Online Communities

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Ever since high school, I’ve been heavily involved in two major online communities. The first, and my gateway into the world of using internet forums for conversations, sharing fan-made works and debating topics, was Tommy Tallarico’s (video game composer/Video Games Live co-founder) forum. There, at a time when Tommy was still a TV host for video game shows like “The Electric Playground” and “Reviews on the Run/Judgment Day”, I met a few online friends and acquaintances and we chatted about all things gaming. I even got the opportunity to interact with Tommy and even received my first ever autograph from him just by being a member of the community. Of course, things weren’t always sunshine and rainbows, and we often found trolls to contend with who either legitimately hated Tommy or just wanted to be a nuisance. But the whole experience was an eye-opener and made me realize that the internet could be used for more than just watching silly videos, playing Flash games, and chatting to my local friends via MSN Messenger.

After that site unfortunately fell to spammers and eventually was shut down, I soon stumbled across Doug Walker’s, aka the Nostalgia Critic, first crossover with James Rolfe, aka the Angry Video Game Nerd. Having already liked the Nerd, I made the decision to visit Doug’s site and through that developed a wiki based on it, made online friends I still talk to today, and found a new community to call “home.” Once again, there was (and still is) the occasional drama from trolls both on the site and my wiki, but I took it in stride and focused on enjoying various contributors’ work. I still feel that way even now, but… I’ve found myself drifting away from the community more and more as each year goes by.

Maybe some people have abandoned it due to contributors leaving or site drama or even something as simple as its redesign, but I’ve found I’ve mainly stayed because of my wiki. It’s something I take pride in because it’s one of the only fan-made things I’ve ever produced. However, I tend to find myself watching the people I like on their own sites or YouTube channels nowadays, spending less time on the forums and in the comments than I ever have. Before, I used to use the forums for private messaging my friends and fiance, and I did sometimes take part in thread discussions. But now, with all the changes over the years and a revolving door of contributors, I find it’s not as…fun as it used to be. It saddens me to see both communities lose their appeal to me, with the Channel Awesome community having gone through the motions and the Tallarico boards experiencing a pretty sudden drop-off before being dissolved completely. I realize both communities vary in size and scope, but it pains me to think that I don’t get as much enjoyment out of Channel Awesome now as I did within its first four or so years.

Whether Channel Awesome and its community endures or fizzles out, I’ll never forget all the good things that’s come out of it. I’m still very grateful for the people I’ve met, the awesome talent I’ve been exposed to, and some pretty neat merchandise I’ve collected. Even if I’m not as big of a fan as I once was (on top of being slightly more cynical), I’ll always appreciate Channel Awesome’s community for helping make those first few years as an adult more enjoyable.

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Easter Memories

Easter Decoration

Easter was always one of those holidays that, even as a kid, I knew would be more enjoyable back then rather than now. Whenever I celebrate Easter now, the most that usually happens is a dinner not unlike our Christmas one that takes place with my dad’s side of the family. Sure, the option of getting candy and such is still open, but while it was more like a fun scavenger hunt back then, now it’s pretty much just buying candy when it goes on sale. And yes, I know that also applies to Halloween as well, but I always felt Halloween had more going for it.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Considering its ties to the rebirth of Jesus, we occasionally indulged in that side of the holiday by going to church. But for me, Easter boiled down to searching for hidden goodies that my parents (aka the “Easter Bunny”) hid around our house. My sisters and I made a big deal out of it almost as much as we did with Christmas – getting up early in the morning just so we could search every nook and cranny for chocolate eggs before my parents woke up. When my parents would get up, they usually tried to hint at any treats we missed, though it was inevitable each year that one would go unnoticed. We always got a good laugh when a random egg or candy would be found late in the year.

In the days leading up to Good Friday, our elementary school teachers would sometimes pass out treats and have us help decorate the classroom. That brings me to one aspect of Easter I’ve always loved: the spring imagery. Rabbits, chicks, flowers, and the light pastel colors just appeal to me, especially living in an area where snow can still fall even in mid-April. The rebirth aspect also makes the holiday just feel…upbeat. It’s a feel-good holiday to me, even if I don’t indulge in it as much as I used to. I might appreciate it more than I used to for what the holiday represents, but I’ll always look back fondly on those egg hunts that dominated my childhood.

Adult Cartoons? MEH.

I’m just going to come out and say it: For the most part, I haven’t liked any adult cartoon I’ve tried watching. Now, when I say adult, I mean a plethora of cartoons that people usually think of: “South Park”, “Family Guy”, “American Dad”, “Bob’s Burgers” and “Rick & Morty” to name a few (I’m omitting “The Simpsons”). Before I go further, let me preface this by saying that I’m by no means a prude. Sometimes crude or lowbrow humor in movies or other TV shows can make me chuckle. I’ve also made a valiant effort to give many of the more popular cartoons a fair viewing chance. But in the end, I just haven’t found a single one that made me go “I HAVE to keep watching this!”

Let’s start with “Rick & Morty” on the more positive side of things. Any praise I have toward what I’ve seen of it has to do with the concept of Rick and Morty travelling to different locales and getting into crazy situations. Sure, sometimes the humor could go lowbrow, but it still feels like one of the smarter shows out there. My biggest gripe with it, however, is the pseudo-improv style of “writing.” Even going back to watch the very first episode, I was easily annoyed by Rick’s constant repetition of Morty’s name in practically every sentence he spoke. I may still give this show another shot some day, but I can say that for now, it’s not something I’m ready to continue.

However, that show gets off easy compared to other stuff I’ve seen. I literally only watched one episode of “Bob’s Burgers” and was just not feeling it. Maybe it was the characters or humor or both, but I couldn’t be bothered to keep going. “South Park” also annoys me at times, definitely because of the characters and humor, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t occasionally enjoy some of the material/satire they’ve put out. However, like every adult cartoon I could mention, I’ve only seen random episodes. It’s never been something I felt the need to watch from start to finish.

And then we come to Seth MacFarlane and GOD, I just can’t stand his shows. Any of them. I find pretty much every character annoying and often irredeemable, the shock humor and non-sequiturs hardly ever make me laugh (there are rare exceptions, but they are VERY rare), and I’m so sick of the animation style being the same for each. Yeah, Matt Groening had similar styles for both “The Simpsons” and “Futurama”, but at least in the latter he could create crazy-looking creatures to differentiate the two. I know people consider the early days of “Family Guy” to be the best, but overall it just doesn’t appeal to me.

So, what have I learned from these examples? Well, I think my biggest problem with many adult cartoons is an over reliance of shock humor and, at times, gross out humor. Gross out can sometimes work for me if it’s not too overboard, but shock humor has never done anything but make me shake my head. I know comedy can be derived from pretty much anything, but I draw the line at some jokes. I guess the reason I tend to drift toward shows aimed at a younger crowd is that many of them nowadays are much more engaging and oftentimes more funny to me.

But, at the end of the day, humor is subjective. I won’t criticize someone for liking these shows. They’re all popular and loved for reasons I can understand. But who knows? Maybe I just haven’t found the right adult cartoon for me yet. The only way I’ll know is to keep trying new things.

Political TV & Me

house-of-cards

As some who have read my past blogs know, I’m not big on politics, Canadian or otherwise. Sure, it’s fun at times to take an outsider’s look at US politics, but that’s solely because of how circus-like the whole thing is. So much emphasis goes in to each election, whether it be the candidates running for it, the attack ads flying around against both major parties, or the debates. Dear LORD, the debates. But as easy as it would be for me to launch into a tirade about the current state of things in the US, I’d rather talk about politics in the world of fiction.

Now, given that I’ve never liked politics, I grew up ignoring many shows to do with them. This includes shows like “The West Wing,” “The Newsroom,” and “Veep” to name a few. I only ever watched anything political via satire shows like “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report.” But last year, my fiance’s mom encouraged us to give the Netflix original, “House of Cards,” a try. And let me tell you, it was worth jumping into. For all the dumb, exaggerated decisions/moments that take place within it, at its heart the show is full of intrigue and backstabbing that I can’t help but get caught up in.

Ironically, much like political shows, I also don’t usually like shows where the main character is an amoral douchebag. There HAS been the occasional all-around “good” person in the four seasons of the show, but most of its cast consists of people who have a LOT of dirty laundry. You don’t even have to look further than the main characters, Frank and Claire Underwood (especially so with Frank early on). Both of them are ruthless, scheming, terrible people who will do anything and screw over pretty much anyone to get what they want. And yet…it’s the journey they take to accomplish their goals that continues to keep me coming back. For obvious reasons, I won’t jump into spoiler territory, but the show makes it a dilemma to decide whether to root for them or see them fail at times. Of course, some people might be against them from the beginning, and that’s fine. They (again, especially Frank) make it clear from the very first episode that they’re not “good guys.” Honestly, I enjoy the fact that they work well as a team more than the fact that they’re evil people.

Even with four seasons under its belt, the show still manages to surprise me with its twists and turns, and it still makes me chuckle whenever Frank delivers a sarcastic aside to the camera. Many of the supporting characters are also fun to watch, no matter whether they’re supporting the Underwoods or trying to undermine them. The plots of the show have varied in hitting or missing (Season 3 is still the weakest to me overall), but I feel the show has gotten back on its feet recently. I even feel that, in a weird way, I’ve gotten more insight into how US politics work. Not everything is factual, mind you, but I feel I understand how their government is at least structured. It’s great that they can use the show to reflect some real life topics, but I really enjoy the little touches they bring to each character. I should utterly hate Frank for his ideals and immoral attitude, yet he has a Southern charm to him and also loves hobbies like playing video games and making battle dioramas.

The newest season ended on a very intense note, and I can’t wait until Season 5. Frank and Claire are more deplorable than ever, and it’ll be interesting to see if the next season will be the one to see them finally fall. Yes, no matter how much I like their partnership, I know their status won’t last and I want them to go down fighting. Until then, I’ll be eagerly awaiting to see how they continue to stay afloat in the White House.

My Current Obsession: Fire Emblem Fates

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“Fire Emblem: Fates – Birthright/Conquest” came out almost two weeks ago, and I’ve been heavily enjoying my copy of Birthright, the easier, more “FE: Awakening” game of the two. This isn’t going to be a formal review, however, as I’m…only halfway through the game. Don’t take that the wrong way – I’ve been playing nearly every day for at least a couple hours. So why am I only at the halfway point? Well, there is both a real life reason and in-game reason for that.

Firstly, though, for those who haven’t seen previous blogs of mine or aren’t familiar with Fire Emblem in general, the series is a set of action-strategy games set in fantastical lands where, pretty often, wars break out among different groups within the country. You play out battles, moving your team of characters (or units) around a grid to attack or defend against enemies. Up until recently, the older games were renown for being perma-death, where if you lost a character in battle, they STAYED dead. No revives, no continues, nothing. The newer games, “Awakening” and “Birthright/Conquest” are a bit more beginner-friendly in that regard, as both added modes where units are revived after a battle ends. Many of these games also have a detailed support system between characters in your team, and you can even get married (and spmetimes produce children to use as additional units) if your rank with someone is high enough. It’s all really addicting gameplay and the series has eased me into the genre because of it.

But let’s get back to “FE: Fates – Birthright” and why, despite this addiction, I haven’t made much progress. The real life reason is that I’ll be driving my mom to physio soon enough so she can get more strength back in her recently patched up shoulder/arm. Unless I decide to go off into town and do other things, I’ll be stuck in a waiting room for over an hour. I figure stretching out my time with this game for that purpose (since I only have one other “new” game left to play on my 3DS) would make for a great time waster. As for the in-game reason, I’ve become addicted to the online system (aka My Castle). Being able to visit other people, collect supplies for weapons and items, recruit other players after battles and create/upgrade my own castle has taken up a ton of my time. Not that that’s a bad thing, because I’ve also been generally taking my time with this game as opposed to plowing through like I did with “Awakening.” I’ve been grinding up some, actually bothering with the support system than just hooking everyone up and calling it a day, and making sure I get a ton of money to buy better stuff. All in all, “Birthright” has been a lot of fun to delve into so far.

I’m still looking into more games in the action-strategy genre, but the Fire Emblem series has still been a great jumping on point for me. I would definitely encourage others looking to try out action-strategy games to give the series a shot. While I don’t know if I’m brave enough to tackle one of the older, perma-death games, I’m definitely going to keep up with the series as long as it keeps coming out.