Sunday, 28 April 2013

'Stag Do' simulators!!

I say, you there! Yes, you. Hello!

This week I'd like to try and ascertain which game most closely captures the essence of a superb tradition. This tradition, dear sweating friends, is something called a 'Stag Do'.

The 'Stag Do' is a man-only party held to celebrate the last fleeting moment of freedom a doomed man has, before he is imprisoned inside the depressing dungeon known as 'marriage'. The term 'Stag' is used because, halfway into the party and due to alcohol chomping, all language is lost and replaced by various wet snorts, grunts and gasps. Like what a Stag does, probably. Makes sense.

So, we're looking for games that have a high level of freedom, some slight debauchery and maybe a wee bit of team-spirit. And maybe beers. And strippers. Because I am a genius, I came up with a few candidates for your consideration, sweetheart. Read on, please!

Right, so the obvious choice would be the Grand Theft Auto series. These titles feature lots of the key ingredients of a 'Stag Do' sim, as you can probably tell from the following image:

What the hell??
The GTA series has lots of freedom, lots of dodgy morals and the occasional appearance from the coppers, all of which fit the 'Stag' bill just fine. If you so choose you can enter various establishments wherein a pixellated lady will remove her data bra for you, or you can purchase a number of alcoholic beverages which will render you a staggering, hard-to-steer mess. It even has fast food outlets to give you the 'Stag' must-have of violent vomiting!

You can also randomly punch innocent passers-by to the ground, vandalise everything in sight or even steal a high-performance sports car and drive it off a mountain, complete with screaming hostage in the passenger seat! Good times!

Hmm. Actually, lots of these things are just too extreme for even the most boozed-up gang of mischievous revellers. We know 'Stag' parties can, and often do, get a little out of hand, but I think even I would have to draw the line if my mate rode a stolen motorcycle into a strip club, then used a flame-thrower on all the clientèle. I'd probably have a word.

So GTA is a bit too crazy for consideration, kids. Also, it's a lonely solo experience, missing the loose, fuzzy camaraderie of a bunch of 'Stagging' mates. Onwards!

The next candidate is a little something I like to call 'Skyrim'. This game is from the genre known as RPG, or RABT (Randomly Assigned Bizarre Task), and features absolutely loads of walking about aimlessly waiting for something to happen. Which is a staple of the 'Stag' experience.

Even though Skyrim is a single-player affair, the presence of lots of NPC's (you say you like games? I shouldn't need to explain that one, son) adds a kind of 'group' feel to the proceedings. Also, if you've ever been on a decent 'Stag' you'll understand that all your friends/people of momentary significance have a huge arrow hovering over their heads, due to several shots of dubious, sickly brain poison.

Some of the locations present in the world of Skyrim also have that feel of queuing up to get into a particularly mysterious nightclub, only to find it populated entirely by aggressive, unreasonable zombies swinging their fists at you. Very realistic 'Staggery'! See my thoughts here:

Oh god this guy's going to kick-off with me. Why why why. I only asked where the toilets are. Jesus!
The big issue against this title, however, is the stuffy, unfunny quality it has. It's a bit like going on a 'Stag Do' with people that have all suffered a devastating bereavement the night before, and are then, understandably, a bit light on laughs. Cast it to the dogs!

So, we have reached the winner (according to me). It could only be one. It fits so well.

Team Fortress 2!

Why? Well, the reasons are many and are coming at you right now like a furious bouncer with a kebab thrown onto his chest!

Let's begin with the mixed, disparate bunch of characters assembled for your team. This is pure 'Stag Do' magic here, as every 'Stag' party consists of at least three groups of people that have never met before. Different ages, different social statuses, someone's Dad, someone's next door neighbour, someone fat, someone thin and the inevitable drunken psycho. This wildly varied posse ensures confusion will have no problem finding a home here!

Next is the actual way TF2 plays. Just like a 'Stag' party, there are a couple of people with a clear objective in mind, then there are a couple of people too confused to contribute on any level, and then there are one or two folks just happy to gleefully disrupt any attempt at organisation! This, just like the real thing, leads to the occasional bout of team in-fighting and girlish sulking. Great!

Sure, TF2 has no 'Gentlemen's clubs' or in-game liquor, but it has something far, far more important to the 'Stag' genre. Something that has been a cultural pillar of society since the dawn of time. Something of such enormous importance to the 'Stag' experience that this search for a 'Stag Do' sim was more or less over as soon as it began. Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you FANCY DRESS:

Heavy is pwetty pwincess!
Fancy dress is absolutley crucial to a memorable 'Stag Do'. Humanity would fall into primitive savagery without the ability to stagger onto a dance-floor while dressed as Buzz Lightyear, or have an awkward scuffle over a taxi while in full drag (with wig & high heels). Bonus!

All these ingredients result in the most accurate 'Stag party' simulator in gaming history. Or not! Congratulations to Team Fortress 2 anyway, let's not be bitter. I'm going now anyway, sister!

GL & HF!

*Yink attended a Stag Do last night, and has another approaching soon,and was light on material.

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

I hate beat 'em ups!

Hi, neighbour!

Just popped in (......) to announce that I have decided something. This 'something' is that I always have, and probably always will, despised the 'beat 'em up' genre!

Why? Are you serious? You need clarification in the form of text? OK then.

First, a description of a beat 'em up, or 'fighting' game. These titles involve two idiots selecting a character that is usually some kind of gym-enhanced stripper, or some type of 80's martial arts stereotype. You know, like an Afro Bruce Lee or a karate robot.

Then, the two participating fools select a ludicrous location for their bickering session, with no sort of logic applied to how these characters ended up scuffling on the Sphinx's forehead, or in a hot tub on the back of a lorry driving through medieval Germany. Stupid!

Then, the pair of clowns participating in this nonsense rapidly stab every possible button available to them, sometimes holding several down at once in random fashion. Through a process of blind luck & repetition one of the challengers executes some kind of daft, physics-defying manoeuvre wherein their character gains an extra set of knees! This additional set of joints allows their chosen stripper to envelope the enraged enemy karate robot in a laughably fruity headlock. Can you believe this?

Then, to satisfy the pair of sillies playing, the word 'PERFECT!' flashes up on the screen, accompanied by a small taunt from the victorious combat stripper (which usually allows a sneaky peek at their pixellated undercrackers). Look here now:

Well done! Award yourself some crisps!

Praise be to the gaming gods that this tripe is in decline, even on those console things that you can buy if you want to!

Anybody over the age of 12 has absolutely NO EXCUSE for playing this stuff anymore, as images of ladies' legs, heads & underarms are now easily obtained via the internet. I just performed a quick 3 hour search using Google images, tissues & Lucozade, and can confirm they are certainly there.


They are perhaps universally offensive to women in their eye-watering anatomical buffoonery too!

So there you go, beat 'em ups are for children curious about women. Case closed!*

GL & HF!

*The beat 'em up genre has one the highest skill requirements for competitive play, and has been a key player in popularising our hobby.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Then and now!

Please stop staring at me, Son.

Hi! I insincerely hope you're all well! Are you literally crippled with anticipation regarding this weeks post? Then hurt no longer my beauty, I'm here!

I thought I'd attempt to examine the differences between gamers today, and gamers from roughly twenty years ago, and then arrive at an inconclusive, confused conclusion. I am a God!

To begin, let me whisk your stylish trousers back to when I was a disgusting child, around 11-12 years old (obviously I gamed before this, but I consider this to be the real awakening of my gaming loins). I'd catch the bus with the few nerds I knew from school, and we'd descend upon *WHSmiths like a tiny plague of skinny locusts, hungry for new-release corn. We had no idea what was due, what was out or what we'd missed, we just knew that games were in there, and wanted to handle the cassette cases, and try to imagine how the game would play solely based on the screenshots on the back of the packaging. Pathetic!

*WHSmiths is a chain of shops that sells 'things' to 'people' in exchange for so-called 'money'. It's a suspicious place full of strangers, and it smells of carpet.

As we all jostled there, each one shrieking over the other 'Look at this!' 'Have you seen this?' 'Whoooooa this looks skill!' 'Stop staring at my sister!' and that, we'd be sold almost entirely on how we expected it to look once we got it home to our Amstrads, Commodores and Spectrums.

In other words, our criteria for a purchase was very simple. WAIT. I've successfully identified a difference between contemporary gamers & 'early' gamers, and as such I think it deserves a bullet point:
  • Our expectations and criteria for a purchase used to be much less, nowadays we demand a tailor-made experience despite all the complications & heartache that brings. 
So, we made our respective multi-format purchases, and caught the bus home. The 'bus home' refers to public transport, not some exotic disease transmitted by unprotected driving of a double-decked vehicle. Did that gag work? Who cares, nobody reads this anyway! Move along, Son.

The time spent on the bus was crucial, as it allowed intensive study of the cassette inlay. The inlay always contained a brief synopsis of the title, the all-important controls, and usually some fantastic artwork. I have no clue why I was so obsessed with controls, as I used a joystick anyway, but there you go!

Anyway, once arriving at home the loading process began, complete with all the well-documented & lovingly remembered loading sounds, which I shall attempt to reconstruct for your viewing pleasure/crushing disapproval:
  • BoooooooooWip!
  • Booooooooooooooooooooo!
  • BooooooBzzzzzzzzzzWipBzzzzzzzzzzWoooooooBzzzzzzzzzVuzVuzVuzVuzBoooooo!
Accompanying this symphony of expectation was a horizontally-revealed loading screen, designed to distract you from the 15-20 minutes of hell you had to endure in order to swallow the gaming meat. Sometimes, the game would 'crash' and you'd have to suffer it all again! Flaming hellfire!

Here, have one on me:

15 minutes of staring at this, you fancy it? No? What's your point? Spit it out, don't be shy. What, you need your mates to back you up? You think I'm soft? Do you? Don't look at them, look at me. I'm talking to you.

Eventually the noise would stop, the loading screen would disappear and off you went into gaming bliss. WAIT. I think I may have just given birth to another disfigured bullet point in relation to the topic:
  • Contemporary gamers want everything instantly, any form of delay warrants a gigantic strop & hundreds of bitter forum posts. Early gamers would sit through, in some cases, hours of waiting & messing about in order to play a terrible game. Youthful ignorance or innocent passion for the genre? Tell me. No seriously, tell me or **I'LL CUT YOU.

Right, onto the games themselves. Let's be honest here, lots of old games were bad. They looked bad, played bad, and contained more bugs than a tramps knickers. However, we loved them anyway. That seems moronic, but what choice did we have? We couldn't access forums, 'Tweet', 'Poke', 'Like' or 'Cuff' the developers, or even send a poorly-worded email. I think I've just given birth again:
  • Direct access & contact with developers has made contemporary gamers far more demanding, for better or worse. Probably worse. They demand demand demand, then leave the title as soon as a new midget appears, flaunting their thighs. I mean game. Game. Yes.

So, it seems to me that the advent of the internet has altered gaming irreversibly. Even early gamers like me have been changed, and I'm unsure if it's good or bad. I think input into the things we love is crucial, but at the same time destructive input can be damaging for everyone. I'm sure a rough majority of all gamers have the best intentions at heart, but then there are uniquely modern phenomena such as 'Trolls' and meme-obsessed hipsters that offer zero or less to our beloved games.

Don't worry, I haven't forgotten the giant, billowing, out-of-place toupee perched on the head of gaming known as DLC, it's just a subject that demands a LOT of discussion. And frankly, it's been done to death and back and then killed again. And then done again. And back.

'Hey, you get that new DLC? It fits seamlessly into the fanbase, and causes no divison whatsoever!'

Would Sir like a conclusion? Sir would? Would Sir like it in bullet point format? Certainly, Sir:
  • Contemporary gamers are not inferior to early gamers.
  • Early gamers didn't have any form of dialogue with developers
  • Contemporary gamers have far higher expectations, due in part to the above point.
  • There is an implied impatience surrounding the modern gamer, but I'm unsure of its origin.
  • Contemporary gamers don't stick around like early gamers did, glorious PC master race excepted. This gaming sluttery leads to developers being less invested in their work, maybe? Perhaps being a little more 'throwaway', as they perceive their market to be?
The huge majority of gamers will probably wonder what the hairy hell I am screaming about here, but hopefully some of you will understand my points. Imagine I'm a brain-damaged chimp, and you're a ground-breaking chimp neurosurgeon capable of repairing me! Medic!

I think I'll squirt out a midweek post too, so please come back! Please! And bring a friend! But not that creepy guy with the ears.

GL & HF!

**I am a complete coward that sometimes doesn't answer his own front door, and therefore rejects violence in all forms. I'm a gamer, not a fighter.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

The waiting game...

Hello there! There!

I have been crippled with the most severe cold in the history of humanity this week, and as a result my creativity is somewhat diminished. However, as this is crap anyway, you shouldn't notice!

So, through my snot-drenched haze, I started thinking about the elements of gaming that don't seem to fire in my rotting brain anymore. There are many, many.

One of which is the emotion known as anticipation. Is it an emotion? I don't know, I'm not a scientist!

Ah, anticipation. Expectation. Excitement. Eagerness. Being stoked. Feeling pumped. Gagging for.

Back when the gaming blood in my veins was thick, hot and frothy, I wanted to know everything I could about upcoming releases. Screenshots were like little windows into the future, each image coming to life in my tiny brain with a flourish. The accompanying text would be hungrily scanned over and over and over and over until I'd wrung every little detail from it. Then I'd read it again, subconsciously hoping I'd missed a bit. What a disgusting roach!

Of course, this news (or 'future whisper' as I liked to call it as I cried myself to sleep) was printed into magazines, which were the only real source of information back then. The magazines I remember most fondly are Amstrad Computer User, Gamesmaster, Edge and, unavoidably, Official PlayStation. Also, a few copies of PC Gamer but not enough to really warrant a mention. Apart from this mention.

Each magazine would be opened instantly at the reviews. I loved, and still love, reviews. Particularly bad ones. There's a grim entertainment in watching someones baby get kicked in the face by a sniffy, sneering stranger, whom then encourages his/her readership to avoid the face-kicked infant. Also, bad reviews are always funnier than good ones. This is fact, son.

Accompanying the reviews would be the tasty, jewel-encrusted dish of screenshots. These photos would be stared at in silence for anywhere up to and including 45 minutes guaranteed, as my bulging eyes would try to somehow 'feel' how it would play simply by looking at them. Is that the health bar? Is that how many lives you get? Is that the ammo counter? Is that how many laps you have to do? Is that an end of level boss? Is that the version I'll be getting?

Of course, any game-obsessed baboon will remember the infamous trick of using pics taken from other formats to trick you into false hope. When I gamed upon an Amstrad CPC 464 I was forever being taken for a ride by games publishers using Amiga screenshots to flog their milk to me. What I expected to be a lovely, rounded scene of colourful loveliness often was a blocky, black & green portrait of filth on my screen. It was a despicable act of treachery in my book, and one that has caused lasting scars on my personality!

I used to smell the pages!

Secondly, which I know seems a bit backwards, the 'upcoming releases' section was a wonderland of mystery & excitement. Herein games would be named, a brief outline of the point of wasting your precious, over-too-quickly life on them would be made, and a suspected release date would be flicked at you. All of which was great at the time!

I remember a pair of distinct anticipation events in my game-rubbing lifetime. The first was for my CPC 464, and it was a movie tie-in, of all things. I know! Imagine, a time when movie tie-ins weren't half-baked afterthoughts assembled to swizz kids, drunk on merchandising hysteria! The game was Batman. And my god, did I ache for it. I literally YEARNED for it, like an imprisoned man yearns to see if his missus has ran off with his brother. It was all I could think about. Here, share my pain!

Wow, honestly, seeing this makes me tingle.

My anticipation was so huge for this cassette that I got myself into trouble. Even though I knew it wasn't released until next week, I nagged and nagged my parent/guardian into taking me to 'Computer World'. This wasn't a futuristic theme park wherein all the staff had monitors instead of heads, it was merely the name of the game shop in late 80's Bolton. And obviously, when it was revealed I'd told an over-excited porkie in my haste to walk in the gigantic shoes of acting God Michael Keaton, I received a well-deserved metaphorical beheading. Fat oaf!

However, in this case, my anticipation was rewarded. This game was...stunning. I literally squealed with joy at the quality of the graphics. To be honest, I think I may have even shed a giddy tear of excitement as I beheld the beautiful packaging alone in my stinking bedroom. Wow, even now I can feel the matt-black, high-quality cardboard cassette box in my memory hands...!

Games are great, tell everyone you can, as soon as you can.

Sorry, I went off track a bit then. Here, have a picture and try to understand, you fool!

It was lashing with rain outside my bedroom window when I first saw this gorgeous mental patient!

The second of the two cataclysmic anticipation feasts was a racing game....a very, very important racing game. But I intend to blah blah on about it in detail some other time, so I'll leave it until then. If that's alright with you, sweetheart!

So, as I stagger towards the end of this nonsense like a tramp being eaten alive by foxes, I have formed a conclusion. And yes, it is probably WRONG and FLAWED.

Anticipation is gone from me, perhaps from the majority of older gamers. We don't enjoy the constant barrage contemporary gaming subjects us to. We want mystery to return, but when the veils of secrecy draw back, we want quality. Ah wait! There's my conclusion! Here, try this next line:

'We have no anticipation, because we know there is nothing to anticipate that we haven't seen before.'

Seems kind of miserable? It's the truth, sister.

GL & HF!

Sunday, 7 April 2013

The day I met you....

Hello there sister!

Since I wrote my introduction, I've been having a sly peek at what other bloggists are up to, and frankly, I'm disappointed. In my own abilities. 'Harrumph'.

But, I am hoping that you, dear non-reader ignoring this post again, will be charmed and enthralled by my simplistic approach and minimalist attitude to content!

So, with that in our so-called 'minds', I'd like to take you by your beef-stained hand and attempt to explore one of the filthy roots of my gaming illness.

Chapter 1: I saw her standing there...

When I was miniature, I used to be taken along to a place called Blackpool. Like all poverty-stricken families from that era, Blackpool Pleasure Beach was a glamorous tourist attraction full of wonder & chips.

(The 'Pleasure Beach' wasn't a franchise of Hugh Heffner's orange & silicone bimbo cull factory, it was a collection of rides, stalls and, most importantly, arcades.)

Arcades. Dimly-lit temples to the newly-born temptress named gaming. These places from the outside seemed like warehouses full of blinking lights and various beeps, whooshes and bzzzzps. Only the truly dedicated passed through those doors into the confusing electronic hell within, or were nagged into it by the little excited people drunk on anticipation!

Now, when I was smaller, the arcades were scary places. All the big kids went into arcades, and lingered intimidatingly around the better cabinets, or 'game sarcophagi' as I used to not call them. So, the newer releases were out of bounds to me, as I was a coward even back then. The pinball machines were the worst, but thankfully I'd be turned away from pinball forever with the discovery of the stuff in the next paragraph!

Pole position. This cabinet had a steering wheel, gear selector and pedals. Actually REAL and ATTACHED. This, to my growing brain, was only one step down from a real car. It featured stylised pictures of Grand Prix cars on the sides, and chewing gum cruelly stuck to the underside of the steering wheel in the optimal position to make me cry.

It was, nearly obviously, an attempt to bring the death-defying sport of Formula One to life for idiots.

And it worked on me, sister.

When I dropped that 50 pence piece (about £130 in today's money), I was transported to another world. I felt like I was there, the true seal of immersion.

The car I piloted was three or four black blocks, the track was a grey, jagged tear in a screen of green with a perfect blue sky meeting it in the middle. The enemy drivers, all determined to steal food from my plate and leave me upside down in a ball of flame with stains on my smalls.

The track would advance toward you, the enemy scum would appear on the horizon and grow, block by block, until you murdered (overtook) them with a flourish, sending them back to their wives & children as broken men with incurable psychological damage.

The gear selector had 'lo' and the dizzyingly dangerous 'hi' settings. Obviously, 'lo' was for girls with nits, and 'hi' was for real men like Burt Reynolds in Cannonball Run.

I played the heck out of this game, begging for 50p's like a boy band member on Comic Relief. Whenever I'd get to those Blackpool arcades, I'd be drawn almost romantically to it, like a tramp trying to woo a wheelie bin.

This game is responsible for my love of the real F1, and for my soft-spot for the racing genre as a whole. I loved it.

Although, I can't really remember it that well! I tried to find a picture that matched my recollections, but this is all I could find with minimal effort!

Not what I remember, can you do better? Then shut up!

 This is probably the reason I love games. Well, one of them anyway. Read on boss!

Chapter 2: Not as good as chapter 1.

The other arcade-based thing I remember being hooked on was called 'Green Beret'. This was a cutting-edge military simulator, certain to have been used by the SAS in preparation for wearing gas masks and that.

I think I remember the game started with a heart-breaking message about captive troops, which fired me up and made me as patriotic as an illiterate child can be. I imagined then all tied up in a draughty barn, steely determination etched on their bedraggled faces, dreaming of home and muttering.

Then, a DEAFENING SIREN would sound, signalling the start of your mission. A sideways-scrolling enemy compound would appear, filled with despicable terrorists, bigots and ladders.

It was terrifying! They would rabidly sprint towards you, frothing with disappointment at your intrusion on their villainy. Armed only with a truly enormous knife which lashed out from your chest area inexplicably, you had to jump, climb and otherwise dodge these raging baddies. Luckily, the baddies had received such a cripplingly poor standard of training that they were easily stumped by you simply lying down or jumping at the right time. God in heaven!

I was so bad at this game that I may as well have not bothered playing. I could have just swallowed the coins, to be honest. I hate myself and wish I'd never been born!

They are literally screaming in my face as they charge at me!

But therein is a lesson for nobody, guys. Remember when we played just to play, and progress-based frustration didn't exist? No achievements, ranks, trinkets or cupboards to obtain. Just a coin-operated dream machine you longed to be with, no matter how fruitless the whole thing was.

Beautiful. But gone. Or is it? Don't ask me!

Of course, there are tons of other arcade titles that deserve at least a name-check, but I can't remember them. Did you just 'tut'? Well, don't. I'm only human you oppressive cow!

OK, that'll do for now. As usual, nobody cares and the world is a heartless, competitive place, but don't let that stop you from remarking, no matter how nonsensical or threatening.

 I'll stop if you say so, chief!

GL & HF!