Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Nerd World Order

This week I watched a TED talk for my podcast I do with a friend which alarmed me slightly.

Essentially a well respected psychologist thinks that all young men are gaming and wanking our generation into extinction. This annoys me for two reasons:

  1. It paints a somewhat disparaging picture of what I see as one of the most creative and amazing people groups in the world.
  2. It is partially true.
I have been thinking a lot recently about what defines us as a generation and a subculture and I hope to god it's not computer gaming and weird porn addiction.
Seriously Walowitz you can fuck off
Us nerds are more than just a socially awkward group of malcontents with more collectible figures than friends. We are a force to be reckoned with. We are gradually building our own world with its own rules, languages and customs. We are an underground movement hiding in plain sight and some of us are also female! (and awesome). Recently one of us wrote and directed one of the most profitable movies of all time.

So why aren't we known for all the amazing things we do as opposed to made into cartoonish caricatures in shows like the Big Bang Theory? Why are we letting this happen? If it's apparently now fashionable to be geeky why are we still being made fun of?
Why are there even people like this?
This week's post is a call to arms for all nerdkind. If you feel like the world is a big scary place and you're bad for being different you're only half right. We are the future you and I and the times they are a'changing. No one else appears to be taking the world and making it better so it's up to us.
This week it's time to accept that the things they tell you make you weird and strange are actually the things that define you and those things make you strong.
Do not be ashamed to be passionate about the things you love, or vehement about the things you cannot accept.
Do not grow up just because it is what's expected of you and you feel that you should step in line but grow into yourself, refining your interests into tools you can use to interact with others.
If people are worth your time they will like you for who you are. If they are not, dust yourself off and carry on.
Share the things you love with other people. We are a wide church and there is something for everyone.
Do not let the world crush the colour out of your soul, instead try to crayon the world around you. Like a 5 year old would. With a brand new box of crayons.
You are not alone.

We are the new Militaires Sans Frontières and the internet is our Outer Heaven. No matter who you are or what they say we stand with you. Also we always roll 20s to hit.

Stay Crunchy Internet

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

The Hobby: Games Workshop from the Inside Out

As I'm sure you're aware by now I'm a massive nerd. Not in a socially inept or damaged way but my interests tend to lean towards the more obscure and some would say bizarre end of the spectrum. One of such interests which has stuck with me since I was but a wee nipper is my near fanatical dedication to the Games Workshop (GW) hobby. One of GW's major games systems, Warhammer 40,000 (WH40K) recently had it's 25th anniversary recently leading to a small amount of press coverage of the hobby and the company. The problem is that press coverage was rubbish. I am not a journalist but I do have a pretty specific set of skills and experiences that have given me a unique insight into the GW world and it's machinations:
Little Timmy should probably stick to his lego
  1. I have been a hobbyist since I was about 10. That's about 13 years.
  2. I worked for GW at their head office flagship store for 9 months.
  3. I have ran GW a couple of hobby centres on my own.
So first things first one of the obvious issues a lot of people have with GW is that they essentially have a monopoly over a niche business and charge very high prices for what are essentially toy soldiers; an issue which has stung many well meaning parents come Christmas or Birthday time. If GW makes toy soldiers why aren't they the price of toys? The answer is simple really. They aren't toys. 

The GW hobby is actually aimed at people my age, the logic is however that kids and teenagers get into it because they see it as something adults are into. Sure kids are good for getting that first hit of cash (a beginner hobbyist will spend £200-400 in their first year) but its the grizzled vets who drive the company with their repeat business. New releases are also for us because they keep things fresh and interesting. It's these new releases and hobby innovations that drive the high prices as well, GW is not a stack em' high sell em' cheap business; only about 10% of its income last year was translated into profit, it continuously reinvests it's earnings into the customer base. This has been evident in the massive increase in quality of plastic model kits, paints and hobby supplies in recent years.

So if GW doesn't make toys what does it make? Also why do us older hobbyists continue to spend our hard earned cash on whatever it is they make?
No matter how cool the artwork is, we're still pushing models around a table
As I'm of a pretentious leaning I would say that GW gives us all the opportunity to be artists. Within the hobby we tend to encounter two kinds of people, painters and gamers. Most people would rather paint models, play games or find themselves somewhere near the middle. I personally prefer the creative process of building and painting models; I have a number of complete armies but I only really use them for casual gaming because I'm kind of bad at table top war-gaming. Other people just want to build the best and strongest armies and then use tactics and cunning to beat their friends/ enemies into the ground with them and that's fine too. 

GW also gives people who are generally quite reclusive or odd the opportunity to share their passions and creativity with others and learn to interact in a safe and social environment. These customers were always my favourite; a good example was a teenage boy I used to know who had one of the most over-active cases of ADHD I have ever come across and would be a whirlwind of chaos without the right supervision. That was of course until you put a model kit or rule book in his hands. Over my career with GW I got to watch him grow, learn basic maths, social skills and the importance of hard work all though his hobby involvement.

So the GW hobby is fun, narrative, creative and it gives teenagers and adults the ability to discover new things about themselves. Best of all you're never too old to start. So what are you waiting for?

Stay Crunchy Internet

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Cool Things I Found Down the Tubes

Evening internet. As you probably know I spend an inordinate amount of time on you, in you and using you (no homo) so this week I would like to share some of the cool things I have found. I've tried to include an eclectic mix of things so there should be something for everyone!

My Drunk Kitchen

My Drunk kitchen is a weekly Youtube show made by Hannah Hart. She is awesome and were she not a lesbian I would probably send her questionably written poetry.
She makes food, gets drunk and is funny. Also pretty. What's not to like?

SCP Foundation

SCP Foundation is a fictional government agency which protects us from the things that go bump in the night. It's essentially a creative writing wiki in which lots of people of varying talent write fake government reports on evil/supernatural places or things. If you liked Cabin in the Woods this is essentially that but a website. Don't read before bedtime.


Drinkify is a website which recommends alcoholic beverages to accompany your favourite music.


Tane is weird but cool and it appeals to me in a way I don't fully understand. I hope you feel the same. If you don't you loose 5 cool points. Sorry, I don't make the rules.

Marble Hornets

Marble Hornets is an Indy horror channel on Youtube centred around the story of a film student trying to work out what happened to him and his friends while they were shooting a short movie many years ago. It is heavily based on the Slenderman mythos and is rather long but there is much scary to be had if you start from the beginning and work forwards.

Yellow One

Probably one of the best miniature artists in the 'verse. Just take a look and be inspired/amazed at his talent.

Steel Panther

Steel Panther are a spoof hair metal band who take the best and most stupid bits of 80s cock rock and add horrifically explicit lyrics. Think Spinal Tap's ruder brother. They are also playing the main stage this year at Download.

Wolfenstein 3D

To celebrate 25 years of W3d (one of the first true fps games) Bethesda have released a browser version of it. Enjoy!

Stay Crunchy Internet

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Skyrim: Progress, Power and Personal Revelations

So this week I would like to spend some time talking about one of my favourite games of last year and why it is simultaneously one of the best games I have ever played but is also terrifying to me. Skyrim was the 5th game in the Elder Scrolls (TES) series and for many weathered manchildren like me it was a long time coming. I booked a day off work and stayed up to play it and in the weekend it came out I clocked over 24 hours playing it. That's a 3rd of all time in that weekend not including sleep. My current playtime stands at 110 hours. I have done pretty much everything and found almost every place there is to find. There is however just one problem. I am bored of it.
You may think that 110 hours of game life is a good run by anyone's standards but I have to say I am somewhat disappointed. I am disappointed because I played TES4: Oblivion for 253 hours. I only stopped because my hard drive died. I still have that hard drive because when I have enough money I will pay to have Gwyn Lightfoot (my Khajit character from Oblivion) rescued by data recovery specialists so I can play as him again. Using game time alone as a measure Skyrim is less than half as good as it's predecessor and today I hope to unravel why.

In Skyrim you are Unavoidably the Chosen One from Day 1

In Skyrim you play as the Dragonborne, a half dragon hero who is the only one who can stop dragons from wiping out mankind. As the game progresses you gain dragon language phrases or "shouts" which are imbued with magical power. These become so powerful 30 to 40 hours into the game you essentially become a kind of Viking Dr Manhattan, so powerful that all enemies but dragons are basically insects with illusions of grandeur.
 That video shows the player summoning a storm that murders everything around them with lightning. Is that bad ass? Yes. Is is super cool? Yes. But I'm not questioning the bad assery of Skyrim.
The problem here is you will always be the Dragonborne. It is unavoidable. You basically trip over new shouts in the final treasure room of almost every dungeon you go to and you never have to work for it. For me this sucked the fun out of the game. In Oblivion you had to work for everything you did and you could track your ranking up through the various factions in the game from your character menu and you were basically just a poor unfortunate unnamed criminal at it's start. No secret latent power, just right place, right time. This gave the game a very satisfying rags to riches feel that was lacking in Skyrim. Sure you start off in dire straits but you're still the dragonborne from the start so there is very little feeling of progression as a character. All the old skills are still there to level up (including a grip of new ones) but none of them allow you to scream people off cliffs or summon dragons so why bother?
This issue doesn't only exist in the main story quest either. You can't escape it. The Mage's College quest for example paints you as a kind of magical messiah who will bring balance to the world of magic before you have even done anything interesting. In the Dark Brotherhood quest line you become a kind of speaker for an abstract entity who may well be death himself simply because you hid in a coffin. It gets to the point where becoming the messianic figure for yet another cult, church, organisation or cabal is more a nuisance than an honour. 
Oblivion required you to put lots of time in and do lots of busywork for guilds before they would even hire you. Once you were in you had to do all kinds of odd jobs before anyone would even look at you twice and that made your promotions and eventual positions of authority within said organisations feel  sweeter because you felt like you deserved it. In Skyrim everything feels like it's basically handed to you before you've even strapped your boots on.

Skyrim's Lack of Soul is a Worrying Sign of the Times in Two Possible Ways

So Skyrim is slick, beautiful, fast paced and exciting but as Duke Ellington says it don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing. Making the Dragonborne the god of everything makes him/her unrelatable as a character so the game never really draws you in like Oblivion. A friend told me she played Skyrim and enjoyed but she got lost in Oblivion and that's a good way of putting it. This suggests one of two things, either:
  1. We have become so instant gratification based as a generation even Bethesda Softworks, once a bastion of story and immersion first gaming has had to dumb down their narratives so they can shift copies.
  2. I have grown up and become so jaded that computer games cannot touch my soul in the way that they used to. I played Oblivion when I was 16 and I have changed alot since then. What if it's me?
Just contemplating either of these as possibly true makes me feel like I need a stiff drink. Maybe afterwards I'll give Call of Duty a go. I've heard it's all the rage with the kids these days.

Stay Crunchy Internet

Friday, 4 May 2012

1000 Page Views

Dear internet this image roughly captures how awesome having 1000 unique page views feels. Many thanks

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

The League of Evil Exes

Good evening internet, may I first apologise for the break in communication last week, I've been moving into a new place and it was all a bit stressful and busy. Things are however looking much better this week. I've set up a nerd den in a new house, managed to dust off and display a bunch of nerdy nick-nacks (nick-nerds?) and posters which have been in storage for too long and have finally escaped from the quickly festering and gangrenous atmosphere that was building up in my old house with my ex. I am free. The sky is the limit and it is a big place.
I aim to misbehave
I guess this is the part where I talk about how my ex was a bitch and that she was only holding me back. Possibly list her faults in an attempt to aid my moving on. Describe her as a footnote in the saga of my life. Insult her sexual prowess. Maybe call her fat. I'm sure you would even forgive this uncharacteristic amount of spite and vitriol because after all, all's fair in love and war. The problem is I'm not that kind of guy.
I'm much more rock and roll than that
Don't get me wrong my ex turned out to be more stupid, untrustworthy and devious than I thought but that's not a new revelation for people in long term relationships to have. Towards the end things got shit but 90% of our 4 year relationship was really special. She made a man out of me and I am not ashamed of what I have become. She was instrumental in my evolution as a person, pushed me to succeed academically and gave me a reason to push myself when it came to jobs. It would be foolish of me to write her off as a bad mistake. It seems a lot of us tend to treat old partners as dehumanised caricatures made up of all their negative traits - especially if the break up was messy - and I can understand why but doing this sells us short for a number of reasons.
All of these guys were actually probably OK. Apart from Gideon. He's a dick.

Bitterness is Poison

If we put our ex's in the league we never have to forgive them: "Batman never had to forgive the Joker and Luke never had to forgive Emperor Palpatine so why should I forgive him/her?" we think. The problem with this line of reasoning is that it makes us bitter and bitterness rots from the inside. It doesn't take hold straight away but after a couple of years it gets you. It can prevent the blossoming of new love and shut us down emotionally. Forgiving those that wrong us is a fundamental part of moving on properly; a wound cannot heal with the quarrel left inside so we must remove it with introspection and clear, controlled thought. Sometimes people do truly evil things that are unworthy of forgiveness but as I have never had to deal with them in relationships I will not attempt to speak about them. I personally have forgiven my ex for what she did, don't get me wrong it was stupid and I will never trust her again but I know that she didn't just do it for no reason. The reason was just stupid.

Putting all the Blame on Others Prevents us from Learning

So my ex cheated on me. For 2 months. She wrecked our relationship. But the sad truth is that I helped her. I didn't do anything as stupid as have a secret primarily online affair with one of our best friends but I definitely contributed to our downfall. I was drawing too much of my identity and need for social gratification from our relationship and that resulted in an imbalance of effort. I was putting more into it not because I loved her more but because I was leaning on her too much to sustain me. This made her feel like she didn't love me enough and she was too cowardly and/or inarticulate to talk to me about it. I needed to back off and give her some space. I needed to go out and have fun with my friends more but I didn't. 
This doesn't count
She confided in him and he gave her sympathy. She mistook this for something deeper. She secretly started spending more time with him and having illicit, occasionally explicit Skype conversations with him. It was so exciting, just like the soaps she loved so much. She treated it like a game with the same level of personal detachment she treated so much of her life. When I found out she felt cornered. She said lots of hurtful things; some stupid, some true, some false. These confrontations shattered her already brittle feelings for me and the gloves were off. It ended.
She even said "I love you but I'm not in love with you"
Do I understand why she chose to deal with my flaws in the foolish way she did? No. That does not however mean that they were not my flaws. If I put her in the League of Evil Exes I will never have to deal with my contribution to our downfall and therefore will not grow as a person. I now know how to avoid suffocating girls (figuratively) in long term relationships so I will not repeat my mistakes.

So What am I Trying to Say?

We need to remember that some of our exes were not an evil waste of time and were infact the making of us. For every fight there was an evening snowed in under a blanket crying together at Band of Brothers, for every moment of intimacy denied there were gentle squeezes on the palm in dreary hospital waiting rooms and for every last awkward goodbye there was a first passionate kiss. If we ignore the good they brought into our lives in an attempt to move on we are worse fools than them.

Stay Crunchy Internet