Monday, December 30, 2013

Is Gaming Really a New Sport? by Eli English

I remember when I was 12-13, and played wrestling and fighting games with friends. I rarely ever won a match and we all took it far too seriously, but it was fun. Video broadcasting sites such as Stickam and (now better known as Twitch.TV) weren't too big, but Let's Plays were starting to come out pretty frequently. Now it's possible to make a living off of playing video games thanks to sites like YouTube and, which allow content creators and streamers to earn money through various means.

But, the major question is this: can playing video games professionally be considered a new sport? The answer to this question is (depending on your view) a resounding "yes."

The first proof to show for this is that South Korean Kim Dong-hwan, a professional StarCraft 2 player, has received a special U.S. visa. The visa in question is usually reserved for professional athletes. The visa in question "applies to you if you are coming to the U.S. temporarily to perform at a specific athletic competition as an athlete, individually or as part of a group or team, at an internationally recognized level of performance." According to this, Dong-hwan is, at least in the eyes of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, a professional athlete. 

The second bit of proof to prove this comes from YouTube and Twitch.TV. If you look around, you'll easily find that people who do live performances of League of Legends and Starcraft 2 matches will gain huge amounts of viewers. My first viewing at 1:06 AM has 3 streams of non-professional League of Legends players holding 22,000+ viewers, 6,600+ viewers and 5,000+ viewers. YouTube players who play League of Legends can range from 100 subscribers to 500,000+ subscribers as well.

The third and last bit of proof comes from an article in the LA Times which reported a final match championship in a game of League of Legends. The match was hosted in a packed Staples Center with more then 13,000 people watching the game. The combined prize money for the 3 StarCraft 2 world championship series is a breathtaking $1.6 million.

Professional gaming is not without it's cons, sadly. 

Dong-hwan has been traveling back and forth between the United States and South Korea under a visa waiver to compete in live matches according to his manager, Andrew Tomlinson. Live matches would be broadcasted to thousands of viewers in person while professional commentators would narrate these matches for millions of online viewers across multiple streaming sites (mainly Last fall, Kim was told that because he had been coming in and out of the country so frequently, he would be unable to come back without an official visa (the same one mentioned at the start of the article).

Marcus Graham, a senior manager at the streaming site commented on why this is a big problem. "It would be very similar to an athlete who would be unable to compete for a year," Graham says. "He's at the peak of his professional gaming career."

Kim proceeded to apply for a student visa, but his application was denied. Later, Twitch and Blizzard Entertainment, the company that made StarCraft 2, helped Kim get his visa by writing recommendation letters to the Citizenship and Immigration services.

Graham continued to comment on the issue with "[Competitive gamers like Kim] are the best of the best. They compete for hundreds of thousands of dollars every year; they do spend 10 to 12 hours every day practicing."

Dong-hwan will be back in the U.S. next Monday, but Kim Phan, a senior manager at Blizzard Entertainment, says there are "a handful" of other gamers who are still without a visa to enter the United States. "Gaming is their full-time job, so the inability to go to a tournament, to travel and compete is preventing them from doing their job," says Graham of Twitch. "Visas have single-handedly been one of the biggest killers of players' careers. These problems have been plaguing us even as early as 2002."

Despite the problems that Graham stated, many broadcasters, esport athletes and their fans still have faith that they'll begin to see more esport events with less problems in the coming years.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you like the fact that professional gaming is now an official sport? Or are you displeased with the news that professional gaming is slowly turning as normal as baseball in the United States?

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Happy Holidays

     Hello everyone!  After working so hard to bring you geeky/nerdy/thoughtful updates nearly every week these last three months, the Ace of Geeks staff needs a well-earned break. We are taking this week off to be with our families/minions, but we will see you all next week. In the meantime, enjoy your Holidays and time off. I hope you got time off. Blink twice if they aren't giving you time off. I'll come with my Ninja clan and break you out. I am not detecting any blinking, so I guess you're good. Be well, take care, and don't explode from Holiday treats.

- Jarys

      Greetings! It is I, the other cohost of the Ace of Geeks Podcast! We're not at the phone right now, but please leave a message after the Holidays.


Seriously though, wishing you and yours a happy Whatever-You-Celebrate, and we'll be back with geeky goodness in the new year. It's been a great year for us, and we really hope you've been enjoying the glut of new content we've produced.

- Mike

Friday, December 20, 2013

Episode 83: Merry Krampus, Everybody!

Picture It's almost Christmas, Mike and Jarys have just exchanged presents...and now it's time for Krampus to visit! No, that's not slang for what it sounds like. We'll also try to review the Hobbit, but find it difficult because Mike slept through half of it. Finally, we wrap up the seasons of Once Upon a Time and Almost Human, discuss metaphors in literature, and show how difficult it can be to get your writing staff to help with a holiday gift guide.

Episode 83!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Ace Attorney: Why Aren't You Playing These Games Right Now? by Mike Fatum

Last week, the newest game in the Ace Attorney series, Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies: Too Many Colons launched as a downloadable title on the Nintendo 3DS. In my particular household, this literally caused my wife and I to drop everything. If we had kids, I would have hired a babysitter. Amongst a certain subset of gaming fandom, the Ace Attorney series, once described to me as "the best book I ever played", inspires a sort of crazy-eyed excitement normally only reserved for the drop of a new Bioshock or Halo. But why? What are these games, and should you be playing them? Right now? Yes. Seriously, go download this game immediately.

But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney came to North America on the Nintendo DS in 2005. It was actually a remake of a Gameboy Advance game that had never been released to the US called Gyakuten Saiban, or Turnabout Trial. The games follow the adventures of a heroic defense attorney who defends his clients against murder charges in a series of increasingly complicated cases and with a cast of increasingly weird people. Your opponent is always a devilishly clever and charming Prosecutor - sometimes the very popular Miles Edgeworth, but most of the time the Prosecutor's position changes as much as the teaching post of Defense Against the Dark Arts.

I don't know if we can say "perfect." Payne is in this picture.
The first three games in the series star Phoenix Wright, the titular character of most of the games. The fourth, the first created entirely for the DS platform, stars young rookie Apollo Justice. This newest game stars them both, which was a bold move that has proven really interesting. There are also two Prosecutor-centric games staring Miles Edgeworth, one of which sadly has never been released in the US.

The games all follow a similar pattern. You watch a brief, animated cutscene showing the murder in question, and sometimes even telling you who did it. (Moreso in the opening tutorial cases.) Then Phoenix or Apollo finds out about the case, takes on their new client, and begins their investigation. You'll scour the crime scene for clues, talk to witnesses for information, and finally, take the battle to the courtroom.

The courtroom is where these games really shine. You have to use the evidence you've collected to pick apart the arguments and statements made by the witnesses and the prosecution. Sometimes they're just misguided, other times they're openly corrupt, but there's always contradictions to be torn apart with a stunning "TAKE THAT!" The feelings you get when you have your opponent on the ropes can only be summed up by the music that plays in the first game when that happens (an acapella version for your listening pleaure):

So - why am I telling you to buy these games right this minute?

First of all, the series is genuinely funny and heartfelt. While the games are written for a Japanese audience, the localization team goes out of their way to replace the Japanese puns and references for an English speaking crowd, leaving you chuckling out loud more than you'd expect. And while the witnesses all tend to be caricatures, the prosecutors and defense team are all always fully realized, three dimensional characters that make you genuinely care about them. In one particularly harrowing case from the third game, you find out just much you, the player, care for one of your sidekicks - the hard way.

Secondly, the game is smart, with a difficulty curve that hits just right. In the first few cases, you'll be screaming at your DS for Phoenix or Apollo to solve the simplest clue ever and crack this case. By the final case, you'll be beating your head against a wall trying to untangle the web and save your client. But every time, the joy you feel at finally hitting the right contradiction and proving your client innocent is like nothing else. This is a game that excels in teaching you the right tools, and then making you feel smart for figuring out how to use them. In a world of hand-holding tutorials, it balances just the right amount of newbie-helping before throwing you to the wolves and saying, "You figure it out."

While each game in the series can be played on its own, there's a continuing story through all five main series games that makes having played all of them worth your while. "But Mike," I hear you say, "How will I do that? I don't even own a DS!" Hear me, oh listeners, and be happy - the first three Phoenix Wright games are on the ios app store right now. That's right, you could be playing the games as we speak.

So why aren't you?

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Clementine Mandate: Why The Walking Dead: Season 2 is Important. By Ben Worley.

TellTale’s The Walking Dead is a good game. A great game, even. It’s won countless awards and been Game of the Year for news outlets all around. From the unusually specific “Best Digitally Distributed Game” to the generally praiseworthy “Best Writing”, The Walking Dead has a gallery of trophies behind it. It’s a good game and you should play it. There’s no question nor article there. This is about why The Walking Dead is an important game and you should invest in it.

Video Games are an emerging art form. They are a mad experiment and anything is possible. You can be a plumber who channels the power of big-balled raccoons to fight a dragon. You can be an outlaw exploring a strange planet full of free guns. But you’re probably going to be an underdog hero fighting a great evil in progressively difficult scenarios until you’re inevitably triumphant. Also, you’re probably a White Guy. Most of the time. Ya know.

Make no mistake, video games are amazing and, in my mind, one of the greatest forms of self-expression, when done properly. A huge problem overshadowing the industry is that there are known patterns that will sell. Everyone wants to be the Next Big Thing and no one wants to lose their investment. To this end, companies tend to stick to the true and tested formula. This isn’t something that can truly be begrudged in any sincere sense. The effects of it, however, are increasingly symptomatic of art form unwilling to be artistic. Even slightest deviations, like acknowledging women exist in a game, can be so uncomfortable that journalists will literally go out of their way to actively hide this information.

So when I say that The Walking Dead is an important game that you should buy, I am not just recommending that you set aside time to enjoy a fun, quality game. I am asking you to take part in one of the most effective cannon volleys yet made against the stranglehold conventionality is gaining over a precious form.

Let’s break down some of the most important aspects of the Second Season and why needs to be the best selling game of December 2013 (A tall order, I know).

Morality: Mature Complexity in Story Telling

The concepts of good and evil are relatively new to games. Ever since this, however, game companies have sort have settled on this good/evil binary. Fable made the most sense, contextually, when players could decide if they were the hero or villain of a story. But that’s it. Mass Effect’s main thrust was how much control players had over the story. It’s a great series and I strongly recommend anyone play it, but it’s also true that most of the morality was “Hero” or “Hero that’s pissed Starbucks burned her coffee”. Nothing summarized this as effectively as the controversial finale to the series which, while having different thematic implications, all resulted in the same cutscene. For goodness’s sake, the original morality system of Bioshock was almost exclusively “Do you like to brutally murder little girls that are victims of circumstance?” All phenomenal games, but none pushing the envelope except in rare cases (Does this unit have a soul?).

The Walking Dead’s first season changed this. The morality wasn’t as simple as “Good versus Evil”. You truly live in a world so overwhelmed in abstracts that “Does Good and Evil even exist anymore?” would barely merit a scene. Instead the game places you in the metaphorical role of a parent caring for their child in a world surrounded by symbols of terrible things that could happen. You are tasked, many times, with deciding what sort of example you’d want to set for your own children. More importantly, you are tasked with explaining why. Clementine, your ward in the first game and the playable character in the second, is deeply inquisitive in the most innocent of ways. When you make decisions, you have to justify yourself to her. Deciding whether a teammate “lives or dies” is a common question in games. What isn’t common is having to explain to Clementine that you just killed a good and decent person because he was a burden to the team. Or, conversely, that you let an incompetent person continue to harm Clementine’s friends “because he’s nice”.

Through deeper complex moral systems, as well as scenes where we contemplate why we are making these choices, we reach a new evolution in gaming. A moral system that goes beyond the aesthetic encourages us to look at ourselves and determine who we are. It helps us to connect with our own worldviews on a deeper level. It stays with you. This is what art truly is: A means of communicating indirectly in order to invoke direct connections with one another and ourselves.

There’s a time and a place for binary moral decisions. They are always thrilling and interesting. Complex decisions, however, as a means of causing introspection? That’s a new form of digital life and it should be encouraged and protected.

For Clementine: Representation Matters

More than just the design of the game, the characters and stories in it are something well worth supporting. Art influences public views. It permeates and colors our views of the world. Even at an early age, it affects our self-image and the limits we give ourselves. And video games, dominated in representation by White Men, are only marginally accurate as to the vast diversity of people out there. This is a problem. It’s a problem when one of the only games to consistently have a playable, fleshed out People of Color is Grand Theft Auto, a series about crime sprees. It’s a problem when Nintendo has approximately two recurring female characters in their main roster, both of whom exist primarily to be saved. It’s a problem when masculinity is glorified and femininity equated with weakness that needs saving. And despite steps taken by a wide variety of developers (shout outs to Mass Effect and Saints Row), these issues still warrant addressing.

Enter The Walking Dead: Season 2.  Enter a game about a Woman of Color (her exact race not specified) who is designed to invoke empathy and compassion. It is necessity that one not only empathize with her, but that they actively identify as her. Feel as she does and guide her/yourself to safety.

When Clementine first premiered, she was part of the TellTale gamble mostly because the gamer stigma towards the dreaded Escort Mission. But gamers have embraced her. Massively so, we are told. And to that end, she is being given her own series. If successful, this can send a powerful message to developers and publishers that they don’t need to be scared of who they put in games. They can put in People of Color, women, children, and anyone else they want as a character. As long as the game is good, it will work. As long as the character is compelling, they will be loved. This message needs to get out there. It needs to be circulated. And what better way than with the success of a game that, even divorced from this, is good enough to warrant support?

We Deserve Good Art

Large name developers will, with few exceptions, make games that either reiterate the norm or test said norm in controlled, small situations. A Triple-A title that is truly divergent from expectations is few and far between. It’s understandable, but you deserve better. We deserve better. Innovation and experimentation. Evolution and representation. TellTale is in a unique position to do just the sort of mad science that might just make larger companies sit up and take notice. And with the game’s quality almost assured by developers with a stellar track record, let’s make sure that’s exactly what happens.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Ace of Geeks Holiday Gift Giving Guide -By Jarys

[EDIT: The price of the Firefly board game has been corrected]
     Now, the title above says Gift Giving guide, but this is really more of a source of inspiration. I cannot include every incredible thing that has come out this year and a true guide would include some great all time gifts as well. That is not this list, this list is small, but brave. Like a Hobbit. Ok, yeah I saw the Desolation of Smaug last night. I'm not comparing everything to hobbits, I am not obsessed. See how I ran rings around rings around your argument?

     Which reminds me, real friends and loved ones don't gift cursed artifacts, corrupting lost technology,  addictive magical rings, or any other dangerous plot McGuffins for the holidays. It's just not polite. What your gift is really saying is "Do I like you? Or do I want you to go on an adventure for an indeterminate mount of time and possibly die? Either way, good luck". If you must give an important plot Mcguffin as a gift something more appropriate would be the weapon of one's parents, who have since died fighting the good fight. Or the incredibly cutting edge technology that will give the user the opportunity to transcend their lot in life is always a winner. I also recommend acceptance into an education institution that will help the recipient to achieve their inner potential. Just be sure you know what their inner potential really is. Harry Potter would not have done as well in Britain's premier bowling high school. Don't be that person.

     Instead, let's focus on some geeky, mundane gifts. For this, I asked the Ace of Geeks staff what they would suggest for some nerdy holiday gift giving. After an hour of explaining the need for clarity (one staff member began texting/IMing me "GAMING COMPUTER" over and over) we finally were able to come up with some clear examples. Here is what they suggested, and my comments.

1. Cameron suggests: CARDS AGAINST HUMANITY ($25 for the main box $15 for each expansion) this ingenious party game has taken my friend circles by storm. I may have helped. In this easily set up card game, people take turns reading a phrase to finish or question to answer on a black card. Others randomly submit a white card and the first player (Card Czar) reads each out loud and judges them harshly. The winning white card wins the black card, and the position of Card Czar shifts to the next player. If this game reminds you of Apples to Apples, it is essentially the same, except that the cards are shocking, foul, mind blowing, and full of nerdy references. It's Apples to Apples for Nerdy and Dirty I often say. Play the game no more than once a week so as not to burn out.....the humor is too pure. Much recommend.

2. Lauren suggests: Alpha Maile Dice Bags. ($40) You protect your character in mail, plate, leathers, and magics, but how do you protect your dice? Mere cloth is is beneath the dignity of the polygraphite polyhedral chaos engines that determine your character's fate. For maximum protection, Alpha Maile offers chain and scale mail dice bags.In looking over their online catalogue, I was actually quite taken aback at the prices they are asking for. I'd say these are a steal, but rogues don't wear armor this heavy. Now, there are obvious drawbacks to having a metallic dice bag, the eight is multiples of cloth for the same size bag and the metal must be kept responsibly. However, the weight of one of these dice bags (a friend made one like this) is not a burden and who keeps their things in a damp dark place?
Gollum, that's who.

3.Stephanie suggests: the Tardis Teapot ($44.38) Now, what I love about this gift is the juxtaposition. This useful item combines the Tardis of Doctor Who with a teapot, two concepts which have nothing to do with one another. Nope, these two things have no common origins, no common themes, and one has never been mentioned in the other. Completely different elements brought together in once form with satisfying function. That is if you enjoy tea. And I'm not going to argue that not enjoying tea would make you any less a person. Aren't Dalek's a kind of people? Not that you would have to be a Dalek not to enjoy tea. That would be crazy. What am I saying? Oh yeah, this teapot allows you to enjoy previously boiled tea while pondering exactly how much tea would be required to fill the infinite space of the Tardis. Goes well with this mug.

4. Colin suggests: This Gamebooze Flask ($20) Ok, let's take the last gift and up the ante. Do you remember that one object you owned in the nineties that you took with you everywhere, required a specially sized pocket, and attracted the concern of your loved ones due to your excessive use? Well now you can get everything you loved about the Gameboy video game system and seamlessly transfer it to this nifty flask. Despite my sass, I do like this product, the artistry is incredible and it's guaranteed to attraction interested attention and start conversations. If you are a social drinker, such an item can only speed along the process of making friends, debating controversial issues, almost coming to blows, and then buying each other's drinks as a sign of fellowship. Just promise that you'll put the flask down when you think you can play games on it.

5. Cameron suggests: The Lucifer graphic novels. ($12 per tradeback) I could not agree with Cameron heartily enough, even if I were a bowl of hearty chowder. This incredibly well written and lovingly drawn comic was inspired by the Sandman universe, where it is set, though Neil Gaiman did not write it. The books center on the modern character development of the Bible's "Lucifer", as he comes to enjoy life after giving up control of Hell. He explores the Sandman universe, humanity, religion, and takes on responsibility and comes to redevelop his relationship with Yahweh, his maker. I discovered and enjoyed the series in college and can attest that it will appeal to friends who enjoy religion, history of mythology, the Sandman comics, or the lucifer archetype in general. There are eleven tradebacks.

6. Lauren suggests: the ongoing Saga graphic novel ($15) My gods. I just. I can't. How do I....?
Saga is one of my favorite comics I have ever read and it's only on its second tradeback. Written by the intelligent Brian K. Vaughn and drawn by the deft Fiona Stamples, Saga has reinvigorated the Space Opera genre with ingenious narrative and breath taking panels. I want to make more jokes here but I might be too much of a fan not to take this comic seriously (lying). The story is revolves around the flight of two lovers, Alana and Marko from two warring cultures as they attempt to escape their past and the consequences of their love.  Fantastic technology meets advanced magic in a world were robots seem as organic and self possessed as any other species. If I didn't know any better, I'd say it was created by my favorite comics writer.

7. Stephanie suggests: this glowing D20 ($23) It's an age old calamity: you are playing a table top roleplaying game that requires a twenty-sided die, you make an important roll to see whether your character succeeds in their effort to overcome dramatically appropriate opposition, you are rewarded with the highest possible result you could get, and the appropriate flashing lights to celebrate your CRITICAL success FAILS to manifest! Well, suffer no longer, adventurers, for there now exists a piece of equipment whose magical properties can bequeath to you the celebration you DESERVE. This large die flashes jubilantly when its twentieth face is upright, letting the GM and the whole table know how much you RAWK. From my own experiences with this die, I suggest you store it somewhere upside down.

8. Colin suggests; these dangling Sonic Screwdriver earrings. ($20) These stainless steel dangle earrings are modeled after the Eleventh Doctors's sonic screwdriver. Should you happen upon a an adventure in space and time, you MIGHT find these useful for technological solutions. And there's a spare for a friend. Do be warned, they do not work on wood, however. This would make a lovely gift for the fancy whovian in your life.If you order them now, you should get them in timey-wimey for Christmas. I cannot, unfortunately, give a recommendation for these hanging helpers, as I don't know anyone who would wear them and they are not quite my style. But I can tell you that they look masterful. Well...not MASTERful. I wouldn't suggest.....ack, nevermind.

9. Cameron (and Colin) suggest: Lightsaber chopsticks ($15) Our final Thinkgeek product (you can send your gratuitous gifts to REDACTED), these are not as clumsy as a spork, but elegant eating implements for a more civilized age If you have ever wanted to bring your love of asian style together with Space Opera weapons, this is your chance. Why such a great price, you ask? Well, these finger sabers are not actually destructive magnetically sealed plasma projectors, allowing you to use them without cauterizing you fingers.They also are silent, so any lightsaber noises will have to come from you, via the mechanisms of your (in all likelihood) chewing mouth. I cannot promise that any medical remuneration will be granted to those whose lightsaber noises offend their dining partners to the point where the chopsticks need to be extracted from the user.

10. I suggest The Firefly Board Game ($50) I just had to insert myself here, as I was delighted to discover this game at the much-loved Black Diamond Games in Concord, CA.This game allows up to four players to simulate owning a Firefly class spacecraft, picking a crew, and trading around the verse, all in one to two hours. There are Alliance and Reavers to dodge, double dealing employers to one up, and other fun to be had. There are two expansions out already, one of which allows you to act as thieves and bounty hunters, preying on other players. This game looks really fun and I can't wait to play it. (hint hint.......HINTHINTHINTHINTHINT). This game offers everything I would want from a firefly board game, as I am a big fan of tactics through simulation. It's about Gorram time!

     So, whether you celebrate the Solstice or Saturnalia, I hope this list helps to provide the push you need to get out there and become an avatar of the Gift Giving god, Generus! Roll your willpower to hold on to your sense of self while containing the divine power of the ultimate presenter of presents.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Episode 82 - You Strike Like a Nun!

Picture Mike and Jarys bring the podcast to you live from a grocery store in the mission! The Ace of Geeks Podcast is joined by Ken Smith and Ryan Galiotto to break down the mysteries of life, like: Discovering the sadness of knowing things your father doesn't, Babylon 5, Settlers of Catan, the Big Bang Theory, Kinky Coffee Shops, Shakey-cam, and the new 52. Enjoy the hilarity and the eighties easy listening tunes in the background!

                                                                   Episode 82!

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Arrow, or The Breakdown of a "Gritty Reboot." By Mike Fatum

Here's a well known secret for you: I hate "gritty reboots." For the last few decades it seems, everyone wants to take well known characters and strip away everything about them except the name, churning out the same group of chiseled jawed broody heroes for every story. For some characters, it works fantastic - thank god they did a gritty reboot twenty years ago on poor Batman. But a lot of characters thrive in the sun, and a little bit of cheese, and taking them to the stark color palate and constant window-gazing of your typical gritty reboot, and they fade into absolute boredom.

Whoa, how did this picture get here?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

UFC: The New King of Pro Wrestling? by Jon Cain

     Some could say comparing the UFC to the world of Pro Wrestling is like comparing apples to hand grenades. The UFC is real. There is nothing fake about two guys in that octagon beating one another to a bloody pulp - they are even sanctioned by the state athletic commission. There are very few people who would deny the UFC is a legitimate sport.

     On the opposite side of that coin you have the world of Professional Wrestling. Wrestling's not classified as a sport by the majority of people. Looked at as primarily a source of entertainment, not closely monitored by many state agencies, the ring, while hard, is still built to take some shock. The matches in some cases are deeply choreographed, and the finishes are almost always predetermined.

     So how can I justify UFC as the new King of Pro Wrestling? Simply put: it is all in the show. When you're watching a really good wrestling match, you can feel all the emotion from the two combatants. The highs, the lows, the desperation, all off it. The really good ones are the ones who feel like they're going to pop before the match even starts. You see it in their promos, the mind games, the physical preparation, during the weeks leading up to that match. Then it is here, the moment you have been waiting for: the match that begins with all this build up. Have you ever stopped and wondered why you were so anxious.? Why does the one match mean so much or feel so important? Well, sorry to burst your bubble, it is nothing more the clever story telling and amazing promoting. You can strip all the flashy characters down to base level, remove the story elements and it is just two people going to have a fight. When it is put that way, it sounds pointless and kind of boring. However, if you add a reason to the fight, well, then it gets a little more intriguing. Could be for a title, or perhaps to see who is the best. Or the young buck looking to dethrone the alpha.

     These ideas and reason for conflict sound very familiar. Mainly because most of these, in the modern day, could be causes for conflict. During the territory days of Pro Wrestling these story archetypes were widely used because of their believability. However over time they slowly went the way of the 8 track and disco. However these angles, if you will, have been making a comeback. Not in the playbook of an Indy promoter or even TNA or WWE. No, these have been making a comeback in the advertising and promoting offices of the UFC.

     The way a fight is built up and promoted in the UFC today is a mirror image of the way wrestling use to and still tries to promote today. From the interviews inside the training camp, to the way they air, and  the promos the fighters have cut on one another. To the way the posters and television spots are shot. Take the Chuck Liddell/Tito Ortiz feud: The UFC built up of this fight as ex friends, battling it out. Ortiz was the former champion who said they made a pact never to fight. Liddell, the ex-friend with a point to prove, claimed Ortiz was ducking him and no such pact was ever made. This angle has be used over and over again in the world of wrestling. Now some could argue that it isn't an angle because it really happened. Well not everything in wrestling is fake. Look at the real life love triangle between Adam Copeland “Edge,” Amy Dumas “Lita,” and Matthew Moore Hardy “Matt Hardy”. This was such a hot button topic that they had to work it into storyline. Very little of this heat and animosity was built because feelings were real. When a UFC fighter says he hates his opponent you believe him. You don't question the sincerity of the statement. However stop and think: a UFC fighter is his own hype man. He is the only one looking out for his brand. So why not cut some hellacious promo about your opponent? Get the fans talking, good or bad, and drive your want and demand up. Sounds to me like the UFC knows an awful lot about the wrestling practice of drawing heat.

    To me, the similarities are pretty clear. UFC is using old school wrestling tactics and decimating modern day wrestling. I am not saying that one is better or more legitimate then the other. Only saying that, for being such worlds apart, they share an awful lot. Could be why wrestlers tend to gravitate to MMA and MMA fighters tend to gravitate towards wrestling. I mean, truly, it is all about the show. I do find it funny that the world with concrete rules is clearly dominating the world were anything is possible. Makes you wonder what the future may hold for both of them. All we can do is watch with eager eyes and an open heart.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Godzilla Trailer released!

We've mentioned over and over that Godzilla had the best presentation at San Diego Comic Con, and it's fighting Guardians of the Galaxy for the top of our list for the most anticipated film of next year. Now the official teaser has hit the net, and it's time to get more excited. Check it out after the jump:

Gamers Care More About the "VGX" Than the Show Did. That's the Problem. By Sam Stafford

So apparently the VGAs are still a thing, except now it's the VGX, and apparently some people who play games still feel that a televised awards circus slash marketing hype exercise is in some way relevant to their interests. Maybe because "legitimate" forms of entertainment like movies have award shows, and so gaming needs an award show that gamers can use to defend their favorite pastime against imaginary assailants, because look, we have our own award show? I don't even know.

alternate text
You know that gorilla at the zoo who is unhappy and doesn't care if you know it?

Game journalism is a joke. Award shows are everything that is wrong with game journalism, multiplied by itself.

I didn't watch the whole VGX, because if I had three spare hours to spend on doing something game-related, I'd play Gone Home again. And I will give credit to VGX's award committee for giving Gone Home not just "Best Indy Game", which everyone is going to ignore anyway, but "Best PC Game". Hot damn. I bet some heads rolled after that one was announced. Look, let me tell you something about Gone Home. This is an industry where people will praise a thoroughly mediocre game to high heaven because it had a story or art or voice acting that is good "for a game", but it's considered gauche to compare any of those elements to other mediums, because making games is hard or something. Right? But I played Gone Home, and I wept, like not just a little moisture around the eyes, but sobs that wrenched my entire body, and that is not good "for a game," that is something that no movie or book or any other work of art has gotten out of me in at least a decade, and I don't think that story would have worked as well if it were told any other way.

Anyway. I did watch a "lowlight" reel that will probably be Viacomed and reposted a few times between when I type this and when you read it, so go seek it out for yourself; it's pretty entertaining. I have to give Joel McHale mad props for treating the whole exercise exactly as seriously as it deserved to be treated. Look into that man's eyes. "Can't we be done with this bullshit?" they seem to be pleading. Not as long as people keep tuning in, buddy. But we can hope.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Frozen: Is it Worth Braving the Cold? by Mike Fatum

There were a lot of years where it was hard to call yourself a Disney fan. Despite occasional knockouts like "The Emperor's New Groove" and "Lilo and Stitch," the House of the Mouse never really managed to reach up to the heights it had during the years of The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. Films like Dinosaur, Brother Bear, Home on the Range and Chicken Little were acceptable, but Disney seemed content to leave the films that would change little kids' lives to Pixar and just pump out whatever they wanted. Even their final attempt at a traditional animated princess movie, The Princess and the Frog, seemed like it was reaching for something it never quite achieved.

Then, four years ago, they dropped this little film on us.

Full of great music, realized characters, an interesting take on a frankly kind of one-note fairy was the first Disney animated movie in a very long time that felt like a Disney movie. They followed it immediately with Wreck-it-Ralph, which isn't a traditional Disney flick by any standards but was such a fun and heartfelt love-letter to the video games we all grew up on that it was hard to dislike. The excellent plot and characters, and the incredible feat of making Sarah Silverman not annoying, didn't hurt.

Still, when Disney announced their next venture, I got a little concerned.

Frozen is based on the Hans Christian Andersen story "The Snow Queen." Without spoiling too much, that's not a happy tale. (Almost nothing by Mr. Andersen is.) And while Disney has previously made depressing as all hell stories into more Disneyfied ones without taking away their impact (The Little Mermaid, the Hunchback of Notre Dame), Frozen seemed to be taking almost nothing from the original story, which was just a smidge worrying. Add that to the fact that the art style was exactly the same as Tangled, the first commercial was a throwaway piece of physical seemed like this might be a trip back to Brother Bear territory.

As I sat through the first third of the film, I thought I would be wrong. The set up to the main story of Frozen is strong as hell, with two main characters in Elsa and Anna that have a ton of pathos built in. The songs by Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson Lopez (Robert is one of the co-creators of Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon) range from hilarious ("Love is an Open Door") to heartbreaking ("Do You Want to Build a Snowman") and uplifting ("Let it Go"). From the very beginning, this film seems like it's going to be something special.

Then these guys get involved.

For some context, keep in mind that apparently the original script for Frozen just featured Elsa and Anna, and both the handsome leading man and the snowman comic relief were added in later. And while they make some sense in the story, and the script has been re-written to make them "important", they still come across as shoehorned in. The strong world being built in the first third of the movie screeches to a halt to make sure we pay attention to these guys, and the much stronger story of Elsa and Anna's relationship suffers for it.

Libraries worth of articles could be written (and have been) on the problems with unnecessary comic relief in film, and Olaf the snowman fits the bill. Thankfully, he never descends to Jar Jar level, and his one song is pretty darned funny, but otherwise he adds absolutely nothing to the film, and the one major lesson for him to learn is learned and dismissed too quickly. Kristoff, on the other hand, seems completely unnecessary at the beginning of the film, due to this guy:

Hans is the Prince that Anna falls in love with at the beginning of the film. He's a typical modern Disney Price - daring and brave and just a little awkward, and most importantly, he's willing to watch the home base and let Anna go off and have her own adventure. By the time the movie gets around to revealing that it's him who's unnecessary, it just feels like a cheap plot twist to make Kristoff the star.

It's a shame Frozen felt the need to include Kristoff and Olaf, because a film about Anna going on an adventure to find her sister while Hans tries to hold off the sinister machinations back home would be really interesting, and kind of feminist. And while the ending certainly isn't your typical Prince-Swoops-in-to-Save-the-Day thing, Kristoff's added subplots take away time to develop Elsa's interesting personal revelation that saves everyone.

It's not that Frozen is a disappointment. It's a decent, possibly even good, film. But it's another example of a film that needed to not be meddled with. By taking the original, really interesting, story and adding too many extra characters, it's missed a chance to make a truly great film and let us say Disney is finally in another Golden Age. Still - the music is utterly fantastic. If you don't believe me, finish this review by listening to Idina Menzel's ballad "Let it Go" - which is so good that Disney put the whole thing on Youtube to make you go see the movie.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Episode 81: Big Brother Electro!

Picture This week, Mike and Jarys are recovering from some terrible monetary decisions, but we still have time to podcast! We'll break down the Amazing Spiderman 2 trailer, talk about the announcement that the next X-men film will feature, wait for it, Apocalypse, and we'll discuss the connection between the works of Alan Moore and George Orwell!

Episode 81!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Why I'm Done with The Walking Dead, by Kyle Johanessen


Hello out there. Sorry I’ve been gone so long, I’ve had even less on my mind than usual. I’m also a filmmaker in my spare time and my latest film, Devil May Care, is doing well in the festival circuit and has been occupying a lot of my time. Yes, this is shameless self promotion and no, this is not what the article is about so stop worrying. I talked a few weeks ago about the return of The Walking Dead and how I wasn’t all that excited about the new season.  Well it turned out to be a pretty good season that’s kept me pretty well interested. But after sitting through the mid season finale, I’ve just had enough, I really have. It’s not that the show's quality has gone down, far from it actually. I just can’t take it anymore.

I’m not gonna sit here and recap the episode. I’m going to talk about it of course (spoilers) but I’m just not going to go step by step. What I’m going to talk about is how the show is so completely devoid of any hope that there isn’t even any point in watching. I ran into this problem with Game of Thrones and the Red Wedding, and I knew that was coming.  I just can’t sit through the bleakness.

Now that’s not to say that I don’t like darkness in stories. Ask anyone who’s read my stuff, I put my characters through the ringer and have no qualms with killing them off. I tend to think having a dark story makes the light at the end of the tunnel shine that much brighter.  But never have I experienced such a lack of hope in a story, than I have in this TV show.  

Hershel has been brutally murdered, we watched TWO children die (yes, I think Judith is dead) the Prison is destroyed and the group is scattered with none of them knowing if the others have survived. So where is the light at the end of the tunnel? Where is the single ray of light piercing the clouds? Sure, the Governor is dead, but that only offered a few fleeting moments of satisfaction before realizing that the damage has been done. Ok, it was immensely satisfying, but it was still fleeting.

So now what’s going to happen? They’ll introduce new characters that will all die. Some will be introduced just to die. Others will be introduced to let us fall in love with them first and THEN they’ll die. And ya know what? I’ve just had enough.

Other shows this dark let you know somehow or someway everything will be ok. But not shows like Walking Dead or Game of Thrones. And yes, I know they both started comics or novels and they are drawing inspiration from those sources and ya know what, I think BOTH shows would benefit from deviating a little bit. 

It’s not just characters dying but the manner in which they die. Rob Stark was betrayed, made to watch his pregnant wife get stabbed to death (in the stomach) before being stabbed in the gut and beheaded. Hershel didn’t just die, he was cut in the throat and then brutally beheaded. Oh, and we get to watch an eight year old girl get bitten by a Walker. Greeeaaaat.

These aren’t heroic deaths, they're senseless murders. And, in most situations, they don’t do a whole hell of a lot to drive the plot forward. “But, Kyle,” you may say “People get senselessly murdered in real life. Real life is like that.” Yeah, your right, real life sucks. That’s why I watch shows and movies, for the escapism. I don’t need to watch a television show to be reminded that life is bleak and dim and we’re all going to die some day (Some say I’m a glass half full kind of guy). I want to see a world that sure gets pretty dark sometimes but in the end, good will win out. That is not Game of Thrones and it most certainly is not the Walking Dead.

So I think I’m moving on from this show, as I have chosen to move on with Game of Thrones.  I just don’t see the point anymore. There isn’t going to be any justice in these worlds, the good guys aren’t going to win and I get enough of that in the real world. I don’t need to watch characters die, horrifically, for the sake of shock value rather than interesting plot or heroic sacrifice. My fantasy worlds need to be different from the real world, or they’re not fantasy. So despite the quality of the story telling within the Walking Dead, I more than likely won’t be tuning in again.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Check Your Privilege - a Non Feminist Technological Paper by Lauren Harrington

           As a child of the technological age, I’ve seen our world grow closer to many of the Sci-Fi apocalypse novels I’ve read in my classes. We’ve grown so attached to the internet that most of our society is wholly dependent on it. Many psychologists argue that it has desensitized us and dulled our sense of empathy. I’ve seen this in many around me, and it frightens me. The last article I wrote for Ace of Geeks was about the book Feed, a society where our equivalent, Google Glass, is implanted into your brain, causing everyone with the microchip to be constantly connected to the feed of information and advertisements that the corporations send them.
            The major element in the book is the class discrepancy—anyone without money doesn’t have the feed, and is therefore unable to obtain jobs that would earn them the money to afford the microchip. This is something that has become a clear issue in modern society. I’ll dive into some examples from my personal life that show this.

            I am from southern California, in an area where the middle class is almost exclusively represented in the form of lower-middle class. The rest of the people are from the upper class. The friends I made were largely stuck in the former, or in the lower class, where the newer technology was only available to them after it became older tech, when they could afford it. Some of my friends took on jobs to help support their families. Some of my friends took on jobs to pay for gas, and eventually save enough money for new tech. I didn’t earn enough money for an Xbox until a week before the 360 came out, and I wasn’t aware of the 360 being released. The friends of mine who did have an Xbox were those who could afford to upgrade immediately, and so my Xbox had become useless for the social gaming I had intended to use it for. It now collects dust in a basket at my mom’s house.
            I now live in San Francisco, and have made many friends who grew up in Silicon Valley. All, save for a few, grew up getting the new technology almost immediately, handed to them on a silver platter. Getting a job for them was also easy, as they were able to get entry-level positions before they graduated high school, allowing them to continue to get jobs and earn more experience for their résumés. They now have very little resistance in getting a new job at their leisure, to earn enough money to preorder the new consoles they want. All but three of them had the Xbox One delivered to their doorstep on release date, and one of the three was out of country on a study abroad program, while yet another preordered it at a store for pick-up. These friends of mine also had smartphones long before I met them, while I did not get one until 2012. They all also have computers of good quality at minimum, with a few having high-end computers they built with brand new parts.

            In my area of study, broadcast media, computers that have editing capabilities are a must-have, second only to recording gear. Luckily, my department has all of this; equipment for loan, computers on campus for use (with a time limit). My significant other’s department, cinema, does not have these luxuries. One of the mandatory courses requires that you buy 35mm film, and pay for it to be processed, coming out to a total of roughly $250 per roll of film used and processed. (This is why I shoot digital exclusively - Ed) The groups in this course have 4 students each, but that’s still quite a price per student—roughly $62 per project, per person. So far there have been 3 projects in that class, with a final one coming up. Had I chosen to be a cinema major, I would not have been able to afford it, and would have had to drop out. I’ve noticed that almost all of the students in that major who make it to graduation either come from money, or qualify for a great deal of grants and scholarships. This is a public college—a state school, not a private college.
            What I want you all to take away from this is that you should be aware of where you stand in technological privilege. If you’re amongst those who do not worry about whether your tech can stand up to the tasks required of you, you should be grateful. If you’re not one of the privileged, if you’re one of those who have to use the public tech available to you, then keep working hard, because it is still possible in this society to find a job that can get you better tech. I’m lucky enough to be in the middle—my family can afford to get me new tech if I ask for it as a combined gift from all of them on the holidays. Often, I’ve had to ask for combination birthday/Christmas gifts, with the entirety of one side of my family pitching in. But, I digress.
            Be aware of what’s happening on both sides of the financial gap of society, as well as what’s going on in the middle. Take action to help close the gap, or at least bring it all to the same level. Technology is required in almost every field of work in our society, and those with the most recent tech are those who move forward and stay afloat.
            Check your privilege.

Monday, December 2, 2013

What is "Outside", and how can it help us understand the world?

The world we live in is a damned complicated place. There aren't rules, there's no balance, our complaints aren't listened to, we don't feel special - in short, the world makes for a really terrible video game. That's why all attempts to turn the real world into a video game have either devolved into something really damned strange, like Second Life, or shown us an exaggerated, over the top version of the real world, like Grand Theft Auto. Still, as a variation of the "What if we're a science experiment" question that's plagued philosophers for years, people always ask, "What if the real world was a video game?"

Enter "Outside."

Outside is a subreddit on the popular Reddit website. Reddit is a news and pop culture discussion board, broken into thousands upon thousands of subreddits, focused on individual topics. The saying goes,  "There's a subreddit for everything", and there really is - it was proved to me when I stumbled on the subreddit for crossover My Little Pony/Warhammer 40,000 fan art. Outside is a slightly different animal. The subreddit exists in the midst of a joke we're all in on: the idea that the real world is a video game, called "Outside", that we're all playing. The subreddit serves as the official message board for that game.

Taking a look at the site, it's all mostly just jokes - people find funny pictures and describe them as AI glitches, or post a picture of a sunset and describe their graphics card setup. The subreddit also has a set of rules to stop the immersion from being broken that I find fascinating:

Since the rules are also written in character, you could spend a whole hour on this subreddit before you realized what was going on and joined in on the joke. It's a really fun thought experiment and time waster.

But every now and then, a thread comes up that does something different. Here's an example:

Here's the thing: We, as human beings, love to categorize things. In a world that makes very little sense, we want to try and make it make sense. And sometimes, the best way to explain a confusing and difficult concept so that people can empathize is to break it out of reality entirely. By placing a topic like "Why are people transgender?" in the context of a video game, we're able to explain through metaphor a concept that some people, who've never experienced not feeling comfortable with their own gender, might find difficult. Through that thread, a lot of people who never understand the issues they've never faced can suddenly have new insight, thanks to seeing the world as a video game. And that's fascinating. 

I suggest you take the time and browse Outside a little bit. The jokes are funny, but the insights into human nature and your fellow man are really worth the stay.