August Ordeals…

August was a spectacularly busy month, but it was also a rewarding one. It saw me realising a lot of the goals I’d set for myself at the start of the year, such as attending a foreign show as a freelancer and releasing a game. I also met several heroes of mine, got published on another big site and made my Kindle debut.

August was also the month that I ate zebra, alligator, kangaroo and barracuda all in the same bowl.

And that’s just the start too, as a lot of the projects I started or worked on this month are part of larger projects which will trickle into the future. I wrote a script, did some proper investigation and started to formally present some ideas I’ve had about creative industries as a whole.

That stuff is for the future though. Here’s what I did this month.

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I’m Never Going to the Cinema Again…

I’m still kind of unsure what to think of Inception, if I’m honest. I know I liked it, as did everyone else I’ve spoken to, but I’m not certain I’m altogether as effusive as they are. My first thoughts when I came out were “Hmm, I’ll need to see that two or three more times to get a grip on it” – not because it was a complex plot, merely because it was so fast paced and I want to let it sink in.

I also knew that I’d never go see a film at the cinema ever again.

Maybe I’m anal about these things, but I’ve got to the point where I can’t stand cinemas. You invariably end up paying more than the cost of the DVD (each!) in order to watch a film a blurry, poor quality projection from too far away. When we saw Inception in the Leicester Square Odeon they didn’t even have the audio mixing right and we were so far back that the screen was comparatively smaller than the 12″ I used to have at Uni. The place smelled and the floor was sticky.

Then there’s the other people, who obviously include the random smattering of chavs who talk through films and yuppies who check their Blackberry every ten minutes even though most people would rather eat their own eyeballs than talk to such a shitsack. The cinemas naturally only sell the noisiest food and drink, so you strain to hear most of it over the clink of ice, the slurp of straws and the rustle of popcorn. And, sure, you can go out and complain about any of these things but that only makes you enemies and makes you miss more of the film, spoiling it further. You can demand a refund, but then where are you? You’ve wasted half an hour, had an awful time and still haven’t seen the film you wanted to,  forcing you to come back at a time when the asshole-enthusiast ratio is more in your favour. I’m sick of being told to watch films on a Sunday morning just because cinemas can’t supply a standard quality of service.

I’ve voiced these thoughts a few times and always the response I get is “Well, you should come see it at the cinema near me! It’s got a great screen, etc.” From investigation I can assure you that the people who say that always turn out to be the shagsacks who make so much noise and ruin the film for others anyway – nor do they mention that ‘their local cinema’ is usually really far away and costs more than a regime change. It’s never better quality either, just an image that’s over-saturated instead of under-lit.

Literally every time I’ve been to the cinema in the past two or three years, it’s been terrible and not worth the effort. Most of them can’t even compare to the student-run cinema we had at Uni – which consisted of a dodgy second hand projector, an old lecture hall and a tiny white screen that was smaller than the projection. I’m tired of walking out of glorified lounges with an empty wallet and brimming rage – I’d rather wrest control back and cope with watching things at home, thanks. I’m never going to the cinema again.

Some links.

I’m heading off to GamesCom in a week. Most game journalists get excited about that, and I am too, but there’s a strange terror that comes from being sent solo. Every fuck-up comes back to haunt you.

Joe, Out.

The Brutal Legend…


My review of Brutal Legend is going up on bit-tech today, with a second review going up on Den of Geek in a few days. I’ll save you the tension and just say that the game is awesome; I love it. Honestly, I found it quite hard to write the bit-tech review, but once I got going it was OK – my main problem was trying to make it clear that the main fault of the game is an array of somewhat bland gameplay tropes. The characters, plot and multiplayer make up for it though. I actually met Tim Schafer again not long ago, asking him a bunch of questions and getting him to sign my copy of Grim Fandango. He was very much like I expected; quietly uncomfortable with the reputation that’s been built around him and not totally willing to be serious for more than five minutes thanks to a very shrewd sense of wit and quietly mumbling voice.

In other news, I’ve been reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand lately and I really like that too. Unlike most books that are actually about explaining a deeper philosophy, Atlas Shrugged doesn’t stray into the usual diatribes and monologue bollocks. Instead, it just stays with a really interesting array of characters who communicate their philosophies by their interactions with the world around them. The book is well written too – something I didn’t wholly get from The Old Man and The Sea by Hemmingway, which I finished reading just before hand. I can’t believe that won a Nobel Prize for literature in all honesty;  the Christ imagery was semi-interesting and all, but it’s no compensation for a dull plot and staid writing.

Here’s a round-up of other stuff I’ve done.

What else? Well, on top of my classic book reading binge, my Father is preparing to launch a whisky tasting event company, I reviewed the next game from Tale of TalesFatale, and I’m preparing for a slew of features on the site. I also did a column in the latest issue of CustomPC Magazine that I’m quietly proud of, asking whether PC Games Journalism is mired in Nostalgia. On a somewhat ironic counterpoint, I’ve been playing Duke Nukem 3D on the iPhone an awful lot.

I also went away for a weekend with Ed from TrustedReviews and Hannah and we learned how to skin a deer, make jerky and survive for 48 hours in Wales.

That is all, Joe.

Return of DeathSpank…


Holy shit, I wrote a load of craz-ee stuff in the last few weeks and then I saw a dragon. Well, no, not really – but I did do a load of writing on the site, some of which could possibly even be described as good. Links at the bottom.

More importantly that any of that though was the fact that I finally finished watching all of Battlestar Galactica, the re-imagined series. Late, I know, but I like to sit down and watch TV shows only after they’ve already finished so that I can watch them at my own pace. I loved watching Buffy and Angel every week back in the day, but it was such a drawn out and painfully delayed process that I’d prefer to not do it again. Thus, I watched Battlestar Galactica only recently. And I can’t get ‘All Along the Watchtower’ out of my head. Alas.

I suppose I could squeeze some detailed analysis out if I wanted, but the emphasis would be on squeeze – so I’d rather not. It was good, I liked it, now I’ll move on to something else. Probably getting some serious Baldur’s Gate on; life as a Lv. 3 Half-Elf Conjurer requires dedication.

I have little else to say, so here are the links.

I also did a blog post on my bit-tech blog about Games to Play with Your Children, which was something I’d long been planning as a feature. Other games to add to that list include Tales of Monkey Island, Worms, Facade and House of the Dead: Overkill.


GamesCom 2009


I just got back from Cologne, Germany, where I was attending GamesCom 2009. It was a total ‘mare, but also a dream come true if that makes any sense.

It was my first major, proper tradeshow type thing. I’ve been to big events and shows before, like UbiDays and so on, but this was the first international multi-day event that I had to organise myself. I think I did pretty well, getting one article up every day, plus news stories and building a back-catalogue of interviews and previews I can spew out in the future. I had loads of good meetings, though I’ll freely admit that I probably should have stacked some more in for Day Three (I was just worried about cramming too much in). I met loads of cool new contacts, especially the team at FutureMark who are working on the surprisingly fluid and fun-looking Shattered Horizon. I also played more games than most people have brain cells.

Most importantly though, I saw Alpha Protocol for the first time. I knew very little about the game going in, but what I saw at the presentation was all good. This game looks phenomenal, like the next Deus Ex. It’s a modern Spy RPG, with you as a lone agent trying to track down some lost missiles, but it’s got a fully complex branching story system. You can join up with different factions, turn enemies into allies, take different routes through levels and so on. Most of the main characters can be killed or saved as you choose and all the weapons etc. can be upgraded as you go. It sounds too good to be true. It probably is.

Other things I saw which looked interesting included Scribblenauts, AVP, Shattered Horizon, Mount & Blade: Warband and Majesty 2. Majesty 2 itself wasn’t a fantastic looking game or anything, but it was presented to me by a very nice Paradox PR lady called Boel who knew very little about the game, but was just so lovely that it didn’t really matter. Oh, and Borderlands looks good too.

I remember one of the first things I read of Rich Swinburne’s was a blog post about stuff it was important to take to a tradeshow, such as a mobile phone with loads of credit and a notepad and pen rather than a heavy laptop. He’s very correct, since you’re on your feet all day. I’d add to that and say that it’s crucial to have a bag of fruit in your hotel room too, as you need those vitamins and energy at the end of the day. It’s also important to get everyone in a room to introduce themselves to you aloud (not just give you business cards) if you’re using a dictaphone. Taking a good book of short stories is a good idea too, to help fill those tram rides and short breaks while you wait for the developer to turn up. Always keep some deoderant, chewing gum and something sugary to eat on hand too as it’s inevitable that you’ll run out of energy, get sweaty running from one meeting to another, or need a quick icebreaker if you’re in a room with new people.

Socks too. I forgot mine and was faced with foot-based mystery for the entire trip. Always pack extra socks.

Joe, Out.