Monday, 22 October 2012

My Life as a Video Game - A Kickstarter for a New Webseries

My Life as a Video Game

A Brand New Action-Comedy Webseries

Creator PETROS L. IOANNOU (Final Fantasy: Zero, Union Square: A Love Story) and co-star BRENT "BRENTALFLOSS" BLACK (What If Video Games... Had Lyrics?, Nostalgia Critic: Moulin Rogue Review) present to you a brand new and exciting series for the web that celebrates gamer culture, pokes fun at the tropes and explores our love for the interactive arts and why we play them.


Don DeWitt (Petros L. Ioannou) is man with extraordinary potential but zero determination. If you looked up slacker on Wikipedia; there'd be a picture of him. He's always been fine getting by, just by the skin of his teeth. Don's only real love ever has been playing video games.

One day he is pulled into amazing circumstance, he is now in an alternate reality where the rules of Video Games are the rules of the world. He is in a fight for his very survival as he must manipulate the rules of the games he understands better than anyone to survive in this new crazy world

Here he meets Kera Althorn (Jennifer Polansky), fallen Princess of a Space Empire who you might say got fed up of "being in another castle" and took it upon herself to take back her father's Empire. Along with her trusted A.I. sidekick the "MENU System" (Brent Black) a cocky floating head on a computer screen, Don joins Kera in the fight hoping that she might help him get back to Earth.

Together, as they leap from Beat 'Em Ups to First Person Shooters, RPGs and Survival Horror, they begin to raise an army of the heroes of the various video game worlds against the usurper of Kera's Empire, General Atticus Dynas who seeks to unite the villains on his side. It's now that Don must use that potential he's always had and become the hero he was always meant to be, if he ever wants to find a way home.


The various perks can be seen on the right but the reason we need this...

It ain't cheap to make a show. We've gone indie because we want creative control, we don't want interference from a studio and we love the web. We want to create something that is free for people to watch, whenever, wherever they feel like it. More than that, we want a community, an audience who is invested in it as much as we are.

The money contributed will go to paying for professional actors, the equipment, the crew, the effects, and the location rental costs, all of which, amounts to quite a bit. However it's all necessary in order to raise the funds to create this monumental show that we think can really blow web-created content wide open and make this one of the most fun and entertaining shows on the web to watch.

     WHO ARE WE?

We have a very talented cast and crew, professionals from all walks of life, those who have worked with the best and frankly, are the best.


PETROS L. IOANNOU - Petros is a writer/actor from London who graduated from the New York Film Academy with a Masters in Screenwriting. He is perhaps most famous for the creation of "Final Fantasy: Zero" a fan made RPG production and the short film "Union Square: A Love Story". Petros wanted to create his own show specifically for the web and as such created this show.

BRENT BLACK - Brent is a comedic entertainer best known on YouTube as "brentalfloss" for his "What if Video Games had Lyrics" series that has generated over 150,000 subscribers. He also appeared in the Nostalgia Critic's "Moulin Rouge" review and has possibly one of the best comedic timings known to man.

JENNIFER POLANSKY - Jennifer is an actress from Canada, Jennifer has been in numerous film, TV and web productions. Including 2012: The Web Series, and I Hate Toronto: A Love Story.


NICK M. HOMLES - SERIES DIRECTOR - Son of double Tony Award winner, Rupert Holmes, Nick is a very talented director with a wealth of knowledge and experience under his belt beyond his young age. He's recently finished work on the short film "A Manhattan of My Own" and a teaser for feature film "Reject Road". His short film Marco Polo is set for release in Q1 2013. 
KEVIN PENKIN - MUSIC COMPOSER - Kevin is one of the biggest rising stars in video-game music composition having just recently collaborated with famed 'Final Fantasy' series composer Nobuo Uematsu, writing music for the Japanese PSP title "Jyuzaengi Engetsu Sangoku Den", which saw release on the 24th May 2012. He soon set to work on the music for upcoming game "Norn9" once again with Uematsu.


  • $30,000 - The Standard, if we raise this money we make the first ten episodes of the show which will comprise season one. This is the standard goal we're aiming for.

  • $50,000 - Extended Cut, if we manage to get this together we can make the episodes longer and add an additional five making a fifteen episode season. We'll also be able to hire more cast and crew to make the shoots easier, quicker and get the final product to you sooner. In addition we'll be throwing a huge launch party in Los Angeles for all who contributed to attend and meet the cast and crew. In addition, every person who donated will receive a digital copy of brentalfloss' first album "What if this CD... had Lyrics?"

  • $70,000 - Super Season, if we get this this goal, we will produce a huge amount of TWENTY-TWO EPISODES for this season and still have some money extra to pay even more cast and crew to get this production done to the absolute best quality possible. This includes a HUGE season finale set in a Fantasy RPG world where the heroes must battle against an ancient dark dragon that threatens to destroy the world.

  • $100,000 - THE ULTIMATE SEASON, if we reach this incredible goal we will produce perhaps the most astounding web series ever made. TWENTY-SIX EPISODE SEASON, extended cuts on all episodes with some damn fine special effects and maybe even a few very high profile names too and bonus "Space Battle" episode. In addition to that we'll be throwing launch parties in Los AngelesNew York and London for anyone who has contributed to attend for free! 


I’ve always been fascinated with video games. Not just for their entertainment value, but as an art form. It’s often been questioned if they even are one. Do they offer something to us that is more than just pure entertainment? After all, something may be entertaining but for it to be art, it has to give something more to the audience, something to add to their lives, to discuss and perhaps change their outlook on certain things. To many of us ‘gamers’, video games, or ‘the interactive arts’, have done just that, much in the same way the theatre, novels, television and film had done for previous generations. In many ways with this series, I hope we can explore this question and celebrate it. Celebrate gamer culture from Platformers to RPGs, Beat 'Em Ups to First Person Shooters and the whole spectrum of gaming. This comedic take of a man who plays way too many video games and one day finds himself trapped in a universe where the games he played are now reality, will be created for the web, a culture almost synonymous with gamers and geekdom. It is the perfect home for an exploration and celebration of the art form we call video games and one I hope you will all share with me and enjoy. 
- Petros L. Ioannou (Creator)  


Even if you can't contribute to the effort, though anything will do, please just spread the word about this project. We want to get this thing off the ground and really get it rolling and we need your help to do it. We need a community.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Inception: A Screenplay Analysis


Screenplay Analysis by: 

Petros L. Ioannou

Inception is a 2010 film written by Christopher Nolan to be directed by him.. It was released hot on the heels of the film that hurled Christopher Nolan from “good director” to “this director can do no wrong”, an adaptation of the Batman franchise, “The Dark Knight”. The Dark Knight grossed over a billion dollars making it at the time the fourth highest grossing film of all time. As such Nolan became so well received as a director that he was given a virtually unlimited budget to create a completely original concept film. Now as far as I can find, this has only happened once previously in history, with James Cameron, who after Terminator racking $500m at the box office got $175m to make Titanic and then after that smashed the box office to the point that is made well over double Jurassic Park, the top grossing film of all time, he was given the money to make Avatar, the highest grossing film of all time to this date grossing nearly a billion dollars more than even Titanic. So you can imagine the faith that Warner Bros had placed in Christopher Nolan after his success with The Dark Knight. Inception was an original concept that could either turn out to be the next Titanic or Avatar or it could be a complete flop.

Well, it didn't make the kind of money that Avatar or Titanic, in fact it didn't actually even reach the box office gross of The Dark Knight. It reached similar critical acclaim, with Inception being nominated for Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay, both of which it lost out to The King’s Speech. It made $825m at the box office, a huge success also but still not quite as much as The Dark Knight, a film that’s often considered one of the biggest Oscar snubs in history. Now I will make often comparisons to The Dark Knight in this analysis; the reason being is that both were massive budget action films, written and directed by the same man with similar critical and financial success. On a basic screenplay basis Inception is unusual for Christopher Nolan as he usually co-writes his screenplays with his brother Jonathan Nolan, even adapting Memento a short story by Jonathan. This is Christopher Nolan’s first solo attempt at an original screenplay for a bigger budget film, his first and only other attempt was “Following” a British Neo-Noir, so obviously a much smaller scale movie.  I find it quite interesting to compare and contrast the screenplays of Inception and The Dark Knight to see the differences; the first of which is obviously that Inception is an original screenplay and The Dark Knight is an adaptation of an existing work.

Inception is a very good film; it’s also a film which, much like Avatar, was hyped to shit before its release and very much during and as such as received something of a backlash for not living up to many people’s hype. However this does not detract from the fact that Inception tells and interesting story with some interesting characters, even with the flaws it has. Just as with Avatar I will defend this movie to my dying breath as I believe both are good films and certainly not ‘bad’ as many people seem to have developed the opinion of, Inception being a great one perhaps.

Dom Cobb is an expert at going into people’s dreams using an unspecified device. He’s an expert at reading people, all their subtle movements, which in this case are thoughts. He’s made a career of stealing information from people’s minds by subtly influencing their thoughts and by proxy their dreams. He mentions secrets and the “dreamer” will automatically fill a safe full of their biggest secrets. He’s also made a large number of contacts in this ‘industry’ over the years. All of this is in Cobb’s character introduction in the first five minutes of the movie. He’s also very smart and has a ‘reputation’ for being the best as he not only goes into a dream but a dream within a dream, which becomes further complex later on, as a trap to get rich businessman Mr. Saito to reveal his secrets to him that a private company has asked him to get. Cobb however is not a bad guy, despite his criminal activities it’s soon revealed to us that he’s been wrongly accused of a crime and can’t return. He’s a family man who loves his kids and his dead wife so much that she’s stuck in his subconscious mind. Mal his deceased wife is a character only inside the dreams. She now representing his doubts about reality and self-loathing for everything he’s done. We eventually learn that Cobb is accused of the crime of murdering Mal, despite the truth being that she killed herself. We learn that Cobb and his wife were experimenting with dreams and in the process ended up stuck down in “limbo” a shared dream space of nothingness for decades as time moves slower more dreams within a dream you’re in and limbo is a dream state four stories deep as it were. Mal became obsessed with the idea that her world wasn’t real and even when Cobb and his wife got out of limbo that idea, “the most powerful thing in the world”, is stuck in Mal’s head and she becomes driven by the idea that the world they live in is not real either and as such she kills herself trying to escape the dream. However the twist is that Cobb planted that idea himself; he is technically speaking responsible for her death, not in the literal sense that he murdered her with his own hands as the police believe but in the sense that he planted the idea that Mal’s world wasn’t real in an attempt to try and bring her back to reality. The idea of creating an idea inside someone’s mind is called Inception.

Inception is considered impossible to do as the subject is always slightly aware they’re dreaming and as such planting an idea inside someone’s mind can never be real as they’re always aware of it. Unless you go deep into their subconscious by going from a dream into a dream into another dream. Three levels down if the scenario is engineered well enough an idea can be planted even an artificial one and the dreamer will believe they came up with this idea themselves. Inception is also, as the title would show, the plot of the movie. Cobb is given a chance by Saito to have his record expunged and the chance to return to his children in America for the first time since Mal died. All Cobb has to do is go into the mind of a businessman who soon will control pretty much all the world’s energy supply and plant the idea of breaking up his father’s empire. He must perform an Inception, something that the last time he did it; cost him his wife.

So this is Cobb and his dilemma that will drive the plot; Cobb is an extremely well thought out character, he has an interesting past and over the course of the movie he will develop and learn to get over the death of his wife and the guilt that plagues him as he gets the job done for Mr. Saito. The supporting cast however are well set up but not very well developed. Arthur is his friend, confidant and possibly even protégé given their age gaps, he’s the ‘point man’, he’s smooth, he’s smart and he’s efficient with a unique class of taste as we see based on the design of both his created dream spaces. There is also Ariadne, the cute young college student who becomes a dream ‘architect’, who even develops a five second sub plot of romance with Arthur. She also acts as something of an audience surrogate, the person to whom all the information about this complex plot is exposited to. There’s also Yusef, ‘the chemist’ and Eames ‘the forger’, who is quite fun and cocky with something of a minor rivalry with Arthur. Fischer is the subject of inception; he goes through some development as he is incepted with the idea to break up his father’s corporate empire.

So what’s wrong with the cast? Well Cobb is really the only character is goes through any form of an arc, Fischer does also but that’s only because there’s a subject. Everyone else is really very superficial; any character that has minor development is almost discarded and never really looked into. Arthur and Ariadne’s relationship is dropped upon during the plot as they kiss but then never expanded upon. Arthur and Eames’ rivalry has a few comical moments such as the one with “dreaming a little bigger” and the grenade launcher but again is never really questioned or brought up. Let’s look at The Dark Knight for a second. We have Bruce Wayne; a man who lost his parents to a desperate thug with a gun, wrapped by guilt because of his fear and inability to act he travels the world learning how to fight, be a detective and upon returning to his home city of Gotham, takes on the symbol of the thing he fears most Bats. As such, Bruce Wayne becomes Batman; possibly one of the most complex and well written characters in literature and often not given the credit he deserves because he’s an adapted character from comic books. He develops in The Dark Knight as he tries to find a way to end his crusade and become a normal man with a normal life but slowly realises that’s never going to be possible when the love of his life is murdered by The Joker. As such Batman becomes an eternal symbol of fear for criminals in Gotham being not a man by a symbol who can be accused of murder and take the blame for Harvey Dent’s crimes. There’s The Joker, a psychopath who we never truly understand his back story but know he’s a psychopath who goes from robbing mob banks to finding his true purpose in tormenting Batman. Alfred, Wayne’s butler, goes from loving friend and confidant to hiding secrets from Bruce to protect him. District Attorney Harvey Dent; the white knight of Gotham who becomes the evil murderous Two Face after watching that same love of his life die literally seconds after agreeing to marry him. Finally there’s the incorruptible Lieutenant James Gordon who learns from Batman to do what is necessary, faking his own death to bring down the Joker, receives a promotion to Commissioner and learns that his actions in trying to bring down the mob have consequences, like the death of Rachel and the change of Dent. This is an amazing supporting cast and better written and developed than the Inception cast.

Now here’s the interesting question; is the lack of development in Inception’s supporting cast intentional? It could just be bad writing as some assume and shows that Christopher Nolan whilst a man with a talented set of ideas might need his brother Jonathan in order to full crystallise his ideas into more cohesive screenplays. Or it could be intentional based upon the ending. In the ending Cobb spins his spinning top “totem” but we never see if it topples or not leading us to wonder if Cobb is in a dream. Now if Nolan wants us to believe that Cobb is in a dream then the supporting cast don’t matter, as that’s what it’s like in a dream, you’re the focus of attention and no-one else really matters beyond the minor details. In this case it’s probably an amazing case of writing and huge risk; he’s intentionally letting the audience think the characters are underdeveloped to leave the hints that Cobb is dreaming. There’s also a ton of times that it’s hinted in the movie from Miles saying out of context in a conversation “Come back to reality, Dom.” To when he wakes up from using Yusef’s compound and tries to use his spinning top but it’s interrupted and we never find out and never see him use it again. This scene also comes right after someone saying ‘why would you care if it’s reality’ referring to a dream. His kids at the very end are exactly the same age as before as though no time as passed. It’s all these little hints that aren’t really noticed until you watch the film or read the screenplay a second or third time. Could he even be inside Mal’s dream and Mal has woken up by killing herself? Did she incept him? Afterall the spinning top’s exact weight and spin was known by her also and a cardinal rule is that no-one should ever know your totem or else its effects could become redundant in that person’s dream. It’s hundreds of little hints throughout the movie or the screenplay. They might even be a double bluff designed intentionally to make us feel like it’s a dream but actually reality.

Overall the question about the ending for me can be answered in one way. Does it even matter? Cobb is happy, he no longer cares, if it’s a dream or reality and really just Nolan screwing with us as I believe, Cobb is happy and no longer cares about dreams and reality, just that he gets to be normal again and I find that ending almost romantically beautiful in that sense. Inception is a movie much like The Dark Knight and whilst I favour The Dark Knight personally and think it’s a better film overall, Inception created an opportunity in Hollywood to create interesting science fiction films with original concepts that have high octane action as this and The Dark Knight do. It’s an excellent film really any way you look at it and even if it never quite reached the success of The Dark Knight, it’s certainly a film to be remembered for quite a long time.

Hope you enjoyed this Screenplay Analysis, please check back every Sunday for a new post. Also check out the previous Screenplay Analysis of "Network".

Sunday, 7 October 2012

The Case for an Expansion Bay

Hey kids? Remember back in the back end of the 2nd millennium there was this ancient piece of interactive technology called the Ultra that only aliens with three hands could use, causing it's rival the Suny StationPlayer to sell waaaay more units?


Well that's probably because you don't live in the future and are looking back on this from some kind of warped perspective where the Nintendo 64 wasn't one of the greatest gaming devices ever invented. Seriously, I can't think of a single games console that made as much of an impact as this one. The original NES created the D-Pad, the PlayStation used discs, the Wii had motion controls but the N64 had a ton of awesome things, the first real analog stick, the C-Buttons that were used for camera control and later evolved into a second stick primarily used for camera control. The 3D graphics that at the time on the PlayStation people just couldn't make heads or tails of, were utilized by Nintendo in a Super Mario 64, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and other games in ways that are still used to this very day. It gave us the first real trigger button with "Z" and GoldenEye was the game that launched a thousand FPS's. It had four controller ports built in, which became the standard on every console until wireless controllers came about. So why is it that the thing that impresses me most is something that simply isn't around on consoles any more. That's right, I'm talking about the expansion bay.

Not the thing on the back of the controller but the thing on the front. It's most used application was to use the  Expansion Pak to give the Nintendo 64, 4MB of extra RAM (shut up it was a big deal back then). With varying games consoles and rapidly increasing technology, it surprises me that home consoles don't come with an expansion bay any more. Like, seriously, you've got PC's which are way more popular than Macs among gamers because you can upgrade them, stick in some more RAM, a new graphics card e.t.c. Well one big advantage of consoles is that they are pretty much a standardised model for games, you don't need to worry "Will my game work on my PC?" because - YES, it will work. 

Every game you buy for a home video console will work for it. Sometimes you need a peripheral, like a Wii Remote Plus but the console will always play the game. However a major problem with a console like the Wii was that it simple couldn't graphically keep up by the end of this generation of consoles and as such really lost support. Sure there were some really incredible games at the end of it's life like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and Xenoblade Chronicles, the combination of the two makes probably two of the best games this generation in my opinion. But generally speaking the Wii lost support, to the point that FIFA 12 and FIFA 13 are literally the same game with player changes. And I'm not talking like the incremental changes yearly released that FIFA, PES and Call of Duty make but I'm talking literally not a damn thing changed because EA just decided really, no one is buying this on Wii - why bother?

So why have something like an expansion bay on a home console if the reason people buy home consoles is because they are set standards that developers create for. Well the reason is this, on a PC nowadays many games have "lower settings" on graphics so people with shite PC's like my own, can play them. Probably the game that was most famous for using the N64's Expansion Pak was The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. It needed those 4MB of extra RAM to process the game. But now-days we've seen that games don't actually need to be a "set model", they can have varying graphical levels. Why not use an expansion bay to keep costs down. You can have the set model which plays all games but an expansion bay that will allow consoles to keep up with PC's on a graphical level without consumers having to pay literally hundreds potentially thousands more to get a better PC every couple of years. Look at The Elder Scrolls V: Skryim, the visuals on the PC version are infinitely better than they are on the 360 or even PS3. With an expansion bay, the game could be played at a lower version or an upgraded version. Take this to an extreme and a console like Wii could have even played it with an expansion upgrade.

And what happens when the next line of consoles come out. The Wii U despite being more powerful than the PS3 and 360 (and it is, the specs are very clear) will probably lag behind the next Sony and/or Microsoft games consoles in graphics, an expansion bay on the Wii U could have provided a way to keep up with the others. Even if an Expansion Pak U (yes I'm calling it that) costed $150 that's still cheaper than the alternative of buying a $400 minimum NextBox or PS4, games could still be played on Wii U, so long as they have a lower settings mode, which they're already programming on PC versions.

Now why a case for an Expansion Bay as such. After all they can still do this for the Wii U if it has a USB port right? Well, yes but it would be incredibly clunky and annoying sticking out of the back, attached to a wire, not to mention USB 2.0... not that fast by comparison to directly installed, there's bound to be hundreds of issues.

Hope this has been an interesting talk about random crap for you. Check out the other stuff I've written on my blog. I update it every Sunday afternoon.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Final Fantasy: Rise, Fall & Rebirth (Part 1: Learn from History)

This is going to be the start of a multiple post blog on the Final Fantasy series, where it has been and where it's headed now.

I am what some might call a very big fan of Final Fantasy. If you don't know this about me, you don't know much about me. I've been playing the games since the release of the ground breaking and incredible PlayStation masterpiece; Final Fantasy VII. I am an admitted Final Fantasy fanboy, but I believe I am with good reason. Since it's inception Final Fantasy has always strived to give us the best in graphics, gameplay, story, the works. They've put themselves to the the limits trying to see what kind of awesomeness they can bring us with each release. That's just as much true as it was back in 1987, twenty-five years ago when the Fighter, Black Mage, White Mage and Thief (don't lie that was your team too first time around) first set out for Corneria to find the four elemental crystals and save the world from the time-warping demon known as Chaos. Even with the very divisive or sometimes even maligned Final Fantasy XIII it was clear that what they were trying to do was grand and epic and that their hearts were in the right place, no-one can deny that. The series reached the point where many people were calling, and still do to this day (except those who try to be fashionable by hating the game, strangely often fans of it's immediate predecessor), the seventh instalment in the landmark series the greatest game of all time; something that I'd probably have a hard time denying with few games reaching the same kind of acclaim. Nowdays however it seems to have fallen from grace... big time!

So what has Final Fantasy really done wrong in it's last ten years of so that's made it fall so far from grace? In part one today let me sum up the seriesto tell the un-inducted what exactly happened in this illustrious serious. I'll try to keep it short... and fail.

FINAL FANTASY was released in 1987 on the NES and grew from there to have multiple entries in the franchise. The game was lauded for it's interesting combat mechanics and battle animations that allowed for a party of four heroes chosen by the player at the start of the game from various "jobs" like Fighter, Black Mage, White Mage, Thief, Red Mage and Black Belt. You progressed around an open "world map" from town to town, dungeon to dungeon exploring a world of wonder. It's following two sequels wouldn't be released in Europe or North America until much, much later but equally followed a similar pattern with Final Fantasy II having a stronger focus on story and Final Fantasy III having a stronger focus on gameplay and customisation of character. The real next step in the series evolution came with...

FINAL FANTASY IV for the SNES in 1990. It was a landmark game with a very compelling story about redemption, betrayal, love and people from the moon who secretly want to eradicate us using our own ancestral magic... okay... The Fourth entry was an excellent game, it really brought to the table new things, not least of which was the Active Time Battle system, a system that would go on to appear for the next five games in the series and even make a modified appearance in later games such as XII and XIII. If the original set up the basics of gameplay and storytelling for what a Final Fantasy game would be; this game enhanced them all and really set the stage for what Final Fantasy as series would be. In many ways Final Fantasy IV is the first "true" Final Fantasy game. The following game in the series Final Fantasy V would take a step back in the storytelling department and use an upgraded version of Final Fantasy III's job system. It wasn't that successful really in the eyes of many fans and didn't see release in North America once again until over ten years later. However the next game we got would really push the series to new heights...

FINAL FANTASY VI for the SNES was released in 1994 and is to this day one of the best RPG's of all time, perhaps even one of the best games of all time. It's gameplay is to this day brilliant, it's musical score is excellent, it's the perfect blend of linear and non-linear storytelling in every way and it's characters are incredibly memorable. It's philosophical at times asking questions about the nature of human existence and overall the game is frankly a masterpiece of gaming. The villain Kefka is brilliant; imagine Heath Legder's Joker only turned into an even more batshit insane version with superpowers... he's pure evil and he loves it. If Final Fantasy IV established what a Final Fantasy game should be, VI really took the RPG formula and the Final Fantasy formula and gave it a much needed elevation to new heights of storytelling and gameplay, especially the story, I mean the game has like a 30 minute ending... on the SNES, think about that. It really pushed the Super Nintendo to it's limits and told a game worthy of being called one of the greatest and really laid the groundwork for it's immediate successor.  It's just a shame a portition of the fanbase of this game are such whiney cry babies and hate it's successor just because well, it got more mainstream critical acclaim. Which leads us to...

FINAL FANTASY VII for the Sony PlayStation. Released in 1997, Final Fantasy VII took what made Final Fantasy VI great and perfected it. There's an expression in screenwriting; "Kill your darlings". One of the interpretations of this is to kill off the characters you love, because odds are the audience will too and it will evoke an emotional response from them. Those who have played the game know what I'm talking about, those who haven't probably still do. Throw into that a really well crafted protagonist who suffers with a bizzare identity crisis, a beautiful love triangle, interesting side-characters, hours and hours of sidequests and a villain who despite looking like he came straight out of an 80s rock band, is excellent. Sephiroth, the hero turned villain, Final Fantasy's first true tragic villain a man driven by madness and hatred and some serious mother issues. Final Fantasy VII really brought audiences to a group of psychologically complex characters and a fascinating world, replacing castles with skyscrapers to create a modern society as opposed to the fantasy one we'd seen before. It was a gamble but it paid off. In addition the Materia system was brilliant for it's day giving real complexity to the character customisation and a reason to grind beyond "levelling". Final Fantasy VII was the peak of the series and is to this day the best selling game in the series, in fact excluding the ludicrously successful Pokémon series, it's the best selling video game RPG of all time. 

It's successor, Final Fantasy VIII would not be so great, but would not be terrible either. VIII was sort of the beginning of where a few things went wrong here and there but despite the best of intentions and some really decent and interesting story moments it failed to hit home the same way VII had. It's general plot was pretty convoluted, albeit contains some fairly interesting characters, and the game's system's were sadly very unbalanced and made it either too easy to too hard at times. The following game Final Fantasy IX was the swansong of the series creator and as such was a fitting tribute with probably the most developed cast in the series and a really interesting story and a cool throwback.

FINAL FANTASY X was the first entry on the PS2 in 2001. Let me first list the good, the battle system was excellent, the visuals breathtaking, the music amazing. Now whilst Final Fantasy VIII was the first time the cracks had really started to show, primarily due to the fact that Hironobu Sakaguchi, the series creator, only served as Executive Producer whilst focusing his attention on Final Fantasy IX which began development over a year before VIII was even released and Yoshinori Kitase the great director of VII, VIII and the legendary Chrono Trigger was left kind of free-reign as director on VIII. At least in my opinion, Kitase was a great director which is why VIII still holds together better than this game did. With Final Fantasy X, Sakaguchi was Executive Producer in name only, from what I understand he had nothing to do with the game really and Kitase was producing it. Some really moronic characters, bad voice acting, and possibly the worst designs on characters I've ever seen... I mean look at this picture here... Seymour's hair... what the fuck!? The game still had the essence of Final Fantasy though, but it's actual sequel Final Fantasy X-2 just went balls to the wall insane, the less said the better. Final Fantasy XI was an MMORPG and a fairly good one if not really a very "Final Fantasy"-ish game.

FINAL FANTASY XII was released after a long wait between main games in 2006 for the PS2. Now whilst I'll be honest, I'm not a fan of the game really; it did try something new. It took the battle-screen and tossed it away in favour of a semi-real-time battle system by using automated combat manoeuvres called "Gambits" to program your party. Problem with this is the game practically played itself by that. It was a very open if slightly empty game and clearly was geared more towards a western audience. It's story, very much inspired by Star Wars, also fell a little flat. XII was a good game overall but it really felt like something was lacking from it at times. It got a lot of critical praise for it's day but in retrospect people are realising it's not the best entry in the series, not by a long shot. Which brings us to...

FINAL FANTASY XIII for the PS3 and XBox 360, released in 2009 the game was well... "Final Fantasy Streamlined". Gone was the towns, the NPCs, this living breathing world to explore, gone were the optional side-quests (for the most part) and gone were all the familiar musical motifs. Even the stats were streamlined down to Strength, Magic and HP only. In Square Enix's desperate attempts to make Final Fantasy relevant and sell the kind of units they did with VII they tried to modernise it. Twice they tried, with XII they tried the gambits with XIII they switched to a faster paced version of the Active Time Battle system whereby they called it an "evolution of the system". Which to a certain extent it was, the idea of segmenting the bars to be able to pull off certain attacks was fascinating and interesting. However you could only control one character. The game's story was confusing at best and really at times a totally convoluted mess. The idea of people being cursed to destroy the world or become zombies was pretty awesome in theory but the execution was a failure with only Sahz standing out as the great character, maybe even one of the series finest. The speedy battle system seemed welcome at first but then it was kind of realised to be dumbed down and mostly button mashing. But I'll save all my complaints about XIII for another day. The game was for all intents and purposes a financial success becoming the 4th best selling in the series but by Final Fantasy standards it was a critical flop.

Now, why is it that the Final Fantasy series has fallen from grace. In one of my previous articles, I stated just what my problem with Twilight Princess was. It was that ironically in a game that was fanboy inspired, they weren't catering to their fanbase enough. The same could be said really for what Final Fantasy has become. In many ways they're simply not catering to their fans enough. In many ways it reminds me of the whole DC Comics reboot and their quest to find those elusive "new readers" in doing so they're forgetting about their current fan base. Final Fantasy XIII tried to be different from Final Fantasy, it tried to be modern and new, perhaps even taking some indicators from First Person Shooters in a way, anyone else think the dungeon designs of a long tunnel were similar to Call of Duty level designs? It was trying to be fast-paced and action packed and visually impressed. Well it got all that, but in doing so forgot what Final Fantasy truly was.

I said earlier that Final Fantasy IV established what a Final Fantasy game really is. It is a think-on your feet, turn-based party combat game involving an interesting story with engaging pre-made characters. It has certain musical queues and certain themes. All of these were present from I-X really. Now despite what I say about VIII and X not being up to scratch they're both excellent games. With Final Fantasy X especially being a very good game in terms of gameplay and really breathing new life into Final Fantasy taking a very tactical approach to the combat. Final Fantasy XIII was fast-paced and the tactics were controlled from a distance whilst you controlled only one character; who if they died it was game-over. They were trying to make Final Fantasy into an Action RPG, something they've even rumoured to be doing in Final Fantasy XV. Now whilst I'm all for change and development, Final Fantasy took it way too far.

Let's look at the battle system in XII and XIII a little deeper. XII was real time so controlling your whole party would be very awkward. It was an interesting and innovative idea, for it's day but it was trying to be an Action RPG and felt slower than one, rather like Dragon Age: Origins did in comparison with it's successor's battle system. Until now they've kept actual "Action Battle Systems" in the spin-off games like Crystal Chronicles, Kingdom Hearts and the upcoming Versus XIII (a game that really shouldn't have the XIII moniker). However the battle systems seem to be trying to mimic those, in a turn based party system. That is not smart. The whole point of a turn based system is to use multiple characters at once in a party. That is what Final Fantasy IS. It's battle system shouldn't be action oriented but tactically oriented. Take Final Fantasy IV once more, fast-paced tactical system. Final Fantasy X took the tactics to a whole new level and IV really set the standard for thinking on your feet whilst keeping it tactical. What's happened since then is more and more attempts to conform to the demands of consumers relying on the Final Fantasy name.

Overall, the Final Fantasy series has a lot of deal with in it's upcoming years and realistically it's not in the best hands if you ask me. They're trying to take the series in a direction that isn't what Final Fantasy should be, it isn't what the fan-base wants and it certainly isn't want new audiences want. Perhaps most importantly Square Enix really should take a look at the series' past, not just at it's peak with VII but look at what Final Fantasy was, specifically from IV-X. New stories are one thing, that can be arranged and they're working their way to new ideas. But you can never forget where you came from, if you're going to take the Final Fantasy series in such a direction, it shouldn't be called Final Fantasy, you're relying on brand-recognition to spur sales and that's not right or fair on the fans. I'm not saying XIII or it's sequel are the downfall of Final Fantasy but they're trying too hard to not be Final Fantasy that they're really forgetting what made the series so great in the first place.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Mobile Gaming: A Threat to Consoles?

Okay, I'm going to start this by saying that really, anyone with a brain can answer this but apparently it needs to be addressed. Mobile Gaming has become a huge part of the industry it cannot be denied. Now whilst many people out there think that mobile gaming is a big threat to the industry. That by having easy access via downloads from an App Store or Google Play or whatever Nokia is doing nowadays, the smartphone and tablet gaming companies have captured many gamers and it will drastically damage the industry forever. I'm here to say; no in fact it is the opposite, it's made it bigger and better than ever. 

Let's start by realising that the audience hasn't transferred, this current generation of Wii, PS3 and 360 has sold more console units than any of the previous generations including the previous where the PS2 became the best selling home console of all time. Now before anyone points out that smartphones have only been around this generation and just started gaining steam, I should point out that the first iPhone, the smartphone that kick-started this so-called "competition", was released less than a year after the Wii, the best selling home console of this generation. In addition as I write this the pre-orders for the Wii U are sold out practically everywhere and I can't find a damn single one to buy, which is really pissing me of and getting me so god-damn annoyed that I can't contain it anymore I'm gonna scr-- Sorry where was I? Ah yes; iPhones... 

The audience hasn't shifted, it's just grown. People are still looking at the gaming audience like it's 1985 and the NES has just been released, they fail to realise that gamers aren't just people who play these things for a giggle and a bit of fun to pass time. They play it for hours and hours, they try to be the best, they actually compete online like sports, sometimes even for money.  Now were this 1985 I'd say yeah, these smartphones are a competition because gamers back then were pretty casual. There weren't many games that took longer than five hours to complete tops if you were good at it and even those that did like Final Fantasy don't take anywhere near the kind of hours invested that their modern counterparts have... even if those games aren't quite my "personal favourites" shall we say? It's much the same as movies, people don't watch movies to pass time, they watch them to be truly entertained and for the art of it too; otherwise films like The Godfather wouldn't be so popular.

Let's compare the NES games of the 80s with the Smartphone games of today. Super Mario Bros. is not a game for the hardcore, it's something fun to play to pass a bit of time, you go from level to level in a linear fashion, take a few shortcuts here and there, find secrets and just enjoy a fun little game you can beat with easy in an hour or two even if you've never played it before. What is Angry Birds? A game where you go from level to level in a linear fashion, shooting birds at wooden beams and pigs, each level gets more difficult and you can easily pick up and play this game. Sure there were some more "hardcore" games out there, like The Legend of Zelda, Dragon Warrior and Final Fantasy. Well, the same Final Fantasy, with improved visuals from the original PSP port, is now out on iOS too but Final Fantasy XIII sure isn't. 

See back in the 80s, for the most part games had a pretty  much 90% casual audience. Just look at the controller at how simple it was. A directional pad that is easy to read, Up, Down, Left, Right, two buttons, A and B. And a Start and Select, which at the time, were literally used for just that, Starting the game and Selecting the mode you wanted to play. It was simple, it was easy to look at and hey, it was something to pass the time or have a little fun with; only a few games were there to be taken seriously and even those were very basic at the time. Final Fantasy wasn't the epic kind of storytelling that exists today and nor was Zelda the kind of complex game it is today really, it was a "kill bad guys, solve puzzles, save the princess" kind of game. Anyone could understand it, your Grandpa could play these games. The controls and the game itself were so damn simple...

Try giving this monstrocity to your G-Pa today! What is this, stick, there's like four buttons and.. a... an... another stick? Buttons on the back and what's this glowing X in the center... is it... is it radioactive? Why is it vibrating, Oh my god, oh Jesus, lordy help me!! What the fuuuuuu--?!!

No-one would know what the hell to make of this if it had been thrown into the market in 1985. People would lose patience and get angry with all the buttons and all the complexities. Nintendo kept it simple with their controller and then, did the same with the GameBoy when they went handheld to play on the go. It was simple, it was easy to use... not unlike a touch screen of a smart phone no?

Finally here come the 90s and everyone's used to these two buttons so... BAM! Two new buttons! Two shoulder buttons that, well weren't used much in those days but still... SUPER NINTENDO IS HERE MOTHERF***A!! This control was built in mind for people who had played the NES, they knew the basics of playing and game and now they were ready for those training wheels to be taken off and go wild with four face buttons, the games have now taken a leap up. Now admittedly as I write this I'm constantly hearing egoraptor's voice in my head a little from his Megaman X Sequelitis Episode. And he had point, everyone had played MegaMan, they were used to it, so it evolved into Megaman X, a true sequel, the training wheels are off bitch! Now you're playing with power... because it's so baaaad... and Super Nintendoes What Genesis Do--? I'm getting carried away here.

Point is, upgrades. The third Nintendo console ramped it up. Added an analog stick and... for some reason three handles... I dunno maybe Nintendo figured, eh, but the late 90s Nuclear War will have turned everyone into a mutant with three arms. Then when World War III didn't break out they just rolled with it anyway. Sony brought the rain with two analog sticks, the third of which, sorta wouldn't be used until like 2003 really, but it set a new Standard that Nintendo launched out with the C-Stick on the GameCube and Microsoft rolled out on their... well I certainly ain't gonna call that controller because it's nothing but a monstrosity designed for bigfoot to play video games.

See that's how video games have evolved. The market has shifted because well, the gaming companies had their peeps. They had gamers now, people who bought consoles for games to get invested in these two-sticked, four face buttoned, four shoulder buttoned, controller rumbling games. They had grown up with them and become gamers, it's own new culture. But that was kind of a problem in a way, no new people were getting brought into this industry unless it was to grab a cheap DVD player from a PS2. Gamers were the only people buying these consoles. And these consoles were only getting more and more expensive causing adults to go crazy and scream "shut up and stop taking my damn money!"... that's the meme right?

So in 2006 comes a whole new console for the home market... The Nintendo Wii. To this day, it's still the dumbest name I can think of. No wait, scratch that, Wii U is the dumbest name I think of. This console got hardcore gamers panties all in a bunch. "What is this game, there's no blood and violence in it?" and "This is for babies, I'm gonna go play my console with an X on it because it's X-Treme!!!" (which sorta plays into how I feel Microsoft are sort of the new Sega but more on that later). But Nintendo realising the state of the industry and their own dwindling sales as a gaming company realised what went wrong. People were looking at the controls, seeing them as too complex and thinking "SCREW THAT!" and moving on. I must admit, even as a long-time gamer, I was getting a bit exhausted too just like all the non-gamers out there. But not with the Wii they wouldn't be. The Wii was simple, it was easy to grasp and perhaps most importantly, it was cheap. Did this damage Nintendo's reputation, actually not as much as people think. Nintendo fanboys like myself stuck around and enjoyed the new control. And really by the time of the GameCube those gamers who wanted to stay with Nintendo were sorta stuck with them for life as fanboys, so their reputation wasn't as badly damaged as people seem to think, the people who would have left Nintendo's fanbase had... kinda already left with Sony and Microsoft taking what was once Sega's fans.

The Wii Remote was simple: you literally do what you're doing on the screen. You've seen tennis right? Swing the remote like a tennis racket. You've played golf right? Swing it like a golf club. You've shot alien monsters before right? Point at the screen and pull the trigger. It was genius, and it brought a whole new set of gamers to the industry along with the Nintendo DS, propelling Nintendo to new sales heights. But in addition to that, it was a simple button set up too, one big ass button on where the thumb is that basically means "YES" and turned on the side, you've got that classic NES controller once again. Suddenly people who'd never played games in the past were buying up Wii's like they were going to run out of stock, and well, they did for a time. It took me literally a year after launch before I finally managed to get one and even then I had to bribe a few people sell my soul go to extreme lengths to get one.

Casual gamers were back in the fold once again, they didn't have to deal with complex bullcrap and didn't have to read a frickin' tech manual to use it. This control was like their TV remote at home, hell I'm actually really surprised it never became one. Casual gamers had a place they could play games to pass some time, maybe they'd try out the nunchuck attachment, seemed easy enough; Play some Zelda or some thing with a bit more meat. Perhaps they'd even invest a little money into a Classic Controller and try out something bigger like Xenoblade Chronicles or Monster Hunter 3... maybe their foray by becoming gamers afterall.

Okay, time out from the gamer-tech-talk. What is a Smartphone exactly? It's a thin phone with a screen that is literally impossible to not know how to use. You touch the screen, any moron could learn how to use it. It's perhaps even simpler than the NES controller. The screen can create touch-pad controls for you to use with icons that indicate what they do rather than letters to make it even simpler. So of course, casual gamers flock to these devices. They pass the time on the go. But the days of the NES and Gameboy are long since gone. Companies have moved on and a subset of people known as gamers have been created. Casual gamers are being brought into the fold by smartphones just as they were by the Wii. They give people who have never even tried a video game before their first taste of the gaming world. Perhaps they'll buy a Wii U because they like the idea of the tablet, it's simple and easy to understand and has an even greater evolutionary bracket to turn them into hardcore gamers with the buttons that smartphones don't have. And see that's the problem with Smartphones, they don't have buttons and even if someone invented buttons, you can't replace a big 50" screen with a tiny 4" iPhone 5 screen. Nor can you just suddenly get gamers to give up what they've become accustomed to with those multiple-button controls by saying "hey look $0.99 games!" You just can't. Especially not with Nintendo's eShop, the PlayStation Store and XBox Live Arcade giving cheap games too in the near future. Can you integrate new functions like a touch screen, sure, the DS and soon to be Wii U are evidence of this. That adds something new to the formula whilst changing nothing from the old, it evolves it further. 

Smartphones have helped crack open much of the casual audience. But no self-respecting gamer is going to stop playing The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, throw away their controller and go say "Hell yeah, I want me some Plants Vs. Zombies, I'm gonna throw my time into this badboy!". In fact companies have even realised this. The upcoming launch of the Ouya, a console built on made-famous-by-smartphones Android OS, will be launched soon taking easy to program and cheap approach to the home market for a cost effective $99. The Wii U, a console with Nintendo's market in mind and the Smartphone audience evolving at the right time could make a killing and based on my frustrations of not being able to find one, it already is.

The point of all this is this: The Smartphone is not a threat to consoles, if anything it's helping to broaden their appeal. Smartphones are growing sure, and the fact that a new model is released each year with greater processing power is fantastic but without a big screen, without buttons, this doesn't even begin to hamper the market of the handheld console, let alone the home console. Handhelds like the 3DS (not really the Vita) are selling like hotcakes because they are essentially offering something Smartphones simply can't and never will without losing their sleak, held in the hand, easy to carry appeal and then would lose their primary reason people buy them. TO BE PHONES! Don't believe me? Google: Nokia N-Gage. In addition they'd lose their secondary reason people buy them, to be use-all devices for everything. If Smartphones became gaming devices then they'd be just that; gaming devices. They wouldn't be smartphones anymore. Home consoles have nothing to fear and everything to gain from the increase of casual players on the phones. Of course many gamers are complete morons and don't realise this yet and will continue to bash "casual games" and "casual gamers" because they just don't get the concept of a constantly evolving market but the figures don't lie... the world of gaming isn't going anywhere and it isn't headed for another crash.

If anything, we gamers are in for a golden age soon the likes of which hasn't been seen since we saw a little brown and red plumber jumping on fanged-walking-mushrooms and eating glowing flowers to shoot fireballs (yeah I realise it as I write it) run across our screens twenty-seven years ago, bringing us back from what could have been the end of video games as we know it.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Nostalgic about The Critic

It's only been a few days now since the last episode of "To Boldy Flee" the fourth year anniversary special and just as a warning there are going to be a few spoilers for that here. Anyway, as most of you know by now, at the end of this mini-series Doug Walker, creator of and actor who plays The Nostalgia Critic, decided to kill off his creation. It was a sad ending to what was easily their best anniversary special. Now I've talked in length about my history with online video, so I won't go into that again but suffice to say there's a lot I had to say on the subject. Doug Walker's Nostalgia Critic has been a big part of my life the last three or so years, after learning about him through the Angry Video Game Nerd, I grew fond of him. I laughed, I cried, I pressed a few seconds back on the video just to watch favorite moments like the famous 'bat credit card' moment over and over and over and over again. But sadly as phrase that named the Star Trek finale that he based his final episode on; all good things must come to an end.

With the end of the Nostalgia Critic, but not the end of TGWTG or anyone on that site by any means, and Doug Walker moving onto bigger and hopefully better things on the site with a new show and a new studio to create them in; I've decided to pay a little tribute to a Doug's character and what he represented for me as I get nostalgic about the nostalgia critic.

Unlike a lot of people, though I believe a few people saw it coming, I already knew how To Boldy Flee was going to end, I knew Doug was going to "kill off" the Nostalgia Critic and end the series. I was informed by a mutual friend we have and felt a little saddened but also like it was time. I used to be back every Wednesday and watch the latest episode. But around about a year ago just after Suburban Knights I felt things were starting to get a little stale. I'd questioned how long Walker could keep up doing this show if let's face it, there's only a certain amount of shitty movies from the 80s and 90s. When he did Digimon, I knew the end was coming and our mutual friend confirmed it to me a few days later.

I've really enjoyed watching the show for the past four years and I think it's safe to say that without The Nostalgia Critic I probably wouldn't be well on my way to producing my own webseries. In fact the original concept for this series was about an internet critic whose life turns into a video game he has to review. Doug, along with James Rolfe, the Angry Video Game Nerd, pretty much created the concept of a comedic online video critic. So much so in fact that the two started a "rivalry" and "feud" when fans saw that both parties were similar but no-one else was doing much of that. Eventually it grew; Linkara doing comic books, The Angry Joe Show and The Spoony Experiment doing video game reviews, The Nostalgia Chick, originally just a female counterpart to Doug's Critic, since has grown into becoming her own thing with her own style separate from Doug's initial one. I've met people from his website, even knew someone, whom I went to film school with for a year, who joined their website. My current development of my webseries that I've been hinting at an alluding to on twitter over the last few weeks, was inspired by my love of web videos that really started with the Nostalgia Critic and culminated in my experiences at Vid Con 2012

Overall I just want to say thanks to Doug Walker, I can't wait to see what he does in the future and I hope that he creates something bigger and better than The Nostalgia Critic, something that he can say goes beyond what he's done before. So if you read this Doug Walker; thank you - you've changed and influenced my life. Good luck with everything in the future.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Convention Time: Vid Con 2012

This past weekend I went to Vid Con, and by God was it incredible. I've been to three conventions in the past so my experience is limited, especially as they were all gaming conventions of varying degrees. First I went to Eurogamer in London, then the London Gaming Con where I presented Final Fantasy: Zero at a panel and demonstration, then came the biggest I've been to; E3, which I was only at for a few hours on the final day and it was awesome. But nothing could have prepared me for how incredible and probably life changing Vid Con would be.

First off for those of you who don't know, Vid Con is a convention for online video; initially dreamt up by Hank Green and created in partnership with his brother John Green, the novelist. Both of them make up the duo of the "vlogbrothers" on YouTube. Now it's easy to dismiss YouTube as this place where people just talk utter bollocks, or show clips of Family Guy - but then you'd forget just how life changing this thing has been. It's only been seven years since it launched and in that time there are channels like Machinima that have 4,600,000 subscribers. If last generation was the generation of self-made millionaires like Bill Gates, Richard Branson or even Mark Zuckerberg - YouTube and Zuckerberg's own creation Facebook, along with other social media platforms like Twitter, Tumblr and back in the old days, MySpace, have created a new generation, a generation of self-made stars. In the past if you wanted to show case your talent to the world and make money from it, you had to be damn lucky or know the right people. Now you can do it yourself and your videos will could go viral - I have friends who have 100,000 subscribers plus on YouTube. We live in an age now where the internet is integral to our lives and YouTube is one of the major parts of that. YouTube is the TV channel, that has millions of programs you can watch at any time and anyone can have a show on there - this is the future and the future is now.

So with all this in mind but not really knowing quite what I was in for, I went to Vid Con 2012 in Anaheim. Now I'm not a hardcore YouTuber; I am more so than regular people but I'm pretty low on the totem pole (for now). I tried the vlogging thing, I was too lazy to contribute regularly because I have no decent video editing software and dear lord do I hate editing with a vicious firey hatred of boiling hate. I'm mostly a commenter and a watcher of videos, and in attending Vid Con 2012 I was mostly going to meet people I admired in this community, maybe make some contacts and network a little... but I didn't know anything about this community....

Wait up, backstory time. Around about 2006 I started watching videos by this guy called... The Angry Video Game Nerd, you might have heard of him, if you haven't... who the hell are you and why are you reading my blog? Anyway, he made me laugh with his funny angry video game review parodies, from there I discovered The Nostalgia Critic, and his website and co-workers. Soon I started using my YouTube account that I'd only been using for Final Fantasy: Zero trailers and videos until now to subscribe to people. People like brentalfloss with his "What If Video Games... Had Lyrics?" series, who eventually I met in person and am still good friends with to this day, which gave me my first real glimpse behind the camera of YouTube into the life of someone with some fame online. So really my experience at roughly this point was mostly the "online internet reviewer" crowd with some similar video people thrown in there. Then I went and saw this review channel called Tardistacular, run by two lovely Doctor Who fangirls, one American Kaylee  and one British, Rosianna. I thought they were both a lot of fun and as a Doctor Who fanboy myself, I was curious. Then I heard Rosianna had a "vlog"... Wasn't sure what that was exactly, was it a mispelling of Blog, a lisp, a cute pet name for some kind of disease? I checked it out, it was her talking to a camera, talking about her life, talking about things going on in it. "What is this crap?" I asked myself wondering why anyone would talk about their personal life on the internet like that. Then I realised what it really was, it wasn't her talking about her life, it was her sharing her life with us. Sharing the lessons learned, the journey's experienced and all life has to offer in a few short minutes. This is the principal YouTube was founded upon, hence it's name YOUtube. She eventually mentioned a book "Looking for Alaska" once or twice, I checked it out, it was by John Green - some time after I returned from New York in 2009, I heard Green was doing a signing in London. I went there and suddenly I realised he was not just an author, he was so much more. He had his own Nerd Kingdom based around his YouTube channel who called themselves "Nerdfighters", other vloggers were there and I started to realise what kind of insane world I was discovering. From here, I subscribed to John and Hank on YouTube (and you should too after you finish reading this if you've made it this far). I discovered Jenna Marbles, Felicia Day and her web series The Guild and all manner of crazy stuff. I thought I knew this world...

I had no idea. The community is huge, they are old, they are young, they come from all walks of life. They cosplay, they dance, the laugh and geek out. It's crazy and I absolutely love it, every second of it. Going to Vid Con really made me realise that this is the future, that's the future audience, that's the future content creators, I was embarrassed when people kept asking if I had a channel, "Sure, I do, it sucks, wait until my web series comes out". I met Mike Diva, a singer and entertainer on YouTube, who was absolutely awesome. I saw Felicia Day sing live, I made a ton of new friends, met old friends from school who were a part of this community through their page "Sorted Food".

We stand on the precipice of a new age, where creator and fan are one in the same, where every person has a chance to create their own content, to grow, to communicate, network and collaborate. Vid Con will probably have irrevocably changed me and even if for some reason I'm not living in Los Angeles next year, I will fly out to Anaheim for Vid Con... only this time I'd prefer it if I didn't get stuck in 4 hours of traffic again please?