Gamebook store

Friday, 14 December 2018

Dave's and Jamie's Christmas party


Every year at this time, Jamie and I get together for a marathon gaming session at his computer, which is nicknamed "the Beast" either because it's the real McCoy or because it's heavy enough to use in a smash-&-grab raid on a cash machine. This is our opportunity to catch up on some computer games we've missed, so we download a bunch and work our way through until we find one worth sticking with. It has to be said that usually the best games are the indies: Inside, Papers Please, This War of Mine, Pathologic -- though we have been known to binge on hours and hours of The Witcher too.

This year our serendipitous find was What Remains of Edith Finch. We thought we were getting a horror game, but it's much more intriguing than that. There are elements of horror, but also black comedy, tragedy, innocence, loss, grief, identity, madness, pastiche, and the awareness of the precious fragility of life. It's superbly written and voice-acted and you can play the whole thing in a few hours. We really enjoyed it.


Also on the theme of madness was Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. We gave that an hour and then lost interest. Unaccountably it was about a 1st century BC Celt wandering around an 8th century AD Norse underworld -- called in the game not Niflhel, Hel or even Niflheim, but "Helheim", suggesting that historical research went no further than leafing through a heavy metal magazine. Still, you might like it if your paradigm of a game is a twenty-hour, one-note cutscene interspersed with occasional fights and arcade-style match-the-symbol tasks. Almost the opposite of Edith Finch in every respect, that.

And we finished off with Kingdom Come: Deliverance, a monumental CRPG set in the Holy Roman Empire during the reign of Wenceslas IV (most definitely not the one in the carol). It's so thoroughly researched that you could use the source material text to run a tabletop campaign, and in fact the absence of magic/fantasy reminded me of a purist Legend campaign. The writing and acting are excellent, and if I had a spare one hundred hours I'd throw myself into it with gusto.


Other recommendations if you're looking for last-minute Christmas presents are Gregor's Vuga's gem of a roleplaying game Sagas of the Icelanders, David Nicholls' miniseries Patrick Melrose (the best thing on TV this year), and Posy Simmonds' long-awaited new graphic novel Cassandra Darke (surely soon to be "a major motion picture" with Gemma Arterton).


And if it didn't have a price tag in the stratosphere I'd have treated myself to the White Album, my old vinyl copy being scratched to acoustic fuzz by too much use over the years. If you've never listened to it, don't dip in track by track like some pill-popping Megacity juve perp with ADHD. Put on each side in turn and just sit back. People say it's not a concept album, but ninety minutes later you'll think differently. Good night, good night, everybody.


28 comments:

  1. “Marathon gaming session” you and Jaimie are living the dream! Play on sir! Play on!

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    1. On Facebook recently, Matt Sanders was saying that he runs eight different RPG groups. That's 13 hours spent preparing or running games on a Saturday, 13 hours on a Sunday, then 16 to 20 hours over the week nights. So our fortnightly roleplaying sessions and annual gaming party looks kinda puny compared to that!

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  2. I'll stick to Donkey Kong, Up 'n' Down and Kung Fu Master on my arcade machine, if it's all the same, Dave!

    Criminally, I've never listened to The White Album, so will take you up on that instead (CD). My Dad has an early print, albeit not early enough to part pay the mortgage, unfortunately. As an aside, In My Life and Across The Universe (wildlife version) both get into my favourite songs list. I'd be interested to know your other desert island disks.

    Early Christmas best wishes.

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    1. Play what thou wilt, Andy, is the whole of the law.

      If we're just talking about popular beat combos, Hounds of Love (Kate Bush) and Myths & Legends of King Arthur (Wakeman) would both wind up on that shoreline with me, along with a fair bit of Pink Floyd, early Genesis, Dead Can Dance, and obviously Legend (Clannad) in case Man Friday turns out to be another roleplayer.

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    2. I'd certainly take some Floyd alongside The Beatles. I'd not heard of Dead Can Dance. They don't seem to have a best of, so care to recommend an album? Songs Of Sanctuary by Adiemus is worth a listen if you like Clannad.

      I'd have to take most of Brian Eno's ambient stuff. Some Bauhaus and Peter Murphy. XTC and OMD for the acronyms. After Murder Park (The Auteurs) and Mars Audiac Quintet in the obscure category. Violator (Depeche Mode) and Ok Computer (Radiohead) to tick the mainstream box. Oh, and I wouldn't leave the boat/plane without Jeff Wayne's The War Of The Worlds. No man, woman or ET gets left behind!

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    3. Wayne and Eno most certainly. Also Bowie (probably Heroes or Scary Monsters). Pretty much any Dead Can Dance -- they're more for a mood than distinctive tracks. But when I'm feeling eclectic I might spin anything from Abba to Shriekback.

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    4. My mate keeps on at me for not listening to Bowie more. That said, many years back I had my ugly mug in a local newspaper next to my favourite ten songs, of which Starman was one. I think I overplayed his compilations is the problem!

      I'll go with Dead Can Dance's third album, just on the basis that seems to be when most groups peak. Shriekback is another new one on me. I see they have a very loose link to XTC. Your candidness about Abba has inspired me, Dave. I STILL LISTEN TO ERASURE!

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    5. We need a movie that will do for Erasure what Mamma Mia did for Abba.

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    6. Ha! I actually felt quite liberated after telling you that. Though I'm not quite ready to bring Adam and The Ants and Stephen Tin Tin Duffy out of the closet just yet. Or that my favourite piece of music was Tetris on the Commodore 64.


      I'd better leave it there! Have a good one.

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  3. "A marathon computer gaming session..." sounds like a good way to kick-start Christmas ! With a 6 year old in our party however, we're going to have to stick with a Mariokart grand prix.

    I thought you might like to know I've been reading John Whitbourn's excellent compendium of modern-day (actually, ha ha, they're late 80s/early 90s aren't they - but part of me still thinks that a quarter of a Century ago is "the modern day") ghost stories...what do you think about maybe a Binscombe mini-series next Christmas, in this age of Netflix ?

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    1. Perhaps I should pitch it to Netflix, John. Or Amazon. In an earlier post I tapped Ian McShane as a possible Mr Disvan, but now he's played Odin I think that would seem cliched. David Warner, perhaps? Maybe too old. Jeremy Irons? Too tall. Hmm, this may be a three-pint problem.

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    2. Anthony Hopkins ? Gary Oldman ? Ah well, this is the season for solving three - and indeed, four or five pint problems- after all !

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    3. Oh, now Gary Oldman could do it. I've invited Mr Whitbourn himself to chip in with his own preferences, if any -- though he may well prefer to leave Mr Disvan to the readers' imaginations.

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    4. Good Morning.
      I wouldn't normally intrude to comment, but since you kindly asked...
      Having withdrawn from the contemporary world (no mean feat for a twenty-three stone man...), I can't think of a living actor, although the late Robin Bailey or the American(!) James Maxwell (in his latter years and Henry VII/'Shadow of the Tower' mode) spring to mind.
      However, there does chance to be an uncanny depiction of how I envisage Mr Disvan on a pub sign in Hull:
      https://www.pinterest.co.uk/pin/86483255315612694/
      Perhaps he paid a visit there, to liaise with Philip Larkin, and made a deep impression on the tribesfolk.
      But what do I know? 'Binscombe', having moved out into the wider literary world, is now (and rightly so) the imaginative property of all who choose to buy the books. All of whom, incidentally, my poor, starving children bless.
      Casting some of the subsidiary Binscombe Tales characters would be easier though. For instance, Nigella Lawson as Bridget Maccabi, the Anglo-Israeli woman-soldier afflicted with compulsions to suddenly disrobe. Although I suspect numerous casting sessions would be required to be absolutely sure she was right for the role.

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    5. Based on that pub sign, John, I was going to say that Tony Haygarth would be perfect for the part, at least as far as appearance goes, but research reveals that he died last year. Curses.

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    6. Funny, I had him down as Oliver Reed all the way. For the record, my favourite books of the last ten years, perhaps more. You have my thanks, Mr Whitbourn.

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    7. Dave, John, Andy - having just recently watched "Miracle on 34th Street" that pub-sign gentleman made me immediately think of Richard Attenborough; I appreciate that there is a slight mortality issue complicating his casting in the role, but perhaps in Binscombe that's less of a problem than elsewhere ?

      And Mr Whitbourn - thanks very much for your delightfully frightful stories; Dave introduced me to Binscombe through the excellent "Waiting for a Bus" but I'd particularly like to tip my hat to "One Careful Owner" - which lingers long in the imagination and has that effect upon the experience of walking through a dark house at night that all the best ghost stories do.

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    8. The chap on the pub sign is a dead ringer for Richard Attenborough. That was my first thought too, John. And Attenborough could have played the part brilliantly with the right blend of instability, danger, mischief and authority.

      Ollie Reed -- rather too big, I think, Andy. But as Mr Whitbourn says, it's every reader's right to have their own image of the characters.

      Paul Gilham suggested Robert Carlyle. Some of his past roles (Begbie, Rumpelstiltskin, Hitler) would bring an interesting frisson, but he needs another 10 years to age into the role. Paul also suggested Sylvester McCoy, but he's pushing 80 and in any case I can't to this day countenance watching any of his Dr Who episodes (excepting the regeneration into Paul McGann).

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  4. John, Andy - you may be interested in Mr Whitbourn's latest novel, the untold autobiography of King Farouk: "Nothing Is True..."
    https://www.amazon.co.uk/Nothing-True-First-Book-Farouk/dp/1791979327/

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    1. Thanks Dave, will have to check that out !

      PS I wondered if you have any Summoning Spells for other authors in your grimoire ? Next time we are discussing the Cthulhu mythos, should I not be surprised if a blogger using the designation "HPL" joins the conversation...?

      All the best to you and Roz for Christmas !

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    2. From the not dear departed list, the only person that kept popping into my head was Sylvester McCoy, bizarrely. However, I decided not to ramble for a change, so he was omitted. Quite a departure from Ollie admittedly. I hated his incarnation of Doctor Who at the time, Dave. I softened a bit when I revisited Doctor Who about ten years ago (albeit only about half of his had been re-released at the time.) Bad scripts and sidekicks were his undoing (ooh, that almost rhymed, the Singha beers are kicking in).

      If Mr Whitbourn had a quid for every time his other novels have been in an and out of my Amazon basket, his kids wouldn't be quite so deprived. Actually that also goes for the tales as well. It was only your recommendation of AJ Alan x amount of years ago that convinced me to chance my arm on them.

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  5. John, the shades of HPL and REH are welcome to join in anytime - and CAS and FBL, come to that.

    Andy, yes, to be fair to McCoy it's in large part the scripts and companions that got my goat. He was good in The Five(ish) Doctors Reboot, I'll give him that.

    And to both of you and everyone else out there: happy Christmas, and if you drop by in a couple of days there will be this year's freebie waiting for you.

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    1. Yes I heard the reboot was very good, but missed it unfortunately.

      Have a happy Christmas.

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    2. Thanks Dave ! Can I also suggest for our roster of welcome authorial ghosts of Christmas Past, JHV and RJZ ?

      Merry Christmas, one and all.

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  6. I never quite got on with Papers Please, but am very much looking forward to that studio's latest game which everybody seems to be raving about - Return of the Obra Dinn, where you play an insurance agent unravelling a Mary Celeste mystery.

    https://www.polygon.com/reviews/2018/10/19/18001242/return-of-the-obra-dinn-review-windows-pc-mac-steam

    For television my pick of the year is The Terror, an absolutely superb supernatural drama based on Dan Simmons' book about Franklin's lost expedition. One of the best (and most criminally overlooked) miniseries in years, and the kind of thing I imagine would be right up your alley. Trailer - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pjq7Gl_hhPY

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  7. I want to see The Terror, since I've long been interested in the Franklin expedition, and I see the cast includes Jared Harris. First of all I've got to overcome my aversion to subscription TV, though -- or they could release a DVD version, but I'm not holding my breath.

    I'll take a look at Return of the Obra Dinn for sure. Thanks for the steer.

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    1. That bit in FL where you avert a mutiny with a charisma roll and your crew ends up sobbing with renewed loyalty and saying they'll follow you to the gates of hell = my feelings about Jared Harris by the end of The Terror

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  8. Edith Finch is really an exceptional experience. A very original game. Good to see you and Jamie enjoyed it.

    Also agree about Kingdom Come: Deliverance. I enjoyed that greatly, a very immersive 50+ hours game. Good design team, too, very principled and committed.

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