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About Siromatic

  • Rank
    Miss Modular
  • Birthday 04/25/1989


  • Interests
    Movies, comics, art--any and all forms of visual narrative.
  • Favorite Games
    Grim Fandango, Earthbound, Rez

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  1. @Goose Malloy--totally agree that narrative-focused games are not inherently meaningful and that it depends on the quality of the narrative, what's being communicated, how well it's executed, etc. That's actually a big part of my personal issue with games in the category A that I described--the glossy high-budget games that are often around 15-30 hours long and comprised of around 80% combat and/or puzzle segments, with the narrative cutscenes interspersed between those gameplay segments. Often the narratives in those games are highly imitative of and less well-done/interesting than the works from other mediums they are imitating, and the combat and/or puzzle segments (which are often mostly or completely divorced from the narrative being portrayed in the cutscenes and nearly always amount to little more than "defeat bad enemies because enemies bad") take up such a large percentage of the overall work that it lessens the impact the narrative might otherwise have. As a result games in category A frequently end up feeling not much different than games in category C--the ones with little-to-no or very lightweight narratives--and are often worse/less enjoyable systemically than games in category C, as well. I've never heard of the "Broken Sword" series--it sounds very interesting. Will definitely check it out--thanks. And yeah I likewise agree that many well-done narratives are not very meaningful in what they convey, but are rather mostly just frivolous and entertaining. Obviously nothing wrong with that--a lot of my favorite narrative works fall into that category! Ernst Lubitsch's "Trouble in Paradise" and the 2009 animated movie "A Town Called Panic" are two of my favorite movies I've seen thus far--they're both nothing but pure entertainment. I personally find frivolous but highly entertaining and well-told narratives to still be more meaningful overall than systemic combat and puzzles, but I could understand how other people would not. (And I do love a great, engaging gameplay mechanic or well-designed, satisfying to solve puzzle.) (Also of course narrative works that deal with more serious subject matter can still be entertaining and/or funny. The best ones often are!) As for systemic-heavy, narrative-light (or devoid) games that can still convey meaningful narrative: I've never heard of the "Democracy" series but I imagine a lot of people would feel similarly that games like "Civilization," "SimCity," "The Sims," etc. can also convey a lot of meaningful things without having much of any overt, authored narrative. I do feel like those games are the exception rather than the rule when it comes that, and require a bit more work on the part of the player to extract/think about those narrative implications. But it is a good point/interesting example, and it would be neat if the same thing could be accomplished via systemic-heavy, narrative-light (or devoid) games in other genres. No issue whatsoever with developers trying to accomplish that, or with them continuing to make other kinds of games that have been made up to this point. But yeah, I think developers trying to come up with better ways to intertwine systems and narratives and have them be more of a reflection of one another would also be a very worthwhile endeavor!
  2. Fair enough, @Kyir! And yeah I might have come off a bit harsh when talking about systemic-heavy, narrative-light games: like I said, I genuinely love 'em! Systemic-heavy, narrative-light 2D games are among my favorite kind--"Dynamite Headdy," "Demon's Crest," "Mario 3," "Mario World," "Sonic 2," "Sonic 3K," "Sonic Mania," "Super Metroid," "Castlevania III," "Rondo of Blood," "Link to the Past," "Super Meat Boy," "Mega Man 2," "Mega Man 3," "Mega Man 9," etc. are some of my favorite games I've played thus far. When it comes to 3D systemic-heavy, narrative-light games, "Mario Galaxy," "Mario Galaxy 2," "Mario 3D Land," "Mario 3D World," "Wind Waker," "Resident Evil 1 Remake," "Resident Evil 2," "Resident Evil 3," "Resident Evil 4," etc. are also some of my favorite games I've played thus far, too. And you're right that I probably downplayed the ways in which people derive personal meaning from media that is not trying to use narrative to convey something about humanity, the world around us and our relationship to it, etc. Even games that are narrative-light still convey a lot purely through aesthetics (how the characters and world are portrayed, how the character interacts with that world, etc.), and of course many if not all people derive meaning from narrative-light games in their own way--whether that's using your imagination to wonder more about what the characters and world would be like separate from the conditions that exist when you're playing the game, or simply remembering where you were, what your current state in life was, etc. at the time you played a game. We all create those types of memories and narratives, even for narrative-light games (or ones that are essentially devoid of narrative entirely). To be fair, though, all of that is mostly separate from the games themselves and what they convey, and can exist with almost anything one experiences (media or otherwise). I was more just trying to express how most games essentially rely on combat and puzzles to comprise the majority of what you experience/do in them, and that I think there should be a greater range of interactive expression in games that is able to be more closely intertwined with narratives than those are. I'm not trying to argue that combat and puzzles should ever go away--there's obviously always going to be a place for them to exist. (Since I love 2D and 3D platformers so much I'd be pretty upset myself if great new ones ever stopped being made!) But I do think combat and puzzles dominate way too much of what video games as a medium are comprised of. I honestly have felt this way for a long, long time (well over a decade and a half). It's hard for me personally not to feel like the medium is collectively treading water when it comes to what happens systemically in a majority of games that have been made, are being made, will be made in the future. Of course there are still slight advancements and interesting things to be unearthed from the systems that have long existed in games--I think we were all collectively surprised and delighted when it was revealed that Cappy in "Mario Odyssey" allowed the player to posses various other characters and objects, a seemingly fairly novel mechanic for a 3D platformer--but for the most part combat and puzzles (as implemented across various different genres) are well-established conventions that are mostly being repurposed over and over again. And you are absolutely right that a closer merging of narrative and gameplay is meaningless if either or both aspects are not done well. I'm not arguing for games that have a better integration of systems and narratives to be less enjoyable than ones that currently exist, but rather a best of all worlds where what you're doing in the game systemically is enjoyable, ties into the narrative the game is trying to tell well, and the narrative itself is interesting and well-done, as well. (And of course I understand that is going to be incredibly difficult for developers to pull off. This issue already exists of games that excel at one thing more than the other. People consider Swery's "The Missing" to be very interesting narratively but to be a bit clunky and less well-executed systemically. The "Uncharted" series got better and better narratively with each entry but made little to no evolvement systemically, where it got to the point that it seemed like most people dealt with the boring combat and light puzzle segments just to see/get to more of the story. And "Breath of the Wild" is regarded by many as incredible systemically but mostly a misfire narratively. So we already have this issue/struggle of trying to have the narrative and gameplay both be of high quality at the same time, and that issue would still exist when trying to have more intertwined systems and narratives. I do think if it's ever able to be pulled off, though--a game that is highly enjoyable systemically and narratively and the two are very closely intertwined/a reflection of one another--that the end result would be incredible.) Also y'all are right that I was too vague with what I meant by "meaningful" in my original post (and of course what is considered "meaningful" is going to vary from person to person). Was already thinking of trying to better explain my view of that in a separate post, so I will do that. (Won't have time to write that up until tomorrow at the earliest.)
  3. Chris is doing a talk at GDC today (in like…10 minutes) about interactive visual narrative works that don't rely on combat, light puzzles, or any of the known systemic conventions that currently exist in video games. Dunno if it's ever going to be free to watch (that's the only way I'll ever be able to catch it), but thought the topic would be a good jumping off point for discussion here. (Maybe people that are able to catch the talk live could give some input about what was discussed in it as well.) Have thought about the same thing for a long time myself. I sent someone an email regarding this topic in 2014. Here's what I said at the time: "On a related note, I don't think that games have to completely abandon traditional systemic rulesets and all be first-person exploration or point-and-click adventure games in order to tell meaningful stories, but my humble opinion is that games that are systemic-focused need to start figuring out how to have what the player does in the game be closely interwoven with and a reflection of its narrative intentions. And they need to do that without relying on the deplorable violence/combat most games lean on for gameplay. The only games I can think of that have done this well to some degree are 'Freedom Bridge,' 'Journey,' and 'Papers, Please.' But two of those three games essentially only figured out how to make traversal be intrinsically linked with their narrative. 'Papers, Please' is the most innovative in terms of marrying gameplay and narrative into one cohesive vision, but what the player does in that game, while enjoyable at first, gets a bit tedious fairly shortly. Which works since what it's replicating (checking passports) would be tedious to perform in real life and it brilliantly ties into the narrative of the game. But I would be lying If I said I found it enjoyable to do systemically for longer than a half hour or so at a time." I have also criticized the AAA visual narrative systemic approach of having 30 minutes to an hour or so of well-produced cutscenes strewn throughout a 10-20 hour experience, with traditional systemic aspects like combat (often third or first person shooting) and light puzzles being the connective tissue in-between the cutscenes. Yes, dialogue (usually banter) often takes place during the more traditional combat and/or light puzzle segments to try to lightly remind the player of the narrative at hand, but the majority of the narrative in these games is conveyed in the cutscenes rather than the interactive segments. Of course a lot has happened since 2014, and there's been many good-to-great games that primarily focus on delivering a narrative without relying on combat. Lucas Pope of course was back at it again with the great "Return of the Obra Dinn." Some other standouts since that time have been: "Her Story," "Firewatch," "Tacoma," "Thimbleweed Park," "What Remains of Edith Finch," "Night in the Woods," "Oxenfree," "The Gardens Between," "Hypnospace Outlaw," etc. Some of those games do rely on puzzles (both lightweight and more difficult), which of course is another form of challenge and a long-established component in games, while others are much more lightweight systemically and primarily focus on general exploration to unfold the narrative. Of course there's so many genres and types of games that it's hard to try to boil them down to just a handful of categories. So this is definitely reductive, but for the sake of discussion I feel like games as they currently stand essentially fall into these three categories: A: Narrative-focused but systemically traditional game. Often roughly 20-25% cutscenes and 75-80% combat and/or puzzle segments. Typically high-budget and between 15-30 hours long (though those aren't requirements). "Uncharted 4," "God Of War," "The Last of Us II," "Red Dead Redemption 2," "Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus," "Spider-Man," "Horizon Zero Dawn," "Ghost of Tsushima," etc. are recent or forthcoming examples of this type of game. Games in this category clearly put a lot of effort into their narrative (primarily cutscenes, but in-game dialogue as well) and seemingly want it to be the focus, but then large sections of the games in-between the cutscenes are filled with very standard, run-of-the-mill systemic design involving combat against enemies and/or puzzles (of varying difficulty). B: Narrative-focused games with lightweight systemic aspects (often either first-person exploration or adventure games). "Gone Home," "Firewatch," "What Remains of Edith Finch," "Oxenfree," etc. are recent examples of this category. C: Systemic-heavy games that often have little-to-no overt narrative (or very lightweight narratives). Nearly everything that isn't in category A or B falls into this one. "Mario Maker 2," "Shovel Knight," "Wargroove," "Forza Horizon 4," "Into the Breach," "Dead Cells," "Super Mario Odyssey," "Breath of the Wild," etc. are recent examples of this type of game. Again, it's not to say that these games are devoid of narrative--they all have it to some extent. But gameplay, aesthetics, etc. all take strong precedence over narrative. (Though sometimes people go wild/have fun speculating about the narrative in some of these games, such as the Mario series. Which is highly enjoyable to do. But mostly is people having fun/letting their imaginations run wild based on the limited narrative that exists in the games themselves.) I'll admit, for a decent amount of time after "Gone Home" came out I thought the medium as a whole would be better if it almost all started moving towards category B. I thought games in categories A and C were mostly meaningless because I do think traditional systemic design aspects of games--combat, puzzles, etc.--are inherently mostly meaningless. They can be incredibly well-designed and executed and enjoyable to perform, but if those interactive actions are completely divorced from narrative then they don't inform the person performing them about anything useful other than A: how to perform them and B: giving them the ability to improve at how they perform them. A game like "Spelunky," which is a masterclass in systemic design in every conceivable way and without a doubt one of the best games released this decade (and probably ever), is also ultimately mostly meaningless/a waste of time. Please don't get me wrong--I love systemic-heavy games, getting proficient at them, etc. And I'm not trying to discount that such games frequently are enjoyable to play/make the person playing them happy. "Mario Maker 2" is the game I'm currently most looking forward to, and I am going to spend hundreds of hours getting immense enjoyment from it. But it's not going to impart any information to me that is going to be useful in the real world, or that will make me think about things in a different way, etc. But then I realized that of course there's nothing wrong with that. If a game has great aesthetics, a killer soundtrack, and highly enjoyable, traditional gameplay, but conveys remotely nothing of importance to the player (other than how to play the game and improve at doing so)--as long as the player is getting personal enjoyment out of it, that is perfectly fine. (Though I do think it is always important to be heedful of how one is spending their time, and even if one finds systemic-heavy games to be highly enjoyable, they also tend to take a lot of hours from you. So I do think it is important to remind yourself that engaging in them is not as meaningful as doing many other things and to limit the amount you do engage in them to what you feel is an appropriate amount.) And yeah I think there will always be room for those types of systemic-heavy, narrative-light games. Honestly some studios would probably even be better off entirely focusing on that rather than even trying to do narrative. Such as Nintendo, who are incredible at gameplay and aesthetics (which of course are the primary focus of their games), but who have repeatedly dropped the ball when it comes to their (admittedly lightweight) narratives, often relying on generic stereotypes and tropes and failing to treat people with dignity. I honestly feel like Nintendo would be better off giving up on narrative altogether, or radically changing their priorities when it comes to it/recognizing what they've gotten wrong and assigning narrative duties to more narratively skilled employees who would be able to handle diverse characters with much more care and respect. I also personally don't have any great ideas or implementations of my own for better integrating gameplay and narrative so that they are more closely interwoven. Like I said earlier, most of the games that have done a better job weaving the two together have done so via traversal mechanics rather than non-traversal character actions, which means the surface has only begun to be scratched. I do think if more game designers were thinking along these lines/more purposefully trying to have the systemic interactions of their games be a reflection of its narrative, that they would be able to come up with inventive ways to do so. It's a problem I've thought about for a long time, and I fully admit to not coming up with much of anything that seems like "yeah, that would definitely be a great example of systems and narrative being more closely intertwined." I'm not very smart, though, and I definitely think there are many people--already working in games and not--who would be able to. I also think coming up with a great example of narrative and systemic marriage and strongly executing on it isn't the silver bullet for making video games as a medium be better/more meaningful than it currently is. There is still the problem of the quality of the narratives themselves not yet quite reaching the highs they have in other mediums--it's equally important that issue is recognized and attempted to be improved upon as well. And a game with an incredibly strong intertwined systemic-narrative still is not as generally accessible as works in other narrative mediums, which only require eyesight to be enjoyed. (Of course hearing is also important for movies, but not completely essential.) This issue will probably lessen over time as more and more people are familiar with how to play games/use controller input methods (and I do think people overemphasize how long it takes to get acclimated to doing so), but I do think other mediums will perpetually be more accessible/easier for people to experience overall. (Apologies if this post is a bit haphazard/lacking clarity. I only got five hours of sleep last night. Will likely edit the post and try to improve its clarity later. Hope it can still bring about some discussion of the topic at hand, though.) What do y'all think are currently the best examples of games that are strongly intertwined systemically and narratively? (Where what you do in the game is a reflection of/ties into the narrative itself, in a more meaningful way than "stop enemies because enemies bad.") Do you have any ideas or implementations of your own of one? Do you even think that games that fall into the narrative-heavy, systemic-light category should evolve and try be more involving systemically, with those systems tying directly into the narrative itself--or do you think they should remain systemic-light? Would love to hear everyone's thoughts on the subject!
  4. The Dancing Thumb (aka: music recommendations)

    Since we're in the heart of fall I figured I'd post some autumnal tracks: I also put together a longer playlist with 30 songs total (that includes the two songs posted above), if anyone wants a more sustained autumnal vibe: Hope everyone on the forum/slack has a great weekend and Halloween! Enjoy the rest of fall!
  5. Idle Thumbs Hiatus

    I still check the forums regularly. (Have been since late 2013.) Haven't posted much since I'm often too busy to do so, but I enjoy reading what y'all have to say. Actually had something in mind I wanted to write-up for the "In the Valley of Gods" thread based on the limited info about the game that's out there (mostly the written description on its Steam page). Y'all are right that forum activity seems to have dropped a lot since the main podcasts went on what's now looking like it may be a permanent hiatus, but I imagine folks will post in that thread whenever new info about the game comes out. (My guess would be we'll see a new trailer sometime in 2019 with a release date, or maybe no set release date if they want to take more time with it/have it come out in 2020 or beyond.) I'll still check-in and try to post when I have time. Though yeah I'll understand if no one responds/no discussion takes place since it does seem the main podcasts were what kept a lot of people regularly checking in. If the casting of pods from the Thumbs proper (Idle Thumbs, Idle Book Club, Important If True) has indeed completely ceased: thanks for all them great pods y'all. I'll definitely be relistening to old episodes. Hope y'all are doing well/having a blast.
  6. E3 2018

    The games shown over the last month or so I'm most interested in are "Ooblets," "Tunic," "Sable," and "Tetris Effect." ("Overcooked 2" also looks like a solid follow-up; I'm hoping the netcode is good enough to make it an enjoyable experience. And if the GB folks, Idle Thumbs, or Steve Gaynor stream them playing through the new "Hitman 2" missions I'll watch that in a heartbeat. Not the kind of game I'm interested in playing, but I bought the first one since I got so much enjoyment watching the folks I just mentioned streaming it and will do the same with the second.) "Ooblets" has elements from "Harvest Moon," "Animal Crossing," and "Pokemon," done in a distinctive visual style and charming atmosphere. I think this game has a real shot of being even more enjoyable than all the ones it's inspired by. But even if not, it'll still surely be a good time. Wonderful trailer with great music: "Tunic" looks like a relatively simple isometric action adventure game, but the wonderful and unique art style and gorgeous music elevate it into must-play territory for me. Again, wonderful trailer with incredible music: "Sable" is probably the most interesting game shown off recently. Gorgeous art style inspired by Moebius and Ghibli, with the main character's animation being purposefully limited, and great lighting. It sounds like this game is all about exploration (i.e. no combat), so its overall quality will probably live or die by the quality of its narrative and how engaging that exploration/world design is. But even if the narrative isn't good, it's still such a striking and well-realized world that it'll likely be worth experiencing. Yet another wonderful trailer with great music: And lastly "Tetris Effect." Tetsuya Mizuguchi working on an officially licensed "Tetris" game. What more needs to be said? Not just the best video game trailer I've seen in a long time, but one of the best trailers I've ever seen, period. Sure, it's just "Tetris" (with way more of an emphasis on the synergy between audio and visuals) but it's gonna be the best damn version of "Tetris" ever made. Can't wait:
  7. RetroThumbs

    Lots of Super Nt impressions and reviews came out today. Everything looks/sounds great so far. Linneman's Digital Foundry video is coming out this Sunday, which will likely be the best for video, audio, and performance comparisons. But there's already some great videos out today about it. I'd recommend: Gamexplain's video showing the visual differences between an unmodded original SNES, the SNES Classic, and the Super Nt, which makes it pretty clear the Super Nt produces the best, most faithful 1080p image of SNES games. My Life in Gaming's video has some good comparisons as well, a lot more in-depth information, and is interspersed with a video interview with Kevtris (the person responsible for the FPGA in the Super Nt). And Jeremy Parish's video gives a nice general overview of the system. Pretty cool. This is the best, most authentic way to play SNES games in 1080p now. Really love the design of the hardware and packaging (by Cory Schmitz), boot-up screen (designed by Phil Fish; audio by Squarepusher), etc. The only way this system could be more perfect would be if it accepted Saturn Model 2 (Japanese Model 1) controllers, since those are the best 2D controllers ever made, but the SNES controller is good enough. Big thumbs-up from me.
  8. Very well said, Simon, and completely agreed! I have the softcover version of the reprint designed by Jake and it's one of the most well designed books I own. (Check out the hardcover and some early design sketches here.) Seriously, it's my favorite book, along with "Perfect Nonsense: The Chaotic Comics and Goofy Games of George Carlson" (which is the most well-designed and beautiful book I've ever seen), the massive-sized "Peanuts Color Sundays" volumes, Dame Darcy's "Meat Cake Bible," the Floyd Gottfredson Mickey Mouse volumes, some of the John Canemaker art books, and some of the prose Penguin Classics deluxe edition books. Jake is up there with Tony Ong and Jacob Covey from Fantagraphics as one of the best book designers of all-time, though sadly it seems like it was just a one-time passion project for him. If y'all publish an "Art of Campo Santo" book in the future, you've already got the perfect person to design it! It's a shame the 2008 reprint Jake designed is now out of print as well. Prices on Amazon and eBay for the softcover seem pretty high for one in like new or new condition. But it might be possible to get a new copy for a more reasonable price if there's anyone that is just now learning about it and would like a physical copy over the digital tablet/smartphone version. I sent an email to the Cartoon Art Museum a few years ago inquiring about getting a copy since they had a Purcell "Sam & Max" exhibit at the time and a bookstore attached to the museum (since they relocated it looks like the physical bookstore isn't open at their new location yet, though they do have a limited amount of items in their online store). They kindly forwarded me to someone named Joel who said he worked with Steve Purcell periodically. He was able/kind enough to send me a brand new copy of the softcover halfway across the U.S. for $30 (new book + shipping) via Paypal. This was in July of 2014. I don't want to give out precise info since I don't know if he has any more copies or would be able to do the same for anyone else, but it seems possible. If anyone in the U.S. is sure they'd want a copy, feel free to PM me and I'll email him, ask if he has any more he'd be willing to send out, and if so give you his email address to make the transaction (you're just giving him your address to ship it to you and he'll give you the email address to pay via Paypal). Would be really cool if someday Purcell is able to publish a new book of the work he's done since being at Pixar, along with any new "Sam & Max" or personal artwork. Several Pixar employees have been allowed to publish work while at the company: Sanjay Patel has published personal work via Chronicle Books, and Enrico Casarosa and Ronnie Del Carmen have both published personal work, too. All three of them have had some of their Pixar work published via Chronicle and Disney Press, as well. Lorelay Bove, Brittney Lee, Claire Keane, Lisa Keene, Victoria Ying, and Helen Chen were all able to publish their personal work via Design Studio Press a few years ago, too, so it seems like Disney Feature Animation is fine with employees publishing personal work, as well. (Speaking of Pixar, let's fucking hope it's confirmed that Lasseter is out for good sometime soon.) Could you imagine if Purcell was able to direct a "Sam & Max" short or feature-length movie at Pixar? That'd be pretty damn cool. Sanjay Patel's "Sanjay's Super Team" is the best short Pixar has made so far, in my opinion. Would love if they started letting employees spearhead projects with their own ideas instead of only letting the same five or six people be in charge (this would have the side benefit of getting them out of this god awful sequel malaise they've been in this entire decade), and good lord after all the shit that's come out about what Lasseter put women employees through for *decades* let's hope they let more women be directors/in charge and not unceremoniously boot them off the project 3/4th of the way through like they did to Brenda Chapman.
  9. The Asian Film Thread

    Oh yeah, totally agree that there's a lot of not-great movies made elsewhere, and that there's surely some campy fun to be had in some of them that we're likely not going to experience/know about since what we receive here is purposefully filtered/tailored for the market. My point was simply that since the best movies made outside America are often of a much higher quality than the best that are made here, I also presume the same is true for mid and low-tier (in terms of quality) works. Take "Miss Hokusai," for example, an animated movie I could have mentioned for this thread but purposefully didn't because though its premise and elements of it are great, the execution of the movie as a whole unfortunately falls a bit flat. I'd consider it a mid-tier movie in terms of quality. That said, what it's about is better and more interesting than 99% of animated movies made here in America. The movie isn't executed as well as the best movies from Laika, Pixar, and Disney, but it also was made with a fraction of the budget, people, and resources as movies made by those American companies (and like all foreign movies also made an infinitesimal fraction at the box office compared to movies made by those American companies). And when I say a fraction, I'm not exaggerating. Can't find a specific number for the budget of "Miss Hokusai," but the production company has 120 people *total* and also does television and video game work, so I doubt everyone was on the project. 120 people is 1/10 the amount of people Pixar has, so one can assume the budget is also a tiny fraction of what one is for a Pixar movie, and the reported box office gross is 0.0003265% that of Pixar's latest movie "Coco." Of course "Coco" played at hundreds if not a thousand more theaters than "Miss Hokusai" did, but even if foreign animated movies played at the same amount of theaters as an American animated movie does, it seems highly likely they would still make a fraction of what they do at the box office. Also even if you compare "Miss Hokusai" to a smaller-sized American animation studio whose movies unfortunately do the lowest numbers at the box office (Laika), it's still a fraction. The "Miss Hokusai" production company has 3/10 the amount of people Laika has, again you can assume a fraction of the budget, and made 0.003184% what Laika's most recent movie ("Kubo and the Two Strings") did. So a bit better, but still pretty far from 1% of the total gross of the worst-performing (god why do more people not go see Laika movies they're really fucking good) contemporary American animated movie from a major studio. (I probably should have compared "Miss Hokusai" to the worst or mid-tier quality movies from both those companies, such as "Cars 2" and "The Boxtrolls," but the numbers would be very similar.) Me hoping that more American moviegoers seek out foreign movies is so we get exactly the kind of movies you're talking about--ones that previously would have only been known about by people that live in the places they come from. (My point in giving the stats above was to convey that if just 1/50 of the people that show up for major American movie releases went and saw foreign movies, they'd be doing much better financially and we'd get even more of them.) I'd love to get way more mid and low-tier quality foreign movies, and I'd also love for the people that make the best ones to do better financially so they can make even more great movies, etc. (Though of course no matter what there's always going to be creative works that are only known locally--whether it's isolated to a town, state, or entire country. Some stuff just never breaks through to a wider audience. But I do strongly think that if foreign movies made more money at the box office, we'd see companies taking more risks in terms of what movies get distribution, how many get the green-light in the first place, etc.) So if foreign movies are made with a fraction of the people, budget, and resources as American movies, and yet are often so much better in quality (like I said earlier, compare "A Separation" to anything that has been made in this decade so far here in America), what accounts for the discrepancy in quality? Surely a multitude of factors, but one that stands out to me is the sad fact that the story of America so far has been the story of white mediocrity in control. (And I don't say that to be harsh or hypocritical--I'm one of if not *the* most mediocre white people on the planet.) Many of these foreign works are made by way less white people than your average American production, and I think this is one of the huge benefits they have. I say this because the same thing is true of works made here in America--"Do the Right Thing," "Children of Men," "The Square" (2013), "Fruitvale Station," "Moonlight," etc.--most of our more recent great movies have come from non-white people. (Even silly entertaining stuff like "Thor: Ragnarok" has a vibrancy and style that most of its peers in its genre are missing, likely due to the director and people in the movie crew.) Sure, a lot of white people made some great stuff here from the 20s-60s, but non-white people didn't have much of a chance to get into high-up positions. And when you look into a lot of the best works made by white people, especially collaborative works like movies, you often find there was one or a handful of non-white people who actually did most of the crucial work and then the white people in charge unconsciously or consciously took and received the credit for it. (This stuff still happens a lot today, sadly.) Somewhat similar to how you often find out a spouse of a famous man deserves way more credit than given for the success of their work (and that it should be referred to as their work since they both contributed to it), such as Elaine Bass, Marcia Lucas, et al. Also, just think of how much better a lot of that work from the 20s-60s would be if there had been more diverse creative teams working on them, and how much better works made by mostly white people today would be. (Hell, as much as I like the diverse cast and story group on the new "Star Wars" movies, I wish they'd gone with different directors. Would love to see a Janelle Monae or Alfonso Cuaron helmed "Star Wars" movie. Oh well.) Would also like to try to dispel the myth that foreign movies with subtitles are difficult to watch/get into and that it's only for "smart" people or some such nonsense. (Hopefully there are folks that read this thread that have seen few foreign movies before and now feel more interested/excited to do so.) I totally understand there is some percentage of people that either have visual or learning impairments that would make reading subtitles difficult or impossible. But a huge percentage of the American population can easily read subtitles. Characters in movies hardly ever speak more than 1-2 sentences at a time, and even more rarely do they use words that people would not have heard of/need to look up the definition of. Reading subtitles in foreign movies is nothing like reading a book, or even a comic strip--it's way simpler and to the point. I've had more difficulty trying to pronounce and understand the meaning of words I've come across on food menus than I ever have from a foreign movie. And I think most people, once they've watched 2-3 movies with subtitles, will start to notice they better understand the narrative/plot due to reading instead of just hearing the dialogue. I watch most movies where the dialogue is spoken in English with subtitles for exactly that reason, and find it to be a much more enjoyable experience. The one argument against subtitles I can understand a bit more is folks that want to take in the visuals as much as possible. I really don't find reading subtitles to be any different than just listening to the dialogue in terms of my ability to observe the visual details (either way your brain cannot 100% focus on the visuals--you're either reading the subtitles or instinctively parsing what is being said, and honestly I find reading 1-2 sentences a lot easier to do than processing the same spoken dialogue), but obviously when you're reading the subtitles your eyes are no longer taking in the whole image/paying as close attention to the details. My biggest counterargument against this position, as someone who really loves visuals, is that I find I am way more likely to rewatch/experience any media I really like visually at least one more time after my initial experience. And it's a lot easier to focus and observe visual details on a second viewing of any movie, subtitled or not. And the last myth/stereotype that seems to drive people away from experiencing foreign movies (and other media) is that they think the theaters that play them are more "fancy" than a standard wide release multiplex. Some people seem to think it's equivalent to going to a high-end restaurant where the food is all mega-expensive, people are snooty and dressed to the nines, etc. In my experience this is hardly ever the case or is blown out of proportion. Some theaters that show foreign and independent movies are older movie palaces and may have some nice decoration, but when it comes to the seats, screen, and audio they're often slightly worse or no better than a standard wide release multiplex. (A tradeoff that's easy to accept for the kinds of movies you get to see.) And many of them are just basic ass theaters. The audience is usually a smattering of people in their early 20s, a few more people in their late 20s/30s/early 40s, and some older people. Some of the middle-aged/older folks may be dressed nicely, but I've never been to a screening where everyone is--it sure as shit ain't required and I've never felt out of place dressing normally. And the worst misconception is pricing--tickets on average are much cheaper at theaters that show foreign and independent movies than at a wide release multiplex. Matinee showings at Landmark Theatres across the U.S. are $7, and evening/standard showings are $9. Independently-owned theaters that show foreign movies can be even slightly cheaper. Good luck finding tickets at a wide release multiplex that low, unless it's before noon on a specific weekday when they have a sale. I'd love if more folks from all types of backgrounds started seeing these movies. The tickets are cheaper than for a wide release multiplex movie, the movies are better, etc. Though I totally understand for some folks these theaters are too far away from where they live/work to regularly go to, which is a shame. Again, FilmStruck streaming, mom-and-pop rental stores and damn Netflix are your best options if that's the case. Anyway, most of that is tangential to the topic at hand and more regarding foreign movies in general. Don't mean to get the thread off-topic; just wanted to give a reply since I agree with you @Patrick R that I'd be nice for mid and low-tier quality Asian and other foreign movies to play here, too. (And like I said, based on all the info above I think mid and low-tier quality works from Asia and elsewhere would be better than ones made here, as well.) Some other movies I thought of: not sure if "The Act of Killing" counts (co-directed by Christine Cynn and shot in Indonesia)--that's another remarkable documentary. And when it comes to campy/not-great-but-also-the-greatest-because-of-how-not-great it is movies, "Hausu" is aces. (Though it's Criterion-approved, so surely doesn't fit the criteria of a lesser-known not-great work like you were talking about.) But yeah, "Hausu" is probably the most I've laughed during/enjoyed a not-great movie, since it's so hilariously bizarre and some of the techniques employed make such little sense. And I have not seen these yet, but I've owned the Blu-ray set for a few years now: "The Samurai Trilogy" movies by Hiroshi Inagaki, which are supposed to be good. (This is a good reminder that I need to watch those! They aren't even very long, just roughly an hour and a half each.) Also, glad to hear you liked "A Brighter Summer Day" @Woodfella! Always nice when one of those 4-9+ hour movies are compelling enough to make you excited to take breaks and see the whole thing. Nice to save those for a cozy Saturday or Sunday.
  10. Everyone deserves a pink elephant in their life: (I was once driving down a highway in the middle of nowhere and saw some place with a giant pink elephant sign that looked similar to the plush from "Darkman" and wanted to stop and take a photo but unfortunately couldn't easily maneuver my car to the entrance to the place to stop and do so. Also I saw "Drag Me To Hell" and "Up" on the same day when they came out which was a tonally bizarre experience.)
  11. The Asian Film Thread

    Lots of great recommendations already! Since you started off with Ozu, I'd highly recommend "Good Morning" and "An Autumn Afternoon." The former is his most lighthearted and entertaining movie (about two bratty but lovable kids pestering their parents for a television set so they can watch sumo wrestling), and it's my personal favorite. And "An Autumn Afternoon" is my second favorite of his late-period movies shot in color. One of Hirokazu Kore-eda's movies ("I Wish") has already been mentioned in the thread. Kore-eda is the closest we have to a modern-day Ozu, employing a lot of the same narrative and visual techniques. His movie "Still Walking" (2008) is the most Ozu-like and my absolute favorite of his. Of course Studio Ghibli is immensely popular, and for good reason. My two favorite movies from the studio are "Grave of the Fireflies" and "Only Yesterday," directed by Isao Takahata. Both are incredible, but "Only Yesterday" is the one that seems to be the most overlooked. About a woman in her late 20s who goes to work on a family member's farm to take a break from city life, the movie is filled with her thinking about various flashbulb memories from her childhood. It is perhaps the most gentle and affecting of Ghibli's entire output, and one of the greatest movies ever made. (I also really liked his recent "The Tale of Princess Kaguya," but more for its visuals than narrative.) Of the Miyazaki-helmed movies, which of course are all great, my favorites are "Porco Rosso," "Kiki's Delivery Service," "Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind," "Spirited Away," and "My Neighbor Totoro." "Tokyo Godfathers," "Mind Game" (2004), "The Girl Who Leapt Through Time," "Summer Wars," "Akira," "Ghost in the Shell," etc. are all very good animated movies, as well. Kurosawa of course has been mentioned. He had a long career filled with many great movies--my absolute favorites are "High and Low" and "Ikiru." (Word of warning on the Criterion "High and Low" Blu-ray: the white typeface is a bit annoying for the first 15 minutes or so of the movie. It's an interior shot that is brightly lit and the subtitles kind of bleed into the background a bit more than they should. But this issue goes away once the movie transitions to another sequence and the subtitles are easy to read for the majority of the movie. You can definitely still read the text at the beginning, but it's the only time I remember ever having slight difficulty reading subtitles because of their color interacting poorly with the movie image itself--I think I had to pause a couple times to ensure I got everything. The movie is definitely damn good enough to warrant dealing with that minor annoyance at the very beginning, though.) Wong Kar-Wai has also already been mentioned. I see that Patrick is already familiar with his work, but for anyone that isn't I'd recommend starting with "Chungking Express"; it's his most entertaining movie. "In the Mood for Love" is great, but it is a purposefully slower-paced movie that rewards rewatching to fully grasp and might be a bit much for one's first foray into his work. On that note, Edward Yang similarly made great and purposefully slower-paced movies. I'd recommend starting with "Yi Yi," the easiest to get into (though it is 3 hours long). "A Brighter Summer Day" is his masterpiece, a sprawling work informed by personal experience. It's 4 hours long/a bigger commitment, though it's definitely worth it. One of the best documentaries I've ever seen is "Last Train Home" (2010), directed by Lixin Fan. It's about how millions upon millions of Chinese factory workers (often underage) live and sleep at the factories they work at (making jeans and other bric-a-brac for Americans to "enjoy"), working excessively to try to help themselves and/or their family financially. They all work at factories for most of the year and get one single break/vacation, when they all travel home for the Chinese New Year. The movie is filled with unforgettable imagery of the factory conditions, the mass exodus of all these incredibly hard-working people trying desperately to cram onto trains to get home for the one minor break they receive, and the tireless resolve of these workers to try to better their lives via a corrupt, denigrating, and uncaring system. Though it is obviously a deeply upsetting and harrowing movie, it is well worth watching, both to witness conditions many of us have never endured, but also to see the brief moments of hope and joy these people still exude. Though the economic system is utterly failing them and doing everything it can to deprive them of their basic living conditions, it can not *completely* take away their humanity. One can only hope one day this type of atrocious economic system is dismantled and replaced with a viable one, and that some form of reparation is given to these people, no matter how late and disproportionate it will be to what they've suffered through. I'm sure there's many more I'm failing to think of off the top of my head; I'll make another post after trying to remember all that I've seen. But of course as already evidenced by other suggestions folks have given in the thread, there are clearly many more great movies that fit this particular category for me to see. I think there is strong merit in having threads dedicated to moviemaking or creative works from specific regions, but maybe a general "foreign movies" thread would be welcome, as well? Thinking about the movies for this thread was yet another reminder of a fact I observed long ago: that creative works made outside of America on average are both of a higher quality and often more genuine in nature. Don't get me wrong, of course there are still many exemplary works that come from here, but I think many people from here, especially the more jingoistic among us, think that we excel at/are the best at everything, which couldn't be further from the truth. Foreign movies (and most other creative works/other endeavors done elsewhere) have long been on average better than ones produced here, and this disparity in quality only seems to increase as time goes on. (For example: there isn't any American movie made so far in this decade that holds a candle to "A Separation," in my opinion.) With all of the appalling information that has come out about aspects of the American movie production apparatus in the last few months, as well as the fact we're apparently going to allow one company to control the majority of it, I hope beyond hope that more people from here seek out more and more movies and other creative works made elsewhere. (Of course there is no doubt that atrocious individuals are involved in movies made elsewhere, as well--Bernardo Bertolucci and Lars von Trier are as reprehensible as Woody Allen and Roman Polanski, etc. But the overall higher quality and greater sincerity of the best works made elsewhere strongly indicate many of them are also made by nicer people, and I feel more comfortable supporting the best works made outside of America.) It is easier than ever to find out about and experience these works. Landmark Theatres (owned by Mark Cuban, who also owns the Mavericks and seems like an upstanding person, though I certainly don't claim to have done extensive research on him) is the largest chain that shows foreign movies here in America, and every major city also has at least one if not a handful of independently-owned theaters that show limited-release foreign movies. (Even many places with population sizes between 35,000-100,000 will have one theater in town that shows foreign movies.) Criterion and Masters of Cinema have brought a lot of the best foreign movies to home video and have both done mostly sterling HD restoration work for their Blu-ray releases. FilmStruck has a lot of the Criterion collection available to stream; you can try out a free two-week trial here--just make sure to select the middle option as that's the one that includes the Criterion catalog. (For those that care: the video quality of HD streaming on FilmStruck and also Netflix, Hulu, etc. is somewhere in-between that of DVD and Blu-ray. I did a comparison a couple years ago of a handful of Criterion movies I have on both DVD and Blu-ray to how they looked in HD streaming and the video quality was always better than the DVD but worse than the Blu-ray--like I said, pretty much directly in-between the two formats in terms of clarity/quality. For most movies I'd say streaming is definitely good enough--if you have the bandwidth to stream in HD--but if you can get access to the Blu-rays from a mom-and-pop rental store or Netflix, it will be a bit better.) Thanks for starting the thread @Patrick R and everyone else for their great suggestions. Will be checking in on this one regularly--looking forward to seeing more great movies!
  12. Haven't listened to the episode yet (won't be able to until tomorrow), but I'll take any excuse to link to this: (And if anyone's jonesing for some more Pavement, these are their two best songs in my opinion: "Unseen Power of the Picket Fence" and "Grounded." So god damn good--perfect tunes to relax to at work going into the weekend. Thanks for the reminder!)
  13. This conversation between Amy Hennig and Sean was a really good read. Wide-ranging and funny; I particularly liked the bits about "Chaos in the Windy City" and narrative/interactivity in games. Also: this might not be of any help to the dev team, but I thought folks would still enjoy looking at these great posters for silent movies that are in the public domain (made prior to 1923) regardless. I have no idea if a movie in the public domain means that additional material related to it (such as posters and other promotional material) are *also* in the public domain, but if so maybe they could be useful for the dev team. (Though the setting could very well preclude them from being able to be used even if they are part of the public domain, if it wouldn't make sense in terms of a movie theater being anywhere close to where the game takes place.) Anyway, like I said even if not useful still thought some folks on the forum would enjoy them! Gives a decent insight into the types of movies/genres that were being made in the late 1910s/early 20s, and of course a strong reminder that movie posters from the 20s-60s are generally of a much higher quality than contemporary ones. (Though to be fair I totally understand how posters could be viewed as less important in terms of promoting movies nowadays than they were in an era devoid of easy access to trailers, information, etc.--still a bummer that beautiful ones like these are mostly not being made for new movies, though. Fan made posters and Criterion/Masters of Cinema covers are the closest we have, for the most part.) Here's the posters: "Cabiria" (1914): poster 1, poster 2, poster 3, and poster 4. "The Phantom Carriage" (1921) poster. "Nanook of the North" (1922) poster. "Dr. Mabuse the Gambler" (1922) poster. And here's some for movies from the 20s post-1922. (So not in the public domain yet; movies from 1923 will be added January 1, 2019, and movies from 1924 will be added January 1, 2020, etc. Just figured folks would like looking at these since they are incredibly well-done, too.) "The Thief of Bagdad" (1924): poster 1, poster 2, and poster 3. "The General" (1926) poster. Fritz Lang's "Spies" (1928): poster 1, poster 2, and poster 3. "Woman in the Moon" (1929) poster. Those posters are all for silent movies that came to mind for various reasons after seeing the "In the Valley of Gods" trailer. They're not all good/great movies, but they all certainly have great posters. If anyone's interested in getting into silent movies and looking for suggestions on where to start, my humble recommendation would be to start with "Safety Last!," "Sherlock Jr.," "The Phantom Carriage," and "The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari." Feel free to PM me if you want more suggestions beyond those (maybe I'll start an intro to silent movies thread in the movie forum if there isn't one already). Anyway, hope y'all enjoyed the posters and the transcribed "In the Valley of Gods" convo/article--have a great weekend!
  14. AGDQ 2018

    Only run I've had time to watch the archive of so far is "Sonic Mania," which was great. Claris is the best runner of the game with Sonic & Tails and she did a great job. Some really cool techniques, skips, and just non-stop speed. Of course you'd expect that with a classic-style 2D Sonic game, but as she and the announcers pointed out, the drop dash (a new move invented by the wonderful "Mania" dev team to give Sonic a unique ability since Tails and Knuckles have their own unique abilities) really makes "Mania" a better/even more enjoyable speedrun game than 1/2/CD/3K (though those are good speedrun games as well). I think "Mania" is one of the best 2D side scrolling speedrun games there is now. Really cool. Here's a timestamped link to the speedrun. Other runs I'm looking forward to catching the archive of when I have free time: "Splatoon 2," "Hollow Knight," "F-Zero GX," "Magical Pop'n" (such a great/cute game), "Mega Man X," "Dynamite Headdy" (which has the greatest pixel art and animation made thus far, along with "Demon's Crest," "Owlboy," and "Sonic Mania"--such incredible work), "Symphony of the Night," "Mario 3D World," "Wario Land 4," "Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga," "Yoshi's Island," "Mario Sunshine" (just to see how a great speedrunner deals with the camera/the most awful aspects of the game--though the secret levels are great/a precursor to a lot of design elements of the "Galaxy" games), "Star Fox 2" (just because it will be fascinating to see what a speedrun of this looks like), "Ori and the Blind Forest" (should be a fun race), "Owlboy," "Hyper Light Drifter," "Spelunky" (last GDQ run of this was great; little disappointed this isn't a hell run like that one was but is just Olmec, but still should be good), "Super Mario Galaxy," "Mega Man 1-3" relay race (this should be great--might be the highlight of the whole GDQ), "Kirby: Canvas Curse," "Tintin in Tibet" for GBC (never played this but it's based on one of the best Herge stories and I am aware that the music is really fucking good), "Super Mario World" (should be another great race) and "Breath of the Wild." Like always lots of good stuff--will take me a long time to catch the archives of all those! Hopefully none of the runners or announcers for any of those games and the entire event say/do anything egregious like has happened in years past. (Always hate when terrible stuff happens at an otherwise pretty good event, though they've seemingly done a good job with disciplinary action when it does.)
  15. Idle Thumbs Streams

    A song for @Nick Breckon and everyone who watched his stream to enjoy. Great stream; looking forward to more adventures in the future. Happy holidays everyone!