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Is Portal 2 putting your brain to the test?

According to a recent study produced by Florida State University’s psychology department, Valve’s popular puzzle-platform game Portal 2 is actually better for training your brain than brain training game Lumosity.
The three behind the study: Valerie J. Shute, Matthew Ventura and Fengfeng Ke, initially decided to test Portal 2 against Lumosity after discovering that one of the team members really enjoyed the game, and thought it helped improve her cognition skills.
Games like Lumosity or Brain Age are often sold as brain-training software, trying to cash in on what neuroscientists have discovered in recent years – that human brains have plasticity (think of it like a muscle), meaning our brains are very much able to grow and change like say your biceps or your pecks. Brain-training software has the user solve a series of puzzles designed to ‘stretch’ their thinking skills, similarly, in Portal 2 – gamers have to solve puzzles to get to other portals, achieving an outcome better than those who use Lumosity in terms of cognitive ability.
To pit the two games against one another, the team gathered up 77 volunteers and had them complete tests that measured problem solving, mental-persistence and spatial skill. To determine if playing had affected these skills, they were split into two groups, one group playing one game, the other the other game—both asked to play for eight hours. The researchers found Portal 2 players with a fairly significant “statistical advantage” over those who’d played Lumosity—they note that the reverse was never true with any of the volunteers.
Researcher Valerie J. Shute hilariously sums up the study’s results in a Popular Science report: “Portal 2 kicks Lumosity’s ass.”
While this is certainly the case here, the bigger picture is the positive impact video games have on players, specifically on their cognitive and non-cognitive skills. It might have not have an enormous amount of validity because of the small range of volunteers but what it does help do is remove the modern day, widely idea that every video game promotes violent or aggressive behavior.
Should Portal 2 be given credit for enhancing players brains?
Check the study out here


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Arctic Monkeys Live Review – Sheffield Arena

Anticipation has a habit to set you up”. Those are the first words from the Arctic Monkeys’ 2006 debut ‘Whatever People Say I am, That’s What I’m Not.’ Only after the build up to this concert do those lyrics seem so significant. When Arctic Monkeys set out on the UK leg of their ‘AM’ tour they seemed unstoppable and of all the possible things to prove they weren’t, it was laryngitis that did it. It was only a few weeks after the cancellation of three shows (Birmingham, Glasgow and Sheffield) that Arctic Monkeys were back on the road; and on Monday 18th November they returned home to Sheffield for their eagerly anticipated homecoming concert.

The lights go down and the walk on music plays, greeted by rapturous cheers from the crowd. The band walk out and Alex Turner strolls up to the microphone as nonchalant as ever. He eases out the opening line as Jamie Cook’s guitar riff fills the Motorpoint Arena. “Have you got colour in your cheeks?” Turner wonders as the phones of crowd members illuminate the arena. This along with most of latest album ‘AM’ gets an outing with only ‘Knee Socks’, ‘Mad Sounds’ and ‘I Want It All’ failing to be played. All of these new songs are greeted with euphoria most notably ‘Why’d you only call me when you’re high?’ and latest single ‘One For The Road;’the latter doing well to show off the falsetto tones of Matt Helders and bassist Nick O’Malley. The album’s closing track ‘I Wanna Be Yours’ that brought an end to the main portion of the set with confetti raining down on the audience as Turner crooned the final lyrics taken from the John Cooper Clarke poem of the same name. The band returned to the stage a few minutes later with ‘Snap Out Of It’ and an incredible semi-acoustic version of ‘Mardy Bum’. Turner built up the tension preceding final track ‘R U Mine?’ by telling the crowd “I’m yours, but the question is…”. It’s here that the postponement of the original date is mentioned for the first time, with Turner simply saying “sorry about the other week by the way”. He then teases the crowd once more. “The question is…” he says again, and shouts “Are you mine baby? Goodnight!” before launching into the song and sending the crowd into absolute mayhem.

There were quite a few surprising omissions from the set list, including fan favourites such as ‘Fake Tales Of San Francisco’ and ‘A Certain Romance’. We did hear ‘Crying Lightning’, ‘Cornerstone’ and ‘Pretty Visitors’ from 2009’s ‘Humbug’ which upon its released began to signal the demise of Turner’s strong Yorkshire accent. Now his voice for all of the songs has taken a stateside twang, making ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’ feel like a different song entirely. Alongside the new accent we see that Alex Turner has really started to evolve as a frontman, now oozing confidence and rocking sparkly gold suits (disappointingly not making an appearance at Sheffield). This new persona is shown off during the build-up to ‘I Bet You Look Good On The Dancefloor’, with Turner introducing the early single with his now signature “This one’s for the girls. LADIEEEEEEES”.

The omissions didn’t do a lot to dent the quality of the set. The band still came out with hit after hit, proving why they are one of the biggest bands in Britain – if not the world right now. In a 2013 involving headlining Glastonbury for the second time, playing a tour that took only a few hours to sell out entirely, releasing a number one album and receiving a Mercury Prize nomination to boot. It is clear that 2013 is the Arctic Monkeys’ year - do they deserve it? Yes. That night in Sheffield proved it. Anticipation may have a habit to set you up, but as we found out it isn’t always for disappointment.

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Are horror films on the decline?

Two years ago were your dreams haunted by an old woman? As foolish as it may be, 2011’s Insidious certainly left a stain upon my mind, resulting in the old woman disturbing my midnight wanders around the house to this very day but can this response be admitted to the second instalment, Insidious: Chapter 2?

Whether it’s a soul that’s haunted or a house, Insidious: Chapter 2 has undoubtedly caught the attention of critics and the public alike, grossing $78,643,586 within the first month. But despite the £5 million poured into the creation of the film, is it just another wander around another haunted house and a haunted soul? The film carries the unnerving atmosphere from the first with scares that should make you flinch and not make you feel so bold about it but the repetitive comedic structure constantly defuses the tension until it’s almost invisible and not as scary as you’d expect. However, as many of you may have noticed the horror genre these days is not quite what it used to be and we’re hardly spoiled for choice. Who can forget the famous head spin from the Exorcist, the childlike rhyme of Freddy Kruger and Janet Leigh’s bloodcurdling scream? It seems like we can never forget these classic scenes as quite often people return to these films in an attempt to remember what horror actually is.

In this highly technical, modern day people are just too hard to scare. Outer space, psychos and religion may still be daunting but with so many ideas already explored it’s hardly surprising how judgmental many of us are towards new ideas – have we seen it before? Have we seen elements of Insidious: Chapter 2 before? Did you find the film slightly predictable? If you haven’t noticed by now, maybe you should go back and see how Insidious: Chapter 2 has a lot of elements from The Shining within it. At times Patrick Wilson (Josh) echoes Jack Nicholson’s insane performance complete with the stare and sarcastic tone . It even has an almost near- echo of a door scene that’s used near the climax within The Shining. Other elements echoed within the film would be the use of windows and the red door. The constant colour of red! It’s everywhere, from the first demon, to the only colour on Parker Cranes mother’s face. You really can’t escape it.

However, despite the repetitive jokes Insidious: Chapter 2 does manage to provide a satisfying “scare” and it does manage to tie up some loose ends. So maybe it’s time to accept the changing genre? Or maybe the horror genre is currently crawling through a dry patch and (hopefully) some unseen material will emerge soon. It’s just about waiting.. In the meantime there are rumours of a third instalment to the Insidious franchise and although we’ve all seen the ugly dolls, creaky doors, rocking horses, fusey lights and interminable interludes of quiet, quiet, bang “scares” before- what else is there possibly left to say?


by Keiran Bull


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Bastille at Stylus, Leeds University

Bastille have shot to success recently with their debut album, Bad Blood, going to number one in its first week of release and their surprising chart battle against none other than Justin Timberlake with single, Pompeii.

With several singles and EPs already floating around the music world, the South London four-piece released the first of two mixtapes entitled Other People’s Heartache in early 2012 with the second mixtape, (aptly called Other People’s Heartache, Pt. 2) released later on in the year. Both mixtapes feature film clips, covers and samples of tracks both new and old; from TLC’s No Scrubs and Corona’s Rhythm of the Night to Calvin Harris’ and Florence Welch’s Sweet Nothing and Frank Ocean’s Thinkin’ ‘Bout You.

February saw the start of a, very almost sold out, tour for Bastille and on Sunday 10th March and, still reeling from the success of their now number one album, the band played at Stylus in Leeds University.

Featuring four support acts across the ‘Bad Blood Tour’, the crowd on Sunday was warmed up by The Ramona Flowers and New York based band, MS MR who drew the audience in with catchy but haunting songs such as, Bones and their new single, Fantasy.

Bastille frontman, Dan Smith began the show with previous single and album title track, Bad Blood before playing a

mixture of new tracks from the album such as, The Silence and incredibly catchy, The Weight of Living Pt. II along with older favourites, Laura Palmer and pleasantly unexpected B-sides, Poet and Sleepsong.

When discussing the band’s mixtapes, Smith unabashedly confessed that they were, “sued a little bit” which is why the mixtapes are now unavailable to download online, before encouraging the crowd to, “download it from Pirate Bay” and then launching into their rendition of R&B trio, City High’s What Would You Do? Popular favourite of the Other People’s Heartache mixtape, the cover saw crowd members sing along to every word, showing their dedication to the band and demonstrating the wide and impressive range of music that Bastille can cover.

The band ended the set with their first single, Flaws seeing Smith come into the crowd and singing along with his fans before thanking everyone for coming and continuing to admit how strange it felt to be playing at the university that he had attended.

Bastille’s songs are all equally epic and captivating with loud, punchy choruses and honest, heartfelt lyrics that put the generic ‘chart-toppers’ to shame.  Finally receiving the recognition that they deserve, the band are already lined up to play many festivals across the summer and will, without doubt, continue to impress.  Their debut album, Bad Blood and Bad Blood (The Extended Cut) are available now.


By Meaghan Spencer

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Review of Twelfth Night

“If music be the food of love, play on”. Twelfth Night has to be one of Shakespeare’s best loved comedies. The Apollo theatre in London is currently host to a production originally created for the 400th anniversary of the first recorded performance in the Middle Temple Hall in 1602. The production transferred to the West End after a sell out run at the Globe Theatre. The performance features an all-male cast starring Mark Rylance as Olivia and Stephen Fry as Malvolio.

I was lucky enough to witness the performance for myself last week. As I entered Apollo theatre, I was amazed by the intimate yet grand and authentic stage environment. The theatre was filled with the sound of traditional Elizabethan instruments, accompanied by the singing of Feste. There was a buzz amongst the whole audience as we watched in anticipation, as Rylance practiced his ‘Dalek-like’ walk across the stage, whilst other cast members were having their make-up applied and being helped into their costumes.

Rylance and Fry are the big draw for many people, however, as I watched the performance I realised the characters of Maria and Sir Toby Belch really brought out the slapstick, tongue in cheek comedy of the play. Rylance’s performance was a thrill to watch. His performance as Olivia was hysterical, playing a very believable role along with the delivery of lines that brought the written words to life.

Director, Tim Carroll strived for authenticity for the production, which he most definitely achieved throughout the whole performance. At either sides of the stage some of the audience sat in wooden galleries – typical of Elizabethan times. To accompany the authentic stage environment, the clothing had been hand-stitched and the shapes as close to those drafted by 16th century tailors using only buttons, pins, laces and strings.

Reading Shakespeare from a book can sometimes seem slightly tedious, but seeing a performance like this with such superbly, talented actors makes you realise what a brilliant playwright Shakespeare was. The standing ovation was fully deserved!

To top off a wonderful evening, David Tennant happened to be sitting two rows behind us!! This will be one night I won’t be forgetting in a hurry.

By Katie Muir

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Fiona Apple – Tidal

Cover of "Tidal"

Cover of Tidal

Tidal is the first album of Fiona Apple, a talented singer-songwriter who, following her debut, has released albums of critical and commercial acclaim.

This album whilst not her best remains one of my favourites for various reasons. To name a few: the intricacy of the lyrical content, the melodies – sonorous and sullen and genuinely heartfelt… (Admittedly, this isn’t so much a review as it is an ode to her brilliance.) In my opinion, Tidal, released in 1996, remains a true classic.

Her voice and the piano are the main components of this album, though her song-writing ability certainly stands out too. The opening song, ‘Sleep To Dream’ is filled with sharp bursts with anger as she exclaims, ‘I tell you how I feel, but you don’t care/I say tell me the truth, but you don’t dare/You say love is a hell you cannot bear/And I say gimme mine back and then go there, for all I care’.

‘Slow like honey’ is a little smoother – a little sultrier; in this, she sings with a perfect contralto, giving it a much jazzier feel. ‘Sullen Girl’ is, for lack of a better word, a surprise; while there’s experience, honesty and originality in all of her songs, this is definitely one of the rawest, and the saddest. It’s marked by its hauntingly beautiful piano, which eventually swells up to a near orchestral chorus before shrinking back down again to her voice only.

If you move onto her later albums, you’ll hear that while the both honesty and imagery remain, the sounds change. When The Pawn… is a little more mature, and is favoured by those who weren’t too impressed by her debut. Some fans have found her most recent album, The Idle Wheel…, a little more demanding. However, hailed as a ‘postmodern Billie Holliday’, I would say that she is always worth listening to.

Fiona Apple with comedian Zach Galifianakis in...

Fiona Apple with comedian Zach Galifianakis in the “Not About Love” music video. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ijeoma Okoye 


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Mighty Mumford Impress Again

As Mumford and Sons prepare to make their much anticipated comeback, it seems like centuries since their debut album ‘Sigh no More’. This international tour of arenas is a far cry from anything done before by the folk-pop 4-piece phenomenon, and having previously seen them perform at a much smaller and more intimate venue, I was slightly nervous as to whether my high expectations would be met. This was an arena to hold almost 50,000 –Mumford and Sons were really going to have to perform to impress. Not to mention that the average arena tour is dull with no real atmosphere. However, the mighty Mumford and Sons not only met expectations, but exceeded them. Without seeing the performance, you would be sure to presume this performance was to an audience of less than 100. Mumford and Sons managed to command respect – and silence – like no other band I’ve seen. They played a perfect mix of old and new songs, ensuring all the favourites were included, as well as lesser known songs – I’m sure they would have pulled off the show with all their least known songs, but this certainly did ensure that the audience had a brilliant time. Despite a presumably huge budget for the tour, the band decided on minimal decorations, using only strings of fairy lights to deck the arena out. And, when the band came back on for an encore, they managed to get complete silence from the otherwise energetic set list to play two acapella numbers. Unimaginable, but it worked. Topping the whole thing off with a rendition of ‘With a little help from my friends’, Mumford managed to create an atmosphere a million miles away from that of a typically mundane arena tour. This is one I’ll be reliving with nostalgia for many a year to come.

By Sophie Whitehead

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The Twilight Saga: Is it really over?

Unless you live under a rock, or avoid Facebook and teenage girls all together you may be blissfully un-aware of the Twilight phenomenon, it began with four books that spawned five films and a legion of loyal fans known only as twi-hards. These fans ranging from the forgivable thirteen year old girls to the slightly worrying middle-aged women have allowed the books and the critically ridiculed films to earn millions because they do not seem to care about the bad acting and story development as long as Edward says something vaguely romantic every couple of pages. Most people, including me, are glad to see the back of it and with its conclusion what will happen to the Twilight infected youths left in the wilderness after the mania fades away?

If you haven’t read the books here is a summary, the story focus’ on Bella Swan, a dull and infuriating protagonist stuck in-between a glittery vegetarian vampire know as Edward Cullen and Jacob Black, a shirtless and irritating werewolf. Throughout the novels Bella fights many foes, mainly the Volturi, a coven of entertaining and well-dressed vampires led by the evil Aro, who is fabulous and a light reprieve from the other vampires in the story who kill very few people and try to live ‘normal’ lives. Girls worldwide, specifically in America, became so obsessed with Bella’s on-going struggle between two attractive men that a film was placed into production and the first instalment ‘Twilight’ was released in 2008. The cast of the films is led by the forgettable Kristen Stuart as Bella Swan, whose biggest achievement is an affair with her Snow White and the Huntsman director and an acting style that features only one facial expression. She is backed up by Robert Pattinson as Edward Cullen, know for portraying the doomed Cedric Diggory in the fourth Harry Potter film. And although his acting style suggests that both he and Stuart have the same teacher he is the only member of the cast who is willing to express his dislike for Twilight and its fans as often as he can. The trio is completed with Taylor Launtner as Jacob Black, he isn’t really famous for anything else and he takes his shirt off in the films more times than he actually speaks.

Finally this November saw the end of these films, its loyal fans flocked and camped to catch a glimpse of their heroes at the premier before they saw the saga conclude, many were clutching books for the stars to sign or just refusing to lessen their grasp on Robert Pattinson so he could get it all over with. I have had the misfortune of seeing every film and as the credits rolled in my local cinema many twi-hards were left looking lost, at least when the books concluded they had the films to quench their thirst and the looks on their faces reminded me of how I felt when Harry Potter finished, although the magic has never truly ended. For a brief moment I sympathized with them but then I remembered the quality of literature and film they had chosen to become obsessed with and those feelings faded.

As a person who loved Harry Potter until the very end I can see the dilemma, where do you turn next? Do you give up your obsessions altogether and just enjoy films and books in a more human way or move on to another fanbase?  I personally have been entertaining myself with the series’ The Hunger Games and The Mortal Instruments, all with films coming out and their own dedicated fanbases which this time, I am not a part of. I just wonder if these fans will grow up and accept the end, or clinch at the terrible films their favourite stars will eventually choose to do in the future; as well as re-reading the books and watching the films again all in the hope to regain the magic they once felt.  Or the teens could just wait until they are older and read 50 Shades of Grey, as that is based on the Twilight story and is equally badly written with a dreary protagonist, but who knows?

“Everyone’s just like, ‘Oh, it’s such a fairytale romance.’ And it’s just like this seems like a nightmare!”

– Robert Pattinson discussing Edward and Bella’s ‘love’ story.


By Emma Smith

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Its all about Leeds – Eagulls Gig Review

Despite an impromptu change of venue and a little panic, we made it to the Nation of Shopkeepers, after a very well-anticipated Eagulls gig, with support band Drenge. Initially, I was shocked by the venue; a cosy bar playing ‘greatest Motown’ didn’t seem right for a gig we had been warned to ‘take body armour’ to. However, I was pleasantly surprised, as the small venue offered an intimate atmosphere that seemed necessary for the style of gig. As the place started to fill, my anticipation built. First band Drenge were pleasantly surprising. The two -piece band offered big sound – if you hadn’t seen them, you’d be fooled into thinking they were of much greater numbers. The brothers did a great job of livening up the crowd with their visceral riffs and interesting musical arrangements, and I found myself wishing for a longer set.

After this impromptu set, they slipped back into the crowd to enjoy the atmosphere with the rest of the crowd. That is, until Eagulls began their soundcheck. With a bass amp that made sound travel through my entire body, I knew this was going to be lively… to say the least. The rooted 5-piece Leeds band has been gigging in Leeds for over two years, in small venues such as The Nation. In fairness, I think they deserve a lot more recognition than they receive – the band claim a ‘harsh but poppy’ sound, which seems to fit the bill perfectly. They have all the grunginess of an 80’s rock band, with catchy tunes that will be haunting you for days after seeing them. This band could be huge, but I have a feeling they’re going to stick to what they know with the local Leeds scene, where they have been very successful of late. Either way, this is not the last we’re going to see of them – me included. The £5 I paid for the ticket was an absolute bargain, with a great night spent in a lovely venue. Definitely one to see again – if my ears can hande it!

By Sophie Whitehead

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Young Adult Novels: A Cliché?

Young Adult novels have had their fair share of slander over the years, but should a novel aimed a specific audience really be disregarded because of said audience? I’m not arguing that we should take ‘Twilight’ and put it up there with canon literature but sometimes I can’t help but get the impression there is a certain amount of snobbery associated with the genre, especially when it comes to the romances. I get the feeling the reason for this is big cooperate book stores and their obsession with for some reason placing all the books with the cheesy covers featuring beautiful swooning girls and ethereal men on the cover with some half-hearted review by Stephanie Meyer in their own little section, hereby giving the impression that all young adult literature is read by overly hormonal, fourteen year old girls. I’m talking about beautiful coming of age stories from geniuses like John Green and Steven Chbosky, Dystopia worth of George Orwell in the form Lauren Destefato and Suzanne Collins, heart breaking, moving books from Lauren Oliver. When I say YA lit I don’t mean the cliché we all so readily accept of a twelve year old girl swooning over Edward Cullen. I don’t have any problem reading canon literature, and can appreciate it as much as the next person- but I feel like the stigma given to YA can make me feel slightly inadequate for shopping in the ‘teenage’ section of Waterstone’s, because sometimes bit of teen drama is exactly what you need.  I feel like incredible authors can be disregarded for their audiences which really shouldn’t be what reading is all about. A book should be based on the words, the connection with the reader, not what genre/audience it has.

I’m not saying I don’t appreciate and read adult literature, Classics, poetry, biographies, I’m open to anything as I think most people should be, what I am saying is that yes, sometimes you want to read a book with all the complexities, that people have spent time and energy studying, that are about people with vastly complex and interesting lives who make you question the metaphorical resonance of the world around- and then sometimes you want to read a book purely for the story, for the escapism and the teen drama. The genres of fiction, and teen fiction shouldn’t be set with such a fine line. I know plenty of people who can enjoy both. So stop reading the cliché of teen lit which seems to have been constructed, because the audience shouldn’t define the book, there are a lot of really beautiful books in there which shouldn’t be over looked. So don’t pass it off because of the cliche associated with it; don’t overlook the beautiful novels hidden amongst it, because in my opinion it should be credited just as much as any other form of literature.

By Eloise Pearson

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Should University Students get any financial help from the government?

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