The Multiverse’s Tiniest Violin

23 December, 2018 at 7:31 pm (gameplay)

A few weeks ago I was at work, killing time, and I pulled out the defunct, previous model phone that I keep for two reasons: as a decoy, in case I get robbed, and for mobile gaming. I’m crap at games, generally, but find that games on the Free-to-Play model are simple enough that they match my natural level of ability. And since I strive mightily not to spend any money on F2P gameplay and see how well I can do if I am patient, I tend to spend about ten to fifteen minutes a day gaming, which suits my lifestyle.

I get a reasonable amount of crap around the office for having the two phones, and was unsurprised when they garnered a little attention from a colleague, who asked what I was doing. When I said I was playing a video game, she reacted strongly, telling me to delete it immediately. When I protested, telling her that it was a cheerful distraction and that I only played for the tiniest amount of time each day, she was steadfast: “Any amount of time is too much,” she said, “because those games make you want to play more and more. Delete it!” she warned me again.

Considering that she and I were going to be co-hosting a field trip in a few months, I spent a little time weighing her words. Two weeks in France was a perfectly normal amount of time to stop playing a video game to which I claim to have only the barest of attachment. But at the same time, such games are wonderful in airports terminals and other periods of interminable delay. However, if that was going to be her reaction, then it would probably be the better part of valor to just free up the hard drive space before the trip rolled around, and then see how I felt about restarting or not once we returned.

Turns out, the decision was made for me. TinyCo. has announced that they are shuttering Marvel: Avengers Academy on February 4th.

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PVP: Star Wars vs. Annie Hall

3 January, 2004 at 8:23 pm (film, gameplay)

Scott Kurtz has written a strip for December 27th where he claims that nerds are demanding reparation for STAR WARS losing the “Best Picture” Academy Award to ANNIE HALL in 1977. Now, I remember the Best Film internet poll a year or so ago when a bunch of iSavvy revisionists took to the bulletin boards across the web and “proved” that there was more popular support for STAR WARS to have received “Best Picture” in the 1977 Oscars. There was some minor flap about it as people who actual had taste and perspective were outraged and everyone who registered as “Jedi” for their religion in the 2000 census celebrated this overturn. But because it was an internet poll, and therefore statistically representative of NOTHING, people eventually forgot about it. Also, a new personality test had been created and everyone needed to see which Angel from NEON GENESIS EVANGELION they were, or something. Anyway…

What I object to in this comic, is not simply its sentiment. It’s the use of the character who voices this sentiment. I don’t know how old Mr. Kurtz is; I assume he’s in his early thirties. In reading PVP, I have regularly found that I believe Mr. Kurtz places his editorial voice, the voice representing his age and life experience in the voice of Cole, the most aged character in the strip. Cole is the character who says that the Nerd Community is instigating for reparations for ANNIE HALL’s “Best Picture” award.

Image copyright Scott Kutrz.  Used without permission for the purposes of publicity and criticism.Cole is old enough to have the perspective that ANNIE HALL is a Nerd Movie. It is a series of nerd fantasies, strung together as only Woody allen can. Who else but a nerd would open his film with references to Groucho Marx and Sigmund Freud? Who else but a nerd would portray his girlfriend as a sexy rendition of the Evil Queen in Disney’s SLEEPING BEAUTY? Marshall McLuhan steps out from behind a sign to prove Woody Allen’s character’s point: a total nerd fantasy.

Nerds didn’t become so codified, so specialized until after the STAR WARS phenomenon. By the 1977 Oscars, STAR WARS hadn’t even been re-released in the cinema with the “Episode IV” subtitle. It made a supreme amount of money and took the toy market by storm. It stayed in theatres for almost a year before being shelved and re-released. These are indicators of a great popular devotion, no question. But it wasn’t just a nerd thing. Look at the “Cancellation of STAR TREK” skit on SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE or the Trek references in the film SERIAL. These show that the appeal was broader than the Nerds. Nerds were literary fiends and HAM radio operators and Hi-Fi geeks and classical music DJs and political activists. They also read Greg Bear and Lester Del Rey and Philip K. Dick and were entranced with science fiction. But not just Lucas’ science fiction, but also the science fiction of Asimov and Serling. And they didn’t lock themselves into a narrow, narrow spectrum of interests: sci-fi, fantasy, comics, and computer games. ANNIE HALL shows beyond a doubt that the Nerd has withered. He is anaemic and inbred. And if he lacks the perspective to see that ANNIE HALL is his forebears and his legacy, than he deserves nothing.

Or, to be more precise, he deserves precisely what he is getting. Hope you enjoy EPISODE III, Cole and Mr. Kurtz. They are what you demanded by not accepting the Oscar in 1977.

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Jedi Knight

12 June, 2003 at 11:55 am (gameplay)

Lightsaber styleeWhen my coach tried to get me to hit a baseball, I could never make contact. When my older brother tried to teach me to skateboard, I wasn’t goofyfoot, I was just plain goofy. But while some semblance of coordination has happened to me over time — except being able to dance… always excepting being able to dance — I have always been and have resolutely continued to be a total spaz when it comes to video games.

When I learned to drive, it was terrible. I was incredulous at the amount of actions one was required to perform simultaneously. You have to push on the clutch, step on the brake, downshift, put on your directional signal, turn the steering wheel AND not hit any pedestrians or other drivers? Yeah, right… good bloody luck. I gave up on ever being able to drive a standard transmission right there. But my brother required a standard in order to feel like he was in control. But then again, he was a drummer, and accustomed to using both hands and both feet in independant tandem. And then again again, he was the household videogame king.

We could sit for hours in the family room (read: basement) watching him tackle level after level of THE LEGEND OF ZELDA. He’d suffer through the sort of repetitious requirements that allowed the “unlocking” of special characters, and his siblings would sprawl on the floor or the natty green couch and stare at the screen. But whenever I tried to play the games on my own, I’d give up. I couldn’t manage all of the little buttons — and we’re talking Nintendo, here, where there was only an A-button, and B-button, and a joypad. As videogame systems have progressed from 16-bit to 32-bit to 64 and beyond, the controllers have increased in size and complexity, and watching me try to maneuvre in TONY HAWK 3 is just laughable. My fingers could never find nor remeber which button exacted which command. It was as if I was trying to grind my avatar’s face and chest into a smooth, planar surface.

But last night I spent two hours playing JEDI KNIGHT II on my Mac. Sure, after two hours, I still haven’t reached the second checkpoint and I seriously doubt that I’m even near completing the first level (or mission or whatever), but by god, I’m still alive and I’m having fun. I am controlling my panicky reactions when I walk around a corner and find myself in a room full of storm troopers. I’m firing with my left hand and targeting with my right, and yet somehow still moving and manuevring as well. It’s complex cognition and anti-intuitive, and yet I seem to be doing okay so far.

Who knew?

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