Friday, 20 October 2017

Life Goals and Dead by Daylight

I've written another of those articles where I learn something from a game and ponder the implications for my non-gaming life. This time it's about Dead by Daylight and how the game's Daily Ritual system led me to finding more fun and less frustration while playing. You can read the article on New Normative at this link.



Friday, 13 October 2017

What-If Avenue – OCD Awareness Week 2017

What-If Avenue – OCD Awareness Week 2017

By Casey Douglass


Image used freely from Gratisography

I think I read somewhere that our mind projects meaning out into the world and then responds to the echoes that bounce back. I forget where I read it but I think it’s an elegant way of describing what goes on in our noggins. Of course, our mind can also project meanings on to our internal experiences too, and that isn’t always helpful, particularly if you have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder.

Briefly, OCD is an anxiety disorder in which sufferers experience intrusive thoughts or fears, the obsession part, and feel compelled to carry out compulsions, to try to get rid of the anxiety. The classic example is someone who feels anxious about possible germs or contamination on their hands and feels compelled to wash them over and over. OCD can manifest in almost limitless ways, but that seems to be the most accessible example I can give.

When someone is hit with an obsession, the body reacts in a fight-or-flight way, pumping adrenaline and other stuff around and gearing the person up to enter into combat, or to run like the wind. Sadly, when the obsession is caused by a nasty email, a mundane thing that you’ve only now noticed, or a memory, this kind of response isn’t really ideal. If you are in a truly fight-or-flight situation, your actions would burn through the adrenaline automatically. As far as it happening in a modern setting, you will more than like just have to sit and bear it.

Sadly, during the aftershocks of an anxiety spike, you are most vulnerable to other ones hitting or new stuff arising. I lose count of the number of times I’ve been obsessing about something, gave into the compulsion, felt minutely better for thirty seconds, and then got hit by a worse obsession. This left me regretting giving into the first compulsion and at times, regretting even being born. It’s no fucking way to live I can tell you.

The problem lies in the excellent What-If generator that we call our mind. It’s fantastic for writing horror stories I’ll admit, but when you are afraid of something, and your mind can find fresh new ways to worry about it down What-If Avenue, you are in for a rough time. If you’ve seen Final Destination, the way a possible event has a knock on effect, then another, then another, you’ll probably understand something of what I mean.

Just writing this article as an example: What if nobody reads it? What if I sound silly, What if I’m wasting my time. Now, those What-Ifs are all floating around the central idea of doing this post. Imagine if instead it was something you were really really afraid of. What if I didn’t lock the door and burglars come in. So you go and check the door. You get back into bed. What if the window next to it is unlocked. You go and check, come back. What if I locked it too tightly and the key didn’t do anything, just went around and around. You go and check. What if someone is out there watching me do this checking and is waiting for the light to go out. Etc etc. Now, the What-If about the key really locking the door might sound a stretch too far for a non-OCDer, but anyone who falls down the What-If hole (What-If Avenue is a sod for potholes) will probably recognise that stage. You know it’s probably bollocks, but you have to check “Just. In. Case.” The words that can often rule an OCD sufferer more malevolently than the worst of dictators.

Stressed bodies and stressed minds set up vicious circles of influence over each other, keeping sufferers in that kind of fertile What-If state. There are ways to get through it, and the crux of nearly every one is to do nothing, but do it in the right way. When that first What-If strikes, at least give yourself thinking time before you act and trigger a gush of yet more anxiety. If you are in bed and you worry about a locked door, ask yourself if you can take the chance, just for tonight, of not checking it. You may be in for similar doses of anxiety whatever you do, but by not acting and accepting how you feel rather than fighting it, one dose will mean something, the other would just take you deeper and leave you more prone to the same thought in the future. (I would add that you have to decide the correct risks to take and when; you can never get rid of all risk. If you decide not to check that your door is locked and something bad does happen, that was your choice, so be sensible... and don't blame me. This is why it is best to get treatment from a qualified person).

I think that’s enough for now, as this is getting mighty lengthy. If you have OCD or suspect you do, you should seek help from your doctor or some other qualified person. There are treatments out there, usually Cognitive Behaviour Therapy and Exposure and Response Prevention based, and these are effective in helping you to lead a better life. You may never fully get over your OCD tendencies, but you can reduce them enough to not be so bothered by them. 

I write this post after a hellish week where I felt I was at real risk of relapsing badly. I am still struggling with an overly sensitive body that is jumping at the slightest sound, but I am still here writing this post and moving forward. I know it will pass, and if it doesn’t, I will just do the best I can, as always.


Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 8 October 2017

Insomniac Writing - The Victorian Pervert and Imposter Digestives

Insomniac Writing - The Victorian Pervert and Imposter Digestives

(Scrawled in pen last night at 2 am and typed up now. No lead image because, you know, I'm shattered.)


I rarely suffer with insomnia, but tonight I feel myself unable to sleep, mainly due to a mind that just won’t quieten down and the ruminatory avenues it keeps wanting to stroll along. I accept that, it’s just one of those things.

I read a little more of Grit, a book by Angela Duckworth on passion and perseverance. Ironically, I only get a few more pages chalked off before I find I don’t have the required focus for reading. My brain disengages and flows into rivulets of preoccupation again.

I sit and stare awhile. Mind chatters away. I decide to write down the stuff in my head, purging the bullshit that is keeping me conscious. It flows over 2 sides of A4 and does lessen the load a little. I still feel far too wide awake though.

I turn the light off and lay back down, listening to The Mindful Way Through Depression audiobook I repeatedly listen to in the hope of taking the information in more deeply each time. I manage 45 mins, relax a little bit more. I’ll take that. During this time I did apply my usual relaxation technique (a form of yoga nidra that I personalised and adapted a few years ago). Still wide awake.

Decided to check social media before getting up and going for a pee. Nothing really grabbed me. I know looking at a phone screen is probably harmful for sleep chances but what do I have to lose at this point? I just wanted to spend a few mins looking at a world in which other people were still doing stuff, knowing they were out there.

I got up to go for said pee and found myself catching a glimpse of the Moon. It was very high in the sky so I bent down to get a better look and almost knocked myself out on my TV stand.

‘How did you get that black eye Sir?’
‘I was trying to see the Moon my good man!’
‘Did she have nice ankles in accompaniment?’
‘Verily, they were a goodly distance apart!’

What the fuck? It appears I turn into a Victorian pervert when I’m sleep deprived.

I had that pee, and then found myself at the biscuit tin scoffing imposter digestives. You know the ones, the ones that don’t look like proper digestives but you’d broadly class them as meant to be the same thing. I followed those with a knock-off Nice and a healthy low fat glass of water. Yay for comfort eating.

I lay back on my bed again letting my Buddhist prayer beads trickle through my fingers. I find their grainy wooden texture comforting. I wonder if a bit of mental Om mani pame hum chanting will clear the mind. It does and it doesn’t. I did a full rotation of the beads and got back to the knotty bit again. I threw them half-heartedly across the room. Then I had the idea for writing some bollocks, and here it is.

It’s so quiet at night. I’m not sure if the internal noise of the blood rushing in my ears is louder than the odd sound around me or not. I noticed my nose had gone stuffy. Maybe it was trying to reduce my oxygen intake so I would pass out. Good nose!

I pondered whether to try and create a new swear word. Decided against it. Not sure why now.

I sat like a hunched over Buddha, that if someone entered the room and saw from behind, would think was either dead or masturbating. Maybe he has insomnia you jerk. Lol.

My mind moved to horror survival game Dead by Daylight, which is no real surprise as I’ve played a goodly amount with my good friend lately. I decided I should be more vicious as a Killer, I was losing far too many ranking pips by being overly nice to Survivors. Then I wondered, do paranormal style killers go on holiday? Do they fly? I hope their flights weren’t cancelled too. Is their chainsaw or axe considered carry-on luggage? Oooh matron. Do they get teary eyed when they see the sun rise over the gleaming wing of the plane as it skips over the clouds? Or do they watch something shit on in-flight TV instead? Would any mask or costume get in the way of using the oxygen masks if an emergency happened? I mean, most killers seem to have some kind of breathing issue already, whether it’s not breathing at all, or the raspy sex-pest kind that gurgles down your ear as they chase you.

I’ve been writing for twenty mins. Zoned out a few times there along the way. I did find myself looking at the wood-grain of my bed, specifically two dark swirls that now look like the realistic eyes of a bear. Can’t unsee that, it will stay with me now. Decided to try and drop off to sleep, hopefully to dream of a better life.


(I did fall asleep for a couple of hours. I ended up seeing what it was like to escape in Dead by Daylight by climbing down the escape hatch, telling my mate to not step on my fingers as he followed me down. The hatch is very fucking deep, no bottom in sight. Not sure how the Survivors in the game just leap down. I guess that would be the ultimate irony, escape the Killer, die by shattering bones through 100 ft drop. Interesting dream anyway. Freudian? I hope not.)

Saturday, 7 October 2017

I'm on BBC Radio 4 Again

A few weeks ago I was interviewed by BBC Radio 4's Digital Human about Ritual with relation to video games. The episode, called Ritual, airs Monday 9th October at 4:30pm on Radio 4. I don't know how much of what I said will be used, if anything, but that's where it'll be if they use it. And at this link after it has aired.


I was on Digital Human previously talking about Risk with relation to my OCD and technology use. That episode is here.

Friday, 6 October 2017

Dark Game Review - Inmates

I've written a review of Davit Andreasyan's PC horror puzzle game Inmates. It's a game which puts you in control of someone who awakens in prison, and who then has to slowly explore and put together what is really going on. It's a decent game, and you can read my full review here.


Saturday, 30 September 2017

Gaming Therapy: Using Dead by Daylight to Let Go of Approval Seeking

Gaming Therapy: Using Dead by Daylight to Let Go of Approval Seeking

Written by Casey Douglass




For a long time, I’ve kind of avoided playing online multiplayer games. In large part, this was due to the chance of running into toxic people who always seem to know when to turn up and ruin a good game. I know that a good proportion of people playing games are absolutely fine and lovely, but the ones that aren’t... really aren’t. By this, I don’t mean that I don’t like being beaten by them at whatever the game may be. I might be many things but a sore loser isn’t one of them. In fact, I learn more from losses than I do from wins, so I value what they can give me. When other players lose however, you sometimes need a dustbin lid to hide behind, as there will be quite the number of baby toys flying your way, often with dog shit and other lovely items thrown in for good measure.

It’s just banter you over-sensitive noob!

Yes, sometimes it is just banter, but banter has become a word that is used to excuse some stuff that really isn’t okay. You know when some gobshite spouts something stupid or ignorant in the media and gets slated for it, and all the “political correctness gone mad” brigade appear when they are sanctioned for it? The people that think freedom of speech means freedom from consequences? Well imagine coming across a foul-mouthed keyboard warrior who thinks death threats are just ‘banter’ and you might see the angle I’m approaching things from. That isn’t okay, and I don’t think most level-headed people would think so either.

I have an anxiety disorder and other health issues. It means my fight-or-flight system is extra sensitive, always ready to pump adrenaline into my body at the merest sign of threat or conflict. The moment I see something aimed at me that is harsh or nasty, my body is already reacting and it’s too late to stop that rush, even if logically I can dismiss whatever the words mean. Bodies are tricksie. After the FoF adrenaline rush, my fatigue level hits the roof and I have the pleasure of at least fifteen minutes of a racing heart, tense muscles and other lovely side-effects. I’m used to this, I get through it and it doesn’t scare me. It just really sours whatever I was doing. With this in mind, avoiding any kind of confrontation helps my mental state, but of course, you can’t live that way forever.

It’s just a username / avatar you cry baby twat!

It’s funny how much meaning and connection we feel with our digital selves. Even if we join a game service, create a nickname, and are able to game without ever having to enter any more information, the moment someone insults us, we still feel it, even though they, and we, are just two, probably quite silly sounding, nicknames above rocket cars / warriors / sport players or whatever.

When we make our nickname on a new game or service, it is ‘us’ in a way that logically, I find hard to pin down. I guess it becomes the filter through which we interact with said game, and someone bashing you via that name, rather than your own real name, doesn’t do much to blunt the attack. Then again, our real names are only labels given to us (or sometimes chosen later by us) too. A nickname is just another label we choose to latch on to. Logically, people know it’s just a nickname and that the arguer or troll knows nothing at all about you, but they still find themselves reacting to the bait, whether by getting angry and arguing back, or getting wound up and irritated.

Where does Dead by Daylight come into things? You suck and your writing is bollocks!

A lot of toxicity seems to come from the way that different players have different ideas about how a game should be played. Add this into the four Survivors Vs one Killer dynamic of horror survival game Dead by Daylight, and you have the perfect beaker to mix up a lumpy, salty dose of conflict. You only need to read the first page of the game’s Steam forum to see the kind of topics being raised: Killers giving up because of Survivor behaviour, Survivors complaining that a certain killer is OP, posts moaning about camping, pallet looping and tunnelling, the list could go on. I know this kind of thing happens with any kind of competitive game, and it can sometimes help the developers balance things if they are truly amiss. Dead by Daylight is particularly interesting though, for the ways that people play and the reaction these get from those on the other side.

The developers of Dead by Daylight, Behaviour Digital, seem quite liberal when it comes to the actual rules of the game, I.e. don’t do x or you will be banned type stuff. These mainly fall into the no hacking, no griefing and no sending abuse type things, but as far as how a Killer or Survivor plays, you can pretty much play how you like and do what you need to do to achieve your goals. As a Killer, that means if you need to camp your prey, you do it. As a Survivor, if you have a Killer on your tail that you can’t shake, you can loop around walls endlessly until one of you gets bored or makes a mistake. I think that’s more than fair, but it seems a good number of people don’t.

I’ll still beat you however you play, after I’ve fucked your mom hahaha!

I play as Killer mainly, but I do spend a lot of time as a Survivor, as I find both sides of the game enjoyable. The chat window at the end of the game is tremendous for touching “good game” sentiments, uneasy silence, or enough anger and bile to piss anyone off. Put it this way, as a Killer, if you have a bad game for some reason, such as failing to sacrifice anyone, you will often get “gg” at the end, or mocked with “ez” etc. If you had a game where you dominated and thoroughly beat them, at best you will get silence, at worst, a whole heap of abuse. That’s if they are all even there. As a Killer, some players will disconnect from the game the moment you are about to hook them, to deprive you of the blood points you’d have made by doing it. Thankfully the game does punish disconnects and awards the Killer enough “goals” to still account for that loss, but still, how very petty.

What it boils down to is this: if you play as a Killer and don’t play how survivors think you should play, you are the worst human on the planet. I don’t mean to say all Survivors think this way, but the vocal teeth-grinders I’m talking about here certainly do, and they will let you know it. I play my Killer role in what I feel is a sporting way, because that’s how I like to play. If I hook someone early in the game, after a quick look around to see if anyone is hiding behind a wall waiting to rescue them, I will often leave the area, as there is every chance of catching them again later. If another Killer decides to hook someone and stay very close in the hope of capturing any would-be rescuers, they are more than allowed to do so. Tactics vary, but what the take away lesson seems to be is: use whichever tactics you want to use and play how you want to play.

Killers are easy mode you wankstain! Fuck you!

As a Killer, if I play the way the Survivors want me to play, it’s no fun and not really fair on me. I don’t expect a Survivor to offer themselves onto a hook just to help me, so it’s only right that Survivors don’t expect me to go easy on them or allow them to run rings around me. Right?

So my options were: only play as a Survivor where you get less abuse, play my Killer in a way that will please the Survivors and so avoid the abuse, or play my Killer in the way I choose and change how I frame the abuse. I went for the last option.

I decided to write down any abuse I got and convert it into a Wall of Saltiness. You can read about that here, although the Wall isn’t complete yet, it’s just about the idea. Instead of avoiding abuse, looking at with humour and the satisfaction of a game well dominated, serves very well in taking the sting out of anything that is said. It’s quite amazing how, if you can do it, re-framing something you don’t like into something that you are hunting for with a purpose can actually help. Even in the week or so that I’ve been salt-prospecting, my attitude to the insults and abuse has changed in a positive way, which I think can only be a good thing.

Get cancer and die!

Well-done, you’ve made the cut and are heading to my Wall of Saltiness! Hazzah!


TLDR Summary: Being clear about how you would like to play and re-framing online toxic comments into something fun can help take the sting out of playing with unpleasant people.

Thanks for reading, and have fun in whatever your game of choice is today.

Friday, 29 September 2017

Dark Music Review – The Faceless One

Dark Music Review – The Faceless One

Review by Casey Douglass





The Faceless One is the second part of Ruairi O'Baoighill’s Rueayn Trilogy. I reviewed the first album, Walpurgis, a few weeks ago, and found it to be an occult-infused dose of dark goodness. The Faceless One, takes that mantle and runs with it further down the lane, dishing up another six tracks in a similar vein, along with a couple of bonus tracks thrown in for good measure.

Each track contained on The Faceless One sets the scene for some kind of ritual, whether of conjuration or devotion, and sets the focal sounds in soundscapes that seem to be scraping the edge of hell or purgatory. The first track, Invocation, begins with a maelstrom of buffeting wind-like sound, and it doesn’t take long for the air currents to bring blood curdling screams to the listener's ear, bringing to mind an etheric tornado holding the souls unlucky enough to be inside it captive. The words of the titular invocation begin around the midpoint, but whether the rite is aimed at one soul in particular or the thing that controls the tornado, I don’t know.

Track two, Veil, begins with a single drum beat that rhythmically echoes as it fades. It sounds again, and fades again. An up swell of sound follows, a reaction maybe from whatever is circling nearby, like baiting the sea with chum and seeing a distant fin move closer. That’s quite a good analogy I think, as the sound, besides the hint of whispered voice, sounds a little murky and muffled, a little like being underwater. There are other tones, and the odd chime sounding, that balance the darkness a little, but this felt like a probing, stretching track, the audio equivalent of a face pushing out through a rubbery wall.

Incantation is next, a track that starts with the vigorous sound of some kind of horn. It sounds a number of times before a host of echoing, sacral chanting begins. The tone of the voice rises and falls, seeming to reflect back from unseen corners and strangle angles. There is a hissing sound, snake-like, and a rumbling that creaks around the soundscape. The other stand out sound to me is what sounds like someone breathing, particularly in those moments when the rest of the soundscape falls quieter, a watcher waiting to see the outcome of their actions maybe.

Procession is track four, a funereal soundscape with the sonorous sound of a church bell tolling for who knows who. There is a scratchy string-agitating sound and the occasional gong/cymbal being crashed. The track certainly brings to mind what it might be like to see a host of dark-robed figures wandering deserted streets, the smoke from their censer’s vanishing into the darker shadows around them. It’s the longest track on the album, which further adds to the feeling of going from here to there.

Trancendence is the penultimate track, another gong/cymbal featuring composition, that, along with chanting, seems to feature the mewling of something trying to sing along with the singers. This track brought to mind an old cathedral, the rite happening down below, a strange and twisted thing up in the bell-tower mocking and mimicking the sounds it is hearing. This is one of my favourite tracks, purely for this pleasing idea.

Ritual is the final track, a soundscape that begins with a deep voice chanting, and slowly builds to what sounds like more joining. It sounds a little devotional, and later, the atmosphere of the track seems to react to them, a swarm-like malevolence builds, with thumps and angry energy.

The first of the two bonus tracks is Ceremony, another ‘windy’ drone-led type of track, again featuring a chant, but this one is reedy and hollow, the soundscape itself higher-toned and shimmering. It also features the same sensation created by Trancendence, the notion of something trying to sing along in the distance.

The second of the bonus tracks is Faceless One, a track with a swelling, booming soundscape, the tones and sounds creating a mirage-like shifting effect. It also features a deep guttural voice that sounds clipped and dialled down, suggesting that something is communicating from another realm. Scream-like sounds hang in the air, and the whole thing sounds like the Faceless One is coming to see you. Great stuff.

The Faceless One is another darker than pitch, dark ambient album, one steeped in the miasmic realm that seems to lean so close and yet so far from our every day one. Twisted cries and ritual elements all blend to bring into being something dark and wholly satisfying to enjoy, contemplative and aggressive in equal measure. If you’ve yet to listen to any of Ruairi O'Baoighill’s creations, I urge you to check them out, particularly if you like your dark ambient with occult themes.

Click here to go to The Faceless One on Bandcamp to have a listen and for more info. You might also like to read my review of Walpurgis here.

I was given a copy of this album for review purposes.

Album Title: The Faceless One
Album Artist: Ruairi O'Baoighill
Label: Cursed Monk Records
Released: July 11, 2017

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Dark Music Review – Child of Rage

Dark Music Review – Child of Rage

Review by Casey Douglass




Album Description: The inspiration for this concept album is quite dark and disturbing inspired by the 1992 film of the same name which you can read about here. If you put the phrase into google, you can even find the movie which is recommended watching to further get a sense of what I hope to convey with the 7 tracks on this album. This film invaded my psyche for weeks, even haunting my dreams and it was at that point that I felt that I had to create my own interpretation of the movie. At first, I was going to go for the noise approach but after some attempts, I didn't feel that it worked out so well so I scrapped what I had done and went back to the drawing board and came up with the tracks you're about to hear. Track 4 was inspired by the original music composed for the movie by Gerald Gouriet. Track 5 was inspired by the music of Rasalhague, in particular, his Rage inside the Window album.

I’d not heard of the film that inspired Scott in the creation of Child of Rage, but a few minutes spent searching the web soon showed it to be something that would likely stick with anyone. Unlike a good number of people though, rather than just shrug it off as time passed, Scott created something that channelled his own feelings and ideas, re-framing it with his own take on the subject, and that’s always a very cool thing.

Child of Rage is a dark ambient album that, to me, evoked a kind of 80s horror aesthetic, so even though I know what inspired it, most of the tracks conjured up images from those kinds of films. It makes great use of various tones to create sinister soundscapes that wax and wane, like the light of a full moon might when battling with a heavy fog. Piano notes add melody too, sometimes giving lightness to the mental vistas created, and sometimes adding a hint of chaotic madness as well.

The first track, An Evil Shadow Lurking in the Night, is one of my favourites and typifies what I mean in the previous paragraph, creating and growing a swell of subtle threat that taps into that old school horror vibe. Pulsing bass, high tones, and piano notes stretch the soundscape into something in which you can almost taste the mist and detect the shifting shadow of a silhouette that wasn't there when you last looked. The piano notes turn frenetic and discordant later in the track, keeping a rhythm but adding lashings of mad energy to things. The last part of the track holds a high tone, like a hang-man’s noose waiting for a neck to choke, before quietening into a quieter state of menace.

Rage That Can Kill, the third track, is another I wanted to mention specifically. It begins with a pulsing vibrating drone, a bit like the insane idling a strange kind of hell-machine might make. A resonant tone builds to a fairly steady ‘ahhh’ like sound, a hollowness entering into the mixture shortly after. The crashing of cymbals grabs the attention more tightly, and a high pitched sound pierces the soundscape like a moth being impaled by a pin. This track gave me the notion of a killer finally getting the victim, the subtle lightness that emerges after the violence of the cymbals seeming to hint at the ‘peace’ the victim might now have. This lightness dimmed or soured a little near the end though, so maybe they didn’t find the peace they were looking for.

Track five, Uninhabitable Conditions, is another track with a dark, vibratory opening, but also has a buzzing swarm-like tone. What I most liked about this track was that the whole thing seemed to be underpinned by a relatively fast pulsing effect, every swell of tone or rumble of bass imbued with this energy. It gives the whole track a pace and punchiness that rocks the brain. I enjoyed this immensely.

These were the tracks that I wanted to be most detailed about, but the others on Child of Rage all fit and expand on the themes and textures that run throughout. I will give a little shout out to Dark Repose for its creepy and warped music-box tones though.

Child of Rage is an atmospheric and moody album that, if your brain was a nice bowl of cereal, would pour over just the right amount of rich, hair-tangled blood. Not enough to make the cereal too soggy, but enough to make it something that seeps into the mind in a most agreeable way. Visit the Child of Rage page on Bandcamp at this link for more info and to have a listen.

I was given a review copy of this album.

Album Title: Child of Rage
Album Artist: Scott Lawlor
Released: April 21, 2016


Saturday, 23 September 2017

Turning Online Gamers’ Tantrums into a Wall of Saltiness

Turning Online Gamers’ Tantrums into a Wall of Saltiness

By Casey Douglass


The end screen on Dead by Daylight when you wipe the floor with the survivor scum. That was said in character, obviously. I'm sure they are lovely people just having a hard time of things, and my axe was the cure. Ha ha ha.

‘Camper.’

The word flashes up in the after-game chat and I fist-pump the air.

I’ve been playing Behaviour Digital’s multi-player horror game Dead by Daylight, a game that sees four survivors and one killer trapped on a map, one side needing to escape, one side needing to bathe in the blood of the ones that don’t. It’s very good fun but my word, there are certainly some very toxic people playing it. To be fair, a lot of games have their share of tantrum throwing keyboard bashers, but there is something about the Killers vs. Survivors setup of DBD that throws fuel on those fires. Just check out the game's forum on Steam for a taster.

The problem, as with many games, comes down to people having different views on how you should play the game. I remember playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and seeing the vehement condemnation of anyone that sat in a corner or used cover for more than a second. ‘Camper!’ was a frequent insult thrown around, more than likely by people who felt you should play every first person shooter as if it was Quake or Unreal Tournament. Add into the mix people who seemingly have no idea what camping actually means, or with differing opinions on what camping is, and arguments fly with regularity.

Of course, this type of thing isn’t just limited to camping. In Battlefield 3 I was accused of being a Kill:Death ratio player, just because I was having a good game and had something like 21 kills, 5 deaths. It was whined at me by someone in a tank who couldn’t get it through his or her head that a big tank can be hit from many different angles, and just because you can’t see me doesn’t mean I can’t see you. I think I was called a coward for firing and ducking back into cover again too. I obviously didn’t fit into their view of how my character should be dying easily at their hands, rather than serving up a punishing arse kicking that they were squarely on the end of.

In Battlefield 4, I played as a sniper quite regularly. Oh the cries of ‘Camper!” as I made someone’s head spray red. I could have pointed out that I wasn’t camping as I barely stayed still the whole match. If I did stop, it was only until I got a kill and then I changed position, as snipers are vulnerable if people know where they are and can get up close and personal with them. Instead I took the high road and said something like ‘Booooo hooooo!’ That’s not to say I’m down on campers either, it’s a valid tactic in many video-games, particularly war-based ones. You can bet your backside that if I was being shot at in real life, I wouldn’t be running in circles tea-bagging in open ground, and nor would even the most zealous anti-camper.

By way of a slight trip down memory lane, we come back to Dead by Daylight, a game in which both killers and survivors tend to bitch and moan about how the other side plays. There are lovely people playing too of course, but for the purposes of this post, I’m focussing on the screen-lickers who give fiery verbal at the end of a game.

I play both sides of the divide, as the game lets you have a separate Killer and Survivor Rank, but my heart lies on the Killer side. As a killer, it really does seem that however you play, it isn’t the right way for some survivors. If you hook a survivor on one of the many hooks around the level (your main goal), you have to absolutely run away as fast as possible or you will be accused of camping the hook. Even if you see their three teammates skulking around behind it. You have to practice a kind of unthinking and unseeing that Orwell’s 1984 would be most impressed by. There are other whiny things that get dragged out by both sides, but the crux of the matter is, I was finally called a camper last night, having not even camped, and I always feel accepted by a game community once I’ve had my first cry-baby chat message. What took you soo long DBD?

I’ve decided I’m going to write down any insults that come my way from now on (not who said them, I mean, who cares?) and I will try to collect enough to make a nice image, maybe with one of the DBD characters in the middle, the sniveling words of dejection ghosted behind it. Something like that anyway. I will call it my Wall of Saltiness and it will be tremendous to look at and think of all the gaming experiences I’ve ‘ruined’ for a host of bad losers. I particularly look forward to the really bad ones like ‘get cancer’ and ‘die.’

I don’t mean to say that I will play in a way that will troll people or piss them off. I will just play how I usually do, in a balanced, sporting way, and see what barbs will be flung at me after the match is over. I’m quite looking forward to it, and as my killer ranks up, I’ve been reliably informed that the saltiness after games increases muchly. Tremendous!

If you play any online multi-player games, maybe you could create a Wall of Saltiness too, something to remember your past victories with. Good luck if you do. I will post my own when it is complete. I don’t know how long it will take, but it will be worth the wait I think.

Thursday, 21 September 2017

Dark Music Review – Walpurgis

Dark Music Review – Walpurgis

Review by Casey Douglass




Walpurgis, or ‘witches night’, is a brilliant idea to create some dark ambient around. Ruairi O'Baoighill, a dark ambient/drone artist based in Ireland, has done just that, and it’s certainly a riveting listening experience.

There is a starkness to Ruairi’s tracks on Walpurgis, often seemingly just a few elements interacting or alternating with each other to create dark soundscapes that clutch the mind. He makes great use of vocals, whether in the form of guttural gut-clenching chants or rhythmic invocations to who knows what. He also uses drones and lone drumbeats to puncture the dark bubble that his music conjures, in my mind at least. Throughout the whole of Walpurgis, any mental images that came to me revolved around a small fire, a robed figure nearby and an immense and crushing darkness filling every other part of the space. The effect might be a bit like looking at a photo of the Moon in space, but zooming out until it’s the size of your thumb on the screen. I’m strange, I know.

Walpurgis contains five tracks, each titled with a simple Roman numeral. They all gravitate to around five minutes in length, give or take, saving track five which reaches seven and a half minutes. I felt that each told its own stage of a tale, or rather suggested one.

Track I seemed to very much be an invocation, the pacey vocals and guttural sounds seeming to interact in some kind of battle, the speaker entering into occult conversation with a dark entity at the fringe of the small fire.

Track II seems to be full of whispers and gong-like sounds, maybe containing the aether’s response to the ritual, the performer gaining the attention of the keepers at the gate?

If track II is the response, track III seems to be a reversal of some kind, the banishing of the thing that was called forth. Single bashed-drumbeats and what sounds like shattering metal is joined by ghostly cries and screeches. I saw the fire spitting sparks into the blackness above, and heard a guttural chuntering that hinted at the banishment hurting the thing that is lurking unseen.

Track IV seemed to be a period of respite, the starting drone joining with shimmering notes that rise and vanish again and again. Maybe the caster is waiting to see just what the result of the rite will be.

The last track starts with a warped gong and a muted rumbling, a bit like you might hear underwater during an earthquake. A guttural chant reveals the thing is still there. Ghostly sounds meet with guttural tones (how many times have I said guttural in this review!) as if building to an unleashing of the wrath of something that shouldn't have been called. The more rhythmic invocation begins again near the end, the robed figure trying once more to control the uncontrollable. At this point, you could happily loop back to track one and listen to the whole thing again, seeing it as the figure's second attempt, an attempt doomed to follow the same course. Or maybe we are joining the events mid-loop, the figure and adversary already locked in a sinister struggle for millennia. I don’t know, but I like the thought of it.

I enjoyed the time I spent listening to Walpurgis. I found its various elements conspired to create a surprisingly dark soundscape that grew stronger as time progressed, the twists and variations of these elements seeming to reinforce the feelings of dark energies and abyssal meddlings. Great stuff indeed.

Walpurgis was originally self-released by Ruairi in 2012. This version is a re-mastered release being put out by Cursed Monk Records and comes complete with new artwork. It comes ahead of Ruairi’s new album To See Without Eyes. Visit the Walpurgis page on Bandcamp at this link for more info and be sure to give Track II a listen below:



I was given a free copy of this album for review purposes.

Album Title: Walpurgis
Album Artist: Ruairi O'Baoighill
Label: Cursed Monk Records
Released: March 15, 2017

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Half Way Pitstop on a Dead End Highway

Well, I am about half way through what, awhile ago, I said might be my last business year as a freelance writer. So far, it's been more of the same: struggling to find anything that pays more than a few dollars per hour, or that is something I feel I can do. I've not been able to turn things around so far, and I get the feeling I won't be able to.

I'm trying to find enjoyment in my writing, just for its own sake, but I don't seem to be able to manage that either. I don't really enjoy much of anything at the moment. The best I can hope for is something takes me away from myself for an hour, but of course, when I come back to myself, things just feel worse afterwards. There seems no point to anything anymore.

I didn't share this post on social media, so if you read this, chances are you are one of the three people that read my site, so thank you for reading. The idea behind posting it at all is that I am usually less harsh on myself if I think someone else might read my words.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Dark Game Review – Maize

Dark Game Review – Maize

Review by Casey Douglass




Maize is a PC game that I’d never heard of until it came as part of a Humble Monthly Bundle a while ago. It looked interesting, but it took a period of “not knowing what I fancied playing” to eventually get to it. I finished it yesterday and I’m very glad that I gave it a chance.

How corny!
Maize is a first-person puzzle game set in and around a farm that just happens to grow corn. I know! The difference between this corn and the more usual variety however, is that it talks and moves around. Sciency shenanigans have been afoot, and you, the silent player character, get to run around solving everyone else’s problems, as is often the case in this kind of game.

You will do a lot of walking, but I have to admit that it only became monotonous during a few moments of backtracking. The environment is quirky and strange enough that even when you find yourself lost in the maze of maize created by the cornfields, you probably won’t mind too much. The game has a strange humour that seems to follow you everywhere you go, making you feel a little like you are in some retro 80’s comedy horror or sci-fi film.

A nice little helicopter!
The humour itself did make me chuckle on a good few occasions, but some of it did fall a little flat. I’m a hard audience to please though, I didn’t find Deadpool particularly funny. I know, I’m a freak apparently. Once you’ve met your bad-tempered teddy-bear companion Vladdy though, things improve a little. He has a single tall grappling claw-arm thing that pokes out of his backpack. One of the sentient corn people calls him “A nice little helicopter!” or words to that affect. I don’t know why but that tickled me, especially as the bear is always calling everything and everyone idiotic and stupid.

Some of the non-usable items are funny too.
The puzzles are relatively straightforward, just a case of hoovering up all the objects you find that happen to be collectable (a fact that Vladdy mocks you about on more than one occasion: “Oh more trash!”). Early on, you need to unlock a large metal door. Part of this involves getting a hand print. You find a severed hand but it’s in a protective glove, so you have to put a plug in a sink and use oil you found elsewhere to fill it. You pop the severed glove-hand into this and the hand comes free. Simple. There are also puzzles where you have to make things from a collection of items. This is done by putting them in set spaces on tables or benches. It’s all very clear and straightforward if you have all the objects needed.

Is Hitch-cornian a word?
The game didn’t seem to have a map, so when something referenced going to a certain place, I
couldn’t always think of where it might be. Thankfully the game blocks off some paths at different times, quite aggressively so later on, but makes light of the fact. The game doesn’t take itself very seriously, as you might have guessed by now.

The visuals are fine. They won’t have your jaw dropping in awe but they do create the sense of a strange world, a world of golden maize, morbid discoveries and underground secrets. The audio is just about the same level, although I must admit that the voice acting is very good and should be highlighted as a strong point.

The Queen of the Corn with Little Helicopter.
Maize is a gem of a game that I remembered I owned at just the right moment. I’d been bouncing off other games and generally struggling with depression more than usual. Maize proved to be perfect for me at that time, but even without these other elements, I’m sure it’s a game I’d have enjoyed whenever I played it. It took around three hours to complete, and I found the non-threatening flow of events perfect. There is nothing that can hurt the player, it is literally a story-puzzle game.

Maize was created by Finish Line Games and is currently available on Steam for £14.99. I’m not sure I can recommend it at full price, but if you see it on a decent sale it’s well worth up to a fiver, in my opinion.


Saturday, 26 August 2017

Dark Game Review – Stories Untold


Stories Untold is a PC adventure horror game from developer No Code. It’s a game that channels the spirit of the text-adventures of old, but mixes in a dose of the “bigger picture” in its execution. A simpler way of saying it is that, not only does your character interact with the computer in a given scene, but also the equipment and the environment around it.

The game is split into four short episodes, each taking place in a different location and situation. In one, you might be playing a text-based adventure game in a suitably 80's bedroom. In the next, you might be decoding morse code or following an experimental protocol. Stories Untold is a game that very much enjoys giving the player instructions, but also the help needed to carry them out.

I can’t say too much as some of the reveals and twists in Stories Untold are best enjoyed as the narrative unfolds. All I will say is that there is more going on than meets the eye, and it all comes together quite beautifully by the time you’ve finished it. It is a short game, taking me around two hours to complete, but those two hours proved to be structured and paced so well, I am fine with the short playtime. I try not to judge games by how much play time they might offer, but when money is tight, it does become one of my considerations. Stories Untold sells for £6.99 when not on sale, but when it is on offer, you can get it for around half that, which is spot on in my humble opinion.

Graphically, the game does pretty much everything right: the locations and technology all looks suitably analogue, the objects and lighting all realised in an almost tactile way. The only real criticism I have is the cross-shaped pointer that is sometimes easy to lose track of, and that the clickable zones around some of the buttons and dials you need to interact with aren't always easy manipulate without clicking the wrong thing. This didn’t happen often though, so I don’t want to overstate that aspect.

The soundscape of the game is another element that is very well done, and for the most part, provides the most interesting moments of horror. Thumps and other noises hint at the world beyond the walls that your character can see, the voices of other characters and the suitably retro-soundtrack all creating a fuzzy grainy sense of place. Nothing made me jump, but there is a lovely sinister aspect to the things you will see and hear in Stories Untold, like when you crack open an old VHS video box and smell the air of yesteryear tickling your nostril hairs.

Stories Untold is a tremendous game and one that I am very happy to have experienced. When I got to the end, all I could think about was how great another tale, done in the same way, would be. I was also a little unnerved by how enjoyable I found following the various instructions in the game world. On a basic level, you had to do things in a set way to get through the story, but on a mental level, I found the way I interacted with the game world very satisfying indeed. If you enjoy a good 80’s style horror, I think you owe it to yourself to check out Stories Untold.

Review by Casey Douglass

Friday, 25 August 2017

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Blue Words Under Autumn Skies

Blue Words Under Autumn Skies

Reflective musings by Casey Douglass




Before I say anything else, yes, I wrote “Autumn Skies” even though it’s still August. Autumn feels very much like it is wafting this way, and I’ll defend my right to say so via fisticuffs at the venue of your choosing if you disagree. Hazar!

The blue words element of the title refers to swears, curses and language that would generally get you a telling off from your mum if you said it in her presence. During the last few days, there have been a couple of occasions where I have heard such language, and both times was tickled by some element of the context. If you don’t like bad language, turn back now.

The first incident was while in town. A homeless man was sat near a wall, people dropping spare change into the hat on the ground in front of him. It’s a scene that is sadly all too common, no-one should have to be homeless, not in a country as wealthy as ours. It was then that I heard someone calling him a cunt, which moved my focus somewhat.

A man was pacing backwards and forwards looking agitated and annoyed. He was sputtering and muttering to the people he was with, saying things like “That cunt gets more money than we do!” and “In my day, we didn’t beg, we had the dignity to just die!”. Okay, not that last one, but you get the sentiment I’m sure. What amused me was that this was all seemingly said just out of earshot of the “millionaire” with his little cardboard sign and blanket, because, god forbid the person might hear him saying such bollocks. I’d imagine this was just the kind of guy that goes home and calls people “faggots” when playing online video games. Take away his keyboard and put him face to face with someone and, well, let's just hope his underwear has a good water-tight seal.

The other event happened a day or so later, when I was watering my friend’s garden. I had already found my groove with regards to the order in which to water things: when to use the watering-can, when to use the hose or move it to another tap, stuff like that. I will add that my knowledge of plants is very low. I can spot a pansy at ten yards, but the elements of most plants fall into three categories for me: petals, leaves and stalks/stems. Basically, I was watering a pot of green things that happened to have splashes of colour attached when I heard “For fuck sake!” shouted in the church car-park nearby.

I sniggered. There are few places more inappropriate for swearing than church ground. About the worst I can think of would be an audience member watching a snooker match, and as the ball slowly makes its way up the table towards the pocket, jumps to their feet and shouts “Get in you cunt!”. That would be worse. This was just shy of that benchmark. The expletives continued, something got called a cunt. It was glorious. I think the free-range language belonged to a builder, a van was parked there with names on the side. It wasn’t the A-team at least, their van is noticeably different, and I doubt Hannibal would go for the phrase "I love it when a plan fucking comes together!"

Getting back to the church, on one level, it’s nice that god helps the local economy by getting mortals to fix his churches. I’m sure he could so easily wave a hand and have it self-repair. Another thought occurred to me, related to the swearing once more. What if the vicar was having tea and biscuits with a group of elderly women, a group that had been horrified at the new graffiti on the community center wall. They didn’t even know what a “twat” was until that day. I imagined him calming them, saying it likely wouldn’t happen again, just as the word “cunt!” is shouted through the stained-glass window, much to the ladies’ horror. This is the kind of thought that keeps me warm at night, and the kind that nestles comfortably in my mind, amongst the pornographic fantasies, TV plot-lines and dark spaces that fill out the edges.


Thank you for fucking reading. 

Oh shit, it's contagious!

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Dark Music Review – Alpine Respire

Dark Music Review – Alpine Respire

Review Written By Casey Douglass


Alpine Respire Cover Art

ProtoU (Ukraine) and Hilyard (Maine, US) group up in this field recording heavy collaboration. Alpine Respire immerses you in field recordings from two continents. Warm drone contrasts raindrops and the call of animals in the wild. This damp album invites you to explore the unreachable corners of the Earth. From the harshest mountains to the darkest forests. Recommended for fans of Field Recording and slowly progressing drone.

I do enjoy it when sounds that might normally be calming and relaxing, such as rain, when put into a certain context, sound off and a little sinister. I’m probably weird that way but I can live with that. Alpine Respire is a dark ambient album that sees ProtoU and Hilyard working their magic on a bountiful selection of field recording heavy tracks, tracks that mainly serve up enough calm threat to keep the bleakest amongst us happy.

Wind and rain make a number of appearances on the album, but the most intriguing for me was on the track Boreal Distillate. It begins with a kind of electro-transformer hum but soon opens out into a lovely expansive soundscape in which rain seems to blanket and surround the listener, a chant-like drone and “plinking” echoes are a few of the other sounds that you can expect to hear too. While it might fly in the face of my first paragraph, this track was pure relaxation for me. I’m a bit of a rain slut.

As mentioned in the album description, there are other field recordings beyond wind and rain. Animal and bird calls often appear, from the wolf-like tones on title track Alpine Respire (I say wolf-like as I wasn't sure if they were recordings or electronic notes that took on the aspect of wolves), to the moments of birdsong in Blood Grass Sojourn, they all seem to pierce the soundscapes in different ways, sometimes providing comfort, sometimes threatening to tear open a darker soundscape beneath.

A track that I particularly enjoyed for its level of menace was Cave Lights on the Bay of Bengal. This track starts with a sustained tone that just goes on and on, the other sounds in the soundscape: birdsong, piano notes and a strange “snuffling” sound, to name just a few, all having to compete with the strong thread of this tone’s sound. There are muffled rumblings too, which add some deeper sounds to the composition. Everything about the sustained tone and the sounds around it seemed to me, to suggest a scene in which something is about to happen, and then begins to. A little like looking at a peaceful lakeside view, everything looking normal save for a sound that permeates and taints everything else. I felt it was a very intriguing track, and I would say probably one of my favourites.

The other track that I would mention as a favourite is Final Refugium. It’s another track that makes great use of rain, but this time marries the sound with a melancholy funereal aesthetic. It suggested to me someone wounded or dying, and after days of travel, finding somewhere to finally hole up and await their death. A bit like a bleaker version of Robert the Bruce’s legend, where, instead of watching a spider in a cave and gaining confidence from its pluckiness, the cave dweller settles into a calm acceptance of the inevitable and gives themselves over to peace.

Alpine Respire is a windy dose of wet nature wrapped up in notes and tones that both invigorates and subdues the listener. If you, like me, enjoy your dark ambient with a higher ratio of field-recording than might be usual, you will find plenty of “the real world” to enjoy here. And as I said above, if you like things to sound a little malevolent, or at the very least for them to sit in an uncertain space of safety or threat, again, you will probably enjoy Alpine Respire.

Visit the Alpine Respire page on Bandcamp here for more information, and be sure to check out Cave Lights on the Bay of Bengal below:



I was given a free copy of this album to review.

Album Title: Alpine Respire
Artists: ProtoU & Hilyard
Label: Cryo Chamber
Released: July 25, 2017


Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Rockers Sanguine Release Sun-kissed Video for Breathe

Sheep skull appropriators and venue rockers Sanguine have just released a video for Breathe, a song from their album Black Sheep.

Sanguine
Photo credit: Dan Sturgess
When I reviewed Black Sheep last year, I noted the split between the rawkish heavier tracks and the quieter, calmer offerings. Breathe falls into the latter category, and certainly showcases frontwoman Tarin Kerrey’s vocal abilities. The video shows Tarin walking abandoned sun-kissed streets, shedding both mental and physical attachments as she goes. The music itself sees Sanguine teaming up with Ex in Flames guitarist Jesper Strömblad to create a delicate and spacious backing to Tarin’s vocals, a bit like laying a clean, crisp table cloth underneath a nice meal.

I saw Sanguine when they came to Norwich as support for Mushroom Head, but since then they’ve landed (deservedly too) more great spots alongside the likes of Fear Factory, Skindred and HellYeah. On a personal note, I do prefer Sanguine’s heavier numbers, particularly because Tarin has a tortured screech that would unnerve even the calmest of vicars, but I certainly appreciated their more tranquil numbers when I reviewed Black Sheep. I guess it’s a bit like being beaten up by someone, but instead of them running away, your attacker hangs around and insists on holding ice to your bruises afterwards.

Below is their new video, but click the Watch on YouTube button so that you can give it a decent look. If you haven’t checked out Sanguine yet, you can find more about them on their website at this link. You can also find my review of Black Sheep at this link.


Monday, 7 August 2017

Dark Game Review - PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds

If being airdropped onto an island with 99 other people against which you need to slowly outwit and fight your way to supreme victory sounds appealing, check out my review of the Battle Royale styled PC game PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds. You can find it on Geek Syndicate at this link.


Rummy Granddad and the Glistening Nipple

Rummy Granddad and the Glistening Nipple

By Casey Douglass


Picture used freely from the excellent Gratisography site. It is likely "a" granddad though, not "the" granddad mentioned below.
I went into Norwich yesterday, struggling against the aches, pain and fatigue that follow me everywhere like some kind of lice-infestation. There was a charity run or bike-ride happening which meant lots of glistening crowd barriers and road closed signs glinting in the sunlight. It appeared to be over by the time I was in the area, but there were still plenty of short-wearing sweaty people walking around looking happy. Well done and all that, I thought, but you’ll all be extra hungry and flock to the various eateries now. So I ate an early lunch in an attempt to have some peace and quiet.

After eating and having a browse, I found myself nursing a large 99 flake ice cream. I say nursing in the sense of it needed protection from the hot sun, and I happened to have a safe place close at hand, if only I could get it in there. I was preoccupied with ice cream dynamics when I realised I was walking behind a drunk. He wasn’t someone that “looked” like a drunk though. He looked like someone's granddad who, while out shopping, just thought he’d have a couple of drinks before heading home. It wasn’t until he leaned his left shoulder against the wall, stopped walking for a few moments, then pushed away again that he drew my attention. That, and the sudden bout of singing. Him, not me.

I overtook the rummy granddad, still anxious enough about my ice cream to not want to risk any complications that might arise from being near a swaying old gentleman. I left the narrow road and crossed a footpath. A big dollop of ice cream splattered down my front. “Bollocks!” I hissed. My outburst had all the elements of a shout of rage, except the volume. A curse-word shot through a gun with a silencer on the end. It was then that I saw the glistening nipple. It wasn’t mine. I’m not in the habit of walking around topless in public. It looked like it belonged to a bald woman, a woman standing rigid next to a doorway. It wasn’t until I noticed the lack of arms and eerie lack of movement, that I realised it was an old shop dummy for sale outside an antiques shop. It looked suitably sullied, either from years of being dressed and undressed, or a hard life living with a pervert, I couldn’t tell. All I saw was the price of £48 quid. A bargain for someone I suppose, but I was soon past it and heading down the lane. I had an ice cream to finish after all.