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Archive for the ‘gaming’ Category

My guilty pleasure is Overwatch, the fast-paced shooter in which you take control of a hero with a range of abilities and work with your five teammates to secure an objective. In the process, you defeat an enemy team drawn from the same hero pool.

The game has been so successful that it has become professionalised, with the worldwide Overwatch League providing a focus for those players who have turned gaming into a career. Others, like Jayne and Emongg, make livings as coaches and streamers on platforms such YouTube and Twitch, showing off their prowess and advising the rest of us how to improve. They have loyal followings of tens of thousands.

What makes it exciting, is that the medium allows playing fans to engage directly with people they come to admire. Last night, two of my regular hunting crew, Xgod and Lokajosvea, one in Denmark and one in Sweden, were coached by Jayne, from Canada, watched by me, in the UK. For them, it was like an actor and Star Wars fan getting to rehearse with Mark Hamill or Harrison Ford.

Games like this inspire all sorts of creativity, from memes to animations to fan fiction. One expression of such inventiveness is cosplay, with France winning the most recent official Overwatch Cosplay Battle.

My attention though was caught by Irina Meier and Team Russia, the winner of the Community Favourite. They built a full mech suit for D.Va, the hero that I main when we play competitively, that Irina could climb inside.

There are some truly brilliant creatives associated with the gaming industry. The inventiveness and sheer artistic talent of all those involved is worth taking time to appreciate.

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I have recently rediscovered the joy of Monopoly.

In the days before HMV broke, I spotted a very attractive retro edition, in a wooden box, and I decided that as I couldn’t find my childhood box that I would buy it (my old version was a deluxe edition in a black box that included a locomotive token). After all, what better way could there be to pass the long winter evenings than to accrue a personal property fortune?

I was quickly and rudely reminded that there are no ideological bars to winning. My opponent, no, my enemy, a self-styled ex-Socialist Worker who is more than a little sceptical of my own liberal political values, proved to be the most ruthless and cunning capitalist I have ever come across. There was no mercy shown – she led from the beginning and destroyed me five times. Once or twice and I would put it down to a roll of the die. Five times and I was definitely the victim of the socialist incarnation of Donald Trump. (Personally, I think Monopoly provides a safe environment in which socialists can surrender to base instincts and act like the rest of us. That sound you can hear is the sound of me running for cover.)

Still licking my wounds, you could imagine my shock when Hasbro offered a world wide vote to replace a historic playing piece with a diamond ring, a guitar, a toy robot, a helicopter and a cat. The result of that vote? The iron bought it, securing just 8 percent of the vote, and was replaced with… a cat.

Now, I am a cat fan. I admire their cunning, their cold, calculating capacity for dissembling, their ruthless survival instincts and the juxtaposition between the lean, mean killing machine that most of them think they are and the fact that they are often the animal kingdom equivalent of Norman Wisdom, exhibiting a tremendous propensity for slapstick. I would say I own one, but I am pretty sure he owns me.

What a cat isn’t – or what it shouldn’t be – is a Monopoly playing token. To my mind, the iron was one of the more elegantly designed pieces. The cat that replaces it is pug ugly.

Monopoly_casts_aside_the_iron_in_favour_of_the_catI indicated earlier that I can understand the general sentiment towards cats. We also live in a world in which we take refuge in cute things and fluffiness, and perhaps moreso amongst the social demographic that is likely to be taking part in online votes on game tokens. However, applying the same logic to the piece that was rejected, what does it say about the younger generation’s relationship with the iron? Judging from the crumpled trousers I see hanging off the backsides of “cool” types, it says pretty much everything. I wonder if irons are going to go the same way as the cassette tape? In ten years’ time, I can imagine a wide-eyed child pointing at an iron and murmuring incredulously: “Mummy, what is that?”

As it happens, it’s not the first time that pieces have been retired or changed. My retro edition partially recreates the 1935 edition and doesn’t include the wheelbarrow, introduced in 1937.  However, it also doesn’t include three other tokens that were retired in the 1950s: the purse, the rocking horse and the lantern (the wheelbarrow already introduced, the 1950s saw the introduction of the man on horse and the dog). Other retired tokens include the sack of money (which existed in the 1999-2007 editions, having won a contest over a piggy bank and a bi-plane), a man on horseback and a Howitzer (!).

In the end it is probably that I am just not good at change. So I’ll just hanker after this classic set, knowing that if only I could have the lantern I’d win every time…

Tokkens web monopoly photos T6

 

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I’ve long been a gamer, ever since I first laid my sticky mitts on a ZX81 and dived into Mazogs:

My favourite games these days are MMOs, usually fantasy-based, like EQ and EQ2. I have also had a sneaking fondness for FPS games, like Unreal Tournament. The game I am playing most at the moment is Battlefield 3. Up to 32 players on each side, from across the world, play as either US or Russian forces in various forms of battle on various maps, small and large. My liking for this sort of thing is probably a throwback to watching films like Where Eagles Dare as a kid, though there is also a real and peculiar sense of camaraderie when four of you are locked down in the same squad, all communicating by Team Speak, buildings blowing up around you and ammo running low. It is also remarkably cathartic after a frustrating day.

We are so used to seeing computer graphics in films these days, like the magnificent CGI tiger in Life Of Pi, that we can barely distinguish them from the real thing. Conversely, the graphics in many modern games, like BF3, are so realistic, and the models so controllable, that artistic sorts around the world are creating films using exclusively in-game footage.

This effort from Fierce Eagles, a team of gamers in Pakistan, and ultra-violent as it is being based on BF3, is quite something else.

Take a look at Mazogs above.

And then check out the video below to see how scarily gaming technology has advanced in the thirty years since Mazogs was published by Bug Byte in 1982. (Warning: there is a lot of shooting and killing.)

Where will full-immersion 3D, more powerful processors and even higher definitions take us in the next thirty years?

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Boing Boing, one of my favourite quirky blogs, has a great piece of nostalgia for fellow geek gamers. It’s a compilation of classic arcade game deaths. Funny how, for a whole generation, these blocky, pixellated images evoke memories of wet Saturday afternoons hunched over the latest state of the art console. Video games were an integral part of my growing up. If you get it, enjoy.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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Lego was always a favourite toy.

Spaceships, towns, castles… But I never got quite as creative as the Russian who has mixed Lego with the online game Team Fortress 2 and stop-motion animation to create an ultra-violent tribute to one of gaming’s most popular online shooters.

As a gamer, a film enthusiast and a Lego lover of old, this is great. Complete with menacing Russian narration.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

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“He is as Autumn shadows, stealing soundlessly beneath the vaulted arches of the Moon-burnt sky, the deadly promise of a winter’s blade in the dark watches of the night. Relentlessly he pursues Her. Defiantly he loves Her.”

Keredh Windryder, Ranger

Gaming is either something you get or something you don’t.

For some of us, the prospect of immersing ourselves in the LCD glow of a world constructed from bits and bytes sets our pulses racing. Our imaginations can spend all day rehearsing the moment we turn the lights off and sit down to lead our friends and guild-mates into battle.

For the rest, the prospect leaves them cold. The world of the geek gamer is a dark and alien place, strewn with the detritus of a life lived online:  cans of coke, empty coffee mugs with a crusted sediment deep inside, discarded crisp packets and sweet wrappers – and the musty – occasionally rancid – smell of immobile, sleepless concentration.

I suspect most of my family, friends and colleagues fall into this latter category, bemused at the hours of life that Em and I can spend in these virtual worlds, each with its own lexicon, politics and social mores.

Computer gaming, though, has been a huge part of my life for almost thirty years.

As technology has developed, so the boundaries between real life and virtual life have shifted and blurred. Sometimes this has had catastrophic personal consequences – and on other occasions it has resulted in moments of sheer serendipity. I can honestly say that gaming, specifically the two incarnations of Everquest, has impacted my life in far more significant ways than I could have ever envisaged.

More on that another time, perhaps.

So it was today, sitting at work, that I felt a familiar ache. A longing for a place I know better than the back of my hand. A place that most script kiddies and World of Warcraft fanbois have never known – but a place that makes Azeroth look as exciting as Tellytubby land.

Norrath.

Sony’s Everquest is the Great Granddaddy of Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games (MMORPGs). Everquest 2 is its electrifying reinvention.

On and off for the last seven years, Everquest (Everquest 2 for me these days) has been a way of escaping from the stresses and strains of an exhausting day. But how did I reach a point in life where I can see a point to investing hours in the development, customisation and manipulation of a virtual avatar, a wood-elf ranger that specialises in striking down his enemies with a blow from the shadows or a bow-strike inflicting massive damage from afar? (And believe me,  I can!)

That is a story that takes me from Mazogs on the ZX-81 in 1982, to Sentinel of Fate, the latest EQ2 expansion, in 2010. In an occasional series of pieces in the coming weeks I will explore that story. I want to reflect on the friendships forged in huddled hours around the screen – and remember the computers and the games that have given me so many fond memories.

In the meantime, take a look at where it started in 1982:

And see where that story is now in 2010:

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So there I am, thinking about a post I want to write on my imminent return to Everquest 2, when absent Googling throws up this little gem. 100 Amiga games in ten minutes. What a trip down memory lane!

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