The Real Neat Blog Award, round 3

It’s another award, this time from Pete Davison of MoeGamer.  Pete writes about worthy niche games that certain professional game review sites either look down upon or won’t get anywhere near.  It’s well worth reading, and if you like my stuff anyway, you’ll like his too.  Thanks very much again for the tag.

Here are the rules once again:

1. Display the logo
2. Thank the bloggers for the award.
3. Answer the questions from the one who nominated you.
4. Nominate 7 to 10 bloggers.
5. Ask them 7 questions.

So with 1 and 2 out of the way, let’s move on to the substance: the questions.

1. Have you ever deliberately sought out a piece of media you knew would make you uncomfortable somehow? If so, why did you do that and what was the experience like?

I can’t say I’ve done that.  I’ve watched movies and read books that have plenty of heavy, depressing parts to them, but I wasn’t really going in with the mindset that “I will be uncomfortable with some of this material” or anything like that.  I can’t even say I was seeking those kinds of works out because I thought they’d make me uncomfortable.  As far as media that expresses opinions I completely disagree with, I did read the late Justice Antonin Scalia’s book A Matter of Interpretation, but that was assigned for a class, so I don’t know if that counts.  For what it’s worth, Scalia was a very entertaining writer, a rarity for a federal judge or a lawyer of any kind (I hope I’m an exception to that rule too.)  I still think most of his views were repugnant and/or crazy, but it’s a great book to read if you want to understand the mindset of a typical conservative judge in a US court.

These days I spend most of my time at work, and when I play, watch, or read something for pleasure, I prefer something that brings me pleasure, not discomfort.  I do understand the value of playing games, watching movies, or reading books well outside your comfort zone, though, even if I don’t necessary seek them out myself.  I’m just getting old and cranky, that’s all.  But I believe there’s a lesson in this, especially for game developers: if you want to express an aggressively challenging message, just wrap it in great gameplay and interesting characters and have it sneak up on me and I’ll be all about it (unless your message is bullshit, of course.)  Also, for God’s sake, make the message just a little subtle.  I don’t want to be talked down to like I’m a child.  Even children shouldn’t be talked down to like they’re children.  Give your audience a little credit, please.

2. What is your favourite tangible, physical item that you own and why?

A page from the Harada artbook. Very worth buying if you can find it for a halfway decent price now.

Does my entire physical library of games, albums, and books count as one item?  No, I guess not.

I’m not sure there’s one single thing I can say I own that’s my favorite.  They all have different functions that are pretty useful to me. I don’t have any family heirlooms or anything, and even if I did, I don’t think I’d get much value out of having them myself beyond the memories that might come with them.  I do really like that Takehito Harada Art Works Vol. 1 artbook I was talking about a couple of posts ago, though.  If I were forced to sell all my artbooks but one (God forbid such a thing should ever happen) that’s the one I’d keep.  Harada is one of my favorite artists, and the book is full of art of some of my favorite characters, so how could I bear to part with it?  It’s also translated, which is nice because it means I can read it now instead of two or three years from now when I hopefully get through most of my Japanese lessons.

3. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever sat on deliberately?

I could think of all the sorts of lewd answers you might get to this question, but unfortunately I don’t have any of those.  My actual answer is the Duck, an old World War II amphibious military vehicle that’s basically a combination car and boat, a boat with wheels.  The “DUKW” as it was originally named (get it) is now used by a Boston tour company to take people around the streets and into the famous harbor.  I can’t remember whether the tour was worth taking — I was 8 or 9 at the time the one time I was in Boston.  But the Duck tours seem to still be operating, so I guess it’s something to do if you’re there for a while and have nothing else going on.

4. What do you want for Christmas? (I’m not going to get you it, I’m just curious.)

“What is this, exactly?”
“Don’t… don’t ask.”

You know you’ve truly become an adult when your answer to that question is “a Visa gift card so I can buy food.”  There are certainly some less necessary things I want, but I’m going to be buying those for myself, not asking my family or friends for them, because they’ll start to ask some questions about my interests at that point that I don’t feel like answering.  At least not until I’m rich enough to not have to care what anyone thinks of me anymore.  If you know a good way to make millions of dollars while not being an asshole tycoon who pollutes the environment or employs contractors like Foxconn, please let me know and we can work something out.

5. Do you have something you would like to achieve that you know is well within reach, but which you can’t seem to make progress on? If so, what do you think is stopping you? If not, what was the last major achievement you think you accomplished?

I need to get my piano proficiency back.  I used to play pretty well, but I’m rusty as hell after years away from it.  I know I can still play from messing around on pianos and keyboards a few times — once you’re good enough, playing an instrument isn’t something you ever forget how to do, no matter how much time has passed.  But I’d need a month or two to get back to where I used to be.  Sadly I don’t have room for the family piano where I live now, and I don’t have enough to afford a non-shitty keyboard with weighted keys, so there’s not much I can do at the moment.  Maybe next year.

6. Assume you work full-time if you don’t already. If we suddenly switched to a 4-day working week, what would you do with that extra day?

I usually work well more than full-time, so a 4-day week is an even better deal that it would be for actual 9-to-5 toilers.  Hell, I would jump at the chance to work four tens, but that’s just a fantasy.  Assuming the fantasy could come true, though, I would use that time to write and accelerate my Japanese studies.

7. Think of the characters you find attractive — in terms of both personality and appearance. What traits do they have in common, and what is it you find attractive about those traits?

Well, here’s the big question.  I thought about it a bit, and while I find a variety of characters attractive in personality and appearance, I really like those that are extremely loyal.  Not the yandere-crazy type of loyal, but the stubborn type.  Like Saber from Fate/Stay Night, Flonne from Disgaea, and Aigis (who you could argue as an android is programmed to be loyal, but it’s pretty clear she gained a sense of human-like identity in Persona 3 so I think there’s a lot more going on there.)

I suppose it’s pretty obvious why loyalty is attractive, at least on the surface.  It’s great to be with someone who you can trust even with your life.  On the other hand, loyalty can have its downsides — if it’s not reciprocated, it can cause a lot of emotional pain, and it can drive people to do stupid or even evil things if they’re loyal to the wrong sort of person.  A little skepticism can be good sometimes as well.  Even so, I like the idea of having a loyal partner if only for the reason that she’d force me to examine my own sense of loyalty and honor as well and hopefully make me a better person for it.

Or maybe I just like cute blonde girls.

***

Thanks to Pete again for the insightful questions.  Now here are the questions I promised last time.  I’m cheating a bit here because the previous nomination I received required 11 questions, but I’ve done a few of these now and the well’s run a bit dry.  I hope I’m not repeating any of my older questions with the following seven.  The last couple are holiday-related because I don’t know.  The holidays or whatever.  You know.

1) Is there a game, book, or other work that you’d like to experience but that you can’t because it’s untranslated, not ported, or otherwise inaccessible?

2) What’s one work that really affected you or stuck with you in the last year, and why do you think it did?

3) If you could revive one series of works that’s been abandoned or dropped by its creators for any reason, what series would it be and why?

4) When it comes to music, do you prefer songs with vocals and lyrics or instrumental pieces, or do you have a preference at all?  If you prefer one type over the other, why do you think that is?

5) When was the last time you bought a magazine, newspaper, or other form of print media?

6) Is there a holiday you don’t get to celebrate/take off because of family or work reasons but that you wish you could?

7) If you had to create a new holiday, when would it be and what would it involve?

And the tagged persons are:

NekoJonez

Scott @ Mechanical Anime Reviews

Gaming Omnivore

Frostilyte

Pinkie’s Paradise

Ospreyshire

Red Metal @ Extra Life

As usual — if I tag you too often, or you don’t care for these questions, feel free to ignore them, but if I haven’t tagged you, also feel free to answer them.  Do whatever you want, in fact.  Freedom is great, isn’t it?

The Real Neat Blog Award, round 2

And here’s part 2 of my Real Neat Blog Award posts, this time courtesy of Red Metal of Extra Life.  Red Metal writes in-depth analyses of games and films.  If you have any interest at all in either of those, you should absolutely check out Extra Life.

Once again, the rules are that I have to answer his questions (the game says there are supposed to be seven of them, but Red Metal asked 11 — I’m up for it, though) and then ask seven questions of my own and nominate seven other bloggers to answer them.  Not very different at all from the Sunshine Blogger Award that I’ve taken on a few times already.  Anyway, here are Red Metal’s questions:

1. Have you ever watched a film in theaters that featured an intermission?

Back in the day when an Arab actor could play a Russian character and a British actor could play an Arab character and nobody would complain

If I have, I don’t remember it.  I know I watched a few films on VHS as a kid that included an intermission screen in the middle with a musical score playing over it like Lawrence of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago, but I missed out on the actual moviegoing experience in those cases.  It’s really too bad we don’t have intermissions anymore.  I guess studios don’t generally release movies as long as those old epics now.  Though they could have easily released the extended cuts of the Lord of the Rings movies and added intermission breaks.  I like the idea of giving the audience time to get up, get more popcorn or booze or whatever they’re refreshing themselves with, and go to the bathroom without missing any of the action.

2. What is the most expensive ticket you’ve ever purchased?

Unless we’re talking about plane tickets, it was probably a pass to Otakon back when it was held in Baltimore.  That con was a god damn mess; insanely crowded and too expensive.  I spent most of it drinking with friends, as I’ve done at every con I’ve ever been to, so it was fine in the end.  I never went to Otakon again, though.  Hopefully the DC location is able to handle the crowds better.

3. If you had to trade in fluency of your first language for another, which one would you choose?

Well, this is an easy one.  I already admitted to attending anime cons above, and everyone reading this knows I’m a massive weeb, so it’s Japanese without a doubt.  The prospect of playing a bunch of games that will probably never be translated is just too good to pass on.  On the other hand, it would be extremely annoying to have to relearn English, since I rely on reading and writing to make a living.  Include a three-month paid vacation with intensive lessons included to get my English back, and I’d be happy.

4. If you could appear on any game show (including ones that have ended), which one would you choose?

I used to want to make it onto Jeopardy as a kid, but just answering questions in question form seems a bit boring to me now.  I’d pick Takeshi’s Castle.  The odds of winning that game are incredibly low, but your friends and family getting to watch you pummeled by plastic cannonballs while you try to walk across a board over a lake would be fun.  Fun for them, at least.  (Also probably because I’m a weeb, see answer #3 above.)

In case you were wondering, yes, this is the same Takeshi who inspired the infamous kusoge Takeshi’s Challenge

5. As someone who has watched many classics over the past few years, I’ve concluded that old films are overall better than recent efforts. What do you think the current generation of filmmakers lacks that allowed their predecessors to shine?

I’m no expert in film, but if there’s anything I think current filmmakers are missing that previous ones had, it’s a sense of subtlety and perspective.  I know there are exceptions, but it seems like most movies that are trying to make a point today feel the need to hammer it into your head without bothering with shades of gray or nuance, which I find both annoying and insulting.

I know this one is a stupidly easy target, but I’ll never forget the ending to Surrogates, a 2009 movie I saw on TV that features Bruce Willis mumbling his way through a lead performance as a detective in a sci-fi future society where everyone uses artificial bodies while their organic bodies are in special chambers at home.  The movie’s a piece of shit, so I’ll just spoil it here: the big ending is that Bruce Willis’ wife destroys the computer that powers the surrogate bodies or something, and everyone goes back to living fully natural lives.  Which the movie presents as a victory without considering all the possible benefits of being able to use an artificial body.  Say you’re physically disabled.  Or you feel you were born the wrong gender and want to live in a body of the opposite sex without undergoing a major surgery.  No, apparently none of that shit matters.  No nuance, no shades of gray.  Technology bad, nature good.  Sure, movie, whatever you say.

Well, this is coming from a guy who admitted he would marry a deadly battle android if he could.  So you should probably take that opinion with a grain of salt.

Okay, so Surrogates was fucking garbage and I’m shooting fish in a barrel by criticizing it.  But even plenty of movies that are supposed to be good according to most critics often seem to fall into this trap.  I understand having an agenda, especially these days when the future seems so dark, but it’s no good letting your agenda take over your sense of perspective, not to mention your sense of humor.

6. How do you like your eggs prepared?

Over easy. I guess that’s not the safest way to eat them, is it? Doesn’t kill all the potential salmonella in there, but I haven’t gotten sick yet. On the rare occasion I’m at a Waffle House (say if I’m out at 3 am for some reason) I’ll order them scrambled.

7. How do you like your potatoes prepared?

I like a baked potato with sour cream, butter, and chives.  Not the healthiest option with all that sour cream and butter in there, but it tastes the best.

8. If you found yourself directing films, which genre would you want to specialize in?

Hard sci-fi, especially if the budget isn’t a problem.  There’s a lot you can do with that genre beyond the usual “humanity is doomed” kind of stuff we see now.  I have a few plot ideas, in fact, but I’ll just have to write them in story form instead since I don’t have the skills or money to make a film.

Planetes is the realest hard sci-fi series ever made

9. What is your favorite band/artist with a limited discography (i.e. no more than four studio albums)?

Red Metal already brought up a few worthy answers to this question like Joy Division, the Sex Pistols, and Nirvana.  I really like those bands (especially Nirvana; even though they were a bit before my time, they were a big part of my angsty teenage playlist right up there with Radiohead) but I’ll go with Jimi Hendrix and his band the Experience.  For as much influence as the guy has had on music, he only put out three studio albums — there’s no saying what he could have done if he hadn’t died so young.  I’ve always liked Hendrix, even his singing that a lot of people are unimpressed by; it fits his style perfectly.  Mitch Mitchell and Noel Redding were excellent musicians too, let’s not forget about them.  And all three albums they put out were great.  I’m a big fan of Axis: Bold as Love, which I think tends to get a little overshadowed by the others.

10. There are many stories over the years of projects or ideas never getting off the ground or being canceled mid-production. Which one would you bring into reality if you could?

I really had to think about this one.  I know for a fact there have been games I was looking forward to at times that were canceled, but they may have ended up being lousy for all I know.  I’ll go back to music this time and say The Who’s Lifehouse.  Pete Townshend’s concept for Lifehouse sounds quite insane, but it would have been interesting to hear the result.  Then again, Who’s Next, the album we got from the wreckage of Lifehouse, was great anyway, and I care about the music a lot more than the concept when it comes to the rock operas I like.

11. What series do you feel managed to be consistently good for an extended period of time?

Disgaea.  Both the mainline games and spinoffs I’ve played range from good to excellent, with each game building upon what the previous one accomplished in terms of mechanics and features.  The prospect of the series ending because of developer Nippon Ichi’s possible bankruptcy is a depressing one.  I know it’s all business, but still, to see one of my favorite series perhaps facing its end is not easy.

If the series ends with Disgaea 5, at least it would be going out on a high note.

Thanks to Red Metal once again for the interesting questions.  Here’s my own set of questions:

1. How do you feel about content warnings and rating systems (like the MPAA and ESRB rating systems and the famous RIAA Explicit Content sticker?) Are they effective, or is the point of these ratings the same as it was when they were created?
2. Do you have hard limits as far how short or long a game should be?  Or a book, movie, or album — whichever you have a strong opinion on.
3. How do you keep yourself occupied during your commute or while on a long trip?
4. Is there a certain character in a work that you strongly identify with? What is it about that character that you identify with?
5. Have you ever read/watched/played a work with a protagonist who you ended up hating, even though you were meant to like them? Who was it and what put you off about them?
6. Do you prefer to listen to studio or live albums?  Or does it just depend on the band/artist you’re listening to?
7. Is there a series (of games, films, novels, whatever) that you used to enjoy but that eventually lost you?  If so, what do you think happened to cause that?

And the subjects this time are:

Nintendobound

I Drink and Watch Anime

Otaku Orbit

BiblioNyan

BlerdyOtaku

Video Game Grove

I’ll also tag back Red Metal, since he went through the trouble of coming up with four more questions than he had to.

And now that I’m done with that, it’s back to the usual.  Hopefully we actually get episode 10 of Cop Craft tomorrow.  Man, do I fucking hate recap shows.

The Real Neat Blog Award, round 1

You all know how much I like to go on about the games and other works I like.  So I’m always grateful to get tagged with awards like the Real Neat Blog Award (the rules: answer seven questions, ask seven more questions, tag seven bloggers.)  And since this week’s episode of Cop Craft is a recap show that I am going to completely ignore because recap shows are worthless, that frees up some time for me to take on the questions that have been put to me.  I’ve been double-tagged, in fact — the first nomination comes from Frostilyte, who maintains a very interesting blog dedicated to video games.  If you like my material, I know you’ll like Frostilyte’s as well.

Here are Frostilyte’s questions and my responses:

1. What is a game coming out in 2020 that you’re excited for?

Nobody will be surprised to hear that I’m looking forward to Persona 5 Royal.  It’s just an expansion of Persona 5, but it promises a lot of new content, and Atlus hasn’t disappointed yet when it comes to Persona expansions (see Persona 3 FES and Persona 4 Golden, both well worth checking out if you haven’t.)  P5 also had some weird pacing issues that I hope might be fixed in Royal, though I’m not hoping very much.

I’m also looking forward to N1RV Ann-A, the equally annoyingly-titled sequel to 2016’s drink-mixing life-changing visual novel VA-11 HALL-AI loved Sukeban Games’ first big title, and I’m expecting a whole lot from their second when it hopefully drops sometime next year.

From their site.  I already love the game’s style.  Also, this place looks a lot classier than the dive bar Jill works in VA-11 HALL-A.

2. Ninjas, or Pirates? Why?

I’ve always been a fan of pirates — all the horrible murder and ravaging aside, that bravado and complete “fuck you” attitude they had towards the authorities is a lot of fun to read about, even if some of the common stories are made up or exaggerated.  On the other hand, if I had to choose which one I’d be, I would go with ninja for sure.  As far as I know, ninjas usually didn’t end their days at the end of a rope.

3. You won a life time supply of the last thing you spent money on. What is it, are you excited, and how do you intend to use your comically overstocked collection of this commodity?

I just bought a cup of coffee at the cafe where I’m writing this post.  A lifetime supply of coffee is very exciting — it means I’ll basically never have to sleep again.

4. God almighty above. They were right! AI took over the world and started building mecha-style enforcers out of the factories. Which billion dollar software company is responsible for ending humanity and do you submit to our AI overlords, or rebel against them?

It’s the conglomeration of Google-Apple-Facebook-Amazon.  And I absolutely don’t submit to them.  As much as I might be into futuristic technology, I also don’t like the idea of having to submit to an evil AI empire.  Give me the chance to become a rebel living in the forest and waging a guerrilla war against our mechanical overlords and I’ll take it, even if it ends up with me getting filled with bullets by a killer robot.

5. What was the reason you started your blog? Feel free to be as detailed as you see fit with this one.

When I started at law school, I felt the need to do something that wasn’t law-related to help keep my sanity.  I knew I liked writing, so I decided to start a free WordPress blog and write about video games.  It’s really as simple as that.  I continue to write here for the same reason I started.  My experience with the practice of law has been fucking miserable, so I’ll do anything I can to take my mind off of my profession.

Later on, I took up the idea of presenting my own views of games that might be considered niche or controversial, games that I feel are too often unfairly smeared by a particular group or school of professional game journalists.  Swing a stick and you’ll probably hit one of these assholes, there are so many of them, and all with the same bland, safe viewpoints that allow them to keep their jobs (to be fair to them, writing about games is their day job and it’s not mine, so I can afford to admit I like games featuring busty ninja girls and catgirl maids whereas they probably can’t.  But I think my point stands.)  There are also some interesting indie games I try to cover that tend to go ignored in favor of mediocre or merely standard-quality AAA games.

6. You wake up one day and find that you are now your least favourite character from your favourite television show (use a video game if you don’t watch TV). Who are you and how do you feel about it?

My favorite TV show is probably The Simpsons up until season 10.  But I don’t really have a least favorite character in that show.  I don’t even dislike Lisa, as annoying as she could be sometimes.  So I’ll go with my favorite game, one I will never shut up about: Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne.  I do have a least favorite character in that game: Hikawa, the dickhead cult leader who purposely triggers the apocalypse near the beginning of the game.  Hikawa’s reasons for ending the world aren’t that different from your standard JRPG villain’s: it’s rotten and needs to be cleared out to be reborn in a pure state, etc. etc.  Makes more sense than Sephiroth’s stupidity, but it’s still a terrible motivation.  Even worse, what he wants to create from the ashes is a terrifying world of stillness.  (I wrote a whole thing about Nocturne and the ideas behind the Reasons here if you’re interested.)

Fuck you, Hikawa

If I were Hikawa, though, I’d be pretty happy assuming I get to keep my own personality, because I’d be able to just not trigger the apocalypse and stop the game before it starts.  The protagonist would never become the Demifiend, he’d just go to college and become an accountant or something mundane like that.  Not sure if that’s necessarily a better outcome for him, but at least the world would be spared that whole genocide thing.

7. What’s a skill you wish you had, but can’t find the time in the day to learn or master?

I have to second Red Metal here and say drawing.  I dabbled a little in it as a kid, and maybe I’d be better if I’d kept at it.  I know exactly what kind of stuff I’d draw, too, if only I could.  And these days, I have to fight tooth and nail to get any time to myself anymore, so I really have no opportunity to learn it.

Thanks again to Frostilyte for the tag and for the questions!  I bothered to follow the rules this time, so here are my seven:

1. What’s your favorite game genre?
2. Is there a game genre you will never touch, no matter how much praise a game in that genre might receive? What puts you off about it?
3. What’s your favorite controller?
4. What’s your least favorite controller?
5. What game would you like to see get a full-scale remake? Complete with any updated graphics, features, and game mechanics you’d like.
6. How do you approach difficulty levels in games that offer that option? Do you like to jump into the deep end right away or take a more measured approach?
7. How do you feel about the “casual/story mode” difficulty levels that are easier than the standard easy mode? Is there any situation in which you’d play a game in that mode?

And my marks this time are:

Blimps Go 180

Why We Play Games

The Brink of Gaming

Meghan Plays Games

MoeGamer

NekoJonez

Gaming Omnivore

And of course anyone else who wants to join in.  I’ll be back in a few days for the second round, when I’ll answer the questions posed by Red Metal.  Until then!