Monday, 20 August 2012

Never meet your heroes.

As you may have realised if you occasionally read this blog, I like to write. I wouldn't go so far as to call myself a writer at the moment, because as much as I like to write, I don't do it professionally. Like a lot of other folks waiting for their (hopefully) big break I work a day job.

And like many other writers, I have other writers who inspired me. Being a fantasy writer, I have all the traditionals like Tolkien, but I also grew up reading novels by a man called David Eddings. Recently, I torrented a copy of all of his works - don't judge me, I own most of them in actual book form, but its rather difficult trying to put books onto the the kindle app on my tablet; there isn't a big enough port to squeeze a 300 page book into.

One of the books was Eddings book of source materials and essays for his first two book series, the Belgariad and the Mallorean. I made the mistake of trying to read this.

Christ, I wish I hadn't. A more sneery, unpleasant opening to a book I have never read. I knew that Eddings made the decision to go into fantasy as a commercial one, but the fact that he tries to dicourage other writers from getting into writing fantasy smacked of a certain amount of trying to prevent competition in the market. On top of that, a whole load of the book comes across as pure intellectual snobbery. I was so irritated by his constant sneering references to "Papa Tolkien" that I eventually gave up and deleted it off my kindle. Hell I'm not the biggest Tolkien fan in the world, but I wouldn't disregard the fact that he was pretty much the founding father of modern fantasy.

On top of all this was the out and out patronisation of the early introductions. The attitude of "I'm a professional. The rest of you who want to write are just amateurs and will never match up to my accomplishments unless you follow the specific route I set out."

Now, I had a pretty damn good teacher when it came to learning how to build a fantasy world and he never felt the need to be this goddamn patronising and obnoxious about the whole process. (By the way, 2007? Has it really been that long? Christ.)

I never even got to the world building stuff, or the background texts that Eddings wrote for his stories. I gave up.

Never meet your heroes. Or read their non-fiction writings. Trust me on this one.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Why I liked the Mass Effect3 Ending (And why I can understand that some people didn't.)

See, the problem is all about individuality. That's the issue right there. The Mass Effect series built itself up as a series that thrived on the players individual choices, and then gave us three seemingly unconnected choices to the rest of the series when it came to the very end.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Sorry, I do that sometimes. SPOILERS FOLLOW.

The Vitriol that spawned in the depths of the interwebs after Mass Effect 3 came out was staggering in its intensity. People were complaining to EA and Bioware, ranting on Youtube and coming up with theories as to how it couldn't possibly be the real ending and they were all hiding it from us to make money of DLC. Since Bioware are now releasing a free DLC pack that expands on the endings, that holds a certain amount of water, but I don't think the "indoctrination theory" does. It's just a little too convoluted for my tastes, and a little over-reaching. I could be wrong, but hey.

I honestly think a lot of the reaction has been very overblown - some people are taking this game far too seriously; at the end of the day its still a game. I got called a "game hater" on twitter a while back fro daring to defend EA over some peoples reaction - a nifty trick for someone who started gaming on a tape drive Amstrad. People threatening to hit EA with lawsuits for false advertising and voting them the "Most evil company in the world" went somewhere beyond fanboyism into the downright asinine, but I can still understand where a lot of people were coming from. Yes, the Ending featured a pure and simple Deus Ex Machina (Something I'm not really opposed to) and yes, it didn't really feature a 'happy' ending (Which I suspect will be expanded upon in the free DLC) but I don't think that was really the issue.

I think, as much as anything else, the problem descends from the fact the choices aren't clear cut. If you click on that link to the indoctrination theory, it goes on about how Anderson is shown as the Renegade choice and the Illusive man is shown as the Paragon choice. What that says to me, rather than a convoluted theory, is that the game is illustrating that not everything is as cut and dry as we may like. Lets not forget, destroying the reapers would also destroy the Geth - who can be allies by that point - and of course, EDI. It's Genocide of a species. The second option is controlling the Reapers, but sacrificing Shepard's life to do so, again, not a clear cut choice. I'm enough of a completist that I also got the third option, to create the new form a life that was a synthetic-organic hybrid, therefore rendering the reapers obsolete.

Some people have pointed out that this is giving into the Reapers but I disagree: the Reapers seek to exterminate or dominate organic life. What the third option represents is peace between the two, but again, its not a clear cut choice.

It's a difficult decision, I sat there for a good few minutes before I made my choice. I won't tell you which one, but I was lucky in the fact that it actually fit into my style of playing. I can understand that for a lot of people that wouldn't have happened. My ending was bittersweet, certainly: I would have liked the happy ending with Liara and the "little blue children", but hey thems the kicks, and we can hope we get that closure in the expansion.

And that brings me back to my opening gambit: it's all about individuality. Those three endings weren't as bad as everyone thought, but they in no way matched up to the three games that came before them. Those game were based around long-standing choices that shook the universe; the final endings weren't. I still think the reaction was disproportional to the supposed offence, but I can understand where people are coming from. 

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Defending Marriage? Like hell you are.

So, I'm checking facebook on work today, and suddenly I see that one of my colleagues has answered a poll question. Nothing unusual in that, I hear you say, people answer poll questions on facebook approximately 17 million times per second.

The reason this one caught my eye was because it was on a page labelled "Protect Marriage: One Man, One Woman."

The question asked "which side are you on?"

The answers were

"Marriage = One man, One Woman"
"I support marriage equality."

So I sat there, looking at that question, and started to think to myself 'exactly what do I think of this issue?' To be honest, its not one I've paid an overly large amount of attention to. As I'm sure you can see from previous entries, fitting anything in amongst motorsport, writing and videogames is a bit of trial for me, so sitting there, trying to think of my point of view took a little while.

Now, I am a Christian - bear with me - but I try not to make too big an issue of it. I don't adhere to all church doctrine, and I sure as hell don't agree with every word the big papa in Rome hands down. But the whole principal behind a lot people citing that they're "Defending the Sanctity of Marriage" is that somehow gay marriage erodes the preciousness of the marriage between a man and a woman.

With all due respect, horseshit. I'm pretty sure Britney Spears and Kim Kardashian have done a hell of a lot more to erode the sanctity of marriage than any loving gay couple.

On the other hand, the recent debate laws that would force churches who disagree with gay marriage to allow same-sex weddings in their churches also smacks of a certain amount of political manoeuvring and has led to a lot of christians feeling like their hand is being forced.

So I sit there, as the rather limited minutes of my lunchbreak tick by, contemplating those two little options, and then I remembered something my wife mentioned in passing; The actual wedding between two people is conducted by the registrar, not the priest. It's when your name is entered in that record book that you're officially entered into the ranks of married. Sure, the church ceremony beforehand is nice and all, but the important bit is that ten or so minutes where the registrar takes your details.

And then I got onto thinking about Marriage itself. I've always held to the core belief that at the end of the day, the wedding itself isn't that important. Before my wife wallops me one, let me say that I loved our wedding, and it was the happiest day of my life thus far, but the important bit has come in the three years since, where we've been through trials, tragedies and many, many tribulations. And that's marriage.

SO I decided, yes, I am a defender of Marriage. But I'm not a defender of Religious Nutbars who want to maintain their exclusivity of the term, and I'm not a defender of the other side trying to score political points over the Religious Nutbars by trying to force them to do something they fundamentally disagree with.

I am, however, quite happy to defend marriage. Be that straight marriage, gay marriage, civil marriage, religious marriage or any other kind. Because you know what, a proper marriage doesn't start at the altar and end at the reception. Marriage is about two people - be that a man and a man, a woman and a woman or a man and a woman - who love each other enough to say "I want nothing more than to share the rest of my life with this person. I want to wake up in the morning and see there face, and I want to go to sleep at night seeing the exact same thing."

Marriage is about those people in love. It isn't about what God says - although I'm sure that if anyone actually bothered to ask God rather than deciding on his behalf, he'd be pretty cool with it - and it isn't about demanding others adhere to your view for the sake of it.

So I clicked the second option. I clicked "I support marriage equality." Because I do. People can do what they want for their wedding at the end of the day. Their wedding is not their marriage. But everyone, be they gay, straight or somewhere in between deserves the right to Marriage.