Thank You, Mr Iwata

Remember when video games were fun? Remember when they were about colour and happiness? Watching E3 2015 a few months ago, you'd be forgiven for thinking that these were things that video games had grown out of. It was dour, brown, post-apocalyptic shooters as far as the eye could see. Bombast and spectacle were the order of the day. The thing that drew one of the biggest cheers from the Microsoft crowd was when they lowered a fucking Ferrari from the roof. A fucking Ferrari.

Here's what Nintendo did for their E3.

They teamed up with the Jim Henson Company to make puppets of their corporate team and made the most adorable, dorky video imaginable. And it was lovely.

It was a uniquely Nintendo way of approaching the industry. It was showing that video games could still be about colour and happiness and fun. And it's largely because of this man, Satoru Iwata.

When someone asks me to picture the president of one of the three largest video game companies in the world, this is exactly what I want to imagine. Not someone in a blazer and jeans with a focus-tested number of shirt buttons opened. I want a person who understands why we play games. I want a person who knows that games are about bringing people together, not just about shooting people in the face. I want someone who gets it.

Iwata got it. And the world feels a little less joyful now that he's left it.

Thank you, Mr Iwata.

Cards Against Humanity

Shut Up & Sit Down has reviewed Cards Against Humanity. Spoiler: they don't like it.

Which is great because I'm not a fan of it either. It almost always comes out at parties and my heart absolutely sinks. Maybe I'm just going to the wrong parties.

The main reason I don't like it is because playing it reminds me of this scene from Nathan Barley:

"I've seen idiots playing this, yeah? They don't realise it's not good cos it's rude, yeah?"
"Yeah, it's good cos it looks like it's good because it's rude?"

It's not transgressive. It's not shocking. It's boring. But it gets trotted out at parties because pretty much everyone already knows the rules (it's Apples to Apples, except where half the answers are 'big black dick') and for people who don't know the rules, it's easy for them to pick it up. But guys, it doesn't have to be this way! There are lots of party games that are more hilarious and more chaotic and more creative and more fun.

So here are some party games I'd recommend instead:

Say Anything
If you're looking for an immediate replacement for CAH, Say Anything is top of the list. It's basically the same thing: one person reads the question, other players have to fill in the blanks. Except with Say Anything, you write down your answer. Whatever you like. Rather than allowing the game to be funny/shocking for you, you get to be as funny and as shocking as you can be. And it all comes from you, which makes it all the more rewarding and enjoyable. Trust me, ditch CAH and get this instead.

Snake Oil
In Snake Oil, one player draws a customer card with a particular role on it and the other players have to combine two cards in their hands to create an object to 'sell' to the customer's role. So, for example, if the customer is a caveman, you might combine your 'fur' card with your 'whip' card to create a "fur whip", which will whip the fur straight off an animal, meaning your cave will be nice and toasty and clean as a whistle. OH LOOK, I DON'T KNOW. The point of this game is that there is no 'right' answer here and the whole fun of the game is in the ridiculous stories people will come up with to sell things. I played this with my mother (who is in her seventies now) and she had a blast.

The Resistance
The Resistance is sort of like Werewolf, where some people in a group are spies and they have to make it through five rounds without getting caught. What's so great about this game is that it will have you and your friends talking analysing everything and talking and re-analysing everything and then talking and over-analysing everything. This is probably my absolute favourite game of all time just because it always leads to chats and shouts and laughter.

Monikers
At the risk of coming across like a SU&SD fanboy, just go check out their review. If this doesn't immediately make you want to go out and play this game, maybe 'fun' isn't really your thing and yeah, maybe you should just stick with CAH.

Skull and Roses
You know in poker, they say you don't play the cards, you play the player? Skull and Roses is an even more concentrated example of this. It's serious bluffing where you have look all the other players in the eyes before you make your decision. The only problem I have with this game is that it's about elimating other people, which means if you're eliminated early, there's a lot of sitting around watching other people play. Which is still fun! Just not as much fun as, you know, actually playing.

Aggregation is Broken

A few days ago, there was a bit of a kerfuffle between Vox and 538 (Nate Silver's blog) over Vox posting some of 538's content without 'proper attribution'. Vox put up a poor mouth semi-apology in the way of a statement on vox.com called 'How Vox Aggregates'. Here's a bit of that:

I started as a blogger in the pre-social web, when the only way to build an audience was to have other sites quote or link to your work. Those links didn't drive a ton of traffic back to the original site, but they drove some, and sometimes you would get a new regular reader out of the deal. And that was basically how my career began. Everything I wrote, I wrote in the hopes that someone else would take it and try to use it on their site, with a link back to my site.

The lesson of that, to me, was that writing on the internet is a positive-sum endeavor: I was creating content that helped other people make their sites better, and in using that content, they were helping me grow my site.

Vox's approach to aggregation — which Nate Silver criticized today on Twitter— is informed by that.

There have been lots of Hot Takes on this. Here's mine.

I firmly believe that in a post-social web, aggregation is completely broken. People aren't looking to diversify their reading. If they see an image on Tumblr that's been shared across dozens, even hundreds of sites, are they going to untangle that rat's nest of attribution and find the original creator of that image? Are they fuck. At best, they'll follow the last person to share it - they'll follow the aggregator. Balls to the creator.

Gamification of the internet is only making it worse. And by this, I mean sites that award points to people based on the content they post. See something interesting or funny on the internet? Post it to Reddit under your name and you get all the glory! Win-win.

Back in February, I posted something on Twitter that accidentally went semi-viral, with a few thousand retweets and favourites.

I was bored the other day, so for shits and giggles, I googled the text of this tweet and found that I'd made it to Buzzfeed. I had no idea about this because I received no noticable bump in followers from them, even with their attribution. But I also found that someone on Reddit had lifted the text and image from my tweet and used it to score 47 points on /r/funny (I have a Reddit link score of 1. Yes, one).

Now I'm just a minor player in this whole thing. What about the people producing genuinely great and funny content? Last week, Mallory Ortberg (one of my favourite people on the internet) discovered that some of her work had been lifted by thepoke.co.uk.

To be fair, The Poke had attributed it to where they found it - an imgur gallery (later itself updated with proper attribution after its creator received a twitter backlash), which in turn came from a thread on /r/funny (4618 points, btw). This thread also included one hilarious comment that serves to emphasise my point: "atleast give credit to the person who made them, stolen from front page funnyjunk".

Ugh.

Seriously, aggregation on the internet is a fucking joke.

Recent Film Reviews

(I try to post reviews of all the films I watch over on letterboxd. Here are some of my most recent reviews)

Black Sea ★½

When you're making a submarine film, I'm sure it's really tempting to default to autopilot and cross off the tickboxes of all the scenes you expect to see in these films. The near-miss collision, the accident that sends the sub to below crush-depth where they just barely survive. Etc. etc.

So it's not enough for Black Sea to lazily trot out the same hackneyed bullshit we've seen countless times in films like this while claiming to be different because this time it's all in service of a story that's really just a commentary on the exploitation of the working class.

Plus, it has Jude Law (with the worst Scottish accent since Christopher Lambert) saying "the shit is fighting back". Honestly, that's an actual line from this film.

Good grief.

Predators ★★★

Predators isn't a bad film. In fact, it's got some really great bits in it: the smash opening; the reveal they're on an alien planet; any time Walton Goggins is on the screen. In fact, it's a good enough film that you'll actually overlook the fact that they cast (lol) Adrien Brody (lol) as a badass soldier (lol).

But if there's a complaint to be made about the film, it's that it's just too goddamn bleak. For the entire 107 minute run-time, there's not a single moment of hope to be found in this film.

Exhausting.

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith ★

Honestly, the next time some dickbag comes along and tries to tell me that Episode III is the best of the prequels, I'm going to smack that person in the goddamn nose.

White God ★★

I know White God is supposed to be a parable, but I’ll be damned if I know exactly what it’s supposed to be. Current list of theories:

  • Social Exclusion
  • Teenage Angst
  • Immigration
  • The prison system
  • The oppression of the Jews before and during WWII (what dog pounds have such prominent chimneys?!)

It could be any one of these things. It could be all of them. I don’t know. And I’m not sure the film itself actually warrants the kind of time it would take to develop these theories. It’s 100 minutes of a dull, emotionless domestic drama with 20 minutes of interesting images tacked onto the end. Seeing 200 dogs running through Budapest dishing out vigilante justice like some canine Mr Majestyks was at least something I hadn’t seen before. The rest of the film was just filler.

Groundhog Day ★★★★

For most of this film, it's all very clever and enjoyable and even if it doesn't sweep you off your feet, you think "I'm so clever, I can see all the mechanics of this plot at work and I can appreciate on an intellectual level what the film is trying to do. Yes, very clever."

And then the last scene rolls up and hits you like an ton of bricks. Even if you've seen the film before, it's still a gut-punch of emotion.

That's the real genius of this film.

Force Majeure ★★★½

Force Majeure is an interesting reflection on the ways that relationships can be affected and tested. There are the large, obvious events, like a father leaving his family to save his own life under the threat of an avalanche. But these are just the sparks that ignite the fuel that’s already there: the years of insecurity and resentment. And those are the things that really test relationships.

I guess it says something about my own marriage that we chose to watch this on Valentine’s Day.

Wild Card ★★★

Jason Statham IS Nick Wild in WILD CARD.

If this sentence doesn't make you want to immediately run out and watch this film, forget it, this is not the film for you.

RIP Terry Pratchett

I am a nerd.

I spent an entire weekend migrating my blog from Wordpress to Jekyll and I fucking loved it. I have a board game collection that's out of control. And just this week, I've had not one, but two arguments about the ending of Battlestar Galactica (one of these turned into a standing-up, shouting kind of argument)1.

In fact, I'm going to revise up and describe myself as a huge nerd.

Despite this, I have not enjoyed a single Terry Pratchett book that I've read.

It's not like I haven't tried. I've asked my nerd friends where I should start and I've gotten different suggestions from each of them. And I've tried each one that's been suggested. Even Metafilter, the closest we'll get to an internet version of a Borg hive-mind can't settle on any one starting point. The closest I've come has been Good Omens, but I'm dismissing this because of Neil Gaiman. Oh, and I played a lot of The Colour of Magic on the Commodore 64. But again, I'm not counting this because it's, you know, not a book.

All the same, I'm going to pour one out for Terry Pratchett for two reasons.

First, even though I can only handle him in small doses, even I can recognise he was capable of some beautiful writing. Like this passage from Wings

'Come to think of it,' he said. 'it wasn't frogs exactly. It was the idea of frogs. She said there's these hills where it's hot and rains all the time, and in the rain forests there are these very tall trees and right in the top branches of the trees there are these like great big flowers called ... bromeliads, I think, and water gets into the flowers and makes little pools and there's a type of frog that lays eggs in the pools and tadpoles hatch and grow into new frogs and these little frogs live their whole lives in the flowers right at the top of the trees and don't even know about the ground and once you know the world is full of things like that your life is never the same.'
He took a deep breath.
'Something like that, anyway,' he said.

I mean, wow. This is just marvellous. (For the record, I gave up on Wings after 50-odd pages.)

But I'll mostly be pouring one out because even though he's not my cup of tea, his writing touched -- deeply touched -- a lot of my friends. His writing, his irreverence, his entire outlook on life - these had a profound influence on an entire subculture. A subculture I count myself part of.

Godspeed, Sir Terry.

“DON'T THINK OF IT AS DYING," said Death. "JUST THINK OF IT AS LEAVING EARLY TO AVOID THE RUSH.”

1

For the record, I think the ending to Battlestar Galactica is totally fine. I have no problem at all mixing spiritualism with sci-fi.

Don't believe his lies

Have you read that interview Rock Paper Shotgun did with Peter Molyneux? If not, you should go read it now. And not just because it's relevant to what I'm about to talk about, but because it's an absolutely fascinating interview. It's an interview that starts off with John Walker asking Peter Molyneux "Do you think that you’re a pathological liar?"

I mean, holy shit, that's something, right?

It's a tough interview. It was sharp around the edges. But that's a good thing. Most developer interviews are polite affairs. Even developers that really deserve to have the boot laid in get the soft treatment. Microsoft released the Halo: Master Chief Collection, whose multiplayer (arguably the main draw of the collection) was unplayably broken and the hardest question most games press ask is "when will it be fixed?" It's press-as-PR bullshit.

Remember back when Dan Hsu laid into Peter Moore about all the issues that plagued the Xbox 360 at launch? Remember how that was greeted? Everyone cheered and welcomed this as a new frontier: the moment when the games press seemed like they could actually be (whisper it) games journalists.

Their Fucking Testicles

Which brings us to the Molyneux interview. Rather than being heralded as another great moment in games journalism -- when a developer who has lied to consumers for years was finally held accountable -- the reaction from most of the games industry has been pretty disappointing. The latest episodes of DLC, Idle Thumbs, Gamers With Jobs and Isometric all include some variation on the theme of "poor Peter Molyneux, he didn't deserve that"1 (Isometric_ even went so far as to say that the whole thing just demonstrated gamers' 'sense of entitlement'). A common thread across all four podcasts is that they described the interview as "unprofessional" for starting by asking Molyneux if he's a pathological liar.

This has driven me absolutely fucking potty over the last couple of days. I feel like I'm living in bizzaro-world, where up is down and down is up. Peter Molyneux is such a notorious liar that he's spawned a goddamn internet meme:

Dont Believe His Lies

(that image was stolen from the Idle Thumbs forum, by the way)

... yet actually saying this to his face, actually confronting him about it is "unprofessional"? I just don't get it.

Personally, I think that, if anything, the interview didn't go far enough. I want to know if Molyneux feels any guilt about taking people's money for Curiosity over the promise over a 'life-changing prize' (for the record, Eurogamer ran an article about how much the winner's life has changed. Short answer: not at all). I want to know if he feels any remorse over putting out Curiosity in the first place, since it was nothing more than a shameless cash-grab helping in the race to the bottom of free-to-play games. I want to know if he feels bad about potentially having taken money and press from other potential God games that were on Kickstarter. Games that could potentially have been driven with more passion than he's shown Godus. And while we're at it, I want to know if he ever gives a second's thought to the people for whom Godus was the first game they've backed on Kickstarter and they're now so wary of the process that they'll probably never back another project on there.

These are just some of the questions I wished John Walker had asked Molyneux.

1
The only thing I can think of is that the four podcasts I listed above all feature game developers as either main hosts or as special guests. I guess game developers would have a different reaction to the interview? Idk.

Dessie

I realise I've mentioned him a couple of times on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram, but I've never actually even mentioned it on my own personal blog. So let's fix that now.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is Dessie.

Dessie

He's my dog and he's my best friend and I'm going to tell you about him. But first, a story.

My wife and I had wanted to rescue a dog for ages. We'd been out to Dog's Trust a few times and, although there were a lot of lovely dogs out there that needed homes, a lot of them were 'troubled' dogs. Actual conversation: "Oh! You're interested in Solo? He's such a sweetheart. Just lovely. But tell me, are there ever any small children in your house because he does have a history of biting. Yeah, he's been returned to us a few times because of that." Stuff that just broke my heart. I wanted to adopt them all, but I've never actually owned a dog before, so there's no possible way I could ever train one up to, you know, not bite small children. So we hadn't found the right dog for us. But we kept looking.

A friend of mine was fostering dogs for A Dog's Life and just before Christmas 2013, she started fostering Dessie. Here are the pictures of him from A Dog's Life.

Dessie - Before

The minute we saw him, we said "that's it, call of the search, this is the exact dog we want". He was so gentle and so sweet and we called up the charity the day after we met him to start the process. They don't actually allow people to adopt over Christmas (understandable, no?), so we had to wait a bit.

We actually got him on February 14th last year. Honestly, that timing had absolutely nothing to do with grand romantic gestures and had everything to do with bureaucracy.

Our lives have completely changed since then. In lots of ways, both obvious and non-obvious. Obviously, we have a lovely little creature to take care of now, so we have to arrange our lives differently. For example, we're meeting some friends for dinner next week and we're already talking about who's going to cycle home to walk the dog and cycle back into town before dinner. We have to plan things. We have to be more organised with things. No more leaving food on the table, for example. Also, before getting Dessie, I'd never picked up a still-steaming pile of shit on a frosty winter's day. That's a line I can't un-cross.

But there are also less obvious ways that things have changed. Like, we're part of the neighbourhood dog walking group that meet in the local park to walk their dogs. It's such a semi-formal group that they actually had a Christmas party, where everyone wrapped their dogs in tinsel and brought wine and brandy and cakes to the park and everyone had a merry old time. Before we had the dog, I had no idea this group was even a thing. Now I'm one of them.

He even climbed (most of) Lugnaquilla with us

It wasn't all smooth sailing though. For the first couple of weeks, he was absolutely terrified of me. I guess a handsome, burly man must have mistreated him before. We still keep getting these glimpses of what his life was like before he came to us. Snatches of his little neuroses that hint at some past trauma. Like, he's absolutely terrified of motorbikes. Even a parked motorbike on the street, he'll give it a wide bearth. And that was just the start.

For the first couple of weeks we had him, it was tough going. He wouldn't settle. He'd whine all night and then he'd whine all day (we set up a webcam so we could check on him via our phones - that's how quickly we descended into being just awful dog-people). But that's something I really appreciated about A Dog's Trust: along with the dog, they give you access to a sort of a dog counsellor that you can email with your questions and they'll give you advice. So you can say "my dog is doing $x", and they'll say "your dog is doing $x because of $y, you should try to $z". Well -- and I'm not happy about this -- when he hadn't settled after two weeks, I wanted to send him back. But the charity were lovely and answered all my questions and helped me get through it and I learned how to handle him much better because of them. That helped him become more comfortable with me and settle down.

And here he is now.

Best in Show

In this photo, he'd just won "best rescue", came third in "agility" and won "best in show" at the Greystones dog show.

So, things people should know:

  1. Sight hounds (whippets, luchers, greyhounds) are the laziest animals you'll ever meet. They sleep and they sleep. Here's a typical picture of Dessie: My dog likes to sleep I know everyone expects them to be really energetic and be a real handful, but if they can get just a couple of decent 20-30 minute walks a day where they can get off the lead and run fast, they're super-happy.
  2. The only issue with this is that they've got a really strong prey instinct and that can be a real problem. If they see something small (and preferrably furry), they must have it in their mouth. If that small thing is across a busy road, they don't care. So they need to be trained out of this, which can be a slow, slow process. It's only in the last couple of weeks that Dessie has stopped running out of our local park. For a while there, he was strictly kept on the lead, which was frustrating to both him and me.
  3. Also, you wouldn't think it to look at them, but they're incredibly affectionate. They're all skinny and pointy and you'd think they're not into the whole touching-feeling thing, but there's nothing Dessie loves more than to sit on the sofa with us. And he nearly always has to be touching us at all times. He'll be sitting beside you and just put a little paw on your leg. Adorbs. Again, another very typical photo of Des: Again, sleeping

If you're ever thinking about adopting a dog (and you should! I can't think of a single person whose life wouldn't be improved by getting a dog), I'd seriously encourage you to take a look at the whippets, lurchers and greyhounds. The pounds are full of them and they're just the best.

Hello Jekyll

One of the nice things about having a blog that no-one actually reads is that you can do silly, borderline reckless things with almost no fallout. For example, you can completely change your backend from Wordpress to Jekyll on a whim.

So this weekend, that's exactly what I did.

And I have to say, it's been an interesting experience. I moved from Livejournal to my own Wordpress blog, on my own domain (fuckcuntandbollocks.com - RIP) in 2004. Besides the general embarrassment that comes from reading stuff from your past, (especially when I moved away from the earnest, personal writing on Livejournal and I was trying so hard to be clever and articulate over here), there's also the sheer volume of cruft that's built up over time. I've spent the weekend blowing the cobwebs off the darker corners of my Wordpress database and trying to extract this content into something that makes sense and will out-live Wordpress. Both of these have clarified exactly why I needed to move to something like Jekyll.

Now my blog is written in text files that live in my Dropbox and I don't have to worry about the latest Wordpress 0-day exploit.

But there's still a lot of work to be done. Broken images need to be found. Broken links need to be fixed. The migration is maybe 90% complete. So bear with me while I get it finished.

Mubi

You know the way on Netflix, there’s a ton of films, but they’re all shite? And the way that discovery on Netflix is next to impossible, so you have to go to third-party sites to see what they recommend, or even to find out what’s just been added (you know things are bad when you’re going to a fucking blogspot site to find out what’s new). So I’ve been looking for something new.

A few years ago, I remember trying Mubi and it wasn’t much better. It was like Netflix with an arthouse bent: hundreds of films, but hardly anything you'd want to actually watch. A broad selection of films so it looked impressive, but they were shallow as mud.

I don’t know when exactly, but somewhere in the last few years, they completely changed their focus. Now they’ve got an extremely narrow, extremely deep selection. How narrow? They’ve got thirty films. That’s it. Every day they add something new, every day they take something off. And they take care with the films they add. These are thirty tightly curated films that are almost always worth watching. Here’s the current list of films as of today:

There are some amazing films on there that I want to watch again. There are some amazing films on there that I’ve been meaning to check out for ages. And the ones I haven’t heard of? Well, the overall quality of the rest of the films means I’m comfortable knowing that they’re probably worth checking out.

Mubi isn’t paying me to write this blog post. I’m writing this for completely selfish reasons: I only just discovered how great this service is and I want to make sure it sticks around. So do me a favour and give Mubi a shot?

The Best Games I Played in 2014

Before I crack into the list, I just want to give a bit of context for some of my choices. There are a load of games that are appearing in other peoples' lists that I bought but just haven't gotten around to playing yet1. So that's why it's really important that I stress that this is just a list of the best games I played this year. Are we all clear? Great! Let's crack on, so.

PT

PT

I played PT in late at night during the summer. I was wearing shorts and at one point about an hour into playing the game, my dog brushed against my legs as he walked past. And it actually hurt. I was so tense my leg-hairs were standing on end so hard that they actually hurt to touch. That's never happened to me before. And all it took for PT to scare me more than I've ever been scared in my life was just two perfectly-rendered corridors. Even the ridiculous sink-baby couldn't ruin this for me.

Kentucky Route Zero

Kentucky Route Zero

The episodes in Kentucky Route Zero are coming trickling out of the developer, Cardboard Computer, like a pitch drop. You couldn't accuse it of being an episodic game in the way that Telltale games are episodic. And that's a great thing. Once you've played the first episode in a Telltale game, you've pretty much seen everything the entire series is going to throw at you. What makes Kentucky Route Zero so special is that each episode has done something completely different, something completely surprising. In the second episode, you actually arrive at the titular Route Zero and it's a beautiful, twisted nightmare with its own dreamlike logic. The third episode's musical interlude was a brave, ballsy piece of gaming. Up until that point, the game had mostly been about making dialogue choices, but suddenly you take over a lounge-singer named Junebug and you're constructing an entire song from your choices. A gorgeous, haunting song straight out of Twin Peaks. It wouldn't work in any other game but Kentucky Route Zero. Loved it.

This War of Mine

This War of Mine

I actually haven't played that much of This War of Mine because it's a tough game. Not in the sense that it's hard, but rather it's an emotionally gruelling experience unlike anything else I've played this year. It's a game where you control a group of survivors during a war (roughly based on the Siege of Sarajevo) and the entire game is just about keeping your group alive and together -- both physically and emotionally -- for as long as you can. Everything you do, every awful decision you're forced to make will affect your group in some way. If you break into an old man's house and steal his food, your group will survive a bit longer, but the character who did the actual stealing will be racked with guilt for the rest of the game.

The Talos Principle

The Talos Principle

I already described this on Twitter as "Portal with a philosophy degree". You could throw some Myst in there too for good measure. There's no combat. It's just a solidly-designed puzzle game, but it's also got a great story that unfolds in front of you as you play it. One layer peels back to reveal another, to reveal another and so on. And all this from the people behind Serious Sam - I know, right? It's probably not for everyone. I can imagine some people getting ticked off at the being questioned on their moral and ethical beliefs by a slightly dickish, super-patronising terminal. But that shit just worked for me. (Also, this will sound fierce wanky, but you know that first world, the one set in Roman ruins? No game has captured Italian light like that. Really small detail, but jesus, it felt great.)

Mario Kart 8

Mario Kart 8

The best Mario Kart since the original.

Wolfenstein: The New Order

Wolfenstein: The New Order

If you'd have said to me last year that Wolfenstein: The New Order would one of the best games I'd play in 2014, I'd have called you a fucking liar. I had no interest in the franchise and this particular iteration was completely off my radar. But here we are. Solid, visceral action and some of the best storytelling of the year. It basks in its B-movie, grindhouse roots (I mean, that scene on the train feels like it's lifted straight from Tarantino) without ever winking at the audience in a "we're actually too cool for this shit" kind of way.

Desert Golfing

Desert Golfing

For a while there, Desert Golfing was all I played. I mean, for weeks on end. Remember I said I bought a load of games but haven't played them yet? It's probably because I was too busy playing Desert Golfing instead. I'd say I've sunk more time into this than probably any other game on here. It's also the smallest, quietest game on this list. There's a ball, a hole, and the landscape. For as far as you can go (there's no ending, as far as I know), that's all there is. Occasionally, you might come across something else - a cloud, a cactus, a vase -- but for the most part, for the majority of the 2,500 holes I played before I finally deleted it, that's all there was. And that's all it needed. You could talk about how the game is like an interactive art installation, a commentary on futility and perception, with the background changing so slowly across hundreds of holes. You could shite on about this and I'd listen and I'd nod at the points you were making. But that's not why this game kept me playing. It kept me playing because it was near-perfect.

Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes

Metal Gear Solid Ground Zeroes

Gather round kids, old man Kelly's got a story to tell. Back before Metal Gear Solid came out on the original Playstation, they released a demo of the game which was just the first area before you get onto the lift -- the pre-credits introduction. I lost days to that demo. It was a short thing, and you could complete it in less than ten minutes, but I was absolutely obsessed with it and I played it every way I could. I wanted to milk every drop of entertainment out of that because, back then, it felt perfect. Ground Zeroes is does a great job of recreating that feeling of the original Metal Gear Solid demo. It's a small sliver of a game -- an amuse-bouche to keep us entertained until the actual release of Metal Gear Solid V -- that you could easily beat in ten minutes. But it's also the type of thing you could easily lose days to.

Nidhogg, Starwhal: Just the Tip, Gang Beasts, Sports Friends, Tennes

Nidhogg

One of my favourite things to come out of 2014, at least in the indie space, is a resurgence in local multiplayer games, so I'm bundling some of my favourites together here. Or at least the ones that we've had the most fun with in our office. Online multiplayer games can have 256 simultaneous players, and that has its own brand of chaotic fun. But there's something genuinely beautiful and special about being able to yell and laugh with the person (or people) you're in a room with. With all the gamergate shit this year making me feel more and more disconnected from gaming and gamers, it was really nice to be reminded of the feeling of two (or four, or with Johann Sebastian Joust, seven) people in a room having fun together.

including Dark Souls 2, Far Cry 4, Assassin's Creed Unity, Bayonetta 2, Super Smash Bros 4 Wii U, Alien Isolation, The Evil Within