Me, talking to the chaps from Slub about livecoding and the like, for Wired. Turned out alright, I think. Shame there wasn't space for it in the print edition in the end, but online now.
"That is not to say that videogames need to be more sensationalist, more vulgar, or more crass, but that they need not fear being more transgressive, or more expressive, or more visceral. They need not to shy away from their darker depictions of our fantasies, or become embarrassed when people point out how they dwell on violence and excitement. This, the safe excursion to the gladiatorial arena, is what games do best." Rossignol on Ballard, and jolly good too.
"For even if all it does is sit ceremonially on your mantelpiece next to a bar of Toblerone and a signed photo of Swiss Toni as a tribute to all things Swiss, you will have achieved greatness, my son." Best. Product. Description. Ever. (This feels like an April fool, but apparently no).
Oh jesus it's a Watchmen videogame and it's been converted… into a free-roaming beat-em-up. Rorschach in Streets of Rage 3D. Shoot me now.
"ACME is a worldwide leader of many manufactured goods. From its humble beginnings providing corks and flypaper to bug collectors ("Buddy's Bug Hunt/1935") to its heyday in the American Southwest supplying a certain coyote, from Ultimatum Dispatchers to Batman outfits, ACME has set the standard for excellence. For the first time ever, information and pictures of all ACME products, specialty divisions, and services featured in Warner Bros. cartoons (made by the original studio from 1935 to 1964) are gathered here, in one convenient catalog."
"…while almost all of the game’s residents are free to go as they please, heading off to new towns and lives on a whim, once you step off the bus and choose a house in which to settle, you’re here for good…. you are the local constant, the hick who’s never left its borders and there is some comfort in the knowledge that the places the other animals leave for can never be known by you." Simon's original version of his Wii Animal Crossing review; some lovely analysis of the series to date.
"Uses the Flickr shapefiles to show you where the world thinks its neighbours are." Damnit I wish Tom would stop magicking up awesomeness all the time.
…and bloody frustrating too.
Clive Thompson on how Mirror's Edge "hacks" your proprioception: "it explains, I think, why Mirror's Edge is so curiously likely to produce motion sickness. The game is not merely graphically realistic; it's neurologically realistic."
Some of the cast of Mad Men do a shoot for Playboy – in period style. Wonderful.
"…Nintendo understands that while play does involve competition, territoriality and rehearsal for war, it also involves silliness, laughter and fun." Oh, god, can I just marry Stephen Fry now? Oh, there's a queue. Never mind.
07 January 2007
This is the first an (hopefully) recurring series on Infovore, in which I write about, well, great gaming moments in whatever I’m playing at the time – current or otherwise. Let’s hope I can keep it up…
Guitar Hero was my favourite game of 2006. No question of that. A wonderful, empowering, hugely satisfying experience that cried out to be played for the sake of it. The sequel, released at the end of last year, is at least as good. It suffers by not being the first, not having the wonderful new-ness the first game brought to the market, but it’s more attractive, more polished, has much better note-detection, and a swathe of new features.
And, finishing it for the first time this morning, it brought my first “great gaming moment” of this year.
Before we go on, a note on the slightly altered structure of GHII. To progress through the game, you play gigs of songs; complete a whole gig and you can move on to the next set of songs at the next venue. Obviously, they get progressively harder. In GH, it was only necessary to complete either four or five (out of five) in the set, dependent on difficulty level, in order to progress.
GHII roughly sticks to that, but with a twist: it only lists four songs in the group. When you complete the final song necessary to progress, the camera lingers on your gig, and the audience start chanting, demanding an encore. And the game ask you if you want to give them one. Of course, you click yes, and wait for the game to load a song that’ll be a complete surprise to you.
It doesn’t really affect how the game plays, but it adds to the experience – of being a rock god – so much. So: to return to my story.
The greatest moment in the game is the final encore. It’s the final gig. You’ve shredded your way through four hellish solo-heavy songs, playing a special gig at Stonehenge. And the crowd start clamouring for an encore. But this time around, they’re not chanting indecipherable words, oh no.
It’s quite clear what they’re yelling.
They want you to play Freebird.
And up pops the game. “The audience are demanding Freebird! Will you give it to them?”.
You hit Yes.
“You’re really going to play Freebird?”
“You’re definitely sure about this?”
Yes. Got to love the game’s sense of humour.
Practice mode, Guitar Solo i is what you’re looking for, says the loading screen. It turns out that it’s not lying.
“If I leave here tomorrow…“. I stand in my living room, tapping out that wonderful acoustic first section, as hundreds of little computer people wave their lighters in the air. Crudely rendered they may be, but it’s a magical moment.
And then the tempo picks up, and the shredding begins.
It’s all over only a few minutes later. The grin is still on my face; it’s a hectic, exciting series of solos that rattle your wrists. As I write this, that grin is returning to my face, honestly.
It’s the most majestic pay-off. Two games, and seventy-odd songs later, the audience inside my PS2 are clamouring for one last song. They know exactly what song they want to hear. And finally, I can play it for them. That one moment – that’s Guitar Hero II in a nutshell: charming, exhilirating, a masterpiece of challenge-and-reward.
I have to go now. I can hear the crowd calling again.
27 July 2006
2007 and the “next” big media thing is an article of mine that’s published in this week’s New Statesman – or, rather, in the free supplement to their New Media Awards that accompanies it. Fortunately, the article is also available for free online.
In the article, I consider (given the title of the awards) that whenever you call something “new”, you imply something else to be “old”, and that lots of people get hung up on this rather than simply considering what happens “next”. You can read the article to find out where I go with it.
A lot of the impetus for this piece came out of Reboot 8, so it was good to channel that somewhere, and you may also recognise some of the other concepts “linked” to in the piece. It was also interesting in that I set out to write a piece about “online”, and ended up writing a pretty straight “media” piece – something I’ve never tried before. I also cut a section about Web 2.0, because it didn’t quite hang right – but there’s certainly something to be said about that nomenclature also creating issues where there were none. Perhaps there’s a space to write that somewhere else – it’s still hanging around my head.
Anyhow, nice to be in print again, and to be given the chance to think about ideas like these around the web, publishing, and innovation.
28 November 2005
Most interesting article from the Observer magazine on autism, from two Sundays ago. Brings a variety of perspectives to bear on the topic, and talks to a nice cross-section of people. Some days are red-badge days for anybody, autistic or not.