Satire’s kitchen

Last night was pretty chilled out.

For the first time in what seems like weeks, my girlfriend and I settled down on the couch for the evening with no other obligations or distractions.

We cuddled up, binge watching Brooklyn 99 and eating beef and rice from bowls, before my other half combined Nutella and tortilla wraps into something that can only be described as a ‘hazelnut blunt’. It was glorious.

As 9.00pm rolled around, we finished our unconventional desserts, and settled down to watch ‘Electionwipe’, starring Charlie Brooker as the nation’s hole picker and snark deliverer in chief.

The clock hits 9.00pm, and the continuity announcer declares that Mr Brooker, or Big Charlie as Lindsay and I refer to him, is here to put the satire back in the election.


Doorsteps

Put the satire back? Poor choice of words.

This isn’t the continuity announcer’s fault. Big Charlie was trying to satireize the election. Satire is one of the things he’s good at, very good at in fact. It’s his jam basically.

But putting the satire back into the election campaign?

That only works on the assumption that there was satire available to begin with, and this particular campaign killed satire before it even left the house.

The focus of a ferociously right wing UK press on Ed Milliband awkwardly eating a bacon sandwich: that was the cyanide in satire’s porridge.

The selective camera angles and bussed in Labour supporters for Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy’s ‘rallies’: that was the matchbox toy van at the top of satire’s stairs.

The ability of Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron to purposely avoid speaking to any actual voters for near enough the full month of the official election campaign: that was the toaster thrown into satire’s morning shower.

The list goes on, and on, and on, and you know what the best part is?

Nobody could actually write any of this shit. Nobody would ever want to write this shit, for fear of admitting just how bad things have gotten.

The examples are countless and continuous, and are set to continue long after the votes are counted and the parliamentary wrangling begins to decide which particular herd of fucking androids are getting a shot of Simcity 2000 for the next five years.

We’re all used to being treated with contempt by the current political system, but this particular campaign’s menu of smears, lies, stage management and negativity has been the quickest race to the bottom I have ever witnessed.


Fade to grey

I should probably point out that none of this is the fault of Big Charlie.

Also, I’m not ashamed to say that Big Charlie is looking pretty good these days. He’s lost a bunch of weight and the greying beard look seems to work for him, like some kind of lean, sarcastic wolf.

I still enjoyed ‘Electionwipe’, but this campaign has been so far removed from reality that he might as well not have bothered.

Charlie Brooker is not putting satire back into the election. He’s in satire’s kitchen.


Spilt milk

There’s milk and cereal spilled across the floor, knocked flying by satire’s last spasms as the poison took hold.

Kneeling beside the corpse, Charlie is desperately pressing down on satire’s chest.

Twenty minutes pass.

‘Please …’ Charlie says, still trying to beat on satire’s lifeless body between full, weighted sobs.

‘Please come back to me.’

‘I need to look into your eyes and tell you that I love you, just one last time.’

Satire’s dressing gown is sodden, saturated with tears.

‘Please?’

Blinking into the light of a new day

No one likes you when you’re twenty three

I am not even twenty three any more. I am thirty years old.

My current interests include couches, watching Community on Netflix, and feeling broody while browsing Buzzfeed animals. I have a mortgage, and the faintest scratchings of what people might describe as a career.

I am also in a strange state of arrested development. I spend my free time teaching karate, training to be a pro wrestler, and making YouTube videos about video games. Not the kind of pursuits associated with responsible adults.

It’s hard to reconcile these two opposing parts of my life, and not so long ago I decided simply not to. I like who I am, and I like that I like the things I enjoy.

It’s kind of like being a ‘functioning alcoholic’. I might be a shambles, but I do the things that my work and home life seem to want, so I assume exception from moral judgement of my activities.

With this in mind, I make no apologies for writing about Blink 182, a band that I am half of my lifetime past being able to reasonably listen to or care about.


The Rock Show

Here’s a quick recap of what’s been going on in Blink-ville, on the off chance an actual grown up is reading this.

Guitarist, vocalist, and founding member of Blink 182 Tom Delonge decided to leave Blink 182, again, with what seemed to be a certain amount of acrimony, again.

In response, the remaining members of Blink 182, bassist Mark Hoppus and drummer Travis Barker, recruited Alkaline Trio frontman Matt Skiba as a live replacement.

The first gig with the new line up took place a few days ago, and things are sounding good. Musically everything seems pretty tight and in tune, and there’s no apparent crowd hostility towards Skiba. Blink 182 have never sounded as good live.

I find it very fucking strange, even unsettling.


Mercy Me

It’s a commonly known fact that Blink 182 have never sounded even remotely competent live until now.

How long has it been since you listened to their 2000 live album ‘The Mark, Tom, and Travis Show’? It’s fucking awful, and yet it’s incredible.

The truth is that most people bought the album purely for the between song dick jokes, and I’ll admit that as a fifteen year old, I found it hilarious.

It might be crude, but it’s off the cuff, well meaning, and strangely endearing. It also goes on for nearly half an hour after the last live song on the album, and that’s absolutely fine.


All The Small Things

While the idea of Blink 182 evolving into a competent live act isn’t just one that scrapes against the membranes of everything I thought I knew about the band, it’s also a much larger idea than I had previously imagined.

We’ve established that this is probably the first time that Blink 182 have ever been able to perform their material live without it sounding terrible.

Think about this though. What if this is the first time a Blink 182 song has ever been played competently live, by anyone, living or dead?


I Fell Behind

Small, local bands have covered Blink 182 all around the world. This is a certainty.

Who are these bands though? Who would choose to cover ‘What’s My Age Again’?

Teenagers, that’s who. High School students.

Ask yourself, when was the last time you ever saw a high school pop punk band that could remotely play in time or in tune with each other, or even with themselves as individuals?

You haven’t. If you say you have, you’re lying. If you say that your High School band were great, you’re lying to yourself and you should let go.

Another question, how many times have you wandered into a guitar shop, and heard some half grown cave dweller murder the main riff from ‘Dammit’ over and over and over again?

Hundreds, maybe even thousands of times. If they made Wayne’s World today, they’d replace ‘Stairway To Heaven’ with ‘Dammit’ on the list of banned songs.

Face it, there’s a substantial chance that until a few days ago, Blink 182’s material had never been played live without it sounding terrible.

Blink 182 started in 1992. Twenty three years of awful history, gone.

I guess nobody really does like you when you’re twenty three.


I’ll leave when I wanna

While this change may seem like a good thing, the idea that Blink 182 can now actually play live is another part of my childhood to detach, dissolve, and float away.

I am getting older. I am growing up.

More and more, it’s a process that no longer requires assistance.

Awards, yes. Ceremony, no.

Here’s something I wrote back in February of 2014, that I criminally forgot to publish here. It’s had some light redrafting, but nothing that changes the intent or meaning of the original piece.

It was meant to be a roundup of the 2014 DICE awards for use on the Geek and Sundry website.

Somehow, it never made it there. Can’t imagine why.

Why it’s time to ask who the DICE awards are for, and if they need to be public?

The awkward truth

I’ll warn you in advance, this is going to be awkward.

It’s going to be a detailed study in awkwardness, and the different kinds of awkwardness that were on show at last week’s DICE awards, and the different contexts that surround those different kinds of awkwardness.

It’s like that Polar Vortex thing, except it makes the air uncomfortable rather than cold.


My own awkwardness

First up, let’s start with my own personal awkwardness.

I’m a retro games vlogger. You might even have seen some of my videos.

I like retro games for a couple of reasons:

  • They have strong childhood associations that make me feel warm and fuzzy
  • I am broke, and most retro games are cheap

I tend not to play current gen games when they first come out. I wait for a few years instead, when the hype has died down and the price too.

With that in mind, take a flying guess at how many of this year’s nominees I’ve actually played.

Two and a bit.

I loved Bioshock Infinite, I thought Gone Home was a masterpiece, and Tomb Raider ran like crap on my laptop which made me give up.

So imagine my growing horror as I watched the awards, saying ‘nope, nope, nope, nope’, and ‘I really should just buy The Last of Us’

Yeah, that got awkward.

However, it was only the tip of the awkward iceberg …


Please take off your shoes

Let’s get the obvious point out of the way first. Felicia Day is a nice lady who pays me to holler swear words in front of a camera.

Felicia Day is also one of the two people chosen to the DICE awards alongside Freddie Wong. Like any other awards show, the hosts indulged in jokes and what we over in Scotland would call ‘banter’.

The trouble is, and this will probably get me fired, from what I could see and hear the jokes mostly fell flat.

There were pauses. There was dead air. It was a bit awkward. Admittedly the technical problems with audio didn’t help.

Now before I go any further, I should point out that this is not a dig at the ‘geek cred’ of either Felicia Day or Freddie Wong.

Even though the idea of ‘credibility’ in a society of outcasts is ridiculous, the hosts have it. They have more than me, and more than you. Also, they did their best with the situation that they were faced with. I would’ve just gone and got drunk.

However, the fact is that the jokes fell flat.

You know what did get cheers? The games.


The onion of awkwardness

This might not be breaking news, but some of the people on stage accepting their awards probably felt a little awkward.

Dan Houser flat out admitted that he wasn’t comfortable with public speaking, and that’s fine. Not being comfortable in front of large crowds isn’t a crime. Feeling awkward outside of your comfort zone is a very normal thing.

Consequently, some of the acceptance speeches could have been called awkward.

The thing is, I didn’t feel awkward for the developers, except the poor guy from Nintendo who had to do the 100m sprint from the back of the hall every time Nintendo won something.

I felt good for the winners. I felt happy that their peers were able to cheer and celebrate their achievements.

So some developers don’t like speaking in front of live crowds. Who cares?

If the acceptance speeches were awkward, it was an awkwardness people could relate to, one that generated well meaning and warm sympathy from people who would no doubt feel the same way if placed in similar shoes.

It was very different from the awkwardness that greeted the hosts.


Ready, aim, awkward

The thing I personally took away from this year’s DICE awards, apart from the urge to go out and buy The Last of Us, is how there was a huge contrast in awkwardness between the hard working hosts, and the equally hard working developers.

I felt like it hinted at a clash between the aims and intentions of the awards themselves, and the problems with marketing a public stream of the awards.

As the lovely infographic from the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences pointed out, the nominees in each category are picked by a panel of industry experts. People who play, create, and love games.

The public do not get a vote. This is a good thing.

There will always be awards that are decided by the public vote. The DICE Awards are for the developers, the people who love gaming enough to learn a craft, and put their hard work out into the public eye.

To my mind, bringing in ‘celebrity’ hosts for the event strikes me as a compromise, a hook point to get people watching the stream.

The results? They were awkward. Well intentioned, but awkward.


It’s my party and I’ll be awkward if I want to

I’m going to make a suggestion. Next year, don’t stream the awards.

Let these awards be for the developers. Give them the chance to get together, have a nice dinner, and bask in the glow of their increasingly impressive achievements. They’ve earned it.

Also, if you do insist on streaming the awards for the public, please don’t make concessions for anyone else but the developers.

This is their night.

My current relationship with gaming

Confessions

I have a confession to make. I feel like I’m not as into video games as I used to be.

… except that I think I am.

In fact, I feel like I’m more into games than ever before.

… except that I think I’m not.

It’s complicated.


Clown paint

By way of mitigation, I should say that the idea of being able to quantify and measure ‘devotion’ to gaming, or any art form for that matter, is inherently ridiculous.

For one thing I’d need a control group of people who had never played a game before in their lives, and we live in a world where my retired mother managed to get addicted to a version of Puzzle Bobble that was hosted on the Lidl website.

Gaming is omnipresent, and yet it’s now impossible to say what gaming is.


Twatlights

Gaming is still a relatively young art form, but it’s growing at the speed of light, constantly changing and evolving. It redefines itself week by week, and with the same breath defies definition.

It’s a medium that allows me to refer to snakes and ladders as ‘interactive, narrative free art’.

Yes, that would make me pretentious arsehole deserving of a 3.00am curb-stomping, but what we call ‘gaming’ and especially the contextual umbrella of ‘indie/experimental gaming’ still allows the space for there to be a reasoned discussion about the term ‘interactive art’.

It almost feels like gaming is slowly moving beyond recognisable form, and that one day we’ll only be able to comprehend it like the creature from Stephen King’s ‘It’, writhing, changing, destructive lights that will drive you insane if you look at it too long.


History

The point I’m making is that it’s impossible to define devotion to an art form, especially one that changes at the pace of gaming.

That’s why I used the word ‘feel’ at the start of this piece. It’s abstract, indefinable, and subjective.

I feel like I care about gaming more than I ever did as a child or adolescent, when simply playing was enough. I’ve grown to care about its growth, and how it’s perceived as an art form.

In my time spent with gaming:

I’ve received hateful comments because I cared enough about gaming as an art form to point out sexist writing in Ridge Racer Type 4, a game I otherwise think of as nearly perfect. I’ve wanted gaming to change.

I’ve refused to buy or play WWE 13 on the basis that it featured, and promoted the inclusion of Mike Tyson, a convicted rapist. As a wrestling fan, I’d never criticise someone’s decision to buy the game, but my own set of personal morals made it impossible for me to endorse it by shelling out money for it.

I spent two years making regular gaming videos on YouTube, just to talk about games. It never mattered whether anyone was watching or not, although I count myself lucky that for a time, quite a few people did.

I’ve seen gaming become more and more important to me as it becomes one of the many things that strengthens my relationship with my girlfriend. We might be trash talking each other over Tekken 6, or playing through Telltale’s The Walking Dead and making joint decisions, or just cuddling up on the couch watching one of us play through whatever they’re playing that week, but it’s made gaming more important to me than I’ve ever known it to be before.

I feel like I care about videos games, except there’s this one thing that’s bothering me.

I don’t have any fucking time to play them.


Wasted arrows

When I was younger, I would happily play games for every spare minute I had.

As a child, my Sega Master System was put to work in a way that would be considered illegal if undertaken by a human being or farmyard donkey. I’ve completed the 8-bit version of Sonic the Hedgehog so many times it could be considered an indicator for mental instability.

As a teenager, I spent my evenings, weekends and the small hours of the morning installing graphics card drivers, buying RAM, designing Unreal Tournament maps, and hauling my PC to all night LAN parties at a friend’s house.

As a young adult at university, I was secretly overjoyed that my then girlfriend decided that she’d found religion and wanted to spend Sunday evenings attending church, not because I wanted her to explore her new found spirituality, but because that would give me a whole free evening a week to sink into Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.


Contraction

Now, I am older. I have a job, a mortgage, and other interests that compete with gaming.

I am a martial artist, a semi-retired vlogger, a wrestling trainee, a writer, a gym member, a cat owner, a Netflix subscriber, a lover of a decent burger.

I am a boyfriend. One day I’d quite like to be a husband, even a father.

I am also fucking exhausted most of the time, just like everyone else.

Those special moments I spend playing games with my girlfriend? That’s when I get most of my gaming done. That’s when I get nearly all my gaming done, save for some choice moments spent with Minecraft Pocket Edition while on the Subway.

I love to play games, but if you ask me if I’ve played the latest big name AAA product, or the latest indie classic that’s the toast of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, then chances are I’ve not played it.

I’m dying to experience what this medium has for me, but I’m too busy to see what it has to offer, let alone take part. New titles and announcements flash by faster than I can register.


Talk is cheap

You know what the worst part is?

It’s not that once the moment passes, once a new game finds its way into my field of vision, it’s already gone.  It’s that once the moment passes, I forget, and I don’t care.

I like to think of my life as full and rewarding, but when reconciled with games as a medium and an interest, I feel like a sleeping giant.

I rarely rouse from my slumber, and when I do, I stumble.

I slowly, clumsily grasp at what’s in front of me, and then I lumber onwards, tossing whatever I was holding behind me.


The truth is …

Somehow, everyone else seems to be better at caring about games than I am. They seem to have more time to care about games while I’m caring about sleeping.

It pisses me off.

Gift buying guide for the gamer in your life

While people may associate Christmas with friends, family, and good cheer, for me Christmas has always been about the video games. As a child I tended to only get new games as Christmas or birthday gifts, so twice a year I would be twitching with excitement at the thought of receiving Golden Axe, ESWAT, or Sonic the Hedgehog.

This may seem strange some of you reading now, but it’s important to remember that as a child I had no independent income. This is due to the fact that I spent a large portion of my childhood in a part of Scotland called ‘Fife’, where the local currency is passive aggressiveness. As a native Glasweigian, I tend to be more aggressive than anything else.

These days, I’m living in Glasgow, and making a decent living in the public sector, scowling at emails to a standard that would make the taxpayer weep with pride. However, even now, Christmas is still all about the games, and each year I give games tor friends, relatives, pets, and awkward LinkedIn contacts as a way to say:

“I am fantastic at choosing gifts. I found you a game specifically tailored to your tastes and needs. You bought me socks. I like socks, but I am clearly better at this than you.”

Make no mistake dear reader, I am fucking fantastic at getting games as gifts. It’s a talent like no other, and it makes me think I might actually be psychic.

However, I understand that you may not be so fortunate, and so I have decided to share my wisdom with you, as you fret over genres, platforms, and making your own collection look tasteful.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the Scott Tumilty method of buying games for people for Christmas and other occasions.

1: Break into their home

Going on the assumption that you lack my awe inspiring insight into the human mind as far as gaming choices go, it is incredibly important that you study the game collection of your intended gift-receiver in excruciating detail.

There is nothing more awkward than giving someone a game that they already own.

That awful moment when you lock eyes, they mumble something about already having it, and you share the forbidden knowledge that you simply don’t love that person as much as they had hoped, can crush the souls of men and women alike.

You may think that night time presents the perfect opportunity to break into the gift-receiver’s home, however given that it is the festive season, there is a chance that they’ll be out shopping, or drinking, or both. With that in mind, make absolutely sure that you break into their house in broad daylight.

I would always advise the back door. That’s the one that gives you a real sense of a person, not the mask they present to the world. If you’re unsure on how to pick locks, get two paper clips, and mime along to Linda Hamilton in Terminator 2 as she’s attempting to escape the asylum.

2: Blowdart the animals

Behind the smile of every hamster, lies the heart of a killer.

You absolutely need to blowdart the little fucker before he tears you to atoms, and the gift-receiver returns home to find him sitting in a pool of your blood like in Dexter.

Don’t worry about levels of sedative. In a best case scenario, everyone loves sleeping animals. In a worst case scenario, the death of a beloved family pet will be a welcome distraction from how shit your gift is. It’s basically a win-win situation.

Curly straws are not practical for this purpose. Stop by a fast food emporium with a drive through window, and make sure to order a full meal. Ordering just a drink, or asking for extra straws will arouse suspicion, and you simply cannot afford that, not at this early stage.

3: DO NOT USE THE TOILET

Let’s be honest with each other. Real talk. You and me.

You need my help because you don’t really know, or love the person you’re buying a game for, do you?

You don’t know what games they already have, and I’m betting you don’t even know what kind of games they like. You’re a fucking monster, simply going through the motions of society’s expectations, waiting for that final chain to rust, freeing you from the torment of common morality. You’re such a fucking prick.

With this said, it’s also fair to assume that you don’t know if your gift-receiver counts individual sheets of toilet paper.

This may seem like a trivial, maybe even farcical non-issue, but your lack of this kind of in depth, personal knowledge is the reason you need my help, so I’ll be giving the directions motherfucker.

One single bumwipe unaccounted for could be the difference between your freedom, and a lifetime behind bars, so it is absolutely imperative that you do not use the toilets.

In an emergency situation, relieve yourself in a potted plant. In, not around.

Also, you should probably then carry the potted plant with you at all times. This is a serious business folks, there’s no room for error.

4: Steal their game collection

Quickly, and quietly, put every single game they own into your Sports Direct bag for life.

You’ll need to put down your potted plant first. Make sure you bring it into the games-holding room first, as an unattended toilet plant may attract the spirits of the recently deceased, who may build a nest out of leaves and human waste in order to begin their unearthly howling.

Make sure every game is placed into the bag. If they tend to only download games as opposed to visiting the rotting, emiciated body of the retail temple, make sure to take their PC and consoles too.

When leaving, it is important to leave your potted plant exactly as you found it. Human waste can be retrieved using a Tesco bag for life, which is of sturdy yet lightweight construction, and the straw you used earlier to sedate the animals.

5: Mail it back to them, piece by piece

I already know what you’re thinking. You want to send the gift-receiver their favourite, most beloved game first. You want them to know that you mean business, that you’re to be taken seriously, and that you’re not here to fuck about.

Resist this urge. You can easily send this message without losing your trump card.

If you immediately send the gift-receiver their most beloved game, they may be so relieved and overjoyed that they cease to care about the rest of their collection, rendering it useless to you.

Think of the stolen games as a treasured child of a wealthy family. If you’re a visual thinker, it may help you to arrange the games into the shape of a child.

If the gift-receiver’s favourite game could be considered the heart of the collection, then ideally you wish to send back a game that’s not essential, but of enough worth to send the message that you’re not to be taken lightly.

In other words, you need to send the equivalent of the left pinky finger. I’d suggest something like ‘Enslaved: Journey to the West’.

Congratulations dear reader. You are now fully equipped with the knowledge you require in order to navigate the treacherous festive seas that surround the idyllic island of perfect gift giving. There may be monsters in these waters, but I believe in you.

Merry Christmas,

Scott.