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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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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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Maybe the new Prey does have a sense of humour after all

A while back I wrote about my worries that the new version of Prey from Arkane Studios and Bethesda might be lacking the anarchic sense of humour that made the original so memorable. Well, maybe I shouldn’t have worried after all.

As revealed in a new Gamescom trailer, the new game lets you turn into a coffee cup. Good work, everyone. 

See that mug? That’s you, that is.

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Why I Love Resident Evil (in one simple gif)

A couple of days ago I wrote about how it’s Resident Evil’s characters that make it so damned special; and how Resident Evil 6 is just one fantastical way to pack in as many of them from the game’s history as possible. It’s no secret that Leon and Chris have their own rather lengthy seperate campaigns in the game, but that doesn’t make the moment their paths cross over any less great. The fact that it’s the enigmatic Ada Wong that causes them to have respective guns pointed at respective heads makes it just that much more – well – fan service-y.

“Welcome to 2012”.

Now I’m all caught up with the series it’s time to look ahead to Resident Evil 7. And Only time will tell if Capcom can bring this level of exuberance and ridiculousness to its more sensible-looking sequel. It’d be a shame if they leave this legacy behind – even if it is mad as a cut snake.

Resident_Evil_6_Leon_and_Chris_Cutscene

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The innate urge to play games

I had a fascinating chat with Phil Robinson of the Museum of Games and Gaming while I was at Play Expo Blackpool the other month, and it really got me thinking about where this urge to play video games actually comes from. Sure, games are fun, but why are they fun?

Phil put together an exhibition called ‘Why do we play?’ for the expo, taking on the formidable task of dissecting the evolutionary reasons for why we play games, and creating a timeline of gaming that stretches from the earliest strategy games scratched in sand right up to the sophisticated video games of today. And there are a surprising number of parallels that can be drawn between those early games and our modern equivalents.

I wrote up the interview for Kotaku UK – you can take a look at the full thing here: 

How Our Caveman Instincts Explain Why We Play Video Games

Phil Robinson of the Museum of Games and Gaming

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How the Kick Off Revival sausage is made

For many years Sensible Soccer was the long-dormant football game I dreamt about in a haze of nostalgia. That was until ten years ago in 2006 – along with two other blokes at work – I was eagerly awaiting the revival of the series via a new entry from developer Kuju. I still remember the days leading up the release; emails shared in the office about our ye olde experiences with one of the pinnacles of video game soccer. At least the one not named Pro Evolution Soccer 5, which was a slight obsession of ours at the time. Excitement does not do justice to the emotions we were feeling on Sensible Soccer eve.

And disappointment doesn’t do justice for our reactions the day after. I remember the despondent look on one of the lads’ faces as he aired his grievances with the not-so-great rebirth of the series. Shaking his head he couldn’t find the words to say anything more than “So. What the bloody hell happened there, then?”. I vowed never to be lulled into a false sense of nostalgia-fuelled security from that day forward.

But here I am almost a decade to the day later waiting in anticipation for another classic football game revival.

Kick Off was the other  ye olde football game in constant rotation in my house. My brother and I would challenge each other until our fingers were demented and callus-covered or frustration boiled-over into a bit of good-old-fashioned rough and tumble on the bedroom floor. Problem was – for me at least – for years I wasn’t much good at the game.  And try as I might I just could never master the game well enough to beat my brother.

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Days and nights were spent honing my skills against the computer. With every goal my skills would grow and along with it my confidence. Kick-Off was a fast paced game that required skill, precision – and practice. Sure it wasn’t as friendly as Sensible Soccer, but there was a certain accomplishment that came from mastering it that was unrivalled.

Finally after a decent-length training montage, I beat my brother once. And then twice. And then probably a third time. I had ‘mastered’ Kick Off.

And so here I am, a solid two decades, later waiting for the aptly named Kick Off Revival to relive former glories. After stumbling upon the watching the developer’s diary I’m confident I won’t be disappointed.  Now, and I’m not usually one who wants to know how the sausage is made, but Dino Dini’s development journey for Kick Off Revival is story worth hearing. And simply as reassuring as it gets that Revival will rekindle old love.

Two words:”One Button”.

As I’ve written before on here before, Dino Dini is nothing short of a legend to those of us who grew up with home computers – namely those beginning with “Commodore” – in the 1980’s an 1990’s. So it’s good to know he hasn’t forgotten his roots.

See Dino Dini’s Developer Diaries below. 

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Two racing games and a rotary engine

rotaryengineanimationI find that the start of any Civilization game is always the most exciting. It’s the excitement of anticipation, of mystery, knowing that there’s a whole  world out there to explore. There is still a palpable giddiness that comes with your first military unit, your first settlers unit, your first granary, and of course your first wonder of the world.  Finding your path – a unique path – through the “new world” is an exciting experience no matter how many times you’ve done it.  But no matter how dynamic and unique each play through of Sid Meier’s anthropological epic is I start every game exactly the same way, leaving my fledgling town, nay civilisation, undefended as I go in search of new frontiers for my nation.  It may be a habit, and in some cases a bad one that leads to crushing defeat within minutes, but it’s a habit that has come to define my relationship with the series.

While on face value it seems an entirely different proposition, I have a similar relationship with the Forza series, or perhaps more accurately console racing games of that scope generally.  Like Civilization, every first in Forza is the sort of moment you remember every time you boot the game up, from the first time you hope in your favourite Group B rally car to your first lap around de Barcelona-Catalunya in an open-wheeled monster, the first time you accelerate off of the grid is a moment to remember and cherish.  But regardless of which beasts I pilot throughout the course of the dozens upon dozens of hours I pour into these motorsport masterpieces, line-up permitting, I always start exactly the same way.

Ever since Gran Turismo found its way into my Playstation way back in the late 90’s, introducing me to the wonder of Japanese sports cars in the process, I’ve had an at times obsessive but always irrational love of Mazda’s RX-7.  Growing up Australia’s roads were always chock full of Australian built cars, from the Torana and the Commodore to the Kingswood and the Falcon.  Even when low priced and high quality Japanese cars not only hit but took hold of the market, it was the still the Aussie beasts that ruled the road.  We were so patriotic in fact, that when the Nissan Skyline “Godzilla” had an almost untouchable run in the Australian Touring Car Championship in the early 90’s, a regulation was changed to force them out of the competition.  You had to live in a cave not to know your GTR-XU1 from your SLR-5000 or your Dick Johnson from your Peter Brock.  It was the Australian way of life, and even those who had no reaction to that awfully sweet roar of an Aussie enlarged Ford inline 6 or a Holden straight six 202, at least had an appreciation of our unique car culture.

rx-7-advert

But as soon as Gran Turismo hit – almost overnight – the roads were populated with the curvaceous beauty of the latest monster from the land of the rising sun.  Amongst them was Mazda’s long-lived sports car series, the rotary masterpiece that is the RX-7.   First built in 1978, the RX-7 went through three major design changes in its almost twenty five year history.  The first generation box look took the car through to the middle of the 1980’s, until the second generation of the RX-7 introducing a sleeker and more streamlined design the car became known for, which finally culminated in the ever-modern look of the third generation that was manufactured through to the discontinuation of the model in 2002.  While the continual evolution of the cars’ design undoubtedly made for a more aesthetically pleasing, not to mention more powerful and well-rounded sports car, each and every model of the car has something unique about it that makes it hard not to love.

I can remember the first time I saw a 1998 Mazda RX-7 Infiniti in real life, sitting regally on the floor of the Melbourne International Motor Show, glistening in an absolutely unreal way.  Being taters deep in Gran Turismo at the time, and a second-hand RX-7 being the first car I’d bought in the game, it was like seeing my wildest video game fantasies manifest themselves in the real world.  That was the moment I fell in love with the RX-7.  And there was something about the rotary engine that someone once described to me as a ‘triangle going spastic in a box‘ that really clicked with the mechanically curious part of my brain.  The RX-7 wasn’t just a car to me, it was my first, the first Japanese designed and built car that I really fell in love with.

Fast forward through almost 20 years of video games, and call it a habit or call it an attempt to evoke some sort of nostalgia of that first video game experience, but where I can I still make sure that the RX-7 is the first car I buy when I embark on the journey through an expertly curated and designed history of motorsport.  Sure the path through every Gran Turismo and every Forza is different, as I build my collection of cars and with it trophies, trying out new cars and new tuning settings, all in pursuit of shedding a couple of milliseconds here and there off of the lap time on any given track.  But every journey invariably begins with Mazda’s beautiful metallic beast with a heart of rotary gold.

It may sound trite, or perhaps even overly and unjustly romantic, but my little ritual is a chance to relive that ‘first love’ over and over again, the chance to get behind the wheel of a car that I’ve harboured such adoration for for such a long time, and the chance to show what the car’s got when the rubber meets the road.  But it’s more than that, it’s about celebrating one of the ways that video games have enriched my life, and introduced me to a whole new world of motorsport.  And like much like Civilization, I have a ritual that I stick to, and one that has come to define a significant part of my enjoyment of these games.  So when Forza 6 presented me with the ability to choose my first car the choice was obvious.

And so there it sits in my garage where it will remain until forever and a day, my beautiful Series 1 RX-7.

Forza6RX7

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by | 15 October 2015 · 5:39 pm