The Menagerie: Japanese, Bungie, and Vietnam all rolled into one.

Although my subject matter in this blog tends to jump from post to post to the point of being erratic, I have a tendency to be pretty single-minded in the actual content itself, not deviating from start to finish, save for natural writing progression. With the school year winding down, however, I have a lot of things both gaming and non-gaming related on my mind. It may thusly be nice to condense them all into one post for once and adapt the multi-subject style I've seen a lot of the more prominent bloggers adopt on here within the past year-ish, so without further ado, let the subject jumping commence.
 
Oh, and I apologize ahead of time, but I have no tl;dr this time. I have no idea how the hell I'd summarize this post so succinctly anyway, so my bad if I encourage a bit of literacy. Woops.
 

Year 2 of uni Japanese is done.


  Just this once, this site is going to see what it's like to talk about Japan when it has nothing to do with stagnating JRPGs or this game. Amazing.
When I was in high school, we were given our choice of two languages. Practical people like myself picked Spanish because, hey, kinda large Mexican population in Colorado while other people went the more arguably flowery route and opted for French. I bring this up because my experiences in university Japanese sometimes have an odd knack for mirroring what happened while I was learning Mexican Spanish. In high school, for example, I really began to hit my stride in fluency toward the end of my second year and so, too, has the case been with Japanese. It's not to say that I was speaking or writing like a native then, nor that I am now with Japanese, but with two years under my belt, it's enough time to really get a good grip on the language and feel confident about experimenting with the grammatical mechanics and vocabulary. As a longtime writer, this is an extremely important thing, as more flexibility always equals better articulation of what's going in my mind. You could probably surmise as much from my generally rambling style.
 
It's not to say that it was all happy times studying Japanese for the entire year, though. The intermediate level is where you can start running into a lot of road blocks and have generally slower progress in getting from point A to point B, even if the things you accomplish along the way are of a linguistically more meaningful magnitude than before. I had my weeks where I was definitely frustrated more so than in love with the language. Anybody who's had to study humble and honorific verbs can probably attest to the sheer lack of intuitiveness that aspect of Japanese has. This is true even with native speakers, to put it even more so into perspective. Throw in the stresses of having to return to university life almost immediately after having breakneck classes at Sophia University and you can definitely say I had my ups and downs with Japanese this year.
 
But in the end, I came out more pleased than ever. I can start to carry on real, honest to god conversations that aren't just copy-pasted versions of skits in my textbooks, something which makes me really happy. I had little real experience with natives when learning Spanish, so even though my reading fluency eventually reached near-native levels, my speaking and listening were significantly more mediocre, so I'm glad to be preventing those same problems bit by bit this time around with Japanese. The fact that I've also started doing somewhat major translation work is also a step in the right direction, I'd like to think. With only the finals remaining before I'm completely done with year two Japanese, I'm looking forward to seeing what linguistic directions I end up taking next year, since apparently they really hammer class discussions completely in Japanese at my school for that level. The opportunity to also reapply to study in Japan next year for a much longer period of time should also prove to be exciting. Japan and Japanese society definitely has its issues, especially for foreigners, but it's hard to not miss living there anyway.
 
I don't know if I've stated it for the record on the blog, but anybody who's seriously studying Japanese is free to drop me a message and ask for tutoring help whenever. By serious, though, I actually do mean it. I don't care if you're doing it through school or through self-study, but so long as you're doing it for more serious reasons than wanting to be an uber-otaku so you can watch all the Gundam series in their native languages, then I'll be happy to help out. Promise.
 

I wasn't exactly expecting to wake up to that Bungie-Activision news, either.


 Quick, somebody come up with another pun tailor-made for Bungie, just like Actiblizzard!
Good timing is sometimes an elusive thing. I'll believe Bungie when they say that they've been having those discussions with Activision for the last nine months. Frankly, given that it had almost been three years since Bungie went independent, I'm kind of surprised that this sort of announcement didn't happen sooner. They must have been talking with quite a few people on the side to have gone this long without an announcement about the publishing prospects of their non-Halo work. That still doesn't take away the bitter irony of them announcing this decade-long deal in the very midst of the Infinity Ward exodus and lawsuit issues, though.
 
Regardless of all that, however, it's the little details in the deal that interest me the most, particularly the fact that Bungie is retaining IP rights for the franchise and that the Activision deal is only for games of that franchise, not anything else outside of it that Bungie also decides to make. While Bungie would have probably asked for both of those things anyway considering they broke away from Microsoft to regain that sort of control over their work again, I can't help but think that the Modern Warfare fiasco accented those desires all the more. It sucks losing money and executive rights over your own creations as Zampella and company learned the hard way. Even if that's the reality for a lot of developer-publisher relationships, those recent happenings just might have added a sense of urgency to ensure Bungie was really firm in getting their way. Considering their pedigree both before and after their work on Halo, they might have been among the few studios who could get away with having that despite the publisher doing their damndest to uphold the exact opposite elsewhere.
 
As someone who's always respected Bungie and their development methodologies, even if they're not perfect, I'm naturally interested in seeing what they have brewing. A lot of people seem to think it'll be another Halo rehash since that's all they've been doing for the past 11 years (13 if you count when it was still an RTS prototype), but their history is still diverse and they have enough of the really veteran members to still have the capability to try something different. Even if the Activision stuff still casts a dark shadow over the proceedings, it's hard to not be interested in seeing what they pull off. Personally, if they can just master their narrative technique so that they can make the game's story actually as interesting as its background information, I'll be content. It's my biggest gripe with the Halo universe and if they could figure out how to resolve that and still make the gameplay solid, I couldn't ask for anything more out of them. I'm not the easiest person to please, but still not the most demanding, so it could all work out well in the end, I suppose. Maybe. We'll see.
 

Call of Duty: Vietnam might as well be reality anyway, so let's talk about it like it's a fact.


 The war was about these two or something, right?
Having read Le Ly Hayslip's memoir When Heaven and Earth Changed Places, my understanding of the Vietnam war has changed pretty dramatically and become a lot more concrete. As the kid of parents who grew up in that era, of course I've heard plenty about it and its associated protest movements, but after a while, the narrative starts to feel unfortunately same-y and cliche when it comes to people who weren't actually involved in the fighting. That's why Hayslip's book was such a fantastic read for me; it was a personal, humanistic take on a war from an unconventional perspective. Hayslip was hardly a dyed-in-the-wool propagandist and diehard fighter for the Viet Cong, but growing up in a village where she was forced to assist them and ultimately put up with their and the Republicans' (Americans' and South Vietnam's) brutality paints and even grimmer picture of the war than what we're already familiar with. For a lot of different reasons, especially religious, the war the Americans fought and the war the Viet Cong fought were completely different things, making the rampant ambiguities all the more profound when inspected in retrospect. The book presents a sense of humanity for all sides you just don't get from neutral, "unbiased" news reports and that honestly proved to be much more effective for me in the end.
 
I'm bringing up the book because it shaped how I'll always think about the war and its people involved, both civilian and combatant, so when I read the article on Kotaku that it was really, really likely now that the next Treyarch Call of Duty game would be set in Vietnam, I started to hope that the game will at least try to portray the ethical quandaries to be found a plenty in that war. As someone else pointed out, whereas WWII arguably has more archetypal enemies that make it easier to define who's "good" and who's "bad," the Vietnam War has a distinct lack of that. If Treyarch intends to do any justice to the era at all, it'll have to come to grips with that fact and make it a core part of the game's narrative. Framing it solely as a communist vs. capitalism fight just isn't going to cut it, even if the game is going to solely depict Americans and/or South Vietnamese.
 
Hopes and ideals are one thing, though, whereas the likely reality can be a completely different thing altogether. As much as I want this Call of Duty game to be the one to follow in Modern Warfare's footsteps and really use the Vietnamese backdrop as a way of being dramatically and ethically provocative, I have my doubts that this well come to fruition. Again, as other people pointed out, Treyarch's Call of Duty games are now famous for their use of historically humorous, but inaccurate zombies and while that cheekiness might work with WWII to an extent thanks to the precedence of other works like Hogan's Heroes, replicating that sort of mentality with Vietnam would just be insulting. It's a war that still has consequences and aftereffects to this day. Treyarch's first duty is naturally to make an entertaining game, but at the very least, I hope they recognize the gravity and scope of their subject, as the lack of that has prevented other Vietnam games from being received well, among other reasons.
 
Am I speaking implausible? Probably. But as somebody who'd like more humanism in games when it's appropriate, I'd just like to see Vietnam done right in the medium at least once. It has so much narrative potential if portrayed just right, but without the right chemistry, it's bound to flop. It's quite the gold standard Treyarch has potentially set up for themselves, but whether they achieve it is another matter in and of itself.
 

Today also happens to be my birthday.

I never really liked the actual date of my birthday. April 30 forces me to wait the entire month while almost everyone else I know who has birthdays in the same month gets their turn ahead of me. I've met more people over the years who have this same predicament, too, but the pain of waiting that long never really goes away. Still, it's nice to finally hit 20. Those teenage years were fun, but bloody hell, I sure as hell didn't want to stay there any longer. No complaints moving onward and upward here.
 

 YEEEEEEEAH, SAUSAGE FEST!
14 Comments
15 Comments
Edited by Pepsiman

Although my subject matter in this blog tends to jump from post to post to the point of being erratic, I have a tendency to be pretty single-minded in the actual content itself, not deviating from start to finish, save for natural writing progression. With the school year winding down, however, I have a lot of things both gaming and non-gaming related on my mind. It may thusly be nice to condense them all into one post for once and adapt the multi-subject style I've seen a lot of the more prominent bloggers adopt on here within the past year-ish, so without further ado, let the subject jumping commence.
 
Oh, and I apologize ahead of time, but I have no tl;dr this time. I have no idea how the hell I'd summarize this post so succinctly anyway, so my bad if I encourage a bit of literacy. Woops.
 

Year 2 of uni Japanese is done.


  Just this once, this site is going to see what it's like to talk about Japan when it has nothing to do with stagnating JRPGs or this game. Amazing.
When I was in high school, we were given our choice of two languages. Practical people like myself picked Spanish because, hey, kinda large Mexican population in Colorado while other people went the more arguably flowery route and opted for French. I bring this up because my experiences in university Japanese sometimes have an odd knack for mirroring what happened while I was learning Mexican Spanish. In high school, for example, I really began to hit my stride in fluency toward the end of my second year and so, too, has the case been with Japanese. It's not to say that I was speaking or writing like a native then, nor that I am now with Japanese, but with two years under my belt, it's enough time to really get a good grip on the language and feel confident about experimenting with the grammatical mechanics and vocabulary. As a longtime writer, this is an extremely important thing, as more flexibility always equals better articulation of what's going in my mind. You could probably surmise as much from my generally rambling style.
 
It's not to say that it was all happy times studying Japanese for the entire year, though. The intermediate level is where you can start running into a lot of road blocks and have generally slower progress in getting from point A to point B, even if the things you accomplish along the way are of a linguistically more meaningful magnitude than before. I had my weeks where I was definitely frustrated more so than in love with the language. Anybody who's had to study humble and honorific verbs can probably attest to the sheer lack of intuitiveness that aspect of Japanese has. This is true even with native speakers, to put it even more so into perspective. Throw in the stresses of having to return to university life almost immediately after having breakneck classes at Sophia University and you can definitely say I had my ups and downs with Japanese this year.
 
But in the end, I came out more pleased than ever. I can start to carry on real, honest to god conversations that aren't just copy-pasted versions of skits in my textbooks, something which makes me really happy. I had little real experience with natives when learning Spanish, so even though my reading fluency eventually reached near-native levels, my speaking and listening were significantly more mediocre, so I'm glad to be preventing those same problems bit by bit this time around with Japanese. The fact that I've also started doing somewhat major translation work is also a step in the right direction, I'd like to think. With only the finals remaining before I'm completely done with year two Japanese, I'm looking forward to seeing what linguistic directions I end up taking next year, since apparently they really hammer class discussions completely in Japanese at my school for that level. The opportunity to also reapply to study in Japan next year for a much longer period of time should also prove to be exciting. Japan and Japanese society definitely has its issues, especially for foreigners, but it's hard to not miss living there anyway.
 
I don't know if I've stated it for the record on the blog, but anybody who's seriously studying Japanese is free to drop me a message and ask for tutoring help whenever. By serious, though, I actually do mean it. I don't care if you're doing it through school or through self-study, but so long as you're doing it for more serious reasons than wanting to be an uber-otaku so you can watch all the Gundam series in their native languages, then I'll be happy to help out. Promise.
 

I wasn't exactly expecting to wake up to that Bungie-Activision news, either.


 Quick, somebody come up with another pun tailor-made for Bungie, just like Actiblizzard!
Good timing is sometimes an elusive thing. I'll believe Bungie when they say that they've been having those discussions with Activision for the last nine months. Frankly, given that it had almost been three years since Bungie went independent, I'm kind of surprised that this sort of announcement didn't happen sooner. They must have been talking with quite a few people on the side to have gone this long without an announcement about the publishing prospects of their non-Halo work. That still doesn't take away the bitter irony of them announcing this decade-long deal in the very midst of the Infinity Ward exodus and lawsuit issues, though.
 
Regardless of all that, however, it's the little details in the deal that interest me the most, particularly the fact that Bungie is retaining IP rights for the franchise and that the Activision deal is only for games of that franchise, not anything else outside of it that Bungie also decides to make. While Bungie would have probably asked for both of those things anyway considering they broke away from Microsoft to regain that sort of control over their work again, I can't help but think that the Modern Warfare fiasco accented those desires all the more. It sucks losing money and executive rights over your own creations as Zampella and company learned the hard way. Even if that's the reality for a lot of developer-publisher relationships, those recent happenings just might have added a sense of urgency to ensure Bungie was really firm in getting their way. Considering their pedigree both before and after their work on Halo, they might have been among the few studios who could get away with having that despite the publisher doing their damndest to uphold the exact opposite elsewhere.
 
As someone who's always respected Bungie and their development methodologies, even if they're not perfect, I'm naturally interested in seeing what they have brewing. A lot of people seem to think it'll be another Halo rehash since that's all they've been doing for the past 11 years (13 if you count when it was still an RTS prototype), but their history is still diverse and they have enough of the really veteran members to still have the capability to try something different. Even if the Activision stuff still casts a dark shadow over the proceedings, it's hard to not be interested in seeing what they pull off. Personally, if they can just master their narrative technique so that they can make the game's story actually as interesting as its background information, I'll be content. It's my biggest gripe with the Halo universe and if they could figure out how to resolve that and still make the gameplay solid, I couldn't ask for anything more out of them. I'm not the easiest person to please, but still not the most demanding, so it could all work out well in the end, I suppose. Maybe. We'll see.
 

Call of Duty: Vietnam might as well be reality anyway, so let's talk about it like it's a fact.


 The war was about these two or something, right?
Having read Le Ly Hayslip's memoir When Heaven and Earth Changed Places, my understanding of the Vietnam war has changed pretty dramatically and become a lot more concrete. As the kid of parents who grew up in that era, of course I've heard plenty about it and its associated protest movements, but after a while, the narrative starts to feel unfortunately same-y and cliche when it comes to people who weren't actually involved in the fighting. That's why Hayslip's book was such a fantastic read for me; it was a personal, humanistic take on a war from an unconventional perspective. Hayslip was hardly a dyed-in-the-wool propagandist and diehard fighter for the Viet Cong, but growing up in a village where she was forced to assist them and ultimately put up with their and the Republicans' (Americans' and South Vietnam's) brutality paints and even grimmer picture of the war than what we're already familiar with. For a lot of different reasons, especially religious, the war the Americans fought and the war the Viet Cong fought were completely different things, making the rampant ambiguities all the more profound when inspected in retrospect. The book presents a sense of humanity for all sides you just don't get from neutral, "unbiased" news reports and that honestly proved to be much more effective for me in the end.
 
I'm bringing up the book because it shaped how I'll always think about the war and its people involved, both civilian and combatant, so when I read the article on Kotaku that it was really, really likely now that the next Treyarch Call of Duty game would be set in Vietnam, I started to hope that the game will at least try to portray the ethical quandaries to be found a plenty in that war. As someone else pointed out, whereas WWII arguably has more archetypal enemies that make it easier to define who's "good" and who's "bad," the Vietnam War has a distinct lack of that. If Treyarch intends to do any justice to the era at all, it'll have to come to grips with that fact and make it a core part of the game's narrative. Framing it solely as a communist vs. capitalism fight just isn't going to cut it, even if the game is going to solely depict Americans and/or South Vietnamese.
 
Hopes and ideals are one thing, though, whereas the likely reality can be a completely different thing altogether. As much as I want this Call of Duty game to be the one to follow in Modern Warfare's footsteps and really use the Vietnamese backdrop as a way of being dramatically and ethically provocative, I have my doubts that this well come to fruition. Again, as other people pointed out, Treyarch's Call of Duty games are now famous for their use of historically humorous, but inaccurate zombies and while that cheekiness might work with WWII to an extent thanks to the precedence of other works like Hogan's Heroes, replicating that sort of mentality with Vietnam would just be insulting. It's a war that still has consequences and aftereffects to this day. Treyarch's first duty is naturally to make an entertaining game, but at the very least, I hope they recognize the gravity and scope of their subject, as the lack of that has prevented other Vietnam games from being received well, among other reasons.
 
Am I speaking implausible? Probably. But as somebody who'd like more humanism in games when it's appropriate, I'd just like to see Vietnam done right in the medium at least once. It has so much narrative potential if portrayed just right, but without the right chemistry, it's bound to flop. It's quite the gold standard Treyarch has potentially set up for themselves, but whether they achieve it is another matter in and of itself.
 

Today also happens to be my birthday.

I never really liked the actual date of my birthday. April 30 forces me to wait the entire month while almost everyone else I know who has birthdays in the same month gets their turn ahead of me. I've met more people over the years who have this same predicament, too, but the pain of waiting that long never really goes away. Still, it's nice to finally hit 20. Those teenage years were fun, but bloody hell, I sure as hell didn't want to stay there any longer. No complaints moving onward and upward here.
 

 YEEEEEEEAH, SAUSAGE FEST!
Posted by eroticfishcake

You only hit 20, eh? I would've thought you'd be a little older then me (and by that I mean 21 years old.) But anyway, Happy 20th Birthday! 
 

    

 AWWWWWWWW YYYYYYYYEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
I'm only saying this much since I saw the last bit of your blog and I'm off to the pub now but I'll read the rest when I get back. :P
Posted by RelentlessKnight

geez, a year older than me

Posted by Ghostiet

Happy 30th of April. Which happens to be your birthday, too, which makes it double awesome!

About that Call of Duty: Vietnam... Let's just hope that Treyarch will finally be the company that'll make a good Vietnam War game, then we can move on to Vietnam games that expand on darker themes. Seriously, the last good Vietnam game was Lost Patrol, and that game is 20 years old.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

Happy Birthday Pepsi.  You are... younger than I expected, which makes you my sister's age. Even though I lived in Japan for 3 years, My grasp of the language is pretty much: "Konichiwa" "Sayonara"  "Ichi Nee San Shi Go Roukou Echi Achi Ku Ju" and "Choto Matte Kudasai". I'm surprised I even remember that much.
 
We are actually studying Vietnam in my AP US History class right now, and I figure that kind of perspective would be useful. The way we are taught is very much from the US perspective, specifically the perspective that it was nothing more than a quagmire we inherited from the French (also, it was all Johnson's fault). However, do I think that the next COD game will be mindful of any of that? Probably not.

Posted by Pepsiman
@eroticfishcake: People are always surprised about my age in general. In high school, people pretty often mistook me for a senior when I was actually a few years below that. Then there were the years where relatives mistook my voice for my mother's a lot on the telephone. Those were funky. So suffice it to say that I'm used to my age being portrayed ambiguously.
 
@Ghostiet: I've never heard of Lost Patrol, although looking at the screenshots, it definitely looks interesting. It is indeed sad that it's been so long since we've actually seen a Vietnam game worth paying attention to. It's surprising, really.
 
@ArbitraryWater: Oh yeah, as much as I'd like Treyarch to actually be mindful of the historical and circumstantial nuances surrounding the war, I don't have high expectations at all for it, although considering that it'll apparently also include Cuba, (maybe) Soviet Russia, and the Antarctic, they might not have to worry about it so much. Doesn't make it any less potentially disappointing from a narrative perspective, but by all means, I'd love it if they proved me wrong. With IW crippled at this point, they're more or less the only people able to legally work on the Call of Duty name that can try to attempt it if they really, really feel like it.
Posted by Sweep

Happy Birthday Pepsi!!

 
 
I tried learning Japanese a few years ago when I had a Japanese girlfriend. I stopped learning after we broke up. It got messy... It's a beautiful language though and I commend you for your commitment to it :D
 
I appreciate that Activision probably pushed this deal with Bungie to the forefront of their PR after Infinity Ward went sour, but if I was in Bungie right now i'd be pretty fucking concerned. They had been sitting on this deal for 9 months, I wonder if they would still have signed with Activision having known the fate of Infinity Ward.
Moderator
Edited by ahoodedfigure

HB, PM.
 
I read Hayslip's book, also read Caputo's A Rumor of War, which is a good counterpoint.  We also talked to a vet as part of the class this was in who was torn up by an explosive.  I realized after that the experience of the individual is intensely personal and distorted by what one brought in and what one carried out, with so many different stories coming out of such intense emotions and horror that probably makes the field of study endlessly fascinating and repulsive.  It's something we can never wrap our mind around--  like recovery from a severe accident: you see more the aftermath than what happened, which was over in a violent split-second.   We still skip Viet Nam until college, pretty much, because a lot of people still use it as a mythological base for their own ideologies.  Even after all this time, it's still a problem for many, on all sides of a given debate.
 
Also: Activungie

Posted by Shirogane

I fail at languages. Learning any language doesn't get me anywhere. This shows with my many many years of chinese and 4 years of japanese, neither of which i can speak read or write to any extent. Hell, i can't read or write either of them without lots of help. 
 
20 huh? i remember that birthday....worst birthday ever. You're a year younger than me, somewhat opposite to other people here huh? 
 
And that Persona picture is just pure awesome.
Posted by Hailinel

Happy belated birthday!  I hope you had a great sausage fest. ;)
 
It's good to know you're still enjoying Japanese studies, despite the increasing challenge.  I minored in Japanese kind of by accident when I was in college (I needed three years of foreign language credits for my major, so I was already 3/4ths of the way there), and I'm disappointed that I've never put my studies to as much use as you already have.  I hope things keep going well for you in that, and you keep finding ways to practice it.

Online
Posted by LordAndrew

I thought you were older. Seems you've done a lot more useful stuff with your life than I have. Although I suppose that's not hard.

Posted by Ramyun

Happy birthday, man! Hope you either had an awesome day rather than a passive one because let's face it; the older we get, the less we celebrate this day. Also, you have the same birthday as me, so that makes you doubly awesome.

Posted by StarFoxA
@Sweep: Holy crap, that achievement noise scared me. I was afraid that I was losing my mind.
Online
Posted by wefwefasdf
@StarFoxA said:
" @Sweep: Holy crap, that achievement noise scared me. I was afraid that I was losing my mind. "
Me too. I thought I was hearing things...
Posted by natetodamax

That achievement noise.....too good.

Online