Ah loading screens. The time honoured transitional that disguise the initialisation in a game. Sometimes benign. Often infuriating. These laboured compliances have endured as a necessary intrusion that have impeded player progression for decades. Though far less prevalent now, or at least not as extensive, these customery intermissions could become a thing of the past. A primitive function ridiculed by future generations. Studied by archaeologists the same way they’d examine ancient Eqyptian tombs to understand how primitive civilisations lived. The advent of the PS5 boasts an impressive custom SSD so advanced that it could potentially end load times as we know them. No more agonising delays during an intense boss fight you’ve already failed against. Having to wait and rectify that mistake. Almost instantaneous gameplay. And I’m okay with that.
Its hard to feel particularly nostalgic about an antiquated system that, though essential does somewhat slow the momentum of a game, thereby blemishing the experience. There’s nothing evocative about waiting for my shower to warm up or my food to cook. But the issue not only lies in games that boast huge environments that can be approached objectively and freely. Propagating fluidity and personal autonomy in a fully immersive explorable terrain, but also in linear narratives. Having a prohibitive interim of loading screens that perennially slows down the momentum of the story every time you die reduces your participation for protracted stretches. I’m reminded of my time in Skyrim. The anxiety of entering burial crypts guarded by ancient Draugr, wielding rustic weapons to defend their tombs. Opening a door to the next ritualistic passage, waiting patiently as the loading screen depicts the static image of a dragon, nestled atop of a protruding spire. It’s wings sprawled, bracing for an attack from some unseen adversary. As the camera slowly zooms in enhancing the dragons malicious features, stopping just close enough to see it’s dark, lifeless eyes. Until you realise that the game has failed to load for the fifth time in an hour! Good times. Well memorable at least.
There are rare instances where these laboured interludes have become somewhat indelible. The slowly creaking doors in Resident Evil for example are iconic. Some even offer an interactive experience like “Ridge Racers” Galaxian mini games or even “FIFA’s” practice arena, that allows players valuable respite to practice key skills. Most however are simply logistical obligations. Content to display static images or animated symbols until its finally time for you to take over again. Though they’ve been an inherent part of gaming for longer than I’ve been playing, there absence won’t be missed. Much.
Every game has it’s boundaries. Certain eccentricities that may prevent a player from fully exploring an environment. For instance a door that can’t be opened. A path blocked by seemingly innocuous and totally negotiable debris or an NPC stood in the middle of a road remonstrating the loss of an item or persons that will not step aside until you, a random stranger procure the missing trinket. In most cases these environmental concessions are logical impediments designed to moderate player momentum. That encourage you to engage with your surroundings. To really explore and embrace the vicarious pursuits of your character in a fully formed alternate world. The game doesn’t want you to rush things. It wants you to sample and sip, get a taste of its world. RPG’s are notorious for utilising banal abstractions as a means of corroling player impulse.
A great game however will give the impression of player autonomy, even though every decision is entirely predetermined. Skyrim for instance, despite its significant floors is a perfect example of a game that stimulates the prerogatives of its player. After escaping the games structurally confined opening, Skyrim emancipates the player, allowing us considerable latitude to embark on whatever journey we desire, without the manufactured limitations of its composed narrative. The Witcher 3 is another example of a game that conceals its innate scripted persuasions in an environment that feels organic. The objective is as always to save the world, but isn’t conceptually a time sensitive priority. You can amble from one errand to the next, lining your pockets with gold, or whatever a Witchers’s equivalent for a pocket is, some kind of pheasant lung I’d presume, without the guilt that you should be doing something more important.
Gaming is an inherently selfish hobby. It doesn’t lend itself well to an intimate pursuasions of the individual playing it. We each interact with these worlds in distinctly opposing ways that doesn’t always adhere to the limitations imposed by a games narrative. When there’s an emphasis on the severity of a particularly contentious, world altering cataclysm it kind of breaks the immersion of a fully functioning, open world map when it won’t let you explore the next area until you’ve completed some trivial errand. I’ve got a world to save here guys?! Finding a game that balances the fixed narrative with the spontaneous proclivities of the player without diminishing the formers regimented story arc into a benign, extraneous circumstance is a rare thing to find. And perhaps not entirely possible. Maintaining that engagement through the primary story as well as our own wandering curiosities is difficult to accomplish, but the duality I enjoy the most.
There’s a subtle, yet critical distinction between an open world and free roam. And it’s rather unfortunate that they don’t coincide as often as they should.
The world is on the brink of chaos. Governments have now enforced compliance to remain isolated from friends and family. A necessary contingent sadly, if only to protect the stupid and ignorant from themselves. With the exception of a few limited exemptions, the nation is in full lockdown. Essential businesses will remain open such as supermarkets, postal services and construction? Not to mention opportunistic fart giblets like Mike Ashley that try to convince you that a leisure sportswear store is an essential business. Its honestly confounding just how selfish people can be when others are suffering. I guess some people are compassionately and intellectually malnourished. At a time of great confusion, where hysteria and paranoia have become the prominent vernacular, its difficult not to feel detached when your own world often doesn’t extend past your own family. You can never truly comprehend the severity of a situation, particular one of this magnitude, until it impacts someone you love. Sadly the sobering realisation that this isn’t going away has really hit, as both my daughter and my partner are suspected of contracting the Coronovirus.
They are fine, considering the harshness of their symptoms. My daughter has been suffering with a persistent, aggravating cough that only intensifies at night. Punctuating her sleep with dry, rasping splutters. Conversely my partner has endured a fever, shivering and a sore throat that causes a discernable grimace of pain. But no cough. Being symptomatic of a viral infection, that can’t be conclusively verified as Coronovirus means even fleeting symptoms is enough to impose isolation on our entire household. At time of writing I haven’t developed any symptoms that indicate that I have the virus they’ve caught. Whether I’m just asymptomatic or just plain lucky I couldn’t say, but what I can tell you is contrary to my previous article about my proclivity for purposely self isolating for many years, the reality of enforced segregation from society isn’t nearly as conciliatory.
I’ve been critical of the government’s laboured response to such a virulent disease. Treating Coronovirus as less of a global epidemic and more of an economical inconvenience. Naively trusting the British public to make sensible decisions about how they interact with one another rather than protecting them with enforced restrictions to safeguard the ignorant from their own stupiduty. Instead I’m having to explain to a 3 year old, who turns 4 in just a weeks time, why she can’t visit her friend for a picnic, whilst I console my frustrated partner who just wants to give her mum a hug. We have plenty of supplies such as bread, milk and Jaffa Cakes (the essentials) and plenty of media entertainment to alleviate the monotony. But keeping the human spirit nourished in a time of astonishing distress is becoming an increasingly problematic challenge.
I hope everyone out there is safe and adhering to the rules. This will end. And we will be stronger and hopefully a little wiser too.
When I started this blog some 9 years ago, I did so with the intention of extracting those odd little ponderings that rattled around in my head like scurrying, directionless gerbils. A place to express, discuss and frankly bitch indiscriminately about anything and everything that annoyed me. With the veiled attempt to become a world renowned authority on “the games”, that the discerning connoisseurs of the gaming firmament would revere with fervant admiration. Of course that hasn’t happened, as most people care very little about my absurd musings, least of all me. I possess neither the talent nor motivation to achieve such ambitious goals and I’m more than content to waffle on about my interests with little engagement from the community. There are people out there in the boundless, abstract ether with an encyclopedial knowledge of a subject, or at least a committed attention to procuring material that they can reference too, and provide engaging, objective insight into their opinions. I’m far to lazy for that. I’ve always written things that interest me. And even though I still struggle to accurately compose articulate, meaningful and at times irreverent content that reflects my opinions, as well as all too often consulting a thesaurus to compensate for the lack of direction in my articles, it hasn’t prevented me from trying. The method of developing an idea into a fully structured narrative is still immensely satisfying to me. But over time it does get harder to commit to. Especially when it isn’t a source of income.
In the early days I was eager to assauge a non existent audience by creating 3-4 vaguely interesting posts a week. Thinking that consistency and volume were the same thing I persevered, reasoning that this is how you create a successful blog. After a while though this balance reduced to 2-3, until eventually–for the benifit of my own failing sanity–I only published once a week. Logistically speaking it just wasn’t viable for me to schedule 2-3 opinion pieces a week without severely compromising the integrity of whatever point I was trying to make. The burgeoning tribulations of my job along with domestic responsibilities prevent me from writing with any reliable cohesion. Not that much of what I write has much substance or cohesion, but it did begin to feel like a chore and I didn’t want a hobby to feel like a job. Also, what I was writing became far more personal.
Life isn’t static. Priorities change. And in the context of this blog it was evident that my strengths didn’t truly reflect what I was blithering on about. There are hundreds of reactionary sites, dedicated to giving readers up to the minute news, speculations and expert insight with a rigerous immediacy I can’t compete with. Games, as important as they are to me, don’t monopolise my time as much as they used to. So it would be specious reasoning to presume that any objective view I have on some industry gossip has any merit when gaming is a much more casual affair to me now. The rigours of life tend to regulate what interests me. Family, work and the general routine of life dictate how I engage with my limited, though intelligent audience.
Life has the potential to be treacherous. It gives and it takes. Sometimes it takes more than it gives. It’s rarely receptive to your desires. I doubt I’ll ever stop gaming. Nor writing for that matter. Trouble is they aren’t always mutually exclusive.
Life often provides moments that are seemingly incomprehensible. The kind of esoteric qualities that really makes you question the veracity of your own reality. “Touch free sensor soap dispensers” for instance. What an exceptional waste of both time and resources. An innovative solution to a problem that didn’t exist. You’re dispensing soap onto your hands to cleanse the germs. You wouldn’t wash them and then touch the dispenser again would you?! This evolution of human ingenuity that is also commonly aligned with our own inherent stupidity is staggeringly emblematic of our society right now. For example scientists are currently developing meat substitutes, synthesised from the DNA of actual animals to produce “cruelty free” meat that can be grown in a lab. Using just a fragment of the agriculture that traditionally reared meat requires. Making it not only a much more sustainable source of food but environmentally friendly too. And yet people believe that the world is flat. That political leaders are shape-shifting lizards. And television shows like “Love Island” exist. Nothing typifies these moral contradictions more than a notable incident that transpired a couple of years ago.
Back in 2018 a Tesla model X, equipped with a “partially” automated driving system, crashed into a concrete barrier killing the driver. Transport safety investigators have since been analysing the wreckage, as well as other similar suspicious incidents, concerning numerous Tesla accidents, to determine the culpability of the manufacturer but also the competency of the drivers. And though the report concludes an inherent failibility with the vehicles ability to monitor whether the user is paying full attention (because why would you?) was a contributing factor, the findings also clarified that this particular individual felt so assured by the cars apparent “autonomy”, that he somehow felt he had the luxury of being able to play a game on his phone, despite the cars inability to actually drive it’s self. Again a function it didn’t actually posess. Now I’m no expert but there seems to be a correlation between a driver not actually driving or indeed giving much notice to the journey and the car hurtling towards a concrete barrier.
Of course a loss of life under any circumstances is tragic. But the absence of basic common sense is frightfully concerning. No doubt the individuals dismissive attitude towards driving etiquette, in the sense of “not” operating an electrical device while “not” in control of your “not” automated vehicle will lead many to speculate that yet again games, in any of their heinous forms has claimed yet another unwitting victim. In a world so devoid logic, where common sense isn’t nearly as common as you might expect, you have to wonder how civilisation has come as far as it has. The duality of man is that we have the potential to create extraordinary feats of engineering, but are all too often distracted by our mobiles and crash our expensive, though completely driver dependant cars into traffic pillars.