2013 in stuff

2013 was a weird year for me. I spent the first half of it with no money, no prospects and no motivation, but by the end I had a steady income, a bunch of new friends and small cool writing in lots of different places. I can probably credit a lot of that to the Not a Game podcast. Recording something every week really helped me get out of my rut, so thanks for that guys.

I mention this because it probably explains a few things here. Like not going to the cinema or reading much and just binge watching TV instead. Basically it’s about how I suck, but I suck slightly less than I did ten years ago.


Asylum Jam article

I try my best to love everywhere I write for equally, but there’s a special feeling to having an article on a website your Mum’s heard of. This week I got my first article up on The Guardian. It’s about Asylum Jam and the depiction of mental health in games, and I talk a lot about my time working in a secure mental health unit, and also my grandfather’s failing memory.

The day I stopped playing GTA

So Grand Theft Auto 5 is out and a lot of people are discussing the controversial torture scene. People like Eurogamer editor Tom Bramwell, who writes:

“GTA is a game full of violence, of course, but it is mostly slapstick, impersonal, cartoon violence – floppy-limbed pedestrians flying over your bonnet, cars flipping through intersections, or tanks and helicopters exploding. You’re always slightly zoomed out from the impact of your actions by the lack of close-ups and the way everything resets to normal a few minutes later. It’s very unusual to be hurting a single person in isolation over a prolonged period, which is why the torture scene is a different and unpleasant experience.”

With respect to Tom, I think he’s wrong to call this scene an exception. In fact his description of Trevor’s graphic torture reminded me very much of a small section in GTA 4 that put me off the series forever. The mission in question is called  ‘I’ll take her (Ransom)’. It’s short and remarkably simple, all you have to do is beat a defenseless woman and take a photo of her battered face.


Let’s make comments earn their front page status

Note: I can’t claim full credit for this idea. It’s based on a similar brainstorm by my friend Chris Thursten. My version is just simpler and more drastic.

Recently I’ve read a number of articles on internet comments. Notably this one by Ed Smith on Medium. The message is simple: comments are terrible, they’re being used to bully and harass writers, something must be done. All these articles are confident that something will be done, that creators will eventually wrest the power back from the comment section but, other than Ed’s suggestion that comments should occasionally be closed, no-one seems to have much of an idea how we should go about it. I do.

The idea is simple. Having your words appear below the article is a privilege, not a right, so let’s force people to earn that right. Let’s make sure every single comment requires someone to click ‘approve’ before it shows up. Instead of only exceptionally bad comments being deleted, only especially good ones will appear at all.


Luminesca preview

Luminesca is one of many games I saw at Rezzed, and easily the prettiest of them all. It’s a shadowy, minimalist underwater exploration game with an adorable silhouette art style that reminds me heavily of Limbo.  Mostly though I was fascinated by the macabre story that was hinted at, giving the whole think a dark fairy tale atmosphere.

You can read my preview on PC Gamer, and I recommend voting for it on Greenlight.

The Not a Game podcast

I know an awful lot of interesting freelancers, and it always struck me as a shame that they never had a place to get together and just chat about games for a bit. The Not A Game podcast is my attempt to bring together a bunch of those people and give them a chance to talk informally, exchange views, have debates and hopefully not realise I’m nowhere near as cool as they are.

We all live in different cities and keep different schedules, so it’s been hell to organise, but from now on we aim to record one every week. We’ve started with a small core cast, but we aim to expand and feature guest appearances from freelancers and developers all over the world. In fact if you’d like to join us, please get in touch with me via twitter or email.

The regulars:

You can listen to the Not a Game podcast at Gaming Daily, where Craig is generously hosting them. Just click on the ‘Podcast‘ button at the top of this website to go to a list of episodes.

Shame Boner

Listen video games, this is kinda awkward, but I need to ask you to stop trying to play with my penis.

It’s really rude. There I am, enjoying a healthy dose of violence or an engaging storyline when suddenly you ambush me with rogue batch of wank fodder and poke incessantly at my genitals, demanding I rise to attention. It’s pretty embarrassing video games, I mean you haven’t even bought me dinner yet.


The 50 best Skyrim mods

I love my Skyrim Mods posts for PC Gamer. They’re some of the most popular articles ever on the site, and the second highest link in a google search for ‘Skyrim Mods’. Yes I know that makes it sound like I’ve turned into a marketing droid and am now proud of SEO, but what it really means is that I feel a tremendous sense of responsibility when writing them. There are going to be thousands of people who’ve never tried mods before who are looking to me for advice, to steer them to the good stuff and avoid the giant tit mods.

So when PC Gamer asked me to rewrite the top 25 article, I was so enthusiastic that I told them I could easily make it fifty. The result was pretty backbreaking, especially as an overheating PSU was making it hard to run Skyrim at the time. I tried out a lot of less than impressive mods to reach these 50, but it was worth it, and I got to engage in a bit of amateur screenshot camerawork along the way, which PCG put into a gallery post to tease people about the update.

Read the 50 best Skyrim mods at PC Gamer.

Card shark – A story about how Steam trading cards drove me insane

When Steam trading cards were announced I treated them as a joke, a bunch of weird nonsense I didn’t want anything to do with. Then I realised people were paying money for these things, and I figured I could try and make a few bucks, enough to get a copy of Rogue Legacy at least. I rapidly degenerated into a parody of shitty capitalism, ranting on twitter about the miniscule amounts of money I was making. Thankfully PCG web editor Tom Senior was paying attention to my breakdown, and figured it would make a good article, and thus Card Shark was born.

As a bonus, I also wrote an article on how to make money from Steam trading cards without going as crazy as I did.

Update – I actually earned even more money after I wrote this. By the end of the Steam Sale my eventual takings were Rogue Legacy, Kerbal Space Program, Universe Sandbox, The Binding of Isaac (with Wrath of the Lamb DLC) and £1.10 left over.

Ether One preview

I spotted Ether One during the same trip to Rezzed that lead to my project Zomboid article. It was one of the more impresisve games on show, a first person adventure game set inside the mind of a drug addict in 1920s Cornwall. I also got to play it a little using the Oculus Rift, which was an amazing experience.

Read my Ether One preview at PC Gamer.