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.

The Mystery Blogger Award

This post could have been a couple things. A bit about how I tried and utterly failed to every one of our Fallout decision makers. Something reflecting on Planescape Torment’s unfortunate case of bipolar disorder. I could have finally publicly published one of the hundreds of posts sitting in my blog folder extolling the virtues of my hair. But, well, I’m a pleaser. I can’t help it. Just ask your girlfriend. I like leaving the people around me better off. And when those people around me combine that impulse with my natural enjoyment of talking about myself, well, I just can’t help it.

We’ve been touched by those viral get-to-know-you blogging awards again. You may remember our adventures with these in the past, when we were given the Double Lovely Versatile Liebster award. Well, that’s been expanded by not just one, but two steps. First, Red Metal was kind enough to send us over a Mystery Blogger award, thus guaranteeing we’d have easy content ready to go the next time a week got ahead of us. I was holding on to that in my back pocket, waiting for the most opportune time to slip that into my draw, but then Athena raises the stakes with by calling us for the Sunshine Blogger award, and, well, now it’s time for those cards to be on the table. I am nothing if not efficient, so let’s take care of both of those at once here.

Thank you both Red Metal and Athena. I appreciate your interest in opening up humble old me, the kindness you showed in your nominations and giving me the opportunity to talk about my favorite subject, myself.

Let’s start with Red Metal’s Mystery Blogger Award. Step by step, the rules are

  • Put the award logo/image on your blog.

You know what, let’s do that, but with a twist.
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  • List the rules.

Check, got it. Man, I’m the best at this.

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

Done already. But again, thank you Red Metal. If you’ve been around for most any length of time, you’ve seen him around in the comments at the very least. Dude’s one of my favorite game reviewers, and takes a pretty in-depth look at whatever catches his fancy on the regular. Check him out.

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

Methinks that one Okoto Enigma maybe started up this award as a means to Google Bomb themselves. But oh well. I won’t hold it against them. With a quick glance at their blog, they’ve got absolutely no crossover with what we talk about here, so, don’t know that you’d be interested, but just for the webcrawlers, here’s their site.  I chose a random post there, just to make the stats the get a little more random.

  • Tell your readers 3 things about yourself.
  1. Like many people, video gaming is just one of my too many interests. It’s the one I’ve kept up with the longest, and devote the most mental space to, but I’ve got a too long list of things I keep up with, such as comic books, physical fitness, men’s style, art, New Japan Pro Wrestling, wine, my hair, and so on. Makes my days a little too full. I’ve kept most of them from here, because, although I consider this more an Aether’s Interest blog than a video games blog, I want to have at least a little consistency, but I’ve noticed some of that popping into a few of the examples or analogies I may use.
  2. I fantasize about leading a band, but I haven’t actually picked up an instrument in years.
  3. I think of myself as pretty socially adept. I can hold my own in a conversation, use my network well, get people talking with ease, etc. Put me in front of a room of people, even, and I’ll thrive. I’ve got this huge block when it comes to approaching people, though. I don’t understand it myself. When I’ve got an in to a conversation, it’s easy. When I’m introduced by someone else, fine. But I just can’t figure out how to put myself out there like that. Social stuff is weird.
  • You have to nominate 10 – 20 people.

Nah. That involves approaching people, and see number 3 above. Also, I have a pretty small blogging circle, and most of those whom I would nominate either received a similar viral award recently or choose not to play along with these.

So here’s an inoculation against the viral spread, I guess.

  • Notify your nominees by commenting on their blog.

Okay, done.

  • Ask your nominees any 5 questions of your choice; with one weird or funny

Here’s Red Metal’s questions:

Which game proved to be the biggest disappointment for you?

Justice League Task Force. When I was a kid, had a lot of fun with fighting games, loved superheroes, this seemed really interesting from the magazines, a perfect fight. Then I rented it, and it played like garbage. Slow, clumsy, special moves were really unreliable, just not a good experience. I’m sure I’ve been more disappointed by games since, but I remember this one because it was my first learning experience that not all games will live up to my excitement.

Which game proved to be the most pleasant surprise for you?

Persona 4. But this one’s going to take a bit of a story.

Around the time I picked this game up, I was in a weird place in life. Part of that led to me just not enjoying things, including video games, as much. Part of that was just general malaise, but part of that was that it was a lot easier to see the worst in everything than it was the good. And my gaming habits were hitting that wall hard. I was starting to think the whole medium had peaked, and was on its way down in quality. I had been considering giving it up.

I don’t remember why I had picked up Persona 4. I didn’t know anything about it, other than that Persona 3 was reputed to be really good, and I had very fond memories of its Super Famicom predecessor Shin Megami Tensei from a time when I was stuck in the middle of nowhere with nothing else to do than to trial and error my way through a brutally hard JRPG that I couldn’t even read. But I gave it a try on a whim, and I was blown away. It was an incredibly tight story that was very well thought out, I built connections to the characters there in a way I was sorely lacking from the people I was with in real life, and the battle system had complexities at a level I wasn’t expecting from a JRPG of the time.

It didn’t exactly turn my life around, but it did single-handedly turn me back into a devoted hobbyist of video games. I had been a proponent for stories in video games beforehand, but that was the first one that really opened my eyes to the depths of just what unique feature the medium had for storytelling.  Not only that, it was fun.  I fell in love with it, and it showed me I still could enjoy video games at a time I really needed that.  I probably wouldn’t be playing today and having this blog here were it not for that game.

What is the most memorable scene from a film you’ve watched?

For me, it’s the climax to Beauty and the Beast. Where the Beast is fighting with Gaston, and the latter falls off the castle to his death. Between Gaston’s blind rage, and the first time I think I was exposed to a death as a kid, that really stuck with me.

What inspired you to begin blogging?

Blazes. Look at my sidebar there. This blog dates back to the start of 2013. For such a simple project like this one, that’s exceptionally long. Long enough that I don’t rightly remember.

I’ve been writing for a long time. Some of which has even seen the light of day. I used to admin for a roleplaying forum, and was a pretty active participant there. I’ve got a few articles scattered around other people’s sites, used to put together fun essays and games on various social media I was a part of, etc. I enjoyed it. I like creating. But everything I did was all scattered around, and it was all on other people’s sites. I had nothing of my own. I was also following quite a few gaming blogs at the time. I was frustrated with most of the forums and what not I had been dealing with, how much discussion went ignored there, but I was enticed by the idea of having my own little place that I could put my own thoughts up, keeping my own small corner of the internet, just having a place for me and whatever from my mind I felt I could share with the world. I figured I’d try it out, see how it goes, and five years later, I’m apparently still at it. I don’t have the time to post as much as I’d like to, and it doesn’t seem to have as much reach as the avenues I used to write through, but I’m very fulfilled with it.

If you could go back in time and see any band that has permanently broken up perform a concert, which one would you choose?

Nightwish is one of my favorite bands. They’re still around, but they’ve gone through a few lead singers, and each time, it changes their musical profile significantly. Would have been nice to have caught them with their original lead singer, with whom they put out a lot of their most notable work.

  • Share a link to your best post(s).

My best post? They’re all great, how can I choose? But I am particularly proud of having what I believe is the most comprehensive list of left-handed video game characters on the internet. It could probably do with an update, there’s two more I’ve come across in games since I put that list together, but it’s still a more thorough list than I believe you’d be able to find elsewhere. Occasionally, I track back the links leading people to the blog, and find that someone else has used that list for their own projects. That’s also fulfilling to me, that it’s started to take a life of it’s own.

Also, I’m really proud of our Dark Souls run here. If you have some time to fill, might I suggest that? The first post probably not so great, because I wasn’t expecting to do a LP out of it then, but from the second onward, should be hitting more our stride. That was the first LP I’ve completed, and I think it went really well. Especially one jumping in blind to a notoriously difficult game.

More recently, I think my post analyzing Nintendo’s business culture is pretty noteworthy. It was fun for me to step back into my business academic shoes, and although it’s mostly conjecture, I think it does come from a perspective and carries information you’d be hard-pressed to find elsewhere.

And, you know, because this is long enough already, and because it’s time for me to go play some games, how about we tackle the Sunshine Blogger award in another post.