Club Nintendo and Stars Catalogue to close in September

The Nintendo loyalty programme is to be replaced, details TBA.

Tonight me and my lady have gone diving through all our old Nintendo Wii, DS and 3DS games in an effort to register for Club Nintendo points to spend on a beautiful Yoshi backpack.

But If I’d known Club Nintendo was a thing, I’d have traded them in long ago for that beautiful Super Mario Galaxy soundtrack on CD.

In what has to be the most disappointing moment I’ve had all week (it’s been a very ‘First World Problems’ situation in our home office tonight), most of the codes we tried to convert were either not recognised or had expired.

club nintendo to close

That’s the sad state of affairs we’re facing right now, as Club Nintendo prepares to close its doors worldwide, going from a Nintendo announcement made this week.

Games purchased for the Wii, DS, 3DS and Wii U came with little scratchcards which contain codes, which are registered to an account along with additional consumer feedback about where and when they bought the game (very clever move), in order to get Stars which could be spent on Nintendo merchandise.

Having just taken my first ever proper look at the catalogue…well, I’m assuming that users in America and Japan get much better gear than this. A Pikmin keyring? Nah seriously, I’m good mate. It’s not all bad though, with ringtones and other little tchotchkes available, you’ve got to get your money’s worth.

As gaming trends get further away from a casual audience, and Nintendo keeps up its hit-and-miss attempts to get back in the game, I do worry that casualties like Club Nintendo happen because of a drop in overall brand awareness. Their games are amazing but they’re pretty expensive when up against another bloody Candy Crush clone downloaded on the cheap for a mobile rather than a dedicated gaming device.

Stars will no longer be packaged into games as of the 1st April, while the new 3DS systems will be released Starless in February. You’ve still got until the end of September to register those points though – that is, unless you feel like tweeting the codes to me. (I’m serious.)

But that backpack. And that CD. Oh well, eBay for one, torrent legal purchase elsewhere for another I guess.

Mulder, Scully and the Tracy Brothers

X-Files could return, Thunderbirds’ crap haircuts are go

I read with interest this weekend about the return of two iconic TV franchises, and one left me decidedly more excited than the other based on first impressions.

As reported by Hitfix in their coverage of the TCA winter press tour, FOX executives mentioned that they’ve had “some conversations” about bringing back extra-terrestrial TV thriller The X-Files to the network. This in addition to star Gillian Anderson’s recent comments on the Nerdist podcast that she’d be interested in returning for a short run as FBI agent Dana Scully and we could well be on for a 24: Live Another Day-style short-form resurrection.

x-files return 2015

I used to really enjoy watching The X-Files first time around on the BBC; the mix of spooky alien goings-on and the impressive cast (I always loved Mitch Pileggi as Assistant Director Skinner for no real reason) were always worth a watch.

But once the mythology/conspiracy started to add up, it was game over for the casual viewer; if you missed three episodes in a row for whatever reason (and all the rescheduling the BBC used to do didn’t help), you were screwed if you thought you’d be able to catch up.

That’s the beauty of what could be a mini-series, though; 8 or 10 episodes built up solely to blow another conspiracy wide open – and what with the mystery date fresh in viewers’ heads at the end of the original run having passed, it would be cool to see what, if anything, has happened since. Let’s be honest, with such a short run on the deck and the ability to catch up on everything these days via various devices and subscriptions, you’re hardly likely to miss out this time.

And while we’re here, let’s take a look at another TV favourite that’s soon to hit our screens, as Thunderbirds Are Go comes to ITV to celebrate the franchise’s 50th anniversary.

I was going to talk about my initial nerves about seeing this show, but then commend the ability of former Fonejacker Kayvan Novak to put on a great voice acting performance in whichever role he plays.

But then I saw a picture of the new-look Tracy Brothers, and decided not to bloody bother.

thunderbirds are go 2015

What I’ve watched on WWE Network UK so far

Finally, the WWE Network has come back to the UK.

I was pretty excited to read that the WWE Network was finally ready to launch here in the UK yesterday, following the announcement of its delay in November – mere minutes before it was set to go.

I was even happier to read on Digital Spy on Sunday that it was already a-go – only a couple of days early but still a good long weekend of viewing for viewers.

WWE Network UK launch details

Without hesitation I signed up on Sunday morning and enjoyed a full day’s viewing of old and new WWE programming, starting with the end of this week’s NXT which was definitely a revelation when I first saw it on Sky Sports a while back. I’ve got to say, the live PPV every month is all well and good – certainly better than paying twice the price for just the one event through Sky Box Office – but I’m more excited about being able to get into the archives, not just for the WWE/WWF but also WCW, to educate myself on the ratings juggernaut that was Nitro – and the mess that was 1999/2000 WCW live pay-per-views.

So here’s what I’ve enjoyed so far – I’ve yet to watch a full PPV event but the following have tided me over nicely.

The Monday Night War

The brand new documentary series examining the history of the two major wrestling companies as WCW Monday Nitro went into direct competition against Monday Night Raw.

While there are plenty of interesting tidbits and anecdotes from all the major players involved, there’s some seriously heavy bias running throughout which kinda taints the whole thing. I’ve watched a good few episodes so far, though I’m not at all interested in watching the antics of DX who appear to have their own episode, and am looking forward to seeing the rest.

Hulk Hogan v Sting – Starrcade 97

First brought to my attention by the Attitude Era Podcast, this match was nearly 18 months in the making, with Sting’s attempt to destroy nWo leader Hollywood Hulk Hogan signposted as a sure conclusion to the feud.

While fans rightly expected Sting to let out his pent-up rage on Hogan, what viewers got was actually a fairly one-sided match the other way round. Hogan even managed to deliver his leg-drop finisher and get a three count, though referee Nick Patrick was supposed to make it a crooked fast count (he didn’t). Whether Hogan was simply playing up his creative control or the bookers just did a horrible job of this blow-off match, the storyline was set to go on…and on…and on…

Royal Rumble match – Royal Rumble 1996 (link NGP post)

Thanks to my excellent sound syncing skills (and no thanks to my below-par internet connection) I was able to watch the ’96 Rumble match along with the commentary supplied by the New Generation Project podcast in their latest episode. The Rumble match is one of my favourite events and this one was pretty good too – though the work of the alternative commentary certainly added to the fun. It’s got me looking forward to this year’s match too – expected Reigns win aside.

Vince McMahon vs Shane McMahon – Wrestlemania 17

And finally just for the amazing move which concludes the match, I watched father and son go to war in a fondly-remembered highlight of what’s generally regarded as the greatest Wrestlemania of all time.

Oof, that bin shot.

I could do with your help here, fellow Network viewers – I’m looking for recommendations of good ECW and bad WCW shows from the archives. Let me know in the comments or by sending a tweet to @AlpSig5.

Call yourself a writer?

The secret of my success: writing for the love of writing.

I’ve been writing scripts and stories since I was 13. Well, that’s not strictly true; to say that would make it sound like I’ve churned out pages and pages of storylines and characters every week for the past 17 years, and that simply isn’t true. For one thing, it could have been even longer.

writing advice

A writer’s desk, this afternoon. Not pictured: legible handwriting.

But I certainly do remember writing an episode of a sitcom when I was at high school about two young men going on holiday and trying to meet women – the only problem was I’d never been on holiday anywhere except Bridlington for my entire life up to that point, and so had to resort to what I imagined young men would get up to on holiday in Brid.

Fortunately from my memories it was pretty much the same thing I’d been doing up until that point anyway – playing arcade games and staring at girls, the only key differences among the menfolk being the presence of booze and the absence of parents.

Much as I’d love to say those scripts were either amazing or completely rubbish, I don’t remember much more than a couple of cheeky references to bands I liked at the time (like the song on the radio being performed by The Ugly North – see what I did there?) I do clearly remember though how much I loved writing them from that young age.

I never really thought of myself as a writer until recently because I’ve never got any distinctive level of recognition from it. I always thought that, to be a writer, you had to be published. However, that only makes you a published writer. A writer writes, and through the years I’ve certainly saved enough drafts, binned enough printouts and published enough blog posts both in a personal and professional capacity to be able to call myself a writer.

I do have something of a list of achievements in my career so far, but nothing makes me feel prouder or more accomplished than putting in a good shift. Not only did I manage to finish a novel some years ago, I even got up the nerve to submit it to a couple of agents. And while those responses weren’t ideal, at least I did it.

And whenever I look back on all my half-finished scripts and half-started novels saved on my computer, I always take heart that although I don’t yet have the discipline to finish something I’ve started – or for that matter, the time to develop that discipline (the finished novel came about during a prolonged period of unemployment so I certainly had the time, if not the discipline due to that damn Playstation 2) – I’m rarely lacking for ideas. The fact that I’ve managed to keep up with maintaining a blog for over two years now definitely counts for something too.

And as such, that’s really the only advice I can give. If you want to be a writer, you should start by writing. The rest will follow.

A Tune For Tuesday – ‘All My Friends’ in Lego

LCD Soundsystem depicted in Lego – everyone’s a winner.

This weekend I’ve been enjoying the DVD of the final ever LCD Soundystem gig, the very definition of going out with a bang; with the band’s tight performance superbly overlaid with a strong sense of occasion by charismatic leader James Murphy.

Given the sporadic nature of my weekly Tune For Tuesday I recalled a pretty stunning video made for their amazing song ‘All My Friends’ – a definite highlight of that final performance due to the context – “this could be the last time, so here we go” – that needed to be featured the very next time I remembered to post one.

The actual video itself is pretty bloody special – another gem discovered at the end of a long night’s drinking with friends and so padded with its own special meaning to me.

But this particular version is something all geeks are sure to enjoy – the entire video remade in Lego form.

Take it away, Brick James.

Who will win the 2015 Royal Rumble?

And who will headline Wrestlemania XXXI?

We’re only a couple of weeks away from this year’s instalment of the WWE Royal Rumble; a unique 30-man match whose winner is guaranteed a World Title match at Wrestlemania XXXI.

With the company’s continued anointing of former Shield member Roman Reigns as The Man, and Brock Lesnar expected to defeat John Cena in their rematch for the title at the Rumble, we should expect Reigns to take not only the WWE title but also the rub from ending the Streak-ender at Wrestlemania.

Roman Reigns WWE 2015 Royal Rumble

Image by Miguel Discart

However, with the addition of Seth Rollins to the Royal Rumble title match and the less-than-stellar response Reigns receives from WWE crowds, for once we’re not completely assured of anything.

It’s still pretty much nailed on that Roman Reigns will take the victory this year, but with the doubt surrounding world champ Brock Lesnar’s immediate future and which MMA company he’ll be returning to, there’s been just a tiny bit of doubt cast on him.

Having received the push towards main event level after The Shield broke up, Reigns worked on combining his toughness with a standard babyface moveset, developing something smarks refer to as the Five Moves of Doom. Reigns’ momentum was cut short before he could face Seth Rollins at September’s Night of Champions due to injury, but was barely off TV in the interim cutting some fairly average promos.

Nonetheless, Reigns has returned and looks likely to win the Royal Rumble match – barring any last-minute developments behind the scenes.

Personally I’d be okay with Reigns taking the win here, but he really needs some earned momentum to get to Wrestlemania and be a credible challenger for whomever he comes up against. A very very strong performance in the Rumble at the very least, followed up by a great match and/or promo every single week in the weeks to follow.

And while I’m disappointed that the likes of Daniel Bryan, Dolph Ziggler and Rusev are going to miss out, hopefully they won’t be entirely out in the cold for the rest of 2015.

My Top Reads of 2014

Picking out my favourite books I read last year.

According to my Goodreads.com profile I managed to read an even 20 new books in 2014, excluding the various graphic novels I managed to get through (my favourite probably being a good six volumes of Matt Fraction’s Invincble Iron Man run).

That comes out at under one every two weeks. Still pretty good going, but with the amount of books I received for Christmas I definitely hope to top that this year.

top reads of 2014

Here are the six books which I rated as the highest I’d read in 2014.

Snow Crash

Published in the early 90s, this techno-thriller set both inside and outside a virtual world has just the right amount of surrealism in both and a far-reaching subject matter in ancient linguistics and how they might affect the way we use technology in the future. The characters are a great mix and there’s plenty of laughs in among the building suspense.

The Death of WCW

One of the best wrestling books I’ve ever read, blending methodical reporting with hugely satisfying amounts of wrestling snark to tell the story of the downfall of one of the world’s largest entertainment companies – and being the 10th anniversary edition, with even more relevant stories and opinion from those on the scene.

Death of WCW book

The Internet is a Playground

I really liked David Thorne’s first collection of emails and anecdotes from his website, his bizarre hypotheticals and the way he handles angry respondents are truly funny stuff. It’s not really a novel, more just an anthology, but it made for some great holiday reading in the sun all the same.

The Hellbound Heart

I haven’t seen Hellraiser in absolutely years, and thought I’d give the novella it was based on a whirl. As previous film reviews will attest, I’m really not a fan of horror but I really enjoyed The Hellbound Heart – it predates most of the generic conventions you get in most horror nowadays and as such is a pretty scary read.

Flowers For Algernon

I remembered reading this when I was young but apparently there was a whole section missing from the version I’d read before; in its entirety this book made me experience what’s commonly known these days as ‘the feels’.

Brave New World

A great take on civilised society in the future, this book still holds up well today despite its being published many decades ago. I loved this vision of a so-called perfect society and the way all people are literally not created equals, to warn readers that individualism and freedom of expression shouldn’t be taken for granted the way we sometimes do.

Any recommendations for my 2015 reading list?

New Year’s Blog Resolutions

My quest to be a better geek blogger begins.

Happy New Year! (I wrote this bit on Tuesday night so am pre-empting myself here, but just go with it.)

I’m definitely not one for the whole Year In Review thing (he said, despite writing one for 2013) but that being said, it’d be silly of me not to try and look back on what works and what doesn’t for the blog, just as in life. That way I get to improve my lot in life as a blogger and you get to read better posts.

So, inspired by a post I read today over at North East Nerd, I thought I’d try and come up with my own New Year’s Blogging Resolutions.

A spring clean

Not just talking the actual look and feel of the site here, though it is looking a bit greyscale-dull, I’m no designer. I don’t know what having such a dreary looking colour scheme says about me but it’s only because I have no artistic talent that I even let it get this fancy.

There’s also loads of SEO gubbins I could be doing to increase my stats and rankings. Hopefully all them googlers googling will find my take on stuff more often if I’m a bit more organised layout-wise.

Be more social

I don’t do nearly enough promotion of new blog posts, or even that much chatter with fellow geeks through the @AlpSig5 account; most conversation comes from my personal account and usually isn’t something I chat about on the site. Same goes for the Facebook page; I don’t make a habit of logging in and making regular updates aside from a new post update, and even those aren’t getting much action in return. I resolve to do slightly more tweeting from my second account.

Write more

Having only managed one or two posts a week of late, I think I need to either be consistent at that level (when it isn’t zero a week) or even try and up the weekly word count. I need to work on scheduling stuff too so that things are more regular and readers know when to expect something cool…or something anyway.

This actually goes beyond blogging. I’ve been sorely lacking some activity in the other side of my brain of late and I need to spark it up again with a script, or short story, or something.

geek blog writing

Write for myself

There’s been a real divide over the past year on my site between the stuff I want to write, and the stuff I like to write but am confident will get searched for too. I’m not pointing any fingers but a lot of the topical wrestling posts I wrote had some element of this involved in their creation.

And while I’m happy enough writing about the week’s big stories in brief, a lot of what I write here is equally as much to get a stat bump, even when I know I’m not putting my heart into it.

That will hopefully stop, because the main thing I’ve wondered how to achieve this past year is how to get more ‘me’ up in this. That started with this week’s post about Animal Crossing: New Leaf and hopefully it will continue, even if it means less regular posting. It’d be totally worth it not to have to reach for a new news story when I just need to dig a bit deeper and found out what’s working for me on a personal level that day.

Stop and smell the flowers

smell the flowers

At the same time as I want to improve my strike rate, I need to be careful not to get anxious about the level and frequency of posts, or get bogged down in the details. I should always take time to celebrate achievements, both blogging and personal, and hitting 5,000 views last week was one such example (which I am ever so grateful to you for, readers.)

Making resolutions is all well and good but they’ve got to come from a place of building on the foundations rather than trying to tear them down in the name of reinvention. I’m happy with where I am right now and that’s good enough for me.

Be this cool, all the time.

CoolKid

‘Nuff said.

Shorter posts?

Haha, good one. Hope you enjoyed this 724-word post, and Happy New Year!

Why I love Animal Crossing: New Leaf

My New Leaf addiction is getting worrying.

For a while there, until I had to change it due to Window’s daft security refresher policies, the password for my work computer contained the phrase ‘Hamphrey’.

I was inspired to make it my password after remembering the one that Dan uses at work in Microserfs – hellojed – in memory of his late brother.

Hamphrey didn’t die, he just left town. That’s what I tell myself every time I type it in. I was so attached to that little guy, but we grew apart.

Because I didn’t play Animal Crossing: New Leaf for a few days, and didn’t realise that people would move away if I didn’t check in to say hello to my fellow residents every day between fishing and catching insects.

And because I’ve had my 3DS for five months but only bought one game, I do visit Bishtown every day in case one of my other lovely townsfolk decides to pack their bags, so I can talk them out of leaving their digital existence.

Hamphrey New Leaf

I’m not that deluded; I’m aware that the people who populate Bishtown are merely collections of pixels and noise – and animals at that – but each of them is happy to me see whenever I come to town, and it’s such a nice feeling that I help these people get shit done. I love sending Peanut a new shirt in the post because she’s so style-conscious, and I love helping Roald get some much-needed fuel for exercise by fetching him a pear.

True enough, there are quite a few things I don’t like about the game – one of the townsfolk has been acting like a real bitch lately, spreading nasty rumours about me being a hoarder. Oh, and then there’s the whole dreary grind of collecting and selling to fund my nasty building habit, as well as the completely arbitrary and repetitive conversations.

It does all get a bit dull sometimes, but that’s down to two main things: the amount I’ve been playing it lately, and the fact that even the best stuff starts to grate after a while; I got the first four seasons of new favourite sitcom Modern Family on DVD for Christmas but I can’t imagine spending entire evenings getting through it.

But as a source of wholesome, diverting entertainment and adorable in its simple gameplay but complex mechanics, I don’t think I’ve ever played anything like it.

Yes, it gets tedious, but most things do. You learn to put up with the things you love.

Most of all, I miss Hamphrey, and typing his name every day made me think how much I love that bloody game, and can’t wait to get home and play.

If you’ve never played New Leaf, and like the idea of a game that’s as gentle and cute as it is fun and wholesome, you’ll love it.

hellohamphrey

A Very Commercialised Christmas

A Christmas lesson to be learned from Bill Murray’s Scrooged.

it's a bone ya lucky dog scrooged

“IT’S A BONE, YA LUCKY DAWG!”

There’s a bit in my favourite Christmas film Scrooged when Bill Murray’s character says to his brother James “are you kidding? I love Christmas!”

It’s said with tongue firmly in cheek; Frank Cross has not yet been visited by three ghosts and so only sees Christmas as the time when his TV network gets rich off all the people watching the special seasonal programming.

But as much as I’m firmly at the other end of the spectrum, loving the time spent with my family at such a special time of year – and with some sweet gifts to boot – I still get very upset about the commercialised side of things on TV.

For all the television we watched yesterday there were dozens of adverts promoting various sales and discounts beginning today, and I’ve no doubt that many people have headed out today and will tomorrow to get the benefit of the so-called sales.

scrooged crock james

“It’s a crock, James.”

It’s a crock because this weekend is no different to the past two months of advertising we’ve already been subjected to, promising savings on the gifts we’ve spent money on hoping our family members enjoy them.

And now that we’ve had the special day of exchanging gifts and spending that precious time together, we’ve barely even had time to digest the delicious Christmas dinner before we’re getting battered with more advertising telling us to get off the sofa and spend even more.

They’re not subtle about it either; in fact they’re a little bit facetious about the fact. One ad I saw yesterday said something like “was something missing from under the tree?” while another encouraged us to “get the gifts you really wanted” at their sale.

It’s bad enough that we’ve been battered with so much advertising from as early as Halloween, without the supplemental salvos of messaging that we should empty out our wallets even further just 24 hours on from this special day because our family don’t really know us.

Except that mine does, and while not every single gift I received this Christmas is going to hit the spot – it’s only natural – I at least appreciate the thought absolutely every time I unwrap another exciting and suspense-filled layer of Christmas wrapping paper. Nothing that an advert claims can possibly make me less certain of the love in the room on Christmas Day, and if it does for anyone else than I can only feel sorry for you.

I’m so grateful for everything I got this Christmas, and at the risk of sounding terribly snobby and snooty I know that there are people who really need to carefully watch Scrooged again to get the message: it’s not the gift, it’s the thought that counts.

And if the gift happens to be amazing, well that’s just a delightful bonus.