Thursday, February 28, 2013

Random Shots: On Spoilers

  • I've been spending my evenings recently rewatching Community. I thought it was hilarious the first time through, but I wondered if it held up. I've been through the first two seasons and started the third. It's still clever and I'm enjoying watching it, but I haven't laughed once. Not even a snicker. As much as I love the show, knowing every joke ahead of time meant that I could only appreciate the writing. In effect, watching the show the first time has spoiled any future viewing for me.

  • A couple of years ago, a study was performed (and reported on Wired.com) that spoilers actually improve one's experience. The theory is that going into a film or book knowing how it turns out free you from the tension of not knowing how the story will turn out. This sounds to me like the most self justifying bullshit I've read in a while.

  • When I was younger, I would reread the Dragonlance Chronicles every year. Every couple of years, I go back and rewatch Sports Night from end to end. It is like revisiting an old friend. I'm comfortable with those stories. There is no surprises to be had, so instead I analyze them. I try to figure out how they work. I look for things I might have missed before. I see connections that weren't readily apparent.

  • I think that's the stage that people who like spoilers are trying to skip to. But for someone like me, spoilers rob me of one possible experience. I'm going to get to that analysis stage eventually. Sometimes quickly when I restart something that I just finished. But spoilers deny me the chance to have that experience.

  • But since I believe that people should be free to discuss what they want with whomever they want, the burden is on me to avoid the kind of places where spoilers will be discussed. I know that I can't read reviews, troll forums, or watch certain videos if I want to avoid being spoiled. I'm not one of those for whom "SPOILERS" is some sort of battle cry. I'll just be quietly keeping to myself, until I can join the conversation.

© 2013 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Random Shots: On Sexism And The PS4 Announcement

  • Just a quick word about the charges of sexism at the PS4 announcement:

  • My wife likes to send me links to stories she reads throughout the day. They're mostly news or child rearing articles. But every once in a while a video game story finds its way into her sphere. When she sends me such a link, I know it has reached beyond our little, insular community. That was what went through my head when I received a link from The Verge about the lack of any women on stage at the PlayStation Meeting. Couple this with the crap that Patricia Hernandez is getting for her article at Kotaku and we have a full blown nightmare here.

  • No one is accusing Sony or any of the developers on stage of overt sexism. There weren't any women denied a spot on stage. And it would have been the worst kind of tokenism to seek someone out just to diversify the presentation. That's not what anyone is saying in these articles, but that's how all of the anti-feminists are taking it.

  • What everyone is pointing out is de facto sexism. Women make up half of people on this planet. The fact that not even one woman has risen to a place where they would be a natural fit on that stage is an indictment of the industry as a whole. Everyone knows the history of gaming, how it got started, and who the pioneers are. But that doesn't mean that gaming wouldn't be richer without a wider variety of perspectives. You just have to look at how much of gaming is guns and boobs to know that we could do better.

  • So don't take it personally when this kind of sexism is pointed out. But also don't contribute to an environment that drives women away. If you defend the status quo, then you are part of the problem.

© 2013 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Random Shots: Surprised By The PS4 Announcement

  • I can't imagine I was the only person glued to the PlayStation 4 announcement yesterday. Even though I was at work, I followed every reveal when I could catch up. It has been so long that I almost forgot how exciting the start of a new console generation can be. And the reveal of the PS4 was very exciting.

  • When the meeting was first announced, I assumed Sony would do something boring, like show off the hardware and a few target renders and tech demos. Sure, some of that was in there, but they lead with the services and social aspects. The PS3 got beat on services by the Xbox 360 this generation. The fact that Sony is coming out swinging in that area is impressive.

  • Streaming and sharing videos directly through the console is a great move. I'm not sure how often I would use it, but I would love to play something, then embed a video here on the blog. They also finally gave a reason to own a PS Vita. If you can use it for off-screen play like the Wii U, I would have to buy the handheld without question.

  • For all that, the magical part of the announcement was the behind-the-scenes services. Streaming demos, if it works, would remove a huge barrier to trying out new games. Background downloads would do away with the biggest headaches of the PS3. But the real voodoo is with the predicative downloads. If the PS4 can actually anticipate what games I am likely to purchase and pre-download them, I would be some kind of miracle. I would love to see how that works.

  • Sony didn't skimp on the hardware announcements entirely. We didn't get a box, but that's the least interesting part of any announcement. We did get quite a bit of the hardware specifications, though. It is, in their words, a supercharged PC. I know a lot of people have lamented that they have a better PC, so why would they need a less powerful console. Those people obviously forget the consoles benefit from having a single target platform. They also forget that not everyone has a powerful PC that they are comfortable upgrading. I've never owned a machine any better than what I would call mid-range and I don't upgrade them very often. So a powerful, less expensive console is a wonderful upgrade to me.

  • I've never bought a PlayStation as my primary console. I picked up the PS1 and PS2 used, late in their life cycle, to play a couple of interesting games. For the first time, I am seriously considering going with the PlayStation. Microsoft will have to present a new Xbox that is as good or better to keep me as a customer.

© 2013 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Friday, February 8, 2013

News Filter: Epic Games Closes Impossible Studios

  • I thought I was done posting about the closure of 38 Studios. I really thought that was done. Then this happened.

  • In the fallout of that debacle, Epic Games swept in and formed a new studio, Impossible Studios, out of the remnants of Big Huge Games, the creators of Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning. It was a small point of light in an otherwise very dark situation.

  • Today, Epic announced the closure of Impossible Studios. Some people can't catch a break.

© 2013 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Watched Lately: Les Misérables (2012)

  • Once upon a time, Christmas would have been waking up, opening some presents, eating a little breakfast, and then heading over to the theater for the first showing of Les Misérables, a movie we've been looking forward to since it was announced. Now that we have a child, and had to travel for the holidays, we are lucky that we could carve out a little time a month later to finally get to a theater. It was worth it.
  • Les Misérables makes great advantage of its conversion to a movie. In a strange way, putting it on a big screen has made the story more intimate. Director Tom Hooper leans on an uncomfortably extreme closeup during several songs, but it actually works. The film strips down the musical to focus more on the story, bringing in elements from the book, and actually clarifying parts that the musical can only imply. In some ways, the musical's terrific bombast actually gets in the way of the plot. The stunning number of edits to the songs would probably send a hardcore Les Miz fanatic into a tailspin. But by dispensing with any slavishness to the material, the adjusted music compliments the script much more strongly.

  • The movie wouldn't be nearly as good if it weren't for powerful, emotional performances from the actors. Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway, and Eddie Redmayne stand out here, each selling their solos amazingly. Samantha Barks as Eponine was as good as one would expect from a Broadway actress, though I've always had trouble with how underdeveloped the role is in the musical. Since there is no room to expand her role, the movie wisely reduces it.

  • The most intriguing turn in the movie is Sasha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter as M. and Mme. Thénardier. The pair play their characters in an subdued, malevolent way, different from their usual portrayal as overblown buffoons. It is interesting to me that there is enough room in those characters for such wildly different interpretations.

  • Less remarkable, unfortunately, is the performance of Inspector Javert by Russell Crowe. Although he is great acting the role, his solos are harder to take. Javert is written melodramatically while Crowe is a more restrained singer. I can't decide if he fails the songs or if the songs fail him. It's hard for me to dislike his singing too much since he's singing in the exact same key I do, making it easier for me to sing along. But I can't help thinking that his two solos needed to be reworked more to fit his talents.

  • Highs and lows aside, I came away from the movie bawling like a baby. It was an experience, different than watching the musical, but powerful in its unique way. And I can't wait to see it again. Probably on DVD, late at night after the baby is asleep.

© 2013 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.
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