Sunday, December 31, 2006

A Year In Transit

For nobody's benefit other than my own, really, but for a while 2006 was the Year Of Indifferent Travel Food and DVT Paranoia. I went to the States so much in the first half of the year I was actually getting bored of it, which is a bit of an achievement given that until mid-2005 I'd only been on a couple of planes in my life. Vague ambition for 2007: head East more often.


Trips abroad = 8
Of which
Press trips = 6

Cities Visited = Las Vegas (twice), Seattle (twice), Baltimore, New York, Los Angeles, Edinburgh, Paris, Kiev, London, Chernobyl, Pripyat
of which
Worst = Baltimore
Best = Pripyat

Baltimore was a bit of a dump and we all decided that it wasn't anywhere we'd want to go to again. Pripyat was, um, exactly the same, but it had the fine excuse that it was in a nuclear exclusion zone.

Worst Travel Experience =
Las Vegas - LAX - Heathrow

Best Travel Experience =
London - Seattle, I guess, although that's mostly because of the silver BA Executive Club card I CANNOT KEEP THIS YEAR OH IT BURNS.

Best Airline = British Airways
Airline I Am Never Using Again Even If The Only Alternative Is A Shipping Container = America West


Cars Owned = 6
Accidents = 0 (-100% decrease year-on-year)
Cars Lost = 1
Top Speed = 135-ish
Total Expenditure = £740
Best Buy = 94L Fiat Cinquecento SX.
Worst Buy = 91H BMW 325iSE.
Most Fun = 91H BMW 325iSE


Best Train Company = Métro de Paris
Worst Train Company = First Great Western

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Dinner dinner dinner dinner dinner dinner dinner SEAWORLDATTENDANT

Scientists have taught dolphins to combine both rhythm and vocalisations to produce music, resulting in an extremely high-pitched, short version of the Batman theme song.

Satire: doomed. Dolphins: taking another squeaking flip towards opposable thumbs.

(Noted by Scary Man Ellis)

Monday, November 06, 2006

I am a bad person for laughing

Later works
Actual detail
The Hindenburg Omen Wikipedia is pretty amazing, really.

Monday, October 30, 2006

So You Want To Be A Games Journalist

I'm playing this very straight as I work for some very straight publications, and my years in games journalism have not been the dazzling multiformat affairs that my co-writers have experienced. It's also based on magazines, because they're what I work on, and it's been done in a hurry because I'm trying to launch one at the moment and that's taking up most of my time. Made very short:

1.Be a good writer
That means knowing how to spell, knowing the rules of grammar, knowing which clichés to avoid and lots of other stuff that boils down to knowing that millions of words have already been written, thousands more will be written about exactly the same subject, and that your words have to stand out from them. If you aren’t a good writer – and this is something you should always be insecure about - then practice, and read other good writers, until you are.

2. Know something about games
I mention this mostly to point out that you don't have to know everything about games, played every Mario game to completion, have a Halo tattoo or whatever. Journalism has always demanded the ability to very quickly become an expert in something. You don't have to have played everything, but you do have to be prepared to do enough research to convincingly plug any gaps in your knowledge before writing.

3. Know about the medium you're writing for, and write for it
Writing for the web is different from writing for magazines; writing for one magazine is different to writing for another. Magazines for twelve-year-old boys will have a very different approach to magazines for thirty-year-old developers. If you only want to write concept reviews explaining how Solid Snake is actually speaking from the perspective of the battered wife, great, but don’t submit them to Good Housekeeping.

4. Have something interesting to say
This is overstating the case, but I believe it to be necessary. There are some, very few, games that are easy to write interestingly about. The majority of games are uninspired genre work. Your function is to write about them and make it interesting.

You might think that all of the above is stating the obvious. I used to, too, until about two years in; the umpteenth conversation or forum post or plaintive email about I Want To Be A Games Writer or Those Bastards Won’t Accept My Illiterate Blog Post About Girls In Gaming. Thus, I want to be very explicit: from my point of view as somebody who employs people to write about games (and all sorts of other stuff) what I want is somebody who's going to produce something literate, interesting, novel, and suitable for whatever I'm putting together. That is not an exclusive group: there's no sinister Illuminati or secret training school, no vital qualification you have to have. Just be good at writing, then politely and professionally inform people that you want to write for them. If they don’t take you up on it, then consider that the samples you provided, or the way in which you provided them, weren’t up to it – and try again.

I know many games writers who started out penning blog posts or forum arguments or articles on massively obscure websites. There’s no magic barometer of quality. There are just people who are good at writing, good at communicating, and those people are always in demand: every editor, everywhere, needs more and better writers, and usually they’re too busy to actively scour every written medium to find them. If you’ve decided that you really want to make a living in this remarkable, underpaid, bizarrely staffed field, then be the best damn writer you can be and draw as much attention to it as possible.

Some final notes:

* To a commissioning editor/employer, a degree in journalism is less useful than proven writing ability.
* Spelling and grammar is important. Sorry.
* A freelance commission specifies a writing style, a word limit, and a deadline. If you can’t meet any of those demands, don’t bother taking it on.
* Being a games journalist is not about “playing games all day.” Text does not occur naturally. Every word in every magazine or website has been written by someone, and if you a junior staff member/freelancer, then that someone is you.
* If a particular pitch is repeatedly rejected, it’s probably terrible.
* If you make regular requests for freelance and are repeatedly rejected, your writing is probably terrible. Get better.
* Don’t become a games journalist expecting to get rich.
* There are, as yet, no old games journalists. Except maybe Stuart.

This was born of an overstuffed MSN conversation with Tim, Kieron, Suki and others, and represents part of a general commitment to bringing Truth To The People. You may read the other epistles here:
Tim | John | Suki | Kieron | Bill | Tom | Log | The Triforce | Richard | Matthew | Stuart

Monday, October 16, 2006

Just because I remembered him

He'll forever be the economist of my heart

Saturday, September 30, 2006

No further comment

Sunday, September 24, 2006

And finally

House M.D.’s Life and Death 2. Sadly found too late to distract John from his suffering, although I'm sure I'll find another use for the House Head(TM) soon enough.
The lady with the lump

I should be working right now, but the topic I'm supposed to be addressing isn't very interesting and I thought I'd try and work up my linguistic mojo by offering a director's commentary counterpart to John's Appendicitis adventure. It's mostly to point out, because John's too polite to, that my bedside manner leaves quite a lot to be desired, earning a reaction less akin to sighting the Lady with the Lamp and more like seeing a skinny chap holding a farming implement. Being acutely aware that I have zero medical skills, I tend towards a three-stage response to personal illness:

1. Paracetamol
2. Hospital
3. Death

Historians will note that swapping "paracetamol" for "leeches" reveals this to be a proud medical tradition, and doubtless one that will result in my eventual death from gangrene. Handily John escalated to stage two with some speed, enabling me to actually do something useful and take him to hospital. I missed all but the first, slightly creepy doctor so I can't speak for the attractiveness of subsequent staff, but they were gratifyingly quick at deciding it was something significant. Eventually he was taken away and I was parked under a sign reading DO NOT LEAVE PEOPLE SAT HERE IT'S INTRUSIVE FFS and left to marvel at how much TV oversells the excitement of A&E. It turned out I was sat on the entrance route for the ambulance admissions, but these amounted to two pensioners, one unconsious and the other seemingly alert but utterly unpeterbed by a horrific head wound. John contributed to the lamentable lack of drama by suffering only appendicitis rather than the alien infestation I'd proposed previously, and not even requesting a differential diagnosis.

Once I'd exhausted my magazine and the rack of little cards they give you when being discharged, apparently just to rub in the fact that public healthcare really doesn't do followup treatment very well (Sample content: When recovering from a serious head injury, do not use trampolines. If you suffer extreme pain regardless, stick it out for a couple of days before bothering us) I decided that he could jolly well move on to stage 3 without my help and purposefully strolled out. In the process I discovered once again that a purposeful stride means you can get into absolutely any part of any hospital unchallenged, but it's really hard to do because every corridor is identical and you immediately get lost.

Handily, it turned out this was the right thing to do because I didn't see him for another two days, even on my return visit to drop off essential supplies (DS Lite, Mp3 player and shiv). In conclusion: my system works! Take that, penicillin.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Speaking of which

While we're on the subject of dinosaurs, I can't really do any better as a link title than Tyrannnosaurus Sex. Bonus points for including the phrase "Cloacal Kissers," which I immediately noted as a new band name although further research might well reveal that it's better used as a collective noun for a certain breed of commenters on Digg.

..he said the ancient animals were hampered by what palaeontologists called the 'golden rule': rear-mounting males always had to keep one foot on the ground to avoid crushing their mates. "Their mating had to be done with great delicacy and great precision. It must have been utterly charming to watch, quite unlike our own species... [if dinosaurs] humped like birds, they'd have to have got past that thick, powerful tail; and for that they would need a corkscrew-shaped penis about three metres long.

Oh, for that sort of ice-breaker at parties. One of those bits of research that it doesn't come as much of a surprise that somebody is doing, somewhere, but it never would have occurred to me to consider it. I guess my teen years must really be behind me now.
The way we was

I have a terrible fear that when I'm old and senile my lack of reading in earlier life will catch up with me, and my time spent dwelling on better days will be overwhelmed with crap like this.

Monday, September 11, 2006


Judge Floro was dismissed (or "separated") from the bench in Malabon City, a suburb north of Manila, after questions arose about his practices of starting court days with a reading from the Book of Revelations, conducting faith-healing sessions in chambers, and consulting three "mystic dwarves" named Luis, Armand and Angel for advice and predictions of future events.

The intro has a point. If you want justice handed down, who better to do it than someone with lightning teeth, eyes that emit spiritual fires, and hands that heal poor people with hot coconuts?

In other news: I am sad Steve Irwin is dead. I am not surprised Steve Irwin is dead, and I don't think he added much to modern culture, an opinion shared by many others. However, while I didn't want to watch somebody annoying dangerous animals for entertainment, I did like the idea that there was somebody out there actually doing it - there's a charm, however silly, that the David Attenborough voiceover can't match. I raise an enraged reptile to his memory.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Three things

1. Despite the barbed comments of Private Eye, it appears that the police aren't all that familiar with obsolete computers after all. Police investigating the Austrian who kidnapped a child and kept her in his cellar for ten years are having problems with the fact he was using a Commodore 64 that they can't get data off. I'm sure fansites are swamping them with advice even now.

2. A shot of Google hits from around the world over a single day. Obviously, this is watching the internet's heart beating.

3. Talk to the hand.

Monday, September 04, 2006

The write thing

For the first time in my life, I find myself looking forward to a Will Ferrell movie. In fact, probably two. The former I can partially blame on the fact that it uses the piano-y bit from Spoon's The Way We Get By, which I totally was going to use in a film trailer of my own one day, somehow, because it's that perfect combination of no lyrics and jaunty melody that should be overlaid over a montage of people pulling agonised expressions. Alas, Hollywood beats me to it. Again. The second one I'm assured is actually much cleverer than it looks, something I find remarkably believable.

Sticking to the cinematic theme, I can recommend Crank to anybody who likes the trailer, because it's blessed with that knuckle-dragging high-concept simplicity that means the trailer tells you everything you need to know about it, including leading you to accurately guess the few events that it doesn't actively spoil. Oh, and the protagonist's name is Chev Chelios: you can't really get a much more primal signposting short of marking your territory with urine.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Original No More

For a service that's supposed to foster creativity, Threadless has some achingly uniform submissions. May I be the first to propose a ban, however temporary, of the following topics:

1. Lovable Robots
2. Swirling Graphical Representation Of How Music Blows Your Mind, Perhaps Not Even Metaphorically, Yeah
3. Hilariously Incongruous Star Wars Character/Setting
4. Strange Vector Art With Distinct Root/Tree Motif
5. Anything With Monkeys In

That last one is from the heart. Sorry, world, but I just don't care about monkeys and genus solidarity be damned.

Monday, July 31, 2006

65% - some nice ideas, but nothing really new

I share what I think is Jim's amused horror at his mind not only inventing games, but then reviewing them. Reminds me of the Onion's reportage on a similar subject. I've not had any gaming dreams for ages, myself, but I can't recall anything beyond hazy remixes of whatever I was playing too much of before retiring: that is, WoW or Jawbreaker.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Seeing double

WTF? It's like a rejected first reel of a James Blond script.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

This your captain speaking. We may experience some turbulence and, explode

As a suitably fitted-out plane prepares to crash down, an altimeter would trigger explosive charges to make one wing break away from the fuselage and kick the one-winged plane into a horizontal spin.

Because airline companies are really keen to install explosives in planes these days. Yup.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Five Achievements I Feel Oddly Proud Of, Although I Really Shouldn't

1. Had review quoted on game box
2. Achieved enough miles for British Airways Silver Executive Card
3. Had submission featured in NTK
4. Set up wireless network between three PC's, a Mac and an Xbox 360
5. Rolled a car into lampost and survived unscathed

(Concept stolen from 5ives, which you should visit).

Monday, April 10, 2006

Evolutionary failure

I know I've been very slack updating this thing lately (sorry again, Emma) but I received documentary proof this week from a letter from the Highways Agency. Header: Accident, 20th November. Date: 6th April. Opening line: "We are sorry to hear of your recent accident and hope you are on the way to recovery." I'm surprised they just addressed to me rather than, say, the executors of my estate.

In truth, it wasn't an estate because BMW are too posh for such things; it was a Touring. A new record for eBay purchasing: a lifespan of just over twelve days. It was always a silly purchase, although it did look quite exciting: with black metallic paint, mostly-tasteful alloy wheels and a bonnet spoiler it was a great 80's villain car or hearse for very short gangster, and it was far and away the fastest car I've ever owned.

Unfortunately I got a bit too complacent a bit too quickly, I think, and it met a messy end and a lampost (not in that order) on a roundabout just outside Warminster. It was probably quite dramatic, but I've no recollection of the event: I recall slowing down to join a roundabout, then there's a period of static that ends with me talking to a woman on the side of the road, looking at the car lying on its side in the middle of it. Kudos points: 0. Despite my best efforts I can't remember anything else, which is a shame because I think the "passenger side window, or sunroof?" dilemma isn't something you get to ponder often. I must have been reasonably coherent because I came to clutching my mp3 player and the remains of my glasses.

Despite these theatrics all I got was a lump on my head - dismissed in 30 seconds my a triage nurse in an otherwise spookily deserted A&E which of course kept me waiting anyway, presumably to hit some government target. That I made it there at all was only thanks to the very understanding attentions of Tim and John who were both embarassingly helpful and succesfully rebutted my unsteady claims of good health. Alas, they failed to stop me going into work two days later, despite still having a short-term memory that fell far short of the five-minute mark.

The slightly dubious silver lining is that I was able to give some glowing buyer feedback (albeit in a tense rarely encounter in Seller Ratings) and didn't have to worry about the slightly irregular idle, sticky central locking, and a boot so full of water you could have kept goldfish in it.

Anyway, I lived and the car died, terminated two days later by an alarmingly local scrapyard in Bristol, and I went back to the old smoker I hadn't had the chance to dispose of. Now the threatened bill for the lamp-post has arrived, but it's irritatingly devoid of numbers: I was all set for some little-Englander outrage that a bit of metal and some concrete costs £15,000. Alas, all they want is my insurance details: I just hope they can reclaim the premiums that have been screwed out of me the last four years without putting the tab on the ones yet to come. Fingers crossed.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

You Have Got To Be Fucking Kidding Me

The Onion vs. reality.

Parody: doomed.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Babes and sucklings

"I learned that it was sad and that you had to go to someplace and get stuff." And to think they said that Homer was too heavy-duty for the young ones.