Remembering The Philosophy of Bioshock

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An attempt to break the hold Hearthstone and Overwatch have on my soul

Bioshock: The Collection has just released here in the UK and I’m finding the critical consensus regarding these games to be somewhat sniffier than I remember. It seems people are finding the narratives shallow, with Bioshock: Infinite getting particular flak for it’s gameplay and lack of narrative journey. This surprises me as I consider Bioshock and Bioshock: Infinite as the absolute pinnacle of art design, world building and storytelling within video games.

This has given me an interesting idea: In this post, I will be discussing exactly why I hold these games in such high regard through a discussion of their narratives as I remember them. I’ll then go play through the collection, as comprehensive as I can, and then return to these ideas and see whether these three games are as brilliant as I remember or whether I was just looking back through rose tinted goggles.

[obviously, spoilers for the entire series after this point]

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Blizzard: Warcraft & The Marketing Value of Nostalgia

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I will go to great lengths in the pursuit of a hackeyed/forced pun.

World of Warcraft: Legion is the first WoW expansion released in my adult, working life. As a result I haven’t found as much time as I would like to protect Azeroth from the demon invasion; it’s stressful having two actual jobs instead of just “alchemy” and “herbalism”. But even from my brief time with the new content it’s apparent to me that Blizzard has finally learned how to correctly market and create content that engages with the nostalgia inherent in its decade old game.

The previous expansion, World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor, is an example of a failed attempt to engage with nostalgia. Set before the events of WoW, this expansion forces the player to go back in time to fight the original, demon-powered Orcish horde. Originally planned to coincide with the release of the film, the intention was for film audiences to witness the birth of the Horde, and then enter the game to stop it. But the film wasn’t released at the same time – it was moved to not coincide with the box office juggernaut that is Star Wars. When Warcraft: The Beginning was eventually released, it didn’t really match up narratively with Warlords of Draenor in any way: sure Gul’Dan is the main antagonist in both, but the main protagonists in the game – Grom Hellscream, Maaraad, and Yrel – either have no dialogue or don’t appear at all in the film. As a result Warlords of Draenor was a hackneyed expansion built around a multi-media experiment that never actually came to fruition. It is easily the worst expansion Blizzard has released.

But Blizzard has learnt from this mistake, and since then their marketing machine has become much more nuanced and refined. For the past year or so Blizzard have been referencing one thing across film, Hearthstone and WoW itself: Karazhan.

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Why I Can’t Stand The Negativity Around American Football’s New Album

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To call American Football influential is something of an understatement. Without them, the vast majority of bands I talk about on this blog simply wouldn’t exist, at least in the same form. There’d be: no Modern Baseball; no Front Bottoms; no Knuckle Puck; no Brand New; no La Dispute etc. The list is virtually endless, as few albums have shaped alternative music (more specifically pop-punk, emo and post-hardcore) like American Football did.

This is why I am painfully excited for their sophomore self-titled album to be released, only seventeen years late, this October.

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Quick Update

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Please excuse how ramshackle my current set up is, renovations are pending.

Although I very much maintain this blog for my own purposes and for the sheer pleasure of writing, there are a few people who do regularly interact with my blog and my work – so I wanted to write a quick update about how the content might change short term.

I was sort of struggling maintaining content anyway because navigating graduate life isn’t necessarily easy. But a dislocated thumb (incident involving a ketchup packet) has currently resulted in the temporary loss of my right hand. I’m not writing for sympathy or anything like that – this has been a very long time coming tbh – but I just wanted to make regular readers aware that content will perhaps change short-term as a result.

I’m typing this one handed and it’s taking a surprisingly long time. As a result, content may become slightly irregular again simply because it’s taking me much longer to write things at the moment. The type of media being engaged with will likely change in the short term, as I’m finding it very hard to hold a mouse or a controller and thus play my usual sort of video games. I’m playing a lot Hearthstone again instead (can’t stop, won’t stop) so I might write something about that. But I digress – for at least a couple weeks I will primarily be writing about literature and the film industry, with maybe another love letter to early 2000s emo music somewhere along the line.

I would however quite like to turn this slightly annoying situation into something more positive. Do you have a book, film or television series you’d like to see me write about? Any podcasts you think I might enjoy? Or has anyone got an accessible games they can recommend me? Please help me find a way to spend my free time now that I’m sans a hand.

Returning To: Overwatch

With the first competitive season of Overwatch coming to a close, I thought it was high time I returned to my initial thoughts of the game. One of the major concerns in the media at release was whether an online-only game was worth paying full retail price for – could something without single player depth truly provide meaningful entertainment for consumers?

In my opinion yes, I’m still enjoying Overwatch just as much as I did in my first game in the beta. I had to take a little break from the game due to the frustrations of SoloQ in a team game (more a little later) but have returned to a game that still holds a surprising amount of delight. The novelty still hasn’t worn off for me: The gun play is tight, balanced around proactive and reactive abilities; the maps are bright, colourful and distinct; and all of the characters are charming in their own way. Every map starts with the characters chatting to each other, telling jokes or referencing stories, and it’s hard not to fall a little bit in love with that. Strangely, most of my frustrations about playing solo seem to have gone away on my return. I don’t know that’s because I’m in a higher MMR bracket, or the changes Blizzard made to the “team tips” but the vast majority of the games I play have a balanced team! No longer am I resigned to only playing Lucio, and as a result I’m starting to understand much more of the game from an offensive point of view.

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No Man’s Sky – Impressions

In our modern society there’s a desire towards wanderlust so strong that it borders on an existential crisis. This is certainly true for me; I’m motivated entirely by the opportunity to see the world and the desire to “start over” somewhere new. But satiating this urge to explore is easier said than done given that I’m a recent graduate, not fully out of the poor-student lifestyle, with moderate mobility issues. Essentially I’d love to expand my horizons beyond SE London, but neither my wallet or my knees are particular partial to this at the moment.

Because of this, I’ve followed No Man Sky fairly closely since it was announced a few years ago. Here was a game built around a literal galaxy, with 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 (18 quintillion) planets to explore. A shared world filled with wonders and lifeforms that will potentially never be seen by any human eyes, and no frame narrative other than “why don’t you go see it?” As I previously alluded too, I am mildly disabled. Gaming provides an excellent form of escapism when my mobility is limited. The desire to explore is almost satiated by open world games like Skyrim or Fallout: New Vegas, but here exploration is a side activity to the narrative. No Man’s Sky instantly defined itself as different as the only thing to do is explore. Was this a way to combat my wanderlust from the comfort of my own home?

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Maus – Review

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Maus is one of those rare works that fully encompasses its medium. There is a constant tension between the narrative Spiegelman tells and the artwork he uses to tell it; as such, this graphic novel is one of the most effective and powerful Holocaust narratives I’ve ever read.

The barbarity of the Holocaust is almost incomprehensible. The systematic murder of Jewish people happened on so large a scale that the true horror can be hard process. In other words, it’s easy to reduce a genocide down to a figure, a historical fact, because it’s difficult to approach from an emotional stand point. Maus, like other powerful Holocaust narratives, circumvents this by telling a deeply subjective and personal story. This graphic novel is autobiographical, following Spiegelman as he interviews his father about his experiences as a Polish Jew during World War 2. The parts of the comic set in the 1940s are appropriately dark, particularly the latter half of the novel set in Auschwitz. Very rarely does the novel approach the grand, historical narrative of the war; it only ever follows Vladek Spiegelman through all the horrors he himself faced. Whilst it might be hard to understand the scale of this genocide, it’s easier to empathise with the Jewish prisoner who was responsible for removing the bodies from the “showers” at a death camp.

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The “We Made It For The Fans” Rhetoric Needs To End.

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Suicide Squad released this week to a savaging from the critical establishment. As a result, many of those involved with the film have moved to defend the movie in the press. Director David Ayer responded to the negative reviews with a quote from Mexican revolutionary Emiliano Zapata – “I’d prefer to die on my feet than live on my knees” – seemingly suggesting that his film is a work of daring risk that critics simply don’t understand. He further clarified in a later tweet that the quote was his way of saying “I love the movie and believe in it. I made it for the fans.” One of the stars of the film, Cara Delevingne shares Ayers sentiments telling Reuters that “It doesn’t matter what critics say at the end of the day, it’s the fans we made the movie for”, adding that she believes critics “don’t like superhero movies”.  She is massively wrong of course; The Dark Knight and Captain America: Civil War, to give two examples, are “certified fresh” by the same critical establishment that hates Suicide Squad. These sorts of comments work to try and create a disconnect between critics and filmgoers, which I believe is toxic and negative to the industry as a whole.

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