Neutral examines the advantages and consequences of living in a technological world and begins to explore what our world may look like in the future.

Neutral Magazine + Media
Dads, Games, and Sacrifice

By Alex

I’ve noticed a recent trend lately with modern games…They’re all about dads: Fathers saving the world and sacrificing everything for their children. The most recent example being the fantastic new entry to the Resident Evil series: Village. This game follows protagonist Ethan Winters, a traumatised father (from his previous excursions through the Resident Evil games), searching for his stolen and missing daughter in a mutated Eastern European town. A familiar narrative device that fellow AAA (mid-size productions) titles have used before – the search for the child. Throughout Ethan’s time in the settlement, he pushes through horrific scenarios (despite becoming a pincushion of punishment) all to find his daughter. Thus, sending the resounding message that fathers will go through literal hell to find their family and in particular, their children. But this message is nothing revolutionary for the medium of gaming and other storytelling forms as old as narrative itself. A similar trope was illustrated 10 years previously in the pivotal title Heavy Rain, where similarly named Ethan Mars searched for his missing son, incurring similar mutilation (though this time self-inflicted) all to return his child to him. So, what exactly brought about this invigorated trend in game storytelling in AAA titles? Or alternatively the movement away from solitary action heroes, to sad Dads? What satisfactions do they present the player?.

The most obvious answer is the aging and progression of the original games market demographic. Those who once consumed games as children, are now themselves the producers of games – who make games that still appeal to their own target audience. This has famously been modelled by Director and creative lead of The Last of Us, Neil Druckmann. Druckmann has personally cited that his own experiences of fatherhood have incentivised him in the creation of the father-daughter relationship that can be seen between his characters Joel and Ellie in The Last of Us. This means that creatives are imbuing their own life experiences onto their creations (and the generation of men who have been gamers for life), as seen within any medium. However, nuance can be found in the realm of gaming with Dads being flawed characters. They are very rarely portrayed as morally sound people, with some even being significantly dangerous and violent. Therefore, something else is inspiring this new depiction of fatherhood.

The more subtle answer can be found in the rise of the popularity of the anti-hero and the outlet they present to the role of Dads. As Eric Bender, in Psychology Today, writes:

"Antiheroes liberate us. They reject societal constraints and expectations imposed upon us. Antiheroes give our grievances a voice. They make us feel like something right is being done, even if it is legally wrong. Antiheroes do things we’re afraid to do. They are who they are and they do as they want - without apology”.

The application of the anti-hero in gaming that portrays dads presents the player with the opportunity to feel the full range of emotions that fatherhood can bring out without constraint and consequence. For example, if someone was to hurt your child – or even steal them – that could, and understandably so, incur feelings of rage and fury. Unlike real-world parents who must abide by real-world rules and logic, game fathers can weaponize this rage in a boss fight because they defy societal expectations. Kratos from the God of War shows this perfectly, a cypher for fatherly rage when his son is under threat. This is not to say that anger is the only emotion that the player gets to live out through their game avatar, the capacity of love and selflessness comes across too. We can see this in the self-sacrificing nature that is prevalent in the game father; very rarely do their adventures leave them physically whole – with some even dying so that their children may live. In Bioshock Infinite, Booker DeWitt realises that for his daughter, Elizabeth (a girl with time-traveling and multiverse hopping powers), to exist in a peaceful world without the possibility of a religious fanatic abducting her, he must die so that the religious fanatic may never come into existence –as Booker and the fanatic were revealed to be one in the same. To save his daughter he would give his life so that she may live; the ultimate sign that his child meant more to him than himself. A touching sentiment.

This new trend of dad roles or the ‘Dadification’ of gaming is a chance to demonstrate and explore the capacity of emotions that a father may have for their child. The rage or sadness that they may feel when their child is hurting; and the love and care that they have when it is necessary to let them go and live beyond themselves.

I do have one question for the fathers of the games industry… Where are the mothers?

Neutral Magazine + Media
Living in the Moment

By Cassie Harrison

Marriage, pregnancy and new home announcements pervade my timeline. Tapping through Instagram stories, I see babies devouring their Weetabix, babies exhibiting new outfits, babies celebrating nine/fourteen/twenty-two months of age. My childhood friends are adopting new surnames, and flaunting their newly renovated homes. While there’s nothing more thrilling than celebrating the triumphs of your loved ones, I can’t help but feel that my life is somewhat lacking.

I remember a time when it would have been deemed inappropriate for me to become pregnant. Even beyond the age of twenty, this scenario would be discouraged, at least until I'd finished university. I don’t know when things changed, but I know that it will now be accepted, even celebrated, when I decide to embark on motherhood. I have now surpassed the age of my mother at the time that she gave birth to me. For goodness sake, I’m closer to thirty than I am twenty. Yet I’m still learning to love myself, let alone anybody else. I don’t have a career that I am happy with.

I know my parents coped without the financial security that I consider necessary for motherhood. My younger sister makes a wonderful mum, who doesn’t yet own her home, but my nephew is thriving. A close friend of mine is a single lady, nailing motherhood. If I’m not ready now, when will I be?

I don’t yet have the money to climb the first rung of the housing ladder, despite the fact that many of my friends are already there. To buy a house as an individual, I require double the deposit and double the salary than those in a couple, who are able to combine their assets to obtain a joint mortgage. I’ve been in long-term relationships. Made plans to buy our first home together.

I know I’m not the only one to have failed relationships, it’s just not something people announce. How often do you stumble across a status that reads, “Sleeping on my parents couch for the foreseeable future, since I ended a relationship that wasn’t serving me”? Nobody shares that, because social media portrays the ideal.

While my peers reach the milestones of adulthood, I am a bystander, anxious for my future.

I restrict myself with unrealistic budgets to maintain my savings. Money is a tool to make good things happen. Delayed gratification, they call it. I lay awake at night, considering the ideal location to raise a family. My body clock is ticking. Will I find the right person to father my children? Will I need IVF? Meanwhile, I refuse to invest in anything new for my rented property, awaiting my forever home. I anguish over what job I’ll be doing in five years. Will there be opportunities for progression? The more I allow my career to waver, the more my pension suffers.

~ Then the pandemic happened.
‘Unprecedented times’
Our lives stood still. We suffered loss.

And I learnt to let go of my anxieties about the future. The pandemic forced us to accept circumstances beyond our control. When we could no longer make plans, or rely on material indulgences, our daily lives became simpler. As I succumbed to a slower pace of life, I found new ways to experience joy - scenic sunrises, savouring a cup of coffee, the potential for an uplifting, sensory encounter as I shower. I made the effort to seek out, and dwell on, simple pleasures that I had overlooked. And while counting my blessings, they multiplied.

I relinquished the dangerous mindset that my life will be complete after…, I’ll be happy if…, things will improve when…. Years ago, I yearned for what I have now. But it’s never enough. There’s always more to desire.

In ‘The Power of Now’, Eckhart Tolle emphasises that Now is all there ever is. While the past “gives you identity” and the future “holds the promise of salvation, of fulfilment”, both are illusions - Now is “the one factor that remains constant”. I find this such an obvious, yet wondrous revelation.

There is no doubt that I allowed my all-consuming obsession with the future to hinder my appreciation of the present. I was naive to strive for common milestones of adulthood, in alignment with perceived deadlines. Besides, too many people are married, with beautiful homes, children and financial stability, yet remain unhappy. The apparent accomplishments of others are never my failures.

I am confident knowing that I can follow my own path, living in the way that feels natural to me, without reliance on tangible goals. The nuclear family is not universal, learning has no age limit, money doesn’t guarantee happiness, parenthood is optional.

As Emma Gannon explains in ‘Olive’, “A legacy is made up of everything you’ve ever done. It’s everything you leave behind. It’s every choice you make. It’s every person you meet. It’s every feeling you’ve passed on. It’s every story you tell.”

This is why fulfilment is now my sole aim - to organise my life around joy and tranquillity. I refuse to be reckless, but I can relish my journey and live in the moment. I’m going to enjoy food without worrying about my bikini body, I’m going to splurge on high-end makeup and book a holiday, without fretting over my bank balance. I’m going to allow myself a guilt-free break, on a regular basis. Life is too short not to.}

I remember once telling my Grandma that I was considering keeping a job I hated, because it paid well. She said, “Blow the money!”. Grandma followed her own path in life, always choosing happiness. And this is how I will live my life in loving memory of her.

“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.” - Omar Khayyam

Neutral Magazine + Media
TikTok: A platform of influence and creativity

By Emma Richardson -

The latest social media platform TikTok has seen phenomenal development in the way technology has influenced and developed traditional forms of media. Reaching larger audiences is the main objective for social media channels and TikTok is the platform for just that. For print, magazines and newspapers were great ways to share information but in the digital age, journalists have taken to modern methods in a bid to widen their audience.

TikTok is a creative platform that allows users to create and post videos with transitions and music being a large appeal to the app’s features. With a time of 15-30 seconds, users will create videos to share to followers of the platform. As content is being made so easily and with such creativity, topics from news to cute animals are all the range in making this app so diverse. This has encouraged news outlets and large companies to incorporate this trend to their social media marketing. In recent times, journalists have taken to the app to show live reporting and important information of news events. But is this a sustainable way to receive the news?

Audience is the main objective for social media and news information holds no exception. It is reported that 60% of users of TikTok are in the 16-24 age bracket, positioning them to be the most influential cohort. As an app platform, TikTok holds the power to influence and inform younger generations who may not watch BBC News at 6 o’clock or flick the pages of The Sunday Times. Is it important to keep up with current trends?

To emphasis its scale,
it is estimated that 1 billion videos are viewed on TikTok each day bringing into question as to how much content is really seen. With the help of hashtags and algorithms, users can search for topics or seek their designated feed. This does introduce the debate that journalists no longer need to be in a profession but an ordinary working individual. The power of social media has demonstrated that news can go viral from someone publishing live reactions to an event or place in time. The scale of TikTok as a platform also brings into question if news outlets and journalists needing to be verified or positioned more clearly within algorithm structures.

The most prominent examples of TikTok for this has been in America, with trends circulating of users using snippets of news items or reacting to recent events. In a comedic sense, creative freedom on the app has allowed users to interact and debate with their own personal opinions, arguably a more informative interaction than merely watching the news. However, this does bring into question the sustainability of such videos and how the news will continue to exist on such a platform. The Coronavirus pandemic certainly allowed this platform to become a massive cultural awakening, with users creating ‘vlogs’ as a day in the life during the lockdown phase. Or most recently, the news of Nando’s running out of chicken became a funny pun on TikTok which sparked debate as to the best fast-food chain. As an intimate level of relatability, TikTok has provided a curated experience for the user, perhaps the only platform that has ever reached such familiarity. Still in its growing phase, TikTok has highlighted the ability of social media platforms to change the way audiences are influenced and how information is shared.

What will be next?

Neutral Magazine + Media
Taken on Canon A-1 with IIdford HP5 Plus 35mm Film

By Frank Anderson -

Whilst visiting Berwick Upon Tweed and the surrounding Northubrian landscape last October, I visited many different castles. Seeing all these castles all in close proximity gave me a thoughtful insight into the historical wars and battles fought at these locations, and the necessity for defence against attacking invaders. While considering this, a concept I’ve always thought about is
“if a zombie outbreak occurred, where would you go?”
,why not a historically tested stronghold. From this I decided to create a present-day zombie apocalypse base at a castle I photographed called Dustanburgh Castle.

Neutral Magazine + Media
Goodbye plastic mannequins

By Grace Pheasey -

Fashion is the world of creativity, art and style. A world to be ourselves by showing our identity through our appearance. Sadly, its approach is so heavily focused on visual aesthetics, so its history is encased in a dark cloud of poor representation and diversity.

However, social media has adapted fashion’s traditional methods and is adhering to society’s dialogue about demanding realistic representations. People with disabilities face many barriers within fashion, but, their voices are helping to re-shape ingrained representations. Here’s how an image conscious industry has taken conscious steps to an all-inclusive world.

Holding up the mirror

Do you ever ask yourself, but what would that look like on me? For what seems like forever, fashion imagery has always projected a standard image of beauty, representing what is a micro proportion of real people.

From the height of runway models, to perfect skin in campaigns, the auto-corrected world is finally changing. Removing expectations is only the start when it comes to new ways to market fashion. Seeing clothes on plastic mannequins in shop windows seems something of the distant past. Most importantly, fashion is undergoing a cultural reset. Finally, it is listening to the dialogue in society calling out for equal representation, unmuting the voices of people who matter.

Seeing is believing

Shop mannequins and billboards are no longer the drivers of sales, but merely a tool to make the high street a little more appealing. Social media influencers have revolutionised our thinking and buying habits, helping to maximise diversity in every corner of the industry.

Instagram is the new tool for the fashion industry, we can see how items fit and look without wondering if they have been digitally enhanced in a studio workshop. UK blogger Tess Daly has 205k followers on Instagram, empowering alike people with makeup, beauty and fashion tips.

Influencers like Tess are becoming the connective bridge in helping us find reliability in fashion products. Equal representation from brands is on the rise and consumers are now seeing versions of themselves.

Digital stars

Diversity in fashion is multi-facetted which is why social media influencers are the perfect relief. Madeline Stuart, the first supermodel with Down syndrome, is an inspiration for highlighting how fashion is removing the barriers and allowing for a diverse platform. With 334k Instagram followers and having featured in several runway shows, Madeline is a leading advocate for inclusion. Seeing disabled models being the centre of AD campaigns or walking for designers is something that is on the rise.

Most importantly, social media has allowed for a personal journey to finding content that speaks to them. Digital platforms have been a great way to integrate diversity into brands, helping to centralise the message of reliability. Most certainly, branding and marketing of fashion has never been so important.

Striking gold

Fashion choices are not always straight forward for people with disabilities. Poor layouts of stores and the design of garments were traditional barriers for disabled people. Brands are starting to address these and have introduced discrete solutions to help keep fashion a main priority. Designer Tommy Hilfiger launched an Adaptable range in 2018. From velcro fasteners to press studs, fashionable clothing is providing the answers to somewhat overlooked needs. Sporting their new collection is Paralympian Jeremy Campbell, highlighting how his disability is never to be considered a limitation.

Above all, this level of acceptance has been long awaited by people with disabilities. Seeing is believing, every voice matters and the time is now.

Neutral Magazine + Media
The Digital Domestic: Technology in the Home

By Harriet Snowden -

During the Coronavirus pandemic and lockdown phases, the use of media and technology has been realised. The home is no longer a quiet place of isolation but a place of network. From smart speakers to CCTV surveillance, technology in the home is becoming an integral part of how traditional spaces are being influenced by technology. The digital has now become part of our everyday routines, and it seems that it is only going to increase.

The Amazon Alexa, a speaker and a personal assistant all in one.

From listening to music to ordering an item from your Amazon account, technology has become more than convenience. Voice activation has allowed technology to enhance our needs and our time, with instantaneous results. With the assistance of Wi-Fi, devices like the Alexa can set reminders, play music and send messages. A hub for notifications and announcements, coloured rings are also an enhancement of Alexa. The colour yellow signals an Amazon package delivery, making users aware of recent orders and arrivals. Without the search or worry, colours now signal messages and meaning that are all to enhance user experiences. Smart devices have made smart homes. Individual choices and personalisation are a big attraction to the use of smart devices in the home. With the increase in smart technology, our home and lifestyle have now become a commodity. Technology in the home has allowed for greater access into our routines and the choices we make. Greater freedom has meant that with a touch of a button, our wishes have an action. The lived experience of using these devices has increased our ability to use and rely on technology. Gone are the days of waiting for computer updates or increasing our Wi-Fi speed. Technology is now positioned to serve our every needs and it appears that this will even cross the threshold into our homes.

Philips is a leading company that is practicing the increase of digitalisation within the home. App platforms are now places that can control the inner workings of our home through connections with technology. Philips Hue, a free app for smart lighting controls that allow users to decide on the lighting brightness, colour and time. Bluetooth now connects technology to light outlets, allowing the choice to control which room has light, the time it turns on or the automation. As a smart light choice, there is an argument that suggests that smart technology is enhancing our lifestyle choices, taking away the hassle and creating efficiency of items in the domesticated home.

The digital age impacted our ways of communication, introducing instantaneous messaging and online communication.

In recent times, this level of digitalisation has become an integral part of our homes and it seems that this will not change. For users, technology has brought many benefits with personalisation and increased efficiency, factors that will impact the way it is used in the future. The commodification of household items has positively affected our lifestyles and with consumers taking this up,
it looks like the future will only produce more of efficiency and personalisation.