Architecture

Yesterday I spent the afternoon casually strolling around New York City.

That sounds like a brag, but there are a few factors to consider. Factor the first: “casually strolling” is a euphemism for “this place is so expensive, walking around and being in awe at the scale of it is the most economical option available to me.” Factor 2: I’m alone in a strange city, without my family, my friends, or any pressing purpose to distract me from the fact that I’m half a PLANET away from the people and things I hold dear. Factor 3: The fact of my being in New York City is exciting to me, it’s an interesting place. So much to see and do, so many little observations to make about the structure of it, its culture and people, and the experiences I’m having. But every time I post about them I’m acutely aware of the privilege inherent in my being here.

There are a lot of people at home that would dearly love to have half a day to simply wander around New York City, without needing to rush home to the kids, get back from their lunch break, or get on with the housework. For those people, my photos and anecdotes are a series of barbs pointedly highlighting the fact that they’re unlikely to have the opportunity to experience the same. I feel as though I’m rubbing their noses in it with every photo I post.

Then, there are those for whom photos and anecdotes about foreign places are hugely inspiring. I have a friend that specifically asks for photos of other cities to help fuel their artistic endeavours. Some are desperate to soak up as much as possible about other people’s travel in order to fuel their own future travel plans. Others like to step vicariously through little windows into parts of the world they may never get a chance to see for themselves.

And then there’s my own motivations: I’m lonely, and sharing these experiences with people helps me to see them as real, somehow. Every otiose Like and Reaction gives the associated experience some semblance of legitimacy, inching me closer to actually believing that I’m here and this is really happening. And, they give me a connection to home.

So, I’m torn. I want to share my photos and stories because it helps some of my friends, but I don’t want to share them for the sake of those friends that find them disheartening. Let alone the fact that sharing these experiences has actually helped me to get over what I suspect was perhaps my first ever bout of actual for-reals anxiety.

I arrived at my hotel in NYC on Saturday at about 6pm. I had been on planes or in airports for more than 24 hours by that point, and was desperate for sleep, and food that didn’t come microwaved in a rectangular plastic container. I messaged Austin to get some suggestions for nearby places to eat, and despite a thoroughly tantalising and proximate response, I opted to get (what turned out to be just powerfully average) room service. I did this because the very thought of interacting with anyone in person at that time was more than I could bear.

I’m generally fairly outgoing and sociable. Sure, I get nervous and awkward around people I don’t know sometimes, but for the most part I’m okay with meeting people and doing the small-talk thing, but this time it was all just too much. I was here, in New York City, looking out at the incredible architecture and vibrancy of the place, and yet I couldn’t muster even an ounce of enthusiasm.

This feeling was alien to me. I was in New York! But Amy wasn’t. There was so much to go do and see! But no-one to share it with. I wanted to do everything but it’s expensive and it feels wasteful to spend money on experiences I can’t share with others.

On Sunday morning I arose, showered, and went downstairs for the complimentary “continental breakfast” included in my hotel costs. This consisted of bagels, doughnuts, pastries, glazed doughnuts, and two types of terrible coffee. I had a bagel, because bagels are great, and retreated to my room. The day was mine to do with as I wished, but I felt trapped by my dumb brain. The constant pressure to fill my day with excitement was mirrored by the pressure of having a lot of work still left to get done, and the fact that I felt so out of place and alone. I decided to get some work done to alleviate that pressure somewhat. I worked away for a couple of hours, at which point my caffeine addiction proved a boon.

Stumptown

My work was slowing down as my jet lag and lack of caffeine got the better of me, and I was forced to investigate my options. As luck would have it, there was a Stumptown less than a block from my hotel. My desire for good coffee, coffee that reminded me of home, was what eventually drove me out of my sullen, anxious stupor and out into the wintery New York morning. With a familiar espresso-based beverage in hand, rather than the standard drip filtered coffee available in most of the country, I ventured out into the city to see what I could see.

I walked for 18 blocks, just marvelling at the simple fact of being there. I watched the interactions of passers-by, drank in the salty-savoury smell of hotdog stands, listened to the detached and practiced pleas of the homeless, and pondered how so many desperate people were making ends meet in such an expensive city. The place is just lousy with knock-off electronics stores and the like, awash in the neon shadow of grotesque lightshows advertising businesses worth innumerable orders of magnitude more. Skyscrapers full of men in suits, towering over the people dressed in layers, sleeping on sewer grates for warmth. The unflappable optimism of Broadway musical theatre, contrasted against the desperate men and women bussing tables waiting for their big break on the stage.

I had an hour to kill before going to see Avenue Q in an off-Broadway theatre in Hell’s Kitchen, so I sat down for a bite to eat in a small café next door. I was desperate for conversation after a day alone with my thoughts, and got to talking to the gentleman behind the bar. We compared countries, customs, and experiences, and eventually got to talking about tipping. I was confused as to how it worked when using a credit card to pay. During his explanation, he admitted that he earned $5 per hour for his work. Five dollars. Per hour. Now, this could have been a ploy to engender a larger tip from me, but nevertheless it got me thinking again about privilege. Here I was, drinking a martini, and about to go and throw more than he would earn in 10 working hours at two hours of entertainment.

Times Square

New York City is a strange place, full of large and small dichotomies that speak fairly directly to the nature of western society. The small slice of it I’ve seen is full of beauty and ingenuity, decrepitude and destitution. It embodies the idea of “the land of opportunity” that so many films and books have portrayed, in that by simply standing in place and turning full circle, you can observe people living their lives at the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. I feel and am privileged to have had a chance to visit, and feel thankful that my home is nothing like it. But equally, I know I’ll be sad to have left. What a strange place.

Hello, my name is Jason Imms and I am an idiot.

I do, say, and think silly things all the time. My feelings and thoughts on, well, any subject at all are very much my own and founded by my experience of the world and the people around me. I am a human person, much like any other. I am a thirty-something straight white male, who enjoys spending time with his family and friends, and plays a lot of video games. I didn’t finish my university degree, and as such generally assume that I mustn’t be particularly intelligent.

I am powerfully, overwhelmingly average.

These are the noises my brain makes at me on a regular basis. They are the sort of noises that many people’s brains make at them whenever they consider doing anything remotely creative or risky. They are the anchors that keep us in place, stagnant. They breed comfortable complacency, ultimately leading to the discontent and regret of a life unseasoned by – to quote Ms. Frizzle – taking chances and making mistakes.

When I was 16 I attended Elizabeth College. I studied things that I thought I could pass, as opposed to things that would challenge me or take me out of my comfort zone. I would look forward to free periods and skiving off into the city for cheap pizza. I would do the bare minimum on assignments, and just generally not live up to my potential. In my downtime, I would consume films, TV shows, books, and video games and discard them without learning from them.

If time travel were possible, I would love to go back and tell my 16 year-old self that one day he would get to play video games for a living. That one day he would get to write about one of the things he’s most passionate about. That he would be passionate about something! That in 2016, he would return to that place as a guest lecturer, speaking to around 50 students from a newly-minted game development course about the Australian games industry, critical analysis, and the importance of learning to truly appreciate creative works.

One of my favourite things about working as a games journalist is the fact that I get to dive deep into the games I’m playing to find interesting ways of writing about them. I learned to do this as a function of necessity – if I didn’t find interesting and different ways to respond to games, I wouldn’t get commissions to cover them. The result is I’ve learned that the critical analysis of content is not only interesting, it has allowed me to glean more enjoyment from the content I consume. Subsequently, I spent a significant portion of time during my second lecture talking about Mad Max: Fury Road and how it is The Citizen Kane of Movies.

Speaking at Elizabeth College was thoroughly enjoyable. I have previously spoken to high school students about video games, and it was interesting to note the differences. During my first lecture, it was quite difficult to get the college-age students to respond to open questions, or to ask questions of their own. I put this down to normal teenage anxieties about ridicule and standing out, but I still decided to spend some time planning ways to make my second talk more approachable.

The first lecture was very much about delivering information. I was asked to brief the students on the current state of the Australian games industry, and on the mobile market. My second lecture was to be about my job as a games journalist, critical analysis, and media appreciation. For the second talk, I incorporated some discussions that would allow us to argue with one another about objectivity and subjectivity, how games should be reviewed, whether or not the people that want reviews to have numeric scores are idiots, and we played two rousing rounds of the wonderful Push Me Pull You. By the end of the lecture, students were quite happily raising their hands to engage, and a few came up afterwards to ask further questions and seek advice.

Bullet Farmer

The slide on Mad Max: Fury Road, aside from being an excuse for me to talk about one of my favourite films, was a chance to show the students that there is more to a creative work than you may realise at first glance. At the superficial level, Fury Road is just one big post-apocalyptic car chase, with explosions, a flamethrower/guitar combo, and some rad cars. But, with just a little bit of thinking you can start to see that there’s a lot more to experience. Did you ever think about the fact that Max isn’t the main character of the film? That he’s actually just a lens through which the audience can experience the stories of the characters around him? Did you notice that the entire Mad Max series plays with the concept of fluid identities? That characters in that universe create for themselves entire personas based purely on their function in the world? Did you observe the Bullet Farmer (y’know, the guy that farms bullets and has bullets for teeth, a bullet crown, and a car with tank tracks) completely changing character – everything from name to appearance – when his situation changed and altered his function in the world?

Some students noticed some of that stuff, some of them hadn’t. Some of them decided that watching the film again might be a good idea. Some had observations that I’d never considered, precipitating my next viewing of the film.

This was a hugely rewarding and educational experience for me. Finally, something I am doing or have done has felt right. It felt like it fit. I didn’t feel like a fraud, or that luck must have directed me into a fortuitous circumstance. I felt that the work I was doing was of value, over and above the part where it earned some money to put food on the table. Maybe the stuff we discussed would help someone to find a way into the games industry? Maybe it would help another to decide for sure that the games industry wasn’t for them, and they could move with confidence into another field of study? Maybe they could see a future for themselves doing something they love without the normally assumed requirement to flee to larger cities in other states?

Or maybe none of those things happened? Maybe no-one was affected by what I had to say, and maybe nothing has changed. But y’know what? For the first time, I don’t care. I know for sure that striving to help young people find a creative career path is something that I want to continue doing. I want Young Me and kids like him to hear every once in awhile that you can take risks, that you don’t always have to take that next logical step in education or career, and that there is more to life than maximising your earning potential.

Detritus

January 16th, 2013 | Posted by Jason Imms in Opinion - (5 Comments)

The following began life as a Facebook comment, which then somehow turned into a manifesto. So I guess it belongs here too?

While shuffling rooms around at home, I had to PICK UP and move FOUR boxes of audio cassettes to a place that WAS NOT the GARBAGE BIN.

Y’know how it sucks when you’re moving house, and you’re packing up bookshelves and thinking “Ugh, the last time I even touched these books was when I was unpacking them after moving in here,”? How much more for cassette tapes, a technology invented to solve a problem that NO LONGER EXISTS, a medium that cannot be played-back by any device in our possession, a lossy simulacrum of music we once enjoyed and yet now scarcely remember.

Dear readers, shed these dusty media tombs. Free yourselves from the entirely self-inflicted burden of nostalgia, and make space in your storage room for some other useless piece of life’s detritus.

Animus

July 11th, 2012 | Posted by Jason Imms in Opinion - (7 Comments)

Today during yet another aimless lunchtime rumination with friends, I was spitballing the idea of a website that is not only entirely crowd-funded, but also crowd-directed. The site would essentially be a blank slate, with no inherent direction or mission. It wouldn’t be a site specifically about videogames, technology, cars, music, or world news, but it could be about all of those things. It would be focused utterly on topics suggested, developed and chosen by the community.

Users would be asked to fund the site through donations, in a fashion similar to Kickstarter, with every donation over a certain dollar amount garnering that user a single vote. These votes could then be spent to either pitch a commissioned long-form written piece on the topic of their choice, or to vote for an idea that has already been pitched. This means that the entirety of the site’s content would be driven by the community, a community that is engaged enough to pay for the content that they want to see produced, and they would have actual agency in its production.

Site contributors would consist of a dedicated team of editors and writers, supported by community members that wish to try their hand at writing pieces themselves. Users of the site would also be able to apply to write pieces that exist in the list, given sufficient evidence of their experience with the topic. Site staff would then work with these community writers, helping them by providing contacts, advice, stylistic guidelines, and an experienced editorial voice. Pieces would also be sought and published from well-known guest writers from around the world, obviously subject to availability.

The idea isn’t without its flaws, here’s just a few:

  1. Getting started would be the most difficult part. Users will only contribute to a site that they have confidence in, how would we initially build that confidence, and support ourselves while we do so?
  2. Given the generally acerbic nature of Internet feedback, how would the editorial team measure and act on feedback?
  3. How long would it take before the list is completely dominated by porn-related pitches?
  4. Considering the fact that money is involved, how much power would site staff have in dismissing pitches that were deemed uninteresting or distasteful?
  5. How would the community funding work with advertising before the site becomes self-sufficient?
  6. How would we encourage return readership? An RSS feed may prove frustrating, as the content would probably be incredibly varied and difficult to categorise.
  7. All that the site would be able to guarantee is a high quality of writing, and excellent presentation. The content itself is almost completely unpredicatble.
  8. Perhaps the funding side of the idea is crazy? Should we just focus on the community-driven content aspect? Aside from the obvious, there are numerous advantages to community funding:
    1. A community that invests financially, invests passionately and often vocally.
    2. Trolls and other malcontents would be discouraged.
    3. Sufficient community funding would negate the need for advertising, producing a cleaner, more pleasant site.

I’m still not 100% convinced that this is a good idea, but the fact that my initial dismissal has subsequently brain-wormed its way into this blog post, I can’t shake the feeling that there might be something there.

It’s a community-focused site, so I guess the best thing to do is to post the idea and see if the nebulous but evidently powerful “crowd” takes to it. Right at this very second I’m pretty excited by it, and I hope that you see potential in it too. I’ll post more as the idea matures.

Shuddersome

January 18th, 2012 | Posted by Jason Imms in Opinion - (3 Comments)

I tend to equate my writing deadlines with various forms of the undead. I know zombies are out of vogue these days but I think it makes sense, even aside from the obvious naming similarity. By way of example, a normal deadline is like a regular ol’ zombie: An object of dread, steadily and inexorably threatening to tear you asunder should you allow it to get too close. On their own they’re not that threatening, but in a group? Terrifying.

Last-minute or short deadlines are similar to the modern fast zombie, a-la 28 Days Later or Left 4 Dead. Same description as the above, but moving at an incredible pace, a more immediate horror. Attempting to complete a writing task under a Fast Zombie Deadline is best described as an incessant scream, undercut with the sound of a keyboard being worked furiously, as though typing is all that is holding the assailant at bay. On an unrelated note, The Typing of the Dead was awesome.

Assignments without a defined deadline are like ghosts. Ghostly deadlines are invisible and easy to forget about, right up until the point that they float up through the floor, shout “BOO” and possess you until you’ve completed their unfinished business.

All deadlines are like vampires in that if you’re not careful they’ll suck your blood, leaving you an empty husk.

Transliteration

April 5th, 2011 | Posted by Jason Imms in Opinion - (2 Comments)

Y’know all of those posts and articles about the changes that the English language has undergone since the invention of short message services (Instant Messaging, SMS, Twitter etc)? The ones which start with a phrase along the lines of ‘SMS is changing the way we communicate. Subtlety, nuance and meaning are being pushed aside in the name of brevity and frankly, it scares me.’? Yeah no, this isn’t going to be one of those posts.

I agree that abbreviations and emoticons are changing the way that we communicate. I agree that subtlety, nuance and meaning are rarely considered when it comes to short-form communication. However, I put it to you that these forms of communication are not the place for subtlety. It’s hard to read between the lines when your sentence contains but one line.

In light of this, I present to you my condensed list of emoticons and abbreviations and their appropriate uses. Hopefully this will shed some light on these common phrases and will help you to understand why your doting grandmother is laughing out loud at news of the recent passing of your family pet.

If I’ve missed any, shout out in the comments and I’ll revise the list.

  • lol = Laugh Out Loud
    A misnomer if you ask me. The brazen lie of this abbreviation becomes obvious when working in an office that allows it’s staff to use instant messaging to communicate. Very rarely does “lol” actually mean that the loller is in fact physically laughing out loud, it simply means that they acknowledge that something is funny. (Lots Of Love is the deprecated definition of this abbreviation. Can make things a little awkward: “Sorry to hear about your dead pet lol”)
  • haha/gahaha
    On par with lol.
  • LOL = Laugh Out Loud (no, for reals this time)
    The capitalisation of the acronym should be used to imply the presence of actual laughter.
  • ROFL = Rolling On The Floor Laughing
    No, generally users of this abbreviation aren’t actually rolling on the floor. This is simply a grade above LOL in the funniness stakes.
  • HAHA/GAHAHA
    On par with ROFL.
  • ROTFLSHMSFOAIDMT =
    Rolling On The Floor Laughing So Hard My Sombrero Fell Off And I Dropped My Taco

    Does this really need an explanation?
  • TL;DR = Too long; didn’t read
    Used to provide a reader with a cliff-notes/short version of the longer body of text. For example, “[Huge wall of text complaining about the weather] TL;DR It was raining today. I didn’t like it.” Also often used in a dismissive fashion to note that a piece of text is too long.
  • brb = Be Right Back
    The user will be afk for a short period of time.
  • afk = Away From Keyboard
    The author will be online, but away from their keyboard until further notice.
  • afaik = As Far As I Know
    As far as the author is aware.
  • :)
    When used at the end of a sentence, the presence of a smiley face informs the reader that the preceding text was meant to be taken positively.
  • :P
    When used at the end of a sentence, the presence of the pokey-out-tongue face informs the reader that the preceding text was meant in jest and not to be taken seriously.
  • :(
    A sadface informs the reader that the author is unhappy about the current subject of conversation.
  • >:(
    The author is both sad and angry.
  • >:)
    The author is being cheeky/devious.
  • ಠ_ಠ
    Look of disapproval. The author disapproves of the subject of conversation.
  • (yಠ,ಠ)y
    The Y U NO guy.
  • \m/>.<\m/
    Dude throwin’ up the horns. Rocking out. Rock and/or Roll.
  • ..|.,
    You just got given the finger.
  • *
    Used to repair a mistype in a recent IM message or similar.
    E.g.
    “I like caek. It is yummy.”
    “*cake”