Engage Shock-Absorbing Franchise-Retaining Dampeners

It’s fair to say that we’re all getting pretty bored with the Halo series at this point, well, I am at least – even though I’ve somehow convinced myself to continue buying into the fiction, at least while Bungie remain part of the picture.

With Halo: Reach billed as Microsoft’s big Xbox 360 autumn release this year we’re poised to face yet another year of full-on Halo-bombardment: books, t-shirts, fridge magnets, energy drinks and even anime (look out for my thoughts on what could possibly be the best/worst cross-culture endorsement of the year, Halo Legends).

In the meantime though, let’s look back at the recent past to talk about the accompanying miniseries to Halo 3: ODST, Halo: Helljumper. This five-issue series was produced with sterling efficiency, under the capable efforts of writer Peter David and artist Eric Nguyen, especially compared to its cousin, Halo: Uprising.

Despite feeling as if anything meaningful the series had to say has been told already, I quite enjoyed this comic. Worst thing I’d say about it is that its big mystery turns out to be a bit of an anticlimax and just forces a customary close-shave-escape. Helljumper is really a buddy picture with the actors in sci-fi armour – and I’m a sucker for a good tale of friendship, bravery and survival against all odds. I also dig the rusty, mild colouring to Nguyen’s art, it has a great contrast to that of the game’s usual glowing auras. On one hand this is just more Halo, but on the other it is an exciting, short story of two best friends making their way in galaxy.

(Quick mention for Marvel’s excellent recap pages: I’ve been reading a lot of DC comics lately and many of the Marvel comics I’ve read, and browsed, feel more approachable for newcomers because of their recap pages. It’s not hard, it’s just commonsense. Recap pages are a good thing, so start using them DC!)

Winter Wonderland at Vancouver 2010

Over the past two weeks I’ve been trying (and failing) to keep up with as much of the 2010 Winter Olympics coverage as possible.

With the living room currently being occupied by a disagreeable CRT television and my housemates uneaten pizzas, I’ve been getting my Olympics fix from iPlayer. Watching an uninterrupted stream of luge, figure skating, short track skating, alpine skiing, curling, hockey, snowboarding and all the other icy sports has been thrilling.

Just witnessing these giants, the best of the best, at the top of their game is electric. And with such displays of skill, determination and surprise, it’s no wonder they only do this every four years. Success, tragedy and last minute shockers – it’s terrific.

So far my home nation has only managed to achieve one medal thanks to Amy Williams (gold in the women’s skeleton). But after only achieving two medals at the Winter Games four years ago in Turin, it’s a start. Our curling teams are pretty strong.

Again I’m amazed and thankful that today’s technology gives me more opportunities to keep track of the Games beyond just seeing them live on television. The atmosphere, and the ethos of the Olympics, has always been something I’ve greatly admired. It’s no ordinary sporting event, it brings the world together like nothing else.

Catching much of the action via iPlayer, the BBC Sport team – Hazel Irvine, Sue Barker and the rest of the presenters, commentators and production crew – have provided excellent coverage, with informative, fast-cut packages, diverse interviews and their signature high quality graphics.

Another way to be the First to Play

Last week, Future UK and SCEE announced, FirstPlay. Formerly known as OPM HD, this upcoming interactive magazine promises to provide users with “HD reviews and previews of the latest games from the Official PlayStation Magazine team, as well as exclusive access to downloadable content.”

Essential it’s the UK’s version of Qore, except on a weekly basis and minus Veronica Belmont. Episodes will cost a quid up-front or £8.99 for a three month subscription (that’s 12 episodes).

Living in the UK, I’m not sure how Qore has been received by gamers living in North America. Since the US PlayStation: The Official Magazine no longer comes with a cover disc I imagine people are content with getting their ‘official’ video fix via PSN.

Over here the situation is a little different. OPM still comes with a cover disc every month. OK, when compared to the PS2 era (cover discs used to come crammed with all sorts of pre-release demos, gameplay videos and informative behind-the-scenes features), the offerings these days are laughable slim. But, they’re still there.

With the service set for weekly release I’m very sceptical that they’ll be able to offer anything I haven’t seen already for free online. And whether they’ll be able to snap up meaningful exclusive downloads is another matter entirely. Did I also mention it has mandatory advertising?

I’ll probably give it a try upon its arrival, but I don’t think I’ll be following it beyond that. Thanks Future, but I think I’ll stick to your print magazines instead.

Disney’s Mickey Magic

When I came across this Game Informer cover I couldn’t help but admire the tantalising brilliance of its cover art, taken from Disney’s forthcoming Epic Mickey game. It takes me back to days of Fantasia and Paul Dukas’ ‘The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’. The distorted and dark colours are quite unlike Disney’s classic family friendly image. The game is currently confirmed for release on Wii. Not too sure about how it will play, but from an artistic perspective it is right up my street.

No Place for Black British Press?

As you might have seen, last week I was doing a placement at the Nottingham Evening Post. Well, after my horrendous experience with the general public on Thursday that week, I began to have a few concerns about the UK media industry and publics’ view of journalists from ethnic minorities.

To begin with media organisations can cite any higher education statistics they want, but the reality is there are still very few people studying journalism from ethnic minorities going on to careers in the mainstream media – especially in the nationals (take a look at this 2005 article from The Guardian).

Let’s take the newsroom at the Nottingham Evening Post, for instance. On a positive note, there were almost as many female reporters and editors around as male ones, which I believe is a good thing for the industry.

Everyone I had dealings with was friendly and gave me plenty of sound advice about the daily rigours of newspaper journalism.

However, the entire week I didn’t see one person from an ethnic minority, be they black, oriental or Asian. This was very sad considering Nottingham’s relatively high proportion of ethnic students.

The lack of people from ethnic backgrounds making it in the world of mainstream journalism is an issue I’ve wrestled with internally for some time, since beginning my quest to build a career as a writer and journalist.

There seems to be a low level of people from ethnic backgrounds enrolling in humanities courses. And of the keen, highly accredited few, barely any of them appear to be taken on by the editors of well known, national publications.

Over the last 20 years, the US media industry has diversified a lot more than the UK’s. But there is still need for improvement on both sides of the Atlantic. Thanks to the internet, I’ve been able to observe and learn from journalists, like N’Gai Croal (formerly at Newsweek) and Marc Cieslak. Deborah Gabriel, a black British journalist, has also written some poignant articles that have certainly struck a chord with me.

This isn’t something that’s going to change tomorrow, and it certainly won’t change unless I, and other likeminded upcoming journalists from ethnic backgrounds, continue to push for change.

Work Experience: Nottingham Evening Post

I recently completed a five-day placement at the Nottingham Evening Post, a local newspaper distributed throughout Nottinghamshire, with a regular print readership of 55,500.

Senior reporter, Sarah Gillett, was my main advisor at the Nottingham Post. During my time at the newspaper’s office, I undertook several stories and assignments independently. I called organisations and members of the public for quotes on news stories, took to the streets of Nottingham in search of vox pops and attended inquests and court cases. I also spent time with many of the other reporters and photographers, joining them on individual assignments throughout the week.

Some of the work I produced during my placement, from 8-12 February, 2010, has been published in print copies of the daily newspaper and its website.

From Teen to Anime Queen

I had to planned to make this a quick aside in one of my weekend posts, but then I decided it was just too absurd.

An Isle of Man teenager has become a Japanese popstar after skyrocketing to fame on everybody’s favourite Flash video site and copyright purveyors, YouTube.

Rebecca Flint, known by her fans as ‘Beckii Cruel’, has already been in chewing gum commercials, released a DVD of her energetic dances and performed live in Japan. She released her debut album (with two other anime-loving school friends) last week.

Usually I’m all for the internet giving power to the people. But when a 14-year-old girl, whose life has barely begun, becomes a massive celebrity in a matter of weeks, it makes me question exactly how fragile life is. Good luck, Miss Cruel, you’re going to need it.

WhyPad?

Last month Apple CEO, Steve Jobs, unveiled the ‘iPad’ in San Francisco to an assembled throng of worldwide press, technology experts and investors. The tablet had been rumoured for a long time. On first impressions I was rather underwhelmed by it. It seems to have lots of potential, but without certain features, like Adobe Flash and crucially the ability to multitask, I don’t see any reason in casting my laptop aside for what is being billed as both a mobile and desktop device.

I don’t own an iPhone, but having seen all the amazing things that can be done with them from friends and people in the tech community, I’m seriously considering getting one later this year. As a smaller portable device, an iPhone would allow me even more freedom to gather information when out reporting, write stories on the go and, of course, past the time with a bit of entertainment. It is exactly the kind of device I could do with right now and it’s a whole lot cheaper than the upcoming iPad.

Even if I haven’t quite taken to the iPad, I couldn’t help but get caught up in scouring the net for expert views on the device. Take a look at some reactions from other publications on the web:

Edge was unimpressed by the device, seeing the games shown “as scaled up versions of those produced for iPhone/iPod Touch with tweaked controls.” They can see its potential, but want to see games designed specifically for it.

Joystiq were a little more favourable, although were unsure about the specifics. “While the higher-resolution graphics and iPad-specific optimizations will surely result in better gaming experiences on the iPad, we’re not sure if existing owners of iPhone games will be interested in the perceived ‘iPad tax’ for an optimized version.”

The Guardian’s technology team had trouble defining what the device’s key purpose was, but did say: “While playing with the iPad was not exactly a religious experience, it’s not hard to see that the gadget, or at least the ideas it contains, will be with us for a long time to come.” Stephen Fry and Charlie Brooker also weighed in with their thoughts on Apple’s new device.

BBC Click thought the device could have a big impact on the publishing industry, yet pointed out that the system lacks USB ports, Adobe Flash support and can’t multitask. BBC News also took reactions from analysts.

The Gadget Show gave little steer on their opinion, saving it for a full review once they got their hands on the device.

PC Advisor though the iPad was “awkward to handle,” were disappointed with the touchscreen keyboard and were not especially pleased with the upscaled iPhone apps, calling it an “interim fix.” Though they gave the device a real grilling, they said unique software for the device could see them warm up to it.

TechRadar praised the devices wide ranging functionality and weren’t put off by its ergonomic design. They weren’t too hot on the touch keyboard due to a “lack of tactile feedback,” but said the iPad’s “potential for innovative software is through the roof.”

Develop presented a news story on the launch, but also took stock of what the development community thought about Apple’s latest tablet. Meanwhile, sister site, MCV, collected a number of reactions from the technology community.

Gizmodo gave the device the full works assessing its specifications, features, accessories and overall value for money. They swooned over the tablet’s speed and beautiful design. They also enjoyed the large, touchscreen, but were less positive about the keyboard and app compatibility.