Category Archives: Uncategorized

#GamerGate: The Players and the Played

Hammer, meet nail.

Paula Wright

The #GamerGate controversy reached a new high (or low depending on your perspective) recently when one of its main protagonists, the radical feminist and cultural critic, Anita Sarkeesian, was featured on the front page of the New York Times. Ironically, in view of the focus of her criticism about passive female characterization in video games, she herself was cast as the “damsel in distress”, under threat from active male protagonists.

Ostensibly, headlines like this are a direct validation of her work. Sarkeesian asserts that video games directly contribute to a culture of gendered violence in real life and – hey presto – there it is!  

But are radical feminist claims about games promoting violent norms really correct?  Studies of violence in video games say no. Last year the U.S. Supreme Court evaluated the evidence and came to a disappointing conclusion for people, like Sarkeesian, who are fond…

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Platypus Musings: The Better Sonic Game (For The Genesis.)

I am a Sonic the Hedgehog fan and I am not ashamed of it, despite the fandom’s rather unpleasant reputation it has earned over the past few years. Allow me to make my intentions clear: this post is my opinion, which–for better or for worse–is largely influenced by nostalgia and sentimentality rather than objective analysis. I have no specific area of interest; I read the comic books published by Archie; I play whichever games I find appealing; and I am a fan of the animated series that aired on ABC back in the nineties. However, the original Genesis trilogy (I lump in Sonic & Knuckles with Sonic the Hedgehog 3 because they were intended to be one game) will always hold a special place in my heart. When I look at “Top XX Sega Genesis Games” list online, it usually comes to either Sonic 2 or Sonic 3&K. Both are awesome games in my books with colorful and vivid graphics that were an improvement over the original game (which was no slouch either) as well as memorable music and tight controls. But when it comes down to which game I prefer, I would go with Sonic the Hedgehog 3 & Knuckles. While the first two games were iconic, the combine third and fourth games were an experience.

My affinity for Sonic 3 goes back to late January of 1994 when my family went to the Garden Island, otherwise known as Kauai, to escape the bitter Canadian winter. I recall visiting the Sears at Kukui Grove Shopping Center in Lihue (which has since closed, sadly) where I found Sega Genesis on display with Sonic 3 in the cartridge slot, the strange part is that it had a copy of the game running days before its official release date: February 2, Groundhog Day–make that Hedgehog Day. Though my 10-year-old self probably did not care, he just blasted through the Angel Island Zone and Hydrocity. Well, to tell you the truth, I sucked at the game at the time but it left an impression on me. It was part of a larger experience that included fun at the beach, parties with the whole family, and enjoying the verdant beauty of the island, which is part of the reason I asked for a Sega Genesis that Christmas–so I could get a copy of Sonic 3 to remember that trip in some small way. Unfortunately, that did not happen until eighteen months later until Mom bought me a copy of the game from a Kaybee Toys in Washington State though I do not recall the exact location. 

Sentimentality aside, there other reasons why I preferred Sonic 3 & Knuckles to Sonic 2. In terms of graphics, the sprites where slightly more detailed with a gradient that made Sonic and Tails stand out better against the background, and speaking of which, the levels–The Angel Island Zone had quite a lot to live up too considering the Green Hill’s iconic status as the tropical wonderland. Personally, I preferred Angel Island slightly more. While I love the checkered landscape of the Green Hill, Angel Island seemed more more lush with its verdant foliage (the reminds me a bit of Kauai) with the mellow beat of  the bongos. Emerald Hill, on the other hand, was a rehash of its predecessor whose background music lacked the “get up and go” of Green Hill. Another aspect that I like about Angel Island ties into another part I liked about Sonic 3. Back when I was playing through Sonic 3 in the Sears at Kukui, I (finally) reached the halfway point of Act 1 where the mini-boss descends from the sky. I try to hit him when a whole fleet of mini-bosses firebombs the stage. My thoughts at the time were probably this:

10-Year-Old Me: Holy $#!^!

Mom: Watch your language!

Something I believe many people overlook about Sonic 3 is that it was the first game that was trying to tell a story. The first two games broke the action when you finished a level or beat the boss by showing the title card for the next level and BAM! you are in the next level without the game telling you why. Whereas in Sonic 3 & Knuckles, after you beat the boss for each level, there is a reason why you ended up there and why you needed to be there. For example, after you beat Robotnik in Angel Island, Knuckles blows the bridge and Sonic (with Tails) plunge down a waterfall to Hydrocity. Similarly, in Hydrocity, after Robotnik runs away with his tail between his legs, a large jet of water sends the two flying toward Marble Garden and in the case of Sky Sanctuary, Knuckles takes Sonic and Tails there so they can catch up with and board the Death Egg. Momentum was always an integral part of the Sonic games and the story told in Sonic 3 & Knuckles gives the game a larger sense or momentum and urgency to it. Factor in the addition of the three shields (Fire, Lightning, and Water), the different gameplay mechanics of Tails and Knuckles, and the larger levels with more branching paths, the game feels like a more complete experience than its predecessors.

That is not to say the first two games are not as fun to play, they are every bit as entertaining. As an aspiring writer myself, I like it when the game attempts to frame a story around it without becoming cumbersome, and despite the comparatively primitive technology at the time, Sonic 3 & Knuckles performs admirably well, especially without using dialogue and letting the player’s imagination fill in the gaps. Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 simply do not engage me that way. I enjoy blasting through the Green Hill or Chemical Plant Zones as much as any Sonic fan. I plan to dust off my Genesis and play them again in the future but Sonic 3 will always be my favorite because of the impression it left on me.

All-New Marvel NOW, same as the last.

avengers-now-poster

Despite what I have said about Marvel absolutely killing the DC/Warner Bros. giant when it comes to superhero movies, their comic books are another matter completely. Though it is not exactly news anymore, most comic fans are aware of a woman taking up Mjolnir and Thor’s role as the goddess of Thunder and Sam Wilson (AKA the Falcon) taking up the mantle of Captain America now that Steve Rogers is showing his age now that a supervillain sucked to Super-Soldier from his veins. However, I recently came across this GIF via the Facebook group, “Has DC Done Something Stupid Today?” (Odds are yes.) In it, “Marvel” proudly declares in all caps

MARVEL: NEW FEMALE THOR

DC: I didn’t-

MARVEL: NEW BLACK CAPTAIN AMERICA

MARVEL: TAKE ALL THIS COOL SH*T MARVEL BE OUTIE!

MARVEL: PEACE

Pardon me if I must say that I can barely contain my indifference because it feels like Marvel retreading old ideas taken from the eighties and nineties. This is not the first time Odin has deemed Thor unworthy and this is not the first time that a woman has held Mjolnir, as Wonder Woman did in the likely non-canon DC vs. Marvel crossover from 1996 and Odin subjected Thor to the gender bender in the post-apocalyptic Earth X. As for Sam Wilson taking up the Star-Spangled Shield, it makes sense. He has been an associate and partner of Cap since the late sixties, after all. However, this is the second time Marvel has replaced Steve Rogers in a decade. Remember The Death of Captain America from 2007? A brainwashed Sharon Carter assassinated Steve Rogers shortly after the end of Civil War. (But as with most superheroes, he got better.) James Buchanan Barnes AKA Bucky AKA The Winter Soldier took up the mantle and actually held onto it for four years until Fear Itself in 2011. Marvel wants its readers to believe the shake up of the status quo will have a lasting impact on the comics, but I find that hard to believe when the House of Ideas is doing a little recycling. To be rather blunt, these press releases leave me rather skeptical that there will be a lasting impact. I admit Captain America’s death lasted and had an impact but then they hype the death of the Human Torch, then the death of Peter Parker to make way for the Superior Spider-Man, and now the Death of Wolverine. The former three came back, why should I believe the world’s most populate Canadian will take the dirt nap for long?

In some ways, I see it as denial on Marvel’s part. Despite the ubiquity of superheroes in film, television, and other forms of marketing, none of that has translated into a long-term rise in sales within their native medium. DC Comics is just as guilty, but it is becoming so obvious on Marvel’s part. For all this talk of “diversity” (something I find lacking in comics, I admit) all this crowing about “NEW FEMALE THOR” and “NEW BLACK CAPTAIN AMERICA” comes off as crass marketing and attention-seeking by paying the barest lip service. Especially when we know that Thor will pick up Mjolnir again and Steve Rogers will regain the Super-Soldier Serum eventually.

Sorry Marvel, as a firm believer in the Status Quo is God, I am not biting.