Children of Men

Whereas the visuals for Hard Candy didn’t totally do it for me, Children of Men is a whole different thing. A very unforgiving look at how our modern society would destroy itself if the reins were let a bit loose. The movie has some problems with pacing and very unlikely resolutions to some situations, but it still well worth watching. The visual design is amazing and (in my opinion) deserves at least an Oscar for Cinematography.

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Hard Candy

After several recommendations, I finally watched the movie Hard Candy. It’s quite an interesting thriller, although certainly not without flaws and plot holes. There’s some debate about whether the film is about child abuse, or about vigilantes. I’ll post some thoughts on that in the comments, to avoid spoiling details in case you haven’t watched the film. The visual style is cool, but a bit too "designed" for my taste – MTV/videoclip aesthetics. It works well in that it supports the dry atmosphere of the whole movie.

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Ask and you shall be given

The good news is that Soul Calibur 2 Xbox is among the new batch of gamessupported by the 360 emulator. The bad news is that only the US version does. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr. I know that my brother and the other Ninjas keep working their asses to make this stuff happen, but sometimes I think I’m jinxed. I’ve never been much into fighting games, but the Soul Calibur was uniquely awesome and still my favourite. All the bumpmapped, shiny, bouncy glory of the DOA series still doesn’t get anywhere near what even the Dreamcast debut of Soul Calibur accomplished.

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When backwards compatibility goes wrong

After all the jabs that Sony threw on Microsoft for being unable to play ALL XBox games in its 360 backcompat emulator, someone decided to check how Sony’s efforts are much better. This video is the result, and does create serious doubts that anyone will want to play their PS2 games on a PS3. If they work at all, that is, because Sony has a list and even a database of their own.

Ok, I haven’t seen this with my own eyes so I reserve judgement. The video is probably biased in choosing specific graphics sequences that look bad for some reason or another; emulation is hard to get 100% right when developers do things in funky ways. These problems will probably be fixed in a future update. Just like the 360. So, why Sony’s animosity towards the Emulation Ninjas? At least they made their key games look even better on the 360. They just need to make Soul Calibur 2 run and I will be totally happy.

In this day and age of zero-day youtube visibility, anything that you fuck up in public can and will be recorded.

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XNA 1.0

Microsoft’s XNA Games Studio Express 1.0 has been released, opening the door (for a price) to homebrew XBox 360 development. Will it work, or flop like Sony’s PS1 Yaroze? $100 a year, lack of networking, and the inability of unsubscribed users to run your games are not homebrew-friendly features.

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The REAL casual gamers

My 2 sisters and my parents never really understood my brother’s and my own fixation with videgames. They mostly accepted it, understood it was something that we enjoyed, and at some point they were happy that we made successful (even if a bit rollercoaster-like) careers out of it. The closest thing they got to enjoying a videogame was watching me play Ico.

Marta was sometimes curious about some games when she was much younger, but since then she kind of felt that videogames were a terrible way to waste one’s spare time. It was not until very recently, when her husband Javier was given a Playstation 2, that she had a gaming device at home again. She still didn’t care much for it, but then he bought Lego Star Wars 2, and yesterday I showed her Loco Roco on a PSP.

Javier loves Lego Star Wars 2, and Marta has found that she loves watching him play. The game is wonderful: extremely polished, very respectful of the license we all grew up with, while visually fitting with the Lego designs. The developer, Traveller’s Tales, added a lot of funny details, the kind of things any of us might have role-played with our Legos or Star Wars toys. But more than anything, the game is a joy to experience. None of that "overcome this challenge" or "Game Over", just play and enjoy the puzzles, activities and jokes without stress. Next time I visit them I’ll give them a spare pad, because the game apparently supports two-player cooperative.

Even more interesting was her appreciation of Loco Roco. She picked the PSP and spent about one hour playing 6 or 7 levels, having fun at the whole thing and learning the ropes slowly. Initially she didn’t care much about picking all the stuff ("I have 7, that’s enough I don’t need more and the guy just grows bigger and fatter with them"), but after a while she bragged about finishing a level with 12/20. She has kept my PSP for a few days, and I’m sure she’ll be playing the game until the batteries run out. I expect her to be uninterested in learning all the things in the game, and to be turned off by more mundane tasks like saving the game and being repeatedly asked about overwriting the previous save file. Still, the whole evening was an eye opener for me about what videogames can mean to non-gamers like them. Intellectually I knew most of this, but seeing it happen in front of me was great.

We’re still quite far from removing all the classic "gamer" lingo and "hardcore" details from mainstream videogames, or achieving the ease of use of books, TVs and DVDs. But we can keep trying, because there’s a lot of people out there that are ready to drop some TV time in favor of games that appeal to them.

And I could definitely see them having fun with a Nintendo Wii in the near future. Xmas time… gifts… hm… 🙂

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