-op integration, and the problem that moves Dead Space 3 past disappointing sequel and into utterly broken mess. This game shares a very similar problem with Dead Island, in that the single player game is in no way optimised to take into account the absence of team mates.

I mentioned before how weak the guns are in this game in relation to the scavenging element, but I assume the main reason behind the watering down of your firepower was made to balance the fact that there are now two people taking on the Necromorphs instead of one. The problem is, when that second person isn’t there, the enemies don’t get weaker or diminish in numbers and the boss fights become an exercise in frustration because they are blatantly designed to be fought with two people and not one.

If Dead Space 3 had just been different to Dead Space 1 and 2 then I could have lived with that: I would have accepted that it just wasn’t for me, anymore, and found something else to play. That isn’t what happened. Dead Space 3 makes so many frankly amateur design mistakes that it becomes repeatedly apparent every single aspect was designed, not to satisfy players, but to trick them into buying the game by convincing them it was just like other shit they’d already played, and most insultingly of all, they couldn’t even do that properly.

This is the real problem with the current way of thinking in the triple-A industry: it’s not about stealing a popular idea and then expanding upon it or putting your own spin on the genre, it’s about copy-pasting huge sections of a design document, whole-cloth, and plonking them into your own game which ends up becoming an embarrassingly inbred, disheveled chimera until the greatest mercy is to just put two barrels in its mouth and kill the series so you can prep it for a reboot in a few years.

And so we come full circle, as Tomb Raider (2013) manages to achieve both these feats, at once.

And so we come full circle, as Tomb Raider (2013) manages to achieve both these feats, at once.

It’s only getting worse, too. If you examine the list of launch titles for every console, you might notice that, even though the Xbone and PS4 have longer lists than most previous consoles, they feature almost no new games. I’m not just talking about sequels, I mean that a lot of the games are just re-released ‘definitive’ editions of games that are already available on other consoles. They’re not even trying anymore.

That’s not to say that the endless sequel-whoring isn’t a problem, though. While it only took the PS2 about a year to pump out a number of new franchises (Onimusha, Devil May Cry, Ratchet & Clank, Jak & Daxter, Zone of the Enders…I could go on for hours,) out of all the currently announced PS4 titles the majority are sequels (Infamous: Second Son, Killzone: Shadowfall, Kingdom Hearts III, Final Fantasy XV) and most are also getting a previous-gen release, anyway, (Watchdogs, MGSV) so all this really begs the question of why we need another console generation, at all.

Well, I guess you need some way to keep the Console Wars raging on…

Posted in Advice, Current Affairs, Gaming, Reviews, Shopping, The World at Large. | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Why a Second Crash Would be Good for the Games Industry (Part One)

Some of you, by which I mean none of you, might remember I wrote an article a few years ago about how the video game industry could never crash the way it did in the 80′s and that saying it ever could is retarded.

Well, while it’s still dumb to say that video games could come to the brink of extinction like they did in 1983, there absolutely is a crash coming. Only difference is, this time it’s going to be hugely beneficial to us. And by ‘us’, I mean, ‘people who don’t give a shit about Halo’.

Fuck this guy.

Fuck this guy.

I ended up writing way more than I originally intended to on the subject, so I’m going to put up each point as a separate article to make it at least a little easier to digest.

[Note: I always feel the need to mention this when I write about gaming, but sometimes I get far too excited about the subject and end up going off on long-winded tangents or otherwise odd segues. Due to the fact I'm my own editor and fact-checker, this often results in small mistakes and/or me being flat-out wrong about stuff, so please feel free to let me know if I'm full of shit in the comments.]

Reason One: Giving Control Back to the Creators
Have you noticed how, lately, the only films that come out in the cinema are either sequels, reboots or based off something on the housewives best-sellers list? More and more, Hollywood are refusing to take any risks with their films and, as a result, we’re treated to watching an over-the-hill John McClane get forced into increasingly contrived situations –well past the point of PTSD where he would either have become a worthless drunk or just shot himself– rather than opening up the door to let some new guys have a whack at the big time. This has been happening ever since I was a kid and it doesn’t look set to stop any time soon, if the abhorrently embarrassing Robocop reboot is anything to go by.

Watching the 2013 Robocop trailer was more painful than anything that ever happened to Peter Weller.

Watching the 2013 Robocop trailer was more painful than anything that ever happened to Peter Weller.

The reasons for this are up for debate, but if you were to ask me, I would say it’s all gone to shit because a few gigantic studios have spent the last three decades buying up all the smaller studios and the rights to just about every existing film property, then started shutting down those studios and shelving projects when they realised that just sitting on the rights to a film wasn’t all that profitable and that there is absolutely no chance of recouping even a fraction of the money they poured into the films they did make because they were mostly literally and creatively bankrupt horseshit or over-indulgent auteur vanity  projects. Does this sound familiar yet?

"Hi, everbody!" Hi, you fucking dick.

“Hi, everbody!” Hi, you fucking dick.

If you know anything about the video game industry then you’ll be more than aware of EA’s aggressive policy of buying and absorbing smaller, talented studios, like Bullfrog and Pandemic, acquiring their properties and then shutting down the studios and cryo-podding the franchises when they fail to meet their ludicrously unrealistic sales expectations, (try to remember that, against all odds, EA expected Dead Space 3 to sell more copies than the first two games, combined. More astounding, still, they expected to do this even though the game was a big, fat bag of arse paste.)

Unlike the first video game crash, what is currently sucking all the talent and creativity out of Hollywood is most likely what will also drive a stake right through the heart of the mainstream gaming industry, as well. Rather than being due to an over-saturation of low quality shovelware, the industry is going to be crippled by astronomical budgets that are, realistically, impossible to recoup, (the Devil May Cry reboot was branded a failure despite shifting 1.4 million units) and bloated development cycles making releases as frequent as a lunar eclipse.

So, who is responsible for the budget-swelling and half-decade development hell? Well, while it’s true that creative types aren’t the best at keeping track of the finances which, in theory, is supposed to be why you have a publisher to control the purse strings, the news would suggest that developers spend more time fighting to get a woman as the main character in their game than they do arguing for an extra layer of expensive graphical polish, or to shoehorn in a completely out-of-place multiplayer element into a series that has always been as far removed from multiplayer as EA is from empathy.

Almost all publishers in the modern mainstream arena seem to hold steadfast to two infallible tenets: graphics are god and no game can succeed without multiplayer, and despite the fact that Skyrim, an entirely single player experience with console graphics that were passable at best, sold seven million copes in a week, they are now so entrenched in their belief that a game can’t succeed without cutting-edge graphics, or multiplayer or whatever else Call of Duty is doing that year that they are literally bankrupting themselves to bring out games that, best case scenario, will be lucky to break even.

Of course, all of that wouldn’t be so bad if it was just the publishers that took the hit, but the problems arise when they decide to shut down further development on a property, because it failed to reach the sales expectations they pulled out of their arse because of changes they forced developers to make. As the wonderful Jim Sterling explains, the real problem is that developers pour a fortune into turning properties that already have a modest-but-devout fanbase into homogenised sludge in a bid to appeal to a broader demographic, and in doing so end up alienating everyone, across the board. Instead of being content with producing a lot of cheaper but solid titles that make comfortable sales, they are betting the farm on one giant, make-or-break blowout with every single game they release.

Maybe this isn’t the publisher’s fault for holding these beliefs, though, maybe it’s ours for always demanding bigger and better?

Well, no, probably not. Ignoring the concept of diminshing returns that makes chasing better graphics ultimately pointless, at this stage, if looks really are all you care about, then buy a high-end PC because PC’s will always be at the forefront of sheer technical prowess. This is proven by the fact that the current batch of consoles, and indeed the last generation, were little more than a pathetic aping of low-spec gaming PC’s. Only without the freedoms that make PC gaming beneficial, like not being beholden to developer-released patches when your new game is released in an utterly broken state.

As long as publishers are stuck in this self-inflicted mindset, then nothing will change. Budgets will continue to swell, sales will continue to fall below expectations, and studios will continue to be shut down.

So why is this a good thing?

Well, the good thing about working in a creative industry is that, just because your current employer screws the pooch and torpedoes your studio, that doesn’t suddenly mean you lose your talent. You still possess a very unique set of skills and, like Liam Neeson in a Pariesienne slum, there are all sorts of places you can apply them. You only need to look to Kickstarter to see there is absolutely a market and an overwhelming demand for creativity to be put back in the hands of the creators, like Tim Schafer and Keiji Inafune.

Imagine if, instead of having to fight tooth and nail with publishers just to get a fucking female character in your game, you could just make that decision, and then get on with making the actual game part of your game. This absolutely wouldn’t guarantee your game was good –Remember Me still managed to be a decidedly lacklustre affair even without the additional chromosome– but if developers are allowed to spend more time developing and less time wrestling for creative control then the chances of creating something wonderful are that much higher.

This is why, more and more, indie developers, both old and new, are beginning to shun things like the Xbox Live Marketplace, and their preposterous patching fees, to instead go down the self-publishing route, or through more reputable storefronts such as Steam. The only thing really stopping this market from utterly exploding into the mainstream is that digital distribution is still a daunting prospect for a lot of consumers and the fact that the majority of people just don’t know or care that there are other options, with many still associating PC gaming with the frustrations of scouring forums for user-made patches and constantly having to tweak settings to keep games running.

That is slowly starting to change, though, with online shopping rising in popularity consumers are becoming more informed every day, and suddenly realising we are no longer beholden to the brick and mortar stores of old; with their ridiculously inflated prices and artificial scarcity. The same will eventually become true of the mainstream gaming industry, as people become more connected and more aware of what else is out there, they’ll start to realise that the only thing that kept them coming back to Assassin’s Creed: Regurgitation or Call of Duty: It’s the Bloody Koreans, This Time, Probably was that they didn’t know what else was out there.

The point I’m labouring towards with all of this is that, while the collapse of the big players in the mainstream publishing circles would probably kill the console industry in it’s current incarnation, that really wouldn’t be such a bad thing, and it would, in all likelihood, give way to a renaissance period for PC gaming and, ultimately, gaming as a whole.

As previously mentioned, consoles are just broken PC’s at this point, anyway, and with the advent of features like Big Picture on Steam or how easy it is to get a monitor cable and connect your laptop to your TV, it’s even easier to turn your laptop into a games console than it is to actually set up a dedicated games console, and you’ll instantly have access to hundreds of thousands of fantastic titles at only a fraction of a price of any of the dross you could find on the high street, but more on that next time.

Posted in Current Affairs, Gaming, Reviews, Shopping, The World at Large. | Tagged , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Four Tips for Dating Online, Guaranteed to Cure Your Terminal Loneliness

Idiots will tell you that internet dating is the quickest way to meet your murderer, but the truth is Peter Tobin didn’t have social networks and he got on just fine.

Just fine.

Just fine.

The real problem is that, unless you’re a shut-in like me and you’ve basically grown up on the internet, the average person probably isn’t used to communicating online; not in a way that seems normal, anyway. While all your stupid friends on Facebook are happy to feign amusement when you post a five year old meme of a cat with poor grammar, strangers are going to judge you far more harshly, and find you wanting.

With that in mind, I have came up with these  easy steps to help you find your soul mate or, at the very least, someone who doesn’t find your company entirely unbearable, and isn’t that what we all want, really?

If you wouldn’t do it in real life, don’t do it online.
I know that sounds like a cyber-bullying slogan, or a great way to avoid future employers seeing photos of you putting your dick in the cat, but for the purposes of this article I am referring purely to the slew of hackneyed cliche bullshit you will be tempted to fill your dating profile with; in lieu of advertising any sort of personality, possibly because you don’t have one.

QED: I have been on Plenty of Fish for a total of about five years now –sad trumpet wah’s– and in that time I have seen approximately five thousand women use the line ‘Looking for Mr Right; Not Mr Right Now!’

I know you think it’s a cute throwaway line you and your gal pals can chuckle about while you’re gathered around the water cooler pretending to be Ally McBeal (see what I mean about keeping up to date?) but to the modern world this is the quickest possible way to show you are an impossible dullard who can’t be bothered to put any personal touch into your profile.

Protip: If your chat-up line hasn't been fresh since Will Smith was, drop it.

Protip: If your chat-up line hasn’t been fresh since Will Smith was, drop it.

Ladies, let’s real talk for a second: how many times has a man tried one of those ‘did it hurt….when you fell from Heaven?’ lines on you? Assuming the answer is more than zero, presumably because you live in some sort of parallel universe where the 80′s never ended, how many times did you jump into his arms/bed? Unless he was also built like Hollywood’s Hunky Ryan Reynolds, then chances are you did a smile-frown and walked away.

The point of that long-winded aside was to point out that, every time you use a line like that, you sound exactly like one of those men. Nobody wants to be those guys. Not even them, that’s why they have to re-gurgitate their dad’s chat-up lines. Granted, if you’re good-looking enough then you can say any old shit and there will still be some palooka who it works on, but working on the assumption that you’re looking for something deeper than a man who will tell you everything is brilliant while he is dying inside, allow me to help.

The Solution: If  you really can’t think of anything original to say, then just put a twist on one of the ‘classics’. For example, my personal chat-up line is ‘That’s a lovely dress, I’ve got one just like it.’* Obviously that one won’t work for you ladies, unless you’re chatting up other ladies in which case it will just come across as weirdly sincere, so just bear with me, for a second.

Okay, top of my head… ‘Looking for Mr Right; Not Mr Right Now. Will probably settle for Mr Right About Everything.’ Okay, it still sounds awful, but by God it’s a start.

*The original end to that was ‘That’s a nice dress, the last girl I killed was wearing one just like it’ but the police really only find that funny the first time.**
**They totally didn’t find it funny the first time, either. Pepper spray hurts, you guys.

Nobody Wants Your Life Story, It Kind of Defeats the Purpose of Dating
The only thing worse than someone who can’t think of an original thing to say is the person that decides to say all the things, ever. A lot of people treat their dating profile like a job interview or an episode of This is Your Life and slam down a giant, impenetrable wall of text. Some even have the gall to say, ‘don’t bother messaging me if you haven’t read my profile’ as though it’s some sort of rite of passage.

"And lo, it was said that she doth 'like all kinds of music, except for rock and that screamy stuff'.

“And lo, it was said that she doth ‘like all kinds of music, except for rock and that screamy stuff’.”

The purpose of your profile is supposed to be to generate interest and make people want to know more about you, not to make them feel like they’re brushing up for their finals or getting ready to go on Mastermind where their chosen subject is ‘some self-important dick on the internet’. General rule of thumb: if it takes longer to read your profile than it does to think up and write an original message to you, then your profile is too damn long.

Oh, and speaking of messages: despite general consensus being that ‘hi how are you?’ is the ice-breaking equivalent of going to the shops in your pyjamas, it’s still preferable to sending someone a 10,000 word dissertation; evaluating the recipient and how compatible you are as a couple. And yes, people do do this and yes, it’s creepy as fuck.

"We have so much in common! For example, while I was going through your bin, I discovered you and my sister share the same brand of tampons!"

“We have so much in common! For example, while I was going through your bin, I discovered you and my sister share the same brand of tampons!”

Since I’m the kind of person who just likes to help, here’s a great ice-breaker for PoF and any other website largely populated by terrifying perverts: ‘What’s the weirdest message you’ve had on here, so far?’

It’s a great way to start a conversation, because it shows you have common ground (in this case, both being besieged by sexual terrorists online,) and I have heard some legitimately hilarious stories as a result of asking this question. Also one pretty terrifying one about a guy offering a girl money to do stuff to his dog…

Okay, I feel sad now, I’m going to cheer up and then we’ll move on.

A picture speaks a thousand words. Try and make sure none of them are ‘Slut’ or ‘Mental’.
Okay, I’m going to qualify this statement as fast as I possibly can before the lynchings start. When a girl wants to wear a short skirt or what I like to refer to as a ‘tit-top’ that’s fine. As someone who spent the majority of his early twenties wearing jeans so tight that I needn’t have bothered wearing any at all, I’m in no position to judge people for wearing revealing clothing; that’s absolutely not what I’m talking about here.

It’s a well documented fact that 90% of men on the internet think timeless romance is showing a girl their cock and asking if they’re ‘DtF*?’. I’m not in favour of unsolicited dick pics, whatsoever, and I’ve received a few myself (despite making it clear I’m straight, as far as I know) so I know how shitty and off-putting it is.

Here’s the thing though, and this only refers to a small percentage of women on PoF, but I feel the need to clarify anyway: If you ever say anything on your profile about not wanting to see dick pics and half of your own pictures are you either in your underwear or doing that fucking horrible thing where you put your tongue between two of your fingers, well…you clearly give as good as you get; you’ve no one to blame but yourself.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, here are a few more general things to avoid when it comes to uploading photos:
-Only having one photo is way more suspicious than having none at all. Having no photos can sound alarm bells, but so long as you mention that it’s for privacy on your profile and you have other ways you can prove you’re genuine it’s fine. If you only have one photo, on the other hand, it suggests that you just Googled ‘plain-looking women’ and stole the first image you found. (Protip: Google reverse image search can quickly confirm this.)
-If, for whatever reason, you only want to upload photos of you with other people then, for god’s sake, make clear which one you are. I’m a busy man, and when I’m combing through hundreds of profiles while feverishly mashing the refresh button on my inbox, I don’t have time to divine who you are by working out who is the only girl in every photo.
-No photos of you with a bottle of Buckfast. I don’t care if it’s ironic, it makes you look like the kind of woman who would swing for a bouncer.
-Don’t upload photos of your face, and nothing else. Best case scenario: you’re fat. Worst case scenario: severed head in a jar. Either way, if you can’t be honest about it now, don’t be surprised when your date turns up, sees you, and, depending on gentleman levels, has one drink and makes his excuses to leave or sprints in the opposite direction screaming ‘HELLLLLL NOOOOOO’. This actually leads me to my final point…

*In case my Mum reads this, ‘DtF’ stands for ‘Dancing to Feeder’. They’re a band Mum. No, wait! NO DON’T GO ON THEIR WEBSITE.

Just, fucking, be honest.
Look, some people aren’t going to want to date you if they think you’re fat. That’s judgemental, and it sucks, but it’s a fact. Anyone who says looks don’t matter on a dating website is lying out their god damn arse. Looks do matter, because physical attraction is like 50% of dating, but that doesn’t mean to say we all need to look like Hollywood’s Hunky Ryan Reynolds.

At least not until I drum up that surgery money.

At least not until I drum up that surgery money.

It’s true what they say, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and just like I can’t understand why any casting director in their right mind would give flat-faced Shitty LaBeouf lead in a film, I don’t always agree with other people about who is and is not attractive. Or let’s simplify this: The ginger one from Girls Aloud is my favourite.

Just like with looks, certain character aspects will instantly put people off. I swear to god I have seen people, in 2014, who won’t date you if you’re a Catholic, black, an anime dork or any number of other things. Some of those people are arseholes, and some of those people just have different tastes, but either way there’s no use in getting wound up if they won’t talk to you, because there are literally thousands of people who will.

If you really need me to put it as crudely as I possibly can: There will always be someone as desperate as you are horny, and vice versa. If you’d like the Disney version: There’s someone for everyone out there and chances are if you dick around on the internet long enough you’ll find someone that you have enough in common with and whom you find mutually attractive that you can start dating.

If Furries can find love, then literally fucking anyone can.

If Furries can find love, then literally fucking anyone can.

But that’s never gonna happen if your photos don’t show what you actually look like, and it’s never going to happen if you fill your profile with shit like ‘I like going out, but I like staying in’ (wow, so you enjoying existing. Colossal job, Wordsworth.) If you insist on bullshitting then, just like real-world dating, the best you’re going to get is a quick jump then a taxi fare back to Loney Town.

Maybe at this point you’re saying to yourself, ‘well, Rob, if you’re so fucking clever why don’t you show us all how it’s done?’

I was just getting to that. Ladies and gentleman, I present to you, my super-awesome dating profile:

The Profile of KingsThat profile, which I wrote entirely by myself, has got me more messages than I can count, and only a few of them were to tell me I’m a freak. Even though my personality usually ruins any chances of an actual date the point I’m trying to make is that by being original (i.e. talking like I actually talk in real life) and not resorting to the same boring shit everyone else writes down, thinking no one will actually bother to read it, I set myself apart from the crowd and it genuinely works.

Now, the only problem is that 90% of the messages I get just say ‘you’re so funny’ or ‘really original profile’.

…Maybe I should have just taken my shirt off instead. God dammit.

Disclaimer: I realise that this post possibly came across as the most misogynistic thing you’ve read so far today. Therefore, in the interest of redressing the balance, please check out Plenty of Fish Fails to see that the men on PoF are every bit as awful as the women.

Posted in Advice, Current Affairs, Dating, My Weird Life, Romance, The World at Large., Top Tips for Living Well | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Arguments in Favour of Video Game Piracy (That Are Complete Bullshit)

I love arguing, it’s probably the one thing I do better than anyone else; particularly because I’m not opposed to completely changing my opinion, at a moment’s notice, to start arguing from a different perspective, as and when it suits me.

Recently, I’ve been arguing with a lot of people about video game piracy. If you own a computer then you know what piracy is and, let’s not beat about the bush, you’ve almost certainly done it. That’s cool, I mean, it’s not legal, but I’m not here to judge you. That’s what actual judges are for.

"The fuck is this shit?"

“The fuck is this shit?”

Truth be told, I don’t really care what other people choose to do, so long as it doesn’t affect me, personally, but what I do take issue with is people attempting to justify actions that aren’t actually justifiable; the same way an alcoholic will convince you it’s absolutely alright to be drinking at 8am because some arbitrary pre-requisites have been met, such as ‘it’s Tuesday’ or, ‘I’m wearing a hat’.

"Is that a top hat? Malibu shots."

“Is that a top hat? Get the Malibu.”

In the on-going war against piracy, which is going about as well as the war on drugs for anyone keeping score, these are the arguments I see trotted out most often by those who believe it is absolutely acceptable to take stuff without paying for it, because reasons.

(Note: For most of this article, I’ll be sampling quotes from my favourite internet warzone, The Escapist forums, and my replies to said quotes.)

5. I wasn’t going to buy it anyway!

And all the pirates say:

“Many people pirate things they have no intention of paying money for in any case, so it hardly seems like the term “lost sale” is applicable to such instances.”

This was in response to what I thought was a reasonable stance on the issue of internet piracy: that millions of people pirating video games probably resulted in more lost sales than if nobody pirated video games. I know what you’re thinking: I’d have to be pretty bold to make a claim like that, I better have the minerals to back it up.

Anyway, this is the go-to defence for absolutely anyone trying to rationalise why it’s acceptable for them to download a game for free instead of paying for it, as they’re expected to. The basic reasoning is that if you were never going to pay money for a product, anyway, then what difference does it make if you have it or not?

In case you’re still on the fence over that question, let me explain to you why it’s not okay:

Playing a game without paying the developer money has a direct effect on them because they are not receiving payment for the product that often costs large sums of time and money to create. If this wasn’t the system that most developers expected people to go through, then all games would be free to play.

There are so many easy, legal ways to try before you buy these days –download a demo, rent, borrow from a friend, watch Let’s Plays– that the ‘I wasn’t going to buy it anyway’ argument holds less water than ever; it is now purely a false justification to take something without paying for it.

"Well, if you don't want your window getting smashed, don't lock your door next time I rob you. Arsehole."

“Well, if you don’t want your window getting smashed, don’t lock your door next time I rob you. Arsehole.”

But even if you disagree with all that, it’s not your choice to make: the content creator is the one who should decide how people access their content; otherwise I’d be well within my rights to walk into the Louvre tomorrow with a Stanley knife and cut the Mona Lisa out her frame, because, ‘this’ll look much better in my front room.’

Still not compelled by my argument? Maybe that’s because…

4. It’s not stealing if it’s digital!

And all the pirates say:

“Your mistake is that you keep using the word “take” while it is not at all applicable to the digital world. Digital products are not material objects, they are, essentially, just bunches of information for you to process. When you copy data, you don’t physically TAKE anything, you LEARN something. So what you’re saying is, it’s immoral to get access to new information unless you pay someone, and I call bullshit on that one, bro.”

Ah, here we go with the semantics again. Honest to God, what is it with piracy advocates and trying to use wordplay to create logical loopholes that will justify their bullshit?

Digital products are still goods and services that cost money to create and make available, their physicality is not an issue. Furthermore, you don’t learn a god damn thing playing games, you experience them.

Although Custer's Revenge did teach me that Atari used to hire sex criminals to design for them.

Although Custer’s Revenge did teach me that Atari used to hire sex criminals to design for them.

Operating under this moon logic, I can walk into a cinema and watch a movie without paying. I’m not physically taking the film reel home with me, I’m just sitting in the cinema experiencing the film that everyone else there has paid good money to see.

Basically, broheim, what I’m saying is it’s immoral to access content for free when everyone else is pretty much agreed we should be paying for it; even if we can’t all agree on the amount (more on that later). I really don’t get why this is such a difficult concept to grasp.

(Note: this dipshit actually came back with a reply somewhere along the lines of it’s absolutely okay for me to walk into a cinema without paying, so long as I’m not too tall for people to see past me in my seat.)

So, now that we’ve established that piracy is, in fact, the theft of intellectual property, perhaps you’re wondering if there actually are situations where such theft is acceptable? I mean, what if…

3. I can’t get the game any other way!

And the pirates say:

“What if you are NOT able to legally purchase the product you want? Let’s say that for whatever reason it’s not available in your country or not being sold anymore… stuff like that.”

This one is tricky for me.

If there is absolutely no other way to obtain a product, then I would say it is justified, but with gaming in particular that is almost never the case, anymore, what with virtual stores constantly updating their catalogue of retro titles, (I never thought I’d get the chance to play Klonoa or Tombi before the PSN was a thing.)

If you have access to the PSN, go and download this right now. I'll be here when you get back so we can high five.

If you have access to the PSN, go and download this right now. I’ll be here when you get back so we can high five.

This argument, like so many others, has no place in 2013: now that modern technology has completely moved the goalposts, almost every pro-piracy argument that used to stand up is little more than a hollow platitude to help the dishonest sleep better at night.

Ten years ago, the only way to play Secret of Mana was to either already own a copy, –as well as a working SNES– buy one for obscene amounts of money off of eBay, or download the ROM and emulate it. Assuming the first option is a bust, the latter obviously seems far more appealing than paying some dickhead ninety bangers for a copy that isn’t even in good condition.

Today, however, you can play Secret of Mana on your iPhone, for £6. Put that together with the ever-increasing list of remasters on websites like Good Old Games and the staggering number of hidden gems available through the aforementioned Playstation Store, there is really no weight behind the ‘I can’t get it anywhere else’ argument, anymore. What you’re really saying is, ‘I can’t be bothered waiting/paying for a port.’

"Fuck waiting for my flight, I'm just gonna jack the next pilot I see. Logic!"

“Fuck waiting for my flight, I’m just gonna jack the next pilot I see. Logic!”

In conclusion: It’s one thing to pirate something you literally cannot access in any other way, but an entirely different kettle of fish if you choose to pirate something just because you don’t believe you should have to pay for it.

Speaking of which…

2. Nothing Should Cost Money!

Okay, I just included this one so I could use this quote, because I think it’s fucking hilarious.

And the pirates say…

“I look forward to a day when all information is free and people create products for the joy of creating and distributing them, and not because it’s a way to generate wealth.”

Uh huh, that’s a nice idea, in theory, unfortunately we are living in the real world, not some hippy commune, and therefore we have to consider this thing called the economy. People need money to survive –that is the world we live in– and by pirating, whether you would have bought it or not, you are contributing to the problem of these people not getting paid much more than you are if you actually paid for the damn things you want to use.

So now that we’ve established that paying for things shouldn’t be a problem, what is the problem? Well, you see…

1. Games Are Just Too Expensive!

Another quality you will often come across amongst pirates is this Robin Hood mentality that, by not paying for a game, they are somehow sticking it to the man; or in this case the several hundred men and women who ultimately have their studio shut down and lose their jobs after game sales don’t meet expectations.

There is one apt comparison, though, as I'm pretty sure most pirates are regularly naked from the waist down.

There is one apt comparison, though, as I’m pretty sure most pirates are regularly naked from the waist down.

There is no two ways about it: Games are pretty fucking expensive to buy. That’s why it’s a good thing they aren’t food, accommodation, or anything else you need to actually stay alive. The crux of this argument falls apart at the realisation that, holy shit, you don’t actually need video games…some would even go so far as to call them a luxury. But balls to that, we’re in the pirate mindset here, so let’s do this: Games are far too expensive; the only logical course of action is to pirate them.

Get me 10cc of CoD in here, stat!

Get me 10cc of CoD in here, stat!

…Or you could always exercise a bit of patience and wait for them to go on sale. I probably buy about one game a year at full RRP, when I’m absolutely certain it will be worth it, but other than that I have no issue with waiting five or six months for the games to drop down to fifteen or twenty quid; hell, I still feel guilty for getting Deus Ex: Human Revolution for a tenner when it was worth so much more.

Someone on the Escapist who was also fighting my corner put this much better than I ever could:

“Why are we entitled to play games beyond our means? If we can’t afford more than the games we have, why is it suddenly okay for us to pirate the ones we don’t? What is to stop us from “responsibly limiting” our disposable income to the point where we can no longer buy any games at all… and then gaining guilt-free access to all games through suddenly legitimate piracy? If I’m the creator in this situation, I know what I’m thinking: if you want my game but you can’t afford it, makes changes in your own life to enable you to properly purchase my product/service. Get a better job or divert those funds from other interests.”

This again stems from the, ‘I think I should get whatever I want when and how I want it,’ mentality that fuels most of the modern pirate philosophy. While the rest of us move forward and embrace new, legal technologies and use them to our advantage, the pirates are stuck in limbo; beating the same old drums with skins weathered to breaking point, parroting maxims that ceased to have meaning years ago.

Or, to put it another way: In an age where Steam Sales can see amazing games like Saints Row The Third retail for five dollars, you are full of shit if you still say games are too expensive.

Hell, the giant purple dildo bat is worth five bucks on its own.

Hell, the giant purple dildo bat is worth five bucks on its own.

Right, that’ll do, I’d just like to close by saying I’m not, personally, saying people shouldn’t pirate stuff. I’m not a policeman, or any authority figure for that matter: it’s not my place to tell you how you live your life.

All I’m saying is if you’re going to do it, at least have the common fucking decency to be honest about why you’re doing it: because it’s easy and free. I’ll respect you much more for that admission than for all the pseudo-philosophical ‘free exchange of ideas’ horseshit.

And at the end of the day, I think we can all agree that my respect is one commodity you absolutely cannot put a price on.

Posted in Current Affairs, Gaming, The World at Large., Top Tips for Living Well | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Five of the Most Hilariously Tragic Celebrity Pages on Wikipedia

Wikipedia is a fantastic resource for literally anything you could ever want to know, provided you’re not too fussed about things like facts or the truth. More than that, it’s a great place for the mentally unbalanced to unload a borderline-autistic hoard of knowledge about one specific subject they’ve spent a lifetime harvesting and compiling.

One of my favourite hobbies is thinking about celebrities of days gone by, wondering what ever happened to them, Googling the person in question and then feeling depressed for a while. Today, I invite you to join me on that journey.

Paul Chuckle (of The Brothers, Chuckle)

If you grew up in the late 80’s or the early 90’s then you know who the Chuckle Brothers are, don’t even pretend otherwise. In fact, statistically, there’s a good chance you even shouted out ‘to me, to you’ as soon as they were mentioned. This will be important for later.

Pictured here, in happier times.

Pictured here, in happier times.

If you really need a reminder, Paul and Barry Chuckle made a name for themselves with their Chucklevision show, wherein they raised generations of kids to be absolutely terrified of ladders, chandeliers, and any combination of the two.

Since I’m not a father or a sex offender, I don’t watch a lot of children’s TV anymore, or attend pantomimes, but a quick glance at the Wikipedia entry for the comedy duo shows they’ve stayed in gainful employment on an almost constant basis right up to the present day. You might be starting to wonder what, then, is the tragic hilarity in this story.

For that we have to head to the ‘Personal Life’ section of their Wiki entry:

‘In April 2007, while on holiday on the Greek island of Kefalonia, Paul broke his nose and received cuts and bruises when he lost control of his motorbike […] Tourists who stopped at the accident, instead of helping him out, shouted out the Chuckle Brothers’ catchphrase: “To me, to you.”

If it wasn’t for the fact the BBC was cited as the source for this story, I would be absolutely convinced that this was a hoax. What kind of nutter, after seeing a horrendous crash, starts shouting catchphrases instead of helping the injured party? That’s like if you saw the dickhead host of Man V. Food choking on a three-stone hamburger and, instead of performing the Heimlich manoeuvre, you started shouting his catchphrase, which I believe is something along the lines of, ‘In the fight of man against food, this time, HNNNGGG OH MY GOD MY HEART SOMEONE CALL AN AMBULANCE.’

You are the reason people hate America.

You are the reason people hate America.

Back to poor Paul Chuckle though, for some reason I find this story all the more amusing for the fact that the only other information in the section about their personal life is a single sentence stating that the brothers are fans of Rotheram football club.

Rik Waller

Giant of pop, Rik Waller –and I mean that in the literal sense, not in regard to his success or talent– stunned Pop Idol audiences in 2001 when he proved to the world, finally, that fat people can sing.

Thanks, Rik! You condescending fuckwit!

Thanks, Rik! You condescending fuckwit!

After being forced to drop out of the show due to throat related injuries that were almost certainly caused by singing and not pie, the behemoth of beats went on to butcher the Dolly Parton classic, ‘I Will Always Love You’ because he felt that the definitive Whitney Houston version was lacking something. Possibly the implication that it was a tender ballad about a cake shop.

After being forced to drop out of his contract with EMI –due to the shock discovery that people had very little interest in hearing a semi-talented singer do paint-by-numbers rehashes of classic songs– Waller entered Celebrity Fit Club in a bid to shift some of his excess weight, with a view to using it as insulation in under-privileged households around the country.

After being forced to drop out of Celebrity Fit Club due to cake-related injuries [citation needed] Waller signed up with Red Admiral Records –who have signed numerous industry staples such as absolutely no one I have ever fucking heard ofand took his own band on the road.

After being forced to drop out of the tour due to the fact his first concert in Devon only sold two tickets Rik Waller disappeared from the public eye to refine his craft and launch himself back to the top.

Today, he can regularly be found doing signings…at his local job centre in Kent. Only kidding, he’s an exam invigilator now. So, that’s good, I guess?

The Bay City Rollers

The Rollers were, for a time, industry leaders in the kind of inoffensive rock and roll that made teenage girls swoon, but put parents at ease because they knew that, worst case scenario, if one of these boys were to be staying at the house regularly, the only worry would be having to buy an extra box of tampons every now and then.

I guess it’s a lot easier to understand women when, for all wants and purposes, you are one yourself.

I guess it’s a lot easier to understand women when, for all wants and purposes, you are one yourself.

Like most entries for old bands on Wikipedia, the touring history is a sad tale of a meteoric rise and brutal fall; from filling stadiums to a semi-regular gig at Butlin’s. Also like many bands and performers, the Rollers have spent years embroiled in financial battles with their record labels, claiming they were regularly exploited and not paid the royalties that were rightfully theirs. This is where it gets interesting.

In 2007, several former members of the band planned to sue Arista Records over unpaid royalties, which made other former member, Nobby Clark, stand up and take notice. He announced plans to counter-sue the band members if they were successful, citing the fact he had been instrumental in their success.

Funny Fact: Singer Nobby Clark left the band in 1973, to be replaced by Les McKeown forming what would become known as the ‘classic line-up’, i.e. the line-up that made the band successful and start producing hits.

Funnier fact: the reason Clark left the band was due to his dissatisfaction with their lack of success, the same success he was now suing to prove he was responsible for.

The whole depressing mess was the grown-up equivalent of a child who is quite happy playing with his Spider-Man toy but then he sees someone has picked up his Batman toy and –fuck everything– that Batman is the only thing he has ever wanted in the entire universe. Only with millions of dollars, so I guess I can kind of understand.

Speaking of disgruntled artists…

Tony McCarroll

When it comes to people grossly over-estimating their involvement in a band’s success, no one can hold a candle to the original drummer of Oasis, Tony McCarrol. Despite possessing only a modicum of talent, with skills on par with pretty much anyone who has just been handed a pair of drumsticks, McCarroll felt he deserved a bigger slice of the Oasis riches after being sacked from the band in 1995.

Pictured here, pretending to play the drums.

Pictured here, pretending to play the drums.

To achieve this, he decided to sue the band for the royalties for three future albums. That he wouldn’t be playing on. This isn’t like suing for loss of earnings after being sacked from your job; this is suing for a job you were never going to do because you were so shit you were fired from that job before you got anywhere near doing it.

The best part is that the £600,000 sum McCarroll allegedly settled on out of court (£350,000 after legal fees) meant severing all ties with the band, meaning he would no longer receive royalties for the songs he did play on.

It’s kind of like the old ‘give a man a fish…’ adage but the other way around. ‘Give an idiot a few thousand pounds every year for the rest of his life and he’ll sue you; give him six-hundred thousand right away, and he will take it like a fucking moron.’

"Thank you! For my next trick, I'm going to cut off my toes so I can buy smaller shoes! Yeah!"

“Thank you! For my next trick, I’m going to cut off my toes so I can buy smaller shoes! Yeah!”

Pliers (of Chaka Demus &)

In my opinion, the saddest entries on Wikipedia are the ones for celebrities who, despite huge success as part of an act, just kind of petered out and disappeared off the face of the Earth.

Unless you were one of the few people not heavily invested in the 1993 UK reggae scene, you’ll undoubtedly remember Chaka Demus and Pliers seminal hits, such as ‘Tease Me (Tease Me, Tease Me, Tease Me, Baby)’ and…’Gal Wine’. Anyway, with ‘Tease Me’ being described as ‘our generation’s Beethoven’s 5th‘ by absolutely no one, these guys were going nowhere but up.

They also held the proud distinction of being the only Jamaican act with three consecutive top five hits in the UK charts, until their record was toppled by Shaggy. I guess it takes some of the sting out of it, knowing you’ve been bested by a master of the craft. (In case you’ve forgotten, Shaggy was the man who single-handedly set the gender wars back a hundred years by suggesting men should consistently deny accusations of infidelity, in spite of their obvious guilt.)

“I sit before you, today, not as a man, but as a man who fucking hates women.”

“I sit before you, today, not as a man, but as a man who fucking detests women.”

Sadly, this was only one of the nails in C&P’s coffin. After the duo went their separate ways, Pliers was unable to match the success of Chaka Demus, who went on to start a very successful hardware business: Chaka Demus’ Pliers (& Other Hardware Goods) ltd.

Today, Pliers is best known for a song in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (assuming you’re one of the two people that listen to the reggae stations in those games) and also having a brother who, I swear to God, chooses to be known as Spanner Banner.

I’ll be honest, I wrote this entire article just so I could tell you that there is a man on this planet who thinks Spanner Banner is a cool name.

Spanner Banner!

Posted in Films, Music, Television, The World at Large. | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments