Posts Tagged ‘TV’

Game Of Thrones And The Problem With Fantasy Sagas

Game of Thrones. Nothing like betrayal and incest to spice up a fantasy saga.

Game of Thrones. Nothing like betrayal and incest to spice up a fantasy saga.

I’ve been watching the Game of Thrones TV series and reading the latest book, A Dance with Dragons, recently and originally was going to post some thoughts I’d be having about it all on Google+ but then decided to write it up as a blog post instead as a more in-depth article. Aside from being the perfect setting for a politically motivated MMORPG (hopefully one day), Game of Thrones is the type of gritty, dark fantasy that I really enjoy, a welcome change from the happy-clappy hobbit and elven filled crap that usually plagues the genre. Suffice to say the first few books were hugely enjoyable and the TV show is rather excellent. However the latest book isn’t stimulating me in nearly the same way as the first three did (I found A Feast For Crows rather lackluster too) and, the more I read it, the more I not only grow weary of the whole setting but the more I worry about the future of the TV show too. Unfortunately the entire saga is starting to suffer from something I like to refer to as ‘Robert Jordan Syndrome’.

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The Pleasure Of Finding Things Out

Since I posted  an article about the documentary Another Perfect World a couple of weeks ago, I’ve wanted to post a BBC documentary called The Pleasure Of Finding Things Out. It was made in 1981 and is an interview with Richard P. Feynman, an amazing Nobel Prize winning physicist and hugely intelligent and inspirational individual.

After watching the documentary I bought his first book, a collection of anecdotes that sort of adds up to an autobiography, called Surely You’re Joking, Mr Feynman! (Adventures Of A Curious Character). At the risk of sounding melodramatic, this book changed my life. Not only is it filled with highly emotional stories, like how Feynman dealt with being one of the participants in the Manhattan Project (developing the atomic bomb which was used against Japan in World War II), but it’s also filled with some incredibly funny and bizzare anecdotes, like how Feynman used to play pranks on his fellow physicists and break into their filling cabinets, filled with top-secret research documents, and leave little notes for them.

Perhaps the most appealing thing about Feynman though is he views on learning and teaching. He believes strongly in learning by understanding, not by rote and his practical, logical and uncompromising views are eye opening and inspiring. After reading the book, I truly felt different and looked upon life in a different way. I’d highly recommend it.

Anyway, without further ado, here’s part one of the documentary. You can find the rest of the parts on YouTube. Enjoy!

Another Perfect World – Watch It Here

Catchy title. I wanted to get the attention of those who were unable to view the Another Perfect World documentary I posted about yesterday because they didn’t live in the UK. Good news! I finally found it on YouTube. Enjoy!

Edit: I’ve updated this movie with a 30min preview from YouTube. Unfortunately the full programme has been removed but you can find the official website here.

Another Perfect World

More 4 (a TV channel in the UK) aired a documentary last night about MMORPGs and virtual worlds entitled Another Perfect World. I had no idea it was on but fortunately a friend of mine sent me a text message just after it started and I got to see most of it. Usually these sorts of documentaries can either be very patronising and dull or full of tales of woe about how World of Warcraft ruined someones life. Surprisingly though the documentary was very interesting and informative.

It focused more on the virtual world side of MMORPGs rather than the pure game side and I think it was all the better for it. As enjoyable as the ‘gaming’ element of MMOs is, the truly groundbreaking stuff is occurring in the social and technological sides of it and the documentary mainly explored the way these virtual worlds are affecting and influencing the real world.

It was all fascinating stuff and I saw some interesting opinions and learnt some new facts about games like Second Life, Lineage and Eve. The documentary focused on them the most as they seemed to have the greatest impact into the real world mainly due to the societies they try to create. A lot of the documentary was exploring the rights and freedoms of users in games and where the blend between reality starts and stops. There was also a really great interview with Raph Koster, leader designer on Ultima Online, creative director on Star Wars: Galaxies and currently the founder and president of Metaplace.

Something that was really interesting to me was the stuff about South Korea. I always knew they were big into gaming but never to the extent that the documentary reveals. Apparently they have three television channels (?! maybe I heard that wrong) devoted to gaming shows and they having video game schools for training teenagers to become professional gamers. Starcraft still seems to be hugely popular there (I bet Blizzard are just drooling over releasing SC2 there) and they’re also dedicated to Lineage 1 & 2. Apparently they even have their own cyber police called the Cyber Terror Response Center (they cover all sorts of online issues – like viruses and hacking – not just online games as the documentary infers).

You can watch Another Perfect World online using 4OD but I’m not sure if it’s restricted to the UK only. Hopefully not. I’d highly recommend checking it out. Be careful though – it will really make you want to play Eve Online :) I’m downloading it now…

People Who Don’t Have TV’s

So I was at a christmas party a few weeks ago and I found myself talking to this fellow who was writing a book (something about the cold war – I dunno) and we got on to the subject of television. I was about to start my standard “The Wire is awesome ” speech when he said he didn’t have a TV.

He didn’t have a TV.

I understand why you might want to not watch much TV, most of it is god-awful (see the recent episodes of Heroes for proof of this), but to refuse to have one in the house?

If someone said that they didn’t have any books in the house you would naturally assume they were an idiot but, when someone says they don’t have a TV, we have a weird reaction where we assume they must be too smart. In my head I imagine them constantly reading, or going to the Opera, or having long discussions about politics but that really can’t be the reality. Can it?

If you don’t have a TV then you’re simply missing out on something that gives us a common pool of experience – you can talk to someone from any background about it. Television doesn’t have an in-built class structure (even if it’s just a perceived one) like going to the theatre or watching a ballet. It’s a great unifier, when I talk to my friends our conversations can range from ‘The Sopranos’ to ‘I’m a celebrity…’ to ‘Wallace and Gromit’ and I don’t believe theres any other art form that would allow that wide range of experience.

Also, I have learned more about the structure and pacing of a story watching ‘The Wire’ than I ever have in any class room I’ve been in. There are some shows (well most shows) that wash over you and you’re none the wiser at the end, but there are others that engage you and when you finish watching it, you really feel like you’ve learned something.

That’s just with drama, documentaries on television can introduce subjects in a very accessible and entertaining way. Some like ‘The World at War’ allow you to see interviews with people who have lived through world-shattering events and you can connect with the subject in a way you never could with words on a page.

Obviously, television should never replace any other art form but it shouldn’t be looked down upon as the idiot step-child.

Now I’ve got that off my chest, here’s 3 things that are awesome on tv right now:

The Shield, The IT crowd – Channel 4, Charlie Brooker’s Screen Burn – BBC 4

and 3 things that are terrible:

Jonathan Creek – BBC 1, Heroes – BBC 2, Survivors – BBC 2

I Will Conquer Ninja Warrior

Work is pretty insane at the moment so I’m trying to convince everyone that once it calms down we should all reward ourselves with a trip to Mount Midoriyama, Japan to take part in the world’s most grueling and extreme obstacle course. It’s called SASUKE (サスケ) a.k.a. NINJA WARRIOR! And it’s awesome.