Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Doctor Who 'The Snowmen' Review

The 2012 Doctor Who Christmas Special ‘The Snowmen’ is without a doubt the best Christmas Special we’ve had to date.  A brave statement I’m sure, especially as 2010’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ was so beautifully told a story.  But what ‘The Snowmen’ does so wonderfully is ignore the fact that it’s a Christmas Special.  It’s got the longer format of the Christmas Specials, and it’s set at Christmas, but gone are all of the awful over the top Christmasyness (yes, it’s a real word) that made many of the previous specials so horrible to watch.  No more killer Christmas trees, robot Santa’s and exploding remote control baubles.  Instead we are given a very down to earth and very human story that focused more on the characters and their struggles rather than some gaudy threat that needed to be stopped.

The core of the story itself wasn’t the Snowmen, or even the villains behind the Snowmen, but The Doctor and Clara Oswin Oswald.  We are brought into a story to find a Doctor that had finally been beaten into submission.  The devastating loss of the Ponds has taken its toll on him and caused him to give up on the universe.  Through the episode we see him fighting against his natural urge to get involved in the mystery that Madame Vastra and co. are investigating, as well as the draw to the spunky barmaid Clara.  This is a nice change, and a great chance to see a Doctor that feels cheated and hurt by the universe that he’s helped to save so many times in the past.  But by the end of the story both we and The Doctor see that sometimes you have to set aside the bigger picture and just focus on the one person, the one person in this case being Clara.

Clara and The Doctor investigate The Snowmen.

Clara herself was a wonderful character to watch come to life on the screen and did what ay good companion does, made us forget about who came before.  Now, no disrespect for Amy and Rory, I think they’re a great pair of companions and I am sad that they’re not in the show anymore, but not once during the episode did I want them instead of Clara.  Clara captured my imagination and had such a wonderfully fun attitude that I couldn’t help but fall in love with her the same way The Doctor did.

There was a lot of intrigue going into this episode surrounding Clara as the actress Jenna Louise Coleman had made a surprise appearance in the first episode of the series as Oswin Oswald.  Knowing Steven Moffat as we do it was obvious at this point that he was laying the seeds for something big, and one of the more popular theories was that Oswin was going to be future version of Clara and that The Doctor was going to meet her out of order, much like River Song.  Instead Moffat has given us something so much more original and exciting.  Clara Oswin Oswald is a woman who appears in two different time periods, possibly as two different people with separate memories, who meets The Doctor and dies.  So, we now know that the Clara that will be travelling in the Tardis will not be the one from Victorian England or the future, but another version.  This has set up a mystery that will no doubt continue to unfold through out the rest of the series, possibly building up to the big 50th celebration.

The Great Intelligence commands the living snow.

Returning for the Christmas Special were the Silurian detective Madam Vastra, her wife Jenny and their Sontaran butler Strax, as last seen in the series six episode ‘A Good Man Goes to War’.  The three of them make a great team, and each work perfectly with The Doctor, each brining something unique to the mix.  It was also fun to hear that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle based Sherlock Holmes and Watson on the adventures of Vastra and Jenny.

Whilst the title of the episode seemed to suggest that the main villains of the piece were going to be the snowmen themselves it was revealed that they were in fact just the foot soldiers of Doctor Simeon and The Great Intelligence.  Although it would have been nice to see more of them their inclusion definitely improved the episode, due in no small part to the amazing casting of Richard E. Grant and Sir Ian McKellen.  It was also a great treat for fans of classic Doctor Who to see an origin episode for The Great Intelligence that appeared as a villain for Patrick Troughton’s second Doctor.

The episode also boasted a new and improved opening title sequence and theme tune, along with a new Tardis interior. 

The new opening sequence was a great new change and whilst their was nothing wrong with the old one it often benefits from a revamp time to time, much like the Tardis, the companions and even The Doctor himself.  Changing things up from simply having the Tardis flying through the time vortex to include images of space was something that the show hadn’t really seen since Sylvester McCoy’s title sequence.  And the inclusion on The Doctor’s face in the opening was something that I’ve been waiting for since the show returned to our screens in 2005, and the lack of it in the years between then and now has felt completely wrong.  The music also goes through a great revamp, once again being unmistakably Doctor Who, yet bringing something new and interesting to the mix.  

The Tardis, smaller on the outside.
The new Tardis control room also gives hints back to the history of the show with a console that is very reminiscent of the one that Davison, Baker (Colin) and McCoy used during their tenure on the show.  The set also seems to reflect the new mood The Doctor has taken, gone are the bright oranges and golds from the fun times he had with the Ponds, instead we’ve got the blue and green colours of his lonely brooding.  The glowing tubes inside the central column and turning mechanisms above it help to show that the Tardis is a machine, with engines and moving parts, not just a magical box.

Whilst it only appears briefly in the episode and we have yet to see everything I have to admit that I like the new look.  We’d gotten to know the last control room pretty well and it’s nice to have the show give us something new.  I can’t wait to see more, especially in the upcoming episode entitled ‘Journey to The Centre of The Tardis’.

‘The Snowmen’ was an incredible episode, the best Christmas Special to date and a great introduction to an exciting new companion.  The supporting cast were great, with both the heroes and villains each getting their moments to shine.  A fantastic piece of storytelling, a shame a lot more shows aren’t as good as this!


Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Chernobyl Diaries Review

I went into ‘Chernobyl Diaries’ knowing nothing about the film, I hadn’t even seen a trailer, I’d only seen the poster when the film was first released in cinemas and knew that it was a horror film.  As such I went into the film with no expectations or preconceptions of what I’d be in for. 

The film starts off well, taking it’s time to establish its cast of characters instead of just jumping into the action.  The film also starts with a great fake-out as it starts with scenes of hand held camera footage, leading me to believe that the film was going to be yet another ‘found footage’ film, before shifting to a traditionally shot film.  It was actually very refreshing to watch a film that was not ‘found footage’ as many of the new horror films have begun taking up the format.

The film focuses on a group of six tourists and their tour guide who go on an extreme tour of Prypiat, an abandoned town that sits beside the Chernobyl nuclear reactor.  The city of Prypiat is amazingly beautiful and eerie all at the same time.  The massive, abandoned buildings, the over grown streets and long forgotten everyday artefacts creates a real sense of a very real world horror.  It would be very easy to visit the location and become both awed and frightened by what you see.  These locations give the film a sense of scope and beauty that set it apart from a lot of other horror films that tend to focus on tight, confining spaces.

The plot begins to build well, giving you time to get to know the characters and explore the location of Prypiat as they do before the tension begins to ramp up.  Unfortunately thought once the tension builds to a certain point it stops growing.  From the first scares to the last there is little to no escalation in tension, no growth to the threat.  The threat itself begins well enough, with the first encounter leaving it very vague as to what it is, however, once you become aware of what the threat is you can quickly loose interest.

The film does have one of the best animal scares though.  Where many films will have a cat or a dog suddenly jumping out at a tense moment Chernobyl Diaries takes this formula and puts its own spin on it, and creates the most memorable moment in the film.

Chernobyl Diaries is a fairly standard by-the-numbers horror film that adds nothing new to the genre or tries anything particularly innovative.  That being said it does have a few stand out moments and the locations are wonderful to look at and create a visual style that not many other films share. 

A fairly competent horror film that is definitely worth a watch, even though it may not appeal to everyone’s tastes.


Saturday, 15 December 2012

Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story Review

‘Total Recall: My Unbelievably True Life Story’ is an autobiography of the world famous actor, politician and champion bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger.  Unlike many autobiographies that I have read this book seems to focus more on what Arnold achieved in office as Governor of California and his massive business successes, rather than stories of his life and personal experiences.
I’m not saying that that’s all the book has to it, there is still a great deal in their that appeals to me as a fan, and I learnt a great deal about him that I did not know before.  However, the last third of the book centres mostly on his time as Governor of California and the different initiatives he introduced and what he did to improve the economy of the state and very quickly becomes more of a chore to read than the rest of the book.

The first 200 or so pages of the book focus on Arnold’s childhood, his bodybuilding career and his journey from Austria to America as a young man.  During these pages, when Arnold comes to the realisation that bodybuilding is the path for him he begins a statement that will be repeated many times in the book, that once he sets his mind to something, no matter what it is, he will achieve his goals.
Arnold also gives some interesting insights and anecdotes about a number of the films that he work on over the years, describing how he interacted with the fellow cast members as well as the crew, how he was nervous about playing the Terminator through fear of being typecast as a villain, and the various personal struggles that took place around his movies, like filming scenes for Predator one day and flying back home the next to attend his own wedding!

These stories are fascinating and entertaining, and I wished that Arnold had sent more time talking about his film career and could tell us more stories from the sets of his film, but I have a feeling that these stories could fill a number of books just on their own.

Intertwined with his film career are stories about how he sets up successful real-estate and mail order businesses, meets and falls in love with his wife, Maria Shriver, and becomes involved in politics at a non-governor level.
As I said earlier, the last part of the book deals with Arnold as governor or California, which is an interesting insight into one of the world’s biggest economies during a difficult financial time. However what initially begins as an interesting read quickly becomes bogged down by political jargon.  These last sections feel less like an autobiography and more like a list of things that Arnold feels he needs to justify about his time in office, to show that he did some good during his terms.

Finally, after dealing with politics Arnold addresses his infidelity, his illegitimate child and the breakdown of his marriage with Maria.   Unfortunately, like with most of the book, Arnold just gives us the bare facts, a breakdown of what happened and little to no emotion.  Perhaps Arnold is a very private person, and whilst he is comfortable telling us what has happened to him over the years, he does not feel comfortable telling us how these events affected him emotionally.
‘Total Recall’ is an interesting read, especially for a fan of Arnold and gives a lot of insights into his career, however, it lacks on personal stories and actual emotional content.  A prime example is when Arnold tells the story of how is mother died, which was moving, but I can’t help but feel that is Arnold had put more emotion into it it would have had a greater impact upon me as the reader.  Overall an enjoyable read filled with great stories, but lacks any real depth or emotion.


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Tuesday, 11 December 2012

1000 Hits!

Wow, thank you everyone for visiting my blog and supporting my writing, I've had over 500 hits in the last month and it's all down to you guys!  Thank you so much for showing your support and reading my blog, I hope that I can continue to produce posts that you can all enjoy!

Thnk you all.


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Thursday, 6 December 2012

The Walking Dead Retrospective

The Walking Dead was first published almost ten years ago by Image Comics and has since gone on to become one of the best selling independent comic books of all time and has become a global phenomenon.  With the first issue selling for thousands and spin off media including television and video games you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t heard of The Walking Dead.  With the television show having just reached it’s third series mid-season finale I thought that I’d take this time to look at The Walking Dead, talk about the differences in the various mediums and what makes the title so popular.

The Comic
The Walking Dead comic is one of the most successful independent comic books ever printed.  First produced in 2003 by Image Comics and featuring the creative team of Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore (later replaced by Charlie Adlard), the book quickly became a hit.  I first read the book when it was picked at my local book club and was instantly hooked by it.  I proceeded to read every available graphic novel and comic until I was up to date, and have tried to stay their ever since.  But what is it with the book that one captured my imagination so greatly, and has since turned to massive disappointment? 

 The beauty of the book was that it was unlike anything else at the time, with most other zombie comic books at the time being mini-series’ that tended to focus on the more horror movie aspect, of people fighting for survival.  The Walking Dead flipped this formula on its head, with the story starting months after the zombie outbreak and focusing on the survivors and their journey their relationships.

Instead of focusing on fighting zombies and fighting them physically the books showed the characters fighting their own inner demons, the struggle to come to terms with their losses and their need to find food and shelter.  In many cases the un-dead were more of a background object than a central focus.

Unfortunately after a certain while the book recycles the same plots again and again.  The Walking Dead seems to follow one particular story structure over and over again.  The main group meets some survivors, they join together, they find somewhere they think they can be safe, half of them get killed, they meet more survivors, they join together, and on and on it goes again and again.  New characters enter, old ones leave but the book always stays the same because nothing new ever happens.

Yes, there are some good things in the book, some great character moments and twists that genuinely shock the reader, usually relating to a sudden and gruesome demise of a character.  Unfortunately these good things cannot stop the fact that there is little to no plot development.  After reading the book for a hundred issues I just get the sense that Kirkman never intended for the book to run as long as it has, that he ran out of new and interesting idea a long while ago.

The Walking Dead starts as a great read, but unfortunately decreases in quality over time.  If you haven’t read the books, but are a fan of the show or even just curious about The Walking Dead the books are a must read, but be prepared for quality to diminish over time.

Televisionn Show

Unlike the comic series the television adaptation continues to move from strength to strength.  The television series is where The Walking Dead really took off and found a whole new fan base, allowing the series to become accessible to people who would never read the books.

The series is currently in the middle of its third season, with each season becoming more and more popular, with great new actors joining the cast and exciting new story lines that are brand new to the franchise.

The greatest strength of the show is that it doesn’t just completely follow the plot of the comic books, but instead tells its own unique story.  As someone who had read the books this difference is what makes the show exciting, even though I know the basic structure of the plots the show is telling, the details are completely unknown to me, and can go in any direction.

My favourite part of the show though is the characters.  The show treats the characters from the book much better than they ever were in the original source material.  For example, in the books Carl is pretty useless, remaining very child like despite everything that’s happening to the characters, however, in the show Carl as quickly become a hardened fighter, engaging in combat with the zombies as much as his adult counterparts and proving to be a vital member of the group.

In addition the characters created just for the show are also some of the best, with Merle developing in depth with each episode and Daryl being the single best character in the whole franchise.  

It feels like the television series is Kirkmans way of going back and correcting his mistakes, of creating a better crafted story than what he first produced.  One of the finest examples of doing something better the second time round.  A great version of The Walking Dead and one of the best shows on television right now.

The Video Game

The Walking Dead video game is a point and click adventure developed by Telltale games and is currently available for download on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3,with a disc release scheduled over the next few weeks.  It is set within the universe of the comic series, but tells its own story that begins before the comic, and eventually runs concurrently to it.

The story begins with the very early days of the zombie outbreak, when people were still unsure what was going on and that the army would sae them.  It’s refreshing to see this part of the story as it’s something that hasn’t been shown up till now, with both the comic and the television show starting up after the initial outbreak.

The game puts you in the shoes of Lee Everett, an essentially good man who had made some mistakes in his life and was on his way to prison at the start of the outbreak. Very quickly Lee encounters Clementine, a young girl left on her own.  Over the course of the rest of the game Lee becomes Clementine’s protector and surrogate father figure and fights to keep her alive through the end of the world.

Despite being a game that crafts its story based upon the decisions you make, its core story is amazing.  It once again focuses on the human aspect of the story rather than the zombies and shows just how delicate human relationships can be, with the wrong words chosen by the player having long lasting and potentially disastrous consequences for the survivors. 

The beauty of being set in the same world as the comic books is that it can use what has already come before it to tell its own story with greater ease. It also allows you to meet a number of characters from the books before Rick does, with early appearances of both Hershel and Glenn.

A great, fun and easy to play game that crafts a great story that will have you massively engrossed.  It’s very easy to start playing the game and fall in love with the characters, but be warned, just like in the rest of The Walking Dead franchise no one is safe from death, so try not to get too attached whilst playing.

All the best!


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Sunday, 2 December 2012

Mass Effect 3 Omega Review

The three heroes of 'Omega', Aria, Shepard and Nyreen

The ‘Omega’ downloadable content is the newest story related update for the critically acclaimed Mass Effect 3 and was released earlier this week.  It takes Commander Shepard and drops him/her into the bowels of Omega, a space station home to some of the worst criminals in the galaxy that is now under the rule of the terrorist organisation Cerberus.  Shepard joins forces with Aria T’Loak, former big boss of Omega.  If Shepard can help aria retake her station she will give Shepard ships, soldiers and resources that may help in the battle to save all life in the galaxy.

‘Omega’ is one of the better pieces of dlc for Mass Effect 3.  So far the majority of the extra content for the game has been multi-player content, with the only other piece of story content (other than the extended cut) being ‘Leviathan’.  Where ‘Leviathan’ offered a mystery story ‘Omega’ is a straight up action story.  From start to finish it’s Shepard and Omega against Cerberus.  And it’s great.

Revisiting the Omega space station last seen in Mass Effect 2 the player is taken through the dirty and gritty under-hive of one of the most lawless places in the Mass Effect Universe.  Many of the other locations featured in Mass Effect 3 are planetary environments and as such are large, fairly open areas.  This is scrapped in ‘Omega’ in favour of dark, tight tunnels that turn combat from army vs. army battles into small, desperate skirmishes. 

Along with the change in setting is also a change in squad mates to accompany you.  Gone are your companions from the main game, instead replaced by the leader of the assault on Omega, Aria T’Loak, and a new face to the series Nyreen Kandros, former Turian soldier and current leader of the Talon Gang that make Omega their home.

What makes Nyreen stand out as an addition to the series is the fact that she is the first female Turian to appear in the games.  To date female Turians have only appeared in the extended media, but Omega marks the first time one has appeared in the actual games and focuses as much on her as it does Aria and Shepard.  A former Turian soldier that was thrown out of the military after she developed biotic abilities she came to Omega and met Aria.  The two of them became close friends and allies until Nyreen became disillusioned with the way of life on Omega.  Since that day she disappears, only to return during the Cerberus occupation of Omega as the leader of the Talon gang, with the mission of freeing the citizens of Omega from Cerberus rule.

Nyreen Kandros, Mass Effect's first female Turian

Nyreen is a great addition to the Mass Effect universe, and it’s great to spend more time with Aria and see some more depth to her character rather than just ‘crime lord’.  Along with some great action sequences, a brand new set of environments to travel around and new characters ‘Omega’ is a fun addition to Mass Effect 3 that helps to build on what was already in the game, as well as continuing on plot threads introduced in the comic series.

Great fun to play and has some excellent new additions to the game and the series as a whole.  My only complaint with it is that Nyreen does not stick around beyond the dlc into the main game as a new squad mate companion.  8/10.


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Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Skyfall Review

This post WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS for the new Bond film 'Skyfall', so if you have yet to watch the film and intend to do so please do not continue reading.

Before I begin with my review of ‘Skyfall’ I have to say that I really enjoyed the two previous Daniel Craig Bond movies.  I found that after decades of more and more campy and ridiculous plots and gadgets and silly villains Bond had become very stale and boring to watch.  However, when ‘Casino Royale’ was released it, for me anyway, completely wiped the slate clean off all that had come before it, giving us a clever, sleek, real-world depiction of James Bond.

‘Casino Royale’ made Bond great again, it showed him as a real man, in real world situations.  Gone were the exploding pens and laser watches and car chases over glaciers that were being melted by satellite weapons, instead we had the real world and someone who whilst clearly above average, some one still very much a human being.  He was even able to get hurt fighting people taking more beatings then I can ever remember Bond having.

Followed up by ‘Quantum of Solace’, a first real sequel to a Bond film, the new films looked to be getting better and better.  They were even working on establishing this new global terrorist threat in the form of Quantum, a group that was everywhere and could be anyone.  I loved this, the sense of scale and mystery was great, and held a lot of parallels to S.P.E.C.T.R.E. in the original Bond films.

Unfortunately this plot thread does not continue on in ‘Skyfall’ at all.  The film doesn’t even mention Quantum in passing, almost as if the first two films never happened.  Instead ‘Skyfall’ focuses its story on a former British agent who has a personal vendetta against M.  Rather than tackling a global threat or massive conspiracy Bond instead becomes more of a bodyguard than a secret agent.

Whilst the plot itself isn’t bad it feels like more of a generic action movie rather than what we’ve come to expect from Bond, especially from Daniel Craig’s time in the roll.  Unfortunately this change in direction, by completely dropping the Quantum plot, and focusing more on a small personal threat rather than global danger takes away from what could have been a much better film, it just feels out of place.

The action sequences in the film are adequate, but once again not as entertaining as Craig’s previous outings in the roll, and seem to be focused more on creating pretty visuals than enthralling fights.

One of the best things about the movie though is the pleasant surprise of seeing the whole of the second half set in England.  It’s great to see Bond fighting the villain in his home country, rather than defending it from afar and the final set piece at Skyfall Manor in Scotland is beautifully shot and well executed.

The film also has Bond teaming up with the best ‘Bond Girl’ yet, Judi Dench’s M.  Teaming up Bond and M makes for some great moments, both for beautiful character moments that explore the mother/son relationship they have and some comedic moments.

Unfortunately this relationship comes to a close in this film as *SPOILER ALERT* M is killed.  M is then replaced by a new M, complete with his secretary Moneypenny, bringing the series back round in tone to the original films.  This change in the status quo wipes away everything we have seen in ‘Casino Royale’ and ‘Quantum of Solace’ and instead gives us a stand alone story that just seems to be used to set up for more films that will be just like the older Bond films, something I personally am not looking forward to.

‘Skyfall’ could have been a great film, something that would celebrate the 50 years of Bond, but instead feels like a slap in the face because everything I had become invested in since Daniel Craig took over has been cast aside and the end of ‘Skyfall’ feels like a completely different film from the one we deserved.  A very poor effort from MGM, one that casts aside continuity to deliver something outdated and boring.  I was excited about the new Bond films, but now it’s going to be very hard to convince me to watch whatever one follows on from ‘Skyfall’.


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Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Scalped Review

I knew nothing about Scalped going into the book, apart from the obvious name and the cover art that suggested it dealt with Native Americans in some way. If anything I was expecting a historical piece, so I was pleasantly surprised when I opened the book to find a dirty, gritty story set in relatively modern America.

As the story unfolded over the first issue I was finding it hard to sympathise with Dashiell ‘Dash’ Bad Horse at all, and couldn’t see how he was going to be a character I would want to continue reading about, but the revelations as to his true motivations made him a much more interesting character, one trapped in a awful situation that I wanted to see resolved.
Scalped is well written and has some great twists and turns in this first volume and creates a cast of very dubious and multi-faceted character where it’s not always clear who is the hero and who is the villain, and much like in real life the people in the book are shown to be able to perform acts of kindness and acts of evil.

I am very much looking forward to reading the next volume of Scalped and seeing how the story and characters continue to evolve. 7/10


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Monday, 26 November 2012

Transition Has Finally Started Moving Forward!

Over six months ago I had my last session with my counsellor, who signed off on me being Trans and not just crazy, and my GP made me a referral to the gender clinic in London.  During this six months period I have been waiting and waiting for my referral letter, I’ve been phoning the clinic every week, I’ve been back to my GP and had him write to them to try and get some sort of answer from them.  All I want is a date for my appointment, I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a timeframe after waiting for six months!

Today though, things have started to change.  After phoning them up, for probably the fiftieth time, they finally gave me some information.  It’s finally my turn!  The person in charge is applying for my funding, for which I should get a letter in the next two weeks, and once the funding comes through I’ll be getting my appointment!

I know it’s not much but something’s finally started to happen, things are moving forward, no matter how little.  It’s not much information but it already feels like a weight has been lifted and I’m relieved and happy.  I’m not being ignored, things have started!!!

Sorry that this post doesn’t have much to it, but I’m just really happy at the minute about what’s going on for me.


Thursday, 22 November 2012

Video Games as a Storytelling Medium

Clementine and Lee from The Walking Dead game.

Today saw the release of the fifth and final episode of The Walking Dead video game, the end to a story that I loved and a goodbye to characters that touched my heart in so many ways.  For me today wasn’t about playing the game, it was seeing what was going to happen to the people.  I say people over characters because that is what they had become to me over the last seven months of playing this game.  I had been with them through their highs and lows, I’d been their when people were betrayed, when friendships were forged, sacrifices were made and tragedy struck.  This had become more than just a mere video game, played for action or thrills, it had become a gripping, at times heart wrenching drama about a group of very real people and their fight to stay alive in a world gone to hell.

I know that there are a lot of people out their who aren’t gamers, or who only play the occasional plat-former or beat-em-up and therefore don’t ‘get’ video games.   I think that it’s a very real shame that these people don’t give video games a chance.  You like films, you like books, you will like video games, well, some of them anyway.  
Snake must fight and kill his mentor The Boss to complete his mission.

Books will tend to have one of two formats to the writing, third-person or first-person.  The third-person, the more common of the two styles, is written as if the characters are being observed.  For example, ‘Amy wrote about video game storytelling on her blog’.   This can create a sense of distance between the reader and the characters.

First-person perspective has the central character narrating the story to you directly.  For example, ‘today I wrote about video game storytelling on my blog’.  Whilst this does tend to draw you into the story more, by putting you right their into the very mind of the central character, having them tell you how events and over characters affect them, it can leave you thinking that the character will never be in any real danger.  They’re alive to tell the tale of what happened to them, possibly taking away any tension their might be in the story.

Video game storytelling offers another choice, to put you directly into the story, to make you a part of it and have your actions matter.  I’m not just talking about controlling the character around an environment or fighting enemies, but choices that will alter the plot around you.  The Walking Dead is a fine example of this type of story telling, as your actions will have a dramatic effect on who will live, who will die and how other characters interact with you.  The wrong dialogue choice in one of the early episodes can come back to haunt you in later ones as the other characters can question your motives, or even hold a grudge against you.

Mass Effect was another game series that adopted a similar method to it’s story telling, allowing you to tailor the character of Commander Shepard to your own style, from the gender and physical look down to how much of an arse hole you want him/her to be.  It will also remember what choices you made during the first two games and you will find yourself either rewarded or punished in the build up to the end battle based upon these choices you made, choices that you may not have known would have such long lasting consequences when you made them.

This freedom of choice and consequences to these choices make the stories within these games extremely personal, and they have such a greater impact when characters that you have spent, in some cases, dozens of hours interacting with are in peril and at risk of dieing.  Their were many times during Mass Effect 3 that I found myself in tears as people I’d fallen in love with were torn to pieces ( in some cases literally) and each time a characters name was added to the ships memorial wall my heart sank a little.

These are the kinds of reactions I find cannot be matched in other mediums.  Yes, books, comics, films and tv can make us laugh and cry and rage, but there is always a sense of being slightly removed from the experience.  Video games force you to physically take part in what is unfolding before you.  Even in games like Metal Gear Solid, where there are little to no choices presented to players and you have a very structured experience with no chance to go off and do your own thing you are given so much story and character development that it would be difficult to adapt the stories to written format, and an insane undertaking to translate them into film.

Death is more than just 'Game Over' in video games.
Those people who aren’t completely sold on video games as a storytelling medium, I ask of you please do not ignore it.  There are some truly amazing stories out their that simply can’t be found in other medium, stories that are so amazing and engaging that they simply must be played.  Video games are more than simple escapism, than shooting hordes of generic villains or running from one side of the screen to the other.  They are a real and adult form of storytelling, one that deserves more respect than it receives.


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Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Fake Geek Girls

Something that’s been going around on some of the websites that I normally frequent over the last week that I kind of want to weigh in on is the whole subject of ‘fake geek girls’. 

The whole thing started when comic artist Tony Harris posted the following statement on Facebook;

I cant remember if Ive said this before, but Im gonna say it anyway. I dont give a crap.I appreciate a pretty Gal as much as the next Hetero Male. Sometimes I even go in for some racy type stuff ( keeping the comments PG for my Ladies sake) but dammit, dammit, dammit I am so sick and tired of the whole COSPLAY-Chiks. I know a few who are actually pretty cool-and BIG Shocker, love and read Comics.So as in all things, they are the exception to the rule. Heres the statement I wanna make, based on THE RULE: “Hey! Quasi-Pretty-NOT-Hot-Girl, you are more pathetic than the REAL Nerds, who YOU secretly think are REALLY PATHETIC. But we are onto you. Some of us are aware that you are ever so average on an everyday basis. But you have a couple of things going your way. You are willing to become almost completely Naked in public, and yer either skinny( Well, some or most of you, THINK you are ) or you have Big Boobies. Notice I didnt say GREAT Boobies? You are what I refer to as “CON-HOT”. Well not by my estimation, but according to a LOT of average Comic Book Fans who either RARELY speak to, or NEVER speak to girls. Some Virgins, ALL unconfident when it comes to girls, and the ONE thing they all have in common? The are being preyed on by YOU. You have this really awful need for attention, for people to tell you your pretty, or Hot, and the thought of guys pleasuring themselves to the memory of you hanging on them with your glossy open lips, promising them the Moon and the Stars of pleasure, just makes your head vibrate. After many years of watching this shit go down every 3 seconds around or in front of my booth or table at ANY given Con in the country, I put this together. Well not just me. We are LEGION. And here it is, THE REASON WHY ALL THAT, sickens us: BECAUSE YOU DONT KNOW SHIT ABOUT COMICS, BEYOND WHATEVER GOOGLE IMAGE SEARCH YOU DID TO GET REF ON THE MOST MAINSTREAM CHARACTER WITH THE MOST REVEALING COSTUME EVER. And also, if ANY of these guys that you hang on tried to talk to you out of that Con? You wouldnt give them the fucking time of day. Shut up you damned liar, no you would not. Lying, Liar Face. Yer not Comics. Your just the thing that all the Comic Book, AND mainstream press flock to at Cons. And the real reason for the Con, and the damned costumes yer parading around in? That would be Comic Book Artists, and Comic Book Writers who make all that shit up.

I think that anyone, male or female, who choose to attend a comic convention in costume are by nature extroverts and relish the opportunity to show off and be the centre of attention in their costumes.  This isn’t a bad thing though, as I have found in my experience that cosplayers tend to be very friendly, chatty people who love meeting other likeminded people, and the costume can be a way of breaking the ice and starting a conversation.  After all, if you’re a Superman fan and you see someone dressed up as Superman, chances are you’ll both have that in common.

As for if these people in the costumes are aware of who they’re dressed as and are fans is impossible to say, because unless you make them take some kind of crazy fan test you’re just going to have to take it on faith.  Then again, how do you know that the people at conventions who aren’t in costume are actually fans too?

I think that yes, it is entirely possible that there are ‘fakes’ among those girls that do choose to dress up at conventions, but they are also likely among the girls that don’t dress up, the men that do and the men that don’t.  Their will be people in the ‘geek community’ that are fakes, people who only take part because being a geek has become cool and hip, but their will be far more people who aren’t fakes, especially amongst those people who shell out money to go all the way to a convention.

Centring the ‘fake’community solely on those women who choose to celebrate their love of comics, games and movies by dressing up as their favourite characters is wholly unfair and extremely sexist.

From a number of experiences I’ve had at conventions I’ve found that the female fans are overall some of the most passionate and if given the chance will gladly jump into a conversation, more so than some men I’ve met at conventions.  These female fans are so passionate and so vitally important to the industry that they should be celebrated rather than demonised.

The comics industry should be encouraged to better represent female characters, to create characters that are more than just eye candy in tiny tight costumes and are well developed and well rounded characters.  One of my favourite examples of a great female comic character that can easily be ignored by their look is Power Girl.  A Kryptonian from another universe she’s one of the most powerful super-heroes in the DC universe, a former member of the Justice League, chairwoman of the Justice Society, a brilliant scientist, business woman and philanthropist she’s unfortunately mainly remembered for having huge breasts.

I think that it’s unfortunate, but a number of women who attend cons probably do meet with sexism and men who become drooling idiots at seeing their fantasy women come to life before them.  Their was a recent article I read about a young woman who attended a convention dressed as Blackcat and was subjected to some very sexist behaviour from some people who were ‘professionally’ interviewing her.

Incidents such as these are awful for many reasons, because it encourages men to act like that at conventions, to see women solely as their sexual fantasies come to life.  It also makes those women who would once choose to attend a convention in costume question their decision to do so, or even attend the convention at all.

 Unfortunately the only thing that I take away from Harris’ comments is the impression that he has, probably on more than one occasion, attempted to chat up women at comic cons, and failed.  His irrational attack towards women in costume just seems to be coming from a place of wounded pride, he might be thinking ‘I’m a comic book artist, if these girls were real fans they’d be throwing themselves at me, but they turned me down, they’re fakes!’

The second thing I take away from his comments is that I don’t think he really like comic fans in general, for example he says; ‘Hey! Quasi-Pretty-NOT-Hot-Girl, you are more pathetic than the REAL Nerds’.  Now, the fact that he thinks these ‘fakers’ are ‘more pathetic’ than real nerds just jumps out at me because he’s saying that real nerds are already pathetic. 

Someone in Harris’ position should be more greatful to comic fans, these are the people who are keeping him in work, who are making a demand for a product he plays a part in providing.  He should be showing them gratitude, but instead he just seems to dislike comic fans as a whole and has thrown a hissy fit because he can’t pull a girl in a costume.

The whole argument about Fake Geek Girls is stupid, it’s something that whilst it may have a grain of truth to it isn’t the massive issue Harris made out to be.  There are fakes everywhere in the geek community, not just in one small sector of girls who like to cosplay.  Instead of thinking that girls at conventions are their to make fun or ‘real fans’ and to torment them sexually, go and talk to them, treat them as real human beings and get to know them.  Yes, some of them may be very attractive women wearing tight and revealing outfits, but at the end of the day they’re still just people, and if you’re at a comic con too, then you’ve already got a lot in common with them.


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