The aforementioned Shaun Keaveny, 6 Music, 9th January 2019, on a listener talking about their kid playing Minecraft:
“If he’s playing it, I don’t mind that. It’s watching my children sometimes watching a kid playing Minecraft on YouTube which beggars belief for an analogue person. The other day, I saw a kid watching a kid playing Minecraft on YouTube, and a kid watching over his shoulder. It’s like Russian dolls, isn’t it? Absolutely insane.”
Let’s take a little trip back to my childhood. I remember watching and loving my sister play games on our BBC Master. I remember watching and loving my friend Joel play games on his Archimedes. And I remember being at a Scout activity weekend, where by far the best thing that happened all weekend was gathering around our leader’s Amiga and watching each other play games.1
I totally get that Shaun Keaveny is not trying to be the voice of youth. But 6 Music hiring DJs which don’t even manage to keep up-to-date with what was happening in the early 90s – or, indeed, far earlier – is not a good look. People watching other people play videogames is not a new thing in any way whatsoever. It’s been going on for decades.
By the way, the fact I didn’t invent Twitch and make millions of pounds despite being well aware that people love watching other people playing games will haunt me to my deathbed.
Over the last few months, I’ve been doing a little bit of internet archaeology. Whether it’s pointing out dodgy updates to sites about murder, tracing what happened to Twitter favourites aggregator Favrd, figuring out what the deal is with an extremely weird abandoned website, or looking at good archivists and bad archivists, all of these investigations relied on one thing: the Wayback Machine from the Internet Archive, taking us back in time to examine websites at a different point in their existence. Or in some cases, to websites which have disappeared entirely. (Don’t forget my plea to think about giving the Internet Archive a donation.)
Today I want to use the Wayback Machine to talk about a couple of sites which meant a lot to me, but which are no longer online in their original form. One is more serious, and the other is a ridiculous amount of fun. Both of them, in one way or another, changed the way I think about things.
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I don’t usually write this kind of thing, but I feel I just have to share this with you. Doing social media for games is hard, and media fragmentation makes getting attention for your product virtually impossible at times. If only somebody would write a clear, concise guide about best practices in order to give your game the edge it deserves in this crowded marketplace.
Fear not. @Origamiwars is here to show you how to do social media right. Rather than just give you a dry list of rules, let’s take a look at how this pioneering account did things. If you’re at all involved in social media in a commercial context, then what I’m about to tell you is well worth your time.
Incidentally, don’t worry that the account is currently called “AppleCustomerService”. There’s some spectacularly clever stuff that this account does later on which will explain everything. Suffice to say that until this morning, this account was called “OrigamiWars”. All will become clear.
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Years ago, I created – along with Jeffrey Lee – a website about two of my favourite RISC OS games, Asylum and Oddball. (I did the design and some of the writing for the site, and Jeffrey did all the ACTUAL WORK involving the software.) Both games were loads of fun – but to get them running these days, you either have to have a RISC OS machine, get a RISC OS emulator up and running, or mess around with an SDL version. One thing that doesn’t need any setting up however, is listening to the fantastic music from Asylum.
From the relatively calm music for the easy levels, through to my favourite track for the medium levels, and this absolute insanity for the hardest levels – and that’s only three of the eight pieces – any lover of videogame music should give it a listen. They aren’t very well known, but I think the tracks are absolutely gorgeous. Aching for a remix of some kind.
So: do you have any favourite lesser-known music from games – from obscure tracks from famous releases, right through to something which once sold four copies in 1982? I’d love to put together a mix of them, similar to my BBC Micro TV themes mix from last year. Add ’em below, or send a tweet across. Any platform, any genre, any year. GO.
I just read two articles. Two articles about two entirely different subjects. Oddly enough, however, they both managed to annoy me in exactly the same way. (Incidentally, congratulations – you’ve just managed to find the only site on the internet to tie together Mrs Brown’s Boys and Flappy Bird.)
Firstly, Rachel Cooke interviewing BBC director of television Danny Cohen:
“Would he explain to me the success of Mrs Brown’s Boys, watched by 9.4 million on Christmas Day? “Yes. There are huge numbers of people – and I’m one – who love studio-based sitcoms. The joy in the room!” Again, I peer at him, trying to work out if he’s being sincere. Oh, Lord. I think he is.”
Secondly, Patrick O’Rourke on Flappy Bird. He starts off with an interesting question:
“After about 10 minutes, I came to the realization Flappy Bird is an absolutely horrible video game and began to wonder why it’s so extremely popular.”
Somehow manages to contradict himself within two sentences:
“It’s Flappy Bird’s simplicity that makes it so addictive. What I don’t understand is how people genuinely seem to be enjoying playing Flappy Bird.”
And then just gives up:
“So do yourself a favour and stop playing Flappy Bird; it sucks.”
Now, what I think about the two topics is irrelevant. (For the record, I really like Flappy Bird, and haven’t seen enough Mrs Brown’s Boys to be able to judge.) What irritates me is the acknowledgement of how successful they both are… and a complete lack of engagement on behalf of the writer as to why.
In the case of Mrs Brown’s Boys, I genuinely don’t understand the interviewer’s response to Danny Cohen’s statement. Which bit is she disagreeing with? That people like studio-based sitcoms? That Cohen specifically likes studio sitcoms? The bit about the “joy in the room”? Or does she think he ducked the specific question and just spoke in generalities, and that’s what she’s perturbed by? It’s not clear at all. It’s just a dig from someone who doesn’t like the show, expecting the reader to happily go along with it without a single further thought.
The Flappy Bird article is even worse. It claims to be a piece where someone who hates the game genuinely tries to find out what people love about it… and yet the writer makes little effort to actually figure it out. The point of the article having now completely disappeared, instead he throws out an order from on-high to tell people to stop playing the game. I would hope that last part at least has some level of irony attached, but it’s still pointless. The entire article is ridiculous.
Let me be clear. I’m not saying that just because something’s popular, you have to like it. You hate something popular, you should write articles in deep and penetrating detail saying exactly what you don’t like about it. (God knows I have.) What annoys me about these two articles is that both specifically bring up the fact that something they hate is popular… and then refuse to engage with any potential answers as to why. Instead, they prefer to sit back and sneer.
My suggestion: have a go. Listen. Engage. Think about why people might like something you don’t. You don’t have to suddenly agree that something is brilliant – but at least have the discussion. You’re more likely to come up with something that’s actually worth saying.
Take a spin-off of a spin-off: a 1995 SNES game, based on The Flintstones live action film, based on the Hanna-Barbera cartoon.
Take a music track found in the cartridge, which isn’t even used in the game1.
And from this obscure origin, find one of the most gorgeous chiptunes you’re ever likely to hear.
Funny how life turns out.
Player character identification in video games is one of those topics which academia seemingly loves. There are reams and reams of papers dedicated to the subject. I’m never scared to dumb things down here at Dirty Feed, however, so let’s ludicrously simplify things. How I identify with a player character comes in two forms: they’re either not me… or they are me.
In Final Fantasy IX, I am Zidane, a cheeky chappy with a ludicrous tail who discovers he is an Angel of Death. In I-0, I am Tracy Valencia, with all the added anatomy and latent lesbian tendencies that part requires. On the other hand, in a game like Angband, I’m creating a character from scratch, not taking the role of a pre-existing character with their own story – and I tend to think of that character as an extension of myself.
With a life simulation game like Animal Crossing, it’s even more clear-cut. Sure, the world is absolute fantasy, full of talking animals: but I’m still called John. I can wear the kind of clothes I wear in real life, furnish my house like I would if I had endless money and wasn’t a lazy bastard. I’m not playing a part: that character running around on the screen is me.
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Here’s something rather silly I’ve put together. Anyone up for a bunch of 8-bit versions of popular TV and film themes, taken from a load of BBC Micro games? I CAN TELL YOU ARE, HELLO YOU.
Some of the pieces are really well done – I especially love the opening version of the Match of the Day theme – and some… aren’t. What the bloody hell is that interpretation of Play Your Cards Right?
Download “Four Channels” (13MB MP3, 11:06)
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Ah, nothing I like better than picking tiny holes in articles I otherwise agree with:
Zelda: Skyward Sword – The Great Graphics Debate
“If a piece of art was once brilliant and stirring – if it truly was such – no technical advancement or passing of time can take that from it.”
YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES YES
“The old, classic, black and white movies (like Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane or Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2) are no less captivating and memorable now that HD cameras are the standard.”
NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO NO
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From the June 1987 edition of A&B Computing:
And here was me thinking it was just ports which used such tactics, and homegrown BBC Micro games were a paragon of virtue…