Wednesday, November 29, 2017

So you want to claim your BCH from your old BTC wallet

This post has been a long time coming. I finally feel comfortable with a bitcoin cash wallet and the process for importing a legacy bitcoin wallet to it. For now I'm recommending people with casual bitcoin/bitcoin cash money grab the wallet. It is available for Android, iOS, Windows, and Linux. It will handle both Bitcoin and Bitcoin Cash for you. I strongly encourage you to follow links to it from the linked website, as friends have run in to issues with downloading less reputable clients.

I'm assuming you're coming from Mycelium, Electrum, Bread wallet, or some other software that had you write down as 12 word "Wallet Seed Recovery Phrase." This phrase can be called a "Mnemonic Backup" or "BIP39." It should look like twelve random words. You'll need those words to continue with this guide.

Once you've downloaded and installed the software, read the introduction, and wrote down your new 12 word phrase you're ready to begin importing your old wallet. Remember, you MUST SET UP A NEW WALLET FIRST.

If you want to use this software for BTC and BCH you will need to follow these steps for both the Bitcoin Cash blockchain and the Bitcoin Core (formerly Bitcoin) wallet.

  1. Click the + icon next to the blockchain you wish to import.

  2. Click 'Create New Wallet.'

  3. Enter a name for this wallet (Such as "Old Wallet") and then click 'Show advanced options.'

  4. Click the dropdown next to 'Wallet Key.' Change the value from 'Random' to 'Specify Recovery Phrase.'

  5. Enter your recovery phrase from the old wallet in the field marked 'Wallet Recovery Phrase.' Click 'Create new wallet.'
  6. Now the wallet is aware of your old account, but it still shows 0 balance. To correct this click 'Settings' in the bottom right and then 'More Options.'

  7. Click 'Wallet Addresses' and then 'Scan addresses for funds.' This may take several minutes, but once complete you should see your balances have updated.
  8. I recommend moving the funds from your old addresses to your new, then deleting the old. It's tidier. But you do you.

Monday, July 31, 2017

2017 Fall/Winter Movies

Well, we're at the end of the movies I was looking forward to for the summer. I was pretty happy with my picks overall, though critics and the box office seem to disagree with me on a few of my favorites. Still, Wonder Woman did fantastic, and Spider-Man was pretty good. Woo! Alien: Covenant was better than I had feared; but not as good as I wanted. Life and The Void were so good, even if no one saw them.

Anyway, it's time to talk about the back half of 2017. Here's what looks good, if you ask me.

September 8 - It The remake of the classic Tim Curry adaptation of the Stephen King book. I'm not a Tim Curry fanatic, so I've probably got a lower bar than a lot of folks for this flick. I want a creepy clown who is also an arachnid monster that must be shot in the deadlights with the power of belief. Or something equally dumb.

September 22 - Kingsman: The Golden Circle This is the squeal to the campy spy movie from a few years ago. It looks just as fun, and it's got Halle Berry, whose absence in movies I care about has been noted for a few years.

September 29 - Flatliners I'm a sucker for horror scifi. I also like Ellen Page a whole big bunch. the premise is something I've seen before (The Lazarus Effect is my favorite example of this trope) but there's room for another in my heart.

October 6 - Blade Runner 2049 Man... I'm worried about this. Harrison Ford hasn't exactly been amazing lately. There's a lot of room for this to go wrong, what with Phillip K. Dick being super dead and all.  But the trailers seem fine. The soundtrack is good. It sounds like they're using the good ending from the first movie, so that's awesome.

October 27 - Professor Marston & the Wonder Women is the story of the creator of Wonder Woman. Professor Marston was a psychology professor who explored polyamory and kink (specifically bondage) in the 1920s and 30s. Obviously this is SUPER RELEVANT TO MY INTERESTS allcaps. It's only getting limited release and as of right now there are no theaters listed for it in my area. I'm stoked to check it out, however I have to do that.

November 3 - Thor: Ragnarok This trailer is so good. Of course I'm going.

November 17 - Justice League Oh boy. I'm not 100% sold on this, but that hasn't stopped me in the past. The Flash looks pretty good. It's probably smart of them to strike while the Wonder Woman fire is hot. Cyborg has never been my favorite DC character, but he looks pretty cool. I'm still a fan of Batfleck. ...I think I'm selling myself on this.

December 1 - The Disaster Artist This is a Franco/Rogan joint. I usually enjoy those. I'm not as big a "The Room" fan as many people, but I'm familiar enough with that train wreck to enjoy a lampooning of it.

December 15 - Star Wars: The Last Jedi I liked the last one. I'm probably going to like this one. It's a good time to be alive.

December 25 - The Greatest Showman PT Barnum is a super interesting guy. Add Hugh Jackman? In. I'm afraid they're going to downplay the huckster aspect of this in an attempt to make him more likable. Also, I'm not a fan of musicals so... this might be a tough pill to swallow. I'm keeping an eye on it.

That takes us to the end of 2017. A lot of the winter/spring movies of 2018 don't have trailers yet, so I guess those movies will get covered in December. Spoiler: Black Panther. Did I miss any movies you're interested in?

Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Scariest Scene in Movie History

I'm a fan of the show "Movie Fights" on Screen Junkies. In their latest episode Elijah Wood, Kevin Smith, and Dan Murrell had to debate what they felt the "Scariest movie scene of all time" was. Here's their debate:

I'd like to make a case for a scene that terrifies me. Have you ever been to Alcatraz? Did you walk the narrow hallways of a prison that's been decommissioned for the better part of a century? Did you feel claustrophobic? Did you sense the a charge in the air of unrest and malevolence? Have you ever been in an active prison? A mental hospital? I have. Those experiences are pretty far up there in the list of terrifying things I've experienced.

Now imagine yourself entering a narrow hallway, more dungeon than modern prison. The hall is filled with four known violent and insane offenders. The staff politely refuses to escort you down it. Your destination is at the end of the hall. When you get there, you will meet the a man spoken of in hushed tones, even among his neighboring creatures.
You're a cadet at the FBI. You're not even out of training. You're not sure if you're even ready or qualified for the job yet. Regardless, Barney slams the barred door behind you and wishes you luck. You're terrified, but you're determined to rise to the occasion. You take each step deliberately, trying not to look at the monsters. The first calls out to you, a grin on his face like a child who's received a birthday present. It seems permanently fixed, but you can't spare him more than a glance. You focus on your breathing. Each breath triggers a step forward and a test of your resolve. 

The second room has a man slouched over, his face cloaked in shadow. You can feel his eyes on you through his glower. The third man is manic, he literally climbs the walls of his cell and croaks "I can smell your cunt" through coffee grayed teeth.
You reach the end of the hallway. This cell is different. There are no bars. The entry is framed with thick steel that holds three panes of three inch thick glass. Inside, a man, still as a statue, stares at you with reptilian eyes. His eyes follow you like a painting. He sees through you and speaks like a particularly well educated snake. He paints his face with a pleasant, well rehearsed smile and says "Good Morning."

You swallow your fear and put on an air of confidence. You will treat this man with respect, get your questions answered, and flee. "Doctor Lecter, my name is Clarice Starling, may I speak with you?"

  "You're one of Jack Crawford's, aren't you?"

He wasn't supposed to know that. Your confidence is cracked. He's locked inside a cell, and he has you at a disadvantage. You answer in the affirmative. "May I see your credentials?" he oozes. You hold up your credentials. He sees your fear. "Closer, please." he beckons. You extend your arm. "Closer," he taunts. You take a two measured steps forward. He stalks up to the barrier, his eyes locked on yours. The Plexiglas that separates you feels like plastic wrap. Every muscle in your body is begging you to run. He blinks and glances at your badge.

"That expires in one week," he says with a wink, "You're not real FBI are you?" Again, he's made you. You've stood in front of this man for five seconds and he has completely disassembled your careful presentation.

You tell him you're still in training. His eyes light up like a wolf who's spotted a wounded sheep. "Jack Crawford sent a trainee... to me?" You see calculations behind his eyes, as if he were playing a game of chess with Jack, and you realize that makes you a sacrificial pawn. As you present your case your voice wavers and cracks. Lecter spots this, deduces you realize your role in the situation, and a twinkle of respect forms in his eye. Like the respect a hunter has for worthy sport.

Lecter makes you repeat what his neighbor, Miggs, said to you moments before. Your cheeks flush and you stumble over the word "cunt." This earns you a little favor with Lecter - the man in the cell has you attempting to earn his favor. You realize you're out of your element.

You quickly attempt to get your task done. Lecter swats your attempt away and dives in to Jack Crawford's case. You don't realize it, but Lecter has just uncovered Crawford's motive in sending you here. 

Lecter looks at the questionnaire you brought, then verbally cuts you down. He describes your life remarkably well, with brutal cruelty that you cannot rebuke. You aren't sure why his opinion of you matters, but it does. Despite the clear wound he's dealt, you challenge him to look inward. He's clearly upset by your jab, and slams the questionnaire back through his meal slot.

"A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti. You fly back to school now, little starling."

Feeling defeated you gather your things and begin to walk back. Miggs is laying naked on the bunk, screaming. "I bit my wrist so I could dieeee-he-he." You turn your to face him. "Look at the blood!" he shouts as he flings his seaman through the bars and into your hair. So lost in your conversation with Lecter, you forgot the dangers of your environment. You realize quickly that you've been sexually assaulted as you cringe away in disgust. The other inmates begin to go wild.

Lecter calls you back.  "I would not have had that happen to you. Discourtesy is unspeakably ugly to me." There's no pity in his voice, you doubt Lecter even knows what pity feels like. 

You quickly gather your wits amid the chaos in the hall. "Then do this test for me!" 

"No, but I will make you happy. I'll give you a chance for what you love most."

"And what is that, doctor?"

"Advancement, of course." He continues on with vague clues that you don't have time to digest. 
Every single element of this scene from the first 20 minutes of Silence of the Lambs is terrifying to me. Walking as prey among predictors. Being thrust into a game you didn't realize you were playing until too late. The sexual assault. Hannibal Lecter's ability to dissect so much of Clarice history in a few moments, and his willingness to use that ability to destroy someone. Finally, there's the realization that even though Clarice demonstrates no uncanny mental ability, she still comes out of the situation better than I would have. And I'd argue her results were mixed at best. It paints a picture of a believable world that I would be completely unable to function in.

All of this amounts to a feeling of dread that hits me on a primal level. I must have watched this movie a dozen times, and that scene haunts me for hours after to this day.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Female Characters in Stranger Things

This post spoils Stranger Things and assumes you've seen it. This is your chance to get out.

With the second season Stranger Things on the horizon the first season has been on a lot of people's minds. Recently a friend argued that the show was unwatchable, to her, because of how poorly the female characters were written.

I am not here to say she's wrong. The female characters are clearly underwritten. I will argue that Eleven is the star of the show, but she is written in such a way so that she starts off virtually incapable of speech, and by the end of the show can barely string together a couple sentences. Nancy and Joyce are critical to the plot, are empowered throughout, and never occupy a pure 'damsel in distress' role. But they're never fleshed out.

I want to break this down a bit more. Let's start with the bad.

Does the show pass the Bechdel test? I mean, maybe..? That uncertainty is pretty damning by itself. I'm not going to look it up to see if Stranger Things technically passes. Here's the ambiguity: Joyce (Winona Ryder), Jim Hopper (the chief cop guy), and a tertiary female character have a conversation about a woman and her missing daughter. Sort of. Joyce and Eleven have a conversation about how brave Eleven is...for going to the Upside-down to find Joyce's son. Every other time two female characters are on screen they're talking about hooking up with a boy or a missing boy. So, not great.

Two characters are given flashback sequences to fill in back story. Eleven and Jim Hopper. Jim is introduced as a drunk who's bad at relationships. It's mentioned that his daughter died, but he doesn't admit to it. He's not super likable initially. Then we get his flashbacks. Jim's story is about the loss of his daughter. It provides some emotional connection to the character, and recasts him in a more sympathetic light. It also provides a (flimsy) reason for him to give so many damns about Joyce's son and later, Eleven.

Eleven's flashbacks are mostly about her treatment in the military experiments. The government clearly considers her a weapon and treats her as such. They send her after the demigorgon knowing that it will likely kill her. I don't think this raises our emotional investment in Eleven beyond the narrative up to that point. It does serve to provide specific explanations as to why she doesn't speak much, and how the gate was opened initially. Personally, I would have been just as happy with an extra couple minutes of Eleven opening the gate and escaping the facility in the first episode.

We're not told of any of Nancy's interests beyond school and boy named Steve Harrington. She is largely unconcerned with Joyce's son disappearing, and uses it as an excuse to sneak out of her parent's house. She becomes invested in the story when her friend Barb goes missing. Literally no one else in the story seems to give two shits about Barb's disappearance, including Barb's mother. That tidbit actually makes me angry and sympathetic to those who choose not to watch this show over it's treatment of women. But it gives Nancy a reason to be in this story that isn't tied to a man. So, great. I guess.

The other women in the story, Barb, Nancy/Mike's mom, the women in Steve's group, the Ives sisters, and Agent Frazier (played by Catherine Dyer, who does a great job despite having so little to do) are largely incidental. I imagine they were on the board in the writing room as single line plot elements. Barb may have gotten a couple of sentences under her name. She's one of two (maybe three, if you count Dr Brenner) characters we're expected to have an emotional reaction for when they die.

Now the apologetics. If I can criticize a piece of fiction I can also talk about what I think it did well.

A criticism I disagree with is the female characters are only there because of their relationship to the protagonists. This show has ten characters who appear in every episode, all of them could be viewed as the protagonist. With the exception of Eleven, this story could easily be about a community banding together to find two missing kids. but if we have to narrow down who our heroes are, I choose Eleven and Hopper. Eleven defeats the villains (I guess technically hubris gets Dr Brenner, but Eleven sets the stage) and Hopper gets a redemption arc and co-saves Will.

Joyce Byers (Winona Ryder) is defined by her relationship to the missing boy. Because she's his mother. This sentence reminds me of the "Taken" movies with Liam Neeson. Anyway, if "mother" isn't a feminine role that lends itself to strength I give up on trying to understand gender politics. Joyce is an employee at a retail store. She's a single mother of two. It's never explicitly stated, but heavily implied that her hobbies include working her ass off to support her family. As the child of a woman who was a single mother for part of the 80s, this squares with my recollection of the time.

Joyce behaves like the kind of bad ass I'd like to believe my mother would be in the same situation. She secures her ability to focus solely on her missing son. She confronts her (implied) abusive, deadbeat ex. She follows evidence even though she appears crazy for doing it. She correctly identifies the fake body the military uses to attempt to cover up the incident. She insists on taking part of the investigation. She braves arrest by a secret government agency and the Upside-down to find her son.

Nancy. Man, Nancy. She feels really tacked on until the last couple episodes. Even then it feels like she's there to fill out Jonathan's story a bit. Right up to the last episode. She's just found out her friend Barb has been killed by the demigorgon. Her rescue mission? It just got turned into a revenge mission. Jonathan is ready to sit back and let his mom and Hopper handle it. Then Nancy's like, "Naw son. Now's our chance to wreck that monster's shit!" Between Nancy and Jonathan, I'd argue Nancy is more effective at monster slaying, but Steve ex machina ultimately executes Nancy's plan. None of them are Eleven, but who is?

No one. That's who. Her name implies she's the 11th test subject of a secret military experiment. Maybe she's the successor to Wolverine? She's telekenetic. She can astral project. She can travel across dimensions. Don't be fooled by the framing, Mike is her love interest.

There is an approach to writing where you give your main character the least possible amount of dialog. They're rarely the source of exposition. They're frequently learning about the world they find themselves in. In this approach, the audience adopts your main character as their lens into the world. And since this is escapism, they get to do the coolest shit. As you watch you think, "Huh, if I inhabited this world I bet I could do this cool shit." At least, that's the goal.

Since it's difficult to speak for your audience in their voice, you give the supporting characters the good lines. Quick, what's your favorite Luke Skywalker line? Now what's your favorite Han Solo line? What's your favorite Neo line? Now what's your favorite Morpheus line? Which role in those two pairs was easier to recall? Which was better?

Despite having nothing memorable to say, Eleven does the coolest shit. I'd agree that the writers may have taken this approach too far. Her motives are a bit hazy until the last couple episodes, and even then.... she appears to be acting out of altruism. Maybe it's supposed to be because she is learning about friendship. Anyway, because of this approach I have a fundamental problem seeing an argument for any other character as the intended main protagonist.

But what about Will, Mike, Lucas, and Dustin? They're certainly introduced as the primary focus of the series - especially early on. They're great for giving the audience exposition for the weird sci-fi stuff that's going on, as they relate everything to RPG terms. But in practical terms? When they're not busy being occupying the damsel in distress trope (it's literally all Will does, the rest of them end up there at least twice by my count) they're playing support for Eleven. It is fair to say that these four boys are the best written characters in the series. It's almost as if the writers were drawing from personal experience for these guys and making up the rest as best they could.

Another criticism I disagree with is that the boys use Eleven as a weapon. There's even a quote "She's a weapon!" that's said twice in the series! That's true. Once is by the villains. They say this, and it solidifies them as bad guys to us. The other is while the boys are packing up to find the demigorgon. One kid wants to bring a sling shot ("It's a wrist rocket!"). The others think this idea is dumb since Eleven is clearly more powerful than anything the boys can put together. Out of context it sounds like the boys are making Eleven into an object. In context, they're saying she's a bad ass. Which is true.

So yeah. This story has three fully realized male characters with no character arcs, one male character with a satisfying character arc, two female characters with middling character arcs, and a bad ass lead character with no arc to speak of.

Since I have such middling feelings about the characters of all genders, why do I like this show? I think all ten characters are identifiable, if not believable. I think the monster design is great. The pacing is spectacular; it'd be hard to trim this down to a 120 minute movie and have it be as satisfying. I like Joyce being super-mom. I like everything about Eleven. I like how the show perverts story telling tropes slightly (support cast introduced as main characters, girl chooses the dickish jock instead of the nice sensitive boy, damsel in distress is male, saved by a female, the hero and the victim have no connection, they don't even meet until the end, etc). It throws a lot of balls in the air and drops remarkably few.

The balls it chooses to drop look pretty shady. Hopefully they hear that criticism (and don't overreact to it) in season 2.

Edit: Alternate title: White male mansplans the bad and good treatment of female characters in "Stranger Things."

Edit 2: I forgot to mention context. This story doesn't get told until after "Aliens" makes it culturally acceptable for a woman to lead an action film. I think it would have been seen as progressive until "Firefly" came out. They still make tv and movies that I think do a worse job with female characters. Of course that doesn't earn this show a pass. I subscribe to the notion that we should always strive for equality in fiction, and "Stranger Things" falls short.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

VR - Where are the devs at?

I finally got around to cleaning my office, which means I have room for VR again. I went through some games that've been sitting on my backlog. My favorite of the batch was Batman Arkham VR, which was a ~45-90 minute 'experience.' Experience is a code word for 'barely a game.' Arkham VR had high production values, and it did some neat things with the space - particularly at the end.

Then there's a big drop off. Star Trek Bridge Crew Simulator looks good, and I hope to grab a couple VR enabled friends for that in the near future. But otherwise... indie games for days. That's not a bad thing, hell "TO THE TOP" looks like a lot of fun, and I'll be on that ASAP.

But where are the big publishers? Where are the top tier studios? At this point I'd be happy with a b-tier studio. I'm anxious for someone with a budget to come along and produce an actual video game.

I've been waiting for a super hero movement simulator. Fly like Iron Man, swing and stick to walls like Spider-Man, leap like Toad, whatever. I know several games approximate one or two of these ideas, but it'd be rad to see them all in one place. I imagine this game would rate poorly on the 'comfort' level, so it's not likely to see a big publisher or studio, so it'll always be a 'what if' idea that I pine for.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Valkyria Revolution Impressions

Let's get the disclaimers out of the way up front: This game was given to me by Sega/Atlus. I played about five hours of it. I played it on the Xbox One.

"What? Only five hours?!" Well, no. I watched about three hours of in engine cut-scenes and played about two hours of it. Those proportions might be a little off, but not by much. So why did I pull out so quickly? A few reasons. I'll get there.

Valkyria Revolution is not a sequel to Valkyria Chronicles. The universe isn't the same (but it is similar). The gameplay isn't the same. The comparisons can stop at similar art styles and similar themes. ...and maybe similar writing.

Revolution brings a few new things to the table. The game's engine is kind of cool in that it renders as if it were painting the images on a canvas. There's a subtle canvas texture that is nice, especially when the action on the screen is minimal, allowing you to take it in. However, the models seem really sharp - like a last generation game. This makes it all the more baffling when the game will load an in-engine cinematic, deliver two lines of dialog, and then return to a load screen for a camera angle change. One particularly egregious example of this is when the player is introduced to the four plot-central characters by the narrator. They each get a few lines of narration rehashing what the exposition just told us. The narrator takes 5-10 seconds to speak, then there's a 10-20 second load time. As of this writing I have not been informed of any day 1 patch to address this. Also of note, at one point in the first few hours my Xbox dimmed the screen because it had been so long since I was given a chance to interact with the game.

That reminds me. I don't say 'anime story' as if it were a bad thing. Some of my favorite stories are anime. However, this was an anime ass anime story. I think some of the problems may have been with  the localization process - some characters spoke in really stilted olde English, while others reminded me of 1920's newsies. That might have been a style choice, and I could have looked passed it if not for the melodrama and cliche plot elements presented up front. The story alternates between treating the player like an idiot (the aforementioned explicit rehash of what was CLEARLY spelled out in forced exposition) and glossing over information that would be helpful (such as why the untrained, rookie princess and a literal child are fighting with the elite super squad on the front lines instead of like... the reserves) which is pretty frustrating.

The combat is... fine? Maybe? It has some light real time strategy (think the original Mass Effect series) layered on an active time battle system. You can do a chain of attacks, then you have to dodge around for three or four seconds to attack again. There is crafting, skill trees, and a spell infusion system that promise depth; but I was pretty checked out by the time they were introduced.

I have no real complaints about the gameplay. It is a system that I haven't seen before, and I wish there was something to support it - or at least not actively annoy me so that I could muster the will to explore it further. If you're thinking about picking this game up, I'd encourage you to watch the first few hours on Twitch or something to make sure you know what you're in for. Everyone else? Check out the original Valkyria Chronicles. Those games are pretty good.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Build 2017 - Day 0

I'm at Build 2017. Today is registration and getting set up in my hotel. Listen to me talk about it.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The Next Generation gives us words to remember.

This is why I think it's a bit silly to be jealous. I've loved dozens of women, and no two the same. I assume the same can be said of me. No two relationships look alike.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Do's and Don'ts for interacting with polyamorous people in your social circle

Recently an acquaintance of mine reported her friend's girlfriend dumped him. Why? Because the girlfriend didn't like her boyfriend being friends with someone in an open relationship. Today I'd like to talk a bit about similar situations I've seen, and similar awkwardness I've encountered personally.

Your spouse is friends with a poly person.

First, "ruining others' relationships." It's not a thing we do. Every poly person I've encountered abhors cheating. If someone's not consenting that should be, we don't engage in that relationship. There's exceptions, of course - but it's an extremely small minority. It's the same reason why most poly folks don't enter into "don't ask, don't tell" relationships. The best case in that arrangement is that we ruin a relationship and cause pain to someone we love. Worst case? Our relationship gets ruined and we cause pain to someone we love as well as ourselves. It's a dumb move.

So what's really happening most of these situations is a monogamous person is insecure, uninformed, or afraid. Maybe they don't understand what it means to be polyamorous - they could confuse it for being amoral sex fiends. Maybe, as was the case with me back in the day, they're closet cases and lack the information, safety, and courage to try it. Maybe they're thinking about cheating and projecting. Or maybe they're just not happy with the relationship and are looking for an excuse to leave. Regardless, the polyamorous person has nothing to feel bad about; but it hurts us to see our friends hurt - just like anyone else.

I've had husbands talk to me about it. That's a reasonable thing to do; and I try not to take offense when it happens. Most of the time they're just trying to make sure I'm respecting their relationship, them, and their spouses. That's totally cool. As I said, I'm not a homewrecker and I don't know anyone who identifies as poly that is. If you're uncomfortable with the idea of being polyamorous, or being in a relationship with someone who practices it, you should totally say something to people who might potentially bring the subject up. Communication is awesome. Husbands who bring up their concerns in a respectful, open way are good duders. I imagine wives who do the same are too - not many wives are concerned with me personally trying to 'steal' their husbands.

Your friend/family member is a poly person.

These folks can be irritating. I've heard several of my friends say "Polyamory just doesn't work." "This is a phase." "You'll find the right woman." Things like that. Hey, thanks for trying to invalidate something personal I've told you about myself. What a pal. I think these people usually mean well. Maybe they've experimented with polyamory and it didn't work out for them. Maybe they knew other people who did the experimenting. Mostly, I don't think they understand I am happiest when I'm free to explore my emotions and relationships.

My 'outing' as a polyamorous person came along side another major change in my social circle. It's hard for me to determine which friends I lost because of the poly thing, and which I lost because of the other thing. I do know the people who still associate with me are mostly accepting of the way I love. They may have concerns or think I'm kidding myself, but I know they have my best interests at heart. I would prefer it if they avoided telling me how I feel is incorrect; but I guess I prefer knowing what they think.

Your romantic suitor is poly.

I bring up polyamory early - before the first date if at all possible. I don't want anyone to feel trapped or tricked. Most of the time this ends the conversation. Doesn't matter if we appear to be soulmates up to that point, "I'm poly" might as well be "I'm into fucking mountain goats" to a lot of women. There's nothing to do there. A nice part about bringing it up early is not wasting a lot of time.

The next most common response I encounter is, "Aww, too bad I'm not." You don't have to be. I suppose they might mean "I'm not willing to date someone who's dating someone else."To me that seems like a separate issue. When I was monogamously wed there were fights every few years over someone developing feelings for someone else; both parties responsible for the emotional infidelity. However, I personally would not have cared about hers if she were honest about them. Hell, I probably would have been supportive if we acknowledged it was a thing ahead of time. I'm not sure if she'd feel the same. Still, it is possible to be involved with a polyamorous person while not being polyamorous yourself. It's like refusing to date a bisexual person because you're not bisexual yourself. Say you're not comfortable with the potential for jealousy; or say "I'm not interested in dating you" if that's what you really mean. I do think a lot of people would be surprised by how little jealousy they actually feel when their emotional (and physical) needs are met.

The final annoying response I get in the dating scene is along the lines of, "We can try it, but I expect to be monogamous when we get serious." NEWP. While I could do casual relationships with people I already trust, I'm not typically looking for someone to fool around with. The idea that I could be changed by the right person is pretty off-putting. One woman recently phrased it as "Let me know if you change your mind on that, because I'm end game." Lady, polyamory is my end game. The best you could get from me is a lie, and I don't want to live a lie. This is a problem for dating beyond polyamory - don't think you can change people later. You accept them as they are, or you don't date them.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

2017 Summer Movies

This summer is shaping up to be great for movies. Here are the movies that are coming out that I plan to see starting with...last week. By the way, there are some pretty big gaps in here. If you know of a movie that looks awesome that I've missed, say so.

Life Ryan Reynolds and Jake Gyllenhaal appear in this amazing suspense film. I will not to go in to details, but this movie is the best example of cosmic horror I've seen in years. It's great. I might go watch it again tomorrow by myself. I cannot stress enough how much I enjoyed this movie.

Ghost in the Shell Staring Scarlet Johansson, this live action adaptation of the classic anime movie looks good to me. Some of my more progressive friends are giving it a pass because if Scarlet Johansson is one thing, it isn't Japanese. That's fair; I understand where they're coming from. I also am excited to support cyberpunk themes in big budget movies. So, there's that.

The Void This one is another Lovecraftian horror movie. It's been getting a lot of positive reviews from the (targeted) festival circuit. The trailer looks dope, and possibly fly.

The F8 of the Furious The 8th(!) installment of the Fast and the Furious franchise. These movies keep getting more ridiculous, and more fun, as they go on. I can't wait to see what kind of over the top, dumb antics Dominic Toretto and crew get up to this time.

Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 There is nothing that could keep me out of this movie. If you need a plot synopsis of this, I'm not sure why you're on this blog.

Snatched ...I'm not positive about this. I'm not a huge Amy Schumer fan, but this looks kind of funny. I might be in the theater, or I might wait for a rental. We'll see when that week gets closer.

Aliens: Covenant Don't hurt me again, Aliens franchise. I sat through Aliens 4. I endured Prometheus. Please. Please. Please be decent. Peach zenomorphs are not a great sign.
Wonder Woman This is DC's last chance before I swear off anything that isn't Bat-family. (Seriously, give us a Nightwing movie. It'd be so good!) I'm not particularly optimistic about this flick, but I suspect it'll be popular with my Girl Power! friends. As long as they don't screw that angle up, I will watch it and I'll probably have a good time with it.

Resident Evil: Vendetta I am not going to say that this movie is for everyone. BUT if you're the kind of person who enjoys the campy stories that video games often produce, I think this will deliver. I have no idea how I'll watch it in theaters, I'm not expecting a major release. It might be a Fathom Events thing?

Spider-Man: Homecoming Third try is the charm, right guys? This time we've got Marvel Studios in creative control. In Captain America: Civil War they showed us our new Peter Parker, and he was great. I remember pumping my fist excitedly when he showed up in that movie. We've got one of the more dynamic Spider-Man villains, Adrian Toomes - played by motherfucking Batman himself, Michael Keaton. Jon Favreau is back as Happy Hogan - I've missed him since the last Iron Man. I'm not sold on Marisa Tomei as Aunt May. I shouldn't be attracted to Aunt May, and Marisa Tomei will always be beautiful. I understand Marvel is going to hammer on the MCU being a part of Spider-Man's world. I hope he bridges the gap between Daredevil/The Defenders and Iron Man/The Avengers, as is Spider-Man's place in the comics but I'm not really holding my breath. I think it'll be a bit before we're ready for another Spider-Man solo sto---oh my god they're doing Secret Wars we might get a proper black suit Spider-Man. ... Guys, I'm excited for this movie and I really want it to be great.

Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets This is a scifi action flick directed by the dude who did 5th Element. John Goodman is in it. Cara Delevingne is in it. It looks like it could be pretty cool. The comic this movie is based on is an inspiration for Star Wars, The 5th Element, Saga, and a bunch of other stuff you may have heard of.

That's it for movies for the summer. August has The Dark Tower, if you care about that. The fall has Blade Runner, Thor, Cloverfield, and a bunch of other stuff that'll probably be great. But that's later. This summer is going to be AWESOME for nerds who fit my particular profile.

Monday, March 20, 2017

Iron Fist

Iron Fist came out on Netflix last week. I've been a pretty big supporter of the Marvel shows on Netflix thus far but... Iron Fist didn't quite do it for me.

I've seen criticisms about cultural appropriations and such. I understand intellectually that this is a problem. I know that no art is made in a void, and with similar controversies popping up around other properties like Ghost In The Shell, Iron Fist was bound to take some heat for it. However, I'm a white guy who thinks kung fu (and martial arts in general) are fun to watch. It doesn't actually bother me. That's my lens; you know where I'm at.

What I know about Danny Rand (aka The Iron Fist) is that he is perpetually a fish out of water. A white kung fu master. A Buddhist-esq billionaire. A playboy with a chastity vow. If all good comic heroes are a metaphor for Jungian archetypes, Iron Fist is about the struggle to do what you're told you can't, and the conflict between spirituality and materialism. One of my favorite traits of this character is that he doesn't even seem to realize his money and his religion are at odds with each other.

But. I don't think this first season delivers on any of that. In fact, I found it hard to identify with anything about Danny Rand. With Daredevil, you see a flawed person struggle to maintain his life while he attempts to do the right thing. With Jessica Jones you watch someone take responsibility for her wrong doings while confronting those who have wronged her. Luke Cage is about building community by being as virtuous as possible, in face of corruption. Daredevil season two shows you someone second guessing the path they're on - what is the difference between Daredevil and The Punisher? Should Daredevil take the law in to his own hands? If you spend any time thinking about super heroes, that is a compelling tale.

With Iron Fist we get... uh. A rich guy trying to reclaim his place in the world. Maybe a bad story about family? I'm not sure. I'll probably watch it again before Defenders to see if I missed something, but as it stands this is a show about watching martial artists fake punch each other, I couldn't find anything to latch on to. Also, I thought season 1 of Daredevil did a better job delivering on the fight sequences. That's not to say there weren't great fights. I particularly liked the fight with the drunken boxer. I never get tired of seeing that style.

Then there are the plot holes they asked me to swollow. The soon-to-be Night Nurse (Claire Temple, played by Rosario Dawson who continuously knocks it out of the park) happens to find herself in Iron Fist's life. She knows he's going against The Hand. She knows Daredevil is also fighting The Hand. She does.... nothing with this knowledge. Even though she proclaims "You can't go against them on your own!" to both characters.

Jeri Hogarth (played by Carrie-Anne Moss who nails the role) ALSO KNOWS ALL OF THESE SUPERHEROS. You couldn't see it, but my arms were flaying about in exasperated motions as I wrote that. Clearly Claire will put The Defenders in touch with each other, and Jeri will provide some logistics. But after four seasons of dancing around it, after Luke Cage essentially inherits a venue for them, after Danny Rand appears with all the money needed... there is no reason to prevent this group from coming together the moment it's obvious The Hand are still in New York.

Pictured: Harvey Dent aka Two Race. I'll see myself out.
While I'm thinking about Hogarth, quick sidebar. They're getting all sorts of shit for Danny Rand being white. They're not getting any praise for Hogarth being a woman. There's no praise for Colleen Wing, who is Japanese in the comics, being played by a multi-ethnic (none of which are Japanese) actor - adding some depth to what could have been a stereotypical role. Ben Urich is black in the Netflix series. They've positioned Misty Knight to get a show that I'd be excited to watch, and her book was c-tier in the comic universe. It seems to me they're trying their damnest to diversify the Marvel universe. Yet the only thing I've heard is how they're not doing enough. It's almost like the people leveraging these criticisms aren't aware of how far these characters and comics have come, or how far the community of fans has come since the Thor movie hubbub when Idris Elba played Heimdall - and even that was tame in comparison to the enraged nerds when Billy Dee Williams played Harvey Dent in Tim Burton's Batman. I understand there's still room to improve things, but no one outside the industry ever takes the time to acknowledge comics, their tie-ins, and their fans are trying to be more welcoming to women and minorities. It certainly doesn't seem to be reflected at my local comic shop. /rant

(Edit: Since this was written I have spoken to some Asian friends of mine to hear their concern. Their complaint, rightly, is that there are not many Asian heroes shown in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Some pop up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Colleen Wing are about all they have going for them. It's not much better in the comics, and they view Danny Rand as a hold over from a particularly racist time in Marvel's history.)

Anyway, Iron Fist asks the audience for a lot, and it does not reward them for it. It makes me wish they combined Iron Fist with The Defenders, a lot of my problems would have been resolved by making him a narrative supporting character and an action sequence heavy.

Fun fact, The Incredible Hulk was an original Defender. He gets namechecked a lot in the Netflix shows. Sure would be cool if they were given license to use him for the Netflix shows since it seems unlikely that he'll get another solo movie. Oooh, and Hogarth could hire on Jennifer Walters (She-Hulk) to handle vigilante related cases! I would LOVE to watch a She-Hulk courtroom drama. Season 2 of Daredevil already proved that is compelling television.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 26

This is it! We see credits on Mass Effect 3. All of the people we helped, all of the decisions we made... and it comes down to a three way choice. Hurray.

I really would have been happier if the Starchild just read my save, saw my paragon/renegade stats and did one of the three things that matched my character's history. Oh well.

We say goodbye to everyone. They send us off with what feels like the writers thanking us for sitting through all of their stories.

Over all the trilogy is fine. I don't think I can site it as my favorite video game franchise anymore, but it's still really good. As far as video game worlds go, Mass Effect's is still the one I'd want to live in. We'll pick up this series again next week when Andromeda comes out.

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My first ten hours with Mass Effect: Andromeda

I decided to get early access to Mass Effect: Andromeda. Now I have opinions. A word on spoilers: I try not to give away anything important (as far as I know) here, but... if you're sensitive to spoilers I make no promises beyond this point.

You know about the animation problem. It's like they forgot to put muscles around the eyebrows and cheeks. It is a problem, and I hope they are able to fix it. This is compounded by the slightly cartoonish textures and color pallet. When the animations go wrong, they can look like something out of a Warner Brothers cartoon. Only... unintentional.

A lot of people are screaming that this is the end of the world. They say Mass Effect sucks now. But does it?

The basic combat feels similar to previous games - duck behind cover, shoot enemies who are also ducking behind cover. They have removed the ability to tell your squad mates to use specific powers, but you can still tell them where to go during a fight. You are no longer married to a single class. Instead you swap out class profiles from the menu (or hot keys f1-f4) at any time. You unlock profiles by putting skill points in one of three ability trees. They have added a 'jump pack,' which allows you to leap up approximately 30 feet and to dash about 10-15 feet. Depending on which class you have equipped the dash may have additional attributes such as invisibility or warping. Finally, abilities combo off each other better now. They are clearly labeled with something that says "This ability starts a combo" and "this ability ends a combo." You shoot an enemy with the first ability, then the second, and something awesome happens - my character has been triggering explosions with a 10 foot radius, but I understand there are other things you can do.

Overall I like the changes to combat. I was never much for ordering my squad mates to use powers - though it was a requirement to get through the game on higher difficulties. The ability to change builds on the fly addresses a concern I had in previous games where my build was at a clear disadvantage in some fights, while it was laughably overpowered in others. I like that I can use singularity as a sniper build, or that I can switch to a shotgun-wielding teleporting biotic with hp/shield buffs when the situation demands it. The various scenarios the game threw at me in the first section of the first open planet were diverse enough that I didn't feel like I was running down a linear hallway or fighting in to one of four prefab buildings.

Which leads me to the dichotomy of uniqueness. The more hand crafted the environments are, the fewer of them there can be. So far, no two places on the first story map are the same. In fact, they seem pretty different and clearly have a history. That's great... but if there are going to be dozens of planets I don't know if they can keep this up. There are 7 "golden worlds" that the explorers intended to colonize. I imagine each enemy faction will have a center of power, and then there are the missing ark ships. The impression the demo wants me to have is that each of those are filled with pretty great stories of tragedy, betrayal, and redemption. I want that to be the case. I just am not sure it's possible on the scale I've been shown so far. Eventually I expect to see enemy bases to repeat themselves; maybe in three tiers, like outpost, military hub, and capital. In the demo we are supposed to find one such base. If you decide to push the boundaries a bit there is a second; obviously with the same architectural style. I wasn't able to explore the second one due to what I assume was a plot element, but it seemed to be a good bit different than the first base.

Multiplayer. It has it. I tried maybe five games? Maybe eight? Somewhere in there. The match making sucked. I had two playable games. A few others that I slogged through but did not enjoy. When it made me host (what, why?) my computer slowed down like crazy, team mates were complaining about rubber banding. I bailed on it. I hope it worked out better for them once I left. My computer is VR-minspec, it hasn't had problems with other recent games so... I dunno what's happening there. Hopefully the day one patch will fix some of that?

The final thing I want to talk about is story and player choice. I will dissect a complete side quest, so it will get spoiled. I will talk about them AFTER I post the videos of my play through from twitch. I do not complete the sidequest in the videos, but it does get pretty spoilery.

Here are the videos.

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Okay, still with me? Great. If you've played a Bioware before you've seen some variation on the "Help! My husband is wrongly accused of murder, please prove his innocence!" quest. ME:A has one such quest. You gather evidence and find out that while he did not commit the murder, he meant to. I think this is a new wrinkle in the way that quest goes. Ignoring the fact that it is incredibly unlikely that two people would shoot at a person at the same time, and that one would miss, it leaves the protagonist in a strange place. This person is an attempted murderer, but he is about to be exiled for a crime he didn't actually commit. Of course the game doesn't present you with an option to retry him for the lesser crime... you can either free him or exile him. So what would you do? The justice system was wrong. The guy is wrong. If you exile him, he's likely to join your enemies. If you free him he's likely to do something stupid when things get bad. It's forced, but it's a shade of grey that Bioware games rarely achieve. ...then they spell that out for you. "Life is rarely black and white," says some shitty bureaucrat who refuses to do his damn job. I am hopeful that this quest was supposed to foreshadow choices you have to make throughout the game. The hamfisted nature of it and the dialog leading through it make me uncertain that it will deliver on that front. Still, if they get 50 tries to make a quest that's morally ambiguous, a couple of them will be good even if it's accidental.

I will be streaming as much Mass Effect Andromeda as I can manage starting at 11pm (or whenever the game releases) Monday, March 19th. Come check it out.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 25

We start with some multiplayer (as will be a theme until this is over). Let's talk about the Geth. It's Geth History Month. Learn about the Morning War. Learn about the fate of the Geth and the fate of the Quarians. Speaking of history, we find a Prothean napping on Eden Prime. He's kind of a jerk. It's a cultural thing. Miranda shows up to ask for alliance help with an unnameable task. We do some treasure hunting. Finally, we reach Thessia and discover the link between the Asari and the Protheans. It doesn't go great, for anybody.

Here's the video.

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 24

More multiplayer. Then we're off to rescue some Cerberus defectors. After that, the Quarians have a bit of a geth problem. We get started on that, with a cliffhanger ending!

Here's the video.

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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 23

Apparently I was having connection problems with Episode 22. A lot of side quest-doing got broken into separate videos. You didn't miss much.

In this episode we start boosting galactic readiness with a few matches of multiplayer. After that we chat up the crew, save some ardach-yachi (or whatever they're called), then chat with the crew some more!

Here's the video.

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Monday, March 13, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 22

Raid on the Citadel! Our plucky heroes face off against the human rights protest group, Cerberus! Betrayal! Redemption! Furthered agendas and machinations!

Here's the video.

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Sunday, March 12, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 21

Biiiiiiiig episode today. Like, 6 hours. I sort of lost track of time while playing this on. Someone in chat alerted me to the frame rate issues. I did a bit of research and I think it gets addressed. Should be fine going forward. Then we go wrap up as many side quests as we can. ...Then we head to the Korgan planet and save some Turians, stop some Cerebus scheme, and---do something with the genophage. Did I save the Krogan people, or did I scam them into helping the Turians without unleashing a horde of Krogans on to the galaxy? Watch to find out.

Here's the video.

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Saturday, March 11, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 20

The rubber meets the road in ME3. We're off to Palaven to recruit the Turians! But of course they're not in that easy. We need to get the Krogans to help the Turians. The Krogans want... a cure for the genophage. Thankfully, the Salarians have that cure! Lots of gun play in this episode. And lots of chatting.

Here's the video.

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Friday, March 10, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 19

This is the first episode of Mass Effect 3. We learn immediately that Anderson is no longer on the council - for some reason. It didn't bother me so much the first time through, but in retrospect this should have been the first warning sign.

In this episode we escape Earth, then we escape Mars. Liara rejoins the crew and settles into - and promptly forgets - the girlfriend role. The council still sucks at fighting the reapers. There's lots of set up. Lots of talking. A few early decisions pay off.

Here's the video.

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Thursday, March 9, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 18

Roll credits! That's Mass Effect 2 in the can. Tali and I share bacteria. Then we lost a few party members - but not the same party member I lost the first time I played this game. So that's new an exciting. I'm a bit bummed that I lost anyone - but when I'm playing through the games this fast, I suppose it's to be expected. Who lives? Who dies? There's only one way to find out.

Here's the video.

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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 17

This is a long one. In this episode we help Tali face charges of treason, then we recruit Thane on Illos. While they were wrap up helping Liara and a few random locals. After that, we recruit the pala--er, justicar. Thane asks us to settle business with his family, so we do that. Then Justicar Samara asks us to help with her family. So we do! Somewhere in there, I mess things up with Jack. Thankfully, Tali is quick to swoop in. We wrap up the firewalker missions, and stop a geth plot to destroy a human settlement on a gas giant. After this, there's nothing left but to get the super weapon and head off to Collector space.

Here's the video.

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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 16

Grunt is growing plates in strange places and has taken an interest in the female clans. We go help him mature from whelp to full-grown krogan. Then it's off to the citadel to help Garrus on his mission of vengeance.

Here's the video.

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Monday, March 6, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 15

Today's video has us doing more loyalty missions. This time for Jack, Miranda, Jacob and Morrida. So much got done! Progress has been made! I think we're still on track to finish this series before Andromeda comes out.

Here's the video.

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Sunday, March 5, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 14

In this Episode we explore a derelict ship and pick up Grunt. After that we have our first face-to-face with the Collectors. It was a pretty rough fight. Exciting times!

Here's the video.

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Saturday, March 4, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 13

Jack acquired! She's a bit of a jerk, but I know there's a heart of gold there. <3 We also paid a visit to the Citadel, got our specter status back. Over all it was a pretty good day in the Milky Way.

Here's the video.

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Friday, March 3, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 12

More planet scanning! So many planets, so much scanning to do! We help some of the crew get the equipment they need, and we put Zaheed in his place. Damnable mercs.

Here's the video.

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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 9

We see credits! All of the decisions that matter at the end are made! Blue side boob! Mysteries of the Protheans revealed! Also, I accomplished something I wasn't able to do my first play through (I think) in the final confrontation with Saren.

If you want a refresher of the important parts of Mass Effect 1, this is pretty much the video to watch.

Here's the video.

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Monday, February 27, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 8

I started off doing side quests, but at some point I decided to just push forward on the story. We face off against Saren for the first time in this video, and lose a ... "valuable" "member" of the team.

Here's the video.

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Sunday, February 26, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 7

In this episode I do some of the side quests around the Citadel. This feels like busy work after already having a gist of what the story is, but hey... gotta grind them levels somehow.

Here's the video.

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Saturday, February 25, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 6

The motherfuckin Thorian. The fight up to the Thorian? Great. The Geth are moderately intelligent, and the level is a joy to play - tense without being obnoxious. The Thorian itself? I had to save scum a bit to get through it. Limited healing, an enemy that is impossible to take on with my build's strengths, and the SECOND dumb mind control plot in the game make the Thorian my least favorite part of ME1 so far. I think I'm pretty close to the end at this point, just some side quest cleanup and one or two more main line quests.

Some of the DLC counts as a main line quest, which seems to have advanced companion dialog a little faster than was intended. Whoops.

Here's the video.

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Friday, February 24, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 5

In this episode I wrap up a bunch of side quests - including many I haven't started yet! I am sewing seeds of future bugs... welp, the only way to go is forward.

Here's the video.

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Thursday, February 23, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 4

The Rachni Queen! I remember loving this the first time through. But then the matriarch's mind control story went came up. Woof. I forgot about that. Maybe the appeal of Mass Effect is that it crams every rote sci-fi trope into the first game. I don't remember as many groans the first time through the series, but... hopefully that's just because the first game came out so long ago.

Here's the video.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 3

It's around this video that I realized the Mako is actually not good. I defended it back in the day, but now? It's pretty awful. Maybe it's the different platform that makes it super bouncy, but ...I do not remember it sucking quite this hard. Watch me suffer.

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Massively Mass Effect - Episode 1

The 4th game in the Mass Effect series comes out in about a month. To get ready, I'm playing through all of them. It's going to be a bit of a rush, especially as I take days off for work and my social life. So... here is the first of several long streams where I play through the franchise.

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Sunday, February 19, 2017

Sega CD A through Z - Part 12 - The Finale

This is it! All Sega CD games have been played (with some exceptions). It was a bit of a grind, but it's a pretty big notch in my belt.

Here's the video.

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Friday, February 17, 2017

Sega CD A through Z - Part 11

I was kind of surprised to see The Terminator was 1) Not a port of the arcade light gun game, and 2) Sort of competent? I'll probably play some more of that one. The Amazing Spiderman vs Kingpin was the game I was looking forward to playing. It seems to be fairly bad. I might play through that with a walk-through at some point, after reading the manual and maybe catching some youtube videos of how to play it correctly. Both of those are going in the pile of games that need collecting sooner than later.

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

Sega CD A through Z - Part 10.2

Sorry it's been a few days. I've had some computer issues/a few rough days at work. I had a video in the hopper that I forgot about. We should be back in business after this so... Here's more Sega CD games!

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Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Importance of Games

The other night I came home after hanging out with a couple of friends, playing board games. I was merrily intoxicated, and I was thinking about how awesome games have been in my life. Just about every significant relationship in my life - friends, lovers, enemies - has had some component of gaming involved in it. I know this isn't quite the case for most adults - or is it?

Let's take a brief look at this from an evolutionary stand point. If you've watched birds for any length of time, you've noticed them doing something playful. Some gulls will play catch with themselves, perhaps practicing their ability to hunt clams or steal them from their neighbors. When you look at smarter birds like crows or ravens, you'll find they go sledding.

If we move up to mammals you'll find otters that juggle...

Dogs wrestle...

and Dolphins have an equivalent of devil sticks (or competitive vaping, if you suck)

It seems the smarter the animal, the more complex the game. Humans are no exception - as we age our play seems to get more complex. The otter juggling? Looks a lot like a baby playing with rattles doesn't it? Dogs wrestling? 4-9 year old kids. Dolphins blowing bubble rings? Teens to twenty year old kids. 

But we don't just play as humans. We develop structured play. Games. Why? Well, I wasn't able to find a study on this, but I think most humans need rules in general. For some, it keeps us safe. For others, it lets us know when we have crossed into unacceptable behavior. For others, it allows us to manipulate others. So, as humans are working our way up the complexity of natural play, we begin to introduced games. It starts simple. Candyland and Shoots and Latters as kids are migrating between otter and dog phases. It gets a little more complicated, Boggle and Sorry for the dog phase of play, maybe some introductions to complicated games like risk and monopoly. We also show them physical games, baseball, football, soccer, rugby. An acceptable outlet for that aggressive play they want to engage in. This is where a lot of people stop developing play. Some go on to devil sticks, magic the gathering, and Pokemon, and then stop.

But some of us go further. We see the strategy of chess and crave deeper systems. We love the allegories in Monopoly, but want a more realistic representation of reality. We see the way Mario or Link encourage us to explore a world and we want new worlds, closer to the ones we're trying to make for ourselves. Some of us just like to keep our hands busy and have an activity to occupy lulls in conversation with company.

So, let's consider the last 100 or so years of adult pastimes. Your grandparents and great grandparents probably played Euchre, Gin Rummy, Hearts, Spades, or Poker to entertain company. Many people still do today. Your Grandparents and parents probably watched sports on tv, maybe bet a little on who was going to win. Many people still do today. People in their upper thirties to mid twenties? We played Mortal Kombat, Mario Kart, Golden Eye, Tekken, Smash Bros, in our dorms, and many of us brought it with to our living rooms. Then there are people across the generations who have been apart of the niche tabletop scene that has been brewing since the 60s.

(Clearly, humans have been making games for as long as there have been humans. But starting with David Wesely's Braunstein miniature war game in 1967 we have had a Renaissance of new niche games. Braunstein quickly turned into Dungeons and Dragons, which inspired virtually everything that came since - not counting Europe's near simultaneous boom in resource management games.)

So why do I, personally, crave games so much? Part of it is escapism, sure. But most of it? It's exploration. I get to learn systems and think about the interaction of objects and events in different ways. I get to see the world through someone else's lens. Games tell you something intimate about how the creator(s) see people. They are sharing something artistic that is meant to engage your emotions and imagination that non-interactive art cannot do. A great game will take show you loss, gains, hope, despair, and triumph. It will leave you with a sense of accomplishment. Over the course of hours it will give you a gamut of emotions that may take months or years to experience in normal life.

That doesn't touch on the social aspect at all. There are people I know of. I say "hi" when I pass them in the hall at work, or when I bump in to them at the mailbox. Then there are people I know. Maybe I played poker with them at an office party. Maybe we vent about work over a game of Battlefield. Maybe I met them playing a phone game. Maybe I fell in love with their laugh while playing Elder Sign. Maybe I spent hundreds of hours bullshitting and camping named monsters with them in Final Fantasy XI. The time I spend with people playing games is the time I spend building relationships. Everyone else is just occupying the same space at the same time.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Sega CD A through Z - Part 10.1

The S's! There are a lot of S titles, so I broke this one up. This episode goes from Samurai Shodown to Sonic CD. A few quick notes: Sega Classics 4-in-1 and Sega Classics 5-in-1 contain Golden Axe, Shinobi, Columns, and Streets of Rage. 5-in-1 adds Super Monaco GP.

Sherlock Holmes - Consulting Detective for the Sega CD is INCREDIBLY boring.

Shining Force CD seems like an interesting turn based RPG. However, there's a slight load before every attack which makes it unplayable.

Snatcher might be a cool game. The controls took some figuring out, and it had some blind instant deaths that made it difficult to stream in this format. I could see myself doing a playthrough of it on stream though.

Sonic CD is still the first bad Sonic The Hedgehog game.

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Saturday, February 11, 2017

Sega CD A through Z - Part 9

The Rs have some good titles. Road Rash is a classic. Unfortunately my emulator failed to play it. I did get to try Rise of the Dragon, which seems like a cool little cyber-punk adventure game. I'll probably revisit it on my own time.  There's also the best video game title of all time. "Revengers of Vengeance."

Here's yer video.

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Friday, February 10, 2017

Sega CD A through Z - Part 8

Today we cover the N's and P's. In my rush to get to Night Trap I skipped over the NBA, NFL, and NHL games, so we got two videos out of it.

I learned that I don't remember how to play NBA Jam as well as I used to. The game I completed was actually close. I did zero dunking from the three point line. Total scrub league play.

I learned that Night Trap actually had little-to-no objectionable content. The US Senate was looking for a witch to burn, and a cheaply produced slasher-horror video game (without blood) seemed like a good target. Additionally I learned that playing Night Trap without a walk-through or copious notes would be a nightmare. I doubt anyone would have played this game if not for the controversy around it.

Panic! is a weird Monty Python-esque with surrealist humor that... well, doesn't really deliver. It plays like a hypercard stack and as near as I can tell there's no way to be good at it. Whomp-whomp.

Pitfall - The Mayan Adventure is a well made, but poorly designed Pitfall game. Missing jumps forces you to retread segments of the game over and over. I lost patience with it pretty fast - but if I had gotten it while it was new that flaw would have been easy to overlook.

Puggsy seems cool. It was a character action/platformer where you have the ability to pick up, use, and drop items. You end up building platforms to use to reach higher levels. The character design certainly is novel. My chief criticism from the sample is that I was not able to determine a good strategy for dealing with the first boss. Perhaps it's something I'd learn over time. I'm pretty sure Puggsy is love, and that Puggsy is life.

Here are the videos.

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