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Video Games, Movies, Depression & Me

I have not really planned out this post, so forgive me as this may meander to and fro.

This is a somewhat difficult topic for me to talk about because I suffer from depression. I first started to get that feeling when I was sixteen years old and my older brother had finished secondary school and had gone to college, leaving me on my own for the last two years of secondary school. The hardest thing was that most of the friends I had at school were my brother’s friends so when he graduated so did they, leaving me as the lone fish in a pond.

I find it difficult to talk to people and therefore was never really that great at making friends. Even now, I can count all the friends I have on one hand and I don’t even need to use all my fingers. It’s like a constant fear that if I say the wrong thing then people will be angry with me or hate me, so I feel best saying nothing at all and just play the part of the wallflower. I just sit watch and watch the room and someone once put it to me, watch how people interact with each other and in my own way wonder “why can’t I do that? It looks so simple”

I actually find it far easier to chat to someone via Facebook Messenger or Gtalk or Twitter then I do in real life. I think it could be down to the fact that I have the ability to think and then over think what I am about to say. Far too often I have said the wrong thing when talking face to face with someone, so at least these afford me the ability to stop and think.

A few years ago I came across a video by Danny O’Dwyer on Gamespot where he discusses depression and video games and how people can use them as a form or escapism or coping mechanism; and the video really did get me to think, did I do the same? It was really the first time that the concept came across my mind.

To some extent I do use forms of media as my escape from everything and everyone. I think it’s a ratio of 60:40 in favour of films over games; I have been gaming since I was four years old but only became serious about films when I was fifteen. I usually turn to one when I have become bored with the other. It’s how I try to keep things feeling fresh, new and worth exploring.

I think the reason I have both of these as my escapism is that I am able to become obsessed with them, from playing a game to find every little secret or replaying it on a harder difficulty, or just watching a film over and over to the point that I have learned the cinematic language of the film. When I was in my teens I heard my mother say many times “You’re not watching Star Wars again are you?” or when a big film was coming out that I was hyped for (Lord Of The Rings for example) I would make sure I would have my ticket booked well in advance and have it placed in a labelled envelope and would only open the envelope when the ticket was requested by the cinema manager to let you into the screening. Or my weird obsession at the time of collecting cinema stubs and placing them next to the reviews in Empire Magazine, which is something I did for nearly five years straight, until they changed the cinema ticket from small square slightly cardboard tickets to print outs.

Games to me have always been a constant in my life, I can barely remember a time when they went present in my life. From seeing Barbarian on the C64 to playing Super Mario Bros. for the first time on the NES. That wonderful feeling of escaping into another world and exploring it. Sure games were more basic back in the 80’s but as technology would advance the deeper my escapism would become.

When I was seventeen years old and a fourth year at St Flannans College in Ennis, I was going through a serious bad patch, my brother and his friends had graduated and moved on with their lives, and it was then that what can best described as physical bulling began. Up to then it had always been verbal, been call a prick or a faggot or gay, I always just chose to ignore it, water off a ducks back and so on.

It’s only when it became physical, from being random punched in the shoulder or back while walking down the hall to a class or being thrown up against a locker repeatedly, till a teacher came around the corner and then I would be shoved away and told to fuck off or they would do something worse when the teacher was out of sight and ear shoot.

I still remember the day when I was walking by the back alleys in Flannans and I was pretty much jumped upon. At first it was punches to the legs and arms, and then I was held down. The sleeve of my jumper and shirt were pulled back, and then had a cigarette extinguish on the top of my right forearm, about an inch from where the forearm meets the elbow. I can still feel his sweaty palm over my mouth to hide the scream, and when it was over, it was punctuated with a few kicks to my right slide as I lay on the ground in tears.

Sometimes I would just phone home and tell my mom that I wasn't feeling too well and that I wanted to come home. Sometimes it worked, most times it didn't. I was seventeen when the above happened and afterwards spent about six weeks or so contemplating suicide. I wasn't planning anything elaborate, just something easy, and something that looked like an accident, so who the whole shame and stigma of suicide wouldn't be thrust upon the rest of my family. An accident, which would just be a tragic loss, something that sadly happens from time to time is how I would justify it to myself.

My plan was simple. The school I was attending was next to an extremely busy public road. Simply step out in front of a bus or truck and let physics do the rest. I stood at the side of the road one day during our hour lunch break and just watched the traffic whiz past. I still don’t fully know why I didn't step out. There were plenty of opportunities to just step or run out and end it all.

At the time I always believe that no one would even miss me (outside of my family of course). Why would people care about what happens to me, most people didn't even know my name? I do think that it was maybe my OCD nature that did save me, I had started Metal Gear Solid a few weeks before on the PS1 and I really wanted to finish that game. I felt it was the perfect blend of both cinema and games, so a win-win in my books. Maybe I just chickened out; maybe it was my fear of the unknown that stopped me. I guess I’ll never really know as it’s a moment in my life that I don’t wish to relive or think deeply about.

Thankfully I have never really reached that low since. Sure I’ve had my good moments and bad moments. I still find it terrible to talk to people, but it’s something I’ve learned to live with. Depression is something that I live with day in and day out. It’s a fact of my life. I doubt I’ll ever be rid of it, but it’s something through escapism I have managed to control and not get the better of me.

So now I am a single guy in his early thirties who plays video games and has depression, I'm still debating which one has the bigger social stigma.

Should Some AAA Games Go Episodic?

I was thinking earlier today, would it be better if some triple A games went episodic? I really liked how Resident Evil Revelations 2 is episodic and I can complete each episode in one or two sittings and okay something else during the week.

I was thinking that maybe a game like Splinter Cell or Hitman would work via episodic distribution. Like with Splinter Cell, every month you would get, one chapter from the main story and two to three side missions.

Or with Hitman every week you would get a different contract to take care of. Like the pre-order sniper level from Hitman Absolution.

Or even Battlefield Hardline, pay €60 and get the full multiplayer, and every month you get a new episode from the single player and playing the single player episodes would have XP for in the multiplayer side of things.

Your thoughts?

What Is Your "30 Minutes To Kill" Game?

I was thinking the other day, what game do I always play just to kill time? For example, I was waiting for the Arsenal v Monaco game to kick off last Tuesday evening and I had just over 30 minutes to wait so I turned on that game that I always turn to in times of boredom - Team Fortress 2.

I know most people debate whether Halo or Call Of Duty give the better online experience, sometimes the Battlefield series is thrown in there too, usually by the PC community; and while I will admit that all those games are great online in their own way. I have always found Team Fortress 2 to be the most accessible and most fun, and isn't that the whole point of a game? To be fun?

When I decided to get back into PC gaming back in 2007, I decided to first get myself a laptop, and then I went online and asked around what should I get for it, and about 99% of people said The Orange Box, and through this I was introduced to Steam.

So I played through Portal, then the three Half Life Games (Half Life 2 plus episodes), and then I went to play something else. It wasn't till about late 2008 till I first sat down and played Team Fortress 2, and since then it has been my go to game for boredom. I love the cartoonish art style that was inspired by by the art of J. C. Leyendecker, Dean Cornwell and Norman Rockwell.

I don't have to explain to anyone what the game is about. I love how well the game is supported, the PC version has been patched over 200 times while the XBOX 360 has 4 patches (the last one on July 21st 2009) and I don't even think that the PS3 version has even been patched. Oh Yeah, and the game is completely free.

So my question to you dear reader is, What Is Your "30 Minutes To Kill" Game?

Random Thoughts & Facts About Me......

Since I'm starting to blog at Gamespot now, I figured I better let people know some stuff about me.

This blog may also be titled: "How to be a geek and not show it, but still end up looking like a geek."

Lets see where do I start.......

  • I am at the time of writing this 32 years old, even though I look 17 when I'm clean shaven.
  • I play games
  • I watch movies
  • I listen to any kind of music except dance as it just annoys me.
  • I have this weird OCD thing where I have to switch all the HDTV's around my house, it happens every 3 months or so and drives everyone else in the house nuts.
  • I like to listen to Christmas music in July, and I don't mean on my iPod and through headphones, I mean speakers and play it loud enough that the neighbours have complained about the noise, or the fact that it's Christmas music in July.
  • I believe that Cannabis so be made legal, though I have never smoked it. I do sometimes claim that I smoked some in collage whilst listen to Pink Floyd's "Dark Side Of The Moon" to my co-workers. I said it first as a joke and create a pretty cliché situation in my mind, but they believed it and for some they said it explained my quirkiness.
  • The sound of a pig in pain chills me to the depth of my soul.
  • I love to write and to be creative, but I usually feel inspired or have some great ideas when I am nowhere near my keyboard.
  • I go through periods where I will switch between games and movies and I have never been able to find a happy medium with the two, maybe if I had a better paying job I could afford to satisfy both, but that a rant for another blog post.
  • I find it awkward to be around people, even family and friends. It's not a anti-social thing, I just prefer my own company most of the time.
  • I used to import a load of random shit from Japan that I have never found a use for.
  • I love gardening.
  • I love taking photos.
  • I do believe in a "one console future" it's called the PC.
  • I believe that games should be like Audio CD's i.e. if I buy a game for my PC I should have the ability to play it on a PS3 or 360 at no extra cost.
  • I would love to be a photo journalist and go out to Iraq or Libya but been honest I'm too much of a coward to go there.
  • I would love to be able to play the piano like this
  • And dance like this
  • I think the FPS genre has become stale and is more worried about online multiplayer then single player experiences.
  • I also think that games are caring more about set pieces in games then story or character development.
  • I'm too nice to people and I refuse to get angry or hold a grudge against someone.
  • In regards to the above statement, I may be nice, but I do not let people walk all over me too. I can be as stubborn as the next person is.
  • I refuse to date any of the woman in my local area, most of them are alcoholics who are looking for a child so they don't have to work and live on government hand outs.
  • I am obsessive about Nazi Germany/World War 2/Ancient Rome & Ancient Greece.
  • I can read and write (and speak of course), English, Irish, French, Latin and Greek (Ancient), I can also speak (though not fluently) German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, and two Chinese Dialects (Mandarin and Cantonese)
  • I love the sound a piano makes and how it's an orchestra at your finger tips.
  • I believe that game music is very underrated by the mainstream.
  • I love listening to old 1950's and 1960's music. Just feels less manufactured and real.
  • I adore Lady Gaga. I think her music is okay, she has had some nice songs, but I love how she sees herself as art and that art never has to be good or bad, it just has to create a reaction.
  • I do think that people will be Augmented within the next 50 years.
  • I think Ghost In The Shell: Stand Alone Complex is the best anime series ever created (kind of explains my thoughts about the point before this)
  • I was raised Roman Catholic or Irish Catholic as Americans call it.
  • I do like to smoke cigars
  • My favourite beer is Peroni
  • I prefer the British sense of humour over the American sense of humour.
  • I think 3D films are bullshit and shouldn't cost you more money at the box office.
  • I believe in a complete separation between church and state.
  • I prefer talk radio over music radio.
  • I think Katey Rich is the best film blogger out there today.
  • I think the slashfilmcast is the best movie podcast out there, even though I find David Chen really annoying and some of his opinions invalidate his position as a film journalist.
  • Empire is the best film magazine.
  • I am about 20-30 pounds overweight and if I continue my current diet I will be dead by 40 due to a heart attack or stroke. Sometimes when I eat popcorn at the cinema I get a massive pain in my chest and a slight shortness of breath.
  • Bruce Springsteen is still the boss.
  • I can't grow facial hair for shit. What I grow in a week my older brother grows with one nights sleep.
  • I would love to be a community manger for either a film or game website, but I think I'm too old to be a games community manger.
  • I have been gaming since the mid 80's and my first console was a C64 which used tapes to load games and each game took about 15-30 minutes to load, and people complain about install times these days.
  • I love been under water, it reminds me of been in the womb.
  • I think French sounds better when sung then spoken.

So there's some random thoughts and facts about me.

Thanks for reading.

If you have any questions about anything above or any question in general please ask, I will answer you.

Those First 30 Minutes.....

A friend of mine wanted to get into PC gaming so I gifted him The Orange Box as a "Welcome to PC Gaming" gift. He had never played any of the Half Life series but he had heard a lot about them and how good they are.

So a few days later I was chatting to him and asked him what he thought about the gift I sent. he loved Portal and Team Fortress 2, but found Half Life 2 (HL2) too slow and nothing happens. My first response was to raise my eyebrow and think, slow? nothing happens? Did you play the same game I did?

I know that HL2 doesn't have action from the start, but that's a good thing. You are drawn into the world, from watching and listening to all the other passengers, been told to pick up the can, to when you walk out for the first time into the square and seeing the whole 1984 vibe the place gives off, to walking through the housing complex.

So my question to you dear reader is: Is a game better to have a big set piece opening? like the ship invasion at the start of Halo? or the opening of Uncharted 2? or do you think that games would be better served with a slower opening 30 minutes? Like HL2 or Okami?

Blogging Is Just Graffiti With Punctuations

I haven't really blogged in such a long time, and it's something that I have been really thinking about getting back into.

When I used to blog over at 1UP, I would blog near daily but what allowed me to do that was that I would post about everything, so games, movies, my life, etc.

So I do plan to start blogging from here now, it may be just a post or two a week at first but I hope to by the end of April to be back in the full swing of things and be blogging on a near daily basis.

Please bare with me.

-PJ

I Like The Update

just testing the new blogging feature to see what they are like ^_^

I've being looking for a place to blog since 1UP closed down, so I think I might start blogging here now.

Later

PJ

Gaming Setup & PS3 Collection

I love having a video game collection on display, gaming is my favourite hobby and it's something I have never been ashamed of. Most of the people I knew growing up who played games have since "grown out if it", but I prefer to say that I matured because of it.

So last November I moved my home office (from one side of the house to the other). The first thing I did was get some shelves installed to put my games on.

So here's the end result:

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I have a total of 9 shelves and use 3 for my PS3 games, though I think I'll be moving onto a fourth pretty soon. I also have all my PS2 & PSP games there, but I didn't feel a need to take a photo of them.

My PS Vita collection is pretty small at the moment but here's what it looks like so far:

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I also keep my PSaccessories on one of the shelves:

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I plan to pick up the Metal Gear HD Collection and Gravity Rush in the nect week or so.

So lets move on to where I actually sit down and work/play games.

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So what I have in my office is:

I use a Sony BraviaKDL-40HX853for my PS3 gaming, which is just to the left of my PC, on the white desk with the blue cloth on it.

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Back From The Park - Thoughts About Crysis 2

I finally sat down during my time off and both played and finished Crysis 2. I did play the first few levels of the game when it first launched but the DX10 version had some annoying glitches, such as a flickering effect that took place in any outdoor day time scenes. I recently found out that the reason for this glitch was because I am using a dual graphic card setup. So a patch was released and I downloaded it, and it fixed it.

So when I knew I had two weeks? vacation coming up, I looked at my PC pile of shame list and decided it was time to take another crack at Crysis 2. For those who are wondering, I played the game on the normal difficulty. I played it at 1920x1200 and all settings set to Extreme with DX11 and extra textures.

My setup is:

  • Intel® Core? i7 Processor 960(3.20GHz,4.8GT/s,8MB)
  • 12GB 1333MHz (3x4GB) Tri Channel Memory
  • Dual 3GB AMD® Radeon? HD 7970 graphics cards

From the outset Crysis 2 is story driven. Unlike Crysis, which has the bare basics of a story, which was purely for setup, Crysis 2 is set after an Alien invasion of New York City, and the heavy story hand of the game is played from the beginning. The first Crysis biggest fault was for about two thirds of the game, the gameplay was open and the story was slowly told to you. For the final third the game became extremely linear and the story was way too heavy handed and it totally spoiled the final act of the game. Crysis 2 finds a far better balance between story and gameplay, it?s not perfect by any means, but it?s a big step forward from Crysis.

When Crysis 2 was been previewed and promoted Crytek spoke about the game been set in an ?Urban Jungle? and would bring New York?s vertically into the gameplay. While there are moments in the game when you are about twenty to thirty stories above ground and you can see the war between the humans and Aliens been fought below you, I much preferred the open world feel of Crysis then the vertical world feel of Crysis 2. I do love the little details of Alcatraz grabbing onto a ledge and pulling himself up, or seeing his feet kick up when you are knocked down by an explosion.

The controls have evolved too. In Crysis you use the middle mouse button to access your suits abilities and while you can still do this in Crysis 2. The three main abilities have been mapped to the keyboard, Q = Armour, E= Stealth, Shift = Power. At first I found it a little awkward to get use to the keyboard mapping and continued to use the middle mouse button to access the abilities. That was until I was in the middle of a battle and then the keyboard mapping clicked with me. When I was using the middle mouse button I generally or naturally stopped moving to take a look at what I was selecting, but the keyboard mapping I found the battle sections became far batter and felt more natural as I was able to easy switch depending on the situation.

The main issue with Crysis 2 are the set pieces. The game pretty much boils down to you entering an three or four levelled area, and pretty much get from A to B, and sometimes for variety you may to do X, Y & Z on the way to B. Yes it is cool and impressive to run up three flights of stairs and then jump out of a window and deliver a crushing fist stomp to your enemy. But I much preferred the openness of the first Crysis that really allowed you to create your own path. Crysis 2 does give you a larger path to traverse then most first person shooters today, it?s just feels more linear compared to the first game.

3D Gaming Thoughts

I've mentioned before that I was interested in getting the PlayStation 3D Display, and since it is still unavailable in Europe, I decided to go out and get a 3DTV instead, I picked up a Sony KDL-40HX803.

So I thought I would share some quick thoughts on games I have played in 3D in the past few days.

Super Star Dust:
The best PS3 game to show off 3D gaming.

Ridge Racer 7:
Works best when viewing the car in a third person perspective.

Uncharted 3:

The 3D works fine, I recommend turning the 3D strength down to about 50%.

Ico & Shadow of the Colossus:

As the PS3 only does 3D at 720p, this game actually looks and runs better then at 1080p. Native 720p proves to be a phenomenal improvement over the original and frame-rate is very, very solid. While the resolution boost isn't quite as revelatory as it is in Ico (like for like, PS2 Colossus is pumping out twice as many pixels as PS2 Ico), it's remarkable just how much detail is resolved from the shift to high-definition.

Crysis & Crysis 2:

Both games look and play great in 3D. The best 3D FPS's out there.

Resistance 3:
Extremely well done 3D, but not as outstanding as Crysis 1&2.

Gran Turismo 5:
Works fine, but doesn't add much to the whole experience.

Killzone 3:
Same as Resistance 3, but the jet pack level (which is also the 3D demo bundled with Resistance 3) is far more exciting in 3D, also I find the jumping/jet packing to be far more accurate in 3D.

So there's my quick thoughts so far, if you want any further details on a particular game just ask.

Also has anyone else in the community tried their hands/eyes at 3D gaming on the PS3? What did you think of it?

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