Keeping In Touch

This week’s GameOverGreggy show featured one of Colin’s best friends, Ramon, as the special guest. Colin and Ramon met in college, which for them was over 10 years ago, and though they live in different cities and have different careers, they have managed to keep in touch. For Ramon’s topic, he decided to ask the guys their opinions on keeping in touch—have they found it harder as they’ve gotten older, or has technology made it easier to keep in touch.

This topic resonates with me, and I’ve actually thought about it quite a bit these last few years. Personally, I’ve found that getting older has made it difficult to keep in touch with people. It seems that every year, my life is changing, my priorities are changing, and I just don’t have the time to keep up with everyone, even though I would like to. And that sucks, because there have been people in my life that I wanted to keep in touch with, but life pulls us in different directions and it gets tough.

It’s also hard receiving a message from someone you used to be close with and they want to reconnect, but life and time seem to make that impossible.

I was very interested in something Nick said about the role social media has played in our ability to keep in touch with people. He said that social media has kind of become a veil to keep people at bay rather than be in touch, because we aren’t actually keeping in touch with people anymore, but we still know what’s going on with them. We no longer have to phone someone up and chat for an hour, or make plans to get dinner. Instead, we’re able to drop a quick message on Facebook, or simply check out their profiles for updates and pictures of their current lives.

Nick also talked about life before social media, where you would graduate high school or college, and would leave behind most of those people for good, save for (perhaps) your close friends. But now, you can pull up all those people at the push of a button and see what they are up to because of social media.

I actually think that’s a great thing about social media. Sure, it may just be the illusion that you’re keeping in touch with someone simply by having them on your friends list. But social media does make it easier to reach out to people if you so desire. And messaging back and forth can be just as valuable as a telephone call. I have some friends that I only keep in touch with thanks to social media, but we are able to get together a couple times every year, and we message back and forth online. I’m very happy with those relationships, and I wouldn’t be able to keep up with them if it weren’t for social media.

I am coming to terms with how difficult it is to keep in touch—it actually feels like the natural order of things. Life gets in the way, and we just don’t have the time to keep in touch with everyone. I am grateful that I’ve been able to keep up relationships with my closest friends, but I know that the fact we all still live in Winnipeg helps. I’ve wondered what would happen to our friendships if some of us moved away. Though, like Colin and Ramon, I think these friendships would last, despite distance and life’s obstacles.

I’ll leave you with a thought from Colin. He talked about relationships running their course, and though it pains me to know that some people aren’t a part of my life anymore, or won’t be in my life in years to come, I understand this notion. Some relationships are only meant to last for a certain period of time in your life, and that isn’t a bad thing.

Enjoy the company you keep while you have it, and work hard to keep in touch with the people who matter most. For most of my life, I’ve been surrounded by a group of best friends whom I consider to be brothers, and I’m grateful we still make the effort to keep in touch.

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Internet Fame or TV Fame?

Ten years ago, If asked to choose between Internet fame and TV fame, I’d have taken TV fame without a second thought. TV offers the chance to play a recurring character alongside other famous actors, entertain millions of people every week, and could perhaps bring me one step closer to movie stardom.

But today, in my opinion, being Internet famous has become a much more attractive option. And I’m not talking about going viral for one post or video and then fading away. I’m talking about having an audience of your own on a platform like YouTube or Twitch, which offer the opportunity to create your own content for a large (perhaps in the millions), engaged fanbase. That’s the kind of fame I’m looking for.

Why not viral fame?

I’ll get this out of the way first. Sure, going viral could be a lot of fun—watching your post get millions of views, seeing how people react to your content, and receiving media coverage. But going viral is a short-lived taste of fame. For most, they get their 15 minutes, and then never follow up with something as good as that one viral post. When I think of fame, it’s all about lasting impression and having an engaged audience.

Why YouTube/Twitch fame?

YouTube and Twitch are sort of becoming the new TV (aside from streaming services like Netflix), and this is especially true with young people. Here are a couple links in case you need proof that TV is succumbing to the Internet:

http://www.businessinsider.com/cord-cutters-and-the-death-of-tv-2013-11

Streaming Overtakes Live TV Among Consumer Viewing Preferences: Study

I think the biggest reason for this is because YouTube/Twitch are engaging platforms. TV is a form of one-way communication, where an audience consumes what they are being fed by the creators, and with no interaction at all.

YouTube and Twitch on the other hand, provide an opportunity to engage with the content creator, and in many cases influence the content being produced simply by being a voice in the audience. And for famous YouTubers, those audiences are comprised of millions of people. The most popular YouTuber right now is a guy named PewDiePie, who has over 43 million subscribers—one guy, making YouTube videos, 43 million fans. Incredible.

And being YouTube famous doesn’t necessarily mean hitting the heights of a PewDiePie. My whole blog is dedicated to a group of YouTubers who don’t have a million subscribers, but they have a fanbase that is one of the most positive, passionate, and engaged communities on the Internet. I can honestly say that I love being a part of this community, and I love the Kinda Funny crew.

Being YouTube famous is all about this love from your audience, and it’s the biggest reason I want to be YouTube famous over TV famous. It’s not just that YouTube is overtaking TV for eyes on screens, but it’s the fan engagement that makes being YouTube famous special.

What does YouTube fame look like?

The video below features famous YouTuber Markiplier reacting to a fan-made video celebrating his achievement of hitting six million subscribers (today he has over 12 million). This is what being YouTube famous is all about—having an engaged audience that truly loves what you do, and in turn loves you.

The video his fans made for him is intimate, honest, and caring, and his reaction reflects that love. Fame doesn’t get any more real, or any better, than this. And it’s why I’ll take YouTube fame over TV fame any day.

Criticizing Video Game Reviews

The Kinda Funny crew spent last week live-streaming from GDC (Game Developers Conference) and they had their former co-worker Vince Ingenito on the Gamescast. I’ve always liked Vince on IGN. I think he’s a fantastic writer and you can tell he has a wealth of knowledge about games. Recently he’s been taking some flak for his review of “Tom Clancy’s The Division”, which is very popular right now. Topic 2 of the Gamescast is all about criticizing game reviews, and why people react so strongly to negative reviews of games (or things in general) that they love.

I think that reviews are very important. Whenever I’m looking forward to a new movie, video game, TV show, or album, I almost always check out a review before I buy. And there are a lot of times where the outcome of a review is the deciding factor to whether or not I buy/watch/listen, especially in regards to movies and games. If I see that a movie or game has received a particularly low score (below 7 out of 10 is a red flag for me), I might pass on it entirely. If I’ve been looking forward to a movie or game for awhile, I usually decide to go for it and come to my own conclusions, but a low review score is disappointing. Batman v Superman is a great example of this right now—critics are hating it, but I’m definitely still going to see it.

The developers of video games know how important reviews are, but it’s not always about the review doing well. Just having your game reviewed gives it coverage, and companies know that some consumers who were interested before the review will still purchase the game to decide for themselves if it’s good or bad. I think the claim that big video game websites get paid off to give good scores is completely ridiculous.

I understand why people feel upset when something they love gets a bad review. I’ll admit that when I love a game, I like seeing reviews that share that love, and seeing comments from other fans that love the game too. There is something validating about other people sharing your opinion, and it’s nice when someone you respect (like a critic) shares your view. On the flip side, when a critic or group of people hate something that you think is awesome, it’s almost unfathomable—how could these people be so blind to the greatness that you experienced? But that doesn’t objectively mean that the critic is wrong. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and the great thing about reviews is that there are usually lots of them, so it’s easy to compare and decide for yourself who you think is right—I usually go with the opinion I trust or respect the most.

I’ve written a few reviews this year, and I plan on writing many video game reviews in the future. From what I’ve experienced, reviewing is not an easy job. I have a newfound respect for people that do it for a living, because there is a certain pressure and accountability to having your name on something and putting it out for the world to see. On a website like IGN, these critics play a game, write a review, send it to their editors, and then it becomes a sort of representative opinion of what the entire site thinks of the game, regardless of other staffers who think differently. Even though it’s just one person giving their opinion and picking a score, that score becomes representative of the company. That’s a  lot of pressure. But perhaps we as consumers should try to remember that a review is just the opinion of one person, and that the company they work for simply supports the opinion. It’s possible that not everyone agrees with the review, but instead everyone supports said person’s right to their opinion.

How much do reviews affect your decision to consume media? How does it make you feel when a reviewer knocks something you love? Let me know in the comments.

Reservations

Reservations, by Steven Ratzlaff, is a two-part theatre production that presents local issues in an intimate and simple setting. The first story is about an old farmer who wishes to donate his land to the Siksika Nation, but his daughter is unsupportive of his decision to gift-away her inheritance. The second story is about two foster parents in a dispute with the Child & Family Services agency responsible for their three Aboriginal children.

I was quite impressed (and surprised) by the simplicity of this play, as both acts involved just three actors conversing and arguing on stage. My expectations of theatre led me to believe that plays need to be an elaborate display in order to capture an audience’s imagination and attention. Reservations, however, had my attention because of the subject matter and the excellent acting by Steven Ratzlaff, Sarah Constible, and Tracey Nepinak.

Overall, I think the issues presented in Reservations are important discussions and I appreciate using theatre as a way to discuss them. Each act presented two sides to an issue and I felt that I could relate to the plights of each character. It definitely felt like there was a right, or more just side in each matter (rather than complete neutrality), but the other side displayed natural human reactions to the issues and I empathized with those characters.

The first act worked really well on stage. It was very simple, having mostly been an argument around a kitchen table, but the performances held the audience’s attention, and the topics of entitlement and giving back were interesting. The second act didn’t work as well as the first. It again centred around an argument, but about one third of the play was delivered as a university lecture to the audience, and I don’t think it worked at all. Theatre’s job is to entertain and hold the audience’s attention, and that section of the second act did not succeed in this endeavour. The lecture was quite long, and though I felt a bit of nostalgia for my days as a philosophy student, I was reminded of how often I would tune out during those lectures. I also couldn’t help but think there were better ways to deliver the message Ratzlaff was trying to convey, and ultimately the second act is weaker than the first.

The dialogue is well-written, though at times in the second act the conversations felt a bit pretentious and preachy—the lines sounded a bit too intelligent, and felt unnatural. I didn’t give much thought to the costumes, music or set design, but all of which reflected the simplicity of this production. I will make special mention to the projection-style images used as the background set. I thought those were well done and added to the show.

One other interesting thing about Reservations is neither act has a resolution, they simply end after both sides of each argument are presented. I think this is important in trying to remain neutral, and letting the audience interpret for themselves how it would end, but I can also see how this lack of resolution might not sit well with some.

At the end of Reservations the actors, director, and others involved with the production did a talkback session so that the audience could ask some questions about the play. The session didn’t add much to the experience, in part because most questions asked weren’t great, but also because Ratzlaff didn’t have much to say. Most questions directed at him were about interpretations, or the audience’s understanding of certain elements, to which Ratzlaff simply acknowledged their opinion but did not provide his own. I understand that from his perspective, any interpretation made by the audience is their own and he wouldn’t say someone was wrong, but it would have been enlightening to hear his thoughts of the characters or themes.

I’ve always liked theatre, but I’d never considered seeing a show like this before. Having witnessed one now, I do think theatre is an interesting way to portray very real issues in our community. I don’t think that Reservations presented anything new necessarily, but I do think it forces audiences to think of issues that are largely ignored by our society, and I see value in that.

What 5 Games Best Represent Video Games?

I’m taking on Topic 3 of the Gamescast this week: choose five essential games that best represent video games in general. This is a very tough question to answer and the guys struggled with defining it—is it about genres? Or do you show the history of games with your choices? Or do you pick five games based on modernity?

I liked Greg’s criteria best, which is putting together a video game sampler to give to someone who has never played a video game before. Greg’s idea with this is to show someone all the different experiences you can have with video games. The experiences are what I like best about games, and that is how I’m going to form my list.

1) Super Mario Bros. (NES)

I think a Mario game has to be on this list, and I think it might as well be one of the originals. This is one of those games that even if you’ve never played a video game before, you can jump into this one and have fun. The number one thing that video games should be is fun, or why else would anyone play them? Super Mario Bros. is a shining example of a game that is fun, and it definitely belongs on this list.

2) Uncharted 2: Among Thieves

I’m including an Uncharted game on my list because I think that it possesses a few qualities that represent video games today. Uncharted 2 is visually stunning and is a game worth showing people for that “wow” factor. It also tells a compelling story that rivals those of movies and books. Uncharted is an action movie in video game form and it really shows how far video games have come since the days of Mario.

3) Heavy Rain

When I got back into gaming a few years ago, Heavy Rain was one of the first games I was really curious about. It’s defined as an interactive drama adventure game, and I think it is worth including because it represents a genre I’ve grown to love. I also think that these types of games are very accessible because they appeal to movie and television lovers, and story lovers in general. It’s this powerful storytelling yet simple gameplay that I would want to show to people who are intimidated by playing games.

4) Final Fantasy 7

This is my list, and I have to include a Final Fantasy game. In my mind, the Final Fantasy series represents the JRPG (Japanese Role Playing Game) genre, and Final Fantasy 7 is a gateway game to the rest of the series and to JRPGs as well. Final Fantasy 7 is one of the reasons I fell in love with video games as a kid, and though it looks dated today, I think it’s an important game to show newcomers.

5) Grand Theft Auto V

I’ve never really played any Grand Theft Auto (GTA) games, and yet, I have to include this newest installment of the series on my list. I feel that the GTA series is a good representation of open-world games, where you can jump in and do anything you like. That’s really the only way I’ve played them—on the couch with friends, running around and raising hell. GTA V was one of the best selling games (if not the best) of the last few years, and I think its overall popularity and representation of an open-world experience merit its place on my list.

Omissions

This list definitely doesn’t represent some major genres today, and that’s because I wanted to focus on the experiences that games provide. With that said, I think you could plug in an FPS (first-person shooter) like Call of Duty or Halo, because these are important franchises to the FPS genre.

I also think the sports game genre deserves to be represented but it would be too difficult to choose any one sport to put on my list. I think Madden, Fifa, MLB, NBA and NHL could all be recommended to sports gamers, it just depends on their favourite sport. These franchises all do a great job of representing their sport and providing a video game experience for sports fans.

MOBAs (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena) and MMOs (Massively Multiplayer Online) are played by millions of people and definitely merit mention in terms of what games are today. I personally don’t play these types of games, so I couldn’t tell you what is best. I would suggest League of Legends as the top MOBA, and World of Warcraft as perhaps the most important representation of MMO’s.

Finally, I’d like to give a nod to fighting games and racing games, as these represent a niche-competitive genre of gaming. I think a Street Fighter game is a good representation of fighting games, and Gran Turismo for racing games. Although, I think the Nintendo counterparts of Smash Bros. and Mario Kart are appealing options to consider as well.

So that’s my list and explanation of things I did not include. Let me know in the comments what five games you would choose to represent video games. I think it’s also interesting to hear how you approach this question when selecting your games, so let me know your thought process  as well.

 

Anxiety

I’m dipping back into a GameOverGreggy show topic from two weeks ago that I didn’t get a chance to cover when the guys discussed it. Colin opened topic 1 of episode 115 talking about anxiety and what it’s like for him to live with anxiety. I think it’s an important topic that millions of people can relate to, and I want to give my two cents.

It was really enlightening to hear Colin talk about his anxiety and he gave me a better sense about what it is and how it affects people. Personally, I know that I don’t suffer  from anxiety on a daily basis, though I have had days where I’ve felt anxious and off, and I couldn’t explain why. There’s been times where all of a sudden I’ve felt strangely anxious and when I get those feelings all I want to do is go home and not be around anyone. And I’ve found that those feelings are triggered randomly and they’re awful. I’ve had some days where I’ve woken up feeling this way, other times it’s happened in the middle of the day, and every time it happens I can’t explain what is bothering me or why I suddenly feel anxious.

Whenever I’ve tried to verbalize these feelings to someone else, all I’ve been able to say is “I feel off today”, but after hearing Colin talk I think it’s more than that—I think that every now and then I get minor bouts of anxiety. On those days, I feel overcome by a strange sense of dread, and my thoughts begin to race, and I can’t get out of my head. I find that the only thing that make me feel better on these days is being alone and away from everyone.

It’s really difficult to explain how it feels, but I can say that those days feel awful, and one of the biggest feelings I have when I’m dealing with these bouts is wanting to be closed off from the world.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not trying to lessen anxiety by likening it to “feeling off”. I don’t know what it’s like to deal with anxiety every day, and I don’t envy anyone that does. It’s my understanding that people’s anxiety is triggered differently and it affects people differently so I wouldn’t begin to say I understand how people with anxiety feel.

What I am trying to say is that dealing with anxiety sucks, and if anything I’ve felt is close to that, I do empathize with anyone who has chronic or crippling anxiety.

I appreciated hearing Colin talk about his anxiety and I’m definitely more understanding of it now. In the past I’d heard stories of friends dealing with panic attacks or anxiety attacks and I didn’t really get it—I thought that it must just be in their heads and that it probably wasn’t as bad as they described. I know now that that isn’t the case, and I truly empathize with people who struggle with anxiety.

If you’ve experienced any anxiety attacks or panic attacks and you feel like talking about it, leave me a comment. For me, hearing someone explain what it’s like to have anxiety has given me a better understanding of it, and I think that’s important.

 

Ranking Forms of Entertainment

For Topic 3 of this week’s GameOverGreggy show Colin wanted to know how the guys would rank various forms of entertainment. He asked the guys to list them from most important to least important, and with the idea that if they could only keep one or two of them, which ones would they want.

The categories he laid out were reading, watching TV, watching movies, listening or playing music, and playing video games. Though the reading category was intended to be about books and magazines, the other guys lumped Internet in there as well, explaining that reading articles or other things online should count.

With Internet thrown in there it was no surprise that reading ended up on top, with only Greg picking video games as his number one, though Colin and Nick cited books as being their reason for picking reading as their top entertainment choice.

I’m going to leave the Internet out of my rankings. I mentioned in a previous post that I, along with millions of other people, use the Internet every day, so there really is no contest. I sincerely doubt that most of us could live without the Internet these days. With that said, I enjoy all five of these activities so this is an extremely difficult task.

1. Reading

I thought that by leaving the Internet out of these rankings I would have a different top choice. But as I stared at the options, I realized how much I love books and I wouldn’t want to give them up.

2. Music

Music has always been a part of my life. I used to spend some time every day listening to music, and often I would listen to music before bed. I’ve been so busy these days that I don’t spend as much time listening to music, but it’s still one of my favourite things to do when I want to relax. I also always have my iPod on me, so I get my fix while I’m driving. I definitely couldn’t live without music.

3. Movies

It was a tough choice between movies and video games. I love good stories, and though I believe video games are capable of telling stories in ways that movies and books can’t, I still appreciate the traditional storytelling found in movies. A great movie can be like a great book, in that it offers the viewer an escape into another universe. I think that is what I love most about both these mediums—getting lost in a different world for the duration of the story.

4. Video games

I was surprised at first that I put video games this low on my list, but because of how busy I am these days, I’ve essentially given up games already. As much as I love video games, I know that I could live without them. And really, I have only been super invested in games over the last couple years. I played casually as a kid, mostly sports games, but the last two or three years I’ve played a lot of games. Still, I would sacrifice video games before giving up reading, music and movies.

5. TV

TV is a tough one for me. On one hand, I don’t watch live television anymore, though I do follow some shows and stream them on my own time. I also occasionally watch TV on Netflix.

The big thing for me is that I’m a huge sports fan, and TV is still the primary medium to watch sports. Still, It seems to me that people are gradually moving away from TV, and eventually I should be able to watch sports in HD online, so I’m listing TV as my lowest ranking. I can live without TV, I just can’t live without sports.

Those are my rankings, but I certainly wouldn’t want to give up any of these things, as they are all important forms of entertainment in my life. How would you rank ’em? Let me know in the comments.