Incoming Rant-Fur Fighters: Viggo’s Revenge

I knew it would happen when I started this journey.  I knew, years ago, when I decided to go through and beat all of the games I own, it’d take me to some pretty dark places.  While it’s true that I do have an extremely discerning taste and a big giant sexy brain, neither of those have really stopped me from buying some completely dreck games.  And I’d be forcing myself to play them.  This wouldn’t end up well.

I knew hell awaited me.  I’d staved it off so far.  No matter how poor the game was, I always found something to enjoy.  Doesn’t mean there weren’t some games I played with a scowl plastered on my face, but for the most part, I’ve found some redeeming feature in every game I played.  Yes, even that one.  You know the one.  The one you hate.  To some degree, it’s been quite satisfying, and really justifies why I’m keeping this endeavor up.  At the same time, it was frustrating, because I knew Damocles had left his sword hanging, only to drop at some future date.  Eventually, I was going to run into a game so horrid, so abysmal, that even I couldn’t handle it, and I was still going to force myself through it.

Well, it has finally happened.  I have stared into the abyss, and the abyss stared back.  From the darkest reaches of my soul it drew the antithesis to everything I held dear, my nemesis, the bane of my existence.

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Play Bad Games

I squirrel away creative works like nuts for the coming winter. I have an odd compulsion, once I own something that’s art to me, whether books, films, or yes, video games, we’re pretty much married. No matter its quality, I will own that work for life. Really, that means I possess works at all levels of quality, from the absolute worst to the “OMG how has this guy not gotten all the awards”.

Years ago, I had decided, during what must have been the truest moment of boredom-induced insanity in history, to play and, as much as possible, complete all of my games. My collection of video games is truly large, numbering in the hundreds, ranging from games produced long before I was born to the present day and beyond, thanks to some weird time shenanigans we won’t get into here. I’m still keeping this quest up today, and I’m still a long way from finishing. I’d like to say I’m a man of class and taste, and that most of the games I own range towards the high-quality end of the scale, but those would be blatant lies. That means that, over the past several years, I’ve played a lot of dreck. I have played games that made me doubt the existence of a kind and loving god, games that I’m sure I put more time into than the developers, games that had me questioning whether boiling my own head would be sufficient to remove the memories of them forevermore.

And you know what? Looking back on them now, it was actually quite a valuable experience.

Most of the people I’ve known will actively stay away from bad games. They might play something that’s kind of meh if the mood strikes them, but something that’s truly bad? Why would they? It makes sense. After the initial purchase, the thing video games really costs you is time, and why would you put so much time into something you dislike? Well, one thing that I’ve found by forcing myself to go through everything on my shelf is that the bad games have value, too. They can help you appreciate both the good games and the medium of video games as a whole more. And not just in a ‘this is so bad that everything’s better in comparison’ way, either.

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For the most part, there’s two types of bad games you deal with. There are those that tried for something and failed, and those that didn’t really try at all. Those that never tried, well, no matter how much I may attempt to rationalize them, there’s often not much in the way of redeeming qualities there. Those that tried and sucked are where the real magic happens. Those are the ones that, while they may not be traditionally enjoyable, might have something that’s worth your time. Maybe they’ve got a good story, even if the team’s not the greatest at putting the gameplay portion together. Or maybe they’ve got some really creative ideas that were just really poorly implemented. Or maybe the way the game was produced on a meta level makes it worth exploring. For example, I’m just now finishing up the Xenosaga… saga. There’s a game series I have every reason to hate. A three game series covering half the size and a third of the plot that was originally intended for it, a story that hits on so many of my pet peeves, a level of meddling from the non-creatives that absolutely crippled the development team, and a gameplay that makes it obvious that the developers were more interested in telling their space opera story than they were actually building a game out of it. And yet, now that I’m reaching the end of it, I find the experience so fascinating. The fact that they were actually able to improve in quality in the final game, in spite of being forced to cut out a lot of what made the engine unique? The way they were able to kind of pull off a game that’s mostly an anime? Having me forget like half of what’s going on, and still making some sort of sense out of it? I may not have been excited about playing it, at least until it gets better in the final edition, but man, it’s really fascinating to me.

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And the fact remains that sometimes the important games, the ones that move the medium forward, are not always the greatest one. If you want to deepen your understanding of a craft, it’s important to analyze and consume not only the best examples, but the bad ones as well. This not only helps you understand where things can go wrong, but sometimes even poorly-made models can lead you places. Final Fantasy II is a great example of this. That game is probably the worst in the mainline Final Fantasy series, with so many gameplay features that seem designed to make the game a chore to play. I also consider it one of the most important innovators in the medium. As far as I can tell, Final Fantasy II is the earliest game to implement the plot alongside the gameplay. Sure, games before this may have had bits of plot to set up the next level, but for the most part, gameplay and plot had a pretty one-sided relationship. The plot would lead to gameplay happening, then you’d reach the end, then more plot would lead to more gameplay, and so on. Final Fantasy II was the one to add in the other half of the relationship, where you, the player characters, were not just being pushed along by the plot, but active participants in it. Things didn’t just happen at a rate coincident with your progress through the game, you made things happen, with plot events coming through as a result of your actions in gameplay. Final Fantasy II laid the groundwork that would be expounded on in Final Fantasies IV, VI, and finally VII, which built those same plot features into something that revolutionized the entire medium. The games very important, and an almost vital trip if you’re looking at playing through the history of games. Even though it sucks.

And, of course, there are times when what’s traditionally viewed as a bad game just clicks with you. Even though it’s reviewed low, it has a combination of features you just really enjoy, and you find it a lot more fun than anyone else. I’m sure everybody has at least a few games like that.

Whatever the reason, if you’re reading this, you’ve probably played your fair share of bad video games.  But maybe, even if the game was bad, the time you spent with it wasn’t so bad after all.  And maybe you should give that one game you’ve refused to pick up for the past decade another chance.  What do you say?

Take a Stand. Take Down Santa.

Photo by Cyril Doussin.  Click for source.

Photo by Cyril Doussin. Click for source.

So, it’s that time of year again. That time when the sun can’t bear to look upon us, the time the very darkness in the atmosphere forces us to hide within our homes, the time when all the first world devotes to worshiping that demonic thief in the night: Santa Claus. Idols to that jolly red roof lurker have pervaded all aspects of our culture. There’s no escape. Trust me, I’ve been trying for years.  Santa Claus, the Christmas mascot.  Normal, sensible people will lose their mind in a false sense of happiness at the mere sight of him.  People look upon him as some sign of peace, joy, and happiness. Oh, those fools.

I’m tempted to say you all disgust me, for your blighted Santa infatuations, but I won’t. Not because you don’t all disgust me, I’m just not going to say it. And, because I realize that you’re all mostly just unenlightened as to the evils of that crimson mass of blubber. All you know is the tales of the rosey cheeks and cherry nose and the magical times at the north pole and the reindeer and sleigh and the presents, presents, PRESENTS! Well, Santa is not that man. And I’m tired of being the only one around that knows it. So, please read these following facts, and hopefully, after I’m done, you’ll be convinced enough to join me in my annual holiday celebration of kicking Santa’s fat butt as soon as he enters our homes.

St. Nick, another name for Santa Claus, is patron saint of:

Merchants-Christmas is not about the presents so that you can make your friends and family happy, no. Christmas is about the presents so that you can fill the coffers of those who bankroll Satan Claws on his yearly quest.

Thieves-fitting, as Santa sneaks into your house like one. And you ever notice how everything you’ve ever loved is missing after Santa visits your home? That’s because Santa is also the patron saint of…

Pawnbrokers-That’s where everything that goes missing after Christmas ends up. Also, half the presents you give out go there too, because people are jerks. Santa-worshiping jerks.

Furthermore, St. Nick has spent his immortal life waging a war with Artemis, Goddess of the Hunt, Women’s Empowerment, and Virginity. As for why this battle’s gone on, well, he is the patron saint of prostitutes.

Everyone knows that Santa gives presents to the good kids. What about the bad kids though? Coal? Well, yes, but he’s also got a long, long history of giving bad children golden colored birch branches to be beaten with. So Santa’s an advocate of child abuse, too.

Santa doesn’t work alone, either. He has a couple of companions, such as Black Peter. Black Peter used to be a murderer, who attempted to serve St. Nick human flesh. So Santa turned him into some immortal… thing who alternatively scares and entertains children by performing a minstrel show in blackface. So Santa’s a racist, too.

There’s also the Krampus, a demon who rides shotgun with Santa, punishing the bad kids as Santa rewards the good. By punishment, I mean those children are whipped, kidnapped, drowned in ink, dragged to hell, that sort of thing.

NORAD tracks Santa whenever he’s flying around. They pretend it’s some kind of cutesy Christmas funtime thing, but clearly, they don’t trust him any more than I do. And if the US Government doesn’t trust somebody, why should you?  Granted, they’re apparently tracking all their own citizens out of paranoia, but still!  My point kind of stands!

Santa is officially a Canadian citizen. That means he’s entering our country illegally every year. He’s also got homes in America, and each of the Nordic countries. Forbes has him as the single richest person in the year. Does he ever pay a cent in taxes? There you have it. Santa is the reason for our deficit.

And this is only a few of the evils that man has committed. I can go on all day, listing his crimes, the various demons under his command, and the rest of the reasons for my lifelong vendetta against him.  But I’d still like to hold onto my sanity. Hopefully, this is enough for you.  You’ve seen the terrors this man is capable of.  This villain, this thief in the night who breaks into all of our houses to steal our cookies and kiss our mothers!  It is time to fight back.  Time to finish the era of Santa Claus.  I have had enough of him.  And so have you! So join me, and let’s end our common nemesis!

Why is EA really the Worst Company in America?

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While you weren’t watching, history was quietly made today.  Video game company EA has achieved something no organization has ever done before.  Through dedication, hard work, and a complete and utter commitment to the cause, EA has become the first company to win the Consumerist’s Worst Company In America  award twice in a row.

But why are they the Worst Company In America?  After all, as EA itself has pointed out, it’s rated against companies that actively ruin lives and steal from their customers.  Some of the other companies that were in the running actually make the world a worse place in a very practical manner.  Can a company who limits its activities to the video game industry which, internet drama aside, can’t really affect the public in the way Bank of America can be truly deserving of the title “Worst Company in America?”

Hell yes.  And here’s why.

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