Wednesday, 14 December 2016

Really...strange... (Life Is Strange - A Personal Postmortem)

Right, okay, I'm probably going to trigger a few people with my thoughts on the game called "Life Is Strange" made by Dontnod and published by Square Enix. Reader beware, you're in for some spoilers (I should have wrote "you're in for a scare" but I couldn't find anything to rhyme with "reader beware").

So in a nutshell: I couldn't get on with Life is Strange. That's all this blog is about. I couldn't get on with it. I think it's got a fun little time-travelling mechanic in there but ultimately doesn't lead to anything to what I wanted. I don't think it's a terrible game in the slightest either so please don't read what I'm writing that I just didn't like it. I think it has problems and whenever I attempt to correlate my thoughts; it sounds scathing when really I'm not trying to be!

For more understanding of my position; my two close friends, Carl and Stefan, really love this game and I don't knock them at all with it. They really wanted to help Max in her situation with her best friend, Chloe, and make things better for her.

When I played the game at the time, I was in a weird emotional dark place in my life and I wanted to see what I could get out of the game by, essentially, fucking everything up. Honestly, that's what I was like. I was attempting to kill people off every time I could do it just to see if there was an actual ramification to what I did.

I couldn't stand hearing how Max was whining about her so called life and all the stuff that was happening to her - I just wanted to destroy everything. I had this power to essentially unravel time and I wanted to see what I could get out of it but the god-damned game just wouldn't let me do it!

Which made me realise that with the nature of narrative such as this, the game really wants you to have that one true ending. The rest of the game is there for fluff and not actually tangible. The mechanics when you boil it down are simply puzzles that lead to one true conclusion rather than use the true nature of chaos theory and time travel.

The ending, if you can expect it, is essentially that Chloe has to die to make things right. However, I didn't want that ending; I let everyone die because I thought what was the point to all of the game? I have been running through five chapters trying to save her and then you throw it all away. It became binary - one or the other. For all the promotion of choice and the rewinding of time, this totally derailed the experience and the way that the game's exposition was built up.

I totally get the pathos of it all but I'll be honest, I hated most of the characters that were in the world when I went through it. All of them whining and complaining about things are strange and shit when really there is a bigger thing to contend with which is the serial killer teacher (whose name I forget, let's just call him SKT).

Yeah, this hammy douche-nozzle.
Yes, I got to admit, the SKT was a cool little twist but as soon as it was revealed, his dialogue was so hammy and forced that all respect I had for him seemed to be lost very quickly. SKT just became the Hannibal Lecter of this world and...I just asked myself...why? Why force him in? It felt contrived and I couldn't get on board with it; why not of all things allow the choice to join forces with him? Use the whole idea of choice and go crazy! Because Max for the most part was!

So I don't know, playing this game when you're in a depressed state is not the way to go I can tell you that much. For every step I took forward with it, it made me feel like it went back a step emotionally. It didn't feel like it had that overwhelming mass amount of choices that the game was promoting to me and I wanted to see the world burn...

...and it didn't, essentially.

However; if there's one thing you can take away from this game is the fact that it really builds on relationships that were once there but then lost. It does this well and the chemistry between Max and Chloe a point. I think if this had been nurtured just a little more without the weird cliche dialogue, this could have been more of a reason for me not to want to see the entire world of Life is Strange to be destroyed.

But the thing is, I don't mind this game! I think it's okay...but if this had some more focus and built upon these ideas it had in a greater sense, I would have loved it.

Dontnod, if you do another one of these, I'll be watching because you did something fascinating - I just hope that I'm one in the better mood than you next time.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Narrative Perfection... (Kubo and the Two Strings Review)

Now I'm all about games, you probably know this since you came to a blog about video games but I love a good story, in case you didn't realise that. Well you do now. 

I'm also not one for gushing about things. I'm quite negative.

However, I watched a film called "Kubo and the Two Strings" made by the very talented Laika Studios

I could leave it there. That's your review. Ok, bye.

I won't though.

This film is almost near perfection to myself. The only problem for me is that I wanted it to be that little bit longer because it was so good. A brilliant "family film" reminiscent of Goonies, Monster House and Jumanji - dealing with the trials, tribulations and emotions of a young one-eyed boy named Kubo (played by the kid who did Rickon Stark who does a phenomenal job). 

His story begins with him looking after his disabled mother. It makes harrowing watching for a kid's film as Kubo feeds her food and she eats; staring out to the ocean from their home with no emotion. Yes; it genuinely goes there and I could not be more proud for the things they attempt to tell in their story with such soul.

Along for the ride are Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey who genuinely make you smile and laugh. You feel for these characters.

I want to tell you so much about what happens in this film; but I would be spoiling it. This is a genuinely heart warming experience and I could never call what the next beat of the film would be. I think I only saw one thing coming in the story but for the rest of it, I was so surprised.

Combined with a great soundtrack by Dario Marianelli (V for Vendetta) and gorgeous animation; this is quite the tour de force. I just hope that some day, games can constantly attempt to get to an emotional and hard-hitting level like Kubo and the Two Strings - to feel something genuinely for the characters, the world and the reasons why you're there in the first place.

There are many films and books that can teach you narrative, pacing, plotting and how to create emotion to your prospective viewer but maybe, just maybe, this could be what you should take a look at if you want inspiration.

If you want a story, don't blink - you'll miss it.

Friday, 11 November 2016

The Starts of a Narrative Designer

You know when you take a look at yourself and you think you're not doing too bad? Wait, you have never done that before? Oh, it's 2016 isn't it? The year of woe or as I call it: the year of the "media getting it's happy fun time wank to every miserable thing it can find".

When I first started writing this blog, I didn't really know what to do with it. I still don't if I'm being blisteringly honest. Maybe you should know a little more about me and what I do.

"What I do" - it's a strange phrase isn't it? It makes you sound as if that you're a robot doing a same repetitive task. Well, I did that for quite a while in honesty. I worked in call centres for 5 years. A large portion of my twenty's was spent talking to people I would consider idiots or slow when really I was pretty much very angry at the situation I was in.

I had done a degree in Town and Country Planning and it had pretty much brought me to a dead-end. It wasn't what I wanted to do with my life and back then, the games industry had only really started to be taken seriously.

During this time I had managed to amass so many ideas of games and their worlds in my head. Some were pretty lame and some were pretty decent. These managed to manifest themselves in to games I made later on like "Recur" and "Ice Station Alpha". You can check those out if you want. SHAMELESS SELF PLUG ALERT!!! get back on topic, cut to 2014. Imagine you had been in a call centre for four years; bumbling along paying bills and working pretty much 6 days a week. It was stressful to say the least. I'd been going through a few things in my head that I was "working to live" rather than "living to work".

My close friend, Dan, was chatting to me and he was one for insights that other people hadn't normally seen...and usually a lot of disgusting toilet humour. I remember the conversation clear as day; he'd been talking about his Dad and how he worked in the mines (Sheffield lad, born and bred).  He'd go in, do the job and come back home with a wage packet. We had rambled on for a while and it suddenly occurred to Dan to say the immortal words that stuck with me:

"I'll tell you, Call Centres are the Coal Mines of our generation."

It was shocking to me what he'd said. I'd been to see the bank about a mortgage the week before with my partner...and I was stuck...there in that place to pay it off.

I went off work for three weeks. I couldn't bear it. It hit me that hard.

So, yeah, if you can imagine it, I'd essentially done a crazy Kramer meltdown of epic proportions. Without the racism. And the yelling. It was more of a quiet sad sob in my underwear with a beer gut.

The job had given me a lot of disposable income so...carpe diem. I looked like crazy to get out of the hole I'd put myself in; by going to another hole. I'd decided to go to Barnsley University Campus and I started an HND in Games Design.

It became apparent in my life, I liked writing and making stories. Sure, I was starting out and I wanted to do more with words... the problem with gaming is that its a very visual thing. It's difficult to get across to that you want to write and create the "narrative" of a game without getting a look like you've defecated loudly in your pants. Usually you're there because you want to draw, or model something or simply create a game with other people.

It didn't help as well that the course I was on was the first time that the university had run it became difficult to know what it was that I was meant to do. It was self apparent, I was in for a long winding trek to becoming what I wanted...

Over two years, I had designed a crap looking cannon, drew some pretty awful characters and drank myself silly to make things. I just kept on finding myself drawn to explaining how everything worked. In that period of time, I made a narrative branching game called Pathogenesis. So that's there if you want to give it a play.

Putting that all to one side though, I managed to get a Distinction in my HND. Pretty badass eh? I'm like the cat with the proverbial cream.

My next step of my journey has taken me to Sheffield Hallam University doing a Masters in Games Design. If I'm going to be doing narrative, I need to write and I need to make sure that my grammar is good and I know how to talk good.

Steady as she goes though, I'm in a new world of high-brow academics and I'm just starting to pierce the veil of becoming what I want to be. In other words, I'm going to take some bruises...which has spurred this on in fact. Because I didn't get quite a good mark as I thought I had in a module with 3D modelling...

But if this little blog has a purpose to me to write and reflect on how far I've come, let me make sure that this post serves as somewhat an inspiration to you: Never settle for less and always come back wanting more.

I promise from this point on, I will be writing something slightly more fun; honest.

Ta ta sauce!
Dave (infectedflinch)

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Wow, have I neglected you here?

Well, it's been a while since I posted here. I can only apologise! So here's some updates to some videos I've done recently. Above is a VR to SoulFunkRetro.

Also, another VR to Gruss Newton about consoles I've bought purely for one game.

Plus, I'm working on a game called RECUR. Check it above! It's coming out on August 15th 2016 and I'm pretty excited to show it off!

Anyway, good catching up! See you soon!

Thursday, 31 March 2016

Three years later...

...and we're still doing Nostalgia Trips... guys are awesome...

Saturday, 12 March 2016

Video Game Market 3 - And other cool things...

Time for another video about my exploits...join me in Doncaster Dome along with things that I found...

..70% less ranting this time around. Guaranteed.

Sunday, 14 February 2016


It's Valentines Day! That time of year where you show appreciation of the one you love more so than any other day... why not take a guide from the Pumpking to score in the ways of love?