Kiwi Scores Big With Rubbish Collection Game On PlayStation

That’s exactly the vision of 25-year old school administrator Stacey Bartlett in her creation that utilses the DREAMS platform on PlayStation 4.

Pick It Up Quick! Is a fairly simple concept where the player is tasked with trying to collect as much rubbish as possible in 45-seconds, all in a beautifully reconstructed versions of two popular New Zealand beaches.

Tokahaki Point, Kapiti Island and Tāhunanui Beach, Nelson are both featured in the title which aims to tackle the real life problem of litter on New Zealand beaches, encouraging players to become citizen scientists of their own.

Since release, the game has been played more than 3000 times across 50 countries with over 100,000 people tuning in on Twitch.

But behind the early success comes a simple and important message that encourages players to relate to what they see in the game and look at ways to reduce their own impact on the environment.

For Bartlett, it will be especially impactful for those who have visited either Tokahaki Point or Tāhunanui Beach in the real world.

“I want people who have visited Tāhunanui Beach in Nelson to play the game and recognise the beach”, Bartlett said, “hopefully they can then understand the scale of the problem and take action to stop the litter getting there in the first place.”

Officially launched by Sustainable Coastlines as part of its Litter Intelligence project, the partnership is one of the first of its kind with UK-based gaming developer Media Molecule approaching Bartlett to publish the game on DREAMS.

“I’ve always loved creating things and I’d been experimenting with DREAMS for a while when Media Molecule approached me”, Bartlett said, “I’ve been playing PlayStation since I was eight so it was exciting and nerve wracking to be asked but I worked closely with the Sustainable Coastlines team to try and make the coastlines as realistic as possible.”

Bartlett’s enthusiasm and skill on the development side caught the attention of Media Molecule early on, receiving praise from the highest desk at the developer.

“What Stacey has achieved is incredible and she’s a talented creator,” says Siobhan Reddy, studio director at Media Molecule.

“We’ve seen some pretty wonderful creations within DREAMS and this is right up there, the community aspect of gameplay that encourages education and understanding is really impressive.”

Pick It Up Quick! Is available on DREAMS for PlayStation 4

Candidates Struggle To Get Point Across At Disability Election Forum Full Of Interesting Ideas

Perhaps it was these words, spoken by ACT Party leader David Seymour during his opening statement at the My Voice Matters 2020 General Election Forum, that set up what was an afternoon of much conversation sprinkled with some interesting ideas by the candidates on hand.

But the actual how, why, and when was missing for the most part. What was impressive was the list of candidates that did make themselves available, all of whom came with strong ideas that many would’ve heard before.

From Seymour himself to Carmel Sepuloni (the current Minister for Disability Issues), popular Greens MP Golriz Ghahraman was there, as was the astute National MP spokesperson Alfred Ngaro and New Zealand First counterpart Jennifer Marcroft.

On that front, the My Voice Matters 2020 General Election Forum was a success, but just how some of the many talking points are actually put into action is anyone’s guess.

My Voice 2020 General Election Forum: What You Need To Know

Most of the major hot points were addressed, from education and employment, to housing and transport, as well as accessibility law and the controversial health and disability review.

Due much in part to some dreadfully short time limits on answers by the moderators, a lot of the detail from the answers was lost early on in the forum, and it left some candidates visually frustrated.

Perhaps, if more time had been given, candidates who all agreed that better access to New Zealand Sign Language (NZSL) in mainstream classrooms will be another key area of focus could’ve had the opportunity to expand on the actual work that their particular party is prepared to do.

Discussions about a lack of funding, disability specific teacher training, and accessibility to tertiary institutes were shared amongst the candidates in terms of education and schooling.

The Greens want a greater understanding of disability across the entire education sector, one that also comes with increased funding and caters to the varying levels of support required, regardless of whether a child seeking learning support is intellectually or physically disabled.

What’s clear is that the Greens might have a good understanding of how wide-ranging the spectrum of disabilities amongst learners can be, but like all the parties present at the forum, the exclamation point on how a more equal footing into the education system and prolonged equal learning for disabled children was lacking.

On employment, little to no change from the existing status quo is being promised by the major political parties.

Most candidates agree that there is an opportunity to utilise the new ways of working to reduce some of the barrier businesses feel are too much when it comes to hiring disabled people, such as physical access to buildings.

But in that exact same breath, there was an admission that access to technology which facilitates that is another core issue facing people living in the margins.

New Zealand First is prepared to double down on funding for Workbridge, remaining firm in their belief that the best way to get more disabled people into the workforce is through the pastoral approach that many say is failing disabled people wanting work.

The Greens suggested a quota system, where businesses would need to hire a certain amount of disabled people, while National’s Alfred Ngaro insists that culture and attitudes toward hiring disabled workers needs urgent address.

In terms of the Health and Disability review, it was perhaps the stance of National that is most intriguing.

The party in blue say that they’ve met with the Disability Rights Commissioner to understand why so much of the representation was missing from the design of that controversial report. It’s National’s view that the design concepts around the wider disability discussion in Parliament need a redo, including where the few voices involved in Government workgroups are actually coming from in terms of the community level.

It was also National and the Greens who appeared happy to support the idea of a disability-specific entity in Government. Having such a body has long been a suggestion by some leading disability rights groups and advocates, but Labour, New Zealand First and ACT all opposed the idea when asked the question at this particular forum.

National were also the only party to say explicitly that the disability community is being let down by the current work being done at a political level to address domestic and sexual violence towards disabled people.

My Voice Matters 2020 (and disabled people) Needed More Time

As with any political forum, there is a lot to digest in the wake of My Voice Matters 2020, so much so I’ve had to skip over a fair bit in this review.

For the most part, and considering it was quickly moved to an online only event with all the usual technical hiccups in parts, the forum ran well.

Many of the questions those in the disability community wanted answers to will have to wait for another day as there simply wasn’t enough time on hand or capacity to address them all, but ideas such as increasing the funding for Workbridge (NZ First) to increase disabled people in jobs as well as a clear desire to rule out starting a disability-centric entity in Government by three of the major parties should leave a bit to talk about.

Some candidates will feel they didn’t get enough opportunity to speak about their plans, but what’s clear is that all the major parties have some diverse ideas about the best way forward for what remains over a quarter of New Zealand’s population that actively identify as disabled.

Just what all those ideas will actually look like in practice will depend on the Government of the day post-election, but for Labour at least, they seem content with the work they’ve done so far and are promising to double down on that.

F1 2020 Is A Truly Great Racer That Has Reached The Peak Of Its Powers

Since taking over the F1 license officially back in 2009, Codemasters have put the rubber stamp on the fact that they are indeed the king of racers with some truly great racers released in the years since.

With the F1 and Dirt series both getting rave reviews in recent years, sooner or later, the question of if Codemasters are beginning to reach the ceiling or their own powers is one that has to be asked.

Racing has always been their thing (remember back to the days of TOCA and V8 Supercars entries?), but it’s been in this particular gaming generation that they’ve not had to deal with a flood of games hitting the popular racing genre.

Despite what feels like fewer straight-up racers, the competition has been mighty stiff.

Over on the Xbox side, Forza Horizon 4 has been widely reviewed as one of the most accessible and fun racers in modern gaming history, while what Slightly Mad Studios have delivered with the Project Cars series has proved formidable in the console sim racing space, with impressive sim racer Assetto Corza also now a regular.

Rival motorsports such as Moto GP and WRC both have their own official games, but neither reach the depth that the F1 series has over the years.

Codemasters have always strived to deliver a fully licensed racer that caters to both the sim racer and gamers who’re simply looking to pick up and play. F1 2020 continues that fine trend, and despite it catering to the sport of F1 only (obviously), it’s also the most accessible entry to date with its wide range of assists than can make the experience worthy in either direction, arcade or hardcore.

F1 2020 feels like Codemasters reaching the very pinnacle of their powers with the current technology at hand, on the racing front at least.

One could argue that the My Team addition was slightly late in the piece because there is no logical reason why this couldn’t have featured in F1 2019 or F1 2018. My Team, a new mode that allows you to run your own team as both a driver and owner, builds on much of what the largely unchanged Career Mode already brought to the table while adding in the financial management side and the ability to create liveries, choose engine maker, etc.

My Team isn’t what sells F1 2020 in my view, because as has been the case with each subsequent release year on year, the real selling point is the on-track experience you’re getting with this racer. F1 2020 continues a hybrid between hardcore sim and a racer casual gamers can have fun with, but how it will keep true racing fans engaged is its real strength.

Understanding F1 as a motorsport is a must in order to appreciate this title to the level it truly deserves.

The best moments of F1 2020 are the intensely close races that rely on a solid strategy and a willingness to turn as many of the assists off to give yourself a good challenge on the tarmac.

Setting the difficulty upwards of 80 – 85 (the range considered in the hard category) will make chasing down the likes of Lewis Hamilton and the Mercedes front-runners a truly monumental challenge, one that can only be beaten by consistent good pace and a winning strategy.

F1 2020 encourages that skill and strategy in a way that is as clear as the entries that came before it, and for what’s likely the last entry in this current generation of consoles, the real challenge for this franchise moving forward will be to keep with what works and explore ways to provide more value in the graphical department – something that both PS5 and Xbox Series X will likely help with.

My thanks once again to Koch Media for providing me with a code for this game.

Diary Of A Disabled Journalist: Good Writing Process vs Cheap News

Every writer has their own particular approach to the craft, and if we are all to be honest with ourselves, even the most seasoned of us would probably admit to changing up the process several times along the way.

It’s a variable thing process – some writers can easily open up a word document and start scribing without anything other than an idea. Others will have to put a lot more into the preparation side in order to even begin writing something worth reading.

I don’t refer to myself as a ‘seasoned writer’ by any stretch, but having said that, I often forget that I have been doing this semi-professionally for well over a decade now and nearly half a decade as a journalist/reporter/columnist for a large variety of online/print mainstream media.

To me, writing process is all about setting. The delivery of a good article or blog is all about nailing that setting.

As a freelancer, my home is typically my office. If it’s not my home, probably a press box somewhere.

Given that, I’ve naturally experimented with different places of writing but one thing remains key, the less distraction the better. That’s an obvious conclusion to reach, but within distraction is also noise, and the elimination isn’t so much the actual physical distraction (like your cat jumping onto the table when working at home for instance) as it is about the noise part.

For example, I can write with a little bit of background noise, low beat music for instance, but I can’t even begin to find the concentration to write even a sentence if loud direct noise is in the room, like television audio or loud conversation.

Being a journalist and having to meet deadlines teaches the need for speed when it comes to writing. But it also teaches about detail, working out just what to leave in a story and what can be taken out, understanding the particular narrative or ‘angle’ the article is taking.

Quite often, in fact for some of the best articles and blogs I’ve ever written, that formula has evolved during the actual writing of the piece where I’ve enabled myself to relax and let the story tell itself. The basic idea is there, that gets me started, but it’s that state of relax and deep concentration where there is literally nothing between my thoughts and the document that is truly representative of the best moments in writing.

As a journalist, seasoned blogger, and passionate writer, I’ve also learnt that it’s vital to understand one very real reality.

That reality is simple, the reader (that’s you reading this) will likely decide within seconds whether they’re liking what you’ve written or not. We live in an age where information, news, and the reaction is being delivered more quickly than it ever has before and in a huge variety of ways.

As a writer, your readers have hundreds of different options ready and waiting for their attention, so if you want to be truly good at this thing, you’d better learn that your craft isn’t actually about trying to reach and convince absolutely all of them.

Good writing has the ability to do is engage, inform and challenge. It’s not about re-publishing the same old rubbish message over and over again, it’s about developing a truly detailed account of your thinking and/or the facts and this can only be done with effort and skill.

Call be a bit jaded, but I believe that half the reason why a lot of mainstream media outlets get the flack they do is because their content isn’t crafted as much around quality as it is about the time factor, i.e being the first or the most informed on a story versus how that’s actually written and presented.

But, and it’s a big but, mainstream media is also a business and like a lot of businesses it looks to provide the biggest bang for its buck, often with a diminishing amount of resource.

For example, it’s cheaper to pay a fresh faced journalist fresh out of university to go out and tell the big stories with nothing more than a notepad and laptop than it is to invest the time into really digging into the facts, cultivate good reliable sources, and most importantly, have the freedom to be able to tell good stories.

Many journalists are terrified of screwing up, something that is fuelled by the constant reminder of how lucky they are to call themselves a professional in this business, that they won’t seek greater challenges within their particular beat.

That’s why so many all in media scrums that rugby journalist will be well custom to are often described as ‘theatre’ by some of the veterans in our business, because it’s often not about anything other than being sure to ask a question so there is something to write about – regardless of how bad many of those questions often are because they’re thrown out without any real thought.

Being a blogger for over a decade before entering this business is something I will cherish forever because it gave me time to understand how process truly impacts on the final piece. It’s also given me plenty of room to fail, and yes writers, you will fail numerous times along the way toward a career in writing.

The bad articles are the ones written without thought and are designed in no way other than to join the constant void of information. The good articles are written with thought, and as a writer, my advice would be to ensure that you spend as much time looking and thinking about your craft (and it’s potential impact on the reader) during and before putting pen to paper.

That, in my opinion, is a little bit of what you need to do in order to be a good writer (if one can ever be called such).

GTA Online Summer Update 2020 Adds Just Enough To Make It Great

Before I knew it, hours had completely passed by me on a day that originally had been set aside as a day strictly for work.

Perhaps the joys of being a freelancer, you’re often able to make your own schedule, and when I realized that the latest project wasn’t in need of dire attention, I figured a quick pick up game of something on the PS4 would suffice.

GTA V, and its ever-popular online mode (aptly named GTA Online), never ceases to amaze me in how busy it keeps itself. Given that the Summer 2020 update has just dropped, I thought I’d quickly jump in and see what was new.

There is a lot that’s new here… and most of it is great.

I particularly like the Open Wheel racing addition, it’s a far more grounded way to race others in comparison to the often crazy Transform series for example. Perhaps I liked this particular addition because it’s somewhat more ‘normal’, if anything in the world of GTA Online can be labeled such, but what it also did is make me appreciate what Rockstar has continued to deliver with their service.

Sure, the pay-to-be-flashy model is tiresome, but that’s the only way Rockstar is making money on GTA Online at this point.

The originally promised single-player DLC add-on has basically been a non-event, in fact, remind me, did they ever get round to releasing that? I could swear that they haven’t.

GTA Online, as it has from the very start, caters to just about everyone by way of its variety.

Shooter fan? Ok, the mechanics are average, but you’ve got some seriously diverse options here. Today I jumped into a King of the Hill match and totally enjoyed capturing and defending zones.

Then I had a go at the tried and tested Survival suite of matches, and let me tell you, there is nothing more satisfying (at least as a long time fan of the GTA franchise with a deep love for San Andreas in particular) than returning to Grove Street for a Survival shootout against the purple-wearing ballers.

Bounty missions are fun, and thanks to them being spread out right across the map, traveling to the next poor soul in line to meet the wrath of my shotgun gave me time to truly soak in the world that Rockstar has created here. Of course, in 2020, everyone has an open-world game to their name but trips around Mount Chilliad show me that various little additions to the environment, from new gang sites and freshly built buildings, have all been crafted with the detail you’d come to expect.

For as tiresome as some gamers may label GTA Online, there is no doubt that it remains a constantly built upon project by Rockstar.

In comparison to Red Dead Redemption and that particular online offering, the playability in GTA Online has always been bounds ahead, and it remains so with this particular update, one which again brings just enough new additions, however small, to make it worth taking a look at.

If Red Dead Online is a grind, GTA Online is built for immediate fun. If you can get past how damn expensive all the in-game items are, and you can tolerate some at times terrible frame rate performance, the Summer Update keeps on giving.

Again, try the Open Wheel racing mode! It truly is a gas (if you can get the pun?).

Lies, Morality And Being Called A Nazi: Why I Am Voting YES To Legal Euthanasia

Of course, that’s a completely barbaric conclusion to jump to.

But if you were to really sit back and listen to what some of the most compelled and very loud activists against David Seymour’s bill have to say, I wouldn’t blame you for having a bit of a chuckle at the notion that this is the very eventuality some are predicting.  

With that said, the decision that awaits New Zealanders in the upcoming weeks is an important one, and it’s really no laughing matter.

As one disabled person living in this country and someone that likes to try and tackle some of the most important issues facing people like me through blogs and articles on the internet, I feel it’s now the right time for me to put pen to paper.

The debate around this bill has been so fierce, so emotional, and sadly, riddled with so much miss-truth and scaremongering. I’ve attempted to promise myself on many occasions that I just wouldn’t go here, for my own sanity if nothing else.

Before I get into why I am going to vote yes and why I feel some of the passionate disabled people in my community have spread dangerous propaganda in order to suit their own morality and personal brands, I want to make one thing perfectly clear.

I won’t be responding to any feedback to this blog, be that positive or negative. No matter how well-crafted, passionate or otherwise, please don’t expect a response. If you do, best stop reading now.

I just don’t have the time or the energy to try and justify what is an argument that comes from a very personal place for all of us, and as recent experiences have sadly made me realize, I am not going to open myself up to being called certain names or have my credibility as a disability rights advocate questioned by people who simply don’t know me nor understand how much I’ve tried to challenge my own viewpoints on this matter.

I’ll give you an example as to why I’ve made this decision.

About three or so months ago, well-known advocate Dr. Huhana Hickey labelled me a fascist supporter of the Nazi agenda when I attempted to speak up in support of a disabled man who spoke in support of this bill on social media. When I challenged Dr. Hickey and publicly expressed my disgust at her comment toward me, she blocked me from all social media platforms.

That’s some fine behaviour from a well-seasoned advocate and human rights lawyer with experience that exceeds my years on this earth, and on a personal front, someone I respected and actually admired until that point.

At that moment, I was all but done with this whole disability advocacy thing.

Last week, a source informed me that Dr. Hickey had actually shared an article I wrote for The Spinoff but couldn’t bring herself to credit myself for writing it – pretty disappointing considering her well-publicized views on the lack of interest in the disabled community by politicians and that I had also credited her own efforts in this space in that same article.

For the record, this is not an attack on Dr. Hickey, she is entitled to be against the End of Life Choice Bill, as are all the others who’ve worked so tirelessly, but what she’s not entitled to are her own facts.

Speaking of facts, here is one fact.

I am NOT a fascist or a Nazi for saying that, yes, I believe assisted dying should be legal in New Zealand. Such comments, even if made in the heat of the moment and quickly deleted thereafter, are dangerous and unhealthy.

Here’s my take on the matter.

The issue, as it pertains to disabled people, isn’t with the actual End of Life Choice bill. Maybe I am just a dumb misinformed New Zealander, but to me, the criteria bit seems pretty clear when I read this bill.

The issue is the current systemic failings in the disability support system.

Almost every single disabled person who’s spoken out against the bill has noted this also, and their fear is understandably how these failings could lead people like ourselves to act as if euthanasia is the only option.

I understand that completely, but in my mind, that speaks to the work that needs to be done to change this system, not just address it and advocate, but to actually change it.

What this also speaks to is the profound lack of value that some disabled people feel like they have within their place in New Zealand, something that comes from countless frustrations when trying to access support, education, and employment plus discriminatory behaviour toward them by the ignorant.

There is a distinct lack of belief that the system will change for the better, which based on successive Government promises not being kept and constant difficulty right across the spectrum, is the logical reaction.

But there is a sticking point that is both acknowledged already but also inconvenient to certain agendas.

For as compelled and understandably passionate those representing the disability community who are against euthanasia in New Zealand come across, should the referendum not pass in October and the status quo remains, isn’t the disability community still going to be in the same place anyway?

The only difference is that euthanasia, assisted dying, or whatever you wish to call it, is now legal by law. Nothing else changes, just yet another reset I suspect.

If the law passes by way of vote, at least we’d live in a New Zealand where the option is available for those with less than six months to live (like your aunt or uncle with terminal bowel cancer) or people with conditions that leave them in such a state of decline that their basic day to day life is pure torture.

And even then, is there not a choice to even begin the process in the first place? I’m pretty sure there is, but as Kylee Black’s very well-made video on DefendNZ is titled, choice is a relative term.

Here’s the thing, life is also relative, and if we were to get back to the real issue with the discussion around this bill, what’s also relative is the ability those in the margins have to access life on an equal footing.

That’s not just those with disabilities, of course, my view is that we’re all products of the privilege and/or the distinct advantages/disadvantages to which was the environment we came from.

That’s backed in proof by the hundreds of disabled people I’ve met and talked with through my career as a journalist. Without a word of a lie, I can count on one hand the amount of them that would be coerced into signing up for euthanasia if this bill came into law, and trust me when I say, some of their particular health circumstances are far worse than what those whom the likes of DefendNZ and other groups have chosen to highlight.  

If you were to listen to some in the disability community, you’d think that within just a couple of years of this bill coming into law, 1) the coercion from the non-disabled will get to such a level, or 2) people like me will be struggling to such a degree that we feel ending our lives is the best/only way, then that example might seem somewhat plausible.

There is no denying that the stats speak for themselves, and that’s where I agree with those against the bill such as Miss Black and Dr. Hickey. Where I’m skeptical is on who they speak for, because I’m sorry but they certainly don’t speak for me.

There is little to no doubt that disabled people are the most marginalized group in all of New Zealand and are reliant on Government-funded support systems that are woefully inadequate.

That’s the issue here, that’s where we need to focus our attention, because it’s here that the currently inadequate systems impact on us and us only. That’s where we are the ‘experts’.

The End of Life Choice bill and the upcoming referendum is an important discussion that stretches well beyond just disabled people. I will be voting yes, because I know this isn’t actually about me.

I know what my choice will be in life, I know my value in life, and I know that I’m damn sure not going to be coerced into anything by anybody.

We, as disabled people who feel vulnerable at every turn, don’t actually have the right to use our own morality and our own experiences to tell the nation why they should conform to what is a mindset based on personal experiences in a system that has failed those in the margins on countless occasions.

As it pertains to the disability community, my fear about how we deal with this remains high.

I fear that the discussion won’t change, I predict legal challenges will be made once the bill passes and could continue for many years post-election, and as scary as it might sound, I worry that many will continue some of the grossly unbalanced and inaccurate campaigns on social media that fuel the already high anxiety disabled people feel right now.

Fitbit Attempting To Add Greater Health Indicators To Fitness Wearables

Wearables go hand in hand with daily fitness duties for many, but what if there was a way to use these devices to measure better metrics for long term health?

This, in a hard to explain a nutshell for a fitness dummy such as myself, appears to be exactly what Fitbit is attempting to pull off with their new Active Zone Minutes (AZM) feature.

Available on all Fitbit wearables, the AZM is a new form of heart metric that goes beyond general step activity to provide the user with greater acctivity targets for improved health and well-being.

According to Fitbit data scientist Aubrey Browne, understanding the data behind AZMs and improved understanding of health is key to users.

“Our cross-sectional analysis shows a clear association between the acquisition of AZMs and our users having the tools they need to improve their health. Now that the feature is available for the masses, we are excited to use this physical activity metric further in longitudinal analyses,” Brown said.

But what does that actually mean? Basically, an AZM is a measure of active minutes recommended to the user, a.k.a how long they should be doing different types of physical activity based on their current health, age. and lifestyle statistics already in use across Fitbit apps.

The science that has emerged to sit behind the AZM is interesting.

After launching AZM on wearables in back in March, over 20,000 Fitbit users data showed that the more AZM’s a user logs each week (through increased exercise and activity), the better long term health indicators a user sees. This is based on lower Resting Heart Rate (RHR) and Body Mass Index (BMI).

For dummies like me, think of it in these simplistic terms:

With the AZM feature enabled on your Fitbit wearable, and assuming you’re engaged in a certain amount of physical activity (whether that be Yoga, going for a run, dance class etc), you’ll soon be presented with a metric that can predict certain long term health indicators based on individual data.

I know, it’s all ranging into the territory of over the head mumbo jumbo for those who simply want to be a bit more active and lose a bit of weight.

But at least Fitbit are doing what they can to track what you’re currently doing from more than a purely data collection perspective and are entering into greater health tracking indication.

Secretlab Gaming Chairs Now Available In New Zealand

With a growing base of passionate gamers playing on PC in New Zealand, Secretlab has noticed a high uptake in orders from the Australian and Singapore distribution centres, often costing gamers a premium in import costs. 

Secretlab CEO Ian Alexander Ang says that setting up a local store would allow gamers to purchase the specialised chairs at a lower cost. 

“We’ve consistently seen customers in New Zealand pay extra for shipping from our Australia store, with some early adopters even going out of their way to ship their chairs from Singapore. As a result, we wanted to set up a local store so they could get our chairs more readily, at a lower cost, and with quicker warranty support”, Ang said. 

New Zealand’s growing game development market was also another reason Secretlab felt the expansion would be a good on the back of continued growth in gaming during the COVID-19 lockdown. 

“New Zealand is a country of avid gamers, and it boasts a thriving game development market. It is also home to Grinding Gear Games, the developer of Path of Exile, one of the most popular action role-playing games in the world.” 

Customers will be able to order the OMEGA and TITAN versions of the chair starting on Thursday July 16 from www.secretlab.co.nz 

Secretlab is the top choice of the world’s most successful esports teams and the biggest gaming tournaments, including Dota 2’s The International and the League of Legends World Championship. 

The world’s winningest teams and esports athletes across the largest and most popular esports titles choose Secretlab to equip them with the extra performance edge they need to bring home even more trophies, from back-to-back The International winners OG to esports legacy powerhouse Team Liquid.

Ghost of Tsushima Review: Breaking New Ground

Please note – this review is also available on https://dashgamer.com/

In all my years as a gamer, playing as a samurai has never been at the top of my list of to do’s. Thanks to my lack of knowledge of modern or historic Japanese culture, plus a total obliviousness to the Mongol invasions back in the 1200’s, this could easily have been a title to overlook in the already impressive lineup of excellent PlayStation exclusives. 

As it turns out – I’m glad I didn’t sleep on Ghost of Tsushima – because it’s an excellent game and a new personal best for Sucker Punch Productions who have taken an almighty risk by leaving Infamous in the shadows. 

Taking the role of Jin Sakai, a young samurai, you’re immediately propelled into a cross-country mission in search of justice. Sure, that’s nothing new for an action-adventure game, nor is a vast open-world full of areas to explore and regions to liberate from enemy forces.

But a yawn fest this game is not. 

From the beginning, it’s clear that Sucker Punch are true to their word in how the original development for their latest title took inspiration from the likes of Red Dead Redemption and Zelda Breath of the Wild, but there is also a decent hint of Assassins Creed about some the game that players should notice quickly. 

Like in Breath of the Wild, the world in Ghost of Tsushima encourages the “if you can see it, chances are you can get to it” mantra to its exploration. The biggest difference to Zelda and other well-done open worlds is how the environment itself can be your guiding compass to the next destination. If you’ve selected a location on the map, a simple swipe up on the Dualshock’s touchpad will trigger a ‘guiding wind’ where the breeze points you into the direction you need to be going. 

It doesn’t ever get old and I personally found myself using the feature more and more, preferring this cool (albeit slightly tokenistic) mechanic to find my way around rather than just going from the traditional ‘point A to B’ with an ugly guiding line in the middle of your screen. 

Sucker Punch hasn’t tried to rewrite the rulebook of an open-world adventure title, they’ve just added their own spin to it, and it works. 

Visuals That Will Make Your Jaw Drop 

Speaking of the world itself, Ghost of Tsushima is one of the most visually stunning gaming experiences ever made. Period. 

During the over six-year development, Sucker Punch devs took regular trips to real-world Japan and the Island of Tsushima (located between mainland Japan and the Korean Peninsula) to get a true sense of the world they wanted to capture in the game. 

Work included taking hundreds of photo scanned leaves, tree models, grass, and bush in their bid to develop as realistic a world as possible based on the real thing. From an audio perspective, Sucker Punch also took the time to record various nature sounds, such as birds and the sound of wind rustling through trees in forests. 

It all works in the final product, but it’s the visuals that truly stand out, the cool atmospheric sounds are just a bonus. 

Whether it be tall mountains in the distance, smoke pouring out of a building on another horizon, a shrine on a hilltop, or the several wonderfully detailed Japanese temples, Ghost of Tsushima feels like a world that is alive and well. 

Of course, the game is based (albeit loosely) on the first Mongol Invasion of Japan in 1274. To build an experience around a real-life historic event and not put in the detail to do it justice would’ve been easily noticeable to gamers, and what Sucker Punch achieve in this area could be a lesson other developers could learn. 

It’s all very well and good to have solid gameplay, but if the environments fail to deliver, the title as a whole suffers. Ghost of Tsushima refuses to let any detail in its world slip past the quality test. 

Thankfully, the moment-to-moment gameplay in Ghost of Tsushima is on par with its amazing visuals. This is no more true than when in combat. 

Fights feel great and require a decent amount of concentration and timing on the pad to get right. Early on, Ghost of Tsushima gives a combat tutorial that will serve gamers well moving forward, covering the basic striking and defence mechanics as well as some tricks that help give a slight advantage. 

As the game goes on and you enter more battles, you’ll only ever have a slight advantage depending on the approach taken to combat and the various upgrades and skill points earned. Making use of the skill tree, constantly upgrading abilities and utilising armour is crucial in Ghost of Tsushima as you’ll take on several different types of enemies. 

There are also different battle stance options to be learned and mastered. These stances are critical to giving yourself the best chance against the different enemies, most of which require different stances in order to beat. 

As an example – the stone stance is ideal for taking on other swordsmen whereas the water stance is best for Mongols with shields. Light and heavy attacks with the Katana (your main weapon) are used best in variation, plus there is simply nothing more satisfying than an accurate headshot using your upgradable bow. 

Combat just feels great, every battle feels exciting, and the audio/visual cues Sucker Punch have implemented into the fight system should keep even the most unreliable of players feeling like they’re always capable of getting the win. 

Yes, Ghost of Tsushima is a samurai game and its combat reflects this in large part, but you’d be hard stretched to find more fun in moment to moment fights in any other game. 

A Sloggy Story 

But despite its brilliant visuals, addicting gameplay in battles, Ghost of Tsushima does have issues in its storytelling. Jin Sakai is pretty one-dimensional in his motives, and as such, the main story feels like a chore at times despite some fun missions that push the plot forward. 

But unlike The Last of Us Part II or Red Dead Redemption 2, characters in Ghost of Tsushima just don’t have the conviction that made me care about their fortunes. I just wanted to get to the next mission to enjoy the fantastic combat and see how many Mongol enemies I could stealth until getting caught. What happened to Jin, or his various well-acted sidekicks, didn’t really phase me a whole lot. 

As for the antagonists, without giving too much away, they didn’t really do a whole lot for me either and their motivations seemed fairly run of the mill. 

All that being said, at the time of writing this review I am approaching on 20-hours of game time and I do sense there is still a lot more to come from the story itself. So far it hasn’t grabbed me, but the brilliance of other areas mentioned in this monologue will keep me coming back for multiple playthroughs I’m sure. 

Also, I am fairly new to the samurai genre, so much of the underpinning “swordy stuff” behind the plot could well be over my head. 

Sucker Punch Has Found Its Next Big Franchise 

Ghost of Tsushima is an utterly beautiful game that features an open world you should explore and take a lot of time with. To not do so defeats the purpose. 

On top of its seemingly endless discovery, the battle system provides one of the best and most intense gaming experiences I’ve had that equal everything that was great about the combat systems in games like The Last of Us Part II, Red Dead Redemption 2, and even some of the better Assassins Creed games. 

The combat does what it does exceptionally well, and it’s that wider game within the game during these moments that provide the biggest highlight throughout all the well-designed missions. 

What Ghost of Tsushima lacks is a great story. Everything else is on par with some of the best title on PS4, and it’s a fitting farewell to a simply outstanding lineup of AAA+ single-player experiences that make this generation a winner for PlayStation.

Ghost of Tsushima might be the last big gun on the PS4, but it’s also one of the best, albeit for a slightly disengaging main plot.  

FINAL RATING: 9/10

The review code for Ghost of Tsushima was provided by PlayStation NZ/AU. Thanks heaps once again!

Feeling Undervalued As A Journalist?

Do you have a shutdown ritual? Do you even know what a shutdown ritual is? According to a blog on mediacurrent, a shutdown ritual is a set routine of actions that you perform at the end of each workday to finalise your day and signify that your workday is done. Many of us need that full stop to end proceedings, and for many of us, it’s also the first step to beginning the next day.

On my phone I have a routine app that features the core daily tasks I have to ‘tick off’ each day. Many of these tasks are personal, things like taking a shower and setting aside 15-minutes for meditation, while other tasks are designed around giving my brain the information ‘fuel’ I need to keep myself updated with the world around me, like reading the news for 30-minutes and checking Twitter.

But one routine focuses on prep – aptly called the shutdown ritual.

Part of my personal shutdown ritual, and one of the core tasks I try to complete each day, is setting out exactly every work task I need to complete the next day. It’s not just the task I write down on a separate ‘to-do list’ app, it’s the exact requirements of the said task.

For example, I frequently write down “write Chiefs feature in 800 words or less” if I have a story due the next day or “research stats on disability employment” if I am preparing to pitch a project to an outlet. If I need to get guidance from an editor or talk through ideas, I’ll write something like “call newsroom to discuss angle X”.

The shutdown ritual also touches on personal appointments or tasks. Does my partner need something in particular from me on this day? I’ll write down exactly what she needs and the steps I need to take to deliver.

It’s all about the detail and the pre-planning is a crucial part of both executing these tasks. It’s also a core fundamental for my own sanity. Almost always, and trust me it happens a hell of a lot, when I don’t have a productive day (or even a productive week), it’s because I haven’t taken the time the day before to list out the agenda for said day or week.

You might read a task such as “write Chiefs feature in 800 words or less” and think that it’s fairly clear cut. But for me, the 800 bit is crucial because it gives me parameters, I now know the ideal word count so can begin thinking about its scope.

My list will also set out the exact time I will submit the story – usually an hour before deadline if possible.

I believe that the same idea can be applied to just about anything you do, whether written down in an app or not.

Want to know why so many people don’t execute on their work or don’t take that next step toward something bigger? It’s not so much that they fail, it’s the lack of attention to the how. For that, I have to give credit to a former mentor of mine and fellow disability advocate Jade Farrar, during our working relationship I marvelled at just how much time and energy he put into the small things that many of us overlooked.

I also have to credit some of the professional rugby players and coaches I speak to on a weekly basis. Their amount of thought and planning on game plans, physical shape, recovery and much more just makes the mind explode when you hear about how it’s all being put into action. A guy like Anton Lienert-Brown is a fine example of that, a deep thinker about his craft and the impact being a man in the spotlight can have on those around him whilst also knowing how to switch off and get away.

Cool Story Mike, So What’s The Point Exactly?

During these ever-increasing times, particularly in our work, it’s crucial that we allow ourselves to check it all at the door but not forget our value by underselling.

This may mean different things for different people, but for me, recent times have really forced a lot of reflection on the motives and value behind what I do, particularly as a freelance journalist. Just this week I went on Reddit and asked other freelancers about their approach to drawing a line in the sand and saying no when you start thinking your hard work is being taken advantage of.

Just a bit of context. The media business is short on money right now. Newsrooms are downsizing not expanding, journalists who were previously employed are now being asked to work as contractors and pitch stories on an individual basis.

It’s a tough industry at the best of times and, sadly, many of those who only care about the spreadsheets are putting editors in extremely tough positions by forcing them to let some of their very best writers go, or at the very least, take a hefty pay cut.

But for me, I didn’t actually understand how much time, energy and effort I was putting into my work for these different outlets until I did a bit of a google on myself. When you google ‘Michael Pulman Journalist’ it should take you to a site called Muckrack which pulls together all the clips that I’ve written for the various mainstream media outlets in the past year or two.

Turns out, I’ve done a fair bit of work. Then I began to think back to the process of writing those pieces that went on to be picked up by outlets and published in print.

It came down to the work, obviously, but it was also the quality of the process that was put around those particular articles. Few of those articles were rush jobs, looking back at my to-do lists from those particular dates showed me that I had taken the time to perform that shutdown ritual where I had the patience to map out, 1 what the task was, 2 when it was due, and 3 what the parameters for it all were.

Being a freelancer in an ever-competitive media space often makes you feel like you’ve got to be on the button constantly, ready to pitch a story at a moments notice and do it before anyone else, then get it written and out the door within an hour or two so it’s timely.

Some of that might be true, but a lot of it is also complete bullshit. Being timely on a piece doesn’t make it good, keeping up appearances might help forge good relationships, but the real work is often done in isolation where the outside influences don’t help deliver the final product.

You deliver the product, nobody else really holds you accountable if you are a freelancer. If you do deliver and hold yourself accountable to everything that’s involved in doing something of quality, you’ve got to understand that there is some real value in that.

When I posted on Reddit I asked a very simple question to some fellow freelancers.

Would you do all this and not expect to be paid? Would you provide that scoop and a quality, thought-provoking read for little more than thanks and handshake?

Sooner or later, you’ve got to flick that switch and stop beating yourself up over the things you cannot control. Speaking purely from the media landscape for a moment – you’ll likely have a hundred doors closed on you before one eventually opens a bit.

Guess how many times I had to work for free before any doors opened? I estimate that I’ve worked for free for well over three of my six years working in the media industry.

The doors started to open when I focused on the story, not the number of stories. As a freelancer, I’ve so often been guilty of focusing far too much on volume as opposed to value. If you’re motivated by volume and nothing else, you have no room to improve. I want to improve, I want to be the very best I can be at what I do, and yes, I want to feel valued by the outlets I write for.

So if you’re out there and you’re in a similar boat to me, please know you’re not alone. If you know you’re doing all you can then there is your value right there. Please do all you can to ensure your work is valued.