Tuesday, 13 August 2013

The biased truth: A lesson in relative fidelity

Man has always been at war...it's in our blood. It's been that way ever since one monkey picked up a rock, bashed it over another's head and found that he was able to then take that other monkey's things. It gets into everything, from small things such as the fight over who can use the bathroom first in the morning to the big things like invading third world countries for natural resources I erm mean..."weeding out the bad guys who'd do us harm! yeehaw!"...the point is as a species we thrive on conflict. Even video gamers. There's always some story in the media that goes on about how video game caused violence is on the rise; it was Doom that caused Columbine, it was Grand Theft Auto that caused that Thai man to kill that taxi driver back in 2008, it was Katamari Damacy that caused the recession because it compelled Jeff Jefferson to run around hoarding everything in the world so that inflation sky rocketed because there was so little left in the world that Jefferson didn't own....those were dark, dark days indeed....

Of course, before video games, life was golden! Nothing bad ever happened! I mean sure, basically over 99% of wars happened before the advent of computer gaming...but come on, other than that it was great right?! Oh, come on, The Great Depression wasn't all that bad, it really brought people together! And as for the Dark Ages?! Best time, ever! Or whatever other example you care to mention...yes, everything sure was great back then!

Okay, that was unfairly sarcastic, a lot of great stuff did happen prior to video games, arguably more great stuff than has happened since, there, I've given you a freebie...but here's the thing, the real reason why video games are looked down on as a form of entertainment....they're new. It really is that simple, they've been around for about 50 years now but they only really hit the mainstream about 30 years ago and even then it was only seen as a kids toy. It's a rapidly growing industry, in this console generation alone, between the three main console competitors (Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and the Wii) they've sold over a quarter of a billion machines and that's not including how many handhelds (such as the DS or 3DS) are sold or how many PCs were bought with the express intent of being used as a games machine, it's estimated that there's roughly half a billion people worldwide who play at least an hour daily...the market for it is growing.

You have to question the intent of the media's stories. There's the story that's being presented and then there's the story behind that story, why is the general media always so keen to press the issue of video game violence. Well, there are a few reasons that are pretty easy to discern. Firstly, there's the target audience. As I said before video games are basically a youth thing. I'm not saying that that is entirely the case, as it's blatantly not so, they've been embraced by a decent percentage of the older population, but what about the rest. To them, video gaming is strange and unusual, it's full of it's own terminology indecipherable to those without the key ("l2p noob" "360 triple collateral no scope!" "gank DR, thn bk 2 mid grp 4 rosh" "fucking lagswitching"), it's something they can't get into because it requires time and/or effort and (most importantly I would argue) it could cause a rift to open in their social circle ("Franks into those kiddy-games now, ain't ya Frank."). So they're not altogether enthused about video games in the first place, because it's not for them, but you know what is? Watching television, watching the news, ever notice how the news broadcasts on BBC are different to the ones on MTV? Or how Fox news is different from Al Jazeera? That's called media bias, what you are getting is ostensibly the news, but it is the news presented in a format specifically for a certain demographic. If your audience is older, you show video games/new music in a bad light. This is primarily done to achieve repeat custom, if a news show is similar to your world view odds are likely that you will return to it again and again, which is great for the advertisers. It's the same with newspapers, websites, everything, they are all pushing an agenda to get you in again and again. There is truth there, sure, but you have to question it.

Why do you have to question it...well, in video games case especially, it's because it's harmful to other media....it's simple if you think about it, if you're busy playing a video game then you can't be watching the television programs. You can't be seeing all those lovely advert breaks. You're not watching movies and seeing the product placement. Consider who owns all those businesses, Sony own Columbia Pictures and I think that's the only major crossover in the industry (please do point out if I'm wrong, I'm not entirely certain), every one else is in competition. It's slowly fading away as their services become ever more intermingled (see for example Xbox1's deal with the NFL, worried about choosing between Halo or NFL on Monday nights?! well, now you don't have to!) and interestingly enough this has happened before. When television was first introduced, it didn't really do well, it was looked down on (much as video games are now) both by the media and the media influenced public...television started making some headway in the early 50s though and then the movie companies caved when they realised that they could make money off of old movies through their re-release on television. The Movie companies (the biggest of which are today's media conglomerates) should really have seen this coming though, as that was exactly the same way they began (as the innovative, edgy, underdog against the might of Print published media). 

Which leads me back to my opening, where I said that man has always been at war...old ideas are always conflicting against new ones, until the new idea itself becomes accepted, and then old, and is then fighting against some new idea...because just as much as we are about fighting, we are about adapting and making things routine. What was unthinkable back then is now considered unremarkable and normal, it's not always a good thing, but it can be.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

This one is about running, one way or the other...

I like sports....and sports like me, like, more than a friend....but that's cool. I was never really into sports as a child, until about the age of seven, then I really started to get into football, then I got ran over by a car and nearly lost my left foot and couldn't do anything sports related for years because Fate is a capricious bitch. When I had recovered I did well enough to get on several school teams, at various points I was on the badminton team (badminton is the most badass sport ever! don't you dare dis it!), the football team and the athletics team. In fact I was so good at the art of running really kinda fast thing I got invited to join the Liverpool Harriers (which you know, trains the guys and gals we send to such small events as the motherfucking olympics!) but I didn't take them up on that offer...why? Was it because my friend who was also invited didn't want to go? If you ask my mum she'll tell you that was the reason, but she's wrong. I didn't join it simply because I am lazy. 

I love sports, I really do. But if there's the smallest obstacle to doing them, then I'll sit back and be like "oh well, I tried, mwa mwa"...and that's a tremendously shit-bag thing to do because (and this is not just a tooting my own horn kind of thing) I am really, really good at them...like....all of them....I'm not fantastically great at all of them, but some of them....yeah, I am, and sometimes I feel really bad for not using that talent you know, for letting it go to waste...and it was purely down to laziness, my laziness. For a long time I was convinced it was down to my friends, they don't ever want to play sports, they dislike them, so I'd ask to go the park and kick a ball around, get shot down and that was that. They were the reason I didn't play football, I'd tell myself. They were the reason why I never played tennis, I told myself....the point I'm trying to make is that I was (and some would argue am still) a giant bag of arse. It wasn't them stopping me from playing football, from going out and finding a team, or hell, even other friends to do whatever sporting activity with, it was entirely my own doing, because I am lazy, because I could take the route of "oh well, I tried, lol", so I could play the role of the tragic figure ("oh I want to to do such and such, but alas! fate doth conspire against me by pitting me against such opposition to my dreams! such opposition that no mere man may ever overcome! the woe! all the woe! she is me and I am her! oh woe indeed!").

Its something we all do to a certain extent, we all love to play the victim ("and there I was, minding my own business, out stealing, when some criminal steals my car with all my stole loot in it!" - http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/robber-robbed-tells-police-article-1.1219177 ) because we are a subjective race in an objective world. We literally can't see the world as it is without distorting it with our own minds, everything that happens is filtered through our minds and we each interpret it differently, according to our own beliefs and ways of thinking. We look at things in how they relate to us specifically, remember that time you got into a heated argument over something and the other person didn't give a solitary fuck? Or less of a fuck anyway, and you got really offended? "How could this person not hold this thing to the same high value as myself! Clearly because they are a terrorist!" or some other such nonsense. In short, everything you hold dear must be held dear to other people otherwise they are morally corrupt in some way, or evil, or just simply wrong...which is bullshit, because yeah, they do think differently, but it's not wrong, it's just their subjective experiences that make them that way, that has made them view the world in that way. In their shoes you'd think the exact same way they'd do. Basically it all boils down to a "me, me, me!" way of dealing with the world, because there's no other way of dealing with the world, even trying to see it from another persons' point of view isn't altogether great because at the end of it, you'd be trying to see their reasoning from within your own. If it's totally against what you believe, no matter how reasoned or logical or whatever, it'll be rejected as a valid subject.

And that's why I haven't played any sport for a long time, not because I lacked the objectivity to see that other other people not wanting to play meant that I should have just found others to play with....but because personally, subjectively, I didn't want to find other people to play with because I am lazy....I think this whole post has kind of got away from me to be honest...but oh well, sports and philosophy always make for an interesting combo I feel, now I'm off to find some thing with which to break my fast, vaya con dios y'all!   

Sunday, 4 August 2013

How I learned the value of being cynical: A rope of sand...

There are things I talk about that are just uninteresting, there are things I talk about that are very interesting...and there are things I talk about that are placed somewhere within those two values, but you know what irritates me (and this is going to be hugely hypocritical) most of all is people assuming that what you say has no value whatsoever...we've all been there when we've said something or espoused some thing that we believed to have immense value and been shot down entirely...and you've every right to be angry at this! After all, it's what you're saying right? It's your universal truth, you're right, they're wrong, how dare they treat it as anything less than gospel right? Well, actually, you're both right...and you're both wrong...see, the universe is entirely subjective, what you hold to be dear to your heart another person could very well disregard entirely and who's right in that situation? Well consider, what is "right" anyway? What we believe to be "right" is actually the accumulated knowledge we've experienced, yeah? If someone else has led a similar life then yeah, they're probably going to have similar outlooks and perspectives compared to ourselves and so we'll end up agreeing on a number of issues...but what about those who've led very different lives? If they were brought up in a different religion, in a different social class, by parents with differing values....or whatever other variable you care to think of...they're going to be different, but are they any less "right"? 

My point is that things, that life, is almost entirely (if not actually entirely) a relative experience....the things that you consider to be vital to your existence, another may disregard entirely...and it wouldn't be wrong, not exactly, simply because that is their life, their experience. You may think I'm focusing too much on the individual, ok, let's take it further and broaden the term to our society as a whole....what is "right" in our society may be wrong in another. Example, boy do we English people (taken as a majority whole) love bacon. We love it so much that it is a vital part of what is called the "Full English Breakfast", it simply would not be a full English breakfast without the bacon....now go offer it to a Jew....or a vegetarian....or someone who simply does not like pork....who is "right" here? Answer? We all are. Every last one of us with every differing opinion because that is exactly what life is, a collection of opinions and there are no wrong ones. There are ones you will disagree with, there are ones I heartily disagree with, but as much as I disagree with them I assign them value....I don't know what a person has lived through to make them so adverse to the thought of consuming a bacon sandwich or whatever other example you can care to think of, how they were raised, what they were taught or what they believe...so why judge them on that? I try to learn why people think in certain ways, of course, I'll ask why they believe that, or why they act in a certain way, but judging them solely on one aspect, one action? 

It's something that really irritates me....when someone says that their belief is correct, the only right way and if you argue against it, in any way, then you are wrong, entirely....they don't do anything to argue their reasons, offer no explanation as to why they're right, only insist that you are wrong and then offer only spurious circular reasoning (aka, "I'm right because I'm obviously not wrong") to affirm their "rightness"....it's something that genuinely distresses me...but what distresses me even more is that I can understand why it happens and so I can see why we'll never be rid of it because if we did, if we got rid of differing opinions and views, it'd be the end of us as a species....