Test Your Might #1: Roaring Synapses #1 - Introductions and Incompetences

by Rathe on Sunday, 27 February 2011

The next post is due later this week so why not join the RSS feed and be notified when it goes live.

The Game:
Frozen Synapse - "Bite-size, critically-acclaimed hardcore strategy with a striking sci-fi aesthetic" in the creators words; "one of the most incredibly tactical, yet beautifully simplistic battle of wits" in ours.

The Goal:
To ascend the game's global rankings leaderboard (top 10 for Indiana, top 100 for Rathe) and maybe even have some fun in the process.

Channel Zero #6: They Came From The Deep™

by Rathe on Friday, 18 February 2011

I don’t watch an awful lot of television — and in saying this I have automatically pegged myself as an elitist who considers himself too good for TV. But you know what? I am.

Channel Zero #5: Every Little SCALPS MORE LIKE AM I RIGHT

by Rathe on Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Last week in my 3DS launch firing-line, I briefly mentioned Tesco’s attempt to lower their pre-order price before being matched almost instantly by Amazon. Amazon may as well have sent someone down to Tesco’s website maintenance department, sought out the man who made the change, kicked him in the balls, then killed his family, then spray-painted ‘EVERY LITTLE HELPS’ onto his car, which they trashed.  Just to make absolutely sure they know whose number one.

Channel Zero #4: 'Second-Hand Nostalgia' and the Relativity of Gaming Opinions

by Rathe on Sunday, 13 February 2011

When I was much younger, I had a friend a few years older than me who owned a Nintendo 64: I didn’t have any consoles of my own, and he’d frequently have me over —we lived next door to each other. One of my earliest gaming memories is sitting in his living room with him and two of his other friends playing GoldenEye multiplayer. Half an hour into it, I decided GoldenEye sucked. Part of the reason was that I was really bad at it — it was the first FPS I had ever picked up, I was playing against people who were older than me and who owned it at home… either way, I was really, really bad. One of my complaints to my friend was, “everything goes jagged when something explodes”, or words to that effect. He replied, “Just because you’re losing”. The thing is, I was right; I knew I was right. Go on, go fire up the N64, go into multiplayer and throw a grenade or something. Lagsville. Yet still he reacted as though I had accused him of cheating or the controller being broken.

Nintendo 64, N64 controller

Channel Zero #3: Disappointment Stalks The Land

by Rathe on Thursday, 10 February 2011

So here comes the fun part of a new console launch; the pre-order Mexican standoffs between retailers in desperate, increasingly pathetic bids to slash minuscule increments off the prices. The 3DS has had some particularly good fun lately — at the time of writing, pauper’s paradise Tesco lowered their pre-order price to £197, only to have Amazon inevitably reassert dominance by matching it. It was like watching a man playing guitar with his feet for five minutes until someone else came along and did it too, only he played Freebird and happened to be Jesus Christ himself.

Hmmm. Nope. Sorry. I need Graham Norton to convince me.

The Men in the High Castle #1: Aspects of the Novel; What's So Novel About the Novel

by Indiana…

In recent years the novel has dropped in my estimation, whilst I can not truthfully say I've not enjoyed many good novels, I find myself increasingly tasked to justify their space on my bookshelf. The novel seems so often to reside in the bad lands between the short story and poetry —and on an entirely separate axis to non fiction; large ponderous books that lack sufficient information or entertainment value to justify this great bulk.


by Indiana… on Tuesday, 8 February 2011

As you may have noticed TCFTD now has a twitter, admittedly a slightly inactive one, onwards and upwards dear readers.

Reversal #1: Military Idealism in Macro Land

by Indiana… on Monday, 7 February 2011

Advance Wars at its simplest is an abstraction; an 'ideal war': it is no war you have ever seen, but it is in its own way deeply reminiscent of any modern war. However its almost geometric simplicity and focus on the superiority of attack brings to mind the 'ideal war' not of Clausewitz himself—who oft stressed the superiority of defense — but the Clausewitz many late Prussian and early German strategists imagined and assumed to exist.

'Gangsta Gangsta' - N.W.A. - Confused Young White Man Critiques Mid-to-Late 80s' Rap Music Narratives #1

by Rathe

Being a young British male, I occasionally feel twinges of regret whenever I am reminded of how little I actually know about 80’s rap narrative. I feel left out when I overhear my friends' conversations about the “flow” of The Chronic, or the ‘phat rhymez’ of Illmatic. It’s a talent of my generation’s that I’ve missed out on, along with ‘your mum’ jokes and an encyclopaedic knowledge of each Britain’s Got Talent winner. However, there’s no time like the present, and I seek to rectify this.

Like all white rock fans, I do very much enjoy me some Public Enemy, hypocritical and irrelevant as they may be these days – hell, I named my game articles after one of their songs – but I need something else to work from. Oh, here we go, the ubiquitous Straight Outta Compton. I at least recognise some of the rappers on this. ‘F*** Tha Police’ would be the obvious choice, so I’m going to go for one of my favourite album cuts, the brilliantly exaggerated ‘Gangsta Gangsta’.

An awful lot of swearing, casual mysogyny, advocation of drug use and crippling amounts of the 80s' in general after the jump, so a discretionary warning to anyone who isn't an alcoholic sailor or living in Texas.

Channel Zero #2: James Cameron's Ocarina of Time

by Rathe on Sunday, 6 February 2011

Personally, I don't think 3D is much of a blessing for cinema - it's far more technologically advanced and impressive than it ever has been, granted, and it has renewed some interest in film as a medium that's been dying a slow, steady death. On the other hand, I very much feel 3D sullies the purity of a film. Its application has fallen into one of two categories: films that use the clarity of its visuals, CGI and 3D as their primary selling point (Avatar, which, incidentally, I am dedicating my life to avoiding); or cynical post-production cash-ins (Clash of the Titans, for example). Either way, given the choice, Joe Public is usually going to spend a few pounds more seeing the 3D version, so regardless of why the filmmakers chose to add 3D to their film, financial reasons are always going to be at least part of it. Then again, compare and contrast to the original era of 3D movies - at least looking back it felt like they were being more honest; that they and everyone else knew it was just a cheap gimmick to draw in the crowds.

Robot Monster
But really, don't get me wrong - I'm not saying that 3D took anything away from the storytelling masterpiece that was 1953's Robot Monster. No sirree.
Basically, I don't like 3D movies. So why am I pretty excited for the 3DS? Why does it seem more...right somehow?

The reasons it's being implemented are largely the same as why Hollywood has - the technology is better these days and can allow it, and just like the original DS and the Wii, it's going to be the hot new toy for 18 months, maybe two years, until it eventually gets drowned in wave after wave of cheap, novelty shovelware and decent first and second-party releases become increasingly sparse. It's the gaming industry's equivalent of Susan Boyle.

Keith Chegwin, Cheggers Party Quiz
I have a poster of this boxart on my wall, actually. It makes me feel better whenever I hear about a particularly bad videogame, film, or natural disaster; knowing nothing else can be quite this miserably desperate.
I sat down and thought about it. 3D for a game console does not feel as forced as 3D for films. Throughout each successive generation of games, technological advancement has always been the key staple of it - from 8-bit to 16-bit; from touch-screen to motion-control, consoles have always been little gadgetry showcases in their own ways. 3D is merely yet another extension of that.

Another thing I realised was that the reason I disliked 3D films do not necessarily translate to the medium of games. I've never heard anyone clamour for a 3D remake of The Godfather, despite the fact it is generally considered one of, if not the, greatest films ever made - as cool as it may sound to see a depth-shifting 360-degree pan of Sonny getting riddled with bullets at the toll-booth, it would cheapen the experience. Great as a piece of visual splendor, but completely empty as a part the narrative.

Yet Ocarina of Time, generally considered one of, if not the, greatest videogame ever made, is going to become available within the 3DS' launch window and has the forums rabid with excitement and speculation. It's intangible - 3D feels more natural in a videogame (Virtual Boy notwithstanding). Perhaps because all the events are portrayed through computer-made characters we don't worry about the intangibles, like human actors in our favourite movies lending unique performances we can completely identify with - something games are still a long way from reaching, maybe. Even then, we'll have to wait and see - who knows what's going to be possible for storytelling in the 3DS' lifetime?

So, to finish in broadly simplistic terms, I feel infinitely more comfortable with 3D in my games than I ever will with my movies. Is that because there's less to ethically and aesthetically put at risk? Or is it just because I can turn it off  at the flick of a slider?

Channel Zero #1: Let's Do Something EXCITING!

by Rathe on Wednesday, 2 February 2011

In October 2002, someone in Nintendo’s PR management thought having Des Lynam dye his moustache purple was a good idea for a Super Mario Sunshine campaign. Instead of being laughed at so hard the reverberation in the room caused him to explode, they ran with it and gamers everywhere got to cringe with despair as what they were hoping to be the most important platformer since Super Mario 64 was promoted by Mr. Match of the Day, on the basis of them both having…well, moustaches. Cute, but let’s face it, your dad probably wasn’t the one in the household who got all 120 Stars.

Des Lynam, Super Mario Sunshine, moustache
Not-Very-Fun Fact: Googling 'des lynam mario sunshine' returns this CBBC Newsround article as the first hit. Does anyone remember Newsround? Does it still run? Is it still terrible?

Then, an article in this month’s NGamer reminded me of those atrocious Jedward Dragon Quest IX adverts.
The arguments that Nintendo have traded their loyal fanbase of ‘true gamers’ for their parents have long been done to death (and business is business), but now we see the emergence of something a little more worrying – aiming games at people the same age as gamers who have probably enjoyed similar games in the past but ignoring them in favour of a different lifestyle demographic, or just people more easily parted with their money (JLS fans). Why aim Dragon Quest ads at the people who like, say, Persona when JLS fans are so much more exploitable and commonplace? Hell, you don’t even need to show any gameplay footage! Gamers are finicky buggers to flog anything to anyway, whereas your mum – and hers – isn’t quite as discerning.

It's quite strange - unlike selling Wii Sports to, say, parents, who will usually enjoy the game; this is merely selling an RPG on the back of Jedward to people who like Jedward. It could literally be any game at at all, it would make no difference to concept or consumer.

This is separate from the celebrity promotion issue – I’ve always had a hard time with any game advert (or, for that matter, any advert) that uses anyone remotely famous right off the bat, because the product instantly become an aspirational centrepiece as opposed to having any merits of its own, like Beckham’s fragrances. Besides that, having Jedward hocking me Dragon Quest is a bit like having Peter Andre trying to sell me the restored Blu-Ray edition of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis – anyone actually interested in the game itself would put their life savings on them having never played it before. Conversely, anyone interested in John and Edward (the abbreviation physically pains me to type) is probably going to enjoy downloading ringtones or trying to decide if rocks are edible more than they ever are Dragon Quest.  

As an aside, America did a similar campaign with Seth Green for Dragon Quest IX. I'm not sure which marketing department is more misguided; theirs for equating fans of Chris from Family Guy as an RPG demographic, or ours for thinking X Factor semifinalists are the same thing.

I suppose my point is the basic thinking between the Lynam and Jedward campaigns is pretty much the same, Nintendo only sold 1.5 million GameCubes that next January in all of Europe, while now they sit quite comfortably on top of figures of 8.3 million units as of October last year (one in three homes in UK). Apparently we’ve traded silly ads for ones that actively insult our intelligence, and they’ve had far greater success. I wish Nintendo every success after those dark GameCube/N64 years, I just wish it didn't have to come at the expense of their dignity.

Let's end with an advert from Japan, to make us feel better. No wonder Dragon Quest has such bloody miserable sales over there.

First Post

by Rathe

This is about the third or so blog I've started —and the first to be a collaborative effort between me and this other fella— the twist is, this one actually has some pretty good little critiques on: cinema, video games, music, books, and other twee little distractions humanity likes to think matter when pretending the world isn't a gigantic hunk of doomed coal. So stay around, we may actually have some posts and pictures and arguing.