THE OUTCAST: In celebration of the start of Pride Month, our hosts look at one of the most blatant attempt to address LGBTQ+ issues done by Star Trek: The Next Generation in their fifth season episode, “The Outcast,” and how its success in that endeavor may have changed over time.
“All the Way” (26 September 2014): Where our hosts talk about the Highlander franchise.
“Wise Captain-Father” (19 April 2019): Where our hosts talk about how The Orville out-Star Treks Star Trek in a lot of ways (at the time).
“Dicksisms” (06 September 2019): Where our hosts talk about the prolific Doctor Who writer, Terrance Dicks.
“Televisionatic” (28 January 2022): Where our hosts discuss the game-changing pair of Star Trek: The Next Generation episodes, “Best of Both Worlds.”
CAP PUNCHED FIRST: Another day, another attack on fictional characters as a cable news segment pilloried Marvel Comics for making Captain America “woke” in a recent issue, seemingly forgetting that Cap has been punching literal Nazis in his comics since his first issue. Andrew and D. Bethel explore this while also examining the variety of ways texts (movies, comics, books, music, tv shows, etc.) can be read.
PRINT ON DEMAND: After buying some RPG books through DriveThruRPG, Andrew becomes fascinated by the idea––and future applicability––of print on demand services, where a book isn’t printed until a customer orders it. D. Bethel brings his creator experience with POD services to the conversation as well.
“Slapcast” (02 July 2021): Where Andrew gave us the run down of the strange TSR Twitter fight.
The video Dan referred to with Stan Lee talking about the creation of the X-Men, though it’s one of many similar and slightly different creation stories he has told over the years:
DON’T BE A DICK: In an astounding act of bravery and solidarity, actress Charisma Carpenter (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel) spoke out against abusive practices of tv auteur, Joss Whedon, in support of Justice League actor, Ray Fisher. Andrew and D. Bethel have a thoughtful discussion of autership, specifically as it relates to the realm of nerds and geeks.
A BOOK CLUB [ , ] FOR ALL INTENTS AND PURPOSES: In a rare moment where Andrew and Dan’s reading habits align, they spend this episode discussing Chris Kohler‘s addition to the Boss Fight Books line, focusing on Square Enix’s (simply Squaresoft at the time of the game’s initial publication) Final Fantasy V. The first half has the hosts discussing the game itself, while the second half talks about the BFB line and written gaming criticism.
SNAP JUDGMENT: With the third Avengers movie becoming a new bank everybody is putting their money into, D. and Andrew finally sit down to talk about the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe capstone event. Be warned that this episode CONTAINS SPOILERS for the movie.
BATTLETECHNICALITIES: When the new Battletech game decided to include gender-neutral pronouns in its character generation, some corners of the internet got very angry, prompting everything from complaints on Reddit to a negative review campaign on Steam. D. Bethel and Andrew talk about this trend against inclusion in gaming and how this loud minority could be quieted.
As mentioned in the episode, watch Waypoint’s Austin Walker and Rob Zacny go in-depth with the character customization in Battletech:
WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew dives into “the German Stranger Things” as he watches the first three episodes of the Netflix series, Dark, while D. Bethel gets lost in an RPG-tinged clicker game called Almost a Hero by Bee Square Games.
WEEK IN GEEK: Both Andrew and D. Bethel saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi so––
THE LAST HOT TAKE: They bring in original Star Wars fan and friend of the show, Jason Tudor, to talk about Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the talk around the movie, and what it means for the franchise SPOILER ALERT––SIGNIFICANT PLOT POINTS ARE DISCUSSED; BE SURE TO WATCH THE MOVIE BEFORE LISTENING.
Mass Effect: Andromeda stands as one of the most derided games of this generation. It’s to the point that Bioware said publicly that it’s no longer supporting it a mere five months after the game’s release. While I think the game is, indeed, very different from the previous Mass Effect games and, without a doubt, needed a few more drafts with the script, it was by no means a terrible game. If separated from the Mass Effect context––and when considered with all of its animation/texture/gameplay patches––it suffers from the deadliest of video game diseases: it ended up being a game that was just “fine.” Nothing stellar, nothing terrible, things that make it forgettable in the sea of games to get either quite excited about or quite angry about.
Though I may be biased because I enjoyed the game (aware of all of its flaws), I think Park’s ostensible defense of the game makes a very strong point not only about Mass Effect: Andromeda, but also about criticism in general. For those participating in the conversation around video games, both professional and amateur (though this line is blurring more than ever), a general agreement seems to be that to be “critical” means to look for what’s bad and point it out. I’ll grant some leeway because a lot of professional critics are playing these games during abbreviated periods for review purposes, so the bad stuff stands out even more. With a game like Mass Effect: Andromeda, it has the added burden of being a new entry in a highly venerated video game series, so expectations for the game were set a bit higher than other games. That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have qualities worth discussing, remembering, and celebrating, and part of that, at least as Park argues, is because of gaming criticism’s relative youth:
We don’t yet have a critical structure that supports or fosters an appreciation of the misapplication of game language that causes “messiness.” And this is a major problem.
With that in mind, there is a trend away from more traditional reviews into a more personal or culturally critical look at a game. These are more critic-friendly because they don’t really need to be ready by the game’s release (although such timeliness is beneficial for SEO purposes), and such investigations allow the critic to step back from the game and take a more holistic approach to judging a game. Whether Mass Effect: Andromeda deserves or will even get that chance is up to history. At the very least, I hope future games––be they new installments in venerated franchises or new IPs––get the chance to be examined with a genuinely critical eye rather than just a score disguised as a conversation.
Instead of an article, this is an episode from the generally fantastic critical podcast, Bullet Points, where (at least) three games journalists record their thoughts of a video game they all played to write about and talk about for their website. Each episode is accompanied by articles written by the contributors and they’re always very thoughtful and insightful.
This episode, where they look back on Epic Games’ Gears of War (the first installment), is an absolute disaster in the best possible way. In the hour-and-a-quarter episode, they spend about fifteen minutes total discussing the game and, instead, slam critical views together like rams over a ewe. The conversation devolves into an argument about how to read the game, critically. One wants to look at the mechanics and render judgment based on those while another wants to look at the game’s place in a historical context. And, in this conversation, the twain never meet.
Throughout the entire fight, I found myself talking out loud as I listened while walking my dog one morning, hoping my mediation would travel through my headphones, up the RSS feed, and back through time so they could actually realize what it was they were fighting about. While it seemed like they were disagreeing about the quality of the game, the discourse on display was actually a fundamental lack of understanding when it comes to critical analysis. There is no one thing called “analysis” and that’s what everybody does. We have developed different ways to look at the same thing––be it Deconstructionism, Structuralism, Formalism, Feminism, Marxism, and so on. Look at something like Catcher in the Rye through a Structuralist lens will give you a very different argument than if you looked at it through a Feminist lens. And that’s okay. They all coexist. However, the static that can be caused by the lack of agreement on which one to use while looking at a text can lead to an actual halt to discourse and then nothing gets done, as is the case on this podcast episode.
The clashing ideologies between the two journalists was basically a fight between New Criticism vs. New Historicism, but the entire episode propels along a single question that, in itself, is quite interesting: can dumb texts be worth talking about critically? Also, can texts still be important when authorial intent is ignorant, dubious, or manufactured? I’d like to hear the podcast where they discuss that. Maybe more would get done.
WEEK IN GEEK: Andrew plays catch-up after the Guestcast by letting us know about his time with the indie game, Turmoil, as well as discussing his experience with Alton Brown’s live show, Eat Your Science, while Dan talks about reboots and his hesitancy going into the first two issues of DC Comics’ new series, The Wild Storm.
MASS REJECTS: As Andrew reported, the new Bioware game, Mass Effect Andromeda, has met with a lot of criticism. However, said criticism is all over the map. Dan and Andrew get deep talking about expectations, Mass Effect, fandoms, and video games as cultural expressions. WARNING: the hosts get a little worked up.