Gormongous

Phaedrus' Street Crew
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  1. Allegorical prejudice in genre fiction

    I loved the Inheritance Trilogy, but I've found The Fifth Season so far to be a much clumsier effort by Jemisin. That said, I don't think of her as the master of allegory in genre fiction, not compared to, say, Mervyn Peake.
  2. The McElroy Family of Products

    Four, actually, because they have one where they make Justin, too. Despite the supposed robustness of character creators in games like Skyrim, I think the wrestling videos are the best of the stuff that Monster Factory does. "Christopher Christopher Christopher Christopher" makes me laugh until I ache.
  3. Didactic Thumbs (Pedantry Corner)

    Your reasoning is correct, but the noun version has been pronounced like the adjective version by analogy since the eighteenth century, so it's going against over two centuries of common use to insist on differentiating the two.
  4. XCOM Enemy Unknown

    I'm pretty sure the console version of Enemy Within doesn't have an option to play Enemy Unknown. That said, Enemy Within isn't that much more complicated and is, ultimately, the better game, so...
  5. Life

    This is weeks too late, but I asked my mother over drinks after Christmas. Ends up she moved to Dallas after college because she stayed with her college roommate, who found work there. She worked on a few campaigns before ending up with 7/11 and got promoted to the Olympics campaign, which she finished before quitting to have me. Dad just grunted when I asked him, no surprise there. This post inspired by Night in the Wood's excellent mother/daughter relationship.
  6. Non-video games

    Usually I roll my eyes when Shut Up & Sit Down gets all starry-eyed about some game that makes them laugh and laugh and laugh... but, actually, Fog of Love is really good. They talk about it in this video: See what I mean about the laughing? So Fog of Love bills itself as "a romantic comedy as a board game" and that's... somewhat true. It's really more of a curated roleplaying experience? You generate characters based on randomly assigned traits, features, and an occupation. Interestingly, you choose the traits, which are secret goals for you to achieve, but your features, which determine your starting stats, are chosen by other player as the things that attracted their character to yours. That means that, often, you're playing a character who looks honest, fun-loving, and kind, but who is actually lazy, rude, and a pervert deep down. You then take turns playing sweet, serious, or dramatic "scenes" from your hands as you navigating one of four pre-made stories (with more, apparently, to come in expansions): one or both of you choose(s) a response to the scene, based on the composition of the scene itself, and your stats and satisfaction (your character's overall happiness in the relationship) change as a result. When you've gone through a certain number of scenes, divided into three or four acts, you have a finale where you present one of several destiny cards that have been drawn and discarded throughout the game, determining what your character wants in a relationship and, based on your stats and satisfaction, whether they get it. It's a fairly simple game, but the way that the scenes, which often have blind choices to make, and both characters' traits interact makes for a fairly authentic recreation of the ebb and flow of a relationship. If you choose to focus on being happy in the relationship by trying to please your partner, to the exclusion of who you are inside, you might make the relationship work, but it's just as likely that you'll end up miserable because you haven't met any of your trait goals. Conversely, if you focus only on your trait goals, to the exclusion of what your partner seems to want, you may end up happy anyway, if you're both the same person, but you'll probably end up broken up. It took me and my friend a long time, basically all four stories, to figure out the balance between those two approaches. Fog of Love is, ultimately, a semi-cooperative game with lots of hidden information where your goal is to be a self-actualized person who's not also a dingbat to the other party in the relationship (unless you've decided to break up... in which case, you pretend not to be a dingbat), and once you're fully aware of all that entails, it's pretty easy to build a cute, entertaining story out of the game, as opposed to a brutal relationship fight simulator. For the record, in the five games we played (all four stories and then replaying the first again), we had a pretty broad spectrum of characters and outcomes: Jean, a hardworking politician, and Danny, a scatterbrained actor, ended up in a slightly miserable relationship as equal partners. Izzie, a wheelchair-bound musician, and Margaret, a closed-off cop, ended up in a very unhappy relationship with an uncertain future. Ian, a playboy manager, and Cassie, a fun-loving flirt, ended up in a contented relationship of mutual support. Colleen, a daydream-prone architect, and Jeremy, a hot mess of a banker, ended up with Colleen dumping Jeremy even though she was pregnant with his baby (Jeremy deserved it, he just could not get his life together). Nat, a web celebrity, and Chet, a stoned-out dancer, ended up in incredible, unconditional love together. You can see how we got better, kinda? Nat and Chet was the real success story, because Nat was a gentle, submissive worrywart and Chet was a jealous, insecure jerk, but they both managed to compromise sometimes (okay, Nat compromised a lot) and it worked out for them. It was cool. And even being in a relationship with Jeremy was funny and weird, just to watch the mechanics demand that he be the worst person possible in every situation. So... yeah, Fog of Love is recommended, although I have two major issues with it. The first is that, for all its cleverness, the destiny endgame is extremely underbaked. Sure, it's neat on paper that you start out with all these different directions that a relationship can go and are gradually forced to discard down to just a couple, but it's way too easy to be left without any viable options and the game doesn't really explain what it means when one or both players fail to achieve a destiny, besides just "You lose"? I guess they're just in the relationship but... unhappy about it? This ambiguity is further complicated by the "break up" destiny, which negates all other destinies except the "I guess you're right, we should break up" destiny, meaning that "Oops, none of my destinies work" is likely to happen one way or another in almost every game you play. It seems like they were shooting for something like hidden roles in a social deduction game, but you're so often struggling just to make the relationship work at all that it feels ridiculous to spend the mental energy to figure out if the other player is going for Love Match or Dominance or Heartbreaker. I mean, if the lattermost happens, it happens, and I guess I just deal with the unthematic uncertainty of it? The other issue is that, while the tokens are very nice, the cards and board are quite cheaply made. The board's only been opened twice and there's already color flaking off at the folds, and a half-dozen of the cards got stuck together and tore a bit coming apart. If you're someone who likes your games pristine, maybe wait until the second, non-Kickstartered print run.
  7. Far Cry 2 now Backwards Compatible on Xbox One

    I love that this meme is associated forever with Far Cry 2 when it's actually from Fallout 3.
  8. anime

    I was going to write up the five best anime I watched in 2017 (only one of which is technically from 2017) but instead I posted it on my long-defunct media criticism blog, so... enjoy!
  9. Is Steam (Valve) Good? If not, what then?

    If you're trying to say that Valve and Steam are ethically and morally neutral because they operate in a similar cultural and commercial space to Facebook, that's not a great argument, because Facebook has been under fire lately for empowering users to target hate groups with their marketing, for enabling advertising practices that violate the Fair Housing Act of 1968, and for probably being one of the principal means by which one nation interfered with an election in another. QZ has a great article summarizing my thoughts here, but the takeaway is that Facebook is worth half a trillion dollars and made nearly twenty-seven billion dollars in revenue last year. If they wanted to fix any of these problems, all of which are caused by Facebook's devotion to the hands-off algorithm, they could. They could spend a million dollars a day for the entire year, even just paying a thousand people a thousand dollars a day to be boots on the ground, and they would still make well over twenty-six billion dollars a year in revenue, with a decrease of, at most, only 1.5%. Having the power to prevent something harmful from happening to people but choosing not to use that power out of self-interest is the definition of "evil" for me, even if I have to qualify it with "inadvertent" or "blind," and I know that businesses don't have a legal or financial obligation to deal with such evils, but I'd like to hope that our ethics operate on a higher plane than that. And, insofar as how Valve relates to Facebook, I don't agree that it's a matter of business philosophy, libertarian or no. I think that, at six percent of the user base that Facebook has, Steam's infrastructure simply lacks the scale to commit moral and legal blunders on Facebook's order. Instead, it simply facilitates the organization and recruitment of hate groups, encourages children to gamble with real money, rewards review-bombing (until recently), and allows for developer harassment. I love video games and I own a PC, so I use Steam, but just because something is useful to me as a consumer does not mean that it is good for us as a culture.
  10. Is Steam (Valve) Good? If not, what then?

    So the consensus, then, is that Steam's audience and catalogue size, and the sunk cost for developers, trumps the few or many shortcomings of its actual design and practices, and it would probably take openly abusive or bigoted behavior by Valve as a company to call that platform dominance into question? I guess now we just need to figure out whether or not said dominance is a good thing...
  11. Star Wars Episode 8

    And Gwardinen!
  12. anime

    If you ever wanted to watch a version of Blade Runner that is four and a half hours long, set in a stunningly generic vision of a futuristic city, and told from the perspective of Deckard's sullen, ineffectual, and violence-prone partner, then AD Police is the anime for you. Otherwise, I don't know why anyone would bother. This is my first one-out-of-ten anime in almost seven years, and it earns every non-star. Eat shit and die, AD Police.
  13. Star Wars Episode 8

    One thing that I took from RedLetterMedia's old Phantom Menace review was that Star Wars as a series of films has always struggled with the temptation to multiply its plot threads, in order to produce a more epic climax. Going from A New Hope (the Death Star run) to The Empire Strikes Back (the Cloud City escape and the duel between Luke and Vader) to Return of the Jedi (the strike team on Endor, the attack on the Death Star, and Luke confronting Vader and the Emperor) to The Phantom Menace (the attack on the control ship, the attack on the palace, the battle between the Gungans and droids, and the duel in the power reactor) seems sometimes to have left a "high water mark" in subsequent Star Wars movies, where there's generally a little more going on than there needs to be. The later prequels got it a little more under control, but The Force Awakens was back to three separate plot threads in the third act (the sabotage mission, the duel between Ren and Rey, and the Starkiller run), and now this movie's shown a similar reach and grasp.
  14. anime

    Yeah, jumping back to old nineties-era stuff is a bit of a shock. In hindsight, it's obviously a transitional stage between the flat, angular, high-detail styles of the eighties and the soft, rounded, representational styles of the naughties, but it's really rough to look at these lanky, boneless figures with their angular, over-shaded hair and clothes. AD Police seems closest in kin to Outlaw Star, but its low moments remind me of Blue Gender, which is the gold standard for the ugliness of this era.
  15. anime

    Well, because I didn't get enough of watching a "history lesson" anime like Space Runaway Ideon (which was... fine, I don't know), I'm watching the much-maligned AD Police series that was a spinoff of the AD Police OVAs that were a spinoff of Bubblegum Crash that was a continuation/sequel to Bubblegum Crisis. Whew! So far, it's really not good. Its vintage is the late nineties and it's trying mightily to fill similar shoes to moody action dramas like Cowboy Bebop and Outlaw Star. The problem is that it has no budget and all its characters are raging assholes. In the first episode alone: The protagonist, Sasaki Kenji, uses cash to show that he's old-fashioned, violates police procedure to show that he's a rebel, and endangers a bystander to punish her for a catty comment that he overheard her make... to show that he's an asshole and a misogynist, I guess? Kenji's partner shows up, says that he doesn't like Kenji because he's a jerk (thank heavens they laid that pipe beforehand) and all of his partners die mysteriously, and then he goes off to die himself. Kenji is somehow blamed for this. The entire office makes fun of Kenji's inexplicable grief for this dead partner, and his boss puts him on administrative leave for failing to stop the killer robot by himself, even though it later takes five cops working in concert to kill it. Kenji drives his motorcycle (because of course he has a motorcycle) so fast that his arm starts bleeding for some reason, then stands outside a girl's house and watches her play violin, then goes to a bar and starts a fight with a guy who says that he looks sad and tries to buy him a drink. And it ends up the next morning that that guy is Kenji's new partner! Uh oh. It all feels like a parody of a seinen anime built around a brooding, tortured protagonist, especially the shallow "characterization" that's laid so thick on the ground, and that's not even getting into the extremely poor animation, wherein most fight scenes are crossfaded animation loops with minimal tweening. I didn't expect much of a series based on the cops who are so bad at their job fighting killer robots that the Knight Sabers from the Bubblegum anime need to intervene, but... yeah. EDIT: New partner mentioned old partner, and Keiji said, "There's one thing you'll need to remember if you're going to be my partner," and then he drew his gun, fired it into the ceiling, and left. Later, he uses that gun to coerce a doctor into breaking doctor-patient confidentiality, and the episode finale involves him shooting a perfect doorway in the side of a van with it. This anime is something else.