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Worth a Look

Worth a Look

Whatever your thoughts may be about BioWare’s Mass Effect: Andromeda, there is no doubt that something happened during its development that lead to such a rocky debut, a series of choices so clouded in the public’s questions and shrouded in the mystery a company like EA’s BioWare can afford, the game was otherwise assumed to be relegated to the “well, that happened” category of games and we (as the gaming public) would be forced to move on.

This frankly bizarre secrecy around AAA game development shines a light on a major deficiency in the community––companies can bury “failed” games in mystery because they can get away with it. Though not focused on a failed game, a few years ago the BBC made a docudrama about the legal troubles of rockstar game studio, Rockstar Games, against which the developer filed suit, in a bit of irony. The development of Sony’s long-delayed The Last Guardian was mostly kept behind curtains, allowing the game to speak for itself when its time finally arrived, which had the aggregated conclusion of “it’s fine.” Though these are two of many examples, most of the community has accepted the idea that we will most likely never know how the choices were made, for better or for worse, and these companies will keep their business secreted away behind blast doors.

Peebee from Mass Effect: Andromeda. Image courtesy of BioWare and Electronic Arts.

Luckily, some people are starting to catch on to the fact that “video game history” isn’t relegated to the eighties and nineties alone; it’s happening now. Right now. Mass Effect: Andromeda got a lot of dirt piled onto it. I enjoyed it for what it was and what it’s worth, but the tidal chart of nerd judgement is rather unforgiving. If something doesn’t meet a certain standard (a standard I believe is often rather arbitrary), that game, movie, comic, or tv show is dumped upon. There is no critical middle anymore in popular culture. And such a strong negative reception can taint a studio or franchise for a long while, a stain nobody can afford to live with. So, with things like Jason Schreier’s article coming so soon after Mass Effect: Andromeda‘s release, it can shed some much needed counterpoint onto the conversation.

To be clear, Schreier’s article isn’t an apology for the game. Instead, it’s investigative; he isn’t casting judgement, but instead acknowledging that something happened and the public reacted to it and he simply wanted to find out why:

[To] those who worked on it, Mass Effect: Andromeda felt unusually difficult. This was a game with ambitious goals but limited resources, and in some ways, it’s miraculous that BioWare shipped it at all.

This is an effort to chronicle recent history rather than simply cast it in one light or another, but to try and find out the whole story so historians have all the pieces with which to assemble hindsight instead of waiting for a day when only two or three members of the team are alive to tell the tale. This has actually been a trend I’ve seen recently and it warms my heart to see members of the games press turning a historical eye to the industry instead of being the first to give readers a hot take (not that hot takes and investigative pieces are mutually exclusive). Waypoint published a fantastic oral history of Halo, a genre of historical recording of which I’m growing fonder (more on that in a future episode). Waypoint also published a fascinating look at development documents for what would have been the sequel to the 2012 Square Enix-published Sleeping Dogs. I think the industry needs to be more self-aware, or else corporate red tape could actually contribute in the hindering of keeping this medium from becoming the art form it deserves to be.

Way back in Episode 58, Andrew and I discussed our (and listeners’) “gateways to geekdom,” accepting that the road to fandom is not necessarily––perhaps rarely––a straight path. A lot of us come to our passions through strange on-ramps or off-ramps from one fandom or medium to another. Popular culture has definitely done this with superheros and their stories with the rise of superhero cinema. It certainly wasn’t the comics industry who were making amazing books that the populace grabbed onto, but filmmakers who loved the comics and finally, finally, started making good movies based on those properties. Does that make cinematic universe enthusiasts any less of a fan than comic book readers? Ultimately, no. A fan of Iron Man is a fan of Iron Man is a fan of Iron Man.

The few times we spoke with friend-of-the-site, Elijah Kaine, he mentioned his initial gateway into comicsdom––of which he has become thoroughly ensconced and well-read––was not comic books but the X-Men animated series, and this was probably the “in” for many X-Men or comic book fans. How many people started reading The Walking Dead because they watched the AMC tv show first? During my teenage years, my severe interest in Japanese feudal history and martial culture could be traced back to things like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or The Highlander. But they were gateways for me to walk through and soak up the world on the other side of the jamb.

Doctor Fate v Atrocitus: Dawn of Injustice 2. Screenshot courtesy of NetherRealm/Warner Bros.

Mike Diver’s article hints at something a bit more nuanced. He discusses the fact that he’s learning about DC’s characters by playing the fighting game that uses them. Sure, he’s also jumping online to mine wikis, but the fact is he’s actually getting a strong sense and knowledge of these comic book characters by playing a video game set in that world (but in its own continuity). In fact, it may be fair to say he’s becoming a fan:

Here I am, playing, and learning—and with superhero fiction such a staple of modern entertainment, it’s good to get deeper into its (to me, at least) weirder corners, via the accessible “in” of an easy-to-pick-up fighting game.

This intersectional literacy is probably the most common method of knowledge creation and meaning-making, more than traditional, antiquated, or teacher-centric educational models would lead us to believe. While my previous examples were my gateway to an interest in the topic, sometimes there are non-traditional texts––like video games, comic books, movies, tv shows, etc.––that actually gives the user information that would otherwise only be learned in that actual field. I wonder how many people learned legitimate history from playing games like Age of Empires, or gained a knowledge about different aspects of our world’s cultures from playing Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? How many learned about the intertwined influence of economics and politics by playing Crusader Kings or Civilization? How many people developed an interest in the hard sciences because they watched Star Trek? The answer to all of these questions is likely the same: many more than you would think.

Episode 136 – Make It So

Episode 136 – Make It So

WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew starts a Starbound server and learns about the administrative side of online multiplayer gaming while D. helps to make a game better by playing the PS4 beta release of Marvel Heroes Omega.

FAR CRYING: The trailer and promotional artwork for Ubisoft’s Far Cry 5 has inflamed a certain demographic of gamers, or has it? Our humble hosts investigate this conundrum.

WORKS CITED:

LINKS:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Stayin’ in Black” by Wax Audio
-“Bangor Mash” by The Devil Makes Three

Episode 130 – Form a Constant Voltron

Episode 130 – Form a Constant Voltron

WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew watched the live action remake of the Disney animated feature, Beauty and the Beast and D. Bethel discusses his experience at this year’s Sacramento Indie Arcade Expo.

REGRESSIVE RESURRXION: First, the comic book news cycle went nuts because the first post-Inhumans vs. X-Men book was released, X-Men Gold, which was then subsumed by the fact that people seemed to like it, which was then subsumed by the likelihood that X-Men Gold artist, Ardian Syaf, may have placed possibly intolerant symbology in not-so-hidden places throughout the book. Then it turned out that he definitely did that. It has been a roller coaster of news and insight into Indonesian politics (where Syaf resides) that has been mostly very sad and upsetting for X-Men fans.
*Extra Bit: Marius Thienenkamp of Comicsverse wrote a thoughtful analysis and retrospective of this entire affair.

THE TWO MASTERS: On the threshold of the debut of Doctor Who‘s Series 10, it was revealed that actor John Simm would be returning to the show in his former role as The Master, the longtime foe of the show’s titular hero. Last seen at David Tennant’s departure from the lead role, he returns during the tenure of his successor, Michelle Gomez as Missy. What this means for the episode(s) in which they appear together (the last one or two of the season), we can’t yet say, but both Dan and Andrew are pretty excited about it.

WORKS CITED:

LINKS:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Stayin’ in Black” by Wax Audio

Episode 129 – Lovecraftian Minus Tentacles

Episode 129 – Lovecraftian Minus Tentacles

WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew muses on cinematic magic of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them while Dan can’t shut up about the podcast, S-Town.

INAPPROPRIATE APPROPRIATION: Dan and Andrew can’t ignore the strange vortex created by the controversies surrounding the cultural tone-deafness of Netflix/Marvel’s Iron Fist, the backlash to the live-action adaptation of Ghost in the Shell, and the recent shifty comments of Marvel’s VP of Sales, David Gabriel, regarding sales and the recent surge of diversity in the Marvel Universe. What the hell is going on?

WORKS REFERENCED:

LINKS:

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Stayin’ in Black” by Wax Audio
-“The Ghost Inside” by Broken Bells

Episode 125 – Hot Sauce Box

Episode 125 – Hot Sauce Box

WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew plays Project Highrise after receiving it as part of this month’s Humble Bundle subscription service, while Dan reads a book about the history of the Japanese game industry in Chris Kohler’s Power-Up: How Japanese Video Games Gave the World an Extra Life.

THINK INSIDE THE BOX: With Andrew’s sojourn into the world of subscription grab-bag services, he and Dan discuss the growing phenomenon and where they think the trajectory may end up.

ACCELERATED EVOLUTION: When a YouTube star gets the spotlight from a major industry publication, his world starts to crumble a little bit despite his denial of it. Swedish YouTube sensation, PewDiePie, encountered some issues after an exposé by the Wall Street Journal causes him to lose valuable contracts and allies and seemingly sends him into a strange spiral of denial and self-pity––without losing any subscribers. Andrew and Dan look at this very strange situation and how it connects to the larger cultural issues the news media and celebrity are dealing with while trying to figure out a solution.

WORKS REFERENCED

McAlone, Nathan. “What Someone Who Worked Closely with PewDiePie Thinks About Disney and YouTube Dropping Him.” Business Insider, 20 Feb. 2017, http://www.businessinsider.com/pewdiepie-scandal-came-from-the-way-youtube-works-2017-2 Accessed 20 Feb. 2017.

Ibrahim, Mona. “The Limits of Free Speech (When You Have 50 Million Subscribers).” Polygon, 20 Feb. 2017, http://www.polygon.com/2017/2/20/14675914/freedom-of-speech-censorship-pewdiepie Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.

WORKS CITED

Klepek, Patrick. “PewDiePie Criticizes Wall Street Journal Report, Says Jokes Went ‘Too Far.'” Waypoint, 16 Feb. 2017. https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/pewdiepie-criticizes-wall-street-journal-report-says-jokes-went-too-far Accessed 20 Feb. 2017.

Kuchera, Ben. “PewDiePie and Trump Aren’t Hurting the Press, But They Desperately Want To.” Polygon, 18 Feb. 2017, http://www.polygon.com/2017/2/18/14641952/pewdiepie-trump-anti-semitic Accessed 20 Feb. 2017.

Kuchera, Ben. “PewDiePie Versus the Media: Why He’s So Mad to be Losing the Fight.” Waypoint, 15 Feb. 2017, http://www.polygon.com/2017/2/15/14610652/pewdiepie-versus-the-media-disney-youtube-google Accessed 20 Feb. 2017.

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Stayin’ in Black” by Wax Audio
-“(The Majestic Tale of) An Idiot With a Box” by Murray Gold (from Doctor Who)
-“Fall From Grace, Pt. 2” by Andrew Hale & Simon Hale (from L. A. Noire)

Episode 113 – The Lord of Clapation

Episode 113 – The Lord of Clapation

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WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew wades through the neck-deep waters of Civilization VI and loves every second of it while D. Bethel watches the crowd-funded fan film, Cable: Chronicles of Hope by K&K Productions.

WHAT’S NEXT?: Considering the imminent political event happening in the United States of America, Dan and Andrew examine how television has taken a look at the presidency by comparing and contrasting the pilot episodes (mostly) of The West Wing and House of Cards (though they specifically already discussed the House of Cards pilot in Episode 37).
*Audio clip captured from The West Wing, “In the Shadow of Two Gunmen, Part II.”

INFINITE CRISES IN INFINITE MOVIES: This week, news hit that director Rick Famuyiwa left the DC/Warner Bros. film, The Flash, late into pre-production. This is the second director to leave the project, and the third to leave a film set in the DC Universe established with 2013’s Man of Steel (before this, Michelle MacLaren left Wonder Woman). Andrew and Dan examine the state of the DC Universe movies and wonder what the outcome may be for this grand experiment. Referenced in this segment is the Ghostbusters v. Star Trek Beyond discussion from Episode 101, if you want background on that controversy.

Again, D. Bethel’s webcomic, Long John, has finished up its second chapter. We encourage you to give it a look and to share if you like it.

Leave your thoughts as comments at forallintents.net. Be sure to join the official Facebook page. Subscribe to the show on iTunes and also help spread the word by leaving a review on the iTunes store. Subscribe and like the videos found on our YouTube Channel.

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

FEATURED MUSIC:

-“Stayin’ in Black” by Wax Audio
-“The West Wing Opening Theme” by W. G. Snuffy Walden (performed by The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra)
-“I Ran (So Far Away)” by A Flock of Seagulls
-“House of Cards Main Title Theme” by Jeff Beal

Worth a Look: Luke Cage Edition

Worth a Look: Luke Cage Edition

Marvel/Netflix’s Luke Cage has a lot of people talking a mere week and a half after being uploaded to Netflix’s servers, and for good reason. While ostensibly linked to the more popular popcorn faire that is the “superhero genre” of films created by Fox, Sony, Warner Bros., and Marvel over the last sixteen years, Netflix has done more to push the genre forward and upward with its four seasons of shows than has really been done since The Dark KnightLuke Cage alone has elevated the discourse in our popular culture to the point where the greater populace can not only talk about blackness in America, but it’s getting white America to listen to conversations about blackness in America. The last time a live-action superhero production instigated a larger conversation about deep-seated issues in America was not this summer’s Captain America: Civil WarBatman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, nor X-Men: Apocalypse, but last year’s Jessica Jones––a Marvel/Netflix (Martflix?) show. Like Jessica Jones before it, Luke Cage approaches its issues in a variety of incredibly subtle, as well as not so subtle, ways, but the fact that it’s approaching them at all––and giving these issues narrative prominence––sets it apart from most other entries in the genre.

source: BlackNerdProblems
source: BlackNerdProblems

Perhaps it’s the fact that I’m an English teacher (albeit not one of Literature, but of Composition and Rhetoric), but I noticed right away how many books dominated the show (at least in the front half––I’m not quite done with the season yet as of this writing) and how diverse Cage’s tastes were––in terms of race, sure, but also in terms of genre.

Dr. Tara Betts briefly discusses the books given center stage in the show, but expands that view into a full reading list that addends and complements the show. Some are a bit jokey (the Where’s Waldo? choice), others are referential (picking a Geoffrey Canada book since the writer was referenced by Cottonmouth at one point), and others are thoughtful on a pedagogical level (Acres of SkinCutting Along the Color Line), all of which could be used to describe the show itself.

Like I did for the “Worth a Look” about Stranger Things, I’m featuring this article even though I didn’t read it yet because it boldly sports a spoiler warning, and I––wishing to hold onto some aspect of nerd integrity––want to watch the rest of Luke Cage clean.

source: iO9.com
source: io9.com

Evan Narcisse’s article is presented as a dialogue between four writers discussing the major cultural issues as presented and challenged in Luke Cage. In fairness, many articles have been written about this aspect of the show, but this gathering of different points of view on the same subject is an attractive and important approach. Especially as a white dude from the coast of California––and as a teacher––it’s these discussions that I need to find and listen to.

Episode 76 – Beepop

Episode 76 – Beepop

As you wait in line for your viewing of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, listen to two over-educated nerds talk about things tangentially related to the biggest release this year.

Week in Geek: Andrew plays a bunch of new games, including BastionRollers of the Realm, and Assassin’s Creed Chronicle: China on the PlayStation 4 while Dan reads Ian Bogost’s new book, How to Talk About Video Games.

Trio of Trailers: Dan and Andrew discuss the ups and downs of exciting new sequels awaiting release: Star Trek BeyondTeenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out From the Shadows, and Independence Day: Resurgence.

Hutt-Killer: Andrew and Dan weave through the controversy surrounding Disney’s decision to pull all “Slave Leia” content from store shelves, and Andrew goes on a bit of a Lego rant.

Assuming you don’t hate the show with the outtakes at the end, you can leave your thoughts about the episode on the page for the show at forall.libsyn.com. Be sure to follow the official Facebook and Google+ pages for exclusive links and discussions. You may also e-mail the show at forallpod [at] gmail [dot] com. The best way to support the show is to leave a review on iTunes which will help spread the word to new potential listeners through the magic of Apple’s algorithms. 

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

Featured Music:

-“Stayin’ in Black” by Wax Audio

-“Turtle Power” by Partners In Kryme (from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle)

-“Ewok Celebration and Finale” by John Williams (from Return of the Jedi)

-“Yoda” by “Weird Al” Yankvoic

Episode 74 – Scotch Tape and Hope

Episode 74 – Scotch Tape and Hope

It’s a bit of a ramshackle affair this week as the boys (mostly Dan) were plagued by technical issues, but they wouldn’t let that stop them from bringing you a new episode!

Week in Geek: Andrew watches Ronin again and gets some spicy behind-the-scenes details while Dan plays dress-up in Batman: Arkham Knight.

Cards Against Black Friday: Dan and Andrew detail the questionable history the cynically dark Cards Against Humanity has with the equally cynical (but different) Black Friday shopping event.

Howard No More: With the announcement at the most recent World Fantasy Convention that they would no longer be distributing a bust of H.P. Lovecraft as an award due to the author’s public and well-known racist and elitist views, different portions of fandom exploded with either outrage or victory (both sides have legitimate angles). Andrew and Dan discuss why this may be a good thing or a bad thing (mostly good).

Leave a comment about this week’s topics at forall.libsyn.com. Be sure to join the official Facebook and Google+ pages. E-mail the show with any questions, comments, or concerns at forallpod [at] gmail [dot] com. If you like the show, help it out by leaving a review on iTunes.

For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.

Featured Music:

-“Stayin’ in Black” by Wax Audio

-“Money For Nothing” by Dire Straits

-“Things Have Changed” by Bob Dylan

-“Everything is Broken” by The Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band