Blog

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.

-----

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]

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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.

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Bayley vs Sasha Banks - why I've never been so excited for a wrestling match

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This'll be nothing short of amazing.

I've not written about WWE for well over a year-and-a-half on here. Not since that amazing night when Daniel Bryan won the WWE World Heavyweight Championship or the actual, genuine shock of Undertaker's Wrestlemania streak going up in flames thanks to Brock Lesnar.

I've kept this blog mainly about games, along with one or two other things. And that's not including My Favourite Game when I say that (MFG has a new home in case you're a regular reader here, so check it out here - Season 3 starts tonight!). And a lot has happened in a personal sense over that year-and-a-half for me, as I've already written about on here a few times.

What hasn't changed unfortunately is the state of women's wrestling in the WWE. Actually, before I get into that, I should rewind and give some context to this.

Back in the early-to-mid naughties, you had amazing wrestlers like Trish Stratus and Lita who had an amazing on-and-off rivalry and could put on some great matches (the pair even main evented a Monday Night Raw in 2004 for a title match - unfortunately a rare sight now in the 'E). Unfortunately, back when it was known as the Ruthless Aggression era, there was also what was known as 'Bra and Panties' matches among other women's wrestlers at that time. And well... you go figure that one out.

WWE has moved on from the Bra and Panties matches since then, thankfully, but it still treats woman's wrestling as an afterthought compared to the men's roster.

Since July, it has been invoking what it likes to call a 'Diva's revolution', inspired by the likes of Serena Williams' almost calendar grand slam, the US Women's Football team winning the World Cup and Ronda Rousey's continued success in UFC, among other things by calling up three of the biggest women's talent in WWE developmental talent: Charlotte, Becky Lynch (please give her the title at somepoint) and then NXT Women's Champion Sasha Banks. Unfortunately, without going into it too much, it's getting a lot of things so much wrong. Not so much on the part of the talent - mostly - but through the booking of them.

Thankfully, NXT - WWE's developmental region - treats the women as if they are on par with the men and manages to get women's wrestling so, so, so right. A lot of that is not just down to the booking, but how the women are trained with all the plaudits - rightfully - going towards trainer Sara Del Ray, who's cited as a big reason, if not THE big reason, why it's as great as it is. Over the past year or so, women's wrestling in NXT, especially title matches, have been utterly fantastic (on that note, read this excellent two-part article on why the belt has been booked so well and an additional piece of Bayley - Banks' feud).

In fact, the Fatal 4 Way at NXT Takeover Rival for the Women's Championship was easily in contention for Match of the Year alongside the likes of Kevin Owens vs John Cena at Elimination Chamber and Brock Lesnar vs John Cena vs Seth Rollins at the Royal Rumble.

Then NXT Takeover Brooklyn happened.

To say the match between the happy go lucky underdog Bayley and the arrogant, no-bullshit taking champion Sasha Banks was amazing would an understatement and actually feels like I'd be underselling it. So if you even have the vaguest of vague interests in wrestling, sign up to the WWE Network (you get your first month free so basically cancel at anytime if you want - best not to until after tonight at least, though) and then watch NXT Takeover Brookyln and see what was a game-changer of a match.

To also say the match between Bayley and Banks was a match of the year contender would be underselling it because it's not even a contender. It's already won it regardless of what happens tonight at NXT Takeover Respect when the two meet one more time in a 30 minute IronMan match, the first even time the stipulation has been used in a women's match. Which doesn't seem like much when the men have had 60 minute matches, but gotta start somewhere, I guess.

But for me, it showed how much potential women's wrestling could have if given ample time, unlike in the main roster, although to be fair, compared to a year ago, its better, but still needs a lot of work done. It was two women, leaving it all in the ring with incredible talent and passion for what they do, something the pair of them wrote about at length as kids and furthermore came across in a big way in the recent WWE 24 special on the Network.

For me, Bayey - Sasha Banks at Takeover Brookyln was the greatest wrestling match I've ever seen as someone who's been into WWE for the best part of fifteen years (and I say that as someone who plans on taking a break from the 'E after tonight considering how stale its gotten on Raw lately). And there's been some amazing matches in the past fifteen years - Taker/Michaels at Wrestlemania, Cena/CM Punk at Money in the Bank/Raw 2013 or Daniel Bryan/Triple H at last year's Wrestlemania, to name some of the matches that stood out for me.

And not only that, its being billed as a match to actually give a shit about. One of the main things that annoyed me about Takeover Brooklyn was that it was given 'co-main event status' with the NXT Championship match between Finn Balor and Kevin Owens, which seemed like pandering a bit. This time, Bayley - Banks is billed as THE main event, the actual final match of the evening.

Plus, I dare you not to feel something after watching this.

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

Or this

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n_0Q__Sj7ac[/embed]

Or this.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z78gLhsSE3o[/embed]

To say this match will have an incredible amount of significance is, again, an understatement, not just in terms how this incredible feud will end (for now until Bayley gets called up), but could be the straw that broke the camel's back and started something proper that in a big way shake up the women's division on the main roster (or maybe it won't because VKMLOL).

But even if it doesn't surpass the incredible match in New York two months ago, it should in its own merits still be an amazing match between Bayley and Sasha Banks.

I. Genuinely. Can't. Wait.

13-and-a-half years later, one last go on the Kojima MGS merrygoround

The end is near.

mgsv[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=alxN1i1GagM[/embed]

I make no qualms in saying that I genuinely love Metal Gear. I could reasonably say my love for the series was at its peak around the time 4 came out and its leadup, but there's no question in my eyes it's still a series I hold near and dear to me, for better or worse.

I never played Metal Gear Solid at the time of its release or afterwards in 1999, only getting as close as an OPM demo disc. I wouldn't play and finish the full version of MGS1 for the first time until 2009. I only finished the game for the second time just last month (each time getting the different endings - first time, Meryl and then Otacon last month).

But it all began properly 13-and-a-half years ago: Metal Gear Solid 2's European launch day in March 2002. The one thing that sold me on the game? Not the E3 trailers, not the whole Raiden deception, nothing. Matter of fact, I hadn't seen or heard anything of the game up until launch. The one thing that made me want to buy the game, or at least convince my mum to then give my 22-year old sister to buy her 11 year old brother a rated 15 BBFC game at the nearby Xtra-Vision, was a vain one: the cover artwork done by Yoji Shinkawa. Although as vain reasons go, it's a pretty good one considering Shinkawa's amazing art skills.

I wouldn't realise until years later how much MGS2 meant to me, my first mature game so to speak. But I was hooked, even if Arsenal Gear was something I really shouldn't have seen as a 11 year old thanks to how creepy the Colonel is with 'I need scissors' and actual skullface Codec calls. I'd pinpoint from the first time you see the Ninja after beating Fatman to then being ambushed and taken into Arsenal Gear - about five hours worth of gametime there - as the moment I was in.

But then, there was Metal Gear Solid 3. I've already written at length earlier this year about it and how much that game means to me, not only from a professional perspective but also on a pure personal meaning following events last year, so I won't go on too long about it here. But I will say that I am absolutely not exaggerating when I say MGS3 defined who I am. It genuinely changed my life.

Metal Gear Solid 4 was - and still to this day - the most excited I've ever been for any other game in my life. Although I can definitely see complaints it's the weakest game of the series, I actually personally prefer it over MGS1. Not to say MGS1 is a bad game - far from it - but it's a game that I enjoyed greatly, even if the bosses were not as good as MGS3's or even MGS1's and if the ending was emotionally manipulative.

I wanted to write all this as a reminder for myself for how much I love Metal Gear Solid and to tell people why I love the series as much as I do. I say all of this because it really does feel like the end of an era. Whenever Kojima has said in the past each Metal Gear game will be his last, we've always taken it as a 'boy crying wolf' scenario - we'll believe it when we see it. This time, it seems like the real deal. If anything emptimised that, it was the release today of the final trailer for MGSV: The Phantom Pain - the final ever Kojima-made MGS trailer - which goes on one hell of a melancholic nostalgia trip for the first half of it anyways that nearly had me in tears in what is, more or less, Kojima's goodbye message to the series.

It'd be remiss of me if I didn't say that Metal Gear doesn't have its issues - it does in various ways, some endearing and some that are quite troubling - but it really is a beloved series to me. Even now, I don't think I've really properly discussed in great detail how much it means to me.

I think, effectively, it's just sunk in this genuinely is going to be the end of an era, for real this time.

I'm planning to do some writing on V (actual work writing, not blogging writing) but it'll be interesting to see how everything pans out on a purely personal level. Because after nearly 14 years, I'm possibly about to get closure to a series that has meant a great deal to me. And the more I think about that, the more I get sadder about it.

Life is Strange: Episode Four, Dark Room - Aww, son of a bitch (Thoughts)

data-e-trailer-per-life-is-strange-dark-room-ridble.jpg

Well... fuck.

[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 four 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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[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cNgxyL5zEAk[/embed]

"It's me, Austin!"

"Aww, son of a bitch." ("What!?")

"It's me, Austin. It was me all along, Austin."

Replace Jim Ross with me, replace Steve Austin with Max and replace Vince McMahon with Jefferson. That was essentially what happened when I reached the end of episode four of Life is Strange, an episode that just doesn't end with a stabbing to the stomach in terms of , but starts with the biggest figurative punch to the heart ever.

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The moment episode four kicks off from just after the ending of episode three is immediately heartbreaking as you deal with the revelation that Chloe is now bound in a wheelchair following a car accident. She seems, at first, to be happy that she's spending time with her best friend. You're also reminded you're in a parallel universe at the same time, though, with little winks and nods: alternate universe Chloe loves emojis but hates the word 'hella'. Main universe Chloe wouldn't let the emoji loving fly. This just among other things (Max's attitude to her parents is a bit more bitchy, for example, than it is in the main universe)

But just as you think things may be getting a bit comfortable as Max and Chloe watch Blade Runner and ponder if Deckard really is a replicant or not, the first major choice of the game comes up. But not even that, it's the biggest major choice encountered in the game so far, and one that'll be massively discussed in the next few weeks or so.

I mentioned last episode how ganging up on David Madsen along with Chloe and Joyce was the easiest decision I had made playing the game so far to date. But this choice was just completely out there and in turn, the hardest decision to make in the four episodes I've played this year.

Never has the topic of euthanasia/assisted suicide been approached in games, or at least certainly not by a well-known developer and publisher. But the way Life is Strange forces you - in its first twenty minutes, I add - to choose whether you help or refuse to help Chloe take her life is, while very loaded, absolutely powerful. I was genuinely weighting up the pros and cons of doing it, more so if you explore the house and talk to someone like William or Joyce (though I never came across Joyce in my playthrough of ep 4, but I know she's there) and find out various factors.

I was genuinely frustrated by the question, not because of the question asked, but in trying to determine the right answer. Even when the game offers you a 'don't know' answer, it throws the question back you afterwards. I was trying to figure out if this was the right choice, the various pros and cons for and against and what would be the ramifications if I did.

Not to mention, there was the relationship I had built with Chloe throughout these past episodes (even if it wasn't the same Chloe at that moment): hightailing it from Nathan in episode one, the diner in episode two, chilling out after breaking into Blackwell the night before in episode three. All these things played a part in the decision making. In the end, after racking my brain for the better part of around 15 minutes, I opted not to. I just couldn't do it.

Dontnod and Square Enix should be massively applauded, if nothing else, for respectively opting to visit such touchy matters - like suicide, depression, euthanasia - and treating them with care on the developer side and giving said developer the creative remit to explore those subjects on the publisher side.

We need more developer/publisher relationships like the one Square Enix and Dontnod have because I worry what it would have been like if another publisher had picked this up. This, in a way so to speak, is part of Life is Strange's pull, its charm. And this is something that Square Enix, again, should get kudos for.

If Life is Strange is remembered at all, let it be remembered for stuff like this.

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Episode four also represents a dramatic shift in tone. The episode's title, Dark Room, more or less lives up to its name. The first part of the title certainly represents most of the episode as it feels massive different to the episode three we were only playing just two months ago.

It's a much more darker episode, and first proof of that is how some characters react to you during the episode. Nathan is much more sinister in this and, depending on choices you make when you encounter him, Frank can be equally as cold. Even sweet, loveable Warren goes ape(shit) at one point in one of those 'fuck yeah' moments to Nathan to the point that when he goes at it for too long, you do have to wonder what his state of mind currently is and slightly worry for his mental well being.

It's also reflected in some of the set piece moments of the episode as we start to discover more of Nathan and his family and the secrets they hold. Holy fuck, it got super dark, even by Life is Strange standards. Like, the first three episodes had their darker moments, but for the most part, they are normal(ish) and explore a recently restablished friendship.

We have confirmation of what happened to Kate at the party and that she was indeed date raped at the last Vortex Party. Unfortunately, we also discover what happened to Rachel Amber, by which point, we finally see the girls hit their emotional lowest as they find her body in what was a gut-wrenching moment. As I said, even by Life is Strange standard, it got dark and super twisted.

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If episode four started out with one of the most hearbreaking and genuinely morally choiced questions ever, it ended in the biggest shanking ever with the reveal of Jefferson being the big bad or at least helping out the Prescotts in whatever they're attempting to do.

As I discussed with someone on Facebook this morning (as of writing this), not once at all did I suspect the fucker. I mean, the only time I suspected something was up was towards the end of episode two and how he responded to Kate, but I was thinking it was just him being cold.

So much of my focus was on Nathan and David (and to a lesser extent, Frank) that any suspect feelings I had for Jefferson were simply washed out by the larger lack of trust I had for either Nathan or David.

Looking back in hindsight, there were things that now should have made me more wary of him and perhaps seen in a much more suspicious eye. Unfortunately, as it seems, it's too late. You're now in the dark room - if the finale teaser is a decent indicator - whilst Chloe is dead thanks to a bullet in the head from Jefferson, although the popular theory currently going about is that Max could use the photo she took with Warren to get back to an earlier point in the night before being ambushed by Jefferson.

Oh, and we seem to have forgotten a little thing. Like, you know, the tornado. That little thing which had an absent appearance in episode three besides brief mentions of it.

Either way, what a stunner. It feels such a cliche to say, but it doesn't make it any less true in this instance: it's always the person you least suspect. Because after all this, it's Jefferson, everyone. It was Jefferson all along, everyone.

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I said in my thoughts of episode three that I expected episode four to tone back the drama, but Life's is Strange's penultimate episode had everything: frantic, emotional, shocking, frantic, heart-racing and the like. I perhaps should have expected that considering it hasn't learned the concept of dialing it back.

I've also mentioned in the past worries I had that Dontnod could see their great work accomplished to date go down the toilet if they end up being complacent for future episodes. And although there's still one episode left and therefore that worry is still there in part, I'm definitely a lot more assured that after four episodes, there is absolutely no complacency on the part of Dontnod right now.

Because since episode two, the game has constantly raised the bar from what I expect from the series thus far to date. And now, with the Season Finale on a knife edge, September/October is going to feel like the longest time away.

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.

Holy shit.

lis 4 choices

Player statistics as of July 31, 2015.

Episode One: Crystallis

Episode Two: Out of Time –

Episode Three: Chaos Theory –

With Satoru Iwata's passing, the games industry experiences a unique situation

"Please understand." iwata

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

As Nintendo announced just after midnight today the passing of its president Satoru Iwata, the games industry found itself in a situation unique to it. A sad situation, but one never encountered before until now.

Up until midnight, the games industry was young enough to have never encountered the death of such a mammoth, recognisable name. Unfortunately, we've now arrived at such a time and it'll now be interesting to see how it'll unfold over the next few days.

The reaction on Twitter was that of sudden shock when Nintendo's Japanese Twitter tweeted the link announcing Iwata's death on Saturday with the added news that the company's other biggest icon, Shigeru Miyamoto, would take charge of the company along with Genyo Takeda until a permanent successor for Iwata is found.

Miyamoto has said today Nintendo's development team "remain committed to our development policy which Mr. Iwata and we have been constructing together and to yield the development results which Mr. Iwata would appreciate."

It came out of nowhere, even for a man who a year ago went under surgery for a bile duct growth. It was because of that Iwata missed last year's E3 due to doctor's orders not to fly abroad and the subsequent annual shareholders meeting for the surgery.

"I was counseled that removal at an early stage would be the desirable medical option," he said at the time. "Therefore I had surgery last week, and I came through it well, as predicted."

Unfortunately, despite everything seemingly pointing towards what looked like a recovery, Nintendo cited the cause of Iwata's death as a second bile duct growth.

Iwata's passing has led to journalists, fellow game developers and game executives tweeting tributes this morning and this afternoon, which is absolutely right for how iconic he was. Say what you will about Nintendo as a company, as a business  - I certainly have been critical of the company at times from a business perspective for decisions its made - but you will not hear word one that is negative from me or anyone of a man who was so likeable, had the greatest of charm and warmth around him and who's path from developer to executive is the rarest of things.

In fact, one story that has gone around about Iwata was an interview he conducted with Japanese publication 4Gamer last December in which he described a situation towards the end stretch of Super Smash Bros Melee's development that saw him get his hands dirty again in development despite his executive duties.

"I couldn't write code during the week days, but, well, my nights were my own, as they say," he said in the interview (thanks to StreetsAhead on NeoGAF for the translation). "Or, I'd take work home on my days off and write code there. If I made anything cool, I'd bring it in to work on Monday to show it to everyone and they'd all be glad to look at it and that was fun for me."

Here's the Smash transcription in full:

Iwata: Aaah, I wonder if it's alright to admit this? Well, I guess the proverbial statute of limitations is up, so I'll tell you, but my actual last work on programming happened when I was working as the General Manager of Corporate Planning at Nintendo. Something happened and the Gamecube version of Super Smash Brothers didn't look like it was going to make its release date so I sort of did a code review for it (Wry Laugh).

All: (Laugh Loudly)

Kawakami: No matter how you look at it, that's not the job of the General Manager of Corporate Planning, is it? (Laughs)

Iwata: Yes, it isn't really, is it (wry laugh). At the time, I went to HAL Labs in Yamanashi and was the acting head of debugging. So, I did the code review, fixed some bugs, read the code and fixed more bugs, read the long bug report from Nintendo, figured out where the problem was and got people to fix those...all in all I spent about three weeks like that. And, because of that, the game made it out on time.

Kawakami: So you even did the debugging yourself!

Iwata: And that was the last time that I worked as an engineer 'in the field'. I was right there, sitting by programmers, in the trenches, reading code together, finding the bugs, and fixing them together.

Kawakami: That is such an interesting story. But with that being the last time you worked as an engineer, does it mean that there's a knowledge gap between you and people who are currently working as ones?

Iwata: Yes, stepping back from something means that a knowledge gap is inevitable. Even if I understand the principles, I just can't take the time to fully update my skills. So, with time, I've found myself having to ask what certain things are. So, even though I'm looking over the system development departments, I find myself having to ask them to explain certain things to me. Through that I'm sort of struggling through trying to not let my judgements standards waste away.

Kawakami: So that's an on-going thing, then?

Iwata: Yes, of course. How do I put this? I, personally, don't want to lose my position as the 'CEO of a listed company in Japan with the most knowledge of programming'.

All: (Laugh loudly)

And above all else, whilst Sony and Microsoft were in the pursuit of ultra-realistic graphics and evolved storytelling in games (not to say those are bad things to chase), Nintendo made sure its core tenant in games was about one thing: fun. And Iwata made sure of that. If proof of that is needed, all you need to do is look at the games Nintendo has put out in the past 18-24 months on Nintendo 3DS and Wii U. This was a culture of fun that was headed up by him.

And not just in his time developing games like Earthbound, Balloon Fight, Kirby, Pokemon and many other games, but also at an executive level too. When presenting Nintendo Directs, Iwata was not afraid to open himself up to be made fun of and have a laugh at his expense. Who else would randomly hold a pair of bananas in the middle of a Nintendo Direct or during E3 as a muppet? Who else would surround himself with a ton of Luigis on screen for no particular reason? Who else would have made a motion made at the start of every Nintendo Direct or have two words said so often turn into memes? Satoru Iwata.

He's a man who also very much cared about Nintendo as a company from a business perspective as well as a personal perspective. At the start of 2014, when Nintendo announced a 30 percent loss of profit over the nine-month fiscal period ending December 31, 2013, Iwata announced he'd take a reduction of his salary by half. He was not a fan of layoffs either.

He was also a personal executive too. When he'd come to Nintendo of America, he'd change his StreetPass message to reflect his visit. And there is quite a lovely personal story of him that I have to quote in full from NeoGAF from NintendoGal.

"A few years ago a few thought I was kinda crazy because I got super frustrated I wasn't able to meet Mr. Iwata. During E3, I'd just show up too late here or there, always missing the window of opportunity to meet him. I really wanted to meet him because of everything he helped accomplish with Nintendo and I just wanted to say thanks. Call it something akin to meeting an idol or something, I don't know.

"Anyway... my husband was lucky enough to work with him when he was in the RWC office and always had the nicest things to say about him. Well, whenever he was in the office, I'd have him take my 3DS to work to get Mr. Iwata's Mii and StreetPass. For SOME reason, he had all the rare puzzle pieces, who'da thunk it! One time when he was in town, I decided to write a private message to him, just for fun. I never thought he'd ever take the time to write something back.

"Well, shockingly he did! I'm still stunned he took the time to do so because unlike E3, this is a company/work environment and I imagine he was fairly busy at a CEO."

Everyone, no matter how big or small, has a memory of Iwata to talk about, a game he was involved in that people want to play or just want to pay tribute to a one-of-a-kind executive the likes of which we will never see again or at the very least won't see for a very, very long time.

Even I have my own thing to be thankful for from Iwata, even if he didn't perhaps play that much of a part in it. But I'll give it to him considering it happened under his watch.

When Nintendo announced it was publishing and funding Bayonetta 2 for Wii U in 2012, I knew I had found my one sole reason to own the console. To Nintendo's credit, there've been many games since that have made me kept my Wii U about. But I digress.

Last year, just before my mum passed away, I'd picked up the Bayonetta combi-pack for Wii U, featuring both Bayonetta 2 and the Wii U port of the original Bayonetta that launched in 2010 for PS3 and Xbox 360. Playing Bayo 2 whilst my mum, who was seemingly getting better but still ill, was still in hospital helped in being a great comfort to me. I was playing a lot of games either side of her passing, but Bayonetta 2 is a game that stands out from that time for me.

And for a series that was effectively dead and buried beforehand from original publisher Sega, Nintendo brought it back to life. And it all happened under Iwata's watch. And I am very thankful it happened.

What else needs to be said of a man who made such a positive influence in the industry? Not much, it seems, but it is fitting that if there is one quote he'll be remembered by, one that represents his principles, it's this one.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cYcBq8TN0gg[/embed] "On my business card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer."

Please understand, Satoru Iwata, you will be heavily missed.

My Favourite Game: The Best of Season 2

Plus, never before published bits! mfg

My Favourite Game Season 2 was fun. After the show's first season in where it was all fellow writers and personalities, saw the introduction of game developers from the season onwards. The season ended back in May, but there's still one last episode to get through before we can start to look ahead to Season 3 later this year.

The Best of Season 2 takes a look back at some of the best bits of Season 2 as well as bits that unfortunately made the cutting room floor but now reappear here in this special, lasting over an hour-and-a-half.

Before that, I want to take the time to point out, as I did during the Best of Season One special, the three episodes that eptimised what My Favourite Game is about - sharing stories of playing games, the personal meaning and attachment to them and just talking of our love for them. All ten episodes are all great, but these three are my personal picks if someone held a gun to my head and asked me to name the three episodes that showed what My Favourite Game was about.

The first one is without question the most personal episode of My Favourite Game done in the short time its been going on. Julie Horup on The Binding of Issac on how games were part of her upbringing and various parallels between it and the game, how any particular game can help you through the most challenging of times in life and how they can be an outlet for someone making a game, like Ed McMillen with Issac.

The second being Ria Jenkins on Bayonetta. Putting aside the fact that there was a fun chat had with Ria on all things Bayonetta, there was a related chat in the episode on sex in games I felt was excellent and one not talked about a lot too much, at least on a games podcast. There's a part of it I had to cut due to time restrictions from the episode, but it's been added back in for this. There's more details below.

Finally, Splash Damage's Ed Stern on Half-Life and just the sheer amount of detail he went into in regards to that game, not to mention the inspiration its had on him in making games at the London-based studio.

[Special mention too to Molly Carroll's episode on The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask just for how fun it was]

Here's the rundown for the Best of Season 2 along with notes.

hl2A Conversation on Half-Life 2 (Part One), by Ed Stern (Half-Life)

In the first part of a segment that never made it into Ed's episode (by that point we were approaching two hours recording), we talk of the sequel of his favourite game, itself one of the greatest games of all time, let alone of its genre. This first part, which was previewed last week,  focuses on the main game itself.

majora's maskThe Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask's Creepy Aspects and the Twin Peaks of Gaming, by Molly Carroll (The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask)

Chucklefish's Molly Carroll talks of the stuff that made The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask so bloody creepy and also ask her, as a Lynch fan, what would be considered the Twin Peaks of gaming?

valkyria chroniclesA (Brief) Conversation on Valkyria Chronicles, by Kaitlin Tremblay (Shining Force)

Valkyria Chronicles is amazing and you should all play it on Steam or PS3, hence why me and Kaitlin Tremblay talked about it for a few minutes inbetween talking Shining Force. Because, y'know, Valkyria Chronicles is amazing.

shenmue iiShenmue II: The Last Great Sega Game?, by Matthew Reynolds (Shenmue) and Alan Williamson (From Season One, Sonic 3 & Knuckles)

Is Shenmue II the last great Sega game? That question is put to Digital Spy games editor Matthew Reynolds. Also REEEEEEEEEEEEWIND to Season 1 with Five Out of Ten Editor Alan Williamson, who who had Shenmue II as one of his honourable mentions and who originally brought up the question.

mgs3The Threes of Metal Gear Solid 3, by Leigh Alexander (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater)

Actually, this was more me, but still. In the Season Première episode of My Favourite Game's second season, which coincided with the game's tenth anniversary in Europe, the power of threes within Metal Gear Solid 3 are talked about with Offworld editor Leigh Alexander.

kojimaHideo Kojima: The Brand, by Mike Bithell (Metal Gear Solid)

As Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain gets set to release and the man of the hour edging ever closer to Konami's exit door, can Hideo Kojima be considered a marketing brand in the industry? Volume and Thomas Was Alone creator Mike Bithell answers the question.

the bossThe Cobras and The Joy of Metal Gear Solid 3's Bosses, by Leigh Alexander (Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater)

Jumping quickly back to MGS3, me and Leigh talk about the greatest set of boss fights you will ever see in a game, The Cobras, particuarly The End and The Boss (or if you're a lot more versed in MGS3 lore, The Joy).

hl2 ep 2A Conversation on Half-Life 2 (Part Two), by Ed Stern (Half-Life)

In the second half of our conversation on Half-Life 2, we focus primarily on the episodes that released in the wake of the full game and the long gap between the third episode or a third game.

spelunkyA Conversation on Spelunky, by Christian Donlan (Robotron 2084)

When Eurogamer's Christian Donlan talks about Spelunky, you had best better listen because there is no better expert on the matter of Spelunky like Christian Donlan. So go listen to the man chat Spelunky. Because he's Chris Donlan. And he know's a lot more shit about Spelunky than you. Or I for that matter.

ganondorfGanondorf: The Prince of Thieves' Introduction to the World, by Andrew Smith (The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past)

Spilt Milk Studio's Andrew Smith talks of his experience being introduced to a series mainstay and one of gaming's most famous villains of all time.

mass effect 2A Conversation on Mass Effect and Mass Effect 3's Ending by Julie Horup (The Binding of Issac)

In this segment, freelance writer Julie Horup talks about Mass Effect as one of her honourable mentions as we talk of the mark the series has left on the industry, be it good (Mass Effect 2) or bad, the latter also talked at length in regards to the backlash towards the ending of Mass Effect 3.

bayonetta 2Bayonetta, Gone Home, The Last of Us, Catherine and Sexuality in Games, by Ria Jenkins (Bayonetta)

In this hybrid of stuff that made it into the episode and never before heard stuff, freelance writer Ria Jenkins talks about sexuality in games and the games that have been influenced by it as a result. Also, I accidentally spoil The Last of Us: Left Behind to her. And almost forget the name of Bill from the main game.

You can listen to the episode below via audio and YouTube.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwJAQOOf0rc&feature=youtu.be[/embed]

[audio https://archive.org/download/MFG-best-of-season-2/My%20Favourite%20Game%20-%20Best%20of%20Season%202.mp3]

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Twitter: @JohnnyCullen @mollygos|@kait_zilla|@Crazyreyn|@mikeBithell|@leighalexander |@EdStern|@SpiltMilkStudio|@distreat|@introskeptive

Listen to My Favourite Game’s second season in its entirety here.

E3 2015: Rating the press conferences

That was an E3 that happened xbox 1 This year was a mixed bag of quality for the press conferences for me in terms of consistency compared to last year, but it did give us quite possibly the greatest E3 press conference ever. Lets be honest here, this isn't so much about finding a winner - we already have - but rather determining who came best out of the rest. Here it is.

bethesdaBethesda - 8/10

For a first ever press conference, Bethesda more or less held its own here. A really slick presentation MC'ed by Bethesda VP Pete Hines and a set of games from well known franchises that'll appeal to the core. Well, Battlecry didn't jump out for me and although I can understand why they're doing it, The Elder Scrolls Legends somewhat wiffs of riding Hearthstone's coattails. And there was TESO too.

But otherwise, there was some other fantastic stuff. Small worries aside about it, Doom looks incredible and seems like will be my first proper foray into the series. Dishonored II's debut trailer went down super well, having Princess Emily from the first game be front and centre of it as duel protagonist of the game (alongside Corvo) and a definitive edition of the first game to tide people over before the sequel comes out next year is a big crowd pleaser too.

And of course, a little game called Fallout 4. There was nothing negative about how it was presented, everything that was shown by Todd Howard impressed. From crafting to VATs looking much slicker and everything inbetween, it was more or less the perfect demo. The fact it's coming out this year too (though not the specific date I would have picked) was just the cherry on the cake. The sprinkles on the cake came in the form of mobile game Fallout Shelter.

Bethesda did good for a first attempt. It seemed like the perfect time to do it with a lineup building over time and made do with the hour it went with and didn't drag it out (unlike another third-party who we'll get to in a minute). Who knows if they'll do it again next year, but after this year, I hope so.

xbox 2Microsoft - 9/10

In any other year at E3, this would be the press conference that won it. Microsoft had perhaps the most unfortunate luck this year ahead of what would happen a few hours later at Sony, but this was a press conference that was on its own merits great. Backwards compatibility for Xbox 360 games on Xbox One got a huge, huge cheer and had more or less piled the pressure on the point of PlayStation Now.

There was a decent focus on new IP too with Keiji Inafune and Armature's Recore announced for Spring, whilst Xbox One and Windows 10 moba Gigantic coming in August. A much better indie focus with ID @ Xbox this year: Tacoma announced as a Xbox One exclusive (albeit timed) is a big get, as is the announcement of an early access program featuring the announcement of an Xbox One version of Day Z and its creator Dean Hall announcing his own game for the program, his first since leaving Bohemia and Day Z.

There was the obvious third-party appearances too with the exclusive Rise of the Tomb Raider, Fallout 4, Rainbow Six: Siege, The Division, Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 and the reveal of Dark Souls III getting a run out. But it'd be Microsoft's two flagship IPs that would start and finish the show with Halo 5: Guardians giving quite the decent campaign demo and a new look at a new multiplayer suite, while Gears of War skips past the Gears 1 Remaster besides a brief mention of a date and a beta and going straight into a demo of Gears 4, at least eighteen months before it comes out. Forza 6 and Fable Legends got there too, whilst Rare's new IP Sea of Thieve looks like possibly a return to some of Rare's old days (which is also why a Rare collection of all of its previous game is just great). And that's nearly forgetting an incredible Mincraft demo featuring Hololens.

On any other year, this would be a Microsoft E3 win. This was, for me, their best press conference since their 2009 effort. At least in August, plus with the addition of Scalebound, Quantum Break and Crackdown, they won't have to worry about what the competition will do next in Cologne a few hours later.

eaEA - 4/10

I've typically given EA a lot of leeway for their past press conferences at E3. I even enjoyed last year's press conference, one of the very few who did. Nope, not this year. Sure, they started it with a great reveal trailer for Mass Effect: Andronmeda, but it all just went downhill from there. Need for Speed looking very unappealing, an unneeded mobile appearance, sports stuff (besides NHL maybe) went complete long in the tooth. Oh and that's piling into that nugget of complaint of an onstage Pele interview that went way too long for its own liking. And I say that as someone who's looking forward to FIFA 16 this year.

In fact, that interview was what sealed EA's fate for me. For a publisher that typically has an hour-long presser, padding it out with a 20 minute interview, even if it is one of the best footballers of all time, is just ridiculous in the worst possible way. And then to stick the knife in with those Madden and NBA bits as well.

Not to say EA had their moments. Earlier Mass Effect announcement aside, Unravel was heartwarming and is perhaps one of my favourite games this E3 so far. We also had the first proper look at Mirror's Edge: Catalyst, which just looks flat out stunning. The fact they've completely dropped guns from the game as a player thing is even better news. And you know what? After that unconvincing first trailer and its gameplay reveal taking its time, I'm convinced of Star Wars: Battlefront.

But that was as good as it got. EA was a straight up bust. Presentation was dire, it was super padded out - with massive help (but not entirely by) Pele - and not including said FIFA segment, EA Sports segments were dire. EA really had a big fall (not a typo) this year.

ubisoftUbisoft - 5/10

Ubisoft was a bit better, but didn't fare as great as last year: For Honour (without a U, but I'll use it) didn't really look all that amazing to me, Just Dance 2016 was Just Dance and Trackmania was not all that appealing. And no matter how hard they try, this is the first time I've never felt a semblence of interest for an Assassin's Creed game - stop trying to make Syndicate happen Ubisoft, it won't happen. Sadly, it felt felt like Aisha Tyler was off this year. She was a terrific presenter last year, but this year, it just felt forced and that she was maybe just trying too hard.

That said, Ubisoft gets an extra point for the fact we got the announcement of a new South Park game. Plus Rainbow Six: Siege looked alright, The Division looks cool (and much better than the trailer shown at Microsoft) and the announcement of Ghost Recon: Wildlands show a game that could have massive promise if done right.

And I'll give Ubisoft credit for actually sticking to an hour or near abouts compared to EA.

I'd give it a six, but Jason Derulo means it drops a point. Because Jason Derulo ruined one of the finest Imogen Heap songs ever.

sonySony - 10/10

Seriously. I mean, what the actual fuck. This was not even close. It's not even comparable to 2013 and that was a great press conference. This is the stuff of legend that'll be told years down the line. Where were you on June 15 when Sony had its E3 2015 press conference?

If you had said we'd see at least one of either The Last Guardian, Final Fantasy VII Remake:or Shenmue III, that would be enough to get everyone in a tizzy. But the fact all three were announced within an hour was just pow after pow after pow. Just having one of them is a megaton. Having all three there is basically a full-scale nuclear war sense of detonation. You will never see this again or at the very least, for a very, very long time.

[embed]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5419ePOr5yI[/embed]

But besides those three, Sony was just wall-to-wall full of games. Guerrilla's Horizon just looks stunning, Media Molecule's Dreams has wonderful potential, the reveal of Hitman looked rad, No Man's Sky got its first ever public live demo and looked incredible as it would, Street Fighter V shaping up nicely and after its showing at EA convinced me of its potential, more Battlefront isn't a bad thing. As isn't more Destiny. And even if you're not exactly a fan of the series, Sony poaching Call of Duty from Microsoft is shrewd business but one that makes a whole lot of business sense. Oh and Black Ops III? Yup, I'm in.

In 2013, there was a 10 minute spell of Sony Pictures which gave nothing and last year, another ten minute segment given to Powers - which felt like 20 minutes. This year, there was a brief mention of PlayStation Vue, but that was no more than five minutes. I can honestly live with that.

My only complaint - and it is literally the only one - is that I would have spaced out the announcements a bit more. Have Last Guardian start the show, as it did, then have Shenmue III's Kickstarter be the midway point announcement and then have the Final Fantasy VII announcement for the end. Because having it end on Uncharted 4, as impressive as that demo was, felt like a bit of an anticlimax after what had just happened earlier. And that tells you a lot about what happened when I consider a new demo for perhaps my most anticipated game of 2016 from my favourite developer as a conference closer an anticlimax.

Seriously, you will never see another press conference like this with so many megatons. All it needed at that point was Half-Life 3 and it would have gotten infinity/10. But man, this was just incredible. The best press conference E3 has ever had.

nintendoNintendo - 5/10

Call me bitter, but the way Nintendo handled the Animal Crossing stuff - was just dire. Admittedly, having thought it was just a smaller game based solely on interior design, it dawned on me watching it in the Digital Event that Happy Home Designer on 3DS was a new, fully-fledged title. And you know? I'm now going to buy that in September.

But it was Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival that really provided the knife in the stommach moment. It's not so much that it exists - I'm okay with it existing (and the fact it'll be free to play (albeit, get some amiibos) takes the sting out) - but the way Nintendo built that announcement up as if we were about to get a fully-fledged Animal Crossing for Wii U, something I've been clamoring for for nearly eighteen months (and also a big reason why I still have a Wii U post-Bayonetta 2) only for it not to be is what got my goat to the point I had actually had a minor meltdown about it. And now I can basically give up on it coming to Wii U because at this point, the Direct was also Wii U's death sentence with Nintendo more or less affectively acknowledging it's now in a holding pattern ahead of NX's reveal next Summer.

Sure, StarFox Zero from Platinum looks promising ahead of a Holiday release, we're getting Xenoblade Chronicles X in December, Mario Maker confirmed for September (and to give Nintendo credit, the Nintendo World Championship really sold that game) and Shin Megami Tensei x Fire Emblem is definitely coming west next year. Oh and Yoshi coming out in the States months after the UK, Europe and Australia (we get it next week).

But besides Animal Crossing: Amiibo Festival and a new Mario Tennis, there was nothing announced for Wii U we didn't already know about. That's including Zelda, which was, as promised by Nintendo, not shown. Watch for that to show up as a duel-platform Wii U/NX game next year.

Meanwhile, 3DS goes from strength to strength. A new Zelda: Four Swords-like game with Triforce Heroes looks great, Hyrule Warriors 3DS getting a shoutout too, Fire Emblem Fates confirmed for 2016 and the hugely popular in Japan Yokai Watch confirmed for this Holiday. And then there was Metroid Prime: Federation Force for 3DS, which has everyone up in a tizz. Petitions, by the way, aren't going to get this game cancelled for, say, a new Metroid Prime.

The only reason it gets a five is for the strength of 3DS's lineup this year. Otherwise, for the Animal Crossing debacle and essentially confirming this was essentially the end for Wii U this year, it'd be getting a lower score.

Iwata, Reggie and Miyamoto muppets were nice, though.

squareSquare Enix - 7/10

Hands up who thought Square Enix would have a better press conference than one of the first-parties? Nope, I didn't think so too. But lo and behold, it happened.

That's not to say Square was flawless - far from it - as some of their presenters, including Square Enix west boss Phil Rodgers, was dullfully trotted out. And not to mention, that one guy who clearly wasn't told this was a press conference, not a PAX panel, when Kingdom Hearts III was shown.

But otherwise, they had a great lineup and decent surprises to cover it. Just Cause 3's first proper gameplay video showed promising stuff ahead of a December release, a surprise Nier sequel from Platinum Games was massive news (though the lasting image of that segment will always be Taro Yoko wearing a mask on stage), the announcement of Star Ocean V being localised, Lara Croft Go from Square Enix Montreal who are just on a roll right now with mobile hits, the incredible looking first gameplay of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, the first gameplay of io's Hitman reboot just looked swish as hell and the announcement of Project Setsuna, a new IP from new studio Tokyo RPG Factory that's due to release globally next year.

Of course, the main event was when Square Enix regular troll master producer Shinji Hashimoto came to represent Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts. Another look at World of Final Fantasy's trailer from Sony the night before, the Final Fantasy VII remake trailer with additional caveat we'd get more info on it this Winter and the big one: new gameplay of Kingdom Hearts III for the first time in nearly two years, as well as the confirmation of the first world in the game being related to Disney's Tangled.

Square Enix's presentation had the perfect mix of eastern and western games, something I was perhaps a bit unsure of going into the event, as well as a few handful of surprises: I certainly didn't expect Kingdom Hearts III ahead of a previously announced blowout at D23 Japan later this autumn, but hey, we got it.

So well done, Square Enix. Just improve on your presenting skills a little bit and if you have a lineup like you did this year, you can definitely come back again next year.

No score for The PC Gaming Show as I never got to watch it due to sheer exhaustion.