Monday, 24 November 2014
The Things That Make Life Feel Better Awards... No. 1: @ianhigton
Sunday was a strange day on the blog, with a tenfold increase in hits and subsequent comments. The lesson, I suppose, is to write only about football or things that engage the masses. Unfortunately, I'm at the mercy of this brain of mine and it's rare that it's in sync with what other people enjoy.
Yesterday also gave me reason to pause and reflect on how I've recently spent too much time condemning others. I've written more blog posts complaining about moronic things that annoy me than I have making recommendations about the better things that life affords. Beyond my programming and cartooning videos, the rare exceptions are a long piece I recently wrote about the novels of Joseph Conrad and a few profiles of cartoonists Ralph Steadman, Robert Crumb and B. Kliban.
It's a new week so I thought I'd start with a new 'regular' feature. At least once a week, I'll try to write something positive about the things that actually makes my days more tolerable.
My choice today is Eurogamer, which you might know (or at least surmise) is a website dedicated to video games and especially European video games. Actually, it is primarily UK based and I've been a loyal reader for over ten years. I've watched console launches and console deaths via Eurogamer. I've followed every controversy, bug hunt, and the reveal of every big new thing via Eurogamer. I've gone through countless changes in staff, editor, and even format. I went from being amused by Ellie Gibson to learning about computer architectures with Richard Ledbetter and then enjoying the genuinely brilliant games journalism dripping from the pens of Oli Welsh and Robert 'Bertie' Purchese. Eurogamer is usually the first or second website I visit when I wake up every morning.
All that said: I'm not specifically naming Eurorgamer as my thing that makes my days more tolerable. No, my inaugural 'Things That Make Life Feel Better' award goes to @ianhigton.
And you probably won't know him.
You might, however, be dimly aware that streaming live video gameplay is growing in popularity. Sites such as Twitch rose to prominence by providing live streams of people playing computer games. I wouldn't recommend that you go and take a look or, if you do look, be sure to take a cross and a holy bible. Without putting too fine a point on it, the people who usually stream live gameplay have made compacts with the devil to ensure that, in this life at least, they're the world's biggest arseholes. They're usually precociously loud American teens who make video games as appealing as eating the raw nuts off a fruit bat deep in the jungles of New Guinea.
The most famous streamer is a Swede known to the Youtube generation as 'pewdiepie'. If you can endure his streaming for long enough, perhaps you can figure out why he has over 32 million people following him on Youtube. (Clue: over 32 million idiots use Youtube.)
Pewdiepie's real name is Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg but I'll call him Kjellberg so I don't add to his self-made myth. Other than the constant effing and jeffing (I enjoy a bit of creative swearing but his is just tedious), Kjellberg's style involves every witless gesture and slang phrase you could cull from Generation Dumb. His single most enduring characteristic is his hair. I'm guessing that 31,000,000 of his 32,000,000 viewers are young girls who like hair. His appeal certainly can't be based on his wits, intelligence, or his ability to play computer games of which he has none. Of hair, however, he is blessed. He has great hair.
The antidote to Kjellberg is Eurogamer's Ian Higton who has the advantage of being English, older, funnier, and bearing absolutely no similarity to an arsehole. He also, thankfully, has less hair. He streams his stuff in the late afternoon and early evening, which is a perfect time for me because by then my brain is usually a little fried after a day's work. I can usually stick his face in the corner of my left side monitor (which is actually an old TV converted to the cause) and the world suddenly doesn't feel so dull or remote.
Now is probably the best time to catch up with this brave new world. The popularity of these amateur operations will only increase as viewers increasingly move away from the old media, very much symbolised by the rise of Sky TV where choice came hand-in-hand with increased cost, advertising, and less diversity. Personally speaking, I prefer something rough and intelligent over something polished but bland.
Take the case of a typical Higton stream. It begins roughly around 5pm, though it's always a little late. You then hear the clattering of keys and sometimes a bit of mumbling before the man himself appears front and centre. He's usually a bit dishevelled, the picture a bit blocky until it stabilises. What follows is entirely unscripted and there's no real plan, so he'll do a rambling opening, welcome the people leaving comments on his Youtube channel, before he starts to play some new game. That's when things usually begin to go wrong. If he's not struggling with his laptop, he's struggling with some new game because -- and here's the key point -- he's not the world's greatest video gamer. Example number one: he recently started a stream of the highly anticipated 'Assassin's Creed Unity' by faceplanting from the very top of Notre Dame. Example two: Destiny multiplayer usually involves him dying a lot and blaming his video capture software. Example three: with one notable exception, his online Mario Kart sessions usually see him finish in the bottom quarter of the field and cursing his video capture software.
But that is the charm. He captures the very reason why video gaming is fun solo or with friends. It's unscripted, occasionally silly, but it has variety and never makes you feel old or odd because you can't defeat the enemy that Metro 2033 introduces in the library level and which are as rough as Patsy Kensit's elbows and as mean as a ginger Spice Girl.
Since I've introduced friends to Higton's stream, they've also become hooked and we often sit around at night rewatching older steams, still available via Youtube. I draw my cartoons to Higton dying in the background or crying in frustration when he's overtaken on the last corner of a race. It's fun, relaxing, and highly recommended. Follow him on Twitter, which is where you'll usually find details of his next broadcast. Today, at 4.30pm, he's playing Mini DayZ.
You can also find broadcasts on Platform32, his private streaming channel where things can turn a little more fruity.
Or simply stop by Eurogamer and make your days feel slightly better.
Now, was that positive enough?
As Pewdiepie would probably say: watch dis space bruders, yah know what a mint!