Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Manchester: Level Complete

Many moons ago I attended university in Manchester, a portion of my life which I have mentioned the significance of before. As a result the city itself has been close to my heart ever since and I returned many times while I was dating my ex and living in Nottingham to go to parties and spend time with old comrades. We were always quite popular in our friendship group; she could light up a room with a smile and I tend to get on with anyone so we did well at social gatherings.
sometimes however I get too relaxed. Usually after a few beers
This weekend however I returned to my peers as a single man for the first time. My ex was thankfully absent from the gathering I had returned to attend but I was worried I would feel her everywhere, hear her laughter echoing down streets long abandoned, smell her perfume in crowds of strangers and catch her reflection in the rear-views of a thousand parked cars but this was not the case. While Manchester was the city in which we fell in love and lived a life suspended in a happy world safely tucked away from the desert of the real it was also my city. I built myself there and walked my own path through those streets. As I  followed familiar routes through the cityscape of Manchester it wasn't her I sensed, it was me. Remnants of all the nights of frivolity, days of study, friendships forged and moments of stillness in cool echoing halls filtered through from every place I saw and I felt the weight of history press down on me.

This was not the history of Manchester itself but it was my history, written into everything I had touched and every place I had been. I bought a coffee from the Starbucks I always used to call my parents from and walked the same route down the tram tracks towards the station I had always followed. As I entered Picadilly station the crowds of weekend commuters enveloped me like the arms of an old friend and I realised I was never coming back again.

While I may return to Manchester to visit old friends and confidants l'll never be able to return to my Manchester. That place is gone now. The chapter is finished. To everyone who I lived, loved and laughed with thank you for helping me write it. I wish I could remember two of you more fondly but no story is interesting without a little drama and I don't have the energy to hate you and still have lots of fun so I'm picking fun.

The strange thing is that I dont feel regret at what I've left behind. It's more a feeling of completion. I've finished the level with a reasonable score (although the last boss was pretty tough) and now it's time to move on. The next epoch is starting and I've heard it's going to be the best one yet.

Stay Crunchy Internet

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Prometheus: Alien without Aliens

It may come as no surprise that I love the alien franchise. I watched the first one with my dad when I was probably too young (a common story amongst my peers) and I loved the second one as well. Since then its all got a bit... silly. Its got to the point where every new Alien movie makes me feel like Paris Hilton's parents  must do every time she's on TV; a mixture of shame and anger at what the mass media is doing to their baby.
They grow up so fast
Imagine my exitement then when I heard none other than Ridley Scott was making a new Alien movie (with James Cameron!) Then Fox Foxed it in the Foxing face with its big Foxing Fox stick (made of Fox) and we got AVP after Cameron and Scott dropped it. On its head. Into a bath full of stupid.
Luckily though this month we were treated to Prometheus, a film that was originally set to be a gritty reboot of the Alien franchise when it started production back in 2009 (because gritty reboots are the new sequel) but turned out to be something different.
Nawwwww. Lookit its little legs
You see Prometheus isn't really an Alien movie at all. It takes place within the Alien universe (the far future of mankind in which megacorp Weyland Yutani control everything) but it contains no Xenomorphs. I am however, OK with that. 
It seems like we can't make decent Alien movies any-more; hell all we needed to do was directly base the AVP movie on the original Alien Vs Predator comic series from the late 80s and it would have rocked. Another hot tip would have been to actually use Joss Wheadon's script for Alien Resurrection as opposed to letting the editor tear it up and film whatever he liked. Alas, it seems film makers loose all ability to think straight as soon as the eponymous phallic beastie turns up so maybe he needs a break.

It would appear however that Prometheus is a spiritual successor to the alien franchise; it keeps a lot of the biomechanical Geiger aesthetics that made the Derelict from Alien so compelling and the malign presence of WY that permeates the confines of the Prometheus - personified by the too precise to be human David (a brilliant Michael Fassbender) - makes the film both familiar and new at the same time.

When monsters do start popping out of the woodwork we get another taste of the familiar (acid for blood, Freudian nightmares) but we're not dealing with the same creatures here; what was black and chitinous is now pallid white and sinuous, all tentacles and sucking mouthparts, Prometheus's monsters have more in common with deep sea scavengers than insects and this is an interesting new direction.
A common Hagfish. Sleep Tight!
The plot of Prometheus is also more ambitious than any of its predecessors' and centres around the Engineers (the supposed creators of mankind), mastery over life and death, the hubris of science and squid babies. This message gets a bit garbled during the third act but it still makes for good science fiction storytelling which kept me interested from beginning to end.
As far as set pieces go we're dealing with a much  more epic and far less claustrophobic movie than one might expect and there's nothing here like the gradually tightening tension of Alien or the taught scenes that marked the last half hour of Aliens. Everything is a lot more fast paced and loud. It's a shame really as no amount of special effects or deep sea hellspawn can be scary unless given proper time to creep up on you. It's probably symptomatic of Prometheus being Fox's big summer hope of 2012 but the crash bang wallop style of later scenes of the movie kind of undermine any real sense of dread that could have soaked everything with it's writhing puckered malice.

In a nutshell Prometheus marks the start of what is hopefully a bold new direction for the Alien universe. It's good to see a dark, high concept, mystery filled epic science fiction movie in a marketplace crowded with reboots and rehashes of older movies, even if it does plant its roots in well tilled earth. The Xenomorph was fun for a while but a king has his reign then he dies, such is the way of things.

Stay Crunchy Internet

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The Facebook Challenge

As I posted another video I enjoyed recently onto my facebook page this morning I realised something. I am currently using a social tool which allows me to interact with over 400 people (my current number of 'friends) from many different walks of life and all I'm doing is posting yet another Corridor Digital video onto my timeline which is - lets face it - an insipid waste of digital real estate.
Excuse me while I shoot myself
We live in an age where we are simultaneously more connected and more isolated from each other than any other point in history and facebook squats at the centre of this phenomenon like some bloated cancerous lesion filled with the idiotic mewlings of idiots who have somehow fooled themselves into thinking anyone gives a fuck about the exact dimentions of the subway they just ate (it was hueg). If I actually used this website the book produced would probably be the only literally work that Stephenie Meyer could feel superior about.
As you can see I was as funny then as I am now... Which is to say not funny at all.
The saddest thing about this is that we seem to prefer this social white noise to actual real contact with people who we know (and in some cases don't really know as a result), because of this I have decided to issue a challenge to you internet. I call it The Facebook Challenge:
When this post goes live I will be creating a facebook group which I will update weekly with my blog. Each week a new subject, topic or challenge will be issued; for example this week's is "reconnect with an old school friend via private message". I know it probably seems weird to just message people out of the blue but you can just use the group as a justification for you're oddness. Thats what I'll be doing anyway so why not join me.

What's the matter, afraid you'll feel something?

Stay Crunchy Internet

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

E3: No Girls Allowed

So this bank holiday the Queen managed to struggle though a whole lot of puffed up pomp and circumstance for her diamond jubilee, the festivities of which turned out to be a kind of adoration based Highlander that put the Duke of Edinburgh in hospital.
"Bollocks to this Liz, I'm going to pull a sickie and play Civ 5 back at home"
"Very well darling but remember there can be only one"
 These gilded celebrations were not however the focus of my weekend, I had my eye on a much more vapid and dissapointing series of events. I am of course talking about E3. So much was wrong with the Electronic Entertainment Expo this year that I risk loosing focus on this week's subject due to the massive amount of chagrin I feel. Many people have already pointed these out but here is a brief summary of this year's biggest failures from what I saw:

  • Flo-Rida and Usher.
  • The lack of actual games at the Microsoft conference.
  • The fact that the majority of airtime was given to games that are all basically titled Modern Gun Shooter 69: Shoot the Arabs/ Russians in Their Dirty Faces.
  • Don Mattrick's closing statements that make him sound like a megacorp CEO from the dystopian  cyberpunk future.
  • Capcom's loaf headed and awkward rep presenting Resi 6 (which appears to be a poorly upscaled ps2 game).
  • Tobuscus being present as part of the Ubisoft conference but being relentlessly and awkwardly ridiculed by evil android corp woman.
  • Sony's apparent abandonment of the PS Vita.
  • Nintendoland not actually being a real theme park.
As I said however, none of these are the focus of today's writings. Today I wan't to talk about sexism.

I may have mentioned this before but I have spent most of the last 5 to 10 years mingling with the rest of nerd kind. In the anime society I was in at university we were also very into gaming. We had lan parties and celebrated Wintereenmas. Also our best chairperson (and a good chunk of our attendees) was a girl. The chairperson of the gaming society when it started up towards the end of my university life was a girl. About half the council of the LARP society were girls. Over half of the Sci-fi society were female. When I go to anime conventions around half the people going are ladies.
Here are some of those ladies. Sometimes they like to dress up as ponies. Because they are awesome.
It's 2012 now and women can do stuff, personally I'm very happy about that. Its nice that I can talk to people of the opposite sex about things that I am passionate about and get something back for a change. I say this not because I think every girl who talks to me properly is a win for me but they actually bring something new and interesting to the table other than a pair of tits in a tshirt. The problem is big gaming corperations don't seem to agree with me.
None of these girls are here because they want to learn about Watch_Dogs

E3 was most sobering for me because of the way women were presented by companies like Microsoft, EA and Ubisoft. I think there were probably more hotpants barely covering buttocks during the Microsoft show alone than there were actual game release announcements and this is not acceptable. As a man I find it patronising and insulting that these people think I will buy a game just because conventionally hot girls were near it at some point and it makes us gaming gents look bad that someone thinks that. Every single new dance game was an excuse to get some scantily clad chicks on the stage to gyrate lustfully for 3.5 minutes. I would have preferred to see some overweight bearded guys have a go; at least that would be funny and unexpected.

It also struck me that pretty much everyone who had something interesting to say was male, the only girl who did any actual gameplay demoing was this cretin:
Who played what was essentially a rubbish 3D angry birds clone in a manner that seemed more aggressively scripted than a League of Legends Summoner Spotlight.

Ubisoft suffered from similar issues, opening their conference with more hot pants and dance game shenanigans. Things just got worse from there with a painfully awkward female compère who couldn't decided whether she was the world's worst standup comedian or Tobuscus' harried school teacher and a Farcry 3 preview that opened with tits. Towards the middle of the briefing things appeared to get a bit better with an e sports demo featuring some girls with what appeared to be genuine pro-gamer cred. And hot pants. Who got beaten down by some guys. Oh well. Near miss I guess. I think this video a friend recommended to me sums up my reaction here better than I can:

Now I know that teenage boys are big business at the moment but its because of them that we now have a gaming market choked with games that involve shooting people in the face down corridors. A trend which we are starting to get fed up of. Now I'm not naive enough to think that a great deal of gaming is still done by ignorant teenagers (there are entire youtube channels devoted to trolling them) but it should be the responsibilty of companies like EA, Ubisoft and Microsoft to help change this, not feed into it. 

Girls play games now (many are very good at it), the core gamer community is evolving and its time that the companies who make games for us started evolving their attitudes to.

Stay Crunchy Interent