Borroloola to Sydney: Shay Evans

In November 2018, Shay Evans was announced as a Sydney FC player for the upcoming 2018/19 W-League season. Few knew who she was, or her story, other than being a graduate of the John Moriarty Football program.

The John Moriarty Football program was started by the first indigenous footballer to be selected to play for Australia – John Kundereri Moriarty in 1960. Moriarty never managed to play due to Australia’s expulsion from the international governing football body FIFA the same year, but his selection remained a powerful moment in Australian football history – a member of the Stolen Generation being called up to play for his country.

In 2012, Moriarty, now experienced as a businessman, artist, and government advisor, started the John Moriarty Football program to give indigenous kids from remote parts of Australia football training and skills and a chance to become professional. One of the early recipients of a JMF scholarship was Shadeene “Shay” Evans.

Shay Evans was from the same remote part of the Northern Territory as Moriarty: Borroloola. A staggering 1056 kilometres away from the state capital Darwin. Borroloola is a very small town, the 2016 census determined the population to be 871. Of that population, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders made up 76.1% of the population.

Evans, alongside other members of her local community and the JMF program, were taken to the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil.

In 2015, Evans moved all the way to Sydney, 3086km away from home of Borroloola to attend Westfields Sports High School. Westfield Sports High boasts a ridiculously strong record with producing professional footballers in Australia, boasting the likes of ex-Socceroos David Carney, Jason Culina, Matildas star Ellie Carpenter, former Sydney FC men’s captain Alex Brosque, and current player Anthony Caceres to name just a few.

Evans was part of the NSW Institute of Sport, which helped her eventually get noticed and scouted by Sydney FC for the 2018/19 W-League season. A striker primarily, though has also played on the wings at a youth international level.

January 2019 saw Evans make her professional football debut, coming on as a substitute for fellow Westfields Sports High alum Princess Ibini in the 82nd minute of a Sydney Derby. I was lucky enough to have attended that game and seen that moment for myself – the cheer around the ground as Evans made her debut was massive and got me just as excited as the 3 goals which came before.

Evans would have to wait until the following season for more gametime, but not too long: the first round of the 2019/20 W-League season. Sydney were cruising to a 2 nil victory over rivals Melbourne in a fairly comfortable and strong performance to open the new season. Subbed on in the 86th minute of the game for Remy Siemsen, Evans showed immediate intention and several bursts of pace – nearly scoring with her first touch.

She wouldn’t have to wait much longer though to hit the back of the net, with a pinpoint cross from Angelique Hristodoulou connecting with her head in the 90th minute for her first senior goal. A truly incredible moment, a young indigenous footballer playing professionally and scoring in the national competition is huge and already iconic in the tapestry of the W-League and Australian women’s football.

It will remain an all-time football highlight for me and a moment that I’m always happy to know I was there for. The sky is the limit for Shay Evans, she’s shown she has immense talent. With Sydney losing at least one third of their starting attacking trio heading into the 2020/21 W-League season, I think Shay is in a great position to claim a spot in the starting XI. Her eye for goal and confidence will get her really far in football.

Outside of football, Evans is studying social work at University of New South Wales and amidst lockdown and quarantine has kept training and progressing her football with some of her Sydney FC teammates.

Muse, Space, and Cydonia

Before Muse, I’d never heard of the genre “space rock” before. But after hearing it, it immediately made sense to me. Science fiction loving musicians trying to best replicate the themes of sci-fi and the sense of awe from the genre.

Album art for 2006’s Black Holes & Revelations

Muse, led by lead singer Matt Bellamy (and his love of magical mushrooms) write a lot about different science fiction ideas. Every Muse album is about a different way the world could end, from advancement of technology, drone warfare, dictatorships, and even the internet itself.

Their fourth studio album Black Holes & Revelations, released in 2006, is probably my favourite album of theirs. Equal parts a reaction to the Iraq War, the mood of the 2000s, and also a creative view on interstellar travel.

Starlight, one of the singles released from the album, is a double entendre. On the surface about missing family and homesickness when you travel, but on a deeper level about what interstellar life and being so far away from home on a galactic level would be like. Could we really deal with living light years away from our own floating rock in space we call Earth?

Supermassive Black Hole is a sexy, funky, and catchy tune which personifies space and the mystery of it all as an attractive and mysterious woman who you’ll never quite understand, but by god do you want to know her. Something about this is so interesting to me. The deep dark unexplored reaches of space are infinite and there’s a sort of rock and roll awesome factor to that in my view. We will never see all there is in space.

The most well-known and successful song off BH&R is the final track of the album, Knights of Cydonia. Voted as the Hottest Song of 2007 by Triple J, it’s a six minute space odyssey, which bassist Christopher Wolstenholme described as “40 years of rock history in six minutes”.

Photo taken by the Viking orbit mission in 1976, showing the “face of mars”.

The song is named after the region of Mars known as Cydonia, where the infamous “face of Mars” was found. Subject to countless conspiracy theories and speculation of some sort of civilisation living on Mars. The concept of an ancient civilisation on Mars is very science fiction, and very intriguing. It took over 20 years before the face was known in public knowledge to be a trick of shadow and light from the Sun.

Come ride with me
Through the veins of history
I’ll show you a god
Who falls asleep on the job
And how can we win
When fools can be kings?
Don’t waste your time
Or time will waste you

Muse create a scenario with the song that imagines the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as part of a secret society cult in Cydonia that act as judge, jury, and executioner for humanity, and the decider of what wars we fight and actions of nations. A metaphor for how the actions of the governments of the United Kingdom and United States conspired for a war in Iraq under false pretences.

It works as a call to action song, with the lyrics demanding that as individuals, normal people, we fight and challenge our governments and leaders on what they do. The chorus explains itself, and what the call to action is.

No one’s gonna take me alive
The time has come to make things right
You and I must fight for our rights
You and I must fight to survive
No one’s gonna take me alive
The time has come to make things right
You and I must fight for our rights
You and I must fight to survive

The grand, epic scale of this song has always made it one of my all-time favourite songs, and easily my favourite Muse song. It’s easy to see why it was voted the best song of 2007 by Triple J listeners. It’s one hell of a track to listen to, a real adventure, and as the final track of BH&R, it’s perfect. Good luck getting the idea of space travel out of your head after listening to the entire album.

Running Up That Hill & Art Of Good Covers

If I only could, make a deal with God…

Did you forget to take your meds? Just another Nancy Boy? See you at the Bitter End?

Placebo’s music has often focused on nitty-gritty, taboo, and slightly uncomfortable relationships. Abusive couples, drug-fuelled break-ups, or as it’s put in Meds – sex, drugs, and complications. Rarely was their music uplifting or not about destructive people and destructive relationships – happy mutual break-ups were not their schtick.

Their sound was so clearly Placebo. Brian Molko’s nasally vocals paired perfectly with Stefan Olsdal’s banging guitar and bass. Placebo had previously done other covers, including a cover of The Smiths’ Bigmouth Strikes Again in 1997 for the single release of Nancy Boy, T. Rex’s 20th Century Boy in 1998, and Depeche Mode’s I Feel You in 1999. Molko and Olsdal often said the covers they did were representative of the music they loved and found significant in their formative years.

When Placebo released a studio cover of Kate Bush’s iconic Running Up That Hill it seemed at first like a weird combination but made more sense you more you thought of it. Kate Bush’s original was heartfelt but much faster paced, Molko explained in interview why he decided to cut down on some of the lyrics and lower the pace of the song.

I grew up listening to that song, and I always thought it was an amazing song, but I thought the tempo was too fast. It didn’t give enough space for the real emotion to shine through. When we decided to cover it, I really, really wanted to slow it down so that [there was enough space to express] what was really going on — the fear and the abandon.

Brian Molko, with vanyaland.com in 2013

The raw emotion you feel from Molko’s interpretation of Running Up That Hill gives the song a completely new layer. A vulnerable male perspective on gender identity, a relationship going south, and heartbreak. This is a mixture of Placebo’s signature and Kate Bush’s own style which covered taboo topics and at the time contentious issues like gay couples and identity. The low-fi feel of Placebo’s cover allows the emotion of the song to really kick in, and it’s haunting.

This, is in my opinion, is a perfect example of a cover and what makes a good cover. Using the original song as a basis, true to its meaning, whilst still transforming it to make a different feel.

However, a good cover doesn’t always need to completely shake up the song, but rather add a different voice and singing style to a tune. A personal favourite, which for me is a case of I love both cover and original, is Shadowplay. Originally by Joy Division, and covered by The Killers for their 2007 b-sides and rarities album Sawdust.

A sombre and gothic track which was turned into a (almost fittingly) New Order-ised track by The Killers. It’s somewhat faster paced and has more of a light dance rhythm than a self-introspective brooding piece as originally intended by Joy Division. This works surprisingly well for me. While Brandon Flowers doesn’t have the deep, booming voice of Ian Curtis he does have a really good voice for a track like this.

Sometimes, covers become so much better known by the cover people barely remember the original. This is definitely the case with things covered by The Clash – only recently I found out that I Fought The Law, released on Give Them Enough Rope, was originally by The Bobby Fuller Four. At the time, was a #1 track but 54 years on from its original release in 1966, I’d say the version the absolute majority of people would know is The Clash version.

Covers are a really interesting way of using music. It can be seen as an ultimate tribute to an artist and their work, a sign of passing the baton, and also a way to keep a classic song relevant. It’s a good way of looking at the creative cycle itself – a cover is the creative cycle going full circle. I don’t think I’d have as much interest in Kate Bush if I didn’t love Placebo’s cover of Running Up That Hill.

Harvey Danger & Underground Culture

The late 90’s saw the birth of countless garage rock bands and a whole new wave of alternative music. Lots of bands came and went, delivering often one major release and then returning to obscurity. Some of them get lucky and get a hit single which gives them a lifeline.

Seattle band Harvey Danger’s 1997 debut album Where Have All The Merrymakers Gone? features, in my opinion, one of the best alternative rock songs of the 90s – Flagpole Sitta. Iconic now for its usage as the intro to the 2000s Britcom Peep Show and subsequent overlap in fandom.

Flagpole Sitta is a dissection of the 90s music industry itself and modern culture, a cynical one at that. A jaded view on how underground culture is often manufactured and fake, and that deep down the people care more for they appear to others than how they feel about themselves and how it affects them.

The song’s lyrics are all meaningful and only the chorus is repeated, which is “I’m not sick but I’m not well, I’m so hot cause I’m in hell”. But what exactly does it mean?

Harvey Danger characterises the underground scene and attempting to fit into it as an illness, something not desirable or good for you. The attempts to be part of the underground and trying to be part of the “in” culture as maddening. Is it healthy to try and desire to be something you’re not if it’s the current culture? I think this message stays quite clear and poignant to this day.

I had visions, I was in them
I was looking into the mirror
To see a little bit clearer
The rottenness and evil in me
Fingertips have memories
Mine can’t forget the curves of your body
And when I feel a bit naughty
I run it up the flagpole and see
Who salutes, but no one ever does

The double entendre of “I run it up the flagpole and see who salutes” is the narrator saying he’s tried to give it a go but finds it doesn’t change how anyone sees him and he gets no personal joy out of pretending to be someone else.

Been around the world and found
That only stupid people are breeding
The cretins cloning and feeding
And I don’t even own a TV
Put me in the hospital for nerves
And then they had to commit me
You told them all I was crazy
They cut off my legs now I’m an amputee, goddamn you

The lyricism is arguably the best in the second verse. As insane as the last two lines may seem, it’s about feeling like your sense of identity and credibility are being taken away from you. He doesn’t even own a TV which is to say how would he even know what would be cool anyway?

I wanna publish ‘zines
And rage against machines
I wanna pierce my tongue
It doesn’t hurt, it feels fine
The trivial sublime
I’d like to turn off time
And kill my mind
You kill my mind
Mind

The bridge references zines, where are independently published magazines, mostly self-published. A sense of independence, while contrasting with a Rage Against The Machine reference that makes him want to be like everyone else in the underground subculture at the time.

It’s smart, but not too on the nose and allows you to think for yourself on every lyric and verse. The final verse before the chorus includes the line “if you’re bored you’re boring”, reinforcing the overall narrative of the song – you can try hard to fit in and be part of the culture but you may never truly be part of it and you probably shouldn’t try to be.

Paranoia, paranoia
Everybody’s comin’ to get me
Just say you never met me
I’m runnin’ underground with the moles
Diggin’ holes
Hear the voices in my head
I swear to God it sounds like they’re snoring
But if you’re bored then you’re boring
The agony and the irony, they’re killing me, whoa

The voices in his head is society at large, with the changing culture confusing him and leaving him feeling insane and lost in a changing world.

23 years on from release, the crux of the song still feels real and hits home. Are any cultural movements and the way we try and move to fit in with them actually healthy or good? Is there really any value in changing your sense of identity every year or two?

Whilst Flagpole Sitta can come off as perhaps self-indulgent and self-congratulatory for being able to “see through the matrix” it’s still piercing as a criticism of culture and how we consume media.

All I know is, it’s one of the smartest one-hit wonders I know and there’s some poetic irony to Flagpole Sitta being Harvey Danger’s only hit.

Is It Wicked Not To Care? And Other Apocalyptic Views

I’ve now been in quarantine for 39 days. 6 weeks nearly. It’s been easily the most obscure chapter of my life, in a year that was earmarked for self-improvement and discovery. A cliche tale but one that I can’t escape from.

It’d be irresponsible to not act as if I haven’t at least been able to start the discovery and self-improvement. I joined a full-time course, I’ve made some really great friends, and I feel in some ways more comfortable than I ever have in my skin. But it’s not always that good.

The confines of my house and being left to my own devices has brought a lot of negativity to me. I’m ultimately mourning the loss of our collective lives still. A huge part of our culture and sense of identity has been stolen by this crisis. We’re no longer able to be truly ourselves – we can’t – we’re stuck. Society as a whole on ice.

It’s obscure what I’m finding myself missing from day-to-day life. I miss my dull boring commute into the city, looking forlornly out the bus window. I miss the smells of Ultimo – coffee, cigarettes, and gasoline. The dumb conversations I’d have with my friends and the sense of belonging I felt.

The Belle and Sebastian lyric “colour my life with the chaos of trouble” oozes into my mind constantly as I almost cynically look back at my naive self from two months back who didn’t realise how much free reign I had. I miss having that chaos of trouble available to me.

The other major emotion has been a strong sense of nostalgia, and perhaps a romanticised view of the past. Music about suburbia, neighbourhoods, and songs about feeling a belonging to a place have been top of mind recently. I’ve assigned a certain value towards the nebulous concept of suburbia. Lately I’ll hear a song and immediately be transported to somewhere else, but not somewhere foreign, but rather nearby and local. To my suburbia. A nostalgia for the sounds of then.

There’s beauty to home and where you are and how it defines you. The Killers song Smile Like You Mean It rings awfully true to me at the moment – getting so bogged down in old memory of your world and your local area that it almost stops you from creating new memories or accepting the now.

For 2020, the “now” is an obscure place. One we won’t probably look back on with fond memories. A black splodge in our histories. Maybe that isn’t so bad. Maybe it’s also not so smart to hold such heavy regret for the past which you cannot fix. This whole… scenario we’re living in has made me reaffirm a belief I’ve held for a while now. Live your life, be what you want, feel what you feel, get out there, and do something. Don’t look back on regrets or dwell on them much.

When life resumes as normal, live it.

The Cat Who Sold His Soul For Immortality

I’m on a road to ruin, I don’t know what I’m doin’, Martini
I guess this is the place, inside I see your face, Martini
I walk into the room, position I assume, Martini
You put a record on, I hear my favourite song, Martini

The Presets – Martini

I’m a big old cat person. I love them. They’re independent, surprisingly loyal, and full of personality.

My family and I own 2 cats, though effectively 3 because our neighbour’s cat is always around ours. Weirdly though, despite having 3 cats living with us – my dad is seriously allergic to cats (and also dogs, horses, and cows).

The first cat we got as a family was Rocky, who is celebrating his 9th adoptiversary this month. He’s 13 years old and maybe the most docile and placid cat I’ve ever known.

However, we adopted another cat in September 2017. After being almost guilted into it by our local vet who said he was free, we adopted 7 month-old kitten. His original name from the vet was Simon, but we named him Martini. Unknowingly, perfectly named after a track by Australian duo The Presets. He’s also known by Marty, Bellboy, Orange Boy, and Long Boy.

Martini was a streetcat for his all his life up until his adoption. We knew early on he was a character. He would purr incessantly when we were near him and just want to be near you. He was to live outside however – alongside Rocky and Pancake on our back deck.

That all started off very well, with Rocky being very much his mentor to our backyard and our quiet street. They’d go off and explore together and sit close to each other when napping.

One day, about a month into owning him, we noticed Martini had incredibly large pulsing heartbeats in his chest and we had to take him into a vet hospital. He stayed overnight for a few days and was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. He was given 6 months to live by the vet. They told us we had the option to put him down then, but we couldn’t do it. We decided to give Martini to best life possible and have him live it up at the Hotel Dunkin.

Martini isn’t exactly as docile as his older brother Rocky. In fact, he’s quite prone to being completely insane. Known for occasionally biting people who get in is way of food. Or scratching people for no obvious reason. Or slapping other cats for their food.

But, he’s still an incredibly loving cat. He loves his mum, he loves his food, and he loves being near his people.

It’s also been 30 months since his diagnosis. He’s lived well and truly past his 6 months life expectancy. As I’ve started to say to people, he is the cat that sold his soul for immortality. I imagine come the heat death of the universe, Martini will still be around. There’ll be cults dedicated to the Orange Cat God, telling legends of how he was born in 2017 AD, lived through 3 World Wars, ended 2, and was responsible for man landing on Jupiter.

Marty is such an important point in my life. He’s lovely to have. He’s entertaining to just spend time with. We love all his little quirks – his inability to eat food without dragging it off his plate, his bendy paws, his continuous purring and probably my favourite one – his tendency to just meow for hours on end at the windows.

We often get calls from people saying they’ve spotted Martini somewhere and each time we’re amazed as to how far this small orange cat travels. He’s been found up to over a kilometre away from our house – usually in someone’s yard having a nap. Everyone always says similar things about Martini, almost always positive. That he’s very talkative, very friendly, and never lacks an appetite.

He’s also quite prone to following us places. His adventurous spirit knows no bounds. On my way into TAFE he tries to follow me to the bus stop and walks alongside me like a dog. When he’s happy, he wags his tail like a dog. He’s a loyal hound in feline form.

I’m lucky to have him in my life and he always makes my day better. He’s a constant source of just life. Even if he’s prone to doing nasty things to people sometimes like scratching, or attempting to maim Rocky and Pancake he’s still my lovely orange boy. Nobody is perfect, and definitely no cat is either, but Martini has taught me a lot about love, responsibility, and life.

Martini and I have something in common – we both are medically diagnosed with chronic health issues and have to live through them on a day-to-day basis. Neither of us know what being normal and healthy is like- he could just drop dead any day without notice. Yet he still carries on everyday, constantly exploring, trying to get the most out of his feline life and I think that’s admirable and adorable.

In face of everything going on in the world, I’m trying to be like Marty. Minus the biting and scratching.

Love you, Marty.

Left To My Own Devices…

Well, I must have a door in the back of my head
Where I dump out all the crap so I can just feel solid again

The Dandy Warhols – Solid

Quarantine has been a real bitch. It reaaally has. The endless amounts of time to myself and my own thoughts has been too much for me to handle. The positive has been more time to play video games and listen to music. Lots of music. I started thinking about songs that sorta capture the vibe of quarantine and the aesthetic of it all.

This is more or less a list of songs I’ve been playing a lot lately and ones that somewhat paint the picture of this whole situation and just some other general musings about music.

Belle & Sebastian – Boy With The Arab Strap

Glaswegian indie folk band Belle & Sebastian are in my mind, a precursor to artists like Courtney Barnett. Flow of consciousness writing and often mundane seeming lyrics which are really more about the emotions and experiences that drive them.

Boy With The Arab Strap is the eponymous track off the album of the same name realised in 1996. The “meat and potatoes” of the song was inspired by lead singer Murdoch getting over his chronic fatigue syndrome. He would go on long bus journeys to nowhere in particular. Pick up the sights and sounds, make note of the regulars, give himself sort of a routine and some time in the real world. It’s meant to express that weird, often speechless relationship you have with people without ever realising it. You start to recognise the regulars on your commute into work or uni.

You even begin to make up stories for the people you see, fantasising about their lives as if they’re the lead character of a TV show or movie, when in reality… they’re just someone else going through the motions of life who you probably won’t ever know much about.

It’s a unique sort of feeling that I didn’t think about until quarantine hit. It’s a bit of a Truman Show revelation. I couldn’t tell you just how much I miss having something to be stuck on a bus for hours a week for with time to daydream like that.

Dandy Warhols – Bohemian Like You

Thematically quite similar to the aforementioned by Belle & Sebastian, Bohemian Like You follows that same sort of idea. Lead singer Courtney Taylor-Taylor was previously a mechanic in Portland (Oregon) and would fantasise about this one particular woman who came by one day to get her car fixed. From there, Taylor would daydream about her car one day breaking down again and him coming to the rescue and fixing it, and from there somehow get her to fall in love with him.

The lyrics are unique in that they’re a one-way conversation he’s made up in his head with traits he’s attached to this mystery girl and what their date or life together might be like. He’s enthralled with the thought of his own thoughts.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t guilty of this on occasion, particularly at TAFE when I see people not in my course just around the campus. I think it’s healthy to daydream about other people, even getting to very elaborate and intricate – where do you think most fiction writers get their characters and ideas from?

Pet Shop Boys – Left To My Own Devices

See where I got the title from?

Left To My Own Devices is a track off PSB’s third studio album Introspective. Complete with orchestra to accompany the classic PSB electronica sound, LTMOD is a introspective song about singer Neil Tennant’s life. The album was so named due to the fact all the songs are… introspective!

The lyrics reflect Tennant’s life, and his indecisiveness and reluctance for most of his life to be who he wants to be, or know what he wants to be. The chorus of “I could leave you, say goodbye, or I could love you, if I tried” isn’t directed at a partner or friend, it’s directed at himself. Left to his own devices, he remarks, he probably could love himself and find out who he is, and what he wants to be. In these tough times, I think that’s a philosophy we all need to hold onto.

Ashfield, Tamriel & Beyond

Screenshot from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Special Edition on the PlayStation 4. Taken by me.

The last few weeks have been some of the most surreal of my life. We all know what I’m talking about. At the moment, life has been put on hold and we’re all becoming well-acquainted to our bedrooms and homes. Days on end without seeing much of the outside world.

I wish I could say this was a new experience for me, but it really isn’t. This takes me back to what my life was like for a long time – stuck indoors for days on end, often with only myself and my family for company.

I was diagnosed at age 2 with Crohn’s disease – inflammatory bowel disease. I was a sickly child and missed out on the majority of schooling from age 10 onward. Stomach pain, hospital visits, and mental health stopped me from ever really having a normal childhood.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t very deprived of outside world interaction and adventure.

When I was 12 years old in 2013, I had my first major surgery done. A right hemicollectomy – removing half of my colon and reconnecting it. It meant a month in hospital, in a shared room with typically 3 other kids. I think it was the toughest month of my life. Unable to do anything really but lye down in an uncomfortable bed.

After a certain point, I was allowed to head home for small intervals – unconnected from my IV drip and my “pickline” drip which was fattening me up for surgery. What did I do when I got home for those brief periods, usually no longer than an hour or two? Play The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on the PlayStation 3. When I was in horrible pain or discomfort I was waiting until I could be back home and in the world of Skyrim. It was my escape from the harsh reality.

Skyrim is the fifth main entry in the Elder Scrolls series, launched in 2011. A fantasy epic series which is set across the continent of Tamriel, which has 9 different provinces, each home to its own races and culture. The province of Skyrim is heavily based off Nordic culture and vikings.

TES: V was also my first foray into the the world of Tamriel. At age 12 it was pretty well the most amazing thing I’d come across in my life. An entire open world to explore, ability to roleplay as basically anything or anyone, and a sense of purpose.

I needed these things more than anything at that point.

Well after surgery, Skyrim remained my go-to game for escapism. In Year 7 I ended up missing 3/4 of the school year and was home a lot. So I played a lot of Skyrim. Across the PlayStation 3, PC, and PlayStation 4 releases of Skyrim I have at least 10,000 hours spent in that world. That’s at least 416 days. Yes that does sound concerning, but I’ve been playing it since 2012.

416 hours that saved me from the pits of despair. The hardest times in my life, always had Skyrim. People always ask me how I don’t get bored of Skyrim, and I think there’s a few elements to it.

One, would be the intense feeling of nostalgia and happy memories stored on there. Second, it’s that I know that world like the back of my hand. I know my way around the map so well and I don’t even need guides to find any of the 459 marked locations. It’s all muscle memory. And most importantly, it’s home. Skyrim feels like home. I load it up and I immediately feel more at ease.

I think it’s fair to say without Skyrim I wouldn’t be the person I am today, or perhaps even here.

When I struggled for outside social interaction, I had that world – which boasts around 600 NPCs (non-player characters). Characters like J’zargo, Serana, Nazeem, and the dragon Paarthurnaxx all taking up my head space.

I can’t really sum up what being home alone all the time was like for me mentally other than taxing and depressing. Waking up with no routine or schedule made me lost in the sea of my own thoughts.

During these uncertain and scary times, I’m definitely going to be revisiting the worlds presented in the Elder Scrolls series, soaking up every moment I can, and probably obnoxiously sharing screenshots on my twitter. It’s a ridiculously beautiful world, as well. Stunning sunsets, mountain ranges, deep valleys, ancient ruins, and beautiful northern lights.

I’d highly suggest an open world game like Skyrim to keep your mind occupied and busy feeling whenever you’re down or stuck indoors. It’s been immensely important to my development and growth.

The entire series has been there for me in my lowest points. Every game. Arena, Daggerfall, Morrowind, Oblivion, Skyrim, Elder Scrolls Online… all an on-demand therapy. The online community for the series has also gotten me to meet some amazing people and even speak to the game developers in the past. I’ve been lucky enough to beta test a few Elder Scrolls spin-offs due to them knowing how mad I am for the series.

When the HD remaster of Skyrim was announced for the PlayStation 4, I was pretty close to tears. When I first loaded it up again on the PS4 I was choking up a bit as the soundtrack loaded and the ambient music flowed in the background, thinking about the adventures I’d had in the past, what it meant to me, and the adventures yet to come.

There hasn’t been a date released yet for the launch of The Elder Scrolls VI, but you can bet your bottom dollar I’ll be getting it on launch day, spending another set of thousands of hours exploring it. Happy, sad, in between, I have Skyrim, and I’m deeply thankful for that.

Bat Outta Hell: The Renaissance Of DOOM

Rip and tear, until it is done…

DOOM is the ultimate first-person shooter game and arguably the most iconic video game franchise of all time. The imagery of the series from its 1993 inception to 2020’s most recent release remains important to pop culture and easily accessible to the public. As the internet joke goes – can it run DOOM? 99% of the time YES.

The reboot of the series in 2016 was a roaring success for developer id Software and publisher Bethesda. A metacritic score of 85 and most importantly – incredibly positive fan reaction. Fans were skeptical of another attempt to reboot DOOM, after mixed reception to 2004’s DOOM 3.

12 years in between drinks is a long time, especially for such a large franchise – the one that gave birth to the first-person shooter genre. In those 12 years, many important games came out that redefined the genre from just being about shooting and killing to deep stories and more cerebral stories.

DOOM was never intended to be thought-provoking or deeply intelligent. It was a game about killing demons with a shotgun and a chainsaw. The first game was set on a space Mars, then Hell, before the sequel Hell On Earth which took the series to a demonic invasion of Earth.

The reboot in 2016 was very much a soft reboot of the 1993 original – just like the original DOOM it starts in the UAC facilities on Mars, before going to Hell, back to Mars, and finishing up in Hell again. It features the same enemies, a very similar plot and the same tools and gadgets for the player character – but brought a new layer to the series – scathing criticism of capitalism, and utilitarianism in the backdrop of its gory and adrenaline-fuelled action.

The plot of 2016’s DOOM is that the company the UAC (Union Aerospace Command) discovers they can use energy from Hell to power Earth and end the energy crisis in the 2100s whilst also knowing it would require opening up a portal to Hell permanently, all while their staff experimented on demons and started to develop a cult around them. Unsurprisingly, the demons eventually just invaded Mars with the help of a higher up from the UAC.

But this plot means nothing if the main character isn’t interesting. The protagonist of the modern series was dubbed the Doom Slayer, as opposed to the past name of just “Doomguy”. The writing for the Slayer was, according to the developers, inspired by films like Last Action Hero, RoboCop, and Die Hard.

The characterisation of the Doom Slayer, a character who doesn’t speak a single word and can only express emotions with his hands is impressive. From the opening 10 minutes you know he hates demons, hates the UAC, hates innocents being killed, and has a strong dislike for Samuel Hayden and his “ends justify the means” view.

Doom Slayer’s rage towards demons is shown throughout, but also his compassion is shown just as much and just as importantly. His rage is never blindly thrown around to those undeserving. Towards the end of the game, he is tasked by Samuel Hayden (who in an uneasy truce is aiding the Doom Slayer towards killing the demons and stopping the invasion) to deactivate and wipe VEGA, the UAC created artificial intelligence which has been aiding the Slayer throughout the game. The Slayer realises he has an option to back up VEGA and save it from being lost to time and losing a valuable ally, and actively takes that measure to save it. A small gesture but one that shows the Slayer doesn’t just assume the most violent or combative route when it is unnecessary – he’s smarter than just being pure rage towards everything. He doesn’t let his hatred of the UAC and what it stands for blind his judgement.

DOOM: Eternal came out last Friday, and I was lucky enough to receive my order of it several days early on Wednesday. I’ve completed the campaign and it is truly rocking. Smart, concise, simple but effective. It knows you’re there to kill demons with a chainsaw and shotgun and doesn’t leave you waiting around for it to begin. Within 20 seconds of starting the game you’re into combat. The speed of gameplay in the new DOOM series is relentless. You don’t have time to rest, you don’t hunker down and hide from combat – if you want to survive and fight on you need to stay on the offensive. The game rewards you for being proactive.

But balls-to-the-wall action is only good if you’re invested in the hero and the consequences. DOOM masterfully makes you feel like if you aren’t there, the world simply won’t survive. It is power fantasy at its best.

The renaissance of DOOM as a franchise, to me, comes down mostly to the fantastic characterisation of the Doom Slayer. What used to be considered the least important aspect of the series in the 1990s is now what really holds the modern DOOM series together. It’s a testament to the writing and art direction of id Software and I am very keen to see where they go next with the Doom Slayer’s arc. There are two planned story expansions to come out for DOOM: Eternal.

Joy Division Forever: 40 Years On At Hordern Pavilion

Forty years on from the death of Joy Division in Macclesfield, a good 17,000km away, surviving members Bernard Sumner and Stephen Morris, joined by Gillian Gilbert, Phil Cunningham and Tom Chapman came together as New Order at Sydney’s Hordern Pavilion.

As previously established, I’m a big New Order fan and their concert mean a lot to me. On TAFE Radio I spoke about New Order – what’s the impact of New Order and why is it important to know about them?

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