Streaming Schedule – Week of July 30th

Er, uh. None! Okay that’s not entirely true. I won’t be able to stream Whatever on Wednesday or Saturday Night Stardew on Saturday because I’m heading off to Gen Con on Wednesday and won’t be back until next Monday. HOWEVER, I will run some Tuesday night quiet time stream. It’ll be quiet time because Katie will be sleeping early since she has to take me to the airport and back super early in the morning. It will almost certainly be me (quietly) playing more No Man’s Sky and (quietly) talking about what I’m going to do at Gen Con.

Tuesday, July 31st, 7pm CST – Sleepy Time Quiet Sky (No Man’s Sky)

Also, maybe keep up with me at Gen Con by following me on Instagram!

Catch up last week’s streams below!

Whatever 18JUL18 (Enter the Gungeon, No Man’s Sky) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PGP_kIC20oc

Saturday Night Stardew – Part 4 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIEYjDfsuxE

Streaming Schedule – Week of July 23rd

Last week, I had my first streaming human snafu! About 45 minutes into Saturday Night Stardew, I felt really bad! So I took a short break and had to make a decision; do I keep streaming and risk having to take another break or do I put my health first and just end the stream? I ended the stream. My health comes first. I’m sorry that I had to cut the stream short, and it wasn’t an easy decision, but I’m glad I got to enjoy the Egg Festival and earn my straw hat!

This week, I’ll be checking out Enter the Gungeon because it just got a huge Advanced Gungeon & Draguns update! I will also be checking out No Man’s Sky again since it’s also getting a huge update. And I am bumping my Wednesday stream to 7pm CST to be a little more consistent!

Wednesday, July 25, 7pm CST – Whatever (Enter the Gungeon, No Man’s Sky)

Saturday, July 29, 7pm CST – Saturday Night Stardew

Catch up last week’s streams below!

Whatever 18JUL18 (Batman: Arkham Knight) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmRspgNedco

Saturday Night Stardew – Part 3 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tqXFOi8Q3AQ

Streaming Schedule – Week of July 16th

If you thought Middle-Earth: Shadow of War was boring, good news! I’m playing something different. I’ll probably play a couple of Arkham Stories from Batman: Arkham Knight. At worst, I’ll chase Riddler trophies. ALSO corn facts will return on Saturday’s Saturday Night Stardew stream!

Wednesday, July 18, 8pm CST – Whatever (Batman: Arkham Knight?)

Saturday, July 21, 7pm CST – Saturday Night Stardew

Also, see me over at Nerds of a Feather, Flock Together for my review of The Freeze-Frame Revolution by Peter Watts on Wednesday!

Catch up last week’s streams below!

Whatever 11JUL18 (Middle-Earth: Shadow of War) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e8QUodBSRIU

Saturday Night Stardew – Part 2 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezCnpENmraY

Streaming Schedule – Week of July 9th

Thanks to everyone who joined my Saturday Night Stardew stream! I enjoyed myself so much that I’m doing it again this week. I’ll also be running a stream on Wednesday, where I play uhhh whatever. Probably Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, but maybe Quake Champions? Here’s this week’s schedule!

Wednesday, July 11, 8pm CST – Whatever (Shadow of War, Quake Champions)

Saturday, July 14, 7pm CST – Saturday Night Stardew

If you missed my last Stardew stream, you can watch the recording here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICR09Q4mxzA

Streaming!

For fun I decided to run a three hour video game stream on my Youtube channel today. My computer overheated and my webcam stopped working about an hour in, but it was a lot of fun! You can watch the recordings here!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dO_5vyJeKyk – Part 1, Middle-Earth: Shadow of War (sorry, very little sound because I don’t talk much and I didn’t realize that the game audio isn’t coming through)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XmYVfrDrEMc – Part 2, Injustice 2, Dead Cells, Quake Champions, Stardew Valley

And I’m going to do this again! Saturday, July 7th, at 7pm CST I will start streaming Stardew Valley for reals this time! Come watch me figure out how to farm. https://www.youtube.com/user/emnii/live

Announcing the Summer of Good Anime Movies!

The Summer of Harry Potter was a huge success in that I read all of the Harry Potter books in succession. It was also a huge failure because it took me three seasons, not one, to do so. This year, I’m setting my goals a little more realistically.

This is officially the Summer of Good Anime Movies. This largely came about because I get some internal shame when I remember that I’ve seen zero Hayao Miyazaki movies. I’m going to correct that, and then I’m going to watch some other critically acclaimed and popular anime movies that I also haven’t seen. I’ve picked 10, but the actual selections could change if I can’t rent some of these from digital streaming services, or if something really hot comes out over the summer. The good news here is that I could feasibly watch all of these over a long weekend, but I’ll try to spread them out. This list isn’t in any particular order.

Grave of the Fireflies

My Neighbor Totoro

Princess Mononoke

Paprika

Your Name

Spirited Away

Royal Space Force: The Wings of HonnĂȘamise

Perfect Blue

Ninja Scroll

Patlabor

How RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 3 Turned the Competition Into a Game

I’m a huge fan of reality competition TV shows, particularly RuPaul’s Drag Race. It’s a creative, funny competition between some wild personalities that never fails to entertain. But the All Stars seasons have broken the competition in ways that turn the results from the best of the best to the winner of a game, and there’s a big distinction between the two.

If you’re unfamiliar with the show, here it is. A (flexible) dozen drag queens start. Through a series of challenges playing to the strengths of a well-rounded drag queen, they’re eliminated one by one until three (sometimes four) remain. Each episode, after a challenge, a panel of judges helps Ru select the top queen (who gets a prize) and the bottom two, with the rest being safe from elimination. The bottom two perform a lip sync and Ru picks who stays and who goes home. In each stage of the competition, the panel of judges and RuPaul select the winners and the losers. This is standard RuPaul’s Drag Race.

All Stars has been messed with from the start. The first season put every queen into a pair with a competitor. They both had to perform well to win challenges and it wasn’t until late in the game when competitors were judged on their performance alone. All Stars season two course corrected by starting everyone out on their own, but it still changed the competition. Instead of Ru picking the winner and loser each week, Ru picked the two winners and three losers. The winners would lip sync for the right to choose who went home. The losers pleaded their case. In the end, Ru still picked the top all star, but it was from a selection whittled down by the competitors and not the judges.

Throughout this competition, Roxxxy Andrews was consistently, repeatedly in the bottom. She was almost always up for elimination. She was consistently saved by her friends in the top. None of them would send Roxxxy home. They, arguably, sent home more talented drag queens, because of their personal biases. When Alaska won All Stars season 2, it could be said that she won it with an asterisk because she didn’t have to compete against the best; she just had to make sure none of the competitors sent her home.

But factors in season 3 of All Stars broke the competition in ways that fundamentally changed it from a competition to a game; no more a matter of being the best but playing better than the others. What follows will contain spoilers for All Stars season 3, which very recently ended! Do not keep reading if you are avoiding spoilers!

All Stars season 3 followed the same formula as season 2; winners pick who goes home. But it broke in three different ways. The first is that it offered an eliminated queen a way back into the competition. Every show does this, but it’s a bigger mess when they were eliminated by someone else possibly still in the competition. There was a big segment where all of the (currently) eliminated queens met with the competitors still in it and they argued about who eliminated whom and why. In the end, they brought back Morgan McMichaels, the first eliminated queen.

This is a problem. Morgan didn’t compete for most of the show. She had to sit out because she was eliminated. Being brought back when most of her competitors were already gone means she stood a greater chance of convincing the rest to keep her. Also, Morgan said from the start that she was going to eliminate her biggest competitors. Not the worst queens, the best. She’s not alone in this, as everyone is free to choose who they want to eliminate for any reason, but it puts a huge spotlight on the problem with letting competitors eliminate each other. Sometimes the best go home in a moment of vulnerability because they’re the best.

The second way in which the competition broke was that BenDelaCreme was allowed to eliminate herself. She was the obvious front runner, she won a lip sync late in the competition, and she sent herself home. Her reasons are inconsequential, but the result is that she was shaping the competition by having a strong presence at the start, and then she cut herself out, leaving everyone else to know that their victories are only viable in her absence. Ru consistently put Dela in the top two because she’s the best. When she dropped out, it let everyone know, including Ru, that she had no competition. Anyone who wins season 3 All Stars has to know that if Dela hadn’t quit, they probably wouldn’t have won.

Finally, and the worst way in which the competition broke, is that the final two queens were chosen by the eliminated queens. Bebe, Kennedy, Shangela, and Trixie all had claims to victory, but the decision on which of those two would lip sync for the finale was put in the hands of the people they eliminated. Shockingly, they chose Kennedy and Trixie. This is shocking because, while a strong competitor and a great drag queen, Kennedy won the least number of challenges of all of the top four. Shangela, who won the most, was eliminated by the queens who were no longer a part of the competition. For whatever reason, they chose Kennedy. The finale was between someone who was top 2 twice but won no lip syncs, against someone who was top 2 once, won that lip sync, but spent most of the competition in the bottom.

Trixie Mattel is an all star. She deserves to be recognized as such. But her win was cheapened by the changes to the competition that turned it from a best-of-the-best to a best player of the game finale. In the end, this was not the Olympics of drag. It was the Catan of drag. It was a game that could be lost by the best player for simply not having the personal connections to assure victory. While Trixie was crowned, no one achieved a victory because the best player could’ve been in the competition but they were recognized too soon and eliminated by those who could see it, and the best player walked out. While I expect twists and surprises in these kinds of shows, I hope that the next season of All Stars sets out the rules fairly from the start and reduces the amount of input by the eliminated queens so that they have less influence in the finale. It’s just not fair to anyone to call someone an all star if they’re not competing on an even playing field.

Dark Souls 3

A short while ago, I’d committed to ignoring games described as inspired by Dark Souls. I’d played some Dark Souls and didn’t enjoy it much, played some Dark Souls inspired games like Lords of the Fallen and Bound by Flame and I didn’t like any of them. But this isn’t a consistent dislike. I really really enjoyed Salt & Sanctuary, but the qualities of Dark Souls that inhabited Hollow Knight turned me right off. And almost immediately after I’d decided that Dark Souls-like games were not for me, Humble Monthly gave me a copy of Dark Souls 3. I beat Dark Souls 3. I enjoyed Dark Souls 3.

I am ill equipped to describe what makes Dark Souls 3 so different from Dark Souls, and even less equipped to compare it to Dark Souls 2, but Dark Souls 3 hooked me fairly quick. I know how these games work and they’re very unforgiving, particularly of my overly-aggressive playstyle. With the help of a build guide to direct my efforts on creating a character I would enjoy playing with, a simple melee sword-and-board fighter, I sliced and chopped my way through hordes of monsters. The variety in combat encounters and enemies ensured that even my simple character build was never boring. Maybe Salt & Sanctuary made me a more patient player, but I rarely felt like the fights were unfair, even when I was dying to bosses over and over. I’d eventually learn their patterns and weaknesses, and chop them to pieces with my sword. Where as I found Dark Souls to be a largely frustrating affair, Dark Souls 3 never felt frustrating; it was rewarding.

What isn’t rewarding in the game is the storyline, or lack thereof. It starts with a cutscene explaining that the lords of cinder have left their graves and need to be returned to their thrones to rekindle the dying world. From there, there’s more or less nothing much to offer until you reach the end, and you get a short cutscene for your efforts. Sure, you’ll find other non-hostile people with some “quests” of their own, but there’s no journal. No quest log. Often, I struggled to even remember their names. Most items have a sentence or two of flavor text but that’s about it for worldbuilding. You could go end-to-end through this game and never learn a single thing about the lords of cinder that you’re mercilessly hunting down and killing.

This is a bit of a shame because the world they’ve built, without the exposition, is really interesting in that it’s not standard fantasy or grimdark. If anything, it’s sorrowful. This is a dying world, roamed by undead things, desperate for purpose and meaning. I find myself wanting to go back to Dark Souls again for another try to see if I can fill in the blanks because I want to learn more. Even if I can’t, if I can find in Dark Souls what I found in Dark Souls 3, that’ll be enough. Dark Souls 3 is a challenging game that rewards persistence and learning without feeling cheap.


Reference: From Software. Dark Souls 3 [Namco Bandai, 2016]

Source: Purchased from Humble Bundle as part of a Humble Monthly bundle.

#content

Wow, it’s been a while. Not because I’ve done nothing, but because I’ve been stuck. I’m in a post-game slump after Assassin’s Creed Origins. After I finish a good game, it’s hard to pick up something else. I spent a lot of time trying out some games that weren’t up to Origins quality. I went back to Origins and did more leftover side quests. I played more less than great games. I “finished” Tom Clancy’s The Division, and tried to get into Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands. Now I’ve got something good, Bayonetta 2 on Switch, and it’s going to take some time to get through it. It’s great, and I’m glad I’m out of the rut.

But while I work through Bayonetta 2, I’m chewing on ways to talk about some of this stuff I played without reviewing it. I’ve touched about a dozen games that either didn’t do anything for me, or just didn’t hold my interest long enough to get to the end. It’s rare that I review a bad game because life’s short and the supply of video games that are worth playing is huge. But there might some value in constructively criticizing these games that I didn’t find great. And then there are games like The Division, where I’m far past prime review time, but I still feel like I have something to say about it. Is that a review? Probably not.

All this is to say I’m still alive even if I don’t have much to say now.

 

The Summer of Harry Potter Wrap-up

Okay, so the Summer of Harry Potter became the Autumn of Harry Potter, which became the Winter of Potter, because I’m a slow reader. It also went that way because I had a hard time getting through those last two books.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was a slog. It ditches the whole Hogwarts setting for… camping. Aimlessly looking for horcruxes. Hiding from Death Eaters. It ditches the prophecy leading to the confrontation between Harry and Voldemort for some wand magic rules that weren’t important to the rest of the series until this last chapter. It reveals that Snape was actually good the entire time and gives him a most ignoble death for all of his sacrifices. It denies redemption for Draco and all other Slytherins, and some of the worst characters, like Dolores Umbridge, never get their due. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is a bad book and a terrible end to the series.

Over the series, I’ve learned that Harry is the worst character, the rest of the cast isn’t much better, and Neville is the only character with any development. They’re largely brats who don’t learn anything except what they’re taught in wizard school. Neville, on the other hand, learns confidence and leadership, and even he immediately defers to Harry when he’s around, despite Harry proving to be an awful leader. And it’s like the whole prophecy introduced in Order of the Phoenix was meaningless. It teases the possibility that Voldemort got it wrong, that Neville is the one who will defeat him, and immediately forgets about it. Neville was never going to be the one. Voldemort choose Harry and he was right.

And Voldemort. Voldemort is an idiot, not a menace. How does he not know that someone is destroying his horcruxes until it’s waaaaaay too late? It’s obvious he notices when one is destroyed. Did he think those were accidents??? And he never suspects that Snape is not working for him. He kills Snape over the Elder Wand, not because he’s spent decades in Dumbledore’s service. I can’t really figure out how he got so many followers. He uses dark magic and kills people, two things that seemingly any wizard can do.

Speaking of dark magic, it seems that dark magic is a very bad thing until Harry and his friends use it. They use the Imperio curse to break into Gringotts to steal a horcrux, with the intention of screwing over the goblin that helps them steal it. None of that is good! And throughout the series, Harry uses dark magic, sometimes intentionally, to get things done, so how is he so different from Voldemort?

The series peaks with Order of the Phoenix. That’s when Neville didn’t trip all over himself, the department of mysteries makes the wizarding world actually wondrous, and real sacrifices happen. Everything afterward was a downhill slope to a poor end. I’m not happy about being such a downer about it, but at least I’ve experienced what Harry Potter brought to SFF. But please don’t ask me to finish the dreadful movie series.

Ne Cede Malis