Dinner earned tastes twice as sweet as dinner given

Let's get it out of the way in image form first; This happened late last night (around 4 am)

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That's right, I won my first chicken dinner! Okay, that's not really true... I won my first SOLO chicken dinner, which is an important distinction. Ever since playing Player Unknowns Battlegrounds (PUBG), I've been squadding up with other Steam friends and rolling with them to learn the basics. We've won occasional victories, but usually through no agency of me. I tend to get shot quickly, spectate, and give map updates. To be fair, I'm not that comfortable with keyboard and mouse shooters, having grown up playing lots of Halo. I cannot wait until PUBG makes its way to consoles, but I've been enjoying my time learning it so far.

Early on, when I took my first shot at soloing, I actually got 2nd place. It's a terrible thing to have happen on your first game, especially when you have zero kills. I achieved this dubious milestone by hiding in a cabin, moving slowly through shadowy forests, and avoiding all conflict. I got shotgunned in the tiny circle at the very end because I'd never fired the SKS I had found and wasn't a good shot with it (I also had not found a scope). Since then, largely through osmosis, I've learned a great deal about the game and have (obviously) improved greatly. Two of my four kills on this one were in the final circle and I actually UMP-ed the last guy standing through my holographic scope. The exhilaration and relief I felt when the match was over was a powerful feeling that I will not soon forget.

PUBG is a truly unique game that has captured the gaming zeitgeist at the moment and will forever change the face of shooters. I've played lots of them, from Halo to COD to Overwatch, and while all have their flavors and little oddities, none are quite as spicy a meat-a-ball as winning a solo of PUBG. I know this because I had trouble turning the game off after my victory and even more trouble falling asleep afterward. And sitting here typing this blog, I can't think of anything else but getting back to Murder Island for another sweet taste of success. I know that's foolhardy, this isn't something I'm going to magically repeat every time, and this victory was by no means a cakewalk. It was tense. It was pulse pounding. It was nerve wracking. There were moments when I said out loud to myself as I moved across hellishly exposed plains to safe cover behind a tree, "Oh fuck, I'm gonna die here." Despite all this, I won out. It's a good feeling. I hope if you're working towards it, you get there one day too.

PS. Big shout out to all the GiantBomb crew for the Murder Island videos (btw, Murder Island She Wrote is still a title I'm pulling for). They're a great resource of what (not) to do in the game and hilarious to watch as well. Also, to my man Austin Walker and his good good son Patrick Klepick for their work over at Waypoint's stream, "Breakfast and Battlegrounds" for some useful, Will Smith derived tips. They all really helped me absorb the details of this game I might not have seen in my individual sessions.

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Bro, do you even forum?

I've been a long time user of computers and the Internet. My family got a PC back when I was a kid and we mostly used it to type up school papers and play DOS games (I'm 31). When I eventually got a job and made my own money, I discovered the wonder of the Internet for myself. I'm not a great user of it, but I can find the answers to most questions I have after a bit of work. However, one area of Interwebbing has always baffled me and that is the use of forums. A quick glance at my GiantBomb usage shows me I've posted over 400 times in the GB forums, but I've always felt like I'm doing it wrong.

I don't know where this feeling comes from. I just feel awkward posting on forums or occasionally responding in forums. It seems like a lot of pages are just "set it and forget it" style topics. Most times I try to post on different sites, I get redirected to other forums that have been up for a couple of years, usually with a condescending tone that comes across like, "Why didn't you just search for this insanely specific thing first, even though the post I'm linking you to has entirely different wording for the same question?" Maybe I just go to the wrong forums...

I feel the problem is somewhat mitigated here because, let's be honest, the GB forums are often so specific or random or based solely on offhand discussions in the Bomb/Beastcasts that it's hard to get upset about someone not knowing every square inch of it. Anyway, my whole experience makes my use of forums very infrequent. My 400+ posts here have been built up slowly over the past several years and this is definitely the site I post to the most. I just feel strange that forums are so popular the world (wide web) over when they seem so difficult for me personally. How about you all?* Is there a corner of Internet usage you just don't get or is it just me?

Also, thanks for everyone who expressed concern about my last blog, turns out I do not have carpal tunnel syndrome, just tendonitis. Still hurts a bit, but with ice packs, drugs, rest, and wrist splints, it's getting back to normal. I'll finish Zelda as soon as I have some more free time.

*Yes, I realize the irony of posting a question like this in a forum, you're very clever for noticing it.

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I haven't picked up a controller in a week and a half

I'm a pretty avid gamer. In my house right now I have pretty much every home console since the PS2 era (haven't picked up a Switch yet because there are not enough games I want to play on it) as well as a gaming PC. Playing video games is very much my favorite hobby. However, I've been laying off recently for health related reasons.

Pretty much exactly a year ago, I had pretty severe pain in my wrists. I suspected (and feared) it was carpal tunnel syndrome brought on by my job. I work in a data entry position at a freight company, basically processing my portion of the thousands of bills they pick up in a given day. It's a thankless, soul crushing, well paying job that affords me about 9 hours a day to listen to shit on my iPod. That much typing cannot be healthy and it forced me to go see a doctor, who prescribed wrist splints to keep me from bending them at work and while sleeping as well as an anti-inflammatory drug to hopefully reduce the swelling and pain. It worked, I was back to normal by the time I ran out of pills, but now the pain has returned. I'm back in splints, I'm back on the drug, and I get to go see an orthopedic surgeon on Wednesday for some further testing to see if I need my hands operated on (yay, fun...).

I need to work (I need the money), but I've cut back on my gaming mainly out of fear of making my problems worse. The lack gaming input has been driving me up the wall. I have so much to get back to. I'd found the 120th shrine in Zelda and was ready to storm the castle. I want to try Player Unknown's Battleground because Vinny made it look really interesting and tense. Darksiders is on my Xbone waiting for me to try out. I miss Rocket League something fierce. Is this what withdrawal is like?

Anyway, I'm sure others in the community have dealt with hand or wrist pain. How did you all get through the dark times? Anyone actually had carpal tunnel or the corrective surgery to clear it up? I'ma stop typing now. My hand hurts...

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Creating the next generation of nerds

I am not a guy who enjoys the company of children. This has been true ever since I was in high school and realized that age is no indication of childishness. It's something in the way people act that tags them as a child in my mind. I've met 10 year olds with more dignity and composure than some alleged adults I've met (or in some cases, worked with). It probably goes without saying that I have no children of my own. There are several steps in the social tech tree I would need to unlock to get to that level and I just don't see it happening any time soon.

That having been said, I do have sisters and one of them did decide to procreate. Twice. I have two nieces, 11 and 4 years old if memory serves, who are fun to hang out with in small bursts. One of my favorite activities is introducing them to the things I enjoy and see if they like it too. A few years ago, my older niece was gifted the first Harry Potter book when she turned 7. She is a prolific reader, and in between her birthday in August and Xmas, she plowed through enough of the Potter books that she was asking Santa for book 6. After that, she got to watch the movie versions.

It was around this time that I thought she was ready to sit still long enough with her uncle to watch Star Wars. I should emphasize that the original (Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope) was one of the first movies I can remember watching. It's a deeply important film to me, though I know it hasn't aged particularly well. I was concerned that my niece wouldn't be into it. I needn't have worried, it's still as powerful as it was to me when I was a kid. However, I didn't realize until we were watching that first movie that I had a real treat coming up when we got to Empire Strikes Back. Virtually every adult knows the twist in Empire, even people who have zero interest in the galaxy far, far away. You've heard a deep breathing voice somewhere say "Luke, I am your father," even though this exact line doesn't appear in any of the films. It's been parodied to death, referenced to hell and back, it is a staple of pop culture... unless you're 7. My niece had no idea what was coming. The shocked look on her face was kind of amazing to see, and probably not something I'll ever get to experience on someone who's entered double digit years. The infamous declaration of paternity was immediately followed with the half excited, half terrified question, "Is that true?!" I asked what she thought and she determined then and there that Vader wasn't lying, which glued her attention to the screen even more. Kind of neat to see things like that still hold up.

Since then, she and I have been through all the Star Wars films, the two good Indiana Jones movies, various Batman versions (mainly the DVD copys of Batman: The Animated Series), and of course, the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, there is one major series I held off on until last weekend. No, not The Matrix, she's not in high school yet. The Lord of the Rings trilogy... and for a very simple reason. While the three films that make up this trilogy are some my favorites and three of the finest ever made, I personally do not like the book The Lord of the Rings. I think it's an amazing piece of world building and a great history book. It's not a well paced novel*. However, I think The Hobbit is a fine piece of fiction, and a great introduction to Middle Earth. I loaned her my copy of the novel and told her to see if she liked it. The book never got read. She called it too boring. It was written strangely. It wasn't her cup of tea. This kind of bummed me out since it was reading The Hobbit that got me excited for the Rings movies. But oh well, everything can't be for everyone, I suppose. Having decided she would never get around to reading the book, I decided to try showing her Fellowship.

Short digression, I spent a lot of last summer and a fair whack of cash building an addition onto my home. I added a few hundred square feet of space to put in a pool table (I love pool, but I hate pool halls and bars. This is the best way for me, a non drinker, to play a game I like without encountering bar folk) and a projector style theater room. The two are separated by a blackout curtain and it seats six, in case you're ever in the area. It's got a damn good sound system, the picture quality is great. Anyway...

Sitting in the theater room, showing my niece Fellowship of the Ring, I was concerned again. We watched the extended cut Blu-Ray. The thing is 208 minutes, or just shy of 3 1/2 hours. What if she was bored? What if she hated it? Again, shouldn't have worried. The only parts that really upset here were Gandalf's fall and the end credits ("Why did it have to end THERE?!"). I told her we'd have to wait a month to see the next movie. When she whined, I told her that I had to wait a whole year between them when they were out in real theaters. She had no comeback for that. Besides, I need to find the time; Two Towers' extended cut is even longer...

All this is to ask, do you curate pieces of media for the young folk in your life, kids or otherwise? Do you hope they enjoy it the way you did? Do they surprise you with their differing tastes or do you find that good pieces of fiction tend to be well received? What do you look forward to showing to them? Stuff on my list includes The Terminator (and exactly one of its sequels), Tarantino movies, and Alien one day... Though I might watch it without the blackout curtain. Alien is still a freaky movie and horror is not my thing. And I still haven't shown the younger niece Star Wars yet. A chance to have the Empire shock all over again. I wonder how she'll react to it.

*This is my personal opinion and not to be taken as an assault on Tolkien. It simply wasn't an enjoyable read to me. Your mileage may vary.

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Breath of the Wild influences are far-reaching

I, like seemingly everyone in the games press, have fallen into a deep Zelda hole. There are many other games I could be playing right now. Horizon: Zero Dawn sits uncompleted, Disc Jam seems like a fun take on Windjammers, I started Titanfall 2's amazing campaign a while ago but stopped, my Kerbal Space Program attempt to build a drilling base on the satellite Minmus hasn't been worked on in weeks, Rocket League will probably get some more attention this Wednesday when a new mode hits... However, all of that has been put on hold. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BotW) has consumed all my free time. I don't have an hour count for you, but it's gotta be approaching 50 if not more. Given all that time spent, I've been noticing some influences on the game that are kind of surprising given Nintendo's usual rinse and repeat strategy with Zelda games.

Influence the first: Minecraft

This has been noted by others, but it bears repeating. The worlds of Minecraft feel infinite, even the compressed version that exists on the Xbox 360. The space is massive and it gives you a sense of unending possibility. BotW somehow captures that feeling. Granted, I have come up on the game's invisible wall at the edge of the map (it has a simple message saying "You can go no further") but it's so out of the way and hard to get to the edge that I only got there by really trying. You won't stumble across it in typical gameplay sessions. The experimentation with cooking recipes also mirrors Minecraft's. There are basic rules in both, trying variations leads to interesting results.

Influence the second: the Souls games

While Dark Souls and its ilk are not games that speak to me personally, I have watched Vinny play a bunch of them. As such, I've gotten a certain feel from them that BotW has in spades. Namely, the world you play in is a harsh place that won't hesitate to kill you. This is nothing new to Zelda games, but it's been absent for quite some time. I can't remember the last time a basic baddie one shotted me in a 3D Zelda game, and it honestly might not have happened since Link to the Past. This gets you on your guard and makes you think a little harder about the things you're doing. You have to plan out every enemy encounter, because it might be your last if you don't (okay, not really, you have infinite respawns, but you know what I mean). The fact that weapons degrade over time also makes you consider what to bring to each party of Moblins you see.

Influence the third: Shadow of the Colossus

This is a minor spoiler, but there are giant monsters in BotW that you have to (for lack of a better term) puzzle into submission. While you don't have to scale them from the ground up like in Shadow of the Colossus, you do have to navigate around inside them and figure them out, much like the giant beasts in Team Ico's finest work. It's a great callback, intentional or not, to another game with a massive world that gives the feeling of infinite possibility.

Influence the fourth: The Legend of Zelda

It seems weird to say that The Legend of Zelda influenced... The Legend of Zelda, but hear me out. The very first Zelda game has little structure. You get a wooden sword and the option to go in three directions. No tutorial, no guide posts, no friendly/annoying fairy telling you what to do, nothing. You just get to explore. BotW had me deeply worried at the very beginning of the game. I thought I had broken the scripting of the game somehow. I could not find anything to do in the Temple of Time. It took me a while to discover the first tower and actually get the game going. Then I realized the developers were telling me something powerful with this game, "We're relying on you to figure this out. Good luck." This level of trust is unheard of in modern games. Everything holds your hand, points you in a direction, and says, "Go this way first, this way second, this way after that..." BotW does none of this. You're free to encounter the world at your own pace and in any order you see fit. There is no "first" dungeon. There are four, any can be tackled at any time with the tools you start with. There are now speed runs of the game that last less than an hour. People have figured out how to take down Ganon in an hour. That's awesome and a true achievement, both for the speed runners and that Nintendo has produced a game this versatile. I'll probably spend 100 hours with the game exploring every nook and cranny I can. That a game can be satisfying in that way to both audiences is unparalleled and hopefully speaks to the future of the company. I cannot wait to see what they've done with Mario and his trip to New Donk City.

Anyway, that's what I've got so far. I'm sure there's more to unearth.

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Captain America: Civil War review

If you want to not read this entire thing to understand my basic point, Captain America: Civil War is everything Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice wasn't. Pretty basic, but I'll expand. Also, ***Spoilers*** this review will contain them and I will offer no further warnings. Turn back now if you care that much about it. You have been warned.

It might seem unfair to compare this summer's two major superhero movies, but they kind of invite the comparison. One's DC, one's Marvel, but they both deal with the same fundamental issue: Vigilantism and its collateral damage. By and large, superheroes generally operate outside the law. They kind of have to. There really isn't a place in most police forces or armies for a dude who can fly or sling webs or shoot lasers from his eyes. Also, they tend to fill in the gaps left by such organizations, doing the jobs no one else can do (as Nick Fury said of the Avengers).

That being said, much of the conflict in Civil War comes from the actions of the Avengers over the past 8 years or so (the length of time since the Marvel Cinematic universe began with Iron Man). Yes, they've caused a lot of damage, but it can be argued they prevented far worse things from happening by taking matters into their collective hands. These two sides are personified by Captain America, siding with the rights of the heroes and Tony Stark, who believes that maybe it's time to put a leash on the team in order to make them more accountable for the fights they fight.

Throughout all of this, Cap is still trying to track down his old friend Bucky Barnes, the Winter Soldier, who has been framed for blowing up a UN meeting, which also draws Black Panther, the newly crowned king of Wakanda (a fictional African country in the Marvel world). Also, Stark has sussed out Spider-Man and brought him into the fold, upgrading his suit and hitting on his far too attractive version of Aunt May (weird casting, but hey, we'll see how she does in the next Spider-Man movie).

The movie has so many super powered individuals, you'd think it'd collapse under the weight of it, but somehow it doesn't. Iron Man, War Machine, Spider-Man, Black Widow, Vision, and Black Panther vs Captain America, the Falcon, the Winter Soldier, Ant-Man, Hawkeye, and Scarlet Witch... yet somehow everyone gets their moment to shine and be awesome, no one feels under used or out of place. Yes, it makes the movie into Avengers 2.5, but it's still undeniably a Captain America story. He is the heart and soul of the picture. His refusal to accept what Stark has (and Stark's eventual realization he was mistaken about Barnes) underlines that Cap may have a point, blue boy scout that he is.

It's astonishing how well its point is made... and, in hindsight, how BvS tried to make the exact same point and failed so fucking miserably. The huge title bout in BvS lasts about 5 minutes and feels totally worthless since they become best buddies immediately after. The huger title bout in Civil War goes on for what felt like 10, maybe 12 minutes, but knowing that most of the heroes involved are friends that have seen the issue differently, they aren't out to murder one another (except in Black Panther's revenge filled case), they've just reached an impasse where it's time to bring the other side to heel... which makes it far more interesting to see.

In every possible way, Civil War is the superior movie to BvS. It also feels like a worthy follow up to Marvel's ever increasingly well made pantheon. It's amazing how they've managed to make their movies into the visual embodiment of their comics. This is a big event issue that will have ramifications down the line, and I hope this comes together well in Infinity War. Good work Marvel. DC, hire better filmmakers, for fuck's sake.

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Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice review

**WARNING** This post will contain spoilers about the film Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. If such things will effect your enjoyment of this movie, please do not read this. Also, this is a review, so keep in mind that, like all reviews, it is my personal opinion of a thing I didn't make. Whether you enjoyed this movie or not, my opinion should matter little to you, so don't take this trite of a review personally. Consider yourself warned... **END WARNING**

Before we start, I feel I should make some things very clear. I do not care much for Superman as a standalone character. I didn't like Man of Steel much, but I thought it served as a decent origin story for a new cinematic version of the Big Blue Boy Scout. On the other hand, I do think Supes works well as part of an ensemble of other heroes, particularly in Justice League stories. Batman, on the other hand, has been a cornerstone hero of mine ever since I was a kid. Growing up watching reruns of the Adam West tv show, Tim Burton's flawed but enjoyable 1989 movie, and literally every episode of Batman: The Animated Series, I've always enjoyed stories about the Dark Knight. While no character who's been around since the 1930s can have a flawless track record (See Joel Schumacher, Batman movies of...), Batman has remained fairly uncorrupted since his inception. He's a hard character to screw up because he is so driven by his personal demons, which makes his intentions and methods crystal clear; Right the wrongs of the world, use fear and force only when necessary, stop people from dying.

Enter Zack Snyder, a movie maker who's films have been quite the roller coaster of acclaim and derision. Don't get me wrong here, 300 is one of my favorite movies ever made, but it's a completely pulp piece based on a completely pulp retelling of the Battle of Thermopylae. It is visual storytelling with the biggest, boldest characters imaginable. Leonidas is barely a character, he's more of an archetype. In the comic this works completely, as the style Frank Miller chose works well for a story of archetypes, but the movie would feel very light if it wasn't for Queen Gorgo at home. At the same time, Watchmen is an almost shot for shot retelling of one of the greatest comics of all time which just feels like actors slowly recreating the comic as best they can, but failing completely to imbue the thing with soul. It also radically changes the main villain into someone sinister, which ruins him completely, showing Snyder's inability to grasp what made said villain scary. It wasn't that they were a typical crazy baddie, it's that they did the terrible things because they believed it was the only way to make the world a better place, which, even more frighteningly, turned out to be correct.

This leads us to Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice (BvS), another Zack Snyder joint that feels like it lacks a soul. Given the characters involved, that seems almost impossible. These two heroes are so diametrically opposite in both ability and methods that clashes between the two have been popular throughout their history. Batman works through fear, Superman through trust. Batman is a mortal human, Superman is (practically) immortal. Being Batman has cost Bruce Wayne a normal life, being Superman is just a natural state for Kal-El. However, they both share some basic concepts that make the two, if not friendly, then at least good teammates. At the very least, both of them find the idea of killing people to cross a major, uncrossable line. Well, they usually do...

See, this is a sticking point for me in a big way. One of the rules, the inviolate-able rules of Batman is he does not intentionally kill people. Ever. It's one of the key aspects of his character that you cannot change without changing who he is. He has come close, so close, to snapping the Joker's neck on so many occasions but always holds back for the simple reason that if he ever did it, he'd be no better than the Clown Prince of Crime. In BvS, the Caped Crusader has taken to branding baddies with a heated bat-symbol, which is revealed to lead to their deaths in the prison yards of Gotham. Also, he has machine guns mounted on his Batmobile and Batwing which he is none to shy about using to kill criminals. He also literally uses a gun to kill a man in the films end stages, something the character I know would find abhorrent to the point of making him hang up the cape and cowl forever. This character is not Batman, he's a psychopath with a cape. Superman seems equally uncaring about murder. He plows a guy holding Lois at gunpoint through a concrete wall at remarkably high speed. I'm no physics expert, but that might be enough to shatter a spine on impact, if not liquefy a dude.

In universe consistency is not something Snyder appears to be going for though. Superman seems no better off with his usual bag of tricks. Batman saves Superman's mother when Supes himself could do it half the time, though it seems insane that he allowed her to be captured in the first place. This is a guy who, having a few seconds notice of Lois Lane being shoved off a skyscraper, manages to catch her on the way down and can also hear her banging on concrete while drowning over the battle of Doomsday & Wonder Woman, but can't locate his mother in the neighboring city or think of a better solution than walking right into Batman's many traps. What kind of fool do you have to be to walk into the first one (you have x-ray vision, couldn't see a sonic trap coming?) and then not stop and look for the second one (automated machine gun turrets) but try to get five feet from Batman in order to talk to him? You couldn't have a rational conversation from, oh say, over there? Superman's incautious nature (and the fact that a Kryptonite shell works on him twice in a row) makes him seem like such an incapable idiot; Why am I supposed to root for this guy? Also, the title fight could have been avoided with four simple words, "Lex captured my mother." Superman doesn't even try to say those words at any point in their idiotic slugfest.

Speaking of inconsistency, it's hard to tell whether people are for Superman or against him throughout this movie. His statue commemorating his actions in the first film is vandalized, he is essentially put on trial for saving Lois Lane's life in Africa, he is branded as a potential terrorist for letting someone blow up Congress... Yet there are shots of people practically worshipping him for various acts of heroism. It's hard to pin down. The final scenes of the film, where both Clark Kent and Superman get funerals, are so transparent that hey held no emotional weight for me. Of course he's not dead, he's Superman, he'll come back. It's an attempt to get some punch that hasn't been earned in the slightest. The strange thing is that he US government seems to hold him in very high esteem, despite his alleged hand in the whole Congress explosion thing.

Then we come to the villains of the piece - Lex Luthor and Doomsday. The fact that Luthor can trick the World's Greatest Detective into wanting to kill the Son of Krypton should make you feel something about the man... but it doesn't. It's a nonsensical plan with no real hope of doing anything but leveling another few blocks. Luthor's plans have always been grandiose and infeasible (beachfront property in Arizona springs to mind), but at least they made some sense. This Lex is so disjointed and has so many emotional ticks in the movie that you wonder how he became a successful business man in the first place, let alone why he thinks getting Batman to kill Superman will work. It seems at times like he's just doing it to see the fight, though he doesn't bother to watch it at all. In the same token, he seems to think that, regardless of what happens, he needs to create the monster known as Doomsday. What would have happened if the Dark Knight had succeeded in killing the Kryptonian threat? Now we have another, far worse Kryptonian threat that Lex himself made. What is to be gained from this? Why is Lex Luthor doing this? Such answers are never found in his ramblings and lip twitchings.

It's not like they didn't have the time to explain some of this shit; The flick runs 2 and a half hours. Snyder's love of slow motion shots are partially to blame, but it's also paced extraordinarily poorly. There's literally an hour of set up before Batman sticks the costume on and goes after bad guys in force (his horror movie scene where he almost makes one cop shoot another in the face notwithstanding). Everything drags. It feels like you could edit it down to a nice tight 2 hours and not lose too much. Did we really need to hear ALL of "Amazing Grace" while two caskets at two different services marched slowly to graveyards and cannons fired off shots in orgasmic slow motion? It's a funeral, we know what happens. Also, Bruce Wayne feeling sympathy at Clark Kent's grave for the man who "he did wrong in life" is so unearned it's ridiculous. You plotted to kill him for almost 2 years and became friends for the last 15 minutes of his life. I'm really having a hard time buying you guys as buds.

Finally, some minor bitching:

  • Bruce Wayne's mother seemed ill cast for a non speaking role, not looking the 35 her tombstone would suggest and making Thomas Wayne look like he's out watching Zorro with his son and mistress.
  • Also, thanks for retelling Batman's origin story AGAIN. Wasn't sure if he was still an orphan or not.
  • The fight really stops because Bruce and Clark have mothers with the same first name? That's the stopping point?
  • Doomsday seems to feed on energy, so let's slam it into a gas plant and give him a shitload more of it. Good plan, Superman.
  • The way the filmmakers go out of their way to offhandedly make sure every speck of land that gets hit by a crater inducing blow is free of human casualties is hilarious. (Evidently whole stretches of Gotham City gets completely deserted at night... also there's an island between Metropolis and Gotham that's completely uninhabited. No need for a dock or anything there. Priceless.)
  • Wayne Manor has apparently burned down and, despite the films many flashbacks and hallucinations, this is never explained, shown, commented on, or discussed.
  • Batman has a flash forward to an Injustice style future in a desert with Superman guards. To quote Kevin Smith, "Why would Superman need guards? He's Superman." And I know it's a post-apocalyptic dream, but he uses a lot of guns to shoot a lot of people in that scene which is unnerving to see. Again, Batman doesn't kill.
  • After waking up from the aforesaid vision, Batman has another hallucination with a guy in a space suit telling him "Lois is the key," and "I'm too early." He never talks about this to anyone and it is never explained. Just happens.
  • I swear in Man of Steel, Superman got his powers by breathing Earth's atmosphere, but now he seems solar powered again. Might be wrong about this, but I remember atmosphere being a key plot point in Man of Steel.
  • Superman can survive being nuked in orbit, but cannot survive a Doomsday talon through the chest.
  • Superman pokes Doomsday with the Kryptonite spear rather than letting Wonder Woman handle the substance that can kill him because... reasons. Also, he seems to kill Doomsday by running the spear all the way through him, leaving the Kryptonite outside Doomsday where it should do less damage, right?
  • The Daily Planet is still composed of the stupidest people on Earth. "Superman's been gone since the Senate hearing... Clark still missing too, huh? Weird." Oh, and they died on the same day and both had pictures in your paper and still no one noticed what he looks like when you white out the glasses. Dumb shits.
  • Aquaman takes a really, really, really long time to stab stuff.
  • What the hell was that magic box that created Cyborg? Some context please, movie.
  • Wonder Woman is... fine... I guess. She seemed to be having fun in the battle at the end, despite the city leveling.
  • Bruce Wayne wants to collect superheroes because he, "Has a feeling." No. Batman doesn't do that. He plans because he goddamn knows what the threat is. You've ostensibly eliminated all threats at this point, the last Kryptonian is dead, so what are you prepping for? Tell us. We (the audience) would like a hint.

I have not left a movie feeling so down trodden and unhappy in a long time. I found it unbearably terrible and do not have high hopes for the rest of the DC movies. If you enjoyed it, I'm glad to hear that. For me, personally, this is such a shitty, shitty movie that I feel stupid having paid first run price to have seen it.

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My top 10 for 2015

Another year, another batch of listing games, yay! It's always nice to look back at the year that was and remember just what did actually come out this year. I typically don't write these, but this year I'm shaking it up by giving it a go. This post is really here for a couple of specific reasons...

1. So I can get it straight for myself.

2. To tell everyone how I voted in the weighted list.

3. As an exercise to see if I can justify my decision to put some games above others in an arbitrary and ultimately meaningless list.

Before we get into the list proper, I need to acknowledge some games that weren't released this year that I still played lots of. Super Smash Bros is still a favorite and the DLC characters add just enough spice to keep me and a few friends coming back for more. Minecraft is still fun, whether surviving or creating, I still like it. Finally, Threes. Yes, Threes. It is my iPhone's solitaire. I play it more than is healthy, but at least I haven't gotten it for Xbone... yet. Anyway, on to 2015.

10. Rock Band 4

If you've been to my house, you've seen my collection of plastic guitars, my mic stands, and you've probably played a lot of Rock Band. I love the series, they nailed something almost perfect with RB2 and managed to improve on it for RB3. After far too long, we are finally getting more music to jam to... thought it's not perfect. The reason this game is at the bottom of my top 10 is that I've had an absolute blast playing more Rock Band, but everything surrounding it is troublesome. No Ion drum support, no wireless mic support, no RB2 or RB1 or Lego RB exports yet, the download process is still annoyingly long-winded for someone like me with 1,000+ songs... but the game itself is still a fun time with or without bandmates. Keep plugging away at those updates, Harmonix.

9. Halo 5: Guardians

Boy, I expected this one to be higher on the list too. Don't get me wrong, Halo 5 is stunning visually, the jump to 60 fps really helped. The design of everything is beautiful, the game moves fluidly, its controls are sharp as ever. I even like the basic multiplayer modes, something I rarely get into these days due to the incredibly toxic nature of online gaming... however, the main reason I go to Halo games (as opposed to other shooters) is story. I like the characters and the universe in the Halo series. The campaign in Guardians though, it just doesn't have the oomph or the impact that even Halo 4 had when *SPOILER FOR HALO 4* Cortana died. That scene was impactful to me as a longtime Halo player. The constant fighting of Warden Eternal, a character we are given no context for and is not fun to fight, doesn't help. All that aside, the rest of the game is exactly what I come to Halo for, I just wish firefight mode would rear its grunt-popping head again.

8. Grow Home

What an adorable game Grow Home is. It's a great little concept, the animation is charming, the world is fun to play in (a concept shockingly few games get right) and I was compelled to get 100% of the trophies in the PS4 version. The only complaint I can really level is that it's kind of a one trick pony, but that trick is fun enough to keep you growing higher and higher. If you need a good simple game to play on the weekend, I cannot recommend Grow Home more strongly.

7. Mortal Kombat X

Mortal Kombat is the Joker of video game series. What I mean is that changes its style so radically from game to game that it's hard to know which version you're getting next; the lovable but incompetent clown, the semi-violent trickster, or the outright violent serial killer. I'm more a fan of the middle of that group for MK, with that style kind of peaking in Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3. Things were "violent" but still had a funny sense of humor surrounding them at times. MKX would be higher if more of that silliness were injected back into the game, but they seem to have taken their design doc from the makers of the Saw film series. A lot of it is just violent for violence sake. That being said, this is probably the best playing MK game since the last one and it's good to see Netherrealm moving that bar up rather than descending to their old depths.

6. Grim Fandango: Remastered

Confession time: I hadn't played Grim Fandango until the remaster came out this year. I know, it's an unforgivable sin to some, but hey, I didn't have a gaming PC growing up (and I still don't, I'll work on that in 2016, seriously). As a result, I'm one of those people that had certain landmark games pass me by, only playing them at friend's houses or the occasional high school computer lab. That being said, Grim Fandango is a game I'm really bummed that I missed the first time around because it still holds up as an awesome bit of world building. The story still holds water, the characters are still engaging, the whole thing is very well done. If you haven't tried it and dig on old adventure games, maybe pick up the redone version sometime. It's well worth your time... even if you'll occasionally need a FAQ.

5. Rise of the Tomb Raider

I loved the rebooted Tomb Raider. It was fun, a nice take on a usually over-sexualized character, looked stunning even without the tress effects (or whatever her hair tech was called). The only reason this game is not higher on the list is because I haven't gotten to spend much time with the game (it was a Xmas present so I've had 4 days to play it). The first impressions are very good though. It's amazing how good the game looks, even on the Xbone. From time to time I just stop and stare at the lighting, the lens effects of the light, the way fire flickers. If this is how good console games are getting, I cannot imagine the next generation of PC cards and what VR will do to interactive entertainment.

4. Keep Talking & Nobody Explodes

Every year, my friends and I who used to work in retail stores spend Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) holed up in my house playing video games. It's a tradition we take very seriously because to hell with shopping. This year, we spent a couple of days doing such game marathons (the other being Extra Life) and this game was a favorite at both. Amazingly simple in concept, the actual game is less about the mechanics of the bombs in question and more about you and your friends learning morse code or getting familiar with the modules you know well. It's about developing a shorthand for the symbol page (weird alien with a pitchfork, then copyright symbol, then omega sign and barbell on its side) or figuring out how to explain what a VGA port looks like. So much fun in large groups or in pairs.

3. Batman: Arkham Knight

I'm sure this is a sore point for people who play on PC, but this is the culmination of the Rocksteady Batman Arkham Dynasty and deservedly so. I've been a Batman fan since seeing Tim Burton's take on the character at the age of 3 and, though that version is flawed, it set me on a path to enjoying all kinds of dark knight-ery. This is about as close to my ideal Batman as I think we will ever get in interactive gaming. He's powerful, intelligent, gadget riddled, and voiced by Kevin Conroy. What more could I ask for? I even liked the Batmobile sections, something that I know rankles a lot of folks, but you like what you like.

2. Super Mario Maker

Like many gamers today, Super Mario Bros for the NES was one of the first games I ever remember seeing, playing, and getting good at. By now, Mario games are practically second nature and part of the gaming vocabulary. To be handed the keys to the castle (even if the princess is in another one) in such a powerful way is astonishing and something I thought Nintendo would never ever do in a million years. To be perfectly honest, half the fun of this game hasn't been creating levels because I'm not that creative when it comes to level design. I try to make levels that don't kill you cheaply and possibly would fit in an actual game. The fun of this game comes in two flavors; playing the creations of others and watching Patrick Klepick flail against the combined might of Ryckert and Gerstmann. Sorry Patrick, but I like laughing at your pain.

1. Rocket League

I'm kind of indifferent to sports. They're not fun to watch, they aren't particularly fun to play with competitive people, and I don't get the city wide obsession with them whenever a season comes around. That's why it's so shocking that my number one game of the year is essentially a sports game... with some caveats. Rocket League is utterly stupid. It's cars with jet engines and tires that let them stick to walls playing 3v3 soccer. It's also the most fun I've had with a game this year. I got this game for free from PS Plus and didn't expect to still be playing it months later, much less paying for every single DLC pack they release as my way of saying thank you to Psyonix for making something that honestly makes me giggle when I get that perfect goal or leap just in time for an epic save.

So that's my list. Keep in mind this is my opinion and shouldn't detract from yours in the slightest. It's just a list of what I played and enjoyed this year. Some notable omissions are Metal Gear V (not a Metal Gear fan), The Witcher 3 (didn't want to fall into that deep a content hole, maybe next year), Just Cause 3 (having put a lot of hours in it, I agree with Brad that it just doesn't quite capture what was great about its predecessor) and Splatoon (because I didn't play it).

Catch you later, see you in 2016.

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Star Wars trivia blog

Today is October 28th, which means there are 51 days left until December 18th, the official release date of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. However, since I will be seeing it on December 17th, there are 50 days left until I see the seventh chapter of a film series that has shaped my geeky/nerdy life. As a result, I will be posting one random piece of Star Wars trivia a day until release date. Let's see how many I can do until I run out. Also, this blog will be updated daily (I hope) and I won't be posting new posts, just editing this one to add more trivia. No need to clog up GB's servers, right? Anyway...

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50 days to go: The lightsaber props from the original Star Wars were fashioned out of flash attachments for old cameras, namely Graflex brand flash attachments. People in the camera collecting community hate Star Wars fans who bought up (and modified) most of the old Graflex flash attachments. Oops.

49 days to go: None of the following words are said aloud at any point by any character in the original Star Wars trilogy: AT-AT, AT-ST, Sith, Palpatine, Ewok, Y-Wing, A-Wing, B-Wing, Lobot, trash compactor (though garbage smasher is), Organa (Leia's adopted last name), Jar Jar Binks and Gungan (hehe).

The word X-Wing is said exactly once, by an Imperial officer in The Empire Strikes Back, and TIE fighter is said once by Lando during the Battle of Endor in Return of the Jedi (they are referred to as Imperial fighters or just plain fighters quite a lot though). Cloud City is only said once as well, by C-3PO, when telling the tale of the previous movies to the Ewok tribe.

48 days to go: In the original trilogy, Darth Vader is primarily portrayed by David Prowse (who, at 6'5" made him very imposing) and his voice is provided by James Earl Jones. Despite this fact, the two of them have never met in person, mostly at the insistence of Jones, who maintains that he is simply a special effect and the true performance of the character is that of Prowse. In fact, James Earl Jones wasn't even credited (again, at his own request) when Star Wars was originally released in theaters.

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47 days to go: Exactly two actors appear in all 6 (soon to be all 7) Star Wars films. One of them is Kenny Baker, who stands 3'8" tall. He portrays R2-D2 in scenes where the little droid appears to be dancing or rotating his head while standing still. He essentially provides R2 with emotion where a remote controlled robot wouldn't be able to. He also portrays an Ewok named Paploo in Return of the Jedi (the one who steals a speeder bike to distract the guards at the shield generator).

46 days to go: The other actor who appears in all 6 (soon to be 7) Star Wars movies is Anthony Daniels, who portrays the protocol droid C-3PO. He also has a cameo out of his gold metal skin in Attack of the Clones as a bar patron on Coruscant; he turns to see Obi-Wan defending himself from a bounty hunter.

45 days to go: The Tusken Raider who attacks Luke in the original Star Wars is legendary stuntman Peter Diamond, who also performed stunt work in Raiders of the Lost Ark and was one of two sword masters working on The Princess Bride. For the scene in Star Wars, he only raised his Gaffi stick once, but the editor rocked the image back and forth to make him raise it three times.

44 days to go: The original design for Han Solo's ship, the Millennium Falcon, was used as the Rebel ship seen at the beginning of the original Star Wars. It's current iconic design was bass on a hamburger with a bite taken out of it and an olive beside it as the cockpit. Seriously.

43 days to go: The destruction of Alderaan by the first Death Star in the original Star Wars is a truly monumental event in the galaxy. However, the amount of energy required to destroy an Earth-like planet has been calculated. It's several orders of magnitude more than The Sun puts out. You'd actually need several main sequence stars to generate that much energy. If you care to read the relevant math, have a look at the link here.

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42 days to go: George Lucas' pet dog, an Alaskan malamute, was the primary inspiration for Chewbacca. The dog would sit in the passenger seat of his pickup truck and be his ersatz co-pilot. The dog, named Indiana, is also the reason that archeologist Henry Jones, Jr. is known by that nickname.

More trivia coming soon!

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Racists trying to ruin Star Wars: The Force Awakens already

I am a Star Wars nut. The original movie (Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope) is one of the first movies I have a conscious memory of seeing, watching a VHS copy at my grandfather's house at the tender age of three (I was born in '86, so I didn't see them in theaters until the special editions). That film and its sequels (both of them) have shaped my geek fandom in a way that almost nothing else has. Looking around my living room, you'll see ligthsabers on the walls, Lego starships adorning every surface, multiple VHS and DVD editions of the movies next to the Blu-Ray collection... Trust me. I know how deep in it I am. I even enjoyed parts of the prequels, notably any scene where Jar Jar, Jake Lloyd, or Hayden Christiansen wasn't speaking. They're beautiful effects reals with a smattering of barely sensible plot thrown in. They were fun for me, but I won't defend them as good movies for an instant. They are what they are.

That having been said, Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens looks to be an amazing continuation of the movies I grew up loving. Yesterday's trailer cemented my desire to see this movie, if only to know whether they've screwed up the galaxy far, far away a little more, or managed to perform a course correction. With J.J. Abrams at the helm, I have hope. His Star Trek reboot made it painfully clear what kind of movie he wanted to make (a rip roaring action film) and though I enjoyed his Trek films, they really aren't Star Treky enough to be called Star Trek films. They are thinly veiled Star Wars movies. I have hope for The Force Awakens.

It's clear that not everyone does though, specifically a small group of idiotic white people who think that any "person of color"* does not fit in to their personal Star Wars universe (Link removed - Please do not link to sites that promote racism or hate speech) They feel Star Wars: The Force Awakens, a film they literally cannot have not seen yet, is anti-white because there is a black man playing the lead. The internet has allowed fringe groups like this a louder voice than they would otherwise. It's not the first time this year such a group has been revealed either. Mad Max: Fury Road is among my favorite movies of the year, but there was a small, vocal group of small, afraid dudes slamming it as "anti-male, pro-feminist" propaganda. They opposed women in strong roles, preferring action movies with nothing but strong white males fighting other strong white males... apparently over issues pertaining to strong white males.

My point is that most of you who've seen Fury Road probably never heard about these idiots. While the internet gives them a voice, it's becoming more and more clear that they are only a blip on the radar. The world is getting better about stuff like this. Once upon a time, people would be forming lynch mobs or threatening to blow up Disney to shut the film down. All they can do now is splutter about it on Twitter and be laughed at by people who see them as out of date dinosaurs. Hopefully the ridicule they face will get them to open their eyes and join, if not the 21st century, at least the late 20th. Slow progress.

On a side note, anyone else getting tickets to see the flick on release date? I have been preparing an Empire Strikes Back Han Solo costume all year for this, complete with belt and a DL-44 blaster replica, though the blaster will probably not be coming with since it's pretty realistic looking... and heavy. Can't wait for December.

Obligatory trailer re-post:

*in anything but a supporting role where they backstab their friend before changing their mind and then returning in the sequel to blow up a planet killing space station.

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