LEGO

By now it's generational trope, told year after year by those pining for their youth, or at least the dollars that their toys/ comic books/ baseball cards/ pogs/ video games could now be generating on Ebay.  It goes like this, "I left my X collection at home when I went away to college, and my parents threw out/sold at garage sale all my favourite stuff.  It'd be worth a fortune these days".

And for over 20 years, that is what I thought had happened with my 1980's collection of Legoland Space sets.  A few months ago, my mother revealed that in fact all the LEGO I had carefuly saved for during my childhood, were in fact intact.

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As a kid, I played with these a lot, but I was always careful to keep the boxes, instructions, even the small plastic bags that held the legos.  I don't know why, I just did.  And for the last couple of decades, I figured they had been thrown out, sold or given away to neighbours.  Mostly becase the first time I went home after about 10 years, they were nowhere to be found.  I never said anything to my Mom as I did not want her to feel bad.

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I've been very busy since, so I've only slowly started to put them back together.  There is still a third more to go.  I was happy to see that all the catalogs and ephemera I picked up from the toystore was also still together, along with the hand drawn plans and inventories I put together as a 11 year old.

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I'll finish up this story in the next episode of the Game Under Podcast.

Phil Fogg

Life is Strange: Before the Storm Limited Edition

Without intention I was able to pick up the Limited Edition copy of the second season of Don't Knod's Life is Strange text adventure. (I was strolling through a GameStop looking to  buy a copy of Playstation All Stars Battle Royale, but sadly their PS3 selection has dwindled down to about 30 games).

Square Enix chose Nine Sticks to develop the Life is Strange: Before the Storm, which is set prior to the events of the first game, which Tom and I recorded a spoiler cast.

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Quality matte finish cardboard was used. The inserts inside smartly hold everything together.

Since I really enjoyed the first game, and always regretted not having a physical copy, I picked up the Limited Edition for $47 on sale (usually $80 in Australia - US customers can pick it up for $29 USD as of the time of this writing).

Unlike many "limited edition" games, whch come with digital trinkets, this is one of the better ones I have picked up in recent years.  It comes with a hardcover full colour artbook, an original soundtrack on CD, as well as a disc version of all episodes of Life is Strange: Before the Storm

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A music CD! I may have to pull out my Dreamcast to listen to it.

In addition to the physical items you also get a code to download the entire first game, as well as a bonus episode for Before the Storm. A few digital trinkets in the form of additional outfits are also offered.

In terms of value, I was hapy with the package, for impressions of the game, you'll have to wait until the next episode of the Game Under Podcast.

- Phil Fogg

Something I Wrote About Braid

It is perfectly symmetrical. But so was the thing about Cibele. I'd recommend listening to this episode of the Endless Backlog Podcast as well, or instead, wherein I discuss Braid with Gagan.

But if you do want to read this anyway, here it is

It doesn't even have any pictures. But if it did, they'd be pictures of Braid, which is one of the ugliest games ever made, so maybe that's a good thing.

You could also read this instead, which has at least one good picture, and offers great advice to all.

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Several Ways to Make Australia Great Again

I have mentioned my exciting childhood history of vandalism on the Game Under podcast before, but, alas, in recent years my vandalism has been limited to boring acts of civic duty, or incompetent attempts of upholding the ideals of beauty and truth. Unfortunately civic duty, no matter how well meaning, may never uphold an ideal, due to its inherent pragmatism. (Admittedly, it is usually used to support the ideal of love; but more often it simply perverts it.)

Nevertheless, I can't help myself responding when I come across stickers or scribbles by people engaged in public acts of self-pity. This is not something to be lauded, but it is an act of civic duty, since most acts of public self-pity are political statements.

 One longs for those Great Days of Yore, when one could still ride the Punt Road punt across the river.

One longs for those Great Days of Yore, when one could still ride the Punt Road punt across the river.

Thus, when I came across the self-pity slogan Make Australia Great Again scrawled on a local stretch of the Yarra, I was doomed to self-degradation. Not only did this statement fail to tell us when Australia was great, it offered no ideas on just how to make Australia great again! Even worse, if we assume the greatness of Australia had anything to do with its culture, the use of the slogan itself suggested that Australia was still great, as one of the few cultural inclinations that can be traced back to the very beginnings of anything like a national character (if such a thing even exists; the experts are divided) is jealousy and fear of America; depending on whether you were for or feared liberty (revolution).

To make matters worse, Australia Day was just around the corner. So, when the day of national celebration and condemnation came along, I couldn't help myself, and walked down to the Yarra with a Sharpie in my pocket; all ready to perform my patriotic duty of participating in civil society.

So, taking the statement at face value, I assumed that something must have changed in Australia at some point, even if my fellow citizen wasn't sure what had. Along the way there was plenty of evidence that a lot had changed even very recently: instead of a bunch of drunken fellow citizens enjoying the resplendent surroundings of the Yarra on another meaningless public holiday, there was a convoy of cyclists riding past with Australian flags waving in the wind protruding from their helmets and/or bicycles (this must be terrible for aerodynamics; nevertheless, all were dressed in Lycra—something to be ashamed of not so long ago), and instead of people paddling past on cheap kayaks or canoes, there were whole teams of rowers spending the public holiday training! What the fuck? There was even an expensive yacht with an Australian flag as big as its bow motoring along this residential stretch of the Yarra, not showing off in the city. At least its spiffily-dressed sailors were almost certainly drunk; further flaunting their wealth by sipping on full glasses of (presumably tremendously expensive) champagne.

But this sort of change is a bit hard to encapsulate in a pithy slogan, so I humbly suggested that Australia could be made great again with decolonisation; colonisation being the most obvious, and greatest, change in the history of this country—a country that suppresses its own history in the most effective way possible: making it as uninteresting, unimpressive, and pathetic as it can. As a result, everyone's heard of Captain Cook and the convicts He shipped to Australia on His First Fleet, but not much else. Oh sure, some people know there was a gold rush in Victoria, but other than making a bunch of true blue cobbers rich, it probably didn't affect the state much—let alone the country—right? And fuck rich cunts, anyway! Well, maybe not anymore, since politicians have started affecting posh, educated accents, rather than middle class (British) or bogan ones (unless they're Lotharios), and I find myself living not in South Yarra, but Soho Yarra; I digress.

Now, while I do not believe in censorship, other citizens do, so rather than coming up with a suggestion that might be better for making Australia great again than my own modest proposal of decolonising it, they simply crossed it out. So I came up with a few alternative solutions, as well.

 If you can't read my awful writing, clockwise it goes: Decolonisation (censorship inevitably fails) or White Australia policy to [make Australia great again], [make Australia great again] with another gold rush, with censorship, or import criminals to [make Australia great again].

If you can't read my awful writing, clockwise it goes: Decolonisation (censorship inevitably fails) or White Australia policy to [make Australia great again], [make Australia great again] with another gold rush, with censorship, or import criminals to [make Australia great again].

The White Australia policy wouldn't really have much material effect on the country, but it would result in better integration for incoming migrants, because we'd be importing migrants explicitly supported by the country's racial policy; that's better than being supported by a shitty citizenship test that most citizens can't pass anyway. Which would you rather be told on becoming a citizen: you're the people just like us who we like just because you're just like us (incidentally, you're a fucking wog and we still hate you, cunt), or: we begrudgingly accept you, because you're smarter than most of our dumb as dog shit citizenry, but, hey, at least we're still racially superior, so fuck you, too, mate? Indeed, the current policy results in a feeling of inferiority for the citizenry, as it provides objective proof that once a migrant has stayed in Australia for long enough to be able to take (and pass) a citizenship test, they have in fact become better citizens than the citizenry itself! 

The gold rush, which not only materially affected Victorian history, but Australian, British, and even world history, was surely a time when Australia (or at least Victoria), could be considered great. Another gold rush would enrich the country's economy, while solving unemployment for a brief period of time (albeit simultaneously resulting in a massive labour shortage), all over again. Then we can go through another crippling depression, but at least a lot of great architecture and institutions will have been built in the meantime.

Censorship. Now, other than allowing us to spend less energy thinking or being outraged, I can't really imagine how it would make things much better for anyone.* But apparently this was the only plan anyone else could come up with to make Australia great again, so I thought I'd mention it, as my fellow citizen was only cable of drawing squiggly lines, and not actually writing it themselves and, as you can see, their plan failed as I simply rewrote the same statement. At least they were leading by example?

Importing criminals would not only complement a new trend in Australia's post-war history of copying America (specifically: sadism for profit; or, the privatisation of punishing criminals), but also give Australia a pliable labour force that would work not only below the minimum wage as migrants do today, but for no money at all; instead they need only be promised clemency! Almost-but-not-quite slave labour, a new market (human trafficking of the criminal class; a throwback to Captain Cook's First Fleet), and more jobs for Aussie tradies (someone has to build the penitentiaries)! Everybody wins.

Luckily, someone else came up with a better, apolitical statement, subsuming my own—and my fellow citizens'—bullshit. It may not have made Australia great again, but it certainly made this little patch of concrete a bit better than it was before.

 *If this constitutes censorship, then perhaps the subsumption of bullshit, by something less bullshit,  is  a valid form of censorship, after all.

*If this constitutes censorship, then perhaps the subsumption of bullshit, by something less bullshit, is a valid form of censorship, after all.

Call of Duty - Collection Update

As I've mentioned on the show a couple of times, my relationship with Activision's Call of Duty franchise is very casual.  After the release of World at War, I have only picked up used copies of the games, often 2 years after release. I am not even console-loyal -- bouncing around between the various Playstation and Xbox systems.

I was therefore surpised that I've only missed out on five games in the series, the original, Black Ops 2 and 3, Infinite Warfare and 2017's WWII.

 Not quite in release order.

Not quite in release order.

The list for the main series so far:

1. Call of Duty (2003)
2. Call of Duty 2 (2005)
3. Call of Duty 3 (2006)
4. Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007)
5. Call of Duty: World at War (2008)
6. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (2009)
7. Call of Duty: Black Ops (2010)
8. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 (2011)
9. Call of Duty: Black Ops II (2012)
10. Call of Duty: Ghosts (2013)
11. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (2014)
12. Call of Duty: Black Ops III (2015)
13. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (2016)
14. Call of Duty: WWII (2017)

 Ghosts was the first Call of Duty game to not include a gun on the front cover. Tom and I used to have a segment on game covers called "Gun or No Gun". The joke was there was a gun on 99% of game covers.

Ghosts was the first Call of Duty game to not include a gun on the front cover. Tom and I used to have a segment on game covers called "Gun or No Gun". The joke was there was a gun on 99% of game covers.

It was leaked this week that the 2018 entry in the series will not feature a campaign mode, which is the only reason I pick up the games, so depending on how that experiment pans out for Activision WWII may well be the last Call of Duty game I buy, which will be a fitting capstone given my introduction to the series was the incredible Call of Duty 2 on the Xbox 360.

Call of Duty's players are mostly derided in gaming culture, with the games seen as being intended solely for the same narrow band of player that buys Madden every year, which is an easy and unfair categorisation. Despite the online braggadocio and bombastic style of the game, they are none-the-less enjoyable shooters with unmatched polish and can be a mindless, though engaging game experience.

I found Ghosts campaign to actually be thoughtful and reflective, and throughly playable and diverse (though not quite up to the standard of Titanfall II, which it was clearly emulating).

If WWII is the end of the road for Call of Duty as we have known it, I am completely at peace with that. It's been a very long and succesful run with relatively original take on the FPS genre.

- Phil Fogg

YakuzaKillzONE Decade

In this written installment of the YakuzaKillzONE Minute (but this time aproximately 4,734,720 minutes), Tom Towers offers his final thoughts on Killzone 2's multiplayer, after playing it for nine years. Yes, the servers finally shut down.

But what does this have to do with Yakuza? Well, Yakuza 3 came out in the same year as Killzone 2, and Yakuza 3 was the first Yakuza game he played. So, absolutely nothing, really.

But read it anyway; it's rare he writes about videogames these days, so it must be good, right? Here it is, linked again for your convenience.

Not Even Pataphysics Can Save the Internet

If you’ve been living in  a cave with a bear for the past century, then you may not know that Pataphysics is the imaginary solution to problems.* Like all art, its business is also the conception, gestation, and rearing of the future. The trouble is, any solution to a problem, unless discovered by chance (which many solutions are), must, by necessity, at some time be imagined. Indeed, a problem itself must be imagined in the first place; something cannot be a problem, without the imaginary classification of problem. It would still exist, but it wouldn't be a problem. After all, one person's problem is another's solution.

Wait a minute, wasn't Pataphysics originally just a way of writing hilarious French farces?**

Yes, but now Pataphysicists exist outside of an in-joke (or as part of a global, open in-joke) and sometimes they try to solve problems by doing the opposite of orthodoxy. Sadly, this sort of attitude cannot be creative, or particularly imaginative, because it may only imitate or innovate its original source; albeit in the form of a mirror image or reactionary opposite. 

But, what does this have to do with the internet?

Well, Pataphysicists have made a search engine, with the noble goal of making the internet a little more like it used to be, before it had to be indexed to be usable. (Or so we're told by the people who index it.)

Unfortunately—and unsurprisingly—they have only succeeded in creating a mirror image of Google and YouTube.

As you can see below, I used the search term "work" and the image source provided by the pataphysical search engine (if it isn't limited in such a way, it simply finds pornography) on Google and YouTube, as well as the pataphysical search engine, and the results are almost identical:

 A pataphysical image search for "work": all results are things directly related to, or assosciated with work.  Maybe people just work a lot?

A pataphysical image search for "work": all results are things directly related to, or assosciated with work.

Maybe people just work a lot?

 A google image search for "work" and "getty" which has not only turned up similar work-related themes to the pataphysical search, but its foremost image, like the Pataphysical search's, is of an exhausted woman with her head in her hands.  At least it includes the great idler, Prince Charles; 69 years of age, and still not a king. If anything, Google has given us a less relevant result than the Pataphysical search! 

A google image search for "work" and "getty" which has not only turned up similar work-related themes to the pataphysical search, but its foremost image, like the Pataphysical search's, is of an exhausted woman with her head in her hands.

At least it includes the great idler, Prince Charles; 69 years of age, and still not a king. If anything, Google has given us a less relevant result than the Pataphysical search! 

 Here the pataphysical search has found a bunch of music videos, some of which don't appear to be very related to work. Well done.

Here the pataphysical search has found a bunch of music videos, some of which don't appear to be very related to work. Well done.

 But a YouTube search also found a bunch of music videos, seemingly unrelated to work! Still, they all had work in their title or description...

But a YouTube search also found a bunch of music videos, seemingly unrelated to work! Still, they all had work in their title or description...

Maybe just try this map of the internet instead? You can find things you weren't looking for more easily (although, if I look up "work" on YouTube, I'm not looking for music, am I?); but you do have to wade through a lot of pornography websites. And it doesn't include GameUnder, the most interesting and unexpected site on the internet!

My own solution is that search engines allow you to tune the relevance of your results. Why not let us use the algorithm in reverse? Instead of the most related result, give us the least related. How about giving us the opposite of what we want? If we google "pizzagate", then give us websites on Russian collusion with the White House, and vice versa. Why not put everything into context? If we're googling "Ferguson", give us results on the LA Riots or the really scary original Red Scare. It won't have much effect on changing stupid beliefs (on the contrary, exposing an idiot to a poorly articulated argument against their idiocy is only likely to result in a greater devotion to their original idiotic belief), but it will make some people feel a little better.

It is another mirror solution...but at least I admit it's not very clever or creative. That's what people want, right?—mediocrity that admits it's mediocre, so we can all feel better about our own mediocrity.

*Originally it was a way for Alfred Jarry and his friends to make fun of their pretentious science teacher, and his made-up answers to their science-related questions.

**Download this and its subtitles now, as it's absolutely hilarious. Monty Python meets Macbeth. It's apparently the perfect time to watch it, as people say it's a great commentary on Donald Trump (just because Ubu is plump and likes fatty food?); but it isn't. I don't recall Donald Trump reaching the White House through a millitary coup (and it is a great commentary on military coups). Although, his debraining machine is as effective as Ubu's, but targets an entirely different audience.

Masculine "Chi"

While Phil Fogg is taking a break from posting quality, original content, I thought I'd post some second-hand bullshit in his absence.

I wrote this blog lamenting the present state of the internet. It features a Trump gif, and in the last comment I conclude that I am probably to blame, and not the internet. Nevertheless, it may be worth reading.

I also wrote a post in this thread about violence in videogames. I didn't like it much, and almost deleted it, but Phil liked it, so you may like it also. His taste usually aligns with more people than mine does.

But to prove this isn't just about cross promotion with our good friends at www.thevgpress.com, you can find something else to read at a much more reputable site below:

Specifically, this article on the internet's latest white saviour, Jordan (B.) Peterson, which made me laugh.

 Not only does he look this good, but he also promotes  Muscular Christianity!  ;) <3

Not only does he look this good, but he also promotes Muscular Christianity! ;) <3

I first encountered the good-God doctor of the internet when he was wandering around university campuses, displaying his superior intellect by arguing with groups of twenty-year-old toddlers (he’s now arguing with thirty-year-old toddlers on television; he’s come a long way). Elsewhere on his YouTube channel (which was already making thousands of dollars via Patreon), he spoke of the psychological similarity between the extreme right and left, his love for Nietzsche and Christianity, and had the decency as an unqualified literary theorist to take Pinocchio seriously; just as Nietzsche had had the decency to take Christianity seriously. (Actually, that makes them, respectively, better literary theorists and theologians than most people qualified in those areas.)

Then his day job came under threat, and very quickly he started spouting furiously about "cultural marxism" and "postmodernism" (the existence of which is, ironically, a postmodern myth), and began to speak (as a clinical psychologist, not an economic expertof the evils of the EU and its cultural marxism, displaying his utter lack of imagination and, therefore, his inability to accurately describe the modern world where archaic language is proving increasingly inadequate. The cherry on top of this cake of corruption was the promotion of his self-help system; it had even been positively reviewed by peer-approved studies!!!

In spite of all this, I can't help but like him. He is a man who earnestly claims to have dedicated his career to teaching his students how to fight "ideological possession", and is now doing his very best not to save the souls of silly Scandinavian supremacists, but to make as much money off them by taking advantage of their ideological possession as possible.*

…But my favourite contemporary (or recent) political figures include the likes of Alberto Fujimori, an eccentric Japanese man whose idea of a holiday is becoming the president of Peru and conducting a brutal campaign against “terrorism”, then returning home when the natives (sterilised and massacred, but not pacified) realise he’s a bit of a shit; and Radovan Karadzic, the poet king of Republica Srbska whose prophetic poems predicted the outbreak of the Bosnian war. An achievement no less impressive just because he himself was a principle figure in instigating it.

What can I say? The best characters are always villains. That’s why everyone loves Batman, right?

*But he probably is helping a lot of disillusioned people. The world is more complicated than that article I linked to would have you believe.

Hyperkin Smartboy

With Nintendo having released their mini-versions of the NES and SNES, there has been some discussion as to the value of releasing an original Gameboy shell with popular games pre-loaded.  Most of those rumours have been dismissed because it would involve Nintendo having to, not only come up with an even more miniture chipset, but also a display pushing it out of that "impulse buy" pricepoint.

I was thus interested to see Hyperkin's angle, with their Smartboy.

 This photo is from Hyperkin's site.

This photo is from Hyperkin's site.

At first appearance the Smartboy looks like an amazing merger of the classic original Gameboy casing and a sleek modern touch device. And that's because it is, unfortunately. The Smartboy requires an Android phone with a USB-C port (for best results they recommend using a Samsung Galaxy S8). The device works by sliding in a phone, and inserting an original game cart, which when combined with the installed application, downloads a dump of the ROM,  enabling you to legally play Gameboy and Gameboy Color games through an emulator.

Essentially, this is a $49 USD emulator for Android with a plastic accessory - albeit it a very nice one.

The data is deleted once you remove the cartridge, thus skirting piracy and infringement laws.

 Phone slots in the front, cart slots inthe back.

Phone slots in the front, cart slots inthe back.

Even with the rather significant handicap of having to use a specific phone, and having that phone connected to the internet, it is a noble effort and appears to be well designed. The device obviously also provides for a much larger and clearer display than the original Gameboy.

- Phil Fogg

Cathode Ray Tube

I've been searching for a cathode ray tube television for some time, with the belief that the older consoles in my collection were just not being properly represented on more modern sets.  By happenstance, I was reunited with a National TR602A "Delux" 12 inch television set from my childhood.

It was on the way to the municipal dump and had been left out in the rain for three days, so my hopes of getting it up and running were pretty low but, after taking some safety precautions, the almost forty year old set came to life.

 Ms. Pacman in fifty shades of grey (be sure to switch your Atari 2600 into B&amp;W mode).

Ms. Pacman in fifty shades of grey (be sure to switch your Atari 2600 into B&W mode).

After a couple of hours of searching through cables, and my extra Atari 2600's I had River Raid up and running and looking better than it had in some decades.  Although the television is limited to being black and white, the crispness of the pixels is immediatley impressive. The curvature of the screen, convex rather than the concave options available in the 21st century, also adds a long forgotten quirk of technology, much more obvious in a vertically scrolling game than say, watching the cricket.

It has been difficult to pin down the exact year of manufacture, but this "all transistor" model (charming) was made by Matshushita in Osaka around 1980.

It is made of modern plastics, with the white casing holding up extremely well -- this model was also available in red. In terms of inputs the set is limited to screw terminals on the back of the set (you can daisy chain more modern inputs from the screw terminals, but there is a loss of quality for every adaptor you add).  While I was able to get a NES, NES, SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive and an Atari 2600 hooked up simultaneously, the video degradation was not worth the novelty, so I ultimately kept just the Atari 2600 attached.

 The Atari 2600 section is now as it should be, with a television from the same era.

The Atari 2600 section is now as it should be, with a television from the same era.

Other features include an earphones port (mono only) as well as brightness and contrast controls on the front with vertical and horizontal hold on the back.

Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on your views), due to our regulators removing free over the air television programming the receiver now only picks up FM radio stations.

As of today I was able to find a single set, slightly newer than mine, on E-Bay for $130 AUD, but given the perils of shipping and handling, I've found that for vintage electronics it is best to source locally.

I throughly enjoyed setting up the Atari 2600 in it's own area of the collection, and even if I did come across a colour set, I'd be hesitant to "upgrade" given the moderne stylings of the National Deluxe.

- Phil Fogg

 

Advisory: If considering working on a CRT yourself please remember that according to ifixit.com "A CRT can hold several thousand volts of electricity in its flyback circuitry. If you do not have the necessary experience and tools to properly discharge and make safe a CRT, you should not even take the plastic cover off. There is also the chance of physically damaging the fragile neck of the CRT, leading to a violent implosion as the vacuum is released. This could spray poisonous, phosphor-covered shards of glass all over the room."