Friday, June 28, 2013

From The Collection #1: The Crookback Packrats

Over a month ago now, we trailed this series and then in classic TGAM style ditched it. This series is our way of getting some extra value out of all that stuff we've collected over the years, most of it travelling direct from the shop into the cupboard of shame. In surveying the collection we were in two minds about where to start. Should we mix it up and start at the end with the latest kipple we picked up in the HMV and GAME closing sales? Maybe start in the middle during 'our golden age of gaming' when we actually had the time/the inclination to play video games with every available second? Or perhaps we should go deep into the cupboard of Chinese manufactured goods and dredge out the things that started it all? Well we guessed you' expect us to choose one of those so in an elaborate twist we went waaay back. BEFORE the beginning. Perhaps this is where it all started with, sadly, all I have left of a once magnificent but also deeply shameful collection of Games Workshop miniatures.

Once upon a time I had a magnificent collection of Games Workshop products; Heroquest, Space Crusade, Blood bowl, Warhammer Quest (including all the character packs and expansions), Advanced Heroquest, Necromunda, a hefty Warhammer 40K Ork army, tons of copies of White Dwarf and a small Dark Elf army for Warhammer. However, the crown in the jewel was my beloved Skaven army. I had every unit, hero and war machine painted with varying degrees of finesse. I was a lucky kid there's no doubt about it, particularly given that my and my friends' parents used to cart us and all our gear to each other's houses virtually every weekend for four horribly awkward teenage boys to sit around for hours of figure painting and miniature warfare. Sadly due to odd family circumstances the whole lot of my collection got donated to a hospital without me knowing or able to do anything about it. That was sad for me but doubly sad seeing as the last thing a bunch of sick kids need is some toxic lead miniatures (this was in the days before the white metal and widespread use of plastic kits). The only thing that was saved from the collection was a random assortment of stuff that wasn't with the rest including my blood bowl team, the Crookback Packrats illustrated here, a lone dark elf champion, three books and my box of die. Over the years I've missed the collection but at the same time I'm grateful it was less stuff to hide when we tried to sex people.

We've been thinking about geekery questions recently such as where does it start? What are the gateway drugs? To our mind Games Workshop is a very British think for 'the kids' ('the boys'?) to get into. Many of our American associates can trace their origins back to D&D and other pen and paper games but certainly where I grew up it was pushing figures around a green painted MDF board with cereal boxes for hills and railway houses for castles and bunkers. This then lead into playing Magic the Gathering and at the same time into video games (and what seems to be international, an inexplicable fondness for wrestling, despite the fact that when we were growing up it was only on satelite TV and nobody had satelite TV). It's hard to write this without projecting my own neuroses onto it but being a geek growing up was really fucking tough. Especially the teenage years, when having a passion about anything that wasn't 'normal' (cars and football) made you an instant target for ridicule. Particularly, because some of our braver colleagues never wanted to shut it off, bringing up Lord of the Rings at the lunch table or writing their creative English homework on Resident Evil (never got a good grade for that). On the one hand I would have loved to have 'just been myself' and not cared what others thought, on the other life was just easier keeping it under wraps. It's why we're still self concious stepping foot in a Games Workshop, going to one of these events or admitting to colleagues that on the weekend a bunch of us like to spend the whole weekend playing card, board and video games like the last 16 years had never happened. And of course it isn't just a love of beautiful tiny figures, the systems in Magic the Gathering or the rules of a board game it's all about loving these things with a group of people who unashamedly love them too. You can let the guard down, you can be yourself, you can make some of the geekiest in jokes ever and everyone will get it.

Sadly, this is the only physical reminder of those glory days. The last remnants of weekends of happiness, of engaging fully with our geeky side and not having to hide it for fear of snap judgements. If we'd been growing up now I think things would have been a lot different but only because people my age now run the world. It's perfectly quotidian to love the Lord of the Rings films or to go and see the latest (cack) superhero movie at the cinema or to be addicted to the Game of Thrones or to discuss the Walking Dead around the water cooler. Which makes us think, were we alone as we thought? Is it just that the geeks now hold the positions of power in the creative industries? Was everyone hiding their love of fantasy and sci-fi? 

Older veterans of the scene swear blind that you end up coming back to where you started and I'd be lying if my particular gaggle of geeks didn't occasionally buy a White Dwarf here, warhammer 40K codex there, a black library publication (read Ravenor) or the sneaky unit of beastmen from time to time. I think if we had more time we would go back to playing Warhammer again but it's difficult enough to get us in the same room at the same time for people's weddings and their children's christenings and it's still a bit hard to explain to a (particularly if they're new) partner just quite what it is you do and why you enjoy it so much. 

As an aside, the Games Workshop has had an abyssmal record when it comes to expanding their Universes across media. There have been a fair few video games some of which were awesome (1993's Space Hulk), some passable (Shadow of the Horned Rat) and others a bit pap (Fire Warrior and honourable mention for the awful awful Ultramarines movie). At their best, the games capture the spirit and trigger the nostalgia of pushing around a gazillion skavenslaves and missing that key die roll but are never a replacement for the camaraderie and fun times shared between friends. Recently, I picked up Blood Bowl for the DS. It's a perfectly serviceable and accurate (if somewhat buggy thanks Cyanide) port of the game and I've probably played more games of Blood Bowl than I ever did with the team featured here but it's not the same as the warm feelings I get when I fondle and kiss these beauties. Lead poisoning be damned.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Pokemon Team: En Memorandum

Last month was a hard time for me. In part I was overjoyed at the exposure was getting with that Kill Screen article. However it was also a dark time, my Pokemon Black Cartridge got put in the washing machine corrupted. This cart contained many of the pokemon who were on a par with the length of time played and connection with that Omastar, so as I am sure you can appreciate the joy of being featured was ever so slightly tainted...

As you can imagine, I was more than distraught. I considered trying to salvage my save using PC adaptors, or perhaps re-starting with a new save and using editors re-create my pokemon with their original stats. I could even send some of the “event” pokemon, those pokemon I queued for, or downloaded that are no longer available. That would be legit right, its not so cheaty is it?

I decided against it, to follow on from the Omastar article there is an emotional attachment to these guys, if I were to re-create them what would I create? Shallow empty copies. So I have decided to simply consider them dead.

On arriving to this conclusion I genuinely went through the 5 stages of grief:

1. Denial: Specifically dropping to my knees and screaming “NOOOOOOOO!” to the heavens
2. Anger: I fucking flipped a table!
3. Bargaining: This is the part I just mentioned; I could just re-create them that would be the same right? RIGHT?!?
4. Depression: I was fucking sad that I lost them, there is no real way to express this...
5. Acceptance: This. Post. Is. My. Acceptance.

A moments Silence for the ‘mons that are no longer amongst us.


No name

And yeah the shinies, the 1/8192 chance of appearing pokemons gone..

I would also like to mention I shall never EVER play Pokemon Black again it’s fucking cursed.

However white 2 is coming along well, if only I knew someone who could help me pad out my Pokedex...

Love and my super rod got a nibble,

Richie X

Something about E3

E3 is a constant disappointment to us. This year we didn't even make too much of an effort to absorb any of it until long after it had passed. It's explicitly been why despite our blog age taking over our mental age recently we've been underwhelmed into a shocked silence. One thing is clear though gaming no longer appears to be for us. 

Now this isn't just the typical gamer reaction. We aren't the type to jump onto the forums and announce how we hate it all and we're boycotting it all and we're giving up (only to return in a week or two when out favourite license signs an exclusive deal). We're actually real life gamers. The gamers who don't seem to work in the industry, who don't seem to be heard by the industry and who don't have infinitely deep pockets. 

Since before E3 the creeping sensation of all this not really being for us has crept in. How anyone can seriously talk about the PlayStation 3 as being a viable platform (or the Vita) is beyond us. The ongoing PC-ification of consoles has been celebrated by many others whereas we're already wary of not really owning our games. The majority of the post E3 buzz seems to be everyone else all of a sudden catching up with this realisation.

However, by far our biggest sadness I guess is that gaming doesn't seem to be about games any more. The last generation was a massive disappointment really. Huge steps were made with online connectivity and downloadable content. Especially in Europe. This can't be understated. But the games? Aside from online connectivity, we're still not seeing anything that couldn't have been done on the PlayStation. Yes things are shinier and there's more things on screen but if anything the ludodiversity is waaaay down. There were very few truly novel experiences and most of them were largely ignored by the gaming masses. There's a few titles on the 360, DS and Wii that really were doing something different and new. E3 was the hammer that nailed this home though. Where were the games from all the developers that were saying that the delayed jump to next gen was holding them back creatively? Nintendo, bless them, are making the same games we still haven't finished on Wii and DS. Some of which (ahem Pokemon) are comfort blankets but we're hardly going to rush out to play the fourth Animal Crossing and the what sixth New Super Mario something? As for everything else we've seen for the other platforms, ummm we've already seen. Generic shooter here, revamped license there. Same. Old. Shit. And you can own it too by shelling out for yet another generation of consoles (shutting out all the older content because if you want backwards compatibility, then you must be backwards too). 

No one's thinking outside the box. We've got the ever dwindling pool of genres, the same mechanics, the same commands, the same systems, the same 'open worlds', the same strings and mirrors. Some are looking to the indie scene to save us but our experience is that 90% of the games are just shite, 7% are love letters to older games and 3% of them are one line games (platformer without jumping, rogue in 30 seconds) that barely warrant a play.

We just don't want any of these systems in our house and if it wasn't for the 3DS, which like the DS before it is a beautiful little sanctuary of interesting, diverse and for fuck's sake fun games we'd be heavily investing in spare parts to keep to the PS2, Wii and 360 going for as long as possible.....

Monday, June 24, 2013

Alien Resurrection

Alien Resurrection for the PlayStation is fucking brilliant. The recent car crash that has been colonial marines has led many so called games journalists spout that there have never been any brilliant Alien games. Of course, because they were probably foetuses when many of them originally came out (and gamers who play older games are some sort of messed up because as a medium it's constantly improving unlike any other medium that has ever existed so any game released this week is obviously and by default better than last week's RANT CONTINUES HERE). Alien Resurrection was one of the good ones. At the time, EDGE gave it a 9 and compared it to a GCSE in terms of how rock solid it was. I would link to that review except the EDGE website is awful and they haven't realised how uploading all their really good older content might get them some hits.
However, it is rock solid and a bit scary even today. I've been stuck on the same section for over a decade. Every year I load it up, give it a shot and get killed about once every five minutes for a good half an hour then turn it off. In addition the older that the game gets, the harder and harder it is to return to the weird controls. So here's to another year. 

I'll beat it next year I think.

Thursday, June 20, 2013