Friday, 13 November 2015

The Problem with Game of Thrones

I think I've got Game of Thrones worked out.

We're raised to believe - at least in art - that bad people will get their comeuppance. It's a fairly simple idea.

So the belief is that the more bad things we see people do, the bigger the comeuppance. The promised retribution becomes the carrot that draws us on after the stick of watching rape, torture and abuse. If someone does bad, they get punished. It's how art has always been.

The problem is that the networks are run by sociopaths who just see two things. Firstly, because they don't really understand human emotions, they think that we like torture porn because they made a violent show and it's selling millions. So they try and outdo each other in terms of how bad it gets, misunderstanding why we're watching.

Secondly, they realised at some point that the longer they draw out the retribution, the longer they keep us watching, and therefore paying.

And so Game of Thrones has become an experiment in delaying retribution, so that by the time one character gets their retribution, there are another five or six that have done far worse who we're even more desperate to see get their comeuppance.

But they never do. The story never reaches a conclusion, and we keep getting drawn on by the promise of a retribution that never arrives. 

And is it just me, or do we still have to watch a bunch of awful shit to even GET to that? Like with The Hills Have Eyes or Kill Bill - I get that the retribution is satisfying, but I still had to watch a whole bunch of awful shit to get to it. It all still happened in that world, a world the creators try their hardest to draw you into. We still had to watch it.

What it is, is manipulation. Playing with the expected tropes that someone will save the victim before the worst comes to pass, and that the perpetrator will suffer for what they've done. They take hope, possibly the greatest human virtue, and they play with it for money.

I stopped watching the shows after season 2 and reading the books after Winds of Winter precisely because I realised there was no justice coming. I realised I was being played like an idiot.

Basically i'm saying the human mind is broken and easily manipulated, and the people who make shows like Game of Thrones know it.

Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Destiny: Forget Luke Smith - £40 and $40 are NOT the same thing.


First up, I'm enjoying the game. A little too much, if I'm honest. It's pretty much the only game I've played since Christmas, apart from a little Diablo 3. And as far as shoot-mans games go, mans (and the shooting thereof) is something this game does very, very well.

Also I just got a Gjallarhorn.

But I digress. There have been two expansions so far, and we're heading for the third. The Taken King. Less of an expansion and more an overhaul, judging by the hints being gradually meted out at E3.

Then, this happened:

The Luke Smith interview. To cut a long story short, the fans feel that the Creative Director insulted their intelligence and made it look like Bungie sees us as idiots who will, in his own words 'literally throw money at the screen' for dancing emotes.

The problem is, in all this shit about exclusive bonuses that haven't been announced yet, and value for money over the new content that hasn't been announced yet, and everyone telling everyone else to shut the hell up because nothing's really been announced yet, one problem is remaining un-addressed.

The price has been announced. Or rather two prices have been announced, and they betray a very big problem.

40 dollars is not fucking 40 pounds.

$40 = £25.43

£40 = $62.92.

So we are paying the equivalent of almost $63 for this expansion, purely for being in a different country. Apparently the Australians have it even worse.

We are not saying that the price of the expansion is unreasonable. That's a separate issue. Personally I'd be fine with paying £25 / $40 for The Taken King, as long as the content's good.

What international players are saying is that British people are paying nearly $23/£15 more for exactly the same product, which is absolutely fucking shocking.

The last two expansions - The Dark Below and House of Wolves had the same problem, priced at £20/$20 each. As user gorillathunder pointed out on reddit, tax is often used as an excuse, but the highest rate of sales tax in the UK is only 20%. 

$20 = £12.72

20% of £12.72 = £2.54

£12.72 + £2.54 = £15.26

£15, £20... A fiver's not that much to grumble about. But in the case of The Taken King's price disparity, £15 is the price of one and a half normal expansions in any other game. 

This isn't a case of 'near enough' conversion. This is a massive disparity, and it's ridiculous that someone at Bungie / Activision (probably Activision) thinks they can get away with it.

Eurogamer didn't raise this point in the interview, and I can't help but feel that this point - the one objectively verifiable problem with the pricing - is going to get lost in all the shouting about dance emotes, collector editions and value for money. 

I've seen a few people mention it, but not quote any figures, so I tried to do the googling and lay it out as clearly as possible.

The easiest way to state the problem for Americans is that the difference between 40 dollars and 40 pounds is the equivalent of $23. Even 20% sales tax is only around £5. We are paying the equivalent of $63 for the expansion - a lot more - for absolutely no reason.

But unfortunately, as soon as you bring up pricing problems with The Taken King, people assume you're talking about Luke Smith's comments, or about value for money. An entire nationality of the playerbase is about to get massively ripped off, and nobody's talking about it.

Hell, reddit has consigned any posts discussing the pricing of The Taken King to its own megathread, and the first page of the relevant subforum is, in its entirety, threads about Luke Smith and this one, lone thread full of international customers listing exactly how big the disparities are in their respective countries.

Even Forbes (who are becoming startlingly respectable as a gaming news outlet) are talking mostly about the PR implications for Bungie, and mentions the international disparity only as an afterthought.

So what to do about this? Well, not a tremendous amount, aside from writing to Activision, but they're going to have their hands full dealing with anger over the Luke Smith article. You can try bringing it up with a Bungie employee if you can get into E3, but the response given to Eurogamer was literally "British pounds are just foreign to me."

I doubt we'll be able to vote with our wallets, because the sad thing is Luke Smith is absolutely 100% right. We'll pay anything at this point. Anyone who boycotts the game or quits will be a tiny blip on the radar.

Soo... basically spam this article everywhere? At least then I might be able to afford the overpriced pile of crud... 

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Mad Max: Fury Road explains perfectly why the patriarchy sucks for men too

*Spoilers for Mad Max: Fury Road ahead, obviously*

I am hoping you clicked on this article because you, like so many people out there, have suddenly been made aware of 'Meninists' - also MRAs, or Mens Rights Activists - because of a Return of Kings article demanding a boycott of Mad Max: Fury Road.  (Guardian article linked, because if you visit the original they'll get ad money).

This is them, patrolling the YouTube comments section.
© 2015 Warner Bros. Ent. All Rights Reserved

"Men are being tricked by explosions and boobs into watching feminist propaganda!" They cry. "We wanted this film to be just for us (along with all the others this summer, and all other summers)!" Hell, they're even upset at a 'piece of American culture being ruined' (ignoring the fact that the vast majority of the funding, director, lead, writers and locations of the original Max films are all Australian, as is this one).

They also complain that the film is called Mad Max, yet Furiosa seems to do most of the fighting. If we remove gender from the equation, it does admittedly seem a little odd that the titular character takes such a back seat. But in this landscape of reboots, sequels and studios being terrified of taking a chance on new intellectual properties, nobody would have thrown this kind of budget behind Imperator Furiosa: Awesome Robot Arm the movie.

Even though we would all watch the crap out of that movie.
© 2015 Warner Bros. Ent. All Rights Reserved

If you're upset at a movie being affected by financial concerns, then boy are you writing about the wrong multi-billion dollar industry. Plus, the clue is right there in the subtitle: Fury Road. Greek mythological spirits of vengeance, notably female. The film is almost literally called 'The highway of angry women.' It could only have been clearer if they'd called it The Vagina Monorail (A title which I'm copyrighting and working on as we speak).

Friday, 8 May 2015

Welcome to a Conservative Britain!

From their own 2015 manifesto, here's what you can expect over the next five years:

We can fuck you up the ass, and there's nothing you can do about it!

The number one thing stopping any government getting away with whatever sketchy shit it likes is the European Court of Human Rights. It over-rules our courts, and it's a fucking good thing too. If they didn't, our government would almost literally be unaccountable.

Of course the Tories want rid of it, citing the difficulties getting rid of Abu Quatada and almost certainly EU regulations about Bananas or some shit. Hell, Theresa May still thinks it protects people from being deported if they have a cat (hint; it doesn't, and she's been told off for saying that on the news).

I think they threw her in a wheely-bin. I'm not good at remembering the news. 

So if they're unhindered by a higher authority, what can they do? Pretty much anything they like. But specifically, they can do some pretty terrifying things with the following policies suggested in their manifesto:

  • Police-led prosecutions to be 'further extended,'
  • 'Semi-custodial' sentencing allowing police to detain offenders in custody for 'extended periods'
  • Ability to ban organisations that fall short of meeting the terrorism act's definitions (so anyone they don't like, basically)
  • More boundary reforms

The Boundary reforms are probably the most concerning, because they're at the root of why the conservatives are in power right now with only 36.9% of the vote. That's only 6.4% more than Labour. But still the conservatives won 330 seats and Labour only got 232. How can the conservatives win a clear majority? Look at a map of the different voting boundaries and you'll see why:

Notice how the blue areas have a lot more small, compact constituencies? They're at the heart of the imbalance. Each constituency gets one vote. So the tories literally get more votes, because they've engineered things so that the regions of the UK that tend to vote Tory are divided up into more constituencies.

Doesn't sound fair? Well, because we've had nothing but Conservative and Labour since about the 1920s, and they both used to benefit from this system, nobody's complained. Unfortunately now that Labour have pissed off the Scots, it's not working for them any more, leaving one, big fat beneficiary who now intends to rewrite the rules to their benefit.

If we still have a European Court of Human Rights by then, we might be able to stop them, given that the right to fair elections is one of the things that they oversee. I say might, because they could still manipulate the laziness of the general population by implementing photo ID voter registration.

Poorer areas (who are more likely to vote against the Tories) tend to respond very poorly to voter registration, because they're too busy working two jobs to update their photo id, cart it down to the local council office (assuming there's one nearby), stand in a queue and fill out a bunch of forms. Richer and more prosperous areas have the time and the energy to do so (and have generally better maintained public services that are able to keep up with demand).

So you end up with a lot of registered voters in Tory areas, and very few in labour areas. When they redefine the voting boundaries, they'll be redrawn based on the amount of registered voters. Meaning that the situation with all of those extra votes in the Tory heartland and a few vast reds scattered everywhere else is about to get a lot worse.

Of course, even if they fail to get rid of the ECoHR, they'll still be able to do any and all of the following:

Benefit reforms!

  • 'Tougher' day one work requirements for job seekers (I'll be interested to see if it's even possible to get tougher without using the word 'workhouse'),
  • 18-21 year olds excluded from Jobseekers Allowance and given 6 months 'Youth Allowance', after which they must get a job / training / disappear from the statistics / die (whatever's quickest),
  • No housing benefit for 18-21 year olds, so good luck if your parents are abusive, dead or kicking you out!
  • More sick / disabled people to be classified fit to work by ATOS,
  • Support for Homeless people and mental health care to be hidden behind new and exciting 'bonds' that will doubtless be unadvertised and difficult to access, as with most social care now Jobcentres have strict targets and most of the CAB offices are gone.

Tax Reform!

  • Further corporate tax decrease. It's not even veiled behind colourful language, they're proudly boasting they'll decrease corporate tax.

Justice reform!

  • EU referendum in 2017. Lets see how much a combined front of the Murdoch press and our own government can scare us by then!
  • 'Deport first, appeal later' policy on immigration. Direct quote!
  • Police no longer allowed to access journalists phone records (Thanks for the recommendation Ms. Brooks!),
  • Police-led prosecutions to be further extended,
  • 'Semi-custodial' sentencing allowing police to detain offenders in custody for 'extended periods',
  • SCRAP THE HUMAN RIGHTS ACT (I'm not sure how UKip managed to get more attention than this),
  • 'British Bill of Rights' to be decided by a bunch of old white men, and Sith lord Theresa Palpatine-May (you know, the one who voted against gay rights including marriage, has been found in contempt of court over detaining an Algerian man, and deported Jackie Nanyonjo to Uganda, where her illegal status as a lesbian has forced her into hiding),
  • European Court of Human Rights will no longer be able to correct injustice in the UK.

Most worrying of all:

  • Ability to ban organisations that fall short of meeting the terrorism act's definitions (so anyone they don't like, basically),
  • Ban / disband nonviolent extremists as defined above,
  • Stop 'extremist' individuals from using the internet, or teaching at a university.

Now read these again in light of Home Secretary Theresa May's responses over the detention of Journalist David Miranda. If the government want to call anything terrorism, they can; and just in case they can't, they still want the power to act even if it falls short of any approved definition. Russell Brand's a bit shouty and anti-government. Maybe he can be a terrorist...

Education reform!

  • Schools that OFSTED likes can basically do what they like and get free money,
  • Everyone else gets threats of closure, funding cuts (helpful for schools in poor economic areas!) or being turned into an academy.

Civil reform!

  • Continued censorship of the internet, extending from piracy to porn,
  • More boundary reforms,
  • Proof of id to vote, so less of those objectionable poor people will register, and the number of Tory safe seats can increase,
  • Extend the vote to racist ex-pats on the Costa del Sol (and presumably the ghost of Thatcher),
  • NIMBY law allowing locals to protest against new housing, developments and basically anything in Oxfordshire,
  • Inheritance tax cap effective at £1 million as long as you put it in property (so you can buy a million quid block of flats, fill it with plebs and hand it on to your family safe in the knowledge they will be carrying on your legacy of spiteful manipulation of basic human needs),
  • Decrease co-operation with Europe (proven stability & interaccountability) and increase trade links with India and China (shocking human/civil rights records, poverty stricken manual labourer class and - actually now that I think about it, all-round Conservative wet dream).

It's all in there, check for yourself at if you want. I know you won't.

Because let's face it, you were probably part of the third of the British population who didn't even turn up to vote yesterday.