Hello, readers. I hope you are all well. Apologies for the gap in recent posts, but I’ve been a little under the weather recently. I was going to write up a lovely account of social media in-game crossovers (never a good thing) but I’ve become so infuriated and consumed with rage since coming home from work, that I feel it’s best I leave that topic for another day. Now, on to business.

Har har. Spoilers. You all know what they are. I’m not talking car spoilers, contrary to what the above image might imply. I’m talking specifically about spoilers for games, although the message can be translated to other media as well.

Now, I’m assuming you, dear reader, are not someone who spoils things for their contemporaries. If this is true, good job. I shall personally visit you and give you a high-five if you leave contact details in the comments. If you do have a tendency to spoil things for other people, please do the same, and I’ll think of a suitable punishment for you in due course.

A while back, I bought Red Dead Redemption for the Xbox 360, which, if you’re in the know, you’ll know is a stonker of a game. It’s a progression from Rockstar’s GTA series, in which the story plays an even bigger role than thought possible. This game came out a month ago, but I have yet to complete the single-player story. Sadly, thanks to certain irresponsible and despicable individuals from across the interwebs, I already know exactly how the game ends, which has dampened my enjoyment somewhat. Sure, the game is still a delight to play, but it all feels as if the majority of the excitement has been sucked from it.

Social media is a marvellous, fabulous thing, which has encouraged gamers from around the globe to unite, share their experiences, and even coordinate themselves and their online gaming activities in a way that previously wasn’t possible. For instance, players of Red Dead Redemption closely rally around the #reddeadredemption hashtag on Twitter, which is a great way to find fellow cowboys and cowgirls to play with online, or even find quick help with a tricky mission if the need arises. It’s also a place where, admittedly, people do tend to share their experiences of the game. These vary from interesting, amusing, to downright irritating and even soul-destroying.

For instance, it would be an acceptable use of social media, such as Twitter, to tweet,

Anyone looking to go raid some gang hideouts this evening?

That’s fine. That’s using your initiative to seek out friends to play with. I think that pretty much sums up social media in a nutshell, in terms of bringing people together.

Alternatively, it would be acceptable to post something such as,

Wow, that final mission really moved me. I was greatly satisfied by such an ending! Bravo, game creators!

That’s also fine. You’re not spoiling anything at all. You’re expressing your satisfaction on a good 10 or 20 hours work, or whatever, and delighting at a satisfactory ending to a brilliant game, which you acknowledge by praising the game’s creators. Bless you.

This last example is taken too far in many cases, however, and more often than not leads to SPOILERS, such at the one we see below. Remember kids, this is exactly what you don’t want to do, or say, online.


This is unacceptable, and I cannot abide it.

Please, everyone. Use social media responsibly. Part of that is realising who you’re broadcasting what you’re saying to. If you have a private Twitter account, and you are only friends with fellow ‘hardcore’ gamers who insist on finishing games quickly, then fine. Spoil all you want. If you’re using a hashtag which you know is monitored by all sorts of people, however, please keep your spoilers to yourself. This applies to YouTube comments, Facebook statuses, and anywhere else people can publicly see your words.

Even forewarning of such a spoiler is unacceptable. On the internet, as I’m sure you’re aware, people scroll upwards, downwards, side-to-side, diagonally. If you write it down, it will be seen by people, and will spoil things for a great many of them.

What do you think you’re gaining by posting such things? You think it makes you look impressive? You think it’s big to spoil things for other people? Well, how about I come over to where you live, waste a day of your life, or thereabouts, playing through the computer game of our generation (or one of them) alongside you, only to point out as you progress through the game what happens to each of the principal characters. I then hand you a flat glass of lemonade, fart in your face, and leave you, weeping, to pick up the pieces

When you spoil games, that’s what you’re delivering to any number of unsuspecting people. Flat games, and a fart in the face. Think before you type.


Greenberg: What I Thought

Ben Stiller is back, in sleeper hit ‘Greenberg’. To tell you the truth, I hadn’t heard of it since yesterday. It came up during a Skype conversation with one of my cousins from LA, and he wholeheartedly recommended it. You know, because they get everything about four months before we do in the UK. So, reluctantly, I put my money down then and there, and journeyed to my local cinema this afternoon, for a very enjoyable couple of hours.

Roger Greenberg is a carpenter, former would-be-rockstar, and general oddball, played by Ben Stiller. He comes to stay in LA and to watch over his brother’s house after many years of residing in New York, while his brother and family are on holiday. While there, he meets up with his old band members, says hello to ex-acquaintances, and meets Florence, his brother’s ‘assistant’, whose job seems to mainly consist of grocery shopping and caring for the family dog, Mahler. That’s essentially all you need to know about the film’s narrative.

It’s a very quaint film, with the majority of the duration spent exploring Roger’s past, through his return to LA, and his exposure to various elements (people and behaviours) which were once commonplace to him. That’s very much the draw of it. Greenberg is an intriguing character, who seems to be on some sort of medication, as well as possessing a penchant for applying lip balm. You could say that as a character, he’s fascinating, drawing you in further to try and unravel this erratic chap. To what extent is he ill, if at all? His mood swings throughout the film only exacerbate this interest. You very slowly uncover facts about his past, and the film does a great job of slowly revealing Roger’s character. By the end of it, you’ll have quite a good understanding of who Roger is, while not knowing much about him at all. I know that doesn’t make much sense, but it’s a wonderfully strange feeling.

I haven’t really paid much attention to Florence, yet, which is a shame, because she’s definitely on equal footing with Stiller, in terms of major parts. Florence, played by Greta Gerwig, is a bit of an enigma herself, and her seemingly irresponsible behaviour, and her resulting seemingly irresponsible interactions with Roger lead to some hard-hitting conclusions that really make you bond with the pair.

This film is filled with uncertainty, which again, sounds rather odd. It’s a very different Ben Stiller film, where he shows that he’s matured as an actor. After getting over the fact that he isn’t going to snap back into his Zoolander role, and shout “ooga booga booga” at the screen, you really get drawn in, and the film really takes off, while the uncertainty kicks in. Roger Greenberg is a very confused man, who is committed to ‘doing nothing’, which some might describe as him battling with a midlife crisis. All the while, you’re left uncertain, thanks in no small part to his erratic behaviour, what he’s going to do next, and where the film will take you.

What’s the rating on the Epic ‘Would You Watch It Again?’ scale? I’d definitely watch it again. In fact, I might even go so far as to say I’d buy it on DVD when it comes out. Stick with this film. It will mesmerise you, and take you to wonderful places.

World Cup 2010: What’s the cost of England winning? England Promotions Galore.

The time has come around for football’s finest to battle it out, this year in South Africa, for the World Cup. England and the USA are set to duke it out in a matter of hours. My question? What’s the true price of England winning the World Cup?

I mean this, of course, not from a social perspective. An England win would be great. People would jump up and down, be merry, and hug each other, if only for one day. No, I’m considering things from a corporate perspective, since there are a great many companies banking on England losing, by offering ridiculous promotions, and your money back if England do emerge victorious.

My good friend, and political blogger extraordinaire, Byrnsweord has already documented the fields of tat that have emerged as a result of the furore surrounding the World Cup, but what would a World Cup win mean for corporations?

I’m sure you’ve heard all about Toshiba’s amazing and note-worthy sponsorship of our team, to the extent where they’ll refund all your money from certain TV and laptop purchases, which is only testament to their faith in the England squad.

Similar to this, until a few days ago, Currys offered a promotion for where every goal England scores, you’ll get £10 back on the price of any recent purchase. O2 have also adopted a similar promotion, where you’ll be rewarded with £5 in cash for every goal England score, when you order one of their special ‘World Cup’ SIM cards, and top it up with the princely sum of £15; assumingly so you’ll have enough credit to text your buddies inane ramblings during the England match later on.

World Cup promotions banking (or gambling, depending on how you look at it) on England’s World Cup success are numerous, with even companies like TomTom jumping on the bandwagon; assumingly, so you can drive yourself to Pizza Hut/the pub/off a cliff, given the outcome of tonight’s match. What kind of message does this send out, though? One needs to consider the demographic these promotions are aimed at. I’m not going to make generalisations, because I hate them, but suffice to say, I think it’s clear to see they’re primarily targeted at football fans, by companies hoping for some easy money.

How do these fans perceive such deals? Fans, please do comment, as I’d be delighted to hear from you, not being a fan of the sport myself. As an outsider looking in, so to speak, they look like a bit like an insult, and another nail in the coffin for England’s history of (correct me if I’m wrong) disappointing World Cup losses.

Whatever your opinion, I’d hate to be Toshiba if England do win. Could a cup win for England bankrupt them? It’s a possibility. It’s my humble opinion, however, that corporations should stay away from such games. If you want to support our national team, by all means, go ahead. I’m sure they’ll appreciate the help. Gambling on their failure is not cool under any circumstances, however, especially when it’s their purported sponsors who are doing so.

British Summer Shopping: A Review

I’ve just returned from a somewhat delightful shopping trip, where I was nicely toasted by the sheer heat that we’ve recently been experiencing in London, and other parts of the UK as well, assumingly. I say it was delightful, because I managed to locate and purchase nice things, but that was about it. The experience of shopping in a retail market not used to such heat was certainly off-putting; yet, I stuck at it until I’d found what I wanted to buy.

I visited TK-MAXX (TJ-MAXX to those of an American disposition) on my shopping journey. I love TK-MAXX, and its racks upon racks of bargains, and make a habit of shopping there first whenever I’m in need of new shoes, or similar. It was hot, it was very cramped, it was clammy, and yet, it was packed.

A major qualm is that there was no air conditioning. Despite the sweltering 27° heat, the lack of air conditioning in a first floor shop with constant strip lighting and no windows to the outside world, coupled with the sheer number of customers bustling around, generating heat, meant that we were all cooking. More than that, we were all perspiring, and we all had to endure the funk of stale body odours. This manifested itself no stronger than in the fitting rooms, causing me to ‘try on’ the various garments I was holding, by which I actually mean pulling on the garment in question, pondering over it for a couple of seconds, and then removing it. In the end, I decided between the three t-shirts I was holding based on feel alone. Simply put, my trip to the fitting room was wasted. To me, that’s not really a big thing, but (don’t kill me: generalisation alert) women could quite possibly see things differently, as suggested by some (in this book), who claim that people who spend longer in fitting rooms generally buy more things. I also have no idea if women, on average, are smellier than men (my female friends will most definitely tell me this is a falsehood), and I’m not going to make any claims to this effect, but whether or not female fitting rooms are nicer smelling/smellier than their male-oriented counterparts, the sheer heat that accompanies you into each changing cubicle is nigh-on unbearable, and I believe would make people ‘change’ and try on clothes differently.

However, this again may be a moot point. There was a queue for both male and female fitting rooms. In the male fitting rooms, men were actually willing to stand amidst the funk, and the pong, and wait for a cubicle to become free. I was lucky, as I snuck in during a lull in the flow of changing men, but when I hurriedly exited my cubicle, I could see that other, queueing men were far more bothered about using the changing facilities than I.

My point? Well, I think for one, creating a nicer, more pleasant shopping space is conducive to better sales. This is obvious. If TK-MAXX started using an air conditioner, who knows what would happen. Heck, I probably would have spent more time in the shop if I didn’t constantly feel as if I was about to collapse from exhaustion. Maybe I even would have purchased more things, but now we’ll never know. My point, however, is that despite the horrid shopping conditions, many, many shoppers either consciously or subconsciously put up with the heat, and the smell. It seems that a bargain is worth the personal discomfort, which doesn’t necessarily make the discomfort justifiable, but raises worrying questions about this human race. Are we really willing to put ourselves in such situations for some discounted goods? Well, clearly, at least in this case, we are. Why not revolt, then? Shopping shouldn’t have to be a chore, and definitely shouldn’t be physically discomforting. Next time you visit a shop which is uncomfortable, say, or do something about it. I was half tempted to borrow a bag of cheap ice-cubes from Poundland, and decorate the place with them. People are generally (quite rightly) concerned with their rights as humans. Why should retail environments pay these basic rights no heed?

I think I’ve said all I can on the subject. If you work in retail, please make sure your establishment is physically bearable, especially in the heat. If you don’t, don’t forget that you’re still a human being when you shop.

Enjoy the sun, everyone.

How to Destroy Angels EP – Review

I hate writing reviews. Regular readers will know this. However, every now and then, something special comes along that warrants such treatment. One example of that is the newly-released, self-titled ‘How to Destroy Angels’ EP. For those of you not in the know, Trent Reznor (Nine Inch Nails) married former West Indian Girl frontwoman Mariqueen Maandig. They went on honeymoon for a couple of months, came back, and then immediately started making music.

Anything that Reznor puts his hand in will inevitably draw parallels to his Nine Inch Nails work. This is something he responded to on the the Q&A thread on the group’s Facebook page:

“This EP is a very early phase of this project. Yes, it sounds more NIN-ish than I believe it will as we progress. To me, HTDA frees me from some of the constraints I’ve begun to feel (primarily emotionally) in NIN.”

You can definitely hear bits of Nine Inch Nails on the EP, which is hardly a bad thing. The thumping bass, and hard-hitting synth loops that NIN fans have come to appreciate all make appearances. One thing I’m certainly glad has transferred across is the sheer dancability that is traditionally attributed to Trent’s electro roots. This is something that manifests itself most heavily in ‘Fur Lined’, but is something that can even be felt in the up-tempo, yet subdued beat of the EP’s closing track, ‘A Drowning’. This EP will make you want to jump up and down, bop your head, and sway in your chair, all in the space of the its six tracks, three of which have been previously released.

The EP is structured very well, which for me at least, gives it extra points. The songs flow into each other seamlessly, and the album really does take you on a journey of aural delights. It’s very mellow, for the most part, with a slightly more aggressive middle section, which soothes you into a dreamlike state as the EP draws to a close. It’s an experience of which I definitely suggest partaking in.

You can download the EP for free at the How to Destroy Angels site, and can upgrade to a ‘hi-def’ edition for a couple of dollars, which I wholly recommend. It comes with a 720p video of ‘The Space In Between’ (1080p pending) which is just lovely. Also note that you get an HD upgrade with any store purchases, as well.

My verdict? If you do one thing today, download this EP.