Glasgow, Again

I haven’t written a blog post on here in over a month and a half. It has been for many reasons; Connie’s mom was here. My sister got married. I have been sleepy and tired. And, after three years in England, Connie, Joni, Etta and I moved back to Glasgow.

The decision to move is borne from a few different things; namely, our life in England was not working out when compared to the way that we felt when we were in Glasgow, and mostly it was because we wanted to live in the city again.

This won’t be news to you who are close to us. But the story is long and started way back in Late 2016.

But it’s not for posting on here.

What will change is the stories this blog will tell. And they are going to come thicker and faster than before.

Rocket League: Some Thoughts 2

In November I got Rocket League and I played it a lot until I got Zelda. After playing Zelda for near 100 hours and enjoying every second of it, Connie got me Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, which is hard as nails but brilliant. And once I got stuck, I went back to Rocket League.

The break was needed. As I said in the first post, I left it because it was causing me stress. It's a brutally difficult game, with other players playing better than you and worse than you on every match up, and slight discrepancies in ability can derail an entire play session.

When I came back to it, I found that all my hard work to get rankings had been wiped out, and I had to "place" again. This is the method in which Rocket League gives you a few players worse than you, and then better than you, over ten matches and ranks you based on how well you play in those matches, and then you're placed based on that. In Standard more (that's team based 3vs3) I was ranked Silver. That felt about right.

The ranking is a black box and necessarily so, to prevent folk "gaming" the system. It does meant that results are pretty important and a streak of wins or loses will affect your rank deeply, which can be frustrating if you're on a bad run.

When I came back I found that a few of my skills had been wiped out - jumping was something I had to relearn, as was some of physics of the game. But what had also changed was my mindset, and I found that I was enjoying playing really strongly right up to the point where I wasn't.

One night, I managed to crack Silver III, Division 4. This is the "highest" division in the Silver tier before Gold, a level I'd never reached. The run I had been on was incredible, and I felt good. I went to sleep, excited to take the streak further. The next day however, I got a bad run of matches and lost a lot. That one night, I think I lost fourteen games in a row, some through terrible play, others through folk quitting out on me, and it felt distinctly unfair. I dropped all the way to Bronze. That's a big drop.

It was infuriating. I was angry I'd lost all that hard work, and reasoned the game had failed me, and I was losing not because of my own ability, but the lack of the other players. They were holding me back.

And then, after a long conversation with Connie about how I sound when I play the game, I realised that I'd gone full circle without realising it. I'd gone back to the place where I'd ended up the first time I'd got obsessed with the game, and found it detrimental to my mood. I wasn't having any fun anymore, again! What an idiot.

So I decided to change. I read online best new tactics that "Pros" use, and decided to start using them. These include

  • Defending. I went and read a lot about skills needed to be a good goalie. One of my main frustrations was that any time I'd go up front to take a play, and fail, the other team mates would have invariably followed me up too, in an aggressive play, leaving us wide open. I decided that if the two other players are doing that, then maybe I shouldn't. We started winning a lot more games when I learned to do that.
  • Goalie Skills. In tandem with the above I needed to actually be good at saving goals. This is a skill the game doesn't lend it's self to, and it takes  a lot of failure to get it "right". So I went into the training and did a lot of aerial and goalie work, and now feel comfortable to sit back and save shots from a lot of random angles.
  • Reading the Play. Positioning in all sports is key, and in Rocket League it is a very interesting aspect that many players just don't care about. They will steam about the arena ball chasing, but if you anticipate you can be where the ball will likely end up and get a quick shot off, while everyone else is not ready.
  • Bumping other players. This is a skill I hated before I realised how powerful it is. When defending, it's neat to be able to jump up and knock the ball out of the air, but instead what confuses other players more is if you just budge their car away from the possession, because they won't even know what hit them quite literally.
  • Slowing Down. Early on, one fo the key skills I learned that confused a lot of players is if you slow down. Stop boosting everywhere and getting ahead of the play, and instead just sitting nearby, in high pressure situations, and let the rest of the team mates or opponents "whiff" the ball - that is to miss it. Then you can be there to pass or dink it in.
  • Aerials. This is the holy grail of Rocket League skills, and I'm just getting the confidence to do it. Jumping is easy, but there are all manners of tricks that Pros do to get air on the ball, jumping off the roof and off the walls to score goals and play passes. I'm working on it, and getting there.

All of this would be for nought if it wasn't making the game fun, but it is. I am getting better, and results are getting better in turn, and so is my rank. After being down at Silver I Div 2 for weeks, bouncing around, I've slowly dragged myself back to Silver 2 Div IV and maybe higher. But now even if I lose I feel like I've made progress.

This also adds to my mental state when playing; I've entered a new zen-like state. I'll still mutter "oh, for fucks sake" when someone does something wrong sure, but I don't get angry and try to avoid frustration. Any game I'm losing - it's a learning experience.

That's why I love Rocket League again, after hating it again.

The Age of Ignorance

I am someone who loves to read shit on the internet. Connie would rightly contend that not only is it my favourite past time, surpassing the Nintendo Switch, reading books, and watching TV, but something that I waste my life doing. I read Twitter with folk tweeting about ambient music, and read forums that talk about music here and there, and love to read articles on subjects that I find interesting.

I'm the epitome of someone who live within an echo chamber. I follow people who believe similar things to me, read and share similar articles to me, and like similar video games, dogs, and music to me. So my curated list of things I see on a daily basis are things I want to see.

But I know this.

I know that there is a whole world out there of people who are the anti-me, who blame immigrants for their problems getting jobs, or the lack of services when they go to the NHS. They see the anti-Semitism row rolling through the Labour party and wonder "when will they think about me?". They believe Brexit is a taking back of control that we desperately need and cannot fathom how it could possibly be bad for this, our Great Britain. They read articles by Boris Johnson and wonder how anyone could disagree with someone just "saying what the man on the street thinks".

And they, like me, get fed a personalised feed of articles backing this up. They see real articles, in real newspapers, confirming this view point to them. On top of that, they see posts by other people who believe this sent into their feeds. And to cap it all off they also get the new Fake News micro-adverts and micro-articles being syringed with medical precision into their feeds, confirming even more their bias.

In that above paragraph, replace "they" with "me". It happens to my feed, and it happens to yours.

The issue is that it breeds ignorance of not just other things that are happening, but also an ignorance of critical thought. I follow Donald Trump, the current President of the US, because his feed is full of things I don't want to hear. I then go and look at the comments made by those who also follow him, and most of them I disagree with, and what stuns me isn't the idea that there are people online who repeat him, scream adulation at him, and agree with what he says - that's not surprising. He did win the election after all, someone must agree with him.

What is incredible is that there are a group of people on all sides of the political divides across all western democracies that are taking everything as black and white. They do not understand that there is, and that there has to be, a middle ground. Somewhere that we can meet to discuss the events of the day. That despite it all, you might think that Scottish Independence is abhorrent, but I don't - and there is a playing field on which we both can talk, and that is the common ground of "let's make this a better place, shall we?". In there, we can talk about what we want, and then the how falls out, be it independence or staying in the UK.

What has fallen apart in almost all other parts of the world is the fact that being seen to aim for the grey area is now seen as conceding, and that is the problem with the world of ignorance. You won't see a right wing or staunchly left wing voter being given something into their feed to coax them into the middle ground for that doesn't get clicks, it doesn't get them on board, and it doesn't pull them to the grey area where commonality can be found. Peddlers of hate reinforce this, and that is not just news sites and Facebook's feed algorithms, it's the way the world is rewarded in black and white terms. I feel like the rise in Twitter's combative and hostile environment also coincided with the decision to change "Favs" to "Likes", because with Faving something there was ambiguity on what it meant. I faved things I disliked or disagreed with to read later or to bookmark, but today it's a love-heart, and you can only like it. It's black and white.

This blog post is, I should point out, not me being sneering at those who have this happen to you - it's not a new thing really, as the theory of this has been in play since the day newspapers were first published. Conflict sells papers, and now conflict sells shares online.

I have no idea what can be done to bring the world's discourse back because people like it so much.

The other thing that I find is crazy is that when someone is presented with an idea that is plainly obvious, this combative world of never being wrong, something I have a hard time personally with admitting even in the most low-impact of scenarios, is the pure cognitive dissonance from the truth. People will argue against provable facts, or powerful theories, or even tangible analysis of statistics and trends. But these words - facts, theories, or analysis - are now considered by those who cannot believe for a second that they could be wrong to be pejorative. I don't need your facts, they'd say, for it doesn't agree with my belief and therefore must be wrong.

What this all leads to is the collapse of a workable democracy. It doesn't work unless you're willing to accept that there might be good ideas that you disagree with. You might disagree with Brexit, like me, but if there was any positives you might be able to be swayed. I see it with clever and well meaning Unionist friends who despair at the thought of Scottish Independence, and I wonder what it would take to bring them to a position of commonality, for they might be able to convinced me a different way. In the wider world however, "hot-takes" and "outrage" powers the internet today, and that means the death of political discourse and difficult, hard to swallow ideas.

Like, for example, the almost insurmountable evidence that Brexit without a deal is demonstrably a bad idea. No one thinks it'll be good - and if you do think it'll be good, you're either a multi-millionaire with skin in the game, or someone who has believed the lies they've peddled to you to get what they want. If we, as a country, decided we don't want it to happen it's the biggest political climb down in history - and one, that as a society based on black and white ideals, the populace probably can't stomach.

If someone can't come to say that they are wrong when they've supported Trump and he does abhorrent things, we've gone off a cliff and it'll take something huge to bring the world back.

Someone is Wrong on the Internet

Sometimes I just can't leave things alone. Earlier today I stumbled into a bit of a Twitter storm with another user, someone who is ostensibly Pro-Union, whereas I am pro-Scottish Independence. This tweet wasn't about that, but instead, it was about copyright.

The whole thing reminded me of this from XKCD. 

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Over the weekend Wings Over Scotland, a site needed online as much as any you could imagine for it's critical thought on Independence matters (full disclosure; I don't care for the owner of the site and the writer's personal views, but that is by the by when it comes to the subsequent tweets), lost their YouTube account in a strange turn of events involving copyright strikes and a few other oddities. It made it on to the BBC Radio and later the BBC News website, and is causing a bit of a stooshie.

I waded in when someone conflated the BBC's copyright actions with the Twitter actions of Mr Campbell, the owner of the Wings site. In the reply to the BBC's tweet about the news, they asked simply if the use of Twitter's block function, and Mr Campbell's use of a "block list" of people on Twitter, amounted to censorship.

The answer is no, it does not. Censorship, of the kind this person was suggesting, has to be state mandated. This is common knowledge, of course. It is implicit knowledge.

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Censorship of television and film is undertaken by the state by regulations created by the government; ie, it is censorship, and ones that we are happy with culturally. I have blogged about censorship in the past in my wee flit with viral fame a few years ago.

To avoid any doubt, here is the tweet, and my reply, that I am talking about.

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I know, i can hear you groaning in the back - I shouldn't have taken the bait. I should have walked away, because who cares? This person isn't going to listen to the account of a middling ambient podcast by a bearded pretentious fool, are they? Right?

Well they did. They responded by "comment retweeting", which is a neat feature that allows you to slip the persons (in this case, my own) tweet directly into their timeline with a pithy comment insert above it. In my case, the pithy comment was a slanderous suggestion that I am a fascist. Things on the internet rarely go at a normal pace.

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Obviously, this didn't go down well. Instead of back tracking on their statement, they repeated in, and then made the claim that "encourage others to attack me" when I had done no such thing. I called them out on that as well, as that was two complete untruths in a few exchanges about something they were demonstrably wrong about.

The simple fact is that someone blocking someone on Twitter does not amount to censorship in any way, shape or form, even if that is "concerted" by someone else, a third party. Even if you vehemently disagree with that person, it's just simple - it isn't censorship, in the same way that me not buying the Daily Mail isn't censorship.

But of course, this person has around 800 more followers than me and who actually care about this, so a few people steamed in to like the tweets and, rather ironically, block me as a result, which amused me greatly.

The thing is that I was mid dinner making and it was a diversion, and one I actually enjoyed. A wee bit of fun, chatting with someone on the other end of the spectrum politically - until they started to post endless screenshots of Mr Campbell's more controversial (that i am no way endorsing) personal Twitter postings as a way of showing that I was defending a "vile little man", for some reason, which lead to me realise - in this scenario - I'm not the one who is refusing to back down, they are

It ended as abruptly as it started really, with not a bang but a whimper. And I am only writing this post because it amused me.

Mark Does a "Cane and Rinse" - The SEGA Dreamcast

The Cane and Rinse Podcast is an incredible podcast where in each episode they go over either a single game or a series of games in forensic detail, talking about the development, gameplay, legacy and foibles of some of the biggest games of all time. I am not heralding a new podcast either; they've been going for longer than my own podcast has been, and continue to pump out fabulous shows. I even pretend to chat along with them when reminiscing about something I know.

This has made me ruminate over old games far more, and wondering why my memory of titles I probably spent tens of hours with is so hazy.

So I've decided to start doing a semi-regular "Mark Does a Cane and Rinse" post on something that catalogues my memories of something gaming related.

This time round, it's the turn of The SEGA Dreamcast.

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Background

I have posted several times about the Dreamcast, most notably in a very short almost prologue to this post - Dreamcast Reminisce - but I have never put all of my thoughts about the console, the games, and the personal legacy of the console down in a single post. It seems right, near twenty years since I first learned of the console's existence that it might be a good time to sit down and try to catalogue everything I remember about the time in my life where the Dreamcast came into it.

For clarity, I never actually owned a games console prior to the Dreamcast. I played a SEGA Mega Drive that was "technically" my Dad and I's, but I played it a lot more than he did. I mean, he had PGA Tour III for it, and we used it for gaming on with my late grandfather and my uncle at "Golf Nights", which were basically the male version of the then in vogue mother-attended Tupperware parties. I loved those times, but the console was basically mine - I had Streets of Rage, Sonic (all of them), and loads of other games like Super Hang On and a terrible Asterix game.

I wasn't immune to wanting something better. A friend at school had got a SEGA Saturn, the replacement for the Mega Drive if you discount the MegaCD and the 32X, and I was insanely jealous. Indeed, when almost all my closest friends upgraded to the N64 and the PlayStation I was left wanting, actively asking for the upgraded consoles on a almost monthly basis, becoming a bit of an in-joke between myself and my patient parents.

I remember when reading about the then SEGA Katana project in Computer and Video Games that it'd be super powerful. At the time, there was rumours of the Nintendo Dolphin (the GameCube), the PlayStation 2, and the odd but exciting Direct X-Box from Microsoft. I didn't know what to get, if I could get any of them, but in time I realised that these rumours were all true. In fact, the Xbox would go on to become a console of choice for near a decade.

But first, there was the Dreamcast. I petitioned my parents endlessly for it, until one night they agreed to the purchase, and the next day we went to Electronics Boutique in East Kilbride to put my hard earned £50 deposit for a console and Sonic Adventure. It would become the first time in my life, and only one of two times, I'd be there on Launch Day for a console. The next time would be for the Nintendo Wii, which I ultimately sold later that week unopened. But that story is for another day.

Launch Day

I wrote in my homework diary the original European launch of September, shortly after my own birthday and I couldn't be even more excited. I was anticipating the launch so much I picked up the SEGA Dreamcast magazine Issue 0 that came with a Demo Reel VHS Tape and played it endlessly. Side note - I really wish I hadn't binned all of these magazines, they would make for fascinating reading now.

And then SEGA delayed the launch, a whole month. I was devastated.

On launch day I woke early, so excited. My mum bundled my sister and I into the car, and we drove to the shop just after opening, not that I was expecting a huge queue for the console. I had my deposit ticket in hand, ready to grab the console and my single game (all I could afford at the time). We got in and I picked it up in a special Dreamcast blue spiral bag, and was so happy - until they dropped the bombshell. They'd not received Sonic Adventure. The games hadn't arrived, which meant the only game that I'd pre-ordered and wanted was unavailable. I would have the most power games machine in the world - but zero games to play it on.

The guy behind the counter at EB had an idea - unorthodox, but wonderful. He said that they were sure that the games would come in at some point that day, so if it was okay I could take away another game from the launch line-up, and then bring it back and swap it out for Sonic when it was available. The game I brought home was TrickStyle, a futuristic skate/hover board game that was, as far as I can remember, not that bad at all really.

But it wasn't Sonic.

Later that day, it turned out that the games had been delivered to the shop on the opposite side of the mall, so I could get Sonic. I can't remember if my mum took pity on me and we went up to the shop that very day, or the next day, but once I had Sonic in hand it went in and my life was changed. Sonic Adventure blew me, and any friend I played it with, away. Everything about it was just simply stunning. Maybe one day I'll do a forensic description of the games, but for now let's just say that Sonic Adventure was for a short while my jam. It doesn't hold up well at all today - I went out, in 2008, and bought a GameCube Wavebird controller and the game for my Nintendo Wii just to play it, and it... wasn't very good, even in the "DX" version.

With Sonic things were great. But I was only just getting started.

Games

Obviously, games are what make a console great. You could have the most powerful games console on the planet and with nothing to play on it you're snookered. I'm looking at you, Xbox One X. Either way, this is what sunk the Dreamcast in the end, a simple lack of games that made people really want to get the console - that and, of course, it wasn't called PlayStation 2. But, that's for a little bit later and I'm getting ahead of my self.

My Dreamcast was not for wanting games however. I had plenty of the things, and used my allowance at the time to make sure I picked up not just the "best" games of the era, but also a few odd choices that weren't the greatest but certainly made me happy for the briefest time. Bear in mind, at this point, I'd jumped from a decade old Sega Mega Drive to the Dreamcast, whilst only touching PC gaming a few times in the years between, so almost everything was a new experience to me.

I had a few of the all time classics, of course. Crazy Taxi, Sonic Adventure and Sonic Adventure 2 naturally, and both of the Shenmue games - that I've talk about before. I also picked up a few classics that have aged terribly - I adored Headhunter at the time, but that thing did not survive the subsequent gaming generations, and I also played a lot of Quake III Arena on the console despite owning it on PC. I just enjoyed the deathmatch capabilities and it was one of the first games I really played online.

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As well as the "classics" that always spring to mind, I adored a few others. One punishingly hard game, Metropolis Street Racer, sticks hard in my mind for just how good it looked and how much I was hyped for the game, being one of a select few Day One game pre-order and purchases, but it did me in, in the end, being just a bit too hard for my tastes. Another, Jet Set Radio, was a game I absolutely loved despite it having a few flaws - and is one, like Crazy Taxi, I've bought a few times since for the Port Generation for iPad and Android phones. Oddly, I couldn't remember that I owned Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 for the console, but obviously I did - it's there, in the photo - but my memory of that game is confused with the PS1 version I am sure I played more of at friends' houses.

Before I talk about the bad games I had that I liked, here's one that I didn't like. The second game I got was SEGA Rally 2, and I was so excited for it. Mud on the cars when you drive through it! Arcade style Rally gaming that I loved! I even made my dad drive the 30 minutes to Braehead to go and get the game - and despite playing it a lot, I don't think I actually liked it. There was a real lack of courses, and the arcade play wasn't really fun for me, and I realise that that makes sense - my memory of the game comes mostly from those awesome swinging arcade cabinets, but after putting up with terrible Mega Drive games because they were given to me this was the first I bought myself and found it to be disappointing.

Then there are the few shanners that I loved. I enjoyed Midway's 4 Wheel Thunder a lot more than I was expecting - it become one of the most played racing games I owned. My sister ostensibly had Pen Pen TriIcelon, a "racing" "game" that was... well, it's hard to describe, so here's a video of some gameplay. We enjoyed it - I remember it being one of the smoothest games at the time. And then there was a rollercoaster game called Coaster Works that, despite getting high review scores, was absolutely shite.

You might notice that there are a few ultimate classics I haven't mentioned - SoulCalibur, for example - well, during the Dreamcast era I didn't own it, a friend did. I ended up picking it up  much later and blitzing it, but I was never a fighting game fan and still to this day SoulCalibur might be the only one I've truly enjoyed. Same goes for Virtua Tennis. I borrowed this, at first, and made my way to the top of the world, and later picked it up cheap on the side. This is why these two games appear in my disc collection.

I binned off the cases for some reason, preferring to use a GAME approved CD holder, which is a terrible decision. Despite this, however, I did keep all of my Demo Discs.

Fandom

From that first month, I adored being a Dreamcast owner. As I mentioned, I played that VHS tape a lot watching the technology being the console and the games that were coming. I owned every issue of the Official Dreamcast Magazine (ODM) - remembering those who wrote for it, and those who'd moved over from C&VG at the time.

I still have every demo disc, as detailed in the picture below. I played these a lot, at the start - especially the Toy Commander demo, for some reason - I guess it was because after Sonic it was the game that felt truly 3D, with a full 3D world to explore and see around. Going back over this below discs made me very happy to see a raft of now forgotten games pop up, seemingly lost to time.

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I also was really into being a part of the internet fandom. I read the Edge forums when they existed with Edge becoming my default purchase after ODM died. I even... ahem... started my own fansite. My friend Ross, who had a console along with me and who I borrowed games off, started to review games as .RTF files, for putting onto our site. I made it using Homesteads, a UI based website builder not unlike Squarespace that I use now, and we started to create the site. We called it Dreamcast House (DCH) and had a logo and everything - but alas, it never became the massive empire we wanted it to become. Ironically, if we had persevered we might have outlasted some of the other sites I read at that time.

Foibles

The console wasn't perfect, of course, and despite my fandom I knew as much. For example, whilst Wifi was still a thing to properly take hold, so was Broadband, and the Dreamcast had it's dial modem inside. The internet functionality was impressive - the Dreamarena stuff always was a pleasure to have a go at, especially playing online - but it was a faff having to take  up the actually PC internet telephone line, which meant no one else could dial into their emails or Netscape. In the end, I moved my Dreamcast to my bedroom and it forever went off line, never to taste the Dreamarena again.

One of the "best" features that was unused was the Visual Memory Unit, or VMU. Instead of being a normal memory card, the Dreamcast had small little Gameboy style memory cards that acted as a second screen built into the controller. It was impressive, at first, and used quite well in a few games. One of the best examples was the most played sports game I owned, UEFA Striker, a shocking game deep down, but was the best facsimile of football the console had, really. It used the VMU's screen to switch formations mid game, without having to pause and go to the menu, a neat trick for multiplayer 1 versus 1.

But the VMUs had a flaw - they weren't powered by rechargeable batteries, instead by watch batteries, and whist they held the game saves without battery requirements, they beeped in a choir anytime the console came on after they had ran out, and with my three controllers each holding a VMU, it was... a mess. Of course, I could just buy a new set of batteries, but after a few months they'd go again, meaning it was an expensive outlay.

When mentioning the VMU, I should add that I love the Dreamcast controller. It is a little light, without the two VMUs, and the triggers are a bit soft feeling, and it's missing a second analogue stick, a must today, but it felt great in my hand and I never felt like it was rubbish. The D Pad, I always liked using, compared to the D Pads that followed.

Obviously, the biggest problem with the Dreamcast was the fact that it simply wasn't a PlayStation 2. It felt sad towards to the end after being to into the console and trying so hard to get friends to buy it. Almost every friend who did play the games with me loved it, and wanted to play it, but that wasn't enough. When, in 2002, a friend brought round his PS2 and Grand Theft Auto, I was suitably disappointed.

Legacy

Of course, my disappointment didn't change my opinion of the console. I loved owning my Dreamcast, and I got to be part of one of the most revered failed consoles of all time. It was great to be there, from launch, supporting Sega and their incredible box of tricks, but in the end it was sad to see the console die, and with it the unreal news that the makers of Sonic and the Mega Drive, were going to slip off making their own consoles and into others.

I had a severely bad reaction to this, at the time, and felt like I'd been sold a pup. Two years, in today's climate, is nothing - I've had my Nintendo Switch for almost a year, and that has felt like a blink and miss it moment of time - but between 1999 and 2001 I changed a lot and so did my mentality, and those two years - aged 14 to 16, felt and still feel like forty years in comparison.

I have since spent a long time thinking a lot about the Dreamcast and what it meant to me. It was fun, at the time, and now it is great to have been part of that club.

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If you're wondering where I went after the Dreamcast, I got an (Original) Xbox in 2004 on the cheap, which I followed in 2007 with both an Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii, before swearing off gaming in 2012 after Mass Effect 3 until the Switch came along.

If you've enjoyed/hated/liked this, please let me know your thoughts - comment below, if you want, or tweet my public account @mondaygraveyard on Twitter. I'd love a share and discussion about the Dreamcast, so let me know what you think.

In the future, I aim to tackle a few other things - my other games consoles, other major games, and a few other things in this series. And of course, give Cane and Rinse a listen, it's absolutely fantastic.

The Endless Battle Between Getting Fit and Not Wanting To Do It

Or Mark is Lazy.

A month or so ago, I tried on my kilt for the first time in 10 months. I bought the kilt in 2007, as part of my graduation, and back then I was skinny. Not fit - skinny. I had moved out of my parents and despite boozing and eating bacon, I walked all over the city for Uni and stood for five or six hours on a weekend (maybe even twice) whilst working at Rock Steady. Putting weight on or off wasn't an issue - I don't even think I considered it.

In early 2009 however, I made a change to my diet that would see me go skinny again, but this time it was fitness that did it. I actually went to the gym, I play fives twice a week sometimes, and walked all over Aberdeen. I ate better (or at least, less shit), and generally started feeling better about myself.

That changed in Texas. I ate like garbage there because... well, Texas. And that hasn't ever really stopped. With two kids under the age of four it is difficult to find time to work out and lose weight and stay healthy. Or, actually, no it isn't.

It simply isn't.

I just can't make the difficult choices. I have pretty much zero mettle (or willpower, whatever the word is) that makes me fight through pain of working out and keeping to a strict diet. After many hundreds of attempts of "getting better" and "getting fit" I've failed at almost all of them, and that's not for the want of being better - I just can't translate that want into the requirement to do it. It just isn't in me.

That's not an excuse though. In fact, it's bullshit. It's like saying "I crashed the car and it wasn't my fault I was driving". I needed to change my lifestyle and eating habits wholesale, and it was going to be difficult. Connie and I both need to be healthier - our daughters are busy little clever bees, and to keep up with either of them we need to be in peak condition, and I am far from that.

So what do we do? Well, after a few false starts, I have started spinning. Spin classes were a "fasd" in my eyes, a thing that people do to punish themselves. I'd seen videos of people spinning on bikes to music and it looked like my idea of hell - coordinated bike riding to music I don't like spurred on by a fitter-that-normal dickhead shouting platitudes about "you can do it!" and "your only enemy is yourself!" - I mean come on, what bollocks.

But guess what - it's all true. All of it. The bike riding to music I don't like does motivate me! Being spurred on by a fitter-that-normal dickhead shouting platitudes about "you can do it!" and "your only enemy is yourself!" actually makes me want to go harder and faster! It turns out that all I needed was exactly what I assumed I didn't need, and boom - we are off to a powerful cardio workout start that is intense and I actually enjoy.

In the moment, at times, I do not enjoy it - I've swore at the instructors many a time, and exhaled loudly "oh, fuuuuuck" a few times a class yes, but luckily they'll never hear it, because I'm not actually physically going to a class. Instead, we've signed up to an online spin class on our ancient 2010 vintage iPad 2, and get spurred on by our virtual trainers.

I don't know if the over all effect will be a lot of weightloss as more work is needed on weights and stuff, but the fitness levels I am beinging to feel rival those days in Aberdeen of fives and gym-ing. And yes, I know, it's too early to say if i'll keep this up, but I need to break through this mental barrier that I keep erecting that stops me from doing it, and so far, with the classes help it's been a success so far.

It has been a success because of Connie though, obviously. She's powered me through harder workouts and given me encouragement and then afterwards commented about how it looks like I am getting fitter. I can only speak for my own journey, but with her along side for the ride - I feel like not only that I can't fail, that I won't fail.

And that is actually the biggest change - I feel like this time I know I will keep at it, breaking the cycle of giving up, and that's actually going to stop me from giving up. Wild, eh?