Thursday 9 April 2009

Three Month Giant Gonzo S/Mashup

An SLRC Update:

For those actually worried by my April fools post, I haven’t left videogame blogging to pursue a career as a writer for Garden Gnomes – I’ve just been busy with an exciting secret project which, in a few days I’ll hopefully reveal a bit more about. Until then, I decided that in the finest tradition of Gonzo Journalism’s slap-dash and often ‘straight from the tape’ aesthetic I would cannibalize all of my half-finished and pre-maturely aborted gonzo articles into One Giant S/Mashup piece and mix it all together with some other random words and pieces of text I accrued along the way. It is as follows, with minimal edits from the originals. Warning: Your Mileage May Seriously Vary.


January 1st:

It’s seems like an extremely Thompson-esque thing to do, starting a blog post after being up for two days. New Years was last night, and more than a few drinks were had by all – our psych-out, early river-side fake-out countdowns are probably famous to anyone out on the water last night for a cruise. So now, I’m going to start my next Gonzo project – I’m going to play some games in a state of high exhaustion and blog about it. But first, I have to make sure my animal charges haven’t died overnight. You just never know with New Year’s.

Note: I think I either played some Far Cry 2 or went to sleep instead.


Early-Mid January - ‘Offline Live blogging/Gonzo Playing Gears of War’. Following is a running commentary for approximately the first half of the game and is closely related to my epic tweet-powered GoW2 marathon which seemed to draw quite a crowd at the time:

  • "Tip: to curbstomp an enemy: Press X"
  • Who is this motherly narrator figure and WHAT IS SHE DOING IN MY GoW?!!?!
  • Woah. Wimminz in my Gears of War 2. WHAT IS THIS?! (/irony FYI)
  • Yes, put the story inside the game. Not in custcenes. Thanks @cliffyb
  • Awww, Dom is so upset. I can tell because he is angry. Grrr!
  • Uh oh... Title screen in 2nd act. Damn, it's another Holywood trick in a game. LLLAME
  • Seriously, I'm not even watching these cutscenes they are so crap
  • Oh man, you give me back control for 20 seconds, its all talk, and then hit me with ANOTHER cutscene? What is WITH this game?!
  • Into the second level – A turret mission: being killed was the calmest part of the level. Tank just cruised on over the edge… reminded me of certain scripted things from FC2…
  • Underground level. Guy we rescue (Carmine) I thought was dead, as I was standing over his body. In an attempt to pick him up/interact DID A BARREL ROLL over his body! D= Not what I meant to do and totally broke sentiment of the moment.
  • With no sound on GoW2 becomes an ironic satire of videogames.
  • Examples: “King Raven and Delta Six are KIA” over a scene of burning rubble. My response: “Oh are they? Oh well. LOL”
  • Examples: Coletrain’s American Football move-filled entrance. “Nobody plays this game better than me!” LOOK SEE! It’s aware that it’s a videogame! (Lets just pretend that it’s post-modernistically self-aware)
  • Example: The Locust reaching for a grenade planted on his back takes on Marx brothers visual humour that had me laughing out loud.
  • Example: Fenix “Where’s your squad”. Cole “Here’s my squad LOL” (Dangles some bling – actually COG tags) (Unsaid: Cole is the ONLY squad Cole needs!)
  • My wounded limping towards Dom, without sound, highlighted the weirdness of it. I’m gimping along
  • “I can’t believe they did that to Tai… he… he survives everything doesn’t he?” – (This is GoW teaching us that people really die… *cough*Far Cry 2 did it better, a LOT better*cough*. See Hocking’s Masterpiece)
  • “You hear that? Could that be a heartbeat?” IUNNO LOL, no sound!
  • Wow, a malfunctioning AI. How original… >_>
  • When you die, you don’t get told “You are dead. Game over” it’s “Objective Failed”. Oh, so if I could complete the objective while dead that’s fine? I guess that could be construed as saying something about the disposability of the soldiers in GoW2… but somehow I doubt that it was intentional…
  • I got a 5sec video showing me how I died… being swept away. I swear I thought it was going to be another intentional thing & cutscene.
  • Wow, flamethrower AI can be DUMB. Shoot me from 100m away? Yeah… good luck!
  • “There are no greater warriors anywhere!” – The Queen. “We’ll see about that Bitch.” – Marcus or Dom.

Fuck. This. Shit - Gears of War 2 is not a game for me. I like games that don’t make me feel like I’m losing brain cells as I play. I like games that aspire to some level of moral, ethical or – hell – I’d even take mental engagement with the player over the brain-dead way that GoW2 hits the player over the head with story. Hey dummie! This story is important, so we’re going to make you listen to it, says the game. I like games that say something, and say it well.

I subscribe to the belief that ‘everything about you says something about you’ and that this applies to both people and videogames. So even if a game like Gears2 largely doesn’t set out to make epic, meaningful statements about Life, The Universe and Everything, that does not preclude it from saying something anyway. Every product, every thought, every action by a person (and a game is a result of actions from people) is a result of a combination of different ways of viewing the world, different ideologies and beliefs.

I should add that I’m really only playing it because I have it. I’m playing out of convenience and because I am mind-killingly bored, at home alone and trying to pretend I’m not desperately waiting for someone to talk to me. I’m also trying not to think about what the Sydney Morning Herald described the other day as their prediction of a massive increase in the number of out of work young job seekers. Hint: That’d be me.

Another reason Gears of War 2 isn’t for me is that I’m not the kind of person that likes cussing. It’s not classy and I don’t pull it off very well, so I generally steer clear. I’m not CliffyB’s target audience – I’m not HARDCORE enough… or am I? Michael Abbott described me on the holiday confab podcast as “a bit of a harcore gamer”. Oh really? Well, if I’m so hardcore, then I can beat Gears2 in one evening, right? RIGHT? This is the tale of what happened when I tried and the lessons I learned along the way.

And I’m beating it by accident. A lot of things are inconceivably over-the top or inexplicably contrived. “It’s bulletproof for a reason!” is followed shortly by the window being shot open. The spiritual dimension should not be missed too – “everything happens for a reason” says a COG soldier. Yeah, because some idiot scripted it with the intention of MOAR BANGS = MOAR AWESOME! The game only has one speed – FASTER and if I thought the music of Spore was a bit one note, GoW2’s is even more.


Mid-Late January:

The best thing about Gonzo is that it’s unexpected. Like the Spanish inquisition, it thrives on the everyday turning into Monty Python’s Flying Circus or going belly up like a bloated fish floating upside down in a fish tank. Example; my last Gonzo piece – who would have thought that missing a train and spending 54 minutes waiting in the cool midnight air would be so conducive to good gonzo?

After the aforementioned post, which started me in a direction towards one of a few games (Bioshock, Spore, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, or Fallout 3), it was maybe a little inevitable that I wouldn’t even play any of those games at all in the time between then and now. Which is true with the exception of Spore – I haven’t touched them – but I went so far as to bring them all down to the Xbox in the living room to play in the two weeks I had the house to myself from late December to early Januay.

But it’s hard to get motivated to repeat an experience, even a good one, when it comes to a media experience like a movie or a game. I have a tendency to go rifling through the filing cabinets of my memory mentally searching through the list of previously fun activities I have at hand when stimulated by boredom. I’ll get to the point of mental assent that the thing I’m thinking of doing/watching/playing is good and will be entertaining… but then I balk when I remember the number of times I’ve put something on only to lose interest because it’s something I’ve already experienced.

And I’ve done it again, blown my lead in on something irrelevant to what I want to talk about – Dynasty Warriors 6 (count ‘em!) for Xbox 360. It’s interesting that I keep doing that though because while HST flourished in his obscure tangents, with them being some of the best bits of his books (or the best bits of one of them anyway – “On the Campaign Trail in ‘72”) does tangential writing actively work against the blog format? That would be a bit sad if true.

Er… back to Dynasty Warriors! But before I get there, today I read a really thoughtful post by Kieron Gillen on Rock, Paper, Shotgun which was part eulogy for an ended television program and part manifesto against anger and an overly critical attitude in games writing. And it made me stop and think before I started writing this bit of the post, because originally I was going to criticize Dynasty Warriors 6 (I still can’t get over how many of them there are!) for a whole bunch of things like:

  • Ridiculous voice acting.
  • Ridiculous story-telling, plot and dialogue.
  • Atrociously ‘period inappropriate’ music, and
  • The occasional degenerate strategy or frustratingly unexplained mission objective.

But then I threw my hands up in the air and said “You know what, even though it doesn’t excuse the very real flaws, the bit of the game that matters most is still the original and still the best”. It’s like the idea that is Dynasty Warriors – fighting epic battles involving tens of thousands of soldiers and their commanders – is still just sheer brilliance and awesome. And the game is also a fantastic example of the case for iteration and sequels in videogame design. Just a few weeks before I received DW6 as birthday present (Note: A present from a fellow blogger no less! Thanks Dan!) I played the fifth iteration on Playstation 2 with a friend and while we enjoyed it immensely, I do not think I could go back.

It also tickles the same parts of my brain as WoW, in that a lot of it is an often repetitive but generally pleasurable grind. Unlocking characters has been a part of the game since the beginning and I’ve only completed one character’s story mode campaign.

In DW6 not all characters are created equal – my first character was Sima Yi who was an absolute dandy and a shoe-in for a topic in Denis at Vorpal Bunny Ranch’s Fanny Friday series.


January/February: LBJeffries Asked for suggestions for “The Best pieces of New Games Writing from 2008” to which I was only too happy to oblige. I made them all into this list, and then some.

Planetside – The 1%

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Simmer

The Great War

My Name is Nico and I’m a law abider

Paul Ferenc’s Pistol

Frank Bilders is Dead

The Cliffsters Badass plan to fix New Games Journo

3-2-1 Action Half-Life

Alien Swarm The Longest 30 Yards

Fear and Longing in Paris

Replaying SWAT 4

The Joy of Coop

Towards an elitist critic future



BG&E Music Analysis:

· Hillyan suite (In Two halves)

o ¾ time sig

o Marimba

o Flute (ethnic flute?)

o African percussion

o Single violin

o String melody

· Second movement of Hyllian suite:

o Piano riff comes in replacing Marimba?

o Whispered words / vocal percussion


February 12th:

An Audiosurf quote from ‘2008 and The Indie Renaissance’:

“When Audiosurf-creator Dylan Fitterer climbed up on stage to receive his award, he was already hurtling towards riches. His audio-visualiser game hybrid was to be the top seller on Steam that month, even out-selling Valve's own recently released titles. In the same month Fitterer had been exulted by his gathered peers in San Francisco, and found financial security in a game he'd made with just a bit of help from friends. It was a fine achievement for any programmer: to have made a popular independent game, and have received a money hat too.” – Jim Rossignol


February 24thNote: I obviously never bothered to finish the list:

Why does Audiosurf have block collection sound effects?

Aren’t the blocks supposed to represent the music?

  • Ten Best Dance Remixes I know for Audiosurf
    • The 2x FRANKMUSIK remixes


Early March:

I’m a fan of violence – when it serves a purpose.

I’m a fan of violence when it’s presented in a way that doesn’t cheapen the act, or glorify it by over stylizing it.

- The watchmen & violence

- Far Cry 2 and violence

- Violence when grounded: when it takes a moment to let you think about what’s just happened, what you’ve just done.


March 7th: In a document called 'Taxonomy of Videogame Posts.doc':

Every video game blog post ever written:
  • The Review
  • The Half-Baked theory (probably reading too much into XYZ game or game aspect)
  • Something about storytelling in games – (are they, can they, how, etc)
  • Are games art (LOL!)


March 16th: In a word document called ‘Why do we want to say what is and isn’t a game.doc

  • Excluding games (i.e. flower, Spore, the Wii, etc as ‘toys’ rather than games)
    • Meaningless definitions and distinctions?
  • Including all things as games: inclusive is the alternative I guess, but is that useful? Is that going to end up diluting what we call games to the point of being un-usable/un-useful?


Mid-Late March:

When going gets tough

Tough Spartans reach for weapon

Covenant defeat


V.Late March

It’s probably a bad sign when you finish the first day of a new job and go home feeling depressed. It’s not the pay – although the pay is, to put it mildly, shithouse. It’s not even the fact that, after expenses, I end up with virtually nothing in my pocket to spend. The worst thing is the feeling it gives me, like I’ve given up on a chance at a better job. Like my potential, all my university training and developed skill, is going completely to waste. It’s a kick in the teeth to the dream that I can do what I love, do what I have dreamed of doing since as long as I can remember. It’s really hard to remember it’s temporary.

The other thing about this new job that sucks is that, working only weekends, it means that the only time my friends ever all get together is when I’m working. Okay, so I don’t finish too late to go join them after, but will I want to after a hard evening’s work?

Note: After bashing this out I got the hell over it and the following weekend hung out with my friends after work. Yay for happy endings!


So in contrast to L.B. Jeffries output, which is largely consistently and consistently excellent, mine is erratic and strange. Never mind.

I hope this was at least mildly interesting for you - it feels a bit like self-archaeology. I've also got a whole series of posts brewing in the slow-cook pot about songs that really 'make the game', which could be a while off yet, but be sure it's coming. Thanks for sticking with me readers - I've got a job now (not a great one) so at least I have cash and my personal situation is a bit stabilised. The upside of my job being so mediocre is that I have all this free time still! One day I'll trade my hours for dollars as a 9-5 wage slave, but not just yet... Till next time!


Ben Abraham said...

This post is absolute validation of my "throw not a single word away" philosophy when it comes to blogging and writing.

SnakeLinkSonic said...

Throwing words away is a sin, heh. Good luck with that project though I hope you guys get it off the ground.