Road to nowhere?

Road to nowhere?

It is the 25th of August, not long until I return to my third year of university. Perhaps maybe the last year of university, the option of staying on for another year or two still lingers however.

How would I describe my university experience? It’s been educational. Educational in the sense of academia? No not necessarily. So far it’s been a three year course in the subject of life itself. I’ve experienced loss, gain, heartbreak, prosperity and adulthood, all during my tenure as a Swansea University graduate. If you’re reading this, you are either somebody who just managed to stumble onto my blog through the wonders of social media sharing, or maybe this is my future self making sure my portfolio is up to scratch for a career in publishing. By the way, if you are reading this future Jordan, I hope you have covered up the floorboards in your room, placing carpet squares over it does not ‘magically’ make an improvement.

I suppose we should go back to the first year I set foot onto Swansea University’s campus, in which I was about to embark on the SS Bachelors Science Degree of Computer Science. Little did I know it was a treacherous expedition through the seas of programming, predicate logic and worst of all, the pep8 canal. If there was one bit of advice I would give to somebody prior to starting university, is to check your modules before the course. Otherwise you will end up like me, on a friday afternoon trying to decipher what my

This is what failure looks like.

Asian programming lecturer was trying to say. After jumping ship and rummaging for a door to lie on, several thoughts were floating around my head for what steps I should do next. Leaving university was one of my most favoured options at the time, the thought of going into an apprenticeship or perhaps getting a full time job were the only choices I had left. I applied for two separate apprenticeship schemes, one being General Dynamics UK ( a company that makes missiles and shit) and another company called AB Connectors (a company that kind of makes missiles and shit). Needless to say, I passed the interview and assessment stages with flying colours, and things were most certainly looking up; Cue the shitstorm. Alongside applying for jobs and successfully achieving possible apprenticeship schemes, I was communicating with my Computer Science head of year at the time. For some reason, Swansea University desperately wanted me to stay. There were ongoing talks about transferring to another course; Media and Communication. An arts degree. A degree with the stigma of ‘mickey mouse degree’ attached to it like a tick on a dog’s bollock. This didn’t rest well with my dad at all. He assumed that this degree would be nothing but a waste of time, similar to his reaction when I wanted to study architecture post comprehensive school. This led to a hefty argument in which I left the house for a few days, and for the life of me, I cannot remember what caused things to go back to normal. Perhaps it is best to forget. What made me persevere was sound advice I received from one of my Computer Science tutors. “Fuck your parents.” His words not mine. I will never forget that meeting I had with him in his office. It was the first time I realised that I should fulfilling goals for myself, not anybody else. I learnt more things in that thirty minute timespan, than the hours and hours of draining seminar talk from the previous semester. I thank you Dr Archambault, from the bottom of my heart, you inspired me to stay at university, and I wouldn’t be writing this if it wasn’t for you.


Months passed, it was time to start over again. A fresh clean slate with all my examination and coursework failures scraped away as if they were crumbs of stilton. The same notepad, different textbook. The same ID card, different hairstyle. It was fair to say that I was a ‘re-fresher’. Transitioning from a science degree to an arts degree was a very problematic change. Back in computer science, everything was set in stone. Two plus two equals four, and typing System.out.println(“Hello, World”); would make the words ‘Hello, World’ pop out on screen. This wasn’t the case for my degree, especially in the case of my English Literature classes.

Thanks Craig Ward for this quote.

It was at this point I learned about the word ‘subjectivity’ as well as the reason why the word ‘art’ is included in the fucking degree title. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to art, and in its entirety, stories, poetry and scripts are all artforms that can only be appreciated by those that understand them. Of course only I would get it wrong at first. My English grades were not up to the standard of other grades that I was achieving in other core modules. It was easy to read a textbook and cite various different sources from intelligent blokes, but writing satire and non-fiction? That was a difficult situation. More difficult than any logic problem. On the subject of difficult situations, my two year relationship came crashing to an abrupt end. Super segue, I know I must admit! Without getting into too much specifics, I felt completely empty. My confidence level was at rock bottom and I felt useless. And being the empty-headed gorm I was back then, I was prepared to fix things and thought that my broken heart could be repaired with half-assed apologies and continuous chances. A word of advice to those preparing to give that person who constantly deceives you multiple chances. Don’t be oblivious. You are far better than that and deserve much more. They say that the grass is greenest most where you water it, but if he/she is constantly pissing on the turf, then of course nothing will grow. Only weeds. That was a pee joke, hehe.  From this point I would like to thank my parents and friends for slapping me out of the nightmare that was a toxic relationship, because if it wasn’t for them, I would still be in that quagmire of self loathing and denial, and most importantly, I would not have met the love of my life right now. I’ve picked up on the fact that shit tends to stick with shit, and that surrounding yourself with successful people, in turn brings you success. Which is why I also want to thank you of course Jodie getting my proverbial shit together. If it wasn’t for you, my grades wouldn’t be at the level they are now. Your incredible hard work has inspired me to in-turn work twice as hard, so we can have that dream en-suite and butchers chopping block when we get eventually get a place of our own.


Second year. Blimey that was quick. I would say second year was my most productive year to date. I gained some valuable experience working for The Ospreys as part of the university’s work experience programme, I successfully designed a revision guide that didn’t fail on me, and most importantly I learned how to hand roll cigarettes thus saving me an absolute fortune. Jodie, you’re the bomb again. The second year was really the

The fag roller tutor herself. The gorgeous Jodie Cox.

year when I started narrowing down paths for a potential career. Publishing and writing was on the cards, and for the most part it still currently is. I was lucky enough to meet some talented individuals at a Channel 4 pop up event in Cardiff that showcased various different sectors in the field of media. Things like broadcasting, journalism, television, they were all there. The only thing missing there was Krishnan Guru Murthy. Thank christ. At university meanwhile, I began to see huge changes in terms of grades. The revision guide that I mentioned earlier was covered from back to front for over a month prior to my January exam. And that month certainly paid off as I received one of my highest ever assessed score of 74. Soon after grades started to rise even more in other modules. 72. 75. 70. Fucking 80? No surely not. By the time second year had finished, I achieved three modules with a 1st classification, and three remaining modules with a 2:1 classification. I wouldn’t say I was proud of myself on grade results alone, but the looking back to how useless I was in my first ever year, and overcoming the problems that occurred the year after that, I am proud that I managed to find my niche so to speak.

So here we are now. The 25th of August, and not long until I return to my third year of university. Are there things that I wish I could have improved upon? Of course, absolutely. I missed out on the whole fresher, ‘living in halls’ experience due to my gullible nature of ingesting my psycho of an ex-girlfriend’s bullshit. But hey ho, just a part of life’s rich tapestry I suppose. Do I know for certain what the future holds for me once this final year is over? Of course not, and frankly I shouldn’t really be fixated on the idea of finding out. Sometimes when we think about the future too much, we seem to forget about the present. I will knuckle down as hard as I can, and I hope to reap the rewards. Perhaps this placement module will guide me in the right direction. Perhaps Future Publishing will magically knock on my doorstep. Perhaps the concept of teaching may be another option, who knows? All I know is that at this moment in time, I am currently on the road to nowhere. Driving at a steady fifty , a cigarette in the one hand, steering wheel in the other, enjoying the ride, and trying not to worry  too much where i’ll eventually end up.





Medium Theory.

Despite that Understanding Media was published fifty-two years ago, Marshall McLuhan’s beliefs and radical theories are challenging and profound ideas in today’s society. However, we can observe McLuhan’s work among other related thinkers such as his fellow colleague Harold Innis, and use their theories in how media forms create our everyday environment, and in turn offer some form of evaluation in their claim that form is more important than the content i.e. The Medium is the Message.

‘The medium is the message’ is a phrase coined by theorist Marshal McLuhan in which he used it to explain the various different impacts that mediums have on people. The main assumption is that the medium is not only the channel in which information is shared, but it is an environment that can vary the very meaning of the message. McLuhan states that the personal and social consequences of any medium that is of any extensions of ourselves comes from the new scale that is introduced in our daily lives by each extension of ourselves (McLuhan 1964:7).

The notion of medium theory is that mediums have more of an impact on society than any message that is conveyed by that medium. For example, the filament bulb changed human behaviour between the night and day, the television modified the way we arrange our time and to a certain extent changed the way we plan rooms in our houses, and even transportation methods such as monorails and subways have altered our ideas of what cities look like. During his widely popular television lecture in 1977, McLuhan was asked a question regarding his famous quote. He was asked that if the medium truly is the message and it doesn’t really matter what we say on television, then why was she asking the question in the first place. McLuhan replied by stating that television surrounds us physically and that the more televisions in our environment leaves a vast personal effect on us. He then concluded that the effect of the program is something that just happens. (ABC 1977) What McLuhan is saying is that new forms of media reform our consciousness, and the more technology that surrounds us reshapes our perspective.

McLuhan argues that it is only too typical that the content of any medium blinds us to the character of the medium. (McLuhan 1964:9) In retrospect it is a discussion of the overall scope, and that mediums have the potential to extend our capability. The invention of YouTube for instance is powerful is because of its large scope to deliver all its content and not the content itself. YouTube has formidable power; however, the content is slow. After all, YouTube had been founded in 2005 and has only just rapidly spread over a six-year span after becoming more mainstream in 2009 (Dickey 2013). Technology though has overwhelmed media and has helped developed YouTube where it is now just over a decade later. Our ideas change our interactions; however, the mediums change the fundamental scale of those interactions.

Consolidating with interactions, the level in which mediums can develop falls into a degree of bias. Harold Innis, a Canadian professor, theorised how technology impacts the medium by using a macro historical approach. In Innis’ book The Bias of Communication, he states that each medium has both time and space bias. He refers to the time bias as something that lasts through time, however is poor spatially. An example of this would be the written hieroglyphics on ancient Egyptian tombs. (Innis 1951:34) He then referred to Papyrus (the eventual successor to stone) having a space bias, something that conquered the previous medium however it is far more fragile (Innis 1951:35). If Egypt kept using stone as a form of medium then it is very likely that they couldn’t expand that far, however it could last through time so people can see it today, and you can see their past and ancestors. With the developments of tools such as the printing press, the radio and most recently the internet, Mass communication is becoming increasingly space biased as it reaches out to a far larger audience. Innis’ ideas of the medium in human history later influenced McLuhan to divide human history into three different historical eras; The Oral, the Literate Mechanical and the Electric. The Oral era consisted of acoustic forms of communication, with tribal societies communicating without writing. This era relied on the basis of storytelling and verbal communication in order to prosper. The Literate Mechanical era began with the alphabet/phonetic alphabet by attaching sounds to them. It began with the invention of initial writing by humans by putting letters together to create words and eventually led up to the Printing Press; which was the final victory of literature. Finally, the Electric era instantly connected people around the world, beginning with the first use of the telegraph to present day. Developments of radio and television straight into the heart of the present, and was so far ahead of its time when theorised. Electric media is organic and the brain intercepts electrical signals so in theory, we are electrical beings. We can also use medium theory to state that electric media is a natural extension of our central nervous system. McLuhan referred to how society radically changed from an oral society to a literate one in his book The Gutenberg Galaxy in which he wrote about the development of the printing press. He then later produced a report on ‘new media’ which later became a basis for his book Understanding Media. McLuhan also referred to the electric era as the dawn of the greatest of all the human ages, and that nothing could measure the level of human awareness during the transition of present day to next (Mywebcowtube 2016).

McLuhan died in December 1980 so he didn’t see how the internet became what it is today, but medium theory can be tested in contrast to everyday technologies including the internet itself. Referring back to the electrical era, we can conclude that electric media extends our capabilities of the central nervous system. The internet extends the capabilities even further and provides a degree of unification, thus making every internet user sharing the same central nervous system. Every technology connected around the world acts as one brain and we become more like the tribe, and all the electrical systems come together to form a wired planet. Chris Woodford demonstrates that similarities can be drawn between the brain and the internet itself in the form of anatomy and function. In other words, philosophical theories aside, the brain and the internet have some degree of similarity physically and functionally (Woodford 2016). Going back to YouTube, McLuhan referred to a concept in The Gutenberg Galaxy called the ‘Global Village’. With the power of the internet and YouTube alike, people have the ability to become self-journalists with a rapid increase of the term ‘YouTubers’ over the course of five years with people such as Felix Kjellberg (Pewdiepie) becoming millionaires from advertisement revenue (Dong 2016). McLuhan stated that in a global village, the mass creates a loss of identity and that we don’t really matter at all. Everybody in today’s society has the desperate need for individuality. You could assume that the obsession with the self has created a generation of people creating daily vlogs which is arguably the most favoured form of online expressionistic video content at this moment in time. McLuhan later distanced himself from the global village term and instead referred to it as the ‘Global Theatre’, a pedestal that anybody could stand on due to the capabilities of satellites, mass communication and worldwide television. He stated that everybody on the planet can participate as actors, and that every kid’s concern is to do cause a ruckus in an attempt to become famous or to find some form of identity (McBride 2011). It is as if Marshall McLuhan used television for the basis of the internet, unknowingly what it would become like today.

By looking at the invention of the mobile phone, it is not just a device that has changed the way in which we communicate with one another, but its presence and stigma has created social gatherings and changed personal habits. For example it has resulted in not only shaping us as individuals, but has altered the environment we live in. Public places now have power banks that allow users to charge their phone whilst shopping, and the recognisable touch screen display we familiarised ourselves from the original iPhone has caused McDonalds to implement kiosks with aesthetic interfaces (Peterson 2015). By referencing medium theory to an everyday media such as the mobile phone, we can agree that the mobile phone itself has had a greater impact rather than the conversations we have on it; it has now become an extension of our voice and ears.

By looking at a social media tool such as Twitter, anybody who uses it has to conform to the 140-character limit in order to post a tweet. It makes the user think about the way they use their language and has a direct impact on the user’s grammar and vocabulary. Some could argue that Instagram’s unique expansion system of using hashtags has caused users to conform to self-visualization. This is because we as humans are tool users and view tools as extensions of ourselves, which can either be physical or conscious. The car for instance is an extension to our legs and the hammer is an extension of our fist. (Sellinger 2008:109) If the technology is present then we use it and later accept it. After all we can either hammer in a nail, or we can punch it in with our fists. Furthermore, we gain greater power with better technology and the technology ‘massages’ us. The term ‘massage’ came from a play on words from McLuhan’s well known phrase, however when you consider that new media changes the perception of the individual, it is as if they are massaging the individual.

Due to McLuhan’s radical beliefs, lack of research methods and evidence, not all his statements have a level of authenticity. He was often criticised for his presence of a technological determinist; as he believed that the technology in a society helped steamrolled their social and cultural structure. Raymond Williams for instance was one of McLuhan’s critics, and he believed that technological determinism fails to access the significance of social power, interactions, relationships and circumstances. ­He declared that there are social motivations to help transform the innovation into a technology; similar to a supply and demand concept (Newinfluencer 2016). For somebody that was from a period with the only media coming in the forms of the telegraph, the radio and the television, McLuhan somewhat predicted the internet in the form of the global village and was completely ahead of his time. It is as if Marshall McLuhan anticipated all the attention seeking users that appear on social media in the form of bottle flippers and people dressed as clowns to scare people. You could also argue that he anticipated virtual reality in which it would be an ultimate medium to immerse yourself in a 360º environment however he labelled it as holographic technology (vitalogue 2013). We must not forget that the technology we possess extend our capacity to venture and do great things, however sometimes we need to pay actual attention to the real world around us to know what’s going on. McLuhan stated in a symposium that when we are surrounded by an environment that blinds us totally, and from the moment of birth a fear of the new environment, we always prefer the old one. After all, a fish wouldn’t discover water (McLuhan 1966).


Taking Videogames Seriously.

Taking Videogames Seriously.

According to Jesper Juul, a game is a ‘rule based format system with a variable and quantifiable outcome, where different outcomes are assigned different values, the player exerts effort in order to influence the outcome’ all consequences of the activity are optional and negotiable (Gillis 2006). The invention of ‘games’ have been around since ancient Egyptian times, with the game Senet being one as arguably one of the oldest board games to date. It was an experience that humans could do something sociable together, and is an invention that we currently recognize as it has many elements that you would see on a board game such as chess and checkers. The game Go, which was invented in ancient China, was another board game in which the player places stones on the grid to surround more total space than their opponent. Media theorist Marshall McLuhan states that games are methods of adjusting to stress and changes that occur in any social group, and are extensions of the ‘Social Man’. (McLuhan 1964: 225). McLuhan’s statement about adjusting to change can be referred to the ancient societies of China and Egypt, as they were ones of constant change and development, and one could argue that the development of games was one to distract and entertain the people that lived during those times. Johan Huizinga also expressed his views on games in his book Homo Ludens by theorising that games are a ‘magic circle’; something to separate you from the outside world (Huizinga 1938:10). Even today, board games are objects of family gatherings and are a social construct that bring people together. The level of competitiveness that a game such as Monopoly brings is one of liveliness and even the feeling of defeat.

It is difficult to ignore videogames as a medium due to its sheer impact in popular culture and everyday life, however it is true that academics have neglected them and have branded them as unsuitable academic topics. For example, media connoisseur Charlie Brooker failed to complete University, as his third year dissertation about video games wasn’t an acceptable topic at the time (Brooker 2011). In the early 2000s the only studies that were coinciding with video game culture was that of the possible effects on young players. After the Columbine Massacre in 1999, it was reported that both assailants (Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold) were fans and avid players of the violent video games Doom and Duke Nukem. Some disregard the connections between violent video games and violence in human behaviour, as video game designer Tim Shafer stated in a documentary that ‘Every time that there is a violent act in the news, it is reported that the shooter was a big fan of Grand Theft Auto or Call of Duty, this because he’s an 18-35 year old man, not because he is a psychopath’ (Shafer 2013). Activist Jack Thompson is very popular for his beliefs against the Grand Theft Auto series, having criticised its depiction of violence and freedom to do whatever the player wants to do, (Benson 2015) however Dr Mark Coulson, an associate professor of psychology at Middlesex University, stated that there is no evidence in linking violent video games with violent behaviour (Kleinman 2015).
There are several theories we can gather to answer why we can consider video games as a subject to be studied academically. We can refer to the concept of Ludology; a discipline that studies video games, we can use narrative theory; something which is already put in practice in other forms of media such as cinema and television, and we can also refer to the ever growing concept of gamification; the notion that things in everyday life are becoming video game like.

Looking back at the term ‘game’ it is one that comes with specific rules in order to play the game. The board games I mentioned earlier for instance all have sets of rules that the player must abide by. Ludology studies the rule systems that underlie a game as the rules in place create a path that the player must follow. It also looks at the mechanical aspects of the game and focuses mostly on the ‘play’ side of the spectrum. Gonzola Frasca emphases the importance of the term ‘play’ and the simple observation that games are created for amusement and recreation (Frasca 1999). Ludology can be disregarded in some cases however. Open world games such as Just Cause 3 and Grand Theft Auto V have very little rules whatsoever and encourage the player to do whatever they like, yet they still are games.

Narrative theory on the other hand looks at video games in an entirely different way. Several games nowadays focuses on the story as opposed to actual play. A game such as The Last of Us focuses on the story driven narrative of its two characters Joel and Ellie. The story is that powerful, that scenes in the narrative have had an emotional impact on the player themselves due to the writing and acting of the voice cast. (WatchMojo 2014). Games such as The Last of Us allows the player to choose different paths that later has implications on their actions, whilst the cut-scene places a fixed point in the story driven narrative. One could argue that this is the reason why film adaptations of videogames are not well received, as the film removes the players initial choice and experience and replaces it with a story created by the screenwriter. One final approach is the term Gamification. Gamification is a ubiquitous case in which everyday things can be compared to something from a video game. From social media profile creations to the analytics of a tool such as eBay, we see elements such as percentage bars requiring completion and the data of purchases/bids respectively. Even though Twitter is a social media form of communication, in many ways one could compare it to a videogame. The recruitment of followers in order to get more, as well as writing tweets in order to get more retweets compels the user to do it again and again. Seth Priebatsch expertly demonstrates in his TEDx talk how marketing, social interaction and other dynamics have adapted because of their videogame-‘esque’ methods. He looks at the pervasive net of behaviour-steering game dynamics that has reshaped education and commerce (TED 2010).
In addition to theories, we can also look at obvious approaches in which the trend of video games have become popular such as the size of the videogames industry, the rapid rise in popularity of videogames and videogames as an example of human computer interaction. The global videogames industry is enormous. According to UKIE (Association for UK Entertainment) in 2014 the combined sales of physical copy and digital download games reached a total over £2.1 billion alone. The actual revenue of consoles themselves only reached a value of £689 million, which was only £25 million more than the entire mobile gaming industry, not only that but the video game industry is so broad, books, toys, magazines and events all contribute to the market (UKIE 2016). In 2014, the overall market value of video game events produced a record total of £6.2 million, one example being the World Championship Quarter Finals at Wembley stadium in which 12,500 people watched the League of Legends tournaments. This phenomenon (known as ‘e-sports’) is an industry worth a projected £300 million (Khaw 2015).

By looking back on the revenue figures I mentioned, it is obvious that videogames are extremely popular. Not only do they consume enormous amounts of money, but videogames consume large amounts of our time. Individually, play sessions can last a long time. A single player game such as Skyrim is so absorbing due to its large world and environment that players have reportedly played over thousands of hours on the game (Insomniac Jack 2013). Bethesda who developed Skyrim as well as the Fallout and Oblivion Series are known for creating games with endless replay ability that are popular with players who crave longevity. They create massive worlds for the player to roam around in, as well as deliberately build in ‘hooks’ in the form of quests and side quests to encourage players to replay and revisit their games (Newman 2004:4).

The rise in videogames has grown at a substantial rate over the past 40 years. With the advancement of technology between the 1960s and the 1970s, cheaper and superior hardware remodelled the computing industry completely. In 1962 Steve Russell and his colleagues created ‘Spacewar!’ at the Massachusetts institute of technology which not only changed computing, but would inevitably create a knock on effect that would change the entertainment industry and popular culture forever. As Spacewar! was programmed on the expensive PDP-1 Computer, it wasn’t accessible for commercial use. That changed however when in 1972 Atari co-founder Nolan Bushnell and programmer Al Alcorn co created the video game Pong, a tennis simulator in which two players would control paddles and was operated by a coin mechanism on the side of the unit. Being the first commercially available video game, Pong popularised the video arcade game experience, and enticed the public to go to arcades which later spawned very popular titles such as Pac-Man, Space Invaders and Space Panic. With homemade computer kits coming into society as well as more affordable components, Computers then began to appear in people’s homes, meaning they didn’t have to go to a nearby arcade in order to play video games. In the UK, computers such as the ZX Spectrum allowed not only people to play games, but it also allowed people to programme their own. The rapid rise of video games proves that the medium is something not to be ignored.

Videogames also bring in an established connection with human computer interaction. Referring back to McLuhan, you could say that the controller becomes an extension of the players hand once picked up. The age of the player doesn’t really come into effect either, a player as young as five will use the controller comfortably, the videogame helps users familiarise themselves with computers and is one of the most omnipresent examples of HCI. Keith Stuart at The Guardian demonstrates how children can interact with a game such as Minecraft. He explains that Minecraft is so valuable to his autistic son because it is a world of logic and creativity that he understands (Stuart 2015). Minecraft is a tool that not only helps children interact with computing, but allows them to express themselves creatively. By looking at recent developments of virtual reality technology, you can see the endless possibilities in which VR can be implemented. Devindra Hardawar writes how HTC is implementing their Vive creation into different applications such as tracking technology (Hardawar 2017). The Vive was primarily made for videogame entertainment; however its popularity has led to different companies such as Samsung and Google to create other virtual reality headsets for 360 degree videos. Google Daydream is the latest product released by Google to immerse the user in applications such as Video, Games and panoramic images.

To conclude, the phenomenon of video game culture is one of significant importance. Roy Shuker stated that ‘Video games are now a major cultural form, and may well soon replace cinema, cable and broadcast television as the dominant popular medium’ (Shuker 1995) and Henry Jenkins claims that videogames must be considered to be one of the most important art forms of the twentieth century and that they were ‘an art form for the digital age’ (Jenkins 2000). Alan Kay praised Spacewar! and reflected that it ‘blossoms spontaneously whenever connected to a display’ (Lambert 2005:27). Kay was known for his Dynabook idea in 1968 and believed that the computer could be used as a medium that children could learn from. The superficial assumption that videogames are just for children is flawed, as the average casual gamer is a 25-34 year old woman, with an expanding age group with 10% of over 55s playing casual games (Deloitte 2014:24).

Overwatch: A Review.

Overwatch: A Review.

After divulging into the mainstream cesspool of MOBA’s, Blizzard has developed another title by taking a crack at the first person shooter genre. Blizzard’s past history of developing games with distinct (and most often revolutionary) genres from the RTS giants Warcraft and Starcraft, the MMORPG revolution of World of Warcraft, and most recently the online collectible card game Hearthstone is one filled with success and popularity. The collage-blizzard-2company proves they aren’t a one trick pony in regards to other developers, and aren’t afraid to break the video game mold (cough* EA cough*).

Coming from somebody with little enjoyment from the first person shooter I had little interest in Overwatch at first. I hardly played Team Fortress 2, and playing CS:GO for the first time was about as enjoyable as getting a lobotomy with a camping peg. At least I knew the surgeon was killing me, and not some aggressive Russian with a multicoloured Glock 18. I did however played the hell out of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and yes i’ll admit, I was one of those 14 year old’s with a penchant for “quickscoping”. Cringe aside, Quickscoping with my friends was one of the things we all spent our time into. It was fair since everybody used the same weapon, it was fast paced since the map was small and the sensitivity was turned up higher than a Spinal Tap amplifier, and most importantly it was a lot of fun! Since then the only games I’ve put my time into include League of Legends, Rocket League and sadly the FIFA franchise. The reason why I decided to play Overwatch in the first place was only because a lot of people from the League of Legends community jumped ship to the Blizzard game, and yes like the little lamb that I am, I followed suite.

Instead of the regular modes game modes of Team Deathmatch, Capture the Flag et cetera, et cetera, Overwatch provides game modes that involve capturing objectives and escorting payloads to a finish line. Each mode is specifically made for a certain map, in addition, teams rotate so you can defend and attack providing ample variety. Overwatch also encourages players to respond with teamwork and synergy in the form of its ensemble of colourful and unique characters. You and 5 other teammates have the choice of 22 characters (as of now), each segregated into 4 roles. These roles being Offense, Defense, Tank and Support, pretty similar to the current meta of League of Legends and Team Fortress 2. You can also switch characters throughout the duration of the match if a particular hero doesn’t tickle your fancy. The game even gives you a subtle smack around the forehead to tell you that your team doesn’t posses enough of one role. For instance, you could have Dio, Ozzy and Ian Gillian in the team, however adding another Glenn Hughes would just prompt “NO DEFENSE HEROES” forcing you to accept that it wont end well for you. This composition aid is one I approve of, and helps newcomers of the game overwatch-gameplay-2help choose a hero that can benefit the team.

Probably the reason why I adore a game Rocket League in the first place so much is the fact that the fast game time coincides with the term what I like to call “Sweaty palm game-play”. That feeling where you feel competitiveness, reward, and probably the most crucial feeling: frustration. Frustration is a feeling that gives us the players that kick up the backside to keep going and is the reason why I currently have 168 hours on record for Rocket League. Overwatch provides those feelings in away that most games have failed, it is frustrating yes but not UNFAIR frustrating (Dark Souls PRIME EXAMPLE). Yes each hero has different weapons, but the composition selection is like a giant 12 man game of rock, paper, scissors and more primarily the skill of the player is what makes the game tick.

The visuals of the game are superb. Even the starting zones are littered with miscellaneous objects and scenery that all have physics, Blizzard didn’t need to add them, but that little touch of effort makes me smile. Each map is polished down to the finest detail, and the stunning graphics doesn’t hold back that glorious frame rate of 60 frames per second. The colour pallets of each map work amazingly well with the quirky character models, like a bunch of GI Joe’s in a Barbies doll house (I had an interesting childhood…). Other than the details each map has many different routes, routes that change depending on situation and character. For example, you can fly and flank around a corner with D.VA, rocket jump over a wall with Junkrat or just ram through an entrance way with Reinhardt. The possibilities are endless. 3067808-gameplay_overwatch_lootboxes_20160524a

I don’t like the loot system of the game. Pretty blunt yes, but blunt is an appropriate attitude to something so little and nitpicky as this. In order to get new skins and other add-ons you have to open a loot box, which in turn will generate 4 random things. It could be 3 voice lines and a sticker, or 1 shitty Tracer skin and 3 other pieces of tat that I couldn’t give a toss about. The worst part about it is that you can only get a loot box by leveling up, or by spending real money in order to “hopefully” get content you want. If Blizzard changed this and made it possible for players to actually buy whatever they wanted, then i’m sure they would put plenty of smiles on the players as well as harvesting a lot more money. I would gladly purchase a virtual aesthetic item for my Roadhog for the price of a Waitrose B.L.T. A majority of the Overwatch community consider the “Overtime” concept a bit of a rascal. Yes I will admit, it can be kind of annoying when you are crushing a team with 30 seconds to spare, and all of a sudden the words “DEFEAT” pop up on screen like a North Korean propaganda film. But again, it brings the sweaty palm gameplay again and again, and is especially rewarding when you are on the opposing side fighting with everything you’ve got.

Overall, Overwatch is an outstanding game with a bright future ahead of itself. As of now the game has over 15 million players, and its surge of popularity is constantly growing with the ever present e-sports community. Overwatch is a fast paced, short duration game that provides ample entertainment in an environment beautifully created by the design team at Blizzard. The range of characters each have their own distinct play style and personality, and the current meta is forever changing, providing a different balance of heroes in the game, making it one of the reasons why i’ll keep playing.

How did the panorama and its related forms transform the experience of the world?

How did the panorama and its related forms transform the experience of the world?

The industrial revolution changed the class system in Britain massively, as the heavy industrial machinery superseded the agricultural production before it. Cities became important, the new bourgeoisie middle class became more powerful in the social structure, and the urban industrial workers they employed became the proletarians. At a time where amusements and leisure activities was only available to the middle classes and higher, the working classes needed a form of escapism from their poor living and working conditions; living in the shadow of their rich counterparts. Not only that but the more the working classes got lost in manufacturing, the more they wanted in commodities (Rubin 1972:9). With the worse slums left behind from the middle classes venture to the bigger cities, the strain between the two classes was reflected by the political, economic and social power (Dyos & Wolff 1973:361). The middle class enjoyed the benefits of the new prosperity. People started spending their free time entertaining themselves in theatres such as the Folly Theatre of varieties, the Royal Albert Hall for concert performances (Dyos & Wolff 1973:223) as well as watching athletics and sports at Stamford Bridge. However, the elitism and expense was limited in such a way that the working class could hardly afford such things. The invention of the panorama and its related forms however changed that. It attracted a mass number of people, becoming one of the most popular and recognisable forms of media in history, also becoming a precursor to television and the internet in the process.

Britain became fixated on discovery and exploration, the country strived for the concept of the Sublime. The previous landscapes in the countryside began to deplete as the industrial revolution replaced grass with steel, making the only way to see landscapes was via hot air balloon over the horizon.  According to Phillip Shaw, the Sublime occurs whenever an experience slips out of the usual occurrence, when words fail to describe the experience and we have no points of comparison (Shaw 2006:2). We have all experienced this phenomenon growing up through an age of rapid expanding technology such as the motion interaction with point of view video games and the superb image quality of IMAX cinema from personal experience (Uricchio 2011:11), I can relate as to why the Victorians were first astonished by the technology of 18th century inventions. With James Cook’s expeditions to the southern hemisphere and many astrologists making new discoveries such as Venus, Uranus and Charles Messier’s observing different astronomical objects, there was no limit to what humans could perceive. Britain would be the powerhouse in discovery and further ventures.

Self-taught painter Robert Barker invented the panorama in 1787 as well as registering a patent for his idea on the 19th of June in that year. The thought of it came to him while he was taking a walk, and he wanted to paint the entire landscape he could see. His aim was to create a form of experience rather than a painting that people would go to see, the experience was to trick the individual that you was in a part of the world by bringing the world to you in the form of a 360-degree painting, however they had to be so realistic that the viewer could not tell between reality and the panorama itself (Comment 1999:7). However, panoramas required a considerable amount of money to be produced. Teams of artists with specific specialisms created them in an entire building known as a rotunda, making this a limitation of the fact that panoramas couldn’t be mass produced. However the experience and the placement of them in heavily populated cities attracted crowds. The marketing strategy also attracted huge praise and a wave of egalitarianism. By reducing ticket costs it attracted a larger group as opposed to high ticket costs that just attracted the higher classes (Fontinelle 2014). The 1793 panorama of the View of the Fleet at Spithead was held at the Leicester Square Rotunda which attracted crowds including aristocracy, in which it was reported that the experience was so real that Princess Charlotte admitted to feel seasick when she was surrounded by the boats and immersed in the experience of sea waves (Comment 1999:24). During an era of mimic artists and other competitors, the panoramic businesses that was developed from Barker and his two sons Thomas and Henry were later bought by John and Robert Burford in 1826. It was at this point that the craze started to die down, until Thomas Horner’s creation of the Colosseum rekindled the popularity of the panorama for a brief period of time. Horner took advantage of the scaffolding that was used for the renovation of St Paul’s Cathedral and planned a project of sketching the view of London from the bell tower nest of the cathedral. He opened the London colosseum in Regents Park in November 1829 (Comment 1999:27) with only certain parts of the piece completed. The painting was 38 metres in diameter and 24 metres tall, with the fascinating nature that the sky blending in with the plaster on the walls. It was then redeveloped in the 1840s as an entertainment centre as Horner suffered financial problems. Another attraction that was highly regarded included Jean Charles Langois’ Battle of Navarino. In 1831, Langois took a ship from the actual battle and incorporated it into a moving panorama sort of attraction. He then used sea breeze and gas lamp fires to simulate hits from opposing ships during the naval battle, and could arguably be classed as one of the first theme park rides.

Langois’ moving panorama was considered a different form of media. The term ‘Diorama’ was a variant of the panorama, and was launched by Theatrical Effects experts Louis Daguerre and Charles Bouton on 11th of July 1822. It used a combination of colour filters and blinds to produce a moving image with added theatrical effects creating a remarkable visual experience and a precursor of cinema. Moving panoramas became popular in the 1850s and lasted until the 1880s, with the Poole Brothers taking over a moving panorama business in the mid-1880s. Throughout the 18th century, many other companies and individuals created other forms of media, stapling the term ‘rama’ on the end of their inventions. The ‘Cosmorama’ was an exhibition of landscapes kept behind glass; a sort of combination with a panorama and a peep show. The ‘Myriorama’ was a take on the panorama but with added effects such as moving figures, lighting and sound. Cards were even produced in the form of children’s toys where they could change places with one another to create a different scene.

We all know that art in its entirety is entirely subjective, unless you are trained in aesthetics, then of course you won’t understand it, which is why some people find art boring. The panorama didn’t need any form of aesthetic knowledge or educational background, the sensation of it was very obvious to everybody as this was an experience that was a first for everyone; the illusion of being at a particular place when you wasn’t was staggering. Panoramas and their other forms helped bring the world to the public by cutting out the middle man of transportation. Despite the panorama being a revolutionary tool, its hyperrealism attracted criticism. De Cauter suggested that the experience was disorienting, and that the panorama was basically tricking the individual as well as causing vertigo due to the immersion. (De Cauter 1993:12). This gave false perspective. Steven Oetterman also stated that the panorama is a symbolic form of the bourgeoisie, produced by the businessmen and the world was there to be bought and controlled via scopic control. (Oettermann 1997:7). The constant consumerism and demand for more and more sights caused the panorama to come to an end towards the early 1900s, as the invention of cinema had just begun, and the novelty lost its shine.

The initial reaction of how the Panoramas and its forms affect us holds up to this day currently applies to new technology that provides new novelties and gimmicks that not only amuse us, but goes forth with advancements with technology. To class latest inventions such as the Nintendo Wii and PlayStation Move as failures can be true, as new developments caused the fad to die out like the panoramas before them. However they provided a benchmark for later technology such as virtual reality, which is currently on the rise. If you look at the current virtual reality tool the HTC Vive, it is a piece of technology that completely immerses us by using goggles that cover the user’s eyes. Software such as tilt brush encases the user in a box that they can freely walk around a certain boundary and draw whatever they like (NerdCubed 2016). Not only that but panoramic images are still popular, with many different camera phones offering the effect of a 360-degree image, as well as the Rico Theta, a camera built purposely for taking panoramic images (Anthony 2013).

The further we remove ourselves from reality, it makes us question what reality is and what it is not. The concept of hyperrealism moves the Panorama from a form of art into a realm of technical and media simulation. In the 1999 science fiction film The Matrix, Morpheus (Lawrence Fishburne) reflects on realism and states:

“What is real? How do you define ‘real’?” (Wachowski & Wachowski 2001).

When we feel, smell, taste and see things that is just electrical signals interpreted by our brains. We must not forget the fact that the artists had produced these images for the viewers’ entertainment, and that we cannot let the images of the world replace the true experience. Guy Debord feared that these images would detach the person from real life, and we would not know what true reality would be anymore, he stated that in a society that has modern productions that take over everyday life, all of life becomes one big amalgamation of other realities (Debord 1994:5). In conclusion, the panorama and its many forms broadened the horizon of what the average person could experience. Artists created many different artworks to help fully submerge the viewer into a state of thinking that he/she was at the actual place, however this technique of escapism should be taken into moderation, as psychologist Andrew Evans mentioned that escapism on a false reality can affect the essential fabric of living (Kim 2013). Japanese director and author Hayao Miyazaki also reflected his attitudes to hyperrealism by stating in an interview that virtual reality can imprison people, and that virtual reality is a denial of reality itself (Mes 2002). The visual form of the panorama turned the world into an image that could be sold and bought to the public for scopic pleasure and mass consumption, it also anticipated other media experiences such as television and the internet by bringing the world to our screens. We as humans should not forget what reality is, and not dwell too long in one created by others for a form of amusement. The panorama back then is to what virtual reality lies for the future, as Arthur C Clarke stated in his third law, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic” (Ashley 2005:259). We should enjoy the novelties in moderation and not depend too much on technology to go about our daily lives, we must respect that the experience is magical however it is nothing more than an illusion, and not the real world.


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Wes Anderson: An Auteur.

Wes Anderson: An Auteur.

It is a known fact that Wes Anderson uses many similar elements in his films, things such as the narrative, themes, camera style, colour, cast and visual effects are all methods he has used in the three films that I have chosen as comparison. Former editor of mass media company Gawker Doree Shafrir stated that auteur theory is a way of reading and appraising films through the imprint of an author, usually meant to be the director (Shafrir 2006). By looking at the motifs and elements that are left imprinted on Anderson’s films, we can class him as a true auteur of cinema. Not just that, but Anderson’s recognizable style of filmmaking made him one of the most discussed independent and original filmmakers in the last few years.

Looking back at Shafrir’s initial observation, she states that to have a valid theory about whether one is truly an auteur; we need to look at the imprint of the author. She also mentions that the director is usually the person involved, however Anderson also writes and produces his films majority of the time, thus providing total control and having significant input , creating the film in his own recognisable style (Browning 2011: XI). The specific themes and techniques are all things that appear in each of his films, most noticeably the visual style of camera with obsessive fixation cantering is one that tells people that they are watching a Wes Anderson film straightaway (Kokona 2014). However, we can’t class Anderson as an auteur by just using this observation, there are several more noticeable ones used in the three films I have chosen.

It may be a vague point to state that Wes Anderson has a specific narrative in all of his films, as virtually every film created has some form of narrative in the first place. Anderson includes some form of target with a developing character storyline alongside the journey of getting that target. For example, in The Royal Tenenbaums, Royal (Gene Hackman) wants to win back his children’s affection. To gain his children’s affection he has to get them all under one roof in an attempt to physically cradle the family as one. In The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Bill Murray’s character wants to seek revenge on a shark that killed his best friend, but in order to finance the expedition he requires funds from his long lost son Ned (Owen Wilson). By getting the money, he also begins to rekindle his relationship with the character in the process. In The Grand Budapest Hotel, proving the innocence of Monsieur Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) is under looked by the painting he and Zero (Tony Revolori) are trying to take, by getting the painting in the end they also prove Gustave’s innocence from the letter hidden inside it by Madame. D (
Tilda Swinton).

There is proof that Anderson demonstrates the struggles of being a responsible father in his films. In The Royal Tenenbaums, Gene Hackman’s character as the patriarch of Tenenbaum family is heavily portrayed as a lying, deadbeat and failure as a father. This portrayal almost mirrors Bill Murray’s character Steve Zissou in The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou, as he was never present during his son’s life, and attempts to repair his poor relationship with his wife from being a distant husband. Monsieur Gustave however takes a different tangent on fatherhood in The Grand Budapest Hotel, as he isn’t actually a father. What he is though is a male father figure towards the supporting protagonist Zero (who is an escaped orphan he sympathises with), they both rely on one another and their bond grows stronger throughout the film, making Zero his soul heir in the process. Gustave also has the tendency of bedding rich older women, indicating a level of low level of morality and respect, which is one similarity to the other father characters I mentioned above. Luis Azevedo states in his video review that the likely reason why there is a constant search for a strong male figure, whether it be in the form of a father figure or role model, is because Anderson’s parents divorced when he was a young boy. It appears that the characters including Anderson himself seem to be looking for that literal figure in the form of his art (Dean 2015).

Wes Anderson also uses a technique involving a complex level of storytelling, as if the argument of being an auteur (author) doesn’t hold up already. For instance, The Royal Tenenbaums is told from the perspective of a book, with the new chapter and brief opening sentences constructing a scene in the process. In The Grand Budapest Hotel, the girl at the beginning is reading the authors book, who in turn recollects the author’s conversation with the old Zero Mustafa. In The Life Aquatic of Steve Zissou, the documentary that is being shown breaks the fourth wall instead as we are watching the film alongside the characters in the theatre. Not only that but Anderson uses voiceover narration,  like some form of story being told by someone else, examples including Alec Baldwin in The Royal Tenenbaums as well as F. Murray Abraham and Jude law in The Grand Budapest Hotel as Zero and The Author respectively, however some people find the narrator method flawed and unnecessary (Fennessey 2012).

In terms of specific themes throughout Wes Anderson’s films, there is a level of whimsical comedic themes with melancholic tones and gratuitous violence ever present in all of them. Not only that but whenever something serious happens, there is a nonchalant reply by one of the characters. For instance, in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, there is a scene at the beginning where Steve’s friend Esteban (Seymour Cassel) is eaten by the shark, Steve is frantically screaming in the water surrounded by a pool of blood whereas Willem Defoe’s character is confused and questions him whether he was bitten or eaten whole rather than immediately helping him, in addition to one of the crew members throwing an oxygen tank overboard in confusion. In The Royal Tenenbaums, Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow) who is a blunt character to begin with plainly says without shock to her mother that ‘Eli just crashed his car into the front of the house’ and in The Grand Budapest Hotel, Deputy Koufax (Jeff Goldblum) is hardly angry when Willem Defoe’s character throws his cat out the window. His only reply is “did he just throw my cat out the window?” said in calm confused manner, with the women witnessing the incident responding ‘I don’t know’ dim wittedly.

The camera work is arguawes andersonbly the most noticeable element that deters Anderson from the rest of other filmmakers. His constant use of centralisation and symmetry is one that has stuck from Bottle Rocket to The Grand Budapest. Anderson himself stated the following in an interview:

“I have a way of filming things and staging them and designing sets. There were times when I thought I should change my approach, but in fact, this is what I like to do. It’s sort of like my handwriting as a movie director. And somewhere along the way, I think I’ve made the decision: I’m going to write in my own handwriting. That’s just sort of my way.” (Fresh Air 2012).

From the centralisation of the camera, to wide angle shots of buildings with little human contact, Anderson’s symmetry and one point perspective has been compared to Stanley Kubrick’s work, yet helps base a comedic tone rather than a horror one (Antunes 2015).

One particular trait that Anderson has used in all of his films is using the same ensemble of actors for the majority of his films, primarily involving Wilson brothers Luke, Owen and Andrew, as well as Bill Murray and Willem Defoe. According to NewStatesmen, the use of hiring actors that have more familiarity with one another will help the overall chemistry of the ensemble, knowing full well that the actors will perform to a decent standard and will work well together (Farry 2015). Also, Anderson’s friendship with the Wilson brothers add more trust to the casting, since he worked with them on his first film, Bottle Rocket back in 1996. Anderson has also worked with cinematographer Robert Yeoman on numerous occasions as well as musical composers Mark Mothersbaugh and Alexandre Desplat.

With The Grand Budapest Hotel winning an academy award for best costume design, the look and style in his other films live up to the expectations of the 2014 Oscar winner.  The use of colour and costume design is a quirky one in Wes Anderson’s films. From the unusual red beanies and clashing blue clad clothing in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (Gorman 2012), to the obscure and extremely noticeable purple uniform of the Grand Budapest staff, the subtle difference of colour add levels of auteur nature to Anderson’s creativity (Haylin 2014). His limited colour tones as well as the mise en scène provides a surreal yet whimsical environment to watch, including the baby pink hotel, and the shades of brown and olive greens mixed with the luminescent red tracksuit worn by Ben Stiller’s character and children in The Royal Tenenbaums. Anderson has also used stop motion animation in his films, a small element that later became used in The Fantastic Mr Fox in 2009. Anderson directed, produced, written and starred in his adaptation of the Roald Dahl book.

One criticism of the auteur theory is the fact that the level of power the director determines whether he/she can be classed as an auteur.  American film critic Andrew Sarris mentioned that if a director strongly imposes his personality on a film then that is classed as a form of being a true auteur. If a director is weak, then his/her weakness allows the personalities of others to have control over the making of the film (Chapman 2003:114) . Robert Niemi backs up this statement about control , referring to auteur theory as problematic, as film making is a highly collaborative business. (Neimi 2016: Introduction)  However both criticisms I feel do not relate to Wes Anderson, as he is the main collaborator behind his films of course being the director, writer and even producer.

In conclusion I believe that we can call Anderson an auteur, because every one of his films has that distinct ‘auteurist’ hallmark stamp on it that can be considered from an his viewpoint.  By having total control over the film, Anderson has the ability to develop the film whatever way he wants. And that way is his own style of filmmaking. His unique way of making movies differs them from the rest, so much so that the IMDB page ‘more like this’ on The Grand Budapest Hotel, offer no films similar to it whatsoever (Stuckmann 2014). His surreal level of comedy, interacting with the distinct ‘Wes Anderson’ style of camera work and a colourful cast of characters yet using the same actors over and over again creates very entertaining stories and films highly regarded by critics and audiences.



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(2001) The Royal Tenenbaums, United States: Buena Vista Pictures. [DVD/VHS]

(2004) The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, United States: Buena Vista                 Pictures.                                       [DVD/VHS]

(2009) Fantastic Mr. Fox, United States: 20th Century Fox. [DVD/VHS]

2014 The Grand Budapest Hotel, Germany:  Fox Searchlight Pictures. [DVD/VHS]

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