Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Can you spot the treasure?

Actually, there's more than one magic item in this lot. For example, the 'Education for All' sticker on the spine of the upright blue folder in the top left 'cube' denotes that in the folder are contained the battle plans and records for two divisions worth of 6mm Germans that fought in the epic Battle for Stalingrad in a mate's back room many many moons ago. Or, in the taped up box in the cubical right upper centre are contained the tomes associated with a terrifyingly enjoyable Call of Cthulhu campaign. But neither of these is the 'treasure' that I am thinking of. More to come.

Monday, May 30, 2011

WOW - online grind by real life slaves

You might guess from my past posts that I'm not into the style of online gaming exemplified by World Of Warcraft, Lord Of The Rings Online, Guildwars, etc. You'd be right. But that doesn't mean I'm not interested in them (in a sociological kinda way). Especially when I come across news items like this, reporting on a disturbing practice developed by chinese prison guards who make a nice little bit on the side by forcing their charges to 'play' at such games as WOW, generate ingame credits, and then sell these credits to consumers for real currency which they then pocket. Yet another example of how the intersection of online games with real life can lead to serious problems. It's not all glitz.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Bookcases and hidden treasures

I recently acquired a bunch of bookcases from the one 'Borders' store in Adelaide, now defunct. Getting them home was quite an adventure, but that's a tale for another day. Besides picking up some much needed bookshelves I can't say I'm overly happy about another bookshop going down the tube (though I never saw a wargaming book in there, they did have an 'indoor games' section of about two or three shelves). And, of course, one has to feel sorry for the staff. But there's a bit of karma involved here, because I remember when Borders opened here and a whole swag of bookshops closed in the following year or two.

Of relevance is the fact that with all these bookshelves I should be able to pack most if not all of my unshelved books onto shelves, freeing up a bit of room for other more important things. High on the list of which are the reintroduction of my modeling rolltop desk thingy to a place where it can be used, and maybe even the setting up of at least one of my wargaming 'half tables' for my first game of miniatures in nearly five years (wow how time flies). Or a game of Squad Leader.

Of some interest is that when I dismantled my old planks on milk crates sets of shelving I had a chance to look inside the milk crates, where my almost mint set of AD&D books has been hiding for almost a couple of decades. They still have that smell. Mmmmm.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Learning Curves

As someone who came relatively late in life to console gaming, my first major disadvantage when competing with anyone under thirty is their seemingly innate symbiosis with the controller (above), though after a hundred races I am becoming more familiar with its subtleties. I am, however, more familiar and thus more comfortable with something like this...

Of course, lack of comfort with the 'controller' is not the only form of disadvantage one faces as a dinosaur with a new toy, although it is rather obvious when one first plays a game which one first played in a PC version (eg. Call of Duty Blackops - biggest budgeted and biggest selling (PS3) game - or Ghost Recon Advanced Warfighter - about which I have previously written a bit). I've even tried out the latest iteration of my favorite IL2 flight simulater - Birds of Prey (a subject post in itself). For now, suffice to say that I find the keyboard is my preferred, though the console is more convenient (don't need an encyclopediaic knowledge of Alt QWERTY to master it), means of doing stuff in an action game.

Which all means that, when combined with youth's natural neurological advantage in picking up things quickly and reacting to new surroundings faster, not to mention better reflexes and hand/eye coordination, we older gamers are thrown back on those old staples, rat cunning and persistence.

All in good fun, of course.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Gran Turismo - GT5

This is the game for which I was willing to buy my first ever console based game platform (PS3) so that I could play it. It's a car racing game. I recall playing the original a long time ago on one of the predecessor playstation models, and then got to play the current version against my nephews over summer when I stayed over their place for a few days. What a buzz!

The usual comments about GT5 amongst those game afficianados that have visited our PS3 since purchase is that it 'takes ages' to learn, 'isn't very easy', 'swallows up the hours'. For that reason various other driving games are mentioned as more suitable, social, alternatives (such as Need for Speed). However, when playing these other games they seem just that, games. GT5, on the other hand, seems to swallow one's sense of the here and now when playing the 'campaign' mode, in that familiar immersive effect that is one of the gamer's holy grails.

Here's the gamespot review for GT5. I haven't had so much fun with a driving simulation since that old game of 'Driver' (campaigned the 2002 Australian V8 Supercar season - I can't find a link to it).

Some silly facts to do with the economics of GT5 - five years and $80 million for design and production, 6.5 million copies sold in the first couple months. Do the maths yourself.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Console gamer sociology 101

Indeed, I did purchase a Playstation 3 because I decided that I still wanted 'that' toy after all these years / decades, and that I am in a position in life that I could actually afford to do so, but why did I go for the the PS3 rather than its competing game systems? Afterall, there isn't that much difference between them as pieces of furniture or pieces of technology. At least, not to this dinosaur's eye.

It is of course, the games. Or, in this case, a particular game. But before I get into all that I'll digress onto that subject of market segmentation. If there was once a single amphorous class of 'gamer', which later bled into the subcategories of 'video gamer' and 'others', then these categories have themselves hived off into subcategories ever since.

A layperson's view of it distinguishes 'chess men' from 'checkers men', 'cards' from 'dice' from 'dominoes' from 'boardgames'. To the educated, the last bifurcates into 'parlour games' and 'heavy games', and then one breaks it down into subject matter and mechanism of game. Usually. But I am digressing in my digression...

In the case of video games, 'Pong' has morphed into a vast multiverse of sumptuous graphic adventures in gaming. And because they're all branded, and there's a limited number of brands (the economics of the industry presently dictates this), they've differentiated between themselves. Thus, one gaming platform seems aimed at the non-gamer, ironically, and probably uses the word 'family' a lot in the fine print. Another has gone for the 'cute' kind of non violent simulation. And then there's playstation, with a whole universe of gore, adrenalin and simulating challenges to explore. Sony has gone for the 'serious gamer' in consolespeak.

But I gotta say, most of Sony's games are of the same sort that I don't play on my PC, so the fate of my loungeroom didn't entirely depend on the category of 'gamer' I best fell into, but upon the spec's of a particular game.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Remember Pong?

Older readers may recall the original video game, creatively named 'Pong', which in my mind came out about the time colour television came to Adelaide (early seventies). Basically, players controlled a graphic bar which moved up and down 'their' side of the tv screen. A 'ball' shuttled back and forth between the bats. The idea was of course to move you bar up and down your side of the screen to hit the ball back to your opponent. They would try and return it the same way. If you missed the ball, your opponent scored a point. Here is a modern java based imitation from which you can get an idea of how it works.

What's made me reminisce like this? The fact that we recently became the proud owners of a Playstation 3. The people in the electronic shops must love seeing middle aged gamers come into their stores saying 'it's time to upgrade'. And if you're buying a telly for the first time in ages, why not get the modern equivalent of the toy you wanted as a kid and still want as an adult? So you end up walking out with the full complement.

It becomes immediately obvious when you look in the stores that there are about three main gaming console 'brands', and that the games are different for each. It's pretty blatant market segmentation, but that's capitalism for ya. Anyways... why did we get a playstation? Afterall, that meant that we couldn't play Mario (an old favorite) as he works for Nintendo (I think), so there must be a good reason.