Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Pop: Feminist infestation

Blip came home from university today, and told me that his Georgian literature lecturer told the class that 'history' should be called 'herstory' because 'history' is sexist. 

If our university lecturers can be that stupid, I want nothing more to do with the world. I'm locking myself inside my flat and never coming out.


Picture Reference

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Pop: Self-Improvement through LLI

Stress would appear to be one of the most important factors to consider when helping a person who has LLI. For all of our time together, this has been an obvious fact. But recent discussions have uncovered the fact that consistency is the key to avoiding this stress. We have a set routine, worked out over a long period of time and clearly beneficial for avoiding stress and excess thought requirements – a good routine makes it unnecessary to have to wonder what’s going to happen in the day. But over the last year my worsening pain in my knee has led us to the fact that Blip also requires my mood to stay constant. This sounds obvious, nobody likes it when someone is up and down all the time. But in this case it isn’t the normal situation where a person gets in a mood and then feels better again, leaving the other person walking on eggshells. I don’t have to shout and scream or be overly perky to create a problem. Because of the same need for routine, it is important that my mood remains completely stable so that Blip knows what to expect from me, as well as from the day. If I grow sad at my knee, even if for a moment, I create a sense of instability and this is stressful for a person who has enough to think about already. But the same is true if I’m having a bad time, and I attempt to be happy for a short time, knowing that I’m going to just be miserable again. The biggest factor here is not whether I’m sad or happy, but rather that I don’t flicker between the two. In reality, this is a problem a large number of people deal with. Like most problems relating to LLI, it’s simply something that Blip is more aware of and more able to define than a lot of people would be. 

So over the summer, I have taken this on as something of a challenge. Consistency and calmness, no matter what the situation. Originally I was under the impression that having ‘a temper’ was something that was inherent to a person’s personality and completely unable to change. But the experiment has been a success, and without the stress of having to worry about whether I’m going to be able to deal with the pain in a day or not, Blip has a much better time with his head. Simply the act of being consistent with my mood has led to it being one less thing to be concerned about and merely one of the background thoughts, rather than taking up space in the ‘inpile’ in his mind. 

And this as an experiment has led to the most important of my realisations about LLI. I think there was always part of me that saw it as a problem, something that, rather selfishly, I had to deal with in my everyday life. But simply considering it more from Blip’s point of view, and no longer viewing it as a negative, and not only can I be more helpful but it can have a positive effect on my own life. After years of being far too quick to being angry, and wallowing in my own pain, I can finally call myself a calm person. And the pain in my knee is something that I deal with rather than feeling sorry for myself about. It’s all a matter of empathy. If the people who surround someone with LLI aren’t dealing with their problems properly, at some point they need to consider that those problems they can’t cope with are adding themselves wholesale to the difficulty that a person with LLI already has with the world. 

And while we all might be able to at some point tune out, stop thinking about our issues and distract ourselves with something else, a moment away from thinking about things is the one thing that a person with LLI simply can’t do. 


Monday, 2 December 2013

Blip: The Stanley Parable and its wealth of impossibilities.

In my last post (annoyingly, just over a month ago), I discussed the artistic role of choice in computer games. The wealth of experiences made possible by the actions of the player and the reactions of the game-maker, through the context of the game, is both broad and expansive. Even choices not directly created by the game-maker are made possible by the software used to make the game and the software used to play the game; All of it becoming part of the overall tapestry of the game. Naturally, the distinction between what is intentional and what is accidental is another element of gaming as art, which can be ignored, fixed or even deliberately played around with, as we’ll see in a while.

I hope to continue this line of thought by applying it to a specific example. While any example would do, I’m going to use possible the best, or at least the clearest, example of a game that plays around with choice and how these interactions can be foregrounded. The Stanley Parable.

The Stanley Parable has famously defied reviewing. Just about every reviewer has started by saying the game is fundamentally un-reviewable and I’m certainly not going to break the trend. The game is un-reviewable. I won’t dispute that. I will say that the game is wonderfully thoughtful, clever, insightful and generally worth playing, especially if you’re interested in the artistic functions of games.

The premise of The Stanley Parable is that, as the short intro will tell you: One day, Stanley (whose decidedly relevant job is to mindlessly push buttons on a computer when prompted, what better way, after all, is there to help the gamer/player associate with the protagonist?), upon being left in silence by his computer, stands up, and walks around his office, which has emptied of co-workers. He goes on a brief quest to determine the truth and on the way is guided, counselled and chided by the not-quite omniscient narrator.

The narrator is the key that reveals the mind working behind the scenes when you play a game like this. He openly discusses and judges your choices in the game, which lead to a variety of different endings. As I said before, games react to your choices and this would be true of The Stanley Parable whether there were a narrator or not. But, as it happens, there is a narrator who very successfully and skilfully exposes the thought processes behind the game. Of course, it is done in a narratively consistent way; unlike the game-maker, the narrator is subject to time and as such must present his thoughts in a linear fashion and is capable of learning as the game progresses. This isn’t true externally (or, you could say, meta-fictionally) because the narrator’s responses and narrations are all programmed in the game from the start but the character of the narrator appears to develop as you play.

The effect that this has is very clever. You and the narrator go through the story together, allowing you to feel both led to a determined conclusion and free to act how you will at the same time. In fact, the game is challenging you to find possibilities it hasn’t thought of. When told to answer a phone in a sealed room, you can run along behind it and unplug it. Obviously this capacity had to have been programmed into the game and you earn another response and ending by doing so. But initially, you’re treated with the feeling of having outsmarted the game.

Another, more evil version of this is one of map-breaking. At one point, the player can sneakily manoeuvre themselves onto a desk in a way so indicative of map-breaking and shimmy along and out the window into a black, white space. Sadly, upon doing this, the narrator merely points out your ineptitude and you’re treated with more narrative wonder, including an option for a very strange song. The game has foiled your desires again.

I notice that my observations are becoming more and more general. They’re lacking. It would appear that even writing about The Stanley Parable in a general sense is next to impossible. Every single play through the game contains more fascinating content and material for dissection and analysis than I could cover in a whole series of blogposts.

How about we try the modernist approach:

Office space, filled desks, button heaven, cups of coffee, piled files, flat carpet, coloured walls, locked windows, secret disco, doorbell, wooden door, screen, hidden camera, paths, maps, w, museums and paint, death by numbers, start again, impossible codes, opening walls, narrator’s jokes, narrator’s folly, huge desk, funny painting, empty buttons, failed hopes, no response, Minecraft, open sets, burning babies, big white buttons, who’s that?, jump the lift, start again, vault the fence, run away, blue door, blue door, red door, supernova, Left or right, left then right, day-job, salary, payday, fake wife, kitchen sink, w, filing cabinet, files and tapes, freedom, w, escape, run away, stuck above, wait what?, 3 hours?!, trapped again, start again, true ending, more Stanley, less Stanley, waiting room, endless beauty, endless corridor, round, stairs, round, barrier, handrail, vault, jump, run, open, close, car, round, death, start, end, control, window, song, laughing at me, dead panda, Portal, not yet finished, find the cube, shut the door, stop for now, start again, see your death, activate achievements, w, crusher, a, piranha, s, countryside, d for diving, play your part, fulfil your role, follow The Stanley Parable Adventure Line.

That should do it.


Wednesday, 13 November 2013