Much Belated Thoughts on: E3 2017 & Modern Gaming In General

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Back in the middle part of June the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) took place to both the delight and anger of millions of gamers around the world. And like with every year there were good showing, bad showings, and a dash of controversy.  So how did this years E3 go and what does it say about the state of modern gaming and its community?

 

 

 

As I have said before I have never really considered myself a “Gamer”.  While it is true that like most millennials I grew up playing video games through the various Nintendo, SEGA & Sony systems over the years, outside of my undying love and admiration for the Big N I have never really obsessed over video games to quite the same degree I have comic books.   That said like everyone else I do enjoy tuning in to E3 this year to see what’s up, and I always find at least a few surprises to enjoy.  So here is my take on this years presentations.

 

Microsoft

I will be honest, I like Microsoft’s computers but I have never cared for their video game systems.  The XBOX and the culture around it has always felt off to be, ranging from juvenile frat boy to techie elitists, XBOX has always seemed from both a corporate and community perspective to be the brand equivalent to that jerky kid in high school that claimed to be your friend but still treated you like crap.  The fact  that the main selling point of their overpriced XBOX-ONE X is just simply “how powerful it is” doesn’t help things much in this regard either.  Xbox also like to tout the “Exclusive” title to many games that will also end up on Sony systems, albeit on a later date, but still, a timed exclusive arguably isn’t really an exclusive as it will eventually be playable on other consoles and outlets.  Microsoft is a tech giant so I understand them focusing on how advanced or powerful their hardware is, but for me a video game should be about fun above all.  What can I say, I’m just old fashioned like that.

 

I will give Microsoft some positive progressive points though for being cool and adding more diversity to their avatar creation with the ability to make your avatar have a wheelchair or prosthetic.  It is important to make players of all types feel welcome and included in your community.

 

Nintendo

Nintendo has had a rough couple of years. The WiiU despite being a solid system didn’t do as well as they had hoped and took a bit to long to get a solid software lineup.  And despite the continued success of the 3DS they needed something big to help them get back on top.  Thankfully with the advent of the Nintendo Switch the company seems to be on their way back to the top of the mountain.  The system launched with the highly anticipated  Legend of Zelda: Breath of The Wild and has had a nice steady trickle of enjoyable 1st and 3rd party games like Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and PuyoPuyo Tetris since its release and March.  And with he release of games like Splatoon2 & Mario+Rabbids right around the corner and Mario Odyssey coming this Fall the system seems like it will have an excellent first year overall.  As for Nintendo’s E3 showing, it was a pretty solid one, we got what we expected as well as a few surprises with the announcement of new Metroid games for 3DS & Switch as well as some more info on things like Fire Emblem Warriors and confirmation on  Kirby , Yoshi and main series Pokémon games coming to The Switch in the near future.

 

Nintendo is also doing a great job improving on the diversity in their properties.  Gen 7 of Pokémon has many new characters that are their world’s equivalent to native Hawaiian/Polynesian,  BOTW gave a more bigger role to the Gerudo by making one of their own, Urbosa a great hero, ARMS gave us Twintelle, though there was some arguably justified minor controversy surrounding her hair and her sexualized character design.  And most recently Splatoon gave us Marina who is not only a woman of color but also an Octling who is bandmate and friends with the white mouse-like Inkling Pearl showing that even fictional rifts like the ones between the inklings & octlings can heal over time.  Nintendo’s new stance to widen its audience and promote more diversity in its titles is a good one and one that I hope people will support so we can get more diverse and creative characters and titles in the future.

 

Though on the downside I will say it stinks the Big N didn’t hire actual women of color to voice Twintelle & Urbosa.

 

Sony

 

Honestly, not much to say here. They gave a solid conference, sure I may have found it pretty boring myself as very few of the games were of personal interest to me, but overall I am glad that like Nintendo they made the big focus the actual games as opposed to just bragging about how strong their hardware was.

 

Though I will say at this point I am starting to believe the human race will go extinct before Kingdom Hearts III or the Final Fantasy VII remake actually get around to coming out.

 

 

The Controversy

So apparently some people got mad that Wolfenstein, a game about killing Nazis is about well, killing Nazis…. There really are no words to describe how ridiculous this is or how equally ridiculous being offended that backwoods evangelical rednecks are the villains for FarCry 5.  And lets not forget people are still mad you can play as a woman in Star Wars: Battlefront II.

 

Overall the thing that bothers me the most about all this is it shows how completely insane/sexist/racist/etc so many people in the gaming community are.  Yet another reason I am only into games to have fun and not get super serious about something that is meant to be interactive art & storytelling for fun, frolic, & fantasy

 

At the end of the day, gaming has its fair share of problems but we have seen the industry is willing to move forward not just in technological advancement but also while admitingly slower than many would like in accepting a more diverse audience for its products.  And well if that makes some people angry, then maybe its fine for the industry to leave you behind.

Thoughts On: Building Better Fanbases

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One of the most common complaints in the digital age and even before is how insane and down right toxic fandoms for everything from Comics to Cartoons, Film to television to video games can and have been.  One thing I always find myself wondering is why things are like this and really there is no easy singular answer to this question but today I will be doing the best I can to from my perspective point out the various flaws in the way we as both groups and individuals portray ourselves as fans.  So without further hesitation I ask if you will please humor me and see what you think, am I spot on or way off the mark?

 

 

I. The Psychology of A Fan

1: Fulfilling A Need:  Before one can ask what is wrong with fandom we must first ask why we become a fan of something in the first place?  There is of course no right or wrong answer, different people gain or lose interest in things for different reasons.  However in base psychological terms one could argue that we become a fan because we feel the thing we gain interest in fulfills a psychological &/or emotional need that was previously missing in our lives or was not present to a degree that we were satisfied with.  Whether it is  being inspired by superheroes, letting animation tug at your heartstrings or satisfying your adrenaline rush with certain scifi and horror franchises we all have our own reasons for partaking in the fictions we choose as they give us something we feel everyday life doesn’t and if we like what we partake in well enough, and if we feel it can help fulfill what we see as a gap in our emotional and psychological needs we will justifiably become a long time fan.

2: Obsession:  This is one step that every fan enters to some degree during their lives and it is arguably the most dangerous one to navigate through.  After we get our first hit of something we keep coming back for more, like an addict we can become increasingly obsessed with a character/series/franchise of choice to where it can consume every facet of our lives and we think about it every waking moment of our existence, we branch out from just casual enjoyment to a more hardcore endearment towards our new found obsession.  While this in and of itself is not always a bad thing and may just result in joining a forum or two, occasionally drawing some fan art, watching some Youtube videos and getting a couple of knick-knacks here and there for others and can become an extreme it can result in doing everything you do, every action being about or for this thing you now love to a point to where like any other addict it can interfere with your real life and the relationships with in it.  If left unchecked obsession can lead to an individual being unable to handle any form of criticism towards the thing they like taking a general critique of it as a personal attack on their honor and person which can lead to never ending ever increasing extreme and ridiculous arguments between different factions both within and outside of fan communities.  This is the most dangerous part of the fan life because it can easily lead fans to extremist levels of overreliance of the thing the love and lead them to be so out of touch with reality that they would openly threaten the life of another person for merely having a different opinion or viewpoint than them on it.  Thankfully though many of us grow out of this phase and slowly learn that not every negative word given is an attack on their person.

3: Control & Reconciliation VS Submission:

If you manage to wade through the sea of obsession you will eventually find yourself at the shores of sanity once more.  You can acknowledge that you are a fan of something, accept you may be a fan of this thing for the rest of your lifetime, but you also accept that it is merely an interest a hobby, just one part of your character and psyche and not the totality of your being.  You realize that it is OK if not everyone else has the same interests as you and that it is OK if people like the things you like for different reasons. You learn to control yourself and only indulge in excess content related to this thing you love in moderation over reasonable periods of time and within reasonable expense.   You know there will always be people that both like and dislike your thing and that’s OK.  However if you don’t eventually get to a point where you break free of the bright and shiny lights of obsession you in a way are submitting to something, letting this thing that doesn’t even exist on the same plane as you, letting a mere idea and dream, a metaphysical existence control you and your actions.  Instead of being a mere fan you are now a servant to this force with no will of your own and like a cultist you blindly follow it wherever it goes and whatever the hive mind of the community says.   This is a very dangerous path to tread down as it can stunt personal growth not only as a fan of something but as a person as well.  At the end of the day we have to stand tall and say that we control our interests and that they do not control us.

 

In closing while being a fan can be a very satisfying experience we need to like with any other aspect of our lives practice these things in moderation and sensibility.  We are the ones responsible for our actions both good and bad while participating in a fan community and no level of delusion or obsession can ever justify treating a fictional character or creature with more decency and respect than a living one.  We must learn to keep ourselves in check and not overact to every thing said about our interests we dislike.

 

II. Fixing The Cracks

 

  1. Acknowledging Alternative Views:  While it is true that many sites and critics will be purposely overly negative or unprofessional to rile-up controversy just to get easy clicks and advertisement we should realize that not everyone who has a view differing from our own is out to harm or demonize the things you enjoy, in the wise words of the great sage Linkara “Get over yourself internet, not everyone has the same interests as you!”

2. Putting The Pro Back in Professional:  The advent of the digital age has arguably caused critics both young and old to get a bit lackadaisical in their practices, far too many critics online and in print form have taken a more hostile and troll like approach to their job.  Given this smug sense of elitism has always existed in the profession to a degree but we have known for decades you can dissect a film or any work of art and storytelling without being cruel even if most of your conclusions of it are negative ones.  Critics may be getting paid or praised for their word but at the end of the day they are also a type of fan and it is important to be aware of ones own confirmation biases both positive and negative when going into a review and still trying to give everything you view an even shake and letting each individual work stand or fall on its own legs.

 

3. Talking about the issues:  Whether we like to admit it or not things like Toxic Masculinity, Mental Instability,  Exclusivist mindsets, Sexism, Racism, Homophobia and every other nasty part of human nature can and do butt their ugly heads into fan communities.  It is important we continue to discuss these issues and call out those guilty of these practices to help make a better and safer fan community for those from all walks of life.

 

III. Final Thoughts

Overall the points and topics presented here are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the complexity of human interaction and how fans and fanbases/communities view one another.  In truth you could write an entire series of books about the psychology of the various fanbases on the internet and it could take a lifetime to even get everyone on board to consider addressing the problems inherent in their communities but I do believe that if we are willing to acknowledge the faults both within ourselves and the communities both online and off that we partake in we can make better more professional, mature, caring and empathetic fans in the future.  Or who knows maybe i’m just a madman.

Thoughts on: Ben10 Reboot! (2017)

 

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Reboots & Launches of popular IP’s are common place in American media, especially amongst series in the superhero genre.  It is a way for companies to publishers to keep their characters fresh and relevant for a new generation of readers and viewers.  However like with anything else the various incarnations of these heroes can be met with positive or negative feedback from their fans.  Today we will take a look at one of the newest heroes to get a reboot; Ben10!

 

First off I will admit right off the bat that growing up as a kid I despised the original Ben10 and really never had any interest in its various sequels /movies /spinoffs /specials /etc.   And this was because around the time Ben10 originally aired in the middle of the 00’s like many I was a teenager in that “everything replacing the shows I used to watch sucks” phase. To me Ben10 was just a wannabe a show that tried to capture the spirit of popular DC superhero cartoons and anime without putting any of the effort in.  I acknowledge though I was most likely in the minority of individuals in that mindset as the series became one of Cartoon Network’s most popular original series for a good number of years not only amongst those who were kids in the ought’s but  some nineties kids as well who saw it as one of the last hold outs of shows with that classic action cartoon vibe to it, and I can see where they are coming from, looking back the original Ben10 has that late 90’s Saturday morning cartoon feel to it to a degree, however even looking at the previous incarnation from a more objective and mature standpoint I still can’t say I care for it all that much.

 

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So here is where I will most likely get a fair amount of shade thrown at me, but oh well.  Overall I find the 2017 incarnation of Ben10 to be the most entertaining version yet!  The characters are all fairly lively and Ben & Gwen act like real kids not just stereotypes of what adults think kids act like, they have fun, relax and bicker with each other but not to a cliché extreme like the originals did. This gives their dynamic a more natural feel which benefits both characters and makes both much less annoying than they were in the past.  The color pallet of the show is also much brighter and more visually appealing and the characters redesigns really breath new life into them and visually it seems to fit somewhere between Be Cool Scooby Doo and Gravity Falls, making for a cute yet quirky visual experience. The shortened run-time of episodes also helps the series in my opinion because like with the original Powerpuff Girls or Courage it feels like something is always happening, it is fast paced enough to keep the viewer engaged in the episode while still being contained enough to not feel as disjointed and manic as something like Teen Titans Go!  While like TTG & last years PPG reboot it is more on the comedic side than the action side it never feels like it is over doing it, there is a good balance between humor and action that in my book puts the show closer to series like Regular Show, only instead of two friends working at a park this is two kids spending the summer traveling the U.S. with their Grandpa.   Overall I just find this new version much more enjoyable and entertaining.

 

At the end of the day like with any reboot or reimagining your personal enjoyment of this series will vary and I understand why some hardcore fans of the original series may not be on board with this new incarnation and that like TTG! and PPG16 that it will be yet another show that will be divisive amongst Cartoon Network and Superhero fans.  I myself though would urge to give the show a chance, if you are a 90’s kid you should have grown out of your “everything sucks” stage by now and to all those ought’s babies out there don’t make the same mistakes we did, don’t let nostalgia goggles and confirmation bias cloud your judgement take in every new experience you have, even something as simple as watching a cartoon with all the same innocence you did as a child, let a work speak for itself and analyze how it holds up on its own terms not how it works compared to the past.  If you like it great and if you still dislike it that’s fine too.  I guess all I am saying is, give the new Ben10 a chance!  If you do I think you might just be pleasantly surprised. 😉

 

Season 1 of Ben10 2017 is currently airing weekdays on Cartoon Network.

Why You Should Be Reading: Boom Studios! Comics

 

In our third installment of WYSBR we take a look at the indie publisher that could Boom Studios! and why you should be reading their books.

 

 

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Indie Edge:  Boom! Studios may be a smaller publisher but they have a nice variety of diverse independent content, with more recent hits like Godshaper and other classics like The Woods, Giant Days, Grass Kings and the upcoming Misfits City from comedy, to adventure to scifi and more there is something for all types of comic book readers.

 

 

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Franchised Fun: Like many independent publishers Boom also has a fair share of books based on popular films & cartoons.  These range from all-ages series based on popular Cartoon Network properties like Adventure Time, Steven Universe and Over The Garden Wall, to books aimed at slightly older audiences like Mighty Morphin Power Rangers & Planet of The Apes.

 

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All-Ages Diversity:  Like with any good publisher inclusiveness & diversity are an important part of what makes Boom! Studios books work.  From critically acclaimed series like Lumberjanes to fun and fantastic books like Goldie Vance, Mega Princess & Backstagers  Boom has produced some amazing all-ages titles incorporating and celebrating LBGTQ, Female and colored leads for fans young and old alike to read and enjoy.

 

And those are three reasons you should check out Boom! Studios works ASAP!

Thoughts On: Smurfs The Lost Village

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This past Weekend Sony’s latest theatrical outing for everyone’s favorite little blue gnomes debuted in theatres worldwide and thankfully unlike the previous two live action atrocities this one is full animated!  But will even that be enough to save the Smurf’s Hollywood carrier!?  Lets find out!

 

 

Focusing on the positives of the film first the most obvious one as mentioned is that thankfully Sony had the smarts to keep the film fully animated this time around.  In fact despite some people calling the film Smurfs 3 this is more of a soft reboot for the film franchise.   The film all but ignores its predecessors and instead tries to stay more in line with the continuity of the original Peyo comics and earlier seasons of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon.  And on the subject of animation this film looks wonderful!  The colors are vibrant, the motion is fluid and the whole thing feels as it is brimming with life!  Sony Animation put some genuine effort in making this film.  There is also an updated voice cast that gives much better performances then the previous incarnations as well.  Dani Pudi is a perfect choice for Brainy and Demi Levato is a much better Smurfette then Katy Perry was.  And speaking of female Smurfs the film also introduces all new female Smurfs that are a much welcome and needed addition to this decades old franchise.  The Amazonian like lost village Smurfs are both cute and fierce and their personalities range from intimidating like Stormy, Wise like Willow or Kind like Blossom.  The forest the live in is also a visually stunning place, even if it does borrow a few minor things from James Cameron’s Avatar for its aesthetic.   Compared to the past feature lengths films this is obviously the strongest outing yet.

 

On the negative side however the plot of the film is extremely simplistic & straightforward as it involves Smurfette trying to discover what her role in Smurf Village should be as she feels like an outsider being a artificial Smurf created by Gargamel as opposed to a naturally born er Smurfed one.  It is set-up well though despite being simple children’s storybook fare.  Another negative is it never explains why the titular lost village was lost in the first place or why the male and female Smurfs ended up creating their own separate societies.

 

Overall Smurfs: The Lost village is step in the right direction for the cinematic interpretation of the series, given not the leap it needed but progress is progress and I can’t fault it for wanting to play it safe after the last two less than Steller outings.

 

So far the film has had a fairly weak U.S. opening with only fourteen and a half million earned the opening weekend, but unsurprisingly has done better in the international box office with 40 million earned.  And I for one would urge others to go see it as I would much rather see more fully animated Smurfs films as opposed to what they were doing before hand and despite what you may hear it is much more worth your time and money then talking babies and yet another soulless live action remake of a animated Disney classic.  But hey, that’s just my nerdy opinion.

Thoughts On: Why We Love Samurai Jack!

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On August 10th 2001 Cartoon Network premiered Samurai Jack, an original series created by  Genndy Tartakovsky who had previously made a name for himself with one of the network’s earlier hits Dexter’s Laboratory as well as helping Craig McCracken out on the much Beloved PowerPuff Girls.  This however would end up being  Taratkovsky’s biggest hit yet. But why is it so beloved?   Well, I cannot speak for everyone, but here is my two-cents on the subject.

 

If you look at Jack’s success in its simplest form it is arguably one of those in the right place at the right time situations.   Jack aired when action based animations were still popular acquisitions and anime had been rising in popularity in the west over the past five years, so you take an original series that is action oriented while still having the style of comedy one would expect from the Cartoon Network brand at the time mix that with some Asian themes and boom you have yourself a show that could grab multiple demographics in one foul swoop.   This explanation however is vastly over simplifying Jack’s success and is more of something you would hear in a cooperate boardroom then an average animation fan such as myself.

 

The true reason for Samurai Jack’s success is in the execution of the show, the series used the animation medium in ways that are still a delight on the eyes.   Taking the traditional simple shapes of cartoon characters and juxtaposing them with even more simplistic yet beautiful painting like backgrounds having a characters motion and sound effects fit perfectly with the music, making every little sound as crystal clear as what little dialogue came from the characters all made for a truly unique and enjoyable experience.  Yes unlike so many cartoons that depend so heavily on dialogue to move their story forward Samurai Jack depended on action in a literal sense.  There were whole episodes where jack would hardly or never speak at all, episodes that fully depended on the movements of the characters and world around them to tell the story.  This also helped the series have a cinematic feel to it which made things feel as if they had even more depth and weight to them.  This in my opinion is why Samurai Jack was so successful and why the series has resonated with so many for so long, it was something genuinely unique in comparison to other animations on television at the time, it fully took advantage of animation as a form of visual storytelling.  It was a simple as it was complex, and as refined as it was innocent.  Even by modern animation standards it is a series that truly stands out.

 

Sadly Samurai Jack ended its initial run in September of 2004 but its legacy would endure.  The series continued to get new adventures in comic books from both DC Comics and IDW Publishing over the years and constant on again off again rumors of a feature film, reruns on Boomerang, and fans demanding more adventures kept the flame alive and finally after over a decade Adult Swim,Cartoon Network and Genndy Tartakovsky  have answered fans demand and greenlight a 5th season to wrap-up the storyline which began airing on Toonami on Saturday nights as of March 11th 2017.

 

Overall Samurai Jack is a series that so far has stood the test of time and continues to be one the most beloved original series Cartoon Network and Tartakovsky have produced.  And while true the Adult Swim revival is a bit more bloody and intense then the original, for the most part it still manages to retain the spirit the original had and continues to be a genuinely enjoyable piece truly showcasing animations legitimacy as an art form.

 

So welcome back Jack, and thanks for all the memories.

 

This post is dedicated to Mako Iwamatsu, the original voice of Aku and Last Airbender’s Uncle Iroh.