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Archive for the ‘my dad’ tag

My Gaming Twitch

Posted on 25th Sep 2010 at 09:47 by Joe Martin with 60 comments

Joe Martin
Once upon a time, when I was a littler boy, I used to spend my evenings watching my Dad play computer games. It started back with Amiga classics, like the Cryo’s adventure/strategy hybrid based on Frank Herbert’s Dune, but later moved to more modern games on the PC, especially the Thief games.

Despite the games my Dad played though, you couldn’t really ever consider him to be a gamer. He chose a few games and played them religiously, but he didn’t have the breadth of gaming knowledge that I have and when he played, you could see that. He manifested it physically, especially in 3D games which he sometimes found difficult to navigate.

Playing Thief: The Dark Age, for example, he would move his head to match the movements of the mouse. If he moved the mouse to tell Garret to look up then my Dad would also move his head to look up, though keeping his eyes glued to the screen. When he needed to shoot a rope arrow into some rafters overhead then he’d slowly start to point his nose at the ceiling, gazing down past his chin. Peering over an in-game cliff he’d be burying his jaw in his chest, having to open his eyes wide so he could see past his eyebrows. The constant side-to-side movements made him look like he was nursing a stiff neck, but I don’t think he was ever aware he was doing it, even when he did it really fast.

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Free Games I Like: The Wastes

Posted on 6th May 2010 at 15:28 by Joe Martin with 8 comments

Joe Martin
The Wastes is a mod for the original Half-Life that struggled for a long time to stand out amongst the hundreds of other HL mods, but which never really managed to gather the sizable audience that multiplayer mods really need. Half-Life’s mod scene was just so big that The Wastes got lost in the shuffle.

That's not surprising because when it comes to the concept there isn’t really much that makes The Wastes stand out. It was a straight up deathmatch game with a post-apocalypse setting that mixed scavenged firearms with home-made weapons. Spears and sniper rifles, basically. What I really liked about it though was simply that the level design and balance made it great for playing in small groups, which is exactly how I chose to play it - 1v1.

The Wastes became a tradition for me in the weeks when I was home from university and every night I’d start it up and play a few quick LAN games with members of my family. We had two ailing, ancient PCs back then, plus my own slightly better machine, so when I made the out-of-the-blue suggestion of playing deathmatch with my non-gaming family then Half-Life was an obvious choice. It didn’t require much in terms of hardware, but the basics of the game were easy to pick up – and the mod community meant I had a way to customise it. I chose The Wastes at random, accidentally falling upon a game that would keep me entertained on and off for about three years.

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Like Father, Like Son

Posted on 26th Feb 2010 at 10:59 by Joe Martin with 39 comments

Joe Martin
I had an interesting experience the other day. It was late and I, staggering home from a party through the streets of Reading, overheard something unusual. My ears caught a familiar word in the lull between the music I was listening to and I looked around. It was a dreary, drizzly night and the streets were almost empty, so it didn’t take me long to locate the source.

The word I had heard was ‘Tegra’ and what I saw was a father walking behind me, explaining something to his young son. The kid must have been no older than 11, in fact.

Now, I should clarify that I don’t really know very much about Tegra. I know the basics, but my knowledge pales in comparison to the rest of the bit-tech.net and Custom PC staff. It’s why you don’t see me writing graphic card reviews. Still, I knew enough to follow a bit of this eavesdropped conversation in which the Dad explained what Tegra was to his boy.

I was intrigued. It wasn’t the type of conversation you’d expect to hear on a city street at 11AM and the fact that the boy was earnestly interested fascinated me. Discreetly and slyly, I stopped my music and let the pair overtake me. We were heading in the same direction and I wanted to hear more about the conversation, so I listened in for a bit as I made my way home.

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Games to play with your children

Posted on 3rd Sep 2009 at 15:16 by Joe Martin with 36 comments

Joe Martin
I don’t have children, but I do have a lot of younger siblings and nephews and nieces, and we've played a lot of computer games together. A lot of the experiences we’ve shared have been through the medium of joysticks and mouse clicks.

Looking back on that recently I’ve come to think that parents should definitely play computer games with their kids, even though a lot of parents are of the opinion that "games are bad for you" and "all games are violent". Absolute rubbish, every word of it.

Of course, some games are violent and there’s a huge amount of games out there which aren’t at all suitable for children – but violence, if handled responsibly, isn’t always bad and there are a lot of games that are good for kids. My parents had an inkling of this and I spent a lot of time playing either with my Dad or talking about it with him. It’s something I plan to do with my children too, heaven forbid, and something I reflect on every time I go into a shop and see a parent blindly buying Grand Theft Auto for their seven year old. Grrr.

This isn’t new thinking obviously – any number of child-rearing programs or handbooks will tell you it’s important to get involved and find experiences you can share with your children. The problem though is that if you’re not someone who’s ‘into PCs’ and your kid is then it can be hard going. Thus, here are some recommendations for games that are suitable for most children and which open themselves up to this kind of activity.

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Games I Own: Atmosfear The Video Board Game

Posted on 18th May 2009 at 10:29 by Joe Martin with 17 comments

Joe Martin
The usual joke computer game journalists make about board games is that it’s good to have a few around in case there’s a power cut and your handheld is out of battery, but other than that why bother? It’s a joke I’ve made before when the topic has come up, but the reality is that I love board games. It isn’t cool to say so, but board games are cool.

Board games were a huge part of my childhood. I come from a family of seven and my mum worked nights, which meant we often had to be quiet during the day; of course board games were a significant part of my childhood. My dad would even make up little alternate reality games where we’d run around in the woods, solve ancient riddles and search for ‘hidden’ things, with the final ‘treasure’ usually being a board game for us all.

I can still remember fighting my brother, who was wearing a huge papier machie helmet to make him look like a centaur, with a wooden broadsword over a ‘treasure chest’ containing The Legend of Zagor boardgame. That particular ARG went on throughout all the summer holidays…but now I’m getting off track.

The point is: one of my favourite board games growing up was Atmosfear: The Video Board Game. It was a horror-themed game for up to six people where players had to go round a graveyard collecting keys as fast as possible. The game came with an accompanying VHS video, so you played in front of a TV which had a clock counting down on it and you’d collect Time cards that told you to do certain things at certain times. You had one hour to get six keys and escape the cemetery or the Gatekeeper would claim your soul.

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Games I Own: The Thief Series

Posted on 27th Mar 2009 at 15:07 by Joe Martin with 12 comments

Joe Martin
First, a confession; I wasn’t going to write about Thief originally. I was actually trying to write a blog post about the gaming achievement I was most proud of, which for me was completing Bookworm in classic mode. In the course of writing that post I started talking about Thief though and before long the game was dominating the post. I love Thief.

I got introduced to Thief back when the first demo came out on a PC Gamer cover disc, though I actually only tried the demo as a matter of curiosity. Even back then the graphics were too ugly to attract my attention straight away.

When I got in to the demo though, which was the entire first level of the game, I was hooked. Not just hooked in the way that I played it three or four times either; I was physically addicted. I’m confident that, if someone put a gun to my head, I could play that level with my eyes shut. Lord Bafford’s Manor was permanently etched onto my brain with the kind of furious heat that only comes from eyes that burn from staring at a screen so long.

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