Aug 18

Pop-up Churchill

If that article title doesn’t get me a few additional clicks from the lonely perverts out there, there’s no justice. ANYWAY – if you happen to be a fan of no-doubt-going-to-be-shortlived, bad, one-note Tumblr blogs with bad photoshop (and who isn’t?) head on over to my new project: Pop-up Churchill.

WHY? I hear no-one ask. Because in the generally poor, steaming heap of what-the-fuck-were-they-thinking that made up the London 2012 Olympics closing ceremony, the image of Timothy Spall as Churchill popping out of the top of Big Ben’s clocktower stands out as an unintentionally amusing high point for me. More so because the fact is that it looks like a really ropey Photoshop job, BUT SO ISN’T.

You can make your own, you know. Just head on over and do better than me (won’t be hard).

 

Mar 04

Is it just me, or are trailers for video games nowadays getting a bit heavy on the music? I don’t know what first brought this to mind, but when I looked back at the trailer videos for a few games that had caught my eye recently I noticed that they all followed a similar pattern: lots of frenetic action, overlaid with a song. No (or very little) sound from the game, nothing to really set the mood, get interest in the story…just visuals and an (occasionally piss-poor) track playing along.

Take, for example, Assassin’s Creed: Revelations:

Or, the upcoming Aliens: Colonial Marines game, which I keep trying to tell my inner eight-year old self will be alright to play (he doesn’t believe me):

Gears of War 3 even managed two! First one:

Second one:

Even giant robots get into the swing of things, with the recent Fall of Cybertron trailer giving it the full “Merriman Weir” treatment:

All of which isn’t a massive problem – game makers can, of course, present their games however they like without referring them to a balding misanthrope in central Scotland for final approval on the marketing front. What strikes me as odd about the whole thing, though, is the fact that almost all games nowadays are far more involved than the relatively simple things that I believe most people think of when you say the words “video games”, where one pushes buttons to make a rotund Italian plumber jump up and down. They are stories, they build up narratives, they let the player make choices, become immersed in the world, familiar with the characters and, I would argue, the end result is that the player cares about the characters and situations they are playing through on screen. I can’t help but think that this process might be helped if the trailers let some of that come across, instead of bludgeoning us with some fairly intrusive music while allowing tiny little bits of sound from the game peep through in the background occasionally.

To defend my point, compare the Fall of Cybertron trailer above with the trailer for the first game – War for Cybertron – below:

Look at that. More importantly, listen to that. The two main characters in the game get dialogue. They set out, very quickly, the differences between the good guys and the bad guys. They set a tone, you get an interesting hook into the story, you see that underneath the whole giant-robots-fighting malarkey there might be the core of a decent sci-fi story in there, one that you might get to take part in if you hand over the ready cash*. It gives the voice artists a chance to shine, and builds a far more complete picture of what sort of game you might be buying in a few weeks / months. Compare that to the trailer for the second game – what do you get from that? The yellow thing looks hurt because its eyes look a bit flickery, and the sudden urge to buy some real ale. That’s about it.

I’m not saying that music shouldn’t play a part in game trailers – it should – but to me the trailer for a game should make me want to buy the game instead of making me want to nip onto Google and find out what was the name of that track playing all through the bloody thing.

 

* Plus, one of the characters BACKHANDS A MISSILE. Even for a giant robot, that’s fucking hardcore and should function as a selling point for anyone.

Nov 13

Jedward, watch out

In honour of the words of wisdom left on my GAME: Take It, or Leave It open letter by “weareallhuman”, I felt I had to put together the above based on a line from his comment.

Sorry if this seems like I’m taking the piss. It’s probably because I am a wee bit. But don’t blame me – we are all human, after all.

EXTRA BONUS – click on the image and get to see the full-size version. Baayybbeeeee!

Nov 12

Be seeing you!

I suppose I knew it had to come. The last email between me and GAME over the “Take it or leave it” shopping trip from hell. Well, the last one unless I keep things going. Which I’m not going to, mainly because I think that’s a path that can only end with me being filmed for a BBC documentary. The sort of documentary where I have a camera crew watching me as I go about my day, gleefully filming the boggling eyes, wild hair, piss-stained trousers and suitcases full of printouts of emails from GAME (who are currently selling the AppleSoft HyperCube X3400). So this is it. That’s that. Done and dusted.

As stated previously the apology made is on behalf of the company.

Again, please rest assured the comments you have made have been highlighted at the very highest level and our staff are hand picked to offer the very highest standards of customer service and as such your feedback has been taken very seriously.

I am certain that Macmillians will appreciate the donation and it was a really nice gesture on your part.

I hope you have a good weekend.

Kindest Regards

And so there we go. I’m amazed that so many people tweeted about this, retweeted, sent messages of support, wrote a story on a games website (!), commented, re-commented and everything else. Amazed and very, very grateful. And tons of other things (including amused at being called a dick, a bitch and a queen in the same conversation). But mainly amazed, grateful, heartened and more convinced than ever that there are some really cool people out there in the world. Huzzah!

Nov 12

Bernard hears of a customer with only one receipt

So last night I was trying to decide whether to continue on in my communications with GAME Customer Service, or just leave it. In the end I went for both. I thought I should dash off a last email, to wrap things up. So here it is – a bit late, but I actually started playing Modern Warfare 3 tonight. Dunno why but my enthusiasm for it was a bit reduced the last few days!

Thanks for your email. The donation to Macmillan is great, and I’m happier with that than I would have been trudging to the bank to cash in a £5 cheque and having to find something to do with a goodie bag! (beyond, of course, look a bit awkward).

I’ll admit I’m less than happy about the idea of not getting an apology from the manager directly. If you’re telling me it’s really not a possibility then I’ll have to accept that and hope I’m not being fobbed off, but it would have been good. As someone pointed out on the comments to my open letter, it’s possible that on paper (by sales figures etc) this guy looks brilliant and quite possibly is going about his work believing he was perfectly in the right. A word from him to acknowledge otherwise…well, like I say, it would have been nice.

As I said, thanks for all your help with this. My dealings with you, the staff running the @Gamedigital twitter account, your CEO and even dear old Kenan have been great. I’ve even been chatting to a couple of GAME employees on Twitter and they’re nice people and have been helpful and interested in the case. That said it only takes one guy to spoil the overall impression of you as a company. Well, two, as one GAME employee has commented on the letter saying they would have done the same thing as the manager, but who’s counting?

If I don’t hear from you before close of play today, have a good weekend.

Regards

So there we go. I think closure is fast approaching. And at least the second GAME employee who would do the same as the manager didn’t call me a dick. Someone else did, though. Twice in the one comment. I like to think the commenter was trying to be helpful and remind me, so that when I get to the end of the comment I can click my fingers and go “Oh that’s right, I’m a dick. Good to know.”

Nov 10

Jim'll Fix Themanager

After all of that, a last email of the day from GAME customer service!

Thank you for your email.

I have requested a cheque for £50.00, this will be sent to Macmillans as soon as possible.

The apology that has been made is on behalf of the business, which includes myself and the Store Manager concerned.

I was pleased to learn that we have gone someway to restoring your faith.

Kind Regards

Which is a bit shorter than the previous one, but I’m not going to worry too much about that. It’s streets ahead of “Take it or leave it” so I’m hoping this is a progression of sorts. All of which leaves me with a bit of a decision: I would really have liked to have got an apology from Mister Themanager himself. I feel strongly about this because he’s the one who did wrong and while Customer Service Lady is doing her job to be Themanager’s Ambassador, it’s not what I was after. It’s like being hoofed in the knackers by someone and then getting a phone call later that night from their Auntie Doris (who lives in Melbourne) to say sorry.

On the other hand, I don’t want to start being a dick who’s constantly firing off emails left, right and centre, so I am tempted to let the matter lie at that, with (I think) 4 out of the 5 things I asked for in my open letter having been achieved. As always, open to thoughts, comments, feedback etc on what you would do, but I’m leaning to the “leave it” if I am honest.

Actually, this could be fun, like one of those old “Make Your Own Adventure” books. “If you would like to continue to complain to customer services, turn to page 43. If you would like to go back to the shop, shout a rude word and backflip out of the shop and up Sauchiehall Street, farting all the way like an obscene human catherine wheel, turn to page 99.” You could even sell them in GAME sh-oh, never mind.

Nov 10

SHERBERT EYES!!!!!!!

And fresh from that response, I muddied up my iPad screen (Why, Steve? Why? IT LOOKS SO NICE AND THEN YOU HAVE TO TOUCH THE SCREEN TO MAKE IT WORK!) by picking out the following missive. Oh how nimbly my fingers danced, fuck-ugly handsausages skipping across the glass!

Again, thanks for your response – I appreciate the time you’re taking to get back to me on all of this.

I’m happy to go with your assurance that the complaint is being taken seriously, so I suppose the meeting with the Regional Manager isn’t needed. That was down as an “if possible” on my letter anyway.

And thank you so much for taking up the suggestion for the donation – much appreciated, and if you could let me know when that’s done that would be fantastic. Please don’t misunderstand me, the offer of the goodie bag was much appreciated but I’m not the goodie bag sort of guy. You should have seen the trouble my wife had getting me to buy a man-bag for work. Weeks, that took her. Weeks.

The only thing I’m still unwilling to let go (and I’m really, really sorry to keep coming back to this) is the apology from the store manager himself. I don’t know how possible this is but I would hope that since there seems to be a fairly clear acknowledgement coming from GAME (from the CEO, to your office, staff on twitter etc) that something has gone wrong, it might be something worth considering. I apologised to Kenan *before I left the shop* because I felt I had put him on the spot in a less than ideal situation on his first day, so I don’t think an apology from the manager is too big an ask.

Let me know if this sounds ok. Again, thanks for the help and for the many responses. My faith isn’t completely restored but at least now it’s not lying on the ground whimpering, missing its wallet. :-)

Regards

So the Regional Manager face-to-face is out. Which is a pity, because I wouldn’t have minded meeting him/her to have a chat about this whole thing. Ah well. They did something nice by agreeing to the donation. In terms of faith in GAME I’m still more of an atheist, but small steps!

P.S. The man-bag? Took her weeks, but now I love it. All men should have a man-bag. They’re the future, I’m telling you.

Nov 10

I sense him...Themanager is near!

Next instalment of the GAME response/response to response/response to response to response response-a-palooza can be found below! Once again, no fictional spice, or even real spice is involved. No Spice Girls, Girl Power, Girls Aloud or Gil Gerard either. Just me, a “bingbong” sound from my iPad and the email below:

Thank you for your response.

Please rest assured that we have taken your complaint very seriously, the matter has been highlighted at the very highest level within the business and a formal investigation is currently underway, both the Regional and Divisional Manager are involved in the investigation.  As I said yesterday any customer communication would be handled by myself.  But I can give you an absolute assurance that the points you have made by email are being addressed.

I am more than happy to make a donation to Macmillian Cancer Support as you have suggested and I will confirm when this is done.

There is no doubt at all that the service you have described is very disappointing and I would like to assure you that as part of the investigation we will review our current processes and ensure that any opportunities to improve our service offering are captured.

I would like to thank you for taking the time to bring this matter to our attention and hopefully my actions have gone someway to restoring your faith in GAME.

Kind Regards

I’m not sure whether the Divisional or Regional Manager is bigger, but I expect to hear any moment that GAME have sent a squad of peacekeepers into Glasgow to help out while Divisional and Regional Managers wrestle in jelly to sort out the pecking order.

Good news is that Macmillan are getting their £50, which is excellent news and means that some good has come out of all of this. Just to be clear I really didn’t want to be ungrateful for the offer of the goodie bag. I just really didn’t want a goodie bag, and this was the first thing that popped into my head when the offer of something to restore my faith was put on the table.

ANYWAY! More to come!

Nov 09

Image, BBC. Spinning bowtie, author's own

And after GAME’s response to me, my response to GAME. If any of you have an allergy to fictional spice…well, don’t worry, none of that here!

Thank you for getting back to me on this, I appreciate your response.

Also, thanks for the apology. I have gone over what happened last night a few times in my head and while I did challenge the position being put to me, don’t think that I was unreasonable or rude in any way or at any point and didn’t intend for it to be a problem. If I needed both bits of paper and the manager had confirmed this, fine and dandy, but he didn’t. He immediately went on the attack and closed off any other route to a solution. I don’t even think I was pompous or arrogant, but perhaps those words are a case of “least said, soonest mended”.

I’m not sure why the manager didn’t explore other solutions to the problem with me, especially as tweets received from a GAME staff member indicate that there’s a simple enough one that could have been used (claim the £5 back within 28 days of release – seems easy enough).

I’m pleased that the matter is being looked into but would still, if possible, like to meet with the regional manager to discuss the issue in person. I understand that GAME will need to investigate and take any appropriate steps internally and that I don’t have any business hearing about those – fair enough – but I feel strongly that the treatment I received was unacceptable and would like the opportunity to get this across in person if at all possible. I don’t for a minute think that my emails will be ignored but there are times when emails do the job, and times when you want to see someone and talk to them face-to-face. This is a face-to-face sort of thing.

Your gesture of a goodie bag is appreciated, but really not necessary. Tell you what, if you want to go about restoring my faith in GAME, take the price of one copy of MW3, stick my £5 refund onto it, and get GAME to donate £50 to Macmillan Cancer Support: http://www.macmillan.org.uk/ – if you do that, we can talk a little more about my faith and it’s current level of restoration! :-)

I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, I really don’t, but I don’t want extras or anything out of this beyond the apologies I mentioned on my initial letter. The apology from the manager is my sticking point – while I want the company to apologise (and I know, you already have, and thank you) when it comes down to it, *he* did wrong and he needs to make that right. Or at the very least acknowledge that he did wrong.

Anyway, thank you for your help with this. I look forward to your response and still hold the faint hope that some element of this might yet involve the Saville-related flourish I mentioned in my letter!

I know it probably makes me sound like a complete arse, but I want that apology. As the CEO of GAME has been tweeting me about this and assures me that “lessons will be learned”, might this not be a good point for him to lead by example and issue an apology from his office? And while he’s at it, maybe ask one of his managers to apologise for so mismanaging a situation with a reasonable customer? God knows, in the (depressingly many) times in my life when I have been a dick I have always managed to do the right thing, go back and say sorry even though it was pretty far down the list of things I would like to do.

So let’s see it. You want my faith in GAME restored? Let’s see them satisfy one of the first lessons my mum and dad taught me – you do wrong, you say sorry.

Nov 09

Whaddaya gonna do?

So I wrote to Game about my poor experience from their Sauchiehall Street branch. To be honest, wasn’t expecting the response I got. What started out as a single open letter quicky became retweet after retweet, replies, offers of support, suggestions, phone calls from GAME customer service and even tweets from the company CEO. Along the way there were some amazingly nice things said by some amazingly cool people on Twitter. OK, so one guy called me a little bitch. Another, an OTT drama queen. One more accused me of writing an account of the situation “spiced with fiction” but I’m less worried about him as the temporary wormhole connecting us to 1922 will have died out by now.

Anyway, to the response! I got a couple of phone calls and several emails from a lady in GAME customer service. She was very nice, very understanding and very good to deal with. I am going to assume her surname was not Themanager. Here is her response:

Thank you for your patience.

May I begin by apologising for your disappointment, as a company that prides itself on the standard of service offered it is always  disappointing to receive feedback such as this.

The service you have described falls way short of the high standards we would expect and as I indicated earlier your comments have been forwarded to the Regional Manager responsible for the Glasgow store.  The Regional Manager will investigate your concerns and address the service issues you have raised.

Please rest assured your concerns has been highlighted at the very highest level within the business and your complaint has been taken seriously.  The result of the investigation will remain confidential, as a result of the investigation any remedial action necessary will be addressed by our field HR team or the Regional Manager where appropriate.

Our pre-order process and releases such as MW3 are very important to us and we would always want any customer experience to be a positive one, and I am really sorry that this was not the case.  I have shared your comments regarding the process we have in place for receipts with our Operations Team.

If you would be kind enough to send me your mailing address I will arrange for a cheque for £5.00 to be posted to you, by way of refund for your deposit.  It is important to us that customers feel that their feedback has been addressed and as a gesture of goodwill I would like to offer you a MW3 branded goodie bag.

Once again I am sorry for your disappointment, and I hope that my response has gone someway to restoring your faith in GAME. I look forward to hearing from you.

All of which is very nice, and I appreciate her taking the time to write back to me. It doesn’t cover what I am looking for, though (and Christ alone knows what I would do with a goodie bag) so I’m in the process of putting together my response. Which will, of course, be posted up here. Will it be spiced with fiction? Liberally sprinkled with the special sauce of wit? Coated in the odd-looking brown sauce of wry observation? I AM NOT TELLING.