All About Starshine_M2A2
'V was a bad monster, turned them into freaking zombie demons from outer space.'
When Nintendo unveiled the Wii U, it came as little surprise it would continue the departure from traditional console gaming considering the steps taken with motion technology and a family friendly presentation that led to the original Wii's success. With the unveiling of the Xbox One and Microsoft's own apparent departure from a gaming focused system, it seems the console market is now undergoing a kind of de-evolution. It would be fair to say Microsoft and Nintendo believe themselves to represent the pinnacle of innovation and originality if their advertising campaigns and grandiose press conferences are any evidence. But does the Xbox One actually represent a step backwards as far as gamers are concerned?
Although Sony's original Playstation brought gaming into widespread public recognition by appealing to clubbing culture with trance like visuals and pumping soundtracks, it was the Xbox that pioneered online console gaming. With the introduction of Xbox Live spearheaded by the phenomenally successful Halo, Microsoft quickly and aggressively seized early control of the online market something both Sony and Nintendo have yet to match. The genius of Microsoft's approach was not simply to create a way for gamers to play online but to turn that interaction into an entire community. With the ability to compare statistics, achievements while forming and nurturing online friendships, the widespread popularity started by Sony ended up consolidated back into a culture especially for gamers - rather than club socialites seeking a way to impress their real life friends by showing interest in what they believed to be 'the next big thing'. Essentially, Microsoft gave gaming back to the gamers.
With this in mind, it came as something of a disappointment to learn that the Xbox One would apparently be undoing some of this by catering to a more general community beyond those who play games. The console was revealed to include a Blu-Ray player, Skype support and an evolved online marketplace for movies and music, not to mention integrated Kinect a feature that has never been truly accepted by gamers as a practical method of playing games. So the name Xbox One is something of a misnomer - 'One' meaning all forms of entertainment delivered by a sole system while simultaneously splintering off from a culture of gamers that had been so expertly set up with the previous two consoles. All of this combined with the lack of backwards compatibility and we have system that appears hell bent on erasing the established gaming history of so many who had finally found a devoted community to call home.
The decision to cater for a wider demographic could very well prove fatal for Microsoft considering it already faces competition from the Wii U and is set to face the Playstation 4 on release. It can be assumed the Playstation 3 was the least popular of the current generation systems. A rocky beginning and a severe loss of credibility for Sony after the Playstation Network was hacked in mid 2011 resulting in the compromise of millions of credit card numbers means its been a difficult road for Sony of late. However, it now has a chance at redemption and reclamation of its status as the most popular console developer as proven by the Playstation 2's record of the highest selling console of all time. If you consider the departures from traditional gaming being made by Nintendo and the now risky fracturing of gamer culture by Microsoft, it leaves Sony in an interesting position to take advantage of the Playstation 4 now being the only console to still offer a traditional and dedicated gaming experience.
I've spent the last 40 days or so trying to keep a particularly severe Asperger's Syndrome ritual at bay. Like all others before it, it relates to memories I cant quite remember or trust and irrational fears stemming from uncontrolled mental images. To keep a long and boring story short, these rituals generally consist of ruminations intrusive thoughts and perceived threats similar in a lot of ways to obsessive-compulsive disorder. If I sound blasť about it its because this is nothing new. I've been dealing with rubbish like this since birth but it's been a long time since I've had to contend with one as stubborn as this. Usually my rituals fade after a few days or are replaced by a completely different one. But whenever I am faced with one as bad as this, my tactic is to try to rationalise it in my head or find some way of identifying with it. It was this tactic that led to me giving my Asperger's an identity all of its own which ended up consisting of its own personality, mental representation and eventually an online persona.
My time at school was when things were at their worst. I wasn't diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome until the final year of secondary (high) school so had no way of explaining where these obsessive rituals or communication problems were coming from whenever I got into trouble or got into a fight with someone. In my attempts to escape it, I would immerse myself in games, films and music. Never anything particularly conventional or mainstream, usually foreign art films or alternative music since the furthest away I could get from reality the more comfortable I would be. The artistic side of media tends to make this possible. Despite their success, Ive never considered the animated band Gorillaz to be mainstream which is partly why I adopted the name 'Starshine' after a song from their 2001 debut album. Gorillaz have long been known for making alternative music a strange fusion of rock and hip-hop but manages to sound like neither hence the unique and interesting sound they produce. The song Starshine is comprised of little more than the same set of guitar strings played over a synthesizer which slowly fades to an echo as the song goes on. Its lyrics are also minimal consisting of;
Starshine, they ain't gonna find me
Starshine, never gonna find me
Stand easy with myself,
Jumping up, I'm low, low, low, low
Show me down, fast now
It's very possible these five lines could be just random nonsense. On the other hand, it could be a reference to some profound philosophical text. I don't know, but what I do know is how I interpreted it. The music, combined with Damon Albarn's haunting vocals and the lyrics themselves formed the basis for my indentifying with these rituals and thoughts that were festering in my head.
The way I read into it was that there were two individuals present in the song. The first was Starshine who, thanks to Albarn's echoed and distant singing, seems to be calling out from a mysterious void as if taunting at never being found or caught. This came to represent my Asperger's Syndrome a voice from within the mind, compelling the sufferer to perform rituals or flooding their head with unwanted images. The sufferer is unable to locate or punish this voice for the damage it's done since it has no name or visual representation no identity. The second is the sufferer. The line 'stand easy with myself' in particular carried enormous resonance of someone wanting to be left alone or trying to convince themselves that they could live a life without the influence of this mysterious voice they carried around. It was something that didn't have to be part of them, something that could be fought and left behind. It immediately recalled memories of my mother as she would try to encourage me to stop listening to it and just move forward. Easier said than done of course, but it was sound advice.
The sound and imagery of a depressed world invoked by Gorillaz became a metaphor for my own mind...
This interpretation was how I came to know this voice. Before hearing this song, I was struggling to understand what it was that I was experiencing or what I could possibly do to stop it. It wasn't something I could see in my head and recognise which essentially meant that I was at its mercy. After all, how can you fight what you can't identify? But by giving it an identity, it turns into something tangible, something that can indeed be recognised which allowed me a more coherent understanding of what I was up against. So I christened it after the song - Starshine - the enemy, the evil and oppressive tyrant that was trying to take over the mind. Perhaps an evil general leading an army on a relentless mission of dominance. After that, the rituals themselves took on a new form and became battles against him with the brain becoming a mental battlefield. It wasn't long before I even gave Starshine a visual identity to help. I struggle to remember where the image came from or what inspired it but it consisted of a man dressed in black military fatigues black and white camos, boots, a black short sleeved military vest with fingerless gloves. Since he was a manifestation of my own mind I decided that he would look identical to me in terms of body type and facial features but with black spiked hair to represent his status as an evil alter ego of mine. He could be best described as an out of control rock and roller with Gulf War syndrome - the entire opposite to my outwardly nature.
After deciding on this name, I began altering my screen name to Starshine to correspond to the imagined identity that so many of us adopt whenever we go online. It became my email address, Steam ID, GameSpot ID and anywhere else that would allow me to use it. I thought that if games and online services were representative of a virtual world and that my in game avatars would be a fictional manifestation of myself entering a crowded community (something I rarely do in reality), it would make sense that it would be Starshine who would be in control of them since he also occupies a fantastical world. Indeed, he does make himself known in games. His terrible communication skills, team working and common sense all symptoms of Asperger's Syndome - have gotten him, and therefore me, into trouble countless times. It's the reason I have yet to complete a raid on World of Warcraft for example. Occasionally I would attach 'M2A2' to the end of his name which also originated from a Gorillaz song entitled 'M1A1' but was adopted more for convenience than anything else. The reason for using it was not all games allow the creation of specific characters with their own fleshed out identity created by the user - Call of Duty and Battlefield 3 being good examples, as opposed to MMOs that allow growth and development along story driven lines.
Online gaming - the mind downloads to a computer system becoming a new online persona...
So there it is. The origins of Starshine. I've been gaming since I was around four years of age but was a late bloomer to online gaming. If memory serves, I entered my first online match some time in 2002. Since then I've encountered online names of many shapes and sizes. I often find myself wandering where the origins of those names lie. I know there are many, many gamers out there who simply choose the first name that comes to mind but I like to think that screen names, more often than not, are indicative of the user's life or some event that can transcend reality and enter the virtual world. I think that's one of the few sure fire ways we have at the moment of bringing our real lives into a computer game and a powerful message for the relationship between the mind and the computer system. Appropriate as Aspies are often said to have more in common with a computer than a human being.
British television and film magazine Radio Times recently offered it's readers the chance to review a new drama called The Politician's Husband for a chance to be published online. Well, it looks like mine made the grade as it appeared on their website:
I've long held Radio Times as being the leading magazine in film reviews and although this was for a television drama, it was a big honour for me to be decided worthy.
So, thanks to them!
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