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Burning The Backlog 4: Grounded To The Sandbox

My best friend and me came of age loving two things: video games and movies. We grew up owning Playstation 2s and seeing games expand as many companies were willing […]

My best friend and me came of age loving two things: video games and movies. We grew up owning Playstation 2s and seeing games expand as many companies were willing to pour money into crazy idea after crazy idea. Games no longer were the simplistic high that Mario and PacMan provided. Games were committed to creating whole new worlds to explore and substantial narratives to live and truly immerse you in them in a way that Fallout or Planescape Torment couldn’t, by simple virtue of their limited resources.

The catalyst for this expansion on the time of the PS2 was, of course, Grand Theft Auto III. It wasn’t the first open world game and it wasn’t even the best. But it was what finally struck a chord strongly enough to convince people that this was the way to go. That big expansive worlds were nothing without a veritable way of navigating them. Previously, all you did was walk and hiked through Hyrule and the Wasteland, interacting with NPCs and trying to find the location of your next adventure, a new community to help and then move on. In a way, it was all very Mad Max.

But in Grand Theft Auto III, you became the inhabitant of a community and you strived to raise above your peers through crime. This vision was in many ways, a butchering of what many gangster movies often do, caused by the filter of the easiest interpretation of movies like the Godfather and Goodfellas. GTAIII is the sort of game that’s written by people who watch gangster movies for the “badassery” of its criminal protagonists and see men as Henry Hill and Michael Corleone as Men, relics from a bygone era that should be revered and seen as sources of inspiration, rather than the symbols of brutality and excess that they’re supposed to represent in their original text. 

This dissonance between the texts that Rockstar would take as direct inspiration and the games they would create to heighten the feelings those movies originally caused through interaction would become the key problem for me as Rockstar built their new empire.

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The Least of Us

One of the most frustrating things about video games is that people often think of them in the same category of movies in ways both big and small. One of […]

One of the most frustrating things about video games is that people often think of them in the same category of movies in ways both big and small. One of the smaller ways in which this comparison shows up is in the idea that a game has to be completed in order to be appreciated or evaluated. Quitting a game midway when it could redeem itself at the end is said to be a fallacy that immediately invalidates any review on the game.

This is an argument that I’ve had multiple times. Convincing friends and readers alike that the reasons why I decided to not play a game any longer speak to the problems of the game and that those problems are substantial was an uphill climb that was often met with boulders of how not playing a substantial part of the game invalidated anything I had to say. This is an argument so recurrent my life that I even almost considered the possibility that I might be almost yet not quite not on the ball.

Of course, then I realized I was on the ball and y’all are wrong. And it was because of The Last of Us, Naughty Dog’s attempt at turning Uncharted into Resident Evil 4. If that doesn’t explain how ill-conceived this game is, then I can’t think of any way of explaining it.

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The Get Down is on a Frustrating Yet Rewarding Musical Mission:

Hip Hop is one of the weirdest cultural movements once you sit down to think about it. An eclectic mix of funk, spoken word, comic books, political rebellion and martial […]

Hip Hop is one of the weirdest cultural movements once you sit down to think about it. An eclectic mix of funk, spoken word, comic books, political rebellion and martial arts imagery that just downright embodies African American culture. It feels almost impossible and once you know how much of it was fueled by sheer happenstance and randomness (hip hop wouldn’t be what it is today without the ’77 blackout, let’s be honest) it really makes sense why it stands apart from other musical movements.

Hip Hop in its current form is not really like that, of course. As every art form, it has evolved into a different beast entirely, one that is quite hard to pinpoint these days. This isn’t a dig, of course, but simply an observation: current hip hop doesn’t feel as driven by a community so much as individual artists and their vision. You have Kanye trying to create gospel rap and Desiigner taking trap in a more gangsta, flow-heavy form. The Get Down definitely believes in the understanding of Hip Hop being exclusively a product of Harlem and the Bronx as a community that was being oppressed by real estate moguls and the City’s neglect. And it makes a very convincing case for that understanding and that vision in the first six hours and a half of its first season.

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Burning the Backlog: The Joy of Crime and the Failure of Punishment

Burning the Backlog was inspired by a very simple fact: I own a shitton of games. And the reason I do is because games are ridiculously easy to acquire but […]

Burning the Backlog was inspired by a very simple fact: I own a shitton of games. And the reason I do is because games are ridiculously easy to acquire but they aren’t easy to play through. So as my resolution for the year 2016 I decided to not buy any games until I finish all the games I had purchased previously that I hadn’t played before. So far I have mostly succeeded (I have only bought 7 games in 8 months which beats my average of four games in one month by a fucking lot) And hopefully this project will help me maintain my goal of not going over 10 games for the year 2016

Sherlock Holmes is technically my favorite fictional character of all time. I say technically because while my experience with Arthur Conan Doyle’s work is minimal, Sherlock Holmes is probably the most influential character on the works I love. Sure, I have lots of love for The Hound of the Baskervilles and A Study in Scarlet but they don’t beat my love for Grant Morrison’s take on Batman or Doctor Who, two franchises clearly built on the dynamics that Doyle established with his detached, transcendent genius detective.

Frogwares has been developing a series of video games surrounding one of the most important fictional characters in our culture for 14 years. I won’t pretend I’m familiar with any of them before Crimes and Punishments outside of my attempt at playing The Testament of Sherlock Holmes, a game I remember so little about that I literally had to look at my Steam library to remember it existed in any other way than Hazy Memory To Be Dug Up For This Review.

The installment I got to play all the way through is the relatively modern Crimes and Punishment. I say “relatively”  because its principles of design are clearly point-and-click and reward consistent attention to detail and analysis of story, which are not things you usually find in modern big budget gaming which rewards reflexes and skill creativity. I say modern because my previous attempts at playing through Frogware’s work involved a degree of clunkiness that was rather unwelcoming during most of my play time.

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A Moon Shaped Pool convinced me that I was missing something. Or a lot of things.

Confession: Pool is my very first full-on Radiohead experience. I listened to Creep twice before (once, when an angsty ex sent it to me and another time because I decided […]

Confession: Pool is my very first full-on Radiohead experience. I listened to Creep twice before (once, when an angsty ex sent it to me and another time because I decided to go to karaoke and weirdly enough, it’s a bit of a staple) and I used to have Karma Police on my iPod because I saw that music video but that’s about it.

But A Moon Shaped Pool is the rare record that easily converts people into Radiohead fans as easily as Beyonce did for the Queen Bey herself. It’s emotionally resonant, powerfully composed and as experimental as Pink Floyd wished it was on their best days. It’s the rare album that makes the case for albums themselves as a form of art; to create and choose a series of tracks that, combined, convey so much more meaning than they can on their own.

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Off the Grid and Into the Cut: The Impossible Kid

Aesop Rock has probably been one of our best rappers working and churning music out today. And now with both Skelethon and The Impossible Kid, he has become one of […]

Aesop Rock has probably been one of our best rappers working and churning music out today. And now with both Skelethon and The Impossible Kid, he has become one of our best producers working today, introducing heavily industrial sound and outright math-rock-like time signatures to hip hop. Much has been made about his vocabulary, his heavily intricate lyricism and his amazing flow. But his musical compositions are just as delightfully driving and out of the world as his lyrics.

The Impossible Kid is that rare album that manages to break away from an artist’s general style while still being tangibly and uniquely his. Aes’ previous work was often outright cryptic at times. Not unlike Death Grips’ MC Ride, Aesop delighted in dropping hints about his life and articulating his own pain. There were occasions when he was willing to bare it out (One Of Four, which, should be pointed out, is a secret track) but once Skelethon arrived and Aesop was producing his own beats, something clicked and Aes decided to be outright open about his life as a depressed and reclusive rapper.

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My Hero Academia Reminds You Why You Love Superheroes

Japan and America both have a long history with the superhero genre but despite obvious similarities, the differences between the way the cultures have approached the genre make for some pretty […]

my-hero-academia-4

Japan and America both have a long history with the superhero genre but despite obvious similarities, the differences between the way the cultures have approached the genre make for some pretty different stories. One only needs to look at the Japanese Spider-man TV where our hero Tatsuya gets his power from an alien from the planet Spider, as well as a giant robot. Despite the massive differences between the way the two cultures treat the genre, there’s still an immediately recognizable core that makes a superhero. It’s something that makes My Hero Academia, the new anime adapted from the manga by Kohei Hiroshi and Hirofumi Nedi, a fascinating look at the evolution of the superhero genre as our fiction crosses borders at an unprecedented level. It doesn’t hurt that My Hero Academia also represents the best of what it means to be not just a superhero, but someone who loves them as well.

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Daredevil never dares and barely devils.

It’s amazing what a year can do to your opinions. Stories you love become, in hindsight, bloated and ridden with boring passages. Stories you dislike at first sight reveal their […]

It’s amazing what a year can do to your opinions. Stories you love become, in hindsight, bloated and ridden with boring passages. Stories you dislike at first sight reveal their charms. Stories you are indifferent about become filled with meaning as you reconsider what the story tried to do in the first place. In Daredevil’s case, a season that packed quite a punch for me on my original view, felt increasingly stale as I started to think about its treatment of its diverse cast and its anticlimactic ending. Of course, these individual flaws don’t necessarily eliminate my enjoyment of the show and the way it handled things like Matt Murdock’s origin by showcasing his relationships with Jack (his father), Foggy (his best friend/partner in law) and Karen Page (their legal assistant) was thrilling and Charlie Cox’s performance demonstrates exactly what makes Daredevil more than just “Spider-Man meets Batman”.

Of course, it should have been just a matter of emphasizing these elements and phasing out the more hyper-masculine nonsense as well as the pervasive sense that the Asians members of the cast were just there to make direct reference to the worst, most orientalist aspects of the comics. Daredevil’s supposed concerns during its first seasons were about how crime fighting affected life in a melting pot like New York as people from all walks of life were outright steamrolled by criminals masquerading as elite businessmen. There’s a lot of power to this idea and Daredevil was at its best when it explored it, alongside Matt’s relationship to his friends, family and God.

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Bloodborne Shows The Breadth of Cosmic Horror

Anybody who knows me will probably have surmised that Bloodborne is a game tailor-made for me. After all, I love the works of H.P. Lovecraft, I love games with strong […]
huntersdream

Welcome good hunter, you’ll be here awhile

Anybody who knows me will probably have surmised that Bloodborne is a game tailor-made for me. After all, I love the works of H.P. Lovecraft, I love games with strong atmosphere, I love subtle storytelling, and of course I also love to swear at screen and throw my controller in frustration a lot.

I’m kidding (a bit) because Bloodborne ended up being the most even handed game I may have ever played. It’s such a tightly constructed game that it began to affect my ability to enjoy other games. Witcher 3 is a sprawling epic RPG and a labor of love but now I find its clunky controls and repetitive combat jarring. Platinum Games’ Transformers: Devastation fares a bit better with its tighter controls but as a result I found myself instinctively going back to Bloodborne’s control scheme and wondering why I was dodging instead of attacking. Bloodborne is a game that infiltrates your headspace in such a way that you end up viewing other games through that lens.

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American Tragedy

  Most stories based in real life events often revel in finding the inner tragedy or comedy of real life and exposing it. They convert a real life event’s actors […]

 

Most stories based in real life events often revel in finding the inner tragedy or comedy of real life and exposing it. They convert a real life event’s actors into characters, with clear goals, convictions and personalities. Sometimes those are not very true to the people they’re reflecting. But often, they are true to the story and the lives they are reflecting. That’s the genius of American Crime Story; a show that is often willing to speculate on the personal lives of people whose lives were very well documented, but doesn’t use that speculation to demean or insult those people. Instead it tries to empathize and understand them.

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