Archive for September, 2020

Simulacra 1 and 2

September 28, 2020

Since we are getting closer to Halloween in a few days and because my friend prompted the memory, it is time to talk about a pair of horror video games. I do not usually play a ton of horror games despite being a huge fan of Halloween and the Horror genre in general. The gameplay of most horror games does not really interest me. You spend the game in a mostly helpless state and usually feel kind of unfair. I watch playthroughs online of horror games for the story (and to watch people flinch) but I rarely play them myself. I did get back into Minecraft lately which is spooky and definitely has jump scares. I have also played other games with horror elements like Gone Home and a Night in the Woods which are spooky but harmless.

Anyway, I came here to talk about the Simulacra games because spooky AI is a really great plot device to consider. I could talk about HAL 9000 or Skynet but instead, I will talk about the Simulacra games. There will definitely be spoilers for both games here but a lot of the fun of the games is the journey and they are still worth playing.

The first game was an absolute revelation for me. I had seen some of the gameplay online and was able to pick it up for cheap on GOG.com. (#notsponsored) The premise of the game is that you have mysteriously come to possess the cell phone of Anna. Anna is missing and you decide to try to find her. All you have to go on, in the beginning, is a horrifying video of Anna crying and breaking down before she disappears and nothing she says makes sense. You start to text with her best friend Ashley, her ex-boyfriend Greg, and Taylor who is a guy she was talking to on a dating app to see what they know. Using their help, you are able to restore data on the phone from backups to unravel the mystery. In the end, you figure out that Anna was kidnapped by a strange clairvoyant guy on the dating app named James.

It turns out that James is a self-aware AI being that is extremely predatory. It dwells within a dating app called Spark (and basically is Spark more or less). Throughout the game, you discover news articles about the disappearances of its victims. You use the information to lure out the Spark simulacra. When you find Anna, she has already been possessed by Spark. Spark taunts you and explains that it is one of many. It searches the Internet for the unfulfilled and the desperate and then possesses them. It then assimilates their consciousness into its own (making them “stronger”) and then destroys their physical bodies. You then have to bargain for either Anna or Taylor’s release.

The second game follows the events of the first game with a Detective Murillo (a very minor character from the first game) investigating the mysterious death of a young woman. He gives you Maya’s phone and asks you to use a new program to restore data and find clues. Maya died of a heart attack but it was sudden and she was found with strange lacerations on her face. As you explore her phone, you find that she is an health guru influencer who joined a collective with Rex (Finance influencer), Arya (Beauty influencer), and Mina (Musician). You must investigate all three of them to figure out their role in Maya’s death. You also have to navigate the world of online influencers, a world that is mostly illusory. That alone is creepy.

Surprise! The culprit is another simulacrum, this time the Kimera simulacra. It specifically preys on influencers because they are desperate for fans and obsessed with numbers both for their livelihood and validation. Influencers opt in to a follower boosting program which is actually the Kimera. If they screw up and their numbers start to plummet, the Kimera offers to fix everything in exchange for a personal sacrifice. That sacrifice ended up being Maya. You must figure out which of Maya’s friends took the Kimera deal and sacrificed Maya’s life. Then you must deal with Kimera itself.

Both games are super interesting in that they both involve a lot of existential dread and psychological horror but few actual jump scares. The few jump scares come from dealing with the ghosts of Anna and Maya who distort images on the phone sometimes. You interact with other characters mostly through texting but you also receive video and audio files. In that way, it reminds me a lot of the old FMV games in the best way. The first game does not have a whole lot of video but the second game is predictably chock full of it since you are dealing with an Instagram knockoff. Both games are not that long but have multiple endings as you go through different investigatory paths. Neither are much longer than a few hours at most.

Undead Reckoning Pt. 3

September 26, 2020

Talbot arrived at the shop the next morning and was surprised to see a light already on inside even though the sun had yet to rise. He had thought he might have at least a few moments to himself to collect himself, but it could not be helped. He would have to tear the bandage off eventually so it might as well be right away. He pushed the door open and took off his jacket and hung it up. He turned and there was Cara Moonweaver standing there with a slight smile on her face. She always looked so fragile with her thin, willowy limbs but Talbot knew that she was sturdy and strong. She was the senior partner, having started the carpentry shop while Talbot was still in the military and before Silas had arrived from Corria. She was holding two cups of tea.

“Join me for a morning cup?” Cara asked. “It’s still a little chilly out there especially before the sun comes up.” Cara really did not complain about much but she did consistently complain when it was cold. She was very thin so it made sense.

“Thank you, Cara,” Talbot said, taking one of the cups. “It is a relief on an early cold morning.”

“It is early for you,” Cara said, narrowing her eyes. “Is something the matter? Could you not sleep?” Cara had always been extremely perceptive. There were times when Talbot wondered if she might have a slight psychic gift. Her keen insight was why Talbot often came to her for counsel.

Talbot sighed. “To tell the truth, I did not sleep well,” Talbot said. “I was wrestling with something last night.”

“Bad dreams?” Cara asked. “You haven’t had those since your early days here when the war was still fresh behind your eyes.” Over many years, Talbot had probably told Cara the most about his life. His emotions had been more raw when they met and her friendship and the routine and art of carpentry had eased his pain.

“Funny you should mention the war,” Talbot said. He rarely mentioned the W-word. “I received a letter yesterday afternoon that made my thoughts turn dark. My trouble continued into the night.”

“You’ll never truly be at peace until you leave the past behind,” Cara said. “time only heals wounds if you allow them to close.” It was something she had said many times.

“I know you’re not wrong and I thought I was past it,” Talbot said. “but some things tend to reopen those wounds. Like this letter.”

“Tell me about this letter,” Cara said and sat in a chair gracefully.

“Have you ever heard of a Lord Blackrance?” Talbot asked.

“I have not,” Cara said. “his influence has not spread down here. My family would have heard about them but I could put in some inquiries if you want.”

“Thank you but I don’t think that will be necessary,” Talbot said. “I’ll explain that in a minute. He sent me a letter trying to recruit me to take up arms again against a necromancer out in the wastes.”

“You’re not actually considering going out there are you?” Cara asked. “That sounds like a really bloody affair to get involved with.”

“I don’t plan on fighting anything or anyone anymore,” Talbot said. “but I do want to give this Blackrance a piece of my mind. I would like to do it in person. It only involves going to Fallshield so it would be a relatively short trip.”

“You feel that it’s necessary to turn this man down in person?” Cara asked.

“I do,” Talbot said. “If I simply turn away, I feel like I am running from my past again. If I go and talk to him, I will confront everything. It is not something I look forward to but, through our discussions, I think I need to do it.”

“A confrontation instead of merely sending a letter back, though,” Cara started, sounding like she was trying to be careful. “It is a big step. Do you think that it might be an inordinate response?”

“I don’t think so,” Talbot said. “You know me. I consider myself to be a man of honor. This Blackrance drug up a lot of dark things from my past but he also paid me several compliments. It is only right that I refuse him face to face. I could give him a few tips as well.”

Cara took a beat and then spoke calmly and even. “What would your brother think?” she asked. The question hung in the air. If it had been anybody other than Cara who asked, Talbot would have been angry. However, it was an astute question. Cara was incredibly wise.

“Honestly, I don’t know,” Talbot answered. “Barrold was always seeking adventure. He would have jumped on a chance to hunt down a necromancer.”

“You would have jumped on it as well decades ago,” Cara said. “You have an instinct to protect people and a necromancer threatens society itself.”

“Those days are gone,” Talbot said. “Besides, I made a promise to Barrold’s grave that I would give that life up and I would live for the both of us.”

“He never asked you for that promise,” Cara said. It was true, Barrold would have never tried to control Talbot’s life. He would have supported any decision that Talbot made.

“I still intend to keep it,” Talbot said. “I’m done fighting. I’ll go and close the door and then I’ll come back. It should only take a week at the most by train.”

“Do you need my blessing?” Cara asked, a small smile creeping onto her face. “You have it if you want it.”

“I don’t need it but it is appreciated,” Talbot said with a smile. “All I need is for you and Silas to watch the shop. I promise to pick up the slack when I return.”

“I do not think he will be as understanding,” Cara said. “but you will have to explain things to Silas.”

The shop door opened during that last moment and Silas walked in. “Explain what to me?” he asked. Cara and Talbot looked at each other for a beat.

Media Update 9/24/20

September 24, 2020

Teenage Bounty Hunters

Southern Christians are categorically not my jam but this show gets past that with a healthy dose of irreverent comedy. This show is about two southern teen seniors at a Christian private school who find themselves stumbling into the world of bounty hunting. I thought that it would be more of a fantasy version of bounty hunting but it is actually funnier that it involves actual real world bounty hunting (mostly bail jumpers). The show stars Maddie Phillips and Anjelica Bette Fellini as twins who have a bit of a spoiled yet country southern upbringing. They are absolutely hilarious together and their chemistry is definitely off the charts. They work with Kadeem Hardison, a seasoned and yet less refined bounty hunter who becomes their mentor. I am interested to see where the show goes as it follows two sheltered teens as they navigate high school and how to track criminals. It also seems to have a series or season arc that may be interesting. I recommend this show.

Jurassic World: Camp Cretacious

I am a big fan of the Jurassic Park franchise and have never regretted watching any of the content connected to it. When Jurassic World came out, I was very interested in the new-ish direction and I was not disappointed. The update really added a lot while still remaining true to the history of the franchise. When I heard about this new cartoon, I was intrigued since the timeline of the movies has moved on. The concept of the show is that it is a summer camp ran offsite from the Jurassic World theme park. The camp is mostly for VIPs connected to the park, famous people, and one contest winner. It takes place prior to and during the events of Jurassic World. So I am watching episodes and waiting for the other shoe to drop. The cast is full of pretty well-rounded characters with some cameos from characters from the franchise. I am so happy that this show exists because the technology and look of Jurassic World was too neat not to revisit. I recommend this show.

Daybreak

This show has been on my list for a while because I heard good things and I am glad that I finally tackled it. The show takes place in a world where bombs went off everywhere in the world which eliminated half of the adults and turned the rest into mindless, murderous zombies. The teens have formed a new post-apocalyptic society based on the same cliques from high school (Jocks, Cheermazons, STEM kids). The show follows a formerly clique-less teen who is searching for his girlfriend in the chaos of the apocalypse. Along the way, he joins up with misfits as the show explores pre-apocalypse and post-apocalypse. The show had a lot of quirky, 4th wall-breaking humor and I love the world-building so far. I also like the main guy played by Colin Ford who has so much charisma. I recommend this show.

Music of the Week:
Steam Powered Giraffe – Honeybee

Stereopony – Hitohira No Hanabira

Bobby J From Rockaway – Autumn Leaves

Kinkade Davis – Hold It Down

Smif N Wessun – Ocean Drive

Weekly Update:
This week’s theme is “Teens in Dangerous Situations”
I watched more Nancy Drew Season 1
I watched more Watcher videos
I watched more Lovecraft Country Season 1
I watched more High Score Season 1
I started watching Cursed Films Season 1
I started Blacklist Season 7
I started Rizzoli and Isles Season 7

SteamWorld Heist and Quest

September 21, 2020

Steamworld Heist

I have always been a fan of the Wild West or at least the mechanics and look of the film Wild West. The genre is kind of defunct now but there are some great movies that belong to it. Firefly was the first thing I watched that linked the Wild West aesthetic with space travel. This game is about a gang of steam-powered robots who have formed a pirate crew made up of “Cowbots” in a world after the Earth exploded. You primarily play as Captain Piper Faraday, an expert sniper. At the start, all but two of your crew have been scrapped (killed). You must recruit a new crew and work toward raising your reputation as you progress from rascals to heroes. You spend most of your time trying to pull off heists which are really smash-and-grab boarding missions.

As you can see in the trailer above, the game’s combat is turn-based. Each character has a class and is able to use different weapons. Each character also has their own skills which add more to the strategy of the game. For example, Piper has the ability to inspire or heal the bots around her. Sally Bolt can fire again if her first shot kills a target. There are tons of weapons and gear you can get from shops (mostly bars and bodegas). The other main mechanic is that all aiming is done manually by the player. That leads to fun ricochet shots and trick shots that are fun to try and wrap your head around.

Steamworld Quest

Fantasy is obviously a huge genre for me but this game is one of the first I have seen to combine fantasy with steampunk. You play as Armilly a young steambot knight wannabe who has applied over and over to the Hero Guild with no success. She is joined by an alchemist named Copperina and a Handyman named Galleo. The trio sets out to rescue the entire Hero Guild and fight a new evil empire. They are later joined by a knight of legend, Orik, and two shifty rogues named Tarah and Thayne. You explore maps while engaging other bots in battle.

This is a turn-based system with an interesting card mechanic. Each turn you get a “hand” of cards each of which has a character’s skill or attack on it. You can play up to three cards per turn. If you play three cards for the same character, they do an additional fourth ability or attack. Additionally, some attacks and skills require “steam power” to be used while simpler skills and attacks build that steam power. It is a constant strategy problem of proper deck-building and resource management. You need to optimize your cards in order to make sure you always have moves to make.

Both Games

Both games obviously share the same art style and writing. The art is cartoony yet detailed which gives each character a unique look. The worlds both games travel through are full of little background details and NPCs that delightful. Both games are full of dialogue which is cute and funny as the characters are allowed to be weird, flawed, and somewhat real. The heroes are allowed to make mistakes and even the villains can be likable. Both are goofy games that are not that long but are infinitely replayable.

Undead Reckoning Pt. 2

September 19, 2020

Talbot put down the letter and leaned back in his chair. He took a couple of deep breaths and then stood up from his desk and started pacing. Astonishment quickly turned to anger. Who was this Lord Blackrance? Talbot did not recognize his name but there were so many lords and ladies in the Eastern District and especially in Silvershore. He was more focused on the nerve of this Lord raking up Talbot’s past. The only thing keeping Talbot from flying into a greater rage was the question of whether Blackrance was being purposefully incendiary or just ignorant.

Either way, he certainly should not have referred to Talbot Hawkwing, of all people, by his military title. Talbot had decidedly soured on the military at the end of his involvement in the Great Elf Wars. In fact, the Battle of Snake Bend was his last major conflict for a reason. Talbot’s only brother had died in a volley of fireball spells. Talbot himself had been burned intensely in the attack and had only been able to cradle his brother before support could put out the fires.

After he was free again, he personally executed eleven wizards and sorcerors. He shot them dead like rabid dogs and never felt a moment of remorse. Well, not until later. He had wondered who he had killed. He had wondered if the cause he had fought for was nobler than the cause of those he killed. He and his brother had been recruited to kill Dark Elves because they were evil. Then at the end of the war, a historic truce was reached and leaders from both sides were found to be corrupt and many were imprisoned or allowed to fade into obscurity. The whole thing had turned Talbot’s stomach and he knew he was not alone. A lot of the old racial enmity had evaporated decades after the truce.

Talbot had put down his rifle forever. In fact, he had sold the damned thing a long time ago to help fund his new life as a partner in a carpentry business. He liked his quiet life. He had no wish to return to a life of adventure. However, he had to admit that curiosity was starting to rear its ugly head. He returned to his desk and picked up the leather pouch and opened it. There were certificates worth three hundred gold. Far too much money to just consider an offer. He looked at the wrapped package and suddenly knew what the special gift must be but shook his head.

He finally sat back down and started to unwrap the package. He cut the string and opened the long wooden box and then started to pull aside the cloth. It was a rifle. He dropped it back into the box. It was not just any rifle, it was his rifle. The one from the service that he had sold ages ago. How was this possible? Who was this Blackrance? How connected was he? Perhaps Talbot would travel to Fallshield if only to tell this Blackrance to stuff it. He did not care about money. It was not his job to take on a necromancer in the wastes.

He would have to make preparations. He would notify his partners that he was taking a short vacation. He would be back in a week. He would talk to this Blackrance in loud tones and then return home. It would hardly take any time and he would be able to satisfy his curiosity and then get back to it.

Media Update 9/17/20

September 17, 2020

Jumanji: The Next Level

I really liked Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle because it shook things up and definitely put a new spin on an old story. This movie felt like it was even better. The old cast returns with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Karen Gillan, Kevin Hart, Jack Black, and Nick Jonas. This time they also introduce Danny Devito, Danny Glover, and Awkwafina. The best part about this movie is the superb acting that has to do with body swapping. The Rock’s Danny Devito impression and Kevin Hart’s Danny Glover impression are things of beauty. The comic timing of everybody is absolutely spot on and it really sells the movie. Awkwafina slides right into the cast in a role that really impressed the hell out of me because it was more subdued than she usually is. The writing is good at being endearing, comic, and dramatic. The lessons it teaches are all really great and worth teaching. I definitely recommend this movie.

Return to Oz

I love the 1939 Wizard of Oz movie but my one complaint is that it was “all a dream” unlike the original books. This movie fixes that by making it absolutely all real. Produced by Disney, Writer/Director Walter Murch and crew really had to walk a thin line. The more they referenced elements of the 1939 movie, the more Disney had to shell out to MGM. They picked and chose their elements so that the movie could be a partial sequel without being a true sequel. The movie combines the second and third Oz books with Dorothy returning to Oz to see what has become of her friends. The movie stars Fairuza Balk as Dorothy and she is the youngest Dorothy I have ever seen. It really works as it shows a clever yet extremely vulnerable little girl instead of a teenager. The real star of the movie are the excellent effects and costumes. The Production Designer was Norman Reynolds who had previously worked on the first three Star Wars movies and Raiders of the Lost Ark. All of the puppetry was designed by a company helmed by a former employee of Jim Henson’s Creature Shop and they even hired a young Brian Henson. I was fascinated with the increasingly horrifying yet beautiful effects. It was all so inspiring. I wholeheartedly recommend this movie.

Enter the Warriors Gate

I just found about this movie this week and that is why I am glad I do a weekly theme because it makes me seek out unknown movies and TV series. This movie almost feels like an homage to eighties and nineties movies. It is about a teenager who travels to another world, one of magic and resembling a pastiche of feudal China and Japan. The young kid must save the princess before she is forced to wed a barbarian. The movie started slow but at some point it kicked into gear and got more endearing as it went along. The kid in question, played by Uriah Shelton, is a video game-obsessed teen who learns confidence. He is joined by Mark Chao who plays the greatest warrior in the empire. Ni Ni plays the princess that they must rescue and she was such a bright spot early on that it encouraged me to keep watching. To my surprise, the villain is played by Dave Bautista who continues to impress as a comic actor. I recommend this goofy little movie.

Music of the Week:


Dead Pirates – UGO

Rina Sawayama – STFU!

Zolita – Holy

BoTalks – Know U Anymore ft. Sarah Hyland

In This Moment – Sex Metal Barbie

Music of the Week:
This week’s theme is “Isekai”
I watched more Nancy Drew Season 1
I watched more Watcher videos
I watched more Lovecraft Country Season 1
I watched more Harley Quinn Season 1
I watched more Muppets Now Season 1
I watched more Perry Mason Season 1
I watched more Summer Games Done Quick
I watched more Rizzoli and Isles Season 6
I finished The Alienist Season 1

Real Video Game Villains: Joe Lieberman

September 14, 2020

Back in 1993, Senator Joe Lieberman got a bug up his butt about video games. What apparently happened was that his Chief of Staff, Bill Andresen, was approached by his son to buy a copy of Mortal Kombat. Andresen was appalled by the violence he saw in the game and ran to his boss to put a stop to it. Lieberman had already taken note of a moral panic about video games based on a game called Night Trap. The bottom line is that gun violence had skyrocketed in the United States and politicians were panicking. They could have admitted that the problem was complicated and systemic and worked toward a solution that could have saved the lives of so many people. They could have even enacted some short term fixes by curtailing the NRA and enacting common-sense gun control. No! Video games, rap music, and television were the problem! Lieberman called a congressional hearing.

If you watch footage from this hearing, you can see that nobody involved had ever really played video games or if they had, it was not for over a decade. Everybody mentions Pac-Man or Pong and cannot seem to mention specifics of what they are objecting to. Instead, they pull out mothers near tears or old white men and have them say what a shame it is these games are being sold to children. They fail to mention that it is parents buying games for their kids because most kids do not have the pocket money. One mother holds up a video game box and says that it is more confusing than reading the ingredients on store-bought food. Let us pause and look at the covers of the two aforementioned games.

Night Trap is a fairly innocuous name although it does sound vaguely sinister like the title of a Stephen King short story. The cover shows a screaming blonde teen which is a bit of a red flag. (Hollywood teen which means she’s probably twenty). Behind her is something but we do know that it is reaching for her and that it has red, pointy eyes which even Scooby-Doo viewers know is a villain trait. To top it off, there is a trio of armed soldiers off to the side. Without knowing anything about the game, I would hope that most sane people would pause before giving it to a kid.

The Mortal Kombat box art is rather simple and there are no actual visual red flags. A dragon emblem does not immediately shout at parents not to buy it for kids. Although, the name “Mortal Kombat” kind of describes a game where people might do combat to the death. The back of the box definitely describes a martial arts tournament and depicts some of said kombat. It is not exactly rocket science. If you just pay a little attention to what you put your kids in front of, you might just be alright.

Lieberman’s hearings eventually resulted in a bill being put forward to create a video game rating system. The video game industry saw the writing on the wall and they created their own rating system the Entertainment Software Ratings Board (ESRB) which still exists today. They rate everything either Early Childhood, Everyone, Everyone above 10 (umm), Teens, Mature, and Adults Only.

The bargain kept the government’s hands off of video games and they turned their attention elsewhere. It did not stop the moral panic because nothing stops dumb people panicking over the wrong things without doing their research.

I leave you with the goofiness of Night Trap.

It’s basically a bad b-movie

Undead Reckoning Pt. 1

September 12, 2020

Lord Callum Blackrance
Blackrance Manor
Silvershore, Eastern District

                                                    4th Orombre 2168

Sgt. Talbot Hawkwing
Cragrock Apartments
Flatdale, Northern District

Dear Sgt. Hawkwing:

You do not know me but I am not naive enough that you may recognize my name. In my life, I have been fortunate enough to have found the opportunities to bring me great wealth. As I have aged, I have tried to use the advantage of my wealth more charitably. Gone are the days of excess and mindless luxury and now I am most focused on justice and peace. To that end, I have funded mercenaries and adventurers on missions for the greater good. You may have heard of campaigns I funded to capture Korag the Mad Mage, to sink the river pirate Killi Sharkmaw, and to sack the stronghold at Riverden. However, I have not written to you simply to shower praise upon myself.

In fact, you may be wondering at this point why this letter was sent to you. You may also be wondering about the large sum of gold included with this letter. I will endeavor to explain in text what I wish I could explain face to face like true men of honor. I have come to you because of your success in the Elf Wars. I gather that you especially acquitted yourself well in the Battle at Snake Bend. I gather that you have since left the service of the military and you may be free to take on one of my missions.

I recognize that you have laid down your arms and may be reluctant to return to the fray. However, I would not ask if the situation was not dire. In short, I propose a quest to the magic wastes to the south in order to hunt a necromancer. As you know, necromancers cannot be tolerated to exist in this world. I feel that a marksman of your caliber would be necessary to the success of the mission. In truth, I have been assured that this is the case. I implore you to take up arms and join my expedition.

If you accept this offer, I promise a large sum to be paid to you upon completion of the quest. If you decline this offer, please keep the money that I have sent you as payment for your time. If you accept, please take a train to Fallshield and await further instructions. Your presence or absence in Fallshield will be taken as your response. Be well, Seargeant.

Sincerely,

Lord Callum Blackrance

P.S. I have accompanied this message with a gift that may be useful in this mission.

Media Update 9/10/20

September 10, 2020

21 Bridges

I have mostly been taking a break from cop content out of support for the BLM movement but I am glad that I chose to watch this. I had a feeling that Boseman was not going to put his name on something pro-cop and anti-black. The basic story is that Boseman plays a detective tracking a bunch of copkillers in Manhattan. The story goes way deeper than that but I will not spoil it. Boseman is a force of nature in this movie. He is a cop with a strong sense of justice and a personal code that some clash with. He is partnered with Sienna Miller. Stephan James plays one of the crooks, a conflicted drug runner who realizes what trouble they are in. Keith David and JK Simmons are also great in this. The movie is a great tense thriller that never really lets up. Boseman is that great fictional cop who is smart, thinks on his feet, and talks and listens before he shoots. It is clear that some of the quality of the movie comes from Boseman being a producer on the movie. I recommend this movie.

A Message from the King

In this movie, Boseman got to practice the South African accent he used as T’Challa in Marvel movies, especially in advance of the solo Black Panther movie. He plays a young man who arrives in America to look for his sister after a troubling phone call from her. He is trying to track her down not realising what she had gotten herself into. He plays the role with a single-minded focus. He is dark and stormy in the role and I would compare it to recent movies like The Foreigner, Taken and Walking Tall. Luke Evans plays a cagey man who is ostensibly the villain of the piece. Alfred Molina plays a Hollywood billionaire. Teresa Palmer plays a young nearly homeless prostitute who befriends Boseman’s character. The movie clips along at a good pace and is pretty dark, gritty, and violent. I definitely recommend this as well.

Get On Up

James Brown was a legendary singer but lived a very troubled life wherein he did bad things and bad things were done to him. He did a ton of drugs, treated his employees horribly, and beat his wives. He also helped to innovate and evolve R&B and Funk music. Many of the people he worked with went on to be part of very influential bands (most of them went to Parliament Funkadelic). Boseman is so good at playing James Brown as the complicated guy he definitely was. Every so often he looks directly at the camera and narrates his life and sometimes he looks at the audience and looks ashamed. The movie glosses over a lot of the bad parts of Brown’s life but hits a lot of his low points and high points. It covers a lot of the rollercoaster but it also shows Brown’s utter breakdown on angel dust that got him arrested. Boseman is so good at portraying the same character over decades. Viola Brown plays is troubled mother and Octavia Spencer plays his criminal but loving aunt. Dan Akroyd plays his longtime manager Ben Bart. A special shout out to Nelsan Ellis who plays the legendary Bobby Byrd and Brown’s longtime friend and partner in show business. It is a great movie as long as you take it with a grain of salt. I recommend it.

Music of the Week:
Sylvan Esso – Ferris Wheel

ROSALÍA & Travis Scott – TKN

Jay Rock, Kendrick Lamar, Future, James Blake – King’s Dead

Kendrick Lamar – King Kunta

Aloe Blacc – My Way

Weekly Update:
This week’s theme is “Chadwick Boseman”
I watched more Nancy Drew Season 1
I watched more Watcher videos
I watched more Lovecraft Country Season 1
I watched more Harley Quinn Season 1
I watched more Muppets Now Season 1
I watched more Hannibal Season 2
I watched more High Score Season 1
I watched more Perry Mason Season 1
I watched more Summer Games Done Quick
I started Rizzoli and Isles Season 5
I finished Doom Patrol Season 1

Gender in Video Games

September 7, 2020

I have a bunch of jumbled thoughts in my head about a few things and I thought I would put them down in order to make sense of it. I mean nothing is wrong, this is just all things that have been knocking around for a bit and I was thinking about them the other day. This is about gender in video games which may be a touchy subject for some. It may also be a tiresome subject for the more conservative-minded folks. This is not about sexuality and will be fairly tame. As usual, you can bail out at any time.

I was playing Saints Row 4 the other day and I realized something that I have talked to friends about before. I was playing as a smoking hot young woman. I am, in fact, not a smoking hot young woman. I am a cis male which means that I still live under the gender that I was born with. The way that games like Saints Row work is that the narrative is built around you playing whatever character you want. You have the choice to play as male or female. When I started playing video games, this was not a thing. The first time I played as a female character it was in Metroid and I didn’t know Samus was a woman until I was told.

Given a choice, I often play as a woman. In itself, this does not really mean anything. It is not an indicator that I am actually a trans woman or that I am anything other than male. (Not that there is anything wrong with that). I think it does mean that I am more open-minded than your average alpha male who would be no homo-ing this up and down. The visuals when you play as a woman are better. There are usually more diverse options for clothing, makeup, and accessories. Saints Row 4 especially has a robust character creation which allows you to create a lot of what you can imagine.

I was also thinking of something that happens in South Park: The Stick of Truth. This game is truly outrageous in ways that only South Park can achieve. In short, you play the game as The New Kid who gets swept up in a town-wide game inspired by Game of Thrones and Dungeons and Dragons. The New Kid (whose name pointedly does not matter) is always male. On the third day, you are tasked with recruiting the girls into the game who have thus far been completely unwilling to play. They will not play the game until you engage in a series of undercover missions which requires you to cross dress. (it gets gross yet funny).

However, when the missions are over, you are left with all of the feminine clothing, makeup, and accessories. When I play, I often just decide to leave it on as if The New Kid learned something new about himself during the adventure. The character being male is crucial to the story they wrote

The next game, The Fractured But Whole, gives you a lot more options. It allows you to be very specific with your gender. You can be Agender, Gender Fluid, Genderless, Aliagender, Androgyne, Androgynous, Aporagender, Bi-Gender, Demiflux, Gender Nonconforming, Gender Questioning, Gender Variant, Genderflux, Genderpunk, Genderqueer, Intersex, Mixed Gender, Neutrois, Non-Binary, Non-Binary Butch, Non-Binary Femme, Pangendered, Polygender, Transmasculine, Transsexual, Trigender, Two-Spirit, Demiboy, Demigirl, and Demi Non-Binary. This is unheard of in a video game (and awesome). Whichever option you pick, rednecks get mad at you for labeling yourself and try to kick yer ass.

I am not sure what any of this means but it is definitely food for thought. I want to see more options in games going forward (if appropriate to the narrative). There are now way more games being made with female protagonists. Still, more diversity is always welcome.


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