[Spidey] Fappo!

Wow, this journal's all dusty. Better clean it off...

I've been neglecting my blogging duties, it's true! Other, less-thought-required social networking methods have taken over, I'm afraid. But I still like to come back occasionally. Like now. Sometimes, something makes me want to write passionately, because I disagree with what it says. Here we go then!

A friend of mine posted a link on Twitter to this article by a guy called Alan, which is about why Games Workshop is in trouble. Now, feel free to step away now and stop reading if you're not the geeky sort who cares about this kind of thing. "Interesting," I thought, "someone's gone to some effort to write an article about the decline of the high street gaming store, how the internet and independent retailers are taking over, or how financial cutbacks have affected gaming communities."

I was quite wrong.

The article's nothing new. It's tired, recycled opinions, presented as new and damning in light of a quote from the BBC website showing a harsh decline in GW stock. It's "been a long time coming", writes Alan. He goes on to give a brief overview of the company's history, including a snipe at the company's Lord of the Rings game from another board games blogger. (Incidentally, I think it's unfair to say that LOTR has "fallen on its arse". Certainly, compared to sales of Warhammer or Warhammer 40,000, both games which have had at almost 30 years of fan buildup, its sales are low, but in its own right as a ten-year-old game based on a set of movies that stopped being released five years ago, it's going strong.)

It's soon after this that the article starts showing its cracks. It's an opinion piece, certainly, and I'm not about to step on someone's freedom to voice their opinion, but it's clear from the rest of the article that Alan is more of a "board gamer" than a miniatures gamer. As he says, "I like games. I’m not averse to games with little figures – Claustrophobia and Memoir ‘44, for example, sit on my shelf."

Let me explain, for those who aren't sure.

A board game is a game in a box. It might have expansions, it might have customisable sections, but the general point is that you can crack the box open, lay your pieces on the table, and sit around with a group of friends for an evening being pleasantly diverted. It's minimal investment, high effort-to-reward ratio, and it's extremely entertaining. I love board games. Adore them, even. But they're very different to what Games Workshop does.

Games Workshop designs and produces tabletop miniature wargames. As kettles of fish go, there are definitely some similarities to board games. Dice get rolled, small pieces get moved around the table, there's a preponderance of overweight guys with beards in the general community. But there, the similarities start fading. A massive key difference is the pieces you use. In a board game, the pieces aren't that integral to gameplay. They might be small wooden blocks, simple plastic pieces, or sculpted figurines - the point is, they are a means to an end. Cheapass Games are a great example of this, wherein no playing pieces are supplied on the assumption that you can make do with pieces from other sets, pennies, coloured beads or whatever you need. The quality and visual impact of the piece has no say in how much fun you'll have while playing the game.

Miniature wargaming, on the other hand, is all about the aesthetic. Warhammer itself started off as a solution to the question "What do I do with this massive selection of models I've bought?". The miniatures (or minis) have always come first. It's a tactile, visual hobby, where the joy of building, collecting and painting the pieces is as much a thrill as the games themselves. Of course, everyone approaches it differently - some people just paint, for days on end, producing jaw-dropping display pieces and contest winners. Others just want to collect everything that appeals to them, whether they take it out of the box or not. Still others take playing the game to an extreme, staying up late at night to discuss strategies in army selection and gameplay. And between those three extremes is a wonderful multitude of people who dabble in painting, collecting and gaming. Personally, I've always liked the narrative elements, especially the social aspect of coming together with a community of likeminded people to tell a story over the course of a campaign. However, one thing that the vast majority of those people have in common is the love of the Miniature. It's a bit sad, and we all know it, but none of us deny it. GW refers to it as the "Hobby Gene" - the ability to be profoundly excited by little bits of plastic, resin or pewter. It's love, on a level.

A-hem. My point is that it's an emotional hobby. It's something that board gaming, as a whole, gets on just fine without. There's nowhere near as much emotional investment. Part of that probably comes down to the personal investment. For example, much as I adore Settlers of Catan, I'll never care about it as much as I do about the IX Company Bastine Rangers, my Imperial Guard army who have played underdog and occasionally triumphed throughout several campaigns and spheres of war, or the verminous horde of my Skaven warlord Kratch Clawfang, whose maniacal schemes for world domination always get thwarted by naff dice rolls and dreadful tactical oversights. But don't take it from me. Just look at any GW-based forum and you'll see the level of passion exhibited by fans whenever a new release is announced and pictures hit the website. Very few people are indifferent. You'll get drooling and cheers mixed with damnation and hellfire, because people really, really care about the miniatures.

And that's why it's not fair for Alan to say the following:

"It’s not worth the effort. It’s just too much [money]. And this is before any terrain, any models that aren’t in the starter sets and finding someone else who’s daft enough to splash out this much money on half a game."

"Half a game". That's miniature wargaming seen through the eyes of a board gamer. He's seeing the figures as playing pieces, maybe wondering why he couldn't use coloured beads. He's not thinking about the investment you make. Every wargamer I know has cherished models in his colection, sometimes ones that have been sitting on a shelf for decades. It's a lasting, enduring hobby that develops with you and adapts itself to your needs. There have been times over the years when I've drifted away from gaming due to a lack of spare time, so I've done more reading of novels or background books. Or times when I couldn't play games as I was living in halls and there was no space, so I did more painting. The money spent on that initial outlay - rulebooks, paints, tools, models - is spent on something that doesn't go away over time. It isn't ephemeral. "Video games are £30-40 a pop, and you don’t need to paint them. Get that instead", he reasons. Rather than lingering on the fact that a £30-£40 video game isn't much good without a £200 console, a £150 TV and possibly a £10 per month subscription to an online gaming account, I'll ask this question: How many video games that you bought ten years ago are you still playing today?

Like I hinted at the start, I don't disagree that GW is in trouble. There have been decisions made at several levels that have had a negative impact over the years, but you can find a dozen rants about that if you just take ten minutes and look on Google. I just wanted to post a counter-argument to the assertion that because wargaming is more expensive than board games, the company's going down the pan. It's a different viewpoint, and I hope it's a more balanced one. Thanks for reading!
  • Current Mood
    thoughtful thoughtful
[SP] Batman monkeys

Book Meme Time!

The Big Read reckons that the average adult has only read 6 of the top 100 books they've printed.

1) Look at the list and bold those you have read.
2) Italicise those you intend to read.
3) Underline the books you LOVE, add an strikeout the books you read but didn't like.
4) Reprint this list in your own LJ so we can try and track down these people who've read only 6 or less and make them read.

1. Pride and Prejudice - Jane Austen
2. The Lord of the Rings - JRR Tolkien

3. Jane Eyre - Charlotte Bronte
4. Harry Potter series - JK Rowling
5. To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee
6. The Bible. (Read a fair bit of it at school...)
7. Wuthering Heights - Emily Bronte
8. Nineteen Eighty Four - George Orwell
9. His Dark Materials - Philip Pullman
10. Great Expectations - Charles Dickens
11. Little Women - Louisa M Alcott
12. Tess of the D'Urbervilles - Thomas Hardy
13. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller (Repeatedly!)
14. Complete Works of Shakespeare (I'll be honest, I don't intend to read them, but I'd love to see them all performed.)
15. Rebecca - Daphne Du Maurier
16. The Hobbit - JRR Tolkien
17. Birdsong - Sebastian Faulks
18. Catcher in the Rye - JD Salinger
19. The Time Traveller's Wife - Audrey Niffenegger
20. Middlemarch - George Eliot
21. Gone With The Wind - Margaret Mitchell
22. The Great Gatsby - F Scott Fitzgerald
23. Bleak House - Charles Dickens
24. War and Peace - Leo Tolstoy
25. The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Douglas Adams
26. Brideshead Revisited - Evelyn Waugh
27. Crime and Punishment - Fyodor Dostoyevsky
28. Grapes of Wrath - John Steinbeck
29. Alice in Wonderland - Lewis Carroll
30. The Wind in the Willows - Kenneth Grahame
31. Anna Karenina - Leo Tolstoy
32. David Copperfield - Charles Dickens
33. Chronicles of Narnia - CS Lewis
34. Emma - Jane Austen
35. Persuasion - Jane Austen
36. The Kite Runner - Khaled Hosseini
37. Captain Corelli's Mandolin - Louis De Bernieres
38. Memoirs of a Geisha - Arthur Golden
39. Winnie the Pooh - AA Milne
40. Animal Farm - George Orwell
41. The Da Vinci Code - Dan Brown
42. One Hundred Years of Solitude - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
43. A Prayer for Owen Meaney - John Irving
44. The Woman in White - Wilkie Collins
45. Anne of Green Gables - LM Montgomery
46. Far From The Madding Crowd - Thomas Hardy
47. The Handmaid's Tale - Margaret Atwood
48. Lord of the Flies - William Golding
49. Atonement - Ian McEwan
50. Life of Pi - Yann Martel
51. Dune - Frank Herbert
52. Cold Comfort Farm - Stella Gibbons
53. Sense and Sensibility - Jane Austen
54. A Suitable Boy - Vikram Seth
55. The Shadow of the Wind - Carlos Ruiz Zafon
56. A Tale Of Two Cities - Charles Dickens
57. Brave New World - Aldous Huxley
58. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon
59. Love In The Time Of Cholera - Gabriel Garcia Marquez
60. Of Mice and Men - John Steinbeck (so many times, and the ending gets me every time...)
61. Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
62. The Secret History - Donna Tartt
63. The Lovely Bones - Alice Sebold
64. Count of Monte Cristo - Alexandre Dumas
65. On The Road - Jack Kerouac
66. Jude the Obscure - Thomas Hardy
67. Bridget Jones' Diary - Helen Fielding (I have my reasons)
68. Midnight's Children - Salman Rushdie
69. Moby Dick - Herman Melville
70. Oliver Twist - Charles Dickens
71. Dracula - Bram Stoker
72.The Secret Garden - Frances Hodgson Burnett
73. Notes From A Small Island - Bill Bryson
74. Ulysses - James Joyce
75. The Bell Jar - Sylvia Plath
76. Swallows and Amazons - Arthur Ransome
77. Germinal - Emile Zola
78. Vanity Fair - William Makepeace Thackeray
79. Possession - AS Byatt
80. A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
81. Cloud Atlas - David Mitchell
82. The Color Purple - Alice Walker
83. The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
84. Madame Bovary - Gustave Flaubert
85. A Fine Balance - Rohinton Mistry
86. Charlotte's Web - EB White
87. The Five People You Meet In Heaven - Mitch Albom
88. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes - Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
89. The Faraway Tree Collection - Enid Blyton
90. Heart of Darkness - Joseph Conrad
91. The Little Prince - Antoine De Saint-Exupery (but only in french)
92. The Wasp Factory - Iain Banks
93. Watership Down - Richard Adams
94. A Confederacy of Dunces - John Kennedy Toole
95. A Town Like Alice - Nevil Shute
96. The Three Musketeers - Alexandre Dumas
97. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory - Roald Dahl
98. Les Miserables - Victor Hugo
99. The Princess Diaries, Meg Cabot
100. Midnight's Children, Salman Rushdie

Well, I got 26. But I'll be honest... out of the other 74, there are only a few I want to read. I'm not going to be faux-intellectual and pretend to want to read War & Peace - I'm going to be truthful and say that I really haven't got time, and there are probably much better things I could be doing. Does that make me a Philistine? No, being from the southern coast of Canaan would have made me a Philistine. This just makes me honest. 

Also, I've not struck any books out - I've not read any and not liked them. I've started some (read: a lot of) books and not finished them because I didn't like them. I've never seen the point of reading a book you don't enjoy. 

So what have you lot done? I'm intrigued. Man, this journal's getting vaguely intellectual these days. I'll have to post a picture of a kitten doing something stupid, just to level things out...
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[PBF] Refrigeron and Magnimus

Grammar Rant 1 of... several.

A comment on a friend's post got me thinking - what annoys me about modern language use?

I've swung wildly back and forth over the years between stauch grammar pedantry and 'free love' style grammar liberalism, partly due to the people I was with at the time, partly due to personal experience, and partly due to my studies in linguistics and language use. I can go on for hours about grammatical constructions, but when I try to summarise my views on current usage of English I stumble, because I've not tied all my opinions together in a long time.

So where do I stand with regards to grammar? Am I in the Pedantry Garden, owned by a stuffy old duffer with a white handlebar moustache, or the Liberalism Garden, owned by a young slacker with messy hair? Even worse, am I straddling the fence, trying to work out which side's having a better time?

Personally, I like to think I've scoffed at the fence, removed a section of it, and now I'm partying in both simultanously, loving them equally for their foibles. See, the Liberalism garden is where the fun is. There are no rules or restrictions, and anything goes. You can do whatever you like, and no one will mind. Unfortunately, no one ever cleans up, and a lot of people get a little too wild and ruin things for everyone else. Meanwhile, in the Pedantry garden, everything is neat and well-ordered. Even the picnic bench has coasters for your drinks. It's boring, and a lot of the rules contradict, or don't make sense if you adhere to them strictly (which, of course, you must!) as they're outdated or don't apply any more. But all the same, they've got a certain charm to them - yes, the old duffer smells a bit musty, but he's full of stories and charm, and always willing to offer you a hot cocoa with extra cream. He's like a benevolent uncle, and you know that no matter what happens, you can turn to him for advice because he'll know what to do. The slacker, on the other hand, doesn't give a damn what you're doing - he lets you get on with your life, and expects you to do the same.

So, extended metaphors aside, what am I talking about?

I believe in grammar as a living organism. Grammar shouldn't be a restrictive set of rules; it should be a pattern which we can adapt to suit what we need. We're pretty good at doing this, in general, but we're atrocious at accepting language evolution.

Okay, I know what some of you will be thinking now. Don't worry, though, I'm not about to advocate grammar anarchy (grammarchy?) or suggest that torches and pitchforks are the way forward. I don't think that unrestricted change is right, or even sensible. As an example, let's look at two of my favourites: "whom" and "your".

Whom has a vastly reduced usage compared to what it had a hundred years ago. Constructions such as "Whom were you speaking to?" are only used these days by hard-line grammarians and Latin scholars. On the other hand, "the councillor for whom the people had voted" and "I know the wall was defaced, but by whom?" are used occasionally, usually by people for whom (see?) language is something to be treasured; in most cases the clause gets inverted and you end up with "the councillor who the people had voted for" or "but who by?". However, no matter how you look at it, there's no way you can argue that whom enjoys the status that many grammar manuals would have us believe. So why do some people keep pushing for it? It's fallen out of use because it's clunky and archaic. Let's keep it that way.

Now, the flip side of the coin: your and its counterpart, you're. This is something that has been bugging me, and dozens of others, for years. "Y-O-U-apostrophe-R-E means 'you are'; Y-O-U-R means your." Of course, this is starting to disapppear, thanks in no small part to electronic communication, and the need to type things as quickly and efficiently as possible. And it's not just on handwritten signs and market stall price labels (on a brightly coloured card star, of course) any more - as highlighted in the post I launched off from, professional signwriters and businesses are doing it. So does this mean that common usage has shifted to ignoring the apostophe and using your for everything? I'd argue that it doesn't. While whom is only ever used by those hardliners and Latin geeks, you're remains in use by the vast majority of educated folk. Maybe this is changing, and maybe one day a blogger somewhere (writing in holotext using his robopen) will argue that you're is the kind of thing that only grey-haired ex-linguists use, but damn it, I'll resist the change.

I feel I should clarify, though. I'm not a (here it comes) Grammar Nazi. I don't have a problem with people spelling things incorrectly in their blog, in an email, in a chatroom, on a message board, in a letter, or anywhere else - I know that some people just don't have the same literacy skills, or standards, that I do. And I tend to play fast and loose with grammar, even at the best of times. However, I do take offence when something blatantly incorrect appears in print from a 'reputable' source, as people will see it, and use it as an example, or copy it if they're not sure which form should be used. Isn't it a moral obligation of signwriters, or something? They should have to take some kind of oath.

Okay, you could argue that I'm just biased, and I'm ranting about my own personal views. I'm twitchy over apostrophe misuse, but I think "whom" is silly, so I've stamped that as the way things should be. My response to that is: "Well, yes." What what's wrong with that? What's statement without opinion? I urge you people to disagree, and I urge you to write a response. In fact, write your response on your own journal - agree, disagree, elaborate, whatever - link to this one, and urge your friends to write their own responses. Let's get a mass debate (hee hee) going! It'll be fun.

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[SP] Batman monkeys


Well, today's been a riot.

So little's been happening! There have been three of us on the phones, and we've taken 77 calls. Just over 25 calls each. And a call averages out at six or seven minutes. So... today, I've had about 160 minutes of actual calls. That's less than three hours. Okay, I'm talking figuratively, and averaging, and rounding off, and not using actual numbers... but still. Quiet!

I wanted to be creative and do stuff, but to be honest it's just been too warm and cosy.

Anyway. Seven minutes to go... the slowest minutes of the day.

I'm gonna go and look at digg. Digg will know what to do.
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    bored bored
[SP] Batman monkeys

I'll see you at the beach

It's 9:17am as I write this.

It is Tuesday the 6th of May. The day after a bank holiday. And I've only had three calls.

The calls are coming. I can feel it. This is the calm before the storm. This is the boat on the way to Normandy. I'm just waiting for the ramp to drop and the bullets to start flying...

It's gonna be a big one.
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    nervous nervous
[SP] Batman monkeys

So... mornings, eh?

I am at work. I got here rather early. This morning I ironed my shirt, had breakfast and generally chilled before coming in.

I think I was asleep the whole time.

Wow, I'm not awake. However, I've got a cup of tea (milk and two, naturally) and an orange Lucozade to get me started.

Why the tiredness, you ask? Well, I was up until 2 last night. Entirely my own fault, to be fair. And also the fault of Rockstar, who released a game that made me want it so bad I was willing to risk a lack of sleep.

On the plus side, I now have GTA IV. And it's tasty. They're really tweaked the physics so it feels like you're driving an actual car. Yes, this makes it really damn hard at first, but I have faith that I'll get used to it - and rather than it feeling annoying (I can no longer do awesome trickings like I did in GTA:SA) there's a constant sense of achievement when you do better than you were doing before.

Oh, and cars no longer explode just because they're upside down. This has no doubt saved countless lives.

Oh, yeah. And if you're travelling fast and hit a wall you fly out through the windscreen. Shocked the poop out of me when it first happened.

So yeah! Fun. And now Tuesday begins.
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[SP] Batman monkeys

First in a series?

Things I only just realised #1:

The writers for NME magazine clearly wish they were working for a celebrity gossip mag.

I'm tempted to suggest that they already are. I'm never again going to waste £2.20 in the hope of getting some decent, decipherable information about what's new on the music scene at the minute...
  • Current Music
    The Von Bondies - No Regrets
[OC] Jesus elephant


I just reactivated my paid account. Fear me.

Incidentally, this means you can send me text messages through LJ! Woo, spooky. That wasn't working properly for the UK last time I had a paid account.
  • Current Music
    Basement Jaxx, Red Alert (in my head)