Archive for the Grumblings Category

Today in Gamer Rage…

Posted in Grumblings with tags , , , on January 16, 2020 by chemiclord

Hello darkness my old friend…

I’ve come to talk to you again…

I’m actually not much of a fan of that old song, which is annoying because it pops into my head every time I watch gamers willingly taking control of the hype train completely on their own, driving it straight into a wall, then getting furious at developers after it crashes.

This time, it’s because of (*sigh*) another Fire Emblem character in the Smash Bros. series.  And hoo boy is every loud mouthed aggressively online gamer east of the International Date Line pissed about it.

Let’s get a few things squared away first.

  1. I’m not excited about the addition of Byleth myself.  I enjoyed Fire Emblem: Three Houses a great deal, but I’ve never really been all that much of a FE fan, and have played absolutely zero of the FE characters in Smash Bros.  That… almost assuredly is not going to change this time.
  2. Like it or not, Sakurai and Nintendo consider Fire Emblem to be a tentpole IP for the Nintendo brand.  Considering it is 14 exclusive games strong, and Three Houses released to critical acclaim, stunning sales worldwide, and multiple awards, it doesn’t seem like that is an incorrect sentiment.  No, the IP is not particularly strong in North America (though Three Houses sold extremely well even here), but at some point, you have to accept that it’s going to receive considerable representation, on par with the Mario series, Pokemon, and Legend of Zelda.  Gamers in the west are just gonna have to deal with it.
  3. The rage, in my opinion, really isn’t about “another Fire Emblem character.”

See, gamers have a problem.  We love to be hyped.  We love to shoot for the moon.  That, in and of itself, wouldn’t necessarily be a problem… if we didn’t get furiously angry at everyone but ourselves when our moonshot falls short.

In this case, Smash fans had convinced themselves that the fifth DLC character was going to be Dante from Devil May Cry.  They were duping themselves with a bogus scam account of one of Capcom’s lead developers.  They clung to a Capcom announcement happening the same day as the Smash fighter announcement as incontrovertible proof  that Dante was going to be the guy.  This was a stone cold lock, guise!

Did Nintendo hint at any such thing?  Nope!  But hell if we didn’t convince ourselves they did!  Did anyone actually at Capcom make such a connection?  Nope!  But we were damn sure of it nonetheless!

Did we get mad at ourselves for duping ourselves yet again?   HA!  Of course not!  We got righteously irate at the developers who didn’t promise what we decided they promised!

Again.

It’d be funny if it wasn’t so damn toxic.

Gamers are what’s wrong with gaming.

On a (Not-So) Rise of Skywalker

Posted in Grumblings with tags , , , on December 25, 2019 by chemiclord

(Note: This will NOT be entirely spoiler free.  I really can’t avoid it in this case, I’m sorry.)

Let’s get this out of the way.  “Rise of Skywalker” is an entirely average Star Wars movie.

Kinda like the other eight.

It’s end goal is to keep you mildly entertained for two hours without having to think too hard.  It does that.  Rian Johnson wanted to try and make it broader than that, but the old guard clearly refused to allow that, so… here we are.  Back to the old formula.

That’s something to keep in mind as I proceed through my thought space here.  For as much as I scoffed at Episode 7 (https://tkocreations.com/2015/12/29/on-an-awakening-force/) or lauded Episode 8 (https://tkocreations.com/2017/12/17/on-the-best-last-jedi/), there’s really not all that much of an overall quality difference between any of the Star Wars films.

Because there is a problem that really emerges with this trilogy especially; Rise of Skywalker suffers for it, and I fear every successive film is going to suffer even more as inevitably this story continues.

It is trying way too hard to placate a segment of the fan base that is frankly going to be impossible to placate.  Rise of Skywalker does everything it can to get back in the good graces of the “long time fan.”  You guys had a big problem with Rose?  Okay, she’s a bit player now.   Hated that Ray was just a nobody without any ties to a noble bloodline?  Hey!  We fixed it!  Couldn’t stand that some woman that could have been Ackbar tried to tell Poe what he couldn’t and couldn’t do?  He’s the general now!  We brought back all these old faces that you remembered from thirty years ago!  Isn’t that awesome?

Guys?  Please, don’t be angry anymore!  We’re trying to give you what you want!

The problem is what the “old guard” wants isn’t something that they’ll ever get.  They want to be 10-15 years old again watching “A New Hope” for the first time.  They want that magic back.  But they can’t get that feeling back.  They are going to be perpetually enraged no matter how many times you try to callback.

Stop trying.  Let Star Wars be for a new generation.  Yes, the perpetually online old guard will be pissed about it.  But guess what?  They’re gonna be pissed at anything you do.

On Becoming Useless…

Posted in Grumblings on December 17, 2019 by chemiclord

In 2014, I was hit by a car in a rather “classic” hit-and-run while exiting a biking trail.  While the damage definitely could have been a lot worse, what did happen was bad enough, nasty scarring on my right calf for one, some lacerations, some bruises, and most significantly, a severe herniation of the L5/S1 disc that required emergency surgery.

My surgeon for the procedure was excellent, explaining that this was as close to a routine surgery of the spine as you can have.  But even then, she also told me that it was never going to completely heal.  I was never going to go back to what I was.  It was merely a matter of sustaining function as long as I could before the inevitable.

A sign of that inevitability came this morning, as I was informed that I would be given “lifelong” restrictions at my day job.  There are going to be elements of what I did that I shouldn’t ever do again for the sake of my health (and ability to walk).

It’s… been a blow, to be honest.  I did everything I could to avoid having this meeting, because I knew this was what I was going to hear.  I spent most of my adult life trying to be the guy that you could count on, that could do anything you needed.  And now I can’t.  Now I get to be lumped in with the stigma of “lazy” people.

“If you can do [x], why can’t you do [y]?”

“If you can do [y] for twenty minutes, why can’t you do it for eight hours?”

Here in the US of A, this is part of the “working man” motif, and not even I am immune to it.  Even if by all rationality, I should be celebrating this good thing… I can’t.  I’m no longer the “good worker.”  I can’t be.  Now I’m the “useless worker,” the “lazy” one.

And it hurts.

It’s probably going to hurt for a while, at least until a new normal sets in.

Here’s hoping.

Plucking the Splinter (News)

Posted in Grumblings on October 10, 2019 by chemiclord

Not going to lie, it was a site I loved to hate.  And boy, did it make itself very easy to hate at times.  Perhaps fortunately, as of today, there’s nothing more to hate about it, as its parent company G/O Media formally pulled the plug this afternoon.

Whether it was Hamilton Nolan quietly and cowardly trying to subtly incite class violence in his articles, or Katherine Krueger (an editor in name only as I didn’t see any semblance of actual editorial control at any point during her tenure) hypocritically snarling at the aggressively online while being aggressively online herself, or Rafi Schwartz spouting endless conspiracy theories that the neoliberals were in league with the right (despite all evidence to the contrary), or Jack Mirkenson doing a disservice to journalism with sparse “articles” (I hope he wasn’t paid by the word, let’s put it that way), to the aggressive lack of anything resembling an attempt at journalistic standards…

It was the sort of site for people who were mad at the world, didn’t really understand why, but were at least socially aware enough to know that they couldn’t overtly blame Jews and black people for them.

Don’t get me twisted, you could still think that… you just had to make sure you didn’t say that part too loudly.

It didn’t exactly start on the best of terms.  From the beginning, it existed as a site for disaffected white millennial trust fund baby fauxgressives after co-opting the webspace from latinx interests and articles.  It was almost like watching online gentrification in real time, and boy did they hate anyone who noted that.

The thin skin didn’t exactly thicken over time either.  After a series of absolutely hideously awful articles (one of which being so inflammatory that it got blowback from inside the house) two of their writers made absolutely horrible (and arguably sabotaging) attempts to dampen interest in the 2018 elections, and the entire site went on a purge; ostensibly to combat trolls.

Splinter’s definition of “troll” seemed to be anyone who called out the awful election takes for what they were, because they certainly didn’t purge any of the aggressive (and occasionally violent) rage addicts.

At that point, the writing was on the wall.  The more they tightened their echo chamber, the less they were able to actually interest potential readers with their content.  Turns out there wasn’t much of a niche in class-warfare inclined privileged whites that refused to acknowledge anything outside of that niche was actually a problem and that anyone who didn’t prescribe to their “lefter-than-thou” brand of fauxgressivism was the enemy that needed to be destroyed.

By the end, they made Jacobin look rational.  Believe me, that takes doing.

This is honestly more mercy killing than injustice.  Whatever Splinter wanted to be at its inception, what it became was a blight on discourse, often as much of a problem as the alt-right outlets it claimed to despise.

Good riddance.  You won’t be missed, Splinter.

On Jim Caldwell

Posted in Grumblings on September 8, 2019 by chemiclord

Pardon me while I dive into sports talk here, but because 256 characters is an awful forum for full bodied discussion, I want to move my thoughts here pertaining to a coach that has been done dirty by awful people.

I’ve had the privilege of following Jim Caldwell’s career from the time he “broke out” in Indianapolis (having been living there and scavenging at the margins as a failing sportswriter at the time).  I met him once, and that experience along with all the other accounts told me that he was a very sharp tactician with an endless encyclopedia of knowledge.  Give him a week to assemble a game plan, and he’d be able to pick apart anyone’s team.

He was (and is I’m sure) a great guy on a personal level.  Very calm yet assertive, and even felt like he respected the presence of some wanna-be loser like me.  I wish I could have met him face-to-face more often, especially outside of a practice field parking lot.

But… what very quickly emerged once he was given the big headset was that he was not particularly good managing a game in real time, and it wasn’t a skill he was able to refine.  He was very quickly overwhelmed trying to juggle all the balls that a head coach has to, especially in “crunch time” at the end of games.

That alone should not be a condemnation of anything.  That should not be shameful.  A coordinator and a head coach require two very different skill sets.  Lord knows I’d never be able to pull it off.  Hell, 25 of the people currently employed as NFL head coaches can’t pull it off even at a bare minimum level.

Now, let’s add in the absolute den of clusterfuckery that is arguably the worst franchise in professional sports; the Detroit Lions.

By every measure, Jim Caldwell was Detroit’s best head coach in damn near 30 years.  That is absolutely and measurably true, but at the same time we are not talking about the highest of bars to clear.  All that inherently means is that you are entirely mediocre; which is probably the easiest way to describe Jim Caldwell, head coaching candidate.

It’s also absolutely true that the Lions did him dirty, and turned him into the scapegoat for all the franchise’s problems.  This is a narrative that the organization has run with for sixty-plus years, and not one particularly unique to Caldwell.  Pin all the blame on one person, make them out to be the sole reason why success hasn’t happened, fire that person, then don’t change anything else.

Rinse and repeat ad nauseum.

Do I believe that Bob Quinn fired Caldwell to cover up the fact that he can’t put together a replacement level roster?  Absolutely.  Do I think he was fired as an excuse to get Bob Quinn’s buddy from New England into the head coach’s seat?  Without a doubt.  Do I think that it was easy for Quinn to do so because Caldwell is a black man and the standards required to toss a minority coach out on his ear is a LOT lower than if the coach is a generic white dude?  Yep.

But at the same time… Caldwell’s body of work as a head coach frankly is not particularly impressive.  Any team firing him solely on the merits of him not being the guy that was going to take the team to the top of the mountain… frankly isn’t wrong.

So, you have my conundrum; because when it pertains to Jim Caldwell… there seems to be two very different questions being phrased the exact same way, but have two very different answers.

“Should Jim Caldwell be an NFL head coach?”

Now, if the question means, “Given the current crop of head coaches in the NFL, is Jim Caldwell good enough to be one of them?”  The answer to that question is, “Indisputably yes.”  There is a ton of recycled trash patrolling the sidelines of NFL teams.  I can think of eight names just off the top of my head that should have expended every single one of their chances to show they can do the job, yet inexplicably haven’t been fired, or even worse, been hired by a different team.

(Those names are: Matt Patricia, Jay Gruden, Bruce Arians, Kyle Shanahan, Jon Gruden, Adam Gase, Sean McDermott, and Matt Nagy for the record.  I’m certain there are more that I could add to this list if I gave it fifteen minutes of thought.)

But here’s the problem.  Jim Caldwell’s name should be one of them on that list.

Because if the question is supposed to mean, “Do I think Jim Caldwell would be one of the 32 best head coaches if all things were equal?” The answer to that question would be “Absolutely not.”

There are only 32 of those very well paying jobs.  There should be 32 people patrolling the sidelines that make Bill Belichick look like the guy that thinks there’s an “F” in “pharaoh.”  Merely average game managers shouldn’t even be sniffing these positions, and the fact that those sort of minds are actually above the Bell Curve distribution is as damning an indictment of the supposed meritocracy that sports claims to be as anything.

But hey, perhaps that’s just me overthinking things again.  If Jim Caldwell was patrolling a sideline right now, he would not be out of place.  But I also think that there are far more people (especially minorities) that deserve a first chance before Caldwell gets his third.

Thoughts on Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Posted in Grumblings on August 8, 2019 by chemiclord

A handful of performance issues and some painful lack of anti-aliasing are the only real quibbles I have technically for what is truly a masterful title with a LOT of replayability. When Nintendo claimed there was 200 hours of content in this game, they (perhaps unbelievably) might have been UNDER-selling it.

Narratively, it is a BIT basic in the sense that there’s no REAL massive surprises in that no one side of the struggle is entirely right, and it’s a type of structuring that we’ve seen many times before in games. But Three Houses excels in the execution of that framework. Regardless of the path you choose, and regardless of the perspectives you’ve experienced before, it is very easy to become wholly invested on the path in front of you.

The only quibble I have is that the real “villains” of the story seem to exist only to be villains. They don’t seem to have any particularly compelling reason to be in the story at all other than to do terrible things that no one else would do. It felt entirely unnecessary, and I feel like the game should have either committed to them or cut them entirely.

All in all, there is nothing that Fire Emblem: Three Houses does that hasn’t really been done before in the medium. There’s nothing that I felt was completely unique or original, either in the technical presentation, the gameplay, or the story. However, it DOES put those pieces together in exceptional fashion, and anyone who likes these sort of turn-based style RPGs should enjoy this game immensely.

For people who have never experienced the series before (because it had been a handheld exclusive series), there really is no better way to introduce yourself to it. It earns every bit of a 9/10 and I would recommend it to any RPG fan without reservation.

On Punching the Mirror

Posted in Grumblings on June 17, 2019 by chemiclord

“See how my knuckles are bruised?  That’s because every time I wake up in the morning, I punch that asshole in the bathroom mirror.”

The self-jab works on two levels; one because my knuckles actually are a bit discolored when compared to the rest of my hand (naturally, for the record), and two because there’s a part of me where it’s a very accurate sentiment.

It’s something I’ve had to come to terms with over the decades; that there is a part of me that will never be content or satisfied with anything I accomplish.  To that part of me, I will always be an unmitigated failure.  If by some miracle I were to win the most prestigious prizes in all of literature and have widespread worldwide acclaim, that self-loathing part of myself would scoff for not having accomplished it sooner.

It’s not quite the same drive that pushes motivated people to ever greater heights.  This is a destructive self-hatred that seeks to tear myself down.  It’s not that fear of failure that serves as a motivator for some people.  It’s an expectation of failure that can make preparing for a project a million times tougher, and attempts to be a suffocating blanket on anything I finish.

It’s not even a professional self-loathing either.  It creeps into my social interactions too.  Someone wants to talk to me?  Oh dear, what did I do?  Someone thinks I’m interesting?  Oh, that’s just because they don’t know “the real me” yet.

It blames me for “entertaining” my mother’s emotional manipulation and “encouraging” her to embrace the role of perpetual victim.  It sneers at me for my father’s physical abuse, telling me if I hadn’t been such a lazy fuck-up as a child that I would have never been beaten, and that he never really beat me up that bad anyway.

It’s been such a constant presence since I was still a preteen that it feels normal to me.  I’m not sure I would even be me without that self-hating shitheel hovering in my thoughts.

I’m loathe to call it depression, because it hasn’t actually stopped me from doing anything I’ve set out to do.  But it’s not the whispers of undefined “doubters” that inspires me to what I allegedly can’t, either.  It’s both less than that, and more.

How do I handle it?  I guess I don’t really.  It’s a malice that demands to be heard, even as it is powerless at the end of the day.  So I let it say its piece to my headspace, even if it might slow me down initially.  It can be a real fight.

But it’s not a fight I’ve lost yet.