Gameplay Variety in Sims Fan Videos

One of the things that I’m curious about is how people talk about their gaming differently, and today I thought I’d look at it through fan videos on youtube for the Sims 4. The Sims, as I’ve mentioned before, is an awesome series because you almost cannot play it badly, and there are so many different ways to play it and every one of them is legit. Sometimes in, say, WoW, people argue about what is legitimate or “real” play, excluding things like role playing or pet battles, or any raiding below mythic level. I find the Sims community much more open (although don’t get me wrong, there are still arguments!) and accepting of different types of play – some prefer to play families, some prefer immortals, some create stories, some build – and every type is legitimate.

Some videos are a bit NSFW with language (but personally, I love that. Shows they are passionate players!)

A Sim playing the Sims - Simception!
A Sim playing the Sims – Simception!

Continue reading Gameplay Variety in Sims Fan Videos

Politics and the Media

So the past few weeks I’ve been working on one of my final essays for this semester. The course was Charisma, Fame and Celebrity and I chose to look at how the role of the leader in politics has changed due to the rise of televised media. I was going to look at polling and Twitter/blogs of amateur journalists, but couldn’t fit it in ><.

So first up, what charisma is isn’t very clearly defined. It’s more a case of you have it or you don’t have it, but there seems to be very little doubt (particularly in journalism) that is does in fact exist. Most of the modern work on charisma is based on Max Weber (although charisma was first a Greek word, which was then widely used in Christianity until quite recently when the meaning became more secular). Weber predicted the fall of the charismatic leader due to the ‘bureaucratic political party machines’ (although, clearly has not made it impossible, just very difficult for a charismatic leader to rise above). They usually arise in times of crisis, and can better survive poor performance or avert blame during such times.

In Australia, there appears to be a growing ‘personalisation of politics’ – also referred to as ‘presidentialisation of politics’ – where we single out a leader as the One whom all policies and ideas come from, rather than a whole party or cabinet voting on them (I saw more studies for this than against it, though both exist). In America this might not seem such a big deal, but in Australia it is the parties themselves who decide on a leader. They might choose a new leader because the old one has been ineffective (either in policy-making or failure to win government) for so long, doesn’t represent the party’s ideals, has received poor polling, things like that. While looking at some stats, it seems like leaders have a shorter life span than they used to – but I didn’t look at this in much detail and didn’t have the word count to go into it in any meaningful way.

The blame for less charismatic leaders is squarely put on televised media – although the politicians are complicit in this process as well. Joshua Meyrowitz has a great chapter in his book No Sense of Place on the history of American Presidents and how before tv, any ‘ugliness’, disability or health issue, and presidential scandals were able to be confined from the public. The way they manipulated – or perhaps, worked with – the media to establish a certain image was much more in their control. But no longer! Now we pretty much all have tvs, access to 24 hour news, and news can spread wide and very fast. It seemed to be that the appearance of a charismatic leader partly relied on the distance between the leader and the people, which is now almost impossible as the media will endlessly go on about a leaders personal life, their hair colour, their shoes etc. There also seems to be evidence that politicians have gone along with the media to try and get the attention they need (after all, you can’t vote for someone if you don’t know they exist!).

Barrack Obama is generally considered to be an exception to this, particularly in his first election. Remember how damn excited everyone was?! Although it was quite a bit lesser, people were like that for Kevin Rudd before he got in. While Tony Abbott has been called a ‘charmer’, neither he nor Julia Gillard are gifted with charisma. Part of being charismatic depends on being recognised by followers that one IS charismatic.

In Tanner’s Sideshow, he says “a short-term focus, extreme risk aversion, and minor announcements are all symptoms of the permanent campaign” (111), and I think we’re getting that quite clearly in Australia at the moment.

And now for the fun bit, a video by the Chaser boys from their series The Hamster Wheel. Enjoy! XD

Recommended Reading

  • Julia 2010: The Caretaker Election. Ed. Marian Simms & John Wanna. Canberra: Australian National University Press, 2012.
  • Ginsborg, Paul. Democracy: Crisis and Renewal. London: Profile Books. 2008. Print.
  • Farnsworth, Stephen J & Lichter, S Robert. The Mediated Presidency: Television News and Presidential Governance. Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. 2006. Print.
  • McAllister, Ian. The Australian Vote: 50 Years of Change. Sydney: NewSouth Publishing. 2011.
  • McKew, Maxine. Tales from the Political Trenches. Melbourne: Melbourne University Press. 2012.
  • Megalogenis, George. Trivial Pursuit: Leadership and the End of the Reform Era. Collingwood: Black Inc. 2010.
  • Meyrowitz, Joshua. No Sense of Place: The impact of electronic media on social behavior. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1986.
  • Potts, John. A History of Charisma. Hampshire: Palgrave MacMillan. 2009.
  • Tanner, Lindsay. Sideshow: dumbing down democracy. Melbourne: Scribe. 2011.

Lessons from Reality TV

I’m currently finishing up an essay on whether reality TV can teach audiences, using as my case studies The Biggest Loser (most studies were on US and Australian series) and 16 and Pregnant/Teen Mom (US only). I was going to include Masterchef (Aus, US and UK), but this assignment is only 2000 words and there are fewer studies on it that I could find.

I have issues with reality tv research.

While participants of surveys, viewers and non-viewers, are very clear that reality TV does not teach, or at the very most, only teaches in certain genres (e.g. home makeover shows), it seems that there is some kind of learning going on – but it does not appear that media creates the behaviour/attitude, but does contribute and reinforce it. The little that I found on Masterchef said it was a celebration of unhealthy food with no nutrition, but it did affect buying patterns and promoted home cooking (Phillipov). For The Biggest Loser, there is a lot of condemnation of the mixed messages, the promotion being “yay let’s all lose weight together” and the real message transmitted is stigmatising obesity (Thomas, Hyde and Komesaroff), humiliating the contestants, and the horror of the temptation challenges where they will tempt contestants to eat (sometimes large amounts of) takeaway or unhealthy foods for prizes such as immunity, exercise machines, or even contact with family at home (Lundy, Ruth and Park, and, Sender and Sullivan). With 16 and Pregnant/Teen Mom, it was suggested that the media does inform teens on things like the reality of teen pregnancy (Lance) – not so much on the risks and responsibilities of sex and childbirth  – but each study also points out that there is a massive lack of sexual education across the US compared to other Western nations. There seems to be negatives and positives for all of them, and not just on an individual level but taken to much broader societal level.

One aspect that I could not include in my own essay, partly because of word count and partly because it was barely mentioned in the research I looked at, was the effect of the whole branding, including the show, the websites, the forums, the merchandise and advertising etc. I wonder if we are starting to use all media to our benefit. There is always a lot of talk on Twitter during shows now, some with their own Twitter tickers at the bottom. Marketers, of course, want us to go out and buy all the stuff related to the show such as replacement meal shakes from Biggest Loser, food from Coles – which sponsors Masterchef (see: The Gruen Transfer or The Checkout on ABC, Australia for more on marketing and promotion … and associated evils). All three shows have a website linked to them – I’m often found on Masterchef during the season catching up on the show or looking up recipes. 16 and Pregnant is marketed as a type of sexual health education for teens, alongside the website It’s Your Sex Life which has an ad on every episode (even on the MTV website catchup). Maybe we should be examining these shows in context with all the external stuff?

When I first decided on this topic to write about, everyone had an opinion. Reality TV is just crap and anyone who buys into anything it does is stupid. Reality TV can be good, but you need be choosey and thoughtful and actually research the things you take away from it (especially on things like how real is reality tv? I did see quite a bit of work on the scripting and editing control that changes whole stories). Images of people sitting at home with The Biggest Loser on while eating McDonald’s or other takeaway. I had my own experiences in which to build my expectations from because of my constant watching of Masterchef and my summer holidays binge on 16 and Pregnant/Teen Mom. I tried watching more The Biggest Loser for this assignment, and it literally made me feel ill (despite the protestations by my brother-in-law and his girlfriend that it was essentially a good program, and that it was great there were kids on it <.< ). Overall, all these opinions were in various studies and research done on the topic! I am quite interested to see what comes in the future, but am rather mindful of the possibilities for exploitation – one scifi series I have by Ian Irvine (Human Rites) has a short description of a future reality tv show where people must call in to bid to pay for a life-saving operation for a child, complete with obnoxious host. *shudders*

References

Phillipov, Michelle. “Communicating Health Risks via the Media: What Can We Learn from MasterChef Australia?” The Australasian medical journal 5.11 (2012): 593–7.

Lundy, Lisa K, Amanda M Ruth, and Travis D Park. “Simply Irresistible: Reality TV Consumption Patterns.” Communication Quarterly 56.2 (2008): 208–225

Sender, Katherine, and Margaret Sullivan. “Epidemics of Will, Failures of Self-esteem: Responding to Fat Bodies in The Biggest Loser and What Not to Wear.” Continuum 22.4 (2008): 573–584.

Lance, A. et al. “16 and Pregnant: a Content Analysis of a Reality Television Program About Unplanned Teen Pregnancy.” Contraception 86.3 (2012): 292.

Strasburger, Victor C, Amy B Jordan, and Ed Donnerstein. “Children, Adolescents, and the Media: Health Effects.” Pediatric clinics of North America 59.3 (2012): 533–587.

Thomas, Samantha, Hyde, Jim and Komesaroff, Paul. “‘Cheapening the Struggle:’ Obese People’s Attitudes Towards The Biggest Loser.” Obesity Management 3.5 (2007): 210–215.