Monthly Archives: February 2012

Game Dedication

Dedicating myself to one game is something that used to happen a lot as a young boy. It started with Elite, a game made to get lost in through it’s near infinite universe to explore in an endless trek for profit and glory. But even games without such expansive a game world could hold my attention for weeks and months on end. I recall a time even, when at university in the early 1990s, playing nothing but the demo of Settlers over and over for weeks. 

Of course a lot of this was probably born out of necessity, there were just less games around then. Couple that with the meager funds of a school goer or student and it made sense to ensure I was getting the most out of a game. But I don’t ever recall it feeling like that, it always felt far more like it came from a desire to immerse myself so completely in an experience, to live the game even if actually completing it back then was far from the norm. 

But not so in recent years, flitting from game to game has become the standard, a couple of hours one night speeding around the hillsides of far away lands, the next I’m strapped into Lycra and beating up criminals. In fact, ignoring my years involved with World of Warcraft, I’ve probably not played the same game every night for a week in quite some time. There are advantages to this of course, I get to see far more game styles, and I also get to be involved in discussions of the latest games as I can bang a few hours into a new release and then jump on Twitter to take part in the days hot topic. I also have a house full with a cornucopia of games I could fire up at a moments notice as the whim take me. But I can’t help feeling I’m missing out on one of the best aspects of gaming, the aspect which is not shared by other mediums, the ability to actively partake in another life. And I don’t think you can get that from a few hours of play now and again, I believe it can only come from committing oneself to a given game for the long haul. Now not all games are suited to such an undertaking, some are designed from the get go as quick blasts to break the stress or monotony of the day, but plenty of games are open to it.

Recently my wife and I have found ourselves returning to a more immersive play style, dedicating ourselves to long hours of play in only a couple of games. I spoke a couple of posts back of our return to Red Dead Redemption, and another game has been ongoing for us since launch. Helped by a good supply of DLC, but mainly by willing friends joining us for Horde or more recently King of the Hill verses AI, Gears 3 has been fore-filling this role for months now. 

Perhaps many would think Gears too shallow a game to allow for such long term play, and perhaps as a solo venture it would be. But working with others towards the various goals of achieving ribbons and medals, ensuring one person gets the most revives whilst another spends the most time in cover is actually a very rewarding experience. Bonding with our fellow players and perfecting our team dynamic over countless situations, working towards our own self set goals provides more than enough fun to keep us coming back night after night. 

I’ve found my desire to play new games all the time has been waning, replaced by a wish to get the most out of each game in our existing collection which allows for this extended cooperative play. 

In many ways it feels like a return to the feelings which got me involved in this whole entertainment form in the first place.

Hands of an ape

I’m often bemoaning handheld gaming systems on Twitter and the like, and it may seem like this is due to my having problems with the hardware or the very idea of portable gaming. But this is not the case. I’ve been thinking over were my opinions come from on this matter and think I may have uncovered the main reason for my issues.

However before I get to that I would like to preface this with my history of handheld gaming, mainly to show that I have invested some time and effort into the whole idea and am not just dismissing it out of hand, ahah!

My first device was an Atari Lynx, the ‘handheld’ brick that brought colour gaming on the move. Taking something like 8 AA batteries if memory serves and yet still only lasting for a few hours of play it’s uses were quite limited and I found I wasn’t using it anywhere near as often as I had dreamed I would before obtaining it. Friends who had stuck by their GameBoys seemed to be getting the better deal in all, and even the GameGear owners at least had a better stocked catalogue of titles. But I was unwilling to move to one of these ‘kids’ devices made by those cutesy looking console makers. I was an Atari ST owner, and wanted nothing to do with these lesser systems makers.

Roll on a number of years and I was ready to try again with the GameBoy Advance, my aversion to these console makers now passed thanks mainly to not being such a dick. After all as well as being very active with PC gaming I had taken to also maintaining a Nintendo console in the house since the N64. But again I was to be disappointed with the Advance, having jumped on before the SP the unbacklit GBA became a pain to use in almost any lighting conditions and I only ever picked up around 8 cartridges for it. But next came the solution. The DS Lite, having bypassed the original hardware, here was a backlit dual screened beauty which not only would open up a new world of gaming but allow me to finally get my fill from my Advance games thanks to the back compat port. I was finally to jump on the portable bandwagon and get to enjoy another world of gaming. Except I wasn’t. These sleek looking white consoles had one major drawback for me, they where unplayable. Anything more than 15 minutes and my hands would cramp up. Maybe they were designed for kids hands, though plenty of other people seemed to be able to get on with them, but whatever I tried there was no respite for my fingers. And so yet again I fell away from this whole portable gaming thing, poorer by the cost of two DS Lite systems and around 25 games.

And so here we are, in 2012 with newer systems around. Nintendoes 3DS is going strong, finally, and the PS Vita is just about here. But I will ignore them both, and belittle them. But now I realise it’s not because the systems are bad or the games lacking. It’s that I am denied these games. Games I could well enjoy. Perhaps my perfect game is out there on a portable system somewhere but I will never know as I find myself unable to play them.

Thankfully I do have one form of Portable gaming open to me. That which exists via our  smartphones, devices I will always carry on me for far more than just gaming, but which can provide simple diversions during the day 5 or 10 minutes at a time. Less time than it takes for my hands to cramp, and with interfaces that are more comfortable anyway, well if you ignore the games with onscreen d-pads. Which I do. Perhaps this is the way portable gaming should be.

The old don’t age as quickly anymore.

This past month or so I’ve been playing a whole load of Red Dead Redemption, encourage like many of my gaming community friends by the excellent in depth Cane & Rinse podcast on the game. 

RDR is by far from a new game, yet thanks to the fact that it was a graphical tour de force and that we are reaching the limits of what we can expect from the current generation of consoles it by no means felt it. Of course it’s also a wonderfully well crafted game, one which provides a rich open world but doesn’t force you to have to explore every nook and cranny just to play through the story. But for those who take the time to set out and just discover the lands of New Austin it can often feel like the exploration of a real environment such is the attention to detail Rockstar bestowed upon the game. 

As someone who is about to have their household income severely reduced in the coming months, this provides great comfort. Knowing that the collection of games we have built up over the past few years will see us well entertained reducing the need to look to the new shiny all the time and just soak up some of gaming finest hours of recent times.

Blog Off

We’re had a fair few self hosted blogs over the past few years under various website names. This latest one was to be a proper joint venture into blogging about our gaming lives. However it never really got started. With tools like Twitter around there was little need to repeat things we updated on there on a blog in more, possibly tedious detail, so we ended up not posting much at all. From time to time I would think of something to talk about, but often the topics I considered fell outside of the co-op gaming remit of the site so I kept them in Google Docs and never published.

And now with some big changes approaching for us we think it’s time to pull the plug on this site.

But we’ll still be online all over the internet of course, via our Twitter accounts, and also I have a Tumblr where I can babble on about my thoughts even if they fall outside of the realms of gaming.

We’ll also look into starting something about our adventures over in Denmark at some point, but we’ll use a hosted solution at a more popular location rather than out here in the sticks of internet land 😀

Thanks for listening those that did, and see you around the internet!

Good Moves

Nope, not those sort of moves. Not the ones related to well timed button presses or deft flicks of a stick or mouse. Moves in the real world, those related to house and home.

I’ve lived in the UK all my life, all neigh on 38 years. Linda however has never spent more than 13 years in any country having moved from Denmark to Norway to the UK. And this year would have been her fourteenth here, thus fate has decreed that we should move on, and it is a return to Denmark that is on the cards. Though not as one might expect to return to where her family are from, that being northern Sealand (Sjælland) but to a rather remote island by the name of Bornholm. It’s an island of some 40,000 people, quite similar in size to the Isle of Mann for our UK based readers, and in many ways it could easily be a location in World of Warcraft so diverse is the terrain.  From near white sand beaches in the south, through to the forested midlands and on to the craggy rock faces of the northern shores, we quite fell in love with the place during last years holiday. We had reason to be there though, a part of Linda’s family are already living there now and so we will be creating a bit of a clan on the island as not only ourselves but Linda’s parents will also be moving there.

This may seem an odd choice to many, particularly as we will be sharing the house with Linda’s parents. I realise not everyone has a positive relationship with their in-laws. Thankfully though I do, and the house will be split in floors, allowing us a retreat when required to our own space, sharing only the kitchen. There was also the draw of value for money, property on the island is very cheap compared to anything in the mainland of the UK, at least that we have seen. For little more than we will be getting for our three bedroom semi near Liverpool we have been able to buy an old farm house consisting of four adjoined buildings and a good bit of land. Something we could never dream of owning in England these days. Of course there is a price to pay for this, there a not a huge number of jobs to be had locally so I will be relying on my computing skills to find work I can do remotely and we have ideas for some web based business opportunities also. So money will not be something as readily available as it is right now, but then that isn’t really what this move is about. It’s about obtaining a better quality of life, of living in a place were we can feel safe, were we can step outside out door and go for a walk or a cycle without worrying about dealing with excessive traffic and indeed in many cases being able to use cycle paths separate to the main road system. A chance to get fitter and eat better by being closer to local sources of good quality foods an ample amounts of fresh air. To become people whose lives will become more outside bound.

Not that we will be giving up on our gadgets, the plans we have for our own space in the house are heavily geek influenced. There will still be his and hers computers in an office space. Games consoles will litter the shelves of our own living room, and the house will obtain a substantial network setup to keep everyone there online 24/7. There are even long term plans for a cinema area.

But whatever will happen it will certainly be a catalyst for change in us, at least that is what we plan and hope for.