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Showing posts from 2022

Memory Leaks: Pokemon Shield

πŸ›‘️ Catch Me If You Can... In 1996 Game Freak released two games called Pokemon Red  and Pokemon Blue  for the Nintendo Game Boy. These were JRPGs aimed at 10-year-olds that used a simplified turn-based battle system and were built around a social gimmick. There are 150 creatures called Pokemon in the game and one of the goals is to catch every one of them, only can't do it alone. Red  and Blue  each had Pokemon that were exclusive to that title, so the only way to get everything was to make in-game trades with a friend who owned the other version. The games were tied into a multi-media franchise that included manga, a TV show, and a collectible trading card game. And it was a mega-hit, one of the most successful and influential intellectual properties of the 90s and it continues to this day. In 2019, Pokemon Sword  & Shield  were released, the eighth set of games in the mainline series and the first for a console system that wasn't handheld only. How I Remember It... I mis

Stray Thoughts: Ethical Capitalism

πŸ‘” I Owe My Soul to the Company Store... There's a phrase that gets bandied about in center-left socioeconomic discourse: "There is no ethical consumption under Capitalism." It's an expression of frustration--and often outright dismissal--at one's inability to make sound ethical consumer decisions due to a lack of choices provided by the market. It's a popular enough sentiment that the better part of the third season of The Good Place  was dedicated to it. And it stems from a real dilemma. Most people are basically good most of the time, but we live in a society that inhibits us from acting on our goodness. Nobody goes to the store thinking "Imma exploit me some Indonesian child labor!" We just want a good deal on tennis shoes. So with this essay I would like to explore some of the mechanisms behind this dilemma and relate it to our current political climate and perhaps point out some very obvious solutions. First a little groundwork. The term "

Memory Leaks: Left 4 Dead 2

🧟 In your head, in your head... Left 4 Dead 2  is a co-op 4-player first-person-shooter released for PC and consoles by Valve in 2009, a sequel to their 2008 game Left 4 Dead , and further proof that Valve can release timely sequels so long as they don't have the number "3" in them. How I Remember It... My friend group played a lot of Left 4 Dead . This was in the halcyon days of the late aughts when grim-and-gritty shooters were king and we as a culture weren't completely burned out on zombies yet. In that game you are one of four survivors of a zombie apocalypse fighting your way through the dynamically-populated city to try to get to safety. The aesthetic is "cheesy horror movie" as evidenced by the movie posters on the load screens and the ending credits after a campaign. There are always four protagonists in play--any not covered by players will be played by bots--and you have to work together to prevent being overrun. Left 4 Dead 2  is, honestly, not

So Long and Thanks for all the Tweets

🦀 Take These Broken Wings... I'm writing this post on Thursday, and it's kind of an even bet as to whether or not Twitter will still exist by the time this goes live on Friday. In the two weeks since Elon Musk took it over, the site has become a multi-car train wreck, a flaming shit-show of unimaginable proportions. A lot of doomsayers predicted that this would be the end of the Blue Bird, but I don't think anyone  could have predicted just how fast that end would come. So I thought it would be interesting to talk about how we got here and why. Over the last few years, Twitter has actually gotten pretty good. They've taken a stronger stance on content moderation--not a flawless one by any stretch of the imagination, but incremental improvements. The platform was stable and bringing in new features (such as the long-awaited "edit" button). The timeline algorithm, though people complained, made it possible to stumble upon new weird content. It was my go-to plac

Memory Leaks: Donkey Kong Country

🍌 Take Your Stinking Paws Off Me You Damned Dirty Ape... Donkey Kong Country  was a 2D platformer for the Super Nintendo released in 1994 by Rare. It served as a reboot of the Donkey Kong  franchise that had been languishing for a decade. It featured a new gameplay paradigm, a completely re-designed Kong, and the introduction of new characters like Diddy Kong and Funky Kong. How I Remember It... It's kind of bonkers how out-of-the-blue this game was. Just two years prior Super Mario Kart  had included Donkey Kong Jr as a driver, a character built on the old DK design in a first-party title. And then with DKC  not only is Junior out of the picture entirely, these apes have a brand new look. And not only was it good , it quickly became one of the must-haves for the system. The DNA of this game feels like it owes something to Super Mario Bros. , what with it's two-player semi-coop, it's mix of land and underwater levels, its enemies you defeat by jumping on them, and its many

Stray Thoughts: What is the Point of THE RINGS OF POWER?

πŸ’ ... Comes Great Responsibility... I'm a more-ardent-than-average Tolkien fan. I've read The Silmarillion . I've read Lord of the Rings  multiple times--and in fact am in the middle of yet another re-read. I've pondered the lore, studied the weird details like what happened to the other palantΓ­ri or why Aragorn is heir to both Gonder and Arnor. I'm not like a Stephen Colbert level of Tolkien nerd, but I'm up there. So I want you to keep that in mind as I ask the following question: Why does The Rings of Power  exist? I don't mean from a storytelling perspective. That's easy. Does it need to exist? Of course not. Does Amazon have the rights to the source material that would be necessary to tell the story properly? Hellz no. But is it nonetheless attached to a widely-beloved property and people will watch it anyway just so they can participate in the discourse? Certainly. And does it offer new filmmakers and artists a chance to offer a compelling and un

Memory Leaks: Monument Valley

🐦 Into the Light of a Dark Black Night... Monument Valley  is an indie puzzle game for phones and tablets published by Ustwo Games in 2014. You guide Princess Ida through a series of mazes and puzzles that use optical illusions and shifts in perspective to unlock new paths and solutions. If the perspective shifts so that two separate platforms appear to be next to each other, Ida can now move across them. How I Remember It... This game is a delight. It's atmospheric, mournful, and utterly charming, and on top of all of that it sports solid gameplay using a fairly original mechanic. Just like Portal  was able to take a simple unique gameplay conceit and spin it out into now two full games, Monument Valley  takes an Escher-inspired landscape and teases out a series of increasingly intricate puzzles for you to navigate. The game does a great job of balancing its elements. It knows when to lean on gameplay and when to streamline that in order to let the story have a moment to shine. T

Stray Thoughts: You're Wrong About IDIOCRACY

🧠 I Am So Smart, S-M-R-T... Idiocracy  is a 2006 film by Mike Judge, the first movie he'd directed since 1999's cult classic Office Space . It tells the story of Joe, a perfectly average, er... man... chosen to participate in a human hibernation experiment that went wrong, leaving him stranded 500 years in the future. In this horrific future, intelligence has been bred out of humanity and the world is on the brink of collapse, and now Joe is the smartest person on the planet. Can he evade capture? (spoiler: no) Can he help heal the world? (spoiler: kinda) Hijinks ensue! Idiocracy  has become something of a cultural touchstone, frequently name-checked as a scathing satire of the dumbing down of society, a film that shines the light on our cultural milieu and just eviscerates it. And it's an accolade that I don't think is completely justified. This is a thought that's been niggling at the back of my brain for a while now. You see, over the years I've heard people

Memory Leaks: Super MarioKart

🏎️ He's Going the Distance, He's Going For Speed... Super MarioKart  was a 1992 kart-racing game released for the Super Nintendo. It was a spin-off of Nintendo's flagship Mario  franchise and would kick off its own series that is among the most popular on the platform-- MarioKart 8 Deluxe  is the highest-selling game for the Switch. The game was, amongst other things, a showcase for the Super Nintendo's Mode 7 chip that allowed for pseudo-3D rendering of flat maps. It is credited with creating the kart-racing genre of video games and regularly shows up on greatest-videogame-of-all-time lists, frequently taking the top spot. How I Remember It... We're now eight games deep in this franchise, and it's funny to look back and see just how much of the enduring core gameplay elements were present from its very first installment. Different-colored shells that behaved differently, question blocks, coins, jumps, shortcuts, unlockables, drifting, the rubber-band AI, the i

A Couple of Book Announcements

πŸ€– Domo Arigato... Hey everybody, I've got a couple of book announcements to make. So lately when people ask me what I write, I've just been saying that I write "mostly silly stories about robots". Which is more or less true. And I've come to realize that a lot of my stories just aren't readily available. They're paywalled, or they're in an anthology that's out of print, or they've succumbed to link rot, etc. I tried the reprint markets without much success (read: any  success) and it occurred to me that I have enough of them that I could just package them up in an ebook and make them available that way--especially if I could come up with a witty title and find an adequately adorable cover at a reasonable price. So with all of that said, I'm putting out an ebook of short stories with an adorable cover and a witty title. This will be coming out... soon. I need to make sure everything in there is out of exclusivity, and I want to put a few no

Memory Leaks: Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins

πŸͺ™ They Wanna Get My Gold On The Ceiling... Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins  was the sequel to Super Mario Land , making it the second proper game in the Mario  franchise released for the Nintendo Game Boy. It directly followed Super Mario World  for the Super Nintendo and introduced the world to Wario, who would not only be an enduring villain for Nintendo, but a character who would have multiple franchises in his own right. How I Remember It... You ever wonder why the bundled title for Game Boy systems wasn't one of Nintendo's first-party games? Think about it. You own the IP for Mario, Zelda, Donkey Kong, and Metroid, and when you debut a handheld system, the thing you package with it is... Tetris . A puzzle game that tons of people already had on their computers, that was being simultaneously released for the Nintendo console. That's  what you bundle as the killer app for your new handheld system. Why would you do that? I'll tell you why. It's because Tetris

Find Me At Archon 45

πŸ“› Power Overwhelming... Hey everybody, Next weekend, September 30 - October 2, is Archon 45, a science fiction and fantasy conference held in Collinsville, Illinois. I'm going to be there appearing on and moderating panels, and if you're going to be there and want to run into me, here's where I'm definitely going to be! Friday 5:00 PM, Marquette A - Blowing Up the Death Star is Easy, Comedy is Hard Presenter - Being funny on paper is a much different animal than telling a joke to your friends, and while a well-told joke can make a story shine, a badly-told one can completely undermine the work. Stop by for an overview of the way humor functions in stories, the mechanics behind it, and maybe even an answer to the question of why we'll never have another Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams. 7:00 PM, Salon 6 - A Nightmare on Hawkins Street: Stranger Things Season 4 Panelist - A review of Season 4 and a look into Season 5. Saturday 10:00 AM, Fishbowl - Author Reading with

The Real Problem with Black Elves (clickbait title)

🧝🏿 ... For Mortal Men Doomed to Die... Author's note: One thing I don't engage with at all in this essay is the notion of representation, not because it isn't important, but more because a lot of people more qualified than I am have already weighed in. Instead, I'm sticking to things that I am more familiar with: storytelling tools and white self-identity. So there's been no shortage of hubbub lately around color-blind casting in epic fantasy prestige television. People are getting awfully upset that there are black Targaryans, or black elves and dwarves in The Rings of Power . They claim that Tolkien intended The Silmarillion , the lore of which is the basis for The Rings of Power , as an ancient history of England, and that to put non-white people in it does not accurately reflect a time before widespread travel would allow for intercontinental race-mixing. And why would the Noldor or the Eldar or the proto-Hobbits be non-white? And others have pointed out that,

The Obligatory ADHD Blog Post

πŸƒ‍♂️ Get Out Your Seat and Jump Around... This week I was officially diagnosed with ADHD. Like most adult ADHD-ers, we figured it out when one of my children was diagnosed a few years ago, because he's "just like his father". Then I started watching Jessica McCabe's How to ADHD  channel on YouTube--which I heartily recommend to anyone with a child or loved one dealing with it--and while I initially tuned in to try to help understand my son better, what I was seeing instead was a series of eerily-accurate descriptions of my own life and my own brain. So in that way, diagnosis was just a formality; I've known for a while now. I'd never been evaluated at all as a child, even though I constantly fidgeted, because I got good grades. I'm smart and really good at taking tests. And while I was hyper , I was a a fairly palatable flavor of hyper. I forgot things and lost things and got turned around in conversations and all of the usual tells, but I had enough of a

Stray Thoughts: "The Algorithm"

Facebook has decided that I am very interested in the legal and personal drama surrounding the 20th anniversary of the debut album from the Murderdolls... a band I had never heard of twenty minutes before I started writing this post. This is broadly amusing to me. I regularly see posts about metal bands, even though the only metal band I follow at all is Tool--and they're pretty unorthodox in the genre. And I frequently linger on the posts because even if I don't care about the band or the genre, music discussion is somewhat interesting to me. And then you get point-counterpoint posts about who really owns the rights to Beyond the Valley of the Murderdolls , which is an excellent title, I have to admit... but I don't actually care or want to see any more of this content. Now, it's easy to decry this as "the algorithm" failing, but honestly, this is the algorithm behaving as intended. It noticed that I lingered on a post and decided to feed me more of that. Con

Memory Leaks: Super Mario World

πŸ¦– Oooh, baby, baby it's a wild world... Super Mario World  was released in November 1990 in Japan and August 1991 in North America as a launch title for the Super Nintendo. Coming out at the height of the Console Wars ™ , it is widely considered the best 2D game in the Mario franchise, and occasionally cited as the best video game ever made. It's the best-selling game on its platform--which is saying something as this is the same platform that gave us Nintendo's current best-selling franchise: Mario Kart . How I Remember It... My first exposure to Super Mario World  happened one summer during our church youth group's choir tour. The host family a group of us were staying with had a SNES and we ended up staying up all night playing it. We got as far as the Forest of Illusion before we got stuck. That's the area where the main exits in all of the levels lead you in a loop--the only way to escape that area on the overworld map is to find hidden exits in the levels. So

WorldCon, Werewolves, and Uncle Fluffy

🌐 Saturday in the park, I think it was the fourth of July... Hey everybody, I'm going to be at WorldCon in Chicago in a couple of weeks. This is my first WorldCon, so I'll definitely be taking in the panels and events as an audience member, but I'm also going to be a participant. Here's what I'll be up to! Gaming On Friday night I'm running a game of Werewolf, which, for the uninitiated, is a social deduction game. It's kind of like Among Us , but analog. Should be fun, especially if participants have already started drinking. Panels I'm going to be on three panels over the course of the weekend and, bonus, I'm moderating all three of them. They are: Space Westerns An Intro to the MCU Film's Changing Sound Quality I do enjoy moderating panels and am really looking forward to these discussions. Concert I'm putting on a concert! Er... that is to say, I have a thirty minutes set midday Saturday. But it still counts! And what will I be playing,

Memory Leaks: Team Fortress 2

🏰 Just the two of us building castles in the sky... The original Team Fortress  was a Quake  mod that pitted two teams against each other in first-person-shooter death-matches. The gimmick was that the player would choose one of nine classes that all played wildly differently: Solder, Scout, Spy, Sniper, Pyro, Heavy, Medic, Demoman, and Engineer. It was popular enough that Valve hired the team who developed it to port it to the GoldSrc engine in 1997 as Team Fortress Classic  to promote their software-development kit. In 2007, a sequel was made that preserved core gameplay but gave the game a visual overhaul. It was released as part of The Orange Box , alongside Portal  and a whole bunch of games with Half-Life 2  in their name. How I Remember It... Before Fortnite  or Overwatch , there was Team Fortress 2 , an online class-based shooter in which red and blue teams would compete to capture flags or control points or... whatever. I have spent an embarrassing number of hours playing thi

Memory Leaks: Myst

πŸ“š Just take a look, it's in a book... Myst  was a point-and-click puzzle/adventure game published in 1993 by Broderbund and developed for PC by Cyan. It was a surprise runaway hit, becoming the best-selling PC in the world and holding onto that title until 2002. Its success helped drive CD-ROM as a format for gaming and PC entertainment. In it, you explore an island whose various locations contain books that double as portals to other realms called "Ages". In each of these realms you collect blue and red pages that can be used to complete books in Myst's central library. These books appear to be holding people inside them, each one swearing that the other cannot be trusted. Which one should you free? How I Remember It... This felt like a game for smart people--especially when you compare it to the other runaway PC gaming success of 1993, which was Doom , the game the popularized first-person shooters. Myst  was a quieter and thinkier game that felt like it was delibe

Stray Thoughts: Hannah Gadsby is a Goddamn Genius

πŸ• At the dog park! Hannah Gadsby's Netflix special Nanette  was a ground-breaking and rule-breaking performance that completely shattered the paradigm of what a comedy special could be. Halfway through the show she "quits" and starts reframing the content of the first half in terms of the trauma behind it. It broke the internet a little and made Gadsby a household name in the States, while also being a cathartic crie du coeur that spoke to millions. It's her masterpiece So let's talk about  Douglas . Douglas  was the show Gadsby wrote after Nanette , and it's one of my favorite comedy specials. I think I've watched it four times now. I don't know if it will every surpass Eddie Izzard's Dressed To Kill , but it is nonetheless fantastic. "At the dog park!" has become one of those lines we just say around the house now. And while I find it funny--because it's quite funny--what I truly admire is the unique way Gadsby employs a framing de

Memory Leaks: GoldenEye 007

πŸ•΅️ But you can't touch them, no, 'cause they're all spies... GoldenEye 007  is a 1997 first-person-shooter developed by Rare for the Nintendo 64 console. It was based on the 1995 James Bond film of the same name and adheres loosely to the movie's narrative while fleshing out the environments and backstory. The overall gameplay and story mode were celebrated, however, the reason this game is so well-remembered is because of the multiplayer death-matches. Ironically, the death-match wasn't even intended to be part of the game--it was just something the devs screwed around with in their downtime, but it was so popular at Rare that they ended up including it. And lucky them. For many people, it was the  reason to own a Nintendo 64. How I Remember It... I was one of those people. I missed out on the 64 when it was new (my family eventually got one, but it stayed at home when I went to college). In high school I had a friend named Mikey and we'd get four of us togeth