18 February, 2017

The Last Guardian

I had no intention of writing this, but felt the burning need when... oh man... I wish I could give spoilers, but suffice to say something I thought would involve trickery and logic turned out to need only a simple hug. Hugs and wugs. I nearly cried, because the game had done such a great job of making me think the problem was something else, when all I needed was love.

Honestly, if you're looking for a typical gaming experience, this might not be for you. It's evocative, and beautiful, but I wouldn't say it's particularly fun. Art isn't always supposed to be fun, and that's just it: this is art, not a game. This is what you show your elderly relative when they tell you video games can't be works of art. Or if you're of my generation or younger, this is what you'd like to stuff down Roger Ebert's grave screaming, "Look, you old coot!  We always told you!" Ahem... Perhaps that's a bit harsh, but he did say games would never amount to much artistically, and they have, and The Last Guardian is a beautiful testament to that achievement.

The controls are difficult, I'll grant. I've more than once shouted, "I said run left you little jackass!"  But you know what? I'm not sure an early pubescent little boy running around a castle scared out of his wits would control his body that well either. I'd even say it's part of the experience, and the whole game is so beautiful I've never actually gotten mad. I could certainly never say a bad word to Trico. Not without feeling guilty. Trico feels real, which in itself, given how primitive AI is at present, is a truly remarkable achievement. That's like painting the Mona Lisa on an etch-a-sketch. If Trico obeyed your every command, he wouldn't feel real. You genuinely feel like a team through the entire thing, and Trico is adorable, majestic, and sometimes scary as hell.


It's noteworthy here that The Last Guardian is easily the most visually stunning game I've ever played, and as a lifelong gamer, that's saying something. I can pause the game at literally any second and the image would make a beautiful painting on my wall.

... griffin. Here’s an interesting screenshot from the Last Guardian
The Last Guardian - Screenshot-Galerie | pressakey.com
Kotaku Timeline: The Last Guardian | Kotaku Australia

Those are freaking screenshots. Even writing about it now, it blows my mind.

And again I point you to the game's humanity, and Trico's reality. Those beautiful pause button paintings are of a creature you'll fall in love with.

When I saw IGN's 7/10 review, I wondered if I'd made the right decision in buying the super deluxe version, which came with a statuette.

Shuei Yoshida Spacchetta Per Voi La Collectors Edition Di The Last

Would the statue forever remind me of a disappointment?

But no.  I wish it were bigger. I wish it dominated my back garden and the game had come with a painting too.

If I were reviewing this as a "game", I'd agree with IGN. The controls are fuzzy, the replay value is mostly aesthetic, the trophy hunt (if like me you're into those) looks fiddly and frustrating to me, the play time is short. But this is not a game. I doubt it was intended as one. If you want a game, get something else. This is a work of art.

Imagine you're in a bookstore and you're choosing between The Hogfather (Terry Pratchett, and awesome. Amazon link if you haven't read it and... do.) and To Kill a Mockingbird. There is little doubt that, if you're in the mood for something fun, you should choose The Hogfather. If you want something deep, that will haunt you for years to come, and that is a perfect showcase of just how beautiful and significant a work of art can be, then you should get To Kill a Mockingbird. I thought about choosing a more esoteric, arty book there, like Catcher in the Rye, but no--To Kill a Mockingbird is fun.  It's just not made to be fun.  In terms of fun content, easy 7/10.

The Last Guardian is, equally, not made to be fun. It's still fun. And I am not deriding other games.  I love video games. They've influenced my writing every inch as much as books. I'm saying The Last Guardian is an anomaly. The industry, even when telling a great story, rarely places the "game-ish" side of things in the background. I'm saying I understand the 7/10 review, but it's not judging The Last Guardian for what it attempted, but for what they expected. It is impossible to give an accurate impression of this kind of art (not level, but kind) when just measuring how much you think people should buy it. If you want nifty fun, I'd say only buy it if you have a good amount of cash to throw around, and feel like trying something unique. If you're looking for a fun puzzle platformer and have never tried, say Portal 1 or Portal 2, get those. They're awesome.

If you want to see just how beautiful a game can be, and how much it can evoke, The Last Guardian is an easy 10/10, and a must have.

Know what to expect. Don't judge it as a game, but as a work of art, and I promise, if you're in the mood for something deep and beautiful, you will fall in love with Trico, and you will be very glad to have experienced The Last Guardian.

13 February, 2017

A Thank You to Everyone Who Reads This

A-thank you, everyone who reads this.  Yes, I know I already said it, but I mean it sincerely.

When I first started this blog, I had one reader.  I set up the blog and within a couple of weeks somebody messaged me saying, "Are you the guy who wrote Temple of Mirrors!?"  I couldn't believe anybody read that story, let alone would remember it four years after publication.  I was glad to have that reader, and if they still read my blatherings, I'm all the more glad.  This is a special shout-out to you, if you're still there.  You rock.

(In fact, contact me again, dude.  I no longer have your details so far as I can see.  I think it's fun to know who you are, and I'd be happy to always give you a signed copy of my work.  I'd bet many writers would do that if they were privileged enough to know who their first fan was.)

To everyone else, I offer a big thanks too.  I haven't posted all that much over the past year.  I've been so busy, trying to set myself up as a novelist, trying to please my agent and get a book into a major publishing house.  It's a long, long journey.

About a month ago, I dared look at my view statistics again, thinking I'd be down to a meagre number, dreading the thought after making things pretty respectable over the years.

I also assumed they'd go down for another reason.  I used to write about the craft of writing.  Then I decided to take a chance and start writing more about me, about my thoughts and feelings.  Stream of consciousness ravings of a random bloke at a keyboard.  There's still stuff about writing and publishing, because it's perpectually on my mind, but it's no longer a deliberate, businesslike focus.

Long story short, I had several reasons to be afraid to look at my statistics.

And then I looked, and my jaw dropped.  Since I started posting about me, just sharing my journey, my views have more than tripled.  I don't know why you people care, you sick bastards, but I do know you have my enduring gratitude.  You make me feel like maybe I can accomplish this goal one day.  I consider myself tremendously lucky for every view.

So for whatever ungodly reason, the metrics suggest people enjoy reading about me, and what I think.  I'm going to restructure my blog just a little bit to reflect that.  If you hate the new format, please let me know.  If you like it, then thanks again.

I'm also altering the format to better reflect what I think about, and what I have to say.  Over the last year I would often be stuck for what to write, uncertain whether what was going through my mind would be of any value to anyone.  I mean, why would it?  I still don't get it, but if you people like reading it, and I like writing it, then everybody wins, right?  Let's say, for instance, I'm reading some ye olde Michael Moorcock, and I'm thinking about how he balances intriguing character with an elegantly simple story about overcoming a monster.  If that's what's on my mind, and if for some ungodly reason you guys enjoy my perspective, I accept your interest with gratitude, and will be pleased to share.  So I'll be sticking up a reviews section.  It won't all be books, either.  I play games every bit as much as I read.

I don't know what else I'll add yet.  This is a work in progress.  I might even self-publish some short stories--things I believe in but haven't found a market for.  Just a thought.  If anyone has any thoughts, please feel free to message me over Google or Twitter (I even set up Tumblr recently, though I haven't figured out how to use it yet) or write in the comments.

My fear in posting this is that it'll look self-congratulatory.  I assure you it isn't meant that way.  I am genuinely astonished that people read my blog, and I'm equally glad.  The least I can do is be candid with my readers, and design my blog to give them more stuff to read.

Pointless picture for Pinterest: