Thursday, 11 December 2008

Now see hear...

Hearing impairmentImage via WikipediaBeing forced to play Quake 4 in silence wasn't too bad, till I discovered the subtitles that weren't there. I could have left it there, I could have walked a few yards and fetched my headphones. But I am a real obstinate bastard. And I hate walking.

A bit of googling revealed, to my absolute shock, that many games now do not include subtitles or closed captions, despite many gamers', hard of hearing or otherwise, pleas for them. This seems like a terrible omission to me, and should probably be illegal or something. In this rapidly (and it really is rapidly, according to a recent survey as many as 50% of American adults now play games) growing industry, that is becoming more and more mainstream by the minute, I find it shocking that a publisher as big as id could show such disregard for its hearing impaired customers.

I should qualify this by saying that the game is by no means unplayable without subtitles, the objectives are clearly displayed on the screen and the dialogue is consistently terrible anyway. But the simple fact is, in the 'exposition' sections where the story traps you in a room and forces itself upon you like a clumsy bear, it's really rather tedious. There is nothing to do but watch their mouths, which sadly you cannot lipread, and wait till someone decides to open a door and let you get back to shooting stuff.

Luckily, Games[CC] have decided to take matters into their own hands, creating their own closed captions for games (including Quake 4) and releasing them as mods. Ubisoft have also committed to including subtitles in future games. It should also be noted that many games, including the Half-Life series, include closed captions as a standard option. If gaming really is to grow up, it's issues like these that need to be addressed and quickly.

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Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Hoorah for the Big British Castle!

All Daily Mail Writers must die!Image by Pip via FlickrIt's quite refreshing to see that Charlie Brooker's fears about 'an increase in BBC jumpiness' following the irritatingly nicknamed 'Sachsgate' incident might actually be unfounded. The BBC Complaints website, still reeling from the charge of the Daily Mail High Horse Idiot Brigade, features a pleasing level of common sense in their responses:


We've received complaints from viewers who were unhappy about a joke that featured in Mock the Week...Again on Wednesday 29th October 2008.

The BBC's response

Mock the Week is a well-established satirical comedy series whose audience has very clear expectations of its bold and sometimes provocative humour. This edition of the programme has been broadcast four times since January 2007 and before the recent press coverage we'd only received a very small number of complaints about it. We're always clear with audiences about the content of programmes and we acknowledge that some of the humour in Mock the Week is not to everyone's taste, particularly when taken out of the context of the programme.
Do I even detect a hint of rebuke there? I can't really fault that response, other than that they forgot to mention that Frankie Boyle's comment was vomit-inducingly hilarious. It's good to see that the BBC have decided not to cave in and pander to the outraged morons, including the ones who recently complained that Dizzee Rascal was an 'inappropriate guest' for Newsnight- the result may have been the subject of more justified controversy, but that doesn't mean it shouldn't have happened; as far as I'm concerned anything that provokes valid debate is worth broadcasting. I guess we can only hope that these sensationalist little parasites will get bored and crawl back into the sordid holes they emerged from until such a time as a cure for unabashed self-righteous idiocy is found.

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Monday, 1 December 2008


Put this new look in your pipe and smoke it.

I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
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Black Mesa

I don't think I've ever been as excited about anything in my life as I am about this:

For anyone who doesn't know, Black Mesa (formerly Black Mesa: Source - the Source was removed at the request of Valve), is a remake of the original Half-Life, using the Source engine. It is being created by a frighteningly organised crew of modders who, while taking their own sweet time, have been churning out incredible screenshots of reimagined Black Mesa environments and models so detailed they almost put the mighty Valve to shame.

Nothing released from this mod so far hasn't reeked of professionalism, from the graphics to the voice acting to the original music by Joel Nielsen, and this trailer is no exception. Watch it and dribble.

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Saturday, 29 November 2008


Twitter Meta Moo! too far?Image by Josh Russell via FlickrBlogging is dead man. Game over. Microblogging is future.

So join me, Stephen Fry, and all the cool kids on Twitter (!

Also check out the new Twitterfeed on the sidebar for nutritious microblog goodness.
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Monday, 17 November 2008

Credit Crunch: The Movie

Not to be confused with The National, an excellent indie band with a touch of The Arcade Fire and Nick Cave about them, The International is representative of something sadly much less interesting.

You see, not at all continuing the trend for derivative, soulless cinema, the folks at Hollywood have managed to create a movie that may perhaps reach out to our international consciousness in these times of financial crisis crunching.

How have they done this? By creating a film about....wait for evil bank. An evil bank. Now call me a cynic, call me an arsehole, whatever you like, but an evil bank for fuck's sake. I bet they were high-fiving in the boardroom when they came up with that. Oh and they've chucked in a bit of good old fashioned post-911 terrorism paranoia by having this evil bank funding terrorism.

The funniest thing about this pathetic marketing ploy of a concept is that noone will be able to afford to see it. The evil banks have lost all their money. Whoops.

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Friday, 17 October 2008

Alrewas Arts Festival #2

The playlist:

  1. The Alrewas Arts Festival logo
  2. Tiles of the Riverbank
  3. 'Some Horse Trouble'
  4. The Alrewas Arts Festival in 2 minutes
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Obligatory Update

Wall Street taken above steam stack road works.Image via WikipediaBeing painfully aware that I haven't posted anything in ages, here is 'a post' that I hope may once again open the floodgates to tidal waves of entertaining and informative articles for many months to come.

Obviously the fact that I haven't posted anything means that nothing of note has happened over the last month. Global financial crisis? I don't have any money and therefore don't give a shit. In fact, using my lovely graduate overdraft that I couldn't possibly pay back, I'm probably a part of the problem. Which I'm choosing to believe makes me powerful. Hear that Wall Street?! Want your £2,000 back? Well you can fuck off! HAH!

Here's a list of facts:

  • Voyager One are good. Not massively original but good.
  • I tracked them down after their music was featured on a recent update to LG15:The Resistance, (also featured here), now in its 5th week and turning out to be a good Buffy for the Myspace generation.
  • Dead Set, E4 Big Brother Zombie mashup penned by Charlie Brooker (Nathan Barley co-writer/satirical bastard), sounds awesome.
  • Big Art is Massive.
Anyway, apologies for such an arbitrary update. It's not you, it's me.
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Monday, 22 September 2008

Alrewas Arts Festival #1

Tiles of the Riverbank

Here's the first of a series of blogs showcasing the achievements from the Alrewas Arts Festival 2008.
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Saturday, 20 September 2008

Spontaneous Outpouring

Hello again.

I realise I did post but 5 minutes ago, but that was a *proper* post that I didn't want to wreck by adding other unrelated things that are not worthy of their own proper posts. So think of this as a mopping up session.
Pineapple Express Poster
Item #1: Pineapple Express

It's really shit, don't bother going to see it. I was quite disappointed really, rather than more Superbad-style hilarity, the film opts for an unengaging 'stoners on the run from a baddie' format. The dialogue is long-winded and largely uninteresting (albeit with a few decent one-liners) with the comedy restricted to shitty stoner dialogue that's probably supposed to be funny because it's mundane, but in fact is just mundane, and slapstick. I nearly fell asleep in
the cinema, but that's mainly because I was tired.

Item #2: Nihal (Radio 1)

Is this the worst Photoshop job ever?! The eyes are terrifying...

Item #3: New Look!

Hope you like the new header, badly positioned as it is (I haven't yet mastered HTML, but I'm trying...). This is the first of a few updates, so watch out for them avid readers!
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LG15: The Resistance kicks off

The third web series from LG15 Studios, creators of LonelyGirl15 and KateModern, officially started today following a series of tasters over the course of last week. The first episode is a kind of montage of these clips, arranged around a story of a girl being held by a sinsister organisation called the Hymn of One (which will be familiar to fans of the previous two series').

The Resistance
appears to centre around a mysterious organisation calling itself the Hymn of None, which is apparently a resistance to the Order, who have been kidnapping and killing girls for their blood... Their first move is to try to recruit the reluctant Jonas (another character from the Breeniverse) as their leader.

It looks like there are due to be ARG elements also. The video mentions an auction that will be taking place in just over a week, while one of the earlier videos features a flash of this URL. Intriguing...

Episode One:

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Monday, 15 September 2008

Anti Spore in Rick Roll Shocker

Thought I'd check up on our friend the Anti Spore creationist nutter, when I stumbled across this:

But the Bible teaches us that God was not done with man. For we were His creation and He then spoke to Noah in Genesis 8:21-27 after the flood.
“21. The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never gonna give you up. 22. “Never gonna let you down.” 23.”Never gonna run around and desert you.” 24. “Never gonna make you cry.” 25. “Never gonna say goodbye.” 26. “Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you.” 27.”Never truly believe anything you read on the Internet. There will always be cases of Poe’s Law.”

It’s these teachings that I’ve spent my life learning, believing and becoming, that have made me the woman that I am today.

Oops. That's right, we've been Rick Rolled! Massive kudos to the creator for this elaborate and truly bastardish hoax, that apparently still has people (who apparently can't read...) fuming, flaming and ranting away.

More about Poe's Law can be found here.

Take it away Rick...
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Friday, 12 September 2008

Superstruct: 10 days to go

Jane McGonigal's new project (in league with the Institute for the Future), Superstruct, is set to launch on the 22nd Sept and I'm getting pretty excited.

For those who don't know, Jane McGonigal masterminded World Without Oil, a project which asked participants to place themselves in an oilshock scenario and tell their story. The result was a massive, and I mean incomprehensibly gigantic, body of blogs, vlogs and podcasts, revealing an incredibly deep, detailed and vivid developing scenario. The quality of work submitted is astonishing, creating an alternate reality that is far more realistic and encompassing than any one person could imagine. Check out the concept and archive of work at The game received a significant amount of praise in the media and awards for raising awareness on an important issue, and doing so in a uniquely engaging way. The accuracy of the predictions made in the game have also been noted. More information can be found on the game's Wikipedia page.

Superstruct looks set to build on this format. Set 11 years in the future, a supercomputer has just predicted the human race's demise in 23 years time. The game is going to ask people to think about potential causes and how we might avoid them. The list of 'honorary gamemasters' that has been anounced is impressive:
  • Tim Kring, creator of the NBC TV series HEROES
  • Warren Ellis, superhero comic book author and novelist
  • Tara Hunt, social network expert and author of The Whuffie Factor
  • Bruce Sterling, science fiction writer and essayist
  • Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia and Wikia
  • Ze Frank, funniest person on the Internet
  • Chris DiBona, Open Source program manager for Google
  • Tim O'Reilly, founder and CEO of O'Reilly Media
There is currently an introductory mission going ahead here, inviting people to begin their story in the future, which is already looking pretty interesting, and somebody has even gone so far as to set up an in-game website: The Weather Project 2019 (read about Jane's amusing encounter with this site on her blog)

Anyways, more information at the Superstruct site, Jane's Avant Game blog, the Institute for the Future site and of course, ARGnet.
UPDATE: There's also a Facebook group, here!

I'm pretty interested to see how they're going to be running this, whether specific global in-game events will occur to guide the game, or more specific missions in a more ARG vein. Either way, it's going to be awesome.
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Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Anger Management

MCV and CVG brought my attention to this charming little blog this morning.

I wish that I was one of those people who could read things like this, and calmly detach themselves from it, think this is just one of those nutters that will shout and scream in impotent rage until they are blue in the face, and the only person that will suffer is them. I wish I was like that.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not going to go straight to the comments and write YOU R A FUKIN A**HOLE AND YOU IS WRONG, but I can't help but...seeth with rage as I read it.

I think the reason is that I can't stand the smug self-righteousness that is impossible to have any meaningful kind of argument with. The kind of argument that, not satisfied with berating a game for disagreeing with your values, it goes on to casually decry it's creators as evil promotors of homosexuality. The kind of argument that responds to comments by calmly stating that people 'often get defensive when they know they are wrong'.

Seriously, how can somebody be that annoying and then complain when they receive death threats? And when are the moralists who regularly decry computer games as the greatest evil of the 21st century going to realise that they are the best marketeers in the whole anarchic industry?

That said, some of you venomous commentators should really chill out! As a result of the massive flame war that is the anti-spore blog, the opinions of that idiot are going to be far wider read than this blog will ever be, which is a shame because I would like to think that mine is a little more entertaining.
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Tuesday, 2 September 2008

Games Rant #1

Here is a ridiculously belated response to Alec Meer's Story Must Die! article on CVG.

Story must not die!

Story has not yet lived! True, at present stories in games remain a travesty; an irritating interruption akin to the insurance adverts in the middle of Hollyoaks, but why should this be the case? I’m!

The main issues that have gamers reaching for the ‘skip cutscene’ key faster than they can crowbar a headcrab lie with the implementation and content of the stories that clunk awkwardly through our games. Who wants to temporarily pause their game in order to watch a section of a poorly-acted sci-fi B-movie? Not me! But for some reason, many developers seem to think we do. It seems odd that in this lucrative era of ‘blockbuster’ games, many productions still seem prepared to settle for such an appalling lack of quality in terms of writing and acting.

More often than not, the story feels like a feeble attempt to justify the course of the game. Too often the player is reduced to acting as a mere chauffeur for the player-character, ensuring they are present and correct at the required moment in the plot. It’s a contrived and rudimentary solution to delivering narrative and it really needs to go: It’s one thing to include a clich├ęd, shallow and frightfully unengaging narrative in a game, but to regularly thrust it in the player’s face by forcing them to perform mundane tasks as a poorly disguised plot mechanic, or wrestle control from them to display yet another tedious cutscene, is quite another.

In order for story to succeed in a game it needs to engage the player, not artificially by locking their character into the plot, but by intriguing them, emotionally involving them and bestowing them with the power to advance it themselves (or not!). Imagine a braver BioShock: The player, thrust into the aftermath of the fall of Rapture, is left to assemble the plot from the fragments left behind. The true narrative of the game is in the hands of the player: the detective, archaeologist, explorer and survivor. The story of Rapture becomes an interesting sub-narrative that deepens the game experience.

Even Half-Life, although in story terms about as interactive as Desperate Housewives, is still capable of offering a level of depth to the proceedings. In Alyx, Valve have not only created the first sidekick who’s face you don’t want to empty your clip into, they have created a point of emotional impact. Even though the player has no control over the outcome, the story is compelling enough that it becomes a legitimate part of the game experience. It’s amazing what a small amount of characterisation and one iota of originality can do.

After all the immense technical developments of recent years, it’s about time games began exploring what is truly possible when you translate story into an interactive environment. Imagine the intrigue of Lost, the mythology of Heroes, the pacing of 24 and the drama of...Harry Potter or something, combined into one tasty interactive gaming package. I’m salivating at the prospect.

Further Reading:

Daniel Haggard's excellent analysis of narrative in the Half-Life universe

Alec Meer's original article
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Monday, 1 September 2008

Assorted Rubbish


Been spending a lot of time working on the final preparations for the Alrewas Arts Festival, which kicks off next week. It's going to be an extravaganza of community art projects and workshops, I'll post a round-up of some of the highlights soon. Expect to be impressed.

I designed the logo. Hope you like it!

Couple of pieces of tasty tunage for you:

Lykke Li - Swedish girl with quirky voice and nice tunes. Bit Feist-y, but with a more produced electronic sound.

MAX RAPTOR - a shameless plug of my mate's band. They keep getting better with classic, infectious, shouty rock. Great performers who shredded up Barton Heartfest on Saturday. Also catch them at the Alrewas Arts Festival Party in the Park (Sat 13th).

Spoon - they're just great. Can't stop listening to the Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga album.

and finally, love it or hate it, this tune is going to be massive. You heard it here first.

The Natural Confectionery ad I posted the other day had been bothering me as I was convinced the voice was Dixon Bainbridge from The Mighty Boosh. Turns out I was right: Matt Berry (also of The IT Crowd and Garth Merenghi's Darkplace) does indeed provide the voices. So that's alright then.
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Saturday, 30 August 2008

Bring on the trumpets!

I think this might just be the funniest advert I've ever seen.

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Thursday, 28 August 2008

Brand Power!

A very postmodern experiment is going on at

Taking the principle that branding is an abstract concept that exists purely in people's perception, they are inviting people to tag brands to generate a tag cloud. I particularly enjoyed the enormous word 'evil' that featured on Starbucks' cloud.
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Tuesday, 26 August 2008


Hey Hey,

Been listening to a lot of new music recently and I thought I'd take the time to share some of it with you!

Noah and the Whale
- happy-go-lucky nu-folk stylings from this Twickenham-based band. Highlights include '5 years time' which you in the UK may well have heard (as it's everywhere), others include '2 bodies 1 heart' a slightly twee but very sweet love song and 'You can call me Al' a nice cover of the Paul Simon classic.

Girl Talk - crazy mash-up attention-deficit insanity. Latest album is available on a Radiohead-style pay what you want system. Check it out here.

Flobots - Handlebars (DJ Shadow remix) - currently very popular on the fantastic Hype Machine, this remix of Flobots' Handlebars is very hard to resist with a more pronounced beat and slightly more...fully-formed and threatening feel to it.

Finally, Sondre Lerche (official site with more tunes here). Great Norwegian singer-songwriter, with great voice and great tunes. Became aware of him as the composer of the 'Dan in Real Life' soundtrack, the end title track being 'My Hands Are Shaking' which I'm currently very much addicted to. By turns slightly folky, by turns a touch more contemporary jazzy. I love it.

Right. Better go back to endlessly applying for jobs now...


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Monday, 25 August 2008

Mamma Mia!

So I went to see Mamma Mia the other day. Not a great film, but quite fun in it's cheesy happy-go-lucky fashion. What struck me about it was how cleverly it is aimed at it's target audience.

Based on the songs of ABBA, the main target audience are the ABBA generation: people that were young in ABBA's heyday, though of course they don't want to rule out any young people that may want to jump on the disco bandwagon. Therefore the main characters are three middle-aged women (around the current age of the original ABBA fans), three middle-aged men, and a young couple. The story centres around the preparations for the young couple's wedding on a Greek island. Unbeknownst to her mother Donna, the young bride has invited three potential 'fathers', men from Donna's past who she slept with in quick succession back in the glory days.

The effect of this is as the audience get all nostaligic with the ABBA tunes they know and love (which have been largely left as they are), Donna is confronted by her past. There are almost two eras taking place simultaneously as the daughter prepares for her wedding, having her own youthful adventure, Donna is reliving hers periodically regressing into an almost teenage state (particularly in her rendition of Mamma Mia).

All angles are covered! Men and women of the ABBA generation get characters they can identify with as do the new generation. Rather than restricting the proceedings to pure nostalgia, flashbacks or simply being set in the past, the film simply draws parallels between the events of the film and the events from the past they are celebrating.

The Winner Takes it All is the highlight.


Hi Everyone!

Welcome to my second blog. My first one was an attempt to create a serious, tightly-focussed blog on a specific subject, but I couldn't really every be bothered to write on it as it always seemed too I thought I'd start another one with no particular agenda where I can just generally rant and rave about whatever happens to enter my opinionated head.

I decided to call it Cultureshock Rampage pretty much on a whim. I hope you enjoy it. I'm Tim by the way.
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