THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 224

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 224

…If it is possible to reverse immortality, I am positive that you have knocked at least a few years off of Ekcello’s life…

Mortality And Immortality by William Michael Harnett

Like it or not, the McKinneys were there to stay and now interest in that little blue dot nearer the middle of this galaxy has renewed, by necessity, if not their preoccupation. Akin to their more physical predecessors from eons past, they have renewed their consuming quest to understand that planet known as them as ĞŁŒŠ {Earth}.

“Sam, you have to realize that at one time these people traveled to all parts of the Universe,” explains Celeste, who through osmosis gathered the reasoning behind the Eridanus’ distracted abstractness. “Of all the worlds they may have encountered, the endless variety of life forms thereabout, we of Earth may well be as close to blood relatives that they have. I think that we are so much like the Eridanians of 4000 years ago that it scared the voice right out of them.”

“You mean we are a mirror image?” asks Sampson.

“Yes and when it is YOUR reflection they see, oh my…”

“It’s not my fault we do not exactly see eye-to-eye.”

You have hit it on the head Sam! If it is possible to reverse immortality, I am positive that you have knocked at least a few years off of Ekcello’s life!

 

Sampson laughs loudly at that notion, to the point of tears and side ache. He is quite aware that he has singlehandedly reintroduced some long-dead emotions to Eridanian culture. And he is in no small way very proud of it.

“Do you know that I think that the youngsters, you know the 300-400 year-olds, can understand me? I told them about opening day at the new Yankee Stadium in 2017, 70,000 screaming fans watching a ball being pitched-and-hit on manicured green grass. I even showed them that Mickey Mantle Topps rookie card I carry. They love it!”

“Somewhere, deep in their youthful existentiality, they must have a basal need for an outlet for buried emotion.” Celeste attempts to explain any possible fascination with her husband.


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 224


page 265

Contents TRT

 

Hallucinating Handbook – WIF Altered States

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Strange Facts

About Hallucinations

Around the World

Image result for hallucination gif

Most people think of hallucinations as something only experienced by the extremely mentally ill, such as those with schizophrenia, or the realm of those who are using a lot of very powerful drugs. However, while hallucinations can happen for those reasons, there are many other ways that they can happen as well.

 We also tend to think of them as something to be entirely feared, or something at the very least to be ignored, but some cultures around the world actually have a more positive view of these experiences. Hallucinations are a very strange experience where our brains confuse the location of sensory input, and there is still much to learn about them.

10. Phantom Phone Vibrations Are Becoming an Incredibly Common Hallucination

  Most people tend to think of hallucinations solely as something that you see, or hear. Most people really give no mind to the idea of a tactile hallucination, or one that is entirely a feel based hallucination. However, this type has become incredibly common in recent years, due to the rise of cell phones. Ever since the “vibrate” function has existed in order to allow us to know we are being messaged without making noise, the problem has begun and started to worsen.

Many people who have never had any reports of mental illness have reported feeling phantom cell phone vibrations, and it is now a widespread phenomenon. In a study at the Georgia Institute of Technology, 90% of students reported feeling phantom cell phone vibrations, where they frantically checked their phone only to realize the vibration hadn’t actually occurred. The professor in charge of the study, Dr. Robert Rosenberger, believes that this hallucination occurs because people become so attached to their phones that mentally, it essentially becomes part of their body.

9. PTSD Can Cause Hallucinations Even With No Other Mental Illnesses

PTSD, short for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, was once known as shell shock and considered by most people to be something that was only obtained by soldiers fighting in wars. Now, most people understand that PTSD can occur in anyone who has a really serious, traumatizing experience, especially if the trauma is not properly dealt with at the time. Many people will also talk about PTSD sufferers dealing with something called “flashbacks,” and media will use this for plots where the person with PTSD doesn’t recognize the people around them, because they are supposedly so caught up in the past memory. This kind of inability to have any clue what your surroundings are is pretty rare and likely involves other underlying mental illnesses.

What most people with PTSD are often dealing with is a sort of hallucination often referred to as a flashbulb memory. These are intrusive memories, often visual, that will pop into the sufferers head and remind them of their experience. These memories can be triggered by all kinds of random things, and then can be difficult to get back out of the mind again. If triggered at a bad time, especially because of a bad dream, the experience can feel insanely real, as if it just happened again. This can cause extreme anxiety in those with PTSD, which is often the main symptom they have to deal with.

8. Being Tired Alone Can Make You Hallucinate

Some people will simply never be interested in taking any mind altering drugs, and they are also perfectly mentally healthy. They might imagine that they would never hallucinate in their lives, but the truth is that it is far easier to hallucinate than people might think. What it comes down to is the nature of hallucinations. In essence, they are your brain confusing itself into thinking that something coming from inside is actually coming from outside. When you think about it, simply wearing your brain out and making it more tired is going to make it far easier to get confused.

This is why some people who are completely drug free will often take several days with very little sleep and start occasionally seeing things, or having other altered perception. In fact, for those who have stayed up for multiple days at a time while they were young, most have probably reported a surreal feeling where the world doesn’t seem quite right. Of course, it’s not necessarily good for you to stay up in order to hallucinate – your brain needs to regularly rest and recover. If you are hallucinating from lack of sleep, your brain is probably tired.

7. Some People Around the World Have a Positive View of Hallucinations

In a study in the British Journal of Psychiatry, 60 adults with schizophrenia were interviewed across three countries: the United States, Ghana, and India. The idea behind the study was to learn how different cultures viewed their experiences with hallucinations – they picked sufferers of schizophrenia because it was an easy way to get a group of people guaranteed to have regular hallucinations. The interviews gave an interesting insight into how different cultural thinking changes how hallucinations are not only thought of, but how they are actually experienced.

Those interviewed from the United States tended to have very negative and gross hallucinations – stuff about blood and torture; really nasty stuff. However, those from India and Ghana reported their hallucinations as positive. Instead of viewing them as evidence of demons, they thought of them as friends or deceased family members talking to them and giving them advice. One of them even suggested that he needed no friends because he already had a great companion to talk to.

6. Peyote is Used Almost Entirely for Religious Purposes in Reverential Settings

When most people hear someone talking about using a drug for “religious purposes” they tend to laugh and shrug it off, because it is usually some stoner trying to justify the fact that he drops huge amounts of acid, and then eats Cheetos while watching TV all day and not moving from the couch. This should be no surprise, then, that when many people are informed of the fact that Peyote – a hallucinatory substance – is legal on Native American reservations, they think that the natives are just using it to get high all the time.

 However, the truth is that while some Native Americans have developed a regrettably dangerous alcohol habit, Peyote is not and was never a drug of vice. In fact, the Native Americans went to great lengths to keep the use of Peyote approved on reservations because it truly was part of religious ceremonies. A ceremony involving Peyote could have the tribe members in attendance ingest it and then pray and focus on an altar, taking part in a religious ceremony all the way from dusk till dawn. It is an aid for very long bouts of worship – not a way to casually get high.

5. There’s a Hallucinogenic Fish Swimming Around in the Oceans Right Now

Some may have heard of a fish that was once used to cause hallucinations, and just figured it was overfished… or otherwise people would be using it all the time. However, there is a reason that people don’t tend to try to use Sarpa Salpa in order to see the universe. The problem is that while ingesting this fish can cause you to hallucinate, the hallucinations are known to be almost universally unpleasant, come with awful nightmares attached, that last for days at a time.

These fish are actually fairly popular in the Mediterranean, where they are served carefully to avoid giving you the slightly poisonous parts that make you see strange things and have horrible dreams. However, if you were to come across the fish in the ocean and eat the wrong parts without knowing, you might be in for a big surprise. The fish has been found in waters far from its usual native source, and people have been hospitalized in the past after ingesting the fish, followed by days of horror.

4. Bread With a Natural Substance Similar to LSD May Have Created Some Witch Hysteria

Many people look back at the Salem Witch Trials and think of them as an example of the problem when religious extremism goes too far. Even today the town is a thriving center of commerce that now welcomes witchcraft as a sort of permanent apology for what occurred so many years ago. However, a Behavioral Psychologist named Linnda Caporael, of New York’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, has been studying the trials of Salem and the history behind it and is convinced that there is a completely different cause.

A certain kind of rye bread that was incredibly popular and a staple grain in the part of Salem where those who were making the accusations hailed from, can easily create a substance similar to LSD when the right molds are formed. According to Caporael, the conditions for this mold were perfect during the time of the Salem Witch Trials. She also notes that many of the symptoms the accused were reporting were very similar to those of Ergot poisoning – the natural hallucinatory similar to LSD. This included symptoms like hallucinations, vomiting, crawling sensations, muscle spasms and other things that fit the mold almost perfectly. It is quite possible that the Salem Witch Trials were not a case of religious fervor, but of very extreme food poisoning.

3. Migraine Sufferers Are Hallucinating When They See Auras and Other Colors

Migraine sufferers are rarely thought of as people who would hallucinate, but it is very common for those with a migraine to see something known as an aura, often shortly before a migraine attack actually begins. While it doesn’t occur to all those who have migraines, it does seem to occur the same way to all those who suffer from them. Those who see auras before a migraine usually report seeing a sort of jagged shape of light obscuring part of their field of vision. The strength of the aura usually fades fairly quickly, but something called a scotoma often lingers for a while.

This scotoma is where, for a brief time after the aura, your field of view will be partially obscured in a shape similar to the jagged shape seen when you saw the aura itself. While scientists have come a long way in understanding the brain, they still do not entirely understand the mechanisms behind these hallucinations, or for that matter entirely why migraines happen in the first place. Scientists are mostly convinced that migraines start from the brain, and many think they may have some connection to epilepsy, but there is still much to learn.

2. The Strange Condition Known as Alice in Wonderland Syndrome

Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, also known as AWS, is a strange neurological disorder where people will distort the shapes of things around them. This can cause them to think their hand is huge, or their foot very small. They could think that the wall is very far away, or the bookcase is gigantic – very much like how Alice’s perception is quite confused while she is in Wonderland. Scientists have long been baffled by this condition because they have had trouble finding any kind of direct answer as to why some people suffer from this. Finding a genetic link has been difficult and some people seem to grow out of it over time, with some even obtaining the disorder again years later.

Some have posited that it may have something to do with epilepsy, and have tried to find a genetic link, but with so few people with the disorder, it has been impossible thus far to put together any compelling evidence. Right now the best guess researchers have is that AWS, migraines and epilepsy are all connected, but the subject of brain disorders is still a very mysterious field in many ways.

1. The Bizarre Doppelganger Illusion That Some People Suffer From

When many people hear the word doppelganger they think of something akin to an evil twin, or a clone. However, the term was originally coined to describe people who see themselves, and cannot realize that what they are seeing is actually just an illusion, and not another version of their own person. In fact, some scientists believe that many self-portraits back in the day were drawn by artists suffering from doppelganger illusions.

 These autoscopic phenomenon can take many different forms, such as when someone sees themselves in the mirror, but recognizes it as another similar looking person instead of their own reflection. The phenomenon can range from full on out of body experiences, where people don’t see themselves as themselves, and can even include feeling a presence that convinces you another person is in the room with you. While many people may think this type of hallucination is only something that those with mental illnesses will have to worry about, that isn’t entirely the case. Under cases of sensory deprivation, these illusions have been found in even mentally healthy people.

Hallucinating Handbook

– WIF Altered States

Facebook Turns 13 – WIF Facts and Figures

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Facts About

Facebook

Facebook was launched on February 4, 2004 as TheFacebook.com by Mark Zuckerberg, who was studying psychology at Harvard at the time. 24 hours later,1,200 students at Harvard had registered and then within a month, over half of the undergraduate students were signed up.

 From there, Facebook expanded to other universities throughout the United States and in August 2005, they became Facebook.com, after purchasing the domain for $200,000.

In September 2005, high school students in the United States could sign up, and then it moved overseas to universities in the United Kingdom in October. After originally only being available to people with a “.edu” email account, Facebook finally started to allow anyone with any email address to sign up in September 2006. Since then, it’s grown to be an indelible part of world culture, to the point where the point where rumors persist that Zuckerberg may eventually run for president. Yes, of the United States.

Of course, things didn’t exactly go smoothly for Zuckerberg and Facebook, but there is a whole movie dedicated to their problems. These are 10 facts about Facebook that you won’t find in The Social Network.

10. Crazy Language Settings

If someone leaves their Facebook open and you want to prank them, don’t pose as them and post something stupid on their wall, because that could lead to some unintended problems. Instead, we recommend changing their language settings.

For people who speak English, there are two fun options that allows the person to use Facebook as normal, but things will seem a bit… off.

The first is the Pirate setting, which it changes things around to be more of a pirate theme. Duh. For example, your wall is called the Captain’s Log, the post box asks “What’s troublin’ ye?” and the smiley emoji says “Yo ho ho,” while the shocked face is “Shiver Me Timbers.”

However, if that prank is a bit too lighthearted and you really want to mess with someone, there is another language setting that turns all the text upside down. We tried it, and it can make you dizzy.

To change the languages, go to Settings, Language, and then “What language do you want to use Facebook in?” And you’re all set.

9. The Most Popular People on Facebook

The most popular person on Facebook is Cristiano Ronaldo, who is the star player of Real Madrid. But since he’s so popular, we figure you already knew that.

Ronaldo also became the first athlete to break 100 million likes, and he is currently at 119.57 million likes. In second place is Colombian pop singer Shakira, who has 104.49 likes, then in third it’s the bald headed star of The Fast and the Furious series. Oh wait, you say that nearly all the male stars of The Fast and the Furious are bald? Well, it’s Vin Diesel. He has 101.22 million likes.

8. Someone Will Always Have More Friends Than You

Do you ever get the feeling that your Facebook friends have more friends than you? Well, according to statistics, nearly everybody has a friend who has more friends than themselves.

The reason everyone has a friend who has more friends is because of a strange thing that happens in statistics called the Friendship Paradox. How it works: let’s say you have a small amount of Facebook friends. You’re bound to have at least one friend who is popular, because people with lots of friends are more likely to be your friend. Secondly, popular people are misrepresented when it comes to averages. By being popular, they spread themselves out when it comes to averages, and this effects probability.

While this concept might be a little hard to wrap your head around, you can check it yourself by seeing if any of your Facebook friends have more friends than you. Except you, Larry. We both know it’d be a waste of your time to check, because we already know the answer, don’t we.

7. The Yellow Facebook

One thing that made Facebook different from MySpace and other social media sites at the time was its uniformity. Everyone’s Facebook page layout was similar, and you couldn’t change the coding on it to add media, like music or pictures, which you could on MySpace. That uniformity is still prevalent today and everyone has very similar looking Facebook layouts. Well, nearly everyone.

The employees of Facebook have a more advanced version of the application that has a yellow icon instead of Facebook’s famous blue color. Mark Zuckerberg gave people a glimpse at the employee version in 2016, when he announced that live video streaming was heading to Facebook. In the video, Zuckerberg shows some features that have yet to be added, like being able to post slideshows and music from their music service. However, Zuckerberg said that some of the features on the yellow Facebook may never be made public.

Besides that video, not a whole lot is known about the yellow Facebook, but it is thought that it’s used by the upper echelon of Facebook to test new features.

6. Facebook Friends

According to a study from Oxford University, the average amount of friends a Facebook user has is 155. The same study, which looked at a group of 3,300 students, also found that they only had four real friends.

Why people have so many Facebook friends, but very few real, close friends, is explained by Dr. Robin Dunbar, who authored the study. He said:

“Social media certainly helps to slow down the natural rate of decay in relationship quality that would set in once we cannot readily meet friends face-to-face but no amount of social media will prevent a friend eventually becoming ‘just another acquaintance’ if you don’t meet face-to-face from time to time.”

These findings are consistent with other studies on close friendships, like an American study from 2011 that found that people, on average, only have two close friends. Another study from Dunbar found that, on average, people know up to 150 people, but they are only intimate with 15, and only five of those 15 are trustworthy.

5. It Can Wreak Havoc on Your Romantic Relationship

Saying that things that happen on Facebook can wreak havoc on your real life shouldn’t be a surprise. Perhaps you’ve experienced it yourself, or you may have witnessed it happen to one of your friends on your news feed. If you haven’t, humor websites have massive collections of them.

Besides anecdotal evidence, there are studies that show that Facebook can add more stress to a romantic relationship. One study that was conducted on 2,000 married people in Britain found that one-in-seven had thought about divorcebecause of something that happened on Facebook. In another British study, a quarter of the people surveyed said Facebook led to a fight once a week with their romantic partner, and 17 percent said a fight happened every day because of Facebook.

Meanwhile, between 2005 and 2010, divorce courts in the United States saw a dramatic increase in Facebook being used as evidence. Finally, a study from the Loyola University Health System found that 20 percent of all cases cited problems stemming from Facebook as part of the reason for divorce.

4. MySpace Had Two Chances to Buy Facebook

In the mid 2000s, the monster of social media was MySpace. Facebook was started essentially as an imitator; it was just better organized and more uniform, and at the time, it was more exclusive because you needed to have a university email address to get an account. These two aspects proved to be popular and Facebook started to gain a lot of traction. As they started to amass users, MySpace had the opportunity to buy Facebook… twice.

In the spring of 2005, MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe visited Zuckerberg and company. At the meeting, Zuckerberg offered to sell him Facebook for $75 million and DeWolfe turned him down. They met again later in 2005, and this time Zuckerberg wanted 10 times his original offer, $750 million. DeWolfe turned Zuckerberg down again.

Just two years later, Microsoft purchased 1.6% of Facebook for $240 million, giving Facebook a $15 billion valuation. By 2009, Facebook was getting twice as many visitors as MySpace. Today, well, Facebook is the thing that everyone uses and MySpace is something you have to Google to see if it’s still online (it is).

At the time of this posting, Facebook market capitalization is over $400 billion and some people think it could grow to be worth a trillion dollars in the next few years.

3. What Happens to Your Facebook When You Die?

Before 2015, when someone died, their family could contact Facebook with proof, like a death certificate, and request that the deceased’s Facebook profile be memorialized.

Memorializing the profile removed the deceased from public searches and notifications, like for their birthdays. Their memorialized profile could also only be viewed by people who were Facebook friends with the deceased before it was memorialized. Nothing else could be done with the account and some people found this upsetting. A notable example was Hollie Gazzard, who lived in Gloucester, United Kingdom. She was stabbed to death by her boyfriend Asher Maslin in February 2014. Her family had her Facebook memorialized and this included memorializing pictures of Gazzard and her murderer. Obviously, the family was upset by this and repeatedly asked Facebook to remove the pictures. For months, Facebook refused to take the pictures down and finally only removed them because of copyright infringements.

This type of dilemma prompted Facebook to allow users to pick a “legacy contact.” The legacy contact is able to pin a notice to your wall with information like funeral services. It also allows the contact to respond to new friend requests, change your cover and profile photos, and archive your Facebook posts and photos. The one thing that the legacy contact will not be able to do is read your private messages. So don’t worry about your loved ones finding Facebook messages expressing your profound love for Nickelback after you pass away.

To add a legacy contact, go to your security settings and it should be there. When you set the legacy contact, it will send a message, which you can edit, to the friend with information about the policy.

2. Every Minute Facebook Goes Down Costs Them $52,583

One of Facebook’s best qualities is that it is reliable. When was the last time you remember Facebook not being available when you tried logging on? It’s so rare that when Facebook went down in 2014, people called 9-1-1.

When it did go down in 2014, The Atlantic figured out how much money Facebook lost per minute by looking at their profits. They concluded that every minute the site was down, it cost them $24,420. This is over $1.4 million an hour and over $35.1 million a day.

But that was three years ago. Since then, Facebook’s revenues have gone up and in 2016, they made $27.638 billion. If the crash were to happen in early 2017, it would cost them $52,583 a minute, which is $3.1 million an hour and $75 million a day.

1. Everyone is Connected by 3.57 People

The theory of six degrees of separation was put forth in 1929 by Hungarian writer Frigyes Karinthy, in his 1929 short story “Chains.” In the story, the characters came up with a game, where:

“We should select any person from the 1.5 billion inhabitants of the Earth – anyone, anywhere at all. He bet us that, using no more than five individuals, one of whom is a personal acquaintance, he could contact the selected individual using nothing except the network of personal acquaintances.”

There have been several attempts to prove the theory over the years, including one by famed psychologist Stanley Milgram, and all the tests have resulted in varying degrees of success. The jury is still out on whether or not we’re connected to Kevin Bacon, as well.

In 2016, on its 12th anniversary, Facebook released some data that shows that everyone on Facebook is separated by 3.57 degrees. This, however, does not pertain to the real world, and it is just the world of Facebook. That being said, even if someone doesn’t use Facebook, they just have to know a Facebook user to be connected with the rest of the world. And really, there are good odds nearly everyone on the planet knows someone who uses Facebook. As of April 2017, Facebook has 1.86 billion monthly active users; that is almost a quarter of the entire population of the world.


Facebook Turns 13

– WIF Facts and Figures

A Little Skittle-butt – WIF I Candy

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Tasty Facts

About Skittles

Unless, like us, you always have a bag of them ready to rock in your freezer (seriously, try Skittles straight from the freezer, they taste amazing), you probably don’t spare much thought for the rainbow colored candy snack unless you’re eating them. Well, we do. So we compiled this list of stories and facts about the candy. Partly because it’s interesting, but mostly because we really want them to sponsor us so we can live our dream of Scrooge McDuck-ing our way into a giant pile of these delicious treats.

 10. They once drained all of the color from their packaging and product during Pride Week

One of the most visually distinctive aspects of Skittles is that each bag contains more colors than a blender full of Marvel comics. Mars (Skittles’ parent company) has played up to the smattering of color each bag of their product contains by coining the tagline “taste the rainbow” and it’s hard to imagine the company would ever abandon their distinctly fabulous design and color scheme.

In fact, the company has only ever dropped the rainbow colored profile of their brand once, in 2016, in celebration of London Pride Week.

As Skittles detailed in a PR letter, they wanted the only rainbow that week to be the Pride flag and to that end released an unsettlingly boring special edition bag of Skittles totally devoid of any color. In addition, the Skittles inside the bag were similarly Spartan, being entirely white (though they were still flavored). The company then handed out thousands of these nega-Skittles from a giant, colorless float in the Pride parade. Speaking of being pelted with Skittles…

9. There’s a band who love them so much they get showered with them every time they play

Relient K is a Christian rock band that has enjoyed moderate mainstream success and has toured extensively since the late ’90s. The author of this piece is actually a big fan of the band and highly recommends their cover of Africa, his favorite song. Moving on, the band, along with loving them some Jesus, adores Skittles, going so far as to release a hidden song on one of their albums (a thing people owned before MP3s became a thing) talking about how great they are. Prior to this the band would often eat entire bags of Skittles between songs while performing, and made sure to mention on their rider for each performance that they needed their green room to contain a near infinite amount of the candy.

This love of Skittles saw it become a tradition of sorts for fans to pelt the band with bags of Skittles while playing. Amusingly, years later, the lead singer of the band admitted that he wasn’t a big a fan of the candy as his bandmates and was getting kind of annoyed with being beaned on the head 3 times per show by a large bag of flavorful delights. Information that just encouraged fans to throw even more, because of course it did.

8. They have one of the few non-embarrassing corporate Facebook pages

Skittles are a brand noted as being one of the earliest to recognize the marketing potential of social media, and have been consistently praised for their genuine understanding of the platform strengths and limitations and humor while interacting with fans. In particular, the Skittles Facebook page has often been singled out as one of the best corporate fan pages out there because it’s actually kind of entertaining.

Along with doing boring corporate stuff like responding to complaints and sharing fan photos, the brand seemed to have hired whoever runs Ryan Reynolds’ social media accounts, sharing irreverent observations that have both bemused and entertained fans for years. Gems dropped by the Skittles Facebook page (which, remember, is an official arm of the brand) include:

“If chinchillas ever lost their cool they’d have to change their name.”

“Everytime you like this a turtle learns kung-fu”

“Marshmallows don’t dissolve, they just use hot cocoa to teleport to their homeworld”

All of which we think we can all agree are infinitely better to read than the sterile corporate doublespeak touted on other, lesser official Facebook pages. Then again, it’s not like Skittles didn’t have some early missteps while using social media. For example, consider the time they…

7. Brought down Twitter, with fisting

Early in 2009, when Twitter wasn’t yet the massive, globally recognized force it is today, Skittles tried to dip their toes into the world of tweeting by changing the front page of their official website to display the feeds from their various official social media platforms. In specific regard to the Twitter bit, the brand decided it would be a good idea to display any tweets people sent to the company. You can probably guess what happened next.

Fisting happened. Or rather, thousands of people tweeted the brand with a deluge of profanity that was then proudly displayed on their official website. So many thousands of people tried flooding Skittles’ homepage with profane content that, for a brief moment, they actually brought down Twitter. In other words, Skittles once actually broke (a small part of) the internet, by inviting people to have the most offensive things they could squeeze into a 140 character long tweet displayed for millions of people (and Mars’ shareholders) to see. Take that, Kim Kardashian. And while we’re on the subject of viral tweets…

6. Their response to a Donald Trump Jr. tweet is considered a textbook example of how to respond to controversy

In 2016, Donald Trump Jr. tweeted an image comparing refugees fleeing ISIS with a bowl of poisoned Skittles. You probably heard about it. It was pretty big news and for a moment, everyone was looking kind of awkwardly at Skittles, wondering how in the hell they were supposed to respond to something like that. Think about it: not commenting on the statement would look like tacit endorsement of the sentiment of the comment, whereas addressing it could be misconstrued as trying to capitalize on the controversy. Skittles were, in most people’s eyes, kind of screwed no matter what they did.

With all eyes turned to them and a public waiting for the brand to slip up, a few hours after the tweet going viral, Skittles issued a frank statement through an official from Mars to a newspaper simply saying that Skittles are candy and refugees are people and that they didn’t wish to comment further. This astonishingly classy way of handling what could have been a minefield of controversy for the brand has been cited by experts on PR as a sterling example of how a company should operate online. In other words, the same company that talks online about chinchillas losing their cool also somehow managed to smoothly shut down controversy about their brand being used to dehumanize people fleeing an active warzone. Say what you want about the controversy, this just shows that Skittles has some amazing people working for its PR department.

5. A pack of Skittles somehow contains a decent percentage of your daily recommended amount of Vitamin C

Moving away from politics and Donald Trump, which we’re sure has already got some people arguing in the comments, let’s discuss the fact that Skittles are one of the only a handful of candies that could technically be part of a balanced diet.

This is because unlike most every other kind of candy that have less health benefits than the wrapper they’re packaged in, a small bag of Skittles supposedly contains about 50% of the daily recommended amount of Vitamin C for an 8 year old (which is about 49% more than we assumed when we started researching this), and 25% for an adult. This means that unlike, well, any other candy, there’s a quantifiable benefit to eating Skittles rather than, say, M&M’S or Jolly Ranchers, which have no real nutritional value. While we’re not saying that you should shovel these things into your mouth by the handful, it’s quite nice to know that at the very least, you’re getting something from them to make you feel ever so slightly less guilty.

4. If you leave them in water the trademark S will mysteriously float off

One of the last things Mars does before they send off Skittles to be bought and consumed by the public is add the little S you can find on every candy. This little S is written using a non-water soluble ink that is attached using an apparently delicious kind of edible glue we’re annoyed you can’t buy in stores.

When you submerge Skittles inside any kind of liquid, this S will magically float off and rise to the surface and sit there, waiting for you to either drink it or try to pull it out using your fingers, only to watch it do that annoying thing where it moves just out of the way every single time you pinch your digits together. There’s no real reason to do this, but it’s something to keep in mind if you’re ever at a party, have a few on hand, and want to make someone think their drink is being haunted by an angry snake. And you always know it’s going to work because…

3. They destroy any Skittle that doesn’t have an S on it

Like any brand, Skittles are subjected to strict quality control measures that see them being checked against perfect examples of the candy we assume are kept in a comically well guarded vault. Since so many millions of Skittles are produced every single day, people in charge of quality control simply check one Skittle out of every so many thousand produced, and if it doesn’t look right, all of them will be destroyed.  

Since there’s not exactly many things that can really go wrong with producing a small, spherical candy with an S on it, that’s really the only thing they check for. In other words, Mars will happily destroy thousands of perfectly edible Skittles just because they don’t have that thing on it nobody really cares about. For anyone curious about what happens to these imperfect Skittles, the company crushes them and sells them as animal feed, meaning somewhere out there is a cow that eats nothing but Skittles all day. And now, we’re jealous of that cow, even if it does have to eat those awful yellow ones. Speaking of which…

2. There are always more yellow Skittles in a bag, for some reason

Millions of Skittles are made every day in roughly equal amounts, which are then sorted into the bags you can buy in stores. However, if you’ve ever actually opened up a bag and counted how many of each color are in there, you may notice that there are way more yellow ones.

Nobody is really quite sure why this is the case and Skittles won’t answer our emails, but if you take a look at videos of the candy being made you’ll notice that for some reason, yellow Skittles seem to end up in the same vats as other colors. Exactly why this happens isn’t clear but a theory is that since yellow is the cheapest color to produce, it’s the one made in the highest quantities. The theory continues that the plentiful yellow Skittles are then accidentally sorted along with other colors, explaining why you always seem to find more of them. Again, we have no idea if this is true but it’s for sure a better explanation than Skittles just like messing with us.

1. There’s a terrible film where they tried to be the next Reese’s Pieces

There’s a scene in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial where the eponymous E.T. is lured out of a closet by a trail of Reese’s Pieces. This scene is noted as being one of the singular most successful cases of product placement ever, resulting in a sales increase of nearly 300% for Reese’s Pieces. As it turns out, Mars were originally offered that lucrative deal for M&M’S, but turned it down.

Not wanting to pass up this kind of chance twice, Mars jumped at the chance to have Skittles appear in an almost identical movie called Mac and Me. If you’ve never seen it, Mac and Me is often referred to as one of the worst movies ever made, mostly because it’s an unapologetic cash grab full of shameless product placement for Skittles, Coke, and McDonald’s. As an example of how utterly flagrant this film is in promoting the brands, it features: a break-dancing scene set entirely inside a McDonald’s; Coke as the only thing the aliens in the film will drink; and a character who wears a McDonald’s uniform in every scene they appear in. Unsurprisingly, Skittles didn’t suddenly notice a 300% boost in sales after the movie was released because nobody went and saw this movie. In fact, we’ll bet more people have seen that clip where a kid in a wheelchair falls off a cliff. Particularly since Paul Rudd shows it literally every time he ever appears on Conan O’Brien’s show.


A Little Skittle-butt

– WIF I Candy

Coca-Cola Confidential

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5 Dark Secrets

About Coca-Cola

Coca-Cola was invented in 1886 by a pharmacist named Dr. John Stith Pemberton, who was also a Civil War vet and morphine addict. Coke is based on a drink called Vin Marine, which was brewed by Parisian chemist Angelo Mariani. Today, Coca-Cola is the most popular soft drink in the world. These are its five darkest secrets.

 5. Actively Worked To Make Sure Kids Drank Coca-Cola Instead of Healthy Choices

In the 1990s, many soft drink companies were trying to attract consumers in a very saturated market. Coca-Cola’s plan was to go after high school students and hopefully get them to choose their brand for life, which is pretty much the same way that tobacco companies used to lure customers.

In the mid-1990s, Coca-Cola started to sign “pouring contracts” with schools. In exchange for premiums that were paid to the schools, Coca-Cola wanted exclusive rights to sell their products in vending machines and in the cafeteria. The schools, who often worked with tight budgets, usually agreed to do it. In some cases, Coca-Cola gave many schools around $30,000 up front and then a commission for the exclusive rights to sell Coke products in their schools for 10 years. In one case, Coca-Cola gave $90,000 to a school in Syracuse, New York, to build a stadium that had a big Coca-Cola sign on it.

While that may not seem super sinister, where it gets into the shady territory is that schools were then encouraged to sell Coke and given bonuses if they sold more product. They were also told that they would make less money if they sold healthier options, like milk or fruit juices, instead of soft drinks. In some cases, healthier options weren’t available at all because Coca-Cola didn’t approve them to be sold in the schools.

Now, 20 years later, there is an obesity epidemic in America. Of course, Coca-Cola has contributed to this problem and they have even acknowledged this in their own reports. For the past 10 years, the single biggest threat to Coca’s Cola profit has been obesity.

4. Their Water Problems

While the recipe for Coca-Cola is a closely guarded secret, one main ingredient that they need to produce the sugary drink is water. It takes 0.71 gallons of water to make 0.26 gallons of Coca-Cola. This becomes a major headache when Coca-Cola decides to set up bottling factories in places that don’t have a lot of water to begin with. Examples of where this has happened are in several states in India, and several places in Latin America.

What happens is that Coca-Cola sets up a bottling plant, they use up too much ground water. That causes water shortages in the area, which means there isn’t enough water to drink or to irrigate crops, which then leads to food shortages. After a decade of protesting, one plant in India was shut down in 2015, but Coca-Cola plants using up too much local water is still a problem in India, Latin America, and in developing countries around the world.

3. Coca-Cola No Longer Contains Cocaine (For a Pretty Racist Reason)

One of the most famous rumors about Coca-Cola is that the original recipe used cocaine… and it’s totally true. They used coca leaves which contained the cocaine alkaloid, which is used to make powdered cocaine.

 It’s tough to say exactly how much cocaine the original drink contained, but there was a little bit in it. Also, the original Coca-Cola was alcoholic as well. However, in 1886, Atlanta (where Coke was bottled) enacted prohibition. So the alcohol was removed and more sugar was added, but the cocaine remained an ingredient in the drink for the next decade.

In 1899, Coca-Cola started selling their drinks in bottles. The bottles were popular among African-Americans because they didn’t have access to fountain pop due to segregation laws. However, this started a panic among some white middle and upper class people. Some very vocal members of those communities were terrified that black people who were empowered by a cocaine drink might start attacking them, and they wouldn’t be able to stop them. In response to the fears, Coca-Cola started to phase out cocaine from the recipe in 1903, and replaced it with caffeine and even more sugar.

2. Coca-Cola and The Colombian Unions

On December 5, 1986, a right-wing paramilitary unit showed up at a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Carepa, Colombia. One of the plant’s union executives, Isidro Segundo Gil, went to ask what the squad wanted and they opened fire on him, killing him. Later that night, the paramilitary group went to the union’s headquarters, where they destroyed their equipment and then burned the place to destroy all the records inside.

The next day, the paramilitary went into the bottling plant and gave the union workers a choice: quit, or die like Gil. Obviously, many of the employees, who were earning $380 to $400 a month, quit their jobs. After they quit, the paramilitary shacked up in the bottling plant for two months. When the plant reopened, the union workers were replaced with workers who were paid $130 a month.

While there is no conclusive evidence that anyone from Coca-Cola’s main office ordered any of the murders, critics point out that Coca-Cola did very little to investigate the murders. In fact, they didn’t complain to the Colombian government that the paramilitary killed their workers or that they were squatting in their facility for two months.

Also, at the time of the assassination, the union workers were trying to negotiate better working conditions with the bottling company Bebidas y Alimentos, which was contracted by Coca-Cola to bottle their product in South America. In the years after the murder, Bebidas has refused to negotiate anything with their workers.

Finally, this wasn’t the only Coca-Cola union to be targeted. At least five other union members working with Coca-Cola were killed in Colombia and the union members were told to quit or die themselves.

In 2001, the Sinaltrainal union brought a lawsuit against Bebidas and Coca-Cola, but the motion against Coca-Cola was dismissed in 2003.

1. Coca-Cola and Peruvian Farmers

As we’ve mentioned, the original Coca-Cola formula contained a small amount of cocaine. When they changed the formula, they had a company called Maywood Chemical Works, which is now the Stepan Company, import coca leaves into the United States from Peru.

Once in the United States, Stepan, who still imports the coca leaves for Coca-Cola, removes the alkaloid that is the key component in powdered cocaine and then they send Coca-Cola the decocainized coca leaf extract. As for what Stepan does with the cocaine alkaloid? Well, they sell it under government supervision for medical use.

For over a century, when drug laws were enacted like the Harrison Narcotics Act of 1914 and the Jones-Miller Act of 1922, they made special exemptions to allow Coca-Cola to keep importing coca plants; making them one of the few American companies that were allowed to import the coca plant. As time went on, Coca-Cola’s popularity increased and Stepan couldn’t sell all the cocaine alkaloid it extracted. This led to special legislation being passed so that Stepan could destroy the excess cocaine alkaloid under government supervision.

 The problem is that coca leaves can be used to make many other products besides Coca-Cola and cocaine like tea, candies, and flour, but the coca farmers in Peru, called cocaleros, can only access the American market through Coca-Cola because of the drug laws that were enacted to stop cocaine from getting into America. With only one purchaser of their product, the cocaleros can do little more than accept Coca-Cola’s terms. As a result, the farmers stay poor, while Coca-Cola made $41 billion in 2016.

Coca-Cola

Confidential

Snacks from Around the World – WIF Fast Food

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Delicious Global

Snacks

You Should Try

There are many, many reasons to travel: to meet new people, to explore new cultures, to see awesome cities, to hike through spectacular scenery. But what about food? For some, sampling the cuisine of another country is like peeking inside the mind of an entire culture.

We’re not talking Michelin-starred, fancy, five course dining, either. From Europe, to Asia, to the Americas and Africa, some of the best eats on the planet are stuff you can pick up at markets and from street vendors. Here are ten delicious snacks from around the globe that will blow your mind and leave you craving more.

10. Okonomiyaki (Japan)

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It’s said that you haven’t really tasted Japan until you’ve tried Okonomiyaki. In the land of sushi, noodles and seafood, Okonomiyaki stands out by being exactly what you wouldn’t expect. A sort of cabbage-based pancake traditionally served with aonori seaweed flakes, bonito fish flakes, super-sweet mayonnaise and the heavenly Okonomiyaki sauce (not unlike the UK’s HP sauce with a hint of soy), this snack is eaten across the country by the truckload.

Garnish aside, it’s tricky to say what actually makes an Okonomiyaki. The name itself loosely translates as “what you like, grilled.” This means the combinations are essentially endless. You might nab a shrimp or octopus one in Osaka, then high-tail it to Tokyo for a pork filling. There are even local variations on how to cook it. Hiroshima style means putting the ingredients on top; Osaka style means mixing them all into the batter.

You can grab one of these taste-explosions at one of the many Okonomiyaki bars across the country. Just rock up, place your order and prepare to have your tastebuds blown.

9. BeaverTails (Canada)

beavertails

The standard joke is that America is a nation of bulging waistlines, while Canadians are svelte and trim. Judging by the existence of BeaverTails, the only rational explanation for this is that those north of the border are riddled with tapeworm. A fried dough pastry stretched into the shape of a beaver’s tail and loaded with more sweet stuff and condiments than you can shake a proverbial stick at, BeaverTails are a delicious heart-attack-in-the-making.

Just look at this picture, for example. Really, look at it. For those of you who hate right-clicking, it’s a pastry snack the size of your face, coated in chocolate and topped with Smarties (chocolate buttons that inexplicably aren’t available south of the Canadian border). It looks like everything you never knew you wanted while mildly drunk at an ice hockey game.

A branded snack, BeaverTails have only been around since 1978. But our sweet tooth would take them over poutine any day.

8. Kürtoskalács (Hungary)

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If you’re ever wandering around the top of Budapest at night, follow your nose to the ancient castle. That sweet, doughy smell tickling your senses and making your mouth water like Niagara Falls? That’s probably coming from the Kürtoskalács stalls. Known as Transylvanian Chimney Cakes, these Hungarian bad boys are even tastier than they smell.

Supposedly, the dish originated in modern-day Romania (hence the Transylvania part of the name), among the Hungarian community living there. Today, Kürtoskalács are called the oldest pastry in Hungary, and pop up at street food stands everywhere. So, you might be asking, what the heck are they? It’s pretty simple, really. Chimney cakes are made by rolling dough slowly round a wooden spoon (or similar vessel), coating the outside in sugar and oil and heating it over a fire. So you get a sweet, crunchy exterior and a warm, doughy inside. Just to send the calorie count even higher, plenty of Hungarians take them with chocolate spread.

The absolute best time to try Kürtoskalács is when it’s so cold out you can see your breath. Then the heat of the dough and the sweetness combine to feel like an elixir of life.   

7. Tamiya (Egypt)

tamiya

Everybody in the Middle East does falafel, and most countries do it excellently. No one, however, does it as well as the Egyptians. Only they don’t call it falafel, oh no. They want to keep a dish this good a secret. If you’re ever in Cairo or Alexandria (according to food critics, the two best places for Egyptian falafel), keep an eye out for Tamiya. It’ll change your ideas of just how freakin’ good falafel can be.

The secret here is fava beans. While most Middle Eastern countries use chickpeas to make falafel, Egypt bucks the trend by using fava beans. The result is a falafel that’s moister and lighter than anything you’ll find elsewhere. It’s cheap, too. Stalls will sell you a tamiya wrap for around the equivalent of 30 cents a pop. According to the experts, though, the place to head for is Mohammed Ahmed, a cheap eatery in Alexandria. There you can combine it with fuul (a bean paste) and eat yourself into a coma. In fact, tamiya is so cheap and delicious and plentiful that many joke Egypt is the best country for making vegetarians fat.

6. Red Red (Ghana)

red red

West African food is famous across the continent for its intense flavors and inventive style. But in West Africa itself, the country that takes the crown is probably Ghana. While there’s plenty to be said for Nigerian or Senegalese food, Ghana just edges its neighbors out the running. Part of the key to that success? Red red.

A kind of simple tomato stew made with black-eyed peas, red red is practically Ghana’s national dish. People eat it at home, on the way to work, while hanging out and at restaurants. The reason being that it’s delightful. The texture of the beans, combined with the vague, smoky flavor of the meat all combines to make a mouthwatering dish. Then there’s the red palm oil. Supposedly, the mixture of this oil with tomatoes is why the stew is called red red in the first place.

Although Ghanaians eat red red at pretty much any time, apparently the time to really appreciate it is breakfast time. It’s a fair point. We’re trying and we honestly can’t think of any better way to start the day than with a spicy, smoky, tomatoey African stew.

 5. Klobasa (Czech Republic)

kolbasa

The Czech Republic consumes more beer per capita than literally any other country on God’s green Earth. Yes, that includes Ireland, Austria and Germany. As such, you’d expect their best street food to cater to the needs of drunks; i.e. warm, fatty and deeply delicious. Enter the infamous klobasa. A smoked, German-style sausage traditionally served with mustard and two slices of brown Czech bread, its 1:00 a.m. drunken street food elevated to an art form.

All this is a pretty recent development. In 1948, the Communists took over what was then Czechoslovakia and immediately started being jerks about it. One of the things they were jerky about was what people could eat. A book was published, called Recipes for Warm Meals. If you cooked and sold anything that wasn’t in it, you’d get yourself thrown in jail. Combined with meat shortages in the ’70s and ’80s, this led to Czech sausages almost vanishing. When the Communists were overthrown in 1989, Czechs went klobasa crazy.

Today, klobasa is so popular that English-speaking locals even runinternational blogs about where exactly to chow down on the best Czech sausage. One to study before you go.

4. Hormigas (Colombia)

ants

In the heart of Colombia’s Santander department sits a little, whitewashed village called Barichara. Legendarily beautiful, it looks like a slice of southern Spain relocated to South America. That’s not why people go there, though. For foodies and snack fans, there’s one overwhelming reason to visit this sleepy village. Barichara is where you can buy hormigas.

The slightly gross part first: Hormigas are ants. Specifically, they’re female leaf-cutter ants with a butt so big it could star in music videos. Harvested in the spring, they’re toasted with salt and served from little packets, just like peanuts. But this isn’t an entry we’ve thrown in just to make you go “eww!” Hormigas are considered a local delicacy, with high protein levels and aphrodisiac qualities. They’re so renowned that upscale restaurants across Colombia use them to make expensive sauces. But the best way to try them is to grab a pack in Barichara and chow on down.

Salty, earthy and a little strange, hormigas in Santander are traditionally eaten under the blazing sun with an ice cold beer. You take a sip of beer, eat an ant, then take another sip, and so on until the packet is empty.

3. Chilli Crab (Singapore)

chilli crab

Singapore is one of the smallest countries on Earth. How small? Well, you could fit the entire nation into Rhode Island four whole times and still have a bit of space left over (confused UK readers can replace “Rhode Island” with “Cornwall”). At such a reduced size, you might not expect any incredible foods to come out of Singapore, but you’d be wrong. The micro state’s chilli crab is some of the best street food in Asia.

The snack does what it says on the tin. A stir fried crab, coated in a sweet and super spicy sauce, it comes served with deep fried buns. But that explanation can’t convey just how tasty chilli crab is. CNN ranked it the 35thmost delicious food in the entire world. There are more shops, restaurants and stalls selling it in Singapore than there probably are people in Wyoming. People fly to Asia purely to sample it. That’s how good we’re talking, here.

Chilli crab is so widely available in Singapore that there’s no point in us telling you where to go for it. Just step off the plane and head towards the nearest group of people. We’re like 99% sure one of them will be able to point you to a stand within walking distance.

2. Tacos (Mexico)

tacos

Yeah, we know what you’re thinking. Tacos. Of all the street food in the world, they go and choose the dish that inspired the abomination we call Taco Bell. Well, hold your horses there, pardner. What you probably think a taco is, is light years from what you’ll get on a street in Mexico. Forget the Tex-Mex thing with the crispy shell, real tacos are as close to them as your fourth grade art project was to the Sistine Chapel.

Let’s start with the basics: Proper Mexican tacos come in a flat, homemade tortilla. They also contain more than just a begrudging serving of meat and some salsa. El Chupacabra’s taco stand in Mexico City, for example, claims over 100 different ingredients go into each and every one of their tacos…and that’s before you get onto the sides. Here’s a picture of their truck. See those endless vats full of sauces and garnishes and deliciousness? If you want to, you can pile in stuff from each and every one of those (plus many others off camera) to make a taco exploding with so many flavors you’ll wind up accidentally recreating that scene from When Harry Met Sally.

Basically, get away from the border cities, and tacos in Mexico go from being cheap junk food you eat when you hate yourself and no longer want your pants to fit, to awesome, working class street food that deserves its spot on this list.

1. Burek (Bosnia-Herzegovina)

burek

The Balkans have easily some of the best food in the world, and that includes the best street food. Pljeskavica meat patties in Serbia, shkembe chorba soup in Bulgaria…the list goes on. For our money, though, there’s one clear winner. Burek (also called Borek) from Bosnia-Herzegovina is perhaps the tastiest snack in the whole of the Balkan region.

Originally from Turkey, this pastry snack really came into its own in Bosnia, where it was brought along with Ottoman rule in the middle of the last millennium. Basically, you take some pastry, fill it with aromatic mincemeat, goat’s cheese, spinach and herbs, roll it up, lightly spice it, glaze with oil and bake until it is golden and delicious. The result is a kinda-sweet, kinda-savory dish that’s crispy on the outside, and has the consistency of al dente pasta on the inside.

 The best place to grab burek is on the streets of Sarajevo, where a serving goes for around the equivalent of $1.70. Awesomely, it tastes good both drunk and stone cold sober, meaning it’s probably, therefore, the most perfect snack in the entire world.

Snacks Around the World

WIF Fast Food-001

– WIF Fast Food

Video Games and You – WIF Pop Culture

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Video Games That Are

Part of Enormous

Pop Culture Franchises

wif-pop-culture-001

Though not all agree, video games can be considered as being a new art form. Moreover, video games are seen by many as a form of art with which one can actively interact. From the breathtaking landscapes, to the incredible soundtracks and general atmosphere, as well as the enticing plot, some video games can bring together much of what other mediums already have.

In fact, some video games out there were inspired by various bestselling novels, or in turn generated a whole book series with thousands of fans of their own. Some video games have even inspired movies. Be it a strategy game, a shooter, or a role-playing game, it doesn’t really matter as long as it has a good back story, a whole universe, and an extensive lore surrounding it. Here are 10 such video games, even though many others also deserve a spot in this list.

10. Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth

Developed by Headfirst Productions and published by Bethesda Softworks, Call of Cthulhu: Dark Corners of the Earth was released in 2005. First came the Xbox version, and then a PC version one year later. The game is an action-adventure/survival/horror genre that perfectly combines a first-person perspective with many stealth elements. The story is set mostly in 1922 and follows a mentally unstable private detective hired to investigate the fictional town of Innsmouth, Massachusetts. Unlike many other FPS games, Call of Cthulhu features no heads-up display, and everything from the player’s condition to his ammunition and other stats are represented as realistically as possible. A broken leg, for example, would be shown as the character limping, while a broken arm by a loss in accuracy. Each injury needs its own type of remedy and the player even needs to count the ammunition he’s got left.

All in all, the game received only positive reviews from critics and was considered by some to be among the best horror video games of all-time. However, the game itself was an economic failure, with the planned sequels being cancelled when Headfirst Productions went under. In recent years there has been a revival of the series, and in 2017 a new video game is expected to be released. Dark Corners of the Earth is inspired on H.P. Lovecraft‘s 1936 novella, The Shadow over Innsmouth. Lovecraft was also author of The Call of Cthulhu and several other related stories all within the Cthulhu Mythos.

 A recurring theme in Lovecraft’s works is the complete irrelevance of mankind in the face of the cosmic horrors that exist in the universe. Cthulhu himself and other cosmic deities exist, but have fallen into a deathlike sleep. After Lovecraft’s death in 1937, August Derleth took on the challenge to synthetize and expand the Cthulhu Mythos.

9. Mass Effect

Mass Effect is a sci-fi/action/role-playing/third person shooter first released in 2007. Two later installments came out in 2010 and 2012. A fourth game is expected to be released sometime in 2017. If you’re a fan of this style of video games, it’s almost an impossibility to have not already heard about or played Mass Effect. Developed by BioWare, the trilogy starts off in the year 2183 and revolves around Commander Shepard, who’s entrusted to save the entire Milky Way galaxy and all its inhabitants from a mysterious and overwhelmingly powerful race of machine beings known as the Reapers. And while the plot and story itself are quite complex and enticing, there is an extensive lore surrounding the game series.

To date there are four novels centered on various protagonists other than the ones in the video game. But the plots take place around the time of the games themselves. These not only better explain ambiguous facts from the game, but also expand the history of the Mass Effect universe. A fifth novel, Mass Effect: Andromeda Initiation is set to be published sometime in 2016. Two more books are scheduled for 2017 and 2018. There is also a fan written, interactive novel circulating out there called Mass Effect: Pick Your Path, from 2012, as well as numerous other comics. Also in 2012, an anime film version was released, and there are even talks of a Hollywood production in the works.

8. Mortal Kombat

 This fighting game has been around for a very long time. Originally developed by Midway Games, Mortal Kombat hit the arcades back in 1991. Its idea was thought up even earlier, in 1989, along with its storyline and game content. Mortal Kombat is a fantasy/horror themed fighting game, renowned for its high levels of gore and bloody violence. One of its most notorious parts, the finishing moves, also known as Fatalities, are in part responsible for the founding of the ESRB (Entertainment Software Rating Board). Modeled after movies like Bloodsport and Enter the Dragon,Mortal Kombat aimed to be a bit more realistic and serious than its cartoon fantasy-style counterpart, Street Fighter.

After Midway’s bankruptcy, Mortal Kombat was bought by Warner Bros. and rebooted in 2011. The game became highly popular among young people and is now one of the few successful fighting franchises in the history of video games. Since its inception it has spun off into a series of comic books, card games, a theatrical live tour, countless game sequels, two TV series, and two movies. These two major motion pictures, Mortal Kombat (1995), and Mortal Kombat: Annihilation(1997) grossed in $122 and $51 million, respectively. While not particularly good, the movies gathered a cult following; especially the first one. The second installment, however, was poorly received by both critics and fans alike, resulting in it bombing at the box-office. Though entirely unofficial, an 8-minute short film was released back in 2010, revealing that a new Mortal Kombat movie is being planned in Hollywood.

7. Warhammer 40K

warhammer

Without a doubt, the Warhammer 40K franchise has among the richest lore and backstory in video game history. That’s because the whole idea of this fictional universe first came into being way back in 1983. Back then, the game was known simply as Warhammer, and was created by Games Workshop as a tabletop war game. That game still exists, and continues to expand even to this day. Then in 1987, a futuristic version was developed, sharing many of the game mechanics. This is the 40K, which stands for the year in which the fictional action now takes place. We won’t bother going into detail with the original Warhammer games, since they deserve a top 10 list of their own, and instead try to focus on what’s at hand; namely their video game versions of the 40K universe.

The story takes place during the 41st millennium in a fictional, gothic-looking dystopian universe. The Imperium of Man, as it is called, is a galaxy-spanning human interstellar empire, dominating most of the Milky Way, though it’s not the only power out there. The most iconic and finest warriors of the Imperium are theSpace Marines, a combination between sci-fi super-soldiers and fantasy knights, who are sworn to defend their empire from all the other alien races in the galaxy. The Warhammer 40K universe has a total of 31 different style video games. The most notable of these are eight real-time strategy games and expansions, part of the Dawn of War series.

Four novels have been published alongside this series, somewhat following and better explaining the actions taking place in the games. But the entire list of novels, novellas and other short stories surrounding the 40K universe is humongous, enough to completely fill up a big personal library. And that’s without mentioning itscomic book series. In 2010 the CGI Ultramarines: A Warhammer 40,000 Movie was released to DVD. Terence Stamp, John Hurt, and Donald Sumpter, among others, voice some of the Space Marines.

6. Resident Evil

Making its debut in 1996, the Resident Evil series first appeared for the PlayStation. Initially called Biohazard in Japan, its country of origin, Capcom’s director decided to change its name since it was impossible to trademark it in the US. An internal contest was held within the company regarding the game’s name, finally settling on Resident Evil. Even though the director believed it to be “super-cheesy,” it makes reference to the original game, which took place in a mansion filled with evil monsters.

In its 20 years of existence the franchise has expanded into 11 main games and 22 other spin-offs. As of 2015, Resident Evil has sold over 61 million units worldwide. Originally, the game series was more of a survival horror genre, based mostly on horror film plotlines, exploration and puzzle solving. Since Resident Evil 4, however, the series took on a more third-person shooter approach, focusing on gunplay and weapon upgrades.

The plot revolves around the sinister Umbrella Corporation, a worldwide company with ties to every major industry, and which secretly makes extensive research into bio-engineering. More exactly, they are aiming to create an extremely potent virus that can transform any individual into a super-powerful, yet perfectly obedient being. However, most of these experiments were wildly unsuccessful and have backfired with some truly gruesome results. In their several attempts to create the perfect weapon, the Umbrella Corporation initiated a series of viral outbreaks and mass infection of the civilian population, transforming humans and animals into mindlessly aggressive zombies. Players take on the role of various characters trying to survive and unravel the Corporation’s many secrets.

 The Resident Evil movie series loosely follows the same plot, even though much of the original content is missing or has been changed. The main protagonist, Alice, played by Milla Jovovich, was a security operative working for Umbrella. But with the start of the first movie, she becomes an enemy of the Corporation. Though the movie received poor reviews from critics and fans alike, mostly because of the inconsistencies between it and the game series, the Resident Evil film tripled its budget, and got four more sequels over a span of 10 years. A last installment,Resident Evil: The Final Chapter, is set to premiere in 2017. A more faithful CGI animated movie series also exists, and another film, Resident Evil: Vendetta, will also be released next year. Moreover, the franchise also has its own seven book series.

5. Halo

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Halo is a sci-fi/first person shooter franchise set in the 26th century, in which humanity has achieved faster-than-light travel speed and colonized numerous other planets across the Milky Way. The series centers itself on an interstellar war between humans and an alliance of aliens known as the Covenant, also inhabiting the galaxy. The player takes on the role of Master Chief John-117, a member of a group of super-soldiers known as the Spartans.

Since its first release in 2001 with Halo: Combat Evolved, the franchise has been praised by many and is considered to be among the best FPS video games played on a console. Managed and developed by Microsoft Studios under one of its subsidiaries, 343 Industries, Halo benefited from a tremendous marketing campaign and four more original sequels and their respective DLCs. In total the franchise sold over 65 million copies and earned a record breaking $3.4 billion from the games alone.

These incredible sales and its increasing fandom have allowed Halo to expand into other media as well. Besides the various spin-offs of the game, including a real-time strategy installment entitled Halo Wars, the franchise boasts its own five-part TV mini-series, called Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, released in 2012. Another miniseries was released in 2014, called Halo: Nightfall. A full length movie adaptation was set in motion back in 2005 by 20th Century Fox and Universal Studios, but due to financial reasons, the project was dropped two years later. However, a future TV show on Showtime is said to be in development, though the exact details of the production are still largely unknown. In any case, up until that moment arises, fans of the video game series can also expand their knowledge of the Halo universe by taking a look at its 13 novel canon.

4. The Witcher

The Witcher started off as a series of fantasy short stories written by Andrzej Sapkowski, which are now collected into two books. The first of these stories, entitled simply The Witcher, was written in 1986 as part of a contest held by a magazine, winning third place. The subsequent five novels, which became known asthe Witcher Saga were written and published throughout the 1990s in Poland, and later translated into English and other languages. Before gaining international notoriety with the release of the first video game in 2007, the saga was adapted into a movie and television series in 2001 and 2002, respectively, with both being called The Hexer. In fact, this was the preferred translation of the first story’s title by the author. But with the release of the first video game, however, the publishing company CD Projekt RED decided on the name Witcher instead.

With two more video games in the series, the story follows the Witcher, Geralt of Rivia, (a sort of travelling monster-hunter for hire) as he struggles to regain his memories and prevent the destruction of the world. Set in a medieval fantasy universe, The Witcher is an action/role-playing hack and slash video game. The use of Geralt’s amnesia in the game allows the player to make decisions that the character from the books would not have necessarily made. It also permitted the developers to introduce those who weren’t familiar with the backstory with certain aspects of the Witcher canon.

Sapkowski uses a tone that is slightly ironic and with subtle links to modern culture in the books, which are also apparent in the games. Unlike most other similar fantasy stories, The Witcher also emphasizes the duality of human nature, with nobody being 100% good or bad. These aspects have helped both the novels and the video games to be widely claimed by fans as the best of Polish fantasy. Back in 2011, President Obama received a copy of The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings video game from the Polish prime minister in one of his visits to the country. Obama later confessed that he didn’t actually play it.

3. Assassin’s Creed

 Another video game series that’s made frequent headlines in recent years is theAssassin’s Creed franchise. With a movie set to be released in December, the series made its debut in 2007, and has since released another eight sequels, 17 spin-offs, several short films, as well as a number of other supporting materials. Developed predominantly by Ubisoft, the various games can be played on almost every platform conceivable, and its gameplay, varying only slightly from game to game, is set in the historic action-adventure genre, with a particular emphasis on combat, acrobatics, free-running, and stealth. The protagonist of each sequel changes, as the action takes place in different moments and locations throughout history: from the time of the Third Crusade, to the Renaissance period, the Colonial Era, the French Revolution, and the Victorian Era among others.

The overall plot of the series revolves around the centuries-old, fictional struggle between the historically-accurate Order of Assassins and the Knights Templar, who each desire world peace but through different means and ideologies. On the one hand, the Assassins believe in peace through free will, while the Templars consider it achievable only through world domination. Inspiration for the games came from a Slovenian novel, Alamut, written by Vladimir Bartol, as well as from concepts borrowed from the Prince of Persia series. In all, the Assassin’s Creed series has been very well received by critics and fans alike, and as of April 2014 over 73 million copies have been sold, making it Ubisoft’s bestselling franchise. Aside from the comics, Assassin’s Creed also has a book series. Each of the eight novels are tie-ins to their respective video games, following the various assassins throughout the centuries, in their ongoing war with the Templars.

2. Warcraft

No list like this is complete without mentioning the Warcraft universe. Developed byBlizzard Entertainment, the franchise is made up of five core games, the most notable of which are Warcraft III: Reign of Chaos, a real-time strategy game, and its expansion pack The Frozen Throne, as well as the infamous World of Warcraft (WOW), a massive multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) and bestselling title here. At its peak in 2010, WOW had 12 million simultaneous subscribers worldwide, becoming the world’s largest subscription-based MMORPG.

The latest title in the series, Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, is a digital collectible card game. Another notable game in the franchise, though only a mod for Warcraft III, is Defense of the Ancients (DotA), a multiplayer online battle arena. In this game, two teams of players are pitted against each other in an attempt to destroy the enemy’s heavily guarded structures at opposing corners of the map.

All of the games in the series are set in or around the high fantasy world of Azeroth. The story begins by focusing on the human nations that make up the Eastern Kingdoms and the Orcish Horde that arrived to Azeroth through a dark portal, igniting the great wars between the two. Over the years, and with the subsequent game releases, the developers have expanded the planet by creating new continents. With them, there’s been the emergence of other new playable races.

 Unsurprisingly, the series has since spawned its own sizable collection of novels, covering a broad range of characters in various timelines, vastly expanding the lore and backstory of the Warcraft universe. Many comics have also been published alongside these books, delving even further into the canon. In June 2016, its first Hollywood movie was released by Universal Pictures. With only 5.5 million subscribers to WOW as of 2015, the film arrived a little too late, and bombed in the US. However, it did manage to gross over $422 million worldwide, making it the highest grossing game adaptation of all time.

1. Neverwinter Nights

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Neverwinter Nights is a third-person role-playing video game developed by BioWare, and was released in 2002. In the following years the game got several expansions and premium packs, and due to its growing popularity, a sequel was released in 2006. It, too, had its own series of expansions. The story follows the player’s character as he tries to stop a plague from sweeping over the city of Neverwinter. The city is located along the Sword Coast of Faerûn, in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting of Dungeons & Dragons. As it is in the original tabletop D&D games, players of Neverwinter Nights are able to create their own character from scratch at the very beginning of the game. Everything from gender, race, character class, alignment, abilities, and name can be customized to suit the preferences of each individual player. Overall, the video game was met with positive reviews and universal acclaim.

GameSpot referred to it as “one of those exceedingly rare games that has a lot to offer virtually everyone, even if they aren’t already into RPGs,” while PC Gamer called it “a total package—a PC gaming classic for the ages,” and said that its “storyline [is] as persuasive as any I’ve encountered in a fantasy roleplaying game.”  It has its own collection of books entitled the Neverwinter Saga, written by R.A. Salvatore, which is made up of four novels. However, these are only the tip of the iceberg in terms of literature surrounding the Forgotten Realms universe, since the saga itself is just part of an even larger, Legend of Drizzt series. And for those who really want to immerse themselves into the canon of “The Realms” and probably never emerge out again, the entire book series is a whopping 302 novels.

 


Video Games and You

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