Sunday, 31 December 2017

Video games on a psychoanalyst’s couch

The new book "The Playstation Dreamworld" charmingly critiques technology and capitalism through the growing role gaming plays in modern life

How have video games transformed the nature of self? This is one of several points of philosophical inquiry examined in “The Playstation Dreamworld” (Polity, 2017) by Hong Kong-based British author Alfie Bown, a book that charmingly articulates a critical theory of technology and capitalism in the context of technological entertainment.

In contrast to other texts on the subject that are largely uncritical or laudatory in their advocacy of gaming, what’s striking here is an emphasis on caution, drawing the reader’s attention to the anti-progressive aspects of gaming’s propensity to lull players into states of enjoyment that undermine social solidarity in the service of ideology.

The ideology in question here is a form of capitalism defined by cultural neoliberalism’s emphasis on ever-enhancing worker productivity and the emergence of monopolistic tech firms with an ever-greater power to create and organize conceptions of desire. Bown’s book is unambiguous in its political bent, and thankfully so.

Yet, his volume is far from a technophobic or anti-gaming screed. With an incisive eye and an obvious affection for gaming, Bown, an assistant professor of literature at Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Management College, is compelled by the subversive potential for games to function as powerful tools in the service of counter-ideologies amid rapid technological advances and a widening space for independent game developers.

Gaming is no niche subculture. The video games industry boasted a worldwide user penetration rate of 26.1% in 2017 with a projected revenue of US$108.9 billion. Smartphone and tablet gaming, the most lucrative segment, claim 42% of the video games market, piggybacking on the centrality of mobile devices in our lives.

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at

Monday, 25 December 2017

Palestine as political hobbyhorse in Malaysia

Premier Najib Razak's rally cry against Donald Trump's recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is more about local politics than genuine Islamic outrage

Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak addressed friend and foe alike at a recent mass demonstration in support of Palestine held in Putrajaya, the country’s administrative capital.

The rally followed weeks of protests across various major international cities in response to US President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

More than ten thousand gathered at the pink-domed Putra Mosque for the Friday rally, which began with prayers and a sermon that lambasted Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and called on Muslims to support Palestinian self-determination and defend Jerusalem, the third holiest site in Islam.

Najib, who has long taken an activist stance on the Palestinian cause, urged all Malaysians to put aside their political differences to join the rally on humanitarian grounds.

He shared the stage with members of Parti Islam SeMalaysia (PAS), an Islamist opposition party that supports the imposition of Islamic law, while leaders from Malay-dominant parties of the Pakatan Harapan (PH) opposition coalition were also in attendance.

Najib, who was warmly received at the White House in September amid an ongoing US Department of Justice money-laundering probe into a Malaysian state fund he created and oversaw, has been criticized for his professed closeness to the divisive American leader.

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at

Friday, 15 December 2017

Chinese developers pump up Singapore property

Chinese firms are making record-breaking bids for land redevelopment tenders, re-energizing a market that regulators have long aimed to tame

Singapore's property market is on the upswing, with home prices rising for the first time in four years following a string of aggressive bids from mainland Chinese and other foreign developers offering record-high premiums to clinch top land redevelopment tenders.

The island nation’s property prices had been on a record downturn, dropping 12% over 15 consecutive quarters from their 2013 peak after the government imposed measures to cool the market beginning in 2010.

Those market interventions, intended to guard against a housing bubble, imposed an additional buyer’s stamp duty for non-citizens and buyers of second or third homes, and a stamp duty for sellers for transactions made within four years of original purchase.

To deter excessive vacancies, property developers were required to pay an additional buyer’s stamp duty of 10% or 15% including interest on the total land cost of a project unless all the flats were built and sold within five years.

While those measures remain mostly intact, redevelopment deals known as “en bloc” sales, or the collective sale of apartments in older buildings to developers, have exceeded US$6.34 billion in 2017, the highest such figure since 2007. That’s been a windfall to tens of thousands of property sellers.

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at

Friday, 8 December 2017

An unflattering portrait of Malaysian politics

PM Najib Razak has stirred racial divisions and cynically divided rivals ahead of elections opponents hope will turn on his alleged massive corruption

As political parties begin to mobilize ahead of general elections which must be held by August 2018, Malaysia’s long-serving Prime Minister Najib Razak is arguably in his strongest political position in years.

While opposition parties continue to rally on an anti-graft platform centered on the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) state fund multi-billion dollar money laundering scandal, Najib appears increasingly confident he has ridden out the storm.

That was seen in Najib and his deputy Ahmad Zahid Hamidi’s surprise visit last month to jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in hospital after he underwent surgery for a shoulder injury. It was the first time in Malaysia’s history that a sitting prime minister visited a prisoner.

Detained since 2015, Anwar is serving a five-year jail term after being found guilty of sodomy, a criminal offense in Muslim-majority Malaysia, on charges widely seen as politically motivated. Pictures of the political rivals circulated widely on social media, showing the premier grinning ear-to-ear amid rumors of his underlying motives.

While Najib likely intended to portray himself as being compassionate and above political animosities, some interpreted the visit as an “enforced” courtesy call. Indeed, while the bedridden opposition politician appeared cordial, his pictured family members were visibly uncomfortable.

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at

Friday, 1 December 2017

Singapore on edge as Islamic State circles

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has warned it's not a matter of "if" but "when" the wealthy city-state is targeted by international terrorists

While international linked terror attacks have hit various Southeast Asian nations, Singapore has so far been immune. But as Islamic State (IS) makes deeper inroads into the region, the city state is now on its highest terror threat alert level in years.

Transnational terror groups are believed to see the island nation as a symbolic target for its status as a global financial center with close strategic ties with the United States. It participates in international coalitions against terrorism and hosts several Western targets, including embassies and military installations.

Singapore has honed its counterterrorism strategy in recent years, setting up specialist forces and emergency response teams while doubling down on efforts to sensitize the public and foster community vigilance. Authorities also stage preparedness exercises and elaborate drills simulating attacks on high-profile targets.

The sense of vulnerability, long part of the island state’s national psyche due to various geostrategic anxieties and proximity to hotbeds of Islamic militancy, has not been lost on top officials.

Indeed, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has noted on several occasions in the past year that Singapore operates on the expectation of “when” rather than “if” a terror attack will occur.

Read the full story at Asia Times.

Nile Bowie is a writer and journalist with the Asia Times covering current affairs in Singapore and Malaysia. He can be reached at