Saturday, January 19, 2013

Gaming Cliques and Factions

During the NFL Playoffs this month, I noticed something interesting.  Gabe, of Penny Arcade fame, posted on Twitter that he was watching the Seattle Seahawks game.  The comments on the post seemed to be raking him over the coals, however playfully.  Comments ranged from "Who are you and where is the real Gabe" to something like "Don't go to the dark side".

Because a universal tyrant is the same as a being a fan of football, I guess.

It just strikes me as odd that gamers would be so defensive over something like this.  Do they feel threatened  by old cliches that if you like sports, you must make fun of gamers?

The two hobbies of sports and gaming are not mutually exclusive.

And I'm not just talking about gamers who play "bro" games (more on this later).  Speaking from experience, I've been a sports fan all my life.  Ever since I was little, I've been playing video games as well, albeit a few console generations behind.  In elementary school, I would play football at recess, and Pokemon during other breaks.  I'd go to practice on weekdays and football games on Fridays, and then play a few games of StarCraft with friends on the weekends.

I know there are other people besides me like this too.  I know people who follow sports rigorously, but still play games like God of War and RPGs.  I have friends who would play Basketball almost every day if the opportunity exists, and would still sit and grind in MMOs.

So where does this mentality come from?

A theory exists that gamers are such an exclusive group because they (the general case here) were alienated or mocked in the past.  I'm not talking about this generation of gamers who were around when gaming became popular, but the ones from the 70s and 80s. Before video gaming became popular, people became alienated for liking alternative hobbies like tabletop RPGS, TCGs and other such hobbies.

Hope that critical was worth the social anxiety!

So now with that established, those people were the founders of the gaming culture.  They set the standards. 

Now this part is pure conjecture on my part.  They ended up setting up some barriers to entry to prevent them from being mocked again.  They do this by being abrasive to everyone who hasn't proven themselves part of the clique.  They act like their hobby needs some form of gatekeeper who deems yes or no, in some sort of Colosseum-esque type decision.  (No Gladiator picture for you, because it would've just been too easy).  So now we have a group that was formed due to alienation and exclusion who reacts to newcomers with even more exclusion.  That becomes the groundwork for circles and cliques we know today.

Below, I'm going to cover a few of the cliques I've seen over the past few years.

For a quick example, a lot of gamers look upon the 'casual' gamers with a sort of smug superiority.  If I were to draw a literary example to it, they're viewed like the Night's Watch from the A Song of Ice and Fire series of books.  Allow me to explain.  In ASOIAF, the Night's Watch are a part of the country, that play a role in protecting the northern border.  In most cases though, the Night's Watch is made up of several unwanted members of society.  The murders, rapists, and other criminals, along with unwanted high born children and bastards end up serving the Night's Watch.  Now to bring this parallel back to gaming, the casual market is made up of the old, young, and the people who don't invest in consoles.  These are the people who play Farmville, Angry Birds, Bejeweled and the like.  They are a part of the community, but the 'core' community just brushes them off as a sort of fringe group, while, in some cases, completely marginalizing their importance or impact on the whole of gaming.

The next clique you'll notice is the Indie game circle.

This is the main character.  You probably never heard of him

This is the group that you could compare to hipsters.  They avoid mainstream games for reasons that might sound worthwhile, until they say it repeatedly ad nauseum, and play ONLY Indie games.  These are the people who won't play Portal because they prefer to play Narbacular Drop because it came first.  No matter how good a mainstream game might get, would rather play some obscure title to seem to be ahead of the curve.  I believe this behavior comes from wanting to stand out.  I mean, we've all taken some smug pleasure in introducing someone to something before.  Especially when they say something like "oh wow, thanks for showing me this".  I think they like doing this so much that they prefer to try to stay on the bleeding edge of things.  The barrier this group creates is that if you jump at the wrong point, you may be seen as a poseur by them, and might seem insufferable by the general community.

Next up is the "Bro Gamer" community.  These are the people that seem to catch a lot of scorn from the majority of the gaming community.  These are the people that play Madden, Call of Duty, and other shooters online.  A lot of people make the generalization that these people only play the mega-blockbuster games and are afraid to try anything new.  Now, a part of that may be true.  it could be why Call of Duty is a multi-billion dollar franchise, and why Madden sells millions of copies every year.  Part of me wants to believe that this is why they catch some flak.  Other people feel that these games don't deserve the sales they get, and that the series should 'die'.  The calls for death in these games comes because they feel the games don't change enough to warrant yearly sales.  I think the biggest thing people might overlook though is how amazing these games are as gateway games.  These games have enormous player bases, and fans.  Millions of people in the United States watch the NFL on a weekly basis, and now can get more into their sport via Madden.  If people like some aspects of Madden, they could end up branching out into other games.  This is the same reasoning that some people could branch out from Call of Duty into 'deeper' games like Borderlands, and maybe Bioshock.

Now, why do we have these groups?  People like to categorize things, so they can easily explain them.  In doing so though, we really marginalize each genre's importance.  Instead of being an excluding community, we should be open to all kinds.  The biggest thing that's bugging me is how some people think their $60 investment in a game somehow makes them superior because somebody made a different $60 investment.  This also goes for console purchases too.  There's way too much elitism and judgement in the gaming community.  The above cliques and circle terms are hardly ever used in a positive manner.  This is that elitism showing.  "Oh I play Mass Effect, I'm obviously a /truer/ gamer than some casual scum".  If people in the past turned to gaming because of exclusion, why do we feel the need to exclude or denigrate others?  I would think this would lead to a more inclusive community because of how exclusion has affected others.

Food for thought, Belmont style.

Penny-Arcade: OTRSPOD 3 Quick Review

So, I know I touched briefly on this game a few months ago, and now I've finished it.  I had put this game on the back-burner after awhile, and forgot about it.  When I went back to it, and played it for a bit, I realized I stopped playing literally an hour away from beating it.  So there's that.

If you remember my old post (here), I mentioned a few of the gimmicks of the game; class pins, interruptions, et al.  The biggest advancement since then, is an advancement in the class pin system.  At the time, I could only equip one class pin to mix with your core class.  Well shortly after that post, I found that you can equip two classes in addition to your core.  Doing some simple math, with about 10 choosable classes you have roughly 45 total, two-class combinations.  If you want to try mixing and matching to find your play-style, this is the way to go.

Just for the sake of keeping this short, here's a bullet list of thoughts on OTRSPOD3.

  • The combat is still fluid and nuanced.  You can find a general strategy that will work on most enemies, but there are some fights where you have to change things up.  
  • The class system is clever.  I think the class combination system is really nice in creating interesting strategies for battle.  Some classes, obviously, synergize well together, but having the option to branch out radically adds a really nice touch.  
  • The writing is a bit wordy at times, but it fits the whole Penny Arcade mold.  Tycho is verbose, and Gabe is a bit spacey.  It fits the comic well.  Whether you think this is a good thing relies on your thoughts of the writing in the strip.
  • Free DLC, so there's that.  If you're playing the Steam version, auto-downloaded.
  • Interrupting enemies becomes a huge priority in late game fights.  Once enemies start powering up, you'll want to keep them from attacking.
  • In case I didn't mention this last time, enemies get stronger the longer the battle goes.  It's not uncommon for bosses to be at 200% capacity or higher by the time you even get then below 1/4 life.

I highly recommend this game to fans of 16 bit RPGs.  The turn based combat has enough new wrinkles to keep it interesting.  The automatic healing between battles means you're not micro-managing items and abilities that can drag down a game.  The game isn't particularly long, and it's been fairly cheap on Steam of late, so consider it if you have an RPG itch.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Retro Throwback: Evil Dead Review

Yeah okay... I wasn't expecting this either. A movie review? Sorry, I've been playing Minecraft everyday for the past few months and discovered my addiction is still pretty fucking strong. I haven't really thought of reviewing Minecraft, because it's been done to death, and you don't need me, suave man Corey, to tell you that it's probably one of the best games ever made. Period.

Seriously. I need to go to rehab.
Also, this sprang up out of nowhere because a fucking creeper just blew up my house with multiple sprawling balconies and intricate pathways and designs, essentially wasting the 2 FUCKING DAYS I spent LOATHING over it.

What a dickhead.
So now I'm irritated and taking a short break from Minecraft, which proved to be quite the challenge because I don't really do much of anything BESIDES play Minecraft. Well, except hang out with my fiance, but she wasn't home during this chaos so I had to settle for a movie.

I don't have many films. I usually watch all the Indiana Jones movies, because they fucking rock. I like comedies, but don't really own any. Netflix never has anything good besides Rocko's Modern Life. So I went on YouTube instead and right on my front page was a trailer for the new Evil Dead movie remake. It looks interesting to say the least. That girl in the cellar is WAY more fucking creepy than she used to be, that's for damn sure.

Actually... I'm not sure anymore... O_O
I have a personal fear of this movie, mainly because my grandmother let me watch it when I was 5 years old on an old VHS tape that was already 4 years old, so the quality was super grainy. Raw, even. To this day this movie is fucking scary to me, and I will review the movie to kind of explain why. Honestly, I just put Terminator 2 on Netflix while writing this because I'm a little uneasy having seen the new trailer for the E.D. remake, and it's also 1:09 AM here.

...Okay, lets go.

The movie starts off just as disturbing as it should be. In the middle of a fucking fog covered swamp. Then the title pops up, and we see Bruce Campbell (as Ash) and his magnificent chin. Oh, and his friends are there too. His best friend Scotty is there, his girlfriend Linda is there, his sister Cheryl is there. There's also Shelly, who's pretty much Scotty's sack partner for the week. They're renting a cabin in the woods for a little retreat, because that's always a good idea right?

Out of nowhere, an ominous force locks the steering wheel to swerve the car into oncoming traffic, but suddenly it gives and Scotty, Ash's best friend swerves out of the way in time. Talk about an intro! It literally takes a whole 2 minutes for this horrifying scene to happen. It plays this music that's pretty chilling, and lets you know something fucked up is about to happen. It's just very unsettling.

Finally, in a hilarious moment, they find the cabin, which can only be accessed by crossing over a bridge over a large chasm, which once again... not a great idea. But they do it anyway, and arrive at the cabin.

Are you fucking crazy? You couldn't pay me to step foot in that cabin. Anyway, they all get out and we're treated to a tour of this god-forsaken place. All the weird ass shit you would expect is here: A deer head on the wall, little weird gourds hanging around, um, a goddamn trapdoor cellar held shut with CHAINS. Seriously, once I saw that shit I wouldn't be staying there.

The first night, a key scene happens here. Ash and his girlfriend Linda are sitting on the couch, and he gives her some kind of necklace with a magnifying glass or something on it. This is pretty key later on and I will tell you why if you promise to read the rest of this article!

The five are eating dinner making jokes when suddenly the trap door swings open by itself and scares the living shit out of everyone. After bitching about who will go down and investigate, Ash and Scotty discover a tape recording and the Book of the Dead. Scotty plays the tape, in which a professor begins to transcribe the passages from the book, speaking them loudly. Cheryl becomes more and more unsettled, screaming at Scotty to turn it off, when a tree rams into the window, scaring the five and most certainly making me shit my pants as well.

What they don't realize, is that they've awakened some pretty pissed off Kandarian demons. So the next night, Cheryl is lured outside by a ominous voice saying "Join us...", and of course she goes outside. Did I mention she's almost nude? Anyway, this leads to probably the most infamous scene in the movie, and I hate to even say it....

Tree rape. I'm warning you this next image may either turn you hentai fans on, or horrify you for eternity.

Oh dear lord...
This scene is long, and for all the worst reasons. I won't go into detail. Anyway, freeing herself from the trees, Cheryl treks back home to tell her devastating story, and no one believes her. Trees don't do that kind of shit. Insisting they leave immediately, Ash decides to take her home. He drives to the bridge to see this:

Do not pass GO! Do not collect $200!
Fuck! Almost got out. No way out now. Back to the cabin with you Cheryl!

Are you ready for the most stomach churning hibbity jibbity holy fuck scene of all time?

While just chilling hanging out, Linda and Shelly are playing some kind of card guessing game. Cheryl, on the other side of the room, starts calling out the cards without even seeing them. She calls out every single card, to the surprise and terror of Linda and Shelly, growing louder and louder until she reveals to be possessed.

Startled, the rest of the crew stand in horror as a floating Cheryl states, "Like all those before you…one by one…we will take you!", before dropping to the ground. It's here that the movie will break you instantly or you will overcome it.

As Linda goes to check on Cheryl, she suddenly lurches up, pencil in hand, and proceeds to stab it directly into Linda's ankle.

Just looking at this picture makes me queasy.
What's sickening is that that almost looks incredibly real. Anyway, Ash tries to pull her away, and is knocked into a bookshelf by Cheryl and subsequently it falls on him rendering him immobile. Cheryl comes at Ash with the pencil, and is knocked into the cellar by Scotty with a swift hit. Here's what's crazy in this scene: For Scotty to lock her ass in the cellar, he has to sit on the door with her pounding the living shit out of it, knocking his ass all around up and down until finally he gets the thing bolted down and chained up.

Shortly after, Shelly is violently taken away by "something", but re-appears later to get chopped up.


The amount of blood flying here is just horrifying. Especially the right-in-your-face dismemberment. You can see why this movie scarred me for most of my childhood.

Well, after realizing they've chopped up their friend, Scotty has had enough. Shit, what man wouldn't have had enough? Ash doesn't give a shit, like he's done it a billion times before or something. He still tries to convince Scotty to stay to save his friends, who eventually tells him along the lines of "fuck you" and disappears outside into the forest. I love this scene because for once Bruce Campbell looks like a chump.

Ash is left alone to deal with Cheryl in the cellar, who looks even more horrifying now, and even worse she taunts him over and over again. So Ash ignores her to check on his girlfriend who somehow has been sleeping the whole time, and finds out she has also turned into a demon.

Ike Turner's ex-girlfriend.
Instead of trying to kill Ash however, she sits and taunts him with the most annoying laugh EVER. So Ash punches her in the face three times, and she still laughs! Does my caption above make sense now? Linda does some kind of trick where she appears human and has a regular voice, tricking Ash until Cheryl reminds him that she's still the same. Ash replies:

That chin is pure torture on my heart Brucie.
Then the laugh. Oh my God that horrible laugh. The bitch is back. Ash, having had enough of her shit, drags her ass outside and leaves her and holy shit Scotty is alive, albeit seriously fucked up from the evil woods. Ash helps him in and puts him on the couch, where Scotty says "We're all gonna die!". Sorry to say Scotty... It's you and Ash left; Most of you are dead already. Scotty dies after this scene from his wounds.

While grieving over his loss, Linda strikes from nowhere and slashes Ash with a knife. She beats the living shit out of him, until he impales her with the knife (finally!) and ends her. To not take any chances having been tricked once, Ash tries to kill her by cutting her up with a chainsaw, but once again can't bring himself to do it. Fucking pussy. So he decides to just bury her. All is calm from the first strike of the shovel, up until Ash places the necklace he got her on the grave.

I think you know where this is going.

Her hand pops out, and slowly she rises from the grave knocking Ash on his ass. I find this scene to be hilarious because Ash then proceeds to take a wooden beam and repeatedly beats the hell out of her. You have to watch it to realize the humor. To make a long scene short, Linda jumps at Ash and he lobs her head off with the shovel. She lands right on top of him, spewing blood from her neck stump all over his face, while the head just sits and revels in it, laughing until dying horribly.

When Ash returns, Cheryl (remember her?) has escaped from the cellar. Talk about down on your luck! You had to chop up your best friend, your girlfriend, and now there's a demon lurking around somewhere. Well fuck that shit, Ash goes down in the cellar and collects a shotgun. Upon returning upstairs, Cheryl tries to take it away from him unsuccessfully, and Ash blasts her in the face.

Something like this
This is when things get weird. Ash goes back down in the cellar to get more shells, and a series of weird shit happens. First, a pipe bursts and dumps like 10 gallons of blood all over Ash. Then the walls and outlets start pouring blood. Even a lightbulb fills up with blood and explodes. Dazed from having an ocean of blood sprayed at him and confused from the utter insanity of that even happening, Ash stumbles in front of a projector which winds itself up and casts a light on him. Blood runs down the projector screen, essentially saying that Ash is next to die.

Ash high tails it out of the cellar to find more weird shit. Footsteps coming from the roof, a mirror that is actually water, shadows moving around the windows.... regular weird shit. It's clear Ash is losing his mind. In his defense, he's had a hell of a night so far. So he stands against the front door to rest and to get his shit together.

Maybe not...
You stupid son of a bitch! Haven't you learned by now not to do stupid shit like that? Anyway, Cheryl sticks her face in the door and Ash blasts her again. He starts barricading the door when suddenly Scotty rises from the dead.

How ironic that the last two demons that are alive are the ones who tried to leave.

This scene is climactic and really gets your heart racing because not only does Ash have to fight Scotty, Cheryl breaks the door down to add to the fun. It's also one of my favorite scenes strictly for this:

Not shown above: Heinz Ketchup bottle.
Somehow, the demons get the upper hand, forcing Ash to the ground. Remember that necklace? Somehow it ended up right next to the Book of the Dead, right by the fireplace. Ash gets the idea of destroying the book to kill the demons. Great idea, but he's about 3 feet away from reaching it.

Oh shit!
While his leg is being chewed off by Scotty and his body is being beaten with a fire poker by Cheryl, Ash does the impossible and uses the necklace to pull the book over to him. Tired of getting hit with a poker, he tosses the book in the fire and instantly the demons freeze.

This scene is fucking awesome. It's all old school clay animation and it looks amazing for the time (skip to 1:28):

Having triumphed the demons, in a twist ending that ominous force from the beginning crashes through the house after Ash and the last thing we hear is him scream.

Congratulations. You've now read about one of the best horror movies ever made. It's fucking pure blood and guts until the very end. Like the ad for the movie says, "the ULTIMATE experience in grueling terror!" And shit they ain't kidding! I really recommend that everyone watches this movie at least once. It's awesome from start to finish and it's genuinely scary to know that the actors did their own stunts, and some even got hurt during the process. This movie got Sam Raimi into the filmmaking business, and it's no wonder why.

Actually, I recommend getting the original "trilogy" set. Evil Dead 2 and Army of Darkness are hilarious and awesome, and feature some of the best one-liners in movie history.

Groovy indeed Brucie.