Monday, June 30, 2008
Friday, June 27, 2008
Dear Escapist readers,
You may or may not be aware of the demise of Melasis’s site 3scapism. This was a site which was dedicated to showcasing the work of aspiring game journalists and reviewers in a place where it could be seen in one convenient location.
I’m not going into the reasons why 3scapsim is no more, because I simply don’t know enough about it. What I will say however is that it was a fantastic innovation that I’m sure every current games journalist would have been grateful to have access to when they were starting out.
I’m here to announce that the void left by 3scapism will be filled.
I’m starting my own games site, I say ‘my own’, I really mean ‘your’ gaming site. I’m not sure of the name yet, but no doubt it will rock your world.
This simply won’t be a mirror of 3scapsim though, it will [i]improve[/i] on it.
First off, instead of limiting content to video games, I will also be accepting games op-ed pieces. These ideally would be well-written and thought provoking articles written by journalists looking to make their mark in the industry. It would also go above the level of ‘GTAIV IZ DA BEST
These articles will be the opportunity for writers to take a look at the industry as a whole. Where we were, where we are and where we’re going.
Secondly, we will be accepting film reviews and op-ed pieces at this point too. I know some of you hold a great passion for cinema, and some of you are even film students. What better way to demonstrate your love for cinema by than writing about it?
Apart from new content, we will also be beholden to a real-world production cycle.
That means that each week, prospective article will run the ringer of subbing. This includes checking articles for fact and legal breaches and checking for spelling and grammar. I’m sorry to say that each article will be subject to a word limit too.
This is the way it’s done in the real world, and I’m thinking at this stage the word limit will be 1250 words. This is to ensure that copy on the site isn’t too cluttered, and also gives prospective journalists practice and discipline.
We will also be beholden to UK English. That means ‘colour’, not ‘color’. Don’t fear though, because of the process we will have in place, if you do slip into Americanisms, we will fix it for you.
We don’t wish to discourage anybody at all from writing, but I had to pick a spelling style that is maintained on the whole site, and I’m from
At this point in time, there are no style specifics, and this is to encourage creativity from our writers. There’s nothing worse than writing a whiz-bang fantastic article and then having to go through it with a fine tooth comb.
I should point out, that these are all preliminary thoughts, and over the next three weeks these will be developed more fully, and a mission statement will be drafted.
What I’m looking for now is people who want to write. People that love writing so much that it borders on the legal in
These people would have their own style, their own flair and their own words to preach. If this sounds appealing to you, please contact me using the details below. At this stage, all applicants will be considered, please do not be afraid to give it a crack. It’s your future, grab it.
As I alluded to, I am also looking for subs. These will be the people who have noticed the grammatical mistakes in this letter. Yes, pedants, I’m looking for you. The plan is to check about 5-10 articles per week and this will give you great experience at subbing, and will look FANTASTIC on your resume.
I’m hoping that we can send feedback to journalists each week detailing where they went wrong, where they went right, and where they went gonzo. That way, not only will the site be a functioning media outlet, it will be a great learning and training ground.
I’m also looking for web-wizards who will not only help maintain the site, but help innovate and bring new things to the table. Video content at this stage is off the table, but it’s something I’ll be looking into.
Lastly, I’m looking for enthusiastic researchers. These will be the people who bug the hell out of game developers and their PR departments looking for that juicy exclusive that will take our site from amateur to professional.
The hope is someday, when we call a game company, we get someone who isn’t in a meeting.
In summary, the groundwork has been laid my Melaisis, it’s up to us not only to replicate, but improve. Not to be happy with the status quo, but to innovate.
Please submit all ideas, job applications and articles to james.r.mcgrathATgmail.com or contact me on the forums.
With all things running smoothly, we should have our first update live on the 27th July.
James McGrath (AKA Hey Joe)
P.S- All name suggestions welcome
Monday, June 23, 2008
Once upon a time, the pron industry had the guile to align itself with the sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s, but now it remains a shadow of its former self as models are trotted out on camera and dissected through a consumerist eye.
Let me elaborate and let you in on what the hell I'm talking about.
You search the web for porn these days, and besides the gazillion hits you're going to get, you're also going to have a wide selection available. Porn for those whom feet are their fetish of choice, porn for those for whom redheads are their poison (moi) along with every conceivable combination of body part fetish, sexual fetish and other oddities to take your fancy.
It's a virtual meat market where anything goes, and it's harder not to find porn than it is.
You want a midget riding a black dude? Google it. You want an orgy involving 16 men and one woman? Google it. You want two giraffes giving a reach around to an old man who is licking the feet of a mute nun? Google it.
Any of you who have been on the internet for more than five minutes will recognize the vast fetishistic pool you have to choose from these days. Remember when it was gay/straight/soft/hard?
Now, I'm not against choice, I'm for it. If you have a particular fetish you want to explore, go nuts. What I'm against however, is the affect of this on society today.
Back to my woman in front of the camera example.
A woman is trotted out in front of the camera, usually naive or just acting that way. They're told to pose for the men behind the camera who make comments like 'whoah those are great tits...great nipples....nice arse'.
It's sickening to see these women subjected to this sort of appraisal. It can't be good for women if this is what is informing them of the female ideal according to the heterosexual male. Much like male porn stars create unrealistic expectations of penis size, these women who are engineered to be fetishistic objects can't be doing good.
What I'm driving at, is the standards of physical beauty in a woman is now informed by how perfect their nipples are, how sumptuous their feet are and how firm their bum is. In many ways, we have gone backwards in society when this happens.
Then, you actually get into the porn and its always the woman being subjected to the male presence. There's no passion there, she's being told what to do in every frame. "Bend over, take it on the face!"
Now, I don't know about you, but I've never known a woman who actually likes to have their man shoot his love juice onto her face. Not one.
But of course, men see these films and see the behavior of the ideal woman. So he gets to thinking this is what women should be doing, and they get disappointed when their woman says no (and disappointed when they look down at their manhood).
The only sort of porn I'll ever get into these days is amateur porn where the couple actually R-E-S-P-E-C-T each other and love each other.
Sorry for the rambling people, but I overheard some guys talking about a porno and the things the woman was doing. They laughed and joked about getting their women to do that, and I could only hang my head in mourning and walk on by.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
As some of you know, I work as a barista when I'm not whining about people not giving me freelance work. It's a relatively new job, and I've been in it for about five months now. I get along with most of the people there and I feel quite at home.
I also work as the only male on staff. This is an interesting position to be in, but one I'm comfortable with because I've been the only maleon staff before, and I was raised in a family of women.
Here's the thing though, some of them find me attractive. I've lovingly been given the name of 'spunky' and I've overheard conversation saying that I'm quite alright looking. That's fine, it's just looking, that's not going to harm anyone.
But what happens when that escalates?
Last night I was closing with one of my coworkers when the banter between us somehow turned to what I find attractive in a woman and some of my pick-up lines. She instigated the questions such as 'what do you find attractive?'.
My inner alarm bells started to go off at this point, but they weren't blaring. I answered her questions saying that I'm looking for intelligence etc., but then she started to ask about how I picked up women. So I started to joke around saying things like "Nice shoes, wanna root?" and "I sincerely want to listen to you talk about your problems...really".
Then, I'm not sure if this was out of exasperation about my answers, but she asked "What would you say to me?"
ALERT! ALERT! ALERT!
Again, I kept it on the surface saying things like "Uhh....you're tall" and such things. She kept on pushing the point though, and luckily I was able to divert her attention with something that needed cleaning.
Don't look at me like that.
This could just be me being paranoid though, as the girl in question is 18 and Christian. I'm sure Christians go out on dates and such, but she knows I'm not into religion. I don't hate it, but I don't believe in it.
She's pretty cute though, and this episode has me scanning everything she says for hidden intention.
So, the question I pose to readers is this. How do you work with a workplace infatuation? Do you try to bury it,or do you try and bring things to a head?
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
It's long been tradition to miss the opening ceremony if you have an event early the next morning, and that makes sense. Who wants to be standing on their feet for ten hours when you have to be gunning for gold the next day?
But this marks the first time that Australian athletes will sit out the ceremony for health concerns. They're (again, I mean the officials) are concerned smog levels in the city will affect their performance, so much so that they'd rather have athletes fly in for their events.
Correct me if I'm wrong here, but isn't the pinnacle of sporting achievement supposed to be participating in the Olympic games?
Of course, Beijing officials are furious, and I'm sure carefully worded letters will be sent to Canberra over the next weeks. The question is, do officials from the AOC have the right to determine the Olympic experience for athletes?
It's a pretty tough call to make, and one that will be justified if the athletes give good performances, but this points to a darker side of Australian sport, and Australian culture at large.
Ever since the Australia II sailed into Fremantle and Bob declared "any boss who gives a worker the sack because they don't come in tomorrow is a bum", we've relished in sporting success and the underdog tag.
We've always been the colonials trying to mix it up with big boys on the stage, and when we've won, well, it's been a product of Aussie ingenuity and guts.
Even when Steven Bradbury....somehow (by 'somehow', I mean everybody else fell over) won at Nagano, we rationalised the win by saying things like 'good on him, it took guts to make it that far'.
Look at the Australian Cricket team. Is the more no more poignant social baramoter of our culture than the colonials beating the masters at their own game again, and again, and again, and again?
We love it when our teams and athletes win, we see it as a vindication of our national character and our willingness to 'give it a go', but much like our cricket team, we really revel in dominance and the dark edge that can bring.
There is an ingrained culture in Australian sport to win at all costs, heck, bowl underarm if need be! AIS funding is tied into the results various sports achieve, so while Rugby Union may receive big ol' chunks of development money, Volleyball can only navel gaze from way up in the air.
It seems that winning on the world stage at games has become the way of proving our worth as a nation, and our individual character. So the latest move from the AOC should come as no great shock.
You see, the AOC have been looking over their shoulder as teams like Germany France and England eye the fourth spot on the Olympic medals table. They've expressed concern that the tradition of doing better at every Olympics, may be under threat in Beijing.
We can't go backwards! It's unheard of! Our coat of arms doesn't go backward!
So the move to base in Hong Kong instead of attending the opening ceremony isn't just for protecting our athletes, it's for protecting our medal position, and protecting the great Aussie dream.
Friday, June 13, 2008
I had all these grand plans about how I was going to spend my free time this semester break, but as it turns out, my employers had other ideas. In short, I'm working about 35 hours a week which means I'll be getting some serious cheddar but after a long day, the last thing I want to do is write.
I'll have to scale back some of the freelance projects I was going to undertake, but I should be able to submit one or two pieces around the place which is nice.
The plans I have at the moment is to write a piece about gaming from the most isolated city in the world (Perth) and submit it to the escapist to see if they want to give it a run (or at least read it).
The other piece I'm thinking of developing is an article about the practice of offsetting carbon. My plan would be to hit up an editor of a bio-publication I had a bit of contact with over the semester.
My piece would question the whole practice of planting trees in a vain attempt from companies such as QANTAS and other to offset their footprint. Planting a whole bunch of trees is nice, but how long does it take for those trees to grow?
All the while they keep on polluting, but can say 'hey!We're eco-friendly, look at all the trees we've planted!'. Then what happens if the trees are cut down and made into furniture, what happens to the carbon in the plant then? Does it get released back into the atmosphere?
Perhaps a better way of showing you're eco-friendly would be to invest in renewable energies?
It's even worse since we've ratified the Kyoto protocol. Now companies have the power to engage in carbon trading, and specialist carbon traders are popping up around the place (including here in Perth).
It goes like this. A company can set them selves up so they buy property, plant a bunch of trees to develop a carbon sink. Then, because as a full business they've been allocated a heck of a lot of carbon credits, they can on sell them to the highest bidder (usually from a heavily polluting company). The thing is, they can claim the credits straight away, without waiting for the trees to grow to their full size.
So the polluting industry can keep on polluting because they have the carbon credits to do so, the dedicated carbon trader has a lot of dough and CO2 emissions continue to pollute.
A better system, in my opinion, would be a straight up tax on polluting companies. That way would you not only discourage polluting, you could take the money from the taxes and invest it in renewable energy such as wind, solar or hot rocks/geothermal (a personal fave of mine).
So anyhow, that's what I'd be going with the piece, and I'd be contacting some companies who are setting themselves up as carbon traders to see what sort of protocols are in place regarding the trading scheme.
I'll also be doing my usual round of reviews at the escapist forums, and my next two will be a comparative review between Deus Ex and Deus Ex: Invisible War, and Tiger Woods '08. I actually have some time to work on these, so I'm hoping these turn out to be really high quality reviews instead of the five minute reviews I usually submit, and hopefully these will hit around the same time I'm submitting to the Escapist.
Anyhow, I'm sorry for the longish post.
P.S- A shout out to all the Perth Escapists, at the moment Saskwatch and I are planning on goin' bowling in about 2 weeks time. We're hoping this could turn into a Perth Escapists forum/micro-convention, so if you want to meet up with me and the Yankee Culthulu, either contact me on the forums or send me an email.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
I'm going to be submitting a lot more freelance stuff around the place, and I will be chronicling my struggle to be published right here. At the moment, I'm thinking of submitting a a few gaming sites, because it's what I enjoy writing about.
That being said, I will be trying to get some work with a bio-tech mag here in Perth, and I'll let you all know how that goes. If you guys out there in the webiverse know anywhere that's taking copy for peanuts, fill me in.
I'll also be launching a few creative projects of my own (one of which involves video reviews) which will not be in the style of Yahtzee, so this blog may get some multimedia content soon.
Other than that, I'll be working my arse off at the coffee shop trying to get some money together. I'm not sure for what yet, but it'll be good to have some savings in the bank in case China slips into recession and we're left screwed.
Anyhow, I'm alive, I'm writing and you're going to be hearing a lot more from me soon...ish.
Sunday, June 1, 2008
Instead, I wrote this. Enjoy
I should be writing an essay about the construction of the 'other' in action film right now, but I just can't be arsed.
Instead, I feel it prudent to collate a few thoughts about how our little medium is starting to grow up. In this discussion, I will be referencing two recent monolithic game releases in Bioshock and GTAIV.
We all remember the hype surrounding the release of the two titles. We all remember perfecting our Serbian accents before GTAIV was released and scribbling 'Rapture Rise!' on our notepads in lectures before Bioshock hit.
When these games came out, we found that not only were they excellent titles (not perfect), but they were attempting a serious discourse on gaming, and its direction.
I'll start with Bioshock.
Rapture. The only place it could be built was the bottom of the ocean. The dark depths were the setting for a game that examined the human condition, morality and most importantly for the gaming industry, the conventions of gaming until that point.
I think us all here who have played the game remember the phrase 'would you kindly?' and the reverberations it had.
Until that point, we had been guided by another's motivations, the other's desire for his family, and ultimately for revenge. Flashing lights gave us the objective we had to fulfil in order to advance the plot, and take us the next step on our linear progression.
'Would you kindly?' changed all that. Before that, we were passengers in a deeper struggle between two men, observing the twisted world around us, slack jawed and wide eyed.
After that, the true horrors of Rapture revealed themselves. Instead of a freakshow, we confronted the very real spectre of corruption and the degradation of society into cannibalistic orgy, where the flesh was the keeper of Adam. All for one man's vision, and a hoodlum's greed.
Bioshock took us on a ride and suddenly, oh so suddenly, with one phrase changed the experience for the player. It took us from the passive observer, to critical witness and participant in creating meaning.
GTAIV involved the player in the narrative like no other game has before.
We all remember GTA right? Violence, hookers and blowing shit up? Fun as hell, but kinda shallow.
The parents cried out. They're going to release a game like that!? In hi-def!? When will these game developers realise the consequences of violence?
Those who have completed the main story of GTAIV will realise that they did.
Here we had Niko Belic, coming to America to find the American dream. Now, it would be pretty easy for the game developers to have us digest a story about how petty violence was in this context. Simple as can be, just put in a huge fuck-you bittersweet ending.
Well, they did that. They fully explored the thematic concerns surrounding a gangster lifestyle as portrayed in popular culture. You know, the one where twelve scantily-clad women dance around a guy wearing baggy clothes telling the world about his penis size and how he was gonna cap all the bitches that stood in his way.
GTAIV captured the futility of this lifestyle perfectly in its storyline, but again, if this game were like ones before it, the player's involvement would be passive.
You know what this game did that no other has yet?
Relationships. You were given a phone, and given the chance to engage with the characters outside of the escort mission/ cut scene parameter. What better way to engage the player in the narrative but give the chance for the player to know the characters involved?
Imagine the emotional impact of a certain character's death if you have gotten to know them. Dug deeper than the superficial appearance of AI, and gotten to the real emotional core of the character.
For those of you who had to endure Kate's death. What did that feel like?
Did you shudder?
Did you weep?
Have you ever felt like that before? The heightened sense of tragedy knowing about Kate's family, the McReary clan. Knowing about her relationship with their father, and about her reluctance to trust anyone in her family's gangster life.
On the way to funeral, she finally accepts Niko. Niko accepts and embraces his new, clean life. Away from the killing.
Even after Kate's death, characters call you to offer their condolences.
Without the character interaction, we would just have another predictable tragedy on our hands, but because of it, the player's involvement becomes that much deeper, and we engage with the narrative that much more.
That should be the buzz-word for the next phase of gaming.
You can keep your next-gen graphics, you can keep your audio bells and whistles, you can keep your gun with a chainsaw, I want engagement.
I want a game to engage me.
I want a game to drag me into the world so deep that I forget I'm playing a game. You won't do it with graphics, verisimilitude has to go to the core of what gaming means as an interactive experience.
This thing, this gaming medium. It's the only medium where you can actively participate. It's time for developers to realise this.
Would you kindly?