The hidden blog of the ages
note: this editorial is my attempt at formulating ideas; its not perfect. I need to think it through carefully and probably spend more time on the phrasing of my sentences. It's a personal thing, but if you stumbled on here I would like your opinion so comment below!
Video games have a special place in my heart. They've given me thrills and excitement, they've shown me stories that will stay with me forever, and they've taken me to places I've only dreamed of. These are not to be taken for granted, but I sense that video games can be much more. I'm not just a video gamer, my love extends to movies, movies and books. When I compare how much they mean to me personally, video games fall behind. I've spent more time in video games than probably any other past time, I love it to bits, but what I get out of the experience is significantlly less than what I've gotten from say, "To Kill A Mockingbird", or "Life of Pi". Why don't video games give me the same life lessons, knowledge of humanity, thoughts on life, and death, empathy for people?
Let's look at what we have now. Clearly there is a problem with this industry when it comes to being an artistic medium. Let's define quickly what I mean by artistic; a way for human expression and social and cultural significance. That'll do. Look at what is around us; mindlessness. Lot's of death, lots of killing, lot's of broisms and booth babes. Very little soul, very little telling of the human condition. Games that do come by like a hit in the face, such as Journey, and remind us that we are as a medium, incredibly lacking in artistic expression and meaningful pursuits. Games can just be fun, there's nothing wrong with that. But there is a striking imbalance that will keep our beloved medium from being accepted broadly.
There are many reasons for this, and we must identify them before we can solve them.
Firstly, the medium is a new one and we have yet to fully understand the language of interactivity. This gives artists and those who want to tell stories very little in terms of tools to do so. I'm not talking about technology that gives us sparkly graphics, photorealistic faces or densely populated cities; I refer to the fundemental ideas of what it means to be "interacting", or a participant. Movies developed camera techniques, editing techniques, actors and frame work; a length and a story arch, for the artist to use. This happened in a quick 50 year period, and is still developing now although it has slowed. Video game are still young.
Secondly and relevant to this is the people who lead these teams; they are computer scientists, system anaylists, managers and video gamers. We rarely have the person yearning to tell a story, or to spread a message; Ken Levine is an example. At this stage the only people equiped to handle development of a medium so infantile are those who can master the development process and the juggling of complicated systems, and those who are passionate about recreating those feelings they had playing games as a child. This makes unearthing this secret language a slow and arduous process.
Thirdly, the problem is the consumers. Unlike film where the audience was wide and reached people of all ages and backgrounds, video games are targeted towards a depressingly narrow demographic; young, adolecent staight males. The singular demographic already restricts experiences available, but this is the one demographic that results in the most banal and stupid products. Lot's of klling and power fantasies, that is what sells the most and so long as large publishers think this way it will be a long time before change can take place.
Lastly, its the cost. Game development isn't as easy as making movies; all you need to make a film is a camera and a willing audeince, and even that is easy with the advent of youtube and social media. Game development takes time which takes money, and people who want to tell stories are better off being writers or movie makers. To be in such a position to create something meaningful takes a bizzare amount of luck. Publishers are haste to publish it; people don't want to stick around risky development, and there are few paths to get there in the first place. Someone like Ken Levine, is very rare and even he cannot believe it. Spec Ops: The Line required to be a dumb shooter first and foremost, with requirements that it be set in an exotic location and have a generic military name to even get the green light. Costs go to talented individuals as well; requirements in this catagory are steep. Film makers benefit from movie editing knowledge, writers should know how to type, but game developers need a specialist team of programmers and writers. It can be done, but it's another obstacle for the budding visionary among the many others.
It's a rare medium however mainly because of its potential. Unlike comic books; video games have potential and I do believe it is the medium of the 21st Century. This means that so long as people care, it will live on, and it will. But it will be slow. What are the cures for this ailment and what are the movements that are speeding up the innovation? I discuss it in the next blog.
'Kindness' covers all of my political beliefs, he wrote, at the end of his memoirs. No need to spell them out. I believe that if, at the end, according to our abilities, we have done something to make others a little happier, and something to make ourselves a little happier, that is about the best we can do. To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try. I didn't always know this and am happy I lived long enough to find it out.
How to express how I feel about Roger's death?
It's hard to really summarise his influence on my life, how I view and understand movies and even games, because it's so personal and so interwoven with experiences. I'm so full of emotion that I don't want to think about it too much, because I can't.
I wrote a little comment about him under his last blog a few minutes ago. Something I wished I had done before, but no regrets. That's something Ebert taught me. It's the best I can do on short notice.
How I wished I had written to you, but I know that others have done it for me.
You're life, your words you're existence made me a better person. In times I had felt down, I realized that people like you exist. When I ponder my bad fortune, I remember how you dealt with cancer, how you were so incredibly courageous and most importantly, a wonderful person. I will never forget you. You're thoughts and ideas will forever foster in how I think of movies and how I approach making my own creative work. Those ideas live on in the people who were inspired by you and who call you colleagues today. I can only hope to one day make such a meaningful and positive impact on people, if only for the one reason you gave; kindness.
You are my hero Roger, I cry today but I know I tomorrow I still live on with you as my guide. "
This is in response to the previous entry.
The answer is that I have been feeling a little down and negative about... life. Playing games that deal with serious issues doesn't bode well with a negative mindset because it usually results in doom and gloom, especially where Bioshock Infinite deals with contemporary issues it could have me lose faith in humanity. So I'm in a good mindset to play Bioshock Infinite. I have to stave off dangerous expectations though. Such thinking lead me to dislike GTA4 on my first attempt, and anybody who has read any of my other posts, or can see my profile picture knows that I love that game to bits. I came to GTA4 expecting more San Andreas crazy. I came to GTA4 expecting more role playing and more grandious missions, especially as I had just tried Saints Row 2. This stopped me from enjoying what GTA4 was as a game, and it's an experience that far surpassed San Andreas or Saints Row in my books, but took it in a direction I was not expecting.
So the same goes with Infinite. I played Bioshock and loved it, but won't be thinking about it coming in. The same goes for all this discussion about the themes that it deals with. I will take it on like I should any other game; i won't bring any baggage along for this journey.
Also I've said this before, but I don't think anyone reads these posts. I had a comment a few times, which I admit surprised me. The prupose of these blogs are to log my journey as a gamer. If anyone wants to come a long, welcome! But I warn that it will be a bumpy ride. My writing is all over the place and I am stop by infrequently. I'm not all that interesting either. But then again, there aren't a lot of blogs that are.
Wow, Bioshock Infinite is getting great reviews! Once again Kevin refuses to think that the game could be as great as Dark Souls hence the elusive 9.5 remains elusive, but the general consensus and from Kevin's words its clear that this is a game that must be played.
I'm a little worried though. I don't know how I will react to its themes. I'm someone who is an adament humanist and I get very worked up when people discriminate against others for whatever reason. I'm also non-religious, but believe that faith is a good thing so long as its not taken to its extreme, as in any belief system. From what I've heard, BI displays the extremes of nationalism in the form of institutionlised Racism (as it was 100 years ago in most countries) and deals with the religious cults of personality that turn people into sheep, and to be honest, I'm worried I'll be hurt personally by these things.
It's weird I know! But seeing people behave horribly to other people digs under my skin; I get angry, or depressed depending on how my neurotic mind works (I think its just losing faith in humanity). Some people can distance themselves from these acts, I've never been good at that. Now that its in a game where I'm WATCHING IT UNFOLD BEFORE MY EYES, I don't know what I would do.
Hopefully Ken Levine's world view is simialar to mine so the story turns out to be hopeful, but honest depiction of these real issues that seem intrinsic to us. I hope that it makes me angry for the right reasons and doesn't mnipulate my emotions or let these (in what I believe) innately bad characteristics of people off easily. I just hope it pulls me into the world rather than pushes me away from making me too unconfortable. I had a similar reaction reading about the Holocaust in my studies. My stomach became quezy and I couldn't sleep well for a long time. The same goes for reading about psychopathic serial killers.
But the game is set to me memorable and important to me. It's also set to be enthralling and fun. I will play the game. More games need to be brave enough to deal with such issues. It's just... am I ready? It's a question that needs questioning. It's a question with no answer as of now. I need to think it over... is my reaction to these themes in everyday life got to do with me somehow? Am I weird to feel so insecure when humans behave badly?
In other news I just bought Dark Souls on steam in its half price sale! Got to buy a controller for it though but damn I am excited as hell. I'll play Dark Souls before Infinite.
Then I will have thoughts on Kevin's adament refusal to hand out the goddamn 9.5!
I've been holding off playing games because I've been busy, and a few games I've held off just because I want to play it on a powerful rig and will probably get one soon enough. You can tell that I'm a PC gamer, and have been intrigued about some games that have recieved aclaim and have/will be ported to PC. Hence the half and half of games that have been released and will be released. Skyrim, uniquelly was held off because I wanted an experience ironed out of bugs and enhanced with DLC, like a fine wine it gets better over time!
10. Trials Evolution (PC)
9. Resident Evil 6 (PC)
8. Sim City
7. Battlefield 4
6. Dragon Age 3
5. Bioshock Infinite
4. Dark Souls: PTD
3. Mass Effect 3
2. Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
1. Grand Theft Auto V
Life of Pi is a movie about a man, and his life and how he sees the world. Its also the strongest argument one can make for God as well, or whatever God means in the context of being irrational.
Here is a movie that shook my very perception that the rational scientific way of thinking is the only way to view the world, there is a side to life much more spiritual it seems that is more pleasant, and more meaningful, and at the end of the day, how important is rationality to living life anyway?
Pis journey is hard. Its full of loss and unbearable realities. But he survives it with the help of a tiger. The tiger keeps him sane alone on this long, tortuous voyage. Although at the end we question the existence of this tiger, due to how he retells a more rational version of the tale, we dont seem to mind. The tiger looked and felt more real that anything Ive ever seen.
We believe his tale, although that is the licence that the movie holds on the viewer. But the marvellous journey that we had witness was so compelling and beautiful and much more digestable than his real story, does it matter which one we choose?
But the answer is still not as clear as I just put it. We dont know for sure which story is real, we can only determine it through either our feelings, or our rational brain. I must admit, as an atheist, rational thinker, and strong believer in the miracles of science, like Pis father, I also choose the story with the Benghal tiger.
What did I choose exactly? Is it a way to view the world? Does it mean anything at all?
At the end of the day Ive never felt more propelled through my senses and my emotions through another mans experiences than I have with this movie, and Ang Lee reveals himself to be a master filmmaker. Life of Pi showed me another way of thinking about life, a more spiritual one, and for that I feel blessed.
//Note this was written 30 ish minutes after the ending and I did exagerate some effects it had on me. I still feel my rational way of thinking is for me, but its the closest I've ever come to understanding the more irrational way of thinking. It was also written like a train of thought, completely unedited.
Its understandable that the general reaction from video game world at the news that VP Joe Biden was talking with video games industry heads about the effects of violent video games would be negative. Games are not the cause, we think, youre shifting the blame.
But to combat ignorance isnt to run away from it. The only solution is to deal with it through becoming part of this tilted discussion. Gripping news stories that appeal to parents worried about their children flog the airwaves while politicians grandstand over tragedies like Sandy Hook. To solve this issue, we must argue back. To not offer counter arguments would be an admission of guilt, in other words theyll think they are right.
Thats why I disagree that talking to Biden is an admission of any guilt because I believe that adversely, not talking to him would be the same. If we are in the right, we have nothing to fear. The NRAs general reaction to the Sandy Hook tragedy was to throw everything not guns under the bus, games (which they have usually been supportive of), violent media, mental illness, the kitchen sink. That hasnt worked out well for them.
We are the only people able to bring the appropriate arguments to the table because we have actually played violent video games. The same concept has occurred in history; rock music is slammed by aging parents, violent movies are demonised by the people who are scared of them, its strange how these sentiments always come from those who dont participate In them, youd think that people who watch violent movies, or listen to rock music wouldnt be so consumed in bias that they wouldnt feel the adverse effects working through their minds and bodies.
At the same time, its understandable that parents and non-gamers would hold anti-violent video game sentiments, the media is to blame, but then again havent we been quite pointed in our attacks against the NRA? Their sheepishness has been puerile, but there is good arguments to be made from reasonable gun owners, the problem is that from the outside its hard to empathise and understand a perspective that does take a certain lifestyle and experience to comprehend. Playing violent games is one of them.
This is why we must make our voices and perspective heard over the sensationalist journalist, or non-gamer journalism or the grand=standing politician or overwhelming majority of understandably concerned parents.
I have faith that the ESA which acts as the game industries main lobby group has the tools and weapons available to make our point heard, but its also up to us to talk to people and tell them our experiences, to point to the statistics from around the world, to the available scientific experiments not debunked as technically flawed political fodder. This meeting is just the start.
With the sun now gone to sleep beyond the horizon, on your stroll home you discover that the local mall's doors are still open wide, letting out the flourencent light indicating activity from within. A gush of wind from between those two steel frames, plastered with ads for furniture and chinese massages, waltzes across your face as you decide, on a whim, to follow your curiosity and look inside.
Upon entering, you notice an unusually large and rowdy crowd outside your local game store. You tap the shoulder of one of now seemingly hundred in attendance. "Excuse me" you inquire, "What exactly is going on?". As the man turns around, you quickly realise that is in fact a teenage boy complete with pimples and long fringe. "It's the Call of Duty Black Ops II midnight lauch dude, haha".
These events fascinate me. What exactly makes people so passionate about a game about shooting and exploding things. Why is Halo and Call of Duty such worldwide phenomena that eclipse the likes of arguably more interesting, innovative games?
I've looked closer at this. Some interviews with the crowd at the EB games midnight launch for Black Ops 2 tells me that gamers like the characters, they like the zombie mode, they like the awesomeness and they think that its like the best game in the world, and that they are looking forward to skipping school the next day to complete the entire game.
Now, this is weird to me, because those are things that are pretty unnattached to what you'd call "game design", per se. Awesomeness and characters like Master Chief seem to stem from more age old concepts like story and art than interactivity.I look upon the gaming landscape and wonder whether, as an aspiring game designer, I would look to impress the rowdy group in from the the EB store, to do my own thing that is to create games that, without sounding pretentious, "push the boundaries of games into uncharted territory, or do I attempt to do both?
It depends on what I want of course, but that leads me to a decision that I will have to make at some point. Do I make games because of the art, or do I make games because I want to entertain and liven up the lives of as many people as possible? Both I think are noble aspirations.
I preface this by saying that I don't think that Halo and Call Of Duty are bad games, but they aren't special anymore. Halo and Call of Duty's basic blueprint has existed since its first title back a zillion years ago, improvements to the graphics engine, the movement mechanics and story telling are all well and good, but still, the fundemental game idea runs through all of them. It's not surprising because it's a sequel, you should expect no less, but it is concerning that the majority of gamers of the world ONLY play those titles.
When I make a game, I really want to be proud of it and what it does, but what if the only people to appreciate it are the small enthusiastic gamers who scour game sires and forums?
I look to inspiration from games like Journey. I don't know how well it sold, I hope ALOT. It's the type of game that makes me have faith that my interesting game that doesn't focus on killing and cool characters can make an impact, both for the artform and in the marketplace. I think ultimately I will want to try and master a balance between the two points, to make a game to appeals to the gaming consciousness and does something new and exciting with interactivity.
Maybe there can be a way to make my new exciting idea the new great thing that millions of people flock to, the difficulty then I guess would be to not instinctively sequelize the thing. Oh these conundrums.
The problem only is a reality if I am a game designer great enough to even come up ideas that push boundaries and attract those millions, of course. For now it remains an interesting hypothetical.
It's election day, and as Americans go out onto the streets to participate in democracy, the rest of the world holds their breath, that Romeny does NOT get elected.
Now there's an interesting notion. Regardless of your political affiliations, that fact should surprise you, and you should be wondering why, why is it that Romney is so unpopular nearly everywhere around the globe (except Pakistan)?
Well the answer I think is clear; Now please, if you are Republican, hear me out; I think Obama is not perfect too... however;
Romney and the republicans are a uniquely American creation; and only in America could a party like that exist.
Obama is seen largely as the people's choice; the guy who cares about the people. Obama's policies, although largely and comparatively conservative initiatives (if you go throughout history, Obama is quite conservative); are doing things that benefit the middle class. Romney is seen as the representation of the corporations, and rightfully so, which are largely built upon greed and social darwinian philosophies. So people outside America are wondering; why does anyone in the middle class vote Republican?
The answer to this question is a very long one and it needs lots of evidence; but lets just leave it at; because they are brainwashed. Brainwashed into ignoraing evidence and to not think for themselves. Many are going to the ballots with no idea about the policies they are voting into office, and its obvious that Romeny's campaign KNOWS THIS. That is why Romney has managed to flip flop all over the place in a attempt to sway independent voters who would otherwise be voting for Obama. The Republican majority has no idea what is going on.
Now that's not to say a large portion of 'liberals' aren't empty minded; they are and frightfully so. The ignorance that has infected American politics is a poison to democracy. But the reality is, if they knew what platforms each candidate was running on, Obama would win straightforwardly. There's alot of reasons why, but ponder this; Obama is more republican than Ronald Reagan. Essentially, Obama should be getting all the votes if it were the 80's again.
SIDE NOTE: Ignorance also allows Obama to do some unfortunate things; if all of America were freed from ignorance; we would get a fair democracy, and the American dream could be a reality for all Americans. but alas, the education system and mass media have evolved the majority of Americans into sheep; sheep that are trained to work and buy things. But that's another discussion to be had.
Obama isn't perfect, but he's clearly the lesser evil. It's obvious for the rest of the world, and strangely not so obvious for Americans.
America is a strange place; people view it as the great land of opportunity and freedom, but in reality its a strange world where people are brainwashed and incredibly ignorant. Then again its a better method to control the population than through brute force, it may be the only way Capitalism can realistically work. But that's another discussion to be had as well.
Other reasons why the world fears Romeny is because he appears unstable; could Romney be another Bush? But I think it ties all again back to how Romney symbolises the corporate America; A greedy America goes to war for oil and power, a generous America spends that money on aid and scientific research that benefits the world.
The world waits for the results, the predictions are in Obama's favour, which is easing a lot of minds. But the fear remains because if Romney gets in, its not just Americans that lose; the whole world loses too.
With the news that more information on the most anticipated title of 2013 is about to hit our newsfeed, I thought its prime time I wrote a little about what my hopes were for GTAV.
So firstly, there are some facts that have already been released, they include the fact that the character will be a father figure; now this is really exciting. I'm not personally a father myself yet, I'm actually still a teenager technically. But I can see myself in that role someday, and with me having been a son and all, I can picture being a father quite vividly. It's a role not a lot of gamers get to play in, apart from (from the top of my head), Heavy Rain and Max Payne (for a brief period), the responsibilities of having a child give a lot of emotional weight, relatability and sympathy for the character and has alot of potential for drama and themes rarely seen in games. In television we have Breaking Bad, which if you havent seen it before (you really should, its effing fantastic), is a drama about a father who enters the life of crime to provide for his children, because, and its not a spoiler, he has cancer. Now, when I watch Breaking Bad, I can't help but wonder if this type of incredibly, tense, realistic and balls out riveting drama/tension is capable in video games. Obviously, GTAV won't be that game; but the parallels between the characters and all the similar themes they could explore greatly excite me, and its about time there's a character I can easily sympathise with be a playable character in the GTA series.
Another aspect that we already know, is that its set in Los Santos. If you've read my previous post about San Andreas, you'll know that setting has a special place in my heart. But, apart from the nostalgia; I'm excited about the possibilty that the game will feature again a large expansive map with seemlingly endless activities scattered about. Not as large as San Andreas (that map is arguable too large), but large enough that when I start the game, the feeling of adventure and endless possibility and surprises awaits me. The feeling that the entire city, unlike Liberty City, doesn't look the same throughout and is yearning to be explored. This, appears will come true; theres the hollywood area, the suburban area and the beaches all of them return here. and all of it bright and sunny like the perfect vacation! No more only dark, grimy alleyways or grey buildings! Exploration was a key component in San Andeas, hopefully it returns. But the question remains; will these settings continue to enthrall me? Or will I feel Deja Vu from my last visit to San Andreas? Hopefully not, and there is promise in the new outer towns.cities areas that seem to be in the game according to the trailer, I guess its another detail that will be revealed this week. Soon enough!
But there are still a few hopes and dreams that I hold for the game that have no information/data backing whatsoever and are simply, for now, hopes and dreams. I want a large arsenal. Now; gun play in the GTA series has always been a supporting mechanic; a means to an end really; to progress the story to be another activity, etc. I want the game to feature compelling gun play; how it fits into the game's direction and vision, I don't know; but what I do know is that I want the feeling of firing the gun to be satisfying; to have ompft and to make a bit of mess as well. With this, I want more character customisation. Why can't I dress my Niko Belic the way I want? No more crazy costumes, I agree! But, some ability to mix and match shirts and jeans, shoes and ties, because I strongly believe that the shirt tells its own story. I played my Niko Bellic as a middle aged man, dressed in a simple wool jumper and business pants; a bit like Mike from Breaking Bad (who is a kick ass grandpa), and it made his awesome actions seem so much cooler because of the contrast of his clothes. Niko was a normal guy doing crazy things, things that he did not want to do. And that is why I think GTAV should give us more options in this regard. Also, please streamline the selection process! My god I hated swapping shirts because it took forever!
Other things I want are simple enough: lots of variety of activities, a compelling story that has a evolving character, better controls and better optimisation for the PC.
Lastly, I want them to surprise me. I want to be told what I dont know, something that, like San Andreas and GTA4, redefinied the series for me. I want them to blow my mind. If they can do that, I will be very happy indeed. Few games have managed to surprise me of late; too many games I can guess or feel that I've seen it all from the first hour or so. GTA has always been a bag of surprises, if they can pull if off, they will have done it again.
After a long time away from San Andreas, I decided to go back. I was feeling nostalgic and was wondering whether my memories of the place were as accurate as they were vivid; that it was an intoxicating home away from home. To my surprise, it was. San Andreas was a place that Rockstar North designed to feel alive; from its dynamic a.i and weather, to its populated streets and sky. But more astounding is how, through the games many mechanics and narrative devices, Rockstar achieves a personal and emotional connection between player and game world.
Immediately from the opening title the game introduces you to characters native to the land of Los Santos, the Los Angeles inspired 90s gangsta paradise, A.K.A the hood. They are part of a gang called the Grove Street family, and in this gang you and your character find identity and a place in the world. Because San Andreas has many dangers, including the corrupt powers that be, officers Tennpenny and Polaski, and Grove Streets sworn enemies, the Ballas gang; in becoming a Grove Street brother, Carl finds strength and belonging.
To develop a connection to your home and your gang, early missions have you running errands for your family; stockpiling weapons, doing drive bys, tagging walls, and the like. At a later stage in this chapter, you embark in gangland warfare battling with other families for turf and respect. The payoff: The feeling of empowerment with your gangs growth. Colour coding the gangs through their apparel follows this tribal mentality, especially when the sight of purple can send you on a self-motivated rampage. Your brothers in green in turn signal safety and back up.
From those connections, Rockstar North makes the Ryder and Big Smokes betrayals feel real and intimate. How could such strong bonds between brothers be broken? How could the people you trusted and found security, strength and identity with not treasure these bonds, as you did? Thoughts run through Carl and our minds. The Grove Street collapses, and with it our sense of security and purpose. We are thrown into the middle of nowhere, family apart, removed of our weapons and slaves to the very people who orchestrated our downfall. Rockstar succeeds narratively. The lust for revenge is palpable and we yearn for our home and our gang.
Rockstar Norths clever uses of mechanics that are fun and meaningful at the time to enhance the long term narrative are techniques unique to interactive mediums. This is because we, as the player, are participating in actions, rather than vicariously experiencing them through a lead actor or a hero in a movie/book. San Andreas offers you a part in the world and to affect that world; it offers you a chance to be a black, well built (if you choose), well stocked (if you so please) original gansta with enough blank spaces to fill in your own personality. The same can be said of sense of place and time, San Andreas allows for freedom of exploration, the day-night cycle and through the introduction of game mechanics (ie, shooting and driving) that you use throughout your time in San Andreas (because your first time is always fondly remembered) to make you feel like youve been to a real place, where things have happened. This serves to enhance the narrative, but also builds the relationship to place and people that evoked those emotions on my return to San Andreas.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is a masterpiece of narrative that is rarely remembered for its story. What people remember are the crazy setting (ie, the warm red glow of the sunset above the roofs of Grove street), the period soundtrack, and all the uniquely crazy San Andreas activities they got to do, because Rockstar North were so successful in making that world come alive in ways that video games can uniquely achieve. Through inventive methods, Rockstar made me feel like I once part of the Grove Street gang six years ago, in the 90s, in Los Santos, cruising in my car, busting some Ballas ass.
The Muppets are back and silly as ever in Jason Segel?s reboot of The Muppets formula, and becomes one of the most blindingly silly and emotionally satisfying movie returns for a franchise seen in recent years. The Muppet?s have been a beloved yet missing in action trouped for over 10 years, so there was much anticipation for this big screen return. Although Jason Segel had big boots to fill with the likes of Jim Henson and Frank Oz missing in action, he sticks with what the Muppets do best and reconciles the generation gap between the older Muppet?s classics and their latest Disney servings. He treats our beloved Muppets like the age old legends that they are, and pays tribute to both the Muppet?s of our childhood while making sure the kids will get a kick out of these loveable characters. This works out for everyone involved. Older fans will be happy to see the Muppets they knew back as kids. They?ve retained the same life-affirming energy, the ?We can be whatever we want to be? attitude (as Amy Adams sings in the opening number) and the confidence in one?s self, warts and all (and the muppet?s have some large and loveable ones) that we learned to have (or wanted to have) through watching their diverse range of friendships that they?ve encompassed for the past 40 years or so. If there?s anything that can be said about ?The Muppets?, it?s that it is appropriately named. That?s because the Muppets know who they?re supposed to be. This time we welcome a new Muppet in town. Walter is the world?s biggest Muppet fan. He?s an identity crisis on his hands and finds a special connection when he discovers The Muppet Show as a child. Beside him always is his muppet-faced human brother, Gary (Jason Segel) who plans to go to L.A with his girlfriend and bring Walter with him. What this means for Walter, is that he?s finally going to see The Muppet Studios and meet with the Muppet Troupe that he?s got posters, and games and costumes of. He even owns a Kermit watch. Walter?s undying passion for the Muppets would be relatable to long-time fans of the group. When Walter discovers that the Muppets have broken up long ago (and that it wasn?t just an internet rumor), and gets involved with a conspiracy that involves the destruction of Muppet Studios for the drilling of oil beneath it, planned by the devious Tex Richman, oil barron extraordinary (?It?s great to be me yeah?, sings Tex in a rap number), and so who then stalks Kermit to tell him the real deal, who must then help get the Muppets back together for a big show to get the $10 million to save the studio (as it says so in the contract). We know where he was coming from. Apart from the Muppets, we follow the relationship tensions between Gary and Mary due to Walter?s existence that wedges between them. It works and makes for some fun songs such as the rocking ?Me Party? by Amy Adams and ?Man or Muppet? by Segel both of which sound modern and fresh enough to please young and old alike. But the stars of the show are of course the Muppets, and what a show! The Muppets reboot not only returns these human cloths to the big screen but also brings back what made them famous. ?The Muppet Show? comes back dazzling as ever, with all those song and dance numbers and special guests that we love. However, ?Will anybody listen, or even care, or did something break we can?t repair?? sings Kermit. This may be true; there was a reason why it?s been 12 years since the last Muppet Movie. The last one was Muppets in Space (which I liked), and it failed to repent its costs. But just like this comeback show, this movie asks the same question. Are the Muppet?s still popular and loved enough in our day and age? I must now talk about a certain act in this show that hit me like a cannon ball to the face. Kermit sings Rainbow Connection with the entirety of The Muppets. It?s spellbindingly beautiful. It?s simply magical. A song that both encapsulate what The Muppet?s mean to me and the world, and what the world needs more of. ?Someday we?ll find it, the rainbow connection, the lovers, the dreamers and me.? Sings Kermit, with Miss Piggy, Fozzie Bear, Gonzo, Beaker and the rest. Kermy, you?ve found it. It?s been there beside you all along. And as I left the theatre with my fellow cinema goers, there was that sense that maybe it was between us as well. There was going to be an interesting comparison between Miss Piggy and Kermit and Gary and Mary?s relationship tensions but it ultimately never took off. And certain scene?s in the middle of the film don?t gel well and kind of slow it down a little. But The Muppets is a beaming, clever reboot of Muppet magic that many fans have waited so long for. The Muppets hopefully marks the return for a string of Muppet movies that follow these loveable characters. It?s an incredibly watchable film that is witty, self-ware and so silly that it?s never too serious about its plot or its logic. That?s because Kermit and Co. are what drives this film. The Muppet?s are back, and as Miss Piggy would have it, everything else comes second.
A tasty little worm said eagerly to its young son. "I am a tasty little worm and I am also your father." The boy replied, "Why dear father are you tasty and not I?" The father worm was taken aback. "Why son, not all worms can be as tasty as I, for I am a gourmet worm, one of the rarest breeds". The son looked puzzled. "But I am made from the same genetic cloth that comprises of you my tasty little father!". The father looked down at the son, and told him the truth, "Son, the truth is. I am not your father".
As a video game lover, and an aspiring video game creator, I tend to look very closely at the game development process as well as view video games more in the realm of popular art than crafted toys. I want to understand the art of interactivity that this new and exciting medium has brought to the world of entertainment, mosty because its incredibly interesting, and secondly because I want to make a masterpiece of my own.
Now its kind of obvious at this point what I've realised about what makes video games so unique and special among entertainment mediums. A video game must appeal to the human nature. It must work on a level that pleases the human condition, and an understanding of psychology will definetely help. Just look at what the most popuar games of our time IS. Call of Duty is a violent killing simulator, and it is human nature to enjoy killing things.
And Skyrim. Is a piece of fantasy come true, and the game makers at Bethesda Softworks know they are incredibly lucky to have landed on this unearthed and still untouched gold mine. Bethesda know; gamers like to feel powerful. They like to explore and discover. They like to roleplay as someone who possesses greater attributes that them. They love to kill. They love to horde material possessions. They love to feel like they are improving and being rewarded from hard work. This is a game that works on all fronts to appeal to the human nature. And as a result, story telling must come second.
But I feel dirty. I feel that video games are becoming a little.. manipulative. Toys marketed to children are very manipulative. Toys branded with the kiddies favourite shows, etc etc make kids want to houl and scream until their parents throw their wallets at corporations. Are video games Toys? I believe they dont have to be. Why do video games have to only appeal to our instincts and desires? Why cant interactivity be used to express ourselves, to tell a unique story, or to explore a theme or issue. Many games inadvertently do this while appealing to our wants and needs, but not many of them do it in a way that is explicit; they don't have a direct opinion or voice on what they are doing? Does Call of Duty make you ponder about why we like to kill things? Does it challenge our notions of what death means? Does Skyrim make you think?
Art needs to apeal to the human condition, but it needs to do so while saying a significant message that ties all the pieces together. In my opinion, a game like Skyrim is a dream come true (trust me, I salivate over it). But its not the type of game I want to make. I want to make games that is a reflection of my story, of me. I want a game that explores the incredibly mine that is yet to be burrowed in this silent film era of video games, that explored the art of interactivity to create a true piece of art that doesn't manipulate but is more significant and meaningful. That's more timeless. Games like this are not numerous. Many games are masterpieces in how they pushed the boundary of interactivity (games include Half Life 2 and Deus Ex) and later examples were more simpler but direct including Journey and Braid that appealed to us and also gave us a message that left us thinking. We're still not there yet, and you may ask, what is wrong with The Elder Scrolls?
The answer, is nothing. It is what it is. It is art in its own way. But not in mine. Art is ultimately subjective, and Ive given you my opinion. The wonderful thing about video games is that its growong up. In that we can still have these expensive blockbusters, and more meaningful and thought provoking stuff. Unfortunately the thought provoking stuff still iterates on some core gameplay mechanics (platforming seems the most popular) and the more arty stuff is so inaccessible, it kind of defeats its purpose of existing. Which is the problem with indy games, they still need to be basically playable to be seen, and as they cant have access the the millions of dollars to really explore the gaming medium.
Well, these are my thoughts on what games are and what I want to see happen. Hopefully, I will be able to take part when I finish my computer Science degree, and start up a project. Thats a while away, and for now Im a happy observer.
With the news of Giantbomb's collaboration with Gamspot, there is much excitement and anticipation of what can come of this, but there still remains a lot of concern surrounding their return to CBS.
Positive thoughts surround how both will benefit from this bondage. Giantbomb's lack of resources remain its ultimate obstacle for growth and has retarded it from providing the best service to its fans for a long time. CBS now offers those resources leaving Giantbomb's future open to bigger and greater things, if not just a brighter outlook for the sometimes struggling website. It is also clear that The Hotspot would do very well with the contributions from one of gaming's great podcasters, and now with access to the articulate minds of Kevin VanOrd and co, the bombcast should also make for some much more interesting listening.
But with this news came the sad news that Tom Magrino, the Hotspot's host was sacked by CBS, leaving the Hotspot hosting chair empty in the midst of such great advancements in news and the history of both Gamespot and Giantbomb. Magrino's sacking also leaves a unsightly dent to human face of Gamespot, that shows no emotion in the sight of such injustice and sadness.
Apart from this unfortunate coincidence, Giant bomb's return also introduces certain understandable fears. Giantbomb has always been a product of the anti-establishment, a group of guys that left he mainstream to "go indie", working out of basement and buildng a website from the ground up with the help of people who also felt violated by Gerstmann Gate in 2008. With their return to the mianstream, how will Giantbomb's independance be affected and how much involvement will there be from the suits higher up until Giantbomb turns into nolonger the product of a gaming community that wants honesty and transparency? Gamespot's reaction to Magrino's sacking highlights this jarring contrast with Giantbomb, who would never let slide the sacking of a long time employee/friend. Giantbomb had ofcourse been formed from the unfair and un-transparent sacking of Jeff Gerstmann, its head honcho.
So how will the relationship of very different websites, not in terms of people, but in terms of management styles result for the underdog Giantbomb? It's future is definitely one to observe closely and hopefully both website will see only benefits from this startling and exciting news. The world of gaming has been rather monotonous with its string of sequels and the inane dialogue about speculations pertaining to next generation consoles. This atleast makes these recent developments very welcome indeed for this follower of the game inducstry.
Why on earth did Gamespot fire their Hotspot host?
Now, its probably CBS who owns gamespot that did the firing, but nevertheless, surely there is some control over who stays and who goes from inside Gamespot crew. To think that someone so out there among the people, who helped bring gamespot to the people, who in some way became the face of Gamspot, was fired remains a baffling mystery. I for one, want answers.
Despite its negative critical reception with many calling it the worst Pixar movie ever, I had a trouble understanding this mindset whilst having a rollicking blast in Pixar's most action-packed and sweet film in years.
Cars 2 is obviously, John Lasseter's childish imagination imagined. We have heard from press and interviews that Lasseter loves toys, and cars, and from the first Cars, we also found out his love of the American townships, of old fashioned folk that haven't yet been swept away by modernity, technology and conformity. Here, Cars 2 puts a character from that world, Mater, into the world of modernity, technology and conformity, where everything is that much complex, and much too fast for Mater to understand. To make things a little more interesting, Lasseter throws Mater directly into the world of espionage and intrigue, where Mater's hapless antics result in comic situations and sheer lunacy. We see Lightning McQueen, the originals hero, in full racing excitement, but here Mater takes centre stage, as he helps uncover a mystery that lurks around the new discovery of a renewable energy source.
Mater's personality conflicts with the conformity of the world around him. He's too spontaneous and a little unaware of social conventions. He's incredibly likeable to us, as we've known hm for a while, but to the bystander cars, he's just an embarrassment. This adorable and assuring message to the younger ones is one to take to heart; the importance of not doubting oneself will become a necessary message once they hit the teenage years. Pixar have made a kids film for kids and what an achievement.
This may be a little nauseating and possibly too sugary for older viewers. It Is true that Cars 2's premise; the tried and true story of a fish out of water is a little uninspired by Pixar's standards. It's true that character development is not impressive, and here Pixar seem too comfortable not taking too many risks in a sequel. But what Cars 2 manages to do is tap into the imagination of a young child and set it free in the most colourful way. Not in a long time has a film been so much fun, and so full of life. Pixar has pulled off a world of cars with wild imagination, fluid and adorable animation, explosive action and likeable characters in the way that only a group of genius can. Add in a heart-warming message and you have yourself one fantastic time in the backseat of one of the most completely enjoyable animated film in years. Go watch Cars 2 not expecting Pixar's standards in originality and you may find yourself in love with Mater and co.
'The Grey' is the special kind of survival horror that has an agenda. It's not really about non-stop action, battling monstrous wolves, and things getting killed; in fact, most of the intensity comes from simple fact that anyone could die at any moment's notice. It's about man's inability to conquer the harsh and unrelenting reality of nature. It's about the fragility of man. It's about life and death and how as human beings view them in different perspectives. In premise, it's about the conundrums that we no longer have to face anymore after humanity left the wilderness into the safety of civilisation.
'The Grey' follows the sad lives of Ottway (Liam Neeson), and a small band of oil drill workers after their plane crashes into the middle of nowhere in the blizzardous, white snow storms of isolated Alaska. After surviving the crash, and moving the bodies of their unfortunate fellow travellers, they must find a way of keeping warm, fighting starvation, and as night falls, battling a pack of mythical-like stalking wolves who lurk ever close in the shadows.
Following these sad sacks, whose bleak live's only light are mere memories of distant love ones, as they struggle and freak out as death creeps closer and closer can be an intense experience. The moments when the wolves flank and manouvre are particularly edge-of-your-seat stuff, but it doesn't compare to the sudden, unexpected strikes in the dark that rip aparts the flesh in all its gruesome detail. This feeling of dread is heightened by the beautiful yet savage, cold landscape and the ever frightening night sky. Although I was sometimes pulled out of this immersion by moments of disbelief, I was pulled back ever so strongly by the incredibly honest and revealing discussions between these survivors that not only provide comic relief but strip away the macho personas that these males use to protect themselves from each other.
These men talk about the most heart-breaking things; loved ones, reasons to live, fathers who were never there but had lasting impact on them; all the while knowingly facing death. The trails and tribulations of going through such an experience together no doubt bonded these men together, but what makes these men open up is the sheer reality that the odds are it will probably be the last time they will ever get to talk. I was moved and crushed by this film's depiction of man in the unrelenting and unfair reality of nature, where the notion of God playing a hand in this makes little sense unless he's one mean son-of-a-b**** But nature doesn't talk back. In fact, nature doesn't have to take the form of extreme temperatures, or mythical creatures, or the need for food. In our safer environments, we always must face misfortune and loss, instability and battle our own demons.
It helps that they actually shot the film in an environment that led Liam Neeson to believe that filming would not be completed. Neeson's logic followed that the actors would not be able to recall their lines, if all they could think about was how to get warm. And here's the key behind the story; man is not the master of nature, but it is nature that is the master of man, and no better argument is 'The Grey' which encapsulates this.
Quibbles lie with the repetitive and timed deaths, and the unequally interesting characters, but it's quite arbitrary when most of the lifting is done by Neeson, who, in embodying his character completely in one of the most vulnerable yet badass performances in his career, is a mystery in itself. Why is it that Ottway wanted to kill himself at the beginning of the film? What does his father's poem have to do with his perception on life? Why is he s sharpshooter hired to kill wolves? Neeson has created himself a back story to explain it. But I think we all can interpret his situation, in our own way.
There is little doubt that The Grey left me emotionally tired and yet, pondering its various messages and meanings long after the credits rolled. The action was intense, the gore was up close and personal, and the landscape was savagely beautiful making it an engaging, immersive adventure through a frozen hell. But what made it real wasn't those wolves whose eyes light up like monsters in the darkness; but these fragile men who when faced with death, must face it their own way. Death is always ignored when possible, but it can't be forever, and that's a fact of nature.
Hello fellow wanderer, if you clicked on this blog after enjoying one of my reviews (or disliking it quite a bit) then I welcome you. In a short, I want to clarify the point of my reviews.
I write for the sake of writing, although I consider myself to have a decent creaive mind, writing a long or short story always seemed a little daunting, especially if I don't have a large audience to tell the story to. I also lack confidence in my writing, and am much too self-critical to write something I will most likely hate. Also, I'm a little busy playing my video games... because I'm a... big fan. So here Iam writing game reviews, it's easy and fun and, as I have found out recently, added a new element to my gaming experience and is a great way to say good bye to a game
What is the goal of my reviews? I've been trying to encapsulate the experience I had playing the game, whcih I hope contributed in some way to someone's considerations of purchasing or... um.. downloading a game. I have no delusions hoever. hopefully someone, anyone clicks "read more".