Sunday, 13 May 2012

On Stuff 13/05/2012

The Crushing and Inevitable Weight of Reality Bearing Grimly Down, For Real This Time

Previously I wrote that, with caveats, my blog posting output hadn't been too shabby compared with my stated aims, but March and April have been less than stellar months on that front, yielding a single, solitary post each. In March I was away for a little while, and generally had a busy time of it, while April has been a less than stellar month on pretty much all fronts, something that I don't plan to talk about here except to say that I should have a bit more time for blog output in the future and I haven't lost my job. Go figurise.

What's annoying is that I have had ideas, but lacked the time or energy to write about them, and alleviating that situation was, I think, my biggest motivation for starting this blog. Here's hoping that in the coming weeks worthwhile pieces can be moulded out of my festering, deeply suspect idea-putty, or at least that I try to do so and decide for good that some of it smells a bit off and probably needs to go in the bin.

On One Festering, Deeply Suspect Idea

One such idea that didn't, and wont, come to fruition was a post about revisiting the past. My trip in March was to York, where I lived until I was about ten years old, and I also recently got back in contact and met up with a friend I haven't seen in around five years. This was supposed to fit in with some retro style games I was playing, as well as the - on hold - Neverwinter Nights playthrough project. I was also going to talk about Kickstarter and the renaissance of some genres and themes in gaming that have been dead, or at least under the radar, for a while.

In the end though, while the coincidence of shared theme was definitely there in all these topics, there wasn't really a shared conclusion or enough common ground to make something coherent out of the idea. The closest I get to that goal is how weird and interesting it was to go back to York - a place I had experienced and remember as a very different, much younger person - and see it with fresh eyes and as an older person, and contrast this with whether Neverwinter - a virtual place - feels similarly odd to revisit as my older, hopefully wiser self.

Really, though, the games I was playing and to a large extent the Kickstarter phenomena hark back to someone else's gaming past, not mine. Compared to many of the people writing about these things I'm very young, and the nostalgia they talk of calls on gaming that was already history when I got there. I got serious about gaming with Spiderweb's games, Red Alert 2, the Civ series, Neverwinter and Freelancer. None of those have really gone away to be able to have a renaissance, except the explory-shooty-in-space genre of Freelancer, which shows irritating few signs of a return to fashion. The point is that the games industry revisiting certain bits of its past in various ways doesn't have that much to do with me revisiting my past.

On Something That Isn't Computer Games

But wow, it was weird going back to York. Ten year old me remembered huge, imposing buildings and a massive city, whereas twenty three year old me found everything a whole lot smaller and closer together. My school, for instance, is remembered as a tall, pristine, towering, terrifying block of brick. The reality was a slightly shabby, stubby Victorian building housing a standard city primary.

I also had no idea, and remember never having any idea, how everything was laid out and fitted together, whereas after a short time on Google Maps and a weekend walking around the city I could easily navigate the centre. I think this may be a much more recent change though: I never learned much about the geography of Birmingham while I was at uni there, but since moving to London I've become much better at navigating, exploring and learning the layout of places.

Strangest of all were the people. York is still home to many close family friends who were a big, big part of my childhood. In the intervening years I've still seen them many times, but less and less as time has passed, and always alongside my parents rather than without. What was strange was adapting a previously child-adult relationship to the fact that we're all now adults. For instance, as a child I didn't know - wouldn't have understood - what many of these people's jobs and careers were, and being people that I know closely it would be deeply bizarre to have to ask now. But there I was, not entirely sure what many of them do for a living.

On a more general level, it was simply difficult to know how to act towards people who could now be seen as peers, but probably, possibly still think of me as someone they looked after. It is, of course, the same thing we go through with our parents, only in that case the closeness of contact forces adaptation and acceptance and the continuousness of change means it's rarely perceptible as a discrete event, as it was for me returning to York. Strange on not, however, it was great to be back and I'm glad I went.

On Something Else That Isn't Computer Games

As I've touched on, this blog was conceived as thought repository and a writing practice area for whatever subjects came to mind, it just happens that a subject I enjoying thinking and reading about, have a lot of knowledge of and find it easy and fun to write about is gaming, therefore I've mostly posted about games so far. But it may not always be so, especially in these intermittent On Stuff posts where I just ramble on the subject of, er, stuff.

In that spirit: I've recently started playing guitar again, after a break of about eight or nine months, which has been a little bit wonderful. I had stopped playing due to a semi-broken amp and a lack of time and motivation, and while the first of those problems is still an annoyance, the other two are no longer holding me back. I'm fairly good - most non-guitarists seem fairly impressed when they hear me play - although as with all such pursuits there are levels and levels of skill and aptitude above my current proficiency that seem all but unreachable at the moment.

This time around I'm recording some videos of me playing and posting them to YouTube. This works in a similar way and serves a similar purpose to this blog: it's something I'm doing for myself with no particular audience in mind, but the act of making them publicly accessible acts as a motivation and reward, as well as hopefully a being a check and balance on the quality of what I'm doing, so that I know I'm not just producing crap with no one there to tell me so.

The fruits of my labour so far are:

A quick test vid

With A Thousand Words To Say But One, by Darkest Hour

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