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Lewis Lewis Denby is a freelance videogames journalist and critic. As well as HonestGamers, he has written for PC Gamer, Eurogamer, The Escapist, Gamasutra and BeefJack.

Title: Witching Hour...
Posted: October 13, 2008 (02:11 PM)
Game that has made me laugh the most without meaning to in recent history: The Witcher.
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Title: Hangovers
Posted: October 11, 2008 (01:18 PM)
The way I feel today after the ridiculous session last night is indescribable.

Crazy fuckers have all gone out again tonight. I am bedridden.
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Title: UK telly-watchers
Posted: October 09, 2008 (02:14 AM)
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Title: Deadly Shadows review
Posted: October 05, 2008 (08:19 AM)
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Title: A Reviewer's Question
Posted: October 04, 2008 (10:12 AM)
How do you know where the line is between a game being too difficult, which spoils the overall effect, or you just being crap at it?
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Title: An entire subgenre...
Posted: October 01, 2008 (03:53 AM)
Discussion on some forum I go on about Mass Effect leads to discussion about the nature of videogames as art. In a bizarre example of misjudgement, I thought some may be interested in what I had to say, so it's below.

This is in response to a suggestion that the truly great and important games fall into "an entire subgenre of entertainment of their own, richer than any Mario (no matter how good) will ever be."

I'd be interested to see what people's opinions are on the matter.

It's interesting, isn't it? While I loved Mario Galaxy - and it is a wonderfully-crafted videogame - it'll never appear on the cultural register of anyone outside of the medium (aside from the fact that, well, it's Mario). To have a mass appeal as a work of art (whether a game can be a work of art is another debate, but the short answer is: yes, it can), there needs to be a richness to the concept or fiction beyond what's expected simply of that medium.

Novels have the benefit of being pure storytelling, and as such, there's only one factor to analyse in deciding whether the thing's good or not (arguably two if you consider the quality of the writing, but I think that quality's a given at the high level we're talking about). Films have more to consider, but the movie industry is so central to so many cultures that almost everyone's familiar with all the facets of a good film.

Games are more complex. They're seen as a pure leisure activity, and not in any way an academic or creative pursuit. Mario, while great, does nothing to change this viewpoint - and nor should it, really. Even the games that non-gamers talk fondly of (Pong, PacMan, Tetris, Doom, Mario 64, Sim City, The Sims, Spore... just to go through the years; you could argue that The Sims has some social relevance as a life study, but you'd be wrong, because it's programmed) remain entirely fixed in the realms of 'something to have fun with', whereas I doubt anyone would refer to - fucking hell, I don't know - Ulysses as "a fun read".

So the games at the top of my pile, since I primarily approach things from a creative standpoint and relish in developers trying to be more artistic in their approach, tend to be the ones that achieve something more than pure fun-factor. Bizarrely, these games almost always fail to sell in any significant number to the non-gaming public, and yet they're arguably the titles that non-gamers would get the most out of. This is one of the reasons I thought BioShock and - to a lesser extent - Mass Effect were important releases, because on top of their fabulous storytelling ability and interesting political and social arguments, they were also incredibly commercial in their gameplay approach.

If you look at all the finest games (in this sense) over the past few years, all have been culturally relevant in some way. Half-Life and System Shock 2 arrived at the birth of the 'fear of technology' era, in the midst of the Millennium Bug scare. Deus Ex arrived in a Matrix-obsessed universe. But all of these are pulp fiction at heart, pure pop for the masses, misjudged in their approach as complex, user-unfriendly games (Half-Life is the slight exception, but that only sold in the millions because, well, it was the greatest game ever made). Now, we're seeing a new breed. Invisible War uses a pop-sci-fi front to talk about the dubious nature of some organised religion. Half-Life 2 reveals the terror of living under an opressive government at war. Bloodlines talks about social hierarchies and the horrors of the organised crime world, but makes all the characters vampires to draw in outside blood. BioShock does a similar thing but with more of an emotional gut-punch to the story. Maybe that's why BioShock's been probably the most popular with casual gamers, but I still rarely hear any "intellectuals" discuss this sort of stuff in comparison to other great artistic works. I wonder what we need to do to change it.

My bet? More of this sort of thing. It's still in such a minority, and I can't understand at all why people aren't buying into it.
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Title: Mass Effect review
Posted: September 29, 2008 (07:06 AM)
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Title: Take that, Saren, you fuck!
Posted: September 28, 2008 (06:24 PM)
I have just this minute finished Mass Effect on the PC. The universe is safe - for now...
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Title: French Neptune
Posted: September 24, 2008 (09:19 AM)
A French HL2 site gives us some coverage. Which is very nice of them.

My French is a little ropey these days, so I had to run it through a translator to see what they were saying about us. I really hope this is close to the intended result, as it's magnificent:

Let's add a mod in the list of mods of the site, ie more precisely 'Neptune'. You will say, 'but what is' Neptune', is not it?

In short, Neptune is a mod for Half-Life 2 mixed with desire and sexuality... but you will not have thought it?

Seriously, Neptune is a single player mod for Half-Life 2 incorporating the ideas of world games like System Shock 2, Bioshock, Thief: Deadly Shadows and Silent Hill.

Some images and start it with comments if you're hot.

Start it with comments if you're hot!
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Title: Two Worlds
Posted: September 22, 2008 (05:09 PM)
EPIC!!!, lol-roffle.

Elsewhere, this wonderful band, who I've just realised I've not plugged for ages. Inscape (see the Trackspeed player, not the Myspace one) is one of my favourite pieces of music in the world.

I'll have something worthwhile to say in the near future, I promise.
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Title: Weddings
Posted: September 21, 2008 (08:21 AM)
Off to some friends' wedding today. On demand of ladyfriend, I am in the process of losing the beard*, but am insisting on keeping a 'designer stubble' look.

Searching for that photo led me to another one, though. Thank goodness the ridiculous hair is but a distant memory.

*That's me on the right. I am not my friend Gemma.
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Title: STALKER review
Posted: September 20, 2008 (06:26 AM)
Really, really disappointing.

There's a fantastic amount of amazing gaming on offer here, but it blows it all with stupid mistakes and bugs. Why, oh why?
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Title: Fatigue
Posted: September 18, 2008 (05:37 PM)
Just submitted the STALKER review - expect to see it in the next day or two. Deciding whether I like the thing or not has knackered me.
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Title: STALKER: Clear sky with hidden lightning bolts that attack you from time to time
Posted: September 16, 2008 (03:06 PM)
I really want to love the new STALKER game. I wish it would stop doing ludicrous things like NOT MAKING ANY SENSE in places and PUNISHING CREATIVE GAMEPLAY IN A SUPPOSEDLY OPEN WORLD and things like that.

Stupid stupid stupid. But then it's so good...

Head explosion.
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Posted: September 14, 2008 (07:22 AM)
Maintaining professionalism by not mentioning any names:

When sending out review code to publications, it's usually a good idea to provide everything required to play the game from the outset. You know - things like activation codes.

What happens is that us freelance writers plan our time. So when we know we're being sent a game on Tuesday, we'll probably plan to spend two or three days playing it, then another writing the review. If, upon receiving the game, we can't play it, this throws everything up in the air a little.

To combat this, we might do something like phoning the PR company working for the publisher, explaining that no CD key was provided with the review copy, even though it is required to play the game. And they might say something like, "Sorry about this. We sent out all the UK review copies of the game on request from the publisher, but it would seem they haven't provided us with any CD keys. I'll get in touch with one ASAP."

Which is fine, and we sit about waiting for a while for the phone to ring or for an email to come through. And then it gets to the next day, and we've still not heard from them, so we may fire off a polite email reminding them of the fact that we still can't review their game because we still can't play it. And all this time, we're having to put off any new work because, ultimately, this remains number one priority because we're already supposed to be playing it.

But then what, bizarrely, could happen, is that we don't hear back for another 48 hours, and suddenly it's 4:30pm on Friday and you know the PR house will be closing for the weekend in half an hour. So we might phone up again, politely reminding them that we STILL can't play the game.

And they might say "I'm really sorry this is taking so long. We're still waiting to hear back from the US publishers about this."


And then we decide, almost a week later and having wasted a load of time sitting about doing nothing, that this game is by no means a priority any more, we can make them wait for their review as long as they can make us wait to play the thing, and we probably don't even care about writing a fair and honest piece any more* because we find them really annoying.

The end.

*Obviously we still will. We're obliged to. But still.
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