Firefox Add-on ScribeFire – Screaming Buskids

I’ve installed a Firefox add-on that lets you blog from anywhere without having to go through a tedious login, so maybe I’ll start updating again!

But I doubt I’ll keep the old format, it was getting to be a hassle to cut an paste every time. I think I’ll just play it by ear for the most part.

Today’s mini review:

Screaming kids on the bus!

Verdict – 0/10 – They both look like chubby little boys, but one is a chubby little girl (or a boy named Melissa)! Who can control them? Certainly not their father.

Getting 218 Hits in One Day

Mini review!

This is something that’s been sitting on my desktop waiting for me to post for a while. Maybe someone knows what’s going on here.

What Happened?

On February 23rd, I received a record 218 hits. I’m not a stat-monkey or anything, but it struck me as odd.

ONE WORD MINI-CONCLUSION: Perplexing

TOTAL SCORE: 9

Videogame Reviews

It’s so meta right now.

Videogame reviews are a joke. Ha ha ha. Being a person with a passion for the games industry, it’s difficult to watch as year after year no advances are made in the videogame review formula. Some surface issues include:

  • A review is not a list of features.
  • A review is not a synopsis of the storyline.
  • A review cannot be boiled down to “buy it” or “don’t buy it.”
  • Reviews don’t have to be written so that a 10 year old can understand it, especially if it’s for a Mature rated game.
  • Reviews for ‘Mature’ rates games should not be listed on the same review areas right next to the ‘Kids’ titles. No wonder there’s been such a problem with keeping minors form purchasing violent games (the film industry is actually much worse with this, but video games get the blame.)
  • Reviews should not be ranked out of 10 if reviewers give bad games 5’s, good games 7’s, groundbreaking games 9.8’s, and unplayable pieces of garbage (literally so buggy that they should not have been released as a consumer product) 3 to 5. It’s okay to be a little harsher! Or just keep doing what you’re doing and subtract 5 from every score and call it out of 5.

This is all fairly basic things that other media have long taken into account, and have been mentioned in other deconstructions of the videogame review. A review is a critical look at the content, the message, and yes, the style, the features, and the plot, but this means looking beyond “the plot doesn’t make a lot of sense, but the graphics are so good you won’t care!” Why doesn’t the plot make sense? In this case the reviewer has only done half the work, offering no examples and assuming that everyone prefers pretty graphics to content. This also occurs in movie reviews, but this is usually the lower end of the spectrum (tellingly, the movie reviews written by videogame review sources.) Of course it’s a fine line between spoiling something and offering a critical view, but I’m sure the writers out there can manage.

(edit: The opposite of this is equally irritating, where a reviewer is so blasé and “unbiased” about the game they’re reviewing that they make observations like “If you liked the game before this one in the series, you may find that you like this one too” or “If you like games in this style, you may like this game.” Thanks a lot. That really told me a lot about the game. )

There’s a few other problems that bother me even more, and they aren’t the same as the surface issues listed above. These are deeper issues to do with the writing itself. They’re not as easy to fix, because not everyone may benefit from their implementation, only those concerned with how videogames are affecting culture, society, children, adults, thought patterns, learning potential, the past and the future will benefit. Which is to say, everyone.

  • Games aren’t deconstructed to find what core skills and specific knowledge they teach. Even if game developers aren’t trying to teach something (they should be), people will always be taking something away from the game, no matter how trivial it seems. I would like to see more exploration on what games are teaching. I think it would allow parents to make more informed choices about games to let their kids play. It would also point out stagnation in the industry, and allow developers reason to explore new vistas beyond a very western “good vs evil; let’s have a war.” I think we’ve learned all we need to there.
  • Themes aren’t often expressed in video game reviews. This is very important in books, movies, comics, and many other mediums, but I don’t remember ever seeing an exploration on the themes presented in “Ratchet & Clank: Up Your Arsenal.” In the same way you probably won’t see anyone spending time analyzing “Not Another Teen Movie” maybe some video games don’t deserve this treatment, but I think more than only the most artistic games deserve some analysis. Sure we could all write about “Shadow of the Colossus” forever, but why not write about the themes of abandonment, paternity, and friendship presented in “StarFox 64?”
  • Games are open to interpretation. Tying in to the last note, games can mean what you believe them to mean, as long as you can back yourself up within reason. Fans spend years debating the meaning of every chapter of the “Metal Gear Solid” saga, but in my memory this is about the only game dissected in this way. Is it because it’s one of a very few post-modern games? That certainly makes it more ambiguous and easy to speculate about. Maybe Sonic the Hedgehog is a metaphor for progress: we CAN return order and stability to the world, we CAN stop pollution and damage to the environment, but the solution is to plow forward at breakneck speed until a final solution becomes clear! Anyone who says that games are too shallow to be interpreted in this way, I’ll poke your eye out. Even A. A. Milne’s “Winnie the Pooh” is open to interpretation, and that’s “kid stuff,” right?
  • Perhaps most importantly, reviewers need to start asking “What does this game do for videogames?” I think it may be important to begin shunning games that are derivative, play on shock factor, or aren’t socially responsible. But that’s just me. In any case, videogames need to be analyzed in a way that can determine if they validate videogames as a medium. Again, personally I don’t think videogames need validation, but the rest of the world’s not there yet. This is common in other fields of art, like Music or Visual Art, some works are credited with moving their art forwards, attaining new heights and subsequently inspiring others.
  • Games reviewers need to spend more time researching WHO made each game, who directed it, who are the lead artists, who wrote the score, etc. Beyond a very select few “videogame celebrities” known only to those very close to the industry, people outside have very little to go on when purchasing a new game. Unlike comics, novels, movies, art, music, every other medium of art imaginable, videogames exist in a vacuum. Despite the huge amount of people who contribute to each title, none of them are given credit, except in the (often skip-able) credit sequence. Attaching a name to a media allows consumers to make a more educated choice, as with movies. If you liked “The Departed” you might like “Raging Bull”, because Scorsese directed them both. This sort of referal system doesn’t exist in the video game industry. I think it’s important to a medium’s image, as well as relatability.

I don’t think arguments like “No one wants this, because there’s no demand” don’t stand. People never know what they want until it’s put in front of them. Gamers are getting older, and whether they’re going to keep playing or not depends heavily on the content being presented. If the reviews, and the content of the games themselves can’t mature with the population then people can’t be blamed for losing interest. Some would argue that it’s only natural that people lose interest in video games as they get older; games are for kids, and are just a meaningless pastime, vapid entertainment. Sadly, I’d agree for the most part. Maybe people need a new way to think about video games. A heavyhanded analysis of “Super Paper Mario” might allow someone who was previously uninterested to enjoy it on a deeper level than they initially thought possible, but this isn’t only the reviewer’s task. Games themselves need to become more than just entertainment if they want to stay relevant.

CONCEPT: 3/5 – Current reviews at least allow some exploration into what a game is about, which is better than nothing.

INNOVATION: 1/5 – I have to admit, I’ve stopped reading reviews altogether because they don’t hold the information that I am interested in. I couldn’t care less about level 3’s killer boss fight. Let me find that on my own. Tell me what the game’s ABOUT.

SATISFACTION: 1/5 – Not a whole lot of satisfaction going on here, hence the spiel.

EXECUTION: 2/5 – Well, they put words into lines called sentences that convey some information.

FUN FACTOR: 1/5 – So un-fun that I stopped reading them entirely.

OVERALL: 2/10 – Urgh. I’m not blaming any one person or publication for what I perceive as these problems, but I think we can work together to give videogames the intellectual respect they need.

Purdy’s Hedgehogs

Note: these make a nice gift for me. 

For my birthday, my Mom got me a box of Hedgehogs. They’re hazlenut chocolate inside chocolate that is shaped like a little caricature of a hedgehog, which is an animal. I should know, I used to have a pet hedgehog.

This all started because I used to read books about a wonderful place called Fern Hollow, which had nice little stories and pictures of mice wearing pants, and turtles wearing bowties, and everyone had cute english accents and had small problems. There was a family, the Willowbanks, who were hedgehogs. I couldn’t pronounce “Willowbank”, bless me, so I called their son, a bit of a scoundrel, Spike Bee-a-bank.

This led to a strange fascination with hedgehogs, and at some point I became enamored with having a pygmy hedgehog as a pet. This happened, thanks to some locals who were happy to sell me one of their brood. Almost… too happy… Yes, as it turns out, hedgehogs make terrible pets. They are spikey, jumpy, fast, rude, and poopy/pee-y. Also, they sleep all day, and  ram into the bars of their cage all night. That is the hedgehog way.

But when you turn a hedgehog into chocolate and shrink it down, an amazing thing happens. You can put them in a box and sell them. Then people buy them at the store, and give them to me for my birthday. And I enjoy them very slowly for the next few weeks.

CONCEPT: 4/5 – Buying me hedgehogs is nice, but I DON’T want this to turn into something that everyone does for every occasion! Not even as a joke, like “hey, let’s buy Justin chocolate because he said he didn’t want us to.” NO! Only buy it because you think it would make a good gift. That being said, I will never complain about having too many, so it’s really up to you.

INNOVATION: 2/5 – Now that I’ve taken all the surprise out of it… Speaking of surprises, they come in this triangular box that totally gives away the gift before you even open it. This marks the second time I’ve written about triangular chocolate.

SATISFACTION: 3/5 – Well, it’s hard not to be. Although I do like dark chocolate too.

EXECUTION: 3/5 – It’s hard to mess up, but you could accidentally buy a triangular box of hedgehog entrails, so we’ll have to wait and see how this pans out.

FUN FACTOR: 3/5 – They’re fun to eat. It’s like eating a small, delicious part of my disappointing childhood obsession.

OVERALL: 7/10 – They’re pretty tasty.

Not Receiving Angry Mail About Not Updating

What’s up guys?

I haven’t updated in a while. Busy with stuff I guess. The thing is, if I committed to wasting time instead of pledging to do homework and then accomplishing only half of it, I would have tons of time to do other stuff like write.

No one sent me any hate mail though, and for that I am thankful? The question mark implies a mixed feeling. I am happy that no one bothered me about having too much work for school to do, midterms, maths, and numerous meetings with 3 separate groups. But this also means that no one actually cares weather or not I’m writing anything. To that I say, tough nuts! I’m gonna keep writing, being self referential, not doing research, and talking about nothing in particular!

Case in point, it’s time for this to be over.

CONCEPT: 4/5 – People not sending me angry emails is a great idea.

INNOVATION: 4/5 – Actually, sending me angry emails would be fairly innovative, as it doesn’t really happen very much.

SATISFACTION: 3/5 – I’m satisfied, but also un, because an email may have prompted me to get going again.

EXECUTION: 5/5 – Awesome, flawless even!

FUN FACTOR: ?/5 – I don’t understand what this means.

OVERALL: 5/10 – A mixed blessing. Don’t try to be funny and send me an email all being like “where you been??! I read a website!”

A Movie We Made for School

Alright let’s get this out of the way

In the interest of people knowing what “I’m up to” here’s a short film I made for a class at SFU Surrey.

There’s a few things I’m not happy with, but then there’s some bits that I like. I really think the first 2 minutes is the most cohesive. I don’t want to add any narcissism to this or belittle any other of my group members input (we all worked really hard, and we couldn’t have made this otherwise), but the first two minutes I’ll say are more me than any other part of the movie. I wrote the shot list, dialogue, and then shot and edited the first two minutes, so if you’re looking for the best example of my work that’s where to look around in. Oh, except one cut that Andrew pointed out to me, which is where I’m laying on the floor and it sort of dwells on the shot for a period of time. I would have made that a little more succinct.

A few things I’m not all that happy with, including the whole thing (you just get so sick of your idea after 5 weeks, you know?) are the ending, which is pretty silly and overdone, and a few of the other scenes where it’s not clear exactly what happens. Fun Fact!: It’s a shoe that hits my face in the one scene.

At the showing people laughed in the right places, and even said “Ooh…” when I fell on the stairs. I think I blew part of our mark when the prof asked “So, did you end up using any of the techniques you learned from your study of a director?” and I said “Not consciously.” But we did Ang Lee. Our movie didn’t have any sweeping mountain ranges with flying swordsmen, bamboo thickets, gay cowboys, or Hulks. I don’t usually think of Ang Lee movies in terms of cinematography, it sort of fades into the background behind compelling plots and the beauty of the landscape he chooses to shoot in.

We, on the other hand, had Burnaby.

CONCEPT: 4/5 – The idea was sort of noble, rather than do something overly violent or depressing (as most student films seem to turn out) we tried to do something with a more light hearted message. Probably because the two example movies we were shown have to do with strangling women.

INNOVATION: 3/5 – Not a whole lot new here. Imagination shown in black and while, blinking eye to transition, repetition, deus ex machina, the works. We forgot to include the scene that explained that Jamie was looking for me because I didn’t come to her party. I wonder if that came through at all.

SATISFACTION: 2/5 – Although it was one of the better films, I think with more time and more retakes, paying more attention to lighting, and framing shots more interestingly, we could have made a better movie.

EXECUTION: 3/5 – Total editing time was around 30 hours for everyone combined, which was partly because everyone was learning to use the program. We almost lost the entire thing twice, and had other technical issues. Turned out alright though.

FUN FACTOR: 2/5 – At the beginning of the project, 4, at the end 0. So an average of 2 will suffice.
OVERALL: 5/10 – If this were a grade, I would give us 75%, but since this is a 10 point scale where 50% isn’t a fail, I’m giving us a 5 overall. Some good element, but ultimately too much work for too little payoff. The next one will be better, if we ever do one.

Food Poisoning (confirmed)

The sweat of bad meats and dreams of fictional children’s movies: an illness in three acts

It might have been the pizza pockets, or the wasabi peas, or the apple, or the 5 beers, or the two shots of sambuca, or the eggs on english muffins, or the taco and mexican platter, or the microwave popcorn, or the rootbeer, or the sourdough with cheese whiz, or the doritos and banana (sorry Leah), or the johnny cakes, or the yucatan hash (was it the hash?), or the bagel with cream cheese, or the rest of the wasabi peas, or the second rootbeer,

BUT somewhere over the weekend I ingested something that wanted to reproduce rapidly in my gut. And it weren’t rabbits!

Did you know there’s no such thing as a 24 hour flu? If you have a flu that lasts for around 24 hours it’s a bacterial infection, not influenza. A bit of a misnomer.

Being rid-to-bed and constantly thirsty, I was out of commision for about 26 hours or so. Pretty much from the moment I arived home from Victoria until midnight the following day when I woke up and realized I’d sweat it out. Waking up and realizing you’ve sweat something out is a mixed blessing. On one hand it’s out, on the other it’s sweat. It nice to not be losing water our every possible orifice, however.

There was a small bonus to being ill, but if I were a less easily amused person I doubt I would count it as positive. I had some awesome hallucinations! I can’t remember them all, but true to form they involved great internal struggle that was completely fruitless. At one point 3 ideas (who knows what) were all trying to be processed at once inside my head, and all I knew is that I couldn’t let any one of them ‘win’.

Another point, more memorable because it was near the end, I watch three completely invented children’s animated movies (one hand drawn, the others computer animated). One was an epic, like Lord of the Rings, I think it was the hand drawn one, and it was my favourite. I was drawn in by the massive scope, the heartfelt characters, and the obviously large budget. After watching all three, I played a video game that Electronic Arts had produced on my favourite of the three. I remember looking at the map screen and thinking “Typical. They took the most impressive quality, the massive scope and expansive world and reduced it to a single screen with animated glowing houses for the towns, and little green goblins for nondescript bad guys.” To travel from point to point you just pressed a direction and your characters moved along a dotted line to the next town. So, I phoned Moss to complain about this feature, but then we got sidetracked talking about something else.

CONCEPT: 0/5 – Not… What? Who… Why does this exist? These microbes don’t make sense. If they succeed, the host dies, and so do they. If they do not succeed, the host wins, and they die.

INNOVATION: 1/5 – Good job at making me miss class, I haven’t been sick in a while.

SATISFACTION: 1/5 – I can’t justify missing out on a day and a half of my life, even if it was relaxing in a strange way.

EXECUTION: 2/5 – To my benefit, those little fuckers didn’t even keep me down for over 26 hours.

FUN FACTOR: 0/5 – Upset bummy.

OVERALL: 1/10 – Go to hell, gastro!