shadow of the colossus

A Colossal Pain in the Neck

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When I sold my PlayStation 2, I sold a piece of my heart with it. Being neck deep in the Xbox 360 phenomenon at the time, and playing such great games as Lost Odyssey and Bioshock (the latter of which I never actually finished after a friend ‘kindly’ spoiled the twist for me), I didn’t think I would miss it. How wrong I was, for with the console also disappeared some of the first games I ever genuinely loved.

I can remember well the first time I was properly excited for a game. It must have been around 2002, when ten-year-old Tom was discovering the magic of gaming through his swanky new PS2. It was my first console, having only previously owned a trusty GameBoy Colour, and the effect it had on me could be likened to the Spanish discovering America. No, not the brutal pillaging of the native population, but the window into a whole new world of opportunities. That, and a demo disc featuring some game called Airblade, which I definitely gave more time than it probably deserved.

Anyway, demo discs were, as Super Hans says of crack cocaine, really moreish, and I soon started building up my collection of official PS2 mags. I would put hours upon hours into these little game snippets every month, playing demos for games like War of the Monsters religiously until I could fork out the pocket money to buy the actual game. Aside from the demos though, it was all about screenshots. In the ages before YouTube and video reviews, these little squares were portals into the games of tomorrow, teasing us to the point where we just had to see them in motion.

One day, I opened an issue and saw the coolest thing my little eyes had ever seen – Devil May Cry 2. I’d never played the first installment, but I became totally consumed with these images and counted down the days until the game’s release. When I finally played it, it was everything I ever hoped it could be and more, and it completely changed the way I felt about video games. After I rinsed it, I bought the original Devil May Cry and my first proper gaming obsession was born. Along with Yu-Gi-Oh! cards, it’s probably one of the main reasons I’m such a disgustingly massive nerd.

Post-DMC, images of another, more unusual game began to captivate me, and its eventual demo sold me on my next fixation. This was a title that changed my views on gaming in another, very different way, and is still one of my favourite games of all time. It was, of course, Team Ico’s majestic Shadow of the Colossus. (more…)

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

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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…)