4 Ways Grand Theft Auto V Shows Off Every Flaw of Modern Gaming

This piece is a column I sold to Cracked that never ran because of a scheduling conflict. While I generally try to keep to my own style on this site, I didn’t want to let this one go to waste. 

Grand Theft Auto V is the entertainment event of the year. It raked in over a billion dollars in just three days, a record for every form of media. By the time sales start to slow the developers at Rockstar will have enough money to make Scrooge McDuck’s fortune look like chump change. If they make it rain in the club, everyone will drown. They’ll need to hire a maid whose only job is to clean up after their money fights. The game’s a big success, is what I’m trying to say here.

But while GTAV is certainly fun, it’s not without its flaws. And that’s worrying, because these flaws aren’t just little bugs—they’re examples of everything that’s wrong with modern gaming. So in-between taking prostitutes for rides in helicopters that you then crash into other, less fortunate prostitutes, see if you notice that…

4. The Industry Still Has No Idea how to Connect Story with Gameplay

Everyone, I’d like you to meet Michael.

“Hi.”

“Hi.”

Michael, one of GTAV’s three playable characters, is a retired criminal who’s drawn back into the lifestyle by boredom, family problems and the fact that playing a game where you do nothing but watch a guy drink scotch and reminisce about the old days would be called Sim Visit Grandpa. Since he robs banks for a living he’s obviously no boy scout, but he’s still an affable guy that tries to keep his criminal acts clean.

In the game’s first mission, Michael and I killed 26 cops.

Every single one was a week from retirement.

Every single one was a week from retirement.

To put that in perspective, only two police officers were killed in California (the state GTAV is set in) in all of 2012. I’ve killed more than two cops in GTAV by accidentally backing over them.

The bodies pile up like they’re in a Rambo movie because having more people to shoot is more fun. It wouldn’t be an exciting bank robbery if you only had to tie up a couple of underpaid, apathetic guards who are just trying to work their way through night school. You can’t ramp an exploding motorcycle onto the jerk who stole your parking spot in reality, so why should a virtual robbery be any more realistic?

“You can park in the handicapped spot from now on! Except I… I probably murdered you.”

“You can park in the handicapped spot from now on! Except I… I probably murdered you.”

But think about this in terms of storytelling. I don’t care if you’re the bastard child of Jeffrey Dahmer and Cobra Commander; killing 26 people is going to mess with your head. Michael shouldn’t be kicking back in a sundrenched mansion, he should be a depressed, PTSD-riddled alcoholic.

And that was just the prologue. By now I’ve single-handedly lead the funeral industry into a golden age, but there’s no indication that Michael is bothered by it. He never even mentions that he’s created enough widows to form a weirdly themed baseball league, because if he did he’d be drawing attention to how fundamentally ridiculous the game’s violence is. But his indifference makes this likeable guy I’m supposed to care about look like a murderous sociopath.

Unless… was everyone I killed secretly a rich, puppy kicking neo-Nazi?

Unless… was everyone I killed secretly a rich, puppy kicking neo-Nazi?

As long as video games fail to weave gameplay and story together every character is going to come across as schizophrenic. In an early mission with a different character, Franklin, he gives his buddy shit for always getting them in trouble while he’s trying to keep a low profile. This is after I arrived at the end of a 10 minute police chase in a stolen car, during which I accidentally mowed down at least three pedestrians. Triple vehicular homicide is generally frowned upon, but Franklin and the game treated it as if it had never happened.

GTAV is far from the only game to suffer from this absurd disconnect (BioShock Infinite, for example, is the tale of a man who rescues a girl by murdering an entire city), but its wild success and rave reviews means that this is what the mainstream media and casual gamers will associate with good storytelling. And if we let this be the standard, the video game industry isn’t getting its Citizen Kane anytime soon.

Although one of these ladies is named Rosebud in the fanfic I’m writing.

Although one of these ladies is named Rosebud in the fanfic I’m writing.

3. The Industry Still Doesn’t Know how to Portray Women

When you boot up GTAV the first loading screen doesn’t show you the main characters or a sweet ride. It shows you this:

Although one of these ladies is named Rosebud in the fanfic I’m writing.

Now, I’m no prude. I masturbate to my video games just like you do. But that image sums up the role of basically every single female character in the game. They’re either strippers, hookers or sluts, or nags and adulterers keeping men down with their buzzkilling vaginas. I haven’t finished the game yet, so maybe I haven’t met the happily married mother of two who works in marketing and volunteers at the soup kitchen in her spare time, but I’m pretty sure if that happens it will turn out she’s a sex worker who caters to clients with an oddly specific fetish.

“Yeah, baby. Oooh, tell me more about how you’re helping to eliminate the crippling stigmatisation the homeless face.”

“Yeah, baby. Oooh, tell me more about how you’re helping to eliminate the crippling stigmatisation the homeless face.”

The gaming community has gotten better (okay, less awful) at discussing gender, and GTA games are known for their sharp social satire. And yet they’re tone deaf when it comes to women, and few reviews have mentioned the massive gender gap. That sends an uncomfortable message: it’s all well and good to debate the portrayal of women in dinky little games, but when a blockbuster comes out you should run along with your cute little concerns and let the manly bro dudes ogle virtual tits.

And man, there are tits to be had. I’m pretty sure they spent more time working on boob physics than they did on their shitty cover system. Now, as the women I make uncomfortable on the bus know, I have nothing against looking at boobs. But if the best you can think to do with women in your game is to take their tops off and expect me to giggle because ha ha, breasts, I’m going to be insulted. I’m not 12 years old, you’re not blowing my mind. I’m looking for good characterisation—if I wanted to see breasts I’d use the webcam I hid in my neighbour’s shower.

To be fair, you also get to see this dude’s balls. Try to control yourselves, ladies.

To be fair, you also get to see this dude’s balls. Try to control yourselves, ladies.

It’s a frustrating problem because it’s so easy to fix. You don’t necessarily need a female protagonist—one of the bigwigs at Rockstar said GTAV has no leading ladies because “the concept of being masculine was so key to this story,” and that’s fair. But how hard would it be to throw in a woman or two that’s not awful?

At the very, very least, the topic of strip clubs and prostitutes is ripe for comedy. GTAV pokes fun at almost every subject you can think of, and yet anything sex related is played oddly straight. Players are watching virtual pole dance routines, and I haven’t received this many pretend blowjobs since I first became old enough to fantasise about sex instead of owning a robot that made cotton candy and helped me solve mysteries. We deserve to be mocked.

Maybe include a feature that makes my mom come visit and express her disappointment in me whenever this is on screen?

Maybe include a feature that makes my mom come visit and express her disappointment in me whenever this is on screen?

2. Game Journalists Still Don’t Know What Journalism Means

Gaming journalists have always been a little too buddy-buddy with developers. You may remember the scandal where a Gamespot editor was fired for giving a bad review to a game that had paid for lots of ads. If you thought things have improved since then, you haven’t read IGN’s “10 Crazy, Awesome Things I Saw and Did in Grand Theft Auto Online.”

Previews are important—they let journalists tell gamers if all the amazing claims developers are making are true or full of more shit than my OKCupid profile.

“Oops, stock market was a typo. I work in the stalk market. Celery doesn’t sell itself!”

“Oops, stock market was a typo. I work in the stalk market. Celery doesn’t sell itself!”

Unless you’re IGN’s Ryan McCaffrey, in which case the definition of journalism is apparently “take your subject’s word for everything without investigating for yourself.” McCaffrey’s piece read like an advertisement written by Don Draper on mescaline. His GTAV experience was supposedly so “wild,” “breathtaking” and “stunning” I’m amazed the guy didn’t have a heart attack. Look, I don’t care how big of an erection a game gives you—your job as a gaming journalist is to set realistic expectations for gamers. It’s fine to be enthusiastic, but if you don’t have a single word of criticism or tempered realism you’re writing a press release, not a preview.

“GTAV will lead you to the true meaning of life! Also, I totally get laid whenever someone sees me playing it!”

“GTAV will lead you to the true meaning of life! Also, I totally get laid whenever someone sees me playing it!”

That’s doubly true if you’re just making shit up. Let’s take the number seven crazy thing Ryan saw and did, which was go to the movies. He hypes it up, but he also says…

Sadly, I wasn’t able to visit a theater during my hands-on time, nor would Rockstar provide any additional details, besides confirming that 16 of you can pack the theater.

So you couldn’t go to the movies, and Rockstar wouldn’t give you any details. So it wasn’t exactly a crazy awesome thing you saw or did, was it? But it’s cool, Rockstar told him it would be great. Well, writing previews just got a whole lot easier! The company said it would be awesome, so it totes will be! Don’t even worry, guys! It’s not like they might lie or exaggerate the quality of their own game to encourage sales!

Was this an isolated incident? I don’t know, and that’s the problem. Reviews of GTAV went on about how cool the elaborate heist missions are, but most failed to mention that 90% of the game in-between heists is driving from destination to destination to perform menial bullshit. In one mission I spent over 20 minutes doing nothing but drive, move fragile shipping containers with industrial equipment and wonder why I had spent 60 dollars on a simulation of a job I could be paid to actually perform in real life.

“Finally! Operating a sensitive crane with terrible controls is why I bought GTAV,” said nobody ever.

Finally! Operating a sensitive crane with terrible controls is why I bought GTAV,” said nobody ever.

Maybe they just didn’t think it was worth mentioning, or maybe they were encouraged not to. Either way, annoyances like that are the entire reason people read reviews. If you’re not going to point out a game’s flaws you’re at best a lousy critic and at worst an ad-man in disguise. Or you’re one of those ad-lizardmen that run the government, but that’s a topic for another day.

1. Gamers Still Care About Technology More Than Gameplay

Spend any length of time reading about GTAV and you’re likely to come across the phrase “technical achievement” (or some variation of it) more often than you’ll find it in articles about the moon landing. And indeed, the game is an amazing technical achievement—Rockstar has created a living, breathing city that’s arguably the most detailed setting in gaming history. But everyone’s so caught up in talking about how your flip-flops actually flip and flop they forget to mention if the game is, you know, fun.

Now, don’t get me wrong—GTAV is fun. I only stopped taking days off work to play it because I ran out of grandmas I could claim had died. But in-between all the sweet motorcycle chases there’s enough frustration and idiocy to bring the experience down a notch.

“If you’re going to use me as an excuse you damn well better let me beat up a few coppers.”

“If you’re going to use me as an excuse you damn well better let me beat up a few coppers.”

For starters, a major plot point is preceded by a yoga mini-game, I guess to cater to GTA’s core fanbase of white suburban soccer moms. I failed a recon mission of a jewelry store because I had the audacity to walk behind the sales counter, despite being given absolutely no indication that this would immediately ruin my criminal career. Then there’s an entire series of missions based on driving a tow truck, after which I’m surprised I didn’t have to fill out tax forms to document the income.

When I tried to land a plane for the first time I crashed into a mountain because I was distracted by crazy camera angles and instructional text written in size 0.5 font, forcing me to redo the entire approach while listening to the exact same dialogue. After several tries I finally managed to land the stupid thing, and my reward was unlocking the flight school. Well, shit, that would have been handy about a dozen new curse words ago. I guess none of the femurfucks at Rockstar thought that one through.

“To land the plane just, you know, whatever.”

“To land the plane just, you know, whatever.”

These are flaws that would be easy to correct, but Rockstar has no incentive to. Review after review gave GTAV a perfect or near-perfect score on the basis of how amazing the technology is. Go to a forum and you’ll see gamers talking about how seeing shadows filtering through tree branches blew their minds. That’s great, but I didn’t buy GTAV to marvel at the beauty of delicate leaves caught in the soft evening sunlight. I bought it to make exploding things slam into other exploding things to create explosions that make more things explode. It’s like Rockstar built the coolest sandbox in the world, but for 50 minutes out of every hour the only thing kids are allowed to do in it is clean out clumps of cat piss.

It’s already easier to make a good looking game than it is to make a good game. That will only get worse with the next generation of consoles. But as long we continue to give blockbusters like GTAV a pass on their flaws because of how pretty they are, developers will have no motivation to improve on tried and true mediocrity. Which means in GTAVI we’ll all be amazed at how we can see every individual blade of grass get caught in the wind as we complete the mandatory two hour lawn mowing mission.

An Open Letter to the Elderly Couple That Keeps Sending me Politically Inaccurate and Openly Racist Chain Emails

Dear Joyce and Dale,

We’ve never met, but you seem like nice folks. You first came to my attention when you sent me an email entitled “WOW! This is Graphic!,” a chain message filled with political “facts” that ranged from technically true but misleading to outright false. Pretty typical chain email stuff. For future reference, John McAfee should not be considered an expert on Obamacare. He is a crazy person.

Despite not having the slightest idea who you two were, this was not unusual. As someone with both a common name and a simple email address I am often the source of mistaken identity. At least half a dozen Mark Hills around the world, not to mention a couple of Megan Hills, a Margaret Hill and many, many more, have no doubt wondered why emails they were expecting were arriving late. I am the reason.

What was unusual is that even after I informed you of your error you continued to contact me. I assumed there was still a misunderstanding about my identity, as you seemed to think I was your Mark Hill with a new email address. Your very polite response to my second email confirmed my hunch. I considered the matter closed.

Then more emails came. They came in groups of four to seven, and were always a mix of sappy inspirational messages, dubious political commentary and messages that were openly and embarrassingly racist. I strongly doubt surveys proved that while white Americans’ greatest fears are terrorist attacks and the death of a spouse, what black Americans fear most are ghosts and registered mail. That you believe this demonstrates a “vast difference” between the races is what’s really “pathetic” and “scary sad.”

Finding a racist on the Internet is about as a remarkable as finding grass on my lawn. But unlike the YouTube and CNN commenters who complain about “negro fagg0ts!!1” destroying the American way of life I can’t simply dismiss the two of you as angry, lonely people. You strike me as anything but angry and lonely. The messages that precede your emails make it clear you come from a loving family and have many dear friends. Joyce, you mentioned that you’re a retired grade school teacher who volunteers at your local hospital. That’s awesome. When I tried to clarify that you had the wrong Mark Hill you replied “Sorry ‘wrong Mark Hill’………just kidding.  I am sure you are a ‘very right Mark Hill’ to your mom & many others.” That’s one of the most adorable things anyone’s ever said to me.

That’s why, even though I barely know you, it pains me to see you forwarding such vile emails. You’re not hateful. You seem like wonderful people. You remind me of the distant American relatives I once visited who kept a lovely home, made the best damn meal I have ever eaten, and politely asked me if my university was home to many of “the gays.”

I don’t know much about you, Joyce and Dale. It appears that you live in the country, or at least embrace country values. You’re getting up there in the years but enjoying retirement. I’d say that you’re stuck in your ways after being raised with backwards views, but then I’d be making as many assumptions as you are. I only had one grandparent who lived long enough for me to see them as a human being with beliefs and opinions rather than as a cookie and cash dispenser, and I can’t imagine her passing along a hateful word about anyone.

With that in mind, I’d like to ask you to please reconsider sending these emails. Not just to me, but to everyone. Your political beliefs are of course yours and yours alone, and while I’m concerned by the number of misleading and flat-out wrong claims you espouse, to debunk them would go well beyond the scope of a simple letter. I fear it would also come across as patronising, which is the complete opposite of my intention. I do hope that you can find the time to look into these issues for yourselves.

What I can tell you is that black Americans are not lazy subhumans trying to live off the sweat and tears of hardworking white people. I can tell you that Muslim Americans are not trying to replace the Constitution with sharia law, and that the goal of Islam as a whole is not to kill or enslave all of the world’s non-believers. I can tell you that they are average people just like you and me. I bet some of them would love the cutesy chain emails you send.

I can tell you this because the black, Muslim and other minority students I went to school with had better things to do than think of ways to steal from or destroy the government. They were busy trying out for the soccer team or worrying about their upcoming math exam or working up the nerve to ask out the cute girl in English class. I suppose it’s possible that the black guy I knew who went off to law school now lives in fear of ghosts and certain categories of mail when he’s not busy stealing my tax dollars at the hospital, but I doubt it.

I use this example, Joyce, because as a former teacher (a profession I greatly admire) you should understand better than anyone the power of education and experience in defeating ignorance. I hope you remember that the next time you’re about to hit Send. You and your husband no doubt worked hard to earn your retirement—please don’t waste a second of your golden years spreading hate.

Respectfully yours,
-The Wrong Mark Hill

It’s Time to Take Back the Fedora

Ladies and gentlemen,

I’m here today to talk about an important problem. A problem that we, as a society, have ignored for too long. A problem that ranks among the greatest our nation has ever faced. I’m talking, of course, about the plight of the fedora.

The fedora was once a proud accessory. It was the hat of choice for fashionable ladies and cultured men. Hardboiled detectives and powerful gangsters wouldn’t be caught dead without one. Hollywood stars wore them on the silver screen with a cool indifference that oozed sex appeal. The fedora was an icon of culture and sophistication with hints of seductive danger. It was an icon of America.

But it fell out of fashion, as all styles do. While many were sad to see it go, it was best that it retired with a quiet dignity. If all had gone as intended we would be looking back at it today as a symbol of a sexy, tough and intriguing era.

Then something terrible happened. The fedora returned. Like a slumbering corpse disturbed by a malevolent necromancer, it rose from the grave as a twisted mockery of what it once was. Nobody thought much of it at first. “So what if a few frat bros are wearing fedoras? It’ll pass when they realise how stupid they look,” we told ourselves. Oh, how naïve we were.

Today we see fedoras worn by reality TV “stars” and sleazy musicians, by douchebags in their clubs and poseur wannabes in their coffee shops. The fedora has been taken over by a social class that thinks wearing a fedora will make them classy, instead of realising that classy people once wore fedoras.

If only that were all. The poor fedora, already suffering enough, has also been adopted by the polar opposite of the bros—the nerds. Once common enemies in teen comedies, these long-time foes have bonded over their shared love of headwear that makes them look creepy. The fedora can be found on the man-child trying and failing to appear sophisticated in a blurry dating profile picture that can’t disguise his bad facial hair and naked desperation. It can be found on the man whose primary passion in life is a cartoon for little girls. It can be found on the misogynist who swears he’s just “telling it like it is,” the man who thinks the fedora is the accessory of choice for the clever wit, the poor fellow who believes the fedora is a substitute for a personality. The fedora is worn by nerds who risk erasing the social acceptability nerd-kind has so recently gained.

And is that all? No! Gone are the simple black or grey fedoras of yesteryear. Today’s fedoras are plaid or checkered, are decorated with skulls or, God help us all, sequins. Some of today’s fedoras are made of straw. I can think of no greater blasphemy.

Well I say enough is enough. The modern fedora is not the brief fad we hoped it would be—it’s here to stay. But must we simply accept that? No! Must we let it destroy the legacy of a once proud and stylish accessory? No! Must we let it destroy our images, the images of us nerds and artists and party rockers who are proud of who we are, who have a basic sense of fashion and elementary social skills, yet who are unfairly grouped in with those who don’t? No! Today we take a stand, ladies and gentlemen! Today we fight back!

We are taught from an early age that we should treat others how we wish to be treated. We are taught that it is wrong to judge people. And this is true—woe to the small-minded man who judges another based on their gender or race, their religion or their politics. But we can judge people who wear fedoras. We can and we must.

If you know a friend or family member that wears a fedora, you must intervene. Don’t be afraid to be blunt—it’s the only kind of communication they understand. Explain to them that their hat is ruining both their life and yours. Show them example after example of the terrible human beings who wear fedoras until they get the message. Physically restrain them and burn their fedora in front of them if you must. It’s for the greater good. It may ruin your relationship, but one day they’ll understand. One day they’ll thank you.

It’s with strangers where the true war lies. A direct confrontation would only scare them, would drive them to affix their accursed headpieces upon their thick skulls with an even greater misguided aplomb. No, this front requires subtlety. Make jokes about fedoras when you know their owners can hear you. Shun them at social events. Don’t hold doors for them, don’t laugh at their jokes, don’t acknowledge their existence. Do anything and everything you can within the laws of society and reality to ostracise them. We must send the message that there is a problem, and that problem is their hat.

Brothers and sisters, this will not be an easy fight. We are dealing with a thick-headed foe that excels at blaming anyone but themselves for their ills and that lacks the ability to pick up on even the most basic social cues. You will suffer setbacks. You will be discouraged. You will, in your darkest hours, consider that maybe the state of the fedora isn’t that bad. You will want to surrender.

I won’t judge you. I’ve had those same thoughts myself. All I ask is that you consider one question. Do you want to live in a world where the fedora stops being associated with Humphrey Bogart and starts being associated with scrawny men sporting sex offender moustaches and the misguided belief that white males are being oppressed by a feminist dominated society? I thought not.

This will not be an easy fight, but it will be a fight worth fighting. Like many warriors, we may not live to see the fruits of our labours. But I believe that one day, if we work hard, our grandchildren will think of the fedora the way it should be thought of. They will think of Humphrey Bogart.

Thank you, and good luck.

Excerpts From the Los Santos Police Blotter

October 8, 3:27 pm: A man commits triple vehicular homicide in a stolen automobile. Police pursue for two minutes before losing the suspect and declaring the case closed.

October 8, 3:33 pm: An illegal street race kills several bystanders and causes thousands of dollars of property damage. Police fail to catch the vehicles, note their license plate numbers or acquire descriptions of the drivers. No further action is taken.

October 8, 3:45 pm: A man is hospitalised after he drives off an overpass and lands on the road below, causing a seven car crash that seriously injures multiple people. During police questioning the man states that the accident was caused when he attempted to “ramp that shit.” No charges filed.

October 8, 4:13 pm: A man throws a driver out of his vehicle and backs over the driver’s neck and spine before exiting the vehicle and breaking into a luxury vehicle he spots in an adjacent parking lot. Eight bystanders witness the crime and provide police with a description of the suspect. Police do not investigate.

October 8, 5:02 pm: A man steals a military helicopter and lands it on a crowd of sex workers, injuring several. He then enters a strip club, where he knocks several bouncers and dancers unconscious before being thrown out. He returns to the helicopter and opens fire on the strip club, causing significant death and property damage. Three police helicopters are shot down while attempting to pursue, killing several officers and also causing multiple deaths at the crash sites. Several patrons and staff members of the strip club provide a detailed description of the suspect, which is collaborated by security camera footage. Police investigate for six and a half minutes before losing track of the stolen helicopter and giving up.

October 8, 5:41 pm: A man blocks three lanes of freeway traffic with a stolen freight truck. As traffic piles up he crashes several stolen cars into vehicles occupied by commuters and lands several stolen helicopters on the crashed cars. After roughly an hour of preparation, during which more and more vehicles, including several police cars, join the artificial gridlock, the man plants several bombs along the road. He then drives a motorcycle off a nearby ramp and over the wreckage while detonating the explosives. The bombs alight the gas tanks of the vehicles quicker than the man anticipated, creating a massive ball of flame and shrapnel that sends the man flying into a concrete overpass at high speed. Dozens of civilians are killed. The suspect is later released from hospital and police consider the matter closed.

October 8, 6:52 pm: A man accidentally bumps a police car with his motorcycle, causing minor damage to both vehicles. As per protocol, officers shoot the man dead.

October 8, 7:18 pm: A man employs legally owned handguns and shotguns as well as illegal automatic rifles, sniper rifles, grenades and rocket propelled grenade launchers to kill 23 gang members, 31 police officers and 12 civilians in a shootout. The neighbourhood in which the shootout occurs suffers hundreds of thousands of dollars of property damage. Four police cars are blown up as the suspect flees, killing eight more officers and three civilians. The suspect escapes by pulling into a garage and having his car painted a different shade of green. Hundreds of grieving family members urge the police to spare no expense in locating the psychopath behind the shooting and bringing him to justice. Either unable or unwilling to sort through the mountains of evidence and testimony, police close the case and begin their newest recruitment drive.

I Am Working on a Novel

I think you’re really going to like my novel. It’s like Harry Potter meets The Hunger Games, but with a dash of Twilight mixed in. There’s a touch of sci-fi, and plenty of romance. It will be marketed at teenagers, but adults will enjoy it too. It has something for everyone.

The main character is a troubled teen who wants to fight the injustices of a corrupt world. She’s (yes, the main character is a girl!) spurred to action when the government does something bad to her parents. But she’s torn—and here’s where it gets really interesting—she’s torn between two boys on either side of the conflict. I think people will really be able to identify with her.

And you’re going to love to hate my bad guy. He’s a real badass. He knows martial arts and uses old, esoteric weapons. He wears a trench coat and sunglasses and never shows emotion. He kills anyone who gets in his way! But just when you decide he’s a monster, you learn his tragic back-story. You’re going to be torn up inside, let me tell you.

I’ve got it all planned out. I’ve thought of all the character arcs and plot twists. It’s a classic coming of age story and a hero’s journey rolled together, but with modern sensibilities. Hero’s journey is a term us writers use. You probably aren’t familiar with it, but it’s very important.

And I’ve thought of all the symbolism, of course. My novel is going to address the issues that people really worry about these days. It’s a metaphor for class conflict, and healthcare, and also mankind’s destructive nature. Topics that really make people think. That’s why I hesitate to shackle my novel’s description within a single genre. My novel is literary.

I’ve even written a dictionary of futuristic slang, and designed sigils and uniforms for the various factions. I’ve planned out every little detail of my world. I don’t want to say you’ve never seen anything like it, but only because you haven’t seen it yet. It’s a futuristic dystopia, but it’s based on contemporary society. It’s like… what if our world became a dystopia? Or what if it already is, and we haven’t even noticed? I’m not afraid to get political. I want to take my readers out of their middle class comfort zones and challenge their conformist views of the world. You’re going to hear the word “provocative” a lot when people are talking about my novel.

I’ve put a lot of work into my novel, but there are still a few things to be done. I mean, it’s all there in my head, so now I just have to write the words. I’m guessing it will be around 200 pages, maybe 220 if I write an epilogue that sets up the rest of the trilogy. I can’t fit my world into just one novel. It’s too rich for that.

I don’t know when I’ll finish. Deadlines mean nothing to a writer. Since you’re not a writer, you don’t understand. Let me explain writing to you. You can’t just sit down and do it. Your muse must be with you. I can only write at night, when I can be alone with a glass of red wine and my thoughts. I must be in my study, where soft classical music must be playing in the background. Only then can I write, can I pour my heart and soul out onto the page—with short breaks to check Facebook and watch funny YouTube videos, of course. A writer has to recharge his batteries!

If I could write like that every single night, I’d be done in no time. But modern society isn’t kind to us writers, us creators (ironically, that’s something my novel touches on!). Sometimes my muse leaves me after a tough day at the office. And then there are the nights when I’m tired, or when I have my friends over to play video games, or when Survivor is on. Not to mention dates, parties, floor hockey and coin club. There are the weekends, of course, but I need those days to recharge for the week ahead. I don’t have the luxury of being able to write all day like J.K. Rowling. It’s a wonder life lets me write at all. But I’ll get this book written somehow, because that’s what writers do.

In the meantime, I’m making progress on other fronts. I’ve decided which agent I’m going to submit my manuscript to, and I’ve picked a couple of backups just in case. I’ve narrowed my nom de plume down to three options. I had a portrait taken and my friend promised to draw the cover art, so that’s the book jacket taken care of. Today I’m hoping to decide on a font, and whether I want to use Arabic or Roman numerals for the chapter numbers. I’ve been back and forth on this, but this really feels like the day I come to a conclusion. I’ll tweet the results.

So you see? Even with all the pressures of life I’m still able to work on my novel. I think it will make for a really inspirational story when it gets published. Maybe I’ll write a novel about it.

A Story About A Man’s Struggle With Sexual Addiction and How it Almost Ruined His Relationship Before His Friend Helped Him, As Told Through Haikus Assembled From Phrases In Spam Emails Advertising Pills That Will Supposedly Make Your Penis Bigger

My friend is jealous
He saw how I could work crowds
Fantastic results

All local pussies
Your erection will be huge
Ultimate control

You could get any girl
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Crazy Person Shoots People Because He Is Crazy

Somewhere Nobody Ever Thought Something Like This Could Happen (AP) – The FBI has reported that a crazy person murdered people with a gun today because he was crazy. Authorities have declined to release the shooter’s photo or biographical information, saying “none of that really matters because he was just such a total psycho.”

While several witnesses noted that the man appeared to be of a particular race, the authorities stress that whatever prejudices and stereotypes this race may encounter, along with any advantages or disadvantages race may have afforded the shooter in life, are largely irrelevant compared to the fact that he was nuttier than a peanut farm.

Reporters are investigating a possible political or religious motivation, and while the FBI admits that one may exist they emphasised that we shouldn’t pay any attention to it, and definitely shouldn’t use it to criticise people with the same beliefs as the shooter, because “when your brain is so diseased that you think it’s a good idea to walk into a public place and murder innocent people you’ve never met you sure as shit aren’t going to be an expert on complicated, nuanced issues.”

The FBI went on to state that there was likely a social factor to the shooting as well, suggesting that the gunman may have felt lonely or socially isolated. However, they also made it clear that these motivations would have been minor compared to the primary motivation of “having a damaged thought process that rendered the shooter incapable of making logical decisions, expressing empathy or recognising basic human morality.”

The FBI is asking the public to just once refrain from exploiting this tragedy by making sweeping generalisations about social ills, religious beliefs, hot button political issues or other personal crusades that no one else cares about. “And for God’s sake,” they added, “please don’t go online and do something completely fucking idiotic like ‘identify’ the wrong person as the shooter. Do you morons have any idea how irresponsible and damaging that is? You don’t, do you? Jesus Christ.”

As details of this sad event continue to become public, most of them irrelevant because the shooter probably thought communist spiders controlled by aliens were eating his bones so who the fuck cares what was on his Amazon wish list, the President is set to address the nation. Sources suggest that he will call upon the country to come together and mourn while avoiding topics of actual importance, like how people manage to ride the crazy train for years without being detected and helped, or how people who want to kill their fellow citizens are able to get their hands on firearms that are designed for the sole purpose of making living beings not live anymore. The President is expected to look very serious.

At press time, it was announced that several of the victims were children. An official on the scene said, “Well, you better prepare for even more self-righteous BS from everyone than usual. Yes, it sucks that kids died, but the main thing to take away from this is that the shooter was such a goddamn lunatic that attempting to rationally analyse his actions is a big old waste of time that will do nothing but divide us.” The official then stated that we can expect people to be sad, argue for a few days, blame video games or whatever, and then forget about the whole thing until the next crazy person goes on a shooting spree a few weeks from now.

Peterson Field Guide to Internet Commenters

Internet Commenters are a loud and opinionated species. While far fewer in number than the Lurker, their boisterousness leads many amateurs to mistakenly conclude that they are the most populous of the online fauna. Often irrationally angry and aggressive even at the best of times, many breeds of Internet Commenter are especially hostile towards the Content Creator. Caution is advised when observing. Food: soft drinks, Cheetos and pizza pockets. Range: Worldwide.

Common Youtube Troll

Even the least dedicated hobbyist will spot the Youtube Troll on a daily basis. While they are mostly solitary creatures that will lash out at their fellows as often as other species, Trolls will occasionally band together to attack a particularly dangerous or enticing target. Among the most combative of all Internet Commenters, Trolls will bombard their foes with capitalised messages questioning their sexuality or encouraging them to commit suicide. Interaction with Trolls has been known to cause feeling of depression and despair regarding the state of modern discourse. Otherwise known as flamers or dickwads. Voice: Loud, guttural and primitive, the one commonality of their wide-ranging calls is their grammatical inferiority. Examples of common cries include FAAAAAGG!!!!11, go die in a fire u tard and, when mating, nice tits bitch. Habitat: Found across Youtube, but particularly prevalent in videos of a religious or political nature, videos on the topic of feminism, and Justin Bieber music videos.

Angry Old Republican

The Angry Old Republican, while often compared to the Whining Sanctimonious Liberal, has several unique characteristics. Sometimes mistaken for Youtube Trolls due to their tendency to communicate in capital letters and eschew the basics of grammar, their poor communication skills can in part be attributed to their unfamiliarity with their environment. Their advanced age makes them ill-suited for life on the Internet, but the Angry Old Republican nevertheless insists on maintaining its habitat. While more social than the Internet Troll, they can be quick to turn on what they perceive as “RINOs,” or Angry Old Republicans who are insufficiently zealous. The Angry Old Republican spends its days trying to convince other breeds of Internet Commenters that the Obama administration is planning to turn America over to radical Islamists and put everyone in concentration camps. This has made them a popular source of amusement for observers. Voice: The Angry Old Republican’s cry changes based on the news of the day. Today’s OBAMACARE IS MURDER will become tomorrow’s Investigate Benghazi!!!. During slower news cycles, the Angry Old Republican will revert to timeless calls such as Impeach Obummer!1! and KEEP YOUR COMMIE HANDS OF MY GUNS OBOZO. Habitat: While most Angry Old Republicans spend their days at FOX News or CNN, others will travel as far as MSNBC or Salon to spread their cries before returning to Free Republic to roost.

Meme Mockingbird

The Meme Mockingbird earns its name from its ceaseless repetition of the passing fads of the day. Hobbyists fiercely debate the Mockingbird’s intelligence—some argue that its parroting of popular images and phrases suggests a unique form of language, while others believe it is merely an automatic response indicative of a lack of higher brain functions. Either way the Meme Mockingbird is a rapid adapter, as those that fall behind the curve and communicate with outdated memes are insulted or shunned by their peers. Unlike most Internet Commenters, the Mockingbird is not inherently hostile; rather, their emotional state is dictated by the fad they are currently echoing. This emotional instability, along with the general incoherentness of their communication, makes the Meme Mockingbird one of the most enigmatic—and at times frustrating—Internet Commenters. Voice: To amateurs, the cries of the Meme Mockingbird are seemingly random. With study and experience one can learn why the Mockingbird uses non-sequiturs like YOLO SWAG!! and images of cats, though even veteran observers can be flummoxed by this erratic creature. Habitat: While native to 4chan, the ubiquitous Meme Mockingbirds can be found everywhere from social networks to pornographic websites. Some sites view the Mockingbird as a pest and have attempted to exterminate it, but these efforts have had minimal effect.

Greater Facebook Sharer

Unlike the harmless Lesser Facebook Sharer, which is content to share pictures of itself at the beach and recipes for the latest vegan dishes they’re trying, the Greater Facebook Sharer will spread conspiracy theories, false news reports and general disinformation. While their intentions vary from well meaning ignorance to aggressive proselytisation of fringe views, their shared content is equally infuriating to other Internet denizens. This parasitic species spreads its content by tricking other breeds into following their example, either by convincing them of the validity of their false claims or by guilting them into sharing emotionally manipulative content. In an unusual reproductive process, creatures that are particularly vulnerable to the parasite’s attacks will eventually turn into a Greater Facebook Sharer themselves. Voice: while the overall message of Greater Facebook Sharers can vary wildly, their cries share common beginnings. Have you guys heard about this?? Something to think about!; WAKE UP SHEEPLE and I can’t believe how dangerous this is! BE CAREFUL EVERYONE! and variants thereof are among the most prevalent examples. In full, a cry might sound like Did you guys see this new study that proves fluoride is toxic?! I’m drinking bottled water from now on and I hope you do too!!!. Habitat: Despite the name, the Greater Facebook Sharer can be found not only on Facebook, but also Twitter, G+, Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest and even MySpace. The type of content they share varies by region, though some topics, such as sensational but inaccurate news reports, are universal.