Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Fight for Second Place: Xbox One vs. Wii U

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In terms of sales, the PlayStation 4 is far ahead of its peers. Recent statistics show that Sony’s beastly machine has 40% more sales than Xbox One according to ArsTechnica. We believe that the ‘console war’ is now being fought between Nintendo’s Wii U and the Xbox One. It may get even more cutthroat as Microsoft’s CVP Yusuf Mehdi recently announced on Xbox Wire that Xbox One shipments to retailers are nearing 10 million. However, this does not give us any indication of consumer sales.

If we compare hardware, there is no question the Xbox One offers more power and graphical capability than the Wii U. The one thing favoring Nintendo’s little monster is that it is loaded with exclusives. Most recently, the stylish fighter ‘Bayonetta 2’ was released on the Wii U and became an instant hit and its 95/100 Metacrtic rating proves it. ‘Super Smash Bros.’ has already scored 85/100 rating on Metacritic and hopefully it will repeat the success when it releases on the Wii U on the 21st of November.

The Xbox One may not have as many exclusives as the Wii U but some of their best include ‘Forza Horizon 2’, ‘Sunset Overdrive’ and ‘Halo: Master Chief Collection’. This year’s biggest Xbox One exclusive was ‘Titanfall’. Unfortunately, its sequel is reportedly going multiplatform.

But are gamers always looking for exclusives? Some may argue that exclusives offer a unique selling point for consoles. However, since the launch of Xbox One and PS4 in November 2013, the multi-platformers performed better especially ‘Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag’, ‘Battlefield 4’, ‘FIFA 15’, ‘Destiny’ and ‘Watchdogs’. ‘Assassins Creed Unity’ is one of the hottest third-party titles going into the holiday season. ‘Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’ has already scored 83/100 on Metacritic and is a smash hit.

None of these new multi-platform titles are making their way to the Wii U. However, this does not help the Xbox One either because some gamers may chose to play the multiplatform hits on the relatively powerful PS4. The PS4 has sold 13.5 million units according to Sony’s official figures and there were fewer exclusives released on it as compared to the multi-platform titles. Thus, both Nintendo and Microsoft will battle it out on exclusives.

According to a report by Tech Times in June, the Wii U is on second place. When speaking to the Seattle Times, Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime said, “We think that the Wii U has a long and vibrant life in front of it. What it needs are games like Mario Kart 8 and Super Smash Bros for Wii U and Splatoon - those types of games that can really drive the installed base. We believe if we can do that effectively the Wii U has a long and robust life”.

Microsoft Xbox division head Phil Spencer will need to make sure they have the quality of exclusives to match Nintendo otherwise they may fall behind in the console race. The hotly-anticipated ‘Halo 5: Guardians’ and ‘Quantum Break’ look promising and a new ‘Gears of War’ will be greatly welcomed by fans.

According to The Motley Fool, the Xbox One is “a lost cause”, but Mr. Mehdi will surely disagree! 


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Soul Survivor by Bushra Farooq

(Image credit: Conspiracy Syndrome/ Facebook)

The most beautiful sound in the world is the first cry of a baby. Pure and much awaited. The first thought in every mother's head my baby ok. The first thought in the grandmother's head is........was the ultrasound right? Are you sure it's a boy? Every male, from that very first cry is the most precious living thing for the whole family. Not because he is a child but because he is a he. The pressure of being perfect is now on.

Thanks to feminism and the plight of women who have been living in patriarchal societies since civilizations came into existence, we have ignored the pressures and the plight of men...

Yes, they are the root of all evil

Yes, they are horrible and mean

Yes, we believe strongly in the fact that they have it easy. But do they?

I always assumed men had it simple. They can do what they want, when they want and how they want to do it. But on closer inspection it's not like that. The burdens on a male are as equally suffocating as those on females in society.

As a baby he is well looked after but each mother is worried if her son is growing as tall and handsome as he should. Does he have an aggressive, forceful personality or is he going to be the shy, downtrodden one?

The boy is encouraged at all levels to excel in academics as he has to get a job, not just any job but the most lucrative job there is to offer which of course are in the fields of medicine and engineering. If neither is possible then the alternative is law or maybe banking. Nobody cares if he wants to paint for a living or maybe wants to be a photographer. What if he was particularly good at writing or wanted to become a musician? Mummy jee and Daddy jee will always come up with the same argument……. What will you earn? This is not a respectable profession! What will the relatives think? The conclusion is as usual Mummy jee bursting into tears and Daddy jee threatening the boy with military school.

Sport is viewed as a male area of interest, regardless of his actual interest. He must play and outshine his classmates in playing sports and of course the knowledge of every sport. Imagine the shame Daddy jee has to go through if his son finishes last in the school race. Or what if horror of all horrors he does not have the fit muscular build that Mummy jee can brag about to all the neighbourhood aunties? So what if he loathes sport? That is not acceptable. Is it really necessary for a guy to be this way? Forget about the pressures from the parents, imagine the bullying and taunts he will have to endure in school from his peers! Sometimes bullies can go overboard and children suffer psychological trauma which has dire effects on their personality.

Once he enters university, the ever increasing pressure is now mounting. He must fit in society and do it with such ease as that it seems effortless. The boy now almost a man should be handy around the house, be able to drive his phupos and khalas to the tailor, excel in his chosen field of study, help Daddy jee with the business, start earning and of course be cool enough to be liked by his peers. Girls are able to share their emotions with friends and are allowed to use cosmetics to help themselves feel better and to overcome self doubt. The man whoever cannot do so he must wear each pimple and mark on his face like a medal of honour. Any attempts to hide them will lead to being treated like a leper.

After all these stresses the boy is now a man. Graduated and full of energy, he is searching for a job. Then reality hits……………he realizes becoming Donald Trump might take him a lifetime and he starts with a basic salary (if he is lucky enough to find one). He must now study further and specialize to earn more. Unfortunately, the corporate world is vicious and not everyone can take the stress or able to charm the management enough to get promoted.

At home Mummy jee is now on the hunt for a girl, she has not asked him what he wants or whether he has a girlfriend or not. His needs and wants are not the priority, Mummy jee wants a daughter-in-law she can control and who will be not smart enough to sway her son’s loyalties from her. She must be educated so Mummy jee can show off and be extremely beautiful so that the future generations are guaranteed to be physically blessed.

At first, every relationship has happy moments, laughter and the excitement of being new. Then the reality seeps in slowly and when the euphoria dies down you truly realize if the compatibility is there or not. At this stage he hopes that Mummy jee and the wife get along but he can only hope as most usually there will be rifts and most definitely there will be arguments. Where does the man stand now? How does he give preference to either? Making a choice is impossible and most often leads to the disintegration of one relationship. If he chooses his mother, then his wife and he will always be unhappy and she will make sure he knows about it. If he chooses his wife then the whole world and every relative who cannot mind their business will let him know he was wrong and then of course the guilt inside……

With a growing family come growing needs and demands. Some demands may be unwarranted and too much while other demands are justified and so the poor man must decrease his social activities and search for more avenues to make money. With increased stress and an unhealthy lifestyle comes deteriorating health. The man now hitting 40 is at risk for heart attack, stroke, hypertension, diabetes etc etc

The day he has his son he looks down at him and smiles, thanks God that after he retires he will have someone to take care of him and he will be able to help him provide for the family too. Never does it cross his mind to let his son be. He cannot allow that to happen as he realizes that there is just too much to achieve and it must start from the cradle.

Where is the easy life then?


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

TEDx: Teaching us to Rise Above

(Image credit: TEDx Karachi)

Khudi ko kar buland itna kay har taqdeer say pehlay khuda banday say yeh khud poochay bata teri raza kya hai – Allama Muhammad Iqbal

I had always heard of TEDx but until I walked in to the Arts Council on Saturday September 27, 2014 I never knew what to expect.  

"The gem cannot be polished without friction, nor man perfected without trials" -- Chinese Proverb

Indeed human beings exhibit their best when the going gets tough. In our darkest hour, we have to learn to light the candle and the ten individuals who spoke shared the experiences that have shaped their lives. The most-anticipated talks of the evening were Sania Saeed, Tina Sani and former CPLC chief Jameel Yusuf. However, before the day was over I discovered that there were many unsung heroes about whom I had no idea.  The event MC, Umair Jaliawala, kept the audience engaged throughout with witty humor and excellent introductions.

The evening was kicked off by entrepreneur Naeem Zamindar who did not talk about his adventures in Corporate life or the world of Venture Capitalism but instead led the audience through several meditation exercises. He stated that he had taken a course called ‘Art of Living’ that changed his life. I will be honest, I was not too crazy about his guided meditation and he did not do much to keep my interest and I found amusement in seeing others experience their inner souls. Nonetheless, not a bad start to the show with some funny bits that reminded me of PE practice back in my school days.

After the appetizer was over, the main course got me hooked. This young man is a personal friend but I had never seen him speak in public. I am talking about photographer extraordinaire Mobeen Ansari and the minute he started speaking, all eyes were glued to the stage. He relayed about how he was diagnosed with meningitis at birth and it affected his sense of smell and hearing.

He truly spoke from the heart as she showed us photographs of his journeys all over Pakistan, his book, Dharkan: The Heartbeat of a Nation, that chronicled our country’s icons and heroes and some people we overlook. An interesting photograph was a reunion of Aamir Zaki and Alamgir after 30 long years. I loved this guy, and he just mesmerized the audience with each of his photographs.
Moving on, Rabia Aziz-Rizvi came on stage to talk about her young daughter who was born with Apert Syndrome and how she became her child’s voice. She became her normal and showed that there is more than love a child needs to be accepted and how she showed through her daughter, that she can rise above the prejudices of our hypocritical society. I am a firm believer to follow your heart and not stick to status quo. Bravo Rabia for inspiring all of us!

Mariam Piracha spoke to me personally because I am a writer by profession.  I have been writing since a young age, and I feel I can express myself creatively most via my written work. Her awesome project, the Spoken Stage, gave every young student a platform to be honest on paper and rise above. She also spoke eloquently and I was very impressed. I would love to learn more about her work.

We had a performance by Suhai Abro, a classical dancer who explained through her wonderful technique how she expresses her feelings through dance and how it enables her to rise above. Her story about her relationship with her mentor and teacher reminded us of the times when we burned bridges with people who were once our own teachers and learned to move on from there. I am not a huge fan of classical dance. She managed to keep my attention, although I felt her story was more interesting than her routine.

Digital marketing specialist, composer and singer Daniyal Noorani explained us to how he came up with his animated short ‘Quaid ki Batein’. One of the clips he showed educated us about cleaning trash from outside our homes and that we can eventually clean the whole country this way. His talk was well-rehearsed and well-timed. He was one of the few who stuck to the 18 minute rule. I wish the Quaid was at TEDx and I will not be surprised of his feelings. I bet he would have stood up and saluted Daniyal!

There was a break for around half an hour that turned a little too long which was expected at an event of such nature. Snacks and beverages were served and it allowed the audience to network with the speakers and each other. There were shawermas, mini-burgers and a delicious cake that really hit the spot J.

Now we come to Sania Saeed — who needs no introduction. Honestly, she was a bit boring in the beginning but with the passage of time, she gained my attention when she spoke of the profound impact of her play Aahat to women she interacted with back in the 90s. She also mentioned a few lines on her role of Mehrunissa in Anwar Maqsood’s ‘Sitara aur Mehrunissa’ and her fashion sense that eventually became a statement of its time. To be fair, she got a little interesting in the second half of her talk, but there was too much light corporate bashing considering the event had several corporate sponsors.

Ahsan Jameel, CEO of Aman Foundation, came on stage to talk about depression and mental health. He also spoke highly of his company and his subordinates. His talk, seasoned with couplets and quotes, reminded us to follow our passions as well. He meant to say a lot more but due to the 18 minute rule (that some speakers failed to observe), he had to cut his speech short. I have to say business grads, you gotta listen to this guy. He is a role model for any budding CEO.  I just wished he had more time to speak.

Jameel Yusuf was one man who broke the record of longest TED talk I feel. He went way overtime which actually caused the event to close around two hours over time. Would you say it was well worth it? He was one of the key speakers and several people had come to see him, and he had quite a lot to say. He was awarded the Sitara-e-Jurrat in 1992 and had worked tirelessly for the CPLC between 1989 and 2003. He was brilliant the entire time and I knew that everyone in the audience did not want him to stop. He was one of the marquee speakers and man, if this event had just his speech, it would have been worth attending.

The man is a living legend and a hero. His speech is worth a listen and I wish he had more time to complete his story. Umair Jaliawala made everyone laugh when he sat down on stage and exclaimed that Mr. Yousuf had committed a serious crime! Tell that to the man who spent his life fighting it!

The show must go on, and so it did. Tina Sani was one I personally wanted to listen to. Her song ‘Koi Baat Karo’ is my all time favorite. Anyways, starting off singing, she told her story of how music became her voice. Her upbringing in Afghanistan and how she learned to appreciate people of different cultures, something I experienced myself as an international student in the US. I love music, so to hear Tina talk about what music meant to her and has defined her personality was amazing. Her talk was a major highlight and she should return on the next TED. Marvelous singer and lady!

Finally, we got treated to my friend Yousuf Kerai and his student Shehroze’s musical performance on table and sitar respectively. As part of the Tarz group, these guys have mastered eastern classical music and wanted to showcase the true music of the subcontinent and that he did in style. Their jugalbandi was just out of this world. I am a huge music fan and this was the best way to end the night. It was seeing two maestros in perfect harmony as their instruments spoke to each other. Some audience members had left and missed out on a perfect ending to the evening. Yusuf and Shehroze, you guys rocked the house!

TEDx was in one word: inspirational. I felt refreshed, energized and enlightened. Between breaks and before the show started, sponsor activations were well done. Coke’s photo booth (manned by O’ Shoot Photography) was a great way of taking home a piece of TED with you. There was a nice swag bag, and Umair even asked us to share the ‘tohfa’ that was in each bag with our neighbors in the audience. I got a real inspiring message in the one that was gifted to me by an elegant lady about believing in oneself and not giving up. That’s the message I want to end this write-up with. 


Saturday, November 8, 2014

The PS4 has won the Console War!

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With over 13.5 million units sold according to Sony’s official figures, the PlayStation 4 has already crossed the finish line. That is around 40% more than the Xbox One according to ArsTechnica. The Wii U is a mere spectator. It is time to end the debate once and for all. Sony’s beast from the east was already a clear winner from the start.

Early last year, we had seen it coming. Sony blew everyone away with what the PS4 can do. On E3 2013, we saw the big reveal of the console itself. The sleek and sexy monster was powerful, according to ExtremeTech and screamed next-gen. Microsoft kept hyping up the Xbox One as the all-in-one entertainment machine with Kinect 2.0. PR blunders galore on used games and always-online nonsense, the Japanese juggernauts knew they had won the war before it even started.

Both consoles sold a million units in 24 hours on launch. Microsoft went back on their ridiculous DRM policies but it was already too late. I personally could not find a PS4 in stock anywhere but Xbox Ones were not hard to find. Despite price drops and Kinect-less SKUS, the Xbox One had lost the momentum. The PS4 was designed for success. Not only was it more powerful, it was developer friendly.

To be fair to Xbox One, ‘Titanfall’ was a major exclusive that kept consumer interest. Sony had ‘inFamous Second Son’ and ‘The Last of Us’ remaster. Both consoles relied exceptionally on third party titles on launch for sales but gamers had made their choice. They chose the more powerful console. Now I know, there will be a few who will debate about launch glitches. I will be honest, I knew people with BLOD errors on the PS4. But which recent console launch has not been plagued with glitches and console-killing bugs? Xbox 360 had the RROD and PS3 had YLOD. Xbox One had disc drive issues.

Lot of excellent exclusives and third party titles will be released on both consoles, but it does not matter. The war has been won. New console buyers would want ‘Assassins Creed Unity’, ‘WWE 2K15’, ‘Grand Theft Auto V’, ‘Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’ on the better system. We can talk about ‘Sunset Overdrive’, ‘Halo Master Chief Collection’ and ‘Forza Horizon 2’ for the Xbox One in the same way we could about ‘Bloodborne’, ‘The Order 1886’ and ‘Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End’ on the PS4.

The case is closed. Sony’s PS4 is the undisputed champion!


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Will Liverpool test the European Champions?

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I have to admit one thing.  As a Liverpool fan, I get goosebumps every time I think about the Reds taking on the European Champions Real Madrid and especially away at the Santiago Bernabeu. We lost 3-0 last time at home in an inspiring performance from Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema.

This one match I do not have much expectations. As Brendan Rodgers so eloquently put it in a post match interview after our recent loss to Newcastle over the weekend, “there is no formula”. We are without Daniel Sturridge and missing Luis Suarez who now plays for Barcelona. We just need to find a way to use our players and win.

What will happen tonight? Liverpool will likely lose. Mario Balotelli is horrible and should be sold off in January. I don’t want this to be a match preview. There are tons available and I feel that I should speak here as a Liverpool fan. I am not ashamed to admit we have lost our edge. We lost it when Fernando Torres left in January 2011 and we are feeling it after losing Suarez.

Super Mario will have to prove himself in this match if he wants a regular place. Whenever Sturridge does return, I hope Balotelli isn’t in the starting eleven. Ronaldo, Benzema and the returning Gareth Bale will really be in top form at home.

Where does our strength lie? It lies in the fans. It lies in all of the Kop who sing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’. Will we test perhaps the best team in Europe? Rodgers claims they are probably the best now according to BBC Sport. Steven Gerrard has to rally the troops. We need to be our best against the best. There are no excuses. Rodgers says that we want a good result and not rely on the other games to qualify out of the group stages in the UEFA Champions League. He is right that we have every chance to go through. I feel that we should not take this game as a write-off.

If we lose, we make sure every minute on the pitch, we show the Los Blancos no fear and make them work hard for every goal and at the same time take the game to them! Go Reds, may you never walk alone, because we will be singing with you all the way to victory lane!


Saturday, November 1, 2014

The Battle of the Exclusive Rages on!

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In the gaming business, games make the console. With three excellent consoles to choose from in this generation, which is the ideal one to go for? At least, two out of the three have similar third-party releases, but what sets them apart are the exclusives they offer. The PlayStation 4 leads in worldwide sales by 13.5 million units sold and the Xbox One at over five million units since they launched in November 2014. However, the Nintendo Wii U is around 6 million units, according to Gamespot, in the two years or so it has been around.

We take a look at some upcoming exclusives for each console. The Wii U may not lead in console sales, but benefits from a variety of exclusives. Some of the best ones to look forward to are ‘Bayonetta 2’ and ‘Mario Party 10’. ‘Bayonetta 2’ is a must buy for Wii U owners and is even more kickass than the original one on the PS3, Wii and Xbox 360. You play a sexy witch who can kick butt. What more do you want!

Coming to the Xbox One, we just saw the release of ‘Forza Horizon 2’ and Microsoft has now moved its focus towards gaming from entertainment in an effort to take on the PS4. ‘Sunset Overdrive’, ‘Halo: Master Chief Collection’ and ‘Quantum Break’ have been talked up a lot on several gaming sites and forums.

The PS4 seems to have better luck with third-party titles because it is better built for gaming than the Xbox One. However, ‘inFamous Second Son’ was one of their biggest exclusive titles this year and the hotly-anticipated titles include ‘Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End’ and ‘Bloodborne’.

Will any of the big three consoles have a killer exclusive? It is an exciting time for gaming and only when these titles are out and the numbers are available, we can see which console won in the battle of exclusives.


Sunday, October 26, 2014

Manchester United vs. Chelsea: When Lions Collide!

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The Red Devils take on Premier League leaders Chelsea at Old Trafford in a bid to break into the top four. The Blues want to retain their dominance on the top of the league. They can take an eight point advantage over Manchester City since the Citizens lost by a goal to West Ham away.

Today’s match is the first of Louis Van Gaal’s Manchester United against an opponent of the caliber of Chelsea who are riding high unbeaten. Can the Red Devils break Jose Mourinho’s Special Ones’ streak? Wayne Rooney sits out another match as part of his suspension. Falcao and Robin Van Persie will lead the line for United with Angel Di Maria acting as playmaker.

Chelsea’s Diego Costa is doubtful to start  due to injury so it is possible the strike duties may be handed to Andre Schurrle. Veteran Didier Drogba is expected to be brought in the second half. Express reports that Loic Remy will also be unavailable due to groin strain. United should not take for granted that Chelsea will be soft up front without the attacking prowess of Costa and Remy. Eden Hazard, Oscar and Willian are all strong attack-minded players.

Juan Mata will be playing instead of Rooney and should hopefully try to stake a regular place in the side with his performances. Van Gaal will have to make every minute and play count as Chelsea will be giving their all. The Special One is known to park the bus and frustrate opposing sides that have a strong attack and United does have a few top marksmen up front. He is a specialist in knowing opponents’ style so the Dutchman will have to play a careful and methodical game and it is better not to keep a high defensive line to avoid counter-attacks which is Chelsea’s strong suit.

When these two lions collide, all hell will break lose. After the El Clasico between Real Madrid  and Barcelona in the La Liga last night, this one will be another exciting fixture on Super Sunday in the Barclays Premier League.

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