Thursday, 16 December 2010

Movies, Games and Videos

Heeeeeeeey! What up peeps? Long time no see, huh? Yeah, I had things to do! You're not my mum! Unless you are, in which case: Hi Mummy! Can I have a glass of chocolate milk?

Now, with that out of the way, let me tell you what has been happening in the exciting life of Mr. Kill. I've been working and playing video games and rolling deep with my homies and drinking (chocolate milk for me, and also chocolate milk for my homies).

I've been seduced by World of Warcraft again thanks to Cataclysm which is, sadly, fucking awesome. But more on that at another time.

Did you know that a Warcraft movie is in production, huh? I bet you're as excited about it as I am. Because I'm not. Ha! Videogame movies uniformly don't work, for a myriad of reasons that I'm not going to go into here because a) it's fucking boring and, b) I didn't want to do that much research.

What I would like to do, however, is have a look at some examples of this genre of movie and make snarky comments about them which distracts from the fact I am deeply insecure about my own sense of creativity and position in life. DOES THAT SOUND GOOD? NO? THEN LET'S GO!

Super Mario Bros. (1993)

Oh dear. The first major motion picture to be based on a video game, Super Mario Bros. stands as a testament to the enduring ability of videogame movies to be crap. I would have loved to have been at the pitch meeting for that movie.

'So we wanna make a movie based on that videogame, Super Mario Brothers.'
'Super Mario Brothers? Hmmmm, I dunno. How would that work?'
'Well, we looked at all the imagery in the game, and the themes, and the idea that even the most unlikely of people could become a hero...'
'And we decided to ignore all that and make it about a race of futuristic human dinosaurs'
'FUCKING FUTURISTIC HUMAN DINOSAURS? Why didn't you say so? Where do I sign?!'

The flaws in this film are too numerous to mention, but I'll point out a few:

A lot of the movie is Dennis Hopper chewing scenery and wondering where his career went. Also, what is with the bleach blonde hair ridges? He looks like Annie Lennox.

There's some form of mechanical boot contraptions, which Bob Hoskins secures from a dinosaur transsexual. They allow him to bounce around for no good reason other than to fit in the 'Look! Mario is jumping like he does in the games' factor.

John Legui...Legoo...John Legozammo plays Luigi. Not that he's a bad actor, as such, it's just that the movie contrives to set up Luigi in a romantic entanglement. Now to be fair, it would have been a trifle odd to see Bob Hoskins putting his tongue in Samantha Mathis' mouth, but I feel the filmmakers overlooked one crucial aspect of the Mario universe, namely: Luigi is a filthy, dirty man and he is kept in a basement and he never gets anything good because he deserves to be treated badly.

Street Fighter (1994)

Oh Street Fighter. Street Fighter, Street Fighter, Street Fighter.

Where to begin? Let's start with the cast. Trying to recreate the roster of characters from the game was always going to be a tough call, but instead of focusing on two or three central characters, the producers opted for an ensemble cast and shoehorned in every character they possibly could. An ensemble cast works beautifully when you have A-list actors involved, but if you look at the cast of Street Fighter, it's like a who's who of who the fuck are you.

Also, Cammy features prominently. Fucking Cammy.

The plot of Street Fighter 2 was genius. A bunch of men and women with abilities bordering on magical fly around the globe, meet in a variety of locations and kick the shit out of each other. Hence the Street part and the Fighter part of the title. Genius in it's simplicity and throrough in its exploration of man's need to travel and punch.

Not so for Street Fighter, the movie. At this stage, I was going to point out some of the crappy elements of the plot, and decided to check out the wikipedia page of the film to refresh my knowledge. After reading the page, it occurs to me that the plot doesn't make a lick of fucking sense. Not one. Seriously.

The film begins in the fictional nation of Shadaloo, where a drug lord turned General named M. Bison (the M is for Marianne) has taken hostage a number of members of the Allied Nations, which in no way bears any resemblance to the United Nations. It's also refreshing to see that career opportunities are plentiful in Shadaloo. If you tire of your chosen job path as a drug lord, you can look to the military for a career.

Now this M. Bison cat is threatening to kill the hostages if the Allied Nations commander, William F. Guile, doesn't secure a $20 billion dollar ransom. Incidentally, the 'F' stands for Fanny. Bison asserts that if the hostages are executed, the world will blame Guile. Two things here: Firstly, M. Bison couldn't have been much of a drug lord if he needs to extort money from the international community. What was he dealing? Aspirin? Secondly, I hate to break it to ya Bison, but if you kill a bunch of hostages, people are probably going to blame YOU for it, not some other bloke.

Meanwhile, Ken and Ryu are fighting some dude and then another dude is a dude who dudes a dude. I can't even try and poke fun at the plot anymore, it's depressing me too much. It just does not...make sense. Seriously, check out the wikipedia page. I could cry.

Also, the fighting in it is shit. Which is a problem when a film called Street Fighter features a poor selection of both streets and fights.

The only saving grace is Raul Julia, who plays M. Bison. He also played Gomez Addams. No doubt he knew that the role and film were trash, but he was too professional to give it anything less than his best shot. Sadly, Street Fighter was Raul Julia's last film. What a note to end on :S

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (2001)

This is one of the better ones of the bunch, but it's still not very good. It's like shitting your pants just as you are leaving the house. Sure, the damage and embarrassment are limited, but you've still just shit in your pants.

Lara Croft is played by professional tits-on-a-stick Angelina Jolie, who effects an awkward English accent throughout. That is, of course, whenever her gigantic lips aren't flapping about in the breeze.

The film opens with Lara Croft in some sort of temple, trying to secure a diamond when she is attacked by a big robot. Luckily, Lara manages to rip out the robot's motivational circuits and it gets all depressed and just wants to lie in bed all day. She secures the diamond and it transpires that the whole sequence took place in a specialized training room inside her mansion.

Oh yes, in case you didn't know, Lara Croft is a toff. It would have been much more humourous had this film been called Lara Croft: Toff Raider, and featured Angelina Jolie riding around with a pack of beagles, wondering aloud where one can find a reliable silversmith these days and thoroughly misunderstanding the plight of the working class. But I digress.

The plot is the usual sort of non-offensive adventuring and derring-do (incidentally, what the fuck does 'derring-do' actually mean?) that makes it acceptable family viewing and centers around the usual 'messages from a disappeared father leading our heroine to a variety of exotic locations and implausible action set-pieces' scenario with an ending that's as utterly predictable as it is setting up a sequel. It's also worth pointing out that, until the release of Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (which I won't mention here because I haven't seen it), Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was the highest grossing film based on a videogame of all time.

It also features Daniel Craig. You know, James Bond with the wee swimming pants.

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)

I'm not going to dwell too long on this film. This is a weird one, this is. As much as a 'look at how fucking realistic we can make shit look, bitches' demonstration as it is a film, this movie suffers again from the rambling, incoherent plot disease that infects so many videogame movies. However, in this case it's not unexpected as it's related to JRPG's, which themselves are not known for having the most coherent of plots.

No shitting, but it is pretty. It was on TV again some weeks ago, and even after all this time it looks impressive.

The story features a future Earth which has been overrun by Phantoms, aliens which kill on touch. A scientist called Aki is trying to collect 8 spirit signatures, like some sort of ghostly petitioner, which will rid Earth of these aliens. At its heart, it's the common theme of touchy-feely understanding of spirituality versus man-made violence and destruction. And, unfortunately, the touchy-feely part wins.

Come on, I can't have been the only one who watched Avatar and wanted to see the Na'vi get their asses kicked? That dude with the grey hair and the scars was one cool-ass motherfucker. PEW-PEW! 'Your flying birds are no match for my tactical missiles, budgie boy!' BOOM! 'Your creepy hair tentacles won't protect you from a sniper's bullet, you gangly blue bastard!'

'Ha, ha! Stop crying, you fools! It's just a tree!'


Resident Evil (2002)

Last one on my list. I've seen others but writing about how terrible games are as movies hurts my very soul.

I saw this one in a cinema in Paris with French dialogue and English subtitles. Even watching Milla Hohohovitch running around saying 'Sacre bleu, le zombies!' couldn't really improve it.

The opening sequence, with a whole bunch of office workers being wiped out by a malevolent AI and a grisly sequence in an elevator, is unfair. Unfair because it's pretty awesome, and makes the remainder of the film pants by comparison.

The director Paul W. S. Anderson, who directed the brilliant and terrifying Event Horizon, eschewed any of the subtlety or creeping sense of dread present in the games in favour of a heavy metal soundtrack and guns. Lots of guns.

It features Milla Hohohovitch, also known as MultiPass weirdo from The Fifth Element, as Alice and Michelle Rodriguez as a mean-faced hardass with an indistinct sexual preference. So pretty much Michelle Rodriguez playing herself, then.

If you are familiar with the games, the film involves zombies and other nasties and I won't bore you with the details. All I would say is that the special effects aren't great. The zombies often look like the zombies from Michael Jackson's Thriller video, and there is a scene later on involving a CGI creature called The Licker (which, now I think about it, sounds like a ladies sex toy) and the damn thing looks like it was made on a Commodore 64.

There have been a number of sequels to Resident Evil, which have apparently been much better, but I don't care and you can't make me.

Honourable mention: The Wizard (1989)

This is one of the few films I can think of that, while not based on a specific videogame, features videogames heavily and didn't shit all over a game franchise that I loved.

It features a young boy called Jimmy who has been suffering from an unknown mental condition since the death of his twin sister. Jimmy doesn't really speak, is obsessive and always carries his lunch box. Not because he's a fat fucker, though.

Jimmy's mother and his step-father are very understanding of his needs and put him in an institution.

But luckily his older brother, played by Fred Savage, comes along and busts him out in order to take him to California. Point of interest, I always thought that Savage was a made-up name, it's like being called Mr. Beast. But then I met a guy with the name Savage, so now I know it's real.

They go across country and it transpires that Jimmy is a genius at videogames. Some skank they pick up along the way nicknames him 'The Wizard' (you see?) and suggests entering him into a gaming tournament called Video Armageddon, where he could win $50,000. Don't worry, easily frightened people, the world doesn't actually end, there isn't really an Armageddon.

They also meet a pretty dude who has a 'Power Glove' and makes a lot of fists. The homoerotic subtext is mindblowing.

In the end, Jimmy wins the contest, evades a runaway-child hunter (read: paedo), and stops acting like a retard.

It's a beautiful film. And it's pretty much a 100-minute long ad for Nintendo.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Nuclear war has never been so much fun

Ok, so again it has been a whole since my last post but there are three main reasons for that: Halo: Reach multiplayer, Dragon Age: Origins and Fallout: New Vegas.

On the first, the multiplayer on Halo: Reach is awesome fun. On release, the Sniper and SWAT game modes were included in the Team Slayer playlist, but thankfully a recent patch has rectified that so now the retards can run around shouting 'Herp derp I killed that Halo with a haedshot' in their own games and leave the rest of us decent people in peace. Add to that the future removal of the rank cap and a new map pack coming at the end of November, and it looks like Halo: Reach will be around for a long time to come.

As for the second, I picked up Dragon Age: Origins on a whim and I don't regret it. I was thinking about doing a few retrospective reviews on games that people might have missed and DA: O would make an excellent study. A friend asked me what it was like and the answer was that it was like 'Oblivion meets Knights of the Old Republic meets Baldur's Gate meets World of Warcraft with a pseudo D&D ruleset and a small helping of bestiality'. So, all in all, it's very good, and also soaked in gore. Yummy.

The last, and most recent, reason is Fallout: New Vegas, which was an unexpected gift from my other half.

I must confess I never played the first two Fallout games. I was never a huge fan of the isometric perspective, and somehow the games passed me by.

I loved Fallout 3 however.

The sheer wealth of options and playstyles made it, quite simply, a very sound investment. In a time where it feels like single player campaigns almost feel like an afterthought to the multiplayer aspect (yes, that means you, COD), a game that you can get engrossed in for hours and marvel at the depth of character and story created by the developers seems more and more like a rarity. Therefore, £30 on Fallout 3 in return for hundreds of hours of gaming meant that picking up the sequel was a no-brainer.

And thanks to my lovely, lovely lady, I got it the day after release.

I'm not that far into it, only about ten hours but so far, it's like seeing your father in a dress.

By that, I mean you know it's your father, it's familiar, but a lot has changed. I am the motherfucking king of analogies.

The story so far (and I have only played about 12 hours of the game) is so so. You play a courier who has something stolen from him and been left for dead, and you set out on a mission to find the men who did it and recover your property.

Combat has been refined, you can now aim down the sights of whatever firearm you are carrying, which blurs the line between RPG and FPS even further. VATS is still around but it doesn't have the 'must use or die' quality that it had in Fallout 3.

As well as being able to build weapons, they have added a feature to allow you to create new ammo or convert existing ammo into another type. Of course this is all dependent on your chosen skills, but it saves you from the somewhat ironic position I found myself in with Fallout 3 where it was possible to build a weapon and then spend ages trying to scrape together enough ammo to actually put it to meaningful use.

In a move reminiscent of The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion, Bethesda have added various plants around the game world which can be collected and, when cominbined with the Survival skill, used to create rad-free foods, boosters and trading commodities. Personally, I find this addition a bit...meh. Unless you decide to max out Survival as a major character trait, you'll have little spare points to put into the skill, meaning a lot of the things that can be crafted will pass you by. And the items available from investing heavily in Survival just aren't enough to justify diverting points away from other skills.

Also added are various factions that you can win or lose confidence with. This has been implemented extremely well, as the relationships you can develop are quite complex. For example, near the start of the game I wiped out an entire camp of bandits and became villified by their faction, meaning they would attack me on sight. Much later on, I inadvertantly rescued two of their members and now I am known to them as a Kind Thug. They hate me and refuse to trade with me, but they won't kill me.

The game world is huge, and you will constantly be discovering new things. The game is also packed with humour, depravity and pop culture references, all the hallmarks of a Fallout game. So far I have picked up references to Blade Runner, Robocop and Anchorman, as well as seen children eating a rat and had a mad man tell me he was taught magic by a mole.

The game is far from perfect though.

If you have read any of the mainstream reviews of Fallout: New Vegas, you will have read about the bugs. I played on the PC version on the day after release, by which stage a patch had already been released that should be coming to the consoles soon. Apparently this fixed many of the issues, but I have had repeated crashes and texture pop-in. Minor but annoying.

A less minor, but kind of funny, bug I encountered was in the middle of talking to a character about a quest, he shouted 'What the hell?' and ran out of the room, through a wall and out of the game world. Which meant that I had to fast travel to another town, reboot the game, and return to the NPC to carry on with the game.

If you do pick this up, SAVE OFTEN.

One other gripe of mine is the map and compass. It remains unchanged from the previous game. Meaning that if there is an enemy nearby, a red blip will show up on your compass. If the enemy is above or below you, there is no indication of its elevation, meaning you can wander around an area looking for an enemy who is two floors above you. Also, the local map is woefully inadequate. It looks poor, doesn't reflect an accurate picture of your surroundings and frequently get's confused. It really isn't acceptable.

All in all, Fallout: New Vegas is an excellent game. It is clear Bethesda had some pretty ambitious ideas, and for the most part, the meet their aims. In pure terms of value for money, I've already got my next two playthroughs planned.

For the next playthrough, I intend to create an avatar that looks exactly like my other half, dress her in a summer dress, make her specialise in energy weapons and play it through as evil as I can possibly be.

After that, a melee-weapon-using bruiser with a heart of gold.

Mojave, mo' problems. Stay classy New Vegas.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Why It's Awesome Being Me

Right, well, the title of this entry might be a bit misleading. Sure, you might be thinking ‘What makes you so fucking awesome, Mr. Kill?’ and I assure you, there isn’t enough storage on the internet for me to properly answer that particular question, but what I really meant to explain is: Why it’s awesome being a gamer.

But before I get into that, I must apologise for the lack of new posts recently. You can blame Halo: Reach multiplayer. I find myself in a strange situation, namely somewhat addicted to a game I’m shit at. I plan to review the multiplayer elements of Halo: Reach at some point in the future, because it does have its flaws, but maybe not anytime immediately soon. I don’t know. Shut up.

There’s also been tons of gaming news recently that I should mention: Sony showing that they still hate their customers, a release date for the 3DS, positive reviews for the Sony Move system, a HD re-release of cult classic Beyond Good and Evil, and a whole bunch more.  

Anyways, on to the task at hand. Now, if you are a gamer, you probably already know what I’m talking about. Most of us stride throughout the land, towering over lesser mortals, reacting to things with the reflexive speed of a Jedi on Ecstasy, giggling at jokes about George Lucas, while pirate wenches and zombies fall at our feet (the former from hysterical lust, the latter from a well-placed headshot).
But it has occurs to me that not all of our digitally-inclined brethren are aware of just why it’s awesome being a gamer, so I’m gonna point out a few things.

We are never, ever bored

It’s true. While other people may wake up on a Sunday with a hangover, lazily watch T4 for four hours and then catch the Eastenders omnibus before getting a Bargain Bucket from KFC in their pyjamas, finishing the day off by wanking themselves into oblivion and then crying themselves to sleep, this isn’t true of the gamer. Bored? Fire up a game of Fallout 3 and play it as an evil lady who only kills with a pistol while wearing a summer dress. Or boot up your favourite online shooter and belch down the microphone while repeatedly killing your team mates with grenades until you get permabanned from the server. Great fun, and before you know it, it’s time for bed. Obviously, I can’t guarantee you won’t still wank yourself into oblivion and cry yourself to sleep, but at least you didn’t have to watch Big Mo’s bulldog face banging on about her haemorrhoids for two hours. Maybe I should take that back. The actress that plays Big Mo is Gary Oldman’s sister, and that cat is Sirius Black and I wouldn’t want him to Jinx my Bubotuber. Maybe I would, it sounds sexy.

We are the first point of call for tech stuff

Generally speaking, if the non-techy people in your life have a problem with their printer/laptop/calculator, they will come to you. Why? Because identifying yourself as a gamer is equivalent to identifying yourself as knowledgeable in tech. It’s great when it comes to earning points with your work colleagues. Sure you never get invited to the park for an office kick around on account of your wheezing and deathly pale complexion, and you aren’t included in the office football sweepstakes because you can’t tell your Sheffield Tuesday from your Charlton Automatic, but when Dean, the beef-cake in Accounts who everyone thinks is cheating on his wife with the intern in IT can’t sync his Blackberry with his mail server, you can charge in like a polygonal white knight and save the day. And next time Dean is popping out for a fag, he’ll offer you one, but you’ll have to say no because you had polio as a child and using your lungs too much makes your heart sore.

Small talk is a doddle
Personally, when I meet someone for the first time, I tend to ignore them. This will continue for some time. It’s not because I am an ignorant fucker…well, I am an ignorant fucker…but that isn’t responsible for my reticence. No, I just feel awkward making small talk when sober. When I’m drunk, I’ll be all up in the new persons grille, blowing smoke and breathing Buckfast fumes on them and touching them in a slightly inappropriate manner, but sober, I’m mildly sweaty and quiet. Unless said new person expresses even the slightest interest in games and then I’ll be all like ‘NO WAI!’ and we can talk for ages. To ensure this tactic has the widest spread possible, it’s best to play as many different types of games on as many different systems as possible. That way you can converse on everything from the best builds to take on 4-1 in Demons’ Souls, to the most effective way to ‘catch ‘em all’ in Pokemon on the DS. Also, it pays to familiarise yourself with the likes of PES and Fifa. That way, if you ever find yourself surrounded by manly men who like to talk about fighting on buses and playing sport in the fresh air, you can pose this question: Which is better, Fifa or PES? You’ll immediately be one of the gang and the men will buy you beer and fight people for you.

You’ll have improved spatial awareness and reflexes

It has been shown in scientific studies, by scientists, that people who regularly play certain types of videogames have higher levels of spatial awareness and quicker reflexes than non-gamers. This is only half true for me. Sure, my reflexes are like a cobras. At all times I am coiled and ready to go off, like a bomb or a carton of milk that’s been left out. No seriously, give me plenty of notice, and a lot distance, and call my name and then throw something gently toward me and 45% of the time, I’ll catch it. That’s what 20 odd years of gaming will do, make you a fucking catching supremo. However, as for spatial awareness, maybe not so good. I can’t reverse around a corner without hitting the kerb and I still manage to piss all over the floor when I pee, even if I’m sitting down, but I figure one out of two ain’t bad, like that Meatloaf song.

You are at the cutting edge of media
In post-WWII America, kids were flocking to cinemas to watch movies like the Wolfman, or Boris Karloff sucking. It was a new form of media, an art form refined far beyond what was initially thought possible. It was a great time to be alive, apart from all the socially-acceptable racism and threat of atomic kitten war. And who would have been raised on these sorts of films? I’ll tell ya, people like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas and shit. Now, despite the fact that Stevo has daddy issues and George Lucas would stamp ‘Star Wars’ on dog shit and try to sell it, these guys were partially responsible for revolutionising cinema and have made some truly awesome movies. Now, imagine the generation of kids who are being raised on games like Call of Duty, or Mass Effect, and one can’t help but look at the future and smile.

Finally, a riddle 

 How many bears would Bear Grylls grill if Bear Grylls could grill bears?

Monday, 13 September 2010

Reach Around: My first one and a half hours with Halo: Reach

So, ya, I ordered Halo: Reach when I bought my 360. On Saturday I had an email from Amazon saying delivery would be delayed, and today I came home from work to find it awaiting me amongst an envelope from the Reader's Digest (apparently I have won £100, 000 in a draw I don't remember entering) and associated other shite from local businesses.


I've played the first hour and a half, maybe, and figured it might be a good idea to give you a grasp of the initial stages and my first impressions.

Before I loaded up my first game, there was a message for the beta testers explaining that, as it is ahead of release date, some features aren't working, mainly multiplayer. Not that I'm bovvered, it'll take me a week or so to get my head around multiplayer and I just wanted to talk about a few things that had struck me during play.

Modern Warfare, you have a lot to answer for

Seriously though.

The influence that games like Modern Warfare exert is particularly telling in Halo: Reach.

From the outset it is clear that Halo is a half-step outside the Halo formula we have come to know and love and that is definitely no bad thing.

For a start, Halo: Reach is darker. I hate to use that term, but it is the only one that fits. In it's own way, Halo: Reach is much more military shooter, somewhat less sci-fi shooter, and benefits considerably from it. If you've come to depend on the bright colours and vibrant environments familiar to the Halo franchise, you may have to adjust a bit. Sure, the plasma grenades are still neon blue, the Jackals carry Mardi-Gras shields but there is definitely a more understated, realistic palette put to use here. It could divide Halo purists but I, for one, love it. The counterpoint of gritty rifle fire, explosions and hot pink Needler rounds is excellent. There is so much more of a sense of humans fighting against a thoroughly alien foe.

A further addition is your squad. You can pick up rank and file marines to join your fire team as you go along, but the story is driven by other members of Noble team, and so far their characterisations are very good. I'll need to play more to determine whether the player will connect with them, but so far I am pleased.

Towards the beginning of the game you are warned by a colleague that your 'lone wolf act' won't work on Reach. Heed these words carefully. The beautiful one-man-army gameplay of Halo, running into a crowd of Covenant flinging grenades and spamming melee attacks, is here in all it's glory but you must pick your battles carefully and make more precise use of tactics if you wish to succeed.

And with good reason, as the enemies I've encountered so far have learnt some new tricks. The Grunts are a lot more grenade happy and also much more keen on the plasma kamikaze attacks. The Elites Seriously. Whilst the roll mechanic was something new in Halo 2, they clearly learnt from these guys. Not only are they rolling, but they are jumping, dodging your gunfire and generally being a wee bit sneakier.

I must also mention the equipment you can now select for your character. One of the features of Halo 3 was the ability to get a single use out of various pieces of equipment, bubble shields etc. The same principle returns in Halo: Reach, only this time the player can use these items repeatedly, dependent on a cooldown. So far I have encountered Sprint (bog standard sprint ability) and one that makes you invincible for a few moments and can allow your shield to regen whilst fully immobilizing you. These are great wee additions and I can't wait to find more and also see how they play out in multiplayer.

There are some negatives so far.

Back when Halo released, it was at the cutting edge of graphics. Not so much the case here. Don't get me wrong; they are great and very sharp. It's just they aren't mind-blowing. I also noticed some drops in framerate when there was a lot going on, which is a particular pet peeve of mine which I hope doesn't carry over into multiplayer.

Also, as with Halo: ODST, the ability to dual wield is gone. I'm personally not fussed, never used it much, but that may annoy fans of the system.

In all, Halo: Reach is great. I cannot wait to see how the story pans out and I'm itching to have another bash at it. I had a browse through the multiplayer menus and that, and there appears to be a HUGE amount of unlockables, as well as a dearth of new game modes.

From this early taster, it would seem that Halo: Reach is the perfect game to end the Halo franchise and I sincerely hope I am proved correct.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Shit the bed, Andrew Telford got free toffee bon-bons at work today.

NEWS JUST IN: Oil magnate and convicted sex offender, Andrew Telford, today announced that he had received free toffee bon-bons from his place of work. Many world leaders have yet to comment on these developments but Pope Benedict has described the situation as 'fucking mental'.

If you wish to congratulate Andrew, you can do so through his facebook page.

More to follow on this exciting story.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Bytes: What's keeping you up?

Right, yeah, so this is my first blog post in a little while. Sorry.

Ha, I’m not really sorry. I recently became the proud owner of an Xbox 360 Slim and have spent a lot of time playing Halo 3 online and no time writing about games.

So far, mightily impressed and looking forward to Halo: Reach. I know that's pretty behind the curve, but fuck it, I only play what I pay for, so it's all new to me.

Xbox Live is a lot more robust than my experiences with the PlayStation Network. Also, it doesn’t require frequent mandatory, non-background updates to maintain its online functionality, so that’s a novel experience for someone more used to the PSN. Of course, I’m paying for the privilege, so to the long-pondered question of who has the best online service between Sony and Microsoft, the answer is they are both wankers.

So I’m a little bit out of the loop when it comes to all the latest gaming newses.

Here are a few things worth reporting on:-

Duke Nukem Forever is coming in 2011: One of the most anticipated games of all time, and one which has been in development for pretty much a decade, Gearbox Software have recently announced that they will finish (?) and release the oft-delayed and twice-unofficially-cancelled Duke Nukem Forever at some point in 2011. I was a little too young for Duke Nukem 3D, so I haven’t thrashed myself into a spunking frenzy the way some gamers appear to have, not least Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford. For someone who was just a bit too young at the time, the reason why Duke Nukem appears to have been so popular is due to the boobies and scatological humour of the earlier games. I like boobies and poo-poo-fart jokes as much as the next child, but the internet is full of boobies and poop and we might be a bit numb to it, and whilst you could view Duke Nukem Forever as a kind of satirical humour, games like GTA IV have shown us that video games can handle satire in a more restrained, sophisticated manner.

Also, seeing boobies and farty bum words in games is no longer uncommon. 

Another factor in my ambivalence is that it has been ten years. TEN FUCKING YEARS!! Even if Duke Nukem Forever is released in 2011, to live up to expectations, the game will literally need to be the Second Coming of a Jesus Christ that is capable of turning into a jet to fly you to the nearest ATM to get money out of your bottomless bank account before flying you to your private tropical island where Elton John and Rihanna are performing a cover of Lady Gaga’s ‘Poker Face’, backed by the Allman Brothers Band.

Sony Fights Back Against Jailbreaking: To the lasting surprise of no-one, this week Sony released a mandatory security update designed to counter the piece of software going around the intertubes that allows users to jailbreak their PS3s. I’m sure that this security fix will prove to be a lasting barrier against this form of piracy. HAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAH!

Look, Mr. Sony, if you don’t want people to resort to these types of measures to mod their PS3s, then here is a hint: STOP REMOVING FEATURES, ASSHATS! First it was backwards-compatibility, then Linux. Fuck knows what’s next. Maybe support for removable memory and old SingStar mics. You’d better not though, or I’ll get mighty pissed when I can’t holler ‘The Greatest Love of All’ into an unhearing machine at 3:00am and then save it to a memory stick which I then mail to my mother. Love me, Mummy, LOVE ME!

Lots More Hype About Reach and Black-Ops: Both Bungie and Treyarch are in overdrive mode with hyping their big releases, Halo: Reach and Call of Duty: Black Ops respectively. There's no doubt that Black Ops is going to be the bigger seller of the pair, but Halo: Reach is a formidable opponent. Treyarch took over as the main developers of the Call of Duty series after an acrimonious split between original creators/developers Infinity Ward and publisher/overlord Activision. There is huge demand on them to produce something perfect, and if Black Ops isn't up to snuff, a better-reviewed Halo: Reach will only exaggerate its flaws.

What I really wanted to talk about was food. But maybe not just food. I dunno. Gamers sustenance maybe?

You know, if you are sitting down to a long session, what do you need within easy reach at all times? The foods/drinks/whatever that gets you through to the end? What works well and what doesn't?

My needs are simple. 

I need some sugary drinks. Preferably energy drinks: Red Bull, Relentless, a litre of Tescos Kick is good and reasonably priced. If I can't get that, then just something fizzy. Or water. Fuck it, I don't know. I just need something to drink.
I need my smokes. You might be one of those healthy people, good for you, you'll live like an extra ten years. Years you'll spend crapping your pants and wondering why no-one comes to visit at Christmas, but hey, ten years is ten years. I, however, am a filthy smoker. So I need my smokes. Marlboro Red please. And cigarettes are controller friendly too! Easy to dual wield. Also, I read in one of my sisters books that smoking makes you look cheap and men will think you're easy, which is fine by me.

I don't eat much when I game. There's rules to eating though, and it all depends how dirty you are. I can't stand grease on my console controllers yet my mouse is grimey Rascal. So, for me, it means no greasy crisps, no chips, nothing like that. Dry food only. Like a dog with an upset stomach.
One wonder food that fits the bill perfectly is hotdogs. They are easy-to-make, require little technical know how and can safely and easily be eaten while gaming. No grease on them, wooo! 

Here's my favourite recipe for hotdogs:

1) Buy some hotdogs and buns.
2) Cook hotdogs according to instructions on packet.
3) Place hotdogs in buns.
4) Eat hotdogs.

My lovely other half has astutely pointed out another one. Sweeties, preferably gummy things. Haribo or Wine Gums or some such shit. I had a great blast on the Halo 3 campaign the other day with just a can of shandy and a packet of Fruit Pastilles. Epic times were had.

[EDIT] Something has gone fucked up with the formatting on this page. Dunno what. Oh well.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Some Like It Hard

You might not have heard of Demon’s Souls before and I would understand if you hadn’t. Released in Japan in early 2009 and the US in late 2009, it quickly gained a cult following and was heavily imported into Europe until a European version was released on June 25 2010.

Demon’s Souls is a fantasy action-RPG set in a Medieval European-esque world called Boleteria and the player is tasked with slaying a variety of demons in order to buy equipment, improve stats etc. So far, so familiar.

Aside from some fairly innovative online content (one example is that players can leave notes on the ground for other players to warn them of dangers ahead), one of the most reported upon aspects of the game is its difficulty.

Demon’s Souls takes an old school approach to gaming where you learn through trial and error and, ultimately, repeated deaths. And it is unforgiving in this approach, removing such staples as mid-level save points and the ability to pause the game. If you sit down to play, you are going to complete an entire section and you are not going to move until it is done.

This approach flies in the face of what modern gamers have come to expect, and Demon’s Souls makes no apologies for it. Indeed, the challenge appears to be what has endeared it to gamers, with many reviewers commenting on the satisfaction one feels when one completes a particularly tricky level.

Difficulty in computer games is a delicate thing. Sure you can make a fiendishly hard game, but if it isn’t well designed, it will be an exercise in frustration. There are a few games I have switched off in anger because the difficulty was too great and success seemed to be based purely on luck, or other arbitrary factors.

One example that comes loosely to mind is a level in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, where you have to get to and then protect the ‘Warpig’ tank. On the harder difficulties, I would die repeatedly, sometimes at the start of the section, at times towards the end. I tried a variety of different approaches and still couldn’t manage it. When I finally did complete the section, it was with a method I had tried a few times and luck seemed to be the main factor in my success. This, in my opinion, was poor design. A well designed level should encompass both player ability AND a measure of luck, something which Demon’s Souls seemingly hits perfectly.

Which got me thinking on some of the hardest games that have been released, in terms of both good and bad design.

Mike Tyson’s Punchout

Before he developed a taste for human ears and sexual assault (though not necessarily in that order), Mike had his name attached to a NES boxing game called Punch Out. Punch Out wasn’t horrendously difficult; in fact its difficulty was moderate and the game was fun. Up until you came to the last boss, Mr Tyson himself. The fighters you had met previously could not prepare you for the Biter from the Bronx. He had these very oddly timed uppercuts that could knock you out in one hit, plus a bucket load of health making him very difficult to down. These factors made defeating Tyson nearly impossible. However, with hours of practice, it was doable. So, while being the first (but not last) game where the final boss is jarringly difficult compared to what came before, I’m going to mark this one down as well designed, only extremely difficult. Also, the quote below is attributed to Mr. Tyson, and its awesomeness is enough to balance out any complaints:

"One morning I woke up and found my favorite pigeon, Julius, had died. I was devastated and was gonna use his crate as my stickball bat to honor him. I left the crate on my stoop and went in to get something and I returned to see the sanitation man put the crate into the crusher. I rushed him and caught him flush on the temple with a titanic right hand. He was out cold, convulsing on the floor like an infantile retard."

Bayou Billy

I never played Bayou Billy, and I’m glad I didn’t because it looks fucking shit. A prime example of difficulty by bad design, Bayou Billy’s controls were apparently as fluid as a swimming pool filled with glass, the levels were overlong and the enemies had as much health as you did. Check out this video. Look at those fuckers! They don’t stop getting up. Stay down, you Australian bastards! The bayou is in Australia, right? Yeah, course it is. Not only that, but after watching the intro, I wonder what Godfather Gordon wanted with Annabelle? With that moustache, I think we can safely assume he has no sexual interest in her. Later on, the game branched out and featured driving sections that were even more overlong and difficult that the side-scrolling stuff. Sounds fucking A. Really. The one positive that stands out from that video is the soundtrack. It’s funky!! It’s funky like George Clinton took a dump on a sound chip. That’s the soundtrack to my life and it’s playing in my head ALL THE TIME.

Super Monkey Ball

A more recent release, Monkey Ball likely deserves to be recognised as a rather difficult game.

Let’s start off by saying that the title of the game is misleading. First of all, the monkey has nothing to do with it, other than being inside the ball. So the game should be called Super Ball. But there is nothing particularly ‘super’ about the ball. So the game should be called Ball. But then, when you play it, you realise that you don’t actually move the ball with the controller, you move the level.

So the game should really be called Level.

With that out of the way, the reason this is on the list is that due to the physics, various collectables and obstacles, the task of staying on the level in Level is quite a challenge. Furthermore the difficulty increases with the player. The levels can be stressful, and that stress only serves to make the game harder, with the player needing absolute focus and care to complete some of the later stages. It is telling that many players never graduated beyond the easy levels due to the ‘easy’ levels being very difficult.

Not my friends though. They stayed in at weekends and made Level their bitch.

Ninja Gaiden

True story: A guy in an old guild of mine in World of Warcraft thought this game was called Ninja Garden. Ninja Garden sounds like a fucking amazing game. I’d love to grow my own organic ninjas.

Ninja Gaiden was a revolutionary game and also its place on a list such as this is considered controversial by some.

It was revolutionary in that it introduced cutscenes and narrative to drive the gameplay, a cornerstone of modern gaming as well as sharp, extremely responsive controls.

Controversial because it was possible to beat the game by memorising routines.

Either way, the boss fights in Ninja Gaiden were very tough, with the player often dying upwards of 20 times in order to beat them. And if you died during the boss fight, you would be ported right back to the beginning of the level to try again. As well, environmental challenges were ever present, with the jumps and leaps becoming larger and more complex as the levels progressed. However, it was possible to beat this game simply by playing it a lot and memorising level patterns and boss sequences, even if it took you many nights alone in your bedroom.

Ninja Gaiden sequels have followed and they have remained notable for their difficulty, but few games can bring gamers out in a cold sweat the way the original can.


Another one that I haven’t played unfortunately, and considered by many to be the hardest game produced in 20 years.

Right, so there are these toads that fight evil, the Battletoads. What? They hit and punch evil, that’s how. Amphibian? I dunno, they spray themselves with water or something. It isn’t explicitly stated. Shut up, that’s not the point.

A standard 2D beat ‘em up affair, it also featured horrifically excessive obstacle course sections, an example of which is here. You would need to have the reflexes of a Jedi Mr. Miyagi catching a fly with chopsticks made from a single strand of human hair in order to successfully navigate these shitters.

Throw into the mix an underwater section (which should have been pretty easy because, let’s face it, you’re a fucking toad), a climbing section plus only three continues and no saves, and you have yourself a game that is harder than Gandalf’s staff.

The reprieve Battletoads gets is because of its co-op play, during which friendly fire cannot be turned off. So if your little brother accidentally killed you, you could at least vent some frustration by smashing his face off with your controller.

The interesting observation here is that it is difficult to source more recent games that would be on par in terms of difficulty with the likes of Battletoads etc. Whilst many old fart gamers would point to this as being a sign of modern games being made for idiots, this isn’t entirely true. Most of the above games would have seen an arcade release before being released onto home consoles. The onus was on ensuring customers would keep pumping their change into the machine to get their name on the high score board. If the player could complete the game on only 25 cents it wasn’t fulfilling its purpose. The only way of ensuring this was to make the games a lot more difficult than they need to be nowadays. I, for one, am glad, because I’m fucking shit at video games.

So, yeah, that was a fun stroll down Difficulty Lane. If you’ve got anything to add, please do so in the comments. I’ve overlooked a bunch of games, Contra, Ghosts and Goblins, blah blah but then I don’t get paid for this shit, I do it out of the goodness of my black, dead heart.

In other news, Xbuttonkill will hopefully be moving to a new, hosted site in the next month or so, so keep your eyes open. There is now also an xbuttonkill twitter feed, so feel free to follow me like a rapist on a dark night.

Monday, 16 August 2010

Google and Verizon: The end of net neutrality?

If you look at any of what I lovingly refer to as the geek press, (Ars Technica, Wired etc.), you'll see a lot of chatter involving Google, the American telco Verizon and the words 'net neutrality'.

You might have heard the term before, but if you haven't, it's a fairly simple concept.

The internet was designed to accommodate the 'end-to-end' principle, which basically states that control of the internet is in the hands of the users and that all traffic on the internet is treated equally. Upholding this rule has become known as 'net neutrality', and it has been one of the guiding principles of the internet for as long as it has existed.

This principle was considered acceptable throughout the early days of the internet, when the traffic it carried was of a fairly low volume and websites were relatively simple affairs. However, as the internet became a major contributor to both economic growth and content-holder revenue, certain parties, ISPs in particular, began to resent the concept of net neutrality as a self-imposed rule that diminished their potential to generate money.

For the past decade, a storm has been fomenting as ISPs jealously watch developers and content holders/collators such as Youtube, Facebook, and Skype make millions from operations which require internet access in order to be viable.

What many ISPs would like to do is bring an end to net neutrality, and wring more money out of users and content managers alike. The rough idea would be similar to a paid TV service.

Think of Sky. You can pay for a basic Sky package which gets you the standard channels, but if you want to watch movies or sports, you pay a premium.

Similarly, you could reasonably expect ISPs to charge extra for music streaming (Spotify), VoIP (Skype) and other things such as downloading large files, or online gaming.

This proposal is coming to a head. In 2007, Americas largest ISP, Comcast blocked the BitTorrent file transfer protocol. This was challenged by the Federal Communications Commission, with the then FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin saying '...the order was meant to set a precedent that Internet providers, and indeed all communications companies, could not prevent customers from using their networks the way they see fit unless there is a good reason.'

Unfortunately, this ruling was challenged and overturned in court with the judge finding that the FCC had no legal basis on which to punish ISPs for trying to limit network neutrality. As a result, the FCC has found itself unable to properly mediate in matters of net neutrality and large corporations have simply began devising their own rules. The FCC could form a sound legal basis for its authority, but it faces a lot of pressure from ISPs and wealthy lobbying groups to allow telcos to act unimpeded.

The latest event in this saga is last weeks announcement of a 'traffic prioritisation agreement' between Google and another of the US' largest ISPs, Verizon. On the surface, the proprsed agreement doesn't seem like a piece of pure evil. However, whilst conceding that net neutrality principles should remain in place for wired networks, excluded from these proposals are 'differentiated or additional services'. What exactly 'differentiated or additional services' means, I don't know and your guess is as good as mine, but from the vague detail given, it could refer to anything that that an ISP wants. Also, the proposal specifically excludes wireless services, and given that more commentators consider wireless internet service to become commonplace in future, it doesn't paint a pretty picture.

Most disturbing of all, Google and Verizon have called for advisory groups led by telcos to write the rules of the internet in the future. When it comes down to matters of consumer protection and internet traffic management, the FCC would be subject to approval from the very companies it is meant to oversee.

It's easy to see why this is attractive to companies. ISPs would be able to charge users and content providers with access to internet 'fast lanes' and a company as large as Google could easily pay millions to ensure their content is delivered faster. Using Google to carry out a web search would deliver fast results, but if you wanted to use the less well funded, and sometimes better, Metacrawler, you would have to wait. And if you found out that your ISP was blocking BitTorrent, you could write a letter of complaint to the FCC or Ofcom, but they would be powerless to act.

Personally, it sickens me. And for a variety of reasons.

First of all, that Google have, if not reversed, then retraced their steps in relation to net neutrality is saddening. Oh yeah, Google, the 'nice guys' of the internet. We're cool! Look at our headquarters! We didn't change our minds on net neutrality because it allows us to prioritise our content over others! We did it 'in the spirit of compromise'! We were just trying to be fair!

Net neutrality is one of the last remaining pillars of an open internet, and it is crumbling.

Whilst originally intended to be a forum for sharing ideas and enhancing education, it wasn't long before people realised the internet was equally suited providing people with far more pornography than they would ever need and pictures of cats with cheezburgers.

Then the commercial possibilities were exploited and the internet became another route through which advertisers could force their shite down our throats, helped along by developments like Google Ads.

And now we get to the stage where ISPs, the middlemen of the internet, envious of the profits of others, intend to remove the enduring character of the web in order to pursue greater profits for their shareholders, and also eviscerate the power of those government agencies that would have oversight.

The ISPs, of course, are being disingenuous in regards to their desire to end net neutrality. If you ask them, they will say it is down to networks being congested and that operating a multi-tiered service will allow people who only need to browse the web slower, smaller bandwidth access with heavy users able to pay a premium for better, wider access. Of course, that's exactly how it works now only without a paid premium, with all users of the internet using the same tier and, you know what, it works pretty well.

We have bandwidth throttling in the UK, as well as download caps, and while I like neither, at least there is a technical reason for their existence that doesn't involve fucking the customer over for more money.

As simple analogy that I have read somewhere(?) that disproves the suggestion that the ISPs are doing this in the interests of their customers.

If you have a stretch of road that is constantly getting jammed with cars, you widen the lanes for everyone. You don't start letting people pay to drive over the top of everyone else.

Either way, I believe it is only a matter of time before we see the end of net neutrality and a paid-for, tiered-service will become standard.


Because this battle is being fought in America. Aside from Liberal or Conservative, the overriding ideology is that of corporatism. Big business holds all the cards and it calls all the shots. Politicians do not have the power or the bank balance needed to resist companies the size of Google or Verizon. Against this backdrop of economic crisis, ISPs have an avenue through which to pursue profits and that magic word 'growth'. The US government will not be able to deflect the opportunity for telecommunications growth for much longer, and capitalism abhors a financially exploitable vacuum.

And when it happens in the US, there will be no logical reason ISPs in the UK won't follow suit.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Gaymer-friendly Environments: Homophobia in online games

If you've spent a significant amount of time playing online games, you'll have encountered it at least once.

And if you haven't, then this video will provide a good idea of what I'm talking about.

The video I have linked above relates to a specific game on a specific platform with homophobic comments coming exclusively from American gamers, but this is by no means unique. Personal experience playing Call of Duty on the PS3 has illustrated the fact that homophobic speech patterns are almost an accepted part of online gaming. I have never heard anyone dissenting over such remarks.

It can range from the fairly timid 'That's so gay' right the way through to the more vitriolic 'Fuck you, you fucking faggot.'

Whatever the words used, homophobia appears to be rife in the world of online gaming.

A survey carried out in 2007 made for some interesting reading:
88% of respondents said they had heard the phrase “that’s so gay” while 84% said they had heard ‘gay’ used in a derogatory fashion. Over 50% said they felt that games portray gay people in a stereotypical way, while 42% believe gays are under-represented in games. 15% said the industry creates a culture where gay employees “feel like they must stay in the closet”. 52% believed that the gaming community is hostile to gay and lesbian gamers. Only 9% said they “never” encounter anti-gay sentiments from online gamers.

 The Gay And Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, as well as The Consumerist have both reported on the lack of recognition for LGBT gamers from the main console manufacturers. GLAAD, in fact, continues to work with both Sony and Microsoft in order to ensure their online policies do not discriminate against the LGBT community.

It's interesting to see just how wrong both Microsoft and Sony were originally getting it.

The Consumerist reported that, initially at least, Microsoft would ban anyone who had the word 'gay' in their Gamertag. They also included a letter from a gamer, identified only as Teresa, who was banned from the service for identifying herself as a lesbian in her profile. Furthermore, there was a mention of a player called Richard Gaywood being banned from the Xbox Live because, despite being part of his actual name, the word 'gay' was obviously so offensive that it couldn't appear in any context.

In response, Stephen Toulouse, in charge of policy and enforcement for Xbox Live, tweeted:
Expression of any sexual orientation (straight or gay or otherswise) is not allowed in gamertags. However we’ve heard from the user base they want that capability, so I am examining how we can provide it in a way that wont get misused. I can’t say any more at the moment, except to say I’m working right now in finding a way to safely express relationship preference.
Riiiiight, so I can see what you are trying to do here. I just don't think it works.

Basically, to prevent people from creating a Gamertag that says 'IH8GAYS' or some other equally puerile derivative, Microsoft has simply banned any expression of sexual preference from the Xbox Live service. Interesting. I wonder could they not have implemented a more specific policy that allowed someone to identify themselves as belonging to a particular sexual persuasion and still protect against plainly offensive Gamertags? You know, like they do with existing Gamertags. Try creating a profile called '1sh1tmypant5' on Xbox live and see how long it takes to get suspended. It won't take long.

Sony had a similar policy for player interactions during the beta for their Playstation Home service. Words such as 'gay' or 'lesbian' would be blanked out with asterixs and a message like 'I am gay' would come through as 'I am ***'.

Now, we are all familiar with the Internet Fuckwad rule, and it does seem that Microsoft and Sony have implemented these policies with the best of intentions, ie. to prevent harrassment and defamtion of LGBT players using their online services. But the methods used so far are akin to using a machete to cut your toenails. Instead of simply limiting harrassment, it makes these companies look as if they are behaving in a discriminatory manner.

For some reason, this topic always generates a lot of discussion amongst gamers. I remember a conversation on the World of Warcraft forums regarding a guild that had started up that only accepted LGBT gamers. There was widespread condemnation from other players, who argued that the admission policy was unfair and discriminated against non-LGBT gamers. Was this discrimination? Possibly. Was there anything inherently wrong with a LGBT-only guild? I don't think so.

Indeed, after the creator of the guild dismissed the criticism, players asked for an official 'blue' response and Blizzard basically stated that as they have no role in the creation of guilds, and as players are accepting of guilds that were 'Swedish-only' or 'English-speaking-only', there was no precedent for banning a guild that catered for specific sexual preferences. The question was posed as to what the response would be for a 'whites-only' guild. Again, Blizzard stated that there were no specific rules against it, but that they would expect such a guild to find life very difficult when it came to their reputation and dealing with other players. Ultimately it was a question of letting the community police itself, and in some ways, I can't help but think that it might have been a better route for Microsoft/Sony to follow.

During this whole debate, there were a number of players who questioned whether or not sexual identity had a place in online games. Something like the US military, they advocated for a 'don't ask, don't tell' approach. And there was me thinking that one of the positive aspects of online gaming was encountering people who came from different walks of life, had different political views, values, tastes etc. Apparently this is ok, but the small matter of sexuality wasn't included in this list and therefore inappropriate for discussion. My feelings on this line of thought can be summarized in a quote from a GLAAD report into homophobia in games: 'And with new technologies, come new challenges. LGBT people have fought hard for years to come out of real-world closets – we’re not willing to accept virtual ones.'

On a personal level, I actively try and avoid playing with people who use terms like 'faggot' to mock their opponents. My last guild in WoW, before I stopped playing, had strict rules on using this kind of abusive language. Similarly, alot of the servers I play FPS games on will also have strict rules on racism, homophobia, etc.

There is one area where I would be guilty, however. And that is use of the word 'gay', not as a direct insult, but often in a pejorative sense. This actually applies to day-to-day to life moreso than online gaming.

'That's so gay' is an utterance that you might hear from me on any number of occasions. Even in the examples mentioned above, where homophobic language was not tolerated, describing something as 'gay' wouldn't have fallen foul of the rules.

I can't speak for others, but personally, I have always divorced my meaning of the word from its association with homosexuality and with being jolly. For me it can mean both of those things, but also mean something that is just not very cool, or something that is great in a bad sort of way, Girls.

And it seems that I'm not alone. Nine times out of ten, when I hear someone use that expression, they do so in the way I have described, not as a pure insult based on a certain sexuality.

It could be simply a case of evolution of language, or it could be me trying to justify my ignorance. Who can say for sure?