Tuesday 26 February 2008

The Contemporary Veteran

Well, here’s an interesting one. Not all that long ago, in a pre-redesign post, I mentioned that the Gizmondo should be re-invented, become a public-domain handheld games console due to it’s flexibility and homebrew. Well, it seems that someone was listening. And that someone just happens to be one of the original founders of the old Giz. Now I do realise that there is a little inflated self-importance here. I must be honest, I do not think for one minute that it was my efforts that brought on this turn of events… but I can pretend.

I happened upon an interesting topic on one of my regular haunts recently. The question was raised – which games are better, old or new? A lot of people will automatically jump onto one band wagon or the other, as was obvious in the thread. A few would pull out very specific titles from their own personal games-playing past, and others seem to enjoy exhaustively demolishing games that have already been dissected due to substandard ness previously. I however, did my usual trick and read far too deeply into the subject matter.

It seems to me that what we have here is a paradox. Because without new games, there would be no old ones. As with everything in life, if you do not experience the new, then there can be no old. A lot of people were saying that older games lack the graphics, gameplay or quality of new titles. This surely goes without saying, as games are forever improving. On the other hand, I do believe that new games are subject to such stringent rules and expectations from the industry and the players that in some ways, they over-improve. GTA Vice City was great, and is already on the way to becoming a modern-day classic. San Andreas? Yes. Good game. But does it really need to be that complicated and big? Final Fight will always be one of my own personal favourites. But Final Fight: Streetwise seems to have been on the receiving end of a lot of effort to disassociate it from the original. Yet it is a good game. Strike me down if it fails to entertain. No! Not with a Dragon Punch, thank you!

We love new games. We get to sample some of the most cutting edge design and technology. We get to marvel at the fantastic graphics, the fluid and engaging gameplay. Explore massive new worlds and tailor our avatars. Feast on all the extras. Yet we love old games. The quirkiness of the controls, the glitches. The nonsensical or complete lack of storylines. Yet the feeling that we belong within the universes of both old and new games.

Which is better, old or new games? That, is a very good question.

- Galford.

Wednesday 20 February 2008

Long Live the Arcade!

Okay, so we all know that the video arcade as we know it is coming to the end of its life. Gone are the days when I could go down to my local Shipley’s or Quasar, Armed with the loose change left over from my week’s pocket money (or a generous cash injection from my ever benevolent parents) and spend some time engaging in one of my all-time favourite pastimes. In my hometown, the establishments that used to house row upon row of video gaming bliss are still there, but now they have simply replaced everything with gambling machines. I completely misunderstand the allure of any of these money-suckers.

To my knowledge, there is only one sort of place where you still find arcades that house semi-modern games of this ilk, and that is at the coast. I recently visited Weston Super-Mare of a weekend. This used to be a haven where in my Youth, I would travel down with my parents for the day, and upon arriving and securing copious amounts of junk food, left them to wander aimlessly while I frequented all of the local arcades. I could spend the whole day darting from one gaming parlor to the next, spending coinage with complete carefree abandon.

That was 15 years ago. Shit, I feel old.

Now, there is only one place left in Weston that still has that nostalgic feel. The pier. It’s amazing just how much they can cram onto those timbered floors, and there is a certain feel of unease when you stand playing a game, and you can see the sea pulsating through the cracks in the boards right beneath your feet…

I love these places. I also know of arcades in Blackpool, St. Ives, and the Isle of Wight. To name a few. The only problem I have now is, with a family in tow – I don’t generally get to spend anywhere near a fraction of the time I used to playing these last bastions of my vanishing youth. When my kids get a bit older, I may be able to get them to understand the virtues of these sacred places. Until then, I must sit back and watch, and hope that when the time comes, I can return to what is now nostalgic bliss. I hope that the humble video arcade still exists…

- Galford.

Thursday 7 February 2008

NO! Bad PSP! Dirty, DIRTY!

Okay, so here is a bit of advice for all would-be self-servicing games console owners out there. I am not addressing the professionals, the sort of people who completely neon-up their X-boxes, because doing it to your car is now illegal, I am talking about the dabblers. People who feel like having a go. People equipped with a penknife and a blush-brush. People like me, it seems. Do not, under any circumstances attempt to clean the innards of your PSP. It will drive you clinically insane. It will never be clean enough.

Recently, I decided that there was far too much dust under the plastic fascia, and elected to remove and clean it. So, armed with a small Philips screwdriver, fresh-air spray, some computer monitor cleaner, a blush brush (not from my own personal collection, I might add) and a glasses cloth I set to work. Getting the fascia off was easy. But that was much, much less than half the battle. I didn't realise quite how many times I would be repeating this part of the procedure. First things first. Give it a blast with the air spray. It removed most of the dust, but unfortunately agitated all of the other invisible dust that had gotten in from much pocket-carrying. So, after half a dozen more sprays, I set to the outside and inside of the fascia plate with the monitor cleaner and glasses cloth. Now I wear glasses. I know how delicate they are, and how the slightest scratch can cause untold and continuous irritation by being permanently in view, until such time as I can afford to get the lenses replaced. So I cleaned extremely gently, with the utmost of care using practically no pressure at all. After letting it dry, I then replaced it back to it's familiar position on the PSP. Then, I realised that in replacing the fascia, I had disrupted yet more dust in the actual PSP itself, and now more crap lay between the main screen and the display than when I had first started! Annoyance. Displeasedness. So I started to remove the fascia once again.

Several more blasts with the air spray later, the screen was almost clean again. A momentary lapse in concentration made me wipe the inside of the screen with the back of my hand. Smudge marks! More cleaning a la glasses cloth & monitor cleaner. Fascia replaced.

This time, much better. Or, so I thought. I was still annoyed by absolutely miniscule pieces of debris that had still managed to work their way onto the screen. I should not be this pedantic, but after all my efforts I wanted absolutely crystal clearness from my PSP's display. Calm down, I thought. I do not have access to a dust-free chamber. Live with it. And I did, until I came to play in daylight...

Despite my oh-so careful cleaning with the cloth and cleaner, the inside of the display looked as if I had rubbed it down with sandpaper! What? What the fuck is this?? I could not play in any kind of light if I wanted to see what I was fucking doing! I eventually had to resign to the fact that I was going to have to purchase a brand-new fascia. What a drag!

I did not want a cheap Hong Kong knockoff, and I didn't want to have to pay the £30 Sony was asking! 3 new Fascias, or a new PSP...? Tough decision... er, niet!

I finally found a genuine fascia on eBay in Florida. Florida!! Well, it arrived, and I started painstakingly placing it on my PSP. Then, I took it off again. There was a human head hair in there! What the fuck? Where the hell did that come from? For Christ's sake. Eventually, job done. Or so I thought. Now, I notice that I can't see the power light, the Wifi light, or the Memory Stick light. The plastic conductors that are required to transfer the light from the chassis LEDs to the front of the fascia are not present! Nor are they available anywhere on the Internet! And I cannot remove them from the old fascia, because they are welded into place.

I am now going to lapse into maniacal laughter, clawing at the walls...

- Galford