This year I am going to turn thirty, and rather unceremoniously my body has realised that it is no longer fifteen, despite my brain’s attempts to convince it otherwise. I am aching, creaking and straining my way through life, finding myself avoiding icy patches on the pavements, where I would have skidded to victory as a kid, and finding myself annoyed when strangers throw snowballs at my head.
The snow has done nothing but serve as a sinister white effigy of Father Time himself, highlighting my failing body as it is. Which is a good thing, as I was clearly heading for a massive heart attack. My writing and photography has always been important to me, but it came as a result of free time and little else. I had neglected to notice that it is something I genuinely enjoy, and now shall be making more time to do more of it (albeit with a smattering of extra gaming time too).
So time for less caffeine, less stress and more writing, more photography and more fricking games!
2010 promises to be a great year for gaming, and is offering a more balanced year of releases thanks to many publishers hiding from Modern Warfare 2 in the shadowy days of February. Instead of having to fit more games into November than is physically possible we face a year of monthly releases of the stellar variety and this has me as aroused as Boris Johnson at an albino gang bang.
On top of this we have the very real prospect that we are heading into a new Ice Age if the newspapers are to be believed, so this may stand as my last communications on this earth before I become food for a CGI Mammoth that sounds suspiciously like Ray Romano.
My Thirtieth is hitting in August and it is the time where I am supposed to be feeling ‘reflective’, ‘mournful’ and ‘regretful’ for my life gone by, but as someone with a healthy interest in retro culture I find this had to slip into as I live every day in four separate decades. Yes I have regrets, we all do, but I am not feeling the overwhelming urge to make amends with old school friends who I lost touch with aged 11 after we promised to be pen pals for ever. Instead I am looking at time as a relatively limited commodity and attempting to use it to strengthen what I had, not what I had. This will mean a few hard choices, a few moments of swallowing pride etc… but at the same time I won’t waste night after night trawling through Facebook and – I shudder at the thought – Friends Reunited, trying to find that Ginger kid I sat next to on the bus to the American adventure theme park or something.
I am lucky to have a small group of great friends close to me and a family whom I sometimes take for granted. Fact is THIS is everything the last thirty years have geared towards, and what the next thirty should work with. So there you go. I’m getting older in more than one way, but at the same time this new found maturing attitude is making gaming more interesting. A fabulous documentary series on BBC4 over Christmas, Games Britannia, presented games as something to be respected, dealt with the morality issues and even managed to feature someone shooting a civilian in the face in GTA IV without appearing condescending. THe tide has turned, gaming is now more than mainstream, it is almost accepted, and for me, having the last twenty-five years of my life dedicated to the industry I am feeling a sense of pride seeing games like Bayonetta advertised on prime time TV. Sure I feel the pain in my heart when I see a new delivery of ‘Imagine’ titles come into my shop, but selling better games to people who trust my opinion is something that I could only have dreamt of when I was a nine-year old, playing the shockingly awful Pro Wrestling on the Master System.
I guess it is a little pretentious to go on about how we were ‘there’ back then, but it’s true. There are few other niche interests that have gone from low popularity and ridicule to world-changing status in such a short space of time. So while we were trying to work out what the fuck that was supposed to be on screen while playing on the Atari 2600, and the ‘cool’ kids were jumping ditches on BMXs we were really ensuring the success of what is now the world’s most popular entertainment product.
Long Live Games!
While on that subject, a quick word on Bayonetta. Those of you that follow the Lolocausts twitter feed on the main page, or indeed on Twitter (@Bouncybhall) will have noted that I claimed that it was really worth the hype, and while I still hold that opinion I do wish to clarify that it is not a game with universal appeal. Instead it is a very Japanese title full of innuendo, pervy camera shots and button mashing gameplay. the fighting (when not opting for the rather annoying easy mode which puts combos together for you, and thus removes the skill element) is fluid, complex and prime for practise. The game has flaws, but like Arkham Asylum, it’s overall feel and style wins through making this already one of the titles I am sure with be in my top five of the year. Special mention must also go to it’s stunning cut scenes, which follow in the footsteps of the MGS series for being a little too long, but benefit from featuring some breathtaking animation and action sequences, most notably a scene were a character fights an angelic horde while on a motorcycle. Full of sly references to Sega titles, without going all out cameo route it stands alongside it’s Devil May Cry brethren as an example of how to make a great game, but with the added bonus genius of the development team. Want to know one example of it’s greatness? During one part of the game a cutscene plays with you in a car, with a glut of plot exposition, but the music in the background is a theme from OutRun. Subtle, but there. This is what I want from gaming, something that feels new, but nostalgic at the same time. Bayonetta works this perfectly, and with the fluid combat, inspired character design and massive – and surprisingly frequent – boss battles it is a stunning game to start a new decade with, while remembering the years gone by. We have a great heritage in the archives, it does no harm to hark back to those days.
Which brings me to my next point… the new Matt Hazard game on XBLA.
That is all.
We at The Lolocaust wish you well for the next decade. May it be as tempestuous as the ones before it!