A WEEK IN GEEK: Before things get started, D. talks about becoming mildly internet famous for about a day (the social media accounts of his favorite band, Twisted Sister, shared art he made of each band member). For those wondering, here’s the scene from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure in which Twisted Sister appears:
INDIE ACCOLADES: Andrew and D. talk about the world of independent creation––mostly games, mostly video games––and how it works in the face of the big corporate franchises discussed for the past few weeks.
WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew plays the expansive new Star Trek board game by Gale Force Nine Games, Star Trek: Ascendancy, while D. gets knee-deep into the sequel to the short-lived, but beloved, comic book series, Battle Chasers. However, the sequel is a video game, not a comic, in Battle Chasers: NightWar by Airship Syndicate. (Full Disclosure: D. was a backer on the Battle Chasers: NightWar Kickstarter campaign.)
And here is the promised narrative summary of the game of Star Trek: Ascendancy that Andrew played, written by Tim Saito:
In the Romulan capital city, on the planet Romulus, Praetor Nat’al looks out across the sea of screaming and crying faces. “Riov Lovok, what happened?”
“It’s the war sir. I believe we have lost it,” replied Riov Lovok.
“How? And why are all those people screaming and crying?”
“It’s the parents of the children. All the parents of ALL the children,” said Lovok as she lowered her head.
“What was done to our children!?”
“It was the Ferengi, sir. They sold a toy to a few of the children last week. The following day they sold more, but at a higher price. Since then, each day the price goes higher and higher and fewer and fewer are available. Something called a Tamagotchi. Now all the children want one and all the parents are desperate. Order is falling away and there are riots in the streets as roving mobs of parents search out the elusive Tamagotchi.”
“Yes, Preator. Word has come through that the Federation has fallen to the Ferengi as well, to something called a Tickle Me Elmo.”
“We underestimated these Ferengi.”
“Yes. The Cardassians have also submitted their surrender to the Grand Nagus on Ferenginar. They were destroyed by something called a Furby.”
“We will mount an attack. Launch a fleet of ships and attack Ferenginar under cloak. They won’t see it coming and we will take their home world from them!”
“It’s too late,” said Riov Lovok as she pulled her disruptor from its holster. “I was promised TWO Elmos, four Furbys, and five Tamagotchis IF I delivered you to the Ferengi.”
Episode 40 – “Vowel Movement”: Where Andrew discusses playing the board game, Sons of Anarchy: Men of Mayhem, a previous game made by Gale Force Nine Games. Ironically, Episode 40’s discussion topic is about sequels that come years after the original entry, and this week D. talks about playing Battle Chasers: Nightwar, and ostensible sequel to the comic series that ended in 2001.
Episode 128 – “His Curry Name”: Where D. Bethel talks about reading the series rebooting Jim Lee’s ’90s Wildstorm continuity with The Wild Storm by Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt.
News Blast: Star Trek Fan Films: Where Andrew discusses the legal ramifications of CBS/Paramount coming down on the large community of Star Trek fan films.
WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew pauses his walk down the Star Trek Nostalgia Trail and attended a day of PAX West (starts at 2:14) while Dan dips into the history of his favorite comic book franchise by reading Marvel Epic Collection Vol. 5: X-Men – Second Genesis which collects the early issues of the great X-Men reboot from 1975 when the “All-New, All-Different” X-men were added to the team (Wolverine, Colossus, Storm, Nightcrawler) and started the 16-year run of writer Chris Claremont (18:17).
FINAL FANTASY VII AGAIN: (28:23) September 7th marked the 20th anniversary of Squaresoft’s (at the time, now Square Enix) breakthrough hit, Final Fantasy VII. Dan and Andrew talk less about the game itself and instead talk about the impact the game had on gaming and nerd culture.
NOTE: Sacramento’s Crocker Con | Art Mix is happening September 14th at the Crocker Art Museum at which D. Bethel will be exhibiting with his wares. Come by and say hi!
WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew dives into Paizo’s newest RPG, Starfinder (starts at 2:34), while D. Bethel checks out the premier episode of Disney XD’s reboot of DuckTales (19:46).
REAL MONSTERS: (30:45) Dan and Andrew just hang back and have a conversation rather than a guided discourse about Nazis in popular culture. They go all over the place, but hover around the topic of how (and why) they’re used in fiction.
WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew (starts at 1:38) hesitantly re-approaches (though actually, basically for the first time) Star Trek: Enterprise, while D. Bethel (16:13) has fun sacrificing folks in Kitfox Games’ The Shrouded Isle.
LUDIC CROSS-POLLINATION: (27:34) Gen Con, the long-running tabletop-focused convention, rolls out this weekend and leading up to it were a few announcements about new board games in an attempt to ride that wave of publicity. One of them is a brand new adventure board game based on the Fallout video game franchise. Lots of things like tv shows and movies are licensed for use within board games, but the kind of translation that can occur when adapting a game from one medium into a game in another proved a fascinating topic of conversation this week.
With D. Bethel suddenly on a Spring Break excursion, Andrew recruits friend of the show, Taylor Katcher to fill in the blanks.
THE ONLY WIZARD IN THE PHONE BOOK: Andrew and Taylor talk about the Dresden Files Cooperative Card Game, the upcoming card game release from Evil Hat Games. Taylor expresses his fondness for Harry Dresden while Andrew admits his fondness for Paul Blackthorne.
TAYLOR BREATHES IN THE WILD: After last week’s discussion of The Legend of Zelda series, Taylor shares his experiences with the newest title in the series, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.
For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.
-“Stayin’ in Black” by Wax Audio
-“The Final Teen Spirt'” by Wax Audio
-“Maul, Savage and Viszla” by Kevin Kiner & Takeshi Furukawa (from Star Wars: The Clone Wars)
-“Can You Dig It (Iron Man 3 Main Titles)” by Bryan Tyler (from Iron Man 3)
D. Bethel has been hit with a bad case of the sicks, so a Shortcast is in order. It’s a busy week! Emerald City Comic Con is happening this weekend and Andrew will be there, no doubt wandering around. If you see him, say hello [ , ] for all intents and purposes. If you attend, let us know what you thought of the event in the comments!
WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew attended an event celebrating the launch of the Kickstarter for the first tabletop game by friends of the site, Luke and Nicole (from AcrossTheBoardGames.net), Food Truck Championwhile D. Bethel decided to deepen his knowledge of Wolverine lore by reading the first fifteen-or-so issues of the long-running Wolverine comic book series by Chris Claremont and John Buscema.
WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew checks out PAX West while D. Bethel plays the mobile puzzle games, 1010! and Street Fighter Puzzle Spirits.
THAT’S EDUTAINMENT: Inspired by Japanese: The Game card game Andrew saw at PAX West, Dan and Andrew talk about games made with education in mind. Games like Oregon Trail and Where in the X is Carmen San Diego? are classic examples of educational games done right––fun games that make a cultural impact. So, the question they ponder is: Where are the educational games now? Or has that format morphed into other media?
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For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.
-“Stayin’ in Black” by Wax Audio
-“Teach Your Children” by Crosby, Stills, Nash, & Young
-“You Was Wrong” by Freddie King
While not about a particular aspect of nerd culture, Frankenfield’s article finds a thread strung through most aspects of geekdom: a legitimate choice between independent and “mainstream” products. In most nerdy and geeky venues, these exist side-by-side––I think of the gaming scene (specifically video gaming; Andrew will have to answer for the tabletop angle) where venues as amalgamated as Steam as well as the more hierarchical PSN or XBox Live give independent products prime real estate in an effort to get both triple-A and the snarkily titled “triple-I” titles on players’ screens. For all the drama that has surrounded video games press in the last few years, it has acted to level the playing field, not through any particular agenda as much as finding good indie games and wanting to share. For all nerdy avenues, Kickstarter and other crowd-sourced funding platforms have been key in getting independent products more mainstream attention, even if it never officially achieves that status.
More than ever, the line between “independent” and “mainstream” is blurring, and I think it’s a good time to ask some simple, problem-posing questions: how and why? I think the second question is easier to answer than the first. The divide is closing because traditional “mainstream” products have become less satisfying over time. Perhaps that’s the wrong word; mainstream products have become predictable and staid even though they still rake in profit. But we see this most popularly, I think, with television (though an argument could be made for any nerd media right now). Even though the major networks are still the ratings kings and producing the most popular content, the revered content is made outside of those avenues, the top producers of which are probably HBO and AMC, currently. It was them, and networks like them, that pioneered the “new golden age of television” in which we now find ourselves. NBC, CBS, and ABC are not the trailblazers here, even if they are the “winners” using outdated metrics.
As for the “how”, that is an answer that produces the most consternation and danger as this movement progresses. The nice thing about the mainstream system is that it provides traditional and, for the most part, proven processes for bringing projects to life. The problem is that, over time, the process became corrupted by brown-nosing who-you-knows with impenetrable baselines for entry. The rise of the independents, as Frankenfield illustrates, took advantage of new media and presented new content on its own terms, letting the audience find it, even if that audience was niche. The problem with this is––and I saw this all the time in webcomics––that, arguably, the independent road to success can only be travelled once. Again, with webcomics, the success of strips like Penny Arcade or PvP or Axe Cop led to unwarranted (and unproven) codification of paths to success and many eager creators became wrapped in false righteousness when their duplication of Penny Arcade‘s arc didn’t provide the same results for them.
With new media––specifically, internet-based media––it seems that roads to success are made out of sand and are erased as soon as they are coursed. It makes “success” a much more malleable phrase for independents than a mainstream product ever could find. It’s why maintaining a self-sufficient comic through ads, Kickstarter campaigns, and regular Patreon contributions could be seen as more of a success than the new Ghostbusters, even though its gross revenue is approaching $220 million dollars (I’m this fully cognizant of the fact that those returns are less than the production budget and marketing budget combined, but there was also Zoolander 2; check those numbers). Whether it’s in the black or not, people still paid $220 million dollars to go see it, which is impressive from an indie standpoint, but to many it’s a mainstream failure, whereas in the context of self-sustaining webcomics we could mean an amount that simply covers hosting costs. If anything, its this relative definition of success that’s going to be making the biggest marks on pop culture in the future, and Frankenfield points to specific examples of this––Louis C.K. and Chance the Rapper––to get this point across.
It’s no secret that I hold Marvel’s persecuted mutants close to my heart, and to that extent, I cherish the filmic versions a bit more dear than many MCU properties if only because of my nostalgic tie to them (while wholly acknowledging that Marvel makes better movies, on the whole). That being said, I have long felt that it would be a mistake for the X-Men and their associated titles to move from Fox to Marvel Studios. To be frank, I was hoping to write an article about it, but Kyle Anderson at Nerdist hit that nail before I did.
I echo Anderson’s point wholeheartedly that the X-Men work best when mutants are the only super-powered people on the planet. I realize this only really exists in the context of the movies as they have been wholly integrated into the Marvel Comics universe since their inception, but as an easily digestible metaphor that can make the largest impact, it’s a context that is much more effective than if they had to interact with super-soldiers and aliens (though X-Men: Apocalypse got a bit close to that mark and, according to Bryan Singer, is a direction he wants to go in the future).
But, referring to what guest Elijah Kaine said during our Shortcast, there currently is room in popular culture for more than one continuity. Naturally, we all assumed it would be a stark line between Marvel and DC because that’s how it exists in the print world. However, we aren’t seeing an effort really coagulating on the DC/Warner Bros. side of things despite their best efforts and it’s also smart to think of things existing more broadly. We have the MCU, we have the Arrow-verse, and we have the X-Men continuity, among others. It’s a much more nuanced and multi-faceted world we live in than, perhaps, we want, but I think, overall, it is better for it.
NOTE: Kyle Anderson is the co-host of a podcast I’ve talked about before––Doctor Who: The Writer’s Room––in which he and Erik Stadnik talk about the writers from classic Doctor Who (1963-1989). They provide incredibly in-depth critical analysis of scripts and their writers that, I would argue, makes it essential listening if you are a fan. This may also make me a bit biased toward Kyle Anderson’s argument, though I didn’t realize he was the author until after I had read the piece.
and, in a slightly different interpretation of the column’s title, here is a video that is “Worth a Look”:
Regeneration: Doctor Who showrunner since 2010, Steven Moffat announces his plans to leave the show after series 10 in 2017. Furthermore, his replacement has been revealed to be Chris Chibnall, an accomplished writer in his own right. But is this a big deal? Dan and Andrew discuss the implications.
I Vant to Roll Your Die: Andrew and Dan investigate why Dungeons & Dragons‘ return to Ravenloft, in a new adventure titled, “Curse of Strahd,” is a big deal, or, at least, why it’s interesting.
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For all intents and purposes, that was an episode recap.