Students, work, anxiety and COVID-19

Lockdown wasn’t good. Being forced to stay in for a prolonged period of time is something very, very few of us had experienced before. However, one positive thing that did come from it, is the fact that everyone was in the same situation, with many of the same problems, and thus could more easily relate to each other.

This was the situation I found myself in when talking to David, a psychology student at the University I go to. David is 20 (the same age as me) and from Redditch, and found himself working in Tesco as covid-19 hit. “When it first hit the news I wasn’t particularly worried, like most people I knew. When you hear about a virus on the other side of the planet, it’s hard to get properly worried until it’s closer to home.”

Of course, after not too long, it did end up closer to home. As cases grew and the virus spread across the country, many of us had to come to terms with how different life would be for the foreseeable future, and not knowing how long that would be provided a challenge for many.

“Yeah, lockdown was where I did start to worry, I guess that’s the same as most people. I didn’t mind too much at first though, I had plenty of things to watch and plenty of games to play. I find that if I can really get into a game then it helps take my mind off of a lot of outside stuff, so that was kind of a way of coping with some of the stress.”

“The toilet roll craze [which he admits he finds funny looking back on] was one of the first big changes I noticed at work. People seemed to be rushing around a lot and the problem ended up kind of self-perpetuating.”

“It got harder as the news got more serious really. When you’re at home it’s a bit easier to distance yourself from the deaths and the cases on the news, but when you’re at work wearing a mask for 8 hour shifts while you see customers ignoring one way systems and not wearing masks it’s hard not to worry for yourself and the people around you.”

Like many, David found work much harder as lockdown went on. “My job changed completely. I’d been there for about half a year so I’d definitely settled in, but it felt like the rug was pulled from under me in a way, as my role in the store changed so much and we had so many more things to keep in mind, you know with cleaning and washing hands and basically being extra careful with anything we did.”

He pauses for a few seconds before continuing, “I think that was it you know, just kind of the ticking up of the news getting worse, becoming less confident and more worried at work and not seeing my friends or family. That’s why I ended up talking to my doctor, I just felt stressed.”

David voiced his concerns about his anxiety and work to his housemate at the time, who agreed with him, and after a fairly short discussion over the phone, he had come to the conclusion that he wanted to leave his job.

“Obviously I knew it was quite a big decision, with so many people losing their jobs it might seem silly for me to have quit, but it felt right. I knew I shouldn’t have been as stressed as I was, but after talking to my friends, doctor and boss, it all pointed towards this being the best decision for me, and that’s why I made it.” He finishes his sentence seeming a lot more relaxed than he started it.

When asked what his plans for the near future were, David chuckled for a second and said “It’s hard to say now isn’t it… with unemployment high and university complications, but all I can do for now is focus on my studies and do whats best for me.”

What I took away from David’s interview was the importance (especially now) of those last five words and their implications. Look after yourselves out there.

The best ‘Eat out to Help out’ deals in and around Cheltenham

In a bid to enourage Brits to return to restaurants across the country, the government’s ‘Eat out to help out’ scheme is now in place. The scheme itself is simple: restaurants opt in to offer 50% discounts from Monday to Wednesday for customers that eat in rather than taking their food out for the duration of August.

But, with so many options, and only a month to take advantage of the deal, where do you spend your hard earned money? I’ll be offering some of my best picks for restaurants and their deals for Cheltenham and its surrounding area.

McDonald’s

Yeah I know, this one’s pretty obvious. But, as much as many like to shame it, its hard to turn down a Maccies at normal prices, let alone one at 50% off.

Double cheeseburgers for less than 80p? Yes please. Mayo chicken for 50p? Don’t mind if I do. Twenty chicken nuggets for £2.30? Say no more. My advice on this one is straight forward: these are the best McDonald’s prices you’ll ever see, fill your boots!

Creams

If you’re fancying something sweet and don’t feel like following the crowd to Kaspa’s, then Creams (found in the Brewery Quarter) is a great choice. They’ve got a wide variety of cheesecakes, milkshakes and cakes all discounted by a sweet 50%.

That means their classic Waffle Royale (with chocolate and hazelnut gelato and white and milk chocolate shavings and sauce!) is less than £5, and at that price I wouldn’t even blame you if you added some cookie dough on top for a pound or two more.

The Coconut Tree

This cosy tapas restaurant is found in St Paul’s (just down the road from Cheltenham’s Brewery Quarter), and offers a wide variety of small dishes to splash out on. Treat yourself to some black belly pork, roast potatoes with caramelised onions with a hint of chilli and curry leaf and a pint of lager for less than £9!

Struggling to choose? No problem, for as little as £10 the house will choose a combination of three of their favourite dishes for you, perfect for a surprise, or that indecisive mate that takes 15 minutes to decide on a starter.

THE COCONUT TREE CHELTENHAM - Updated 2020 Restaurant Reviews ...
Some of the delicious plates available at the Coconut Tree (image: TripAdvisor)

Brewhouse & Kitchen

If you’re looking for high quality classic pub food in a convenient location, look no further than Brewhouse & Kitchen. With it’s numerous burgers, steaks and roasts it’t easy to see why it has been one of the fastest restaurants in the Brewery Quarter to pick back up after lockdown.

Triple meat roast with all the trimmings? Down to £7.50. Not a meat eater? They’ve got you covered there too, with a halloumi burger going for just under £6 and plenty of other vegetarian options. With plenty of lunch choices for under £4 like the chicken BLT sandwich too, you’ll be hard pressed to find something that doesn’t tickle your fancy.

Fat Toni’s Pizza

My penultimate recommendation is Fat Toni’s Pizza, a classic style sit down pizzeria. With it’s vast menu, quality homemade cooking, and cozy eating area it’s not hard to see why it makes the list.

Fat Toni's in Cheltenham
One of the mouth-watering pizzas available at Fat Toni’s (credit: VisitCheltenham)

With large pizzas down to as low as £7 and options ranging from the simple margherita to Noah’s Arc (featuring their classic meatballs) pizza lovers are sure to be satisfied. Plus, with plenty of vegetarian and vegan options as well as pizzas without flour (gluten intolerants are in luck!) there’s no excuse not to give Fat Toni’s a visit.

Boston Tea Party

My last recommendation, Boston Tea Party, is for the breakfast lovers among us. Normally I might not recommend BTP due to it’s fairly high pricing, but it stands out from other cafe chains with its huge breakfast menu, which; thanks to the eat out to help out scheme, is now a steal.

The Boss Breakfast is one of the best around, and for £6 I can’t think of another breakfast I’d recommend more. Plus, with the numerous coffees and vegan alternatives, everyone will find something to enjoy.

So those are some of my best picks for where to get the most bang for your buck in Cheltenham during August’s eat out to help out scheme, feel free to recommend any of your personal favourites in the comments, but in the mean time, enjoy the £1.69 Big Macs!

The Timeless Genius of Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Shining’

If I were to ask you to tell me the name of a horror film, there are a few classics that might come to mind. Psycho, Friday the 13th, Alien, and Nightmare on Elm Street are just a few of the biggest names in the genre. For many, though, “The Shining” is an experience that sits on a pedestal above even these beloved films. So why (as a self-proclaimed film fan) has it taken me this long to watch it?

As soon as the film starts, you can tell it doesn’t play by the same rules as horror flicks today. You are simultaneously elevated and submerged, with a long overhead shot of the Overlook Hotel’s surroundings accompanied by an eerily synthetic soundtrack that combine to create a perfect sense of unease, while all we’ve seen are some mountains.

The film then explains it’s premise with Jack Nicholson’s character in an interview scenario for a hotel caretaker role that will involve five months of complete isolation for him and his family. He is well mannered, friendly, and off-putting all at once, with his non-interest in the news that his predecessor lost his mind and killed his family being particularly worrying.

Ullman's Office | The Shining Wiki | Fandom
Jack Torrance’s interview for the role of caretaker at Overlook Hotel (credit: The Shining Wiki)

From here on out, the Overlook Hotel becomes as much of a character as Jack. I got to know the feel of its winding halls and empty rooms as the film churned on, and it’s hard to think of a more iconic location in horror film history.

We time jump over the course of a number of months, and each time we cut back to Jack, you can see another part of him slightly more unhinged. The little looks he gives his wife Wendy when she so much as mentions leaving his work for a minute. The pounding of a tennis ball against the walls of his make-do office as the camera lingers on his empty typewriter. The promise he makes to his son that he would never hurt a hair on his head, pursued by shrieks as he is tormented by dreams of murdering him.

By never leaving the hotel (aside from a couple of minutes of screen-time following Dick as he rushes to the Overlook) the film creates a fantastic sense of claustrophobia. It’s not just Wendy and Danny stuck in the hotel with Jack and whatever presence is driving him mad, you are too.

The fact that the evil presence in the film is never fully explained only adds to this fear of the unknown. Is it because the hotel was built on an American-Indian burial ground? Or because the last caretaker killed his family with an axe? Was Jack the previous caretaker? Why does a vision he has tell him that he was? Is there some kind of presence at all?

All these questions were flying through my head as Jack chased his family throughout the hotel and into a hedge maze until finally, he collapses in the cold, and freezes to death.

The hotel leaves us with one last gift however. A lingering shot of a photograph of Jack hosting a party at the Overlook, dated July 4th 1921, 50 years before he arrived.

At the End of “The Shining,” Why is Jack in the Photo of The ...
The final shot of the film, dated July 4th 1921 (credit: thetake.com)

My life during Coronavirus

In case you hadn’t noticed, there’s a bit of a bug going around at the moment, and since the messy-haired bloke on the TV told me to stay inside until I’m told not to,  I’ve found myself with a lot of time on my hands.

Because of this, I thought it might be interesting for anyone who stumbles across this piece to get an insight into how I’ve been keeping busy during the biggest threat to humanity since the second world war (plus it’s something to do to kill time).

Unlike a lot of my friends, I’ve stayed in Cheltenham (where I go to university) to isolate. This is partly due to the fact that I could see myself losing my mind spending anywhere from three weeks to six months (who knows?) locked up with my family, but also because I have to be available to work.

Usually I work in an M&S cafe on weekends, but since the messy-haired man said they can’t stay open anymore, I’ve found myself working ‘on the front lines’.

dday landingsfood hall
The front lines then vs. now 

75 years ago that might’ve meant storming the beaches of Normandy but luckily for me, today that means being sat at a till in a supermarket.

In a way it’s actually been quite a nice change. Instead of having what seems like an endless supply of Janets charging in asking for coffees (you’d be amazed at how passionate people are about their M&S decaf lattes) I get to chill at my own desk and serve customers as they trickle through our ‘one in one out’ system.

Plus, I get to feel good about myself while I do it (“it” being the easiest job I’ve ever had), with every other customer saying thanks to me because the messy-haired man on the TV described me as an ‘essential worker’. I even got tipped a hugely generous 60p in the form of twelve 5p coins the other day.

My only remaining housemate (the others aren’t dead or anything, they just went home, don’t panic) also works on the front lines, and when we aren’t putting our lives on the line by scanning crisps and packing bags, we’ve been keeping busy at home.

If you’d had told me 3 years ago that there’d be a period of 3 weeks (minimum) where I had to stay at home with one of my best mates, I expect I would’ve probably snapped your hand off at the chance to play as many video games as possible.

Now though, I wasn’t as happy, but I wasn’t too bothered either. I really miss going out and being able to physically see my friends, and to be honest I just want to see more than 5 people in the high street.

netflix
Services like Netflix have made isolation a much easier experience for many

But nonetheless, with Facetime, 3 consoles in the house and access to Sky, Netflix and Disney+, I can’t see myself getting bored anytime soon, even with the seemingly infinite void of time to fill. Who knows, maybe I’ll even stop procrastinating my uni work.

Multiple remasters reported as Nintendo celebrates Mario’s 35th anniversary

One of entertainment’s most iconic characters had their 35th anniversary recently, and it looks like Nintendo are planning something big to celebrate.

Mario has been a staple of the video game world ever since his introduction in 1981’s ‘Donkey Kong’ (where he was creatively dubbed ‘Jumpman’) and has featured in dozens of critically acclaimed games across four (!!!!) decades.

Featuring on every Nintendo console since the character’s introduction, Mario games have played a colossal role in the development of the medium as a whole, with Mario 64 being what many believe to be the first ‘true’ 3D game to hit the mainstream market back in 1996.

Now, in celebration of the character’s stellar history, reports are indicating that Nintendo are intending to re-release some of Mario’s most acclaimed 3D games for the Nintendo Switch.

mario odyssey on switch
Mario Odyssey is the only current mainline 3D Mario game on the Nintendo Switch

According to leaks, Nintendo plans to re-release three of Mario’s most-loved 3D games, the previously mentioned Super Mario 64 from the Nintendo 64, Super Mario Sunshine from the Gamecube, and Super Mario Galaxy, which featured on the Wii, still the second best selling console of all time.

It goes without saying that this has generated gigantic levels of excitement across the entertainment world, and with all three classic games receiving Metacritic scores of over 90, it is easy to see why.

Not only will this be a great way for long term fans to be able to experience some of their favourite games again, it will also be a fantastic opportunity for younger players to try them for the first time.

With the Nintendo Switch, Nintendo has it’s most successful console since the Wii, and it’s easy to see why. Despite being relatively under-powered compared to it’s competitors, the Switch has taken the market by storm since it’s introduction in early 2017, thanks to it’s ability to be both a portable and home console, and it’s killer line up.

With games such as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of  the Wild, Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash bros. Ultimate, Nintendo have made the console an easy sell to millions of players around the globe, and these re-releases look to only enhance this pull-factor.

Not only are Nintendo looking to re-release some classics, but the same leaks hinting at these remasters has also stated that the beloved developer has plans to announce several other titles in the Mario franchise, including one from the long ignored Paper Mario series.

As well as this, 2013’s Super Mario 3D World will be re-released as well, but in a ‘deluxe’ version; similar to Mario Kart 8’s Switch version, which will include a small graphical upgrade and some minor gameplay additions.

mario kart 8 on switch
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe was released on Switch in early 2017 and has sold over 22 million units

The official announcement for these releases is expected to be made by Nintendo alongside details of their new deal with Universal, which will bring with it news of a Super Nintendo World theme park, and a fully animated Super Mario Movie (which will hopefully not be a repeat of the disastrous live action film from 1993).

The official reveal for the celebration was reportedly intended to be revealed at E3 (the games industry’s largest annual convention) this year, but with the show being cancelled due to the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic they have been forced to rethink their original plans.

Many believe these reports to be true not only due to the reliability of the sources, but also how Nintendo treated Mario’s last milestone in 2015, where the character celebrated his 30th anniversary.

The franchise was licensed for many popular brands such as Hot Wheels and Trump cards, along with a release of the hit game Super Mario Maker in September of that year, exactly 30 years on from the original game’s release in Japan.

When asked to comment on these reports, Nintendo said that it “does not comment on rumour and speculation.”

This behaviour also aligns with what the company’s director Shigeru Miyamoto said in a recent interview, where he said that “[Nintendo] will be collaborating with various other companies. If we’re able to accomplish that, we can create more opportunities for people to make contact with our characters on a much larger scale than usual.”

Who am I?

Hi, my name’s Will and I’m a first year journalism student.

I’ll be posting various things about films, games and other media I’m interested in consuming and talking about, along with any assignments I’m given (which will hopefully be the only reason I ever talk politics on here).

I hope you like what you read and maybe stick around for more rambling in the future!

Review scores are dumb

You spend hours writing/filming/editing a review, publish it, and within minutes have people in comment sections telling you, you have no idea what you’re on about because you put a number at the end that isn’t what that reader/viewer had in mind, even if they agreed with everything you said.

‘You say all these positives and it still gets an 8.7?! What earns a 10 then???’ is a typical comment I see on various film or video game reviews and I really don’t get why people care.

You watch the review, you listen to the points, you decide if you agree or disagree with them and by the end of the video you’ll decide if your opinions line up with the reviewer or if they don’t know what they’re talking about. That’s the logical process of consuming a review of any type.

Some people seem to have added another step to this however, that goes something like: ‘check the final score, and if it isn’t exactly what I think it should be; despite how much I’ve agreed with the reviewer up until now, disregard everything they said and leave an angry comment with “fuck” included at least 3 times’.

The comment below is a typical example of another attitude to scores, being that they are all reviews exist for. This guy simply skips to the end, sees the score with absolutely zero context or meaning, puts it in the comments and gets a huge 2,300 upvotes for it.

A Youtube comment on IGN’s review of the most recent Call of Duty game review

But not only do review scores not add to any interesting discussion, they can also be confusing.

With so many outlets with so many different scoring systems, a 7/10 means seriously different things depending on where you go.

With IGN, a 7/10 is a fairly bad score, with them rarely going lower unless the subject of the review is particularly awful, whereas if someone like Youtube reviewer AngryJoe gives a product a 7/10, that means that, that game/film is in his opinion good, almost great even.

Aggregate sites such as Rotten Tomatoes don’t help either. If you see that ‘based on critics’ reviews’ Black Panther received a 97%, you’d assume that, that film is damn near perfect, with almost perfect scores across the board.

Black Panther’s Rotten Tomatoes scores (screenshot taken from http://www.rottentomatoes.com)

However what this actually means is that 97% of critics scored the film more than a 60% ‘Fresh’ rating, meaning that the film could be just pretty good, and if all reviewers are in agreement on that it gets a 100% (Black Panther mainly received 4 star ratings from mainstream sites).

Additionally, large media corporations like IGN have dozens of reviewers on the go at once, with opinions varying from person to person. This leads to more Mensa IQ level comments like ‘IGN gave the Last Jedi a 9.7, so I don’t trust anything they say anymore’, which equates to ‘One reviewer at IGN put a number I don’t like on one review so now none of you have any credibility in my eyes but for some reason I’m still in the comment section of your videos’.

Anyhoo, for those of you who skipped to the end of the article looking for a number, I give review scores a 1.79287/13.

Red Dead Redemption 2 Review

Red Dead Redepmtion 2 is a very rare kind of game. It’s one of rare quality, beauty and inconsistency. It is a game I adore, that was my favourite game released in the whole of last year, and yet it’s also one that I can completely understand someone putting down 3 hours in.

I cannot think of another game where I have cared as much for it’s main and supporting characters, nor where such a surprising amount of it’s missions felt so restrictive and dated in contrast.

Arthur Morgan patrolling the game’s main city Saint Denis (official promotional screenshot from Rockstar Games)

You follow Arthur Morgan, a trusted member of the Van Der Linde Gang; able to switch from a caring and compassionate father figure to a terrifying brute who doesn’t think twice about beating a man half to death in front of his family to collect a debt, in a world where they are less welcome by the day, chased across the country as civilisation spreads across America and the West at the end of the 19th century.

Every member of the gang has an impressive amount of characterisation, and I was amazed by how much I cared for characters that ended up as villains in the first game (RDR2 being a prequel), where you play as another member of the gang, John Marston, as the government force him to hunt down his former family.

The leader of the gang; Dutch Van Der Linde, is just as interesting and important to the plot. Having played the first game, I saw how barbaric and insane he ended up after his gang collapsed, and his descent from charismatic leader to a desperate, selfish and brutal madman is enthralling, with the player constantly guessing whether he ever truly was the caring father figure he seemed in the early parts of the game, or if it has just been an act used to charm his followers for personal gain.

Arthur (left) Dutch (center) and some of the gang preparing for trouble (official promotional screenshot from Rockstar Games)

Pretty much all the activities found in the first game return improved, with bounty targets receiving more characterisation  and hunting and gathering being much more complicated, with different qualities of pelt and certain weapons required for certain creatures.

However this is where the most contentious part of RDR2 comes up; its obsession with detail. Horses must be fed, brushed and cleaned, guns must be maintained, and Arthur must also stay clean, fed and warm.

I enjoy this, it makes the game feel more realistic and adds hugely to the wild west fantasy, however, plenty of players don’t want this baggage in their games, especially with every little action having an animation you have to watch (picking up every item separately when looting boxes and houses leaps to mind).

Additionally, Rockstar has left in their trademark slogs to the start of every mission, where you go to the ‘starting point’, only to have to ride for another five minutes to where it actually starts, as Arthur converses with his accompanying gang members on how they’ll end up holding off against hundreds of policemen for the hundredth time.

These repetitive missions (along with their absurdity, with your final kill count in the thousands) and overly restrictive mission boundaries that force you to reset every time you put one foot out of place can cause tedium, however the narrative motivation and satisfying shooting kept me engaged.

I have disagreed with scoring games for a while, feeling like it cheapens the worth of a review when many readers (myself included at times) simply scroll to the bottom to see the number given rather than checking the reasons, and I feel that with this game more than ever.

The entertainment and emotional impact it had on me is something truly special, but whether you are willing to put up with all the baggage is completely up to you as a player.

I give Red Dead Redemption 2 a ‘I really, really loved this game but there’s a fair chance you won’t’ out of 10.

 

My First Music Festival

With festival season fast approaching I thought I would reminisce on my time at Reading 2018.

Until last year I never thought of myself as a festival person, with all the camping and waking up before 1pm, but after seeing how much fun some of my friends had at Reading the previous year, I thought I’d try it.

We arrived on the Wednesday afternoon two days before the actual music started to get a good camping spot.

I was pretty skeptical about how necessary this was, but when we arrived at about 12pm it felt like the festival had been underway for days.

Seemingly any half space had been occupied and we had to build a pile of rubbish in the center of our circle of tents to stop anyone from setting up there. By Saturday, half the paths around the site were hidden by desperate festival-goers looking for any kind of space to stay.

The first two days were just about exploring the festival and the town center, until the first act was on Thursday night, and my first taste of proper live music was utter shit.

Despite this being a really low-key performance, it was absolutely rammed due to it being the only act on. This meant the crowd was huge and only a quarter of it actually got to hear the music since the levels were all wrong, with most of us just hearing bass.

Luckily the music really picked up on the Friday and Saturday, with headliners like Post Malone, Dua Lipa and Travis Scott all bringing great performances.

Kendrick Lamar also headlined on the Saturday night, but me and most of my friends prioritised getting a good spot for a trio of drum and bass DJs called Jauz, Netsky and Slushi who were on after Pendulum.

It was one of the best and most exhausting nights of my life, and I was able to head home the next day feeling like I had the full experience, despite not seeing any acts on the Sunday.

This year I’m hoping to go to NASS festival with some friends from home and uni, but after last year I hope I’ll return to Reading in the future.

Top 4 things you need to know about Borderlands 3

Borderlands 1 and 2 are some of the highest rated shooters of the previous console generation, and with the third installment coming thick and fast, it’s time you caught up with everything necessary to be ready for its release.

Image result for borderlands 3 box art
The absurd box art for Borderlands 3 (Gearbox Software promotional material)

When and where can I play it?

Gearbox announced that the game will be released worldwide on September 13th on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and (controversially) the Epic Games store on PC, despite previous entries being on Steam.

What kind of game is it?

The Borderlands series is the originator of the ‘shooter-looter’ genre, which basically involves exploring various environments, blowing up anything that moves, picking up any weapons those things drop, and doing it again. This is all while a story is happening, and you are improving your character with various abilities and moves.

Promotional image of a player taking on some unfriendly wildlife

 

Story? What story?

Borderlands’ universe revolves around the search for loot, and more specifically, Vaults. These Vaults are sought after by Vault hunters (you, and the protagonists of the previous games) and various bandits and evil corporations. At the end of the previous game we discover that there are hundreds of Vaults on various planets (we previously only got to explore Pandora) and in this game we are on a quest to discover the locations of these Vaults and take whatever we can find, all before a cult called the Children of the Vault beat us to it.

Who can I play as?

Borderlands 3 will have four playable characters like the last two games (ignoring additional ones added after release). Amara the Siren who focuses on close quarter combat, Moze the Gunner who has a giant robot that assists her in battle, FL4K the Beastmaster has a number of animal friends to give him a hand, and Zane the Operative who has multiple abilities from previous games, such as going invisible or drones that attack enemies.

Borderlands-3-screenshots-14
Amara and Moze in one of the game’s new vehicles (Screenshot taken from the reveal trailer)

So now you’re up to speed with whats going on with Borderlands 3, you’re ready to jump right in when the game releases in September and get to creating explosions!