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.
Read more ...»

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!

For more complain-tastic posts, check out these articles:

I Demand Stephanie Brown: A list of reasons why DC needs to bring her back.

No One Likes a Faker: Just a few reasons why wannabe nerds are annoying.

In Defense of Vocaloids: A series of articles about why people shouldn't look down on Vocaloids just because they are electronic.

Friendship is Heroic: To all the neigh-sayers (see what I did there) of My Little Pony.
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I Demand Stephanie Brown

On Thursday, February 7, 2013 0 comments

DC is stupid. That’s not news. From their convoluted crossover events to their asinine editorial decisions, they’ve stuck their foot in their mouth more than once. The most recent offender is the New 52. The New 52 isn’t all bad (only about 90% of it), but it’s been over a year and some much needed corrections still haven’t been made. My biggest pet peeve: the absence of Stephanie Brown. Here are five reasons Stephanie Brown should be brought back.

Pictured above: Stephanie surrounded by DC editors.  
Reason 1: Anchor for Tim
Tim’s been down a slippery slope these past few years. With the New 52 it’s a bit unclear exactly who he’s lost and when (thanks for clearing that up, DC). However, he is not a happy-camper. The cheerful chipmunk from days of yore (the 90s) is gone, replaced with a constantly scowling grump. Stephanie’s presence could fix this. Even if they weren’t officially a couple, she could be his emotional anchor. It would allow the writers to continue to develop this new, darker side of Tim (in the hope that it one day goes somewhere) while using Steph to occasionally pull him back to the good old days.

Reason 2: DC needs more girls in their line-up
I hate to play the gender card, but it needs to be said: female superheroes need help. Even existing female icons like Wonder Woman and Black Canary are played up for their sexuality. Fine, whatever, I won’t write a ten-page rant on how impractical Starfire’s costume is. I just think that the equation needs to be balanced. The comic world needs more characters like Stephanie Brown, younger women who aren’t played up for their sexuality. DCverse needs Steph precisely because she isn’t defined by her gender. She is a well-rounded character with a lot to offer. And she just so happens to be to be female in a genre that needs more strong female characters.

Are her nipples adhesive? How is that costume staying on?  
Reason 3: Foil for Damian
Damian is an obnoxious little fart with all the social graces of a roasted peanut. Stephanie is everything Damian is not. She was a great socializing force for him, putting him in situations outside of his comfort zone. It both humanized him and forced him to grow as a character. Their banter was hilarious, but more than that, they had a great dynamic. Steph was a great “rival” for Damian, providing someone on his level that he could treat as a peer, and vice-versa. Without her, Damian’s become the DC equivalent of a crazy cat person. Okay, his menagerie is freaking adorable, but Steph was giving him skills that could help him be a functioning human being.

Or he could turn Wayne Manor into one giant litter-box. 
Reason 4: An emotional counter-point for the whole Bat-clan
As far as pseudo-families go, the Bats are as morose as a pack of timber wolves. Even characters who used to be shining paragons of go-lucky have slipped deeper into the darkside (Tim, I’m looking at you). I’m not accusing them of being a one-note angst-fest (they are a symphony, thank you very much), but Stephanie provided an excellent contrast. Her wide-eyed optimism provided a much needed balance. It allowed the family to have its dark, somber moments while still being 3-dimensional.

Reason 5: Hope vs cynicism
Gotham is a rotten dumping-grounds where gross things go to die. You won’t find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy in all of comic books. In a city as corrupt and unlikable as Gotham, it’s occasionally hard to see why the heroes bother saving it. Why exactly is Batman dedicating his life to preserving an already rotten corpse? Stephanie Brown is a beacon of light. She is a naturally bright and hopeful (and even shown as a Blue Lantern in the last issue). Her outlook on life allows the audience to see the good in Gotham. It’s a perspective that more cynical, world-weary characters like Bruce and Jason can’t bring to the table. Allowing Stephanie to infuse the city with hope enriches all of the Batfamily books, because it gives the audience a reason to care.

This might be my favorite image in all of comics.
So there you have it. Bringing Stephanie Brown back wouldn’t just appease angry fans; it would make a wealth of other books better. The world needs more Steph. DC, feel free to redeem yourself at any time. Until then, I’ll just be over here. Complaining.

Leave some love in the comments if you want Stephanie Brown back, too!

And check out my article about Young Justice being cancelled. This blog is a cornucopia of nerdiness.
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No One Likes a Faker: Wannabe Nerds

On Tuesday, February 5, 2013 0 comments

Being a nerd is officially cool. Video games are widespread, superheroes are mainstream, and Jediism is the seventh most popular religion in the UK.  I guess people have finally figured out that nerds rule the world, and they’re eager to get a slice of the action. Except that this new, mainstream nerdiness is an insult to us purist nerds. After all, part of the experience of being ageek is the social ostracism.

There's more to being a nerd than writing on your hand with Sharpie and inadvertently becoming an internet meme. 

Everyone is welcome to be a nerd. I genuinely hope that one day people can feel the same unique combination of joy and shame I feel when buying My Little Pony figures. At the same time, every one has a little bit of hipster in them. We all want to feel unique, and we don’t want to do things just because they’re popular. So when the things I like do become popular, but most of the fans are shallow people looking to fit in, I feel cheated. Do I need to get over it? Probably. Will I? Hey, part of being a nerd is socially unacceptable passion.

A much better depiction of what it means to be a nerd.

So what can we do about these fair-weather fans? Since I don’t have an answer, I’ll have to make do with sarcasm and irony. Until then, you can weed out your fake nerd friends by taking my ULTIMATE NERD TEST!
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Ultimate Nerd Test!

For each answer you respond yes to, reward yourself with points. Unless stated otherwise, each question is worth one point. This is in no way a complete listing of all possible aspects of nerdiness. It’s just a general overview of the many ways one can be socially awkward.

This test is for fun. Don’t stretch your butthole out of shape if you don’t get a score you like. Even I wouldn’t get a hundred on this test, so take it with a grain of salt and a shot of tequila.

Nerdiness on the internet
1.     Have you trolled someone online? 2 points
2.     Do you know what a meme is?
3.     Have you ever role-played online with people you have never met?
4.     Do you regularly follow an abridged series (Dragonball Z abridged, YGOTAS, etc.) 2 points
5.      Have you ever been Rickrolled?
6.     Do you scour ebay for rare/ collectible items?
7.     Do you comment on Youtube videos?
8.     Have you ever edited a wiki?
9.     Off the top of your head, can you name four Youtubers you enjoy watching? 2 points
10.       Have you ever had a real-world conversation about something you read or watched online? 2 points

Creative Nerds
11.        Do you read fanfiction?
12.        Have you written fanfiction? 2 points
13.        Do you ever look at/ draw fanart?
14.        Have you created an OC?
15.        Have you ever handmade a replica of an item from a series you like? 3 points
16.        Do you watch AMVs?
17.        Have you ever given a hand-made gift to a friend?
18.        Does your dream job have to do with working on or creating the sort of things you enjoy?
19.        Have you ever remixed music? 2 points
20.        Have you ever reenacted a favorite scene? 2 points

The Otaku
21.        Do you listen to Vocaloids? 2 points
22.        Have you seen more than ten different anime series?
23.        Have you ever imported anything from Japan? 2 points
24.        Do you read manga?
25.        Have you ever sought out or bought a food, just because you saw a character in anime eating it?
26.        Do you wish you lived in Japan?
27.        Do you own doujinshi? 3 points
28.        Do you own any bootleg anime?
29.        Do you own any legal anime DVDs?
30.        Have you ever forgone social events in order to stay home and watch anime?

Old school Nerd
31.        Have you ever played D+D? 2 points
32.        Have you subscribed to a comic book? 2 points
33.        Do you listen to techno?
34.        Do you watch cartoons aimed at adults?
35.        Cartoons aimed at children?
36.        Do you know how to play any sort of Trading Card Game? (Pokemon, Yugioh, etc.) 2 points
37.        Do you regularly read science fiction or fantasy novels?
38.        Is your room decorated with posters/ paraphernalia for an obsession?
39.        Do you own more than a hundred books? 2 points
40.        Do you own a pre-1990 TV series on DVD or VHS (Star Trek, Twilight Zone, etc.)?

Coming out of the nerd closet
41.        Have you attended a convention of any kind? 2 points
42.        Have you ever been to the midnight release of a book?
43.        Have you ever cosplayed, not counting on Halloween? 3 points
44.        Do you sing in the car?
45.        Do people look at you funny when you dance in public?
46.        Have you ever approached a stranger when you noticed that they were reading a book you liked?
47.        Do you own a T-shirt, bag, hat or other article of clothing advertising an enjoyed hobby?
48.        Do you look for opportunities to talk about a hobby you like, bringing it up even when it isn’t relevant to the conversation?
49.        Have you ever overheard someone trash-talking a hobby or interest you like, and angrily called them out? 2 points
50.        Have you ever integrated your hobby into an assignment or project for school? 2 points

Video Game Nerd
51.        Do you listen to video game soundtracks?
52.        Have you ever helped program something? 3 points
53.        Do you own more than one game system?
54.        Do you own an old school (more than 15 years) game system? 2 points
55.        Do you have a subscription to an MMORPG?
56.        Have you ever spent more time working on a game’s sidequests than on the actual plot itself?
57.        Have you ever completed a game 100%?
58.        Have you ever bought a game the day it was released?
59.        Have you ever participated in a video game tournament? 2 points
60.        Do you play a variety of games, from more than three genres (ie: puzzle, shooter, RPG, action, etc.)? 2 points

Social (awkward) Nerd
61.        Have you ever argued over which fictional pairing is the best? 2 points
62.        Have you ever argued about which fictional character from a series is the most attractive?
63.        Have you ever celebrated a fictional event (a character’s birthday or major date in a series, etc)? 2 points
64.        Were you frequently picked last for sports?
65.        Do you laugh at your own jokes?
66.        Were you on the honor roll at school?
67.        Do you cringe when you meet someone who likes a lot of mainstream stuff?
68.        Have you made most of your current friends through a shared nerdy interest? 2 points
69.        Do you do things that are considered uncool or weird because you like them so much?
70.        Are you out of shape?

How did you do? Below is the rating scale. Make sure to leave a comment saying what score you got. I will most certainly use the data to make some sort of spreadsheet or other nerdy analysis.

0-10 pts
You aren’t even a little bit nerdy. You probably took this test as a joke. Surely there’s no way you thought you were an actual geek, right? No, you probably wear glasses indoors and go to the gym on weekends. Weirdo.

11-25 points
Congratulations, you’re normal! Yes, you might have a few quirks, but for the most part you can enter and leave a party without getting a wedgie once. You will have 2.1 one kids, work a boring job, and generally fly under the radar.

26-40 points
You are a borderline nerd. This means that you are probably under the impression that you are the world’s biggest geek, but you aren’t! This is a golden area, where you can still enjoy things with a high level of passion while functioning in a social setting. It’s the best of both worlds. Like that one Hannah Montana song. Because that’s what you are. Someone living a lie.

41-60 points
You are a nerd. But this probably isn’t news to you, is it? Chances are that you were mocked during high school. However, once you get out in the real world, you’ll find that your passion profits you well. You’ll have a lot of drive to pursue your dreams. I just hope most of those dreams don’t involve socializing with anyone other than other nerds.

61-80 points
You are a giant dork. You have probably brought shame upon your parents at least once with your nerdy obsessions. However, you bring great pride to your fellow nerds. You aren’t afraid to stand up and say, “You know what? My interests are socially stigmatized, and I’m okay with that.”

81-90 points
Extreme nerd alert! Just being around you makes some people uncomfortable. You’ve always stood out from the crowd, and not in a teen-comedy sort of way, but in a don’t-make-eye-contact way. As long as you are comfortable with who you are, though, other people’s opinions shouldn’t matter. After all, you’ll always have your online guild.

All hail the uber-nerd! You make even other nerds uncomfortable with your obsession. You’re the guy with the giant Princess Leia poster above his head and a wastebasket full of questionable tissues. You might want to consider pulling back a little, lest you isolate yourself forever. Then again, normal people just aren’t as interesting as the strange fantasy world you live in.

Not satisfied with your nerd score? Read some articles on this blog to help brush up on your nerdiness! Here are some articles that will help you get your geek on:

In Defense of Vocaloids: A series of articles about why Vocaloids rock (sometimes literally).
Friendship is Heroic: An analysis of why My Little Pony is as heroic as any given superhero movie.
How to get your friends addicted to anime: A practical guide for sharing your obsession. 
Seeing is Believing: How Camera Placement Can Make or Break Video Games Part of a series of articles on the rhetoric of video games (ie: what makes video games cool).
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Don't Cry for Young Justice

On Monday, February 4, 2013 1 comments

Young Justice isn’t getting a third season. This is immensely disappointing, because the show hasn’t been around that long. There’s still a lot of momentum to the story, and I haven’t had my fill of the amazing characters. There are thousands of comic stories the series could draw on.

But that’s the thing. The DC Universe has so many stories, subplots, and characters to draw from that it would be impossible to fit them all into one show. Yes, Young Justice ending is sad. I would love for the series to last longer and develop the characters more. However, you can rest easy knowing that this isn’t the last time we’ll see these characters and their stories animated.

When did THIS...
In a way, Young Justice ending now is better than the show dragging on longer than the creators planned. They have a story they want to tell, and after they tell it, what’s the point in continuing? Just look at Teen Titans. That show was amazing, and everyone was disappointed when it ended. Fan interest remained high. And what do you know, they actually have plans to bring it back. As a sketch comedy. Yay.

...become hotter than THIS?
I won’t judge Teen Titans Go! before I see it, but part of what made the original Teen Titans awesome was that each of the characters had their own arcs; they developed independently and as a team. Their stories have already been told. That’s probably the reason this new incarnation is going to stay away from continuity or character development.

All good things must come to an end. After a while, a cartoon loses its drive, or the main creative team loses passion, or whatever. Look at shows like Spongebob, Fairly Oddparents, and a wealth of others that continued past their expiration date. Young Justice ending only means that there is room for a new creative team with a different vision to tell a tale starring teenage try-hards. Yes, there is no guarantee that the next incarnation will be good. But there wasn’t that guarantee when Teen Titans ended. If the producers had decided to continue that show forever, we would have never gotten Young Justice. Who knows what good shows are just a few years away? Small condolences, I know, but endings are only as sad as you make them.

Who knows, that next great show could be Beware the Batman. Or not. Once again, I'll withhold judgement until it comes out.

Do you like comics? Check out my post about Stephanie Brown. 
Or if you're more of a cartoon person, read my Old vs New debate.

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Your Objective is Anarchy: How Video Games Encourage Rebellion

On Sunday, February 3, 2013 2 comments

Last time we talked about how video game objectives can influence how much a player values something. The careful designer can set up an objective that forces the player to temporarily adopt a value-set that is not their own.

 Speaking of forcing their values on players, Every Day the Same Dream is an indie game with a bleak outlook on life. The player is stuck in a vicious cycle of waking up, getting dressed, and going to work. The only way to “beat” the game is to go against the system. The player must accomplish five tasks. They are given no instruction on what they are supposed to do, but must figure it out for themselves by going against the flow. For example, one of the tasks involves going to work in their underwear and being fired by the boss. Another task involves the player throwing themselves off the roof of the building where they work. The goal of the game is to break out of the everyday routine and have players think for themselves. The player is forced to “fight the man,” regardless of their current job satisfaction. And because being a free-thinking douche is the only way to win the game, the game advances an anti-establishment doctrine.

Petting cows: the biggest middle finger you can give corporate America.
What’s more, the way players accomplish this goal is rhetorical. Players are rewarded for suicide in the sense that it helps them progress in the game. The sparse bits of dialogue in the game don’t mention the main character dissatisfaction or frustration. The game never tells you that it wants you to refuse labor and become an individual. It doesn’t have to. Simply by making that a goal, the game illustrates its argument to the player. If you sit down at your desk and work like a good little drone, then the cycle repeats ad infinitum. But by throwing social norms to the wind, players are rewarded with advancement. It’s positive-reinforcement for rebellion.

He's very nonchalant about the whole suicide thing.

Portal also preaches an anti-establishment rhetoric. In the beginning of the game, you are in a lab undergoing a battery of dangerous tests (for science!). An anonymous voice instructs and encourages you over the intercom. Players are given little context for what they are doing and who they are working for. Even though they’re kept in the dark, the only way to move forward is by completing the tests. The players have no choice but to abide by the rules of an unknown force.

As the game progresses, the disembodied voice shows signs of impairment and malfunction. Still the only option is to continue through the tests. Things change when the computer running the tests tries to dump the player into the furnace. The tables are turned, and now the only way to survive is to rebel and find a way to shut down the malicious computer running the facility. In this way, the players are both literally and figuratively encouraged to bring down the system.

GLaDOS just may be the only feminine incarnation of "the man" in existence. 
Portal puts gamers in a situation where they have to blindly follow the voice of authority. Then the game takes that authority and makes it insane and unreliable. Players are forced to rely on themselves, not an anonymous authority. The game is a sort of pro-solidarity/ anti-authority science-fest.

Check back in a few days for the next part in the series!
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