Freelancer: How to Avoid Scams and Find Solid Work!

So if you’ve read any of my posts before, you’ll be fully aware that I tend to rant about stuff (hence the hugely unimaginative name for my blog) and perhaps you’ve even read my previous Freelancer post which details by almost entirely negative experience when taking the initial steps towards becoming a freelance writer. Today, I’m going to try and summarise some of the main points that can help you to not only find solid work but avoid all the dipshits who will try and take your time, money or both. I’ll throw in a few personal experiences here and there but ultimately I’m going to try and keep this as concise as possible…something I inevitably failed to do!

What is Freelancer?

Freelancer

image via CareerLancer

So Freelancer is a hub, of sorts, whereby freelance workers can find employment (and vice versa). I hate many, many, MANY aspects of it because the site, it’s rules and it’s charges are absolutely criminal…but once you start finding work, you can’t help but look beyond these downsides. It should be noted that if you can find work ANYWHERE else, I’d recommend doing so. I tried UpWork but even once my profile was approved I couldn’t find a single job. So this post will focus solely on Freelancer but I’m sure much of what I’m going to say here can be applied to other similar sites.

Main Freelancer Scams

Freelancer

image via Get the Gloss

Again, if you want to see the negative side of Freelancer (which is the side that greets you upon joining) then you only have to head over to my previous post on the topic. I’m sure you’ll be able to feel my rage through the screen. Freelancer is not a friendly place! Not only are many, many people looking to rip you off (one way or the other) but the staff and their “rules” are not going to help you out in the slightest. Sure, if you report someone then they will deal with it…but if you lose money or don’t get paid then they pretty much just leave you to struggle with it on your own. As such, I’m going to take you through some of the common problems you will likely encounter, how you can avoid them and some of the tell-tale signs of a scammer.

Stealing your Time

One problem you are almost guaranteed to encounter is people who don’t pay you. I know, I know, you’re wondering why I’ve titled this section “stealing your time” rather than “stealing your money”…trust me, all will be explained! So when you accept work from anybody, you essentially enter into a contract with them: in exchange for you completing the tasked job, they will pay you the agreed upon amount of money. In an ideal world, that is exactly how it would work. Freelancer is far from ideal.

Any time you start off with a new employer, you run the risk that you’ll work your ass off and then they’ll simply take the work and vanish. When I first started out this happened to me a lot! There are of course some simple steps to take in order to avoid this from happening. We’ll take a look at these in a moment.

Stealing your Money

Of course Freelancer is in many ways an investment…an investment that will not pay off if you can’t avoid the scammers. As I mentioned before, Freelancer will do NOTHING in relation to your money. Here’s why this is a problem for you: Every single time you accept a new project, you get charged a fee. This fee varies but is usually an absolute minimum of 3 pounds, dollars, Euros or whatever else. Long story short, you have to pay to work for an employer. You’re essentially betting that they will pay you. We’ll touch on this in more detail during the next section but one thing to keep in mind is don’t hastily accept projects without discussing details with employer first.

Also keep in mind that people can be dicks…and so you might accept a project that sounds great and then the person just leaves. Sure, you don’t lose any time because you haven’t done any work yet…but you do lose money. I was spending more money than I was making when I first started out and the staff at Freelancer refuse to do anything to help because freelancers being ripped off benefits them. The system isn’t broken; it works exactly how they planned it.

These are basically the two main issues you’re going to encounter. So how can you avoid these? In all honesty, I’m not sure you can completely. When you first join the site you have no reputation at all. Nobody paying a decent amount of money is going to want to employ you and so you need to dive into the murky waters and just hope that the greedy river goblins don’t drag you down under!

Avoiding the Scammers

Freelancer

image via R Capital Associates

Let’s take a look at the simplest methods for staying away from these scummy pieces of shit! I’ll write this based on the assumption that you’re completely new to Freelancer and therefore have no reputation, no reviews and often no choice but to aim low.

1. No Reputation or Information

The first red flag is a pretty standard one. If the profile contacting you is brand new (especially if it was made within the last week) and is blank, then they probably have no long term plans for the site. Sometimes, when you click on a profile, it will take you to the employee page instead of the employer page. This means that even a reputable employer may appear to have no reviews. You can always ask the employer if they’ve work on the site before and you can ask for a direct link to their employer page if you’re having any problems.

Similarly, if the profile has a small number of reviews but ultimately still appears largely blank, this can be a red flag. You don’t want to rely entirely on the reviews as many profiles will work with other profiles to give fake reviews. Obviously if they have an incredibly large sample then you have less to worry about. A blank profile alone isn’t enough to ditch a potential employer but its the first red flag out of what could be many.

2. Taking Work Off-Site

This is something that the Freelancer site will reiterate to you over and over again…of course, the reason they do it is because they don’t want their site to be used for networking and then to lose out on off-site financial transactions. They also claim that it relates to their ability to help site users but that’s absolute bullshit. Not once have they helped me in any way and they won’t ever, ever, EVER give you any money back.

However, not a single person who wanted to move the conversation off-site was fully trustworthy. One of them even paid me for half the work and then just disappeared from the face of the world. Bearing in mind that half the work was about 12 articles! I keep using free versions of copyscape to try and track down the work that I did for them! Other examples include transcribing jobs that involved working over a long period of time before being able to “claim” money. Sketchy projects like these should be avoided where possible.

3. Always, Always, ALWAYS Use the Milestone System

When you first start out, you’re going to come across a lot of incredible sounding jobs. These jobs will often state straight away that payment is every Tuesday or every two weeks or even every month. I even had someone try to hire me for 6 months of work, claiming that I’d get paid at the end. Even if the project sounds like your dream job, keep your expectations low and remain level-headed.

The simplest way to root out a scammer is to demand that you’re paid for each piece of work. You don’t have to be aggressive or rude about it. For example, whenever I bid for a project I always mention that I work strictly through the milestone system. To clarify this point, I’ll confirm with any potential employer BEFORE accepting the project that payment will be for each portion/piece of work. Any respectable employer will agree to that. After all, you know nothing about this person. Are you just supposed to take it on faith that they’ll keep their word?

Once you start to build a professional relationship with someone and you know that payment won’t be an issue, you can begin to cut back on the use of the milestone system. For example, my current employer started off by paying me per article, then every two articles. Once I started getting regular work, this spread to once a week and now I tend to just wait until I’ve completed the project in its entirety before asking for payment. So my advice would be to set up any sort of milestone just to find out if a potential employer is actually willing to pay or not.

4. Get ALL the Details before Accepting a Project

Again, this may seem like common sense but once you start finding projects that sound interesting, it can be a natural reaction to jump the gun a little bit. No matter how compelling and detailed a project description was when you bid for it, establish everything you can about the project within the chat function on the site. The more details you can compile within this window, the better. Ask questions such as: When is the deadline? What sort of work is it? How long does everything need to be? What is the total payment? How will the milestone payments be divided up? What style of writing will it be?

You’re probably wondering why this is so important prior to accepting any project. It actually serves three functions. For starters, it helps root out scammers from the get go. They tend to reveal details that simply sound sketchy or they will try to keep certain details from you. Secondly, it will stop you from accepting a project that will be hell to complete. I’ve made the mistake of accepting a project with very few details and while they only took a few hours to complete, it was painfully dull. The problem is that as soon as you accept the project you’re financially invested and so to just breakeven, you have to complete the work. Failure to do so not only results in loss of money but also in a negative review. This brings me to my third point.

In the event that your employer tries to dupe you into doing more work and you’re worried that failing to do so will result in negative reviews, you NEED to have all the information at hand. Freelancer staff can remove negative reviews if (and only if) you can provide evidence that the employer was being dishonest or manipulative in some way. So have everything detailed in the chat is a great back-up option.

5. If It Sounds Too Good to be True, It Usually Is

Another worrying scam that I’ve only recently encountered on the site is people trying to steal your identity. Freelancer isn’t the only freelance site but as far as I’ve found, it’s actually one of the easier ones to get work from. Upwork, for example, requires you to be approved. As such, people will steal your identity (sometimes through promising payment for doing so) and will use your face and qualifications on other sites. My encounter with this was a guy offering me a project involving writing film reviews. The pay was good (too good) and he claimed he needed proof of my qualifications and UK residency.

I don’t actually live in the UK but according to my driver’s license, I do. So I sent this scumbag my scanned copy of my university degree and a photo of me holding my driver’s license. I purposefully hid my full address as I was aware that the whole ordeal seemed off. The piece of shit then came up with some excuse like “my marketing manager has just informed me that we need your full address to send you information that can’t be sent online”. On that note I reported him and his account was deleted.

The first red flag should have been the payment though. That’s not to say that you won’t find great offers on Freelancer. I get paid more now in two weeks than I would in a month at my previous job…but you have to weigh up everything about the employer, the work and all the other aspects I’ve mentioned so far.

6. Use Freelancer as Intended

The final point I’m going to mention is related to other project types that you may come across on Freelancer. As I mentioned in the last point, people may try and employ you to set up profiles in your name and with your experience on other sites. This will typically involve uploading confirmation photos, forms of ID, etc. Don’t…just don’t! These are never, ever, ever going to end well and you’re just allowing yourself to be noticed in a negative light on these other sites. When I first started on Freelancer, I fell for one of these scams because it sounded simple.

For over a month, this person used a profile that was in my name and with my photo and information. I refused to give up complete control of the account and when they refused to pay me (the account had already been blocked by this stage) I simply messaged the staff at UpWork and explained the situation in full. All I wanted was to have my information removed.

Another example is people trying to buy bitcoins. I almost fell for this one and it is only through complete luck that I didn’t. Some guy was looking to buy bitcoins for more than they are worth. I had some spare and thought, why not? What you have to remember is that transactions can be reversed. So this guy sent me like $200 which appeared on my Freelancer account. I was just about to send him the bitcoins, I had everything set up and just need to click “done”…when I thought I’d double check the money…and it was gone. This guy had essentially reported himself to Freelancer who reversed the transaction because it broke terms and conditions and had I sent him the bitcoins, I’d have been down over $100. Just use Freelancer for the jobs it allows. I mean the staff aren’t going to help you with anything anyway but they certainly won’t help you if you break their rules.

Finding Solid Work

Freelancer

image via Tech Juice

Obviously, the main goal of any freelancer is to find solid work. Going from project to project, achieving very little experience or money is not a great long-term plan. When you first join, you’re going to be slightly disadvantaged but everyone starts off in the same position. In this section I’m going to share some tips for finding solid work.

1. Flesh out Your Profile

This one should go without saying. If your profile is blank, you don’t have a picture, you haven’t uploaded any examples of your work into your portfolio and you haven’t worked a single project yet, then you’re unlikely to find any long-term work. Take some time to really sell yourself! If you don’t have examples of any work then write some. I simply used previously written blog posts or university essays as mine. Simply edit them, make them presentable, and then upload them. It’s really that simple.

2. Take Advantage of Freelancer Offers

On top of charging you fees per project, Freelancer also has the audacity to limit site functionality to those unwilling to pay for a membership. When you’re starting out on Freelancer, using the free membership is going to be extremely challenging. You only get 8 bids and it takes about 90 hours for just 1 bid to regenerate. However, they will often offer trial memberships for new members and if they do, take it! I got about 300 bids with my trial membership. Just remember to go on and deactivate the auto-renewal. I simply set a reminder on my calendar for the day before it would renew and then I cancelled it.

If there aren’t any trial memberships available, I would recommend paying for one month of membership. Starting out on Freelancer is all about building up a reputation and with 8 bids, that’s going to be nearly impossible. Look at it this way, you’ll likely use up all 8 bids on your first day and in order for you to regenerate all 8, you need to wait 30 days!!! Obviously the bids regenerate one at a time so you won’t be completely without bids but getting work with a blank profile is challenging and you really do need as many bids as possible.

3. Start from the Bottom

Step 3 is unfortunately not a fun one. When you’re new to Freelancer and have zero reviews, you’re going to have to do some boring-ass work. Not only is it boring but it pays practically nothing. You need to just look at it as an investment. As long as you’re making enough money to at least cover your membership (if you had to pay for one) and your fees, then do anything you can. Find work that is simple and quick!

My advice would be to go for small pieces of work that require little to no time. Even if you do them for free, most reviews are done per project so if you do 5 or 6 small projects that take maybe two or three hours then you’ll already be off to a great start. This is the only time I’d suggest working for the middle men (something we’ll touch on in a moment). Ideally, you want to get each small piece of work from a different employer but make sure that it is related to the work that you want to do. For example, if you want to write creatively, don’t do SEO or copywriting. Do creative writing! Only move to other areas if you’re struggling to find any work at all.

4. Demonstrate your Ability

Working through Freelancer is one way to demonstrate you writing ability (assuming that that is the area of work you’re doing) but you need sources from outside the website as well. The more ways that you can demonstrate your passion for your work, the more likely it is that people will hire you for more long-term projects. If you’re planning on doing blog writing, then start a blog.

I have three blogs on the go at the minute: this one, my mental health/travel blog and a random weed blog. So I cover a range of different topics. If you don’t have the time or energy to start your own blog then you need to at least contribute to an already existing blog. If you need a way to do this then follow this link and you can write a guest post on my travel blog. Then at least you can send evidence of your work.

Similarly, if you’re trying to enter a niche area of writing, you need to demonstrate a passion for it. I regularly contribute to a movie review site called Movie Babble, where I’ve written about Braveheart and Star Wars movies. Why? Because I love writing about movies and it’s the area I hope to one day work in. Even if you only write one guest post somewhere, it’s just another piece of evidence that demonstrates your ability and passion.

5. Avoid the Middle Men

Now, this one is going to seem a little strange and ultimately, you may choose to ignore this step depending on the sort of work you wish to be involved with. The “middle men” are employers who are part of an agency. Working for them is going to pay very little, involve incredibly dull work and rarely benefit your exposure (if at all). This is how the middle men work:

They bid on as many jobs as they can find (sometimes on other websites). They then hire people like you to do the work, paying you half (sometimes less) of what they are getting paid. Typically, they give you multiple pieces of work involving various types of writing and payment is usually delayed quite drastically. You then get one review for 6 or so pieces of work while their profile gets a positive review from you and from the original employer. This then boosts their profile and allows them to get more and more projects.

I suggest avoiding these people for two reasons. A) They are shady as fuck! That’s not really a reason but I felt like I should mention it. As I said a moment ago, payments are always delayed, you’re paid very little and they are awful at leaving reviews. When you’re starting out, it can be a handy place to start but once you’ve already received several reviews, you need to move away. You can get solid work from such people but you will not make much money doing so. B) Allowing these people to win more and more project bids means there is less and less work going directly to Freelancers. It just creates more of a long-term problem.

6. Build Relationships

When you’re starting out, you’ll find that you build relationships with people. If they only offer you pennies for work and they are nothing more than a stepping stone then just forget about it and move on…but if you’re writing frequently for them and you know they’ll need more work in the future then don’t be afraid to ask for more money. For example, if you had written for the same employer for a few months because the work was pleasant enough but the pay was a little less than what you needed. Wait until you’ve completed a project and when they offer you a new one, simply state that you can only do it for an increase in payment.

Similarly, if you work for someone and the work isn’t incredibly boring but the payment isn’t great, provided it isn’t taking up too much of your time, it can be useful to continue doing the work. To give you an example, when I first started out and had reached the stage of clawing my way out of the mud, I got work writing blog posts about Pompeii, Italy. My employer and I got on well, I did everything to his guidelines and met all expectations and as I enjoyed writing about the topic, I continued to do so. Was I getting rich? No…but I was still getting paid, still getting reviews and creating more examples of my work, ultimately creating a higher level of exposure.

Now, I’m working once again for the same employer but this time I’m writing information on Ancient Roman structures for a Rome guide app. I love learning about history and Rome is one of my favourite places in the world so the opportunity is excellent. Not only that, but once it’s completed and released, I can download the app and demonstrate it as my work.

7. Exposure

Exposure isn’t as big an issue when you’re first starting out. That being said, the more published work that you can get your name attached to, the better. This is usually a problem when you’re starting out as most of the work isn’t related to you. You might be doing someone’s psychology homework (true story) or gathering information on types of violins (also a true story). So in these instances you’re not going to be involved with the process beyond supplying your work.

However, if people are asking you to write blog posts or something similar, then getting your name somewhere on the website (or at least getting a link that you can send future potential employers) is a vital step. That adds to the previous point of developing relationships with your employers. If you can get to know them and ask for your name to be credited somewhere (even if it means you’re paid slightly less) then it’s worth doing.


Thanks for reading! Are there any other insights I can offer you about freelancer work (particularly on Freelancer) or do you have any questions? Let me know down below! 

Don’t forget to follow me on here and on Twitter to stay up to date with my posts!

If you have anything to add or perhaps a suggestion for a future post, leave a comment!

Peace!

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The Quarter Life Crisis!

As I near the age of 25, I’ve come to realise that there is an aspect of life that nobody warns you about. I don’t think any adult as I was growing up ever mentioned their 20s as being a time of horror or confusion. We always hear about the clichéd mid-life crisis where in the movies someone in their late 40s/early 50s randomly decides to dye their hair or buy a motorbike. But what about the quarter-life crisis…why is that never mentioned?

Perhaps you’re wondering what I’m talking about. Maybe you’ve never heard the term before and you’re wondering how anyone could have a crisis at the age of 25. Surely I’m just being dramatic, right? Well, I wish (and perhaps even hope) that that is indeed the case. Sadly, there seems to be a growing body of evidence that I am moving across the border from “young adult” to “adult”. This isn’t a friendly border that greets you with flower necklaces (or Leis) and champagne. No, this is a hostile border with armed guards and vigorous, even invasive searches. It marks a change: one where you begin to realise that you’re not that young anymore. I mean if you compare yourself to others, you may seem young but you know in your heart that there are doors closing behind you that will never be open again…and it’s a little terrifying.

The Hair!

Mid Life Crisis

image via WordPress

So what is actually going on? Well, a receding hairline for one. That’s right, the male-pattern baldness gene which I always knew was inevitably coming my way has finally been activated: Similar to a Treadstone agent from the Bourne movies. One of the worst things about this is that once you become aware of it, you feel like it’s constantly getting worse. I’ve always had thick hair and after a few months of not getting it cut, I usually feel like I’m wearing a door-mat on my head. Yet as I near the 3-month mark I can run my hands through my hair and notice how unusually thin it is. It feels wispy and it serves to remind me of what my grandparent’s hair was like not long before their death.  Many people can go bald and own it but I have an abnormally large head and baldness would not suit me. I have the perfect comparison picture which I’m going to upload above. In fact, since you’re reading this, you’ve already seen it!

The Teeth

Mid Life Crisis

image via Luxtimes

My teeth have started to become a problem as well. I’ve always regretted not getting braces because my bottom teeth are all over the place but not quite erratic enough to create any medical issue…or at least they weren’t. When I first started writing this post (about a month ago) I had been suffering from wisdom tooth pain for 6 months. Not from one tooth or two teeth but three wisdom teeth. Luckily my dentist assures me that they’re just moving but aren’t creating any long-term damage. I still have this fear that my teeth are all moving like continents and that the removal of wisdom teeth (if it eventually happens) won’t change that without braces (which cost a small fortune and would look bizarre on a 25 year old balding man!

The Body

Mid life crisis

image via YouTube

I’ve also found that going to the gym has started to become more difficult. Where I used to be able to laze around for months, only moving off the sofa to eat, wash, use the bathroom, sleep and then return to the gym with a similar level of strength. I now find that even when I’m regularly going to the gym, my strength isn’t improving. This could be down to diet but if anything my diet has improved: I’ve cut out refined carbs as much as possible and I certainly eat less junk food. I’ve barely touched alcohol so far this year and my drug intake has also been drastically lower. By all accounts my gym game should be the best it has ever been! Yet even finding the motivation to go is a challenging endeavour!

This doesn’t even touch upon the sore feet and legs I get from going down the couple of flights of stairs from the flat to the street outside. I can run quite happily and my legs barely suffer (at least that was the case the last time I went for a run) but small walks seem to rip the energy right out of me.

Another thing is my metabolism. I’ve always had an incredibly high and efficient metabolism and my flatmate used to describe me as “carb-resistant” because I could live of carbohydrates and not put on any weight…but over the last 6 months or so, my metabolism has been starting to slow. In truth, this could be due to a number of things but part of my always knew this day would come. I’ve joked about it with people in the past: about how one day it will all just hit me and those chippies for lunch and bags of sweet and sugary drinks that I consumed over the course of two decades will suddenly take their toll.

The Mind

Mid life crisis

image via WakingTimes

A quarter-life crisis isn’t limited to just physical effects though. I find myself feeling mental side effects as well. These are most likely due to my sudden awareness of the physical aspects but it’s still all a bit bizarre. I’ve never really been a night owl by any means. I mean on nights out I can stay up as late as anyone but on a day-to-day basis I’ve always leaned more towards an early night (unless I’m binging a new game like Assassin’s Creed). Recently, this seems to be even more the case as I find myself waking up earlier and going to bed earlier. As of this morning, I was naturally awake at 6:58 and up working by 8.

Of course now that I’m living in Spain I should have adjusted to having siesta in the heat of the afternoon (which is a whole other topic on its own). Instead, I find myself feeling pretty awake until about 5 and then the rest of the evening I can barely function due to sheer tiredness.

That doesn’t even cover the other impacts that aging has brought on. Where I used to be able to binge TV shows and films, I find myself getting bored. In truth, this could perhaps be a positive change as I spend WAY too much of my time watching movies and TV shows…but when I’m going to be bored regardless, at least I could stick a film on that I’d seen a million times already and still enjoy it.

The Money

Mid life crisis

image via The Oklahoma Eagle

Now, before I start discussing money it is important to realise that some stereotypes are based on facts and as a Scottish person, yes, I tend to be quite tight with my money. I can think of many examples through my life where I chose not to buy something simply because I didn’t want to spend my own money. Granted, the opposite of this has also been true where impulse has led to me returning from work with a Playstation 4 (which I returned the next day).

Yet now, more than ever, I find myself thinking about everything I buy. My mind focuses on the work aspect i.e. how much work do I need to do in order to cover the cost of what I’m buying. Do you have data limits set on your phone? I have similar limits mentally set on my bank and when I reach a certain level of cash alarm bells ring. Again, this isn’t perhaps entirely a negative development but it does make me full super old. It’s important to realise that I’m not a mature person. I have a bag of googly eyes in my bag that will be getting attached to inanimate objects in the near future!

The Career

Mid life crisis

image via Everyday Author

An additional mental aspect that hits you around this age is your career. When you’re aged 15, 18, 21, even 23, you feel like you’ve “got time”. You’ve got time to go to university, you’ve got time to start a career from the bottom and work your way up, you’ve got time to decide where you want to be in life and put some sort of a plan into action. Time, time, time, time, time! As you near 25, you soon begin to realise that many people already have this plan: they’re working in a job that is taking them towards their chosen destination, they’ve built up a CV with managers who will give them references. Up until recently, one of my references on my CV was the shop where I did my paper round for 5 years!

This fact sort of sends you into an existential crisis of sorts where you start to realise that you aren’t that great at anything. When I was a kid, I wanted to be an author (a dream I’ve since circled back to), then I wanted to be an entrepreneur (until I realised I have the charisma of a log!), then it was a clinical psychologist (until I realised that you needed to have a ton of experience before getting into an entry level psychology job) and so I settled on becoming a police officer (until I realised that I love drugs and strongly disagree with the drug laws in my country). So perhaps it is some form of regression that has me once again knocking on the doors of authorship in search of a career!

The End

Mid life crisis

image via Behance

Strangely, despite my life not nearing its end (not that any of us actually know that…but we can hope) I do find myself considering the mortality of others. I’ll see the parents of school friends and be shocked, even speechless, at how much older they look. When you grow up with people, you never look at them and think “wow, he’s aged drastically since those days when we used to use sticks as pretend lightsabres!” but when you see someone’s parent after some amount of time, it sort of hits you like a brick wall.

This of course then leads you to considering the mortality of other people: siblings, parents, aunties, uncles, cousins, friends, pets…pets especially! My dog is like 12 this year and my last dog died at the age of 13. It’s a little worrying! There is a moment every now and again where I genuinely worry that any day now I’m going to look in the mirror and be unable to recognise myself. What if I’m actually sitting in a home for the living dead right now and I’ve lost all my memories from the summer of 2018 onwards? I look around and don’t recognise a single person, where I am, my own possessions…myself. Do I feel angry? Upset? Cheated? If you lose all those memories and die without them…have you really lived?

Always Look on the Bright Side of Life!

Mid life crisis

image via Genius

I was going on that but it seemed a little dark and gloomy. Allow me to clarify that I’m not regularly fearing the great abyss and the general aging process isn’t what scares me…rather it’s our inability to focus on the present that causes time to appear to whizz by. Time is merciless, it’s ruthless, and it doesn’t waver or flutter for anyone. You can’t tame time: it’s like a winding, powerful, flooded river which froths over sharp rocks and cascades down giant waterfalls. You’re riding along on an inflatable ring, watching as each sight goes by, wishing that you could get a few moments longer to admire the view…but each moment you waste struggling against the power of the river only causes you to miss more!


Thanks for reading! Have any of you hit the dreaded quarter-life crisis? Let me know down below! 

Don’t forget to follow me on here and on Twitter to stay up to date with my posts!

If you have anything to add or perhaps a suggestion for a future post, leave a comment!

Peace!

Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey…The Final Nail in the Coffin?

Summary: Gameplay will be amazing and as far as RPG’s go it will probably be awesome. In terms of the storyline and the franchise as a whole, it will be a failure, alienating any remaining fans who will ultimately feel that Ubisoft has finally given up on them!

With the release of Assassin’s Creed: Origins still fresh in our minds (along with the many failed yearly-releases prior to it), 2018 marks the release year for the next game in the franchise: Odyssey. It’s worth noting that when I started writing this post, I was incredibly excited by the prospects of this game. I’d seen only bits of the trailer and heard rumours but perhaps still feeling the after-glow from Origins, I was in a positive mind-set. Unfortunately, after only a miniscule amount of research, my opinion has shifted rather drastically! So let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the next game and why all my contempt for Ubisoft has come flooding back!

Origins After-Glow

Odyssey
I’ll keep this short as I’ve already delved deep into my views on Origins but let’s briefly cover some of the points that will be relevant to the rest of this post. For starters, let’s explore the gameplay. Origins changed and improved the combat system of AC quite drastically. After all, Assassin’s Creed used to be more heavily focussed on…well…assassinating. But I’m happy to say that the gameplay in general is without a doubt number 1 as far as the franchise goes. However, there were some issues with the story.

For starters, there’s now this switch from Desmond being “the chosen one” to Layla which from a logical standpoint alone just doesn’t make a great deal of sense. I understand why they need a new main character but I actually quite enjoyed the idea that you were the person joining Abstergo or helping the assassins. We’ve had previous-civilisation being communicate with Desmond using their technology and now they’ve simply scrapped that and now have different being (from after the cataclysm) doing the same thing with Layla. Why couldn’t the previous beings see Layla as being of value? We’ll stop there because if we start picking apart the story elements then there will be nothing left!

Why Origins and Odyssey Aren’t Compatible!

Odyssey
Before I explore Odyssey in depth, I’m going to touch upon why Ubisoft has fucked up (for lack of a better phrase). You see, Origins touched upon what I, and I’m sure others, wanted from the franchise: The Origins of the Assassins. The game ended in such a way that the path was set for future games to explore the early days of the Brotherhood. The story of Bayek and Aya may be over (although I’m still unsure how they both ended up in the same tomb given that they parted ways) but the ground was set for advancing the Brotherhood.

This idea was undermined in two ways: 1) Upon completing the main storyline, the brotherhood just magically seems to form. There are suddenly Assassin Bureaus within Egypt which are marked with the same symbol we see in Assassins Creed 1 and have the familiar dude standing behind a desk. These come out of nowhere! And 2) There is a DLC which appears to allow the player to explore the training of recruits and the formation of the new Brotherhood. I think this was a horrible idea. This isn’t something that should have just been glossed over but rather the focus of the next game!

This is where Odyssey also fucks up! Origins takes place around 50BCE and essentially introduces us to all the main game ideas: the hidden blade, the leap of faith, the formation of the Brotherhood, ETC. Yet Odyssey takes place nearly 400 years earlier in 431BCE! I’m going to touch on this in more detail momentarily but I’m sure you can understand where the problems are going to arise.

Exploring the Potential Issues of Odyssey!

Odyssey
Odyssey does have a number of potential problems, many of which are likely going to rip the heart and soul out of the series (or at least what little heart and soul is left from all the games post AC: Revelations). That’s not to say that I can’t see the benefits of these changes but it seems that Ubisoft needs to make decision on whether they want to keep current fans happy or reel in new ones.

The Power of Choice

Assassin's Creed
Choice isn’t a major aspect of the previous AC games as the entire premise is that you’re reliving memories. You can’t change the past, only experience it. This idea becomes a little fuzzy from AC: Black Flag onwards as the games are sort of games within games i.e. Abstergo has turned memories accessed through the Animus into games accessed through the Helix system. Only the later versions (designed for gameplay by Abstergo industries) allow for this. Even then, your choices are limited to whether or not you wish to explore an area or hunt animals, etc. These choice don’t impact the storyline in any way and nor should they.

Odyssey hopes to change this entirely! Not only can you choose your sex but also who you enter into dialogue (or even romantic relationships) with. This goes a step further as you can change history through fighting for different factions/sides and ultimately the outcome of the game is set to vary depending on your decisions. How? How is this possible?

As far as I’ve read, Ubisoft have explained that Layla’s Animus allows for access to corrupted files and therefore more information…or some bullshit like that. So the choices only appear as choices to the player but are in fact just the deciphering of previously unknown data. It seems that if this turns out to be the case then Ubisoft missed a trick. All the precursor temples seemed to hint at the idea that Layla could potentially travel through time via the Animus and actually alter events. Many speculated that this would allow for the return of Desmond while others figured it was just a way to introduce choice to the games in a similar manner as Bioshock or Mass Effect.

While the whole time travel idea would have been completely ridiculous, I wouldn’t object to it entirely…IF it was used properly. So the game would have to explain how it becomes possible, why the precursor civilisations never used it, the limitations of such technology, etc. They can’t just snap their fingers and wave the “Layla’s Animus is special” wand across the storyline.

Assassin’s Creed or Soldier’s Creed?

Assassin's Creed
This next aspect has me more worried than any other aspect of the game. Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag was a great game. It was refreshing, it had interesting characters, it introduced entirely new gameplay…but it wasn’t an Assassin’s Creed game, it was a pirate game. Odyssey looks to essentially do the same. Since Origins set up everything and marks the start of the Brotherhood, the only logical step was forwards (or so far back that we explore precursor memories).

So far there hasn’t been a hidden blade mentioned or shown within the trailers or walkthroughs, something that the game would be lost without. Sure, Origins sprung a hidden blade out of nowhere but we don’t need a game solely to explore the origins of the hidden blade. Similarly, all other tricks that Bayek learned through being a Medjay don’t need explained. There’s a worrying shot where an inventory items reads the phrase “Everything is permitted” which I imagine will serve absolutely no story element whatsoever and is simply there as a reminder to players that they are in fact playing as Assassin’s Creed game. Pointless additions such as this are what infuriate me! Who thought that was a good idea? I’d imagine someone who has NEVER played an Assassin’s Creed game!

Odyssey looks set up to become a war game and nothing more. Sure, Ubisoft will throw in some nonsensical and ultimately undermining objects or characters but I get the feeling that this is the end of the franchise for me. Ubisoft are simply trying to create a game that appeals to more people while not starting a fresh franchise. Essentially they want to keep the Assassin’s Creed fans while bringing in more by removing many of the base Assassin’s Creed elements.

Piece of Eden

Piece of Eden
One of my biggest issues with Unity and Syndicate (and Rogue and Black Flag to a lesser extent) was that the pieces of Eden weren’t used to serve any real function. They were added simply to give the game something to revolve around. In Assassin’s Creed 1, the POE idea was a twist which introduced itself gradually into both the present and past storylines. In AC II, they were further explored and in Brotherhood and Revelations they acted as vital story components. The same could be said for 3, Black Flag and Rogue but by Unity and Syndicate they were nothing more than objectives.

Odyssey seems to be throwing the same tactics into play by giving us the Spear of Leonidis, which was mentioned briefly in Origins. What function will this serve? I’m willing to wager absolutely none whatsoever. It will be a fancy toy for the character to play with and by the looks of things, it will simply introduce the familiar game elements that shouldn’t exist in that time such as the leap of faith or perhaps it replaces the hidden blade for assassinations. It’s not going to play a role in the modern day storyline, it’s not going to create a larger, overarching storyline, and it’s not going to be of any historical significance beyond this game.

Potential Positive Aspects of Odyssey

Piece of Eden
It wouldn’t be fair of me to say that Odyssey is without flare. I think there are some incredibly interesting aspects to the game and if it wasn’t part of a franchise that I love and wish to see explored further then it would be getting two thumbs up from me. Let’s take a look at what stands out:

The RPG Element

RPG
Since about Assassin’s Creed III or Black Flag I’ve been saying that the series needs to do two things: 1) It needs to explore the Origins of the Assassin’s and 2)  it needs to introduce a skill system. Now that Origins has successfully implemented both of these, only the latter needs to continue. Odyssey certainly seems to take the RPG element further with much deeper customization options which allow players to make the character appear however they like. They can develop relationships with NPCs and even turn these into romantic relationships. These sorts of aspects will allow for different story elements and for different directions to be taken.

It does look like they’ve somewhat simplified the skill tree though and this does have me a little worried. When they tested the idea out in Unity and Syndicate, they added stupid abilities and often there were only a few to choose from. They should exist simply for the sake of it, they should give player a tactical advantage based on their style of play.

The War

War
Odyssey also appears to be introducing drastically larger warfare to that of previous games. Once again, I highlight that this is exactly how Ubisoft does things: they introduce an idea briefly in one game (in Origins we had the war part which was mostly glossed over but allowed for momentary participation) and then use that as a focus for the next game. I’d be lying if I said that the game doesn’t just look like a human version of Shadow of Mordor.

That being said, it still looks highly entertaining. I mean even in Skyrim and the like, we only get very minimal wars and even invasions of settlements ultimately only involve like 20 soldiers. If Odyssey manages to keep the warfare interesting then they could have a great fighting game on their hands.

The ISU and Juno

Piece of Eden
One issue that the franchise keeps running into over and over again is consistency. In Assassin’s Creed we are introduced to the Pieces of Eden and the notion that these objects were from an intelligence civilisation. It isn’t until AC 2 that we are introduced to “those who came before”. This idea is developed further in Brotherhood, Revelations, 3 and even to Black Flag, which seems to mark the end of this chapter. Juno, a being that has just escaped into the world is literally never heard from again in the games.

All the precursor stuff is essentially ignored and rebooted with Origins where we now have new messages directly to Layla. I’m going to discuss this idea in a moment but I think we can agree that the story needs to develop one way or another. Ubisoft can’t just start using the ISU in the same manner they use the Pieces of Eden: Only bringing them into the story as a way of adding excitement or creating mystery. It appears that Juno’s storyline has been moved to comics and so it seems like Layla and her interactions with new ISU members will be the focus. There needs to be some genuine traction. They can’t just keep sending messages! Ubisoft have been teasing us with Precursor DNA use since Black Flag (although Shaun mentions a similar premise in AC III) and yet we’ve still had nothing.

I think that if Odyssey doesn’t involve almost entirely around the ISU then that aspect of the games needs to just be forgotten about. Was it fun finding the temples in Origins? Hell yeah! I thought it was fucking amazing! But ONLY if it actually serves some sort of purpose. Finding these cool but otherwise insignificant items isn’t fun if they are only there to give us something cool to look at. Adding aspect like that to a game simply for the sake of it is moroic!

Ubisoft Hates Fans!

Assassin's Creed
A bold statement, I know. Why would a company hate its fans? Well, it’s because once they have fans they still crave more. By the time Assassin’s Creed 3 came out, many fans had lost interest and new fans couldn’t be bothered playing through all the games to catch up. So we get Black Flag, Rogue, Unity, Syndicate and even Origins which are all entirely self-contained storylines. You don’t need to have played a single game for most of the storylines to make sense and as such, each game doesn’t feel connected to the next beyond its name. I mean sure, they throw in a reference or two: a piece of armour, a sword, random trinkets or actual messages, but in terms of content with substance? No!

Ubisoft needs to decide what they want to do: do they want to create a fan base or do they want each game to be playable by anyone, despite them never having played an AC game before? I get the feeling that it’s the latter. I had such high hopes with Origins and I hoped so badly that it would continue and would allow for the development of genuinely interesting storylines. I mean they had everything from 50BCE onwards to explore! We could have had an Aya based game that starts off with the assassination of Cleopatra! The possibilities were endless! Sadly it seems that Ubisoft cares very little about the lore and even less about the dedicated fans.

All Ubisoft does is take the base points of a game and copy it to the next. What did people like in Origins? They liked using Senu to spot targets, they liked the RPG element, they like the more basic navy battles…OK, let’s throw all that into our next game. I said it in my Origins review and I’ll say it again: using a bird doesn’t make sense in every context and sure as shit doesn’t in Odyssey.


Thanks for reading! What are your thoughts on Odyssey? Do you think it will destroy what’s left of the franchise? Let me know down below! 

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If you have anything to add or perhaps a suggestion for a future post, leave a comment!

Peace!

Wattpad Story: The Weight of a Heart

In order to practice creative writing before tackling the gigantic task of writing a full-blown book, I’ve decided to work on some short stories every once in a while to keep the creative juices flowing. So I’ve joined Wattpad and have uploaded my first story to it: a sort of thriller/horror that mixes Ancient Egyptian mythology with modern day life (in a manner of speaking). As this will be my first completed short story to be published on Wattpad, I figured I may as wells share it here as well. If you’re already a Wattpad user, you can follow this link to go straight to the story! Here is the opening chapter:

 

Chapter 1: A Day to Remember

The somewhat slow and staggered manner in which I am walking may lead some to believe that I’m drunk, perhaps returning from happy hour during a lunch break. While this may not miss the mark by much, in truth my head is simply lost in the clouds or away with the fairies…perhaps away with the fairies in the clouds. Long story short: I’m lost in a day dream or at least what feels like a day dream. Was I remembering something? Perhaps something I was supposed to do today…well, whatever it was it’s gone: Hardly surprising given the circumstances. I can practically still taste and smell last night’s alcohol and the pounding sensation in my brain was the familiar signal from my body to say that drinking too much alcohol has consequences, the thumping headache being just one of many. Me and my significant other, Riley had attended our friend Nick’s birthday party and had agreed that neither of us would drink. Evidently her willpower trumps mine…which is hardly surprising. My own 28th birthday had only been a few weeks earlier but due to our current financial situation (especially with my pay being cut for my job at the bank) we decided to skip throwing a big bash and simply relax a little. We spent most of the time walking our dog, Sam. She was still young and was my birthday present to myself only three years earlier. The uniqueness of having one blue eye and one brown eye had immediately ruled out the possibility of me choosing any other puppy from the litter of Border Collies, all of whom were black and white…apart from one brown oddball.

The path I’m following begins to gently slope down towards the dock which just so happens to be the destination I’m heading to. I’m walking next to what appears to be a recently cobbled road. Each brick seems perfectly situated and I can’t begin to imagine how long it must have taken to complete.  The midday sun is blaring down with incredible heat and the scene would be one of complete and utter beauty, were it not for the distant wails of an ambulance siren…perhaps more than one, screeching away in the distance. Moments like this always have to have at least one flaw. A faint but cold wind blows and despite being so weak that even the lightest leaves don’t budge, I can hear the distant sounds of someone talking. I can’t make out the words but it doesn’t really matter anyway. I take a moment to stand still and appreciate just how beautiful this place is.  As I look around at all the open land by the side of the lake, I can’t help but feel like I’m experiencing something completely new, almost as if I’d never seen this sight in my entire life. I take a moment to try and recall why I’m going to the docks in the first place…what I do know is that there will be a boat leaving soon and that I should be on it. I hadn’t even been sure where to get the boat from but the voice of the man who gave me directions is still ringing loudly in my mind. If it wasn’t for the fact that I was alone, I’d swear he was standing right beside me.

As I begin to continue my walk down the path, I admire the massive lake and it’s deep blue glow which despite being a darker blue than the sky, also seems to give off a hint of green. The sheer size of the lake was in itself remarkable and was it not for the stone lighthouse signalling the existence of land on the horizon you couldn’t be blamed for thinking that this was actually the sea. The one giveaway was the lack of tides. Although, there did appear to be a gradual flow of the water which moved much slower yet more erratically than any river I’d seen. Perhaps the inflow of water from further along the bank is the cause of this effect. The somewhat empty field to my left is suddenly home to a large stone slab. The yellowish colour of what appears to be sandstone bared the burden of what is a larger, thinner stone slab with chiselled writing. The untarnished and perfectly intact stone suggests that this was a recent addition to the otherwise empty field and where it not for the sand which appears to have found its way this far up the hill, I would perhaps guess that it was put here only yesterday.  I used my hand like a brush in order to sweep the travelled sand off the text as if uncovering a buried artefact.

“O people of the earth, men and women born and made of the elements, but with the spirit of the Divine within you, rise from your sleep of ignorance! Be sober and thoughtful. Realize that your home is not on the earth but in the Light. Why have you delivered yourselves unto death, having power to partake of immortality?”

Various symbols and pictures (none of which seem to represent a larger meaning, at least not as far as I can tell) surround the text itself. Riley was always the brains of our pairing, if she was here now I’m sure she’d be able to come up with some deeper understanding of this random nonsense. I can’t help but imagine that some pompous rich man perhaps believed they were more intelligent and insightful that they actually were and simply paid money to have this slab put here. Regardless, the day is getting on and there are surely bigger fish to fry than reading slabs.

As I approach the docks, I see a queue of people lining up near a small wooden boat. It wasn’t quite as small as a rowing boat but certainly wasn’t much bigger. Even the smallest rippled in the water made it rock like nothing more than a piece of rotting driftwood. I glance around with the strong assumption that there must be a larger boat nearby or perhaps coming into dock…with nothing else in sight, I can only conclude that this must be the one I need to get…but where does it go? When did I randomly decide to get on mystery vessels with strangers? Thoughts come and go but none seem to answer any of my self-reflective questioning. Curiosity leads me to join the queue with the others as I watch them get on the boat one by one. Most of them appear to be middle aged apart from a younger woman who is sitting at the very front of the boat. She’s wearing what I could only describe as rags with her baby wrapped up in much of the same. I begin to walk around the queue of people in order to take a closer look, to see what sort of person would raise a child in such poor conditions. The bobbing up and down of the boat (if you can call it that) gave the pair an appearance that was almost statuesque, as if they were frozen eternally in the very position they were currently sitting. Without making my actions too obvious, I manage to catch a glimpse of what appears to be a blonde haired boy, perhaps only a few weeks old but still looking frail and fragile.

“Wait in the line in order to board the boat” a deep and intimidating voice bellowed from behind me…or maybe to the side of me. I could feel chills spread through my entire body and suddenly I begin to feel like the frozen one. Is my heart even beating? Am I shaking? These feelings vanish as suddenly as they appeared as if a veil is ripped off me and so I decide that in order to keep the peace I better head to the back of the line. As I walk past the other passengers, I notice that they all look miserable. Some of them even look pale. Are they scared? They seem to have enlarged pupils and the iris is barely visible at all…if it’s even still there. What sort of boat ride is this? Doubts begin to run through my mind and as I reach my spot in the queue, I notice an elderly woman is standing there. She isn’t like the rest…I mean she isn’t happy but she is the only one that has made eye contact with me thus far and her pupils appear to be of a fairly normal size. Now that I think about it, her eyes are somewhat fixed on me. Should I look away? Should I talk to her? Maybe she knows me and I’ve simply forgotten her face. Her eyes are squinting a little now and her body seems to be trembling slightly. The more I stare into her dark, beady eyes, the more I convince myself that I can see bloodshot forming across the greyish tones of what would usually be the whites of the eyes. Her trembling hand slowly lifts into the air revealing a glistening wedding ring which seems to be the only colour on her that isn’t monochromatic. As one finger points in my direction I take a quick look behind me in the hopes that there was something else she may be pointing at.

As the stark reality that this small, elderly and insanely intimidating woman was pointing at me and me alone, I decided that I did indeed recognise her from somewhere. I had a moment where I lost myself in thought as I try desperately to place her when she opens her mouth to speak. What comes out are not words, but rather a bizarre and terrifying screech. The noise is how you would imagine someone who had lost their voice attempting to scream: that harsh noise that you can only imagine is tearing flesh off the inside of the person’s throat and is painful to even attempt. It wasn’t the volume that was sending my heart into overdrive and my brain into panic mode…it was the attempt to speak and the anger and shock on her face at the realisation that she was unable to do so. Her other hand was grasping tightly around her throat as if she were trying to patch a hole or puncture. Just as the initial shock was beginning to leave my body, words begin to form from the rough and animalistic noise that was leaving her mouth. This mumbling turned into slightly coherent words until with one final attempt she manages to form the sentence: “there is no escaping a heavy heart…and yours will be heavy indeed!” A rather strange message but the desperation she had to share it with me was alarming enough.

If I had still been considering getting on that boat, this would have been enough to sway the decision. I turned around to walk away which is when I noticed that all the people in the queue had also turned around and were now staring at me. I don’t think it is remotely possible for their blank, emotionless faces to be any more chilling. How can faces appear so featureless? It was as if they were all wearing masks with their true emotions hidden away underneath. Part of me wanted to run, another was fixated on these strange characters and why they were behaving in such a peculiar manner…another, smaller part of me wanted to dive into water in the hopes that these strange occurrences were nothing more than a nightmare. I turn around and walk away, not daring to look back to see if I was still the subject of their attention or not…although I got the feeling that their unblinking eyes were fixed on me still. I quicken my pace just in the off chance that they decided to follow me. My destination was unclear but what was clear was that voice in my mind that is seemingly repeating its message about the boat and the queue.

 

If you enjoyed the first chapter and would like to see where the story goes, just follow this link to find the full story on Wattpad!


Thanks for reading! Do you have any feedback on either chapter 1 or the story as a whole?  Let me know down below! 

Don’t forget to follow me on here and on Twitter to stay up to date with my posts!

If you have anything to add or perhaps a suggestion for a future post, leave a comment!

Peace!

The Truth about the Garden of Eden!

When it comes to stories contained within the Bible, it’s not a stretch to assume they are half-truths. Bible stories are as close to truth as Inglorious Basterds is to the events of WW2. One story in particular is worth focusing on more than others: The Garden of Eden. We have to cover a number of aspects in order to paint a full picture of the misunderstandings and misinterpretations.

First Writings

Enki

image via UFO the Truth is Out There

So when we look at the Garden of Eden which is contained within Genesis (the first book of the Bible) we have to explore the earliest versions. So when was it written? Well, if you take the Bible version and ignore other mythologies, then the most recent estimates put the Yahwist (the first 6 books of the Bible/Torah) at the 6th century BCE (600-500BCE). So it’s interesting that the book which apparently reflects “God’s message” was written much, much later than earlier versions of what is essentially the same story. Ancient Sumerian tablets written around 2800BCE contain varying references (at least 12 references) to the Garden of Eden and to Adam and Eve.

Misunderstandings

Enki

image via YouTube

When it comes to misunderstandings, misinterpretations and mistranslations, the Bible would be the best example of all three. There isn’t another book on this planet which has strayed so far from the story’s original meaning. So let’s take a look at what exactly the Bible gets wrong. For starters, we need to understand a bit more about Ancient Sumer. The ancient Sumerians are known for creating one of the earliest forms of writing known as Cuneiform. These arrow or wedge shapes are very distinct from later written languages.

This is important as Assyrians and Babylonians whose civilisations rose to prominence within the same areas as the Sumerians valued everything the Sumerians did, said, built, etc. These new societies would write in Akkadian, their own form of the Sumerian cuneiform. This in turn would be used to create Eblaite and Amorite, two of the earliest forms of Semitic languages. Eventually (around the 10th century BCE) we get Proto-Sinaitic Script, followed by the Phoenician alphabet (the first alphabet) which in turn became the Aramaic alphabet and eventually the paleo-Hebrew alphabet. Of course the more modern Semitic languages today are Arabic and Hebrew (among others).

Originally, when the Sumerian Cuneiform clay tablets were discovered, there was a worry it would be impossible to decipher them. The language is entirely original and unique. It was initially only due to an understanding of these later written languages that translations could be attempted. However, it wasn’t until the discovery of a lexicon that Anton Parks (Sumero-Akkadian researcher and translator) could fully understand the original clay tablets. He has since gathered evidence which suggests that in fact for hundreds of years, we have been mistranslating the Sumerian tablets.

Exploring the Inaccuracies

Enlil

image via vorpalgazebo

One problem many religious groups face today is translations. Many speak only English and don’t understand that some words simply don’t translate into other languages in the same way. Take, for example, the word paradise. The Garden of Eden is often referred to as ‘paradise’. The word itself comes from the Greek word: paradeisos. The definition of which is simply “enclosed park” often used to refer to an enclosed park housing wild animals (1). It wasn’t until the Hellenistic Period that the term transcribed as meaning “garden”.

You may be familiar with Genesis 2:15 “The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.” So it may also surprise you to hear the correct translations from these ancient clay tablets which reads: “The men who serve the gods work for them in the garden and are treated like animals.” This is a recurring theme within these clay tablets which points to only one realisation: The Garden was simply an area where the elite groups/Gods live in luxury while slaves carry out the more menial tasks. The original texts refer to ‘Kharsag’ which translates roughly as ‘the city of the Gods’.

We also need to look at some of the individual words used. For example Eden is comprised of two main components ‘E’ which means ‘home’ and ‘Den’ (pronounced ‘Din’ or ‘Tin’) meaning ‘life’. We also have to look at one of the main characters in the Biblical creation story: Adam. Interestingly, you may suspect that the name/word ‘Adam’ has Hebrew roots but actually, it’s a Sumerian word. A-DAM actually translates as meaning ‘animals’. This is due not to Adam actually being an animal but rather the word ADAM referring to the lower class or level of the human species as viewed by the Gods.

Another important word we need to explore is SATAM (perhaps better known to you as Satan). The word SATAM in ancient Sumerian actually translates as ‘administrator’. There is nothing inherently evil or foul-natured about this word or being other than from what we know of later religious texts (such as Judeo-Christian texts). This word will be of particular importance when we explore the earliest Garden of Eden story. Finally, we have to explore the word which would later be mistranslated as “apple”: GNEESH. This Sumerian word doesn’t mean apple but rather tool or tree.

The True Story

Enlil

image via Ancient-Origins

The stories which come from these tablets of ancient Sumer tell not of one God but several. This council or assembly of Gods with several higher up members: Enki and Enlil. Each of these is quite apparent very early into the tablets. Enlil is referred to as ‘The Great SATAM’ (meaning the great administrator) but is similar to a dictator (eerily similar to the Judeo-Christian God): He is angry, domineering and controlling. This God doesn’t view humanity as anything more than animals or slaves whose sole purpose is to serve him and his kind. This was in comparison to Enki (also known as ‘the serpent’ due to his scale-like complexion) who is sometimes referred to as the Trickster God but was also known as the God of Wisdom. Enki (in comparison to Enlil) cares deeply for humanity and would often intervene with them in order to offer warning or insight (an example of this can be seen in the flood story which is almost identical to the Noah story but with different characters).

These Gods, while being humanoid in shape have different skin. The tablets refer to early forms of genetics which suggest that these Gods took already existing humans (perhaps an earlier species) and created what we would know as homo sapiens. While Enki was primarily responsible for this task, it was Enki who decided the specifications i.e. this new species of humans was designed for one purpose: to serve. These humans were naturally subservient to these Gods and didn’t question orders or even have free will by all accounts.

The tablets differ quite drastically from the Genesis story in that a God was sacrificed in order to combine their blood (the literal translation) with these new humans, along with elements of the Earth. This genetic change sounds crazy (particularly to myself, someone who doesn’t believe in Gods) but there is evidence of a drastic change in human DNA. I personally don’t think it is evidence of God-interaction but it’s interesting to note. To look at this evidence, we have to focus on chromosome number 2 which is not only the 2nd largest chromosome but also makes about 8% of the DNA in any cell. The interesting change is a fusion of pre-existing chromosomes that would actually have been found in primates. It’s responsible (among other things) for the formation of the cortex. This gives us mental abilities such as logic, empathy, sympathy and compassion. You could arguably say it is responsible for our sense of morality.

Enki secretly altered some of the genes within certain groups of humanity. This is viewed as a change that would allow enlightenment to take place within these humans. The other Gods even turn against him, particularly Enlil. As time goes on, these humans become independent and discover the ability to disobey the Gods and choose not to be subservient. Enki, as such, wishes to treat the humans as if they were the same as the Gods. Enlil asks Enki to go fourth and talk to the humans on behalf of the Gods, something that Enki had been doing anyway. It’s important to remember that Enki is frequently described as having reptilian features. He is also the only God that the humans come into direct contact with (at least at this time).

Enki approaches a woman in the “Garden” and provides them with GNEESH (a tool). He explains that humanity can use either side of this tool. On the one side, they can use it for building or fixing…or they can use it for fighting, defending and conquering. Due to their oppression at the hands of the Gods and the realisation that they now have the means to revolt, the humans do just that. They launch an attack against the Gods which ultimately fails and the surviving humans (of which there are now few) are put back to work. So what did Enki give mankind? A choice! You may even say that the serpent presented humanity with the ability to defy the Gods which ultimately led to the fall of man.

Welcome in the Judeo-Christian Views

Enki

image via Ask Gramps

So this leads us to the point in time where the varying books of the Old Testament were being compiled. It’s undeniably obvious that the Garden of Eden story existed in written form in ancient Sumer long before it was ever written for the purposes of the Torah or Bible. What idea benefits a religion more: Pushing humanity to rise up against oppressors (Gods or otherwise) OR making humanity feel guilty and subservient with only one purpose: to serve God? One relates to Enki and the other to Enlil. The latter is exactly the same as the Judeo-Christian God and so the choice that was made is obvious. Giving knowledge and power to humanity was the work of an evil character, a snake, a deceiver and yet forcing humanity to serve is somehow the act of an all-loving God?

The interesting thing is that this duality and symbolism still exists very much today. Not worshipping God, not believing in God, not obeying God is how one follows the path of the devil (of the snake from the Garden). Yet Enki’s message is still found within Christianity today, despite being erased from the stories himself.  For example, the most famous depiction of Enki shows him holding a pinecone in one hand. The pinecone (which obviously comes from a tree) is used to symbolise consciousness. Pinecones were symbolic within later religious beliefs and a giant statue of a Pinecone can be found in Vatican City (although it predates the Catholic ownership of the land).

Conclusion

Enki

image via MichaelLeeHIll

So you have to ask yourself: Does Christianity have the wrong end of the stick? Has the Bible or Torah being teaching the side of the story that goes against the interests of humanity? Is the Devil actually just a God who tried to help us and the one God these faiths worship is simply a dictator? How would anyone know differently?

I don’t personally believe either story to be based on history. However, that being said, I find the Sumerian tale to be far more conceivable and possible. I mean we could easily have mistaken aliens as Gods due to our sheer lack of knowledge and understanding of the world at the time. It’s completely possible that this alien race decided to create subservient humans through genetic splicing and editing. I also find it completely possible (if not likely) that during the compilation of Bible stories there was either an error or an intentional editing in terms of translations.

It’s also worth noting that this story CLEARLY played a role in the formation of the Assassin’s Creed story line. I actually find the Assassin’s Creed version more likely that the Bible version. So I’m definitely going to write an article looking at some of the inspirations for the Assassin’s Creed games and how it ties in with real history and mythology.


Thanks for reading! What are your thoughts on the Sumerian tale of Enki and Enlil?  Let me know down below! 

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If you have anything to add or perhaps a suggestion for a future post, leave a comment!

Peace!

My First Psilocybin (Magic Mushroom) Experience!

So today (or at least the day I wrote this), after many, many years of building up to being in the right frame of mind, I’m going to experience a magic mushroom trip. I’m writing this prior to taking anything so that you can understand my frame of mind and my expectations. To let you know exactly what my plan is, I have liquid psilocybin and I’ll be taking the equivalent of 1 gram of magic mushrooms. If I begin to trip and it’s not too intense then I might take more with my maximum amount being 2 grams. I’d imagine I’ll probably stick to the 1 gram for today: Testing the waters, so to speak.

I’ve never taken any psychedelics before. I’ve experienced minor trips on MDMA after taking slightly too much (one time I thought I was flying a plane and the other I felt like I was in Assassin’s Creed) but this will be my first time properly delving into this realm. I’ve taken a range of precautions to ensure I have not only a safe trip but an enjoyable one.

For example, I have a reliable person babysitting me (or more accurately, being sober minded and in the same flat just in case I hit a bump in the road). I’ve also written a note to myself explaining that the trip is temporary and that if I start thinking negatively, I should carry out one of several steps. I have a ton of chilled and happy music on my phone that I’m going to listen to at least for the start of the trip to keep me in a positive mind-set.

I’m going to have a notepad with me wherever I am just in case I feel like taking notes but since I have no real experience with tripping, I have no idea what I’ll feel like doing or even be capable of doing. I’ve read up on the topic rather extensively so I understand (as best as one can without having experienced it oneself) what I should feel during the trip. What do I hope to accomplish? At this stage, my only real aim is to experience the trip. If all goes well then I’ll up the dose next time in search of a more spiritual experience. I guess I’ll see you on the other side!

During the Trip

Trip

Image via Faze

So I’ve taken the equivalent of 1 gram of magic mushrooms. I can certainly feel the initial stages. The movement in my stomach was very noticeable at first. Not quite a pain but certainly a discomfort. What is really weird is that I am typing all of this without remotely looking at the keyboard. Somewhat strange that my typing ability has improved while on psychedelics. I DEFINITELY felt the waves that everyone has described. I wasn’t sure exactly what that would feel like. Waves? I wondered…but I totally get it. ‘Waves’ is just the perfect way to describe it.

I felt like I was getting the first set of visuals but that seems to have passed now. I was staring at the duvet cover hanging on the door which is grey with black swirls. To me, it looked as if the duvet cover was being pulled over the door from the other side. I stared at my pupils for a little bit in the mirror while I was in the bathroom peeing there and they almost seemed like they were pulsating but I don’t actually know if your pupils change at all on shrooms or whether it was just part of the visual effects.

I’ve reached the point that I sort of half expected whereby I’ve felt the waves and had some minor visuals but that’s it and I feel like I’ve already passed the peak. So I’m going to take the other 1g worth. I still feel like there is stuff going on but it does seem very minor and not hugely intense. People described it as feeling high or stoned which is very true but even that seems to have worn off a little bit. Like if I was smoking weed I’d smoke another joint by this level. Damn, I wish I had weed…

Dose #2

Trip

image via Tumblr

So here we go, I’ve already taken a 2nd dose. My slight concern (which mostly stems from my experience of taking MDMA) is that just as I take the 2nd dose, I’d fully come up on the first dose. Speaking of which, I can feel it starting to take effect already. I’m getting the same stomach pain (although it’s not so much pain as simply my stomach feeling like its doing stuff) and I’m getting very, very slight nausea but I’d eaten between doses so that’s to be expected.

After the Trip

Trip

image via Daily Express

So I stopped being able to type after my 2nd dose but I did occasionally make small notes in my notebook which I expanded on towards the end of the trip. Where the first dose had led to very minor visuals, the 2nd dose caused colours to change, the floor to move like a conveyor belt, cupboards to appear to breathe and other such things. I stared out the window of my flat a lot and simply watched the goings on outside. There is a square with a play park in it and I was amazed at these kids using their imagination. One of them was pretending to be injured while the other pretended to cast a spell. I felt like I was watching some intense moment of a film.

I did come close to darkness though. During the trip I couldn’t work out what a bad trip would feel like. It was almost like the very notion was beyond my imagination. However, one of the times I was looking out of the window,  I felt it. Luckily I managed to avoid the bad trip itself but here is how I described it in my notepad:

I felt like a bad trip just narrowly avoided me like an asteroid whizzing past the Earth. It was like the shadow was over me. It made me think of Venom in Spider-Man.”

I remember the bad trip almost felt like a life or a presence. If I follow on with the asteroid example, it was like the asteroid was alive and trying to hit Earth. Almost like a Galactus figure (Marvel reference) or something. It was like I could sense impending doom. Sort of like the bad trip eclipsed the sun. Luckily, as I mentioned, the feeling passed by and I was able to continue with my trip.

Back to the Fun Visuals

Trip

image via Today’s Christian Woman

I saw some pretty crazy visuals after the 2nd dose. The ones I made note of in particular were as follows:

  • I looked outside at a line of trees visible from the window of my flat. At this time of year they are incredibly green on a normal day but on shrooms this was even more the case. One tree in particular looked insane! It was almost like it was on fire but without burning (Moses eat your heart out). The flames weren’t red or orange but rather they were gold or silver. They reminded me of one thing in particular. If you’ve ever driven on a hot, dry day you occasionally see puddles that aren’t there. It was like the tree was glowing and burning but with these puddles rather than fire.
  • There is a clock on the wall in the living room which I found myself staring at for what felt like a long time (it probably wasn’t). The clock was like a planet being bombarded with colourful dust which made me think of like solar radiation. Everything other than the clock was almost blurred by this dust/radiation but the clock itself was crystal clear.
  • I had lined up some photos from the Hubble Telescope to view during my trip. I enjoy looking at these photos sober-minded but I figured staring into the universe might be quite fun under the influence of psilocybin. It was certainly an experience. I found that the pictures not only changed colour but also appeared to move. At times it felt like I was watching a live stream of some distance galaxy. The fun thing was that new aspects of the images would appear such as stars I hadn’t noticed before. It became a little too intense so after 5 or so photos I decided to move on.

Embracing the Darkness

Trip

image via Science News

I found myself (after the peak of the 2nd dose) going to bed. Not to sleep but rather to meditate. My eyes were super sensitive to light and even with an eye mask on and my eyes closed, my brain was still detecting too much light. I closed the blinds and all the doors, put the eye mask on, closed my eyes and found myself still not in complete darkness. I could feel myself being drawn towards the geometric swirl that to me resembled a black hole. As I drifted towards and into it, a calming, quiet darkness enveloped me and I felt at ease. I was listening to a Sam Harris meditation from YouTube which I turned off about 5 minutes in because it was actually more distracting than silence.

Unfortunately, silence opened me up to hearing neighbours arguing or at least talking very loudly. Music and voices were too much for my brain so I decided to put some white noise on. The static was actually very relaxing and the strange thing was that it started to sound like a waterfall.

Eventually, when the shrooms were really beginning to wear off, I decided to just look through photos and videos on my phone while curled up in bed. Hunger soon overwhelmed me and getting out of bed marked the end of my trip. I still felt the presence of the drug in my brain but there were no physicals effects or visuals.

Reflecting on the Experience

Trip

image via Flickr

As I mentioned at the start, the purpose of this trip wasn’t to blow my brain or search for a spiritual experience. It was simply a test run to allow myself to adjust to the effects of the drug. Now that I know the stages and have an idea of the feelings, what works for me and what doesn’t, I can increase the dose during my next trip to 2.5/3 grams worth of magic mushrooms.

I would love to try it out in nature. Perhaps not in Spain because I think the feeling of being in “unknown” territory would play on my mind a little but in Scotland I can think of several locations that would be isolated enough to comfortably take shrooms out in nature. I think that I’ll also be sure to have weed (in the form of pre-rolled joints) during my next trip. The comedown wasn’t horrible at all but I think it would have been drastically improved be a little smokey smoke.


Thanks for reading! Have you ever tried psilocybin? Is an experience that intrigues you? Let me know down below! 

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If you have anything to add or perhaps a suggestion for a future post, leave a comment!

Peace!

Should the UK Abolish the Royal Family? YES!

When you’re looking at where tax payer’s money is spent, you’d expect a priority to be towards the police service, healthcare, education, etc. So whether you live in the UK or not, it may shock you to learn that £80+ million is paid to the Queen. Given that we don’t live under a monarchy and that the Royal Family in itself is little more than a living, breathing tourist attraction (and not a very effective one at that), why are we still funding their extremely luxurious lifestyle?

The “British” Royal Family

Royal Family

image via English Crown

Many people in Britain love the Royal Family. I’m not one of them. I have nothing against the family personally, they didn’t choose to be born into such a position. But the very notion that this family deserves our time, our respect, or more importantly: our money is beyond me. The Royal Family may sell many souvenirs, plates and t-shirts or make foreign officials feel privileged when introduced to its members but other than that they serve no purpose.

What part of the Royal Family is British? As someone from Scotland, I feel no connection to them. This ties into British nationalism or Unionism but there are many reasons why we shouldn’t view them as symbols of our country.

For starters, even if you view the family as having “Royal Blood”, do they really? The paternal side of the family is German. You may know the family as “The Windsors” but actually that name only came to be in 1917 due to anti-German sentiment. The family name before its British reboot was ‘Saxe-Coburg and Gotha’ due to the marriage between Prince Albert and Queen Victoria. We view this family as inherently British but there isn’t really anything particularly special about them (or British about them). On principle alone I’m against celebrating a family (or an individual) based solely on their relatives.

We also have to consider the British National anthem “God Save the Queen”. I don’t consider this a British National Anthem by any means. There are two reasons for this:

  • As I already mentioned, the Royal Family is of no special significance to me. They are simply remnants of a feudal society that claimed land and oppressed populations. There is still land all across the UK that is owned by the Royal Family as a result of taking land by force or claiming it as their right. To me, this is absolutely disgusting (even more so when you consider the Royal Family profits from this).
  • The 6th verse in the “British” national anthem goes as follows:

“Lord grant that Marshal Wade

May by thy mighty aid

Victory bring.

May he sedition hush,

And like a torrent rush,

Rebellious Scots to crush.

God save the Queen!”

I don’t think that ANYONE would argue that having a verse targeting one of the countries within a “United” Kingdom doesn’t seem a bit bizarre. Don’t even get me started on the British passports which show the Scottish national animal: the unicorn, with a chain around its neck. I’m going a little off-topic here but I had to share these points.

The Cost

Royal Family

image via CNBC

So when we look at the value of the Royal Family, we have to consider whether what we pay them is worth it in the long run. Many people argue that the Royal Family are responsible for a lot of the tourism in the UK. I’d have to disagree. The Royal Family may very well benefit the people of London, particularly those in businesses located anywhere near Buckingham Palace. But considering that tax money from ALL of the UK is used to pay the Royal Family, I fail to see the benefits to the rest of us.

ALVA, a company focused on leading visitor’s attractions, Tweeted the following at the time of the Royal Wedding:

“The 2011 wedding of the Duke & Duchess of Cambridge saw an additional 600k ppl visit London for the weekend, 60% from UK, 40% from overseas, spending £107m (£8.4m in West End theatres).”

Yet when we actually look at the evidence, you’ll find that even Visit Britain can’t find evidence to support the tourism benefit of keeping the Royal Family around. If Windsor Castle (the only occupied Royal Residence to attract a large number of visitors) was included in ALVA’s analysis of top tourist attractions, it would be lucky to come in at 24th. Stonehenge, The British Museum, Edinburgh Castle, Roman Baths, National Museum of Scotland and the Science museum are all examples of attractions which reel in higher numbers of tourists. This is supported by evidence which shows most tourists come for our wide range of museums, wonderful scenery, to engage in British history and to shop….as opposed to visiting an old bag, her racist husband and her ginger grandchildren.

Royal Weddings, Annual Income and Security

Royal Family

image via Pinterest

Since we mentioned the Royal Wedding already, let’s delve into the costs. In 2011, Prince William and Catherine Middleton got married. While most of the finance was covered by the incredibly wealthy Royal Family (how nice of them) the UK taxpayer had to cover the cost of security and transport (as per the agreement of the Family’s grant) which was to the sum of at least £7 million.

Of course we have another Royal Wedding on the way with petitions already in motion to avoid tax payers having to pay out for any of the costs. I mean I don’t think it’s too much to ask that we don’t have to fund weddings.

The Sovereign Grant

Royal Family

image via Google

Queen Elizabeth II is one of the world’s richest women, according to The Times. So where does she get her money? Well, most of her money comes from the Sovereign Grant. To understand what exactly this is, we have to look back to 1760 when King George III agreed to hand over the crown estate to the treasury. This mass of land includes obvious areas such as Buckingham Palace and Regent Street but also most of the UK’s seabed. Where does all the land come from? It comes from the areas conquered by the Monarchy throughout history.

As I’m arguing a lot of this from a Scottish perspective, let’s take a look at Scotland. It’s estimated that The Crown owns about £261.5 million worth of land in Scotland. This includes (but is not limited to) four estates that cover 37,000 hectares of land, ownership of the seabed up to 12 nautical miles from the shore as well as more retail-orientated areas such as 50% of Fort Kinnaird retail park just outside Edinburgh. The Queen gets 15% of the Crown Estate profits.

This figure is set to double to £82.2 million so that the Royal Family can carry out repairs at Buckingham Palace. As any tourism increases in the UK, so does the income of the Royal Family with the Crown Estate raking in an extra 8% compared to previous years. Imagine if the land was actually owned by the people who had it ripped away from them by force throughout history. Rather than funding Prince Philip’s £18,690 train trip to Plymouth.

The Principle Alone

Royal Family

image via RT

Even if we put the economics to the side for a moment, how can anybody POSSIBLY ignore the gross comparison of the Royal Family to most of the country they live in? The NHS is in crisis, the UK police force is all but crumbling, the education of the nation’s youth is lagging behind that of other countries…need I say more? When there are people living in poverty in this country I found it grotesque that ANYBODY would argue that the Royal Family deserves even a penny.

What can we do about it?

Royal Family

image via Gizmodo

Honestly? Probably nothing. If you live in the UK, you could try signing this petition to see an end to the monarchy and all payments towards the Royal Family. Will it work? I highly doubt it. As I’ve said before, the petition system in the UK serves no real purpose other than providing people with a feel-good feeling alongside a feeling of involvement and having the ability to create change. In reality, nothing changes that Parliament weren’t already considering. For example, you won’t find weed becoming legal through this petition system despite receiving over 4 million signatures. You won’t even find MPs turning up for the debate.

When the Queen dies (if she dies, I think she shattered her soul into several horcruxes) there may be a window of opportunity to have a discussion on the topic with parliament. If England wants to keep the Royal Family in their life of luxury then by all means, let them. I know very few Scottish people who want to continue paying tax to such an unworthy cause.


Thanks for reading! Do you have an opinion on the Royal Family? Let me know down below! 

Don’t forget to follow me on here and on Twitter to stay up to date with my posts!

If you have anything to add or perhaps a suggestion for a future post, leave a comment!

Peace!

Harry Potter and the Soulless Cash-grab

For me, the Harry Potter universe started with the books. The Goblet of Fire was already released by the time I picked up the series but I made quick work of them. I became one of those fans who would pre-order the new books so that it would arrive on the day of release. I would more often than not read it from start to finish in one go, stopping only to eat and sleep. Similarly, when the movies came out it became a family tradition to go and see them at the cinema together. So as J.K Rowling has continued to milk the franchise for every penny it has left, what with “The Cursed Child” and the planned 7 movies of “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find them” (which has quickly turned into a Grindlewald series), I felt my inner fanboy diminish. Enter Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery.

For those of you unaware, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is a recently released mobile game. The playstore boasts this description: “Your Hogwarts letter has arrived! Explore, learn spells & more in a magical RPG!” So how would I describe the game having played it for the last few days?

Basic Premise

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery

So essentially, as you may imagine, it all starts off with the arrival of your Hogwarts letter. It was at this very stage where I learned that this game was going to suck! After you’ve created and named your character (I’d just been watching Agents of Shield so I went with Cammy Destroyer of Worlds) you “explore” Diagon Alley. However, you quickly discover the nature of this game. If you ever played Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone for PC then you may be aware of the spell casting mechanism. Essentially, you had to draw a pattern with your mouse and the more accurately your matched the symbol, the better the spell. Screenshots of this game led me to believe that this was the case…it isn’t.

Anyway, you meet some dude who is also going to Hogwarts who called Ronan or Rowan or Ronald or something. He instantly tells you about his ambition to become head-boy, how he’s read every book on magic and how people pick on him because he is “weird”. You can therefore imagine my shock when I choose Slytherin as my house and notice little, nerdy Ronan wearing matching robes.

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery

The game continues and you go to classes, duel people and play mini-games. You have rivalries in your house with this girl and others who believe your brother (who appears to have been trying to help Voldermort or something by leaving to find “The Cursed Vaults”) disgraced his house (Slytherin…I mean it’s like these people never read a Harry Potter book…). So in my mind, the game was already off to a rocky start…but it gets worse.

A game which has “explore” as one of its many selling points including “explore never before seen rooms in Hogwarts castle” yet you are limited to about 4 or 5 rooms for the entire first year. Most places and characters aren’t unlocked until your 6th or even 7th year which you’ll never reach paying your way through Hogwarts. Something we’ll cover in a moment.

Farmville x Tell-tale Stories

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery

The claim that you can explore this magical world is a DRASTIC exaggeration. In fact, there is very little exploring to do. If I could describe the game to you in one sentence, I would say this: It’s like combining Farmville with a Harry Potter Tell-Tale Story game except none of your decisions matter and everything is rigged to head in one direction. If I was giving the app an honest description, that’s exactly what it would say.

As I already mentioned, the game doesn’t take into account the fact that you’ve joined the house known from being evil. I do appreciate the fact that you’re able to select any house and aren’t automatically thrown into Gryffindor but the means very little if the story simply changes the name of your house and the colour you wear.

The thing is; all you’re really doing is tapping stuff. It’s incredibly dull. When you duel, it’s a rock, paper, scissors style game whereby you have three options to choose from and whatever you pick will either beat one option or be beaten by the other. Even when you play the marbles game, you don’t play marbles (or whatever the game is called), you simply try and distract your opponent. Taking classes is all about clicking random objects or people in the room. And this, of course, is where the micro-transactions come into play.

Fucking Micro Transactions

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is nothing if not a soulless cash-grab. To explain why, let me just say this. I had barely made it to Hogwarts before I was given two options: wait several hours to allow my “energy” to recharge or pay disgusting amounts of money to buy “gems” which I could then exchange for “energy”. Considering the fact that this game is UNDOUBTEDLY aimed at kids, how can they have the nerve to charge so much money to play what is actually an awful game?

Some of the missions or quests you receive very early on give you a similar choice to the one I initially faced. Either you pay 50 gems or you wait three hours. At least energy recharges over time but you have to actually earn gems which means that unless you’re willing to pay real world money into Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery then you (or your child) will be stuck waiting for 3 hours.

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery

They reel you in with magic, Hogwarts, familiar teachers and the promise of mystery and adventure. In truth, Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is a poorly made game with no heart, no soul and only one agenda: making money from children. For some bizarre and fucked up reason, this game is being rated exceptionally well on the Play Store and personally, I have no idea why. I gave it 1 star and explained in plenty of detail why it’s one of the worst games I’ve ever played.

In Conclusion

Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery

To me, what is truly awful about Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is that they’ve taken a premise which I adored growing up: A Harry Potter game where you can roam around, explore, study magic, collect items and earn point for your house and they’ve poisoned it with a story that a 7 year old could have come up with and micro transactions left, right and centre. I understand that these games exist to make money and I have no problem with that…but when you’re stopped from playing a game less than 5 minutes in due to running out of “energy” then what’s the point?

When I heard this game was coming out, I couldn’t wait. I had such high expectations which sadly, were not remotely met. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery is simply an example of how lazy and money-hungry mobile game creators truly are. Some of the earlier Gameboy games for the series were drastically more entertaining than this monstrosity and they were pixelated and had 8-bit soundtracks!


Thanks for reading! Have you played Harry Potter: Hogwarts Mystery? What did you think? Let me know down below! 

Don’t forget to follow me on here and on Twitter to stay up to date with my posts!

If you have anything to add or perhaps a suggestion for a future post, leave a comment!

Peace!

Robot-Enforced Religion: Would you feel safe?

This is probably going to be one of the most random posts I’ve ever written (arguably) and it’s going to involve the use of your imagination. Whether you’re religious or not, I hope that this post causes you to think not only about your own actions but also about the influence of interpretation within religion. I feel like this could be an interesting movie or book but since it sounds like a more religious and AI-oriented version of 1984, maybe not.

The Premise

holy book

image via Geek Tyrant

So imagine for a moment that we live in a more technologically advanced world. AI has long been a functional part of our world. If you’ve ever seen I-Robot with Will Smith, imagine the robots are basically the same as that. They are almost like drones controlled from a central AI hub, so to speak. The key difference being that in this world, these robots serve only one function: upholding a holy book.

I’m going to try my best to avoid using a specific holy book, just for arguments sake. Obviously each holy book has varying sins and punishment. There is no room for interpretation by these robots. They are fed the closest to the original holy book texts as possible and that’s it. Humans don’t get the opportunity to add in “oh we think this means X” or “it’s long been known that Y is an exception”. All sins are punishable exactly in the stated way. If no punishment is stated or the deity within the holy book is the one to judge, the robots make an informed decision based on the crimes/sins and corresponding punishments that are mentioned (more on that in a moment).

For example (and I’m going to make this ridiculous rather than use a real-world example): If it was stated that naming your dog Brian was to be punished with head shaving then that would be one of the functions these robots would carry out. If they witness someone calling their dog Brian, they’d gather enough evidence and then carry out the punishment. These robots wouldn’t be law enforcement or do anything related to society’s laws. These robots would uphold only restrictions, laws, commandments, etc mentioned within a religion’s holy book.

Exceptions

holy book

image via IT Business

There would be some variations of course. There are many sins or crimes within holy books that God can forgive if he so chooses. As such, this worldwide AI would possess a database with profiles for every single person. One of the many things within this profile would be your sin sheet. This would contain all the sins you’ve ever committed. Sins which aren’t punishable by anyone other than God would be tallied up and after each new sin of this type, an equation would be used to determine whether a punishment should be carried out.

So, for example, let’s assume that calling your cat Simba is a sin which isn’t punishable by anyone other than God. This AI has evidence of you doing it 4 times. What would happen, is that your odds would change each time and essentially a dice roll or coin toss would decide your fate. Just to keep things simple, you earn 10% each time such a sin is committed and now you’re on 50%. A random generator within the AI would determine whether you’re to be punished or not. Almost like a coin toss. This is the AI’s way of letting God decide. If the random generator (which is weighted based on your sin percentage) decides it’s punishment time, then the AI views God as allowing that outcome to take place.

The odds would never bee 100% in favour of punishment. That way there would always be the possibility of that 1% being chosen through divine intervention. It’s also worth noting that there wouldn’t be multiple holy books used. Worldwide there would just be one: whether from Christianity or Islam or another isn’t important. If you’re thinking of answering this question, you should use your holy book or the holy book used most within your society.

The Question

holy book

image via ITpro

My question to you is this: would you feel safe? I’d particularly love to hear your point of view if you are indeed religious. If all interpretations that you attach to your faith were removed and all that was left was the holy book, would you feel safe in such a society? Would the world be a better place than it is now or would it be worse?

To be clear, these robots aren’t like those in the films. I’m not talking about Skynet or Ultron or anything, these robots are doing EXACTLY what they were programmed to with no misinterpretation. They aren’t malfunctioning or making decisions outside what they’re programmed to.


Thanks for reading! What are your thoughts and opinions? Let me know down below! 

Don’t forget to follow me on here and on Twitter to stay up to date!

If you have anything to add or perhaps a suggestion for a future post, leave a comment!

Peace!

Why Sense8 is a Great Show!

Sense8, beyond being a truly interesting premise, tackles a wide number of issues. It touches on homophobia, transphobia, mental illness, abusive relationships, drug use, poverty, crime, violence, government corruption, morality, love,  I mean it casts a wide net but not in a way that removes anything from the story elements (apart from a few times in the 2nd season). So for once on this blog I’m going to have a positive rant. The focus being on Sense8 and why I love it. For the most part, I’m going to focus on the first season as I’ve just re-watched it whereas I haven’t seen the 2nd season since it was released. There are likely to be spoilers here and there but I don’t focus too much on the plot as a whole.

The Basic Premise

Sense8

image via Netflix

Sense8 is sort of hard to explain but I’ll try my best to cover the overall idea. The show follows 8 main characters who all share one consciousness hub (so to speak). They can learn from each other’s experiences, connect to memories, experience what another member of their “cluster” (the word used to describe each group of 8) is feeling and much more. The first season essentially covers the group getting used to this new part of their lives. It also introduces us to the villain of the show: Whispers.

The 2nd season isn’t as great as the first (in my opinion) but tensions are certainly higher and with much more at stake. The 2nd season of Sense8 is more of a battle against Whispers. One important aspect of the show is that while there is this threat casting a show over the group’s lives, they all have individual battles to face as well.

Sense8 was cancelled after the 2nd season…but fans rallied together (myself included) and signed a petition to the Netflix to continue making the show. Unable to make an entire season, Netflix will be releasing a finale episode which will be two hours long. Essentially fans are getting a Sense8 movie that doesn’t have to appeal to a wider audience. Personally, I think this adds merit to the benefits of Netflix (I’ll be posting an article soon about my predictions for the future of the company). I’ve lost so many shows to cancellation…like so many. Most of which ended on cliffhangers, leaving questions unanswered and essentially opening up a door in my mind that will never be closed. So while I would have preferred a full season, I’m just happy that the show will be wrapped up.

Interesting Characters

Sense8

image via YouTube

One thing that makes a great TV shows is the characters. Whether you watch Game of Thrones, Lost, Rick and Morty, Friends, How I Met Your Mother, Criminal Minds or Still Game, what makes these shows great is the characters. If the characters in a show suck or aren’t consistent (for example, The Path) then no matter how good the premise of a TV show is, you’ll never get hooked on it.

Luckily, Sense8 has a character for everyone. Whether you like Riley (Tuppence Middleton) the Icelandic DJ, Capheus (Aml Ameen/Toby Onwumere) the legendary Van Damme bus driver of Nairobi or Sun (Donna Bae) the bad-ass martial artist from Seoul, there is someone who we can all relate to in some form or another. Some characters are funny, some are romantic, some are brave, some are smart…the whole purpose of Sense8 is that while all these characters may be one, they are still unique and individual in their own ways.

Sense8 has characters (or more importantly, actors) who are able to portray all the necessary emotions. No matter how tense the situation is some moments are funny not through forced comedy but actually just by characters being themselves. Like Sun who responds to the news that there are 4 guards on that floor with “is that all?” It’s hilarious because she’s totally right. 4 guards to her is nothing.

Unique and Interesting Storyline

Sense8

image via Market Watch

I think that Sense8 really does add something to the world of television and for the life of me, I have no idea why it isn’t more popular. As soon as I heard the plot for it, I was hooked. I think I binge-watched the entire season in one day actually. You get all the drama and thrill you would from any other show but with such a compelling idea, I think it’s great.

One thing they do really well is explain some of the science but never all of it. Many characters even describe what they are doing or feeling in such a vague sense as to leave something to the imagination. So while they touch on theories as to what sense8’s actually are, they don’t go too far down the rabbit hole which I think is important. I mean we don’t want another mitoclorian incident, do we? Or even worse: Lost, where there are too many loose ends to keep track of. I think for the most part they make you feel like you are indeed just watching a phenomenon that is completely legit.

The Issues

Sense8

image via Hollywood Reporter

Sense8 very much plays into the social commentary domain and sometimes it’s a bit on the nose. I think this might be why the audience doesn’t grow. I happen to think it works really well because you feel a certain realism inside this fictional world. For example, you can believe that in parts of the world, being gay could end your career. You can believe that cops are alienated for helping gangbangers or that Gods and religion are standing in the way of a marriage. I wouldn’t question someone telling me that gangs are a problem in Africa or that being a woman in the business world can start you off disadvantaged. It is this level of realism that allows the fiction side to seem possible.

I think they tried to top Game of Thrones for sex scenes which by the 2nd season had become a bit stale. Sense8 tries a little too hard to shove certain views down your throat (no pun intended). I personally don’t care, as long as its consensual, I don’t care who fucks who. It’s a free world and people should do whatever makes them happy. That doesn’t mean I want to watch a gay sex scene every episode.

Drugs also play a major role in the show. Riley seems to be the main consumer: weed, ecstasy and DMT are some of the substances she takes on-screen. I have to admit that I love a show’s willingness to show drugs in a positive light. I mean I wish the DMT scene hadn’t ended in a bunch of murders…but it did work very well. I think one base idea the show tries to push is acceptance: accept people regardless of their sexuality, regardless of their gender and regardless of what drugs they use.

Controversy

Sense8

image via Alta Peli

It did appear that there was some controversy on set. Aml Ameen who plays Capheus in season 1 was traded out for Toby Onwumere in the 2nd season. I’m personally a big fan of Aml Ameen’s acting. I remember watching him in the film Kidulthood when I was younger but he’s great in Maze Runner as well. It seems that he didn’t agree with certain scenes: whether it was gay scenes, trans scenes or just the group sex scenes in general is anyone’s guess. Many entertainment news sites were eager to label it but as the full picture is being kept under wraps (for the most part) we can only make assumptions.

Given that the show is so open in terms of sexuality, it sort of makes sense that showrunners wouldn’t keep Aml Ameen on if anything homophobic or transphobic was going down. Given that Jamie Clayton tweeted about it, we can only assume she was involved to some extent.

I think it always sucks when an actor is switched in a show or movie. Some of the time it doesn’t matter greatly: Game of Thrones or Harry Potter but other times it’s more noticeable: Dumb and Dumber (the prequel). While I don’t think that Toby Oneumere is a bad actor by any means, I think the character of Capheus has changed drastically between seasons.

Summary

Sense8

image via Variety

Overall, when you include the excellent direction of the show and the limit of 12 episodes per season (which stops things getting boring), you get is a great show. I think season 2 should have been a bit more story driven than it was but overall I still thoroughly enjoyed it and cannot wait for the finale! If you have some spare time and need something to watch, I’d recommend Sense8. Give it one episode and if you’re not remotely interested then you’ve wasted less than an hour of your life and it’s no big deal.


Thanks for reading! Are you a fan of Sense8? Who is your favourite character and how do you want the show to end? Let me know down below! Similarly, if you’re not a fan, let me know why!

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