Sunday, April 28, 2013
Last week was a rough week. Already fraught questions and debates got derailed by events, and may get derailed even more as we learn more about this week. In the midst of it all, a little frivolity, a trailer for the latest Superman movie was released. I think it’s exactly what we need right now. Not because we need to be reminded that massive media companies are releasing movies, and not because we need to narcotize our brains forget our troubles in a rush of special effects and not because we need to believe in invincible heroes who can’t be hurt by bombs. What we need is to be reminded of what America is, and Superman is uniquely equipped to do this because of what his story is.
Friday, April 12, 2013
The gentlemen of the website Giant Bomb recommended that Bioshock Infinite come with a warning: “Give yourself two hours between completion and bedtime.” Having just beaten the game the night before, at about 1:30 A.M., I think this is a great idea. I spent most of the night laying there, contemplating what I’d just experienced, identifying all the pieces, examining and considering them, and pondering over their gestalt. A lot to unpack, but the easiest and perhaps best take-away is quite simply this: Infinite is a game of rare and deep power. In the midst of all this thinking, I looked up what some others were thinking, dropping by a spoiler thread. Pretty quickly, I had to leave, because—well, I’ll be honest, I read some criticisms of certain themes that were infuriating. Infuriating, primarily, because they were directly connected to how juvenile just about everything is these days, not just games.
Sunday, January 20, 2013
For every human creation or concept, there is a nerd who has devoted some chunk of brainpower subsuming every available nuance. And a lot of them are eager to share. Most of the time, I’d say that’s great. Lit nerds, movie nerds, music nerds, game nerds, all can provide context and information that enhances enjoyment. Computer nerds fix our stuff. Car nerds can give invaluable consumer advice. Nerds are instrumental elements of our society. Yet, not every nerd encounter is a positive one. All of us, even we nerds, has had the experience of watching something unspeakably awesome, like, say, Guy Pierce and Shannon parachuting to Earth from low orbit, only to have some physics nerd say “The structural integrity of their suits wouldn’t have made it past the thermosphere. I don’t have a problem with dumb movies, but I hope someone got fired for missing that detail.” You can’t help but think “Jeez, shut up, nerd,” even if you are one. But eye-roll for eye-roll, annoyance for annoyance, pound for pound, none are worse than gun nerds.
Friday, January 11, 2013
In the days since I last proclaimed my love of lists, they’ve well and truly metastasized. They have long been a reliable space filler on the internets, but the past few years have seen them adapted into something that feels unseemly. Lists are by their nature, pretty trite, which makes them easy to write, easy to read, the perfect junk food. Quick little chunks, they are far from a weighty critical tool, but lists are increasingly used like they are—“15 Problems with Movie X,” “9 Reasons Film Y Makes No Sense,” these are the new archetype, because unlike the classic New Year’s form, they can be posted year-round. These sorts of lists bug the shit out of me, not just for their laziness, but because their laziness unintentionally or not recasts the alchemy of story as pure, cold mechanics. Someone compiling their 10 Favorite Musical Stings of the Year, that’s fun, but 7 Plot Holes That Ruined Series Z, invoked as valid criticism? That bugs me. Maybe I don’t love lists so much anymore.
That doesn’t necessarily mean I shouldn’t have Five Resonant Films of 2012, though, right? I didn’t get to see every movie I wanted to this year, not every great movie came through my town this year, and I’m even still waiting for a few to arrive, but of what I saw, these struck nerves.
Saturday, August 25, 2012
Way back when I enthused about the awesomeness of Breaking Bad a second time, I noted that protagonist Walter White soon found himself surrounded by fellow baldies. It’s very true—by season 4, of the 7 male characters I’d consider major, 5 had shorn or nearly shorn heads. And way back when, I briefly considered what this meant. But, I feel there’s enough going on to consider the matter at greater length. Just what does the gallery of scalps around Walt tell him?
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
My least favorite episode of Angel is “Billy.” Odd choice, I know, to mark such a solidly middle-of-the-road episode, technically a Monster of the Week early season diversion that I wager most Angel fans only think of when prompted, as my least favorite. Conner hadn’t even been born yet! The thing that wrecks “Billy” for me isn’t a shoddy plot, weak script, or annoying characters, but rather what the episode says about gender. “Billy” was, I felt, rather insulting and more importantly, out of touch. The years since, though, may have proven me wrong. I hate being wrong, but I’ll own up to it. But worse, I also look foolish, and that, well, that I can’t abide.
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Way back when, I put forth a challenging, daring notion: that when you are playing a role playing game, you ought play the role of your character. Yeah, I know, way out in left field there. But to play a role, you need to know your character—their thoughts, attitudes, opinions, and motivations. How else can you be expected to play? It’s a dance between the writers and I, where they provide the What, and I fill in the far more interesting Why. For too many players, though, role playing is some zero-sum system reduced to rote numerology, where they are to be rewarded tangibly with both in-game doodads and a vague notion of “change”. It’s a rant I’ve been on before, so rather than repeat it, how about if I tell how it worked for me in the stunning climax of Mass Effect 2, a pulse-pounding mission wherein any and all characters can be killed through your actions, and show how it made the experience richer.