Horizon: Zero Dawn: Amazing — one of my favourite games of recent years. It took over my whole life for about two months. Loved the action, loved the story.
12 Monkeys season 1: Entertaining enough that I’ve continued with season 2.
Westworld season 1: Very good! Just as Jonathan Nolan’s show Person of Interest looked at the intersection of surveillance and AI, and tried to figure out what the endgame was, with Westworld he looks at video games and AI and speculates about where that could go. It made me think a lot about the kind of games I enjoy playing, and the paths I like taking through them.
Iron Fist season 1: Bad, for all the reasons you’ve probably already heard about.
This gig had originally been scheduled for 11 October 2016, but was postponed because Josh Ramsey’s came down with laryngitis. When they started playing “Astoria” I was concerned about how this one was going to turn out, because his voice sounded rough and shaky. He warmed up quickly in the first two numbers, and was fine after that. Much jumping and prancing. Fiona had been quite shaky herself that day, and only decided to come along with me at the last minute. She made it all the way through the gig, though, and we had a good time. (As part of the inevitable merch haul, I got another signed drum head. Is this a thing that bands do now? If so, I’m totally fine with it.)
While Susan was visiting us this year, we took a trip to Berlin! I had never been there before, but had heard lots of good things about the city in recent years.
We flew to Schönefeld early on the morning of Thursday 27 April. We took a train into town, and met Abi on the way. (She had gone there a few days earlier for a conveniently timed work trip.) We had a hotel on Anhalter Str., just a couple of blocks away from Checkpoint Charlie. After dropping our bags, we walked round there, and had lunch at the McDonalds overlooking the checkpoint. (Rather: everyone else had McDonalds. I had a currywurst next door.) In the afternoon we took a bus tour to give us an overview of the city. Later in the evening, when everyone else was tired, Abi and I took a walk up to Potsdamer Platz and the Brandenburger Tor.
The next day, Abi and Fiona had booked themselves on a street art tour and workshop, while Alex and I visited the computer games museum. The following day Fiona was struggling, and she and I stayed in our room most of the day. In the evening Alex, Fiona, and I did make it out to see Guardians of the Galaxy at the Sony Centre, though. On Sunday Abi and I went out for a little wander before we checked out. Then we all then parked ourselves at a café opposite the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, from where we mounted various small expeditions until it was time to head to the airport for our flight back.
Overall impression: Berlin is a beautiful city, and I want to go back. The sensation of history of the place had a big impact on me while I was there. The city’s pride over being at the heart of modern European politics also shines through. Also, the scale of the place is huge. Some of the streets felt like they were built for giants, and underground stations often felt empty, like they had been built for a city with ten times the population. Thumbs down on Schönefeld airport, though. Nice public transport connections, but the facility itself is a hard-to-navigate dump.
Walking up the Bridges back to my B&B in Edinburgh late one evening in April I spotted activity on the High Street. Turns out a film crew was shooting scenes for the new Avengers film! I stood around behind the barriers for a while and watched the crew at work. Conclusion: 80% of your time on a big budget film set is spent standing around waiting for things to happen. Every now and then the marshalls would hear an announcement on their ear pieces and call for everyone to be quiet. The cameras were half-way down Cockburn Street, though, and the barriers were well up on the High Street, so I couldn’t see much. I caught a few glimpses of people in odd-looking uniforms with what looked like thin poles sticking up from their backs, but mostly I just found it fascinating to observe all the peripheral effort that was going on: wind machines being trundled around; a guy hosing down the street; the huge crane-mounted lighting rigs that must have made midnight look like daytime. Lots of pizza and food boxes being delivered for the crew. At one point a big black SUV with tinted windows passed by and the marshalls gave the crowd a big knowing grin. He didn’t say anything, though.
Fiona and I went to Vidcon Europe over the weekend of 8/9 April. It was at the RAI in Amsterdam, nice and close, so why not. We watched some panels, hung around in the lounge, and spent a lot of time queueing for the Meet & Greet sessions. We had four lines up, and Fiona got to have chats with Emma Blackery (who was really ill that day, but still put in a brave appearance), sWooZie (very chill), MatPat and Stephanie of the Game Theorists (hugely adored by their fans; a woman in line just ahead of us was in tears of excitement at meeting them.)
We got there early enough on the first day that there was no queue for the giant hamster ball inflatable thing, so we did that as well. Fiona made some new friends while drawing on the fan wall, and while we were waiting in lines. I enjoyed myself, but I was mostly there in my Con Dad persona (covering conferences now as well as concerts). It was interesting to watch lots of people wandering around vlogging themselves, talking into cameras, sometimes with a little entourage. Overall, though, the main impression I had was: where are all the people? The RAI is a huge venue, and the vast hangar-like space of the Europahal felt under-used and empty most of the time. Even for the headline sessions with big YouTube names, half of the seats in front of the main stage were unoccupied. My estimate is that there were maybe 2-3,000 attendees, which seems really low to be using a venue of that size. By contrast, the main Vidcon in LA pulled in around 25,000 people last year. I’ll be curious to see if they try again next year.