Category: Culture

Rant on Pokémon Go and the Gaming Industry

Posted August 1, 2016 by Michael Kitto in Pop-Culture / 6 Comments

pokemon goThere is no doubt that Pokémon Go is the latest craze, with nostalgia being the driving force behind its popularity. I remember my first Pokémon game; it was Pokémon Blue, which was released in 1998 for Gameboy. While it was a fun game, and I enjoyed playing it, it never was a game that stuck with me. I know there are many people that brought and played most of the games as they were released every few years but I don’t know there was a lasting effect. I know a new version of the game would mean people would stop playing one for the newer version but how much game play can you really get out of these games?

With Pokémon Go the popularity is unquestionable, with more downloads and active users than Twitter. When it debuted in the US, it was able to capture 10.81% Android users, while according to BGR, the two most popular games Clash Royale and Slitherio only managed to 1.67% and 0.84% users. Taking $2 million a day in revenue, from the US market alone. Casual gaming and micro-transactions are dominating the gaming industry and I am not pleased.

Don’t get me wrong, I am playing Pokémon Go but I think Ingress is a better game. Both Pokémon Go and Ingress were developed by Niantic, Inc and are essentially the same game with a different skin and less functionality. I am impressed with the stories I have heard about people coming together, there are even stories where people out in the parks late at night are also feeding the homeless. It is a beautiful phenomenon that sadly will not last.

Games like Candy Crush and Game of War that are making a billion dollars a year in revenue, are struggling to hold on to their users. While I am sure they are not complaining about the money they have made, as someone that played a lot of games in the past, I am concerned with the state of the gaming industry. The industry is out to make money and they are doing just that but at the cost of the gaming industry. I believe if this trend continues innovation will suffer. The industry will be trying for quick money grabs and the big Triple A titles that demonstrate innovation and artistic capabilities will no longer exist. There type of games that drive the computer industry as it pushes the limits of technology and have them looking at ways to make computers better, faster and more capable.

Think of it this way, if the games industry stops making Triple A titles, and rather focus on casual gaming or micro transactions, there will be less monetary value in making better computers. The computer industry is driven by the need for faster, more capable computers; you take away the gaming, that need is reduced exponentially. Things are moving in this direction, the 2016 game Hitman was released in episodes; meaning you were paying for a level. There were claims that this was due to delays in the game production but this is just the first step. I would imagine that if it happens with one, with no real outcry it could happen to others.

I know I am just ranting about the state of the gaming industry but you have to be aware, I am not their target audience anymore. I use to play a lot of games but now I do not have time. I am addicted to Civilization V (a game released in 2010) because I enjoy the complexity and I want a game that will challenge me. For those not familiar, Civilization is a 4X (eXplore, eXpand, eXploit, and eXterminate) turn based strategy game. You start a game by picking a leader of a civilization, which have different traits and then you play against a number of AI players to win either by domination, diplomacy, research or tourism. The game involves around diplomacy, economics, government, and military. I love these games because of the replayability (I think I have about 300 hours of gameplay in this game) and as it is turn based, I can play with while watching TV instead of playing a casual game on my phone.

I think there is a use for casual games, and sometimes you want to play something quickly while you wait. My problem is that everything seems to be a carbon copy of something else that is successful and there is no real complexity to these games. I am not saying all causal games are bad and I do enjoy Pokémon Go. My concern is the direction that the gaming industry is going, I want to be entertained but I also want to work for it as well, I feel more fulfilled if I am challenged. What is your opinion of the current gaming trends?


At The Theatre: Antigone

Posted April 24, 2016 by Michael Kitto in Culture / 0 Comments

antigone-web-banner-1

Recently I had the good fortune to be able to see the play Antigone by a small indie playhouse in my city. Now the story of Antigone comes from Greek mythology, she is the daughter (and sister) of Oedipus. Antigone is best known from the Sophocles’ play where she is trying to secure a ritual burial of her brother Polynices. This is against the wishes of King Creon who wants Polynices to stay out unburied as an example to all those who seek to fight against the throne of Thebes.

The play I saw was not the one written by Sophocles but rather the French written by Jean Anouilh’s in 1944. I do not know the difference between the Greek mythology, the play by Sophocles or the one I saw but I was very impressed with the play. Now Anouilh wrote this tragedy during the Nazi occupation of France and he purposely made it ambiguous to get past the German censorship. However knowing this you can clearly see the parallels between the French Resistance against the Nazi occupation and the Greek tragedy.

This play is about war and standing against the authority in order to do what is right. Antigone was dressed in white to represent good while everyone was in black. This is a very speech heavy play that explores the themes mostly through dialogue. For the most part the actors preformed this play wonderfully with the exception of one person, who I thought was a little flat. I really enjoyed the use of lighting to create shadows that turned the stage into what could be considered a dystopian world.

While this is a Greek play, it appeared very much like a French production with some Avant-garde elements playing through while keeping a very minimalist approach. I was impressed with the play and would love to see more indie performances in the future. Antigone was translated from the French by Lewis Galantière and I highly recommend this interpretation of the Sophocles play, especially in relation to World War II and the Nazi occupation of France.


Truth: An Overview

Posted June 15, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Culture / 1 Comment

I wanted to do an overview of my first subject at university but I’m finding that very hard to do. The whole thing was on the concept of Truth and trying to understand how to think of things critically and determine what truth really is. My last post on the encyclopaedia was also a result of this subject; it was actually one of my assignments. The basic concept of the subject was trying to get the students to work out if Truth is subjective or objective, relative or absolute.

I was surprised what topics were covered when talking about the concept of Truth, including Literature, Myths, Philosophy, Political Ideologies, Religion, Science & the Media. I guess I never really thought about it but everyone’s personal concept of what the truth really is would cover their personal views on politics, religion, and science.

Apart from personal views of what is true, there are the proven facts that we consider to be true. But what would happen if these truths are proven to be incorrect? This is called a paradigm shift; and while when I think of these shifts, I normally I think of science, i.e.: The discovery the world is round, the world revolves around the sun and so on. It is interesting to be able to think more about paradigm shifts in other forms as well; shifts in social thinking. For example, witches went from being spiritual people, to heretics, to someone that you should fear all the way back to a spiritual person again.

While this isn’t really a traditional blog post for me, I just wanted to share my thoughts on the subject and maybe give you some food for thought. I know this subject seems like a very basic and general Bachelor of Arts subject but it was a nice way to explore a concept and give the students of the different fields you can take within the course. I would love to know any thoughts you might have on the whole concept of truth.


Knowledge, Truth & The Encyclopédie

Posted May 14, 2012 by Michael Kitto in Culture / 5 Comments

Often when we think of the concept of ‘truth’, we tend to think about knowledge. Nowadays we have been getting a little lazy when looking for truth, by using Google or Wikipedia; before these tools we often went to the encyclopaedia. In 1750 France, two people took on a task to change the way we think; the project was called Encyclopédie, ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, par une société de gens de lettres, mis en ordre par M. Diderot de l’Académie des Sciences et Belles-Lettres de Prusse, et quant à la partie mathématique, par M. d’Alembert de l’Académie royale des Sciences de Paris, de celle de Prusse et de la Société royale de Londres (Encyclopaedia: or a Systematic Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts, and Crafts, by a Company of Men of Letters, arranged by M. Diderot of the Academy of Sciences and Belles-lettres of Prussia: as to the Mathematical Portion, arranged by M. d’Alembert of the Royal Academy of Sciences of Paris, to the Academy of Sciences in Prussia and to the Royal Society of London).

Originally the Cyclopedia which was a project by Ephraim Chambers in 1728 but this was abandoned and Denis Diderot and Jean le Rond d’Alembert set out to create an entirely new encyclopaedia. Apart from editing and compiling Denis Diderot and Jean Le Rond d’Alembert were contributors; Diderot helped with economics, mechanical arts, philosophy, politics and religion and d’Alembert with contemporary affairs, mathematics, philosophy, religion and science. Some of the most notable contributors of this project also included;

  • Louis-Jean-Marie Daubenton for natural history
  • Baron d’Holbach  for science (mainly chemistry and mineralogy), politics and religion
  • Chevalier Louis de Jaucourt for economics, literature, medicine and politics
  • Jean-Baptiste de La Chapelle for mathematics
  • Jean-Jacques Rousseau for music and political theory
  • Anne Robert Jacques Turgot, Baron de Laune for economics, etymology, philosophy and physics
  • Voltaire for history, literature and philosophy

Modern society owes a lot to the age of Enlightenment and this Encyclopaedia project; not only did it change the way we find knowledge in the search for truth but it also created a global standard of cataloguing and preserving our knowledge. In the words of Denis Diderot himself;

“The goal of an encyclopaedia is to assemble the knowledge scattered far and wide on the surface of the earth, to expose its general system to our fellow men with whom we live and to transmit it to those who will follow us, so that […] our sons, by becoming more educated, might become at the same time more virtuous and happy.”

While this was not the only encyclopaedia at the time or even before (Ephraim Chambers’ Cyclopedia in London and Novalis’ Enzyklopädie in German) the Encyclopédie project seems to be the one that is more often referred to when looking at the history of the encyclopaedia. This could be effects of the Age of Enlightenment and its reputation with knowledge and truth, or it could be the fact that it is often referred to as the intellectual preparation for the French Revolution. However I think it was more to do with the famous “preliminary discourse” written by Jean Le Rond d’Alembert which explored the structure of the encyclopaedia articles as well as the background of the learned men that wrote each article. The significance of this is the ability to check the credibility of each article and quite possibly the start of referencing.


A Quest for Liberty

Posted February 24, 2011 by Michael Kitto in Culture / 0 Comments

The Mariner; one of the wood-engraved illustrations by Gustave Doré.

On 11th July 1789 the French citizens stormed the Bastille. Their dreams were for a revolution, a dream of liberty. One of the biggest influences of the French Revolution was Jean-Jacques Rousseau. Rousseau and his fellow philosopher Denis Diderot dreamed of a world where everyone was unique and free. But both these philosophers shared two very different views on the world. Diderot believed knowledge was power and is as a co-founder and contributor to the Encyclopédie and is quite possible the father of the Age of Enlightenment (an era that focused heavily on Western philosophy, intellectual, scientific and cultural life). But Rousseau was focused more on the emotions and humanity; his thinking paved the way for the Romantic Period.

While both philosophers dreamed of liberty and went onto do great things after the French Revolution, liberty was not fully achieved. While the lower and middle classes were now considered people, they never really have the opportunity to have a voice and freedom of expression. It wasn’t until the book Lyrical Ballads did this chance begin to take effect. The collection of poems breathed life into the Romantic Period and the vision of individuality. Lyrical Ballads was written by William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge and changed the course of English literature and poetry. The book was an intimate look at the rustic lives, written in simple words for everyone to read and enjoy. The poems had a more lasting affect than any political document and were a pure expression of Romantic ideas. The poems placed an emphasis on the vitality of the living voice and used the poor to express their realities. The poems took aim at the harsh realities of life at the time; like The Last of the Flock, which tells the story of a farmer who had to sell all his animals in order to feed his family. One of best known poems from this collection, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner focused on one of the major themes linked with the Romantic Period; the importance of nature.

The Romantic Period and the Age of Enlightenment (both era’s I’ve held great interest in) have helped build society – for better or worse – into what it is today. While both eras were fighting for liberty, it is interesting to note that without the French Revolution we may have never been free to express ourselves.


Spirituality and The Arts

Posted May 21, 2010 by Michael Kitto in Culture / 0 Comments

I just read an article from Time-Online called ‘The Spiritual History of English’, which talks about a book by Andrew Thornton-Norris of the same name. The book bases its arguments on the T.S Eliot’s premise that “culture of a people as an incarnation of its religion”. According to Thornton-Norris, literature is the result of liberalism in politics. He also claimed that previously “tradition prevented art or the individual – and relativism in belief” and as for modern art “Now almost every word that is written is a manifesto, a statement, a theology or anti-theology, rather than an unselfconscious work of art, a contribution to the tradition or communal enterprise, as it was in the Latin Classical tradition.”

I know spirituality has played a huge part in the Arts (eg. Caravaggio or any painter back then, John Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Divine Comedy) in the past but does it play much of a part now?


Did Pop Culture Destroy Literature?

Posted April 8, 2010 by Michael Kitto in Culture, Literature / 0 Comments

Isn’t it interesting that in pop culture, we think we know icons like Dracula, Frankenstein, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. We know their basic story but until we read the books that made these characters famous, and then we realise that we have missed so much of the concepts and story.

Frankenstein is referenced  in countless  movies but ia most commonly associated with the monster, not the doctor. It’s just a tale of a monster terrorising the villages and  until you read the book you don’t understand it at all. I remember reading Frankenstein for the first time and discovering this isn’t a book about a monster.  This is a book about society and how we judge and treat people.

When it comes to Dracula, we all know the story of the Vampire, Count Dracula from Transylvania, but we don’t have a clue on just how interestingly the book was written. I went into the book thinking I was going to be reading a novel, but I discovered a series of letters, diary entries and ship logs that told this story in such an unsuspecting way.

Now unfortunately pop culture has ruined the plot of The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde but it has left out a lot of the interesting concepts. The book explores the idea of separating the Good from the Evil in the doctor, who was trying to explore the evil inside of himself and still live with his conscience clear. Or maybe it’s a story about living life with split personalities.   There are so many interpretations, but all in all its a book about the duality of human nature.  Pop Culture just tells a story of a doctor discovering this potion by accident.

The interesting thing is that no one really knows where Mr Hyde goes all those nights and what he does. This has lead to many of conversations through the ages trying to work out what Mr Hyde was up to; Some say it’s a metaphor for Homosexuality but I believe it’s open for personal interpretation. So the reader can make his own discovery on their evil side.


Trying to Understand Existentialism

Posted March 14, 2010 by Michael Kitto in Culture, Philosophy / 0 Comments

The Myth of Sisyphus

“The struggle itself…is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

Albert Camus

Existentialism is an interesting philosophical concept; if God doesn’t exist then life has no point. So if life has no point, we can basically do what ever we want, make our own life worth living.

Existentialist thinkers focus on the question of concrete human existence and the conditions of this existence rather than hypothesizing a human essence, stressing that the human essence is determined through life choices. However, even though the concrete individual existence must have priority in existentialism, certain conditions are commonly held to be “endemic” to human existence.

It is in relation to the concept of the devastating awareness of meaninglessness that Albert Camus claimed that “there is only one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide” in his The Myth of Sisyphus. Although “prescriptions” against the possibly deleterious consequences of these kinds of encounters vary, from Kierkegaard’s religious “stage” to Camus’ insistence on persevering in spite of absurdity, the concern with helping people avoid living their lives in ways that put them in the perpetual danger of having everything meaningful break down is common to most existentialist philosophers. The possibility of having everything meaningful break down poses a threat of quietism, which is inherently against the existentialist philosophy.

Existentialist thinking makes me wonder about things like;

  • Angst
  • Authenticity or even inauthenticity
  • Despair
  • Facticity
  • Freedom
  • Reason

Where do these fit into the world of Existentialism?


The Layers of Hell

Posted March 2, 2010 by Michael Kitto in Culture / 0 Comments

I was playing a game on Xbox called Dante’s Inferno, when I got to the 8th layer of hell….hang on a second I was under the impression there was only seven layers. So after a bit of research, I realised that I was wrong, there really are nine layers of hell (according to the epic poem Inferno by Dante).

This led me to ask a few people ‘how many layers of hell are there.’ Consistently I got the answer seven. So why do people think there are only seven layers and not nine like in Dante’s Inferno?

The only explanation that seemed plausible is the fact that there are seven deadly sins, one layer for each sin.

If you know of any other reasons please let me know.


What is a Meme?

Posted February 24, 2010 by Michael Kitto in Culture / 0 Comments

The term meme has been closely associated with internet catchphrases or fads, but originally it was more a postulated unit of cultural ideas, symbols or practices. The word was coined by British scientist Richard Dawkins who used the word in his book The Selfish Gene (1976) as a basis for discussion of evolutionary principles.

The word only recently was added to the dictionary with the following meaning;

Meme –noun
a cultural item that is transmitted by repetition in a manner analogous to the biological transmission of genes.

Examples of memes included melodies, catch-phrases, beliefs (notably religious beliefs), clothing fashion, and inside jokes.

Internet Meme’s include things like Fail/Win, Pwnd/Owned, Nom Nom Nom, O RLY?, All Your Base Are Belong to Us & Rickroll.

For interesting insights on Meme’s check out this site.