Sunday, 28 April 2013

Explosive Alan: Thank You For Playing. Same old shit in a fancy new box

After  months of waiting, the unfortunate fans of the former Inside Xbox finally get too see the results of their donations that went towards  Inside Xbox's chief hair-geller, Dan Maher's crowdfunding campaign to produce a pilot for a new gaming show. That show being, "Thank You For Playing." Maybe it's a pun on, "thank you for paying?" seeing as the prospective viewership paid for it, be it with money, lost innocence or valuable time from watching it. One way or another, you're losing something from watching.

Thank You For Playing or TYFP -pronounced, "tie-fup"- for short, is a  cut-and-shut of a show. On the surface you have  an initially impressive visual interface, a  title screen greets you to press start or continue and/or sign up. A nice change from the normal triangle in the centre of the screen and isn't horribly cluttered. Clicking start opens up another video game-esque interface, with "world 1" highlighted, instead of "episode 1" with the heading, "Together", so one can assume -just like the pitiful brain-farts that Maher and co produce for the Explosive Alan youtube channel, each episode of TYFP is to have a overall theme to each episode.
The very apt image of a generic theme park scrolls down in front of you. This is the way you view the show. See the five different landmarks in the theme park? Those are the individual chapters of TYFP that you can pick in any order you want to watch them in. Well, not until you've clicked on ENTER and sat through the tedious intro video, that Explosive Alan previewed at the end of last year, which gives you a hint of the type of content to expect. That being trendy- for the 90s- new games journalism bilge. In that respect, it does a great job of introducing you to the style over substance TYFP specialises in as Maher spends a couple of minutes talking about how he's reinventing the broken wheel of games media yet doesn't give any instructions on accessing the chapters or what they even are. Maybe Maher thought it was edgy and playful to allow viewers to discover everything on their own or he's just fucking lazy? Either way, when dealing with any new content, you really want to just get on with it. If TYFP wants to have a video game aesthetic, fair enough, but why emulate the experience of playing a game that comes with no instructions or indication of what means what? Was it really beyond Maher's ability to take up a valuable 15-20 seconds explaining the icons under the video players unlock extra content when you've finished watching?  Now on to the actual content.

The hand displaying four fingers plays, "All Four One", TYFP's equivalent of a panel discussion show, if it was made in 1998. So it's set in some wanker pub in Camden/Soho/Hoxton (delete as appropriate) and is in black and white.  Maher discusses the appeals of multiplayer gaming with IGN writer, champion Su Pollard look-a-like and GMA winner, Keza McDonald, deputy editor of and GMA winner, Neon Kelly and purveyor of shambolic insincerity, Julia Hardy. There's not much really to say about it other than it's a rehash of those panel discussions game magazines like to do and all the games mentioned are considered to be fun multiplayer experiences and either by miracle of the edit because she was distracted by all the alcohol on view, Julia Hardy's input is kept to a minimum. So not too painful.

Clicking on the haunted house plays "Together Alone." Introduced by the shrill drone of OXM staff writer, Aoife Wilson. Narrating footage of Journey like  a female Mark Cousins, Wilson then appears with her admission that multiplayer games don't appeal to her, while walking along the backdrop of a tube station (or a set) at night, like she was presenting  a Crimewatch reconstruction. Explaining how online multiplayer, with all it's facets breaks the suspension of disbelief of playing a game while others in the real world are shouting at you, your gaming skills condensed into cold statistics against anonymous usernames and a dig at the glut of military FPS games right now for good measure. "I want to feel a connection that's more than just statistical" Wilson ejaculates, before going on a verbal jill-off about Journey. How the nature of Journey's game play and communication creates a different  multiplayer dynamic. Wilson's point being that it's not that gamer's are all exclusively fucking mean online. It's just multiplayers games almost always require the player to act like a amoral killer. She also mentions the co-op in Dark Souls and mix of helping and fucking over others in Day-Z. If you can tolerate Wilson's inability to keep her head still for one second, then you can't deny she makes a valid point. And self important presentation and actual support for shouty teenage twats on COD  aside, you couldn't accuse Wilson of going for the lowest common denominator and cheapening games journalism in any way.

Well, except for that

Clicking on the roller coaster gives up  an opinion piece, "Escort Service" .Preceded by a nicely made but badly voice-acted machinima intro, like the kind of video that made, before they deiced to be come IGN. Dan Maher spins a mediocre lament about one of gaming's biggest annoyances, escort missions. Maher sites Goldeneye on the N64 as the earliest example of this, well, he's not quite sure. But who needs research when there's tired and tested material to rehash? Granted it's a subject that hack game journos keep bringing up because game developers keep forcing unwarranted escort missions with broken AI upon us. And Danny Twat-beard at least has the common sense to show Ico as the best example of the escort mission done right, however he loses track as he deviates about NPCs that don't slow down but help your progress by mentioning Ellie from, The Last Of Us and Elizabeth from Bioshock: Infinite, two games Maher admits he had yet to play at the time yet misses out how a good NPC can also be a well rounded, relatable character you can have a emotional attachment to, like Clementine from The Walking Dead. And regardless of the instantly forgettable content, my only thought about this section is, if this is to become a ongoing series, will TYFP make a unfunny rip off of  a million machinima videos as an intro for every one of these? Even if it's a serious subject like misogyny in gaming, a shooting linked to games or rape culture in sections of the games community? Oh, sorry, that was me imagining this bollocks could evolve beyond a gaming equivalent of observational comedy. What next  Dan? A "hilarious" diatribe about why do game consoles have such odd names? Why do gamers get so upset when a major change happens to their favourite game? And just how many PR people do you have to pretend to be friends with to get a GMA nomination?

Next up, on the mountain, is a segment on "Fundraising Your Game: The secret to successful crowdfunding" which, as one would expect from Explosive Alan and its  shower of skinny jean wearing dick-wrappers, is an attempted humorous look at the rise of crowdfunding game projects with advice from Six To Star CEO, Adrian Hon and the other one from Consolevania. So no investigations into the morality of established industry vets and companies financing projects through crowd funding or the perils of investment. Just some half serious examples of the advise from the talking heads, that strangely misses the best tactic for meeting your kickstarter target. Make it something that already exists and has a built in fanbase to draw money from, like Explosive Alan did. I wonder why they didn't make any joke about that?

The castle reveals "Sharing Stories," starring gaming's current miserable old bastard, Warren Spector. Who talks about his aversion to multiplayer because all multiplayer-based video games lack the collaborative storytelling that you get in Dungeons and Dragons. That genuine moral choices within gaming are so few and far between, that most gamers are sometimes stumped by then. That the statistical play elements of D&D are used in video games but none of the storytelling and plot aspects. Before telling us Epic Mickey, his attempt at doing a gritty reboot of Disney, is somehow doing that. or at least bravely attempting it, or "fail gloriously" as Spector describes it. Well he got the fail part right at least with the sequel. As always with Warren Spector, he has a decent point to make, but it's hard to make out under all the layers of smugness...why does that seem familiar to me?

And that's TYFP. Is it the worst video game content  on the internet? No. Nor is it anywhere near the best. Despite all the flash and sizzle, there's no escaping that familiar feeling of desperate trendiness and boredom that came from watching Dan Maher et al on Xbox LIVE. So if you liked that benign twattle, you'll be right at home. Of course you still have to deal with the awkward interface, a unreliable video player that seems intent on grinding to a halt every six seconds (even on a recommended chrome browser) and the rather fake manner in which they brand cookies as "saving your progress" which doesn't really work and want you to sign up. In today's climate of streaming movies and TV shows in an instant online, wasting even a few seconds feels like a lifetime, when you have to sign up or else sit through that obnoxious fucking video of Dan Maher's slicked-back hair, vomiting his empty rhetoric at you.

If Explosive Alan honestly wants to tout TYFP as a TV pilot then a annoying website (that isn't even properly linked to Explosive Alan's own site for shits sake) and duff video playback isn't a issue. however the "core gamer" aimed content is gonna make every half decent (by which I mean well paying) TV channel will run a mile from TYFP', except maybe hire Aoife Wilson and make her do three minute reviews on casual-aimed games. And that's not because I think the content isn't any good, a sorry fact is that all the big stations still think video games is either cheap, late-night fodder where a female presenter is essential or a kids show. Anything not aimed at the people who play Angry Birds and hope the next Xbox comes with a new twist on Dance Central, then TV wont touch it with a ten-foot pole. Especially as Explosive Alan produces very similar content on their youtube channel and pulls in pitiful numbers.  So all you fans that donated to bankroll this pilot may have to dig into your pocket again, because I don't envisage  TYFP being commissioned for TV or for a gaming site that specialises in video content. Which is a bit of a cheek when Konami UK,  and Turbine's head of PR is listed amongst the executive producers. So much for being totally independent, eh? If you were hoping for the second coming of GamesMaster, don't hold your breath and keep hold of your money

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Machinima hopes to fill gap left by G4

When the G4 TV channel ceased all production of video game related content, angry, house-bound women-haters across America (and some bits of the internet) lamented the once ground breaking network that sought to deliver relevant televisual content to gamers, then thought, "fuck it" and aimed their programming at  sexually confused 14 year old boys who love Call of Duty, homophobic and racist swearing and seeing women as talking wank-fodder. But in that void, the intrepid shills at Machinima have stepped in to fill the demand for soft core crap, that pursues the 15-25 year old male demographic like it cures cancer. By overstepping the boundary of good taste and setting the image of gamers back 20 years -both male and female alike- by hiring former G4 dude-bro at large, Kevin Pereria to produce a reality show, yes a fucking reality show called, "Player vs. Pain."  Which resembles the (should of been aborted) offspring of G4, MTV's Jackass and a stock parody of Japanese game shows. Except much more depressing.  Nothing surprising there, coming from a G4 refugee and Machimna's regretful transformation into IGN would spawn content that has a very low view of it's target audience. But the recent episode, that had two models playing Rockband while being whipped  on the arse and being electrocuted crossed the line even for most gamers on youtube. Yes, really, to the point where Machinima deleted the video. But thankfully, someone captured it and shared it for posterity.

EDIT: You could until today, except now Machinima has gotten the video deleted. I'm sure not because they're embarrassed or feel guilty or anything. So until someone uploads it again, make do with a image-courtesy of Forbes- of a paid model being smacked on the arse, and somehow has something to do with video games
"No, she's just re-connecting the guitar controller" 

UPDATE: The video is back up

"How about we shake things up, with a little girl on girl hot match!" If there was any justice, Machinima's head office would implode and  a small memorial stone would be in place of where the building once stood with that quote as it's epitaph. The fact that Machinima would like to sweep this under the carpet despite being mentioned in Forbes and Rock Paper Shotgun would have you believe this was a aberration. Bullshit, Machinima isn't some fan site. It's one of the biggest game-related content providers on the internet. The big white board in their office - with all the ideas and shows they want to make written on it- had this whole concept of insulting every gamer's intelligence by totally demeaning everyone on it was fully planed out and never saw a problem with it.
Because even if you're a brain dead fuck-tard, with a head full of self loathing and mummy issues and you don't see anything wrong in rolling out a couple of paid models (one can only assume no female gamer in her right mind would volunteer for it) to sting their backsides with paddles and  added electro-shocks, then throw a load of panties at them, while a poor man's version of the "I'd buy that for a dollar" guy from Robocop narrates like a sex pest, bragging about his latest train groping- then surely you must feel insulted at the previous episode where male players are given "atomic wedgies." Call me short sighted, but I don't see what's appealing to gamers to see other gamers given the  sort of treatment akin to school bullying. Essentially, Machinima sees every gamer as a pathetic little nerd who's only experience of being intimate with a woman was that one awkward valentines day, when their mum got really drunk. To them, you are a total sad case, who has concept of self respect and gets off on seeing women humiliated. There's certainly huge misogynistic streak to Player vs Pain, but no one, whatever gender, walks away with any dignity from that show. least of all head bro. Kevin Pereria himself. Just listen to how forced and hollow his commentary is on the video. You can almost envisage him tearfully masturbating over the part where one of the models shows her red butt cheek as proof of being hit, wondering to himself how his TV career ended up as a really crap BDSM director. Don't waste any pity on him. He's a TV presenter, he lost whatever humanity he had a long time ago to a sea of PR bullshit and endless repeats of "Cops." Because he hates himself, you must hate yourself too. Don't let that perma-tanned satan be right.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

East London set to host game journo piss up

If you have aspirations to be a games journalist and you live in London, or you're just a borderline alcoholic, then you may want to book a ticket to, "Game Over", a evening presented by the National Union of Journalists at the Innovation Warehouse (near Farringdon tube station), with three talks on the subject of...

How to make money as a writer in video games
Expect to hear(or at least hope) three industry vets tell you of their experiences getting their start in paid games writing (at a time when there were much less people applying for jobs) how you should never write for free on a blog but should write for free as a intern and most likely not tell you about whatever crawling they did to get their initial starts that will do you fuck all good, unless they also give out the personal mobile number and address of the editor of Eurogamer.

The history of video games journalism
 Presented by longtime Guardian games reviewer and GMA winner, Steve Boxer talks about his history in games journalism, as frankly, I wouldn't necessarily trust him to recall 100% of British games journalism. Especially parts of the last decade. On account of his chronic "cold", which can never quite seem to shake off. Don't judge, it could be one of your own

Writing the stories for games
Three writers discuss getting a career in writing for games and the progressive influence of narrative on gaming and how it can truly service the gameplay experience. Which includes Rhianna Pratchett on the panel. So you can ask her what it was like writing nothing but endless, "Ahh, my leg!"And Enjoying the praise of rebooting Lara Croft as not a stripper with guns, while still using the lazy plot device of the damsel in distress. Or was Sam supposed to be suicidally stupid on purpose?

If you're not a NUJ member, then it's £5 for a ticket. And if you fancy the idea of trying (and failing) at discovering the seemingly secret code to getting a break into games journalism at the Q&A, and those fledgling game journos doing much needed networking better get in quick. Because there's a free bar afterwards, and as we all know, a games journalist would walk though a corridor of flaming knives, made from the fillings of dead war criminals to get to free booze. So get in there quick and for god's sake, don't accept any of the special "go-go tablets" from anyone in the toilets