Could 2015 be the year of the MMO Journalist?

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I recently finished one of Malcolm Gladwell’s pop studies, titled, Outliers, which explores some of the biggest successes in sports, business, music and more.

One of the discoveries that Gladwell makes is that, “Outliers” – people who appeared to be miles ahead in their field, had much more than simple talent driving them forward. One of the most significant contributors to the successes of big hitters in their field spur from the fact that they’re very experienced in an unpopular field at the exact moment that society flipped and decided that it was needed.

This is not such a time, not exactly; society isn’t crying out for MMO journalists. Infact, MMO gaming isn’t really crying out for MMO journalists – gaming journalism is crying out for journalists like MMO journalists and, frankly, there’s nobody else that can fit the bill.

So what’s changing in gaming journalism that MMO journalists can fix? The bottom line, which has even been expressed by some of the industry’s top players, is that gaming news is, on the whole, boring right now and the format of how games are reported on needs to change.

Back in the days of traditional gaming media, with magazines like Games Master and Arcade, this wasn’t such an issue. Gaming in the 80’s and 90’s was new and exciting with new technology, new experiences and seemingly endless potential. Here, in 2014, this simply isn’t the case. New consoles, for example, are now treated in the same way now that upgrading a PC has been seen since the mid 90’s. Hype boils down to stats, launch titles and exclusives and it’s all pretty clear-cut how capable a console is going to be. Furthermore, the role that gaming press has changed from being purely consumer advice and insider information into virtually a PR service for manufacturers and game developers.

The tail, in a way, is now wagging the dog and the majority of gaming journalism is done behind closed doors, in early access tests and interviews before a game has been released. Post-release feedback is handled, for the most part, by the player and by social media bloggers and vloggers and is only really placed back in the hands of the professional journalists in the run up to an expansion or a DLC launch.

It almost seems like gaming journalists no longer do any of the actual gaming. Gamers want the reviews before launch. Due to pressure from developers to begin making money before a game launches, through the means of pre-orders, paid-for beta access and founder’s packs, gamers need to know how good a game potentially is months, even years, before release.

So, what does this mean for journalists? It means a lot of fast, potentially pivotal decisions on a game, from as early as possible so that when a game begins to approach the radar, reviews are ready, gamers are informed and the cashflow has already began for the game, so that the publishers and investors stay off the developers’ backs during crucial development phases.

That’s a lot of responsibility for writers and it’s a bit of a touchy subject for many, since it’s not a role they signed up for and it’s dramatically shifted the expectations of journalists in the industry. As mentioned before, it also makes professional gaming news boring. Journalists are merely sharing PR information, reviewing developers and generating an abstract opinion on an unreleased version of a game.

The hard work of exploring the game is placed on the player and the senior editors and journalists are beginning to see a very bleak endgame for journalism, if gaming continues down this path. As a result, some of them have began to take some of that power back.

In a recent interview with TotalBiscuit (aka Cynical Brit), Kotaku’s Editor In-Chief, Stephen Totilo expressed his own opinion on the current stance of gaming media, with him and Mr Biscuit both agreeing that “boring” is an overruling sentiment. According to Totilo, Kotaku have been restructuring their own websites standpoint over the past few months, swaying their writing to focus more on post-launch articles explaining that the most interesting news of this year has came from titles like Borderlands The Pre-Sequel, Driveclub and Destiny as their communities strive to find exploits, improve their experiences and, in short, play their games.

At this point, a couple of things had piqued my interest. Firstly, Borderlands, Destiny and Driveclub. These games are all forerunners in the new generation of MMO gaming. Many question the definition of what makes a MMO game these days, including Destiny’s developer, Bungie, who were intent on separating themselves from the genre prior to launch. However, in the eyes of the gamer, the Destiny and Borderlands franchises rest under the MMOFPS umbrella and Driveclub revs alongside World of Speed and The Crew in the Racing MMO genre. MMO games, according to one of the World’s most recognized gaming editors, make interesting news. As a MMO gaming journalist myself, I can whole heartedly agree. These games create continuous content; in some cases, for as much as a decade and, on top of that, their communities create their own entertainment too. This provides a wealth of post-launch news, far more than any other genre and continually playing and talking about a game keeps the game relevant, keeps the medium of gaming relevant and, of course, keeps gaming journalism relevant.

In the realm of MMO games, journalism isn’t all about PR and reviews, it’s about what the players are doing now and it’s about what the developers are doing next, rather than simply interviewing the devs pre-launch and throwing out exactly the information that they want the consumers to see. This means, for the journalist, that continuous engagement with their games is required along with a fair amount of contact with the developers and the communities that they create for. Granted there’s still a huge amount of talking about pre-orders, micropurchases and beta tests – that’s simply the nature of the free-to-play-dominated beast the MMO gaming has become, but the important thing is that MMO journalists are already aware that there’s life after launch.

The other thing from Totilo’s statement that got me thinking, was that writing more post-launch articles had been their agenda since at-least the summer. Going back through the archives, he wasn’t wrong. I even noticed articles I’d found at time of press and hadn’t realized the significance, at the time. This style of writing is already knitting its way into their culture. So, which other non-MMO sites are at it? Joystiq, with strong influence from satellite-site, Massively were a no-brainer, but the same behavior can be observed in other sites. Eurogamer are continually exploring games, post-launch, with head-to-head tests, Sticktwiddlers are heavily integrating themselves with the Youtube, “Let’s Play” culture, Destructoid are posting multi-episode, reviews and Siliconera are covering discount sales and reviews after launch and, lastly, several sites, including GameTrailers, are posting ever-popular videogame retrospectives.

A demand for continual game coverage has been identified, media outlets are straining to provide content and MMO games have been recognized as a tappable resource. So, what happens now? Do sites turn towards MMO games for this continuous coverage? Maybe a little, but the fact is, readers want all of their favorite games to undergo this treatment. They want to see newfound secrets, easter eggs, glitches and they want their games to stay in discussion for longer than an E3 weekend. The level of hype in the build up to a game, compared to the deflation that follows launch day is jarringly noticeable. In addition, it fuels the fire of the more negative gamers; happy gamers post the occasional “OMG Aw3som3! #BestGameEver” tweet when they get their hands on the game, but it’s no secret that disappointed gamers are the more vocal party and an overall good game can be dragged down, due to a minority of unhappy gamers acting as the only long-term source of feedback. The shift in press could remove this.

I think this drive for post-launch coverage will pull MMO games back towards the mainstream, but I also think that non-MMO journalists need to see this as an opportunity to look at the likes of Massively, MMO Champion and Ten Ton Hammer as examples of how they need to push their own journalism forward. These guys have been doing it for years, they know how to talk about a 10 year old game like it’s brand new, they know how to make the fans feel valued and like their investment in a game was worthwhile and it means they always come back, week after week to talk about videogames that they’ve already bought. Do publishers care? Short term, probably not, they’ve made their money at this point and are onto the next game. However, this is exactly why journalists need to push for it. Publishers can’t keep dictating the games – that should be the gamer’s job and by encouraging gamers to keep enjoying their games and keep talking about their games after launch-week, you’re encouraging the culture as a whole.

Unlike the rest of gaming journalism MMO gaming journalism doesn’t have to take this power back – they never let go of it in the first place. Now it’s time for everyone else to play catch-up.

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The Scariest Thing, This Halloween, Is #GamerGate

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I’ve been writing in the professional gaming media for around 18 months now and have been dialling back my involvement more and more.

My removal from the games industry had nothing to do with #GamerGate or the state of gaming media, but was simply a life choice. The amount of work put in to gaming journalism, for the amount you get out of it, in terms of earnings, acknowledgement and even simple interaction is a bad trade-off and I can safely say I’ve put a lot more in than I’ve gotten out of it. As a small-time writer, this shouldn’t come as a surprise and I’ve shared this sentiment with many a part-time writer along the way – it’s not a career, it’s something you have to love and live, in order to take part in it.

So, as you may have noticed, my blogging on here has been reduced, my articles and editorials on my amateur site, DownRightFierce.co.uk has been cut right back, I’ve ceased writing for Hadoken and articles on mmo-play have gone down from 3 per day to 2 per day, not to mention I no longer write editorial columns for them. These things were all my choice, I wanted to play more games, focus on my main career and live my life. The rise of the #GamerGate movement has dragged me back though, as it is putting the entire gaming industry (not just gaming journalism) at risk. Like I said, I love gaming more than gaming journalism, so when journalism was getting flipped on it’s head, all I did was brace for impact and let the machine drive on. However, this week the #GamerGate movement has reached its second peak, with mainstream media sinking its filthy, tarnished teeth into the industry and taking its own stab at what’s wrong with gaming industry.

You may have noticed that every time I write #GamerGate, it’s prefixed with a hash tag. That’s because that’s all that #GamerGate is – a hashtag. Like all of the big, social-media-driven revolutions of the 21st century, from #Occupy to #Anonymous, the ultimate desire of the group falls victim to being steered by outside participants, trying to use a larger movement as a vessel for their own.

#GamerGate has been about everything at one point; from disclosure, to feminism, to the juxtaposition of the review system to all-out, ugly media collusion on both sides of the fence and the amount of subgroups flying the hashflag is staggering, with many actually holding opposing views. Due to the speed of trending news, this will only become more and more the case. Observers now need to find a trending issue, hopefully research it and then contribute in a very compressed amount of time, so the issues quickly becomes about their own needs, regardless of the initial intent of the movement.

This has turned a potentially legitimate opportunity for discussion into a perpetuating, poisonous vat of gamers and (most importantly) non-gamers arguing about what gaming and gaming journalism should or shouldn’t be about.

A large source to this problem spurs from the strength of amateur media. I put myself under this banner and I’m fortunate for my place in it, but, the fact of the matter is that anyone with an internet connection has the potential to draw a lot of people towards their own opinion of gaming and can, in some way, become a journalist, blogger or other influence on the industry. So, to appear like someone with a professional opinion on gaming these days, what qualifications do you need? I personally hold nothing relevant. Besides a couple of high school language qualifications, I have nothing that says I should be a writer, no training in corporate responsibility, literature, media…it’s a bit slanted that I can write something powerful enough to get hundreds or thousands of shares on facebook. Yet, here I am and, albeit a pittance, compared to many, I’ve already had my share.

To the same extent, I can look at the guys and girls who are qualified in this stuff and act just as exclusive on my own part – how many games do you have to play before considering yourself a gaming blogger or before someone can employ you as a gaming journalist, or before you end up on TV talking about gaming ethics. The answer is none. As many a politician has proven, since the dawn of the “video game”, you can get a game completely condemned without ever playing it.

This is where my fear begins with the current state of gaming media. There’s been a heavy push, with the rise of #GamerGate, that journalism needs to take responsibility for the political, ethical and ideological needs of its demographic. Are the people asking for this the demographic? A lot of them actually aren’t. For example, if you ask part of a feminist faction of the #GamerGate camp if they play a game like Duke Nukem or Tomb Raider they’ll say of course not, it’s disgusting. They will, however, argue to get the game taken off the shelves, revised or highlighted negatively by the media for being disgusting trash that exploits women, promotes a false set of standards for young women and casts an illusion over the eyes of young men, regarding their expectations of women. The only trash here, is those beliefs.

It takes a moment of playing these games to understand them and their purposes. Duke Nukem is clearly a parody, Tomb Raider is, in its entirety, promoting female empowerment, and struggle in a patriarchal society. If they played Tomb Raiders latest game through, experienced playing as a young girl being victimized by a dangerous, misogynistic group of wrong doers out out man and out gun her, only to see her overcome her adversity how would they justify their claims? It’s sexist because she’s hot? It’s sexist because she’s gratuitously sexualized in her short shorts and grubby tank top? Those things are a product of her position in the start of the game and, despite being a nod to a more teenage-boy-exploiting past, are far less flattering and serve to create a feeling of armorless-ness in an already hostile environment. The purpose of the game is to make the player feel unsafe and as an unprepared, ill-equipped teenage girl you should be exactly that, but despite that, as Lara Croft, you find yourself better equipped than the tank-shaped men of Gears of War, somehow. I could talk all day about the intent of gaming designers and the impression it’s supposed to cast on the consumer, but it’ll only fuel the wrong fires. Of course, I’m saying this as a male in my 20s and in #GamerGate, that’s putting me at a disadvantage that most real gamers don’t even consider. Sexism isn’t rife among gamers, good gamers vs bad gamers, pros vs scrubs, how good you are and how you behave is how gamers gauge each other and content and gameplay is how they gauge their games.

This brings me to the big issue of this week – The Sarkeesian, Colbert discussion. Like many of these discussions, it was poorly prepared on both sides and, in my opinion, a loss for both sides too. Pitting an uninvested talkshow host against a well-practiced, aggressive and equally uninvested feminist put the Gamer side of the argument at a serious disadvantage. Fortunately, despite the potential for devastation, Sarkeesian did a terrible job at even explaining her purpose, let alone answering Colberts questions (although, admittedly they were as distracting and ceremonious as her arguments were contrived and trivial). When asked for examples of sexist games, she merely treaded water stating she was looking at many games (not necessarily playing them), that it wasn’t as simple as there being sexist games out there and eventually, that Grand Theft Auto was an example of a sexist game (which, again, it isn’t). She went on to state that #GamerGate wasn’t about ethics and journalism, hitting the final nail in the coffin of #GamerGate’s original purpose and the thing that’s actually at stake.

The bottom line, however, is that it’s hit TV. Between Sarkeesian gaining coverage on Colbert and Quinn crying to the BBC, the attention seekers who are willing to sacrifice gaming for their own personal gain have gotten the coverage they wanted. A message that gaming and gaming journalism can be exploited by casual outsiders has been sent and they’ve achieved something that more powerful people before them had failed at. Others will come. Others will use gaming to complain about political differences, economics and big business and the face of gaming and gaming journalism will become less and less legitimate with each #GamerGate swarm.

Gaming is a force of worldwide entertainment rivaled only by the likes of gambling, surpassing TV and Film as a medium in terms of participants and revenue. However, it lacks the regulation of these by a long shot and this has meant that when it takes a knock, nobody is there to steady it. As gamers and as writers, if you hear an opinion about gaming it is your responsibility to question it. Is the portrayal of a goddess in a game sexist? Or is the depiction just historically accurate? Is a physically fit woman in a game any more or less damaging to a persons perception of their gender than a 7 foot tall muscle-clad male protagonist? Should journalists bring politics and ideology into their videogame reviews? Should a reviewers opinions of a game or a developer affect their score of a game? Should games even be scored in the first place? Or, should a review merely be prose, based on personal experience with the game, left up to interpretation? How should a developer and a reviewer interact? There are too many non-gamers throwing in their two cents about gaming right now and suffocating the real needs and expectations of the industry. They’re more than welcome to put their opinion into the hat, but if it isn’t questioned, if fallacies aren’t corrected, if unfair, loaded arguments aren’t called out for being unfair and loaded, then bystanders consider them as valid and that’s when gaming as a whole – genderless, raceless gaming, becomes the thing that’s being exploited.

 

 

Assassin’s Tweed

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There’s a bunch of April Fool’s jokes hopping around the Twitterverse today, but one of them has got me thinking…

Geek-Chic company, Insert Coin posted a teaser of their Assassin’s Creed “Formal Range” today, which instantly sparked the idea of a Sherlock Holmes-themed AC sequel.

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I’ll set the scene:

It’s the late 1800’s, and you’re Animus’d into the life of detective, drug addict and bare-knuckled boxer, Sherlock Holmes, who has found, through one of his investigations, the hints of Templar tomfoolery. You climb and fight your way through the smoggy, cobbled alleyways of Old London Town, collecting clues, fighting crime, and encountering some of the key characters of 19th century Britain, from Jack the Ripper, Charles DIckens, and of course, Professor James Moriarty.

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A similarly themed adventure was plotted out in the classic, Mike Mignola (creator of Hellboy) interpretation of a 19th century Batman, Gotham by Gaslight, where Bruce Wayne tracks down Jack the Ripper in one of the DC “ElseWorld” style universes. The fact that rooftop-dweller, Batman can animate such a setting proves that it’s more than fitting for an Assassin, and the cityscapes would be simply staggering.

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I must admit; I’m not too bothered (yet) about the French Revolution themed sequel in the works. Personally, like many, I was hoping for a traditional, Japanese samurai variant, but if I can’t get that, Olde London Town will do.

 

STEM + Art = STEAM

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STEM subjects are the areas that most big players in economy, education and industry consider to be the plenipotentiary, from which all other priorities should follow. STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, and studies in these areas are comparably well funded, well supported, and ultimately, well paid, but that doesn’t seem to be enough to get people interested in investing their own time in them.

As an Engineer that taps all 4 of the STEM roots, I may be biased, but I tend to agree with the STEM structure, and have always looked at the STEM studies as the most important. I too, often struggle to break down why I like what I do, when talking to my friends and have almost given up on talking about STEM subjects that can’t be tied in with sports or videogame culture.

It’s tough to ignore the fact that there’s a perceived lack of a conventional “human” aspect in the four pillars of STEM. There’s a stigma that these areas are cold, black-and-white, robotic and inhuman. For this reason, many will look on at the STEM studies and instantly think “that’s not for me” or “I don’t do math” or other damning thoughts to that effect. The children of STEM will always try to get across the reality that everything to do with Mathematics or Science is equally as creative, evocative and emotional as any movie, statue or painting that others would consider to be more “human” things to admire and appreciate. From Six-Flag rollercoasters and Las Vegas water fountains, to Large Hadron Colliders and lab-grown organisms, STEM ventures are the pinnacle of human endeavor, and something that everyone is involved with, whether they realize it or not.

“Art is in everything”, “Art Imitates Life” and all of those other cliche phrases have always been the cry of artists and creative types, who are determined to prove to the average man in the street that they are part of it, and to the same extent, STEM’s advocates are tortured by the knowledge that their work is used by everyone but always with a line between the creator and the user.

Joined at the hip, by the same communicative issues; a campaign has emerged, to add Art to the STEM core, creating STEAM.

The idea is that Art and Design are of equal importance to the STEM studies and that together, they can push their own boundaries and bring more people who traditionally “Aren’t into art” or “Don’t get Science” into the equation.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a huge fan, and, in a way, jealous of the Otaku culture in Japan with the likes of Otona no Kagaku, the “Science for Adults” series that encourages learning and creativity beyond the school walls.

I must admit, that I personally have been a “Don’t do Art” person, and built the same rift between myself and the creative, but the more I look at it; the fewer differences I see.

The drive to make Art and Design an essential study, paired with the rest of the STEM is championed by many big organisations and personalities and is making waves across Europe and America. The likes of StemToSteam.org and the i.am.angel Foundation, headed by superstar will.i.am have seen changes in classrooms, from Raspberry Pi and arduino workshops in schools, to the Arkyd project, which plans to grant open space telescope access to students, pushing creativity, model making and design, whilst also encouraging interests in the rest of the STEM community.

In short, art’s creativity proves itself to be a driving force in innovation, granting a whole new dimension to how people engage with the core studies.

Alone, STEM and Art have always struggled to engage, but together, we’re already seeing how great they are at amplifying each other, and breaking down the barriers between the public’s perceptions and their actual potential.

Check out RISD.edu to learn more.

The narcissism of “No Make-up Selfies” and how to actually help Cancer Research

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This week, the in-vogue Facebook post has been the “no make-up selfie”. For the 8 people who’ve evaded it; girls are nominating each other to take a selfie, without make-up, in the name of breast cancer. The campaign started thanks to a partnership between Dove and CRUK.org. Initially, the idea was to text BEAT to 70099 and donate £3 to Cancer Research and use the selfie to spread the message. In no time at all, the donation element disappeared altogether, and it merely became an excuse for people to show how great they looked without make-up.

We’ve seen stuff like this before; changing your profile picture to your favorite cartoon character for the NSPCC, revealing the color of your pants for testicular cancer and so forth. In all fairness, it’d be hard to refute how effective they are, they instantly send social media into a frenzy, but often for the wrong reasons.

Donating minimal time and money to a cause, these picture campaigns seriously undermine the hard work of the real campaigners for charities; the marathoners, the scientists, the silent donors and the canvassers. It’s loud, obnoxious, narcissistic…and gets very little done.

Many people have already noticed the gap between posting a selfie and helping Cancer Research, with some people removing their photos, others arguing their validity, and others, still, turning it into an all out gender war. I’m steering clear of my news feed as we speak, due to the selfie-gate scandal running rife.

The psychology behind it is pretty straightforward – most of us feel like we don’t do enough for charity, so when given the opportunity to do something that costs no money and takes no time to absolve the inherent guilt, many will jump at the chance. As a bonus, you get to do something vain, gratuitous and in this case, with the false impression of martyrdom.

The sad thing, is that there is so much potential behind the campaign to actually create something good and helpful.

If you feel the urge to take part, here are some ideas, in order to turn your no make-up selfie into something more constructive.

  1. Before taking the selfie, take the time to buy a Cancer Research ribbon, and wear it in the photo, solidifying your commitment by showing you have given to the charity yourself
  2. Post the selfie with a screenshot of your donation and a message of “Text BEAT to 70099 to donate to CRUK”
  3. Post the selfie with a link to Cancer Research UK (http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/)
  4. Post the selfie with guidelines on how to check yourself for cancer
  5. Post the selfie and collect sponsorship to go to work the next day make-up-less
  6. Post the selfie, and offer to run a Cancer Research marathon if it gets enough likes/shares/comments

Also, don’t forget to include the hashtag #BeatCancerSooner

Despite the negative twist, Cancer Research are seeing an increase in donations, but with your help, the message could still be kept positive and make all the more difference.

There’s a very selfish craze going on right now, disguised as Cancer Research, and there’s potential to make it something great. If you have any other ideas on how to improve it, please add them in the comments section.

“11 things your gym trainer never tells you” and other social media fallacies

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Log in to Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Tumblr, Youtube…and all the rest. It won’t take you long to find somebody sharing a link with the immortal comment strapped to it “ha ha, this is so true” or “OMG! have to read this!!”.

The idea of sharing links, at a glance, is quite nice. Find some information; a piece of mind-expanding knowledge and share it with your peers. Everyone will be smarter for it. It’s a win-win.

The problem, however, lies in the intent of the sharer.

“11 things your gym trainer never tells you”, as mentioned in the title is a strong example, and can be paired with others, such as, “5 things surfers secretly love”, “reason vegans hate you” or absolutely any link that sends you to a Buzzfeed article…like, ever.

The people that share these links are saying one thing, think they’re meaning another thing, and are in-fact, admitting a third thing altogether.

To post “19 ways to upset you Jiu Jitsu instructor” with a comment of “lololol” at first implies one simple thing; that the person is sharing it because they want others to see it and agree with them, spouting some hilarious and educated comments about the world of Jiu Jitsu…right?

Well, half right; they want it to be seen. They even wouldn’t mind a couple of people commenting on it, but only certain people, and, even then, not too many of them. Whether or not the poster knows the intent themselves is irrelevant, but what they are hoping, by posting that link, is to get a single message out to their Facebook familiars: “I like/do Jiu Jitsu”.

All of these links have a sole aspect of them that makes them, in some way, exclusive, and by extension, rises the people who are interested in clicking on it, or the people who understand it into a place of social media superiority. Whether the person posts a link regarding horse-riding, cosplaying, travelling or simply being a student in North Yorkshire, they all have the intent of saying one thing to the person observing the link; “I’m the kind of person that does that stuff, and I totally get this link more than all of you people who don’t do that stuff.”

It’s like, in many ways, when a person says that they’d love to try skydiving, or rebuild a classic car, or become a professional diving instructor. A lot of people say these things when talking about life-lists and aspirations, but they don’t mean the things they say. They’d hate learning mechanics and rebuilding a rusty, dirty, dinged up car. It’s hard work, and a project they’d probably never finish. They’d despise a life as a professional diving instructor, day after day, telling overweight, ungrateful tourists, time and again, that they can only go diving if they hadn’t been out drinking the night before, only to find 30 minutes later, that all of the adults just want to sit in the boat and drink water in the shade, as they’ve all suddenly remembered how drunk they were last night, despite what they signed on the disclaimer. So, why do they say it?

They say they want to do those things for a single reason, and it’s the same reason that people post those links: they want to be associated with the kind of people who actually are into those things. It’s one thing to do Bikram Yoga for 2 months and then advertise that it’s your entire life, and the thing you should be known amongst your peers for, all at the cost of simply posting a link to a “Top 5 things only Yoga people totally get” article. It’s another altogether to actually study yoga, understand it on a non-gym level and stick with it, even after it’s gone out of fashion and social media has turned towards the next big fad (Underwater Pilates? Just calling it before it happens…)

The interest, sadly, is selfish. The fact of the matter is that only around 10 people will ever comment or like the link, most of them have already seen it, and most of them do the thing with the original poster; if they had meant to share the link with those people, they’d have dumped it in their Whatsapp group. What they do instead, is make it social;forming a digital “clique” if you will, in the hope of presenting themselves as the cool and interesting person that they wish they were, but lack the enthusiasm to actually sculpt out of themselves.

All you Scuba Divers, Equestrians, Yoga Gurus and Kickboxers will sadly have to endure their shameless, social media, “hobby tourism” for the time being. Just hold on hope that someday, Underwater Pilates will draw their attention elsewhere.

Gadgets I’m Stoked for in 2014

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2014! The year of opportunities! Well…let’s not go that far, but there’s some cool stuff in the pipline. Here’s four of my favorites:

Razer Nabu

When people started talking about “smartwatches” and the like in 2013, mainly due to the new notoriety of the crowdfunded Pebble, I doubted their success; putting them down as something that’s been tried and left by the wayside before. However, that all changed when I saw the Razer Nabu. The Nabu has some awesome, practical social applications, or at-least the potential for them.

Razer are currently encouraging developers to design apps and hardware for the dual-screen smartband, which already has functions for gaming, sporting and social media connectivity. The idea is to streamline all of your different life aspects into a single, wearable user interface. Whether you want to synchronize your Nabu to arrange online warfare with your clan buddies, monitor your exercise and activity, or merely interact with other Nabu users, the potential is there.

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Hoverboards!

Well, no sadly. The internet has been alive this week with rumors of Back to the Future inspired, Mattell hoverboards, but nobody can really work out why. Replicas have circulated before, but never with an advertisement campaign on the back of them. It’s already been proven to be a hoax (shocking!), but was there ever a motive behind it? My only thought is that, with a year to go before Back to the Future meets its date of singularity, on Wednesday, October 21st, 2015. This date has been hugely anticipated by movie fans, and will undoubtedly herald the arrival of some awesome collactables; from self-tying Nike sneakers, to hoverboards, almanacs and collectors blu-rays, it’s an opportunity that can’t be missed. Even though none of this stuff will come out in 2014, hopefully we’ll get some sneaky peeks.

Oculus Rift VR

I was lucky enough to get a couple of rounds in on the HD version of the Oculus Rift in September, at Eurogamer. I sat down, expecting a gimmick, and after a 15 minute dogfight on War Thunder, stood up a changed man. Oculus have a very real product in the making. It’s not just a quirky way to view your games, like the long-forgotten, Nintendo Virtual Boy; it genuinely changes the entire way you game. It may not be suitable for every game, but in aeronautical fps games like War Thunder and World of Warplanes, the ability to keep both hands on the controls while viewing all around the canopy makes for some intense dogfights; rather than having to fiddle around with camera angles and thumbsticks, which should be reserved for flight controls and aiming, you’re fully engaged, and can even track your enemies after they’ve flown overhead. Total, seamless engagement.

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The Steambox

The Steambox is often met with scoffs from the pc gamer community, much like any other console, but personally, I think it could change the face of competitive gaming. A sole, standardized pc would make LAN events run so much smoother, the attention it would give Steam would draw more developers to it, and force the likes of XBLA and PSN to get more competitive with their download titles, and it would bumpstart the impending revolution of pure, media-less gaming. The concept of diskless games consoles have left shudders in gamers’ spines for over a decade now, (anyone remember the Phantom? …no? …just me?) but, by comparison, the Steambox has been seen as a logical step. Had the Xbox One gone ahead with its diskless design, it would have fallen immediately in the face of the PS4, but for some reason, the Steam Machines aren’t upsetting gamers in the same way; even though they have the exact same plan. Steam is still seen as the cool, indie, underdog, despite its success, and right now, they really have a chance to strike, while the iron is hot.

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