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Twenty-One Minutes

Essays, Not Rants! 383: 21 Minutes   I’ve made no secret my anticipation for Death Stranding, the latest project from Hideo Kojima, the gaming industry’s undisputed resident auteur-genius-lunatic. This is the guy who brought us all the lunacy of the Metal Gear Solid series that somehow managed to merge questions of linguistic existentialism, mutually assured (nuclear) destruction, and giant robots into a cohesive narrative about the role of a soldier. I wanna see what this guy does.   The lates
 

Zero Two

Essays, Not Rants! 382: Zero Two   When I got my Game Boy Advance SP many years ago as a wee tween I was very excited about some of the games I could play. Obviously, there was Pokémon Ruby because, c’mon, you gotta catch ‘em all. Then there were the new slew of Mega Man games, like the Battle Network series, an RPG where you bounced between Lan in the real world and Mega Man in the digital, fighting viruses and the such in an adorably nascent look at cyberwarfare. More importantly, however, the
 

Cinnamon Tography

Essays, Not Rants! 381: Cinnamon Tography   We live in a time that I’ve seen described as Peak TV, where there are these major shows that edge into cultural phenomena. Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Black Mirror. Those shows that you’ve definitely watched or you certainly know people who have watched. There’s an almost cultish fanaticism to the whole thing; half the fun of following Game of Thrones was being up in the discussion around it, whether at work, at the bar, or in line at the grocery s
 

Aegean Aexploration

Essays, Not Rants! 380: Aegean Aexploration   Somehow, I’ve managed to clock in upwards of ninety hours in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey since I started playing it a couple months ago. I’m nowhere near done with the story; heck, I’m not even too sure I’m that far into it. This isn’t so much a case of my having lost the thread as it is a merry exploration of Ancient Greece and all the fun it entails.   The lengthy playtime is especially impressive when one takes into account the fact that I’d just ab
 

379 Delicious Stakes

Essays, Not Rants! 379: Delicious Stakes There’s a common maxim in storytelling stating something to the effect of how you should always raise the stakes. Don’t make it just a friend at risk, make it a sibling. Instead of it just being the neighborhood affected, have it be the town. If you’re gonna have to save a city, it oughta be a major metropolis like New York. And why stop at saving the city when you can save the world?   High stakes usually mean high thrills. The Battle of New York at th
 

Menu-Assisted Narrative

Essays, Not Rants! 378: Menu-Assisted Narrative   Mega Man Zero ends with Zero facing down a hoard of Pantheons, his saber ready and his will resolved to fight every last enemy that crosses his path. The music swells and he charges off into battle.   The sequel picks up a year later and the opening stage is you, as Zero, still fighting the fight. The implication is clear: Zero’s been at it for the entire year since the first installment. It offers a neat sense of continuity between the two games
 

Shoes

Essays, Not Rants! 377: Shoes   My favorite part of Netflix’s Always Be My Maybe might just be a tiny beat that happens part way through the movie. It’s hardly a big moment, just a bit of table setting that, for someone like me, holds all the more import.   There’s a party, and a couple kids are chasing each other. They run up the steps to the house and, without pausing to think, slip off their shoes before entering. The camera follows them as they run through the house and to the back door wher
 

Bad Taste

Essays, Not Rants! 376: Bad Taste   I really like Iron Man 2. This is not a popular opinion; the movie is usually listed near the bottom of MCU movie rankings, especially when held up against its predecessor.   But I really like it all the same. I suppose there’s no accounting for bad taste.   Perhaps there’s some explanation for my deep affection for this much-maligned movie when the context with which I first saw the film is taken into account. The summer of 2010 saw my heart acting up with
 

Obsolescence

Essays, Not Rants! 375: Obsolescence   I have a floppy disk lying around somewhere with stuff on it I must have written when I was around eight or ten years old. I don’t know exactly what’s on it and I’m not sure where it is at any given moment; it’s one of those things that I’ll happen on occasion and think to myself “hey, I should get the files off of this some time.”   Of course, there is the whole issue of finding a floppy disk reader. My laptop doesn’t even have a CD drive anymore and what
 

They Changed It But That's Okay

Essays, Not Rants! 373: They Changed It But That’s Okay   The band Barcelona enthralled me with their first album, Absolutes, with its soaring melancholic piano-driven sound paired with some soulful songwriting. It was a shock to the system when their sophomore album, Not Quite Yours, instead featured a more rhythm-focused sound and the piano relegated to support in many songs. Their third, Basic Man, sounds even less alt-rock; it’s an album full of mellow synthy grooves. Each of their albums so
 

The Wickiness

Essays, Not Rants! 372: The Wickiness   John Wick has a delightfully simple premise: Retired assassin lives okay life. Punk kid steals retired assassin’s car and kills his puppy (that was given to him by his recently deceased wife). Retired assassin un-retires and goes on a brutal rampage of revenge.   Simple, effective.   And honestly, when so many action movies are trying to be super smart with overly complex plots and schemes, "dude gets revenge for dead dog" is wonderfully simple. It harken
 

Here Comes The Ending

Essays, Not Rants! 372: Here Comes The Ending   In many ways, I’m super jealous of the writers behind the Game of Thrones tv show. Over the years, they’ve built up an array of excellently developed and flawed characters, well-rounded, conflicted people who are often their own worst enemy. It’s Jon Snow’s loyalty to his homeland that makes his relationship with the Free Folk so fraught, but it’s that relationship that ends up saving his life. Petyr Baelish is delightfully conniving – he’s someone
 

Where's My History Lesson?

Essays, Not Rants! 371: Where’s My History Lesson?   The Assassin’s Creed games might be my ultimate guilty pleasure of a video game. Some of them are really good (II and Brotherhood), some… less so (the original and, honestly, III). Then there’s one like Black Flag which has a really cool central mechanic (ships!) but really accentuates the worst parts of the series (missions where you have to follow someone and then not be seen… and failing makes you have to slowly walk with the followee agai
 

Of Places Good

Essays, Not Rants! 370: Of Places Good   I’m not great at watching tv. The act of putting aside everything to sit in front of the television (or, let’s be honest: my laptop) makes me antsy. Watching it with someone’s better, since then I feel like I’m spending time with a friend and so not just sitting around. Point is, all this means binge watching shows isn’t something I’m good at – it notoriously took me four years to ‘binge’ Breaking Bad.   However, building with LEGO makes me feel like I’m
 

Of The End

Essays, Not Rants! 369: Of The End   Reaching the end of a good story is always a bittersweet affair. There’s no doubt a sense of joy in the catharsis of resolution, that sense that the story has been completed and all is well. In a good story, its ending will pay off all that came before. But an ending means it’s over; the story and characters that you’ve spent several hours with are done. You don’t get to be a part of their lives and adventures anymore.   It’s certainly kinda weird: these cha
 

It's The Endgame

Essays, Not Rants! 368: It’s The Endgame   It’s wild to think that when I started this blog seven years ago The Avengers was only just about to come out. There’s been a regular deluge of movies since taking place in The Marvel Cinematic Universe and it’s all coming to a head this weekend with the release of Avengers: Endgame. It’s hard to overstate just what Marvel Studios has managed to pull off here; 21 interconnected films with crisscrossing characters and story elements.   I still remember w
 

Star Wars Trailer

Essays, Not Rants! 367: Star Wars Trailer   There’s a new Star Wars trailer, for Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker, and naturally, I am very excited. Because, y’know, Star Wars. There’s so much I dig about it (Rey’s fantastic new outfit, Poe and Finn on adventures, Leia!), and I’m fully aware that this is because it’s Star Wars and these movies will forever delight me no matter what. But here’s the thing, the trailer for The Rise of Skywalker is an essentially perfect example of how to tease a m
 

Thursday Nights

Essays, Not Rants! 366: Thursday Nights   I don’t know if you heard, but getting tickets for Avengers: Endgame was quite the trip. AMC Theaters’ website full-on crashed and they shut down their (also overloaded app). Other websites, like Fandango were showing errors if you tried to access showings for an AMC. As someone with that fancy-shmancy A-List subscription, this was a real pain (I ended up going to the theater in person to buy my tickets).   This isn’t the first time there’s been a mad da
 

Adaptational Change

Essays, Not Rants! 365: Adaptational Change   There’s a delightful twist late in Captain Marvel that adds a nice layer of added depth to the narrative. It’s one that I didn’t see coming, but a friend who’s less familiar with the comics thought it was well telegraphed. The reason I didn’t expect it is arguably because of how used I am to the way things are in the Marvel comics. Turning things on its head is a concept so wild as to be unthinkable, and it’s something that the movie can uniquely do
 

Apex Teamwork

Essays, Not Rants! 364: Apex Teamwork   Ever since my brother got himself a PS4 I’ve been paying a bit more attention to online games. Sure, I play my share of online, games like Battlefront and Destiny are a great way to relax while watching The Daily Show, but an online multiplayer component has never been a big draw. Now that my brother and I can play online together, I’m ever on the lookout for a game where we can throw down together.   Over the past couple of years, Battle Royale games have
 

Captain Marvel

Essays, Not Rants! 363: Captain Marvel   Captain Marvel’s my favorite superhero. Well, most of the time; every now and then Iron Man noses his back to first place. But that’s beside the point.   Carol Danvers first showed up on my radar in 2013’s Infinity event where she was one of the Avengers fighting bad guys in space. It all culminates with, of course, the Avengers back on Earth fighting Thanos. Captain Marvel’s one of the hardest hitters, and it’s positively epic to see her, Thor, and Hulk
 

Top Nine Movies of 2018

Essays, Not Rants! 362: Top Nine Movies of 2018   Captain Marvel came out this weekend but I have other engagements and so cannot nerd out intelligently. Instead, please enjoy a curated selection of movies from the past year that I consider exceptional in one way or another.   As always, there are nine because there’s always space for one more.   9. Bumblebee Look, I’m as surprised as you are. As much as I am a sucker for giant robots, the Transformers movies have hitherto all been cheap thrills
 

Showing, Not Telling

Essays, Not Rants! 361: Showing, Not Telling   There’s this saying in writing that you should show, not tell; that is instead of telling the audience about how John is smart, write a scene where we get to see that John is smart. That way the audience can see how smart John is and think to themselves "Wow, John is smart." Idea is because the audience drew their own conclusion (rather than being told such) it’ll resonate more.   A similar rule of thumb applies to video games, except instead of jus
 

Frickin' Damsels

Essays, Not Rants! 360: Frickin’ Damsels   The original Kingdom Hearts follows a pretty typical story structure. Boy is childhood friends with Girl and Rival. Home gets destroyed, everyone gets separated. Boy sets out to find Girl and Rival. Girl is captured by bad guys, Rival turns to dark side. Boy rescues Girl, helps redeem Rival.   In the third game, Kingdom Hearts II (don’t ask about the numbering), the Girl, Kairi, winds up being captured by the bad guys again and the Boy, Sora, sets out t
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