Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Holy shit, this new rule needs a name ASAP

A friend sent me this:

A more refined version of this rule might be something along the lines of "Replace the word 'men' with 'Jews', 'sexism' with 'racism', and 'sex/gender' with 'race'."

An example:

It goes without saying that Sarkeesian, vile as she often is, doesn't deserve any of the death threats and doxxing that she has received. But it's also true that calling people like her and Jessica Valenti and Lindy West the feminist equivalents of Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity and Bill O'Reilly is not completely out of line.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Game Reviews: The entire Batman: Arkham series

Batman: Arkham Asylum

The 2009 game that started it all. This was the first game that fully functioned as a "Batman simulator" – the first chance anyone ever got to sneak around buildings, preying on criminals and picking them off one by one, using an array of high-tech gadgets, and cracking supervillain bones like twigs. Many people still consider it the best game in the entire series, because its smaller, focused location helped to keep the pacing, story, and overall atmosphere very tight. The graphics (rendered in Unreal Engine 3) still hold up great today. The game also brought back Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill as Batman and Joker, reprising their fantastically-acted roles from the mid-90's Batman cartoons (although this game is much more graphic and mature than those ever were). The original premise of the game was "to give Batman the worst night of his life", centering around Joker's plan to create a toxin that gives ordinary criminals enough superhuman size and strength to crush both Batman and Gotham City. For anyone looking to get into the series, Asylum remains the best place to start.

Overall: 9/10

Batman: Arkham City

The first sequel to Asylum, Arkham City came out in 2011 and managed up upgrade the already fantastic formula in dozens of new ways. You're not just exploring an island anymore, you're exploring a portion of Gotham City itself; your tool set has been upgraded so you can get around more quickly and fight enemies more efficiently; the music is more epic; the story is far more tense and features many more supervillains and boss fights; and so on. In fact, this game is so good that it was my fourth-favorite game of all time, for a very long time. There are probably more people who think this game is the peak of the series than for any other entry, which is not hard to believe. The plot, set a year after the first game, involves Hugo Strange getting permission from Gotham's mayor to wall off part of the city to create a super-massive prison to contain all of the city's criminals – unsurprisingly, his real motives are not so high-minded, on top of the fact that Joker is still alive (barely) and wreaking havoc inside the prison's walls. The entire story is great, but the beginning and ending are both particularly phenomenal.

Overall: 10/10

Batman: Arkham Origins

The third game in the series came out in 2013, and unlike the other three games, this one was developed by WB Games MontrĂ©al instead of Rocksteady. Origins is universally considered the weakest entry in the franchise, and I would agree wholeheartedly – which is a shame, because I actually think it might have the strongest story out of the first three games. Unfortunately, it also drops the ball in a number of other ways. The graphics and music are still top-notch, but the game is riddled with glitches, dull sidequests to the main story, and a lack of references to the greater 'Batman universe' that the first two games handle excellently. However, this game's biggest whiff is with the gameplay – while much of it is identical to the first two games, it also has all too many sections that are frustrating and confusing, rather than simply being challenging. Neither Asylum nor City made me want to hurl my controller at the wall the way this game did – were it not for the strength of the story, I might have given this game an overall score of 6 or 7. The story, however, is exceptionally good, even by this series' lofty standards. This game takes place several years before Arkham Asylum, during Batman's second year of fighting crime. Because it's so early in his career, no one is quite sure what to make of him – the mostly corrupt Gotham police, including Jim Gordon, view him as just another criminal; Alfred is constantly worried that he'll get himself killed; and most of the criminals themselves aren't entirely sure whether he's real or an urban legend. Batman himself makes mistakes in certain places, as well. The overall story involves Black Mask, aware of Batman's existence, hiring eight of the world's best assassins to kill him once and for all. Additionally, halfway into the game, Batman and the Joker meet for the first time (these scenes are particularly good). Even with the gameplay being frustratingly obtuse in certain areas, this weakest entry in the series is still pretty darn good.

Overall: 8/10

Batman: Arkham Knight

The fourth, and supposedly final, game in the series came out just a month ago, June 2015. Like the first two games, it was developed by Rocksteady and includes voice work by Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill.

The story takes place roughly a year after the events of Arkham City, and involves Batman facing Scarecrow, whose threats have caused all of Gotham City to be evacuated, aside from criminals and looters, and who has teamed up with a new character named "the Arkham Knight", who has convinced all the other remaining supervillains in Gotham City to give him $3 billion to build up a full-fledged army, with hundreds of highly-trained soldiers and countless dozens of remotely-operated tanks, drones, and missile launchers, all for the purpose of finally taking down Batman. It's by far the darkest and most tense story in the entire series.

Arkham Knight is not a perfect game. In certain parts, the story is almost too dark for its own good (this is the first game in the series to be given an M rating instead of a T rating by the ESRB). This game introduces the Batmobile for the first time, and while many people criticize the game for shoe-horning it into too many sequences (I get where they're coming from), the only major problems I had with it were that the tank battles can get annoyingly long if it's not properly upgraded, and that it feels more slightly more like 22nd-centry technology than it probably should. That latter point, somewhat applies to Batman as a whole: his new suit is so advanced at this point, he's practically Iron Man. The powerful suit gives players a new attack option called a "fear-based multi-takedown", allowing you to instantly knock out 3-5 enemies in quick succession, and in very cool slow-motion, if you manage to sneak up on them. Unfortunately, I died many, many times from trying to trigger this move without it working quite right; it's a little too hard to tell when you're be able to pull it off and when you aren't. Along similar lines, the controls to this game might be a little too complex for their own good: Batman has dozens upon dozens of different moves at his disposal, but unfortunately it's somewhat difficult to manage and remember the controls that trigger all of them. Much of the time, I wound up just sticking with the bread-and-butter tactics from Arkham City.

If the above paragraph of criticisms makes it game sound a little iffy, rest assured that its positive aspects blow its niggling imperfections completely out of the water. Arkham Knight has officially replaced Arkham City as my fourth-favorite game of all time, and may very well end up beating out Halo 5 for my game of the year.

For starters, this game is supposed to represent Batman at the absolute peak of his powers, intellectually, physically, and technologically, and it pulls that off incredibly well. Arkham Knight is very good at making the player feel very powerful, as Batman. Only in a couple of crummy Batmobile scenes did I ever feel like I was actually outgunned. The Batmobile itself, even if it's used a little too frequently and the button that summons it is in the wrong place, is an EXTREMELY COOL addition to this game. Personally, I think this game has the best story in the entire series, as well: it has much in common with The Dark Knight Rises, one of my favorite movies of all time, and the subtle buildup to the reveal of the Arkham Knight's actual identity is very well done. And while this game is by far the darkest entry in the series, thanks to this game's unexpected iteration of The Joker and the way Mark Hamill delivers his lines, it's also, surprisingly, the most hilarious entry as well. And finally, OH MY GOD the graphics. Arkham Knight might actually be the single most visually impressive game I have ever played in my entire life.

Even if the controls are somewhat cumbersome and the use of the Batmobile is somewhat imperfect, I absolutely cannot speak highly enough about this game. It's a technical and artistic masterpiece. Part of me is already itching to replay it.

Overall: 10/10

My Reaction When....

....feminists who have written hundreds upon hundreds of articles about the importance of positive body image, breaking body stereotypes, avoiding body-shaming, and opposing sexual objectification, go see Magic Mike XXL and immediately toss every single goddamn one of those arguments straight out the nearest window in order to fawn over how 'great' it is:

I couldn't make this shit up if I wanted to. And even if I could, I'm too drained at the moment to actually do so.
"The Male Gaze is considered dehumanizing,” Green says, "because it treats women as one-dimensional sex objects without any agency or desires of our own.”  Yet the Female Gaze “has different power dynamics than the Male Gaze,” Green argues, since women’s sexuality can seem like a lose-lose a lot of the time.
Or, to put that another way: "....but but but it doesn't count as sexism when our side does it!!!!!!!!"

Is it too late for me to volunteer for that one-way trip to Mars?

Monday, July 20, 2015


Check out this awesome gender-swapped version of Magic Mike I found:

Man, it has such a great plot too!

Sure is great to know that we're all okay with this sort of thing now.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

R.I.P. Satoru Iwata

Satoru Iwata, President and CEO of Nintendo, passed away a few days ago, from a medical condition.

Iwata was a software programmer before he became CEO, and he had a direct hand in some of my favorite games of all time - including Earthbound and the Smash Bros series. The entire video game industry paid tribute to him when the news came out, including his friend and creator of Mario/Zelda/Starfox and countless others, Shigeru Miyamoto.

My favorite story about Iwata was about the lengths he would go to to take responsibility for any troubles Nintendo had, including slashing his own pay to avoid firing workers:

There is no shortage of great and fitting tributes to him as well, many of which have gone viral:

Also viral is this song from Earthbound, called "Smiles and Tears":

As well as this image Tweeted by Nintendo themselves, of a rainbow over their HQ, now nicknamed the "Rainbow Road to Heaven":

R.I.P, Iwata-san :'(