MCM Manchester Comic Con 2015

Don’t you hate it when you get a present and aren’t allowed to play with it? Well in the case of the tickets I got back in February as a birthday gift from colleagues, I wasn’t actually able to use them until the weekend just passed – and for me and my travelling companion it was well worth the wait.

In case I haven’t said it before, I bloody love Manchester. I went to university there and, despite the reservations I’d been brought up to have about the place (as a Leeds United fan), I was lucky to spend three years in that great city. I still go once a year for their Christmas Market which, I promise you, is a million times better than the Leeds one.

So with two of my loves coming together – Manchester and comics – I knew it would be a great weekend at Manchester Comic Con.

We spent the Friday walking around town and doing some shopping – plus we found a place that does bubble tea called I Come From Taiwan, it was delicious. At Fopp Records I picked up two My Bloody Valentine albums to satisfy the secret shoegaze fan inside me, (damn, secret’s out) and we had an awesome fish and chip dinner before retiring for the evening to our digs in Castlefield.

beetham tower manchester deansgate

This was the view from our room; the rather ugly Beetham Tower, whose rather ugly aerodynamic shape at the top means the wind blowing through it causes a low hum which can be heard for miles around. We heard it a lot.

Oh, and we were staying in room 316. Cue the incessant Steve Austin/room service impersonations.

stone cold steve austin 316

I don’t do well on Saturday mornings. Scratch that; I don’t do well most mornings, but planning an early wake-up after a full day’s walking around town didn’t have me raving to start the day. Multiple coffees and a big breakfast solved that problem, and just before 9am we headed out to Manchester Central, which was hosting the MCM Manchester Comic Con.

First things first; the amount of cosplayers there was incredible. Even as we joined the queue we were overwhelmed by the number of attendees showing up in their costumes, representing every nook and cranny of geek culture. It was really encouraging to see so many people expressing themselves so avidly – go take a look at any MCM Manchester-related hashtag right now for the evidence.

The line to get inside moved quite speedily, and before long we were cast into the huge convention hall with what had to be thousands of other attendees, even at that early hour. It was all quite overwhelming actually, and I really, REALLY don’t do well in crowds so was quite upset for quite some time.

To get away from it all, we crept into a panel being held by the guys from All The Anime, who were discussing upcoming releases and answering questions from the assembled audience. Most of the questions and answers being supplied sailed clean over my head, as I don’t watch much anime at all – certainly nothing current, my knowledge is limited to old Studio Ghibli and Akira – but I really dug their enthusiasm and easy-going nature as they answered questions and shared opinions on what’s happening in the wide world of anime.

Most of the day was spent checking out the merchandise on offer at the various stalls, and what a selection – everything from comics, video games and clothing to cosplay props, imported food and drink and even a few film-makers, like Redshirt Films who made the excellent Nights At The Round Table.

We even saw a live Robot Wars event – my goodness, that was fun. My lady was always a bit partial to the metal mayhem of a weekday evening on BBC2, and it was really cool to see it happen live. Only issue for me was that every one of the robots competing in the same round was a ‘flipper’ type – you know the sort I mean:

robot wars flippers

So there wasn’t any real harm done to the combatants – any time one got flipped over, they just re-flipped themselves back into action. Apart from that, it was a lot of fun to see.

Someone also recognised the Scrivens 3.14 t-shirt I was wearing on the day. That was a highlight.

In one of those who-are-you-and-what-have-you-done-with-Vincent moments, sadly I didn’t pick much up in the way of sweet merch from the con – although I did pick up a copy of The Everyday by Adam Cadwell, who has not only written a funny and touching autiobio anthology but was also a lovely bloke to chat to at the end of a long day.

I also got this t-shirt, because I had to.

adventure time finn t-shirt

 

And that’s yer lot. We had a bit of a mad dash to Piccadilly for the train home, but thanks to my ninja shortcut skills we were there in plenty of time. The con was a lot of fun, and Manchester is always lovely to me whenever I visit. It’s been emotional.

 

The Undertaker Returns At WWE Battleground

There were many reasons why I enjoyed being very tired at work today; normally if it’s just because I can’t sleep I’ll have a miserable day, but last night was the WWE Battleground pay-per-view so I didn’t mind the late bedtime.

I didn’t watch it all live, but thanks to the power of the WWE Network I was able to catch the last three matches tonight. And while it definitely had its positives – the Women’s Division is once again alive and well thanks to an NXT injection – there were a couple of things that felt off for me.

Lesnar vs Undertaker II at Summerslam 2015?

Firstly, the result of the main event. Brock Lesnar had manoeuvred his way into the WWE World Heavyweight Title match against Seth Rollins, and was once again looking like an absolute double-hard bastard who would slowly murder his opponent en route to another win. However, once Rollins had taken something like 13 suplexes and a couple of finishers, the three-count was rudely interrupted…by a gong and the lights going out.

Yes, The Undertaker has returned – but not to Wrestlemania.

undertaker brock lesnar summerslam 2015

When the lights came back up, there was no sign of Rollins – nor any further mention of him for the rest of the show in fact, as Taker sized up and double-Tombstoned The Beast Incarnate. The show ended with his ‘vintage’ (copyright, Michael ‘Broken Fucking Record’ Cole) pose on the stage, as Lesnar remained out cold in the ring.

So it looks like we’re heading for a rematch between the two big men; Taker wants to avenge his loss against the man who broke his Streak, while Lesnar will be quite happy for another opponent on which to continue his disciplined practice of chucking about in the ring.

First of all – do we really need this rematch? For a man who only wrestles once a year (unless they’re trying to get Network subscriptions up, lol), Lesnar has already decisively beaten Taker, to the tune of one Broken Streak. A rematch at Summerslam may not be the answer.

Secondly, was the return of The Phenom just a way to get Seth Rollins out of what was going to be a relatively simple…well, death…with the title around his waist? Having survived yet another match by the skin of his teeth – and again, with plenty of help – Rollins is starting to look less like the absolute dickhead heel he’s supposed to be. More than capable when forced but otherwise happy to cheat, Rollins is now starting to look very cowardly instead, and against lesser men than Lesnar (ie pretty much all other men) he’s in danger of repeating the feat. We’ll have to see who steps up to challenge him at Summerslam – my hope would be another match against Dean Ambrose but I can see him evening up the side against the Wyatts with Roman Reigns.

Can Kevin Owens recover from being Cena’d?

Just before that, and even more worryingly, another big Battleground casualty – Kevin Owens’ momentum. After beating John Cena in an absolutely fantastic match at Elimination Chamber, we all knew Cena was going to level the score at Money In The Bank. A third match, while necessary, was probably always going to go against Owens too, but the manner in which it happened was very disappointing.

john cena kevin owens summerslam 2015

Rather than a last-gasp victory from the jaws of defeat, or even from one of his random ‘nah, not selling any more mate’ decisions into the usual victory routine – culminating in hitting the Attitude Adjustment and getting the three – John Cena made Kevin Owens tap out to his STF submission hold.

It’s one thing to have three close-run matches, as Cena now has the 2-1 lead in the feud. But for the third to be concluded so emphatically is a huge blow to Owens. Of all the guys Cena has conquered in his admittedly fantastic US Title run so far, this one should’ve been portrayed a lot less convincingly if Owens is supposed to stay looking strong. Cena’s strongest critics have pointed to the bone-jarring halts in momentum suffered by Rusev and Bray Wyatt following big losses, and I have to agree with how depressing it’s been to see Rusev progress into some weird love triangle story with Lana and Dolph Ziggler.

John Cena is, without a doubt, one of the best WWE has. He’s a true professional and a very capable worker. But the fact remains that having a win over John Cena does nobody any good when he’s got two back over them – especially when one of them is so visibly, categorically decisive that it’ll take a hell of a lot to come back from. Can Owens do it?

 

Heroes of Geek Culture: Isaac Asimov

I’ve been watching the Channel 4 sci-fi series Humans, and aside from the whole kitchen sink drama/conspiracy thriller side of things, one of the matters which took me greatly by surprise is how well they’re doing the whole existential, philosophical side of things.

And when I heard one of the synths mention that their ‘Asimov lock’ prevents them from doing harm to humans, well, that was just a brilliant touch in honour of the sci-fi writer who helped bring the whole discussion to light.

Born in Soviet Russia somewhere around 1920, Isaac Asimov was one of the world’s best-known and most prolific science fiction writers, known to have had a hand in writing some 500 novels. Asimov was also a PhD-qualified biochemist, and a professor at the Boston University School of Medicine – though he was said to have taken a low-key role in order to focus on his writing.

isaac asimov bio geek culture

Truly a brilliant mind, Asimov was also a member of Mensa International, and he wrote many non-fiction titles alongside his staggering collection of novels, including many academic texts in wildly varying areas of science. He was something of a Shakespeare expert too.

Asimov was among the pioneers of the science fiction genre as we know it today, writing many extremely popular works about space travel, galactic diplomacy struggles and, as mentioned, the burgeoning field of artificial intelligence. Across many of his works, Asimov’s Three Laws of Robotics come into play:

  1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
  2. A robot must obey the orders given it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
  3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Laws.

These rules are absolutely an essential part of sci-fi canon these days, as the morality and ethics of artificial intelligence continue not only to form part of stories like Humans, but are starting to vest themselves in the artificial intelligence we continue to create. When you first heard about Siri, were you not a little…unsettled…about its development like I was?

I recently read Asimov’s very first novel, Pebble in the Sky, and became engrossed in the story of an Earth empire which has spread so far and wide across the galaxy, and become so sophisticated, that they’d assumed a snobby attitude towards their lowly ancestors and those who remained on our planet. It’s a great mix of diplomatic, chess-like strategies and all-out violence written in a style that, while somewhat dated, has all the greater impact on its story for it.

For his brilliant, inquisitive mind as well as the huge body of work that spans decades and has influenced so much of today’s science fiction (here I’d make a joke about it being the Foundation but it’s awful and I’m now annoyed at myself for thinking of it), Isaac Asimov is very much a hero of geek culture.

Happy Birthday, nWo! Hulk Hogan’s 1996 WCW Heel Turn

There are few moments in wrestling history that changed the way we look at the industry, but what happened on one summer evening at WCW’s 1996 Bash At The Beach is still talked about to this day, a full 19 years later.

WCW nWo hulk hogan heel turn

Let’s start with our mate Terry, aka Hulk Hogan, whose signing for WCW in 1994 opened the door for them to try and compete on the same national level as the WWF. As Ted Turner continued to burn through chequebooks like they were cheap lighters, World Championship Wrestling launched Monday Nitro directly opposite the WWF in the schedules. The following two years would see WCW reshape itself from the old-school territory style of booking into a lean, mean ratings machine for TNT, with Hogan flying the main event flag over a very capable roster of wrestlers.

As fans grew weary of Hogan’s incessant flag waving (and no-selling, and winning all the time), ‘booker man’ Kevin Sullivan had a plan to reinvent the Real American – turn him evil.

Of course, even the weariest wrestling fan could never have seen this coming, and Hogan himself was especially concerned about pulling the turn. After taking some time off from WCW programming (and his relentless schedule of winning matches), Hogan reappeared at the 1996 Bash At The Beach pay-per-view.

Rewind a few months to the sudden appearance of the former Razor Ramon, Scott Hall, on WCW television. Initially portrayed as an ‘Outsider’ of WCW (until they were forced to admit on live TV that he was not a WWF employee to avoid legal action), Hall would show up on episodes of Nitro to basically get in WCW guys’ faces and declare ‘war’ on their company. Joined shortly after by former WWF champion Kevin Nash, the two men would square up to half the roster on an especially gripping episode – leading WCW to begin to eclipse Monday Night Raw in the ratings, as the suspense began to mount over The Outsiders’ mystery ‘third man’.

The Hostile Takeover Match

Challenged by Eric Bischoff to a three-on-three tag match for all the marbles, Hall and Nash agreed – keeping their mystery partner’s identity a secret up until bell time – and beyond. Facing a loyal trio of Sting, Randy Savage and Lex Luger, Hall and Nash assured interviewer ‘Mean’ Gene Okerlund that they wouldn’t need him just yet.

So when Luger left the match with an injury partway through the match, the odds were evened, as Hall and Nash – now officially billed as The Outsiders tag team – cheated their way to a stalemate against a strong WCW contingent.

And then, this happened…

Hulk Hogan, the man who’d paraded around in the red and yellow, telling youngsters to eat their vitamins and say their prayers, shocked the world with a legdrop on Randy Savage, revealing himself as the third member of what would be the nWo – the New World Order, or as he kept calling it in the admittedly pretty decent follow-up promo, New World Organisation.

For WCW, it was the break they needed, as the company began to really pull away from the WWF, and for Hogan, a career rejuvenation; it’s reported in The Death of WCW (still highly recommended) that Hogan was nearing the end of his WCW contract and, as far as a big-money renegotiation was concerned, wouldn’t have had a leg to stand on. Without his joining the nWo, Hogan would categorically have not been the reason business was picking up for WCW – and it’s even been reported elsewhere that, with such a big decision to be made and his career at a huge crossroads, he had only decided to be the confirmed third man minutes before going out to assault Savage – it could’ve been Sting!

This week marks 19 years since Hogan’s turn at Bash At The Beach, and it’s still remembered as one of the most shocking moments in wrestling history. Few heel turns have been pulled off more convincingly, and the fact that it came from the single most popular babyface of all time was what made it all the more jarring.

The Fallout 4 Pip-Boy Edition is BEAUTIFUL…but not for me

It’s hard to remember when exactly the trend started for boxing extra trinkets in with upcoming video games and releasing them as pre-order exclusives, but the Collector’s Edition trend shows no sign of slowing down – especially not when we’re gearing up for one of the most anticipated sequels since OH FOR FUCK’S SAKE VALVE, JUST ANNOUNCE HALF-LIFE 3 WILL YOU!!!

Ahem.

Now I’m never one for fanboy drooling over possessions, particularly the expensive ones – but look at this. Just LOOK at it.

fallout 4 pip boy collectors edition

According to GAME, the Fallout 4 Pip-Boy Edition Includes:

  • Fallout 4 Game Disc
  • Wearable Pip-Boy
  • Robco Industries Stand
  • Capsule Case
  • Pip-Boy Pocket Guide
  • Vault-Tec Perk Poster
  • Collectible Metal Case

You can actually put your smartphone inside the wearable Pip-Boy and, along with the official app, pretend you’ve got your own fully functional device. Never have I wanted to play dress-up so badly since…well, since I went to a fancy dress thing as Shaun of the Dead.

shaun of the dead cosplay

I had red on me.

 

As I see it, there are but four problems standing between me and this piece of geek heaven:

It says ‘out of stock’

Which could be fair enough as this is, obviously, a pre-order. But on the other hand, it may actually have all gone already, which would be very upsetting.

It costs £100

And no matter how shiny a shiny thing may be, sometimes it’s difficult to justify spending that much money on things that would only end up sitting over the fireplace.

It’s only available from GAME

And we haven’t had the best relationship.

I don’t own a PS4 or XBone

And again, no matter how shiny a shiny thing it may be, that’s an even steeper investment considering that no game has actually swayed me into buying one yet – you’d think the raft of launch titles would have convinced me that XBox One or PlayStation 4 was the way to go, but no.

There’s plenty of time left between now and the game’s release (apparently November) to twist my own arm into buying one of the latest consoles and getting myself another slice of wasteland mayhem, but at the moment spending at least £300 only to buy one game is rather a ridiculous concept. And before you ask – there’s no way my PC can handle those graphics.

So what’s it to be?

‘Tap Titans’ mobile game is no fun for people with big hands

Put simply, Tap Titans is fast-moving and exciting – but only for a limited period.

tap titans mobile game

While counting down the months and weeks until the release of Fallout 4 (and buying a PS4 to play it on), I was very excited to learn of the existence of the Fallout Shelter mobile game, and immediately went to the App Store to check it out.

Since I got my Galaxy S5 about two months ago I’ve been impressed with it, and have been wanting to try different games out on it. So imagine my disappointment to find that Fallout Shelter hasn’t even been released for Android – and apparently won’t be for ‘a few months’.

As far as mobile gaming goes, I don’t have that many apps installed on my phone, and am quite discerning when it comes to trying them out. AdVenture Capitalist obviously made the cut. I saw Tap Titans during one of the bonus-giving ad breaks, and decided to give it a go too.

A couple of days later and I’m pretty much ready to cut it loose – partly because I quite like my S5 and am no longer prepared to risk damaging it by thrashing away at it with my sausage-like fingers.

big train fat handed twat

The aim of Tap Titans is pretty simple; defeat monsters, level up and recruit new fighters to aid you in your quest. The action is barely broken up at all as you move on to the next battle instantly, with the difficulty climbing only by the amount of damage you need to go, multiplying accordingly with the level of you and your fellow fighters.

Of course, this being a freemium game, there’s the chance to progress further in the game by making real-money purchases; in this case Diamonds which are available in bulk for prices between $1.99 and $99.99. I am honestly amazed that the option exists for people to spend 100 dollars (more than £60) on a mobile game, but there you have it; some people must be really keen to progress in the game and…

…I’m not even sure there is an endgame here. All I know is my heroes keep being killed by bosses, and that I can’t see a damn thing onscreen when I’m battling because all I’m really doing is hitting my screen and my giant hand is blocking the view.

 

simpsons jokes about my giant hand gif

 

Just tapping the screen to take part is all very well and good, but in terms of a game mechanic there isn’t really much skill involved – of course, a more rhythmically gifted player will do better than me on this, but there just isn’t much fun to be had by tapping the screen to knock HP off my enemies – especially when the damage they’re returning seems fairly arbitrary in response.

Of course, it could well be that I’m just a complete noob at Tap Titans, but just a couple of days after installing it I’m not seeing any real argument to hold onto the game.

Five For Friday: Self-Titled Albums

In the continuing series of weekend-opening list posts, this week I tackle the thorny issue of lazy musicians. Well, not lazy per se, just uncreative – with some examples proving my case even further than others.

five for friday self-titled albums

Self-titled albums; usually the masterstroke of a band keen to add some brand equity to their breakout debut albums. Sometimes the last resort of bands who are really struggling for some inspiration and so are forced to fall back on something familiar-sounding – maybe just to make it easier to ask for in shops.

Whether it’s an act of genius or an act of madness, today I’ll be writing about five of my favourite eponymous albums.

Rage Against the Machine (1992)

Back again with the Rage boys; and theirs is by far the best example on this list of a band’s sound summed up within its name – and so the most acceptable use of a self-titled debut album. Because when your album contains such impassioned musicianship and lyrical messages, anything else than your equally incendiary name (and album cover to boot) seems pretty redundant.

rage against the machine debut album

I’ll mention later on a band that possesses a conviction; a need to be heard, but there are no bands out there that demand your attention, and are so vital as this one. Especially in the songs where the political rhetoric and awesome riffing go neatly together – ‘Wake Up’ would be my favourite example of this. Their debut album is, for me, the band’s boldest political statement – albeit not my favourite collection of songs.

 

Rancid (1993)

A typical Tuesday night round about the turn of the millennium involved going out for a bit of the old underage drinking; we’d get our pre-drinks at my friend Ben’s house, where before booting up the PS2 for some Grand Theft Auto 3, he would play this album…specifically track nine. On repeat.

Whether it was his heavy-handed way of mocking someone during various girl dramas, or just because he really liked the song, I can’t be sure. However, what did annoy me was the fact he took ages getting around to playing the rest of the album, because it’s just bloody brilliant. The debut album from Rancid is very…let’s say, spiky. Not just because of the haircuts that the band sported, but because of the brilliant realisation of their spiky attitude through Donnell Cameron’s spiky production, and the youthful but desperate songs they play. They needed this.

 

Weezer (1994)

Weezer’s (first) self-titled album is one of those where just scanning your way down the tracklisting would make you go “holy crap, there’s ‘Jonas’ and ‘No One Else’ and…” but while with most albums you’d be skipping a couple, on Blue you’d just end up reading back every single song because they’re ALL gold. I assume that it’s the mark of producer Ric ‘Cars’ Ocasek that sheer pop shines through on every track; the fuzzy guitars are there, as are the thumping drums, but all through the album there’s the catchy, catchy melodies, the amazing vocal harmonies and glossy production.

Example:

The fact that this isn’t even the best song on Blue tells you exactly how good Blue really is.

Weezer would go on to take the piss slightly with (to date) two more self-titled albums, but while both are distinctly lacking compared to their first, there is a band that can just about get away with releasing a second eponymous album in 2000.

 

Rancid (2000)

And that’s because it’s equally as vital as their first, seven years later. Over 22 tracks but under forty minutes, Rancid found that the best way to come back from an ambitious dose of ska on Life Won’t Wait was to take it back to basics; self-titled, fast and furious – the latter no more evident than on ‘Rattlesnake’, a snarling ditty reportedly squarely aimed at a former manager of the band. “You’re a rattlesnake / and you’re full of shit”. Indeed.

My personal favourite track on this song was written by the bass-vocals god that is Matt Freeman; it still baffles me to this day how live footage of the band can exist on YouTube using any other angle than staring at his bass-playing, slackjawed with wonder.

A love song to life on the road and the girl he’s giving up on for it. Beautiful stuff, tenderly sung by the gruffest man in punk rock. Don’t worry; this is by far the mellowest moment on an otherwise very intense album.

 

LCD Soundsystem (2005)

It starts off with that annoying brag about Daft Punk (see my witty reply here) and ends with a hauntingly beautiful piece of music called ‘Great Release’ – more than six minutes of atmospheric synth built atop two piano chords and a distant vocal from music’s biggest fan, James Murphy.

And that’s why I love this first album; LCD Soundsystem were the world’s best tribute act to music. Combining influences as far-reaching as The Beatles (‘Never as Tired as When I’m Waking Up’) and Brian Eno (‘Great Release’), Murphy’s group wore their influences on their sleeve – no, above their heads on giant placards – and managed to blend them through this post-everything tight group of talented musicians to put new spins on all kinds of generic works.

You can tell Murphy’s something of an experimental type outside of LCD – his latest project apparently involves turning data from a tennis tournament into music – and this album is their most eclectic statement of all three.

Five For Friday: Strange Video Game Product Placements

Five For Friday continues with a look at some of video gaming’s most corporate moments. Ever wondered why Lara Croft only drinks Lucozade? Well, that’s probably not true but she got paid to pretend otherwise in the late 90s.

five for friday video games product placement

As you read these words I’ll be staring at paintings in Le Louvre. Or maybe fretting at the price of the lift up the Eiffel Tower. Or maybe my legs hurt from too much walking and I’m watching TV in my hotel room. Any way you slice it, I’ll be in Paris, so enjoy this brand spanking new Five For Friday while I’m gone.

Video games: for so many people an escapist dream. A chance to live vicariously through space marines, archaeologists and…erm, skateboarders. Probably the last thing you want to see when booting up a game is to be bombarded by advertising, but product placement has been an issue for decades now. Whether it’s the chance to add some brand realism to proceedings, or just a company trying to make up the shortfall of whatever budgetary black hole their game production has climbed into, we see it happening all the time.

While in some games, the ads make some semblance of sense, in others they’re out of place and altogether weird. Here are five games which went firmly latterways.

Pushover (1992)

This didn’t happen if you played it on the SNES, but us Amiga players were treated to a weird enough prelude to this classic domino puzzler; a cartoon crisps mascot known as Colin Curly dropping his treasured packet of Quavers down into an ant hill, and enlisting the help of the game’s main character to help him out.

pushover quavers video game

There he is, the clumsy fool. Fortunately this bizarre intro doesn’t have too much bearing on the rest of the game, as presumably it would’ve been too difficult to remove for the SNES port. Pushover was actually a fiendishly difficult but fun game – and to be fair, I still bloody love Quavers, always have.

Cool Spot (1993)

When your soft drink starts losing ground on its competitors, what do you do? Make it taste nicer? No, just bin off the humanistic mascot and replace him with a red dot with arms and legs. Poor Fido Dido, and poor us for being subjected to a Mega Drive platformer starring a red dot as the mascot for an inferior lemon/lime drink.

Long before the days when junk food was banned during children’s TV ad breaks, they were able to create video games to promote their brand! Cool Spot was first released on the Mega Drive, which leads me to believe that they weren’t always pushing for that mature audience which Mortal Kombat would deliver them.

McDonaldLand (1992)

For beleaguered parents and their fast food-craving kids, this for me was pretty much a low.

“As a licensed product for the McDonald’s fast food franchise, the game occasionally features the various logos and characters from McDonald’s restaurant signage and television advertisements, for the purposes of plot advancement and power-ups.”

mcdonaldland video game product placement

I’m unsure if we actually owned a copy of this atrocity on our Amiga during the 1990s, but I definitely played enough of it to know that…they should’ve stuck to the burgers. I’m fairly outraged that they could even get away with this stuff, but as long as it’s all happy happy nicey nicey EAT MCDONALDS jolly jolly, then nobody will have been too concerned. Why is it that the moral majority was so up in arms about violent video games being illegally sold to underage customers, but nobody bats an eyelid about selling this shit?

Zool (1992)

As another blatant product placement, Zool is fairly indefensible, with very, VERY prominent signs for Chupa Chups lollies clogging up every single screen in the game. However, at the tender age of eight I was prepared to overlook this because it was bloody fun to play.

zool chupa chups product placement

Despite this, The Ninja From The nth Dimension was a very tough game to play. Looking back now, it appears that 1992 had a lot to answer for with three of the four games listed so far responsible for polluting my tiny mind with in-game advertising. Hell, I feel silly enough now just pressing to watch the ads on AdVenture Capitalist to gain a 2x bonus, let alone expose my much more vulnerable seven-year old mind with this filth.

Enter The Matrix (2003)

This is the only one off the list I haven’t actually played, and with good reason: you’ve seen those last two Matrix films, right? Nuff said.

But the choice of tie-in product is especially strange for the video game adaptation of the Most Unwatchable 66% Of A Trilogy Ever. When you’ve had a hard day running through virtual world and trying to stay alive against virulent agents, what do you do?

the matrix video game powerade product placement

…drink Powerade? Really??? This kind of thing works much better inside the cartoonish worlds of Pushover and Zool; hell, even McDonaldLand is a feel good fun time in spirit, but this particular endorsement in this particular tone of game really just brings you out of it, doesn’t it?

Backward Compatible: A Geek Love Story

Aside from shovelling back copies of my Calling Spots subscription onto my Kobo, I really needed something breezy to read while soaking up the sun (and a few beers) on holiday last month. So when I stumbled across a geeky love story written from the viewpoints of both its main characters, I thought it would do very nicely.

And it did, quite nicely. Backward Compatible is the story of two college geeks, Kate and George, and their blossoming relationship over a winter break in their small-town home town.

 Backward Compatible a geek love story book

 

Geek Love

From the minute they lock eyes (and angry words) over the last copy of Fatal Destiny X at the midnight opening, Kate and George float in and out of each other’s lives; she while fending off the advances of rival gamer and blogger Seynar (whose 12 followers await his review of The Hobbit with bated breath….kinda reminds me of writing here), while George hangs out with his friend Lanyon and they while away the hours with ball-punching competitions and video gaming.

They drift from mall to restaurant to movies in a fairly resigned manner, waiting until term starts again so they can go back to being grown-ups…until Fatal Destiny X drags them kicking and screaming into late night sessions and an obsession with winning the ultimate geeky prize.

What I liked about this book was the magnifying glass put over the minutiae of everyday life, and the ever-expanding cast’s attempts to geek things up in order to feel normal, and wanted, and comfortable. My favourite books all contain a completely disparate group of people drawn together by common goals and forming the bonds to achieve them. It’s so cool to see that loosely-defined family come together, just as it was to see George and Kate overcome their own overblown neuroses to…well, I won’t spoil things, but it is pitched as a romance novel so you can connect the dots.

What I didn’t really care for though, in a fair few scenes, was the sheer amount of references to geek culture being dropped casually into conversation. I know it’s exactly how I talk to some of the people I’m closest to, but as material used in a novel it feels like there’s a test on every page just waiting for me to feel inadequate and distant from the characters in case I don’t get it. (The very worst offender here is one of the very final ‘clues’ to the relationship – I’ve just Googled it and I don’t feel as if knowing the reference allows me to say “AH HA! Story complete!” It’s not needed either way.)

For some light holiday reading, Backward Compatible: A Geek Love Story did just the job; with a semi-ambling plot that’s more about getting to know and feel for the characters as it is to root them on. Next time you’re packing a suitcase, pack this onto your e-reader too.

 

The Week in Geek: MITB 2015, Kickstarter’s Revenge and Kaboom Comics

Welcome to this week’s geek culture news, featuring the build to the next WWE PPV event and an interesting follow-up on a previously-covered Kickstarter campaign.

week in geek culture news

The Doom That Came To Erik Chevalier

When designer Erik Chevalier cancelled his Kickstarter project for The Doom That Came To Atlantic City about two years ago, backers were sceptical as to what had been done with the £80,000 they’d raised to fund it.

And yesterday those suspicions were confirmed, as the BBC reported on a finding by The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that Chevalier spent much of the money he’d raised on relocating and rent – not to mention commencing work on an entirely different project.

The FTC also found that Chevalier had not yet refunded any of his backers, despite promising to do so in the Kickstarter page’s final update.

In a settlement reached between the parties, Chevalier is banned from misrepresenting himself in any future crowd-funded campaigns – including pledging rewards that he doesn’t deliver on and how he intends to spend the money.

In return, an order that Chevalier must repay all of the money he was awarded has been suspended on the grounds that…he can’t afford it. However, if this turns out to be untrue then the order will be reinforced.

The lesson here, kids, is make sure you know what you’re getting into the next time you’re looking to back something.

 

WWE Money In The Bank 2015

Just two weeks after the last WWE event, Sunday night sees the return of the most valuable briefcase in sports entertainment with the annual Money In The Bank pay-per-view.

As always, the marquee match is the Ladder Match for the Money In The Bank briefcase; I would list the seven competitors involved but recent form suggests that I’ll name Roman Reigns as the sole favourite and leave it at that.

Other big matches slated for the event include a rematch from Elimination Chamber between John Cena and Kevin Owens, and the WWE World Heavyweight Title match; another prize to be hung above the ring and contested by champion Seth Rollins and his former Shield brother Dean Ambrose.

Ambrose isn’t going through the best booking right now – when was the last time he did? – but fans sadly can’t quite get behind the antics of the belt-stealing, mad-looking Lunatic Fringe. (And that one bounce-through the ropes spot is getting a bit old if I’m honest.)

There’s a very interesting theory doing the rounds, but for me the timing wouldn’t quite be there to be pulled off convincingly. Word is, once Reigns has (obviously) won the briefcase, he’ll cash in on the very same night…by turning heel on a victorious Dean Ambrose. WWE writers have done a pretty good job of buddying the two men up, so imagine how shocking this turn of events would be!

Except, it wouldn’t. As much as he’s improved since Wrestlemania (and even during; that main event match was spectacular), I still don’t buy Reigns as a credible threat whether with the fans or against them. There’s still too much to the Shield breakup that hasn’t been straightened out, and this isn’t the time to get into it.

Nor do I buy Ambrose as WWE Champion to lose it, sadly, and that’s partly down to the Dusty Finish (RIP) we got at Elimination Chamber which gave and took away that credibility in a matter of seconds.

 

Kaboom Comics

And just in case you missed it, I did an interview with Dave from Kaboom Comics earlier this week – go give it a read!