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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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My happiest memory of 2013… a funeral…

2013 has been one of the toughest years of my life. Perhaps the number 13 really is unlucky? Maybe everything was meant to happen. In truth it doesn’t really matter. I found that the sadness brings your life and everything it contains into sharp  contrast. The good and bad, unfortunate and glad, composed and mad. At the end of the day it is a happy memory and a healthy attitude that keep you moving forward.

Let me provide some you with some context. 

My Gran, 2013


Earlier this year, I lost my grandmother. She passed away very suddenly and almost completely unexpectedly. There was no time to prepare; in the end all I could do was sit by her side as the respirator was turned off and she slipped away peacefully. 

She died with her family all around. I am grateful for that much at least.

In my life, she was a pilar of strength, someone who supported me with her infinite wisdom and advice. She had an attentive ear and a shoulder to cry on. She raised me to know the difference between right and wrong and how to treat everyone with respect. 

I remember her teaching me how to play scrabble and poker. I remember her mutton curry (my favourite dish that was always made especially for me). I remember her giving me cooking lessons and teaching me how to get the flavours and spices just right. Even today I remember the sounds of her working in the kitchen. The sound of knives and pots on the stoves, the rich cacophony of smells and intricate preparation. I still expect to see her standing by the stove or working on a crossword puzzle, but alas she is gone but for the memories. 

I was asked to deliver the eulogy at her funeral.  

It was an impossible situation. I was committed before I could even say a word. As much as I wanted to say, how could I find the words that would describe how meaningful she was to me. I am no orator. I like to speak simply (and often flippantly) and write how I think (which admittedly can be overly complicated). But I didn’t have a choice, how can you refuse to honour someone who made you who you are? 

So, I sat down with pen in hand. I don’t think I wrote a single word until 1AM the morning of the funeral. For the first time, in my life, I was grateful that I couldn’t sleep. I managed to finish just in time; it wasn’t long, or well worded, it had only a handful of my memories and, to me, it couldn’t be good enough. Suddenly there was a blur of time was cascading around me, when it had finally stopped it was time to deliver the eulogy. No longer left with anytime for doubt, I walked to the podium and began to speak. 

Remembering all the fond times I had spent with my gran, I spoke truly and from the heart.  The words kept flowing, many more than I had written down. I was recalling the games of scrabble and hours of poker. The mourners who came listened, laughed and cried. It was a good ten minutes before I stopped. Now that I look back, I know that I did everything I could. I gave my all and even though it was a sad day, I was happy because I performed the best sending that I could. 

This wasn’t the classic example of a happy memory. Unfortunately, 2013 has been full of far too few of those. But it did make me happy remembering the good times with my gran, as well as the eulogy itself. I believe that my gran would have been proud of my eulogy, and that makes me happier than anything.

Perhaps I will have a better year from now on.


Ciao 

Desh

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