Monthly Archives: August 2013

Why Comics Growing Up Means Universes Have to Die…

Sometimes, I write for other blogs about other aspects of geek culture. This is one of those. If you’re interested, swing by The Promethean Playground.

Spoilers for New Avengers

What makes modern day comics so interesting in the “gray” areas in which they decide to tread.

In the medium’s early years of “flight and tights” stories, it was all about truth, justice, and the American way. Everything was black and white; you knew who the good guys and the villains were, and you knew the outcome every time…

The heroes would do the “heroic” thing, and win.

There wasn’t a discussion of the morality of the action. There didn’t need to be. Captain America just had to punch Hitler or Superman just had to save Lois one more time. This was the norm.  No one questioned it either. It was a lovely naivete that we all accepted, and we enjoyed the stories that came with it.

Yet, as the years went by, comics grew up along with its readers. Nowadays, things are not so clean cut for our heroes. Yes, there is still Cap, Superman, and all the other classics, but they are put into situations that would never have crossed the minds of their original creators. They force the reader to question their own ethics and morality, and to examine these “heroes” in a different light.

This brings us to New Avengers…

New Avengers focuses on the Illuminati of the Marvel universe, a secret cabal formed to take care of the universe ending threats that may come upon Earth. Its membership includes Iron Man, Mr. Fantastic, Dr. Strange, Black Bolt, Namor, Black Panther, Captain America, and most recently Beast (who took the deceased Charles Xavier’s position.) These men shape the Marvel universe from the background, and safeguard existence without anyone’s knowledge.

Since its relaunch, the group has been dealing with “incursions” into our universe. These incursions are where a parallel universe starts overlapping with our own, and if not stopped, destroys both in the process.

The group spends the first couple of issues trying to find ways to stop this from happening; even to the point of using a reality warping deus ex machina (the infinity gauntlet) to “push” one of the encroaching universes back. Of course, this only works once due to the gauntlet’s destruction, and the Illuminati are left to wonder what they need to do next.  This invariably leads them to a singular conclusion…

Destroy the other universes.

It is a terrifying thought, but a completely rational conclusion. If nothing is done, both universes will be destroyed; so why not destroy one in order to save the other? It is the classic ethical debate, the moral quandary that has been discussed by Ethicists and Philosophers for years.  Do you kill the one to save the many? Do you let some people die, so that not all will?  Yet, instead of reading it in a textbook, we get it played out in our comics…

This type of discussion forces the reader to confront his or her own feelings on the issue. As you read the page, you find yourself naturally drifting to one side of the argument or the other.  As the reader travels deeper into the story, they too find our more about themselves in the reading.

How far would you go to save your planet? What lines would you cross to what you believe is right? We are able to live vicariously through some of our most iconic heroes as they play out their own answers to those very questions…

Sometimes doing things that we didn’t think they would…

This is what differentiates modern comics from most of the Gold and Silver age stories. Those were written to make you feel good, to experience a bit of escapism, and maybe some pro-America propaganda (lookin’ at you, Cap.)

Now, there are many mainstream comics out there that exist not only to tell a good story, but to make you think along the way. This, of course, leads to much more adult and darker story beats; not for the sake of being edgy but for greater narrative depth.

Long gone are the days of yore where your heroes were always the “good” guys. We live in a world where people get their hands dirty when trying to do the “right” thing; where even our heroes are living in shades of gray in the name of protecting all of us. Modern comics have given writers the opportunity to discuss these types of philosophical and ethical issues in a medium whose typical reader wouldn’t be normally interested in such discussions.

Because comics have “grown up,” they have become an open forum to discuss topics like racism, sexism, morality, ethics, sex, philosophy, religion, and so much more. Writers today don’t want your comics to just be about escapism, they want you to use your mind in the process.

The flipside to all of this is the fact that there has been an innocence lost in our comics. Now that we culturally have crossed some line, there is no going back to that old way of doing things.  This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it just means things are different now, and different can be good.

The age of the morally ambiguous hero is upon us, and the stories that will come out of this will be incredibly interesting. Whether it is the questionable actions of the Illuminati, Superior Spiderman’s gang of spider-thugs, or the ENTIRE concept of the Suicide Squad; these stories would have been impossible to tell before; at least in their current form.

Only time will tell if we ever find our way back to the “flight and tights,” days, but until then all we can do is look back, remember who we were and wonder where our heroes are going next.

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“At the risk of sounding over-optimistic, I think there is a huge benefit for the industry overall in having two platforms launch very close together…It creates a large focus on our form of entertainment that wouldn’t exist unless there were these two powerful organizations, both playing in the same space.

Sony’s Andrew House on this Holiday’s Console War…

Well, He’s clearly feeling pretty positive…

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The Joys of “Dumb” Fun

I love Dynasty Warriors.  It is completely ridiculous, hard to follow, and the voice work is so bad it makes you cringe. Yet, I cannot get enough of that game. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t buy every iteration of the series, but it is one I come back to every handful of years. It is completely brainless in its action, and it doesn’t take much to understand what the game wants you to do.  Its the video game equivalent of a “popcorn flick.”  There’s no real substance to it, and that’s okay by me.

 

Dynasty-Warriors-8

Screw Lu Bu. Seriously, for eight games the guy has been a total dick…

 

Normally, the games I play (and then in turn write about) are the types that are trying to convey some sort of message or tell a story in one fashion or another.  Usually, these games are fantastic, and move the art form forward.  This is always a good thing.  Yet, like the movies, not every game can be Oscar bait; there always has to be a Transformers.  A movie, or in this case a game, that reminds us that the medium can just be about “fun.”

The More You Know...

The More You Know…

Frank O’Connor of 343 Studios said that Halo was about finding the five seconds of fun, and then repeating it throughout the course of the player’s experience in the game.  In that game’s case its about that combination of shoot, grenade, melee, repeat.  They built a whole multi-million dollar franchise on that simple concept.  Dynasty Warriors is about taking on and defeating multitudes of nameless enemies by the hundreds and Gears of War is about chainsaws and “bros.”  None of these games are bad by any stretch of the imagination; in fact, its quite the opposite.  Yet, the majority of these are not game of the year contenders either.  They exist purely for the fun of the player.

 

Just a little bit of chin music...

Just a little bit of chin music…

 

Games like these are good for the industry. They exist as “palette cleansers,” “guilty pleasures,” and many other things.  Games like Halo and Gears of War are the summer blockbusters of the gaming world and are amazing experiences.  We need games like this.  Not everything needs to strive to be a Journey or Thomas was Alone.  Sometimes, we just want to play a game.

 

 

Escapism doesn’t have to be a bad word, and for many people who play games, that is the number one reason they choose to.  They want to experience something fantastic, they want to try something new, to see some strange new world and be the big damn hero.  That’s why Destiny and Infamous Second Son looks so appealing to me; they are both taking me to a different place and time and letting me experience something that I never will.

 

The only thing this game needs is Tauntauns...

The only thing this game needs is Tauntauns…

 

For every Fez, Hotline Miami, and The Witness; there needs to be a Call of Duty, Titanfall, or Ratchet game.  There is a place for all types of stories and mechanics in this industry, and with the upcoming generation there will be even more opportunity to see all sides of this entertainment medium explored.  So whatever your tastes; now more than ever, is a great time to be a gamer.  Enjoy it for how it makes you think…and how is sometimes gloriously doesn’t.

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The Thinkcast Vol. 2 Ep. 3 – Poke-What?

Well, we were a little short on our cast, but we still got together for all of you this week.

 

In this episode we discuss Mass Effect, Pokemon, Women, the Kinect 2.0 issue, Call of Duty Ghosts, and why Stewart has no interest in GTA V’s online…then we break him.

 

Starring Stewart, Ryan, and Jonny

 

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Simply “Symphonic” or The Future of Video Game Music

Little to most people know, but I was a music minor in college.  As such, music has always been an integral part of who I am.  It speaks to me like a canvas speaks to a painter, or stone to a sculptor.  I believe that it, like all art, can change lives and effect us to our core.

 

I think that is why game music has always been an interesting topic for me.  It combines two of the things that I love, and it is constantly evolving with the medium.  When you think of early games, names like Nobuo Uematsu and Koji Kondo come to mind.  More recently, Jesper Kyd, Jason Graves, and Martin O’Donnel have been instrumental in crafting some of the more memorable modern soundscapes.

 

Some how, David Valjalo managed to get the three of them together for an incredible interview; discussing modern game music, how it has developed and where it is going to go.  If you have any interest in either medium, please go give it a read.  It is one of the lesser thought of aspects of game development, and one of the most important. Enjoy

 

http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2013-08-12-game-music-the-next-generation

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1 Million Concurrent Views….of DOTA 2

Wow…just wow.

 

I’ll be honest. I’ve never played a MOBA, but I hear DOTA 2 and League of Legends are the best.  Recently, Valve held the DOTA 2 International tournament and streamed the whole thing on Twitch.  At its peak, there were over 1 million concurrent viewers…

 

That is completely nuts…

 

In a good way, of course. I would kill for a small fraction of that for the Thinkcast. It is truly an amazing feat for DOTA and for Valve, and for that, we here at Gamers Who Think give them a tip of the hat.

 

Here’s a quick breakdown from Games Industry International

http://www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2013-08-14-dota-2-tournament-gets-1-million-concurrent-viewers

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Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes and What Could They Mean

The XBOX ONE is not the system that was announced months ago.  So many things have changed since that initial showcase.  It is no longer “always-on,” it can now play used games, and even most recently, it no longer needs the Kinect 2.0 to function.  For all intents and purposes, the system that was promised initially is no more.  What we have now is a system that is nearly identical to Sony’s PS4.  What does this mean? For gamers, for casual players, and for the future?

 

For Gamers

 

Regardless of your feelings towards Sony or Microsoft, this is a win for all of us.  With all of the focus now off hardware considerations, it is now a conversation about the games.  Though most games are not exclusive to any one console, those that are become of even greater importance to the fanboy audience.  Do you want to play Titanfall? Does Infamous Second Son speak to your sensibilities?  Once again, we can talk about the games, and not the drama surrounding the systems and their issues.  It will make this holiday all the more interesting; especially as parents find out what their kids’ friends are playing.  Speaking of…

For Casuals

 

Well, it means that the holiday marketing for each is going to be very important.  Now that both systems are seemingly on an equal playing field (sans price), it will be up to the PR departments to make sure that Mom and Pop know which system is the “right” choice.  Sony’s price point might not make that much of a difference when Joe Average knows that he and his buddies have always played Madden on the Xbox.  Sony will have to show why PSN is the better choice now, and Microsoft will need to remind gamers why they are on top when it comes to online play.  The X1 will also have a possible edge in the family market with the Kinect 2.0, but that speculative at best, especially now that the Kinect is no longer mandatory…

For the Future

 

Eventually, everything will be digital.  For better or for worse, Microsoft’s vision of that future will not come this fall.  The changes that have been made have completely wiped out any chance of some of the more interesting and genuinely cool features the X1 had initially promised.  Who knows what gaming would have looked like in a couple of years had the system launched as intended?  Nonetheless, this is world we live in, and we will get to see this fall how this all plays out.  My money is still on Sony, but never count Microsoft out.  They were backed into a corner and been coming back swinging since E3.  This fall will be a slugfest; and I couldn’t be more excited.

 

For Now…

We wait and see..

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Is Final Fantasy a Walking Corpse?

Chris brings up some incredible points in his article on Wired.  I tend to agree with him on the majority of it.  Sadly, I still have some hope for the series.  Albeit, I never finished XIII or touched its sequels, so maybe that colors my opinion.  I think XV (what was formerly Versus XIII) looks quite interesting, but this might turn out to be my last go of it.  Here’s hoping that Square-Enix still has the magic left, because I believe many of us know this could be their final shot.

 

http://www.wired.com/gamelife/2013/07/final-fantasy-is-dead/

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Thinkcast Vol. 2 Ep. 2

Well, here it is, folks!

 

We got ourselves together again to discuss games, and other things like Turtles, Phil Fish, and Batman….always more Batman.  Feel free to comment below and don’t forget to rate and review on iTunes as well! Thanks!

 

[audio https://gamerswhothink.files.wordpress.com/2013/08/thinkcast-vol-2-ep-2.m4a%5D
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We Need Your Help!

We’ve got another ThinkCast incoming; and we would love to answer some of your questions, video game or otherwise! So please, comment below, on Twitter at @GamersWhoThink, or email us at GamersWhoThink@gmail.com!

 

PS Ryan has said he would solicit his dating advice to all who seek, so you have been warned!

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