Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Although I seem to have made a fatal error in not being able to have net access at home… which wouldn’t be a problem if my articles were obtainable outside my laptop.
Which they're not.
So I'm left with several articles on a laptop which currently doesn’t have net access.
Normal service will resume once this tricky issue is resolved. Which will probably mean when I come back to B'ham in a couple weeks. But I'm happy to say things are going well, at least, and there may even be some good comic book related news around the corner. Wish me luck...
Until then, same bat-channel, not so much same bat-time.
Monday, October 08, 2007
Everything and nothing.
That's it, column over.
What? There's still 1, 484 words left to fill?
Oh. Okay. Let's go a little more in-depth, then.
Wii Fit has caused more than its fair share of outrage and bile since its grand unveiling at this year's E3, where the Nintendo developed software was seen as the latest attack on hardcore gamers' market share, patience and pride. After a lacklustre conference, the company's coup de grace of a health-based title which not only boasted a wealth of *gasp* mini-games but also a new peripheral was just too much for some, who went on to declare Fit was the anti-christ and a clear harbinger of the End of Days.
She can smell your fear, Halo fiend.
Casual gaming: serious business.
Wii Fit: It will kill you and all you love. While you sleep. With fire.
I remember the first time Luigi's Mansion and Pikmin were unveiled on GameCube, and remaining distinctly unimpressed (even if the graphics were nice); and I wasn’t the only one. Pikmin? Pah, I already played Command and Conquer, thanks. As for Luigi's Mansion, well if Nintendo thought this was to satisfy my longing for a Mario game, the company had another thought coming. Were these titles really what Miyamoto was working on? Where was MY Zelda? MY Mario Kart? MY StarFox? MY F-Zero?
Understand that I'm not directly comparing Wii Fit to Pikmin or Luigi's Mansion. They're obviously different in many ways. However, each one of those titles exist to help push beyond what is established for their relevant format and ideals, extracting resources and talent from one aspect of development that we often take for granted, and moving them into another. The reactions now are far more diverse to what they have been years ago, but it's because we had titles that pushed those envelopes, even a tiny bit, that we have such a large and dedicated audience to disparage the likes of Fit et al in the first place. Risks are necessary to any medium, regardless of success or not, and in six or seven years time when another set of games become relatively new, those who grew up on the likes of Wii Fit will probably be saying something similar to what we're saying now. Because everyone starts off a casual gamer, yet not everyone has the time to become a hardcore one. It's nothing but divisive to exclude someone when they just want to enjoy what we do, albeit to a different and arguably less time consuming degree.
Earlier this year I read a Nintendo World Report interview with Silicon Knights President, Denis 'Eternal Darkness'/'Too Human' Dyack, where he said something that inavertedly related to all this: "the film industry went through a very similar thing where at first… all the movies that they did would be like trains running into cameras and just the whole spectacle. It was very spectacle-driven. People wouldn’t even come in at the beginning of the movie because there was no story, they would just come in to see the spectacle and the technology of these moving pictures. They were enamoured with it, it was the biggest thing. But then after a while, when people, the technology levelled out and people started becoming more critical and started saying, 'What am I getting out of this? Why am I going to this? I’ve seen trains running into cameras'. People actually started telling stories and it really started to be considered an art form."
Hardcore gamers' kryptonite. Apparently.
Of equal significance, Wii Fit will provide a healthy shot in the arm to gaming's overall PR, offering a stark contrast to the relatively unfair and frequent attacks garnered via titles such as Manhunt 2. Whether the medium needs such a fix is really not the point – anything which broadens the appeal of gaming and helps break down the misconceptions and barriers to what the close-minded think of our hobby is a good thing. It may not be an immediate effect by all means, but it's certainly a step in right direction and the more people converted, the less sensationalistic "Nintendo killed my son" headlines we'll see. And barring any "Nintendo turned my son into a frenzied fitness freak" front page replacements, isn’t that something as gamers we can all benefit from?
Next week I step back into the inescapable rabbit hole that is the Games Industry -capitals for she who must be obeyed- full-time. Having been knocking around its flashing coloured district for the past six years (the last two being freelance) it's strange to think I've been working for the media as long as I have without going slightly more insane than I already am. But back I go. And mercifully, it's one of the more sensible and adult decisions I've made this year -you can count those on the fingers of one hand, by the way.
However, it also means my games freelancing days are totally over. Which in turn means no more rambling at length about whatever the heck I want about whatever console that's fallen within my gaze, while being paid for it.
So it's likely the videogames slant that's been slightly marginalised in The Writer's Block will re-emerge a bit more in the coming months to allow me to express matters I'm unable to cover in my full-time role. In-between me pleading (pleading!) for you to buy my forthcoming brain haemorrhages spilled out on flat dead trees, of course.
Fortunately, I have content in that area that can be used to kick off this direction. Some of you may have noticed the lack of Wii Chat articles over the past few months. Don't ask me why, because frankly, I (and the other writers of the site) don't know the reasons. I'm secretly hoping the editor hasn’t fallen off a cliff or anything equally as perilous. But in any case, I had a backlog of articles written that never saw print, and seeing as they're still my own intellectual property I thought I may as well start posting them here in all their verbose, tangent sparking glory. This site could do with more content of that kind, and if I'm going back to my games roots full-time I may as well begin things with some good ol' fashioned column roughage as breakfast to this new 'day'.
So thanks for sticking with me; see you on the other side…
Wednesday, October 03, 2007
"Anyway, like you were saying. Are you serious?"
"I sh*t you not. His Dad's brother turned out to be his actual Dad. F*cked up, I know. When that got out in school, all the kids were calling him "The Man from Uncle".
But what it'll also mean is I may not have a net connection to update as often as I'd like (erm, not you'll probably notice any difference, given the irregularity I'm updating of late). So yeah, lots of shifting and jumping in the coming weeks, hopefully all for the better. Enthusiasm tempered with caution.
Anyhoo, as promised, another extract from Silly Games (as was the opening exchange, in case you were wondering). This one's language is a little more… colourful. So naturally beware of the salt that is profanity in this entry. All the same, it's not too explicit, especially compared to the rest of the novel, but I made the realisation that most of its 'cheerier' parts were quite obscene and I didn’t want to have a downbeat extract again for this week (although if I included the end of the chapter, the tone of this passage would be far different to what you have here).
"So, you really okay, Gee? I mean, really."
"But hey, live and learn, right? It's all we do these days. Live and learn. Then screw it all up over again."
Gee patted my shoulder. "Like I said before, it's fine." Pause. "So, how's things with you? All this time, I've barely even asked."
I think my expression kept on the rueful side. "Argh, you know. Work's sh*t, I'm stupid with my money, I make bad social faux pas'…" -Gee smirked- "Biz as usual."
"Some things here and there… bit too early to say though."
"Nah, not really. I tell you I started a blog?"
Gee guffawed. "You hate blogs!"
"I know… but… necessary evil."
"Don’t deny it."
We went into the main computer room where I showed her my slapdash efforts. She gave me a few tips on my design and how to draw in an audience, to which she directed me to a small side project site which involved several scantily clad, heavily bosomed female anime characters standing on a dance stage to an empty auditorium, looking decidedly bored. I turned to Gee. "Erm…"
"Shhh," she grinned. She went through a couple pages of unintelligible routines, then clicked on a 'contribute' button, entered a PayPal amount of £5 and then said, "watch this."
Her site returned and the characters on the screen suddenly started writhing slowly around each other to some generic Europop. Then as the tempo started to speed up, the music turned into some sort of J-pop variant and the characters started to dance manically, jiggling their numerous animated bits rhythmically, but as per anime conventions, never dropping out of their barely apparent clothing. Flashes of Gary's crotch dance from days before came worryingly back before my eyebrows rose several feet off my head. "Gee, what the hell is-"
She put a finger over my lips. "Shhh… wait."
I continued to watch the animated women bounce and jiggle and writhe, singing along to the crazed soundtrack. Then bizarrely, a male avatar walked on to the screen and sat down. A little speech bubble popped up: "Glad 2 see you back online, thought u were gone 4ever."
The song changed. Something contemporary poppy, not totally sure, but the dancers seamlessly switches rhythm and tempo to match. Then another man appeared and sat down. His speech bubble was just " :) ". Then another. And another. We watched for minutes as the previously empty seats filled with oglers.
"So, wait," I said, "these guys are paying for this?"
"At the moment it's a small contribution – they come in, pay whatever and then have about 10 minutes to play whatever song they want while my characters do their biz."
One man's speech bubble suddenly came up: "Take it off, baby!"
Yow. I silently turned to Gee who was rolling her eyes. "Expected, but no, before you ask, they never get naked – the tease is part of the attraction."
"And they just what, sing and dance? That's it?"
There was a slight skewing of Gee's eyes. "Well, that's part of it… I've kinda got a deal with a few sites… well, actually, no, let me rephrase. I've got a deal with some friends… hackers… who work within a few sites where there's thriving virtual communities. Places where people hang out online with their virtual lives. They've created this underground server which patches on to their virtual world and that's where we test out stuff deemed too risqué or outside the community's terms of service. Few people know about it, because obviously, if word gets out and we all get caught, we're in the poo, but there's enough of a keen side audience who's willing to play along. My contribution was this – a tame but very specifically geared interactive go-go bar.
I was incredulous. "I love your intentions, but, Christ, how do you get away with…" I pointed to the overt jiggy jiggy, "…this?"
I shook my head, laughing in disbelief. "Jesus…"
"No offence, but guys… guys are huge lump sacks of walking procreation hormones. Women control the undercurrent of everything you know. Your world is a big ol' sham because you worship these," she grabbed her breasts theatrically, "and pray with this," she waved an imaginary penis from her groin. "Accept that and everything else is sweet vanilla ice cream. As long as you remember that we're the ones providing the milk."
"You're so wasted at your company."