hidetaka miyazaki



‘Almost’ is an interesting word. When I was at school, dressed in paper-thin sports kit and forced to run the circumference of the playing field at the behest of sadistic P.E. teachers, the mental reassurance of ‘almost there’ was just powerful enough to keep an unfit nerd from keeling over. On the other hand, all the guys who ‘almost’ reached the summit of Everest before dying a frigid death – well, that just sucks.

Getting close to success before failing miserably is one of the worst things a human being can experience, along with anything Minions-related and dragging your scrotum across broken glass. It’s a feeling that crops up all too often in video games, as players accidentally and idiotically leap into a hole right before the end of a level, or get wasted by a troublesome boss with only a sliver of its health bar left.

The latter example is perhaps the most frustrating, scream-inducing, controller-throwing occurrence that can happen in a game, and no series knows that better than Dark Souls. Yesterday, I spent around two and a half hours dragging my balls over the broken glass that is Dark Souls III’s Dancer boss, and I’m glad no one else was in the house because I must have sounded like James Bond in Casino Royale’s torture scene.

As the twirly-swording bastard repeatedly and metaphorically hit me in the groinal area with a knotted rope, I managed to ‘almost’ defeat it numerous times. With only a few stabs needed to bring it down, I could smell victory like a dog can smell anuses, but the proximity of success only made the prospect of failure more worrying. Trembling, with beating heart in overdrive, I desperately rolled and rolled and rolled to avoid the boss’ flailing arms, praying to the deified Hidetaka Miyazaki that I might survive just long enough to land that final blow… But Miyazaki is a cruel spirit, and with the fear of imminent death lingering in my broken mind, I got sliced apart like a melon and had to start all over again.

Though I grunted like a tennis player and swore under my breath, the controller creaking in my vice-like grasp, I didn’t give up. Part of me wanted to rage quit, turn off the console and ride away into the sunset, but I didn’t. I sat there on my sofa a resolute warrior, like Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai, and powered through the hours as the Dancer taunted me with its deadly ballet.

Like everything else in this marvellous series, I had to appreciate its exquisite design, but in those moments I hated the Dancer with a burning passion. Death was too good a fate for that prick. I didn’t, however, hate the game. The Souls series, including Lovecraftian spin-off Bloodborne, are infamous for their high level of difficulty, but (and I apologise, because literally every Souls fan yammers on about this) it is never unfair.

While they seem like it at times, no boss is impossible, with each one presenting you with a series of attack patterns that can be learned and reacted to accordingly. When you first encounter your adversary, you’ll get wiped within seconds like a pooper in a hurry, but as your mincing becomes as prolonged and repetitious as a John Cage composition, you’ll start to pick up on clues that will help you read the boss’ behaviour.

With time, these get wired into your brain, and you’ll start surviving longer. The boss will still deal out an obscene amount of damage, and have more HP than the HP Sauce factory, but you as a player will improve. There’s a lot riding on your skills of course, as a single cock-up or break in concentration will turn you into dungeon pizza, but knowing that gives a sense of personal, meaningful progression that few other games can boast.

Every time you almost win, and it feels like that little chip of boss HP is judging you as you fade into a loading screen, the crushing disappointment is always accompanied by a powerful determination. You may have just been kicked down for the umpteenth time, but that ‘almost’ victory reassures you that you are ‘almost there’. Just roll a little earlier; be a bit more defensive. Use the environment to your advantage. Play better.

Even when it feels like you’re freezing and suffocating to death atop a mountain, remember to listen to the sweaty, shorts-wearing kid inside your head.

You got this.

And thus endeth the Word of Tom.

Here’s my triumphant fight with the Dancer in full. Get rekt.


Video: 2015 in Gaming


Back in September I applied for a writing job with legendary video games website VideoGamer.com. To my excitement, I managed to make it all the way through the application process to the interview stage.

And so it was one chilly October morning that I traveled to the Big Smoke on a rather pricey train journey to meet and be interviewed by the VG team. Though there was some stiff competition and I ultimately didn’t get the position, I was given some useful feedback that has definitely encouraged me even more to pursue a career in this stuff!

The application required me to complete two game-related tasks: one game guide (which you can read here) and one free task in which I was asked to talk about five games I have played this year in any way I see fit. After much non-nit-related head-scratching, I decided to carry this out in video form, so I grabbed a couple of friends and a plastic axe and ventured outside to pretend to be a television presenter and be stared at by many a Newport chav.

Considering that busyness and workery left me only one day for script-writing and one for filming, and that the editing process made my elderly laptop attempt seppuku, the finished video actually turned out pretty well, and I didn’t get stabbed by a Newport hoodie.

I’d like to say a massive thank you to Rhys Jones, who calmly put up with me fudging my lines for hours, and Ben Morris, who, as well as having an idea involving goats, pulled off a trick in Rocket League that I will never be able to match in my entire life. Both of them gave up their time at very short notice to help me out, so for that I’m incredibly grateful. I’d also of course like to thank Tom Orry and VideoGamer for giving me such a fantastic opportunity, and for being generally awesome people.

Without further ado, here’s the video. Enjoy!

Music used:

Tom Durbin – ‘Wadi’ & ‘Tiye’ from KV55 EP

BEAMSTAR – ‘Dreams of a Distant Coast’ & ‘Hollywood Air’ from Coastal Dreams

And thus endeth the Word of Tom.

Weekly Games News – 13/11/15

friday 13th

Murder! Money! Collector’s Editions! It’s my pick of the games news from the past week. Please feel free to not read it, but know that you will never be welcome here again. (more…)

This is Not a Toy: My Top 5 Narrative Experiences in Games


Games have come a long way since the days of Asteroids and Pong, an even longer way since the days of Cup and Ball and Hitting a Big Ring With a Stick to Keep it Rolling and certainly an immeasurably long way since the days of Do Poo in Hand and Throw Far for Win Best Cave. Now, with seemingly everyone and their mums playing them in some form (sadly Candy Crush SagaFarm Hero Saga and Decaying Corpse Pile Saga count), video games are said to be bigger than the movie and music industries, and Swedish dudes who make computer Lego get to live in lovely big houses in LA. Some are even played as sports, and tournaments allow players to win huge sums of cash (I very much recommend watching the excellent documentary Free to Play).

Unfortunately, there are still some people out there who think that video games are toys to be played with by children, albeit little scumbags who enjoy shouting eloquent things like ‘fuk you fag i am a better nosc0per than you i am a army sniper with 30000000 confirmed kills retard i shit in your mums mouth’. Though it is a sad truth that this is the case, with too many parents apparently blind to the big ’18’ label stamped across the games they buy for the – to quote Mark Renton of Trainspotting – ‘selfish, fucked up brats [they] spawned to replace [themselves]’, proper gamers like you and me know that games can be so much more.

I’m sure many people of mine and previous generations who have grown up with games have heard something along the lines of ‘stop playing that rubbish, read a book instead’. What is that supposed to mean? A book is a form of entertainment just as is a movie and indeed a game, the difference being that when reading a book or watching a movie you are an observer to the story, whereas in a game you get to take part. A novel can be described as escapism but it can never put you personally into the experience in the same way as playing a video game (though some have tried – the brilliant Mr B. Gone by Clive Barker for example, a book in which a demon magically speaks directly to you, the reader, through the words on the page). It is because of this that gamebooks such as Steve Jackson’s and Ian Livingstone’s Fighting Fantasy series became all the rage in the 1980s. Take a novel, add player choice, dice rolling and plenty of unfortunate, grisly deaths and sleep on a nice big mattress stuffed with wads of cash. It can in fact be argued that games are the very best way to tell a story, as the audience involvement is naturally more powerful.

I have already discussed video game immersion in a previous blog post, so today I want to talk about narrative experiences in games. The titles I have chosen for this top 5 list are all examples which I believe any gamer should be proud to show a disbelieving non-gamer as proof that their hobby is worthwhile, proof that games are just as important as movies and, probably, a bit better. Perhaps they are even proof that games are an art form – a somehow-controversial debate that is, for some reason, still raging on like one of those nosc0per kids who’s just been spawn-killed.

Alternatively, you could just see these as five bangin’ games which you absolutely must play. Your choice. (more…)