Cool Ghosts and E3: No

I decided against covering E3 this year, which understandably left many people feeling disappointed. I honestly respect that, and wouldn’t want to ignore it - my original ‘Abridged’ videos  are the reason that most of you know I exist. They were deeply silly chunks of snark that hit a nerve back in 2013, and over time then increasingly didn’t.

The deeply cyclical nature of the industry meant the jokes worth making had mostly been spent, and poking fun at presentations had developed into such a widespread thing that some publishers had actively started playing up to it - rolling up with weird moments and pre-baked memes like a dad attempting to infiltrate a party.

Last year I attempted something different - a similar formula with a heavier emphasis on cultural commentary in addition to jokes - but since forming Cool Ghosts towards the end of last year my feelings towards E3 have notably changed. It wasn’t something I intended to talk about, but this week’s events have left me feeling compelled. Culture doesn’t exist in a vacuum, and yet video game culture seems adamant that it does. While the world around it fractures and changes, events like E3 simply plod on - willingly blinkered.

That a conference this year could showcase a new shooter less than a day after one of the worst recorded acts of firearm terrorism in history?  Without so much as having the broader decency to begin that same presentation with perhaps a mention, perhaps a moment of silence? The industry’s inability to have these conversations - to admit the existence of an outside world - has frequently proved to be troubling in the past. In the world we exist in today, it’s almost sickening.

And maybe this wouldn’t be such a big issue if E3 had anything of value to offer.

E3 in not representative of what games can be. It isn’t even representative of what games currently are - it is merely a simple, unflattering window into the current state of mainstream entertainment culture. “Games are bigger than ever” - we’re proud to exclaim - but this celebration of cultural dominance never comes with any mention of fresh responsibilities.

The lavish presentations of violence are an obvious point to fixate on, but in reality we’re looking at a far broader rainbow of macho bullshit: a laser-targeted beam of marketing aimed to please a specific, lucrative audience. Not only are these presentations unrepresentative of games as a medium, they also frequently fail to represent the specific games being shown.

In the past we’ve seen E3 trailers that wrongly made nuanced games seem crass, but the current trend is to engineer the opposite - leading with thought-provoking concepts and issues to justify the following buffet of violence. The specialist press are provided with an angle; the ugly proposition now justified somewhat, perhaps poignant - worthwhile.

Whether wilful or merely a happy coincidence, it’s a trick that consistently seems to deflect the majority of complicated, wider conversations. Two years later the games arrive on shelves, and almost without fail these promises are forgotten. Triple-A games that are rooted in realism consistently share one key trait: they prominently talk about contentious issues whilst miraculously managing to say absolutely nothing. The suggestion in 2016 that the next wave of big-big hits will have some sort of cultural value simply isn’t a convincing facade at this point. I’m amazed it isn’t the elephant in the room. I’m not even sure it’s a massive dog trying to hide behind a curtain.

And then there’s the impetus to keep up with hype culture. In an era where we’re frankly drowning with brilliant games each and every month, many of us still struggle to fight the desire to consistently keep up with whatever feels NEW. It’s a perpetual loop that the industry often relies on, but I fail to see how this culture serves us. When you spend your whole life fixating on the future, what you've got today will always seem disappointing.

And whilst it constantly fixates on the future, so rarely what we’re shown even feels new - remakes reboots HD-’em-ups, fresh dollops of dollar carefully poured into yet another safe, familiar proposition. Bright, unusual suspects appear, but so frequently disappear before they make it to shop shelves. So much of the current business is nostalgia: a trite puppet-show pulling visible heartstrings.

At best, it’s bullshit that everyone goes along with simply because it consistently does decent numbers. At worst, it’s a gaudy celebration of an industry that largely continues to dominate culture whilst actively refusing to admit it might be part of it. And increasingly, it feels like maintaining this bubble is simply an essential part of the equation.

We’re looking at a culture that collectively that decided that it was OK to start marketing shooters less than a day after a man with an assault rifle killed 50 people. That’s fucked. In the wider context of the tragedy, it only gets worse: We live in an era which seems increasingly plagued by violence carried out by men who've somehow grown up to harbour extremely specific, damaging ideas about what they think it means to be a man. And yet the horrors are ignored, the cycle continues, and E3 continues to peddle a carousel of rubbish macho dreams.

In the cold light of a wider world where so much senseless hate and pain is rooted in how people view masculinity, converting E3 into a cheery slideshow of jokes and snark seems like a response that contributes to the problem - this belief that bombastic trade-show fluff is an inherently important part of the medium. The medium doesn't need it, and the world deserves better.

Posted on June 13, 2016 .

Daft Souls 83: Pocket Card Jockey, Superhot Secrets, Steamworld Heist

Matt is joined by Joe Skrebels for a chat about racing tiny horses and dabbling in other card-based games. Joe then dives into some of Superhot's bizarrely detailed secrets (expect spoilers) and both boys wax lyrical once again about Steamworld Heist.

If you enjoy the show,  iTunes reviews are always lovely. Want to ask a question, or vote for which questions should get answered next? Head over here!

Posted on June 13, 2016 .

Something For The Weekend - 10th June 2016

At the start of this week I greedily dived into Hearts of Iron IV. I've always meant to investigate this series, with its dedicated simulationist approach to World War 2, endless knobs to twiddle and plans that you sit on and hatch like the chicken at the end of the world. Well, I don't mean to alarm anyone but holy smokes, I was not ready for the amount of knobs present. I'm desperate to play it further but I ended up playing Steamworld Heist all instead, and planning to return when I'm feeling a bit more capable.

This week I finally dipped my toes into Subnautica, which immediately grabbed me in a way I honestly wasn't expecting - such an irresistible sense of magic, tempered with a healthy gulp of fear. Torn now between playing more, or waiting until the game is closer to being finished. For now though, SteamWorld Heist has me for the third time - looking forward to playing through it all again with the Outsider DLC installed. And finally - after a few weeks of failing to click - I'm now really enjoying playing Overwatch. It seems the trick for me was to play it on PS4 instead of PC - the pace feels less frantic, the players are less skilled, there's far more space to enjoy the bright colours. 

What are you guys up to this weekend?

Posted on June 10, 2016 .

SteamWorld Heist: The Best Game Ever

A quick video about SteamWorld Heist, a game that - coincidently - also happens to be The Best Game Ever. I'll be tucking into the DLC this weekend. Enjoy!

Posted on June 9, 2016 .

Something For The Weekend - 3rd June 2016

Hello! This weekend we're both at the UK Games Expo in not-actually-Birmingham-to-be-honest, playing games and kissing hands and shaking babies for Shut Up & Sit Down. Time for videogames is hugely unlikely, but on the train I've been playing Pocket Card Jockey! Tiny horses! Tiny cards! My main horse is called SAUSAGE FACTORY. If you're hankering to read us talking about games, check out this piece about Monster Hunter I wrote for Kotaku. It's nice!

I'm not playing any vidya games this weekend, but I did manage to poke the latest build of Subnautica this week and my word! It's quite the thing. I'd say it's worth buying for the opening 10 seconds alone, when it spawns you standing on a life raft in the middle of an ocean that you then have to climb into, but that would be a lie Still, it's absolutely great fun, and now I've got another survival-alike together with The Long Dark that I can't wait to leave early access.

How about you guys? What are you up to this weekend?

Posted on June 3, 2016 .

Daft Souls 82: Duskers, Crawl

It's rare that both halves of Cool Ghosts 100% agree on anything, but Matt and Quinns both remain TURBO-HOT for Duskers. After that, they return to the normal realm of disagreement about Crawl, and then answer a handful of your questions. Thanks so much for listening!

If you enjoy the show,  iTunes reviews are always lovely. Want to ask a question, or vote for which questions should get answered next? Head over here!

Posted on May 30, 2016 .

Something For The Weekend - 27th May 2016

I’m still recovering from the terrifyingly sober Funwraith hangout that occurred last night. We laughed, we argued, we had a lovely time. Thanks so much to those of you who joined us! We’re still knee-deep in beautiful guts of our recently relaunched Shut Up & Sit Down, so I’ve not had much time to play games this week. So yeah, this weekend I’m still about Duskers. Holy gosh it’s good. So, so good. Expect us to stop banging on about it shortly, but not until after next Monday’s Daft Souls.

My fiancée’s leaving for a month-long stint in America next week, which means I can soon look forward to a werewolf-like transformation back into a single bachelor. My main video game news is that I’m now planning a list of games to finish in that time. So far I’ve got Undertale, Kentucky Route Zero and Her Story. This weekend, though? I’m planning a casual excursion into Subnautica. Sploosh!

What are you guys up to? This weekend the Cool Ghosts community are planning to take advantage of Vermintide being free to play on Steam - if you fancy joining in, say hello over here!

Posted on May 27, 2016 .

Daft Souls 81: Stellaris, Monster Hunter Generations, The Controller Wars

This week we’re joined by popular regular Joe, who’s arrived like a flaming sword of truth to call us out on things we’ve said that he personally doesn’t agree with. Watch as he mildly sizzled us into submission, making the podcast less of an echo chamber in a way which is purely positive and just generally a great thing, honestly thanks Joe you're really nice.

Quinns talks about ANATOMY (watch last week’s video!) while Matt has become an evil dictator in Stellaris. Joe then chats a bit about Overwatch and Superhot, and then both Matt and Joe sort of explode with excitement merely at the prospect of more Monster Hunter. Finally, all of the men fight to the death over which is the greatest game controller. Let us know what you reckon in the comments?

Thanks as always for listening guys! If you enjoy the show maybe tell a friend, or write us an iTunes review. Want to ask a question, or vote for which questions should get answered next? Head over here!

Posted on May 23, 2016 .

Something For The Weekend - 20th May 2016

(To the tune of Just A Little by Liberty X)

The full game is out now and it’s on Steam 
A spooky sim about robo-ots
It’s really hitting my spot,
Oh yeah, yeah.
And it is really good,
You should buy this game 'coz it just thirteen quid,
I just want to buy great games,
And this one’s honestly great,
Oh baby, won't you...

Pilot some robots,
Get scared,
Just a little,
Through derelicts,
Just a little bit more (Just a little bit)
Explore just a little bit more (Just a little)

JUST A LIIIIITTTLE BIT MOOOOORE. Gosh, I can’t follow that - but I can chip in to say that yes, Duskers is evidently hot-to-trot and not to be missed. But now, for some important news - the next Live Q&A Hangout-Thing will take place at 10pm UK time on Thursday the 26th of May, and after months of planning and tweaking and stuff, the brand new version of Shut Up & Sit Down is finally live and in the wild.

What does this mean for you? It means an official Cool Ghosts forum where you can hang out and talk about videogames, regardless of what the weather is like. Join up, say hello, marvel at the new perma-link at the top of the websitethat will take you to a place where pink and orange can link arms and sing.

I’m off to Manchester to try on a suit for most of this weekend, so I’ll have to leave playing games in the capable hands of you. So you - yes, you - what are you up to, exactly? Hm?

Posted on May 20, 2016 .

Anatomy: The Best Horror Game Ever

Draw the curtains, grab some headphones and pour a mug of your spookiest tea. Quinns has been playing Kitty Horrorshow’s Anatomy, a completely excellent horror game, and he wants to tell you why it’s so stunning (with no spoilers, of course).

For more of our explorations into horror don’t miss Quinns’ spooky, late-nite trucking journey, or our knife-throwing foray into the unique Until Dawn.

Posted on May 19, 2016 and filed under One Off, Best.

Daft Souls 80: INKS & Pinball, Phoenix Wright, Terrible Pokemon


This week we’re joined by Kate Gray - excellent games person and host of the Toku Podcast. This week we begin with INKS. and pinball games in general (the series Matt struggled to recall was Zen Pinball 2). Matt and Quinns briefly talk about Overwatch, and then the podcast swirls into a fun rambly-chat about The Witcher 3, Ace Attorney, and whether or not it’s OK to eat a Pokemon. Let us know in the comments which one you’d eat, although it's entirely reasonable to simply upvote the first person to post saying "YUCK HORRIBLE NO".

Thanks as always for listening guys! If you enjoy the show maybe tell a friend, or write us an iTunes review. Want to ask a question, or vote for which questions should get answered next? Head over here!

Posted on May 16, 2016 .

Something For The Weekend - 13th May 2016

Today I decided to spin up Stellaris - I can’t tell if I actually like it that much, but somehow sank 7 hours into it regardless. I should probably stay away from 4X games, especially after having such similar feelings about the critically-lauded Endless Legend. On the off-chance that my weekend doesn’t somehow devolve into clicking on space things forever and ever, I really ought to go and finish Wolfenstein - I can’t recall the last time I played a mainstream game quite so strange.

Doom’s out! Not that I’ll be playing it. I contented myself with watching a playthrough of the first 15 minutes, occasionally saying things like “Ooh,” “Hmm,” and “Ew.” Having now freed up my weekend, I’ve decided I’m going to spend my Saturday journeying to a very rare cheese burger, and on Sunday I’m hunting down Hitman’s first Elusive Target

What are you guys playing?

Posted on May 13, 2016 .