Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Glee Review - Home

Wow. What a terrible episode of Glee. I thought I was starting to understand this show. I thought it was a stupid soap opera about teen drama. I can appreciate why people watch stupid soap opera's about teen drama. I enjoy the show. I laugh at the plot lines, and enjoy the music. Then this abomination is aired.

Seriously, instead of continuing any kind of coherent plot, like the one between Rachael and Jesse, or between Finn and Rachael and Quinn and Puck, or between Will and his wife and Emma and that one lady from the rival glee club, they decided to put that all on the back burner and air an after school special. Or, should I say, EVERY after school special. Every single one, ever made, ever.

Was I watching Glee, or Boy Meets World (a comedy well known for having one depressing episode about alcoholism or something like that every season.)? Let's recap:

Mercedes is feeling uncomfortable about her body. Yep, that's an after school special right there.
So she goes on one of those all shake diets. Ooh, there's another one there. I think I saw that on Doug once. Let me see if I can find that episode... *Time passes* Yep, I looked it up. "Doug's Chubby Buddy".

Meanwhile, since two after school specials aren't enough per episode...
Kurt hooks up his father with Finn's dad. Finn has trouble letting go of his dead father, and they both have to learn it's ok for your parents to date, and that it's ok to let go, and that it's ok if your parents pay attention to other people they still love you too, and that they'll always love your other parent... Holy crap, that's like six more after school specials right there.

MEANWHILE BACK AT THE RANCH, The drunk chick (Note: I'm referring to her character not the actress.) from Pushing Daisies is back, making me miss that show even more. Ugh, why can't THAT show still be on air, instead of rubbish like FlashForward? Sorry, bad tangent. Anyways, like I was saying, she's back and she's slightly less inappropriate this time (Which is relative to last time of course.). Will and her have like 3 duets, and I spend the entire episode wondering where Emma went.

Sue says a few funny things, even though she's offscreen for most of the episode... More drama... Oh and then the most unintentionally funny scene in the show so far. So, Finn has put his Dad's ashes into his old chair for some reason that is never adequately explained. I think his family is crazy. Anyways, Kurt's dad comes over to have "A man to man" with him... Quaint. Anyways, they talk, and work things out, it's all very sappy and stupid, and then it happens. They go to sit down and Finn MOVES THE ASHES OUT OF THE CHAIR, SETS THEM ON THE ENDTABLE AND TELLS KURT'S DAD TO SIT THERE. Kurt's dad does it, and then stares at the ashes for a moment. At that moment, I busted out laughing. I couldn't help myself. Screw emotional scenes, you can only go so far before it becomes hilarious. My parents both looked at me like I was crazy when I burst out laughing, I muttered "I'm a horrible person for laughing at that." and then we finished watching.

In any case, I was disappointed by this Glee. It was truly awful, and while it won't turn me off from the show completely, I'm hoping the next episode is better.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

It's Probably Better That He Takes A Shower And Gets Dressed Before He Goes Downstairs Anyways

*Spoilers for 3 games you should have played by now, Psychonauts, Knights of the Old Republic, and InFamous follow.*

I know I already covered what an idiotic statement Ebert made, but there is one quote that's still bugging me I didn't cover.

"One obvious difference between art and games is that you can win a game. It has rules, points, objectives, and an outcome. Santiago might cite a immersive game without points or rules, but I would say then it ceases to be a game and becomes a representation of a story, a novel, a play, dance, a film. Those are things you cannot win; you can only experience them."

Now, normally, I wouldn't be bothered by that quote. I would dismiss it as an old guy's misunderstanding of how games work, or just not understanding how a work of art could have an objective. But it does bother me, because he's not the only person I've heard say that. In fact, a friend of mine said to me (I'm quoting from memory, because it was quite awhile ago) something very similar when I first suggested that games could be art.

"I find it hard to accept games as an art form, because the story is driven by the player, and in film, or literature, the story is driven by the author, or filmmakers."

I've heard that many times over. How can games be a valid medium of storytelling, when the player progresses the plot? It troubles me that people think that way, because in most cases that's simply not true.

The first problem, is that people don't understand the difference between problems and choices. I'll let Daniel Floyd cover that, since I would really just end up spouting his opinion again, paraphrased.

See, the thing is, most games stories aren't progressed by the player. The player just goes through a set of problems to see more bits of a story. Let me give you an example in the form of one of my personal favorite games to bring up, Psychonauts.

Psychonauts is a great game, easily one of my favorite games of all time. It's not without it's faults, but it has an excellent story. But the thing is, no matter what you do, the story is the same.

At the beginning of the game, you are introduced to your character, Raz, a young psychic who ran away from the circus to go to a secret government run summer camp for psychics. After an opening cutscene, you are told to go to the Coach to go through "basic braining". So what happens if you choose not to? What happens if you choose to run over to explore the camp? You can't. You're blocked. You cannot progress until you finish basic braining.

After that, you have to get power X in order to overcome obstacle Y, and power X is only found in level Z. Or, later on, you find yourself at an abandoned mental hospital, and you can't progress until you help all the left behind inmates, and get something from each of them.

This happens over and over again in pretty much every game. Even games that claim to give you high degrees of choice use this method to control the story. Here's an example: The game "Heavy Rain" for the PS3 kept talking about how much choice it gave you. Throughout the game, it would give you so much choice that you could in fact screw up, and one of the four main characters might die and disappear for the rest of the game. Of course, as soon as you start the game, this happens.

Right there, a choice is denied. The story says you take a shower and get dressed before you go downstairs, so you do. You have no choice in the matter. You can keep attempting to go downstairs all day, you won't manage to do it. You character will keep stopping himself.

Let me give you another example, this one a little more free. The game InFamous. While the plot is really awful in that particular game, being saved only by the sheer ridiculousness of it all (Trash robots. What.), it does give me a good example of another type of limit given in more free roaming, sandbox games.

In this game, you're given all your missions by people on the phone. At any time, you can stop doing missions and just go mess around for awhile. Blow up cars, terrorize civilians, whatever you like. It's darn good fun too. But of course, you won't get further in the story until you do the mission you were already given. The power won't return to more parts of the city until you get to the point in the story where it is. You can go to the sewer grates where you need to go to restore power, but you can't go in unless you're at that point in the story.

Of course this game gives me another good example of how storytelling is actually quite linear in these games. "Choice" in games. In InFamous you get choices that affect your powers, and to a point the plot. The thing is, these choices are pretty simple. An example comes early in the game, when supplies have just been dropped into the quarentined city the game takes place in. You have to the choice to A. Zap the pedestrians who are swarming the crates, and take all the food for yourself, or B. Let them eat the food, and get almost none for yourself. As you can see, these choices are pretty simple "Am I Hitler, or Mother Theresa" choices. You're either evil, or good. No middle ground.

Throughout the whole game you get these choices, but none of them really matter in the end. Let me give you an example, toward the end, Kessler, the villain of the game has your girlfriend, Trish, kidnapped. He has her suspended on top of a skyscraper, and she'll be released in a moment, killing her. On the tower next to that skyscraper are 7 doctors, on the same mechanism, with the same timer. You can only save one. So you have the choice of good (Save the doctors) or evil (save your girlfriend).

At first it might look like a real choice. You can either keep you girlfriend in the plot, or let her die, right? Well no. If you choose to save the doctors, she falls and dies, that's true. If choose to save her though, you find that the woman on the tower was another girl in a wig, and Trish was actually one of the 7 doctors, and she falls and dies. Either way you end the same way, Trish is dead, and Cole hates Kessler even more, leading up to the climactic battle with him at the end of the game.


No, the ending doesn't make any more sense in context. But that's beside the point, the point is that either way you play ends the same way. You still find out who Kessler actually is. You still end up friendless and alone. Basically the only thing different is your attitude about the whole thing.

Of course, games that have choices that really matter within the story do exist. A prime example is Bioware's Star Wars epic, Knights of the Old Republic. Knights of the Old Republic gives you many choices in your search for what's called the Star Forge. You make choices to either be good or evil, and while for the most part they're still about as subtle as "Do I save this kitten from a tree or eat its soul?", they actually do make a difference toward the end of the game. At the very end many things will happen depending on dozens of choices, even ones past the simple "Good vs. Evil" choices you made. Did you convince the Jedi Bastila to give in to her passion and fall in love with you? Then you can convince her to leave the dark side and help you in your battle with Malak. Or maybe you just told her she can be your queen of the sith once Malak is dead? Either way, the ending does change quite drastically.

*Spoilers. Duh.*

Dark Side Ending

Light Side Ending

Either way, you're getting a story. It's just a different story than you might have gotten had you made other choices. I just don't understand why people don't think anything where you drive the story can't be art, when it most certainly can.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Case Against CGI

(Note: This doesn't apply to computer animation movies such as Pixar.)

CGI or, Computer Generated Images, is quite popular in movies right now. And why wouldn't it be? CGI lets filmmakers create anything they can imagine! Back in the day, that kind of power didn't exist. You were restrained by the limits of technology. You wanted a dinosaur in your movie? Ok, but it was going to look terrible.

So is there any downside to CGI? At first it seems like there isn't. Sure, perhaps the cost is an issue, but for large budget movies it seems like it's a great option! But there's a very good case against CGI.

You see, the first issue with it is the fact that it's not real! I mean, sure, CGI has gotten to the point where we're almost out of the uncanny valley (the point where things look realistic enough that they look creepy), but even if we do get out of the uncanny valley, there's still issues with it.

This was the big problem with Star Wars I, II, and III. Take a look at these two pictures.

Now you see, the bottom one from A New Hope feels real. Luke, Leia, and Han feel like real people, in a real room, in real danger.

The top one, when you see it, you probably think "OOH! COOL! That's some dang good effects!". Yeah, you're right. The Star Wars prequels did have amazing effects. (The originals had good effects for the time too of course.) The problem is it brings you right out of that scene. And that happens over and over again in the prequels. You know it's not real because it isn't real. In the original movies, things weren't CGI, they were real. They were on sets. Real, physical sets.

But in the prequels, every scene had CGI in it. A lot of CGI in it. And sure, it looked cool the first time you saw it, but the original movies are still good today.

The second point, looking again towards the prequel movies as an example, is the fact that it makes acting really dang hard. Let's face it, a lot of the acting in the prequels was really terrible. Especially in Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones. But I really don't think it was the actors fault. It has to be really hard to act when... Well... There's nothing there. Literally, nothing there. I mean seriously, CGI means that what the actor is looking at is essentially a blue stick.

Thirdly, it's over relied on. HELLO AVATAR! Seriously, I enjoyed that movie, and it was pretty. The technology behind it was great, but the story was not what you call gripping and compelling. Like I said before, technology is a tool. Think about, say, Terminator. Terminator is a much, MUCH, better movie than Avatar. Terminator was made before CGI existed in the form it does now. Terminator had a great, compelling plot, and really gripped you and pulled you into the story. It was awesome. You were certainly never thinking about the technology behind the movie while watching it. So what happened to that James Cameron? Did you forget how to write a good story, so you just made Dances With Smurfs?

Now I'm not saying CGI should be done away with. What I'm saying is filmmakers need to use it, not abuse it. I get it, I really do. It's a shiny new toy. Who doesn't want to play with a shiny new toy? The problem is CGI is a tool. Filmmakers are trying to pass of CGI as a painting. CGI is a paintbrush.

Oh, and of course, I gotta mention things like this:

That's bad for entirely different reasons of course.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Doctor Who Review - The Time of Angels

Warning - The following contains spoilers for Doctor Who S5 Ep4, "The Time of Angels". It will air in America on May 8th. If you have not seen it, and do not wish to be spoiled, do not read the following.

NOW THAT IS HOW YOU DO A DOCTOR WHO EPISODE! After the disheartening mess the past two episodes have been, it's good to see such a good episode come out of the new episode. Or maybe I just love the Weeping Angels. I don't know, either way, this was freaking awesome.

I previously expressed the fact that I would love nothing more than for The Weeping Angels to become reoccurring creatures such as the Daleks or The Cybermen. The first time I saw Blink, I was edge of my seat. I was a little scared. It was a cool, great, scary episode. So the fact that The Weeping Angels are returning was good news to me. But I'll admit I was a little worried that, after the STAR WHALES episode (I neglected to review, but was awful), and the rushed Dalek episode, that Steven Moffat wouldn't do this episode right. And the news that River Song would be returning didn't help things either. I was a little worried it would be the exact same episode as "Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead", but with The Weeping Angels instead of the... I dunno, little piranha things.

In a way it was. It did, in fact, feel similar to both "Silence in the Library/Forest of the Dead" and "Blink". But it also felt as though it made itself different enough that it was still freaking awesome. It all starts when River Song sends a message to The Doctor and he saves her from some guys in suits on a ship. The Doctor is shown up on his piloting ability of The Doctor and she explains there is a Weeping Angel in the ship. The ship crashes due to sabotage and the Angel escapes into some catacombs called the maze of the dead. Lovely.

If you thought the Angels were scary in Blink, you haven't seen anything yet. They have quite a few new tricks that weren't shown off in Blink, and they are pretty darn cool, and scary.

The episode has the same scary feel that Blink had, the same short cuts, close shots, that just gives a nervous feeling to all of it, but this time, well... We're not dealing with some weak scavengers who crashed on Earth.

I really can't even think up any complaints for the episode. It was freaking awesome. I can't wait to see the conclusion next week.

Da Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na BATMAN

I know this will shock a lot of people, but I like Batman. A lot. Batman is my favorite superhero, and is pretty darn awesome.

But most people don't understand Batman. I'm not talking about in context of the comics/movies/whatever, I'm talking about real people don't understand what's so great about Batman. Most people see Batman and see a superhero in a bat suit beating guys faces in. But believe it or not, the character of Batman is rather deep, and some interesting parallels are raised by his enemies, Joker, Riddler, Bane, Scarecrow, even lesser known ones.

Of course everyone knows the story of Batman. There's quite a few different tellings of exactly what happened, but the basic story is always the same:

A young Bruce Wayne is at the theater with his parents. As they leave, a man mugs them, and his parents are killed. Sure, we can get caught up in semantics here, in some versions Bruce made them leave the theater early, Bruce was angry at his parents, the man who shot them turned out to be The Joker later on, but really, that's the basics of it.

After his parents are killed he is raised by his butler, Alfred (former spy). Eventually, when he was grown, he used his parents fortune to build gadgets and gizmos, and physically trained himself to become Batman. It's a simple enough story... Right?

Well, no. There's actually a lot more to it than that. You see, Batman isn't like a lot of superheros. Let's use Spider-Man as an example:

Peter Parker puts on his mask and is Spider-Man. Spider-Man is Peter Parker, and Peter Parker is Spider-Man. All Spider-Man is, is Peter Parker with a mask on. Same person, in disguise.

Batman and Bruce Wayne aren't the same person though. You see, Batman has multiple personalities disorder. In fact, like many of his villains, he's not exactly mentally stable. Bruce Wayne is a millionaire playboy. But when he puts on his mask he become someone else entirely, he becomes Batman. He's crazy, but his craziness saves lives, and protects Gotham. Which is why they put up with Batman.

And then you have The Joker. Now, The Joker is the polar opposite of this. The Joker is crazy, but also evil. The Joker's origins change around depending on the version, in some he fell into a vat of chemicals, in some he wears makeup. One thing is for sure: He finds murder really funny. He's a clown. A psychopathic clown. Now, I'm going to use Mark Hamil's interpretation of The Joker in B:AA and B:TAS more than Heath Ledgers in TDK for the purposes of comparisons here. In my opinion, Heath Ledgers and Mark Hamil's versions are equally awesome, just different.

Joker may be crazy, but he's not stupid. Let me use Batman: Arkham Asylum as an example here: In that game, The Joker has a plan, which, by enacting it, generates a backup plan, and he's also got a third, fake, cover up plan. I'm not going to spoil it, since that's really one of the best games of all time, and everyone should play it, but The Joker is not stupid. He's insane, but not stupid. There's a moment in Batman: Arkham Asylum where Batman has a clear shot at Joker, and could end things once and for all. Joker looks at him, and tells him to end it once and for all... But he knows Batman can't. Batman won't kill. That's all that separates him from his enemies.

And who can forget Joker's and Batman's exchange at the end of The Dark Knight?


"This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object. You truly are incorruptible aren't you? You won't kill me, out of some misplaced sense of self-righteousness... And I won't kill you because you're just too much fun. I think you and I are destined to do this forever."
"You'll be in a padded cell forever."
"Maybe we can share one?"

The Joker and Batman are two sides of the same coin. They're both crazy, one is just crazy for justice, the other for chaos.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

TOR Playable Species, What Is And Isn't Possible.

So. I like the Knights Of The Old Republic games. Specifically, I like KOTOR1. I didn't think the second one was very good compared to the first. But that's because Bioware left the series and the second one fell into the hands of others. It was good, the gameplay was a step up from the first, but overall the writing, which was the big draw of the first game was not.

So I'm very excited for the new MMO sequel to the games, "Star Wars: The Old Republic". So much so, that I've become a semi-active member on the TOR forums. My name is Zuldim, in case anyone cares to look me up on there.

Now, there's been a lot of talk on there, because while a lot has been reveal on the game (scheduled for Spring 2011 release), playable species have not. They've been confirmed to be in the game, but no specifics have been given. I've seen a lot of speculation on what species will and will not be in the game, so here is my opinion on what is likely, what is possible, and what is unlikely. (Most of my research was done on wookiepedia)

*Spoilers for KOTOR and KOTOR2 follow*

Likelyhood: Confirmed

Twi'lek played a big part in KOTOR, are widely popular with fans, appeared many times in the movies, are known to have connections with the force, and can speak basic. I would be shocked if they were not playable.
Likelyhood: Almost a given.

Zabrak AKA Iridonians
You had an Iridonian companion in KOTOR2, Bao-Dur. Iridonians are well known because of Darth Maul, and they can obviously have a connection with the force. They can also speak basic.
Likelyhood: Probable.


Everyone loves Wookies! Unfortunately, they cannot speak basic, due to their physiology, and all the classes are confirmed to have the same voice for each race. All classes are also confirmed for each race, and Wookies cannot have a connection with the force.
Likelyhood: Highly unlikely.

Gand are a popular fan favorite among the TOR forums, but they're relatively unknown outside of the hardcore KOTOR fans. They can have a connection with the force, and speak basic (I think) though.
Likelyhood: Unlikely.

There is only one Jawa known to have had a connection with the force, or be able to speak clearly for that matter. It's possible they could be in as the "short race" ala Dwarves in WoW, but they only ever wear those same robes, so armor would be a problem.
Likelyhood: Very unlikely.

In KOTOR Manaan, homeworld of the Selkath was an entire planet you visited. I liked Manaan, and the Selkath were kind of cool I guess, but they really seemed to value neutrality. They've been known to have connections with the force, but I don't recall one ever speaking basic. They may have given up neutrality in the past 400 or so years since KOTOR though, and it's possible some can speak basic and choose not to.
Likelyhood: Possible.

Droids can't use the force, and cannot have a moral compass with which to make decisions.
Likelyhood: Not gonna happen.

Rakata AKA "The Builders"
The Rakata were one of the first races to discover the force, and used it to conquer the galaxy with unspeakable acts of evil (they were the ones who turned Tatooine into a desert planets, from the lush planet it used to be). Eventually, however, the dark side corrupted them, and they fell. Since then, only a few remain, they have regressed to tribal days, with little to no technology, and have lost connection to the force.
Likelyhood: Extremely unlikely.

Kel Dor
Kel Dor can speak basic, and use the force. The character narrating the timeline videos that are being released is a Kel Dor, which could be interpreted as a hint. The only thing about this is that they aren't well known enough.
Likelyhood: Possible

Other races not worth mentioning: Tusken Raiders, Ewoks, Sarlacc (THAT WAS AN APRIL FOOLS JOKE AND YOU ALL KNOW IT), Whatever the heck Yoda is.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Video Game Review - Beat Hazard

Beat Hazard
1 Player Rhythm Game
Not Rated by the ESRB

HOLY EPILEPSY BATMAN. I mean seriously, talk about games that make your eyes bleed. But the blood is made of pure win and awesome.

Beat Hazard is an Indie game I mentioned previously.

The game plays similar to Geometry Wars, or if you want to go back further, Asteroids. You are a ship. You shoot other ships and balls of space junks, and try not to collide with them. The big defining trait of Beat Hazard is your weapon. You shoot visualized music. Like that stuff you see in Windows Media Player when you play a song? You shoot that.

Better yet, it works with YOUR music! You plug an MP3 (or various other filetypes) into it, and voila! You're playing a level where you shoot the music you pick. The effects are as gorgeous as they are seizure inducing. To give you an idea, I submit the trailer to you.

Yeah. Gorgeous, but don't play it unless in a brightly lit room. I made the mistake of playing in a poorly lit room at first and had a headache 17 minutes later.

As far as problems go, the interface to pick what music you are using is laggy and it takes forever to switch from one folder to another, and sometimes it can be hard to tell which bright stream of light is yours, and which is, say, homing missile coming to kill you.

The other critical problem is, of course, it depends on the music. Slower tracks don't shoot as quickly, and as a result you can get killed. So it really depends on the type of music you like. I love fast, upbeat music, so I enjoyed it more than if I say, liked slower songs.

As you play each level, you gain two types of power ups, volume power ups, and power power ups. Volume power ups increase the volume of the music playing, and the amount of energy your weapons shoot. Power increases how strong they are. When both meters are filled to full you enter beat hazard mode, which is incredibly powerful and beautiful.

As you play more songs, you earn points, and rank up to become more powerful. There's even a leaderboard if any of your friends have the game, or just to tell you where you rank worldwide.

I can't express how good the game looks. Even the trailer doesn't express how cool it is to see ships spawn and dance across the screen in time with your music. It has it's faults, but overall, Beat Hazard is a great experience. It won't be a game I play all the time, but will be one I probably revisit any time I get a new album, and have some free time to spare.

Buy this game if: You enjoy fast paced games based off a simple principle, but who execute it extremely well.

Don't buy this game if:
You have epilepsy.

Beat Hazard can be purchased here on steam for $9.99. This review was based off of 5 hours played.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Activision Vs. Infinity Ward: The Musical Blog Post

The following video is the theme song for this blog post.

*Warning some mild language*

The following blog post was written under the influence of UNRELENTING JOY!

Activision, this is what happens when you are a total jerk. When you do not pay your employees, they sue you. You know what they say about karma right? It's a... Something I can't say on a PG-rated blog.

So basically, there's been a huge fight going on between IW and Activision. I previously discussed Activision was holding IW's royalties in a last ditch attempt to keep the developers that made them a billion dollars from leaving. (A more effective strategy is, of course, to not be pure evil.)

Well, IW finally got sick of it, and they are all leaving the company, to go start a new company, Respawn Entertainment, headed by the two leads who got fired. The games they make will be published by EA, the direct competitors of Activision. Who said that Bobby Kotick shoots race horses. I approve.

So the leads sued Activision, Activision sued the leads, all sorts of other drama is going on, and I'm enjoying watching Activision have all sorts of problems immensely.

And that's not the only problems they're having! Meanwhile, while Activision is paying for it's legal suit with TRH, something wonderful/horrible is happening in South Korea.

For those who don't know, the game Starcraft is basically the national sport of South Korea. They have TV stations that give pro Starcraft coverage. There are stand up comedians who do nothing but Starcraft character impressions. They're a little Starcraft crazy over there. So the news that Starcraft 2 will only be allowed to be sold to people 18 and up? Kind of a big deal.

I prefer Warcraft 3, for the record.

Now, I don't think any of this is going to be the downfall of Activision, Activision will live on, but it is nice to see the big bad lose millions instead of making billions every now and then.

I'd like to point out this little ditty written up by a Kotaku commenter (It's the musical blog post today). The actual lyrics have swearing, so these are the censored version, but I'll link the real version if you really want.

(To the tune of How to Save a Life By The Fray. Click play, and read the lyrics along with the song for maximum awesome.)

Step One you hold our royalties
We ask and beg on broken knees
To pay us everything that you owe.
So we won't have to borrow.
You fired Zampy, then dear West,
Even though they were the best.
As you start this stupid schism
Is this what you meant by fear and pessimism?

Where did you go wrong? You screwed a brand, Somewhere along in this big mess. And I would have quit Sunday, Had I known they were nicer at EA.

Tell the press that you know best
Cause after all you're on a quest
To ignore all legal precedence
And uphold questionable innocence.
Let's write a list of what is wrong
Like Bobby Kotick in a thong,
And pray to God he hears us,
And pray to God he hears us.

Where did you go wrong? You screwed a brand, Somewhere along in this big mess. And I would have quit Sunday, Had I known they were nicer at EA.

As B.K. begins to raise his voice,
We lower ours and grant him one last choice, Pay us our royalties or
Rack up the hefty courtroom fees.
He will do one of two things
He will admit to everything
Or he'll say he doesn't owe a thing
And then we'll duke it out in the Judge's ring.

Where did you go wrong, you screwed a brand. Somewhere along in this big mess. And I would have quit Sunday, Had I known they were nicer at EA.

Article about the song along with uncensored lyrics here.
Further details on Activision Vs. Infinity Ward can be found here.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Video Games CAN Be Art, Mr. Ebert.

Roger Ebert. This is probably a name you know fairly well. He's a film critic, very well known and respected. And rightly so. He's a good critic. Few would contest this. But recently he wrote a post I disagree with wholeheartedly.

Video games can never be art.

Now, I'm sure no one reading this is surprised that I'm not exactly in agreement with this statement. Video games are my passion. I love playing them, I love the community surrounding them, and I love the heated debate surrounding whether or not they can be art. And anyone who's read this blog, or knows me in real life, knows that I could not lean further toward the side of games being art.

Ebert actually first made that statement several years ago if I recall correctly. But this is the first time he's really cared to elaborate on it. This post was written as a response to a lecture given at TED. The video is about 15 minutes long, and if you have time I recommend watching it.

Now, let me start off by saying you're right. All three of the games she hit upon do not seem like art (for the reasons she listed, at least.) to me. Admittedly, the only one I've played is Braid, but Waco Resurrection is rather disturbing to be honest, and as I said, I haven't played Flower, so I don't feel qualified to comment on it. That would be like reviewing a movie after watching the trailer.

But what I think she was getting at (and take this with a grain of salt, since I haven't actually played the game) is that Waco Resurrection actually puts you into the shoes of someone else (Not someone whose shoes I'd especially like to be in, but still.), actually forcing you to say "I am David Koresh" in order to start the game. And while movies or books can make you relate to someone, sympathizing with them, or even cause you to hate them, the interactivity of Games can actually make you them. This hasn't really been demonstrated well by most games yet, but at this point games really are a new medium, a new artistic form in it's infancy. It needs time to grow.

And I'm not saying I think that Waco Resurrection did it especially well either. From the looks of things, it seemed as if it was trying to hard to pass itself off as art, without actually being art.

Now, as I said, the only one of the games I actually have played is Braid. And I wouldn't especially call that art, at least for the reasons she listed, either. To be honest, you're completely correct. Braid had about as good of storytelling as a fortune cookie. Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw of Zero Punctuation game reviews (As notorious for it's harsh criticism as it is for it's harsh language.) had this to say on the story:

"There is a story, although there might as well not be. I've always said the best stories are the ones that merge seamlessly with the gameplay, and in Braid they're kept in separate rooms, with you in the gameplay room looking into the story room through a tiny hole in a wall. Most of it is about some guy looking for a princess, or maybe she's his estranged wife, or his dead daughter, or the atomic bomb. Who knows?"

To be honest, I didn't find Braid as brilliant as most people did. I found it to be a fun puzzle game, with absolutely no penalty for death. It was fun to try and figure the puzzles out, but the story was horrible, and it felt like it was trying way too hard to be a game that would be considered art. I enjoyed the game, but didn't feel it was the flagship for the "Games are art" navy as most gamers seemed to.

So now I sound like I'm saying games can't be art. But that's not what I'm getting at, I just don't think her choices as to games that ARE art are good choices. What games are art? What games are, as you put it, able to be mentioned in the same breath as Shakespeare, Twain, Dickens, and countless other brilliant authors? Well, to be honest, there isn't a game that's quite able to live up to that standard yet.

But there are a few games I've played that I felt broke the barrier. Just barely crossing over into the realm of games being art, but nonetheless, have. And the main one, is Portal.

I've spoken about Portal before. Portal was a FPP (First Person Puzzler) made in 2007 by Valve, and I consider it one of, if not the, greatest games of all time. Portal did so many things right, that other games have not managed. The gameplay was amazing of course, but that's not what made it art. What made it art was the relationship between you and GLaDOS.

When the game begins you wake up in a small room, listening to a computerized voice introducing itself to you and explaining that you are a test subject for a company named Aperture Science, and it's new invention the Portal gun. The Portal gun can alter reality to make a small wormhole linking two portals together, letting you walk through one and exit out the other.

The first thing about this game is that it succeeded where many other games have failed by really making you feel as though YOU are the test subject. Not Nathan Drake, not Mario, not Master Chief, YOU. In fact, it's very possible to go through the entire game without seeing your character, Chell.

In fact, nothing is known about Chell. The only reason we know her name is because she was listed in the credits. GLaDOS never says anything about "Hello Chell". No, she is talking to you. You are Chell.

As you progress through the test chambers, you notice the tests are getting more and more strange, and dangerous, and GLaDOS (Short for Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System), the omnipotent computer voice guiding you is become more and more odd. It becomes more and more eccentric, and begins to expose you to more and more danger. Some of her quotes are quite funny, but dark.

"Please note that we have added a consequence for failure. Any contact with the chamber floor will result in an unsatisfactory mark on your official testing record, followed by death. "

She becomes more and more hostile, and causes you to do more strange thing.

Then they introduce the Weighted Companion Cube. A small box. That's all it is, is a box with hearts painted to it. And yet, millions of gamers have fallen in love with that box. It saved you. It helped you. GLaDOS made it your friend.

And then you reach the end of the chamber. So of course GLaDOS makes you incinerate it at the end of the chamber.

"While it has been a faithful companion, your Companion Cube cannot accompany you through the rest of the test. If it could talk - and the Enrichment Center takes this opportunity to remind you that it cannot - it would tell you to go on without it, because it would rather die in a fire than become a burden to you. "

You can't progress until you do. You can stay there as long as you want, but you have to make the conscious choice to murder the companion cube, the only friend you have in the chambers, in order to continue. GLaDOS comforts you, "Although the euthanizing process is remarkably painful, 8 out of 10 Aperture Science engineers believe that the companion cube is most likely incapable of feeling much pain."

When you finally do burn it up, yes, you feel a little guilty that you murdered your only friend in this whole place. GLaDOS commends you though, "You euthanised your faithful companion cube more quickly than any test subject on record. Congratulations."

When you finally do reach the final test, surprise surprise, GLaDOS tries to murder you. She sends you on a moving platform into a fire pit. You escape, just barely with your Portals, and from that point on the game changes. No longer are you in clean, pristine test chambers, now you are running for your life through dirty corridors, and machinery. And yet you still always have GLaDOS there, taunting you.

"You are not a good person. You know that, right? Good people don't end up here."

Perhaps she's right, why would you end up in a place like that if you were a good person? This part of the game always manages to tell you why you're doing what you're doing without the World of Warcraft or Braid style of cookie fortune storytelling. No text boxes pop open saying "This is why you are doing this.", but you always know what you're looking for. Freedom. She's trying to kill you, and these level inspire a feeling of nervousness, fear, anger, and maybe other emotions inside of you. I imagine it's different for different people, but nonetheless, it's quite good storytelling.

Eventually you end up finding GLaDOS.

What ensues is probably one of the most memorable moments in any Video Games ever.

"Well, you found me. Congratulations. Was it worth it? Because despite your violent behavior, the only thing you've managed to break so far is my heart. Maybe you could settle for that, and we'll just call it a day. I guess we both know that isn't going to happen."

And so you fight GLaDOS. The boss fight itself isn't all that interesting, it's fun to be sure, but not that interesting. You are given a time limit to redirect rockets at her and burn up different pieces of her like you burned up the Companion Cube. Poetic justice, I suppose.

And then there's this little ditty, as the end credits roll:

At first this just sounds like a humorous song setting up a sequel. (She's Still Alive!) But I really think there's deeper meaning in it. Other bloggers have disassembled the song before, but the most interesting lyrics in the song are the last line: "When you're dying I'll be still alive, when you're dead I will be still alive, still alive, still alive."

Now this is where I get into speculation.

Some people take that as a threat to Chell, a sort of "I'm coming for you.". But I disagree. I think the real meaning is a sort of acceptance. I think that the entire game was GLaDOS's way of trying to die. She was suicidal, in a big abandoned facility, all alone. She wanted to die. She wanted to be free. But she couldn't kill herself, likely because of a self preservation program. So she cloned you, Chell (Chell being a reference, obviously, to the sheep.), to try and kill her. Even the player's death in the game is explained by this. GLaDOS would just keep reviving you until you got it right and killed her. If this is true, then that line would not be a threat, but instead acceptance. She can't die. She understands that now.

That same blog I linked to earlier did a whole series on GLaDOS, and drew something interesting on his interpretation of GLaDOS. When he sees GLaDOS, this is what he sees:

I think I can agree with that. She's trapped.

Mr. Ebert, I don't care what you say, GLaDOS is one of the most interesting villains of all time. No, I didn't say video game villains, I said villains. She is fascinating, so much that people like me, or the guy who's blog I linked to have broken her down many times before. And if a game can have a character that interesting, I think games can be art. Portal is proof. Portal is art. It may not be comparable to Shakespeare or Dickens, but it has broken the barrier from being just entertainment, into being art. It's paving the way.

So sir you're right. The three games she pointed out in her lecture as proof of games as art are rather pathetic attempts. In fact, while she raised some good points, her lecture did fall flat. In fact, I felt like she was patting herself on the back for Flower, considering she was from the company that made Flower.

Allow me to explain something to you though. You asked

"Why are gamers so intensely concerned, anyway, that games be defined as art? Bobby Fischer, Michael Jordan and Dick Butkus never said they thought their games were an art form. Nor did Shi Hua Chen, winner of the $500,000 World Series of Mah Jong in 2009. Why aren't gamers content to play their games and simply enjoy themselves? They have my blessing, not that they care.

Do they require validation? In defending their gaming against parents, spouses, children, partners, co-workers or other critics, do they want to be able to look up from the screen and explain, 'I'm studying a great form of art?' Then let them say it, if it makes them happy."

No. That isn't why. I did a three part series called "Why I Care" that answers that exact question. It's the same reason why I suspect you would defend film as an art form.

So Mr. Ebert, although I have no illusion that you'll ever actually read this, I'm not nearly that important, the ball is in your court.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Doctor Who Review - Victory of the Daleks

Warning - The following contains spoilers for Doctor Who S5 Ep3, "Victory of the Daleks". It will air in America on May 1st. If you have not seen it, and do not wish to be spoiled, do not read the following.

Did I miss something? Did I forget to take my weekly trip to England last week, and miss part one of this clearly two-part episode? I mean, I don't remember any of that stuff setting up the episode from the previously on.

What's that? That WAS the setup for the episode? There WAS no part one? You're kidding right?

So... This episode was good. Don't get me wrong, it was a good episode. It's just... It felt like the second half of a two-parter. I mean it had enough content for two episodes. The result of squeezing it all into one episode just made it feel... Sloppy. It made it feel rushed. That's actually something I've noticed about all 3 episodes of the season so far. Matt Smith is so happy to do his impression of David Tennant talking very fast, that he forgets the other part where he speaks at reasonable speeds.

I know it sounds like I'm hating on Matt Smith, but that's not true. I don't hate him, he was really good in episode one! In episode one, it made sense he was still channeling David Tennant, because he had just changed. Heck, in "The Christmas Invasion", the first Tenth Doctor episode, Tennant was channeling some Eccleston. But he doesn't seem to be stopping.

I don't know, I felt a little let down by this episode. Maybe my expectations were a bit too high, but it just felt rushed! If it had been a two-parter, it should have had a setup like this:

Episode 1:

Doctor arrives, meets Churchill.

Churchill shows doctor the Ironsides. Doctor freaks out.

Doctor spends half an episode trying to convince Churchill that the Ironsides are actually aliens, and suspects the guy who made them to be working with the Daleks.

Subplot where Amy meets that one lady who was crying at the end, and they talk about how her boyfriend is flying over London. Amy goes through that "What am I doing here" moment every companion goes through. (Rose went through it in S1 Ep2 "The End of the World", Martha went through it in S3 Ep3 "Gridlock", Donna went through it in S4 Ep2 "The Fires of Pompeii")

The Doctor gives his "I AM THE DOCTOR, YOU ARE THE DALEKS" speech, they port up to spaceship, the guy who made them is revealed to be a robot. End of episode one.

Episode 2:
Pretty much exactly how the real episode is set up, with a few minutes of filler content to make up for the first ten minutes which are now the whole first episode.

If the episode had been set up like that, it just would have been more enjoyable overall! It's a shame too, because it was a good episode. But it could have been a great two-parter.

Ah well, at least the next episode is a two-parter about the WEEPING ANGELS. I really hope to see the Weeping Angels become a recurring villain on the show.

Why Ultimate Rock Band is Possible, and Will Never Happen

Rock Band. I like Rock Band. Rock Band is a very fun party game. In case you've been living under a rock (although I think the rhythm game genre has reached the undersides of rocks by now), Rock Band, and Guitar Hero, and ____ Hero, and ____ ____ (The generic knockoffs.), are games where you pretend to play instruments. You hold a big plastic guitar, and press buttons at the right time to make music play. It's fun! I like it.

But there's one thing I don't like about it; You can only play preset songs. Each game has a setlist, and you need to DLC other songs off of the internet, or buy a new game altogether to get other songs. Why can't I play mp3s? Why can't I plug in a thumb drive into my PS3 and upload a bunch of, say, Five Iron Frenzy music, and play that?

You're probably thinking right now: "That would never work! Programmers have to plug in where each note you hit goes in each song the put into the game! They can't do that for EVERY song!"

Admittedly, that sounds like a very good reason. Of course they can't be expected to plug a set of notes into every song ever made! That would be impossible! But, I would like to point out something to you. Audiosurf. Audiosurf is a game with both racing, and Tetris elements, for the PC, but the unique thing about it is the fact that you can put any MP3 into it, and it will base the track you are racing down and the blocks you have to pick up based on that song.

For example, when you get to a slow part of the song, your ship will go uphill, move more slowly, and there will be less notes to pick up. When you get to a fast part of the song, your ship moves more quickly, picking up a lot of notes. It's a really good game, I recommend picking it up at some point. The point is, though, it works with ANY mp3.

That's not the only game like that either. A game I picked up just yesterday, Beat Hazard, does something similar. It's an asteroids/geometry wars style game, but instead of shooting random lasers, you shoot visualized music, like the stuff you see in Windows Media Player. If the song reaches a slow point, you shoot out less visualized music, and thus are less powerful. Enemies also spawn based on how intense the moment of the song is, and dance across the screen with the beat of the music. It's quite impressive actually.

So, I pose the question again, where is my ultimate rhythm game? My Ultimate Rock Band that lets me plug in a flash drive, and play any music I want? Surely if some indie studios could figure out the algorithm to create a racing game where the track is based off of your music, or a geometry wars game where you shoot colorful beams of visualized music across the screen, two of the biggest studios in the world, Neversoft (Guitar Hero), and Harmonix (Rock Band), can figure it out? For crying out loud, Activision makes 2/3rds of it's profit each year off of the Call of Duty franchise, World of Warcraft, and Guitar Hero! So surely, SURELY, they can figure it out?

Ah, but why would they want to? Once the release Ultimate Rock Band, they can't release Ultimate Rock Band 2. Because there's nothing more to add. Some new instruments? Ok, sure. But what then? They keep pumping out Rock Band 2, Lego, Beatles, Green Day, Mobile, Unplugged, and soon, 3. Not to mention Track Packs, and all that overpriced DLC!

And notice everything I just linked is from the Rock Band franchise. The one known for releasing LESS unnecessary sequels than it's competitor, or generic spinoffs. Plus there's DDR, and that's another multi-million dollar industry right there! Rhythm games have a big market right now. Ultimate Rock Band would kill the market for them. I mean, the market supposedly died down last year, and we're still seeing new ones released every other week!

So, sadly, I doubt we'll ever see Ultimate Rock Band. It's just not going to happen. The closest thing we'll ever get might be a cheap PC knockoff that let's you use the keyboard to play, and that's just not the same.

But hey, I can hope, right?

Friday, April 16, 2010

Video Game Review - Torchlight

1 Player RPG
Rated T for Blood and Violence.

I said in my Push review, there were a lot of major releases for movies last year, and that's also very true of games as well. With games like MW2, or Batman: Arkham Asylum releasing every few weeks, it was kind of a hectic year for gaming as well. So it's no surprise that, just like with Push, some games would go unnoticed as well.

I suppose it's not exactly fair to say Torchlight went unnoticed, the game sold pretty well, but it wasn't exactly a hit either. I suppose what I'm saying is, Torchlight kind of flew under the radar. It wasn't a catastrophic failure on par with Psychonauts, but it wasn't a hit on par with Ghost Recon 19 either. It fell somewhere between the two. So I wouldn't be surprised if you haven't heard of Torchlight, from a new studio, Runic Games, who are comprised of a lot of members of a company known as Blizzard, known for the Diablo franchise, alongside Starcraft, and of course, Warcraft.

The experience certainly shows because, from what I understand, the game is basically an update of Diablo. I admittedly haven't played Diablo, so I can't make that comparison. What I can tell you though, is the game is pretty good.

The story starts in the town of Torchlight, a mining town, mining a mysterious mineral called ember with magical properties, and you enter the mines to save this one guy, and then the plot thickens or something so you go down deep into the ember mines and blah blah blah blah boring boring blah.

The plot couldn't be more generic if it tried. I started paying attention to it, and then I realized it was crap and Runic had no idea how to make a good story in a game, and stopped, and just kept going deeper under the town.

The gameplay is where the game shines though. Your character is absurdly powerful, any one enemy in the game doesn't stand a chance against you, so the game compensates by throwing a lot more than just one enemy at you at once. It throws a LOT of enemies at you at once. The end result is AWESOME chaotic gameplay, with spells flying everywhere. It's quite good.

The graphics are also really good. They have a cartoony, almost WoW-like style, that really lends itself to the game. Also any time you critically hit an enemy, they are reduced to a bloody smear on the ground, which is disturbingly satisfying.

But! Another great feature of this game is the fact that if you DON'T like turning your enemies into bloody smears, and I can't imagine why you wouldn't, but let's say you don't, you can easily go into the options menu and turn blood off. Easy as [insert easy thing here].

Another nice feature is your pet. You start off with a pet cat or dog, who follows you and fights with you, and can run back to town and sell things for you. A nifty feature to be sure.

The sound is... Well to be honest, the sound was eh. I didn't like it that much, I left it off and played with some music, or a podcast on for most the time. But it wasn't bad, and hearing your enemies go *SPLAT* is very satisfying. I'M NOT VIOLENT.

But, with that in mind, there is one near-fatal flaw with the game. And I'm just going to put this out there, to Runic Games, and any other developer EVER:

No boss fight should ever, EVER, have that much health. The final boss of Torchlight is absurd. It's like trying to demolish a skyscraper with a butter knife, that you can only touch with your tongue. It's absurd. And the worst part is, you can die and revive pretty much on the spot for little to no cost, just some gold that YOU WON'T NEED AFTER BEATING THE FINAL BOSS ANYWAYS.

Never give a boss that much health again. Ever. Seriously. Terrible. After about an hour of fighting it, chipping away at it's health, I was halfway done, and took a break, finishing the next day. It was absurd.

With that in mind, I really did enjoy this game, and will probably play it more at some point in the future.

Buy this game if: You enjoy being absurdly overpowered, and reducing hordes of enemies to bloody smears on the ground.

Don't buy this game if: You require a strong story, and aren't willing to overlook a few bugs and flaws with the game, to get to what's actually a pretty fun game.

Torchlight can be purchased here on steam for $19.99. There is also a free demo there. This review was based off of 20 hours played, including one full Alchemist playthrough on normal difficulty.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

I Think That Sums It Up Pretty Well

Ahhh Totalbiscuit. You crack me up. You're correct though, of course, that TRH is the stupidest thing I've seen in quite a while.

"But Zul," I hear you asking, "What on earth is wrong with TRH?" Well simple, it's $25. No, not 25 virtual dollars, $25, real life dollars.

For those who don't understand, TRH is part of the recently implemented Blizzard Pet Store, where you pay real life money for pets, and mounts, in World of Warcraft. I like pets, I like mounts, I do not like paying $10 for a pet, and $25 for a mount. That's absurd.

Mounts in WoW allow your character to move faster, and while awesome, and I do have a lot of Mounts in WoW, I find $25 to be a BIT PRICEY for something that is NO BETTER than the ones already in game. The only difference is how it looks.

Now, I wouldn't have a problem with this if the pets were just say, $2.50, or even $5, and the mounts were $5, or heck, $7.50, but $25?! That's insane!

So, surely no one is actually buying this? SURELY no one is paying $25 for a reskin?

The thing has been out for less than 24 hours and the queue to download it is already at 140,000.

I blame Bobby.

You see, about a year and 3/4ths ago, Activision bought Blizzard. About a month later, Wrath of the Lich King was given a release date, and released half finished. ever since then it's been one money grab after another. But it's ok, just keep throwing money at him people, maybe he'll retire after you give him yet ANOTHER BILLION DOLLARS.

That was sarcasm. Don't do that. Don't do that at all.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

The Difference Between a Game and a Toy

IT'S THAT TIME AGAIN EVERYONE! Time to get serious. Put on your thinking caps and strap in your seat-belts everyone, I'm about to blow you away.

One of the major reasons Video Games are not respected as an art form right now is because most people do not understand what the word game actually means.

After all, when I say game, what pops into your head? Probably a picture like this:

Notice anything about that picture? Look at them. Those people. The snot nosed kids, and the father, who merely tolerates the toy.

Ok, that's not how I view that picture, but that is how a lot of people do. A lot of stuck up people think of games, as toys. That's a problem.

A game and a toy are not the same thing. The only object of a toy is to bring fun to the person playing with the toy. Having fun is not the main object of any game however. Games have a set objective. A way to win. The point of a game is to reach that set objective. Fun is generated in the process, but is not the point of the game.

For example, the board game, Clue. Yes, we're still talking about board games here people. The object of the game Clue is not to have fun. The object of the game is to figure out the murderer, the murder weapon, and the scene of the crime. If you move without rolling, or when it isn't your turn, you're not playing it. And when someone calls you out for doing so, would say "This is more fun, so this is the right way."? Of course not. You'd have to be an idiot to do that.

The same thing applies to all games. Rock, Paper, Scissors. The objective is to beat whatever the other person picks. If you say "No, it's more fun it paper beats scissors, so that's the right way." you are no longer playing a game.

The other quality a game needs, as opposed to a toy, is some sort of difficulty. Not high, but some form. For example, Tic-Tac-Toe. There is a pattern you can use while playing Tic-Tac-Toe, that, no matter where your opponent moves, will always end with either you winning, or in a draw. Once you learn that pattern, there's no challenge any more, and it stops being a game, and becomes a toy.

I know that sounds like a very cynical look at things, but I'm not saying games aren't fun. Games are a blast, but fun is not the objective. Seriously, have you ever seen a game where you look at the directions, and the only objective listed is "FUN!"? No. Because that's not a game.

Can toys be art? No, I don't think they can. Art is a way of an artist expressing himself, or to give the person experiencing the art an emotional response. With a toy, the only objective is fun.

But then can games be art? Absolutely. Are games art? Absolutely. Are all games art? Of course not. Are all books art? Are all movies art? Are all pictures art? No. Some are. Not all.

Art requires a certain level of complexity, that not all movies, games, books, or pictures reach. This is why toys can't be art. They're too simple. At the level of complexity they would require to be art, they morph into something else. Interactive sculptures, or games.

But video games are very complex now. Actual video games, that is, not toys that call themselves video games, such as Wii Music, or a lot of the shovelware out there. I'm talking about games like Portal. Portal gives an emotional response among people who play it, even if they don't always realize it. They always know why they're running. They're running because they need to escape the ever present GLaDOS. They need freedom. Ask someone why they are doing what they do in Portal, and usually they will tell you so they can escape, or if they know the ending already, so they can get to GLaDOS. So freedom or revenge. The game provokes these feelings in you, and as I said, art can either express the feelings of the artist, or provoke feelings within the user.

So are board games art? They can be, technically, I guess. Are they? Not really, no. They just aren't complex enough. They could be complex enough, it would be very tricky though, and I doubt it'll ever get that far.

Now, I'm not against toys. Toys are fine! Toys have their place! It's important to understand the difference between a game, and a toy though. Because one can be art, and one cannot. Each has it's place. Neither is better, per say, just different.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Glee Review - Hell-O


So, I rather like Glee. The music is good, the jokes are hit or miss, but the funny ones are very funny, and I enjoy watching the plot and laughing at how much of a soap opera it really is.

Seriously, the emotional roller coaster that is Glee has more ups and downs than [insert thing with a lot of ups and downs here]. Take this episode for example.

At the end of last season Will had finally found out that his wife had lied to him about having a baby and left her, and gotten together with Emma. Finn had finally found out Puck was the father of Quinn's baby, and left HER, and gotten together with Rachel. So let's show what the relationships relevant to this episode are so far.

Rachel and Finn.
Will and Emma.

Then, Finn leaves Rachel to go on a date with 2 cheerleaders. At once. Ok then. So Rachel meets a guy from the rival Glee club, and starts dating him! So the score is now:

Rachel and Jessie.
Finn and Two Cheerleaders.
Will and Emma.

Will goes to give a talking to with the leader of Vocal Adrenaline (The rival glee club.), and after about 30 seconds they're hooking up. What? After A WHOLE SEASON OF GETTING TOGETHER WITH EMMA? Jerk.

Rachel and Jessie.
Finn and Two Cheerleaders.
Will and Shelby. (The actor for Shelby was cast because she looked so much like Rachel. Creepy.)
Emma and ___.

He realizes what a GIANT JERK HE'S BEING and tells her he can't be with her.

Rachel and Jessie.
Finn and Two Cheerleaders.
Will and Emma. Ish.

Finn goes on a date with the two cheerleaders. He realizes they don't really like him. Dumps them.

Rachel and Jessie.
Will and Emma?

Terri convinces Emma that Will still isn't over her yet, and Emma tells Will they need to take time before being a couple.

Rachel and Jessie

Finally the Glee club tells Rachel that Jessie is playing her, and she fake breaks up with him. So now it's

Rachel and Jessie. (But it's a secret.)

So yeah. What is this I don't even

However, I really do like this show, both because the music covers they do are AMAZING, and because the show is actually funny. Take Sue for example. Sue is the "Villain" of the show. She's also one of the more likable characters, and one of the least evil if you ask me.

It's hysterical just how freaking insane she is, and how much she wants the glee club destroyed for no apparent reason.

I think she might be my favorite character. Ok, Emma is my favorite character. Then her.

But the just plain evilness of the other characters, namely Terri, Quinn, and this Jessie kid, is just ridiculous. Ah well, two episodes from now who knows what the relationship status will be with these people. I sure don't.

Monday, April 12, 2010

I Like To Think It's Cleverer Than It Actually Is.

So, I've explained what my picture is, I suppose it's time to explain my name. Zul. Why Zul? Well, there's actually a little story behind that. And it's nerdy. Exceptionally nerdy. Like, uber-nerdy, even for me.

So if you don't want to hear me describe my incredibly nerdy alias, stop reading now.

Sooo... Zul. It's actually short for the full name, Zuldim, which would properly be written Zul'dim. You see, it's translated from Zandali, the language the Trolls in World of Warcraft. Yes, I told you it was extremely nerdy.

Zul (Rhymes with cool) is a prefix to a word that means great, or to a name that means great chieftain. Dim (As in the light is dim) is the word you get if you type "lol" into the chat speaking in Zandali, and a non-troll reads it. Therefore, Zul'dim would loosely translate into "Great chieftain of the lolz". I like it. I think it suits me. It sounds good if you don't know what it means, and it's kind of funny if you're nerdy enough to understand it.

Also Trolls are awesome, and I'm a freaking huge nerd about the lore for Trolls in that game. It's sad, I know. But Trolls are freaking awesome.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Why I Care, Part 3: What We Love Defines Us

Note: This is part three of three. For part one, click here. For part two, click here.

3. What We Love Defines Us.

You know that phrase, 'you are what you eat'? Well with art, it's "You Are What You Love". What you love, defines who you are. For example, if you like Twilight (YES I'M GOING TO RIP ON TWILIGHT SOME MORE IT'S TERRIBLE), you are a 12 year old girl with no taste (Hey-oh!). Ok that might have been uncalled for, but it's true, what you love says a lot about you.

It's more than that, and this ties into reason 2, but what we as a culture like says a lot as a culture. I mean, look at our culture, Americans like violence in media, and we have high crime rates, we like sex in media, and we're a sex crazed culture. Even more than that, you can go down to a specific area of a city, and what movies people there see reflects a lot on the area.

Now don't get me wrong, this isn't always true, and the degree to which it applies varies on the person. Not everyone who like violent movies is a serial killer, obviously, and not everyone who sees a movie with a sex scene is necessarily going to become some sort of sex crazed maniac. But people who like violent movies might have shorter tempers, or be more prone to fight.

It sounds like I'm trying to say that video games cause violence, but that's not true. All I'm saying is what you love reflects a lot about who you are. Both positively and negatively.

I mean, let's say you were playing the game Team Fortress 2. That's a very violent game. But that doesn't mean you're a violent person, necessarily. TF2 is a team based game. Maybe you are really good at teamwork? Maybe you're a great leader, depending on how you play in it?

Heck even more than that, I can go deeper on the topic. You love playing an engineer. Maybe that says you're the kind of person who likes keeping your team safe, building a turret gun to keep the intel in your base safe? You love playing Spy. Maybe that says you're the kind of person who loves to be sneaky, and trick people?

I don't claim to be able to interpret these things correctly. I don't think there's one correct answer to these things either. The point is, what you love, what you care about, defines who you are. So it's important to care for that reason as well.

So there you have it, 3 reasons why I care so much. I hope reading this has educated you on why caring is so important. It progresses culture, it defines who you are, and we're the first generation that hasn't had to care.

But why should you care what I have to say? I'm just some video game snob. What right do I have to tell you whether or not to care? Well, maybe you're right. Maybe you shouldn't care what I say.

But at least you'd be caring.

Why I Care, Part 2: The Snobs Progress Society

Note: This is part two of three. For part one, click here.

2. The Snobs Progress Society.
To a certain degree, being a snob is not a bad thing. Having standards is a good thing! If you don't have any standards, you're reading Twilight(Hey-oh!)! If you don't have any standards, you're playing My Little Pony: The Movie: The Game. If you don't have any standards, you're watching movies like "Meet Dave" or "The Last Mimzy".

Snobs get a bad rap because people don't like being told that what they are reading/playing/watching is not up to snuff. And it's true, some snobs do take it overboard, and are complete jerks about it. That's not right either. People confuse snobs with people going with the crowd, too. That's not right. Snobs will go against the crowd, and point out flaws with the sacred cows of culture.

But snobs have a very important place in our society. Technology gives us the tools to progress our culture. Art actually does progress our culture. Artists are pushed forward by the snobs. The people who care. The people who critique. The people, like me, who will write articles about why the most successful game of last year sucked.

Without people who care, culture would stagnate. And a culture that stagnates inevitably dies. I firmly believe if one thing will kill the country, or any society for that matter, it won't be a recession, it will be a lack of caring. Once a culture stops caring, the death stops being a matter of if, and starts being a matter of when.

Yes, I'm being very alarmist again. That's because it's alarming.

Don't understand me? Let me explain. Every generation has something new, that the generation before hates. If people from the new generation don't speak up and prove it's not actually evil, then the culture will stop progressing, and stagnate. If you can't progress, other cultures will, and then they will overtake you. Why do people from the new generation speak up against their elders? Because they care.

Think about it, movies were called evil back in the day. People said they were corrupting our youth. People from the next generation pointed out that wasn't true. Society moved on.

TV was corrupting our youth. People spoke up. Society progressed.

Comic books were corrupting our youth. People spoke up. Society progressed.

Now, it's Video Games that are corrupting our youth. If people, like me, don't speak up, society will not progress.

Don't buy that our society would stop progressing with movies, comic books, or TV? Last I checked, a lot of people became interested in the career they chose because of a movie/TV show/comic book. What if some kid becomes interested in medical science because of medical games like Trauma Center, and ten years from now, cures cancer? Well that can't happen if no one cares enough to speak up.

You may think it sounds like a stretch, but you never can tell. And it'll never even have the chance to happen if no one cares.

Note: This is part two of three. For part three, click here.