The Worst Job I Ever Had

21 Nov



About a year ago I was reading a thread on reddit, which I’ve since lost, where people were talking about shitty jobs. If you’re a games journalist then recent months have been the pits. The constant begging to do work for a pittance is one thing, but now there’s an internet mob of angry morons convinced we’re the Illuminati steering a multi-billion pound industry. Anyway. Things are bad, but it cheers me up to think of the worst job I ever had.

I spent most of my teenage years in a town in the North East of England, South Shields. It’s known as Catherine Cookson County, because ‘Wor Kate’ lived there, and appropriately enough is rather grim and nondescript. It was in the news last year for a local who decided threatening American children online was funny, until he caused a shutdown of Ohio’s school system and got locked up for 2 1/2 years…

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Notes on Alien: Isolation

21 Oct

Brendan Keogh

(All screenshots from my own playthrough. More available here. Some are from later in the game, though, so heads up.)

1. Isolation is a wonderful game. A confident game. Mark Serrels called it a brave game. Much like with Spec Ops: The Line, it’s the kind of game I look at with this dull kind of bewilderment that a publisher would release it like that. It’s one of those beautiful, daring games that manages to get past publisher focus tests without being sanded down to an impersonal round blob. It still has its imperfections and hostilities and roughness and personality that so few triple-a games are allowed to have. It’s the kind of game I don’t doubt countless developers are capable of making, but which I trust so few publishers to allow to exist unscathed without some injection of gamer-satisfying ‘content’.

2. Videogames have a long history of being…

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The Cataracts that Obscured the Po-Faced Reflection

12 Sep

Robinince's Blog

I no longer know what is offensive, though I am aware that my poverty stricken grammar and punctuation skills will normally stir a kraken or two. (this has been written very quickly, so be prepared to slavver Grammarian beasts)

Today, it was a tweet about JMW Turner.
I thought it was just a silly joke, I was wrong.

“rather than go to the JMW Turner exhibition, I am going to save money by spending a day walking along the Thames without my glasses on.”

I tweeted that, then went off for a cup of tea and a small slice of chocolate cake.
I didn’t mean it as an attack on Turner, it’s a bit late for that. It was meant as a silly money saving tip idea (I see the new Viz is out) and also based on stories that his style was partly down to cataracts and, in later…

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Destiny’s Dilemma

22 Jul

Requiem for a Dream – How Barcelona’s Prodigal Son Became Their Most Damaging Signing in a Generation

16 Jul


Cesc Fabregas

To all intents and purposes, the time of Cesc Fabregas at Barcelona is now up. While nothing has yet been signed, nor even officially agreed, he is expected to move to Chelsea in the very near future. And, if that falls through, it is no secret that the club are willing to ship him off to any club that can give them in excess of 30 million euros and agree terms with the player.

This is Cesc Fabregas, a Catalan born and bred. A product of Barcelona’s La Masia academy, signed by their greatest-ever coach in an act the sheer inevitability of which had seen it expected for half a decade. A world class midfielder and Spanish international, with La Liga, the Copa del Rey and both the World Cup and two European Championships on his CV. It would seem fair that people are asking just why the club would…

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The burglar with the lemon juice disguise

10 May

Mind Hacks

I’ve just re-read the classic study “Unskilled and unaware of it” which established that when we’re incompetent at something we’re often so incompetent that we don’t realise that we’re incompetent. I had forgotten that it starts with a wonderful story about an inept bank robber.

In 1995, McArthur Wheeler walked into two Pittsburgh banks and robbed them in broad daylight, with no visible attempt at disguise. He was arrested later that night, less than an hour after videotapes of him taken from surveillance cameras were broadcast on the 11 o’clock news. When police later showed him the surveillance tapes, Mr. Wheeler stared in incredulity. “But I wore the juice” he mumbled. Apparently, Mr. Wheeler was under the impression that rubbing one’s face with lemon juice rendered it invisible to videotape cameras (Fuocco, 1996).

We bring up the unfortunate affairs of Mr. Wheeler to make three points. The first two are…

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Sandy Hook, Video Games and The Sun’s Incessant Hypocrisy

29 Apr

This article was originally published on 21st December 2012 on the now sadly defunct site Invert-On following the Sandy Hook tragedy. I am re-publishing it here as it tackles the Daily Mail’s latest attack on games (following the stabbing of teacher Ann Maguire at Corpus Christi Catholic College in Leeds on Monday) far better than yet another article from me on the same subject ever could.


My heart sank as I’m sure it did for many other rational human beings across the land when they walked into their local newsagents or train station on their way to work on the morning of 18th December 2012. Video games and their creators, notably Call Of Duty and Treyarch respectively, were being implicated by the most widely read newspaper in Britain – The Sun, along with the Daily Express – in the previous Friday’s shooting at a Connecticut elementary school of twenty children and six adults, and the gunman’s mother. Adam Lanza who carried out this atrocity, turned the gun on himself soon after.

The reporting of the story has been widespread, as one would expect. What happened on that sunny and seemingly normal Friday has ended, devastated or changed lives forever, and could have long lasting political ramifications for American gun owners. Unfortunately, some news outlets have taken it upon themselves to already start pinning blame on others, and in doing so, skirt around what the real issues are, such as gun control and the accessibility to proper mental health care. The Sun‘s front page headline of “KILLER’S CALL OF DUTY OBSESSION” with the two page spread’s headline “BLACK OPS BUNKER” are sad evidence of this; the use of attention grabbing headlines diverting readers’ attention from the real problems that we as a people face.

We have read this reactionary, kneejerk guff before, however. Anders Breivik, who carried out the infamous attacks of 2011 in Norway, provoked similar reactions from world media as they began speculation about what was the cause of such a terrible act. Like Lanza, Breivik apparently spent hours playing Call Of Duty, whilst using a “holographic aiming device”, an exercise which reportedly helped in real-life “target acquisition.”

Breivik’s case led to a hugely lengthy trial, which itself followed much to-ing and fro-ing between mental health experts as to whether he was sound of mind or criminally insane. At first he was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and then, after a second assessment published a week or so before his trial, he was diagnosed as having narcissistic personality disorder. It was adjudged that Breivik was not psychotic during the attack.

This was an intelligent man, holding political ideologies very different from the majority of us, with a host of unchecked mental health issues. It is deeply saddening that in the case of Adam Lanza we will never know what his were. All we have to go on are testimonies from his brother who according to the Express, had not spoken to him for more than two years.

Fortunately, Pete Samson of The Sun informs us of what Lanza was like, and that he “fuelled his violent fantasies” by spending hours “playing bloodthirsty computer games such as Call Of Duty.” According to Samson’s piece Lanza lived in the basement of his mother’s house which local plumber Peter Wlasuk, having worked at the house on numerous occasions, described as “strange.” At no point does Samson deign to mention that Lanza was living with Asperger’s syndrome, a form of autism no longer listed on the DSM-5, the American Psychiatric Association’s manual of guidelines for aiding psychiatrists in making correct diagnoses.

People who have Asperger’s tend to be characterised by their “social impairment.” They can be obsessively focused on one particular subject at a time and in some cases they can come across as lacking in empathy. Taking that into account, a 2008 study carried out by the University of Oregon found that, with regard to violent crimes committed by those with Asperger’s, over half already – or “probably” as the report says – had some other underlying psychiatric disorder(s) at the time of the respective offense.

As much as this is a gaming site, it is important we examine the evidence and other notable research on the matter if we are to make informed judgements (an awful word given the subject matter but you know what I mean) and not come across as ignorant twerps. Even if someone is diagnosed with Asperger’s, being violent is most definitely not one of its characteristics. There is more at play here than the tabloid press would like its readers to believe.

What makes this headline splashed across The Sun so galling however, is that if one takes the time to do a bit of digging around on the internet about Mr Samson, as I did, you will find this picture of him (printed below) with a frankly rage-inducing and grotesquely smug grin smeared across his face whilst pointing a magazine-less MP5 down the range.

This enraged me so much I tweeted it and then sent it to two people I respect hugely and who I and the gaming community know to be avid players and have big followings. Not expecting to hear anything, as most of us mere mortals do on Twitter, my phone beeped twice within ten minutes to tell me they had both RT’d it. The beeping that followed was incessant to the point where I had to switch my phone to silent. The picture of Mr Samson had now gone viral and The Sun‘s double standards and sensationalist agenda were there for the world to see. This dreadful and lazy piece of journalism had clearly twanged the public nerve.

The rank hypocrisy of The Sun in running Samson’s story without checking his previous articles manages to be staggering but not exactly surprising. In case you’re wondering where that picture originated, it is from a story Samson wrote last year on Rihanna and the “training” she went through for her movie debut in Battleship. The woman he is photographed with, Jackie Carrizosa, is the woman who put the pop superstar through her paces.

So why all this topical ranting on a gaming site? It’s simple. Because game developers, Treyarch being the main target here, are being indirectly blamed for the murder of twenty-seven people by a publication with a dubious record of reportage – Hillsborough can’t help but spring to mind.

It has happened before. Look at Columbine, Toulouse earlier this year, Norway last year, Aurora and now Sandy Hook. One can only wonder at the pain the victims’ loved ones go through, only to have it exacerbated by senseless and insensitive press speculation as to the catalyst for such brutality. Some in the media demand a scapegoat to pin this on and again, gaming takes another undeserved beating.

It would be incredibly easy to roll out the usual “gaming has been around for forty years!” and “violence since the dawn of time” arguments, or talk about America’s frankly ludicrous gun control laws, but it doesn’t help anyone or anything, not least of all those who just need time away from the public and media gaze to come to terms with their grief.

There are so many issues at play here: what triggers these outbursts – not just those involving huge loss of life but all serious emotional over-reactions across the board. We, as gamers, use video games as a means of escape from the daily grind of real life. For example, if we’ve had a particularly shit day at work, we might unwind for an hour blowing away a faceless goon online while playing Battlefield. We sometimes use these type of games as a form of catharsis.

As disturbing as that may sound, it is no different from other people cycling 100 miles for the same purpose which to me, borders on the insanely masochistic. Habits like these serve as a release and allow us to de-stress.

I have lived with depression for over twenty years and I honestly couldn’t tell you whether, without games in my life, I would be sitting at my desk writing this very article. Games have often been saviours in my life and provided me with joy when all I felt was despair and self-loathing. It is one reason why Super Mario Galaxy in particular, if you’ll excuse my sentimentality for a moment, holds such a strong place in my heart. It truly got me through some dreadful times.

It would appear that Lanza was not as fortunate as those of us, with a strong support network of friends and no doubt loving parents (which is not to say his own mother did not love her son, we will never know why he murdered her). We have plenty of other outlets, gaming being just one, through which we can vent our worries and inner turmoil. It would seem Lanza did not. He took it upon himself to let his mother and the world know just how unhappy he truly was, with horrendous results. Tell me again, what has Call Of Duty really got do with any of it?

At the heart of all of this there lies an enormous cultural problem – it is the culture of fear. Not just of there being guns in children’s hands (although that is a perfectly legitimate fear to have), nor of violent video games being played by our kids (again not without reason, but in this case Lanza was twenty years old). The real fears are of speaking amongst ourselves of our own problems, and of the stigma attached to such confessional openness, a stigma which has been perpetuated by the press for far too long.

Unfortunately, because of the general portrayal of mental health issues in the press, sufferers suffer in silence for fear of being labelled, to use an example in Samson’s story, a “maniac” or any other derogatory term for people who are on the face of it, merely ill.

So what can we, as gamers who love the medium, do to combat this gross stereotyping as peddled by redtop rags like The Sun? It is the simplest thing, and you don’t even need to play games to achieve it. All you need to do is carry on enjoying your games, relish the company of your friends and family and show respect to others. As Charles Dickens said, “No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another.” It really is as simple as that.

Let the families affected by what happened on Friday deal with it in their own time and don’t seek to blame this on anyone or anything. Let whatever investigations being carried out run their course and until we know the facts about Lanza, we should keep our mouths firmly shut.