I have moved house and am now offline until Friday the 10th, except here at work. The new house is great – it’s solid and thickly carpeted, making it very quiet, and it’s on a street where everyone’s retired, which makes it quieter still. We had a fairly spectacular house-warming with nineteen people on Friday, the exact details of which are a little sketchy to me but I do remember enjoying it enormously. There are photos, but they’re even more blurry than my recollection – a rare triumph for organic data storage methods. We overstocked a little, or perhaps just under-served through drunken negligence, so now we have a stockpile of alcohol and snacks. Oh no!
It’s not until you’re offline that you suddenly realise how much you love Half-Life 2: Deathmatch, Guild Wars, Eve Online, Battlefield 2, and Counter-Strike: Source. It’s also made me realise that I’m never going to go back and complete Dawn Of War: Winter Assault, Brothers In Arms, Fahrenheit or The Movies – if I’m not playing them when starved of most of my entertainment forms, they can be safely uninstalled. All were fun at first, but eventually became too much of a chore. (Mass-reviewing: efficient!) Instead, I’ve been playing Deus Ex. Critical acclaim might not guarantee enjoyment, but you really get your money’s worth with the ones you like.
Unattractive* film critic Roger Ebert got a bit of attention on the gaming news sites a while back for declaring games “inherently inferior” to art because interactivity is mutually exclusive with storytelling. I’d been thinking about a post here along the lines of “I’m sorry to say it, but I just don’t believe art can ever be games. It can try to be open to interpretation all it likes, but storytelling is mutually exclusive with interactivity. It’s inherently inferior.” But the director of the Silent Hill movie raised another point I hadn’t previously considered: “Fuck him.”
* Pop culture has taught me that it’s okay to mock someone’s physical traits if they’re bad people, up to but excluding calling black villains niggers. If they’re short, blind, ugly or disabled, though: let fly.
There’s an extremely handy calendar site out there called 30 Boxes. It’s just a website laid out like a calendar, and once you’ve created an account you just click a day to add an event. The point of it is that you can obviously access this from anywhere, but more interestingly you can add friends and they can see your events (once you’ve given permission), and you theirs. It turns out there’s masses of stuff everyone’s doing that they have no particular reason to tell you about, but don’t mind you knowing. It’s not always particularly useful information to you, but like a calendar itself, it’s more about having an overview than any particular infolet (a unit of data I made up).
The issue of PC Gamer that’s now on-sale in the UK is my first cover-article – a review of the strategy game Star Wars: Empire At War. But I actually had much more fun dissecting the preview code of Rise Of Legends to find the story in The Spy (page 20), digitally enhancing a screenshot of the Far Cry guys’ next game to make out the shape of an alien in the Crysis preview (page 44), and recounting the tale of horrible cruelty that was my first few hours of playing Oblivion (page 34). Because games are impossibly rich, expansive and crazy things. It’s impossible to lose enthusiasm for them when they’re as wildly diverse and exciting as the ones I wrote about last month. It’s also impossible to predict what quirks of the worlds they create will irk any given person, making reviewing a slightly unnerving experience. And when one is not only good but perfectly suited to you, it’s impossible to tire of it. That term in literature, ‘unputdownable’ (surely ‘unputabledown’?), rarely applies beyond the last page. In games, the end is when you’re just getting started.
All of this was encapsulated in what I did this month, but I can’t talk about it for another three weeks.