Webmaesters.

I’ve been doing some research for a thing I wanna write. It’s about GeoCities, how it was canned, and the people involved who have been archiving what they can since Yahoo killed it. I decided it would be fun to find some old ASOIAF fansites, if any still existed, and boy, do they. Here be spoilers for the books, so avoid if you’ve not read them.

We’ll start with some fan art from The Gallery at Greywater Watch. This is a relatively new website, at a sprightly 12 years old. It’s interesting to see some portraits with zero influence from the show. Here’s Robb, looking broody, here’s Jamie looking… chirpy, along with a tired lion; Hear Me Yawn. There’s Dany and a bad ass dragon, there’s even Mag Mar Tun Doh Weg.

Next we’ve got Riverrun, a site which was last updated in 2001. There’s a nice sketch of Jon, Robb and Bran. A lot of the website is, of course, under construction (“MAJOR CONSTRUCTION” in this site’s case), although there is some badly formatted 2002 fan fiction. Make sure you follow the rules, though…

The bio of GRRM is coming soon, presumably around the same time as TWoW.

The forum is partially archived, and there’s some 2001 tinfoil about the identity of Azor Azhai. Stannis is suggested, but the details of the discussion are lost in the e-aether. There’s a theory about Jon eventually marrying Sansa, R+L=J is old news, and a few people suggest Loras/Renly might MAYBE have had feelings for each other. 42 carat tinfoil. I like the theory that Tyrion and LSH will team up, because why not?

There’s lots to read, it’s just pot luck if they’re archived or not.

The Isle of Faces, which was last updated in 2001, features  a sadly under construction section on theories. R+J=L is backed up, but other suggestions are put forth. Benjen as daddy, anyone?

A Song of Ice and Fire is next. Come for the animated fire gifs, stay for the fan casting of a SOIAF film. This summer, Kevin Spacey or Gary Oldman is Petry Baelish. John Rhys-Davis is Robert Baratheon. Mandy Patinkin is Syrio Forel. Arnold Schwarzenegger is Hodor. Madonna is Cersei. Macaulay Culkin is Joffrey. It goes on and go, but the best casting, one which HBO are, quite frankly, fucking stupid not to have listened to – Cuba Gooding Jr IS…. Khal Drogo.

There’s news on the forthcoming publication of A Storm of Swords, even some fan mail with GRRM. When asked about the wacky fan theories posted on the site, he replies “Well, some of the theorists are hot and some are very cold indeed, but I prefer not to give anything away until the proper time.” CLEGANEBOWL CONFIRMED. Here’s an archived version of an interview transcript mentioned on the site.

My favourite bit is probably the request not to harass GRRM with pointless questions. “If you feel you cant help it, remember, the TWO year gap between A GAME OF THRONES and A CLASH OF KINGS!” Sweet summer child.

There’s an old message board that has some interesting chat. In 1999, SK (Stephen King, obviously) suggests Robb’s time on this Planetos is coming to an end. There’s a worry that disk space could lead to a change of format in the message board. O, the 90s. Most of the topics are sadly lost, but titles like ‘Just making sure the bulletin board is Y2k compliant’ and ‘Who are Jon’s parents’ suggest greatness.

There’s probably more kicking around, but I thought it’d be fun to check out. Hope you enjoyed some of the art and ancient, partially archived discussions.

From t’archives – Woktastic review.

Woktastic is coming back soon, in a new location that isn’t connected to Paradise Forum. Many years ago, I wrote a restaurant review and haven’t written one since. After reading this, you’ll probably find out why. Mind the cobwebs, it’s a remastered piece of filler, right out of 2010 –

Food. Food is good. I don’t know much about food, nor do I know much about eating out in Birmingham (no, keep reading, I have a point that I will stumble into shortly). What I do know is that there’s a really great Japanese restaurant called Woktastic in our fair city. It’s just outside the Paradise Forum (which is not great), opposite The Yardbird (which I’m ambivalent toward). It’s undoubtedly the campiest restaurant in Birmingham, if not the country. Its bright orange walls, even more intensely orange-uniformed staff, and multicoloured sushi dishes assault your senses and taste of decency all at once. I swear, I almost had an epileptic fit just walking into the place once; the Japanese pop playing over the sound system threatened to give me aural diabetes. Oh, and the food? It’s actually rather delicious, with a great all you can eat deal on sushi, and I highly recommend the chicken katsu with a glass of plum wine.

I just have one problem: the manager. Oh, he’s not rude or anything; the service in Woktastic is actually second-to-none. Look, this is a bit of an odd situation, but I need to let this out to someone, so it might as well be you. The manager, he… thinks my name is Stan (my name is Hazz). Here’s what happened: I once impersonated my friend Stan, as he didn’t want to cancel a booking in person, so I did it for him, claiming to be Stan, and now every time I go in there, the guy thinks I’m called Stan. What do I do? Do I just… tell him? No, I can’t do it. I can’t tell him that I’m not Stan.

“That’s not a real problem, Hazz, you goddamn nutcase, chill out.”

Oh, but it is a problem, dearest reader, for you see, I have to book a birthday party (yes, you’re invited, bring a gift) there soon, which means I’ll have to give him my name. My real name. Did I mention my name isn’t Stan? What do I do? I can’t just tell the guy I’m not Stan, that’d be hideously embarrassing, I’m too much of a social maladroit to have that conversation; the awkward, ghastly shamespeech where I have to explain I attempted to bamboozle him, I tried to play a ruse upon him. I have committed… uragiri against him and his people.. Actually, I think he’s Italian, but it doesn’t bloody matter, he’s lovely and I’ve stabbed him in his very friendly back. Let me explain how lovely he is. He’s charming, he’s welcoming, the guy always comes over to have a chat, he brings me a fork so I can eat my currysauce-sodden rice without looking like a special needs kid, he has a lovely, shiny bald head; he engages in friendly banter, he wears nice shirts, he’s generally just bloody ace.

No, I can’t break his heart.

I can’t correct him next time he calls me Stan. What’d that do to our relationship? He’d lose face, surely? I’d be bringing shame upon his name, his restaurant, his family. No, I can’t do that, I can’t reveal that I’m an identity thief.

No, I won’t let that happen. I know what I must do: I must continue this charade. I must live a double life. I must become Stan. I must live as Stan. Stan’s a thin Chinese dude, I’m a not-thin white guy, but that doesn’t matter. I will be Stan.

I am Stan.

Try the chicken yakitori, it’s delicious.

Some things what I wrote recently.

Last month I pretended to be a farmer, a trucker, a woodcutter and a surgeon. You can read all about it in the first of two Contributoria articles I’ve got published this month.

The second article is about my experience trying to make a video game. It didn’t go well, but it’s the journey, not the destination, he said, weeping into his tea.

I wrote a thing about House of Cards and its groundbreaking portrayal of video games. You can read it at Medium, because why not?

Finally, there’s a new episode of Shit Bullseye Prizes. This month Jim Bowen gives away a computer and some games, but all is not what it seems.

Is that a PS Vita?

The Guardian redesigned their website this year. I’m not a huge fan, but they did make one change that I’ve not noticed any one talking about – video games have been moved from the technology section to the culture section.

There’s a sizable part of the gaming community that tries to champion video games as important pieces of art, that they should be classified as cultural products, the same way TV shows, films and books are. As time goes by, it’s really cool and interesting to see just that happening.

One way it’s changing is the depiction of gaming and those who play games in TV shows. Dr House, of course, was constantly playing on his SP and DS, but this was little more than product placement. NBC’s Life featured an execrable segment involving hacking, and someone hiding some sort of file in a video game, in this case a Prince of Persia title. It took all the stereotypes of gamers and tropes of video games, mushed them together, and produced this poorly-veiled advertisement for a shitty game, long forgotten in the sands of time.

There are rare occasions when video games are used as a metaphor, like the Breaking Bad scene where Jessie plays a laughable, mock-light gun version of RAGE. It looked stupid, but it got the point across and it made sense thematically. Product placement, but used to develop a character.

Enter House of Cards. Francis J Underwood, through all three seasons of House of Cards, has shown himself to be a bit of a hardcore gamer. People will cry product placement (David Fincher has insisted none of the Sony references were paid for. The infamous PS Vita scene being a parody of TV product placement is the only explanation), but throughout the series, video games are used metaphorically and symbolically. There will be mild spoilers for the show from here.

In seasons one and two, Francis spends a lot of time killing children online in various Call of Duty games. He also indulges in games of God of War. In season three, when he is made Commander-in-Chief, he stops playing the games. The man who played at war no longer needs them, he is pretty much a god of war now, literally killing children in warfare. It’s basic symbolism, but it’s exciting because it’s video games used in a grown up way.

Francis later plays two indie games, Monument Valley, a beautiful isometric puzzle game set in a world of impossible structures, and The Stanley Parable, a hilarious deconstruction of narrative, player decisions and consequences in video games. He’s inspired by a video game reviewer’s prose and asks the reviewer to help him with a book to promote his job-creating scheme. When the fuck have you ever seen a games journalist as a character in anything? The reviewer is treated on the same level as other journalists on the show, with his writing described as ‘gorgeous’ at one point.

Frank lies down and plays Monument Valley, nonchalantly, like any fictional character would read a book or play a piece of music. Like it’s a normal thing to do. Because it fucking is.

Frank and a few other characters talk about ‘indie games’ and ‘consoles’ without stopping to explain to the audience what an indie game or a console is. The writers expect you to be a part of the 21st century and know about games. It’s depressingly refreshing just how much the writers respect the audience and don’t talk down to them.

Later, Frank plays The Stanley Parable and is baffled by the narrative.

“I don’t get it,” Frank says, while The Stanley Parable’s narrator delightfully natters on.

“The game’s unwinnable, that is the point” the reviewer replies.

“It just started over again!” Frank complains, as the game loops. Again, the audience isn’t pandered to and told what the game is. The game is barely in shot, but it doesn’t need to be. Their discussion about the game mirrors Frank’s experience as president, his experience in politics in general.

“Chaos takes over, it’s impossible to follow the rules.”

Frank turns off the game and takes a swig of whiskey.

“This is too much like real life.”

A basic metaphor, but goddamn it’s exciting to see.

Space dementia

I am in a nitenite hotel. It’s a bit like a Bloc hotel, but the rooms are smaller. It’s not quite a capsule hotel, more like a prison cell on a space ship. The air conditioning gently throbs and hums in the background, while the live feed on the wall-mounted Telescreen TV — from a camera on the roof — gives you a low resolution view of the city, all grey and depressing. You soon get used to the lack of windows and stare at the city. Forever.

The corridors in this place are the longest I’ve ever seen. They seem to go on forever, like an optical illusion, but one that eventually ends with a snack machine selling overpriced KitKats and wine gums.

If Lovecraft were alive today, I think one of his protagonists would end up here, alone, going insane, writhing in their own filth, complimenting the lobby, with its Wetherspoons-esque chairs and book shelves, discussing the endless spiral stairs that take you to the infinity corridors.

All in all, it’s quite nice, as long as you don’t mind feeling like you’re going a bit peculiar. The bed’s comfy, there’s a wet room, a writing desk, and a control panel next to the bed that only adds to the effect that you might actually be floating through the heavens on a spacecraft, the memories of your suburban life a cruel trick the brain is playing on you as it suffers the effects of space dementia.

Free Wi-Fi, too.

8/10, would sleep here again.

SHERWOOD WATCH #2 – WATCH HARDER

It’s time for another exciting episode of Sherwood Watch! The pilot was a resounding success, with literally dozens of views, and some very positive feedback from fans. “This is pointless” said Villafan1974. “Why are you doing this?” cried Paulmcgrathmlord. “You got some change, boss?” said a vagrant at the bus stop.

Luckily for those fine people, Tim Sherwood has been doing what he does best — flapping those fine, flawless gums of his.

I don’t think anyone’s managed to better my win record, even this guy Pochettino, and everyone’s talking about how well he’s done.

NOPE. Tim Sherwood’s win record at Spurs, after just 28 games, was 14-4-10, making it 50%. Mauricio Pochettino, with 43 games, is currently at 23-10-10, making it 53.49%. Is it entirely fair to compare these records given the small amount of games? No, but Tim keeps bringing it up. Andre Villas-Boas is at 55%, David Pleat at 50.42% and Harry Redknapp trails Timbo at 49.49% (with 170 more games managed).

Tim could, of course, be referring specifically to his Premier League win record (he doesn’t specify, though), but without a full season in charge, it seems slightly sad to be clinging onto something like that. The last time a Villa manager wanked on about his former team like this was Gerrard Houllier, but at least he’d won a few trophies before joining. It’d be interesting to compare Sherwood’s PL loss record to his peers.

The only win record that matters at the moment is his record at Villa, which stands at 0%.

Experience is overrated. Pep Guardiola didn’t have to go out and work in the lower leagues, did he? It helps when you have the best players in the world.”

NOPE. Pep Guardiola wasn’t some random chump who just lucked into a team with players like Messi and Xavi. Guardiola is a student of the game, who worked under Johan Cruyff  and Carlo Mazzone amongst others. He’s famous for being a football nerd, analysing games, breaking his opponents down and exploiting weaknesses. His big, beautiful brain notched him a treble in his first season at Barcelona.

Sherwood is a proponent of man-management, which has led to him publicly criticizing players, distancing himself when things go wrong. Tim, you can’t stick a win record in a trophy cabinet.

SHERWOOD WATCH #1

A new feature here now where I’ll be stalking everything Tim Sherwood says to the media (or as much as I can bother to read via F365 and Twitter) and fact-checking the handsome, gilet-wearing beast’s comments. Here’s the first installment.

I remember playing against Christian Benteke as a manager and I know what a handful he can be

Nope. He managed one game against Aston Villa, his last Spurs game as manager, a 3-0 victory, with Paulinho, Baker (OG) and Adebayor scoring for the home side on 11 May 2014. Christian Benteke didn’t play and was not a handful anywhere. The game is notable for featuring Jordan Bowery attempting to play Premier League football.

When I came here [Villa Park] as a player, I found it a difficult place to get a result.

He lost three games at Villa Park as a player, drawing two and winning one. He also scored a goal. Yeah, we’ll give him this.

I’m the headmaster now

Nope. Tim Sherwood is a football manager, currently training for his UEFA Pro License. He has no training as a teacher or headteacher, nor is he currently employed by any schools.

Sports entertainment.

From the very fact that at some point during our lives we say that we want to be professional wrestlers …there is obviously something mentally wrong with us. – Chris Candido, 1972-2005

I want to write a thing about the wonderful, mental, seedy, sleazy, beautiful world of professional wrestling. Here is the proposal, but I want to go into a bit more detail about it.

I’ve been watching wrestling on and off since I was about 6 years old. I started with the cartoon-style WWF, with Hulk Hogan going on about prayers and vitamins, Ultimate Warrior generally just ranting, Bret Hart being the excellence of execution, and goddamnit, I even liked Koko B Ware. I would enjoy it as wrestling really should be enjoyed — by completely buying into it. When I was about 13-14, after years of suspicion, I finally found out that pro wrestling wasn’t entirely on the level. It might actually be the dreaded f-word – fake.

A subscription to Power Slam magazine would confirm my suspicions and pro wrestling went from a colourful, camp tale of super heroes battling each other each week, to a horrible saga involving backstage politics, drug and alcohol abuse, finally ending in the ultimate tragedy – the double-murder and suicide of Chris Benoit.

I stopped watching after the Benoit incident because I couldn’t help but feel like I was partially responsible. Chris Benoit’s brain was so damaged it “resembled the brain of an 85-year-old Alzheimer’s patient” according to a neurosurgeon. He had damage to all four lobes of the brain and brain stem. And why was his brain like this? Because he’d done it to himself in order to entertain me and millions of others.

I’d loved wrestling up until that event, but I found it hard to reveal to people that I loved it. During the boom in 1998-2001, it wasn’t so bad, because wrestling was absolutely everywhere. In 2015, it’s kind of hard to come out of the wrestling closet. Why, though?

Pro wrestling, as I hope to explain in the article, is basically ballet, it’s a dance, at its best it’s two men telling a story with their bodies. The themes don’t generally get more complicated than good vs evil, and the storylines themselves are almost always moronic, badly written and badly executed, but my god, when they get it right, it’s mesmerising. For every Katie Vick moment, there’s a match like Shawn Michaels vs Ric Flair at Wrestlemania 21. I won’t spoil it, but the end of the match genuinely had me in tears.

I’m going to see if I can get people who have no interest in it to watch and enjoy a match. Is it even possible? I’m going to try and sell it to you, the majority who couldn’t care less. If you could, please take 60 seconds and sign up to Contributoria (for free) and back my article (for free) so I can pay my rent and talk about this beautiful, terrible sport.

Ladbrokes – the RPG

So I’ve launched a couple of Contributoria proposals this month. One of them is called Journalism Simulator 2015 and will be a look into the world of simulator video games. I’ll be covering some of the best titles, like Euro Truck Simulator 2, and some of the worst, like Woodcutter Simulator 2013. I’m gonna try and have a chat with some of the developers to see what drives them to make such intricate, but seemingly dreary titles. I’ll also be chatting to fans, especially the super fans who have elaborate peripheral set ups.

The other article I’m proposing is called Is it possible to make and release a video game in a month? Let’s find out. A truly dire title and one with which I wrestled with for literally minutes, trying to decide if I should end it with an exclamation mark or not.

I’d like to put the Contribut(ute) into Contributoria this month. The latter article has got a wee buzz going via the comments and I’d like to open up the article and game’s development to everyone, even if they haven’t backed. I think it’d be nice to get some more collaboration going and I hope it’ll be a fun, interesting experiment in crowdsourced game development. I don’t know how open it’s going to be, perhaps limited to allowing people to name towns, items, enemies, etc, or getting people to help with music, sprites or design.

For the game design itself, I’m thinking it’s probably going to be a satirical bookmaker simulator, where you control a struggling cashier who has to battle against evil age checkers, powerful area manager sorcerers, and try to juggle between running various shops whilst fighting goblins and shit. Like real life, really.

What do you think?

It takes about a minute or two to sign up and back any of the above articles, and it’s completely free. It would be great if you could help out either through backing, or leaving a comment or two.

Please donate all of your Drebin Points.

I have picked a pretty shit time to do a 24 hour gaming marathon. I intended on having a lie in, but woke up with a nasty headache and some loss of hearing in my right ear. I have a terrible cough and generally feel like someone has taken a foul dump in my head. BUT! Today is the day and there’s no getting out of it. My friend Lisa and I will be playing the first three Metal Gear Solid games back-to-back, with no cut scene skipping. We’ll be sitting through every codec conversation, every long-winded discussion about control and freedom in the information age, every poop joke, every grizzled chat about love blooming on the battlefield.

This is kind of a test run for future gaming marathons and unfortunately we don’t have the hardware to stream this one, but we will be live-tweeting throughout, which I’m sure will get very tiresome for everyone involved. All you have to do is go about your day as normal, perhaps send the occasional encouraging tweet or text, and if you can, please donate, or spread the word via Facebook, Twitter, Friendster, or leave a link in your AIM away messages.

I’ll be doing some more writing about Crisis and Metal Gear when Lisa takes the controls during the marathon. I hope you can join us, either in person, or via the twitters, and yeah, do send us money. Lots of it.