Archive for May, 2018

Final Thoughts on My Persona 3 Replay

May 30, 2018

So, I finished my replay of Persona 3 FES, taking about 50 hours to finish it.

I’m still amazed by how good that game actually is. Yes, the combat and even the S-links can drag at times and be boring, especially when you can only play for a few hours. It took me well over two hours just to finish the last month before the final battle, and all I was really doing there was finishing S-links and trying desperately to get Mitsuru’s finished before the end of the game (which I did manage). That’s a bit long considering that I wasn’t doing much and wasn’t even running dungeons.

But the gameplay is still entertaining. The story is still great. The characters are still interesting. The backstory works. The S-links work, and are tightly tied into the ending, and FES adds the follow-ups at the end of the game that really bring them home. The parts that drag fade into the background of the satisfying experience you get at the end of the game when everything comes together. I’ve put over 250 hours into Persona 3 FES — which doesn’t count the hours I’ve put into plain Persona 3 and P3P — and it’s still worth replaying.

How come no other game in this genre has been able to do that?

Anyway, after this I’m probably going to go back to the beginning and play Persona, since my PSP is now repaired.

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Thoughts on “The Unwilling”

May 28, 2018

So, I now return to talking about horror movies that I picked up cheap and watched for the heck of it. This time, it’s “The Unwilling”. The thing about this is that this movie has a lot going for it. It has a good cast, a good premise, and a title that can have a clever double meaning. However, it doesn’t really manage to leverage those benefits and so seems to fall short of its potential.

Again, I think this is relatively recent, so I’ll continue below the fold:

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NHL Playoff Predictions: Stanley Cup Finals

May 25, 2018

It looked bad and then mediocre for a while, but with Vegas and Washington winning their series I went a sterling 2 – 0 in the semis, leaving me at a very strong 13 – 1 for the playoffs so far. Home ice advantage, however, went 0 – 2 leaving it at 10 – 4. So one thing is for certain: home ice advantage will not go 9 – 6 like it did the previous two years.

So, let’s look at the finals:

Washington vs Vegas: Vegas has had extra rest, and has been a team that has overcome all the naysayers who kept saying that midnight was going to strike for them. So, it’s dangerous to pick against them in the final. However, Washington has one huge advantage here: they’ve had to face adversity and rise above it. They went down 2 – 0 to Columbus and won the series, had to beat Pittsburgh, the team that they just couldn’t beat for the past few seasons, and despite going up 2 – 0 against Tampa Bay ended up down 3 – 2 and shut them out in the final two games to take that series. They can’t be intimidated. There’s no series or possibly even game lead that they won’t believe they can overcome. The worst Vegas has had to suffer was losing Game 1 against Winnipeg, in Winnipeg, which isn’t something that teams worry about. So we don’t really know how they’ll react if the breaks start going against them, while we know that Washington will likely pick themselves off the floor and come out swinging. That being said, if Fleury steals the series and/or Holtby struggles, Vegas will indeed win the series.

Prediction: Washington. Correct

Gaming Alt-History …

May 23, 2018

So, I recently loaded up Hearts of Iron 2 to play around with for a bit. I have it running, I think, on a very slow time progressing and I started as Canada in 1936, and left it running for about three hours or so, so … I’m still in 1936. The reason I bought this from GOG is because I had originally bought Hearts of Iron a long time ago — I’m pretty sure I got that one from GOG as well, but am too lazy to check right now — and what it promised appealed to me: play as pretty much any country in the world during WWII and see how things turn out, whether it turns out differently or turns out the same. In short, it promised to be a user-shapeable alternate WWII. How could I resist?

The thing is, though, building an AI for more political/diplomatic situations is hard in and of itself, but building one for a alternate history game is even harder. The ideal alternate history game starting from a set point in time without a deviation, and where the deviations only come from player interactions, is one where if the player does everything the way it happened in history — or else doesn’t play as a country that would have a significant impact — then history will proceed pretty much exactly as it did, but the player interactions will be responded to in a sensible manner given the historical personalities of the time. And the options are supposed to be pretty wide ranging. So, for example, what would have happened if Poland hadn’t bucked at allowing the Soviets to cross their territory in response to an attack by Hitler? If that agreement had been made, it would seem awfully convenient if Hitler and Stalin had made their pact anyway, so that might not have happened. But then what would have happened? Would Hitler have been deterred from attacking Poland? Would he have done it anyway? If he did that, would Stalin have done what Poland feared and used that as an excuse to occupy all of Poland? How do you determine what makes sense in that case? And that’s only one relatively minor action you can take. What if the United States was more aggressive against Hitler? Or less aggressive and entered the war later, or not at all? What if France hadn’t allowed the move into the disputed territories? There are so many things here and so many combinations that it’s pretty much impossible to react to all of them.

Games that either deviate on their own early or are set in an entirely alternative universe can get away with creating leaders and nations with personality types and then letting them loose on the situations, but then they might act completely out of character when it comes to what happened in actual history. A game can also seek to short circuit the “historically accurate” expectation by adding randomness to things and events so that things don’t always work out the same way, but this impedes the alt-history feel of the game. And the alt-history part is what’s really appealing about, at least, politics and economics focused real history games. I, at least, don’t buy those games for history to be completely different or exactly the same, but instead for them to be reactive to what I do.

I don’t know if Hearts of Iron is really good at this, because I haven’t played either game long enough to really get a feel for that. I just know that it’s awfully hard, and any game that can do it well is worth playing. And I wish I knew more games like that to try, in various time periods.

Shallow Thoughts on Raganarok, Guardians of the Galaxy 2

May 21, 2018

So, quite a while ago I watched Guardians of the Galaxy 2. More recently, I watched Thor: Ragnarok. The biggest thing they have in common, other than both being Marvel movies, and Ragnarok seemingly aiming to be more of the space opera/comedy sort of movie that GotG is, is that I fell asleep during both of them. This doesn’t mean that they’re bad movies. It doesn’t mean that they were boring movies. If I watch movies — or almost anything — after eating, I fall asleep during them. What it does mean, though, is that unlike other movies and shows I’ve talked about I missed significant parts of the movie, which could have an impact on my impressions of the movie if I had managed to stay awake. So I’ll have to watch them both again at some point, and might say more about them when I do so. Since that’s not likely to be any time soon given my huge backlog of movies and TV shows to watch, I think I’ll talk a little bit about them now. But, yeah, it’s gonna be a shallow analysis, so much so that I don’t think that there’ll be any real spoilers of consequence. Okay, maybe one.

The big problem I had with GotG 2 is that it really, really tried to do too much. There were a ton of interpersonal issues all going on at the same time, with Starlord and his father, Starlord and Rocket, Starlord and Gamora, Gamora and Nebula, Drax and Mantis, and probably one or two more that I’m forgetting. And this might be manageable if the movie focused on resolving those things. But it doesn’t. Comedy was a big part of the first movie’s success, so they have to do comedy, too. And action was as well, so they have to do action. Stuffing all of that together has the emotions of the movie lurching like a drunken sailor between drama, action and comedy, with deep and emotional scenes being immediately interrupted with comedy, just because it seemed like the movie felt it had gone too long without comedy, and then an action scene being tossed in for pretty much the same reason. It was often jarring and ruined the mood. Don’t get me wrong; the comedy and action were competently done. But it all seemed like it was stuffed into the movie to be there rather than flowing naturally from the movie itself.

Which is pretty much my impression of Ragnarok, to be honest. The comedy not only didn’t seem to work for a character like Thor, it also seemed forced, with the sequences, particularly early in the movie, being there just to have a GotG type comedy scene. Take the scene where Thor is chained up and “interrogating” Surtur. That Thor might try such a move is reasonable. That Thor would have that interrupted by his rotating out of sight of Surtur is something better suited to Starlord than to Thor. That that was overdone was, again, more something that would happen in a GotG movie and not in line with the humour of the previous Thor movies. Thor making the quip while summoning his hammer fit with Thor … but it not appearing was more of a Starlord thing than a Thor thing, although it could work. But the long delay is, again, more in line with Starlord than with Thor. And so is Thor being totally discombobulated by Doctor Strange’s constant magical hopping around. I preferred the Thor humour where he shows up at the battle, crushes the big rock monster, and then asks if anyone else wants to try. Treating Thor like Starlord isn’t how I’d like to see that franchise go.

I didn’t really mind Valkyrie that much, and certainly less than the reaction from some corners of the Internet suggested, but then again I slept through the middle where she might have been her most annoying, so that might change. As for GotG 2, I did like Mantis, but thought the link between her and Drax was rushed.

Again, as I said, I’ll have to watch the two of them again to get a real impression of them, but for now my feelings on them is … meh.

The Involuntarily Celibate …

May 18, 2018

So, after Alek Minassian engaged in a mass killing, seemingly targeting women after making a post talking about Incels, the whole idea of men, in particular, who can’t get sex has come to the fore, just as it did when Elliot Rodger went on his shooting spree. I made a post talking about how things weren’t that simple sometime around then — I was late as usual — and I guess I should talk about things like that now. And, again, as usual, the main ideas are that these men were misogynistic from the start and that was why they couldn’t get sex, and that women can’t get sex, too, and don’t go off on these sorts of things. Adam Lee made two posts on this, and in a comment, a reply to someone talking about a woman who keeps meeting jerks, really reveals the issue with his “misognyist first” attitude:

Secondly, I think if everyone your friend dates has the same problem, it’s time to start wondering why she’s attracted to that type of person.

Here’s an alternative hypothesis: Most men are sexist and entitled, so a random sampling would be expected to contain a high proportion of them.

If you look back through the comment thread, the original comment talked about men being such jerks that she couldn’t even get past one or maybe two dates with them. Somehow, Lee is taking the purported background sexism and elevating it to that level. And it just feeds into the issue, where somehow this woman can pick up on their complete sexism and entitlement and that’s why those men can’t get dates or sex … except that a) there are a number of men who are far more sexist than the baseline that Lee would insist most men are at who still get plenty of sex and b) those jerks are still getting dates with a woman that the original commenter said was an actual model, and so are doing far better than most of the men who would fall into the Incel Movement. So, no, that’s not exactly credible.

Also note that in the second post, he deliberately takes on a comment that he then proceeds to completely mock, and which essentially talked about legalizing prostitution to give leverage to men against women, which he seems to have misinterpreted besides (it seems more likely that the original poster advocated for that as a response to a spouse or partner withholding sex, as opposed to using denying her sex as a way to manipulate her. At best, he’d likely use it as a way to say that if she didn’t do what he wants he will leave because sex is the most important thing to him and if he can get it elsewhere he doesn’t need her. Which is still bad, but not really what Lee was calling him out on). Lee doesn’t take on anything like a reasonable position, and this is consistent among the comments. I don’t know if the normal boards for the Incel Movement have reasonable views, but as presented it seems like the only thing to talk about here are the very extreme views, again presented as being their starting point, with the lack of sex being the result of those views, and not the cause of them.

In my experience, that’s not always true, and it might even not be generally true. Most of the worst misogynists in the movement might well have started out as generally good people who found that the lack of sex and the reactions of society to their lack of sex angered them, and made it easy to fall into blaming women because they had no way out and were tired of blaming themselves and having people blame them for things that didn’t seem to be under their own control.

And this post is a prime example of those sorts of reaction. She’s enraged by those with these attitudes and who might or do kill people because of them, but her comments simply perpetrate the same myths and misunderstandings that enrage these men in the first place.

She starts with this:

So why do these men feel that they deserve sex? (I know, I know. It’s the Patriarchy.) But seriously, why do they not understand that no one has a right to sex with another person? That sex is not a commodity and that no one has a right to another person’s body. From men banging on about being friend zoned despite their best efforts to others making highly inappropriate sexual approaches on dating apps because they don’t see that they need to do more than just demand, there is a whole swath of men who seem to think that Life owes them Sex.

And they can believe this aggressively. Look at the prevalence of rape culture. Look at #MeToo. Look at this incessant rise of ‘incel’ or ‘involuntary celibacy’ and its association with acts of mass violence. And, to a calmer but no less significant extent, look at the more generalised and widespread sense of entitlement among so many men, as GOTN so eloquently wrote earlier this week.

But … how does she know that, in general, they do feel that way? I used to hang around on a lot of shyness newsgroups, and we had at least one if not more really misogynistic men there, but in general it doesn’t seem like they started — and often even finished — at the point of thinking that they were entitled to sex. For the most part, it seemed to me that their biggest sticking points were that if they complained about not having sex, or about women’s selection processes, they were called losers and told to suck it up, while women were generally given more sympathy. It’s easier for women to blame their problems on men — men are shallow and obsessed with looks, for example — and get a sympathetic response than it is for men to do the same thing, as seen with Lee’s response above to the suggestion that a woman who keeps getting dates with jerks might want to adjust her selection criteria. And it’s also a rather bad move to compare “incels” with #MeToo because in the latter case those men who felt entitled to it had reason to feel that way: because whether the women found their power appealing or whether they could abuse that power to get women to have sex with them — and I’m sure that both happened, often in the same person — they were, in fact, getting sex from pretty much any woman they wanted to have sex with. And since any woman rejecting them was a threat to their power, they would feel they had to respond to demonstrate that they still had that power.

The “incels” don’t have any such power. If they did, then they wouldn’t be “incels”. For the most part, the complaints were always about not even getting a shot, and about getting called a loser if they didn’t want to keep trying the same old advice that didn’t work for them, not about how they were “owed” sex. The closest they tended to get to that was “I act the way people say you should act, I try to respect women, I try to not make it all about sex, and yet I don’t even get dates while the jerk who only wants sex with them gets sex on the first date, or even without one. Shouldn’t I get something for trying to be a good guy?”. This is the heart of Nice Guy(tm) complaints, and it always ignores that they are, indeed trying to be Nice Guys while the “better alternatives” aren’t even trying, and yet are seen as better just because they succeed.

She goes on in a Twitter rant to say more cluelessly bad comments:

Every time I read about violent, self righteous incels I get furious, because *plenty of women spend their lives feeling un****able*, but instead of being taught that the world owes them sex they’re taught to think they’re just worthless people.

I know what it’s like to feel like everyone else is off in the world doing normal sex things while you’re forever alone. But women who feel that way rarely seem to see those feelings as justifications to take our anger out on strangers and the world at large.

It’s not that it’s “easier” for women to get laid (as incel men all seem to think). The difference is that men are taught that the world owes them sex and love, and women are taught that sex and love are a reward you get for shaping yourself into someone worthy of love.

Yes, that has to be it. That’s clearly why a man who is a virgin is a loser that many women will or will at least feel that they should avoid simply because he is a virgin while a virgin woman is generally considered very desirable. That’s why men are generally expected to make the first move and do all of the wining and dining and, in general, have to make sure that they “show her a good time”. All she has to do is show up and look pretty while he has to do all the organizing and all the paying, but clearly he thinks he’s owed sex and love while she’s had to shape herself into someone worthy of love. Riiiiiiight.

Look, she’s right that women have it harder than men think. One big issue, for example, is that looks are indeed a primary factor in how men generally select women to date — my theory is that if you don’t really know anything about someone and have multiple options and limited approaches, you are more likely to go for the one who is the “best” by the criteria you can evaluate before an approach, which is looks — women have to spend a lot of time trying to maximize their looks … but can’t look like they’re doing that. Not enough effort? They’re derided for not looking good, and lose out to their competition. Seem to spend too much effort? They’re vain and, recently, seen as dishonest … at least by the men that she is talking about here. So they can’t win on that score. On the flip side, though, in general they can at least blame their looks for their lack of success without getting the standard “Lots of women without looks get dates!” line tossed at them.

I’m even going to accept that her case is a case where she was lonely and had self-confidence issues, and that that was something that she has now happily moved on from. Her case is just a bad example here, and so an example of how clueless the responses can be:

So here it is. Before my husband, no one had ever wanted to have sex with me a fourth time. A boyfriend and a casual fling made it to three, there were two sets of two-night stands, but all my other previous sexual experiences were one night stands. And there weren’t that many of them either. In the 15 years that I have been having partnered sex, I have had 9 partners but when 5 of those were just one sexual encounter, it doesn’t add up to much and, with hindsight but not much surprise, the sex before my husband was also almost universally mediocre. How could it be otherwise? We didn’t know each other well and we certainly didn’t know each other’s bodies well. And that was everything I knew. Nothing kinky, nothing exploratory, nothing lasting. Just nothing expect unrequited love, heartbreak and rejection.

Now I know that 9 sexual partners is above average, and having sex 15 times in the 10 years before meeting my husband isn’t really nothing, but it was little enough that it bothered me. Why didn’t anyone want to spend more than one or two nights with me? Was it worse that so few people wanted to fuck me or that those who did didn’t want to **** me again? It bothered me that I seemed only worthy of casual sex when I wanted more. I wanted to believe that I was worth more, but I couldn’t. I started to dwell on all the reasons that I wasn’t wanted, all the reasons why I wasn’t enough.

So, she’d had more sexual partners than average, and had had sex more than once a year … and thinks that can compare to men who have never had sex? Or who might have had one or two partners? Really?!? Yeah, this could cause issues for her and her self-esteem. She had to wonder why no one wanted to be in a relationship with her (although her focus on not wanting to have sex with her more than four times seems to really miss the point). And she had to feel, rightly or wrongly, that she was having far less sex than almost everyone else was having. And that hurts. So I sympathize. But at least she could point to men who found her attractive enough for casual sex, considering that, again, she had more partners than the average. The men she’s talking about here didn’t even have that, and so most of them would love to have the success she’s had. Yes, women get lonely, too, and have issues, but that doesn’t make all of those issues interchangeable. It’s kinda like the women who came into shyness newsgroups complaining that they can’t talk to their husband’s boss when there were guys who couldn’t get any kind of a date. Yes, it was a problem for them and yes, they deserved help, and yes a lot of those guys were guys that the forum had given up on, but it should be easy to see why those guys didn’t think her problems were as bad as theirs, and got upset that they perceived that they were treated that way.

She finishes this way:

Men; you need to put aside your entitlement and realise that nobody owes you anything. You’re not single because you’re short, it’s because you’re an arsehole. Nice guys don’t finish last, you’re just not as nice as you think you are. Paying for dinner does not guarantee sex, buying gifts does not guarantee sex, treating someone with respect does not guarantee sex because honestly you should just be doing that anyway! You have to accept rejection gracefully, you have to accept boundaries and limits. And you have to understand and accept that you can do everything ‘right’ and still not get laid, and that does not give you any right to be angry or demanding or ****ing rapey.

Which is so incredibly clueless that it makes me laugh. Arseholes get sex, so that they’re an arsehole probably isn’t the only or maybe even the main issue here. Nice guys may not finish last, but there’s no evidence that they finish first either. And treating people with respect should make you more successful at getting sex than people who aren’t, and there’s no evidence that men who don’t treat women with respect are less successful than those who do. And speaking from personal experience, I have accepted rejection gracefully, accepting boundaries and limits except in some cases where I screwed up, accepting that I can do things right and not get anywhere, and never got angry or demanding or rapey, and yet her terrible success rating is still miles ahead of mine. I gave up, and worked on other things, like she did. I didn’t get any kind of relationship, though, and she did. Maybe, just maybe, she should consider that she doesn’t really know what it’s like for men in general and in particular for men in these situations.

Because giving this sort of advice is only going to have one outcome: men are going to ignore it and ignore you, even when you say things that are right. And that leaves them open to people who are not as nice as you and who are more misogynistic and bitter. You probably don’t want more men ending up there.

More Thoughts on the Persona 3 Replay …

May 16, 2018

As I continue to replay Persona 3 — specifically, FES on the PS2 — I have to admit something: Persona 3 can at times, and maybe even often, drag, even in the S-link portions (as opposed to the dungeons).

Of course, all of the Persona games from Persona 3 onwards can drag in the real world portions. This usually happens at the end, when you’ve done most of the S-links that you really want to do — unless you’re really interested in the ones that open late in the game, like Mitsuru or Naoto –, maxed out your stats, and done about as much of the activities as you really want to do. You have all the equipment and money you want, and are as prepared as you’re going to be for the new dungeons and, particularly, the final dungeon. For the most part, you’ve either done everything you want to do or have given up on getting those things done this playthrough and are now just slogging through the days until you can proceed with the final dungeon and finish this 40 – 80 hour run.

But in Persona 3, I was getting this about half-way through.

A big part of this is because you’re supposed to be splitting your evenings between doing the dungeons, doing the S-links, and walking the dog. So your evenings should be packed as you train to get to the right levels and thus to be able to finish the dungeon before the full moon and to be able to take down the full moon bosses. But I don’t care for the dungeons, and my PC is level 99, maxed out completely, and he and all of the party have the best weapons and armour available. So I generally take about a day or two or at most three out of the 28 to clear the dungeons and Elizabeth’s dungeon requests. That leaves me well over 20 days — if it’s not interrupted by events — to do everything else. Since there are, as far as I can tell, only two evening S-links, I had them both done well before the midpoint of the game. This meant that my evenings were, essentially, going back to the dorm, talking to everyone, seeing if the dog wanted to go for a walk — after it joined the team — and then going back to my room to sleep for the night, because I didn’t need to study. Oh, after declining a number of requests to hang out on Sunday because I reserved that for the dateable NPCs.

This got repetitive.

To its credit, Persona 3 is actually pretty good at breaking this up, with the Yakushima event and the school trip and other events, like investigations. To its detriment, it also does the exam thing, where your school S-links disappear to study for a week or so before the exams start. Since those are the most interesting S-links — including all of the dateable S-links — this can frustrate you, especially if you really wanted to advance one of those S-links.

However, the game is still interesting. The plot works well, and once you get to the full moon bosses the plot advances and makes you forget the drudgery of the previous few weeks. I’m just past the fake ending, into November, and so should finish it in the next few weeks.

Thoughts on ReBoot …

May 14, 2018

So, I had bought this series years ago, and remembered watching it at some point, and also remembered it disappointing me, even though I couldn’t remember why. And I know that it wasn’t because the series ended on a cliffhanger, because I had completely forgotten that it ended on a cliffhanger. So what was it that disappointed me? After watching it this time … I can’t remember. I definitely feel that I enjoyed it far more this time around than the last time.

Like with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I think being in the right mindset is important here. This is not a standard action cartoon about what might happen inside a computer, with computer-type naming and events and things happening based on that. This is, instead, a parody cartoon that uses the setting of inside a computer and playing games to parody and reference everything that they can possibly reference. The games, obviously, are generally direct parodies of something, and not always games (they do movies and cartoons a couple of times as well), but they also do parodies inside the actual world, creating binomes that reference Star Trek, for example, and even having a sitcom parody in one episode. The whole point of the series is to parody these things and to have a reasonably interesting plot, but again focusing more on the parody and less on the plots will work out far better for you.

This is especially true since ReBoot suffers the same problem that Beast Wars and Beast Machines suffered from: the seasons were too short to really do a lot of character and plot development. ReBoot had generally shorter seasons than even Beast Machines, and also tried to run a couple of complete arcs back-to-back — rather than at the same time — in a season. This often left little time to develop the new arc before it was sprung upon the viewer. There were a number of occasions where I started watching an episode and had to check to see if I had missed some episodes or something, because the main plot of the episode seemed to come out of nowhere and yet was presented as if we should all pretty much know what was going on. The worst of this was with Daemon, the supervirus. While looking it up on TV Tropes revealed that she had been hinted at earlier, we do pretty much go from the end of one arc to, in the next episode, being fully engaged with Daemon in battle, which was jarring.

It didn’t help that I didn’t care for her as a villain. I found her French accent to be annoying, and really, really wanted someone to resist the “Word” simply because they found her voice so annoying that they couldn’t stand listening to it long enough to actually get converted. And while the conversion story arc could work if it was longer, that no one — or almost no one, perhaps — could resist it made it far too powerful and turned the good guys to her side far, far too easily. It wasn’t even insidious. She didn’t even really have to have great plans or anything, since the power was so overwhelming. She was essentially a villain with an overwhelming power that can eventually be resisted but who ends up getting defeated by a bigger plot contrivance than her original power, and only after Daemon has put herself out of play with the self-destruct/destroy the Net gambit. And since that wasn’t built to that well in the arc, it comes out of nowhere and is resolved in one or two short episodes, which is hardly fitting for a threat of that magnitude.

That being said, the regular villains were interesting. Megabyte was an excellent “manipulative yet powerful” opponent, while Hexadecimal did a good job as the “extremely powerful yet crazy” alternate villain. I think her conversion and heroic sacrifice for the love of Bob was way too quick, and think it would have gone better if it had played off of the time she almost won and yet bailed on her plan because it would leave everything locked in order and have her realize, at the end, that everyone wants to live and that’s worth sacrificing even herself for, seeing the artistry in everyone and wanting to preserve that. And about the only other thing I can say about Megabyte is that there should have been even more of him than there was.

The same thing, interestingly, applies to Bob. Despite him getting to do the main voiceover in the first season or seasons, he really isn’t the main driving force in the series. That’s generally Dot. He basically is the person who is supposed to go in and play games, but Dot and Enzo are there almost as often as he is and play as big a role — if not a bigger one — than he does. And in the direct confrontations with Megabyte, Dot is definitely in the lead, as seen in the episode where she convinces Megabyte’s subjects to give her their PIDs so that they can be freed, and the whole arc there is about her having to overcome her fugue when those PIDs are stolen by Megabyte. Bob does little for the early seasons, disappears in the middle, and then has a bit of an arc at the end, but it would be safe to say that Dot is more the main character of the series than Bob is. And this impression is only heightened by the fact that Dot, in general, is and is animated as more attractive/sexy than Mouse, whose characterization is based around the flirty and free female archetype.

Enzo/Matrix is, generally, an annoying character. As a young sprite, he had the whole “annoying young character who bugs all of them and keeps getting into trouble” archetype down flat, which was, well, annoying. The best time for him was when Bob was fired into the Web by Megabyte right after making Enzo a Guardian recruit, and Enzo had to defend the system from games. At that point, he finally realized that these things weren’t just fun and were serious business, and had to drop his Scrappy-like confidence that he could beat any user that came along. And then he lost a game, and ended up as the grimdark Matrix. Which would have been less annoying, except that Matrix was too grimdark and distrusting, and so he went around annoying people with that and, thus, ended up being annoying himself. To the show’s credit, it called him out on that on a number of occasions, with an arc about him being afraid that he’d be no better than Megabyte, and with AndrAIa constantly calling him out when he was being an unreasonable jerk, which made him tolerable, at least.

And I think Adult AndrAIa is my favourite character, and not because of her outfit. She was a genuinely nice and caring person who still didn’t take crap from people, and was competent and tough as well (sometimes too much, like Dot). That’s how she can get away with calling Matrix out for being a jerk, because in general she still was far more considerate of others than Matrix, but wasn’t willing to let niceness get in the way of doing what needed to be done. Her child version had far too much hero worship of Enzo, and so was just annoying.

Hack and Slash were really annoying when they worked for Megabyte, because their silliness clashed with his urbane menace. When they converted to working for Dot and Bob, they worked so much better. The mad scientist who worked for Megabyte worked better as a henchman, able to keep the menace while still allowing opportunities for comic relief.

The show was done by the same people who did Beast Wars/Beast Machines, and it shows. Megatron in Beast Wars is far closer to Megabyte than he is to G1 Megatron, and voice actors get reused for various parts. Also, a lot of the episode structure and musical stings get reused, so I couldn’t help but be reminded of Beast Wars while watching it. I wonder if people who saw ReBoot first felt the same way about Beast Wars.

At the end of the day, the series is entertaining but, in general, is just too short. Things keep ending far before you think they should, and that includes the series, since it ends up a major cliffhanger. But it’s still worth watching if you can get into the right mindset. I’m almost certainly going to watch this again at some point.

Games Examining Issues

May 11, 2018

So, the last video from Extra Creditz that I’m going to look at in this two week span is this one about the need for “B” games to discuss issues, using Wolfenstein: The New Colossus as an example of that. Their main comparison is that the AAA game “Call of Duty” has finally in its latest incarnation actually shown a concentration camp, and has never really explored Nazism, fascism, or any issue like that despite spending a number of incarnations in WWII, while the “B” game “The New Colossus” explores this in a completely in-your-face manner, and that’s not only what games need to do, but what we as people need right now.

The problem is that it’s unclear whether “The New Colossus” ever explores the topics at all. I haven’t played the game, but I have read Shamus Young’s series on it, and he fills in some of the details around those explorations. For example:

After the Siege, BJ and Grace have a conversation that makes no sense. BJ talks about how they want to liberate America. Grace argues that white America is a lost cause because they’ve already settled into Nazi rule. Then BJ says some platitudes about freedom and suddenly Grace starts agreeing with him.

This is wrong twice. One, what was she fighting for if she already thought this was a lost cause? I thought we were teaming up with her because mumble mumble something about revolution. But now she’s not even aligned with our cause? What was her plan then?

Secondly, BJ never says anything to convince her. She spells out reasons why the citizens of the US are a lost cause, and BJ doesn’t say anything to counter this. But she changes her mind anyway because there’s a musical swell while he makes his dumb arguments and that makes this feel inspirational.

And:

We learn that the Nazis are letting the KKK run the south, and during our walk downtown we see KKK guys casually chatting with Nazi stormtroopers.

This is interesting because the war ended 14 years ago. At this point in history, we would have the first generation of adults who had little or no meaningful memories of the old USA. The men signing up for military duty now were raised in Nazi America. They’ve spent their entire lives attending Nazi public schools, watching Nazi television, and reading Nazi books. They would all speak German as a second language, and for people working with the Nazis on a daily basis it might gradually become their primary language.

Certainly there would be a few holdouts, keeping the old ideals alive and hiding the occasional book from the censors, but for the coming generation this will be the only world they’ve ever known.

And if you think about it, this would suggest that most of the faceless troopers you’ve been blowing away were probably more likely to be from Houston than Hamburg. The Nazis won the war, but unless they invented a cloning machine then they wouldn’t have the numbers to occupy the entire planet like this. Certainly some of their forces would need to be locally sourced. Perhaps they would have German officers in charge of native conscripts, with all of the really good hardware (the mech suits, the power armor, and the zap guns) reserved for guys from the Fatherland.

I have to wonder: What is the KKK at this point? The Nazis have put them “in charge”, but what does that mean? Are they a political party? A government agency? Are mayors, sheriffs, and city councils elected by the people, or are they appointed by the Nazi leadership? Because directly vetting and assigning a mayor for every pissant little city in the US would require an enormous bureaucracy.

To be absolutely clear: I’m not suggesting that Wolfenstein II would be a better game if the writer explained all of this. I wouldn’t want a scene where BJ has to go through a bunch of anguish because he realizes he’s been gunning down conscripted Tennessee farm boys. Like Star Wars, a big appeal of this series – indeed, maybe the entire point – is to have an unambiguously evil force to oppose so that we can do our first-person manshoots without worrying that our main character has gone too far.

It’s hard to claim that you are actually exploring an issue when all you’re doing is taking an enemy that everyone thinks is bad and presenting them as such so that people won’t feel guilty about shooting them. This is pretty much the same sort of move that games that feature Middle Eastern terrorists make, or that games released during the Cold War made when they made the Soviets the bad guys. Philosophically, making this sort of move only confirms in people opinions they already have, and doesn’t encourage them to explore their own ideas, no matter where they fall on the topic.

Especially if the representatives of the enemy are strawmen:

From here he gets a motorcycle and rides to his home in Texas.

He’s here to pick up a ring his mother gave him as a child, which was shown in a flashback during the overlong introduction to the game. While you’re here, you can watch a few more childhood flashbacks, or you can move on to the house to get the ring. Inside, he’s confronted by his father.

The flashbacks make it clear that BJ’s father Rip Blazkowicz was a cruel, hateful, violent, narrow-minded man. He beat his wife. He beat his son. He killed his son’s dog as a punishment for BJ playing with a black girl. When the two meet again here in 1961, we learn that Rip gave up his Jewish wife to the Nazis. And now he’s planning to execute his son. Also: BJ doesn’t notice until the end of the scene, but Rip called the Nazis to the house, so if he doesn’t finish his son then they will.

I think that’s about as evil as you can possibly make this guy. He’s a complete cartoon. Even when faced with a legendary and world-famous Nazi killer who’s wearing a suit of armor and is bristling with guns, Rip is such a thick-headed moron that he thinks he can continue to bully his son.

I get it. He’s a strawman. He’s an exaggerated vessel of the worst aspects of human beings. He’s here so we can kill this embodiment of evil without guilt. My problem is that this story already has lots of characters that serve this exact purpose. We have the Nazi footsoldiers in general, and Frau Engel specifically. We get to do a lot of cathartic Nazi killing in this game. That’s arguably the reason the game exists. So why are we spending this entire character to simply repeat that same theme? Is this really the most interesting thing the writer could think to do with BJ’s father?

In a game about igniting an American revolution, this is the only American civilian we talk to. For story purposes, he should probably be representative of what has happened to this country. Maybe he started off as basically a sane man with some mild racist tendencies, but once the Nazis took over the fear and desperation overcame him. So then he gave up his wife, informed on his neighbors, disavowed his son, and accepted the rewards for doing so. Each time he thought this would be the last time. And now, he confesses, he’s given you up as well. Then the player can decide to kill him or walk away. (With him dying in the subsequent attack anyway.)

That would give us a new perspective, and would re-focus our anger on the Nazis for the soul-devouring police state they created. This would be a contrast to the Nazis.

As written, this scene feels pointless and self-indulgent. When presented with the opportunity to show what kind of man raised BJ, the writer built up this twisted strawman and let the player kill him with an axe. We get to kill a lot of dudes with axes in this game. BJ’s father should be something more than a lame mook.

BJ’s father is simply a racist. He’s always been a racist. Not only has he always been a racist, he’s always been a terrible, abusive person. All this does is characterize racists as being simply terrible people, and as Shamus points out there are no other white civilians shown to cast any doubt on Grace’s assessment that white America is too far gone to save. Extra Creditz makes a rather blatant implication that we need explorations like this in this current political climate, even saying that the game strongly indicts us for “trading democracy for race-hate”. But the game doesn’t do that. The game doesn’t show that the people actually did that, that they decided that the racism outweighed their democracy in a similar way to what is purportedly happening now. And, of course, to say it like that strikes many people as being a strawman of the existing situation anyway. If you try to beat people over the head with a strawman, people will get annoyed by that, even if they don’t align with the philosophy you are strawmanning. Shamus is neither a racist nor a fascist nor even really a conservative, but he gets annoyed by the strawman because he knows people who hold the views that are being strawmanned and knows they don’t really think that way. The only people who won’t notice the strawman are the people who think that the strawman is actually accurate. To explore an issue as at least Extra Creditz seem to think the current situation is, you’d need to show how mostly “normal” people can be fooled into accepting racist arguments and fascism as the solution to those non-existent racial issues. As it is, all the game does is create evocative scenes that are only evocative to people who agree with the ham-fisted political philosophy espoused by the game.

Like the scene mentioned in the video about encountering Hitler:

Wolfenstein II is a pretty silly game, but it’s not quite cartoonish enough to pull off Mecha-Hitler without dissolving into comedy. So instead of making him a physical threat, the writer makes him an object of audience ridicule. We see Hitler as an old man[2]. He’s a disgusting senile beast who shuffles around in his bathrobe and pukes and pisses all over the room. He spits when he talks, his mood oscillates all over the place, and he casually executes people for trivial slights, real or imagined. Normally I dislike taking historical figures and turning them into grotesque caricatures for ridicule, but I figure once you’ve perpetrated a Holocaust you’re fair game.

People like to pretend Hitler was some sort of mutant instead of just a regular human being with very bad ideas because it helps us feel better about ourselves, and maybe this sort of mockery isn’t always the most nuanced or mature way to engage with this topic. But screw it. If there’s anywhere it’s appropriate to trade in slanderously exaggerated depictions of Hitler, it’s in a Wolfenstein game. This might not be the best place to learn about the complexities of historical figures or the fragility of human nature, but that’s not why we’re here.

Having said that, I really do have a problem with this scene.

While I agree that this is a great idea for a scene in a Wolfenstein game, you still need to integrate the scene with the rest of the story. We introduce five new characters in this scene: The casting director, three other actors, and Hitler himself. These characters exist only in this scene. Nothing that happens here has any bearing on the rest of the game. BJ doesn’t attain his goal or even move any closer to it. This isn’t a lead-up to a confrontation with Hitler, who we never see again. This scene is thirteen and a half minutes long, and you could excise the entire thing from the game and the player wouldn’t even know there was anything missing. You could cut from the moment BJ gets off the ship to the moment he unpacks his bags in his room and it would feel completely seamless.

There’s no real gameplay, so this doesn’t work as part of a videogame. And the plot doesn’t move forward so it doesn’t work as part of a movie. Again, this is just self-indulgent on the part of the writer.

The scene is not there to explore Nazism, fascism or racism. It’s simply there to let the writers mock Hitler and for the player to be able to vicariously mock Hitler right along with them. Now, it’s pretty safe to mock Hitler as, well, almost everyone isn’t going to like the guy. As Shamus points out, once you’ve perpetrated a Holocaust that’s probably the least you can expect. But as he also said, that’s the only purpose the scene serves. If we take Extra Creditz’s take on what games should be doing, we could expect them to want to do that sort of thing for all sorts of other political issues that they happen to think correct, but that other people think at least questionable. If a game mocks Trump in the same sort of way, it will annoy and offend some people. And not only the people who are Trump supporters, but also people who don’t support Trump but who think that he isn’t that bad. The only people who will accept and like the presentation are those who actually believe it to be the case, which means that no one else will be encouraged to reconsider their position or change their minds. It’s hard to say that you can have anything that even looks like a real exploration of a topic when there’s almost no chance anyone will even have their minds opened even the slightest by that exploration.

And that might be the actual reason that “Call of Duty” shies away from doing this. It might not be the case that they are merely timid, but rather that these details are too tangential to the game that they really want to make to put the time and effort into doing it right, and doing it wrong will just detract from the game that they really want to make. “The New Colossus”, on the other hand, is utterly unconcerned about doing it right, but instead in doing it in a way that’s over-the-top and lets them pontificate on their own positions without having to insert any kind of nuance or shades of gray into the mix. I’m not saying that’s something that games ought not do. If a game wants to do that, more power to them. I am saying that that is in no way an exploration of any kind of philosophical question that has any complexity to it whatsover, and Extra Creditz are wrong to portray it as such.

NHL Playoff Predictions: Round 3

May 11, 2018

So, I had a pretty good second round, going 4 – 0. Home ice advantage didn’t do quite as well, going 3 – 1. Interestingly, it all came down to Game 7 between Winnipeg and Nashville, since Winnipeg was the away team that I had picked to win in the second round, and Nashville was the last team that home ice advantage needed to sweep the round. The Jets took it, and so I went 4 – 0 and home ice advantage didn’t.

So, let me actually talk a bit about the final teams. The teams that I’d really like to see win the Cup are Winnipeg and Washington. Winnipeg because of the Canadian connection and because the city and team really deserves it after all that happened with the team and their lack of success in their first incarnation, and Washington because it would be nice to see Ovechkin finally get a shot at a Cup final. Vegas comes in just behind them because it would at least be a good story. That being said, to paraphrase Nawara Ven, I hold preferences, but I don’t predict them. So who am I going to choose to win the Conference finals?

Eastern Conference:

Tampa Bay vs Washington: Tampa Bay has a very solid team and good goaltending, and are full marks for being the favourites this year. But Washington has faced more adversity and so are never going to quit, and have to feel like this is their year because they finally managed to get past Pittsburgh. It’s certainly reasonable to think that they could ride that past Tampa into the finals.

Prediction: Washington. Correct

Western Conference:

Winnipeg vs Vegas: Here’s the thing: even with Winnipeg having home ice advantage and both teams being generally better at home than on the road, and even with Nashville being a better team in terms of points than Vegas, in the second round Winnipeg relied an awful lot on Rinne being weak. When he was on, Winnipeg lost, and when he was struggling, they won. I don’t think the Fleury will have those weaknesses. Yes, Winnipeg is still a strong enough team to win, but it’s going to be close and Hellebuyck has given up bad goals at times, too. So I’m going to go with Vegas on this one.

Prediction: Vegas. Correct.

Overall Record: 13 – 1
Home Ice Advantage Team Record: 10 – 4