Month: May 2016

Jingo Magic!

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This evening on telly-freak show Britain’s Got Talent a magician named Richard Jones performed a card trick and got a standing ovation for it. OH HANG ON! No he didn’t. He relied on a special guest, presumably because his performance of the most pedestrian of card tricks was so poor. Like, visibly poor. To anyone with eyes.

It’s a storytelling trick – an oldie, but a goodie when done right – which sees the magician lay cards from an apparently-well-shuffled deck onto the table. The numbers on the cards correspond to whatever story the magician wishes to tell, usually involving dates, numbers and royalty or people in positions of power. The magician would say “It was 3am! Witching Hour!” and lay a three of clubs on the table, or “The Queen called for her Jester” while laying the Queen of Spades and a Joker card on the table. You get the idea.

Jones told the story of a war veteran who served King (cue laying down a King card) and country (cue laying down cards that read as the dates of the war). He churned out dates and stats and emotive rhetoric, along with a simple “tear and restore” trick, before unveiling a portrait of the soldier, made from a mosaic of nine cards – which he didn’t even get in order on the reveal; he had to rearrange them up by hand! Then, after he’d finished the trick – flanked on both sides by glittering Union flags and accompanied by the theme from the Dambusters and the like – he introduced the war hero whose story he’d been telling. They both waved and the entire room stood and applauded. I was almost sick.

There is so much I could pick at about the trick itself. I’m an amateur magician myself and sleight of hand card magic is my hobby, but you didn’t even have to be a keen amateur to spot his dreadful false shuffle at the start of his routine. And that’s the ONLY thing that makes the trick work. After that false shuffle the magician simply turns cards over from the top of the (prearranged) deck. There is NO trick. The audience are meant to think the magician is pulling cards from the top of a shuffled deck, which they’re obviously not. It’s the kind of trick you learn from your Grandfather to impress your mates at school. This guy botched it from the off. That annoyed me.

But it was the whole tone of the piece that really pissed me off. The pompous music, the fluttering Union flags, waving triumphantly around him, the fact that the idiot was wearing his dress uniform, all conspired to make the scene even more gutwrenchingly jingoistic than those shadow dancers that time, (you remember, the ones who went from genuinely emotive and hard-hitting interpretive art to pretending to be military bomber planes, again underscored by the theme to the Dambusters). Utter and unapologetic whoring  out of genuine war heroes (hate that term) aside, Richard Jones’ performance resembled the kind of thing you’d imagine as the after-dinner entertainment at the BNP Annual Conference, booked on a budget.

It made my blood boil. Is this really where we are as a society?! Is that all that’s needed for a magician to get a standing ovation: a shit card trick and a pound shop Street Party Decoration kit?! Are we really this easy to win over? The magician should be judged on his competency in his chosen talent – card magic – not on the ability of the BGT production team to prepare the kind of staging that taps right into the current “patriotism” currently being nurtured by the likes of UKIP and those fronting the Leave campaign. If he wins, he can fuck right off. And so can you, “Great British Public”!

An Apology and a Photo of a Dog

My oh my, I have been neglecting you! I’m sorry for not writing in ages, despite numerous promises of “posts on [x] coming soon”.

I will write soon. That’s a real promise. I’ve got lots of ideas and now a bit more spare time, some new video games and a referendum on Britain’s EU membership on the horizon. Plus, there may be room for a few more personal posts in the near future.

But until then, here’s a photo of my dog:

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Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture (PS4)

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Wow. It isn’t often I shed tears at a videogame, but there were a couple of moments over the amazing Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture’s seven hours of gameplay that genuinely moved me. This is a videogame like nothing I have ever played. I’m not even sure how to begin describing it.

You start on a path on the outskirts of a small Shropshire town, alone and with nothing. There are no guns, there is no HUD, you don’t have to do anything at all if you don’t want to. The aim here is to explore, to solve the mystery placed before you. The people of Yaughton are disappearing without a trace. The town has been placed under quarantine following a flu epidemic. But there’s more going on than most people know.

After a short wander about the town – snooping in houses, the post office, the local pub – you discover a strange glowing light. You’re soon told that this light is Jeremy. And from there, with no further handholding, you’re thrown into one of the most immersive, spectacular and haunting science fiction mysteries I’ve ever witnessed.

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It is possible to finish this game in a few hours. You can walk from the start to the finish without exploring at all if you like. But by doing so you will miss out on the most beautifully detailed mosaic narrative. This game is perfect; a work of art. The photorealistic town and its surroundings are glorious and the mystery itself sublime. I don’t want to share too much of the storyline, but the title – Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture – is simply a start.

The game scared me, amused me, made me cry. More than any game I’ve played it made me want to explore every single corner, try every door, walk every path. I was completely immersed. And for a game where there is no “sprint” button, no inventory of cool items or armoury of weapons, it held my attention for hours. I began playing at 11am and have just finished it.

Sure, it’s not a long game, but it doesn’t need to be. Although it can be as long as you like, depending on how deeply you want to delve into the world. The characters – mesmerisingly voiced by a sensational cast – are wonderful. From the funny, to the cheeky, to the achingly sad, each character’s tale is subtle and revealing and well-written. I cannot fault the game on any level.

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Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture is a game about relationships, about loss, about love and about humanity at its best and worst. Yaughton’s inhabitants are characters that will stay with me for a long, long time. Listen out in particular for Rachel, my favourite character, heartbreakingly voiced by the brilliant Aimee Ffion Edwards.

It isn’t possible for me to praise this game enough. This is what videogames are capable of. Haunting and beautiful world-building, complex storytelling and big, big ideas. No guns, no scoreboards, no objectives even! Just pure storytelling in the most immersive of worlds. Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture is a masterpiece.

Score: 10/10