Won’t somebody think of the children?

12 12 2011

I recently became a father.

Ten weeks ago the fruit of my loins sprung forth from within my wife (more slid forth really) and into our world.  A world that is terribly different to the one I grew up in.

I grew up in the town I still live in, a quaint little drug-den in Western Scotland called Stevenston.  It’s a simple place surrounded by fields and wildlife.  You only have to walk five minutes from my house to see deer.  Yes, real live deer!

I’m only a young thing really.  I was born in 1987 into a house heated only by a gas fireplace in the livingroom that I used to run to the second I woke up in my cold bed every morning.  Some days I’d get a bit of bread, stick it on the end of a fork, and slowly create toast against that old gas fire.  Bliss.

They were simpler times where mobile phones were BIGGER than your average brick, we wrote all of our notes on little pieces of paper, and gaming was just pulling itself out of its little slump with the release of the NES.

My son’s upbringing will be different to this in almost every way.

These days almost everything is electronic.  Even forms of media are moving away from the physical and becoming mere data (much to my personal disgust).  We have touch screens, smartphones, flatscreen TV’s and games consoles that can double as supercomputers.  And all of them are connected to the internet at all times.

The first time I ever used the internet was when I was 13.  THIRTEEN.  Today’s children will know only the internet.  When I first got the internet it was 56kbps and I was limited as to which websites I could get on (thanks to Virgin Broadband).  I would use it to go to gaming websites and read about the latest gaming masterpieces like Final Fantasy 7 and Ocarina of Time.  Sometimes I’d even play the original Unreal, and later the stellar Jedi Knight II:  Jedi Outcast with an average ping of 200ms.

When two of my nieces see a screen they instantly try to manipulate what’s on it by rubbing their fingers along the surface.  They’re under five.

No doubt this is how parents have felt throughout human history, technology has always been advancing fairly rapidly, but I can’t help but feel ill at ease.  All of the things that seemed so normal to me as a child are things that my son may never experience using.  What’s the point in a piece of paper when you can write your shopping list on your iPhone, or simply tell Siri to remind you about what to buy?

It may be a simple human fear of change, or my very own brand of change-fear, but I really don’t like this.


Decisions decisions…

4 12 2011

I don’t know if you noticed but it’s coming up on a very special time of year.  I don’t want to give it away too easily.  Here’s what you do: go and look out your window at the windows of your neighbours.  See any tall bushy green things covered in shiny objects?

Let's get festive!

Yes.  It’s Christmas time.  A time of great excitement and joy for kids, but for adults it’s something rather different.

I remember Christmas as a child when “what do you want for Christmas?” could be reasonably answered with “everything.”

But I’m an adult now.  An adult who understands that money doesn’t grow on trees and who knows he needs to be decisive.  The problem is that this has been a great year for new games and I barely have any of them.  I’ve got almost an entire year’s worth of brilliant video games to choose between.

I missed L.A. Noire, I’d been waiting for that for a good long while.  Should I ask for that?  I hear Skyrim is virtually endless as far as new gameplay experiences go, does that make it a better choice?  What about Batman?  I love Batman.  But if I go for Batman I don’t get either of the other two.  Not to mention Sonic Generations, The Witcher 2, Shogun 2, Assassin’s Creed Revelations, Catherine and lots of other possible gems.

My brain.  It hurts.

It’s around times like these I need to go back to basics and make myself sugared toast to help calm me down.

A small technical issue

3 12 2011

It seems some of my posts didn’t come through right when I imported them from my blogger account.  It’s not the end of the world, just looks rather untidy and I can’t figure out how to fix them.  Opening them up and trying to add those fancy little spaces between paragraphs just doesn’t work for some reason.

If you depend on perfection you can read them over on blogger, here.


A pirate’s life for thee

3 12 2011

I have a confession to make: I used to download pirated games, films and music.

I don’t have any of it any more, good Lord no.  In fact I now own every game and almost every piece of music I ever pirated in the first place.  Call it penance.  One day I realised that all of those games, films and pieces of music were the hard work of other people who put time, effort and money into creating them.  I felt pretty terrible at the idea that I’d basically taken their creative works and given nothing in payment.

So I deleted it all.

Nowadays I find myself being more and more up in arms about the piracy issue, mostly with video games.  I’m quite embarrassingly reactionary about it sometimes.  I get so sick and fed up of the excuses.

“I can’t afford games, so I pirate them.  It’s not like I’d be able to pay for them anyway so what difference does it make to the company?”

“DRM is the cause of piracy, I pirate games because I hate all the intrusive DRM that publishers and developers add to their games these days.”

“Video game publishers are corrupt and charge too much for games.  If they lower the price I’ll buy them.”

I currently qualify as unemployed, unfortunately, and I live in an area so poor that if a new business that isn’t a take-away lasts more than six months they deserve an award.  I have a wife who’s on maternity leave and a brand new baby son.  You could say that our purse strings are sufficiently tight and rightly so.  We almost threw a party at the discovery that we can afford Christmas this year and yet I don’t pirate games.  I wonder why?

Do I find it difficult to work out bittorrent, or to find my way around pirating websites?  Nope.  Thankfully I have a good idea of right and wrong and I know that stealing is most definitely the latter.  Stealing can be acceptable if you’re starving, because someone should be feeding you, but media is a luxury.  No one’s going to die by not owning The Witcher 2 and yet it’s been pirated almost four times as often as it’s been bought.

That brings me to the next argument:  DRM.

Back when Indie dev 2D Boy released World of Goo they made it DRM free as an “experiment”.  In response to such a trusting decision the gaming community went ahead and did we all surely expected it to do: pirated dat shit.

Soon after it was reported that World of Goo had seen an 82% piracy rate.  Not only was it DRM free, you can buy World of Goo for £6.99 on Steam.  I’m unsure about how much it was at release, but it’s an indie game.  It wont have been £50.

Leading me neatly to the “costs too much” argument.  Pirates often bring this up as if they’re freedom fighters, battling to loosen us from the grip that the corporations have over our lives.

Talking to the pirates here, you feel the need to own these things so badly that you steal it en masse.  You’ve been fooled into thinking that games, films and other media are necessary to lead a full life.  Basically you’re stealing their stuff for two reasons: you’ve a weak moral compass and their advertising works on you.

I’ve had a pirate accuse me of being a banker, because I oppose piracy, in the same way you’d accuse someone of being a child molester.  That shows two things: how low on the social chain bankers are currently and how bat shit insane people can act on the internet.  The basis of the accusation was that I was more interested in keeping companies afloat than I was in the interests of “the people”.  Hilarious.

No matter what the argument is, it’s a smokescreen.  Piracy isn’t the symptom of poverty, DRM, or evil corporations it’s the symptom of entitlement.  These days we can get a hold of almost anything at the touch of a button.  You want Crysis 2, Machine Gun Preacher and the top 50 albums on -insert pirate site here- (many of which you’ll never listen to)?  You can download them right now, free of charge.

Never mind the writers, lyricists, musicians, actors, coders, designers, editors, producers and anyone else who put hard work into generating these luxuries and pieces of art and whose wages rest in the hands of the companies who publish them.

Just you take it for free.  There’s a good thieving slave-child.

Give me complexity or give me death

28 11 2011

I’ve been, shall we say, ‘jonesing’ for a game like The Witcher for the past few months.

Every now and then I need a game that openly mocks my console gaming peasant status and The Witcher does just that.  It thrusts you in front of a mirror, rips off all your clothes and exposes you for the pathetic, simple-minded moron that you are.

I love it.

I love that I need to have a little rest when performing alchemy, because mixing ingredients is bloody hard work. I love that the autosave is so gut wrenchingly awful that I’ve twice been set back about an hour in play time.  Most of all I love that it’s not afraid to kick my teeth in every now and then.

The brutality isn’t reserved just for the user interface or the difficulty, either, the setting is unbelievably dark for an action RPG.  It falls into the old writing trap of using lots of swears to prove you’re a big boy/girl, but the characters do feel believable and they fit right in with the depressing world they inhabit.

I hear that The Witcher 2 is just as stupidly complex but with faster combat and an even beefier story.

Call me a masochist, but I must have it.

Fear of commitment

25 11 2011
Thanks to digital distribution I now own a lot of games I haven’t finished and rarely play.
First world problems, right?  I know I’m basically complaining about having a lot of things but the real issue isn’t that I own them, it’s that the mountain of unfinished games has started to becoming intimidating.
Here’s a list of all the Steam games I own at the moment but haven’t finished (HUGE LIST):
Crysis Warhead
Dark Messiah of Might and Magic
Empire:  Total War
Alien vs Predator Classic
Alpha Prime
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.:  Shadow of Chernobyl
Warhammer 40k:  Dawn of War 2
Warhammer 40k:  Dawn of War 2 Chaos Rising
Star Wars:  Knights of the Old Republic
Alien Breed 2:  Assault
And Yet It Moves
Atom Zombie Smasher
Ben There, Dan That
Broken Sword – Directors Cut
Command and Conquer 4:  Tiberian Twilight
Commandos:  Behind Enemy Lines
Commandos:  Beyond the Call of Duty
Commandos 2:  Men of Courage
Commandos 2:  Destination Berlin
Defense Grid:  The Awakening
Deus Ex:  GOTY
Deus Ex:  Invisible War
The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Fallout: New Vegas
Far Cry
Far Cry 2
Fate of the World
Frozen Synapse
Gemini Rue
Grand Theft Auto IV
Hamilton’s Great Adventure
Hitman: Blood Money
King Arthur – The Role-playing Wargame
Napoleon: Total War
Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus
Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee
Oddworld: Munch’s Oddysee
Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath
On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode 1
On the Rain-Slick Precipice of Darkness, Episode 2
Saints Row 2
Star Wars – Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast
Star Wars – Jedi Knight: Mysteries of the Sith
Star Wars – Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II
Star Wars – Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
Star Wars – Dark Forces
Time Gentlemen, Please!
The Witcher: Enhanced Edition
Just looking at that list now is giving me a mild panic attack.  I’m not even sure I’d manage to finish them all if I devoted the rest of my life to it.  So many games.
The problem, of course, isn’t actually finishing them.  The problem is focusing on any single one for long to enough to finish it, which I simply can’t force myself to do.  The Steam sales have been a curse on my wallet, but now they’re destroying my ability to fully enjoy games!
I always default back to my console when things like this happen, but this time I’m going to try and concentrate.  I got The Witcher and Fallout: New Vegas most recently so it is them I shall make my goals.  They both feature amnesia as a plot device, maybe I can work that in to real life.
What mountain of games?

Mo money!

22 11 2011

We did it!  My Movember team (that of AceyBongos ownership) has passed the £1k mark eight full days before Movember ends.

Plenty of time for more donations then!

Head on over to Movember via either the above link or this one to donate more of your hard earned moola to a worthy cause.

Thanks to everyone who has donated.  Feel free to demand I buy you a drink if we ever meet.

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