Tick Tock

Tick Tock

The rush as you get dressed, just 90 seconds earlier getting the phone call at just before 6:30am on a Thursday telling you to come up, quickly put your jeans and shoes on, to rush to wake up your oldest brother and tell him it was time. The nerve-wracking ride up the hospital and trying to find a parking space before entering the hospital and eventually the room. The anxious wait as you sit there with your family, waiting for the moment to come. The silence killing you more and more as each passing moment goes, listening to the machines whirling away keeping someone alive despite being in a partial coma. Even the sound of tears and crying from other people in the room is the smallest comfort to you, knowing you don’t have to, at least for a few seconds, listen to the background noise of respirators and breathing equipment.

Tick Tock

The smell of toast and tea filling the room, the breath of smoke too. The former you love, the latter you hate. The sterile smell of hospital, however, is much worse, so you accept both of them at least this once. The rustling of paper as you flick through that day’s copies of the Daily Mirror, the Sun, even the Daily Star and one of the local papers in an effort to distract yourself from what was about to happen at some point. The mindless yonder of going through phones and reading Facebook and Twitter and Instagram for that same reason. The need to distract yourself by any means is strong and you take it, whether it be another dozen baby pictures on Facebook or reading right-wing newspapers, where Indyref was in the not too distant past and Brexit and ‘President Trump’ were still things in the far flung future.

Tick Tock

The need to escape the room for ten or fifteen minutes as you sit with your second oldest brother, who called you earlier to come up, in his jeep and sitting in near absolute silence, the only thing breaking it is the sound of the rain lashing down on the roof and windscreen. The thoughts going through your head as you sit there, thinking what you could have done differently. Could you prove to her you’d be alright if, God forbid, the worst happened? Could you have done more to show her how much you cared? Was she proud of me? Could you have been a better son?

Tick Tock

The influx of people outside immediate family starting to come into the room and - whether in minutes, hours or even days - sit and wait as the inevitable happened. The mood suddenly changing from sombre to a bit more jovial as people reminisce memories and stories, making things a lot more bearable than the silence of earlier in the morning. The smell of smoke is heavier than earlier, however. The worry is there, though, on whether the head nurse will kick people out for there being too many people in the room at once, even if these are people who have a case for being there anyway.

Tick Tock

The smell of mashed spuds, beans, sausages and other food in the hospital canteen as you and your sister-in-law go and gather lunches for most of the immediate family and those who hadn’t eaten at all and have that be a nice distraction, perhaps slightly jovial with a bit of banter. The mood dramatically dropping as you walk back in the room with said food and find the priest just start giving, for the second time in two months, Last Rites. The emotion on display is a lot more evident than this morning, though there’s more people in the room than this morning. The sound of tears and sobbing minutes earlier is filled after by eeery silence. The humming of medical equipment, the nurses and doctors talking and walking up and down the ward, the sound of televisions in other rooms are the only other noises in the background for approximately twenty minutes.

Tick Tock

The weariness, the exhaustion and the lack of energy are all starting to creep in. The waiting room down the hall is your only sanctuary right now to get some sleep. The jacket you wear is your only blanket, nothing else being around you. The best you can manage is one hour or two hours at a time. The Big Mac with just red sauce and chips from McDonalds you asked for dinner is the only sustenance you can manage, barely able to eat the food from earlier in the day, and even then, you can’t even finish that. The waiting room empty again, you try and get more shut eye, during which, a non-immediate family member Snapchats your sleeping carcass (you’re not told of it until after the fact). The sound of being woken up again by a family member asking if you want supper back from the chippy, to wit, you get curry, chicken nuggets and chips which you barely eat not in the waiting room, but in the actual patient room, which you go back up to now fully awake - to your disdain - and find there’s still a packed room of family members on both sides of the family passing around stories and just talking about the family business.

Tick Tock

The sound of silence reverberating around the ward as all the non-immediate family have all gone home for the evening whilst others patients get their sleep while the only people left in the room is a rotating cycle of immediate family while another sleeps down in the waiting room. The best you can manage in regards to sleep again is, at best, half an hour in an uncomfortable mattress on the floor in the room before heading out the room to go to the now-empty nurses desk, sitting next to the entrance of the ward. The only noise which emits during the night being the buzzer to let someone back in if they went out for fresh air. The tedium of reading the previous day’s papers is compounded even more by reading weeks or even months old gossip magazines. The desperation for time to pass if sleep isn’t to happen is strong when all your reading materials from weeks and months ago get you through three or four hours to at least 6 or 7am.

Tick Tock

The relief when you are told you can go home is palpable, albeit bittersweet and majorly guilt-ridden after feeling that brief bit of said relief. The awareness of you knowing you should still be there, but you’re so exhausted, so anxious and so sick of being in the hospital for 24 continuous hours by that point that you’ll take any time you can to get out of there, selfish as it is. The additional half-hour you sit waiting in the room and reading the day’s papers to pass time even further before you finally get to go home. The instruction you lay out before you leave - call if there’s any updates - is said with a lot more authority than anything you’ve ever said to anyone you’ve ever met in your entire life to that point. The kiss you leave on her forehead, not knowing if it’d be the last one she’d ever get from you alive rather than the two additional ones she got before the end came.

Tick Tock

The small relief you have in sitting at home, alone, is telling, the small bit of happiness you get in seeing your dog climb all over you having not seen another human for 24 hours - or at the very least, someone in his family - is knowing and the respite you get from being in that hospital - a building you never ever want to be in again for a sustained period of time - is of a tiny bit of comfort to you.

Because the next four days are going to be hard for you, so take all the time you can get.

Tick Tock. Tick Tock. Tick Tock. Tick Tock.

Diagnosis: Depression and anxiety

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[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIzrcgbsi3s&feature=youtu.be[/embed]

(For the sake of disclosure, there's one part in the video I took out which I thought I was ready to reveal, but I'm not quite there yet to talk about. I will at some point, though. Sorry about the length by the way)

Wednesday, September 28, 2016 - 4:00pm (the appointment)

All I could think of beforehand was the nerves. Why was I so nervous when this is something I had wanted and actively sought out for? Yet, sitting in the waiting room of the GP's office - for the record, I had my sister-in-law there too with me for support (actually my brother's partner's sister, but I usually go with in-laws because it's easier and because of the amount of time my brother and his partner have been together) - was perhaps one of the most anxious things I'd had ever felt and certainly one of the most dread-filled days of my life.

"Jonathan P Cullen - Room 3, Dr Doherty," the electronic sign then flashed up. Given final words of encouragement by said defacto in-law, I went to the door, took a second or two to take a few breaths, knocked and in I went.

After a few minutes back and forth on stuff and why I may have what I have, I got the diagnosis: depression and anxiety.


Since the start of the year, I've been in a rough spot. mentally. Next month (a month today actually as of this going up) will be two years since my mum died. As I wrote last year, I wasn't exactly in the best place then, but this year has severely taken its toll on me mentally.

I've not had the passion in me to write as much as I wanted to, whether personally or professionally, and I've had little to no need to do the things I love. Even playing games, the one thing I could usually hold up as the thing I could use whenever I needed them for both fun and as a thing to help me cheer me up, wasn't attracting me anymore. That was perhaps the first sign something was majorly wrong.

Not only that, I was not who I was as a person anymore. I've become more and more closed off to the world. I was shutting myself away from the world and becoming a massive reclusive shut-in. I'd only leave my house if and only if I absolutely had to. Now I've always been a reluctant person when it comes to trust. I don't trust a whole lot of people thanks to two people: a major family fallout with a cousin of mine a few years ago (we've since made up, but the relationship isn't as it was back in, say, 2010 or most of 2011) and someone within the games industry in 2012 - I trust my main family only by necessity and I could count on one hand the amount of people I trust outside my family - but more than ever, this year was especially hard for me to open up to people.

And also because of my closed off nature, I was becoming more anxious, depressed, lonely and certainly a lot more grumpier and angrier than I was ever in the old trope of 'Old man yells at clouds' thing. I am 25 years old turning 26 in January. Something had to give.


Monday, October 3, 2016 - 12:40pm (the first tablet)

I was prescribed anti-depressants by the GP the day I went to see her and was planning to start taking them the following morning. Except... I couldn't. As silly as this sounds, I wasn't ready then. This wasn't painkillers or a course of antibiotics over a two week period.

This honestly felt like a big deal to me. I was then asked by several members of my family that day who knew of my prescription if I had taken my first tablet. While I did answer in the negative, I was also annoyed with that question. Mainly because it's no one's business whether, when or if I take it nor should it be anyone else's business in regards to their meds (if you're open with yours, fantastic, but I'm not that sorta person who's open with the exception of this blog and subsequent video with this sort of thing). I remember saying something along the lines of 'I need space' so I can be ready.

After an otherwise decent if not okay remainder of my Thursday, I had planned on the Friday being a mental health day: seeing a movie in the cinema, buy a game, buy silly treats for myself that make me happy. Instead, I got a text from someone: it was my defacto sister-in-law who was there with me in the GP telling me to start taking my medication. That and then having my head screamed off by another family member really made me feel like shit that morning, followed by subsequent anger that near enough ruined my self-care day.

No-one should never - and I mean NEVER - tell you this in any way at all. I knew I'd have to start at some point and I knew once I started, I couldn't suddenly stop. But I had to will myself up to it and at that point in time, that text completely soured my mood to the point I had to delete it because every time I looked at it, I was just pissed off.

The following Monday was the day I decided to start taking my meds. I remember looking at the tablet for what felt like forever, thinking once I started, I couldn't just stop if I wanted to and go cold turkey (don't do this, it's massively dangerous - if you're looking to get off antidepressants, talk to your GP first). This felt large to me. After five or ten minutes looking at the damn thing willing myself up, I took it and down it went. Done.


Sometime in April, I remember having a kind of mental health breakdown on Twitter just spewing stuff about anxiety and knowing at that point I really should go and see someone, a professional. But I was so spent in a sense - not necessarily of energy, though it's still kind hard to explain what I mean by that in writing really - that I just didn't have it in me to go see someone.

I remember the same night I got a Twitter DM from someone. They had sent a message saying how they went through the same thing I did in trying to will up the strength and energy to see someone before they eventually ended up going. That message has been in and out of my head for a while whenever I think back upon the middle half of this year.

But it was only in July where things got to the point of hard times.


Thursday, October 6 - just before 9:00pm (the near panic attack)

I woke up from a nap drenched in sweat, near pins and needles on my arm and my chest slightly tightened. I could sense that a panic attack was coming. I couldn't really sit through it by myself nor did I want to. So I seeked out my brother's partner, who is also my neightbour, and asked if I could sit with her for half an hour to an hour, just in case anything did happen.

Perhaps watching an episode of The Fall didn't help in easing said fears, but otherwise, there was no panic attack. Unfortunately, it only delayed it approximately eight hours.


For most of July and August respectively, I was in a really, really bad place mentally. To be crystal clear here, I was not suicidal, but at the same time, such was my mood, my energy, my outlook on life in that period of my life that I felt like I wished people would leave me be and just let me wither away in peace. I had no positive outlook on my life at that point.

I had no desire to do things I love like write professionally (I've not written anything games related to date this year and I'm taking a break from games writing until I'm ready to go again) or personally on this blog (most of the blog posts you've seen on here since the start of the year has felt phoned in because I felt I had to hit a quota in my head of posting at least one blog on here a month), no further desire to make more episodes of My Favourite Game  (I'd planned to make a few additional episodes that weren't a full season for the end of the year, but those aren't happening anymore - instead Season 5 will drop next year as is), no further desire to do things I love like playing games, going for a looping walk around the town centre of Derry across the Peace Bridge, no further desire to do near anything beyond looking after my dog and feeding myself. That was it.

At that point, something had to change. I had another mental health breakdown on Facebook when someone came to me in PMs who has since become one of my biggest go to people if I ever need to vent about stuff. And considering my untrusting nature, that was a bit of a win for me. Even moreso when considering we've never been in the same place at the same time (though we will eventually - that's a promise). In one such message sent to me, I was asked if I had ever thought about seeing someone. It wasn't the first time someone asked. And it was of course something I had thought about a lot before. But it was the first time where I felt like I'd gotten to a stage where I felt it was time to seek help after being asked the question.

I was finally on the cusp of doing such a thing, finally at the point where I was starting to will myself on to get the help I wanted and needed. But then, something happened which dragged up feelings of two years ago that were still a bit raw for me.

Another round of the grieving process began: my mid-90s grandmother had passed due to illness. And while I managed to get through that a lot better than, y'know, perhaps the month-to-six week period after I lost my mother, it still made me think a lot of that time when I had to go through that unspeakable period.


Friday, October 7 - around 6:50am (the actual panic attack)

I woke up roughly around 6am with what still felt like pins and needles in my arm with my chest slightly tightened, but moreso than it was a few hours beforehand. I went outside to get some air and to take a small walk around my house and the 100 metres it took to get to my gate in my PJs (it was 6am and considering how shit I was feeling, I think I could get away with it).

But it didn't help. I tried breathing out as much as I could from my chest, but it was laboured. And every time I did it, my chest got tighter and tighter. Just as I got to the back of my house and outside our kitchen windows, I basically went dizzy in the eyes and just collapsed on my back and just remained there for a good five or ten minutes, giving way to my first major panic attack in well over a year. Whereas a year ago, I figured out why I got the panic attack then, I still don't know why now I got the attack I had this past Friday.

Needless to say, a fun experience.


Around the middle of last month, I had an unexpected talk with my sister, at that time set to head to Mexico on holiday. It was a lengthy chat, moreso than I expected. It was something in the ballpark of half an hour long. It was just the two of us standing outside her car talking family stuff and me and how I've been these past four or five months especially at that time.

It was a surprisingly encouraging and gratifying chat to the point that I decided to call someone who I trust immensely and have known for nearly the better part of a decade and talk to on the phone for an hour. Beforehand, I wouldn't have reached out to anyone if I hadn't had that chat.  I'm not very good at that, in fact, very bad. But if it weren't for that conversation earlier in the day, I wouldn't have had that cathartic phone conversation. And if I hadn't had that, I wouldn't have had enough in me to finally get an appointment sorted to see my GP.


Today is World Mental Health Day. I was not aware of this fact until earlier this morning. And while I knew that I definitely wanted to share my story sooner than later, I had planned on waiting a few more weeks considering the GP visit was only two weeks ago.

But if this story helps anyone at all and it encourages them to go see their doctor or GP about depression on World Mental Health Day, it'll be worth it.

Seeing the GP to get a diagnosis for depression and anxiety was one of the hardest things I've ever had to in my life. It is such a life-changing moment and somewhat bittersweet. But I don't regret it one bit now. I asked for help. And I'm glad I did.

Right now, I'm on Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs), Citalopram specifically. I also asked if I could be put on the list for CBT and counselling, though I was told it'd be a few weeks before I'd hear anything back on that. As of writing this, I still haven't heard anything on that.

I'm also starting to take in more mental health resources online through websites (I have Buzzfeed's mental health section and a Twine-made self-care checklist sent by a friend already booked) or Twitter. Following Esquire's Sammy Nickalls has a god send to me about my MH. She's been open about mental health to the point it started making me feel good seeing other people be open about their struggles with mental health using #TalkingAboutIt. I'm still gathering resources and I feel like I'm barely just starting, so if you're reading this, please by all means, send some stuff my way on Twitter.

There will never be a time where I will feel cured of depression and anxiety. You just have to treat it as best you can. And lets be clear here, you will still have bad days. But if you manage it well and treat yourself well, the bad days will reduce significantly in number.

A few years ago, a friend of mine and someone who has been the biggest influence on my career, posted a video that perfectly represented depression and anxiety on Facebook. I see it now and then and is a perfect analogy for mental health. I've posted it below.

If you have the black dog of depression, don't let it control you. Manage it and become you again.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiCrniLQGYc[/embed]

Thanks to Korina Abbott, Kristin Knillmann and my sister Joanne for finally giving me the push and inspiration to finally go see my GP and get an official diagnosis.

If you feel you need to talk to someone, reach out to family or friends. Or in lieu of that, in the UK, call The Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90 (in Northern Ireland, the number is 0808 800 8000 or call 116 123 in the Republic) or Mind on 0300 123 3393. If you're in the US, call the US National Suicide Hotlines at 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433) or 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

For mental health help services for the rest of the globe, please visit this guide here.

Toast

toast.jpg

Crispy, crispy toast.

You know what I haven't had in a long time? Toast. It probably doesn't help that since Ma died, we've not had a toaster in the house. I don't know what happened to it: whether it broke or whether it just disappeared off the face of the planet, the answer will always a remain a mystery.

I mean sure, I can always go to a cafe that does breakfast and ask for a few slices, but pay £3 or £4 for the privilege? Nah, I'm good.

Then again, it has been a while. I guess I should just have them. Even if they're going to cost me. Just thinking about it is making me slightly hungry now for toast.

Toasty toasty toast toast. TOAST. TOOOOOAST. T.O.A.S.T TOOOOOAST.

[I wrote this because I wanted to write something , anything, that meets my quota of having a post on here once a month at least, even if it's absolute banal horseshite coming out of my proverbial mouth. Like this. Blame Carli Velocci (@Velocciraptor) for the article idea. And this isn't the first time I've written something so stupid either.]

The Catalyst of Women's Wrestling: Bayley - Sasha Banks - one year on...

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The true revolution.

It's insane how much it can't be stressed how much Saturday, August 22, 2015 was a catalyst for women's wrestling in WWE. Actually, not so much a catalyst as it was THE catalyst.

Reading that sentence sounds like a lot of hyperbole and I wouldn't blame you if you thought that. Except that hyperbole feels justified in this instance. It's worth noting we've had excellent women's matches before Bayley and Sasha Banks' incredible barnbuster a year ago today at NXT Takeover Brooklyn, whether on NXT (WWE's developmental/"indie" brand) or the main roster long before the pair were in the WWE.

Even in the six months before that match, there were at least two women's match of the year candidates in the Fatal 4 Way between the Four Horsewomen (the group of women wrestlers who led the women's division at NXT for a two-year period - Bayley, Sasha, Becky Lynch and Charlotte) at NXT Takeover Rival and Sasha's incredible championship match against Becky Lynch at NXT Takeover Unstoppable. Such was the quality of the latter that it could have been argued as a contender for outright MOTY, let alone women's MOTY.

It's why the recent WWE 24 documentary on the women's division and the origins of the division, the rise of WWE women's wrestling pioneers Trish Stratus and Lita at a time where the division was anything but about the wrestling, the era of the divas and the birth of the Four Horsewomen within NXT and the WWE main roster is such a great watch and shows the massive night and day difference in the past fifteen years. It was refreshing to hear the likes of Trish and WWE co-owner Stephanie McMahon talk of the difficulties of being a female talent in a time where the division was about bikini contests, bra and panties matches and 'puppies' (ugh).

But the reason why Sasha Banks and Bayley stand out here is, besides their incredible match in Brooklyn, they merely know: what came before in the past and how they want to go about changing the business for the future. They know this - and can do this - because, their obvious talents aside, they're the biggest fans of all as two girls who said in the past they'd wanted to become wrestlers at 10/11 years old. They care because they grew up loving wrestling. It shows in their work and ethic, as well as chemistry for each other both in-and-outside the ring. Even look at Bayley during her title reign in helping to develop other wrestlers in NXT: Nia Jax, Alexa Bliss, Carmella, even Eva Marie (who, lets say, does not have the best reputation).

Said Sasha in the WWE 24 documentary: "When we were in NXT, we called ourselves 'Average Janes' because we were just average. Just loving and so excited for what we were doing."

In building to their match at Takeover last August, they had The Boss (heel/baddie) gain the NXT Championship in the Fatal 4 Way at Takeover Rival and start her build by having TV matches for the title with Alexa Bliss, Becky Lynch and Charlotte (the latter numerous times).

The build for Bayley (face/goodie - and she is a true-blue goodie in every sense of the word), meanwhile, was a slower burn that goes way back, but one that paid off in chunks. Cageside Seats has a fantastic series ongoing which chronicles Bayley and does a better job of describing it than I ever could, but also shows why perhaps out of anyone in the Four Horsewomen, she could be the woman who could lead the women of WWE in the future (warning: I'm a massive Bayley mark, so take that at much face value as you like), so I highly advise you check that out.

But the shorter version is this, starting from Takeover Rival: loses the Fatal 4 Way despite being so close to winning it, ends up in a feud with fellow superstars Emma and Dana Brooke which stretched out a bit - including a Takeover Unstoppable tag match with Charlotte as her partner - takes time off from a broken hand before coming back in a series of matches to show she's worth champion material, including a feud-ending match with Emma plus separate matches with her fellow horsewomen Charlotte and Becky Lynch in a number one contender's match respectively. All of which she won.

It's worth noting too the incredible contract signing between the pair. It's a huge part to the build and absolutely can't be ignored. Bayley's nervousness and slight stuttering at times (something not there in her contract signing with current NXT Women's Champion Asuka for her recent match at Takeover Brooklyn II this past weekend thanks to her fantastic character development in the year since), Sasha's taunting of Bayley to the point she just snaps and we suddenly see that passionate side of Bayley, an edgier side not seen until that point that showed that she could end up doing this. One of the best contract signing segments in WWE, if not NXT.

And not to mention the video package before their match which is up there with even the best promo videos in the WWE, such as Rock-Austin at WM17.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygBswu7QSfA?rel=0&showinfo=0]

If you're someone who's been interested in getting into wrestling or want to know more about the Four Horsewomen, get watching it now on the WWE Network. When I see people who say they want to get into wrestling, either for the first time or after a long time way, I immediately point to this match because it's perfect for newcomers and ticks near enough everything to be an absolutely incredible match to the point it's the best women's match in WWE ever and quite simply one of the best ever matches full stop.

But the reason it's absolutely the best women's match in WWE history and one of the best matches of all time regardless of gender (it's my favourite wrestling match ever, in case that still hasn't been made clear by now), is because of the clash of ideologies, psychology, the chemistry, the spots and move-set, the rivalry between the two built up over a two-year period. The pair deserved - and still do deserve - most of the plaudits and applause for the match they gave, but part of the credit has to go to the NXT creative team (led by 14x WWE champion Triple H, now also a WWE exec leading the NXT brand) too for putting together a slow-burning feud that gave an absolutely incredible payoff and perhaps gave the brand its Daniel Bryan moment in having Bayley win the title.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vkn8XgWxJdA?rel=0&showinfo=0]

The reason why it was such the catalyst for women's wrestling in the WWE from that match forward all comes to one simple thing: it showed at an event where there were more eyes on the product than ever before, both at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York and watching at home on the Network a year ago, that women can put together five-star matches and not just be relegated to mere eye candy. It showed women's wrestling can move on and has moved on from an era from purely sex appeal and barely any wrestling.

Women, not divas, are now on par with the men as superstars. The butterfly belt (what used to be referred to as the old women's title, the Divas Championship) is gone and resigned to history. And biggest of all, a marquee match at Wrestlemania where the competitors were front and centre of the main art at AT&T Stadium in Dallas. I certainly couldn't have imagined such a thing a year beforehand after Wrestlemania 31 in Santa Clara at Levi Stadium, especially moreso the night after it on Monday Night Raw Raw during a six-woman tag match (warning: the linked video has extremely offensive sexist crowd chants so be warned and don't watch at work).

The divas revolution/women's evolution has stalled at times and even given moments where you question where they're going to go next after something idiotic or stupid happens on a booking level (the Reid Flair spot in the Charlotte-Paige contract signing pre-Survivor Series, a fantastic feud in Charlotte-Becky Lynch for the title ruined by WWE Hall of Famer Ric Flair's incredibly offensive "wheelin dealin' etc etc bull-nonsense at the Royal Rumble).

But when you have moments like the Takeover Brooklyn match and the subsequent curtain call between the Four Horsewomen - an iconic moment, not just in WWE but in all of wrestling - the Ironwoman match at Takeover Respect, the Sasha pop at the Royal Rumble, the Wrestlemania triple-threat, Sasha Banks-Charlotte's utterly incredible title match on the first new-era Raw, the Attitude Era-like pop and reception to Bayley's main roster debut in a one-night only appearance at a WWE pay-per-view last month in a tag match as Sasha Banks' partner, there's still hope yet and even reaffirmed when these moments happen.

It's truly amazing how much has happened in a year for these two since Brooklyn. For Sasha, being one/third of a Wrestlemania main event, her championship coronation and the response after on Raw and being one of the faces of the entire company (she's the last face you see on the Raw intro, a shift away from placing the men who are chosen by WWE chairman Vince McMahon as the faces of the company like John Cena and Roman Reigns).

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8EOhZQzB4Ko?rel=0&showinfo=0]

For Bayley, carrying the NXT women's division in her time as champion, being the face, the heart, the soul of the brand as well as her aforementioned main roster debut and her final farewell this past Saturday night after her Women's Championship rematch at Takeover Brooklyn against Asuka, a moment she truly deserved on the biggest stage of NXT's year. If she gets her full main roster debut tonight on Monday Night Raw like its suspected she might, she is going to get the pop of the year. That, I have no doubt. Just listen to the response she got when she made her first appearance on the main roster last month.

[embed]https://twitter.com/WWE/status/757367121848393728[/embed]

If you had told me at the start of the decade, my favourite wrestler would be a female wrestler, I would have laughed at you. Six years later, lo and behold, we've come a long way with women's wrestling in the WWE that such a thing isn't a pipedream anymore. The Four Horsewomen - but especially Bayley in particular - made me believe in women's wrestling again. That absolutely can't be ignored. It all started again for me with that Fatal 4 Way at NXT Takeover Rival with all four of the Horsewomen, made official by NXT Takeover Brooklyn and solidified by NXT Takeover Respect thanks to Bayley and Sasha.

Last year's NXT Takeover Brooklyn was the greenshoots out of something special in the works. There may have been some teething along the way and there surely will be more of it to come. But if it's anything like the slow-burning payoff to Bayley's coronation as NXT Women's Champion a year ago today, the payoff here will be nothing short of incredible.

Here's to it. And here's to what went down a year ago. Thanks, Bayley and Sasha.

The ironman challenge

This is going to happen.

So much for a hiatus.

Sometime soon, I'm going to be starting what I'm going to call the ironman challenge.

I'm doing this challenge to revisit my ten favourite games ever and remember why they are my favourite games. When I start, I'll be going ascending order from 10-1, ending with The Last of Us. Full list as follows in descending order:

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+ Grand Theft Auto IV + Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty + Persona 4: Golden + Life is Strange + Mass Effect 2 + Uncharted 2: Among Thieves + Zone of the Enders: The 2nd Runner + Journey + Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater + The Last of Us

A few days ago, I finally got round to finishing off the physical collection of my top ten by finally picking up a hard copy of Persona 4: Golden (bought it digitally originally) and Journey (originally a digital only game).

It'll be interesting to do this challenge with some games considering there'll be a few I've not played in a few years. I've not played Mass Effect 2 in at least two years, Zone of the Enders 2 in three years. Nor have I touched both TLOU and MGS3 in two years since the GamesAid 24-hour stream/the passing of my mum respectively. Chances are the latter will perhaps have the biggest emotional punch when I finish it again considering how it helped me through the hardest period of my life.

For the sake of convenience, I'll be playing each game in their modern incarnation instead of the original, so I'll be playing, say, Zone of the Enders 2, MGS2/3, TLOU and Uncharted 2 among others in their HD collections/versions on PlayStation 3/4 respectively.

But there's also a two-fold reason why I'm doing this. As well as just to check in with this list, at somepoint in the year, there's an intent to do my own episode of My Favourite Game. Just to get it out of the way. Because at somepoint, it will end up happening. So may as well get it out of the way now.  Don't worry, there will be someone else to sit in the presenting chair in lieu of me in it and I just want to have these games fresh in my memory as I talk of them again as my favourite games ever.

I don't know when specifically I'll be starting the challenge, but it's one I want to do. It's good to revisit this every now and then and just to make sure these are worthy games on my list.

I think I'm going to enjoy doing this.

Empty brain

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I've not had it in me this while to blog about something. I've had quite a few things I wanted to blog about. I wanted to blog about the new Radiohead album. I wanted to blog about E3. I wanted to blog about stuff.

I just have it in me to write anything that's long in length right now. Like, I can do smaller stuff like - and this is going to sound like the most banal thing ever - tweets and Facebook. When I do write lengthy stuff as of late, it's only to set up posts on the website for My Favourite Game.

Maybe this is my way of going on hiatus. Or maybe I'll be back next month to go again. But considering how I don't have it in me right now to write - hell, it look a lot of effort last month just to write a thing on Uncharted 4's ending - it may be skewing more towards the former than the latter.

So if you read this blog - and I don't know why you would, to be quite frankly honest, there are better writers out there - and don't see anything for quite sometime, you now know why.

See you soon.

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The bittersweet feelings of Uncharted 4's ending

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SPOILER CITY!

Note: Seriously, if that heading above didn't make it any clearer, this will be talking about Uncharted 4's ending, so to say this will be filled with spoilers is an understatement. So quit while your ahead or keep reading if you've finished the game or just DGAF.

I was certain someone was going to cop it at the end. I felt all but certain someone was going to die at the end of Uncharted 4.  First, it was Sully. But then Naughty Dog trolled on that one with Uncharted 3, so surely not. Then, considering the subtitle of the game - A Thief's End - it was Sam. Or surely Naughty Dog would break the 'Use in case of last internally made Uncharted game' glass and actually bump off Nathan Drake.

But as it got towards the end of the game, I felt considering their relationship towards the end of the game as a married couple, that the vibes were heavily drawn towards this conclusion and that surely this would kill Drake more than any literal death to him would, it'd be Elena would be the one going 'Peace, I'm out'.

I was so ready for someone to die out of that core group that I didn't stop believing it wouldn't happen until we saw Nathan, Sam, Elena and Sully back on the mainland of Madagascar. What if Elena got killed by a Shoreline sniper for real after lying in that muddy puddle towards the end of the game with Nate after that earlier fake out a minute or two earlier? What if Rafe came and shot Sully just as the group got to the plane to get off the island? What if Sam died after being crushed inside Avery's ship? What if Nate was going to sacrifice himself in order to save his brother, leaving Sam to break the news to Elena? These were all actual scenarios that ran through my head as I headed towards the final two or three chapters of the game.

The fact it didn't happen caught me off guard. But as I'm writing this, nearly 24 hours since I finished the game, I can only feel genuine relief neither of them bit it. You usually expect some big death in the final game of a series (Mass Effect 3 the biggest of the lot that springs to mind - well, depending on what ending you choose anyway) that the genuine relief I mention is down to the fact Uncharted 4 didn't play up to that trope.

We got caught up in the notion that because this is Naughty Dog's last Uncharted game - possibly the last Uncharted game full stop - that the meaning 'A Thief's End' was a literal meaning, one of death to its main character (or possibly one or multiple of the support cast) when it wasn't. A Thief's End is a proverbial full stop to Nathan Drake's career as a treasure thief.

It was only when I finally saw Nate and Elena together in that final scene that the emotion hit me. This is a series that I'd consider one of my favourites ever - Uncharted 2 is among my top five favourite games ever (something upon which I'm sure I'll touch upon in my eventual episode of My Favourite Game) - and of course my favourite developer. This almost being the last Uncharted and certainly the last Uncharted from Naughty Dog, seeing the happy ending was bittersweet. Wonderful but saddening. There were tears.

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Those tears soon turned into rapturous laughter when the game threw me back into Crash Bandicoot unexpectedly, having been absolutely rubbish at it from the first instance of playing it earlier in the game. Never have I felt such a simultaneous mix of emotion at the same time playing a game than I did playing the epilogue of Uncharted 4.  Feelings of sadness, laughter and irrelevant frustration as I miss the final jump on that Crash level on my last life.

It's then we see that we're a few years out from the end of what happens in the story - the Drakes, Nathan and Elena, have gone on to become successful and famous after the revival of the latter's old TV show, live on an island and have had a family since then, a dog and their only daughter, Cassie (who I copped on after the fact is named after the Drake brothers mother). It's only when after snooping around after trying to find her parents that Cassie finds out the past of what her parents and Sully did in the old days.

This was the true happy ending for Nathan Drake. Far more worth in its weight than any gold or treasure brought back in the past three games before and the one this ending was wrapping up. This was the final emotional hit in which a few more tears were shed. It was the best ending we could have hoped for. It was the one we got.

Making endings are hard. And if not done right, chances are the fanbase is going to throw it right back at you. You just have to look at what happened with Mass Effect 3. Yet, instead of going down perhaps a route predicted by most, Naughty Dog actually gave a happy ending that felt earned.

It was bittersweet but wonderful. I was certainly happy and content. Albeit with a mix of other emotions too in the fray.

Xbox 360's greatest games

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Goodnight, sweet prince

Last week, Microsoft announced, after ten years of service, Xbox 360 would discontinue production. It is without question, at least in software output, one of the best consoles ever.

To celebrate the blooming thing's legacy - and the need to post something here at least once a month so I don't go too insane - I made a list of what I think are the 20 best games for the system.

Now, there are some third-party games on this list that are available on other platforms, but for me are synonymous with the 360, hence their inclusion here.

gearsGears of War

It was the third-person cover shooter to aspire to last generation if you were making a similar shooter. Gears was about romp and pomp action and made no bones to make sure it was nothing but. Gears of War 2 was an excellent followup, though I kinda fell by the wayside of the series when Gears 3 came out and haven't bothered with Judgement. Not even touched the Gears 4 beta as of writing this. Still, you can't deny the game's influence after ten years.

crackdown Crackdown

Lets be honest: no-one thought the world of Crackdown. We all bought it for the Halo 3 beta. It seemed like it had fallen to MGS2/Zone of the Enders syndrome. And yet, Crackdown has now earned its right to be a series. The first game just showed what could be done with a vibrant open world. And I think a lot of people give Crackdown 2 a lot of undeserved stick, even with its flaws. And orb collecting.

pgr4 Project Gotham Racing 4

Project Gotham Racing 3 was one of my first online gaming experiences. Unfortunately, not a pleasant one. But PGR3 was one of my very first games for the Xbox 360 when I got it at Christmas 2006 (I bought PGR3 a few days later along with three months Xbox Live Gold) and it was glorious. Then came riding in PGR4 less than a year later and oh my word did my little world change. PGR4 was - still is, actually - the best arcade racer on the Xbox 360 and still remains one of the best racers of all time today. You can find a copy for cheap in CEX today and I guarantee you that nearly ten years on since it came out, you'll still have a fucking ball playing it.

mass effect 2The Mass Effect Trilogy (Particularly Mass Effect 2)

Aye, Mass Effect 3's ending was shite, like. But besides that, and that Kai Lang fight before ME3's endgame, the entire Mass Effect trilogy to that point was nothing short of incredible. But it's Mass Effect 2 that deserves all the plaudits out of any other game in the series. I like to think of it as The Empire Strikes Back of the trilogy. And even for how woeful ME3's ending was, BioWare did make up for it with one of the best DLCs ever with Citadel. Can we have that HD Trilogy remaster now for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One before Andromeda now, EA?

halo 3Halo 3

Chapter VII. The Covenant. Enough said.

call of duty 4Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

If Gears of War was the cover shooter everyone aspired to be, Call of Duty 4 was THE shooter everyone wanted to be, full stop. To this day, nearly ten years since release, it still remains one of the most influential games of all time, if not the most influential. It's the game that exploded the series into new heights for better or worse. It was also at that point the peak of the series for Infinity Ward. Subsequent games in the series have been at best great (Modern Warfare 2) to at worst shit (Ghosts). Here's hoping that remaster rumour pans out.

bioshockBioShock

What needs to be said about BioShock? Incredible design, from a gameplay and art perspective, a tone which pulls you in and a story that is batshit crazy at times. Not to mention, Rapture as a locale is one of the most famous settings for a game for a reason.

bioshock infiniteBioShock Infinite

But for me, and this is why I have it standalone than bundle all the BioShock games together, BioShock Infinite is a game I love more. There's the world of Columbia which, as you come into for the first time at the start of the game, is vibrant with a dark mystery set to play out. Elizabeth is also one of the best companions in a game ever. She doesn't get in your way during a battle, only assisting you with tears and other trinkets when absolutely needed, and is one of the best female characters in a game I've played full stop. Sure, it can be a bit too shooty at times and even once or twice the story can go over your head. But even then, I still love Infinite so much. I really want that BioShock Collection to drop soon.

the orange boxThe Orange Box

This was the best thing to have come out of 2007. It's not even a contest. And were it not for The Last of Us, it would have been the best thing to have come out of the last-generation just for the amount of value it gives. One of the best first-person shooters ever in Half-Life 2 plus its episodes, the incredible Portal and one of the very few multiplayer shooters I have spent substantial time with in Team Fortress 2. I can't tell you how much I'd love to a similar Orange Box now. But even then, it'd be hard to beat Valve's effort.

fable iiFable II

It was one of the best RPGs on the Xbox 360. And were it not for the Mass Effect Trilogy, I'd go as far to say it'd be the best western-made RPG for it. Say what you will about Lionhead and Peter Molyneux, but Fable II was just the perfect game to play when you needed some calm time. Plus, you had a dog as a companion. That should've been enough to sell you on it there.

gta ivGrand Theft Auto IV

If the period between GTA III and GTA: San Andreas showed Rockstar at its most silly, Grand Theft Auto IV showed them as they started to become more mature with their output. GTA IV's more grounded story is what makes me love it, but Liberty City is still one of the best open-world playgrounds I've ever encountered. It doesn't hurt its soundtrack is just top notch stuff too.

gta v 4Grand Theft Auto V

But even with the game now on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, you'd still have to be hard pressed to not mention GTA V alongside IV merely for the fact it pushed so much out of the Xbox 360. And although it still represented that maturity Rockstar showed as of GTA IV onwards, GTA V was a little more loose if anyone had complaints of IV's very serious story. Plus, and I've said this before here, GTA Online is as close as we're going to get to a Grand Theft Auto MMO.

the beatles rock band 2The Beatles: Rock Band

Look. This isn't up for debate. The Beatles: Rock Band is straight up the best music game ever.  Like, the soundtrack is what obviously makes it special, but the way it delves into the band's history in great detail is great, if albeit 'sweetened' to avoid mention of how the band's final days went down. And plus, a vivid art design that is just Beatles-eque in inspiration. Like I said, it's not up for debate. Best music game of all time or your money back.

l4dLeft 4 Dead

I mention above how The Orange Box is one of the best packages in games ever, but Valve's second 360-sweetner turned out to be one of the best co-op focused games I've ever played too, if not the best. Left 4 Dead -and its sequel but primarily the original - is ridiculous fun.

alan wakeAlan Wake

How I managed to get through playing this game considering its tense horror setting, I'll never know. But Alan Wake is definitely worthy a place on this list. The Twin Peaks vibe the story gave mixed with a solid third-person action game is just brilliant. I'm hoping that now Quantum Break is now out of the way, they may have enough wiggle to room to finally do Alan Wake 2. Here's hoping

splinter cellSplinter Cell: Conviction

Look, it's a good game. It's certainly my favourite Splinter Cell anyways. I don't get the hate around it. It's good. Shut up.

bfbc2Battlefield: Bad Company 2

Some of the funnest online memories I have is within this game. The more I play of subsequent Battlefield games, the more I yearn for a proper Bad Company 3 so we can some of those fun times again in multiplayer. It is one of the best multiplayer suites I've ever played in a game.

bayoBayonetta

I didn't even have this in my top ten the year it came out. Instead, it was an honourable mention. And yet, as time has gone on, Bayonetta has not only aged like a fine wine, but also proves I can be an absolute idiot sometimes. The pure balls-to-the-walls action it gives, the setpieces it delivers is just full on bonkers fucking brilliant. At least I made up for it with Bayonetta 2 being my 2014 GOTY.

skyrimThe Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Skyrim still remains to this day the most I've spent in a Bethesda RPG, moreso than Oblivion or the past two Bethesda Game Studios-made Fallout games. I'm actually not a huge fantasy guy, but Skyrim was the exception to the norm in this instance. I just wish, like Fallout 4 on console, Skyrim enabled mods on Xbox 360 mainly so I could get rid of the spiders. My arachnophobia would be grateful.

forza horizonForza Horizon

Xbox 360 had some of the best racers on the platform in its ten-year span, but there are two that I think are the best of the lot. You saw one of them near the top of this list. Here's the second. Forza Horizon just completely nails the feeling of a car/music festival with a great selection of car, fantastic driving mechanics and one of the best licenced soundtracks ever. Just insane.

Evolution Studios to close

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Future of DriveClub now in limbo.

Evolution Studios is to close, Sony Computer Entertainment has said.

The DriveClub and Motorstorm developer was founded in 1999 and bought by SCE in 2007.

"Regular reviews take place throughout SCE Worldwide Studios, ensuring that the resources that we have in such a competitive landscape can create and produce high quality, innovative and commercially viable projects," said Sony in an internal email sent out just before the announcement, also the statement sent out by the company after the news broke.

"As part of this process we have reviewed and assessed all current projects and plans for the short and medium term and have decided to make some changes to the European studios structure.

"As a result, It has been decided that Evolution Studio will close.

"It is regrettable that this decision will lead to compulsory redundancies . We accept that this decision will mean that we risk losing talented staff but by focusing on other Studios that already have exciting new projects in development we believe we will be in a stronger position going forward and able to offer the best possible content of the highest quality for our consumers

"Where possible we will try to reallocate people onto other projects. If appropriate opportunities are not possible within the company, we will assist staff in any way we can including speaking with local employers and with other Development companies.

"Evolution has been an important part of SCE Worldwide Studios for over 10 years - working on ground-breaking Racing titles like WRC, Motorstorm and DRIVECLUB, and this decision should not take anything away from the great work that Evolution has produced over this time."

Minutes before the news broke, a Sony source told me that "bits" that were in the works for the series was now "thrown in the air". My source added they weren't sure whether the franchise would continue or not. Whether that means new games or updates done elsewhere outside Evolution is anyone's guess, though DriveClub was built to be a service and not be as reliant on new installments, so it likely would have been focused on the latter than the former with the exception of DriveClub Bikes, released last year as DLC for the main game and as a standalone game. As it'd turn out, it'd be Evolution's last released game. The future of DriveClub VR for PlayStation VR, shown at recent events, is now very much in limbo too with this news. I've checked in with Sony to clarify the future of that project.

DriveClub director Paul Rustchynsky tweeted a statement after the news came out.

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Personally speaking, it is a massive shame. Evolution Studios has been one of my favourite studios in the racing genre. Their very first game WRC was a fantastic rally game, whereas Motorstorm was just terrific. And as you may have seen several times on this blog, I rate DriveClub very highly despite its disastrous launch. Fifth in my 2014 GOTY and Bikes getting into my top ten last year. As a result of its continuing efforts to improve and improve following that launch, it's now in my top five games for the generation so far. And I wouldn't be surprised if it's still there after the end of the generation.

All the best to those affected at this time at Evolution Studios.

The BAFTA nods - my picks for who I want to win

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Blimey.

What an insanely good lineup of nominations this year.

The BAFTA nominations were announced earlier this morning with The Chinese Room's Everybody's Gone to the Rapture leading the charge with ten nominations. The Witcher III, Her Story and Life is Strange, among others, also lead the pack with seven and five nominations respectively.

Having had a look at the list and seen the nominations, here's who I want to walk away with gold on April 7 and why.

rapture

Artistic Achievement - Everybody's Gone to the Rapture

Also nominated:

  • Assassin's Creed: Syndicate
  • Batman: Arkham Knight
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
  • Ori and the Blind Forest
  • The Witcher III: Wild Hunt

Should clarify first off why the scratchmark on Ori. If you see a game scratched out, that's because I've not played the game, therefore not in the postilion to give it an opinion. In this case, I've not played Ori.

Anyways, Rapture has to win this. It's a no brainer in this instance.

rapture

Audio Achievement - Everybody's Gone to the Rapture

Also nominated:

  • Assassin's Creed: Syndicate
  • Batman: Arkham Knight
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
  • Star Wars: Battlefront
  • The Witcher III: Wild Hunt

Again, this is another no brainer for Rapture. How it does audio in the game is just stunning. And not's not factoring in the fantastic performances of the cast or Jessica Curry's incredible score, which we'll come to in due course.

rapture

British Game - Everybody's Gone to the Rapture

Also nominated:

  • Batman: Arkham Knight
  • Her Story
  • Prison Architect
  • Tearaway Unfolded
  • Until Dawn

This really seems like I'm being really bias towards Rapture at this point - and I promise as it get further in, it'll die down - but in terms of the games I've played that made my GOTY list, Rapture is the one that stands strongest here. Don't get it twisted, Her Story is absolutely phenomenal and Batman: Arkham Knight and Tearaway Unfolded are good games as well. But Rapture, from that list, is the one that stands out for me.

her story

Debut Game - Her Story

Other nominations:

  • Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
  • Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime
  • Mini Metro
  • Ori and the Blind Forest
  • Prune

By default, Her Story wins. But even if I had played other games on the list, I feel pretty certain I would have given the nod to Her Story still.

rocket league

Family Game - Rocket League

Other nominations:

  • Disney Infinity 3.0
  • FIFA 16
  • Guitar Hero Live
  • LEGO Dimensions
  • Super Mario Maker

This is very much likely to be an instance of who I want to win will most likely be very much different from who should - and most likely, will - win the award. FIFA 16 or either of the toys-to-life games are the favourites here, but for me, I've not played the latter two and I've not played FIFA 16 beyond an hour or two.

Guitar Hero Live works really well as a family game, I'll admit, but as personal preference, it's towards the bottom end of the spectrum in terms of Guitar Hero games - and music games - while I can't give too much of an opinion on Mario Maker as I've not played a great deal of it and barely tried any of it online.

Therefore, if we're still talking personal preference, Rocket League gets my vote. And even then, how could it not work as a family game? One of the few rare breeds of local multi.

rocket league

Game Design - Rocket League

Other nominations:

  • Bloodborne
  • Grow Home
  • Her Story
  • Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime
  • The Witcher III: Wild Hunt

If it wasn't for who I actually picked, I'd say Her Story would win this for me. But Rocket League has to win in this instance because it takes one of the most simple design concepts you can think of - cars and football - in a way that just works. It just... does.

her storyGame Innovation - Her Story

Other nominations:

  • Everybody's Gone to the Rapture
  • Life is Strange
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
  • Splatoon
  • Until Dawn

This was a toughie to go for with such a great list of nominations, all justified in their selection. But in the end, Her Story edges it for me ahead of Life is Strange and Rapture.

her story

Mobile & Handheld - Her Story

Other nominations:

  • Alphabear
  • Fallout Shelter
  • Lara Croft GO
  • Prune
  • The Room Three

Fallout Shelter is already chucked here because I've not played too much of it to give an opinion. For me, it's Her Story and Alphabear and even then, it's a no contest. Alphabear is an excellent game to lose time to, but Her Story is the easy winner here. Plus, mobile - iPad, specifically - is where I spent most of the time playing the game.

splatoon

Multiplayer - Splatoon

Other nominations:

  • Destiny: The Taken King
  • Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime
  • Rocket League
  • Rainbow Six Siege
  • World of Warships

This is perhaps another one of those instances where who I want to win will most likely be different to who should and probably will win. In this instance, the who most likely will win will be The Taken King. And it'd be a deserved victory. It fixed most of Destiny's faults and made it into a game that is incredibly enjoyable, even if I had already found the vanilla games to be enjoyable as is, warts and all.

But Splatoon is on a whole new level for me. Not just in how it executes its design, but also the fact it's one of the very, very rare multiplayer games where not only I have actually put in an incredible amount of time into - the only games I've put more into MP wise is Metal Gear Online 1 & 2, Gears of War 1 and maybe GTA Online - but actually forgo a game's single-player in favour of the multi.

That surely has to mean something.

rapture

Music - Everybody's Gone to the Rapture

Other nominations:

  • Assassin's Creed: Syndicate
  • Batman: Arkham Knight
  • Fallout 4
  • Halo 5: Guardians
  • Ori and the Blind Forest

Shut it down, this is not even a contest.

Out of any award here, I feel like this is at least the one award where the winner will absolutely be the same as my pick here. Because quite frankly, if Jessica Curry does not win any awards Rapture's soundtrack is nominated for but especially this, inquiries will be called. Because for me, this is the clear winner. And it's not even close.

The closest competition I feel is Fallout 4 and even then, it doesn't hold a candle to Curry's incredible score. With the exception of Ori, the other nominations are good soundtracks.

But like I said, this is not even a contest. It shouldn't be. If Everybody's Gone to the Rapture doesn't win this, it'll be a massive bombshell.

life is strange

Original Property - Life is Strange

Other nominations:

  • Everybody's Gone to the Rapture
  • Her Story
  • Ori and the Blind Forest
  • Splatoon
  • Until Dawn

I'm a bit surprised it's only taken so long before I finally gave Life is Strange a nod. Still, out of any property here, it's perhaps the one with the longest legs. Her Story and Rapture, incredible as they both are, are one-offs, as is Ori. An Until Dawn VR game is in the works and there's been enough rampant support for a proper sequel, but nothing as yet. And considering Splatoon has now sold 4 million units worldwide, I'd be amazingly surprised if we didn't get a sequel - or a port of the first game for launch - for the NX.

But Life is Strange is the one that has potential to grow. Square Enix is not putting a lot of backing into the digital version and a boxed copy of the game earlier this year for a one-off. Plus, Dontnod has already effectively said a Season 2 is in the works, not to mention their previous comments Life is Strange would effectively be an anthology series.

Life is Strange has this. Surely.

lis chloePerformer - Ashly Burch (Chloe Price, Life is Strange)

Other nominations:

  • Doug Cockle (Geralt, The Witcher III)
  • Merele Dandrige (Kate, Everbody's Gone to the Rapture)
  • Oliver Dimsdale (Stephen, Everybody's Gone to the Rapture)
  • Mark Hamil (Joker, Batman: Arkham Knight)
  • Masasa Moyo (Vella, Broken Age: Act 2)

First off: where on earth is Viva Selfert in this? Seriously? Sam Barlow is a huge part of what makes Her Story so great, but Viva Selfert is another. She is why Her Story stands out. An incredibly disappointing oversight from BAFTA here considering the game's other nominations.

Anyways, with the exception of Masasa Moyo (because I've not played Broken Age yet) and Doug Cockle, this is the category I really struggled with most because holy shit, there are incredible performances here. Mark Hamil's Joker never fails to deliver and is a a shame that we may have heard him for the last time as the Joker.

In the end, it came down to Ashly Burch and Merele Dandridge for me. Great as Oliver Dimsdale was, it was between the former two. And I properly agonised on who I'd go for here.

In the end, it had to be Burch. There was no-one else better suited as Chloe and completely nailed her personality very well.

ffxivPersistent Game - Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn

Other nominations:

  • Destiny: The Taken King
  • Guitar Hero Live
  • Lego Dimensions
  • Prison Architect
  • The Witcher III: Wild Hunt

This is a weird category. In regards to the rules for being eligible for the category, does it mean you have a game that changes over time as a service - in this instance, Destiny or FFXIV - or a game which'll get add-on content? I don't get it, it's all confusing here.

Anyways, from what I choose to take the award at from face value - a game that changes over time as a live service - I'm going for FFXIV over Destiny, which is another award where who I want to win will very much be different over who will win.

But the reason I picked FFXIV over The Taken King, good as The Taken King is, is because I was first introduced to the game last year after buying it on a whim. Were it not for the fact that had it already come out on PS4 in 2014 and I had managed to finish the vanilla content and reached the start of the Heavensward content at least, chances are I absolutely would have put it in my top ten of last year. It's also a rarity in that it's a sub-based MMO that just succeeds.

life is strangeStory - Life is Strange

Other nominations:

  • Everybody's Gone to the Rapture
  • Her Story
  • Undertale
  • Until Dawn
  • The Witcher III: Wild Hunt

Like with performance, this was down to Life is Strange and Rapture. Her Story's, well, story was fantastic and leaves you thinking for days once you've finished it. In regards to The Witcher III, as I've noted, it's only been a playthrough of a few hours, so no opinion.

But Rapture's themes of love, loss and life hit me very hard and the way The Chinese Room something haunting and beautiful as it tells you the final moments of a small countryside village. It was incredible, if not melancholic.

However, Life is Strange stands out not just because it also deals with those themes, but more which will add to the game's legacy as we head towards the end of the generation: bullying, suicide, sexuality, euthanasia and thensome. Not to mention the incredibly wonderful and genuine friendship between Max and Chloe.

Like I said, it was really difficult to pick a winner of the two as they mean a great deal personally. But Life is Strange has to take it here.

life is strangeBest Game - Life is Strange

Other nominations:

  • Everybody's Gone to the Rapture
  • Fallout 4
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
  • Rocket League
  • The Witcher III: Wild Hunt

The biggest award of the night is another one of those awards where it's very likely the winner will be different from what I pick, even if that is the strongest possible selection of six games. The games likely to win it will either be Fallout 4 or Rapture, the latter would be highly deserving if so.

But for me, it has to be Life is Strange - of course it has to be Life is Strange.

As I said above for story, the game is incredible for the themes it hits, the fantastic friendship between Max and Chloe. But also, the game's fantastic soundtrack - original and licensed, the latter playing a huge part in season highlights - art design and more. It almost nails perfectly the feeling of being a teenager. The whole rewinding time mechanic and stopping the tornado from wiping out Arcadia, which was meant to be the main crux of the game, actually feels secondary to everything else that's great of Life is Strange's first season.

All the same, it's the game I hope wins on April 7. Whether it actually does is another story.

Final tally:

  • Everybody's Gone to the Rapture - Four BAFTAs
  • Life is Strange - Four BAFTAs
  • Her Story - Three BAFTAs
  • Rocket League - Two BAFTAs
  • Splatoon - One BAFTA
  • Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn - One BAFTA

Daniel Bryan believed in us because we believed in Daniel Bryan

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This was first posted on Cageside Seats on February 8, a few hours after Daniel Bryan announced his retirement on Twitter and a few hours before his retirement speech on Monday Night Raw. I wholeheartedly recommend you watch it, regardless of whether you're a wrestling fan or not, because it's just beautiful. I've posted it below at the end of this post.

There's a quote that sticks out for me.

"All of these people with their signs and their hands up in the air. Chanting yes, yes, yes or no, no, no. They're doing it because they believe in you. They believe in you and you hear that. And when you hear that and when you know someone believes in you, it empowers you, it gives you emotion and all you want to do is come out to this ring every single night - sick, tired or hurt - and put your body on the line as a way to say I believe in you as much as you believe in me.

John Cena said that on the go-home show of Raw before SummerSlam 2013 ahead of his match against Daniel Bryan for the WWE Championship the following weekend. It's something that has been sticking with me since I went back and watched that promo involving Bryan - and other various bits involving him (that incredible moment with the crowd chanting in perfect unison for him after attacking Bray Wyatt (won't lie, I shed tears watching it after the announcement), Cena announcing him as the number one contender for the title, the Yes movement holding up Rawand the subsequent Monster package before his match with Triple H at Wrestlemania) - in the aftermath of his announcement that he was to retire.

I'll admit upfront: I didn't see the man known as Bryan Danielson compete in Ring of Honor or elsewhere. But I did see the man known as Daniel Bryan compete in WWE over the past near six years since the start of NXT (and his later return at SummerSlam as part of Cena's feud against the Nexus) up until what would turn out to be his final match against Sheamus on Smackdown a year ago. And seeing the news on Twitter as I was standing outside doing a few messages and waiting for a taxi home, all I wanted to do was do scream no and do the no chant right then and there, even if people had no clue what it was about.

The reason we're all heartbroken - at least most of us all are (I'm sure we're all heartbroken, but I'm sure there's always one at least) - is because since the Yes Movement began at Wrestlemania XXVIII nearly four years ago in Miami, I don't think you'll find a more charismatic talent in that ring. It's seems perhaps silly to say that, but for me, he had that. Lets be clear, we're not talking Rock/Austin levels of charisma, but he still had something magical about him which had people going with him since that April night in 2012. He was for me, and it's weird to talk of this now in the past tense, the most charismatic talent since the both of them in their heyday.

But more than anything, besides the charisma and besides his incredible in-ring talent, is the fact he somehow made us believe in him. He was the true underdog. That much is already obvious, but it's worth stating anyways. That faithful night in New Orleans two years ago was itself two years in the making, a slowburner. But when it came, the payoff was magical. As it should have. As it was. Even if what happened earlier with The Undertaker's streak being broken by Brock Lesnar instilled a sense of doubt on proceedings.

Of course, out of anything else in his career perhaps, you have to think of those two matches at Wrestlemania XXX. Because for me, that night proved that dreams can come true. He instilled that belief into us after those matches with Triple H, Randy Orton and Batista respectively. Anything is possible. If a guy like Daniel Bryan, who was perhaps destined to be - at best - the top of the mid-card (an actual B+ player), can go onto have not only such an incredible fanbase, but also defy the odds, the expectations given to him by the higher ups and actually headline and win the main event at Wrestlemania XXX, anything is doable if there's someone there to believe in you. And we found that in him.

Daniel Bryan believed in us because we believed in him. And, perhaps short of Sami Zayn once he's on the main roster for real, I don't think you will ever see the likes of such an inspiring talent - no, man - like Daniel Bryan in wrestling ever again, if not for a very, very long time. Needless to say, I don't think there'll be too many dry eyes in the house once Monday Night Raw goes off the air tonight.

#ThankYouDanielBryan

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATEMPKQaUNQ[/embed]

In limbo

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Oh joy, brain.

Last week, I had a big crash of confidence and self-esteem, of which I'm still feeling the effects of now. I'm writing about it and coming clean because I'm sick and tired now of keeping everything kept in to myself, but at the same time, I'm at a bit of a loss, really.

It started last Thursday after a depressing dream which involved thoughts of where I was going with my life, where I had gone with my life, both personally and professionally.

I've fucked up some stuff in my life, both personally and professionally, in the past ten years, but this dream featured the two biggest fuck ups in their respective categories and in particular, one person in the games industry who I feel has been hawking over me since 2012. I've not seen this person in a while - nearly two years - but no matter how hard I try to move on so they don't have an effect, it just keeps catching up. And it does have an effect. It's amazing how 'backstage gossip' can really affect someone's mental being.

That dream had me in a very foul mood for the rest of the day. It also made me think what I was doing with my life which just made it worse. Later in the day, doing errands, I felt I had the piss taken out of me by someone in my immediate family and then later in the evening, chastised a bit by another member of my family. That topped off the beginning of the descent. That kicked in the self-doubt and feelings in my head.

I had a small rant about it on Twitter and then on Facebook because I was just sick and tired of  that self-doubt telling me to just hold it in anymore, sick that if I dared vent publicly, I'd get chastised by it - whether publicly or privately - and that I should keep my feelings to myself.

The next day, I tried to do a get well day. Just stay in bed, watch Dave Chappelle and just do what I want. I'd try and stay off the computer at least for the day. That would only work for most of the day. I would come back but just for one or two things, including changing how this blog looks and then tweet about it when finished. Even when I was mainly off the computer, I was still not 'me'.

Then on Saturday, I had another dream. I won't go into detail even in the slightest as it was a very personal dream. But I couldn't tell if it was a good dream or a bad one considering it's nature. Still don't know even now. I wish I did. That dream was in my head for a good portion of the day to the point I took a long walk around a lengthy part of the Waterside area of Derry to clear my head, not just of the dream, but other things too. Despite being out for an hour-and-a-half, it did nothing.

Since these past few days, I've been thinking - whether by choice or not - about life stuff thanks to that stupid dream on Thursday. Where I am, what I should be doing, other elements it, etc. For a start, there's professional stuff: I've not felt any motivation to write about anything games related for a living since the year started. I have an idea or two squirled away, but the motivation has just not been there. Even with an open offer to try and write something for somewhere I love to kingdom come with an incredible editor, I just feel so useless and desperate in trying to come up with something that would be to this person's taste only for it to crash and burn because it was so rubbish in the first place, both in idea and pitch. The same is true for My Favourite Game. I already have the ten people I have in mind for Season 4 already down on the list and next week is when I had planned to start to approach people. Except the motivation for that isn't as there as it should be. Not quite gone, but on the fritz anyway.

But it's not just professionally, it's personally too. I don't quite want to get into it as, quite frankly, I'm embarrassed to detail it, but it involves a thing from nearly ten years ago that now stems as one of my biggest regrets - if not my biggest - when in school.

I just want to write again and this is a little cathartic in that. But even then, like I said, it all comes back to what I said earlier of being sick and tired of keeping things to myself. "But Johnny," I hear you shout, "instead of venting publicly like an idiot, keep it to yourself or at the very least, do so privately with someone." And that's a good point, at least the latter is anyway. And I do have people to go to. And I had people come to me last week asking if I was alright last Friday after my mini-mental breakdown on Thursday (I'm so sorry I didn't reply to you, relevant people, your messages didn't go unread. I just didn't want to talk to anyone that day. I'm sorry if I wasted your time messaging me).

But as I mentioned last November, while there will be people I can go to, I'm fussy over who I want to talk to. Not just being a fussy person, but mainly of a trust thing. So that's why.

This is perhaps the biggest crash of self-confidence I've had in a long time, perhaps ever. I feel that ashamed of this crash, I even took down from my wall photos of people I consider good friends of mine, some of whom I'd consider to be really close with. There's a video I've thought of these past few days that one such friend linked to a few years ago I think of on occasion: it's this one. In that scenario, my black dog right now feels like it's the size of one of the colossi from Shadow of the Colossus.

Honestly, I'm scared right now. I'm scared even writing this because I don't know what reaction if any I'll get to this. I shouldn't be feeling this way, I know that. And that's what's scaring me right now.

I'm hoping by posting this, I can take the first step - no matter how big or small - in regards to getting out of what has been an incredibly shitty four days.

(kind of tells you a lot the only thing that has made me near the semblance of happy these past few days is the Royal fucking Rumble)

My gaming resolutions of 2016

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I'm going to actually try and do these.

Every year, internally on this blog's CMS, I keep track of a list of games I finish. Except last year, I didn't do that. By the time I realised I hadn't, I was too far gone into 2015 that there was no point in doing so. But I've made sure to start the post this year. I've not finished anything yet (first game I played of 2016 was Grow Home which is lovely), but I'm sure throughout the year it'll fill up.

But in making the post, I also decided to do something else. I'm not very good at making real-life resolutions (the closest I've come to doing those for 2016 is these and it's more or less the same as the ones from last year) and sticking with them.

However, I've never really done gaming resolutions. And I feel like this is something that this would be fun. So you know what? I'm going to try and do these gaming resolutions this year. Here's what has sprung to mind. Saying that, if anyone has more suggestions to add by the end of the week, tweet me @JohnnyCullen and I'll add the best doable ones here.

bloodborneFinish at least one Souls game this year (Demon's Souls, Dark Souls, Dark Souls II (either vanilla on PC or Scholars of the First Sin on Xbox One) or Bloodborne)

This is perhaps my main one, if not the one below. It's not one I'm going to jump into immediately, but it's something I want to do this year. Finish at least one Souls-based game. If I can finish more, better, but even one for me would be a huge accomplishment.

I already have a copy of Demon's Souls on PS3 bought years ago because of Keza Macdonald's evangelism, Dark Souls on Xbox 360, Dark Souls II on PC (vanilla) and Xbox One (Scholars of the First Sin) and Bloodborne on PS4.

I always try and get my self into a Souls game, but it seems like at the hour-and-a-half/two hour mark, I get stuck because the game constantly hands a beating to me. Now, the more I think about it, it's more that the character I've made for myself in these games. Depending on what you pick, you pick a playstyle tailored to that character depending on class and other bits.

This time, I need to be more careful in character creation and make sure I create a character in either game, but perhaps especially Dark Souls or Bloodborne, that is more suited to how I want to play the game and make it easier for me. Well, bearable might be better.

zelda wwFinish at least one Zelda game this year (Likely to be Wind Waker)

In the time I've done My Favourite Game over the past year, we've had three Zelda-based episodes. Yet, I've still yet to even go at length and actually finish one. The closest I've come to, besides a few minutes then and there on the odd game, is playing 90 minutes of Wind Waker on Wii U and that's it.

So, like the Souls games resolution, I'm going to try and finish at least one Zelda game this year. And primarlly, I know what the game is that I have in mind: Wind Waker. Hearing Holly Nielsen and Dan Seto babble on about both on MFG has pushed me to actually finally pull the trigger on this and actually finish this.

Saying that, I do have other Zelda games too: A Link to the Past from the NES bought on Wii U (thank/blame Andrew Smith appropriately) and, of course, Ocarina of Time on 3DS. Saying that, there's spiders (or spider-like creatures) in the game. And my arachnophobia goes off the scale when I see spiders in games (which will make the Souls resolution fun). In fact, a metric I use is if it has spiders, it can fuck off (I've finished very few games with spiders in them) - similar to one Keza Macdonald wrote about one time on VG247, but about... horses, I think?

There also Zelda games I don't have, but seems quite appealing to me: Majora's Mask on 3DS (again, thank/blame Molly Carroll appropriately), A Link Between Worlds on 3DS or the upcoming Twilight Princess HD on Wii U (I had the original Wii version and play it for a little bit originally).

ffviiFinish Final Fantasy VII as prep for Remake

Technically, this is a similar resolution to the two above in that I want to at least finish one Final Fantasy game this year - and right now, the likely winner of that will be Final Fantasy X - but I feel I absolutely need to get Final Fantasy VII done this year. And it's not like I don't already have the game on multiple devices because I do - PS3, Vita, PS4 - so there's no excuse.

Plus, two further reasons why:

1) Remake 2) I did promise Dan Seto I'd try and finish it when doing his episode of MFG. And he has finished the game that changed my life, just as FFVII did for him, before Christmas in Metal Gear Solid 3. So I figure it's best I return the favour.

So this year will also be the year I finish a Final Fantasy game as well, but primarily VII.

persona 4Finish at least five games from your bucket list this year

Here's a dirty little disclosure. I afuckingdore Persona 4. Combined over two long playthroughs on PlayStation 2 (20 hours) and on PlayStation Vita (40 hours), I'd consider it one of my favourite games ever. Top ten, in fact.

Sadly, the truth is I've never actually finished Persona 4. On the PS2, I got stuck trying to rescue Kanji and on Vita, I'm currently stuck trying to rescue Naoto.

Last year, after a really rough night spending it in A&E, I wrote a sort of gaming bucket list on NeoGAF that's linked above. That's not all of it, but that's what came to mind that night.

That is another major resolution, up there with the Souls one, that I want to get done this year. In fact, were I to beat either Dark Souls or Dark Souls II (they're the only Souls games on the list as I hadn't had Bloodborne at the time and I honestly forgot about Demon's Souls), Wind Waker and FFVII, I'd have three fifths of my resolution done right there.

But I want to keep this resolution for games other than them. So I'm open to suggestions on what the five games are I should get done by the end of the year (bear in mind, just because some games are on this list doesn't mean I've never played them - one example: Metal Gear Rising is on the list and I'm super close to that being done when I left it, but I want to be able to finish it).

Persona 4 will be on the list. But I'm willing to take other suggestions too via Twitter (deets above). So go nuts.

(Current bucketlist games:

+ Persona 4: Golden (PlayStation Vita/PS TV) + Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood (PlayStation 3) + Gears of War 3 (Xbox 360 [via Xbox One]) + Deus Ex: Human Revolution (Xbox 360 [via Xbox One]) + BioShock (Xbox 360)

Deus Ex and Persona 4 already finished, Brotherhood playthrough (slowly) in progress)

until dawnPlay at least one horror game on PS4/XB1 this year (P.T., Outlast, Until Dawn, Resident Evil Revelations 2)

Until Dawn. If gets me to play more, great. For now, babydoses. Until Dawn. Then work our way up to the big one: P.T.

charityDo at least one 24-hour charity livestream this year

So I did two charity streams last year for SpecialEffect and Macmillan, the latter being over the course of four days and with a ton of prizes involved, of which I'll start sending out the first batch of later this week.

But this year, I want to do a proper full-on 24-hour one, something I ain't done since The Last of Us Remastered for GamesAid in 2014. I had planned on doing one last year, but various factors meant it was a no-go. And I had intended as a result to do at least two 24-hour streams this year for two games, but considering how much doing four back-to-back 12-hour streams took out of me before Christmas, needless to say, only one will do.

So I will do a 24-hour livestream for charity this year again. Specifically, it'll be for GamesAid. But as to the game in question, I've still to decide. At this point, it's a toss up between my three most anticipated games of the year: Uncharted 4 (April), No Man's Sky (June) or Persona 5 (Summer in Japan, which means it'll be Autumn in the west - for the US at least, it'll be 2030 before it comes to Europe). If you don't see an announcement a month in advance of the game's release, that means I won't be doing that game.

And even then, it feels like it's edging towards either No Man's Sky or Persona 5. Don't get me wrong, I'm so looking forward to Uncharted 4, but that's something I'm likely I want to enjoy on my own time. Nothing's set in stone just yet, so we'll see. I have up no earlier than up until the end of February to decide.

But it's definitely happening.

My favourite WWE matches of 2015

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The four horsewomen.

Reader, I'm going to be upfront with you. This'll be a top five list of my favourite matches from last year in WWE - something I've not written of in this way on this blog before - but in effect, most of this top five has more to do with how amazing four particular women in question have had this 2015.

I never thought at the start of the year four of my top five would be dominated by the Four Horsewomen of NXT - Sasha Banks, Bayley, Becky Lynch and Charlotte - but it tells you a lot - alone and together as a group - how bloody amazing they are they factor into four of my top five in one form or another.

I tweeted my top five on Twitter a few nights ago along with other bits, but I figure I should give some context to this list as well as some honourable mentions. So have at it. Happy new year!

55 - Sasha Banks - Becky Lynch (NXT Takeover Unstoppable)

Before everything that went down later in the year, this was a genuine contender to be one of the best women's wrestling matches ever, let alone the best in WWE. And there's a great tension throughout the match, even with the early wave of pinfalls.

By the end of it, Sasha walked away retaining the title, but it was that night Becky walked away with the respect of everyone in Full Sail if not already. It was an incredible technical showcase of wrestling.

44 - Brock Lesnar/Seth Rollins/John Cena (Royal Rumble)

This wasn't wrestling. This was a pure straight up brawl. And sometimes in wrestling, that's okay. In fact, if the right pieces are in place, it can be great. The WWE World Heavyweight Championship match at last year's Rumble was a big ole fight. And it was great.

Lesnar suplexing the ever living fuck out of both Rollins and Cena is just as majestic as it is anytime of the year. But Cena had his part to play too by being that extra bit of experience to help Rollins on the way. And oh boy, Rollins came alight that night. This was the night he broke out as a solo superstar for me. I mean, that table spot on Lesnar. Beautiful in slow motion.

Sometimes, all you need is a big stiff match where men don't mainly wrestle, they just batter two shits of Friday into one another. This here was the best of the lot in 2015 in that regard.

33 - Sasha Banks/Becky Lynch/Charlotte/Bayley (NXT Takeover Rival)

We'd seen them all face each other in various one-on-one spots and other opponents, but NXT Takeover Rival was the first time all four would compete in the same ring together in a Fatal 4 Way for the NXT Women's Championship. And for me, this was the match that really made me take notice of the division.

Again, like the one-on-one Becky and Sasha match that would follow at the next Takeover, this was incredibly technical and showed if given the room, women's wrestling can thrive big time. Plus, some fantastic spots throughout - that Bayley neckbreaker on Becky whilst the latter was held by Charlotte or that immense Bayley-to-Belly from the top rope. Or Sasha diving through the ropes on the other contenders.

It was Sasha who walked away with the title, taking it from Charlotte. And things would never be the same again, as the Becky Lynch match at Unstoppable - and what would follow in the Summer/Autumn - would prove.

[PS: watch this and know how much it means to Sasha]

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=um-3UZZ14nw[/embed]

takeover2 - Sasha Banks - Bayley II (NXT Takeover Respect)

What else do I need to say on this that I hadn't said back in October? The first ever Ironwoman match - not just in the WWE, but in wrestling as a whole - and it had the two biggest female superstars of the year in it. Put aside the fact NXT is developmental for WWE or that it's a sub-brand for the 'E, Sasha and Bayley were the two biggest female superstars in wrestling in 2015. And for them to have that honour of the first Ironwoman match, plus be able to actually main event a Takeover (than just "co-main event" it like in Brooklyn), it signified 2015 was truly the year of Bayley and Sasha Banks.

You could even toss a coin and determine which of the two matches they had could be your favourite and there wouldn't be a wrong answer either way. For me, this just finishes below it for reasons I'll get to below. But everything that made the women's division in NXT so great in 2015 was on full display for 30 straight minutes. It. Was. Glorious.

And if by some chance Sasha being so hugely over after the call up to the main roster as well as below made you forget how incredible of a heel she is, all you need to do is watch this match. She's just the most perfect heel. Better than Kevin Owens in this instance, for my money.

All in all, this was perhaps the night we saw the first golden generation of NXT women say goodbye - it was Sasha's last match in NXT - but what a way it was to go out. High tension, incredible spots, Sasha's incredible heeling on Bayley superfan Izzy and a hot as hell Full Sail attendance made it an incredible night.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2RrfGeatn9E[/embed]

11 - Sasha Banks - Bayley (NXT Takeover Brooklyn)

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cWeIEnarXss[/embed]

But where do we even begin to start here? This was close-to-perfect in every single way. From the build into the match, the video package above - which noted Charlotte, Becky and Sasha's callup to the main roster with Bayley fading away ala Back to the Future (perfect, by the way - I'd go as far to say it's my second favourite promo behind Austin-Rock at Mania X7) - and everything else. This was the underdog face versus the arrogant heel. But the way they built to it felt it was more than just the usual way around it.

And then the match. Holy fucking shit, the match.

When you have Steve Austin calling it a clinic, you know you did something special. And that match in Brooklyn was pretty special.  The chemistry between the two, their relationship, the back-and-forth had throughout the matches, the spots (holy fuck, that hurricanrana at the end) and thensome made it - and its Ironwoman followup - booked to perfection.

But the reason why this is the match I prefer out of the two out of anything else is that this felt like a catalyst for women's wrestling. Not just in WWE (but given how its been treated in recent years, especially WWE), but everywhere. I mention above the Ironwoman match was the end of the first golden generation of NXT women coming through its ranks with it being Sasha's last match. Yet, this could be argued as the actual match that ends that first-generation: Charlotte and Becky Lynch had their own final NXT matches earlier in the evening in Brooklyn and her match with Bayley - up until Respect - was meant to be Sasha's final match.

And that curtain call. Perfect.

To say Bayley - Sasha Banks at NXT Takeover Brooklyn was my match of the year would be underselling it. Bayley - Sasha Banks at Takeover Brooklyn was not just that or even one of the best wrestling matches ever, not just for women but regardless of gender. It became my favourite wrestling match ever.

Perfect? No. Nothing ever is. But as far as wrestling goes, it's as close to perfect as you'll ever get.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vkn8XgWxJdA[/embed]

Honourable mentions: John Cena - Kevin Owens (Elimination Chamber), Brock Lesnar - Roman Reigns (Wrestlemania), John Cena - Sami Zayn (Monday Night Raw; Monday, May 4), Roman Reigns - Cesaro (Monday Night Raw; Monday, November 16), Roman Reigns - Daniel Bryan (FastLane), Brock Lesnar - Undertaker (Hell in a Cell), Seth Rollins - Sting (Night of Champions), Finn Balor - Kevin Owens (Beast in the East).

Cullen Plays LIVE for Macmillan: Game of the Year 2015 - Games and prize lineup, schedule

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EXCITING THINGS HERE.

Exciting things are indeed happening. Next Thursday, as previously mentioned, I'll be starting off a four-day stream celebrating my favourite games of 2015 in name of Macmillan, who were immense support to me and my family as they tended to my ailing mother.

I've been very quiet for the most part on the stream besides the odd push of the JustGiving page for two reasons.

1 - I've been super busy trying to put together an amazing prize list for the stream that will consist of digital and physical stuff. And there's still more to come! 2 - I've been hampered by technical stuff with power outages and the computer having a big fit towards the end of last week.

That all ends now. I figure it's time to announce this lineup of games for the stream as well as mention some of the prizes for them here and mention the schedule for the stream throughout the next four days.

So, here it is. Have at it.

Games:

 

mgsvMetal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain her storyHer Story

fallout 4Fallout 4

jc3Just Cause 3

captain toadCaptain Toad: Treasure Tracker

raptureEverybody's Gone to the Rapture

the witcher iiiThe Witcher III

life is strange 3Life is Strange

splatoonSplatoon

rocket leagueRocket League

tearawayTearaway Unfolded

dc bikesDriveClub Bikes

rtorRise of the Tomb Raider

(Plus possibly more)

Prizes:

Copies of Halo 5: Guardians, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Life is Strange, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Just Cause 3, Her Story, StarCraft II: Legacy of the Void, The Elder Scrolls Online and more games plus tons of awesome swag!

(You can see a ton more of the prizes that'll be offered in the stream through this Periscope and in this updated daily list)

Schedule:

Thursday:

9am: One-hour warning 10am: Intro 10:10am: First game - Tenth place 1pm: Second game - Ninth place 4pm: Third game - Eighth place 7pm: Honorable mention 10pm: Stream ends for the day

Friday:

9:45am: 15-minute warning 10am: First game - Seventh place 1pm: Second game - Sixth place 4pm: Third game - Fifth place 7pm: Honorable mention 10pm: Stream ends for the day

Saturday:

9:45am: 15-minute warning 10am: First game - Fourth place 1pm: Second game - Third place 4pm: Third game - Second place 7pm: Honorable mention 10pm: Stream ends for the day

Sunday:

9:45am: 15-minute warning 10am: Stream intro 10:05am: Intro for GOTY winner 10:10am: First game - Game of the Year 11pm: Stream ends

So be sure to get donating as much as you can for an amazing charity. You can do that here at the link. And you can watch it all unfold beginning next Thursday at 10am GMT here!. See you then!

Cullen Plays LIVE for Macmillan: Game of the Year 2015 - December 17-20 from 10am

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Lets raise some money, eh?

So I've not done a stream in a long time. And I certainly haven't done a charity stream for a very long time. I had three charity streams planned out for the year but unfortunately for reasons out of my control, they unfortunately never happened (well one did - the SpecialEffect charity stream for GTA IV). Hopefully, next year, I'll be able to do them.

But there is one stream I definitely want to do by the end of the year. And by writing and publishing this, I am committing to it. I've had this stream planned out for a good while, but it's just depended on other things - again, out of my control - panning out.

I've done charity streams before, but this is going to take a lot of effort out of me, moreso than past ones. But considering who it is I'll be raising money for this time, it'll be worth it.

I can't even begin to tell you how much I - or the rest of my family - appreciate Macmillan Cancer Support. Their nurses were the most incredible of help to us when my mother was ill last year before she subsequently passed last November, something I wrote about on here two weeks ago. But we have so much appreciation and respect for what they did for us, not just as a family, but also to my mum in her final days. We could not have asked for much better support.

Which is why beginning December 17, I'm doing a four-day stream in name of Macmillan in a special Cullen Plays LIVE that'll last four days marking my favourite games of the year.

To be crystal clear, these won't be a continuous 96-hour stream. The body has limits. Even trying a 24 hour one over a year ago took a lot of effort (which'll be fun considering I'll be doing another next year). Therefore, this'll be happening through four 12-hour streams beginning 10am on Wednesday, December 17 and through to 10pm each day until Sunday, December 20.

I'm not announcing games for the stream as yet, that'll be coming closer to the stream. But there'll be thirteen in total over the four days. There'll be four per day, three that'll make up the main top ten and towards the end of the day's stream, there'll be an honourable mention game, a game that didn't make it into the top ten, but still worth checking out anyway.

The grand total I'm chasing is the same as when I did the GamesAid stream on The Last of Us in August 2014: £500. I want to raise a lot more than that, but realistically, that's perhaps as high as I'm going to get. Or maybe I'm just being super modest and it'll far surpass that. I don't know

If you wish to donate ahead of the first day of streaming on December 17, you can do so here. And to watch along, follow the Twitch channel or watch it below.

[twitchtv url="http://www.twitch.tv/johnny___cullen"]

One year on

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[Note: What you're about to read is a lot of my experiences, my feelings in my life as I've dealt with the first year of my life without my mum and how I've coped (spoiler: not very well). It's personal and very out there perhaps to the point of oversharing, but one I want to share as I am, ironically, not very good at verbalising them yet the one thing in my entire life that I am good at is writing them out, but that said, I'm writing what comes to mind so it could get a bit incoherent at times.

And I've said this before -whether writing personally or in any games writing over the past six-and-a-half years for VG247 or any other outlet - I am a heart on my sleeve type of guy. That much will never, ever change.

To reiterate, these are my experiences this past year or so. The grieving process can be - and very much most likely will be - different for you as will what you go through afterwards. Only you know how to go through it. Don't let anyone tell you how to do it.]

It's hard.

I mean it's always hard to lose someone you love, someone you could go to for help or advice. But it's only when you encounter it for yourself for the first time, still at a very much young age, you truly realise how hard losing someone you truly love really is.

A year ago today, my mum died. Without getting into the nitty gritty of how specifically she did so, she was ill for a long time, but it was only in September last year it signified the beginning of the end. Today marks a year since the end. I'd been to funerals before for teachers I never knew or had - I just had to go - and the closest experience I had of family passing away was my aunt two years earlier. But even then, I wasn't super close with her. It was more my cousins I was concerned for then. This was the first one that was of massive importance, for the lack of a better term.

I've been thinking a lot these past few months how I've wanted to write this because I want to write about how I've coped. I know it's something I've wanted to do since May. I scrapped thousands of words already and did one big scrap of editing before going to England last month for the Games Media Awards. Eventually, I settled on the fact I should talk about how I have tried to reshape my life as best as possible without the most important person in my life. But even then, that's hard to write about. But I'll try my best.

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Grief was not something I handled very well when we had the wake before the funeral. I was told by someone on Facebook to not be afraid to grieve and I like to think I wasn't, but even then, tears were not exactly coming when I got to the hospital, after resting at home beforehand - only to then be startled awake by my cousin - and then get there as she died. Everyone was in bits - except me. Rather, it was the overwhelming sense of occasion it gave me. I just felt completely overwhelmed. But no tears.

At the wake, I would pop out of my bedroom every hour or so for five minutes to let people know I hadn't disappeared and would scurry off with as much food as I could back to the bedroom and get back under the duvet as my only coping device was my iPad and watching so many episodes of Frasier, which I had gotten into days earlier after burning through It's Always Sunny within a week of Ma going into hospital. I just didn't want to surround myself with too many people at that time.

You'd get the odd person now and then popping their head in the door, and I remember my cousin, someone a year or two older than me who had only just lost her mum - the aunt I referred to above - to cancer two years earlier, just sitting with me for about twenty minutes just talking. She was perhaps the only person who I wanted there beside me. Otherwise, just me.

And I didn't exactly let all my emotions out, though that's not to say there were times I almost did. I remember how returning home with her coffin had somehow triggered Imogen Heap's Hide & Seek in my head for a second or two - guess the mind decided to jolt me with flashbacks watching Caleb's funeral in Season 2 of The O.C. - and I had almost lost it there. Or that there was a ton of people all there for my mum on the morning of her funeral. It overwhelmed me to see that most of the people were there for my mum. That nearly got me going.

In the end, I just about kept it together in the days after she passed. But it'd be a week or two later in which it would properly hit home. Call it a delayed reaction.

As a kid and throughout my entire life until a year ago, I had a set of stuffed Winnie the Pooh toys. I loved the old Pooh TV cartoons and movies as a kid and even now as an adult, I'll go back every year or so to watch one or two of them. But the stuffed toys I had as a kid - Pooh, Piglet and Tigger (I had an Eeyore who went missing and subsequently never found but smashed my mum's mirror's one day because its eyes were hard plastic) - were perhaps my most cherished possessions. Even then, they still were, even if they hadn't gotten as much attention - part of growing up, I guess.

But because they hadn't been washed in a while, someone decided to put them in the washing machine and, well, they got destroyed essentially. I was wondering where they went as I had noticed they were missing after the funeral. My sister had told me what happened. And I know it's a bit silly to get upset over a set of stuffed toys. But these stuffed toys were the one thing I cherished above everything else and especially so in light of recent events at that time considering who it was that gave me those toys. I had also  hoped, after a clean of course (certainly better than the person who had put them in the cleaner that led them to being destroyed), I would give them to my kids if I ever have any and get them into Pooh just as much as I was.

But anyways, after I was told, I was just crestfallen. I wanted to cry at that point, but I just didn't because my sister was there as was my nephew. If there was ever a moment in my life where it felt like my heart was literally sinking, it was then. After I got into my bedroom, I just let it go. That was the moment it dawned on me for the first time truly Ma was gone. And fuck, it really hit me hard that night. I don't know why, but my sister - soon after telling me - presented me with three new stuffed Pooh toys of Pooh, Piglet and Tigger. She then gave me Eeyore and Rabbit at Christmas.

I still don't know why even now - I'm 24 turning 25 in a month-and-a-half, but I was 23 at the time - but tell you what, having them new stuffed toys slightly helped. They'll never replace what I before, but they did help in some unexplainable way. This is also why I can't watch the ending 20 minutes to Toy Story 3 anymore. Just thinking about that and the way my old Pooh stuffed toys were probably disposed would set me off. Well, the movie always did that anyway before what happened. But it'd genuinely hurt if I ever did again. So I can't do it.

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My confidence and self-esteem was not always the best before my mum died anyway. It took me almost a year to finally will up the very little courage and self-esteem I had built up to ask out someone I liked a ton two years ago like a complete and utter fucking idiot. And even then, that took a lot of willing on my part, to cite one example of how shit I was with confidence/self-esteem before everything that went down a year later. Even then, it helped just getting that out there to that person, even if it didn't pan out.

But ever since Ma passed, it has just completely plummeted so low, I'm almost certain it smashed through the floor and hit the other side of the Earth's core and is in China right now. Sorry, slight exaggeration. But you get what I mean to an extent anyway.

Now, I feel like it takes a lot of effort to face people, even when I try to make an effort. Only recently when I got to England for the GMAs did I feel like there was much less difficulty, although I'd say that had a lot more to do with seeing people I hadn't seen in a long time. But even then, a day or two before leaving, I had this great worry whether I should go, whether I wanted to go. I never had that doubt before when going to England. That was a new experience.

To name one example of the confidence plummet, when the Games Media Award nominations were announced in mid-September and My Favourite Game was up for Best Independent Podcast, I almost jumped to the moon and back. Regardless of how that day would turn out, it was one of the best days of my career. There was a big sense of vindication and validation to it considering the amount of heart and soul poured into it within a year.

But a few hours after, delirious joy turned into happiness turned into 'I don't deserve to be there, My Favourite Game is a shitheap of a show that shouldn't be there'. The imposter syndrome was super strong on this night. Massively so that the following day, something happened that will be hard to shake the memory of, at least in the short-term.

I always thought I knew panic attacks. I always thought I had one or two of them before. But not in the way I experienced them before a month and a bit ago. But to go slightly further back, a week earlier, I felt there was something wrong with me. Chest slightly tightened and a sensation akin to needles on my arm. It wasn't normal and I never experienced anything like it. So I went to A&E. Just to be sure. That wasn't a panic attack. But still, I wanted to play it safe. After being checked out, the doctors and nurses said I was fine. So off home I went.

A week later, I had two incredibly full-blown panic attacks. The first one was very vivid though. If you've been through them, you'll know what it's like. But this was the first full-major attack I had ever had in my life. I felt, surely, this was it. This was how I was gonna go. Not with a bang, but with a whimper. Sweating profusely, one side of my body being on needles, feeling like my heart was about to pop out of my chest Alien-like and short on breath.

The second one wasn't as bad as the first one, but it happened after being jolted awake when my sister came into the house after I messaged her to come find me asap, thinking something was super wrong. I just about managed to get over the worst of it by sleeping it off the rest of the day. Looking back, those attacks were caused by a variety of reasons: the anniversary coming up, producing Season 3 of My Favourite Game, freelance pressures and the joys of pitching, the GMAs and that self-doubt whether me and the show truly belonged there, the worry of living up to the promise I made to Ma in trying to move to England before what happened happened, a really bad sleep pattern and how I was sleeping and so on.

It all built to a powder keg. And that morning was when it went off.

Thankfully, I've had no such attacks since then (more or less). But to say it wasn't a pleasant experience would be a great understatement. So not only self-esteem and confidence issues to deal with since, but anxiety too. Fun.

Having said that, my visit to London and Brighton was the biggest self-esteem and confidence pickup in a very long time, hanging out around with 'my crowd' and being around the group of peers and friends I hadn't seen in a long time, especially three people in particular (no names here, but I like to think - I hope - they know who they are. You're the best).

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Since the past year, I've lived most of this year by myself. Well, I have my dog and my sister is across the city if I need her for anything - and she does pop in every other day - but other than that, that's it. The rest of the year is when my dad comes back. He spends most of the year out around Ireland for work reasons with my two oldest brothers.

I'm not complaining about living on my own - much - as it's a good test of independence and whether I can manage when I - hopefully - get to England permanently. But there's only so much a dog can do as company. Don't get me wrong, I love him. I don't know where I'd be without him the past year. But at the same time, it can get severely lonely at times.

Like I said, I have my sister sticking her head in every odd day when on my own and every few weeks, my cousin likes to come down to see how I am as well as lament that he'll want to give me a haircut every now and then. That's all well good, but like I said, you can only handle being on your own for so long without being around anyone you know or not being around friends and not people that is essentially your family. Or your dog. Oh, and no girlfriend too. Wonderful.

I've more or less lost contact with any friends I had left after leaving school for various reasons whereas essentially any and all friends I have now are in the games industry. Which is depressing, as I've been lectured on (and perhaps rightly so) by someone who I consider to be one of my closest friends in said industry about the need to find other non-industry friends. I know at least one other person in the industry who'll probably be laughing like a hyena reading that bit if they come across this.

I know there are two or four people I can go to in the industry on something like Skype or Facebook if I ever feel the need to talk, but even then, I have had a heavy reluctance in the past few years to open up for various reasons, one of which is a trust issue thanks in part to said person above in the last paragraph plus a heavy and major family fall out a few years ago. I wasn't the most open person when my mum was about then, but now, there's a more heavier reluctance to talk about stuff than there was before, whether it be to the rest of my family or my friends.

When I do feel the urge to open up,  I'm then fussy over who I want to talk to. Recently though, over dinner, I had that urge in talking to someone when in Brighton when going over in part about what has happened this year and it really helped to the point of perhaps not shutting up when I should have. To that person: sorry.

I've also this past year had an incredible amount of mind games played on me by my brain as it kept - actually, still keeps - trying to fool me into thinking I don't have anyone around to talk to because they don't give a shit about me, that my friends and even occasionally family don't care for me now. Don't worry, I'm still sentient enough to realise that's not true, but there are those days - especially the lonely ones - where the mind can really go loose, go to town and play with you in thinking that for you.

That said, I have learned as of this past year to not really seek out those who really don't give a shit about me whereas I may have tried to do so before to make them like me. Now? I'm past the point of giving a fuck - for the most part. There is always that part of me that will do my best to try and gave a good impression on people that I would hope they like me. That's human nature. But if not, then oh well. I won't let it bother me (or try to) as much as it used to back in the day. Because if anything else, I've learned who my friends are and who aren't. If no-one has at least basic respect for me, why should I return it? But I digress.

Workwise, the mind has also tried to play its tricks on me here too. I mentioned above about how it did it for when My Favourite Game was nominated at the GMAs big time and it has also done it when, despite seeing first hand the reaction the piece got when it launched back in March and how much it resonated with people, I wrote how games helped me after mum's passing for Official PlayStation Magazine UK and when my games academia piece, a thing I had wanted to do for nearly two years, was finally published on Kotaku in September.

Yet despite feeling proud of those, my mind has still wanted to play tricks on me, planting seeds of doubt and telling me I was never good enough to write about games, that I was taking up space in the industry for someone else who was severely more talented than I was.

Self-doubt and loneliness - a wonderful cocktail of company.

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My mum was a major part of my life, as she was for everyone. But I always knew I could go to her with help for whatever and if she could help, she would. Like I said, I wasn't the most open person to her and I wasn't super duper close, but I'd talk with her about some worries and stuff on occasion. And I knew in doing so, it would help. I feel like now, even when encouraged there is people in my family I can go to with stuff, there's no-one I can go to in the same way I could with my mum.

She was also my biggest supporter when it came to writing about games. I already wrote nearly a year ago about how much she supported me in regards to games writing, but she was the key pillar of support for me. More so than anyone else in my family, to be quite honest. I still have that support within the rest of the family, that's not to say I'm not encouraged by them, but she was the biggest supporter out of anyone.

As I sat at my computer at the tail end of 2014 with 2015 coming into view, lamenting the fact I wasn't in England celebrating NYE and instead cooped up at home where I didn't want to be, I promised a few things to myself. Not only for myself, but also in the hope that, somewhere I'd like to think, mum would be proud of me. I even made sure to tweet them out in some sort of bravado fashion so that I had to live up to them

"My Favourite Game: Season 2 will be fucking amazing, PROMISE. I hope it's so amazing, I'll even have Season 3 by the end of the year." - You be the judge on whether it was "fucking amazing", but as far as I go, I thought it was. Plus, Season 3 is going out now (although it's taking a week's break this week because of today - but for mum's passing, not for Fallout 4, as I said previously - the break was always intended with the anniversary in mind) and I think that blows Season 2 out of the water. And then, the unexpected GMA nod. So check, check, triple check.

"Cullen Plays LIVE will return at the end of January and that will be fucking amazing, PROMISE. I have ambitious plans for that in 2015." - Negatory. While I did stream initially at the start of the year and made ambitious plans for the streaming year, I lost enthusiasm for what I did. Plus various other technological reasons too. Having said that, raising a bit of money for SpecialEffect remains a highlight of my year and I hope to do a big GamesAid stream by the end of the year.

"I will write for fucking Jesus and pitch anything and everything that moves to Eurogamer, VG247 and Official PlayStation Magazine, PROMISE." - Two out of three. I've written for VG247 and Official PlayStation Magazine this year, the latter giving me the platform to provide one of the best pieces I've ever written. But I'm missing one more on that list: Eurogamer. And since then, I've lost all will and enthusiasm to pitch them, awesome as they are, because of the fear of constant rejection for various reasons, though I'd give anything and everything to have my name on a new EG byline again. I certainly haven't written for Jesus anyways. I should go for it again.

And finally: "And god fucking damn it, above all else, I will achieve The Masterplan by this time next year and that's A GODDAMN FUCKING PROMISE." - Nope. And that's the thing that will eat away at me out of anything else this year unless something drastic happens by the end of the year. Hours before she passed, I remember sitting by her bedside and thinking, 'When I achieve this, when I finally move to England as part of The Masterplan, it'll all be because of you and the support you gave'.

I wrote about The Masterplan last year here - essentially, get back in a full-time games writing gig and move to England. I've never been specific about said plans publicly, just the whole full-time writing gig/move to England stuff, but nothing more. But recently, without going into too many details, I had a sitdown with someone talking about The Masterplan and the specifics of it. And that's all I'll say beyond that. Whether anything will come of it in the future, I don't know. All I do know is that I had to spill it out because the truth is I don't know when - or quite frankly, if - I'll even be back in England anytime soon. It's not something I wanted to spill on FB/email, but face-to-face. At least it's out there now.

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This past year has been hard. Super hard for so many reasons. Some of which I've not elected to tell on here because there's oversharing and just going overboard. But even if this post is way, way, way too long in the tooth, it's been cathartic for me. So please give me that much in what is perhaps going to be the only time I allow myself to ever be this open about anything in my life so willingly to anyone and everyone, whether it'd be my family, my friends or well anyone reading this.

I wasn't always the perfect son growing up, even in my teenage years. I'll say that now. But I still respected my mum like crazy and, even if I very rarely showed it, still loved her greatly. And although it'd be moot for what would happen, I was never prouder of her in my entire life than I was in the final two months of her life. She was a fighter to the end. And I'll never, ever forget that.

Ma, I wish so wholeheartedly you were still here. So you can see me go off to England permanently, so you could see your grandson grow up and other family events to come. But I like to think that, again, somewhere, you'll be looking down anyways and be proud regardless. And when he's old enough, we'll tell the boy stories of how his grandmother was a strong-willed woman to the bitter end. That'll be your legacy.

There doesn't go a day where we don't all miss you. The same is true for how much we still love you - all of us. Out of anything, know that much.

Jonathan

Life is Strange: Episode Five, Polarized - Everything ends (Thoughts + Season Wrap)

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It did it.

[SPOILER ALERT: This will go deep into spoiler territory from start to finish (seriously more so than any of my writeups so far to date), so if you haven’t played episode five or the entire season yet, close the tab now. Otherwise, you read at your own risk.]

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[I'm serious, this goes big on heavy spoilers from literally the beginning of the writeup]

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[Last chance]

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"Simply put, baring the fuckups to end all fuckups in the finale, Life is Strange is on the verge of accomplishing something amazing and become truly special. For now, episode four sees it take the biggest step forward to become those things because right now, as is, Life is Strange is incredible - warts and all."

Not only did it stick the landing, it then came to a complete stop, did a twirl and a curtain call.

It did it.

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My mind is still in a confuddled mess as I've only just finished playing it about nearly an hour ago as of starting to write this. But such is my need to write, at the risk of not letting it settle down, of how much Dontnod did justice to the finale that I have to kind get my thoughts across.

I think if anything, having Chloe sacrifice herself was a forgone conclusion by episode three to me and in turn the most appropriate ending for me considering it felt more natural of the two compared to the other ending with the two getting out of Arcadia Bay post-storm.

But how that was acted out with that scene and the way it was delivered between Hannah Telle and Ashly Burch. Even though you knew what was coming, it still didn't make it any less devastating. The kiss, despite having chosen to kiss Warren minutes earlier (the nervous little scamp), included.

I had always hoped - though never expected - Dontnod would reuse Mogwai's Kids Will Be Skeletons from episode three as the final song of the series ala Jose Gonzalez between episodes one and two. The song always felt like it had a sense of finality to it. But to go with Spanish Sahara by Foals was a better choice upon reflection. It suited the tone of what had to go down in the toilets and at the cemetery. It was a perfect choice. It just added to the emotional punch of the ending.

And it was a mighty emotional punch. There are one or two times where I've majorly welled up and even shed a tear or two this past season, biggest of all was the gutpunching ending to episode three and the terrific usage of Mogwai in that ending. But as the end of episode five got closer, I could already feel the emotions coming to me in a big way, seeing the characters I had bonded with either in a minor way like Alyssa and helping her get out of shit (again), Stella, Brooke, Juliet to the major characters like Warren, Kate, Victoria, etc. And Chloe of course.

After I realised what I had to do and the aftermath it followed, I was a hot emotional mess, to put it in a nutshell. I had completely lost it. It was the first time I had a full-on, proper cry at a videogame since The Last of Us. That has to mean something. For me, it did. And I think I went with what was the right final decision, even if it was heartbreaking. What an ending. What an episode.

(PS: Also, the game has not been ashamed to hide its Twin Peaks influences on its sleeve, noting one or two sly references in there through, but this episode goes heavy on it at, with a section towards the end showing excellently how insecure someone can be. And as someone who has gone through incredibly insecure doubts of self-esteem and more this past year, it really hit at me)

(PPS: Also, David Madsen is a nominee for turnaround of the century. Especially after all the shit I gave him too earlier in the season, he manages to find the Dark Room and find and take down Jefferson and save me, the bastard. Bloody hell. If anything has proved the saying of 'don't judge a book by its cover', for better or worse, it's this entire game.)

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And that was that. That was Season 1 of Life is Strange. It started out slow, but with it came some fantastic story beats, terrific performances (wonky dialogue and all) and one of the best licensed soundtracks you will ever hear in a game. And to stay on that, how Dontnod picked their moments to put some amazing music against them.

But if Season 1 will be remembered for anything, it's the issues the game deals with it and how it deals with them. Bullying, suicide, slut-shaming, death and the grieving process (which especially hits home in the final scenes of the season if you pick the right ending) and thensome.

How Dontnod have managed to deal with all of this and treat them not only with care, but do them right, will absolutely be the game's legacy. I said before they should be applauded for taking them head on with applied care, but credit also to Square Enix for signing the game and giving them the creative freedom to do as they see fit and give them the support to tackle them.

They also told an excellent story of a teenage girl's tale of growing up and the baggage that comes with it whilst dealing with the pomp and circumstance of, y'know, rewinding time. Dontnod had mentioned previously the struggles of having the game pitched to publishers who wanted a male centric main character. I don't think Season 1 would have worked without Max as main character and the relationship between Max and Chloe.

I said before in my thoughts of the last episode, and repeated at the top of this one, that "baring the fuckups to end all fuckups in the finale, Life is Strange is on the verge of accomplishing something amazing and become truly special." It's on the verge no more. Its achieved it, in my eyes.

It's far from perfect. It is far from even breaking my top five games ever, let alone the top three. But I resonated with Life is Strange in such a strong way: the character building, the world building, the incredibly powerful emotional beats. And again, that has to mean something and it does big time. So no, it's not perfect. But damn if it doesn't deserve a spot in my top ten games ever. Because it bloody well deserves it.

Dontnod will head off to ramp up work on Vampyr now. But there seems to be hope they will return to Life is Strange at somepoint. To be slightly pedantic, they wouldn't be calling this the season finale if there wasn't already a roadmap in where to take the series next. Instead, it'd be a 'series finale'. And not to mention, Dontnod had previously said if there was a Season Two, it'd feature a different story and set of characters to make the game an anthology series ala True Detective/American Horror Story.

But even if Dontnod hadn't dropped these little nuggets, quite frankly, Square Enix would be insane not to bring back Life is Strange for a second season considering how incredibly successful Season One has been. Here's hoping Dontnod get their shot to do another dance at the rodeo.

This journey has gone through so many ups and downs since it started in January. But the journey has all led to this point. Dontnod have taken extra time to get the episode right and that time was well spent. The journey may be over - hopefully for now - but what a ride it was.

The rest of the year may still hold Fallout 4, Star Wars Battlefront and Just Cause 3, to name a few, as amongst potential game of the year candidates. But I feel pretty safe in calling it now and, even with Fallout 4 on the horizon in less than nearly three weeks time, saying the following words.

Life is Strange is my Game of the Year. And now also one of my favourite games ever.

[embed]https://open.spotify.com/track/4i3txPQIUV4eC9g9FBpi9I[/embed]

life is strange 2

Player statistics as of October 20, 2015

Episode One: Crystallis|7/10 Episode Two: Out of Time|8/10 Episode Three: Chaos Theory|10/10 Episode Four: Dark Room|10/10 Episode Five: Polarized|9/10

It delivered

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Like, what else can you say?

They always say the sequel is more disappointing than the original. This was far from it.

Bayley - Sasha Banks more than lived up the main event billing for NXT Takeover Respect in the biggest possible way in the first ever women's Ironman match. It lived up to the hype and the build WWE was building around the match since it was first announced following the aftermath of their incredible first match at NXT Takeover Brooklyn.

There was a tense and nervy few minutes in the early going because of nerves and understandably so. This was following up a match that will go down as one of the best in wrestling history. It was evident on Banks and Bayley's faces as they were getting ready to go out there. But once they got out there and shaken the nerves off, it picked up.

There was one or two minor botches, including a bit of a big one on Banks. And it's not the first time that's happened to her, this happened in Brooklyn too, so if she's not careful, it could end up shortening her career or significantly injuring her.

And compared to Takeover Brooklyn, which was about a match between  the incredibly heelish champion proving she was the best and the underdog challenger who had come back to prove herself following being out for a period due to actual injury with the latter coming through to triumph and take the win in the greatest way, this was about the former reclaiming what was rightfully hers and the latter proving herself and to her rival she deservedly the title and her last win wasn't a fluke. So on that instance, that slightly diluted it. But only slightly.

Because otherwise, after those first few minutes, this was a match that had some proper back and forth, immense psychology and some incredible spots all through the rest of the match.

I went through some of my E'-loving games industry peers' Twitters this morning to see if they had seen it yet and had tweeted out what they had thought of the match. None had as of writing this, but there was a tweet from last night after the WWE 24 documentary of NXT Takeover Brooklyn had aired that stood out for me.

[embed]https://twitter.com/BenjiWilson/status/651877529456930816[/embed]

Not. Gonna. Happen. Not so much the Sasha Banks getting the title and hold it forever. As far as I'm concerned, she's gonna get it before the end of the year and hold it for a good while, I reckon. And it would be massively, massively deserved. But the whole Ronda Rousey thing? Mmm, I don't see that happening.

Mainly because Sasha showed last night she is one of the best heels in the business by taking a hairband from a well-known within the IWC (internet wrestling community) young Bayley fan in attendance, winding her up about it and then throwing it back to her. Oh and literally causing her to cry? Priceless.

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It was evil. So, so incredibly evil. It was perfect. It attracted most, if not all of the heat, for The Boss, with the crowd in Full Sail. It lived up to her character. It was a beautiful piece of character that showed who she truly was. There was even chants for the young girl at one point. Kevin Owens, you've been put on notice.

As the end approached with 2-2 on the board and about 90 seconds left of the half-hour given to the match, the only outcome that couldn't be predicted was if Bayley was going to get the decisive pinfall before the allotted half-hour was up or whether we went to sudden death. Before the match, I wasn't sure how I'd feel if it did go into overtime, but on the evidence of what would have happened in the previous 30 minutes, I would have been fine with it.

In the end, overtime wasn't needed. Bayley got a submission decision on Banks' hand, injured earlier in the match in a callback to Banks trying to injure Bayley's hand in August, with three seconds left on the clock and won it 3-2. And with that, ended what was an absolutely incredible match.

I'm still not quite sure if I was a fan of the pageantry at the end, but I understand why it was done. And you could see afterwards how much it meant to both competitors. Especially to Sasha Banks, who had just literally collapsed in tears with the crowd chanting 'match of year' and 'thank you, Sasha'.

This is after all two girls who wanted to be with the WWE and legitimise women's wrestling in a period where bra and panties matches seemed more of the norm (if you haven't read their essays on why they want to wrestle in the WWE, read this - it genuinely shows the passion the pair have had).

Better than the match at Takeover Brooklyn? Nah. There was the little things above I mentioned. Plus, that match felt more of a catalyst in actually instilling change in women's wrestling than this did, the one that lead to last night's match being an Ironman match. But don't get it twisted. Both women delivered in the biggest possible way on not only the build WWE was giving the match since it was first announced, but the hype too.

Every chant both Bayley and Sasha Banks got last night, they both deserved in the biggest and best possible way. They showed the rest of the talent of both sexes (with the exception of Charlotte and Becky Lynch because they're already legit) on the main roster how to put on a match and how to put on that kind of main event.

Even though we're less than twelve hours removed from the match, I'm gonna go ahead and say I genuinely can't wait for Bayley to get called up the night after Wrestlemania (oh you know it's gonna happen) so these two can go at it again on the main roster.

To go one further, the pair of them have now been involved in my top three matches of the year - Takeover Brookyln, last night at Takeover Respect and the Fatal 4 Way along with Charlotte and Becky Lynch at Takeover Rival.

These two will be genuine superstars on the main roster if they're given all the room in the world to go for it. Whether they'll be able to do that in the current regime with Vince McMahon still in charge and not Triple H is another matter.

But either way, if the past two matches are as good as they get from Bayley and Sasha Banks - and I think I can speak for everyone who likes wrestling when I say I bloody hope it isn't - then let it be said they put on two incredible performances. Wake up proud, ladies, you did yourselves proud.

Wow.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PcLcVdSdrsQ[/embed]