Friday, 27 June 2014

Digital Vs Physical

The slow march towards digital distribution of entertainment is one of those hidden pluses of the Internet age, with games, music, film, TV and books now becoming cheaper with the cost of distribution and manufacturing cut out as well as being a boon to independent content creators; digital distribution really is brilliant... except I prefer physical copies of things. Now I'm not one of those Luddites who decries all things past the cassette tape, I love what digital distribution has done for consumer choice, just sit a while and listen to why I think digital isn't all that for a few things.

Seeing as iTunes more or less kickstarted the digital revolution we may as well start with music. Now for music I've no problem with the digitisation of music, with crisper audio and no need for bulky cassette or CD Walkmans. The iPod and all the others like it, are prime examples of the good the digital age can do for a medium. But that's not to say it's all good; for some audio buffs the cleanness of some recording can retract from the feel of a song, I myself am partial to a number of old uploads of vinyls on YouTube, the light crackle of the needle reading the record and other impurities can really add to a song, to give an old blues ballad that extra feeling of roughness to an old crooner lamenting his loss; though admittedly this is a personal preference and some songs older songs do benefit from a digital makeover.

Film and TV have probably fared the best, with visuals now looking their best and the conversion to high definition breathing new life into older films and the likes of Netflix and Hulu+ giving millions access to new and old alike. Not to mention funding their own shows without the meddling of sponsors and networks, like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black being huge successes as well as giving people access to smaller independent films the digital age may revitalise the film industry. The only true loss with the digital age is the fact that all the old VHS copies of Star Wars without all the CGI meddling are nigh unfindable these days without resorting to less than legal means.

Video Games, much like film and TV, has benefited greatly from digital distribution. With services like Steam offering massive deals on everything from the biggest AAA titles to the obscure gems of the past as well as giving a new platform to the rapidly growing indie market allowing such masterpieces as Bastion and Limbo to get the recognition they deserve. Alongside sites such as (Good old Games) reworking older games to run on newer systems. The indie market has also thrived on consoles with Sony offering the likes of Journey and Flower on their PlayStation Network digital service and the XBox Live Arcade allowing user made content. Digital distribution has been nothing but good for the games industry. But me being old fashioned I still prefer my old collection of PlayStation games lined up neatly next to my books, there's just something more satisfying to running your finger across the spine of a game umming and ahhing while you choose a game, pulling out and old favourite just to appreciate the box art is an experience like no other. In comparison scrolling up and down your Steam list just feels empty to me.

Now so far I've been mostly positive with digital, liking each one so far with just a few minor gripes to be had, but here is where I am completely against digital distribution. Books. E-readers have been around since the early 2000's but only grew in popularity with the release of the Amazon Kindle in 2007 and I have never liked them. I've used both a Kindle itself as well as apps on various devices and they have never done anything for me. Now, I can understand why people like them, they're convenient and the text can be adjusted depending on your needs, that's all good but I still hate them; they're just too clean. You don't get that new book smell with a kindle, or that musky smell of an older book. You don't get the the yellowed pages of an older used book, or the fraying of pages, the bending of spines, the light rustle as you turn the page; the hardening of pages of a book that's been caught in the rain. You just don't get any of this with a kindle, a Kindle is just a piece of tech and data but a book is so much more, it's a story, a feeling and experience. Books are such an old thing that they carry so much more, books, especially loved ones, the dog eared ones, have soul. 

Jeremy Clarkson in his book I know You Got Soul goes into how certain machines, the ones with impurities and design faults were the ones that were truly great, the ones that had soul to them. This is books to me, they're old and clunky and kinda rubbish, but that's why I love them. It's like books are an old Mustang and Kindles are a new model, sure the new Mustang is more fuel efficient, comfier and has all the modern gadgets and is clean instead of yours which has been under a sheet in your garage for a few years, but when you have your friends are over, which would you be more proud to show to them, to let them take a spin in? Or to put it another way, if or when you have kids what would you rather leave them? A book you loved as a child with frayed edges and the cover just hanging on with cellotape, or the password to your Amazon account so they can download it? If you answered the latter then... well you're awful. But if you answered the former then you're like me, an old fashioned sort who loves the look of mis-matched books sitting on your shelf, with tiny paperbacks standing proudly amongst their hardback counterparts, some with embossed lettering, others faded from the years, but they are all there, your favourite books barely held together from constant re-reading sitting proudly in the middle... and you just don't get that with a Kindle and, well, that just sucks.

Alex Chhaya

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Suarez Banned For 4 Months

Suarez has been banned for 9 international FIFA games for Uruguay and 4 months of any football and receives a fine.

During the 4 months and the 9 games, Suarez is banned from entering a football stadium and is not allowed to participate in any football activities, administrative or otherwise.

His international ban starts with Uruguay's next World Cup match and only consists of competitive matches, with his 4 month ban starting today.

Suarez has been found to breach articles 48 and 51.

FIFA announced the disciplinary action at 14:50 on Thursday afternoon during a daily briefing. There is an appeal process available for the player and Football Association.

What Should Happen To Luis Suarez?

Some people describe Luis Suarez as one of the beautiful game’s most gifted geniuses, who is up there with the likes of Messi, Ronaldo, Bale and Neymar. But how can we as football fans continue to give him such an accolade after he has bitten an opposing player during a crucial World Cup match; the third time he has done so?

For those of you that don’t know (and there really cannot be many of you), Uruguay played Italy in a must win group stage on Tuesday, a game that eventually saw the South American side win one-nil to earn a place in the last 16. However, the only talking point of the match was, of course, Luis Suarez deciding to sink his teeth into Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini. Despite an angered Chiellini showing the bite marks to the referee, Suarez was not punished for his actions during the game.

This is a good thing, because it means FIFA as a governing body can fully utilise their laws to investigate and punish Suarez, which they may not have been able to do if the referee saw the incident and acted upon it. The ultimate factor is that this is the third time that Suarez has bitten someone on a Football pitch. If he was a dog in the UK, he would be put down.

He first bit Otman Bakkal while he was Dutch Ajax’s captain in 2010, then we all remember when he had a chomp of Chelsea defender Branislav Ivanovic in 2013 and now again just a couple of days ago. In between this he was found to have racially abused Patrice Evra during a game against Manchester United in 2011.

For me, I would give him a lifetime ban from professional Football. It’s simply one too many times that he has done something so outrageously awful that his career has to be finished. If I were to walk into the office tomorrow morning and bite someone, I would lose my job and have a police investigation. If that happened to be the third time I did it, I would be in some serious trouble. The same should apply to football players who should realise that they represent role models for young children, who are taught not to do exactly what Suarez did.

If you remember, Suarez served a ten game ban for biting Evra in 2013, which meant that he missed eight games of the season just gone. Despite that he had his most rewarding year as a Liverpool player; taking his side to 2nd, finishing top scorer and collecting all the individual awards. There were rumours of a big money move to a wealthy giant, I was hearing Barcelona, but Liverpool and he were clearly on the up from the Evra incident.

But because he has served an eight game ban, this next punishment simply has to be more severe. There is talk of an international ban, there is also talk of a two year ban from all football. But the thing is, FIFA are looking very weak lately regarding the coming presidential elections, Sepp Blatter wanting to run again, and UEFA talking very aggressively against Sepp doing so.

FIFA now have an opportunity to look strong and resilient; an organisation with the power to enforce rules, ensure safety and guarantee professional, sportsmanlike behaviour. If they metaphorically slap Suarez on the wrist, it will be clear as day how weak a governing body they are, because they rely on their superstars. But if they come out furiously strong and overwhelming with ridicule and punishment, it might send a better message about their current situation.

Although I am as anti-Blatter as can be (for a future article), I want to see the full force of punishment fall on the piece of filth that brings a sickening presence to the great game of ours.

Antony Moule

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

The Common Misconceptions of PC Gaming

As primarily a PC gamer, over the last few years I have seen PC gaming growing and growing in popularity. While once upon a time games consoles were the optimal system for playing video games, PCs have rocketed technologically and have surpassed the power of consoles. This means there is more of a reason to game on a PC thus popularity for the platform has grown and now PC games make up a decent percentage of the gaming industry.

But, of course, considering how popular games consoles are, people find it difficult to move from their preferred platform and we hear a lot of negativity towards PC gaming and there are a lot of excuses as to why people wouldn't want to use a PC as their primary platform. I'm writing this to make clear some misconceptions and hopefully teach you something if you didn't know about it already.

Now before I start, I don't want you to think I'm some "elitist" who thinks you should definitely game on a PC. Everyone has the right to play how they want to play on any platform they like for what ever reason. I just want to clear up some things and maybe help you consider PC gaming. The following are a few common reasons people decide against PC and explanations of why they are incorrect.

PC Gaming is too expensive!
So I'll start with the big one. The main thing you hear is people complaining how expensive it is to buy a PC when they can just pick up one of the new generation of consoles for £400-500. While the face value of a PC can be slightly more expensive than a console (you can easily build a PC for £400-500 that will perform about as well as a console) you're paying for what you get. Not only will it perform better than a console, it's not just a gaming machine. It's a whole PC to do what ever you want with! You can either buy a PC pre-built which tends to usually be the best idea for beginners but slightly more expensive or you can get help in finding parts and you can put it together yourself or with some help from a friend. Building a PC may sound daunting but it's just like putting Lego together.
As far as games go; brand new AAA games tend to be about £10-15 cheaper as developers don't need to pay a licence fee to the console makers (e.g. Sony, Microsoft). There also tends to be a lot of sales on PC games, especially on Steam where games often go down to 75% off.
So while you may be paying more than you would for a console, you're getting more than a gaming system and, of course, there is the fact you will be paying less for games.

I don't want to sit at a desk with a small screen
This is also a common one you hear. It has a pretty simple solution, as well. Hook your PC up to your TV and sit on your comfy sofa! It's simple enough to do these days; most modern graphics cards in PCs tend to have an HDMI port which makes it so much easier as modern TVs come with tonnes of HDMI ports.
Getting sound may be a little more difficult but still very do-able. Your TV may have an audio input port, if it does you can simply connect the audio output on your PC to the audio input on the TV with a single 3.5mm audio cable. If your TV doesn't have an audio input, you can just plug some external speakers in to your PC which you can pick up for a decent price.

I don't like using a keyboard and mouse!
The keyboard and mouse argument is brought up a lot. I personally think that keyboard and mouse controls tend to be better for a lot of games but there are certain games and certain genres that controllers are a lot better for, such as racing and platformers, and if I ever want to play one of those games, I just plug my controller in and go. You can even get a wide range of different controllers such as racing wheels for racing games or fighting sticks for fighting games.
Of course, if you don't want to use mouse and keyboard, you can plug your favourite controller in via USB and play away! Most games on PC are compatible with controllers as it is becoming a more and more popular option.
From the last generation (PS3 and Xbox 360) the only officially compatible controller was the Xbox 360 controller, but there are many unofficial drivers for the PS3 controller to work as normal. From the new generation (PS4 and Xbox One) both of the controllers are compatible. The PS4 controller is plug and play and the Xbox One controller has official drivers.

You have to constantly upgrade PCs!
This is quite an amusing one. There would be no reason to upgrade or change anything in a PC unless any of the hardware breaks down. I have no idea where the thought of upgrading your PC to run the latest games comes from. If we look at it from a console point of view, they can run the latest games for around 8 years with the same old hardware they had at the beginning. So by that logic there is no reason that PCs can't do the same. Being able to upgrade is quite the opposite to a downside. The freedom to do that isn't available with consoles and thus I believe consoles hold back the gaming industry. Game developers aren't allowed to advance with the technology they use to make games because if it is pushed too far, consoles wouldn't be able to run them while a high end PC would still be able to play them. 8 or so years from now when the current generation of consoles come to the end of their lives, PC technology will have advanced a fair bit and would be able to run amazing looking and amazing performing games but we'll still be at the same level due to the industry not being able to advance.

Anyway, I hope this gives you a better insight in to PC gaming and shows you it's not as bad as it's made out to be. If you need any more information just ask or have a quick search of the Internet and I'm sure you'll find a lot of people voicing their opinion.

Thanks for reading.

Jay Bowen

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Why I Hate Modern Doctor Who

I’m gonna preface this article with a quick disclaimer; I don’t hate Doctor Who because I’m some purist who loves the older Doctors as if they were Christ himself, or in my case Commander Shepard.  Truth be told I’ve only seen a handful of old Doctor Who episodes, most of them being Tom Baker episodes, and they were alright, nothing great. I have never been a fan of Doctor Who, but I’ve always like the idea of Doctor Who, a lone time traveller doing stuff and righting wrongs across the Universe, like Quantum Leap but with aliens. But that idea that I enjoyed seems to have been swept away with the modern incarnation of everyone’s favourite medical practitioner and I’m gonna explain why.

Now old Doctor Who, or at least my interpretation of him from my limited viewing and basic knowledge of the show, always came across to me as some sort of aloof intellectual explorer, who went wherever he so pleased and just did stuff; yes, whenever we saw him he was always battling some foe or foiling some maniacal plan to take over Earth by way of a studio back lot, but he never seemed all that interested in what was going on around him, usually regarding his peers and foes with an odd bored fascination, like all that was going on around him was like a television on in the background while we he did something else more important, like the dishes. He never came across as some grand bastion of all that was good, in fact he always seemed to inhabit a strange moral grey area, always trying to calculate his action I such a way so that they wouldn’t do too much to alter this new world he had visited. A more pro-active Uatu The Watcher from Marvel if you will. Now, this is only my interpretation based on incomplete date, so I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m wrong but this is necessary to properly frame why I hate ever Doctor from Christopher Eccleston onwards.

My main problem with the new Doctor is how he’s become this strange messiah figure, with every companion, villain and passer-by falling in love with him, despising him on every level or just being in awe at how great he bloody is. Rose, Donna, Captain Jack… err, the others, all fall in love with the bastard and are all sad when he eventually leaves and they have to go back to their boring families and loved ones, as if buggering off with a seemingly immortal weirdo is the best foundation for a long term relationship. I should also mention I hate the writing, but that’s a rant for another day.  And he keeps taking away these impressionable young idiots and continuing the cycle every bloody time, each time bidding farewell to them like they were his own mother on her deathbed. And this isn’t even going into how irresponsible he is as a time traveller, taking people out of their set time periods and then throwing them into some wild alien time period, letting them eat alien food and interacting alien species. You can’t visit certain countries without first having to have extensive vaccinations, and he’s flinging med students and kissagrams far into the future where some super pathogen would make them keel over the second someone breathed near them. Furthermore, his constant forays into Earth’s past and present would have rendered Earth’s history completely FUBAR.

Expanding on his new messiah figure status comes the messiah complex wherein he treats every death as literally the worst thing to ever happen ever… well, so long as the one who dies is someone he knows. For example, in the Christmas special Voyage of the Damned the Doctor meet Kylie Minogue on the space Titanic which is going to crash into Earth for insurance reasons and in the process Kylie Minogue dies, now the Doctor’s known this woman for all of an hour but still reacts to her death like someone would to their best friend since childhood died before their eyes, but earlier in the episode we saw countless people die. And then there’s his damned sanctity of life for every villain that could easily be killed with a handgun but NOOOO, he can’t kill because… killing is bad? Now I like Batman, and I like how he doesn’t kill people because his reasons make sense, the Doctor on the other hand? He once caused genocide of his own people and the Daleks. But now this bloke he just met can’t use his obvious prop gun to kill the monster because that would be bad… or end the episode too early, same thing.  Okay, so maybe it’s not the Doctor that’s the problem, it’s the writing staffs who don’t know how to write a complex character, so they just make him a God figure with a magic wand tat fixes everything and everyone loves. Christ, they’re projecting a bit, aren’t they? 

Alex Chhaya

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Mentioning the War

(Note: this is my first time writing an article like this, so apologies if it’s not quite up to snuff).

World War II is a conflict that has been thoroughly explored from a thousand and one angles: from countless retellings of the Normandy landings in Medal of Honor and Call of Duty, the Pacific theatre in Medal of Honor Rising Sun, North Africa with the Big Red One, to the skies over Europe in IL-2 Sturmovik, to sniping V2 scientists in bombed out Berlin with Sniper Elite V2, to the bloody battlefields of the Eastern Front in Company of Heroes 2.

Quite recently we had the release of the excellent alternative war in Wolfenstein: The New Order and the rarely seen Warsaw Uprising in the recent Enemy Front. Yes, the Second World War is a war that we've seen from all angles… except for one that is. The perspective of what has become the quintessential bad guy for the past 65 years. What I’m asking is why have we never played as a German?

Now this isn't to say it’s never happened; Company of Heroes had the excellent expansion pack Opposing Fronts where you played as an Axis commander, but an RTS is an impersonal experience after all if you squint hard enough your units all start to look the same. I don't want to play as some faceless Kommandant sending my equally faceless Wehrmacht to face the Sherman tanks; I want to be that poor Jerry. Now I'm not saying I want some horrible murder the civilian simulator or Concentration Camp Tycoon, no. It’s been 65 years now; we've had countless movies, TV shows and books about those poor sods sent to their deaths against the combined Allied forces, surely we can finally apply the old saying all Nazis are German but not all Germans are Nazis to videogames?

In fact that could play into, being a young idyllic German boy, joining the army after the reclamation of the Rhine Land, setting the early missions or the tutorial during the French campaign and during occupation you stop an act of violence against the local populace and for your insubordination you get sent to the Eastern Front. From there you can slowly become disillusioned with the Nazi state, witnessing first hand the atrocities that occurred across Eastern Europe; be beaten back from Stalingrad to the hopes of the Panzers at Kursk, only to face defeat again. As your friends and comrades numbers continue to dwindle you come to the end of you tether when your unit stops to evacuate troops from one of the death camps, upon seeing the horrors you snap and begin to fire on your comrades, only to be gunned down when you realise due to a lack of supplies you only have a quarter of a magazine in your MP40. If done well this game could be the Spec Ops: The Line of World War II games, a dark introspective into the faceless enemies we've been gleefully gunning down since the days we first left our cell in Castle Wolfenstein all those years ago.

But this is merely an opinion and chances are any game we get that features a German player character will be made by one of those awful Right Wing games that are about as competently designed as the opinion of the people that made them. I always recall the saying that games are yet to get their Citizen Kane (even though we have and it’s called Deus Ex) I, personally, am looking forward to our Letters from Iwo Jima or our Das Boot, but until that day I’ll continue to enjoy my guilt free slaughter as I would with Zombies or Zubats.

Alex Chhaya