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Video Game & Nerd Culture Wars

Posted 8/3/16

1. Ghostbusters 2016
Universally-hated youtube preview spawns endless media coverage about “misogynistic, racist manbabies” who only disliked the video because it has women. Massive publicity due to this “controversy” creates progressive “girl power”/feminism bucks and critics are obligated to give the film positive reviews or else face accusations of misogyny.

Popular youtuber “Angry Video Game Nerd” (James Rolfe) said he refused to see the film because the preview looked bad and he was tired of shitty reboots of beloved franchises. This was met by a widespread, concerted abuse campaign accusing him of sexism and misogyny.

 

Red Letter Media (whose 6+ hour long star wars prequel review you MUST watch if you haven’t already) came out this week with a post-mortem on how the entire “misogyny” controversy was a shrewd publicity stunt by Sony, which suggests that accusations of sexism is an effective way to silence critics of anything including a mediocre comedy being sold by a mega-corporation – and also a reliable way to attract progressive sympathy bucks from activists who want to “fight the patriarchy.”

 

2. Notch-related Controversies
Notch, creator of Minecraft, with 3.79M twitter followers, has found himself on the “wrong side” of the nerd culture war several times, recently earning himself a hit-piece in infamous anti-GG (anti-Gamegate) Gawker Media outlet Kotakuaccusing him of being sexist and a privileged white male.

Today (8/3/16), a lengthy interview with Notch by (GG-friendly) Escapist Magazine where they discuss some of the controversies:

3. Polygon’s Fail First Look Video of Doom
Three months ago, anti-GG outlet Polygon posted a hilarious “First Look” video of Doom…played by someone who obviously has never played a First Person Shooter before.

 

Apart from being an incredibly poor “First Look” video with agonizingly-slow progression, the video highlighted a wider criticism of polygon and other progressive game review outlets: they don’t really seem to be real gamers who like or care about games the same way their consumers do. It seemed to emphasize the divide that had grown between gamers and the media who seemed to only exist to tell us how sexist and racist we are, rather than actually celebrating or objectively reviewing the game itself.

Related, Polygon had also complained loudly about not being given an advance copy of Doom like other respected games review outlets. Penny Arcade had this to say:

 

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Reason Rally’s Decline

Four years ago, I attended the Reason Rally in DC. It was great. This is my bicep:

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Sadly, I will not be attending the rally this year. Here’s why:

“The rally’s major issues of focus are climate change, reproductive rights and LGBT equality” – Link

Reason-Rally-Header-LogoThis is a progressive political rally that is focusing on a handful of controversial political issues that aren’t directly related to atheism or secular humanism. In fact, I wager that these boilerplate progressive positions can be found throughout both religious and non-religious progressives on the left wing.

I’m disappointed that the “Reason” Rally is being used for a narrow political agenda rather than promoting secular ethics and reason-based epistemology in a broader, more inclusive way. By associating Atheism and secularism with specific left-wing ideology, RR neglects and alienates conservative and libertarian secularists who may not adhere to progressive orthodoxy.

Whereas 4 years ago (at the last rally) we had Richard Dawkins headlining – we now get Bill Nye, pretty much exclusively known for global warming activism the past couple years. What a steep decline.

At the last rally, we had Bad Religion performing, a band famous for promoting secularism and criticizing evangelical Christianity (whose band logo and t-shirts prominently featured a crossed-out cross). Now we get some (not all) “members of the wu-tang clan” – a rap group known for rapping about drug dealing, ghetto life, and partying- with slang from nation of islam, Kung Fu movies, and comic books.

I won’t be attending the rally this year, sadly. I don’t believe this rally fairly represents a united front for non-religious Americans. I believe this rally is politically divisive, misguided, and only tangentially related to secularism. And frankly the lineup is disappointing.

thunderf00t also addressed the decline of Atheism as a movement and the failure of the 2016 Reason Rally in this video:

IT Ghost Busting

Working as desktop support for Food Service personnel takes patience.

Many of the frontline staff can’t read English, some can’t even read in their native (spoken) language – which makes using a computer a process of memorizing abstract shapes and motions, like a magic spell.

Even the Managers, at times, lack language skills and end up taking the “mystical” approach to Computing – i.e. rather than reading prompts on their screen, they just blindly click buttons and hope for the best.

One Chef Manager in particular who I support is probably the most computer-illiterate person I have dealt with in four years. He’s a phenomenal chef, of course, so I have total respect for him as a professional in his field – but assisting him with basic computer tasks is a harrowing trial of patience, communication, and carefully restraining my demeanor and tone.

This morning, he called me because he noticed that all of his emails were being deleted before he could read them – never appearing in his inbox. As he works at a remote campus 45 minutes away, I asked him to set up a screen-share so I could assist him. So begins my Tribulation.

Setting up a screen-share for remote-assistance is something I walk users through every day – but after about 20 minutes, I despaired, gave up and asked this user to find someone else in the building who could work with me.

He called back 5 minutes later and said that he figured it out and had the access code for me to join his screen-share session. I joined his session and discovered this delightful and somewhat frightening vision:

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It appeared that this user had indeed managed to start a screen-share session – He then also joined his *own* session, creating an infinite-regression of computer screens, like a digital House of Mirrors, before providing me with his access code so I could become trapped in his terrifying but beautiful remote-session of infinite recursion.

This tale does not end here, my friends.

After dispelling the user’s unwitting infinity-mirror, we got to work on the primary issue: emails being mysteriously deleted.

I quickly discovered that there were three inbox rules which had been created on this user’s Outlook – all titled “delete it” and all set to delete all incoming emails…

Not able to conceive of a way that the user could have possibly, accidentally, created three inbox rules to delete all his own emails, I mused aloud that perhaps someone was playing a prank on him and created the rules…No, the truth was more amusing.

After some questioning and investigation, I determined that the user himself was both the culprit and the victim and had indeed, against all odds, managed to accidentally use the advanced inbox rule feature against himself, creating malicious rules that delete all his own emails upon arrival. He managed to do this three separate times, like he was possessed by some malignant spirit that guided his hand to ill-purpose and then went on to haunt his email inbox. He then woke from this possession to bewilderment by the misfortunes befalling his inbox, and with no memory of the dark incantations that he had woven to bring about this state of affairs.

This is what actually happened, ON THREE SEPARATE OCCASIONS:

  1. User wanted to delete an email
  2. He right clicks, with the intention of clicking “Delete” from the context menu which appears
  3. He misses, and instead clicks the option above the “Delete” option: “Create Rule”
  4. Confused at the “New Rule” dialogue window which appeared, the user decides to forge on with courage
  5. He types “delete it” as the name of the rule
  6. He then scans the rule options and doesn’t see one with the word “delete” in it – so clicks the “Advanced Options” button, revealing the “delete” rule, which he selects
  7. He clicks Save
  8. At this point, a warning popup appears, to the effect of “This rule will delete all messages in your inbox and all messages that arrive in the future.” to which the user clicks “OK”

The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street

Watched The Twilight Zone last night, “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street”

Maple Street, USA, late summer. Children play, adults talk. Then a roar, a flash, and the power goes out. Not only that, but nothing works – cars won’t start. A child suggests that this was in a comic he read – that the sound was a landing alien spacecraft of monsters and that several aliens are already living among them, disguised to look exactly like normal people.

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While at first they disregard the child, the fear sets in as they continue to be without power and machines. “How long will this last? What will we do?” Suddenly, one man is able to start his car, after others failed to start theirs. The paranoia sets in quickly as people discuss how he and his family was always different, and they never came along to the neighbor’s parties. As night falls, fear and mistrust intensifies and a witch hunt ensues with accusations flying between neighbors.
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This panic culminates as a figure emerges from the darkness at the end of the street, walking slowly towards them. They immediately assume its a monster come to attack them and arm themselves.
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In fear and panic, a shot is fired and the figure falls. Of course, upon inspection, it was one of them all along. Now the hysteria escalates, with the man who fired the shot now being accused of being the monster. The crowd begins throwing rocks at him and his house as he tries to insist he is one of them. In desperation he accuses the kid who originally told the story from the comic book that prompted them.

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The crowd turns on the child and chase him down the street. The camera pulls back as we see the chaos in the streets we see a flying saucer and two space men calmly manipulating the power grids in the city.

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The narrator speaks: “The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices – to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill – and suspicion can destroy – and a thoughtless frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own – for the children – and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is – that these things cannot be confined – to the Twilight Zone.”

Negative Character Development (Continued)

This post came across my tumblr with ~150k notes:

Capture

My reply below:

wow, this is fascinating to me.

I have been noticing this trend in storytelling and didn’t know the word for it. It’s something I struggle with because I will read a book or watch a show and everything is top notch- I’m engaged, invested in the characters, the production is quality – but as the characters I care about keep getting worse, failing, or being victimized, I just experience despair, frustration, and even anger (at the author, the characters, the injustice of the story-world).

This is one of the reasons I hate Tarantino films- everyone is bad, horrific things happen indiscriminately, and the story has no obvious message or meaning. And it’s hailed as gritty, edgy, or “realistic.” It just makes me depressed.

Then there is Joe Abercrombie’s Fantasy trilogy book series “The First Law” which I adored, but quit in disgust and despair a third of the way through the final book. I kep hoping the characters would redeem themselves, but they kept letting me down. And despite the story being a masterpiece, I couldn’t take another book of disappointment.

I just recently quit Boardwalk Empire after the 6th episode for the same reasons.

So it intrigues me to see 100k+ people defend this kind of storytelling. Because I hate it in such a visceral way. But I suspect it’s a matter of perspective- that if I could just “get over” my expectations and need for resolution, I could enjoy these stories.

One of my mutuals, , replied with this interesting addition:

It’s something i’ve felt lately as well, and it turns out it’s a trope, Darkness-induced Audience Apathy. The American Horror Story series does this to me big time. I start out watching, then just stop caring.

Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy occurs when a conflict exists that simply lacks any reason for the audience to care about how it is resolved. This is often because the setting is extremely but meaninglessly Darker and Edgier, and/or all sides are abhorrently, equally evil—or at least, far enough gone that any difference between the two is splitting hairs. As such, consumers of media affected by Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy tend to approach conflict between parties or factions with remarkable indifference; because no matter who wins, the universe will still suck.

Very interesting. I think this describes my feelings towards Tarantino films or a show like Breaking Bad perfectly. And it helps reveal that I’m experiencing two distinct reactions to two distinct, but related, story types.

But in the case of The First Law trilogy or Boardwalk Empire, I’m genuinely invested in the characters, I care about them, and want them to succeed. It’s the opposite of apathy – and the despair I feel when the characters I love let me down and keep getting worse is what I can’t stand…

The comedy Anime Watamote ( No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!), also falls into this category. I like the character, want her to succeed, but she just continually fails, never grows as a character. This is more of a stagnation of character than “negative development” – and yet, my feeling towards the story is the same, frustration at the lack of conflict resolution in a story.

Surely this should be a trope as well?

Race Swap Casting Choices: When’s it OK?

A local anime group recently shared a link to a Yahoo news article about fans petitioning for an upcoming Ghost in the Shell adaptation to replace Scarlett Johansen with a Japanese actress:

If we’re going to talk about Hollywood’s race problem, let’s get really real about it—not only do African-American actors get whitewashed by the entertainment industry, but so do Asian actors, even (maddeningly) when parts specifically call for an Asian character.

The petition itself (64k out of 65k signees at the time of this writing) goes on:

The original film is set in Japan, and the major cast members are Japanese. So why would the American remake star a white actress?

nick fury cast as black guy: COOL
anyone else cast as white person: THAT’S RACIST
this is a double standard. Is it changing the race of a character that some people dislike, or just white people?

this also reminds me of people telling black people that they can’t cosplay light-skinned anime characters. It’s like, a fictional story and made-up character. Is race central to the story being told or to the characters? Is it important that Sailor Moon has light skin and can’t be a black girl? Is it really important that everyone in GitS is Japanese?

I personally found the (white and indian) casting choices in The Last Airbender movie annoying since the fantasy cultures and martial arts were so obviously East-Asian. I also thought it was weird that Heimdall, “the white god” from nordic mythology was cast as a black guy in Thor. But these are instances where the ethnic culture is central to the character or story – and the race swap is conspicuous.

Other times, arguably like GitS, or turning Hermione black in the new Harry Potter play, doesn’t really affect the character or story in any way. The character’s race is kind of besides the point.

I’m honestly not an expert on GitS, having only seen a couple episodes, and the more recent film. But from what I know about the cyberpunk-noir world of GitS and the story of its cyborg protagonist, race wasn’t a central element. So maybe give this girl a break and let her tell the story of a made-up cyborg girl form the future.

The First Law Trilogy Review

The First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie11706669
—The ultimate literary blue ball experience.—

Review:
4 stars out of 5
—The ultimate literary blue ball experience.—
In my Reader’s despair, I question the purpose of art and storytelling and compare Abercrombie, Tarantino, and Kubrick in order to understand why this trilogy I loved filled me with existential rage

*VAGUE SPOILER ALERTS, BUT NOTHING SPECIFIC*

I started out LOVING this series. Apart from the excellent writing and immersive world, I cared about the characters – I wanted the heroes to overcome their poignant struggles and I hungered for revenge against the villains. However, near the end of the third book, I walked away with a heavy heart without finishing. Like turning away from a loved one who has let you down so many times, and you can’t bear to see them let you down again, so despite your love for them, you just have to walk away – to protect yourself from another letdown – I had to walk away from this series and save myself yet another ending without resolution, without character growth (only character death/decay), and with endless, meaningless suffering.

I WILL say that this book made me deeply question the purpose of storytelling and whether a story NEEDS resolution. Because this book serves up conflict, struggle, and climax after climax – yet denies the readers resolution and satisfaction – the ultimate literary blue ball experience.

What you’re guaranteed in this series:
1) gratuitous plot twists
2) surprise endings
3) anti-heroes

As I neared the end of the trilogy, I began wondering: what is the point of anti-heroes?

Well, there are two types of anti-heroes:
1) inherently good, but ruthless
2) inherently bad, but likable.

In denying me resolution time and time again, I was forced to ask myself if I hated these books and if these admittedly masterfully-written books were gimmicky garbage. Or was I just bitter I didn’t get the ending I deserved?

IS THE BOOK GOOD OR BAD? Well to answer that, I needed to ask
1) What is the purpose of art?
2) What is the purpose of storytelling?

What is the point of denying redemption to flawed characters? Is it a legitimate storytelling approach to set up a series of tragic characters and leave 100% of the judgment to the audience, or 100% of the resolution to “what if…” scenarios in the reader’s mind? Because in our minds and in hypothetical scenarios are the only places we can glimpse resolution.

My problem with these books AREN’T that they don’t have happy endings – but that they seem to deny the visceral joy of a happy ending without any intellectual satisfaction of a tragic, but meaningful ending. It’s THE WORST OF BOTH WORLDS.

To contrast, Romeo and Juliet, a story with a famously “unhappy ending” – has very clear message about “what went wrong” and the cause of the tragedy that befell the two star cross’d lovers – what if instead we are simply given the tragedy with no message? Imagine a Tarantino-directed version of R&J where we have no prologue or epilogue, and the parents never see the error of their ways from the death of their children…They simply off themselves and then the curtain falls. Is something gained or added to the story if you simply leave out the judgement, resolution, and meaning from R&J?

Does a story lose meaning if the message isn’t explicitly stated by the artist?

Clockwork Orange, Full Metal Jacket – how is Kubrick different from yet similar to Tarantino? I believe Tarantino is Kubrick without subtlety and without meaning, Tarantino is pure gratuity…there are messages and redemption latent in Tarantino’s stories – waiting there for us, but never delivered by the storyteller. Isn’t this simply smearing colors on a canvas and leaving it up to the viewer to construct the meaning (if any)?

Tarantino and Abercrombie are lauded for being “realistic” – but what does *realism* really offer by way of *art*? A photograph is ultra-realistic, but a great painting is art when the artist presents their unique vision of reality- whether beautiful or terrible…Art is a RECREATION of reality, not simply a depiction.

And yet I KNOW Tarantino and Abercrombie stories provide plenty of art…engaging narratives and characters- but they lack the “meta” *meaning* that ties together the artistic *elements*. And this in-completion is hailed as edgy and bold. But is it instead just lazy? Or even cowardly?

Does the story really gain by having RESOLUTION deliberately withheld by the author? I feel it does not.