Monday, May 17, 2010

My new favorite author

That’s right…it’s creepy…it’s scary…it’s suspensful…

cover Just got my copy of Alan Wake at work today. I honestly didn’t know if I’d like it much – although all the trailers were pure eye candy. When I eventually got home from my day in the Project Natal salt mines, and after Family Home Evening, I stuck in the the ol’ 360 for a spin.

Mind blowing. Just mind blowing. It was spooky to be sure, but I’ve never felt so drawn in by a game. To call this a game is selling it short I think. It really feels like interactive fiction – in the tradition of Portal (no, not the Valve game of the same name) or Myst. (OK, but with more shooting than those guys but still…) I think hard core gamers might be disappointed in that a lot of the game involves relatively minor participation while watching the story unfold. This is no Halo.

It doesn’t hurt that the game, set in the fictitious and creepy woods of Bright Falls, Washington, is so connected with the nearby (to me)town of Snoqualmie, Washington and inspired by Twin Peaks and The X-Files. I’m a big fan of Twin Peaks – but couldn’t care less about X-Files. Nothing like being thoroughly creeped out by your own neighborhood. So much of the game centers on light and shadow that it should come as no surprise that the lighting effects take center stage in the game. You can see that in many of these screenshots.


Alan Wake was first announced in 2005 (take a look at the original blurb about it and here’s the original trailer from E3 2005). And supposedly the concept was hatched in 2001. That is one long gestation. It’s not the Sistine Chapel, and I won’t claim it is 5 or 10 years worth of goodness here, but it is something really different and if you aren’t too easily creeped out, it is well worth a look.

You can check out the roundup of reviews on MetaCritic. Like all reviews, you have to kind of take them as just opinions. A small minority were pretty negative actually – hitting down around the 70% line – but most were quite good. Since those good ones agree with me, I would say pay attention to those and ignore the grumpy Czechoslovakian judge.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

I think this call is for you

Proving that boredom is the mother of invention, here’s a great remake of Lady Gaga’s Telephone video by a group of soldiers in Afghanistan. Enjoy.

The Smoking Gun has some backstory on the video and the guys who made it that is also a fun read.

UPDATE: I had a couple other thoughts about this since posting it that are a little more serious. First of all, I’m struck by how much better videos like this are (and there have been quite a few funny vids posted from the war zone on the interwebs) as a means of blowing of steam and fighting the depression of being away from friends, family and civilization for long stretches of time and the combination of boredom punctuated by fear compared to the level of substance abuse that we saw in Vietnam. True, people are people and there are still guys who will fall into that. But I actually see this as one testament to the superiority of a volunteer military compared to a conscript military. The fact that these guys are, on average, older than Vietnam-era soldiers and more likely to be married says at least a little about the maturity level of the Army we have in the field – which I think is all great.