Features Archive

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Words of Resistance

I remember listening to Run The Jewels 2. I had just graduated, gotten my work permit and I was desperately looking for anything to keep paying rent since my parents […]

I remember listening to Run The Jewels 2. I had just graduated, gotten my work permit and I was desperately looking for anything to keep paying rent since my parents had just told me they couldn’t afford to help me. On the day the album was dropped (two weeks before the release date!), I had just finished my second job interview at a door-to-door salesman job so naturally I was utterly pissed, especially because they lied about compensation before the second interview.

RTJ2 came during some troubled fucking times. Not just for me, but for almost everyone I know. As Ferguson was blowing up, Ebola was spreading and Russia was invading Crimea, the world felt like it was inching closer to a reckoning. Events like those seemed muted and faded, the sort of footnotes that you joke about with your friends in a decade, but it’s not hard to think of them as build up to the brutality that defined 2016, with Russia’s confidence growing to the point it was willing to influence an American election (to which degree, we’ll probably never know), Zika ravaging through third world countries and police departments across the American continent gearing up for a war against those who dared speak truth to power.

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“How much of my life has happened inside of a car?”

“How much of my life has happened inside of a car?” Frank Ocean dropped that question on his zine, “Boys Don’t Cry”. If anybody else had asked it, I’d dismiss […]

“How much of my life has happened inside of a car?”

Frank Ocean dropped that question on his zine, “Boys Don’t Cry”. If anybody else had asked it, I’d dismiss it. But from Frank, an artist who often finds meaning in cars as refuge, as freedom, as vestiges from lives past, it was a perfectly valid question trying to negotiate one of his most recurrent motifs with its cultural perception as a “straight boy fantasy”, something that Frank, as a bisexual man, finds anathema.

Frank Ocean’s work is important to me. Hip hop is an environment that’s often hostile to queers like myself. Yes, there are rappers who are LGBTQ (and LGBTQ friendly) but Frank’s hangups about relationships, his desire for isolation and to live life in his own terms are things that I struggle with everyday. To me queerness is not in Pride parades and raising the LGBT flag. Queerness is in not playing by the rules, in not existing in the mazes and the labyrinths. To be free and to be yourself, discovering love in the world, regardless of how it’s packaged and giving it back.

I couldn’t help but stop and think of that as I was watching San Junipero, Black Mirror’s best episode from its latest season. In it, Mackenzie Davis and Gugu Mbatha-Raw play a lesbian couple (Yorkie and Kelly, respectively) in the 80s who find each other while vacationing in San Junipero, an idyllic California vacation spot. Their romance is relatively straightforward (Girl meets Girl, Girl loses Girl, Girl regains Girl) but it’s heartfelt and it works because it’s not afraid of leaning on the fact that these kids are queer and they’re fighting for happiness in a world where being queer has mostly meant missed chances and lives unlived.

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Burning the Backlog 4: Soccer flowing through your veins

I’ve been asked to do some really hard stuff in my life. Scantron exams with a pen, read Bret Easton Ellis’ books without falling asleep, listen to Eminem without cringing. […]

I’ve been asked to do some really hard stuff in my life. Scantron exams with a pen, read Bret Easton Ellis’ books without falling asleep, listen to Eminem without cringing. But the hardest thing anyone has ever asked me was to explain the appeal of soccer.

The usual go-to answer of the average soccer fan is: “Watch Messi”. There are very few players that can convert skeptics like Leo Messi, the diminutive Argentine who plays for Barcelona and plays with speed, skill and strategy that have never been seen before in the game.  Hell, one only has to watch this goal (I know, I’m sorry, but it’s the soccer fan’s ritual to link the skeptics until they understand or cut ties.) to understand that Messi is unique not only in soccer but athleticism’s history, period.

But one player can’t possibly explain the appeal of a sport as played by so many different people in so many different ways. I think you need to go back to one of the most basic principles of game design to understand it. And it’s what FIFA 16 gets so right about both video games and soccer.

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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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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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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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Kanye West: Millennial Hero

Kanye is probably the biggest musician of our time, for better and for worse, because he has truly become one with his art. His life, tweets and struggles are as […]

Kanye is probably the biggest musician of our time, for better and for worse, because he has truly become one with his art. His life, tweets and struggles are as important as the lyrics, the musical landscapes and the concerts to appreciate or depreciate the man. And the thing about him is that he never reduces himself to be a reliable or known property. A huge aspect of Kanye’s place in our culture is that we never really can tell how self-aware he is. But it doesn’t matter. What’s great about Kanye is that he’s so damn earnest.

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RahXephon Part 1: The Meaning of Home

This is part of a series of essays on RahXephon. This particular essay covers episodes 1-3. I do not summarize plot on these essays as they are meant to be […]

This is part of a series of essays on RahXephon. This particular essay covers episodes 1-3. I do not summarize plot on these essays as they are meant to be running commentary, meaning that if you are interested in penetrating these rambles and rants, I strongly suggest you watch the show along with the essays.

Most stories are about the meaning of home, if we expand that definition to mean “An emotional place of contentment” as well as “Place of origin”. Most fictional characters are either desperately looking for the earlier and trying to run from the latter. In most cases, these two goals are correlated. That is the particular case of RahXephon, probably one of my very favorite TV shows and my nomination for “Greatest Anime of All Time”. RahXephon follows the story of Ayato Kamina, a young student who dabbles in painting and finds out that the city he calls home (Tokyo) is actually an alien colony as he’s exfiltrated by the resistance fighting from the outside to retake to Tokyo.

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Linguistics is the Missing Limb

At the end of the Phantom Pain’s “Part 1”,  the main antagonist reveals his motivations. He is a product of constant re-appropriation and hurt. America has absorbed his culture and […]

At the end of the Phantom Pain’s “Part 1”,  the main antagonist reveals his motivations. He is a product of constant re-appropriation and hurt. America has absorbed his culture and turned him into another puppet of imperialism. A puppet that had to literally rewrite his own self to do his job, to the point that he forgot his morality, hopes and dreams. And the way this rewriting happens? Language.

Skull Face speaks English. He sure wishes he did not. I have never related more to a video game character in my life. Why? Because English represents the fact that I live in a culture that does not respect me or has any sincere interest in my humanity if we were to define it as the product of my culture and self-interest. Kojima understands this. Kojima decided to make a game about his dark impulses to abolish globalization.

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