Archive for the ‘Editorial’ Category

Warning: This post contains content some people may consider a “spoiler”.

This weekend I did something I don’t normally do, I went to the cinema to see a movie. Something that is so uncommon, the last movie I saw at one was Horrible Bosses, which I thought was really funny, but pretty shallow beyond that. Yesterday I saw Chronicle, a Sci-Fi/Thriller about three high school students who develop super powers through mysterious circumstances.

The movie takes place through cameras that are already present in the world. In other words, the actors are aware they are being filmed. The main character, Andrew, is chronicling his life (no lie, I just figured out how they got the title of the movie), carrying his camera with him everywhere he goes. This works well because his telekinesis allows him to make the camera float around when all three boys are onscreen. At other times cell phone cameras, security cameras and police helicopter cameras are also used. It’s a technique that isn’t used very often is movies, as a matter of fact I never seen another movie that did it, but I’m sure there have been some.

I only have two problems with the movie. The first is that they don’t really explain where the powers came from. It shows the boys going through a cave underground and finding this glowing boulder, then later going back and being unable to access it again. However they never said what the boulder was, where it came from or how they got their powers from it.

My second issue was with the ending. They don’t say what happens with Andrew’s cousin, Matt. They kinda wrap up the movie with him at the end but don’t show any aftermath from the movie’s climax or what he does moving forward with his powers. I’d like to know if he returned to face the consequences of the climax or went into seclusion.

It takes a little while to get going, but once it does, it’s good. I enjoyed it enough to recommend as a solid Sci-Fi/Thriller. I’d probably go see it again for the matinee price.

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Scribblenauts Remix is an iOS remake of a Nintendo DS game that easily became the best iteration of the series. The game felt like it could have been originally designed for the iOS platorm and the $0.99 price insured that the maximum amount of people would play it. It came with only 25 levels, which is a little less then I would have expected, given other iOS games like Angry Birds, Cut The Rope and Where’s My Water? initially started off with many more levels then that. But who am I to complain. I paid less then $1 for a better experience then I would have paid $30 for brand new or $17 on Amazon right now.

Today I heard there is a DLC pack with 20 more levels on it. But wait, it’s DLC, that means I have to pay more money for more levels. Something you rarely see in iOS games.

I enjoyed playing the first group of levels in Scribblenauts Remix, I even have $40 worth of iTunes cash from Christmas waiting to be spent. I, however, will not be purchasing the new levels. There are plenty of free games and free content updates out there that I don’t want to be supporting a new trend I hope doesn’t catch on.

Fan service.  It’s that little bit of nerd culture that we all have a love/hate relationship with.  On one hand, it can be a love letter from creators to the fans to show them how much they appreciate and “get” us.  On the other hand, it can be that filthy, diseased whore they dump on us for a quick cash grab that does little more than insult our commitment.

Christian Bale's own words: "Abed is Batman now."

 

After watching last night’s episode of Community, Foosball and Nocturnal Vigilantism, I started to think about how fan service has always been that carrot on a stick for the loyal community… that just might be drenched in hot sauce.  Last night saw the return of Abed’s (played by Danny Puddi) Batman costume, first seen in season 1’s Halloween episode.  I’m sure many a nerd can find something to relate to in Troy and Abed, but what is so exciting about Abed’s portrayal of Batman is how true to the comic/movie hero it is done.  The deep, graveled voice; the stoic expression; the lanky figure… wait, what?  It is so comically ironic that fans can’t help but love it and last night’s episode was the unexpected fan service from the under appreciated show that displayed the true respect creators have for their fans.

Sad, sad Justice League

But not all fan service comes off as “customer appreciation.”  The Big Bang Theory often has characters dressing up as comic heroes but comes off as ridicule of some of their nerd audience.  Both times Batman has appeared on Community, he has been about dispensing justice and saving lives from a collapsing desk fort.  On the Big Bang Theory, it’s always a point of amusement and the utter sadness of the characters’ lives.

This isn't want you wanted, but let's be honest, it's what you really want, right?

Then there’s the obvious cash grabs like the Final Fantasy series.  The series had its sleeper hit for fans with Final Fantasy VI (known as Final Fantasy III in the US) and the fandom rocketed with the Playstation title Final Fantasy VII.  Even Final Fantasy VIII has a devoted fan base.  Then came Final Fantasy X, the first entry of the series on the Playstation 2.  It has its fans, but not to the same level as the Playstation 1 titles has.  Yet the first true sequel we received, bringing back beloved characters was Final Fantasy X-2.  It was a move where the fan service was so overshadowed by a TnA shaped cash grab with drastically different and unrefined gameplay from FFX that it still remains a joke to this day.

Still not what you want?

Fast forward to today and we have a new Final Fantasy sequel on the way.  After getting fanboys and girls excited at the launch of the PS3 with a performance video stunningly recreating the opening of Final Fantasy VII, we get a sequel in the form of Final Fantasy XIII-2.  It is yet to be seen how the final product will perform, but FFXIII left audiences a bit mixed.  It wasn’t exactly the Final Fantasy we were all hoping for.  This is another example in the attitude of Japanese developers saying “we know what we’re doing and just let us make our games.”  That’s not love for the fans, that’s the crack rock you toss out to keep them coming back.  Maybe it’s because of a language barrier, but it doesn’t really seem like developers are listening to fans.

Nerd-gasm!

But not all is doom and gloom in the world of video games when it comes to the fans.  World of Warcraft has Zelda references.  DC Universe Online has easter eggs for Donkey Kong and Futurama fans.  Why even Square Enix, with its greedy little sequels at least has given us a franchise to see high resolution versions of the characters we’ve fallen in love with over the years.  Even with the bitter chaser of Disney characters, Square Enix has given us the delightful splash to the video game palette in the form of Kingdom Hearts.  A series mixed with equal parts fan appreciation and advertising cash cow, we’ve been served a mixed plate I’m happy to devour.  I’ll have an appetizer of the Disney characters so long as it prepares me for the AI assisted battle fought beside Cloud, Squall, and Tifa in real time.

What do all of you think of fan service?  Has Abed made you buy that Batman suit you’ve always wanted from Amazon or has The Big Bang Theory scared you away from ever wanting to take justice into your own hands?  What fan service has made you feel loved and what ones have made you feel like they just phoned it in?

Rick and Hershel from The Walking Dead Season 2

AMC's The Walking Dead features interpersonal squabbles and also sometimes zombies.

We’ve reached the mid-season break on The Walking Dead Season 2 and with no new episodes until the show returns February 12th, 2012, we might as well reflect a little bit on what we’ve seen so far.  It’s certainly been different from the first season and the Internet’s full of complaints about things like the slow pace but there’s also been some stuff that could lead to great television in the second half.

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2011 Holiday Shopping Guide

Posted: November 20, 2011 by diablo343 in Editorial, Gaming
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Another Holiday season is upon us and chances are if you are reading this you have a gamer on your list and are clueless as to what to buy them. Fear not, my friend, I have compiled a list of some of this year’s best gift ideas for gamers of all ages and genders. From games to giftcards to accessories to what not to do, I have it all covered. Just listen closely and you will increase your chances of seeing a happy face on Christmas morning rather then a disappointed one.

Games:
When entering a gaming store, or the gaming section of your local electronics retailer, it’s very easy to become disoriented by the vast selection of available titles. Instead of rifling through box after box and guessing which one your recipient might like, approach a customer service representative and ask for one of these following hits:

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
Available for: Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC, Wii, DS
Target Audience: Adult or mature gamers, online gamers, fans of first-person shooters
Why: CoD:MW3 has received praise from all its critics and is heralded as one of the best online multiplayer first person shooter games available for consoles. The game has only been out for a couple weeks but is already setting the standard for realistic console shooters to come.

Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Available for: Nintendo Wii
Target Audience: Gamers of all ages and both genders, retro gamers, adventure and fantasy fans
Why: The original gaming generation, people currently 25-35, now have families of their own and young children who are probably also gamers. LoZ:SS takes gamers back to the glory days of the original Nintendo console and will undoubtedly be one of the top sellers for the Wii this season.

Forza Motorsport 4
Available for: Xbox 360
Target Audience: Gearheads, men of all ages
Why: Forza Motorsport 4 is this year’s must-have racing title. The realistic graphics, long career mode and excellent gameplay ensures great replayability and a long life in your gamer’s collection.

Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
Available for: PlayStation3
Target Audience: Action gamers, men 18-35
Why: Uncharted 3 is this year’s must have PS3 title. The stunning graphics and movie like storyline are big reasons it is winning over critics and gamers alike.

Plants vs. Zombies
Available for: PC, Mac, iOS, DS, XBLA
Target Audience: Men, woman, children, teens, adults, casual gamers, experienced gamers, gamers with lower end PCs, gifters on a budget
Why: Plants vs. Zombies is a very simple concept that is performed excellently. Its story mode is easy enough for the most casual of casual gamers and the extra modes will keep the experienced gamers coming back for weeks to try to get higher scores. Plus the under $20 price will keep your wallet happy too. This game is a few years old, but the game still holds up. It may be harder to find, but if your gamer hasn’t played it, they should.

Super Mario Land 3D
Available for: 3DS
Target Audience: People who own 3DSes
Why: Why? Because 3DS owners do not have a lot of great game options right now. This is one of the few you can’t go wrong with.

But what if the gamer you’re shopping for already has all the games they want? Here are some non-game ideas:

Accessories
Every gamer can use some accessories for their systems, most popular would be controllers. When buying controllers try to stick with the first party manufacturers; Nintendo, Microsoft, Sony, they may cost a little more but they are usually the most reliable, responsive and comfortable to use. Another accessory is rechargeable battery packs as well as recharge stations. Most battery packs consist of two AA batteries, which can get costly and annoying.

Another excellent idea is giftcards. These could come in many forms, such as a predetermined amount to a favorite brick and mortar or online store, a subscription to a game magazine, a few months subscription to a rental service like Gamefly or Gametap, Xbox Live memberships or currency in online games or services like Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, or iTunes.

Things to avoid
Just with any hobby in life, if you are unfamiliar with gaming as a whole you may be clueless when it comes to shopping for a gamer. My first tip of advice is to avoid general merchandise stores. Although they often have the best prices on everything else, their video games are overpriced. This doesn’t include new releases since they have a common starting price but these stores are often the last ones to reduce prices on older games. On top of this their employees, though probably nice people, are less likely to be knowledgeable on all things gaming, especially during the holiday season, when workers may be asked to work outside of their normal departments during peak hours. Stick to gaming or electronic specific stores.

With so many sequels in today’s market it is imperative you get the right edition of a game. With Guitar Hero for example there are a half dozen editions that have been released in the last couple years that can easily be mistaken for each other, this is where going to a general merchandise store could affect you.

Finally, make sure you are purchasing for the correct console. Not only can games be crossed up across the current generation’s platforms, but distinguishing PS2 from PS3 is a must. Funny story, when I was a young teenager I wanted Final Fantasy VII for the PC for Christmas because I didn’t own a PlayStation. My Mom wrapped up a good sized box and put my Dad’s name on it. I wasn’t paying attention when he opened it but he pulled out a handful of games and handed them to me. I was disappointed because although one of them was FFVII, it was for PlayStation not PC. My mom acted shocked and couldn’t believe she had bought games for the wrong system. My Dad then pulled a PlayStation out of the box and I couldn’t believe it. Feel free to use this on your own child, but don’t be expecting it work as well on them. I am a gullible person. A few weeks prior, my sister asked my opinion on which system I preferred, PlayStation or Nintendo 64 claiming her boss wanted to buy one but wasn’t sure which. I was just glad to give my opinion, not at all thinking the system was for me.

Following these ideas might not win over every gamer, but it will be successful for most of them. Also, if anyone who might be buying me something is reading this, all of these ideas would make a great edition to my gaming library.

The Walking Dead Hates Women

Posted: November 15, 2011 by Matt Nawrocki in Editorial
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Got a good response from last week’s editorial about The Walking Dead Season 2’s slow progress through the first four episodes, so I figured I’d touch on another irritating aspect to the show that came to a head this week.  When the show’s good, it’s good but when it’s bad, it’s so, so bad.  Spoilers incoming, so if you’re not caught up on the series, watch out.

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The Walking Dead on AMC continues as a ratings hit but nerds around the Internet are speaking out against the slow pace of the show.  We’re now through four of this season’s thirteen episodes and the show continues to focus on the search for Sophia, the little girl that got lost in the season premiere.

The biggest issue is the show cares a whole lot more about the characters than the viewers do.  This little girl was an afterthought for the entire first season and hasn’t been developed at all but suddenly viewers caring about her is supposed to support a quarter of the season?

To make matters worse, many side plots feature lackluster action like the Andrea character wanting to learn about guns but people being nervous about letting her.  Even these side plots are extremely sparse.  American Horror Story on FX features more happening before the first commercial break of an episode (not all of it necessarily good) than The Walking Dead has this entire season.  Daryl, the most interesting and likeable character from the first season, is mostly stuck in the background of this one.  He’s spent most of the season just calling out Sophia’s name.

Another major complaint about this season involves the lack of zombie battles.  Aside from one episode, we’ve seen almost no zombies this season.  This week’s was particularly bad, only one zombie appeared in the entire episode.  Quips like, “You should have expected that, they call it ‘The Walking Dead,’ not ‘The Walking Deads,'” aside, it feels like they’re neglecting the whole draw of the show in favor of endless slice-of-life “this is the way the world works” speeches cut and pasted from any other kind of show.

I know they’re trying to be clever and the name of the show has double meaning as a metaphor and refers to the characters being “dead inside” or whatever living in this post-apocalyptic world.  The problem is at least 90% of zombie movies use this exact same “clever” metaphor, going back over 40 years to the original Night of the Living Dead.  Every zombie media creator goes on about how their project is different, deeper and smarter because they focus on people rather than the zombie carnage and every single one has the same obnoxious unlikeable characters that argue about stupid stuff and do dumb things no real person would ever do.  Zombie writers, producers and directors, get over yourselves and just give people the zombies they came for.

One of the things readers enjoy about the Walking Dead comic is that the book isn’t afraid to kill major characters as a complete surprise.  It adds to the suspense because you can’t say, “This situation’s tense but that guy’s the hero so they’ll definitely make it.”  While the show’s killed some characters, major ones outlived where they died in the comics and it seems like they’re a little more reluctant to play fast and loose with people viewers become attached to.

While this season hasn’t been as good as it could, it’s important to keep things in perspective.  As far as zombie movies go, there are some great ones but the vast majority are nearly unwatchable.  For every Dawn of the Dead, there’s a pile of garbage like Dead & Breakfast, House of the Dead and the Day of the Dead remake.  Even George Romero slipped with Diary and Survival of the Dead, both as bad as any zombie movie of the last few years.  So while this season of The Walking Dead has been a little tedious, it could be so much worse.  The bar for zombie media is set so low that while there’s a lot of wasted potential, The Walking Dead is still definitely worth watching for zombie nuts.  It’s just a shame they can’t fully capitalize on potential and make some truly amazing television.