Archive for May, 2013

Why SvTM Has No Ratings

May 24, 2013 1 comment

For those of you who follow my sister blog Sven vs. The Movies (and if you don’t, why not? Follow it immediately!), you may be wondering why I don’t use a rating system on there to give a more definitive numerical value to my movie reviews. Well, the answer is simple: I knew it would drive me crazy.

Numerical ratings on the ends of reviews are common. They also help create aggregate scores on sites like Metacritic and give an at-a-glance view of what people think of a movie. It’s pretty easy to figure out a reviewer’s opinion on a movie just by looking at the score. It makes review reading an easier experience for everyone.

Unless you’re me, and then a rating system suddenly becomes a minefield of awkwardness wrapped up in a blanket of frustration. I find them so confusing; it makes me mix metaphors really badly. Oh yes, ratings systems are the devil.

What kind of rating system should I use? A thumbs up or down system doesn’t work because of the amount of downright average movies I’ve reviewed. Do I try and add that wiggly half-thumb people do when they say something’s OK? That’s too much work!

Maybe a simple rating out of 5 or 10. Well, this lulls me into a panic that I’m applying the right number. If I enjoyed a film does it get a 4 or 5? How do professional reviewers decide this? When do you reach the point of liking it so much you give it a 5 and where do you draw the line for the film being average enough to warrant a 3? What comes in between? This gets worse when you expand it to 10. What really is the difference between a 6/10 movie and a 7/10? Does anyone know? I sure don’t. What about bad films? Surely everything below 5 is just crap?

Don’t even talk to me about percentages! What does a film need to do to leap from a 66% to a 67%? That’s so mathematically small it’s not even worth trying to figure out.

It certainly doesn’t help that the project is so huge that it’s going to take a long time to get through all the films, so as I watch more, my opinions on earlier films may change and I may want to change their rating. Perhaps as I watch more, I could encounter better films in a certain genre and my opinion on earlier films in that genre has been reduced. If I gave a film 5/5 back then, what do I give the new film? It’s frustrating, guys. FRUSTRATING.

There is also the conundrum that my opinion on the movies tends to be a combination of objective and subjective. I always try and find reasons for why the film made the Movies You Must See list, regardless of my opinions on it. I always try and find the technical aspects that worked even if I found it dull, and I always try and find technical flaws in movies I enjoyed.

Here’s some examples: 2001: A Space Odyssey. An absolutely stunning piece of work, encompassing impressively designed sets, a workable vision of the future and visual effects that I still can’t quite figure out the process for. Shame that it’s absolutely pedestrian in its pacing and lacks any real narrative focus to keep the viewer entertained for its long running time. Do I vote that highly because of its cultural impact and visuals, or do I vote it low for story and entertainment value? It’d feel wrong to give it an average score because of these conflicting opinions in my own head, so it’s a difficult choice to make.

And then there’s Independence Day. A vacuous visual upgrade to The War Of The Worlds, the movie features some of the most one-dimensional characters ever put on camera, with a predictable, clichéd story with far-too-convenient twists and baffling plot holes. And yet it’s a fun popcorn summer blockbuster that provides plenty of entertainment if you don’t take it too seriously. Voting it high suggests the movie was a technical success, but voting it low implies that I didn’t enjoy it. Neither of these statements are true.

Best to leave off ratings altogether then. It’s not like my reviews are particularly long, and I stick those extra summary sections on the end for quick skimming if people want that. If you don’t like it


Xbox One Revealed!

May 22, 2013 Leave a comment

OK, forgive me if this entry is a little all over the place, but I’m writing it immediately following the reveal of the new Xbox and I’m still reeling. In a good way? Well…

First, some background. I watched the PS4 and I made a whole bunch of dumb sarcastic tweets about it, but I can honestly say those tweets and comments were in good fun, and I most likely will get a PS4 at some point in the future when the game library grows a little.

I did the same sarcastic tweeting in reaction to the Xbox reveal, but I honestly can’t tell when the good natured banter stops and the mean-spirited anger starts. You see, the Xbox reveal was awful, and I’m about to explain why.

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A Phone That No One “Likes”

May 21, 2013 Leave a comment

It was bound to happen. Within a month of its release, AT&T has formally announced that the brand new “Facebook phone” is going to be discontinued. And thus the world mourns. Mark Zuckerberg’s bizarro world, at least, since the real world never actually bought one.

It’s hard to feel sorry for Facebook because of this. As a business, it’s gained a pretty bad rep over the last year or so, with complaints about the service ranging from petty “they changed the layout waaaah” complaints, to genuine concerns about how much the privacy settings seem to keep changing themselves.

So amongst all of this negativity, it was, of course, the best time to release a version of Facebook that hijacks the entire Android layout and makes you use Facebook all the time, and then release a brand new phone model that ships with it pre-installed. Well, in Mark Zuckerberg’s bizarro world, it’s certainly a great business decision, but clearly didn’t apply to the real world.

Facebook Home was doomed to failure from the very beginning. This was a phone that made Facebook an operating system rather than a normal app. Every time you load up the phone, you’d be informed of everything your friends have been up to all at once, with status messages and invites being the primary thing you’d see everywhere you go on your phone. In Mark Zuckerberg’s bizarro world, you see, this is how people communicate.

At first I thought I was in a minority in thinking Facebook Home was pointless. While I have a Facebook account, I use it for its absolute bare minimum and don’t care to know absolutely everything that everyone is doing every second of every day. But the poor sales certainly suggest that other people view Facebook as invasive and annoying, but occasionally a necessary evil to keep in touch with friends. If you have a phone, you already have a way to keep in touch with friends – it’s called a phone – so maybe the need to plaster it in Facebook features didn’t really exist. It exists in Mark Zuckerberg’s bizarro world, of course, but not here.

Facebook seems to constantly forget that many use it as little more than a way to keep in touch with their friends, but it also forgets that it’s not the only thing people use. Twitter is hugely popular, and phone calls and emails still happen for genuinely important stuff. It could be possible that people may wish to use their phones for these things too. Not in Mark Zuckerberg’s bizarro world, apparently.

Could it also be that people don’t necessarily want to be bombarded with the news that their friends just made a great sandwich or achieved a high score in some cheap knock-off Zynga time-waster? Could it be that people don’t want this stuff shoved in their faces all the time? It’s easy to scroll through your wall on the Facebook website and mentally skim over the inane pointless stuff, but when your phone bleeps every time your vain friend posts another duckface photo of herself, it could be viewed as potentially annoying. Maybe.

Another part of the issue could lie in the fact that people tend to be attracted to Android phones for the fact that they are open source and customisable, moreso than the Apple alternative, so Facebook dumping their features all over it and removing the customisation options in the process may have been another stumbling block. But then again, customisation in Mark Zuckerberg’s bizarro world involves making everything blue and adding a modified Klavika Bold font.

I think it’s time for Mark Zuckerberg to move out of his bizarro world and really start looking at what people actually want from Facebook instead of trying to predict it and constantly failing. Because I certainly don’t see many people saying they “Like” the Facebook Phone any time soon.

For more fun with Facebook, check out my review of The Social Network over on Sven vs. The Movies!

Sneaky, Sneaky

May 15, 2013 Leave a comment

God, I love sneaking up behind people and doing illegal things to them.

Not in real life, of course. I get paranoid just walking behind a stranger on the street who happens to be walking at the same speed I am. I also don’t particularly like the idea of getting caught and spending an extended period of time in jail where I have to make friends with a man named Jimmy Knuckles. It’s just so much hassle that it’s best not to try.

No, of course, I am referring to my love of being able to sneak up on people in video games. Screw up sneaking up on someone in a video game and you either restart or you have to run away and hide in a locker/hay bale/barrel until the guards get bored and return to their posts, which doesn’t typically happen in real life. If someone wishes to test this out, please feel free (please don’t feel free, I don’t want you getting in trouble).

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Changes To The Cheap Ferret

May 14, 2013 Leave a comment

Hello everyone, here at The Cheap Ferret(TM) we aim to provide you with the best content we possibly provide, and quite frankly, we don’t believe we have been. Updates have been sporadic at best and, let’s face it, the blog has no real purpose or direction.

Well, time to change all that!

Yes, I’ve decided that it’s time to make this blog better, and turn it into something people from all over the world will want to read. Not just because I’m making them read it, but because they want to. And to do that, I need to decide what to achieve with my entries.

Here’s what’s happening. On Mondays, there’ll be a news post. This news post will be about a story from the last week that’s caught my eye, where I will offer up my opinions and generally make the news into something fun to read about. Consider it similar to a news column in that respect. I decided on Monday for this because Monday just seems like a news day.

On Wednesdays, I shall be indulging my love of gaming with you all, and it’ll be a day to talk about whatever’s on my mind in regards to games I’m playing or things happening in the gaming world right now. Like the news post, I aim to make it fun to read, something to make the gamers in my audience laugh, and still keep it accessible to those who don’t play games. In theory.

And on Friday, it’ll be time to turn my attention to the original purpose of the blog – to showcase my abilities as a writer and share both the fun and pain of writing with the world. Posts on this day will include updates on my progress to get out there as a freelance writer, but also looking back on my influences and some of the terrible stuff I wrote as a child/teenager. I may even bring up some events in my life that helped shape my decision to become a writer. But don’t worry! This won’t be some self-indulgent exercise in seriousness. Again, this will be a way of taking my experiences and making them entertaining for others.

So, as you can probably tell, the focus is on comedy and fun over anything super serious. I’ve written a few serious posts on here in the past, and there will absolutely be a place for those should the need arise, but primarily I want to make this blog enjoyable to read. I want The Cheap Ferret to be a place where people can come along, have a giggle, and then keep coming back because they enjoyed it so much last time.

When do these changes take place? Why, they take place immediately. It’s Tuesday today, and tomorrow the first gaming post goes up.

Also, I could do with some names for these updates. I’m thinking “Freelancer Friday” (it’s alliterative, y’see) for one of them, but if anyone reading this can suggest anything better, or can suggest something for the other days, then let me know! All suggestions are welcome, and I hope you enjoy the new direction of the blog.

This has been a public service announcement brought to you by The Cheap Ferret in association with myself. Thank you for reading.

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