My Ten Favourite Video Game Characters. Part 1

Posted in Uncategorized on July 25, 2014 by jimmywolf2007

Before I begin this list, which will be completed over the next 10 days, I want to clarify this is entirely subjective. I don’t/didn’t play Nintendo or Sega consoles for example and I know that a large number of people will consider that total sacrilege. I also didn’t start gaming properly until the late 1990’s, so my views do not include games prior to around 1997. In fact a good point to see as the beginning of my gaming career is Final Fantasy 7. And no, none of my 10 favourites come from that game. 

There is also a massive skew towards RPG’s, primarily because character depth is more important to me than badassery or sentimental attachment to a particular set of games. So Dante from DMC, for example, is not in the list though he gets an honourable mention in the introduction as the example of course. That’s not to say there aren’t characters from other genre’s coming up, there are, but I want people to know my biases before we begin because, frankly, I can refer back to if people disagree.

There will also be spoilers for all of the characters, in all of the posts. I’ll repeat this warning at the start of each post so that it’s clear.

Character #10: Jolee Bindo. Knights of the Old Republic

Jolee Bindo's character icon in Knights of the Old Republic

So, to begin a character that I enjoy primarily because he breaks a mould in a traditionally distinct power struggle between good and evil. Jolee Bindo is a Jedi, and thus had training in the tenets of the Light Side of the force, primarily that emotions such as anger, passion and hatred lead to the dark side and thus are bad for you. But Jolee ends up falling in love, generally seen as a sign of misplaced passion and thus heavily discouraged if not outright banned in Jedi circles depending on the academy or your Master. In the end he marries the woman he loves and leaves the Jedi, and thus begins a life outside the core worlds.“Pulling a Bindo” in the sequel to Knights of the Old Republic, is mentioned when the subject of Jedi marrying is raised in reference to this backstory.
Bindo’s wife is revealed to have turned to the Dark Side during her time with him, after he trains her in the use of the Force. He duelled and defeated her, but let her go. She killed many Jedi before being finally beaten again, and Bindo feels immense guilt for his failure to keep her away from the temptations of the Dark Side.

When you meet him in the game, Jolee is on Kashyyk, the Wookie home world, and is detached from galactic politics and the general difficulties of the Jedi and the power of the Sith. Having seen the rigid and inflexible side of the Jedi, Bindo is skeptical to their beliefs and systems and no longer considers himself a “Jedi” in the strictest sense. He’s most commonly described as a “Grey” Jedi, in that he broadly supports ideas such as justice, charity, helping others and peaceful resolutions to conflicts but refuses to be locked into doctrine that dictates when this should be applied, preferring to let his emotions tell him when it is right to do so. This is in contradiction to the Jedi code, which states “There is no passion, only serenity” but also contradicts the first line of the Sith Code that “Peace is a lie, there is only passion”. His story through the game allows him to challenge both of the views of the Jedi and the Sith as he travels with Revan, but also reinforces the reasons why he stays out of the conflict between them. He increasingly, whether you go light side or dark side in the game, comes to the conclusion that one or the other will cause harm, but that only the Sith accept and even embrace the harm they do, which causes further damage.

This is why Jolee appears as the first entrant of this list. He challenges the player to think beyond traditional meanings of “good” and “evil”, particularly in a universe like that of Star Wars which was built upon the Jedi/Sith dichotomy, notably in the prequels. He also attacks the selfish or one-sided views of the companions in the party. Notably he does not see the Republic necessarily as a force for good, unlike the Jedi or Carth Onasi during the game. He views it in the same way that many cynical about modern politics view their governments, that in the end they serve a very small section of people, while the rest suffer. He still prefers this to the xenophobia and martial law the Sith would bring, however. He simply doesn’t see the Republic as important to the galaxy as a whole, believing individuals within it are more important than the organisation. He also speaks in riddles that leave interpretations open to the player at several points, which adds to how different players will react to him. He is also one of the few party members, the others being Bastilla and HK-47, to know Revans identity from the beginning of KOTOR, but upon meeting you he says nothing, believing it his not his place to reveal that information.

 

But I think the main reason I like Jolee is that he shows how difficult it is to be good in a world where your emotions drive your actions. We are not Jedi, and while many may aspire to the idea of a perfect system of people knowing when to act or not, this creates further strife when they debate what best to do. Acting on impulse is dangerous, unadvised even, but Jolee does so out of a genuine desire to do good now, rather than waiting for people to suffer while the best option is decided upon. This is a topic that is regularly brought up during Knights of the Old Republic, in the first and second game, and it does the series great credit that it didn’t just focus on a good vs evil story and instead examined the process behind each sides reasons for entering the Mandalorian Wars, and later the Jedi Civil War.

So to conclude, Jolee Bindo is a character that is deliberately designed to challenge the player. He does so in a very subtle, but important way, and is given an excellent backstory to compliment his personality and current motives. He’s also one of the few light sided Jedi who is said to actively use “dark” force powers such as lightning, since they feed off emotions. This makes him pretty damn awesome by any standards.

Dear Esther….

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on May 17, 2012 by jimmywolf2007

There are a few things I like more than Midweek Madness on Steam. It allows many of us to try new things that seem too expensive for what they offer at first. This was the case for Dear Esther to pretty much everyone I know who had heard about the game. They knew it only lasted a short while, that it was basically a tech demo of what the Source Engine is capable of. But they were also fascinated by it’s ideas. At least I know I was…

So when it came up on M.W.M I went “Hey, why not?” and downloaded it in earnest. Perhaps I chose the best time to play it (at midnight) because from the moment I started it up, the music felt eerie and the hairs began to rise on the back of my neck. I started from the first chapter (since starting from any other felt silly) and began the game.

This blog goes through half of the game. Therefore I shall say, right now, that some of my screenshots WILL contain *SPOILERS*.

You start off on a jetty, directly outside a lighthouse that gives its namesake to the first chapter. The narrator begins the first of many “Dear Esther” letters and you are able to move into a small building next to the lighthouse, filled with various discarded items and the debris of the lighthouse staircase. It was a that point that I realised something…

The game is utterly gorgeous. There is literally nothing that I can think of, not even Skyrim modded to extremes, that is so beautifully designed and rendered in 3D. I was able to run this game on the highest possible graphics settings available, and I’m so glad of that.Image

It is only after quite a bit of walking around the shore that the narrator continues. It will take a little time to get used to him, but the letters feel like they came right out of a poets mouth. They are as polished as the graphics, and the voiceover work is brilliant. Soon you start to hear him talk about a car crash and a drunk driver. As if on cue I found some discarded car wreckage at the bottom of a cliff. Strange noises fill the air.

The game does this the whole way through. Noises will build up to a crescendo and make you want to hurry along to the next part of the game, lest something catches you. It feels something like survival horror, and once you get to the second chapter it begins to look like one too. You’ll see the wreckage of a cargo ship on the beach, you’ll inevitably walk down to investigate. And then, if your like me anyway, you’ll spot movement out of the corner of your eye. 

An etheral figure seems to wander along the cliff above you, just as the narrator begins to explain how he found medical supplies aboard a cargo ship. You go up to investigate, finding the shade has disappeared, but has lead you to a cliffside path. You follow it and find yourself outside an abandoned house at the top of a hill. The narrator continues, explaining some of the history between himself and a man named Doherty, and another called Jacobson, who apparently lived on the island beforehand with natives. Since the island is now deserted, this makes the atmosphere tense up incredibly, as you feel like the cliffs are somehow watching you. After seeing the shade before, you feel like there must still be someone on this island. And then you walk to the next cliff edge.Image
A small light burns in the cave opposite and you see the shade again. You move on, desperately trying to find the source of the light and in the process go round several more cliff faces, finding more evidence of recent occupation
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And this is where I’ll leave you. There are some seriously creepy moments in this game (Writing the blog has felt like the start of a “creepypasta” in some regards), but the immersion level for me was like reading a brilliant book. The narration is at just the right pace, you walk at just the right pace to feel like you should be moving faster while also giving you time to investigate the world around you (which you really have to do to appreciate the whole story), which gives a lovely feeling of semi-urgency. You want, you hunger, to find out more and questions just keep popping up in your head as you play, which makes you want to explore every nook and crevice as possible. And perhaps the best thing about it is the slow, but sure, realisation that will begin to worm its way to the front of your mind that there is more to the whole game than meets the eye….

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The Premier League: Who I’ll be supporting next season

Posted in Uncategorized on April 22, 2012 by jimmywolf2007

This may sound like a bit of an odd title for a blog. Traditionally your supposed to support the same team through thick and thin right?

Trouble is I used to live in Somerset. This meant I supported my mums team, namely West Ham United. They got relegated last season, and while I was happy to support them in the Championship, I always felt like I wanted to support a team in the Premier League. So I chose Wolves, I team I liked for three reasons. I like Mick McCarthy, they only just avoided relegation (and therefore needed the support) and I like wolves. Yeah the third reason is kinda silly, but it helped choose between them and Blackburn.

But they have now been relegated, and I need to choose a new team to support should West Ham not make it back up to the Premier League. In my view I have three options: Choose a team that was nearly relegated again, choose a team that have been absolutely outstanding this season, going above and beyond what people expected or choose a team in my new home city of London. This leaves me, realistically, with 2 definitive candidates and two possibles depending on which way the relegation battle goes in the next few weeks.

First up the two definitive candidates are Newcastle and Arsenal. Newcastle for being just downright pleasing to watch and outstanding this season and Arsenal because they recovered from the start of the season to launch themselves into third and prove that they are the best team in London at the moment. I like both Alan Pardew and Arsene Wenger, Pardew in particular because his time at West Ham was also successful, nearly winning them the FA Cup. At the end of the day though, I am living in London, and location is all important for support. So Arsenal probably win out here, though when they play Newcastle I will not complain if they lose.

The other two possibles are Wigan and Bolton. Both Owen Coyle and Roberto Martinez are great managers and neither team deserves to go down this season. Martinez brought Wigan back from the brink again this season, putting them in with a real chance of staying out of the relegation zone. Coyle has just been unlucky. Bolton played fantastically last season and it’s a real shame that they’ve been stuck in a relegation battle. If both get relegated I’ll be very surprised and very disappointed. Both have had a tough season for different reasons. Wigan always hold on by the skin of their teeth but Bolton have a trying time too in recent weeks following the near death of Fabrice Muamba, a situation that Bolton and the whole of football generally dealt with in a very dignified way. It made football look good for a short while, until diving and referee decisions became issues again.

So in short, I will probably support Arsenal or Bolton next season, though if West Ham make it up into the Premier League I’ll support them there… 

Wow… It’s be…

Posted in Uncategorized on February 23, 2012 by jimmywolf2007

Wow… It’s been ages since I last blogged here. So much has happened in that time, including me getting a new job, that I won’t bother updating my life status. Instead I’ll rant about an issue that has come to a head in the last few weeks. Whether or not Britain is a Christian country.

Historically you’d have to say yes. Norfolk alone has more churches in it per square mile than anywhere else in the world, according to Bill Brysons “At Home”, so it’s difficult to argue that Britain doesn’t have a lot of Christian heritage. Equally though, Britain has a much more tolerant history than most other countries, with philosophers like David Hume, a self-confessed atheist during a time that belief in a God was paramount, and of course Charles Darwin, who was a devout Catholic but believed that his finds were too important not to publish. So we were never fundamental Christians, or at least we don’t sound like it.

So why is it that when the law seems to prohibit traditional Christian beliefs, such as Sunday being a day of rest or the belief that homosexuality is immoral, do people then complain that they thought this was a “Christian country”? To be honest I hate the term “X Country” regardless, since it implies a very generalised view that is very rarely right. The current government is guilty of it as well, claiming that Britain was built upon traditional Christian values. Modern Britain was built up in the totally opposite way, with a mishmash of different cultures scattered all of the place. True the foundations may be Christian, but you don’t look at a house’s foundations when you buy it, you look a the structure on top of them. We could have the best values in the world, but it makes no difference if we don’t follow them up with actions.

My view is that the real world takes precedent over the spiritual. I don’t believe in a God, but I equally believe science will not be able to truly explain everything. Instead I just choose to stay in the here and now, which seems to mostly revolve around money (bills, rent, student loans etc). So if, for instance, a business wants you to work Sundays but you refuse based upon your belief in the Sabbath then the business should have the right to replace you. People sometimes forget that faith is a choice and that businesses can choose who they hire. If you don’t meet their criteria then don’t expect to work for them. Make sure your employers are aware of your core beliefs before they hire you. I don’t want people fired, or not hired, because they’re religious, but I do think people who expect religion to permeate into the plans of businesses need to look at the real world.

I firmly believe the law should be representative of the realities of modern living, particularly when jobs are at a premium. There are some great examples of people who, despite not working Sundays, have done great things with their life. Dan Walker, the BBC’s sport correspondent and face of Football Focus, worked bloody hard to make up the time he lost by not working on the Sabbath. What you shouldn’t do is assume that businesses have to respect some kind of right to religious freedom regardless. There is nothing wrong with faith, there is a lot wrong with forcing that faith on others…

To Veto or not to Veto….

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on December 10, 2011 by jimmywolf2007

So David Cameron used his veto huh? Well I have to say I wasn’t expecting that, and it seems most of the other commentators based here and else ware in Europe weren’t either.

But then why should we be surprised? The Conservatives have always been the Eurosceptic party in the House of Commons and this is the first time since the Euro formed that there has been such a major crisis within it. And, as one of the French newspapers put it, “Cameron went in with one goal, and one goal alone. And that was to protect British interests.”

So, personally, I think he did the right thing. Whether this damages our relations within the European Union or not, there are actually bigger problems out there than the Eurozone. While it is essential that the Eurozone recovers, the 17 countries that use it could not also take liberties with the power wielded by the Union, something that would always be damaging to Britain, as it would make it impossible to have a say on anything. Cameron had to draw a line on the tax issue because he knew that giving more money to Europe would be deeply unpopular here.

Interestingly, one of points raised by the Maltese media (of all people) was that Cameron was “doing the right thing for all European people, not like our puppet Maltese prime minister.” And this is the important point. I’m not really concentrating on the first part of that sentence, it’s nonsense that he did the right thing for the other 26 countries, it is whether or not he did the right thing for people of Britain. And, in terms of whether or not the British people want it, the answer is no. Anti-European sentiment has only grown since the birth of the Euro, culminating in the most popular elements of the British media riding this wave of discontent and further fuelling the fires. If we do eventually leave the European Union, it will not be because our government said no, it will be because the electorate said no. No party is saying they will leave the EU without a referendum first (though a victory for UKIP or the BNP essentially assures a “No” vote, as xenophobia must be bloody rife for that to happen)

So, really, we should view this as a victory, not for the Eurosceptic Tories, but for the Eurosceptic Electorate of Britain. If the comments on any given media site, (BBC, Guardian, Mail, Sun etc) are anything to go by, there is far more leaning towards supporting this more Eurosceptic view. Facebook and Twitter however are attacking it relentlessly, so the demographics of each are pitted against each other somewhat and it makes it difficult to tell immediately which side of the argument the majority of the electorate are on. We need a poll soon me thinks….

But everyone is aware that being Eurosceptic in this country is nothing new. I’m very Eurosceptic in terms of a legislative Europe because of the massive cultural divides between each country (not least us, the tolerant British and the homophobic Serbians for instance), but agree that the EEA is a very good thing, as it increases trade. But that’s separate from the EU, and Norway is an example of how to meet in the middle, being part of the EEA, but not the EU.

That’s probably the route that the Eurosceptics love the idea of. Free trade and no interference from other countries in terms of legislature or taxes. It’s a route I’d want to go down. And it doesn’t necessarily mean damaging relations with other countries, Norway again is evidence of this. Indeed the French and German media couldn’t wait to find an excuse to finally attack the British, so maybe we should just bugger off and leave ‘em to it. Sometimes, your best friends aren’t those closest to you geographically, and I suspect thats why Cameron has been trying hard to improve trade agreements in Asia and else ware. And of course, we’ll have the commonwealth countries, which the Tories will always want to support.

And if the Euro does collapse, we won’t be so reliant on it because he improved relations else ware. Those countries within the EU will try and either huddle together further or break apart. But we won’t have to worry, because we’ll have better trade agreements else ware. Thats the hope anyway….

Only time will tell I guess…
 

The Games and Series of the Decade

Posted in Gaming, Warhammer with tags , , , , on September 28, 2011 by jimmywolf2007

It recently struck me that it’s been nearly 10 years since the release of the original Halo: Combat Evolved and the original Xbox. It’s also the year that Final Fantasy X was released, and thus the start of my gaming “career” as it were.

Over these 10 years, I’ve experienced some of the best games around and some of the worst games around. Some of most innovative games and some of the best stories told. This blog gives my views on several gaming genre’s, which games in my view are the pick of the bunch, and which came close to beating them.

First up, we’ll start with the genre that has begun to dominate every gaming platform since Halo’s release: The Shooter. This is a difficult one, because many will want a split between the best FPS (or first person shooter) and the best third-person shooter. I’ve decided to combine the two, however, because the gameplay is very similar in both cases and you are always aiming down the barrel of a gun one way or the other, whether you can see the shoulders of your character or not.

Best Shooter since 2001: Half Life 2

As I said the choice was very difficult. Trying to choose between what a lot of people will see as three of possibly the best games of last 10 years was very difficult, especially as all of them deserved it for a variety of different reasons. But, when it comes down to it, a game is a game and nothing matches the gameplay quality of Half Life 2. It’s story is engaging and it’s characters are very well fleshed out but this could count for nothing if the gameplay was half-arsed. Instead Valve produced a masterstroke in the use of the Source engine that made the Gravity Gun, the crowbar and Gordan Freeman cultural icons.

Close Second: Gears of War 3

I’m sure I’ll hear cries of annoyance at the lack of mention of Halo with regards to the shooter genre. Simply put, it has been outclassed several times in the past ten years, and Halo 2 was the last Halo game to conquer the title of “best shooter”. Half Life 2 is a better game, on almost every level. Yes, Halo’s competitive multiplayer is fun, indeed it probably still holds the title of “best multi-player shooter” (though Timesplitters 2 will always be on its heels) but it’s single player and co-operative modes are now outranked by Half Life and Gears of War 3 respectively.

And this is why Gears of War 3 is the second best shooter around. On your own Gears 3 is a very good third-person shooter, but no where near as good Half Life for creative first person enjoyment. However, Co-operatively, particularly with four players, Gears of War outranks Half Life 2 for fun. It easily outclasses Halo in this regard because the story is of a far better quality. It’s the culmination of work on three different games that always felt like there was a strong story that just needed some refinement. Gears of War 3 has that refinement, then adds even more. Add this to the strong multi-player modes such as Horde and Beast and you’ve got a game that really only needed some creativity added to the “get into cover and shoot” formula present in the previous games. Thats the only criticism I could muster, but it’s enough to put it down to second place, as to beat Half-Life 2, the game needed to be practically flawless.

Best RPG since 2001: Mass Effect 2

Again a very difficult choice in a genre that has a lot going for it. This is probably one of the best games of all time, and I don’t mean that lightly. Mass Effect 2 is the most engaging, emotional, beautiful and imaginative game I have ever played. Its character development is the best of any game thus far and its story makes you want to replay it over and over again. In particular the character Garrus Vakarian was my favourite, but the fact that so many people will have a different favourites proves, in my opinion at least, that the game succeeded in this regard. Every character is likeable, or their motivations fully explained. The entire game keeps you entertained from beginning to end and the gameplay is outstanding.

Close Second: Final Fantasy X

I’ll admit to being very biased on this front. Final Fantasy X started my gaming career and it has always been on my mind, even now as I write I want to play it again. The gameplay, however, was not the best in the world, being a simple yet effective turn based affair, rather than the fluid, cover to cover move and shoot gameplay of Mass Effect. But the story is still the best ever produced in gaming history. I don’t give a damn about your Final Fantasy VII’s, Kingdom Hearts or Knights of the Old Republic. That story has stayed with me for 10 years, longer than any other game, and while others have come and gone, I’ve replayed it over and over during that time. It’s a shame FFXI, FFXII and especially FFXIII were disappointing by comparison really. I still enjoyed them all to varying degree’s but none quite matched FFX. It’s just a shame Mass Effect 2 came along and I couldn’t find a good argument against it…..

Best Platformer since 2001: Psychonauts

This is the first game on this list to not be a blockbuster seller. But then platformers during the mid noughties were going through a very difficult era. Classic characters like Spyro, Crash Bandicoot and Sonic had been replaced by the darker stories of Jak and Daxter and Ratchet and Clank, but even those were hardly blockbuster titles by their third instalments. Psychonauts is now considered a cult classic, a great game with creativity in abundance, a hilarious story and addictive, if slightly frustrating, gameplay. No other plat former has since matched any of it’s achievements, whether in terms of being funny, or indeed being very fun at all. Traditional platformers are a dying breed, slowly edging more and more towards the traditional RPG, rather than the old jump over pits and onto enemies affairs of the PS1 and Megadrive. Because of this, Psychonauts will likely remain the best for a long time.

Close Second: Ratchet and Clank

In my view this was a choice between this and Jak and Daxter. It was difficult because Jak 2 was a very good game, but the original R+C was a great laugh, original, beautiful (for its time) and very addictive at a time when Crash Bandicoot and Spyro were spewing out the same old formulas that didn’t really feel like next-gun platformers. R+C felt like a next-gen platformer and delivered the best platforming experience on the PS2, challenged only by Jak and Daxter. It’s a shame that the series has very much diminished, the same with Jak and Daxter, but Crash is on the rise again, and I’m not going to complain about that.

Best Real Time Strategy game since 2001: Rome Total War

This game was so good it got its own TV show, Time Commanders on the BBC. Rome Total War is the benchmark for strategic gameplay in my view, the other Total War games deserve equal praise but Rome gave the most engaging experience of the lot so far. Shogun 2 is excellent, nearly matching it, but I do still feel Rome was the better game. Whether it was the balance of the hugely varied forces, the ability to watch Elephants throw incendiary pigs over the walls of forts or just the really simple mechanics that could give so much complexity, RTW is a masterpiece of tactical gameplay. While I imagine the Total War team will eventually revisit it, as they have done with Shogun and Medieval, the foundation of those sequels started in Rome.

Close Second: Dawn of War Dark Crusade

This is an entirely different kind of RTS, involving base building, troop creation and economy control. While many believe Dawn of War 2 to have a more rounded, less repetitive gameplay style, DOW really was the cream of the base building crop. Relic not only produced a Games Workshop game that lived up to the company but also set the benchmark that games like Red Alert suddenly had to match. None have quite matched the awesome feel of having one of your Relic units suddenly turning the tide of a battle in your favour, moments before the opponent plays a similar trump card. Some of the matches end up in long protracted stalemates, but that in my view made it the better game.

Best Turn Based Strategy Game since 2001: Civilisation 4

A choice between Civ 3, 4 and 5 really. No other games, bar perhaps Age of Wonders and the campaign maps of the Total War series, have come close to matching the complex, yet easy to pick up and play style that Civilisation produced. Civilisation 4, in my view, was the best of the bunch. The different civics that governed religion, culture and scientific progress were well explained at every point, making the game a challenge but easily accessible. The stack attack worked well for fighting wars, even if Civilisation 5 would eventually replace it. The only trouble is Civilisation has a power hold on this genre, meaning that a close second would have been Civilisation 3. To be honest I’d be writing too similar a paragraph to warrant doing a “close second” for it.

Best Racing Game since 2001: Grid

Atmospheric, addictive, challenging yet gloriously fun, Grid is still the best racing game out there by a long way. Everything felt smooth, the cars had weight and the damage you could do to them looked gorgeous, something Gran Turismo has always been a bit squeamish with. The driving felt responsive regardless of the car you were in, the only negative being that some of the cars sometimes felt as though they slid too much. Your driving helper was also annoying, a trend in Codemasters games. The only racing game that I ever played that was as fun as Grid was the original Colin McRae Rally, and that was well over 10 years ago.

Close Second: Gran Turismo 3 A-Spec

Gran Turismo may sometimes feel like a game for petrol heads only. You always start off in a terrible car that can only just match those around it. But GT3 was the pinnacle of this, allowing it to be fun while still accessible. On the other hand it still feels a little bit like you’re playing to unlock the next best car, only to find that most of your purchases are now just pretty things to look at in the garage. GT5 was not a good game because the only thing they really advanced was the look of the cars. The backgrounds and track designs are shoddy, and it feels like they just want you stare at the cars you bought, rather than race them. GT3 still had a racing heart, and that really showed.

Best Puzzle Game since 2001: Portal

This had to win, no shadow of a doubt. A puzzle game that was not only addictive but brilliantly written and gorgeously made. Some people will say that the mechanics were around before, or that the game is too short, but in my view Portal felt “right”. Every argument people seem to make against it can be countered. “It’s too short” quickly becomes “Exactly the right length”. “Once you’ve finished it, it has no replay value, as you know the puzzles” quickly subsides to “Valve constantly released new challenges” or “I just wanted to hear GLaDoS say that joke again”. Simply put, Portal blew everyone away in the most unexpected of fashions.

Close Second: Lumines

Lumines was a very addictive game. That was really all there was too it. In the same way that Tetris is incredibly addictive because of its simple yet steadily increasing difficulty, Lumines gave that idea a new life. Indeed it feels very different to Tetris, an excellent thing for a puzzle game to have, especially as games like Zuma and Luxor all feel the same. Giving it a different feel puts it above those games in question, and makes it one of the best puzzle games produced in the last decade.
There are other genre’s I haven’t mentioned here I know. Life simulation would be an excellent example, but the obvious winner is the Sims 3, with no real competition. So I finish this blog with what is, in my view, the best game of the last 10 years.

Mass Effect 2

Yep, it beat Portal, Half Life 2 and even my beloved Final Fantasy X. The fact that it includes elements of both the shooter and the RPG genres and yet outdoes them both is testament to the work that went into it. Now just to wait what Skyrim holds. Perhaps it will take the crown away from Bioware…..

Riot Blog

Posted in Politics on August 9, 2011 by jimmywolf2007

As I sit here, looking out the window of my partners Hammersmith flat, I wonder how on earth these riots could happen. Not since 1995 has London seen decimation by its own residents on such a scale, and it’s left many people wondering what could have set off such a wave of criminal activity across the whole capital.

Some will say that the only reason the riots are happening is the shooting of Mark Duggan. This is untrue in the same way that the death of Wayne Douglas was not the only cause of the 1995 riots, because not everyone involved in the riots is trying to avenge a death. Some, if not most, are opportunists after a slice of either an adrenaline filled night out or some “good lootin'”.

Some will say that this was bound to happen. Rates of unemployment in Tottenham have been growing and it’s one of the poorest areas of London. This idea is paradoxical, however, since accusing those without the means to communicate through the internet, whether with a BlackBerry or Twitter, denies one of the main reasons why the riots could start so quickly. One big thing that has changed since 1995 is the easy communication links that can be built on the fly using social networking. If this was a social outcry, with the looters being the face of those unable to find work in a rapidly changing world, then why didn’t more people appear?

There are millions out of work across the country, hundreds of thousands of them are in London alone. If, as some are saying, this is the cause of the violence, that people who are out of work are taking a stand against the rich and powerful, then the rich and powerful actually have nothing to fear at all. The rich and powerful will see the relatively small amount of damage caused and scoff. They know, as do owners of the small businesses across London, that this is only going to do more damage to the community, a community that has tried hard to rebuild after a difficult recession, than it will do to them. What scares businesses is rioting on a far larger scale than this, think back to 1981 for example, where tensions were so high that a single event could spark thousands of people rioting all at once, without the need for high-tech communication.

I think this is the most important point. Without the level of technology out there already among the rioters most wouldn’t know what was happening. This is important because only those who could afford such technology are able to take advantage of it. Blackberry has been noted as one of the big offenders in this list, able to send out messages quickly to lots of people. Since when have large percentages of the unemployed owned Blackberrys? For that matter when have large numbers of any people owned Blackberrys?

Twitter is a brilliant system. I love it, and quite frankly if it turns out that rioters might have used it to organise such an event, I won’t care, because the response afterwards using the #riotcleanup hashtag was incredible and even more unprecedented than the riots that began on Saturday. Again, Twitter requires a level of technology only available to the lower-middle class at best, not the poorer areas of Tottenham. While this is something that needs to be addressed (I should add, in the future, by the next Labour government, when the Conservatives get things back in order enough for us to be able to spend again), the riots are not caused by some sort of economic problem. If they were far more people would be on the streets, in effect a repeat of 1981, when racial tensions were a clear problem that has since been addressed though not completely.

Most of the looters are described as “youths” a word I hate because most of the time it’s associated with teenagers like myself who wear hoodies because it’s cold, not because I’m out to commit a crime. I believe these are young people who, because they know no better, are taking advantage of a difficult police situation knowing they have them in between a rock and a hard place. I like how most students during the protests accused the police of heavy handed tactics against a small minority, yet are now calling them cowards for not approaching rioters. Personally I agree with the stance the Met has taken. They know people (both the police and possibly innocents) are only going to get hurt if they try to arrest large numbers of rioters by charging them with horses or shooting them with rubber rounds. But I also agree with the stance the Met took against the student protests because there were as many people trying to cause trouble as there were in the London riots except there were far more people in the firing line. Kettling has it’s flaws but it prevents the spread of violence when it’s in one place, and you need that when people are out to hurt others.

Some journalists, most of them to the left of the political spectrum, are trying to accuse the government of doing what Thatcher did in the 80’s by cutting state aid. What Thatcher did, and what this government is doing, is on a totally different scale. Thatcher had to bring inflation down from above the 20% mark, Cameron only has it at 5% at worst. Thatcher closed down virtually all the state owned manufacturing businesses. Cameron doesn’t have any of those left to close. Thatcher’s era had a background of massive racial tension. Cameron really only has the issue of the economy to worry about. The number of job losses is incomparable to Thatchers day, when she raised the unemployment level by a million people. The number of people unemployed is apparently dropping under Cameron, though the level of people on Jobseekers is increasing, so that point is moot in the great scheme of things. Similarly the level of borrowing and spending by the government is decreasing at a far lower rate to that of Thatcher. This is probably down more to the Liberal Democrats holding the Tories back in a lot of areas, something that people are missing at the moment. Given the opportunity I’m sure there are plenty of Thatcherite’s waiting the in Tory benches to utterly annihilate the welfare state, but they are not given the time.

In summary, trying to accuse the government of causing the riots through spending cuts is absurd. We’ve seen the peaceful protests and the strikes against them already and they continue anyway. This is totally separate to that. This is small pockets of young people, not driven to riot by a lack of prospects or employment, simply taking advantage of the death of young man, the protest for his family turned to rioting after a policeman made the fatal error of being a bit too heavy handed with a young woman in the crowd. The same applies to rioting in other parts of London, with people jumping on what they see as unjust police searching. This is not caused by the Tories (for once). These riots are unjustifiable and only doing more damage to the communities that are desperately trying to recover from the recession.

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