Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Friendship is Hard

Do you remember how friendship was when you were a kid? It usually started from something small such as another kid saying they liked your toy, your parents spoke to each other and it just kind of happened or you just had to sit next to them in class and decided mutually "You'll do". Maintaining this friendship was usually really easy also. You could break your friendship one day and completely make up the next because you traded sweets. In hindsight, it might've not been as impactful as relationships you may have now but we can all agree that it was manageable and had no pressure whatsoever. How things change even in 5 years.

Related image
Oh, hey. A visual metaphor. What you can't see is what happens next which is her falling head first into one that's right next to it.

According to Dr. Robin Dunbar of the University of Oxford, the only amount of friends you need are 3 - 5 for "optimal wellbeing". While this is agreeable to an extent, limiting yourself to this amount of friends would make life extremely difficult. As humans, we are social animals and being high up on the social scale is how you get far in life. For some, this is an absolute piece of piss but for others, there's an arduous journey to achieve this and when it is achieved, it comes with many ordeals along the way. The 3 - 5 figure might be more akin to how many people you'd consider close friends rather than every friend in your life. This resonates well alongside an article by Zoe Williams of the Guardian about close friends, interviewing different people of different walks of like and their number of close friends being around that 3 - 5 number. While you would favour your close friends over any other kind, there's still many pressures surrounding the different groups you associate with and I hope to explore this today, giving my own personal experiences as a sort of footing. (Sorry if this isn't comedic but I might throw in an arse joke somewhere).

In social interactions, there's this idea of performance as in you accord yourself depending on the situation such as not swearing in front of grandparents or using simplified language when you're talking to a young child. The situation you're in dictates how you act and it's ridiculous how much you can change depending on the group of people you're with, even though you regard these groups on similar terms. For example, I have friends from college and school who have merged together and created a group, a group of university friends and a couple of groups of friends online. I can say, without hesitation, I'm almost a completely different person in each of these groups. I'd argue this causes a clash of my personality. One moment, I'm an apathetic entity making the snarky, dry comment every now and then and the next, I'm a screaming shitposting idiot. Because I have a good idea of what the different groups of people are like, this makes it difficult to be consistent in every social situation I'm in. The best factor that proves this is who I hug. I am a very hesitant person so I'm cautious about who I hug just in case they don't like it... unless they're online friends. If I meet an online friend in real life, unless it's painfully obvious they're not that kind of person, I don't put any restraint on hugging them, no matter what other factors come into play. In real life, I am only comfortable hugging one person because I know the feeling is mutual but I don't hug anyone apart of the same friendship group, the uni friends, because I have those assumptions that they might think it's weird or I'm upsetting them in some way if I try to nor have they given any prompt that they'd want to so I always assume they don't. I also never hug anyone in my college / school friendship group despite knowing most of them the longest as I assume everyone is on a similar social page where we just keep to ourselves and mumble about video games rather than ourselves.

Yeah, friends! What kind of playgroup has only 4 kids anyway?

Many factors come into play also that affect your performance. According to YouGov, one in four students suffer from a mental health disorder. There is a huge spectrum of mental health disorders but one big one is social anxiety. Social anxiety also has a large spectrum but will always affect daily life in some manner ranging from panic attacks, lack of eye contact, being weary about things you say even if they're harmless or even struggling to leave your house. Some signs make people assume the worst when they show like they've done something wrong or you come off as a rude person (or if you're the Equality and Diversity division of Oxford University, you're fucking racist, apparently) which makes finding new friends difficult and also makes keeping current friends arguably as difficult. It's hard to interject or express if you're not comfortable doing so in that group of friends just in case you end up offending, annoying or giving them negative signs. I feel this the most with my university friends. I am the most reserved when I'm with them but the most obnoxious around online friends, the school / college group being a weird inbetween. The positive of being in a reserved environment is that I find it a lot easier to talk about touchy subjects such as my anxiety. I rarely talk about this with the school / college group because I assume they don't care and I don't want to throw something out of left field. I've spoken about it with a couple of friends from that group; one seemed like he didn't really understand (or cared for that matter) and the other was shocked I was susceptible to panic attacks. I told him this around 4 days before writing this when I've been prone to them for almost 2 years now. It's just never a thing that's ever talked about which could be dangerous in general as we should be talking about mental health to remove the stigma around it and make those with problems feel like they're not alone. Many it could be attributed to factors such as gender roles or societal norms but whatever it is, it sucks.

Contact is a big factor. A lack of or even too much contact may be a huge hindrance on the relationship. There's this pressure to be there for friends and while it is natural to be there for people you care about, there's always the worry that it becomes too much and ends up being annoying. No matter how much you're assured it's fine, there is still that worry. I've had times where people just don't respond to Facebook messages or I've tried to arrange meetings and been turned down by every person I asked and I assume the absolute worst, then have to be reaffirmed that I'm not being annoying and that I'm fine with the group but there will always be that itch in the back of my head that would say otherwise. It is very hard to find a balance between the right amount of contact where there not being enough implies you don't care and being too much where it's overbearing or obnoxious. It also depends on every single person so there's no sure fire method of what to do in every situation. Unless there are very obvious indicators on what to do, it's a shot in the dark on what you do or don't do and either being the best response. The pressure to be there for friends also results in feeling useless because you're unable to help in some way, even if you ask if there's any way to do so. You leaving them alone may be enough but there's always that weird obligation in your head to try and help with no clue what that mindset will end up causing.

One of the biggest struggles in a mixed friendship group is that there will always be favourites and "those who shall not be named". What I mean by favourites is that some in the group would be favoured more over others which may exclude others. This honestly can't be helped as some people just instantly click with another but when the whole group isn't together, this fear comes up of if you're not wanted or if you're doing it yourself, the fear that the other person might not feel comfortable. For "those who shall not be named", usually in a group, it's assumed that if one person dislikes someone, the others should too which means picking sides. Everyone is guilty of this, myself included, and there's always the fear of upsetting at least one side if you choose to interact with the other and sometimes makes you behave irrationally. Again, first hand experience that I'm not proud of. This is one of the things that has actually stuck from primary school friendships but it just had to be a bloody negative one.

Friendship is like an exploding carrot. It has that pleasant exterior but internally, it's a stick of dynamite in a carrot. Couldn't think of a clever simile, just wanted an excuse to use this picture.

However, friendship has all these struggles but it's all honestly worth it in the end. These are just a trade off to possibly the best relationships of your life. It may be painful sometimes and mentally crippling but it really pays off. I find it difficult sometimes to even fathom the kind of friends I have and wonder what I did in a past life to deserve them but I am just glad I have them and also thankful for those I eventually find out aren't those nice people and are able to cut them from my life.

This is just my take on the situation. Of course, it differs for everyone but hoping this has struck a chord with some in hopes of saying you're not on your own if you have these worries. I would try and make things sound better by saying life would be boring if it was easy but that's a load of bollocks no-one wants to really swear by. Also, no arse joke. I apologise.

Dedicated to my friends, whether they be in passing, close or anything in between. Cheers for tolerating me for this long, guys <3

Wednesday, 30 August 2017


2 weeks to wait for DRM implementation. Cheers, Sega.

Image result for Sonic mania 
Sonic Mania (2017), Sega, Christian Whitehead, Headcannon, PagodaWest Games

Sonic Mania is a game made by fans for fans. It was announced at the 2016 event Summer of Sonic with mixed reception. I was sceptical at first as I thought this was the only announcement but as I saw it further into development, I amongst others got so excited, possibly making Mania my most anticipated game this year. The dude that made CD slightly less shit and the amazing ports of 1 and 2 that are rotting on iOS and Android (Bring them to other platforms, you fucks) is involved? Tee Lopes, the guy that's made such amazing remixes in the past is doing the soundtrack? Sign me up. The stars alligned and a couple of delays later, August 15th was the final date. I was ready. I threw down my £13.50 on Steam and waited patiently. This game can't go wrong. It has to be good. If it isn't good then I dunno what kind of emotional trauma I'd go through. I was so stoked... then August 11th happened.

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Taken from the official Sonic the Hedgehog Facebook Page

A 2 week delay for the PC version. My heart sank. A game I've been looking forward to for close to a year has been delayed on the only current generation gaming platform I own and the consolation prize was a copy of a game every Sonic fan owns in one form or another (Should've been 3&K). Most people I know cancelled their PC orders and got it on console but because I'm a stingy bastard that doesn't want to drop 200 quid on a console, waiting for 2 weeks was my only option. I was serious about this. I took a social media hiatus for 2 weeks, only posting on the pages I run infrequently, and got a YouTube filter add on for my browser to filter out any video with "Sonic Mania" in the title or tags. Dead fucking serious. I still got spoilt a couple of the levels but water under the bridge. As the 2 weeks went by, I took it on the chin. My mind went off it as I focused on grinding for Summer boxes on Overwatch. As they worded it, they need to polish the PC version. They never specified what specifically but I'm aware that PCs come in different flavours, different set ups and drivers so game companies have to keep those into account. I waited patiently and the game finally came out August 29th. I played up until a late level of the game and fucking loved it.

Sonic Mania's title screen

The bosses are a bit eh and a couple of the level choices are... questionable but this is the Sonic 4 we've should've gotten all those years ago. If you are a classic Sonic fan, this is the perfect game for you that celebrates everything great about the classics. But, of course, everything has to have a catch. The true reason for the 2 week delay was revealed the day it came to PC. Not by Sega or anyone involved in the project but instead, Steam users.

Familiar with DRM? Digital Rights Management is a variety of methods to prove you have a legitimate copy of a piece of software. Back in the day, common methods were using a card that comes with the software to decipher a code and you'd only have this card if you got the legitimate version of the software or having to run the disc or floppy or whatever format it was every time you wanted to boot the software on your computer. It was cumbersome as all hell but back then, methods such as these were the only option for companies to crack down on pirates. For more methods and info, I'd recommend Lazy Game Reviews' mini-documentary on DRM for old PC games;

LGR - History of DRM & Copy Protection in Computer Games

Nowadays, we have the internet. The home of social interaction and information galore but also social interaction and gore porn. The internet has helped piracy in a lot of ways. Home based hackers have cracked down and countered almost every piece of software out there, even at one point Ubisoft screwing up so bad, they had to use a pirate crack to remedy a game breaking DRM they couldn't fix themselves for Rainbow Six: Vegas 2 (fucking seriously). The influx of pirates is why some companies feel iffy about putting their games on PC. Understandable, sure, but the success of Steam has proved a large amount of PC gamers are willing to pay money for games, especially because of the glorious Summer and Holiday sales. A good chunk of them. Mortal Kombat X, despite WB treating the PC base like used toilet paper, sold over 1 million units on PC alone. What PC gamers or people in general don't like is being treated like arseholes.

You know that thing that caused the Sim City from 2013 to be a load of crap or what almost every Ubisoft game has causing people to tell Ubisoft to fuck off? Yeah, that's in Mania. Always online DRM.

This wasn't even on the Steam page yesterday

Denuvo is notorious among PC users. The way it works is that you need a stable internet connection to play a purely single and local multiplayer game. You can see the issues with this. Denuvo is notorious because it's known to have software similar to that of Malware and while there's no solid proof, some claim that it affects performance of games. It also makes modding a bitch, a feature people always jump to first to say why PC gaming is the best and easily what breathed more life in the PC version of Generations.

Always online is bullshit. Plain and simple. What's even more bullshit is a 2 week delay to implement previously said bullshit. I took a 2 week social media break because of DRM. People make the argument that we're always online so DRM is fine. What if I'm out on a long trip and want to take a laptop with me to play Sonic Mania where there's no wifi or the wifi is trash (and I'm not paying £10 in data to play a single player game)? What if there's bad weather and the internet has been cut out because Virgin Media can't handle rain? I get fucked over for a product I bought because a company is scared of a minority not paying for the game. Aaron Webber, the social media manager, is empathetic about the situation and Stealth, one of the developers, has denied association with this, despite his comment being deleted so quickly on the official thread for the announcement of DRM;


Gabe Newell put it best 7 YEARS AGO!

"One thing that you hear [Valve] talk a lot about is entertainment as a service. It's an attitude that says 'what have I done for my customers today? It informs all the decisions we make, and once you get into that mindset it helps you avoid things like some of the Digital Rights Management problems that actually make your entertainment products worth less by wrapping those negatives around them."
Gabe Newell at the 2010 Game Developer's Choice Awards

DRM ENCOURAGES piracy. You put DRM in, people get annoyed, people will find a solution to it. Respect goes both ways. You treat fans like they're criminals, they're gonna do whatever it takes to tell you to fuck off. It's also especially bullshit that you delayed the PC release for 2 WEEKS to implement this anus gravy into the game.

But wait. There's more! At the time of this blog post (August 30th, early-ish afternoon), Sega posted an update on their Facebook page and patched out an issue with the DRM.

Anyone else think this is worded weirdly? It's like they accidentally left it in like they accidentally dropped a jar of jam or something but instead, they purposefully threw it because they saw that kid from school that peed on their coat from a distance. You put in DRM bullshit, it's what you expect. Denuvo is also still there regardless of the restrictions you patch for it.
 The update taken from my Steam client

It is actually a shame because Sonic Mania is such a good game. Easily the best since Generations, 6 years ago. For such a good game to be tampered with is a shame. I hope the backlash they've received, especially from the influx of upvoted Steam reviews, helps them learn from this.