4 Lessons Learned from My Internet-free Weekend

Storm season in Tennessee brings high winds, rain, tornado threats and knocks out my internet twice a year. Usually when this happens, it’s mid-week and I frantically try to find a place to work. However, this last time, I awoke on Saturday morning and discovered no internet. And it was one of the most relaxing weekends I’ve ever had.

Lesson 1: Get Off the Phone

This was completely irrational, but I was afraid to use my phone much because of data usage. First, I never come close to my data limit – I use 300 MB a month lol – but I was fearful I’d reach my max if I stayed on my phone. Therefore, I only used my phone for texting and the occasional search. This was pretty amazing. Not only did I stay off social media most of the weekend, but the compulsion to check social media and carry my phone with me everywhere disappeared. I realized that because I’m connected to everyone, it doesn’t mean I have to be connected to everyone. At the end of the day, I really didn’t care how everyone spent their weekend, and I had a much more peaceful one.

Lesson 2: More Free Time

When I first realized the internet was out, I almost panicked. I immediately asked myself, “What am I going to do?” I can’t sit at my computer and work or just kill time? But then I remembered everything ELSE I needed to do, and none of those chores required the internet. Not only did I do almost everything on my house-stuff list, but I also had time to read, nap and exercise. Hmmm … I had time to do things for me and take care of myself. I didn’t feel like I was on a constant schedule, and my stress level was nearly zero. I even finished a massive project that had loomed over me for months.

Lesson 3: Freedom Is Priceless

That weekend I had work but no hard deadlines (thank goodness). It annoyed me that I had to postpone the work and rearrange my weekend, but I was thankful I didn’t have to sit at the computer all day. I had a choice in what tasks I wanted to do. Did I want to paint? What about clean a closet out? Or just chill and watch a movie, maybe go out? Because I wasn’t so tunnel-visioned about work, the world of weekend activities opened up before my eyes. The freedom I experienced when choosing what to do was priceless. It also made me realize that I don’t have to plan every day, which I’m very good at, and instead leave room for spontaneity. That weekend I finished a book and got half-way through another. It was the most I’ve read in two years.

Lesson 4: Time to Change

Have you ever watched a movie with someone who stays on their phone the whole time or gone out to a restaurant and they do the same? If so, you know how annoying it is and it makes you practice the same behavior. No internet forced myself and my company to just watch a movie and discuss it. Total concentration on one task … wow! I learned that when doing something with someone, whether it’s watching a movie or dining out, it’s time to put the phone away. I also realized that maybe I don’t need to accept as much extra work. I do not have to work every weekend in order to survive, so it’s time to start saying no. And I can do different projects that would result in money or even spend my time doing something more fulfilling, such as volunteering or trying new things.

The point is the internet is our best friend and worst enemy. We should use in moderation. I challenge everyone to turn theirs off for one day; you never know what you’ll learn!

Ghostbusters 2016 Is Not a Battleground

Off the EdgeThis week James Rolfe, who’s probably best known as the “Angry Video Game Nerd,” posted a video stating he doesn’t intend to see the new Ghostbusters movie because he thinks it looks bad and discussing his plans to release another video explaining the doomed history of Ghostbusters 3.  He threw no insults and, in typical James Rolfe fashion, kept the comments succinct, lightly humorous, and classy.  And in response the internet lost its collective mind.

Many of those who claimed to support his opinion crept out from the dark side of the internet and began to spew vile hate speech about how wrong the so-called “SJWs” were and how awful it was women had been cast in a “guy’s” movie and used Rolfe’s short, low-key video as more evidence they are right about the gender-swapped Ghostbusters being an awful idea.

Many of those who claimed to oppose his opinion began to heap equally hate-filled speech on him.  Accusing him (and anyone who even said they supported his statement not to view the film, like “MovieBob” Chipman) of misogyny and of supporting the “anti-female Ghostbusters” movement; posting personal attacks on him and immediately insulting his opinion and work.

My thoughts as this all went down?  How on earth did this movie become the battleground for gender equality in the media and why has it become such a controversial issue?

There’s plenty of blame here to go around as fires were lit, stoked, and spread by the worst elements of both sides.

To be honest I have no idea why a studio would want to remake any movie and then just change the genders, races, or ethnicities of the characters.  By doing this the makers, though probably unintentionally, cast aspersions on the original by declaring that it was actively not diverse enough and that it is something in need of great correction.  Sometimes the original film wasn’t very diverse.  Whether that is in need of massive correction though is debatable.  As I’ve stated in remake posts in the past, nothing angers an audience more than telling them what they loved wasn’t good enough and that it will be corrected.  This is especially true if the original is a classic and cherished property.  And that’s exactly what the filmmakers here have done.

When the news of an all-female cast was announced the actual misogynist movement, fresh off the deplorable behavior on display during the “gamergate” nonsense, immediately jumped into action insulting the very idea of a female cast; as though a made-up job in a made-up world can be defined by any gender.  They then set about their normal internet troll actions of flaming anything to do with the new film with more misogynistic, anti-LGBT, and racist hate speech.  This escalated as more and more information on the film was eventually released and, no matter what, this crowd jumped on it (with almost preternatural cognizance) to blast anything about it as being terrible…because it was about women.

The filmmakers responded by releasing their famous “girl power” set photo, which, while understandable, merely stoked the flamers more and unwittingly cast anyone who ended up not liking the film on what was known about it automatically in league with those who hated it for gender reasons.  And on and on it went like this.  Back and forth.  Until the first trailer came out.

I’ve already posted about the first trailer (and the second, the so-called international trailer didn’t help matters) but the vast majority seems to agree that it, well, just wasn’t a good trailer.  It didn’t make the film look good.  It wasn’t funny.  Max Landis pointed out that the original film and other films that are comedies that cross over into other genres tend to present themselves as the adjoining genre first and save the comedy for characters and situations (Men in Black was another of his examples).  Something this film didn’t seem to do.  YouTube creator StoryBrain posited many of the aspects of the trailer make the entire production “feel” phony, from the lighting to the character reactions.  Even the filmmakers themselves seemed to distance themselves from the film, promoting it very little.

The problem is a ton of the negativity assigned to the film is the horrible hate speech being spread by the actual misogynists and so-called “men’s rights advocates” (a movement that strikes me as strange.  It’s like when a panel of white, middle aged men on Fox News claim they are being discriminated against because they have to settle for having almost everything instead of the complete cultural domination they so crave).  But that doesn’t mean there aren’t valid criticisms of the trailer.

It was lame on comedy.  It seemed to miss the point and tone of the original.  It looked like a cartoon.  It didn’t feel like Ghostbusters, and those of us who grew up with it can define what Ghostbusters is the same way Justice Potter Stewart defined pornography, “I know it when I see it.”  And what they showed decidedly wasn’t it…

Many have automatically defended the trailer, and attacked Rolfe, stating that other reboots(such as Batman, Star Wars, etc) haven’t received so much hate and inflaming the situation further by assuming the all-women cast is the causality.  They rather conveniently forget the fan reaction to the Michael Bay-Produced TMNT.  The general reaction and failure of Robocop.  The total failure of Jem.  Apparently fans just aren’t terribly excited about revisiting some properties in a reboot.

Though it hasn’t helped that the film and studio have made some choices that are a bit questionable.  In a follow up video to her original trailer reaction, YouTube personality Alachia Queen broke the news that the studio has been accused (and there has been considerable evidence about this) of deleting valid criticism of the trailer and its construction but leaving the worst hateful rhetoric in the comments section in an effort to drive a public narrative that only anti-feminist haters are opposed to the movie.  This narrative has been happily picked up by the media more interested in drama than accuracy.  The studio’s behavior in this case makes it excessively difficult to fully denounce those who claim the movie is using sexism as a tool themselves.

Which leads me to the point that this Ghostbusters movie doesn’t push the movement toward gender equality in films at all.  It actually works against it.  What it is showing is that something done by a male cast can also be copied by a female cast.  What’s the point in that?  It is the regressive propping up of “anything you can do I can do better” or “Man Smart, Woman is Smarter.”  I agree with YouTube reviewer Comic Book Girl 19 who states that to make something really progressive why not a diverse cast of people working together?  All the “gender swap” does is show people continuing to work apart.  It’s really…well just another form of sexism.

So how do you progress the need for gender parity in media?  We need more Furiosas, more Ellen Ripleys, more Peggy Carters, more Ramona Flowers; all in movies showing women and men and of various sexual orientations treating and being treated equally by other characters and the narrative.  Where neither gender is shown as better.  Cooperation is displayed rather than separation.  Parity rather than dominance.  That’s what media needs more of.

Instead we got Ghostbuster 2016 and the debate around it has become toxic.  No one can support or denounce the film without being immediately and childishly branded as a party to either militant feminism or rabid misogyny.  When, for most of us, neither is true.  It’s just the most vocal of the crowd co-opting the argument completely and dominating the stage.  Movie review personalities are actively avoiding discussing it because of rhetoric on both sides and even a single comment leads to long, tedious defenses with prefaces of “I’m not bothered by the all-female cast but…” being necessary to distance themselves from the ongoing assault from that side and attempt to mollify quick-draw criticism from the other.  How does that help the progression of equality or even engender a positive discussion in any way?  And how is anyone even able to give this film any kind of genuine criticism without being labelled or branded something they truly aren’t?

I suggest we take a step back.  We absolutely can discuss this movie and its place in the franchise as a movie, not as a social experiment.  And as it turns out, after numerous, hateful, and even high-profile call-outs on Twitter, that was essentially what James Rolfe did.  A relatively concise, calm, well-thought out history of the failed attempts to create Ghostbusters III with some very brief opinions of how he thinks the new film looks, where he never mentions gender once nor does he criticize anyone in particular or anyone’s view.  He never even says people shouldn’t go see it.  Just that HE won’t.  And yet you’d think from the response after his first post, he was going to go full sexist rant on them.  Some even ridiculed his opinion, putting words into his mouth that were never there (satirically claiming he was using the “destroying my childhood” argument or sarcastically claiming his willingness not to buy a ticket was “oh such a BIG statement.”)  All he said was he wasn’t going to see it.  And yet the side calling for MORE equality and understanding has rather cruelly attacked him personally and his position.

James Rolfe is a filmmaker.  He makes videos saying what he thinks of video games and movies and is a massive Ghostbusters fan (in fact his three-part AVGN Ghostbusters videos were my introduction to his work).  He’s allowed to have his opinion.  Of course people are allowed to have opinions on his opinion, but what people shouldn’t do is hang signs on him and everyone else who voices a pro or con perspective on the film as being either “with us or against us.”  Healthy debate is fine, but people should NOT ridicule or attack each other personally based on what we think about an upcoming movie.  Because we should not a turn everything into a petty binary mudslinging contest.  And we should absolutely NOT be broken into two diametrically opposed revolutionary movements based on Ghostbusters 2016.

I’ll say it now.  I don’t plan to see this film either unless some trusted reviewers give it positive reviews or incredible new information is released about it.  You know why I’m not going to see it?  It’s not because of the all-female cast.  I wouldn’t have gone to see a Seth Rogan and Jonah Hill Ghostbusters directed by Judd Apatow either.  It’s because based on all three trailers we’ve seen it looks unfunny and poorly conceived.  Can I tell if the entire movie will be bad based on the trailers?  Not for certain, but I have a pretty good idea after three of them it’s not looking good and I tend not to go to movies that have advertising that make it look bad to me.  That’s even more true of a remake…especially one of a great franchise.  I love the original film.  I don’t want to see what appears to be a bad remake use the name of an absolute classic to make money and even worse to use the divisiveness of gender politics for publicity.  But here’s the thing.  I shouldn’t HAVE to clarify that I like or don’t like the look of a movie based on anything other than my own tastes and the merits I can ascertain.  Not because of the politics heaped upon it by factions who have descended on it like a Tyranid hive fleet, stripped it of its biomass, and left only a dried husk behind waving the flags of both factions at once.

Ghostbuster 2016 is NOT a battleground for gender issues.  It’s a movie.  A product, designed by a studio around a beloved franchise, given new life through questionable decisions, irrationally hated on by the arrested adolescent gender IN-equality crowd, and incomprehensibly revered by the more militant wing of the “girl-power” movement.  Both sides are guilty of hate speech, both sides are guilty of brain-washed group think, both sides have initiated and reacted to uncalled-for vitriolic assaults, and both sides have been totally played by a film studio who just wanted to make some cash on a well-known film franchise and has now seen its efforts rewarded by free publicity (yes both good and bad, but you know the saying “there’s no such thing as yadda yadda yadda”). Ghostbusters 2016 looks like another bad remake from a studio and in a culture of historically bad remakes.  Some people may like it and they’re welcome to like it.  I wish I could too because, like Jim Sterling says, I can’t see a downside to liking more things.  But I don’t.  I don’t think it looks good at all.  And no, the girl-power movement doesn’t get to brand me, or anyone else who wants to call out what we think is a bad movie for being bad, as a sexist, misogynist, or anti-equality henchman just because we have different opinions on how a movie looks to us.  It doesn’t help endear anyone to your cause and makes you as extremist, brutish, and thuggish as the actual racists and sexist you rail against.

I don’t think it’s too late to debate this movie on its merits.  Its success won’t be a victory for gender equality.  If it turns out to be as bad as many of us think it will be going to it doesn’t mean you’re showing your support for the equality cause, you’re just helping a studio make money on a poor film and even prove that there’s profit to be made in exploiting good causes and bringing out the worst in human nature.  If it actually turns out to be a good installment and people refuse to see it they’ll have missed out on a good experience and helped to kill off any hope for a revival of a great franchise.

We’ve moved past this jingoistic, binary attitude.  It’s a film folks.  It’s entertainment.  There is work to be done in the realm of gender parity, but we shouldn’t turn the release of a comedy remake into the hill we all die on…

Call it Cap: Why Captain America is My Favorite MCU Character


I recently enjoyed an MCU marathon this weekend just to prep for Civil War and it occurred to me that not only, and completely surprisingly, are the two previous Captain America films my favorite sub-franchise in the MCU, but that Cap himself is also my favorite character as well.  Something wholly surprising.  I thought I’d take a look at why both he and his movies have become my favorites.

I’m….Captain America…

What makes the Captain and Steve Rogers almost unique in his films is his personality is entirely heroic.  In the first film Rogers is physically frail but has a hero’s heart.  He’s genuinely a good person, something that most superheroes and superhero movies lost sometime in the 90s.  I can remember in the original Men in Black Will Smith’s character mocking the rigid, goody-two-shoes soldier as “Captain America.”  A term that has been largely pejorative as angry, anti-heroes started to co-opt the protagonist landscape.  The idea of the “truth and justice” hero was passé and viewed as simplistic.  Heroes needed to be dark and laconic; almost as bad as the villains to be “cool.”  There was a movement in all of entertainment to shift from the classic “babyface and heel” dynamic (god help all of us who remember the “Attitude Era” of pro wrestling…) to ALL heels, just some are fighting with us and some against us.

It’s a mood that has both carried forward and evolved as films have.  Look how dire and cheerless the Christopher Nolan Batman movies were compared to even the abstract mind of Tim Burton’s.  Even Marvel’s character, who are by-and-large a lot more dynamic (meaning capable of more than two emotions often displayed in DC movies, those being misery and rage) tend to have these traits.  Let’s just look at Rogers’ fellow Avengers at the end of Phase 1.

  • Tony Stark is a chaotic, self-obsessed narcissist who, while lovable, is also capable of profoundly selfish and bad decisions.
  • Thor is literally a god who did some growing up in his first outing but managed to remain a bit of a bull in a China shop man-child for a lot of his story lines.
  • Bruce Banner is simmering with mass-destructive rage, so much that he can be used by villains as effectively by heroes depending on the circumstance.
  • Natasha Romanoff and Clint Barton both filling in as socially mal-adjusted killer agents trying to juggle regular human life with decidedly non-regular daily activities.

Essentially they’re all deeply flawed people, “good guys” but the kind of good guys we’re used to seeing nowadays with mixed motivations and lurking dark sides.  Even the Guardians of the Galaxy, who I adore, are all maladjusted outcasts ranging from thieves to murderers, whose negative personalities are mitigated through the humor of the storytelling and their charming personality quirks.

Then there’s Steve Rogers.  We know from the first film he selflessly wants to volunteer for combat in WWII, specifically in the unit in which his father served and died in during WWI.  His motivations are clearly stated as “men are fighting and dying, I got no right to give any less.”  He’s beaten up for his early attempt to stand up for what’s right, even if it’s just to shout down a movie heckler, and throws himself on a grenade during training.  You get the impression that there is a sadness lurking in Rogers and that maybe he’s eager to die heroically after losing his parents and being the little guy in a big mean world.  His obsession with inadvisably joining the army and even volunteering for an experiment with potentially catastrophic consequences shows he has kind of a “nothing to lose” attitude.  And that could have been the “dark side” motivation assigned to him by a lesser team of filmmakers.  There is, however, one statement that proves this aspect of Rogers’ character to not be his main impetus.  So what does drive the First Avenger?

I don’t like bullies…I don’t care where they’re from.

When poignantly asked by Dr. Erskine if he wants to go kill Nazis this is Steve Rogers’ response.  He’s been a victim of bullies.  He doesn’t have a desire to kill them, or even to fight them, he just doesn’t want anyone to get pushed around.  That sentimentality doesn’t change from when he’s a scrawny fellow being punched in an alley to when he’s a super-soldier going toe-to-toe with an entire rogue Nazi Science Division.  And what a sentiment to have.  Having been the little guy he’s always just wanted to be the one standing up for the little guys and through the narrative gains the ability to do so.

Dr Erskine reminding Rogers that no matter how powerful he may get he HAS to remember to be a good man. A message as powerful as “with great power comes great responsibility.”

Rogers is an optimistic hero.  Not one born to be a hero or who goes through a startling 180 degree revelation that provides his heroic compass, like many of the other Marvel characters.  He starts with the moral compass and finally gains the power to act on it.  This isn’t saying he doesn’t deal with tragedy.  He’s an orphan, his mentor and the first person to really believe in him dies.  His best friend becomes a casualty of war.  He never gets his dance with Peggy Carter.  And yet…none of this tarnishes his beliefs or changes his motivation.  It would have been easy for him to chase down and ruthlessly kill the Hydra spy who kills Erskine, if it weren’t for the latter’s last request being a reminder to Rogers to stay a good man.  It would have been simple for his drive against the Red Skull to be motivated by vengeance for his fallen friend, instead he acts completely selflessly again to save the world not seek revenge on the bad guy.  Even though he misses out on perhaps the love of his life, it doesn’t stop him visiting her decades later and still call her “his best girl.”

The look on his face says it all. 70 years later she’s still his “best girl.”

In a world of miserable, po-faced anti-heroes I find Captain America breathes life into the classic concept of the hero.  Not because he’s “good at everything” because he’s clearly not (becoming a super soldier didn’t make him any less socially awkward and he plays in a certain league; Asgardians can still knock him for a loop) but because despite everything he goes through he still tries to be as good as he can and to do what’s right.  And that’s ok.  We need that to offset the number of heroes who have been made brooding and dark.  We need Leonardo to offset Raphael.  Too many heroes suffer from deep emotional issues and have been turned into shadowy, twisted versions of themselves in a desperate effort to be “edgy” in the perverse belief that it makes them more “complex.”  It’s refreshing to see good guys can still be good.  Hell even, Superman, the cultural icon of truth and justice, is a wretched, blue-tinted, humorless bastard in his latest incarnation.  It’s a palpable relief to see Captain America be, well Captain America.

So we know why it’s refreshing to have an old-fashioned hero on film, but why are his movies so good?  We’ll take a look at that next time.

Thoughts on Imagination

Off The Top of My Head

It may sound strange but the impending arrival of Doom 4 (and yes I’m calling it “Doom 4”) got me thinking about imagination in entertainment.

I spent years of my teenaged life bolted to a PC chair playing the Doom, Doom II, and Duke Nukem 3D.  It was the ultimate time waster and even though those games have “stories” or at least bits of text or set up between big chapters, one thing I always appreciated about them is how much time they gave the player to themselves.

Most of the time I played Doom I was running around blasting demons and crafting my own little narratives.  Maybe today I was some X-Men-style mutant on the run from monsters (this was in the midst of my biggest X-Men phase), tomorrow I’d be a trained assassin dropped into a hellish world and forced to survive.  Those games really gave you a chance to experience them in your own way.  A big open map, lots of things to shoot, but with definite goals broad enough to weave into your own little stories.  Before FarCry made it normal, Doom II provided a huge map with lots of ways to get around enemies and take them out.  Open world games now don’t feel the same, putting you in the character of a named person with a voice and a story arc.  They fill in the narrative for you as you play.  The closest I can think of to the kinds of experiences I had in the Doom era are Bethesda games and even they provide significant stories and characters, you just don’t have to interact with them and can spin your own fantasies a lot of the time if you’d like.

The more I think about it the more I find imagination is being taken from audiences, not just of games but of movies, and entertainment in general.

I noted in my lengthy Conan review that there is a lot in that film that isn’t handed to the viewer.  There are relationships, histories, and concepts that exist in the background for the viewer to decipher for themselves, allowing their own knowledge and imaginations to create their own stories or explanations.  Recently only Mad Max has done something similar.  But too often narratives are explicit, and I don’t mean “Warning Explicit Content” explicit.  I mean they spell things out and leave nothing for the audience to learn or assume; no gaps to fill in.  They show you something, say they’ve shown it, tell you why it’s important, and then tell you what they’ll do with it.

I can imagine Conan made today he’d find the sword in the crypt and either say “it’s a legendary blade!” or some wise man or witch would tell him later it’s the sword of some dead god, who was also his ancestor…and he was meant to have it because…reasons.  Instead of finding a mystical item, his physical reactions and his uses of it enhancing its mystique and value to the audience.

The same is true for video games of course.  Part of me wonders if the push toward hyper-realism in larger budget games is a reason for this.  Companies spend significant money trying to make characters and environments look impressive and want to force players to look upon these creations as much as possible.  Ben Yahtzee Croshaw has mentioned in the past how often this happens as game play is wrenched from our hands so we can experience something the developer wanted us to in exactly the way they wanted us to and negative this is to the overall experience.  After all it’s the subjective experience had by the audience that creates the legacy rather than the one the author has attempted to impose.

Even as much as I enjoyed Wolfenstein: A New Order and its story I did long for the days when I could just be a generic face holding a gun running through corridors, making it up as I go.

The story behind this image is as in depth as the players want it to be.

It’s one reason I enjoy tabletop games so much and one of the biggest aspects of my love for Warhammer gaming.  It’s noted in every GW rulebook “forging the narrative” is the most important part of any game you play and telling the story of the game is always tremendous fun.  It may look like a bunch of static models standing next to a little painted house, but that squad of Dark Angels is actually taking cover from traitor marine fire after their Rhino was immobilized.  That plastic plane isn’t awkwardly balanced on that resin wall, it crash landed there and disgorged a squad of angry, wounded Deathwing terminators to hold my faltering right flank.  None of that is happening of course but in the minds of the players it is happening.  It’s the same thing my sister and I used to do with my TMNT and dinosaur action figures; creating our own stories and adventures with little plastic avatars.

And that’s the power of imagination to me, and it’s something I just have a sense is being pulled from entertainment more and more as it becomes more “scripted” and more digital.  Less abstract and more “real.”  And the push toward only this form of entertainment might be stealing the chance for imaginations to blossom like they did for my generation.

I’ll leave it with this:

Final Fantasy VII was an amazing story and a fun game filled with memorable characters…and this was our hero:

We knew what Cloud looked like from the artwork, but for most of our experience this was our lead character and how we interacted with the world.  He, like my Warhammer models, represented the character with my own imagination filling in the gaps and remembering fierce battles and epic journeys of what was a polygon character in low-res world.

So I have to wonder…is this Cloud any better?

Will it make the game better now that he’s all shiny and “real”?  Will it make the story better?  I’m not such a Luddite that I believe advancements in technology and narratives aren’t important.  I just hope as we advance we don’t discard everything that worked, because it worked for a reason.  When you experience a piece of art or entertainment that is so scripted and meticulously created that it gives you everything you need to see and do you’re experiencing someone else’s vision, which is ok some of the time.  I just hope we are also still allowed to forge our own narratives and experience them our own way some of the time as well.

Jim Sterling Sued: Digital Suicide

Well it happened.

Our Lord and Savior, Jim Sterling, has been sued by Steam “developers” Digital Homicide.

I can actually remember watching his original play through of their terrible game, “The Slaughtering Grounds” and the immediate childish response his criticism received by these so-called game devs.  At the time it was just another case of a terrible developer having an amazing tantrum over a YouTube personality’s negative reactions, however as time went by the animosity escalated.  Jim would criticize Digital Homicide games, and they responded by adding his likeness to their games, calling him with threats, and attempting to dox him in an interview.

Now, clearly, I’m a fan of Jim’s. I think the service he provides is an excellent and entertaining one.  I purchased one of the earliest “early access” games on Steam (one that has to date still not come out) and I’ve bought some games on the service that looked terrific but turned out to be half-finished drek.

Jim is one of the only reviewers who focuses on PC’s largest digital retailer and its laissez faire policy of user developers selling on their service.  He covers those who try hard but simply lack the talent necessary to create a decent product, those who consciously make garbage in order to cash in or get publicity, those who literally sell pre-made assets as finished products, and those who make genuinely great games.  It’s through him that many of us were made aware of Steam’s lax policies on who can sell their games, the problems with Greenlight abuse, the troubling nature of asset flips, and the now widespread abuse of “early access.”

Jim’s personality isn’t for everyone.  He’s harsh in his critiques, pulling no punches in his personal experiences and disappointments with certain games or the Steam service.  At the same time you can hear the joy and shock when he discovers a decent game in early access or a Greenlight trailer to get excited about.  He truly loves the medium and his criticisms are grounded in his distaste for those who sully it with poor products.  This does include so-called AAA companies and games, and he spends more of his time criticizing the likes of Konami, EA, and Ubisoft in his work than he does anyone else.  However it’s always the indie devs who have caused him the most problems.  The likes of Digital Homicide, Cobra Studios, and Digpex Games have files erroneous DMCA takedowns of his videos.  They’ve penned letters to the media and attempted funding pages and psychotic anti-Jim leagues to stop him.  All done by devs whose poor products he merely criticized for being poor.

There has been a lot of misunderstanding in the media about the specific lawsuit filed by the odious Romine brothers of Digital Homicide.  It wasn’t for the numerous videos he did about their games but from a comment in a written article he later corrected once it was clear the facts were potentially different.  That piece of the lawsuit is the one that potentially stands a chance, based on the laws of the state in which these junk merchants have chosen to have it heard.

The rest of the case is clearly nonsense.  They claim he sent his fans to harass him.  Which not only is impossible to blame him for, is also patently untrue.  He has made comments in more than one video appealing for calm and requesting his fans NOT harass developers or those he criticizes.  He hasn’t even sought out a lot of Digi-Hom games to critique.  He outlines in another of his videos how he criticized a number of games that were published under different guises only to find out later they were actually under the Digital Homicide umbrella.  In at least two lets plays he praised the company for making products that were of acceptable quality and has stated on numerous occasions he would be the first in line to congratulate them if they ever made a decent, successful game.  Given his attitude toward the games they released that bordered on competency I’m inclined to believe him.

The worries of the “far-reaching implications” of this case aren’t really merited given the limited nature of the lawsuit and what it’s going after.  It’s not a case about YouTube criticism; it’s a predatory case a couple of hacks are using to get revenge on a terrific critic and famous YouTube personality because he hurt their feelings when he called their bullshit “bullshit.”  They’ve sought the most vulnerable part of his small corner of the internet to attack, his website.  What is more concerning is that this kind of behavior can occur and potentially be rewarded.  Jim mentioned in a recent Podquisition (jokingly admittedly) that he’s spending the money he could be saving for a settlement on boglins and collector’s edition video games.  While the nature of the law in AZ may make aspects of the case difficult for him to win, and he certainly has much better legal advice than I could give, I really hope he doesn’t have to give them a thing.

Because they don’t deserve it.

Digital Homicide doesn’t deserve anything.  Not the attention they’ve received from being reviewed, knowingly and unknowingly, on Jim’s channel; not a place on Steam; not a single sale of one of their slapdash, low-rent games.  Digital Homicide deserves obscurity and, though this may sound cruel, to have their company fail.  Steam’s attitude toward curation has been to let the market dictate what succeeds.  This means Steam customers, the tastemakers in the industry and their audiences, pick what will be successful.  Jim shows Digi-Hom for what they are.  People not in love with making games, but people in love with the idea of making easy money making games.  They don’t have the heart and soul to put time and effort into making a masterpiece, just to throw as much wet trash at the wall to see if any of it sticks.  Since they were called out for this behavior, they’re now trying to get that money from the critic who caught them in the act.  A company made a bad product and this was rejected by the potential audience for the product.  In this kind of market, the company should fail.  With or without a Jim Sterling pointing out how awful they are or even if they hadn’t proven on numerous occasions that they are terrible businessmen and pretty awful people.

As a steadfast Jim patron I hope he doesn’t have to give them anything, dooms the company to the bankrupt obscurity it deserves, and he can turn his attention fully back to being our lord protector from shovelware and, more importantly, being the Dickensian circus barker who brings the attention of the public at large to little games we may have otherwise missed.

No matter the outcome, your audience is with you, Jim.  Thank god for you…

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Ghostbusters Remake: Why I Won’t See It

The Ghostbusters remake trailer premiered a couple of weeks ago and confirmed every fear I had. This topic has been controversial since its announcement and with good reason. From the cast to the writing, the trailer alone suggests remake tragedy. As far as I’m concerned, I hope it bombs, so they stop trying to destroy well-loved movies.

The All-Woman Cast

Those who are not excited about the cast are not necessarily sexist. I’m a strong, independent, hard-working woman. I support my family and am a good mother. I support nearly every fight for better pay, treatment, career advancement, rights, etc. And I hated the idea the all-woman cast. But it’s not about them being women; it’s about Hollywood taking advantage of us.

In Hollywood, woman power has become a trend. I love the idea of an all-woman cast if done for the right reasons, but in this situation, Hollywood executives saw an opportunity to capitalize on 1) women and 2) a successful franchise. It’s like they said, “Oh, women are cool right now, so let’s make them Ghostbusters and see how much money we can make off of them.” That insults me.

The trailer even suggests they dumbed the characters down, made them goofy and not funny. Where’s our sharp wit? Where’s our ability to handle things rationally? Not in this trailer.

The Writing Stinks

“You’re a brilliant engineer.” … “No one’s better at quantum physics than you.” Why do we need to say that? Why can’t writers allow the audience to assume roles and intelligence? We don’t have to spell out everything in a movie. The Ghostbusters remake is certainly not the only movie with this problem. Most modern movies say too much and explain things unnecessarily because the people writing them should not write movies. If you’re targeting women, guess what? We are smarter than that.

On another note, the trailer is not funny. I’ve watched it 10 times and never once smiled. They ripped out the wit, sarcasm and dry humor, and added vomiting and awkward banter. Note to Hollywood: Vomiting is never funny. Ever.

Also, why are they making fun of The Exorcist? I love The Exorcist; it still scares the crap out of me, but why is it appropriate to include it in Ghostbusters? In the trailer, they poke fun at one of the most intense movies in horror history, and as a fan of The Exorcist and horror in general, that is not okay with me.

Gotham Meets Ghostbusters

Many people are criticizing the ghosts’ appearance. I’m okay with some of the CGI, and Slimer looks good. However, most of the ghosts flying or walking around downtown make it look like Gotham City from the first Batman franchise. The ghost in the striped pants (watch trailer) made me roll my eyes. Also, there were very few floaters in the original. It wasn’t a sideshow of neon lights and CGI.

I’m Over Remakes

We had a blast this past Halloween comparing originals and remakes, but I noticed we did not review anything after 2010. Remakes in the last few years have, for the most part, sucked. Poltergeist, The Fantastic Four, Point Break, all decent/good originals, all remade in 2015 and not well received. If a remake does well, it is because it is well written, directed by the best person for the job, and cast well. A movie will not make a good remake just because the original was popular. For example, would the Halloween remake have succeeded if M. Night Shyamalan had directed it instead of Rob Zombie? No.

There’s my rant. I will not see the Ghostbusters remake, and I’d appreciate Hollywood stop trying to destroy some of the best movies of my generation. If you don’t have an original idea or can’t produce a ‘good’ movie, then maybe it’s time you get out of the industry.

If you haven’t seen it, here’s the trailer. Take note of the dislikes: