Reflection of mediocrity?

One important cog of my Happy? Index has been, in recent times, my pursuit of videogaming fun. But when the ‘fun’ turns into a puddle of mediocrity you really have to begin to ask questions. Other than enjoying the recent Walking Dead XBL game and spurts of FIFA 12, I am left with too many games that try pandering to a wider audience than can be maintained . So it’s no surprise then that I’m enjoying games that know what they are and know not to step past their limitations.

A recent example of a game that started well but then lost me due to the developers losing course was Assassin’s Creed Revelations. I cannot fathom why a game that is all about allowing the player so much freedom with its fluid movement would want to detour into a Tower Defence game? I hated how it made me feel about the game and how it took me away from the hub of what makes an Assassin’s Creed game what it is. The game remains unfinished for that very reason.

My fear for videogaming as a whole is the easy path of appealing to the masses will undermine any real progress for the industry. With this years retail market at a all-time low, I do hope developers take stock and understand that a videogame doesn’t need every little element thrown at it, to be a success. Just because your Modern Warfare’s have multiplayer doesn’t mean multiplayer has to be included in every single title that is ever released. You only need look to Telltale Games to appreciate that.

Happy? Index 1.30

My view of the second quarter of 2012.

A tough last few months that has seen my working life turn into an absolute grinding bore. Luckily I have been entertained elsewhere;

  • Sites in my reader: No real change. One site added to my feed reader – Arbitrary Genius – welcome back Bex!
  • Magazine subscriptions: No change. Plenty of catching up to do here.
  • Movies watched: 19. The Avengers and Prometheus both viewed at the cinema and both impressed but for different reasons. I’m using Letterboxd – now in open beta – to record all my movie watching and if anyone needs an invite then I still have a few spare.
  • Comic books: Finished volume 7 of The Walking Dead which seemed to spend the time building up to the confrontation at the end. Both volume 6 and 7 have been above average reads. The prison setting seems to have stifled the group and how they are becoming a little too comfortable is clear. The mantra should be that there’s no safe haven no mater where you look. I do have volume 8 waiting for me and the first volume of American Vampire in the post. I’m also planning a visit to GOSH! Comics very soon, as I haven’t seen the Soho store yet. From there I’ll be looking to sort out my subs but can imagine I’ll be going graphic novel only from here on in.
  • Books read: zilch.
  • Music: No further gigs to talk of but a couple of CD purchases worth mentioning. A new Smashing Pumpkins album – Oceania – and the Silversun Pickups with their best so far with Neck of the Woods. Compared with the last few years this must be the most CDs I’ve paid for and enjoyed. I hope the trend continues throughout 2012.
  • TV: The second season of The Walking Dead started slowly but picks up well towards the excellently devised 7th episode of the season, Pretty Much Dead Already. Although themes are similar between the TV show and comic book, I’m trying hard not to compare the two. One is based on the other but what will be interesting is if they begin to take queues from each other.
  • Gaming: Completed the second episode of The Walking Dead – Starved for Help. Excellent again from Telltale Games and although it doesn’t fulfil all my gaming desire, it’s the only game I’ve really been hooked into. Both Diablo 3 and Max Payne 3 remain unfinished and underplayed. I can’t see myself pre-ordering many big AAA titles this year. Firstly the factor of cost puts me off but also how disappointed I have been with a number of major titles of late. Max Payne 3 hasn’t helped dissuade me from this view either.

Moral compass

My thoughts on the second episode of Telltale Games The Walking Dead – you can read my original thoughts of the first episode here.

Who’d have thought that a relatively small game – and not a major gaming franchise – would give me so much fun, emotion and moral dilemmas. What has been a surprise is how well the game makes you – as Lee – become protective of his ward, Clementine. It’s a fascinating development which I really hope carries on through the rest of the episodes. What is a clever element – keep an eye out for it as it’s highlighted right at the end of the second episode – is how Lee looks to Clementine for moral guidance. I like that a game story is allowing an ‘adult’ be guided by a ‘child’ – a nice flip to the usual stereotype.

Like anything I spend my time on be it film, book or game, it has to engage. There are many experiences that I could talk of that are well produced BUT ultimately haven’t engaged me. I’d rather a flawed experience that engages than a masterpiece that leaves me cold.

Cloud harvest

Sailing the Solent
I love a good cloud formation and over the last year or two I’ve taken a few photos – admittedly not enough – of a few of them with. I began using my iPhone 3GS then 4S and now am using my HTC Titan with its 8MP camera and F2.2 lens. The iPhone images bleed the light and give a more ‘romantic’ look but I prefer the fuller image from the HTC Titan.
I’m hoping for a new camera in time for my holidays later in the year but between now and then I’ll be updating my cloud harvest via Flickr every now and again.

Created in thy image

These are my thoughts on Ridley Scott’s movie Prometheus which is set in the same universe as Alien, a movie he directed over 30 years ago. Be warned – there be spoilers ahead.

Movies that make you think? Sadly modern movie-making is almost exclusively in the hands of those that feel a blockbuster experience shouldn’t be allowed room for a free-thinking audience. It’s all about those bums on seats. So when a movie like Prometheus comes along, I have to go see it on the big screen. And so I did.

Things I liked, on reflection, about Prometheus? The movies ambition; the themes of faith and scientific discovery and the idea of big things come from small beginnings. I also like that the movie didn’t try to recapture the tension of the original Alien movie. I believe it would have been a waste of time to sit through another ‘Alien’ experience. Those who wanted Ridley Scott to right the wrongs, of the lesser movies in the franchise, by making such a movie obviously don’t think outside the box much.

The other theme I believe should get more of a mention is the subject of female infertility. It’s a topic that is very rarely broached in movies but has to be one of the most important subjects in any woman’s lifetime. The ability to reproduce is often taken for granted and for a woman not to have the option to carry a new life to term needs far more understanding and compassion than you can ever imagine.

Noomi Rapace’s Elizabeth Shaw represents a strong female role-model that has to struggle with, not only her faith, but that she will never have the experience of giving birth to children of her own. My hope for any sequel of Prometheus will be that Ridley Scott develops Elizabeth Shaw’s struggle with both her faith and her own infertility. I believe – hinted at during the scene where David is watching the dreams of Shaw – that there could be a rich character there in Elizabeth Shaw. Her continued involvement and relationship with David in future movies could also be very engaging.

Much has been made of the weak script and, bar Rapace and Fassbender, the characterisation is rather poor. I agree to a point but a longer movie – Ridley’s first cut was 2hrs 27mins – and maybe a directors cut could reintroduce some of what is missing from the movies shallow points. I’m not saying it would improve the overall experience but it could make the experience a little fuller with regards to the characters of the supporting cast.

If my recommendation means anything, then I highly suggest you go see it before you listen to others make up your mind for you.

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