Tuesday, January 30, 2007


Just a short note to let the many of you who expressed concern at my last post know that I'm much better. I've started a personal blog (as particleblog is really supposed to be about games) instead by way of a means to talk, express and converse more generally on subjects that aren't just games games games. It's at tadhgk.com. Thanks again for your support.

Oh by the way, what do people think of this new layout for particleblog? I'm in two minds about it, as I switched it when I upgraded the blog to Blogger in Beta.

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Saturday, January 13, 2007

The Real Me

It's late at night, it's dark outside. I'm tired, depressed, and I have been for a while. I'm angry, in that quiet, bottling way that won't come out except in tirades, rants and bitterness. I watch a hell of a lot of television, seem to spend many of my waking hours trawling the internet for distraction, and I feel lonely. I miss my family, who visited for Christmas, and I miss home. I think my ladyfriend Jayne must wonder that I'm on the edge, or taking life way too seriously, but I don't seem to be able to do anything else any more.

I have ideas, projects, directions and notions, but I find that I have no energy for anything. I sleep fitfully, wake up in a bleak fugue and stare at the ceiling for too long before finally dragging myself to work. My friends all seem to do likewise. Christmas provided some kind of reprieve, but the prevailing forecast is not good. I am sinking.

I spend a lot of time in particular reading motivational literature, self help sites and the like, but nothing seems to help. I buy positive books that stay on the shelf. Control your life, be a new you, up-end yourself, get shit done, set goals, be positive. They make me angry. My mother, who is a counsellor and giver of sage advice in many areas, irritates by always talking about emotions and such. I am in deep rejection mode, I think, but I don't really know how to get out of it.

My life feels vacant much of the time, futile and pathetic. I find myself in an endless cycle of half-completed tasks and meetings with no real purpose beyond getting to the next meeting. I drink too much tea in the day and have stopped eating any kind of fruit.

I hate blogging, forums and posting opinions, though I seem to do it all the time. Nothing is ever said that amounts to a hill of beans and many of the sites that I regularly visit seem to have clocked score, meaning that they're having the same conversations that they always do.

I feel pain, but it's a sort of pain that won't come out. I want to cry to get some release, but the last time I cried was three years ago when I broke up from a long term relationship. Instead, I feel a lump in my throat, a sticky sort of feeling that won't shift no matter what I do. I have no equity, some debt, and a salary in a job of which many readers of this blog would be jealous. I can't drive.

I hate "the industry". I seem to talk about nothing else. Even with family I just babble on and on about "the industry", the latest moves made, the latest trends, shifts and dramas. I sometimes feel motivated to write about a fad or throw a letter to an esteemed publication, but I frequently know that I'm just adding gas to Jupiter. I used to be interested in more than this, but it seems lost to me now, hopefully only temporarily.

I hate games. The only game that I've played with any regularity in the last three months is Orsinal's Winterbells. I don't know why. My high score is in the septillions. I couldn't care less about what console said what to who, and all the HD splash in creation is simply uninteresting to me, and yet I discuss it all the same with the energy of the dead.

I feel that I have made some bad choices in my life and some good ones, but mostly that I have drifted into the industry and all of its mores without any great direction or choice. I don't know what my reason for being here is. I struggle with this question a lot, because I always find myself in the middle somewhere. I can write, I can design, I can even hold a camera and shoot a bit of a film, but nothing is really different after I do those things. Nothing seems to stick in my interests for very long. I miss the times when I used to write lots of bad poetry.

I hate that I whine. I feel like a child for doing so a lot of the time. It is only because I am in the dead of night and contemplating a journey in the morning for which I should have gone to bed hours ago that I am writing. I think to myself "Well maybe THIS will shift something" though I'm pretty sure it's just not that easy. My co-workers would call this being "emo".

And there it is, my latest blog bonanza. This is the real me right now. All I can wonder is whether this will continue and I am going to end up drinking like my Dad. My concerns seem so ridiculous and yet feel so vast that they overwhelm me. All I can do is hide. I see it on the faces of others too. They have the same internal battle. I'm just the one who happens to write about it.

So yeah, games and stuff.

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Monday, January 01, 2007

New Year, New Directions

(Hope you like the new site layout, it's all a part of converting to Blogger 2. Next stop: Labels, links and all that malarky.) (Also, apologies for having not written a thing method-wise for a while. It's been a very busy and somewhat demoralising time, but I hope to rejuvenate soon.)

Anyway. New Year. New ideas. 01-01-07.

I've recently had an idea for a game. It's called Exit Strategy, and the idea is this: A turn-based strategy game played for one to six players in which each player plays a faction within the Iraqi situation. One player plays the US, one plays the Mahdi Army, one plays the UK, one plays Al Qaida in Iraq and so on.

Each faction has a specific advantage and victory condition, and these victories are based broadly on winning the public opinion war. Players play across a series of regions and also suburbs within Baghdad, and they do with a set of pieces with different movement, attack and defence abilities, some special pieces such as journalists that they play against each other, and there is also some card-based event play. (This is all very rough, but you get the idea).

Now, what does that conjure in your mind? I imagine that it conjures a mix between typical video game satire (cartoony characters and old 80's and 90's in-jokes rehashed) or bravado gaming, as is the current vogue with PC action/war games.

Actually, this game is something serious. This isn't some September 12th-style interactive "artistic point", it is serious entertainment. Rather than the escapist fun epitomised by the retro-chic and innovation-happy fads, this is a game that you want to play again and again because of the strategy gameplay. Some may ask whether it's really gaming's place to do that, given the political sensitivity. Of course it is. Games are fundamentally educational, they teach skill, forethought and imagination.

The 80s saw many specialist boardgames like the 18XX train games, Squad Leader, Republic of Rome, Race to Berlin and others that actively explored history, politics and ideas by rendering them into scenarios of win or lose conditions. Often complicated, usually deep, these games bring some understanding to the table, and many of them are bone-faced serious studies of their subject. Some computer games do likewise, such as Shogun: Total War, or the Civilization games (and arguably The Sims).

The aesthetic of escapism divorces content from context to make all games non-threatening, This results in committee imagination, where the content becomes a series of checkboxes that the developers or publishers think will appeal to markets, demographics or whatever. The real use of imaginative fantasy of any stripe is to teach by providing a mirror on this world. Whether a fantasy is as far flung as Star Wars or as near as Trainspotting, all good fiction is a reflection, and gaming should be no different.

This is something that I've blogged about off and on for nearly three years, trying to convey that reflective imagination is more than something nice to stick in a game, it is in fact THE new direction. By taking sets of rules and mechanics and applying them to something larger, we create something larger than an escapist pass time. Such as Exit Strategy.

This is where I'd like to see gaming going. I want to see Exit Strategy made because of what it can teach people and what they can explore by playing it. It doesn't have to be swish, it doesn't have to be particularly pretty. What it has to be is good and serious and above all fair. Every side must have an opportunity to win.

If we ever plan to make gaming anything other than novelties at the carnival then reflection rather than escapism is the all-important next step. Games teach, people learn from them and that is what we give to the world.

Happy New Year,

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