The new Netflix rating system gets a thumbs-down

For the love of god, do you see what I did there?

We’re all busy people. That’s why I’ve spent the last two hours in the sun reading a book about the Revolutions of 1989 – god knows it’s been a non-stop afternoon.

Knowing what a bunch of busy so-and-sos we are, Netflix has helpfully decided to overhaul its ranking and recommendations systems – to help us decide what to watch when we’re pushed for time during our next entire evening in front of the sofa.

But by changing their star ratings system to a simple thumbs-up, thumbs-down interface, I feel like they’ve rather muddied the waters.

Five-star nuances

The old idea of ratings was simple enough; you rate something from one to five stars, and Netflix uses your input to recommend other programmes and films.

Narrowing these down to a thumbs-up, thumbs-down system rather removes much of the nuances of rating and reviewing films.

Because people’s tastes can be so fluid and subjective – imagine Nicolas Cage in Face/Off…Now imagine him in Left Behind – it makes things more difficult when it comes to making some Netflix picks.

cage

Good thing they don’t have Vampire’s Kiss available in the UK – it would completely mess with the ratings system. Is it good? Is it bad? Who knows?

Example: at the moment me and the wife are watching seven seasons of Archer right from the very beginning. Between episodes we’re recommended something called Pacific Blue. I have no idea what this is, and from the prone position on the sofa that streaming services seem to enjoy imagining their subscribers from, there’s nothing much they think we can do other than to give it a try.

But again, with our time being so precious (I’m taking a break from the sun to write this and listen to the Leeds match), I don’t know that I’m willing and able to spend any amount of time blindly giving something a go.

But because streaming services’ goal is just to get you to keep watching, it’s probably better to risk giving the viewer more impetus to need to discover the things they’ll like.

And besides, considering Netflix judges what we’re watching rather than rating to make its big business decisions, it won’t work out too badly for them.

Innovation in programming

It’s a fairly well-known example but still pretty brilliant for us data nerds. The whole reason Netflix decided to create a new version of House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey wasn’t a matter of throwing things at the wall to see what sticks. With an eye on their customers’ viewing habits, they noticed that people who watched the original BBC version also watched a lot of Kevin Spacey films, and vice versa.

Having the ability to interpret that hard, single-channel data gives Netflix, Amazon Prime et al the confidence to invest in licensing TV rights packages, as well as creating new viewing pleasures – like the mini-Marvel universe we see through the eyes of Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. This gives streaming services a real foot up on cable and satellite TV. And having cancelled Sky TV myself a month ago, I’m really not missing it when I’m paying a lot less money per month for a lot more choice of what I want to watch, instead of what happens to be on.

Happy as I am though to wade into the wide world of online TV and film services to find something new whenever I open up the apps, I was a bit alarmed to open Netflix this morning to be presented with its other new feature – some sort of online dating service offering me a percentage match on their range of titles.

(And let’s not get into that too much. Some of the most fascinating-looking documentaries I’ve stumbled across today gave me matches in the sixty-percent range, while some actual dreadful BBC sitcoms ranked in the nineties.)

This clashes somewhat with another of the ways they recommend programmes and films to me – the ‘Because You Watched…’ ribbon.

Because you watched…

Right now I’m looking at two Julia Roberts films, J-Lo and Jennifer Aniston – “because you watched Serendipity”.

netflixrecs

No thanks!

While I can’t argue that this is a thing that happened, it’s only because I personally enjoy the work of John Cusack. Given the apparent distinct lack of hitmen and record shop owners in the films I’ve been shown here, I can’t say I’m likely ever to give them a go.

The same goes for Trailer Park Boys, which I watched the first episode of and decided not to any more – again, time being precious, I’m not saying it was downright terrible but I’m just not inclined to watch any more.

I didn’t apply a star rating for Trailer Park Boys, but if I’d given the show one star it wouldn’t show up again. However, now that there’s no better way to communicate this than a thumbs-down, I might not be shown anything similar again, even if it’s something I would otherwise check out.

This is the rub – to see more of what I think I’d like, and less of what I wouldn’t, I need to go thumb-crazy over all these menus, instead of spending the time actually watching things and finding out. It needs the sort of time that perhaps Netflix assumes we’ve got – seeing as we’re wasting away on our couches receiving constant prompts to see if we’re still watching.

That assumption isn’t really appreciated – not to sound snobby, but I’ve got better stuff to do. Like complain about it, apparently.

Switching back to Nintendo

My mate Matt Allen kindly agreed to voice his excitement for the upcoming Nintendo Switch console in the form of before and after posts. Here’s part one.

The Nintendo Switch launches March 3rd, and I could not be more excited.

I have been watching the unveiling, promotion and rumours since back before we even knew it was called the Switch. That’s when I used to spend about an hour every day on the NX Reddit page, poring over product patents and rumours. Instead of keeping up with my favourite TV shows, I now just watch YouTube videos about the Switch, breaking down the hardware, talking about the launch line up and discussing all the things that could be possibly coming in the future. I have stopped listening to true crime podcasts and now I just listen to video games podcasts. In a nutshell, I am obsessed.

(I’d recommend Filthy Casuals, Infendo, Nintendo Sushi, Nintendo Week and Radio Free Nintendo. I would be lying if I said I didn’t listen to around 10 more a week on top of these.)

There’s nothing wrong with getting excited about a product launch, or excited about a game coming out – but I am worried I’ve been completely swept up aboard the Nintendo Switch hype train, and I may go crashing off a cliff if the console doesn’t match my expectations.

nintendo hype train

A Nintendo hype train, yesterday.

I haven’t always been a huge Nintendo fan(boy). I didn’t buy the Wii U until late 2015, and play the vast majority of my games on my Xbox One and PS4. Growing up in England, I played a lot more Sega as a kid than I did Nintendo – as did all my friends and relatives. Most tellingly, I haven’t had the opportunity to play on a Switch. I am not a reviewer; I am not in the media; I am just a guy with a bit of an unhealthy obsession with a new console.

So what is it that has got me so excited, and why should I be worried? In true internet list style, here are my Three Pros and Cons for the Nintendo Switch.

nintendoswitchlogo-svg

Pros of wanting a Nintendo Switch

Pro Controller and Joy Cons – The versatility of the controllers for the Switch is great. The Joy Cons can be detached, so right out of the box you’ve got a console that two can play. Including a Share button has great hope for the future when it comes to streaming and sharing games footage. It also has something called HD Rumble; these controllers have a lot of tech packed into them. The pro controller has analogue stick positions like the Xbox, which is by far my favourite games controller.

In addition, I can tap my Amiibo on an NFC chip on the Joy Con without having to get off my butt and go to the console when it is docked – this will make it extremely easy for me to stay lazy and overweight, especially considering the controllers’ healthy battery life (20 hours on the Joy Cons, 40 on the Pro Controller). And yes, I have over 100 Amiibo, so it will be pretty great to actually get to use them for something.

The Line Up – Although the Switch’s launch line-up seems a bit thin on the ground Nintendo games are some of my all-time favourites. Within a year of launch I will be playing a new Zelda game, a new Super Mario game, a new Splatoon game and Mario Kart 8. Since this is the first hub world Mario game since Sunshine I personally can’t wait – throw in the 60+ indie games coming in 2017, along with new Sonic games and Skyrim that I can play on my daily commute, and it’s clear the console will offer a lot of game time in the first 12 months alone.

It’s a Hybrid – If for some reason you have read this far and didn’t know, this console is both a home console and a handheld. Drop it in a dock and it connects to your TV, pick it up and walk away, and you are playing on the go. This is perfect for me as I slide further into my 30s and don’t have as much time for console gaming as I’d like to.

Nintendo Switch

Cons of buying a Nintendo Switch

Joy Cons – Yes – I know I had this as a Pro, and no – this isn’t just here so I could make a Pros and Cons pun. With the added focus on motion control seen in the launch title 1 2 Switch, Nintendo seems keen to look back on the success of the Wii rather than take a bold step forward from the Wii U. Games like Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers comes with extra motion control modes that, frankly, look terrible.

Am I worried about motion control? No. I think it’ll have some clever uses and there will be some fun to be had, but it’s just not the image I hoped we’d get with this generation. I think the marketing focus should be on Nintendo Switch being a home console that can be taken with you. If the message of what this console is and who it is for gets even slightly muddled it may not sell well, which would be a shame as I don’t want another Wii U.

The Line Up – Although there are a bunch of great Nintendo games coming in 2017, I am actually a bit worried about what impression these give out to someone who isn’t following the news as obsessively as I am. Yes, Zelda: Breath of the Wild is coming at launch – but if you don’t like Zelda, you don’t have much to choose from. I’m excited by the idea of over 60 indie titles releasing this year, but a lot of them have already aired on other consoles or on PC. A portable Elder Scrolls title is amazing – but Skyrim has already been out for six years, not to mention its mod-friendly next-gen update last year.

Hopefully the games will keep coming, but if sales don’t look promising then developers won’t be as inclined to keep making the games. It feels like a missed opportunity for Nintendo – they had the chance to come out with a splash at the start, or at least to have all the dates for games in the future locked down.  Maybe another month or two of development would have helped. I feel like maybe it needed to come out this financial year more than they feel ready to launch it right now.

It is a Hybrid –  I can walk away with the likes of Zelda and Skyrim in my hand, and play it on the bus (or toilet) – that’s going to be great. However, there is a reason that games this big haven’t made it to tablet – they would kill the battery. And kill the battery the Switch probably will – it only has a battery life of between 2.5 and six hours. Six hours is not conducive to a session in Skyrim, I would guess.

Although you can get a larger replacement battery for the Wii U, there’s no such luck with the Switch. As a hybrid console, it’s got to be different things for different uses – possibly too many things. This console can’t be all things for all people, and is already delivering a mixed message on marketing. Is it a successor to the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS? The fact that it is portable and both handheld and console development teams have been merged would seem to suggest so, but that’s not the word we are getting from Nintendo, who understandably has to keep investors happy.

All aboard?

So where does this leave me? I have three things that excite me about this console – the same three things that I also am worried about. It leaves me at a Day One purchase. It leaves me pre-ordering the Pro Controller just in case I hate the small buttons on the Joy Con. It leaves me excited.

I have so many hopes for the console and have already heard exciting things, the launch line up has been beefed up on the last few days with some special E-Shop titles, but my hopes for a full Virtual Console on Launch Day are definitely not going to be met.

We will just have to see how it goes in March. I for one will be off Reddit and YouTube for the day and fully invested in Breath of the Wild, even when on the toilet if I so fancy it.

Matt Allen is a gamer and games collector who loves all consoles. He once accidentally ran a Pokémon Go event for 1000 people, after he invited a few friends to meet up and didn’t set the Facebook event to Private. He loves retro games and has an obsession with Fallout.

My inner child loves No Man’s Sky – but do I?

God knows I’ve put the hours in, but am I actually enjoying playing No Man’s Sky, or is it all a grip of nostalgia?

Over the course of my time with No Man’s Sky on the PS4, I’ve broken a fair few barriers. Not only am I referring to breaking the speed of light in order to warp between its seemingly infinite number of star systems, but also because I broke my Golden Rule of Outlandish Purchase Decisions: no games above £40.

So when I saw a brand new copy of No Man’s Sky on the shelves for just £25 today, I had pause to consider whether I was still getting any value out of my near-twice-the-price purchase – or even if I ever had.

nms1

In the run-up to its release last August, the No Man’s Sky hype was overwhelming. I’ve never been one to let myself get sucked into that sort of thing – it’s why I’m always so behind on the latest and greatest hits of pop culture – but the game had to really be something special to meet those expectations. And when it turned out in the eyes of so many to be so much less than stellar, the hype turned swiftly into massive backlash aimed squarely at the poor sods at Hello Games.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I first fired the game up myself, but suffice it to say I wasn’t underwhelmed…or overwhelmed even…merely…whelmed? With my hitherto unrealised need to have an update of Frontier: Elite II in my life, I was happy enough to play Pioneer here and there.

Sure, No Man’s Sky remains stunning to look at – I’m a sucker for an alien landscape – but outside of the artefact discovery and the annoying grinning creatures greeting me at every space station, there just wasn’t a whole lot to do besides the same old, same old.

So just as Hello Games realised they needed to put a hell of a lot more game into their game, I abandoned No Man’s Sky in favour of a second playthrough of Fallout 4.

November saw the release of NMS’ Foundation Update, with new modes of gameplay and just a little bit more to do during your visits to the stars beyond. I’ve only just made my way onto this update, and I think I’ve made a bit of an unsettling discovery.

nms2

After loading an old save file and debating whether or not to carry on in search of the Atlas Stones which I’d been gifted by some weird dome thing, I decided to start afresh – I needed to get to grips with the controls again, and wondered if there was anything I’d missed the first time.

I decided to start from scratch and try a different path – that of the two rebel explorers, Nada and Polo. This seems to be going well enough – and could have even started to lead somewhere but for the fact that it’s already feeling a bit repetitive.

So as I landed on yet another, albeit beautiful, life-filled planet and set off mining some Iron to boost my Pulse Drive and Deflector Shields, I realised that I don’t think I’m actually enjoying this much. But a small part of me would not admit it – my curious, sci-fi obsessed inner child.

It’s clear to me (and hopefully to even the most frothy-mouthed of its critics) that Hello Games has put together something very special from a design perspective. As the wide-eyed kid who couldn’t control his ship properly in Frontier, and the misty-eyed twentysomething reliving those same memories in Pioneer so many years later, I can honestly say that what I feel for No Man’s Sky now is something approaching a realisation of those childhood space-age fantasies.

Just as I used to ‘book’ my wrestling figures by filling notepads with fight cards, attendance figures and unimaginative, all-too-regular tournament brackets, I wanted my Action Force figures to visit strange new plants, record data on the atmosphere and encounter the planet’s thriving flora and fauna. My lack of knowledge when it came to the ‘science’ part of ‘science fiction’ didn’t stop me from imagining these epic missions into the depths of outer space – from cautious landing to desperate escape.

In a way, this beautiful but flawed game is everything my ten-year-old self would have killed to play. I can recreate that same feeling of discovery and adventure, and get official statistics to boot, thanks to the game’s recording of player progress. But just as you tend to lose 99% of your childhood passion for ice cream when you’re old enough to have it whenever, I’m no longer enthralled by the idea of giving up so much of my valuable free time to something that just doesn’t grab me the way it once did.

While for the moment I’m happy enough to continue my journey across the stars, in search of long-forgotten extra-terrestrial wisdom and the chance to fetch something or other back to my home base (a good, if not entirely absorbing addition from the Foundation Update, only because it’s a lame version of the tried-and-trite ‘fetch quests’ that RPGers have quite rightly had their fill of), I feel the time will soon come to end my latest run with No Man’s Sky. I’m rather fearful that my nostalgia for all things space travel will turn ugly when it dawns on me that there’s not a whole lot to actually keep me here, as my more grown-up sensibility for storytelling starts to take me away from the muddling, aimless wander among the stars.

Too much choice makes me unhappy and tired

At the risk of sounding like decadent, capitalist Westerner scum for the next 700 words or so, the one downside to having extensive free time away from work is having to decide what to do with it.

With family responsibilities fulfilled and a fairly hefty haul of wonderful Christmas presents to show for it, I’ve spent the last day or so at home with some time on my hands…and a little bit of anxiety that it’s difficult to choose what to do with it.

My New Year’s Resolution for 2016 worked like a charm. When I’ve wanted to create, I have created. And when I haven’t wanted to, I haven’t made myself feel bad about it. So the solution appeared to be…stop creating. My SoundCloud page has prospered, but my blog has suffered tremendously for it – but I’m really okay with that because it seemed that I wasn’t up for being so wordy after all.

I’ve read almost 20 books in 2016 – more than I have for many, many years. Two weeks swinging from a honeymoon hammock will do that for you. And when I look back on the sheer disaster of a year that was 2016 in all other aspects of life, I’ll look back on it with some considerable happiness myself, having done a marry in July.

But when my wife departs for a shift at work shortly, I’ll have an entire afternoon stretching ahead of me, and feel paralysed by choice.

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I know, I know. Decadent Westerner, with no dependents and a Netflix subscription – not to mention social network feeds full of smiling kids, whose parents I see at work or on a much-needed night out, who would kill me for that password and/or two hours to themselves to watch something.

But the struggle is real.

The paradox of choice

Paradoxically, it’s precisely because we’ve never had it so good, us decadent capitalist scum, that we sometimes feel ‘spoilt for choice’. Try this when you’re deciding what to spend your Christmas gift vouchers on: just choose something. You can’t, can you?

As a kid it was much easier, because the gifts I got for Christmas were usually something I’d had my eye on since May. And the vouchers were much more quickly spent – and followed with many a round of ‘are you sures’ from Mam and Dad – because it will often have been the first thing I seized upon in the shop.

Barry Schwartz calls it ‘the paradox of choice’, and finds that you can have too much of a good thing. Faced with a sample table of either six jams or 24, 30% of those given only six to try would go on to buy one of them, compared to 3% given a choice of 24.

It can be so bad that you’ll defer from any decision at all just to stay away from the overwhelming feeling of choice paralysis. Whatever it is you’re sitting watching, even if you don’t like it, turning off the TV entirely doesn’t seem like an option when there’s no clear-cut alternative to spending your time.

As a kid, my choice is blinkered; this shiny thing or that one? As a grown-ass man (who doesn’t feel anything like one at the best of times), the blinkers are off and I’m left wondering how best to spend the commodity I’ve got all too much of today: time.

I thought that maybe just describing my feelings and checking that such a thing exists would be enough. But Schwartz has given me more food for thought: setting a goal.

Set your goals

Find out what it is you want, and what the easiest way to achieve that is. I wanted to moan about something, and my wife’s gone out. Short of calling a friend and talking their ear off (one who isn’t back at work), blogging about it seems to have done the trick.

But when I close my laptop and stand up, what next? My goal for the day is: be entertained. Well, my PS4 just blinked. I could go back and put another ungodly amount of hours into Stardew Valley as I did yesterday. And then there’s that book about Bowie I got for Christmas oh god it’s happening again.

Setting a goal, analysing the simplest route towards it, the one that will expend the least amount of time, energy and stress, and working towards it. That’s a start. Polishing off the rest of my selection box? Aye, why not.

Game retail stores are charging for Playstation VR demos

We all know how I feel about the chain of video game shops known simply as Game. (In case you don’t, here’s a quick refresher.) But their latest attempt to bring virtual reality to the masses is sort of taking the piss a bit.

Game shops Call of Duty

Per the Retail Gazette, branches of Game are offering customers the chance to try out the brand new Playstation VR suite; a pretty impressive bit of kit by all accounts. Even I’m intrigued after my own brush with the future at my friend’s stag go last year.

So what do you do in order to sample some Sony VR action? Simple: pay Game a fiver for ten minutes’ play.

Woah, hold up. They’re charging for this?

Yep. Five quid. Ten minutes. And probably some impatient taps on your shoulder, or else just the system shutting down before you’ve really had a chance to get cracking with some sweet tech.

VR in demand

Okay, I get it. This stuff is in demand, and at a hefty £350 (plus Playstation Camera, sold separately) there’s not a lot of people can expect to wake up with this in their stocking come Christmas Day (oh god, I said it). And with all their financial troubles of the past, you can see why Game themselves would be hesitant to back up the VR delivery lorry without some indicator of how many they’ll sell.

But asking people to part with (for me) a completely unreasonable amount of money for only ten minutes’ trying out the Playstation VR is just a bit too much.

Firstly, Sony themselves have been trialling the hardware at venues all over the country, and haven’t tried charging anyone for the privilege.

Secondly, we’re talking about a company which is now accepting pre-orders on a game that isn’t out for another whole year. One whole year for you to give them your money, knowing full well that their line of credit is drying up faster than the craft beer tent at Burning Man, and they might not be around long enough to honour it.

Robbing Peter to pay Paul

The age-old art of robbing Peter to pay Paul is something Game has excelled at in recent years, and having barely survived last Christmas is now back to the same old tricks. Other British retailers without the ability to get advance payments on product has seen the likes of Woolworths and Comet close their doors.

But being able to live through another trying Christmas period via something seemingly so socially acceptable as a video game pre-order is just a false economy. And again, it’s bad enough to be done months in advance, but Rockstar’s announcement of a ‘Fall 2017’ release means players are AT LEAST ten months away from seeing any return on their investment of right now.

game retail pre order red dead redemption 2 announcement

For their part, Game claims that charging players to sample Playstation VR is all part of keeping dedicated staff available and on hand to help you demo the gear. I’d liken it to taking a test drive at a car showroom; the guys are there to try and sell you the car in the first place, so why should you be saddled with the financial burden of taking it for a spin?

And while I admire Game members of staff for their tireless pursuit of a sale, I find it annoying enough to barely break the one-minute mark in a branch of the shop without being asked if I’m alright, and what do I play? (Unless I clearly don’t look to them as if I belong there, in which case they shouldn’t be making those assumptions anyway.)

But let’s not forget either that anyone who buys the Playstation VR following on from that demo will have the price knocked off. Thank god for that, my ludicrously-priced hardware will have a fiver knocked off!

Retail’s been going through some very tough times of late, and with the whole Brexit bollocks kicking off it looks like there’ll be even more to come. But with stunts like this, it’ll be harder for some than others once customers start voting with their wallets.

Five Halloween costumes for couples

So, obviously I’ve been sorely lacking in blog posts lately, please do forgive the gap but I’m going through a bit of a ‘writing different stuff / lacking decent ideas’ phase.

Upfront honesty: I’ve never been the biggest fan of this whole Americanisation of a good old pagan holiday. I probably haven’t actually cared about Halloween since my last disappointing neighbourhood trick or treat run as a child. But steadily over the years, seeing the excitement of grown-ass men and women getting dressed up as their favourite spooky characters for a night on the town has finally got me convinced that this year it might be worth a go.

Since I did a marry  I’ve been trying to think of the best way that me and my lady together could pull off a great Halloween couples’ costume idea. So here are five, completely off the top of my head and 80% not actual couples, but still great double acts all the same.

Super Mario Bros.

Super Mario Bros.

If you’re both sticklers for colour-coordination then this first choice should see you right. Celebrate one of the best video games of all time by dressing up as Italian plumbers – but not any old Italian plumbers, obviously. Also obviously, you will need at least one fake moustache.

Buffy & Angel

Buffy the Vampire Slayer & Angel

Looking to hit the town as a fictional power couple? Add some bite to the traditional night out by setting yourself up as the Slayer and her favourite squeeze. And for extra geek cred, bring along a ‘Smile Time’ puppet version of Angel! Alternatively, blond dudes may prefer to go for Spike – dodgy Cockney accent optional.

Mr Robot and Elliot

Mr Robot Christian Slater

I got the flash of inspiration for both this post and the Halloween costume for me and my wife when I bought a black hoody the other day. Mr Robot has been unmissable Thursday night viewing during this second season, and I think it would make a very good conversation piece – especially if either of you fancied talking to yourself during the course of the night without fear of social awkwardness.

Bill & Ted

Bill and Ted costumes

Inspired by watching Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey earlier tonight, I do think this would make a great Halloween costume for couple – if not one of the most difficult to nail down. Where exactly does one get their hands on a red and orange jacket with a yellow smiley face on the back, anyway?

Clowncore

It’s a pretty striking idea for a couples’ costume at Halloween, but even better in a social emergency. If you’ve always wanted to gather up eight mates and go to a party as the members of Slipknot, but two of you arrived as the Clown, it’s easily fixed – just tell everyone you’re Clowncore instead.

Are you thinking of teaming up for a super-effective Halloween couples’ costume? Let me know in the comments!

Creating for its own sake

I don’t really know where to start.

I’ll start with what someone else said while he was trying to come to terms with a big decision. (We’ll miss you, Murf:)

“I do not want to feel like every single activity or experience I do needs to be carefully screened in case I can extract a blog post out of it.”

Life vs stuff

Whenever I get deep enough into a new game (No Man’s Sky), or halfway through the book I’m reading (Fight Club 2), my mental focus shifts itself from consuming what it is I’m actually experiencing into how I’d explain those feelings in a blog post.

being creative

Basically before I’ve finished seeing, reading or hearing something, I’m already reviewing it in my head in case I can drag a good 500 words out of the experience. And because of this (albeit small) mental shift, I feel like maybe I’m missing out on enjoying something for its own sake.

When I first started playing and absolutely loving No Man’s Sky, I knew it would inspire me to write a post I could be proud of – but that’s still somewhat missing the point. If you’re playing the game yourself, or are still trying to decide whether or not it’s worth a purchase, you’ll already have that information in hand. Not saying my views will sway you either way – it’s possible they actually could because everyone sees things differently – but that would not be my chief aim.

But because Alpha Signal Five has become less about the life experiences, and more about the stuff experiences, I’ve always got an eye on the next published post rather than the next finished book or completed game. I never really noticed it until just recently and, truthfully, it slightly diminishes the return I get from consuming stuff in the first place. It isn’t my intention to tell anyone anything, more just to put the words out there for my own benefit.

Express yourself

For me, writing is a way to express myself because it’s too difficult to do out loud. When I used to do stand-up, I found writing the material was so much more satisfying than actually being onstage delivering it. More often than not I’d mess up a set-up or punchline because it looked much better on paper.

As long as I continue to have something to say, it makes things easier. But it feels less and less worthwhile to post reviews on what I play or read or watch. That’s nothing to do with the sheer amount of material online doing the exact same thing – I never minded that there’s a hundred thousand other bloggers pressing Publish on their NMS reviews right this second – but just of how little relief I’ve recently started to feel for pressing Publish myself. It used to be a means to an end; a way to wrap up all the feelings and thoughts I had about something, post it online and be done with it.

Because I want to be more creative, though, maybe that’s not the way to go about it. Maybe all those thoughts and feelings need to stay a bit more loose and flowing in my head, so I can try and fashion something out of them for my own more creative purposes.

Example: I’ve been trying to write a script about video gamers for a few months now. I’ve been watching as many documentaries and reading as many books on the subject as I can – from death by addiction to eSports players – in an attempt to shape something together. If I were just to review those programmes and books, then I’d feel like I was done with them when publishing each post, and I don’t want to be done with them.

“God, Kermode, your hands are MASSIVE”

Nor did I ever want to be a reviewer; I just wanted to see new things and use this site to squee about the best ones. But looking back it’s as clear as day, right down to the final paragraph where I’ll invariably sum up by saying whether or not I recommend it.

Outside of telling my friends “aww mate, you NEED to watch that” (Mr Robot), I don’t want to place myself anywhere near a spot which may or may not go towards making up your mind whether or not to do or buy something. It isn’t me.

I just need an outlet. I’ll always need an outlet. I’ve even started making music on my laptop. But I don’t know if that’s the right one either. So I suppose I’ll just keep trying to find the right one. I need to read and write for their own sake, and adjust my own expectations of creating.

Forgive the jumble. I kinda needed to get that off my chest.

Pokemon Go, by a filthy casual

No intro necessary – you know all about Pokemon Go by this point.

Pokemon Go review

But if there’s one thing I can say about Pokemon Go, it’s that the sheer dedication displayed by some of my fellow local players is both tremendously encouraging and horribly frustrating.

Encouraging because, wow, absolutely everybody is playing it; from the surly teenagers outside my nearest supermarket to the surly adults standing in the town centre between two lures.

Frustrating because, as a thirty-something with grown-up responsibilities and…well, things I’d actually rather be doing than playing Pokemon Go, it occurs to me that I’ll never get anywhere close to achieving anything in-game.

(I held a gym overnight last week, not long enough to gain any XP but still long enough to feel somewhat accomplished. Oh, and this gym was in Mexico – I was on my honeymoon; my wife was only annoyed that she got booted from it sooner than me.)

In-game annoyances

I won’t even bother to get into an overview of the game, mostly because if you’re reading this you’ve either got no wish to know, or you’ve just closed the app down yourself when you came home for the day. Suffice it to say, for me there’s still a few niggling issues to be worked out. I cannot reasonably allow it to murder my phone battery as much as it does, and my GPS is quite patchy – though I realise these are both potentially caused by my smartphone as much as the app itself.

No, the real annoyances come in the game. The memes have done the rounds, but the best jokes are funny because they’re true – I’m sick of the fucking sight of Pidgey. Even when I drop a bloody lure, they’re there in their droves.

Pokemon Go Pidgey

Seriously. I despise it. It can’t be healthy how much I wish harm upon it every time the useless fucker pops up on my screen, and how it manages to escape the trap so much considering how bloody many of them there are. Surely rarer Pokemon than this shouldn’t be easier to catch?

Another issue I have – definitely mine and not the game’s – is that I feel like an absolute hypocrite every time I take my phone out and don’t watch where I’m walking, because I FUCKING HATE those people. At least now there’s a good cause for it, but I have never understood the need to do that before. It’s just an awful habit.

I’ve got to say though, once you can get past these things, the concept itself is absolutely amazing. Catching Pokemon out in the real world? Seeing so many great stories online of making new friends and – in some cases – even taking those scary steps outside to play? It’s a beautiful thing, and while the world continues to fall apart around us with Brexit this and bombing that, having this one beautiful thing in our lives right now is actually pretty great.

But seriously though, fuck Pidgey.

 

 

 

 

 

TNA Final Deletion – the hot take

Editor’s Note: This piece was written by guest writer Anton Krasauskas, who has little to no prior knowledge of TNA Wrestling – but then, who does?

TNA’s ‘Final Deletion’ is a lost collaboration between the creative minds behind Sunset Beach. It was directed by Ridley Scott and contains the last known work by legendary animator Ray Harryhausen. Unfortunately, all the footage that was shot was eaten by Ridley Scott, one sunny afternoon in January of 2016.

Fortunately one master copy survived. It was being sent to a processing laboratory in California to be printed. Unfortunately the laboratory was attacked by the Kraken from Clash of the Titans due to a dispute over royalties between the Kraken and Harryhausen. Harryhausen was killed during the altercation and never recovered.

Having already spent the entire budget, lost their one-man special effects team and being unable to remember the phone number for Ridley Scott, the remaining crew of six was out of options. So they did what they could and and broke into a house to film what they could remember of the script.

The actor who originally played Matt Hardy died on the Titanic, and so the crew taped six cats to a bear and taught it to speak in a Mexican accent. One of the cats died during filming, but no-one seemed to notice.

TNA Wrestling Final Deletion

Michael Sheen, the actor who played Maxel, was very happy to come back for reshoots, but insisted that everyone on set pretend it was his 1st birthday. The lit candle on the cake shocked one of the cats playing Matt Hardy into delivering its lines early. So the crew just started shooting and went with it, leaving the entire scene in the finished production.With the deadline for release fast approaching, the team felt it necessary to keep a raw “rough and ready” approach to the project, which can be seen in the final edit.

Senor Benjamin owned the building that the crew had broken into to shoot the film. Over the course of the morning he constantly asked the crew why they were in his house and who they were. One of the cats playing Matt Hardy took an instant dislike to the man and poisoned him. The final time we see Senor Benjamin, we are actually looking at the body of a man who had been dead for almost fifteen hours.

Jeff Hardy, still coming to terms with the death of his brother on the 14th April 1912, agreed to reshoot the film in his honour.

In the original script there had been a tense and acrobatic showdown between the brothers, both armed with bazookas and flamethrowers. The script called for them to fight across the skyline of downtown Manhattan, ending with a showdown in Times Square where they would cause millions of dollars worth of property damage and commit several counts of public disorder and indecent exposure. But on such a tight schedule they had to improvise with some fireworks that they found in a shed, a nearby tree and a dilapidated boat. The dilapidated boat section was completely ad libbed on the spot and the new director, a local horse, decided to keep the scene in the final cut, signalling its approval by stamping its foot three times and biting a small child on the face.

During the scene where the brothers fight by the water there was intended to be a battle involving a giant octopus and the legendary Leviathan, in which the brothers would become embroiled, eventually leading to the deaths of the octopus, the Leviathan and Matt Hardy. However, if you look closely at the scene you might see a masked figure leap out of the water and attempt to choke Matt Hardy with a flag. This man was not affiliated with the project in any way whatsoever, and Psychic Detectives later confirmed that there had been sightings of “Mictlantecuhtli”, the Aztec god of Death. During the struggle, the cat-swathed bear threw off its attacker and, in an unreleased scene, mauled the death god, swiping its face clear away from its head. The cat who had done away with Senor Benjamin hatched a plan to hide the body in the costume of the death god, mercilessly slaughtering two birds with one stone.

In the final scene there was intended to be a pitched battle between the two brothers that would descend into a vicious brawl. But instead of the planned and choreographed fight, the bear decided to snatch a candle from the actress playing Matt’s wife and burn the entire place to the ground. Jeff Hardy was shocked by the sudden and unexpected change to the planned scene and fell off a ladder, landing awkwardly on a mattress covered in sand and dying instantly. No-one on the crew had any inkling that he had been allergic to sand, and had they known this, they probably wouldn’t have used that sand pit that just happened to be there.

All in all, it is a miracle that this project ever came together the way that it did. And though there were numerous deaths and maulings during that fateful day in June of 2016 it would go down in history as the day that some people tried to relive their glory days in somebody’s back yard and wished they hadn’t bothered.

Also, that xylophone was fucking delightful.

England Football Songs: Nostalgic Epilogue (1996)

I’ve just watched a documentary about Euro 96 and had another round of the battle to realise that nostalgia is no excuse for not living your life.

It’s a bit of a sour point, today; something I didn’t really need to realise if I’m honest. Today would have been my dad’s birthday and I feel guilty for having a surprisingly okay day at work.

But one thing the BBC has always been great at, long-lived institution that it is, is looking back through its own field of vision to pull out the vivid memories you didn’t realise you remembered.

Paul Gascoigne dentist chair euro 96

The 1996 European Championship kicked off 20 years ago, on this very day.

My dad was pissed off because we were gonna be late getting home from the weekly shop in time for kick-off. It was his 41st birthday.

(The day’s lottery numbers were 11, 15, 17, 25, 32 and 46. The bonus ball was 29. I don’t remember this – that would be fucking mental if I did – but Google’s a wonderful thing.)

‘Pissed off’ may be a bit strong – that was reserved for the Saturday afternoons between August and May when Leeds were doing poorly – but I remember the drive home, and a news report on the radio at 3pm saying the match was underway.

The first of England’s group games, against Switzerland, finished 1-1. That is all I remember of the game itself, but the build-up to the tournament was spectacular.

I’ve talked about it before in my popular (as of last week according to WordPress) series about England Football Songs, but my 11-year old mind was blown by the sweeping optimism blowing up and down these shores. Not just about the football – we were alright, but we were nothing without Gazza – but about the place in general.

New Labour were parked up outside Number Ten, waiting for the Tories to stop pissing about with the furniture and hand over the keys; and the charts were filled with chest-beating Britpoppers chasing out the last vestiges of dreary, introspective, Americanised pop and alt-rock. Things just have not been the same since. But that’s the nostalgia talking.

Collapsed Lung – Eat My Goal

In terms of footballing merchandise, I’d made a deal with the devil that was Coca-Cola. For the low low price of a couple of dozen ring pulls (and more than a couple of fillings in my teeth) I touted a red t-shirt with the slogan ‘Eat Football, Sleep Football…”. Except…well, I didn’t, not really. But a popular chart combo played on the Coke adverts named Collapsed Lung had me convinced otherwise.

They say you never forget where you were when the really important things happen. Like the time I came out of band practice just in time to see Zinedine Zidane bid adieu to his glittering career with an awesome headbutt. I certainly remember where I was on the day that I’m specifically not going to talk about. And the other one too.

But at the age of eleven you’re just not sure what’s going to turn out to be an important thing, or what the important things even are to you. When I was eleven, shit, now that I’m thirty-one, I feel like there’s vastly more important stuff going on that I’ll never comprehend.

What I remember from Euro 96

I remember Paul Gascoigne’s goal against Scotland, a beautiful thing. I also remember just as well David Seaman’s penalty save from Gary McAllister, because Macca was the Leeds captain and seeing him being capable of missing a pen was like finding out there’s no Father Christmas.

I bought the official release of the Netherlands game on VHS, and I watched it a lot, but I still only really remember that Shearer goal – and I remembered that from the first time around anyway.

I remember nothing about Spain in the quarters. A nostalgic media more than filled those gaps in for me because Stuart Pearce scored a penalty. The whole narrative of the costly miss at Italia ’90 against Germany meant absolutely nothing to me at the time, so this wasn’t a thing.

And I do remember watching England go out on penalties to the Germans in 1996. I remember not really caring, but I don’t remember how my dad felt. He’s not the sort (fuck, I actually used present tense there, I’m leaving that in because I need a sign that today has buggered me up even in some small way) to make a big deal of it, because it was only penalties, and it was only England.

I remember being away with school on the night of the final, and overhearing two teachers talking about the result the next day. And not really caring.

Memory ache

The documentary I watched just now, keen to jam in a song from ’96 to suit every mood, played Lou Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’ just as everyone’s face fell after Southgate missed the important penalty. I don’t see anything remotely perfect about it even now.

The programme – well, it wasn’t anything to write home about. I was going to write a review of the whole thing but there really wasn’t much to it. Glorified clip show with new insight from the players, and a vast overuse of Three Lions, of course – even if the show actually did have 2016 Baddiel and Skinner on it.

But where it succeeded was in harking back to the heady days of 1996, with…well, clip-show portions and talking heads. But among its very many strengths, the BBC is very good at making me realise that I’m a sucker for nostalgia, as are most people I’m sure.

Nostalgia means time-pain or something, right? My prognosis is not good. I really need to work on that.

That’s probably the last of the England Football Songs column for a good while now; I’m not even sure if they bother releasing official efforts any more. But you can take a look back at the series by clicking here.