A few of you have been asking after Sexy Christmas USA. Read on for more details of that - and how you can get your hands on a very, very limited edition vinyl copy. Remember: all proceeds from these sales will - again - go to Cancer Research UK.
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LETTERS NOW! Once again, Digi2000 reader Bunty McSadPants is offering a hand-crafted gift to the star letter: in this instance, it's a special furry toilet seat cover.
The best things that happened to me over the last 12 months, in no particular order:
- Family and friends surviving cancer.
- Winning Mr T's bin at Digifest - a fantastic mobile phone cradle.
- Son-accompanied expedition to the National Videogames Arcade in Nottingham.
- First experience of VR at said museum.
- First experience of original Tempest on a big screen at the NVA.
- Spring and Autumn Zelda symphonies. Nerdgasm.
- And that.
Though I keep reading that 2016 was a bad year, I'm not convinced it was especially horrible. Selfish people took power, nothing unusual there, and I don't know if the alternatives were any better or just pretended to care.
Getting nostalgic with my politics, was 2016 really worse than 1984? Threads on the telly, Two Tribes in the charts, and less sexy though still relevant, Section 94 of The Telecommunications Act. Now at least the super-wealthy have international property portfolios to discourage nuclear exchanges.
So, good things about 2016: the system got no worse because it was already broken, eating pleasant food in a warm house rather than rats and prawn cocktail crisps in an irradiated wasteland, and Digifest. Seriously, such gatherings remind me that the vast majority of people are quite happy to get along with no more shared interest than arcane technology, stupid jokes or whatever.
Now, you take a proper break, and beware of strangers bearing Buffalo goujons.
The best thing that happened to me this year was Half-Life 3 not coming out. It means I get to ask you for it again next Christmas. Just like every year for the last... nearly ten years, yeah?
Come on, Valve: sort it out. Even if it's crap it'd give me a reason to fork out for a new graphics card.
Incidentally... I hate Steam. It's a complete mess. I was looking on there for something to play on the new MacBook I was forced to buy after killing my old one, and I didn't have a clue what I was meant to be doing.
Anybody got any recommendations for some nice little games, which aren't too taxing on the processor, so that I don't have to wade through moutains of wretched garbage?
The best thing that happened to me in 2016?
Here’s the shortlist:
1) Being wrong twice about how insane the World really is. Let me explain: I predicted there was no way in Hell we’d vote for Brexit or that Donald would be in the big boy seat.
I lost money arrogantly betting against some of my more cynical (albeit quite right) friends. But all was not lost, in my naivety and optimism. I found it actually quite refreshing to be wrong; it’s opened up all sorts of possibilities that I’d previously disregarded out of hand. Roswell Greys. The healing powers of Stonehenge. Winning money (more than a tenner) on the lottery. Speaking now as an Aries born in a Chinese year of the Dragon, maybe I am lucky and wise and show tremendous aptitude for everything.
2) Finding this website after thinking, "I wonder what that Paul Rose is up to now!"
3) IOS10 and all the new Emojis.
3) Making friends with the girl at the Baskin Robbins concession at the cinema and telling her I wanted so much hot fudge sauce over my ice-cream that I’d slip into a sugar coma, and her taking me at my word.
FYI I just felt really sick and had an uncontrollable ‘Joker’ smile all over my pallid face.
AND THE WINNER IS…..
Baskin Robbins hot fudge sauce.
Tried leaving comment on website but it didn't like my phone.
Get well soon! Prioritise your health! We'll be waiting when you're ready to jump back in.
If you need any dodgy medical advice I'm a doctor. Thankfully only done nasal endoscope and bronchs, but know your struggle!
I heard you can see through my webcam and that you steal my pens whenever I leave the room. I just wanted to tell you that I've chewed all my new pens already, so please don't do that, and also please put some clothes on because that "webcam" works both ways. Lots of love.
Do you think people from the future visit us in time machines wearing space goggles and then stand around in the background of important places waiting for people to take a picture? I would do that.
I just thought you'd like to see this fella who lives in my garden.
Two kind of similar games but totally different experiences.
Discounted Dishonored 2 downloaded, bored of its sneaky nonsense within two goes. What a snorefest. It is far too fiddly and unsatisfying. Haven't really thought about it since I wasted £25 on it a few weeks ago.
Deus Ex on the other hand... I got for around £15 and I can't stop trying to squeeze in a wee half hour here and there crawling through vents. Spent ages doing that Palisade Bank mission very early on when I didn't really have the right augs and experience to do it properly, but I had a rare old time. Can't be bothered with all the talking,but enjoying sneaking about, picking up random odds and ends, and most importantly stun-gunning guards from the shadows.
It’s great to have you back and fighting fit again :O)
Could you offer any advice to budding writers - I read years ago some advice you gave (I’m paraphrasing) - "Write - write about anything. but just write".
I can certainly see the wisdom there, and from my own experience I know that the best way to do something is to just get on with it, but can you say something more on the subject?
I’m also interested in who has had a major influence on you, in art and comedy.
Every time I think of the line "Stop it Emu, we’ll fall", I laugh. It’s so packed full of imagery, and yet so succinct. Do you have a favourite joke?
Out of 10, how good are you at whistling The Birdie Song? (this one’s purely rhetorical).
I do think writing gets rather romanticised, as some sort of ideal to aspire towards. I've never seen it like that. I'd much rather be good at DIY.
In terms of influences, the Pythons were huge for me. Likewise Spike Milligan's Q. They've dated, and a lot of it is filler, and some of the humour is a bit questionable and of its time, but both were utterly ground-breaking. More than anyone gives them credit for now. I mean, when viewed through the filter of current TV comedy, they're utterly insane.
I find it kind of sad that British TV doesn't embrace sillier, more surreal, humour. It feels so safe and predictable these days, more about jokes than the juxtaposition of conflicting ideas. I've been terribly guilty over the years - with the exception of Biffovision (though even that played it a bit safe in order to get through) - of pandering to what I think adult comedy commissioners are more likely to go for.
It's only really Adult Swim in America where I see that streak of surrealism these days, where boundaries are pushed - not in terms of taste, but in terms of ideas, and what is possible.
As far as art goes, there's a guy called Brendan McCarthy, who used to draw for 2000AD - and more recently designed and co-wrote Mad Max: Fury Road - who I love. Again: his stuff is very surreal. He mostly colours with a computer these days, which is a shame, as I love his painted work. He used to include weird and mysterious slogans in his work.
Talking about it now, I'm realising it's a big - albeit subconscious - influence on what I'm trying to do with Found Footage. Look at the title sequence and end credits of the Christmas special, and at the picture below...
I sort of wish I was a better artist. I have the visuals in my head, but often can't make them manifest when I try to draw them. Probably should've gone to art school.
Also: 10. I'm the best there is at The Birdie Song. I remember a school concert for parents, where my year were meant to perform it, and mid-song everyone started singing "And a little bit of this... and a little bit of that... and you shake your arse", and my teacher Mrs Brookes stopped the concert and started screaming at us for being filthy children and showing up the school.
The recent mini-controversy over Mario Run has me a little concerned. This is not so much due to this particular example - because I feel that calling Mario games sexist and unsuitable for young girls is ridiculous, despite recognising that there is a problem in games in general - but rather because of the atmosphere being created.
The vote to leave the EU and the election of Donald Trump are due, in part at least, to the excessive tendency of a minority to engage in identity politics too easily. If someone was (for example) 50/50 on the EU, but was instantly labelled a racist for not being a solid remain voter, this creates resentment towards the remain side, even if that's what they would likely have tended towards.
There are of course many reasons why people support demagogues like Trump, but I feel that at least a small percentage of his vote was from people who were simply sick of being labelled as racist/sexist etc. for not instantly supporting Hillary Clinton.
The relevance of this to games is that if we are not careful. and we allow unfair accusations of prejudice to become normal or accepted, then not only will we end up ignoring the fact that there are very few serious female main characters in games in general (other than those with a 'strong female character' tag that can be seen from space) but, I fear, we will passively create further sexist behaviour and attitudes by being excessively politically correct.
Would it be fair to call 2016 the year of good, but disappointing sequels?
Doom and arguably Battlefield 1 aside, most of last year's sequels were let-downs for me without being bad games. Dishonoured 2, Civilisation 6, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Mirror's Edge Catalyst and X-Com 2 are a few of the games that were good, but rapidly disappeared from the public's consciousness. Perhaps it is as big a sin, in commercial terms, to be merely a good follow-up to a great game as it is to be a poor sequel?
Also, how interested are you in the Nintendo Switch at this stage?
Switch... is something I'm looking forward-ish to, but until I know a bit more it's hard to be certain how excited I am. It's all going to depend on the games. The news that we in the UK might not be getting Zelda at launch feels like a bit of a punt to the groin.
How did Sexy Christmas U.S.A. do, sales-wise?
It's a little after Christmas, but next week we'll be putting Sexy Christmas USA on eBay, in the form of hand-customised, vinyl singles. Each one will be unique - and there'll be just seven available for sale.
Happy New Year! I had a crap Xmas and New Year and, as a treat at the start of the new year, I'm moving house this week. If anyone reading this has any connections within the carpet industry in the UK then please, contact me - I need a favour (discount).
That being said, over the last week or so I've been thoroughly enjoying Superhot and the really rather wonderful Lumo. I love all of the A.C.G. and Rare nods in the early stages - when I play Lumo I'm sure that's how my young mind imagined Knight Lore etc. actually looked like at the time.
Back to moving house. About 15 years ago I used to live in a flat. The flat was the same building that was the original home to A.C.G., aka Ultimate Play The Game. It even had the old A.C.G. sign above the front door.
A mate of mine, Spider Pete, took temporary residence in the spare room for a few months, and he brought his pets with him. He had spiders, a snake and some sort of dinosaur thing that never moved; it might well have been dead for all I cared - it would have been just as interesting.
I came back from town one night slightly worse for wear and fell onto the table where he kept the live crickets that the dinosaur ate. I knocked the container onto the floor, allowing all the grasshoppers to escape. I found one in the bottom of a cup of coffee the next morning. It was the stuff off nightmares and I kept finding them for weeks afterwards. Spider Pete reckons they had been breeding.
I took a photo of the A.C.G. sign above my front door back and I was going to upload it, but I've lost it.
I am fit and strong and that is all.
Oh, tell you what - we'll cheer you up by making you this week's Star Letter! Send us your (new) address, and we'll get you that furry toilet seat. Perhaps you can stretch it out to fill your living room. Or - better still - you have a really, really small living room.