Monday, December 3, 2007

Here lies Dyno who perished alone in the dark, buried by tinsel and suffering from Legionnaires' Disease...

I’m starting to hate the festive season already, which is early for me. The stores have already become some kind of fuggy smelling clown-show. It’s hard to catch the holiday spirit when all about you stinks of car exhaust and feet. Any day now my lovely wife is going to proclaim that if we don't have our tree up in the next forty-eight hours we shall be regarded by child services and her parents as lazy layabouts depriving our podlings of magic and memory... Oh and let's be clear about this, by 'we' she means me.

I shudder in anticipation of hearing the utterance. She will say; "Honey, why don't we get the tree out this weekend, okay?" Translated from the wiven-tongue this non-question means; "Go deep into the bleak hole where I have commanded you to banish all other manner of thing that offends my eye and do not return unless you find the half-dozen dust-caked and mould-spotted boxes that contain our Christmas Cheer. While down there if you find that thing - you know that thing I was talking about - then bring it up too because last time I asked for it and you didn't bring it and so now I'm asking you again and if you don't bring it up again this cycle will continue FOR THE REST OF YOUR FOOLISH, WORTHLESS, AND PITIFUL LIFE!!!"

What I am looking forward to is Christmas Day. I want to dump a bunch of presents on my daughter and watch her go crazy around the living room while I’m stretched out on the couch, nursing a huge fucking mimosa while the savoury smells of a freshly-stuffed turkey waft through the room. Oh that’s right! I’m doing another turkey; it’s like the Pringles of sadomasochistic kitchen rituals, you can never do just one! In truth I’m looking forward to spending time with my family but more particularly I’m looking forward to time with them while they’re not bugging me, where there are more interesting things going on like presents and good food to occupy them. I would do this every weekend if I could, just for the peace and quiet. Christmas is the time of year where we all live like millionaires for a day and blow a wad of cash just to keep everybody off each other’s backs.

The response to my charity drive has been very positive and encouraging thus far. If you are thinking about making a donation to buy toys for the children stuck at Toronto Sick Kids hospital then please do so. To reiterate, you can make a purchase from the Toronto Sick Kids Wish List (linked below) if you want to buy something on your own or I am still pooling money together from friends to buy a batch of hand-held consoles. In both cases any donation is tax deductible. Contact me if you would like more details.

Child's Play Wish List - It's what all the cool kids are doing

What with the foul Toronto weather and other domestic issues, I’ve been home even more than usual. We finished watching the third season of Weeds which continues to be excellent. It’s a perfect blend of dramatic tension, raunchy humour, and contemporary satire. The second season of Dexter has officially entered the ‘holy crap’ phase of the story arc and has gone from damn good to bloody excellent. What’s nice about both these shows is the consistency they manage. This is not a given when it comes to shows with great potential. The second season of Heroes has floundered for this reason but we’re still watching in hopes that it recaptures old glory. I thought Battlestar Galactica had similar issues last season but by the finale all was well. We caught their Razor movie tie-over and it was very good; a nice mix of story fill-in along with some new stuff that both shocked and awed. What should we watch next? I want to see The Wire but we can’t find a clean copy online. Nip And Tuck has been mentioned as jolly perverse programming so that’s in the running. Deadwood perhaps, how does it hold up to these two? I’m also curious to see what Mad Men is about.

I finished Ratchet and Clank Future: Tools of Destruction, only so that it lying there incomplete wouldn’t nag me while I started Mass Effect. Made by the excellent Insomniac Games for the PS3, it illustrates an important lesson in video game entertainment: that so long as a title is made really, really well it's worth playing regardless of the subject matter. Ratchet & Clank is up there with a Pixar movie: the pictures are clearly targeted towards children but the quality is so high that adults have no problem enjoying the material.

While the story in Tools of Destruction is simplistic and the humour zany, the characters are lovable, the environments are beautiful, and the game play is great fun. One could call these games shooters because the titular characters pack a couple dozen weapons with which to solve their problems, but these cartoon characters wind up going to war with a wagon of fireworks and magic tricks. Things blow up pink or turn into penguins; disco balls emitting an irresistible beat serve as hand grenades. This game dazzles the eye with a digital carnival of light and colour. It is pretty. It makes one feel young and silly again. Point of order, my wife finished the game first. She said it was fun but too easy. Her seal of approval means more to the casual gamer than mine ever could.

Penny Arcade comic strip

An explanation of the incident itself, including relevant links

Video game publishers view the enthusiast press with utter contempt

I’m throwing this up because it ties in with what’s becoming an ongoing topic: that of video game journalism, how lost it is, and how it's not likely to get much better. The victim in question is one Jeff Gerstmann; a personality in game editorial and as much a veteran as this new media can hope for. Jeff was put in the unfortunate position of having to review a game made by a company that purchased hundreds of thousands of dollars in advertising from his employer. The game in question reviewed poorly, receiving a 6/10. For this he lost his job and it has become a rather public incident amongst the game-playing nerf-herders we call a community.

The video game review matrix I outlined last month is sadly becoming something of a meme. The ‘Out of 10’ marking scheme that makes use of only four or five numbers is mentioned now as a given. It is one thing to feel you know something through sober personal analysis and quite another to be given concrete example; it’s the difference between conspiracy and fact. We can see now that as the cost of production increases the need to protect investments from fact-based scrutiny are now being fully enforced by publishing companies. Respected people are their losing their livelihood over this shit. More than anything it renews my faith in the power of the written word.

You just need to be more careful than ever where you’re getting it from…

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