Episode 132: A Gamer/Nerd’s Take on Veteran’s Day

Today is Veteran’s Day and I’d like to take a moment to show my appreciation to all men and women in uniform who serve, not just for the US armed forces but for pretty much everyone.  While I’d much prefer a world in which no armies where necessary, the reality is that nations need soldiers for the terrifying “just in case scenarios” where they are necessary. To paraphrase the old Vietnam protests said, “I’m not against the soldiers, I’m against the war” reflects a lot of my own personal ideology towards how pacifism is an ideal that should be sought, though never expected. Some countries have partial military service for all people for a temporal quota of a few years, some are completely voluntary, and some have an everyone is in the army until you are old scenario. Still, if you have gone through the discipline and hardship of everything that entails the army/navy/air force/marines/national guard/coast guard you have my respect.

As a gamer/nerd I find it fascinating that often times we the least prepared to battle romanticize the concept of combat. Be it through Kung Fu flicks, D&D swords and sorcery, LARPing, or pretty much and first person shooter game out there fighting is seen as something cool which can net you glory and honor. Those who head into basic training with the hopes of being a real live Call of Duty game gets a harsh wake up call in like the first twenty minutes. I have no real idea what happens once you join besides the army scene of Forrest Gump and Full Metal Jacket but shooting stuff seems like something that you do almost none of the time. To be fair, once the shooting starts happening lots of bad stuff follows immediately so, you know…

Action in conflict in almost every facet of popular culture is viewed in a way that is either gruesome or awesome. If we have empathy towards the shooter then its cool but once you are on the other emotional side of the barrel the concept of fear and the permanence of death becomes clearer. This spectrum of action hero to horror victim shifts in focus swiftly and people’s perception of soldiers and thus veterans falls into this field of vision pretty quickly. It’s not necessarily entertaining but people need to see that these stories are only a glimpse of the full picture of what this life is like. For all my aspirations of being a paladin/jedi/whatever, a soldier’s discipline is a part of that and I may not enlist any time soon but I gotta give credit where it’s due. So for those still out there, those who made it back, and those who didn’t return, I salute you.

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Episode 130: The Justice League Movie is Real

A couple of weeks ago DC was able to take the spotlight when it came to movies by releasing it’s film lineup until 2020. The boldest decision was a solo Wonder Woman movie which honestly should have been done long ago. Marvel took the spotlight back with its recent reveal of a schedule but I want to take a second to talk about DC and what they want to do with the Justice League. Long before Avengers took the screen and made everyone fangasm, Justice League as a film has been in scripts in one way or another but it never seemed feasible. The rest is history and comic book centered films are in center stage to the point that even if it can’t come close to the Avengers they still lose a lot by not even trying. With Batman V Superman shaping up to be a JL preview w are going o at least see each character if only briefly before they get their own stand alone film in a few years. As for what could happen in the two future movies, well it’s time for another speculation. With Brainiac (who might be voiced by Benedict Cumberpatch if you believe the rumor mill) and Darkseid being the potential villains for both parts respectively, here’s how I see it:

I’m tempted to go with the Justice League Unlimited plotline that Luther is being called out by a voice to build him after Lex investigates the Kryptonian crash. Consider him more of a ghost in the machine or an evil Jor El. Luthor thinks he is finding answers to al the last questions but the stress is haunting him, making him do crazy things, even makes him lose his hair. In the end, Brainiac takes shape and with that power he lets his puppeteer know that he was the one pulling the strings as he becomes a true techno terror. I’m assuming that Cyborg might be like Hawkeye from Avengers 1 and be controlled/hacked temporarily into fighting the heroes. Of course, the fight ends with the Justice League victorious but not before Brainiac sends an all points bulletin to the universe that he will rule because he has the most powerful thing in the universe:

The Anti-Life Equation


Darkseid considers this the final piece to obtain true power and control of the universe and punish the new gods that have kept him in check for so long. He will send the forces of Apokalips straight at Earth to find it by any means necessary. And the heroes who barely trusted each other to fight together last time must join forces one last time to not just save the planet but the universe. Green Lantern (probably Hal Jordan who then gets smashed to pieces and John Stewart can have his own movie in 2020) will be there to warn the team. He might even go with a feds taking jurisdiction over local cops theme. And to bring some more alien goodness to the mix, let’s say Darkseid hires a bounty hunter, the main man Lobo to help take out the famed kryptonian everyone keeps raving about.

Episode 125: Villainous Serialization

     A recent Internet conversation led to some thinking about some interesting aspects about serialization. A vast majority of my analysis on characters on a story that can span into multiple years is centered on the hero. The spotlight is focused on this guy/girl with a certain set of skills and weaknesses. The challenge in writing for said character revolves around introducing curious tests that work to individual strengths and weaknesses. Sometimes you can do the same thing but slightly different and it works amazing. Take MacGuyver for example. You know he is going to be in a situation where he needs to use a tool to solve a problem but he doesn’t have it so he has to improvise. Old school detective/lawyer shows were more a matter of how Matlock or whoever would get the bad guy, not if. Superman has a ton of powers and a few crippling weaknesses (kryptonite obviously but magic and lightning work pretty well alongside red sun light) but his challenges turn into a borefest easily of him going really fast and punching stuff. Batman can do the same thing but he rarely gets that kind of criticism. But that’s for heroes, what about villains?

     The antagonists have a curious challenge for storytellers, especially when serializing. They should be a threat to the hero but the protagonist can’t fail. Bad guys rarely get straight up victories even as they often times have better resources and less scruples. For example, Spiderman needs to find where Carnage is and make sure he doesn’t maim or killing the man behind the symbiote. Carnage on the other hand can do whatever he wants and just straight up murder everybody. Superman needs to get evidence to prove Lex Luthor is guilty. The owner of LexCorps has plausible deniability, billions of dollars of good publicity, and a small army of lawyers. However, the villains need to be actual threats, an intent which is often undermined by the fact that they always lose at their main objectives. Given enough time, the heroes should beat them easily. Consider Bane, his first appearance is in Knightfall and he straight up breaks Batman’s back after an amazing plan. Years later he can be a cunning tactician, a boisterous bruiser or whatever but the Caped Crusader usually just dodges a few punches and then severs the hose to his steroid serum. Problem solved.

     Ultimately the villain becomes boring because they can’t really lose or because they lose all the time. I can’t take Rita Repulsa or other Power Rangers villains when the only threat is a few cardboard empty buildings exploding. Only a few times does something happens that merit a legitimate fear of losing for the heroes and that is usually resolved in five episodes tops. Of course, these villains had distance between them and the heroes and still had an almost infinite supply of Monsters of the Week so the protagonists where left to deal with the symptoms, not the disease of the source of their problems. The space is ultimately what keeps a believability that the heroes can’t just go on the offensive, even if this would violate their personal ethos. If you save the actual confrontation between protagonist and antagonist until the season finale or its equivalent you build some narrative tension which hopefully gets resolved in an interesting way for the readers.

     The other thing that happens with villains far too often is that further explanation of backstories leads to potential sympathy. This makes for a complex character but makes it harder to connect with the hero. This particular trope was codified by Rich Burlew with the prequel book for OOTS titled Start of Darkness. He took explicit care to complicate the character of the villainous Xykon without demystifying just how horrible a person/lich he actually is. What ends up happening with a lot of these backstories is that the antagonist needs to actively look back and say “I regret nothing” or do something that effectively eschews their humanity and turns him/her into an often literal monster. See more examples here.

     Speaking of backstories, the original idea for this post came from a discussion of the upcoming show FOX show Gotham which serves as an introduction to how the villains and heroes of the eponymous city came to be. Popular villains like Catwoman, Riddler, and Penguin have shown up since the beginning. The notable absence of the most famous Batman villain was recently explained here. The TL;DR version goes as follows: “”every episode in the first season will introduce a character that might be a future Joker, each emphasizing aspects of the character’s iconography, a card sharp, a flower seller, a clown, or just a guy with a very big grin.” What followed was an interesting debate as to whether this was a good or bad idea. This is my final point of the conversation where I defended the choice and speculate way too much.

     The problem with writing Joker is pretty much the same issue that comes with any kind of villain for anything serialized: how can they stay a threat for a season or longer while still leaving a level of fear of what could happen. Mr. J is insane and for good reason but even at his best longform story arc (in the 90s cartoon voiced by Mark Hammill for my standards) he was more comic relief than deadly.

     In this way we see that much like how anyone could be Batman if given the right circumstances anyone could be the Joker for any myriad of reasons. Bruce’s eventual paranoia gets reflected unto the viewer as anyone could be a villain in the making. Season 1 from what I’ve seen is about the rise of the Penguin to power and how the corruption of the city seems to be siphoned and focused unto these villains. GOrdon and other detective are the forebringers of vigilante justice that both saves and dooms Gotham. The old power dynamics are radically altered as the mob bosses are replaced with the strange and uncanny rogues gallery. Season 1 is about that transition of who reigns over the city. As Bruce channels his emotions into becoming the dark knight we get a glimpse of a potential Joker anywhere. Batman doesn’t turn a regular man into the clown of death, the city does.

     Season 2 now becomes a further metamorphosis of how the new supposed light and hope of the city has made its most powerful shadows. As Bruce descends into Darkness Joker comes into the light. He will be erratic and destroy almost at random, which will turn the detectives to realize that no amount of clues or mental gymnastics can predict his next move because he doesn’t know it just yet.

As the Joker said in The Killing Joke, “if I’m to have a past why not make it multiple choice.”

G

Episode 124: Leveling Up

The concept of leveling up has always been an interesting one. To have a significant change occur at a noticeable point is quite interesting. Life provides experiences which will inevitably change a person’s outlooks on life and learning various skills. But the differences are subtle almost unnoticeable. When you go up in level in a game there is a distinct minor evolution. It not only becomes a player’s growth through understanding of the game and better use of strategy but that the avatar that you control becomes better. For a lot of games, it’s hard to distinguish between getting better items and just being better at what you do. The Megaman series makes for an interesting example, especially once the X subdivision comes out because you start out with little health but along the way you get power ups like the armor and dash boots alongside heart containers that really emphasizes that your character is stronger, regardless of having the right weapon from a previous boss.

Now with Role playing games like Dungeons and Dragons on tabletop or any Final Fantasy game, leveling up means that your stats go up. The very characteristics that represent who you are go up, to the point that a high level white mage could have a higher strength stat than a rookie fighter, at least in FF1.  D&D works on a different mechanic in that your base stats only rarely get boosted while hit points, base attack bonuses, skill points, and saving throw bonuses keep increasing very steadily based on your class/job. In this way the beefed up first level fighter will be stronger but as combat experienced as say an old epic level wizard and if for some reason they got in a fist fight for some reason with no spells, I’m thinking the mage can win just from BAB. However, since most of your experience points come from succeeding in combat then it’s better to loot a nearby dungeon than to go to the library when it comes to studying for a test. Wish I could take credit for that joke but that’s all Rich Burlew in one of the prequel books to OOTS.

With real life people, the concept of leveling up becomes more complex. From a chronological perspective, you are always gaining new experiences but we ascribe a meaningful change to someone on the anniversary of their birth. This is why instead of wishing you a happy birthday I say congratulate you on leveling up. And outside of a few select years where you can now legally do something age is a number. In terms of skills it tends to become a bit more straightforward but you only get recognized upon crossing a certain threshold. You can study medicine for years but you only officially become a doctor once you graduate and get licensed. The amount of knowledge you had previous to a graduation and afterwards is not altered drastically upon switching the tassel from one side to another of your cap and yet this symbolic moment represents a change in who you are. I once had a discussion with some friends a while back as to what makes a person be of a certain level (kkep in mind we were thinking in terms of D&D 3.5) and we came up with the following:

Graduate from college- level 1 expert with full ranks and skill focus on knowledge/Profession (Your major)

Get a masters or advanced degree- become level 2 expert, add a skill trick that makes you way better at your job.

Get a PhD or super specialty- level 3 expert with another feat that gives you a bonus to your field.

Complete basic training in armed forces or police academy- level 1 fighter/soldier. Few skill points, ton of proficiencies though.

Go through special training/get to a high rank: Level 2

Get to be a general: Level 3 and get minor leadership.

Be a second degree black belt or something ridiculous like that: Level 1 monk

And from there on out it keeps going. The key thing to remember was that levels didn’t stack like they did in D&D. Being a kung fu lawyer lieutenant wouldn’t give you access to ridiculous feats and very rarely do the other jobs count toward the new one when it came to skills. It’s a very simplistic view and obviously there are a lot of problems with the formula but it shows something interesting. You don’t really become someone until after achieving a life step. Until then you are basically a commoner (the NPC class not the aristocratic put down). Obviously you a full important person throughout your entire life and there a ton of high school students out there that can beat at a bunch of stuff so don’t start declaring that I’m hating on people under a certain prescriptive educational model.

Speaking of growing up and changing, allow me to delve into some stalker friendly territory of my own backstory. About ten years ago I went through two pretty significant experiences. First off, the tenth anniversary of my high school graduation is coming up and a reunion of my class is coming up soon. Hard to believe that I get to chance to meet up with the 50+ students that survived high school with me and how far we’ve come since the days where a five page paper was the hardest thing ever. There are those that I have stayed close too in this temporal gap but there are others I have barely kept up with via social media. There are people that I did a silly group project with that are now doctors, lawyers, parents, and all these other adult capacities of identity. In terms of my previous description, from bland no name NPCs we are two or three levels higher. If I shave and get my hair right then I look almost identical to my teenage self so I’m pretty sure I’ll be easily recognizable, much to the chagrin of my ninja instincts.

The other landmark event from a decade ago was a trip I took with my dad. I had recently declared that I wanted to be an English major and my parents were ultra supportive. So you can imagine my surprise that even as they were backing me, my father says that as a senior trip he is taking me with him to a conference he was heading. But first we had a layover in England where we would spend a week between Stratford upon Avon, the birthplace of level 5 bard William Shakespeare, and London. It was a literary pilgrimage to which many of my current PhD cohorts and colleagues are jealous. It was an amazing experience that even with my decision to not go into Shakesperean studies still inspired me.

Oh and the conference was in South Africa, the most geographically appropriately named country in the world. We were there for over two weeks and it is one of the most mind boggling experiences I’ve ever had. If you’ve seen the movie Blended then you get a glimpse of what I got to witness first hand. The places, the people, the food (if you get the chance, eat an ostrich steak medium well with a hint of bbq sauce. You’re welcome.) But beyond that, the highlight of the trip was bonding with my dad. Before that I always felt that we weren’t really close. Sure we hung out sometimes we never really clicked until then. The first half of the trip it was just the two of us exploring a strange new world and learning about the cradles of modern literature and humanity in England and Africa respectively. The second half had an interesting turn since my dad was one of the head honchos of the conference. Everyone looked to his guidance as the final word of sorts for many dimensions. It was a new perspective on the man I had looked up to my entire life but had never truly seen outside of the paternal role. Just goes to show that familiarity (especially within one’s own family) can be a blinder that never really lets you see the entirety of a person.

For that part of my journey I wasn’t just some kid, I was my father’s son and everyone knew me as such. At one point during the festivities, the organizers had gotten the band that was performing to take a moment from their set to wish me a happy birthday/leveling up day and they even sang in Swahili. It was insane and really opened my eyes to a world I never knew and one that had been and still is part of who I am. So in a sense this serves as a belated happy father’s day too.

The one thing about that trip that we didn’t like was that at some point afterwards we lost the pictures. This was pre digital camera availability so the rolls of film might appear one day and we can have some hard evidence of our awesome adventures. Then again, not having the pictures makes the trip even more special because those memories are just between us. So no matter how much you level up or change, take the time to look back and show your appreciation to those people and moments that helped shape who you are today.

For what has been and all that is left,

G

Episode 122: The Misogynistic Irony of Nerd/Gamer Culture

The prototypical nerd is a surprisingly complex figure. Think of Screech from Saved by the Bell or Steve Urkel in Family Matters. These are the geeks I grew up with (and yes, I know that nerd and geek should not be interchangeable but for sake of simplicity, let’s go with that) and characters I identified with more and more as I entered adolescence. Sure they were smart, creative, and helpful but they are mostly remembered as being scrawny, uncharismatic, and having a terrible time at getting girls to like them (again, something quite relatable for me and many others).  They were put out there as the opposite of the regular male in a complete sense of Otherness. Brain vs brawn, compassion vs aggressiveness, loyal vs player, crafty vs blunt, chivalrous vs misogynist. These and others are the dichotomies of maleness. The second half is expected and the quintessential image of what our mind evokes when we think of the patriarchy and how boys our conditioned into this outdated goal of “manhood”. The other aspects are seen as what a man should be. One might be the expected boyfriend but the other was a proper husband. This was the narrative that television shows, films, video games, and even good old books put forward and I ate it up. Even as I studied about gender roles and feminism evolved, this was still my ideology of the world I lived in. Then I started seeing it from a new perspective in the wake of something terrible.

I was distracted by real life over the last week to put any attention to the Internet or anything happening in the world outside of my very small bubble. By the time I heard about Elliot Rodger the outcries of #YesAllWomen had already peaked as a response. There are a lot of voices from really smart people out there that speak to the idealistic chaos and revisions of our outlook that speak to certain aspects about the tragedy and how they are not an outlier of society but what happens when the beliefs of a patriarchal/misogynistic ideology go way too far. This blog on the importance of feminism for all is pretty cool and I recommend you give it a good look. This other one really spoke to me and helped me refocus the points of the previously mentioned nerd vs jock narrative into something closer to reality. It is from that new perspective that I wish to add my thoughts to the conversation.

From what little I have read about this young man who killed six women and injured many more before taking his own life is that he was seriously messed up. Just a few glances around the many blogs and news sites reporting on him and you can seen that he had major issues long before you hear about the 140 page manifesto on his hatred of all women or other incidents where he was violent to others. The outcry that this was a mental health issue began to take priority and the agency of his cruel act was taken away as the blame was shifted to his parents, teachers, friends, therapists, and others close to him for not controlling him better. As his personal life became more clear the idea that the media, that those narratives I had grown up on, and all those violent video games he virtually killed people in played a role in that deadly day taking place. As the news keeps finding a new place on which to affix its spotlight, the Internet cried out with #YesAllWomen and that his actions were more akin to a hate crime or a terrorist act, as this article claims. As I learn just how deep misogyny goes (and finally learned how to spell it correctly) I see that both sides of the coin of maleness that I mentioned earlier on unfortunately contribute to a mentality and an ideology that will end up hurting more people down the line.

First off, let me clarify that #YesAllWomen and pretty much every non-radical/militant feminist has made it perfectly clear that misogyny is not an issue caused by all men, no one has claimed that from what I know, but even in the supposed harbinger of equality for all that is the USA the system is still pretty bad if you don’t have a Y chromosome. The narrative of nerdiness  is one that has always stated that we geeks respect and treasure women far more than the macho guys who treat girls like crap and yet somehow get to go on dates with pretty ladies all the time. That’s okay because no matter how much the smart, kind, and overall nice guys would get friendzoned somewhere down the line we would earn our just rewards and the girl of our dreams would finally appreciate us. As noble as it may seem, this is actually just another form of misogyny that took me far too long to realize. It fosters a sense of entitlement that patience, kind gestures, and an overly long/complicated plan would get anyone to fall in love with us. Trust me, this was my rationale and modus operandi for pretty much forever. Ask anyone for an interesting Gabe story and you will probably hear about the time there was a pretty girl far out of my league in which it took me months to declare in an overdramatic fashion that I liked her only to get shot down hard. I always envisioned that all I needed to do was keep doing the same thing and the right girl would eventually find my quasi-stalking and hard work to be endearing and love me back. That was the dream and I recently realized that it wasn’t exactly a noble endeavor.

When I read about how the world has now marked Elliot Rodger as the “Virgin Killer” because he still had not crossed that threshold of manliness at the young age of 22 I almost felt sympathy for him (“almost” being the operative word). At that age, a third date for me would be a miracle and the dark corners of my mind would utter some of the hateful BS that this deranged young man said. Or course, when I thought to myself that X girl would regret not liking me back, I put it into the context of that she would end up with some dude who wouldn’t treat her right, never in a super villain style “rue the day” soliloquy. The narrative that as women mature they will favor intelligence over strength and wisdom over charisma is something that gives nerdkind hope but it’s just not true. With what little relationship experience I have I know that this it is something that will always be complicated regardless of the circumstances to start and maintain. The only exception I could think of is an arranged marriage where both partners are pretty much perfect for each other from the get go but I can’t imagine them not arguing even once. Hell, Marshall and Lilly from How I Met Your Mother, are considered to be the perfect couple and were lucky enough to have found each other at the start of college but they still worked hard to keep their relationship alive. Starting a relationship, for someone who barely has the courage to talk other people much less ask one out on a date, seems pretty much impossible and daunting. If rejection comes even after months of “hard work” part of you gets jilted and the inward depression of not being good enough starts to turn into outward conceit that no one deserves you. Again, I am not condoning or excusing Rodger’s horrible actions but it hurts to admit that I and maybe a lot of nerdy folks like me have entertained the thought for a millisecond or two before being disgusted.

I have spent a lot of time thinking and metathinking towards my thoughts on relationships and a perceived correspondence to hard work. This is where the gamer factor kicks in. No matter what kind of game you play, there is an expected level of return on investment for time and energy that we translate to other parts of life. Spend 100 hours in an RPG level grinding and you can defeat the greatest of monsters. Practice combos for days on end in a fighting game and you can go up against champions. Construct the perfect strategy and you could conquer the world. Memorize every detail of a level and you could beat it in record time. This mentality makes sense to a degree in a lot of other facets of reality. Taking good notes + reading the material = good grades. Practice a musical instrument and you get pretty good at it. Perform a particular skill long enough and you become a natural at it. Even something as terrifying for nerds as doing exercise turns into actual results of getting in better shape. Telling someone you think he/she is pretty and learning everything about him/her does not translate into that person fawning all over you. In everything except interpersonal relationships there is a pretty well-defined system of cause and effect. We feel frustrated when our emotions aren’t reciprocated but after putting so much effort into something happening only for an awkward sigh and a pitiful “no” just makes it feel that there isn’t just something wrong with you, but that there is something wrong with the world.

I focus on an entirely male heteronormative perspective because this is what I know. While my story and feelings are not a reflection of masculinity as a whole, from my experiences I see that these cases are more common than not. I honestly have very little experience with this from a female perspective or through any spectrum of LGBTQQness but I’m sure they go at similar levels. I hate to oversimplify gender norms but I honestly feel that my case is not an outlier. Any nerdy guys out there who want to prove me wrong I invite to add your voice to the conversation come on by. Hell, let’s get the rest of the population involved. For now, let me wrap up a few more thoughts on the subject.

I like to think that nerds like myself are more respectful of women but deep down I came to realize that this is more based on a fear of rejection than anything else. I had a particular form of pride in the fact that I would not touch a female (outside of a standard greeting/goodbye hug plus cheek kiss as is customary in my land) without some expressed form of consent. I considered myself quite the feminist for not holding or potentially groping anyone at any time because I placed that tactile distance as a form of respect. Then it came to me that it was more lack of confidence than anything else that kept me from doing any kind of “moves”. I’m not quite sure if I’ll ever get that kind of confidence or just be slightly less awkward but I know that I still wouldn’t do something in that particular moveset. Not because I’m afraid of rejection or of someone classifying me on the other side of the manliness dichotomy but because it’s the right thing to do. There is a certain “go until she says no” mentality that I believe exemplifies the misogynistic ideology that pervades society on all sides. Pretty much it means  that she is “asking for it” until she says no and you can get her to change her mind. Nonverbal signals of advancement are pretty hard to read, especially for the nerds like me who are illiterate in womanese, but complexity is no excuse for advancing beyond anyone’s comfort levels.

It would be easy for me to say to girls that “nerds are weird but will treat you right” like the narrative that the media has pervaded for years so let me take the hard route instead. Nerds, we need to get off our high horses that we are better than jocks at not objectifying women. In fact, we might be even worse at it because we believe that sex or even a relationship is something that we earn and are entitled to. We cry “friendzone” when emotions are not reciprocated and juvenilize women because they “don’t realize what a great catch we are.” Getting a date is hard, I know the feeling all too well, but rejection from a single girl doesn’t mean that all females are typical shallow stereotypes. People might change their minds as to whether they like you or not but this is not permission to pine over someone for years and just make them feel terrible after a polite but firm “no” has been declared. Keep being you but don’t settle on being “just you”. Think of Kung Fu Panda, a film that clearly states that Po didn’t have to change but that he could be better with the right training and determination. Level yourself up not for a girl you like (though it is quite the motivation) but because you want to be better. Invest in yourself, try new things, and maybe you’ll find the right person. Or maybe you won’t. We keep insisting that having a girlfriend is a mark of success and manliness but solitude should not be overcome just to attain a new achievement in life. It’s not easy and for the ones that make it look that way it isn’t either. Misogyny has crept into us because we grew up thinking that saving the world means that the princess would love us automatically. We might not notice it, but as we place women on a pedestal we turn them into trophies and rewards. Girls are people too and they are just as weirded out by the complexities of relationships as you are. Even jocks have it hard too so don’t think yourself better or worse than anyone.

Oh and this stick figure webcomic has a pretty cool moment where they explain the basics of relationships. Learn and grow people.

Girls aren’t DCs to be overcome, they are people so stop trying to add circumstance modifiers because asking someone out on a date is not a diplomacy check.

 

G

 

Episode 7: Same name different story

Yesterday was a day of exhaustion so no post. Considering posting something to catch up later on, let’s see. Also, in thing that need to be said, if any of you readers out there (all two of you) care to make a suggestion on future topics please feel free to offer it and it will probably end up on the blog. Now back to business. It’s one thing to milk the popularity of a given franchise with way too many installments after it’s clear that the story has been milked dry and the even diehard fans suggest giving the show some proper closure. It’s quite another for the creators to keep up tacking on the name to other narratives and somehow expect people to keep coming back for more. Now the former I can understand because an author may honestly want to continue his/her story and even if they do it for the money in this current ecenomy I can’t really blmae them for sticking with a reliable form of income/fame. Making sequels in name only happens more than you think and sometimes it just stops making sense from the get go.

Movies, especially the direct to DVD and the ones on weird movie channels on YouTube with way too many commercials, can fall into this category when people kind of make a similar movie from the same saming company as a popular hit. National Lampoon has been putting it’s name before and after Chevy Chase took his family on horrible vacations all over the world. Of particular note are all the odd ones done with the American Pie logo on it. Now I have some vague memories of watching the first one and I know they made extras to flesh out the trilogy and apparently a new one is about to hit the theaters for what I’m certain to be another movie that will fall under the ones categorized in Episode 4 of this blog. Now the insomniacs amongst you will also know that there have been a few additional movies that have the name and the general spirit of teenage boys desperate to get laid but they mostly suck big time. I think the one thing they all have in common is the appearance of Eugene Levy’s character (all played by Eugene Levy throughout the years because of reasons I cannot fathom) in every single film, regardless of chronological or spatial differences between these films and the originals. Movies are like these are often used as examples as to why sequels suck and I honestly can’t fault that critics that do for highlighting them.

In addition to the movie business, we get the same sequel model from the video game industry. Sports games I can’t blame because they have to update rosters accordingly though now that you can do the same process via DLC it seems like the tiny tweeks between installments rarely justifies paying full price for a new game for more accurate statistics and up to date player/team relationships. It’s odd that the best examples I can give comes from videogame franchises of which I am a big fan. The most glaring and obvious choice to pick on are the Final Fantasy games, the title alone supplies so many jokes. For those of you who don’t know the history, here’s a recap. Back in the late 80’s Square was about to go bankrupt and put all of its talent to make an awesome videogame with the hopes of getting the company back in the black or at the very least get a decent swan song going out. They called it Final Fantasy because it made sense, the game was a huge success which led to them making a bunch of numbered sequels in name only. Also, the numbering is weird due to distinctions between games being sold in Japan and the US. For example: the first ones are the same, FFII in the US for the SNES was really FFIV and FFIII is actually FFVI and from then on out they have maintained the same Roman numeral output accross continents. There are very few things in common between all the games story wise but mechanics wise, it being an RPG with balance of swords and sorcery, plus other elements like there being moogles, chocobos, and a guy named Cid have been pretty much a tradition for each title. Only a few games have been direct sequels and these have not been exactly well received. Final Fantasy X was pretty good even with too much of the underwater rugby weirdness that was the Blitzball minigame so they made FF X-2 (I swear that’s how the numeration works. The second game followed the female heroines continuing on adventures to save the world but it mostly feels like a glorified dress up game with level grinding. I get that they want to appeal to gamers without a Y chromosome but it was just bad. FF VII Dirge of Cerberus was completely different and many claim it sucked just as much as the other one. FFXIII-2 popped up recently and I don’t know much about this was one or its “original first part” but from what I have heard it seems to be following the same trend of direct narrative sequels.

The other big game that I love with way too many sequels is that of The Legend of Zelda series. First off, the hero’s name is Link, the Princess is Zelda and the evil dude/monster that wants to ruin everything is Ganon and they are all connected by the mystical artifact known as the Triforce. No matter what game on which platform this is the main plot of pretty much every game. I’ve personally played every game out there except for the ones on any of the Gameboys and the weird Four Swords one and can easily claim that they are all masterpieces of the action adventure genre and recommend them to just about everyone(the ones for cdi computers disks or whatever they are called suck so much that fans have collectively chosen to forget them except fro the line “Well excuse ME, Princess”). Still, the games have very little to do with each other in a narrative sense. Zelda 2 is a direct and true sequel but the mechanics of the game changed so much that few people place it as a “real” Zelda game. Majora’s Mask is technically a sequel to Ocarina of Time but it occurs in an alternate dimension due to the time rift cuased by the Master Sword in the first game. It gets even weirder with the ones on the Gameboy pulling that weird Pokemon game selling strategy of having basically the same game in two versions with slight differences but needing both of them to achieve the illustrious 101% completion rating. People have been trying to find out what if any is the offcial timeline/continuity of Zelda games but the creators have not given anything official beyond saying that new one, Skyward Sword is technically the first one since it shows the creation of the legendary Master Sword found in every other game. One of the best attempts to show all of the different potential continuities can be seen by the legendary Internet persona of the Angry Video Game Nerd and can be seen here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cHIP9UtkQDQ. Fun fact: I actually put the video link as a footnote in my Master’s thesis on Chapter 3: The History of Serials though I never say who made it but I did put a disclaimer about the language.