Tag Archives: tumblrize

Dangers of Self-googling

The things you find browsing the Adrian Mole wiki at 1am on a Monday:

Sharon Bott

Adrian Mole’s first ‘lover’ and mother of Glen Bott (Adrian’s illegitamate son). Adrian and Sharon have nothing in common and were merely intrested in each other for sex. Sharon represents the underclass of Britain.

My name is Sharon Bott. I was born in Oadby Leicester. I have never met anyone named Adrian Mole. My eldest child is the son of his french father. Sue Townsend did not ask me if she could use my name and if she had done so I would not have allowed her. She has defamed my name i am upset and emmbarrassed. and would sue if i could find a solicitor to help me, «email»@live.com.91.XXX.XXX.XXX 13:15, May 7, 2010 (UTC)


Videogames, Art and Ebert

Going back to the old well of the videogames-and-art debate, film critic, Roger Ebert is once again trolling the entire internet by pronouncing from the mount, that video games can never be art. For writers, these kinds of articles are a great way of generating ad revenue, since they represent a massive source of ‘clicks’ and comments. For contrast, an insightful article about uncovering the meaning of Michael Haneke’s Cache got 224 comments in three months, in three days his anti-videogame piece has gotten over 1200. I ususally try to avoid feeding internet trolls – especially one who makes a living criticising movies and yet whose contributions to that same medium are completely appalling – but I’m making an exception here. Mainly because of a couple of things Ebert has said that I feel are completely bone-headed.

The first, talking about Braid:

> Her next example is a game named “Braid”. This is a game “that explores our own relationship with our past…you encounter enemies and collect puzzle pieces, but there’s one key difference…you can’t die.” You can go back in time and correct your mistakes. In chess, this is known as taking back a move, and negates the whole discipline of the game. Nor am I persuaded that I can learn about my own past by taking back my mistakes in a video game. She also admires a story told between the games levels, which exhibits prose on the level of a wordy fortune cookie.

I can’t argue with his criticism of the prose in the game. It really is that hackneyed and bullshit. However, the issue is that he clearly has not played, nor sat down and watched anyone play, Braid. If he had, he would have realised that the going-back-in-time mechanic in the game is not just some giant “undo” button. It’s not a ctrl-z for your mistakesEbert’s bone-headed argument here seems to be that this mechanic is seen as antithetical in the game of chess. This is like complaining that the rules of Poker go completely against the ‘discipline’ of the game of chess. What the hell is he talking about?. The game relies on your ability to manipulate the flow of time, and it’s this mechanic that really sets this game apart from other platform-puzzling games. Not only because you play it and are completely awed by how someone could create something this clever, but also because it’s also the thing that gives the ending the emotional impact that it has – the time mechanic allows a level of reflection and re-evaluation that feels cheap and manipulative when done through more conventional storytelling methods (As in BioShock, for example).

For fun, contrast Ebert’s dismissal of Braid to his love for Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, a film which uses a similar storytelling device. Writing about the film in 1983, Ebert says

> When Pinter’s stage version of “Betrayal” first appeared, back in the late 1970s, there was a tendency to dismiss his reverse chronology as a gimmick. Not so. It is the very heart and soul of this story.

Now in 2010, here comes Ebert, dismissing Braid’s time-manipulation device as a mere ‘gimmick’. He’s wrong. It’s the heart and soul of this storyThat’s not to say that it’s all about the mechanics. The Misadventures of P.B. Winterbottom has a similar time-manipulation mechanic, but has no emotional payoff. The story and the writing in that game just aren’t able to pull it off..

Talking about Flower, Ebert says

> We come to Example 3, “Flower”. A run-down city apartment has a single flower on the sill, which leads the player into a natural landscape. The game is “about trying to find a balance between elements of urban and the natural.” Nothing she shows from this game seemed of more than decorative interest on the level of a greeting card. Is the game scored? She doesn’t say. Do you win if you’re the first to find the balance between the urban and the natural? Can you control the flower? Does the game know what the ideal balance is?

I think this passage highlights precisely why Ebert will never ‘get it’ – he still thinks that games are about competition. He’s still stuck in the Pong mentality of ‘avoid missing ball for high score’. For him, games are strictly about ‘winning’. This is not the case, any more than films are about using narrative devices to tell a story (‘sup Koyaanisqatsi?). For reference, no, there’s no score in Flower, and there’s no ‘winning’. This is a game that you play just for the joy of playing.

And it’s completely divisive. People either hate it or love it.

Personally, I’m firmly in the ‘love it’ camp. Let me explain why. Like most people, I went through a fairly rough patch when I turned 30. Anxiety, depression, all that fun stuff. All stemming from an overwhelming fear, not so much of death, but rather of non-existence. And everything I read or watched exacerbated this fear. For example, I made the stupid mistake of reading The Road in the middle of this funk. Even more stupidly, I watched The Wrestler. It seemed like everywhere I looked, things just made me aware of my own mortality and how fragile it is.

Flower, by contrast, made me aware of the beauty of life and nature. More importantly, it delivered this message with an experience I could not get anywhere else. People talk about how it’s the interactivity of videogames heightens the emotional impact of whatever you’re doing, whether it’s shooting some fool in the face or trampling prostitutes. Flower shows this swings both ways. Transcending the TV-controller interface, I was a gust of wind, bringing life to the environment. Although it sounds simplistic, it is precisely this simplicity that helped the game have such a profound effect on me. Think back to American Beauty, an Ebert favourite. This is a film that beat us over the head with its message, and so we are treated to five minutes of staring a plastic bag blowing in the wind, with some weird gargoyle-looking man telling the audience “this is beautiful”. Fuck this didactic bullshit. Flower lets us experience this beauty for ourselves. It doesn’t tell us, it shows us.

And this is exactly what videogames can be so good at. Showing, not telling. In a world where elephants can splash about paint and people call it ‘art’, I think it’s a bit much to say that videogames can never be art. Especially when they’re doing such a great job of beating movies at their own game.


Sweating the Small Stuff

Secret Lab tells us why the promotional images for the iPad show 9:41am (and the iPhones all say 9:42am). I love that even the trivial, incidental stuff tells a story.


Middle Age Perspective on Lady Gaga – Just Dance

> I’ve had a little bit too much
> All of the people start to rush (Start to rush by)
> A dizzy twister dance
> Can’t find my drink or man.
> Where are my keys, I lost my phone.
> What’s going on on the floor?
> I love this record baby, but I can’t see straight anymore.
> Keep it cool what’s the name of this club?
> I can’t remember but it’s alright, alright.
> Just dance. Gonna be okay.
> Da-doo-doo-doo
> Just dance. Spin that record babe.
> Da-doo-doo-doo
> Just dance. Gonna be okay.
> Duh-duh-duh-duh
> Dance. Dance. Dance. Just dance.
> Wish I could shut my playboy mouth.
> How’d I turn my shirt inside out? (inside out, right)
> Control your poison babe
> Roses have thorns they say.
> And we’re all gettin’ hosed tonight.
> What’s going on on the floor?

As someone who is approaching middle age, this song fucking terrifies me. In a best-case scenario, this girl is blind drunk. Worst-case, someone has slipped something into her drink (which make me worry about the answer to the question of “How’d I turn my shirt inside out?”).

In either case, it’s not ‘alright’, it’s definitely not ‘gonna be okay’, and she should absolutely not ‘just dance’. This is the last thing she should be thinking about right now and will only make matters worse. She should find her ‘man’ (unless he’s the one who spiked her drink), or phone someone to come pick her up and take her home so she can get into her pyjamas and get a good night’s sleep.


Nicolas Cage, Goodwill Ambassador

This is just bizarre, Nicolas Cage has been appointed Goodwill Ambassador for the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. My favourite quote from the press release:

> “Until today, justice has been a cause without a rebel. Now we have one,” said [UNODC Executive Director] Mr. Costa.

Cage has said that he will “use the performing arts as an engine for global justice and victim support”.

Now, let’s take a look at a couple of Nicolas Cage’s movies that are coming out in 2010.
Drive Angry – “A vengeful father chases after the men who killed his daughter”.
The Hungry Rabbit Jumps – “After his wife is assaulted, a husband enlists the services of a vigilante group to help him settle the score”

This is Nicolas Cage’s interpretation of “global justice”? What next? A right-wing homophobic actor with a history of drug use and sexual assault being elected governor of California?

Wait, what?


In Defense of Hoarding

Over at Minimal Mac (a terrific site that everyone should read, even if you’re not a Mac user), they recently pointed to a metafilter comment about the dangers of coveting possessions. The commenter suggests that the best way to beat any hoarding impulses we might have is to simply adjust the way we look at things.

> All of the computers on Ebay are mine. In fact, everything on Ebay is already mine. All of those things are just in long term storage that I pay nothing for. Storage is free.
> …
> The world is my museum, displaying my collections on loan. The James Savages of the world are merely curators.

It’s a lovely sentiment, and one I really wish I could get behind, except I’ve just got one little problem: Me. Or more specifically, people like me.

What do I mean by this?

I recently found a stash of old PlayStation games that I thought I’d lost. There are some real gems in there. PaRappa the Rapper, BeatMania, Final Fantasy VII. All great games. Will I ever play them again? Probably not. I’m having enough trouble keeping on top of new releases to ever really go back and play old games. So why don’t I get rid of them?

There were a finite number of copies of PaRappa the Rapper published. Taking into account losses, breakage and the effects of time, this number is constantly decreasing. Now, if I was to send my games off into the æther, there’s the strong possibility that they’d be picked up by someone like me: a pack-rat who can’t bear to let anything go. So not only would I be losing my own copy of PaRappa, itwould also mean there is one less copy to “take out of storage”. Eventually, there will be no copies of it left on eBay. Or at least, it would be so rare as to be only available at a completely unreasonable price.

The storage thing is a nice (if slightly smug and self-satisfied) analogy, but it just doesn’t work in the real world, because it assumes an infinite supply chain. Besides, I’d always prefer to be the curator, actually caring for these things, rather than a cold, distant absentee owner.

(My wife will probably beat the shit out of me for this post.)