My Current Shows

For a bit of fun and relief from my more serious topics, and to be more bloggy for a moment, I’m gonna go into my current shows. By this I mean brand new content. Not stuff made a while back that I’m watching now.

The Good Place

If you’re not watching this… why? Go watch, it’s amazing. It’s got such a great soft sense of humor that goes completely against how often comedy seems to think you need to be crude and disgusting for no apparent reason.

I’m disappointed it’s ending with season 4, but I understand the decision to stop at four seasons instead of letting it go on endlessly. I can very much see the show falling into stale tropes over time. Keeping it as a nice tight package keeps it sweet and memorable.

Creepshow

This is on Shudder. It’s been fun. It’s part of a trend of bringing back horror anthologies, which I absolutely love. Anthologies have been misunderstood for a long, long time. It’s like a neat shot of immersion every single time because it’s always a whole different scenario with different rules and structures.

The House of Head is the best episode so far. The others are just kinda okay, but House of Head gives you some amazing thoughts on the concept of hauntings and spins the haunted house notion into a whole different angle. I’d love to see more like it.

Charmed

I loved season 1. Niko was the best, followed very quickly by Chloe (the pixie girl who I really wanna see more of in future episodes). It’s a new, more diverse setting that’s not afraid to be a bit corny and playful with tropes.

I especially loved how this show evolved the sisters’ powers. The evolution is so much more fitting, in my opinion, to the core of their powers than what the original did to add new powers for the Halliwell sisters. Having other factions is great too.

I really think season 2 is when this show is going to find its best unique voice and shine.

The Purge

Purge has been rife with great social commentary since the second film. I’ve been watching all of it (films and show) since the first film entered theaters. Lots of potential in the setting, and it’s been great to see it expand to really delving into human nature and social structures.

I don’t know much about the newest season. Last season did a good job showing how men might use the night to be misogynistic assholes instead of murdering people. Also, how someone might exploit the day to murder outside the “official” hours and still get away with it.

That be all I have currently. I dropped Walking Dead because, although they were obviously in their right to do it, the death of Addy really put me off. I felt she had so much potential and the show just wasted it. It basically killed my interest and desire to see what happens with the other characters, or get attached to any new ones.

See you all next post!

Deceptive Assumptions

I’ve seen people claim characters are “worthless” and have no interest because they rely on a mix of their nostalgia/echo chambers and confirmation bias. They look at the tip of an iceberg and think the rest doesn’t exist. They imagine what’s above the surface is all there is to see.

Culture and the web of human behavior is far more vast, intricate and involved than people often believe. You might write a story. Nobody seems to care. It seems to be garbage. Then 15 years later, you find out someone loved it, and it inspired them to write too. You might give someone directions, unaware doing so allowed them to land a job which then led to people they helped in that job going on to thrive in successful and happy lives.

Society is complicated. Maybe what you see is a tweet about a character with all of 7 people who like it. What you don’t see is how one of those 7 people becomes immensely inspired by that tweet and writes other tweets, which then reach someone else in the same manner, growing fandom and adding excitement. Something that looks tiny and insignificant becomes massive in time.

You don’t even have to judge this by size. If you really, truly care, then you understand that reaching even just one person in a positive manner is all that’s needed. Maybe that tweet only reaches one person. But that one person it reaches has been going through some awful shit. That tweet was exactly what they needed to carry on, reach a better place.

This isn’t even delving into the phenomenon of silent participants – which is readily apparent to anyone who’s written a fic, received hundreds of views, but the fic has zero likes or comments. A character may have way more interest that isn’t reflected in online behavior because the character’s fans don’t go looking for tweets about them, or necessarily interacting with those tweets if seen.

“This character is worthless cause that one tweet I saw had only a few likes” is a bad take. It’s mistaking the tip of an iceberg for the whole thing.

Change That Isn’t Change

I’ve said a fair bit about how the current X-Men event at Marvel isn’t really change, but “change.” The appearance of change with no real change to be seen. Some people see where I’m coming from, some don’t. But what’s lost in translation is that I have a good amount of experience in “change” that isn’t change coming to various franchises.

I’m going to outline some of those experiences. It’s a trip down what I’ve learned over time. Take it as you will, while the intent is to demonstrate that I’m not just spouting random junk. I have a basis I’m working from.

No special order. This is gonna be free flow.

Soul Calibur

I’ve liked the Soul Calibur franchise since SCII. In its early days, it was the premier example of how a fighting game could integrate story in more meaningful ways than just “here’s a paragraph of bio, here’s an ending for each character, done.”

Soul Calibur IV was the last game for a bit of time. Put out there as a means to cap the series off and lay it to rest. Then a game dev named Daishi campaigned to revive it – which I supported wholly. Hey, the franchise is great when it’s handled well.

Here’s where the problem came in. Daishi wanted to “change” the franchise to justify a revival. When he finally published Soul Calibur V, his answer was… not good. First off, he established a time skip. Then, he used the time skip to justify retiring a whole hell of a lot of characters – especially female characters. If you looked at the roster, it disproportionately kept male characters like Siegfried and Mitsurugi but threw out the women. This was most egregious in how it cast out Sophitia and Taki, with Daishi at one point saying Taki was “too old to be a ninja.” Despite being younger than returning male characters. Lastly, he introduced a slew of brand new characters to replace the ones taken out of the roster.

Soul Calibur V sold roughly half as much as SCIV. The new roster was often derided. And here’s the most important part. If you want to fan communities devoted to Soul Calibur, you saw a LOT of defense of the game. To the point where I said I wouldn’t buy Soul Calibur games unless they brought back Sophitia and Taki, and another fan would go on to say if Sophitia and Taki came back that they wouldn’t buy it. SCV became a base breaker game – a game that splits the fanbase.

Cut to last year. Soul Calibur VI was released. While it also didn’t sell as well as SCIV did, it got a lot more positive response. And what it did to get that was return to form while 1) reorienting how story worked, and 2) re-establishing the past to make for a better future.

That’s case study number one.

Tomb Raider

I’m going to get complaints about this, I know it. But it’s not going to deter me from saying what I have to say. If you’re not too familiar with my posts, then I doubt you’ll know where I’m going with this.

Tomb Raider. A game starring one of the most prominent and memorable female protagonists in the industry. People hail the 2013 reboot for reviving the franchise… and I have to say that while I understand why they would, I think they’re very much missing essential details.

The “reboot” essentially takes what is supposed to be a heroic icon in Lara Croft, and transforms her into a horror film final girl. It steeps her in the same sort of grimdark trauma fetishism that was also seen (and rightly derided) in Man of Steel and Dawn of Justice.

Let me backtrack and clarify. I am NOT saying the base idea is bad. If it was a whole new franchise, with a whole new protagonist, I would have supported and possibly even bought and played it myself. The problem is this concept applied where it didn’t belong. Onto Lara Croft and Tomb Raider. The world needs heroic icon characters to uplift and inspire, and that’s what Lara was supposed to be. Instead, the “reboot” made her origins – the drive behind her becoming a famous thrill-seeking archaeologist – into something born out of massive trauma and trying to find coping and catharsis. Rather than because she loves taking those risks and the wonder of discovery.

The two positives I personally have to say are 1) the gameplay went where it should’ve, and 2) it stopped sexually objectifying Lara (although what I’ve seen online suggests otherwise concerning her deaths…).

Okay. So the “reboot” happened. People praised it heavily. It sold a lot more than past games. To many, it “revived” the franchise and character and moved her forward into the modern day. The sales and critical response are given as justifications.

That’s not the whole picture. There are essential elements missing in what people look at here.

Yes, the “reboot” sold better than any game in over a decade. What doesn’t get brought up is why. During that time, the high profile games that people noticed most were terrible. They went the wrong direction, often sexually objectifying her rather than treating her like a character worth respect. Meanwhile, the actual good games went unpromoted and unnoticed. Hard to sell tons and get hailed as a major revival when marketing doesn’t get that out there. Whereas the 2013 “reboot” had so much money poured into forcing it out there that it was literally impossible to use the internet without seeing ads for it.

I figure now is a decent moment to also highlight a scandal that people quickly forgot. In early interviews for the 2013 “reboot,” a producer claimed Lara almost gets raped, and the player witnessing that makes them want to protect her. Huge backlash. But shortly after, Crystal Dynamics started putting out how the script was written by Rhianna Pratchett. Suddenly, the backlash died down.

Anyway, back to sales. Of course bad games and games that have little promo aren’t going to sell amazing. Especially as the bad games lead people to doubt the quality of the next game (which was reflected in Devil May Cry too; DMC2 sold better than DMC3 despite DMC2 being loathed and DMC3 being highly popular).

But yet another factor is evolving consumer base. Back in 1996, when Tomb Raider launched, the potential audience was MUCH smaller. Video games weren’t nearly as popular back then as today. Achieving or exceeding the same numbers is easier than it used to be. So touting sales equal to or exceeding “the best selling game in the franchise” doesn’t really mean much when the last top selling game was made almost 20 years ago.

In sum, we have two details missed by a majority of people.

  1. Consumer base growth
  2. Artificial low periods (bad games or good games with no promo)

Both of which contributed to the perception that the “reboot” was the right way to go. There’s a different, third way things could have gone that people often do not see though. The defining example is Horizon: Zero Dawn.

Horizon: Zero Dawn stars a girl named Aloy as she comes of age and establishes her origin story. She hunts, she explores ruins, she finds lost artifacts and amazing history. You follow her through a sense of joy and wonder at discovery as she runs around the world and gets to know it and society in general. I would honestly say it’s Tomb Raider and Lara Croft done right. It may be an entirely different setting and technological level, but it has the heart and soul that matters most.

Guess what? Horizon sold roughly as much as the Tomb Raider “reboot” did… on only one console. While the “reboot” had to scrounge those numbers up between PS3, XBox 360 and PC, Horizon was exclusive to PS4 and pulled it off. Imagine the numbers if it had been multiplatform.

That’s case study number two.

Final Fantasy

Oh boy. We’re onto what’s technically my favorite franchise, but which I’ve ditched and stopped playing (and everything else Squeenix) since Final Fantasy XII – which I loved and consider fully Final Fantasy, by the way.

FF13. The game decided to do something very different with magic. I need to stress, I’m talking about BEFORE supplementary material and sequels. Bear that in mind.

Final Fantasy 13 released with a more technologically advanced setting than any game prior. That’s not inherently a bad thing. Every Final Fantasy game has some mix of technology and fantasy/magic. That’s the essence of the franchise. The problem is when technology completely undermines the magical aspect that’s supposed to be core to the franchise.

Before someone complains, let me make this absolutely clear. Final Fantasy was my everything. I grew up with it, followed it throughout my life, played its games repeatedly and got to know it intimately. I fully immersed myself in that franchise. I bought, played, read, watched so many obscure things about it. I have old NES and SNES cartridges (including Mystic Quest), the Legend of the Crystals anime, I even had FF4DS material (figurines, OST, the Tsukino Akari single) imported from Japan. I’m speaking with deep fandom experience.

What Final Fantasy 13 did was essentially turn summons and magic into technology, then dress it up with a hint of “magic is just technology we don’t understand.” Summons are all transforming mechs, crystals are merely a fuel source for magic akin to gasoline for cars, and that’s that. It’s something Squeenix similarly tried to pull on Final Fantasy 4 via After Years, saying the crystals were simply part of a science experiment on a distant planet.

This was a problem because at the heart of every Final Fantasy product up to that point was magic/spirituality as the dominant element. Even The Spirits Within, despite lacking so many Final Fantasy traits, still managed to make spiritual resonance, Gaia, and phantoms its core. FF13 ignored that.

I can’t say whether it sold better or worse than past games, cause I don’t think I really looked too deep on that. What I can say is that its sequels tried to work more of a magical angle in, which I take to mean there were complaints and Squeenix adjusted. Likewise, FF15 was much closer to what Final Fantasy should be in this sense (though I skipped for two reasons; 3rd Birthday fallout, and all-male party).

That wraps up case study #3.

Conclusion

I wrote a lot tonight. Truth be told, I probably have a lot more case studies I can cite. Metroid: Other M stands out as one (which, by the way, I also bought, played, beat, and still deride as a huge misstep). RAGE 2 is an extremely recent case too. I’ll stop here though.

In the end, I’ve seen a lot of change and “change” with franchises. The above are all cases of “change” in one way or another. Where companies force a certain direction for the appearance of change or development, even if it doesn’t really fit, or loses what matters most.

What would I call real change? I don’t feel like writing huge screeds about that tonight, but I can give a couple quickie examples.

Mortal Kombat is real change. It had roughly a decade of work spiraling downward, just like Tomb Raider, or X-Men comics. Except instead of throwing away everything core to go wild “reinventing” it, Netherrealm Studios looked at and fully embraced the franchise’s essence. It took what was already there, went back to re-establish its roots, and expanded in amazing and meaningful ways. Full-fledged story mode. And recently, Kitana was updated to an Asian woman in keeping with the cultural elements Edenia was inspired by.

Charmed is also real change. Yes, it’s a completely new setting, with new sisters, a new concept of what Whitelighters are, etc. BUT it retains the essential elements of sisterhood and helping/saving innocents, along with an atmosphere that’s generally playful and hokey with hints of dramatic. And of course, all the relationship drama.

There is no consistency on whether “change” or change succeeds or fails. More importantly, whether it succeeds or fails is not a sign of whether it was really good or bad. Garbage can sell billions and gold can sell nothing. It’s all dependent on where society is at any given moment.

It’s a Wonderful Life bombed in theaters when it came out. Today it’s a holiday classic. Likewise, 3rd Birthday (the game that treated Aya Brea and Parasite Eve like shit) had extensive fanboy support when it was coming out, but today it’s universally abhorred. Remember this when looking at how people behave. You can’t determine if something is good or bad solely by how a majority of people respond to it when it’s coming out.

The Bar

Time for me to admit something.

Many of the times I insist on/demand something for Lorna, I know that in the eyes of Marvel, they consider it “unreasonable.”

That does not mean I do not genuinely feel that way. I mean what I say. I think what I’m demanding is absolutely reasonable. There’s a disparity between what I know is reasonable, and what Marvel – and people who cheerlead and defend them – thinks is reasonable.

But I can’t (and won’t) base what I want and push for based on what Marvel thinks is appropriate and reasonable. Here’s why.

Polaris’ history is one of constantly being underappreciated, misused and misrepresented. The opinion of her at Marvel is very low. The attitude there alternates between thinking she’s good fodder for promoting other characters (mostly men, e.g. Havok) and nothing else, and thinking she’s completely worthless. There have been attempts to replace her with other characters. Multiple times.

What you push for sets a bar. In ordinary, good scenarios, a company would attempt to meet or exceed that bar. Marvel does not do this. They always, always strive to come up short of that bar. My top theories as to why being that they think Lorna doesn’t deserve it, and that they don’t want fans to feel like Marvel will do whatever they want.

If you want Lorna to get something, you have to demand it. Even if you think Marvel won’t go for it. When you do, you have a higher chance of at least getting something that may not be quite what you wanted, but it’s at least closer.

By contrast, if you go with the bare minimum of what you want, the least effort that will satisfy your needs… Marvel is never going to give it. If you want Lorna to lead a team, maybe she’ll get to do it for one story arc. If you want Lorna to be a team member, you might get lucky and see her show up for one arc of a team book as a temp replacement. If you want Lorna to appear in a story arc, you might be lucky if she shows up in one issue. Want her in one issue, maybe she’ll show up as wallpaper in the background.

With Lorna, you have to set the bar high to receive anything. Otherwise you get nothing.

That’s my admission tonight.

RUMORS OF MY ABSENCE HAVE BEEN

ACCURATE.

I haven’t had anything worth saying or posting on my WordPress. I’m playing games, watching TV shows and movies, and interneting and working. I’ve had flash in the pan thoughts of posts that never felt worth the trouble by the time I got to a computer.

I have some things I’m trying to get up and running involving Polaris. Lots of ideas possible for pursuit following my successive revelations about Marvel, Hickman, fandom, etc. The ideas don’t feel as urgent anymore after those revelations. Everything’s in play, nobody at Marvel knows what they’re doing, and the future is looking bright in spite of how the average person might see only darkness.

I’ve had some personal issues over the past month or two that I can’t talk about. Past week was a bit hellish, but it always helps to look at the long and broad view.

Ultimately, the next phase of… everything, needs to play out before I do anything. A lot more is coming than we’re prepared for. We’ll take care of it.

This all sounds like gibberish. It’s simply a frame of mind and awareness I’ve learned to trust. Or rather embrace. And with that ends my post.

Self-Importance

I’m about to ruin someone’s day with this post.

I complain about things when I feel they’re worth complaining about. I sometimes speak strongly and passionately on things I care about. For some people, they take that to mean I consider myself to have outsize importance.

I don’t. I’m just one person in a world of billions. I’m not special. I’m just willing to say things that I feel need to be said while other people too often hold themselves back.

If I boycott something, my wallet isn’t any more important than anyone else’s. But it’s still my wallet. It’s my voice I get to speak with. Even if it’s a paltry dollar, it’s my dollar. I can use it however I wish. If I’m going to be alive, then I’m going to say things I need to say, and feel things I need to feel.

I recognize the value of what I put out there. Other people should too, but sadly, they often don’t. They often speak and act without thinking, never weighing even once how their behavior affects everything else around them. Or thinking they do, but never really understanding just how far that reaches. Spatially. Chronologically. Emotionally, psychically, and on levels we can’t even perceive and never will.

No, I’m not important. I’m not special. I’m simply me. And for people who have an issue with that, all I have to say is much can be learned from self-reflection. And experiences, but self-reflection is the easier (if longer) route that I sincerely hope as many people as possible follow. Because the experience route blows.

Games I need to play (again)

You may not know it from the things I most often talk about online, but my main interest is actually video games. I’m currently on Wolfenstein: Youngblood (badass Nazi-hunting sisters, wooo!), and continuously on Granblue Fantasy and Fate Grand Order. I’m waiting for Control, Death Stranding, Code Vein, and Man of Medan to name a few. And I have a backlog.

But that’s not what this post is about. In this post, I’m going to talk wistful about old games I haven’t played in a long time that I really want to play again. Or for some, games that I haven’t played yet and have on the side waiting to be played.

Chrono Trigger

It’s literally impossible to overstate how awesome this game was and is. It has so much heart and soul in every pixel and line of dialogue. You get to travel across multiple times and see how humans lived in those (fictional) times. Acquiring magic powers feels special. Like it’s not just randomly thrown out there, the characters awaken those gifts, and they have an affinity specific to who they are.

Reaching Zeal is always the most amazing part of the whole game. How can it not be? It’s an amazing magical island! Of course, there’s some very vile corruption at its heart that leads to its downfall. Queen Zeal herself always seemed pretty amazingly wicked. And like all Squaresoft games of this time, getting a flying vehicle just blows the mind. And this one can be used to travel through time! Though I remember being sorely disappointed that I couldn’t use the lasers that Dalton added to its wings.

It’s also a wonderful touch how you can do things to change time periods all over. Leaving Robo in the past to work on a desert, come back centuries later to find a whole forest from his efforts? Awesome.

Final Fantasy Mystic Quest

This game got so much hate, and it really didn’t deserve any of that hate.

What I understand of the hate it got is that it was “too easy.” Final Fantasy games brought over from Japan tended to be made much easier. But I think people who hated it for that reason didn’t spend enough time looking at it to see its beauty.

The main map is a bunch of points you walk to – no airship. When you use a point, unless it’s a battleground, you can walk around the town/dungeon. UNLIKE other RPGs from this time (that I played), your weapons can do different things on the map. They’re not just for fighting. A claw will let you climb up certain walls, or grapple and cross gaps. An ax will cut trees to open new paths. For its time, it was very advanced.

You have two playable characters (though one can be set to auto). The second character changes depending on the place in the story. It was great to have that dynamic, to imply closeness between the two journeying together.

Each section has a sort of elemental theme – earth, fire, water, wind. And the landscape backs it up. This was also one of the Final Fantasy games where crystals actually meant something. They weren’t just a prop. They had power and wonder to them. You could see how they impacted the world. It also may be just me, but for some reason I get a sort of “Biblical” vibe from the game. I’m not religious. But I can appreciate a game that gets a cool atmosphere to it.

Vandal Hearts

The last time I played this game was so long ago that I honestly can’t say much about it. What I remember most is using Gameshark to get the Vandalier class, which could do absolutely everything. It’s a strategy RPG in the same vein as Final Fantasy Tactics, and it has character classes (though not as robust as FFT).

Lunar: Silver Star Story + Eternal Blue

This is another game that I honestly don’t remember very well. I may not have gotten very far into it. At the time, it was a rental.

What I remember is that completing the main dungeons awarded dragon equipment, which provided special abilities to the main character. It also had anime cutscenes, which was new and innovative in the PS1 era.

I only played Lunar: Silver Star Story. I never played Eternal Blue.

Thousand Arms

I haven’t played this game in ages, and probably nobody remembers it or knows it even existed.

Like other entries, I don’t remember a hell of a lot. I remember a bit more than the others though. The most memorable part of the game for me was the dating sim element. You have the typical fighting, moving story forward, etc deal. But the dating sim is used for improving your weapons. The better relationship you have with a female character, the better you can improve what you have. It’s sort of a predecessor to Ar Tonelico in that way.

Shadow Hearts

Shadow Hearts is a franchise that reeeeeaaally got a raw deal. It arrived toward the end of the RPG era, and never took off like it should’ve. If people know it, they likely know it because of Shadow Hearts: Covenant, which was published by Midway (since purchased by Warner Bros. and changed to Netherrealm Studios).

This franchise had plenty of amazing new concepts and approaches. For one, it was set in the “real world,” in the past. Shadow Hearts and Covenant were set around World War I, settings mainly in Europe and China, with some Russia and Japan in Covenant. From the New World jumped ahead to Prohibition era, and changed its setting to America.

Its setting was sort of gothic horror. The main character was a “Harmonixer” who could absorb monster souls and shapeshift into them. Throughout each game, the gothic horror ties into the history in one way or another. For example, energy released from a tower became the reason for all the bloodshed of World War I. You also run into Rasputin as an enemy, and Roger Bacon (a 12th century philosopher) is a supporting character.

The game was finding its footing with Covenant, which moved it a little further from being as rigidly serious as the first game and introducing more fun and sometimes silliness. By From the New World, your party includes a mariachi-playing gunman who uses his guitar in attacks, and a goddamn cat.

Right now, Shadow Hearts is sadly dead in the water. The company that owns the rights to it doesn’t seem to give a damn about doing anything with it. From the New World got a lot of flak as well, but I think that was due to people thinking it had to rigidly stick to a more serious tone, whereas I always saw FTNW’s sillier tone as the franchise evolving as it gets closer to the modern day.

And that’s all I have at the moment. There are certainly plenty of other old games I COULD play, but they aren’t part of my sweet spot feelings of games I want to go back to.