The ‘Podcast’ Podcast

The ‘Podcast’ Podcast

PodcastPodcast

Episode 20

The ‘Podcast’ Podcast is a podcast about podcasts. A fun run of our favourite podcasts for your enjoyment:

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(An hour-long audio hijacking)

First things, first. Let us introduce a new heavy metal podcast featureing out own Alan Williamson!

Cast Iron

Cast Iron

Join Lewis (the English one) and Alan (the Irish one) on a musical journey through rock and metal albums old and new, as they disagree with each other on whether the albums are actually any good.

Invisibilia

Invisibilia

Invisibilia (Latin for all the invisible things) is about the invisible forces that control human behavior – ideas, beliefs, assumptions and emotions. Co-hosted by Lulu Miller and Alix Spiegel, Invisibilia interweaves narrative storytelling with scientific research that will ultimately make you see your own life differently.

99% Invisible

99% Invisible

Design is everywhere in our lives, perhaps most importantly in the places where we’ve just stopped noticing. 99% Invisible (99 Percent Invisible) is a weekly exploration of the process and power of design and architecture. From award winning producer Roman Mars, KALW in San Francisco, and Radiotopia from PRX.

Overcast

Overcast: Podcast Player

A powerful yet simple audio podcast player, with features such as Smart Speed, Voice Boost, and Smarter Playlists to help you listen to more podcasts in more places, try new shows, and completely control your experience.

Control Point

Control Point

Thanks for dropping by the Control Point staging area. Your progress is being monitored at this moment. We promise not to lie to you while within the confines of this block. We produce weekly service announcements for the Team Fortress 2 simulation. Please be advised to listen to the end each week, as we serve cake to all that make it to the end.

Alt archive

Gamers with Jobs: Conference Call

Gamers With Jobs - Conference Call

The official podcast of GamersWithJobs.com, every week the guys discuss the latest games, issues affecting the industry and more! This is THE gaming podcast for mature gamers.

Here’s The Thing with Alec Baldwin

Here's The Thing with Alec Baldwin

In WNYC’s new podcast series, award-winning actor Alec Baldwin gives the listener unique entrée into the lives of artists, policy makers and performers. Alec sidesteps the predictable by taking listeners inside the dressing rooms, apartments, and offices of people such as comedian Chris Rock, political strategist Ed Rollins and Oscar winner Michael Douglas. Here’s the Thing: Listen to what happens when an inveterate guest becomes a host. Subscribe now and get new interviews every two weeks.

Retronauts

1UP.com - Retronauts

The world’s favorite podcast about old video games reaches its next stage! Join Bob Mackey, Jeremy Parish, Ray Barnholt and a variety of guests as they discuss the favorite games and topics of yesteryear.

Old 1Up Archive

Current iTunes link

Current homepage

GFW Radio

GFW Radio - Games for Window's Weekly Podcast
Welcome to GFW Radio, the podcast homepage for Games for Windows: The Official Magazine. Here, through the glorious magic of the Internet, you can listen to the GFW editors and occasional guests pontificate and yammer about all sorts of PC game related issues. Plus they might even break down on-air, adding an element of tension to the whole affair. If you don’t know what podcasts are yet, check out the sidebar on the left.

Alt archive

This Year.

This Year—recapping the best podcasts.

We recap the finest podcasts, bringing you the best highlights from great humor to insightful commentary.

A Life Well Wasted

A Life Well Wasted

A Life Well Wasted is an internet radio show about videogames and the people who love them.

My Favourite Game

My Favourite Game
Personalities in the games industry talk about their favourite game ever, how they grew up with games and more within the games industry.

Unlimited Hyperbole

Unlimited Hyperbole

Unlimited Hyperbole is a short, weekly podcast about videogames and the stories we tell about them. Each episode profiles a different person from within the games industry using as a lens a topic decided for a season of episodes.

Polygon’s Quality Control

Polygon's Quality Control

Polygon’s Quality Control is a short podcast hosted by Justin McElroy in which critics talk about a new video game they reviewed. If you like a little additional context and insight with your game reviews, this is the show for you.

Bit Socket Podcast

Bit Socket Podcast - Bit Socket

We love games but that’s OK! A podcast from Scott and Joe, the Bit Socket boys, all about the video games that we love.

Serial

Serial

Serial is a new podcast from the creators of This American Life, hosted by Sarah Koenig. Serial unfolds one story – a true story – over the course of a whole season. The show follows the plot and characters wherever they lead, through many surprising twists and turns. Sarah won’t know what happens at the end of the story until she gets there, not long before you get there with her.

This American Life

This American Life

This American Life is a weekly public radio show, heard by 2.2 million people on more than 500 stations. Another 1.5 million people download the weekly podcast. It is hosted by Ira Glass, produced by Chicago Public Media, delivered to stations by PRX The Public Radio Exchange, and has won all of the major broadcasting awards.

Radiolab from WNYC

Radiolab from WNYC

On Radiolab, science meets culture and information sounds like music. Each episode of Radiolab® is an investigation — a patchwork of people, sounds, stories and experiences centered around One Big Idea. Hosted by Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich, Radiolab is produced by WNYC public radio.

Reply All

Reply All

A show about the internet, hosted by PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. From Gimlet.

Song Exploder

Song Exploder

A podcast where musicians take apart their songs, and piece by piece, tell the story of how they were made.

Back to Work

Back to Work

Back to Work is an award winning talk show with Merlin Mann and Dan Benjamin discussing productivity, communication, work, barriers, constraints, tools, and more. Hosted by Merlin Mann & Dan Benjamin.

The Talk Show With John Gruber

The Talk Show With John Gruber

The director’s commentary track for Daring Fireball.

Accidental Tech Podcast

Accidental Tech Podcast

Three nerds discussing tech, Apple, programming, and loosely related matters.

Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo’s Film Reviews

Mark Kermode and Simon Mayo's Film Reviews

Mark Kermode discusses the latest film releases with Simon Mayo. Lively, controversial and unmissable movie discussion. Broadcast live on Fridays at 2pm on BBC Radio 5 live.

The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith

The Q&A with Jeff Goldsmith

Jeff Goldsmith interviews screenwriters and filmmakers alike about their creative process!

The Flop House

The Flop House

The Flop House is a bi-monthly audio podcast, devoted to the worst in recent film. Your hosts (Elliott Kalan, Dan McCoy, and Stuart Wellington) watch a questionable film just before each episode, and then engage in an unscripted, slightly inebriated discussion, focusing on the movie’s shortcomings and occasional delights.

The Bugle

The Bugle

John Oliver and Andy Zaltzman, the transatlantic region’s leading bi-continental satirical double-act, leave no hot potato unbuttered in their worldwide-hit weekly topical comedy show.

SModcast

SModcast

Podcast by Kevin Smith, Scott Mosier

Very Bad Wizards

Very Bad Wizards

Very Bad Wizards is a podcast featuring a philosopher (Tamler Sommers) and a psychologist (David Pizarro), who share a love for ethics, pop culture, and cognitive science, and who have a marked inability to distinguish sacred from profane. Each podcast includes discussions of moral philosophy, recent work on moral psychology and neuroscience, and the overlap between the two.

Welcome to Night Vale

Welcome to Night Vale

Twice-monthly community updates for the small desert town of Night Vale, featuring local weather, news, announcements from the Sheriff’s Secret Police, mysterious lights in the night sky, dark hooded figures with unknowable powers, and cultural events. Turn on your radio and hide. Welcome to Night Vale.

Planet Money

Planet Money

Money makes the world go around, faster and faster every day. On NPR’s Planet Money, you’ll meet high rollers, brainy economists and regular folks — all trying to make sense of our rapidly changing global economy.

Get Well

Get Well

We write in order to be read. Some write for money, some for glory, others to crystallise our thoughts and get them out of our heads. But we all write in the hope that someone will read our words, even if that person is our future self.

Most of my writing goes into a daily journal – you can read it when I’m dead – and my best work is behind a paywall at Five out of Ten. When you write to be read, but you erect a financial barrier between writer and reader, this creates an obvious contradiction. Our Patreon aims to fix this by making the magazine free for everyone, but we’re not there yet, so it remains locked for now.

We had an unexpected gap in the lineup at VideoBrains on 27th April, so I gave a live reading of two essays: one by Jake Tucker from ME&R, and my own ‘Get Well’ from Five out of Ten #10. ‘Get Well’ was a feature that meant a lot to me. It was difficult to write, and perhaps even harder to read in front of a live audience: what if they laughed at the sad bits, or worse, didn’t laugh at the bits that were meant to be funny?

There’s nothing fundamentally different between giving a talk and reading your work in front of a crowd. You’re just telling a story, although your storytelling should naturally fit the medium. I try to pack my VideoBrains talks with videos and photos that I can’t include in a magazine, in the same way that when Craig and I are designing Five out of Ten, we’re designing things that are not possible on a website. ‘Get Well’ wasn’t design-heavy in the first place and used my own photography, so I replaced screenshots with video clips and worked my way through the slides as I read. It was great to share that essay with an audience of friends and sympathetic strangers: it’s not often I get to simply show what Five out of Ten is all about without it coming across as a crass sales pitch.

You can watch the video of the talk below, or on the VideoBrains YouTube channel. For some further reading, ‘Get Well’ is the second part of an unofficial ‘Existential Crisis Trilogy’ beginning with ‘Wild’ in Five out of Ten #7 and ending (sort of) in ‘I’m Alive’. I’d be delighted to hear your feedback on Twitter if you’d like to share it.

Tiny & Big: Grandpa’s Leftovers

Sandstone Sculptures


Touch. So very few games make me feel like I touch the world let alone have the world respond. In many ways this the secret of Minecraft: a world composed of blocks, each and every one tactile and responsive, and the closest I ever feel like being able to reach down in a videogame and run my hand through the grass. Read more →

House of Pain

House of Pain

I received an email from a friend yesterday: no subject line, just this in the body. The sender will remain anonymous for obvious reasons, but I don’t think they’ll mind sharing their message as a framing device.

“We’re the same age but you’re doing so much more with your life…”

When I was a student in Edinburgh, I frequented the gym with friends. We nicknamed our troupe the ‘House of Pain’ since Andy’s workout regimes were fairly punishing, but it was really an excuse to hang out and feel a little less lazy – “we’re here so we can eat whatever we want!” was our rallying cry. The House of Pain had one important rule: no competition. Our group had a large variation in body shapes: some were heavier, some taller. I’ve never been great at developing muscle tone, and friends I’ve met online often comment “you’re shorter than I thought you would be” when they meet me for the first time. Those attributes make me ill-suited for a bench press competition, but better at long distance running.

People are different. We vary wildly in our genes, our development, our upbringing. It shouldn’t need pointing out. But in light of the email I received and Scott Alexander’s recent, fantastic blog ‘The Parable of the Talents’, maybe it does. The funny thing is that the friend who emailed me isn’t just someone I care about and respect – I have also envied their successes! Like Alexander mentions in his essay, no matter how good you are, there’s always someone better to compare yourself to. I’m not as mighty an athlete as Andy, as elegant a dancer as Sebastian, or as depressingly erudite as Stuart – and that’s just three friends from that aforementioned gym group. To compare is human; to compete, self-defeating. One of the reasons I enjoy running is because it’s a competition with yourself – that’s why it’s called a “personal best”, after all.

My friend’s email isn’t the first time someone has echoed that sentiment. A year ago I was in Ireland visiting my family, talking to my brother about Escape to Na Pali (it all started at The Desk, you see), and he said “I don’t know how you do so much”. That isn’t meant to be a humblebrag – many do a lot more than me, and they do it a lot better – but the truth is, I don’t know either. I get done what I get done. There’s a method to it, but there’s no secret, except from a voice inside thinking “what’s Future Alan going to think of me? Would he be disappointed that I didn’t stay up past my bedtime to finish writing this blog? Would he slap me in the face with his cybernetic arm? How did he get that thing, anyway?”

For all the things you do, there’s something you don’t do. I’ve been reading more in 2015, but I haven’t played many games. My guitar sits untouched, goading me into attempting the resolution. That same brother who was impressed by my work ethic is a talented guitarist, and he managed to refurbish and move into a house in six months last year in his spare time. In the same time, I made a couple of little magazines. How does he do so much more? It’s all relative – no pun intended.

When we set ourselves up in competition with our friends and peers, we downplay our own successes, and we set up an unwinnable battle. Instead, here’s a different challenge: I won’t compare myself to you, you won’t compare yourself to me, and we’ll make it through this House of Pain together.

To quote the armchair philosopher Chris Cornell, “to be yourself is all that you can do”.

The Simpsons: Tapped Out: Epilogue

The Simpsons: Tapped Out: Epilogue

A Freemium Intervention

In the 24 hours following my public outing as a Simpsons: Tapped Out player I was contacted through Facebook, WhatsApp and SMS by my family, girlfriend and best friend:

My Family My Girlfriend My Best Friend
 012 010 011

I need to stop playing Tapped Out. I’ve admitted I had a problem.

Previously, I said I would stop when my 90-day corn finished growing. Uninstalling the app will not be enough though.

I must blow up Springfield.


Read more →

VideoBrains: A Christmas NiGHTS Carol

VideoBrains: A Christmas NiGHTS Carol

videobrains-xmas-02

I returned to VideoBrains to talk about Christmas NiGHTS, the curse of nostalgia and how our childhoods influence our present expectations. If you like this talk, read my Christmas NiGHTS retrospective, or my podcast with Johnny Cullen on Sonic 3 and Knuckles. Or watch my other talk on Escape to Na Pali. So many options! But watch this first! Some of the slides don’t quite match up with the talk – sorry about that. You’ll just have to come see me in person next time…

A Double Fine Appraisal

And how was your meal, sir?

This review of Broken Age: Act 1 concludes a trilogy of thrilling budgetary reports:

A Double Fine Audit, 12/02/12: A snapshot of the money raised within the first 24 hours of Double Fine posting, and achieving, their funding target to develop Broken Age.

A Double Fine Accounting, 08/04/12: A final tally of the money raised once the closing the funding drive after achieving roughly eight times more than their original target.

Both posts have colourful graphs. So colourful in fact the maker of the graph maker software uses them as examples of excellently coloured graphs.

And now nearly two and a half years later I submit my one word Broken Age review: Underwhelming.

To explain just how underwhelming will take more words. Read more →

Random Record Review: The Three Degrees

Random Record Review: The Three Degrees

The Rules

I put the needle on the groove and type out the review of a band I’ve never heard before.

The Random Record

“New Dimensions” by The Three Degrees.

randomrecord-threedegrees-1

The Reason

I found this record in the Soul/Disco box in Oxfam Music in Stockbridge, Edinburgh. I’m not sure which genre I’m getting here; the three black vocalists could easily fall in either Soul or Disco camp (I’m hoping for Supremes-style flare either way).

The cover grabbed my attention but the reason I bought the record screamed out to me in neon pink:

randomrecord-threedegrees-4

Giorgio Moroder!

Now my introduction to the man, like many I suppose, is from his recent collaboration with Daft Punk on Random Access Memories. His track basically tells his backstory so I’ll let him tell it:

While I didn’t know the man I knew the sound. I’ve always loved those relentless arpeggio synth bass lines, most famously from Donna Summer’s “I Feel Love”:

…which I found because of John Frusciante covering it during a Red Hot Chili Pepper’s concert:

This is how I sing in the shower incidentally.

Anyway back to Giorgio: turns out he’s got a new album out soon. His latest single “74 is the new 24” contains similar crisp guitar chops to those of Random Access Memories:

So yeah that’s a bonus find by picking up this random record.

Now let’s put the needle on the grooves and hope to God this is not shit disco.

The Review

Side One / Track One: Giving Up, Giving In

Chunky synth bass…

Oh yeah… Supremes-esque “Aaaahhhss”.

This is good disco!

Nice chord build.

Ooft. Funky bass synth and ascending vocal climbs. I’m all into this.

There’s a nice blend of synth and natural instrumentation going on this track: lots of bongos(?) and small drums/percussion but with some (good) cheesy synth drum fills.

The chorus is a bit messy, but after the killer verse I’m not surprised they don’t know where to go.

The second chorus elevates with the additional blippy synths panning left-to-right, though. So that’s a place to go…

The song could have used with a little more restraint in layers. The outro is the best example of when it works: stripped back to the fuzzy bass synth and then reintroduce the horns, strings, blippy synths and “Aaaahhhs”.

Don’t care though because the verse is the song.

Oh wait that wasn’t the outro. I think this outro is the heavy strings section.

Hang on. I’m looking at the back of the cover now. These songs are all 5/6 minutes long////////

////Oh wait I’m onto the next song and I’ve only just realised! Where did the first song end exactly?

Side One / Track Two: Falling in Love Again!

I really like the vocals. It’s everything I expected in terms of clarity and strength. Really solid tone that stands apart from the rest of the instrumentation.

The galloping tom drums in this song really give it some pace. It’s tearing along to really string-heavy movements.

There’s a fairly Brian May/Queen-esque guitar solo in the bridge in terms of legato (bended) notes and major/minor third harmonies- and I love how it’s all layered against a buzzy sawtooth synth.

There’s so much going on in this song too, especially come the second/third chorus. It’s like they wanted everyone in the band to have a section to show off. It’s intense and the vocals are the fire at the centre of this song.

Oh no wait dammit it’s now into track three! I’ve missed it again.

Side One / Track Three: Looking for Love

Ok, so this record is produced fucking wonderfully. The tracks effortlessly blend into each other. I need to go back and try figure out how the songs are changing keys (using common chords as stepping stones?). This isn’t something I can do by ear so I’ll have to find the notes by playing guitar and try to follow the basslines next time I play it. Which might be immediately after I finish writing.

Anyway this song is my favourite so far. There’s a cool play between a harpsichord-style synth and [Editor’s note: I didn’t finish this sentence. Something. It plays between harpsichord and something.]

The verses have a more solid vocal line that the other tracks which at times feel like guest appearances. Here the vocals are the rail tracks that carry and propel the rest of the song forward.

Wow – the bridge is nice and loose compared to how tight the rest of the songs are. They’re just repeating the same four bars and layering in more instruments. But it’s all about those long-ringing notes from the fuzz bass (I think there’s some EQ tweaking over the notes too to make them swell and wash away like that). Really makes me want to smash out heavy bass notes on my guitar with the big distortion/octave shift settings and let the notes ring out and piss off the neighbours (again).

Right that’s the needle stopped on Side One. Damn that was good. I really wasn’t expecting the tracks to transition into each other so seamlessly.

I’m wondering now if the transitions from one song to another is a disco staple/trope. It would make sense in terms of playing a full record in a discotheque rather than playing single tracks and bouncing between records.

Incidentally, this is an important rule of these Random Record Reviews: no research before/during listening to the record. Fresh ears and ignorant mind only, please. Maybe I’ll check Wikipedia after, maybe I won’t.

Side Two / Track One – The Runner

Right I’ve taken a minute to write in the names of the tracks on Side Two. Pay attention, Wilson…

Slightly more minor flavour in the intro to this track with the descending stabbing synth treble line.

Ooft, uplifting major chorus. Damn I should really try to do more of this counter play in my own nonsense. Pull and release.

Haha! Just noticed the plastic cowbell getting bashed to shit in the chorus. It’s so hard to mix cowbells in a song with any subtlety. It often feels like a placeholder for another instrument they forgot to record.

Oh and now it’s cowbelling through the verse. Oh wait it’s not plastic I don’t think. They’re muting it by holding the bell because they gradually released their grip and it rang out more in the final bars of the verse. That’s professional level cowbell on display here.

This song is fantastic though.

Side Two / Track Two – Woman In Love

Ok I’m guessing this is now track two. Brass section is leading the charge on this one over an unshifting single-note synth bassline.

Now they’re stepping down in chords and oohs beneath the synth bass. There’s a name for this when the bass remains static (either on single note or in a riff) and the other instruments provide the movement… I also learned this from an Red Hot Chili Pepper’s video. I’ll link here if I find it.

[Editor’s note: It’s called a ‘modal’ groove: here’s the RHCP explanation from the track Turn It Again.]

Oh wait maybe this isn’t track two. This chorus is still “The Runner”. God dammit!

That lovely thing has happened where on the first listen to a song I’ve lost track of time. Yup fading out of track one now…

Side Two / Track Two (for real this time) – Woman In Love

Urgh, not a fan of that drum intro. This is a slower jam. Haha- why am I surprised by the gliding bell slide into the verse? Classic smooth lounge soul.

I’m not really feeling this song. It’s sparser than the previous tracks and is much, much slower. I wonder if this is what the Three Degrees sounded like before working with Giorgio?

Also the lyrics are a bit slush bullshit. It’s all about a Woman in Love needing only one man and how she basically seems to exist to love and “give you all that I have”. I prefer the image of Three Degrees of Non-stop Bloody Action.

Yuk. Sappy saxophone solo. This Four killer songs out of five is damn impressive though.

Another faded out song. Couldn’t have happened sooner.

Side Two / Track Three – Magic in the Air

Really soul-heavy vibes in this intro. Chirpy, wah-laden guitar and bass stabs while a keyboard layers out the chord progression.

I found this record in the Disco/Soul section – it perfectly describes the split between side’s one and two.

Ah the harmony vocals in the chorus win this track for me. Again a slower end to the record than how it started. Nice contrast in a sense- too much energy can be tiring and cheapen the tricks/tracks that came before. Diminishing returns is what they’ve avoided.

There’s no synth in this song strangely enough. The orchestration and balance between the instruments is so noticably more interesting than in “Woman in Love”. There’s always a melody in the spotlight: when the vocals conclude a guitar line or string section steps in and shows off a little then steps aside for the vocals to return.

Really nice song. Positively chilled out compared to side one but still captures the same stylish flare.

Again fading out the song. I suppose that was a limitation of how much music you could fit on a vinyl. Not unlike today when you can record and play a 24-hour song.

Ok we’re done!

The Research

Reading the credits for each track explains how I felt about the record:

Side One / Track One: Giving Up, Giving In Giorgio Moroder / Pete Bellotte

Side One / Track Two: Falling in Love Again!Giorgio Moroder / Pete Bellotte

Side One / Track Three: Looking for LoveGiorgio Moroder / Pete Bellotte

Side Two / Track One – The Runner – Shiella Ferguson / Giorgio Moroder

Side Two / Track Two – Woman In Love – D. Bugatti / F. Muskar

Side Two / Track Three – Magic in the AirGiorgio Moroder / Pete Bellotte

I’m a fan of the Giorgio / Pete partnership! Wikipedia tells me Pete Bellotte was Giorgio’s main production partner and worked on the Donna Summer’s songs too. Makes sense.

Shiella Ferguson is one of the Three Degrees. Makes sense.

I can’t seem to find anything on D. Bugatti / F. Muskar to explain why there song sucked. Makes sense.

The first three tracks which transitioned so beautifully into the next on the record tell a continous story now I read the track titles. Makes sense.

The Result

I really like this record. I might be a fan of disco. As I discover more disco I will probably refine that sentiment into “I’m a fan of good disco”.

Regardless, I’m a fan of Giorgio Moroder for sure.

Resolution

Resolution

I unapologetically love New Year’s Resolutions. The new year is a great (albeit arbitrary) time to take stock of your life, evaluate how things are going, and decide where you want to be a year from now. Resolutions are the perfect way to focus your efforts into clear goals, but often people come up with woolly wishes instead. I asked a friend if he had made any and he said “Get fit. The end.”

But how do you go about getting fit? What you really want are SMART objectives: specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. A better, SMART-er resolution than “get fit” would be “I want to be able to run five kilometres in thirty minutes by the end of the year”, and that’s what I suggested to my friend. Read more →

What’s in my Pile of Shame?

What’s in my Pile of Shame?

Breaking the Backlog

I own 97 uncompleted videogames. That’s 97 times where I’ve either failed to start, given up after starting or, shockingly, didn’t even realise I owned the damned thing. Not one of the 97 have been completed to my satisfaction.

The fact I don’t play games very often or spend too long playing the evil games doesn’t help.

Before I buy any new games I need to finish the old ones. But where to start?

Start by prioritising

Thanks, Sub Header!

I’ve divided up the pile of shame into three priorities:

Excited to Play, Curious to Play, Not Interested in Playing.

Then I went mad, built a spreadsheet and graphed the hell out of it because I’m on holiday and no-one told me to stop:

Then go mad

The 13 Games of 2015

The conclusion to this beautiful spreadsheet is the 13 games I am excited to play and will complete in 2015:

Beyond Good and Evil: Kindly gifted to me by the good Rick Lane, BG&E is one of the old guard of my pile of shame. I was put off at the time by the thoughts of playing using the keyboard. I now have a wired Xbox controller, mapping software and the hope that BG&E will be like Psychonauts in terms of colour and imagination.

Company of Heroes: The first RTS that Shawn Elliott fell in love with. He raved about it on the GFW Radio podcasts and I’ve always been curious. Hopefully it fairs better than StarCraft II did. I’ve also got a World War Two book that would sit nicely alongside this.

Fez: Colour and imagination will be a theme in my picks. I’ve played a little of Fez and dug it. I will warn you now that walkthroughs will be deployed often and early in the face of prolonged head scratching.

Gods Will Be Watching: The newest addition to the pile. The trailer struck me as having the vibe of Superbrothers Swords & Sworcery EP with more grit and narrative.

Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars: The PS1 Grand Theft Auto 3 remains my favourite of the series. If I can overcome what I expect to be touchscreen controller issues and relive some of that nostalgia, even for a moment, then I’ll be happy.

Grim Fandango: Bought on eBay, installed a point-and-click mod to remove the tank controls and then… something happened. Or rather nothing happened. Something will happen soon.

Half Life: Black Mesa: On the Remastered episode of the podcast we talk about Black Mesa as being a surrogate game in place of an aged original. Let’s see if the Chinese Democracy of mods holds up.

Ni No Kuni: Colour: check. Imagination: check. Reportedly long, long JRPG: argh. This is what I’m playing right now but I’m tempted to switch and clear Tiny & Big from the pile.

StarCraft II: Wings of Liberty: The second of the old games on the bottom of the pile. I’ve previously dabbled with multiplayer in the same way that a chimpanzee dabbles with quantum electrodynamics. What’s changed is I am now an avid competitive StarCraft II fan to the point I recognise Korean progamers. A grasp of the unit types and general play styles will help me now. I’m looking to complete the single player campaign and take on the multiplayer once more. At £39.99 this is the biggest buyer’s remorse I’ve ever had.

The Longest Journey: I started a Let’s Play of Longest Journey in the brief few months I spent living in a hotel in Portsmouth. I never uploaded it however because I was living in a hotel in Portsmouth. I’ll tackle once more as a Let’s Play as I did with Blade Runner.

Tiny & Big: Grandpas Leftovers: I suspect I’ve completed more of Tiny & Big than anything else on the list. Loved the creative freedom afforded in solving the puzzles and the soundtrack is killer.

Unreal: Gold: I’ve played a little but need to get back on the horse. Probably second on the hitlist after Tiny & Big. I’ve got the book. Now I need the momentum.

Uplink: Bought it years ago and when the mood has struck me I’ve been without a mouse. Or I only get in the mood when I know I can’t play. (Don’t tell anyone but I’m hoping this might actually teach me something about networked computers…. sshhhhhhh…)

What the, Why the, how the, how much?!

Apart from the priority list I learned a few things.

I bought the games I’m excited to play from a variety of online and retail stores and they’re mainly PC games. This is comforting in a sense because my next big purchase/project is to build a new, sweet gaming rig. Around £60 worth of investments to realise. That previous sentence is perhaps the most project management thing I’ve ever vomited. Not wrong though.

I have no interest in playing around half of my pile of shame. Most of these came bundled along with another game I genuinely wanted to play (Humble Bundles being the biggest sinner) and the rest were free Games with Gold downloads from Xbox Live I felt obliged to download. What wasn’t free games amounts to £40 of many, little impulse buys on Steam sales and other online stores.

The curious to play games are quite curious really. They are mainly games I actively sought out but when I ask myself today what do I want to play they didn’t make the cut. Either I’ve tried them and they failed to win me over or I have moved on since then. Once I kill off The 13 Games of 2015 I’ll look to make a good dent into these curiosities.

Next steps

In true project management style(y) I will report back progress monthly on how I’m breaking the backlog. In some sense this is also a list of reviews you can expect from me.

13 games over twelve months is manageable.

Project managable, that is!

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(I may have finished off the leftover Christmas/New Year’s wine when writing this btw)

(xoxoxoxox)


Bonus Pile of Shame: Book Edition

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Return of the Rick Lane

Return of the Rick Lane

Episode 19

Return of the Rick Lane is a late-2014 sequel to Episode 5: A Very PC Podcast featuring Rick Lane.

Rick Lane is in this one.

Recorded in Craig’s flat around the same table for the first time in three years.

RSS Feed iTunes Zune

Right Click Here and ‘Save As’ to Download!

(An hour of friendly chat)

The Screenies 2014

The Screenies 2014

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It’s the end of the year, so once again we’re neglecting spending quality time with our families to bring you our pick of the best stuff of the year! Welcome to the fifth annual Screenies! But first, an apology… Read more →

The Simpsons: Tapped Out

The Simpsons: Tapped Out

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Tappa-tappa-tappa.

Chapter 1: Foreshadowing

It all began in January 2014.

Like any grand opera the opening overture establishes the themes.

After downloading and launching The Simpsons: Tapped Out for the first time it proceeds to download a further update in a most curious manner:

Three minutes later:

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Five minutes later:

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In this way Tapped Out lays bare both its gaming philosophy and psychological ploys. The game is from beginning to end (scratch that- there is no end) a series of time-lapsed progress bars whose sole purpose in completing is to unlock more progress bars to complete. You build stuff to buy stuff to build more stuff by waiting for stuff.

Each tap on the screen counts off another wasted heartbeat as you retreat into a non-judgemental world free from challenge and threat. Slowly your immune system shuts down and soon your body atrophies into dust.

Tap. Tap.    Tap. Tap.

But we all know this. Everyone knew about this garbage back with Farmville. Swap out the Simpsons for dumb-looking pigs and YOLO we’re back in 2009.

What I didn’t realise was that all it took was the familiar yellow warmth of The Simpsons to break my resolve.

I’m rather enjoying Tapped Out. And I’ve been enjoying it for some time.


Chapter 2: Psychological Warfare

Freemium games exploit the same psychological effects as with gambling:

Denomination effect People are less likely to spend larger bills than their equivalent value in smaller bills e.g. spending ten £5 notes “feels” less than spending one £50.
IKEA effect Consumers place a disproportionately high value on products they partially created.
Illusion of control People feel a sense of control over outcomes that they demonstrably do not influence.
Planning fallacy People tend to underestimate how much time will be needed to complete a future task.
Post-purchase rationalisation Consumers who purchase an expensive product tend to overlook any faults/defects in order to justify their purchase.
Restraint bias People tend to overestimate their ability to control impulsive behavior.
Time-saving bias People tend to incorrectly estimate the time that could be saved/lost when modifying an aspect of a task.

Tapped Out plays on the additional psychological hook of nostalgia. I loved the Simpsons. We all do, really. For me it’s a love so strong I still check out the new episodes every now and then. Every time I am disappointed.

The writing in Tapped Out is surprisingly funny and lovingly self-aware:

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But that doesn’t stop them touting their exciting, new episodes:

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I think I’ll live without knowing that answer.


Chapter 3: Purchasing the Competitive Edge

There are two currencies in Tapped Out:

  1. Dollars (standard currency). Earned by completing character tasks and standard building tasks. Used to purchase most content.
  2. Donuts (premium currency). Earned by levelling up by completing character missions. Used to purchase premium content. Can be purchased bulk for real world money.

Only fools spend real money on fake donuts to earn more fake dollars.

A Mystery Box has a chance of containing a premium item and costs 6 Donuts.

A Homer Buddha is guaranteed to contain a premium item and costs 15 Donuts.

I decided to buy a Homer Buddha…

WTF. My guaranteed premium item gets downgraded to a chance premium gift…

… which contains a bench.

Perfect. I’ll put it with my other bench.


Chapter 4: Chinese Water Torture

A classic freemium tactic is to reward daily play. If you don’t play daily you miss out on The Daily Play Reward! Oh no! The shame!

This is the easy way to earn a Mystery Box:

Want to see a Mystery Box become even more mysterious?:

Boom. Box inside a box. Mystery inside a mystery…

…containing another bench.

Truly I am wasting my time.

I’ll put it with the others.

Somehow I’ve kept playing and I’m now Level 13. Don’t quite remember how that happened.


Chapter 5: A Moment of Reflection

I’m trying to get to sleep and my phone starts vibrating and making noise.

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It’s a late night in February. I’ve been “playing” for over a month now.

I remember the first few days. Building those first few buildings with only Homer and Lisa. Having to wait twenty minutes for what? A pointless word bubble and a task that takes an hour…

What garbage. I’m going back to sleep.


Chapter 6: A Moment of Shame

I don’t have any friends who play Tapped Out.

I don’t want my friends to know I play Tapped Out.

I don’t have any Tapped Out friends.

I need Tapped Out friends to unlock certain items.

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Let’s see how social this game gets then.

I add half a dozen friends” from a Tapped Out forum I joined. Some of them are nicer than others and visit my Springfield every day. Others are less responsive.

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I can’t communicate to my new friends in any way. They are all bigger than me and have more stuff. I am building my Springfield to be pretty. They build theirs to be powerful.

Mass-building blue houses to farm as much dollar per square value as possible. How sad.


Chapter 7: A Moment Like Any Other

April. Three months into this passing fancy.

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Stop mocking me.


 Chapter 8: The Twilight Zone

A most interesting thing happened today. A glitch. A trip off the rails.

Tapped Out logged me into someone else’s game!

They have more stuff than me. And lots of premium characters and buildings.

I decide to leave them a message, the first and only time I communicated with another player. I write the message with bushes.

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Chapter 9:Easter

I started playing the Events (special themed missions that run over calendar events. These events introduce another time pressure and introduce a third type of currency to collect.

For the Easter event you collected coloured eggs.

TS TO IPAD (2)

Now the Egg Council Guy is my favourite Simpsons joke. Ever.

I wanted to win that Egg Council Guy. Badly.

TS TO IPAD (3)

Goddamn Johnny Fiestas. I WANT MY EGG COUNCIL GUY!

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I WANT HIM NOW!

TS TO IPAD (5)


Chapter 10: Blacking Out

My memory goes foggy for the next few months.

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I don’t even remember what this 1am wake up call was achieving. But I woke up and tapped my fake Springfield for a bit and went back to sleep. This was a week day and I had work in the morning.

More work.


 

Chapter 11: Stonecutters

It’s now July. Six months lost.

TS TO IPAD (8)

Stonecutters!

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Favourite episode ever!

First television appearance of Egg Council Guy!

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Must play!

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Tap!


Chapter 12: Professional, high-level play

Need more dollar. Build more blue. More blue mean more dollar.

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Tap.


Chapter 13: Halloween

October. Nine month anniversary!

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I <3 you, Tapped Out.

Hellowween (7)

I know. I’m happy too.


Chapter 14: Christmas

11 months.

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So cold.

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Finger tips are numb.

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My eyes hurt.


Final Chapter: 90 Days of Corn

Cletus’s Farm has a joke task to make Corn taking 90 days to complete.

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So I started it expecting to draw a line under this whole mess…

Corn 1

…but that fact that I’m still playing…

Corn 3

…scares the hell out of me…

Corn 4

… I need to destroy my Springfield.

… I need to escape this prison.

… I need to uninstall Tapped Out.

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Right after I finish this corn.

Craig’s Favourite Music of 2014

Craig’s Favourite Music of 2014

This contest was fixed from the start…

My taste in music crystallised in 2004. Since then few bands have elbowed their way into my record iTunes collection in any permanent fashion. I couldn’t name you any new music that came out in 2014. On a recent podcast I joked with Alan about having a Neil Young shrine in my living room. I wasn’t lying. But that’s a story for another article.

Creativity is turning nothing into something. Different from the joy of Five out of Ten magazine or any of the lovely nonsense on Split Screen, when I make music it’s like conjuring magic from thin air.

This summer I took a week off work, rearranged my living room and sat down to explicitly write and record some music. These are my diary pages and I’d like to take you through them.


Read more →

The Desk

The Desk

This desk is where thoughts begin. It’s an old, heavy thing in my mum’s house, surrounded by the clutter of all my yesterdays: piles of VHS cassettes and PC Gamer demo discs, Sonic the Hedgehog and X Files posters on the walls. The desk is on rollers, but it hasn’t moved for over a decade. I suspect it cannot move any more because of all the detritus.

The desk is a challenging place to write because of all that clutter. Perhaps ‘clutter’ isn’t the right word: it’s emotional baggage. My mum has a tendency to hoard things. You can tunnel through the junk in any direction and find something from my childhood.  It’s the antipode of my desk at home, which is a deliberately blank slate for projecting my thoughts. Here, I must feel the urge to write through the memories. The words must be bursting out of my brain. This is the place where of my half of Escape to Na Pali was planned – and of course, the place where I played Unreal back in 1998.

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Part of me can’t wait to see the back of 2014, but it’s easy to confuse getting rid with forgetting it entirely. 2014 was a year of self-improvement for me: a new job meant I had to learn how to Get Things Done and drastically improve my presentation skills. I travelled to Canada in the summer and turned ‘internet friends’ into real ones. (If I learned anything this year, it’s that my Facebook and Twitter friends are genuine friends, and I truly value those friendships.) I published an honest-to-God printed book. Who would want to take that back?

In spite of it all, I don’t want to kick 2014 into the sun. Instead, I want to kick 2015 up the ass, to take all of those feelings and experiences – good and bad – and learn from them next year. Writing is born of emotion and experience: my short story Supercollider was about the feeling of isolation on a London Underground train one weekend, while Escape to Na Pali is a deep dive into childhood examined through the eyes of an adult. If you didn’t have the odd sad feeling or bad experience, what the hell would you write about? How would you stoke that fire inside?

Today I am sitting at the desk again, writing, thinking, because this is the place where thoughts begin.