Sunday, August 22, 2010

Scott Pilgrim Versus the World: The Game

When I was a young man my father took me to the city to see an arcade game. He told me "Son when you grow up will you be a savoir to the beat um ups or be damned to only look at games with fancy graphics and new fangled play mechanics?". Well I never joined the black parade, but I sure do enjoy Alien Hominid and now Scott Pilgrim Versus the World: The Game. My biggest complaint about the game is that it seems to be a bit buggy in parts, and the Universal Logo looks correct but they used the original Universal music rather than the chiptunes version heard in the film. The graphics are charmingly simple and there are references to River City Ransom, Super Mario Brothers and others which I probably don't get because in all honesty I never played that many video games as a kid.

Initially there are 4 selectable characters, Scott, Kim, (Stephen) Stills or Ramona. There are 2 unlockable characters as well. As you level up in the game you gain access to new abilities as well as the traditional increased HP/GP (gut points, basically the same as special points). Whenever you beat an enemy or boss they also drop Canadien coin of varying amounts. You can then use the money to buy new items which further increase your stats, or food items which give you a health boost when you need it. Each character has their own special attack that uses GP, and a special assist from various support characters (initially just Knives Chau). The assist is different depending on the character, for example Scott's assist is all enemies are temp stunned, whereas Kim gets some GP subtracted and HP added.

The animation is extremely charming and fluid, the moves are easily as varied as what you'd see in a modern Castlevania game and the leveling system rewards multiple playthroughs. The nostalgia factor is tapped into in many ways, and the SD sprite style really meshes well with the style of the comics. I think the worst thing you can say is that it does get a bit repetitive, and that it does get pretty hard at times. I would have really liked to see online multiplayer rather than just local multiplayer, although the local multiplayer is very fun. While playing with some friends I did run into one major fun killing bug, while fighting ninjas on top of a train, we missed one enemy and then went to the next screen, only to find ourselves locked/stuck at that screen.

A bug like this is totally unacceptable in a finished game, or at least that's what I would say if I hadn't seen spawns I needed to kill for a quest stuck in trees in WoW from way back when. Of course, Blizzard does their best to stop enemies from being inside trees and so I would also hope that Ubisoft does what it can to address the issues in Scott Pilgrim. One last note of interest: The game has multiple female characters, and to the extent that 8-bit or 16-bit characters can converse, they did, and it appears that it wasn't always (directly) about Scott Pilgrim. However, this is hard to say for sure since 16-bit characters always talk with emotes and gestures. If anything I'd say the game comes a hell of a lot closer to passing the Bechdel Test than the film did.

I'm going to measure this game in cuteness points, as it is easily the cutest looking game I've played since Disgaea 3.

I give Scott Pilgrim Versus the World 11 out of 10 cuteness points. I would have given it 9 out of 10 but the end world/end level rewards screens are fantastic, just look at Kim's and Stills' faces. PRICELESS.

EDIT: After Reading Volume 6 (comics WAY better than the movie, btw) I realized that this game has 1 straight male protagonist, 2 bisexual(?) women and 1 bisexual (gay?) man. This makes it the most diverse cast ever seen in a beat-um-up.

Friday, August 20, 2010

For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction

Well, this is a law in physics proposed by one Isaac Newton, after he posted on his blog about the whole gravity business and had an equal number of trolls and supportive responses. I've found that it doesn't hold true in the case of eBay auctions for charity though. Astoundingly enough, after the shakesville post calling me out for doing good, the scales tipped ever so slightly in the direction of support and positivity, rather than trolling and negativity.

What's more, if you think of things in terms of energy, the messages of support were mostly things that people took time to write and probably really thought about. On the other hand I doubt it took much thought, time or energy to come up with a take down like "How far down does your neckbeard actually go? I'm guessing it covers all three chins, Mr. XXL.". I mean, for one thing doesn't everyone buy t-shirts one or two sizes larger if they can? I like a good loose fitting t-shirt, especially during August in California when it gets over 100 degrees regularly.

At any rate, thank you to all the readers from Shakesville and Penny-Arcade who took the time to say something nice and positive. So often we think of the Internet in general as being a horrible, toxic community full of nothing but trolls trolling trolls but honestly, there are a lot of good hearted positive people who spend time in the blogosphere and even the nerdy blogosphere specifically.

Thursday, August 19, 2010


I think I'm going to re-read the last two books of Dune. I think they might say something a bit different to me now. I think in particular the Honored Matres may depict the media portrayal of man-haters who seek to replace the patriarchy with an equally fucked up authoritarian matriarchy, whereas the Bene Gesserit are a sisterhood but welcome male allies (Miles Teg, Duncan Idaho, etc). Bene Gesserit also know and are in complete control of their bodies. No law could stop a Bene Gesserit sister from getting an abortion, she can eliminate unwanted pregnancy with her own immune system.

I think really where the comparison falls apart is that it's a cabal instead of a movement, and of course there is the rule against Love. Still, I think HOD and CHD will be my next books after Feminism is for Everybody.

Monday, August 16, 2010

To all the proprietors and consumers of nerd culture:

I could leave it at that but I'll just rant for a while about how similar adult male nerds are to babies from 1-6months (and possibly more). When a young infant gets really tired or really hungry, they cry and get so upset that they make it impossible or difficult to give them what they want in a timely manner. Sometimes they will actually be so concerned about crying out of hunger they won't latch on to the nipple/bottle for several moments, and getting an overly tired infant to sleep can be a daunting and exhausting task.

With Nerds, they often express how they wish "there were more chicks gaming" or that they "never get laid" and yet whenever someone who isn't a cisgendered heterosexual male comes along and tries to claim a piece of gaming space, legions of trolls come out from the woodwork to drive out the perceived outsiders. Are you threatened by Women being able to compete with you on equal terms? Why the hate on Gaymers then? Just homophobic as all get out? Why is nerd culture and gamer culture so exclusive, and not more inclusive? Don't you people get that there would be even more good video game movies and good comic book movies if the sub-culture was more accepting?

I suppose this is an awful post/essay because I have no answers for the questions I ask. I don't think there are any answers, except that the nerd/gamer subculture is toxic as hell, and will likely see waning acceptance from mainstream pop culture in the coming years. Maybe then you'll let those who aren't white cisgendered heterosexual males into your clubhouse? For the time being, you can have it. I'll be enjoying the spaces carved out by others, your frothy mouthed rants crashing on the breakers.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Penny Arcade: Rape Is Fucking Hilarious!

So on Wednesday, Penny-Arcade posted a comic with a rape joke. I became aware of this sometime on Thursday night, and was aghast but not entirely surprised, after all, the fruit fucker had been a regular character for a while (but fucked fruit...which doesn't have the capacity to give consent, doesn't have sex, and doesn't feel emotional or physical pain from being raped). I figured that like Dr. Laura or Micheal Richards they would realize "oh shit people get raped in real life and it totally sucks, dude, lets apologize" but instead they just gave the same reaction they did when Hallmark hassled them. IE: "fuck you, you're too sensitive".

So yeah.

I'm done. Just like I stopped reading CAD ironically when CAD guy posted the now-infamous miscarriage post, I'm done with Penny-Arcade. So, I am auctioning off all my penny-arcade merch on ebay and donating to Men Can Stop Rape, because, contrary to what Jerry and Mike espoused in their reactionary comic today, there is a lot that men can do to stop rape.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

In the grim future of Starcraft 2, there is only war (and EXTREMELY rigid gender roles).

I'm uncertain how many people know this, but Starcraft was heavily based on the WH40k universe. Zerg are modeled after Tyranids, Protoss are modeled after Eldar and Terrans are modeled after Terrans. Obviously, the storyline was changed drastically, the Space Marines do not count fanatical devotion to the Emperor as their chief weapon. I find it odd then, that one aspect they chose to keep the same in Starcraft 1 was the exclusion of women in power armor. It seems like common sense that gender and sex would have no impact whatsoever on the capability of a power armor-clad space marine. Even the sexist Heinlein, the first sci-fi writer to make fiction with battlesuits couldn't help but imagine that such technology would lead to an egalitarian armed force where position is based on merit.

Sure, Starcraft 1 did toss us Sarah Kerrigan, arguably one of the coolest super soldiers whose name isn't Samus, but one could easily make the case that she existed only to give us an interesting bad guy later on (ala Arthas), or to flesh out Jim Raynor's character. One would assume that Starcraft 2 would learn from the Warhammer 40k universe (or the Duneiverse for that matter) and introduce an all female army, or a few cool empowered female characters, or just some visible characters that aren't heterosexual white males. What we get instead is a Pioneer Woman in a labcoat in cutscenes, Kerrigan appearing as Queen of blades with extremely vague motives, and in game we finally do get women in power armor...only they can only heal...and if you click on them a bunch they are sexualized much like the dryads from WC3. At the end of the day the only positive depiction of women in the battlefield is the Medivac pilot(s), Banshee pilot(s) and Nova, who appears for one mission in a grey zero suit that can cloak.

I think what bothered me the most in the game was the character of Dr. Ariel Hanson though. She sends out a distress call because her people are under attack from aliens, Raynor shows up and saves the day, then she becomes a member of the crew while her people find a place to settle down. When they finally find a world that seems suitable, she asks Raynor to come live with her (in spite of the fact the two haven't known each other for more than a week, and that for all we know they have never even had one discussion about something other than the Zerg or the Protoss), then she kisses him as he establishes himself all the more a stoic man of action, unwavering in his dedication to the cause. A character introduced, then dismissed, solely to establish character traits of a male lead. Instead of women in refrigerators I guess it's women running from Zerg/Protoss in the land of SC2.

The Whole Ariel Hanson story arc felt tacked on, by the by. Not saying there weren't some fun and creative missions there but if I had to pick any part of the campaign where it felt like they wedged it in to make the campaign longer to be better able to justify breaking the game up into three parts, it would definitely be that part of the campaign.

As far as Nova, she shows up, is pretty cool as far as doing the exact same thing Kerrigan did in the first game (minus being abducted by the zerg) and then leaves after one mission. I don't know what else to say, except I wish they made Starcraft: Ghost.

There is also the Kate Lockwell, who is constantly having everything she says dismissed by her Glenn Beck-ish co-anchor. She is a fairly entertaining character, but only appears in optional cut-scenes. This character really doesn't stand out too much, likely because of how little impact the news team has on the story proper.

In game we have the Medic unit the Medivac unit and the Banshee unit, all female gendered. As mentioned previously, the Medic unit makes sexually suggestive comments as the "joke", in a manner similar to the dryad. The Medivac unit just makes some Airplane! jokes, which is fine for those of us over 25. The Banshee unit is actually pretty cool, has a few "banshee" related jokes. At the end of the day, if you are male in the SC universe you can be a: space marine; combat pilot; transport pilot; tank operator; battlesuit operator; HUGE battlesuit operator; starship captain; medic; scientist; Ghost; Spector or TV Anchorperson. If you're a Woman you can be either a: Doctor; Ghost; Banshee Pilot; Merc (there is one I forgot to mention), or an Anchorperson. I suppose also Queen of Blades but that position is occupied.

I'm going to close by saying that in spite of the few women that did appear, Kerrigan is the only one who really impacts the story, and even at that her motives are unclear. In DOW2, although there was only one visible female gendered character, she saved several worlds through actions that put her own life in danger. Given the impact Jayna had in WC3, I'm somewhat surprised that female gendered characters are thrown by the wayside in SC2. Perhaps this will change in future chapters?

PS: Needless to say, LGBT are completely invisible in starcraft 2. There are no conversations between 2 women and there sure as hell are no conversations between 2 women which does not relate to a man.

PPS: I didn't mean invisible as in they have cloaking fields. Although perhaps that is possible.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Prop 8, Starcraft 2 and Leigh Alexander

Prop 8 was finally defeated in court yesterday, and although I'm certain there will be an appeal it will likely be defeated again. The thing about the constitution is that it applies to everyone, not just whoever you happen to be. So the second amendment applies to people like myself who want a .22 to take to the firing range, and it also applies to Tea Party members who want to open carry 2 AK-47s (modified to be semi-auto, naturally!) and 3 glocks into a Starbucks. The funny thing is how different people react to the realization that the Constitution exists to protect the rights of all from the tyranny of the masses. When a gun control law is defeated in court, most progressives shrug and say "welp" while Republicans cheer and say "awwww hell yeah second amendment" but with regards to Loving V. Virginia or the Prop 8 decision, the Conservative consensus is "DAMN THESE ACTIVIST JUDGES OVER-RULING THE WILL OF THE PEOPLE!".

If you don't like living in a constitutional republic you're more than welcome to get the fuck out, GOP.

Leigh Alexander wrote an excellent article on Gamasutra found here which I found fascinating because it not only confirmed suspicions I had about micromanagement of acquired brands at Activision, but also answered a lot of questions about why we see so few games with female protagonists. I myself had played DJ Hero to completion and wondered why there was an abundance of licensed male DJs, yet absolutely no licensed female DJs (or fictional ones wearing more than a bikini). I also think this helps explain away the weirdest moment of SC2: The Scientist Lady who shows up, hangs around for like 6 missions which have nada to do with the plot, then kisses Jim Raynor goodbye and begs him to shack up with her. This was the single most immersion breaking moment in any Blizzard game, right up there with time Thrall performed a tap dance to win over the Tauren as allies.

Damnit that Paragraph got away from me, but at any rate, notice the reaction of gamers to Alexander's post? When a male author makes even a baseless claim about Activision being horrible the general consensus is "that's right bro!" but GOD FORBID a woman see fit to cite actual sources and criticize Activision, as the resulting consensus among the brodudes is "FEMINAZI ATTACKING OUR GAMES! QUICK THINK OF A REASONABLE SOUNDING LIBERTARIAN MIND FART BASED COUNTER ATTACK!".