Even Better than the Real Thing

Occasionally something leaps out at me from my conversations with Twitter with the capacity to change thinking completely. Last night, @_thunderspank linked a trailer for the new PS4 game Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, making extensive use of the Unreal 4 ‘engine’ which, for those of you who don’t do gaming, is a software framework in which it is possible to capture and create completely believable virtual versions of reality. This is a system used both by commercial companies and the military to run simulation tech. With the help of a combination of other specialist organisations, motion capture has finally become possible with the minimum of inconvenience to an actor. Sure, there’s a phenomenal amount of work to get to the stage where an individual can manipulate their virtual avatar, but the results… well, they’re amazing.

Viewing this trailer last night it was only at a minute in that I realised I wasn’t watching a real actress.

Things have come a long way from the early days of pixelated avatars: one only needs to look at Mario in his current incarnation to realise the differences and improvements that have been wrought by better processor power and higher resolutions. However, the consequences of this ‘format’ wielded by a true independent member of the game world could allow the door to open for more organic developments of the technology, possibly along unexpected lines. Certainly the game that allows you to play as yourself cannot be too far off, and with the current obsession with image that many people possess and flaunt on a daily basis online, the consequences of going down that path are enough to make me feel distinctly uncomfortable.

However, I suspect the porn industry will be looking at this tech very closely indeed, because with the ability to create hyper realistic humans that can be controlled in real time? The future has to be VR Sex without a single Robot Woman in sight.

This is one of those moments where gaming is at a crossroads: a large proportion of the industry appears obsessed with esports and monetising the planet to exploit that, whilst others have a more theatrical and artistic vision of the future. I know which version I’d like to ascribe to, especially as the former appear to have only passing interest in diversity or anyone over the age of 30. Once someone has the common sense to float a ‘Senior’s esports league, or actively encourages women to take part? Then I’ll listen. For now, the future for me will be gaming where I’m the one who dictates the action. This then raises the question of whether I’d even want an adventure where I was able to be myself.

In retrospect, I don’t find any enjoyment in simulations of reality. What really drives interest and longevity for me is the ability to be someone else, or something… in fact, anything EXCEPT what I am. Virtual reality will require an investment from the user in the exact same way any normal game would hope for. The longer you are prepared to invest in a virtual world, the more likely you are not only to succeed within it but get an equal amount of enjoyment in return. Hyper-realism is great, to a point. Like most concepts, it will very much rely on the quality of material provided by developers in order to produce an engaging product.

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My favoured escape is about to launch its latest round of online content next week. One upon a time this would be enough to have me excited, but now there is simply a quiet acceptance of time passing, and the ideals I signed up for effectively becoming insignificant. As long as I remain able to enjoy myself, I’ll keep playing. As to what will drive people to play and spend money in the future?

I can pretty much guarantee I won’t be the target audience.

Quiet Life

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Is this what it’s like to be normal?

Yesterday, I went shopping and bought a lovely military style jacket. I had a burger for lunch and cake for dinner. Today, I went for a haircut, and did some PT, and didn’t worry about nuclear winters or stupidity or anything really significant. I saw someone do something REALLY stupid in public and wrote a letter telling her employers that this wasn’t very sensible. I got up to date on chores, and remembered that my body actually looks good. There was, and still is, minimal stress. I’ve had a really good day.

Then I remembered why this doesn’t happen nearly as much as it should do. There’s a group of people who mean well, and are really lovely, but they complain too much. They’re grumpy and antagonistic and think that the only way stuff changes is if they say so. They pronounce opinion with the arrogance that only comes when nobody can tell them they’re wrong. A lot of these people, sadly, are gamers. I wish they weren’t but there you have it.

People told me I couldn’t better myself. I was stupid trying to start my own business. I’d not be a weightlifter in my 50’s. Why was I doing all this? Well, that’s obvious, this is an entirely self generated exercise in attention seeking and I’m going to fail. Well, guess what? I don’t care how many times that happens because when it does I just pick myself up and try harder. When I do try, remarkable things happen, and my life gets better. The less I listen to bigoted, narrow minded cockwombles, the more amazing my confidence becomes.

You’re on this earth for a stupidly short space of time. Some stuff you can do nothing about, so focus on the achievable, not the ridiculous. You don’t have to do it all, just the stuff that makes you happy. If you don’t know what that is?

Go and find out.

The Politics of Dancing

There’s a temptation to just spill the beans completely on my future plans, as I’m totally useless at suspense or keeping secrets, but because I understand that people get interest by drip-feeding information, it is time to say just this. The URL  internetofwords.com now points at my writing site. It’s a play on words (unsurprisingly) from the Internet of Things:

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I decided that, if I’m going to explore all aspects of how language online works, why communication has transformed our lives via social media plus all points in between, then the Internet of Words would be a great umbrella title for all of these ideas and more, including my own writing on the subject. That means my noun needs a definition:

‘The interconnection via the Internet of thoughts, ideas and writing styles embedded in social media, blogs, mobile apps and web pages, enabling new forms of communication.’

I realise this is going to get a bit cerebral for some people, but the plan in the first instance is to stick with simplicity and to explore what already exists on ‘paper’ and ‘online’ as a starting point. It also means I can include my own writing work legitimately as part of the project, as I’ll be using the Internet as marketing and advertising combined. It seems really rather lofty at Ground Zero, but I really hope I can make it both engaging and interesting at the same time. Only time will tell, I suppose, but I am insanely excited at the possibilities thus far.

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It also allows me to offer merchandise as tier rewards, but to do that I’m going to need a logo. The irony last night of me announcing this need was being followed by a number of Twitter bots offering design services, which is how life works around this parish. I think I’d like to do something myself with type and a simple graphic element, and I’ll be taking the weekend to looking for suitable fonts, that will also translate onto the webspace. I don’t want to spend money on things I can do myself if possible either, because I’m quite a frugal soul when it comes down to it. Mostly, the look of my project does matter a great deal, but not nearly as much as the content :D

There’s a lot to think about, but this I feel is a solid start.

This is Mine

I’m lying in bed, having coughed and sniffed a tun of green goo out of my body, and the temptation to stay right here is immense, especially as there are no kids to look after. I’m terrible at taking care of myself, when all is said and done. It would be simpler, surely, just to turn over and go back to sleep. Then, looking through social media I see a series of things that make me realise that actually, the last thing I want to be doing is lying down. Then, I ask the question: given the choice, where would you want to be right now? Given the choice between nothing, gaming or exercise, which one would win as relaxation?

The answer was, I have to say, a pleasant surprise, and that’s why as soon as this is written I’ll be off to the Gym, confident I am no longer infectious. In a straight race, exercise now beats gaming as what I’d do to relax, and that’s something that might take some getting used to.

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NaNoWriMo’s starting on Tuesday, and I’ll be committing to screen a story that has lived in my head for some time, which is wrapped around the notion that fate isn’t a constant: the Sarah Connor belief that life is doomed because the future has dictated it only true if you allow it to be. There should be no fate but what we make, but the reality of this and so much else is a long way from the cinematic pronouncements. For me, I could succumb to a day of lounging and faffing, but the reality now is that to keep moving forward, I have to do just that. In fact, if I stop it’s probably more dangerous now than it has been at any point in the recent past. I’ve dosed myself up with drugs, and because I can still breathe reasonably well there is nothing stopping me being on a treadmill and lifting weights. Once upon a time I would have felt sorry for myself, but that person’s not making the decisions any more.

The New Me is in control, and understands the importance of moving forward.

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However much fun gaming is (and it is) that is no substitute for health. I watch those who complain that even gaming is too much work, and wonder how these individuals function on a daily basis. For me, at least right now, forward motion is no longer a list of things on a screen. It is knowing I clocked 12k steps on a day when I wasn’t badly ill, I was just feeling a bit sorry for myself. Ironically, were it not for being ill yesterday, deciding to stay home and writing, I suspect this epiphany wouldn’t have happenedI finally finished the Bondfic, all 77k words of it, and now that is done I can look at the understanding that if I really do put my mind to words, magnificent things can and do happen. This gives me not only hope for NaNoWriMo, but the future generally. There is a way to do everything I want, if I allow myself the space to breathe, and I’ve only learnt to do that properly thanks to the exercise.

Going forward, I am beyond excited for the possibilities.