Happy Birthday Will

Our youngest is five today. He’s been insanely excited about his birthday for months now and I’ve been concerned it couldn’t live up to his expectations. But his expectations aren’t anything other than the excitement of a day all about him – and he’s been giddy with joy all morning before heading to school.

It has been an interesting year for Will and us as it is his first year at school. He’s a bright, funny and outgoing boy but he’s also in many ways not a million miles away from the toddler he was. And when starting school I was nervous about his academic prospects – not because of any doubts regarding his abilities – but merely because he’s nearly a year younger than others in the reception class. After all, just three months before starting school he’d still been three.

I needn’t have worried. While he may be small and sometimes too trusting of his friends the one thing that hasn’t been a problem this year has been learning at school. He is a boy that’s always loved finding out new things – especially about dinosaurs, Star Wars and volcanoes. He has taken to learning to read with real enthusiasm and has really impressed us with his progress. We needn’t have worried – his reading ability at the end of his first year of school is as good as any in his school year.

I wanted to post today to mark the date, a date so special for our little boy. And it’s special to us too because it celebrates this bonkers bundle of cuteness and energy that is our baby boy. The little monkey has lit up my life. Happy Birthday William.

Driveclub, Forza Horizon 2 & Magic Computer Beans

This week’s announcement of Forza Horizon 2 for Xbox One has got videogamers on many forums spouting the same old rubbish we’ve heard time and again about frame rates. The nonsense intensified earlier today as Playground Games revealed Horizon 2 would run at 1080p30.

Come on guys, most of you are smarter than playing out this silly 60 vs 30 argument all over again. Playground Games has chosen to make this game 30fps, rather than 60fps. Why? Because it’s a good compromise for this kind of sim-lite open world action. You can put lots of silicon horsepower into making the game beautiful.

Could it be 60fps? Of course it could.

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What’s the point of games like Forza or Gran Turismo?

Here’s the great thing about games like Forza or Gran Turismo. What you should be trying to do is whatever you want. There isn’t a goal or aim, there’s no endgame. It is a toolbox for having fun with cars. Some people like to race online, others spend time tuning, taking photos, watching replays, some just paint, some just race against AI – or a combination of these.

I just like driving the cars. I fix on one for a while and will tend to hot-lap it in Rivals mode on my favourite tracks. I’m necessarily trying to beat the times of others – just learning and enjoying the car. I tend not to tune the car at first, but after a while will add some racing tires then maybe drive a bit more. Finally I’ll start adding parts.

This week I’ve been doing it with the original Mini. I started with it stock. Over the week it’s because a 4×4 race-turbo monster. And I’ve had a lot of fun flinging it around Circuit Le Sarthe.

The point of Forza (and GT and others) is having fun with cars. Each corner is an adventure. We scoff at phrases like “sense of speed”, people complaining that Silverstone is dull (because it’s not a neon lit adventure world) and obsessions about the number of spacial dimensions a spectator.

The gaming industry has become a crack dealer. People expect to be given things all the time. Unlock, unlock, unlock – a never ending reward of sweets for the rats in the box pressing the button in a Pavlovian frenzy. And so people play shitty games thinking these games are exceptional – as they are fed unlock, reward, flashing light, bonus after bonus.

But there are still places in gaming, all too few, where playing the game is its own reward. Even here things are being squeezed – the tears of a million non-playing crybabies bemoaning having to acquire skills – means the Forza economy has been rendered meaningless. But a truth remains, pick a car you love, a track with some thrilling corners and go out there and enjoy them. There’s a purity and thrill there that most games with their gaudy killstreak trinkets couldn’t match.

Just have fun.