State of emergency as a Call of Duty publicity stunt

From ‘Singapore under attack:Imaginary war a Call of Duty marketing ploy’, 30 Sep 15, article in CNA

Popular first-person shooter video game “Call of Duty” posted a series of tweets about a fictional attack on Singapore as part of their online campaign to promote its new game, on Wednesday (Sep 30).

The new game was Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. At 1.03am on Wednesday, the Twitter page belonging to @CallofDuty posted a tweet that said: “BREAKING NEWS: Unconfirmed reports are coming in of an explosion on the North bank of the Singapore Marina.”

When that tweet was sent out, its user name was “Current Events Agg.” and had a illustration of a globe as its profile picture.

…More tweets were sent out subsequently describing “large plumes of dark smoke”, “shots fired at newly established blockades” and riot police dispersing rioting mobs. It also named “James Chung” as the fictional “commander of the Singapore Armed Forces”.

A tweet sent out at 3.35am said: “A state of Martial Law has been declared and will remain in place until the incident is firmly understood.”

The next tweet sent out at 5.37am revealed that the earlier ones were part of an online campaign for Call of Duty: Black Ops 3.

The makers of Call of Duty could get in trouble here for committing the offence of transmitting a false message. If police reports have been filed for hoax tweets declaring public holidays for the World Cup or ‘Voluntary Non-Work’ days due to the haze,  there’s no reason why you shouldn’t go after someone fabricating an explosion in the ‘north bank’ of Singapore Marina, as unlikely as that may seem. Even 13 year old boys have been arrested for making up stories about bombing MBS. Still, the only things exploding in this country, thank God, seem to be cars or hotpots.

Risk of unnecessary alarm aside, it’s probably the first time that Singapore has been featured in a first-shooter video game, which is almost as cool as our cameo in the Simpsons. It’s also likely that the video game disaster scenes would be more realistic than what was portrayed in Jack Neo’s first foray into Michael Bay-esque destruction porn in the first Ah Boys To Men movie. Who knows, maybe the SAF may be interested in buying the game themselves for battle simulation if the haze situation gets any worse, at the risk of our NSmen being tempted into lobbing grenades at base of the redundant Singapore Flyer to see where it would roll.

The game itself is set in 2065, and it’s comforting to note that the CoD makers have faith that Chinatown would still exist 50 years from now. It also happens to be our #SG100 year. CHOI!

Thank Goodness it wasn’t Little India, in which case the ‘Singapore Authorities’ would surely ban the shit out of this. Let’s hope for fans’ sake that none of the Singapore missions include ‘overthrowing a ruthless dictatorial regime’ too.

Fish Hunter no different from gambling

From ‘No different from gambling’, 16 April 2014, My Point, ST Forum

(Yi-Lin Shen): IT IS worrying that senior citizens are playing arcade games like Fish Hunter to win Sheng Siong and FairPrice vouchers (“Shoot-em-up seniors find amusement at arcades”; Monday). This is no different from gambling at slot machines in a casino.

What is even more worrying is that such games are installed at video arcades, which are popular teen hangouts, as this exposes youngsters to gambling. I have seen seniors sitting for hours on end at Fish Hunter tables, armed with cups of coffee and bags of arcade tokens. What are we teaching our youngsters?

I urge game arcades to stop giving out shopping vouchers as rewards. Let the seniors have their fun, but remove the gambling aspect.

Hooked on Fish Hunter

Hooked on Fish Hunter

Before shooting fish on a screen became the in thing for arcades, parents were worried about another ‘gambling’ game popular with kids, where money was spent on ‘cards’ and virtual beasts were put to battle: Animal Kaiser. With the rise of free, casual mobile phone games like Candy Crush and Flappy Bird, it appears that it’s seniors, not teens, keeping the arcade industry alive. Without the lure of Fish Hunter or Animal Kaiser to get old people out their house, the arcade machine looks set to go the way of the audio CD. The machine’s screen itself seems perfectly designed for the ageing eye, way larger than the micropixels that the elderly have to struggle with on smartphones, while iPads with their more elderly-friendly screens remain cumbersome to handle and use.

Some swear by the benefits of games like Fish Hunter: Keeping their eye-hand reflexes keen, mind alert, getting to socialise with other old people and even spending time with similarly addicted grandchildren while at it. A similar trend has been observed in Japan as well, with seniors opting for ‘push penny’ games rather than tennis or gateball. In Singapore, you need a break from all that line dancing, nannying and try to catch a ‘golden lobster’ at TimeZone. In fact, even if seniors were addicted to Fish Hunter, at least they don’t have to pay a levy of $100 everytime they sit down for a shot. Unlike casinos, arcades don’t run 24 hours, so obsessed players can still get some sleep. Uncles may get carried away though, hogging the seats and getting into arguments with other parents with kids who want to play the same game.

Even if we banned these machines, what else would lonely old souls do if not play mahjong (for money), queue for Toto, or gawk at Taiwanese drama serials on TV? Yes, even if sitting around preying and praying does resemble gambling, and playing Fish Hunter the whole day isn’t exactly ‘Active Ageing’, the other remaining options aren’t much better off either. Let’s have a few of these machines in the Jurong retirement village already. I’m sure the seniors there will have a whale of a time.


Joseph Schooling deferring NS for 2 years

From ‘Singapore top swimmer Joseph Schooling granted National Service deferment’, 21 Oct 2013, article by May Chen, ST

The government has granted swimmer Joseph Schooling’s request to defer his National Service obligation, enabling the 18-year-old to focus on training until after the 2016 Olympics. He is due for enlistment in 2014 but has been granted deferment until 31 August 2016.

Minister for Defence Ng Eng Hen said in Parliament on Monday that the ministry had received a request from the swimmer’s parents earlier this year. He said: “The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth supported the appeal for deferment as they assessed that in his previous achievements in international competitions, Mr Schooling had potential to do well in the next Olympics.”

“As this appeal satisfies all the conditions for deferment of exceptional sportsmen, the Armed Forces council has decided to grant deferment for Mr Schooling for full-time NS till 31 August 2016 in order for him to train and do well in 2016 Olympic Games. He will be enlisted for full-time NS once his deferment ends.”

Schooling, is based in the United States where he is ranked among the top swimmers in his age group. He was the youngest competitor to qualify for the semi-finals of the 200m butterfly and 200m individual medley at the world championships in Barcelona this year.

In 2011, our Defence Minister announced that the list of disruptees from NS would be publicly available on the MINDEF website, however currently it only covers boys deferring for medical studies or those on PSC scholarships, without any mention of local sportsmen who took extended time off to train for prestigious competitions. If you’re an Olympic medal hopeful, you stand a good chance of deferment. In 2007, 2 national sailors and ‘elite’ athletes were granted disruption to train for the 2008 Games.  Joseph may consider himself fortunate to be be spared the hassle of NS for an entire 2 years, but others who were deemed less ‘exceptional’ in their talents and pursuits were not so lucky.

In 2010, Matthew Goh was denied deferment for 3 months to represent Singapore in the Asian Junior Championships and WORLD Junior Championships. His event? Long Jump. In the 2009 SEA games he shattered the national record of 7.62 metres, but ended up sixth overall. This year, he came in first in the less renown Institute-Varsity-Polytechnic championships, but recorded a significant drop in form from his SEA games feat at 7.03 m. He hopes to represent Singapore again in 2013-2015, but one can only wonder where he would be today if he was just given that sliver of chance to compete 3 years back. The problem of filtering out sportsmen based on their current achievements and Olympics-worthiness is that you risk depriving them a chance to achieve the desired potential. I can only hope Matthew Goh proves that assumption wrong. If all else fails there’s always foreign talent.

One may argue that MINDEF’s definition of exceptional merit means a history of medal wins and the potential to do well in the mother of all sporting events, and whether it’s sailing a boat, swimming or athletics, any sport that requires remarkable feats of endurance, strength and skill should be deserving of one’s complete devotion in order to enhance Singapore’s presence on the global stage. Apparently, that category includes staring at a computer screen and clicking furiously on a mouse.

In 2005, Stanley Aw, Counterstrike enthusiast had his NS deferred by 2 months to participate in the WORLD CYBER GAMES. I’m no sporting or gaming fan, but I’m certain long jump is an Olympic event and Counterstrike isn’t and NEVER will be. How is it that a record holder is denied deferment but not a videogame addict? Or maybe MINDEF thought Counterstrike would be relevant to NS training anyway and could utilise Aw’s elite soldier skills in field combat. Ex Defence Minister Teo Chee Hean had no explanation for it either. Lord knows what Stanley is up to now and I’ve no information on how well he did for that competition. Maybe he’s stationed somewhere in Afghanistan as Special Forces as we speak. If I knew that MINDEF was flexible towards non-traditional sports, I would have tried competitive Scrabble, Rubik Cube, or even ballroom dancing in my youth. Why waste all that sweat, aches and pains on something trivial like jumping off a white line?

Game on, soldier

Sumiko Tan cheating at Candy Crush

From ‘Candy crushed’, 15 Sept 2013, article by Sumiko Tan, Lifestyle, ST

In the universe I inhabit before I go to sleep every night, I am already in 2014. To be exact, Jan 18, 2014, as of last night. That’s because I am a Candy Crush cheat.

…Googling Candy Crush, I discovered that I could actually get “lives” without waiting. All I had to do was set the clock on my iPad ahead by two hours. Sometimes, though, the clock goes haywire and I’d still be locked out. I then discovered an easier option to get as many lives as I want – setting the clock ahead by days instead of hours.

…At an average of one hour a weekday and two on weekends, I’ve devoted about 180 hours to Candy Crush so far, or nearly eight days of my life. I’m also a little poorer because I’ve had no choice but to pay to gain entry to new levels. I’ve never been a fan of games. The only other online game I was keen on was the wordgame Scramble, but that at least was educational. I learnt new words.

Candy Crush, on the other hand, is utterly meaningless.

…I rather play Candy Crush than talk to my husband. I rather play Candy Crush than go to sleep. Even when I’m sleepy, I feel compelled to play on because I am desperate to get to the next level. And because I’ve discovered the trick to getting unlimited lives, I can play on forever.

…If you have overcome your Candy Crush addiction, pray share how you did it.

I need help.

I can understand Internet addiction, whether it’s surfing, blogging, Facebooking or playing Candy Crush. Fortunately I have observed enough human beings being boggled by the game to NOT get started. Those aren’t jelly beans, they’re parasitic alien worms that burrow into your consciousness and take control of your nervous system like Invasion of the Body Snatchers.  This may not be helpful advice to a close-to-50 year old woman, but in the case of CC, prevention is far better than cure. If all else fails, there’s always IMH to render medical assistance.

Not an avid player of casual games myself, hacking gameplay is not something most people should be proud of, not least telling it to the world. Where’s the sense of achievement or satisfaction in that? Sumiko once claimed that she’s ‘OK with losing’ 2 years back, but doesn’t want to let go of her quest to attain higher levels in the game, even if she had to pay for it.

I’m lacking in the “must-win” gene – if there is such a thing. I’ve never felt any desire to be top in class or No. 1 in anything, and am happy if I’m somewhere in the upper half of any ranking. This lack of fighting spirit is also why I avoid games of any sort. I don’t play sporty games, or board games, or even video games. Competition both bores me and makes me queasy.

There’s something about CC that drives a woman who eschews ‘boring’ competition to ‘beat the odds’ just to progress in the game. Mental health experts may wish to explore CC as a training tool for people who lack any fighting spirit whatsoever. Side effects include boarding the wrong train or falling into sinkholes.

Although Sumiko labels the game ‘meaningless’ and ‘no fun anymore’ like how a chronic smoker says cigarettes are killing him while puffing 30 sticks a day, there are some benefits to playing instant gratification dopamine-boosting games like CC. It bonds mothers and daughters-in-laws, it hones your reflexes and by keeping your fingers busy it actually burns more calories than watching K drama on TV. It turns a dreary train carriage into a pachinko wonderland, and in those moments of crush ecstasy your universe is a Willy Wonka wet dream, where unicorns puke rainbow Skittles and anime imps shit eclairs. You’re enclosed in your personal magic bubble, immune to grotesque sights and smells of peak hour train crowding, immune to the grating nagging of the SMRT aunty telling people to ‘move to the centre’. You are even providing entertainment to the elderly man struggling to stand while you’re latched to the priority seat mesmerised and transported into your little slice of sugary heaven.

I’m not sure, though, of the effects of such sweet seduction on Sumiko’s very public marriage to a man known to us only as ‘H’. The game has been referenced in a couple of recent Sumiko articles. In ‘The 3 year itch‘ she admits that she ‘plays Candy Crush late into the night when she should be looking into his (H’s) eyes’. In the same article, she mentions the word ‘divorce’. In July this year she introduced the game to her stepdaughter, which is like a drug pusher tempting a child with cannabis, or in this case ‘CANDYbis’. I wonder how the kid is doing now. There have been anecdotes of children playing CC non-stop till they bleed strawberry syrup from their noses.

Here’s hoping Sumiko weans off her sweet addiction in exchange for candy kisses and honeyed hugs instead. Meanwhile, here’s a totally meaningless video of a kitten playing the same game that gets millions of intelligent adult human beings hooked.

7 year olds playing Blackshot

From ‘Parents shocked over bloody video games’, 24 May 2011, article in (translated from LHWB)

A parent that recently visited a local LAN gaming shop has expressed shock and consternation over the violent and bloody games being played by young children.

The parent had noticed a small boy of seven years or younger engrossed in a popular video game known as “Blackshot”. The game allows gamers to carry out military missions by killing “enemies” on different battlefield scenarios.

…Enemies in the game spurt fountains of blood after being shot or stabbed before finally collapsing into death spasms. When the player gets injured, blood spatters can also be seen on the gaming screen.

The concerned parent says, “I’ve seen violent games, but the level of violence in Blackshot seems far more serious than previous games. I noticed many people playing this game in the LAN gaming shop. How can I not be worried after seeing a seven-year-old engrossed in it.”

There will be blood

It’s more likely that kids turn violent from watching wrestling where they can mimic actual finishing moves instead of being trained by the splatterfest that is Blackshot  into becoming instant assassins armed to the teeth with daggers and machine guns. Surely it’s easier to perform a body slam than to blow a man’s head apart, provided you could even find a gun first. There’s no clear correlation between a child’s immersion in a violent fantasy world and homicidal rage in real life, whether the anger is the withdrawal symptom of video game addiction as a whole or there is a pathological blurring of the lines between reality and playtime, though it’s no exaggeration to say that if violence in gaming were indeed a factor, then so is the suffocating stress that our kids face in school every single day which makes them dream dark fantasies of gouging out their teachers’ eyeballs with a screwdriver than concentrate on algebra.

Violent games which empower innocent minds with the death touch is nothing new, and the fear of shoot-em ups turning kids into trigger-happy psychotics has existed since the 80’s prototypes of the classic first person shooter (See below, Watch out! The TV shoots back in this new video game, 7 May 1988, ST). Despite claims that games like Blackshot glorify carnage and all out war with generous dollops of pixelated blood, one can’t shield our kids from brutal violence forever, and one might as well prepare them before they squeal like girls when the Army shows them documentaries of exploded corpses as part of the necessary numbing-down indoctrination process.  And even if you stop them from playing games that treat human lives with such gratuitous disdain, they would just turn their fix towards Animal Kaiser and become gambling addicts instead.

Starcraft commentator’s Singaporean accent

From ‘Game off for Asian accent’, 6 March 2011, article by Nicholas Yong in Sunday Times

A Singaporean commenting on one of the world’s biggest computer gaming leagues is getting flak for her supposedly incomprehensible pronunciation.

Ms Kelly Ong, 21, is the only Singaporean working in the GOMTV Global Starcraft II League (GSL),a large tournament-based league held on location in Seoul, South Korea. Her appointment had itself generated controversy, with numerous gamers protesting over her ‘thick accent’ and saying in various forums that she’s ‘difficult to understand’.

…One Singaporean poster even accused her of having a fake Australian accent.

…(BryanTan123, Singapore): I have no respect for u Kelly Ong. Your faux Australian accent is f***ing irritating. U haf no right commenting in Code A.

Ignoring the obscure technicalities of interstellar warfare, Kelly’s commentary is the kind of paranoid, corsetted Singlish that policewomen hosts put on for Crimewatch episodes, give or take the occasional grammatical error and upwards, bubbly inflexion at the end of sentences typical of American rather than Australian English. Naturally it’s hard for someone not trained to be a newscaster to appeal to the nerdy international gaming world, inevitably descending into a split-personality type accent whilst trying to keep up with an impeccable English commentator who gets all sweaty and excited over drones attacking a fortress as he would over football near-misses careening off crossbars. She’s also at a disadvantage since her co-commentator is able to speak in a relaxed, natural tone, but she has to pander to the vague standards of what an Asian accent should be, which is probably how Michelle Yeoh or Maggie Q speak (under scripted direction and practice, mind you) in the movies. Imagine juggling spontaneity with the pressure of being understood in a non-native tongue. It’s probably just as hard as politicians dishing out half-truths with a straight face.

Shame on Bryan in any case, for being nothing more than a jealous , trolling bully because Kelly, a young woman, has landed a dream job while he’s probably slaving away in the cubicle 8 hours a day and lives only for a weekend virtual romp in the fantasy realm of warmongering other-worlds with near pornographic bloodlust.  Unless he could be specific on what kind of accent he would like to hear, he should take the hot seat himself, and find out what it feels like describing action he’s so passionate about with an agreeable accent while his fellow gamecaster is rattling away in the Queen’s English. Do Singaporeans necessarily have to be debating champions, ambassadors at large or broadcasting journalists in order to be understood? If people can’t understand us, why is it always our fault and not theirs for not having the cognitive flexibility to  accommodate our linguistic idiosyncrasies like Jap-lish, Ching-lish or Ind-ish? We don’t complain about thick Scottish accents on football commentaries because we’ve allowed them time to endear to us, so why not allow the Singaporean accent to just grow on gaming fans, even if it sounds strange initially, like how people eventually grow used to other thick Oriental accents? Having already exposed the gaming industry to the likes of Bolo Santosi last year, perhaps Kelly should explore keeping it real and at least be consistent with what they’ve already encountered, since a precedent has been set already anyway.

Animals as killing machines

From ‘Game treats animals as killing machines’ 3 Aug 2010, ST Forum online

(Liew Kai Khiun): I WOULD like to bring to attention an arcade game called Animal Kaiser, available in arcade parlours and 7-Eleven stores.

Players choose from a range of menacing computer-generated animals and insects to be gladiators and execute a series of deadly attacks on their opponents.

The gross and gory misrepresentation of animals simply as killing machines in the game is completely unsuitable for public exhibition, particularly in convenience stores that are easily accessible to children.

A sustained engagement with this game could create unhealthy and abusive attitudes towards animals as merely objects of brutal sport.

The game should be removed from 7-Eleven stores and be given stringent adult ratings.

Haven’t animals been treated as ‘mere objects of brutal sport’ for centuries? If Mr Liew is such a crusader for animal rights, perhaps he should direct his energies towards banning cock and cricket fighting in China where animals actually suffer instead of making a fuss about some fanciful epilepsy-inducing bits and pixels. As silly and ‘misrepresenting’ as some of the Animal Kaiser battles are (Elephant vs Stag Beetle, Eagle vs Narwhal Shark..on land!), there’s nothing wrong with animals being portrayed as ‘killing machines’, unless your idea of the Animal kingdom is the Mandai Zoo. Nature is a bloodthirsty bitch, as any animal documentary on okto channel would tell you, red in tooth and claw. Hell, you may even think Frogger is a violation of amphibian rights. In fact, being crushed by a vehicle is a worse death than any of the signature finishing moves in Animal Kaiser. Other than turning kids into violent adults and adults into violent kids, the game’s card trading business could also turn them into gambling addicts, apparently.

The beetle horns are actually bigger than elephant tusks


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