Saturday, August 11, 2018

On Plagiarism, IGN's Filip Miucin, and Loving to Write

This past week there were two huge stories in the video game world. One was a damning piece by Kotaku's Cecilia D'Anastasio 'Inside the Culture of Sexism At Riot Games'. This is everything that journalism should be: cutting, exhaustively researched, and deeply important. I feel a natural tendency to support fellow writers in this age of "fuck the media" and "choose your own reality". GamerGate loves to target Kotaku in particular as some conspiracy house creating nonsensical hot takes. But this article is definitive proof they're wrong: Kotaku is doing some of the best work covering this industry. Great job, I'm actually jealous of it.

The other big story is a much more unfortunate one, and that's this shit with IGN. That's the one I'm devoting this entire post to. I just wanted to bring up the Kotaku article because not every journalist is the newly unemployed former-IGN Nintendo Editor, Filip Miucin. Miucin in a single review made IGN look bad and ruined his career forever. I've been obsessing about this case for the past few days, which you'd know if you follow my twitter. As somebody who likes writing, would die to have Miucin's former job, and wants gaming media to be improve, Miucin's stupidity (there's no other word for it) is deeply disappointing to me.

My first reaction to the accusations that an IGN Editor stole a Dead Cells review was to assume it was bullshit. It made no sense to me. The original review was written by a very small Youtube channel called Boomstick Gaming. Not knowing who they were I could see this as being some smear piece or just somebody misunderstanding the situation. As I said, I want to support my fellow writers and wanted to give Miucin the benefit of the doubt. Games media is accused of all kinds of things, and we need to band together. I watched Boomstick's video and for most of it still thought this was a mistake. A lot of the sentences were just standard things you write while making a basic review. However by the end of Boomstick's video it was clear this was not a coincidence. This was a big problem.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Oakland Renaissance: Sorry to Bother You & Blindspotting

I have never been to Oakland, California. It's a city I know mostly for being the home of the Raiders, a mob of post-apocalyptic Mad Max mutants who are an occasional threat to my beloved Denver Broncos. But in 2018, suddenly Oakland has become more than a hated football rival. It's now one of the capitals of the film world. Oakland-native Ryan Coogler rewarded his hometown with a major subplot in this winter's smash hit, Black Panther. Now in summer you can see two of the best movies of 2018, both created by Oaklanders, shot in Oakland, and set in Oakland, Sorry to Bother You and Blindspotting.

Blindspotting is a dramatic commentary on the city's demographics. Its heroes are struggling with the very old problem of police violence while confronting a new one with gentrification and hipster imperialism. Sorry to Bother You though is a surreal SciFi comedy in an all-out war against capitalism. This Oakland is an arch satire of a real thing, owing a lot to RoboCop. However, don't let Sorry to Bother You's absurdist trappings fool you into thinking it doesn't have a lot of real shit on its mind. Oakland in 2018 is swimming in conflicts between class, race, and culture. Its residents, unsurprisingly, have a lot to say.

I'm from Jersey, about as far from Oakland as you can go without getting wet. Yet what that city is going through doesn't seem very far away at all to me. I've seen fancy condo skyscrapers bulldoze their way through Hudson County. PATH station ads promise a glitzy lifestyle in these soaring palaces. It's nice to be able to park in Jersey City without worrying about my car getting stolen. But this isn't Jersey City anymore. There's a whole different city of steel and wealth that took its place. Newport in the course of just my lifespan was colonized and completely rebuilt for 21st century yuppies. So when the people of Oakland worry about their losing their identity, I know the feeling. Oaklanders, however, are finally getting heard in 2018, and that's what this Renaissance is all about.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Super Mario 3D World vs Super Mario Odyssey

Of all the 3D Mario games, the two that seem the most different are Super Mario 3D World and its successor, Super Mario Odyssey. 3D World is a level-based platformer with a deep love for nostalgia. Odyssey takes Mario to new places with vast open worlds built around hunting for Moons. One is about restricted pre-designed experiences, the other is all about the freedom to make your own adventure. Nintendo shifted gears completely in design philosophy for Mario in just four years.

On paper at least, last year's Super Mario Odyssey seems like the superior game. It's a big, exciting new direction for this series. Mario is traveling the world, interacting with weird new art styles, and he can wear a sombrero. It's a return to that now-classic Super Mario 64 and Sunshine structure, where the entire game is one big scavenger hunt full of things to discover. Only that scavenger hunt is now on the Switch, so Mario's environment looks more beautiful than ever. The various locales are brimming with unique textures and personality at a scale never before attempted. Odyssey should be everything I could ask for from a new Mario game. In comparison, 2013's Super Mario 3D World should be conservative, retro, and dull.

Clearly then, Odyssey is the bright future for this series and 3D World is your grandmother's Mario. Yet between the two games, I prefer Super Mario 3D World. Twist ending: I was Grandma the whole time!

Mario Odyssey has the most potential between the two games but the worse execution. I'll never not love the idea of Mario wearing a sombrero so Odyssey is still a very good game. Yet it tries to be everything at once with nearly 1000 Moons and doesn't accomplish any one thing particularly well. Meanwhile Super Mario 3D World bleeds every drop of imagination and possibility from its small slice of gameplay. That title knows exactly what it wants to do and does it brilliantly. Odyssey is a decent collectathon, however 3D World is a near-perfect platformer. Grandma knows what she's talking about sometimes.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The North Korean Summit: A Fantasy of War and Peace

One thing I love about E3 is that the sheer volume of gaming news, gaming discussion, and gaming debates drowns out the rest of the world. I could finally ignore all the endless pro-Trump and anti-Trump drumbeats that pollute this planet. Instead I could focus on stupid video games. Children getting thrown into cages? Sorry, I need to think up my Beyond Good and Evil 2 take. Concentration camps at the border? That sure sucks, but so did Square Enix's press conference. My greatest horrors of anti-immigration racism coming true? ...That Tunic game looks cute though! Sadly now it is Tuesday, the distracting circus of hype is over, and the gaming press is currently on a week-long hangover. Time to talk about that other, less fun media circus from last week.

Last Tuesday Donald Trump signed a thing with North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. I call it a "thing" because I don't still don't know what it was. The whole affair sure looked like a major peace accord. There was a piece of paper with signatures on it. News people took pictures of two world leaders shaking hands. Somebody even cooked up a fake trailer. In some ways, the Singapore meeting was the ultimate E3 press conference. It was a big self-congratulations full of pomp and glitz, with no real substance at all.

I know this post might seem hypocritical considering what I wrote about North Korea last year. In case you've forgotten: I said we should back down because Trump's threats were stupid and dangerous. So from that perspective, I'm fully behind the president meeting with Kim Jong Un, shaking his hand, and turning down the heat. I'm glad he's defusing the very tensions he stirred up, but I still have to ask: "what does this mean?" I can't say "oh, Trump did something good" before I know what he did. Especially when I suspect the entire thing was a sham from the start. [Insert obvious Final Fantasy VII Remake joke here.]

Thursday, June 14, 2018

E3 2018 Games I Want to Talk About

E3 2018 was a really good E3. If you like games, you probably now have at least half a dozen must-buy titles. I watched the press conferences while doing some mental accounting and realized that this show will probably cost my future self somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand dollars in video games. All indications are that 2019 is going to be a ridiculous year in gaming, as good as 2017 if not better.

As for 2018... well, it's mostly a holding pattern at this point. At least I have time to go back and play Super Mario Odyssey now. It seems like the gaming industry fled 2018 en mass so now the first three months of 2019 will be jam-packed with electronic riches beyond your wildest imagination. Or possibly it will all get delayed to 2020. Take your time, video games, I still need to play Nioh.

What's really crazy is that by usual standards, E3 2018 should have sucked. Square Enix embarrassed themselves by coming to the show empty-handed. I can name more games that Nintendo should have shown than games Nintendo did show. (Where is Yoshi?? I'm angrier about Yoshi missing E3 than Final Fantasy VII.) Even Sony's conference was pretty bleh. And EA was EA, as usual. Yet there's still mountains of games. E3 2018 is like the greatest Christmas toy catalogue of all time. I have no idea how I'll be able to cover everything I want to talk about. So strap in, because there are thousands of words coming.