Immunodeficiency [4/4] – Journalism 2

This series of four articles was written as an exercise in developing a world through the use of creative writing.  In a team of three, I was project/creative lead, and responsible for writing the lore of our fictive world.

 

Governments Abusing Super-Power

REPORT BY JOSEPH MCMANUS

HAVING seen the ‘success’ of the American government introducing programs for the identification and maintaining of Superhumans, the Australian Government appears set to follow suit and introduce a program of its own – but should the Australian public fear for their freedom?

Since the commencement of the superhuman support program two months ago, the United States Government report to have sucessfully helped and re-habilitated over one hundred and fifty gifted Americans – supporting them financially and emotionally through these isolating mutations.  However rumours have begun to circulate about the true intentions of the American Government in running this program.

Insisting that the choice to accept the support being offered to the American superhumans is entirely up to the individual, reports of the government resorting to financial incentives to accept the superhuman support have appeared, perhaps implying that there is more to the program than merely helping the individuals.  A program spokesperson could not be contacted on this matter, and even the American media are having trouble getting straight answers from the government and those involved in the program; generally having interview directions limited to the “Talking Points” issues that the government are supplying.

One family in Otawa have managed to get a response from the government when they reported to CNN on Monday, that the father of the house, Hugo Brathewaite, has been in the re-habilitation facility since the start of the program two months ago.  Insisting to the CNN reporter that Hugo was a family man who had kept in contact with them every day to let them know how he was, Lindsay Brathewaite told the reporter that not having heard from Hugo in six days was particularly troubling to her and their two daughters.  The government claims to have responded with an official investigation in the matter but insists that there have been communication problems with the facility in this week just gone.

Futhermore, while the research conducted and information stored by the United States government regarding this program is classified as to ‘protect the privacy of those involved’, rumours that those being supported as part of this program are being catalogued and tracked like animals, are causing out-rage in the superhuman community.

“I had serious issues when my boyfriend dumps me because he thinks I’m a freak” says Kathy, a 17 year old girl who can no longer tolerate loud noises due to an enhanced sense of hearing, “And because my sister tells me to go get help…the police think they can watch my every move?”

A tiny inexplicable marking that can be found on many of the superhumans that have opted for government support has only fed the rumours of this catalogueing and tracking project.

With the strength of these rumours on the rise, the Canadian Ari Taub, one of the first superhumans to be recognised – along with LaShawn Merritt and Alexandra Feeney at the Beijing Olympic Games – has founded the “Superhumans Against Government Supression” in an attempt to force answers from the program, the government and their spokes-people.

“We’re not a violent group” assures Taub, a greco-roman wrestler able to regenerate torn muscles almost instantly, “We just want the answers that the government aren’t giving us.  America has a right to know what is really going on and we’re the ones to demand it.  We’re not stupid, and we’re not going away.”

 

Until these issues can be sorted Australian superhumans should consider the move to introduce a superhuman support program on our shores, a threat to our privacy and individuality.

Immunodeficiency [3/4] – Government Press Release

This series of four articles was written as an exercise in developing a world through the use of creative writing.  In a team of three, I was project/creative lead, and responsible for writing the lore of our fictive world.

 

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary

For immediate release                              November 12th, 2008

 NEW GOVERNMENT FUNDED PROGRAM TO ADDRESS

SUPERHUMAN MUTATION CAUSED BY SCID TREATMENT

Following the information provided to the United States government by the World Medical Association two days ago concerning the cause of the superhuman mutation that has begun occurring globally as an unexpected side-affect of curative treatment for Severe Combined Immunodeficiency, the United States government will be implementing a monitoring and screening program for those in the population still receiving treatment for Severe Combined Immunodeficiency.  This monitoring and screening process is part of a larger program designed to identify persons at a higher risk of experiencing altered bodily functions after being treated for the disorder, ensuring the reintegration of those that have experienced side effects from the SCID treatment back into society, and a continued monitoring and response program for those that may have difficulty readjusting to a normal life.

 

As of tomorrow, patients receiving the government subsidized treatment for Severe Combined Immunodeficiency will first be tested for the genetic signature that indicates an increased risk of developing superhuman attributes.  Those that test positive for the genetic code will be notified in confidentiality that they are at higher risk, and will be given the option of receiving alternative treatments for SCID, that while far less effective than injection provided by the WMA, will still be government subsidized.

Also, all patients that receive the SCID injection will require a compulsory check up at a registered clinic within 7 – 14 days to ensure their health and well-being in the unlikely circumstance that they have a reaction to the treatment.  Patients that are flagged with the genetic signature that puts them at high risk will be offered fully subsidized accommodation for that 14 day period within a constantly monitored environment, where trained staff will be on call 24 hours a day, to ensure their comfort and health over this period in which reactions may occur.

 

Within the month, a government operated hotline will become available to take calls from those experiencing side-effects from the treatment, to nominate themselves for the re-integration program that has been put together by expert psychologists and sociologists.  It is hoped that not only will people find the strength to nominate themselves, but their loved ones will also make nominations to ensure these gifted persons will benefit from all the support that the American government has to offer.  The program will be carried out in a newly developed, state of the art facility complete with first class accommodation, and staff of the highest standard.  As a post-therapy service, all patients will be offered free psychological counseling at any time, and the freedom to attend monthly meetings conducted to introduce those suffering from superhuman attributes to like-minded people.

 

Finally, with the devastating tragedy of the Virginia Tech massacre of August fresh in the minds of the American people, it has become obvious that a law enforcement taskforce capable of dealing with superhuman rogues will be required to combat future criminal activities.  As such, November 21st will see the establishment of a new division of the FBI, the Superhuman Response Unit, tasked with the sole purpose of investigating and responding to criminal activities involving people believed to have been mutated by the SCID treatment.  This specialized unit will be crafted from the most experienced law enforcement officers working alongside gifted recruits that will be crucial in the logistics of dealing with problematic superhumans.

 

Through these programs and projects, the American government hopes to meet the needs of all its citizens, human and superhuman alike, and ensure the well-being and quality of life for the foreseeable future.

Immunodeficiency [2/4] – Official Blog Post

This series of four articles was written as an exercise in developing a world through the use of creative writing.  In a team of three, I was project/creative lead, and responsible for writing the lore of our fictive world.

Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Cure Closer Than Ever.  Release Predicted Within the Month.

The World Medical Association is enthusiastic about the most recent results of cure trials.  Severe Combined Immunodeficiency will soon be a thing of the past.  Cure to be released to supporting governments free of charge.

The World Medical Association (WMA) December 27, 2007 — After almost ten years, it appears that a cure to Severe Combined Immunodeficiency may be just around the corner.  If our SCID department continues to get results consistent with the results they’ve been getting this past week, then we can hope to be mass producing the cure before the end of January 2008.

Since discovering at the beginning of the year, that Severe Combined Immunodeficiency was a genetic disorder caused by the evolution of human kind in a clean environment, the World Medical Association has been working on a cure that targets the disorder at a genetic level, with varying results.  The biggest breakthrough we have experienced is with creating a liquid that can emulate the destructive and gene altering properties of gamma radiation.

While gamma radiation is already being widely used to treat cancerous tumours by creating breaks in DNA strands to great effect, it is still widely misunderstood by the general population and as such has a negative stigma attached to it.  Gamma radiation is completely safe when exposure is limited and controlled, and in the hands of professionals can be exceedingly useful in controlling and containing diseases such as cancer.  It is this application of gamma radio-activity that has become the key in discovering a cure to this disorder.

This fluid that may well turn out to be the future of the human race, works by breaking down the DNA in the human body that contains the defective information on immune-system functions, and assists the cells in rebuilding the strands correctly, essentially ‘resetting’ the genetic code, thus reprogramming the immune system to become effective once again.  After receiving an injection, the process of reconstructing the DNA strands occurs overnight, and as test results have indicated, a newly cured patient will be healthy enough to go to work the next morning.

Unfortunately we will be unable to provide this cure to those governments that have refused to support the World Medical Association in the search for a solution to this world-wide epidemic.  It has been an expensive and financially stressful venture, and the loss of their support has created significant delays in not only ridding the world of this global issue, but also in the quest for a better quality of living in all people.

Those governments that have continued to support the dream of providing better health to all people throughout the world will be allocated free shipments of our cure as quickly as we can manufacture it, in recognition of their generosity and continued support to our honourable cause.

 

The World Medical Association,

Working toward better health for all people on our beautiful planet

Contact:

Mary Olanida, director of public relations
The World Medical Association
pr@wma.org

###

Immunodeficiency [1/4] – Journalism

This series of four articles was written as an exercise in developing a world through the use of creative writing.  In a team of three, I was project/creative lead, and responsible for writing the lore of our fictive world.

 

Terror Plot Revealed to be Act of God?

THE current health epidemic in Canada may be more closely linked to an issue in the natural evolution of the human race, than a terrorist act, according to an official report released by the World Medical Association earlier today.  With over one quarter of Calgary’s citizens now deceased or hospitalised with various seemingly un-related illnesses, the World Medical Association has released its first public statement regarding the cause of the catastrophe – and it appears we may have more to fear from our house-hold cleaning products than the weapons of terrorist organisations.

While the speculations of local doctors and scientists lead to rumours of an airborne mutation of the Human immunodeficiency virus – better known as HIV – as a terrorist attack, the World Medical Association report defines clear differences in the condition of Calgary’s population and the symptoms of one suffering from AIDS.  Having confirmed that these patients are indeed suffering from an immune system deficiency, the WMA are sceptical that this crisis has been engineered at the hands of a terrorist organisation.

As detailed in the globally distributed report, a person afflicted with any secondary immunodeficiency – that is an immune system deficiency acquired after birth – would have insufficient amounts of certain cells that are an integral part of the human body’s immune system, thus leaving it unable to form a proper defence against threats such as bacterial and viral infections.  The report then clarifies that unlike sufferers of secondary immuno-deficiencies, victims of the Calgary epidemic have all the elements of their immune-system physically intact, however, for reasons unknown, their immune-systems are struggling to fight off the most basic of illnesses.

The condition, named in this report as Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID), is confirmed to be a non-contagious threat, and this is supported by the reports of new SCID cases beginning to slow since reaching the 7 month anniversary of the first recognised case of this condition.  However, with SCID being non-contagious, the question of how nearly 250,000 people could simultaneously fall victim to such a catastrophic condition, becomes a critically vital question to understanding this new issue to plague human-kind.

Several theories were presented in the report, but perhaps the most convincing was the evolution of the ‘Hygiene Hypothesis’ originally presented by David P. Strachan.

The Hygiene Hypothesis presents the idea that children brought up in a cleaner environment will be more susceptible to allergic diseases than those that aren’t – a theory originally supported by the statistics that immunological and autoimmune diseases are far less common in citizens of developing countries than in citizens of the western, industrialised world.  The WMA report expanded on this theory, proposing that decades of living in such a clean environment made the human immune system redundant and by the process of evolution, the immune system no longer functioned at the level of a normal person.  This being the case, it comes as no surprise then a condition such as this should manifest in Calgary, “The Cleanest City in the World” as selected in 2007 by the Forbes magazine.  However, the drawback with this theory is that, without an accelerant, an evolutionary alteration such as this should take centuries rather than decades.  The lack of radio-activity in Calgary removes the likelihood of an accelerant that could affect evolution in this way, and thus the origins of the epidemic remain a mystery.

 

Conversely, the report ended on a more positive note – the WMA report stating that for SCID to appear anywhere else in the world at this time is “extremely unlikely”.

 

JOSEPH MCMANUS

Independent Journalist

Sentiment in Games [Part 1]: An Ode to those Lost

It has been some time since this all began – how long ago exactly, I couldn’t tell you any more – but it’s time I told someone.

Red (Character) Sprite - Red and Blue VersionI knew that even though seasons had come and gone, the world hadn’t changed.  That even though days were passing, the sun had never set.  My ability to measure time was not based on what had been affected in the world around me, but rather my achievements, my progress across this land, and the growth of my team.  The growth my companions exhibited in strength both strength and ability provided proof that, even though my own physical form showed no signs of time having passed – accumulating no scars, needing no sustenance, and never developing beyond it’s pre-pubescent outward appearance – the change I saw in them proved that the universe I lived in was more than just a static, barren landscape of signposts and puppets with tape recorders.

Squirtle Sprite - Red and Blue VersionBubbles had been my partner from the very beginning.  That is, he wasn’t always a Blastoise, his current form and power rendered him almost unrecognisable from the little Squirtle I’d make right back at the beginning of this journey.  We had connected right off the bat.  My neighbour, a crazy Professor who was named after a tree, offered me a companion in exchange for completing a favour for him.  It felt like the horrible decision that one would be making at an abandoned animal shelter, know that all of the lost animals there could one day be your greatest friend, but that your choice will leave all the others in this place of limbo.  The three little guys all looked up at me with longing eyes, all hoping that I’d take them along, and release them from the tiny confines of a miniaturised ball he kept them in.  Against the Toad with a bulb on it’s back, and unfriendly looking lizard with a tail that, most likely as the result of some cruel teenage prank, was always on fire, Bubbles and his awesome little turtle body was, from the moment I saw him, the one I had to take with me.  I didn’t care that it would probably mean being forever in my neighbour’s debt and hiking all over the world to complete his life’s work, Bubbles was going to be my best friend.

Blastoise Sprite - Red and Blue Version
After that fateful day, we’d recruited companions from all over, of all forms and races.  My brother had joined even in on a journey of his own as well, although by some amazing property of the universe and everything, his existence lay in a parallel dimension, where our journeys followed almost exactly the same path.  On the day our journeys began, we both awoke in a strange room, alone and finding only our mother in the house, acting in both dimensions as though the other brother had never existed.  We both fought tooth and nail against the same evil organisation attempting to take over the world, defeating the same enemies that came at the both of us, spewing the same angst-ridden speeches, and challenging our troupe with the same anger-filled creatures.  It was uncanny the similarities that our experiences entailed.  The only way we managed to communicate was through some kind of dimension travelling device that our local hospitals offered.  To this day, I find it amazing that being aware of this parallel dimension, they never pushed the technology further than a method for us to pass through our creatures, trapped in the miniaturised balls, or allowing them to battle somewhere in the limbo that existed between our two dimensions – dimensions that we later called “Red” and “Blue” for the sake of clarity.  Perhaps the technology couldn’t facilitate an exchanging of a larger mass.  I really would have loved to have joined my brother, or have him join me.  We would have been unstoppable.

Giovanni Sprite - Red and Blue VersionI look back fondly on those days, the days of ambient music, impossible physics, and people with 2 second memories.  Every day (I’m still not sure that ‘day’ is the correct term here,) was brought me an amazing new experience: the discovery that one of the creatures of this amazing dimension had abilities that were both unexpected and wonderful, that the antics of this “space-faring” evil organisation were almost childish and half-hearted in their planning and complexity, turning a corner only to happen upon a creature that I could never in my wildest dreams imagined, and seeing my companions grow.  Watching my companions grow, coming into their own – it brought wonder, awe and pride: that was by far the most amazing part of the journey.  Watching Bubbles grow from the cute little turtle he once was, unable to do little more than blow bubbles from his mouth and throw little his body at those opposing us, into the fearsome creature with the ability to blast high pressured water from cannon-like appendages that had sprouted from his shell – it fired off my imagination and dreams that one day, perhaps we would take on the famous Elite Four, the strongest of the teams in our world.  A dream that was shared in my brother’s realm as well.

Lorelei Overworld Sprite - Red and Blue VersionBruno Overworld Sprite - Red and Blue VersionAgatha Overworld Sprite - Red and Blue VersionLance Overworld Sprite - Red and Blue Version

But those days are behind me now.  I never achieved that dream, and although my brother managed to continue on in his dimension, getting ever closer to the Elite Four, my journey came to a premature end.  All that’s left now are the memories.  I’m sure that Bubbles and the rest of the team are here too.  Somewhere.  I have no idea where the the void, the nothingness, the blackness, came from.  All I know is that it ate up everything I knew, everything I loved, everything I had achieved.  No, everything we had achieved.  To be perfectly honest, I don’t remember exactly where I was when it came, it seems so long ago now, but I do remember how much it hurt.  My valiant companions had always stood in between me and any form of danger, but even in their combined strength there was nothing they could do against the nothingness that swallowed the world.  It wiped out everything; the corporation and their evil plans, the puppet-like inhabitants of the realm, the computers, the buildings, the gyms, all the creatures in existence, my mother, my companions, and, finally, me.  I don’t remember exactly where I was, or even what I was doing, but I remember what happened when it came, after it had taken everything away.  After it had obliterated it, banished it into a void, erased any record of my journey from existence.  After that, there wasn’t anything else I could do.

I cried.

Save Points: From Fun to Fear

   So I was just reading another interview with Alexander Bruce on Kotaku, and it fired a neuron or two.

   One of my pet hates with the ‘Free-To-Play’ model and the way in which it’s implemented most often, is that I find it horrific that a games design company can release a product in which they think that part of the game is boring enough, that people will want to skip it.  It’s exactly why Blizzard keep making it easier and easier to get to the ‘End Game’ in World of Warcraft.
   When so much of a game is about getting to the ‘End’ that doesn’t even exist, it starts becoming a matter of how many games you can ‘beat’, and not the quality of the experience along the way.
   I’m sure there are psychological principles involved, that fuel this drive for getting further, but I’ll save that for another day.  What I’m really interested in are Save Points.

   Save Points, checkpoints, the ability to save, in general, is a fantastic concept.  The ability to put a game down and come back to it later, without having to start again from the beginning, is an essential part of integrating video games into a busy lifestyle.  The invention of the save system, is akin to the invention of the bookmark.  Can you imagine what it would have been like to have to read War and Peace in one go?
   Password systems are also good for taking it up again from where you left off, but a save file is more than that, it’s yours and no-one else’s.  With auto-saves, checkpoints and free saving systems, it only gets better, right?

   I’m not sure how everyone else plays, and so many of these articles will be written from self-experience, but I’m pretty sure I’m not that unique when it comes to my playing style.


   In the games of old, of which the Marios and Donkey Kongs are the foremost in my mind, you could only save after you had beaten a whole level.  Some had checkpoints as well, but these only lasted as long as the game was turned on.  Furthermore, these systems often forgot how many lives you had.
   While it is most likely that this was a result of system limitations, I begin to wonder if the ‘advances’ make us worse gamers.
   These days, most games allow the player to save whereever and whenever he or she wishes, and every single piece of data is saved.  How many lives the player has, the ammo count, the specific world location of the character – everything.  So why do I consider this a bad thing?  For the same reason that I rarely use the big guns in a single player FPS – fear.

   I’m 8, it’s Christmas Day, I’m playing Donkey Kong on my Gameboy, and I’m focused on one thing: getting through the level.  I know that if I don’t get through the level, mum or dad might tell me to turn it off, and that means Game Over.  If I lose all my lives, I’ll lose the progress I made in the level, but that’s usually not such a big piece of play-time.  I’m playing the game, absorbed in it, with the only fear in my 8 year-old mind being the clock ticking down to the time at which I have to turn it off.  I love it.
   I’m 21, it’s an ordinary day, I’m playing Fallout 3 on the PC, and I’m focused on one thing: trying to get the most out of my gaming experience.  I want to see everything, do everything, experience as many facets of the game design as I can, and I’m sure many of you know, Fallout 3 is not that kind of game.  However, my fear is no longer whether I will have enough time, but whether I can collect and complete this game 100%.  What this results in, is stress.  Every time I see a choice that the designer has implemented, it sticks out like a sore thumb.  Hell, even if I wasn’t so acutely focusing on these aspects, there are bars and statistics that makes sure I don’t miss that choosing not to blow up the nuclear warhead is a ‘morally correct’ choice.  I save, I save and I save.  I reload, reload, and reload.  Everytime a combat doesn’t leave me with what I consider to be enough heath, ammo, or something else, I reload and try the fight again.  Everytime I see a choice closing doors, I reload and see what the other choice rewards me with before I settle.  (I have a Bioshock save file right before the first little sister so that I could take the other direction in case saving the little sisters didn’t work out.)
   It’s an exhausting, time-consuming way to play, and to be perfectly honest, it’s not a whole lot of fun. I understand that I play this way, and that not everyone does, but consider the save systems implemented in games today, specifically in ‘narratively driven’ ones.  Every reload, if by choice or by ‘death’ breaks the narrative in twain.

   The fault doesn’t rest solely with save systems.  The way that choices in narrative games are handled is also appalling – death and unsolvable situations too.  However, perhaps in the push for better technological capabilities in the systems we use for our games, and the save systems that came out of it, we lost something.  We lost some fun, some class and inadvertently shattered the narrative experience.