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 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