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Community Challenge: My Favourite Gaming Icons

Perhaps this fringes the nature versus nurture debate, but as people we are the product of everything we have ever done in our lives. Okay, a little too much. At the very least I think our experiences play a role in who we are as people. Some effects are infinitesimally small, others significantly larger and more visible. Generation Y, has more daily influences than any other in the course of history.

We’re unique in many respects. In the past 10 years technology has progressed more than in the previous 100 years. The time for a technology to reach world recognition has changed from 50 years to around 5. University syllabi from the 1950’s is now being taught in high school. Gaming, once used as a free-time filler is now an integral part of our lives.

GAMIFICATION!! 

For those of you that don’t know what GAMIFICATION is I made a presentation and discussed it as part of my final coursework for my degree. I apologise as this may be a little self-serving and bad quality. For a quick reference on gamification check 12:20. Also check out Gabe Zicherman as he’s an actual leading authority on the subject of gamification.

So whether it be collecting shopping points from buying groceries, or inviting friends, by email, to get access to a free service. Down to actually sitting your lazy ass down on a couch and just enjoying a game with friends, or alone it doesn’t really matter which. Gaming is a big part of how we learn, develop and grow.

Gaming, just like any medium, has icons. Characters we aspire to be as strong or as brave as, like Aragorn or Aslan. They may have special skills or just be plain sexy. For whatever reason they are a part of our lives live famous literature, powerful ballads or picturesque poetry. So I’ve dedicated this post to honouring some of the characters that have always held special significance to me.

10) Lara Croft (Tomb Raider)

Lara_Croft__Tomb_Raider_Anniversary.JPGLara Croft. The epitome of nerdy gamers and their evil powers. Big boobs, a tight ass, not to mention the fact that she can fly through the air and fire multiple guns at the same time. If women were actually made like this there would be no place left for men in this world, but we’d go down with one hell of a big smile on our faces.

Lara was the gaming equivalent of Indianna Jones, and I really don’t think there is anything more to say. Originally developed by Eidos games, Lara is now under the care of the lads at Square Enix – best known for the Final Fantasy series. I’m looking forward to some amazing future instalments of puzzles, traps and some heavy firepower! On a side note Lara is, I believe, responsible for creating and destroying more misogyny than any other game icon.

09) Desmond Miles (Assassins Creed)

Assassins_Creed__Ezio_Auditore.JPGDesmond Miles was first introduced to us in 2007 with the release of the first Assassins Creed. Initially unwilling and inexperienced, Desmond used the animus, a device that enables the reliving of memories sealed in DNA, to unlock his ancestors past and live their lives whilst he attempts to make sense of the present. Altair, Ezio, Haytham and Connor are all incarnations of Desmond’s past that can help him save the future.

Desmond is probably one of the most enjoyable characters to play on the PS3. He’s involved in a rich tapestry of fate and is completely outgunned. Yet as an Assassin, traditionally not the most honourable profession, he has to save the world from tyranny.

Armed with an almanac of lethal strikes, deadly weapons and insane parkour Desmond is easily one of the greatest ‘dark’ hero incarnations. On a side note there is nothing more satisfying than taking pulling off the perfect string of assassinations and wiping out a fort without getting caught.

08) Captain John Price (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare)

Captain_John_Price__Modern_Warfare_3.PNGCaptain Price is unequivocally the soldiers soldier. Although technically not the main protagonist, Price is a part of what makes the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Series so great. Almost always pictured in his boonie hat, Price is a master marksman, tactician and weapons expert. Together with his best friend and partner John ‘Soap’ Mactavish he seeks to bring down Vladimir Makarov, the twisted leader of an ultranationalist terrorist cell.

Captain Price is a hero who you can really get behind and root for, and in the end he’s exactly the type of soldier that any gamer could want to be.

To date the Call of Duty: Modern Warfare series remains one of the greatest FPS games around. With brilliant graphics, weapons, modifications and support options. This game will almost always give you a good ride! Although it can be very frustrating as well, but only for the realists among you.

07) Commander Shepard (Mass Effect)

Commander Shepard is the brainchild of the gaming mega-giant EA Games. Shepard and Mass Effect represent a revolutionary development in gaming. Not only can you make choices in the game, but your choices will actually affect the story and possible endings. Your choices will even affect future games! This really brings out the perfectionist in me. When I bought Mass Effect 3, in order to get the perfect ending, I went back and replayed the entire series re-considering each choice I’ve made throughout the story.

The best part about Shepard is that he is exactly what you make him to be. All of the little actions that you take effect your personal growth and how you interact with everyone around you. Whilst there is still room to grow, this personality system bodes very well for future games.

Mass Effect is still and, I believe will always be, one of my top 10 gaming series. With stunning graphics, realistic character design, a host of unique allies and individual  personality traits. Mass Effect is the perfect life sim for gamers. Not overly realistic and supremely entertaining. Despite the general consensus I thought that the ending, although a little cheesy and thin, was really worth getting to. After all, It’s about the journey not the destination.

06) Squall Leonheart (Final Fantasy VIII)

Final Fantasy 8 was one of the very first games I bought on my PSone. At the time I was 8 years old. I remember the video’s that were so detailed they looked real. I remember fighting T-Rex’s in the forest. Sweating as I boosted my Shiva GF to maximum power to capture Ifrit. It had a beautiful rich storyline. The characters were real. This was the game that addicted my to the Final Fantasy series and I have always been grateful. Mostly because, the Final Fantasy series made me want to be an RPG gamer. It inspired the books I’ve read and still read today and made me see that games can be more than simple consumption entertainment. They are worlds beyond our ken that tell rich stories and allow you to live in the shoes of people who accomplish great things.

Squall is without a doubt a fantastic character. He’s a brave and strong, yet humble and softly spoken. Squall isn’t even a natural leader but he rises to the challenges and he fights with everything he has, hugely cheesy I grant you. But once you’re caught in the story it really doesn’t matter anymore.

For those of you that hate it when a great story ends, Final Fantasy VIII is the game for you. It it without a doubt in my mind the longest FF game to date, and if you want proof the original PSone edition had 4 discs, as long as you made a point of collecting the GF’s and cards. To be fair, it’s damn hard to finish if you don’t have all the GF’s.

05) Crash Bandicoot (Crash Bandicoot)

Nothing says childhood quite like the furry monster that is Crash Bandicoot. Developed by Naughty Dog, he’s one of the most successful franchises in gaming and for good reason! Crash is the Super Mario of Playstation, and planet earth is his Princess Peach! In reality, I’ve always preferred Crash Bandicoot. He’s fun and funky, got some interesting dance moves and was always more relatable. Plus, in Crash Team Racing they used missiles! I never did get the whole point of homing turtles, or overalls for that matter.

With a host of apple based weaponry and a magical guardian aku-aku mask Crash Bandicoot is one super hero. If you haven’t played the franchise before, do yourself a favour and pick up a copy of Crash 3: Warped and CTR: Crash Team Racing.

04) Dante (Devil May Cry)

If you’re ever been around a console then the name Devil May Cry is probably one sounds familiar. At least if you’ve ever been around some decent games! Devil May Cry focusses on a world where Demons live amongst us. Dante, the son of legendary dark knight Sparda – the first demon to rebel – takes up his fathers’ mantle and seeks to defend the human race from the demonic hordes. Dante, half demon from his fathers’ lineage has superhuman abilities which he brings down full force on the armies of hell.

Dante and Devil May Cry are the ultimate form of cool. With a bevy of beautiful girls, disgustingly powerful weapons and Dante’s own demon form; not to mention Dante’s ‘cool’ and cocky attitude to everything around him. Devil May Cry is a must for all gamers.

03) Snake (Metal Gear Solid)

Hideo Kojima’s masterpiece is utterly timeless. With a inter-game storyline resembling Pulp Fiction, you follow the life of ‘Snake’. A codename for specialist survival agents who are sent, on what are basically suicide missions, with little support and a blitzkrieg of enemies. My personal favourite MGS3 sees you working against the Russians and hunting down your former mentor, The Boss, after the Cold War.

With advanced tactics and some pretty standard weaponry you need to find a way to survive against unthinkable odds. This game combines the best of tactical thinking, with sheer luck and more than a little skill. The best thing about snake is that he is simply a man on a mission. All the pain and emotions that he experiences really come through in the dialogue and gameplay.

02) Cloud Strife (Final Fantasy VII)

As soon as I said that I was a Final Fantasy gamer you should’ve known that this is the one character that I couldn’t live without. Cloud Strife is one of the most acclaimed Final Fantasy hero’s of all time. Hailing from a land dying, because of the Shinra Corporation, Cloud together with his friends Tifa and Barrett – and many more you meet along the way – need to save the world from the evil that is Shinra and Sephiroth.

In a game that lacked speech and the in-depth facial expression that we have as a common feature today, Final Fantasy VII still wrought every drop of emotion from the player. You felt every emotion that the characters felt because you were them. In true RPG fashion you were dragged into their world and lived their lives.

If you haven’t yet and you enjoy a good RPG, open your mind, and buy a copy of this game. It may be jarring at first not being able to hear voices or see expressions but believe me the words are so much more powerful because of it.

01) Tidus & Yuna (Final Fantasy X)

These are two characters that should not need an introduction. Produced and directed by Yoshinori Kitase, Final Fantasy X is a game that changed the world of gaming. In many aspects Final Fantasy X was more than a game, it was more than a story. It takes a rare person to get so involved in a book that they could cry at the outcome or death of a main character. Final Fantasy X had that effect. There’s no point describing how much these characters actually start to mean to you, the only thing you can do is play the game and see for yourself.

Ciao,

Desh

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Get Loose!

I spent 3 years of my life living in England and, I have to say, it was absolutely EPIC. Yes, there are problems with England. The weather’s miserable, it’s cold and chavs…. But once you get past the unfortunate aspects, you realise what a great country it can be.

Let me preface this by saying, no I didn’t want to stay in England permanently – at least not at the time. Second, there’s no place like home!

England is a country that has, for the most part, worked through the idea of society imposed inhibitions. By that I mean that people will inevitably do what they want. Ultimately they do what makes them happy. Whether it be tattoo’s and piercings, partying all night and pitching up to work without any sleep. It doesn’t really matter, people are able to express themselves in any (legal and sometimes illegal) way that they want. Honestly, I think that’s absolutely fantastic!

The idea of socially imposed values may have valid points. Because in truth some social values are valid. Do not kill, no dog fighting etc… On the other hand why should a society impose ideals on those who seek to be individuals in of themselves. So long at they do not hurt anyone or anything around them then society has no right to dictate the actions of an individual. The self-righteous attitude that evokes this constricting behaviour, is the one thing that pisses me off without fail.

But I digress, at the end of the day I think people need to do whatever makes them happy. Think very carefully but, if there will be an overall positive effect on your life then go ahead. If I was to use myself as an example. I enjoy dressing up in anime cosplay. I enjoy gaming and watching anime. I have 2 tattoos and am in the process of designing my next one. I re-watch old movies and re-read books that I enjoy.

Granted my affectations are not the most risqué. But the point of this post is to inspire more people to let loose and enjoy their time. Perhaps take the oppertunity to wear a costume. Get a tattoo, or a henna if you don’t want something permanent. Rave all night and work all day. If you were born a woman in a mans’ body then go ahead and do something about it. If you want to marry your homosexual lover, go ahead and don’t forget to invite me to the wedding! I have never been to a bad party hosted by a gap person. P.S. That’s really not just a stereotype.

What I’m trying to say is, do not let the views of other impact your needs. These are the lyrics to a song called Get Loose by the Salads. It’s a great party song even though you can’t hear the words.

Come on everybody, get loose tonight.
Throw your hands in the air if yer feeling alright.
We don’t care if you stare, cuz the music is tight.
Lemme hear you say YEAH so we can do this right.

Until the next time. Have Fun!

Ciao

Desh

The truth about pandas, survival of the least fit…

Inherently we, as humans, want to believe that the world is actually a fair place. However, instinctively, we know that survival of the fittest is the only natural law. Defending your own niche and expanding it, requires all the cunning and guile of a fox being chased by the Queens hounds. The ‘modern’ world has reached the point where natural selection is a less apt design for survival. Sure, a lion will eat the occasional delusional japanese tourist. But the world has degraded into a wealth of causes, cures and saviours. Acting like a baby giant panda may be the best survival method of them all. Let me explain. 

The giant panda, as you may already know, is probably the most newsworthy endangered wildlife species on the planet. With current population estimates currently ranging from 1.5 – 6 thousand left in the world, the giant panda is on the brink of extinction. But did you know that Panda’a are only classified as an endangered species? Did you also know that there are currently 15 species of animals that are classified as critically endangered? (WWF) 

We are a compassionate species. For the most part. En masse, human beings have a contemporary history of kindness and conservational outreach.  But as individuals, what are we doing to save the animals on the endangered species list? I know that, I personally do far too little. In high school I educated myself and took the time to give back to my local natural surroundings, in my own way. It wasn’t much but it was what I was capable of at the time. I made a conscious choice to help and I chose a medium for action. Now that I have grown up in some senses I can’t find the time but perhaps should I find the right cause I will make more time.

How do you choose your charity? It seems like a rather innocuous question. Something that you could answer randomly but it still shows your character. There is no right or wrong answer, and you can’t save the world alone. So what do you pick? Animals or humans? The oppressed? The disabled? The sick? The dying? At the end of the day I believe that the charity picks you.

So back to my original thesis about how being a giant panda will keep you alive. Giant panda’s exist in the central and south western portions of China. They are currently in danger due to their habitat and diet being destroyed by deforestation and farming. Their diet consists predominantly of bamboo. But here’s the kicker, giant panda’s are carnivores! Carnivores, meat eating beasts! The problem is they are no longer able to catch and eat meat. Due to their diet of bamboo, which is low in nutrients, in addition to it being highly indigestible by the pandas, they do not have sufficient energy to function. Per day the average panda will eat up to 14KG of bamboo to meet their bodily energy demands. They produce one cub every two years on average and are bred in captivity all over the world. 

If we were to look at this in a Darwinian context, panda’s should have died out long ago. Simply put, they are inefficient. They eat wrong, take too long to reproduce and their numbers are far too low already. There are also plenty of other animals who are far closer to extinction who may be easier to save. What it comes down to is the fact that Panda’s are cute. We look at them and either want to punch them in the face or cuddle them like Beary the childhood bear (not to be confused with pedobear). Perhaps being cute is the only survival mechanism that is important in the 21st century? If you were to learn a survival technique model yours after koala’s (equally moronic habits) and panda’s.

Needless to say, the WWF and countless other organisations are dedicating a lot of time and effort into conserving ALL of the endangered animals. Surely you could do the same. I started this article to make people think. To inspire people to donate their time and brain outside of the ‘cute’ causes of the world. Avoid America’s Next Best Cause (I wanted to write South Africa but America is much catchier) and donate however you can. I know that I will be doing just that in the future.

P.S. If you would like to read about more endangered species and stay educated you can check out the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) site. 

On a side, and completely unrelated, note: I visited the Berlin Zoo about 3 days before Bao Bao passed away at age 34. He was a really really sleepy panda! It’s sad that he’s gone.

 

Ciao

Desh

Keep your Vintage to yourself!

Let’s just get one thing straight, old things are not necessarily better than their newer counterparts. Here’s an example:

I’ve been having this conversation with many friends, for many years now, and I always arrive at the same conclusion. Being older does not make something inherently better. Yes, wine gets better with age but eventually it becomes vinegar. So, let’s skip over all the unnecessary food metaphors, and focus on something that I’m truly passionate about. 

Zombies

George A. Romero. A name that you have probably heard one or twice around the directing pool, but do you know really know this man? He is, quite simply, the father of the modern zombie. He is the man who literally wrote the book on creating zombie movies, a creature he often describes as the true monster. Romero is responsible for writing and directing, amongst other horror classics, the “… of the dead” movie series. These films have set the tone for zombie horrors and have inspired the world to be ready for the zombie apocalypse. I’m ready, I hope you are too!

But I digress, I’ve written this post to defend my views and what I believe to be a truly excellent movie. Dawn of the Dead was originally written by George A. Romero and released in theatres in 1978. The movie followed a group of survivors at the beginning of the zombie apocalypse, who take refuge in a shopping mall. The original was an instant cult classic, and redefined the zombie genre, granted not as completely as Night of the Living Dead. However this is almost always included in a top 10 zombie movies list. To show but a couple: Washington Times & Horror Movies CA.

A second aspect that readers, unfamiliar with Romero’s work, should note, is that he includes a deep interwoven social commentary in his Zombie scripts. In the case of Dawn of the Dead, Romero comments on society’s consumerism. This is highlighted by the dead returning to the mall completely mindless.

In 2004, Zack Snyder, the brave soul that he must be, directed and released a remake of the classic Dawn of the Dead with the same title. Not only did Snyder depict some epic gore and beautifully directed special effects, but he re-imagined zombies for the 21st century. Hell, he made them truly terrifying. In the spirit of the master Snyder even managed to maintain the story as he kept the ‘consumerist’ social commentary that Romero sought to highlight with the original film. So let’s tally up this HORROR movie: 

Gory (check), Scary (check), Storyline (check), Faithful to the original (check), Different enough to justify a remake (check), Screenplay (check), Unexpected ending (check) Social commentary (check) Snyder even has Ving Rhames chuck in a cheeky pointer about the movies underlying moral.

So whats missing? Why is this film any less than the original? Because script was already written? Jimi Hendrix played a better version of All Along the Watchtower than Bob Dylan (comment away, if you must). In any event this movie is actually genius in it’s own right. Granted it’s not the first but at least Rolling Stone had the respect to honour it as it deserves.

To those of your that read my last post Travel properly you dummies!(thanks!), you would know that appreciation is the name of the game. Things need to be appreciated in their own right. Let me share this one piece of wisdom, liking something new does not diminish the old. Amazingly enough, you can like both the new and old at the same time! So appreciate something for what it is, and what it represents. Don’t snub things because they’re not the original because eventually people are going to run out of ideas, and then where will you be. 

 

Ciao

Desh

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