Plastic Promises & Hollywood Happiness

It may or may not surprise you to hear that I’m considered somewhat pessimistic by my friends.

You may think that with a bleak personality such as mine I would crave the colourful delights of Disney films. You would be mistaken. Instead I find them subversive and seditious.

You may think that with an isolated existence such as mine I would crave the aspirational gloss of teen dramas like The O.C. You would be incorrect. Instead I find them offensive projections of an unrealistic ambition.

You may think that with a life like mine I would watch films simply to escape myself, to feel a fleeting fantastical happiness at the hands of a fictional circumstance. You would be wrong. I revel in the sadistic side of cinema. I want it grim. I want all the grim you’ve got.

Recently I learned through a fellow blogger that the theatrical ending of Danny Boyle’s post-apocalyptic zombie flick 28 Days Later is not the original ending. 

[Spoilers inbound]

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The Teachings of Fiction: What Games Have Taught Me

When I’m not hiring and killing prostitutes, jacking and crashing cars, or ruthlessly gunning down helpless, disabled civilians due to a feckless overexposure to violent video games, I like to kick back, relax, and play some video games. It’s the perfect way to unwind.

But amidst these barbarian broadcasts urging all players to repeatedly stab everyone they meet in the face or heart, video games transmit an altogether different message. Saturating the minds of gamers with the most potent and dangerous weaponry known to man – knowledge.

Throughout my life I’m perpetually enlightened by a medium considered by many to be corrosive to the mind. There are studies relating gaming to the improvement of cognitive abilities, hand-eye co-ordination, logic, memory and multi-tasking. But in addition to these less tangible attributes, video games spray out facts like an edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica thrown in a petrol powered wood-chipper.

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Was gaming better without collectables?

A generation ago games were simpler. Since then TDM, fastest lap times and online leaderboards have hijacked the humble pleasures of the gamer. Back then you played for fun, you played for yourself. Back then you had no competition. Back then there were no trophies, no achievements to collect. You simply played. Or you didn’t. The choice was yours.

Now that choice has been snatched from us. Now not only must we play, but we must play until the bitter end, until 100%, until Platinum. Because now Jean Girard from Jarrier, Rhône-Alpes can scan our collection, Billy Sanchez from San Antonio, Texas can probe our performances, and Dave Smith from Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire can scope our successes. Anyone can view our online achievements and stalk our statistics like some horrid progression goblin.

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ITV’s The Cube: An Abundance of Acrylic

What do you get when a terrestrial television channel has an empty prime-time slot, a mysterious gymnast, and acrylic plastic surplus to requirement?

ITV‘s prime-time, acryli-fest gameshow – The Cube. That’s what.

Back for a second series The Cube fulfils the part of ITV‘s remit that clearly states the must utilise the abundance of Poly[methyl methacrylate] stored within the warehouse since Simon Cowell’s Plastic Death Dungeon of Doom was officially decommissioned in late 1997. Oh, you didn’t see that one?

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My Gaming Memories – Part 1 – The Early Years

My Gaming Memories

Part 1 – The Early Years

Without being excessively sentimental, gaming has been a large part of my life. Games have entertained and educated me. I’d love to see a graphical construction construing how many hours I’ve poured into games. Or maybe I wouldn’t. I’d probably cry. Regardless, I’m only 19. The figure will only increase. Here are some memories of my favourite games. If you care at all, then read on, my nostalgia is vivaciously infectious.

Sega Mega Drive

Playing Sonic The Hedgehog on my Sega Mega-Drive is my first gaming memory. I succinctly remember every time I played, having to recruit the aid of my father upon reaching Green Hill Zone Act 3. My infantile mind couldn’t figure out the strategy to defeating Doctor Robotnik. Despite the overwhelming simplicity of this encounter, I couldn’t fathom how to avoid the tangible annihilation that swung beneath Eggman’s ship. Nonetheless, with the aid of my father I pressed on, experiencing the audible extravaganza of the Marble Zone melodies. How I still adore that masterful 16 bit soundscape. Some acts later I would experience the palpable terror of drowning in the Labyrinth Zone. To this day, I have never heard music that inspires such panic. Double time intensity on a grand and watery scale.

Some years later, co-operative play was first demonstrated to me by Streets of Rage. A game so good, I now own it on numerous platforms. My cousin and I played through the game together, he would be Adam, I would be Axel. Despite repeated plays I don’t think we ever bested the factory level. We were simply content in swinging steel and breaking bottles over the heads of goons and henchmen, and the occasional leather-clad, whip-wielding whore. Come to think of it, it’s probably the reason we fought so much in real life. As with the game, I would lose. Since those days I have rediscovered Yuzo Koshiro‘s incredible soundtrack, which I now own.

After extensively playing through my favourites; Brown Thunder, Dynamite Headdy, The Terminator, Tiny Toon Adventures: Buster’s Hidden Treasure,World of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse and Donald Duckand undoubtedly some I’ve forgotten, Château de Mac received an upgrade in consoles. We now owned a…

PlayStation

I remember the day we purchased Sony‘s groundbreaking console. We raced home from Toys “Я” Us and I started up the only game we had. The game had come bundled with the console, it was The Lost World: Jurassic Park. Excitement possessed me. Dinosaurs were a huge interest to me as a child, I’d amassed numerous books on them that to this day I have never read. But now, now I had a game. For the first time I could interact with the creatures I had so long admired. To my surprise and delight, you didn’t play as a human in this game. Players controlled numerous different dinosaurs including fan favourites; Velociraptor and Tyrannosaurus Rex. Unfortunately, during the first section of the game players controlled a lowly Compsognathus. Once again I came undone. The controls were inaccurate, making jumping safely from platform to platform a difficult and frustrating experience. I have never seen the other side of this level. My only joy in playing that game was the Dreamworks introduction in which that smarmy little shit sat on the moon finally got his comeuppance, raptor style.

So my first experience of the PlayStation left me somewhat disillusioned. A pattern was emerging. But Sony won me round as some time later my father introduced me to what would become my favourite game of all time: Metal Gear Solid. Despite having no hope at all in discerning the plot at that young age, I was awestruck by the production values. Cutscenes were directed like a film. Scores were complex and emotive. We played this through this together on the small 15 inch portable television in my room. He would encourage my progression, but occasionally, as the child I was, I would falter. One example of this was the infamous torture section. Snake was strapped to an electronic table while Revolver Ocelot sent electric currents soaring though his body in a bid to retrieve information.

During this section the player had two choices, each of which affected the games ending. Submission was the easy choice. You pressed Select, forfeiting. Signifying your failure and giving Ocelot the information he required. If you played like the hero Snake was, you wouldn’t submit, you’d be subjected to several brutal rounds of excruciating torture. Not just for Snake, but for you the gamer. As Snake’s life bar drained before your eyes as electricity surged through his body, you’d have to mash O to restore life until the time bar elapsed. Each button tap raised your health, but the power of the electrocution far outweighed each button you managed to tap, meaning you’d have to tap like a demon to compensate for the damage. With each round the time bar increased, meaning a longer duration of torture for your weary limbs. If you failed and your life bar emptied; Game over. Snake is dead. And you’d have to endure the painful howls of the Colonel in what has since become a gaming catchphrase:

Snake?! Snake?! Snaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaake?!”

Dexterity was the prime factor here. At 9 years old I simply couldn’t tap fast enough and had to employ the capabilities of my father and my cousin, of whom first displayed to me the trick of using you sleeve over your hand, smoothing the surface and proceeding to frantically wipe the button configuration like an enraged window cleaner. This ensured no button went untapped and Snake survived.

Later in the game, I found myself alone in my room. Snake alone at the summit of Communications Tower B. Father used to work the night shift regularly. This meant he’d sleep through the days. For this section of Metal Gear Solid, I was solely responsible for saving the world from nuclear disaster. I, equipped with a pad. Snake with Stinger Missiles. I cowered behind the only source of cover atop that massive tower, shivering as Liquid Snake circled me in his Russian gunship. Observing the movements of my enemy from a stationary position, I watched for patterns. I saw how he would duck below my sight, beneath the summit of the tower and suddenly reappear at a different location. I saw how he would swoop overhead machine gunning everything in his path. I meticulously studied his attacks and devised my strategy. Lunging out at moments when he was at his weakest. When his back was turned, I would equip my Stinger Missiles, lock on and fire. I remember how that final missile struck the cold exterior of the ship. Faltering, “C’mon, fly!” Liquid pleaded. The Hind twitched and exploded, sending Liquid tumbling through the pure white snow. No sooner had it hit the grown than I leapt into my parent’s bedroom to awaken my father. Triumphant, I jumped up and down on the bed, exclaiming my victory. For I, and I alone, had beat Metal Gear Solid’s sixth boss. I had defeated the Hind D.

Another of only a few games my father has directly interacted with was Silent Hill.

I was 8 or 9 years old when this game appeared in my collection. Terror wasn’t the only factor that prevented my playing of it. Atmosphere and exploration were the emphasis. To a young boy craving action and excitement, it seemed slow, boring, difficult. Treading down blood-soaked hotel hallways, I struggled to become interested in the game. I failed to grip the emotional and adult factors within the narrative. My father, much to my displeasure removed the PlayStation from my bedroom and temporarily installed it into his. Locked within his chambers, he played the game every spare minute he had for a week, accomplishing something I have never done, beating Silent Hill. Satisfying my curiosity, I checked in occasionally to mark his progress. Several scenes stick out within my very limited experience of the game: first was the lighthouse. I’ll never forget that bird’s eye view of the rusted steel staircase. Spiralling upward as you proceed, the steps behind being plunged into the dangerous dark. The second; the Floatstinger. This is probably the single most apparent reason for my Mottephobia…

But it wasn’t all death and destruction. Most of it was, but amidst the killing I also did much less violent things, like simply injuring… On the PC I evolved through the ages on Age of Empires. I extended my limbs of Street Fighter IV. I shimmied past goats on Broken Sword. I played as cowboys on Lego Chess. On PlayStation I collected carrots on Bugs Bunny Lost in Time. I starred as Bruce Willis and prevented the Apocalypse. And, I thought; what the fuck… playing Parappa The Rapper. I’d love to go on and on and on and on regarding these great titles and more, but I’ve tried to keep it short. Ish.

Below is a selection of videos for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy.

MacTingz

Article first published as My Gaming Memories on Technorati.