So You Want a Job in the Games Industry?

First of all, good luck, because the competition is fierce! I’ve written about this topic before and I’m hoping I haven’t come across as overly negative, because I don’t regret giving up law for games and for me, it was absolutely the right decision. But counter-intuitive as this might seem, I don’t think everyone would enjoy turning their hobby into a job. This is pretty general to anyone, but I feel like the games industry in particular is one that many people have placed on a pedestal as their life dream and something they’ll strive to achieve for many years, but without really understanding many of the practicalities of actually well… doing the job. Obviously this doesn’t apply to everyone. If you’ve researched the role you want, had a bit of work experience and are sure that it’s really what you want to do, then good for you and good luck! So again, I’m absolutely not trying to discourage anyone, merely give you some food for thought as someone who’s been there and done that. Continue reading

Gaming With Your Significant Other or RUN FOR THE HILLS WHILE YOU STILL CAN!

Irrelevant update of the week: I know, I know I’ve been terrible this August haven’t I? Between travelling for work, moving house and general business, I haven’t had a lot of time for blogging. But September’s almost upon us and things are settling down again, so here’s hoping September will give me more time with you guys!

If you follow me on Twitter you might know that my partner @Grumbl3dookgaming, whose real name is also Sam (believe it or not) and I are both pretty rabid, I mean avid, gamers. Given his Twitter handle you’re probably not terribly surprised. I guess the term ‘gaming couple’ probably describes us pretty accurately. Our living room is basically one large gaming cave filled with consoles, TVs, 2 gaming PCs – one for each and a ridiculous number of handhelds. Admittedly everything other than Sam’s PC and the Vita I bought him are mine, because he’s pretty much just on PC and I tend to flit between platforms depending where the best games are. So why am I telling you all this other than the fact that I like filling your heads with inane and useless info? Well, I recently I spotted this tweet by @Chindividual and it got me thinking:

Playing #FFXIV together with my SO makes me wonder why she hasn’t strangled me yet.

Most people think that it must super duper sunshine and rainbows awesome to be have be in ‘gaming relationship’. They have visions of hours spent playing a game together, laughing and enjoying life to the fullest, because what could be more amazing than sharing your greatest hobby with your partner? They get it! They understand all your stupid nerdy jokes! They don’t care when you need to finish this match before you can come to dinner! And yes, it’s all true, to a certain extent. After all, having any sort of shared interests, particularly ones that you’re both passionate about and can bond over is pretty amazing. In fact, I think fondly back on all the times we spent playing World of Warcraft or Unreal Tournament together and all the times I’ve creeped him out doing my best ‘turret voice’ from Portal (particularly late at night when he’s least expecting it). Good times. Continue reading

Why you might want to skip trade shows like E3

photo 5 photo 4Having been to a few trade shows like E3 and GDC the thing that really struck me was the number of consumers or at least people only loosely tied to the industry there were in attendance. I usually found this out from either talking to people or… to be honest, it’s pretty obvious. The few people in cosplay or getting really rowdy are probably not necessarily there for work. I have no issue with this of course. I mean, if you want to go and enjoy yourself, then go for it! In fact I kind of miss going to consumer conventions like the MCM Expo in London, which I used to attend twice a year, because of the atmosphere and amazing people who would turn up. Trade shows aren’t like that. Yet I’ve heard a lot of non-industry people talking about how they would do anything to go to E3 and I’m not sure if they’re just setting themselves up for disappointment. I’m not saying don’t go, but I’d like to explain some of my experiences of shows like E3 and you can make up your own mind if it’s something you want to spend your cash on. My focus here is mainly on E3 as that seems to be the one that most people want to attend, but it applies equally to other trade shows. Continue reading

Gaming Can Save Your Life

Image by sean dreilinger

Image by sean dreilinger

I’ve mentioned this briefly on here before, but one of the least talked about and from my perspective one of the most important aspects of gaming is the psychological and emotional benefits that it offers. I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that gaming in general, but a few games in particular have gotten me through many of the most difficult times in my life and in some cases, has deeply affected the way I view the world. In all honesty, this truly transformative and healing effect is what made me want to get into the industry in the first place – so that I could be part of the process of making games that people can get lost in. It’s easy to focus on the negativity both surrounding the industry and coming from within it and there are no shortage of politicians eager to jump on the ‘video games are violent and bad for children’ argument, but often people seem to gloss over the benefits that games can provide to your life if consumed in moderation (just like everything else).

Like everyone else, I’ve had some difficult times in my life. There have been periods of extreme stress, especially during my undergrad and postgrad years (because there are few things quite as masochistic as a law degree) and in the prolonged and stressful period of job searching afterwards, things got tough. I’m sure everyone goes through times where stress levels seem to exceed themselves day by day and when problems sometime seem insurmountable. It’s just part of the human condition. Sure, some people seem breeze through life without a single hitch or any crushing disappointment, but I’m pretty sure they’re robots or at the very least not being completely open about some of the obstacles they’ve faced. During times like these it’s important to have an outlet. Writing or drawing or making music or any other of the thousands upon thousands of creative pursuits work very well as forms of cathartic self expression, but sometimes you just want to sit down and consume something. Sometimes you just need to switch off and get lost in another world. And that’s where games come in. Continue reading

True Love – The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition

Rather embarrassingly it’s taken over 20 years to get around to playing any of the Monkey Island point and click adventure games. To be fair though, the first entry to this series was released in 1990, the year after I was born and the gaming bug didn’t hit me for several years yet. The more I heard about the series though and it was overwhelmingly positive, I knew I had to play at some point (even if just to prevent further incurring the wrath of people who seem to think that all gamers have to have played all the classic games in existence). Then of course, it ended up sitting on my ‘to play’ list for god knows how long. The thing about older games is that when you want to go back to play them, whether you loved them as a kid or not, is that sometimes it can be a pretty disappointing experience. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the game wasn’t excellent in its own right or that it wasn’t an important entry in the history of gaming, but the truth is that many games just don’t age well. In fact games that you used to think were good might actually find to be pretty much unplayable when you go back to it decades after the fact. The Secret of Monkey Island by Lucasfilm Games (as LucasArts was formerly known as), however, is not such a game. In fact, it really was love at first click. I might even venture that it’s now one of my top 5 favourite games of all time. Not bad for a game almost as old as myself. Continue reading

Opinion Piece: Don’t Forget the Indies!

It was only recently that I’ve actually started putting more time aside to play indie games. With so many triple A titles coming out these days and limited time to play them all, it’s easy to forget about the smaller titles. And when I say indie, I’m not so much talking about studios like ours (Climax Studios). I’m more thinking more along the lines of FEZ, Super Meat Boy and Antichamber – games that were developed with minimal funding and by a few people (whether self-published or published by someone else). Indie studios like our or Telltale don’t operate the same way as these indie studios. Certainly we’re independent, but a 26 year old studio with over 100 employees that has worked with many major IPs (we made 2 of the Silent Hill games) and with many of the big publishers is not what comes to most people’s minds when you say ‘indie’. I think we do need to come up with a better term, but that’s a matter for another day. So what’s so charming about these truly small budget, but not always small scale indie projects? Why am I suggesting taking precious gaming time out for games like Antichamber or Monaco? I’m of course not saying you should stop playing AAA titles or bigger indie titles, only that these smaller titles deserve a place in your heart too. Continue reading

Guest Post: Three top RPGs and why you should love them, too!

This week Gareth  of Fresh Tech Solutions has written a great post for CTVG on his top 3 RPGs complete with recommended system requirements. Remember to check out his blog for more fun PC games-related articles and if you’re in the market for a custom-built PC have a look at the services they offer too! Enjoy! 
What’s not to love about role-playing games? A game that allows you to control and build your own character, and take them on adventures, battles and quests? It’s like watching an epic movie, only you’re the protagonist, and you get to decide the outcome of the narrative. Whether you like to stick diligently to the main story quest, take your time exploring the world or compulsively complete every side quest you come across, RPGs have all the necessary ingredients for hours of high-quality entertainment without awful endings and ridiculous popcorn prices. So as you can imagine, choosing my favourite three role-playing games was no easy task.
Here, I give you three modern classic RPGs worthy of the ‘top three’ accolade, and the system requirements needed to play them. As someone who builds custom PCs for a living, I’d say that  in order to become fully immersed in (read: addicted to) a game, it almost goes without saying that you need a rig that’s up to the job.

Mass Effect 2 (2010)

The second instalment in the Mass Effect trilogy takes place in deep space during the 22nd century, so not the usual genre of fictional world I’d normally go for. It rates highly for me due to the fact that it isn’t really like any other game out there. As players who had completed the first Mass Effect could import their saved games to join Commander Shepard where they left off, I was one of the smug PC Gamers who played Mass Effect and mocked the console kids for their lack of knowledge on the series when ME2 came out. Naturally, since completing ME2 I have gone back and started from scratch, just to see what it was like. What can I say? I enjoy intense third-person combat too much. In comparison with Mass Effect, ME2 has increased intensity with precision shooter controls, location-based damage system that lets you target the weak points of your enemy and an entire galaxy to explore. It would be a waste to play it just once.

Recommended system requirements: ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT video card (or equivalent), 2.6+ GHz Core 2 Duo Intel (or equivalent), 2GB RAM.

I recommend: This fierce Rampage AMD FX Quad Core 4.2GHz gaming PC will more than fulfil your requirements- and let you enjoy Mass Effect 3 at its highest setting, too!

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011)

The fifth main title in the Elder Scrolls repertoire is set in Skyrim, the wintry homeland of the Nords – a fierce warrior people living on spectacular mountainous terrain in the bitter cold. Great to play if you’re British (or Scandinavian) as you’ll be comfortable in this climate. The truth is, you’ll need to make yourself at home because this is one mammoth adventure. A friend once wrote that playing Skyrim made him feel like his childhood dreams of discovering Narnia at the back of his wardrobe had finally come true. One of the less technical reviews I’ve heard, but I can see where he was coming from. You have the ability to mould your character into any hero you desire and to roam the vast, dangerous landscape at your leisure – the possibilities are endless. This fifth instalment of The Elder Scrolls wins a slot for freedom of choice, overwhelming quantity of content and irrepressible sense of adventure, as well as much-improved engine.

Recommended system requirements: Quad-core Intel/AMD CPU, 4GB RAM, 6GB of free hard drive space and an NVIDIA/AMD ATI graphics card with 1GB RAM.

What I recommend: The Neptune AMD Bulldozer 6800K 4.4GHz desktop PC – worth every penny! It’ll also cope with the downloadable HD textures that Bethesda have made available to download for free!

Bastion (2011)

Bastion’s perhaps my favourite RPG that’s been released in recent years. It’s an action RPG with an unremarkable combat system, it’s short in length and the graphics are rather basic. Despite all its distinctly average attributes, Bastion is an incredible game. The beautiful watercolour style graphics, heartwarming story, fantastic soundtrack and one of gaming’s most loved narrators combine perfectly to create a truly unique RPG experience. I couldn’t help but get sucked into the story – even with a cast of just a few characters, only one of whom gets more than a couple of lines of dialogue, I was completely emotionally invested in Bastion. RPGs don’t need the budget of Skyrim or Mass Effect to succeed – they just need heart.

Minimum system requirements: 1.7+ GHz Dual Core CPU, 2GB RAM, 512MB video card.

What I recommend: Bastion doesn’t rely on stunning graphics, but to ensure you’re ready for Supergiant Games’ next release – Transistor, you might want to think about upgrading your rig.

Whatever your RPG preferences, I think these three deserve to be on everyone’s must-play list. Disagree? What would your choices be?