A letter to Wesfarmers

Mr Alan Carpenter
Executive General Manager Corporate Affairs
Wesfarmers Limited
11th Floor, Wesfarmers House
40 The Esplanade
Perth WA 6000

Dear Mr Carpenter

I am writing to you to express my disappointment in the Wesfarmers Group, specifically the actions of the brands Target and Kmart.

News broke on the 3rd of December that Target Australia would be removing from the sale a game called Grand Theft Auto V following a petition admonishing it as a game which encouraged players to commit acts of sexual violence toward women, and rewarded them for doing so. The next day, a press release from Kmart Australia confirmed that they would be taking the same action.

The petition itself is worded in emotional language, describing players being given “options to kill women by punching her [sic] unconscious, killing with a machete, bat or guns to get their money returned [after a sex act]”, as a misogynistic game which “literally makes a game of bashing, killing and horrific violence against women”, that it links sexual arousal and violence, and that is “grooming yet another generation of boys to tolerate violence against women”. The petition also mentions a Youtube clip showing a player repeated engaging in in-game violence against women.

These allegations are serious, and if they were indeed correct allegations I would completely understand Target Australia and Kmart Australia’s decision to pull the game from shelves – I am disgusted by the idea of violence against women, or anyone, and a game based solely on senseless violent premises would be one I would be the first to vote with my feet against and not purchase.

However, it is clear from the content of the petition, as well as my own knowledge of the game, having played it myself over a year ago when it was released, that the signatories to the petition have little or no actual knowledge of the actual game’s content, or the classification laws of the country that we live in.

The game is what is referred as an “open-world” or “sandbox” game. This game gives players complete freedom over the actions that they take. This means that the player can commit violence against other people, both men and women. There is no increased “reward” for being violent against a woman, and in the context of the game, bystanders will come to aid of someone who has been attacked, and the players will be chased by the police and arrested for committing acts of violence. There is no encouragement at all, nor is there a requirement for players to commit acts of violence against women in game.

It’s also worth noting the mention of grooming another generation of boys to tolerate violence against women. The product in question is rated as R18+. As you would be aware, products with this rating are restricted to those over the age of 18. If the concern is that children are playing this game, as a society we need to better educate parents of what the rating system means in our country, especially in terms of video games, as children should not even be playing such games.

To put this into perspective, a children’s game, LEGO Marvel Superheroes, features similar “open-world” mechanics, where players can drive a LEGO car or walk the streets. In these sequences, players can run over or bash female LEGO mini-figures, which will then fall apart and provide the player with “pips” as a reward. As this game gives players exactly the same motivation and encouragement to commit acts of violence against women, will Wesfarmers companies also be removing this product from shelves? I would think not.

You also sell a number of R18+ rated movies and television series that prominently feature sexual violence against women as part of their plotlines. In some cases the perpetrators of these acts do so with no consequences. Will you also withdraw these products from sale?

It is clear from your response to the petition and specific references to the game’s content in press releases from Target Australia and Kmart Australia that you have no real knowledge of the game’s content. Your companies do not know their own product well enough to know that the content of the petition is an emotionally charged and manipulated description of the product. And that is disappointing and concerning to me.

I cannot in good faith bring my business to a company that does not know its own product.

I’ve given plenty of business to your group of companies over the years, from your Coles, Liquorland and 24 hour Kmart at Waratah, to your Bunning Warehouse at Kotara. I also seriously considered taking up insurance through your insurance arm.

While it probably means nothing to you as a company (what’s one person in the grand scheme of things, right?), I just wanted to tell you that you have lost a long-term, loyal customer.

I’m sad to tell you that, but in the end I need to protect the values that I hold dear – freedom of expression, the right of an adult to decide based on real evidence what is the best product for them, and the belief that a company should know a product it sells.

Regards

Lachlan Stevens

Target goes crazy, removes GTAV from sale

This morning I’ve discovered that as of yesterday, Target Australia has removed Grand Theft Auto V from sale. I’ve got to say, this decision, along with the reasons supplied by Target, astound me.

First of all I believe that we need to empower adults to make their own decisions regarding what they should consume in terms of their entertainment. While I think there are boundaries in modern society (which includes some circumstances where an entertainment product is refused classification), I think we need to give an audience’s ability to vote with their feet to pass judgement on how appropriate a product is or isn’t.

The subject matter at the heart of the petition which has brought on this action by Target is troubling to consider. I’ll be honest, I agree with a lot of what is at the heart of the petition. But do I believe that as a whole, violence against women is a key part of the narrative? No more than it is in, for example, Game of Thrones (which I can count four instances of violence against women and rape just off the top of my head, which go completely unpunished), among plenty of other fairly mainstream TV shows, movies and video games.

And on the much raised point of “this game isn’t suitable for my child”. That’s where the concept of parenting comes in, where you see the R18+ label, look at the specifics details on the rating label and then make the decision “this is a game for adults, I certainly shouldn’t be buying this for my child”.

Target Australia needs to, I would say, take a long look at most of its entertainment products if GTA V has caused this much concern within its management. It has been dealing itself in to irrelevance for a number of years now, and I suspect that the end is nigh for Target.

Vale Phillip Hughes

I first saw Phillip Hughes in Sheffield Shield match here in Newcastle, when NSW played Victoria way back in 2009. I’d missed him play in South Africa and England due to the timezones. I watched him make a century in the first innings, and I thought to myself, “this guy can’t stay out of the national side for long.”

He was in and out of the side, and I’ve always thought he was a little bit hard done by. He never gave up, and being in and out of the side, he seemed to always remain right on the periphery of being back in the side. The one good thing to come out of Michael Clarke being ruled out of the first test was that, I hoped, we’d see Hughes back in the Baggy Green, hopefully to start to earn his place back into the side.

He was a player I very much thought he’d be a player who’d make 100 First-Class centuries, and play 100 tests. I even hoped he’d see him once again in Australia’s ODI team. That double-century put him in good stead for that, I thought at the time.

A few years ago I found out that someone I’d been friends with had passed away in a sporting accident. Even though it had been a few years since we’d talked, it still affected me greatly. But it was comforting, even at a young age, that he had gone out doing something  he loved. I hope those close to Phil Hughes can find comfort in that, too.

I also just want to quickly reiterate that I really feel for Sean Abbott. Abbott and Hughes pretty much came through the NSW ranks at the same time, and obviously he is going to live with this for the rest of his career, and the rest of his life.

R.I.P. Phillip Hughes

Mat Inns NO Runs HS Ave BF SR 100 50 4s 6s Ct St
Tests 26 49 2 1535 160 32.65 2866 53.55 3 7 199 11 15 0
ODIs 25 24 1 826 138* 35.91 1100 75.09 2 4 91 5 5 0
T20Is 1 1 0 6 6 6.00 8 75.00 0 0 1 0 0 0
First-class 114 209 15 9023 243* 46.51 15798 57.11 26 46 1229 46 72 0
List A 91 89 12 3639 202* 47.25 4671 77.90 8 23 364 35 30 0
Twenty20 34 34 8 1110 87* 42.69 947 117.21 0 10 112 16 16 0

Statistics from espncricinfo

 

My Trip to New Zealand: Day 1-Day 2 (Waitomo Caves, Hobbiton)

Yes, I know I said I’d be posting in the weeks ahead, and it’s not almost two weeks since I last published a post on this blog. Unfortunately, life decided to get involved, and I’ve had to move at very short notice. I’m just settling down now into the new place, so I have the time to spend a bit of time with a (metaphorical) pen in hand. So, here we have at the first post on my trip to New Zealand, over a month later now.

Our trip to New Zealand began in Auckland. We arrived at approximately 3pm at the international airport, and from there we picked up our rental car and headed in to the city. The airport is fairly close to the centre of the city, which was pretty helpful to a new traveller to the region. On the day all we did was head to our hostel, grab some dinner and hit the sack.

First of all, the hostel. We stayed at Nomads Fat Camel on Fort St. And what can I say, you really get what you pay for, which in the end wasn’t a great deal. The whole place smelt pretty bad, especially the common area (I had to cover my face whenever walking through, lest I start to feel ill). The bed was probably among the worst I’ve ever slept on (a crappy sofa bed would probably rate above the bed we had). It was fairly convenient to the city though, and the staff were quite friendly. Regardless of this, I wouldn’t stay there again. From speaking to the locals they seemed to rate Nomads fairly highly, so maybe we just got a dodgy level or were staying at the worst of their hostels.

On Day 2, we did a guided tour to the Waitomo Caves and Hobbiton. First of all, to anyone thinking of doing this, I’d recommend doing it out of Rotorua – it was quite a long way away from Auckland, and comparatively much closer to Rotorua. I blame our travel agent for this, but despite this I actually quite enjoyed the long trip. Our tour operator was a friendly guy who was more than happy to give us a lesson on New Zealand’s past and present, and was more than happy to make witty remarks on the political and social climate of the country, followed by a short pause then “…but anyway.”

Waitomo Caves was a little underwhelming to be honest, but only because I’ve done similar things back here in Australia which were much bigger. The caves themselves are a limestone cave, complete with glowworms in parts. There’s an interesting history to the caves, to. Tours were originally done by the local Maori, but in 1904 or 1905 the land was acquired by the Crown, who began to do their own tours. From what I was told about this by the tour operator, it doesn’t seem to be a move than anyone is particularly proud of. In 1989, the cave was returned to the descendants of its original owners, many of whom help with the tours to this day.

From the Waitomo Caves we headed to Hobbiton, which is the thing I’d really been interested in. I’m a bit of a Lord of The Rings nerd (though as I love both but personally prefer the movies to the books I suppose I can’t really say that after all), and from what I was thinking before leaving Australia, this was to be my favourite attraction of the trip. It certainly didn’t let me down. Built in the middle of the privately owned Alexander Farm, Hobbiton has been built twice. It was constructed for the Lord of The Rings films, and was partially deconstructed at the end of filming, leaving some aspects of the film set standing. However, when a larger Hobbiton was rebuilt for The Hobbit, it was able to be kept standing as it was presented in the films. It was a pretty awesome experience strolling through Hobbiton, from Bilbo’s House down to the Party Tree and across to the Green Dragon where we had a glass of cider on the house.

The worst part of what was an otherwise excellent day was trip back to Auckland. It was a long, long trip and by the time we were back at the bus station all we really wanted to do was to fall asleep.

My Thoughts on New Zealand

I was planning to write a post about this a long time ago, but I didn’t. A month ago I was chilling out in Christchurch, New Zealand. It’s been three and a bit weeks since I’ve been back, and I planned to have a few posts written and out in the interwebs by now. But alas, my holidays were far too short, and I was back at work pretty much the next day after arriving back in the country. As it happens, now’s the first real chance I’ve had to sit down and write about my experiences.

First of all, I just want to comment on this little thing people call the “travel bug”. Up until the day I arrived in NZ, I thought it was the most stupid thing in the world. Why waste money travelling? But how wrong I was. Now I’ve left, the country, I need another fix to feed my addiction. Already I’m eagerly thinking of a new destination to run off to when I next have the time and money.

From my first moment on New Zealand soil, I was amazed by the land, its culture and people and the many attractions on offer.

Starting from Auckland, and moving on through Rotorua, Wellington, Kaikoura, Christchurch and finally Queenstown, it was an experience I will never forget. Certainly it’s an experience I hope I’ll have the chance to relive before too long.

Over the next few weeks I’ll be writing a post on each of the cities and towns I stayed at during the visit, but at this stage I just wanted to touch base after months of nothing before I get started on the hard stuff. I’ll be starting with Auckland and moving on from there.

The washup for GMG over Watch_Dogs

This is the last time I’m going to write about what happened yesterday with the keys for Watch_Dogs.

There is perhaps a misunderstanding on the part of GMG. The belief they seem to be projecting is that the issue with what happened is that the keys were late.

I would say for the vast majority of dissatisfied customers, the issue was not due to the lateness of the keys. Simply, we expected more in terms of communication from the company. The few pieces of communication put out my staff were incorrect to what actually happened in the end. I make no secret of the fact that I’ve been a huge fan of GMG for a while now. Perhaps it’s because of this that I’m so disappointed at what has gone down. But what’s wrong with holding a company to the same high standards that they’ve proven time and time again that they can deliver on. I see nothing wrong with this.

gmgapology

Yes, there’s been (two!) apologies (see above) and yes the players affected have been given a “Sorry Pack” of games for our trouble.

I’m not satisfied with a “Sorry Pack” or an apology. While the free (mediocre) games was a nice touch, there was only one thing I really wanted as an endgame for this: I want an explanation from GMG as to exactly what has gone wrong in their system, and what they have done or are doing to make sure it does not happen again. Plain and simple.

Maybe the sorry pack has saved a few customers. I know plenty of people who won’t be going back to GMG, and plenty of people on their forums are saying the same thing. Myself? I don’t know yet. I certainly won’t be preordering through them for a while until I know I’ll get what I paid for.

Anyway, this blog will now return to its normal program of not talking about a lot.

Right now, I should be playing Watch Dogs.

Unfortunately, I’m not.

Three potential release times have marched by from Green Man Gaming, the (usually excellent) store I made my purchase from. In the past I’ve bought everything from Company of Heroes 2 to Dark Souls II to Battlefield 4 through these guys and I’ve never had a hint of an issue – keys always came early so I could prepare to get in to the game.

So when the official midnight release came and went without a key in my inbox, I didn’t particularly worry. I was pretty much only going to be starting the download for the game and going to bed – I didn’t really have much desire to play last night after a tough working week.

The original Australian digital release date was 8:00AM AEST. Logged on at 8:00AM. Still nothing.

watchdogkeysInteresting. Well, the company confirmed that UK keys would go out at midnight UK time, so maybe us Australians will get ours at 12:01AM BST as well? They’re a British company after all.

British release date goes by. No keys for anyone.

So there’s two main possibilities of when keys will arrive – EST (which is in about an hour at the time of posting this) or PST (in about four hours).

They should have made the release date for GMG “sometime around about halfway through the day on 27th”.

It’s important to note that all other online retailers as well as uPlay and Steam (despite some technical issues on Valve’s part this morning) all have the game ready for instant access.

I don’t know if this spells the end of me using GMG, because they’ve treated me so well in the past, but I’m disappointed for sure at a game they’ve all been waited on already for six months longer then we should have.

I just want me some Watch Dogs, okay!

EDIT 2:10PM: So, it’s now after midnight EST in the US. No key. I think the more realistic timeframe now for keys is when people actually come in to the GMG offices for the day. Depending on work hours of the guys there that could be within the hour or up to three away. Brilliant.

greenmangame

EDIT 2:22PM: Alright, so the Green Man Gaming site is now down. Too many people madly refreshing looking for their game keys, including now a large amount of Americans. It only gets worse from here Green Man…

EDIT 4:54PM: Reports starting to come in that keys are arriving via email. Yet to see mine yet but I’m hopeful.

EDIT 5:02PM: Key has received. I’m pissed that it’s taken this long for GMG to get sorted out, but all in all I’m just happy that I finally have it.

Writing.

I’ve had writers block for over three years. It sucks, to say the very least. I still love to write. Well, I think so, at the very least. I enjoy putting words down on paper, even if it’s just writing that I don’t know how to write, like I’m doing now. The few words I manage to spit out feel good – writing about Game of Thrones a few weeks back felt great – but the feeling of knowing exactly what to write is coming to me less and less. I really have no idea how to remedy this, but I’m working so hard on it. I crave writing. Crave it.

Margaery and Olenna Tyrell

Is Game of Thrones Going Too Far to Differentiate Itself from the Books? [SPOILERS]

I love Game of Thrones. It goes back to my love of A Song of Ice and Fire way back in the day, though I only got two books on the first read through. A few years later I heard from a co-worker that the TV show was happening, and almost immediately I went ahead and read all four books that were out at the time.

My following of the show has been no different. Even events that I knew were coming, such as the events of “Baelor” (S1), “The Ghost of Harrenhal” (S2), “The Rains of Castamere” (S3), and “The Lion and the Rose” (S4), still filled me with a genuine sense of tension that film and TV struggles to do these days.

And I understand that the show can not follow the books exactly. I think I read somewhere that George R.R. Martin wrote the books with an adaptation in mind (I can’t find a quote for this so don’t quote me on it either), which would make the transition easier than most, but of course there needs to structural, character and story changes. And most I’ve seen as necessary or at least bearable. I sit down every week to watch the show legally on my very expensive Foxtel subscription (thanks Fox and HBO for that one, but that’s a whole different story), which I still have primarily to legally watch this show.

An example of a change I’ve enjoyed is the larger role for Margaery Tyrell. In the books she’s really on the periphery, and portrayed primarily as a bit of a slut lady of the night. In the show, however, at this stage at least she appears to be more on the side of good, trying to mold Joffrey in to at least a half decent king. Natalie Dormer does a fantastic job in the role as well.

The spoilers will begin shortly, so if you didn’t notice the big SPOILERS tag in the title, if you haven’t watch the show yet, I’d suggest ending your reading journey here.

Margaery and Olenna Tyrell

Let’s just go ahead and talk out the whole story, shall we? Credit: HBO

There’s one in the last couple of episodes that just don’t sit right for me. Why they’ve been made, I don’t know. To make the TV show its own beast perhaps? Or is HBO commiting the cardinal sin and writing down its audience’s intelligence.

King Joffrey’s murder? The books make fairly certain that Olenna Redwyne is behind it, while not explicitly putting it out there for all to see. As far as I recall. There’s simply the mention of Sansa’s hair net being crooked and needing to be straightened. No names are mentioned, but we know exactly what has occurred.

In the show, however, we see a scene with the Queen of Thorns openly discussing with Margaery that she was behind the killing, speaking in detail of her exact motive etc, much to Margaery’s shock. Who knows, this change might just be a result of dialogue shift from what Littlefinger talks about in the books, due to the change from the POV nature of the books to a more open and varied character set featured in the show. But I still don’t like it very much.

I’m also not entirely enthused by the change in the placement of Lysa Arryn’s little outburst to Littlefinger regarding Jon Arryn’s death. It seems as though they were trying to layer everything in terms of Littlefinger being a bit of a scoundrel fairly thick. I don’t think it pays off. Assuming the writers are going to go down the same route between the two characters as they did in the books, the revelation would have been much more powerful and hard hitting had it been placed where it originally happened in the books.

The character change of Jaime into a bit of a rapist didn’t really rub well with me either. It sort of goes against the positive changes his character has gone through over the previous four books.

I don’t know, though. Maybe I’m just becoming one of those fans that lambastes every little change from the original piece to its adaptation.

If that’s me, please shoot me. Immediately. I don’t want to live in this world anymore.

 

This sort of thing happens when I clean my study…

I’d wanted to look at getting back into some of The Games Workshop’s stuff for a while now, and finding some unpainted figures and a handful of still useful paints spurred me on a little.

I’m not sure if it’s the age of the paints in question (some would be more than 5 years old) or just the fact I haven’t done this in so long, but getting the paints to apply smoothly is harder then I remember, and the line between watering down enough and waaaaay too much is so microscopic I don’t think I ever ended up on the right side of it.

Nevertheless, it was fun experience. It was a challenge given I’m missing a lot of the required paints, but it still fun. I’ll probably end up replacing my paints and doing another one to see if I can improve on it. It’d be nice to do something that doesn’t involve a computer/video game console for a hobby.

You can tell from the picture I’ve gotten lazy on a few fronts (that red in particular), but it was purely a test figure. I’m not too unhappy with it.

It's fairly evident it's been years since I've touched a paint brush.

It’s fairly evident it’s been years since I’ve touched a paint brush.