Dear Telltale: Quit playing games with my heart. Also Backstreet may or may not be back, alright?

I’m trying to rush and finish this entry on my way home from the gym. The goal is to get as much time as possible playing vidya games tonight. I’ve got the evening to myself and one of my goals at the moment is to rekindle my love of gaming.

I started the other night, by loading up a year old save file for the Telltale Games Tales from the Borderlands. Like most in the Telltale line, it’s the gaming equivalent of a Choose Your Own Adventure tale. It’s all on rails, with assorted dialogue options depending on how you want to interact with the game’s characters. Some decisions have consequences that could dictate whether or not a beloved character survives or perishes. Telltale do an astounding job putting together the dialogue and plot. They’re refreshingly funny, and emotionally manipulative throughout. I don’t know what kind of heartless sociopath could through the adventure without becoming immensely attached to characters both central and supplementary. The Borderlands universe was an excellent choice for this style of gameplay, considering the original games did a superb job of etching character into every aspect of that would. Everything oozes personality and Tales from the Borderlands both takes and runs with what they’ve been given. One of the best aspects is how they break down the stats at the end of each chapter. You can see how your choices measured up with other players. It’s fascinating to note how your moral compass measures up with fellow players and just how effectively the writers have toyed with everyone’s emotions.

I remember playing Final Fantasy VIII at age 13 and being so enthralled by the story. It felt like I was playing through a book. I related this to my dad, who responded with a generous attempt at empathy of “that’s great. Glad you’re having fun”. He seemed otherwise unconvinced of its merits. As a kid I never could have predicted that gaming would be the most lucrative entertainment product on the planet. Years ago I had this dream of an interactive movie in a cinema. There’d be certain points where the audience would be able to collectively choose the direction the film took. Having several options, the most popular one would decide the outcome. Each showing then would have the chance for one of several endings, with some endings requiring rare audiences choices. It’d possibly even encourage repeat viewings. Maybe there’d be a discount for each subsequent visit.

After getting into these Telltale games, I’m half convinced the the technology is accessible enough to put into practice. There’d be an expensive set up cost, but the reward would be a wonderfully​ organic experience. I mean, considering Twitch Plays Pokémon, the technology to do this online (rather than in a theatre) more than likely already exists, though it likely wouldn’t feel as immersive as it would with the added proximity of inhabiting the same room.

Is someone out there gonna jump on my idea? I’d certainly love to see it come to life. I wonder if I know anyone at Telltale…

If I travel and eat enough, my blob dreams could be manifested in reality.

I do love going on holiday, but holy shit do I ever hate getting there. Being somewhere outside your norm is amazing. Exploring new territory is exciting and makes you feel like you’re expanding your boundaries. Not gonna lie, I primarily enjoy being somewhere else because it allows me to eat from areas beyond my favourite restaurants. Maybe I should forego vacations and instead look for a good restaurant at every Toronto subway stop.

When I’m on “tour”, I don’t want to have to make hard decisions. Neither though, do I want to be mentally pressed in the lead up. So in simpler terms, I wish everything could just be organised for me in accordance with my wishes. Oh, and let it be dirt cheap too, of course. It’s dumb, shitty and entitled, but undeniably true. I can tell that when I grow up, I’ll be the kind of person who’d gladly put money into other people’s if it made my experiences all the more convenient. For the first time since the 90s, I understand why travel agents exist.

I mean, it’s not the 90s. There’s still no fucking way I’d use a travel agent, but I get how it could be a viable option for old people.

Ugh, can’t I just develop teleportation powers already? That way I’d never have to book flights or any other transportation. Dealing with additional insurance costs for car rentals, delivering them to specific locations and shopping around Google for promo codes would be a thing of the past. Accommodation wouldn’t be a necessity, but if I wanted to stay somewhere different it’d still be an option. I just want to appear in an area and start ravenously devouring local cuisine. Like the sudden appearance of a B movie blob, devouring innocent passers by. I’m sure French people would taste dainty and delicious.

The reality of the situation is that life doesn’t happen like that. If you want nice things, you need to work towards them in one way or another. People don’t rush to prostrate themselves at your feet and do things for you. Unless you’re part Veela anyway. If you don’t want to think about the minutiae, then you pay for the privilege of not having to do so. If you don’t want to windmill slam fat stacks of cash onto someone’s desk, then you need to pick through travel forums, Facebook threads and RetailMeNot for inevitably outdated or invalid promo codes. Or happen to be travelling with a mega type A saint who gets off on that kind of thing. Sometimes they accept gratitude as payment.

None of this is news for anyone, but sometimes I like to use my space here to whinge profusely (read: every single day). A holiday is supposed to be relaxing. So why can’t I earn enough to do that windmill fat stacks move? You there. Person reading. Can you cause me to become a viral sensation somehow? I could use the sponsorship money for all of my dreams of laziness. It’s a worthy cause, at least from where I’m sitting.

Which is on the internet. Co-incidentally the right place to find all the info I need. Dammit. I was looking for excuses, not solutions.

More like nostaljerk.

Why is familiarity so comforting? I’ve been on a nostalgia kick lately (primarily because I’ve deep dived back into the Laser Time archive for my workplace listening enjoyment) and it’s been delightfully tickling my brain. I listened back to the early 90s “Mortal Kombat: The Album” (you’ll surprise yourself by remembering the absurd hit “Techno Syndrome“. The rest of the album is, if possible, even more cheesy. It features songs about the various characters (or in Sonya Blade’s case, a ballad she apparently sings about herself? And she’s been outfitted with a British accent?). The best part is how token most of the lyrics are. The Immortals were never given comprehensive background information about each character, so they had to write about what they know from playing the game. The result is a bunch of songs about assorted special moves each character uses, or in the case of Sub Zero…

“Whoah, Chinese ninja warrior
With your heart so cold sub zero
Whoah, your life is a mystery
Why you wear the mask? Sub zero”

Also a blatant rip off of Marky Mark’s “Good Vibrations”, but instead with the dubious line “Freezing Vibrations” (which makes no fucking sense, but I’ll go with it). AllMusic gives it a grand two star rating. It’s a festering piece of shit. Stock 90s techno coupled with the aforementioned flaccid lyrics. It should be a pain to endure, but instead it’s so fucking bonkers that it comes 180° to being a blast to hear. It’s not even a guilty pleasure for me and the only downside is that “Mortal Kombat: The Album” isn’t on Spotify, making me realise what a colossal waste my $9.99 each month is. If I can’t groove out to dancefloor suicide, what am I paying for?

It’s not new to me how much I adore nostalgia, but what is a recent revelation is how much I want the sensation without doing the work. Anime is a great example. I think so fondly of my years spent watching anime. I’d lounge around with friends into the early hours of the weekend and try to marathon an entire show. So many goddamn series. Casting my mind back to those days warms my heart, but whenever I think about getting back into anime, I realise how little I actually want to watch it. I’m way more critical than I was and getting into a new 24 episode series is a hard sell. I don’t have the time I once did. Much like video games, theory wins out over practice 80% of the time. Even knowing that, I still yearn for the underlying emotions they brought. The excitement of experiencing a whole new fictional world. Or in games, of facing and overcoming challenges coming my way.

Both industries were way smaller back then and I honestly think that was a large part of the attraction. Back in high school, anime and video games were super niche interests. We were the nerds and belonging to rare fandoms made it feel like we were venturing into unknown territory. We’d talk about them constantly, but they seemed like conversation topics only for our little group. When we found anyone else with similar interests, sharing those interests was a revelation, like we were sharing a central part of ourselves. We felt special somehow, because we were different. It may have been an illusion, but we clung to it tenaciously. These days fandom is all too easy to find. Hyperconnectivity means that others like you are only a few clicks away. Neither video games nor anime are particularly esoteric these days, they’ve expanded into normalcy. As dumb as it is, inside me there’s the sense that the experience is now cheapened. There’s nothing unique about them and with that gone, this remote concept of being special has dissipated. What’s more, the plots and character progression don’t feel like they’d live up to other available content. There are way too many clever shows to watch now, so why would I spend time on anything flimsy?

Wait, so I think I’m too cool for school now? That gives me freezing vibrations all over.

I will not bow to any sponsor.

Wow, for an ad about solving protests peacefully by offering diabetes in a can, Pepsi sure shot themselves in the face. I’d link the ad, but it’s bound to be taken down most everywhere by the time anyone would read this. If you somehow missed the “Joy of Now” ad in all of its Kendall Jenner whitewashed glory, the whole thing was a cynical cringe-fest aimed at co-opting the spirit of unrest that’s been rife in the past few years. I don’t know which brilliant internal ad exec thought going for the Bad Taste of a New Generation route would yield newfound cultural capital to coke’s attic dwelling doppelgänger. Possibly a now ex-internal ad exec.

The ad revolves around some manner of unspoken political protest. “Join The Conversation” proclaim the smiling, photogenic protester’s placards. Unfortunately for Pepsi Co, a vast many online commenters did join the conversation, quick to point out the utter absurdity of jumping on board the rebellion bandwagon by kickin’ it with a global corporation. The ad featured artists from different walks of life – A musician, photographer, model (Jenner) all noticing the protest and joining in. Whatever undefined issue was at hand when Jenner strolled past the protesting lines, a can of Pepsi awkwardly clutched between thumb and forefinger as one might hold something smelly or contagious (so as not to obscure the label, in this case), and handed it to a cop. The cop took a sip and the crowd behind erupted into cheers. Yeah, it was that fellowkids. Oh well, even if the seemingly universal condemnation did stem the rollout of their campaign, at least it’s given us countless memes that will surely entertain us all for the next week.

Pepsi Co is no stranger to misguided marketing attempts. Surely we all remember the infamous “Dub the Dew” promotion, resulting in “Hitler did nothing wrong” and “Gushing Granny” leading the pack for suggested new “Mtn Dew” flavour names? In a perfect world…

It must be pretty hard to be a marketer these days. Snark has always been in vogue, but with increasingly interconnected online communities, it’s more readily available than ever before. Unless you’re Oreos, according to a recent Google poll. I’ve read the report and still struggle to see why they’re something teens hold in such high regard. Seriously though, is a survey of 1000 teens really a valid cross-section? It’s weird, but people these days seem to be both more gullible and skeptical than ever. People are more likely to believe things if they coincide with their previously held convictions, so on one hand I kind of understand why Pepsi would’ve lunged into such a massive misstep. On the other hand, those who’re can see through marketing bullshit are able to exponentially amplify their voices in ways the 90s never offered. The notion of “cool” has always held ties to a lack of effort. It’s something you are rather than something you try to acquire.

Just ask Justin Timberlake. Drop the “The” already, Pepsi.

In-sub stantial.

Because this page encompasses everything I want it to (and more oft’, many things I wish it didn’t), I’m gonna spend today’s 30 minutes exploring Reddit. I’ve seen the Random button before, but never really acknowledged its existence. Well my friends, let’s see where the lolsorandom button takes us…

emojipasta.

I haven’t vomited yet, but it’s only because I’ve got an uncannily strong stomach. The circlejerk is so turgid it’s making me squirm in my seat. It’s also that self-aware train wreck brand of amazing. What kind? This kind. I may not add it to my subreddit list.

wowservers.

People still play WoW? That’s pretty impressive. I remember I once had a level 9 night elf ranger. I was excited to get to level 10 to get my animal companion. Playing solely at my friend’s house, however, I lost interest and forgot about it. I wonder if my character misses me, hanging out in the aetherspace of the aethernet alongside my much neglected Neopets.

uwaterloo.

Well that’s strangely close to home. In case anyone can help out, there’s 1B CS/BBA looking for grill. I hear your plight, whicheverpartofthatsentencedenotesanidentity. I only pray someone comes to your aid post-haste.

memphis.

I went to Memphis, actually. I was there on my birthday in 2011, I think. We parked our RV in an RV park, I bought cheap Chinese food and marshmallow flavoured vodka (not as bad as I’d expected). We were creeped out at how dark and ominous everything seemed. It was quiet, but disconcertingly so. An older woman with two dogs (named Grits and Gravy respectively) warned us that crime was on the up. Fortunately, everything felt rosier after half a bottle of marshmallow flavoured vodka. Everything usually does.

astrophotography.

This is exactly what it sounds like. I’ve never been a huge space guy, but there’s a bunch of stunning hi-res stuff. I mean, look at this for fuck’s sake. I don’t know exactly what I’m looking at. For all I know that could be the inside of an arsehole after eating cheap Chinese food and drinking half a bottle of marshmallow flavoured vodka. Because that was a thing of beauty. I think this one just earned a “subscribe”.

node.

Well we knew this was gonna happen. I’ve stumbled into something I have zero knowledge of. Some programming language. The top post of all time is an AMA by Ryan Dahl, its creator. If this is your thing, maybe watch out for these 10 things you shouldn’t do while running Node.js in production. You’ve been warned.

floor.

Well, here’s one for the girlfriend. Puffy, cuddly, long haired cat+ creatures. Fake or misidentified animals will be removed, so watch out. No dropbears in this establishment. 22,269 readers are watching. They may love soft things, but they draw a line on fakery.

rally.

This has everything to do with cars and nothing to do with people coming together for a cause. Unless that cause is about a race. Cars. I have nothing to add here.

VEDC.

Somewhat tangentially related, this is a more everyday person’s vehicle requirements. Instead of speed, these folks go for versatility. Vehicle Everyday Carry. I’m not convinced that this person isn’t Batman, given their absurd preparedness. I wonder though, if they’d ever manage to cross the border. Or do they have a pocket universe hidden in the truck to hide their excessive carry.

Time for ooooone more. Let’s hope it’s good and not just some fan page for postage stamp glue.

Oh boy, subscribed without a second thought.

I digress in excess on progress.

Is it weird how much of our lives are spent online now? I don’t know if I’m talking sheer time or the amount of activities we’ve relegated to digital spaces. The point is, we invest so much of ourselves in this platform. It’s a marked change from 20 years ago, but then again, so is gender. Things change. I wonder then how much we’ve changed accordingly. Have our expectations altered given our constant connectivity? Working in television, I know our expectations have definitely altered. Immediacy is the name of the game. We want things straight away on our schedule, whether this is entertainment or communication. Waiting is pretty much insufferable now. Whether it’s streamable content buffering, a release schedule or a response from someone. If you’re online, why aren’t they? Is this everyone? Or am I the lone arsehole here?

I wonder if we’ve all become more or less insufferable than 20 years ago. It’s impossible to tell, because it’s not 20 years ago, our memories aren’t that great and we can’t peer into alternate realities through some high tech pensieve. I know for certain that I expect more than I ever did, because my expectations have been continually surpassed. The world kept delivering beyond what I assumed its capabilities were. Accordingly, my beliefs of what should be capable rose. Ironically in a world that’s transcended my hopes, I’m disappointed constantly. I’ve become entitled to this idea that the world now owes me the sensation of being impressed. With artificially inflated standards, I should know that’s not gonna happen. Still, I often catch myself getting angry with a world that doesn’t owe me shit.

Oddly enough, the older generation often has the opposite problem. They’re angry that the world has progressed beyond their comfort levels. In their ironic twist, we’re achieving what they fought for and it’s making them feel insignificant. How many times have you heard the refrain of “in my day we had to…”? Safe spaces, non-binary genders, a whole spectrum of sexual attraction and identities. “You want safe spaces? In my day we had to deal with polio. You can’t handle someone calling you a boy? We were lucky if we lived to 30!” I’m being deliberately being both facetious and straw-manning. The point is, people don’t have the same struggles because you beat them. Thank you.

The wars we fight revolve less around literal bloodshed (though let’s not undermine the fact that many minorities still face disproportionate fatalities in our society) and more about wars of identity. Struggles of freedom to be who you are, they’re a good thing. Believe it or not, this is actually what you fought wars for. Your generation died specifically so that this generation could have their battles be ideological. I’m telling you folks, you’re winning. Is the concept of people wanting a safe space that offensive? Are you really that against the fight for acceptance? Or would you prefer that they suffered the same indignities you hated? Because that seems like a shitty thing to wish upon others.

At the same time, I often find myself being a shitty person without realising it. I spend so much time reading the thoughts and feelings of others online and reacting. I might read something and feel inflamed. I get these uncontrolled, unmeasured reactions in the heat of the moment. Thing is, I’m not interacting with somebody else, I’m seeing their words devoid of their delivery. I’m taking the distillation of their thoughts, lacking the emotions that birthed them, then basing my reactions on how my brain filters how I’d perceive those thoughts in my head. So I’m reading those words in my brain without taking into consideration their gestures, inflections, cadence, or backgrounds. It’s pretty easy to see why we come to so many misunderstandings when we really don’t put much effort into understanding one another. But, of course, that would take too long and immediacy is the name of the game.

We could be living in a utopia folks, but it’d take a lot of patience and hard work.

Well if you can take anything from this Oscar rant, it’s that I’m a grouch.

Went on an unprovoked Facebook rant after seeing a bunch of everything is fucked if La La Land wins Best Picture articles. A friend of mine commented that she didn’t get why the film was being so hyped. I got very Ranty McRantface. Here we go:

To be honest, I really liked the film. From the opening scene right to the end I found myself captivated visually and audibly. The colour palette and shot composition was beautiful. I enjoyed the dialogue and structure. It was funny and stirring when it needed to be. I thought the two leads had great chemistry. It felt like a massive experience and when I’m spending time in a theatre, that means a lot to me.

I think La La Land is a great film. I think Moonlight is too. At the same time, I feel like most of the backlash is Tall Poppy Syndrome due to some bizarre idea that the whole Oscars Industrial Complex has anything to do with rewarding merit and not just a chance for Hollywood to alley-oop itself and get more promotion for its films.
Why the fuck did they expand the Best Picture nomination section to ten films? Because money. Because then ten films can put “Academy Award Nominated” on their posters in an attempt to make them more appealing to film goers.
Do people think that La La Land was actually a terrible film? If they do, cool. Movies appeal to different people in an assortment of ways. Really though, are they shitting on it because it was poorly made? Or because they have an issue with the fact that Moonlight (an excellent, beautiful film, you’ve got no argument from me. Except maybe about the shaky camera technique that meant I couldn’t physically watch most of the film without feeling nauseous. Not the film’s fault, my body is weird) isn’t getting the respect that it deserves *because* of La La Land? If the Oscars didn’t exist, would people even care? Or would they both be independently enjoyable films?
People can think piece all they like about how The Oscars are failing society by not rewarding diversity or shining a light on films that represent social inequalities and struggles ignored by the mainstream, but the truth is that The Oscars don’t give a shit about people or non-mainstream views. They always have and likely always will be about the (predominantly rich/white, let’s not kid ourselves here) “cultural elite” patting themselves on the back with one hand while jerking themselves off with the other. Not until their ratings (advertising dollars) or major cinematic attendance suffered would they start to care about championing diversity. Even then, they wouldn’t care about people, just their money and the impact it has on them. The whole ceremony is a big joke that people take very seriously.
TL;DR – I think Moonlight should win too, but that doesn’t make La La Land remotely terrible. The Oscars aren’t a true gauge of a film’s value, that’s something you create for yourself. Also Mia not using BCC is 2016’s Kelly Rowland texting Nelly in excel.