This is very sad news. Yesterday, the 11th of January 2013, Aaron Swartz committed suicide in New York aged just 26. This news was confirmed by Swartz’s uncle, Michael Wolf, and his attorney, Elliot Peters who stated in an email to The Tech “The tragic and heartbreaking information you received is, regrettably, true.”
This is a 1980’s made-for-tv movie and fulfills all the expectations that come with that description, namely poor quality scripting, acting and special effects. It stars a young Tom Hanks and notably contains footage of the World Trade Center. Based on the novel by the same name Mazes & Monsters is interesting mainly because of it’s social context. During it’s heyday role-play gaming was a much maligned hobby purported to be a form of satanism and blaimed for criminal activities, mental illness and suicides. Players were persecuted, ostricised and anti-D&D groups established to try and ban the game. It’s hard to imagine nowadays that a harmless game of make-believe could provoke such a reaction, but these attitudes were widespread and some still persist to this day. I remember as late as the 1990’s being forbidden from buying a D&D book because it was ‘Devil-worship.’
Ben X is an emotional and thought-provoking ride by first-time Belgium director Nic Balthazar. Watching the trailer you might be forgiven for thinking this is a movie about the dangers of online gaming. In fact MMORPGs are portrayed realistically and in a positive light. Logging on every day is the one uplifting thing in Ben’s otherwise bleak world. He is being bullied mercilessly by his peers because he is different – he suffers from Asperger Syndrome – and online escapism helps him to cope. It’s also a way for him to express his feelings and make friends in a way he can’t in the real world.