A Sullen Sunday

The football season is barely underway, and things already feel like they’re falling apart.

Usually I have a few things to say about gaming and movies, but I’d like to express some thoughts around one of my other obsessions: Arsenal.

Today Arsenal lost to Liverpool away 4-0. It was by no means a unicorn moment, it was not an aberration, even though it was utterly abhorrent. Honestly, I was expecting a loss. I was hoping it wouldn’t be this devastating, but it was. I thought maybe it would reflect last season’s 3-4 or something. Not this.

A lot of people are baying for Wenger’s blood. “Wenger Out” is trending again.
Let’s be realistic. That’s not going to happen any time soon. I think things would have to get extremely awful for him to get fired before his brand-spanking new contract until 2019 expires. Look at how things got toward the end of last season, at the worst period in Arsenal’s recent history. The owner didn’t care then, and he won’t now.

I love Arsene Wenger. He is simply no longer the right man for the job, and the current evidence suggests that he hasn’t been for some time. He has done a lot for this club, but to be a bit trite: “you either die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself become the villain“. The expiry date is off, and we all know the board and owner will do nothing as things currently stand.

Today’s selection was indicative of the shitstorm to come. Once again Wenger “indulged” Ox, playing him at right wing-back, putting Bellerin and left wing-back. Lacazette and Kolasinac were both left on the bench, in a decision that will haunt my nightmares this week. Welbeck was started behind Sanchez, boggling the mind as to what was going on. The partnership of Ramsey and Xhaka continued, unabated. The only morsel of positive team selection was the inclusion of two actual, bona fide centre-backs. So much for that, right?

Let’s start at the top. Why the hell is the manager accommodating a player who has rejected the latest contract offer. Sell him, it’s okay. It’s clear now that Ox and Arsenal’s paths are splitting, and the manager needs to accept this. We can live without him, and I wish him the best wherever he goes. Why was he started? Anyone could have told you that selecting Bellerin at right wing-back and Kolasinac at left would have been preferable. Why was Sead left out? We needed our tank today.

Honestly, it feels like Wenger is sabotaging the 3 at the back formation. His selection lately has been all wrong, non-centrebacks playing in that position, right-sided players played on the left. It’s as if he’s engineering the moment he can change back to 4 at the back and say: but see, that formation wasn’t working. Of course, I think I might be slightly paranoid. And I’m not as concerned about our formation as I am by our ability to perform at the highest level anymore.

Why would a manager self-sabotage like this? The post-match fallout included the usual contrite messages from the club and player. The quotes from Wenger enraged me somewhat. He says our performance wasn’t to standard. No shit Sherlock. When your team selection is that poor, on a team already lacking form and confidence, what could you possibly expect?

I by no means want to sound like I think our problems are as easily fixable as the change of a formation and playing the right players in their correct positions, although that wouldn’t hurt.

As an Arsenal fan I’m vacillating violently between apoplectic anger and morose depression. This was one match, but it’s indicative of the deep-seated issues at Arsenal at the moment. This isn’t “more of the same”. This isn’t a cycle. This is a downward spiral.

We won’t fix this in the transfer window, what there is left of it. I don’t know how we’ll fix it. I’m sure there will be some kind of upward swing. The players will rally, the manager will put another band-aid over the continental rift, and things will be fine for the 10 matches needed to finish in the top 10 at the end of the season. There are familiar elements, but this is like walking down the hallway in P.T. Things get progressively grubbier and scarier every time you walk down the hallway. When will we turn the corner and see the scary dead lady? Who knows.

As an Arsenal fan I will stick by my club, but I’m also going to wait this out. I’m going to have to accept that things are simply shit now. Maybe the next manager, when (if) he comes along in 2019, will be able to pick up the pieces and start the process of rebuilding. Hopefully we’re not too far-gone by then. I would really like to see Arsenal win the league before I turn 40. I don’t see it happening before my 30th, that’s for sure.

The facts are before us gentlemen: we are a formerly big club. We are no longer. A big club would have a new manager by now. A big club would have been decisive in the market and would have tied down their star players before the last 12 months of their contracts started. That, or sold them and replaced them as needed. One day I hope Arsenal can be a big club once again, but until then I will accept where we are. I’m not happy with it, but I do want to stay sane.

I expect we’ll all wake up tomorrow, and maybe it won’t sting as much. Maybe I will look back on this post as a strong reaction to a single game, but I don’t know anymore. How many times will be allow ourselves as fans to be burnt without learning?

One last thing: don’t see this in anyway an attempt to take away from Liverpool what was a great performance. I look at that team this season with envy. Blistering atatcks, high-octane football. Are they perfect? No, but they’re worlds better than we are.

In the end, I know this is just football. But I am a fan after all. I’m a Gooner for life.
Wow. That’s quite depressing.

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Saturated Dreams

Good golly! I really am terrible at maintaining an allegedly daily blog! What am I to do about my lax attitude?
Probably not much. Prepare for more of the same, if you happen to stop by here.

I’ve had a lot on my mind lately, especially about Lawbreakers. I think I should give some feedback about that imminently. For now, my concerns are about the game’s longevity.

The media has become a powerful influence on public opinion. The games media is no different. And they don’t seem to be favouring Lawbreakers and its chances.
I can understand why.
It’s  saturated market for shooters. With the likes of Overwatch dominating the “hero shooter” space in the public consciousness, it’s difficult to tell people that Lawbreakers is in any way unique or worthwhile. Not because it isn’t, but because it’s difficult to change such a wide perception once it takes root. Which, of course, is a crying shame.

The game is excellent by the way. It marries the class-based concept of a hero shooter, with the classic fast-paced setting and mechanics of an arena shooter. The feedback loop is incredibly gratifying, but I’ll leave my full impressions for another post.

I anticipate that I will be more active on this blog in the next few days, purely because I intend to take a week off from gaming.

Speaking of oversaturation, my life has been dominated by Battlefield 1 since its release in October last year. Especially during the first portion of this year, acting as a coping mechanism when getting home from my previous job. Of course, I have no regrets. I adore this game. However, after almost 450 hours of playing it, attempting to play a casual league with my platoon buddies, and just not getting away from it, I need a break. I’ve already achieved a week of no Battlefield 1, so here’s to another without any games.

I finished Hellblade some time last week, in between enjoying my time with Lawbreakers and actively avoiding Battlefield. I should have a post relatively soon on my impressions on that too.

Now, enough of this show and tell section. Next week I’ll be writing and reading and watching and who knows what.

I’ll leave you with this to keep you company before my next post.

Terrific Tuesday

This weekend ended on a great note, with Arsenal beating Chelsea in the Community Shield. I could go on at length about that, but today’s post is about something else.

Continuing the theme of happiness, today is a great gaming day! Both Hellblade and Lawbreakers released today. I’ve spent a small amount of time with both, and I’m extremely happy with what’s on offer here.

First, Lawbreakers. I played the open beta, and the game impressed me. The gameplay is extremely rewarding, the skill curve is demanding and challenging while not being inaccessible. And one of my favourite features is that it has a functional netcode.

Thanks to there being no African servers (I honestly don’t expect any, so don’t read any bitterness there), my ping sits at a jittery 200 on a good match and 300 on a bad one. Despite this, the game isn’t unplayable, and I find myself still able to keep up with what’s happening. Judging by my average KD and objective score, I don’t think my ping affects my opponents negatively either, so that’s another relief.

The gameplay is so satisfying, that I often don’t get too hot in the face when losing or being killed. The game has an air of pure fun about it, and that’s one of the biggest pros in its favour. I’ll be playing some more, and putting more in-depth thoughts down in a week or so.

Next, Hellblade. I’ve been looking forward to this game since I first saw the trailer during E3 2015. When I briefly delved into reviewing games, I viciously fought for the right to review it (haha, oh well). This and Horizon Zero Dawn are probably my two most anticipated PS4 exclusives of this generation, and they’re both out now.

I’ve also been following Ninja Theory’s Developer Diary for Hellblade almost religiously. It’s been amazing following the transformation of this game as it has taken shape, seeing the studio’s approach to making a “AAA game on an indie budget”.

I’ve played the intro, and I’ve not gotten far at all. I wanted to go to sleep and be rested for the playthrough, so that’s also going to take place over the next few days.

However, my first impressions are quite positive. The game is gorgeous, as advertised. It’s best played with headphones, the better to hear the voices in your head with. I spent about 15 minutes playing as soon as the game unlocked after midnight, and the glorious views on offer made me spend most of my time in the photomode. Of course, I’ll be savouring the game’s story as much as the vistas.

There’s a lot to look forward to, with two excellent offerings during an otherwise quiet August. I’ll have more tomorrow.

The Triple Two

One of the major upsides of having a blog with virtually no readership (sorry if you’re the one person who reads this, I swear: you count in my eyes) is that if I forget to post for almost two weeks, nothing happens.

Anyway, I’m back. Again. Haha.

Yesterday was a big day in footballing news. Neymar was sold to PSG for €222 million. Yep. I find this scary and amazing.
While I’m a footballing fan, I’m no expert, and my opinion here means little. I do think this is ridiculous and exorbitant. I worry about world football and what this rapid inflation means for it. Player prices and salaries have skyrocketed. I have as much economical nous as a mole in a hole, but even I can see this doesn’t seem sustainable.

Frankly, €222 million (it’s over R3.5 billion, just in case any of my fellow South Africans were wondering) is more than I can fully comprehend. Yes, I understand the number 222. I understand a million. When you put 222 millions together, then my brain reckons you’ve gone ’round the bend. Come on.

This is where I make one of my unwelcome analogies between two things I love. Having caught up on gaming history over recent years, I learnt about the gaming crash of the 1980s. Keeping this in mind, I worry that football might see a similar crash. If you follow the history of football, you can see from the very beginning the amounts of money in professional football were terrifyingly high. It’s just an interesting thought, because I have no idea where this will lead. With even the prices of average players reaching ridiculous levels, how can this be maintained?

Kyle Walker for £50 million was an abomination, but it was merely indicative. We can blame the Premier League’s TV money, but I don’t think that’s the only thing to blame.

Anyway, let me venture back from things I have little right to speak about. Neymar is a good player, PSG might very well have bought him at a bargain in a relative sense, but it doesn’t change the fact that they just spent what is objectively more money than most of us will ever see in our lives.

In other news, the gaming world continues to excite and we’ll be coming off the “Summer Slump”, which was surprisingly eventful this year. Lawbreakers and Hellblade are two notable releases next week. I’m looking forward to both, so I’ll provide feedback on those when I can.

I played the Lawbreakers beta over last weekend, and the game looks promising. The skill curve is high, and I’m looking forward to the challenge of learning the classes. Class-based shooters are easily one of my favourite genres. It’s inevitable that people compare things to more popular things, so unfortunately Lawbreakers has been saddled with the Overwatch-like label. One I personally resent, because of my numerous issues with Blizzard’s over-hyped hero shooter. I think those thoughts are for another day.

On its own merit, Lawbreakers follows a familiar formula for class-based arena shooters, with class-specific abilities that rely on cool-downs. What I love about it, however, is the fact that the game throws you in the deep end. No hand-holding. It can be tough, and it will require a combination of skill, reflexes, and strategy. But let me stop gushing now, and leave that for the full release.

Until next time.