For fun and profit?

A decade ago, the video games industry was something I wanted to be involved in. I spent my childhood as a serious gamer (albeit, one who focused on the Pokémon and Sonic the Hedgehog games), and I wanted to make my own video games based on my own creative ideas. As I got older, I developed my ideas further, and begun seeing the artistic potential of video games. This, however, is not what the video games industry had in mind. It turned out that the video games industry is not a good environment for creative people, and doesn’t seem to be interested in new ideas. It’s perhaps because of this that the mainstream video games industry is stagnating as it continues prioritizing triple-A games that look better than they actually are.

triple a

This is what the video games industry looks like today.

The games industry is in a pretty sorry state to say the least. Like all entertainment industries, the bottom line for the video games industry is profit, and thus it is compelled to appeal to its strongest demographic, the average gamer. Unfortunately, the average gamer demographic consists principally of grown men in their mid-late 30’s (the average age of a gamer today is 35-37 years old), and in trying to appeal to them, they keep churning out “new” titles that in reality are nothing more than rehashes of previous games, just that these titles happen to have flashy, big-budget visuals and plots that almost mirror Hollywood movies, and unsurprisingly enough, it’s getting old.

Because of this lack of innovation, the mainstream games industry is becoming a lazy, boring, and jaded enterprise, alienating younger customers and angering older customers. However, what’s even more worrying is what it means for young people aspiring to make their own games. They’ll enter the industry (or a game design course) with a creative mindset, but then the harsh truths of the video game industry will put out the fires of their creative passion very quickly, mainly because game design students are taught that the games industry is oriented towards the client, and that artistic expression is not important. Since the majority of jobs and game design courses are geared towards the mainstream games industry, it seems like the games industry has no room for the creative thinker, and nobody has bothered to change that perception.

The problem with focusing on the mainstream video games industry is that it’s a lumbering dinosaur. Since 2010, video game sales have been progressively falling, and games on disc have been sharply declining ever since downloadable titles have become more prevalent (the fact that Steam hasn’t killed the console market yet is quite a surprise in itself). The traditional console market may also be in decline as well, as fewer and fewer consoles are being sold as of recent. Meanwhile, in Japan, the traditional gaming market is being overwhelmed by the up-and-coming smartphone market. Meanwhile, the games industry in general is suffering the same problem that hard rock suffered in the mid-1970’s – it’s become bloated, pompous, and way too mass-produced to have any credibility left.

Also, I find that working in the video games industry has become a less attractive prospect. From what I hear, you’re only working on an idea that the company you work for wants you to, which is obviously bad for somebody with his own ideas in mind. If that’s not enough, you might also have deal with a lot of pressure from your employer, and then there’s the dreaded “crunch time”. If you know anything about game design, those words will be two of the most dreaded, since you have to work at a much faster pace in the months leading up to the deadline, but with no increase in pay to speak of. This was the subject of the EA Spouse controversy in 2004, but I highly doubt that the video games industry cares to change its habits, not while its kicking back in the billions of dollars it still makes.

So here’s the big picture. The video games industry today, at its current rate, is in a state of slow decline, and it continues to stifle artistic potential and new ideas in favour of appealing to a jaded audience of ageing gamers, and continues to make life hell for employees. Meanwhile, not only do we give the games industry a free pass as though none of that exists, but we also seem to keep putting a positive spin on the games industry solely because of its status as a huge cultural force. I’ll admit that this doesn’t make video games themselves any worse, but as someone who wants to create, I think it would be ludicrous to consider a career path that devalues artistic expression.

For me, the video games industry is not the yellow brick road it once was, and as I find new ways of pursuing the storytelling route, it’s become clear that the video games industry is more about simple entertainment and profit, as illustrated by the fact that the more artistic games are always beaten in the market by more mainstream titles (partially due to them getting more promotion). However, one has to wonder how long this can go on for. Eventually, the video games industry will be put into a position that a shift in paradigm will be absolutely necessary if it hopes to survive. Perhaps we’ll have to wait until the next video game crash for that to happen.

Why cynicism is overrated


“Diogenes of Sinope” by Jules Bastien-Lepage (1873)

Lately I’ve been thinking very hard about where I stand in the world, and I feel like I’m starting to feel disenchanted with the idea of cynicism. In fact, recent events in my life up to this point left my riding on a new wave of optimism. When I eventually came to, I weighed that positive outlook against the previous outlook, for which I had been known in the early college days, and I asked myself, do I really want to be cynical in the years that haven’t happened yet?

I look around me and I find that cynicism has become the hip philosophy for today’s generation of youngsters, but I also realized that being cynical is completely easy. From my experience, it doesn’t require much critical thought at all, and is usually based on the idea that the world is a broken shell of empty promises. It’s a worryingly easy trap for the next generation to fall into, and that sucks because when you’re cynical, whether you describe yourself as that or not, you can very often end up being a pessimist as well if you don’t see anything positive at all. The same thing happened to me a lot when I was still a teenager (and even more so during the beginning of my twenties), and I don’t think it was a very productive outlook.

It’s easy to assume that a cynical outlook is smarter than the more optimistic outlook. The truth is that neither outlook is smarter than the other, but I find that the more cynical outlook does not offer any solutions. It offers a ton of problems but no alternatives of its own. The only useful thing a cynical outlook teaches is to not trust everything with blind faith, but it’s a lesson that’s worth nothing if you end up dismissing everything without thought. Cynicism is nothing without the power to rationally discern what you can and cannot trust, and without rational judgement, cynicism always leads to the kind of jaded negativity that has now become trendy in the age of social media.

It’s also very naive to say that cynicism is about knowing better. After all, almost anyone can be cynical. I’ve found that when you’re cynical, you’re not making the best of the opportunities that can make your life better, and there’s no better example of this than university. I used to be extremely cynical about the idea of going to university because of the alcohol culture, the financial difficulties, and the fact that everyone wanted to go. Now I realize that this cynicism towards university was merely a mask for the fact that I wasn’t ready. Now that I feel I am, I think it’s going to be the best thing that will ever happen to me. Given that I spent three years being cynical about it rather than actually looking into the facts, I’d say that I’ve wasted a huge part of my life that I could have spent making my dreams come true.

The final thing that bothers me about cynicism (or more or less cynics) is the idea that if you think there’s a solution to a problem for which the cynic claims there is none, the cynic will dismiss you as a starry-eyed idealist, and any cynic that agrees that there might be a solution risks losing his or her street cred. That’s ultimately the big problem for me, when I start to think and feel more positively, and actually question how bleak my life really is, the cynical outlook quickly cracks. After all, when did thinking positively suddenly become bullshit?

For me, cynicism is a philosophy that doesn’t stand up to the test of time. If it could, then why do people still hope? Even as the media presents us with a distorted, exaggeratedly gloomy outlook of the world around us, humans still find ways to make the best out of life. As college comes to a close, and I move forward into the next stage of my life, I find myself feeling that an overly negative attitude as prescribed by the cynics will do nothing other than bring me down, and what good will that do if the negative feeling isn’t based on good judgement? All in all, I see cynicism as little more than a trendy philosophy that people inadvertently follow without actually thinking about how bad things really are, or will be in the future, and as long as I’m sure that cynicism doesn’t require a deeper knowledge of the complexities of life and human relationships, then I cannot take it very seriously anymore.

Living in the stone age

lad culture

If you thought that sexism was dead and buried, you’d be terribly naive. After all, the UK still has a thriving lad culture that pollutes the bars and universities, and it certainly survives on the Internet, thanks to the existence of such feminist-baiting websites like UniLad and The Lad Bible. On top of that, everywhere I go it seems that a lot of men seem to have fallen prey to the same kind of attitudes that plagued the barflies of the old days. What we’re now seeing is the kind of culture where crude, lowbrow trash talk and gossip is passed off as “banter”, as though that somehow makes it okay.

For those who aren’t quite aware of what lad culture is, allow me to explain. Lad culture refers to the stereotypical attitudes of immature young men, including heavy alcohol consumption, and grossly crass jokes masked as “banter”, which has been known to veer into misogyny, male chauvinism and homophobia. Most worryingly, it thrives in a lot of universities across Britain (particularly in the larger universities in England from what I’ve noticed), and despite the best efforts of these universities, it can get to a point where the whole concept of consent sounds like a foreign language to the average “lad”. For the lads described in lad culture, sports, beer, sex and banter are the only things that matter, but this has created a major cultural problem in contemporary Britain.

The key problem with lad culture, as represented and espoused by sites like The Lad Bible, is that, from what I understand, it’s mainly taken up by ignorant assholes who don’t know anything else, but those kind of people are virtually everywhere, especially on the Internet. Their idea of sexual relationships clearly stems from a lack of sexual knowledge or experience, and seems to be based more on bragging to their friends about having sex in the first place. And then there’s the problem of sites like Unilad, which openly encourage sexist habits that should have died twenty years ago, such as rating women according to their appearance, slut-shaming girls who aren’t with them, casual attitudes towards rape, and hurling abusive comments at feminists (the natural enemy of the ignorant lad).

Of course, this behaviour has cemented lad culture as one of the last vestiges of sexism in contemporary society, and it obviously flies in the face of all we’ve been working for. Did it ever occur to the folks who set up UniLad that girls don’t like it when men call them “sluts” who they’d “do up the arse”? That kind of attitude literally sounds like it was exhumed from the stone age, although to be fair, the lads themselves sound more like twisted parodies of our caveman ancestors. That this kind of attitude is normal should sound rather unsettling, and I say this because it says something awful about how we expect young men to see sexual relationships. The men who adopt lad culture clearly see sex as a matter of conquest and bragging rights, devoid of the emotional fulfilment, commitment and responsibility one would carry in a real relationship. This mentality is a relic of the dark ages, and the fact that it hasn’t been completely erased yet raises some serious questions on how we really value women in society.

Sadly, the main reason for the survival of lad culture is that it appeals to men who want to be free to be as wild and politically incorrect as they want. That’s how neanderthals like Keith Lemon and Jeremy Clarkson got their career, because they relate to a young male demographic that just wants to be wild. There’s nothing wrong with politically incorrect jokes, when there’s context involved. It’s completely different when it’s just rude for its own sake. I feel like lad culture represents the desire for male freedom being hijacked by brutish assholes ruining it for everyone else. This is why young men can’t have nice things in this day and age. But, as long as lad culture continues to survive in the contemporary consciousness, the misogyny of the old days, which appears to have been inherited by today’s lad culture, is something we’ll have to keep on fighting.

A new chapter in the cycle of fear and barbarism


Now that we live in a world of more sophisticated terrorism, ignorance is no longer an option.

A decade ago, the war on terror seemed to be all the news media talked about, with the narrative of the day casting al-Qaeda as the big bad wolf preying on Little Red Riding Hood. Of course, what we didn’t take into account was that al-Qaeda was in pretty bad shape before Osama bin Laden died. They had a terrible business model that relied on charitable donations, and by the time Osama bin Laden was killed, they were hampered by a cripplingly low budget, dwindling support, and a lack of new recruits. Suffice it to say, they had less chance of destroying Western democracy than the common cold. Today, the Islamic State (popularly known as “ISIS”) are the new villains of our day, working to sow chaos in the world, except this time, the threat from them is very real.

Nothing has served as a more important sign of this than Friday’s unquestionably horrible massacre in Paris. Following the events of that day, social media sites were awash with condolences and prayer, as much of the world stood in solidarity, and the fingers of the world point squarely at ISIS, who appeared to claim responsibility for the attack. Unsurprisingly, the French president, Francois Hollande, responded swiftly with a new round of air strikes against a series of ISIS sites in Raqqa, Syria. As unfortunate as it sounds, a new war in the Middle East might be inevitable, and Friday’s attacks in Paris may just be the tip of the iceberg.

If ISIS is the culprit behind the Paris attacks, as so many of us have suspected, then clearly we are no longer dealing with mindless religious fanatics. Yes, ISIS are principally driven by an insane, distorted interpretation of Islam, but to treat them as merely “violent extremists” is no longer appropriate, as that would be dangerously ignorant of what they have shown themselves to be capable of. We’re talking about a group of militant fanatics who wish to push the world back into the dark ages, and unlike al-Qaeda, they’ve actually planned their moves. They’ve destroyed historic sites that they’ve deemed “un-Islamic”, they’ve captured a significant portion of territory in Syria and beyond, and they’ve beheaded a number people from various countries in a series of graphic videos, and that’s only a brief summation of what they’ve done so far. Given this recent tapestry of atrocities, including the recent attacks in Paris, we can no longer live in ignorance of the threat posed by ISIS.

I think there is a very real possibility of another war in the Middle East, which leaves us in a very difficult position. On the one hand, force seems to be the only way we could stand up to ISIS, and we may be right to fight this war, but on the other hand, it’s still difficult to trust the integrity of any military intervention carried out by the West. Also, we tried bombing Syria earlier this year, and that resulted in the Syrian refugee crisis. That being said, it might be incredibly easy for the West to use both the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East and the recent tragedy in Paris to justify a new war in the Middle East, and thus the cycle of barbarism on both sides of the planet goes on.

Ultimately, the saddest part of the current geopolitical situation is that we may inevitably be thrust into another war that half of us don’t want, and that war will only benefit the undertakers and the terrorists. Worse still, given the response of Western governments, the complexity of the current Syrian situation, and the clear drive for war exhibited by Britain and America, it is painfully unlikely that we’ll see a peaceful solution to the conflict. At this point, let’s just hope that, in the event that we find ourselves involved in another war, we can all come to our senses sooner rather than later, unlike in the two previous conflicts. After all, the outlook for peace in the Middle East may look even more bleak than it has before, but there’s always hope for a better way. In the end, for us to descend into fear, ignorance and barbarism is the only way ISIS will ever really win.

The business of celebrity

ant and dec

The fact that these two assholes are still on TV is only one aspect of what has become an established enterprise.

Whenever you turn on your TV, you will undoubtedly be greeted by some has-been celebrity practically dying for attention and presumably money. It will most likely be the case that he or she has not been relevant in the public consciousness for five, ten, maybe even twenty years, and you probably haven’t heard that person’s name aside from the horrible world of celebrity game shows. That being said, what are they still doing here?

For every celebrity who has actually earned his or her fame, there’s plenty of people who exploit the culture of celebrity in order to gain fame and a career, sometimes by doing nothing of worth to society. These people stay famous by appearing on game shows, comedy panel shows, chat shows, and reality TV shows. Britain’s TV lineup is dominated by these shows, and of those shows, reality TV shows are often the most shameless way of promoting fake celebrities. This is done in shows like The X FactorStrictly Come DancingCelebrity Juice (a show that I’m honestly surprised anyone actually watches), and I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, which I wrote a rant about during the very early days of this site.

Nothing says more about the UK’s torrid celebrity culture more than I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here, which, despite being a mouldy cabaret of pestilent garbage, still remains a highly popular show amongst TV viewers, and perhaps that’s the only reason Ant and Dec are still on TV. I’ve seen them on TV many years ago, and I remember them for being some of the worst people on the planet. Even today it’s extremely baffling that they still have a mass audience. In fact, they are the worst examples of talentless morons who exploit public adoration of celebrity status for profit. Most of the “celebrities” on TV are either D-list celebrities (the famous for being famous celebrities), Z-list celebrities (people who at one point were genuine celebrities, but then plummeted to rock bottom and now only appear in TV), or just the kind of low-life slobs who always appear on reality TV.

This business of celebrity also seems to be the sole aspect of the career of the British comedian. Many of the most successful comedians are the ones appearing in comedy panel shows, where they can bank on the whole celebrity angle without doing much to earn it. Shows like Celebrity Juice survive on this business model, except the end result of that is trash TV, and that’s all those celebrities create. They pollute the airwaves with their self-satisfied fumes like the SUV’s of the entertainment industry, and gullible TV viewers continue to guzzle it up so much that they have no idea what they’re seeing or hearing.

TV isn’t the only platform they have. The real pulling power comes from the tabloids constantly spewing shock headlines about the celebrities that go on TV (often accompanied by sleazy pictures of them inside the newspapers). It’s the tabloids that make those low-lives famous because TV is all they care about. Therefore, the business of celebrity is heavily dependent on the tabloids because, despite being an extremely dated medium, they still have the potential to give people who didn’t do anything worth their fifteen minutes of fame, and if the tabloids aren’t enough, there’s always Twitter. After all, nothing exemplifies the increasing intellectual degeneracy of mankind more than Twitter.

The only reason celebrity culture exists in the way we see it today is that it has such an effective business model. If it accomplishes anything, it’s proving that you can never go broke appealing to the lowest common denominator, and that’s the culture we’ve created here. The only consolation is that, after the worst of these celebrities die, nobody gives a damn anymore, but then that point is moot because there’s somebody to replace them, and on and on the cycle goes until the industry eventually collapses. Until then, expect here the names of fame-hungry charlatans over and over again for as long as TV exists.

The red flowers of war


To most, this means remembrance of the war dead, but for people like me, it represents something much darker at hand.

One of the most depressing things about being a British citizen is that I’m constantly reminded of how little our culture values the individual, and for me, one of the worst examples of this is Remembrance Day. Every time I do anything on November 11th (which always seems to fall on a day when I’m in college nowadays), it’s always interrupted by the obligatory two minutes of silence, in which we all stop like drones on command, and that’s not even the worst part. In the days leading up to then, we have the poppy appeal, where public figures don poppies on their lapels in order to win public approval, and anyone not wearing the poppy is shamed by the common folk as soon as they find out.

This is a trend that Channel 4’s news anchor Jon Snow described as “poppy fascism”, the practice of compelling people to wear poppies because they supposedly ought to and shaming those who don’t, and this trend has been getting much worse this year than ever before. Newsreaders, politicians, celebrities, and even football managers could be seen wearing poppies as early as possible out of fear of being branded as disrespectful traitors by a zealous British public infected with sentimentalism. Whenever public figures fall foul of the poppy tradition, we act as though they’re supposed to be role models, and by not wearing a poppy they have supposedly failed. Why? Why is it impossible for public figures to make their own choices without swathes of morons kicking up a fuss about it on Twitter? Better yet, why do people care about what celebrities wear in tacky chat shows?

However poppy fascism manifests itself, we justify it by proclaiming that wearing the poppy is a sign of respect for the war dead. That’s fine, except for the fact that when we focus on the soldiers who died fighting for their country, we end up glossing over the reality of war. At the risk of sounding cold, I should point out that those who choose to fight in a war, past or present, have pretty much signed up for job in which they could get killed. Of course, one could argue that this is the sacrifice of the soldier, but one must one oneself what the soldiers are even fighting for. All modern wars are fought for startlingly ignoble reasons. For example, the current situation in the Middle East was mainly caused by America’s constant interloping in places such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria, and our soldiers are only involved because our government wants to be involved in anything America does. It’s not as though past wars fare much better.

Nowadays, war is only ever fought because it profits some higher powers, be they politicians or big corporations. Now that I think about, it’s no wonder the government loves Poppy Day, because it gives them the opportunity to make war sound romantic and glamorous. Of course, we aren’t as stupid as the government thinks we are. We should all know by now that there’s nothing glamorous about people killing each other, whatever the reason may be. Personally, I have a very big problem with the whole “poppy mania” because outside Remembrance Day, the general consensus of the public is that war is bad, but when it’s November, suddenly we’re all mindlessly chanting support for those who fight in wars. As someone who is firmly opposed to war, I find it disgusting that we in British society push what is ostensibly a symbol of the romantic view of war down our throats every year, and shame those who don’t.

selling poppies

It’s surprisingly easy for them to pluck people’s heartstrings.

All the more jarring is that the poppy-pushing trend is going on as the government is rallying for a new war in Syria, as though the previous war in Afghanistan never happened. We all know how the war in Afghanistan happened, and that it was ultimately pointless for Britain to get involved, but the fact that we hide behind the poppies and the sentimental waltz they inspire guarantees that the government can feel free to pursue future wars knowing that the British public will always support it. After all, to ensure unquestioning support of the military and warfare is the only goal of the poppy drive.

It’s perhaps because of this that the idea of Rememberance Day is losing all meaning. When we observed Remembrance Day a century ago, in the bleak, war-ravaged landscapes of the day, we wanted never again to experience the horrors of war. Those people witnessed the tragedy of a hideously futile war in full bloom. The very idea of glamorizing the Great War might have sounded abominable to those who actually survived the war (though sadly they are no longer with us), and yet that’s what we’re doing every November. I highly doubt that the soldiers of the Great War died so that we could continue to indulge in mindless bloodlust in the name of nationalism and industry, and that is what I feel the red poppy has come to represent, and I am not alone. There are many activists, war veterans, and even a few celebrities who oppose war, and detest the glamorization of war. In the dominant atmosphere of conformity, guilt and propaganda, they appear to be the only voices of reason that actually get heard when the poppy salesmen come around.

The modern world’s perpetual teenage phase

One thing I’ve noticed about popular culture is that it’s obsessed with youth. It’s always young pop stars who top the charts, its always young actors who get the biggest parts, and its always young people who are picked to represent pop culture. While I certainly wouldn’t want the opposite to be true, I can’t help but think that we live in a world with a youth-obsessed culture, where everything about being young is exalted while being old is seen in a less positive light.

Ever since the dawn of rock and roll, popular culture has been putting forward the stereotype of acting like you’re always a teenager, presenting it as the ideal. In that world, there exists the cultural dichotomy of either “partying down” or “surrendering to the man”. Consequently, we have generations of young people convinced that the right way to act can be found in those brainless teen movies Hollywood keeps churning out. The problem here is that youth culture, at the moment, still pretends that life is a teen movie from the 1970’s.

animal house

I’m very thankful not every teenage boy I meet is like them.

Every time I think about the stereotypical youth culture that we’re constantly exposed to, I think of how glad I am that I’m in my twenties, despite how hellish it is so far. For me, the teen years were pure bullshit. Everyone’s competing for a mate, and so shy guys like me always get pushed to the corners while some hotshot guy always get what they want. During the teen years, you grapple with all sorts of new emotions that you have no idea how to deal with, and yet we just go with the flow anyway because many of us haven’t thought of another way yet, and on top of that, the establishment isn’t done trying to crush every fibre of your soul just yet.

Given all that, I’d have thought that I’d want to be an adult if it meant no longer gliding through the winds of confusion. As for being an adult, adulthood is mainly a state of mind, so we can choose to enter adulthood when we’re ready, but the fact remains that adulthood is inevitable. That being said, why is it so hideously uncool to be an adult? Being an adult presents as much opportunities as it does challenges. It’s not the same as slowly surrendering your brain and becoming a mindless drone, but somehow we’ve taught ourselves that growing up is a form of spiritual death. I myself once fell into that trap a few years ago, but now that I’m preparing to go to university next year, I find that many of the notions of growing up I had were pure escapism.

To be honest, I haven’t really led an exciting life as a teenager. I tried to and failed, so to me, the idea of your teen years being the best years of your life is now a lie. For me, the best years of your life would the be years when you’ve got it made, and unless you’re from a rich family, that only happens to us while we’re adults, and yet there’s so much more to it than that, more even than I know at my age. Who knows, maybe I’ll discover that life isn’t as cruel as everyone makes it out to be (an idea we should have been teaching to a younger age), and that’s more than can be said about where I am now. Yes, it’s going to be harder, but more worth it in the end, and it’s certainly better than what teen movies would make teenage life out to be.