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Sunday 31 May 2020

Peace Is War

This is a CS gas grenade cannister.

2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile - also known as CS gas, a kind of tear gas - is utilised as a crowd control agent. It reacts very painfully with moisture on the body, most prominently the eyes, hence the name, tear gas. It also attacks the respiratory system, and can lead to burns on the skin if one is sweaty or sunburned.

It is an irritant.

It is marketed as non-lethal though this is disputed, given its actual function. Assuming a fully healthy human being that is under no duress and is in a well-ventilated space when they are hit with the stuff, sure, non-lethal. It doesn't often get used under those circumstances.

CS gas was developed in Porton Down research facility in Wiltshire.

Yes, Porton Down, wherein we have studied other chemical and biological weaponry in the past - such as sarin, anthrax, botulinum, so on. All the kind of stuff that is banned from use in warfare by the Geneva Convention.

Oh yes. Tear gas is banned by the Geneva Convention. You can't use it against the enemy in warfare. You can, however, use it on peaceful civilians.

You can use it on people who have gathered together to protest against a man's murder, and that is totally fine, and allowed. Nothing wrong with that whatsoever. And then, when the people you are using the tear gas on get upset, or annoyed, you get to claim they are the problem.

That way, you - the state - get to be right.

That's fantastic, because for as long as there has been a man in a house on a hill, there's been people that don't get to live on that hill, who have wanted to not drown every rainy season. The proverbial crowd with pitchforks. So it's important - if you are that man on that hill - to make sure that you can make people think that they might get what they want, if they never pick up the pitchforks.

You can't get what you want through violence, the apologists say. The state agrees, from behind several layers of accountability shifting, after its agents kill yet another black person, using the excuse of upholding the law.

A list of things that only came into existence after extensive physical protests:

- Some equal rights for non-cishet people, and by extension, Pride as a movement.
- Accessibility measures in the United States of America.
- Modern Germany, and the end of the Soviet Union.
- The United States of America.
- Modern France.
- Modern Algeria.
- The end of Apartheid.
- Worker's rights.

So don't tell the people in the cities of the United States that they have to do it peacefully. They tried it peacefully. They got murdered, and they got tear gassed. Don't quote Martin Luther King Jr - he mostly pledged peace, but stated sympathy for the rioters, and he, too, got murdered.

In the end you have to wonder if it wouldn't just be easier to stop killing minorities; perhaps not for a president who likes to parrot the words of segregationists, whose grandfather was in the Klan, but maybe for enough of the rest of America that a change can be made.

Justice for George Floyd.

I won't be asking you to hit my Patreon this week. Instead I would ask you to donate to the Minnesota Freedom Fund, to pay bail for protesters arrested in Minneapolis and beyond.

Thank you for your time.

Sunday 24 May 2020


They don't have to care.

They don't have to care what you think about them, really. What you think about their actions, how obvious it is that those actions are driven by an awful mixture of ideology and greed. They don't have to care how easy it would be to poke holes through the flimsy justifications that they parade around, if they offer any explanations at all.

They can do whatever they want, basically. Take whatever they want from anyone, and do their bidding based on that. Accept gifts and suggestions and donations. Place political pressure in places that the people preparing the gift baskets want it to be placed. Do favours for the investment groups or power companies that they used to work for, or that their families still work for, or that they actually still do consultancy work for.

Because such an obvious conflict of interest just doesn't get followed up on. It doesn't get pursued. Nobody cares. A paper-thin excuse gets slapped over it, and everything is okay. Nobody really cares.

They can play games with people's lives - torpedo our economy, rip out support and assistance for people that need it - with utter impunity. They can cut corners that kill people. They can literally deport people. They can literally deport the wrong people, and shrug, and nothing bad happens. No matter the outrage. No matter the anger. No wrists are slapped; no fines are brought; no criminal charges are pressed.

They can push agendas based on regressive and harmful attitudes, because that's what they want. Because that makes things easier for them, and it's what they believe, and it's what their wealthy and well-established families believe, and it's what their wealthy backers believe, and the people that those attitudes harm just aren't important to them.

They can do what they want, with the bare minimum of attention being brought to it, because most of the press is just fine with them being in charge. Because the people that own the newspapers like tax loopholes, and like operating without restriction. The millionaires that live a thousand miles away from this country for tax purposes but make their money here, selling news print full of racism, sexism and right-wing rhetoric.

They can let a pandemic ravage the country, and literally talk about letting it kill off the old and the poor, and do precious little to curtail it, and then send everyone back to work because the shareholders are feeling nervous. They don't have to go - but you do. They can do what they want. You do what they want. That's how it works.

Schools will reopen. So will businesses. People will get sick. People will die. They won't care. They will go out on Thursdays and clap, with smiles on their faces, knowing they robbed the people they are clapping for. Knowing that they are sentencing many of them to death.

It would be a display of shameless hypocrisy in a sane world, would be called out as such, would have them pelted with rotten vegetables and chased out of office.

We don't live in that sane world.

We live in a world where they do what they want, and they get away with it.

And I really don't know how we stop them doing it, short of a mass general strike, or literally tearing down their houses with our bare hands.

Until then, we get to be canaries in their coal mines.

If you'd care to share my blog with your friends, I'd appreciate that! If you'd like to thank me in a fiscal form for entertaining you a little bit, I do have a Patreon right here, but please - no pressure. Thank you for reading, and check my social media to the right to keep in touch.

Sunday 17 May 2020

No Games In My Politics

If you have spent much time on Twitter you will, at least once, come across a tweet that is either a mirror of, or a rebuttal of, this:

Well, I understand your grief, stranger whose name has been carefully edited out of the tweet!

See, in this day and age, politics seems to be everywhere. It almost seems like it has some kind of effect on every single part of everyday life! It seems inescapable. All we want to do is go to our minimum-wage job, pay our taxes and our unprotected rent, buy our food, and enjoy some nice, high-quality video games! In peace! With no politics!

So in order to help out people such as our heroic Twitter commentator above, I have put it upon myself to carefully select those games that don't contain politics, and those that do, so that the angry, angry people in their various and sundry communities can game without fear of the dread P-word rearing its ugly head.

And the first place we have to start is an unlikely avenue:

Sports Games.

Now I can see how these games might lure you in, with their seemingly totally apolitical mechanics - a fair fight between even numbers of players (sometimes not) on the field of dreams of your chosen discipline! But politics is insidious - it creeps in everywhere, and sports games are no exception!

Let's take, for example, the John Madden series as pictured above. Now it is inescapable that certain players are better than others. For every Drew Brees, there's some other schmoe whose name you don't know because he doesn't hold a throwing accuracy record. And how do we determine which teams have which players? Money, of course - and money is FULL of politics!

It isn't just money, either. There are some players that you simply can't have in your team because of politics, regardless of money! Because they did stupid political things, like kneeling when they're encouraged to by the troops that they're apparently disrespecting, or kill a seventeen year old in a car accident!

Despicable. Truly, the only safe way to avoid such things is to steer clear of the genre entirely.

And that's only the beginning. To keep with the action-packed theme, we now move onto:


How could there be anything even remotely approaching politics in a game about how you, the heroic Goodman, have to defeat endless faceless legions of the evil Badmans?

Well I hate to be the one to bring the bad news to this particular killfest, but sometimes, you need to work out who is the badman and who is the goodman. (Not this Goodman.) And unfortunately that almost always involves politics, somewhere. Even if it is as innocent as one side being called terrorists and one side being called counter-terrorists - well those are loaded terms! Why, it's only politics that tells you if someone is a terrorist or a brave freedom fighter. Just ask Rambo, who in Rambo III was helping the heroic, fearless Mujahideen of Afghanistan overthrow the evil Soviets, an action that will definitely not have had any consequences in the future.

Yes, it seems that any game that uses current and modern-day political factions is also accidentally a bit political; the kind of thing that would justify sending in some kind of counter-terrorist or SWAT unit varies from country to country, and isn't even a crime in some of them! The kind of guns you end up using, the legality of using them, the ethnic spread of the individuals you end up using them on - all political! Insidious, deceptively so! It worms its way into every single corner of gaming, truly poisonous.

So they are all to be avoided, as well. A shame. Well, at least we can have other genres, right? Something less on-the-rails and more exploratory!

Open-World Games.

There we go. Let's just roam around a world and do whatever we want, with literally no repercussions, no bad stuff, no prejudgements, and no politics!

Something like Red Dead Redemption 2, which definitely doesn't involve any kind of external pressures on the characters, which would come from a political situation in the local area.

Or GTAV, which absolutely doesn't riff constantly on the current political situation of the world, including private military contractors, the justice system, media, celebrity, capitalism, consumer culture, and so on.

Or Horizon Zero Dawn, which involves literally nothing about former power structures influencing new power structures, imperialism, climate change, and sexism.

...on second thoughts they all sound a little bit borderline, maybe let's go for something a little bit more narrative and a little less open.


Alas, we have fallen for another trap.

You see, in the picture above, I have utilised a game known as Final Fantasy 7 Remake. Now, one might think that such a group of people would be decidedly apolitical individuals, unwilling to taint a pure game experience with something as dangerously divisive as politics, but it turns out, they're the worst of the worst...

...they're AntiFascists!

Not only are they political, but they're the most offensive kind of political, the kind that doesn't make video games or insurance or financial products!

So regardless of the depth of the story or the characters, it unfortunately has to go on the pile - along with basically every other RPG, because almost all of them involve that dastardly politics at some point or other. Anything involving royalty, kings, empires? Sorry, politics! Anything involving a war? Sorry! War is inherently political! Religion, demons, angels? Also political! It just gets everywhere!

Yet another genre that just has to be discarded. It's just not worth the risk - who knows how damaging it could be to fire up Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild, only to find out that one of the key parts of the game is to convince a royal court to trust you, when they inherently distrust your kind?

Enough of this nonsense, let's just engage in some instant action to take the edge off!

Fighting Games.


...well, there's two kinds of fighting game, right? There's the tournament, that you showed up to win, for whatever reason, maybe to defeat the head of the criminal syndicate that turned your old team-mate into a green lightning monster - or there's the walk-sideways punch-people kind of game, wherein you're clearly slapping the crap out of all these criminals or police officers or demons or whatever for a reason, which invariably involves...

...yep... politics. Somewhere along the line, there's awful, awful politics.

Who cares that Chun Li is a kick-ass lady with a brutal fighting style, fast and combo-efficient? She's part of Interpol - and Interpol has its own political agenda! So insidious! Making her a protagonist is pushing a political viewpoint, and I won't have that, no sir. Don't you worry, Twitter User In The First Picture, I'm looking out for you.

Which leads us toward the inevitable: if all of these genres, all of these blocks of games, aren't available to me because of politics... what CAN I play?

Well, good news for you, Fellow Gamer! I have isolated the one game that is GUARANTEED to have NO politics, and will absolutely not upset or offend your sensibilities!

...wait, what do you mean that isn't what you meant?

If you'd care to share my blog with your friends, I'd appreciate that! If you'd like to thank me in a fiscal form for entertaining you a little bit, I do have a Patreon right here, but please - no pressure. Thank you for reading, and check my social media to the right to keep in touch.

Sunday 10 May 2020

Win Stupid Prizes

So I've blogged about Monopoly before - albeit briefly.

This right here is Rich Uncle Pennybags. Just look at him. Smug bastard. You probably recognise him as the mascot of Monopoly. Yep, he's the one whose mug is plastered all over this exercise in monetary manslaughter, and has been since 1936.

Of course, there's a ton of variants of Monopoly. It's almost more likely that one owns a variant than that one owns the original game. (Not the ORIGINAL original game - I'll get into that, don't worry.) Anniversary editions, editions depicting different cities and localities, Star Wars, Warhammer 40,000, Bass Fishing, Street Fighter, Garfield, Shrek, The Walking Dead. You name it.

Now, people with their finger on the pulse - aka, have looked at Twitter any time in the past few days - will probably know where this is going.

So... despite being a model of how awful the capitalist class is, a demonstration of how fiscal exploitation works, et cetera, it turns out that the game of Monopoly in and of itself is fairly equitable. If you come to the table to play it, you are given exactly the same start as everyone else, regardless of any external circumstances - assuming you aren't playing with any weird rules, and nobody cheats. You all start with the same amount of cash, from the same spot, and you all have the same chance of going first (which gives you a marginally higher chance of starting to profit from your competition).

It flattens a lot of the privileges inherent in society, by removing them entirely. The game doesn't track your gender, your ethnicity, the wealth of your family, your education, your sexuality, your place of birth; nor does it track how other people discriminate against others. All it does is start you at the same level as your peers - with seed money of $1,500, enough to build a hotel on the most expensive piece of property in the game. In real life figures that is hard to calculate, but suffice to say that it makes Donald Trump's "small loan of a million dollars" look tiny.

So then... along comes...


So there's two angles in this game, and I kind of appreciate one of them, but the other is... let's say, not helpful.

One angle is one of recognition; the properties have been replaced with things invented by women which often don't get credit, like wifi and chocolate chip cookies. The pieces are changed too, and while a couple of them are a bit limp (a jet - and a white top hat because the person on the front is Rich Uncle Pennybags' niece, obviously), I like that they included a barbell and a notepad and pen.  Articles implying doing stuff and being active, rather than... like, a cat. Or an iron. Not even Hasbro would be so tone deaf as to include an iron.

On the OTHER hand...

According to, women are paid - on average, in the US - 81 cents for every full dollar that men are paid. If you wish to disagree you can go argue with them over here. What Ms. Monopoly does is take that and, well, run with it... in a not very helpful direction.

Women start with $1,900 while men start with $1,500, and when women pass go, they collect $240 rather than $200.

So, really, more harm than good.

This isn't redressing an imbalance. This isn't an education. This is taking a game that was originally about how all of the players are monstrous to each other - because, well, capitalists - and instead adds another class divide, which casts women in the lead role as head bad guy.

I mean, it's kind of patronising too, right? To make a version of Monopoly - already, as I discussed, a quite equitable board game in terms of player advantage in comparison to each other - and to smugly say "But girls get that extra money that they don't get in real life!" doesn't really tell a good story about sexism or feminism or... anything, really.

Rather than this mythical world-that-women-want - wherein they are in charge and have more inherent advantages - couldn't this point have been made with better game mechanics? Maybe to delineate the actual challenges that women face in the workplace and the world in general? No? Nothing that would require actual research? No, okay.

Especially eye-rolly, given the origin of Monopoly; because it didn't start life as Monopoly.

It started life as The Landlord's Game. You can find out a lot about it in this excellent article here from the New York Times. It was designed as early as 1902 and patented in 1904 by the formidable Lizzie Magie. Magie was a Georgist; she held with the teachings of the economist Henry George that economic value from land - including the natural resources within it - should be distributed amongst the society that inhabits that land, not the individual. That was what the Landlord's Game was for; it had two rulesets, one that rewarded the players for generating the most wealth for society at large, and... that rewarded players for dominating the other players with monopolies and forcing them out of the game.

This would have been one of those inventions to put on the board - could be a fun little nod back in time, right? Except for fact that it was basically totally bulldozed when after a bunch of economics games were made and published, the game Monopoly - which Charles Darrow, its designer, swears was NOTHING to do with The Landlord's Game, honest, pinky promise - got picked up by the company that was publishing The Landlord's Game in the 1930s, and started pushing it instead. Effectively, giving the game a...

...yeah, too easy.

So. Woman invents game, to illustrate progressive policy. Man steals game, turns it into regressive competition. Ninety years later, game gets released, patronisingly labelled as being for women.

I guess that's why it isn't on the Ms Monopoly board, then.

Wonder how many women were on the design board for that?

If you'd care to share my blog with your friends, I'd appreciate that! If you'd like to thank me in a fiscal form for entertaining you a little bit, I do have a Patreon right here, but please - no pressure. Thank you for reading, and check my social media to the right to keep in touch.

Sunday 3 May 2020

Butts In Seats

I know I tread this ground quite a lot, but - I'm ill. I have various conditions that make doing things difficult or impossible. I feel like I talk about it often, but like, it's literally my life, so - my apologies. If me talking about my chronic illness is liable to upset you, feel free to check this out - it's a blog I did on Secret of Mana and video games in general.

It means that some days, my mobility is terrible, and getting out of the house is nigh on impossible. Can't usually predict which one of those days I am going to have, either; though sometimes I will wake up and the lack of mobility is obvious. Like, if you told me that there was a fifty pound note on the other side of my bedroom - there's days (and more of them than I'd like, like several a month) wherein I would probably have to just leave it there.

One of the downsides of this is that, well, doing stuff that isn't work becomes difficult. If I can't get out of the house, doing EVERYTHING becomes difficult; and even on a good day I have to be aware of energy levels, of how much what I am about to do will hurt after an hour, two hours, half a day.

This sucks, because I like doing things. Especially watching movies in the cinema.

I mean, you know I like them movies. I talk about them often enough. I do wish I could catch every release - there's so many movies in the past five years that I just haven't been able to see when they came out, so I've had to wait until they get a home or streaming release.

Or something.

It isn't even just those days wherein I can barely make it to the bathroom. At the end of a work day, I just don't have the energy to do much aside from get home again. It sucks. That's a big chunk of hours that are basically not usable for anything specific. After a decent week's work the weekend is kind of a waste; I spend most of it willing my joints to operate properly again, and that's all before the actual physical work of getting to the movies and being able to sit in a cinema seat for three hours without the subsequent pain and discomfort fucking the movie up.

So yeah. I missed a bunch.

More than a few of those movies, I wasn't too hard-bitten about. Like. Midway? I already know how that ends. Turned out to be a great film when I finally got to watch it, but there's nothing to ruin there, nothing to give away.

Sure, I know people are annoyed about spoiler culture and anti spoiler culture, but this is one of the big ones.

I really enjoy the new Star Wars movies; and thus, I was hyped to watch Rise Of Skywalker when it came out.

Except I didn't get to.

I spent Christmas basically crippled. I couldn't get out of the house; my knee literally wouldn't support my weight, and I had a chest infection that felt like I was dying slowly. It was pretty killer. Not much fun to be had. No opportunities came up to catch it. The few days I made it into work or was fit enough to walk around and do things while it was out, I got the things done I had to, and that was it. I was wiped out for the day. Sometimes barely even that - at one point I almost didn't make it home.

So I never saw it. It slipped out of movie theatres. I was still ill. Then I start pulling myself back together again, and then along comes pandemic season and everything is fucked again.

Not to mention the arthritis having another shot at me as the stay-at-home orders were signed, but that's another story.

The point is that there were certain large plot points in the movie that, after a certain point, just got talked about in public or hinted at strongly enough that anyone could piece them together. I don't want to crucify people that give out spoilers, but at the same time - I'm really hoping that the movie can tell me the story, rather than someone obliquely referring to a bit of it and outing that chunk so that when it comes along when I DO watch it, I just go "oh yeah that's what happens now".

I'm pretty sure that the crew that made the movie are a better storyteller than "angry man in front of greenscreen on youtube".

But that's just the way it is, right? You can't catch the movie when it comes out, then - well, get fucked, right? "It's been [arbitrary amount of time], you should have seen it already if you care so much about it," is often a defence for spoiler-friendly folks. Which. You know. Whatever. Perhaps there's a reason that a person hasn't seen a movie yet. Like, you know.

Imagine me gesturing at my body in general.

Just the way it is, though - but does it have to be?

Well, Universal didn't think so.

Yeah, see I'm not a fan of the franchise, BUT...

So one thing that is coming out of the Covid-19 pandemic is many wings of society are accidentally revealing that they can actually be more accessible than they currently are. The sheer amount of businesses that have made the shock discovery that many of their employees can actually work from home is astounding. Businesses providing contact-free or kerbside delivery. Sure, it's all being done in a very bootstrappy fashion and because there's no other option, but - for some of their consumers and employees, there already was no other option.

It seems that the movie market has caught on, too, because Universal decided that Trolls World Tour should be released on rental on-demand at the same time as its US cinematic release, seeing as the world was trying to stay indoors as much as possible. It isn't just Trolls either - several of their other releases saw a similar plan. It isn't a new idea, either; the Chinese cinema industry took several similar measures two months prior, allowing a bunch of movies to be released day-and-date at the same time in both theatres and at home. It also isn't the first time Universal has done this - it did the same thing with Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.

They aren't the only business cashing in on the pandemic, either deliberately or accident of timing. Disney+ and Netflix have both had significant gains, and Disney+ has engaged directly in pandemic advertising; and lets face it, Animal Crossing came out at exactly the right time to get half the gaming world hooked just when they can't go to work.

Well - the Trolls thing seemed to work. It took $40 million in its opening weekend, in the onset of a pandemic. Sure, that doesn't cover the cost of production, but that is an opening weekend when people literally aren't allowed to go outside and cinemas are literally closed.

Like, that isn't shabby.

And nothing quite shows that you have succeeded at doing something that vaguely disrupts the status quo than...

The full article is here.

Of course there will be kickback. The model has worked this way for a long, LONG time, and people don't want to have to adjust to a different model - or a deviation from the current model. Just keep pouring the money in our pockets! Why do you have to make us think about things!? Just pay us and shut up!

The relevant section:

“This policy is not aimed solely at Universal out of pique or to be punitive in any way, it also extends to any movie maker who unilaterally abandons current windowing practices absent good faith negotiations between us, so that they as distributor and we as exhibitor both benefit and neither are hurt from such changes,” AMC chairman Adam Aron write in the letter. “Currently, with the press comment today, Universal is the only studio contemplating a wholesale change to the status quo. Hence, this immediate communication in response.”

Now... here's the thing.

When I was sat at home the entire time my knee was busted, I wasn't putting any money in the pockets of either my local cinema (which isn't a chain, it's mostly indie) OR Lucasfilm/Disney. It just wasn't happening, because I couldn't go to the movies, and I couldn't make the choice to pay on demand.

You know how free-market plebs often say that the market responds to demand? Well, it seems that Universal did that, without asking nicely; which is kind of a dick move, but at the same time, it showed that it can be done - and showed that it can rake in funds.

If the cinema chains are clever, and careful, then they can get a slice of the pie that companies like Universal are going to bake. If people act in good faith then this could be good for all of us, because I know that there is demand for such a service. From people like me, for one.

And there's so much cross-marketing that could be going on via the medium of a website. You want to watch a movie on release day? You click through to your local cinema, and from there, to their on-demand one-viewing rental website. You pay for a midnight viewing, which becomes available immediately after midnight. There could be reviews available, professional and user-based. A magazine section, to check out upcoming releases and read articles about the industry. Adverts for local food delivery places, that offer a slight discount on a click-through, as a partnership promotion. Synchronised viewing links so you can watch a movie at the same time as someone else, or "Viewing Rooms" like Twitch.

People have more and more complicated media setups at home; huge TVs, PCs and laptops with incredible screen resolutions and headsets with vast fidelity. I know it isn't the same as a big screen, but you know how it's better? You don't have to view it from the bottom corner, and you don't have to deal with that mob of teenagers throwing popcorn and being obnoxious, and the only person you need to move for is you. And even if they don't - Jesus Christ, I just want to see the movie. Don't give me shit because I can't afford a 4K TV. We've managed to watch films on VHS before the heady days of DVD and BluRay, I daresay I can enjoy one on a cheap laptop.

Imagine how good that could be. Imagine how good it would be, right now, to be able to have that, in this time when we have to stay inside; now imagine that all the time, for the people that find going to the movies difficult or impossible for whatever reason. Imagine having that available to you, and knowing that the money you pay for the viewing is going back to the industry, paying those that made the film you are watching. Knowing that if you stream Movie A, that it will be counted as the take for Movie A for the opening weekend, to prove that it performed better than Movie B.

Of course there's a million and one reasons it won't happen; and there's even more reasons why, if it happens, it will fuck someone over. We can't ever have a thing just work out. At a guess, if it does become an industry practice, then the cinema chains are going to suffer a lot for it and will start having to tighten their belts, which will lead to talk of the death of cinema - and who knows, from there?

And that's the sad, shit thing. With every potential innovation, with every method of making life easier or better, comes the innevitable question:

How will Capitalism make it awful?

People ask me why I'm a cynic.

If you'd care to share my blog with your friends, I'd appreciate that! If you'd like to thank me in a fiscal form for entertaining you a little bit, I do have a Patreon right here, but please - no pressure. Thank you for reading, and check my social media to the right to keep in touch.