• "The Whale Hunt is an experiment in human storytelling." 3000+ photographs, with what seems like a confusing-and-shiny interface to explore them – but hides a detailed metadata manipulation layer underneath. Beautiful pictures, too. Something really quite special; the "interface" pages should explain more.
  • "Still, overall, Left 4 Dead's opening cinematic is a shockingly complete primer to the rest of the game. With only a few exceptions, almost any player going into Left 4 Dead for the first time will know exactly how to play the game: they already know the gameplay, the weapons, the enemies, the win scenario and the strategies they need to get through the game alive… the only thing not covered in the opening movie is the specifics of the interface." Yes – had this exact same conversation a few days ago. Although John is awfully down on Louis, which seems a tad unfair…
  • "The obstacles that exist are mere impediments to my motion, puzzles placed only to slow me down or stop my free-flow kinetic improvisation. No time to think or overanylize, only time enough to move. This is what the essence of gaming should feel like: a sincere, wholehearted attachment to the action (or actions) that one sets into play. It is a moment where the motivation at hand is intention only, whose aim is exploration and discovery, refined. It is the escape, distilled and realized." GWJ on Mirror's Edge, and never rewinding, never looking back.
  • "Metro Rules of Conduct is a game about the awkward situation of commuting in my hometown, Stockholm. Look at mobile phones, MP3 players and breast for score, but whatever you do – avoid eye contact!" Wonderful; the art-style works really well, as does the head-bob.
  • "Melville was torn between writing a ripping nautical yarn and a metaphysical odyssey, and it shows. Rockstar was torn between constructing a sandbox and a stage, and it shows. The result was a tenuously fused work of genuine Americana: a disorderly paean to the American city, a bit of ultraviolence, a stonkingly beautiful soundtrack, a fable, a simulation, a gonzo critique of capitalism. It's a game we deserve. " Pliskin on what GTA4 meant. Perhaps hyperbolic, but it's an important signifier of this year. The Redding quotation about Far Cry 2 is also a stonker.
  • All 226 entrants for the 2009 IGF. Heard of – and played – some of these, but many are unknown. Exciting to see the list, though, if only to be reminded that there's this many games being made and funded independently, at the large and small scale.
  • "aphex twin + vassily kandinsky + doom 2" – now that's a tagline.

Back from the End of the Road

18 September 2007

Back after a weekend away at the End of the Road festival, and what a weekend it was. Wonderful weather, great company, and only the briefest hints of rain. It felt pretty special: a small festival (only 5000 tickets), lots of families, great food, wonderful music, and a schedule that never felt too crowded, but always yielded serendipitous discoveries wherever you looked. Highlights included:

  • Bumping into a musician practicing on the piano in the piano garden, and being his audience for a while
  • The peacocks! (Larmer Tree Gardens has several resident peacocks, who would happily wander around the paths)
  • Finding that friends I wasn’t expecting (Ben-Rizla, Tim) were also there
  • Discovering Midlake in their wonderful 90-minute set
  • Darren Hayman + co’s impromptu secret bluegrass gig in the piano garden
  • Hush The Many playing a lunchtime set like it was a headline show (and subsequently chatting to Nima from HTM the next day – November 9th, at the 100 Club if you want to see them again)
  • The fantastic burritos at the Mexican place – their breakfast burrito was a triumph
  • I’m From Barcelona‘s hilarious, uplifting, ecstatic afternoon show – crowd-surfing-on-a-lilo and all
  • Jim White‘s humble, delightful songwriting
  • Cooking breakfasts and lunches on our Trangia
  • Architecture from Helsinki – at times bewildering, and then just as I’m about to leave, they bring it around with some dirty four-to-the-floor. They battled poor sound to give a good show
  • Finally getting to see Salter Cane perform (congrats, Jeremy!)
  • The stage invasion during SFA‘s The Man Don’t Give A Fuck
  • Standing around the fire at night with some particularly fine hot chocolate
  • Kurt Wagner’s majestic, delicate closing Lambchop set

There were many others, but that should give you the idea. Alex and I spent a while trying to describe what tied all the acts we saw together, given they felt so disparate. But in the end, there was definitely one thing that brought them altogether: a shared sense of humility. The organisers were thanked in practically every set; the festival lauded similarly. So many musicians and bands just seemed so thankful to be there, and would always inform the audience of this – usually prior to thanking the audience themselves. And they all meant it. It felt wonderful to be at such a gentle, honest festival, which made up in heart what it lacked in bravado.

Already, I cannot wait for next year.