Should Photoshop be illegal?

In recent years there has been a lot of controversy around the use of digital enhancement software: The main issue of debate tends to focus on the fashion industry, as it is argued that magazines and editorial shoots gives young people an unrealistic and, in many cases, dangerous expectation of how their bodies should look. But it does raise an important question, as to when – and if ever – digital enhancement is necessary.

Why use it?

For most people in the creative industries, photo-manipulation is a basic tool in every trade. You can use it to make photos stand out more by making certain colours pop while other colours are muted; It allows you to ‘revamp’ images over the years to keep up with the changing industries; it also allows you to perfect every image that you take by allowing you to remove blemishes, straighten out lines, level the contrast and so on. The possibilities really are rather limitless as you can essentially make any image you have into a completely new and maybe even completely different picture. Furthermore, photo-manipulation is not an easy task: Besides from needing a very steady hand and a keen eye for detail, you also need heaps of patience to be able to sit and stare at the same pixel images for many hours at a time while you work on a particular project. This means that the more you practice, the better you get, and if you are someone who wants to work in a creative industry, these skills are invaluable.

Does it really show skill?

On one hand, it does take a certain level of skill to manipulate a photo: Even if you are simply adjusting the colour ratios of a photo, you must still have at least a basic understanding of the software as well as an understanding of photo composition. However to some extent, it almost doesn’t matter if the photo you have taken is completely pants if you have the knowledge to manipulate the original into something artistic. On the other hand, can you still deem yourself an ‘artist’ or a ‘photographer’ if you need to rely on software to make your photo great?

Does it create false expectations?

One of the universal truths of modern day society is that when you compare yourself to other people, you are undoubtedly going to become sad and disappointed with what you have in life. This is made worse when the pictures you are looking at are not the entire truth of that person’s life, nor is it an accurate representation of society as a whole: As beautiful as celebrities can be and as flawless as the Victoria Secret models are, the majority of photos taken of them are then manipulated to look more appealing than they are. The time old story of ‘sex sells’ means that we are more likely to pay attention to a beautiful body than we are to the sight of your average person, even though the average person is an attainable role model to have. In recent years, fashion companies such as Dior have even banned super skinny models in their cat walks, so why are we not banning them in photographs?

The dangers?

To begin with, super skinny models only add to the stereotype that in order to be considered ‘beautiful’ you have to weigh as little as possible. This is not only bad for society, where the percentage of people with eating disorders is gradually rising every year, but it is also bad for the industries that condone them, as it almost suggest that they care about making money more than they care about the people who sell their clothes for them. It also portrays an image that the people in modelling campaigns are the ‘normal’ people of society, and it is everyone else who looks bizarre, when it reality it is the opposite way around. But not only do these people already have incredible bodies (simply because they work out, eat healthy and, mostly, because it is literally their job to look stunning) but then editors set to work to exaggerate the images more: legs get longer, skin gets smoother, lips become fuller, muscles get more defined, until we see an image that is not only a poor representation of society, but a bad representation of that model as a person, as though the hours they have spent in the gym and all that clean eating was pointless because a piece of software s what makes them look flawless in the end.

The upside?

Photo manipulation can be hours upon hours of fun and since the software is still surprisingly new, it is very hard to become a master of it. The software is constantly developing and improving and as such so are the skills that come along with it. It also is now becoming a sought after skill in the creative industry, with more and more employers wanting at least a basic understanding of photo manipulation software. It stands to reason that there is a clear need for it in society otherwise why such a high demand for the skill within the workforce? It could even be argued that photo manipulation is an art form in its own right, as it combines many different disciplines, while still requiring an in-depth knowledge of them all in order to create an image that is new and striking.

So what do you think? Is it really necessary in an artistic world, or is it doing more damage then it’s worth? Let me know 🙂

T xx

 

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Until Dawn: Review

PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT: This game is currently free to download of the PSNetwork!

This weekend I spent most of my Friday night doing what any respectable 24 year old should be doing…playing a horror video game. I would like to say that I only did the game in sporadic play-throughs but no…I finished the game in maybe two nights. The first night, I had only just started, the story hadn’t begun to ramp up yet and I was tired. But the second night, I could NOT put the controller down. I needed to see how it ended and how I did overall.

General synopsis

Until Dawn is a 2014 horror game that tells the story of a group of teenagers. The story begins with them all playing a prank on one of the girls, who in her humiliation runs out onto the mountain, in the middle of winter and ends up getting lost. Her sister goes looking for her, only for them to fall down the mountain to their deaths. Fast forward a year, and the same group of friends are back at the mountain to pay their respects and honouring their friends’ memories. The characters are all varying degrees of generic teenagers: there’s a lot of angst, lots of unrequited love, lots of love triangles and therefore lots of drama BESIDES impending death and destruction. This game gives you the chance to play as every character, each taking their turn to play out the story as it is happening.

The Butterfly Affect aspect

The Butterfly Effect is the idea that one little decision or action can drastically alter the future: A flutter of a butterfly’s wings could cause a horrific storm 300 miles away. While it is far-fetched to think about it is still a really interesting idea, that all of our actions and our choices shape how our life turns out: One little chance meeting with someone on a train could mean you meet the love of your life, or being a few minutes late in the morning meant you never met that person to begin with. Until Dawn made it a bit more serious than that, making it very much a life or death situation, and the fact that the choices are timed forces you to make split second decisions that can alter the course of events following it. In the case of Until Dawn, this can determine whether or not the character you are playing as lives or dies.

Image result for until dawn gifs

Game play itself

The game is similar to a telltale series game: Lots of cut scenes, lots of time to investigate places, quick time events and of course, timed choices. I am absolutely not a good person when it comes to shooting games, because try a I might I can not aim to save my life. These types of games suit me better: They feel like I’m watching a movie that I get to interact with, rather than having to try and beat countless enemies and complete quests. The story is awesome, as it keeps you really invested in what is happening: The only reason I stayed up for so long was because I needed to find out what would happen next.

The horror

This game is indeed a horror game though. It has jump scares galore, monsters that are scary as all hell and some genuinely tense moments: One of the scariest tasks is having to remain absolutely still (The PS4 controller has a motion sensor in it!) when a huge, screaming monster is circling you. The scares are also relatively clever, and are only used when really needed to progress the story forward. While some scares are very early on and are usually anti-climactic, it all helps to create that feeling of ‘horror’ within this game: What the characters go through, you go through as the player.

Image result for until dawn gifsJust one of the horrible deaths that can occur through bad decision making

The characters

Most importantly though, the characters are multi-dimensional: One of my favourite characters actually came across as the biggest jerk in the beginning, but as the game progresses and you start to see the consequences of your actions, the characters become far more important to you…some can even become LESS important to you when you see how they react to little choices you make. This game gets you invested from the get-go and I think that is what’s so enjoyable about it. Each character has their own set of personality traits, and you can also keep track on how every character views each other: Who is mad at who, who is fond of who, and who is most likely to leave you for dead just because you chose a seemingly small option. The characters are also surprisingly vast in personalities and it is nice to see them change throughout the course of the game.

Image result for until dawn gifsSam (played by Hayden Panettiere) and Josh (played by Rami Malek)

Overall?

Well worth a play! The game itself may not be an overly long game, but with the amount of stress you go through you’ll probably be thankful for it! It is a very fun game either way, and the fact that every decision leads to a different series of events, the ending can be different each time you play it. It’s fun just to see how each decision can change things and, more importantly, which decisions ultimately do nothing even though it seems like a super hard choice.

Have any of you guys played it? Let me know below your views on the game 🙂

T xx

 

Best horror games

If you love a puzzle…

Limbo is actually a pretty simple game design, and yet somehow it just works. You play as a little boy, wondering through different areas trying to find his sister. It is almost all in black and white (or at least super muted tones) and works mostly based on shadows. Now while this game isn’t the traditional ‘horror’ game, it is definitely a game that puts you on edge and makes you feel uneasy: At one point, you hack off a giant spider’s legs with a bear trap, and at another point you lure murderous children (or at least slightly older than you teenagers) to death-by-stomping-machine…All while very little is explained to you and there is no more story than what you piece together as you go.

Image result for limbo gameSimple, yet effective

The puzzles are just challenging enough to make you think, while still being hard enough that it may test your patience attempting them four or five times. The art work is both calming and unsettling, and it’s simplicity is probably what makes it so enjoyable. It is definitely worth a play if you fancy something that’s scary while still being charming.

For the survivalist…

Outlast (1+2…so this may be a cop out…) is a survival horror game. In both games you play as some poor man who just ended up in the wrong place at the very worst time possible. In Outlast 1, you are trying to escape a mental asylum, and in Outlast 2, you are trying to rescue your wife from a mental religious cult: Po-tay-to po-tar-to. In both games however you are armed with nothing but relatively good stamina and a video camera to document your journey…and help you navigate the very dark crawl spaces. You have no weapons to fight back with and so you can either run or hide from the vast array of scary characters who want nothing more than to harm you.

Image result for outlastA little visit in Outlast

Both games are terrifying, and not only because you can’t fight back. Both games are really quite graphic with the blood, violence and mutilation that you are bound to encounter (so I suppose parental guidance should be stated!) and so is not a game for the fainthearted for that reason more than anything. The stories may be relatively flimsy – in many cases you aren’t sure why or how you even got into this situation in the first place – but the overall pace of the game is so well structured that you rarely get time to think about anything other than escaping…preferably with as many limbs as possible still attached to you. Jump scares galore, graphic violence and some truly terrifying moments, this game will definitely keep you up at night.

For the nostalgia….

Resident Evil VII was largely a success…while it may have varied a lot from the original games of the 90s, the game had a lot of nods to them for the fans. The game itself, was actually a lot of fun. While it may have been a relatively short game (roughly 8-9 hours) it was packed with everything you would expect from a horror: jump scares, abandoned houses, viruses, plagues, bugs, demon possessed families and even creepier non-possessed adults. The best thing about this game was also the high tech aspect of it all: Playing the high-resolution, wonderfully life-like animated game was bad enough without playing it in virtual reality. This game had everything you would want; decent story line, lots of monsters, lots of levels and, most importantly, lots of weapons to defeat them all with. If you don’t feel like sleeping for a long time, then have a go at this!

Image result for resident evil 7Meet the Bakers

Just because you like the scares…

Slenderman (again, a slight cop out) is not necessarily a ‘game’ in the same way the above mentioned are: There isn’t really a story passed the point of ‘Slenderman wants you dead’ and ‘find the papers’. The game, despite it’s simplicity, really is quite fun and is actually a bit of a cult classic these days. It’s surprising how scary a little bit of static on your screen can make you and I promise you, no matter how many times you play the game, it will still make you nervous when it happens. There isn’t much else to say on this game because there really isn’t much to it apart from jump scares, but if you just want a little game to play with people or because you’re bored one night, then this is the game for it.

Image result for slender manSlenderman awaits….

Similarly to the above is Five Nights at Freddy’s…because…well this one is pretty self explanatory!

For the nightmares…

While this demo is pretty hard to come across now (the game itself was scrapped before full release) it was truly scary. It was a demo released to raise interest for a new horror game made by Kojima Productions and featured the acting talent of The Walking Dead’s Norman Reedus. It was pretty basic in theory: You walk a long a corridor of a house, walk through a door in the basement, which then brings you out at the start of the corridor again while all the while changing to become more horrific each cycle. I think almost everyone is aware of the fetus in the bathroom sink….yeah…that’s somehow not the most unnerving of things you will see in this game. If you are looking for nightmares then just watch the game play of this because it is genuinely unsettling…and if you’re brave/stupid enough to actually play the game then be prepared for a psychological trip.

Image result for PT gameOh hey…

What about you guys? What are some of your favourite horror games?

T xx

 

 

Top 5 Relaxing Games

Animal crossing New leaf

To be honest, I could have picked any of the games from the Animal crossing franchise, but this one is my favourite. It is just adorable! Granted, I have not been back to my little village in a LONG time but the sentiment is always there. You play as a little Amibo character that is moving to a new little town. You can pick the name of it, its general map layout and your own personal appearance for your little character who you will soon live vicariously through. My little town, for example, was called Snorlax, it was centred right on the coast with a little stream running through it and my house with its little pink roof sat prettily on the edge of the cliff overlooking the sea.

This game is so cute…and is so unbelievably relaxing. Yes there are little tasks you can do and little objectives you have to meet, but there is no real time limit on it: I played the game pretty solidly for about a year and I am still only on about 10% happiness for the town. But my town is so cute! I can spend my evenings wondering around picking fruit from the local trees, organising my flower gardens, creating statues and monuments for my little animal neighbours to enjoy, or I can simply spend the day in the ocean, swimming and fishing. Now everything you collect in your town can be sold for coins (sharks, for example, are worth about 400 of those) and as you build up your coins you can then start to decorate your little house, build extensions and design the layout as you want.

Image result for animal crossing gifsAaaaaand…relax…

This game has limited potential as there is always something to do to keep you busy. While it may seem dull to some, it is no doubt the most relaxing game I have ever played and is easy to lose endless hours over.

Pokemon Sun

Now this game goes without saying: It’s Pokemon! This game is the newest release from the Pokemon franchise and I love it. The new Pokemon are adorable and exciting, while the revamp of some of the more classic first Generation Pokemon pretty much made my life complete: Icy Vulpix is probably even more adorable than a firey one!

Image result for ice vulpix^^ Look at his little face!! ^^

The game itself is pretty free-roaming. You have little tasks to complete and battles you need to win, but there isn’t any time limit on this. I spent most of my time collecting as many Pokemon as I could, trying on new clothes and outfits in the little shops and mostly just looking at the beautiful artwork in it: The game is based loosely on Hawaii and it is very clear to see as you stroll through the different tropical islands with golden sand beaches, crystal clear waters and the warm glow of a digitally created sun.

The main reason I find this game is so relaxing is beqause it’s so easy to delve in to: The story is just enough to keep you interested in progressing, but not so complicated you get confused. The characters are likeable and, most importantly, you can now interact and cuddle your Pokemon! I would play with my team of Pokemon so much that all of them (Ninetales especially) would be absolute beats in the battle arena: I once had my Ninetales on 1% hp for 9 ROUNDS because everytime it was hit, a little bubble would pop up to say that Ninetales toughed it out so I wouldn’t be sad. How is that not the cutest??!!

I won’t get into the whole ‘Pokemon promotes animal abuse’ because I honestly think that’s a bit farfetched an idea (more on this in a later post I think!) but this game is truly a delight and if you haven’t played this before, I would highly recommend it!

Journey

Where to begin…I love a puzzle. I like to see myself as the logical, problem solver and this game is just that. Also, it is just beautiful to look at: You play as a little floaty person in a big old cape and scarf, wondering around the dessert. At some point, you find another little floaty person and the two of you have to work together to solve puzzles and complete the game. The reality of it is that each floaty person is an actual player…there are no AIs, and that in itself is quite lovely…that the two of you, wherever and whoever you are, come together to play this game.

Image result for journey game gifsIt’s just so pretty! ^^

The imagery itself is just beyond beautiful. Everything may be somewhat golden for the most of it but it’s calming and warm and based more on problem solving abilities than it is based on brute strength or strategy. The music is perfect, the game is stunning, and the little floaty fellow is surprisingly charismatic.

DC Injustice

So this one may not be on the same level as the others as it is basically Mortal Kombat with a DC skin. And I know it didn’t get much praise, but I for one love it, for no other reason than there is something strangely relaxing about beating someone up as Batman. I have used this game as a stress relief…while it is frowned upon for me to punch a rude customer in the face, it is practically expected of Harley Quinn to smash someone repeatedly with a huge hammer. As macabre as that may seem, or even unnecessarily violent, it is simply fun. It is a fun game, to play by yourself or with friends (the real trick is remaining friends after you’ve beaten them 5 times in a row as Catwoman) and you can just feel all the stress and anger of the day leave you. Also, I will point out that while it may appear violent, this game is actually incredibly PG compared to the original mortal Kombat games. There isn’t really much to this game by way of story (again, I only really play the fighting chapters) but there is definitely something relaxing about bashing your opponents into the stratosphere or exploding them with a bomb-filed cherry pie. Trust me, one little play of this as your favourite DC character (hero or villain) will make a little less stressed from the woes of working life.

Image result for dc injustice gifsGotta love a bit of Raven

What games have you guys found to be super relaxing? Let me know and I will probably give them a try!

T xx

The real OG

‘You are unique…just like everybody else.’

This simple statement is a pretty common oxymoron. While it is still true that there are no two people who are 100% identically the same, the fact that we are all different is one of the main things humanity has in common. So is there such a thing anymore as originality? No matter what we wear, how we act or what we create, there is a high chance that there is someone else out there in the world who is doing the exact same thing. But that doesn’t mean it’s all doom and gloom…

Is originality even a thing?

Everyone is shaped by their experiences: Everything that we come into contact with over our lives shapes us into the person and the personality that we become. Due to this, inspiration is everywhere and we may even be influenced by things that we aren’t even aware we have noticed. A newspaper article from 10 years ago could be the reason you want to draw pictures, in the same way that a loud car stereo blasting 80s pop driving past you may make you want to start writing. It could be near impossible to pinpoint the exact reasons why we are all the way we are, but it doesn’t stop the fact that we have all been influenced by something else, which was no doubt influenced by something before it and so on and so forth.

Image result for originality gifsFightclub breaking all the walls

So it possible to still be original? If everything we ever create is nothing more than a step up from something we have seen, can we even say that it is our own work? From a legal standpoint, intellectual property has guides in place to ensure that no work has been intentionally copied: As long as you can prove that you created a piece of work through your own thought processes and own design plans, chances are you’re going to be fine (obviously it’s a bit more succinct than this, but I don’t think I have the time to explain it all!). But on a more philosophical level, is it possible for any of us to claim that our brand new identity or our way of dress is an original one?

Subculture symmetry

Everyone knows the old troupe: In high school you have those who follow the norms of society, and then you have the odd little groups of people who do not.

Image result for mean girls group gifs Mean Girls showcased this perfectly…

From the sociological aspect, all of these little groups within society are known as ‘subcultures’ where everyone within that subculture shares the same norms and values. However, in today’s society these  subcultures can have very blurred cut off points within them. I, for example, would not necessarily fit into one subculture alone: I may be blonde, wear a lot of pink and love pop music, but I also love video games, superheros and reading science fiction novels…I also don’t think I’m a mean enough person to have been one of the Plastics, but I digress. Subcultures by nature always include some form of similarity: members tend to dress the same, talk the same and even believe the same things. Key examples of this are the 1980s Punk, the 2000s Goth and even now the emergence of the Seapunk. They all look the same as each other, but at least they’re not mainstream. In some ways, subcultures go against originality as the entire practice seems to try and place members of society into boxes. Is this why originality is so hard to come across? The use of labels?

So what does this mean?

Today’s society is a massively innovative one with common social norms being challenged everyday from every aspect of itself. Young people are leading the gender revolution, wanting to do away with normal sexuality labels and gender stereotypes and instead move to an inclusive and free state of simply just existing: love who you love, be whatever gender you decide, believe whatever it is you wish to believe…but know that you will be accepted purely on who you are rather than how you have been socialised and labelled. For some people, especially those in a creative setting, this can be a whole new challenge, as trying to be memorable in a world where everything merges together is not an easy task. but perhaps this is where we fail.

Moving forward…

Just because something has done before does not mean that it is not original or innovative. it is common knowledge that anyone can copy something: If i can’t draw, I’ll just trace a picture, if I can’t write songs, I’ll just mash a load together. Originality comes from the little bits of you that you add to it to make it better: Five Night’s at Freddy’s fans are another key example of this as while the games they make are not, by nature, original content, the stories they create, the character interactions they add and the overall game play of said games are enough to make the new games original enough to improve and add to the existing base. Everything may not be original, but if something is added to the original to progress the entire idea forward, then that alone should be enough to be original.

“Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”

– C.S Lewis

T xx

Where are all the women?

I love video games, but I must admit that even I am fed up of not being able to play as a female character within games…especially the big blockbuster ones. Granted, in recent years video games have developed into more than just a male free-for-all in game play, with games such as Skyrim and Pokemon that allow you to customise the playable character to your own liking, and even games such as Overwatch and For Honour allow you to play as the female characters. But what about the big action games? In a sample of 669 action, shooter, and role-playing games selected in 2012, 45% provided the option of playing as a female, but only 4% had an exclusively female protagonist.

Why men?

For starters, video games historically were more directed at a male based audience: We all have the image of a ‘classic nerd’, with his glasses on, in his pants, playing a video game for hours at a time, stopping only to chug down an energy drink of choice and some form of processed food. Due to this, video games have been very stereotypical seen as a male dominated past time and as such will have the male leads in the game as the strapping, bad-ass hero, with women there more for the eye-candy than for their character development. This stereotype of ‘only boys play video games’ is most definitely not true in today’s society: A study by The Pew Research Center found that 48% of video game players were female, which shows that there is no longer a huge difference in gaming habits between the genders. However, it also found that only 6% of those women who played video games would define themselves as a ‘gamer’, compared to the 15% of men. perhaps this is why most video games are directed at men, because they are the self-professed ‘gamers’ within society whereas women only appear to play them for fun and leisure, rather than as a serious past time.

Damsel in distress

Mario and Zelda are two games that have basically formed their entire game play around this theory: beautiful girl is locked away somewhere, and our brave hero must go and rescue her. Now I understand the appeal…it can be a noble and brave act to rescue someone from a dire situation, and let’s be honest I’m sure most men love the idea of being a virtual Brave Knight…or a younger James Bond. I get it…that can be fun! But in many of these games the females are nothing more than a prize that the males have earned by facing all the challenges that they have done throughout the game i order to rescue her. I hope I am not alone in this feeling, but I would much rather play a game about the females story: She could fight her way back home while the male is still working out how to craft a stronger sword or which drain pipe leads to which platform.

Image result for link saves zelda gif

The Damaged Woman

In many ways, men in video games can go on the adventures they like because they simply WANT to do so, whereas with women it almost needs to be justified. There needs to be a REASON as to why they want to go on an adventure, or why they behave the way they do: Mia in Resident Evil VII was wielding chainsaws because she was possessed by a vengeful young girl (not entirely true, but there will be no spoilers from me!) who in turn, only possessed people because she was desperate for a family setting of her own. Evie (the little girl) was evil because she wanted a family, whereas the Bakers’ son Lucas was evil because…well he just was. Granted, this may have been part of the overall story, as the player is meant to play through the game learning about Evie’s back story and her life leading up to the Bakers’ household.

There were also debates surrounding the latest Tomb Raider game. Lara Croft is probably the most famous female video game hero, who handles guns better than Nathan Drake and can scale mountains and jungle terrain better than Ezio scales Italy. Yet in the latest game, released in 2013, there were issues surrounding her conflated character: She was built up to be against killing, yet in many circumstances she was shooting to kill. While there has been discussion as to the reality of this (you can play through the game with very little combat being encountered, as well as it being a story of survival for Lara) it raise the question as to why the developers didn’t do a Batman on it: In Arkham Asylum, Batman simply knocks the enemies unconscious rather than outright killing them. Perhaps Lara could have only shot people to disarm, rather than to kill? She may not be OK with killing, but seriously maiming is still an option.

Why do they not have clothes on???

All of the above issues aside, one thing I can never understand about females in video games is their very distinct lack of clothing! Women in video games always seem to be wearing very little: Lara Croft seems happy to traverse jungles in nothing but hot pants and a vest, while many of the ladies in Overwatch or Mortal Kombat just seem to wear lycra and some form of floaty cape. If any of you have ever tried to cosplay or fancy dress as your favourite video game character, you will have found that you are either wearing far too much clothing (Hello Mei!) or far, FAR too little (looking at you now Jade…). It seems that video game developers haven’t been able to bridge this gap between too much and too little: Women appear to be designed solely on their initial appearance and this is what we are to find attractive about them. Mei is adorable, in her super fluffy suit and quirky little glasses, whereas Jade is nothing but legs and boobs in a Princess Leia bikini who also happens to be a blood thirsty killer who can rip your head from your shoulders while you are impaled upon her metal staff. Am I the only one who would like to see a woman kicking butt in jeans and a hoodie?

Image result for mortal kombat jade gif

Jade from the Mortal Kombat Series (sans any actual clothing)

Final Thoughts

In the current society, it feels as though video game developers are too slow on the uptake: Yes there have been some seriously bad-ass women (Michonne in The Walking Dead, Ellie in The Last of Us) but for most of the big blockbuster films the women are nothing more than prized eye-candy or in need or rescuing from whatever evil ails them. Maybe once it would be nice to see the woman save the boy, or…dare I say it…save herself.

Image result for mei overwatch gif

Mei from Overwatch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jump Scares as a selling feature

A jump scare is a technique often used in horror films and video games, intended to scare the audience by surprising them with an abrupt change in image or event, usually co-occurring with a loud, frightening sound.

When it comes to horror, there is nothing scarier than a surprise. Films have been using these for decades and in recent years horror games have become centred around this. But does that necessarily make them scary?

The hugely anticipated Resident Evil 7 game was finally released in mid-January and the overall consensus states that it is amazing. The game is true to the original style of Resident Evil games while still creating a story that not only fits into the overall Resident Evil universe but also capable of being a stand alone adventure. Rife with gruesome and horrific images, this first person action horror game is littered with well timed jump scares. In this game, the jump-scares help to add to the overall mood of the game by being logical in their usage: The main villains of the game appear suddenly, for either a brief flicker or to provide useful information to aid in story progression, and help to create the mood in which the player is almost always on edge while playing. But Resident Evil has always used this tactic to make their games feel scary…with one well timed jump-scare the player is kept on edge throughout the rest of the game, which in turn continues the feeling of anticipated horror and unease within the player. 

Another game franchise that has utilised the jump-scare is the Five Nights At Freddy’s series. In this, you play as a defenceless night watchmen who has to watch CCTV monitors to keep an eye on the murderous animations that are trying to reach your office and kill you. These jump-scares are more a signal of death, as they usually only appear when the animatronic in question has gotten close enough to you to attack. This game is fun…it is a fun game to play purely to see people’s reactions while they play the game. However I wouldn’t say that this game is ‘scary’ but rather ‘jumpy’…which is exactly what the game is supposed to make you do.

Due to this, jump scares need to be used sparingly in order to be considered  ‘horror’ technique, as too many of them makes the game predictable and, eventually, funny. When used in a sparing nature, the jump scare can be used to cement an ambience of the game: In the promo game released for a new (but now cancelled) Silent Hill game, PT, the main threat was a randomly generated half dead woman who could jump out and kill your character at any time. Throughout the game you see small sights of her but nothing that can actually harm you. By allowing her to only attack you once during game play, the player is put into a sense of unease throughout game play and, as a result, are constantly on edge. This was part of the thrill of PT and why it was such a sought after game to play.

In short, jump scares are never fun. No matter what happens, you’re going to get a shock. However when used effectively they can be a valuable tool in creating a gaming experience.

Cosplay or copycat?

We have seen from some of the previous blogs that copyright law steps in when there has been blatant copying of one game in creating another game, but what about taking the characters themselves out of the game and into the real world?

Cosplay is the practice of dressing up as a character from a film, book, or video game, and is usually focused on those characters from the Japanese genres of manga or anime. it is a common practice at many comicons that the vast majority of those attending take the opportunity to dress up as their favorite characters, with many conventions now holding competitions for the best look-a-likes.

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A couple cosplaying as Wonder Woman and Batman. Other examples can be seen here

But if you were to dress up as your favorite character, this is not necessarily a cheap feat. If you are really going to do the character justice you need a lot of supplies: clothing, make-up, wigs, weapons, accessories, footwear, extra padding, armour details…the list can go on and on especially if you are trying to recreate a character from comics or video games. Now in the wonderful digital age in which we live, the internet has made all of the above easily accessible. The main question however will be whether or not you can afford to buy it all: If we decided to stick it out with our Dark Knight above, this could set a person back around £250. You’ll look awesome, but probably won’t be able to afford any other clothing for the foreseeable future.

So why not make your own?

I’ll admit it right now: I love a bit of dressing up. Any chance to wear fancy dress and quite frankly I’m sold. However, I am also really, really, really tight-fisted when it comes to my money and so could never justify to myself spending a lot of money on an outfit I’ll most likely only wear once (twice if i’m really lucky!). Creating your own costume is easier and usually cheaper than buying one ready made, especially if you are dressing up for a bit of fun at a convention or as a party troupe. However some of these cosplay competitions are a big deal for those who compete: While cash prizes are rare, the opportunity to win trophies, photography sessions and even meet-and-greet passes with the convention guests, are all big prizes to those fans who compete. In order to win once in a lifetime opportunities such as those awarded at these competitions, your costume must be on point: My Wonder Woman t-shirt, blue skirt and silver bangles will not be enough.

But does making your own count as copyright infringement? In short, no. If you are creating a costume purely for your own enjoyment then it would most likely not be covered by copyright infringement, as you are not causing any financial risk to the original owners. I could take this time to try and explain the implications of design rights within the fashion industry but that would be an entirely new blog post!

What if you made one for a friend?

Now this is where things could potentially be a problem. If you enjoy making the costumes, you may have a friend who asks you to create a costume for them of a particular character as the entire feat is too complicated for them. Based on the financial risk to the original owners, whether this could be copyright infringement rests heavily on whether or not they pay you for the work, and, almost more weighty, is whether this becomes a business for you. If your friend offers to pay you for the materials and time to make the costume, then it could be seen that you are taking money away from the original owner of the character and the costume. While this is extreme, it could become a more pressing issue if you were to do this for lots of friends…so much so that you would say that it is your work and it clearly had a commercial gain to it all.

Final verdict?

When it is clear that your hobby has now become a commercial enterprise, it is probably best to seek a license to use the image from the original owner (such as DC, Marvel or Square Enix for example) in order to protect yourself from a very nasty infringement claim being brought against you. While this may seem like a bit of an effort, it is best to cover your back rather than risk bankrupting yourself over something as minor as a winged cape.

Other than that, craft to your heart’s content my fellow geeks! I shall see you at a convention near you.

T xx

 

Freddy Fazbear and his F**Kboys

One indie game of high popularity in recent years has been Five Nights at Freddy’s. This is a rather simple point and click horror game, where the player controls a night watchman with the aim of surviving numerous nights of increasing difficulty by not being killed by the animatronic machines that come ‘alive’ at night. With its use of jump scares and simple controls, this game has a very active and loyal fan following and as such there have been some fan made versions of the game.

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^^ Freddy Fazbear ^^

One game in particular, Five Nights at F**kboys, may not be suited to the original game’s current audience. This version of Freddy’s involves Freddy trying to have a wild night of debauchery and partying, with many of the characters wearing inappropriate clothing and one character performing inappropriate acts whenever you see him on the surveillance cameras. It is also recommended to do a shot of alcohol before each level, so that as each level gets harder, the player also gets more intoxicated, and this supposedly makes for a far more enjoyable and entertaining experience. The crude and adult themes throughout this version are obviously not suitable for the relatively younger audiences that were drawn to the original Freddy’s game and yet they can still easily access it under the impression that it is made by the same developers.

So what can developers do?

By issuing proceedings against this type of copyright infringement, it allows developers to have control over how their work is used, especially when it comes to the audiences they are trying to protect. In this sense, control is therefore maintained by the developers and their game is protected from negative infringement. In more tactful situations however, negative imaging is exactly what the copier wished to do in the hope of tainting the reputation of the original game to such an extent as to render it unappealing to consumers.

The problems?

It stands to reason that developers can not always issue proceedings against people who infringe their work: the cost alone can be substantial, and for companies and developers just starting out in the industry this cost can be crippling. However it could be argued that the main reason why the developers wouldn’t want to issue proceedings is because of the impact it would have on their overall image. If a developer does nothing but condemn those who copy their work, they are in some way dampening the appeal of their game: FNAF has bee so successful because of the massive fan base that has built around it, and this is mostly due to the ability of fans to create their own interpretations of the games which help to add story and experience to the FNAF world rather than just as one lonely game.

Most games involve some form of player communication in the form of either online multiplayer modes of gaming, or simply through the online forums that fans create in order to discuss the game, their tactics and share their own experiences of the game. These online forums create pathways through which people can gossip about the game developers and in a world as digitised as ours, news spreads very quickly: The second word gets out that there is a new upgrade, a new map or a new way of beating the game these forums are flooded with information and distributed to hundreds upon thousands of people. This clearly raises the issue of what litigation can do to a company’s public image. The main concern of any solicitor when advising a client on this issue should be ‘What would the fans make of this situation?’, since while they do not make the final decision as a legal judge would, commercially speaking the voice of the fans is the only voice that should really matter to a video game designer: If the entire fan following (or to some extent even a small majority of them) feel that the designer is ‘attacking fans’ with legal proceedings, then the entire community basis on which the game rests becomes unstable and, for the most part, will begin to falter before completely dying away. In some respects, video game fame is fleeting, since technology and software is changing so dramatically that it can almost be impossible to keep up with. As a result, it is probably better for a game developer’s brand to be left on a high rather than risking becoming labelled as ‘the company that sues its fans’.

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^^ One of the faster characters, Foxy ^^

What can be done?

It is clear from simply reading the comments on gaming forums that gaming fans are a loyal and fierce breed of fans. It could also be argued that people on the internet appear to have feel more confident online and as such seem more likely to speak their mind, and most certainly will not hold back on comments or remarks if they feel justified. This in a way acts as a secondary level of enforcement without the need for expensive court procedures or solicitor fees, as the fans do the hard work for the developer when it comes to protecting a game’s image and reputation. If the fans come across work that is infringed, some may flag this with the streaming service itself for breaching without consent of the author, while others may even bully the infringer until the material is taken down. From looking at fan made games as well, it would appear that most fans are happy to state that their game is a copy (even if only to a small extent) of a game already in existence. It is perhaps this admittance of copying that makes it acceptable within the eyes of the entire fan base as it shows others that they are not infringing to make a profit or for any other malicious reason, but rather to add to the experience that the original already created in order to make it a better experience for the fan base as a whole. In this sense, copyright infringement when it comes to games could be seen as an altruistic act that is done more out of love and admiration for a developer’s work than out of mere thievery and deceit. This in turn therefore means that when a person does infringe the work but tries to claim that this is all their own original creation and that people should pay them for it, the fan base may take that as a personal assault on their own gaming subculture, and as stated at the beginning of this paragraph, decide to oust the immoral infringer themselves in order to protect their own interests in the game as a fan.

The conclusion?

FNAF is an example of a game that is more or less defined by its fan base. The idea that fans can add to the FNAF experience means that the literal copyright infringement can be overlooked if the work in question still maintains its integrity. In this sense, perhaps copyright infringement is simply a fall back position: It is not a concrete law that must always be adhered to, as it is essentially up to the original author whether or not they see the infringement as damaging to their own brand. In the case of Freddy, and his many many renderings, impersonation really is the sincerest form of flattery.

 T xx

Gotta Condemn them all!

Just like every other twenty-something, I spent the majority of my spare time last year wondering around my neighborhood trying to catch Pokemon on my phone thanks to the creation of Pokemon Go!. I grew up playing these games and this mobile game allowed me a chance to achieve a dream that I have had since I was 8: To become a Pokemon master! However as I grew up, I noticed that some people had problems with Pokemon, claiming that it promoted and glorified animal cruelty to children.

Pokemon vs PETA

In 2012 People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released a satirical version of Pokémon titled ‘Pokémon Black and Blue’, an online game where you rescue Pokemon from real life animal abuse situations. PETA have been known for their shock tactics when it comes to animal rights, from campaigning against cosmetic testing on animals to using fur in the fashion industry. PETA have stated for some time that Pokemon, while they accept it is fictitious, creates a rosy pictures of things that are actually abusive. They have stated that confining Pokemon to their Pokeballs mirrors the housing of animals in factory farms, and the use of Pokemon to fight each other mirrors the animals used in fighting arenas for money. While this may seem a stretch to some, there are some similarities and it can be easy to see why PETA feel the way they do about Pokemon.

It is clear that the creation of the satirical Pokemon games is an infringement on Nintendo’s copyright. Yet why are PETA doing it? Copyright infringement is a crime because of the risk that the infringed work could have negative effects on the original brand itself: A cheap rip-off has none of the insurance or the quality of the original and for members of the pubic who can not tell the difference this can be highly problematic. Yet with PETA, this is exactly what they wish to do to Nintendo. It could be argued that PETA want to associate the Ninetendo company with games that glorify and promote animal cruelty in hopes that this will deter people away from the brand entirely. But does a company as large and successful as Nintendo really care?

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Chikorita vs Charizard….The new David and Goliath?

However, the release of the newest Pokemon game installment, Pokemon Sun and Moon, actually addresses PETA’s concerns in a subtle but effective manner. During the newest game, you are accompanied for some of the main story line by a young girl named Lillie, who states on numerous occasions that she does not wish to fight Pokemon as she doesn’t want to see them getting hurt. There is also evidence of different professions within the Pokemon world, with some scientists stating that they wish to only encounter Pokemon in order to record their discovery, and also other NPC (non playable characters) who state that they want to become a Pokemon Carer rather than a Pokemon Trainer. it would appear that Nintendo are taking heed of PETA’s campaigns and are trying to create a game that allows the player a choice of how they interact with the Pokemon rather than simply being about Trainer progression. This could be seen as an effective new step against copyright infringement, as it shows the original brand acknowledging the infringed work and, to some extent, even taking on board some of their ideas and concerns in order to produce a product that will now appeal to a wider audience than the original one did. In this sense, it is practically free labor, as the developers have had to do very little research to find out what issues the general public have with their game. It may not be much, but it is a step in the right direction for Nintendo to try and get PETA to leave them alone.

Should the law step in?

When it comes to Pokemon it would appear that a line needs to be carefully drawn: While there is no evidence to suggest that Pokemon players actually commit acts of animal cruelty, the generic theme of the game does very clearly promote using ‘animals’ as ‘weapons’. On the other hand, it could be seen as condescending to assume that players are simply going to repeat actions in a game simply because the game allows for it in the story. This issue can be linked closely to the issue discussed in the previous blog post, ‘Video game censorship’. It would appear therefore that the law should only step in with the companies involved raise the issue in a legal setting: mediation could be the future for copyright infringement of video games, as a middle ground can be agreed between the two parties.

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Pikachu and Eevee…they know how to reach an understanding

T xx