What Elden Ring is teaching me about stoicism and perseverance

A lone swordsman approaches Stormveil Castle and the wind begins to howl.

On a ruined bridge high above the desolate Lands Between, Margit, the Fell Omen, stood between me and Stormveil Castle once again. The stakes were high: I’d spent £50 on a game months ago and a 20ft death-dealing guardian had seriously diverted my progress away from the main path. I had bounced off Dark Souls III after a similar experience. But this time I felt more confident. What had once seemed impossible was now a matter of persistence…

It may seem that From Software, the game’s designers, are straightforwardly sadistic. I mean why else would you place such a difficult boss right at the start of a game? We’re talking about a battle far tougher than the final scenes of many other games.… Continue reading...

Mindfulness of ruined worlds

Contemplating the beauty and serenity of Sable’s ruined world gave me some comfort. On one level, if and when Earth is finally desolate it might at least be peaceful, mysterious, and interesting to its surviving scavenger tribes. There’s something awe-inspiring about thinking on that timescale.

Would the denizens of a post-apocalyptic world be awake to the strange beauty of their situation? Probably no more than we are here and now. But if we could relate to our environment as we do such Ozymandian science fiction, with curiosity and fascination, accepting the world on its own terms, we’d probably be a lot happier.

This might be one of the things mindfulness can do for us. We take notice at the level of simple sensory experience—seeing a crumbling building, hearing a seagull, feeling a cool breeze—all without bending these perceptions into a story about me.… Continue reading...

Personal computing

Photo by Lorenzo Herrera on Unsplash

I have conflicted feelings about computers. As a boy, I loved nature and playing in the garden more than anything. I thought computers were sinister, inherently bad, maybe even evil. Then, around 1990, my parents bought my brother and I an Amiga 500. At first, I was disappointed. What did I want with a computer when I could climb trees? But my parents made seemingly logical arguments in favour of this plastic devil. I could do my homework on it. It would be something to play with on a rainy day. It was fully upgradeable and would go with us through life, a trusted tool and companion. The marketers made big promises.

Well, we did upgrade the machine, doubling its memory from the original 512k.… Continue reading...

The Game Decays

This is a Quake 2 video I edited. It features some ridiculous and frags and trick sequences performed by my bro. If you’ve ever played an old school deathmatch game you’ll know how hard all this is: anticipating the location of your enemy, timing mid-air rockets, maximising your control of the map and trying not to get completely dominated when your opponent has the upper hand.

Decay was a Q2 player active in the early 2000s and associated with the clans =VV=, SoH, and the England team for a season of the Nations’ Deathmatch League (NDML). Frags are mostly taken from friendly games with a few from tournament play. Including strong opponents such as Xanyon, Nite, Purri, and others.

The piano composition is one by me, inspired by Bill Evans’ “Peace Piece.”… Continue reading...

Playdead’s Inside: what was THAT about?

My friend Matt and I were discussing the meaning of Inside, Playdead’s atmospheric puzzle game. Like its predecessor, LimboInside is a masterclass of subtle storytelling in games. There’s no dialogue or narration: the story progresses via ambience, stunning design, and menace. The player is trusted to form their own narrative interpretation. For example, initially, I thought the boy in red was running to escape a cruel Orwellian environment. Imagine my surprise when the boy, having infiltrated a laboratory, dives into an armoured chamber to free a living mass of human body parts. Then that same lumpen mass absorbs the boy and now I’m controlling a raging tower of flesh known affectionately on the internet as the ‘blob monster’. My wife was not best pleased when she returned to the room to find the plucky young lad replaced by an angry ball of limbs.… Continue reading...