Saturday, August 30, 2014

A perfect storm (In a teacup). Why we should care about the so-called Quinnspiracy - By Melissa Devlin

Quinnspiracy: Fear-Mongering, Controversy And Why Indie Gaming Is Not Ready To Be Taken Seriously

     What an utter mess. Is Zoe Quinn a maligned angel or the root of dirty games to get ahead? What do we know? What is conjecture? What does it mean?

     First the low down for those who have never heard her name before. Zoe Quinn is an indie game developer who has been under fire lately and managed to find herself stuck in the middle of an argument about misogyny, transparency in journalism, media favoritism, victimization, hypocrisy, questions of conflict of interest, opinion wars, and social justice gone awry. For all this you would think she had done something spectacular. The truth is a little more convoluted, what little of it we actually know.

     I picked up this story when an indie developer friend of mine got burnt out on twitter discussing complaints of corruption in games journalism, he sent me to this link. Then this one. And this. And this. Don’t worry if you don’t feel like looking, I’m going to sum up and then break it down right here.

     The basics:

     Zoe Quinn created a game called depression quest. It didn’t get much attention at first and almost didn’t make it on steam. But then she alleged harassment from wizardchan - a message board dedicated to adult male virgins. The story was picked up, attention was drawn, more people checked out her game and it became popular.

     Had people from Wizardchan harassed her? According to most wizardchan users, no. One or two guys posted something negative about her but not directly to her. She said she had some pretty nasty calls by someone claiming to be from the board, a lot of wizardchan users think it was a troll from another board trying to cause a flame war.

     So the allegations flew. Zoe is a liar just using the female getting harassed card to get ahead. There is no proof. No screenshots, nothing traceable. I’ve had some pretty scary harassment handed down in person and I have to admit, it does sound a little minor. Scratch one mark in the Zoe is a devil category? Not yet. Let me lay down an alternative.

     Zoe, being a public figure, got some negative attention she accused Wizardchan for, but it might not have been them. That got her name out. People who weren’t paying attention to her game before looked into it for the first time. Those people actually LIKED her game and did not just support it in order to punish male virgins. It’s a numbers thing, more press, more people talking, bigger reach. Did she pull the victim card? We can’t know. But we might have an idea by the end of this post.

     Fast forward to recent events:

     Zoe Quinn used a claim of copyright infringement to take down the youtube video by an ex spelling out his complaints about their relationship. That’s mark one in the "probably shouldn’t have done that" category as it got picked up as a sign that she was trying to suppress the story. And suppression is a theme that comes up a lot. Was she doing that? Or did she not like an ex talking shit about her and just used a nit-picky point? We can’t know. It just wasn’t a smooth move.

     But, and this is going to be important later, she’s not a politician. So damage control isn’t in her training.

     What did the ex (Eron) have to say? Well in a long litany of complaints she cheated on him with five different guys. Two he keeps anonymous, three he names, one of which is her married boss, another of which is a Kotaku writer.

     Okay. I can hear you say, “Sucks to be him, but so what?”

     Not much really. Not that we know. The good press on depression quest happened before the sexy stuff (by a month) But what the imagination has wrought since has gotten a little unreal. So lets backtrack.

     Zoe was approached by a contest trying to promote women in gaming. The proceeds from the game are to go to charity, the creator gets an 8% royalty. (If only writers earned so much). Creator being a loose term as the person just have to develop the idea, the actual nitty gritty code and much of the interactive design would be done for them. Zoe wasn’t cool with it. But instead of just a “I want to get paid for my work but thanks for thinking of me” she called the whole thing oppressive. And according to the contest organizers (Fine Young Capitalists) she used trash talking the concept as a way to promote her own game jam. AND got them doxxed.

     (Doxxing is posting private contact information so other people will harass the shit out of them.)

     Wow ultra not cool. So Fine Young Capitalists tried to go to the media. And received crickets, no one would pick up the story. Why?

     Well the accusation is because Zoe slept with a writer and is good friends with a Reddit admin who suppressed the story and oh yeah lots of game journalists support Zoe through patreon. Oh my god conflict of interest. Well not really.

     First of all, the sex would have to be the most amazing addictive thing ever to be the reason no one picked up the story. And support through Patreon does not equate an investment where you gain anything much out of the success of your chosen creators. Zoe doing well is a warm fuzzy not a stock dividend. This is all a really big, red herring.

     But a story was squashed. There were shitty tactics used. It’s just not about five guys. While youtube vloggers were comparing Zoe to rapists (I’m serious), and complaining about integrity in games journalism, 4chan got in on the action. Oh yeah, shit just got real.

     First, their political group is a lot more cool than I expected. They rose to the rescue of Fine Young Capitalists, backed the indigogo and created a character for the game. Vivian James is a normal girl with a grumpy demeanor and iconic look. They got so much backing they got to pick the charity the contest would go to and chose (in 4chan humour style) chemo buthurt for prostate cancer. Wow, social justice is making headway.

     Then Fine Young Capitalists got shit for accepting money from 4chan. Because you know, feminism is a clique and you can’t accept a sign of progress like fucking 4chan doing something good. But that’s not all 4chan did. The users started digging around found that yeah, there really were some conflicts of interest with other indie game developers and reporters who were close friends or partners giving them favorable press.

     Hey, this is a real thing.

     But that tiny nugget of truth has been buried under the weight of the so called Quinspiracy. I seriously sat through the following argument:. Zoe said cheating on a partner and then sleeping with that partner is like having non consensual sex. She did that, hey she’s a rapist. People talked about the rape accusations of the maker of Cards Against Humanity. Why won’t they go into the private life of Zoe Quinn?

     Guys, Zoe Quinn is a hypocrite, not a rapist. Just because she made an extreme statement about affairs doesn’t actually mean anyone else has to pay attention to that bullshit or hold her up to those standards. Rape is a serious allegation. Consent is clearly defined. What she said was stupid. What she did was pretty awful. But not actually a fucking crime.

     And this is the garbage the “transparency in journalism” argument has gotten buried under. There is an actual touch of a real story and it is getting lost in the interesting but not really relevant sex life of one women who seems to be neither an angel, nor a devil, but human capable of doing good things and bad things.

     Back to politics. The argument has been brought up a few times that “Can you imagine if this was a politician who did this?” (Actually yes) But then I watched a video about Phil Fish. And then it all made sense. The point of the video was that internet fame makes celebrities out of ordinary people who may or may not really be ready for the public eye. Most of them don't have agents. They don’t have spin doctors. And apart from the occasional crowd funding project, they don’t have backing. Zoe Quinn became famous, and what people want from famous people is perfection. Sorry reality doesn’t work that way.

     There is a proposed protest at PAX this weekend about corruption in games journalism. It’s been hijacked by people who are mad about Zoe’s sex life. It’s been grabbed by actual misogynists who think that its a bad thing that reporters reflect on women in games. The true idea is getting buried like tea party extremists burning the republican party to the ground. (Says the liberal). Its really hard to tell if there is a legitimate argument going on because everything I read is tangent city.

     Zoe Quinn is easy to vilify and equally easy to defend. Lines are being drawn in the sand over her, “hey we just want reporters to recuse themselves if they know the person” is getting tagged as terrorism (I shit you not) just as much as “Hey Anita Sarkeesian here are some seriously creepy threats.” Baby, bathwater, out it goes. There is a war growing. And the loser is reason and logic.

     So back to my supposition. Do I think Zoe was harassed by someone, maybe not from wizardchan, but someone? Do I think she has the political acumen to play victim just to get ahead? Do I think she would be that shitty? Personal opinion. She’s made some seriously bad PR moves. I don’t think she’s that savvy. I’m willing to accept she got some creepy stuff, went public and it snowballed.

     But she’s just a woman. Let me rephrase that. She’s just a person. Not perfect, not glorious, she’s done some things that were liked, and some things that weren't. You know, pretty average.

     Why was the Fine Young Capitalists story suppressed? Favoritism? The narrative? I don’t know. But it wasn't smart. All it did was breed conspiracy theory. Should Zoe have claimed their campaign was oppressive? Probably not. Should others have just fallen in line with her, as is claimed? Yeah not really. Is everything Zoe has ever done a lie because she did some questionable things? NO. Is she above reproach because she’s a woman? NO. Does she really deserve to be in the middle of all this? NO. Is this really about her? Can you guess?

     What is this about then? Good question.

     Like all famous people she has become an icon, a representative whether she really asked for it or even deserves it. She is being built as a strawman by the “video game fans are just misogynist jerks” team just as much as the “fuck video game journalism for everything I disagree with” group. Anyone with an opinion in the middle is left out in the cold.

     Why should we care? Because my friends, this is what progress looks like. We’ve gotten to a point where there is a messy convoluted backlash that mixes true problems with crazy conjecture. On the surface it’s a bit silly. But my history loving partner pointed out that so was the shooting of Franz Ferdinand and look how that turned out. This mess, this chaos, this argument. It needs to be had. I just feel sorry for Zoe with her private life on display as part of the arena. Don’t get me wrong. I think cheating is wrong. And she seems pretty careless with words. But at the end of the day she’s just someone caught up in something so much bigger than her. This isn't about her. This is about us.

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Thursday, August 28, 2014

What Was Wrong With The Lesbian Kiss on Doctor Who
By Alexis George

[Like it even needs to be said, but Spoilers!]

Don’t get me wrong. I like kissing. I like kissing a lot. I’d happily watch a television show called “Katana Wielding Lizard People Make Out With Victorian Ladies for 40 Minutes In Space” weekly, if they made such a thing. My problem isn’t with the kiss, or the gender of the two characters doing the kissing. But as a bisexual female Doctor Who fan (grab your flaming pitchforks now, folks) I have a problem. Let's start at the heart of it, with Steven Moffat's questionable portrayal of women.

There’s something borderline insidious about the representation of the ladies in Moffat’s Who universe. It began back with River Song’s arrival as a gun-toting femme fatale in season four under Russell T. Davies' watchful eye, and came to fruition as everything independent, likeable, and ultimately defining about Dr. Song was gradually stripped away and replaced with an almost creepy dependency on the show’s main protagonist. All of this followed Moffat's takeover as lead writer of the show. A woman whose existence is reliant on The Doctor’s destruction (and her borderline abusive relationship with him) is certainly one way to fail the Bechdel test.

We Need to Talk About Narrative

Unless you've been completely out of touch with our national media for the past few weeks, you know all about the situation in Ferguson. A young man was brutally murdered by an out of control racist police force, leading to weeks of peaceful protests that were responded to by nothing but overreaction. Strangely, at the same time, in the same town, a dangerous thug got into a fistfight with a heroic police officer, resulting in him losing his life - this led to weeks of riots, and a justified police force barely holding on to control.

If you're anything like me, both of these stories have been blowing up your social media and your conversations with your friends. And while I would say the evidence I've seen points more towards the former than the latter, the mounting posts that have filled my wall have pointed towards something I've been studying for years: How narratives are built for us every day, and how much we blindly follow them.

So what are we talking about when we say narrative? A narrative is another way of saying story. In this concept, it's taking a series of facts or rumors and using them to support your personal idea of what happened. Imagine this: A plane carrying a crate of puppies lands in a Houston airport. KLTPC might run a story focusing on how the puppies were to be used to help the blind. Meanwhile, Badger News runs a story about how they've uncovered that one of the dogs has worms, and that they're actually a secret plot by the President to infect all of our dogs with a fatal disease.

Now, this is a ridiculous example for humor's sake, but notice what I did there: In the sympathetic story, they're puppies. In the antagonistic story, they're dogs. Just a simple word change can affect the entire tenor of the story. The American (and international) News Media does this every day. And I'm not just talking about the largest players - the independent blogs you follow all do this, too. Writers, producers, and entire teams of folks all change their message in specific ways to make you feel and act the way they want.

Now why do they do this? Is there some specific agenda in manipulating our emotions? Yes and no. In certain cases, it's as simple as ratings - the opposing network has lapped up all the ratings by taking a political viewpoint, so a network will take the opposite to gain their own groundswell of support. Sometimes it's worse - a lot of stories get told to serve the agenda of a special interest or politician.

Back even as recently as ten years ago, when the dichotomy in our political system really started ramping up, this was almost impossible to avoid. Everyone watched TV news, and everyone absorbed the narrative they were told as truth. Show them a piece of evidence that conflicts their personal truth, and they'd dismiss it as fake. You meet these people still, every day. You know it, because when you talk to them, you can hear the voice of a news anchor coming out of their mouth.

In the last two or three years, however, things have begun to change. The advent of Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Youtube has opened up a platform for new ideas - ideas that have a narrative of their own. Suddenly, instead of one or two single narratives being force-fed to you by talking heads, there are thousands brought to you every day.

That can be overwhelming. It's tempting to stay with the narratives you know, that you're familiar with. They seem safe. But with the new world available to you, you have an opportunity to see what life is like on the other side of the fence. By absorbing all of the narratives, and looking at every single one critically whether you believe in it or not, you can begin to forge an opinion of your own. You have no idea how rare that is in modern culture.

Reject the narratives you've been fed every day. Embrace ideas that make you uncomfortable, and study them with an open mind. You might reject them anyway, but in doing so you'll find yourself better informed and more unique than you've ever been before.

Mike Fatum is the Editor in Chief and Podcast Co-host of the Ace of Geeks. He's been preaching this shit for years, hoping someone will finally listen. I guess that's his narrative.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Cosplay Shennanigans: Creating Brother Warth, Forgetting Arnim Zola, and Red Tornado to the Rescue! By John Garcia

I’ve been cosplaying for a couple of years, and it has gotten to the point that making and focusing on 1-2 new costumes per year had racked up quite a number of costumes. I used to plan it so that Anime Expo was the focal point of my “Cosplay Year,” but since the mid 2000s, I started going to San Diego Comic Con, and it has become the focal point instead.  Anime Expo became a “Trial Run” for whatever big project of a costume I’m working on.  

It's gonna be one of those years I never forget... Get it?  Because I'm am elephant, and apparently have to explain my really obvious jokes :-) (This is why we pay him peanuts. -Ed)
The 2014 “Cosplay Year” to me is not that different.  Usually, it consists of 1-2 new costumes, 1-2 comfortable costumes for shopping days, and whatever days are left filled by older/ previous years’ costumes.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Constantine, Flash, & Gotham...OH MY! By Brian J. Patterson

Comic Con Special by TV Guide Editors - Featuring Constantine

I have been attending San Diego Comic Con for approximately 15 years...I just needed to make that known right away, thank you. When I first started going to ‘the Con’ as we would call it, the convention center was barely 1/2 in use for this event. SDCC (San Diego Comic Con) did indeed grow as the years went on. How could it not with the comics and sci fi community as its supporters? We are known to be one of the most loyal fan bases ever. SuperHeroes are our idols and we run to worship at their alters. We tithe as much as we can to their causes, and are known to have: spent our last dollars, wait in lines overnight, and travel great distances to support their cause….on MULTIPLE occasions! It is not surprising that the Hollywood community would want to come and, I meant to say take full advantage of that type of loyal fan base, by making films geared toward this audience. Frankly, it’s a win win situation. Because when you think about it:

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Space Plankton

Space: the final frontier. Where, if you don’t have a pressurized field around you, you either die immediately, or very slowly (depending on which story you’re engaged in). A ridiculous amount of money is needed to build and maintain any life support system needed to survive in such an environment. All of this has been knocked askew now that a galaxy-shattering bit of news has arrived on Earth:

Life can exist in the vacuum of space.

Astronauts aboard the Russian segment of the International Space Station (ISS) took samples from the outside hull of the station, and found marine plankton. Not only was it there, it was thriving, and it has probably been there for years. What one article highlights is that it has been proven that microorganisms can, indeed, survive in space, but what makes this so very peculiar is that it is marine plankton. The plankton in question is not native to the landlocked region the launching area for the Russian segment hails from, but there are several theories as to how it boarded the ISS.

One theory speculates that the plankton hitchhiked on supply ships from areas of the world where the launching stations are closer to water. Another suggestion (by one of the Russian ISS representatives) is that they were carried by air currents the 260 miles between the surface of the planet and the hull of the station. NASA has yet to make an official statement regarding the topic, and one article hints that this may not be news to NASA. Many articles speculate, but all are concrete in affirming that the plankton is from our planet.

This is shattering minds of SciFi nerds across the planet. Shows (like Star Trek and Doctor Who) have had entire plot lines surrounding a species of animal that lives in the vacuum of outer space. In the past, stories like these were less believable because science classes taught us that nothing organic can thrive in the vacuum of space. Those very same plot lines give a new sense of awe because it is possible for such beings to exist. Revisit those episodes, keeping in mind that it is entirely probable that species can evolve to survive in outer space.

Amongst all of this, there are many things that can be done with this knowledge. Although proof that life can exist in the vacuum of space is not new, this is the first we've seen of life reliant on water surviving out there. This still brings about many scientific queries. We can test the reactions of the plankton on the hull of the ISS to different circumstances. It clearly can withstand the cosmic radiation of our galaxy—what about the different kinds of radiation that other parts of our universe can output? How does it react to cooler/warmer temperatures in the vacuum of space? Will the marine plankton respond to high concentrations of ice? The opportunities and possibilities seem nearly endless, and we haven’t even scratched the surface.


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Friday, August 22, 2014

Kari and Tory returning to TV sooner than you think!

Here's a bit of good news for your Friday afternoon - in response to the depressing news that Kari, Tory and Grant would be leaving Mythbusters, a very reliable source contacted us this morning. They let us know that at least two of our favorite Mythbusters wouldn't be off the air that long - you'll see them hosting a new show on the Travel Channel later this year. While details were understandably scarce, our source told us they'll be taking us to familiar destinations, but showing us new sides of them we've never seen before.

Good to hear that Tory and Kari, at least, will be back on our screens soon. Here's hoping Grant can get a reboot of Battle Bots off the ground or something.

Episode 115: Lightning Bolt! Lightning Bolt!

Mike and Mae Linh went out boffer LARPing last weekend, and they're here to tell you all about the world of Shards! Plus - the new TMNT cartoon is really good, D&D 5th Ed is awesome, and all of us despair at the news that Kari, Tori and Grant will be leaving Mythbusters.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

There's No Such Thing as Date Rape. by Raven Knighte

There's no such thing as date rape.

Let me clarify - I'm not saying that I don't believe rape happens. I KNOW it happens. But it's either rape or it isn't. The label "date rape" is complete and utter bullshit and we need to stop using it. Just saying, it really pisses me off whenever I hear this label applied to a crime.

Rape is a crime. It happens to both women and men of all sexual identities, although rape crimes against men by women are largely under-reported, as are rapes in the LGBT community. I had a male friend who was raped by a woman. He was a 6-foot tall man who was training to be a martial artist. She was a tiny 5'2 woman who barely came to his chin in sitletto heels. He reported it. It went to court. She was found not guilty. After a period of depression and being victim-shamed, he killed himself.

When I was 17 years old, I was raped by someone I had known and trusted for quite some time. For purposes of this article, I will refer to him as Dude.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Five Reasons You Need to Play Fables: The Wolf Among Us

The final installment of TellTale Games' The Wolf Among Us came to us last month in all its magnificent glory. You may recall my enjoyment of TellTale's The Walking Dead series, which I  discussed in “The Walking Dead and the Futility of Choice.” The Wolf Among Us is up to par, perhaps even better.

The Walking Dead dealt with tough choices which could mean life or death for yourself or those around you. The Wolf Among Us focuses on moral ambiguity and the fact that you will often need to make the best decision you can with limited information. Mystery drives the narrative as the player
guides Sheriff Bigby Wolf through a gritty noir where not everything is as it seems, and you are unsure of who you can trust. If you have not yet had the occasion to play through this game, here are 5 spoilers-lite reasons why you should make the time:

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Star Wars: X-Wing is the New Hope for Miniature Gaming - by Seth Oakley

So I’m sitting in Gamescape playing D&D Next (aka 5th edition) when my ears twitch and I hear something over my shoulder:

“No, I have an X-Wing tournament to run that day,” Shane Case says to somebody, and I whip my head around. Whhaa?!?! Is this a lead on a competitive game that I can write about for the Ace of Geeks blog and get one more story out of the way in my quest to win back my soul? I dash over to him and hover until I there is a socially appropriate time to interject and ask awkwardly worded and poorly prepared questions. Case is completely unprepared. I can only imagine this would be like someone seeing Spider-man fighting crime and then turning into Peter Parker so that he can be a reporter for a moment.

Case is happy to answer questions for the leading competitive gaming reporter for the largest blog that starts with the letter “A” and ends with “ce of Geeks.” He tells me about the game and gives me the time and location of the event.  I’ll show up there next week, after I get some Dropzone Commander squeezed in.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Creating Sansa - A Cosplay Chronicle by Megan Marie Fox

Sansa Stark - Reference Image
For the past four years I have made a new costume to wear each year San Diego Comic-Con. My obsession with Game of Thrones hit a peak last year, and so I dressed as Catlyn Stark, as presented by Michelle Fairley in the series. The costume went over well, but a lot of the feed back I was receiving was that I looked a lot like Sansa. So this year I decided to go for it.

With Sansa’s extensive four-season wardrobe to browse through, I decided on a dress from season 3. There were several factors that informed my choice, one of which was that I have never done any embroidery. I knew teaching myself another skill was not in the cards for completing my project on time. Another factor was the fabric. The motifs used on the show are distinct and finding a good look-a-like will either cost you time, money, or both.

Spurred on by the annual 50% off remnant sale at Britex, I started scouring for a purple upholstery fabric with a reverse towards the end of April. I spent about two hours digging through the remnants to find something that would fit the look. The total sale was $63. I came home with two things I thought might work. First, I grabbed 4 ¾ yards purple upholstery fabric that had a barely visible pattern. The second purchase was a flowery brown and gold print that I mostly bought for its reverse. I bought 7 yards of it, came home and realized it wasn’t what I wanted. It looked too “Lannister”, yucky! (The Lannisters are yucky but Sansa's ok?! - Ed)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Chasing the Dragon: Episode 2 - The Riddle of the Ruby

The High-landers return, and face the brain-melting puzzles of the Golden Pixaxe's final resting place. Can they solve the riddles and save their own lives? Can Ganesh stop touching dangerous things? And will Tanglar/Thoringar ever suss out the secrets of the mysterious Ruby? In our first listener driven challenge, you decide!

Friday, August 15, 2014

Episode 114: Cloooooones.

Picture Jarys and Melissa have moved into their brand new bungalo on the island of Alameda, and Mike drops by for a visit to check it out. We discuss the board game Seven Wonders, Vampire the Masquerade LARPs, the Big Bang Theory, Magic the Gathering, and Mike regails Melissa with all the stories of Jarys's past she'll need to know now that they're living together. Such a good friend.

Episode 114!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Body Shaming IS Bullying. Period. by Raven

I'm fairly new to cosplay - I've been to only four cons so far.  I've done costumes for both Denver cons, and the Wizard World San Antonio Comic Con. Because my self image isn't the greatest, I've been really nervous about doing cosplay for conventions - and my experiences in the past haven't helped with that.

When I did costumes for the first Denver con that I went to, I did a Lady Joker on the first day, and my Crow costume on the second day. I got a lot of positive comments - James O'Barr (the creator of The Crow) had nice things to say about my Crow costume, too, when I went to pick up some art I had  commissioned from him. But I also heard some negative things - like, "Is that a cross-gender Crow? Isn't she a little out of shape for that? What would Brandon Lee say?" and "What would O'Barr say?" I wanted to yell at them, "Hey! I'm right here!" And I knew what Mr. O'Barr would say, since he had already said it to my face.  I tried to stop listening, but I couldn't stop my heart from buying into that crap and it ruined my con  experience.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Dawn of IN-Justice?: Zack Snyder's WONDER WOMAN Costume - by Brian J. Patterson

Wonder Woman collage by Phil Jimenez

For a long time now, Warner Bros. has teased audiences with prospects of a Justice League team-up film. This year, the Superman/Batman: Dawn Of Justice project has been on the tips of everyone’s tongues, and recently we were titillated with casting choices. One of the most talked about casting choices was that of Gal Gadot in the role of the iconic original female super heroine Wonder Woman. However, the dust has since settled on that news, and it isn’t the actor in the role which concerns people anymore, it is the costume which said actor will wear. During the Warner Brothers panel last month, at Comic Con 2014, Zack Snyder’s vision was finally unveiled to the public. This is what it looked like:

 The feedback that I’ve seen on this costume has all been very close to an equal 50/50 split of favor vs. disdain. The support of the costume has mostly centered around the fact that the character is overdue for an update, and the criticisms generally boiled down to these three: no originality, no functionality, and no respect for the source material. Having written a previous article  which utilized history as a predictive factor to remind costume designers that a more traditional iconic design for an iconic character has always been more successful (Hence, why the character would be ICONIC...She's easily recognizable!), I’d like to address each of these topics one by one. However, my findings may surprise you.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Rest in Peace, Robin Williams

Yesterday, we all received a devastating blow, when the world found out that Robin Williams had passed away. Williams had a huge impact on all of us, so we decided to forgo our content this morning and give the staff a place to share their thoughts and tributes. I'll be updating this post all day as more of them come in - we invite you to share your thoughts and stories in the comments, as well.

Mike Fatum
It's strange to think that one man could be such a part of so many lives. When I was very young, I first met Robin Williams through Nick at Nite reruns of Mork and Mindy - a show my parents had grown up with. Over the next several decades, I would grow up with him as well, through the popular movies like Mrs. Doubtfire and Hook, and through his darker fare like Insomnia and Final Cut - but to me, Robin Williams would always be exemplified by one single role:

What Disney's animators did for Williams was finally free him from the constraints of reality that had been holding him back. The Genie was Williams in his purest form - a madcap, mile a minute style of comedy, punctuated by the sincerest, sweetest moments of pure heart. That no one can ever really separate the Genie from Williams is a testament to how well that film captured him, heart and soul. Aladdin is my favorite Disney movie, and a full 90% of that is because of my love for that big, blue personification of Williams.

When I was in high school, we very quietly put on a version of Disney's Aladdin for elementary schools in the area. In the largest part I'd ever received, I got the opportunity to play the Genie. Most actors would take an opportunity like that and try to put their own spin on the character - I'm not that dumb. Any kid that came to see that show got to see me standing on stage and aping Williams as hard as I could, because there's no way I could ever improve on his performance. I don't think I was as good. But even though I was 1% of Williams' talent, I still was able to steal the whole show by embodying him on stage. His talent was so incredible that a kid doing an impression of him doing an impression can get a laugh.

Robin Williams lifted all of our lives, and touched every single one of us. There hasn't been an actor of any generation since the Stars of the 1940s that had as big of an impact. We will all miss you, Robin. Thank you for being our Pagliacci. May you find the peace in the great beyond that was denied you in life.

Stephanie Cala
When I was a kid between the ages of 4 and 14, I spent my summers visiting my grandparents in California (I had lived in Florida at the time).  Since my grandparents were from the stone age, all they had to offer my sister and I in the entertainment department were a set of jacks, badminton rackets, a flat soccer ball, a deck of cards and a few VHS tapes.  Well, I shouldn't say a few.  More like four total.  They were The Parent Trap, Aladdin, Jumanji, and Mrs. Doubtfire (three of which include Williams).

Now, please understand, my younger sister and I didn't get along as kids.  My idea of a good time with my sister was punching her so I could be put in isolated time out away from her.  My loathing for my sister seemed to be only matched by her incessant need to annoy me.

However, we shared a common enemy: boredom.  My sister and I were in desperate need for something to distract us from the idleness of our own minds.  We would watch, rewind, re-watch, rewind, and re-watch these videos over and over and over again until we practically had them memorized.  Then the following summer we would repeat the process.  The first few summers we had dreaded it, but as we grew older we started looking forward to being able to watch these videos together.  It gave us some common ground in which we could laugh with each other for a few hours instead of hating on each other.

And really, what is comedy without that bit of escape?  Laughter, like music and love, is a universal language.  It's a difficult language to sometimes put to words or set to music, but it's something that can be felt by all.  Williams was one of those amazingly talented people that was able to put those feelings and emotions into words for us to enjoy.  And for that, I'll always be grateful.  Goodbye Robin Williams, you will be missed greatly.

Mae Linh Fatum
I was surprised how deeply the news of Robin Williams death affected me.  Then as I thought about it, Robin Williams plays a starring role in many of my strongest memories.  Aladdin was the first movie I watched so many times that I had memorized it (I even wrote an Aladdin fan fic).  Hook got me into Peter Pan, and Mrs. Doubtfire is still one of the funniest and most heartfelt Dad movies that I have ever seen.  Then I remember channel surfing one day in my dorm room and my roommate and I decided to watch What Dreams May Come. Robin Williams was in it, so it had to be funny.  Flash forward to my roommate and I sobbing our eyes out for two hours straight.  I will always remember that movie, because it has touched me in a deep way, and I hope beyond hope that he is not in that upside down chapel, rather Christopher Reeves got him to the field where he will be joined with his family.

Thank you Mr. Williams for all the laughter and also for making it very clear that depression and suicide is a serious illness.  We will always remember you.

Jarys Maragopoulos

     The sheer amount of Robin Williams movies that were a staple of my childhood and formative to my development are staggering. The Birdcage, Mrs, Doubtfire, Patch Addams, Death to Smoochy, Hook, and Good Morning Viet Nam being among those. However, Robin Williams made one non-comedy that rocked my family and I, led to me reconsidering the supernatural in my life, and made me think more deeply about the suffering of the people around me. That movie was What Dreams May Come. 

     In this film Williams plays a man with a loving, yet realistic family, who dies in an accident. He is taken to the afterlife where his in-life mentor shows him that the joy he brought other in life has resolved itself in to the most wonderful paradise the imagination has to offer. All of his loved ones, past and future are available to share this with him, all but one. His wife, stricken with depression after his death, has committed suicide and this has brought her to a hell created of her own suffering. 

     Risking being pulled in to her suffering for eternity, Williams delves into hell to save her. He finds that he cannot make the decision for her, and instead demonstrates his love, giving her all the joy she gave him in life. Feeling this, she chooses to love and appreciate herself, escaping hell. 

    This story showed me, as a young person, the power that love can have between family and friends. The story played like a metaphor for assisting others from suicide, allowing them to make their own choices but inspiring them with honest and vulnerable shows of appreciation for them. The characters in the story, threatened by hell, are literally saved by the love they have for one another. This meant a lot to me, as I had been suicidal the year before. 

     Despite the suffering he endured in life, I have all faith that Williams has seen the end of that hell. Either there is no afterlife and Williams has left this world better and happier than he found it or....or perhaps the joy he has given us, the good he has done, the laughter he inspired and will continue to inspire as his works are passed from generation to generation has secured for him the best a supernatural existence has to offer. I would like to think that our love for him will keep him from any suffering in death the way depression would not allow in life. 

Nanu Nanu

Megan Marie Fox

Robin Williams has been my favorite actor for over half of my life. Movies like Aladdin and Hook cemented my love for him at an early age. No other actor can carry an entire movie the way Mr. Williams could. The things he did were so clever and so crazy! He operated on a higher level.

As I grew up, I gained a fuller appreciation for him in his PG-13 & R work. I hoped to meet him and shake his hand, or better give him a 'high five'. Unfortunately like most fans, I will never meet him. I missed the chance. I did see him once at the San Francisco Zoo, where he was a huge supporter. He would read to children in the great hall, speak at fundraisers and lead auctions. It was surreal to find out about his death at the zoo, where he was so active. I had to push tears from my eyes while smiling a fake smile for the last thirty minutes of work. How long was he crying behind his happy features?

I will never stop missing Robin. I have never felt so close to a person I will never know. He touched my heart. In his honor, I am donating what I can to an organization supporting mental health. Feel free to join me. We can't bring him back, but maybe we can help someone else.

And now, because Williams deserves to be remembered for the wonderful entertainment he brought us, a few memories to share:

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Losing Your Mind in Crowdfunding

Hello there. It has been some time since I've graced this here website with an article, and I'm sorry about that, but I have been busy with creative endeavors elsewhere. That and Mike hasn't asked me to write an article since we got into that argument about who would win in a fight, Godzilla or Galactus. (Devourer of Worlds my ass -Ed) Chairs may have been hurled, egos bruised and an understanding on why us geeks don't fight each other: we get tried quickly and look ridiculous.

Anyway, my short hiatus was due to the fact that, aside from mocking films on the internet, I actually do try and make them myself in what spare time I have. My last film, Devil May Care was almost entirely crowdfunded, and went on to win some Best Of Awards at a couple of film festivals. I am currently in the middle of crowdfunding my next picture, a fantasy film-noir comedy called A Bad Luck Guy In A Bad Luck Town. Let me tell you, it's a freaking nightmare from which you cannot wait to wake up from.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Episode 113 - Chasing the Dragon

Picture Ever since some of Mike's co-workers found out he was a Dungeon Master, they've been begging him to run a game for them. Welcome to that exact game. Watch as six brand new players - most of them, let's say, partaking in some way, turn from newbies to enthusiastic dungeon delvers over the course of the next hour and a half. In two parts!

Episode 113!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

How Video Games Make Me a Better Person

First, a disclaimer: I have a lot of privilege. I'm white. Male. Heterosexual. Middle class. Cisgendered. Able bodied. I have a few marginalized statuses, but you probably couldn't tell any of them by looking at me, so I pass, out in the world. These experiences are from my point of view, and they may be somewhat sophist to people who experience marginalization and systematic oppression every day.

I tend to be a bit outspoken when it comes to social justice issues. When I say "tend to" and "a bit" you understand that I mean most of my friends (even those who agree with me) have gone through at least one or two moments on Facebook where they said, "Chris, please shut up. Please for the love of God, just shut up. Just for a few minutes. Just this once. Please!"

From time to time, however, someone offers up some slightly more savvy discourse, and they often end up wondering, in particular, about how I came to care so much about the issues I have. Formative experiences about speaking out against injustice involve my mom, and no small amount of bravery can be attributed to my idolization of Luke Skywalker. But those experiences set a timber. They laid the foundation for wanting to do the right thing. They don't themselves help me parse the thicket of discourse to determine what the right thing is.

That comes from video games.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Necromancy at the Bay Area Open 2014

Spoiler Warning: These guys win.
The first time I ever heard about Warhammer 40,000 was when my neighbor Corby came over and saw my brother and I playing Weapons & Warriors. He said it looked similar, and we thought that was cool, so he tried to teach us. We tried to get into it, but he wisely warned us not to. The cost of this particular wargame is little much for a 10 year old. We loved looking at the pictures, and my first memories of this game are pictures in a magazine and extrapolations from our imaginations. 16 years later, the hobby has changed significantly, and my understanding for the game, the lore, and the hobby have developed. The magic, the possibility, that wild, unfounded extrapolation born of inspired imagination is mostly dead. I say “mostly,” because after last Sunday, I will never say “dead” again. Well, except that I will, but I’m reminiscing here, cut me some slack.

Cut him some slack too, it's not easy being green.
I started playing Warhammer 40k when I was about 14. My friend got a bunch of models from his dad, and I bought some with my allowance, and we tried to figure out how to play. We went down to the local comic book shop on Saturdays and bit ankles until people took pity on us and let us join in. We met nerds for all walks of life, all ages, genres, and stereotypes. Goths, bikers, teachers, bouncers, software developers, insurance agents, we all had something in common and it brought us together once a week. I was raised by my parents every morning and evening, by my teachers 5 days a week, and by the foul mouthed, uncouth, irreverent, tough loving nerds of DNA cards and comics one day out of seven.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Hemlock Grove - I've watched it so you don't have to

My husband was away on a business trip, and I was all alone with the cat.  When my husband isn't around, I take this opportunity to watch TV that he doesn't care about, usually reality TV.  I was about to binge watch all the seasons of Top Chef, when I saw an add for Hemlock Grove, a TV series produced by Eli Roth.  I love supernatural things and I really love Femke Janssen,  so I decided to go for it.  I found myself watching both seasons, not because it was a gripping story but mostly because I was sure that it would get better.  It really didn't.

Hemlock Grove is based off a book by Brian McGreevy, of the same name, and it is your typical werewolf / vampire buddy TV series.  It features a mega-corporation ruling a small town, Femke Janssen as a mysterious femme fatale that is obviously a vampire and evil, (but no one notices) a monster hunter backed by the Roman Catholic church, (who's a lesbian!) and gypsies, who are also werewolves. Oy.

I think my main problem with Hemlock Grove is that it tries to pack as many tropes into one story as possible, to hit as many subculture groups as possible.  I don't usually mind this, (Witness her love of Doomsday. -Ed) but Hemlock Grove made me think that McGreevy and the show's producers think the average person watching this series is an idiot.  Here are some of the more labored points.

Monday, August 4, 2014

The Quest: Fantasy Brought Crashing Back into Reality. by Mike Fatum

Last week, ABC launched reality TV's newest attempt to worm its way into the hearts and pocketbooks of nerds and geeks everywhere with its new series The Quest. Created by some of the producers behind The Lord of the Rings and The Amazing Race (but none of the creative minds behind either of those), The Quest brings twelve "ordinary people" together to live out a fantasy-world dream, in the hopes of finding which of these people can become the True Hero.

If I sound cynical, it's only because I am. My wife loves Reality TV. Devours it by the truckload. And, being the supportive husband I am, I used to watch it with her. But my thing is - I watch TV and film to see how the world should be, not how it is. That's why I prefer Star Trek to Game of Thrones, and why Reality TV drives me nuts. From using editing tricks to make that one poor nerd on Top Chef into a villain so they could justify another contestant putting him in a choke hold, to the Rock's show "The Hero", which devolved into screaming matches before the end of episode one, reality TV has never managed to do anything but disappoint.

With that in mind, I kept my expectations managed for The Quest. Would it keep the promise of delivering on a fantasy world brought to life, or would it follow the same pitfalls that make Reality TV so unbearably unwatchable to me? The true answer is - a bit of both.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Guardians of the Galaxy:Come and Get Your Love by Ender

Editor's Note: For a spoiler filled panel discussion of this flick, make sure to check out episode 112 of the podcast. But since I know some of you want to know whether you'll like this movie without having it spoiled, Ender was kind enough to give us a written review as well.

The trailers for Guardians of the Galaxy didn’t completely sell me. I was intrigued, but on the fence about the film. The alluring thing the movie had going for it was the sense of humor. I knew Marvel could pull of extensive action scenes and humor had always been a strong point of their films, but this was different. This was a space opera with a massive sense of humor, and I wasn’t convinced that Marvel would be able to sustain it throughout the course of the film.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Episode 112: Hooked On a Feelin'

The Ace of Geeks has just seen Guardians of the Galaxy, and we're here to tell you all about it! (Spoilers, ho.) We're joined by Megan Marie Fox, Kris Yalung, Seth Oakley, Stephanie Cala, MalKontent, Jenna Russo Mae Linh Fatum, Melissa Devlin, and several IHOP servers as we break down Comic-con secret lines, Wonder Woman's new costume, the ideas behind Gotham, and the outdated Neilsen Ratings.