Top 5 video games of 2012

on Monday, 31 December 2012
It's that time of year when we count milestones and reflect on the last 12 months. 2012 has been a pretty eventful year for gaming, and buried under all the inadvisable sequels and cash-grab franchises were some pretty outstanding games. Since I don't own any games consoles (or a TV...), they're all PC games.

1. The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead is a 3D point-and-click adventure game based on the comics (but not on the TV show) of the same name, and sees you take control of Lee, a convicted criminal who is suddenly thrust into the zombie apocalypse with the responsibility of taking care of a little girl he just met. It has pretty basic game mechanics, but you are often thrust into unexpected and tense situations requiring quick thinking and sharp reflexes. The game is more about the story, though, and plays somewhat like an interactive TV show, where you are presented with choices that affect the story. Your choices don't ultimately affect how the story unfolds that much, but they seriously affect how you feel about what choices you've made and it deliberately makes you reflect on them and face the consequences. The writing and voice acting are absolutely outstanding and it gets my vote for game off the year without hesitation. I must just nominate it for one of the best games of the last decade.

2. Analogue: A Hate Story


Analogue: A Hate Story is a visual novel set in the distant future after mankind has started to send out generational colony ships into deep space. You communicate with a long lost and deserted colony ship and find out what happened to the passengers from the ship's two AIs. It is an intriguing tale of family obligations, women's rights and political intrigue, drawing parallels from ancient Korean culture. It does a really good job of letting you piece together the story of a group of families and gaining insight into their thoughts through their personal computer entries. The game also features a really tense "hacking" mini-game in which you have to stop the ship's reactor core from going into melt-down, which I thought was a really nice touch.

3. Planetside 2

 It's not always about the story, sometimes you just want to run around shooting each other and blasting things with tanks. Planetside 2 is an unashamed action first person shooter on a ridiculous scale, with three factions all vying for control of three large continents. I used to love online shooters, but in the past decade they have felt stagnant and stifled by outdated map design, and Planetside 2 is a breath of fresh air. It's not perfect, they still have a lot of bugs to iron out and some more vehicle and weapon variety would be nice but for now it's enough just to enjoy dropping into a battle with potentially hundreds of people all battling it out over control of a facility. Oh, and did I mention it was free?

4. Gnomoria

Technically I am cheating with this entry, since the game is still in alpha and hasn't been released yet, but I think it should be allowed. Gnomoria is a city building sim-come-god game in which you order about a colony of gnomes as they set up a fortress for themselves and build an economy. It might sound familiar to some of you, as it is quite keenly inspired by the gargantuan Dwarf Fortress, a game so full of depth that it is almost impossible not to rip it off in some way. Gnomoria attempts to be a more accessible counterpart to its older brother, most notably with a very intuitive mouse interface, whilst still retaining its idea of Fun (ie. it's fun to lose). The point of the game is for your colony of gnomes to survive the onslaught of starvation, thirst and goblin attacks for as long as possible, and the Fun is seeing how it will fall (as well as the hilarious battle logs). As I said, it's in alpha stage and still has a lot of features to be added but it is shaping up to be a great game, with plenty of replay value.

5. FTL

As a Star Trek fan, FTL is a bit of a dream game. You control a ship and order the crew about manning stations, and jump around the galaxy fighting off enemies and trading scrap for parts. It's a simple game in its execution, but it is devilishly difficult and will punish you just for the sake of it, earning the title "rougelike-like". The battles are tense as you order your crew around to take on intruders, seal hull breaches and put out fires before they run out of oxygen and the end boss battle is exciting and requires a bit of tactical play. Oh, and you can name your captain "Picard" if you like.

There have been many exciting games that I haven't got around to playing this year, such as Dishonoured, Sleeping Dogs and Mark of the Ninja, and with 2013 shaping up to be an exciting year with GTA5 and a new SimCity (about damn time) it seems my backlog is just going to get longer and longer. Thanks for reading, and post in the comments what your favourite game of 2012 was if you have one.

Exile from the Gleaming City: available in print and eBook now.

on Friday, 16 November 2012
 I haven't made a post in a while because I have been busy squirrelling away at various pieces, and I wanted to make sure they were perfect before I revealed them.

I have published a novella and it is available now on in print and eBook formats. Here's the blurb:

Colin always stood out in the Gleaming City, in that he was ordinary in every way. He lived a sheltered existence, hidden away in the recesses of the city’s bureaucracy, until one day they finally found an excuse to get rid of him...
Exile from the Gleaming City is a melancholy tale of an average office worker who is ripped from his isolated life and cast into an unfamiliar world where he must learn to survive with his limited knowledge and skills, encountering strange people and places along the way.

You can buy a printed copy by clicking this button: Support independent publishing: Buy this book on Lulu.

Alternatively you  can purchase it as an eBook in pdf format by clicking this button: Support independent publishing: Buy this e-book on Lulu.

This book is perfect for a relaxing afternoon's read, and with Christmas coming up you could support a budding author and buy that avid reader you know an obscure piece of fiction. I have other works in the pipelines so I'll be sure to keep everyone updated, thank you for all your support.

EURO 2012

on Monday, 2 July 2012
It may be a surprise to know that an artistic soul such as myself enjoys sports, however if you watch the way Spain play football and the manner in which they won EURO 2012 you'd surely acknowledge the game they play is pure artistry. Oh and that's football as in soccer for my American readers, although every time you use that word a British child dies so please be sparing.

So as an English person, I of course watched this competition with bated breath, waiting for the inevitable moment when we would be knocked out so that I could relax and enjoy the football. Our reaction to poor results in recent years was to hire an old fashioned English manager and adopt a style of football so rigid and without imagination we could simply bore our opponents off the pitch. Needless to say, it didn't work. It does make me worry about the state of our game when we have one of the most entertaining domestic leagues in the world yet we can't scrape together a team that can even compete at major tournaments. It's clear we need a big overhaul of our system, and that it's going to be a long time before we win anything. That's OK though, that's just part of being English.

In stark contrast, the winners Spain show how football should be played. Football aficionados will tell you that Spain play the best passing game they have ever witnessed, and I would agree with them. If only we had a time machine so we could see them pitted against the Brazil team of 1970, what a match that would be. I think the Spanish team of 2012 might just edge it though, and the scariest thing is a lot of the players are in their prime, so it could be a long time before we see a competition being won by anyone else. I might just place my bet for Spain to win the next world cup right now.

So congratulations Spain, and if your country was knocked out like mine, don't feel too bad: we didn't stand a cat in hell's chance.

My body hates me

on Saturday, 23 June 2012
So I haven't posted in nearly two months, that's bad of me. Well, I have reasons. Namely, I've had horrible pain in my shoulder/back from a combination of RSI and years of terrible posture. My fellow computer addicts will probably know my pain.

Anyway, about two months ago my entire right shoulder and right side of my upper back was throbbing and burning and aching all at once, all day every day. It turns out I had an RSI in my rotator cuff (shoulder muscles) from over-reaching for the computer mouse, as I didn't have a proper desk. Combined with that, slouching has shortened my pectoral muscles in my chest and severely weakened my rhomboid muscles in my upper back (the anatomy lesson is free) and reaching for the mouse all day had strained my rhomboids as well, causing all kinds of horrible pain.  I basically broke my body.

So, I bought a (very cheap) proper desk and switched to using my left hand for mouse work for about a month, and almost completely rested my right arm, as well as forcing myself into a good posture. Yes, I'm that addicted to using a computer I just switched arms. Oh well.

I have been doing chest stretching exercises and upper back exercises for about a week and the pain is almost gone, I can use the mouse with my right hand again and type at more than 10 words per minute, so I suppose I can start blogging again, if you'll have me.

A warning for others: don't neglect your body or it will punish you without mercy. If you slouch, you might consider doing some of these every day:

Or just, you know, sit up straight like your mother told you.

Quit smoking.

on Sunday, 6 May 2012
It has been nearly 48 hours since my last cigarette, hopefully ever. I smoked for the best part of a decade, and figured it was time I knocked it on the head. 

 I actually wanted to wean myself off nicotine with patches, but on checking my bank balance and finding it to be zero, I was forced to go cold turkey. It's really not fun, I can tell you, last night I felt like hell, my whole chest was on fire and I felt like bursting into tears every five minutes. They say nicotine is as addictive as heroin, and you find that hard to believe about an over the counter drug, but until you go through withdrawals you have no idea. To be fair, I haven't gone through heroin withdrawals, and I'm sure it's much worse, but still. Bad times.

 Today I've felt much better, my cravings are down to a small nagging sensation, my chest feels a lot better and I've gotten rid of all my smoking paraphernalia (I didn't do this straight away like you're supposed to, it was like a security blanket) and I honestly think I've done it. 

 I have "quit" before, for a few weeks here and there, but I think that was before I was addicted because I never went through anything like what I've gone through in the past couple of days. This time it's for good though, I'm sure of that. Party in my lungs, and everyone's invited. 


on Tuesday, 24 April 2012
Haven't posted in a while. Strictly through laziness on my part, my bad. Hopefully this short story I've been writing the past few days will make up for my absence.

There were fairies at the bottom of Abby’s garden, although she didn’t know that yet. It was an average British spring afternoon, warm enough to be outside but with the threat of rain in the air, and Abby was sitting on her back doorstep poking at cracks with a stick. Poking things with a stick is a source of unending fun for a nine year old, and cracks are a marvel to be explored, potentially filled with treasures or horrors of equal awe. For a child of her age, the most mundane things take on a veneer of the magical, behind every action and object is a fantastical world that exists only for her. Imagine her amazement then, when she heard a faint tinkling noise, like a pocketful of coins being dropped, and three tiny, beautiful winged girls shimmered into existence at the other end of the garden.

Stand up comedy.

on Monday, 16 April 2012
I'm a big fan of stand up comedy, ever since I was a little kid watching the likes of Ben Elton on TV and listening to my mother's Bill Hicks LPs. Yes, I'm getting old. When people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, I always answered "comedian". It's true, I enjoyed and still enjoy making people laugh, but I think the comedy is not the main reason why I love stand up comedy so much.

As I've grown older and absorbed books by the hundreds, I've developed a real passion for language that I think was always burgeoning under the surface. For me, stand up comedians display incredible wordsmithing, and all the best test out new material, gauge its reaction and go away and re-write, test and re-write until it's perfect; until the sentences are structured to flow perfectly, giving the audience the right pause to laugh in, delivering the punchline at just the right moment.

I really admire that, the mastery over language, and the immediate reward you get for it. With creative writing it can be a long time before you get any kind of feedback on what you've written from your audience, but with stand up comedy they're right there in front of you.

If you're not following me, watch this video of George Carlin and let me know what you think:

That monologue gives me goosebumps every time. I miss ya, George.

I don't think I'll ever follow my childhood dreams of being a famous comedian, since I have the charisma of a damp cloth, but I still get immense enjoyment out of stand up shows. Who's your favourite stand up?

Screw it, cats.

on Saturday, 14 April 2012
Some days, you just want to post cats.

In summary, cats are awesome.

Boring personal thingies because I've been lazy.

on Monday, 9 April 2012
So I haven't gotten much any work done this weekend, I kind of gave myself the weekend off with it being Easter, so this is just some boring details about how I spent the holiday.

I didn't get any eggs, which I'm fine about because I find them grotesquely overpriced for what you actually get, but my brother did bring me some chocolate on Friday which was nice of him. My brother is a pretty good artist btw, and you should check out his stuff. His latest post has a promo video that I cut together for one of his pieces, for free I might add. I'm generous like that.

I did have some traditional Easter food though, a fish pie on Good Friday and some lamb and venison on Sunday. Normally I wouldn't eat anything so extravagant as venison, but I was perusing the discount meat isle in ASDA and a shelf stacker plonked it down in front of me while I was routing through the nearly-off treasure and I couldn't resist.

So that's about it for my thrilling, non-stop action Easter weekend. How was your Easter?

Concentra- ooh shiny things

on Wednesday, 4 April 2012
I think years of internet abuse have destroyed my ability to concentrate for more than half an hour on something. I didn't have computers or video games growing up, so I spent the vast majority of my childhood with my nose in a book. As an adult, I suppose I've rebelled against my empoverished upbringing and embraced technology, spending hours every day pouring over websites and whiling away the hours watching colourful video games blink entertainment into my brain.

As a writer, having such a terrible attention span is very detrimental. I try to set myself goals for writing: "Today I will write 1000 words! At least!" but often it turns out to be "Hell, I've written 100 words, I can reward myself with some [insert mindless entertainment here]".

I'm planning to finish a novel in 2012, and I've been doing well so far, but some days it feels like it might be more like 2015 before it's finished. Perhaps it's time to go ask my doctor for some Ritalin. Right now though, I've got some shiny things to go stare at.