After four days of excrutiating boredom, living out of a hotel room with work I am finally going to head off home tonight. Hotels are strange places, theres the whole thing of being based in a room that 1000 people might have been in before you and there's the whole 'etiquette' aspect of what you have to do and where to go for your meals and breakfast- but for me there are two big things that I don't like about staying in a hotel;
The first is that I have an almost OCD led routine on my last morning where I scour the entire hotel room for things that belong to me before I leave. I have this paranoid obsession that I will leave something important behind like a mobile phone, my keys or God forbid my ipod. I'll check under my sheets, under the bed, in the shower, EVERYWHERE until I am satisfied that nothing is missing. It is all a pretty pointless search though because in true OCD style I also leave all my phones, Keys and ipod lined up on the bedside table in a neat arrangement, my clothes are always folded in the suitcase, and my toiletries always put away in the same bag next to the sink.
I'm pretty sure it stems from when I was a child staying at a Butlins holiday camp with my family. It was my birthday (I can't remember which one, possibly 8th or 9th) and my aunt bought me this amazing 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' camera that took pictures with one of the turtles in-pose in one of the top corners of the photo. One day I was in the arcade and I must have left it on top of one of the cabinets, and it was only as we were packing to leave the camp that I remembered it was gone. I was hearbroken and I never did get the chance to develop those pictures.
The second big thing that annoys me is how your bog standard hotels just don't cater for people that like gaming. Now, don't get me wrong, I am not saying that hotels should provide every paying customer with a console of there choice on their arrival, or even have consoles at all- but I do think that they should make it easier for people that bring their own machine and fancy using them to pass the long and boring hours between work ending and bedtime beginning.
The first few times that I stayed in hotels with work I took my Wii with me. It was small, light and I was really hoping to be able to play it in the evenings. When the time came, I took the Wii out of my suitcase, plugged all the cables in, turned the TV round and.... there were no sockets to plug it into. At another hotel I stayed at they had the sockets, but no button on the remote to change the channel to 'scart' or whatever. I was gutted.
It is all by the by as it happens though because I really like to game on-line, and most hotels that I stay at charge a stupid amount to use their wi-fi service. At the hotel I am staying at it costs £5 per hour (Thats just over $8) for internet access- that put a complete kabosh on me browsing the internet or watching my Sky Mobile TV on the ipod touch and it would certainly put a dampener on some on-line gaming too. I wouldn't even bother bringing my Nintendo DS because if this either- when you're sat alone in your room for hours on end you want some real life interactivity- and this is where the on-line comes in.
This week in a hotel has cost my company about £300. That is quite a lot of money really when you think about it, so why do these places charge extra for internet access and why do these places fortify their televisions like they were Fort Knox or something? I suppose it all comes down to squeezing as much cash out of the consumer as possible. If i was in my room, on my xbox 360 playing some free on-line on 'Left 4 Dead 2' then I wouldn't be downstairs in the bar buying beers, buying meals and snacks or taking advantage of one of the other hotel 'amenities' that costs a bombshell.
The thing is though, that's what I want to do- more than anything. Game, or use the internet- chill out and relax. I am sure at some of the classier establishments you get your free internet, gaming and as many porn channels as your right wrist can take, but the places I stay at are your 'Holiday Inn's' 'TravelLodges' and 'Premier Inns' you can expect a TV, about 8 channels and that's your lot!
I have a couple of mates that have always been on the cutting edge of 'trendy' technology- probably because they're both from well to do families and have then gone on to get decent jobs themselves. They had a 'classic' ipod back in the day when it was a black and white LCD screen and cost about as much as a small village in Tuscany, and now they have ridiculously expensive monthly contracts with an iphone.
I must confess that when I eventually managed to get hold of a 30GB 5th gen black ipod (about 3 years ago now) it was one of the best things that I had ever bought in my life ever. Work takes me all over the country- sometimes by car, sometimes by train and in any case my ipod was by my side- either plugged into the USB port of my Fiat 500 or plugged into my ears. Loaded with audiobooks, podcasts, movies that I would hook up to the TV with an AV cable, and tunes it would make my time on the road and in the hotel rooms that bit easier.
Recently I bit the bullet and upgraded to a second hand, first generation ipod touch in mint condition from ebay on the idea that I would sell my 'classic' and that would contribute towards the cost. I liked the idea of the PDA style mutlimedia interface that came with the ipod touch and I understand that it is basically an iphone minus the phone.
The big downside to this machine though is that it costs £35 for a cable to hook your machine up to the TV (3rd party ones don't work by all accounts) plus it no longer hooks up to the USB port in my car (without having to buy an £80 Fiat conversion dongle) so I have had to keep my 'Classic' for on the road anyway.
It's a bit crap that Apple release these new ipods, which aren't cheap and we have to buy brand new peripherals to make the bloody things work. I'm surprised that you actually get earphones with em!
Then you have to trawl trough the 100,000 apps that are out there- some of them cost as much as £60, some of them are free. The Apple adverts make these apps look like they'll change your life, insinuating that we all go out to resteraunts on a regular basis and so need something to randomly pick where we eat, how much it'll cost and an app to find a local taxi firm and yadda yadda yadda. The truth is it is all bullshit- use it once and get bored of it. I downloaded a budgeting app and then found that Excel did the job much better, downloaded a shopping list app and found that a pen and paper was better- I've even downloaded some games and found them to be incredibly shallow, lacking depth and found the touchscreen controls a little bit unresponsive.
That said though I think that Shazam looks a fun app and I think the Sky Mobile TV app (I think only available in the UK) that allows you to watch a selection of 6 premium sports channels for just £6 a month (when it costs £26 a month to get them on your telly) is the best thing I've seen. Ever.
So any of you guys know of any apps that are actually fun and/or useful?
I can honestly take or leave social networking sites. I usually find myself logging in and staying logged in most of the day, just for something to look at when I'm bored. I like to see how some of my school colleagues are doing and try and sneak the odd live chat in with them if I'm free.
My girlfriend's cousin is an incredibly sad person when it comes to Facebook. For starters she's added about 500 "friends" to her list that she hardly even knows. Some of them are friends of a friend, some of them are even friends of friends of friends of a friend. She is also one of these dickheads that feels the need to inform everyone of her status every five seconds. "I've just got up!" she'll put one minute, "I'm just about to have some cheese on toast!" she'll add five minutes later "Just about to wake my son-shine up!". I am waiting for the day that she puts "I've just struggled with a monsterous turd."
What bothers me though, and what takes this woman one rung lower on the 'Sad Bastard' ladder of social networking in my eyes is that over the months she has had a laptop she has painted this rosey picture of her life (of which most of it is utter bullshit) and worse of all she actually cares what people think of her pointless musings.
My girlfriend and I go round to her couin's house on a regular basis and the truth of the matter is that she is a bit of a scrote. She has two kids, one of whom is bordering on being a teen that is probably going to end up in jail at some point and the other that is one of the most annoying, mard-arse, manipulative toddlers that I have met in my life.
Her fiance is actually a fairly nice guy, but has no financial sense whatsoever and would rather spend the little money he gets from his job on a new x-box 360 game than buy food for his kids. They live on borrowed money constantly and buy their TV, furniture and gadgets at 160% of the normal price from these high interest stores. When I pop round to watch the football (soccer) she'll sit with a face on her playing on Facebook or internet bingo.
They argue, she'll scream and shout on a regular basis whilst my partner and I sit there wondering why we visited there again and I can't help but think that she lives in a self-created shit life.
Yet on Facebook you'd think that she lives in The Grange. What a great and sunny life this woman must live! She calls her toddler son "My son-shine" even though the kid is clearly a little shit and I have actually seen her post "I love my boyfriend <3 x x x x x x" on Facebook about two minutes after we've witnessed them both have a huge slanging match and the atmosphere is still in thei air. She posts opinions on things that she really doesn't give a shit about just for a reaction. She once asked me "How did Manchester United play just now?" and then seen my opinion dressed as hers on Facebook that very evening.
I got tired of this charade at one point and posted up something funny on her boyfriends Facebook page one day at work. I saw her log out of her facebook account, log into her boyfriends account (she must have nicked his password) and then my post was mysteriously deleted. She's done the same with stuff I've posted on her Facebook site in response to her comments. She'll tell me that her boyfriend wasn't happy about me posting something on her site only for me to find out later that he didn't even know about it.
It obviously means a hell of a lot to her to keep up this pretense that her life is absolutely rosey, when it is actually a pile of steaming, sticky shit. Then when someone like me pops up and jokes that she is a "cheesy f***er" she removes it as quickly as possible because it is actually a nugget of truth in her otherwise perfect virtual world. I suppose I should feel sorry for her as much as anything.
As an Englishman I think that the USA and Britain are different when it comes to sports. American sports appear to involve or encourage higher scoring with plenty of stoppages, time-outs and breaks, in part to do with the nature of the sports but no-doubt influenced a little by advertising and sponsorships. I also get the impression that sports in America have more of an emphasis on 'the event' with razamatazz and high production and entertainment.
British sports on the other hand emphasise grass roots development of the sport from amateur level and working up. It is not so much working to an 'American Dream' in Britain, but striving to represent the area that you're from. Your rivals are a lot closer in Britain than in the states, each region having complicated and sometimes violent histories with the ones around them- so for some kid to grow up and represent his town, city or county is deemed a great achievement, almost more so than representing your country.
The sport I follow is football (or soccer as you might call it), a sport that is drenched in history. In European soccer rivalry (especially with your closest enemy) may have been forged as a result of thousands of years of history- even before the sport as we know it came to be. Some 'derbies' (games between two local teams) have a history of politics, religion and civil war behind them- and the passion runs high as a result. This is why in Britain, relocating any professional sports team from one area of the country to another just doesn't happen as it has done in the USA. (The one exception I can think of is Wimbledon football club- which involved a huge backlash from fans.) The team, and the history of that area that the team is located in, is just too interlocked to even consider something like that.
This is why I think that gamers who play sports games on-line (or even offline for that matter) as one of the 'big clubs' when they don't actually support that club, are not very genuine, and rather more motivated by an on-line rank than the club or team that they support. I am just fortunate that my team is Manchester United (and for the record I was born and raised in Greater Manchester, and I live 4.2 miles away from their stadium, Old Trafford,) but if Manchester United were not a very good team then I would still choose to play with them rather than opt for Barcelona or Real Madrid as a lot of people tend to do. I think any true sports supporter would agree that the love you your club or team over-rides all.
Worse still, I feel are those guys that post up on the EA Sports forums, from random places like Australia, Texas, Mexico, Sweden and New Zealand that claim to 'support' a British football club, or a club that is about 200 miles away.
Aside from the fact that they hardly ever/don't physically go to watch those teams and don't 'support' them in the sense that they're lending their voice and presence to a game of soccer, they can never truly understand the history of being brought up in the area that there team was from and feel the true significance of that team representing their 'area.'
Yet they have the avatars and the amusing names like 'ManUnited001' and harp on about playing as 'their' team in the latest EA or Konami game fest. I find this slightly silly and also slightly offensive. Are these people devoid of a local club or something? No. Are these people helping their local club to maybe grow financially and through support achieve some greatness? No. Instead they are piling their attention, money and time into a club that could be a thousand miles away whilst their local team shrivels up and dies. How do these people think that teams like Manchester United, Liverpool and Chelsea started? As small, working men's teams, thatís what! Then they got support from the local mob and so they grew into the super teams that we know today.
If a person's team is not featured in a sports title then it is fine by me if they 'adopt' a team to play with, but they can never claim to 'follow' that team. That is the difference I think.
It appears that EA sports are using the popular achievements system on the xbox 360 to highlight douchery amongst people playing their games.
This is something that I only semi noticed myself and a friend later highlighted to me. The game in question was 'FIFA 10' and the 'achievements' are worth zero points and seem to just be there to highlight that you are indeed an asshole. The first one is the 'Glory Hunter' 'achievement' that you obtain for playing ten ranked on-line games with a five-star (top notch) team. The other, and more significant one is 'Bad Loser' an 'achievement' that you get for quitting five games.
I think the 'Glory Hunter' achievement is a little harsh- of course people are going to play on-line with the best teams available. I just so happen to support one of these 'glory' teams because it is indeed my local club, therefore it is the club that I automatically select on-line.
The 'Bad Loser' achievement on the other hand is a double edged sword in my opinion. On one side of the coin it is going to discourage people from quitting the game because then they are going to have this hanging round there neck like a FIFA albatross- I know one friend of mine in particular who is a terrible quitter that might think twice if everyone knew that he was a sore loser. On the other side of the coin, it might actually encourage people to quit in order to get this achievement to finish their 'collection.' It could also encourage people to just disconnect by turning their '360 off rather that go through the 'quit' option on the menu- depriving some people of a result.
I am not sure if this is the first time that achievements have been used in this way. They are visual representations of what you have done on-line that are accessible on the web and also via your xbox 360. They're permanent badges that show what you are about. To be labelled in a negative light- especially with an 'achievement' seems quite odd, but also strangely appealing to me.
I was thinking to myself this morning; I have considered myself to be a gamer my whole life. I have eagerly waited, as no doubt many others have done for birthdays and Christmases to get new games and consoles from the NES through to the N64, from Mortal Kombat 2 through to Lylat Wars, but for the past couple of years I have found myself sticking most of the time to the same on-line sports simulations.
It started with Mario Strikers Charged for the Wii that I somehow got addicted to and moved onto the FIFA games on the xbox 360. I have tried playing other on-line games such as World of Warcraft and FEAR on the PC, but I never connected with then and there is something about playing sports against other people on-line that really clicks with me. for the Does this make me a complete arsehole in the eyes of the on-line community?
I wonder this because it seems to be a badge of honour to have played more games than others and be knowledgable across a wide plethora of titles. Don't get me wrong I went out and bought games like 'Bioshock,' 'Super Mario Galaxy,' 'Fallout 3' and even downloadable stuff like 'Super Mario RPG', 'Megaman 9' and 'Braid' but most of those titles I have barely touched when at one point I would have played them to death. I just find myself wanting to play a quick game of on-line soccer and I feel slightly ashamed to say it.
I know that 'Madden' fans have this reputation in the States as being fanatical, beer swilling, sausage eating airheads that spend hours and hours just playing Madden and Madden alone. They sweat over their rankings, stats and enter leagues where they can win real-life money. I listen to Podtoid semi-regularly and listen to Reverend Anthony et al rip ten bells of piss out of Samit because he likes his NHL, NBA and Baseball games. I can't help but wonder if this is how the entire gaming community approaches people like me?
I suppose I can say that I am as knowledgable as anyone else when it comes to retro games. I am 27 years old and experienced playing Mario Bros, Duckhunt and even games like Megaman 2 and 3 when the games were brand spanking new, I remember the launch of the SNES, N64, Gameboy and Gamecube. My first ever console was actually an Atari 2600 with Defender 2 and Galaxian.
My tastes have just changed I suppose, but not only that so has my lifestyle. One of the rare games that I bought and played to death recently that didn't have a soccer ball in it was Resident Evil 5. I completed the game in about 5 days, playing after work. One of my colleagues also had the game and wanted to play a co-op mode on-line. I had heard that the co-op was pretty damn amazing, but despite this I felt that I just couldn't be bothered.
I think it is all to do with that quick 10-15 minute buzz that a sports game can give you when played on-line. The fact that every game is different because people use different teams, tactics and approach it in different ways. Even the abuse you get when you win or lose is something that makes me smile. I can do all this, fit in my house chores and even manage to sit and watch a movie with my fiance. So am I an arsehole or what?