Disconnect – How solitude can kill off Social Media

Heading into the city on January the 8th, you’ll still see the old Christmas lights from December 2017 suspended over The Strand, or maybe you’ll see some old, cheap lights in the windows of people’s flats, one or two every five minutes, who haven’t quite let go of the winter season yet. Those old flashes of love, slowly fading away, where the pulsating heartbeat is now a low hum. As 2018 rises from its slumber the internet seems to scream for a better world. But here on the rickety old busses of London Town, in the decrepit flats and apartments we cohabit, the stillness and imperfection of it all are mildly reassuring.

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Anger is an energy – but don’t stab each other in the back.

If there’s anything we can take away from 2017 it’s our constant, enraged reactions to the inhumanity of our godless world. With the year finally behind us like some repugnant bowel movement, looking back at ourselves during 2017 is a bit like staring at an old drunken photograph of yourself mid-blink. It’s shame, it’s misery, it’s embarrassment. 2017 was the year we loved to let ourselves down, again and again, with constant disappointment. But if there’s anything I know about outrage it’s that eventually, that anger, that bile – it just becomes white noise. Was 2017 the year outrage lost its edge?

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How long is too long?

After pouring 100 hours into the incredible CRPG beast Divinity: Original Sin 2, I regret not being able to finish the game. I was in love with the characters, and though the story was atypical fantasy fare it was incredibly well told and my handcrafted path through the narrative had lead me down 95 hours of challenging, deep RPGing. But 100 hours later and the excellent characters, great storytelling, deep punishing systems becomes an overwhelming weight on my shoulders. Perhaps ending at the 100 hour mark would have been a perfect length. I’d have left the game feeling incredibly satisfied. But getting that awful fatigue and not being able to push through to the end felt like a lot of time had just circled the drain. I was running on empty. Original Sin 2 is an absolutely fantastic game that reinvigorates the classic CRPG formula – a genre which had been dormant for many years. It’s sheer breadth and depth belied a game of fantastic variety and complexity, where everything you did felt important – where your own input felt important. You were at the heart of the story. As it stands, Original Sin 2 is easily one of my faveourite games of the year.

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Pewdiepie is a symptom of the internet’s Pandora’s box: social media

For as long as I can remember, over the course of fifteen years of online gaming one thing has been certain – encountering gamers online has always involved having to wear your thick skin and endure a potential barrage of misery. I can remember as far back as Counter-Strike 1.6 where it wasn’t uncommon to hear racial epithets screamed at the top of someone’s lungs, or to see a degree of abuse that in the real world would be borderline abusive and violent. For better or for worse, the internet is a Pandora’s box for the digital age. In bringing us closer together it’s also given us a glimpse into the psyche of humanity, and sometimes what we see is too ugly to bare.

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Mainstream developers can and should learn from modders

I have a little story for you. Cast your mind back to the early 2000’s, back to Half Life, Unreal Tournament, to Quake 3 Arena. Aside from being great games, they drew the wide-eyed gaze of new and old modders alike. All of these games enjoyed a thriving, popular modding community and for all the quality mods that came from these games, it sometimes felt like perusing an exotic bazaar, with mods of all shapes and sizes finding their own little niche among the horrific baubles and outcast fare. Mods were fan made modifications using in game assets from particular games – games that tended to come pre packaged with development tools. In my case, I was obsessed with the seminal science fiction epic Half Life and even though Half-Life will be remembered for its groundbreaking storytelling and incredible level design what I remember Half-Life for was the kaleidoscopic variety of the modding scene.

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Immersive Simulators: Our Greatest Gaming Asset is Cruelly Undervalued

This suit I’m wearing is an awkward fit.

After peeling the suit jacket off the cold body of an FBI agent, I gingerley squeeze myself into it knowing full well it’s a size too small. In the next room is a notorious south American crime lord and he lives in luxurious americana; the leaves here are greener, the sun shines brighter, and the local jogger slowly struts by with a genuine smile. Dogs potter outside and roll in the grass and bark at the garbage men doing their usual rounds. The birds outside chirrup and tweet, a delicate morning song to end someone’s life to.

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Duke Revisited: How can we refresh an outdated image?

Perspective is a funny old thing. If you follow any modern discussion about the classic 90’s shooter Duke Nukem 3D, it almost always circulates around how out-of-date and embarrassingly sexist he seems now in in retrospect. Back in the 90’s trashy Howard Stern toilet humour was wildly popular – It gave rise to cultural icons with South Park and The Simpsons. Even wrestling got in on the act with a trashier, cooler product of “cool” bad guys and thumping metal music. 20 years later, though, the generation X of rock and roll culture has very slowly dissipated from memory and it’s no longer as funny or clever to laugh at sex workers and turds and naughty swears as it once was and criticism of how out of place old man Duke is nowadays is just as common as articles about how ground breaking the original Duke Nukem 3D was. Gearbox software have taken the reigns on the latest re-release of the classic 90’s naughty swear word shooter and this time they’ve crammed it full of new bits. Now, full disclosure, I absolutely adore Duke, and the out-of-date arguments we hear a lot of usually make me feel really confused, so what is it that’s pushed it just outside of people’s memories?  Continue reading “Duke Revisited: How can we refresh an outdated image?”

Shallow: Defining the future of innovation in games

In the late 90’s, id software’s incredible work on titles like Doom and Quake paved the way for greater graphical fidelity in PC gaming and with it brought a culture of competitive, incremental improvement with each title. With the genius of John Cormack at their helm (a man who to this day has an almost godlike programming talent) the company was pushing ahead and forging new ground not just in computer graphics but in game design too. Doom was an earth shattering air strike; a watershed moment for gaming that told the world video games can be grown up, too, and that we’d need the graphical horsepower to prove it. 3D was merely a far flung experiment before Cormack and his team got hold of it and turned it into something that was realisic – something that could be put to practical use in games.

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Reclaiming “walking simulators”

If I was going to characterize the comments section of any website on the internet in a picture, the work of Otto Dix seems to slot right into my minds eye. Rage and dramatic histrionic displays are so common online that if it were to be physically recreated in the real world it would look like something akin to a blackened din of hell. A morbid neverending war of two sides who take an eternity of pain out of each other for the crime of not agreeing. Thanks to the internet the masks we wear online tend to give us bravery we wouldn’t normally have and as online spaces tend to be our go-to place to debate our favourite topics it’s easy to see how discussion quickly spirals into bloodletting. With no filter and no reason to be civil, this was always going to happen. We are, after all, only human. And respect doesn’t necessarily come natural.

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