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What makes us scream? We get strapped in to test the science of fear

This feature was originally written for the Daily Star (and an alternate version for the Daily Express).

A BRAVE Daily Star Online reporter gets turned into a lab rat in the name of weird science.

SPOOKED: Researchers used a screening of upcoming film As Above, So Below to find out about how we feel fear [UNIVERSAL]


I have always loved horror films and at an event set up by Brunel University London I got the chance to put my nerves to the test.

Health and fitness boffins at the university wanted to look into how both body and mind react to being spooked.

We all know that, when we’re scared, our heart rate goes up – but is there method to the madness?

Christopher Stock from the Centre for Sports Medicine and Human Performance at Brunel University London decided the best way to find out is have a group of subjects watch a scary film, and observe their heart rate.

Being a subject in an experiment tends to make you feel more like a lab rat than a human, but the heart rate monitor strapped to my chest had me feeling a lot more like a robot.

It was cold, tight, and had a green light that blinked softly every few seconds.

By wearing it I was, technically, a cyborg – which is both spooky and awesome.

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Forget scouring the high street – PRINT yourself a pair of heels or pants!

This feature was originally written for the Daily Star, found here.

IN THE future rather than trawling the rails in Topshop or Primark you’ll be able to instantly print yourself an outfit! Amazing, right? We get the lowdown at London’s 3D Print Show.

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The London 3D Print Show had many things I would expect from a technology expo: slick entrepreneurs with glasses and iPads, large machines whirring away and more references to Star Wars that I’m comfortable with.While the show’s aim was to explore the many ways the technology of 3D printers are enhancing our lives — from car factories to kitchens — I was pleasantly surprised to find a section devoted to style and fashion with some absolutely beautiful pieces on show.

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How I made a mini me: The lowdown on 3D Printing and how you can try it too

This story was originally written for the Daily Star, found here.

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3D printing is technology that sounds both simple and really complex – but we have the info how it works, the cool things it can make and how to try it out.

The 3D printer is tech that I’ve been quietly excited about for years.

The idea of making nearly any object I wanted had me mostly excited to make tiny figurines of video game characters but to buy a printer of my own a few years ago would have set me back thousands of pounds – way too risky for someone like me with a casual interest.

So I was delighted to explore the 3D Print Show, a convention about 3D printing hosted by Adobe, demonstrating how much more accessible the tech has become for the average Joe.

If 3D Printing still sounds a bit mystical to you, it’s more straightforward than you might think.

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Subversion Through Destruction: Embracing The Queer Power Fantasy

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This feature was originally written for One Hit Pixel and can be found here.

Sometimes you just feel like breaking something.

Sometimes, you’ll feel better once you’ve absolutely dominated your aggressors, laid waste to the weak, and are told that you’re a force to be reckoned with. Doing that down the pub on a Friday night will put you in a holding cell, but thankfully we have video games to provide that experience instead.

It’s the power fantasy, being whisked away to somewhere where you’re stronger, smarter and more capable than what you can achieve in meatspace, and you’re awed for it. It’s probably the easiest experience to obtain in our current gaming landscape – almost every action game is about empowerment beyond your normal means.

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However, this empowerment comes in precious few flavours. Either you’re a dashing white guy with a cocksure attitude or you’re a grizzled white guy with a macho attitude.

It’s not random coincidence – the image of the ‘bald space marine’ been an in-joke among gaming enthusiasts for years. To indulge in a power fantasy in a game is to invariably be straight, white and male.

Being only one third of those things, I find those experiences rather restricting in multiple ways. From a purely academic standpoint, having the same protagonists regurgitated is woefully trite. But emotionally, it’s rather chilling – even alienating – to not see someone like you act in a role of power.

As a black person, am I not allowed to see myself lead (in ways other than raw muscle)? As a gay person, am I not allowed to goddamn see myself in any capacity?

Fortunately, Porpentine’s games raise two middle fingers to that, with long fake nails and chunky diamond rings.

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Duelling In The Digital Age: Hearthstone And Online TCGs

This feature was originally written for One Hit Pixel, found here.

Throughout my years, I’ve been a big fan of trading card games. From playing Pokémon in primary school though to drunken nights of Magic: the Gathering at university; it’s something that tickles my gaming senses of collection and customisation. Though admittedly it’s possibly one of the dorkiest past-times this side of LARPing.

Even if you wouldn’t be caught dead at the gaming table of your local hobby store, it’s very likely you’ll soon be encountering decks and duels in your gaming future – trading card games (TCGs) fit astoundingly well into today’s video game market, and developers are starting to take notice.

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Truth or Ludum Dare: How I Survived the Game Jam

Ludum Dare, Indie Games, 10 Seconds, Pizzapocalypse 20XX

This feature was originally written for One Hit Pixel, found here.

Over the last month, I have transformed.

I went into the cocoon as a mere journalist, and emerged as something strange, new and beautiful. A games developer.

The best part is, you can too – all it takes is a mixture of gentle encouragement and a games development event to give you a good hard kick up the ass.

Enter Ludum Dare (The vowel in ‘dare’ is long, like in ‘car’, so my witty headline doesn’t work, but whatever), an indie game making event that happens a couple times every year, and most recently on August 23rd-26th. People from all over, professionals and newcomers alike, step up to the challenge to make a game over the course of a weekend, adhering to a special theme.

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Express Yourself: Being a Fashionista in the Gaming World

This feature is also available at n-Europe, found here.

Self-expression is an inherent part of almost all video games. By simply being a medium where the audience can interact with the work, they’re allowed to make an impact within the game. Even doing nothing at all is technically an expression.

But that viewpoint is pretty pretentious and nebulous. In a practical sense games have two ways most people consider outlets for expression – building environments and player customisation. There are deviations of course, but what you come across in mainstream titles will boil down to one of those two.

To be hyperbolic, building (or destroying) environments doesn’t give me much joy. I know there are plenty of people who spend countless hours crafting the perfect urban environment in SimCity or constructing a golden, penis-shaped fortress in Minecraft, but it’s not my thing.

What I can burn hours on is thorough character customisation – perfect for my egoistic nature. Most games are very mechanical about this (will you put points into attack, defence or custard pie resistance?), but the real draw is the fashionable side.

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Serial Gaming: Fighting Games

This article can also be found on One Hit Pixel, here.

I’ve loved fighting games for a long time. I’ve never been great at them – most of the time I’m not even good at them – but they bring about such excitement and tension. The kind of hollering at the screen you can only manage when it’s about a toe-to-toe duel with larger than life attacks. I’m an ardent pacifist in real life, but in King of Fighters, I’ll stain my hands with your blood.

That said, until very recently, I didn’t quite appreciate how games within the genre have such important differences. At the moment I’m playing Persona 4 Arena, Skullgirls, and Tekken Tag Tournament 2; but I admit that I approach them all mentally in a rather similar fashion.
At their core, all fighting games (the good ones, anyway) follow some basic tenets: movement and spacing, the attack/block/throw strategic triangle, and even how the HUD should look. The other differences feel aesthetic, maybe even inconsequential.
Then I discovered Salty Bet.

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Serial Gaming: Animal Crossing

 This feature can also be found on One Hit Pixel, here.When I committed myself to writing a set of features on my opinions of gaming series, it looked like a cakewalk. But after some thought, I found it needed a more tentative approach. You see, I’d like to say that I am ardently opposed to ‘sequelitis’. In my mind, the greatest gaming achievements are rarely held by sequels (sales figures notwithstanding). Ideally, I would want to say that I don’t have a favourite series, followed by many words about the indie gaming scene.

Sadly, that’s not true at all. I’ll hold my hands up and say that there are a few series where I’ve played most, if not all of.

Today, I’ll talk about one that’s not my absolute favourite, but one I’ve recently clocked as having some genius game design I didn’t appreciate way back when.

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Media Matters: Peaceful days died. Let’s Survive

This feature can also be found at the South West Londoner, here.

Even with my busy schedule, I still try to squeeze in some gaming time. My current vice on Nintendo 3DS right now is Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor Overclocked.

 It’s actually something of an old game – it was originally released as just Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor in Japan and America back in 2009, but never saw a UK release. Overclocked is a re-release for the 3DS, but due to publishing issues, it took a whole two years between the Japanese release and ours, released on the March 29.

The game details an unlikely disaster scenario – a large section of Tokyo is suddenly cordoned off by the armed forces. The government say it’s due to a poison gas leak, but the thousands trapped inside the danger zone know the truth – it’s an invasion of bloodthirsty demons. Knowing that death is constantly around the corner, they try to survive the lockdown for a week, assuming they don’t find a way of escaping. The game’s tagline says it all: “Peaceful days died. Let’s Survive.”

It’s a story that’s surprisingly easy to relate to. Not so much the demons (although the mythology nerd in me appreciates that), but in the character interaction. The main character is rather plain, but his friends and the other survivors he encounters each have their own concerns and different motivations for trying to escape… or stay.

It got me thinking: if I was in a similar disaster area, would I be able to survive? Lord knows how many fellow nerds made zombie survival plans in light of that now overplayed and overrated horror trope.

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