Fixing Game of Thrones: A Fan’s Perspective!

Game of Thrones has become a bit…disappointing, to say the least. Where season 7 was a little lacklustre and illogical, season 8 has taken this to a whole new level. Decade-long character development and plot building has been thrown out the window in favour of tension building and shocking moments. It’s worth noting that I’m not a writer, I’m not involved in the movie/TV industry, and I don’t claim to have any knowledge or skills that would allow me to create something even a fraction as entertaining as Game of Thrones. I also haven’t read any of the books, so my knowledge is based entirely on the show. However, I am a fan and this post is simply a reflection of a fan’s perspective of how this season could have been improved. With just one episode to go (at the time of writing this) here are my thoughts!

At the end of the day, Game of Thrones is NOT my show and it’s not your show. What you or I feel should or shouldn’t have happened is irrelevant and we just have to accept whatever ending we are given!

The Problem

Game of Thrones

image via Know Your Meme

Entertainment news has been quick to jump onto the bandwagon of hating the show. For the record, I don’t hate season 8. Certain outcomes had been building for a long time (such as the Mad Queen), but the portrayal and build-up to these motivations has resulted in flaky character motivations and highly illogical decisions. With a petition titled ‘Remake Game of Thrones Season 8 with Competent Writers’ gaining over a million signatures, is there a genuine problem with this season?

I think it’s important to address the aspects that aren’t an issue. Dany becoming the Mad Queen isn’t the problem, something that Bran actor Isaac Hempstead-Wright doesn’t understand about the backlash. He stated “[Game of Thrones is] unpredictable by nature. The fact that characters are not doing what people want them to do? It’s a good thing…”

Other stars of the show have expressed their dissatisfaction with the show’s final season. Perhaps none more so than Conleth Hill (Lord Varys) who stated that he took it personally when his character was side-lined for the last few seasons, before dying this season.

The Solution

Game of Thrones

image via Variety

So, what would I change and why would it make the slightest bit of difference? Let’s start with season 6 and work our way forward. Again, I’m not a writer. Everything that Dan and Dave, as well as George R. R. Marin, have put into this show is above and beyond anything that I could achieve in my lifetime. As a fan (and lets face it, sometimes fans can be the worst critics), this is simply how I feel the final season of Game of Thrones could have ended in a way that A) made more sense, and B) was more loyal to the character development that had already taken place.

Change #1: Tyrion and Dany

Game of Thrones

image via Metro

The first thing that would be essential to change would be the relationship between Dany and Tyrion. We see this becoming rather stretched and fragmented throughout season 7 and season 8. From as far back as season 6, I would have had Tyrion be the advisor we all imagined he would become. Even before he had gained valuable experience as hand of the king, he was naturally good at his job.

His advice wouldn’t always be perfect, and he wouldn’t always succeed, but more often than not his advice would be sound and lead to a favourable outcome. At the very least, he would just be outsmarted rather than simply making questionable decisions. As of season 8, we’ve watched the character become a bit of a moron, something Peter Dinklage himself addressed.

If Tyrion had been true to his character and remained an intelligent and strong-willed hand, Dany would trust him, and they would develop a deeper friendship. She would not only rely on his advice, but also turn to him when in need of emotional support. By the time we get to The Dragon and the Wolf (S7E7), Tyrion would be wary of Cersei (as he has every reason to be based on his entire life experience). Despite the episode unfolding in the same manner as it originally did, he wouldn’t be so easily convinced, urging his allies to assume that Cersei’s forces from the south would not be joining them, making him all the more surprised when Jaime turns up.

Change #2: The Tarlys

Game of Thrones Tarly

image via Watchers on the Wall

I would make a minor change in the Eastwatch episode (S7E5). When Dany is giving soldiers the choice: bend the knee or burn (a choice that ultimately leads to Randall and Dickon Tarly being burned alive), I would have Tyrion step in.

The scene would unravel in much the same way as before: Dany tells people to bend the knee, Randall Tarly would refuse, and she’d threatens to burn him alive. He’s a stubborn man and the way he died made sense for his character, especially after seeing his interactions with Sam. So, the same as before, he gets cooked.

When all the other soldiers bend the knee, Dickon Tarly still refuses. He wishes to respect his father’s choice and honour his memory. Dany is prepared to roast him but Tyrion steps in, convincing her to give the man time to think on his decision. Dany listens to her advisor, who at this point hasn’t made major mistakes and still fully has her trust. She respects his opinion and accepts that she doesn’t know exactly how politics and loyalties in Westeros function.

In later episodes (maybe as far ahead as when Dany and Ser Jorah meet Sam in Winterfell), Dany will consider the advice that Tyrion gave her to be evidence of his wisdom, but also as a control for her temperament. This will serve as evidence that Tyrion is capable of stopping the Mad Queen, should such a time ever arrive. Whenever the news is broken to Sam, he learns that his brother is still alive at least. This moment would remind Dany of her humanity and would demonstrate to Sam that she isn’t a monster, causing him to be less antagonistic regarding Jon’s claim to the throne (something that only really existed due to Dany killing Sam’s brother in the first place).

Change #3: Jon and Dany

Game of Thrones Dany and Jon

image via Uproxx

The next aspect, one that only develops in season 7 and then unravels in season 8, is the relationship between Dany and Jon. I wouldn’t change a great deal in regard to season 7 itself, I think that setting up the relationship in the manner they did made sense. I think the only real issue was Jon’s blind loyalty. There’s no denying that Jon is loyal and honourable, it’s something we’ve seen in him time and time again, but he also knows when to stand up for what is right. He doesn’t go against his own morals simply because someone carries the title of ‘King’ or ‘Queen’.

Going into season 8 and the discovery of Jon’s true parentage, I’d suggest a few major changes take place. Dany has always wanted the Iron Throne, it’s her birth right, but she’s also wanted a family. Jon is family: both in terms of blood and romantic interest. Rather than her becoming a paranoid, controlling mess, she should become more torn between the notion of choosing between love or the throne. Rather than just showing Dany to be heartbroken because she wants the throne, let’s show her struggle to decide which is more important to her, and as a result work towards a solution WITH Jon, not against him.

Jon’s love life has always been a bit forbidden. Ygritte was a wildling, the sworn enemy of the Night’s Watch, and yet he couldn’t stop being in love with her. I would have that same idea take place with Dany. Rather than having Jon begin to reject her after discovering that they are aunt and nephew, they would be madly in love for all of season 8, eliminating the need for ridiculous political plots, dodgy whisper exchanges, and shade being thrown left, right, and centre. Jon would view Dany as his Queen, sure, but he’d also be in love with her and wouldn’t see the Mad Queen signs beginning to appear. You could say that he is blinded by love!

Change #4: The Battle of Winterfell

Game of Thrones Battle of Winterfell

image via Time

There are a number of changes I’d make with this episode. I’d originally stated that I’d have Rhaegal die during this episode, but I’ve since realised that his death could be put to better use. I also came up with a change related to the Night King and the outcome of the Battle of Winterfell, but I’ve realised that’s too complex to get into here. Instead, let’s assume that the battle must end the same way.

For starters, I wouldn’t have all the Dothraki be sent in at once. We discover in the episodes following this one that half of the Dothraki and Unsullied survived, even though both appear to get well and truly annihilated. Not to mention that in the finale episode trailer, her army seems to have actually grown. So, either you send less in and that explains why more survive, or you don’t have as many survive in the first place. Either of these makes more sense that what happened. One solution would be to have half the Unsullied inside Winterfell. After all, it makes no strategic sense to have that many outside the walls. Strategy is a whole other issue that I’m not going to get into now.

The Crypts of Winterfell

The Crypts of Winterfell just made no sense. If you have half a brain, you should be able to make a couple of connections. 1) You’re fighting and army that everyone refers to as ‘the dead’. 2) The bulk of this army are literally the undead, who have been raised by the Night King. 3) Many of the characters have witnessed this raising of the dead and have fought them on multiple occasions. As a result of these three points, you would have to be mentally challenged to not consider the likelihood of the dead being raised in any major battle. You’d have to be a whole new level of stupid to actually put all the vulnerable people in a room quite literally full of dead bodies.

One solution would be to have them block the doors to the crypts and then have the dead breakthrough into an area where the vulnerable people are actually being kept. An alternative would be to actually send them south, away from Winterfell, but have some of the dead catch up with them.

I would have a scene where Gillie is killed, along with many others, and Baby Sam is left lying in the snow, much in the same way he would have been at Craster’s Keep. Sansa could live or die. I don’t feel that her survival matters a great deal in terms of the plot going forward. Tyrion, Varys, and Missandei would live, but other than that everyone else who was originally in the Crypts could/would die.

Character Deaths

The next change would involve the main characters. Too many of them had super thick plot armour in this episode. We ended up with an MCU-style battle where the main characters appear to be overwhelmed at multiple scenes and yet survive. It was so ridiculous that I actually believed most of the main characters had died, and it wasn’t until episode 4 that I learned that they hadn’t. Here’s the people who should definitely have died:

  • Samwell Tarly
  • Mellisandre (her death was moronic; she should have died lighting the trenches)
  • Ser Davos
  • Brienne of Tarth
  • Grey Worm

These deaths are important for a number of reasons. For starters, they would reflect the threat of the Night King and leave the show feeling emptier (in terms of character number) and harder hit by the threat that has been building for 10 years. Losing Ed, Beric, Theon, and Ser Jorah didn’t really pack that much of an emotional punch. Speaking of Theon, we have the next change.

The Night King

Everything about Arya killing the Knight King was stupid. Yes, it tied into what Melissandre said seasons ago (although tying that into the Faceless Men felt good enough for me). Yes, it tied into why Bran gave Arya the dagger. Yes, it tied into her fight with Brienne, as well as several other moments. But why Arya? Her killing the Night King changed nothing about her story at all. It was meaningless! So, who should have killed the Night King? Jon? Bran? The Little Bear? A dragon?

The answer? Theon! Assuming we’re keeping the Night King’s death relatively similar to how the events unfolded, I would have Theon try to fight the Night King (although less in the manner he did on the show). Theon’s fight would be fantastic, and it certainly wouldn’t be long lasting. He would get stabbed, fall to the ground, still alive and about to be finished off by the Night King. At this point, if you want Arya to come flying out of nowhere like Spider-Man jumping through one of Doctor Strange’s portals in Infinity War, that’s fine. But have the Night King grab her by the throat and even if she manages to strike him, she hits the armour and fails. This opens up a small gap which allows Theon (who is in the final moments of his life) to stab him.

The way the Night King was defeated was incredibly anti-climactic. You can’t claim that you want a show to be surprising, unique, and distanced from the usual clichés, and then employ the same ‘kill the leader and the soldiers fall’ trope used in every similar battle where the allies are outnumbered.

Change #5: Rhaegal

Game of Thrones Rhaegal

image via Popsugar

Episode 4 could largely unfold the same way as it did, but more on that in a moment. We have to consider the death of Rhaegal. Not only was this moment stupid beyond belief. Not only were the 3 shots, over miles and miles of distance, while Rhaegal is on the move, all without being seen, and simply being explained with “Dany kind of forgot about the Iron Fleet…” But this move was entirely for the shock-factor and nothing more.

Rhaegal needs to survive in order for the rest of my changes to make sense. Jon and Dany would be riding the dragons together at this moment (as they are madly in love), and they would see the Iron Fleet (because they are fucking miles in the air and away from a large squad of very noticeable ships) and would try to attack. The threat of the scorpions would be too high, and Jon and Dany would realise that they can’t attack the fleet with the dragons, not only because they can’t risk losing the dragons, but because they can’t risk losing each other.

It kills them to do so, but they have to fly away, and can only watch in horror as their ships are then destroyed by the Iron Fleet. Dany and Jon fly down and take as many survivors away before the Iron Fleet catches them, including Tyrion, but many get captured (including Messandei).

This could happen in a number of slightly different ways, the important part being that Tyrion and Rhaegal survive, while Messandei is captured. Although, I have to say that the whole idea of her being captured and taken back to King’s Landing seemed absolutely moronic and again served no purpose beyond shocking audiences later in a more dramatic way.

Change #6: Mad Queen Set-Up

Game of Thrones Mad Queen

image via Inverse

Towards the end of episode 4, when Dany and Tyrion stand before Cersei to discuss her surrender, Jon would be there as well. They’d be standing much further back than they were in the episode. Rather than only Missandei being held by Cersei, there would be a number of prisoners (perhaps including Varys, but that would depend on the later changes), all lined up for execution. Again, I feel that this scene is moronic, but when you only have 6 episodes to reach a specific plot point, you have to work with what you’ve got. Tyrion, realising that Dany is breaking at the sight of seeing one of her few remaining friends being prepared for execution, pleads to Cersei.

Tyrion has two motivations: 1) He wants to help Dany by saving Missandei. He views it as his duty as hand to the queen, but he also loves her (maybe as a friend, maybe more) and wants to do whatever he can to end her suffering and make her happy. 2) He knows what will happen if Dany is pushed to the edge. He’s seen her snap, he’s seen the flames in her eyes when things don’t go according to plan (such as her burning fleets, the convoy from High Garden, and Randall Tarly). He wants to save the innocent people of King’s Landing, but he also wants to save Dany from becoming a monster.

It’s important to note that in ‘The Dragon and the Wolf’ (S7E7) when Cersei agrees to Tyrion’s terms and lets him live, it isn’t out of some hidden affection, love, or respect for him, it’s because it’s a necessary step in her plan. She wants him to suffer and she wants everyone he is with to die, but the only way she can save herself and King’s Landing from experiencing the Mad Queen right then and there, is to make him believe that she’ll send troops north.

This isn’t the case anymore, and so Cersei (who has tried to kill Tyrion in the past and has made her desire to kill him clear many times) has no reason not to kill him now. Most of Dany and Jon’s forces are still marching down from Winterfell at that point, so forcing them to attack now would offer a strategic advantage to Cersei. So, Cersei kills the prisoners (including Missandei) and as Tyrion starts to realise that he’s in danger and begins his journey back to his own forces, Cersei turns the scorpions on him and kills him, beginning to fire in the direction of Dany, Jon, the dragons, and their forces.

Change #7: Character Changes

Game of Thrones Jaime Brienne

image via TV Line

This change actually takes place on either side of #6 and #7. I wouldn’t have Jaime hook-up with Brienne, since she’d be dead. But as he suffers her loss, he would begin to continue along towards the end of his character arc. Jaime has come a long way, and it’s only recently (starting with destruction of the Great Sept of Baelor and ending with Cersei’s lie about sending troops north) that he’s began to accept that his love for her has allowed him to turn a blind eye to both their immoral actions. He’s already snuck into King’s Landing at this point and is making his way to Cersei.

The importance of the relationship between Dany and Jon would become apparent in the next change. In the real version of events, there is a gap where Dany returns to Dragonstone to sulk after Missandei dies, and then returns to King’s Landing. She goes from Mad Queen, to depressed, to Mad Queen again. One of my changes would have her get angry and thirsty for revenge immediately. Jon would now be the only person left to keep Dany from becoming the Mad Queen. Episode 4 would end much in the same way it did, but episode 5 would start exactly where the previous one left off: with fire in Dany’s eyes and revenge on her mind.

Change #8: The Mad Queen

Game of Thrones King's Landing

image via Refinery29

With no other choice, Jon follows Dany (on Rhaegal) as she begins to wipe out the scorpions that are on the walls. They blast open an entrance to King’s Landing, in order for Dany’s remaining forces to enter. Working together, they destroy much of the Iron Fleet. As Jon goes to kill Euron, Rhaegal is killed and Jon flung from him, landing in the sea. Dany only sees this at the last moment and believes that Jon has been killed. In a fit of rage and without thought, she swoops down and kills Euron, who accepts his death, laughing hysterically as Dany swoops down to incinerate him.

With the small army of remaining Unsullied and Dothraki left, and with a gap in the wall having been blown open, the Golden Company begin their defence and are succeeding in defeating the attacking forces. Dany begins wiping out the defence, including much of the Golden Company, but she doesn’t know where Cersei is. Her rage is growing and she’s losing control. She begins just burning the place down, believing that the love of her life, one of the few people left in this world who she loves and trusts, has died. With most of her army gone and the loss of her dragon and Jon, she knows that no risk can be taken, so she burns everything, getting revenge on those who have brought her so much pain but also securing her victory, as she knows this is the one and only chance she’ll get.

Change #9: Arya and Jaime

Game of Thrones Aerys II

image via Nerdist

In the midst of all of this, we have a few other characters whose role we need to consider. Arya and the Hound were on their way to kill Cersei, and with Cleganebowl in full hype, I think we need a way for Arya to cross people off her list. Yes, having the Hound kill the Mountain with fire in order to symbolise the fact that his hatred for his brother is more powerful than the fear of fire that his brother created makes sense and is a satisfying conclusion.

Instead though, I would have the Hound say goodbye to Arya as he leaves to take his brother on alone. We see her following him, unwilling to let him die. With all the falling debris, the Mountain would have an advantage and would be ready to kill the Hound. Arya would block the killing strike and would finish the Mountain off herself. With the Hound dying and the building caving in, he asks Arya to kill him. She doesn’t want to but realises that it’s mercy. So, she is able to cross both names off her list (not that she says as much for the Hound given that he was no longer on her list).

Next is Jaime, who has found Cersei, having entered the city much in the same way he did already in the show). The thing is, we know that Cersei has to die, but what would she do that would force Jaime to take such action? That’s possibly the only benefit of having them be crushed by rubble. My first thought is the approaching Mad Queen. With Jaime having witnessed people being burned alive by the dragons already, he knows that Cersei is going to die one way or another, and so he chooses mercy over suffering, knowing that Cersei isn’t going to surrender. You could have Dany nearing, perhaps even having spotted Cersei, and so Jaime has mere moments to act.

Another option would be some sort of “fail-safe” which would kill even more people than Dany already has. After all, we saw explosions of Wild Fire during Dany’s attack on King’s Landing in episode 5. Some have suggested that this was simply leftover Wild Fire from Aerys II’s “Burn them all!” moment, but what if it was actually another plan of Cersei’s? We know that she had some leftover from destryoing the Sept of Baelor, so what if she opened the gates not just to use innocent people as a human shield, but to allow Dany’s forces to enter and be melted by Wild Fire? As such, Jaime’s arc comes to a complete end. It starts with him killing the Mad King and ends with him killing one of the Mad Queens (Cersei). Jaime had changed so much as a person, and him standing up to Cersei at the end of season 7 was an important turn for his character. Having him return to that because “he loves Cersei” and having Dany killing everyone because “she’s a Targaryen” are just awful reasons for characters to do something.

One thing we would NOT have is Tyrion plotting against Dany and the others in order to save Cersei’s life, because he would already be dead by this point. Not to mention that that was one of the most illogical and out of character moments in the whole show.

The Iron Throne

For Cersei and Jaime, I would have Cersei refusing to give up the Iron Throne. This would still tie into what I mentioned earlier about Jaime having to kill her. He would do so in the same manner he killed the Mad King, and she would sit on the Iron Throne, dying there before Dany could reach her.

When Dany does get there, she uses Drogon to burn Cersei which in turn melts the Iron Throne. This would be symbolic in a number of ways, but would also be a good way to “break the wheel” by breaking the throne. Nobody would sit on the Iron Thron (at least not literally) ever again.

 

Change #10: Jon, Dany, and the Night King

Game of Thrones Jon Snow

image via Mashable

The episode ends with Jon climbing out of the water, the city in ruins and in flames. Men, women, and children are all screaming. Dany can’t believe he’s alive, but she’s already lost a part of herself, and in destroying King’s Landing, has destroyed the person she once was. As her cruelty continues, driven by the fear of losing the throne, Jon would have no choice but to kill her. Jon would become King, abducating immedietly to leave it in the hands of someone he trusts to do a good job. The south isn’t for him, it never has been. His home is in the north.

At this point, if there was another season to go, I’d have Jon head north with the wildlings, possibly even with Drogon. Game of Thrones resonates with something that Mark Twain once said:

History doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes!”

We got little to no information about the White Walkers and the Night King. We only saw the Lands of Forever Winter (or whatever they are called) once in a tiny moment showing what happens to Craster’s inbred sons. I would have Jon and some of his closest allies head all the way north in search of a new home, where they would make a shocking discovery, one that would set things in motion so that 5,000-10,000 years in the future, the world will face another threat. This keeps the cycle going.

What if the Night King and his army were motivated not by some random-ass motivation of killing everyone and making Westeros suffer an endless winter, but by the threat of Dany and her dragons? The Night King wasn’t evil, but rather a balancing force that was necessary to defeat an equally as destructive power?


Thanks for reading! What are you thoughts on Game of Thrones? Did you enjoy season 8? 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!

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A Justification for the Criminalization of Tobacco!

Don’t let the title fool you, I’m actually a supporter of drug legalization. However, the hypocrisy in this country has to be called out. As misguided as many may view my opinion as being, I’m of the belief that as adults, we should have the right to choose what we do or don’t put into our bodies. If it were up to me, all soft-drugs would be legalized or at the very least decriminalized. We live in a world where it’s acceptable to eat, drink, and smoke yourself to death, provided you do so on the legal, taxable substances. Make no mistake: the most dangerous thing about soft-drugs is getting caught with them. Taking the government view on these matters into consideration, I’m going to explore the legality of certain substances in order to truly highlight the blatant hypocrisy and to demonstrate that public safety is not the government’s concern.

Understanding the Law

Tobacco UK

image via Wikimedia

I’m from the UK, and so I’ll be composing this argument with the UK government in mind. Depending on the information and research available, I will occasionally focus on specific countries within the UK, mostly Scotland and England. It speaks volumes that we have to travel all the way back to 1971 in order to view the law controlling drugs in the UK.

The Misuse of Drugs Act (1971) serves to classify illegal substances into one of three categories, known as the ABC system. ‘A’ represents the most harmful drugs and ‘C’ represents the least harmful (as far as illegal drugs are concerned). ‘B’ represents some form of arbitrary middle ground. Unlike many other countries, the UK does not attempt to clearly define the “entry requirements” for each class in the ABC system. As the parliamentary website states:

“The Misuse of Drugs Act did not specify why particular drugs were placed in Class A, B or C but did create an Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs (ACMD) to keep the classification of drugs under review.”

Cannabis has an interesting history within the UK’s ABC system. Originally a class B, it was reclassified as class C in 2004. However, it was moved back to class B in 2008 as a result of stronger strains becoming available and the potential connection this had to mental health issues. Yet around 7.2% of adults (between 16 and 59) have used the drug, which is around 2.4 million people.

Soft Drugs vs Hard Drugs

Tobacco UK

image via Wikipedia

As I mentioned, the UK does not divide its illegal substances into categories based upon the addictive qualities and overall harm of the drugs. This distinction leads to terms such as ‘soft drugs’ and ‘hard drugs’. These are incredibly vague and don’t have a set definition, which can confuse matters. Typically, ‘soft drugs’ is used to “describe drugs like cannabis or LSD which cannot result in physical dependency.” While the term ‘hard drug’ “usually refers to drugs that are seen to be more dangerous and more likely to cause dependency such as heroin and crack cocaine…”

So, why am I mentioning the terms at all? Despite the definitions being somewhat open, there is certainly a clear distinction between the two. One group can be used in moderation without negatively impacting the induvial or society to any great extent, the other, not so much. You don’t have to have seen Trainspotting to know that weed and psilocybin don’t really compete with the harm of heroin.

My argument is formed around this simple point of view: when we explore the reasons why certain drugs are illegal (soft drugs such as marijuana, psilocybin mushroom, and DMT) and legal (such as alcohol and tobacco) we find that the justifications for each are flimsy, at best. If safety is the government’s main cause for concern, surely that must mean that alcohol and tobacco are safe to use, right?

Tobacco

Tobacco UK

image via World IP Review

The UK’s history with tobacco is a little strange. Having arrived in England in 1565, tobacco didn’t seem to take with the British public. King James I spoke out publicly on the matter, describing tobacco as:

“…loathsome to the eye, hateful to the nose, harmful to the brain [and] dangerous to the lungs.”

However, it soon followed the common path that most drugs take: it became a medicine. During the plague, it was believed that tobacco smoke could protect people from “disease miasmas” (a poisonous vapour carrying disease that could be detected by its bad smell) (somewhat ironic). The connections between slavery and tobacco imports are widely known, and this was a major issue until machines took over in the late 1800s.

Anti-smoking campaigners were largely regarded as “eccentrics” and yet they are primarily responsible for the introduction of a clause in the Children’s Act in 1908 which made the sale of tobacco to those under the age of 16 illegal.

Despite a connection between ill-health and smoking being widely known, the supposed stress-relief provided by tobacco came with “health benefits” that would serve as a major selling point. Sound familiar? Only recently have the supposed health benefits of “a glass of wine a day” been shown to be inaccurate from a scientific standpoint.

In the 1950s, the first reports linking smoking to the formation of lung cancer were released. The government, very aware of the economic domino effect that would follow a decline in smoking, didn’t speak out on the matter until the 1960s. It wasn’t until the 1970s that cigarette packaging included a health warning. In the 1980s, the risk associated with public smoking was raised, but again, it took until 2007 for the government to ban smoking in enclosed public places. It wasn’t until this same year that the government raised the minimum age for purchasing tobacco to 18.

Is Smoking Harmful?

Tobacco UK

image via BBC

According to the Office for National Statistics, it is estimated that 15.1% of adults in the UK smoke cigarettes as of 2017. This number varies slightly between sources as Cancer Research suggests that around 19% of UK adults smoke. This would be around 9.4 million people (which is nearly double the entire population of Scotland). They also suggest that smoking is the “largest cause of cancer” in the UK, with it being responsible for around 15% of cancer victims. It’s also worth noting that the same website reports the significantly higher prevalence of smoking within poorer areas.

We can delve into these figures a little more. For example, we can consider the hospital admissions related to smoking. According to NHS England figures, in 2016/17 there was estimated to be 484,700 admissions attributable to smoking, which is around 4% of ALL hospital admissions.

The above graph is also from the NHS England website. As you can see, adults who had never smoked were more likely to report feeling healthier than those who were ex-smokers or current smokers.42% of non-smokers described themselves as being in ‘very good health’ compared to 26% of current-smokers. 11% of current-smokers described themselves as feeling in ‘bad or very bad health’ compared to only 5% of those who have never smoked.

It’s important for people to realise that tobacco carries a mental health impact as well. You’ll often hear discussions about other drugs and how they cause mental illness (such as marijuana), and yet the same types of studies show the exact same thing for tobacco consumption. More in-depth research paints a fuller picture of the impact of smoking on neurological processes being akin to that the government/media claim is the case for marijuana consumption.

Death by Tobacco

Tobacco UK

image via TidatBase

Given that we’ve explored the general health implications tobacco quite clearly has, does it cause death? Of course it does! Throughout the UK, there is alarming number of preventable deaths each year as a result of smoking. In Scotland, the number is 10,000 (one fifth of all deaths), in Wales the number is 5,500, in Northern Ireland its 2,300, and in England it’s a staggering 78,000 death. Every year in the UK, 95,800 people are dying from a drug that the government deems safe enough to be legal.

When it comes to passive smoking, which is arguably more horrifying given that nobody chooses to be a passive smoker, we find some pretty similar results. Research suggests that around 11,000 deaths in the UK each year are the result of passive smoke inhalation, with 20% of these being from smoking at the workplace and 80% being from home.

The impact of passive smoking is most noticeable in children, who rarely have a choice as to whether or not to be in the vicinity of smokers. Cancer Research suggests that there is overwhelming evidence to support that idea that second-hand smoke can lead to lung cancer (among other types), heart disease, strokes, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and more. Children who live in a household where at least 1 person smokes are more likely to develop asthma, chest infections, meningitis, ear infections, and coughs and colds.

Smoking and Pregnancy

Tobacco UK

image via OPTO

One shocking statistic relates to pregnant women. According to NHS England, 10.8% of mothers were smoking at the time of delivery. Why does this matter? During pregnancy, it isn’t just the health of the mother that is a cause for concern. Research suggests that smoking during pregnancy can have an adverse effect on the child’s neurodevelopment. It has been suggested that this is a result of the carbon monoxide contained in tobacco smoke which limits the oxygen available for the baby’s brain. Smoking during pregnancy can also result in tissue damage which could include lung or brain development issue, or the development of a cleft lip.

Even pregnant women who simply inhale smoke passively (as well as those who smoke directly, obviously) are likely to give birth to a child with weaker lungs, which leads to a major increase in potential health problems in later life.

The negative health impact that smoking has isn’t limited to the development of the child though. When a mother smokes, she is more likely to enter premature labour. Given that the leading cause of death, disability, and disease among new-borns, is preterm birth, this is a huge cause for concern. This issue includes passive smokers. Mothers who smoke (either directly or passively) are more likely to give birth to a low-weight child, which typically has long-term health implications.

Even if the labour and birth seem to go smoothly, babies whose mother smoked during pregnancy or who smoke near the baby after birth are three times more likely to die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). This goes above and beyond choosing to consume a drug. This is quite clearly an epidemic that is impacting the lives of those who haven’t even been born yet! What say do they get in the matter?

Cost

Tobacco UK

image via Wallpaper Up

Since we’ve already established that widespread death and disease hasn’t been enough of an incentive to outright ban tobacco smoking, perhaps money is a better approach. The problem we have here is that the tobacco industry contributes around £12 billion in tax each year which is arguably the main reason that the government would never consider making the substance illegal. But how much does it cost?

Smoking costs NHS Scotland (a public body that gets its funding from the government) as much as £300 million each year, which in the face of £12 billion is barely a drop of water in the ocean. In England, this figure is as high as £2 billion though, which certainly begins to raise the cost.

There are other costs to take into consideration that go beyond health. For example, early death due to cigarettes causes an employee’s company to lose manpower, the costs of cleaning up cigarette butts and packaging, putting out fires caused by cigarettes, the loss of time (including in hospitals) of the extra breaks that smokers typically take, not to mention the lost time when people get ill as a result of smoking-related illnesses. When you add up all the costs of smoking, you find that it comes to around £14 billion, according to Policy Exchange.

Addiction

Tobacco UK

image via ECigarette Reviewed

The final point I want to make relates to the addictive nature of tobacco (or more accurately: nicotine). I discussed earlier that the ABC system for drug classification ignores the addictiveness of drugs and instead focuses on a more arbitrary approach based on the opinions of people who aren’t carrying out any significant research on the matter.

Most smokers would like to quit, yet only around 6% of smokers are able to quit each year. On top of that, it takes most smokers multiple attempts to successfully quit, if at all. Cigarettes contain a number of different chemicals that a person can become addicted to, but the main one is a result of the nicotine and its effect on dopamine, which ultimately results in the rewiring of neural pathways until what we consider to be addiction kicks in.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, withdrawal symptoms for nicotine can include:

 “…irritability, craving, depression, anxiety, cognitive and attention deficits, sleep disturbances, and increased appetite. These withdrawal symptoms may begin within a few hours after the last cigarette, quickly driving people back to tobacco use…withdrawal symptoms peak within the first few days of the last cigarette smoked and usually subside within a few weeks. For some people, however, symptoms may persist for months”

When it comes to addiction, it’s difficult to compare one drug to another. One study from the 1990s by Henningfield and Benowitz used a set criterion for determining addiction (which included aspects such as withdrawal, tolerance, dependence, and intoxication) to rank the most addictive drugs. When it comes to withdrawal, nicotine was tied in 3rd place with cocaine, beaten only by heroin (number 2) and alcohol (number 1). Nicotine ranked first for dependence and 2nd for tolerance.

Results from more recent versions of this study support its conclusions. Other sources place nicotine as the 5th most addictive substance on the Earth, behind barbiturates, cocaine, alcohol, and heroin. The New York Times even wrote an article in 1987 about nicotine being harder to quit that heroin.

In Conclusion

Tobacco UK

image via The Truth Revolution

We often hear that you can’t compare one drug to another, which is arguably true as each drug varies from another in a number of ways. Cannabis is a class B drug in the UK which can land you up to 5 years, an unlimited fine, or both, for possession, and up to 14 years, an unlimited fine, or both, for supply/production. Could we compare it to tobacco? In several ways, yes. One causes undeniable mental and physical health issues which leads to thousands upon thousands of deaths every single year (including newborns and children). One costs the government and taxpayer and estimated £14 billion per year, which it doesn’t cover with the £12 billion in returns in tax. And one is legal and readily available in most shops to anyone over the age of 18. The other is cannabis!

The continued outlawing of marijuana and its consumers is largely a result of the government’s failed “war on drugs”. News articles use intimidating and misleading headlines to scare the populous into believing that cannabis causes mental illness (when using correlation as a justification for concluded causation) and yet ignore the far more relevant and blatantly obvious connection between tobacco, mental and physical illness, and ultimately death.

I can see no real justification for the continued legalization of this substance while still outlawing recreation marijuana use. Tobacco is addictive beyond measure, it’s harmful beyond what could ever be justified, and it costs more money to the government and the country than it makes. If life, health, and money are all being neglected for the sake of keeping a harmful substance legal, then what possible precedent could any government have for outlawing other, less harmful substances?


Thanks for reading! What are you thoughts on the legality of tobacco, particularly when compared to marijuana? 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!

Get your Politics Out of My Movies!

When I’d originally started this post, it was titled ‘Ghostbusters 3 is NOT a Feminist Issue!’ I was simply going to discuss why forcing politics of any kind onto a movie (when the movie itself isn’t political) doesn’t do anyone any favours: fanbase and creators included. However, I rather unfortunately found that one my favourite movie franchises has been invaded by the same political self-righteousness. So, I’ve been forced to tackle the entire reason that politics and movies shouldn’t be forced together. I’m going to start with Ghostbusters 3 and then go on to discuss Captain Marvel and the future of the MCU.

Back to Sequels and Reboots

Ghostbusters 3 and Captain Marvel

image via Science Fiction

I’m sick to death of having to discuss sequels and reboots. However, with Ghostbuster 3 being announced, I have to revisit the topic. I’ve said it once, but I’ll say it again: Ghostbusters should never have become political. Out of all the movies that have ever been made, why would anyone pick Ghostbusters as the target of anti-male propaganda? I’ve written on this topic rather extensively (unfortunately). So, if you want to know my opinions on the Ghostbusters reboot both before and after its release, then by all means click on the corresponding links. I wouldn’t encourage it though. This topic is already saturated beyond belief.

So, what has sparked me to write, once again, about the political issues surrounding the Ghostbusters franchise? Well, with the release of Ghostbusters 3 being announced, certain individuals feel that the movie carries anti-women sentiments, which is hilarious given how blatantly anti-male publicity was for the reboot. I’m going to summarise the issue before sharing my own view on the matter.

To cut a long story short: Ghostbusters is NOT a feminist issue. It never should have been in the first place, but it certainly isn’t now that we’ve moved away from the disgraceful 2016 reboot.

Ghostbusters (2016)

Ghostbusters 3 and Captain Marvel

image via Forbes

For any of you confused by the Ghostbusters franchise, here is a brief history: In 1984, the first Ghostbusters movie was released. In 1989, a sequel (imaginatively titled “Ghostbusters II) was released. In 2016, some genius decided to reboot the franchise. This reboot takes place in a separate universe from the originals i.e. the events of the original movies didn’t take place within the 2016 movie universe (that will be important in a moment). In 2020, a sequel to the second Ghostbusters movie (1989) will be released, likely starring most of the original cast and following on from the original stories. It’s likely to be a “passing of the torch” movie and will apparently star 2 males and 2 females as the new, young leads.

So, this brings us to Leslie Jones who starred in the 2016 reboot as Patty Tolan. Mrs Jones is apparently outraged and recently tweeted the following:

Ghostbuster-Reboot-Leslie-Jones-Reaction.jpg

For starters, why bring Trump into this? Suddenly, making a sequel (which as I’ve mentioned will have a 50/50 gender split anyway) to a movie about 4 men a “Trump move”? I understand that she’s trying to label the move sexist, but that brings us to our next issue. Why is it a “dick move” to make a sequel but it’s not a dick move to reboot the franchise, switch the gender of every character, and turn the movie into nothing more than a punch in the balls (quite literally, if you’ve seen the reboot)? Surely if anyone made a “dick move” it’s the people behind the all-female reboot, right?

Another aspect of Jones’ Tweet relates to the reboot not counting. She says, “We dint count”. Well, did the original cast not count when you made the 2016 movie? Secondly, the reboot was an absolute flop. You can attribute that to sexist white male misogynists if you like, but the truth of the matter is that the movie lost something like $70 million. Why the fuck would any sane person drag that shit show back for round 2? If you remove yourself from the original franchise, you can’t then be angry when the original franchise continues without you.

Ultimately…

Ghostbusters 3 and Captain Marvel

image via YouTube

What this all boils down to is nonsensical political outrage. These days, people will grasp hold of anything that allows them to feel and share outrage, at anyone, anything, or anywhere. It is a trend that is spreading like wildfire.

When researching aspects of this post, I ended up on the most weighted ScreenRant article ever, which opened with: “Ghostbusters: “Leslie Jones Is (Understandably) Mad There’s a New Reboot”, before going on to state “However, the 2016 reboot was plagued all through its production and marketing by certain folks who weren’t happy with a Ghostbusters movie starring all women.”

This sort of writing annoys me because the hate towards the reboot was NOT because it was an all-female cast. That was an aspect, a very minor aspect, but it wasn’t the fact that the cast was female, it was the fact that A) The movie was anti-male, B) The movie claimed to be some sort of feminist breakthrough and marketed itself as such, and C) Even from the trailers, it was clear that the movie was not going to do the originals justice. I can’t say this enough but Annihilation is one of my favourite movies to have come out in the last few years and it has an all-female cast. Yet people like Leslie Jones and others never raise that example when holding white men responsible for their piece of shit movies flopping!

Ghostbusters 3

Ghostbusters 3 and Captain Marvel

image via Geek Tyrant

When it comes to Ghostbusters 3, what are my thoughts? Well, I think it’s a mistake. But I think it’s a better idea that a reboot. Why? When it comes to reboots, particularly when handled like Ghostbusters, you essentially scrap the original story and replace it with a modern take. People don’t like to watch their favourite movies being recycled to suit a modern audience. Having recently re-watched the original Ghostbusters, Bill Murray portrays an incredibly sexist and inappropriate Dr Venkman. Men don’t watch that nowadays and think to themselves “ahhhh, so THAT’S how you get the woman!” Regardless, if you released a movie that glorified and laughed at such behaviour nowadays, it would be slated by certain groups.

Sequels can encounter a similar problem, but this usually relates to continuity. If you look at Star Wars or Jurassic World, the biggest issues they faced involved remaining true to the original movies. Another example would be Jumanji. Welcome to the Jungle is sort of a sequel and a reboot, but it manages to make the movie different enough that you don’t really compare it to the original, but it isn’t so different that you don’t feel a connection between the two.

I’d love to see the original Ghostbusters cast back on the big-screen, but unless the can find the right balance between the original and modern-day movies, then it’s going to fail.

Captain Marvel and Brie Larson

Ghostbusters 3 and Captain Marvel

image via Adventures in Poor Taste

Sadly, this bring me to Marvel. If you’ve read any of my other posts, you’ll find that I’ve written about Marvel more than anything else. I love discussing my hopes and concerns, my theories, and many other topics.

Prior to the release of the Captain Marvel trailer, I wasn’t that excited for the movie. Not because it’s a female character, not because I’m a sexist, misogynistic, pro-Trump, anti-LGBT demon, but simply because I don’t know the character. I wasn’t excited for many other MCU movies and ended up loving them e.g. Winter Soldier and Black Panther. Similarly, I was excited for other MCU movies and ended up having my expectations crushed e.g. Doctor Strange and Age of Ultron.

However, when the trailer was released, I found myself feeling more excited. The Skrull concept and being able to see a young Nick Fury in action seemed compelling. Not to mention that I’ve enjoyed Brie Larson in other movies, so I’ve always looked forward to seeing her performance within the MCU, even if I wasn’t all that excited about the movie itself.

Fuck the Fans!

Ghostbusters and Captain Marvel

image via YouTube

Fuck…I can’t even bring myself to write about this nonsense. So, Brie Larson made a speech at the Crystal + Lucy Awards. To sum it up: “if you’re a white male and like Marvel movies but don’t enjoy Captain Marvel, then fuck you!” Larson displayed a complete lack of understanding for how the world works. Apparently, the fact that 60% of movie reviewers are white males is evidence of the patriarchy controlling and manipulating female-led films to fail. Larson’s solution? Equality of outcome: she wants to force non-white movie reviewers into the review role, along with more white females, in order to balance things out.

This, of course, ignores the fact that ANYONE can review movies. Want to write a blog about movies? WordPress is free and easy to use. I happen to write reviews for my own blog and MovieBabble, a movie review site that takes on anyone who loves to write about movies. ANYONE can start a YouTube account and review movies, it’s free and easy to do. ANYONE can review on IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes, both of which are frequently referenced by people such as Mindy Kailing, Brie Larson, and others.

I’m not sure what percentage of MCU fans are white males, but I’d imagine that it’s a majority or at least close to it. According to one website, a survey carried out in 2018 found that males make up the majority of MCU viewers within the US. Now, it’s one thing to call out to fans of different demographics. If Larson has said “we need more women in these roles” or “we need more women to watch these movies” then there wouldn’t be an issue but saying that white male critics can essentially go fuck themselves, just alienates a large percentage of MCU fans who have enjoyed the franchise for A FUCKING DECADE prior to Larson’s appearance.

Is it really any surprise that the projected box office figures for Captain Marvel have already by dropped below 50% since the initial projections? People don’t want their favourite franchises (i.e. the MCU) being combined with the individual political ideological ramblings of one ill-informed individual (i.e. Brie Larson).

There is always a backlash to stuff like this, and we’re seeing it with Captain Marvel. According to Complex, “Misogynists Swarming ‘Captain Marvel’ on Rotten Tomatoes Weeks Before Release”. Of course, as is usually the case with instances such as this, they are ignoring the real issue. This has NOTHING to do with the fact that Captain Marvel is a female. It has EVERYTHING to do with Brie Larson launching an attack against fans.

Black Panther

Ghostbusters 3 and Captain Marvel

image via Marvel

There is a right way to bring politics into a movie, and it isn’t by alienating other demographics. Let’s consider Black Panther. This is a movie that had an almost entirely black cast, and as such it was hailed as being a step in the right direction for the representation of minorities within Hollywood movies.

On the run up to its release, I didn’t once see Chadwick Boseman or Michael B. Jordan stepping up to a mic to say “listen, if this film doesn’t do well, then it’s white people who are to blame”. The movie itself even tackled race issues within the world, but it did so in a manner that wasn’t just sticking a middle finger up at other groups and actually made sense within the movie’s storyline.

I’m not petty enough to not see a movie based on the actions of one member of the cast, but I’d imagine that there are people out there who are. Larson is a classic example of a social justice hypocrite. Does Larson really believe that decade-long fans of the MCU are going to hate a movie purely because the lead is a strong female character? The only reason I will hate Captain Marvel, is if it’s a shit movie. If it IS a shit movie, I’m still going to watch Endgame and Far From Home and other MCU movies!

My MCU Prediction

Ghostbusters 3 and Captain Marvel

image via YouTube

I’m almost done ranting, but I just want to touch on one issue that I can see happening over the next few years. Endgame, which will be the movie to follow Captain Marvel, marks the end of the road for many character arcs. Tony Stark, Iron-Man, Thor, and others may not die, but they won’t be returning in the same capacity after this movie. Here lies my worry: Fans have spent 10 years following these characters: we’ve watched them evolve, face increasingly-difficult challenges, and we’ll see them leave. For many, Endgame will mark the end of a story rather than the end of a chapter.

How will the MCU group the remaining heroes together? Will there be an Avengers 5? In my opinion, Endgame should be the last Avengers movie. Let’s face it, the Guardians won’t be returning for a 5th Avengers movie. So, the next group movie should be different, and it should be new, otherwise, people will get very bored very fast! We can’t just see all available MCU heroes regroup every 3 years, particularly when the MVPs will be gone. Why is this a problem?

Well, as we’ve seen with Ghostbusters, Ocean’s 8, the wage gap, and other such movies/ideas, people have a tendency to focus on a connection while ignoring all other factors. You didn’t like Ghostbusters? Well, you must be a female-hating Trump supporter because there’s NO way you just didn’t like the shitty reboot and its horrifically matched cast and slanted political agenda!

When we say goodbye to Tony Stark, Thor, Loki, Steve Rodgers, Bucky, and maybe more (or maybe less, I’m not sure how many actors will step down after Endgame), the viewings of MCU movies is undoubtedly going to take a knock. My worry is that people will blame this on women-hating racists, rather than exploring the real reasons. Then, the MCU will become more politicized and ultimately destroyed.

In Summary

Ghostbusters 3 and Captain Marvel

image via Stream Play TV

In my opinion, there shouldn’t have been a Ghostbusters reboot in the first place! I’m all for a sequel, provided it isn’t just a reboot disguised as a sequel, but rebooting any classic typically fails to do it justice. Look at Jumanji: the reboot/sequel was entertaining, but it just wasn’t the same as the original. Too many things change over the course of several decades and so its impossible to capture the original movies. For example, Jurassic Park, Star Wars, Blade Runner, and of course Ghostbusters.

Global politics have changed, societal attitudes and perceptions have changed, actors have died, and a million other variables can be considered as to why making a reboot/sequel to classic movies a couple of decades after the originals will never work. Do you think a Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or Fight Club would succeed if rebooted within the next couple of decades? These aren’t even good examples and they still don’t work!

When it comes to movies that are changing within our modern society, we have to remember that people aren’t watching these movies to support a political agenda. I watch Marvel movies because I love the characters and losing myself in a universe where people with superpowers exist is entertaining. I don’t watch the movies because I want to support Brie Larson’s incoherent babblings!


Thanks for reading! What are you thoughts? Is Brie Larson forcing her political views into the MCU? Is it unreasonable to do a Ghostbusters 3? 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 Review!

So, despite my shouts of protest over the latest Assassin’s Creed game, my pride was crumpled by a 50% off sale on the X-box store. So, over the holidays, I managed to squeeze in about 60 hours of playing and as such, I’m here to share whether my original hatred for the game was justified or whether I need to take back my statement and announce my new-found love for all things Ubisoft!

I’m going to try my best to keep this post at least somewhat concise. I feel like I say that nearly every time I write a new one, but then 3,000 words later I’m staring back at a novel! In order to keep this short, I’m only going to look at two aspects of the game before drawing a conclusion: gameplay and storyline. To me, these are the two major elements of any Assassin’s Creed game.

Gameplay

image via GameAxis

So, I’m going to start off with the gameplay element. Even when I was ranting about my disapproval of this game many months ago, I always said that the gameplay would probably be great. Why wouldn’t it be? The gameplay in Origins was awesome and I completely loved it!

Combat

Assassin's Creed Odyssey

image via Instant-Gaming

Origins offered a fluid, more interactive, and ultimately more enjoyable fighting ability and system. Especially when you compare it to the rigid fighting style in the previous games. Odyssey matches Origins in that regard, taking many elements a step further and allowing for your fighting, hunting, and assassinating styles to be upgraded via the skill trees. This useful feature allows players to choose elements that match the way they play the game.

I loved fighting in Odyssey and I’ve always, always said that Assassin’s Creed needed RPG elements, even way back when I was writing about Rogue. Fighting higher level enemies is rarely impossible but always a challenge which makes you feel more involved in the game itself.

I also loved the mission aspect of Odyssey. The idea that the game never truly ends, due to there being at least 3 separate endings, allows players to feel like there is justification for staying in the Animus. This is something that always felt forced in previous games. Being able to jump between massive quest lines allows players to move from one story to the next whenever one grows a but tiresome or becomes too challenging due to the level difference of enemies.

Choice

Assassin's Creed Odyssey

image via Mashable

The choice aspect of the game was a concern for me. Again, it’s something that the games certainly needed, and in many ways I feel Odyssey did a great job of hitting the nail on the head. It had been suggested in Origins that Leia (or whatever the modern day character’s name is) would find a way to use the Animus as a sort of time machine, whereby she isn’t just reliving memories but actually altering the true event OR running a simulation of how things could have turned out IF those decisions had been made (as is suggested by the Isu in Odyssey).

However, while I did enjoy making certain choices and having that level of freedom, there was a major downside. It rarely felt like there was a right choice. Instead, it felt like every choice was either wrong or had no real bearing on the events of the game. I think Ubisoft tried too hard to force the players to make “difficult” decisions instead of focusing on how these decisions would change game events.

The same goes for choosing which side to fight for: Athens or Sparta. Ultimately, you must choose different sides in different situations in order to follow quests or to hunt certain cult members. This made the battles seem hollow in the grand scheme of things.

The Cult of Kosmos

Assassin's Creed Odyssey

image via AllGamers

The cult idea stems from a similar notion used in Origins whereby players “track” targets and essentially count down members until all are dead. Odyssey certainly stepped the game up here and hunting down cult members was fun and challenging. I enjoyed having to find clues or hunt other members before I could kill leaders. It actually felt like you were working your way through a hierarchy.

I do have an issue with the cult aspect though, but this relates more to the storyline than to the gameplay itself.

The mercenary aspect of the game seemed quite exciting at first but as I got more into it, I found it rather redundant. By the time I’d ranked up a couple of tiers, I stopped feeling the need to hunt down mercenaries and instead I just killed them whenever they crossed my path (when in an aggressive manner). I still think this was a great part of the game, particularly when your bounty shot up and you suddenly had 4 bounty hunters chasing you down. It worked well within storylines but also during free roam. Speaking of storylines…

Storyline

Assassin's Creed Odyssey

image via GameRevolution

While my opinion on the gameplay is almost entirely positive, the opposite is true when it comes to the storyline. I’d read many great reviews about Odyssey, with many stating that the emotional journey topped any of the previous games. Honestly, I found it all a bit much. Aspects of it were great and really made me feel like Ubisoft were back in the game, but other areas just couldn’t be ignored.

Good vs Bad

Assassin's Creed Odyssey

image via Wikia

To keep this balanced, I’m going to start with the story elements that were great. Firstly, I loved the way Odyssey blurred the lines between good and evil. In previous games, it’s been one group of people against another. In Assassin’s Creed III, for example, all of the Brits were the bad guys while all of the soon-to-be Americans were the good guys. Previous games typically take the approach that those in power are evil while those under the boot are the good guys.

Odyssey throws that to the wind by having cult members literally everywhere. There’s no reason to trust anyone (and as the game progressed I found myself trusting nobody). Sparta has cult members, Athens has cult members, your own family has cult members, and even the mercenaries have cult members. You don’t feel like the idea of good vs evil is being divided into two clear-cut groups.

Family Connections

Assassin's Creed Odyssey

imag via IGN

I have mixed feelings about the family storyline. On the one hand, I loved the connection to the ISU and the idea of a sacred bloodline. It explains WHY this family are so special, rather than it simply being a case of them being at the right place at the right time. It also explains all the different pieces of Eden floating around in Ancient Greece (more on that in a moment). However, I felt that some of the story arcs were just a little bit too far.

I’m sure we all knew from the start that Kassandra survived the fall because it just made sense…but then to learn that she was kidnapped by an evil organisation after surviving the fall, after her mother taken her to doctors, after her family had allowed her to be dropped from a ledge in the first place….after, after, after…then to learn that you mother was a pirate and your adopted father is the leader of the Spartan army while your biological father is a 120 year old man living at the gates of the lost city of Atlantis while he tries to decode an ancient language…and you’re descended from Leonidas!

Again, it sort of makes sense when you consider the bloodline element and so it’s hard for me to hate it completely but at times I felt like I was watching some awful tale of a broken home. I think the Pythagoras element was just one step more than I could handle.

The Pieces of Eden

Assassin's Creed Odyssey

image via Polygon

For me, the pieces of Eden were the major downfall of this game. Although, in saying that, they are the downfall of most of the Assassin’s Creed games. I get why they need to be in the story. Without them, it wouldn’t really feel like as Assassin’s Creed game…but then Odyssey really wasn’t an Assassin’s Creed game. You CAN assassinate people but you’re not part of the order.

Here is why the pieces of Eden annoyed me: there were at least 7 in this game! There are 4 apples of Eden, although it seems like none of these are apples that we’ve seen in previous games which means that there are at least 6, if not more in the world. The staff seemed a bit pointless and I don’t really understand its purpose. Why would a piece of Eden have been created to extend human life?

Then you have the spear which on its own I didn’t have a problem with. The same goes for the weird pyramid which requires all the various triangle segments. Now the pyramid may not have been a piece of Eden but rather just Isu technology (although I’m inclined to believe that it is indeed a POE) but it’s how the two interacted that I don’t understand.

Why would you need to use part of one piece of Eden in order to randomly upgrade another piece of Eden at a forge which apparently serves no other purpose beyond upgrading said POE? Why would the Isu NEED to upgrade the spear at all? When a civilisation has literal mind-control devices, what need to they have of a crazy-ass spear that can only be upgraded by cannablising another POE?

Mythical Creatures

Assassin's Creed Odyssey

image via RockPaperShotgun

So, when I first encountered the Sphinx in Odyssey, I was both intrigued and disappointed. On the one hand, I had always said that Ubisoft should just stop labelling these games “Assassin’s Creed” and instead make similar style games about mythical aspects of ancient time periods. On the other hand, I enjoyed this somewhat twisted idea that these mythical creatures were people who had been used by the Isu or by the pieces of Eden themselves, in order to create these abominations that now guard the POE.

So that element on its own was fine because I could see why it would make sense within the Assassin’s Creed world. However, you then discover a cyclops on Andros who isn’t connected to a POE and is serving no real function whatsoever. It’s just there to fight you and nothing else. Why bother giving the other creatures explanations when you’re then going to create the same creature but have it just there…doing fucking nothing!

I’ve also been led to believe that there is a Kraken somewhere in the game which I can only assume follows the same illogical premise as the random-ass cyclops. There’s also the random-ass island called Angry Caldera of Arges which contains what looks like an Isu temple symbol labelled “Cyclops Arges” but is actually just empty space. One can only assume that Ubisoft are going to throw creatures there (presumably a cyclops) once they decide to finish the game.

Atlantis

Assassin's Creed Odyssey

image via YouTube

Atlantis was without a doubt my BIGGEST disappointment in this game. When I first headed into the temple and met Pythagoras, I was so excited. I personally love the story of Atlantis (although it’s more likely that the site of Atlantis is on the North-West side of Africa which would have once been mostly underwater but I can see why they wanted to include it here) and so being able to connect it to the Isu riled me up.

To then learn that you’re not going to get to explore Atlantis at all, was a let-down. This would have been the perfect opportunity to give players more information on the Isu, maybe even a vision or insight into the goings on of Isu history and life. Instead, we get the same old messages to the Animus user and cryptic symbols and subtext. I’m getting pretty bored of utterly meaningless Isu messages and their mindless squabbling between one another. You’ll notice that Juno still hasn’t conquered the world!

I don’t see any point in waving Atlantis in front of the player’s face, only to tell them that it needs to be blocked to outside interferences. Something that didn’t even happen because Alexios keeps the staff for himself until Leia (might not be her name) takes it from him. I think Ubisoft are not only running out of ideas, but they also have no real direction for these games. I’m not sure they ever had any real direction for the series as a whole. Up until Assassin’s Creed III, the story made some sense. Then it got ridiculous and nonsensical and ultimately pointless until Origins which almost opened the door for Odyssey but then Ubisoft went through a different door entirely.

Summary

Assassin's Creed Odyssey

image via Mashable

So…do I need to retract my original statement about Odyssey being the final nail in Ubisoft’s coffin? Yes and no. The truth is, Odyssey was a great game to play. I certainly can’t deny that after spending 60 hours playing it. However, for me at least, gameplay only makes up a part of any game. I much prefer a game with a GREAT storyline but poor gameplay rather than the opposite.

That’s not to say that the story for Odyssey was awful. I think Ubisoft made some tremendous progress and it was undoubtedly better than I expected it to be. In fact, I can break down my opinion on the story a little further. I found the storyline for Ancient Greece and the story of Alexios to be a little ridiculous but still entertaining and interesting (for the most part).

My problem lies mostly with the Isu elements of the game and the modern-day storyline as we follow Lelu or Leigh or whoever. Neither of these made a great deal of sense and I feel like Ubisoft needs to have a meeting where they sit down and decide where to go. They need to STOP churning out games and instead have a discussion where someone says “what the fuck are we doing in the modern day? What is the end goal? Will the story ever come to a conclusion? Will we ever see a proper Isu storyline? Will players ever get to use the Animus to access Isu memories?

What does annoy me (but is also something that at this stage doesn’t shock me) is Ubisoft including content in DLCs that seems vital to the overall storyline. DLC content should be additional. Why are we seeing the creation of the Brotherhood or the origins of the hidden blade in DLCs? That is shit that should be happening in the main game!



Thanks for reading! What did you think of Odyssey? What do you hope Ubisoft’s next step will be? 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!

Finding Happiness in Work and Avoiding Deceit!

With the population of the planet nearing 8 billion people, it makes sense that finding a job you’re truly passionate about is going to become more and more challenging. After all, the more people who roam the world, the more competition there is for any given job. Working a job you hate can make your life feel truly miserable: what’s the point of working if you aren’t happy? One thing I’ve found recently, while meandering my way through the job jungle, is that most jobs suck because you’re required to behave in a manner that is ultimately not entirely moral. This post also gives me an opportunity to rant about my most recent job and warn people of its entirely sketchy nature!

The Psychic Company

image via Clyde Fitch Report

So I’m going to start off with the best example of what I’m referring to. This section will serve as a rant but also as a warning as I feel that those who take part in such activities should be made aware of the deceitful nature of these companies. So let me start off by explaining the job: I was hired by a company called “The 7th Circle” and yes, it’s as crazy as it sounds. My job was to connect calls between people wishing to receive psychic readings and the psychics giving said readings. The job title was often referred to as a “psychic’s assistant”.

I took this job because desperate times call for desperate measures. The premise initially sounded fair. People call up and make appointments. I wouldn’t be selling anything, simply connecting calls. If they had so much as mentioned sales I would have been straight out the door. However, I soon learned that there is a sales aspect to the job (although my 4 days of employment prior to quitting didn’t give me enough time to reach that stage). However, there were some truly grizzly details that began to tear away at my very soul.

My Stance

image via Daily Express

I don’t believe in horoscopes, psychics, astrology, or anything that can be associated with magic crystals. However, I have no problem with connecting people to psychics if that is what they want to spend their money on. I mean it isn’t really any different to religion. One thing I realised early on was that this company knew they were being sketchy. For example, when signing up new clients one question you have to ask is “Do you receive disability payments from your government?” About half of the callers’ answer “yes” which leads to the follow-up question of “Are you financially independent?” So provided that person isn’t using someone else’s money, their disability checks can go straight into the hands of this company.

As I said already, I was only there for 4 days and within those 4 days each and every call grated away more and more of my very being. I won’t go into specifics but one call was from a woman who had just given birth a couple of months earlier and wanted a psychic to tell her whether she should break up with her current partner to be with someone she’d been chatting to online. Another call, which was truly heart-breaking, was someone who had spent all their money and had been forced to borrow money from friends just to hear what a psychic had to say about their life. The desperation was apparent even over the phone.

Calls like this were incredibly common and I started trying to find roundabout ways to basically explain that they shouldn’t use this service. My calls were still being monitored by the “higher ups” but I wasn’t far from just telling every client to use the last of their money on something more substantial than nonsensical calls, particularly when there are children involved.

The Truth about the Company!

image via The Ness

So the name of the company is “The Psychic Company” but their website is something like good-psychic.com (I’ve struggled to find the exact link). Suffice to say that it’s an incredibly popular website with an equally as popular call centre. People have spent 10s and even 100s of thousands of dollars through the service and the weight that they put on these psychics is more faith than I’ve ever witnessed anyone place on anything. As I said earlier, that’s completely fine…provided it’s only their life that they are putting in jeopardy.

The thing is (and I don’t say this lightly), it’s all a scam. As in beyond so much as a shadow of a doubt, it’s a scam. I’m not saying this as someone who doesn’t believe in the practices, I’m saying this as someone who had dealt first-hand with the so-called “psychics” and their money hungry desires. Let me explain exactly what I mean.

The way that we get new clients is via the website. People sign up for a free online reading. This involves giving the website your e-mail address and via this address you receive a “reading”. However, not long after you receive an ominous e-mail along the lines of “someone in your life is jealous of you” or “the love of your life is about to slip away” or “someone in your life is in danger”. All of these e-mails end with something like “call us immediately  to speak to Jenny”.

“Jenny” doesn’t even exist. When these people phone in (many of whom have received the exact same e-mail, word for word) we tell them that Jenny isn’t available right now but that her colleagues are.

The Psychics

Psychics

image via Christian Courier

This brings me back to the purpose of this post: the deceit. As of day 3, I was thinking of quitting. On day 4 I almost walked out halfway through the day. By the end of day 4 my mind was pretty much made up. I can’t play a role in allowing people to believe that these psychics are the real deal. When I was being shown the ropes, one of the “tricks of the trade” was to ask clients whether they are interested in speaking to a psychic about love and relationships or careers and finances. Their answer does not matter! They are connected to the first available psychic who is then informed beforehand that this client wishes to focus on one topic or another.

The psychics themselves are miserable. I don’t mean “oh, they deal with a lot of negative energy that messes with the functionality of the heart chakra leading to energy blockages and a messed up feng shui energy”…no, I mean that these people know that they are lying to vulnerable people. They know as well as I do that everything that comes out of their mouth is absolute bullshit! Each call ends with the assistant telling the client “Grace would love to speak to you again; she even has a date in mind just for you”.

For people who claim to believe in karma and spirituality, it seems surprising that they are so happy taking up to $7.50 per minute from people who are claiming benefits from their government. Now, not to sound judgemental here, but none of these people are working on the cure for cancer. They aren’t reading books or trying to better the world. They don’t care about global warming, the bombings in Syria, space exploration, the abortion debate, sweat shops, tensions in North Korea…you get the idea. They are content living their lives week to week because psychics tell them that better things are coming. Hope is great…but remaining financially stable (particularly when you have children) is more important.

The Rat Race

Psychics

image via YouTube

This job (and other like it) is all about deception. It’s not about providing a service, it’s about convincing people that they need the service, even when it doesn’t better their lives in any way. It’s one of the reasons I find advertising to be such a shitty thing to exist. It rarely benefits us. It’s almost entirely about convincing us that we need something that we don’t.

Now, if these psychics genuinely believed in what they were doing and didn’t use sketchy tactics to lure people in, I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with it. Like I said earlier, people can believe what they want and spend their money on what they want.

Yet this is a pattern that emerges throughout the job industry. I recently moved to Barcelona and upon arriving I took a job as a Segway Tour salesperson. I loved the sound of it! My job was to drive around on a Segway to find people interested in paying for a tour. The tours involved a group of people riding from landmark to landmark on Segways, stopping at each to learn a little something about it. Sounds good in theory, right?

Not really. Given the size of Barcelona and all the truly remarkable sights you can visit, the tour locations are by far the least amazing areas one could think of. Not only that, those giving the tour typically didn’t speak very good English (despite there being native English speakers such as myself working there) and generally speaking they didn’t offer any great insight into the tour destinations. This job was made worse by the crazy hours in the sun (keep in mind that I’m a pale-white ginger man from Scotland: I’m used to 15 degree summers with 3 days of sun a year) and the fact that we’re only paid commission. I don’t mind selling something that is worth people’s money but selling half-assed tours to boring-ass locations…no thanks.

Hard Work and Dedication

Psychics

image via Inspired 2 Go

By this point, I’m sure some of you think I’m just recoiling at the thought of working hard. I want to take a moment to discuss the job I had prior to moving to Spain: Costco. At the time, I didn’t hugely appreciate my job there. I always felt like I was meant to do more than stock shelves…but in hindsight, I realise that the job was building up to something bigger. I worked hard in that role and I enjoyed doing so. I’d take on extra hours, I’d volunteer for training in new areas, I’d help coach the newbies, and I even went to London and Paris to help set up their stores. Had I always dreamed of working there? No…but it was honest work.

I think the problem stems from the idea that we’ve been raised to believe that jobs like that are beneath us. I know that’s how I viewed it when I worked there. I now realise that’s far from the truth. I rarely felt absolutely defeated after work (unlike with the call centre and Segway jobs) despite Costco involving heavy lifting, dragging huge weights of stock out to the floor, and dealing with customers on a near-constant basis. Leaving work I’d actually feel more accomplished than anything, even if I didn’t realise it back then. If a Costco opens up in Barcelona (which I believe it will sometime in the future) then I’d happily work there.

Whether the work itself is tiring or not isn’t actually what leaves you feeling exhausted. It’s closer related to whether you feel like you’ve A) Exploited people in order to earn a very small amount of money (I was getting less than 5€ an hour for the call centre job) and B) Do you feel like what you’re doing has benefited your life in any way? At Costco I was constantly learning new things. Would I use these things in day to day life? Probably not…but I was also being very physically active and communicating with customers face to face. If you’re doing a job that relates to point B, it will probably work perfectly fine in the short term.

Does this Apply to Freelance Work?

Psychics

image via Hub Pages

So I’m circling back around to the job that I currently do: freelance writing. You may be thinking to yourself that as a freelancer I have more scope for choosing the sort of work I do. The answer is yes and no. When starting out, I had no option but to take shitty, deceptive jobs. This would include making up reviews for Amazon products (such as violins or headphones) or copywriting the work of other people. Are these moral jobs? No, of course not…but when you start out these are the only employers who will hire you.

As I’ve improved my profile, my ratings and my presence on the site (and off it), I’ve been able to choose work that closer aligns with my core values. Currently, I’m writing the audio guide content for a app that covers cities such as Rome and Bruges. It probably works out that I’m paid less than minimum wage but I feel proud of what I’m doing and I know that people are going to benefit from my work. It also improves me portfolio as a writer.

I was about to ask if this was the choice we have to make: a job that pays well but destroys your soul or a job that offers a feel-good factor while paying your pennies? But then I realised that Costco was pretty well paid, certainly one of the higher paid jobs in the retail industry. Also, the call centre and Segway sales jobs paid nothing (which is true for both examples as I literally made no money from either venture).

Final Thoughts

Psychics

image via Deviant Art

This post doesn’t really have any major point. It doesn’t propose a ground-breaking theory or discuss a hugely relevant topic. However, I think it does offer the opportunity to consider whether this is the world we live in. Does chasing your dreams mean that you’ll struggle to pay bills each month? Do we have to abandon our preconceived notions of success and instead focus on jobs that don’t make us lose all our faith in humanity?


Thanks for reading! Are you working towards your dream job or do you believe that life involves working less than ideal jobs in order to enjoy our time outside of it? 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: Ranking All 11 Games!

If you’ve ever found yourself on my blog before then you’ve probably stumbled across at least one of my Assassin’s Creed posts. I’ve written about Rogue and how it marked the complete and utter downfall for the series but I’ve also written about Origins (and how I thought it was signalling a much needed reboot) and Odyssey (which quite quickly crushed that hope). In this post I’m going to take a slightly different approach and rate the Assassin’s Creed series. I’ll count down the 11 games, including Odyssey, and I’ll include details such as whether the game is essential for the overall storyline of the series and a 1-10 rating of each game. I’ll covers some pros, some cons and give you an overall idea of what I liked or disliked about the game.

11. Assassin’s Creed: Unity

Ubisoft

image via Digital Spy

Assassin’s Creed: Unity is the worst game of the series…by far! It’s a shame really because exploring Paris is actually awesome and there were so many things that were almost great about the game. They brought in certain RPG features allowing you to level up abilities and change more aspects of the character. However, everything in this game was awful. I played this game years (like literally years) after it was released and the game was still buggy!

The story of this game is the weakest in the series: both the past and present day storylines were clearly written by a child. This game added absolutely nothing to the series and in all honesty, I can barely remember anything about it. For those familiar with the games, the only memorable moment was the appearance of the same symbols Desmond sees at the end of the first game…the only problem being that they never really explain why they are there. The gameplay was pretty sloppy, the characters were all unlikable, the piece of Eden may as well have never existed and ultimately it was just a standalone game that should have been scrapped during the brainstorming session.

Rating: 1/10
Pros: Paris was fun to explore…kind of.
Cons: Everything else in the game sucked ass! The entire game was a con…at least it conned over 10 million fans out of their money!
Necessary for understanding series: Absolutely not!

10. Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate

Ubisoft

image via HDQ Walls

Syndicate was the next game to follow Unity and while it is a slight improvement, it falls into the exact same traps. Ubisoft are money-crazed: that was true back then and it is still true now. So pushing out shitty games that they know people will buy essentially became their company motto. What did Syndicate offer players? Well, the characters were slightly more likeable…slightly. Their storyline however was boring and irrelevant to the overall storyline of the series.

However, improving the ability trees of the characters was a step that I definitely approved of but the weird Batman-style grapple hook and all the other bizarre and out of place gadgets ruined any progress Ubisoft were making. Syndicate did deal with the gun problem in the series by limiting all combat to melee in the forms of gang fights. However, the storyline (which is the biggest factor for me) was slow and boring. Even though the characters were more interesting than Unity, they still sucked! Another problem was the repetitive missions. To conquer an area, you had to just repeat the exact same missions over and over again and I stopped playing this game several times because I saw no point in finishing it.

Rating: 3/10
Pros: Fun gameplay (sort of), interesting development of ability tree.
Cons: Very repetitive missions, pointless POE (piece of Eden) storyline, and pointless and stupid storyline overall.
Necessary for understanding the series: Absolutely not!

9. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey

Ubisoft

image via Dual Shockers

I originally had this in 7th place but after careful consideration, I’ve bumped it down to number 9. I know what you’re thinking: how can I rank the game before I’ve played it. Trust me, I can tell. I’m not denying that Odyssey might be incredibly fun to play and explore but it’s not going to be an Assassin’s Creed game…at all. I let this go slightly in Black Flag but at this stage, especially after Origins, Ubisoft should have got their shit together!

If you want a more in-depth view of why Odyssey will be a major disappointment, you can read about it here but to sum it up: it takes place hundreds of years before Origins, won’t explore any of the lore, will likely have little to no modern day storyline (or at least not one that is going to be compelling). It’s also ruined many of the principles set out in previous games such as letting you choose your character’s sex and alter history.

Rating: 4/10
Pros: The gameplay will probably be great, Spartans will be fun to play as, Ancient Greece is an interesting time period to explore.
Cons: There’s no reason that this is an Assassin’s Creed game. This may as well not exist and the attempts to connect this to Origins are going to fail. If not, I will donate £100 to charity. You have my word!
Necessary for understanding the series: I highly doubt it. I think this game could exist without any knowledge of previous games at all. I also don’t think it will add anything to the series.

8. Assassin’s Creed: Rogue

Ubisoft

image via Comunidad Xbox

The more I think about Rogue, the more I realise it’s deserving of number 8 on this list. Annoyingly, Rogue could have been number 1 on this list without much change. Ultimately, the storyline of Rogue is illogical, the character’s change of allegiance makes no sense and when you include the ridiculous number of collectables, side missions, ETC…it’s just unbearable. Rogue SHOULD have been about an assassin who goes Rogue: not to join the Templars but rather to carry out a similar goal: keeping the POE away from the Assassin’s AND the Templars. That would have made sense and have been more fun to play.

Instead, we got this ridiculous storyline about someone who is against killing innocents…but then proceeds to be the only character who can kill innocents. I’ve made this point before but it’s really such an annoying detail. Rather than letting players use Templar tech, they should have just followed Shay on his stand-alone mission whereby he highlights the violent war between the two groups and attempts to limit their impact on the world.

Rating: 5/10
Pros: It was fun to play, Shay was a semi-interesting character.
Cons: Way too many collectibles and side missions, the storyline was poorly written, the POE were completely ridiculous and illogical, the present day storyline was just silly…I could go on.
Necessary for understanding the series: Hell no!

7.  Assassin’s Creed III

Ubisoft

image via Game Pressure

I was struggling to choose the number 9 game for this list. I struggled to choose between 3, Rogue and Odyssey. I initially placed this game at number 9 but after starting to write about Rogue, I switched this one to number 8…and then 7.

Why? Well, for me this game just wasn’t that great but it also wasn’t the worst. This may be due to the fact that the American Revolution just isn’t that interesting to me. I hated that Assassin’s Creed became this very obvious good vs bad concept whereby you had the evil British against the good Americans. They simplified the colonies simply to support the Templar idea and ultimately it didn’t really work.

Assassin’s Creed III wasn’t the worst game in the series and it offered a very interesting insight into the precursor civilisation through holograms found within the precursor temple. However, Connor was not interesting as a character (although his father’s storyline was interesting). His family and essentially the “revenge” storyline actually worked quite well and I did feel like I was involved in the drama. I also enjoyed building the Assassin’s back up from an “unknown fall” which we learn about in Rogue.

Rating: 5/10
Pros: Offered a lot more insight into the precursor civilisation, cool twists.
Cons: Unlikable character, guns made gameplay frustrating and boring, many story elements were left open and never concluded.
Necessary for understanding the series: Yes, unfortunately.

6. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag

Ubisoft

image via Nintendo

Appearing at number 6 on our countdown is none other than Black Flag. I gave up at this point in the series and only bought it years after its release because I was bored and it was cheap. Was it good as an Assassin’s Creed game? Not hugely, but it did offer some new, compelling ideas (which have never been explored further) and without a doubt the gameplay was a lot of fun. This was essentially the Pirates of the Caribbean game that everyone wanted as a child.

This game, similar to Rogue and others, suffered from having way too many side quests and collectibles. You could say that Black Flag marked the start of this trend actually. Yet the “boss” ship fights, a likeable and fun main character, awesome side characters (Adéwalé was a beast!) and the new take on the modern storyline were all refreshing and exciting. It just wasn’t an Assassin’s Creed game though and I feel like they tried too hard to form weird and convoluted connections to previous story archs (another theme that would continue after this game).

Rating: 5/10
Pros: Fun characters, fun gameplay, being a pirate is awesome.
Cons: Very little development of overarching storylines, started storylines that were never continued, just wasn’t an Assassin’s Creed game.
Necessary for understanding the series: Barely!

5. Assassin’s Creed: Revelations

Ubisoft

image via Pivi Games

As far as I’m concerned all the games from this point onwards are incredible. If I could give them all first place I would. Sadly, that would defeat the purpose of doing a countdown and so Revelations falls into 5th place. It’s important to state that this game blew my mind. I loved replaying Altair memories: it provided players with closure from the previous games. The same can be said with Ezio as we felt like his story had reached its conclusion.

However, the game itself was flawed. The tower defence shit was OK to begin with but became dull quickly, the guns were already becoming a problem by this stage, the weird Animus island shit (particularly exploring Desmond’s memories) wasn’t as interesting as Ubisoft probably believed it to be, and while I loved the concept of returning to Masyaf, the reasoning felt a bit…dry.

Rating: 7/10
Pros: Playing as both Ezio and Altair was incredible, especially the missions involving the development of Altair’s skills and knowledge. I felt like players got closure on their favourite characters.
Cons: I feel like returning to Masyaf could have felt more deliberate and purposeful, a lot that happened within the storyline of the game felt forced and unnecessary, the Desmond story was just idiotic (although the Clay parts were more interesting).
Necessary for understanding the series: Yes but only in terms of understanding the conclusion of the first few games.

4. Assassin’s Creed II

Ubisoft

image via Game Pressure

Assassin’s Creed II marked our introduction to Ezio and it was an incredible game, one that I have played through at least 4 or 5 times. I mean there are very few flaws: the character was likeable, the story was compelling, we felt empathetic towards Ezio’s situation and the story actually added something to the series.

This was also the first game to properly introduce the idea of “those who came before” through a vault scene in Rome between Ezio and the precursor message for Desmond. That shit blew my mind and I can remember the moment where I completed it and realised I’d have to wait years to find out more. Of course I can’t forget the glyphs and all the crazy hidden messages WITHIN the hidden messages! *cue explosion* ‘The Truth’ video was chilling!

Rating: 8/10
Pros: Great character, excellent storyline, the game itself felt purposeful.
Cons: I died MANY times because the game would make me jump away from the building instead of up. Other than that, I have no real complaints.
Necessary for understanding the series: Definitely!

3. Assassin’s Creed

Ubisoft

image via Game Pressure

So we’ve reached the final 3 and in 3rd place we have the very first game. Many fans of the franchise look down on the original game but for me, it was one of the greats. Was the gameplay a little sketchy? Yes. Were the missions incredibly repetitive? Yes. Were you extremely limited both in terms of how you assassinated and with the weapon you used? 100%…but the storyline was original and drew me in instantly.

We also have to remember that this game set things in motion that would shape the entire series. The Templars and Abstergo were still largely mysterious by the end, the POE were only set up within the last sequence or two, and this came out in 2007! The MCU hadn’t even started yet! Yes, the game mechanics may feel a little basic when re-playing this game and the annoying beggars or repetitive dialogue may get incredibly irritating but this game will never stop being entertaining to me.

Rating: 8/10
Pros: Things were simple, storyline was intriguing, the ending was Earth-shattering!
Cons: The voices used for the NPC’s were the worst and most annoying voices to ever exist (excluding the female love interest in Unity), the missions were somewhat limiting and the combat was about as basic as you can get.
Necessary for understanding the series: Without a doubt!

2. Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood

Ubisoft

image via G2A

What can I say? Brotherhood marks one of the highlights of the series. I mean Rome is one of my favourite cities in the world (historically speaking). The game really vamped up the precursor interaction, I actually felt like we were experiencing Ezio grow and learn, and the Glyphs returned and were fun to solve. I mean there were certainly downsides, sure, but both the modern day storyline and the Ezio storyline were still great to play.

I think my highlight from this game was the ability to explore all the incredible Roman structures. The first game didn’t really offer anything like that and while the 2nd game touched on it slightly it is only really in Brotherhood that you can find places like the Colosseum or the Roman Forum and look at these buildings in the game and then go and see the remains in real life (something that I actually did). The ability to call assassin’s seemed crazy to me at the time and I didn’t approve at first (out of stubbornness I refused to use the Brotherhood through almost all of my first play through) but ultimately it became one of the great aspects of the game…along with Leonardo da Vinci!

Rating: 9/10
Pros: Great ending, great character (and character development), amazing city to explore, new weapons and abilities that weren’t quite as ridiculous as some of the later additions.
Cons: Was still a bit glitchy, even years after its release.
Necessary for understanding the series: Definitely!

1. Assassin’s Creed: Origins

Ubisoft

image via Screen Rant

As I said before, the top 5 or so games were all incredible and it’s taken some serious thought to rank them but I have to give first place to Origins, I just have to. If there is a period in time that interests me more than any other (including renaissance Italy) it is Ancient Egypt. So Origins starts out with an advantage. Throw in some refreshing gameplay, new abilities, a return to the old style for the modern day storyline and a bunch of other shit and you get this…and I was very pleased with the final product.

I’ve already played this game through twice and while there were aspects that annoyed the life out of me (you can read more here) it was a very fun and interesting game to play. I really felt like I was in this world and I connected with the characters and their drives. Being able to explore the pyramids or interact with the INSANE precursor temples was truly an awesome experience.

Rating: 10/10
Pros: Fucking EGYPT! Great characters, fun gameplay, side missions rarely got boring.
Cons: Set up false expectations for future games!!
Necessary for understanding the series: Apparently not!


Thanks for reading! Do you agree with my list? Do you have hopes for the future of the series? 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!

Free Speech: Is it a thing of the past?

I’ve written in the past about my thoughts on the UK and why it’s spiralling towards chaos. I’ve discussed the impact of limiting free speech on comedy (and the larger impact this would have), the Royal Family and why they should be given the boot, the incredibly negative effect of alcohol on society (and why marijuana legalisation would fix this), and why Scottish Independence would have been the better move 4 years ago! Some of these posts will apply to everybody, some won’t…but today’s certainly does. I’m going to walk you through the problem with free speech and why fear of being considered a troll, racist or a free-thinker could land you in the hot seat, ultimately leading to the collapse of our society. Sound a little dramatic?

Gregory Alan Elliott: Background

Censorship
If you follow my blog then you’ll be fully aware that I’m not a fan of social media. I’ve written about Facebook before and I only have Twitter as a landing page for my various followers from different sites. So it frustrates me when I hear on the news that people are being charged with crimes because of behaviour on these platforms. Before we look at the UK, I want to discuss Canada (as I feel like it’s somewhat responsible for allowing these nonsensical cases to be brought forward).

So, with that in mind I want to discuss the Gregory Alan Elliott story. This is an important turning point because it was the first prosecution for “harassment” solely through twitter. Way back in 2012, Gregory was arrested on allegations that he harassed several women via Twitter. These women had blocked Gregory but accused him of using hashtags to ridicule them and include others in his mocking of them. Such a technique has been coined “weaponized hashtagging”.

All of this stems from an entirely different issue that I don’t want to discuss in too much depth here. To cut a long story short: Anita Sarkeesian began a kickstarter campaign to raise awareness of female character tropes within the industry. Bendilin Spurr created a game whereby you can punch a photograph of someone’s face (including Anita and Jack Thomson). Stephanie Guthrie then started to contact employers and news organisations in an attempt to derail Spurr’s life. At this point, in steps Gregory Alan Elliot who highlighted that these actions carried more real world implications that the silly game that Spurr had created.

Gregory Alan Elliot: Outcome

Censorship
So this is where the GAE (Gregory Alan Elliott) case really begins. After sending a tweet to Stephanie Guthrie, herself and others blocked GAE and reported his account to Twitter. He hadn’t violated any of the terms of service and so no action followed. GAE continued to tweet about Guthrie and others until they eventually held a meeting to discuss how to handle the situation. This led to the police being notified, leading to the trial.

It’s important to note that this was not a one-sided debate. GAE wasn’t simply going online and harassing people, he had simply shared an opinion on an issue he felt strongly about and in response he got into a debate (something the judge would ultimately agree on). The women claimed that GAE was being homophobic,  inciting violence but also personally threatening them with violence (including that of a sexual nature).

Throughout the 3 year trial which cost GAE his job, his life, about $100,000 in legal fees and a ban from the internet smartphones during that time, the media largely misrepresented the case, often siding with Guthrie and her friends. As of 2016, all accusations have been dismissed by the judge. He found no evidence of threatening tweets (sexual or otherwise), no calls to violence against the women and the only tweet which was homophobic in nature has since been revealed to have been fake.

Back to the UK

Censorship
So that may have felt like a bit of a detour but I promise that it is relevant. We have to keep in mind that this case started in 2012 and ended in 2016. So how have things changed since then both in the world and specifically in the UK? Well, people being arrested for online activity wouldn’t be something new to the UK. This is largely due to Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 (we’ll touch on that in more detail in a moment).

Consider that in 2010 Paul Chambers (25) was arrested under this act for stating that he would blow an airport “sky high” after his flight was cancelled because of snowy weather. Chambers would go on to win his appeal against the court two years later but only after losing two jobs. We can also look at Matthew Woods (19) who was sentenced to 3 months in prison for making a joke about a missing girl. I don’t think that what they said was clever or should be encouraged but are either of these individuals really deserving of long legal battles and prison? I’d have to say no!

The problem that we have (that we always fucking have with shit like this) is that what is deemed “offensive” is entirely subjective. What offends you might not offend me. I think we always need to consider the context which brings me onto a more recent example: Count Dankula.

Count Dankula and the Nazi Dog

Censorship
If you haven’t heard the case of Mark Meechan (a.k.a Count Dankula) then allow me to summarise it for you: Mark is a comedian and to annoy his girlfriend, he taught her dog (a pug) to do a Nazi salute. His reasoning was that his girlfriend always talked about how cute the dog was and so he wanted to turn it into the “least cute thing in the world… a Nazi”. Outside the court he reiterated the point by saying it was comical because of the “juxtaposition of having an adorable animal react to something vulgar”. Once again the 2003 Communications Act comes into play here. In the video Mark says things like “Sieg heil” and “do you want to gas the Jews?” to which the ugly dog responds with a Nazi salute or an excited look on its face.

A GoFundMe was started in order to cover the trial costs that Mark had to pay. The goal was £100,000 and as I type this post it currently sits at £193,545. The worrying aspect of this case actually goes beyond the charge of “inciting racial hatred” and the accompanying £800 fine (plus legal fees). The real concern comes from the fact that the judge sided with the prosecution, agreeing that “context and intent are irrelevant”. Isn’t context pretty much all that matters? As far as I’m concerned anything can be said within the context of a joke.

One hilarious moment ensued following the trial whereby Mark discusses the importance of context with a reporter. The reporter disagrees with him, saying that context isn’t important as Mark was ultimately found guilty of the crime. He goes on to say “You said the phrase gas the Jews 23 times, what’s funny about that?” and Mark responds that it’s entirely about the context. So if context isn’t important, why can the reporter say “gas the Jews” but Count Dankula can’t?

Frankie Boyle and the Importance of Context

Censorship
Frankie Boyle (another Scottish comedian) would be a great example of this. If you’ve never watched Frankie Boyle then let me summarise his approach to comedy: he doesn’t care about your comfort zone. He says offensive things and his fans love it. Frankie Boyle sued the Daily Mirror “newspaper” for labelling him a racist and said himself that context is vitally important as the instance the Mirror referred to was Boyle pretending to be a person with racist views.

This claim by the Mirror ultimately led the comedian to quit the TV show ‘Mock the Week’ and as such, the payout from them was even larger (£50,400 + £4,250). Boyle has always stated very clearly both in his comedy and outside it that context is essential! During his trial with the Daily Mirror, he stated that he uses racial points of view and opinions to highlight the fact that such views exist. He isn’t approving of them and certainly isn’t supporting those who hold such views, but rather he wishes to ostracise them.

I’m not going to discuss comedians too much within this article as I’ve written a little about this before but I think it’s important to highlight one point: comedians are only considered funny if people laugh at their jokes. When you watch a comedian, you understand that whatever they say is purely to make you laugh. Sure, they may include some societal issues in there but ultimately their goal is to have you leave their show with positive things to say. Otherwise, they would fail as comedians and wouldn’t make it in the industry.

Section 127 of the 2003 Communications Act

Censorship
Considering that in 2017, it was reported that an average of 9 people are being arrested per day in the UK for “posting allegedly offensive messages online” and with the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, starting a £1.7m (over two years) crime hub for online activities, despite knife crime in the capital being at a 4-year high and with Theresa May slashing police budget left, right and centre, you have to wonder: are internet trolls really a priority?

Ultimately, this brings us back to the dreaded 2003 Communications Act. I’m not going to bore you to death (unless I have already) by copy and pasting the entire document. Instead, let me just highlight some of the important phrases used within Section 127 of this Act. What makes a person guilty of this offense? Well, if they: “by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character”.

What does that even mean? Grossly offensive…Grossly offensive to who? I’m grossly offended by the fact that the UK government wanted to go on holiday a week early despite Brexit being as far from being organised as it was 2 years ago. I’m grossly offended by the final verse of the “British” national anthem containing the line “Rebellious Scots to crush”. So who defines what is offensive? At the end of the day, we are leaning more towards some sort of system of social justice whereby we’re supposed to essentially cave into mob demands. Thanks…but not thanks!

Double Standards

Censorship
The thing that is perhaps most concerning about all of this is that there exists a very noticeable double standard. It’s perfectly acceptable for these same individuals who complain that being offended should result in arrests to do the exact same thing to other people. This in part is my problem with social justice. If you don’t agree with the mob then whatever you’re doing is essentially wrong…but if you agree with the mob then you can basically do whatever you want. Why is it acceptable to phone somebody’s work to try and get somebody fired but it’s unacceptable to send a tweet saying that that is unacceptable? Why can a reporter say that context is irrelevant while also saying “gas the Jews” in the same sentence?

In order to understand this further, I want to draw upon some real-world examples of terms like “bigot”, “racist” and more being used solely because an individual shared a point of view or comment that went against the mob.

Terry Gilliam: The Black Lesbian

Censorship
Take Gerry Gilliam for example. The legendary comedian, famous for his involvement in Monty Python, was subject to many disapproving tweets after he stated “I tell the world now I’m a black lesbian”. Out of context this may seem a little strange but it was after a comment was made against the lack of diversity within Monty Python where Shane Allen (BBC comedy chief) described them as “six Oxbridge white blokes” under the assumption of that being a bad thing. I have views on this but perhaps they are better saved for another post.

Ultimately, while Gilliam’s comment may seem offensive to some, what is he saying is a reflection of our current society. People are defining gender irrespective of their biological sex, are they not? There’s nothing wrong with that but it’s the truth. On top of that he’s simply commenting that a lack of diversity in today’s society is only ever an issue with white men. If it was a group of white women then there wouldn’t be a complaint, if it was a group of only black men there would be no complaint. He’s simply highlighting this issue and relating it to the fact that today, anyone can be anything so why is diversity within a group that hasn’t worked together (properly) for decades such a major issue?

In one sense, it’s a witch hunt (interestingly something the Monty Python have covered before) since people are simply searching for issues to get offended by. Why does the race or sex of Monty Python members matter in today’s world? I’m shocked that Gilliam hasn’t been chased from Twitter yet, which brings me to Richard Dawkins.

Richard Dawkins Doesn’t Give a Fuck!

Censorship
I think this example will work perfectly for highlighting exactly what I’ve been talking about: offense is entirely subjective. Let’s look at a recent Tweet by the famous atheist Richard Dawkins. While outside a church he stated:

“Listening to the lovely bells of Winchester, one of our great medieval cathedrals. So much nicer than the aggressive-sounding Allahu Akbar. Or is that just my cultural upbringing?”

Now…is it possible to be offended by this comment? Sure…but should you be? No. Here’s what I see why I read such a tweet: someone has an opinion…that’s it!

First of all, we all have individual preferences. I don’t like EDM and I think it sounds absolutely moronic. Do people have the right to be offended by that just because they enjoy the music? Nope. What if I say that the Bible is a violent book, should that offend people? No. What if I move on to the Qu’ran? Tensions would certainly begin to rise but any idea should be able to be criticized. Right?

What I’m trying to get at is that certain people have a right to be offended more than others (apparently). So if Richard Dawkins can’t share his preferences for church bells over yelling, then what can we share opinions on? Dawkins was instantly slammed as a bigot and a racist but why? He even mentions within the Tweet that it could be his cultural upbringing. I’m quite surprised that Twitter didn’t remove the tweet.

Noticing the Double Standard

Censorship
The double standards, particularly in relation to Twitter, do not come few and far between. Just at the end of last year Ben Shapiro called Twitter out on the double standard by reporting Rosie O’Donnell for targeted and abusive Tweets. Only after Shapiro repeatedly called out Twitter for the double standard, claiming that “Everyone knows if Rosie were conservative, Twitter would suspend her in a hot second.” did Twitter remove O’Donnell’s tweet.

Twitter is the prime suspect in many of these cases. Why? Put simply, they have an allegiance to one side and not the other. Just recently, Candace Owens, a famous (or infamous) conservative recently demonstrated the hypocrisy of Twitter. Sarah Jeong (editor of the NY Times) tweeted the following:

“White people are only fit to live underground like grovelling goblins. They have stopped breeding and will all go extinct soon. I enjoy being cruel to old white women.”

Twitter took zero action against this Tweet. Yet when Candace Owens retweeted the exact same thing but swapped the word ‘white’ for ‘black’ she was banned from Twitter, leading to the company issuing an apology for the oversight. Varying theories surround this event with some believing that Twitter doesn’t agree that you can be racist towards white people, and other suggesting that it was Candace Owen’s status as a conservative that led to her ban.

Twitter Isn’t Alone!

Censorship
Interestingly, Twitter isn’t actually the worst example of this form of censorship (although it’s certainly the most common). Just the other day, both YouTube and Facebook banned Alex Jones and InfoWars, deleting much of their content as they did so. Twitter CEO, Jack Dorsey stated that the reason Twitter didn’t delete Jones is because he didn’t violate any of the terms of service. He went on to say that others started to “succumb and simply react to outside pressure”. Considering Twitter’s blatant overview of other similar matters, it’s hard to give them any brownie points for being in the right just once.

Another issue that we’re frequently seeing, particularly with YouTube is the use of the word “extremism”. To an average person “extremism” would be flying planes into buildings or blowing up buses…but in today’s political climate pretty much anything can get stuck with the label. Just look at the example of Lauren Southern being banned from the UK for that very reason. Again, as much as I’d prefer to avoid generalising, it seems that people on the left are able to label people on the right “extremists” and ultimately have them denied entry to a country. Southern is just one of many such examples.

Considering that the Theresa May (the old, dry bat corpse) is putting pressure on major companies to speed up the rate that they remove extremist content, I’m a little concerned as to what this means. Are we nearing a society where any opinion could potentially be extremist? We only need to look as far as the Lauren Southern examples to see that criticizing a belief system is enough to have you labelled a “racist” and banned from entering the UK.

The Next Step

Censorship
Of course we need to consider where such a path leads. If comedians have to consult a censorship panel before going on tour or sending a simple Tweet can land you a prison sentence, what comes next? Will private communications with friends suddenly be used as evidence of racist thoughts? Would calling your brother “gay” for showing affection become grounds for prosecution?

I want to share another quote from Frankie Boyle:

“We don’t live in a shared reality, we each live in a reality of our own, and causing upset is often the price of trying to reach each other. It’s always easier to dismiss other people than to go through the awkward and time consuming process of understanding them. We have given taking offence a social status it doesn’t deserve: it’s not much more than a way of avoiding difficult conversations.”

Personally, I think he hits the nail on the head. He also stated that often the reason people get offended is simply because what is being said hits truth in one way or another. People are too quick to ignore the fact that a commentary on society holds some truth.

Does Hate Speech Exist?

Censorship
Through writing this post I’ve stumbled across the term “hate speech” on several occasions and it has led me to question whether there really is such a thing. Couldn’t you consider any speech to be hate speech? Where do we draw the line on free speech and hate speech or does free speech include hate speech? If we can’t clearly define an idea then what use is having a label for it? Just to clarify, I’m not implying that hateful things aren’t said but rather I’m suggesting that anything can be deemed hateful and simply because one person labels an opinion as “hate speech” doesn’t entitle them stop others hearing that opinion.

Not that this applies to everyone but it certainly seems that in many cases the term “hate speech” is used simply to shut down opinions: People like Milo Yiannopolous, Ben Shapiro, ETC whose events are being shut down by violent protestors. Having an opinion is now less acceptable than violence! We’re essentially the same as the parents who give in to their child as soon as it throws a tantrum. If somebody is saying something that you don’t want to hear then don’t listen! You do not have the right to decide what other people listen to or what other people say!

This fear of saying something that might offend somebody in itself has consequences. Just look at the case of the Rotherham grooming gangs. Here we have a span of 12 years whereby police and local governments were aware of Pakistani grooming gangs and yet did nothing. Why? Because “police forces lean over backwards to avoid the accusation of racism” and keeping the peace within different parts of a community were viewed as more important than potentially disrupting the community through investigation. The founder of the British Muslim Youth, Muhbeen Hussain said “The fact these guys were predominantly Pakistani heritage men should not be a reason for providing a cloak of invisibility.”

Conclusion

Censorship
Ultimately, I think it’s important to remember the old saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me”. Considering we live in a society where you can literally block people from contacting you, I don’t understand why people take such offense to certain Tweets (or other platforms). It offends my intelligence that people can believe that the Earth is flat. Do I think that their opinions should be shut down? Absolutely not!

I think we need to all take a step back and ask whether something is really worth being offended over. Even when you are offended, so what? Why does being offended give you power over the voice and opinions of others? Do you really want to live in a world where opinions have to be filtered before being shared? If somebody wants their country to close its borders to migrants (for example) shouldn’t they be able to express that opinion without being called a racist or a fascist? Particularly when such labels don’t even apply to the situation!

I think that everything should be challenged, everything should be criticised and everyone should be able to say whatever they want without being arrested over bizarre and irrational “online troll” charges. If the UK is insistent on heading down this path of speech control then I don’t want to be a part of it.


Thanks for reading! What do you think? Is online censorship becoming a problem and is free speech on its way out in the UK?  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!

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.

7. Freelancer is NOT Your Friend

This point might sound a little ridiculous but it’s something that I’ve mentioned a bit throughout this post. However, after posting this article I decided that I should come back and make this lesson/warning a point of its own: Freelancer is NOT your friend. The staff are not there to help you, they aren’t there to help you earn money, they aren’t there to make sure that you get a fair deal, they aren’t there to stop you getting ripped off. No…their sole function is to earn money for the site and avoid people taking business off-site.

Am I paranoid? Possibly…but not in regards to this. I recently completed a project and in doing so one of my milestones had to be updated to a higher amount. To do this, the employer has to send the employee (me) a milestone removal request. When you receive this request, it comes with the following message:

Once you approve the request, the milestone will be removed from the project. If you decline, the milestone will remain unchanged. However, it’s likely your employer will initiate a dispute process and may leave a negative review.”

So essentially, if you read between the lines here, Freelancer are telling you that failure to accept this change (regardless of what the change is) will likely result in the employer giving you negative feedback.

I subsequently ended up on another page and found this:

Please note, the only way to gain feedback and reputation is to be paid through Freelancer.com. The higher your reputation, the higher you will appear in the bid list for future projects. 
Freelancers with the highest reputation are earning hundreds of thousands of dollars per year!
Remember to communicate regularly with the employer. Lack of communication is the leading cause of problems.

Even when they are trying to sell you the idea of joining Freelancer, they are still trying to stop you from taking money or work off-site. I can understand this from a business perspective but shouldn’t customer support be the priority? This company is so focused on earning money that their moral compass spins Beyblade (90s reference).

Assume that Freelancer will not support you, no matter how right or wrong you may be, because chances are they won’t!

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!

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!

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! 

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!