Category: Uncategorized

Why Dota 2 Is Navy Blue

A hallmark of depression is an ongoing attempt to fade out. That’s what it’s like for me anyway. The signal connecting me to the rest of the world sputters and struggles. Conversations turn to static, the future is a station I don’t have the right antenna for, everywhere there are blanks and so I start reciprocating and blanking myself out too.

There used to be a lot of navy blue in my wardrobe at these junctures. Not a rich, dark navy but the powdery one that comes from too many washes and wears. It’s a colour which, already faded, is rendered near-invisible by the ubiquity of denim in our clothes-scape. Wear an oversized navy sweater and jeans and you can slip out of view.

Last year was rough in terms of depression. It’s been part of my life for seventeen years and there’s an ebb and flow to it. That’s not to suggest it has any kind of tidal regularity which would be useful in predicting or dealing with it, though. Sometimes it creeps towards you, giving you time to pack up your things and move elsewhere, mentally. Sometimes it rushes in with alarming speed and threatens to wash you away.

I actually try not to wear that powdery overwashed shade of navy because I know why I do it and I’m trying to reverse cause and effect. It’s bizarrely important to me that my hoodie is now a mossy green, for example. But there are other manifestations of navy blue I hadn’t expected. Last year one of them was a videogame; Dota 2.

Playing as part of a team of five people is a social experience, simply by virtue of other people being there. There’s basic co-operation needed to fight the other team, in-game chat options and, if you play with friends, voices on the end of a Skype call. It’s very easy to sit and listen as you click around the map, to fade out but convince yourself you’ve somehow succeeded in being with other people for a while, that you’re maybe dealing with depression better this time because TEAMWORK!

It took far longer than it should have to realise what was really happening because, if I’m honest, I would still love there to be a way out of this disease. I wanted playing Dota to be the answer because I still want there to be an answer. Any answer. That feeling will probably never go away.

I realised that Dota had become my new navy blue when I realised I was no longer learning anything and hadn’t in months. I have a broad understanding of the game, where to stand, who to aim at, but it ended up stagnating. Each game was another wash and wear. Gradually my Dota playing faded to a powdery navy. Out of date, comfortable, safe, anonymous.

I’ve had to do the same thing as with my actual clothes, attempting to invert cause and effect. It’s harder to do with a mindset, though. Part of dealing with it has been following the professional eSports scene. Paying attention to newness and innovation, keeping up with patches, finding ways to play actively rather than passively.

In games, it’s easier with strangers, like how going to a party where you know no-one and can reinvent yourself is sometimes easier than an evening where you know one or two people and realise you’ve been cycling through the same old topics of conversation while picking at nachos for two hours. With friends the effort has to be redoubled because everyone forms habits, some in response to your own. Shifting all of that by a few degrees of action and aggression will take a while, I think.

There isn’t really an ending to this story because I’m hoping that it actually represents a beginning. After a while keeping particular shades of blue from my wardrobe became something I did automatically. I hope that doing the same for a videogame mindset will see it become second nature too. So far the results, or at least the differences, have been positive and I think I have a lot to gain in pursuing the idea.

Kate Moss, Playboy and Harper's Bazaar: Let's talk about covershoot reporting

Playboy is suing Harper’s Bazaar publisher Hearst for $1.35 million over publication of nude photos of Kate Moss (that’s $150,000 per image).

The thing is that Harpers Bazaar wasn’t actually the site publishing the nude pictures. Instead it was linking to another site which had posted nine images from the shoot under the title “Save yourself a fiver. Here’s Kate Moss’ NSFW spread from Playboy”.

Kate Moss for Playboy
Kate Moss for Playboy

As part of the filing (I can’t find an actual copy of the lawsuit so these are quotes taken from the reporting of the subject) Playboy says that it “welcomed the media’s reporting and discussion of its images” but that “Hearst’s link to the Entertainment.ie website page cannot be justified by any suggestion that Hearst was reporting the news of Ms. Moss’s appearance in the 60th Anniversary Issue.”

It’s those comments which made me wonder whether the general public know how magazine covershoot reporting tends to work. It used to be part of my job so here’s a basic account:

A magazine will do a shoot and interview with its cover star. It will then send a selection of the photos and sometimes a few headline-worthy quotes out to websites and newspapers for them to use in articles.

The system has an obvious benefit for the magazine in terms of free publicity but what’s in it for the websites and papers? Why feature a competitor?

The answer is “quality” and “quantity”.

Quality:
Magazines still set aside swathes of budget for photoshoots with production values and levels of access that a lot of websites and dailies can only dream of. Taking the magazine’s shots is a way to get premium images and juicy quotes into your publication without having to pay the production costs.

Quantity:
The Internet and the daily publishing scene are always hungry for content. Taking up these images and quotes can mean at least one extra news story or perhaps a picture gallery if you’re online resulting in more space filled and more page impressions for your publication. It’s why sites are constantly featuring tweets of the rich and the famous – there will alway be an audience for name recognition and the smaller you can carve up the news snippets the more articles (and page views) you can generate.

But the covershoot back-scratching above usually begins life as an email with a hefty dose of legalese attached. There are usually agreements to sign and return if you want the right to use those high quality pictures and they include a raft of stipulations regarding the coverage. Amongst the things I’ve seen magazines specify are:

  • How many images you can use
  • That the magazine title must be mentioned in the first line of the first paragraph
  • That no negative or critical language may be used in the article relating to the celebrity or the magazine
  • That the magazine cover image MUST appear in the article
  • That the magazine cover must appear no smaller than a certain pixel or inch size
  • That the publication date of the magazine must appear along with a link to the magazine’s website
  • How many thousands of pounds you will be liable for if you break any of these terms

To my recollection none has ever specified that you must not link to sites which contain the entire feature or shoot but that would clearly go against the spirit of everything I have outlined above – that is to say a mutually financially beneficial arrangement that can’t be classed as advertorial because it isn’t advertorial but sits in an advertorial-adjacent grey area.

In terms of the Kate Moss Playboy pictures, I’ve been looking at the initial reporting regarding the photoshoot. The articles are clustered around 2-3 December (likely when the embargo broke) and feature the same set of clothed/covered up pictures of Kate Moss all with similar credit lines.

I don’t work in that industry anymore so I can’t say for certain but comparing a number of different articles I’d guess Playboy seeded three photos from the shoot as well as the cover with the requirement that they were all credited to Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott for Playboy. They probably also stipulated that the sale details for the magazine and a link to the Playboy website appeared and I’d assume they added in the standard clause regarding negative remarks about Playboy and Kate Moss.

In terms of the Harper’s situation, my guess is that the agreement with Playboy (if there even was one – after all, the article as it currently appears doesn’t use any of the images likely seeded by Playboy) didn’t make an explicit “no urls to people posting the rest of the shoot without our permission” clause and so Harper’s decided to take the risk, inflating the page views for the article by catering to those looking for the pictures of Kate Moss in the buff but not actually hosting the content themselves.

How the lawsuit develops and to what extent Harper’s Bazaar can be held legally responsible for an infringement conducted by another site will be of interest professionally but I would also be more than happy if this situation provokes a discussion of the practice of reporting magazine shoots. They’re not advertorial so legally speaking you don’t have to mark them as such, but you’re often posting content with restrictions imposed from outside in the same space you use for content which has no such editorial restrictions imposed upon it. To my mind that’s problematic.

Double Flawless – an interview with Danielle Meder

Fashion illustrator Danielle Meder has redrawn five of gaming’s most iconic female characters giving each of them a high fashion makeover. Princess Zelda, Chun-Li, Mileena, Commander Shepard and Lara Croft have all been gifted a designer wardrobe courtesy of Meder’s pen. But the makeovers are not designed to turn these women into passive clothes horses. Instead each outfit looks to reveal aspects of the characters while appealing to a predominantly female audience.

Co-founder of Gamercamp, Jaime Woo set up the Double Flawlesscollaboration with Meder after seeing fashion site Tom & Lorenzo critiquing Mad Men‘s costuming choices. “It struck me that nothing of this depth could be written about videogame characters,” says Woo. “It seemed interesting to me then to recontextualise female characters in high fashion, and [I] approached Danielle to collaborate. I was thrilled that she saw where I wanted to go with it and then she took it to some amazing places.”

[Full interview at Wired.co.uk]

Gone Home – an interview with Steve Gaynor

In Gone Home, The Fullbright Company has created a delicate coming-of-age tale steeped in nineties teen nostalgia and with a gloriously believable female protagonist. A positive critical response met the game’s initial release but far more interesting was the outpouring of smaller-scale personal reactions prompted by Gone Homewhich started to pepper Twitter.

Steve Gaynor, co-founder of The Fullbright Company told Wired.co.uk that as well as the steady stream of tweets, the developers have been getting private messages from players keen to share the effect of the game. “We’ve gotten a lot of very heartfelt emails and tweets from people who identify deeply with the game. It has been really great.”

In terms of particular writing, Gaynor cites response pieces [beware spoilers] by Merritt Kopas and Danielle Riendeau — “[they] really meant a lot to us.”

The story of teenager, Sam unfolds through a paper trail of notes, pictures and memorabilia scattered throughout a sprawling mansion and discovered by her sister Kaitlin. Some are plot-relevant and others serve to round out the characters of the family. At two points I laughed out loud — once when turning over a note written in class between Sam and her friend for a punchline I wasn’t expecting and the other when the game offered up a note telling Sam to stop leaving the lights on — “You’re as bad as your sister!”

[Full interview at Wired.co.uk]

Boob Jam – an interview with Jenn Frank

“I love tits — tits are great! But I think we can have different conversations. I think people are ready.”

Games writer Jenn Frank, whose voice you may recognise from Super Hexagon, is telling Wired.co.uk about Boob Jam, a game jam aimed at broadening the conversations we have about breasts.

Boob Jam came into being almost by accident. Frank describes the scenario as “a joke that got crowdsourced into so many good ideas and so many vantages that aren’t mine that I wanted this to happen.”

[Full interview at Wired.co.uk]