Dishonored: A Play-through from a different ‘Empress’

Dishonored is an action-adventure strategy game where stealth is key. Set in a dark, steam punk themed world, you play as Corvo, a loyal bodyguard to the Empress. The game starts in a prison cell after you’ve been framed for her murder and the abduction of her daughter. A loyalist group to the Empress help you break out in hope you will aid them in restoring the rightful heir to the throne, the Empress’ daughter, Emily, and take revenge on those involved in the assassination.

Dishonored is developed by Arkane Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. Originally released in 2012 for PC, PS3 and Xbox 360, the game is also available now for PS4 and Xbox One after releasing the definitive editions in 2015.

A sequel to Dishonored has recently been released (Dishonored 2 ) in November 2016 and is available for PS4, Xbox One and PC.

Below is a recording of my own play-through of Dishonored. I had some technical difficulties upon recording but some straightened out once I uploaded and others didn’t. Not sure what was happening here but I am looking into it. I really enjoyed the experience of making my first play-through and I highly enjoyed playing Dishonored. It’s definitely a recommended game to play!

Camel Up for the Camel Cup: A Board Game Review

With the prestigious gaming award Spiel des Jahres (2014) up their belt, Z-Man’s board game of the year Camel Up definitely lives up to the praise. A game for 2 to 8 players and for ages 8 and over, Camel Up is a thrilling family game based on betting and racing mechanics.

How To Play:

Before the game starts, each player is given five race betting cards with a character on the back and it’s corresponding colour, three ‘Egyptian Pounds’ (EP) and a mirage tile.

Although each character and their colour matches the colours of the five different camels, the aim of the game isn’t to get the same coloured camel as your character to the finish line. In order to win the game you must have the most EP, this means the game is heavily dependent on betting and gambling mechanics. Curiously acceptable for young children to play, it is still a family friendly game to play with is simplistic and easy gaming style.

With the race betting cards given to each player, a player can choose to use them to bet which camel is going to win and which is going to lose throughout the game. On the game board there are indicated spaces available to put your betting cards for the first and last camel of the match. The trick here is that no one will know what you have bet, but if someone has the same colour as you, the person who bet that colour first gets the winning bet (more EP) so you have to be quick! But don’t be too hasty either, the cards are only revealed at the end of the game and if you guess incorrectly you will lose EP.

The mirage tile adds an interesting feature to the game as it has the power to either advance a camel one space or retract it one space. It can be put anywhere on the race track except near the finish line, and it can only be used once per round. A round finishes once all camels have moved.

When not betting, placing mirages or moving camels; players can also pick up a Leg Betting Card or a Pyramid Card. It is important to mention at this time that a player can only perform one action per turn. The Leg Betting Cards are in (five) stacks on the available spaces on the game board. Each stack represents a camel with the colours shown on the card. Leg Betting Cards aid you in gaining EP each round by backing a particular coloured camel. The first card on the deck gives you the most EP while towards the bottom you will receive less. While it’s good to be first to get the most EP, being too fast can be detrimental to the success of your overall win. If you bet on a losing camel, you will lose EP as well.

Finally the most inventive feature of the game; the Pyramid dice tower. This tool creates an unpredictable roll of dice as you shake and place the tip of the Pyramid on the board. There a five (D6) colour coded dice that represent each of the camels, however the dice only range up to three spaces at a time. By pressing in the cardboard slip, a hole opens within the Pyramid to allow a die to fall through and therefore giving the next move to a specific camel. The fun starts here when a camel lands on another camels space. Whenever a camel reaches another camel’s taken space, the currently moving camel stacks upon the other camel taking its lead.

Why the praise:

The unpredictability of Camel Up is what truly makes the game. It makes it fun, suspenseful and thrilling not knowing which camel will win. The betting and gambling mechanics add to the increasingly exhilarating nature of the game as you bet and start taking risks for a potentially winning camel.

It’s a family friendly game and suitable for any level of gamer whether they are new to gaming or veteran players. The board is nicely presented with the perk of the Pyramid dice tower adding a nice feature to the game. It’s simplistic yet challenging gameplay also adds to the intrigue of playing as each game has a different outcome with the twist of having the mirage tiles and stacking rules.

It’s truly a hard game to fault and a definite must play game. It just goes to show that sometimes keeping things simple isn’t a bad thing.

A cinephile’s nightmare: the death of cinema

I’ve always had a soft spot for the cinema. The mix of a relaxed yet exciting atmosphere it creates is just like no other (especially when an anticipated movie is released), and no matter how much you try, the popcorn just isn’t quite the same at home. As an avid moviegoer, I enjoy going to the movies as much as I can and have plenty of reasons on why I keep returning. However, I fear that there may no longer be a cinematic haven for me to go to any longer with the possibility of advancing technologies taking over this long lived entertainment medium.

Although I wasn’t born until the 90’s, I think of when the cinema was new to the public and what it must’ve been like attending a screening back in 1915 when feature films started becoming a popular screening event (Baldasty, 2013). Comparing it to today’s experience at the cinema, I’m somewhat nostalgic for the younger days of cinema. So much has changed since it’s early years to the digitised world we live in now.

The biggest threat to cinema is technology and its ever growing goal to make life more convenient to humankind. When televisions became a popular accessory to the average household in the 1950’s, it sparked a concern in the movie industry as it was feared that television would take over cinema. However, the industry soon found out that old movies shown on television were highly popular thus introducing the popularity of VHS tapes. What they feared turned into a positive for the movie industry as they gained revenue off the public buying video tapes of their movies to watch at home. This eventually progressed and adapted to todays standards of internet streaming; queue Netflix, Presto and Stan…

As discussed in an earlier post, family relationships changed as television became a way we consume entertainment. As technology progressed through the years, the film industry had to adapt to each new advancement in technology, even though sometimes they were hesitant and behind times (e.g. the transition to sound on film). In order to compete with the screens and advancing technologies in the lounge room, the cinema needed a way to keep the audience attending screenings. Cinemas in Australia now have surround sound, Dolby Digital HD sound quality, VMAX (bigger screens, leather seats, more leg space) and 3D projections just to name a few. The idea behind this is to give the audience something they can’t get at home, optimum immersion with the movie.

How we consume media in the household varies with each family and individual consumer.   While this gives anyone more freedom to consume media in any form, it also provides cinema with a hefty goal of competing for attention as it is a competitor against streaming, internet and improved home entertainment.

According to Torsten Hägerstrand, there are three main categories as to why one would be constrained in attending a cinema or other places. His categories are below:

Capability – These are limits on human movement due to physical or biological factors such as the need to sleep or to eat, access to mobility tools and the availability of temporal and financial resources for conducing activities and making trips.

Coupling – These are restrictions on the autonomous allocation of time due to the need to coordinate with institutional logistics (schedules or given locations) or interactions with other individuals (appointments or meetings).

Authority – These are limits on when activities can or cannot take place, or where they must or must not be located, imposed by external parties. For example, mandatory closing hours is a potential constraint on individual behaviour (Corbett, 2001)

So maybe technology isn’t cinema’s biggest threat but rather convenience is. The big game changer is the death of cinema would be when new release movies make it to tv streaming. Or could that be a good thing? Pay a subscription fee like Netflix or even something like the renting system on iTunes store movies could gain great traction for the film industry, however cinema will most likely go extinct. I don’t think we’d ever leave the house.

Please comment below and tell me what you think about new release movies coming to a streaming system. Do you think it would be a good thing?

References:

Baldasty, G.J. 2013, ‘The History of Motion Pictures’, University of Washington, USA accessed from http://faculty.washington.edu/baldasty/JAN13.htm

Corbett J, 2001. Torsten Hӓgerstrand, Time Geography, CSISS Classics, accessed from  http://escholarship.org/uc/item/2t75b8sj

Department of Communications 2016, University of Washington, accessed from http://www.com.washington.edu/baldasty/

Ethno-what?

What is ethnography? It’s definitely not something we hear everyday, and it is not something we really notice until pointed out. Merriam-Webster dictionary’s short definition of ethnography is ‘the study of human races and cultures’. Pretty straight-forward right? Essentially yeah, it’s as easy as that. But there are some other things involved in understanding ethnography, like the different methods used to study, how studying humans and cultures benefit us, and also its challenges.

Ellen Isaacs is an ethnographer who spoke about ethnography at TEDx Talks on Broadway in 2013. She explains what ethnography is, how it is conducted in the everyday and how it has evolved. A great example of explaining ethnography is when Isaacs introduces the audience to her recent study of parking in New York City. Although this seems unusual to study parking in New York City, it also sounds obvious that parking on the streets of NYC is problematic with the population and heavy traffic. She explains the term ‘hidden obvious’ as “insights that are obvious only after you point them out”.

“A lot of times when you point things out to people they’ll say well sure it’s obvious that’s a problem, but they don’t think to tell you about it when you ask, to notice it you have to get out and watch” Ellen Isaacs, 2013 TEDxBroadway

Gradually, Isaacs and her team noticed that the main problem that occurred were the parking signs. The complexity of the signs were getting in the way of what a driver wants to know in the few seconds they are driving by, which is the relatable ‘can I park here?’ question we all face in any busy city. Isaacs points out that the restrictions concentrate more on what you can’t do than what you can, thereby studying this Isaacs and her team have come up with a solution for easier parking access in New York City. Although this seems fairly obvious, the signs didn’t come into focus as a problem until later in their investigations. Once the team noticed it though, that’s when it became more obvious. The solution was to redesign the signs to make them more easily read and/or create a more efficient parking meter.

That method of ethnography is called collaborative ethnography. According to Luke Eric Lassiter, collaborative ethnography is ‘literally, to work together, especially in an intellectual effort. While collaboration is central to the practice of ethnography, realising a more deliberate and explicit collaborative ethnography implies resituating collaborative practice at every stage of the ethnographic process, from fieldwork to writing and back again’ (Lassiter, 2005).
Reciprocal ethnography however is quite different and it encourages a giving/receiving method. Lassiter quotes Glen Hinson in his work, saying, ‘Reciprocation entails an act of return, a giving back for something received. In the ethnographic process, this sets up a model of exchange where one thing granted (e.g., an interview) yields an appropriate reciprocal response (e.g., help planting a garden). What this does not imply is constant ongoing discussion, where the project that yields that interview in the first place is co-conceived by both participating parties’ (Lassiter, 2005).

So how does ethnography benefit us? Well collaborative ethnography is beneficial as a group of ethnographers create and discuss the study together throughout their project findings, which in turn helps the receiver (say the people of NYC who need to park) more efficiently. Challenges of this however are not only the length of time and effort it takes to find a ‘hidden obvious’ but it can also jeopardise the nature of the intended study, as Lassiter states, “Collaborative ethnography moves collaboration from its taken-for-granted background and positions it on center stage” (Lassiter, 2005).

References:

Lassiter, L.E 2005, ‘The Chicago Guide to Collaborative Ethnography’, University of Chicago Press, Illinois USA, viewed 18 August 2016, http://press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/468909.html

Merriam-Webster 2015, Online Dictionary, Merriam-Webster Incorporated, viewed 19 August 2016 from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/ethnography

TEDx Talks 2013, Ethnography: Ellen Isaacs at TEDxBroadway, online video, 01 March 2013, viewed 19 August 2016 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nV0jY5VgymI

 

TV: Then and Now

Have you ever thought what it was like when television was introduced for the first time? Or the impact it caused once this magical-box-of-moving-pictures entered the homes of many, stealing precious revenue from the movie studios? Or how about the dear fact that introducing a television into the family for the first time could change the relationships with everyone you love, altering household dynamics and family interaction forever?
Yeah, neither did I.

It’s always amazing when reflecting upon history and how far we have evolved through time. Imagining what it would’ve been like introducing new technology into the household is exciting to think about. We take so much for granted now as we’re around technology 24/7. Children are born today and brought up in houses already fit for wide screen televisions, computers and anything else with Internet connectivity. It’s just nice to reflect back to a time when it was all being introduced and new.

In a short interview with Maureen McCluskey, she reflects on the time when television was introduced into her household as a child during the 1950’s, and when colour TV became available in Australia in 1975.

Maureen McCluskey grew up with her parents and four other siblings in Sydney’s South-West suburbs. Although she is the second eldest child, she claims she is the ‘middle child’ of her five siblings. She fondly reflects how her and her siblings would sit on the floor while her father and mother sat in armchairs behind them. Maureen smiles upon the reflection of her memory and says, “My father would sit in his arm chair with a beer in his hand, and my mother would sit in the armchair next to him, with a chocolate bar and Pepsi in each of hers [hands].” Maureen strongly reminiscing with light-heartedness continues, “Us kids though, we’d sit on the floor and watch TV until my father got up and changed the channel to the evening news. It was his own way of signalling it was time for bed because we all hated watching the news” she laughs.
“What kind of shows did you and your siblings watch?” I ask curiously. “We use to watch comedy shows like Benny Hill but I never thought he was funny; I actually thought he was more silly than funny, so I never understood his humour. My brothers and sisters laughed more at me not understanding the jokes than they did watching Benny Hill. They laughed at him too don’t get me wrong, they thought he was great, but they also thought it was hilarious I didn’t get the jokes.”

During the interview, I also found it surprising that Maureen hadn’t seen a colour television until she was 20 years of age. I found it surprising because I’m not much older than 20 years and television has always been around me. To think I wouldn’t have seen a colour television until the age of 20 is shocking. It’ll probably be the equivalent when I have kids and tell them I once had a VHS player.
“We were the first family in the neighbourhood to own a colour television.” Maureen proudly remembers. “It was big and bulky, and you had to get up to change the channel; there weren’t any remotes back then. It wasn’t like the TV’s we have now that come with remotes or ones [televisions] that are mountable on the wall. It was just a set box on legs.”
When Maureen got married the same year colour television came available in Australia, she received a colour television as a wedding present from one of her guests, “I wasn’t expecting to get a colour television as a wedding present but I was so excited to have one! When we moved into our house, my husband and I sat in our own armchairs and watched television together.” Little did anyone know that one day we would be blessed with a little something called the Internet and it’s amazing friend Netflix.

Television has definitely come a long way to be able to reach as far as WIFI enabled wide screens, projectors or even a 4K UHD HDR Smart OLED 55” Curved TV ranging at over $5000 AUD. When televisions were introduced though, they didn’t just change the way we consume media and entertainment, rather it changed family relationships, and threatened the revenue of film production companies. That was until the companies realised that people liked watching repeats of movies on television and therefore creating revenue off VHS sales.

Family relationships changed as TV went from something new and exciting, to more of a way we consume entertainment. When you look at images or hear stories of when television was introduced to the family homes, children and adults are sitting together. When you look at what it is like now, the average household today is not quite the same. It’s something like the images below.

The introduction of television created a shift in the ‘space’ of communication and intercepted interaction with ones immediate surroundings. It was also the beginning of home entertainment that reverted society from being outside to now wanting to be inside.

What’s it like in your home? Do you sit with your family and watch TV?

Let’s talk about space. No not that kind of space, media space!

There are many times in the 21st Century where the internet has helped provide us with different social outlets that connect us to other people around the world. Throughout the day, whether we notice it or not, we are consuming media in it’s various forms and we are connecting to others with the swipe of a finger or the click of a button. In 2015 it was reported that 34 hours and 55 minutes a month were spent engaging with digital content by over 15 million Australians who own a smartphone. Averaging on an hour a day, internet usage on smartphones are typically short, frequent visits throughout the course of a day (Smith 2015).

The general concept of ‘media space’ is the use of media such as Facebook, Snapchat or Twitter that aid in connecting with others without having to be in the same physical space as them. For example, when playing online games (PS4, PC, Xbox) where you can converse with others playing the same game, apps that can connect others through social interaction (Twitter, Tinder, Snapchat etc) or trending apps that connect others for sense of community and/or through pop culture (Pokemon Go, Color Switch, Flappy Bird). These apps and more help people from all over the world connect to one another at any given time.

In my own personal experience, I was able to demonstrate my media space when studying abroad at Columbia University, New York. Although the time zones were different, I was able to communicate with my parents through Apple’s FaceTime at night, which would be morning in Sydney, Australia. My parents aren’t very confident with technology but this was the best way I was able to talk to them while I was away. For my friends I was able to connect with them through Facebook by posting updates or sending direct messages. I also used Snapchat on occasion to show them what I was experiencing as it happened.

Geographer Doreen Massey passionately researched this concept of space and challenged many people to rethink assumptions about space as well as reflect on how we experience space daily. For more information check out this interview with Doreen Massey by Social Science Bites.

Resources:

Smith, A 2015. Mobile Mania! Australians spend on average more than an hour a day on their smartphones, Nielson, Australia, viewed 28 July 2016 from http://www.nielsen.com/au/en/insights/news/2015/mobile-mania-australians-spend-on-average-more-than-an-hour-a-day-on-their-smartphones.html

From Free Willy to Blackfish: How a movie taught me to love animals and how a documentary taught me to save them

When I was younger I would watch the movie Free Willy over and over again. I loved the relationship the little boy, Jesse (Jason James Richter) had with Willy, the killer whale. At the time, I didn’t understand why the owners of the aquarium wanted or needed to kill Willy, but I know I was glad Jesse wanted to save him. Being young and watching movies, you tend to think it is all real. And man did it look like fun riding a whale! I thought having a whale as a best friend would be the greatest thing on Earth and I wanted to be a kid trainer at the aquarium just like Jesse. It wasn’t until I got older that I got a glimpse of the sad side of animal captivity, and not until now after watching Blackfish, a documentary on orca captivity in SeaWorld, am I highly against it. The amount of times that I’ve seen Free Willy, and I never thought that it had a hidden meaning within the film.

Saying that I am against it because I saw this documentary isn’t completely true, but I do believe that it has made me realise I don’t support animal captivity anywhere. I remember when I was a young teenager I went to the circus. I was excited and looking really forward to it, I had never been before and only knew what I had seen in movies, which seemed like they always had the time of their lives. So the day came, and I’m eager to see the show. I sat down and got my popcorn ready, patiently waiting. It started with the Ring Master introducing himself and giving a few jokes. He then brought out the animals; two lions, a couple of horses, a pony, and a dog. There was also some tricks and acts made by acrobatics throughout the show. It was very underwhelming. The acrobatics are great and all but the show in itself wasn’t that fun or entertaining, I mostly felt sorry for the animals. They looked sad and in turn made me sad. But I was a very naive person then and I didn’t think much of it after that day. So I think from past experiences until now, I understand more on animal rights and captivity.

Although there are many doubts about the accuracy of Blackfish e.g. the debate of bias opinion, anthropomorphising orcas (to humanise the animal), and other minor flaws like the amount of variety of interviewees, Blackfish raises awareness that we need to look after captive animals and their conditions, not only for honouring animals rights but as humans with righteous morals. These animals have been found in the wild, we have taken them without their consent and trained them to do tricks for public entertainment. It’s hard not to sound bias towards animal rights, but I can’t see another way to even explain from SeaWorld’s view.

The great thing about media however, is that with enough attention, anything can happen. The success of Blackfish led to a recent action made by SeaWorld to stop orca breeding as the pressure from animal rights campaigns got too much. Although some believe this isn’t enough to be done, it’s a start.

Screen Shot 2016-04-03 at 11.15.24 pm

Useful Links:

You can sign up for Netflix if you don’t already have an account (first month free, $9.95 min every month after) and watch Blackfish on any device. See here: http://www.netflix.com/au/

You can find the official site of Blackfish and more information at http://www.blackfishmovie.com/

The Blackfish trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G93beiYiE74