Top Ten Best Robots

On Thursday, August 8, 2013 1 comments

Robots are the coolest thing to ever come out of the human imagination. I don’t care if they will one day enslave humanity, they are still pretty flipping sweet. But which robots are the sweetest of all robots? I decided to take a trip down memory lane, revisiting my favorite robots from all walks of media. This is not a comprehensive list. I’m just one person, and I can only consume so much sci-fi media in the average day. However, the following are my personal favorite machine men (and women). These are the awesomest of automatons, picked for their ability to blend great sci-fi with fascinating characterization.

Number 10: Nagato Yuki (The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya)

Of course you're going to give a robot purple hair. No way that will be conspicuous.
On the outside she looks like your typical otaku fantasy material. An emotionless girl in the same line as Rei Ayanami, who is more puppet than personality. However, that is part of Nagato’s appeal. She is a convincing robot, simply because she does not understand human feelings. Her motivation is that of a machine: fulfill her programming by preventing an oblivious, reality altering teen from destroying the world. And yet, throughout the series, hints are dropped that she desires more than this mundane task. She reads voraciously, although expresses little interest in stories. She plays a mean video game, although is apparently unconcerned about the outcome. Her true self, the things that make her more than a machine, are hidden below the surface. It’s up to the audience to spot them. In a way, it is the audience’s observance that makes her human. She herself doesn’t notice her own feelings. It takes the better part of the series for her to develop a self-awareness of the fact that she is more than a machine, much to her own surprise.

Number 9: Wall-e (Wall-e)

From his droopy eyes to his love of musicals, Wall-e is one of those creatures so cute that it should come with a warning for diabetics. Everything he does is designed for maximum Awwwwww. In fact, when you get right down to it, there isn’t a lot to the character. He is a simple machine with simple wants and desires. But that is part of what makes him effective.

Notice how the shape of his eyes make them look droopy and pathetic. That ups the pity ante.
Wall-e is an interesting experiment with the uncanny valley. He doesn’t look or move like a human. As such, the audience views him more as a charming dog than a person. This allows him to have simple emotions and motivations that still resonant with us. He isn’t as complex or intricate as a human, but he doesn’t have to be. His simple, barebones view of the world comes across as a sort of child-like wonder that the audience can sympathize with. He invites compassion because of his simplicity. Our would-be electronic overlords could learn a thing or two from him, and how less is more when it comes to earning the trust of the meatbags.

Number 8: Marvin (Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)

We all need someone we can laugh at and mock, to feel better about our own pathetic existence. Marvin satisfies our schadenfreude beautifully. He is so miserable and useless, and yet he possesses one of the greatest minds in the galaxy. So when bad stuff happens to him, we get to be assholes and laugh at both the smart people in our lives and the technology we are slaves to.

Marvin explores what it would mean to be vastly intellectually superior to everyone around you. It would absolutely suck. He is so much more intelligent than all the other life forms around him that he is utterly alone and bored. It just goes to show that being smart doesn’t make you happy. Quite the contrary. It makes you absolutely miserable. Marvin is an exploration of what it would really mean to be an ultra-intelligent robot trapped in a society of mind-numbed humans, all wrapped in Adams’ hilarious satire.

Number 7: Octus (Sym-Bionic Titan)

You never hear him rant about his body image issues, despite the fact that he looks like a dismembered eye.
Part of the reason Octus is included on this list is because the show he comes from is so damn badass. It’s not so much the essence of the character, but the way he is handled. He has this child-like wonder about even simple things, like the way teenagers talk, but he is also capable of making astute judgments about relationships and the social order. He is developed as a character, becoming increasingly intelligent and sympathetic, without ever losing his robot essence. In fact, his journey isn’t the cliché “become more human.” He accepts the fact that he is a robot, and he is aware of the fact that he is capable of emotions. And he can also morph into a giant city-stomping mecha, so he has that going for him.

Number 6: BEEMO (Adventure Time)

It’s nice to know that even after the apocalypse, Japanese hardware will still be functioning. At least, I think BEEMO’s accent is Japanese. In any case, the little video game console that could is an adorable addition to the Adventure Time cast. It is a quirky, androgynous little fella. It is chipper, upbeat, and always ready for everyone’s favorite activity: video games!

Who wants to play video games?!

Part of BEEMO’s appeal is nostalgia. From its innocent world view to its chunky interface, it harkens back to the gaming days of yore. This helps the adult viewers feel a connection to it and to their childhood. BEEMO isn’t just a machine; it is the living incarnation of those lazy days fighting over who got to be player one on the NES.

Number 5: The Giant (The Iron Giant)

Look, I don’t want this to get personal, but if you never watched The Iron Giant then we just can’t be friends any more. Especially since it has one of the greatest robots of all time. The Giant isn’t a very eloquent destroyer of worlds. He says very little, and for the most part he is content to chill with his best friend, an awkward little kid. The two hang out and have good, wholesome fun times. Until the government has to ruin everything.

What is best about the Giant is how well it communicates one of sci-fi’s most powerful themes: technology is amoral. It is only how we use it that determines good or bad. It’s a common message in many sci-fi works, but The Iron Giant manages to get the message across with half the bullshit. It lays it down straight: just because you have the weapon does not mean you pull the trigger. Because you are not agun.

Number 4: KOSMOS (Xenosaga)

KOSMOS is most likely the product of some Japanese man’s confused sexuality and power fantasy. She is a robot. Shaped like a scantily clad woman. Who can fire a planet destroying canon from her abdomen. She is part sexy anime chic, part merciless death machine (full-time lover).

There's nothing even REMOTELY fanservicey about this design. (Also this artist is talented)
Okay, all joking aside, KOSMOS is a fairly simple concept taken to ridiculous extremes. She is hyperbolic in her power and blatant in her fetish-fuel. But the world she inhabits, Xenosaga, takes itself so deadly serious that those things don’t matter. The game’s heavy-handed narrative counteracts the silliness of the concept, making KOSMOS something you end up accepting and understanding.

Number 3: Gir (Invader Zim)

Indulge me in my innermost hipster for a moment while I rant about how I liked Gir before he became a Hot Topic whore. Yes, he is overused, and yes, half the people who wear those shirts have never seen Invader Zim. That doesn’t make Gir any less awesome. He is living proof that computers are only as smart as the people who make them, and so the only thing we have to fear is our own stupidity.

Gir really is like the Earth dog he badly masquerades as. He is stupid, oblivious to the damage he causes, but also with that cheerful demeanor that makes it hard to blame him for anything, even when it is clearly his fault. In a way, he fulfills my childhood dream of a talking dog. Sure, he wasn’t designed to mimic dog behavior, but he’s stupid and he will eat whatever shit you throw at him. That’s enough dog-like charm to win me over.

Number 2: GLaDOS (Portal)

If I was a robosexual lesbian, GLaDOS would be my lover of choice. Yeah, she is psychotic and manipulative and cruel, but she’s also incredibly funny, and isn’t that what really matters? It’s hard to stay mad at her, even if she does repeatedly try to kill you. She’s just so clever with her insults, it doesn’t matter if they are directed at you and designed to corrode your self-esteem.

But seriously, GLaDOS is an extremely complex, multi-faceted character. She’s like this black hole of passive aggressiveness. You know she is a terrible person (machine), but discovering exactly what makes her that way is such a fascinating experience that it makes up for everything else. It says something that even after a whole game of trying to kill you in the first Portal, players are glad to hear “Still Alive.” You don’t want her dead, because she is such a rich and complex personality, it would be a shame for her to cease to exist. It would, however, be hilarious for her to be put into a potato.

Number 1: Bender (Futurama)

Aw, look at him being all loyal and shit.
I remember when Futurama first premiered. I was nine years old, way too young to appreciate the intricate social commentary, the superb characterization, the dedication to a well-sculpted sci-fi world. All I knew was that I loved Bender. He is one of my favorite character types: an unrepentant asshole. My mom hated this show, and I was technically not allowed to watch it. But I still persisted, begging and pleading and turning it on anyways. Because to echo the words of Phillip J. Fry himself, I always wanted a robot best friend.

Bender is a raging alcoholic, womanizer, gambler, and convicted felon. He is the exact opposite of everything a robot is supposed to be. That’s what makes him so awesome. Futurama is all about how the future and technology won’t magically solve all our problems. It doesn’t matter if Bender is made of metal, he still falls prey to the weakness of the flesh. It doesn’t matter if he has a super computer for a brain, he still makes terrible decisions due to his own ego. Human nature, or at least the nature of self-interested sentient beings, will always prevail over technology and reason. It is at once kind of disappointing and relieving. Bender shows us that perfection is impossible, even through digital means. But at least we can always bury our problems in alcohol. And really, isn’t that a lesson worth learning?

Did I forget to list any of your favorite robots? Give them an honorable mention in the comments!

And if you liked this post, you might want to check out these articles:

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Producer Spotlight: myGOD-P

On Tuesday, May 21, 2013 2 comments

It’s time to shine the spotlight on another ace Vocaloid producer! This time it the multitalented myGOD-P. Yes, that is his name. Before he settled on that bold moniker, he went by the handle G9fried@GRM. As you might be able to guess from his names, his music is eccentric. It leans towards techno/rock, but he’s covered genres as varied as opera and ballads. His works are weird and wonderful, and every Vocaloid fan should listen to a few. So pop in your earbuds and let’s take a listen to a sampling of myGOD-P’s works.

Looking normal enough so far! 
One of his earliest songs is titled “BAND of CATS.” It’s jazz influenced, with some nice piano work in the background. While the song itself is kind of bland, it’s worth listening to in order to see just how varied myGOD-P can be. This work shows him beginning to experiment with genres, adding overtones of ballad music and melancholy vocals to a swinging jazz number.

“Exclamation of my heart” is another early song, and it still shows the developing stages of myGOD-P’s over-the-top style. However, it is very catchy. Pay attention to the echoey vocals. This is prominent in his later works. Once again, this song comes across as an experiment, more playing with the technology and seeing what it can do. It is still a highly interesting listen.

...aaaaand normality is gone.

If you want versatility, check out his Kagamine opera, titled “Garasu no Kutsu.” This piece shows that he is a master of the slow and sorrowful as well as the frenetically upbeat. Seriously one of the most moving Kagamine pieces, it is filled with orchestral swells and vocals that speak of hope and longing. There aren’t very many Vocaloid songs out there like this.

Skip ahead to his song “Virgin Glory,” featuring Hatsune Miku. This song is weird as all get-out, with a funky, screechy guitar line and a pulsating beat. It has simplistic yet nonsensical lyrics. The whole thing feels off-kilter, like a normal techno song turned on its side. What is also significant about this work is the MMD accompanying it. It’s very simplistic, but the sheer absurdity of it would also become a hallmark for myGOD-P’s videos.

If you thought the last song was strange, get a load of “Battle in TAKAMAGAHARA.” Once again, it’s a techno/rock song that is just a little out of the ordinary. The lyrics alternate between lofty and beautiful to hoarse and grunting. There’s a lot going on at once, like the song is trying to see just how over-the-top it can make itself. That is classic myGOD-P. Once again, it has a MMD accompanying the song that is just…baffling. Check out MEIKO and KAITO rocking those guitars. Yeah baby.

And the awesome just continues to escalate with “HYPER TIME!” This work bears the traditional repetition of techno buzzes and beeps with the complex guitar solos of rock and roll. The vocals are heavily distorted, to the point where he lists Yowane Haku as the singer instead of Miku. MyGOD-P loves messing with the vocals, turning them inside out until they no longer sound like a human singing. The result is slightly unsettling but totally cool. Did I mention that deino made the character models? If you don’t know who deino is, you haven’t been to the dark side of Vocaloid. 

“take the field (FULLMOON)” is one of my favorite Vocaloid songs. It even has the underused LOLA adding backup, along with a sexily distorted KAITO. The guitar is rocking, the beat is strong, it’s really something you can bang your head to. At the same time, the scratchy singing and unusual choice of background harmony make the whole song feel like some otherwordly rock concert. The music video gives the same effect. It’s simple, yet weird. It really feels like you tuned into the MTV of another world (provided their MTV actually plays music, unlike ours). The frantic pace of the song makes it feel like it ends all too soon, but that’s what replay buttons are for.

Returning to his Kagamine roots, “I WANNA TRUST YOU” is an upbeat duet between the twins. Compare this to his earlier works and you can see how distinctive his style has become. There’s his signature blend of techno/rock, but with a brass accompaniment that speaks of jazz. Once again, myGOD-P isn’t afraid to blend genres as it pleases him. The vocals are deeply satisfying, with an alternating between a deep, confident Len and a high, energetic Rin.

“Posterization” is another song that seems to be commenting on the media saturation in society. It’s bizarre enough that I can’t be sure. The MMD is minimal but effective. MyGOD-P uses repetitive lyrics that slowly build to an explosive finale of noise.

Finally, no survey of myGOD-P would be complete without mentioning his Girl and Boy series. This is a sequence of songs that tells the story of an ill-fated couple. It was actually based around a doujinshi story, and then myGOD-P made songs out of it and got artists to illustrate it. His most recent work is a medley of the songs that includes a PV. Unlike his techno-explosions, this series represents his softer, more heartfelt side. The songs still show traces of his style, with the guitar backgrounds and occasionally distorted vocals, but for the most part they sound more “normal.” This doesn’t mean they are bland. Instead, they are just story-focused, more reliant on the message of the lyrics. This series is a must listen if you love narrative songs.

So there we go: my GOD-P in a nutshell. Of course, he is an extremely prolific artist (up until about a year ago). He has a huge catalogueof songs to look through. So if you liked the stuff you saw in this spotlight, go check out his other work!

Do you have a Vocaloid artist you want spotlighted? Let me know in the comments below, or shoot me a message.

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Madness in the Method: How You Do Something Says More than What You Do

On Sunday, March 10, 2013 1 comments

Context is everything. Roughly 90% of games send you on a quest to save the world. But like we covered before, the way you accomplish a goal is every bit as important as the goal itself. For example, consider Okami. In Okami, players are yet again tasked with saving the world. However, instead of some buff warrior, players assume the role of Amaterasu, the goddess of the sun. Since she is a nature goddess, her can restore harmony by purifying corrupted spots of land. The player isn’t supposed to just save society, but the very land itself. By placing the focus on saving nature, the game suggests that nature is both valuable and powerful. It also suggests that nature is something that needs to be protected. While the game has no overt environmental themes, it still communicates an ecological message through the game play.

Eveything about this game sets it apart, including the goals.
Sometimes, goals communicate a message not intended by the developers. Even if a message is unintentional, the programmers set up the system for the world. They make up the laws of that fictional world, and their imaginary land reflects how they believe the real world should work. For example, in Jak and Daxter: the Precursor Legacy the main goal of the game is to transform your friend back into a human. There are threatening monsters called Lurkers, but when players fight them, it is only so they can advance their journey. Even doing good deeds has a selfish purpose. The local townspeople always bribe you upfront with Power Cells, so you don’t help them out of the good of your heart. While the player does end up saving the world, it is less out of intentional effort and more due to unlikely happenstance. The entire game is about serving self-interest. Even if the developers weren’t consciously putting that into the game, the way they set up the system reinforces the idea of looking out for yourself first and foremost.

In the sequel, Jak II, the goal is to overthrow Baron Praxis’s totalitarian rule. The goal is a generally noble one, but the methods involve terrorism, bribery, and blackmail. Even if the player doesn’t agree with the morality of a mission, the only way to move forward is to do what the game wants. Through the set-up of the game, it suggests that the ends justify the means when it comes to overthrowing a corrupt government.  Sometimes the strictness of a game can be rhetorical by only allowing one solution to a problem, suggesting that is the best solution.

Jak II teaches us that if violence isn't solving your problems, you aren't using enough of it. 
BlazBlue, on the other hand, encourages the player to use as many different methods as possible. BlazBlue is a fighting game, which means that the game play consists of one-on-one battles. In most fighting games, the story will be tournament style, with players having to beat several opponents in order to progress. BlazBlue takes a different approach, with branching storylines that take multiple play-throughs to reach. The only wat to reach some of the branches, players must lose certain battles. In fact, in order to achieve 100% completion the player has to lose all possible battles once. By including losses as part of the completion requirement, the game suggests that both winning and losing are valuable experiences.

Blazblu shows us that if violence doesn't solve your problems, you aren't smashing the buttons fast enough. 
Goals suggest something is worth value, but making something a goal does not make a convincing argument by itself. Video games are often criticized for glorifying violence, but “violence is an element of play that serves specific purposes.”1 Because players are aware that it is only a game, they do not see the things they kill as living beings, but as challenges and hurdling blocks. Whether or not the violence in video games has negative effects on people is a subject of much controversy, and no conclusive evidence for either side has emerged. At the moment, though, the goals in video games are not always directly parallel to actions in real life, but remain abstracted. In order for the creator to persuade the audience that game goals apply beyond the game, they must create a system that is comparable to real life. Then, they need to show real-life rewards that could motivate the player. “Immediate goals provide immediate rewards,” and the success the player feels over small victories will motivate them to continue through the game to achieve larger victories.1 Developers need to provide adequate reason for the player to become invested in the stakes. 

This concludes the goals section of video game rhetoric. For Part 1, check here. For Part 2, check here. Make sure to check out the main Rhetoric directory, and check back for the next section, where we delve into choice and effect in video games! 

Oh, and if you want to make me really happy, check out my novel. You can get it for free with the coupon code YP65T.

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Tsunderes: Hot and Cold Heartthrobs

On Thursday, March 7, 2013 14 comments

I’ve been watching Shakugan no Shana, because I was curious about why the show was so popular. After much investigation, I have a startling deduction. People like Shana. Why? Because tsundere. There is something about those grumpy little lolis that drive people crazy (in the best way possible). I like ‘em too, as they are a far more compelling romantic lead than the usual hopelessly insecure high school girl. But why are tsunderes so fun to watch? After many hours of psychoanalysis (ie me sitting on my bed having a Toradora marathon) I have developed a theory. Tsunderes are popular because they are the perfect combination of hard-to-get, emotionally fragile, and flattering.

Look at this sassy little sheila. What's not to like?
People like a challenge. It validates your existence when you do something that ordinary people can’t. So the idea of a tsundere, or someone who is not normally cold, suddenly being torn by their emotions, is captivating. Being in a relationship is hard enough. But winning over a tsundere is like completing a marathon with one leg tied to spare tire. It’s not something the average mortal can do.

But in a nice little paradox, most tsunderes are emotionally fragile, which means that they would be easy to be in a relationship with. Like Shana, who emotionally withdraws because she doesn’t know how to handle her own emotions, tsunderes are a “go at your own pace” romance. Tsunderes are too stubborn to admit they like someone and enter a relationship. At the same time, they immaturely refuse to let someone go. This leads to a sort of push and pull, a sweet-spot of noncommittal love. The merry-go-round of emotion means that a relationship with a tsundere can continue indefinitely without ever being constricting or binding. They aren’t ready to completely commit to a relationship, so why should you?

Just because she makes you a gourmet dinner doesn't mean she likes you, okay?! 
 But let’s not forget the most important aspect of any hypothetical relationship: they make you feel good about yourself. Tsunderes are usually tough, hardened people. Like the ferocious Palmtop Tiger from Toradora, they are quick to judge and condemn. But their special someone magically makes them melt into a pile of squishy goo. Surely someone capable of such a marvelous feat must be amazing! Either that or the designated male-lead. But the fact remains that tsunderes are flattering because their love is so begrudgingly given.

If you can win over this, then you deserve a medal. 
It would be an oversimplification to say this is a complete analysis of what makes tsunderes the go-to for romantic leads. There are a wealth of other factors out there. However, you can’t deny that there is something so psychologically satisfying about the love-hate dynamic. So if you can’t get enough tsundere, have some recommended viewing:

And if you liked this post, check out my other articles!

Shounen: Soft-core Porn for Girls: An explanation of why shounen is so popular with the ladies.

In Defense of Vocaloids: A series of posts about why Vocaloids are so dang awesome.

Oh, and if you want to make me really happy, check out my novel, Peter Pays Tribute. You can get it for free with the coupon code YP65T.

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Damian Wayne: Gone but not for long

On Wednesday, March 6, 2013 1 comments

Grant Morrison is batshit insane. Everyone knows it. And in his latest flight of insanity, he killed one of my favorite characters: Damian Wayne. Yes, it’s official. Damian dies in Batman, Inc. #8. But I will bet good money that he isn’t going to stay dead. In fact, if you pay close attention, hints at his resurrection are everywhere. Read on, and dry those tears, you big baby.

Don't worry; he's just sleeping. And that's just V8 juice. 
I’m a huge fan of Grant Morrison. He’s one of the most brilliant writers in the comic industry. Heck, he wrote a story where the Doom Patrol defeated the fifth Horseman of the Apocalypse with Dadaism. Anyone who does that is solid gold in my book. And something you have to understand about him is that he loves playing with expectation. He understands not just the medium of comic books, but the fan culture surrounding it. Remember Batman R.I.P.? Where it was clearly set up that Bruce was going to die, but then didn’t, but then died immediately after in Final Crisis when everyone was off guard? He likes to take people by surprise. And Damian’s death was not surprising.

I've never taken LSD, but I imagine it looks something like this. 
 And it doesn’t matter how gruesome Damian’s death was. Grant Morrison isn’t afraid to embrace the kookiness of comics. In fact, he relishes in absurdity. He wouldn’t be above writing some crazy plot arc or resurrection story to bring Damian back.

And I think he will. Why? Well, back during the Batman and Son arc, there was a mini-arc about three false Batmen. In an interview, Grant Morrison talked about his inspiration, and how hard it was to come up with new ideas for comics. He wanted to do an arc with imposter Batmen, but found out that it had already been done way back in the Silver Age. No one remembered or cared about that story, so he could have just retold it. But noooooo. He had to reinvent it, adding in some drugs and guns and some sort of apocalypse.

This is the third fake Batman, who may or may not be the anitChrist. I'm not sure. It's all very confusing. 
How does this relate to Damian? Easy. The story of Batman losing a Robin has already been told (thanks, Jason). In fact, not only has it been told, but pretty much a decade after that was spent on Bruce angsting over not being there in time for Jason. The story has been done to death. I highly doubt a writer as original as Grant Morrison would be content to rehash the same tale.

No, he has bigger plans. He’s been planning on killing Damian since day one. Ever since he started Batman, Inc. he wanted the story to focus on Damian and Bruce’s relationship, culminating in Damian’s death. Keyword culminating. Damian dies in issue eight, but the series is supposed to last twelve issues. There is still much more story to be told. And really, if he did want Damain’s death to be his great message, his lasting contribution to comics, then he would have saved it for the climax. But he didn’t, which means that he still has plans. There are only four issues left, so the plot isn’t going to shift away to some other struggle. No, the focus needs to stay on Bruce and Talia and their son.

Also according to Grant Morrison, this whole arc is supposed to have divorce undertones. Talia may be an uncaring bitch, but the second after Damian dies, she starts crying. Obviously she is already rethinking her decision. Gee, what’s a woman with access to a Lazarus Pit going to do over the loss of her child? Beats me.
This slut showing an emotion that isn't flagrant sexuality? That's a sure sign of the apocalypse. 

On the other end of the writing spectrum, Peter J. Tomasi, the current writer for Batman and Robin, talked about his future plans for the series. To sum it up, they don’t intend to bring back Tim as Robin. They don’t want to do another “Batman needs a Robin” story. And they refused to comment on any long-term plans, but he did have this to say: there's a big, epic picture in view over the horizon, but there's plenty of lightning storms and hurricanes for myself, Pat Gleason and our partners in crime Mick Gray and John Kalisz to still fly through before it all becomes clear.” Yeah, it’s vague, and yeah, I shouldn’t read too much into it. However, the Batfamily has been going through quite a few shakeups recently. I’d like to think the writers aren’t stupid enough to throw a new character into the mix while the waters are still muddy. So I don’t think it’s likely that they’ll introduce a new Robin. And Tim is not coming back as Robin. And the title Batman and Robin is not being cancelled.

This is all speculation based, so let me wrap this up with the cold hard facts: Damian makes money. Right now the character is growing in popularity. Popularity sells books. You know what sells even more books? Media hype. Just check out ebay and see how much an issue of Batman, Inc. #8 is going for. The only reason DC would slaughter the golden goose is if they had a way to bring it back laying more eggs than ever. *coughLazurusPitscough*

I thought you were a bro, Grant Morrison. I trusted you.
 So like I said, I am willing to bet good money that Damian makes a comeback within a year. In the meantime, don’t panic. Just enjoy these coming issues for the emotional issues they explore. Don’t be upset over Damian’s death. Instead, enjoy the (hopefully) psychologically complex stories coming out. And try to act a little surprised when they decide to bring Damian back. It makes the writers feel good. 

If you like this article, make sure to check out my other stuff!

I Demand Stephanie Brown: How bringing Steph back could improve all of the Bat-comics

Don't Cry For Young Justice: Why Young Justice being cancelled isn't the end of the world

Your Objective is Anarchy: How video games encourage rebellion.
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Pewdiepie vs. Tobuscus: Can't we all be friends?

On Monday, February 18, 2013 1 comments

Pewdiepie and Tobuscus are two awesome people. They make money playing video games, for crying out loud! It doesn’t get much cooler than that. Yet for some reason, many of their fans don’t think the internet is big enough for both of them. They claim one is better than the other. This is the internet, so stupidity isn’t shocking. What is shocking is what we can learn by studying these primitive tribes of fans. Or re-learn, as the case may be. Some chump named Erik Erikson noticed this decades ago.

The short story: human beings enjoy excluding others. It’s built into our systems. Still have a shred of faith in humanity left? Read on, and allow me to destroy it for you.

Alternatively, you could just look at some furry fanart. That should destroy your faith in humanity pretty fast.

Humans go through several stages of psychological development. One of the most painful (or most hilarious, if you are an outside observer) stages comes in adolescence: Identity vs. Role Confusion. Once kids hit the magic of puberty, they realize that the real world can be a scary place. They also realize they are worthless chumps who can’t hope to make it on their own. So what do they do? They form primitive packs (I believe the cool kids call them cliques).

This is what Erikson's Developmental Pyramid looks like, in case you're interested. I know, it's not shiny or filled with pop-culture references. So sue me.
 However, it isn’t enough just to be in a pack. The way our amazing human brain works is that we define ourselves with negative assertions almost as much as positive assertions. So it isn’t “I like rock music,” but “I do not like dubstep. Therefore, I am not like the people who enjoy dubstep.” And so now not only do they hate dubstep, they hate everything associated with the people who like dubstep.

Enter a new generation of youngsters: ones who don’t have social skills and never go outside. They can’t form real-life packs, so what do they do? They form packs based around internet celebrities. So we can’t all join hands and sing a rousing Ole dole doff/ I can swing my sword melody. Nooooooooo. Instead, we have to argue in the comments about who’s better.

So there you have it. A scientific explanation for why people are annoying. And the next time you see a little Pewd/Toby war going on, you can just smile to yourself, knowing that the whiners are still psychologically immature adolescents desperately vying for a place in a world that doesn’t want them. I’m sure glad I’m nothing like them < /hypocrisy>.

Did you like this post? Then please check out some of my other articles.

Ultimate Nerd Test: A very extensive test to see just how nerdy you are.

The Rhetoric of Video Games: A series of articles where I talk in depth about video game design and how it impacts the player.

Abridgers Wanted: A post talking about abridged series and what the heck happened to them.
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5 Ways the Next Season of Korra Could Suck

Are you as excited for the next season of Korra as I am? If you are, you’ve probably spent a fair amount of time wondering what’s going to happen in Book Two. Who knows what the writers are going to come up with? Whatever they do, there are a few things I hope they avoid. Let’s face it, even great writers make mistakes, and if they aren’t careful, they could write the show into an early grave. Here are five mistakes that could make the next season of Korra seriously suck.

Of course, you'd have to be actively trying to make this show fail.

Mistake One: Loads of new characters!
With seasons that are only 13 episode long, there isn’t enough time to develop a ton of characters. Yes, some fresh blood might be nice, but the show already has existing characters that could be fleshed-out. Tahno, anyone? Don’t just forget about these characters. Reintroduce them and build on their existing background. But if they have to introduce next characters, they should avoid…

Tahno never was the same after his swag was taken away.
Mistake Two: Having all expert benders
Don’t get me wrong, I love to see awesome benders like Tarrlok and Lin Beifong throw it down. The amazing bending battles are always a treat, and seeing the creative ways they use their abilities makes my inner nerd sing. However, there’s also something magical about watching a character blossom. In the original Avatar, I loved seeing Katara grow as a bender and watch her develop her own style of bending. If everyone in the series is a seasoned pro (like most of the cast is now) then we lose out on an opportunity to explore the nature of bending through the eyes of a novice.

Mistake Three: Keep the focus on pro-bending
Pro-bending is officially my favorite fictional sport (take that, Quidditch!). I love its complexity and how the writers used it to set the stage for a larger plot. But that’s just it: pro-bending was a placeholder until the real conflict could develop. A sports event does not have high enough stakes to base an entire season around. I don’t want it to disappear completely, but for every episode that’s about pro-bending, that’s one less episode about, I don’t know, saving the world or something.

I'd pay a lot more attention to real sports if they involved trying to set people on fire.
Mistake Four: M0ar love triangle fun!!!11!
“The Spirit of Competition” is my favorite episode from last season. Watching Bolin cry and run away like a little girl helped justify my own cruel existence. But the writers need to be careful. Bryan and Michael are amazing trolls when it comes to shipping. However, you can only have Korra flip back and forth a couple of times before she starts to look like a callous asshole. Instead, they should develop her relationship with Mako. I know, I don’t like Makorra, either. But I might if the writers give me a reason to. Flesh out the existing relationships instead of playing up shipping for a cheap laugh.
It takes a big man to cry. It takes a bigger man to laugh at that man.

Mistake Five: Introduce a new conflict
The bending/nonbending conflict is fascinating. It was a great way to showcase how the world has changed, showing villains sporting new technology and providing Korra with a serious, multi-faceted issue to face. While reusing Amon probably isn’t a good idea, the writers could build on the anti-bending struggle. It’s a great chance to see an Avatar mediate a conflict, instead of just fight some pseudo-Nazi regime (aka the Fire Nation).

So there you have it. Five ways the writers could screw up. But relax, I’m sure the next season is in good hands. And if it isn’t, I’ll have something to complain about for an entire year!

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