Monthly Archives: May 2016

Where Nintendo Went Wrong

When I were a young whippersnapper, I used to tell all the grown ups that I wanted to be a ‘Game Consoller’ when I was older.  Fortunately for me this was the early nineties when a child could make up any old shit about the video game industry and the adults would be none the wiser.  In retrospect, I’m not even sure what this occupation would entail.  Programming?  QA?  Providing a shoulder to cry on for grieving rabbits?

God knows, but I certainly put the work in.  Alongside performing my own Street Fighter tournaments (complete with having to act nonchalantly as my mum burst into the room to put the laundry away, like I’d been caught masturbating, when I’d actually just been strutting around, swinging my hips, pretending to Chun Li) I also spent an inordinate amount of time producing ‘design documents’.  These would normally be a few pages of hastily scribbled notes, horrifically drawn characters and a letter to Nintendo saying that if they made this game I would offer them 50% of the profit.  Business nous and an artists eye; get this lad a desk.

In any case, as the kind of compulsive hoarder with a loft whose mysteries will only begin to be unravelled by my grieving children after I’m gone (“How many plastic guitars did one man need?”, “Who the fuck are Freezepop; I thought Dad was straight..?”, “What on Earth possessed him to buy an N-Gage?”) I’ve kept a few of these of these treasured dossiers and present one for your amusement below.

I’d hazard a guess I was around the age of ten when I put this together.  Nobody’s favourite uncle John Major is running the country .  Some guy is trying to identify every British leisure centre by scent alone on You Bet. Steven Seagal is kicking the shit out of a boat while a woman with boobs hides inside a cake.  Sarah Greene’s face is a picture of horror as she slowly realises what The Shaman are singing about on Going Live.  Freddie Mercury really, really likes Barcelona.  Heady days.

And somewhere in Essex, a young lad is designing a game no one will ever play.  As he diligently sharpens his colouring pencils, he’s blissfully unaware that twenty years in the future someone that looks like his Dad would be using technology beyond his comprehension to show the world how shit it is. The internet is truly a beautiful thing.

The Game 

From what I gather, the game itself appears to be a one-on-one beat ’em in a similar vein to Street Fighter.  This was my favoured genre for these scribbles as it allowed me to do all the fun bits like character design and leaping around my bedroom inventing special moves without having to get bogged down in all the boring bits like balancing, coding, animating; y’know, all the things that actually make a game work.

I must of been on a sugar high from all the Nerds and Jawbreakers because I though it was a good idea to make all the characters convicted criminals.  And they’re all animals of course, because this was back in the day when literally every video game featured a bad ass anthropomorphic creature with sunglasses and a backwards baseball cap.  I was basically laying the foundations for Rare’s entire Nintendo 64 output.

Without further ado, please select your character Player 1:

 

Ace of Spades 

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As with everything I do, I gave this my all until it was half finished, got bored and moved onto something else which explains why our first combatant is the only one in glorious technicolour.

His moves feature the mysteriously titled ‘jump spin’ and his previous convictions include ‘stealing $1 from Fort Knox’ which strikes me as a spectacular waste of time.  And yes, I was a fan of the Jim Carrey film The Mask; why do you ask?

 

Slam Dunk 

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Apparently criminal 9, the basketball playing giraffe Slam Dunk, is ‘too big to fit in’ his mugshot which begs the question why the photographer didn’t just look up a bit.

His crime of ‘illegal basketball play’ seems a little harsh to get banged up for but then his rap sheet does also mention ‘asulltng polce officers’ which does sound farly searyuss.

Before he was in the slammer, Slammers played for the ‘Metro Python’s’ presumably taking a break from their airborne big top.

 

Claw

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The good news is that I’m pretty confident there are no worldly warriors who are defined by their iconic claw so I’m golden on the intellectual property front.

The bad news is that ‘Claw hit bad times in 1989’.  Oddly specific without a whole lot of background, but I go on to describe a tragic figure who is ‘a supervillan without a superhero’ and spends his time ‘stealing black and purple cloth’.  I think the reason you might be missing an arch nemesis is because you spend all your time casing habberdasheries, mate.

 

Heliaum 

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The dictionary is all the way over there so you can hardly blame me for the misspelling of helium, but I’m not sure why I’ve got more than one ‘Criminal 1’.

The description for this chap, who is surely only coincidentally identical to one of the bad guys from Roger Rabbit, deserves to be experienced in full;

‘Known as the “Balloning Rat” this madman can actually blow helium* from his mouth!  That’s the reason for his funny voice.  Previous convictions; plane robbing, hijacking, graffiti on roofs”

*Yes, I did then spell it correctly. Fuck knows what was going on.

 

Mr Toon 

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O.k, maybe I did just rip off Who Framed Roger Rabbit.  My opening gambit is that ‘Mr Toon is a nutter’  which makes him sound like he downs a couple of brown ales and then smashes some guys face in after every Newcastle match.

‘He has spent his life making the real ACME Co and in ten years made it’ is a sentence that only gets more confusing the more often I read it.

But my favourite detail is that his previous conviction of ‘hammer banging’ is the only one I’ve put in quotation marks, suggesting…well, I’m not sure what I was getting at but my adult mind is in overdrive as to what exactly this sexual deviant could have been up to.

 

Terry Vision 

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‘Terry watch T.V constantly when he was a kid, this is why he has square eyes’ is Criminal number 10’s ‘backyrond’.  One of his crimes is ‘interacting with T.V’, which I think is generally referred to as playing video games; the irony of which is nearly enough to make me smirk my mouth clean off my face.

In a delightful touch that makes me want to ruffle my own hair, Terry’s mugshots are actually inside televisions.   Nice work, little Soup.  Nice work.

 

Desmond 

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I describe Desmond as a ‘demond cat’, clearly too young to yet realise that all felines contain part of our Lord Satan. ‘Master of fire and evil he loves disappearing’.  Who doesn’t!  Right with you there, Des.

His crimes; ‘Escaping from hell’, woah, that’s a biggy, ‘defing the law of gravity’, not technically illegal but we’ll go with it and ‘bank robbery’, kinda fizzles out at the end there.

 

Gear Paw 

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Sounds like a geordie saying ‘gay porn’, doesn’t it?

Gear Paw, I’m very eager to clarify, was once called ‘Gary Place’ suggesting that Mr and Mrs Dunk really did decide to call their baby Slam.  Tragically, our hero ‘lost his claw in a machanical acident’ but did what any of us would have done and ‘built himself a CYBERPAW with lots of cagets’.  Gotta have those cagets.

His crimes range from the ridiculously mild (‘stealing batterys’) to the completely pointless (‘breaking into electrical plants’).  What are you hoping to achieve Gary?  I know you’re still in there. Put the cagets down and come back to me Gary.  Please.

 

Minga

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Fuck, where to start?  The background indicates that I was going for a ‘mystical monkey ninga’.  What I got was either the term ‘minger’, meaning someone unpleasant to one’s eye, or ‘minge-er’, meaning someone who likes to minge.

Putting the brilliantly unfortunate phonetics to one side, Minga crimes are just utterly baffling. ‘Selling watches’ is not only well within the boundaries of our legal system but a totally inappropriate side venture for a monkey ninja.

The next one I can’t even read.  It’s either ‘illegal bulery’ (I’m guessing this is impersonating Ferris Bueller without the valid paperwork) or ‘illegal butery’ which suggests this ape is into butts as well as minges.

‘No one knows where he comes from’ I whisper mysteriously, immediately after saying that he ‘originated from Japan’.   ‘He is leathel!’ I exclaim, making him sound like a French bag.

Finally, just what the fuck is that criminal number supposed to be?!

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Let Me Be Your Fantasy

In a confession that’s sure to confound the marketing men, I quite like Marmite.  I don’t recoil at it’s presence but nor do I feel the need to have the barcode tattooed on my body.  Marmite’s fine, and is a viable but not necessary option when selecting spreads.

I’m the same with football really; most people are either fanatically devoted to it or fly into a hulk style rage at the mere mention of it.  I enjoy the odd match, enjoy the odd video game, follow a team and prefer them to win. Footballs fine, and is a viable but not necessary option when selecting entertainment.

All that said, I absolutely adore Fantasy Football.

I should clarify that I’m not talking about the crappy versions found between the boobs and racism in the tabloids.  With their unesscessarily difficult transfer policies that demand you use a bloody phone like this is ’95 or something, they too closely ape the unfairly balanced nature of reality football where the odds are already stacked against the little guy.   Ironically, I’m talking about the one officially endorsed by the Premier League themselves, who have inadvertently lampooned the setup of their own league by creating a game that anyone can succeed at, as long as they try.

I’ve not watched more than two entire games this season and yet sit in fourth position in my work league of over 30 teams, some of whom are managed by the kind of lunatics that spend their Saturdays desperate for a piss on a boiling hot bus so that they can yell at someone who doesn’t care that they exist.  How is this possible?  How can someone who buries themselves in the sport end up worse than someone who only lightly dusts themselves with it?

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This is how my Saturday mornings look.  My family are very lucky to have me.

I’m not even the best fairytale I know.  A few seasons back, at the weekend of my 30th birthday, a friend managed to seal victory in our social league (which this season is inexplicably referred to as ‘Hypothetical Trousers’) despite not really showing the slightest interest in football until he was in his late twenties.  At that point he didn’t even support a team.

The title was beautifully poised with myself and two others all within three points of each other.  When you consider total scores over the season enter the thousands this proves how impossibly close this was.

And he bloody won it.  If you’ve been paying very close attention, you may have heard a slight whisper on the wind that this seasons reality football was won by Leicester City, a team tipped for relegation by just about everybody.  This was fantasy footballs equivalent and he won in such dramatic fashion.  That he’s now considered a force to be reckoned with just goes to show how this game enables a minnow to become an established part of the footballing elite.  That this season he was top at Christmas and is now languishing near the bottom just shows how cruel a mistress she can be.

And we’re just a bunch of eight players. This game is played by literally millions of people the world over.  I love the idea of all these little stories going on.  The setup that allows you to not only go against the world but to also cut off your own small slice in the form of a custom league is inspired. For some, it facilitates #topbants, but for me it means that I’m constantly playing an awesome strategy game with my friends.

And that’s the key to its success. At it’s heart Fantasy Football is a game of numbers and forward planning.   A beautifully entertaining spreadsheet of form, figures and statistics.  Perhaps if you’re engaged with the sport too deeply you can foolishly start to attribute humanity to the little football shirts on your monitor. I fell for this issue a few years back when I refused to have Luis Suarez in my team because I think he’s a massive prick. Naturally he scored a ton of goals and my team suffered because I let silly emotions get in the way of pure, cold objectivity.

To succeed you have to worship your enemies and kill your darlings. Another friend once found some success in bringing in John Terry, the racist, womanising thug. Hated by most but particularly hated by him as he supports Queens Park Rangers, a team that are in direct rivalry with Terry’s Chelsea. What a moral quandary he must have found himself in.  It must have been like starting a game of charades only to find out that George Osborne was really good at it, begrudgingly joining his team and weakly high-fiving his stunningly accurate interpretation of the Rocky Horror Picture Show.

A knack for brutal pragmatism and lack of moral fibre is not the only key to success of course.  Fantasy Football is often wrongly accused of being a game of chance.  Fate does play a factor but certainly no more than your average game of Mario Kart.  There’s a cliché in reality football that misfortune ‘evens itself out over the course of the season’ and this rings true for the fantasy equivalent too.  One full game is so monstrously long that the cream always rises to the top.

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See that blue bastard at the front there?   Hate him.  Inconsistent fucker.

Finding ‘The Differential’ (the player hitting form that no one else has), taking advantage of a teams easy run of games, planning weeks in advance so your team is packed with ‘Double Weekers’, deciding when to pull the trigger on your wildcard which allows you to change your entire team without penalty (and is of course, always accompanied by an Always Sunny reference); all these factors and a hundred more build to create a game of staggering tactical complexity.  It’s telling that a friend once described it as scratching the same itch as the notoriously uncompromising EVE Online.

It gets into your head and has you pacing around the kitchen, obsessively the checking the latest scores; quietly fist pumping as a plan comes together or banging your head against a wall as it falls apart.  Another glorious mechanic is that it’s a game that’s constantly balancing itself. Players become more or less expensive dependant on their success so getting in early or leaving on a high is an extra level of strategy that needs to be considered.

I would recommend it to literally everybody, with the very slight caveat that if you don’t know the slightest thing you’ll be at a disadvantage to start.  I once tried to get my wife involved and she wanted her starting team to include ‘Frank Lampard’ (now plays abroad), ‘the one with the Sideshow Bob hair’ (David Luiz, also now abroad) and ‘Tom Hardy’ (played Bane in Batman, may or may not be abroad).  But if you can get over this slight hurdle you’re in the same boat as the rest of us; staring at the impossibly vast number of branching options, desperately searching for that one special player.

Fantasy Football is the world’s first and undoubtedly the finest MMOARSRPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Augmented Reality Strategy Role Playing Game). My sporting vocabulary isn’t developed enough to describe a good goal as anything other than ‘oooh, nice’ and it’s still one of the best games I’ve played in years.  Even if you hate football and everything it stands for there’s no reason not to get involved.

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