Hellosie, it’s Maisie. One is never over or under dressed in leggings. This is what you should know.

leggs

I never really thought that a pair of leggings could be controversial for every time a female celebrity is photographed wearing them, the tabloids’ gleeful headlines (“slipping them on”; “squeezing into them”) read like an euphemism for “Phwoar”.

I would be the first to say that cheap, see-through fabrics and psychedelic patterns have no place in a woman’s wardrobe – But leggings should not be dismissed entirely. First, they are comfortable and can be flattering and easy to style. Second, I cheer on anyone who wears clothes others have deemed unsuitable, to whom leggings are a two-fingered salute in fabric form.

The fabric is key. Buy the best quality you can afford. Leggings in decent fabrics look just as elegant whether you’re embarking on a long-haul flight or taking the dog for a walk. Worn with knitted wool coat is comfortable, sleek and definitely not transparent – and that’s what women want. I have friends who swear by Topshop’s viscose/elastane versions. Meanwhile, there are dozens of performance-designed examples with flattering diagonal stitching that can be worn in and out of the gym – think Stella McCartney for Adidas if you don’t mind a little sporty branding. Anything is better than a thin, baggy, ill-fitting pair from a $6 bargain bin. That’s a no-no.

From Michelle Obama to Kate Moss, the rise and rise of the leather legging is a phenomenon that’s got, er, legs. Comfortable and flattering, they have the flexibility of leggings with the density of a proper pair of trousers. Shiny, patterned versions do few of us favours; matt, stroke able, high-quality leather or a convincing faux is your friend. As with denim, leather looks best when it has lived a little; think worn-in and moulded to the body as opposed to box fresh.

Leggings have a place in our lives, I have a pair of black J Brand leather leggings that are the hardest-working item in my wardrobe. They’ve never been cleaned or washed and they work all year round.” If you can’t stretch to J Brand, there are plenty of high-street versions that look good, many of which are fake: Zara’s faux leather leggings with seams at the knee, for example, are seen on many a fashion follower and cost around $30.

Layers are helpful when styling leggings, too, covering the top of the thighs without the studently feel of a very long-line sweater. Consider wearing a soft, mid-thigh sleeveless waistcoat over a shorter T-shirt, or a sheer fabric top underneath a chunkier jumper. Add a neutral pair of loafers, and layers are transformed from tabloid fodder to the last word in low-key French chic.

Advertisements

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Here are 10 books that game designers have cited as the ones that most often has influences on their creative work.

th9TODBFM7

In some ways, the list could be seen as evidence of the industry’s cultural homogeneity – the way in which big franchises like Mass Effect, Elder Scrolls and Halo all draw from similar influences. I think they will certainly give you a better idea of the concepts and conventions driving the games industry – perhaps they will tell you why we have the games we have. I should stress; however, these aren’t the only books ever on development studios book shelves.

Indeed, there are no doubt ridiculous omissions – it was never going to be possible to capture all facets of game design inspiration. Also, I chose to stick with fiction to narrow things down a little. I’d invite readers to add their own suggestions in the comments section.

For now, here are the 10 books that developers have most commonly referenced. Each entry also has a few alternate titles (all of them also mentioned by developers) which I’ve sneakily added so fewer people would shout at me.

Whatever else, all of these are worth reading.

Akira – Katsuhiro Otomo

Otomo’s arresting and vivid portrayal of gang warfare on the streets of a post-apocalyptic Tokyo ran throughout the ’80s, drawing in influences from both the West (Star Wars) and the East (Japanese author Seishi Yokomizo), to dazzling effect. Widely credited with introducing both manga, and though its animated movie translation, anime, to Western audiences, Akira explores ideas of mutation, psychokinesis, military corruption and terrorism, all the while exhibiting the nuclear paranoia that flooded Japanese culture after 1945. Every Armageddon-obsessed adventure from Final Fantasy to Infamous has ideas that can be traced back here.

Alternatively: Another classic 80s manga, Fist of the North Star, has been influential. And from the west, Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns and Alan Moore’s Watchmen are two works dealing in similar areas of warped heroism, mutated humanity and future-noir paranoia.

Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories – HP Lovecraft

Through a selection of interconnected stories written throughout the twenties and thirties, American writer HP Lovecraft created a new horror mythology, blending the supernatural and science fiction and imagining a universe of dank oppressive dread in which humanity is at the mercy of gigantically powerful monsters. Lovecraft’s bestiary was a huge influence on the makers of seminal table top role-playing game, Dungeons and Dragons, thereby working its way into most video game RPGs ever since. And the Cthulhu Mythos that emerged from his works has had an enormous influence on games designers in other genres: indeed, the entire concept of ‘end of level bosses’ practically percolates Lovecraft’s entire philosophy into one game convention.

Alternatively: other writers whose own complex fantasy/horror mythologies have inspired game designers include Michael Moorcock (especially the Elric books) and Stephen King (The Dark Tower). Lovecraft was also an influence on another provider of video game set texts, Robert Bloch.

Dragon Ball – Akira Toriyama

Originally serialised in the weekly Japanese comic, Shōnen Jump, Dragon Ball is widely considered to be one of the greatest mangas of all-time, its volumes selling over 230m copies worldwide. Based around the Chinese novel Journey to the West (the source for the cult TV series Monkey), the epic work combines exciting martial arts action and a Picaresque narrative heaving with eccentric and fascinating characters. There have been dozens of video game conversions of the original works, but Toriyama’s mix of combat, mythology and comedy has inspired hundreds more beat-’em-ups and action adventures. There are also dozens of games that make use of the “over 9000” meme, originating from Dragon Ball Z.

Alternatively: Any of the ‘big three’ manga – Naruto, Bleach or One Piece, all hugely influential to game designers.

The Greek Myths – Robert Graves

Video games are utterly crammed with conventions, ideas and archetypes ripped from world mythologies, but Ancient Greece has provided many of the key inspirations. The idea of the heroic quest, a central element in almost every role-playing game, is symbolised in the adventures of Odysseus, Perseus and Theseus, as are the underlying concepts of prophesy, destiny and of ‘the chosen one’ who is born to vanquish evil. This inspiration is obvious in titles like God of War and Altered Beast, but every time a character reaches for a magic item or feels as though they are at the mercy of vengeful gods, it is likely the source goes back to Ancient Greece. I have opted for Robert Graves’ much-respected analysis here, but there are plenty of other options, including Bullfinch’s Mythology.

Alternatively: the Norse and Celtic mythologies have also been a huge influence on game designers, adding their own slants on iconic concepts such as magical items, warring gods and heroic journeys. There’s also the Bible, of course, which is filled with war, heroism and wrathful deities.

The Hero With a Thousand Faces – Joseph Campbell

This is a slight cheat as it’s obviously not a novel, but Joseph Campbell’s exhaustive study of world mythologies and the concept of the heroic archetype has been named as an inspiration by countless developers I have spoken to over the last two decades. Campbell’s central argument, that all mythological tales spring from a single monomyth in which a hero defeats a series of challenges to attain a life-changing gift, is central to both video game and movie structure. This is the core stuff of story-telling, later refined into a writing guide by Christopher Vogler in his similarly much-cited work, The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure For Writers.

Alternatively: Sir James George Frazer’s classic study of archetypal religious beliefs and practices, The Golden Bough, is another oft-named source for video game ideas.

House of Leaves – Mark Z. Danielewski

There was a time in the early 2000s when it seemed every studio I visited had a well-thumbed copy of this challenging but fascinating novel left on a desk somewhere. Here, though, it’s as much about form as it is about content – House of Leaves is a cybertext, a work of “ergodic” literature in which the formatting of the text becomes a puzzle the reader must solve. Through footnotes, blank pages, interviews and codes, Danielewski creates a sort of dynamic experience, that reflected a lot of the experiments into interactive fiction and alternative reality gaming taking place on the web at the time. In essence it’s a story about how to tell stories in the digital age.

Alternatively: Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges is another surreal and playful text that creates meaning in obtuse layers – it has been name-checked by many developers I’ve spoken to. A couple also mentioned Theodore Roszak’s Flicker, a slightly more conventional take on Danielewski’s use of fictionalised historical writing.

King Solomon’s Mines – H. Rider Haggard

Published in 1885, Haggard’s colonialist romp through the deserts and mountains of Africa, brought us Allan Quartermain, the archetypal flawed adventure hero, and introduced the Lost World genre of fiction. These elements, modernised through the Indiana Jones trilogy (don’t… just don’t mention the fourth film), has gone on to inspire everything from Pitfall to Tomb Raider. Any game in which a hero and his bickering team locate a lost temple filled with fabled treasures probably has its roots in Haggard’s novel.

Alternatively: Along with Robert Louis Stevenson (Treasure Island) and Edgar Rice Burroughs (Tarzan), Haggard no doubt influenced the heroic fantasy works of authors like Robert E. Howard, whose Conan books have spawned a hundred monosyllabic video game warriors as well shaping the whole sword and sorcery sub-genre.

Lord of the Rings – J.R.R Tolkien

Well, it had to be in here. Although Dungeons and Dragons co-creator Gary Gygax claimed not to have been a fan of Tolkien’s sprawling masterpiece, he conceded its huge influence on his legendary table top RPG, specially in the fantastical races that inhabited the rule set. And through D&D, the trilogy has exerted its influence on just about every fantasy video game ever created, from the earliest straight D&D and AD&D conversions to the formative Japanese role-playing games such as Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, and on into the massively multiplayer era of World of Warcraft. Informed by mythology and folklore, Tolkien established a vast all-encompassing reality to Middle Earth, including a far-reaching sense of history. Arguably, it is Tolkien who taught fantasy game designers about the importance of mythological backstory, of establishing aeons of conflict and lore, lending authenticity to entirely imagined worlds. If a game narrative begins, “after 3,000 years of war…” you can probably blame this guy.

Alternatively: Michael Moorcock again, as well as the more playful and parodic Terry Pratchett who subverts all of those supernatural systems for comic effect. And of course, there is a new generation of designers who will grow up on the likes of Brandon Sanderson and Steven Erikson. Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast books should not be overlooked either.

Neuromancer – William Gibson

Certainly not the first cyberpunk novel, but possibly the most influential. Gibson’s post-modern tale of hackers, criminal corporations and sentient AIs worked alongside Bladerunner to instil in game designers a new aesthetic of the future. No shiny spaceships and helpful robots, just noirish paranoia, busted up computer hardware, hard-drinking renegades and drugs. The anarchic, counter-culture feel of Gibson’s works appealed to the bedroom programmers of the 80s and early 90s who identified with the author’s damaged, technically brilliant protagonists, and with the assimilation of biological and computer organisms. Games like Syndicate, Beneath as Steel Sky and later Deus Ex, .hack// and Metal Gear Solid caught the vibe perfectly.

Alternatively: pretty much anything by Bruce Sterling, Neal Stephenson or Pat Cadigan. And from manga, Bubblegum Crisis, Ghost in the Shell and Appleseed.

Starship Troopers – Robert A. Heinlein

Gears of War, Halo, Killzone, Quake… all of them owe a debt to the concept of the space marine brilliantly realised in Heinlein’s future war epic. He wasn’t the first to write about the concept of a mechanised military defending humanity from invading aliens, but Heinlein captured many of the key elements that would go into the biggest sci-fi games. A troubled hero advancing through the ranks, an insect-like extra-terrestrial threat, a factional military… whatever you think about the archetypal video game space soldier, with his buzz cut, tribal tattoos and immense metallic body armour, it is one of the key images of this console generation, and his family tree goes back to this novel and its contemporaries.

Alternatively: Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card, EE Smith’s Lensman series and Iain M Banks’ Culture novels also deal with galactic war, mega weaponry and vicious aliens/AIs. And where would games be without those?

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. You don’t know how much you can help your friends. This is something you should know.

friends

The small group of girls I consider my best friends are all having a tough time and I care deeply about my friends, but I also resent them at times. I understand that when they express sadness, disappointment, hurt, anger it can sometimes all come across as “crying wolf” because like me they tend to dramatize their emotions.

But I’ve come to realise that other people’s problems are the path to personal happiness. So, the dependence on being brought up to date with their dilemmas makes me feel a bit like a vampire, reliant for my survival on a diet of my girl friends’ misery.

I’ll come clean – the past few months has been really great for me (like today I’m flying out to an extremely fashionable event for two weeks) and there have been moments when sitting down to spoon out advice like medicine to others from the quagmire of their own existence has felt quite fraudulent.

But such moments aren’t necessarily results based, though there’s no question that being told you’ve made a positive impact on a friend’s life is pretty hard to beat. Being compelled to sit down and think hard about what might be bothering someone other than yourself is tremendously therapeutic, even when it fails entirely to turn into positive action. I’ve come to realise that far from tipping me over the edge into a similar abyss, the action puts the world further into perspective.

The particular satisfaction is available to all of us. Finding answers is far easier when you’re emotionally unengaged. This window to the wholly unique way in which each of us responds to often universal dilemmas offers confirmation that there is never just one side to a story or one way to view a problem.

The troubles we face are not what define us but how we deal with them. When life is in turmoil friends provide a safe place to sound out your problems, expand your understanding and seek advice. If you can’t do that within your peer group, how on earth do you expect to thrive and survive in the everyday scrum of living?

You’ll be amazed how much easier it is to see a path through the jungle when you’re not stuck in the thick of it. “Friends” isn’t just a term for those you text, but a demanding relationship that comes with responsibilities and expectations. It would be ironic if what we’ve become in this era of mass communication are entirely self-serving organisms lacking compassion and time to help each other. It’s definitely not what I’d call progress.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Here’s the latest about a single girl from London and her sex life.

firstlove

An ex-girlfriend wants us to go on holiday together this August. The problem is that I’m having second thoughts about saying ‘no’. Bearing in mind that we are both 22 years old and we haven’t seen each other for four years, but do keep in touch by email and the odd text.

But should I bury my scepticism and go ahead with plans knowing that this may create further resentment in our relationship, or do we just keep going our separate ways in hopes of living our desired futures with someone different.

The dream of dating the same person from your mid-teens and then settling down, while a common expectation in life, feels like it comes from centuries ago. It wasn’t just a conundrum for me but for everyone at my school.

The greatest seismic shift in society seems to be not how much longer we’re living but how much slower we’re maturing. Moving out of home, let alone settling down to being a twosome before you’ve hit your 30s, is increasingly unusual. Fifty years ago, if a woman wasn’t married by my age, words like spinster (and lesbian) were bandied about. Nowadays what’s the hurry? We live much longer than we did when the institution of marriage, still our favoured way of pairing up and shorthand for future-building together, was invented. Fifteen years feels like an achievable goal when it comes to sharing a bedroom and bathroom for all but the most mismatched couples, but beyond that the odds of survival are much reduced. With expected lifespans now hitting nine decades and beyond, settling on one person and promising to honour and cherish them, potentially for seven decades, is quite a tall order.

In fact, I can’t help wondering if all relationships desiring that official stamp of approval should be certified on a year renewable basis with an extended warranty available on request. A wedding day and all of the promises made stays fresh in the mind for only a few years. After that, with nothing to look forward to but more of the same, a renewal of vows seems a sensible and salutary reaffirmation. You don’t need to worry about any of that yet, but you do need to bear in mind the hitherto unimaginably long lives you are likely to be living. If you did decide to stick with someone, you could end up celebrating 80 years of devotion. For that to sound like less of a threat you need more certainty about the union in the first place.

Not that I’m unmoved by the potential of extremely young love evolving into long-term unions.

Travelling together will certainly examine our strengths and weaknesses, but with cracks already there it may, turn them into an abyss of no return. But my choices are simple to outline and harder to choose: use this upcoming adventure as a great bonding experience; travel together and see if we can last the course; take a total sabbatical from each other and hope that absence drives us back into each other’s arms with increased relish; or continue to be friendly, on the basis that I’m not planning to make commitments to someone new.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. How you see yourself means everything.

3090855673_1_3_TQwS0gKQ

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Here on my sofa with my laptop and I am feeling terribly lost and pathetic in life. I don’t have friends to call my own and I work so hard all day and most of the evening as a writer that I can barely cope with the workload. I was in a relationship for three years (bearing in mind I am still young, 23 this year), but I left her a year and a half ago for cheating on my trust.

I see people on Facebook going out all the time, going to dos and meeting people, and I wonder to myself am I truly the odd one out.

Judging your own life in contrast to those apparently being led by others, whether on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter is a mistake we are all increasingly guilty of. Such edited excerpts don’t offer an accurate communication, but they do have the capacity to make anyone with a pulse feel inadequate and despairing of their own lacklustre, un Photoshopped existence.

There are days when all those perfect people with their ceaseless socialising, sexy lifestyles, designer homes, impeccable friends, wonderful vacations and fabulous work opportunities are simply too much to bear. Even when you can acknowledge you are being served only the highlights of other people’s lives, it’s difficult not to be depressed by how far you’re failing in the newly required skills of lifestyle bragging and follower flaunting. It’s enough to turn any sensible mortal into a sociopath wanting only to curl up in a corner and read Kafka.

These days everyone can give their lives the sort of superficial gloss once reserved for the rich, famous and powerful. We may once have aspired to the elevated heights of the Brangelina lifestyle, but Brad and Ange seem positively suburban compared to the freeze-frame fabulousness served up by Instagrammers. The other day I looked at an old-school friend’s online profile and found myself confronted by a total stranger whose entire existence was packaged under hashtag young and gifted and bore no resemblance to the struggling, lonely and hard-pressed young woman of my acquaintance. A recent holiday confirmed this sense of parallel lives when I found myself among serial Instagrammers who spent more time inside on Wi-Fi sending and receiving photos than they did by the pool.

Social media makes much of its ability to create a global village, yet many people feel marooned

Clearly you need to take back control of your life and stop the demands of work – and your fear of engagement with others. But first develop a realistic picture of what your life could be. So much of the emotional despondency you are expressing is at epidemic levels. If shared experience remains the key to quality communication you’d be surprised how many friends you actually have, people desiring exactly the same visceral connection as you. The mythology of social media makes much of its ability to create a global village, yet more and more people feel marooned and alone in their bedrooms.

Being busy is another 21st-century vice that detracts from our ability to engage with the world around us. Women in particular seem to be bad at marking out their territory. One of the great skills men have acquired over millennia is to compartmentalise. It’s something my own sex could do with brushing up on.

Be clear about your professional availability and then use the time you free up to find a pursuit that interests you: a hobby, sport, dance class, charity, political party… anything you fancy really, so long as it involves other people. Putting yourself in the path of human encounters is a far more fruitful way of finding friends than playing bystander to the lives of others on the internet.

One good friend is as valuable as a million Facebook followers and a good life doesn’t need to be overpopulated. Start sniffing out adventures that await you outside the door. There’s only one person who can change your life, but plenty of others who can contribute to the quality of it once you’ve made that first move.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. On Monday I always think. I should have bought it when I saw it!

UntitledPS1

Powered by overseas shoppers, luxury outlets and labels in London are being delivered a big boost to sales. But a surge in luxury spending probably means at least four immaculately black-clad assistants for every shopper – Your personal shopper who insist they’ve been rushed off their feet all day.

There are more personal shopping assistants to advise on wardrobe updates and special touches such as in-store monogramming for small items such as wallets and purses.

This seems to indicate that the idea of professional, one-on-one styling is thriving still. While it might have been an innovative and exciting concept when it was first introduced, the expectations and needs of consumers have evolved in accordance with the digital age we live in and traditional personal shopping has simply failed to keep up with the times.

Instead, I believe fashion lovers are transitioning towards a new digital, tech-focused way of gaining virtual styling advice — one that involves using smartphones and apps to gauge the opinions of friends, family and fashion professionals.

Certainly, taking and sending a photo on your smartphone is the best way of receiving instant feedback on an item of clothing. Just think: how many times have you tried something on in a fitting room, snapped a photo in the mirror and sent it to a partner or friend for an informed second opinion?

Personally, I love shopping. Even if it’s just window shopping, I love it. And I’m a sucker for a bargain. During the week, I can be found in the many charity shops of London, looking for vintage clothes or the steal of the week. The other day I picked up two dresses, a ring, a necklace and a wow pair Vivien Westwood latticed sandals for under a tenner.

And if there’s one thing people notice it’s your shoes. You have only to wear shoes that are very slightly more interesting than black leather boots and people compliment you on your bravery as if you had just swum the English Channel.

Hellosie, it’s Maisie. Reading this will help you find true love. If you’re single.

Untitledlove

I’m 22 and have always been independent, into music, travel and lots of girly hobbies. Relationships were never my priority, especially as my parents had a very bumpy relationship and I seemed to spend an awful lot of time thinking about coming out from inside my bedroom. But I am worried I have missed the boat with regards to meeting someone. After what seems years of going on bad blind dates and internet based liaisons.

How many of us would respond “I am content with what I have” when questioned about our lives, and if so, how would that be received? I’m not sure it’s what they’re looking for on dating sites, but it should be ranked higher.

There can’t be a better way to change your fortunes than to learn to settle not for less, but for enough. It’s the easiest way to revolutionise our lives for the better. In pursuit of that elusive sense of gratitude for what, on good days, I recognise to be a pretty brim-full cup. So, let me share my little annual tradition with you. For several years, on New Year’s Eve I’ve written, in the present tense, an imagined dream scenario 12 months hence – what I hope my life will be like when I sit down to write again.

It’s easy to while away a whole lifetime never feeling you’ve moved forward, always fretting about what you’ve failed to achieve. Our cultural embrace of conspicuous consumption means we feel eternally short changed, convinced that one more thing (or person) will lead to happiness. Looking back on my lists, usually penned under pressure as I prepare for a glass of bubbly and the drone of “Auld Lang Syne”, I’m horrified by the prose but surprised by how much of what I’ve described has insinuated itself into my life. Whether it was a move to a new apartment or a meaty job I could get my teeth into, much of what I secretly longed for has eventually, in circuitous ways and over extended periods, come to pass. Writing down my desires helped to take them out of my hands and, more importantly, my head. Committing my hopes to paper and describing my dreams helped me to work out priorities, to feel thankful for what I have achieved, and to focus on what I want to do next.

So, imagine the partner you wish for, place him or her in a tableau that encapsulates your dreams, and commit them to a page in your notebook. Then stuff them and your imagined world where contentment reigns, in a drawer or box. Giving oxygen to your desires is important, and this tradition will help you to keep track of them as they start to manifest in your real life, too.

Finding a partner when you’re happy with your career and your life is not just easier, it’s far more likely. It also gives solid ground on which to build a future together. Whether their online (your catchment area is global, so I wouldn’t dismiss its potential), down the local pub or about to knock your newspaper out of your hands on the metro, this person is out there. Give them space in your imagination, get on with your life, and I know they’ll materialise. Just let me know when they do, okay.