Best female video game characters

Videogames used to be the home of the overly muscled, hyper-macho hero. Nowadays, girls have someone to look up to in games as well. Read below for six of our favourite female characters.

Aloy – Horizon Zero Dawn

Although video games have come a long way to achieving true gender equality, Horizon Zero Dawn‘s Aloy is the very definition of fair treatment of a female character. She’s unsexualised, and free to be herself, as part of a tribe that worships a matriarchy. This allows Aloy’s character to develop without the ongoing cliche of her being a female in a man’s world. Aloy’s outfits are practical, she’s straight-talking, intelligent and a more than capable warrior. Even though she lives in a futuristic world with robot dinosaurs, Aloy feels utterly believable. I believe that Aloy’s creation for Horizon Zero Dawn is a landmark moment for gender equality in video games.

Ellie – The Last of US

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Ellie in The Last of Us Part II. (Credit: Naughty Dog)

Ellie in The Last of Us is the quintessential survivor. She’s tough, independent and complex. The Last of Us takes place in a post-apocalyptic America, where the majority of people have succumbed to a zombie-like infection to which Ellie is immune. Ellie was born after the outbreak, which gives her a unique perspective on life. At only 15, she’s perhaps a bit naive to begin. Soon however, she has no other choice than to become a hardened survivor: doing whatever it takes to survive. Ellie was only a playable character for segments of the game, but will be the lead protagonist of The Last of Us: Part II, which is still in development.

Lara Croft – Tomb Raider

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Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider reboot. (Credit: Square Enix)

Lara Croft is perhaps the most famous female video game character of all time. The treasure hunting heroine has  featured in several games spanning from her first appearance in 1996, and has had two movie adaptations, where she has been played by Angelina Jolie and Alicia Vikander. Her appearance is well known, with her sporting a ponytail, tank top and dual pistols. Her original appearance has since faced criticism for being sexualised, but in 2013, Square Enix Studios rebooted the franchise with a more grounded and realistic Lara Croft that has achieved much critical acclaim.

Chloe Frazer – Uncharted

Another treasure hunter, but the similarities to Lara Croft end at their shared profession. Chloe Frazer is a unique character in that she works from her own moral compass and always puts her own interests first, but is still ultimately good. She plays off the personality of the Uncharted series’ protagonist, Nathan Drake, in that she is almost his darker counterpart. The player is never sure of her intentions or loyalties, but in Uncharted: The Lost Legacy, we see her more heroic side come through. She is incredibly enjoyable to watch interact with the series’ characters, as well as in her own spin-off title, Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. 

Senua – Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

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Senua in Senua’s Sacrifice. (Credit: Ninja Theory)

Senua, the protagonist of the dark fantasy story, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice suffers from psychosis. The developers made a special point to include the characters mental illness in order to raise awareness of the condition. Hellblade follows the journey of Pict warrior, Senua, on a dangerous journey to claim her dead lover’s soul back from the goddess Hela.  It is strongly implied that the story is taking place inside Senua’s head, and the developers worked with neuroscientists and people suffering from psychosis to achieve an accurate representation of the condition. Senua is strong not just because she battles physical enemies, but also the demons in her own head.

Ciri – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Cirilla Fiona Elen Riannon, or Ciri, is one of the main characters in a series rife with powerful women. Ciri is the adopted daughter of the game’s protagonist, Geralt of Rivia, who has been missing for several years, but has now returned with the evil Wild Hunt in pursuit, who plan on using her for her magic blood. Once Geralt has collected all of the clues to where Ciri has been, the player gets to reenact past events as they happened by playing as Ciri. A trained monster hunter herself, Ciri is an expert with a sword as well as possessing magic abilities. Even though she has had a tragic upbringing, Ciri remains strong and strives for the greater good.

Freya – God of War

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Freya in God of War. (Credit: SIE Santa Monica Studio)

Freya in God of War is an especially interesting character. She is the God of War universe’s version of the Norse Goddess Freya, the wife of Odin. In God of War, she is now divorced from Odin and is living in the woods of Midgard, looking after the living beings of her woods. She comes to the aid of the protagonist, Kratos, several times over the course of the story. Freya’s son, Baldur (brother of Thor), acts as an antagonist to Kratos, and wants to kill Freya in revenge for her making him invulnerable – as it came at the cost of him being unable to feel anything. (Spoilers) Kratos kills Baldur to save Freya, but Freya hates Kratos for killing her son, giving an unforgettable warning:

“I will rain down every agony, every violation imaginable, upon you… I will parade your cold body from every realm, and feed your soul to the vilest filth in Hel, that is my promise!”

It appears Freya will be an antagonist in the next God of War game, and if she lives up to a portion of what she promised, she will make an excellent villain.

From the big screen and the small screen, to your computer screen: Hollywood actors in video games

The Academy Award for best actor went to Rami Malek for his portrayal of Freddie Mercury in Bohemian Rhapsody. You may also know him from the Amazon Prime original series Mr. Robot, or from the Night at the Museum films alongside Ben Stiller.

Gamers, however, will know him from his work on the 2015 horror video game Until Dawn.

Malek performed motion capture and voice acting to portray Josh, who invites his friends to spend the weekend at a ski lodge on the anniversary of his sisters’ disappearance, kick-starting a unique and interactive horror story.  He worked alongside fellow actor Hayden Panettiere who has starred in TV programmes Heroes and Nashville. 

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Rami Malek as Josh in Until Dawn. (Credit: Supermassive Games)

As video games become increasingly mainstream, more actors are taking on the challenge of acting in video games. Video game acting has evolved beyond voice acting, but is now a full performance. Here’s some of the most prolific actors who have acted in video games.

Sean Bean & Patrick Stewart

Sean Bean and Patrick Stewart both acted in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. This fantasy role playing game was the perfect setting for veteran English actors Bean and Stewart. Sean Bean played the illegitimate son of the emperor Uriel Septim (played by Stewart, who dies early on in the game), on a quest to claim the throne and defeat an evil cult. Having these actors involved is a testament to the calibre of acting skills that video games can attract.

Kiefer Sutherland

Kiefer Sutherland took on the established role of Solid Snake in the 5th instalment of the long-running Metal Gear Solid series. Sutherland has been in many films and television programmes, with arguably his most famous role portraying Jack Bauer in 24. His performance has special forces operative Snake was memorable. Even though almost every gamer has heard of Metal Gear Solid, Sutherland’s inclusion in the game widened the fan-base to people who had perhaps never heard of the franchise before.

Gary Oldman, Kit Harrington & Conor McGregor

The Call of Duty series has featured many famous actors over the course of the franchise. A fan favourite, Russian soldier Viktor Reznov, was played by Academy Award winner Gary Oldman (with the inclusion of Malek, that makes two Academy Award winners having appeared in video games). Oldman was excellent in his portrayal of the grizzled Russian sergeant in Call of Duty: World at War. Call of Duty’s characters can be quite two dimensional, but Oldman’s performance solidified the character in our memory. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare also features Game of Thrones’ Kit Harrington and professional MMA fighter Conor McGregor as villains.

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Kit Harrington in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (Credit: Activision)

Mark Hamill

Most children of the nineties and earlier will remember Mark Hamill‘s portrayal of The Joker alongside Kevin Conroy’s Batman in Batman: The Animated Series. This portrayal of The Joker has stuck in many fans’ minds and is now the iconic voice of The Joker. He reprised that role in Batman: Arkham Asylum and its sequels to critical acclaim. The work of Hamill and Conroy elevated these games from superhero beat-em-ups to fan-favourite Batman stories.

Liam Neeson

Liam Neeson appeared in Fallout 3 as your (the protagonist’s) father. He said that he was attracted to the role for the quality of the script and the considerable amount of dialogue. The studio that makes the Fallout games also created the Elder Scrolls series that has starred Patrick Stewart and Sean Bean. James’ (Neeson’s character) personality and stance was intended to resemble Neeson from the beginning, and the character model even bares slight resemblance.

Charles Dance 

Charles Dance always plays a good villain, and his appearance in CD Projekt Red’s The Witcher III was no exception. Dance played Emperor Emhyr Var Emreis, the most powerful man in The Witcher’s universe. The character was not dissimilar from Dance’s role as Tywin Lannister in HBO’s Game of Thrones. Emhyr is cold, authoritative, multi-layered and a fascinating figure in the Witcher universe – but it’s Dance’s voice talents which brought to life such an excellent character.

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Mark Hamill in Squadron 42. (Credit: Cloud Imperium Games)

The entire cast of Squadron 42

The upcoming game Squadron 42, however, beats all the previous titles at having an all-star cast. Actors include Gillian Anderson, Andy Serkis, Mark Strong, Mark Hamill and Liam Cunningham. Not a lot of information has been released about this game yet, other than it’s a science-fiction action game centred around space travel. However, the chance to see these actors working together is a very exciting prospect.

Today’s international news: March 1st

Rory Hill brings us today’s international stories.

Kendrick Lamar, Drake and Lady Gaga lead 2019 Grammy nominations

 

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Kendrick Lamar received eight nominations. (Credit: Batiste Safont)

Some of the biggest names in music will be gathering in Los Angeles on Sunday, February 10th for the 61st Grammy Awards.

The annual ceremony will see the last year’s chart toppers come together over 80 different categories including record of the year, album of the year, best new artist and best rock album.

Hip-hop artist Kendrick Lamar has had a big year and leads the pack with eight nominations, including the coveted album of the year award.

He is closely followed by Drake who had a successful year with his album, Scorpions, and received seven nominations.

Lady Gaga is also expected to win big for the song Shallow from last year’s movie hit A Star is Born.

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This year’s show will be hosted by singer Alicia Keys and will feature performances from previous Grammy winners Lady Gaga and Mark Ronson, as well as nominees Travis Scott, Due Lipa and Shawn Mendes.

Former Lifetime Achievement award winner Diana Ross will also be taking to the stage to perform some of her greatest hits.

The lineup has been announced following news that nominees Drake, Kendrick Lamar and Childish Gambino all turned down the invitation to perform at the awards.

The awards will take place at the Staples Centre in Los Angeles on Sunday, February 10th. The show will not be televised in the UK but British music enthusiasts will be able to watch the ceremony on Monday, February 11th at 1am on CBS.

Vlodcast: Problematic musicians

Watch Daisy Smith, Paul Sinclair and Rachel Lee discuss the issue below.

Read the article ‘Behind the music: problematic musicians’ here.

Edinburgh Napier alumni cast in new Netflix series

Blair Kincaid, who studied acting for stage and screen at Edinburgh Napier University, has been cast in new Netflix fantasy series The Witcher alongside Hollywood superstar Henry Cavill. 

Blair’s page on Spotlight.com states that the actor is “currently filming in the new Netflix epic The WITCHER,” and lists Napier/Queen Margaret, BA(Hons) Acting for Stage and Screen from the years 2013-2015 as his education.

The Witcher, based on the books by polish author Andrzej Sapkowski, follows professional monster hunter Geralt of Rivia (Henry Cavill) on a quest to spare his adopted daughter Ciri (Freya Allan) from a cruel fate.

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Henry Cavill as Geralt of Rivia in new Netflix series The Witcher. (Credit: Netflix)

Blair will be playing Crach an Craite, a battle-hardened commander of the military forces of the Skellige Isles, who comes to the heroes aid several times over the course of the story. The Skellige Isles are home to seafaring warriors which appear to be inspired by a mixture of Celtic and Viking culture, who don tartan and belong to clans. They most resemble a group of real historical people known as the Norse-Gaels who were a hybrid culture of the Gaels and Norsemen. We can expect that Blair will keep his Scottish accent to play Crach.

Crach an Craite has been represented before in The Witcher III: Wild Hunt, a video game series also based on the books by Sapkowski, though the games act as a sequel to the books while Netflix’s series will be a direct adaptation of the novels.

Ian Dunn, lecturer in the Acting Department at Edinburgh Napier University, says that it’s not a surprise that Blair Kincaid will act in the Netflix series.

“He was a talented student and since he moved to London he’s been up for different jobs. It feels great that he got his chance and joined other successful acting students,” Ian Dunn says.

The Witcher is set to be released on Netflix in 2019, but we can assume it’ll be towards the end of the year as filming is still taking place in Budapest and the Canary Isles.

If Blair fairs well in this coming series, we can hope to see him join the ranks of famous Scottish actors such as Ewen McGregor, James McAvoy and Gerard Butler!

 

Rare pieces displayed at Mary Queen of Scot’s exhibition

 

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The exhibition has a copy of the 2019 movie script. (Credit: Daisy Smith)

Rare treasures are being displayed for two days only at a Mary Queen of Scot’s exhibition in Edinburgh.

The exhibition showcases pieces from throughout the ages from childhood letters, to copies of movie scripts, including that of the 2019 release starring Saoirse Ronan.

The film has catapulted Mary Queen of Scot’s back into popularity since its release into cinemas.

Visitors will be able to cast their eyes on Mary’s Great Seal, a childhood book and engravings of her execution.

The display will run today and tomorrow at the National Library marking the anniversary of her execution on February 8, 1587.

Dr Annette Hagen, curator at the National Museum, said of the exhibition:

“One of the highlights is the sequence of engravings we have of her execution because today is the actual anniversary of the execution.

“The big thing about today is that we are showing them in one place and people can come and get some interpretation from them. The rarest pieces are obviously the unique items and that is the letters.

“We have a letter she wrote at the age of 11 to her mother Mary of Guise and we are showing the very last letter she wrote six hours before her beheading her brother in northern France.”

An array of historic sites from across the country with links to Mary Queen of Scots will be showcased in a tourism campaign following the popularity of the 2019 film.

An interactive map has been created featuring 19 different locations which were either visited by Mary, or by the moviemakers. This includes her birthplace of Linlithgow and Holyrood House, where she lived in the 1560s.

The exhibition is free to the public and is open today and Saturday, February 9th at the National Museum of Scotland from 10 am until 4 pm.

Bicycle Matters do Matter

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Lorna Ramm, CineShrub Coordinator. (Credit: Linnéa Lind)


It’s Thursday evening and a small group of people have gathered on Guthrie Street for a film screening, but they don’t know exactly what they will see. The theme is bicycles. 

As bags of popcorn are handed out and blankets are offered, one of the viewers asks if it is okay if she takes her shoes off.

“Of course! This is meant to be like friends coming to a screening,” Lorna Ramm says, CineShrub Coordinator.

The Shrub is a charitable organisation that works towards a world without waste. The film screening tonight is part of the Bicycle Matters programme, which runs until the beginning of May.

“We do repair workshops and screenings. It is all about maintaining bikes and making sure we don’t throw them away. We focus on bicycles for environmental reasons, as there are lots of times when people might take the bus or the car instead,” Lorna says.

She says that the best thing about cycling is speed and freedom:
“Cycling gives me the feeling of being unstoppable and being in my own space, to move forward and be in my zone rather than thinking about what’s going on around me.”

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“Cycling gives me the feeling of being unstoppable and being in my own space,” Lorna Ramm says. (Credit: Linnéa Lind)


The surprise film tonight turns out to be The Flying Scotsman from 2008. The beautiful cinematic piece is based on the true story about cyclist Graeme Obree, who becomes the world champion twice whilst battling mental health issues. He’s also famous for his innovative bicycle designs as he used parts of a washing machine to build a bicycle.

Two of the visitors tonight are India Lumai Fiorentino and Max Johnson, who both cycle in their free time.

“I really loved the film, it was inspirational. True stories are always the best; they give you true motivation, as it is a real story and not made up. There were a lot of messages in the film, like never giving up on your dreams,’’ India says.

When India was young, she often cycled but then stopped because she did not have the opportunity to continue. Two years ago, she took up cycling again when she moved to Amsterdam and bought a new bike.

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India Lumai Fiorentino and Max Johnson came to watch the film on Thursday evening. They both cycle in their free time. (Credit: Linnéa Lind)


“I pushed myself so I could cycle with no hands. I fell a few times and had a few accidents too, but that didn’t discourage me. I can literally search through my bag and look for things and put it back on. In fact, I feel really safe on a bike. Sometimes, I feel unsafe if I go out and it is dark but when I’m on a bike, I am never scared. And you can go fast,” she says.

Max agrees and says that he has cycled ever since he was a child.

“It gives me the ability to engage with the city in a completely different way. It makes Edinburgh even smaller, but in a nice way.”

“I don’t have any plans for building a bicycle with parts of a washing machine, but it might be great,” he says, laughing.

 

The Bicycle Matters programme is part of the Zero Waste Edinburgh project, which aim is to establish long-lasting strategies to reduce waste in the south side of Edinburgh’s Old Town. It is supported by a grant of £300,000 in funding by Zero Waste Scotland and the European Regional Development Fund until March 2020.

For further information about The Shrub, see their webpage here.

Another Country exhibition: a topical subject meets remarkable artwork

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The installation by Toby Peterson at Another Country. (Credit: Rachel Lee)

 

“You come in and it’s quite confrontational. It blocks off a large part of the gallery and on a very literal physical level acts as a barrier,” says artist and curator Euan Gray. “But it’s permeable, he left spaces – as if no borders or barrier is impossible to get through.”

Euan is describing the luminescent orange, capacious fence that is powerfully situated as the exhibition’s centrepiece. The towering instalment is startling yet not distressing. The artist behind it, Toby Paterson, has purposely used ‘safety’ orange. This particular shade of orange stimulates images of life jackets and rescue boats – much like those an immigrant may encounter on their journey.

Contemporary immigration to Scotland, integration and identity are the topics that this exhibition, Another Country, explores through the work of 11 artists. Euan has collaboratively curated the exhibition alongside Alberta Whittle, which is currently displayed at Edinburgh’s City Art Centre.

Each piece in the exhibition is thought-provoking and visually arresting without having to resort to shockingly pervasive imagery. The artists – all of who are either living in Scotland or were born here – address a period of cultural movement or geographical and political unrest through various mediums.

“We’re trying to look at migration from as many different angles as possible,” says Euan. And this is undoubtedly apparent.

Julie Roberts offers a historical reflection of migration with her stained glass like oil painting series on the migration of 10,000 Jewish children in 1938, known as the Kindertransport. Euan refers to it as a ‘positive forced migration’ as the operation rescued the children from the clutches of the Nazis and allowed them to start a new life. Julie perfectly captures the sense of tentative excitement and a new beginning.

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Julie Robert’s oil paintings. (Credit: Rachel Lee)

More up to date, The Brexit Beast is a reaction piece by Andrew Gilbert especially made for this exhibition. The Scottish artist’s grotesquely caricatured Loch Ness monster-like creature sits on the banks overlooking a sea of boats overturned and flailing people drowning. At the enormous monster’s claws, there is a swarm of soldiers, a burning Grenfell Tower and traffic lights. A spiked, menacing medieval morning star weapon and a defiant, waving Union Jack makes up the Brexit beast’s two-pronged tail. Observing the sketch provokes a wry smile before a sense of foreboding reality sets in.

“I’m not wanting to change anybody’s views,” says Euan. “If they just think about migration, then we’ve achieved something. I think it’s important that people just consider both sides of the argument.”

“I just think it’s a very, very important topic that’s only going to get more significant and more heated in the future because of all the tensions that are in the world at the moment.”

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Inside the Another Country exhibition. (Credit: Rachel Lee)

The exhibition took three years of planning after the idea was sparked from Euan visiting Canada and the USA. While there, realised that over 25 million people claim Scottish heritage yet the Scots cultural identity remains prominent. Another Country has previously toured a university in Minnesota and galleries in England.

During these years Euan worked on his own magnum opus for the exhibition. His standout piece is the most interactive of the exhibition, which boasts an extensive variety of art forms including sculpture, photography and film.

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Artist Euan Gray beside his work. (Photo Credit: Rachel Lee)

Although his roots are in painting, he challenged himself to design a functioning pinball machine called ‘The Immigration Game’. The picture etched on the retro machine’s backboard is of a life-jacketed immigrant clutching a young boy in his arms, reminiscent of the images commonly splashed across the front pages of newspapers. The nod to the media is deliberate.

“The game is made to be played for three minutes, which is the average time people spend reading the news.” Euan explained, “I saw the parallel between the entertainment side of playing the game and the media’s involvement with migration from the side of trying to get ratings.”

Inspired by the UKIP poster used in the run-up to Brexit, the motherboard of the machine is a sea filled with the boats full of immigrants.

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The pinball machine’s promotional poster, a painting by Euan. (Credit: Rachel Lee)

“So it was called the Immigration Game as it’s obviously a very ironic title because it’s not a game for the people trying to cross Europe in boats. We’ll play this game, we walk off and forget about it.”

A visitor is unlikely to forget this exhibition, however. Euan says the aim of the exhibition was to open a political dialogue with the audience by being playfully interactive and inclusive, which it certainly has achieved.

You can visit the free exhibition at the City Art Centre before it comes to a close on Sunday the March 17th, a mere 11 days before the UK is scheduled to leave the European Union.

There is a workshop Saturday the February 9th, titled The Legacy of Colonialism that is led by the Another Country team. The workshop will run 10 am – 4 pm at the gallery.

Find out more about the gallery, exhibition and workshop here.

Queer Artists’ Exhibition

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The Queer Arts Collective Exhibition launched this Tuesday. Queer artists have contributed through several different mediums to celebrate the Queerness of art and lives.

In light of LGBT History month, the newly founded Queer Arts Collective and the LGBT+ Liberation Officer at the student association of the University of Edinburgh have come together for this month-long celebration of queer culture.

Natasha Ion, the LGBT+ Liberation Officer, and Fiona Grey, Co-founder of the Queer Arts Collective, put together an opening night party for their exhibition, that aims not only to promote queer art but also to establish a queer arts collective, as they are looking for further engagement in Queer arts exhibitions and performances.

“This exhibition is really to establish ourselves as a collective, so it’s about promoting queer art and artists,” Natasha says.

“We feel like the event fit well into LGBT History Month. What I think is really nice about this is that it’s a really positive exhibition, and really all about celebrating queer life and queer arts, focusing on that side of the LGBT+ community.”

Almost 20 artists contributed pieces to the exhibition and all the artists that contributed were or were assumed to be queer.

“We didn’t make it explicit saying that you absolutely had to be queer to exhibit to us, but it’s done with the assumption that queer artists submit pieces.”

Fiona Grey explains how the exhibition was without any overhead budget, and that it was a group effort of people coming together more than anything.

“It’s more like a thing where I brought some nails and some blue-tack, and I already had a hammer, and the ECA provided us with a white wall to hang things up on,” Fiona explains.

All the white wall pieces will be up for viewing in ECA until February 15th.

On opening night, the show included spoken word, music, performance art and animation. The organisers are ‘chuffed’ with the results and number of contributions to the exhibition.

“We’ve had a whole bunch of artists contribute and we’re really happy to have the event tonight because we only have a certain amount of wall space,” Natasha continues.

“Having the event means we can also include music, spoken word, performance art and animation, whereas all the other contributions have to be flat.”

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