Tuesday, 1 December 2020

LinkedIn Porfolio

I haven't spent enough time marketing myself on this lovely website. If you like what you read on here, you're welcome to check out my professional writing and I'm always about for free advice or paid work! 

So, here's the link to my LinkedIn Portfolio, as I can't set downloadable files on here, without changing everything and making it awkward for folks who just wanna read my non-work-related stuff. 

Sunday, 22 November 2020

Being Thankful To Those Who Don't Deserve Our Thanks

 Heya folks,

I'm sorry I've been so quiet, recently - things have been a little hectic since I started my new course. 

The good news is that I'm hoping to get down and nerdy with you guys again, very soon. I'm lining up some more interviews and I'm also able to give some fresh perspectives on the gaming industry. Just in time, since you're all clearly going mad under lockdown and need some entertainment.

Wait, what? What do you mean everyone's getting the next-gen consoles and will be lost the worlds of PlayStation and XBox for the foreseeable future? Damn. Well... I guess these ones will just be us folk who didn't manage to swipe a pre-order before everything went wrong, eh?

Anyway, I hope you guys are doing well (why yes, I'm doing great, thank you so much for asking!) and, in the meantime, feel free to check out some of the non-geeky things I've been up to over on Thrive Global, where I try to regularly contribute*. That side is ideal for those who prefer the friendlier, less game-centric tone of my writing - although I will try and sprinkle some in here, from time to time. 

I'm also working on some exciting new bits and pieces, which I can't talk about just yet - but hope I'll be able to, soon!

*It's about as sporadic as I am, on here, I'm afraid. 

Friday, 4 September 2020

Hindsight is 20/20

 Just the other day, someone was kind enough to remind me that it had been 12 years since I was discharged from hospital, after a suicide attempt. 12. Freakin'. Years.

Y'see, I had been homeless for 6 months prior to that and, when I left the hospital, I had managed to get a place at a local hostel - a place for women fleeing abuse and the like. It was another 6 months after that placement, that I was accepted into the Foyer Federation, in Manchester - a place for 16-25 year olds who had come from "problematic" backgrounds with "safeguarding issues", that did not fall into the government NEET areas (Not in Employment, Education or Training). 

Why did it take so long? Well, we have a lovely, lovely, neoliberal government that believes that those on the streets must simply be too lazy to get a job or not want somewhere safe to sleep at night (cause those are the only explanations, amiright?). In other words, they didn't know what to do with me. I wasn't seeking work, as a full time student, I didn't have a family I could just go and live with, and there were areas of concern for me going back to my old place. The idea that this couldn't all be sorted as though it were some kind of simple misunderstanding blew their fucking minds. 

Hell, you try being a young teen and being told that there was nothing they could do because your case fell between the cracks. There's nothing quite like being told you need to stay at a "crash pad" where you share rooms with less-than-favourable characters who do less-than-favourable things around you and to you. 

In short, the suicide attempt was clearly directly linked to my environmental issues. Still, depression is depression when it comes to how it's treated, so I was promptly put on meds and told to crack on. And I'll admit, I am massively oversimplifying the whole experience - but it has been 12 years, so the finer details don't really seem to matter all that much at this point. 

There are a lot of things I really do remember, very clearly, however. 

I remember a young and over-enthusiastic nurse, who forever forgot his notepad and was always scrawling over his hands and arms. He'd go home every day looking like he belonged in a Daily Mail article about body modification. He was the dude who referred me to CBT, where I learned to frame things in a way that allowed my mind to cope with the sheer unfairness and frustration of it all. 

There was a nursing assistant who helped me cure my boredom, by making obstacle courses out of pieces of furniture on the ward - and then we'd all race each other on the spinny chairs (which were soon confiscated by a grumpy senior ward nurse). She hugged me when I got A*'s in my college results, to a chorus of "you're not supposed to do that - give her a hug from me. Quick, before [staff nurse] sees you!". 

There was my college counsellor who, when she realised I was considering dropping out of my courses, would pick me up from the housing association every day and drop me off at college, to make sure I continued studying. We would later send each other cards as I made my way through my first degree. 

Then came along my keyworker, who would take care of me and the 60 other kids in the Foyer, and still always made time to remember when and where your exams were, and be sure to ask how you did and whether you had done enough revision. She leads that place now, and it's about damn time. 

The thing is, 12 years ago I would never have thought that I'd be making a living by writing, that I'd be doing a Masters or would have a comfortable home - never mind the fact that I have a kid and a business. Looking back, I never had any idea what I wanted or needed to do to make myself happy or get over all the shit that I had gone through. I just knew I had to keep pushing on until I made my way through what was happening. And I did - admittedly with a lot of tears and, oftentimes, losing it a little with people that did not deserve to be shouted at or be on the receiving end of my tantrums.

You might be able to see what I'm getting at, here. 

2020, thus far, and even prior for many people, has absolutely sucked. It's hard not to look at the news every day and want to mentally vomit up every negative feeling. Especially with every connotation of bad news being highlighted over and over, either through social media or the classic varieties. It's hard to consider what your life is going through right now and truly believe there is a day when it will get better - but I promise you it will. 

There is going to be a day, 2, 5 or 10 years from now, where what you're feeling in those moments of despair seem so far from the perspective you will have. I can't give you the gift of hindsight when everyone's journey is so unique - I can only display my own - but I can tell you that working hard, standing with others, and communicating will keep you pushing through what you're going through, right now. 

My journey isn't over yet - and neither is yours. And I'm really looking forward to seeing what we can both achieve in the future. 

Monday, 13 July 2020

3 Brands, 3 Products - Favourites by Yossi

The two questions I get asked the most about makeup is, “What is my favorite makeup product of all time?” Or “What is my favorite makeup brand?” Now I can never pick just one, so I decided to have fun and give myself a little challenge. So I picked three brands and three products from each brand to talk about. 

The first brand I chose is NYX Cosmetics. I feel this is a makeup company that has really stepped up their game in the last few years. The variety they carry is quite extensive and the quality of the products are very comparable to high end in my opinion. Its always the first section I check out whenever I go to Ulta. If you have a NYX pro store near you, I definitely recommend going there over Ulta or Target simply because they have a lot more for you to see. 

NYX Professional Makeup | Cult Beauty
Now onto the three products.

1. Total Control Drop Foundation. 

This foundation has quickly become one of my favorites! I have very oily skin so one of the biggest things I depend on throughout the day are my blotting sheets. I find that when I blot, the foundation will transfer onto the sheets and I will notice patches on my face where the foundation will be missing. But this one does not do that. 
It stays on so well even after blotting as much as I do. It has great coverage. You can go full or very sheer and the dropper makes it quite easy to control that. Also, a little bit does go a long way, so I really suggest starting off with a light layer and build it up. It leaves a nice satin finish and does not feel heavy

2. Angel Veil Skin Perfecting Primer 

My BIGGEST problem with primers is trying to find one that can mattify without feeling tacky or smooth my skin without my makeup slipping off two hours later. I feel with this primer, I am getting the best of both worlds. It leaves a beautiful matte finish on my face but feels silky smooth without feeling greasy. My makeup will stay on with no fading, it doesn’t enhance my pores, and my makeup blends like a dream over the top. Although I feel like it did not make my pores look smaller, it's completely worth it for everything else it is doing right. 

3. Retractable Eyeliner

This eyeliner is great because first off, I am not a huge fan of pencil eyeliners. I always go for retractable because they are just a lot easier to work with. The formula is very creamy, goes on very opaque on my upper eyelids and even though it’s not a waterproof eyeliner (they used to make one but I have had a hard time finding it) it lasts very long without fading off. 

The second brand I chose is The Body Shop. I have always been a big fan of their body products but never really dove into their skincare and did not even know they had makeup until I worked for them for almost three years. My specialty ended up being makeup while I was there, and I made some fantastic discoveries. 

Become A Consultant | The Body Shop At Home™
1. Lip and Cheek Stain.

If anything on this list is going to take holy grail status it has to be these stains. However, I find that these do not work very well on the lips. The color tends to gather on the inner part of my lips, and I end up looking like I just ate a popsicle. BUT on the cheeks, they are so so so good! They just melt into your skin and give this very natural flush. I usually dab the wand on my hand and use my fingers to apply otherwise its extremely easy to get carried away with it. 

2. Eyeshadow Blending Brush

If you have hooded eyes or smaller eyelids, you will LOVE this brush! A lot of blending brushes tend to be too big for my hooded eyes but this one is perfect. It’s wonderful for doing crease work and doing a simple wash of color all over the lid. It’s fluffy without being too big and the bristles are very soft, so I don’t have issues with irritation. 

3. Matte Lip Liquid 

The first thing I love about this is the formula. It applies very creamy and has a moussey texture on the lips. They dry down matte, but they feel very comfortable.  They also last a decent amount of time. I do have to reapply after eating and drinking but personally, that never bothers me with any lip product. Also, with some of the colors, you do have to build them up as they can go on a bit thin with one swipe but again, I don’t mind that because the colors look very nice. 

The third and final brand I picked is Urban Decay. I have a bit of a sentimental thing with this brand because it was the first high-end brand I discovered. After all these years it still has a special place in my heart. 

Urban Decay has launched on Asos – here's what we love

1. ALL their eyeshadows

My absolute go-to eyeshadows! They are completely worth the $20 price. They have an amazing color payoff, blend very well, last a very long time without fading or creasing, and look so smooth and beautiful when you apply them.  The selection of colors is huge and covers a wide variety from bright colors to neutrals. 

2. Deslick Oil Control Setting Spray

There are a few things in my collection that are absolute staples, and this is one of them. The way I like to use it is I spray it on before primer, after my foundation and concealer, and then again after putting on setting powder. It really helps with controlling the oil throughout the day. Now I still get oily but there is a big difference if I don’t use this spray. Usually, when my oils start to come through, I just look very greasy. This spray really controls that, and I just look like I got a healthy glow going on. I’m on my fourth bottle and its so worth the price especially in the summer when I’m just an oily AF! 

3. Naked Skin Concealer

It has recently come to my attention that this concealer was being discontinued and replaced by the Stay Naked concealer which is a major bummer. But if you can find this one, I highly recommend it. Its super lightweight but has insane coverage. My undereye area is very dry (what irony!) but this concealer doesn’t emphasize my fine lines and dryness. I also really love the way it blends; it disappears into the skin and gives that “my skin but better” look. 

Because I am really indecisive when it comes to picking favorites, I have three honorable mentions below for you to check out.

1. Laura Mercier Translucent Loose Setting Powder

If you are going to splurge on anything on this list, this is the one! This powder will lock your makeup in place and not even sweating will melt my makeup off. I also love using this on my eyelids to set my primer before I put on my eyeshadow. It won’t give a white cast, doesn’t clog my pores and doesn’t emphasis texture

2. Tarte Amazonian Clay 12 Hour Blushes 

Funny story but one time my cousin was in Sephora with his girlfriend. He snapchatted me a picture of the Tarte blush display and said, “Who would spend the money on these things?” I quickly snapchatted him back a picture of the three I own and said, “I would, lol!” 
These blushes are absolutely fantastic! They have really beautiful colors and their range is quite large. The formula is probably my favorite. They have great color payoff, go on very smooth without looking too powdery or chalky and the lasting power is amazing. 

3. Revlon Super Lustrous Lipsticks

I would like to specifically talk about the crème finish. This formula is probably my all time favorite out of the drugstore. First of all, the color selection is insane! So, no matter your preference, there is a color in there for everyone. They are super smooth and creamy when you apply but they don’t slide all over the place. The crème finish is also very buildable. I like to go sheer or super opaque with my lipsticks and I get the best of both worlds from these. Revlon, you did well! 

Monday, 29 June 2020

Horizon Zero Dawn: 10 Things Most People Miss During The Frozen Wilds

Highly addictive and astoundingly beautiful, Horizon: Zero Dawn was a major hit, when it was released in 2017, winning awards across the board for it’s writing and gameplay alike. So, when the Frozen Wilds came out later that year, players were keen to jump into the world of Aloy and discover new lore and stories to explore. However, such is the depth and breadth of the game that there are still many missed details that are being discovered, even now – years after it’s initial release. Here, we’ll explore some of the most commonly missed details in The Frozen Wilds and feel free to try a few of these out, for yourself!

1.      Frozen Wilds Is Based In Wyoming

Arguably one of the most beautiful settings in our world, it’s no surprise that the team at Guerilla Games have used Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming as the setting for their DLC. With the base game set across Colorado, Utah and Arizona, it makes sense geographically for Aloy to head north into Wyoming. You can even see some of the most notable landmarks in the caldera and even The Devil’s Tower – a name which is alluded to during the gameplay, when you battle a Daemon on the volcano, Thunder’s Drum.
Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds Game | PS4 - PlayStation

2.      The Name Hephaestus Fits Well With The Lore

For those who haven’t completed the base game or DLC yet, be aware that this particular entry may give away some of the games major plot points; Hephaestus is one of the major AI systems created to help combat the Faro plague, and was tasked with creating life on Earth after the plague was wiped out. The name, like many others in Horizon, was based off Greek gods and Hephaestus was the god of metalworking, of the same name. Not surprisingly, this works brilliantly with the main story of Frozen Wilds, in that robotic creatures are being created by the AI.

3.      The Colors Of Banuk Clothing Are Inspired By The Geothermic Pools In Yellowstone National Park.

The Banuk outfits are created to withstand the harsh weather of the Northern setting and are made up of furs, as well as parts from the robots to add a good layer of armor. The coloring of the outfits themselves, however, comes from the same palette as the geothermic pools in Yellowstone National Park. Namely, yellows, greens and blues, with reds used for accenting. Again, this is another way to place the setting of the game itself, but also sits in well with the idea that these outfits are based to camouflage the tribespeople.

Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds Game | PS4 - PlayStation

4.      The Character CYAN Gives Away Some History

CYAN stands for Caldera of Yellowstone Analytic Network, having been created as part of Project Firebreak, within the game. This top-secret government protection project was designed to help stabilize the environment of the caldera – a fantastic nod to the fact that our own caldera can wipe out half of the planet (or more), should the Yellowstone caldera erupt. In Frozen Wilds, it’s suggested that this threat became imminent and that the entire environmental protection program had to be created, to stabilize this.

5.      You Can Make Snow Angels

On a lighter note, with the additional options now available in photo mode, you can make Aloy create snow angels! Photo mode is a great add-on for those who want to continue playing, long after finishing the quests and, based in a snow-laden land, it certainly makes sense for developers to add this in, for those who like to get a little creative once they’ve finished the game. Simply enable photo mode, check out the different animations to choose from and have fun making snow angels, before sharing your finished product with your friends!

Horizon: Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds DLC Is 'Mid to End-Game In ...

6.      Aratak Will Join You In The Final Fight

If you finish the Frozen Wilds before you complete the base game, then you’ll be pleased to know that Aratak will head to Meridian to join in the final fight against Hades. Simply begin The Looming Shadow quest and take a good walk around the surrounding areas to find all of your allies joining you for the final battle, and you’ll come across your old friend who is “compelled to come for the once-chieftain” along with Aluki.

7.      Epsilon Cauldron

For the completionist among you, it can be worth noting that the Epsilon Cauldron located in this part of the game can only be entered and completed once, as the entrance is unique in how it seals itself after you’re finished. So, if there’s anything you feel you need to complete within the cauldron itself or if you’ve missed a few machines, it can be worth making sure you’ve collected everything before using your usual override mechanism. Once you’re out, you won’t be able to return and work your way through again.

Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds review - Polygon

8.      Aloy’s Story Can Be Heard After Frontier Justice

 After besting Aratuk as part of the main quest, you can begin work on the side quest called Frontier Justice. Investigating a miscarriage of justice in the tribe, Aloy works her way to the scene of the murder and discovers the actual murderers, eventually being caught investigating and having to kill the three and rescuing the wrongly convicted and exiled Inatut at Cloud-Shear. After this, you can find Inatut in Song’s Edge, retelling the story of Frontier Justice to a group of children.

9.      Your Movements Have An Effect On The World Around You

The attention to detail by the team at Guerilla Games has definitely not gone unnoticed in the past, but with a few additional months to help improve the gameplay and environment, a huge difference can be seen in Frozen Wilds. Not only with the snow give way to reveal the grass beneath, as you move around the world, but you can alter the way chimes sound by running past them or spinning around, and even see your footsteps (as well as watching them slowly refill with snow) as you move.

The Making of Frozen Wilds' Cutscenes - 80Level - Medium

10.   Aloy’s Conversations Have Improved

While not entirely dissimilar to our last entry, you can also see major improvements in the interactions that Aloy can have with NPC’s across the DLC. While smaller chats in the base game can often be very similar, in terms of information given and how Aloy responds to these, there is added depth in the Frozen Wilds expansion that shows vast improvement. Not only does Aloy frown or smile, depending on the circumstances, but she walks back and forth, makes hand gestures and generally seems more involved, physically, with the conversations she is having.

Thursday, 28 May 2020

5 Ways To Stay Motivated

Staying motivated is hard enough at the best of times. Not least when there's a global pandemic going on and our world leaders are running around like headless chickens. Except for Jacinda Ardern - even an earthquake couldn't rattle her. Whether you're trying to stay motivated to work from home, need a little inspiration to keep up with your workouts or just trying to keep yourself mentally healthy during a trying time, here are some great tips for staying motivated. 

1. Get A Little Cheesy

There's a big stigma these days against using a little motivational speaking and cliches to help see you through - we can probably thank the 90's influx of motivational speakers for that. But there's absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying a little cheese, from time-to-time. Just don't get up on stage and patronise people for an hour, while you do it.

Use affirmations. Leave post-it notes with positive messages around your most-used spots (and change them up, weekly, so your brain will always register them). Read motivational books like Chicken Soup For The Soul, if it makes you feel better. I, for one, am a big believer in watching rubbish films that let your brain turn off for a little while, so it can reboot and get back to work, after the breather.

2. Don't Be Afraid Of Rejection

Chances are, if you're unmotivated, you feel like you can't offer anything to the world. Aside from this being absolute crap - everyone has something to give that is entirely unique to themselves - that mindset stops you from venturing into the unknown. If you think you're going to fail, or don't think any time and effort will be worth it, then you'll be creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Everybody gets rejected. I could pull up ample stories about famous people who were rejected, from Walt Disney to J.K. Rowling (I even talk about it in previous interviews I've done with successful writers and actors). In the words of Captain Jean-Luc Picard, "It is entirely possible to commit no errors and still lose. That is not weakness. That is life." Being rejected is one of the greatest gifts you could ask for, because it forces you to reevaluate your strengths and weaknesses, and adapt accordingly. It's those adaptations that get you through and help you evolve into who you're meant to be. 

So, if you win, get that promotion, get signed or whatever your goal is - amazing! If not, you still gained invaluable experience which will help you get where you need to be. I'm a big believer in the right things happening at the right time - even on those days where it feels like you're pushing a boulder uphill. In snow. In heels. It'll come good, eventually.

Accept rejection - revel in it, even. It's a sign you're stepping out of your comfort zone and taking a chance on yourself.

3. Take Ten

This is one of my absolute favourite terms, because it can be used to mean a whole range of different things. For example, if you're stressed, panicking or restless, taking ten minutes to follow a tapping routine will ground you and help to focus yourself. On the other side of the spectrum, if you're feeling a little lazy and are thinking of skipping a workout, then take ten minutes to jog on the spot, do some sit-ups and get some adrenaline going.

"Take ten", to me, means to jerk yourself away from whatever the hell you're doing at the time, which is causing the negative outlook or effect. Force yourself to do ten minutes of something that is on the completely opposite end of whatever you're doing at that very moment. Obviously, if you're driving or something, don't just suddenly stop doing that. That's dangerous. But do it when you get to your destination.

My go-to when it comes to taking ten is to head outside, somewhere green (or, at least, filled with nature). I've always been a big fan of getting out and about, but now there's proof that going outside can reduce stress, less obsessive thoughts over tasks and problems, relieves attention fatigue and increases creativity. 

4. Go Grab Something To Eat

This is definitely more of a short-term solution for short-term motivational blocks (I fully advocate for healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle as one proactive method, for long-term issues). That said, there's nothing wrong with getting some endorphin-boosting food down ya gob, from time to time.

Enjoying the right foods at the right time can help give your serotonin (the happy hormone) and dopamine (the pleasure hormone) a much-needed lift. And sometimes that's enough to bring you back to speed on a slow day. You'll be pleased to know that chocolate, nuts and seeds all fall under this category, as well as being an excellent source of Vitamin E and antioxidants (yay!).

If, of course, you're looking for something a little less fattening (too much of a good thing, amIright?), then salmon, green tea and bananas are excellent substitutes. They also come packed with a wide range of added vitamins and minerals, all of which do a great job on providing nutrition to your body.

5. Seek Sanctuary

There are times when the best way to help ourselves is to claim sanctuary in the literal or figurative arms of a loved one. Think of it as running in the rain, toward a friend with an umbrella. Yes, it's still raining outside the radius of the umbrella, but you're safe and dry now. And a good friend will walk
with you, until you can find shelter - in whatever form that may be.

Oh, and I'll let you in on a little secret: nobody ever brings their own umbrella. Most of the time, we stole it off someone else, after we ran to them, and they passed it along once they reached their shelter. It's honestly all one big cycle of people helping each other out, when we need it the most.

Once you share your dreams and fears with your friends, I can guarantee that they'll have your back. And, having the right kind of support, means you'll feel more motivated than ever to push forward.

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Short Interview with a Robot Ninja Shark

OK, so I didn't ACTUALLY talk to a shark that is both a Robot and a Ninja - but, if you know of the increasingly popular moniker of Ryan, you'll understand that he might as well be. Here's the thing, RNS is the kind of guy who can make it big in pretty much anything he puts his mind to - and I know that because he's already traveled so far.

I approached Ryan after sending a call out for people to tell their stories. I am fascinated by the obstacles that individuals have to overcome and the incredible tales they are able to tell - and I want to use my platform as a jump-off point for people to share their experiences. If that's something you'd like to be a part of, then please do contact me and let's get started, sharing the best and worst that life has to offer

It is very difficult to interview a man who is trained in the art of getting YOU to talk. Responsible for the sale and movement of back-up generators for nearly every major power infrastructure in the US, Ryan is a guy who knows how to pull information from you and make you actually enjoy the experience. With this in mind, you may understand that our half-hour chat ended up becoming a 4-hour heart-to-heart, complete with tears and laughter. That said, Robot Ninja Shark is a fascinating guy, with an incredible story to tell.

You see, Ryan was once homeless and lived in the second most violent neighborhood in America, an issue, he says, which came from making bad choices. Yet, when he met his now-wife, everything changed, "we had a mutual friend and he got sick, so she invited me to travel with her and go to see him. By the time we got there, he got better and we had fallen in love". Two months later, the couple were engaged and, not long after that, our Shark friend had found a job that allowed him to set up for the future with his new wife.

"I knew the rules of how to be successful but I had never applied them until that point. But then I set myself up to succeed - I told myself 'this is how much I'm going to make in the first year, the second year, the third year... When I told my boss about my projection, he laughed, but - while I missed the first year projections, by the second year I had hit my 5-year target". On this note, we go on to discuss the difference it can make to someone - anyone - who finally feels that another person has faith in them, and wants them to succeed. It doesn't have to be a love interest - it just has to be someone who genuinely thinks the best of you and can see the potential you hold.

The lovely Susannah!

Of course, for those who are aware of Ryan's video over on Twitter, you might also be aware that the family's hardships didn't end here, with a view to living happily ever after. Both he and his wife suffer from a range of health issues, including celiac disease - but it wasn't until his wife, Susannah, who was already dealing with Hashimoto thyroiditis, began to struggle with movement and her sense of touch that things suddenly took a sharp downturn. Her nervous system was being attacked, but nobody could figure out why, or seem to slow it down.

"It started when she was pregnant with our second child, in that she was dealing with major exhaustion. Being pregnant meant that most doctors would just pat us on the head and tell us that this was part and parcel of the experience - but it had gotten to the point where she physically couldn't get up the stairs to see to our first-born, when he was crying". And, while he wasn't aware of this at the time, the guilt that came with that was also having a major impact on her mental health. As any parent will tell you, a lot of their self-worth will come from doing the best job that they can. When your physical or mental ability fails you to the extent that you can't provide for them anymore, there is a huge crossroads to overcome in how you see yourself, long after any barriers have been knocked down and your capabilities have returned.

And through it all, one memory that sticks with him is closing a multi-million deal wearing shoes that he had to fill in with a Sharpie, to cover the holes. "It was the first time that I got a great paycheck, after spending so long struggling. It was the first time I knew we were going to be OK. Up until this point, I had been doing all of the same work - but for pennies. I ended up breaking down and crying in the back office". Being able to pay for carers and get the help that they so desperately deserved and needed helped Ryan and his family enter the next phase of their lives - one where they could push to find answers and not just seek a way to survive the next month.

"I was at the point where I was literally banging on the doors of the medical centers at the weekend, demanding answers and finding out what was going to happen next. It took 8 months to find the answer to our problems and it would have been so much longer had I not had the capability to take those extra steps and push the professionals to give us what we needed in terms of information".

Despite all of this, Ryan does not offer himself any credit, referring to this trying time as simply "the human experience" in that our struggles and pains have resonated through us, since the dawn of time. "This is not unique to us," he tells me, before going on to tell me how Susannah lost the ability to use her arms and legs, having to move onto a catheter and how each and every single test came up with nothing, time after time. The answer, after 8 months of physical and emotional pain beyond anything I could imagine, was Lyme disease.

Now, Susannah can walk (although not always when she wants to), and has even come off her oxygen - a huge step, given that her sats were in the 60% range toward the end of this life experience (90% or lower is considered dangerous, and where people can often become confused or even begin to lose consciousness). Still, he considers himself incredibly lucky to have had his own experience up until that point, to show him how to keep fighting so hard for answers - and it's fair to say that his tenacity and love for his family saved his wife, despite his own downplaying of the strength of his character.

So, what's next for Robot Ninja Shark? It's time for him to enjoy his own passions and work with what makes him happy. Better still, he wants to get a very particular message out; "If you are in a darker place, if you don't have the support, no matter what - if you're willing to work on yourself, it gets better. If a dumbass like me can figure this out, then you've definitely got this!". Keep fighting folks, and - in the same way that Ryan and his family found a way to the other side of one of the toughest moments anyone could go through - you can also work your way into the next phase of your life. Your time to play and to return the value you provide to the world is coming.

Monday, 18 May 2020

5 Ways Coronavirus Affected The Games Industry

It's no secret that the gaming industry has seen a huge leap in the past few years, due to the outpouring of quality content being produced by the companies behind incredible games such as Uncharted and Apex Legends. But, over the last few months, lockdown and quarantine have had a major impact on the games industry as a whole, beyond a few simple numbers and statistics - and not always for the better. Read on, to find out 5 ways Covid-19 has affected the games industry, positively and negatively. 

Gray Scale Image of Xbox Game Controller

35% Increase In Sales

Overall, the general upturn in sales is not surprising. With more people having to stay at home, after being laid off, on furlough or simply working from home, people are using the extra time to wind-down and enjoy their day. This is already hard enough, given the circumstances, but the larger corporations have done well to cope with demand.

Some companies are even offering up free games which, despite the contradictions suggesting game sales would decrease with these options, it has actively encouraged more people to get into gaming. Especially as there are no more options than ever, when it comes to staying connected with friends and family through online games.

There has been a 63% increase in the sales of hardware (consoles, VR headsets and so on) and a 34% increase in software - the bread and butter of the gaming industry. This is without the major impact of digital sales of Animal Crossing, which doesn't factor into these statistics despite being released in March.

When we include Animal Crossing - one of the most popular games to have ever been released on Nintendo, accounting for 50% of the total, digital sales in March - those numbers skyrocket. For Nintendo alone, a new sales record was set in the same month, more than doubling the numbers gained from the same time, last year.

20% Reduction In Productivity

It's not all good news, however, as a loss of productivity has also had a major impact in developing games. While some of this is due to employees contracting Covid-19, there is also a huge problem with gig-workers being cut off from many of the larger firms. At the same time, smaller, younger developers are struggling to ensure everyone gets high-quality gear at home, to allow for the same quality to be produced, remotely.

Man Wearing Black Polo Shirt and Gray Pants Sitting on White Chair

All of this, of course, does not include the mental strain that comes with producing high-quality games during a global pandemic. Managing your mental health is tough enough, without the added struggles of setting up a new routine and staying sane, when it feels like the whole world is losing its mind. While it's fair to say that working from home can help in some aspects, it's also no secret that those who have creative minds are more likely to suffer from mental health problems. Naturally, many of these minds are working hard to keep up with current progressions in development, so those will naturally take a toll on the productivity of the workforce.

Games Have Been Delayed

As a possible contender for understatement of the year; Fighting to get works that are currently in development set up and shipped has proven to be difficult. As well as finding the right staff, or fighting with the cuts called for by shareholders, who are seeking to keep high profits, there are post-productions issues, too.

Most studios will be working, well beyond the development of the actual game, in order to get great copies of incredible games to you and your console. Quality assurance, marketing, physical production, shop closures and limited levels of press all have a major effect on whether a game will be considered profitable. As such, it's usually beyond the jurisdiction of the developer themselves to effectively produce a game, once it's left the writing, programming and development stage.

The Last Of Us Part 2 Pre-Order Guide: Special Editions, Release ...

Larger companies, such as Naughty Dog, have had a lot of bad press coming from fans, due to the delays in shipping - before finally coming up with a final release date, shortly after leaks were produced by hackers. However, such is life that, if you want DLC's, they can only be produced after a successful launch, and for those seeking a proper commitment to smooth gameplay, a wait is to be expected.

Aside from struggling to get the components required (everything from those plastic cases to the console bundles), there haven't been any major promotions available to help sales along. With companies often operating at a loss until the release of the game itself, it's hard to say how financing will be able to work until predictions are available - and most of those will be withheld until the market eases itself out of the Covid-19 downturn.

Does Valve deserve Steam's 30 percent cut? Many developers say no ...

Smaller companies and games from independents will also be struggling with securing the financing required to help development to shuffle along. Without the added help of investors, many of these indie developers and gaming companies are struggling to make ends meet and are working themselves to the bone to keep going. Naturally, this means delays going on for the foreseeable future. But hang tight and be patient - all of your favourites will be with you, soon.

Screen Time Increased

Any gamer will tell you that the industry is about so much more than simply buying a game, playing it and throwing it away. This is a niche that thrives on the collective experience of what it means to suspend your disbelief and truly take part in an immersive experience.

One major player in the business of broadcasting and sharing gameplay is the livestreaming platform, Twitch. Already taking a good share of the amount of screentime that spectators will partake in, Twitch is one of the most successful streaming companies ever created, with an estimated net worth of around $5 billion. It outstrips streaming time on Youtube by 300%, and those seeking to gain an income through gaming are more likely to opt for Twitch, due to the audience already being game-orientated.

candy, controller, esport

That said, both platforms have seen a major increase in global viewership, with Twitch reporting a 10% increase and Youtube Gaming garnering a 15% increase. In the US, The Hollywood Reporter has stated that Verizon (a telecom firm) has found that online gaming has increased by a massive 75%. Similarly, Italy has shown a 66% increase in terms of hours watched, according to StreamElements.

In-Game Advertising Has Exploded

It's no surprise, given its accessibility in terms of initial platform and usability, that mobile gaming has seen the biggest increase of all - becoming the most popular gaming platform. Expected to grow by up to $10.97 billion in the next four years, this impact has caused in-game advertising to explode. For the most part, this is huge in terms of traditional capitalism and will do a great job in helping to boost the economy, by driving sales. However, there is further benefits to be had for public health, if they choose to utilize this ability (of course, that is a topic for future articles!). 

Marketing experts at Udonis say that there has been a 20-30% increase in downloads from the Play store and that, while Facebook have been slower in getting ads approved or adjusted, there has been a lower cost per click, overall. This, combined with increased screentime, means it's an ideal time for those who work in marketing to get into paid ads, rather than looking into the slower (but oftentimes more worthy) organic reach.

Silver Macbook Beside Black Sony Ps4 Dualshock 4, Silver Iphone 6, and Round Black Keychain on Brown Wooden Table

Gaming has proven to be one of the most resilient industries, standing both the test of time and the sudden impact of a pandemic. Not only is this good news for the industry as a whole, but games have shown to be one of the best ways to stay connected with friends and family, while maintaining social distancing measures.

As such, it's fair to say that gaming has moved beyond the "timewaster" label that many have slapped on the niche, for far too long. Indeed, the past few weeks can be considered a lifesaver for many young adults and multiple generations, beyond helping the introverted and nerdy. Economically, this has been the best year for gaming in over a decade, when sales before the global market crash of 2008. And, while there are still some ways to go in releasing and producing games during strict social constraints, this is clearly a market that is fit and fighting. We just need to figure out how to overcome some small bumps, along the way.

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

5 Websites That Will Let You Connect With Friends, Remotely

If you've found yourself struggling with isolation during lockdown, then connecting online with friends or family can be a real saviour. And while, in a previous life, people may have mocked you for merely suggesting playing a classic game online, post-pandemic folk are more than happy to take you up on your offer. After all, gaming companies have really stepped it up since quarantine began (if only the leaders of the world were just as proactive, eh?), so why not enjoy some safe, quality time with friends and family? Get yourself on Discord, Zoom, Hangouts or Skype and enjoy playing these online games for free, during lockdown - or simply watch a classic film together!

Cards Against Humanity

Introduced back in 2011, Cards Against Humanity quickly made a name for itself by being one of the most audacious and outright rude card games ever created - and we all absolutely loved it. While this particular offering isn't made by the original creators (it describes itself as a clone of the popular card game), this free-to-play option is ideal for playing during lockdown. If you aren't keen on using Xyzzy, then Remote Insensitivity is another great choice that offers a strikingly similar resemblance to the modern classic.

Cards against humanity~pretend you're xyzzy | Cards against ...

Quiz Up!

If you aren't keen on chatting online but want to enjoy some good, old-fashioned pub quizzing, QuizUp should be your go-to. You can match with friends or play with strangers across the globe, and answer questions based on anything from general knowledge to the specifics of, say, Metal Gear Solid 2. You'll get awards based on your answers, streaks and general XP earned through beating others. Best off all, it's completely free to play - just download it to your chosen device.

NBC Greenlights Interactive App-Inspired Trivia Game Show 'QuizUp ...

Netflix Party

Netflix is arguably still the number one streaming service, across the world, even with the introduction of Disney Plus and, for friends in the US, HBO Now. So, being able to sync up your playback times and add in a group chat is a great way to chat with friends and family while you watch. Netflix Party comes as an extension to Google Chrome and allows you to safely and securely watch your favourite shows with loved ones, without resorting to third-party apps.

Here's How To Watch Netflix Movies And Shows With Friends In Your ...

Fight List

Don't want to play nice? Fight List is a surprisingly fun option that requires no talking or setting up Zoom parties to play. Just download from your app store and select a friend to get competitive with. This game provides you with categories, at which point you compete with your "loved" ones to name as many answers as possible within that category. Sounds simple, right? Except we all know how our brains love to go blank, the second an answer is required...

Trick Fight List Guide for Android - APK Download

Playing Cards

Prefer to play classic card games? Then PlayingCards.io should be your first port of call. Simply designed, so that anyone in the family can play along, this is a great choice for tamer games with the older members of the family - or simply those with a more sensitive disposition. Movements are synchronized in real time, and a user-friendly layout helps even the most technophobic friends and family get involved.

Friday, 8 May 2020

Mi-Clos Studio Announces New Game Releasing In Late 2020

Fans of indie developer Mi-Clos Studio (Out There, Sigma Theory) will be pleased to know that the developers have been working on a new, turn-based game. In their latest offering, Silmaris: Dice Kingdom, you'll be playing as the leader of Thylla, and will be attempting to "restore the lost power of your kingdom". Like their previous offerings, your gameplay can twist and turn in any direction, based on your decisions, so be prepared for the inevitable mulligans you'll be calling for.

In Silmaris, you'll need to pick and choose your advisors based on their skillsets, in the hopes that they'll bring you some advantages, as you attempt to subdue other monarchs in the area and make your claim as the true leader. The game also promises to be filled with interesting features, including the ability to spy on enemies or opt for a peaceful, trading unions, depending on your preferences.

In the announcement, there is also a hint of something bigger at play, suggesting you'll need to ready your empire for a major attack from an unknown being. If Silmaris is anything like their previous releases, this new game is sure to offer up a little something for any PC player, whether that's tactical gameplay or interesting interactions. All-in-all, we definitely recommend keeping this on your radar, ready for the release later this year.

Silmaris: Dice Kingdom key features:

  • A dark and merciless universe. Expect to lose your crown in any way possible, but always for good reason!
  • Dozens of immersive stories and unexpected twists
  • Choose your style. Will you rule with an iron fist, or with peaceful diplomacy? Will you be bold or cunning?
  • Recruit advisors, develop their skills, and send them on missions around the valley
  • Resist your enemies, besiege their cities and make them your vassals
  • Establish trade routes and smuggling rings
  • Plot to overthrow opposing monarchs
  • Use diplomacy to lead a great alliance
  • Explore the world as you search for hidden treasure and forgotten artifacts
  • Manage your action dice and use your Fate points with care

Monday, 20 April 2020

Control Review

I'm a huge fan of action-adventure games, being shamelessly fond of third-person perspectives and a strong storyline. So, when I was recommended Control, I couldn't wait to get my teeth stuck into a new world - it had everything I could possibly want in a game, especially when it came to the consistently high ratings from the usual publications, IGN, Gamesradar and so on. Even better, it was recently on offer on the PSN store, something we could all do with during isolation - so I decided to delve into Jesse Faden's world for the first time. 

It begins with a rather depressing monologue that sets us up for the neo-noir theme throughout the game, and quickly leads to you becoming the Janitor's assistant and the new director of the Federal Bureau of Control. Aptly named, considering everything in this company appears to be very specific and very rigid in this game - from the brutalism of the building's architecture to the inflexible personalities. Even the interactions between the main character and the NPC's is dry at best, with the warmest character arguably being Emily Pope, whose fast-talking rhetoric can quickly give you a headache if you don't keep up. 

The house, of course, moves seemingly of its own volition, twisting and turning through different dimensions as you explore. And the novelty of this can wear off quickly, if you don't make use of the in-game map that takes up the entire screen, when highlighted. Be warned that this is not a feature you should use when entering a new room, as your extra-dimensional friends - called the Hiss - will spawn at the same time. 

The frustration of constantly fighting the Hiss is highlighted by the inability to create regular checkpoints, due to the open nature of the game - and would be fine, if it weren't for the fact that you constantly need to defeat foes that you have already conquered, each time you die - with only bosses appearing to be exempt from this. In other words, if you die while trying to figure out a boss' weak points, for example, you'll need to go from the last checkpoint, back through the building and return to the fight - listening to the in-game chatter and fighting the respawning baddies, each and every time. 

Each and every, frigging, time. 

Again, without waypoints to help you decide on which direction to go, when seeking out the story, you may find yourself doing this a lot. Too much, in this humble writer's opinion. While I can see how this might add to the overall mood of the game (a lack of control - an irony I'm sure was high-fived upon, in the office) it detracts from the gameplay. 

And herein lies the problem - Control stops being fun after the first few missions. It becomes tedious and many players appear to be losing interest in the story around halfway through the gameplay. This is a shame, really, as things do become much more lively and interesting toward the end of the game again - in particular, a fun bounce around the Ashtray Maze can be a memorable gaming experience - but it shouldn't feel like a slog to get to this point. 

You spend an awfully long time trying to figure out what happened to Jesse Faden's brother, Dylan - but, when you eventually come across him as part of the main story, the experience is anti-climactic. Worse still, what you expect to be a big, final boss is actually just an old friend passing you a small trinket to push the game forward. There's a frustration in each and every plot point that makes you roll your eyes and mumble "get to the point, Jesse" more times than I care to recall.

It's a shame, really, as the actual controls of Control are pretty good - being able to use telekinetic powers always correlate to a good time, in terms of gameplay. Picking up the new powers of levitation and mind control as the game progresses also help to clear away the waves of enemies, as you become more experienced. But, what initially starts out to be some creepy Hiss baddies, eventually gives way to simply running past them in order to progress with the story, due to said frustration - so you don't end up utilising these as much as you might want. 

The skill tree, as you might expect, is pretty standard - although getting additional skill points is directly linked to upgrading other parts of the game. You can even improve your gun with points collected by defeating Hiss agents and random pick-ups from your fallen foes, which leads to some interesting personalisation of your weapon. It's definitely recommended that you do this regularly, in line with your own gaming style, as the powers Jesse gains throughout Control are limited by her energy - a nice added feature that ensures you aren't simply throwing everything around until you're surrounded by dead agents of the Hiss. 

As a result of all of these points, however, Control simply isn't as fun to play as I expected. There are definitely a lot of good points to this game, but the overall feel of the story is more tedious - and even irritating at parts - than it is enjoyable. Exciting moments might give you a second or two of "ah, that's cool" but, beyond this, I never felt like there was a need to keep pushing forward - a feeling enhanced by the underwhelming ending.  

My advice, when going into this experience, would be to do so with an open mind and no prior knowledge of the game itself. The hype and positive reviews may lead you to the same experience as I, so I wholeheartedly recommend taking this with a pinch of salt. Enjoy yourself and take your time when exploring, to ensure you don't miss any extras (as I did, before having to backtrack in order to progress). If you're looking for story and a linear narrative over the gameplay, then this probably isn't the right genre for you - but if you like killing baddies and getting in-game points, then you may well enjoy Control for all it has to offer you. 

Sunday, 15 March 2020

Interview With Voice Actor Roger Craig Smith

Quick Note: This interview focuses on the personal success of Roger Craig Smith, as well as his thoughts on Hollywood, 21st-century living and the highs and lows of his life. For those seeking out more voice-over related Q&A’s, you can check out the sister article to this interview, over The Valkyries website.

When I first get a message off Roger Craig Smith, I’m completely thrown off. You see, Roger is a popular voice actor who is known for bringing life to characters as well-known as Batman, right through to the Mouse in If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. This is a busy, uniquely talented guy and the idea that he wants to get into the nitty-gritty of voice acting with a UK-based writer is a surprise in itself.

Of course, if you were to speak to the man in the flesh, you’d quickly find out that this gentleman has no interest in labels and is simply seeking to make the most of his life. Indeed, it’s not just voice acting that he focuses on – rather, this is simply how he makes a living. Him taking time out of his day for me, as it turns out, is just another way in which he pays forward his energy to others.

Roger Craig Smith
Photo by Jen Rosenstein
It doesn’t take long for my nerves to show but, honestly, Roger is so laid back that these subside within a few minutes. After all, he can talk about pretty much anything – and that’s exactly what we do. Starting off gently, we get into how he began voice acting.

As it turns out, like most of us, RCS was originally looking to do something completely different. Beginning with a career in screenwriting, he tells the tale of how he side-stepped into comedy because he loves to make people laugh. After a good few years of what he refers to as “mimicry and theatre arts”, it was only after trying out for the Aspen Comedy Festival that the repeated question as to why he isn’t voice acting made him consider it as a career.

Even then, this isn’t something he took lightly. Instead, while pulling some shifts at Dave & Busters, Roger researched the best ways to get into voice acting and invested some quality classes, where his voices and acting chops were honed to a fine point. It was only after this, that he got together with a friend and asked them to help him get his demo reel together, in exchange for $50, which was then sent out – in person – to anyone and everyone who would listen.

“You have to treat it like entrepreneurship. You definitely need a business approach” he tells me, as he highlights how important it is to give yourself a solid foundation before heading straight to clients, “that, and the ability to talk to people on a human level – a skillset that is quickly being lost”. With this, we start talking about the small steps he took to ensure he edged his way into the Hollywood industry. Demonstrating perfectly how luck only lands on your lap when preceded by hard work, Roger tells me about how he worked as a PA in the industry through making sure that he spoke to everyone he came across about his ambition.

Valerie Macon RBTI Premiere 00001Like everyone who wants to achieve as much as possible, dealing with rejection is as commonplace as getting a gig, and Roger’s response to this is as pragmatic as you would expect. “It happens all the time”, referencing the Sonic move “you just have to keep yourself focused on what you want, and be grateful for what you have”.

“We’re all just trying to survive – look at this virus. It’s just trying to survive, and it reminds us of how weak and susceptible we are. There’s no winning, there’s no losing and no finish line.” He’s not actively being bleak, however, and he assures me that he’s aware of how others can view his body of work and takes pride in how these help people to have a touch of escapism. In fact, he makes a point of reminding me (and himself) that the real world is what is going on outside of his job.

“Keep falling forward. You’re gonna slip up and keep falling. You might be crawling. But, all of a sudden, you’ll look back and say to yourself ‘oh man, I’ve been crawling at times and sprinting at others but I’m so far away from where I was’ and I’m still doing that”.

Whether it’s politicians, athletes or actors, it’s generally agreed that these people are, in Roger’s words, “pedestalised”. All of these public figures are portrayed in a way that is sensationalised, whether that be the best or worst of their personalities and it’s quickly brought to my attention that, just because we might not agree with someone, it doesn’t mean that we should stick them on a pedestal and use them as an example of who we should – or should not – be. “You’re just as capable as these people at being imperfect. I hope that when we eventually work our way to the other side of this social media experiment, we all realise that everybody has got stuff – the good and the bad. You have to allow for people to grow and make mistakes – with bad behaviour being punished as is applicable”.

He bemoans those moments where he finds himself comparing his life to others, in which he can often consider his life as ‘less-than’ anybody else. “I’ve had the benefit of growing up without it, whereas kids today are growing up with everything on screens. Their whole existence has been staring at screens and it’s sad – and I hope there’s a pendulum swing back to the other side”.

Naturally, this cynicism does come a place of experience. When Roger was in his late 20’s, he suffered with a severe bout of pneumonia, which left him hospitalised for 6 days. As I’m sure you can imagine, this was not a pleasant experience. And yet, in typical RCS style, he quickly bounces back with “now I know what people mean when they say ‘at least you’ve got your health’!” – a phrase he certainly believes in. And one that we discuss, in-depth, while chatting about the differences between individuals whose viewpoint in life is much more hardy and positive than we’re often able to see, online.

On the other end of the scale, there are also those whose entitlements can bring down the overall mood of a studio. “You see it a lot in Hollywood. Now that the gaming industry is making a LOT more money than it used to, we’re seeing an influx of influencers and on-screen actors coming into the studio. And a lot of these people have no respect for the industry as a whole, which you can see in the way they treat the process”. Referencing a few moments he’s had with past experiences, he is also careful to offer the viewpoint of Troy Baker (his co-worker and friend), who has argued that anyone who is capable, and right for the role, should be able to work in any industry. “I just have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about it, because I think it can make the whole process harder when you get the wrong person for the role”.

It seems only natural at this point that question of what makes a voice actor so good at their job comes up – is there a secret formula that will lead the everyday person into the role of voice-over work? “The art and the unique element comes into it, for you as an individual, when you can take something that has been done before and twist it, to turn it into something new. It’s always on the fly and it always comes down to who you’re working with”.

It seems that, if you can speak faster on command, add an accent where required and maybe throw in a couple of idioms and/or speech impediments, you might just be on your way. Whether it’s adding a soft Russian accent to Batman in
Superman: Red Son (available digitally, now) or mixing together a range of accents into what he calls “Italiaspanglanish” for Ezio, there’s a huge array of examples of this, within his body of work.

Of course, this is easier said than done, as many hard-working actors find out along their journey. “That’s why you’ll never have my career, and I’ll never have yours. That’s both the beauty and the hard part of doing what we do. There are so many new people coming into the studios now – but there are still so many recognisable voices that you can hear, as soon as they hit a certain cadence or delivery”. This isn’t an industry of impressions, after all, it’s about flavouring your character with the right tone and inflections. At the same time, all of the technical stuff can be taught along the way.

He does, however, state that he’s also a bit of a homebody, as he’s hyper-aware of keeping his vocal cords relaxed and ready for whatever job is next. “Staying physically healthy is important and getting lots of rest is the only way to keep yourself ready for whatever is coming next, so I try and stay healthy”. Still, he’s keen to point out that he doesn’t do any vocal exercises beyond knowing what his current range is and staying away from work that could possibly harm his potential for the next gig.

This is one of the reasons why Roger stays away from so many conventions. While he always appreciates his fans, which you can see in how he converses with them on a regular basis through his Twitter and Instagram accounts, doing weekend-long work can be damaging. “You’re jet-lagged, you’re talking all day long and hugging people, shouting over background noise and doing impressions of your work, constantly”. Even short stints during talks at his local college, where he offers his time to audio students, can have an impact on the stress caused to the vocal folds, which has a knock-on effect to his work.

There’s no doubt that Roger is opinionated in the best possible way, in that he is continually considering different angles to an argument. As with most intelligent people, he takes everything in the world with a pinch of salt and seeks to escape any bitterness caused by that salt, by getting away as much as possible. At times, this means chasing down as many different pursuits as he’s able to fit into his busy schedule, such as American Sign Language (ASL). At others, it can simply mean going down a mountainside as fast as he can, on his bike. 

One such pursuit that he has become increasingly associated with is his astrophotography, which you can catch on My Shots in the Dark. Initially starting out with an interest from a young age, he decided to take things a little more seriously once he had some money to play around with. “I bought a rudimentary telescope and – out of sheer luck – focused on what I thought was a star, which was low on the horizon. It actually turned out to be Saturn, and I could see the rings” he says, before mimicking the state of wonder he found himself in. “Then I wanted to find out how to take a picture, so I went online and researched as much as I could – and it just went on, from there”.

A shot of RCS by Babek Tafreshi
This is a fantastic summary of a man whose default face reverts to a gentle smile, when discussing the unique aspects of space and how much has been left undiscovered. Roger is definitely a guy who can show dedication and perseverance, in order to get the right shot – something he enjoys sharing with his followers, whether they appreciate it or not. “It’s the perfect hobby for a guy who works during the day and wants to enjoy some downtime at night, where I don’t have to be interrupted”.

Through this, he has also discovered the International Dark-Sky Association, whose work revolves around reducing the impact of light pollution, which can affect wildlife and human health, as well as be a huge source of waste across the world. Knowing that RCS has been approached as a delegate, I quickly ask what we can all do to help reduce our own light pollution, to which the answers are as simple as you might expect:
  • Put a cover over any outdoor lighting, so the light is reflected downwards
  • Try to minimise your usage of outdoor lighting
  • Consider the types of bulbs you’re using (LEDs are fine, just try to avoid blue light emissions)*

Unfortunately, at this point, I’m aware that we’ve been talking for two hours and, as giving as he might be, I definitely don’t want to eat into too much of his time. So, I finish off with a question of what he would send into space. His answer, which catches me completely off-guard, involves shooting a doll of Ezio out, which slowly dissolves due to radiation – but not before taking down the International Space Station. And I really can’t summarise my short time with Roger Craig Smith any better than that.

Stanley MW 08-20-17
If you look, really closely, you might just spot Ezio causing the downfall of science

*More info on this can be found on the IDA website