2020
05.17

From BBC The Social.

Since the early days of the medium, speed is something that’s been rewarded in video gaming. Two of its most well-known icons have it woven into their gameplay; the original Super Mario Bros series added your remaining time to your score upon reaching the end of a level, encouraging faster playthroughs, while Sonic the Hedgehog was even born from co-creator Yuji Naka’s attempts to race through Mario’s first level as quickly as possible.

Much like real-life track and field, a certain section of gaming has come to be based around agility; alongside the rise of e-sports – a huge industry centred around public, competitive gameplay – a phenomenon known as speedrunning has emerged, in which players post their quickest times for getting to the end credits of a game. It’s something that’s resonated with gaming fans around the globe, giving rise to wildly popular YouTube channels, charity events and groups who promote the practice. Continue reading “A Brief History of Speedrunning” »

2019
07.19

Selected Music Reviews

A selection of music reviews from various publications for which I’ve written through the years. This post is subject to being updated. Continue reading “Selected Music Reviews” »

2018
07.08

The Game-Over Making of the Super Mario Bros. Movie, 25 Years Later

From Playboy.

Cinematic adaptations of video games are a thing we take for granted these days. In this very year so far, we’ve had movies based on Tomb Raider and Rampage, while the last couple of years have seen Resident EvilAssassin’s Creed and World of Warcraft receive the same treatment. Looking ahead, there are plans for Uncharted and Five Nights at Freddy’s movies, and even a Sonic the Hedgehog one, too.

While it’s heartening, in a way, for gamers to see their medium appreciated by a wider audience, a regrettable pattern has also emerged—painfully low review scores. According to review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, of the 34 live-action video game movies theatrically released throughout the world to date, just one has crept above 50 percent (the aforementioned Rampage)—and only by a few percentage points at that. The vast majority fall well below the halfway mark, right down to 0 percent, a dishonor held by the panned Tekken film of 2009. Continue reading “The Game-Over Making of the Super Mario Bros. Movie, 25 Years Later” »

2016
07.20

How Sonic the Hedgehog Kept Glam Rock Alive In The Grunge Years

From Vice.com.

With tears and sold-out arenas as Mötley Crüe played their contractual final shows at the end of last year, and excited speculation and controversy as the definitive members of Guns N’ Roses spend the summer on a reunion tour, it’s fair to say that there’s a palpable resurgence of interest in ’80s-style heavy metal. Couple those headlines with the facts that satirical glamsters Steel Panther are headlining London’s Wembley Arena this autumn and that Reckless Love are helping to turn Helsinki into the new Sunset Strip, and it becomes increasingly apparent that people have a rekindled affinity with big hair and big riffs. Continue reading “How Sonic the Hedgehog Kept Glam Rock Alive In The Grunge Years” »

2016
07.18

BBC The Social Videos

A collection of videos I made for BBC The Social.

I make videos for BBC The Social about the history and cultural influence of video games, which includes writing the scripts and editing the footage. You can find them embedded below in this post, as well as on the BBC website and YouTube. Continue reading “BBC The Social Videos” »

2016
07.17

Ghost: “Our Music Provokes People”

From Ultraje magazine, ahead of Ghost’s Lisbon show.

No. No, no, no, no, no. Fuck no. That would have been delusional.”
These are the words of Ghost guitarist A Nameless Ghoul when asked if he would ever have expected the band’s unbridled success, which has seen them pick up numerous awards, enter countless top ten lists and be chosen for a tour with a little-known band called Iron Maiden this summer. It’s fair to say the last few years have been good to the Swedes. The most imminent matter, however, is a European headlining tour that will see them take on Lisbon’s MEO Arena – a modest upgrade from the Paradise Garage gig of two years ago, to say the least. Continue reading “Ghost: “Our Music Provokes People”” »

2016
01.27

Something In The Water – My Ecco Nightmare

From Vice.com.

As a child, video games were my main pastime. There were few things that my younger nerd enjoyed more than a journey into a virtual world that was as vivid as my imagination would come to be. I wasn’t lonely; I had many friends with whom I played at school and occasionally in the street, but, for the most part, the non-educational hours of the day were me time with my consoles.

For some reason, however, that had to involve deflecting the nagging of family, whose constant urging me to play outside suggested that our house stood in the middle of fucking Disney World. Sonic didn’t pester me like that. The only way he would ever judge me was tapping his foot impatiently while I stopped playing to get more juice. All Mario ever had to say was “wa-hoo!” as we leapt into another adventure, never, “It’s a lovely day outside, get off the computer.” They understood me. Continue reading “Something In The Water – My Ecco Nightmare” »

2016
01.26

Another Castle – Why Super Mario 64 Still Matters 20 Years After Its Release

From Vice.com.

I remember going to my local shopping centre in 1997. There was a stall hosted by a popular soft drink brand that featured a circle of televisions, all of which were displaying Mario’s first proper 3D outing on the Nintendo 64, the gaming giant’s new powerhouse machine. They offered passers-by a shot at the new adventure from the plump plumber. Players could hit a button on the pop-up wall whenever they found a Power Star within the game’s labyrinthine castle hub, for which they would be rewarded with a cup of said beverage. Looking back, it might have secretly been a horrific Pavlovian conditioning experiment examining the influence of electronic stimulation and positive reinforcement on the mindsets of modern youth, but most likely it was a celebration of Super Mario 64, one of the most revolutionary games of all time. Continue reading “Another Castle – Why Super Mario 64 Still Matters 20 Years After Its Release” »

2016
01.19

A Good-and-Loud-Bye to Lemmy

As soon as I heard the news from a friend – and after a quick confirmation on Google – my first instinct was to reach for the bottle of Jack Daniel’s I’d received for Christmas and spin a few Motörhead videos on YouTube. I’d like to think Lemmy would smile at the fact that his favourite Tennessee tipple and loud music were the legacy he left on me, and that he’s enjoying the same thing now, wherever he might be.

Honestly, though, what’s left to talk about? In a way, it’s comforting that there won’t be much said about Lemmy in death that wasn’t while he was alive. He was a long-since celebrated embodiment of heavy metal’s excessive, supersonic rebellion and nihilistic cool, a sense of freedom that anyone who’s ever grown their hair unsociably long or worn a black band t-shirt will have felt. The seminal screaming of ‘Killed By Death’ scared the shit out of me as a child, and Lemmy’s satanic laugh in the song’s bridge still gave me something of a chill while doing some last-minute shopping with my headphones in on Christmas Eve last week. After seeing them for the first time at 15 years old, I lay awake in bed, sweating and wondering if my hearing would ever be the same again. It felt fucking great. Continue reading “A Good-and-Loud-Bye to Lemmy” »

2015
02.12

Pokémon OmegaRuby and AlphaSapphire Preview

From Official Nintendo Magazine.

What? It’s Evolving!

2003 was a pivotal time for Pokémon, in more ways than one. Already well on the way to its current standing as Nintendo’s second-biggest franchise after Mario, it found its mainstream popularity beginning to wane as its main demographic became teenagers and gradually began to surrender the series to the ages. It would eventually regain popularity, partially in a haze of sepia-toned, 8-bit nostalgia, but a current generation growing up with modern versions, while perhaps aware of its historic significance, will never experience the bona fide phenomenon that was Pokémon in the late 1990s. Continue reading “Pokémon OmegaRuby and AlphaSapphire Preview” »

2015
02.11

Nintendo’s Greatest Easter Eggs

From Official Nintendo Magazine. This article originally reached a readership of over 100,000.

Put down that Easter egg. Honestly, you’re going to make yourself sick if you eat any more chocolate. The Day of Rabbit-Themed Confectionery has came and went so, while your blood sugar returns to normal, why don’t we have a look at another kind of Easter egg? By that we mean those from Nintendo games.

Easter eggs are a long-running tradition of game developers placing hidden secrets and sly references within their works. We aren’t talking cheat codes or unlockables meant to reward players, or glitches that were never intended for public manipulation. The eggs in question are little touches that are put there on purpose but have no bearing on gameplay or progression, intended simply as something to bring a grin (or contorted expression of confusion) to a gamer’s face. For instance, did you clock Majora’s Mask hanging on the wall in A Link Between Worlds? Or Earthbound catchphrase ‘fuzzy pickles!’ appearing in Animal Crossing: New Leaf? These mean nothing in the grand scheme of things – just a nostalgic nod to the past for eagle-eyed players. Continue reading “Nintendo’s Greatest Easter Eggs” »

2014
04.12

Ashes Of Ares: The Thin Blue Line

From Terrorizer.

These days, former Iced Earth singer Matt Barlow is more likely to look down at the bloodied bodies of murder victims than he is a sea of raised hands and smiling faces. Such is the life of one who would trade music for a career in law enforcement.
‘In a band, there have always been spots on the road that have been weird, but you really can’t compare them to what I see now.’ the rockstar-cum-policeman reflects. ‘As a musician, I’ve never encountered somebody who has met their demise in a violent nature, so it’s a very different thing to get used to.’ Continue reading “Ashes Of Ares: The Thin Blue Line” »

2013
12.11

The Great Gatsby Review

It’s remarkable how, when you get Tobey Maguire to read the immortal opening lines of The Great Gatsby, it sounds like an eloquent remake of Spider-Man. We may also be in New York, but there’s no futuristic crime-fighting here as we’re borne back ceaselessly into the past in the latest cinematic telling of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Great American Novel.

It’s tale of a nouveau riche socialite grasping at the American Dream and trying to win back his married, former lover Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) through the hollow materialism of 1920s New York. Adapted to film on several occasions since the novel’s release in 1925, perhaps most famously starring Robert Redford in the eponymous lead role in ’74, the titular reins are now passed to Leonardo DiCaprio in the remake with probably the most pre-release fuss made of it. Subsequently, there’s a lot more riding on this one to capture the decadence of the Jazz Age. And it does so with aplomb. Continue reading “The Great Gatsby Review” »

2013
09.30

Dracula: An Adaptation Study

Academic essay analysing Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula and its film adaptations.

First sinking his teeth into the concept of the novel in Scotland’s own Cruden Bay, Stoker horrified the Victorian people with Dracula, some of whom went as far as to call it ‘the most blood-curdling novel of the paralysed century.’ When it comes to the theory behind the adaptation of novels into films, studies have been tainted by a ‘narrow one-sidedness that assumes [that such films] are merely cheap imitations’ but, while there has never been a firm explanation as to the reason(s) for adaptation, McFarlane surmises that the answer moves between poles of ‘crass commercialism’ and ‘high-minded respect for literary works.’ Continue reading “Dracula: An Adaptation Study” »

2013
07.09

Death Angel: Divide Then Conquer

From Terrorizer.

‘It’s amazing to be here!’ bellows Mark Osegueda, while his Death Angel bandmates smile at the Bloodstock Open Air festival crowd before them. It’s a sentiment several acts will repeat this weekend and at the rest of the summer’s events but, for some, it will be rehearsed, disingenuous and, in places, untrue. As the words come from this ebullient frontman, however, it’s hard not to take them seriously, even more so when he’s already expressed such positivity to Terrorizer the night before. It’s also clear that he means ‘here’ in more ways than one. Continue reading “Death Angel: Divide Then Conquer” »

2012
09.29

Social Media: An Introductory Essay

Academic discussion of social media and Web 2.0 from 2010.

Over the last number of years, the Internet has been implemented as a significant part of today’s society. In 2009, over 70% – 18.31 million – of households in the United Kingdom had access to the World Wide Web. The communicative, collaborative possibilities of such an interconnected world are highlighted through the growth of social networking sites such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. These sites have integrated themselves as part of many people’s everyday lives, and this essay aims to examine and analyse their significance in today’s world of converged media. Continue reading “Social Media: An Introductory Essay” »

2012
09.22

The Rise of Yashin

From Rock Sound. This was the first feature article I ever wrote for a magazine back in 2012.

The year is 2001. The place is the Barrowland ballroom, Glasgow. A young man by the name of Kevin Miles looks up at Papa Roach, the band performing in the two thousand-capacity venue. Taking in the size of the place, the height of the ceiling and the crowd, the aspiring musician dreams of one day playing with his heroes such as that evening’s headliners.

Flash forward eleven years. The adult Kevin reminisces about the summer he spent touring Europe with Papa Roach, befriending frontman Jacoby Shaddix (‘the nicest guy you could imagine’) and gracing the stage of the Barrowland. By the time you read this, he will have played with three of the five bands he lists as heroes, all thanks to his band Yashin. Incredible as these achievements may be, and despite a small but devoted following, the post-hardcore boys remain something of an unknown in rock circles.
So, just what makes Yashin so special? Continue reading “The Rise of Yashin” »