Yellow Brick Road Review: Berry Those Bodies

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Watching Yellow Brick Road is like being allowed to gaze upon the Mona Lisa while being forced to drink a mug of hot piss.

-PB

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Music Videos: The World of Covers

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Now I know I haven’t written anything since new years so excuse my abruptness but I just encountered a video quite late in the day, AKA: 11:50pm, that I wanted to talk about.  I spent most of my day working and writing, and as I did so I listened to music. A lot of that music was cover songs of other various popular albums. Why? Well I like that spin on them, plus you don’t have to sit through an obnoxious advert on YouTube to listen to the music video in question. However when I was justifying why I listen to cover songs I began questioning why I was even on YouTube for my music… I mean there are thousands of dedicated platforms for new artists all over the internet, yet I find myself ultimately drawn to YouTube. Then I realised why… It’s the video. 

Experiencing a cover in a vacuum away from a human face makes you lose the worth of the person performing. You see a cover is different from the original because the person signing is not doing it for money but purely for passion, and that passion is muted without video. Without that visual element to the music you’d never see the dusty bedrooms, the sneering concentration on the faces of singers as the fumble for lyrics in their heads, or the worn instruments they pluck. I know it sounds hubristic and ultimately romantic but it’s true. You can even see the extremely fast progression of this new genre. We’ve moved from webcams to dedicated film cameras, with correctly composed shots.

I’ll offer two videos for an example:

The first is a cover made in 2010, (Jesus can you believe that was four years ago?) where in very little happens.

Sure it’s simple, and certainly not the focus of the content, but that doesn’t mean that no appreciation can be had from the video. Without it we’d never see that concentration, that drive. There’s a force that leaves the artist stuck, stoically staring at the ground, hunched over their guitar. We’d never know that this song wasn’t recorded in a studio, we’d never know that someone sang on the floor in the bedroom. That’s what video offers to music, that’s what, in my opinion, has helped the development and popularity of covers. It’s raw and unadulterated people, not highly refined and polished celebrities. In short, it’s just ruddy endearing.

This second video was made in 2012 by the same person: 

It clearly has style, heck it even has skill behind it. I’m not even sure that I could be so graceful and quick with a focus pull. It’s a huge change from the webcam video, it’s got movement, changing focus and even visual effects. Unless they really did shoot on black and white film, something I highly doubt….

Yet it’s still effectual. How you ask? Well two words, continuous shot, it never breaks or cuts, or at least I didn’t notice it doing so when I watched it at midnight high on diet coke and chocolate jelly beans. So why does the continuous shot mean anything? Well It lets us know it was one take, the room might have changed, the style and production values certainly have, but there’s still that gorilla edge to it. It’s not a visual gag, or a cheap ploy to up view counts. It’s film that’s shot in a complementary style to the music, understated, raw and unedited (minus the aforementioned black and white filter). It’s the right treatment for music in videos, not flashy sex stuff or stupid effects.

Anyway that’s my brief analysis into music videos, hope you enjoyed. Oh and Remember that it’s all thanks to the democratization of video distribution this, well genre was birthed. Otherwise we’d never experience anything of the like.

-PragmaticBrick

Call of Duty Goats: The Tail of The Goat Farmer

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Call of duty has been a long running franchise that mainly consists of shooting people in the face for varying reasons. Most of these reasons revolve around the loosely defined concept of ‘freedom‘ getting hampered by some terrorist group of an ambiguous nationality. However the new upcoming release for the franchise intends to do something different by putting players in the shoes of a seventeenth century Swedish Goat Farmer.

The game starts out in early Autumn as the insufferable winds of the year’s deadly winter begin to settle in and our character, Arvid, has to maintain his family life and homestead without succumbing to this brutal depiction of seventeenth century farming. Arvid is a fantastically flawed individual who has to not only come to terms with his gambling problem but also has to rely on his twisted family despite their constant miscommunication. However don’t assume it’s all sunshine and gumdrops, Call of Duty Goats is a fatalistic game with a dark atmosphere that’s not only disturbing but intrusive. It makes efforts to punctuate the difficult question over what is a choice, and how we trivialize them in games. I know this meta dialogue games have about themselves can be tiring but fear not as Call of Duty Goats operates with a subtle grace and tenor not known in the industry. In fact Goats seemingly wants to break every convention present in the modern shooter. You don’t even hold a gun or a weapon for the entirety of the game, well unless you count a rusty hoe as weapon. This is a drastic move for Activision and the COD franchise. The game that single-handedly redefined the modern shooter is trying it again, but do they pull it off? Well as always the story campaign delivers in both emotional depth and presentation. The story may start off slow for some but every scene is brimming with rich subtext.

Yet it wouldn’t be a Call of Duty game without Multiplayer, and Goats is no exception. Instead of the typical deathmatch, or rehashing of the campaign you find in most games, Goats has a completely original concept under its multiplayer hood. The game consists of four players, all of whom are unable to communicate in the typical manner. Yes, headsets are forbidden. You take control over one of four deaf and mute monks as you try to orchestrate the brewing and fermenting of your monasteries’ alcohol supply. How you do this is up to the player, some sign, others direct but most dance. Yes interpretive dance is used to express both direction and advice. It’s a tough thing to do and the online stranger watching you can easily misinterpret your smooth moves. Yet that’s the beauty of it, it’s not about what you want to say or how you say it, but how they see it. It’s this beautiful view of how others perceive you and it causes you to constantly re-frame yourself in other people’s eyes.

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Next Gen Tech: The Goats move away as you get closer.

This self-conscious approach the game forces you to take can make newer players rigid and nervous at first but the warm and supportive community helps ease newbies into the swing.

Call of Duty Goats has a different vibe from the rest of the series but it still stands strong as a triple A monolith in both quality and substance. If you asked me a year ago if this was possible I’d laugh you out the room but Goats defines the next standard of games. It pushes boundaries both in the industry and our society at large. Player creation and interpretation is at the forefront of this sizzling title.

Certainly competitor for game of the year.

9.5/10

-PragmaticBrick

The Youtube Bubble

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Walk into any university lecture hall today and anyone involved in media will tell you that the future is the internet, specifically YouTube. Now most of us know this, the internet and YouTube are likely to be around for a very, very long time. It’s not a fad like Moon Boots and mood rings and simply referring to it as ‘important‘ is a gigantic understatement. Yet, as with all good things, there’s a problem. YouTube is kind of broken; and no I’m not talking about messed up buffering or awkward layouts. There’s an increasingly serious problem surrounding YouTube and that problem is us. It’s estimated that over 100 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute. Now that’s a lot of data for anyone who’s even moderately computer savy. This may sound trivial to some who scoffs at the idea of Google’s server farms struggling with simple video sharing and in some capacity I wouldn’t call them wrong. After all Google manages to serve billions of people each day and still run the most populated video streaming site on the Planet. Nevertheless that figure is huge, in just one day we produce more content for youtube than is possible to watch in that time. That can range from hour long HD videos, to music or even vacation pictures. It’s an unadulterated, unfiltered mess.

Now you may be thinking, ‘this sounds like the chime of censorship!’ Let me be clear, I do not want to censor YouTube, or any other part of the internet however I imagine there are many people at Google who do. Not because it serves some global conspiracy agenda of hampering free speech, but because it prevents some guy in Maine from serving up eighty videos of an uninteresting gameplay in glorious HD. Put simply Youtube hasn’t been profitable for a long time, sure it may not be hemorrhaging money like some of the competition and being owned by the Google monopoly helps. However YouTube doesn’t live independently, it’s stuck on life support being spoon fed from its big brother a victim of its own success. You can see how in just the period of a year how YouTube has increased its advertising services and pushed for a more cluttered monetized space. This is an attempt to rebalance YouTube, a way of keeping itself above water without putting limitations on video uploads. However will this fix the problem? In all likelihood no, it won’t, it will merely slow the problem but not stop it. Because the problem stems from the volume of content we produce versus the volume watched. It is impossible for one human to watch even half of YouTube’s entire library in their lifetime essentially making every attempt Google has ever made to monetize YouTube moot unless they limit uploads. Yet that’s a problem isn’t it? That’s the sort of thing that would make YouTube an obsolete platform, no different from the established publishing media.

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Gone Home: Escaping From Escapism

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Now I don’t usually prefix posts with giant spoiler warnings but Gone Home is a special case. So if you have at least a passing interest in playing it without any preconceptions don’t read this. That being said if you’re reading this header you’re more than likely to have finished the game or at least have no existing interest in playing it. I’ll try not to rely on names so you might be able to read this and remain relatively unspoiled.

We’ve become accustomed to immersive escapism in our games, so much so that it’s often rare to find a game that even tries to mimic our own reality. We’re so used to artifice that anything resembling our real world is a completely alien in a game space. Not to say we don’t explore issues and topics that surround our real life through escapism but those issues we do explore are greatly muted thanks to their fantastical nature. Rarely have games tried to break this mold, we tend to be more comfortable with wizards and super soldiers dealing with emotional and social issues rather than anyone that resembles a real person doing the same. We’ve shied away from ourselves and while I’ll admit my morning routine isn’t very exciting and certainly wouldn’t make up a grandiose adventure there’s still lots of interesting aspects to my life and millions of others that are left completely unexplored in the medium of games. The way we operate socially and culturally are hardly touched upon by games, you’re more likely to find a game displaying the life of a fictional, ennobled murdering machine learning to love his beefy companions in a professional way than a game about a single mother struggling with unpaid debts. Perhaps we’re just too squeamish though, blood and gore is fine to deal with because once we turn off that game it’s gone from our lives. However stories about financial and social problems are very real part of our world so it’s easy to see why that brief moment of escape from it all is so attractive. So preamble had let’s talk about Gone Home, a game that’s willing to bring up the hard stuff, and yes, it’s not wrapped in metaphor or fancy, it’s just a story about a home and a family, that’s it. Shocking I know. 

Continue reading “Gone Home: Escaping From Escapism”