Category: Video Games


The original text-based adventure game, Adventure by Will Crowther.

Imagination is a key element in any kind of video game, movie, novel and indeed, any creative art. With advancing technology our creative arts have found support in many new tools, making it easier for an audience to experience our visions that much more easily, but even in this age of technology, the imagination is still a vital part of experiencing this art.

When I was a kid, video-games were in their infancy, yet they still attracted my interest and kept it there as long as the photo-realistic, fast moving and beautifully crafted games of today. Games then were spasmodic blocks of monotone colour, or not even that, just plain text, but they didn’t suffer from their graphical limitations, but very possibly gained something from them. That’s not to say there weren’t bad games and that my imagination would fill in the blanks or overlook pallid art or design – far from it: imagination has to be engaged or captured, before it can be exploited, and not every game has that level of craft.

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There’s an interesting aspect to the thing referred to by fans as “Canon” with regards to the individual creations. Its forms a life raft, if you will, of information, upon which the imaginations of both the creator and fan (viewer, reader, player, etc) stays afloat. Without the idea of “canon” material, a creation cannot have its own fundamental identity.

Wikipedia defines the term “canon” as:

In fiction, canon is the conceptual material accepted as “official” in a fictional universe’s fan base.

By default, this is the set of information defined by the author(s), creators and other people working creatively on a specific. When writer Jimmy Joe describes his character smoking Indonesian Kretek cigarettes, that’s canon. When fanfic author Jammy Johns suggests he smokes Camels, its not.

Canon is what keeps the wolves and bears at bay. But it can also be a hazy, vague and infuriating thing to define properly and protect. Yet it is also the first thing to lay by the wayside when popularity hits and more and more people want to share in it.

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There’s a saying that goes if you dwell on the past, then you are trapped within it, and its only those who look to the future who really live at all. With that in mind, I’m not going to reminisce about what made 2012 great or memorable, especially as on the personal front it was one of the worst years of my life: this blog and the things associated with it have been the only standouts of the year.


Future’s so bright… (Click to play)

Culturally speaking, I was dwelling too much in the past to enjoy the present. Nearly every kind of media I consumed was from yesteryear. I read a lot of books from ten or twenty years ago (Pride of Chanur, Halcyon Drift), and one over two hundred years old (Vathek) and while I enjoyed most of them, each one meant I spent more time away from the fore-front – the present and future – of culture. But then, looking at what 2012 had to give us, I didn’t lose out on much.

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It has been almost two weeks since the latest Halo game, imaginatively titled “Halo 4”, was released and since I am a long time Halo fan, I felt that I was somewhat obliged to talk about it. As usual, this won’t be a review – that’s not my kind of thing and Halo seems to be one of those games/series that tends to polarize players. You either like the series or you don’t, and I do. I guess I still do, but the developers are making it harder and harder to do so.

As a science fiction fan, the original Halo captured my imagination with its broadstroke space opera, highly influenced by authors like Iain M. Banks and the like: enormous mysterious space artifacts, fascinating alien cultures and ancient secrets about to be uncovered. It was Aliens meets Forbidden Planet. As a first person shooter fan, it introduced a lot of ideas that would mold what people expected from the genre, such as having every weapon you’ve collected at your disposal all the time, regenerating health and enemies that required forward thinking. The day it came out – the launch day of the first Xbox – I watched someone else play it for an hour,  then had to go buy the console and the game. I haven’t looked back.

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Roadside Picnics

A place where few people desire to tread – where horrible death and impossible riches are but a hair’s breadth apart. Isn’t it ironic that the gateway to a bright new future is rooted in a location that is so relentlessly dark and defies human logic?

This place is the “Zone.”

Perhaps like other recent North American SF fans, I was introduced to the Russian classic SF novel  “Roadside Picnic” by Arkady and Boris Strugatsky through the video-game S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl.  They share the same premise, but each have wildly different focus.

S.T.A.L.K.E.R is a game that mixes First Person Shooter action, Role-Playing Game character development and open world design with Survival Horror experiences. The player takes on the role of a S.T.A.L.K.E.R, a name derived from all of the miscreants that are kept out of the Zone – Scavengers, Trespassers, Adventurers, Loners, Killers, Explorers, Robbers.  The Zone refers to the exclusion zone around the ill-fated Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. After the initial incident in 1986, the Soviet military moves in to secure it, setting up the Zone. However, there is a second incident, which creates artifacts with strange powers and it is these that attract potential S.T.A.L.K.E.R.s.  On the black market, the artifacts can command immense prices, but the danger associated with their retrieval means that only a gifted few are able to find and bring them back. Over the years, a mythology of the Zone’s inhabitants has grown up as key artifacts and locations are mentioned briefly and through a surfeit of gossip, grow into legends; the Heart of the Oasis and the Wish Granter being foremost amongst them. The Wish Granter is supposed to make all your dreams come true, whether it be ultimate riches, fame, or even end of the Zone itself…

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