Editorial

Well, Why Shouldn’t We Call Black Widow A Slut?

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Well, Why Shouldn’t We Call Black Widow A Slut?

So Jeremy Renner is in “internet trouble” because in an interview last month he called Black Widow a slut, and then this week on Conan he defended that statement; Black Widow is definitely a slut.

The internet jumped on him (though, seriously guys, can we keep the death-threats to a minimum? Like zero?) and people are upset and telling him to shut it. I don’t want to attack him (I honestly do like the guy, most of the time, and I admire his resolve to not back down under pressure) but I want to look at what prompts that kind of comment, why people are entitled to their opinions no matter what they are, and why some words are unhelpful.

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This Is a Joke, Right?

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This Is a Joke, Right?

There are times, when words are not enough. I am an eternal proponent of the written word, and I am at a loss when I find myself in a position where this happens. I admit this only under times of extreme duress – I am speechless. I am at a loss for words.

jared__leto_joker_

This is one of those times. I don’t need to say anything about the above. I don’t need to critique it. Your brain is doing it for you. You have taste. You understand what is acceptable, and what is not.

The question, is, naturally, how and why on earth did this design concept make it past the drawing board, let alone through the approval process? If you have an answer, and if that answer is cogent, and well reasoned, please let us know. Please.
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Why Marvel Should Kill Spider-Man

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Why Marvel Should Kill Spider-Man

Last week’s announcement of Sony and Marvel Studios finally coming together will go down in the history books for sure, and may even pave the way for other wayward franchises to find their way back home. Since his creation by Stan Lee and Steve Ditko in 1962, the wall crawler has been a major part of nearly every Marvel milestone to date. Even Marvel’s current movie success has ol’ Web-Head to thank with his 2001 blockbuster Spider-Man when it blew the door open for more comic book movies to come. So it would be crazy to turn our back on all of that and kill Peter Parker, right?

No, that makes now the perfect time to KILL PETER PARKER!

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Lords of Shadow 2 is style over substance

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Lords of Shadow 2 is style over substance

I’m probably way too charitable when it comes to Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2. It’s a disappointment not because it isn’t engaging but because it so often is, right up until it suddenly falters.

Konami and Mercury Storm’s latest collaboration has met with…mixed reviews. It currently holds a critical metascore of 63 on Metacritic, with some particularly savage scores in the 50s and 40s. Common complaints include the game’s uneven pacing, its baffling mandatory-stealth sections, and its sizable borrowed arsenal of copycat mechanics.

Despite all that, I enjoyed my time with LoS2. Maybe it’s the game’s unabashedly bombastic tone; ham-handed melodrama goes down easy when mated to baroque aesthetics and a basically competent combat system. Maybe it’s lingering fondness for Mercury Storm’s previous entry, a stash of goodwill regularly renewed by the occasional clever callback or stirring moment. Maybe it’s the game’s expansive sense of scope; not that much actually happens in LoS2, but it’s a lot of very dramatic nothing.

Or maybe it’s just gratitude for another (relatively) big-budget action-adventure title on the console market that doesn’t star the Batman. I had begun to fear they were going extinct.

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[Editorial] Star Trek: In Defense of J.J. Abrams

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[Editorial] Star Trek: In Defense of J.J. Abrams

On May 16 of 2013 Star Trek: Into Darkness released in theaters. The film was well-received by critics and went on to score the largest box office returns in the franchise’s history. (On a more personal note, Into Darkness was reviewed favorably by our own Leland Pierce.) But less than three months later at the One Trek Mind Live panel in Las Vegas, Into Darkness was hailed as the worst Star Trek film in a live voting poll – worse even than the much-lamented The Final Frontier and notorious stinker Nemesis, and placing significantly below 1999 Star Trek send-up Galaxy Quest – which is not even a Star Trek film. 

To be completely fair, as One Trek Mind specifically states in the link:

“Now, just because something has to come in last doesn’t make it a bad film. Somebody has to bring up the rear! But others in the press (see Hollywood Reporter) felt the need to stir up some controversy.”

I’m not criticizing One Trek Mind in any way, shape, or form. I’m aiming at the the vocal element that seems to hold the Abrams-verse up as the worst thing that has ever happened to science fiction.

I raised a good old-fashioned Spock eyebrow to that one; the kind of people who vote in a poll at the Star Trek 2013 convention conjure a very specific mental image. I’ll leave that image to your own personal imagination, but I can imagine they wouldn’t be the kind of audience that would look favorably upon any creative license taken with the Holy Grail of the Star Trek canon: The Wrath of Khan.

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Fears of FCC Overreach Overblown and Misleading

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Fears of FCC Overreach Overblown and Misleading

This Tuesday, A District of Columbia court of appeals ruled against certain key elements of “net neutrality.” The court opinion takes a bit of reading, but can be summed up thusly:

That said, even though the Commission has general authority to regulate in this arena, it may not impose requirements that contravene express statutory mandates. Given that the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such.

Free speech and net neutrality advocates have criticized the decision as a concession to ISPs, and rightfully so. But Wired’s recent article on the subject by think-tank advocates Berin Szoka and Geoffrey Manne argues the real danger lies not in corporate restriction but a more sinister force yet: the tyrannical authority the decision grants to the FCC to regulate the contents of the Internet.

It shouldn’t be surprising, since both Szoka and Manne are leaders for think-tanks (TechFreedom and the International Center for Law and Economics, respectively) fiercely opposed to “inefficient” government regulation. While anyone who’s kept up with recent news knows concerns over government invasion of privacy and freedom of speech are real and pertinent, Manne and Szoka’s arguments rely on questionable, misleading anti-government fear-mongering and free-market evangelism.

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Giving Violence Weight

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Giving Violence Weight

If I was so pretentious as to try and ascribe themes to my random musings – and believe me, I am– then I’d have to say a growing theme in 2013 for me has been giving game violence weight.

No, wait! Come back! I’m not going to go all Jack Thompson on you!

Let’s be clear: this isn’t some moral objection to violent content. For the storyteller – and any game designer is a storyteller, whether or not plot becomes a strong element of the game – violence is a tool like any other. (Fictional) violence can be thrilling, harrowing, righteous, cruel, vicious, traumatic, self-destructive or futile, and all of these are well and good.

The one thing it shouldn’t be is filler.

And yet in many cases, that’s precisely what it is: rote, something included for the sake of genre or market appeal, detached from the story being told. Violence should engage the player with the narrative, but all too often all it does is occupy them between significant intervals.

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Setting sail is more compelling than stabbing in Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag

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Setting sail is more compelling than stabbing in Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag

I’d guess I got halfway through Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, and I still couldn’t give you a succinct plot summary.

It’s not that Black Flag is lacking in interesting characters or topics. If anything, the game is crammed over-full with features and potential plot arcs, many maddeningly under-explored. Black Flag is overflowing with things that would, in a more restrained title, be enough to carry it on their own – naval battles! Stealthy assassinations! The story of the short-lived Pirate Republic of Nassau! The exploitation of the New World by imperial powers!

And let’s not forget the modern-day conspiracy drama, just in case there wasn’t already enough material in the historical narrative. Better still, let’s – it’s not bad by any means, but it’s mostly a cheeky tweak at the gaming industry itself.

Protagonist Edward Kenway is a layabout on a rambling mission: get rich quickly. Whenever you’re at the helm of his stolen Jackdaw, Black Flag picks up the pace. But whenever he gets dragged back into the hoary old conflict between smug Assassins and sneering Templars – usually after some bizarrely self-righteous criticism about following a higher purpose by carrying on an endless and to all appearances pointless clandestine war – Black Flag, well, flags behind.

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Killer is Dead and shallow absurdism

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Killer is Dead and shallow absurdism

Criticizing any Suda51 game for not making sense is a dangerous business. Surrealist, deliberately bizarre narratives are the eccentric developer’s stock in trade. And Killer is Dead’s jumbled mishmash of vague globe-trotting assassination narrative, well-worn eclectic gameplay, and decidedly jarring neon aesthetic is too deliberately incoherent – studiously so, even – for mere accident.

Making this little sense takes effort. And deliberately thumbing one’s nose at artistic conventions has a long and proud tradition in other mediums. Killer is Dead, like several other entries in Suda51’s oeuvre, invokes absurdist artistic movements such as Dadaism and Surrealism in its casual disregard for verisimilitude and its bizarre, almost tauntingly self-aware attitude.

Unfortunately given these high ambitions, KiD only mimics absurdist forms. Its shallow deconstruction fails to compensate for average game-play, forgettable cast, uncomfortable sexism and a completely incoherent narrative. Killer is Dead is a testament to literary techniques not always surviving the transition between mediums.

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In The Last of Us, the worst monsters don’t come from bites or spores

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In The Last of Us, the worst monsters don’t come from bites or spores

When the first The Last of Us trailers came out two years ago, Creative Director Neil Druckmann was quick to say TLoU wasn’t a zombie game.

“If it were about the monsters, we would have not showed them. The story’s not about them, so [we thought] let’s get it out of the way.”

Druckmann’s statement is true, but misleading. The Last of Us is a story intimately concerned with monsters – how they’re made, why they prey on others, how they’ve vanquished. It just isn’t concerned with the ones made by infection.

During their live E3 interview, Naughty Dog’s developers cited the works of Cormac McCarthy as a major influence. No Country for Old Men’s bleak neo-Western aesthetic is clear in many areas of TLoU, and the plot – the somewhat aimless journey of an adult-child duo across a blasted, post-apocalyptic environment in search of a nebulous goal – certainly evokes McCarthy’s The Road. I was personally tempted to parallel the plot and themes with those of the film Children of Men (2006), another story about hope and hopelessness in the twilight of a dying society.

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