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I have a mixed relationship with the Grand Theft Auto series, and indeed Rockstar Games in general. I first played GTA 3 on my PC back in 2001, and I had an average time with it. The change from the top-down viewpoint of its two predecessors intrigued me since I always had fun with them. I have never played Vice City or San Andreas, so I figured there was no better time to jump in and see what all the fuss was about with Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition.
I decided to play the games in release order, despite having never played two of the 3 titles. Loading up Grand Theft Auto III brought back a few memories, but it has been 20 years since I played it, so I forgot almost everything about the game. The opening “cinematic” (if you can even call it that) set the tone for how the rest of my experience with this game would go, and it wasn’t good.
I can understand that this game came out 20 years ago, and the quality of the graphics is not going to be great, but it is not good enough. Not even close. I played the PlayStation 5 version of the trilogy, so it’s not like I was wanting for processing power. A next-gen remaster is supposed to bring near-next-gen graphical display. This game looks like it was designed for the PS3, possibly even the PS2 in its later stages. This is a shame because the game originally came out for the PS2, so very little has improved.
You play as “Claude” in GTA 3, a character that has no lines or voice acting of any kind, save a few grunts when climbing or running. Generally, playing as a mute character is not fun for me unless the game is in first person, like Doom, where I can project myself on to the character. In this case, however, it’s probably for the best as the voice acting is not good, not even a little. At no point was I drawn into the story, and I use the term “story’ loosely. I realize that this is more the fault of the original release, but it’s still a detracting point here.
The controls in GTA 3 are basic, simple, and deliberate. The field of motion is very poor here. Punching animations are sloppy and amount to the player mashing the “punch” button while Claude flails away on screen hoping to hit the person. Gunplay is another gripe due to there not being any sense of impact or severity to the action. There were several times during my playthrough where I wasn’t sure if I had fired one shot or seven at my target.
The longer I played GTA 3, the more I was frustrated. I was completing a particular mission where I had to force a truck off the road and kill the driver because he had not been paying the protection money owed to Claude’s mafia boss. I grabbed a Hummer (the in-game equivalent, anyways), and went after the truck.
After ramming into it multiple times, my car started to catch fire and eventually exploded, killing me, leaving the truck unharmed, and making me restart the mission. I shut the game off at that point because it wasn’t fun. I was not enjoying myself and I have always felt that if I was not enjoying a game, I would stop playing. So, I did.
I booted up Vice City since it was next chronologically. I was interested in jumping into the 80s splendour that Vice City brought to the table. My excitement peaked at that point, and it was downhill from there. Grand Theft Auto – Vice City looks as visually passable as GTA 3 does in The Definitive Edition, and that’s not a good thing. It really looks like more of the same, but in the neon and pastel colours that the 80s were famous for. At the end of the day, though, neon crap is still crap.
We follow Tommy Vercetti in Vice City, as he works his way through the ranks to become the biggest criminal power in Vice City. In this entry in the series, our main protagonist has a voice, so that’s something. The voice acting in Vice City is much better than GTA 3, but it still has a long way to go to be considered good.
Vice City is just more of the same as its predecessor. Missions that are one-dimensional, uninteresting characters, same-y controls, and a forgettable story that never pulled me in. I never felt like I was invested in the characters or the story, which is a shame, because Tommy could have been a very likeable character. I need to have a likeable character to project parts of me into the game, and I didn’t get that here. I always felt like there was no hesitation or contemplation in his choices. It was very much a “go here, kill/talk to this person” type of game, and then do it all over again.
I wanted to like Vice City, a lot. But at the end of the day, I don’t. There was one saving grace for this game, and that’s the soundtrack. There are some absolute 80s BANGERS here. Rockstar really spared no expense, if you’ll pardon my Jurassic Park parlance. Tracks by Run D.M.C., Motley Crue, Judas Priest, Foreigner, and more make driving around Vice City a truly enjoyable experience.
When I got tired of cruising the beach listening to Run D.M.C. in Vice City, I moved on to San Andreas, the third and last entry in the Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition. When it was released in October 2004, it was very well-received, with an average rating of 95%. It is one of those genre-defining titles and has been called as much by everyone who looked at it 17 years ago.
Fast-forward to today, and I thought the experience would have been about the same. I was sorely disappointed. San Andreas is no different from the other two games in The Definitive Edition. It has not aged well. Despite coming out 2 and 3 years after Vice City and GTA 3 respectively, the game is largely built on the same mechanics. Any hope I’d had of enjoying the gameplay were dashed before too long.
San Andreas begins with Carl (CJ) Johnson returning to San Andreas after a number of years living in Liberty City. He is immediately thrust back into the life he left behind years ago, engaging in gun fights, drive-by’s, etc.
From there, it’s the same song and dance of the previous titles, with a bit more of a developed story. The voice acting has gotten exponentially better as well, with the likes of Ice-T , Samuel L. Jackson, and even James Woods lending their voices to characters in San Andreas.
From this point, there is nothing enjoyable about my time in San Andreas. The graphics are about what I would expect for a PS2 title, but not what I’d expect for a collection released on next-gen consoles. Not much more I can say than that.
Rockstar says that The Definitive Edition features “graphical improvements and modern gameplay enhancements,” and I can kind of see what they mean. The edges on polygons aren’t as sharp as they were previously, but that’s about the extent of it.
There are a great many things wrong with Grand Theft Auto: The Trilogy – The Definitive Edition, other than the title being an absolute mouthful. The most egregious of them is the price. Whoever decided that it was a great idea to sell this collection at $79.99 CAD needs to give their head a shake. I get that it’s a collection of three games, but this is the same price that Call of Duty: Vanguard sells for and that only came out two weeks ago (at the time of writing).
As I said earlier, there is one redeeming quality to this collection, and it’s the soundtrack in Vice City. I have absolutely no idea why Rockstar decided to release this collection. They say it’s because of the 20-year anniversary of the release of GTA 3, and how that changed the shape of the series forever. I can understand that, but is this how they honour it? By releasing a collection of games that have aged about as well as a glass of milk, left on the countertop?
Nostalgia is great. Some of my favourite games, movies and TV shows are all from this period, but that doesn’t mean they all deserve to be remastered. Sometimes nostalgia is best left where it belongs: in the past.
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PC Building Diary: Assembling my first gaming rig and why I should have gone pre-built instead – 9to5Toys
Like many other console gamers through the past few years, the allure of switching over to a PC finally got the best of me. There’s just the problem of actually making the jump, considering just how hard things are with the ongoing stock shortages. Detailing the entire experience of building a PC for the first time, down below you can follow along as I go through all the components in my first rig and my thoughts on why I should have just gone for a pre-built in the first place.
After having a chance to check out a pre-built machine from CLX as a loaner, it got the ball rolling in my head that it might be time to invest in a system all my own. In what was a test for “will I even use a gaming PC in the first place,” I inevitably decided that my mixed experience with that brand shouldn’t deter me, and I sent out to build my own gaming PC and see what the other side of the table had in store. After all, there has to be a reason why everyone is so gung ho about crafting their own gaming rig.
In what was perfect timing with NZXT launching a new case and some coolers to go with it, I took those debuts as the perfect chance to dive in. So what did I ultimately decide on for my first machine?
To start things out, I built the entire PC around NZXT’s new H510 Flow case. While I am hardly one to push my system to the point of really needing the improved airflow capabilities that give this case its namesake, the peace of mind is certainly nice. I was originally debating getting one of the brand’s more compact machines, though after assembling everything inside of the mid-sized case, I am glad I had the extra room to work with. That pairs with the NZXT C850 power supply to get things started.
As for the CPU, I was recommended the Intel i7-11700 chip by 9to5Toys’ own PC builder extraordinaire Patrick. The suggestion has turned out to serve my gaming needs quite well and should be more than capable for any workstation-related tasks in the unlikely event that I make the switch from macOS. I am not going to bore you with benchmark results or anything trying to contend that this is the best value out there for the price point, but the CPU seems like it will be able to hold me over well into the future.
Once settling on the CPU, it was time to get the hardest component of my PC build. That’s right, the graphics card. In what ultimately seemed to come down to fate, I was able to score an NVIDIA RTX 3060 for a little more than its retail price. Its performance has been worth every penny over its MSRP and has meant that my rig can handle pretty much every I throw at it in the gaming department. Even if all I seem to be playing right now is Halo Infinite and Overwatch.
On the RAM side of things, I am rocking four sticks of CORSAIR’s Vengeance RGB PRO DDR4 memory. This gives me a total of 32GB for multitasking and is the perfect kind of overkill for my gaming rig. Adding to CORSAIR’s claim on my gaming PC, I also have one of its CORE 1TB M.2 PCIe Gen4 SSDs as the main boot drive. It has been nothing short of a beast even with how little I push the limits of its 4,700MB/s max transfer speeds.
On the all-important front of cooling, I mentioned earlier that this entire build was inspired by some of NZXT’s latest releases. So it’s only fitting that the brand’s Kraken Z73 all-in-one cooler is what helped me pull the trigger on the entire system.
The refreshed white design was a big selling point for having a uniform PC in the looks department, and its actual performance has kept me happy with it over the past month or so of gaming. I particularly love the built-in screen which can do everything from monitor system stats like temperature or CPU utilization to displaying gifs, which might be my favorite part.
And to tie it all together, I am rocking one of NZXT’s N7 B550 motherboards. Keeping up with the slick white theming, it has a matching coat of paint to the rest of my system and more I/O than I thought I could ever need. Lastly, I threw in an extra pair of NZXT’s AER RGB 2 120mm fans for some extra cooling. Though if I am being entirely honest, the extra RGB lighting is really the reason I splurged here.
While assembly could have gone better than expected, the experience of actually building a PC wasn’t all that bad. It may have taken an afternoon to get all of the components slotted into place, and more time than I’d like to admit for installing Windows, but eventually everything was ready to go. Even though I don’t necessarily regret the process of sourcing my own machine, I am getting some envy from just going the pre-built route.
Shortly after finishing my own build, the holidays arrived and I picked up one of NZXT’s H1 Mini PCs for my significant other so we can game together. And the whole experience there was honestly night and day to what I had gone through with CLX. That’s to say I was impressed with the process from the second I clicked buy all the way until it was finally plugged in and ready to go. That’s in contrast to doing all of the work myself to end up with a similar, yet much messier setup. Seriously, don’t judge my cable management, I know it could be better!
Even if now isn’t the best time to be getting into the PC gaming space for the first time in terms of actually sourcing parts, I am shocked by how much value is offered by the mid-tier gear found in this build. I feel confident that my machine should last well into the future without having to sacrifice too much on performance for any new games that the next few years may hold. And honestly, if it wasn’t for the shortages, now would be such an amazing time to dive into the world of PC gaming with just how much competition there is in the space churning out better and better products.
That’s to say after experiencing both sides of the equation, I would go the pre-built route for myself if I had to do it all over again. Even if I ended up saving a little bit of cash, having a package ready to go out of the box that I could have tailored to my liking over time seems like a far better compromise for this casual gamer than having to do all of the hard work to get a perfect rig right from the start.
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Anbernic may be developing a Windows handheld gaming PC – Liliputing
Anbernic is a Chinese company that makes handheld gaming devices, most of which are powered by Android or Linux software and designed for retro gaming. But it looks like the company may be developing its first handheld gaming PC that runs Windows.
That could make the new device an option for gamers looking to play modern PC games, although the new model will also probably be Anbernic’s most expensive system to date – most of the company’s current devices tend to sell for between $50 and $250.
Anbernic hasn’t officially announced the new Windows handheld, but a set of pictures included in a recent patent application make it pretty clear that the device is designed to run Windows.
Like many handheld game consoles, it has a display surrounded by dual analog sticks, a D-Pad, action buttons, start and select keys, and four shoulder buttons/triggers. There’s also a home key on one side, and a Windows key on the other, which will likely function as a Start Key.
On the left side of the device there’s also a switch that lets you toggle between game controller and mouse modes, a feature we’ve seen on some other Windows-powered handhelds, which makes Windows a little easier to navigate on devices without a mouse or physical keyboard. This will most likely let you move a cursor with an analog stick while using action buttons for left and right-click actions.
Other features appear to include a USB Type-A port, what may be a USB Type-C port, stereo speakers, and a 3.5mm headphone jack as well as what looks like a microphone.
There’s no word on the specs or pricing, but it seems like a safe bet that a Windows-powered handheld will have a more expensive processor than most of Anbernic’s systems to date, which will drive up the price tag accordingly.
If and when Anbernic’s Windows-powered handheld comes to market, it will join an increasingly crowded space that’s currently dominated by small Chinese companies like GPD, One Netbook, and AYA as well as the upcoming Valve Steam Deck (which will ship with the Linux-based Steam OS, but which has all the hardware necessary for Windows gaming if anyone feels the urge to replace the operating system).
via DroiX, Taki Udon, and /r/Anbernic
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What are they trying to patent? Buttons and switches where your hand will be gripping and more prone to accidentally activating (ie. bad idea)?
Also, if their handheld looks like this, how are they expecting to compete with the other Chinese handhelds (let alone the Steam Deck)? Price? The bar handhelds are all pretty much the same with different tweaks here and there.
At this rate, I feel like whatever part of the market the Deck isn’t able to capture will just be shared equally among the rest of these small companies.
Now more manufacturers in the game, waiting for Alienware and Razer to join this party, they had UFO and Switchblade concepts in the past
I feel a tiny bit sorry for GPD – after years of being the “only game in town”, now they have competitors coming out of the woodwork!
Still, it seems like good news for everyone else!
If it’s pocketable, then I’d get it. Otherwise, if I’m getting a non-pocketable slab/bar PC handheld, then it’s only the Steam Deck for me.
Judging from the USB Type-A port, this thing’s pretty large. It’s not any more pocketable than the other slabs so pass. The Steam Deck it is.
Waiting for a hologram of Roseanne Barr to explain the meaning of the device’s name to me.
🙂 Close enough to Ambergris
🙂 Close enough to Ambergris
Compare handheld gaming PC specs (Steam Deck, AYA Neo, GPD Win Max and Win 3, ONEXPLAYER and OneGx1 Pro)
Intel’s Alder Lake Mobile chips bring hybrid architecture to laptops, promise up to 40-percent performance boost
Overview of AMD’s Ryzen 6000 mobile “Rembrandt” chips with RDNA2 graphics and Zen 3+ CPU cores
Daily Deals (1-17-2022)
Samsung introduces Exynos 2200 processor with AMD RDNA 2 “Xclipse” graphics
Anbernic may be developing a Windows handheld gaming PC
PineNote E Ink tablet now available for $399 for developers and enthusiasts
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Media campaigns praised for 'making a difference' – Arab News
DUBAI: Media campaigns for some of the world’s biggest brands have been praised for their effectiveness, insight and innovation as part of marketing intelligence firm WARC’s 2021 media awards.
The global awards program, now in its sixth year, rewards communications planning that has made a positive impact on business results. The awards examine the insight, strategy and analytics that influence effective media investment.
This year, the awards saw 56 campaigns win across diverse markets and product categories for global brands including adidas, L’Oreal, McDonald’s, Nespresso and TikTok, and local brands such as Change The Ref in the US, Claro in Chile, NHS England, Omroep Zwart in the Netherlands and Yili in China.
Four juries — one for each category — made up of of experts from both the agency and client-side awarded four grand prix trophies, 10 golds, 17 silvers, 25 bronzes and 12 special awards for specific areas of excellence.
Overall, the UK led with eight wins. China, Germany, the US and Vietnam won four awards each, followed by Canada, which scored three wins. India, Malaysia and New Zealand, each won two awards, and Chile, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Netherlands, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Sri Lanka, Turkey and the UAE each won one award.
In the effective channel integration category, PHD Canada won the grand prix and path-to-purchase award for “Vacation Intervention,” which saw Air Transat convince 75,000 workers not to lose their unused vacation days, with nearly 50 percent of reservations coming from new clients.
“Travel brands tend to be very lower-funnel and promo-led, especially in the lead-up to big holiday seasons. ‘Vacation Intervention’ went the other way with a strong insight, a very interesting central idea and a multi-channel campaign that was fun, topical and successful,” said jury member Ronnie Thomas, group director of global business development Publicis Groupe.
The POE award, which looks at how a strategy successfully linked paid, owned and earned media, and a gold went to FP7 McCann Dubai for “A Dad’s Job” for Home Center. The effective cross-channel measurement award and a silver went to MediaCom’s global campaign “PS5 — 2020’s biggest entertainment launch” for gaming console Sony PlayStation.
Havas Sports & Entertainment won the grand prix for French welfare association L’Enfant Bleu in the effective use of tech category.
The winning campaign “Undercover Avatar” saw the agency create an in-game confidante to enable children to speak out about abuse. The activity generated 700 million media impressions and resulted in the French government working on solutions that will turn video games into a new way to identify abused children.
“Leveraging a native behavior (and interest) in a smart way — a really powerful way to do things purposefully different,” said judge Luca Vergano, vice president of strategy at Elephant.
The initiative also won two special awards: Most scalable idea and platform pioneer.
MullenLowe US won the special award, the early adopter, and a gold for “Ring King” for Burger King.
In the effective use of partnerships and sponsorships category, McCann Paris and FP7 McCann Dubai won the grand prix and effective native award for Lebanese Breast Cancer Foundation for “The Bread Exam.”
The nonprofit collaborated with a traditional baker to create a bread-making video demonstrating how to self-examine. The campaign reached 112 million people, and in nine months increased awareness by 83 percent and screenings by 41 percent.
“They identified breast cancer as something that is difficult to talk about in culture, but managed to make it part of the conversation through the topic of bread making, something that is an integral part of the culture,” said judge Faisal Alani, head of partnerships at eBay.
“They tackled the problem in an incredibly thoughtful way; it really warmed my heart.”
COPA90 won two special swards — the collaboration with an influencer award for Budweiser’s “Messi X Budweiser 644,” and the successful sponsorship award for “Music Keeps Us Playing” for Pepsi and Pepsi MAX, as well as a silver and bronze, respectively.
In the best use of data category, the grand prix and personalization award went to FCB New Zealand for “Personalizing Danger,” a campaign for Water Safety New Zealand. By combining historical, real-time and future data, the agency built a predictive model to reduce deaths of young men from drowning. The campaign reached 95 percent of its target audience and achieved zero deaths.
“Other entrants are just gathering data. But to actually save lives? If only one life is saved, it’s already a success. This is data put to good use,” said judge Kathrin Jesse, chief strategy officer and partner at Wirz Group, Switzerland.
The data-driven insight award was given to MullenLowe US for Burger King’s “Delay Your Way,” which also won a gold, and the attribution award went to Ekimetrics for “Using Advanced Analytics to Market Profitability in a Pandemic” for hospitality brand Accor, which also won a bronze.
ISTANBUL: A Turkish court has acquitted German journalist Mesale Tolu after years on trial for terror-related charges.
“After 4 years, 8 months and 20 days: Acquitted of both charges!” Tolu tweeted after her acquittal. She was accused of engaging in terror propaganda and being a member of a banned left-wing group — the Marxist-Leninist Communist Party.
Tolu, 38, was placed in pre-trial detention for eight months in 2017. She was later released but was barred from leaving Turkey until August 2018. She lives in Germany.
Before her arrest, Tolu worked as a translator and journalist for the Turkish ETHA news agency.
German-Turkish relations were tense at the time of Tolu’s arrest, when eight other German or German-Turkish citizens were imprisoned. Berlin considered the arrests to be politically motivated.
Reporters Without Borders ranks Turkey at 153 out of 180 countries in its World Press Freedom Index of 2021. At least 34 media employees are currently behind bars, according to Turkey’s Journalists Union.
BEIRUT: Hate-filled, misogynist, and racist tweets have targeted a Sudanese TV anchor following a report on her show that criticized the Lebanese government, including Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.
The fury targeting Dalia Ahmad came after she described the country’s long-reigning party officials as crocodiles during her show “Fashet Khalq” on Lebanon’s Al-Jadeed news channel.
#DogBreedImprovement was trending in Lebanon in Arabic after vicious tweets sent out by Hezbollah loyalist accounts attacked Ahmad and the color of her skin.
“You’d be sitting under the safety of God when a black dog comes and starts barking, you want to hit it but then it appears not to be a dog but a black female dog from Sudan,” read a tweet from a profile featuring a photo of the slain Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani.
بتكون قاعد بأمان الله بيجي كلب أسود بصير ينبح بتقوم بدك تضربو بيطلع مش كلب بيطلع كلبة سودا من السودان#تحسين_نسل_الكلب
“May God curse the sperm that settled in the womb of the mother of those who offend you, Mr. Nasrallah #DogBreedImprovement,” read another tweet in Arabic. The account’s profile has the word Hezbollah in Arabic with a yellow heart next to it.
لعنَ الله النُّطفةَ التي إستقّرت في رَحِمِ أمِّ من يُسئ إليك سيدي نصرالله.#تحسين_نسل_الكلب pic.twitter.com/6rNLfxiIYK
Another tweet read: “Without #hizbollah Dalia Ahmed would have been offered for sale in the slave market, along with her ilk, by ISIS.”
“Never in my life have I bullied or criticized the creation of our Lord, but this despicable woman, because her heart and tongue are so black they are reflecting on her ugly and malicious face,” read a tweet from @KassemHala555, which had a black smiley face emoji at the end and two images of Ahmad.
انا بحياتي ما تنمرت ولا بقبل انتقد خلقة ربنا ..
بس هيدي الحقيرة من كتر سواد قلبها ولسانها عاكس على وجها المقرق والخبيث …#تحسين_نسل_الكلب pic.twitter.com/fDRwpPX8TK
“By God, by God, whoever wants to attack the Al-Sayyed (Nasrallah), I want to wipe the ground with them and curse those who gave birth to them,” read another tweet from @KassemHala555, whose profile features the Lebanese and Iranian flags. This tweet had an image of Ahmad with the face of a dog photoshopped over hers.
والله والله يلي بدو يتطاول على السيد بدي امسح الأرض فيه والعن يلي خلفو ..#تحسين_نسل_الكلب pic.twitter.com/zxxEh0eGX1
Journalists loyal to Hezbollah and media representatives also chimed in. Journalist Hosein Mortada, who has more than 494,000 followers, tweeted a picture of Ahmad with the comment: “There are breeds that don’t improve because their genes are unclean from the start.”
His tweet is no longer visible because, according to the platform, it “violated the Twitter Rules.”
There were some who came to the defense of Ahmad, including Emmy-nominated director and writer Lucien Bourjeily who tweeted: “My dears: ‘crocodiles’ is a very nice description. Your leaders are corrupt, scammers, and criminals, and an entire society is being destroyed at their hands! How many are you after defending those who impoverished you, plundered you, and destroyed your lives?”
في مين عم يدافع بشراسة وعنصرية عن زعيمه لأن الاعلامية #داليا_أحمد وصفت ما يسمى ب “زعماء” ب تماسيح.
اعزائي: “تماسيح” وصف كتير لطيف.
زعمائكم فاسدين،نصابين،ومجرمين وفي مجتمع باكمله عم يتدمر على ايديهم!
والكم عين بعد تدافعوا عن يلي فقروكم، نهبوكم، ودمروا حياتكم؟ #كلن_يعني_كلن مورطين pic.twitter.com/I43tFI8c1D
Hezbollah and its loyalists have a record of harassing and attacking female journalists.
In January of last year, Alhurra news anchor Layal Alekhtiar received death threats and was subjected to harassment online after tweeting a video of the unveiling of a Soleimani statue and a line from the Qur’an that said: “What are these statues to which you are so devoted?”
In October 2020, independent journalist Luna Safwan was targeted by Hezbollah in an online abuse campaign after her tweet criticizing the party was carried by an Israeli news channel and she was accused of cooperating with Israel.
Lebanese journalist Maryam Seif Eddine, known for her staunch criticism of Hezbollah despite being Shiite, received death threats from the group while her mother and brother were physically assaulted, with her sibling being left with a broken nose. Party loyalists had targeted her family home in Burj El-Barajneh, in the Hezbollah-dominated southern suburbs of Beirut.
Before that, as the country witnessed mass protests in 2019, former LBC news anchor and Shiite journalist Dima Sadek was subjected to harassment by the group after her phone was stolen from her during a demonstration. The harassment, she said, was followed by insulting and threatening phone calls to her mother, who suffered a stroke as a result of the stress.
MTV reporter Nawal Berry, also a Shiite, suffered violent attacks by supporters of Hezbollah and its allies while covering the early days of the protests. Loyalists smashed her team’s camera, snatched the microphone she was holding, spat on her, and kicked her in the leg.
DUBAI: With more than 200 streaming providers around the globe the number of platforms is proliferating, according to Flixed.
And while the coronavirus pandemic has spurred unprecedented growth in viewership the gradual return to normality has seen a churn in subscribers for many streaming companies.
Netflix, which remains the world leader in the streaming space, last year commanded a 21 percent share of the US subscription video-on-demand market, but with competition increasing, it has been experiencing a slowdown, data analytics firm GlobalData said.
The company’s share of US revenue from subscription streaming video was forecast to shrink to 30.8 percent by the end of 2021, from nearly 50 percent in 2018, according to market researcher eMarketer.
Francesca Gregory, associate analyst in thematic research at GlobalData, said: “Netflix experienced a slow start to 2021, following a light slate of content as pandemic production problems came to the fore.
“Although fresh content in its third quarter boosted subscribers to 214 million, competing platforms are experiencing explosive growth.”
By November, Disney+ had racked up 118 million subscribers, and Amazon Prime had 175 million.
“As the number of streaming platforms increases, and the market approaches peak fragmentation, SVOD platforms will use content portfolios to differentiate themselves,” Gregory added.
For example, Amazon has committed $1 billion to its “The Lord of the Rings” even before an episode has aired, while Netflix was forecast to spend more on original programming than ever before. By 2025, 46.5 percent of its projected $18.92 billion budget will go toward original content, compared with 37.8 percent in 2020, eMarketer said.
Besides content portfolios, companies will have to explore alternative revenue sources.
Gregory said: “We have already started to see Netflix branching out to different areas, with the launch of Netflix Games in November 2021 and a co-streaming partnership with Twitch. I wouldn’t be surprised if the company looked to experiment with more gaming streaming platforms in the future.”
She pointed out that as competition increased during 2022, “reaching different audiences will continue to be a key strategy. Companies that fail to secure a market niche will have a limited shelf life in the crowded SVOD market.”
GAZA CITY: In a Gaza TV studio of the ruling Islamist armed movement Hamas, a set features Israeli flags, Hebrew documents and a portrait of Theodor Herzl, the father of modern Zionism.
The make-believe office of enemy state Israel’s security service is being used to shoot a “pro-resistance” television series on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
It is Hamas’s answer to Israeli hit shows such as the special forces drama “Fauda” that have gained millions of viewers on platforms such as Netflix, HBO and Apple TV+.
“Fauda,” which in Arabic means chaos, portrays a military unit led by commander Doron Kavillio that launches raids inside Palestinian territories.
Admitting to having watched “Fauda,” though, is not a good idea in Gaza, the Palestinian coastal enclave blockaded by Israel, said local director Mohammed Soraya.
To watch any Israeli TV series means supporting the “normalization” of relations with the Jewish state, argued Soraya, who is directing Hamas’s own TV series on the conflict.
He charged that such shows “support the Zionist occupation” because their plots “criminalize the Palestinian people,” speaking with AFP in the Gaza City studio.
“We want to flip the equation, to show the Palestinian point of view, to broadcast a drama about the spirit of our resistance.”
Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union. The Islamist group controls the Gaza Strip, an impoverished territory of 2.3 million people.
It also runs the Al-Aqsa channel, and has been investing in series inspired by Hollywood, and by Turkish soap operas that are popular across the Middle East.
The series now in production, “Qabdat Al-Ahrar” (Fist of the Free), revisits a 2018 Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip that resulted in the deaths of seven Hamas fighters and an Israeli officer.
The protagonists are the fighters of Hamas, which has fought four wars against the Jewish state since 2008.
Budgets are meagre, actors’ salaries are low, sets are basic and deadlines are tight, with the production team expected to deliver some 30 episodes by April, in time for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
While Israeli series often feature actors from the country’s Arab-Israeli minority, productions in Gaza do not use any Israeli actors.
This forces studios to recruit local actors to play Israelis — a job that, the performers say, can expose them to real-world hostility and danger.
One of them is Jawad Harouda, aged in his early sixties and with a husky voice, who portrays the head of Israel’s Shin Bet domestic security service in the new TV series.
To get into character, Harouda said he “soaked up the script,” but added that being too convincing can lead to trouble.
“Some women look at me and pray that I die,” he said, leaning back in his boss’s chair in the fake Shin Bet office.
“I’m happy when people insult me. It means I’ve succeeded … The actor is a chameleon, he must be able to act out all colors.”
In Gaza productions, Israeli characters speak in Arabic. And, at the request of the Hamas mufti, or Islamic jurist, women wear their headscarves even if they play Jewish characters.
“In one series, I played a Jewish woman,” said one actress, Kamila Fadel, who added that she may have been just a little too convincing for her own good.
“After the series was broadcast, a woman tried to strangle me,” she recounted.
“She told me: ‘I hate you, you are hurting us so much’. On another day a 13-year-old boy threw a stone at my head thinking I was Jewish… This means I played my part well.”
Not everyone is a fan of the Hamas productions, which are firmly focused on the conflict.
“There is no love” in the dramas, argued Palestinian director and critic Jamal Abu Alqumsan, who expressed regret that the rare local productions served primarily as a “tool of resistance.”
Abu Alqumsan said the potential for such productions to tell Palestinians’ stories was huge, but the challenges were many.
“In Gaza, we live under a blockade, it’s a unique situation in the world,” he said, speaking in his art gallery, which he hopes to turn into a small film library.
“So we need producers to invest in quality series and tell the rest of the world our story. We have good actors, they just need good directors and means.”
For now, Abu Alqumsan said he was unsure of the impact such shows would have.
“TV dramas are a weapon, but in the face of Israel, local productions are of a low level,” he said.
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