Square-Enix: The Dream is Dead

Christ on a cracker.

Oh, Square. I don’t even know anymore.

You guys were given all the time in the world. All the development resources, all the A-list talent, all the designers, illustrators, artists and programmers you could ever want at your disposal, and what have you turned out in the last decade?

A game so bad it wrecked the reputation of the Final Fantasy brand – considered the unassailable bastion of Japanese RPGs. The pissing away of a pedigree so valuable that merchandise of any sort commanding the iconography from games they made decades ago still demands premium prices. Once respected industry leaders and the pride of Japan, Square-Enix have become a joke to their once-loyal fans worldwide. These same fans have long since moved onto other things, like jobs and families and lives of their own.

The last decade in video game development – the seventh generation of video game console hardware – will be remembered for a game industry grown bloated, arrogant, and fat, giving rise to the worst kind of business practices. But I will remember it for the death of Japanese video game development, and the snubbing of an established truth that I had long since proclaimed as gospel: that Japan made the best video games in the world. I will remember it for the loss of faith I had in Square to make games of any sort.

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Today at the office…

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THEY ARE THE PREY AND WE ARE THE HUNTERS

Today was that rare joy: a fun day at the office. American Girl is a great titan, one of the terrifying things in the market that has made itself great through smart branding choices, product quality and impeccable service. People should be scared of this behemoth, because it is the future – toys as a service and as an experience.

That don’t mean Mikasa ain’t going to take a crack at it, though.

Here’s to 2014. There’s a Boxtalk coming up shortly once I can be arsed to edit it.

The Ultimate RPG Team, presented by IGN™

IGN recently did something that was equal parts lame and adorkable in the form of a good old list, allowing us to pick our ‘Ultimate RPG Party‘. The selection was not great.

That having been said, I have an overactive imagination. I’m paid for it. I’m a sucker for this kind of thing and I spent far too much time agonizing over my choices, to the point where I felt like I could write a significant amount about each one of these characters deserves a slot on the top eight RPG dream team to end all RPG dream teams.

They’re still not the perfect dream team given that this is something IGN of all people decided to pull, but given the circumstances and what I had to work with I think this team of fictional characters is perfectly equipped to deal with whatever may come their way.

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What do I mean when I say “the internet is boring now”?

There’s an extremely interesting scholarly article on the culture of anonymity that I came across while following a link from Kazerad’s blog. It’s not light reading, but it’s a well-written analysis on that well-trodden asshole of the internet – 4chan’s /b/ – and the kind of discourse that happens in and around it.

Of particular note is what happened when newcomers, wholly ignorant of the board culture where anonymity is enforced as the gold standard, started entering this place in large amounts following a few well-publicized incidents. As you might expect, it didn’t end well. These people walked into the asshole of the internet without learning the ground rules – ‘lurk the fuck moar’ in those days actually meant something.

Worse, these people expected /b/ to, for lack of a better term, be exactly like their other communities, both online and physical.

Predictably, the beast lashed out. And that’s how we got where we are today.

Rather, misogynistic discourse is one variant within a canon of trolling practices meant to exert collective control over new, casual users who disregard /b/’s habitus. These new users bring with them the behavioural values of economies of self-publicity: egocentrism, narcissism, indicators of offline identity, and identity-based prestige. Such qualities are necessary to participate in the dominant online cultural economy of self-publicity on social media platforms, where participation means ‘public-by-default, private-through-effort’ (boyd, 2011)

…these users, dubbed ‘newfags’, barraged 4chan once its existence came to light following 2006 media coverage of offsite raids and a dirty bomb hoax. Once secretive and exclusive, 4chan ascended to prominence in 2008 following Project Chanology and the emergence of the politicised activist group Anonymous. [4] Expecting the dominant paradigm of online interaction, newcomers flooded /b/ with photographs, low-content greetings, requests to be rated, and offers to perform for /b/—behaviours that either conform with cultural economies of self-publicity or presume that /b/’s normative social structures merely run counter to dominant cultural economies. This behaviour, termed ‘newfaggotry’, consists of introducing to /b/ the logics of self-publicity and imposing socially normative interpretations of ‘anti-normative behaviour’ onto /b/’s practices without understanding the habituated dispositions actually comprising them.

-Vyshali Manivannan, Tits or GTFO: The logics of misogyny on 4chan’s Random – /b/

Case in point.

I guess I’m just old-fashioned in the way I view the internet; I think one should go to great lengths not to advertise their personal information, social media I consider a particularly virulent form of memetic cancer and this shameless modern internet culture of self-promotion and propagation I find particularly disgusting. Then again, how the fuck is anyone meant to get noticed in this instantaneous culture of now? I get it. I don’t have to like it, but I get it. America is a land where people do strange goddamn things to earn a few dollars, and the US-centrism of the American perspective means that people naturally carry this all the way into the information superhighway.

However, the events of the last few years have convinced me of one thing utterly. Internet anonymity must never go away.

It is quite sincerely the one place we have left, accessible to anyone with an internet connection, where we can come even close to touching the golden cape of a living, breathing meritocracy, where ideas, thoughts, and actions are judged utterly divorced from the identity and cult of personality the world teaches us to venerate and construct around ourselves. Our culture values the superficial skin of what we look like, who we talk to, who we vote for, what we eat and drink. The internet, on the other hand, cares not about any of these things. It is the true equalizer, the great fifth estate. The one place where a multi-millionaire celebrity and a broke immigrant living on the poverty line can speak on the same terms, and be judged accordingly – as people screaming out into the void.

There is no darkness out there in this fifth estate except what we brought into it ourselves. Every form of social malaise I’ve heard people complaining about on the internet (racism, sexism, misandry, misogyny, inequality, and every form of social malaise both imagined and real) surprises me with its prevalence. I can’t browse for more than fifteen minutes without coming to some article or page that complains about the latest social ill or unrest, or uses evidence on the internet to justify mounting some kind of crusade against other people believing different things. Just as rapidly as it proliferated, we brought our wars and insecurities and jealousies into the fifth estate.

The internet, despite teetering closer and closer to the edge of the oblivion it once promised to save us from, is the one remaining place, despite the Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory being empirically provable – that we can truly speak and live free of consequence, and we are truly faced with what we and others are in the dark. And there are people who want to take this away!

Even if that means what we are in the dark is, you know, total fuckwads.

I remember when the most vicious of internet discussions were over shit like, say, who could come out in a fight between a plumber and a hedgehog or who Harry Potter would end up fucking, instead of things like the ongoing cultural war and the effects it has on our fragile little minds. I miss those days.

Do Not Go Gently Into That Good Nolan

Interstellar C

I have to feel sorry for Christopher Nolan. The man has a reputation to uphold as the premier filmmaker people namedrop these days when they want to make that old argument about how mass-market appeal movies don’t have to be as dumb as rocks in order to see multi-million dollar success. I would have thought that opinion was self-evident, but clearly people are insecure enough to spout Nolan’s praises at the drop of a hat and claim that no, The Dark Knight Rises wasn’t bad, you just didn’t understand it.

Nolan’s legacy has therefore become a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy; people expect a certain level of intelligence and precision in his filmmaking, and so he is forced to provide ammunition for the individuals who refuse to appreciate the work of Bruckheimer and Bay. If Nolan makes an arthouse flick with nary a gunshot or explosion in sight, his viewership plummets; if Nolan makes a nonsensical action film masquerading as social commentary, his critics are left in the uncomfortable situation of having to defend something they know is dumb as rocks. Vive la DKR.

That having been said, a website existed to explain the ending of Inception for those of us who didn’t get it. Clearly my faith in humanity’s intelligence can be seen as overly optimistic.

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Go Big or Go Home

Say what you want about the Rebuild of Evangelion movies. The sheer amount of craftsmanship and detail on display, from the design of Tokyo-3 to the intricately detailed support systems for the pseudo-mecha themselves, remains a treat to watch.

However, there is something Evangelion 3.33 gets so fucking incomprehensibly wrong that despite the movie’s confident, thoughtful direction (say what you want about the plot and source material, but Anno thoughtfully raised his middle finger towards the entire audience and you can’t do that without confidence) I can’t in good faith recommend it to anyone who loves titan-sized whatever-the-hell-the-evas-are-supposed-to-be stomping around.

It’s scale.

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