Laxan: god
Laxan: that video
Laxan: goddamn
RK: that video could be a propaganda video from a bioshock game
Laxan: oh man ahahaha
RK: is he not a tornado?
Laxan: BUT
RK: honestly

We live in a weird world.

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I Want To Believe (That This is EA’s Fault)

With the danger of becoming a Mass Effect dedicated-fansite, I come today to talk about Bioware/EA’s latest marketing campaign: Hijacking the UK government’s petition program.

Playing the Mass Effect 3 demo, one of the major things that annoyed myself and many others was how, while Shepard was on holiday or whatever between games, nobody had prepared for the Reapers coming. Everything you did in ME2 was to try get enough proof that shit was going down so you could convince the Space-Council of Space that they should probably prepare ze missiles or something like to that effect.

But no. Apparently nobody did anything, and the little that was done was useless. This was extremely frustrating. I mean, I had collected hours of HD 1080p footage from inside one of these Reaper things, but it wasn’t enough and still nobody listened. So to make up for this terrible disconnect between your actions and actual effect, Bioware (well, probably EA) has set up this latest campaign.

Those 80 hours of game you played? That was useless. But now you can fix that by signing this petition and raising brand awareness for them at the same time. Hooray?

Well, no. This may be all tongue-in-cheek, but it’s still a marketing scheme which takes advantage of what is supposed to be the citizens way of raising issues in parliament. Not only that, but the petition is a ridiculous premise to begin with. The US We The People petition asked for a similar disclosure, and was shot down with a “We don’t know anything about aliens. Seriously.”

I hear you saying “This little petition is hardly a massive waste of  anybody’s time”. While this may be true, you must also take into account the opportunity cost of this whole affair. Instead of barking up a useless tree, this marketing campaign could have been something great. Keep the same theme, but instead use it to ask for donations or at least raise awareness for worthy organisations. SETI is struggling with staying open after funding cuts, and even NASA’s budget isn’t what it used to be.

The marketing department seems to be forgetting the first part of ‘Science-Fiction”. At the end of the day, Bioware/EA is pandering to the crackpot UFO-enthusiasts while arguably exploiting a civil procedure, which sets it apart from many other patronising marketing campaigns. In conclusion, maybe Bioware should be keeping closer reigns on their brands. Also, Reapers.

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Assuming Direct Control

Who's the badass biotic bitch now?

Due to a PS3 malfunction, this past year I have played basically 2 games (besides League of Legends ughguhguh) — Skyrim and Mass Effect 2. I talked a bit about the demo of the latter, but other than that have remained silent. To cut to the chase, they were both really good games. Fantastic. Out of this world.  They differ in many ways, but I just want to touch upon one in particular: Narration and Player Control.

Looking back, I feel I have wrongly accused ME2 of having problems which when compared to another single-player western RPG giant, seem a lot less like problems and a lot more like intentional design.

Last time, I complained about the split between me as a player, and the already established character of Shepard, and how these two forces are often at odds. I will admit now, I was doing it wrong. In Mass Effect, you are actually asked to role-play, in a Role-Playing Game. Which caught me by surprise. I had to learn this the hard way: Shepard is not a manifestation of you. Shepard is Shepard. Sure, you can change their personality to a slight degree, yet their tone and character will never be blank enough to satisfy being called an avatar.

In Skyrim, you do get a completely blank, silent, character to mold and shape. This is great in some circumstances, like when exploring the massive open world, when my avatar acts as my eyes. There is no barrier between what is happening in the game, and how I feel as a player. “Man, that cave looks cool.”,  “I wonder what’s over there!”, “Ugh, this shopkeep is a dickhead.”– you are exploring, not some other guy.


Seeing Skyrim through a coloured filter of a personality would be completely different. Your warrior persona could make fun of wizards, even if you think wizards are pretty neat. Your stormcloak persona could say that Solitude was a shithole, even if you thought it was a charming town. So a neutral viewpoint allows the player to experience this world as if they themselves were in it. Yet this blank persona can be limiting at times too.

Player expression is mainly allowed through physical actions. If you disagree with a preacher, you can’t ask him to stop, your only option is to plant an arrow in his face. Your love of cheese wheels will never be acknowledged by others. When you’ve been raised to “Archmage SuperThief of the Brotherhood of Bards”, you start to feel like you should have more of an impact in the political world than jumping on tables and knocking over vases.

Yet Skyrim can get away with this to a certain extent, because there is no room for nuance in Tamriel. Skyrim’s old King was dethroned by shouting him to death. It makes sense in a weird way that your avatar, and by extension you, would be more likely to stab a child than tell them to stop throwing rocks.

Mass Effect is a different ballgame. You are already “CommanderGhost Spectre of the Council of Allied Citadels”. ME is a lot more focused of a world, there’s only so many actions you can take. Last time, I called Femshep a cunt, for which I apologise. Femshep is simply a badass, unlike myself. Trying to play her as an avatar was frustrating as I kept thinking ‘I wouldn’t say that, that isn’t me.’.

Finally giving in and accepting that I have to play as this badass completely changed how I felt about the game. If I’m gonna be a Commander, this is how it should be.  Shepard is not mute, she does not jump while running to move faster, she does not teabag dead enemies. Players are given control via dialogue and character interaction, which better reflects the world of Mass Effect.

Of course, both techniques can be used effectively in gaming, but I for one am now glad that Shepard is not a blank slate.

This may be my Shepard, but this is Shepard’s story.

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A Game Of Drones

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The Mining of Life

I totally didn't make thisSo I took the plunge.

I put off Minecraft for so long. With good reason though! Last summer I started Dwarf Fortress and my two entire weeks of my life ruled by those tiny drwaven sprites and their fickle and fey moods. Days turned to nights, which turned to day again, and still I tolled away, mining a little sanctuary of stone and dirt, weeping as my town of familiars were savagely slaughtered by goblin invaders. I witnessed mothers running to battle with newborns in one arm, axe in the other. Miners stumbling into volcanic pits of hell, unleashing the fire monkey demons into the peaceful sleeping quarters. Every fisherman I owned slaughtered by the very fish he sought to catch. No, I had had enough bloodshed, and mining for my time.

A Fey Mood

Yet after stumbling upon the wonderful Yogscast, a youtube show which started off as a Let’s Play Minecraft, yet has since morphed into this odd fictionalised drama, I downloaded that shit straight away and roped a friend into playing, in a block world of our own.

Let me get to the point: Minecraft, I believe, is one of the greatest simulators of life I have ever encountered. Let me explain…

Brave New World

BAM. I started start my journey in Minecraft. I gazed out upon this vast, untouched world and remarked at how innocent and colourful this place was. The child inside of me got excited. I thought “Fuck yeah! I get to make a base and it will be awesome and then I’ll make a tower made of lava and I will rule this forsaken land.” Then it started getting darker. The sun dipped lower in the sky. The moos and oinks of farm animals turn to screeches and hisses. I dug a little hole (3 inches round), sat inside and wept in the corner until morning came. The scrabbling of claws, digging through the dirt, digging for my flesh, made those 10 minutes of nightfall seem like an hour. For all its innocence and charm, Minecraft is honestly a terrifying, terrifying experience at times. In most games, the experience has been crafted for you. Developers want you to feel happy here, sad here, frightened here and infuriated with bad menu design here. Minecraft is entirely procedurally generated, which is a double edged sword of emotions. This world is really yours, nobody else has ever seen this! Yet this also makes it really unnerving when you stumble upon things which seem out of place. Stumbling upon a natural system of caves under your house, for example. What were the chances I would build my house above an ancient Indian burial ground?

*hisssssssssss* Fuck this shit, I'm outta here.

As the name suggest, exploring caves is an integral part of Minecraft. Yet, when alone, the darkness and unknown of these random caves is cripplingly scary. There was no QA team to make sure this one cave isn’t to hard and too expansive. You, as a player, are actually the first one to explore this cave, which subconsciously heightens the experience. This procedural gameplay even generates reasons for exporing places like this. There might be treasure, or a monster spawner that will keep sending minions of hell into your house.

Also, and this may be really weird, but the way you gather momentum as you fall in minecraft is really powerful. Something about the first person view, the gathering speed, and the eery silence of your avatar all culminate into an evocative “Oh, well fuck” moment of free-fall.

So after my first night, I emerged from my hobbit hole, and began the search for a place to call home in this schizophrenic world. Me and some other random strangers on the server grouped together and made this lovely little house in a mountain, with a waterfall and farm nearby and we were all the best of pals and lived happily ever after.


Except we didn’t. After that one night of peaceful building, I woke up the next night to find the place ransacked, the farm flooded and my room on fire. A sign in the middle read “i fucked up your shit faggots – chocolatman120”. My Minecraft childhood had ended after a single day. This was a harsher world than I thought, and I learnt an important lesson that day — “If you love something, you must hide it”.

So me and a friend moved inland, way inland, looking for a place to live in peace in the country, away from the griefers. We found a place that seemed sheltered, and had a natural cave we could expand, and we settled.

The secret entrances to our cave-house #2

By evening we were building again, though not so wholly. I mean, what was the point if it was just going to be destroyed anyway? Was it worth doing anything unless it will last forever? My Minecraft mid-life crisis had begun.

The problem with Minecraft, being such an amazingly non-restrictive sandbox game, is that it is non-restrictive. Without direction, I was struck with problem of deciding what I wanted from this game, and whether I actually wanted to achieve it. Which is scary and weird. As a gamer, I have been trained over the years to do as the developer says whether it be saving some character I don’t care about or feigning interest in a narrative I’m impartial towards. The reward is a pat on the head, a digital trophy and maybe a new outfit for an avatar. By assinging numbers to these things, we’re given a sense that we’re progressing. Those numbers sure are getting bigger, so I should keep going and make them get even bigger. It doesn’t matter if I’m not doing what I actually want to do in the game, as long as I get rewarded.

Yet this is a shitty outlook on life, and I don’t see why we as gamers should tolerate it exclusively in games. In out childhood, we’re never told “Just get an office job you hate, because at least you’ll get money for it”. So then why is it that we find this to be acceptable in games, which ultimately, are replications of certain realities. Minecraft, whether

This is your cave whether you explore it or not

deliberately or not, asks us “what do we value in our games?”. Has a sense of personal achievement become obsoleted by achievements points? Do creative pursuits seem silly when there are no tangible reward? Having talked to friends, some of them said yes, one in particular claiming that Minecraft is not even a game because it has no narrative at all. Yet I feel they’re missing the point of emergent gameplay such as this. Games as a medium differ from others by the very fact that you, as a player, can create your own narrative, with much more personal taste and relevance to you than any developer can ever script.

I thought about this for a good while, and determined that Minecraft is not a waste of time, for me anyway. If life itself is as fleeting and goal-less as Minecraft, than I shouldn’t feel guilty for time spent having fun in this game with friends. So I built. I built my little bedroom.

Humble Adobe Flash Player

We had adventure mining and killing zombies, claiming treasures from dungeons and found elusive diamonds and obsidian. We worked on the goal we had set ourselves from the very start — building  a massive tower with lava pouring down it. And by God, did we achieve it after a few days of blocky sweat and blood.

It stands majestic, spilling its load upon the mountaintops.

At night, it comes to life, and thrusts its fluid towards the stars.

The view from the top. You can see my house from here.

Yet while we toiled away at our legacy, dark changes were afoot. The admin of the server and his friends had gotten tired of griefers and decided to add mods to the server. While this protected their buildings, it also gave the select few the powers to spawn whichever blocks they wanted.


After a few days, I found a massive ball of glass floating out at sea, and it was filled with lava. I thought huh, well that puts our tower to shame, but I guess good job for that guy.

Then, one morning I walked outside my cave and saw this:

What? What IS that?

Oh. Oh yeah. It's a massive fucking Bong outside my house. Great.

What the fuck is THAT?

(The little stone house was a hut I built ages ago while walking back to my house. It got dark and I was still a bit away so I built a little shelter to wait the night out. It was now drawfed by massive wall of Obsidian.  One of the rarest and strongest materials in the game.)

Oh, ok. It's a massive arena. A MASSIVE FUCKING OBSIDIAN ARENA.

It was at this point that I realised I had become the grouchy old man of Minecraft. Back in my day, we built things by hand and farmed materials ourselves. Now, those pothead whippersnappers were ruining society as I knew it, and I was scared. I was now obsolete. Nothing I built could ever rival the splendour and potential of these guys.  My old-timey ways and principals had left me forgotten by time. After all I did! After all the work I put in to this life, and all the buildings I created. Even my masterpiece, the Lava Tower, was antiquated.

Le sigh.

Yet who was I to say they were enjoying the game wrong? They must have been having fun, or else they would never have went to the effort. To me, there was a direct relationship between difficulty to build and gratification. Yet these people had become invulnerable, teleporting Gods, raising and destroying with the snap of fingers. I couldnt expect them to seek out the same trivial pursuits of happiness as a mortal such as myself. Maybe I could join them in their absolute power, and find a different way to play?

But for fuck sake, they removed the ability for Creepers to explode. That was last straw. Creepers are agents of destruction, entropy incarnate. This harsh, yet beautiful and engrossing world, was now literally a sandpit where each grain of sand was invincible obsidian and every castle built was built with the purpose of standing forever. Nobody wants to live forever — not when everyone lives forever. Leaving a legacy means nothing when everyone’s legacy survives. The dualistic nature of Minecraft is one of its strongest points. Night/Day. Farmyard Animals/Monsters. Creation/Destruction. Yet when one of these sides is eradicated, the other is meaningless. And that is just not a system I can find enjoyment in.

So, Gods of the server, enjoy your eternity of nothingness. May you master everything that such men may know, about loving, and then letting go.

(Damn, that sounded really bitter. Sorry, more cheerful update next time!)

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Professor Layton and The One Night Stand

Basically I wanted to make pictures to go with the joke and this is the result.

What I learned by doing this:


Also, Acrylics are probably not the best for this.

Also, Layton’s name is Hershel. Such a gentlemanly name.

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No Girls On The Internet (Who Like This Shit)

The internet’s been pretty ablaze about this website recently — and rightly so. Fat, Ugly or Slutty documents the plight of female gamers around the world, while naming and shaming the cockheads of the internet.

There’s always that weird dichotomy of dudes complaining about how there aren’t enough girls who play games, yet when they do come across one, they fucking lose all sense of tact and whip their wangs out.

Not only that, but all the unfortunate stereotypes of male gamers, which we have managed to shrug off slightly in recent times — fat, lazy, losers — we then project onto the female gamer population (also, dislike the term “gamer” but it is easier to say than “person who plays videogames”). C’mon guys, you can’t have it both ways.

Stop making us all look like assholes.

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