RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic

In 2012 I did a five-part run down of my favourite computer games as a top ten. At the pinnacle was two games – RollerCoaster Tycoon and RollerCoaster Tycoon 2. I wrote about how I’d spent hundreds and thousands of hours sinking time into the games like I should have sunk into my studies. I avoided friends to play it. I would play it with friends who would let me. A lot of my fondest memories are around that game and the time that I played it; youth, lost friends and high school wrapped up inside a game that crawled into my life and has never let go.

 I have played it a lot as an “adult”. I installed RCT2 onto an old laptop a few years back and sunk time into it again, enjoying building rides and gathering amused glances from Connie every so often. We’d sit, Frank at our feet, whilst she watched some Netflix show I wasn’t into and I’d kick back with a few hours of theme parks. The laptop is an old one – not even Google Chrome runs on it – and since we’ve moved I’ve not had a chance to open it up again to see if it works anymore.

There were three “main” instalments in the series that I played. RCT1 and 2 got heavy playtime in my house and my laptop, but the earnstwhile RCT3 was too complicated for either the family computer or the laptop at the time. I could never get into RCT3 either, for it just didn’t quite match the style of play I’d become so engrained with from the titles before. At somepoint, the game was lost amongst the end fo the Age of the PC, and no one could see it really coming back. Atari, the company who licenses the name from the original creator Chris Sawyer, couldn’t get a new game together again. Instead, they released the odd and simply awful RollerCoaster Tycoon 3D for the 3DS inexplicably, and then a few years ago released RollerCoaster Tycoon 4 Mobile (which is a 4 = “for” pun I can only assume, as it was not at all a game worthy of the name.

They then announced a full sequel – RollerCoaster Tycoon World – and that it was to be the great return. It wasn’t. In fact, it is a bit of a scandal really, being released into what is called “Earyl Access” which basically means letting people pay for a game that’s still not ready to be played yet. I also can’t play it anyway, without a Windows PC to play the game on.

Imagine my surprise then a few days before Christmas when in my Google Now feed (or whatever that fancy Android thing where Google suggests you news articles is called these days) I see an article for something called “RollerCoaster Tycoon Classic”. I click through, and it appears as though my dreams have been answered.

RCTC is as close to the original games as you’re ever going to get. In fact, it’s probably better, for a few reasons – the first being it’s literally a straight rip of RCT1 and RCT2 for your phone or tablet, complete with all the original rides, scenarios and gameplay that the original series had. It also features a few new features, that only long-time fans will notice, like the shops and stalls spinning round to match the pathway their next to, or new track pieces for some rollercoasters. It’s like a best of of the two games, and that’s no accident – the original creator of the game, Chris Sawyer, is right behind this port of the game.

It plays perfectly fine on the touchscreen too. I have a Nexus 6P, which is a big screened beast, and it manages to control the graphics and the gameplay well considering the screen real estate needed to make the game work. In fact, it feels perfect on the screen bar on thing – the delete button is just too small for my tastes, and building structures, a key component of RCT2, is fiddly compared to the original game’s.

But yeah, I love it. I’ve already sunk hours into it whilst Etta sleep on me. I have completed nine scenarios since I started playing it, and all the old “tricks” work fine. I came close to missing one of them, but still passed it.

If you’re an old fan this is the game you’ve been waiting for. I know it’s the game I’ve been waiting for. I’d be very interested to see them make a sequel to this game now – or maybe an expansion pack with a raft of more modern rollercoasters and rides, but that’s wishful thinking considering the effort required to make all the assets for the game. But we can dream.

A Plan

It has been near enough six months since the “UK” voted to leave the European Union. Since that rather odd day loads of strange things have continued to happen, not least of all the US election resulting in what might be in a year of shockingly idiotic democratic decisions one of the worst. I, of course, declared myself for remain. In fact, I am what the media/blogs are calling a Remain-Yesser, someone who voted Yes to independence and Remain in the EU, and both of those went the other way for me. I should be dejected and annoyed, but instead like many I am vitally engaged.

The plan for Brexit is one of the most laughable things in recent history. I recently watched the Armando Iannucci movie version of Thick of It, In the Loop, and it was still blisteringly funny. It might be better than any series of the TV show (but the two-part specials (Spinners and Losers/Rise of the Nutters might be better as a relatable arc). I adore Jamie, the “angriest man in Scotland”, who nails some of the best lines in both the TV show and the movie:

“shut it, Love Actually!”

“Are you a horse? Are you a ---king horse?”

“Oh, you know me Malc, kid gloves but made from real kids”

I’m getting side tracked by something that doesn’t depress me. Back to it. The point is that the idea of a huge policy decision with no actual, you know, policy behind it, is lifted straight from the notebooks of the creators, left under the heading of “This is too unrealistic, shelve it”. It’s actually happening. This is real life.

The “plan” is that Brexit means Brexit, which is going to be the idiom of our time. The brilliant thing is that it means literally nothing. “Brexit” is a fake word. It has no history. It has no definition beyond what we define it. It’s like saying “Preebu means preebu” – I just made it up, but that doesn’t make the sentence make any sense, despite it being correct, I guess – the key thing is that you don’t know what it means unless you know what it means. The point is that the UK voted based on a question that can means lots of different things or nothing at all – does the EU membership also mean the free trade area? Does it also mean the Economic Area? Does it mean that every EU “national”* living here will have to leave, and we’ll have to take back all those filthy emigrants?

No one knows.

It appears that literally no one knows, not even the government. They don’t even know how they are going to activate the clause to leave. Theresa May’s ministers have repeatedly intimated that Parliament will have to vote on the Article 50 bill which will act as the withdrawal statement. That makes quite a lot of sense constitutionally, but there are problems with this approach if you’re trying to force through policy that is ill-thought-out, near devastating to the wider UK, and one that many people disagree with – they will debate it, get a chance to change it, and can even vote it down. That’s kind of the point of our system of government, but it doesn’t play well into a decision like Brexit where no one really knows what’s going to happen or what it actually means.

I mean that too – no one defined what we were leaving in real terms. In the IndyRef the Scottish Government laid out all their plans leading up to the independence day (sadly, that would have been this past March) in a huge white paper. It was flawed in many ways – currency being a huge one – but the point was there was a plan. A solid plan that could be debated. It was ready to be implemented the moment the UK was told to jog on. David Cameron’s government arrogantly/haphazardly thought it was never going to be a leave vote, and didn’t do any preparation it seems, and then jumped ship shortly afterwards.

The point is that having no plan is obvious to everyone else and weakens your position, especially when you’re already backed into a corner. The approach that the UK seems to be taking is to not tell anyone their plans to stop weakening the negotiating position, but that logic makes no sense. Think of it like buying a car (which we are about to do, RIP Passat).

“I’m buying a car” you say.

“Okay” says the salesperson “what type of car?”

“A car” you reply.

“But, what size? What model? What’s you budget?”

“A car means a car” you reply. Again.

“But, I need to know more than that” the salesperson responds.

You can see how you’re probably not going to get shown the best models and the best prices when the other party doesn’t know what you want. You’ll be sold the worst car on the forecourt, and there’s nothing you can do about it. The other problem is that the other party in the EU negotiations actually know what the UK wants – the impossible mix of everything and nothing, something that no one would even entertain.

Yesterday the Scottish government announced their plans. Scotland voted to remain in the Unions twice, the first time on the idea that a No meant Remain, and now that that means Leave a lot of people are angry. The sentiment in Scotland is certainly interesting – asking people to choose between two things they think they have already chosen decisively is going to be a tricky sell by the SNP, but they’re playing the game quite well, proposing a UK system that is certainly reasonable and definitely possible but near enough political suicide for the UK government to attempt to broker, which means it plays into the narrative that the UK doesn’t listen to the Scottish will. That’s actually true, by the way – Scotland voted entirely to remain (under the system’s rules, constituencies might have voted differently) and that all parties in the UK “support” the EU (the post-Brexit motions confirm this) it’s going to be hard for the Unionist parties to ostensibly stay that way without also butting up against the idea that they’re siding with the bad guys again.

The plan has also roundly been derided by May which is obviously the whole point. The SNP have a mandate to pursue the right route for the people that voted for them and voted to Remain whether unionists like it or not, and that’s a fact. The other fact is that Scotland’s not going to get that plan and the UK are going to take Scotland out the EU no matter what, and there won’t be a bill.

So here’s what’s going to happen. If you were a No-Remainer, a Yes-Leaver, or a No-Leaver, you have a choice to make. The UK outside the EU or Scotland outside the UK.  

Time for a new plan.

Everything is Different

 Everything is different. I mean, of course it is. But to have it formally confirmed is something of a strange slap in the face. I didn’t expect it to be exactly the same, but when things are so vastly different it does creep up on you like a little inch at a time, and then wham, you’re suddenly reminded that each human on the planet is their own identity, their own unique little kingdom.

Etta is of course wonderful. Alarmingly so. Connie and I talked before having a second child seriously about “How can you love a second kid as much as your first?”. How is there is enough space in your heart to make that possible? The answer is it just is. My heart just got larger and more space was created, and the love doubled. Actually, I might feel it stronger than ever before, because all of a sudden there are interactions between these two little children that I created and I am responsible for. They share moments, create memories, and laugh and play already, and it’s only been a month.

Everything is different though, so where Joni slept strongly from a few weeks old, Etta struggles to get down for any length of time. She finds her most comfortable position on my chest, nearly flat, as I sit up watching movies. Connie goes to bed and I give her a few hours extra sleep while I watch movies I’ve missed. You know what was good? Louis Theroux’s Scientology Movie. My week movie buddy sleeps soundly though even the most raucous of laughter, squirming only when she is getting more comfortable. That might sound like a chore, but I love snuggles and these are precious ones. Onces that won’t last, and I’m so happy to have them back again.

Joni didn’t do this – she didn’t really like being held, presumably down to her terrible excema. She was a solo sleeper, preferring to be rocked to sleep and then left to sleep on her own. Etta is the exact opposite. Same with movement – Joni didn’t enjoy being on her stomach at first, which we put down to the huge lymph nodes in her neck that were inflamed for literally two years, only recently having gone down. These were inflamed due to her reaction to the excema, and tilting her head up probably hurt. Etta can spend twenty minutes on her belly, and only a few days ago manage to turn over for the first time.

The challenges of having two are large and constantly new to us. That’s going to take a long time to get right and sorted. It doesn’t help that we lost one of the cars, which is a whole other story for another time. But after a few months of very little to write about, the year will end strong. Because, despite everything being different, everything is also the same, isn’t it?

Bad Man

A year and a half ago I started writing a post about Men. The bad men that you encounter every single day that most of the time you just blank out. They're the men who have never had their minds expanded by being told about the male privilege that they were born with, one that over my life and the last ten years I have been told so much about it and felt pretty bad about things that I have done and constantly subconsciously do all the time.

See, these men don't know that they're doing things that make women uncomfortable. They stand too close to women, skip queues without noticing it, standing in the way of prams and children, parking in parent and child spaces without a single second thought. These men are all over the UK and are of all classes and creeds. The man that spurred the blog post I started was tutting at Connie about Joni being a little rowdy in a pub in St Andrews. He wasn't tutting at me - the dad and the other parent there, but was tutting at Connie, the woman, and then ignored my gaze when I turned round.

Being a father to two daughters now terrifies me, because men are fucking horrible. Of course, #notallmen, but man, men are terrible and have been terrible for years. I look at the women in power in the UK, and see two wildly different styles of politics but two women who have managed to get to the top of their fields. The thing is that there is now a man in charge of the US that feels quite differently to that, and has empowered a lot of the bad men that I dislike. 

In the end the world is a terrible place that needs work. It always needs work. And to get to the places and the types of things that you value you have to wade through shit, and this is my shit - two daughters in a world ruled by Bad Men, and that fucking terrifies me. It always will.

But then again, Etta and Joni are my world. What happens outside that is a long way away. A full three presidential terms away. So there's time to make the world change and be better.

Boiling

I have disconnected from the news for much of the year. It has depressed me and forced me off my personal Twitter, as it was annoying me more than enriching me. I am so happy to not be on Facebook for it appears to be even worse. 

A few days ago out of rage and annoyance at several newspapers I ranted on my Monday Graveyard twitter feed to presumably a few hundred bemused ambient music fans. I have since decided to forgo the politics and try and remain on point, but have failed since last Wednesday's events. 

I post the series of tweets here as a blog post because they are true and real words that I have struggled to articulate in a full post. 

 ---

This country is at its absolute lowest. An absolute fucking disgrace. It is insane that the word "foreign" is now used pejoratively. My wife is fucking foreign. She's an immigrant. The insanity is that people don't see her like that because she's white and Canadian. If the press and the right wing feel they have been emboldened you can only imagine the rage and protest alighting inside me.

This is something I thought we had got past. Something we had managed to grow up and mature out of. But nope, seems like it was waiting.  ust waiting for the right time to come back stronger and empowered, validated by a useless PM and an even more useless government.

And the worst thing I'd that if you disagree your labeled antidemocratic and smeared widely. Fuck this place.  Anyone reading those headlines today, realising what we voted for as a country, and then laughing at Trump should be twisting in pain. 

We are no better. 2016 appears to be the annus horribilus for western democracy. Thing is - it can apparently only get worse.

--- 

And on Tuesday in the states it inevitably did. Ugh.  

Good guy Body in the Thames replied back with some words of wisdom and comfort.  

 --- @BodyInTheThames 

Keep fighting dude. Here's my take; In order for love to blossom borders must be removed. For an international movement based on anything like one love or a universal appreciation of humanity and the environment it was ALWAYS necessary for Nationalism to be defeated. For racism to be defeated, for prejudice to be defeated. This battle is unavoidable and the prejudiced and the Nationalists...I believe this is their last stand.

I feel pity for them and understand that the politics of austerity has made them angry and desperate and that some media and politicians are full throttle on exploiting that anger so try and avoid getting angry like them and trust in love. 

--- 

It is easy to see his point when just on Thursday we welcomed Etta Rae into our wee family. Time to make the world a better place. 

The Uncontrollable Mob

Social media is such a misnomer when you think about it. Firstly, it’s not really “media” in the sense of the previous term, and the only thing social about it is the fact that it involves other people. Standing in the middle of a busy street and watching everyone walking by, talking to yourself quietly is not that social, and that’s what most of the outpourings on Twitter and Facebook are – small and limited whisperings shouted against the wider wall of noise of the entire internet. It’s why this wee blog, which has been going on for near enough a decade, has around 2000 readers a month and no more (yes, seriously, 2000 unique readers a month now, presumably helped by my podcast).

Occasionally, like this for example, these small voices can break through and reach a critical mass. But if that never happens, you're forever shouting into the void – no media, not social. I don’t know what would be a better term for our new world, but it’s certainly not the current one. The thing that most people forget is that this world of "self-publishing" is only around ten-ish years old – Twitter and Facebook came into my life after my blog, which is quite something else. The rest of the world has managed to catch up with the democratisation of the world with people pouring their words and thoughts onto the internet without much thought. Back when I started to write for this blog I read up the rules on what I could write and say just to make sure I didn’t break any laws. That sounds odd, doesn’t it? But I have an audience that could be greater than many journalists that have had ethics and law training might have, and I was endlessly worried about my opinion being misconstrued or taken the wrong way.

There are umpteen other bloggers, Twitter and Facebook users who don’t care about that. They’ll happily break the law by tweeting the names of rape victims and posting photos of them around various sites, and don’t think that they’ll get caught (or don’t know that they are breaking the law). It’s part and parcel of the world’s new platforms for expressions; you might legally be in contempt of court by talking to you and your mates in your own home, but will you get caught doing it? But if you do it with a few of your mates but also broadcast it in print across the internet it’ll be there forever, and it’ll be searchable by the authorities.

This poses a problem for two reasons – the first is how do you educate people that this is a problem? I’ve talked at length about the future implications of posting loads of photos of your children onto the internet, and have had people come down on both sides of the argument. A few weeks back Connie sent me a link to a child who was suing their parents because of photos they had posted that they refused to remove. It’s a problem that might increasingly become an issue in the future; all I need to do is scroll down my timeline to see friends posting pictures of their kids in varying stages of undress, and I wonder what the children will think of that. I mean, I’m embarrassed about photos I’ve posted on Instagram from only last week – not sure what I’d think about photos of me as a baby of child on Facebook from when I was a kid from decades ago, specifically ones where I have no control over.

The second reason is that in this world of opinions certain people need to find a reason for outpourings of abuse from somewhere. In recent years what you might call “orchestrated” attacks on people on social media have increased into what might be termed epidemic levels. Leslie Jones, the comedian who starred in the recent Ghostbusters: Answer the Call movie (which I thought was funny and entertaining but a by-rote re-tread of the original) experienced vitriolic abuse and indeed was hacked, with personal information posted online. This has happened to many other people in the past and will probably only get worse as the law struggles to keep up. This kind of abuse is orchestrated and demonstrably so; go on 4Chan or Reddit and find threads about it, and you’ll find that there was a campaign for the abuse. That mob was controlled. It was targeted.

What do you do when a “mob” isn’t controlled? What if there is no mob? In the recent post-IndyRef and post-Brexit world certain people of certain political persuasions are emboldened in ways that before they might not be. I am more emboldened to wear my Yes badge proudly because I still believe in the facets of Independence. Unionist the same, as is their right. But in the world of the internet and the abuse that can be hurled at people in the public eye, a consensus can be sometimes misconstrued as a campaign. It makes sense too to think like this; “Everyone dislikes me and they’re being abusive all at once, I must therefore being targeted” rather than believing you might be thinking something people will disagree with in unison. It is a natural leap for humans to make connections to things like this, especially when the world seems at-odds with us.

This wouldn’t be an issue if it was just a personal thing, a realisation personally that you might be the victim of a targeted attack, despite its most likely not being as such. The main problem is that these can become issues in themselves, ones that can overshadow actual debate. Take for example the IndyRef and the terms “Yoon” and “cybernat”, both of which are quite astronomically infuriating. The “Yoons” are considered those who attack all policies on independence with vitriolic damnation, and “cybernats” is a relatively more in use term used to bracket all Nationalists on the internet as somewhat of a hooligan term - "vile cybernats" is a phrase oft used in the print media when reporting on stories of these campaigns. Obviously, on both sides, there are people who do fall into these brackets, but without even having to do research you can imagine that both sides have equal numbers of them, and that they are the small minority. Why do I not need to do research into this? Well, you can do it by inspection – if they were common and weren’t the minority, then surely there would be more examples of them being the real story, instead of the actual facets of independence. Think of it as proof by counter-positve.

It is a fallacy to think that any one person is a central controller of these people. It’s also a fallacy to blame the parties who they align themselves with. The most despicable political parties align themselves with certain movements all the time (UKIP to Brexit, for example) but that doesn’t mean that everyone that also votes that is also a “UKIPer”. That’s just the problem though; the SNP are blamed for “mobs” that they have no control over. Nicola Sturgeon is constantly bemoaned for her lack of control over people who abuse in her name, when she has no control over the platform they are using, nor do they report to her. The other flip of this problem is that certain parts of the media try to have it both ways - you can't complain that "the SNP must take responsibility for all people who are abusive under the Yes banner", and then also complain that "not everyone who is a Unionist is also a 'Yoon'".

There are people in all camps who you personally would prefer had no voice in the debate but that’s not how democracy works; all opinions are equal, it’s how you challenge them that makes for reasoned and good debate. It’s why the IndyRef was almost entirely peaceful, because the lines were drawn passing straight through ideological and party lines, and cut right into the heart of what makes Scotland Scotland, meaning everyone and their dog had and to and did debate it and debated it well. If our constant reaction to these people is to pretend they are part of the machinations of a concerted a vicious campaign somehow recognised at the least and at the worst actually sponsered by a real legitimate party, then it just makes them think that they are, and that shuts down the voices and the reasons that they can later reduced. It’s not about bleating that they exist, nor that as Douglas Adams would say that it is “someone else’s problem” that renders them invisible, but that we should engage with them on both sides and stop pretending they’re part of a concerted campaign.

Once that is done, we can then discover the actual concerted campaigns of abuse, and challenge them.