My Relationship with Video Games

Video Game

I can remember how excited I was to open my present on Christmas morning to find out that my parents had bought me a Playstation. The excitement and the possibilities that lay within that ugly looking grey box filled my boyhood heart with wonder! It was in the mid to late 90’s and I was playing games like Croc (Legend of the Gobbos), Gex 3D (Enter the Gecko), Tomb Raider and MediEvil. For a long time before this point many of my childhood friends had been into video gaming and a large portion (not all I might add) was spent in front of a Master System or a SNES where we played retro games that teased our young imaginations whilst we ate monster munch crisps and tried to beat each others scores. Video games were alot different when I was growing up and in this current generation there is much more emphasis on the games looking real and cinematic. My parents put alot of trust in me and the games that I played. I was never deprived of playing Grand Theft Auto when I was growing up because my parents knew that whilst I was inside playing on that game, I wasn’t outside the house causing mischief. There would be the odd occasion where I would compulsively play a game like Resident Evil 2 for an entire day but I always had other hobbies like Bike riding, learning to play the guitar and drawing. My parents did encourage me to have an active lifestyle away from my games console and this was incredibly important. There was something lovely about being comfortable in your warm house whilst the rain fell heavily outside, and you were just playing a great game. You often see on the news some child does something outrageous and then the news will have its moment to say how video games are to blame and that a particular game (normally GTA) is solely responsible!. I do believe that Video Games could drive someone to do something outlandish, especially a child who is still learning about the world, but video games are not the sole factor. I know that games are very entertaining but I do wonder what sort of negative effects they might be having on the human psyche. There is someone I know who lives near me in their early 20’s and ALL they do is sit at home and play video games. They have no other interests except for going to work to pay for the next upcoming game. On gorgeous sunny days he can be seen with the blinds closed in his room staring at a screen with a stupid headset on talking to all the other outcasts from across the world. It would be very easy to point a finger at those people, but when you think about it the key word is safety. Most of these recluses have the safety that when they are in the game world they never have to worry about violence because none of it is real. There is no fear about self awareness because you can be whoever you want to be. By today’s standards of gaming you can create characters of your own right down to the style of hair and eyebrow ridges. There is the obvious safety of having a constant opportunity to succeed, but the biggest safety of all is in knowing that if things are not going your way you can hit the off button, try again another time or never play again. In life we do not have the choice to hit the off button during difficult situations. We can’t all be the super hero with unrealistic biceps and an interesting back story. I do understand why so many people like to play games because they can have all the excitement of being in explosive social situations without any risk. The lust for gaming is best portrayed in the largely unknown James Cameron film Strange Days (1995) in which a unique piece of military equipment is leaked to the black market allowing people to take part in fully-immersive virtual reality where being apart of it is like being alive. The product attracts many rich bankers who would pay thousands just to experience sick and twisted fantasies.

Surely playing video games is just the same as watching regular TV except that you are stimulating your mind instead by putting it through scenarios alongside problem solving? perhaps this is why there is so little evidence of video games having the major impairment on young minds as the media would hope it would. In an article from last year on how video gaming effects the mind when dreaming a psychologist Jayne Gackenbach wrote:

“The major parallel between gaming and dreaming is that, in both instances, you’re in an alternate reality, whether a biological construct or a technological one,” she says. “It’s interesting to think about how these alternate realities translate to waking consciousness, when you are actually reacting to inputs from the real world.”

I agree that ever since I have had video gaming as a part of my life I have rarely had a bad dream. The closest I ever came to having a bad dream is an anxiety dream such as being late for work or common dreams like when your father breast feeds you at the tender age of 7 dressed in a clown costume. You attempt to cry and is greeted with complete silence. The only sound that can be heard is the chains handing from the ceiling clinking together and the drone of Beethoven’s 6th Symphony. (That was sarcasm by the way).

But seriously I do think that playing video games on a daily basis is not harmful, but it is when you are a complete recluse, and have no social interactions at all, then there is a problem! The person I mentioned previously was at risk of being detached from society all together. It is painful watching him in social situations but it is clear that he is making a conscious effort to get out and do things which are more fulfilling.

Just like everything we do in life the key is having balance and “taking everything in moderation” which I hate saying because it seems like such a parental thing to say. Video games are fun and just another form of entertainment and I would recommend for anyone at any age to try it!


Behind the mask, Behind the curtain

King Of Comedy (1982)

Everyone secretly wants to be loved or considered special. What we all have in common is that really we want to be liked by others and to gain respect, as this is something (like Love) that cannot be bought. In one of my favourite films The King of Comedy pictured above, Robert De Niro plays the character of Rupert Pupkin who has high hopes to be the next top chat show host in America just like his idol Jerry Lewis. It is unclear whether the fabric of the film is based largely in reality but what is clear is that Rupert is a fantasist. Rupert is so wound up in his goal, that he is willing to make a complete fool of himself no matter what the cost. The tragedy behind the film is that he is so desperate to shed his own image that he is unaware of what a fool he is becoming. Very early in the film during a rush of flashing lights from the press, and hundreds of fans clambering outside Jerry’s limousine, Rupert tries to pose as a security guard and manages to finagle his way into the back seat with Jerry. Dressed in a cheap polyester suit Rupert begs Jerry to let them drive on so he can get some advice from him. Even when Rupert is speaking to his idol he manages to maintain this heightened false-confidence until the following dialogue:

Rupert: Jerry believe me, I’m really good I’m dynamite and I wouldn’t take one minute of your time unless I thought I was dynamite…I’ve just been biding my time… I’m ready, and thinking as I’m sitting here now, this is my big break, this is my big chance. what do you think?

Jerry: Alright look pal, gotta tell you this is a crazy business but it is not like any other business, but there are ground rules! You don’t just walk on to a network show without experience! Now I know this is an old hackneyed expression but it happens to be the truth: you got to start at the bottom.

Rupert: I know that’s where, I am at the bottom!

JerryWell that’s a perfect place to start!

As I watch this film I realise that in varying degrees we all have a part of Rupert inside of us. We all want to be ‘stars’ in our own lives and will regularly embellish the intensity of our concerns and downplay our achievements. Although true in a sense of business, in life there is no such thing as ‘the bottom’ and nobody can claim to own the keys to happiness, regardless of how successful they are. Rupert as a character is very guarded and even when he is at home, he lives in his world of make believe talking to his cardboard cut outs of celebrities. When we are at home we might not be so deluded, and might feel a bit depressed at times, and on the rare occasion that this happens you might look down on yourself and think that your life isn’t as good as others. My advice to people who feel that way is to think hard about the lives of others. Somewhere at this exact moment in time someone is struggling to sleep because tomorrow they are going to court to fight their defence to a loosing case and could spend the rest of their life in prison. Somewhere at this exact moment someone is unwell in a hospital ward with no family by their side. Somewhere at this exact moment someone has confided in their family as a homosexual only to be cast out and abandoned by the ones that they love. Just because you do not see those people doesn’t mean that they do not exist. Those people would trade their lives with you in a heartbeat if they only had the chance. Okay maybe you are not buzzing and full of happiness but you are not in tears, you’re not on trial and you are not being rejected.

We all wear masks when we speak to our work colleagues, and even wear masks when we speak to our family. Hiding behind a mask and not showing your true colours can give someone strength and can be dangerous. We must never forget the importance of leaving your shell to try new experiences.

“When we lift the covers of our feelings, we expose our insecure spots. Trust is just as rare as devotion, forgive us our cynical thoughts. When we need too much approval, not content on being cool… we must throw ourselves wide open and start acting like a fool” – Emotion Detector, Rush

The lyric above is so true in expressing how we are so quick to adapt and change who we are just to win the approval of others. The truth is that everyone is doing, everyone is hiding. Maybe if we focus really hard on the interactions of others we will catch a moments glance from behind the mask or behind the curtain.

As in previous blogs I have written below a list of songs for you to try out which I think echo the point I was making above. If you have any song recommendations for me then I would welcome them in the comments section.

  • “Big Shot” – Billy Joel
  • “Don’t be shy” – Cat Stevens
  • “Poor boy” – Supertramp
  • “Emotion Detector” – Rush
  • “El Condor Pasa (If I Could) – Simon & Garfunkel
  • “Let’s Talk About Me” – The Alan Parsons Project
  • “Talk of the Town” – The Pretenders

Why you lied about David Bowie

bowie_on_tourWhat a surprise, another ‘Icon’ dies and in comes the floods of comments on social media about how this person made their life complete and that now he has died there is no more happiness left in the world and we should all just bloody kill ourselves. Come on, you know what you are doing! Bowie is exactly where he has always been (in your music collection) and anyone who says that he could have accomplished so much more if he had lived on, is kidding themselves. David Bowie has a wealth of work behind him and is a respectable person in music history, and he doesn’t need lousy comments from some 16 year old girl who only owns the greatest hits of Bowie, andsearches the internet for some scrap of Bowie lyrics, trying to pass themselves off as a mega-fan. In my personal opinion the only people who can truly mourn David Bowie are those people who have met him personally, spent lots of personal time with the man and who were able to see behind the façade that is fame. Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that people shouldn’t be allowed to feel upset that an artist has past away, but do not cheapen the moment by trying to win the competition of who was the biggest fan. Every time I see a status by someone who is showing their Bowie Vinyl collection or writing comments like “RIP Bowie – So glad I saw you live” I want them to be banned from ever using the internet again. Who is so rushed to pass on their condolences that they need to write “RIP” instead of “Rest In Peace”. Perhaps this need for speed comes from the very fabric of this current generation, who never truly appreciate the magic of music until the artist has died. I am quite comfortable with the fact that David Bowie is gone, as well as Kurt Cobain and even Michael Jackson because they have already spoken to me through their art, and that feeling will never go away. I do not understand the need to plaster your facebook wall with ramblings about David Bowie unless you are craving attention yourself, almost as if you want to be seen on some high pedestal as the only person who truly understood the man behind the work. When statuses are written like “RIP David, thank you for all the great tunes, is there life on mars?” It makes me wish that David Bowie could respond, and that his Status would read something like this:

“Sorry I am not sure who you are, but I am curious that now I am deceased you see fit to thank me? Where was my thanks over the course of my entire career? Also, If you thought I was dead did you really think I would be logging on to some sort of ‘afterlife twitter’, where I can massage my ego reading about your nonsense. I once wrote a song called “Life on Mars” which was released in 1970 as part of my Hunky Dory album, but I am not sure why you have tagged on the title of that song to the end of your status? Surely if you wanted even the illusion of profundity you would have used a lyric from ‘Changes’ as that would be more fitting?”

In most cases I do not think people intend on sending the wrong message about Bowie, but when you see people writing such awful statuses you realise how hard it is to use any sort of medium to express how we are feeling inside. Art has always been an outlet for people to express their inwards feelings (outwardly) even if those concepts are hard to stomach. The great Bertrand Russell wrote in his book the Conquest Of Happiness (1930) that “When the public cannot understand a picture or a poem they conclude that it is a bad picture or a bad poem. When they cannot understand the theory of relativity they conclude (rightly) that their education has been insufficient. Consequently Einstein is honoured whilst the best painters are (or at least were) left to starve in garrets, and Einstein is happy while the painters are unhappy”. Doesn’t this statement just sum up the inconsistency of how we appreciate achievement and the true values of great art. Hopefully in the future our culture will open our minds properly and show as much respect for many different types of complex art not just so we can use it as a shield, but so we can use it as a medicine.

Narcissism, Fantasy and Kindness

narcStory__1295877243_8974Too often I am in the presence of someone who is living in a fantasy, delusions of grandeur wash over them like some rancid stench. The workplace is the real breeding ground for egotism and self-centred behaviour. Although some would say that having high levels of competition within the workplace can be healthy it is when this sense of entitlement starts to enter into private affairs and social gatherings that I find this hard to endure.

I find it disgusting when people flaunt their titles inside or outside of work, as if it is some sort of medal of respect that we must all bow down to. I do not believe that people are solely responsible for who they are inside, and alot of their hang ups can stem from childhood or lack of exposure/opportunity.

A possible driving factor that makes people arrogant can be the pressures they receive from friends and family, or the hidden rivalry that exists between siblings. Through growing up under the wing of parents with such high expectations this could drive someone to become very keen to succeed and meet their personal targets that they lose sight of their own virtues and beliefs. Some people are just not given the opportunity to explore how they feel in certain situations or simply do not house the critical faculties to make a personal diagnosis.

I believe that for many people the ultimate dream can be summed up very simply. We do well at school, get the perfect job, meet the perfect partner, marry, have children and then die after living off a wealthy pension. In many strengths this has happened over and over again. Is it the media that has furnished this comfortable schedule for us? Perhaps it is the fear of not leaving something behind that drives people to pass on their genetic material with such urgency. I do not mean to say that people who chose this path are wrong but I find it hard to buy into this fantasy.

I think that real achievements can be demonstrated through our abilities to empathise and connect with other people. I wish I had the right tools to make people feel better and to act in a more altruistic way but with social media being at the helm of society it is often hard to engage with others. Whenever someone puts themselves in a light that shows them to be vulnerable or humble this provides me with noting but respect. I think the reason I can relate to this is that I am not a very smart person and I often like to paint myself up as being smarter than I am, in an effort to protect myself from being dissected or ridiculed.

The irony is that to show yourself off as being a charitable person is not selfless because you are using it as a vehicle to raise your own profile. I do not believe that most people can see this side of it, but facebook can often blur these lines of intention. To overcome sadness in the world we need to try and be kind to others, make them laugh… make fun of yourself and actually do it face to face, without cowering behind this safety blanket that is social media.

Masking Anxiety: The Modern Day ‘Natural Selection’

theweb1‘Natural selection’ was a term coined by Charles Darwin to describe the differences that we find in traits of species and their ability to survive within the theory of evolution. What is often forgotten whilst we casually sip on our cappuccino, or read the latest review of the most recent blockbuster is that the animal process of evolution is still ongoing whilst we barricade ourselves away from it.

When you examine the human species we no longer have to worry about hunting for food as this is provided for us, and obtained through a leisurely walk to our nearest convenience store. Shelter is also provided by a system of government and services that we pay for.

Outside of basic needs the modern day man or woman has to learn how to interact with other people living within this system that we created on planet earth. When you know the importance of paying your bills and the importance of waking up in the morning this is all to the backdrop of a system of enslavement. It can often feel like you are working for 90% of your life just so that you can enjoy the remaining 10% where you actually have some sort of parody of freedom.

Selfishly, I am only concerned with internal dialogue. I feel as if I am an introvert who is trying to convince the world that I am an extrovert. We chose to live in our mundane existence which is punctuated by boredom and private suffering. Normally people like to think that the only ones who hold an internal dialogue are mental patients of suicide victims. People are often so quick to judge the reasons behind a suicide, when I believe that often nobody comes close to scratching the surface on an emotional level. We all have fears, dreams, anxieties and regrets. Success or praise is often short lived or disregarded. The main catalyst in modern day life is anxiety. I read in a psychology journal that when people are often angry it is a indirect reaction to feeling sad or embarrassed. When you are having an interaction and you feel sad notice how this can often changes to anger in a matter of seconds. Since I heard this I have looked back on every interaction I can think of, and it paints a different picture of those people.

I only wish that we could all have the same ability to reconcile our insignificant differences on this planet. Life is fucking hard, (and if it’s not) you will find a way to make it harder. Introspection can help you to find your darkest fears and anxieties. Building a wall around yourself and hiding in your shell was perfectly described in the arguably brilliant Pink Floyd album “The Wall”. Like the character in this progressive rock concept album we must learn not to put ourselves on trial like our brains tells us to and break free from the boundaries of our own internal dialogue.

It can feel like by hiding our true feelings that we are protecting ourselves from the harsh opinions of others and how we are seen. The fragility of our place in society makes us a target for ridicule or being disowned by the ones we love. Appearing vulnerable in public can often be the end of us and how we are judged going forward. As Aimee Mann so greatly put it in her lyric

“People are tricky, you can’t afford to show, anything risky anything they don’t know… the moment you try (kiss it goodbye!)”

Just remember, that saying to someone “You mean alot to me, you help me to cope” could make a world of difference in their lives as well as your own. And also remember that you are not special, neither is your family and neither is your place on this tiny planet which is a insignificant speck of dust floating through eternity. People can be awful to other people and say nasty insulting things. Through passive aggressive behaviours whether that is from a parent or colleague at work this never fails to hurt you eventually. Learning to be kind to others and float above all of the politics and snobbery of life can help you reach a must stronger personal ‘nirvana’.

Poetry is often wrongly painted up as being a stuffy subject, and certainly something that alot of people do not have time for, but music is the modern form of poetry and below I have written some songs that help me cope alongside the above points, I hope you will listen and agree:

  • “It’s Not” – Aimee Mann (Describing her condition after drug rehabilitation)
  • “Most of the time” – Bob Dylan (He is trying to convince you that he has gotten over his girlfriend who left him)
  • “Both Sides Now” – Joni Mitchell
  • “A Singer Must Die” – Leonard Cohen
  • “Don’t Let It Bring You Down” – Neil Young
  • “Hide In Your Shell” – Supertramp

If you haven’t learnt yet about the powerful healing that comes from listening to music then you need to visit your local independent music shop and let them tell you something above musicians and their poetic ways to overcome anxiety.

If you are reading this then I hope this has helped you. I will hopefully continue to write blogs on different subjects in a similar scatterbrain nonsense format.