Five things on Friday #342
Things of note for the week ending Friday March 17th, 2023
Hello friend. It’s been a while.
How the hell are you? Been up to much? Me? Yeah, I’m alright. Head down, cracking on - last quarter of the FY kind of madness. You know how it is. Plus, for those of you reading this in the UK, any idea when Spring is coming? Enquiring minds want to know. Thanks.
Where we we? Ah yes, that’s right. Welcome. Welcome to #342 of Five things on Friday - a semi-occasional/weekly newsletter of no real description other than ‘it covers stuff that James Whatley finds interesting’ - people seem to like it. Yourself included. So thank you for that.
I must confess, I think I’ve sat down to write this newsletter on three separate occasions this month (he says, changing the date on the header - again), which goes to show how non-stop it’s been of late. Be that as it may, the THINGS that have been wibbling away in the inbox since… January? are all still pretty fresh.
So let’s stop the waffle and get right on that, shall we?
1. A YEAR IN THE JOB
It’s crazy to me that just over a year ago I arrived into Bristol to start my new job as Chief Strategy Officer for the gaming native integrated creative agency known as Diva (see Thing 1, #324).
And yet here we are, one year later…
The reason I’m telling you is from the moment I accepted the job - my first ever position as CSO - I got super introspective. I wanted to make sure I had done the prep work for the responsibility. It’s a big deal! I asked a few people for advice. And tried not to overthink it too much (narrator: he failed).
However, one thing I definitely did do at the time was try to capture how I was feeling about it. Like, what does a CSO say think and do in 2022? I never got around to editing it down to publishable length (although I did pitch it to some very patient editors).
A year on, and a new pal said I should revisit it and maybe publish it as is/was. So I booted up the old Google Doc, copied and pasted it over into Linkedin, and hit publish.
So here it is ‘LEADERS ARE WHAT YOU MAKE THEM’.
I’d love to know what you think.
PS. Thanks for the nudge, EML.
2. IT’S THE PHONES, STUPID
This, via the John Burn-Murdoch at the FT, is compelling reading.
“Something is going very wrong for teenagers. Between 1994 and 2010, the share of British teens who do not consider themselves likeable fell slightly from 6 per cent to 4 per cent; since 2010 it has more than doubled. The share who think of themselves as a failure, who worry a lot and who are dissatisfied with their lives also kicked up sharply. The same trends are visible across the Atlantic.
The number of US high school students who say their life often feels meaningless has rocketed in the past 12 years. And it’s not just the anglosphere. In France, rates of depression among 15- to 24-year-olds have quadrupled in the past decade. Wherever you look, youth mental health is collapsing, and the inflection point is ominously consistent: 2010 give or take a year or two — when smartphones went from luxury to ubiquity.”
It’s the phones, stupid.
The full article - along with more charts and analysis - is available here, Smartphones and social media are destroying children’s mental health.
And if you recognise the name, John Burn-Murdoch was the data scientist who led the work around the FT’s best in class covid-19 reporting.
Influencer Parents and The Kids Who Had Their Childhood Made Into Content
3. THIS WEEK IN GAMING
Last time we spoke, we were getting very excited about the imminent arrival of PlayStation VR2. Well, since we last spoke, VR2 has arrived! And while I may have done a mini-review thread over on Twitter, I can safely say it is a considerable improvement over the original.
The highlight is, of course, Horizon Call of the Mountain.
It’s insanely good. As any first party launch title should be. But, truth be told I’ve not had that much time to play it (work/life being what it is at the moment). But the games I have played have been superb.
No Man’s Sky (free VR2 update), is outstanding.
Zombieland Headshot Fever Reloaded is super fun (disclosure: we made the trailer).
Tentacular - cute as hell and it just works.
And while these games are excellent (and there’s more - I’ve not even booted up the likes of Rez, Tetris, or Gran Turismo 7 - and the other games announced for the ‘launch window’ also look great (The Last Worker is top of that list)), to my mind I think it’s still missing a few things. A few more updates would be good - speaking for my kids specifically, they’re missing VR painting games (like Tilt Brush) and the connection and carry over from older PSVR1 games - such as Minecraft.
(Seriously, Minecraft on VR2 would be amazing)
Beat Saber is expected to arrive soon but not here yet, Half-Life Alyx is highly rumoured (but nothing solid) and then maybe possibly a 3D interface for when you turn it on might be quite fun…
Point is: it’s great. Is it perfect? No. Will it get better? Definitely. One notable thing that does stand out mind is that VR2 is the first VR headset I think ever, that I’ve been comfortable wearing for a lengthy amount of time. Spending a few hours climbing around in Horizon or exploring in NMS is breeeeeezy. And quietly surprising with it.
OK, so what else can I tell you?
First off, I don’t know how many of you this is relevant for but in light of Google Stadia going bye bye back in January (BARELY A DENT WAS MADETH), the AAA games streaming options are now Xbox Cloud Gaming - via Game Pass Ultimate or GeForce Now (GFN), from Nvidia.
The former is handy if you want to go all in on the Xbox ecosystem (and want to play anywhere) but the latter, I’ve only really dabble with here and there. We’re not a gaming PC house so getting access to Steam stuff is… difficult. To get around this in the short term we’ve basically been using an Apple Magic Keybord, an Nvidia Shield, and an Xbox controller to play via GFN.
A bit of a faff.
But the kids liked it and it was a chance to experiment with some different games. HOWEVER. A couple of weeks ago I spotted, purely by chance really, that Nvidia had gone and released the GFN streaming app for my TV (the 2020 LG CX).
It’s nothing short of revelatory. App-based instant games streaming. We’ve got an old PS4 controller bluetoothed to the TV and we’re off to the races.
Downsides: you’ve got to buy the games via Steam first (this is where Game Pass has the advantage).
Upsides: all those PC games you’ve missed? Right here, right now. Can’t afford a AAA console or a (ridiculously priced) gaming PC? Sorted.
Among everything else going on in games at the moment, this continual lowering of the barrier to entry to AAA gaming is the one that’s most exciting to me.
A few of gaming articles of note:
Regular readers will know I’ve been following/covering the EA Sports/Fifa fallout quite closely. This latest update, from FIFA, is just hilarious. ‘Why yes, I quite like to play egames myself’… lol. The kicker? ‘As for EA, the studio is currently developing its own football game in the form of EA Sports FC, where it will retain over 300 licence partners.’ Good luck Fifa!
This, from Maybelline, is outstanding - and rightly shines a spotlight on a well known (but rarely acted on) dark side of gaming.
Helsinki is the mobile gaming capital of the world. Mobile? Helsinki? I wonder how that happened…
Ignore the M word (that’s just trend surfing), its the Roblox earnings report you should be paying attention to.
Charlie Brooker ‘How Video Games Changed The World’ - is TEN YEARS OLD.
Finally… what am I playing?
Midnight Suns (Xbox). I can’t put this down.
Destiny 2: Lightfall (PS5). I’ve sworn to my fireteam I will be raid ready by the weekend 😬
Wario Ware on the GBA via the Switch. Why? Here’s why.
Pedestrian (PS5) - really quite charming.
And eventually… all the VR2 games mentioned above.
What are you playing?
4. THAT’S NO MOON!
This is kind of mental.
Reddit user ibreakphotos had a hunch that maybe Samsung might be doing something extra with its "space zoom" moon photos and, after digging a bit deeper and running a few tests, has declared that they are basically all fake.
“Many of us have witnessed the breathtaking moon photos taken with the latest zoom lenses, starting with the S20 Ultra. Nevertheless, I've always had doubts about their authenticity, as they appear almost too perfect. While these images are not necessarily outright fabrications, neither are they entirely genuine…”
tldr; ibreakphotes downloaded a high-res image of the moon, downsized it 170x170, applied a blur, then put the image on a monitor before turning the lights off and taking a photo from the other side of the room.
This is what happened:
Now look, there’s probably some VERY SMART AI/ML stuff going on in the background here but it’s not just scaling up, it’s seemingly adding detail as well.
Read the full thesis over on Reddit.
5. THE MATERNITY PLEDGE
Here’s a thing. It’s not often one of your best mates says something like ‘Yeah, so the wife has launched a new venture that I think is really bloody brilliant and you should look at it’
But when your best mate DOES say that, you should pay attention.
That’s why I’m sharing this with you today.
The Maternity Pledge is a free to join workplace pledge that supports employees who are pregnant, on maternity leave and returning to work. It also includes perinatal mental health support packs for employees when they confirm their pregnancy at work.
Retention of working mothers remains a big issue - 60% change jobs after maternity leave. The pledge puts five simple pillars in place that start from pregnancy right through until the return to work. It comes with a handbook and tools to help implement the pillars really easily and a digital badge to indicate to current employees and new talent that you are supportive of working mothers. It's great for smaller businesses who need some help with their maternity policy, and equally good for larger companies who may already be meeting the pillars of the pledge as the badge provides visual recognition of what they're doing well.
The pledge also focuses on wellbeing. You can purchase perinatal mental health support packs for your staff. These expert-led unique packs focus on the emotional transition to motherhood. They're inclusive (mother being an inclusive term as per 2019 UK law), can be given to expectant mothers or fathers, and include a free subscription to The Maternity Pledge members club which runs during maternity leave and includes coaching and guidance on returning to the workplace.
If you'd like to know more or join the pledge you can register at https://www.maternitypledge.com/join-the-pledge or email susannah at maternitypledge dot com for a chat.
So do that, yeah?
THIS IS THE BONUS SECTION. A SECTION THAT THIS WEEK I MAKE NO APOLOGIES FOR BECAUSE HONESTLY I THINK IT MIGHT BE LONGER THAN THE REST OF THE SODDING NEWSLETTER. SORRY NOT SORRY.
This has done the rounds a fair bit but it’s still worth sharing just in case you’ve not got around to reading it: TikTok’s Enshittification.
You are not OK and tomorrow will come and you should eat a banana.
Marvel’s Ant-Man & The Wasp in Quantumania was not the MCU’s finest hour (and the post-credits bits are easily the best thing about the film) but the stories that have come to light about both its rushed/changed/botched ending (it feels cheated) and the bland VFX (yawn) seem to help it all make sense. Word is Feige is slowing everything down to focus on fewer, better. I hope that’s true.
Is the metaverse already dead? (1. for something to be dead it had to have been alive at some point. 2. I NEARLY made it through this thing without mentioning it - nearly!)
Inside the metaverse hype train at Mobile World Congress (this is phenomenally well done)
I’ve written an APG before. They’re hard. Shortlisted too. This insight into the judging is worth its weight in gold. Writing an APG? Read this.
Why not use data centres to heat swimming pools? WHY NOT INDEED.
Amazon doing subscription drugs in the US is HUGE. H U G E. I hope they absolutely gut that vulturous market to shreds.
Fashion and fast food (come for the headline, stay for the amazing photos)
‘The McKinseys and the Deloittes have no expertise in the areas that they’re advising in’
VR ≠ The Metaverse. Sorry.
Almost a year to the day since they announced it, Meta quietly (?) killed off NFT support for Facebook and Instagram. It’s almost like they realised a grift that is only interesting for a few thousand people on the west coast might not be that important to the billions of people they serve every day. Almost.
More than a third of UK workers would quit if they were told they had to return to the office full time.
I don’t know why but I just really like this extension lead box.
The phones that time forgot (this is great)
Metaverse experts? They’re into AI now.
VFX artists react to Avatar 2 CGI (seen the movie? Watch this)
OK, last thing: how much do you know about the London Underground?
YOU ARE REACHING THE END OF THE NEWSLETTER. MIND THE GAP.
OK so hot damn, I thought this one would be a lengthy edition. If I lost you in the bonuses there for a bit, I’m sorry (I’m not sorry).
As is the norm at this stage of proceedings, I tend to say thank you. Maybe recommend a thing or two (new Mando is quite good; I’m slowly catching up with TLOU).
I’ve got some Destiny to play and a Raid to get ready for.
Until next time.
Whatley out x
PS. Hit that reply button - tell me your favourite thing this week :)
PPS. Here, have some potatoes.
lol hard relate to the intro