Newstopia, episode 9 (aired 26 nov)

It’s hard to review newstopia as it’s a sort of fast paced collage. What stands out to you? There’s a stab at token funding of electric cars at about 1:16, but the movie ‘Australia’ gets a jab before that, and even before that Heather Mills McCartney, and lamo police training actors (just run through the damn capsicum spray and wack him, for christ’s sake!)

Not that it stops there – the wave of small jokes is kind of like a continual carrier wave of amusement to quickly pay you off for plonking your arse down and focusing. Hell, all entertainment really needs to maintain a carrier wave to assert its ‘definite’ enjoyability. Sadly, focus actually is a resource that is spent, not something that’s on tap for free.

But yeah, moving on you get a piece about global warming, bank collapses and less fuel/cars being bought. Then some deliberately spurious footage of a super car (carrier wave!). The whole thing ends in a bit of a lame dog eat dog pun. It essentially ping pongs the ideas involved back and forth a bit in front of you with a thin trail of absurdity there to keep it something you want to do rather than typical ‘you have to deal with it, like it or not’ news.

In some ways I’d describe it as being like ‘Behind the news’ for adults. You know the ABC program ‘Behind the news’ (Also called BTN) that describes current news for kids/young teens, explaining the base situation more and rounding it out in a, again, well paced environment.

Is that a slap or a accolade? God knows!? I just write this stuff!

Then there’s a piece on the Lemur hosting the APEC conference…with extreme prejudice, apparently. I think it was Lemur, anyway. Newstopia has a sort of running gag of taking real, horrible events that don’t get much (if any) time on the regular news, then spin some humour after them. However this piece rather quickly got onto some light hearted gags about the chaser team dying horribly. So I don’t quite know what event Newstopia was bringing to my attention. Little overbalanced, that one. Anyway, at a entertainment level its an interesting one – I think MiCallefs muttered line at the end is both a compliment to the chaser team and perhaps self depreciation about his ratings? I don’t know. Curiouser and curiouser!

Oh, I do like the next bit about political jargon language. I’ll get political and ‘edgy’ for a moment. I’d love a sketch where you see some caveman bellow loudly when a sabre tooth tiger appears, alerting all the rest of the tribe to the danger. Then see a politician sent back in time, observing the sabre tooth tiger approaching, and going into allot of diplomatic bullshit words, entreaties, bargaining, then his bloody death…wow, could almost light a cigarette after that one! Perhaps showing that chart where you see mans evolution, from ape, through various figures rising up to straight standing homosapiens. Then the estimate diagrams for what it’ll take for us to survive – the figures collapsing over again, becoming more like the caveman. Seriously, words are dying – their used by politicians like they have some inherent meaning to them. But it’s just like crying ‘Wolf!’. The meaning of the word dies because it’s not inherent – there actually has to be a wolf demonstrated to be there.

Okay, long moment, but it’s over now! Zimbabwe! A parody of the ‘Australia’ movie, it comments on Zimbabwe’s political situation and does a rather good example of how with the right emphasis and spin, you can make a brutal dictator look the heroic protagonist! And hell, why not – history is written by the winners…assuming they can spell. Or decide to write any history at all. Hmm, I suppose any arrising conflict actually kills the very assumption there will be history after it at all. Anyway, a must see!

The next bit with the ‘false bottom’ joke, is something I mentally skip. Really, tacitly accepted rape in prisons by state and populace alike isn’t funny. If we want prisoners randomly raped, we should make it a clear out and out law that they must be raped, or get rid of rape in prisons entirely. Well, get rid of rape everywhere…but as you can see its a big issue, so getting explosive about one joke wont do much except tire me out in the long term.

And then Jessica the teen school girl is back! I was wondering when she’d turn up again, after a previous appearance. She’s actually a pretty dead on rendition of a teen girl. Though I have to say, if she saw a sabre tooth tiger I bet she’d yell ‘FUCK!’ really loudly. I hope the program doesn’t just use the Jessica character as a kicking bag and recognise that the directness is atleast a form of honestly and clarity.

The next thing about drug testing

Micallef “How do we know there’s no need to test them? There might be more need if we tested them more frequently?”

“What, they might need to be tested more frequently if they were tested more frequently?”, said with a disparaging grimace.

Damn, this is what I’ve seen over and over in various forums. You say something that makes sense and then the other person makes an absolute dogs breakfast of the logic and then looking at the dogs breakfast they made they look at you as if that’s what you wanted and are you stupid?

Then there’s man in time. I’m always a little skeptical about the man in time segment – I always think the bit of footage before it is a bit of easy filler. I almost expect to hear them add a voice in over the back of it self referencing that. Anyway, made me laugh – short and punchy one this week.

Oh, and I love the little mechanic they use where Micallef introduces something they will show ‘latter’ in the program, and they cut to a ‘sample’ of it. It’s not going to be shown latter, it’s just that small bit. But it really cuts straight to the chase of the setting of an interview and the primary gag of it. Brilliant bit of design, that one!

Then there’s the obligatory bunnings warehouse joke. Tis good! BUT when they pan out with the multiple images, it always reminds me of the ‘Alert, not alarmed’ campaign where they pan out with multiple images of potential terrorism. I’ve been waiting SOOOO long for them to tie the two together! Will it ever happen, or will my heart be broken?

Ah, there’s more, there’s more. But I’m becoming tired, sleepy, a little despondent and wondering how the potato plants are doing in the back yard. Hope this informed you and helped discuss it all a bit. The episodes rush by so fast on often deep topics, it seems a shame they don’t get further investigation.

Hehe, I got in Newstopia’s user comment spotlight

And I’ll repost it here, since SBS will rip the websight away as soon as the series ends

I found the obsequious Micallef rather disturbing and it reduced my comfort rating of this planet in a general sense.

Bring back pantomime hitler!

 And…yeah. Just being a fawning fanboy…I guess some self referential humour right now might raise me out of that quagmire of fanboy glee. Ummm. Yeah.

Also you can watch the latest episode here

Did I mention I think I saw Micallef in St Kilda park. Twice! I even saw him buy something at the newsagent. Well, I think it was him. He was very quiet, perhaps on covert operations…though he picked up his pace after awhile…it was quite hard to keep following him everywhere…


No, I jest! I do!

System matters, but system doesn’t control sympathy

Can you imagine the ‘give’ mechanic in dogs in the vineyard being called ‘#532’ instead? Imagine it was that way the first time you played.

Had this discussion with Tommi over at Cogito, ergo ludo.

Tommi said,


Giving is indeed a mechanical choice, but whether one gives or not is greatly influenced by narration; as some people in the linked thread mentioned, given a sufficiently emotionally powerful narration, they’ll give, even if the by the mechanics they could stay in the conflict or even win it.

Hence the narration matters a great deal as it affects the factual outcome of conflicts.

Likewise, take Capes. It is advantageous to push the buttons of other people, because that way they will oppose you, which will give you resources. Hence, some narration is simply more effective a move than narration other players care less about.

I responded with this…

Whether you give IS greatly influenced by narration? Or CAN be greatly influenced?

There’s nothing reaching out into the brain of the player and controlling his synapses, of course. I would say it is merely ‘can’.

Indeed, the default is not to be influenced by narration at all – giving or not giving are just two buttons, press one. That’s it. No further influence.

Being influenced by narration, I would say, is an aberration. In a good way, but aberration none the less. It’s an aberration of how things really are – that there is zero narration influence on whether you give, by default.

What I usually run into though is that gamers see zero narration influence as the aberration (abomination, usually), and being strongly influenced by the narration as the default of how things/reality really is.

as some people in the linked thread mentioned, given a sufficiently emotionally powerful narration, they’ll give, even if the by the mechanics they could stay in the conflict or even win it.

If they had two buttons in front of them, one marked ‘Give’ and one marked ‘Don’t give’, prove to me something physically stopped them from pressing ‘Don’t give’ and I’ll see the merit in your claim.

Tommi, there’s nothing there. There’s only the listeners decision to be sympathetic to the narration. Which is a wonderful thing! But that doesn’t mean he’s greatly influenced by narration. It means he chose to be greatly influenced. Very different. It’s a decision by a listener – it is not how roleplay games actually work by default.


Oh, just had a quick example pop to mind.

If you had a roleplay system where you replaced the buttons with abstract terms – like replace ‘give’ with ‘#532′

Okay, run the person through it with abstract terms. THAT’S how a roleplay game works by default. No sympathy, no soul at all. THAT is mechanics in play.

A sip of non-authorship

I was reading ‘play this thing‘ recently. The review described a very illusionist game that had come out. This makes me angry at a certain level. But then ‘andyhavens’ posted this:

it’s a metaphor, eh?

you know… death? graveyard? can’t avoid it even if we want to… maybe especially if we want to. we have an illusion of control in life, because we can move up/down/left/right… we can walk, talk, etc… we can have wine with dinner, or not… but in the end, we die. we always move to the end of the game, regardless of input.

this is “more art” as a game, because the point about the illusion of control is made more strongly when you (the player/viewer) are given that illusionary control. if it were a film, the illusion of control is impossible; the audience knows it has no control.

I find it strangely wonderful.

And this makes me even more angry. No, not at andyhavens…but this is what I wrote in response

No, it’s co-authorship made dishonest

When your given control in a game, it’s to make you a co-author. This game gives you controls, then dishonestly says ‘Oh, by the way, you do everything just as I say – I’m the only author here, I just humoured your idea that you’d get to author in order to get you to listen to MY story’

If your not interested in authorship and just want to drink in what is there, then I compare that to drinking alchohol. Doing it a bit is okay, but if you binge on this, your just an alcoholic looking to wash away this world with someone else’s brew. 

And it struck me how apt that alcohol comparison appears to be. So many freaking games are just a predictable tunnel, where you experience exactly the authors story and the only thing people will complain about are the graphics. It’s just booze – they don’t want co-authorship, they just want wash away this world with another persons brew. Ten million people on world of warcraft for absolutely no story impact whatsoever – pure alcoholism.

The worst thing is I advocate for a game like say, metal slug, to have a story, even though you in no way effect it. But that’s because metal slug is about hard gameplay first, then story as a side garnish that you don’t eat. That’s fair enough.

But somehow that gets twisted into the mmorpg model, where you’ll never effect story – and yet gameplay difficulty is only a garnish. Lets face it, the mmorpg is about story, and yet it denies co-authorship (oh, apart from how you can dress you ‘toon’) AND THIS IS LAPPED UP. It’s alcoholism – wash away this world for another.

I’m not against a few drinks here and there. But when does it become binging?

Demo of a forest survial game gone gun happy

Wrote this small demo awhile ago and decided to compile it.

It was sort of the base for an unreal world like game (like nethack, but you wander forests and earn your living by hunting. And if you don’t know what nethack is, your on the wrong blog).

It’s funny – while in unreal world, I would just walk through its forests quite merrily, I cannot bear to write such a thing myself. I guess in unreal world I never quite knew when it was going to be utterly predictable and what would come up. In my own game, I’m all too aware.

So I wrote a shoot ’em up. Indeed, a spiritual shoot ’em up. You shoot feelings of fatigue, despair, thirst, hunger, etc. It’s sort of an internal struggle externalised to a blast fest 🙂 Inspired by apache overkill (yeah, I wrote about that game recently, but was inspired by it awhile ago).

Edit: Actually, I don’t like the word inspired. What I mean is I saw the thing, saw there was some good quality in it that I liked and tried to figure out what it was, then use that. Pedantic, but yeah, there you go.