Not a Hero

We find ourselves in a peculiar quandary. If we look at pop culture and ask “What is a man?” we can readily find a few archetypes.

Superman is by his very definition, the pinnacle of man. He’s strong, reliable, moral, unyielding. He loves and is loved. In his true form, people fear and respect him. It takes extraordinary circumstances to even just bend his knee.

We take his darker alternative – Batman. A man born into a good life and laid low by tragedy. But he takes that tragedy and rebuilds himself to superheroic standards – world class athlete, fighter, inventor, detective. He opposes the darkness in the world and always gets back up, no matter what they throw at him. He is prepared and resourceful. He is endlessly strong.

Although these examples are fictional and exaggerated, they represent symbols that men should aspire to. There’s a long cavalcade of similar examples, real or fictional: pinnacles of physical perfection, hyper-intelligent sleuths, confident masters of their world.

On the other hand, if you asked for the stereotypical characteristics of males, it might include violence, dominance, sex, confidence and a lack of emotion. We have an amazing cognitive dissonance here: the stereotypical man is a dangerous brute, but one of the greatest known men of all time, Shakespeare, still astounds people with his understanding of the human condition and nuanced exploration of the texture of life: death, war, jealousy, age, and, of course, love. Einstein, that great man of science, was a man of peace.

Even further, normal men are none of these extremes. They don’t solve their challenges by punching them. They don’t swing into a party and make all the women swoon. They aren’t masters of their universe – they get buffeted about by chance and unfavourable design. They make mistakes. They get depressed. Normal men aren’t heroes.

One in eight men will experience depression in their lifetime. And it’s not necessarily a product of tragedy. Some very successful, intelligent, hard-working, friendly men will find themselves laid low by the black dog of depression. It’s not a rational thing, depression doesn’t work that way. It’s a stronger villain than any laughing madman. It knows all your thoughts, weak points and ways of seeing things. It can make nonsense sound sane. It can amplify the smallest of issues. Depression can make a man retreat from his closest friends, ignore the things and people they love, drink or take drugs, imagine opposition from their closest friends and family, run themselves ragged, break their hearts, or sabotage their life in a myriad of dumb ways. Depression can destroy men without raising a single finger.

Four out of every five suicides in Australia are committed by men. In 2011, almost two thousand men took their lives. Depression is an incredible foe.

Historically and even now, men are encouraged to endure this onslaught and not seek help. Men should “man up” and stand against their sea of troubles, without support, without tools. Women are twice as likely to seek help from a mental health service provider than men. It’s ridiculous.

The good news is that depression and related mental illnesses are treatable. There’s a wide variety of treatments available and are customized to the person. But society’s men need resources, education and support to seek help when they need it.

I’m supporting Movember to bring in donations to help exactly this. Please consider a donation, no matter how small.

Normal men are not superheroes. They don’t shape the world by their very existence. They may find themselves struggling from day to day. They may be loved and respected and find success, but still have to reluctantly drag themselves out of bed every morning.

Support the men in your life. Make sure they’re going okay and help if you can. If they are depressed, get them to seek professional help. It’s okay. It’s not the end of the world. It may be the start of a new life. A new life where depression pops up every so often like a villain-of-the-week, but at least it’ll be manageable. It’s better than the alternative.

A single man might not have the strength of a hundred, but with his friends, family and support services, he can get damn close.

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Very short update this time. Unfortunately I’ve been on a huge management course recently, so I’ve been away from my computer and low on spare time and energy. But November looks to be big. (Click here to read the rest of this entry)

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UPDATE: Fixed some stuff and talked more about panels!

Well I’m back home after a mega weekend at the inaugural PAX Australia. I had a bunch of fun but am tired as hell. (Click here to read the rest of this entry)

Just in case you’re wondering, I’m not dead. Just busy beavering away. My main project work has been on a teaser trailer for The Day After. I got the voice acting in, and it’s pretty cool. The thing slowing me down is creating a video in Adobe After Effects that is up to snuff. Progress with video editing is pretty slow – you might do a night’s worth of work and get 6 seconds of video. Sometimes not even that – it’ll be 6 seconds of a corner of the video. Nevertheless I’m pleased how it’s coming out so far. Fingers crossed my design skills are decent enough.

Which reminds me, I need voice actors to fill out a background of chaos. You may need to scream, yell, cry, groan, growl or sound pained. Only a few seconds at most.  If you have access to a good microphone, and want to be in the teaser trailer, contact me. I’ll let you know what I need.

The new artwork is coming along. Alice has finished all the new characters and there’s some action scenes to come. I love love love the new characters. Some were really tough to work out. Some were almost Alice grabbing the images from my brain and putting them on page. I plan to update the site to showcase the new art (as well as fix some minor issues) as soon as the teaser trailer is done. Any week now.

If you want some great games to play while you wait for me to get my stuff together, try these:

  • The Secret World – Modern day MMO with excellent writing. It’s a nice blend of horror (standard and Cthulhu varieties) and conspiracy theories. The visuals are amazing. MMO aspects are standard, and maybe it’d do better as a single-player game. Nevertheless I’m having a ball going solo on most of the quests, and doing some with friends. The investigation quests are cool and have real puzzles that require you to think!
  • Argument Champion – A small game made for a weekend comp. You are a debater supporting a particular randomly-chosen topic. Using the concept web from MIT labs, you try to link your topic with things the audience likes. It’s crazy, reminds me of an Edward de Bono creativity exercise, but is neat fun. You’ll see most of the gameplay in this in five minutes, but it’s still interesting enough to play through to the galactics.
  • The Walking Dead – Oh my god. I’ve played a lot of Telltale Games before, and was getting a bit tired of them. The zany humour, the reuse of areas, the great voice actors with not much to work with. In The Walking Dead (based on the comics moreso than the TV series), they’ve fixed all that and made something quite special. The moral dilemmas are actually tough choices of conscience that have long-term impacts on your story, rather than “which powerup would I like”. The writing is dark and interesting. Puzzles are decent and it all hangs together really well. They’ve been collecting some very interesting statistics as well, though don’t look at them until you finish the episodes. Can’t wait to see more of this.
  • Team Fortress 2′ Mann vs Machine mode – All the awesomeness of TF2 with a horde mode. Robots are rushing in and trying to deliver a bomb to your base. So you need to stop them. Great emphasis on teamwork and tactics. Server selection is a bit wonky at the moment, and the game is hard as hell. But it’s still very fun and rewarding. Plus it’s free to play (or a mere dollar or so to play on the Valve servers and get lots of loot).
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Just a real quick post here. The Steam “Summer” Sale is now on and there are some interesting deals to be taken advantage of. If you haven’t already, check out:

  • Portal 2 (a steal at 75% off)
  • Terraria (also 75% off)
  • Legend of Grimrock (60% off)
  • Walking Dead (25% off)
  • Binding of Isaac and SpaceChem (each 50% off – merely $2.50 each)
  • a flash sale of Deus Ex: Human Revolution is 75% off for a short time

Interesting stuff, and it appears they are going to be plugging the Steam Greenlight stuff, which is cool. Also interesting that they aren’t doing the achievement thing this time.

On the downside, the sales keep perpetuating the insane prices that are foisted onto Australians. After a year of being out, and 50% off, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 is now $50 AUD. Which is basically the American initial release price.

Max Payne 3 is 30% off, which is interesting for a fairly recent game. Still pricey though. If Saints Row 3 goes on sale, get it!

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For some honest gaming journalists, this year’s E3 was pretty disappointing. The games industry has never been in such flux, yet the showings at one of the biggest industry shows of the year were very samey – lots of ultraviolence, lots of cutscenes and not a lot in terms of innovation. It seems that in general the games world is in the doldrums. (Click here to read the rest of this entry)

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I’ve been toiling away for a little while and I finally have something to show you guys. My gaming outfit Cognitive Discodance has a website, and so does the game I’m working on. I’ll let them speak for themselves.:

Over the next little while, I’ll probably tweak these a little to fix bugs and add a little more polish.

Well holy mackerel, 2012 has hit and we’re already 12.5% of the way through. I’ve hit the ground running and am chugging away at my projects. I thought it might be a good time to tell everyone what I’m up to.

(Click here to read the rest of this entry)

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Coming soon

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Quick note

Hey guys, I’m not dead, just busy with non-video-game-related stuff. Things will be back to normal soon, and when that I’ll post a bunch of reviews to games I’ve played recently, and unveil some exciting new stuff for The Day After. Thanks for your patience!

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