Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Gaming Convention How-To: Theming Your Game by Justin Rhodes

Gaming conventions are ultimate meccas of nerdery, replete with so many wonderful distractions and remarkable pastimes. Previously, I wrote about making a memorable con-game and one of the nuggets of wisdom included theming your game. How can you do that? Here are some ideas:

Monday, September 29, 2014

A Eulogy for Saturday Mornings

It's 8am on a Saturday. Your poor parents are rolling out of bed, throwing on their bathrobes and starting up the coffee pot. The smell of breakfast fills the kitchen as your Dad asks you what shape you want your pancakes to be. You don't care about any of that - they have to turn the TV on now, or you're going to miss it. Come on, guys, it's Saturday morning!

The experience of watching the Saturday morning cartoon block is quintessential to my generation. Fox Kids, Kids WB, X-men, Spiderman, Looney Tunes, Garfield - we all had our favorites that we would shake our parents awake to get the chance to see. It's also an experience that is now over.

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Legend of Korra's Book 4 Trailer Takes Us Into the Future, and Reveals a Huge Surprise

It's been barely a month since the last season of The Legend of Korra ended, and only a few weeks since we discovered the new season would be airing this October. Now, we have less than ten days until the new season starts, and Nickelodeon has given us the trailer for the newest season: Book 4, Balance. It looks absolutely incredible, building on the highs and the lows of last season, but it is absolutely filled with spoilers. If you want to go into Korra Book 4 completely clean, don't watch this guy. If you want to get hyped with the rest of us, hit the break to see more.

Episode 120: This Podcast is Snowballing

Picture Mike and Jarys are joined by Melissa, Eli, Theresa and Mal just as they finish a game of 5th Edition Dungeons and Dragons. So it's time for a review! Plus - internet terms you should NEVER search, thoughts on Destiny, how to hit level ninety in WoW without leaving Pandaria, and narrating all of Melissa's actions!

Episode 120!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Don't Call Me a Gamer. Not Anymore.

 My very first article for this site was an article about me thinking about quitting video games. It took too much time out of my life to continue to justify playing them and taking me away from my other creative endeavors. That was pretty naive, it turns out, as video games have still been a big part of my life, although in a much more time manageable sense. Video games are my reward for a hard days work now, rather than a source of procrastination. I even just bought myself a shiny new Xbox One to compliment my gaming PC. I have been and continue to be a Gamer.

That is, until I caught up with the Zoe Quinn situation. I mostly ignore the Internet, as the Internet rarely has anything useful to say about anything, (Says a blogger on the internet - Ed) but this story stuck with me for a variety of reasons and I'm let me tell you, I no longer want to be labeled as a Gamer. I don't want to be called that, because now that means I am a heinous, misogynistic bigot. The Gamer community has tarnished itself to the point that I no longer want to be a part of it.

Let me make this clear; I don't know Zoe Quinn. I've never met Zoe Quinn, and I will never meet Zoe Quinn. I don't give a fuck who she's fucked and neither should you. She could have done everything she is being accused of doing, and it still wouldn't matter because it is NONE OF OUR BUSINESS. To watch what the Gamer community has done to this poor woman is a disgrace that I just can't be a part of.

What's hilarious about this whole situation is the Gamer community is desperate to be taken seriously. They want E-Sports on ESPN and games recognized as a serious art form. They want Games to stop being blamed for mass shootings and violence and perceived as a useful pasttime. They want to be known as a welcoming global community that embraces everyone. Hell, anyone can be a "Gamer". And then you all pull this shit and "anyone" means white, heterosexual male? How can you, as a community, be taken seriously when you attack women with such hatred and disgust that even someone in ISIS would be uncomfortable.

That's right, I compared Gamers to ISIS. I'm not overracting, or going for Fox News worthy hyperbole, you are all seriously that misguided and abusive. The only explanation can be that you all hate women with such a passion that the comparison to Islamic Extremism is not only justified, but easy to make. And I'll say this about 4chan that a friend of mine said best, if 4chan were a geographic location military action would have to be considered for the evil that dwells there would be to horrific to let continue. Congrats, 4chan, you are the equivalent to a third world brutal dictatorship, and the only group of people on the planet that would be proud of that. Also, I'm not afraid of you, but you only seem to prey on women so I guess I don't really have anything to be afraid of.

So I'm walking away from this "community" and I'm ashamed that I ever was a part of it. Gamer, to me, now has such a negative connotation to it that I'd like to be as far away from that as possible. I'm still going to play video games, but to me, a Gamer is now a certain type of person, mysogynistic and vile. Terrence Howard has this great moment in Crash and although its not a great movie, his quote as stuck with me and although the situation in which it was uttered in the film has far more weight to it, it's fitting for this situation. "You embarass me, and you embarrass yourself."

Kyle Johanessen is not a gamer.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

We went to HawaiiCon!

It was a delightfully warm and humid day at the Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel.  Birds were chirping, mongooses were causing mischief, and I was absolutely ecstatic to not be the only person walking around in a Star Trek Commander t-shirt.

Phil Plait (@BadAstronomer) and I on Friday 9/12
Phil Plait, who works for Slate magazine now, had worked on building the Hubble Telescope back in the day.

HawaiiCon is a brand new convention which focuses on science and sci-fi.  There were a mix of both lectures from scientists and sci-fi panels starring some of your favorite celebrities.  The convention also managed to organize expeditions outside of the hotel - helicopter tours and scuba dives, for example, which enabled guests to experience the island while still being able to hang out with fellow nerdy con-goers.  There were lots of opportunities for meet-and-greets with celebrities, both for photo ops and on the excursions as well.

And let me tell you: it was awesome.

I don't want to delve too much into the convention, because my number one and I already talked about it in our HawaiiCon podcast, which you can listen to here.  (For future reference, it's episode 119 - and you can also download it on iTunes!)

This post is mostly for photo-dumping.  There were a lot of cosplayers at this convention, which was wonderful!  But unfortunately, we were only there for a day, so we missed out on a lot of awesome cosplays.  

I think it's also worth noting that Ace of Geeks just recently got an instagram account, so this week we'll work to resize these photos and post them there as well.  Please leave a comment below or send us an email if you'd like to add your name/handle to the image description, or if you would like copies of the full-sized images.

Battlestar Galactica

Assassins Creed

Arthur Dent, Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

Dr. Horrible, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

Ellie, The Last of Us

Shepard, Mass Effect

Gnar, League of Legends

Blossom (left) Powerpuff Girls
11th Doctor (right), Doctor Who

Maleficent, Maleficent

Miku Hatsune, Vocaloid

Penny, Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog

Spartans and Vader


Zelda & Link, Legend of Zelda

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Friday, September 19, 2014

Episode 119: Are you Going to Hawaiicon?

Stephanie and Ellie recently visited maybe the prettiest convention in the entire geek world - Hawaiicon. Learn about the cosplays they saw, the panels they attended, why you should never give Stephanie a child, and the utter and complete humbling of looking up into the night sky in Hawaii.

Episode 119!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

THE STRAIN's Pedro Miguel Arce injects diversity into Hollywood - By Brian J. Patterson

Pedro Miguel Arce - Photo by PeaceAlpha 9

When you look at Pedro Miguel Arce's IMDb page, not only do you see a decade and a half of great work, but you also see a variety of job titles: Actor, producer, editor, director, writer, cinematographer, and stuntman. It's no wonder he has seen consistent work in this business. His many hats prove how motivated, committed, and talented he truly is. Because that's exactly what it takes to stay working in Hollywood.
Recently, he finished a handful of episodes on FX's THE STRAIN, and I was able to catch him for a brief chat where he told me about his career, the show, and diversity in Hollywood. This interview, along with many others, will all be apart of my campaign to highlight some of the vast array of diverse talent from which Hollywood has to choose.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Geek Philosophy 101: Ethical Escapism by Justin Rhodes

We are well aware that consumerism is rampant in our society. There is a constant pressure to buy this, watch this, eat that, do this, do that, and try not to have your head spin while doing so. Most people get by just fine feeding into that machine minimally, but we, the few, the proud, the geeks, we buy into it whole hog. We consume media at an alarming rate, where binge watching is the norm. We are the orphan boy who says "Please, Sir, may I have some more?" and instead of the gruff Orphan Master's incredulous "MORE!?", we are greeted with something more akin to "Sure. Go ahead kid, knock yourself out." I'm not saying this is entirely a bad thing, but the question is, how can we make sure that we are not overloading ourselves and yet still enjoy all of our wonderful geekery? Is there a way to still devour the things we love, without having it take over our entire lives? Here are some thoughts for a more conscious kind of consumption:

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Outlander - as told by a Sassenach.

                    Some of you may not understand the title, so allow me to clarify and let you in on the joke. The word Sassenach is a Scot word used in the Outlander universe to mean, well, Outlander. Sassenach is basically slang for anyone not of Scottish origin. For those of you that don't know, Outlander is the first book in a multiple book series by author Diana Gabaldon. These books were so well received that Starz Network partnered with Gabaldon to turn her books into a television series.

            I, like most who had not read the books, didn't understand what the hype was about. It wasn't until the first episode that I got it. It has mother beeping Time Travel. The book and series introduce you to a world of amazing characters.  You have Claire Randall, an ex combat nurse, who is on a second honeymoon with her husband in 1945. She is at an ancient stone circle one day and innocently touches a standing stone. This simple act of touching a stone propels her back  to the year 1743.  So now she is a British woman in war torn Scotland, where that isn't a good thing to be. You have Jamie Fraser, Claire's protector. Ferociously loyal and in love with Claire. The odds of anything hurting her are slim to none when this red headed tombstone's around, and if his romance-novel-cover-boy status wasn't already set, he also has breaks horses, which shows you the depth of his patients and ability for love and compassion. Stick all of that in the body of a 6'4 Scottish mountain, who looks like he bends horse shoes by hand, and you have Jamie Fraser.

            Using real events in Scottish history as her backdrop,  Ms Gabaldon weaves a wonder of a Chrono Love story. The books are so popular, that the TV series pre-released its pilot a week before it premiered for its on demand customers. In one week before its official release it racked up nine hundred thousand views. Following the official releases the number jumped to 3.7 million. The response was so great, Starz has been rumored to have green lit season two after one episode.

            This is one of the most odd articles for me to have to write. I didn't really know anything about it before I suggested to my editor that I write about the show. I thought since it was everywhere, why not do a bit or research and write a current story. Luckily, I had an inside scoop - it's my wife's favorite series. The joy my wife shared in showing me this thing that is Outlander was frankly contagious. I can't explain it other then to say if the one I love,  loves anything like that it is worth it to me. It was a level of fandom I could only compare to my love of Transformers. So I might be a Sassenach right now, but I got my Claire to bandage me up after me brawls where ever they may be.                                        

Monday, September 15, 2014

What ‘Masters of Sex’ is Still Teaching Us About Sexuality

Based on Thomas Maier’s biography of the same name, Showtime’s ‘Masters of Sex’ is still topping reviews well into its sophomore season. The period drama follows the lives of two revolutionary scientists in the late 1950’s, James Masters and Virginia Johnson, and their groundbreaking study of human sexuality.

But while sex sells, there is certainly more driving the success of the show. First, for a headliner show about sex, ‘Masters’ is being proclaimed as one of the most progressive programs available, and it really is. The show is being hailed as a feminist revelation, and having Lizzy Caplan of Mean Girls fame hasn’t hurt in that respect. A single mother of two balancing work and a driving focus on her scientific work, Caplan’s Johnson is pragmatic, independent and wholly believable. Her standout performance is shared by a cast of other rounded-out women. With Sarah Silverman joining the cast as Helen, who shares a lesbian romance with lover Betty (played by Annaleigh Ashford), the show is one of the first where women and the sexual “outliers” have more screen time than the heterosexual men. The historical exploration of gay sexuality with the character of Barton Scully, played by Beau Bridges, is dark and definitive. In an attempt to renew his relationship with his wife, the closeted husband undergoes shock therapy, a practice typical of the time, in order to extricate his homosexual instincts. The treatment is shown as something entirely normal, for an age that’s younger than people walking the earth. At times, the understandings of sex and humanity seem juvenile, and its easy to dismiss them as ignorant. But what the show does so beautifully is a measurement of progress. Scully’s wife has trouble describing an orgasm, because she’s never had one. Another couple enters Masters office with the issue of infertility. In a comic scene, Johnson needs to explain the practice of sex, because simply “lying with each other” does not produce a child. Measurement of educational, scientific, and sexual progress is at the heart of the show.

‘Masters’ plays out like a modern stage drama: the sets are minimal, the language is stark, and the success of the show is driven by the strength of the characters. If sex is power, then the drama of the show is driven by who is in control of the scene, which lends to brilliant interactions in dialogue. Every character has something they’re lying to themselves about, whether it’s the justification behind Johnson and Masters’ affair, or a character’s personal sexuality or ignorance thereof.

Then, there’s the actual sex. Each scene acts to provide something other than visual smut. Every single time sex is on the table, it deepens the larger plot line, whether it’s by illustrating the lack of intimacy a closeted gay man has for his wife, or propels the themes of self-deception and power the show explores so densely.

But on top of all of this, ‘Masters’ has utilized television as an educational tool. Sure, most privileged television viewers watching the show have gone through course sex-educational courses. In the first season finale, a very basic list of the study’s very real findings are given significant air time: the anatomy of a female orgasm, the four phases of human response, that homosexuality is not a human illness, that masturbation does not cause illness or insanity (which was, believe it or not, a held belief historically) and that sexual instinct does not dissipate in old age, among a great deal of other things. “This is a scientific study, not a stag film in a frat house,” Masters notes. The original published findings of the work was seen as a liberation of sexuality and human biology, and the relevance of that is still very present. Promoting awareness of the pitfalls of relationships, the patterns of human behavior and the nature of sexuality, and the depths of self-delusion, the show not only rekindles interest in sexual education but explores its ramifications.

‘Masters of Sex’ airs Sundays at 10PM on Showtime.

Alexis George is a San Francisco writer. She can unfortunately be found on Twitter.

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Episode 118: Trippin' the 'Verse

The Ace of Geeks are joined by MalKontent and Melissa, and check out Lootcrate's new Firefly fan film, The Verse. Plus! Assassin's Creed casting makes Jarys stomp around the room! Little kids can have Iron Man hands! And who's to blame for The Amazing Spider-man 2?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Legend of Korra Book 4 Coming THIS October!

They look so happy!

We've literally just finished reviewing the finale of the Legend of Korra, which means that it's time to settle in for a nice long wait. It was a couple of years between Seasons One and Two, after all. No new Korra for the time being then, I guess I'll just watch-


The Legend of Korra is coming back October 3rd?

Like...THIS October 3rd?

Yes, in a pretty stunning move, Nickelodeon has decided to not make anybody wait for more Korra. While they're not going full Netflix and releasing the whole season at once, starting in a few weeks, we're getting more Korra on our internets every single Friday. Just not on our TVs, because Nick doesn't want us to do that anymore.

Stay tuned to the Ace of Geeks for more thoughts on Korra as this story develops!

Swordmaster for Summer, by Samantha Swords

Editor's Note: The article was originally written for Samantha Swords' Tumblr,  and is reprinted with permission here.

At last, I have been able to do a proper write up about my outstandingly fun summer!

I’ve always wanted to be part of an ‘American Summer Camp’ experience. Coming from the distant South Pacific, where holidays are a few weeks long at most, the idea of months of endless fun in a camp setting was a real draw for me.

Then I was invited to take part in Guard Up’s Wizards and Warriors summer camps, which are live action role play adventures themed as an apocalyptic zombie war (with Nerf blasters and water pistols) followed by two medieval-fantasy sessions. Each camp is unique, with a continuous and completely dynamic storyline that adapts to the decisions young Heroes make within the world.

Run by a team of multi-skilled actor/counselor/educators, the fantasy world is populated by monsters and NPCs, and filled with quests that build up to an overall story.
(For more on Zombie Camp, check out my previous post or see the camp video)

Above: My character seeks aid from the greater spirit Coyote, a master trickster who is only engaged when he is entertained. To achieve this, she burst into spontaneous singing and dancing for his (and the Heroes’) amusement.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Grandparents Got Game!

*When I started this article. I had the idea that I was going to make it about skills, levels and PVP ranks. Yes, some of the grandparents I talked to are PVP-ranked. But as I talked with them, I found a bigger story - a story about family bonding. I decided to share that instead. After all, toons can be re-rolled, but you can't re-roll a family member. (Unless you're playing the Sims. -Ed)

I play MMO's with my grandson, who's going to be 5 years old soon. He loves running around trashing mobs and collecting loot. He doesn't quite have the patience yet to finish a quest, but we're working on that. His parents let him play The Last of Us, (WHAT?! -Ed) and he does pretty well - except when he hits a point that he has to actually complete a task or quest in order to progress. Whenever he comes over to my house, the first thing he says to me is "Hi Grandma! I missed you! Can we play teams now?? PLEASE???" So we play some XBox games - Marvel vs. Capcom 3 usually to start, and we then eventually end up going to the computer room and playing Guild Wars 2 or Neverwinter. He wants to play Diablo 3 with me but I don't have it. Then he tries to be helpful.  "Aww. Let's go get it! I know where it lives - it stays at the store!"

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

So I'm going to review this show, but first, let me take a "Selfie"

Yeah I'm concerned too.
Let me preface this review,  I love My Fair Lady, like, in a really deep way.  I will literally kill to play Eliza Doolittle. I have all the songs and words memorized in case the occasion rises and I need to be Eliza. I've been known to sing "Just You Wait, Henry Higgins" in lieu of glaring at my husband. With that in mind, you understand how I was prepared to hate "Selfie" with every fiber of my being. How could they take a social commentary piece about the shallowness of society, judging a person based on how they speak, and make a show about the shallowness of society, judging a person based on her social networking addictions?  Oh. Huh. That actually works.

It's Eliza, Ms. Dooley if you're nasty
Selfie is an ABC network show based loosely on My Fair Lady (according to the ABC.com website).  They've modernized the story and instead of teaching Eliza (Karen Gillian, who you remember from Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Who) how to speak, Henry (John Cho, who you remember from Harold and Kumar and Star Trek) is teaching her how to be a real person, not a social media flake.  For being "loosely" based on My Fair Lady, they really referenced it a lot.  Not just in plot points (organized into a handy dandy chart below), but they actually reference the play at one point, when Eliza tells Henry to go all "my fair lady" on her.

They've kinda hit all the major plot points in the first episode, so I'm not sure how they plan on maintaining it.

It is also clear that the creator intended this to be a musical.  Henry and Eliza have a tendency for speaking in rhyme for no reason, and there was an acapella Lady Gaga moment that really made no sense. Why they would take the musical out but leave the rhymes in is a mystery.

Here is my problem with the random spoken word and musical-ish interludes.  When you are studying theater, they say that if you can't say it, you sing it.  If you can't sing it you dance it.  Music provides a way to express emotions and feelings that mere words cannot carry.  Having someone read lyrics you have written just doesn't carry the same power as if they sang it, or had a kickin' beat behind it, a la "In the Heights".  When you have good actors, and you are filming them, they don't need to sing or dance. The camera can capture the minute expressions of feeling that cross their face. Bless their souls, Cho and Gillian handle the random moments as naturally as they could but it is still odd and disconcerting.

I'll give it a few more episodes and then pass my final judgement. Overall, it is an enjoyable show and I love Karen Gillian and John Cho. I just hope they grow out of the awkward references and just fly on their own.

Mae Linh Fatum has been a musical theater fan her entire life, starting from the moment one of the Cats in Cats put their head in her lap. One day, she will play Eliza Doolittle. Or you will all suffer.

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Monday, September 8, 2014

So How Bad Was the New Ninja Turtles?

A few weeks ago, the geek world fell into despair. Guardians of the Galaxy, far and away the best movie of the summer, had been beaten in its second weekend by a movie everyone had been dreading - the Michael Bay-produced adaptation of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. And with good reason - everything we'd seen in the trailers showed us a bland, humorless world of Bayformers style explosions and giant robots.

This weekend, given two hours or so to see a movie and not able to see Guardians for the fourth time, I finally gave in a purchased a ticket to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Was it bad? Was it really bad? Was it Revenge of the Fallen bad? All these questions and more will be answered, as you read on.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Episode 117: Friends of Korra

The Ace of Geeks welcome back contributor Megan Marie Fox, and break down the end of the best season of Legend of Korra yet! Plus - secrets of working at Disney World, The 
Grid vs The Matrix, and Mike's visit to Rancho Obi-wan!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Will the Amazon Purchase Destroy Twitch? By Eli English

     A couple of months ago, it was rumored that Google would be buying Twitch.tv. It made sense for Google, as they already owned YouTube, and Twitch has a large amount of broadcasters who upload videos to YouTube. They rely on this relationship to pay their bills.  My initial reaction to this was one of "OHGODNO" for various reasons, between YouTube's content-ID system and the possible ads that would be forced onto the site. That deal never happened. Instead, Twitch has been purchased by Amazon.

     "Twitch has built a platform that brings together tens of millions of people who watch billions of minutes of games each month—from The International, to breaking the world record for Mario, to gaming conferences like E3," said Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos in a press release. "Like Twitch, we obsess over customers and like to think differently, and we look forward to learning from them and helping them move even faster to build new services for the gaming community."

     Now, I think there are pros and cons to this purchase. First off, Amazon has a HUGE audience. If they can sponsor Twitch and give amazing veteran broadcasters and hopeful new streamers more viewers, I'm all for it. Secondly, Amazon has a lot of money and resources it can pour into Twitch. That is both a pro and a con. The major positive for me is that this might unintentionally help video game championships become a much more normal event, in addition to allowing gaming athletes to earn far more than they were previously making. This is already happening -- video game athletes can now apply for special visas which are usually reserved for professional athletes, gaming events are now being held in places like the Staples Center in LA, with more then 13,000 attendees watching teams fight it out for a $1.6 million prize pool. But with Amazon -- one of the biggest shopping sites on the planet, if not THE biggest -- backing Twitch now, it can only help to make events like these more normal in the eyes of many.

     So, why is that bad? Marketing. Let me elaborate. Amazon has tons of resources it can pull and usually has MORE then enough video game codes, video game swag, not to mention connections to big time developers and publishers. So it's only natural that we'll more than likely see popular streamers on Twitch being donated newly released or soon-to-be released titles. Now, try to see it from their perspective. You're a decently popular streamer. Suddenly, you're offered a copy of a game no one has streamed yet -- not only that, but EVERYONE wants this game. You agree and the developer, PR rep, CEO, whoever, is super nice to you. Not only that, but they go out of their way to answer whatever questions you have and tries to show you how awesome their new game is. This usually leads to streamers, YouTube show hosts, whomever, to back down from their opinions and see the game through tunnel vision. Suddenly, mediocre games are AWESOME games. Bad games are "eh, pretty good." Just to add some more fear to this idea, imagine if we have more games like Aliens: Colonial Marines where the developers flat out lied and showed fake gameplay footage. Imagine if a streamer broadcast and raved about it being amazing and told all their followers to go secure their copy ASAP. Then imagine the game that everyone was hyped for turned out to be a piece of crap. 

     On that same note, Amazon does offer a little less in this deal than Google. Yeah, they're a huge distributor -- but they also have TERRIBLE business practices and continue to refuse to change. With the recent release of the Amazon Fire phone (which has very mixed reviews due to a reported poor battery life, missing apps and a bad speaker system) and their more recent purchase of Twitch, I'm worried that Twitch might go down the drain. But, for now, we'll just have to wait and see what happens. Fingers crossed. Will The Amazon Purchase Destroy Twitch?

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Devil’s Advocate: Why you should be excited for Saints Row IV’s latest expansion, the series itself, and almost offensively large article titles

As you may or may not have heard, Gat’s back and the Saints are rollin’. That is to say, Saints Row IV has announced an addition in the form of Gat Out Of Hell, a full-fledged expansion pack to the game. So why should you care? Why does this matter? Why are we even dedicating an article to this? Simple.

The Saints Row franchise is gaming in its purest, most perfect form.

Gaming, over the years and decades, has become a more complicated affair. Triple-A titles, as a result, work to meet the expectations of the changing market. They have to appeal to the masses but also have artistic merit. They have to be deep and replayable, yet publicly accessible. They have to constantly innovate without losing touch of what made them big in the first place.

And this dialogue is good! It’s excellent! It has created a situation where we get games that challenge what games are like Gone Home. We get games that discuss complicated suggests like the American Dream in Grand Theft Auto IV. The series known as Borderlands strives to create whole new genres of gaming like the FPSRPG (which is a great Scrabble option, by the way). As these games come out, they are each incredible in their own ways. With their own things to say about the art form.

Saints Row is, in this regard, no different. What does set it apart, however, is that it asks, with sincerity, an entirely separate question: Remember when games used to be about having fun? And it’s a fair question. As much as Gone Home touched me with its story or G.T.A.’s cynical world view had me thinking, these weren’t exactly “Big, sloppy grin” inducing affairs. They were, to be sure, trying to be about something. Saints Row, conversely, is about doing whatever it takes to make the player smile. No exceptions. Want a power fantasy? Here, now you can fly and use super speed. Want cool weapon? Here’s a rocket launch and a baseball bat. Want a character that looks like you? Here’s a ridiculously deep character creator, complete with three genders (Male, Female, Nolan North).

This is wonderful! Every moment makes you smile, every joke makes you laugh, and every single moment is a greater power fantasy than the last.

Pictured: Twerking Grannies. Not Pictured: A coming of age story that challenges what it means to be human in an age of cynicsm.

While it may be accurate to say that “Saints Row IV is just fun”, it’s selling short a franchise that is a commentary on the industry in general. Throughout the game are woven slight, subtle, but definite digs at trends in gaming. A good example would be the game’s so-called Romance System. In Saints Row IV, you can fall in love with most of the rest of the cast, regardless of your gender. The thing is, the romance system is intentionally lacking. You simply approach a character, ask them if they want to “bang”, and they will almost immediately agree. You are then congratulated on successfully romancing the character. While this seems goofy in itself, it’s also a marvelous satirical send-up of Bioware’s romance systems. After all, for everything right Bioware does, it’s hard to dispute that in games like Mass Effect 2, romance consists of pressing the Paragon button over and over again you have sex for the first time and are informed this counts as “Romance”. Examples of this kind of subversion and commentary are peppered throughout the game in the most triumphant way.

Other games may call this a power fantasy, but "All Mighty Ice Deity" is pretty low level 'round these here parts

In other words, the Saints Row series is not only about having fun, but about challenging the shortcoming of other games’ missteps. In this way, it is an accompaniment to other games. A palette cleanser or dessert. It encourages us to get in touch with just doing crazy, ridiculous stuff and to ask ourselves whether games that are “more serious” are actually all that better.

Perhaps the best summation of the entire franchise is in the trailer for Gat Out of Hell itself. Right here in the trailer, Gat speaks to a mysterious citizen of Hell.

Gat: “I’m gonna shoot the devil in the face.”
Citizen: “It’s a little more complicated than that.”
Gat: “Nah, I said ‘In the Face’.”

This is followed up shortly by Gat acting exactly as promised. “Hey, Satan.” *BANG*

And sometimes, it’s nice to get back to that kind of wish fulfillment and wacky power fantasy.

- Ben Worley-

P.S. Also there’s a gun that allows you to play music so loud and bumpin’ that all nearby challenges are forced to twerk. And that is awesome.

Ben Worley is an unpaid social media shill for several games and properties, but Saint's Row is not one of them. He writes an article for this website when the mood takes him, like a fine wine in summer.

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Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Emmy winner Ryan Murphy challenges society...and I gladly accept! By Brian J. Patterson

Ryan Murphy with husband David Miller on Emmy red carpet.

The Normal Heart, directed by Ryan Murphy and starring Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer, Taylor Kitsch, Jim Parsons, Alfred Molina, Julia Roberts, Joe Manello, Jonathan Groff, Denis O'Hare, Stephen Spinella, Corey Stoll, Finn Wittrock, and BD Wong, was nominated for 16 (yes, you heard that right, sixteen) awards for the 66th Annual Prime Time Emmys. I was ecstatic to watch, as it won it's only award for Outstanding Television Movie. This film, which depicts the story of the HIV/AIDS crisis of the early 1980s in New York City, meant so much to so many people due to it's raw and truthful subject matter which is both touching and moving. I won't even exhibit such hubris by attempting to put into words what this film accomplished and why. However, what I will do is honor it's powerful work by answering the call to action which director Ryan Murphy set forth.