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19/2/05: Education Can Suck My Nuts

Recently, in addition to doing some work for Bad Brain Entertainment which I may have mentioned, I've gotten involved with another professional design studio based here in Brisbane, and I've actually met the rest of the team in person, astoundingly. I'm the scriptwriter and we're making a demo to secure some venture capital. If all goes well we all quit our day jobs by next year. I don't get paid anything at the moment, though, so don't think you can stop donating.

So, there you go - keep writing adventure games and releasing them online, pimply dreamers, and one day they'll be enough to impress the right people to get you into the industry. It was while I was getting to know my new colleagues, however, that I discovered that every single one of them had been to university except me. Ho no, you can't get talent like mine in university, I told myself, it's as ingrained as the congealed Weetabix on the breakfast bowls. But then I put some more thought to it, and I came to a rather upsetting conclusion.

Friends, it's like this. My education has done absolutely nothing for me.

A jolly scene at Eastlands Primary School, or as I like to call it, THE LAIR OF THE CHILDHOOD THIEVES.
And I don't mean that as hyperbole. I can think of literally nothing about my present situation and intellect for which I can thank schooling, and I really thought hard. At first I thought this was cool. Then I realised that this meant I had spent ten or twelve years of my life drinking a cocktail of boredom and misery when I could have spent all that time playing Sonic the Hedgehog and gotten much the same out of it. That's, like, about one seventh of my time on Earth, gone, for no fucking reason. Now I've only got the remaining six-sevenths to leave my legacy for future generations. That's not going to be enough time to fulfill my major life objective - to divert a river so that it spells out the words 'EARTH NEEDS YOUR SEX' in joined-up writing, large enough to be visible from space. Thanks a lot, school system.

I can see a career in professional game design without a telescope, but I got here on the strength of my freeware games. I taught myself how to program with AGS. I learned to type from an early age with the family Amstrad, then the family C64, then the family Amiga. At school they only let you near a computer once in a blue moon to play one of those god-forbid-I-call-them games where you play Hangman in German or some shit.

I'm in Australia because I saved up money from my last major job in England, entering data for a surveying company. I got that job because they needed pretty much anyone, and I just happened to be around, and I held onto it because I was good at it. I doubt they even knew or cared if I had any qualifications. I found it impossible to find work before this job.

I met a lot of friends at school, but lost touch with most of them when they went to university, and the rest of them when I moved to the neighbouring hemisphere.

The more I think about it, the more it seems certain - school has given me nothing. I studied German for four years and the only phrase I can recall presently is "Mein Hut hat drei Ecke", and I'm not even sure I've got the gender right. From science, I remember that holding a test tube while a red powder and a blue powder are reacting inside will sting your fingers like a bitch, but I couldn't tell you what the powders were called. I learned more useful information from the Scouts than I ever did at school, and I spent most of my time in the scouts sitting in the corner scoffing sweeties from the tuck shop.

Which is not to say school taught me absolutely nothing. Ho yes, it taught me that the slightest deviation from the norm will result in ostracision and physical chastisement. It taught me that being able to absorb and parrot meaningless trivia was the only valid intellectual skill. And I learned that I could expect to get the shit kicked out of me in sub-zero temperatures for two hours every Monday afternoon.

I and everyone else in the world are subjected to cruel psychological torture for over a decade, when we are fragile kids no less, but it's only now that I get the biggest kick in the balls. The realisation that, contrary to what I was led to believe, none of it was for my benefit. What's even worse is that there's no-one to direct this anger at; the school system is run by a bunch of clueless but well-meaning jerks, continuing with how things have always been just because they're too afraid to change. I'm pretty mentally fucked up from my school days, and I dread to think what would have happened if I'd stuck through the sixth form, or God forbid university. I'm pretty sure quite a few of my readers are in full-time education, so my advice to them is to get the fuck out. Qualifications are meaningless. Exams are just diagnostic programs for the obedient little robot society wants you to be.
The emblem of Lawrence Sheriff Grammar School, where I estimate that I wasted eight thousand hours of my life that I could have spent masturbating, or learning to figure skate.

God damn I'm depressed now, knowing that society forced me to waste a full decade that I'll never get back. I almost can't be bothered trying to be funny. Here's my suggestion for an alternative to school.

For the first few years, have school as normal, but restricted to teaching kids the basics - reading, writing and 'rithmetic, so they can at least function at the necessary level. Then, when they're about eight years old, and learned everything they'd need to know for, say, working behind the meat counter at Sainsbury's, we move them onto the new school, which I like to call AWESOMEDOME TEN THOUSAND.

The Awesomedome Ten Thousand is basically a big circular arena divided into two halves. One contains a library with a wide range of fiction and textbooks, drawing and writing material, as well as some of those snobby intellectual board games like Scrabble. The other half contains a pile of sports equipment and sharp objects. Children come to the Awesomedome Ten Thousand for five or six hours a day, and must choose in which half of the dome they wish to spend this time beforehand. The children cannot move from one sector to the other at any point during the day, and they cannot take anything from the Awesomedome.

That way, the clever kids with a genuine curiosity of the world can be free to pursue their own interests in the intellectual section, gathering only the information that is immediately necessary. And in the other half, all the violent sporty kids can fucking kill each other and leave the ones with actual futures alone. I guarantee you that, as well as no longer wasting everybody's time, this new system will produce a perfect geniocratic society within two generations.

I'm finished with this topic; you have permission to agree with me now.

- Yahtzee

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15/2/05: More Comic Capers

I like webcomics. Well, let me withdraw that statement. I like SOME webcomics. But I don't like to wade through the neck-high ocean of shit out there to find the diamonds in the little life rafts. So, for anyone else with the same problem, I've started a list of The Only Good Comics On The Internet. Do let me know if you have any additions to suggest.

UPDATE: Please stop suggesting Ctrl-Alt-Del. I fucking hate Ctrl-Alt-Del.

- Yahtzee

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10/2/05: The Secret Of Success

BEARDWATCH: Still growing. Strangely, the beard around the edge of my face is dark brown tinged with red, while my moustache is blonde. It's like Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamface over here.

CASHWATCH: Now would be a great time to donate and get the 5 Days Special Edition, because I have an electricity bill due soon, and I can't write games with the power shut off! MORE INCENTIVE FOR YOU!


I'd like to talk for a moment about America. And contrary to the expectations you have just formulated, I'm going to start by talking it up.

Americans are good at a lot of things. They're good at sport. They're good at action films. They're good at electing hideously irresponsible and megalomaniacal governments into power and creating international crises for no better reason than - shit, I've lost track and I'm only one paragraph in. Let me start again.

Americans are good at a lot of things. They win a lot of medals at the Olympics. and the reason for this is a case of simple mathematics. They have a much larger population than many other countries, and as such have a greater number of people with talents, even if they are flanked on all sides by mindless population statistics who watch The Bachelor and eat pancakes for breakfast. (Whoo, nearly lost it there, try to keep on track). Admittedly China has a bigger population, but then independent thought is considered a social faux pas in China. For all its faults, America at least values personal liberty. What confuses me, then, is why so much of their mainstream media is unforgivably bad.

I mean, I know there are talented writers and humourists in America. It's just that they're all updating websites and appearing on Whose Line Is It Anyway, when all the stuff getting exported are fifteen hundred 'Crime Investigation' dramas, all written by the same guy who has spent his entire life in a basement with a pile of NYPD Blue DVDs and no DVD player. And all the mainstream novels are overlong sensationalist tripe written by talentless hacks called Stephen King. Why is this? Is it some major plot on the part of American publishers and TV networks to actively destroy creativity in the populace, in case someone comes up with a creative method to overthrow the government?

And then there are American sit-coms, and here we get to the delicious chewy centre of this article.

Now, as I said, I know there are funny people in America. And every now and again American networks produce a comedy series that makes me laugh. But for each one of these, I can give you five hundred boring cookie-cutter sit-coms that are more painful than unanaesthetised bowel surgery and about as fun to watch. And we're not talking about the kind of bowel surgery where the entire colon backfires unexpectedly, pushing away the surgical implements in a tidal wave of chunky diarrhoea, because that can be vaguely entertaining. This is the kind of unanaesthetised bowel surgery where it's just a drill stuck up someone's arse while they scream in pain and confusion for half an hour.

Boy, we sort of took a U-turn from that whole 'talking America up' angle, didn't we.

The most infuriating thing is that the formula is so damn easy to understand. Every time another lame American sit-com comes along it always makes the same mistakes. You know when Americans really like some British comedy, then try to make an American version, and it would be charitable to call the result a big pile of used tampons and poo? It's because they keep forgetting to follow the very rules that made the original so funny in the first place:

1. Be Funny.

Now you'd think this would go without saying, but apparently it's still a concept American hack sit-com writing committees have trouble with. It's not a difficult formula. Setup, joke. Setup, joke. Setup, joke. Hilarious misunderstanding. Setup, joke. Setup, joke. Setup, joke. Advert break. Setup, joke. Setup, joke. Conclusion. Joke. But no, American writers seem to think that it is the point of comedy to also lecture us on things like family values, the importance of friendship, and why Christianity is the only true faith. With something like Friends, the formula goes like this: Sarcasm masquerading as joke, soap opera storyline, sarcasm masquerading as joke, celebrity guest, advert break, sarcasm masquerading as joke, more soap opera storyline, hugely moralistic conclusion, everyone loves each other. Family values and sentiment are the territory of those oubliettes of cinematic glurge Dawson's Creek and 7th Heaven. People do not watch comedy to be morally lectured, for the same reason they didn't go to see Die Hard for the heartwarming romantic subplot. If the laugh track isn't guffawing from word one to end credits, your alleged comedy has MISERABLY FAILED no matter how many future romances are hinted at.

2. Make Everyone Hate Each Other.

Characters who hate each other create a better humour dynamic than characters who are the very best of chums. Oh sure, sometimes American sit-coms try making out that characters are on uneasy terms by tossing in the odd sarcastic retort, but it all boils down to hugs and love and Tubby-bye-bye by the end. The best dialogue comes between characters who, given the opportunity, would be five hundred miles away without a backward glance. And don't pretend that the American public prefer a different dynamic to British or Australian audiences, because The Office won two Golden Globes and I don't remember any hugs in that.

3. Ugly, Unpleasant Characters With Shitty Lives

Let's make some comparisons, here:

Red Dwarf - Ugly Unpleasant Characters Trapped Together In Space
= Comedy Gold!

Friends - Beautiful Well-Adjusted Characters With Glamourous Jobs Living In A Nice House
= Horrible Shit!

Father Ted - Ugly Unpleasant Characters Trapped Together In House
= Consistently Hilarious!

Will & Grace - Beautiful Well-Adjusted Characters With Glamourous Jobs Living In A Nice House
= Consistently Dreadful!

Seinfeld - Ugly Unpleasant Characters Having Various Awkward Encounters
= Not Too Shabby!

My Wife And Kids - Beautiful Well-Adjusted Characters With Glamourous Jobs Living In A Nice House
= Disembowellingly Cack-handed!

4. Don't Ever, Ever, Ever Succumb To Sexual Tension

If you must have sexual tension between two characters (which, if you're following the first rule, YOU SHOULDN'T) then don't for the love of God stoop to having them get together in some big wedding episode, because then your series is OVER and GOOD RIDDANCE. Wedding episodes are frequently points of shark-jump for many sitcoms, because it'll drone with boring romantic sentimental moralist shite for an hour with no-one on the crew being able to pull themselves away from their fellatio whores long enough to realise that the studio audience haven't made a single chuckle since the beginning. Wedding episodes should only be considered when you have realised that the game's up and it's time to jump the sinking SS Crapfest.

So there you have it. Four simple rules for making a good sitcom that people will like. If you take nothing else from this lecture, let it be this: If your studio audience ever goes "WOOOOOOOOOO" in response to events taking place before them, scrap the whole thing and start again..

- Yahtzee

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1/2/05: MRIs Are Made Of This

A few days back, in the days of January aught-five, when men were real men and the West was untamed, I had to get an MRI scan done. This is because my doctor thinks there may be some unwelcome guest in my inner ear, and we have to make sure if he will be a quiet and dutiful tenant or if he intends to rip up the floorboards and play Insane Clown Posse all night. So I was invited to the nearby hospital to get my head examined.

I was looking forward to it. I always look forward to medical tests. I like being at the centre of attention. And I'm sure I'm not the only one who, on the way to their test, silently hopes that at some point the doctor will throw down their stethoscope and announce "My god! I have never seen anything like this in my entire life!" Then he'd call up all his friends and say "Guys! Get in here and get a load of this!" then all his friends would come and stroke their beards in wonder and have a party. Then they'd name a new syndrome after me, or at least let me choose the name. Something like 'Awesome Syndrome'.


The first thing they did when I arrived was had me take off anything metal, because when they say 'Magnetic Resonance Imaging', they ain't fooling. So the trousers had to come off, or else I suspect I would have found my crotch awkwardly pinned to the device. And of course I couldn't wear my metal-framed spectacles, so the remainder of the test passed as a load of indistinct smeary blurs. So there I am in my baggy hospital pyjama bottoms, all of which are apparently designed on the assumption that Pavarotti might one day have to wear them, my hair hanging around my shoulders because my hair tie had a metal bit, squinting my red-rimmed computer-screen-molested eyes in a futile attempt to watch the TV in the waiting room. They left me sitting there like that for about twenty minutes, because when you're in a hospital, the doctors get pissy if any of their patients have more dignity than them.

I wasn't exactly sure what an MRI scan entailed, but they asked me if I was claustrophobic, which rang alarm bells somewhere. They asked me what kind of music I'd like playing while I was in the machine. I went for Tchaikovsky, because I was going to show them that they could put all the hospital pyjamas they wanted on me and I could still be pretentious.

The MRI machine looked kind of like what you'd get if you put one of those big brain bugs from Starship Troopers through the machine from the Sonic the Hedgehog cartoon series that turned small furry animals into similarly-proportioned robot monsters. They lay me down on a little stretcher thingy, gave me some headphones playing my musical choice, held my head in place with straps, then fed me into the machine like a torpedo into a tube.

When I was shoved all the way into this huge robot nostril, I discovered that they had thoughtfully placed an angled mirror directly in front of my face. For a moment I could see a pair of bloodshot panic-stricken eyes, which turned out to be mine, before the mirror adjusted slightly and I found I was staring at a large window into the MRI control room. A big widescreen TV was arranged presumably specifically so I could watch it, but the absence of my spectacles turned what I think was sports coverage into the quarter finals of Shapeless Blur, in which veteran Shapeless Blur was being challenged for the title by plucky newcomer Shapeless Blur.

My horrible, horrible brain, not satisfied with putting me in this situation in the first place, decided to think at that point about that bit in The One where Jet Li goes into an MRI machine and is attacked by bad guys while in this extremely vulnerable position. While Jet Li had the option to go kung fu nuts, my sole comfort was a little squeezy ball in my hand which they told me to use if anything was wrong. I don't know what it did, exactly. Perhaps it made a little 'alert' sign blink on and off. Maybe one of the technicians would come in and go kung fu nuts.

By this point my mind was a-wandering, its knapsack on its back, fal de ree etc. I tried to listen to the music. I think it was Waltz of the Flowers.

Da de dum da de.


Fuck me down to the ground, the MRI machine makes a loud noise. You know the noise made by a really old CD drive when it decides to amuse itself by carefully etching a Da Vinci line drawing in your copy of American McGee's Alice? Take that kind of noise and multiply it by about fifty million, and that's what being in an MRI machine is like. So there I was, shoved up a gigantic mechanical rectum listening to it fart. I couldn't even hear the music anymore. Why did they do this to me? Why did they ask me what sort of music I would like if they knew I wouldn't be able to hear it over the machine? Was this, and the pyjamas, part of a larger overall scheme to make my life weird? Do the technicians film the scared and confused MRI patients and sit down at the end of a long day to watch the tapes with a glass of wine?

After that, I went home, just in time for a phone call telling me I have to come in and have another one. Apparently they wanted to do it again with some stuff injected into me first. That was what they said, anyway. I suspect they just hoped I would put on a better show the second time.


Hey, I noticed that Brother Heccubus seems to have written this big ol' rant against sprite comics. Now, don't get me wrong, I ain't got nothing against the guy, but he and I are forced to differ on this subject, and for that reason he can suck the fossilised shit from my dead grandma's bum. Yeah, 90% of sprite comics are unfunny dross, but then so are 90% of all comics, not to mention 90% of the internet, and 90% of the mainstream media. If people would rather concentrate on writing over artwork that seems completely fair enough to me. Don't be judgmental, Suckubus. Unless, like me, you are never wrong.

And I like 8-Bit Theater. I am well-adjusted enough to concede the fact that it is way funnier than me.

- Yahtzee

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24/1/05: Sleeping Booty

Hey, I didn't say stop giving me money! Still lots of people who don't have the 5 Days Special Edition! Ha ha ha! I'm so fucking skint.

Anyway, this week I reviewed Anne Rice's Filthy Disgusting Inexcusable Porno Books. Have a good read. I dare you.

- Yahtzee

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18/1/05: Face Off

Recently I was asked by my associate Stewart what I would change about myself, given the chance. I replied I would like to repair the hole in the crotch of my trousers. When he amended his query parameters to apply only to my body and personality, I reluctantly nominated the lower half of my face. I hate the lower half of my face. When I cover it up with a scarf, my eyes and nose look dangerous and wild, like those of an angry female tiger whose young are threatened. But then take the scarf away, and my helpless prey's fear turns to bemusement as it takes in my full, womanly lips and stupid teeth. Not only are my pouty smackers unmanly, they are also a serious security risk. Should the team investigating the city centre petrol bomb attack ever think to interrogate me, my characteristic mouth will easily give me away, even if I was wearing a ski mask on the security footage.

After setting fire to Stewart so he wouldn't talk, the evil smell that rose from his burning fur fired neurones in my magnificent brain. The answer was simple. Facial hair! What better way to draw attention from my incriminating smile than a thick beard growth? I would then additionally have the option to join the Taliban if the opportunity ever came up. I resolved to stop shaving immediately, then, to decide on how best to grow my new disguise, I took a recent photo of me and ran it through Photoshop until it squealed for mercy.

The curly moustache has been very unfairly treated in cinema. I mean, you're probably assuming that the eyebrow is raised in amusement, because I have just tied an innocent young maiden to a railroad track, or that I have successfully fooled a wealthy dowager into wedding me and allowing me access to her family's enormous fortune. Thank Christ then for David Suchet's portrayal of Poirot. Now I could merely be contemplating the solution of a dastardly crime, or some splendid Belgian truffles. Ugh. Next.
Ah. The 'Ming of Mongo' look. Difficult to pull off, though. Something tells me, if your beard naturally grows into an equilateral triangle, there's something very, very wrong going on there. If you look closely, you'll notice I also attempted to add eyeliner with the Photoshop brush tool, but it looks more like a couple of flies are drinking from my tear ducts.
I think this would be my first choice, if it didn't have this tendency to make a person's face look like an unshaved lady's pubic region turned on its side. And then there's the Gordon Freeman thing. After years of people asking me if I was Gordon Freeman, I'd give in and say yes, I am Gordon Freeman. Then I'd be invited to lots of swanky parties and command respect for the first time in my life. But the little white lie would spiral out of control, and one day aliens from the dimension of Zotor B would invade and everyone would be expecting me to do something about it.
What the 'mutton chops' imply about a person depends on the time period. 150 years ago, people would assume I was a rich industrialist, and would cease inviting me to their houses in case I kidnapped their children and made them my little chimney slaves. 100 years ago I would be sitting in a gentleman's club, scoffing at the incredible claims of a handsome young inventor. Twenty years ago I'd be the bass guitarist in an 80's hair band. In today's cynical times, people would just assume I was taking the piss out of all of the above.
This is where I started getting bored, so I drew a picture of a lobster Flamenco dancing.

I have actually not been shaving for a week or so now, and have nurtured a fine coating of straggly bristles all around my face. It's been a great learning experience. You know how people with beards stroke them when they're lost in thought? They don't do that on purpose. Several times now I have caught myself doing it unconsciously. Perhaps the beard is transmitting signals directly to my brain, and if I don't keep stroking it it will come to life and devour the world.

Tune in next time, when I will be hopefully be doing something more mature than drawing all over my face.

- Yahtzee

PS. Donate $5 for the 5 Days A Stranger Special Edition! Please!

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All material not otherwise credited by Ben 'Yahtzee' Croshaw
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