Archive for the 'Editorials' Category

Oct 02 2014

Cryptarchs, Loot Caves and Everything Else Wrong with Destiny’s Loot System

Published by under Editorials,Video Games

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I woke up Wednesday to gaming news reported as if it was an international crisis. Destiny’s “loot cave,” it seemed, had been shut down. Just what the hell a loot cave was and what it signified was something I had to find out.

After reading several reports on Kotaku, I had gathered all the information I needed. Once, throngs of Guardians stood shoulder-to-shoulder, firing blindly into a small pocket tucked underneath a hillside. It seems people would assemble here day after day to endure a repetitive chore that held no joy but promises of ample rewards.

The gathering that would form was akin to the back alley frequented by Arlen’s neighborhood residents in King of the Hill – people who dutifully showed up day after day and acknowledged each others’ presence with solemn nods. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if many a beer was cracked open with one hand while another held the controller, blasting away mindlessly into the tiny hole.

Hours after soaking up this information, I happened to take a walk down the street to where my little brother lives close by. He recently bought an Xbox One, and as much as it pained him to do so, he had to give up his prior obsessions in the process: his 360, GTA V, and Skyrim, in favor of new ones like Destiny.

When I arrived at my brother’s house, lo and behold he was there, at the hillside, blasting into the dark cave. He had a morose expression upon his face, and he looked up at me with no traces of his typical enthusiasm. “It’s just not the same,” his face seemed to say. An online companion joined him momentarily, but quickly lost interest and left the area.

What, then, drives people to this madness? What sort of game design creates a troop of mindless zombies, who would rather stare into one small crevasse than explore several planets worth of vast areas?

At the heart of this surely mentally-unhealthy behavior lies a deeply-flawed understanding of game design. Fixing all of the problems therein will take years of player feedback and careful fine-tuning. As it stands now, though, Destiny has many lessons to learn from its predecessors. Continue Reading »

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Sep 30 2014

Should I Feel Bad for Skipping Event Movies?

Published by under Editorials,Movies

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Like pretty much everybody around here, I’m a self-professed movie fan. To a lesser extent, I’m willing to additionally self-identify as a genre fan and a few other sub-categories of “fan.” So there’s a sort of vested interest in staying current with the mix of accidental art and tedious product that winds up at the local multiplex each week.

Or at least I used to feel that way. Because I gotta admit something. The more I get out and go to these things — particularly the big, pop- and nerd-culture touchstones — the more one question at the back of my mind gets louder and louder:

Do I really HAVE to see all these things?

Continue Reading »

5 responses so far


Sep 23 2014

Super Second-Shot: Comic Characters That Deserve Another Chance Vol. 1

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The world needs ditch diggers too, and that’s equally true in the multiverse.

Unfortunately for every Invincible we have a Marrow. For every Onomatopoeia we have an Effigy. Zoidberg bless the comic-creating guys and gals who try their darndest to bring to new blood to our four color ink world. Evolution is the key to survival and we should all be thankful to these artists for trying to bring something…ANYTHING…new to our miles and piles of tried and true comic series without having to slap Bat, X, Spider, or, now these days, Lantern on it.

Success, like with most things in life, is rare, though, and usually these capes get hung up relatively soon. Like it or not, these early retirements are usually warranted. It ain’t easy to make the Fantastic Four, otherwise everyone would be doing it. Most pioneers bit a lot of dust before seeing Oregon. That’s the trade-off for trailblazing and whether it’s right or wrong, it’s true.

But that doesn’t always mean it’s fair.

Sometimes lead is turned into gold, but, unfortunately, not everyone is there to bask in its glow. Occasionally truly great concepts emerge from the dust, but are still too obscured to get noticed. Blame the fans or fates, the problem still persists. So today I’m going to highlight some characters that deserve a second chance at the spotlight. These are some of the better bulbs that unfortunately burst a bit too briskly, and I hope revisiting them today makes somebody notice.

Ready? Set? Go again. Continue Reading »

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Sep 22 2014

Video Game Rewind: Age of Mythology

Published by under Editorials,Video Games

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I started playing the remastered edition of Age of Mythology again this weekend and it brought back a lot of memories. My dad was the one who introduced me to the game more than a decade ago if I’m not mistaken. It’s basically a real-time strategy games with characters and locations from Greek, Norse, and Egyptian myths. Yes, imagine Anubis warriors and Minotaurs going at it! It was fun playing the game regardless of what mode you chose: online, campaign, or simply a random map.

Let’s go back and reminisce about what made Age of Mythology a timeless video game.

Continue Reading »

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Sep 17 2014

Sci-Fi is Getting Scarier

Published by under Editorials,Movies

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by Jake Thompson

You know that rush you got when little Haley Joel crawled into his homemade tent in The Sixth Sense? And that dread of knowing the shark was stalking below the too small boat in Jaws? These are great horror moments. They make you jump, make your heart beat fast, and then when it’s over, you laugh. Maybe not right away, but you look back on these films like you would a roller coaster, because despite the scares, you were entertained.

Science fiction horror is a little different. Apart from Alien, I struggle to think of a sci-fi film that gives this thrilling kind of terror. Most often, sci-fi horror isn’t found in creatures, or killers, or ghosts, but in the human condition. I remember reading 1984 and Brave New World and watching Blade Runner in high school, which in their own way were scarier than any of the horror movies I snuck to my friends’ houses to watch. But instead of doubling my heart rate, these stories left me with a lump in my throat. Continue Reading »

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Sep 17 2014

Overlooked: Brad Pitt

Published by under Editorials,Movies

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I originally titled this write up as “Underrated: Brad Pitt” but felt that it’s not necessarily that he’s underrated, but that he’s overlooked and still seen as the “pretty boy” rather than an amazing talent. A guy that has so many fantastic films on his resume but not a single *Oscar to his name. Why is it that Pitt can deliver time and time again but is normally passed off as just the guy that ladies swoon over? Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s gorgeous and would put him up there among many of my other man crushes but that’s a whole other post for another day.

This all came about because I was watching Meet Joe Black the other night on television and found that I was smiling practically every time that Brad graced the film with his presence. Scene after scene he went toe to toe with Sir Anthony Hopkins and I was drawn to his performance every time. His smile, charm, and candor were impeccable yet if you mention Brad Pitt in conversation I bet that you’ll never hear anything about this movie or any of his other films.

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Sep 15 2014

Should We Start Expecting Less from Video Games?

Published by under Editorials,Video Games

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I’ve already been disappointed by three of the biggest video game blockbusters that have been released so far. I never learned my lesson and I had pre-orders lining up despite facing previous upsets. I’m always searching for movies, television shows, books, and video games that will awe and move me. It’s a tall order, but it’s a feeling I actively seek out. Sometimes I can’t help but think that certain games will have that affect on me. Maybe it’s the hype and other times it’s because I’m intensely loyal to a particular company.

I’ve played The Sims 4Destiny, and Watch Dogs so far. I’m not saying they were terrible games, because they’re actually quite good. However, they not great or amazing either. Is it bad to expect the most out of video games, or should we be challenging developers with our expectations?

Continue Reading »

4 responses so far


Sep 12 2014

The Implications of Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Published by under Editorials,Movies,Reviews

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by Brian Hadsell

 

I’ll admit it.  I was completely blindsided by this, too focused on the September 9th release date to see what was really going on with it.  Before I knew what was happening, I had bought it, watched it and reviewed it.  Then came Thursday, and I realized that this was no coincidence.  You don’t release a movie whose hero literally wears the American flag as a uniform this close to September 11th without making a political statement.  But when you stop and think about it – and I mean really think about it – it’s probably not the statement that you’d expect it to be.

Captain Rogers has been busy since the Avengers saved New York from the Chitauri invasion.  He’s been working as a covert S.H.I.E.L.D. operative with Black Widow, leading the agency’s counter-terrorism strike force and making the world a safer place for democracy.  But when Nick Fury stumbles upon a secret that could shake the world to its foundations, he’s assassinated for it.  Now Steve and Natasha are on the run from both S.H.I.E.L.D. and a cybernetic assassin known only as The Winter Soldier as they attempt to solve a mystery that’s sixty-eight years in the making. Continue Reading »

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Sep 11 2014

Rian Johnson’s Journey to a Galaxy Far Far Away

Published by under Editorials

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There are so many different kinds of filmmaking – big budget, small budget, indie, TV. There are plenty of others, but those four are enough to make today’s point. I’ve found that many of the best directors are great at one or two of these. Scorsese, for example, makes spectacular films of varying epic-ness, yet his direction of the Boardwalk Empire pilot was so-so, at least in my opinion.

You might know Rian Johnson, and you’ve likely come across his work. But he’s not yet a household name. That’s going to change over the next few years. From his debut feature film Brick, through to the much large scale Looper, as well as a few great episodes of Breaking Bad, Johnson has proved his versatility. Now he’s preparing to follow up J.J. Abrams’ Star Wars opener with the second and third instalments of the trilogy.

Some weren’t thrilled with the news. I myself have high hopes, but I’m not entirely sure why. So I thought I’d have a rifle through his cinematic work to this point, and see if he’s built enough steam to sustain a universe.

Brick

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This is one of those dream debuts, which saw Johnson’s slaved-over script paired with an early days Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Though it was far from an overnight success story. It took eight years for the film to go from script to screen, the majority spent accruing the necessary funding. In the end, this came to about half a million dollars, which is measly for an almost two hour film staring a known actor. But in the hands of great talent, a small budget can spread like warm butter, right to the corners. In this case, it forced Johnson to tell his high school detective story in very creative ways. It meant having his cousin compose the film’s score with instruments they built themselves. It meant fiddling with odd camera angles and practical effects to avoid costly CGI. And it all came together to make a unique, highly praised film.

What we learned: Rian can take a classic genre (film noir), and put a new spin on it (high school). I know a lot of filmmakers who see genre as a limitation, a set of conventions that impede creativity. But when you approach genre openly, and challenge expectations, you’re rewarded with a film like Brick. And then people will let you make something like… Continue Reading »

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Sep 10 2014

“Smartwatches”… I Don’t Get It

Published by under Debate,Editorials

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I just don’t get what’s happening in the world of technology right now. Social media went crazy today over the Apple Watch and I found myself wondering why. Why does everyone want their smartphone strapped to their wrist? Did I miss something? Don’t get me wrong, I love tech stuff, and I’ll even admit that I’m one of those guys that loves to run out and buy the next best thing as long as I can afford it. Yet, within the realm of tech gadgets, the smartwatch craze doesn’t seem like a step in the right direction.

I’m doing my best to stay completely unbiased towards manufacturers because I’m not trying to start a flame war here. Nor do I want this post to become a breeding ground for people to comment on Android being better than Apple and vice versa. No, I truly would like for the Unrealtors to comment and try and persuade me to want to go out and spend $250+ for what I feel is a complete waste of money.

 

Continue Reading »

20 responses so far


Sep 09 2014

Gods VS. Rockstars: An Examination of the Philosophies Behind DC and Marvel’s Movies

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Movies are the new comics.

To think that once upon a time the idea of comic book movies consisted of the Tim Burton Batman flicks, a Superman movie that came out in the seventies, and that bootleg Fantastic Four movie you’d see kicking around at most conventions, I still can’t believe the comic flicks we’re getting. Guardians of the Galaxy? Shazam? Before you know it Zauriel and the Impossible Man will be hogging up the silver screen as well. Call me crazy, but look at Rocket Raccoon.

While I’m thrilled by each and every comic book movie adaptation out there, I’m starting to notice a trend running through the Big Two’s franchise flicks. There are warring philosophies between the Distinguished Competition and the House of Ideas and I’m not quite sure how I feel about it. So, I’m gonna subject all of you to this theory and have you sort it out for me. Thanks for being impromptu pop culture psychiatrists, Unrealtors. You’re the swellest.

The thesis of my thought pattern is this: DC movies are about gods, and Marvel’s movies are about rock stars.

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Think about it. Films like Man of Steel, The Dark Knight Rises, and even off-shoots like Watchmen are all deep, heady, philosophically charged examinations of the concepts of heroism, on how society views those they can only ever look up to, and other cerebral, thoughtful subjects. The DC movies remind me of how the ancient Greeks and Romans used to write about their gods and the gods’ power and exploits and faults and falls. These were often heart-wrenching, messy stories of excess, punishment, and the true price of living about it all. I think we’ve evolved these storytelling techniques into the current DC MO, and the films back the theory.

Marvel, on the other hand, is the Behind the Music/Cribs/Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous of superheroes. These heroes laugh, crack jokes, have fun, and never really take themselves too seriously. Even Captain America had some one-liners. The Marvel movies are pure escapism. They allow us to access a more carefree life and indulge us in all those countless fantasies we all had as kids as to what it would be like to fly. The way we idolize Jim Morrison or Sid Vicious or Motley Crue is exactly the same way we’re treating the Marvel heroes.

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When you look at how these movies are received, the theory holds true. A great story of a great god is always going to fascinate and captivate, and The Dark Knight had two of them. That being said, gods can be divisive (as history has shown us once or…several times), and sometimes exploring these omnipotent beings can be uncomfortable and alienate folks. Like it or not, Man of Steel was definitely attempting to dig deeper and while many may claim it failed, it still held true to its beliefs. Like all good keepers of the faith do.

Meanwhile, the Marvel films receive more or less unanimous praise, and it’s understandable. Everyone loves rock start chit-chat, and even if you don’t, you’ll listen to the story still. They’re just too intriguing. Yes, nine times out of ten (Iron Man 2, Incredible Hulk) they’re fairly disposable, but that doesn’t mean they’re not entertaining to listen to. They’re dishy, flashy, and fun. And sometimes we just want exactly that: something simple. Sometimes we don’t want Beethoven. Sometimes we just want to have our ears rocked by Van Halen and that’s that. Not everything has to wring your soul out.

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But there’s a price to pay. The Avengers will never win an acting Oscar. The Dark Knight will never make you laugh at a Galaga joke. Whether or not that’s a good thing is up to the viewer, but the fact remains.

So….where does this leave us? With DC’s new “no jokes” edict being passed around, it looks like gods will remain gods, but with Marvel trying to block out a little of the spotlight and creating dramatic, gripping fare like Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Marvel may be trying to live in the best of both worlds. Winter Solider may be an anomaly though. Time will tell.

One thing is clear, though, these films are making money. Flawed as they all might be, so far, they’re all in the black. So don’t be surprised if neither team changes tactics.

Hopefully in us recognizing these aspects about these films we’ll be able to accept when they’re not the other a little bit better. It’s the same way you need to look at how your family treats that which is important to you. They’re showing the love they have, which may not be the love you want, but it’s something.

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Yeah, I’m bummed DC doesn’t seem to want much light-hearted fare (farewell dreams of a Guy Gardner and/or Kyle Rayner GL flick), but they have a purpose and a drive and I respect that. Yes, I’d love for Marvel to give me that totally bat-shit crazy monstrous Hulk film I’ve craved ever since I devoured Bruce Jones’ run about nineteen times back in the day, but who doesn’t love Hulk smiling after being told to “Smash”?

Besides, it’s all circular, right? Eventually DC will give us another Donnersesque, smiling Superman flick that still kicks ass, and eventually Marvel will pop out another Ang Lee Hulk only, hopefully, more streamlined (though I still say the flick is underrated, but that’s an article for another day.)

Gods (/royalty/major political figures/captains of industry) and rock stars (/pirates/cowboys/rogue knights). They’ve always been interesting, and they always will be. So we might as well grab some popcorn and enjoy the show.

This theory has been kicking around upstairs for a while and I’ve wanted to get it down on digital paper. So, Unrealtors, whatcha think? Sound off, you gods and gods of guitar.

Adam Esquenazi Douglas is a playwright who was born in Texas, grew up in Arkansas, was raised by a Jewish man and a Cuban woman, and, somehow, he doesn’t have an accent. His plays have been produced across the United States from Los Angeles to New York City, as well as in Canada and Japan.

He is co-host of two podcasts, The JimmyJew Podcast Extravaganza and Schmame Over Level 2, which can be found at http://jimmyjew.libsyn.com/ and  http://schmameoverlevel2.libsyn.com/ respectively, as well as on iTunes. He is a contributing writer to www.GamersSchmamers.com.

He currently lives in Brooklyn where he drinks far too much coffee.

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