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tom77l1 Blog

On Gaming and Depression

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After watching Danny's latest video on the link between depression and video games, I figured I'd say a few words about it.

Firstly, I'd like to say that, while I have had bouts of what I believe to be depression, I have never been medically diagnosed with it. I guess I know what it feels like to feel a sense of hopelessness for long periods of time, and these feelings tend to come in waves rather than be constant.

Being seventeen is difficult in a lot of ways. It's this kind of limbo of self-discovery, you're this not-quite-developed human, insecure about everything. The kind of things that are currently life shattering I'm sure will make no difference to my life in a year, or a month, or a week. It's not so much that teenagers have it worse off, it's just our Weltanshauung isn't developed yet. We think the world has it in for us.

I'm sure a lot of people on here remember what it's like to be where I am now. I'm weeks away from some potentially life altering exams, and I'm sat here doing anything but revising. I'm playing League of Legends, or an instrument, or smoking pot, or writing this. I'm in that spiral of de-motivation that leads only to further de-motivation.

And all of the aforementioned things work in the same way. They detach you from the world in the most exquisite way for only a brief time. I can spend my evenings playing LoL and feel satisfied for accomplishing things in its pseudo-world like I would do in my real world.

If I actually did anything.

My point is, if I'm depressed right now, gaming isn't making it any better. And while that doesn't mean to say that there isn't a situation where it does (I know immersing myself in Just Cause 2 for a while seriously helped my depression subside), context is key when referring to any correlation.

Some games like World Of Warcraft create a community that may promote continuous play in the same way stoners will promote continuous use weed. What most people call addiction in these cases I call obsession: you don't need it, but being surrounded by it is certainly better than 'real life'.

Unfortunately, obsession is often how depression manifests itself. Be it an MMORPG, drugs, or that girl who spoke to you once, we get sad and chase the things we think will change our lives, even if it's only briefly. It's finding a balance that is crucial, something I've yet to be able to do...

You know what, I think I'll get some work done. Thanks for reading.

Borderlands 2 and the Importance of Atmosphere

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Been a while, Gamespot. Here's my impressions of Borderlands 2.

So, I only just got round to playing this game, I'm about half way through it I reckon currently, so maybe I need to play a bit more before I can comment properly, but here are my initial thoughts on the game:

I am a huge fan of the first game, sank hundereds of hours into it on Xbox and PC and basically think the world of it. Of course, when Borderlands 2 came out I was psyched. I pre-ordered it, pre-loaded it and played the whole of the morning on release day.

And here I am now, only just getting to the mid point of the game. Why? Because it just didn't grab me in the same way.

Now, I know there are complaints about the Borderlands storyline and I agree, it totally sucks. It's mainly there to hold events together rather than engross the player. Borderlands was intriguing in different ways, the art style, the lore and most importantly, the atmosphere.

The game had tonnes of the stuff. The barren-ness and isolation of the locations in the game immersed the player in a similar way to classics like Fallout 3 and Shadow Of The Colossus (though perhaps not to the same extent as the latter.) The game played best with friends, and it felt as if you and your fellow comrades were on a level playing field with the various clans of bandits, the rag-tag aesthetic of it all serving to reinforce the post-apocalyptic excitement.

And as I play Borderlands 2, a sad realisation dawns on me. Main antagonist Handsome Jack lives on a satellite so large its shadow is cast upon the moon. He can send pods holding hi-tech robots down to confront the player at any time. He can destroy entire cities with missile strikes from miles away.

Handsome Jack's sheer power both politically and offensively makes you feel small as a player in a way that simply isn't compelling. While I assume the aim was to create excitement in rebellion, a formula perfected in just the first few hours of Half-Life 2, it instead feels tired and out of place.

And while it's unfair to compare any game to Half-Life 2, the basic ideas of what make a rebellion exciting are non-existant. Interaction with NPCs barely ever goes above a 'press E to talk' function. The non-player triggered interaction with allies in HL2 and genuine help they gave you (aside from when ascending stairs) meant you actually cared when they died. The level scaling of enemies in Borderlands means a high level Skag is often more of a threat than any robot. It makes Handsome Jack's portrayed power seem like a facade. Remember the Strider battle in HL2? That was hard. It felt like a struggle in ways Borderlands 2 simply doesn't.

While many quirks from the first game were somewhat fixed,for example, a more robust trading system (though dropping weapons is faster), slightly weightier-feeling vehicles (though the controls are still finnicky) and a better approach to weapon style and differentiation, it simply does not replace that atmosphere the first game had.

Maybe it's just me, but the travel times to quests in Borderlands 2 seem considerably longer than in the first game. In reality, it's probably just the fact that the environments and aesthetics of the first game were so much more appealing that I cannot remember a single time of being bored while en route to a quest.

My gaming life is boring.

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Wow, Gamespotters. Haven't updated this in a while. You see, the truth is, my gaming life kinda sucks at the moment. I've literally been spending all my time on Minecraft and Killing Floor which are both really old and no one cares about. Oh, and Skyrim too but everyone has their tounge placed so firmly in its arse no one cares about that anymore either...

I guess I just need to wait for a really meaty game to come out, something I'm genuinely excited about. Quite excited about Epic's forthcoming release,Fortnite, because they make two of my favorite game series' ever (Gears of War and Jazz Jackrabbit, old skool, I know) and its supposed to be a bit like minecraft. But without Notch.

In real life, you know that thing you do occasionally when the internet goes down:

I've been sucking pretty hard. I got a really poor parents evening (sorry, joint consultation evening. I'm 16 now, calling it parents evening is apparently too patronising) report, so now everyone thinks i'm stupid and I feel a bit like the only stupid person in a school full of geniuses. I'm thinking maybe I'll quit school after my AS's and try and get a course in Music Tech, something I thinnk I'll enjoy and engage in. So yeah, I've been pretty down about it. I was already pretty miserable, just one of those phases you go through, but this made it worse. Really, all I want is to be a rockstar...

I listened to Elliott Smith's album From A Basement On The Hill for the first timetoday. Its the album they released after he killed himself, and its serously good. I'd recommend listening to any work of his you can get because he was a really consistent songwriter and lyricist.

I have a band and we have a gig on saturday, which is quite exciting really. There's something about being on a stage and having the knowledge that people are enjoying listening to you play that isn't really replicable. Another band from the year above are also playing. We HAVE to be better than them. I'm quietly confident ;)

Peace out.

Big regret turning into a nice suprise....

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So, a couple of days ago, I did a big thing. I committed myself to buying another new game. Out of all the possible great games o choose from, I picked.....

Modern Warfare 3.

You probably think I'm crazy. So did I after I parted with my £39.81 of hard earned cash. As I got home, I nervously unwrapped the case, knowing it would be exactly the same as MW2. It genuinely took a few minutes to put the disc in the tray, I was that worried.

As I loaded it up, I noticed a scarily simmilar menu screen as the sounds of the millions of people calling it Modern Warfare 2.5 echoed through my head.

I went straight to multiplayer, as I figured It would have gotten the most attention from the Dev teams. I went into the first match, went straight for the UMP and started playing.

This is when I realised something:

Modern Warfare has absolutely fantastic multiplayer.

Its, in my opnion, the best yet and for a really strange reason. It hit me that the reason Black Ops MP felt so stale is because Treyarch attempted to make the experience fairer by downpowering everyone. MW3, on the other hand, makes everyone an uber-powerful killing machine.

This coupled with killstreaks that carry over deaths mean even the most terrible players (me) feel like they're contributing to the team.All of the guns (including secondaries, I mainly use a machine pistol like a primary) feel like a viable option as a weapon and the killstreaks and perks no one ever used are now useful.

Seriously, for all the time Infinity Ward spent ignoring the fact they should change how the game looks, they spent balancing and making it feel "right".

Get this game.

Just a load of random stuff...

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Hey guys, sorry I haven't posted too much of late (not that anyone really cares fnarf fnarf) but I've been an emotional wreck of sorts for the past few weeks.

So, yeah she finally got round to breaking up with me. "Onwards and upwards!" I think, "I don't need her! All I need is... Err... Minecraft..." And so begins the loss of my life to game that looks like it was made in about 1753. Its hard to comprehend the point and/or fun to be had in Minecraft without playing it. The options are literally endless to the point of it seeming pointless. "I could carve her name into my arm!" I think, "That'll show her I really love her! Or I could just make a massive statue of her face. In Minecraft."

I'll tell you now, in terms of it being a way of getting over someone, Minecraft is useless.

Moving swiftly on...

I saw this:

http://www.ubergizmo.com/2011/10/battlefield-3-simulator-leaves-mouth-gaping/

BATTLEFIELD 3 SIMULATOR! Finally everyone's (mainly teenage boy's)dreams have come true! A game you actually play! As in, run around and jump and stuff!

It does look cool, but then, it does shoot you and thats never cool...

Like that fanboys need more incentive to up their K/D.

On a final note...

DECAPITATIONS IN SKYRIM! WE'RE SAVED!

http://www.ripten.com/2011/09/19/skyrim-gets-mature-rating-features-drunken-decapitation/

Peace out.

Can we stop being mean to great games, please?

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As you're all probably well aware, I'm a huge Gears of War fan. I think its partly to do with me having such fond memories of playing it when I should have been revising with my best friend... Ah, good times... Anyway, we played through the end of Gears 1 and the whole of Gears 2 and now we're just about to finish the third, which is incredible thus far.

Now, I'm not saying people hate the gameplay, its generally praised, but I've noticed a bunch of people really dislike the story. I'm not comparing Gears to Shakespeare or anything, but I really like it! The world and characters are so well realised (especially Baird, who I hated in the first game, but who, by the end of the third I'm really starting to like) that I find it difficult to listen to people complain about it. I've seen other people say (type) that its story is childish and laughable. I think its unfair to say that. Obviously, emotion will be lost in translation from script to game because there will always be a level of detachment from a game - humans find it hard to relate to a bunch of pixels, and rightly so. But when important characters die or are traumatised, I felt genuinely sad for them.

So, maybe I'm just an overly emotional guy, or I'm too easily impressed by a story, but at least Epic tried. I guess they knew Gears would sell amazingly, but still put a load of effort into its story. And, while its presentaion can be grating at times, I realy feel an emotional attachment to the Gears series in the same way as I do Shadow Of The Colossus (the best game ever, I think you'll find.) Its immersive, I got lost in both worlds. I guess thats all you could ever ask for from a game.

What to buy...?

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So, it looks like my girlfriend of 2 and a half years will be breaking up with me shortly. This gives me two choices: kill myself or buy a new game to make me feel better.

The cheery opening of this blog brings me to notice how many awesome games are coming out soon. I don't think there's ever been a point in my lifetime where the games market looked so exciting. I must admit, i'm a bit of a release day newbie. I've only ever bought 2 games new (Just Cause 2 and Gears of War 3. Gears is fantastic. Buy it. Now.) and I've always been a bit put off by the £40 price tag of new games. But with so many great games coming out, i'll have to buy at least one.

First off, Battlefield 3. I owned both Bad Companies on Xbox (I loved 2) but have never played a 'proper' battlefield game. I really REALLY want to get this for PC (I know if I got it on xbox, I'd be sitting wishing I was in a plane...) and I'm downloading the beta now, but I'm pretty sure my 1.9 GHz triple core will cower in a corner when I load it up...

Next, Elder scrolls V: Skyrim. I got into Oblivion really late in the day, and so never completed it (might also be to do with trying tojuggle school work, a girlfriend and a band between the 200 hours of playtime) so I really want to get Skyrim early and see it through. I also feel like I won't get so confused, asI did with my first play on Oblivion.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3: I'm very sorry. Really, I am. Thing is, as a load of my friends who LOVE CoD have gone to college, its my only real way of keeping in touch with them. I know its mindless, but it is satisfying and you can't deny it ;)

Borderlands 2: I know its coming out in 2012 (hey, the relationship could last that long... right...?) but I'm so incredibly excited about it. I've played the first game for more hours than I can remember. Its led me to believe I have minor OCD and deprived me of a social life. Its strange I like it so much, because I usually like games with a strong story. Apparently, there'll be more focus on that in Borderlands 2.

Anyway, I hope you guys are looking forward to some games too, and you don't hate me for liking Call of Duty... I'm going to sit in a corner and cry now.

Peace out.

How far is too far?...

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I liked that Modern Warfare 2 level,No Russian. I think its great. Its not brilliant; its confused, attention seeking and definately not fun. What it is, however, is thought provoking and a step in the right direction for video games being taken seriously as an art form. Unfortunately, the step was crippled under the sheer weight of hype and prejudice. The heavy flab of controversy - outcry from newspapers, magazines and parents - hindering what should have been a valiant stride into a feeble limp. Admittedly, Infinity Ward should have known better than to put such a contraversial level in such a highly anticipated game. The Call of Duty franchise is generally seen as a mindless set offirst person shooters, and for the most part, it is.There are exceptions to this rule (the nuke scene from CoD 4) but the order of the day is usualy "shoot some guys".

Very rarely have games taken subjects that are contraversial and managed to A.) keep the critics on side and B.) make a valid philosophical point. The latter is where "No Russian" ever-so-slightly misses the mark. This is because the context of the level sort of beats around the bush. The idea is that you're an American secret agent posing as a Russian terrorist massacring people because it will save more lives later (this in itself is questionable, and, more frustratingly, an interesting philosophical idea which the game never explores further). If the game had just put you playing as a Russian terrorist - the bad guy - massacring people, it would have had a far greater effect. It would have cut the bullsh*t, rather than it being "you are a good guy doing a bad thing but it has eventual positive effects"it would be "you're the bad guy doing bad things full stop". This is thought provoking, its not an easy mindset to get into and it makes you think about a taboo subject. If you're given a hypothetical 'Get Out Of Jail Free' card with "You're a good guy so its fine" written on it, you don't think about your actions. Actually, what would be interesting is if a game tried to blur the lines between 'good' and 'bad' (something I applaud Braid for trying) but thats a different point altogether.

For me, there has only been one game that has begun to manage to tackle taboo subjects. That game is "The Super Colombine Massacre RPG!". Its is an indie game developed on free game creation software and focuses on the lives of the perpetrators of the Colombine Massacre. The game is an 16-bit style and plays like early Final Fantasy games with turn based combat and inventory screens. The thing about this game for me is that, not only does it atempt to recreate the exact events of the massacre (you have the exact inventory of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold - the perpetrators) but it looks into the lives of the murderers psychologically. It empathises but does not condone. It makes you think about the actions of the boys and WHY they did it, something "No Russian" doesn't. Some argue that the cutesy 16-bit graphics trivialise the events. I disagree. If Ledonne had made it on the Crytek engine it would just have made it look better, it would have given no more (probably less) insight into the boys lives or reasonings. In some ways, the graphics are the cleverest part of the game. The fights arn't graphic and give a sense of what was going on in the boys heads during the horrific events. They were in a game. Life was a game to them. Above all the graphics give of this feeling of innocence. Notin a good/bad innocence/guilty way, in a childish, confused and angry way. Like something very mature andsophisticated trapped in basic world, much the boys felt they were. Seriously, if you have the guts todownload TSCMRPG! and the patience and willpower to play it (the gameplay is awful) you find a serious and gut wrenching point at the centre. It makes you realise just how stupid games like Call of Duty are for having 'Good' and 'bad' as such black and white things.

Fantasising about games designing...

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After getting my mediocre GCSE results, I had a quick fantasising session about what I want to do with my stupid life. One of the things I fantasised about (in a sort of "yeah, but it'll never happen" way), was games designing. That is of course, before I becomea rock star and kill myself at 27in a more brutal death than Elliott Smith.I'm one of those people who will play a game and always feel something could have been done better. Clearly, I'm in no position to speak up about this, because I can't evenmake a Tamogochi happy, let alone programa f***ing GAME. Still one can dream, right?

In my head, its so easy to take a base game, say for an FPS template, Call of Duty, and go"I WANT MOAR GUNZ AND VEHICLES AND ABIG OPEN WORLDZ AND BOOBS ANDJOHNNY 5 FROM SHORT CIRCUIT (obscure reference)!!!!!!!!!1111111111ONEHUNDEREDANDELEVEN AND ALSO A STORY BUT I KNOW THATS A LOT TO ASK SO THE GUNZ AND BOOBIEZ R OK" Clearly, this would be awesome at its base level, but the amount of effort and moneyit would take to make it would be huge. Plus Australia would get all arsey with it, because the game ratings board in australia spend too much time deciding which free schooldinner they want and not enough time rating games properly.#

So, yeah, my point is... I don't really know what my point is part from mentioning Short Circuit and Elliott Smith. Anyone got any good ideas for games?

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