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28 February
Feb 28
28th February 2018

I don't actually know why people are banging on about it. I know the main selling point is that it's meant to put back the social in social media, which is something I'm all for.  I'm just as sick of algorithms and ads as the next person. So I thought I'd download the app to see what all the fuss was about... ...This was meant to be the part where I told you about my mind-blowing experience with the app, but there was so much downtime and server crashes I never actually got to do anything beyond setting my profile picture. Not that I hold this against VERO; they're a new app, they've had a -lot- of people sign up. These things are expected. I can tell you that the design is pretty. Almost too pretty one might say, but that one person might be used to the simple black and white interface of Instagram, so what would they know? And that's... kind of all I can say about it, really. But as I found myself scrolling through the apps reviews, I came across a comment that got me thinking. Okay, so I couldn't find the actual review but it was something pretty much along the lines of  "everyone goes crazy for new apps claiming to be a de-cluttered network, but then people miss the familiarity of the cluttered ones, stop caring and return to their social app of choice." Social media is no longer what it was intended for and that's okay. I've been using Instagram as my main network for years now. Facebook for me has always been for connecting with people who have been in my house or I would feel comfortable with them being in my house. I never really got into Twitter, I have an account, but mostly just so I can scream things into the void when I have no one to talk to, with a weird satisfaction that most of the time no one reads them. There was Mastadon, which used the same selling point as Vero. It was nice, but that was it, really. After the novelty of feeling like I was on a mashup of an old 90s forum and a much friendlier Twitter, I went back to Instagram. Because that's where the familiarity and network I've built slowly over the years lie.   Instagrams got an elitishly biased algorithm. It's tailored for those with money for ads and the suggested feed is horrifically inaccurate. But it's brutishly simple and a bit shit. Two values I've come to love and relate to a lot. It's also -for whatever reason- the place where most of my book sales came from without investing a penny into ads or 60+ hashtags.   Vero claims to be a lot, including free (for the first million users) So like the rest of them, money comes into it somewhere in the end.   What I guess I'm trying to say is, maybe we need to stop complaining about what social media has become and accept it for what it is.   Also, I can pin terrible gifs to peoples heads in my Instagram story and that's something we should never take for granted....

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2 November
Nov 2
2nd November 2017

Or You weren't there man, you weren't there! Here's the thing: An awful lot of people- including myself- claim Final Fantasy VII to be the best games of all time. Here's the other thing: The vast majority of those people played the game not too long after it's release. Ask anyone- even Google, why Final Fantasy VII is one of the best games ever and you're likely to find a lot of people giving you their list of reasons. My first memory of playing the best game ever was back when Playstation magazine included free demo discs that held a list of short demos of upcoming releases along with a (usually) pretty awful indie game. I was roughly 7 years old when the FFVII demo came to one of those discs. Me and my friends played it right up until it ends where Cloud outruns a group of Shinra soldiers by jumping onto the roof of an incoming train passing under the bridge directly beneath him, 90's action movie style. I loved it so much that I irritatingly tried to force anyone who had a ps1 to play it. I still preached about it in my teens to my classmates--who at this point in time were enjoying the GTA era on the ps2. This was my first experience of being laughed at for liking what was a pretty "uncool"* game to be into at this point. *They didn't use the word "uncool", but we were all young and foolish back then. I could bore you with how many friendships and relationships were born out of that game for me, but instead, i'm going to tell you a few pretty understandable reasons why someone may not like the best your favourite game ever. The graphics Yeah, okay so it was 1997 this game came out. 3D was still an early learning point for a lot of game companies including Squaresoft (now Square Enix) but let's face it. Unless you were there at the time, no one is going to be drooling over playable lego characters and cutscenes that look like a Playmobile role play from the 'you-should've-gone-to-bed-three-hours-ago' side of Youtube. The bad translations If you're familiar with 80s-90's anime, you may have been exposed to some of the awful, pretty inaccurate and mostly cringy subs or dubs available at the time. The same goes for a lot of games that originated from Japan. There's a lot of things in FFVII from abysmal grammar typos to things that just don't add up to missed punchlines.  Nothing that would particularly ruin the story, but it does give a pretty jarring experience in some cases. Some people just don't like JRPG's Or RPG's in general, for that matter. Although some of the newer Final Fantasy's being a little more up to date with AAA games (you can hack and slash people up every time you hit a button rather than selecting a command and waiting). Back in the 90's, I remember RPG's still being quite new to a lot of gamers. "Why can't you just hit them with X?" and "What the F*** is this Materia system sh**? were issues my fellow 7-year-old gamers would bring up. It's also quite a big change if you're used to only playing Westernised games. Gameplay, style and just how people talk to one another are pretty big things in games and if you're not used to that you may not...um, like it? I dunno. I have and still do experience people who see playing JRPG's as the equivalent of sacrificing a goat on your lunch break instead of eating a cheese sandwich. I wanted to challenge myself in not-defending one of my favourite games ever, but I will leave you with at least trying Final Fantasy VII. It may not be your jam,  but there's a reason it's so popular and I know a lot of people who have played the game very recently and have enjoyed it just as much if they were there for it back in "the day". Don't knock it until you've tried it. Don't bitch it until you've hitched it(??)  ...

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30 October
Oct 30
30th October 2017

OR I found a game that doesn't make me want to rage-quit via GIPHY   That probably sounds odd. Most people want to get better at games so they can beat them. Go figure (I still can't make that sound natural in my British accent.) But here's the thing. I grew up playing my fair share of video games. Then I got married, had kids, got a 'real' job... I got old, basically. And fast. And being old means there's a lot of shit you feel too old for. But, having a passion for video games doesn't mean I've stopped playing them. Just means I don't pull all-nighters trying to get all my characters to level 99 on Final Fantasy VII.  Just means I play a lot of "retro" games, "quick" games of Halo and less action-packed, haemorrhage-inducing games like Dark Souls and more chilled out, story-heavy games like Life Is Strange. I'm cool with that. f̶̱̱̖͋̽̔͘͝͠ͅu̴̧̡̬̝͈̭̙͔͇͚̜̫̍͊̔͒̉̀͘͜c̸̨̧̥͔̭͈̗̖͎̅̾̽̍̃̒͒͂k̶̡̨̬̘͗̎͌̇̿̉́͗͛̂͘ off with your loot boxes. A colleague at work pointed me in the direction of HLD a few weeks ago. I was dazzled by the bright colours, pixel art and intriguing story the trailer gave off with the beautiful piano piece in the background. But money., the whisper echoed out of the cave that was my bank balance. But writing, said my unhealthy need to put one word after another every day. Then I bought a copy of Edge magazine and read an interview with the game's creator, Alex Preston. The interview intrigued me more and the tiny bio pic of Alex looking slightly thoughtful with a cigarette hanging off his bottom lip somehow made me buy this game. Plus, it was 15 quid. Worst case it was just a complete waste of money and a deeper grave for my overdraft. and it's like...I don't know. It's like a real game. Everyone talks in pictures or weird robot noises and I don't know how the hell they did it, but when I get defeated in the game, it doesn't make me want to rage quit and mumble "I'm too old for this shit". It makes me want to try again. And again. Until I beat it. And as much as I love RPG's and levelling up systems, there's no grinding involved. your skill is based on pure practice from the time you put into it and I can't believe I'm saying this but I love that.  Even when you buy a skill from the shop, it's certainly no shortcut. great, I thought. I can buy the double dash and make it across bigger gaps/dodge enemies with ease. But it turns out, you have to get good at that skill too. Endless time spent trying to get the perfect rhythm in mashing that button. Everything must be earned. I've no idea why this game- a type of game I'd usually play for about ten mins, die once and never play again- has me so involved. I was going to say addicted, but it's a more conscious way of playing than that. As in, I actually choose to play it. Did I mention it has co-op? on the same screen? What a novelty these days. Now stop reading and go do something with your life like playing video games instead of finishing that novel you claim you don't have time for.  ...

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26 October
Oct 26
26th October 2017

Or Ranting about video games is cheaper than seeing a therapist I seem to be drawn to the angsty Final Fantasy characters recently. That's not that I don't like the optimistic, happier seeming ones. I guess I can just relate to them more... I know right? Sad violin, please. Don't get me wrong though. Like a lot of gamers and FF fans, I still have my "christ-get-over-yourself" moments with them. But since replaying FFVIII recently and having returning, heavy bouts of depression, I'm finding that my new found dickish moments in real life (likely fueled by my poor mental health) can be therapeutically explored through our angsty school kid, Squall. Even so, I'm actually finding it to be more therapeutic making the nicer choices in action and dialogue through the vessel of an almost irritating, moody character. Maybe because it's easier to control my out of character outbursts in a game than in real life. Is that sad? I think it's a bit sad. (It is, isn't it?) I'm aware I'm using Squall Leonhart for this example, but that's only because I've been replaying VIII. It's just as possible to do it with any most a lot of Final Fantasy games. Not to go off topic, but Lightning might be the only FF Character that I felt was overwhelmingly angsty. She had reason to be, of course. Like they all do but... You can't just punch people in the face every time they try and be optimistic or say something you don't like. It's just not acceptable. in real life AND in aesthetically orgasmic video games with no world map.  ...

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24 October
Oct 24
24th October 2017

Or writing about one of your favourite games to avoid the horrifying realisation that it's ending soon With the 2nd episode of Before the Storm that came out this month, you may be familiar or at least have heard of Life is Strange. For the not-so-familiar, LiS is a non-linear choice based game from the minds of DONTNOD (Remember me). Despite being a story focused indie game, it did amazingly well. Won a bunch of awards for it a few years back and the fan base is obsessive and loyal. Things got busier at DONTNOD since the game's success, so they handed the production of the prequel over to DECK NINE. I recently finished the 2nd episode of the prequel: Before the Storm and I am not in the slightest bit disappointed like the internet seemed compelled on telling me I would be. DECK NINE are doing an amazing job of making an amazing game- even without the time travel. And as for all the moaning about the change in Chloe’s voice actor… I honestly don’t think I would have noticed if someone hadn’t told me prior. It made sense anyway, as the Chloe in BTS is younger. Regardless, both voice actors are amazing. The Life is Strange games are not for everyone. This game can be played in a pretty laid back manner, so if you prefer playing games where it feels like there’s a hand curling its fingers around your heart ready to rip it out when you run out of HP (Hi Dark Souls) then this game might not be for you. But for someone who doesn’t get much gaming time these days outside of work and parenting (you can’t “just pause” A Halo 3 campaign on Legendary, crying baby or no), this game was perfect. what it lacks in button mashing action, makes up for in a brilliant story, relatable characters and multiple outcomes from the choices you make with heavy impact. I was a little late to the game with Life is Strange, so thankfully all the episodes were already out and night by night me and my wife devoured them. We also got to watch and judge each other on the different outcomes we picked for each of our games. The Time Travel was great and definitely enhanced the cleverness of the story as well as making for an… weeks of nightmare-inducing interesting final level, but even if you were to take the time travel element out, it still would have one mindf*ck of a story. Characters can actually die if you don’t pick the right choice. Not me though, because I'm a good friend. To replace the time travel function, you have conversations with people where you actually listen to keywords in their speech in order to work out the correct thing to say back. No, it’s not as sci-fi as Time travel, but it’s still pretty fun and challenging. It can get pretty intense sometimes as you’re on a time limit too. Plus, once the time limits over, fans of the first game- including myself- will be horrified to realise you really cant turn time back and choose the only option you didn’t pick (the right one). you’re stuck with that choice for the rest of the game. Oh yeah, You genuinely get to play DnD with some college friends.I’ve never touched a 20-sided die before, but this made me want to. The in-game DnD game makes for some pretty funny outcomes and like real DnD, it can be one long game if you want it to be. If you do choose to play it, I’m going to advise you on a spoiler-free choice you can choose during the DnD sesh simply because everyone else keeps telling me to do: Pick Barb. I have no idea why, but that’s what everyone keeps telling me to do. So yeah, pick Barb. And finally, Chloe Fucking price. It’s amazing and a little worrying how much people seem to relate to Chloe Price, including me. In both games, there are things she does and says that trigger things in me that makes me just want to tell her to grow the hell up (that’s probably the Dad in me, whatcha gonna do?) But then there’s also times I really, really feel for her. There’s a scene in Before the Storm that my wife and I got pretty emotionally...

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