This is my Blog, on it I simply write stuff that I feel like writing about. You'll find it heavily slanted towards tech, games, entertainment and the like. I write about other stuff too, and somethings I write about things. I also do photography, the link is on your right.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Successfully Unsuccessful

Every blog needs to have some sort of theme.  A commonality that ties all the posts and all the content together.  That's how you build up a reader base.  You find a group people with similar interests and you cater to them; create a community.  No matter how esoteric your content might be, there will be people that hold that same interest.  That, dear readers is the terrible horror and the radiant beauty of the internet.

My blog was supposed to be about technology, gaming and photography.  To some degree it still slants in that direction, but it’s a far cry from zeroing in on that content.  I’m kind of all over the place.  Sometime I feel like I’ve turned this into a directionless rambling stream of consciousness.  A personal diary made public. This is reinforced by the one and only rule I gave myself when I started this little venture.  My mandate was to always write for myself.  I would not censor myself, cater to or pander to anyone.  I now see the folly in that.  If I’m going to do that, I might have been better served by hiding a little leather bound book under my bed and scribbling "Dear Diary…"

However, I didn’t do that.  I chose a relatively public forum for a reason, and my writing needs to reflect that. In theory almost anyone in the world can read what I write here.  Now if the talking miniature hippo living in my closet were to waddle up to me and ask me, “why?”  What would my answer be?  I do it because I have a compelling need to engage people emotionally.  I want people to read, observe, or interact with content I have created and feel something.  Entertained, happy, introspective, scared, sad, or curious.  I see media of all types that manage to break through that ever thickening layer of cynicism and I feel jealous, I want that.  Everyone has examples of a song that always makes them cry, or movie that you never get sick of, or a book that blew your mind.  How about a video game like Journey?  An experience that lets you connect with a complete stranger to share in a little virtual sojourn.  How many mouths were hanging open in stunned satisfaction as the ending to Bioshock Infinite bowled them over?  I want that.

People always say you want what you can’t have, or in my case, won’t have. What I mean is I don’t deserve to have it.  If I did get it, I would feel guilty about having it and try my hardest to get rid of it.  At least that’s what my sub-conscious would have me believe.  Now we are getting to the heart of the little hippo’s question, and we see that there is some faulty wiring.  You see, I post on this blog because there is a low chance of it becoming successful and a high chance of failure.  You may think that you read that wrong, or possibly that I wrote it wrong. nope.

I’m actually not very afraid of failure.  If people don’t like my writing, and never read it, It doesn’t really bother me all that much.  But what if suddenly thousands of people wanted to read my blog?  Or what if some mainstream legit site wanted me to write for them, and even pay me to do it?  Well, that scares the ever living shit out of me.  Paradoxically this is also what I would love to have happen.
Thus begins the self sabotage.  First off, I should be heeding the advice at the beginning of this post.  I should be making content relevant to a group of people with my common interest, and it should be written for them, not me.  Ironically NOT writing posts like this one.  Next up, as any upstart will tell you, if you want to get your project off the ground, you need exposure.  You need to be all over the Internet hyping up your shit.  you need to be shameless and persistent.  You need to be consistent and regular with new content.  You have to be disciplined enough to do it even when you don’t feel it.  I don’t do any of this, and it keeps me nice and cozily insulated from any kind of positive exposure.

That’s what my life seems to be, a series of non-starts.  I have literally a lifetime of unrealized ideas for short stories, novels, plays, photo shoots, and game designs…some of them might even be good.  Therein lies the problem, if I start to flush out some of these ideas, put a lot of effort into them and make them happen and they turn out shit, well no harm done.  I’ll look like one of those people on America Idol during the audition episodes.  You know the ones that are supremely confident that they are amazing vocalists, only to open their mouths and out come that kind of sounds you think you’d hear in the ninth circle of hell.  It’s kind of amusing, but they leave the audition and just go back to their life, just doing what they do, and enjoying it.    But what if…?  What if some people really like something I do?  What if one of these ideas took off?  I don’t know if I could handle that.  Why should I be successful?  Why should I, when at any given time there are thousand of people better than me at any given discipline.

One step at a time I suppose.  Of all the creative endeavours that I have not pursued, even though I’ve dearly wanted to, one has managed to wrestle it’s way out of my brain and into reality despite all the odds.  Dark Pixels: The Blog.  Huzzah!

So where do I go from here?  Should I re-focus this blog and zero in on technology, games and photography?  Nahh…..I don’t think so.  I like writing posts like this, it helps me to get my mind sorted.  If I’m really lucky, I’ll give someone a chuckle or two, or even get them to do some introspecting of their very own.  As for the other problem, I know what the short answer is:  I should just go for it, and let the chips fall where they may.  Knowing it is a completely different hurdle than doing it, and I don’t know if I can jump high enough yet.

Here’s what I say. If your blog is not on target, don’t re-aim, move the target.  I’m going to create a whole new category of blog, population: me.  I’ll call it “technology and introspection: examining the inner workings of gadgets and the mind.”  Or TI:EIWGM for short.  Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue like I hoped it would, but does have a certain charm, does it not?  If anyone knows of an already existing community of  TI:EIWGM'ers please, point me to them, maybe I can promote Dark Pixels.

For a final blowing of the mind:

I’m afraid of success, but I’ve been so far completely successful in not being a success.  That would make me a failure at being unsuccessful.  So my real problem is that I’m afraid of failing to not fail, which is the one thing I don’t want to do: fail to not fail to be successful.


P.S. Happy 40th post!  It's about 39.5 more than I thought I'd ever write.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Bioshock Infinite

The talk of the video game world these days, the “belle of the ball” so to speak, is most indubitably Bioshock Infinite.  Everywhere you roam on review sites it’s getting perfect or near perfect scores.  It’s unanimous, the game is amazing, but what I want to know is why?  What sets this game apart from all of it’s contemporaries.

Let’s start with the basics.  The game looks gorgeous, bright, colourful, and inventive, creative environments abound.  The environments are so detailed and lush that the first 30 minutes or so of the game is literally you just wandering around taking in the sights and sounds of the world, and it’s not boring in the least.  The game is set on a floating city. Streets, building, parks, even a beach, float on connected platforms that bob lazily up and down and stretch out and far as the eye can see as clouds drift amongst them.  In this story it is 1912, so all the aesthetics reflect that, clothing, architecture and music, right down to the floating stage with a barbershop quartet signing merrily.

Second is the gameplay itself.  As any gamer will tell you, this is of paramount importants for any game, for obvious reasons.  If a game is hard, confusing or frustrating to play, it doesn’t matter how pretty it is.  Lucky for us Bioshock Infinite has some of the tightest most precise gameplay I've ever seen.  Combat, which is the core of any first person shooter is extremely satisfying.  The weapons are plentiful and easy to come by, no matter how you like to play it, there is a perfect weapon for you.  There is a mechanic in the game called “vigours” essentially special ablities that give you a little extra edge in combat.  Things like lightning bolts, fire grenades, and my personal favourite the “bucking bronco” which launches all the enemies in front of you into the air, flinging them like ragdolls which you can then pick off at your leisure.  Even the environment itself can be used as a weapon.  You get a grapple hook of sorts that you can latch onto rails.  You hang from the bottom of them, zipping around like a roller coaster, peppering enemies with gunfire and leaping down on unsuspecting foes.  It’s fast, furious and it never seems to get old, it’s just plain satisfying.

Now if we were to just stop there what have we got?  A good looking fun game, in a nutshell.  There are plenty of good looking fun games out there, that alone is not enough to garner perfect or near perfect scores.  There must be something else.  Something that raises this game to a different level.

Subject matter.

This game takes on topics head on that most developers would never dare to.  Racism, racial segregation, oppressive religious ideologies, choice, free will, and redemption.  Simply put, this is a mature game.  Normally when we refer to a game as mature, that means in the ESRB sense.  That little “M” in the corner of the box to let parents know that a game has blood, violence and naughty language.  Well, BS:I has all that, but that’s not why I would call it mature.  It’s mature because it deals with these heady topics in a way that feels very “grown up” for lack of a better word.

Right near the beginning of the game, as you are wandering around this idyllic setting you come across a stage where the inhabitants of the city are hosting a raffle.  You character grabs a baseball from a basket with the number 77 written on it.  They make the draw, and of course you win.  You’re thinking “yay I won!”  Then the curtains parts and behind them are a couple tied up, one white, one black.  There is a moment of confusion before the announcer say, “Come on…are you going to throw it, or are you taking your coffee “black” these days.  Then you have to make a choice.  This is when you realize this game is going to go a lot deeper than your typical, “your mission is to blow shit up” style game that the industry is known for.

The archetype main character of a FPS shooter game is usually a blank slate.  Take some popular games like Halo, or Half-life.  Gordon Freeman doesn’t speak, and nobody has ever seen Master Chiefs face.  The reason developers do this is so players can fill in the blanks with whatever they want, after all, they are viewing the entire game through the character's eyes.  Essentially they look or sound exactly how you want them to.

This is another way BS:I sets itself apart, you play as Booker DeWitt, a down on his luck detective who is charged with going to Colombia, the floating city, and rescuing a girl names Elizabeth.  Booker is not who you want him to be, he is a fully flushed out character with personality traits that are all his own.  When you finally meet up with Elizabeth, you get to watch as her and Booker get to know each other, and slowly build a relationship.  You get to see though Bookers eyes as he upsets Elizabeth, or comforts her.  You get to watch as Elizabeth does the same for Booker.  What makes this so powerful is that you are not a passive observer, your are right there, in the moment with them riding the same emotional roller coaster.

I don’t want to discuss the plot too much, but story is like a twisting turning road snaking it’s way up a mountain.  The higher you go, the tighter and more urgent the twists and turns become.  Hints, clues, little insights, keeping popping up, sometimes causing, sometime clearing confusion and intrigue.  it builds and builds until you get to the top of the mountain, where you get a full view of everything that has transpired.
If your were to go on Youtube and search for “Bioshock Infinite discussion” your will find dozens of videos of people sitting around deconstructing what they experienced, discussing and sharing concepts and ideas that this game presents to the player.  to me it’s more powerful than watching a really good movie.  Each person who played, didn’t just watch, they experienced the story.  you can seen that in their conversations, hear the enthusiasm in their voices. 

I think people will be talking about this game for a very long time, which to me is the real reason for it’s perfect scores.  In a medium where a game is played, loved dearly for a few days or weeks, and then forgotten, this is the tremendous accomplishment that BS:I has achieved.