3 cool videos from MCM London Comic Con

3 cool videos from MCM London Comic Con

There aren’t many places where you can walk around shyly saying “what’s up” to Princess Leia, Poison Ivy or Harley Quinn before asking for a picture.

This was the first time I’ve had the pleasure of visiting a Comic Con and boy have I been missing out. The Excel was packed with colour – people free of inhibitions still playing dress-up well into their adult years, and it was glorious!

Everyone looked amazing, everyone was having fun and everyone was lovely. But instead of wittering on about it, I’ll let you soak up the atmosphere (and the silliness) from these three videos.

Deadpool Karaoke

The first thing I saw, pretty much, when I walked into the exhibition room. If there’s anything sexier than a girl dressed up as a comic book or video game character, it’s a girl dressed as a comic book or video game character AND singing karaoke.

Dino Fight

It’s not often you get to see a tyrannosaurus rex and what looks to be Godzilla having a duel, but here it is. Often clumsily stumbling over their tails, the two engaged in furious battle before one bitch slap took it that little bit too far….so they hugged it out.

Sean Kelly Auctioneering

Love to see people from Comic Con doing their part and auctioning off rare pieces for charity. But when you get the one and only Sean Kelly from Storage Hunters on board, it takes it to a whole other level…

AM

P.S. Check out a story I did for The Wharf where I spoke to three cosplayers about why they like to dress up for the occasion > Meet The Cosplayers From MCM London Comic Con

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Pokemon Go – It’s all a bit ‘meh’ really

Pokemon Go – It’s all a bit ‘meh’ really

First it was a game, now it has become reality. 

When I was a kid I loved Pokemon. The trading cards, the gameboy game and the TV show.

The idea of collecting cute and cool-looking mini monsters was absorbing, whether it was tearing open the Venusaur insigniated blue packet to see what was inside or getting your virtual self to sling red and white Pokeballs at an innocent creature doomed to eternal captivity.

And some 18 years later, I still adore it. And now it’s real! There are actual Pokemon wandering the streets as if there had been a breakout from some sort of digital zoo. 

And it’s all a bit “meh” to me.


Surely I should be stoked about this? Isn’t the idea of a real life Pokemon world a dream come true? Let me explain.

I play games to escape from reality into another world, much like why we read books. I want new places, new people and interesting stories. 

Pokemon Go doesn’t provide that- how can you accomplish true escapism when you’re having to point your phone at real places, real people?

True, Pokemon Go has got “gamers” to go outside and walk about more and it should be applauded for that.

But surely going outside in your own time should be about getting away from the screens?

It’s certainly why I always do it whether at weekends or to break from work, although walking around Canary Wharf being bumped into by oblivious phone addicts is enough to convince me that I’m  in a minority.


The point is, despite the fact that it is kinda fun and it is a laugh and I have written about it at work (we’re a serious newspaper you know) it’s just not as enjoyable and not something I feel able to invest time in.

Is it because I’m a lot older, surlier and more cynical? Well despite that all being true I managed to enjoy Pokemon X and that wasn’t even three years ago.

Sorry Pokemon Go. Even though you are somewhat entertaining, good for social media and great at driving the hermits outside, tearing open a pack of shinies is way more exciting than being told there’s a Rattata on my sofa.

AM

Cheshire to east London: A culture shock punctuated by Brexit

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The steely faced Canary Wharf looms on the Greenwich horizon
A lot has changed over the last quarter-dozen years when I last graced this somewhat neglected page with my presence.
After my previous blog post I’ve broken into the impenetrable world of journalism – an industry becoming smaller, poorer and more confused by the day.

And as part of the futile climb up this shaky and decrepit career ladder, I’ve succumbed to the gravitational pull of London.

To describe the experience as a culture shock is an understatement.

For someone as quiet and reserved as me, when sober, it was a shock equivalent to being zapped with 10 cattle prods while the police tase me for breaking into a secure high-voltage zone.

The green, peaceful and relaxed pastures of the rural North West, teamed with boarded up high street stores, feel a world away from the steel and glass claustrophobic entity of Canary Wharf – where I am now based.

A different beast and an altogether more fanged and ferocious one, despite the constant niceties gushed upon you by public relations professionals.

But the beast that had been growing has now been infected with a dose of osteoporosis, and its fangs have been corked.

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The UK flag flies by the EU flag at Canary Riverside Hotel the day after Brexit won the vote
To contextualise, I voted passionately for Remain.

I believe a more integrated and interconnected world (economically and socially) is a) inevitable and happening already; and b) the best way to achieve equality, tolerance and peace.

The EU is a vehicle for that, albeit a flawed one – an Alfa Romeo not a Volkswagen.

Quite frankly I think we should have gone all in with joining the Euro. Do it properly, not half-arsed.

Why did Brexit happen? Simply put, the English vote – in areas including where I grew up.

To delve deeper, high streets in those northern and Midlands towns lie desolate, while heavyweight London districts like Canary Wharf are expanding by thousands of homes and sq ft of commercial space, most of which will be leased before the final marble slab is laid (bricks don’t exist here).

There is an issue with imbalance not immigration.

Many scapegoat immigrants for using up public money and changing the look or identity of their communities. But if their community was thriving would they still be complaining?

This was a protest by a population neglected for the last three decades by a political and corporate class hellbent on the power of London.

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The North/South divide (credit – The Spectator)
An ill-informed protest maybe – the EU helped places like Cornwall to an extent that will never be met by Government.

Now the powers that be in the capital want devolved powers for London, something that will not do anything to help the situation besides worsening it while filling their own pockets and advancing their own careers.

Devolved powers and resources to ALL local authorities though, not just big cities,  could be a starting point.

These places need help to attract investment and that help has to come from state level. It’s not going to come from a private sector mostly besotted with the metropolitan economy.

Now I’m not an economic or political expert and I’m sure many disagree.

And I’m not saying this was the sole reason for Brexit but it is, I believe, the main one that has spawned the others.

It used to be called the North/South divide. It’s now called the England/London divide.

It could even be a city/rural divide as the march towards the metropolisation of the world continues.

 

AM 

 

Let’s Players and Nintendough!

I love let’s players. I love them for their sense of humour, their passion for playing games and for the amount of effort they put in to both help and entertaining viewers. Yet the almighty reason for me loving them is that without them I wouldn’t have got back into gaming. If it wasn’t for them I’d….I’d probably be writing about proper things, I’d probably have more money and I’d probably have a girlfriend or something…..*cry*

Self-deprication aside though, it seems that these beautiful people, who spend so long playing, recording, editing and uploading videos all for your entertainment, are being targeted by Nintendough, who announced this:

“As part of our on-going push to ensure Nintendo content is shared across social media channels in an appropriate and safe way, we became a YouTube partner and as such in February 2013 we registered our copyright content in the YouTube database. For most fan videos this will not result in any changes, however, for those videos featuring Nintendo-owned content, such as images or audio of a certain length, adverts will now appear at the beginning, next to or at the end of the clips. We continually want our fans to enjoy sharing Nintendo content on YouTube, and that is why, unlike other entertainment companies, we have chosen not to block people using our intellectual property.” 

This in effect is Nintendough employing ‘Content-ID matches,’ meaning they can put adverts into videos based on their owned content and make money of those adverts. This means that advert revenue which used to go to the video-creator is now going to Nintendough. So effectively Nintendough are employing the services of these LPers, who effectively advertise Nintendough’s content for free, and taking all the money for themselves.

Now this is a complex issue. Yes Nintendough does own the copyright for the game and people who use it, and we need copyright to protect the works of artists/creators, whether they be painters, writers, musicians, inventors or game developers.

IF Nintendough had just blocked the content right away, as soon as these videos started to appear, then it’s, unfortunately, rather difficult to be mad at them, as you are after all making money from something they created. Monetising the videos is a much more sinister move, however, and is not one that instantly warms you to the company. Having something taken down for copyright reasons is one thing, making 100% of the money from a video someone else has spent their time creating could be seen as greedy and exploitative toward the people who have helped keep Nintendough at the top for the last 30-odd years.

BUUUTT the problem with both of those options now, due to them waiting so many years before taking action, is that Let’s Plays are now an integral part to gaming and one which has become not just an advert for games or just entertainment, but something that has the potential to reinvigorate an old gamer’s passion – like it did with me. Because of these factors there are a number of people who do base a lot of their life around this and a few who make the majority of their money with these videos.

Nintendough could well have missed an opportunity here to become closer to their consumers. Yes copyright law does mean that they  can do this. But maybe there should be an effort to embrace this side of gaming, perhaps by sharing ad-profit 50/50 between the  developer and the content-creator. Surely this would be the most sensible reaction, and one that would benefit both parties.

AM

Xbox 720 v PS4 and Always-online

The gloves are out and the well-funded marketing departments are ready to slug it out. Xbox v Playstation, Microsoft v Sony, USA v Japan: It promises to be a hell of a PR war.

The thing is though, it’s pretty clear what will happen in most cases – the people who currently own Xbox 360s will buy the Xbox 720 and PS3 owners will buy the PS4. It’s that kind of a loyalty that’s characteristic of a 12-13-year-old war i.e. since the launch of the PS2 and Xbox in 2000 and 2001 respectively. Gamers have, in that time, fallen in love with exclusives whether it be Halo or Gears of War for the Xbox or God of War or Uncharted for the Playstation. It doesn’t matter how much marketing and new enticing features you put into a new console; as I’ve said before, it’s all about the games and it’s going to take more than a share button and a blue light to pry a gamer away from a series they’ve grown up with.

Yet there’s one mahoosive concept that may put people off buying a console and that is this whole always-online thing that’s being rumoured all over the place. You know, that thing that made Sim City so good…..

Yannis Mallat at Ubisoft said of always-online: “I would suspect that the audience is ready.” Now not only is that incredibly patronising and ridiculously assumptive, but it’s completely wrong. Browse the gaming community websites and see the swathes of comments from gamer’s passionate hatred of the concept, threatening to not buy consoles that adopt such a feature. Now it’s important to say that Sony have said their console won’t require an always-on internet connection but the new Xbox is rumoured to require one and I stress the word RUMOURED.

It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the move, one made with a distinct lack of research and a disregard for their customers, would hurt their sales and reputation. Millions of people still don’t have a connection fast or reliable enough and some don’t have any connection at all. Servers would be under enormous strain and as we’ve seen with SimCity, that strain can be too much, and servers for old games would eventually be shut down. These are just a few of the many bad things about the move.

So, with gamers flooding comments sections of relevant articles with promises of switching to the PS4, why do they want to do it?

There’s no question that the second-hand games market affects developers, but lets not forget how much big developers like Ubisoft already make having projected an operating 90-100 million euros back in February for the year ending March 31st (http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/02/07/ubisoft-sales-idUSL5N0B7GH920130207). Yet of course like all massive corporations they always want to be making more and obviously in order to reach that goal you need to buy their games new instead of from a bin at Gamestop or out of the basket at Game.

Yet the idea of playing games you didn’t buy new has always been a staple in the gaming community. Who remembers the good old days of swapping Mega Drive, PS1 or Game Boy games with friends for a period of say a month, giving you enough time to complete it and then swapping them back before descending into a passionate run through of how you managed to finally defeat the final boss. That’s the kind of “social” I like to see in the gaming society, not the kind of “social” that requires an angry blockhead yelling at me on Call of Duty.

Also I believe that buying games second-hand isn’t a bad thing at all and should be celebrated as a way of getting the less well-off people into gaming before they are able to spend that little bit more money on £50 new games. After Uni I was pretty broke with a massive overdraft to pay off and then subsequently a £3000+ course fee for my journalism course which started in September 2011. As someone with only a part-time job I wasn’t in a position to buy a brand new console along with a new game every so often when I have all that debt to repay. I didn’t own a PS3 until March last year when I found one second-hand and in very good condition (I still use it to this day and have had no issues whatsoever….thanks GAME). Needless to say all of of the games I bought during the first 4 months afterwards were second hand. If I couldn’t have done that I probably wouldn’t have got back into gaming and therefore wouldn’t be sitting here. Now I do buy new games because I’m actually in the position to do so.

Developers might hate to hear this but swapping, renting, borrowing and buying second-hand games, whether off friends or from a shop, is embedded in gaming culture. This strict DRM move is not only a move purely for profit maximisation  but an attack on gaming traditions. Yes the internet has changed things and will continue to do so as it should, but it should in a positive way with consumer interests at heart. It should not be used to wipe out certain features of a culture I grew up in.

But as seen on the internet, ironically, this will not be accepted, even by lifelong Xbox fans and if Microsoft were to adopt such a ludicrous thing, it would be an absolute disaster for them.

AM

Indie Game for the Week: Journey

Contrary to the introduction in my previous post, this game is obviously not a recently released game or one I spent money on during the last week, but seeing as I’ve been excruciatingly busy over the last two weeks, I thought I’d write about an indie game I have a whole lot of admiration and passion for. As I see it, this is one of the greatest and most artistic games of all time.

Journey: the game that took the Playstation Network and then the world by storm; sweeping up awards left and right and even being the first game ever to be nominated for a Grammy. This incredible achievement, combined with gushing review after gushing review, portrays Journey as an unmissable and unique experience. Is it that?

Undoubtedly and unequivocally yes! Never before has a game wrenched so many conflicting emotions from me over such a short period of time: awe, peace, worry, exhilaration, sadness, desperation and fulfilment – how is it that a game about a thing in a robe can do this when the character is “restricted to” running, jumping, floating, sliding and singing?

Well it’s simply because every single aspect of the game is geared towards making the gamer the journeyer: making you feel, what they would feel. The faceless, nameless protagonist is you. Because it has no personality, you automatically project your own onto it, undertaking the journey as you please, and interacting with the other journeyers as you see fit.

The game looks astounding. Even the very second you gain control of the game and take in the environment you will let out a gasp at the way the desert sparkles in the sunlight, at how your cloak and the flags flutter, and at how grains of sand sweep past in the wind.

But the gem upon the gold pile is Austin Wintory’s Grammy-nominated score. The string-driven orchestral masterpiece is intricately timed to go with the actions of the player and is used to great effect to evoke the atmosphere of the various environments. The emotions I mentioned before are largely stimulated through the music and it’s unlikely the game would have been as successful as it is without the score so Mr Austin Wintory – take a bow my good sir.

Never before, in my experience, has every single minute aspect of a game come together so beautifully – all so dependent on each other and as equally important. Yes all you can do is jump, float, sing and slide. Yes it’s only an hour and a half long, two hours at most, but it squeezes every last bit out of it’s features to transport the gamer to a place of wonder. This, my friends, is not only a unique, innovative, legendary game – it’s a work of art.

AM

Indie Game for the Week: Anodyne

So this is something that I figure I might try to do every week. I got into playing indie games at some point last year and, as a result I found some absolute gems. The deeply disturbing and tense Anna being one, despite it’s illogical puzzle solutions. So I’m going to try and play a recently released indie game every week and write about it. Joys!

So at the weekend I invested a whole nearly £10, of my hard earned and insubstantial money, in Anodyne, a 2D top-down action-adventure game on Steam very much in the spirit of the good old 16-bit games like The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening.

You play as the boy Young, rocking some cool glasses and a hoody with his own name on the back, something you can’t see but are told during the game. Sounds like a a bit of a douche right? Well luckily he doesn’t say much so that’s nothing to worry about. Anyway Young has to explore different environments within his subconscious, collect keys, cards and fight off various monsters with a broom in order to get to some guy called the Briar at the request of some unconvincing dude in robes.

Story-wise there isn’t anything incredibly ground breaking or special here. It’s effectively the same as a lot of the old 2D 16-bit games – don’t get killed and collect the things you need to get to the end of the game..

But the story is somewhat immaterial in this instance as what makes Anodyne so good and somewhat unique is the beautifully crafted environments teamed with the incredibly atmospheric music. It manages to evoke in you a sense of wonder with an undercurrent of deep and uneasy suspicion. Yes your guard does need to stay firmly up to deal with the wide variety of enemies and various tricky puzzles that are waiting in the next room, and the next, and the next.

Can it get repetitive? Well a bit. Bitch-slapping enemies with a broom over and over again will get a bit dull, and the boss battles and the more difficult puzzles can get frustrating. Believe me, it makes you work for it. Yet the many starkly different environments, laugh out loud dialogue and the variety of puzzles will keep you engaged.

Anodyne has a lot of character and is presented so well. It is definitely something worth checking out just for the environments and music alone. If you’re a fan of the Super Nintendo system then this is definitely your cup of tea. Yes there are similarities to the old Zelda games but it deserves to be taken as it’s own unique and beautifully crafted experience.

AM