37.733 Miles

TT Isle of Man

I hate motorcycle games. Other than the fact that I’m not very good at them, there’s a good chance that there’s a deep psychological trigger for me reminding me that I’m not very good at riding the real thing either.

In either case, I’m a sucker for a free game and a few easy achievements, and so with one of this month’s Games with Gold being the TT Isle of Man, I put my metaphorical helmet back on and took to the streets.

To be honest, there’s not a lot different about TT Isle of Man from almost any other motorcycle racing game I’ve played – and I guess that’s not necessarily unexpected, but in an age where driving games like Forza can really innovate, I guess I expected … more.

After struggling through the rather bland and long-winded tutorial (it probably wasn’t that long, but boy it felt like it), I did a quick check of the achievement list to see what was a reasonable few challenges to tick off the list. The single lap of Snaefell Mountain seemed to be a reasonable result, thinking that – like other races – it would be a few minutes of bike-riding pain to earn a quick-and-dirty cheevo.

Twenty minutes into the ‘race’ though (and I used the term loosely – it became apparent a few minutes in that I had no chance of being any sort of challenger), and I regretted my decision. Bland environments, terrible compatibility between player and game and just an all-around insufferable achievement, and needless to say I’m glad that I did it and don’t have to do it again.

I’m sure there’s a niche motorcycle racing market out there.

I’m just not it.

Cross Save for Destiny 2

It’s here. It’s finally here.

It might sound silly, but I’ve been waiting for the industry to catch-up to this point for so long. I have looked at the Mike Ybarra Tweet many times over the past few years in which he prophesied a world where you would be able to play your same Destiny characters across any platform and take your progress with you, and now – that day has arrived.

While much of the narrative in the industry has been around cross-play for the past few years, I’ve always had my heart set more on the ability to cross-save. I knew that Microsoft had made incredible in-roads in this capability, part of the sales pitch that they use for using Azure, but regardless of any anticipated marketing kick – it was the functionality that most appealed to me.

The reason is simple: I don’t want to play with other people, I just want a choice about where I play.

Sure, Destiny is a game which thrives on social interaction – but other than one time when I managed to get a friend online, and through the good grace of an Xbox LFG – not to mention a few drop ins and drop outs – I managed to finish a raid – OTHER than that … I like to play it solo. If I play in a fireteam, it’s because it’s been randomly assigned to me, not because I have two or three good mates that I like to regularly catch up with each week and play. No, it’s the simple fact that I’m a busy man, and sometimes I only have twenty minutes to play, other times I can settle in for a long afternoon and smash out six missions in a row. There are a lot of variables at work there – whether the kids are in bed, whether my wife wants to watch something on the TV, whether there’s housework to do, whether my in-laws are staying, etc. And when that’s the case, I want to be able to pivot to a different platform, and try and play there – in my case, the PC.

Do you know what I don’t want to have to do? Start things all over again.

So, yes, I am red-hot-keen for cross-save, and I can’t wait to get into Destiny 2 Shadowkeep a little more on PC. It is, undoubtedly, a superior way to play the game, but I have built a healthy little legacy with my Guardians on my Xbox, and so I want to be able to maintain that going forward.

If they can sustain the cross-save capability for Destiny 3, I’ll be a happy man.

Thanks, Bungie.

Robocraft Infinity

This title from the Xbox Game Pass library is an interesting blend between a mech combat game and some sort of Minecraft-lite crafting mashup. The premise surrounds simply building, or modifying, a mech made up of small blocks and weapons and then taking them into battle.

For the few games that I played, I elected to go with a T-Rex variant of the mech, which seemed to be a fairly solid all-rounder, though I was able to see how handy, for instance, a wheeled mech would be able to capture points quicker, or an aerial mech was able to navigate to enemies easier.

The load times on this title are terrible for something with low fidelity visuals and otherwise basic concept, but it’s not a bad title, and otherwise ‘safe’ for younger gamers to play – with some supervision (it does, after all, have lasers and other weaponry in it).

Training Day

I don’t think there’s a gamer on the planet who hasn’t played, or at least heard, of Worms. It has a timeless formula that, essentially, just lets you experiment with a whole heap of different weapons times and ‘go at it’ with either the computer of a human opponent.

There are varying degrees of expertise in the Worms community. You have people who are so brilliant at lobbing their grenades across the map with the right level of force, the correct angle, and against the wind that they can blow an opponent off the board in a single stroke. There are others that (over)rely on just getting line of sight, lining up a bazooka shot and firing it with an extreme level of force (that doesn’t actually make a difference).

I like to consider myself somewhere in between.

What I didn’t expect with this particular outing for Worms was the introduction of some new toys. I thought the introduction of a tank was pretty cool – a bit unnecessary in terms of what some of the Worms joy is – but cool nonetheless.

And then, they introduced a Mech!

One of my favourite gaming memories is stomping around a desert world playing MechWarrior. I didn’t know what I was doing, and I couldn’t play it very well, but I absolutely loved it. So, now, picture Worms WMD introducing Mechs, and letting me stomp around the level with the same level of joy that was sparked well over twenty years ago. Absolutely priceless.

I feel like I’ve only scratched the surface of this particular Worms, but at the same time, it has such familial comfort that I don’t need to dive too deep without giving my quick-and-dirty assessment on the game: it’s good. It’s the same ol’ Worms, with a WMD lick-of-paint.

To be honest, I wish more games took their winning formula, made them look pretty, and stopped stuffing around with the mechanics.

(The same could be said for the recently release Toy Story 4)

Guilty Pleasure

woman smiling using vr goggles
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A lot of people spend their lunch breaks doing different things. Some enjoy the company of a good book, others stare at the small glow of their phones while they read Buzzfeed or some click-bait-of-choice. Me? I like to play video games. I find with the combination of kids, more work responsibility, increasing civic involvement and the ravages of age, my free time is increasingly shortened.

Over the past year-and-a-bit, documenting my gaming life at Achievement a Day has offered perhaps no better example of how I juggle life and gaming. But the audience for that blog is niche, a sub-culture of gamers that enjoy achievement hunting. While being a ‘gamer’ has attracted a broader level of acceptance, particularly in younger demographics, there is still a lot of agitation, even within the gamer community, about identifying as a gamer. Yesterday’s Kotaku article about the culture at Riot Games, for example, focuses extensively on the culture of only employing ‘core gamers’ – something the article tries to contend that (Riot believes) women are incapable of.

So, if gamers can’t even play nicely among themselves, it shouldn’t come as any surprise that a middle-aged white executive from the Accounts team of South African origin (who speaks like he longs for a return to Apartheid) might have difficulty accepting that gaming is a perfectly acceptable hobby to partake in during some down-time in the middle-of-the-day.

The game itself was Trailer Park Boys: Greasy Money, which I used for yesterday’s Achievement a Day, and so its comical appearance probably makes it no worse than watching something like Family Guy or Rick and Morty on my lunchbreak. But when Mr. South African stood from his desk and caught a glimpse of his screen, it wasn’t his disapproving look that bothered me the most, but rather the immediate onset of guilt for playing a video game.

Let me be clear: I was playing a video game on my own computer, during my own lunch-break out of the line-of-sight of most people. While Trailer Park Boys could be arguably quite an offensive game to the average person, it’s only in reading the cartoon-bubble text where you will get the offense. At least, that’s certainly the case yesterday.

three men standing in front of racing arcade machines
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No, the guilt came purely and solely from the act of playing a video game – not the content itself, and I think that is worth discussing.

I am certain that there is some psychology behind gaming as a hobby in which it hasn’t received mainstream acceptance yet and so it becomes a closet activity which can only be enjoyed behind closed doors, in the confines of your own home.

It’s a crude analogy, but homosexuality has been like that for a long time – first it was out-and-out unacceptable, then it became something that could be tolerated by two consenting adults out of the public eye, through to today where it’s (typically) not given a second thought. (Well, perhaps that last point still remains a lofty goal – but it’s getting there.) In either event, gaming as an activity is still in the ‘toleration’ phase of development. Nobody outwardly berates you for being a gamer – you might get the odd sneer or sideways glance – but, at worst you’re considered to be a bit eccentric, or at worst, a socially-awkward nerd.

Neither of those labels particularly bother me – at times I feel I have a foot in both camps, but collectively, the act of playing a video game and being a ‘gamer’ should have no better or worse connotation than being a ‘reader’, and reading a book on my lunch-break.

Is there a solution? No. It’s a cultural trend that will have to die out like the dinosaurs – again, much like societal views on homosexuality or any other progressive stance. I don’t think there’ll ever be, or need to be, a ‘gamer pride’ celebration, but it will be a shift that takes time. It will take the conservative, close-minded relics to die out, or have their views so increasingly marginalized by the powerful voices of a progressive youth. There’s signs of hope – the growth of PAX, and this year’s introduction of the Melbourne Esports Open are both stepping stones towards a more mainstream acceptance of gaming and gamers.

man playing game on personal computer
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Perhaps once that acceptance kicks in, then there’ll be a greater ability to relax and stand proud when playing a video game over lunch.