Wot I’ve been up to

It’s safe to say at this point that I won’t be getting back into the consistent swing of things so easily, a further two weeks having passed since my last entry on this blog in which I listed assorted thoughts. And guess what? That’s what this entry is too. Hopefully I can discuss a specific topic next time I hop on here. As you’ll have seen from previous entries and now this one, it’s not like I haven’t been doing things. So hopefully, perhaps just maybe, I’ll hone in on a particular subject for a change.

For now, though, here’s something that’s better than nothing: a list of stuff that I’ve been a-doing in my abscence.

Playing video games has been a recent time sink once again. One game out of those I’ve been playing that I’ve seen through to its completion has been RAGE, a game I may or may not talk about in the future. After finishing it I did go to Facebook and annoy my pals with a mini-essay on my thoughts on the game overall, which is nothing unique to be honest, hence why I may not bother giving it a serious write-up. It’s basically like this: in the end, I thought it was a pretty great first person shooter / weird racing hybrid that I would heartily recommend on the sole basis that you simply have to see these incredibly designed characters and the world – but it thankfully has great gameplay too, the game only being a small let down in areas from the limitations holding this gameplay, which involves a number of surprisingly great mini-games to play between all the shooting, back from being used to its full potential. Oh yeah, and it has an ending so shit that I fear Kane and Lynch 2’s equally abrupt ending may actually be better, which is saying something.

But even though none of those thoughts are exactly unique, I may write an entry anyway, if only so I can gush over the incredibly detailed world and those characters that, though with little depth, I find much more memorable than your average video game character, simply because they’re all so well designed, perfectly voice acted and look terrifyingly real. Trust me when I say that the first friendly NPC you run into, sad, sad Dan Hagar, is a character you’re unlikely to forget any time soon after playing this.

Other characters you’re not likely to forget any time soon either can be found in Season Two of Telltale’s The Walking Dead, which I completed in two days. Despite some scepticism that it could best the amazing first season of that series, the developers battered my expectations to smithereens and nailed it yet again. So now I’ll have to get all doubtful about the third season instead. Anyway, although I may not write an entry on the game per se, I may do so about episodic titles in general, and what my thoughts are on them. In this title’s case, I only bought it as it went on sale with the fifth and final episode released, which is what I tend to do with all episodic games, the exception being Kentucky Route Zero, an uncompleted game of only three acts out of five, but a game I’m tempted to write an entry on on why it’s already one of my favourite games of all time.

Perhaps, too, I’d like to talk about modding as a great advantage of PC gaming, seeing as several of those games that I’m playing right now are running one or more mods. On the one hand, you have the purely aesthetic mods that bring games fully to life, such as the Absolute HD mod I’m running for Doom 3 that ups the already great atmosphere, and Ice Enhancer 3.0 that has turned GTA IV into an astonishingly beautiful thing indeed. And on the other hand you have mods that vastly improve the gameplay of some titles, and here my example would probably be the George Romero mod for State of Decay, which I wrote about to my friends, who seemed rather impressed by my description of how this and a few other smaller mods turned the game into a much more challenging survival experience.

Oh, and speaking of survival, now that I’ve been playing the alpha of a game I Kickstarted called The Long Dark, I may talk about my interest in that genre, and why it is there are so few good games in it like there are in horror. Or maybe I’ll just talk about this particular survival game, which is unique in that it doesn’t have you fighting off zombies or anything. The closest thing to an enemy just now are the wolves that roam the landscape, but it’s the weather, if you can believe it, that will really kill you, the game – of which this is the first in a series of – pitting you against a brutal winter in what I think could very possibly be a realistic manner by the time the game’s finished. It’s got a number of other realistic mechanics besides its rather smashing weather simulation, so fingers crossed that they don’t fuck this up, as I think we have a very interesting game on our hands here.

It’s not the only game I’ve been playing which I helped Kickstart – Neverending Nightmares and Interstellaria are two more. But although I’m quite happy with the latter, the former’s actually been a bit of a disappointment, though instead of being too negative, I’m waiting to see what the small team of developers can do to improve it for release before passing judgement. Anyway, as I’ve funded a few other games, maybe Kickstarter or crowdfunding in general will be another topic for another time.

Moving on from video games, I’ve been watching stuff too if you can believe it. My main focus until a few weeks ago had been The Shield, a show that I’m hoping will remain consistently good until the end, but the latest season of Doctor Who has of course started, with Peter Capaldi, one of my favourite actors of all time, taking the role. Although I’m loving his much darker Doctor compared to the previous three, I do feel like the writing is fairly inconsistent tonally, the third episode on Saturday being particularly unusual.

They clearly want to make him a much harder man to read, and they’ve had some great scenes reflecting this -my favourite of which was a scene in the first episode where the Doctor seems to recognise his new face (Capaldi’s portrayed two characters in the universe before, once in the main show, and once in Torchwood) and then breaks into a monologue about his angry-looking eyebrows, describing them as “attack eyebrows” as he gets up in a homeless man’s face and frightens him – but it appears they desperately want to keep the juvenility of previous incarnations, which I frankly don’t think is working so well, especially when trying to do an almost all-humour episode like the third in this new series. Humour’s essential to the show, of course, but I’d think that, with a character like Capaldi’s, we’d be past some of the sillier stuff, focusing instead on the sarcasm we’ve seen his Doctor use a few times already instead, a sense of humour much more in line with his grumpier personality.

Then again, Moffat couldn’t make it to the end of the first episode without dropping to his hands and knees and seemingly begging the female side of the fan base not to abandon the show because they’ve replaced Tenant and Smith with someone much older. Yeah, that was a pretty terrible scene, the kind of thing that displays a lack of confidence in my eyes. For fuck’s sake, please don’t do that again.

Criticisms aside – and I could make some more, like how utterly pointless the dinosaur was in the first episode – I’ll continue watching. I may not be as big a fan as my dad or sister, but I do enjoy the show quite a lot. And it looks the fourth episode is a horror one, my favourites, so I’ll be seeing how that goes.

Finally, I’ve been reading, also shockingly enough. At long last I completed the Harry Potter series and…well, I’m not sure I enjoyed it. Although I suggested it would be something I’d write an entry about, I’m not entirely sure I will, as I’d frankly, and rather harshly, not wish to spend any more time on it. Indeed, I told my Facebook friends how I deleted the long rant I’d been writing in favour of what was basically: “It was all kind of crap in the end.” Apart from getting kids like me into reading at an early age, I’m honestly not sure what the big deal about the series is. It’s predictable; often very boring; poorly written a lot; and often frustrating. Although I never found this annoying, the friend I wrote annotations for on George Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series once confessed that he found it irritating how whole pages could be spent by the author talking about food. This makes me wonder how he’d feel about seven whole books spent by nearly an entire cast of characters calling a shitty villain You-Know-Who or He Who Must Not Be Named. Fucking terrible.

Oh fuck it, let’s move on before I can’t control myself and burst into a rant. Having just finished this quite recently, I’m now reading Fight Club, which is a great fucking book. Not sure I’ll talk about it though, if only because I feel like I’d need to write an essay or two explaining the different ways in which it’s really quite brilliant. It is, however, one of those books written from the interesting perspective of a protagonist with a unique voice; and it’s also one of those books with such clear intent, both at being layered with more than one meaning, and with the intention too of making you ponder the questions it raises; and I love both of these things in a book. It reminds me of Trainspotting, The Catcher in the Rye and the only Cormac MacCarthy book I’ve read so far, No Country For Old Men, all at once, which I did not expect. I dunno. Maybe something to talk about, maybe not. I highly recommend reading it though.

As for comics, sure, I’ve been reading ’em; but what I’ve actually found is that my collection is growing at an alarming rate such that I’ve other stuff besides 2000AD to pay for, thankfully at least on a monthly basis. Oh, and speaking of monthly payments, 2000AD’s leading character, Judge Dredd is getting a partworks collection, which is pretty fucking great. The company that are publishing the books (only four at first, and more if it takes off) have done the same for Marvel in the past and I own a few of these. They’re well worth it, being surprisingly high quality hardcovers with unseen extras, also the confirmed case here. That they come in these nice hardcovers is what’s really sold me, despite owning many of these Dredd stories being collected already in one book or another. Indeed, if there’s one problem with 2000AD’s line of books, it’s that there simply isn’t enough hardcovers. The trade paperbacks are of great quality and all, putting the likes of bigger companies such as DC to shame, but they’re horribly designed and stick out very poorly on a shelf. So a well designed collection like this with even greater paper stock is right up my alley. Here’s hoping they’re a success.

And I think that will wrap up this post. God, I shudder to think how long it’s been – I can’t see the word count on WordPress’ slightly new design for writing these posts. But that’s not bad for an hour, is it? Hopefully quite promising of more to come, and perhaps then on a more regular basis. Until next time then.

Another week later…

Well, goddamnit.

I am entirely hopeless at regularly updating this blog – this I have accepted. It’s a thing at the back of my mind that I always pretend to intend to write up an entry on, but I always seem to be doing something else these days. And hell, even this is another “non-entry”, as I have nothing in particular to talk about once again. No matter though, for it’s better than nothing , or so I’ll pretend anyway. Let’s have another list (without the bullet points this time though, since those things look horrible with large paragraphs) about random stuff that pops into my head and see how that goes, shall we?

Well, perhaps not totally random. If there’s one thing I’d like to bother talking about briefly, it would have to be how fucking miserable the world is right now. If I’m being perfectly truthful, I’d have to admit that it took Robin Williams committing suicide for me to really notice actually, as terrible as that sounds. When I saw that particular headline – something which saddened me a great deal, because the poor man had fought through depression over the course of his life, and even alcoholism and drug use, neither things small feats to overcome, let alone talk about so openly, which I think is incredible of him – I guess that I was just hit by cynicism pretty hard. It was probably also seeing suicide prevention awareness spread throughout Twitter that did it too, the thought that so many people may also kill themselves after being “given permission” by someone much more famous than them being a tad depressing to say the least.

Whatever did it, I was no longer ignoring the madness going on in Gaza – something I and many others have become so accustomed to hearing about that we just shake our heads sadly and move on with the day – but before I could move it off my mind as usual, here appeared the hashtag #Ferguson all over Twitter and oh my god what the fuck are the police in America doing? Yeah, that was another downer all right, and still is, particularly as the media put their own spin on events, as was also the disgusting case with Williams’ suicide from a few outlets that sensationalised the tragedy.

But even as I considered avoiding the news this morning, on Twitter I read a few articles about Zoe Quinn, a games developer known best for her interactive novel (I think so anyway, as I’ve not actually played it), Depression Quest, who is being accused of sleeping with a former boss, a man who was married at the time; sleeping her way into good reviews with a journalist or two; and all manner of other, more personal things with names released to the internet and everything courtesy of an angry ex boyfriend. Honestly, I don’t even have much of an opinion on this one. It’s blown up hugely and the shitty gaming community has reacted as predictably as always, bar some sensible folk here and there. It’s a messy situation with issues worth talking about – if any of its’ true – but most of what I’m seeing right now is your usual shit slinging, mainly directed at Quinn of course, and feminism for good measure. More crap to make one feel thoroughly miserable at the world.

Oh, and there’s also the independence referendum here in Scotland mere weeks away, hanging over our heads like a fucking dark cloud – but that sounds like such a minor thing compared to everything else. All in all, it’s a sorry state of affairs right now, is it not? Hopefully the lunacy will die down before more crazy shit happens.

Moving on to slightly greener pastures, it seems rather suitable, given all the above, that I started watching The Shield around the same time, possibly the most cynical of shows I’ve ever seen. Having moved past Deadwood with tears in my eyes, I wasn’t sure what to watch next when I saw this and asked my dad if he’d seen it and would recommend it. He did, but he didn’t fucking tell me how miserable the damn thing is! It’s about a dirty cop, Vic Mackey, and his likewise corrupt strike team who do some very naughty things for the greater good in their eyes. It’s a show I intend to continue past the first season, having at first hated Vic as a main character, but then came to not necessarily outright like him (because make no mistake – this is a terrible man) but definitely understand him, and appreciate some of his smaller actions, the highlight of which, of all things, was him beating the shit out of a close friend, Connie – a prostitute he goes far out the way to help on several occasions in this first season – so that she wouldn’t be arrested for the murder she committed, but could plea self defence instead. He can be a surprisingly remarkable guy like that, as can the rest of the cast, who have notable revelations of their own that adds a great deal of depth to their seemingly ordinary exterior (in fact, one thing this show immediately did very well was make the characters seem like real people, which did grab my attention).

But it’s miserable. Utterly, utterly miserable. One very minor story arc of a three way love triangle ends tragically with one of the men murdering the other and the woman they’re both in love with as the song, All My Little Words by The Magnetic Fields, plays in the background, we seeing the result of the triangle I might add as we hear the lyrics, “And I could make you pay and pay / but I could never make you stay”. And that prostitute I mentioned? The last we see of her this season is as she fails to stop using drugs, abandoning the baby boy she had tried to kill during her pregnancy for them (which is how Vic first discovered her, and the reason why I find his going out of the way to help her, even if it means beating her, a lovely aspect of his character). Oh, and if you thought Vic was a character you’d be giving the thumbs up to for the finale, as he has an old friend arrested for his corruption, one of the things we subtly see throughout the season is he and his wife growing apart, eventually meaning that the final scenes are of him discovering a home empty of her and his two children as she runs away.

It’s that kind of show – beating you down every time you think there’s a silver lining in sight. In a way it’s actually a little similar to Deadwood, but I think that one is more hopeful, particularly with its focus on the town’s community drawing together during hard times, such as the large turnout for William Bullock’s funeral. On the contrary, the community of The Shield – which is set in L.A., the so-called “city of angels” suitably – revolt against the police for the first season’s last two episodes, rioting against the corruption and lack of justice, and then luring and killing a small number of cops in furious anger. Despite the sheer cynicism of it all – the word of the day apparently – it’s really quite good though with solid acting and filmography across the board, and of course very good writing.

Now on to truly green pastures, a cloudless blue sky overhead and everything – I have a job. It’s not exactly a super fun job and I get less than 16 hours for it, which means I still need to sign on with the Job Centre, but it’s something, and actively doing something instead of sitting indoors all day has cheered me up a bit. Add to that more time allocated to my favourite hobbies of reading and playing video games, and yes, I’m doing pretty good, the misery above considered.

And before I say something else that’ll ruin that, or start moaning about something or other, I’ll end this entry here and hopefully have better posts coming soon. Yet another new idea I had, for instance, was making short posts about very specific things about…things. Um. Okay, for example: I’ll maybe write an entry focusing on Doom 3’s jump scare tactics and why they’re maybe not so bad. You know, home in on one particular aspect of a game, book or what have you and perhaps focus on something else in another entry. Ach, who knows? This is dependant on me actually updating this blog after all, so who knows how that’ll go?

Until next time, whenever that is.

A week later…

Fuck, but I am hopeless with this blog, aren’t I?

Hello yet again. I think / don’t know that I’m back for more frequent writing this time, having decided that I do have topics of which I’d like to speak about…in, um, later entries. Alas, this entry will only be a brief rundown of some things I’ll be chatting about in the near future, which seems rather pointless now that I think about it, but it’ll give me something to do. Think of it as me giving myself a push to actually write more entries for this damn thing. But don’t consider it any serious attempt at practice because I’m going to be a terrible person and use bullet points, listing stuff I intend to talk about it soon and any other nonsense that pops in my head. So let’s begin, shall we?

  • For starters, the Artist’s Edition of Mike Mignola’s Hellboy in Hell (and other stories too!) that I mentioned having bought in my last post arrived this morning. And holy fuck but is it gargantuan! Of course, I knew it would be a massive book, reprinting Mignola’s artwork before it was sent off to be coloured and whatnot, but having not bothered to check the actual dimensions, I was taken aback when I dug it out its box (the signed copy I bought, that came with several comics and goodies as well as a limited shot glass is now sold out it seems, but it was a brilliant service, providing tracking service the entire time and arriving perfectly intact). Disappointingly, unlike other Artist’s Editions, captions are completely missing in all but the extra stories; but it’s an amazing book otherwise – and this does clear the artwork to be enjoyed completely, you could argue – and I’m certainly pining for others in the future now. A review with pictures is very likely indeed, although I’d also like to write a bit about Mignola as an artist, the book itself demonstrating how minimalistic his artwork has become compared to the past, which I find quite wonderful.
  • Image comics are fucking great! The first comic I bought of theirs was The Wicked + The Divine, a fantastic new series in which the reader finds Gods taking the form of pop icons, which is marvellous; and this being written independently (it’s a fully creator-owned comic) instantly piqued my interest for what else they had going on (I’d of course already read Saga), and I’m keeping up with other recently started series’, such as Warren Ellis’ Trees and Robert Kirkman’s Outcast (I’m surprised I’ve enjoyed the first two issues of the latter – believe me, one day I shall rant about how crap The Walking Dead is and it will be merciless). My favourite, however, is East of West, which I somehow got hold of all issues of through eBay, all first prints and at a very good price. But, yes, these are now essential comics beside my weekly dose of thrillpower through 2000AD. Fantastic.
  • One thing I forgot to mention in my last post when talking about expanding my interests simply beyond comics themselves is that I got hold of two very lovely prints from Forbidden Planet, which I’ve yet to have framed but already treasure. These are giclee prints celebrating Batman’s 75th Anniversary this year and are that moment in The Killing Joke when the Joker is born (you know the one) and Jock’s first cover for Detective Comics, which is a beautiful, stylish thing indeed. Both of these were limited to 200 copies and come numbered and signed by both artists (the former Brian Bolland, which I was particularly pleased with). Nice, eh?
  • For the past while now I’ve been reading J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series from the start, having finally caught up to The Half-Blood Prince, which is where I finished years ago, having had the last book spoiled. It’s not, however, been the enjoyable experience I expected it to be. As a kid I loved all these books, of course, but reading them now I’m struck but how amateurish Rowling’s writing is. At first I was okay with the very safely played writing, these after all being children’s books, at least at the start. But after the first three forgivable books I for some reason expected the quality of the writing to reach new heights with The Goblet of Fire, which I remember quite fondly as taking the series in a darker direction. But surprisingly it’s been my least favourite of them all. Yes, I enjoyed The Order of the Phoenix – the one book in the series I didn’t enjoy as a kid – more than it, which was a shock to say the least. It’s my new second favourite of the lot so far, The Half-Blood Prince still remaining the firm best as I make my way through it, but we’ll see how much I enjoy the last in the series. Hopefully a great deal, otherwise this will have felt like a waste of time. Either way, the topic of how poor a writer I’ve found Rowling, contradicting my enjoyment of her books as a child, will be a topic for the future.
  • What about that fuckin’ Deadwood, you cocksucker? Oh, yes, thanks to Amazon Instant Video, I’ve had the great pleasure of enjoying this show all over again and now at the halfway point of the final season (boo!), may watch it all over again and write about the show as I do so. Up there with The Sopranos, The Wire, Breaking Bad, Fawlty Towers, Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and hopefully a few more should Game of Thrones and Sons of Anarchy remain consistent to the end, Deadwood remains a show very close to my heart, one of my favourites of all time. Talking about it episode by episode would be great fun, I think.

Anyways, that’s all I got. A shockingly brief entry in this blog at under 1000 words, I know, but ah well. See you next time, I hope.