Gamers blog party: summer 2017 invitation

Club Tropicana may have its free drinks, fun and sunshine but it’s missing one very important ingredient: you. It’s time for our latest blog party here at Later Levels because there’s no better way to celebrate the start of the summer and upcoming weekend – as well as meet some new blogging friends and read their amazing posts.

A number of you lovely lot attended our last party back in March and we enjoyed it so much, we decided to start hosting them each quarter to say thank you. It’s our way of showing appreciation for all of your support and recent award nominations (much love to Matt from The Album for the latest mention), and providing a way to find awesome sites you may not have come across already.

The rules are simple:

🎉   Arrive at the party: the first thing to do is introduce yourself, so say hello in the comments section below and give an introduction to your blog to welcome new readers.

🎉   Present your gift: think about the posts you’ve written since March and choose your favourite or one which was really fun to write, then provide a link to it in your comment and explain why it was chosen.

🎉   Mingle: grab a bowl of nibbles and colourful cocktail, and mingle with your fellow guests! Check back on the comments throughout the day to discover excellent blogs and meet some new bloggers.

🎉   Party all day: the comments below will be open until 06:00 GMT on Saturday, 01 July 2017 so you’ve got plenty of time to meet and greet. Plus we’ll be sharing your posts on our social media channels!

Hopefully our latest blog party will be a way of providing a friendly social hub where people with similar interests can interact and find wonderful posts they’ll enjoy reading. Have fun – and excuse me while I top up the bowls of peanuts and turn the music up a little louder!

Ethan’s Mini Marathon: lessons learnt

During the weekend just passed, myself and the rest of the Gamely Giving team participated in a 16-hour gaming marathon with the aim of raising as much awareness and money as possible for the amazing charity that is SpecialEffect. A huge thank you to those gorgeous people who joined us while we were live on Twitch!

This event was much shorter than our previous 72-hour stream back in April and, even though it ran a little more smoothly, it wasn’t without a few minor bumps. Here’s what our latest experience has taught me…

Sometimes real life gets in the way

Instagram, Pete, stream, Ethan's Mini Marathon, asleep

Despite us arranging this marathon after our last event three months ago, poor Nathan and Pete were required to go into work before their stream shifts as a result of real life getting in the way of gaming. This unfortunately left them both worn out – and Pete falling asleep on the sofa next to me during my own shift – but they bravely battled on and it made it through to the end of the 16-hours. Well done boys, I’m proud of you.

However much you test, you haven’t tested enough (part 2)

Instagram, Ethan, stream, Ethan's Mini Marathon,

During our last marathon, we experienced some pretty big technical issues at the start: my capture card decided to throw a proper wobbly during the first 90 minutes of the stream despite us testing for two weeks beforehand. I’m happy to report that there were no such problems this time and we think we’ve managed to figure out what’s going on; the damn thing hates hot-swaps and much prefers to be shut down completely. This means that if we ever attempt 72-hours again, I’m going to need to put some thought in getting around this.

Ethan and I think way too much alike

Instagram, Quiplash, stream, Ethan's Mini Marathon,

Anybody who tuned into either my own or Pete’s shift would have realised that my other-half makes up songs about everything: from cooking the dinner to cleaning the bathroom, there’s usually a tune to go along with it. It was therefore not much of a coincidence that both Ethan and I chose the same answer when we went head-to-head on a round of Quiplash – and now the entire world knows what really cracked the Liberty Bell.

877 blocks of TNT isn’t as impressive as you think

For every £1 donated during our fundraising efforts for SpecialEffect this year, Ethan has been placing a block of TNT on a tower in his Minecraft world with the intention of blowing it up at the end of last weekend’s marathon. You’d think that a structure made of 877 combustible blocks would cause a pretty impressive explosion, right? Take a look at the video opposite to see for yourself (apologies for the poor sound quality – a certain ten-year old was a little over-excited).

Trolls will turn up, even if it’s a charity event

Instagram, Twitch, chat, fake donation,, stream, Ethan's Mini Marathon,

When we completed our 72-hour marathon, there wasn’t a single viewer who displayed any kind of inappropriate behaviour; but there were three in the 16-hours completed on Saturday. These clever people thought it would be a great idea to enter fake donations into the Twitch chat – even though there’s no donate button on the Gamely Giving channel and we haven’t set up a PayPal link. CashVillain, jabby134 and Dunkz: for your stupidity, you’ve been banned.

Events like these are so worthwhile

Instagram, Twitch, Wotsits, crisps, keyboard, mouse,, stream, Ethan's Mini Marathon,

I can’t thank you lovely people enough for all of your support, and much love to Luke from Hudstrasse and Ian from Adventure Rules for chatting to us during the stream. A number of you also donated – it means so much to me and the rest of the team!

We’re currently sitting at a grand total of £877.90 for SpecialEffect and we’ve had so much fun getting here. The Gamely Giving JustGiving page will remain open until the end of the year if anyone would like to sponsor us and support the charity.

Once more, and from the bottom of my heart: thank you.   ❤

Lumo and the earworm

I’ve been a victim of an earworm for the past week – not some freak insect-related accident, but music that’s repeating in my head. It seemed to come from nowhere, its lingering melody and emotional lyrics speaking to me as if from a dream, and it’s slowly pulling me down a dark descent into madness. I can’t make out all of the words but those I can hear haunt my soul:

Hold my hand very tightly, very tightly, very tightly… Hold my hand very tightly, oooooh…

Let me explain. My other half was playing Lumo recently while I was drafting a post for Later Levels, so I had one eye on his game and the other on my laptop. This title is a contemporary-take on the isometric-platformer and can be enjoyed by anyone looking for a challenging adventure; but if you’re an older game who lived through the 80s and early 90s, you’ll notice layer upon layer of nods to the ‘golden age’ of video games.

At one point early on, he directed his character into an elevator to ride upwards into the starry skies and on to the next part of the level – and it’s the music that played while this was happening which has been haunting me for the past several days. A bit of quick research revealed it’s from a song called Hold My Hand Very Tightly (unsurprisingly) by Whistlin’ Rick Wilson, along with an interesting backstory.

In the late 80s, 8-bit computer magazines recorded games onto cassettes and then attached it to their front cover so Spectrum and Commodore 64 owners could experience the demos for themselves. Dave Wilson was a staff member at Your Sinclair at the time and, when he and a friend went to a party wearing stick-on side-burns and chest wigs, his crooning alter-ego was born.

Wilson’s flatmate Jim Wellman was a budding musician who had recently come into possession of a Teak six-track portable recording studio. It wasn’t long before the guys decided to record their own song: a tribute to the manufactured pop by Kylie, Jason and the like which was clogging up the charts. Wellman knocked together the music while Wilson wrote and performed the lyrics, and the resulting single was a minor classic.

This explains why Your Sinclair took up valuable space on issue 44’s cover-tape in August 1989 with a Rick-Astley-style tune badly warbled by a man with sideburns ‘that would shame Englebert Humperdink’. Its lyrics were printed in Smash Hits and the song was even played on Radio 1 after a listener called Phillip Schofield’s show and made a request. Sadly for Whistlin’ Rick though, it was his only outing in the charts and his one brush with fame.

Lumo was released in May 2016 and the use of Hold My Hand Very Tightly is one of many old-school references added by creator and industry-veteran Gareth Noyce. A line in the title’s trailer explains that being lost isn’t scary because it’s an adventure, and this sums it up nicely: players take control of a child wizard as they work their way through over 400 rooms. They’ll encounter traps and puzzles as they try to find their way out of the castle they’ve become lost in, while uncovering secrets and lovely little references to the golden age of gaming.

Be warned though because as charming as it looks, it’s pretty tough. I eventually lost count of how many times my other-half’s character died during his playthrough! The other thing that’s tough is getting rid of this damn earworm – I have a feeling that Whistlin’ Rick’s dulcet tones are going to be with me for a while yet.

Gamely Giving: Ethan’s Mini Marathon

Earlier this year, myself and the rest of the Gamely Giving team participated in a 72-hour stream to raise funds and awareness for the amazing SpecialEffect. This was the longest gaming marathon we’ve ever completed together and it was certainly an eye-opener. Not everything went according to plan and we definitely learnt a few new, tough lessons.

That’s not to say we didn’t enjoy ourselves immensely however whilst also doing our bit for GameBlast17: we managed to raise £832.90, with over £100,000 being donated to the organisation in total during the event. It’s a great achievement for our team despite being a little way off of our £1,000 target but that doesn’t mean we’re sitting back and taking it easy.

Starting at 07:00 GMT tomorrow, I’ll be taking part in Ethan’s Mini Marathon with a group of friends and bloggers in honour of the charity once again. Anyone who has visited Later Levels previously may already have heard of them but for those who haven’t, it’s a fantastic UK-based organisation that helps people with physical disabilities to play video games. They do this using equipment such as modified controllers and eye-control technology, all free-of-charge.

Join us on our Twitch channel from 07:00 GMT until 23:00 GMT tomorrow to witness the following batch of gorgeous gaming delights:

Great games Our event is being hosted by ten-year old Ethan, and under his direction each of our streamers has chosen a family-friendly game so you can watch along with your children. More details and times can be found in our stream schedule.

Big explosions Ethan is a huge fan of Minecraft and has come up with his own unique way of supporting the charity: for every £1 donated, he’ll place a block of TNT on the tower set up in his online world along with a sign showing the supporter’s name. He’ll then light it towards the end of the marathon and see how much destruction it causes – BOOM!

Plenty of feels Everything we’re doing tomorrow is for SpecialEffect and all money raised will go directly to the organisation to enable them to continue their wonderful work. Donations can be made via our JustGiving page or by texting ‘GGGB99 £5’ to 70070, and we’re so grateful for every penny given. Big hugs to those people who have already sponsored us – you’re amazing.


It’s time to reach that £1,000 target! Join us over on the Gamely Giving Twitch channel from 07:00 GMT tomorrow and send us a tweet to give us some encouragement. We really appreciate your support!

Lara Croft and the Dance GCSE

On Monday morning I came across an article on the Metro website regarding a Kickstarter campaign hosted by composer Nathan McCree. I was surprised I hadn’t heard about his project to make a recording of The Tomb Raider Suite before.

That was until I took a look at some of the updates which revealed the answer: the campaign was originally placed under the ‘orchestral music’ category before being moved to ‘games’ a couple of weeks ago. Fortunately though, there were still a few days left before the deadline and so I quickly jumped on board with my support.

When writing the music for the first three Tomb Raider games between 1996 and 1998, McCree used his favourite synthesizers available at the time but always dreamt of hearing the tracks performed by a full orchestra and choir. That opportunity finally came with 20th anniversary of the series last year, when The Tomb Raider Suite was performed live by Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and the City of London Choir to over 2,000 fans.

The composer, along with Producer David Burns and Orchestrator Adam Langston, is now looking to make a studio recording with one of England’s leading orchestras in the best-loved location: Abbey Road in London. This is a unique opportunity for all Tomb Raider fans to hear and own a copy of a world-class recording of the music as McCree had always intended it.

So why have I chosen to back this project? Well, it’s probably not for any reason you can guess easily. I’m not a particularly big Tomb Raider enthusiast (although I do love how Lara Croft’s character has evolved since the first game was released). I didn’t attend the original symphony in London mentioned above. And I don’t have any great knowledge of or regularly listen to orchestral music.

The reason: my Dance GCSE exam.

Something most people don’t know about me is that I used to be a pretty keen dancer. I took ballet and tap lessons for a number of years when I was younger and moved on to contemporary dance when I became a teenager. I managed to win a couple of medals although I wouldn’t say I was particularly great at it, but it was something I really enjoyed doing.

I therefore decided to take Dance as one of my GCSEs over twenty years ago (I’m getting on a bit). The final grade for the qualification was based on two main pieces of work: a solo created by an experienced choreographer that had to be performed in front of the examiner, and a group dance each student had to choreograph themselves. The latter had to be inspired by a subject so I chose a picture painted by a friend, a study on how opposites fit together.

My brother was playing the original Tomb Raider game while this work was taking place and he’d be found guiding Lara Croft through ancient ruins every evening. It therefore seemed as though The Tomb Raider Theme was playing constantly in our house – and thus it became the music I chose for my choreography piece. I hooked up our old boom-box to the family PC, left the menu options on the screen while I recorded the track onto a cassette tape, and that was the music played to the examiners while my dancers performed my piece.

They thought it was ‘very inventive’. I therefore have Lara Croft and Nathan McCree to thank for helping me earn an A grade in my exam.

It’s rather fitting that one of the Kickstarter campaign’s reward tiers includes a signed copy of the first page of the score for The Tomb Raider Theme. This is the one I went for and, if the project is successful, the reward will be framed and go up in one of our rooms as part of our current house renovations along with our BioShock-inspired diving helmet.

There are still a few days left to go before the campaign closes and with over 70% of a £160,000 target raised by backers so far, things are tight but still achievable. Success could lead not only to Tomb Raider: Live In Concert touring worldwide but also for ‘entry into the classical repertoire’ so it can be performed by orchestras all around the world. Head over to the Kickstarter page by 25 June 2016 to show your support.

Your next career: the ‘best’ jobs in video games

In a recent trial at the University of Glasgow, it was found that playing video games could help improve your employability. Gaming was shown to help gain ‘graduate attributes’ such as communication skills, resourcefulness and adaptability, in a relatively short amount of time. Bonus!

So it turns out that our parents have been wrong all these years: the time spent with our controllers wasn’t a ‘waste’ and it has in fact been helping us secure the best and brightest jobs for our futures. So what careers do we have to look forward to?

Vacancy: Merchant

We’re looking for an experienced salesperson to join our team of qualified Merchants throughout the beautiful land of Hyrule. Your goal will be to maintain customer satisfaction to the highest level and ensure our clients are provided with only the finest goods that rupees can buy.

Your primary responsibility will be serving customers – well, customer – ok, that weird blond kid with the sword. Accounts will need to be balanced and hexagonal gemstones banked on a daily basis; and the handling of flammable goods such as bombs and lamp oils must be undertaken in line with all current health-and-safety legislation.

Requirements:

  • Experience of working in a customer services environment
  • Stock-management skills
  • Willingness to trade in an area constantly threatened by the reincarnation of evil
  • To register your interest, please apply to the Royal Family of Hyrule – by appointment only.


    Vacancy: Archaeologst

    A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity has arisen for a gifted Archaeologist to join us on our upcoming expedition to an exotic island in the middle-of-nowhere. No experience is necessary and training will be provided on the job; however, you must be willing to provide your own equipment.

    The successful candidate will be expected scale tombs, ruins and associated risks in their search for ancient relics and buried treasures. Setting up camp will be a regular requirement of this position, as is the healing of stab wounds, gun shots and injuries from bear-traps.

    Requirements:

  • Flexibility to travel to countries across the world
  • Quick-thinking, with ability to remain calm under pressure
  • Able to adapt to unexpected reductions in team size
  • Please contact Winston Smith in writing at The Fridge, Croft Manor, Surrey, England.


    Vacancy: Mechanic

    Los Santos Customs is looking for a talented Mechanic to join our crew. You will be responsible for overseeing the repair of all vehicles deposited in the garage and delivering these to our clients at any location, although you may be ‘otherwise occupied’ at certain periods during your day.

    This role comes with serious risk but a steady salary will be provided to compensate. Please note that we are an equal-opportunities employer, willing to consider those under a wanted-level; however, we’re unable to accept applications from individuals with police associations at this time.

    Requirements:

  • Automotive Maintenance and Repair NVQ
  • Ability to quickly grasp new vehicle technologies
  • Prepared to accept risk and provide own bullet-proof vest
  • Please hand your CV and covering letter into the garage between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Saturday.


    Vacancy: Plumber

    An experienced Plumber is required for a long-term contract in the Mushroom Kingdom. We’re looking for a new addition to our customer-focused team as we provide all aspects of support to residents throughout the land, keeping their pipes free of unwanted debris and dangerous vegetation.

    Hours are flexible although the person in this role will be expected to attend to call-outs in other dimensions where there is risk of hazardous reptilian infestation. Other duties as required will be assigned by line management; and a company van and uniform will be provided.

    Requirements:

  • Level 2 Diploma in Domestic Plumbing and Heating
  • Willingness to take on duties outside of normal role
  • Please note: candidates with an allergy to fungi should not apply for this position
  • Interested parties should speak to Princess Peach at another castle to arrange an interview.


    Vacancy: Dancer

    A well-known, busy nightclub in the centre of the Citadel is recruiting for full- or part-time Dancers. With a ‘lively’ atmosphere supported by music provided by only the ‘best’ DJs, we provide excellent working conditions on a good starting salary with plenty of tips.

    Successful applicants will be responsible for providing visual entertainment and charming our exclusive clientele in between their business meetings. Matters of a confidential nature in connection with national security are regularly discussed by our patrons and as such, a sense of discretion is of the utmost importance.

    Requirements:

  • Friendly, well-presented, with a love of working in public
  • Continuous sense of rhythm regardless of beat
  • Plenty of stamina – employees a required to move non-stop for a minimum of 10 hours
  • Auditions can be arranged by contacting either Doran or Rita at dance@fluxnightclub.me.