I like games... and tattoos. Yes, those.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Tripping the Wave Fantastic

I love Lucky Frame. This might mean that I sound like a fan girl, but so be it. I was completely and utterly smitten with Pugs Luv Beats, and downloaded it for every iDevice I owned at the time. I still return to it occasionally as well, it's just one of those games.

I also enjoyed, although not quite as much, Lucky Frame's next big release, Bad Hotel, which was also excellent it just didn't grab me in the same way as Pugs.

And so when Developer Yann Seznec sent me an email asking if I would like a pre-release copy of Wave Trip, I jumped at the chance. I had seen the trailers and it piqued my interest, but honestly, the trailer does not do this game justice.

Ok, wait, let me take a step back and get this out of the way - watch the trailer.

Right, now that's out of the way, let's get down to the nitty gritty. The trailer is pretty, it makes you think, "Oooo, that looks pretty cool I'd like to maybe play it," but it doesn't make you jump up out of your seat in excitement however. Pretty, catchy, but mostly forgettable.

The actual game however changes this first impression completely. I've included a pre-release screencap video below and even then, you need to play it to fully understand how cool this game is. It's not without its faults but then what is?

Wave Trip is not a game so much as a musical experience. If you've played Pugs Luv Beats you'll know that generally Lucky Frame's modus operandi is to combine music creation with gameplay, and Wave Trip adheres to this in every way.

You play as a triangular... thingy... that is most probably a spaceship, and you exist in a beautiful geometric world. Touch the right hand side of the screen to fly up, the left side of the screen to blast your shield. Collect orange coins to free your trapped friends and blue coins to advance your own score multiplier. It seems pretty standard until of course you realise that every coin you collect adds to the music that is playing in the background, enhancing the beat, and that you can essentially choose which coins to collect to and which barriers to blast to smithereens, in order to add to the musical symphony. The gameplay is challenging enough that you don't feel cheated, but not so hard that you feel infinitely frustrated between levels. It's satisfying and engaging, which is extremely necessary in a game such as this. The right amount of frustration without making you want to throw in the towel.

The controls are simple and intuitive and the music always takes centre stage in this amazing testament to innovative mobile, music creation.

My only real criticism would be the lack of any real story, which while not essential would provide additional motivation to continue through each level. There aren't really many differences between levels apart from a different look and feel, the occasional added enemy, however this is counteracted by the very deep level editor which not only encourages you to make your own levels, but also allows you to play levels that people have uploaded from all over the world. This greatly enhances and extends the play time of this mobile musical experience.

Whilst I might have a couple of gripes, these are things I'd like to see addressed in an update, perhaps extra levels, more enemies, but this still would not deter me from buying this game. If you loved Pugs Luv Beats as much as I did, you'll adore Wave Trip just as much or even more.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Portfolio, portfolio, portfolio...

In an Acclaim Magazine interview, Sara Fabel recently said, "I felt like the tattoo was scraping the skin off and revealing the true colour underneath. Every tattoo I got, I felt more like me. I felt like my identity was more intact and I felt stronger. It’s like when you have gargoyles outside churches to keep out the bad spirits. I feel that my tattoos are my gargoyles and it keeps my personality intact and keeps the outside world from interfering too much into who I am."

This was a description that so completely resonated with me, and I'm sure there are others that would agree, that I just had to share it.

Now, a few days ago I spoke about the stupid questions people with tattoos get asked on a regular basis. You can read it here if you haven't already.

On this note I'd like to continue by discussing two things - the cost of tattoos, and the importance of choosing an artist.

Firstly let's get the whole cost thing out of the way. GOOD tattoos are expensive. Way more expensive than you think they are. The cost is not unjustifiable, this is a piece of art that you're going to be carrying around with you for the next 50/60 years, so saving up and spending the extra money more than justifies the cost.

On average, in 2013 most artists charge between R750-R1000 an hour. This means that the cost of getting a sleeve such as mine, which is in the region of 26 hours work, will cost you about R26 000.00

When people tell me they only payed R400.00 for their entire sleeve, sadly I want to say, "Yeah I can see." Much like cheap plastic toys from China, when they fade and break in 5 minutes you can't really be surprised.  

A guy in a supermarket the other day asked me if my entire sleeve cost around R2000.00! I didn't mean to but I actually laughed at him. A friend of mine related a story where he went into a corner cafe, and the woman behind the counter said to her friend in Zulu, "His tattoos might mean he can't pay." Luckily enough he understands Zulu, and so he replied, "Actually my tats mean I most likely CAN pay."

What people don't understand is that if you're forking out R1000 an hour for a tattoo - you're not broke. You might have to save up for it and it might take you a while to complete it, but tattooed people often end up spending their money on tattoos as opposed to the other crap you tend to spend your cash on.

So next time you look at my tattoos and tell me you think people with tattoos are trashy, that we'll never get a "real" job - remember that we spend more money on our tattoos than you spend on all the other rubbish you're going to throw away in 5 years because it doesn't work any more. And we get to keep our art forever.

So how do you get one of these amazing pieces of art you ask? You're smart and selective about your artist. We often end up going to some random artist for our first piece, and if you're lucky they're a good artist and won't screw up your work too badly. Hopefully by the time you reach your second or third piece you'll have made some informed decisions and have scouted a talented artist. No matter when you get there however, the point is that you do.

Otherwise you might end up with something like this...

 Or this...

Yes. Always check the spelling...

Portfolio is all important when you're having a tattoo done. Is the artists work good? Not only that, but are they good at the type of work YOU want done? If you want a portrait, make sure their portraiture is excellent. You don't want a picture like the one above where the girl looks she's wearing a Halloween costume. 

Look around. Ask for recommendations from your friends with tattoos - you'll see immediately if you like the work. The important thing to remember there is just because your friend gets on well with and loves the artist, doesn't necessarily mean that you will, so speak to them about what you're thinking of doing and see if their ideas gel with yours.

Because that brings me to my next point. Rapport. 

The reason I keep going back to the same artist over and over again for most of my work is because he gets me. We share the same ideas, the same sense of style, and he's patient and understanding and we have an excellent relationship. I may get a couple of other pieces here and there by other artists that I like, but there's a reason I keep going back to Milo "Mr Lucky" Marcer.

Anyway, gathered from my own experience as well as from speaking to other tattooed friends, the general consensus seems to be "do you really want a badly inked version of your dream piece on your body for the rest of your life?" (Chantal Wood)

Not only that, but the risk of picking up an infection by getting a tattoo from your buddy who thinks he can tattoo you in his garage, with no autoclave, no sterile needles, no gloves etc, increase exponentially. Infected tattoos can leave horrible scarring, not to mention the diseases you might pick up along the way.


These things are as, if not more, important than your choice of design in the end. A good artist will make your idea work for you.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

There are people with tattoos...

This is a break away from my usual gaming related subject matter but I thought in light of an upcoming event, I would amuse myself by discussing what is probably my other favourite pastime and one of the things that makes me recognisable. Tattoos.

For those people who don’t have many or perhaps any tattoos then I appear to be pretty covered. In fact I’m probably only 30% covered in tattoos. If I do a quick count – I have a full sleeve on my left arm, the front and back of my left thigh are inked, my left side and I’m in the process of completing a large piece on my right side. I also have a couple of small ones here and there, but hardly enough to constitute being what many people think of as covered. In fact, for many tattooed people I still have a long way to go!

I remember my tattoo artist saying to me once, “There are people with tattoos, and there are tattooed people”. It seems like a small distinction but it makes a huge difference. People with tattoos are content to get one or two small ones and then never get another. It’s a mindset, and there’s nothing wrong with that, I’m honestly not judging, but they don’t consider tattoos as a major part of their identity. 

Tattooed people on the other hand might start off with a small one here or there, but ultimately embrace the addiction (I can't deny this, but think about it, would you rather me be a drug addict or tattooed?) and accept the fact that they will end up with large pieces of art etched upon their bodies. It's also often about embracing the culture that goes along with tattooing, and socialising with like minded people who don't judge you (or at least not until they get to know you!).

Funnily enough, even though I had large tattoos before I started my sleeve, they were hidden, not because I was ashamed of them, I just happened to get them on parts of my body that were covered by clothing. My major wake up call to the attitude of many members of South African society’s perception of people with tattoos, especially women with tattoos was when I started my sleeve. All of a sudden in shopping centres people would look at my arm before they looked at my face. I was being judged before they’d even looked into my eyes.

Generally I don’t care what people think, I don’t do things because I’m expected to, I live my life in a way that make me happy and fulfills me as a person. And so, when people stared at me when I was out, I simply blocked it out. I stopped noticing when people looked and whispered to each other under their breath.

And then I fell pregnant. Suddenly, a pregnant woman with large, visible tattoos was obviously not fit to be a mother to a child. Even my mother noticed when we were out that people stared at me, judging, and took to glaring at strangers in the street. My husband is also what could be considered "heavily tattooed" so coupled with the fact that we are a mixed race couple we were definitely an object of controversy. For the first time I felt offended that people would think that I might be an unfit mother simply because of the way I look.

My tattoos have absolutely nothing to do with my parenting ability. No I'm not going to tattoo my child (seriously people that's child abuse), and I'm not going to force him to get one when he's older. It was MY choice and has nothing to do with him. I'm tattooed, not stupid.

Maternity Shoot // Photo by Nolan Lister, Makeup by Natasha Kruger, Jewellery by Duncan Stevens

For those of you who don't have any tattoos and are interested in mine, I'm going to answer some questions I get asked at least a couple of times a week.

1. Didn't it hurt? 
Yes, it did. Like a bitch. But only sometimes. Certainly it's painful but it's not unbearable pain, and if you're smart and do what your tattoo artist tells you to do, then you'll be fine. Eat beforehand to keep your blood sugar up, don't move around. The first 10 minutes are the worst and thereafter you get used to it. I can sit for quite a few hours by now, somewhere close to 5 depending on where on my body the tattoo is being done, and I can feel when I'm reaching my pain threshold, but this is different for everyone. The important thing is to recognise this and communicate with your artist. 

2. I suppose if I don't like it later I could just get it lasered off. 
If you're going into the process with this attitude rather don't get one. This is permanent. I haven't had laser tattoo removal, but from what I've heard it's way more painful than having a tattoo in the first place. Rather just don't get one.

3. Don't you get bored of them?
No. Well I don't anyway. After a while they become so much a part of your identity that you don't even notice them any more. I mean you notice them, but they're a part of your skin in the same way that a mole or a birthmark is. You might want to get it touched up but I've never thought, "Oh wow I'm so bored of that, I wish I hadn't got that picture". Maybe I've just made really good tattoo choices (for me anyway) but I don't regret any of my tattoos, even the first one. Yeah maybe it's not something I would get again, but I firmly believe my tattoos are a map of my life - whatever I've had done reminds me of what I was going through at the time, good or bad.

4. They look nice now, but what about when you're old and wrinkly?
Then I'll be old and wrinkly with tattoos. At least I'll be interesting to look at, you'll just be old. Do you think if I have this many tattoos I haven't thought about this? I DON'T CARE about that, I'm comfortable with my body.

5. Is it real? 
No I just spent hours painting it on because I thought it would be fun.

6. It cost HOW much?
Yes, it was expensive. It's going to be on my body FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE as you have already told me. I'm certainly not going to go to some guy (or girl) who doesn't know what they're doing just because it's cheaper. Save up, you're buying a piece of art that you have to look at every day. If you need more motivation to spend the money on a good artist, look here. Hopefully this will make you realise how important it is.

And then there is a gem I forgot which the Twitter community so kindly reminded me about

> What does it mean?
Response from Annie Brookstone> Like I have the time/inclination to explain them to a stranger.
Response from Charlie Fripp> Why I got it & what it means has nothing to do with you... 

By far the absolute worst though is THE TOUCHING! I don't come up to you and start poking and prodding at your body, why do you feel it's acceptable to come and touch me? I once had a guy standing behind me in a queue grab my arm and start twisting it around so he could see. It seems as if I am public property all of a sudden.

Photo by Adriaan Louw (We-Are-Awesome), Makeup by Natasha Kruger

Much as I sound grumpy here, there are some truly appreciative people, who politely ask you if they can take a look at your tattoos, compliment you on them, discuss the fact that they would like to get one (or not, that's fine too) and ask who did your work. And then I'm perfectly happy to discuss it with you.

If you're interested in looking at my tattoos, you'll find that being polite and respectful towards me will get you less hostility and I'll be more inclined to give you the time of day.

At the end of January, only a couple of weeks away, I'm once again going down to Cape Town for the 5th Annual Cape Town Tattoo Convention, also known as S.I.X or Southern Ink Xposure. My husband and I attend every year. I plan to be tattooed. Again.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Be Smart.

This is my "You're an idiot" face.

I'm often asked what I consider somewhat stupid questions. Among these are gems like:

1. Will you give me your games? (Or more correctly - wll u gv m ur gamz - no question mark).

2. Will you give me a job?

3. Are you unemployed now that The Verge is over?

and my favourite...

4. Why is your surname Tshabalala? 

Yes, I do think they're stupid questions. My apologies if you've ever asked me any of these, but really, meditate for a moment coherently on these words, and hopefully you'll see that they're lazy questions. You want someone to GIVE you the answer without expending any brain power to think through the answers logically.

Ok, except maybe question number one, the answer to that is just NO.

Anyway, lets clear a few things up.

1. No. I lend my games, much like my books, only to people I know. If I don't know you I'm not lending you anything.

2. No. You need to work hard and go out and get one yourself. That's what all the rest of us studied and worked hard for, and if I had to give you a job you simply wouldn't appreciate the work that goes into it. You can send me your CV with pleasure and I'll forward it on IF I think it's worthwhile (I'm not going to recommend someone I don't believe will do the job properly), or I'll direct you to an appropriate job site so you can see what's out there. I'll even put you in touch with someone who might be able to help you, but no, I won't give you a job.

3. Seriously? If you think that all I'm capable of doing is presenting then you obviously have never even bothered to read up on me at all. Most presenters are not simply presenters - we have a multitude of other talents. I was teaching at Wits University when I began presenting, worked at the production house who made The Verge (an awesome company called Don't Look Down), and am currently the On-Air Producer at MTV. No, I'm not unemployed.

and 4. Right. I'm white. For those people who have ever met me in person this is glaringly obvious as I am probably the palest person on the planet because I rarely go in the sun. This means that the only way my surname could ever be Tshabalala is if I was adopted, or married, or if for some weird reason I changed my name officially to Tshabalala.

I'm too old to have been adopted by a black family (if you know your history you'll know this was illegal under the Apartheid government), I would never change my name randomly to a Zulu surname (who does that?), so the only real way for me to have the surname Tshabalala is for me to be married - which I am. Oh, and no he's not the Bafana Bafana player, Tshabalala is a common surname, we're everywhere...

Anyway, this is not an entirely random vent about stuff - the point is more that before you go and ask someone what could be a potentially stupid question, stop and think to yourself, "Is this something I could logically figure out by myself?" and "Will the manner in which I ask it be considered offensive?" Because often the answer to both of THOSE questions is yes.

When you interact with people, try and be smart about it, even if they are people you know in real life. Don't be that n00b that everyone rolls their eyes at when you open your mouth. THINK about what you're saying and pass the thoughts through your brain before they come out of your mouth (or fingers if you're typing).

Be smart. Use your brain to the best of it's ability, because the fewer stupid questions you ask, the less you expect people to give you the answers and the more you think, the more you go out and discover the answers for yourself, the further you will get in life.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

And In The Silence...

I feel Shame :(

So I have been uncharacteristically silent these last couple of months. My apologies. I know you all have a burning desire to hear about games, and I have been a bad girl. Sadly, with the end of the year fast approaching I had other commitments (actual, real paying work that is my day job at MTV Africa) that had to take preference over my blog, but those of you who listen to my spot on UJFM will have heard my reviews of some of the games that came out in the end of year glut. All that remains is to spread the love to the rest of you.

I aim to rectify this however, and you can look forward to not only a gaming round up of the last couple of months (I know not everyone can afford to go out and buy games as soon as they hit the shelves so I think it's still worthwhile) but also reviews of some other cool bits and pieces, including an awesome Afro Science Fiction collection by local writers as well as some other cool projects and collaborations (I'm always looking for things so if you have a cool idea drop me a mail!) I'm working on.

I will also be attending the 5th Annual Cape Town Tattoo Convention at the end of January (25th-27th) and hope to have wonderful pictures, ink and stories to bring back with me.

If there is anything else you would like to see from this blog (apart from game reviews) please do let me know in the comments, I'm always interested in ideas.

Here's to a productive and fruitful 2013.