Little Nightmares Looks Wonderfully Eerie

For those with a love for the creepy and unnatural not unlike myself, there’s a good chance you’ll find the upcoming horror-themed puzzle game Little Nightmares of great interest.

Developed by the Swedish gaming studio Tarsier Studios, who have helped with the Little Big Planet series DLC development as well as the Playstation Vita adaptation. Little Nightmares follows a young girl named Six’s quest through a dark and ominous world within a mysterious ship called The Maw. Armed with a mere candle and her own courage, Six struggles to avoid capture by the hungry, sinister creatures described as “corrupted spirits” that inhabit The Maw.

“The way we like to describe it is the place where childhood fears come to life.” — Tarsier Studios

For a bit of history, Little Nightmares was initially introduced with the name Hunger by Tarsier in May 2014. Bandai Namco took on the publishing role two years later and the name was changed. The idea for the title came about in 2012 from a tech demo with a ‘dollhouse’ as it’s base. Players could tilt, zoom in and out, and pan with the dollhouse camera through a number of interconnected rooms that made up the game. It was a simple idea but it conveyed an interestingly uneasy and whimsical feeling nonetheless. From there the development team began to explore different concept sketches of the characters and settings that ultimately led to Little Nightmares becoming a reality. Developing a prototype and trailer was possible with help from sponsors Nordic Game and Creative Europe. Nordic Game is a video game conference held in Sweden, while Creative Europe is an EU program with an aim of, “strengthening the competitiveness of the European cultural and creative sectors.” This allowed Tarsier the tools needed to provide solid representation to Bandai Namco and get the ball rolling even more on the project.

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From the gameplay featured in trailers and released screenshots, the game seems to live up to its eerie reputation of touching on the things that scared us most when we were children. The dim atmosphere through and through resembles a dark room that harbors scary shadows and threats under the bed. Everything seems big and frightening. From a china doll’s glassy gaze resting on a dresser to the ever present creaks and groans of the house. This game will take you to a place where every sound and movement can set you on the edge. For the most part, you’re sneaking and you won’t (purposefully) have a clear view of creatures since they move around. Fumbling around and causing noise will attract unwanted attention and the sound of shuffling feet and grabby fingers will soon follow. Just like a child about to be gobbled up by the bogeyman, once detected, there’s only so far you can run with such small feet.

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Six is minuscule compared to her surroundings, giving the impression of an Alice lost in a kind of gothic, disturbing wonderland. The difficulty in navigating The Maw is in large part because of Six’s size. She will climb chairs, shelving, among other objects that appear built for a larger being. Not unlike a mouse, she can often be used to hide in nooks and crannies, and even manages to fit in tight spaces in order to avoid captors while solving puzzles in each area. Though Six is the main character and hero of this game, it’s easy to forget that she’s also a child that has playful inhibitions that can lead to her death or capture. She’ll jump from high places or make noise tossing around a ball or playing on a squeaky bed. Being aware of your surroundings and treading carefully is important in smoothly progressing and ultimately completing Little Nightmares. 

The game will be releasing tomorrow, April 28th. It’s single player and has around 13 achievements/trophies to earn. The storyline encourages open exploration, but with a straight playthrough expect to spend 5 hours on it. There’s still time to pre-order and receive in-game bonuses such as the scarecrow sack and the upside teapot masks to help Six blend in with The Maw inhabitants. For PC there’s the additional perk of a digital copy of the game’s original soundtrack as well as the choice between an exclusive PS4 or PC wallpaper.

It would also be a good idea to try out the browser-based interactive video demo here that Tarsier released late last year. It will give you a feel for the game beyond looking at pretty (creepy) screenshots and replaying and pausing trailers endlessly. You’ll also receive a DLC tengu mask in your game if you register below the video.

Comment below on what you think of Little Nightmares and whether you’ll be trying out the demo or straight shot purchasing the game (like me!). If you want to follow updates a good place would be the game’s twitter @LittleNights and Facebook page as well as right here on Techno Gurl Magazine of course. 😉

How to Avoid Burning out at Work

When you’re on the job it’s easy to get wrapped up in what you’re doing and forget to take a break now and then. However, not doing so and choosing to work excessively or skipping breaks can be harmful to your body and overall wellness to the point that your long-term performance suffers. That’s right. Overworking yourself often leads to less work getting done in the long run. Burnout is essentially a physical or mental breakdown caused by stress or overworking. It’s a social issue that has become a regular consequence to millions of workers long before and after it was coined back in the 1970s. Certain symptoms have been associated with burnout in the past such as exhaustion, reduced performance in everyday tasks, difficulty in concentrating, feeling listless, alienating oneself from others and becoming easily frustrated or stressed — it’s also possible to experience physical issues such as stomach pain or headaches.

I’ve personally had my own burnout struggles while working a demanding office job. I can understand the real strain it has on your career, your future and even your happiness. Because I felt burned out at my job, even after leaving my desk I couldn’t stop thinking about all the things I had to get done. There never seemed to be enough time in the day and that was my excuse for overworking myself. There should never be an excuse to push yourself past your breaking point — even a job.

Check out some of my shared tips below on how to avoid burning out at work, I also encourage everyone to share your own experiences in the comment section below this post.

Start the day off right.

Wake up to the time you set on your clock the night before. You want to have time to complete most morning tasks without feeling overly rushed or unorganized. Save yourself from a stressful morning by having an idea of what you would like to do before you sleep.

Will you eat breakfast? Will you shower? Do you know what you’ll be wearing? By knowing what you have in the fridge you can save time by picking something out immediately. If you like long showers and know you’ll be in there for awhile, set a timer for when you need to get out or wake up five minutes earlier. Set an outfit on the side to put on so you don’t stress over finding something or realizing you forgot to do laundry.

If you have Google Maps or the iPhone Map app installed on your smartphone you can check the traffic. Navigational tools will help you prepare for delays accordingly and ideally, you should arrive a few minutes early to work. This will allow you to start up your computer and other equipment, hang your things up, grab some coffee or use the lavatory down the hall if needed.

Arrive on time to work, leave on time.

Arriving exactly the time your shift starts will cause you to feel restrained and unorganized. If you leave your desk to grab a coffee or some other task, even if you feel it will only take “a few moments”, you risk your employer checking in on you and misunderstanding why you weren’t at your desk at the beginning of the work day. Arriving a few moments earlier to work will ultimately lower your stress level and help you mentally prepare yourself to start work when you’re scheduled.

When it nears the end of the day, you should start preparing at least a half hour before you finish your shift. Don’t start any projects or tasks that will cause you to stay past your work schedule, even if it’s a few minutes. If work ends around 5:00p or rush hour and you’d work a little longer before driving home to avoid traffic jams, stop working on your main responsibilities and switch doing something for yourself. You can check your phone or turn it on if it was off during work hours. The idea is to stop working and do something for yourself, being able to take yourself out of work mode is extremely important to feeling less stressed and eventually overwhelmed from working.

Unless you’re being paid to work overtime or compensated in some way by your company, you shouldn’t take it upon yourself to continue working past your billed hours. Doing so will not only harm you down the road health-wise but can also start a big legal issue for your employer. Companies who earn $500,000 or more annually are usually covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and are required to pay their employees overtime. If you feel that your company is mistreating you by restraining overtime funds you’ve earned, it’s important to consider reporting it to the Wage and Hour Division (WHD) of the Depart. of Labor.

Take a lunch break along with several mini breaks.

Similar to working overtime to catch up on assignments and sacrifice time you could spend that time on yourself, you should never skip lunch or forget to take breaks when working a full day. Have you ever been stuck on solving a homework problem in school, or perhaps playing a popular app game on your phone and having trouble beating a level? Did you experience leaving the issue and returning to it, later on, to find yourself clearing it without much strife? Great. Treat lunch and breaks at work the same way. If you work nonstop for hours upon hours without reenergizing your body, you’ll eventually find it difficult to concentrate and might even (gasp!) break down. You’re only human, which means you have a physical and mental limit that you’ll reach before long if you go without proper nutrition or allowing your mind a chance to revitalize itself with a pause from the mental hustle and bustle.

If you work nonstop for hours upon hours without reenergizing your body, you’ll eventually find it difficult to concentrate and might even (gasp!) break down. You’re only human, which means you have a physical and mental limit that you’ll reach before long if you go without proper nutrition or allowing your mind a chance to revitalize itself with a pause from the mental hustle and bustle.

Prioritize before starting your week or day.

Track deadlines and make sure to communicate with coworkers or superiors immediately when you think or know you won’t be able to meet the timeline set. If possible, consult with someone on your team on what tasks need to be completed or prioritized above others. It helps to write due dates or important events on the company calendar (e.g. through Outlook or Google Drive) or tracking them through an online organizational tool like Toodledo. If possible, assign a daily or weekly goal. If you have a list of assignments to complete and strategies to do so you’ll feel immediately less burdened because you know what you have to do with a timeframe attached. You can prioritize tasks in any way you’d like. Whether it be by color labeling or using priority-level categories like, high, medium or low. When you receive new tasks throughout the week you can sort them into your list or schedule immediately so you don’t forget to do so later on.

Consider a career change.

One reason you might have for feeling burned out in your current situation is because you don’t particularly feel fit for it. Look back in time to when you initially accepted the position, how did you feel? Excited? Relieved? It can be difficult for anyone to find a job. It’s understandable if you took on the role in order to pay the bills, or believing it would be a good choice. Maybe it was a job you read about or imagined yourself doing and once you entered the specific field started having second thoughts or feeling unsatisfied in some way. You have no obligation to stay in a job you feel is hindering your ability to live a healthy and fulfilling life. There are always opportunities to explore out there and the sooner you focus on finding one that fits your wants and needs, the sooner you’ll avoid burning out due to a stressful job you’re unsuited to perform. A good way to start searching is to pick three things you like and connect them to jobs. For me I chose, dogs, reading, writing. With options such as a veterinarian, book publisher, journalist (or blogger!).

That Time United Airlines Beat up an Asian Passenger

Overbooking is a practice most if not all airlines utilize in which they book or reserve more passengers than they have seats for on a flight. They do this with the expectation that some people will cancel or not show up at all.

The United Airlines flight that David Dao was on, however, was a special case beyond the normal irritants of an oversold flight. The flight was bound for Louisville, Kentucky, a destination a number of United crew members needed to reach to work for another flight. Flight 3411, David Dao’s flight, was sold out with every seat filled, so United asked for volunteers to take a later flight the next day.

Dao initially seemed open to volunteering and leaving on a flight later that day, but when he realized he would need to travel the following day he refused. With no volunteers coming forward, United took action by randomly selecting passengers and booting them off. Most passengers grudgingly complied, but when Dao’s name came up he was adamant on keeping the seat he had paid for.

“No, I am not going. I’m a physician, I have patients I need to see tomorrow.” — David Dao

United Airlines called upon several Chicago Dept. of Aviation officers to assist them in removing Dao from the flight. He continued to persist in his refusal to disembark and after verbal coaxing failed, officers began to physically drag Dao from his seat, causing a struggle in which Dao suffered a broken nose, a concussion and the loss of two front teeth.

After being dragged out in that condition and laid out on the tarmac — Dao ran back onto the plane and latched onto a pole in a galley area. He repeatedly stated, “I’m not getting off, just kill me. I want to go home.”

Dao immigrated from Vietnam in the 1970s and described the experience with United Airlines as more terrifying than retreating from his home country when Saigon, the capital fell and North Vietnamese communists took over the city. Fellow passengers recorded the incident on video and took photos of Dao’s bruised figure which were shared through various social media channels.

David Dao Being Dragged from UA Flight 3411 departing Chicago’s O’Hare airport on April 9. Business Insider.

The situation swiftly blew up and received a broad reaction of outrage and concern from the general public toward United Airlines’ overbooking policies and their treatment of passengers. Not only was United’s public perception as a leading airline significantly damaged, but it caused great suspicion and growing distrust toward other airlines and in large part, the entire industry.

Some airlines recognized the opportunity to market certain “assurances.” Such as Emirates Airlines recent commercial playing off of United Airlines’ slogan, “Fly the Friendly Skies, But this Time for Real.” Others are making improvements to their policies. Southwest Airlines,  for instance, is rumored to cease overbooking on its flights starting May 8th, following the United fiasco. Delta Airlines has also made the move of raising the payouts offered to customers for giving up seats from $2,000 to as much as $9,000.

The incident occurred on April 9th but has dragged out in part because of United’s initial response to public concerns. United’s CEO Oscar Munoz’s first statement concerning the occurrence suggested Dao was at fault for creating a disturbance and disobeying instruction from law enforcement. He quickly changed his stance when his comment stirred an even bigger PR scandal, stating, “a system failure” as the cause of Dao’s treatment. Shortly after, United revealed a new policy plan, forbidding the use of law enforcement when removing overbooked passengers.

“We breached public trust, and it’s a serious breach.” — Oscar Munoz, United Airlines CEO

An unexpected development that also factored into the longevity of this story, was some unfavorable aspects of David Dao’s character and background coming to light. After some deeper digging into Dao as a person rather than a helpless passenger, it was revealed that his physician’s license was revoked in 2005 in Kentucky, following the discovery of him committing drug crimes as well as giving out prescriptions in exchange for sexual favors. Dao has severe limitations on his license from the Kentucky state medical licensing board and can only practice in an outpatient facility once a week.

I can only imagine how ashamed and embarrassed Dao must feel after this intrusive and unrelated probe into his personal life by the media. From this point on he might face negative recognition and judgment from friends and family members to strangers with disregard to United’s ill treatment of him, one that closely resembles how you might punish a thief or criminal. Dao merely stood up for his right as a customer and passenger of United Airlines. He exposed himself by showing courage, now I can’t help wonder what the next person will think when they stand up to something they believe is wrong? Will they have their deepest and darkest secrets exposed to the world within a matter of hours as well?

As of yesterday April 27th, Dao has reached a settlement with United Airlines for an undisclosed amount. Dao’s lawyer complimented Munoz on “doing the right thing.” The matter is finally starting to resolve with Munoz’s public apologies and assurances notable policy changes that are intended to promote the main focus of United as an airline which “puts customers at the center of everything they do.”

Netflix’s April Highlight Releases

Netflix is known as one of the most popular streaming services today, alongside Hulu and Amazon Instant and many others. I personally use Netflix and Amazon Instant because between those two services I can usually access most shows or films that I’m interested in. Netflix offers popular shows and movies regularly but has also started this steady stream of high-quality original productions that easily stand on their own. Amazon Instant was a useful add-on with a Prime membership, I used it predominantly to purchase and stream recently released movies I hadn’t had the chance to watch in theaters. Out of the two, I prefer Netflix and eagerly monitor monthly additions to the service. I decided to skim over the April Netflix releases and share the new titles I’m most excited about watching, (over my popcorn substitute — a warm and comforting bowl of ramen).

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Kevin Hart: What Now? – Available April 11th

I’ll admit two years ago if you’d asked me who Kevin Hart was, I couldn’t tell you. Fast forward to today and he’s top on my list of stand-up comedian favorites alongside Louie C.K. (spoils, he’s also on this list with Netflix special release this month), Russell Peters, Stephen Merchant, Simon Pegg and Eddie Murphy. After watching his 2008 documentary “I’m a Grown Little Man”, I took in the brilliant almost painful honesty of his jokes and became immediately absorbed in the relatability of who he was. The difference between us was that Kevin Hart wasn’t embarrassed to talk about his insecurities (mainly his low height). He’s come a long way, not only as a comedian but an actor and overall entertainer. I frequently see him on talk shows promoting either a tour or a special… or several movies at once. He’s worked incredibly hard in a short period of time to hone his own comedic style that viewers can’t help but notice. Hart has rightfully earned numerous entertainment awards and a seat among the ranks of the most relevant stand-up comedians today. What Now? is a comedy film that is split into a spy tale and a comedic performance, the prior being filmed at the Philidelphia Lincoln Financial football stadium, historically marking a first for a comedian to fill out an entire stadium.

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Louie C.K. 2017 – Available April 1st 

I’ve been a fan of Louie C.K. ever since I came across his Live at the Beacon Center (complete!) stand-up special on YouTube. What immediately drew me to his humor was something I’m still fighting to comprehend about myself. Imagine the darkest, most uncomfortable and unmentionable subjects or thoughts you ever could about societies norms or expectations and you have Louie’s favorite material. From casually spouting out racial slurs, to diving head first into sensitive topics such as rape, suicide, and pedophilia. There seems to be no topic black-listed, no boundary to cross in Louie’s world, and that’s exactly what makes him one of the best comics out there. He skillfully projects this image of being this lazy, 40-something, slightly perverted and helpless member of society that can be seen as the very definition of mediocrity. Don’t let him fool you though — Louie C.K. plays a major role in his productions, often directing, writing and editing material while also starring in them. His latest special 2017 follows his trend of honing in on uncomfortable and controversial topics, remarking on the worst prospect or thought related to them and coaxing us to question how we truly feel about them. For example, how do you really feel about abortion?

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Tropic Thunder – Available April 1st 

Tropic Thunder was originally released in 2008 and boasts a considerably reputable all-star cast that includes Jack Black, Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., (young!) Matthew McConaughey, Tom Cruise and more. I didn’t have a chance to watch the entire film when it was initially released, but thanks to Netflix I now have the chance to watch it through! If you haven’t seen it, the basic plot of Tropic Thunder involves a variety of fictional actors hired on to star in the most expensive war film ever produced. The actors are flown out to Asia believing they’ll be filming in an authentic jungle-like environment that resembles a war zone Vietnam. Due to circumstances, the film loses it’s director and the actors navigate dangerous terrain all whilst believing they’re on set, filming. It makes for an amusing series of events with Stiller’s over-the-top character as the troop leader, Robert Downey Jr. playing as an African American as well as an Australian, and Jack Black as the comic relief that manages to shine in an already comical environment. The cast is what made this film memorable for me, considering that Ben Stiller both directed and produced it, you get the sense that he assigned cast members according to his friend’s list.  Not unlike an Adam Sandler movie that always includes Kevin James or Rob Schneider. It works because of the chemistry between cast members, you just know they’re goofing off both off and on camera and it just adds to the appeal of such a silly, action-packed movie.

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Gremlins – Available April 1st 

There are certain films that you are expected to know and love from your childhood, Gremlins is one of those films. Released two years after E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, it comes as no surprise to me that Steven Spielberg, creator of E.T. acted as an executive director. Gremlins starts off with the same basic idea of a strange alien creature falling into the care of a young character. The creature comes off as harmless, but before long starts to exhibit signs of becoming a threat to not only its young caretaker but the community it’s found itself in. Unlike E.T., Gremlins is less sci-fi and more horror in its portrayal of the strange creature and its ability to wreak havoc on the world and its inhabitants. For those nostalgic of the scary but comedic style of the 1980s, take the chance to relive them in a great watch for the family.

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Kubo and the Two Strings: Available April 8th

When I first saw the preview for Kubo and the Two Strings I immediately thought of animated favorites such as Caroline and The Nightmare Before Christmas that also featured unique animation styles. The plot follows a young eye-patched, Japanese boy named Kubo who lived in a cave with his sick mother near a small village in the mountains. He visited the village during the day to perform magic stories, acted out by using colorful paper sheets that resemble those used in the art of origami. When the sun fell, Kubo would return to the cave he occupied with his mother, heeding her warning to never stay out at night, for fear he would be found by his aunts and have his remaining eye stolen. Kubo soon finds himself thrown into a quest in searching for his father’s armor to guard against his aunts and grandfather, who seek to steal his eye, which seems to act as the origin of his magical abilities. Because of the unique art style and feudal Japan setting, I felt like the animations incorporated ancient Japanese puppet shows — especially with the character’s heads projected as more detailed and larger than the rest of their bodies and their hands often being the source of most movement and expression. Kubo and the Two Strings is a family film but is definitely darker than most Disney films these days, so be warned for young viewers. The story touches on mental illness, loss, death and physical impairment as the main character is partially blind. I have to admit I didn’t expect the film to conclude the way it did but it was still enjoyable for its original concept and flawless art style, it’s a refreshing change from what we commonly see in animations today and has been recognized as the 2016 Best Animated Film by the British Academy Awards and won the Academy for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Visual Effects.

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Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey – Available April 15th 

I rarely watch films more than once, but one of the few that I’m happy to watch every year is none other than the heartwarming tale of three pets, Shadow the Golden Retriever, Sassy the Siamese cat, and Chance the Pit Bull, who set out on a perilous journey to find their owners. As a pet owner (specifically of a Golden Retriever) I feel the immediate pull on my heartstrings when Shadow decides to take initiative in finding his owner the eldest child of the family, Peter. He fears for his safety when the farm owner who acts as their host leaves to work the fields on her farm, deciding to follow his senses to find Peter and the rest of the family. Sassy and Chance, not wanting to be left alone on the farm, follow Shadow. Before long you can see they clearly have the same dedication and selfless love for their owners as Shadow displays. Originally released the same year I was born (1993!), Homeward Bound: The Incredible Journey will continue to be a timeless classic for any viewer, whether they be a pet lover or not or happen to be an adult watching with an adult, this film will offer an astonishing, charming story for anyone.