Connection Interrupted

My friend killed herself yesterday and the last thing we did together was play Iron Grip: Warlord.

Or maybe it wasn’t. Maybe the last thing we did was talk over Steam, her saying I can’t take it anymore and I’ve ruined everything and you remember when I tried to kill myself last year? while I sat, helpless with the distance of 378 miles, and sent back have you called the helpline? and it’ll be okay and *hugs*. But what I remember is Iron Grip: Warlord.

She was a generous player, quick to build and quick to mend, and I loved being alongside her as waves of enemies scrambled up the bridge; just me, my boyfriend and her against the odds. I thought playing with us would make her happier and I think I was right. I hoped it might help her and I was wrong.

You can’t fix depression with three victories and a retry, I knew that. You can’t even fix loneliness. But I wanted it to. I wanted it to chase away her shadows long enough for the helpline to be dialled, the call to be answered. I told my boyfriend yesterday that I hoped we were doing her some good, before I woke up this morning, before I opened my email and found out she was dead. Maybe she was dead when I said it.

I haven’t opened Iron Grip: Warlord today and I’m not sure when I will. There’s a hole in my team. There’s a hole in my team, ZP, and you’re not there.

Thief 4 Screenshots: Have Eidos Captured the Spirit of Thief?

After 2011’s leaked concept art, I had high hopes for Thief 4. While the fandom was busily picking fault with a handful of sketches – “The angle of his right calf clearly indicates that Eidos are reimagining Thief as a racing game!” – I was getting my love on for the pretty, pretty possibilities.

Today, all those possibilities came together and danced for the pleasure of my fangirl heart. Look at this beautiful slice of game. If these screenshots were a woman, I would forgo the wine ‘n dine and head straight for the sheets. The only thing keeping me from smooching my monitor is that I know where it’s been.


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The Thief 4 Demo Reel Makes Me Happy In My Pants

Written 30/07/2012. First posted here.

When the Thief 4 ‘trailer’ leaked last month, the internet went mildly enthusiastic. Intrigued individuals and 200-word articles as far as the eye can glance. Bit of forum activity, even.

Less a big splash than a skipping stone, but that was to be expected. It’s a 30-second clip for Thief goddamn 4; the next in a series which most people have never played, and which Eidos Montreal have released Sweet F.A about. Most of the attention it got consisted of ten words and a video link, or a sweet little teaspoon of rampant paranoia about The Creeping Inevitable Doom That Has Fallen Upon This Game.

Me? I was pretty psyched, because look at this motherfucker:

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Wonderbook: The Little Preview That Could (But Didn’t)

Written 12/06/2012. First posted here.

In the spirit of innovation, Sony have bred a Living Books CD with a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Presumably kept together in a small, warm box; dosed with pheromones and Barry White tracks until they conceded to mate and bring forth a Harry Potter spell list.

Sorry, that’s an uncharitable way to describe the offspring. It is, in fact, ‘a new range of experiences that brings stories to life in your living room’. Imagine sailing the seven seas to explore an Atlas, walking with dinosaurs, travelling beyond the stars to discover astronomy. Imagine a presentation where they’d actually shown us any of that.

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Eastercon 2012 – A Write-Up From the Hotel Bar

Written 18/04/2012. First posted here.

I have cocooned myself in a miasma of blankets and sweat, wheezing like an elderly basset hound. My muscles have seized up from chest to sternum. Each breath is an exercise in masochism.

Every two years I sell a kidney and pay for a weekend at Eastercon, and every two years it thanks me with this. What can I say? I’m a glutton for punishment. But this…


Olympus 2012 has killed me, dear readers, more surely than if I tried to scale that mythical mountain from which it takes its name. I am a shell of what I once was, a slightly sticky shroud cradling sleep deprivation and obscene amounts of caffeine.

Was it worth it? Popular consensus says: fuck yeah.

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Why Skyrim is a Stormcloak in a Teacup

Written 22/02/2012. First posted here.


Skyrim is not a particularly good game.

Not a terrible game, just a lazy one. It comfortably settles for mediocre with the occasional jaunt into pretty good or descent into god-awful. It’s not bad. It’s okay. It’s a horrendous brush to tar any creative property with: not so bad as to be entertaining, nor quite good enough for ‘decent’. The pity-prize of the praise world.

So why has Skyrim earned it? There is a lot about it to praise. Magic is fluid and extremely satisfying, Alchemy and Smithing both made for highly addictive little mini games, the Thieves Guild questline was coherent, and-

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Singleplayer Isn’t Dying

Written 06/02/2012. First posted here.

There is nothing gamers enjoy more than prophesising doom. And fair do’s, it’s a hobby we share with most of humanity, but it can get a little tiring. The same debates crop up over and over, year after year, as predictable as council tax but without the excitement. My personal nominee for ‘oh god, STFU’ is singleplayer’s inevitable demise.

The lyrics change, but the tune grates on the same as ever. First, story-driven singleplayer would be wiped out by shooters. Then story-driven singleplayer and shooters turned out to be amiable flatmates, so the new threat of multiplayer mode was introduced and charged with conspiracy to dilute singleplayer. MMOGs got touted as the Final Death Nell for a while there, but they fell out of vogue the moment they started falling flat on their faces. So what have gamers done? We found something else to twist our knickers over: social/app games and multiplayer-focused games.


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Narrative Kinks: Surprisingly Safe For Work

Written 04/01/2012. First posted here.

What are Narrative Kinks? Well, for a start they’re not normally capitalised but I like them that way. You could almost say it’s a grammatical kink.

Narrative Kinks are story or world elements which push your buttons. While this includes genre to some degree, it’s a lot more precise and tightly focused – you don’t have a Narrative Kink for fantasy, you have a Narrative Kink for ‘rag-tag band forced together by destiny’ or ‘the clash between magic and emerging technology’. They range from being major plot elements to simple character types. For example: I really like non-combative male thief characters, to the point where I’m more likely to buy something if I know there’s one in it. A friend of mine loves settings where magic is treated as a science.

(Those being some of the less embarrassingly petty options, as anything from ‘the badass fighter needs rescuing’ to ‘meaningful conversations next to streams at night’ can count as Narrative Kinks.)

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Tom of Gameland

Written 14/12/2011. First posted here.

Max Payne 3

If, like me, you’ve been gazing at that picture of Max Payne in faint bemusement (possibly wondering where his suit went and what asshole slipped him those steroids), you might’ve been too busy to notice similar imagery in other games. To sum it up: butch is big, and so are the male character designs.

Max’s transformation from a whiny angstbucket in cheap polyester to Interchangeable Gritty Mercenary 375 is disappointing, but hardly comes as a surprise. Games design has been heading down this track for a long time. If they’ve got muscles, put muscles on top of those and if they don’t, re-write the character until they do. Gamers are, apparently, incapable of enjoying a character who couldn’t moonlight as a bungalow.

This is bullshit.

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Ubisoft Wouldn’t Hit You If You Didn’t Make Him Angry

Written 06/12/2011. First posted here.

Ubisoft’s latest fallout with PC gamers deserves a lot more attention than this fair website has given it. Sure, there was last weeks Is Ubisoft inherently anti-PC gaming?, but that was less an article than a stream of vitriol and cheap dick jokes. I should know – I wrote it. Spleen-venting soothes the savage hate-on, but it leaves a girl with a lot of unanswered questions.

For starters: why has Ubisoft clung to demonstrably-ineffective DRM for so long?

That’s the money-shot. Ubisoft’s DRM gets cracked, and it usually gets cracked fast. From Dust was cracked in under a day. To their credit, Assassin’s Creed II and Silent Hunter 5 held out a little longer but the wait wasn’t exactly nail-biting. Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory takes Best in Show with over 400 days, but StarForce DRM pissed players off so badly Ubisoft dropped it.

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