I got distracted by work again, but I’ve also been reconsidering this blog entirely. I have this Wordpress blog I don’t write on very much anymore, and a tumblr (currently under jwcolossal, though I may change it in light of what will follow) I’m only somewhat active on. But I’m more active on tumblr than here, and I’m wondering if combining my online outlets might not be a better way of getting writing again. I feel like entries here should be… more substantive, but I often have a bunch of lesser musings not well suited to this format that I would still like to get out. And tumblr also handles longer posts just fine. So, I guess I’m shutting this blog down. Might delete it, might not. I am unsure at this point.
I didn’t intend to spend more than a couple of months away from the blog; certainly not nearly half a year. And after a couple of months, I honestly did feel like writing again. Then GamerGate happened. It… affected my perception of the gaming community in general and the online portion of it specifically in a profoundly negative way; it no longer seemed like the welcoming, inclusive group I once believed it to be. I used to be a person who would jump in on the defensive whenever someone badmouthed gamers, but around the time the GG crowd started claiming everyone not standing with them was anti-ethics/pro-corruption, I decided that was a battle no longer worth fighting. Hell, having watched the whole thing develop from the beginning until now, I’ve seen far too much unethical, corrupt behavior by GG-aligned folk to take anything they say at face value anymore. I have no more benefit of the doubt to give.
And the ugliness bled into other online communities I follow. Or maybe just attracted some of the same elements I already had issues with in those communities. As a textbook introvert, I find social interaction of any kind draining under the best of circumstances. I tend to pull back entirely when it all turns ugly, and so I pulled back from the internet in general. In the process, I left the blog unused longer than I intended to. I still play video games. A lot. And I still follow related news closely. But at this point, I no longer consider myself a “gamer” and view anyone who uses the term unironically as a significant part of their personal identity with deep, deep suspicion. The whole debacle has given a lot of justification to the negative perception some people (okay, many people) have of gamers. It’s been enough to make me wonder if maybe those old gamer stereotypes I grew up with in the 80s and 90s have more truth to them then anyone wants to admit.
Anyway, I don’t have a schedule in mind yet, though I want to plan for at least one blog entry a week for now. And this one doesn’t count for this week.
I made another appearance on that podcast thing I occasionally show up on. I mostly just blather on about the E3 announcements from the Big Three (Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo). Before anyone says anything, I know I missed things, but E3 is the type of event I could have talked about for the entirety of an extra-long episode. I didn’t even manage to hit all the things I wanted to mention. I am a guest on Craig and Mike’s podcast, so I have to be mindful of the time I’m using.
And I know I failed to meet my goal of streaming or posting to YouTube between my last appearance and this one. I cannot overstate how understaffed my group at work is, and making game videos often ends up being the furthest thing from my mind when I get home. It is still on my mind, and I do intend to follow through eventually. Hopefully the extra long weekend will allow me to recharge enough to put it back in my queue. The PS4 (which I now have) makes streaming easy, so hopefully its sharing functionality will facilitate getting back on track.
But their handling of the Legend of Korra: Book 3 premiere would, under normal circumstances, lead me to believe they were trying to kill the show to avoid ordering a new season. The rushed premiere, the lack of promotion, showing five episodes over two airings (with a holiday hiatus in-between). And yet they just announced a video game developed by Platinum, masters of third person action. You do not contract Platinum to develop a throw-away game for a property you intend to sink.
Nick may have panicked when three random mid-season episodes (and I mean random; no particular rhyme or reason to the grouping) leaked. They released the first trailer for the new season almost immediately after news of the leak hit various blogs, and premiered it two weeks later with virtually no promotional work done during those two weeks. Unfortunately, the rush and lack of promotion ensured record low ratings for a Korra premiere, and people without cable have been getting angry about the delays in putting the show up on Amazon Instant and other legit streaming outlets (still not up as of the typing of this post). I might not have even known the new season was imminent if not for the Platinum Games announcement. Unless the ratings turn around drastically, I fear they may look for a way to weasel out of paying for Book 4. And the odds of such a improvement aren’t great, because ratings usually drop off steadily after the season premiere of any show.
So, it is becoming increasingly obvious to me that I have at least temporarily lost whatever spark motivated me to update this blog on a regularly scheduled basis in the first place. Hell, my ability to force myself to update anyway has finally given out. For the time being, the schedule is no more, I’ll post on a “when I feel like it” basis, and I’ll also hope my motivation returns to me in the not-too-distant future.
Mario Kart 8 – I still stand by previous statements regarding the superiority of Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed to the Mario Kart franchise. Mario Kart is fun with friends when you don’t care about the outcome, but frustration inevitably follows if you try to approach it as you would a proper racing game. I do appreciate Nintendo dialing down the requirements for unlocks, but I’m not overly found of the unlockable drivers. As much as I love it when Nintendo dusts off the Koopaling concept, they just take up character slots I’d rather have seen used on a variety of characters instead of seven koopa/Bowser variants. Mario Kart 8 is certainly prettier than the Sonic racer though, and, on average, the track design is better. I especially love the updates (visual and layout changes) to the tracks from previous games to make them fit in with the new tracks, even if Rainbow Road 64 got shortened way too much in the process.
Attack on Titan – I broke down and started reading the manga, because I know my patience will not hold out until the anime gets its inevitable second season. The story got changed little for the animated adaptation, though some events from the military training portion get presented as flashbacks at key moments in the manga, which skips from the initial wall breach straight to graduation. The artist’s visual style did not make it into the anime intact at all though. I mean, characters remain easily recognizable across formats, but the anime renders the characters into a kind of generic anime style, which doesn’t fit the tone of the series as well as the manga art, I feel. I like the anime well enough, but I definitely prefer the manga now.
Maleficent – I enjoyed it overall, and everything prior to the curse scene from Sleeping Beauty is some of my favorite material ever produced by Disney. After that, the movie gets messy. Lots of punches pulled regarding Maleficent’s nature, and it skips through the years as Aurora grows up a little too quickly. Time marching on so quickly makes any changes in characters seem jarring and not natural when they’re clearly intended to be some manner of character growth. I made it through the second half largely because of the strength of Jolie’s performances. She is the reason to watch the movie. Full stop.
I loved American Horror Story: Coven (third season and the first I watched to completion) despite a weak ending, and I ended up liking Murder House (first season) quite a bit. Murder House is a slow burn style of horror I’m usually not a fan of, but it managed to grow on me by the third episode. On the surface, Asylum (second series) should be right up my alley. It hits hard and fast right out of the gate, and there’s a lot going on. Never a dull moment. My complaint is actually that Asylum might have a little too much going on. Too many characters and so many subplots that half of them don’t seem fully baked. Some of the subplots tie together in some way, but several of them seem tangential or even completely unrelated to the main story. To be fair, I still have three or four episodes left. Maybe it all comes together in the the end, but I’m currently not in any particular rush to find out (though I still plan to finish).
For those unfamiliar with American Horror Story, the reason I can watch the various seasons so completely out-of-order is because each season stands on its own as a kind of mini-series. Some actors come back, but always as different characters in stories unrelated to each other. It’s an interesting approach to making a television series, though the seasons end up varying wildly in style. Both strength and weakness, I think. Each new season is a potential jumping-on point for new viewers or even old viewers unimpressed by previous seasons, but the creators have no guarantees regarding how much if any of the prior season’s audience they’ll hold onto. I do hope the next season, Freak Show, turns out well. The show has held more good than bad for me, and I’d like to see it get a long run.
Oh, right; I have a blog. I ended up taking something of an unplanned break due to the con and some stuff that dropped on my desk at work while I was at the con.
Another MomoCon volunteering in Guest Relations down. Good times were had by all and the usual platitudes. Funny thing about the people who gravitate towards or get recruited into Guest Relations at anime conventions: a lot of them don’t really know the guests (by name, at least) or their work. Some don’t watch anime at all, but the lack of knowledge often makes them the best at dealing with the guests. You can’t get starstruck if you don’t even recognize the person as a star. I’m one of the few who tends to follow voice actors and therefore knows it all, which made this MomoCon special, in a sense. Our primary guests were the major voices from shows like Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, Tiny Toon Adventures, etc. Everyone on Guest Relations of my age plus or minus 5 years knew these guests, since they represented a significant chunk of our childhoods. For once, I got to watch the rest of group act like I did with, say, Steve Blum last year. And much like the guests of previous years, they were all incredibly nice and easy to work with. Tress MacNeille (voice of Dot, Babs Bunny, and numerous folks on The Simpsons and Futurama) had apparently never gone to a convention before, and she in particular seemed touched by all the people who were still fans of projects she worked on 20 or more years ago and who still talked about the impact those shows have had on them. Same for Randy Rogel, who wrote all the most memorable songs on Animaniacs. He was a last-minute addition to the convention, and he very much enjoyed the response he got. I think he went in with low expectations since no one ever brings on the music guy/writer as a guest at a convention. I do recommend checking out the MomoCon YouTube account for videos of some of the panels, especially the Matrix script reading.
I felt significantly more wiped out after seeing my guest off than I did post-MomoCon last year. Probably since this year’s guest had a much fuller schedule. I look to next year with both excitement and dread. The dread because I’ll have to learn a whole new set of back hallways, plus, you know, the convention is expanding into a fourth day. I’m not sure I can handle a fourth day, but I’m going to try.
Hollywood has redeemed itself for the 90’s abomination of a Godzilla movie starring Matthew Broderick. I doubt the new Godzilla movie will change the minds of anyone not already a fan of the franchise, but even after digesting it for a while, I think Godzilla 2014 is one of my favorite Godzilla movies.
The movie starts out with a mining company accidentally awakening something underground in the Phillipines. The unknown thing makes a beeline for and destroys the nearest source of radiation, a nuclear plant in Japan staffed by Joe Brody (Bryan Cranston) and his wife Sandra. The wife dies in the ensuing breach, and Joe becomes increasingly obsessed with finding the truth about what killed his wife, not believing the official story. Said obsession estranges him from son Ford, who, 15 years later, is a soldier with a family of his own. All Godzilla movies try to insert some manner of human drama. I wasn’t terribly invested in the the Brody side of the story, but as human-centered subplots in Godzilla movies go, it was one of the less annoying ones. Not great, but not particularly bad and even interesting in places. Ken Watanabe acts circles around everyone else in the movie as a professor who studies creatures such as the one found in the Philippines. I wish his role had been more prominent, but as a research scientist it would have been hard to justify keeping him too close to the action.
I like Godzilla’s new appearance. He now looks like a bulked up version of one of the old rubber suit Godzillas, which ended up looking surprisingly good in motion. I wish the movie had spent more time on giant monsters wrecking the place, but the action bits I got were so good I didn’t mind the lack so much. I do think the movie was about 30 minutes too long. A few sequences seemed like completely unnecessary padding or maybe part of subplots that got mostly cut out, but they don’t drag the final product down too much. I’d say they make a potentially great movie just slightly less than great. All in all, I liked it a lot and have every intention of buying it on Blu-Ray. Between Godzilla 2014 and Pacific Rim, it is a good time to be a kaiju fan again; the long drought is over.
Dark Souls 1/2 – I’ve actually started bouncing back and forth between the two games. I appreciate the first game much more after Dark Souls 2 gave me a better handle on the mechanics. Plus I get a kick out of seeing the parallels and differences in area and monster design side-by-side. I still prefer the more open, sprawling areas of the new game, but now that I’m not dying all the time in the first game, I appreciate the way everything interconnects in a way I didn’t before. And I cannot deny that Dark Souls 1 does a better job of keeping the boss fights varied and interesting.
Shadowrun Returns – I missed out on the Kickstarter, but I finally picked it up in a Steam sale. I like the story and setting behind Shadowrun, and the game certainly has its moments. I love some of the dialogue. As is often the case when games let you build wildly different player characters, not all builds are equally valid. One or two types of character are substantially better than the rest, and the mercenaries you can hire for runs can’t fill in all the gaps. Melee ends up being mostly worthless, because the majority of enemies have ranged weapons that will chew up your melee characters in short order. Near the end, your character will need to use a gun for story reasons whether you built for gunplay or not, and not having sufficient gun skills makes the last stretch much harder.
Higurashi/When they Cry – I picked up the first few volumes of the manga in a Yen Press sale on RightStuf.com a few months ago. I do like how the manga contains more information at certain key points than the anime (or is just better at conveying it), but the series as a whole doesn’t have a consistent visual style. Each arc has a different artist, which has pluses and minuses. It keeps the series visually interesting, but certain arcs can look like they belong in a completely different series. Overall, I think I prefer the anime, but the manga has enough going on that I plan to finish the whole series. It doesn’t hurt that I can actually get the whole manga series legit and finish the story. Most of the anime has never been officially released in the United States. The one licensed season is no longer readily available after Geneon pulled out of North America (no one else picked up the license). It’s a good franchise in every form, if you’re a horror fan.