The Brunel Writer Prize is awarded to the student who achieves the highest graded non-fiction article submission for the Creative Industries module on Brunel University’s Creative Writing programme. The piece of non-fiction should be ‘fresh, original, compelling and well balanced’. This year’s prize is shared between two students: Adam Johnson and Fleur Rollet-Manus. Adam’s piece tells of the video game, Overwatch, and its online community’s refusal to embrace the progressive vision of its creator. Fleur’s article debunks the Hollywood myth of the magazine industry via her personal experience of securing a position with Suitcase Magazine.
Overwatch: The game that brought the world together (And tore it apart)
Hello, I am a video game nerd. It’s okay, I am comfortable in my albeit pasty skin. Every video game nerd has a weapon of choice, a game they hold in high esteem above all others, and mine is Overwatch. This game was first conceived when Blizzard executive Geoff Kaplan dared to ask the question, ‘what would happen if first person shooter Call of Duty and Disney Pixar Studios went on a blind date, and that date went really well, and it led to a wholesome marriage and inevitably, a beautiful video game birth child?’ Well Geoff, Overwatch happens, and it’s pretty good.
This is an online video game: players are split into two teams of six and battle against one another for an objective, like King of the Hill, for example. It boasts beautiful landscapes, set in a utopian future, and has a roster of twenty-seven characters for players to choose from. There’s an equal number of male and female characters and not all the females are sexualised (this is a rarity in the video game world, so good job Geoff, I guess) but, above all else, what makes this game so special is its diversity. It celebrates so many cultures. For example, there’s this guy from Brazil who’s a successful DJ, he’s called Lucio. Then there’s Diva, a South Korean professional gamer, and there’s Angela, a medic from Switzerland, and she’s going out with a cyborg Japanese ninja called Genji but they can’t meet and have to send forbidden love letters because he’s training in the Tibetan mountains with a robotic monk who is a badass. See? It sounds awesome. It’s wonderfully progressive, there are so many indiscriminate characters and they are all working together for a common cause. So, according to Overwatch the future couldn’t be brighter. According to Overwatch race relations surpass even Martin Luther King’s wildest dreams.
But there is a problem and it’s a big one. To reiterate, Overwatch is an online game. This means that real people are playing the game. Real people are asked to work together, as a team, with people they’ve never met before. Now, it’s all well and good that the characters in the video game are so tolerant of one another, but real people…that’s a whole other story.
Foolish Geoff Kaplan. Much like Dr. King before him, Geoff too, had a dream. This dream was simple. He sought to unite pasty nerds across the globe in a first-person team-based experience. They would greet random strangers online with open arms and together, they would achieve ultimate victory, much like the beloved characters they play as. Overwatch would set a shining example of what the world could be, if discrimination was but a bitter memory. This was Geoff Kaplan’s extraordinary dream.
But Geoff, oh foolish, delusional Geoff. Human beings are terrible, mate. I believe it was Edelman that once said:
‘Man is evil. By nature, man is a beast.’
Of course, Marek Edelman was talking about Warsaw, but I think the point more accurately describes the Overwatch online community. They are just awful. Since playing Overwatch, I have experienced racism a total of fifty-two times and I am white. My sexuality is constantly inferred. I am encouraged to kill myself on a regular basis. The list goes on. I won’t bore you with the details. But it’s bitter irony that a game that celebrates tolerance and diversity couldn’t have a more toxic community.
Poor unfortunate Mr Kaplan. All he wanted was for people to make friends. But a horde of angry nerds across the globe that make up the Overwatch community, have taken Geoff Kaplan’s beautiful dream in their sweaty hands and smashed it into a million tiny pieces.
Way to go humanity.
Adam Johnson is a writer, actor and shameless gamer. Hailing from Kent, his proudest achievement is co-writing the musical Super Hero which had a mini pop-up tour around the country with the National Youth Music Theatre. He is soon to perform at the Camden Fringe, and finally, he is better than 51% of all players on Overwatch (he insisted we include this).
The Devil No Longer Wears Prada
It’s about time we debunked the myth that the magazine industry is full of angry, designer-clad, triple-shot-half-soy-half-milk-from-mars-extra-hot coffee wielding Miranda Priestly clones. Whilst lifestyle journalism does bring with it the same glitz and glamour displayed in the hit movie and best-selling novel that thinly veils the life behind the glossy pages of Vogue, the stereotypes that suggest the industry is full of girls that survive solely off diet coke and lettuce leaves under a fearful, but perfectly-groomed dictator are both inaccurate and damaging.
Last year through the power of social media, I landed an interview at SUITCASE Magazine, the publication I’d been fangirling over ever since I’d been (unfairly) sacked from playing Farmer Fleur on an Australia banana farm – truly a story for another day. After much to-ing and fro-ing (the then Deputy Editor had commitments in Palm Springs, Havana, Nice) a date and the location was set. I arrived at the swanky, marble-topped bar of Soho House’s member-only Dean Street Townhouse early, by an hour. Unsurprisingly, I had yet to be in a financial position to shell out for a House membership therefore was denied entry and asked to leave until the Deputy Editor (who naturally was a member) arrived. Was this the first sign that I wasn’t elite enough to be writing for the cool kids? Was my tube-creased Zara shirt evidence that I wouldn’t cut it against the clean lines of Valentino’s latest capsule collection? Apparently not, I started the next day.
Having religiously poured over the pastel, perfectly symmetrical, witty pages of every published edition, I expected the SUITCASE offices to be filled with clean, minimalist lines and equally intimidating staff writers. The kind that you long to ask where their boots are from, but already know they’ll reply ‘they’re vintage, duh’. For the second time in as many days my stereotypes were being torn at the seams. Instead, I was met with a sea of articulate, bright and funny individuals who were keen to welcome any new talent – intern status or not.
I’d brushed up on my tea-making skills the night before and had practiced my telephone manner, only to quickly find this to be a waste of time. Making tea and screening phone calls were at the bottom of the agenda and instead within the first hour I was set numerous writing and research tasks. As the weeks went on and my writing went from strength to strength having mastered the SUITCASE voice, my portfolio grew and the contacts I was building within the industry would soon provide me the stepping-stones in which to launch a freelance career. A far cry from juggling multiple Starbucks cups that the film predicted.
The Devil Wears Prada Fashion Editor Nigel sarcastically retorts ‘Yes, because that’s really what this whole multibillion-dollar industry is all about, isn’t it? Inner beauty.’ Well, in fact at SUITCASE it is. Celebrating life through the culture of travel lies at the crux of the publication ensuring that the women, and men, featured have a desire to initiate change through their creative skill set. Perhaps this is why independent publications such as SUITCASE provide invaluable industry experience to hard-working and driven individuals who are eager to absorb the publication’s unique ethos.
One thing that The Devil Wears Prada does correctly reiterate is that a million girls would kill for this job. Yet it brings into question whether it’s just the lure of jet-setting and frequent Heathrow Terminal 5 departures that pulls them in? Remembering the reason why we pursue a creative career has to remain at the forefront of our motivation, as without this we will turn into a bickering clack of airheads and lose the strong, empowering voice that the industry can, and does, possess.
In the words of Miranda Priestley – that’s all.
Fleur Rollet-Manus can often be found racking up air miles, sitting on an oversize suitcase wrestling with an already strained zip or clutching an extra large coffee while penning her latest travel disaster. She’s currently the Contributing Editor for SUITCASE Magazine and has just landed her first junior editor role at Food and Travel.