Saturday, 29 December 2012


I love playing games. It’s one of my hobbies and I’m quite passionate about it. In light of the recent bad press gaming seems to have had (things that I commented on in a previous blog post) I wanted to present quite possibly one of the most amazing gaming experiences I have ever encountered. I’ve actually wanted to talk about this game for quite a while but I’ve been holding off because I don’t think I could do it justice and convey just how exquisite an experience this is. The reality is the only way to truly understand would be to play it, uninterrupted, alone and completely open to be immersed by it. As gaming news and commentary is going to be something I continue to do, I wanted to start with “the right game” and it had to be Journey. There is nothing that comes close this year and arguably this decade. If you haven’t played it, I won’t spoil any of the key moments.

The main thing to note about Journey is that everything the game does serves one purpose and that is to drive the narrative and build towards a collective experience. It is difficult to talk about single aspects of the game because each system in the game compliments and supports another. It’s becoming more and more prevalent to see multiplayer or RPG elements added to games because it’s “in fashion”. Journey doesn’t do that, everything present is potent, masterfully crafted and has a purpose.

The first thing that hits you about Journey is the visuals. As soon as you start the game you are presented with a vast desolate desert, stretching out as far as you can see, and soon after you are quickly introduced to your single solitary goal in the game: reach the mountain top. A peak looms over the land in the distance and at its summit there seems to be a ray of light. As the title screen appears over the image of the mountain the distance it becomes abundantly clear that your journey is to get there. There is no quest text telling you what to do or mini map markers (in fact the UI is stripped entirely with all information being represented visually in the world or on the character), this is intuitive design. The simplicity of this game is its brilliance because it taps into core human emotions, this one being curiosity and the need to explore.

And then the music kicks in and suddenly you’re within the games grasp. As you wander the desert as the main character (who is designed with no specific gender) the music accents each step with emotion. Whether it is fear, excitement, curiosity or sorrow the games changing visuals and music create an emotional ride that sucks you in. The music in Journey is one of the standout features; it was nominated for a Grammy and if you’re listening to the video I linked at the top, it’s clear why.

The gameplay is as simplistic as the games aesthetics. You can jump (and glide) and let out a pulse of light. The pulse of light is an interesting mechanic because it is your only way to interact with world and all the wonders waiting to be found. It also serves as an interesting and creative way to communicate with any players you happen to pass by. Journey features a multiplayer component with adds to the games appeal, narrative and collective experience. You don’t know the identity of the people you pass by. There is no way to “connect”, anyone playing at the same point as you in the game has a chance to appear in your world and you theirs. There is no name plates, no way to start talking to the person, you cannot message them, you are just two strangers in a strange land and you can either continue on together or drift off into the sands. The multiplayer mechanic in this game taps into another core human trait, that being one of humanity. Simply working out how to communicate and work with a complete stranger was an uplifting experience.

It is this perfect cocktail of simple features and a world of wonder that make Journey such a fantastic game. I found myself exploring whenever I could and I was genuinely afraid when the games enemies would approach. Because there is no way of combating them, a crushing sense of fear and helplessness overcomes you. You feel concern for the person you’re on this journey with, even though you know nothing about them.

When it was over (the game clocks in at about two to three hours) I knew then that what I had just played was something crafted with care, with purpose and it was one of few instalments in this genre that can be considered art. I would put this alongside any painting, film or piece of music because it evokes the same emotions and I’d argue that those emotions are much more personal because you interact with the game, it is your story.

If you’re interested in games and are a little tired of the same old thing over and over again then I implore you to try Journey. If you’re not into games and enjoy books, films or music then I also implore you to try Journey when you get a chance, this goes beyond a video game and it is an experience. Journey is easily the best game of 2012, quite possibly the best game in the last 10 years.

Utterly haunting.


Wednesday, 19 December 2012

I wish The Sun would go away

Sensationalist British media hardly fails to surprise me with its laughable standards “journalism”, however with the recent rise in mind numbingly stupid headlines following the unimaginable horror of the school shootings – I’m actually starting to wonder why anyone still buys these tabloids any more. Surely these readers would have more self-respect than to pick up The Sun and consider themselves informed of today’s current events, but these things continue to sell.

The Sun recently ran the headlines that reported the murderer who opened fire on innocent children in a school was somehow influenced by Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. Hooray, it’s “let’s jump on the video games are evil bandwagon” time! Hang on; they just need to get off the “Goth killers” bandwagon first.

In the interest of transparency I’d like to inform you guys that I have just finished a game of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 before sitting down to type this up and no, I am not feeling any urges to grab a weapon and open fire on innocent children. There is no evidence to suggest that playing video games = mass murderers. It’s insulting to even suggest that. To even imply that Call of Duty or video games in general is a main cause (one tabloid reported Dynasty Warriors as being one!) is becoming less and less of a credible argument and the constant backing of such an argument simply makes you look ignorant, narrow minded, backwards and quite frankly stupid.

To me that is the best way to describe the general institution of British Journalism, most (not all!) is quite frankly antiquated and a relic of times long since passed. More and more people are finding their news elsewhere. More and more people get their fix of entertainment gossip elsewhere, these trash tabloids quite frankly should just die out now – and quickly – and reform themselves in the wake of more connected and smarter audiences. I’m normally not one to just lash out at such a large sector of people, writers and journalists however this is just another instance of brazen sensational “journalism” where these tabloids get away with presenting shit as fact.

This follows the scandalous investigation into phone hacking and the invasion of privacy by journalists in more and more bold attempts to sell newspapers. Finally they were somewhat threatened by the Levinson Inquiry but the reforms suggest by that didn’t go far enough. We shouldn’t live in a world where journalists can offer depressed and mentally unstable people money for drugs and sex just to get a story. Or a world where whole sections of people (the killer was labelled as a Goth in a recent headline) are quite frankly discriminated against, whether they are immigrants, gamers or people who are interested in alternative music, attire and values, by large corporations whose interests solely lie in sales and political control. An establishment that can change its entire political belief at a whim to stay “in with the readers” loses all integrity with me.

It’s trashy, uneducated and petty. Their attempts to tarnish all forms of media and entertainment in which the large News Corporations have little control (for example News Corp has very little control in the games industry or avenues of Goth music and fashion) are getting obvious and quite frankly laughable.

We deserve better from our media and government and it burns me up inside that productions such as The Sun are still able to operate today. They are a fountain of hate and bigotry that are in the business of scaring readers and keeping them under their control rather than presenting news.

How about they stop finding out what music and games the killer listened to and plastering his face all over the front page and focus their attention on the innocent lives lost and the families having to deal with such a tragedy. Maybe that’s asking for too much.


Monday, 17 December 2012

Living up to destiny

My editor (his official title from now on) told me that I was supposed to finish the project that I was currently working on, one which – in all honesty – I had stumbled upon. And while I’m ready to talk about the project itself the implications of what this person said has stuck with me.

Often people stumble into jobs, careers or a routine and it becomes their normal life. They work 9-5 and earn their living and live their lives. There is nothing wrong with this at all and for a long time it was the destiny that faced me after I had tried my damnedest to torch my potential in my youth. Fast forward six years and I’m a mature student faced with a potential futures in academic and creative fields…. and someone is telling me that this is it; this is what I was supposed to do. This project has the potential to be one of the most important and rewarding things I ever do.

The project I’m referring to deals with subjects that I am passionate about (culture, religion, race, war, politics) and in fields which I have only recently discovered a deep reservoir of enthusiasm (imperialism, critical and cultural theory) thanks to the guidance of some special tutors at my university. Sometimes people in my family ask me why I’m writing and it comes from two deeply rooted character traits of mine. I like to help people and I like to engage with people. Living in a world that is often just wracked with conflict I want to be able to say something for the better. I guess there’s a rather egotistical reason involved to because I want to be remembered and all these things compound upon a single project that I’m meant to do. It’s odd that it’s taken me this long to blog something – because this format actually suites me quite well. Truth be told it wasn’t until I had an exchange of a few emails with another blogger that I actually saw this as a legitimate space for … randomly talking about crap I want to talk about, rather than a collection of amusing cat pictures (I’m sure I can add the odd cat picture in here and there).

The odd thing is my editor’s edict isn’t the only thing that legitimises my feelings towards my work. In an eerie turn of events I found out that I was somewhat aping my grandfather with some of my work that I was writing for assignment (something I’ll post up here soon). Someone who I rebelled against wrote a short book based in the topics and fields which I am now passionate about. Through a somewhat cathartic experience my hatred for him turned into understanding and … acceptance to a degree. I’ll never agree with everything he did but now I have root with which to try and understand why he did what he did. This understanding in turn fuels my passion and it’s all compounding upon one another. The pressure in the cooker is rising and the lid is about to blow off.

A sense of responsibility weighs heavily on a story I want to tell, a point I want to make and a challenge I wish throw out there. I have to do all this justice and that is basically the story of my entire third year of this degree, I have to do all of this justice. It’s the difference between doing something what I have always dreamed of doing – sitting on my arse and writing and living that way, or not. Either can happen, I’m not at all convinced that these turn of events guarantee success but who knows.