Friday, 20 March 2015

Decorated Hero: Cave Johnson and the Aesthetics of Science


I don’t really go in for loving many cultural products. I’ve got my favourite film posters on my walls - Casablanca, Easy Rider and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre - but they are there because I like both the prints themselves and the films. I find it generally quite difficult to take that step from appreciating something or finding it stimulating to laying down my life in its defence. I’ve never argued about which David Bowie album is the best, or which Call of Duty campaign is the most thrilling and visceral (man), or whether becoming a vegan should simply be a personal choice or part of a wider-reaching political/moral crusade. I steer clear because all of these things - and in general any topic with the power to bring forth heated conversation - are hugely subjective, and the people willing to jump into discussion at the drop of the hat - over the Internet or over wine - almost certainly have their minds made up already. I stood on a hill once and inadvertently urinated right into the wind. I haven’t made a habit of doing so since.

Friday, 20 February 2015

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Warfare * But Were Afraid to Ask Far Cry 2


Far Cry 2 is a very serious video game, maybe the most serious video game ever created. Its unflinching earnestness makes it, in my opinion, one of the most important games of recent years, if not all time. Far Cry 2 is everything big-ticket games are almost always too scared to be: it is hard, it is strict, it is a pain to actually play, it is uniformly bland in its approach to conflict and interpersonal relationships, it is - well, genuinely amazing.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Mordor Could Still Use More Shelves


I’ve recently moved house and spent a lot of time doing DIY. I’ve also been playing Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. DIY is full of intricacies and I’d go as far as to say these are pretty much limitless. The “Nemesis System” featured in Mordor - which generates unique foes for the player algorithmically - is full of intricacies, though these eventually run dry. That about covers the majority of the content of this aborted missive, which is far too unwieldy for me to ever hope of bringing under control. While I was lost in the maze of drivel, I kept bumping into myself asking the same question: why, when the differentiation between ‘story’ and ‘other’ content in open world games is often so slight, can I spend many, many happy hours labouring repetitively, only to lose interest in these same tasks the moment I’m not being pushed through by a narrative?

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Role-play it (again), Sam


I was, I think, trying to play the Half Life mod Vampire Slayer this one time, when I inadvertently ran into a bunch of people - a dozen or so, which was fairly respectable even at the height of the rabid modding community (dilution of the playerbase an’ all) - doing some very strange stuff. Vampire Slayer, as its name would suggest, was a combat-orientated experience where a team of humans (the titular Slayers) duked it out with a team of pastier humans (the titular ‘Pires) using all sorts of John Carpenter’s Vampires-inspired gadgetry. Only these players weren’t doing as they were told. Instead of swiping at, staking and shooting one another as would be expected, everyone was gathered around chatting or walking about, enacting something that kind of resembled real life. That is to say they were all simply flaunting the generally accepted rules of a team deathmatch game and just not killing one another. After a little polite inquiry I was informed that I’d happened upon a role-playing server: a place where one was free to pretend to be anything or anyone you desired - as long as you didn’t mind doing so dressed as a vampire version of the G-Man with great big claws and a nasty looking omelette scalp.