Still learning French

•January 15, 2013 • Leave a Comment

Bonjour, salut et allo ! As you did or didn’t know (I think I mentioned it in the previous post), I’m currently studying French in the beautiful city of Québec. I still feel nowhere near fluent and I know I need to up my game as it were but I’m super nervous talking with strangers and looking like a fool. As soon as I can explain to someone that French isn’t my first language and I’m from England I feel a lot more comfortable, thing is, it’s difficult to sneak that casually into conversation when trying to order McDonald’s (or McDo as it’s known in French. I prefer the British slang MaccyD’s) at a drive-through.

“Ah bonjour. Je voudrais un hamburger avec fromage s’il vous-plaît.” (Hello, I’d like a hamburger with cheese please. Pretty reasonable request for McDonald’s).

“Hé-là, on a pas des hamburgers plus.” ((Really informal here for some reason) Hey there, we don’t have any more hamburgers. What?! No hamburgers at MaccyD’s?! Oh no, need to think quickly).

“Ehhh, ok. Ermmm….poulet ?” (Me, struggling for words and wondering if there’s anything else on the menu. I went for chicken. I was in luck).

“Um, oui. On a quelques poulet. Combien est-ce que vous-voulez ? Est-ce que vous voulez un trio aussi ?” (Slightly bemused response to say that they have some chicken. How many do I want and if I want a trio. What the hell is a trio?)

“Umm, oui ? (Good move by me here).

“How many pieces do you want and did you want it as a meal.” (They’ve finally given up and started using English).

“Six morceaux and oui. Un coke s’il vous-plaît. Oh, je viens de l’Angleterre.” (Not giving up. Six pieces and yes. I saw their next question coming and gave them a big old Coke before they could even ask. I come from England. Thought I’d sneak that in at the end although I feel it may have been too late).

Now, the above story isn’t true but it’s how I imagine every conversation will happen when I talk with a stranger. I know I’m crazy for thinking this as I know my French is good enough for this kind of shit but people here talk soooo fast. They also have such strong accents. I mean, at least if I were in China learning Mandarin, it would be very apparent to the natives that I am not one of them. I am not Chinese. I do not look Chinese. I am probably 4 or 5 inches taller than the average Chinese man*. They would know before talking to me that my Chinese is probably a bit shit. Here though, in Québec, I look like every other person. I’m white, average height and an English blight. Sorry, had to rhyme. They probably just think I’m stupid or not listening. Not sure which is better. One is half-true and the other isn’t very considerate. I usually get two sentences in and then end up looking lost and scared. I think more confidence is needed and also to be able to tell people that I’m here to learn French so please talk more slowly. I think I just need to articulate more.

That’s all I’ve got right now. You wouldn’t believe how long it took me to correct and double-check my French up there. I feel like such a baby in French some times even when I’m just trying to write a simple sentence. Also not easy to get across the accent of these Québecois folks. Learning French with Rosetta Stone did not prepare me for this.

*Thought I was being racist but I am actually 5 inches taller than the average Chinese man.

Do what makes you happy

•December 7, 2012 • Leave a Comment

After watching this, I wanted to take the video’s advice and sit and play Halo all day as it’s something I thoroughly enjoy doing, but, according to my girlfriend, playing XBox all day does not constitute as professional development. Ahh well. That’s sort of why I’m back on this blog and back to writing. I’m currently trying my best to learn French so I rarely get to write in English. I probably only write in English to my family and even then it’s nothing elaborate. I think I’ll start writing more often and I might even have an idea for a novel in my head. Part biographical, part detective-dinosaur story. Think it needs some work.

On a more serious note, the above video is something that really connected with me and sums up how some of my friends are feeling with their lives right now. It’s hard to do what’s expected of you when you have to be doing something you detest doing. You’d like to go and do what you love, what really makes you tick but “real-life” keeps getting in the way. Dedicate as much time as you can to doing the thing you love whilst still contributing to “real-life” as much as you can until you can eventually transition into doing what you love full-time. It’s a hard notion to stick to and something I know I’ll be guilty of not doing but I’m gonna try.

Time to open up OpenOffice and put some words to paper.

Taylor Made Podcast

•September 10, 2012 • Leave a Comment

Hey anyone stumbling across my blog. Yes, you! Sitting there in your chair at your computer, I’m talking to you! I’ve not written something on here for a while now and whilst I have my reasons, I don’t think that they’re truly valid but that’s not why I’m posting. I’m posting to tell you about a podcast I’m a host on with my brothers Sam and Laurence Taylor. You can find it here: http://taylormadepodcast.wordpress.com/

 
It’s a show where we talk about video games, nonsense and just try and catch up with one another. Give it a listen and maybe subscribe on iTunes if you’re a super swell kind of guy (or girl). It would mean a lot to us if you did so thanks in advance. I know you’ll do the right thing.

 
A lot has changed for me since the last time I even thought about writing on this blog. I’ve moved all the way to Canada and am currently studying French over here. Hmm, it’s a bit strange to be honest. I also finished watching Breaking Bad and oh boy is it good. Will probably write something about it fully in the future. Hmmm, maybe.

The Dissection of Isaac Part Two

•June 15, 2012 • Leave a Comment

A little while ago I wrote an article on my interpretation and analysis of the meaning of Edmund McMillen’s game, The Binding of Isaac. Since that time, the game has seen a significant update which has also introduced a new ending. If you haven’t finished the game all full and proper, then stop reading and play it! Not only because you won’t know what I’m on about, but because it’s a fucking good game.

The twelfth and final ending depicts Isaac reading a book (presumed to be the Bible) which he then closes and sees his reflection in the mirror. His reflection turns into a black version of himself with red eyes. Upon seeing his own reflection Isaac once again looks across the room and sees the treasure chest. We can only presume that he then proceeds to lock himself inside.

We would only have to presume but McMillen has said on his formspring that this ending comes before the eleventh and that would actually make some sense. As I previously noted in my other article, I believe the game is about creativity and a lack of understanding of a child’s imagination. Isaac is constantly told that his drawings and over-active mind are the work of the devil and not ordinary for a child of his age to be doing. After finally finishing his own story through his drawings he takes some reflection upon his work and contemplates that maybe his Mother and religious teachings are right and he isn’t a normal child at all.

The inclusion of his Father in a Polaroid picture with both his Mother and himself only emphasies my belief that his Mother is not abusive and is not the Mom we know within the game. My reasoning is is that Isaac’s father is presumed to have passed away so the only authority figure for Isaac to rebel against is his Mother, hence why she appears so vile within his imagination.

The two different final battles between either the Devil or Isaac are also interesting when we consider the floor that they both appear in. The Cathedral is what Isaac presumes to be the ‘correct’ and ‘right’ choice to make and Sheol is going further and further within in his psyche. It’s interesting to note that Isaac believes the right thing to be doing is to be destroying himself and taking himself out of this world. He does so as he has had the reinforcement from his Mother and the Bible that he is not a normal child. The fight with the devil is just Isaac digging even further into his own beliefs. He’s already killed his Mom in his imagination and the only other figure of authority has been the fear of the Devil. Upon killing the Devil in his own mind (as he does with himself when killing Isaac) he snaps out of his imagination and reaches the same conclusion.

The amount of depth and story intertwined within this game is quite astonishing considering that there is a lack of an actual gameplay narrative. A lot of the story is taken from inference and implication. I’m really glad McMillen kept the ending pure and also expanded upon the eleventh ending. I still believe that the game is far more personal than we will ever know but only McMillen will know the true meaning of who Isaac is.

Dr Fetus or: How I Learned to Stop Whining and Love Super Meat Boy

•January 31, 2012 • Leave a Comment

So it’s back-to-back posts featuring work from the mind of Edmund McMillen. I seemed to have swamped myself within his mind plasma and spent far too much time playing The Binding of Isaac and now Super Meat Boy. If you’ve not heard of the hardcore-twitch platformer that is Super Meat Boy, then you really need to educate yourself. Imagine playing a game of Mario that had its difficulty jacked up to 11 with no remorse for the player. Super Meat Boy is that game. It also seems no coincidence that Super Meat Boy and Super Mario Bros. share the same initials. McMillen steeps his work in game-history and SMB (Super Meat Boy, not Mario) is no different.

The game opens with the narrator shouting at you “SUPER MEEEEAT BOOY” and the attitude doesn’t stop there. You start by taking control of an anthropomorphic cube of meat who’s girlfriend (Bandage Girl) has been kidnapped by the evil, and adorable, Dr. Fetus. The motive is unknown but the formula is so familiar that we take this for granted. The levels have all got the same fundamental goal. Reach Bandage Girl without being turned into burger patties too many times. You will die though. Numerous times. But dying hundreds of times on the same level only makes the replay upon completion so much greater. The replay shows not only your final attempt, but all previous attempts simultaneously running head-first into an inevitable and gruesome red spray.

Although SMB has been out for some time now, it is one game that I find myself coming back to time and time again. The reason for my absence from the game is probably down to the difficulty. When I first picked up the game way back last year, I found the first world to be a nice introductory set of levels that still possessed challenge. I’ve recently gone back and played these starting levels and found them to be somewhat of a cakewalk. It’s not because they’ve become objectively easier, but because by the end of the game you’re having to do things that would have seemed unfathomable when you first started out as a baby Meat Boy, or should that be Meat Baby?

The game is best played on a controller and this is where the real magic of the game lies. There are plenty of platformers out there that don’t behave themselves very well and have the player shouting “bullshit!” at the controls and how they behave. Like being put in charge of an overweight man in slippers who’s carrying bricks and then being told to navigate him across an icy bridge. It ain’t gonna happen. SMB, however, has tight controls. Really tight. You may find yourself blaming the controls for your failure but it isn’t the controls that are letting you down. It’s these controls that give the game its speed and enjoyment. The game is all about speed and the quick resets and loading times encourage this. It’s like when playing Trials HD where you know that hitting that reset button will not take time. You need to beat your friends’ times and resetting to do so is not a problem.

The game is also steeped in video-game history. It knows that the comparison to Mario would happen and how does Meat Boy reply? With a great big middle finger and an attitude that says “come at me”. And you know what? It can get away with it because it’s so well made. It replicates old gaming systems and their graphics, their music and their loading screens. The game may be frustrating but rewards the player with that warm and fuzzy nostalgia feeling. So what I can’t beat this level? The beeps and boops well make up for it and the adorable sprites are a bonus.

That’s not to say the game doesn’t have its faults. The lack of being able to quickly see friends’ times whilst playing is a bit of a pain. Trials HD does the competitive leaderboard to perfection especially with the in-game marker to show you where your friends were at that time. It’s something that’s lacking from SMB but is certainly not a game-killer. The sheer volume of content in the game more than makes up for any shortcomings.

The Dissection of Isaac

•January 26, 2012 • 4 Comments

Last year, Edmund McMillen (the mind behind Super Meat Boy, Time Fcuk and Aether) released the twin-stick Bible-gore shooter The Binding of Isaac. If you haven’t played it then go and grab it off Steam. It’s only like $5 and well worth the price. My time counter has only just started working properly since the Christmas patch and it’s already at 36 hours, not to mention countless hours of gameplay beforehand. It really is an interesting mix of exploration, twitch-gameplay and randomness. With a major update coming soon, TBoI is a game that will give you far more bang for your buck. It also includes some very interesting themes…

The conceit of the game is that you play as a small child called Isaac who is trapped in a basement filled with deformities after running from his Mom who’s on a holy crusade due to a message received from God. Now, this fills the game with lots of Christian imagery and themes that have somehow managed to not cause that much of a stir. Not because it can’t be taken as offensive (there are numerous pokes at religion throughout) but because the story isn’t about the evil of religion. It’s about a small boy who’s imagination has run wild.

The story sets out simply enough and I fell for it on my first, second and tenth play-through. It was only once I managed to beat Sheol and get the final ‘true’ ending did it all seem to make sense. For those of you not wanting to know, go and play the game yourself and come back (if you can stop yourself from playing). Some people have been taken in by the story of Mom and all of the back-story to Isaac but I think it is far simpler than that. The introduction to the game is all shown to be drawn on paper and is narrated until it reaches its climax to show Isaac in his room (drawn in a different style) with a smile on his face and surrounded by drawings. It quickly pans round to some piles of paper and the menu is written upon it. The menus are all hand-written and include drawings alongside. We then select to start the game and are once again greeted by a third style of art and the game begins.

So we have three different Isaacs and three different styles. The first style is the one that Isaac has drawn himself and is why it all appears on paper. The narration is also composed of short and simple sentences which are the thoughts of Isaac in this story he has written himself. The second Isaac is the real Isaac and the third Isaac (the one we play as) is the one within the true Isaac’s imagination. This boy is not tortured or threatened by his Mom, but is a creative child who feels lonely having being raised by a single mother. The only father figure in his life has been delivered to him through religion (be it Satan or God) and feels that it is He who is responsible for his Mom’s loneliness and, thus, his neglect. The final ‘true’ ending shows Isaac locking himself in a chest in his room and shutting out the world. He is misunderstood and feels lonely. His drawings are his escape. Not the basement.

It was a surprise ending that had me welling up a little. It truly is sad. It’s a game about loneliness being dressed up with religion and antagonists, when really, it is about a world that has betrayed and left him. After watching some clips of the Indie Game Movie of Edmund McMillen did I realise how much more personal this game is to McMillen. He describes in this clip how he felt lonely as a child and this is how the game Aether came about. It was an exploration of his feelings as a child and how he used his drawings as an escape tool. It is a theme that is littered throughout Isaac. It is therefore not hard to assume that real name of this game should be The Binding of Edmund.

EDIT: Thanks to Edmund for the re-post, really appreciate it. If anyone has any thoughts on my interpretation, please do shoot a message in the comments and I’ll be happy to reply.

Tonsils the size of moon rocks

•January 21, 2012 • Leave a Comment

God damn I feel awful. Let me get you back to the start of this woeful story, to whence Lord Tonsillitis cometh my way. It was a Sunday afternoon and I felt especially tired considering the lack of any activity that was outside of my usual routine but yet I insisted on staying up and watching Sherlock despite a 6:30am start the next day. After waking up at 3am and then consequently vomiting, I realised that work probably wasn’t an option. So, for the last 5 days I’ve been staying in at home doing nothing more than listening to old episodes of My Brother My Brother And Me (which is incredibly funny by the way) and playing a mixture of Skyrim and The Binding of Isaac. I did go to the Doctor who prescribed me some penicillin and I’ve been on that the last two days. It’s starting to clear up but my throat is still a little bit sore. It is in dire need of some huggems and lovin’. My friend asked me how my throat felt and I said it felt like I had been deepthroating Hellraiser without my knowledge. Maybe he snuck in during the night and plonked his bits in my mouth without me noticing. Although, with needles poking out of it (I mean, it’s never explicitly said if his WHOLE body is like that, but we shall presume it is) it would hurt immensely.

The Binding of Isaac though is a fantastic and genre-warping game that I absolutely adore. Once you get past the fecal and urine soaked exterior, it really is a heart-wrenching story about a little boy who has nobody in his life to turn to. I will definitely get round to writing a whole piece on it but man, I feel so sorry for that kid. The final ending (before the super mega update coming in a month or so) nearly had me in tears. It’s so sad but also puts the rest of the game into a perspective that more than makes up for all of the piss and shit.

But I should probably do some sleeping now as I need to get my rest to fight off this infection in my face. Look at that face above. Does he look happy? Fuck no he doesn’t.

 
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