Double Sunshine

Life still hasn’t let up, kicking me in the delightfully shaped rear end while I kick back even harder.  Time’s at a premium, so it’s hard to get posts together, but luckily, that’s where you get friends stepping into help out.  We’ve been nominated for the Sunshine Blogger Award several times already.  We possibly might be the most nominated blog in history.  For all I know.  And as I’ve said before, although I don’t really do these viral blog awards the dignity of passing them on, I do appreciate being nominated, as it’s a good way of putting together content when time is limited.  And it’s always nice being considered.  So, very recently, when we’ve gotten Sunshine Blogger nomination number 5 from AK at Everything is Bad for You and number 6 from Red Metal at Extra Life Reviews, it came as a nice breath of fresh air in these busy times.  Good for me, because I get to make some content that I enjoy doing, and good for you, because you get to learn more about the best thing that ever happened to you.  So lets hop to it.

First up, obligatorily and enthusiastically, if you’re hanging out around my parts, you probably already know AK and Red Metal.  You’ve likely spent a lot of time at their blogs.  Because at this point, the three of us bounce things get on so much we’ve essentially formed a Player Character Party in the JRPG that is the blogsphere.  But if you haven’t, check them out.  If you like my work, you’ll likely like theirs as well.  

On to the questions!  Starting with AK’s.

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Aether’s Best of Aether

So, these are busy times for your main man again, and I haven’t had as much time to sit down and write lately as I’d like. Now, I could just skip making a post for now, or I could phone it in and put together a quick bit of nothing, but I love you all too much for that. What I’m going to do instead is lean on my long blogging history and create new content all about my old content.

I’ve been blogging now for eight years. Eight years. That feels freakin’ impressive. I have seen multiple generations of bloggers rise and fall during that time. Now, I’m a decent writer. Good, maybe I’ll allow you to call me. Even great. Sure, we’ll let that go. If you wanted to say stellar, I wouldn’t argue. Awe-inspiring would be an adjective some could use. “The Best Blogger in all of Human History” if you wanted to go there, I suppose. Incredibly sexy, of course, but that goes without saying. I do well enough at what I do. Enough people seem to like and respond to the things I create to give me the spark to keep doing this thing I enjoy doing. But some posts are better posts than other posts. That’s just the way it goes. Even for absolutely gorgeous geniuses like me. I do go back through my old writings occasionally and I’ve got my favorites. So I thought I’d highlight my favorite posts of my own work, and we can all either run back down memory lane or get introduced to some things I did before you started hanging around these parts that I really like.

This is actually a page I’ve been wanting to add to this site for a while. Something to help draw more attention to what I consider my best work to people just recently finding this place, rather than just relying on my newest posts to be most visible. So don’t be surprised if you see this list reappearing on this site later, in some form. And for that matter, for the more long-term projects, I’m only going to be including the stuff I’m mostly finished with. I’m loving the Project G series I’m doing so far, as well as the ongoing Persona Retrospective, but I’m moving through them slowly so they’re far from their final form yet. Seems unfair to include them when I still can’t be sure I’ll be happy with the final product. Anyways, here we go. Aether’s favorite posts and projects on Lost to the Aether.

  1. The Dark Souls screenshot Let’s Play

If I had to choose a crown jewel for my blog, the bits I think are absolutely the best quality, this would be it. When I was first typing up my runthrough of the early bits of Dark Souls, I was just expecting it to be a one-off post, but I had enough fun with it that I decided to come back to it, still not expecting to take this tack through the whole game. But I did. And it’s a series I go back and read through every once in a while. I really enjoy screenshot LPs, and I feel like I managed to capture everything I wanted and get it in just the style that I love to read. And it’s a series I’m really proud of. Making LPs is tough, and this took me 70 hours of game time and more than two and a half years to do, but I got through it, and I feel I made something glorious in doing so. It’s a long read, but if you’re into anything I do here, I’d highly recommend going through that. First post is linked to in the header here, while the whole series is available in its category in the sidebar. For that matter, I think the Fallout LP was going really well, too, but unfortunately my computer died and took the save with it right when I was getting into the end game, so I can’t recommend it too highly, given it doesn’t reach the end. Well-known perils of LPing.

2. The LeftHanders of Video Games

I’m left-handed. In spite of how I act in those posts, it’s not a big deal, not something I really give a lot of mindspace to. But it is a part of being who I am, and it boggles me that for all the variety and creativity we see in our characters in most forms of media, something that’s present in 10% of the population in the real world has nearly no representation among fictional characters. So I wanted to take some time to highlight the left-handed characters that have gotten some show in my chosen medium. At thirty-five characters between these three posts, I’m pretty sure I have the most comprehensive list of left-handed characters in video games on the internet. And I’ve still got more to do. I’ve been collecting notes on further characters showing up to eventually get together a 4th post in that series. So keep your eyes out.

3. The Right Time to be Sexy in Video Games and the remaster, Good Sexy, Bad Sexy

Sexuality is awesome. There’s long been loud voices absolutely hating any hint of sexiness in media. I know, I grew up with some of them. There’s the moral guardians, there’s the pearl clutchers, there’s the culture warriors, all abhorring the scantily clad characters and the sex scenes and the fan service and the titillation. Moral judgments get placed often. Being as drop dead sexy as I am, I’m pretty enmeshed in sexuality, and you’re never going to convince me that it’s a de facto bad thing. But it is often misapplied to the detriment of the work it’s in. In these two posts, we take a lot at that, working out when sexuality does and does not work in all the various forms of storytelling.

4. Visual Novel Theatre: Doki Doki Literature Club

This is my favorite review I’ve ever written. Was fun to write, it’s still fun for me to read, I really dig it.

5. The Saints Row Retrospective Series

I really enjoy doing these deep analyses and retrospectives, but trying to make a summation of whole games like this is really time consuming and intensive to create. Still, although I probably won’t be getting back to it until after I’ve hit a good stopping point with the Persona Retrospectives, I still made a really good take on a bunch of games in one of my favorite series, and this was one of the biggest things bringing people here early in the blog’s life.

6. Your Primer to NJPW’s G1 Climax 28

This post is one that’s way outdated now, but I got to talk at length and put together an introduction to one of my big passions. I feel I put a lot of spirit into that one about a subject I was really excited about, and although it’s probably not going to interest most who visit the same way it does me, that’s one of the posts I’m most proud of, personally.

7. All up in Nintendo’s Business

People have a lot of opinions about company’s actions, and Nintendo’s choices have often seemed very unusual. I don’t work as a business consultant anymore, but it’s still fun for me to step back into those shoes an analyze the internal cultural and organizational factors that might make a business move the way they move. I’m probably super wrong on a lot of it, but the mental exercise is still fun to go through, and I hope, to follow along with.

8. Lagging Behind on the Leading Ladies

I get tired of having to play as characters that look basically the same all the time. As I kid, I got frustrated with being a mascot, as a teen, got bored with being a random anime dude in most every game, and at the time I wrote this, I was just plain done with being a brown-haired 30-something schmuck in most every game. I’d like to see more female protagonists in the games I play, to give it more variety. But I also hate people pushing for simple solutions to complex problems. And as I thought about it, the choice of a protagonist’s gender is quite complex. I go into detail on just what those complexities are here, as I see them. Things that can be overcome, certainly, but I’m not going to go pushing for more gender diversity in my protagonists without acknowledging that they’re there.

9. Visual Novel Theatre: Yandere-Chan and Yandere Simulator: The Destined Battle

According to my site stats, I’ve had hundreds of people move from the first post to actually checking out the game’s site. I’m not really big-time enough to swing audience numbers for most things, but given the magnitude I’ve had with that post and Yandere-Chan being an independent, amateur project, that feels like I’ve made a difference there. Of course, that started up a strange thing with the searches that drew people here, with hundreds of people now finding my blog while looking for either the similarly named Yandere Simulator or porn of the similarly named Yandere Simulator. So I feel by that point, the Yandere Simulator post is obligatory. I had a lot of fun with it, though.

10. The Fantasy Prejudice Problem and Constructed Worlds vs Civil Rights Metaphors

This is a huge pet peeve of mine, when creators will have their aliens or mutants or monsters or what have you face discrimination and try to relate it to real-world discrimination when they’re really cheapening the discrimination people face in real life by having their beings be actually different or actually dangerous, and introducing a whole lot of unintended counterarguments as well. I talk more about it in these two posts, and it’s something I wish more creators were aware of.

11. Inspiration for the Legend of Zelda Currency?

This is a little nothing of a post. Just an idle thought I had, put down, and never went back to. I found a Japanese Rupee, which they used when they occupied Burma during World War II, and related it to the Legend of Zelda Rupee. Obviously, there’s no actual relation there, it was just a thing I through out into the world based on the vaguest of connections. I don’t know that the post is even all that interesting or entertaining. But it is my most popular. This post gets more views than anything else I’ve done on this blog. So, for that alone, it merits a place on this list. I guess that’s something people really wonder about.

12. Freytag’s Pyramid vs. Non-endings in Storytelling

I am darn proud of this post. Get to explain foundational plot structure to you way better than your English teacher ever did, and bag on that punk Frank R. Stockton while I’m doing it. I feel really good about the things I discussed there. Think I talked about a smart but dry thing in a really entertaining way. There’s also been a fairly prolific writing vlogger who’s referenced the post and used the multi-climax pyramid I created for the post in a few of her videos, and it is incredibly fulfilling to me to have created something for other people to use and build off of. That was one of the things I had in mind when I was starting this blog, wanting to be a creator of content, not just consumer, and it’s really nice to see something I made contribute to something else. The left-handed posts did as well, but I can’t find the posters folks made off of them now.

So there. Go check out those posts. I like them, and I’ve got phenomenal tastes. You should too.

Sow a Seed Blogger Award

Awwwwwwwwwww…. yeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaah!

Man, I have lost track of how many of these awards I have won now. I have been building new shelves in my house to hold all these awards when WordPress finally gets around to sending them to me. If I keep being this award-winningly magnificent, I might have to remodel. Get an extra room in there. To hold all my awards.

This most recent one comes courtesy of Thero at A Reluctant Hero, a blog about essentially whatever’s on Thero’s mind at the moment. Usually video games, but sometimes she’ll hit some other notes, such as when she recently went over some local ghost stories from her region. I found her blog a good positive place to follow, so give it a look. You might like it. And obviously. she has good taste.

So, let’s take a look at THE RULES of this blog award.

  1. Put the award logo/image on your blog.

There. Doesn’t particularly match my manly allure around here, but we can check this off the list, at least.Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.

2. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog

Hey! I did that already! Man, I rule. And so does Thero.

3. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well.

Hmm… is that why people make these viral blog awards? To get additional clicks from everyone’s site that catches the virus? Oh well. The creator of this award is MyAnime2Go. Maybe they’re a great site for you! I don’t know, I didn’t read them, so no official endorsement there.

4. List the rules.

Ok, let’s see here. The rules are:

  1. Put the award logo/image on your blog.
  2. Thank whoever nominated you and provide a link to their blog.
  3. Mention the creator of the award and provide a link as well.
  4. List the rules.
  5. Give a brief story of how your blog started and the problems you faced.
  6. Give five pieces of advice for new and old bloggers. (Note: you can still mention a tip that’s been mentioned already because we all express things differently)
  7. You have to nominate 5 -12 bloggers.
  8. Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog or just reaching out to them.

5. Give a brief story of how your blog started and the problems you faced.

Eh, don’t have much of a story to go with here. I used to be big into online forums, and got all my online socialization piece and my discussion of all the nerd stuff none of my friends were into through them. But then life changed , and I wasn’t finding the time to keep up with them, so I let those drop. There’d always been a number of other bloggers I followed, really enjoying their work, and occasionally I’d have pangs of wanting to do that too, but never really wanted to commit to it. And then on a whim I spent a week making overly badass descriptions of some mundane things I’d been cooking on Facebook, and friends started saying I should start a blog, so eventually, I just did it. Except I use my nethandle so none of them actually know I have this blog.

As far as problems I faced go… eh. I mean, it’s writing. I can do that. There’s definitely been less of the ‘if you build it they will come’ factor than I thought there would be in the beginning, and even what I consider my best works don’t really get as much audience as I would have thought I deserved, but hey, I’m a small blog, much like most everyone doing this, but I still enjoy doing it. And in some ways, having such a select, private audience works even better. I’ve known many bloggers to completely burn themselves out by focusing on increasing their audience. So in retrospect, that’s never been a problem for me.

6. Give five pieces of advice for new and old bloggers. (Note: you can still mention a tip that’s been mentioned already because we all express things differently)

5 pieces of advice. Huh. You’d think after having done this for almost 8 years, they’d come to me more easily. Let’s see.

  1. Write what you enjoy.

Again, I’ve seen lots of people burn out on chasing greater readership. And I get it. Writing takes a lot of time, a lot of thought, and sometimes a lot of prep work and research. It’s natural to want it seen by as many people as possible. But we’re working with a blogosphere that has tons of good and great and mediocre and bad content and it’s hard for even the best of the cream to rise above the rest of the crop. If you’re going to be taking all that time to be writing this material, you need to enjoy the act of writing it. That’s the only way this is going to be worthwhile. It’s not the audience that makes it worth your time, it’s you’re own enjoyment.

2. Be social with it

You know what one of the best parts of blogging has been for me? The social aspect of it. The comments. The bouncing ideas off of each other. The other bloggers cluing me into new games that I wouldn’t have given a chance otherwise. Getting ourselves a shared experience. Again, I don’t have a large circle here. I’m pretty selective about which blogs I’ll follow, and I don’t get the audience that keeps my comment section going for ages. But I greatly value everyone going through here, and every other blogger I have as part of this regular network. It has truly made all this experience more worthwhile. In fact, shout out to the lurkers, too. I don’t know you’re there, exactly, but if this material means enough to you that you’re taking the time out of your day to go through it, that means a lot to me.

3. Be wary of doing things just to generate content

This one’s not an absolute rule. Sometimes you play a game just to make a blog post about it, and it’s a really good time. Or it gets you a really great post. Or whatever. Sometimes it works out. But do that sparingly. In my experience, at least the way I’ve gone, the best content seems to come out of the things I wanted to do anyways. I didn’t originally intend to turn my Dark Souls run into a Let’s Play, but my experiences with my first few hours of the game were so profound, that I felt compelled to do so, and then I found the experience so much fun that I kept doing it, and I think I put together something really great overall. And that passion, when you’re genuinely interested and having fun in doing something, I think that comes through to your readers a lot better than when you’re forcing yourself into something just to have the content.

4. You’re unique. Trust that.

Well, I mean, of course I’m unique. There’s not exactly all that many genius video game players with a great tact for writing who also happen to be the sexiest man in the universe, but really, your thoughts, your impressions, they’re yours. I used to hold back from writing certain things I was wanting to, because I thought someone else would have said what I already wanted to say. But sometimes, I took the time to look that up. And I couldn’t find that. Like, this blog has what I believe to be the most comprehensive list of left-handed characters in games on the internet. And when I was doing my first post of that, I was absolutely sure someone else had already written a complete list. Except no. Nobody had. There were a lot of partial lists, but nothing that was as full or captured as many options as I had, as far as I can tell. Same thing with my posts on why Nintendo behaves in the unique ways it does. Or why we really don’t see that many female video game protagonists. Those things seem so obvious to me that I was sure everyone else already had those thoughts, too. But they didn’t. I have never seen anything like those posts. My thoughts are both incredibly intelligent and unique to my own style, even if they seem like I’m saying things everyone must already know. Because they don’t already know. And they need me to illuminate them. And that’s the same situation you’ll find yourself in, too. Your thoughts are worthwhile and unique, so let them fly.

5. Use your personality

Blogging is personality driven. Use that. Let that shine through. Most people change personality in writing, at least a bit. Try to avoid that. You’re not here to force humor, to tone yourself down, to put on a show for others. Be genuine. Don’t try to impress, don’t try to force, don’t try to be accepted. Be you.

7. You have to nominate 5 -12 bloggers.

I don’t have to. Watch me not.

In general, I don’t make a habit of passing along these viral awards. Because I don’t spread virus. Just watch me crush the coronavirus into submission. But yeah, I’m a curmudgeon, and nominating bloggers for content crosses out of my comfort zone, so I shan’t.

8. Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog or just reaching out to them.

Ok, I will do that with all my nominees right now.

The Mystery Blogger Award!

A while back, we got another one of those social bloggy award things.  And you know what, it’s time to run those down.

So our blog award today comes courtesy of noted friend-of-Aether Red Metal, and I think this one, the Mystery Blogger Award, is in fact one that I haven’t gotten before.  Given how award winning this blog is, that’s becoming more and more of a rarity.  So, Red Metal, thank you for the easy content and the opportunity to express myself.  And hey, you like video games, or movies, and hate traditional media critics, you should give his site a looksee.  You’ll probably like what you see there.

Jumping in, we’ve got 11 questions to run down.

  1. What’s the most unusual work you’ve ever experienced?

I had to think long and hard about this one.  There’s a lot of values for unusual that we could go with here.  Maybe the works that make a point of being unusual?  Or how about the ones that have a whole bunch of elements that only seem connected by PCP?  Or maybe we should take a look at the things that have never been replicated, or the ones that came out of strange circumstances, or the ones that speak to me in a way I don’t think they’re going to to another human being alive?

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In the end, I just kind of settled on the Sword of Truth series.  This is not the most unusual work by many of the metrics I listed above, but it is very notable for being the absolute best example I can think of for when editors look at something, figure ‘eh, it’s still making money’, and let the creator just have whatever they want out of it.  For a long time.  It’s a huge novel series, I think twenty one novels as of this current writing, and I kind of checked out of it at around book 10 so it could be going even stranger places than I remember.  It starts out as something of a more typical fantasy novel, albeit with a side villain that rapes little boys serving a biggest villain that will make little boys come to a familial love with him so he can murder them in magic rituals and also the lead character spends a lot of time being captured by murder BDSM practitioners and the titular Sword of Truth is a magic sword that makes people really really angry and apparently that helps them find the truth, so you know, your value of typical may vary.  Then, it got successful.  Then, author Terry Goodkind got to do whatever he wanted with it.  And author Terry Goodkind loves two things; 1: writing incredibly detailed, lavish descriptions of settings and actions that end up stretching the plot so long that he runs out of space and time at the end of the book and has to rush to wrap everything up in as few pages as possible, and 2: creating incredibly strange situations so he can force his sometimes stupid political views down your throat.  Over the course of the series, the hero has murdered the local equivalent of the senate because he grew tired of their politics working against him, slaughtered a bunch of pacifists, decided that it’s foolish to believe in the afterlife in spite of the fact that he has been to the afterlife and has regularly spoken with the spirits of the dead and the devil equivalent, has a personal army of torturers, marries someone that comes from a clan of women that reproduce solely by raping men they’ve turned into mind-slaves and forcing them to kill any male children that result, and he’s the hero.  Anyone that has a problem with any of that is wrong and evil.  You’re expected to take it all as completely, unambiguously capital-r Right.  Also, he’s a magician, but his magic works by emotion and need which is basically a means for the author to write in whatever the plot needs to move forward without bothering to justify it.  Like, it’s in his magic that he just instinctively knows whatever to do without needing to learn it or actually figure things out…3

It’s actually kind of interesting to see, this is how far someone can take stuff like this.  The thing that makes this unique, is that it’s sometimes actually rather well written.  Like, the author is not like most that’ll devolve into just going on screeds all the time, where it largely seems to be that they don’t have skill beyond the central idea.  Terry Goodkind has real fantasy writing skills when he feels like using them.  He just doesn’t, most of the time.

  1. What is the best work you have experienced that no one else seems to know about?

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Here’s another one that’s taking some thought, and I can go a couple of ways with it.  Orwell is the one that rises to the top of my mind, though.  It’s a 5 episode game, kind of visual novel-esque, where you’re working for the government of a rather oppressive country, basically spying on people’s digital communications and passing information you find there on to a handler in order to try and track down a gang of terrorists.  It’s very well written and plays with its medium very well.  The story branches in a few select moments based on what information you choose to pass on, if anything, and the choices actually do seem meaningful and nuanced in a way that constantly had me questioning the choices I was making and the outcomes I was pushing for.  It had a central mystery that I kind of got wrong in rather glorious fashion and enjoyed every step of my process getting there.  And it brings a surprising amount of tension for a game in which you’re staring at fake e-mails and chatlogs all the time.  I had a rather great time with it, but it’s not one I’ve heard of from anywhere else.

  1. If you could go back in time and go to the premiere of a classic film, which one would you choose?

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The 2013 Lone Ranger.  Which is an odd one, given that the film is really not great, but it’s a personal one.  I worked on the film.  It was a rather small capacity, but there’s one scene that would have been very different if I wasn’t involved.  However, I’m not in the credits, nor was any acknowledgment ever forthcoming.  The production company originally working on the film was happily working with my organization, then a dispute caused Disney to can them and get another production company on it, who were just coincidentally wanting to do the exact same scene in the exact same area with the exact same resources that the original production company was planning, but if they publicly acknowledged my organization or anyone else who was involved in that, they’d basically be admitting they were stealing work.  So yeah.  It’s not something I’m bitter about, but it’d be nice to have my part in it recognized, so that’s why I’d want to head to the premier.

  1. If you decided to write fiction, which genre would you choose?

This is an easy one.  I have written fiction.  And I go for speculative fiction stuff.  Sci-fi, fantasy, or magical realism that’s kind of heavy on the magic.  I enjoy constructed worlds, or having places that aren’t where I’m currently living.

  1. What is the most disappointingly predictable plot twist you’ve ever experienced?

The Passion of the Christ.  Jesus coming back from the dead at the end.  C’mon, totally saw that coming.

  1. What do you consider to be the strangest title for a work?

Let’s talk Touhou.  I’m not sure what their naming conventions for their games are, but I’m pretty sure it involves an English dictionary and a dart board.  Let’s see, some examples:

  • Antimony of Common Flowers
  • Faith in the Goddess of Suwa
  • Immaterial and Missing Power
  • Shoot the Bullet
  • Undefined Fantastic Object
  • Double Dealing Character

Granted, I’ve never played any of the games, so maybe there’s a way to parse the titles and have them make sense, or interpret what the content of the games are, or something.  I’m betting not, though.

  1. Where in a theater do you prefer to sit?

In the middle, and high enough up that I’m either looking straight at or down at the screen.  Looking up doesn’t bother me as much as it seems to others, but it’s not my preference.  I hate spending the whole film looking slightly to the left or right, however.

  1. Do you have any graphic novel/manga series you’re currently following?

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Yeah, a couple.  Now that they’ve been releasing omnibusses for it, I’ve been catching up on the Grant Morrison run on Batman, which I think is one of the best runs Batman’s had.  It does some really interesting things, treating everything that’s ever happened to Batman as canon, but largely shuffling aside the stories and characters everyone knows in favor of the weird, the obscure, and the cringeworthy stuff, so much so that the Batman fans are just as lost as the newcomers, and then interpreting those into the current bits.  It also brings up some consequences for that weird not-supposed-to-be-canon time Batman got raped in the 80s, had the original Robin take a role as a rather different but frankly excellent in his own right Batman, and introduced some really interesting villains on top of Batman’s usual rogue’s gallery.  Unfortunately, some of the greater DC universe stuff at the time lended some things that didn’t really mesh well with the traditional street level Batman, and I’m not as much a fan of the Return of Bruce Wayne and Batman Inc. lines as many others are, but overall, it’s a frankly excellent run.

I’ve also been reading through the X-men, started with the originals some time ago and am just now getting caught up to the modern era.  They were never as great as they were when Chris Claremont was writing them, although there are some quality stories in there over the years as well.  And I picked up basically all the published works of Hiro Mashima a while back through Humble Bundle, and I’ve been working my way through Fairy Tail.  It’s kind of a typical shonen thing, and it suffers a bit from the author obviously going by the seat of his pants, but it starts to get pick up a bit and try a lot of new things around the middle of its run that have me interested, so far.

  1. When it comes to reviewing films, which do you feel are more effective – traditional, written reviews or video essays?

Written.  In general, I prefer written reviews.  More content in less time, they don’t require presentation or editing skills to get ideas across effectively, and it feels a bit easier to explore the ideas being presented.  I’m well aware my take on things and what’s important to me doesn’t exactly match up with most other people’s, so I prefer to be able to get my own take on the review and filter it through my own preferences, and that’s a lot easier to do when its written.

Although I kind of wonder, given that this question is posed to a bunch of bloggers, if there might be more of a tilt that direction.

  1. What aspects of old-school game design do you wish would make a comeback?

I’d like to see more turn-based RPGs gone through a modern lens.   To some extent, turn-based battle systems have largely gone a way, and in a lot of cases I’d say rightfully so because a lot of developers would just end up leaving them rather mindless in design, just hammer the A/X button until you beat the game.  But I do think there’s definite potential in the structure.  Zeboyd Games has shown that by bringing some more activity and strategy into the turn based structure, Shin Megami Tensei manages it by putting enough pressure on you that you have to strategize within it, and the Mario RPG’s action commands inject energy.  It’s never gone away completely, there’s always our Pokemons and what not out there, but I’d like to see it more, albeit with modern sensibilities and creativity in mind.

  1. What aspects of old-school game design are you glad went away?

Lives and continues.  Frankly, I think doing away with those really opened up the medium as a whole.  Repetition is not good for entertainment, being sent back to the start upon enough failure would ruin storytelling, and severe consequences for failure means that the challenges need to be simpler and easier to maintain interest.  Doing away with those let developers up the complexity, give more long-term storytelling, and expand their games a lot more.  We’re better with saves and checkpoints, overall.

Blogger Recognition Award

There was supposed to be another post here.  But I’m heading into one of those periods of life where time is at a premium.  So plans change.  But luckily, like a dreamy superhero, AK swooped in to save the day, nominating us for one of those social viral blog awards, providing a quick shot of easy content just when I needed it the most.  He may not be the hero we deserve, but he’s the hero we need.

And in an interesting twist, this is not an award I’d ever received before.  Which is strange.  I thought I’d gotten all of them already.  But no matter.  This blog’s path of award domination shall continue unabated.  Watch in awe, dear fellows, as I crush this award and all else in my path!

So, let us start by examining the rules that are foolish enough to challenge me.

  1. Say thanks to who nominated you and leave a link back to that person’s blog.

So, thanks to AK, of the gaming and other stuff blog, Everything is Bad for You.  You should check his work out.  If you’ve been around here for any length of time, you know I love writing long-form looks into the media I consume, and judging by the massive Disgaia post he’s sitting on top of at the time of this writing, he loves the same thing.  I find him to have some rather thoughtful takes on his chosen subjects, and he’s opened my eyes to some interesting things I wouldn’t have known otherwise.  He’s also been a common influence around these parts, both with his thoughtful comments and his other blog awards.  In recognition of his contributions, and in return for this award, I hereby bestow upon him the much coveted “Friend of Aether” award.  You may all commence your bowing now.

  1. Give the story or history of your blog.

So, here’s the thing; I don’t have a real big reason or anything why I started this blog.  There were a bunch of influencing factors.  I was following and a regular commenter on a bunch of other blogs, and kind of wanted to do that myself.  I had done a bunch of dumb posts on Facebook basically hyping up my cooking in a really over-the-top way, and a lot of people who read those kept getting after me about starting a blog.  And, historically, I’d been involved in a lot of forums, but had kind of stopped getting much out of those.  And really, I was at a point where I really wanted to reach out of myself, and do something that connected with other people.  So it had been on my mind for quite a while.

I do remember deciding to take the plunge and actually start with it after one of the many, many games industry controversies happened, and there was nothing coming out about it that really reflected my thoughts on the issue.  I don’t even remember what it was, but I do remember that feeling.  Beforehand, I had been carrying the assumption that anything I had to say would have been said already by any of the millions of other journalists, bloggers, commenters, or video makers covering the industry, that there was no original thought under the sun.  And yet, there I was, with some particularly strong point of view that nobody else seemed to have.  So I thought there was room for me on the internet yet.  So I created this.

And this is a bit of an odd blog, isn’t it?  I mean yeah, there’s a lot of games content here, but really I just talk about whatever I want to.  And it’s kind of always been like that.  I used to think my niche was business analysis of the game industry, and sure, there’s still some of that.  But sometimes it’s amused me to muse about writing.  Sometimes I posted a small bit of that graphic novel I was practicing my art skills with.  Sometimes I write about wrestling.  Sometimes I do lets plays.  Sometimes I start up huge projects that I don’t see through.  Sometimes I get in deep with Godzilla.  This blog has no focus.  And that’s the way I like it.

  1. Give two or more pieces of advice for new bloggers.

Write for yourself.  Write what you enjoy, write what gives you meaning, write what makes your life better.  If you’re writing to pursue views, you’re likely to end up unfulfilled.  If you’re writing to try and make a buck off of it, you’re likely going to end up hating what you’re creating and getting less income off of more work than if you took that effort and put it elsewhere.  This is a hobby that takes an extensive amount of time, and a lot of thought, and a lot of your personality, and if you’re putting all that into it and you’re writing for something other than yourself, it’s not going to be worth it to you.

And be social with it.  I didn’t expect it at first, I was one of those ‘If I build it they will come’ people, but honestly one of the best parts, and one of the things that really keep me going, is engaging with my fellow bloggers.  Again, time is at a premium for me, so I can’t spend as much time reading and commenting and discussing as I would really like, and I’m not necessarily the market for every other blogger that comes across here, but what I can do does honestly make this whole experiment more worthwhile.  Connecting with my fellow bloggers is meaningful, and I wouldn’t still be doing this if it didn’t happen.

  1. Nominate 10 other bloggers and link their blogs.

Guess what?  I don’t play by your rules.  No, I think I’m so great, and I deserve this award so much, that I’m just going to nominate myself 10 times.  So take that, blogosphere.

But seriously, thanks to AK for opening up this content, thanks to all of you for being here, and I look forward to seeing y’all when our paths cross again.

Sunshine Blogger: The Four-ening

We’re continuing our Sunshine Blogging spree by taking on the questions that Red Metal posed for us in his nomination.

And frankly, if you hang around this place, you know Red Metal.  He and I have been blog allies for quite some time.  He does a lot of video game reviews, pulling some rather unsung parts of games history out of the pile as well as the traditional classics.  On top of that, he’s been doing film reviews as well.  Guy puts a lot of content out.  So go check his blog.  You won’t be sorry.  And thank you, Red Metal, for this honor.

Other than that, rules are the same as the last three times.  Or, frankly, any of the many other awards we’ve gotten.  Questions are different, however.  Let’s go!

  1. What do you feel is the ideal length for a studio album (or LP)?

Roundabout an hour is the perfect length for me.  Substantial enough to be getting at an artist’s sound from a variety of angles and to make for a full experience in the car, which is where most of my albums get played, but not so long that you start to get tired of it.

2. Have you ever accidentally rendered a physical copy of a game/film/album unplayable?

Aaaaahhhhaahahahahaaaaaa…. all the time.  Let’s see.  I think first was with a copy of SimCity 2000.  Dropped the disc underneath my computer chair, and in attempting to pick it up, ran the chair’s wheels over it.  Never got that recovered.  My copy of Saints Row wasn’t running as smoothly as I wanted it to, and I had my Xbox in the vertical position.  I wanted to see if it’s work better if it was horizontal, so moved the console while the disc was spinning, and that put in a thick circular scar that made it unreadable.  My local game shop was able to fix it, though.  A similar thing happened with Fallout: New Vegas, when the cat knocked the console over while I was playing it.  Game shop guy came through then, too.  Later, he went out of business, and I bought my own disc grinder for those knocks and scratches.  Got a lot of use out of it, but a few missteps.  I had a used copy of Eternal Darkness that was always in poor shape, but it had degraded to the point where it just couldn’t read anything past a certain point in the game.  Tried to get it in the disc doctor, but the tiny little Gamecube discs didn’t mount correctly, and it ended up in worse condition than ever, to the point that it wasn’t even readable.  And the used disc I bought for Yakuza 4 has a slight scratch in it that had absolutely no effect on the game except for one late game cutscene that it prevented from loading, completely ending progress.  I ran it through the grinder and got the disc in absolutely pristine condition, except for the fact that it didn’t work at all.  Apparently you can’t just grind down the scratches on blu-rays the same way you can with CDs and DVDs. I had to replace the disc entirely.  Save data was on the console, luckily enough.

I swear, I am truly an elegant and graceful person.  These missteps are totally unrepresentative.

3. What series do you feel has a confusing naming convention?

Godzilla is absolutely the worst at names.  The. Worst.  Seriously.  Let’s see if you can follow along with this.

Godzilla (1954) is a different movie from Godzilla (1985), which is different from Godzilla (1998), which is different from Godzilla (2014).  Godzilla, King of the Monsters! and Godzilla: King of the Monsters are different movies.  Mothra vs. Godzilla and Godzilla vs. Mothra are different movies.  King Kong vs. Godzilla is different from the upcoming Godzilla vs. Kong.  Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla and Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla are different movies.  Terror of Mechagodzilla is the sequel to Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla, not Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II, which takes place in a completely different timeline than Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.  Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla was notable for having a direct sequel in an era where otherwise every other film around it completely restarted the continuity, but the sequel was titled Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. and didn’t refer to the previous title at all.  However, Mothra vs. Godzilla and Godzilla vs. The Thing are different titles for the same movie.  Same with Ebirah, Horror of the Deep/Godzilla vs. The Sea Monster, Invasion of the Astro Monster/Monster Zero, All Monsters Attack/Godzilla’s Revenge, and probably a lot of others I’m not perfectly aware of now.

On top of that, and this seems like a really minor issue now, most over the films are titled something in the structure of Godzilla vs. Other Monster which is only helpful if you can distinguish the names of the monsters.  Do you know the difference between Megalon and Megaguirus, and can tell me whose film features the coveted Big Dumb Godzilla Dropkick?  Becoming a Godzilla fan requires a guide of some sort.

4. What critical darling do you feel completely failed to live up to the hype?

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I remember people raving about Psychonauts.  I remember people bemoaning the fact that it’s not talked about more, didn’t sell enough, doesn’t take up enough space in our collective consciousness.

Then I played it.  And you know, I get what people like about it.  It’s got good ideas, it’s got a lot of creativity, it’s really high concept.  It’s just not very fun to play.  The controls are clumsy, the environment is often unresponsive, the challenges before you are really uninteresting, etc.  This is a game that’s a blast to watch, to absorb all the good parts behind it.  Just not to actually get your hands on the controller.

5. Which work do you feel should have deserved more attention?

Time is starting to correct this, but Fire Emblem has long been one of gaming’s unsung treasures.  I love turn-based strategies, but you very rarely get a good series going.  Fire Emblem has earned it’s place as one of the best.  I can understand why it never got much love.  Nintendo didn’t have faith in it on the American market until their character’s placements in Smash drove demand for it, and even then, the rampant permadeath, minimal developmental advancement between entries, and really basic presentation makes it hard to recommend for the general player.  But the strategic gameplay is really solid, and the series always deserved more than just surviving on the very edge of profitability.  From Awakening on up, though, the series has been getting a lot more success, and that’s really nice to see.

Now, if it would just get enough success that you could manage to find a copy on sale or for something less than MSRP even years later, that would make me a pretty happy man.  Nintendo doesn’t really cooperate with deal hunting.

6. Do you prefer a foreign work to be subtitled or dubbed in your language?

Film and TV, I prefer them to be subtitled.  I have a lot easier time with my film-industry burnout stress issues when watching a movie if I don’t understand the language being spoken, for whatever reason.  Video games, I prefer them dubbed, usually, especially if they’re going to be delivering any spoken content outside of cutscenes.  Given that I’m interacting with the work and my attention needs to be going in a couple different directions, having the dialogue draw too much of it away by making me both read and listen and mentally attach one to the other through translation conventions just doesn’t work on the fly.  Video games seem to get higher quality dubs than film and tv as well, that helps.

That said, I’m not super picky on it, and there are times when dubs can improve or reduce the quality of a work.  I just want the best experience available, and I can go between them as needed.

7. Can you remember an instance in which you managed to succeed in a game by the skin of your teeth (e.g. beat a difficult boss with barely any health remaining)?

Lots of times.  I think one of the most glorious times of that was in fighting Artorias in Dark Souls.  And you know what?  You guys were there for it.  Nice to have it recorded for posterity like that.

8. Can you remember an instance in which you got completely robbed playing a game?

Yes, and it still burns me.  No More Heroes has the absolutely worst overworld I have ever seen in games.  It’s big, expansive, takes forever to traverse, and mostly empty.  You have to deal with it, though.  It’s not an optional part of the game.  Specifically, to get your story missions, you have to grind for them.  You have to pay money to get your missions, and the only way to get sufficient amounts of money is through the inane minigames that are scattered around there.  To access them, you have to sign up for them at a central location, drive through the lame overworld to get to them, do the worthless thing, drive back, sign up again, rinse and repeat.  It’s not fun, it’s not engaging, and no matter how anyone tries to say it’s really satire, this is one of the dumbest and most disrespectful things I’ve ever seen anyone include in a game.  The core gameplay is pretty good, so you deal with it, but as you have to do more and more grinding to get to your missions, it really starts to wear thing.

Halfway through the game, you have to pay about $800,000 of game money to access a mission, if I remember correctly.  Tons of grinding.  Contrary to every other mission you’ve been through, when you start this one, it’s just a big long hallway.  No open areas, no twists and turns, nothing really to capture your interest, just long hallway that you fight basic dudes in.  But then you get to the end.  And the boss comes out.  And the bosses are the best part of the game.  This guy looks intense.  This is going to make up for it all.  But who’s that other guy in the cutscene?  And why did he just slice the big boss in half?  And now he’s leaving?  You never got to fight the boss?  Oh well, mission success, now grind $900,000 for the next mission.

I turned the game off then and I have never been back to No More Heroes.

9. What is your favorite arcade game?

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I have not played this since I was a kid, so nostalgia may well be twisting my perspective, but Ninja Baseball Batman was my favorite arcade game as a cub.  The only place I ever saw it was my local Pizza Hut, but I spent so many quarters on that game.  I don’t know if I ever beat it, but I do remember coming really close to the end multiple times.

10.  If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?

I would make a world tour, and visit the homes of the significant others of all my enemies and take them all on their dream dates.  No romances are so sweet as the one that ruins the life of someone you hate.

11.  What critics (in any medium) do you find to actually be reputable?

These days, not many.  I would much rather get an opinion from one of my fellow content creators than trust a review.  I trust the staff of PC Gamer more than anyone else, however.  It used to be because they were the only outlet I would see that would be openly negative in previews about a game that just wasn’t fun to see.  Everyone else, no matter how they trashed the game when it was released, you could always go back and see those same staff doing their jobs of being good industry outreachers and talking up that exact same game in previews, but PC Gamer would openly state that the games not good.  I don’t see as much of that these days, as I’ve moved away from traditional video games media as a whole, but I still see them taking a more balanced line than other outlets, not so much trying to partner with the publishers until they switch sides so they can milk a bad game or controversy for the big bucks then ingratiating themselves with the publishers once more to start the cycle over again.  I’ve gotten a little bitter about that, haven’t I?

Well, in the interests of sparing LightningEllen, no nominations this time.  Yet.  We’ll see if anyone displeases me first, then they’ll be staring 121 questions down as well.

Sunshine Blogger v3.00

We’re back, baby!  Went on a bit of an unintentional hiatus there, but yet again, Lost to the Aether rises like the phoenix.  You all now have my permission to rejoice.

We’re going to ease our way back in here by addressing the not one, but two Sunshine Blogger awards/nominations/whatever we received while I was out in that horrible, fearsome place we call real life.  Yes, both AK from Everything’s Bad For You and Red Metal from Extra Life Reviews have put us forward for this incredibly illustrious award.  Having received this already twice before, that obviously makes Lost to the Aether a shoe-in for this, whenever the people administering this bother to make my trophy.

Anyways, as always, in making these nominations, each of our fellow bloggers have posed a number of questions to us.  And your main man is always up to fill people in when they get curious about him.  So let’s get started.

Since AK got his nomination in first, will handle his questions up front.  Red Metal’s turn will come later.

But first, in keeping with the rules of the award, thank you, AK, for this opportunity to engage in my favorite activity and talk about myself.  If you don’t already, you should go check out his blog, Everything is Bad For You.  In spite of the name of his blog, he mostly posts about the good things, usually Japanese games and music, he enjoys.  Dude knows and loves his SMT.  And he’s a lawyer (poor guy), so you’ll sometimes see him working his law knowledge into his posts the way I do with business stuff sometimes here.  You like my stuff, you might well enjoy his.

Next step, on to the questions posed.

  1. Do you have a favorite game composer?  If so, who is it?

Motoi Sakuraba is my favorite video game composer.  I really admire him for the fantastic range and diversity of his works.  I know him best from his work with the Tales Of series, where you get mostly JRPG big bombastic emotion projecting pieces with a bit of rock instrumentation thrown in at times.  His work with the subtle, moody intensity of Dark Souls’ soundtrack was so different I never realized it had the same composer until I looked it up.  Going from there to the Valkyrie Profile series, to the Star Ocean series, to his Smash Bros. work, to so much more, every series of which seems to have a completely different type of soundtrack that is still of a really high quality, Sakuraba is a marvel even among all the talent in the industry.

Beyond that, Yasunori Mitsuda’s work in games is really limited, but Xenoblade Chronicles has probably my favorite soundtrack of any game.  Koji Kondo is a bit hit or miss for me, but when he hits, I think he has more impact than anyone else.  His theme from the trailer to Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess gives me chills every time I listen to it.  And Nobuo Uematsu’s soundtracks basically define my childhood, and still get my feels going.

You know, as I type this out, I realize this is really, really close to Red Metal’s post on the subject.  Guess I’m not that original.

2. Same question as above, but for game artists/art directors.

You know, I’m having a lot harder time with this one than I am with music.  There’s a lot of games I can point at having particularly good art direction, but I can’t bring any of the individuals behind them to mind.  I guess I haven’t connected with the individual creators on this front the same way I had with the music.

3. Is there a character you’ve encountered in a game that annoyed you immediately?  If so, did that character grow on you over time, or do you still dislike them?

Almost any child character in a game.  It always seems like the kids are just cancer to the story.  Nobody knows how to write them well, and they always seem to cause the characters I do like such huge problems and haven’t built up the sympathy required for me to tolerate that.  Walking Dead’s Clementine, Final Fantasy VI’s Relm, and Persona 4’s Nanako are about the only exceptions to this I can think of, where I actually enjoyed their presence from the start.  The rest of the kids just make me groan internally when I realize they’re going to be sticking around.

Sometimes they grow on me, and sometimes they don’t.  It really depends on how they progress from the initial brattiness.  Persona 3’s Ken never did.  In fact, I spent much of his arc moving from initial mild frustration over how “precocious” he is even though he doesn’t really do anything to great anger at the plot over how he does horrible things that have huge consequences yet his development through that is crazy rushed and everyone forgets about what he did almost immediately.  Anise from Tales of the Abyss, however, you start unraveling her character and finding out that, although she’s annoying, she’s got her reasons and traumas that make her that way.  Then there’s characters like Fallout 3/4’s Mayor MacCready, whom I had a burning firey rage for because they’re such a stupid little ratbag, then I have a lot more sympathy for them after they’ve gone through a bit of hell for being a stupid little ratbag, and I like them more once they’ve paid for the suffering they’ve imposed on me with their stupid existence.

Moral of the story is never have kids.

4. If you could own any vehicle from a game, which one would you own, and would it be a practical form of transportation?

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I’ll take the Jehuty from Zone of the Enders 2.  It’s good transportation, and you can park it anywhere.  Combat ready, for when I spy one of my many enemies.  And I have it on good authority that women love a man with a mecha.

5. How do you feel about contributing to crowdfunding campaigns for games and other works?

I actually have pretty strong feelings about that.  That drives me to never do it, really.

I really don’t like how crowdfunding campaigns are driven to treat those contributing to them like investors and selling them on that concept, yet really, all they’re doing it pre-ordering the material all in advance with potentially some special perks, and once the campaign is closed, treating them that way.  It’s telling the consumer they’re buying one thing, but selling them another.  And the fact that there’s no accountability in place and so many of these projects launch and fail because they’re sold on the strength of the creative aspects but they don’t have a producer or manager in place capable of keeping them moving forward, I just really have a hard time trusting crowdfunding.  I think one of my earliest awarenesses of crowdfunding was for the Homestuck game, yet once that campaign was funded, mismanagement led to it negatively impacting the webcomic it was to be based on, and the game itself was floating in the dead zone for a while and still has yet to fully come out.  Not a good first impression of it.

Yet, I can’t deny we’ve gotten some marvelous games out of it.  Your Undertales, your Shovel Knights, your FTLs, your Kingdom Death: Monsters, your Divekicks, the list of smashing successes goes on and on.  I can’t deny that it’s made for some great things, some of which probably wouldn’t exist without it.  I just wait until they’re all available commercially before I pick them up, however.

Fun fact, once upon a time I was going to do one of my business counselor posts about how I’d do a crowdfunding campaign, but then my last job proved that I’m really not good at those.

6. Reversing a question I was asked – what movie would you want to see adapted into game form?

Eh, I’m not really one to ask about movies.  I used to work in the industry, sucked at it, and got burnt out to the point that even now, years later, I get stressed out when I watch anything but just the right type of film.  So, sorry, but I rarely watch movies now, and I don’t have a good answer to this question.

7. Do you buy physical copies of games?  How important is it to you that the publisher releases a physical copy of a game, or does it matter at all?

Oh yeah.  I get physical copies all the time.  That’s my preferred way of getting all this going.  I live in a rural area, and internet’s not the greatest here.  It’s just fine for streaming movies, usually, but downloading games takes quite a while, and it’s usually a lot easier for me to swap out a card or disc when I want to play something than it would be waiting a day or two before I get to play that current gen piece of hotness I’ve got my eye on.

That said, I do have an extensive digital collection.  Mostly on PC, however.  The closing of the Nintendo Wii Store and the fact that my XBox 360 doesn’t work with my current internet has given me trust issues over games being taken away from me, and although Sony seems more reliable, it’s still a pain in the exquisitely formed butt to need to constantly manage system memory.  On PC, though, the various launchers I have make it easy, and the games get to be so cheap, it works wonders with my thrifty nature.  I’ll usually get a game digitally if it’s significantly cheaper than physical, but otherwise, give me my disc any day.

8. If you could have dinner with/hang out with any one main cast of characters from a game, which one would it be?

The crew from Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance.  I don’t know why, really.  It just seems like they’d be the best time for just a big giant barbecue.

9. How important are a game’s story, characters, and overall message to you when weighed against the quality of its gameplay?

I want something to be good in a game.  I can take a bad story if the gameplay is good.  I can take bad gameplay if the story is great.  Best case scenario has both of them coming in line.  I’m willing to work with most any mix there, as long as at least one of the elements has something to offer.

10. If you were exiled to a desert island and could only bring one game console with you, which one would it be?  Not counting the PC – you’re allowed to have a PC on the desert island.  You also have access to power sources.  This is a really convenient desert island, isn’t it?

Well, I’ve got a couple hundred games in my PC library, so are you sure you’re going to let me have that?

Probably my Wii.  Largely because it’s backwards compatable with my Gamecube library, which has a little bit of everything in there, as well as it’s own.  So I think that could keep me occupied for quite a while.

11. How much money do you think you’d get for your entire game collection in Gamestop in-store credit?  

I have a pretty massive game collection.  Most of it’s digital or from a generation or more ago, so that’d be pretty minimal.  I could probably get a good steak dinner from what’s left, if I could find a restaurant that takes Gamestop in-store credit, but not much more than that.  Their going rate’s not that considerable.

Alrighty, now it’s on to the end times, the further nominations!  Normally, I would skip this part, but not today.  Today, I nominate LightningEllen for all eleven nomination slots here.  That’s right, LightningEllen, pick 121 questions, and answer them in your blog.  You have to thank me for it, too.  The rules say so.

And tune in next time, when we slam down the eleven questions Red Metal posed as well!

A Requiem for the Fallen

I’ve been blogging for over six years.  Which, at this moment, is feeling like multiple lifetimes in the WordPress blogosphere.  In that time, I’ve seen many great and inspired blogs rise and set.  I’ve seen several generations of my part of the interblog community get connected, then one by one wink out as people set their blogs aside.  I’ve been making the blog thing work lately, such as it is, and I’m not planning on going anywhere, but still, with some recent blogs I’ve historically followed now sunsetting, I have grown rather wistful about this hobby.

I can’t say for sure what I was looking for with blogging, when I first started out.  I always used to be big on forums.  That was how I got my online socialization out.  I made some good friends that way.  But, frankly, back in early 2013 when I started this thing up, I didn’t really have the capacity to be keeping up with that.  But I needed to do something.  I was a new father then and I found fatherhood to be incredibly isolating.  I had written articles about video game stuff for a few websites by that point, and was really fulfilled by adding content to this interweb, rather than just being a consumer.  I had always lurked on quite a few blogs, never really joining in the discussions, but reading the posts and watching the videos.  I could do that.  I could have a place of my own, a place to put my thoughts, I place to add to the discussion and take part in this whole market place of ideas.

I wasn’t expecting this whole community thing to be a part of it, getting to engage with other bloggers the way that really drives this whole WordPress network, but that’s been one of the more engaging parts of this whole experience.  Sharing thoughts has kept this whole thing going in times when the engagement just wasn’t enough.  This has never been a well-read blog, but having anyone take the time to absorb these thoughts is a powerful thing, and building a network of people who are all doing that with each other has been wonderful.

But blogging is not a convenient hobby.  It takes time (a lot of it if you want the kind of outreach to build an audience much bigger than what we have here), and energy, and creativity, and frankly, luck to get in with the type of community that we have here.  And it can be at times one that doesn’t fill in what you’re needing on it.  Particularly as time wears on and life shifts around and all of a sudden your priorities aren’t where they once were.  People burn out on blogging.  Or they just decide there’s better uses for their time.  And frankly, if blogging isn’t fulfilling to them, they shouldn’t blog.  There’s little reward to blogging other than personal fulfillment, and the blog itself will get worse when the writer can’t engage with what they’re writing about.

Hell, I was just there last year.  After a while of trying to keep up with the blog while also juggling a full-time job, some extra-curricular community engagement/professional development stuff, going back to school, convalescing from medical issues, and becoming a new father again, like I’m some kind of damned ‘adult’, something had to give, and that ended up being the blog.  I got drawn back into it, largely by the connections built here.  Seriously, new fatherhood is so isolating.  All your old friends get tired of having a screaming demon around all the time, parent groups only really want the mothers around, and it’s really hard to attract women when all your conversation topics are either about video games or child rearing.  So yeah.

I came back, but even now, it’s not easy.  I’ve had to reevaluate what I want from this blog.  Whereas I used to be able to dedicate some time several days a week before wrapping up the five page essay on whatever I felt was a thoughtful observation to be making, now, I’ve been mostly doing one to two page reviews on the games I’ve been playing as a record of my journey through this dumb gaming quest I set myself on years ago.  Both are fulfilling, just in different ways.  And it’s amazing how much my skills have dropped after that six month break.

Whatever, that’s all an aside.  Point is, I connect with fellow bloggers here.  And then given time, they head off in other directions in life.  That’s happened again, and again, and again.  We’ve just lost a few great bloggers who used to be often seen around here.  More will come.  And then they’ll leave as well.  Unless we leave first.

But for now, let’s take some time to remember those with whom we’ve been sharing this experience, only for them to vanish into the aether.  Your Mental Gamings, your Wastelanders, your Writer’s Life for Mes, your Explore Animations, your Paul Michael Egans, your Retrodragons, your Particlebits, and most recently, your Ambigamings and your Otaku Judges.  For that matter, the let’s play channels Super Best Friends Play and retsupurae, which were both super meaningful to me but are now retired.  You guys have made this journey all the better.  I hope your pastures are ever greener.

Sunshine Blogger!

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This is an award winning blog.  You know that.  And I suppose it’s purely natural.  I am the type of person that awards just seem to gravitate to.  And it’s happened again, recently.  Courtesy of Red Metal passing on his Sunshine Blogger Award to what seems like half the internet.  Including our not-so-humble private space on the internet right here.  Have we won the Sunshine Blogger Award before?  I don’t even remember.

You probably know the drill by now.  I’m not one to pass up easy content the chance to talk about myself curiousity, and Red Metal’s leveraged some questions at us.  Let’s run through them!

In which cases would you deem the manga superior to the anime on which it’s based?

I’m going to assume Red Metal’s really asking about when would I deem a manga superior to the anime based on it, because otherwise the only manga based on an anime I’ve read has been Samurai Champloo, and that wasn’t superior to the anime, so this would be a pretty awkward answer.

Having a story that actually finishes would be a big point in its favor.  A lot of anime, even good anime, even long running anime, has a tendency to end before it actually finishes the story.  I remember spending a lot of time with Tenjho Tenge, Eyeshield 21, Tokyo Ghoul, Inuyasha, etc, only for the anime to end long before the climax point they’ve all been building towards has been reached.  And I hate that.  I hate getting involved in a story, committing to a story, that just stops before it reaches its conclusion.  That’s the worst feeling for me.

Otherwise, it’s mostly an issue of pacing.  Which one delivers its energy and momentum better, and tells the story between major beats more effectively?  Sometimes it’s the anime.  The Naruto manga had a horrible sense of pacing, but the anime smoothed it out considerably.  Sometimes its the manga, when the anime creators weren’t able to properly transfer that over.

Which game do you feel has the best soundtrack?

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I’ve never even played Killer Instinct 2013, yet I still find myself digging the soundtrack like crazy.  At least the first season.  Mick Gordon made some absolutely beautiful music for that game that draws from a lot of very interesting cultural sources that still really fit for it.  I have to really admire it.  Later seasons of the game brought on Atlas and Celldweller instead of Mick, which… just didn’t grab me.  Which is odd, because I’ve loved Celldweller’s other music, and his style seems a perfect fit for Killer Instinct, but it just didn’t seem to synchronize.  But yeah, first season Killer Instinct 2013 is absolutely marvelous.  Check it out.

Otherwise Xenoblade Chronicles is probably the soundtrack I’ve gone back to more than anything else.  Some of the most honestly beautiful music I’ve heard in a game, on there.  And it’s incorporated beautifully into the game, matches the settings and events perfectly.

And for a bonus, the soundtrack to Bastion is pretty marvelous as well.

If you could revive a dead video games series, which one would you choose?

Saints Row.  Which is an odd one.  Developer would insist it’s not dead.  After all, Agents of Mayhem follows up on the ending of the final Saints Row game and uses a lot of the same characters, and they’re totally working on another Saints Row project otherwise!  Wikipedia says so!  But we haven’t seen a game in the series that wasn’t, in essence, just a stretched out piece of DLC since 2011, and the current franchise owners seem to mostly be sitting on it.

I’m not even sure what version of the series I’d want to see back.  The original Saints Row was a fun game with a lot of frustrating gameplay hooks and an irreverent but straight-laced plot with some surprisingly intelligent writing hidden beneath the surface.  The second was a pitch black comedy with a plot that went to some rather gritty places, but once again, had some surprisingly smart story beats if you dug into things.  Saints Row 3 dropped a lot of the hidden intelligence, took the idea that ‘haha, crazy funny game series’ up to eleven, and basically made an evil Saturday morning cartoon.  Saints Row IV and Gat Out of Hell took that change and went crazy with it.

So yeah, like I said, I don’t know what I would want from the series, but I want something.  I loved Saints Row 2.  Saints Row 3 dropped a lot of the things I loved about Saints Row 2 and replaced them with something else, but it was still a crazy fun game.  Following up on either of those would make me happy.

What game/film/album/book did you have a particularly difficult time adding to your collection?

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Persona 2: Eternal Punishment.  I’ve said it before, but my favorite game is Persona 4.  I fell in love with that game immediately upon playing it, and wanted to bury myself in the series leading up to it.  Thing is, before Persona 3 made it popular, the Persona series was a very niche JRPG series on the PS2 with a limited run, and it was hard to get copies of the game years after for a reasonable price.  Especially given that they weren’t available on the Playstation store at the time.  I was able to track down the original Persona easily enough, although I still had to pay more than I wanted to for it, but Persona 2: Eternal Punishment for a reasonable price was difficult to find.  Especially given that I wasn’t willing to pay more than original MSRP for a used copy, and I wanted one that came with its original case.  It took me a couple of months, and I ended up doing some minor negotiations with an Amazon seller to get a deal I was satisfied with, but I ended up picking it up for $50.

Of course, now it’s just like $10 digitally on the PSN store.  Progress is a wonderful thing.

Do you prefer to see a film at home or in the theaters?

At home.  Theaters are mostly a date thing for me.  I don’t usually just watch a movie or show on it’s own, I’ve usually got something else going on if I’m just going to sit down and watch something, so being at home lets me multitask.

In what cases did you find yourself siding with critics over fans about a work’s quality?

In general, when you’re dealing with an entry in a games franchise that throws in some deep changes to the established structure, critics seem to weather it better than the fans do.  And I would say I handle it more like the former camp, even for franchises I love.  I understand where it comes from, the new work isn’t meeting up to established expectations, but I feel my enjoyment of the game comes more from its own value rather than the expectations built up, so in general, I don’t get the ‘It’s different it sucks!’ feeling a lot of the fans seem to.

Silent Hill 4’s an example.  Critics thought it was ok, the fans hated it.  I was more in the former camp.  I felt it was a complete mediocre game, but one that wasn’t necessarily poorer than average for the time.  But it was missing a lot of the things that went so successfully in earlier Silent Hills, and for that, the game got blasted online.  Those didn’t really resonate with me.

In what cases did you find yourself siding with fans over critics about a work’s quality?

A lot more often than the above, really.  To be honest, I find the fan reception to be a bit of a better indicator of the chances I’ll have of enjoying a work than the critical reception, for a lot different reasons.  If a fan is excited for the game, and I resonate with the things that make them so excited about it when they describe or show it to me, that’s probably the thing that makes me most likely to get into the series.  Hell, I haven’t cared about Devil May Cry since I tried out the first game and found it too clunky for my tastes, but after watching an LP series by people who absolutely love the games, I’ve been convinced to give a second go to later games in the series lately.

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That works the opposite way, too.  I’ve been finding critics to be a little too impressed with polish over substance, and too hesitant to give outright negative reviews to games that come from large-scale publishers.  Dragon Age II is an example of that.  Outside of the setting, I find the game absolutely horrid.  Combat is unengaging, enemy spawning is blatantly stupid, and you have to go through the same levels so many freaking times that it makes me wonder why I’m even bothering putting time into it if I’m just going to have to circle back and do the same things later.  The plot hits some interesting beats, but it continually undermines its own themes, and ends up feeling like a lot of what you did doesn’t really mean anything shortly after you did it.  I hate that game.  The fans hate that game.  Metacritic ranking?  Well, just see above.

What is the most difficult game you’ve completed?

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Does DLC count?  I don’t think Dark Souls is the hardest game I’ve beaten, but I think the Artorias of the Abyss DLC might be the hardest gaming experience I’ve had.  Manus absolutely took me to the wall and back, and before him, I had to enter some sort of weird zen state and tap into my pure gaming instincts just to get past Artorias.

Otherwise, Zelda 2 comes to mind, but I had copious amounts of save-state help on that one.  And I’ve beaten Binding of Isaac, which adds harder levels and harder bosses on top of the previously ultimate challenges each time you beat it, but I haven’t exhausted its challenges as yet.

Which game series have you been following for the longest amount of time?

The original Super Mario Bros. Was one of the first games I owned.  And I’m still digging it.  So that one.

Vanilla answer, I know.

In what ways do you feel video game critics to be ahead of their film-loving counterparts?

You’re asking the wrong cowboy here.  I have an odd relationship with film.  Got burnt out on it a while back, after some stressful experiences working on the borders of the film industry.  Since then, I’ve had a hard time looking at films purely for enjoyment, and as such, don’t pay much attention to it now.  So I guess that’s the way game critics are ahead, I might actually read a review from them every once in a while.

How does hype factor into how you ultimately feel about a work?

If other people are excited for something, and the features that they’re excited about are things that seem interesting to me, that can be infectious.  See the Devil May Cry example above.  I love a lot of character action games, but I didn’t enjoy the first Devil May Cry, so I never gave the series another thought.  Until recently, in prep for DMC 5, the Let’s Play group I followed played through the series, which is one of their favorites, and I find myself wanting to get into the newer games and get that same excitement for myself.

Hype can ruin a work too, though.  Like, for example, with Planescape: Torment.  With the dialogue surrounding that game, I was expecting it to be transcendent, that it would completely blow my mind.  It didn’t.  It did one thing very, very well, but that was surrounded by a lot of flaws and a gameplay engine I abhorred.  I don’t know that I necessarily would have enjoyed the game more were it not for the hype, but I do recall having a very distinct moment of disappointment early on that soured me for a lot of the rest of it.

Still Alive

It’s been what, like six months now?

Yeah, I haven’t been around for a while.  I’m not really one for talking about meta stuff, so was kind of thinking I’d just fade away.  But Lightning Ellen was kind enough to check in, which got me thinking I might owe you guys a little more of an update than that.  So, if you’re still seeing this six months on, this one’s for you.

So what happened?  Life, my great, mortal nemesis, got the better of me.  Between working full time, classes in the evening, some really major ongoing life changes that are currently putting a lot of constraints on my time, the amount of space I’ve been having available for these personal pursuits had become a lot more limited.  So, this summer, I’ve had to shift around some priorities in order to make life work, and unfortunately, blogging didn’t make the keep-list.  I’ve got a ton of hobbies and a very limited amount of time in general, so I haven’t been the most prolific blogger even in the best of times, but with my freetime fleeing before me much like my enemies, even what I had been able to muster had to go.

And I’ve missed it.  I’ve missed you.  Yes, you specifically, reading this.  There’s a missing part of my heart that only you can fill.  I’ve missed making content for the internet, rather than just consuming it.  And I miss the connections I’ve made through blogging, the networks and friends I’ve been able to tap into.  But, so far at least, I haven’t been able to make things work.

That might change.  No promises, but I’d like to make an attempt at blogging again.  My courseload this semester is a bit lighter, and I’ve got some ideas to throw in.  I’m want to give it a try.  No guarantees, and if I am able to do it, content might be a bit different.  I’ve always enjoyed writing at length and detail a lot more than I’ve enjoyed brevity and efficiency, as you may have noticed, but my current schedule may not allow for that, if anything.  Moreover, I may not be able to connect with others the same way I used to.  Or maybe times will change and I’ll be able to get into all that once again.  Time will tell.

In any case, whether you’re a fellow blogger, a reader, a lurker, a fan, just someone who checks in occasionally, thanks for reading my work here.  That’s really a powerful thing, that we’ve been able to share ideas like this.  Hopefully, we’ll see each other some more down the road.  If not, well, this blog has five and a half years of content behind it.  It’s been a good run.