So, things have been a little quiet around here lately.
Despite having last posted about 15 months ago I’m still getting a steady amount of traffic on this blog, so I thought I’d check in with you guys to let you know that I’ve launched a brand new gaming blog.
It’s called RunJumpFire and you’ll find it at runjumpfire.com.
I won’t go into a long speech about the whys and wherefores, except to say that I realized I wanted to expand my focus on gaming beyond the confines of retro gaming. And having met up with a bunch of intelligent, witty folk on Twitter who are just as passionate about gaming and writing (including Jaime Hood, Justin Keverne and Wes Hampton, with more to come) we decided to pool resources and create a brand new multi-author gaming blog.
So what’s going to happen to Retroblique?
Once RunJumpFire has found its natural rhythm I’m going to revamp Retroblique as a more general purpose geeky blog. In other words I’ll be writing about my other geeky pursuits, including music, film, literature, art, design, and just about anything else that interests me. But all my gaming content will be moving over to RunJumpFire.
The Retroblique post database will be backed up and then wiped, so the revamped Retroblique will effectively be starting from scratch. I hope most of you guys continue to stick around, but I’ll understand if Retroblique’s gaming content is what you primarily stuck around for.
So, see you on the other side. Or maybe this side. Or both sides.
And so Apple’s attempt to convert all my electronic gadgets into sleek, glossy slabs of sci-fi magic continues, as I cave in and finally buy an iPad.
I no longer have a laptop, so my only two options for doing computery things were my desktop PC and my iPod Touch. As you can imagine, the former isn’t very mobile and the latter has a variety of limitations, so I needed something in between.
I did debate getting a new laptop, or even a notebook, but to a certain extent I still ran into the mobility issue. You see, I do a helluva lot of reading. Not just ebooks, but magazines, blogs, web sites, etc. And being fairly active on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, I like to share and discuss that content as much as possible. And, more often than not, most of the opportunities I get for reading, sharing, and discussing, tend to occur when I’m not in front of my desktop computer.
The iPod Touch is very good at handling all of this, and its retina display is pretty nifty, but the display screen is still relatively small and typing anything longer than a tweet or quick email can become a chore. Given the sheer amount of reading I like to do, a laptop simply wouldn’t have been a viable option; I’d have quickly fallen back to using the iPod Touch to read stuff. So it looked like a tablet device was the smartest choice.
It didn’t take me too long to decide which brand to go for. There’s some nice Android-based tablets out there, but having lived with an Android smartphone for the past year or so, and run into numerous problems with it, I decided to pass up that corner of the marketplace for now. The nook Tablet is one of the best devices in its class, but it’s not really powerful enough to run the sort of apps I need. So that only really left one contender, and given how useful I’ve found my iPod Touch, the iPad remained the only logical choice.
At this point I’ve only had it about 24 hours, yet I already feel perfectly at home with it. Well, it does have the same operating system as the iPod Touch, so that’s pretty much a given. And most of the apps work the same way.
I was a little disappointed to find that Reeder, my news reader of choice on the iPod, behaved a lot differently on the iPad. I subscribe to about 1300+ blogs via Google Reader (more about that in a future blog post), so I’m very particular about news reader apps. I like to be able to punch up a label and see a list of all the news feeds with that label. The iPod Touch version of Reeder allowed you to do that, but the iPad version will just group articles by feed or chronologically. With some labels containing up to 50 blogs, that would mean a lot of scrolling to find what I’m looking for, so being able to punch up one of those blogs as quickly as possible is quite important. (Edit: Reeder kinda gives you a label/tag view, but it treats them like photo gallery images, where each label is represented as a thumbnail which you can pinch open or closed. It looks nice visually but isn’t very practical for browsing large numbers of feeds.)
Thankfully, a bit of digging around the interwebs led me to a wonderful app, exclusive to the iPad, called Mr. Reader. It does everything that the iPod version of Reeder does, but has a lot more bells and whistles. If they ever bring out an iPod version I’ll most likely be switching to it on that platform too.
Given how unsatisfied I’ve been with my Android phone, once Verizon open the gates and let me upgrade, I’ll more than likely be switching to an iPhone. See how easily I’ve slipped into Apple’s grasp? But while they may even talk me into getting a MacBook in the dim, distant future, I’m going to draw the line at desktop computing. I’ve been a hardcore PC gamer for almost 20 years now, so unless something happens to kill off the PC gaming industry, my desktop allegiance will remain with Windows.
And that’s all it boils down to really—picking the most suitable tool for the job. Brand loyalty’s all well and good, but at the end of the day I’ll go for whichever device lets me do what I need to do as quickly and efficiently as possible. You’ve won this round, Apple. Five years down the line? All bets are off.
If you’re anything like me, not only do you have access to more than one gaming platform, but you also like to take advantage of sales, deals and other such discountery in order to bolster your video game collection.
This is good. We like games. We like good games. We like good, cheap games. Unfortunately, the planet we live on isn’t terribly sporting and refuses to increase the number of hours available to us on any given day, so at some point that collection becomes just a little too unwieldy. We can’t possibly play everything through to completion, so choices need to be made, priorities readjusted, lovers unspurned, etc.
In the past I’ve cultivated a rather nasty habit of starting a new game, getting anywhere from 10-90% into it, then gleefully abandoning it once something newer and shinier comes along. In short, I’m a gaming polygamist. Which I guess is a fancy-pants way of saying that I’m easily distracted.
A casual glance at the PlayStation 3 games on my shelf reveals a startling number of titles that have long since been abandoned, simply because I bought something else (probably many something elses) before I finished them. Deus Ex: Human Revolution, Red Dead Redemption, LA Noire, Fallout: New Vegas. They all stare accusingly back at me, demanding to know how they wronged me. A similar glance at the (gulp) 230+ games on my Steam account earns similar disapproving looks from those I grabbed during a Steam sale and have barely touched since.
Why do so many games in my collection remain unfinished? Has my attention span shortened over the years? Am I buying more games than I have spare time to play? Or are developers at fault for failing to deliver a sustainable gaming experience?
I pondered these questions a couple of months ago after I noticed just how many games I’d purchased since Thanksgiving. To that end, I made a conscious effort (I guess you could call it a belated New Year’s Resolution) to see more games through to completion, or at the very least play through one game at a time. I started out well, playing through the PC version of Alan Wake from start to finish in less than a week, before moving onto Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception and then spending a week or so with Journey.
I’ve currently clocked up about 16 hours with STALKER: Call of Pripyat. I purchased it when it first came out, but the desktop PC I had at the time wasn’t quite up to snuff, so it wasn’t until I put a new system together in February that I finally found myself with the opportunity to go back to it. I’m very much near the end of that game now, although I have been a little bit naughty and have started to overlap with a new play through of LA Noire. In fact, Rockstar’s 1940s detective epic has become something of a bedtime ritual for me, where I’m able to play through one new case each night. The game’s episodic nature lends itself quite well to shorter, concentrated bursts of gameplay, which contrasts nicely with Call of Pripyat’s more voracious time consumption.
Assuming I do manage to stick with more titles through to the end, or not play as many games simultaneously, I don’t think I’ll be able to completely curtail my bargain hunting tendencies. But I am being mindful of reducing the quantity of sale items I end up purchasing. Sometimes it’s too tempting to grab a title simply because it’s down 75% to $4.99 rather than because I actually have a burning desire to play that game any time soon. So now my bargain hunting will be conducted with an eye to choosing titles I’m more likely to play.
Thankfully I’m not alone in all this madness. Many of my online peers report the same problem—too many games, too little time to play them. I guess we should count our blessings that our favorite hobby consistently delivers products of an exceptionally high quality, otherwise this problem wouldn’t exist in the first place.
More shitty games, please, developers? It’s the only way some of us may ever hope to catch up with our backlog.
I finally got round to seeing The Hunger Games last week.
It’s not the kind of movie I’d normally run out to see at the theater, but having been subjected to the TV spot trailer in excess of 1800 times (yes, I worked it out) within the last month, thanks to my day job, I really needed to get the damn movie out of my system.
Verdict? It was okay.
I’d previously read about half the novel and skimmed the rest. I found the story to be derivative, but Suzanne Collins had a fairly engaging prose style that kept me going. The movie itself had a vague TV movie whiff about it, although I’d long since resigned myself to the notion of a watered down interpretation of the novel once I heard that Gary Ross (previously responsible for Seabiscuit and Pleasantville) was involved.
Jennifer Lawrence did a remarkable job with the material at hand, but losing Katniss’s first-person narration from the novel ensured that we only ever got to see a very superficially-rendered Katniss. The odd blub or two aside, the movie version of Katniss never really seemed emotionally connected to the unfolding drama. In the novel, she’s very much plunged into inner turmoil and conflict, all of which is deftly handled, but we never really see that translated to the big screen.
I’ll avoid drawing the obvious comparisons with the much meatier Battle Royale, but one thing The Hunger Games did remind me of is the post-apocalyptic young adult fiction written by John Christopher throughout the sixties and seventies, particularly The Guardians and Wild Jack. While the plots of those books have very little to do with The Hunger Games, the broader themes at play are very similar: a world divided by the haves and have-nots in the wake of some post-apocalyptic tragedy; young adult protagonists making the transition from one half of that world to another, inciting the underdogs to overthrow the technological elite, etc.
Now, given that this is primarily a video game blog, I’d be remiss if I didn’t address the obvious question: why isn’t there a video game tie-in?
Well, apparently Lionsgate are keen to expand the franchise into video game territory. Not only does it make financial sense (it’s unusual for a $300M grossing movie to not have a video game tie-in), but it makes logistical sense too, given that the eponymous Hunger Games event within the book/movie is essentially one huge deathmatch.
Of course, anyone familiar with the source material will automatically recognize the biggest hurdle facing any developer brave enough to tackle this property: how do you present a game in which a 12 year-old child will inevitably kill, or be killed by, another child? You can already hear a tsunami of outcry and indignation beginning to well up, from certain interest groups, at the merest hint of such a possibility. So what’s a game developer to do?
To ignore the Hunger Games event itself would be nuts, because every narrative thread and character arc converges there. It’s the primary focus of the novel (and movie), and to sidestep around the event just to avoid a controversy wouldn’t be doing the source material justice. So assuming the game is about the Hunger Games event, how do you depict teen-on-teen violence without earning the game an M rating (or equivalent) and incurring the wrath of the Perpetually Indignant?
Should the game pull back, mere milliseconds from the moment of a kill, and depict things implicitly rather than explicitly? Call of Duty and Battlefield fans wouldn’t be happy. They’re quite used to shoving shotguns up one another’s assholes and dancing in the post-trigger-pull shower of viscera that follows. People get shot or sliced and diced in The Hunger Games just like any other deathmatch game, but how far do you go to portray that?
I’m asking a lot of questions here but not really giving any answers. The Hunger Games event isn’t something that’s supposed to be entertaining. While it’s a nationwide TV event, it’s only the pampered power elite who gain any sort of pleasure from it. The friends and families of the Tributes who watch on the giant screens erected in their respective Districts simply watch in numbed silence, praying that their sons and daughters make it out alive. Given that any video game’s primary intent is to entertain those who play it, it will be interesting to see how that discrepancy is addressed.
Any prospective Hunger Games video game should be about survival, compassion and constantly require the player to question their role in the event and the society that allows it to continue, year after year. Only once that strong, contextual backdrop is in place can the developer start to explore just how far they’re willing to take the violence. We’ll just have to wait and see if anyone out there is up to this task.