Author Archives: SaundoAU

About SaundoAU

I am an Economist living in Canberra, Australia, who developed an interest in South Korea off the back of studying the East Asia crisis in the early 2000’s.

Switch *Click*

Cancelling my Nintendo Switch preorder felt like a turning point for me. It wasn’t just opting out of the newest handheld console from the same company that had me hunched over the monochromatic screen of a Game Boy for more than a decade, in my mind it was the moment I decided that it is time to call time on writing about video games.

In many ways it feels right to make the switch.

The Nintendo Switch is everything I’d have wanted when we started this blog.  Nintendo handhelds have always been a big part of both why and how I play video games. And from moment I received a Game Boy for Christmas 1990 it was rare to find me without a handheld somewhere within arms length. Whether it was a well-worn copy of Super Mario Land 3: Warioland on the Game Boy or the balls-to-the-wall-nuts spin-off WarioWare Inc. Mega Microgames! on the cramptacular GBA Micro, handhelds were where I spent most of my video game time.

Which is why the decision to not buy it was so symbolic. Not feeling the need to embark on the next stage of that handheld journey meant something more than just saving $500-odd. It meant acknowledging that I was ready to let go of something I’d carried with me for the better part of three decades.

And I couldn’t let completely let go without cutting the cord completely. And that means also letting go of writing here.

But oh what a time I’ve had. Like the time I wrote about Warioware being my Nintendo nostalgia. Or when I had an existential crisis playing The Talos Principle. Or of course when I wrote about parental sex. These are all pieces I had a ball writing and I hope will stay here for more people to read and enjoy.

Most importantly I hope you’ve all enjoyed this as much as I have.

So it is with part sadness, part trepidation and part grief that I sign off here for the last time.

It’s been grouse.

Sir Gaulian

*Click*

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Sir Gaulian’s Most Agreeable games of 2016

For me the year 2016 in videogames is notable for a couple of reasons.

The first is that this year marks the moment Forza Horizon shtick wore out its welcome, and that despite its slavish dedication to paying homage to Australia’s unique auto history, I couldn’t force my way through the now by-the-numbers open world racing of Forza Horizon 3.

I played the fewest games in 2016 I probably have in any other year of my adult life. Which makes this a rather hard post to write. I haven’t followed what’s been happening in the world of video games terribly closely – which has been wonderful truth be told – but if there was a year to be ‘out of the loop’ this was it.

Because although I’d made a conscious decision to completely block out video games media and coverage, when snippets did creep their way to my attention through the information cracks and crevices in modern day living, it felt like I’d been picked up and sent way back in time. A return to Willamette Shopping Mall? A trailer featuring Watch Dogs’ T-bone?  Rocket-launching Revenants? In many ways – whether it be through the return of some of my favourites from years past or the release of games long in the making – my abridged experience of 2016 felt like a year designed to remind me personally of the things I love about video games. And the things I love about video games were encapsulated perfectly in my favourite games of the year.

Doom

Classic Doom always will hold a very special place in my video game lexicon. It is the one game I’d say without reservation every human being should – if they have any interest in pop culture of any kind – at least experience once in their life.

I’d probably say the same thing about this year’s Doom.

Doom is quite simply the same as it ever was. It’s prettier sure, and there are some more modern day trappings sprinkled across the top, but Doom is now as Doom was then. It’s impossible to know what would or could’ve been, but I can’t help but feel that if the Masters of Doom had the latest technology in the 90’s, this is what they would’ve unleashed upon an unwitting society.  It’s fast, it’s violent, it’s frenetic, and it’s fantastic.  From the moment the first zombie-soldier shuffles on to the screen, it feels just as it did more than 20 years ago. The masters may have changed, but Doom is back in a big way.

DOOM_Mars

 

Watch Dogs 2

Watch Dogs 2 is perhaps the perfect follow-up to what I still consider one of this generation’s finest video games. Although I found Chicago the more interesting place to hack, San Francisco is clearly the more logical place for cyber-shenanigans, what with most of the world’s social media hailing from the city by the bay.

The feel and flow of the series’ storytelling also got a significant overhaul; which despite not being as brooding aired as much of modern humanity’s dirty laundry as the grittiest pop culture yarns, with gender, sexuality and racial discrimination all getting subtle yet powerful cameos in such a clever and understated way that it’s not far-fetched to hope it paves the way for smarter representation of social minorities in video games.

But it was the story about how a ragtag bunch of activists bond – and I mean really become friends who care for one another – that wins the game my highest of praise. Watch Dogs 2 is a thoughtful game wrapped in a veneer of fun and frivolity, a game that successfully tackles some of western civilisations’ greatest challenges from living in a hyper-connected world, and a game that treads that fine line between preaching and informing.

The fact Watch Dogs 2 is incredibly fun to play is nothing short of a miracle, and why it’s without a doubt my favourite game of the year.

wd2

 

So there you have it; a shorter list than most previous years, but one that is filled with two games that for mine have packed a far harder punch than any in previous memory. Please let us know your favourite 2016 games in the comments.  Happy New Year and I hope to be around these hallowed halls more frequently in 2017.

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Quick Offload: Forza Horizon 3 is a celebration, a eulogy

GTRXU1.jpgAustralia’s car industry is dying. As the gradual removal of tariffs kicked off by Prime Minister Hawke began to bite, and in more recent times fiscal prudence forcing Governments to question financial support, the car industry was at a cross-roads. And by the end of 2017 our once great car manufacturing sub-sector will be in Australian history’s rear-vision mirror. Toyota, Holden and Ford, all gone.

In short: neoliberalism and the laissez-faire hasn’t been kind to Australia’s car industry.

I was one of those people who questioned Government’s insistence on supporting an industry that was for all intents and purposes, uneconomic. And economic theory – nay economic sense – backs that assertion. Australia’s high wage costs, lack of economies of scale, cost of inputs and decline of sales of domestically-built vehicles all contributed to an industry that in aggregate couldn’t compete with cheap imports. So policymakers and industry cut their losses and pulled out of Australia. Rightly or wrongly Australia will no longer a car-producing nation.

Forza Horizon 3 and its Australian setting is a celebration of an industry – but more important a culture – that is a ghost of its former self. I’ve written before about how intertwined car culture is in Australia’s psyche and I’m convinced a lot of that is to do with just how unique it is. Yell “Brockie” from the footpath anywhere in Australia, much less my hometown of Adelaide, and it’ll undoubtedly be acknowledged with “yeah mate!” or “Legend!” from passersby. And flash a photo of his GTR-XU1 and it might induce convulsions.

But, like a lot of things in this great southern land, these things are all pretty much unknown to the rest of the world. The moment you step into the 2016 HSV Maloo GTS to ‘upgrading’ to a Holden Torana A9X it becomes clear that Horizon 3 pays homage, not just to our country’s natural beauty,  but its unique automotive scene too. A scene that – with the last Ford Falcon already rolling off the line in Geelong and the last Australian built Commodore due in 2017 – is at risk of disappearing altogether. And taking everything built around it, with it.

And its for this very reason I’m lamenting the loss of our automotive industry. Because while it may not be economic, cultural output seldom is. And Forza Horizon 3 makes it very clear that, above all else, our car culture is something we should value and cherish as uniquely Australia

 

lj_torana_ad

Quick Offloads are short posts when we need to get things off of our chests – or bonnets in this case – but don’t want to make a federal issue out of it.  But feel free to play armchair economist, neoliberal critic or rip-roaring union commie in the comments section. Or, y’know, just pay your respect to the Australian car industry, R.I.P.

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Quick Offload: Bioshock’s Andrew Ryan is videogames’ Donald Trump

I didn’t really like Bioshock a decade ago. In many ways it felt like a bloody cracking world in want of a game and story that did it justice. I got that it was trying to be cutting, but in most respects, it just felt incredibly forced. Andrew Ryan’s speeches sounded like the sort of economic dogmatist that you’d see head into the corridors of power in the name of conservatism – and even with my economic conservative leanings I find those most dogmatic about the discipline are the ones that understand it the least. In other words Andrew Ryan was just your standard economic madman; just not a particularly deep or well-written one.

Playing through the remaster in 2016 though – well that’s completely changed my perspective on it. Fact is Bioshock could not be more relevant right now. Because Donald Trump is trying to make the United States into quasi-Rapture.

And the catalysts for his rise in popularity on the back of his policies aren’t much different, either. He argues for low tax. He is defending good old hard-working American values and American jobs against the centralists in People’s Republic of China. The world is in economic turmoil and Trump believes he’s the one to save the United States from itself. “Is a man not entitled to the sweat of his own brow? “No” says Washington. It belongs to the poor”

What was that about not paying taxes making one smart, Donald?

The slow decline of the house that neoliberalism built. Near-zero inflation in a low-rate world. Slow growth. The rise of China. We’re in unprecedented economic territory. And just as the limitations of Keynesian economics were exposed in the high-inflation era of the 1970’s and 1980’s, we’re beginning to reach the limit of our current suite of economic tools. To quote former Bob Hawke in the late 1970’s, “it would seem to me…economics has reached a crisis point”.

We need to have conversations about perpetual economic growth. About population growth. About most of the fundamental assumptions that underpin our economic systems. About the effects of low cash rates on asset prices. The list goes on.

The scary thing is, the backlash against Trump’s lunacy means that sadly, we may never have them.

bioshock

Quick Offloads are short posts when we need to get things off of our chests but – quite honestly – can’t be arsed writing the General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money. And on issues of economic management, well it’s probably best I keep my mouth shut. But please, would you kindly take potshots in the comments?

 

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Quick Offload: chuck another T-Bone on the barbie

t-boneI’ve made no secret of my completely out-of-control love for 2014’s Watch Dogs. I think it’s tops. The art, the social commentary, the meta-ness of it all – just thinking about it makes me want to invade virtual Chicago’s privacy all over again.

And you know what? I even quite liked Aiden Pearce. He was brooding, sure, but understandably so. We all get the shits when we’ve have a bad day at work – well try being sort of responsible for the death of your niece. Yeah. You’d be rocking in the corner while the sound of daytime TV plays in the background, quite frankly. Heartless pricks.

But if I had to pick, I’d say the game’s expansion Bad Blood is the best that game got. Not just because it was a sampler of all the best things about Watch Dogs with peak-ier peaks. Not just because its writing makes Aiden Pearce into something of a demigod, which is hilarious. But because Pearce associate and cTOS old boy Raymond “T-Bone” Kenny is a bloody fantastic character. Sure he may look like a complete and utter twat, but once you get past the dreads and the septum piercing, there’s a lot to love about the hippie x hacker.

And I’ll admit that I had a bit of an EXO fan-girl moment when T-Bone makes an appearance in the latest story trailer for Watch Dogs 2. “You’re talking to Blume public enemy number one, son”. Shivers, mate. Shivers.

Now fingers and hobbit-like toes crossed Aiden Pearce makes an appearance.

 

Quick Offloads are short posts when we need to get things off of our chests but – quite honestly – can’t be arsed writing War and Peace. But please, feel free to write War and Peace in the comments below. We’d like that.

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Quick Offload: Boring conversations

I’ve always found the notion that there’s a natural split between people that like Call of Duty and Battlefield and people that don’t more than a little bit rubbish. I’ve written before about how manufactured gaming culture is; and nothing demonstrates the arbitrary split between the self-proclaimed intelligentsia and the rest more than the vitriol from the ‘nerd’ side of the fence and the most popular shooters in the world.

It’s no secret that I happen to be a bit of a fan of the campaigns of the world-beating shooters that dominate the sales charts for much of the year. And although i’m lagging behind a tad, having played both Battlefield:Hardline and Call of Duty Advanced Warfare recently, I can say they’re bloody good examples of why in their own ways. They’re both good looking, adrenaline pumping actions games, held together by threadbare storylines that do just enough to make the twists and turns somewhat meaningful.

Much to my surprise they also both share something in common with a lot of people whose skin crawl at the very mention of their names: a deep reverence for Star Wars borne out through clever references to the 1977 original.

So to those who feign some level of superiority over choice or taste in video games, and critique others for theirs, I say this: Are we not human? If we pick [Call of Duty or Battlefield], do we not bleed?

Quick Offloads are short posts when we need to get things off of our chests but don’t necessarily want to waste too many words on them. But please add your words in the comments below.

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Quick offload: No Man’s Sky isn’t going straight to the pool room

I knew something was wrong when my wife didn’t want to explore the galaxy in No Man’s Sky when I offered. “No thanks” she said, “let’s watch Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure“.

And after two days with the game I was about ready to watch its bogus sequel.

Planet one was a boring mess of a place that had me trek 30 minutes to shoot a rock and collect a mineral. Not that I minded at the time; every grand journey starts with a monotony of sorts. Just read The Fellowship of the Ring. But Lord of the Rings didn’t have seven hours of Hobbits piss-farting around in the Shire. Sure you’ll travel the galaxy and see new things, – but in No Man’s Sky you’ll never feel like you left Bag-End.

Perhaps it’s my fault.  I made the mistake of taking No Man’s Sky out for a game of Pro Evolution Soccer 2016. But when I picked up the cover and reflected on my first few hours with the game I didn’t want to put it back in. And from there it went straight to the back of the shelf where it’ll probably sit gathering dust forever after.

I don’t want to labour on if the game is objectively good or bad. So here you go: No Man’s Sky is utterly boring. Whether fifteen blokes situated somewhere in Guildford made the game or not is completely and utterly irrelevant. I’ve seen teams of five model entire economies and teams of two review multiple-hundreds of pages of legislation. Video games aren’t magical. They’re not special. And making them isn’t any harder than any other job on the planet. And if they’re treated and critiqued as if they are then we’re all missing the bloody point.

In short: No Man’s Sky isn’t going anywhere near the pool room.

Quick Offloads are short posts when we need to get things off of our chests but don’t necessarily want to waste too many words on them. But please add your words in the comments below.

This isn't an animal...

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