fbpx

Month: January 2020

Anxiety in Animation: Steven Universe

This article discusses the episode “Mindful Education” from Steven Universe Season 4. If you haven’t watched it, you might wanna click that back arrow.

Remembering back to August of 2016 is extremely difficult for me, but perhaps the one thing I do remember from it is the episode of Steven Universe “Mindful Education.” Even as someone on the extreme periphery of the fandom back then, I remember this episode being applauded. Its topics, themes, and handling of them were top tier.

Even now, over three and a half years later, the episode and its subject matter stick in my mind, cropping up like ephemeral wisps in my mind. 

The basic idea of the episode is that Connie’s training overrides her thoughts and she ends up breaking another boy’s arm. It then goes onto address her anxiety about the entire situation. The highlight of the episode is the iconic song “Here Comes A Thought.” 

On a personal level, this song is perhaps one of the best I’ve ever heard/seen in any animated series. While the lyrics are simple and repetitive with just a handful of lines repeated, they’re extremely powerful and multilayered. The accompanying visuals are also fantastic and symbolic (if a little obvious).

The song truly does perfectly encapsulate the themes and ideas of anxiety as well as how to combat it. On a simple, conceptual level, anxiety is little more than the mind attempting to protect one from harm based on past negative experiences by projecting that into the future. In reality, it is often crippling to simple functions and can significantly hold one back. However, let’s just stick with that simpler idea for the fact that the song is only about three and a half minutes long and works well for this particular context.

 

The song uses  butterflies as a representation for the anxiety and the accompanying thoughts.

It is a beautiful representation within this particular context. Butterflies begin as caterpillars that start small and grow larger by slowly eating away at plants. As time goes on on, they eventually become large enough to go into a period of dormancy before turning into a butterfly. As the song reminds us, “Things that you said are suddenly swarming.” 

 

Anxiety is an individual struggle and how each and every person deals with it is unique. Some people may prefer to latch onto one small thing and let it take up their entire attention— 

—while others let it accumulate over time and things constantly built as they refuse to deal with those emotions. 

Regardless of how people deal with it, it almost always feels overwhelming and like it’s the end of the world. It can be crippling and prevent you from wanting to do something you love due to past negative experiences.

 

 

 

One of the scenes that precedes the song and acts as a trigger for it. Connie’s thoughts turn Holo Pearl into the boy she accidentally hurt. It stops Stevonnie from attacking. 

The earliest parts of the song focus on how overwhelming anxiety can be, but the later parts offer hope and help on how to combat it. The advice is simple, straightforward, and clear, but it’s not always the easiest thing to follow especially if you’ve worked yourself into a panic.

 

The first step you need to do is step back and find yourself present in the moment by finding yourself. 

 

Then see if you’re actually in any danger or threat of being harmed immediately. If you’re not, then remind yourself that you’re okay. Observe the thoughts for what they are without judgment, then just let them go.

 

In doing that, you can and also should look for the support of another. They can help ground and reassure you that you’re not in danger of anything. If nothing else, they can support you through the episode you’re having and simply be there which can sometimes make all the difference in the world.

Of course, these tools may not always work or be feasible. Mindfulness is something that takes a lot of practice to become a tool in one’s toolbox that they think to reach for. I know that, personally, it’s something I’m trying to work on. It is something that’s possible to do, though.

It can also be utilized in other ways, not just with anxiety. It can also be exercised in all actions. 

One place it should be taught is when teaching somebody how to fight. It should be taught to be used as a last resort, not something that can easily be activated on instinct like what happened with Connie. This is something that, characteristically, would not fit with Pearl and likely how this entire situation happened with Connie. The song “Do It For Her” from “Sworn to the Sword.” 

“You weren’t built for fighting,

But that doesn’t mean

You’re not prepared to try.

What they don’t know

Is your real advantage,

When you live for someone

You’re prepared to die.”

Philosophy and fighting have gone hand in hand for centuries and many people and places have forgotten that as far as the US goes. Many dojos nowadays teach simply the physical art, not the full philosophy behind it. I’ve been studying and practicing martial arts for over three years, so this is something I understand very well. Mindfulness in all we do is a big part of the dojo I study at. 

This is something Connie should have likely been taught, but, again, it is not something that is part of Pearl’s character. Gem society simply fights for the sake of conquering, not as a way to help center one’s self in the world and exist as the best version of themselves. 

Plus, if Connie had been taught that, we wouldn’t have gotten this fantastic episode and song.

Bringing this back around, “Mindful Education” is perhaps one of the best episodes in an animated series. Its portrayal of anxiety and the advice to help learn to deal with it is one of the most on-point discussions of it I’ve ever seen. There’s a reason many people count it among the greatest in the series.

Console Wars: The Humble Beginnings

If you were wondering where in the hell I’ve been since January 1st when the Virtual Boy article was released, the real answer would be “I’ve been making some cash, working security, my feet and legs hurt, and could break like a box of dry spaghetti noodles at literally any moment” but the answer I will give you guys is that I’ve been in the AAOG basement crafting a series of articles, detailing and researching the near half century of mainstream gaming and I’ve spent the entire month on the most important thing that has existed in the near 50 years of it:

Console Wars.

A concept and social demeanor that has existed since the 1970s but truly began in the 80s with the introduction of the Intellivision and ColecoVision both rivaling each other in the Double Vision wars, as well as same consoles competing with the Atari 2600, the NES going against the Sega Master System, the SNES going against the Genesis, and the newest console war with PlayStation vs Xbox with Nintendo being the Scrappy-Doo of this war (or the Jar Jar Binks of the bunch), it’s safe to say that Console Wars has always been an interesting social concept that always finds a way to be more attention fueled than Twitter rants. But since we have finally entered a new year and a new decade, it means a new generation of consoles. The monolithic Iowa class battleship of the Xbox Series X was revealed at the VGA’s, the inevitable PlayStation 5, although not revealed yet is a nuclear submarine waiting to rise and strike, but the Yamato of the Nintendo Switch Pro is coming fast and it’s ready to claim the throne the legendary Nintendo Empire hasn’t sat in since the Wii. The Ninth Generation of consoles is going to be a war of massive proportions that’ll make The Battle of Iwo Jima, The Battle of the Bulge, The Battle of Verdun and The Battle of Berlin look like a child’s book compared to what these three companies have in store for 2020 onwards, BUT, all wars have to come to an end, and the console Wars eventually have to come to an end with the way how the gaming landscape has been shifting to since the beginning of the prior decade and with the eighth generation of consoles. 

But before we get to that, we must start from the very beginning. So without further or do, let’s strap in and strap on, because we’re going to look into the deep and rich history of console wars, and what the future has in store for it.

The first generation had begun when the Magnavox Odyssey was the first console to be released in 1972, becoming the first home console to be commercially available to the public. Now, most people think that there were no consoles to exist alongside the Odyssey, but there were, and they were called “Pong Consoles.” While the Magnavox Odyssey was released in September of 1972, the biggest gaming phenomenon to exist in the 70s, Pong, would release only two months later with overwhelming success and launched Atari all the way to Saturn, only for them to die in the rings like most bad business decisions they did only two decades after 1977. But after the release of Pong, 1973 onwards OOZED Pong Consoles like a volcanic lava overflow from Kilauea in Hawaii, the amount of Pong Consoles to literally exist from 1973 to 1983 was borderline mind numbing, and I highly recommend watching the episode where the Angry Video Game Nerd discusses Pong Consoles, because we’ll be here all day if we talk about all of them. Here’s a link to the video for all to see: https://youtu.be/FvT8jG1OVdI 

That’s pretty much the gist of the first generation as it was mostly just Pong Consoles against the Magnavox Odyssey, and I can’t really declare a winner in that war, because the first generation was pretty much a free for all, like a round of Rust in Modern Warfare 2. Not only that, but the First Generation has an estimated total of 879 consoles. That’s as much as an average game library today. While technically the Odyssey won by the numbers and sales, it’s just a bit indecisive to say who really won. And for all who wonder how the Odyssey worked, the AVGN has you covered on that front too: https://youtu.be/kDAKxjG7VaI

The second generation, while still flooded with Pong Consoles that caused the never talked about and widely forgotten Video Game Crash of 1977, eventually had proper consoles that pretty much told the Pong Consoles to hold the beers of the Intellivision, ColecoVision, Vectrex, Fairchild Channel F and the juggernaut that was the Atari 2600 as they plowed through the market and into the homes of many people who wanted to own proper consoles. Now I mentioned the Fairchild Channel F, which is actually a Pong console, but once again, AVGN covers this console in his episode of Pong Consoles on YouTube which the link is above. The Intellivision and ColecoVision were the two primary consoles to go against the Atari 2600 and also each other, known as the Double Vision wars. And if you’re wondering who won in this generation’s console war, the obvious answer was the Atari 2600. Both the Intellivision and ColecoVision going against each other in the really short lived Double Vision wars was as forgettable as a BTS album along with their mediocre performance at New Year’s Eve in Times Square. Fight me K-Pop Stans, I ain’t afraid to speak my mind about it. And let’s be double honest, the concept of a numeric keypad on consoles are such a gimmick that I’m surprised that these even sold anything, but let’s remember, this was the 80s, and anything that was new, was considered innovative and cutting edge. If only I could call 911 on the controller and call the fire brigade because I accidentally lit my house on fire. But the problem between both consoles and even the 2600 which would also become a modern day trope that I’ll have, is all three consoles have some of the same games as well as their handful of exclusive games. Oh yeah, and let’s blame Atari for causing the creation of Activision.

Although Atari definitively won the second generation of the console wars in the sales, software and sheer popularity aspect, they would also lose the war at the exact same time for two reasons: The first being because they released the Atari 5200, which was a massive blunder as they followed the weird trend of numeric keypads for controllers, but the controllers broke easily, and it only sold a million units and was on the shelves for about two years before being discontinued in 1984.

The second reason as to why they really lost: the release of Pac-Man, and E.T. for the 2600 in 1982, which became the catalyst to a very infamous moment in video game history.

The Video Game Crash of 1983

To Be Continued…

Joaquin Phoenix’s Unpredictable Fighting Improv is Literally a Danger to Everyone on Set

I was in the middle of writing my thoughts on the fighting style of Netflix’s The Witcher and then a friend of mine sent me an article from Syfy about Joaquin Phoenix and his improv fighting style on The Joker. So, I immediately switched gears and as a fight person myself I had to get this out first. Before I go into what my thoughts are on Phoenix’s fighting style in Joker, I want to break down his acting style. It’ll definitely help provide some background for why he does what he does.

Joker is a standalone origin story of the clown prince of crime himself. In my opinion, the film was good for what it was. What I wanted going in was an intense character study and that is exactly what I got. Performances were great, cinematography was crisp, soundtrack was fantastic. But knowing a little bit more about what happens behind the scenes kind of taints my enjoyment of the film, particularly how Joaquin Phoenix decided to approach the role.

Just Let It Happen

Joaquin Phoenix did a fantastic job diving into the role of Arthur. In fact, some of his performances were off-script. According to Todd Philips Phoenix tends to improv a lot of the scenes he was in while on set. Every take was something new that Phoenix brought to the scene. “What I like about Joaquin is his style on his predictability which fits into this character. And he was just never locked into one thing,” Philips says. “We’ve been editing this movie for so long because there’s I think 18 trillion versions of this movie just based on the way he would do things so differently every time.”   

Phoenix’s random moments of “letting it happen” also translates to scenes of him fighting. Now, improv moments when acting in a scene is great; improvisation during a fight is very dangerous. A fight scene cannot just be done on the spot. It must be carefully choreographed so that everyone involved is safe. This is where the article that my friend sent comes in. In the Syfy article, it details what the stunt coordinator had to deal with while working with Phoenix.

It’s Like A Dance

“It’s like a dance,” stunt coordinator George Aguilar says. “You have to adjust to what he does. So, we told the stunt double, ‘This is what we prepared, but you just don’t know, and you have to roll with it, basically.'” Aguilar explained how in one scene Phoenix will just go off script and stab the stunt double somewhere different every time. It’s supposed to look unrehearsed and violent. I argue that you can rehearse and make it look violent. Phoenix’s tendency to go off-script in a fight is ridiculous. It’s called stunt choreography for a reason. To keep actors safe.

It frustrates me as an actor combatant that someone with a big name like Joaquin Phoenix can just do what he feels and get praise for it. In a fight scene, if you want to stab someone somewhere else other than their jugular, ask the stunt coordinator. If you want to bash the guy’s head into the left wall instead of the right wall, ask the stunt coordinator. I think the biggest sin that Aguilar made was not putting Phoenix in his place when doing these scenes. Instead, Aguilar just tells all the other actors to stay on their toes. A stunt coordinator’s job is not to just make the scenes look cool, but they also have to keep everyone safe. Everyone. Not just the star.

In fact, for one fight scene that Phoenix improvised, the actors he was fighting weren’t stuntmen. Just regular actors as stated in the Syfy article. “These weren’t stunt people, these were actors,” Aguilar says. “They were just supposed to beat him up, and all of a sudden, he starts defending himself. He tried to kick the guy who punched him about four times.” If Phoenix was any other regular actor, he would be fired right then and there. I give the actors props trying to roll with the punches (no pun intended), but they shouldn’t have to. I don’t think I would have stuck with the gig if I had to deal with Phoenix.

Not all actors on Joker were willing to tolerate Phoenix’s improv style. Robert De Niro was quite aggravated with Phoenix during rehearsals. Phoenix told Vanity Fair, “For me, I always thought that acting should be like a documentary. That you should just feel whatever it is that you’re feeling, what you think the character is going through at that moment.” For De Niro however, he likes to prep for the role and just “let it happen.” It took a lot for Phoenix to do a table read with De Niro, but it caused quite a bit of tension between them.

Phoenix’s time on set may not be as overtly obnoxious as Jared Leto’s time with the Joker was on Suicide Squad, but it was more dangerous physically when it came to his fight scenes. It needs to be known that no matter how brilliant an actor is, this type of behavior cannot be condoned or encouraged. Risking the safety of actors is never worth the realism of a scene.

Iyashikei: Gems of Anime

Iyashieki. 

Whether or not they know it, this is a subgenre of anime that most fans know and many can probably recall their first experience with it.

Why is that?

Perhaps we should back up and ask what “iyashikei” is first.

Iyashikei is a Japanese word that means “healing” and, according to TV Tropes, is a genre focused solely around creating a soothing effect on the audience. They tend to be set in worlds with little to no conflict in order to create that healing effect. That’s not to say this genre is free of conflict; the conflicts just tend to be on a very small scale without high stakes. There are some that defy that part of the definition as we’ll see later in this list. 

So how is this obscure, niche genre something most anime fans know?

[Image Source]

Many of Studio Ghibli’s films create the healing sensation that the niche iyashikei genre is known for. Movies like Kiki’s Delivery Service, Spirited Away, and My Neighbor Totoro are the biggest examples. If you enjoy those movies, then there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy these particular series. These are in no particular order.

K-on!!

[Image Source]

K-on!! is perhaps one of the most popular and mainstream of this particular genre in the anime community. Many people have undoubtedly seen it, but it’s a pretty great, accessible place to start looking into the genre past Studio Ghibli. It simply follows the adventures of the Light Music Club as they struggle for relevance in their school and to bring new members in. 

This is the quintessential “moe” anime. It’s basically cute girls doing cute things and also a very great example of the genre. While it is moe, there is still very much a story structure. The characters, though humble and down to earth, are the main driving force in it. From Yui’s ditziness to Mugi’s occasional complete lack of knowledge of how the world really works, this is a bit of a longer anime that will warm your heart.

ARIA The Animation

[Image Source]

This one is reaching way back into the archives of modern anime. The first season of ARIA aired in 2005 with thirteen episodes. Despite that, it remains extremely highly rated on MyAnimeList. With a ranking of 1061 and popularity of 1008, those numbers speak for themselves. Due to that, the anime does run at the older 4:3 aspect ratio rather than the modern 16:9, so be prepared for black bars up the side of the screen. Despite the era it was created in, the animation is still detailed, fluid, and absolutely breathtaking.

This is a very simple, lighthearted series that focuses on the three main characters, Akari, Aika, and Alice, as they attempt to become full-fledged Undine or professional gondolier guides. The setting of this particular anime is Neo Venezia on the planet Aqua in the 24th century. Aqua was formerly the planet Mars, terraformed over several generations after tragedy befell Manhome (formerly Earth) and made it more difficult to survive there. Neo Venezia is a faithful replication of Venice, Italy, hence the focus on gondolas. 

Neo Venezia is a place of magic, wonder, and supreme beauty. Life is relatively uncomplicated for the girls, filled with amazing magical moments large and small. One episode focuses on Alicia, Akari’s mentory, attempting to take her to a special place in a forest. They fail to find the place Alicia wanted, but they find another place of beauty and wonder in its place.

That episode sums up the entire anime in a nutshell. This anime is less about the destination and more about the journey. It fills you with a joy for life and appreciating the small moments in ways many other anime can’t replicate.

This is a longer series with three seasons. The first and third have thirteen episodes and the second has twenty-six. There are also a couple of OVAs.

Natsume Yuujinchou/Natsume’s Book of Friends

[Image Source]

Natsume Yuujinchou is another series that reaches back to older modern anime, but it’s a standout in the genre. The first season aired in 2008. On MyAnimeList, it has the overall ranking of 175 with its popularity being 278. 

This series is based around Natsume Takashi, a young fifteen-year-old boy that can see youkai. His parents died when he was young and he’s been bounced around from family member to family member who didn’t want him until his current guardians actually did. There, he discovers a book his grandmother, Reiko, had. She could see youkai like him and, when she was young, collected many of their names in a book. As names give power, every youkai in the area and even many humans want to get their hands on the book for their own ends. Natsume’s goal is to return the names to the youkai so they won’t be enslaved.

While this premise sounds complex compared to the others on this list, for the most part, the plot is simple enough to follow along. It may also sound like it gives a formula to every episode, but it doesn’t. Many episodes do focus around giving youkai their names back, but plenty also focus purely on Natsume and his human friends. There are two also ongoing subplots that are somewhat high stakes that involve two humans trying to get the Book of Friends. However, these higher-stake plots only pop up once in a while with the focus mainly being on the shenanigans Natsume and his misadventures with the youkai world.

This is definitely quite the long anime with over fifty episodes, but that’s split up over six seasons with each having about eleven to thirteen episodes. It’s a time investment if you wanna watch everything, but it’s in small enough chunks that it’s easy to get through. If you’re a fan of Japanese mythology, slice of life, and/or just a story that flows slowly over time with character development, this might just be the series for you.

There are many more examples of iyashikei anime out there such as Tamako Market, Kamichu!, Barakaman, and many more; this is just a small sampling of anime that might help get you started in the genre. These series are honestly a great remedy after having a stressful day or week.

Sources: 

Aria The Animation. (n.d.). MyAnimeList.Net. https://myanimelist.net/anime/477/Aria_The_Animation

Iyashikei – TV Tropes. (n.d.). TV Tropes. https://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/Iyashikei

Natsume Yuujinchou (Natsume’s Book of Friends). (n.d.). MyAnimeList.Net. https://myanimelist.net/anime/4081/Natsume_Yuujinchou 


Cyberpunk 2077 Delayed but Crunching is Inevitable and That’s Bad

A Delayed Game is a Good Game

Mr. Shigeru Miyamoto once said, “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.” This quote has been echoed quite a lot these past months. Another game this year has been delayed. CD Projekt Red has announced that they are delaying Cyberpunk 2077 to September 17, 2020, instead of its initial April release date.

This is the first delay for Cyberpunk 2077 even though the wait has felt like years. Cyberpunk 2077 was announced way back in 2013 and didn’t get a release date until E3 2018. Now it does seem that the majority of the community and myself are willing to wait. Unfortunately, there are the few that are not as compassionate.

Now Cyberpunk 2077 isn’t the first game to be delayed. The first Triple A 2020 game that I can remember to be delayed was The Last of Us Part II, originally slated for February and now slated for May. Then it was The Avengers and then followed by the Final Fantasy 7 remake.

From my perspective, I’m not at all upset by these delays. In fact, I think my wallet is more relieved because of it. When talking to my group of friends the other day, we agreed that there is no delayed game that we would be really upset over. They can take all the time they need as delays are not really my concern. It happens, right? Sometimes it just needs a little more time in the oven. What I’m really concerned about however is the nature of crunching in the video game industry. Crunching is a video game industry term for developers spending time working on a video game for an unhealthy amount of time. Typically working overtime without pay.

As CD Projekt Red has explained in their Q&A conference call, Cyberpunk 2077 was delayed to allow more time for the developers to polish up the game. According to CD Projekt Red’s CEO Adam Kicinski, “polishing is just a complex task. It’s about the number of things we have to take care of rather than some fundamental problem.” The base game is playable, it just needs time for bug fixing.

Delayed ≠ No Crunch

Initially, I was pleased that CD Projekt Red decided to delay so they could give their developers plentiful time to work on the game without a rush. Unfortunately, crunching seems unavoidable even with the delay.

When asked about crunching during their Q&A conference call, Kicinski responded “To some degree, yes, to be honest. We try to limit crunch as much as possible, but it is the final stage. We try to be reasonable in this regard, but yes. Unfortunately.”

This calls into question the work ethic behind these Triple-A titles even with delays. Crunching doesn’t always happen but it’s seemingly becoming more and more common, unfortunately.

The last big crunching controversy that came to light was Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2. In a Vulture article, Dan Houser, the co-founder of Rockstar Games, stated that they were working 100-hour weeks when working on Red Dead Redemption 2. It immediately sparked controversy in the video game community, denouncing Rockstar for their crunching practice.

Some developers even came out to claim how working long hours negatively affected their health. “I was pushed further into depression and anxiety than I had ever been while I worked there,” a former Rockstar Games developer told Kotaku. “My body was exhausted, I did not feel as though I was able to have any friends outside of work, I felt like I was going insane for much of my time there and I started drinking heavily.”

 Is the Art Worth the Sacrifice?

The former Rockstar developer was just one example and I would really hate to see this practice becoming the standard in the industry. It’s understandable that companies like CD Projekt Red and Rockstar Games are committed to giving us the players the best possible experience as we were promised. But it comes into question, when is the art worth the sacrifice?

Kicinski stated in the Q&A, “You sacrifice some things to do that and be part of that. There are a lot of people who come into the industry that are fresh; they don’t really understand what it takes to do it,” he said. “So, we get a lot of new guys coming in, and they go, ‘Oh god, this is like too much.’ But then we have other guys come in from Rockstar Games, and they’re like, ‘This is not even crunch!’ We’re doing the best we can to keep the work under control. But sometimes when you’re doing some big-ass game like this, it’s not always possible to do that. It takes really hard work to make it really awesome.”

CD Projekt Red’s Adam Kicinski openly admits that even though the game is delayed, crunching is still inevitable. Delaying the project didn’t shorten crunch time, it just extended it. The fact that he also seems to almost shrug it off, speaking on their behalf and say that his team can handle it is quite concerning. For me, it just calls into question, what other Triple-A game is dealing with this?

As much as we demand the highest quality in our games, we do have to keep in mind that it may also come at a cost. When CEO’s say that sacrifices must be made for the perfect game, they rarely mean their own sacrifices. 

The Dungeon Run: As Seen by a D&D Fan 

To preface an article on something with such a rich history as Dungeons & Dragons, I feel it’s best to start from the beginning, or more specifically, where it began for me. I was in college about the same time Geek and Sundry first started putting out their infamous Critical Role show and hadn’t the foggiest idea about D&D other than some guide books on monsters I had picked up as a kid to use as inspiration when writing stories. I’d heard about it, of course, but only in vague references, and the most I understood at the time was that it was a popular game of some sort.

In class one day I glanced over at my friend’s computer and saw that she was looking at a picture. I recognized in my distant childhood memories a beholder, a floating abomination that looked like a meatball had been given a maw of razor-sharp teeth, a giant central eye, and eyestalks all over its body, each of which could fire a magic laser with different effects in order to royally screw with whoever had the misfortune to stumble into its path. After class, I asked her about it and she said she was perusing a digital copy of the Monster Manual. I asked what it was, and from there fell down the proverbial rabbit hole.

Five years, several campaigns, and multiple characters later, I find myself in the dubious position of reviewing Caffeine’s show called The Dungeon Run and asked to write an article while sounding like I know what the heck I’m talking about. While I had seen trailers and the like, I never looked into the show before now simply because I had other things going on, including ongoing campaigns of my own, and knowing how long sessions can run in an average game, it wasn’t too hard to imagine a similar experience playing out in front of me on a screen. Obviously, I had a lot of catching up to do. Hopefully, if you’re reading this you don’t have to go diving into wikis and the like to figure out what The Dungeon Run is actually about, but if you do, I’ll save you some time and give a brief overview of what’s going on here.

The Dungeon Run is a live RPG show where five adventurers are set loose in the fantastic world of Ain. The characters are played by notable actors: Katie Michels from Brooklyn Nine-Nine plays the gnome bard Lily Dumblestuck; Morgan Peter Brown from the film Ouija plays the human warlock James Quillus; Ron Ogden from Abraham Lincoln vs. Zombies plays the orc barbarian Uggo; Jarred Kjack from James Ellroy’s L.A.: City of Demons plays the tabaxi rogue Siv RedThistle; and Jessica Lynn Parsons from S.W.A.T. plays the fire genasi wizard Fahima Tadhg. The group’s Dungeon Master, Jeff Cannata, is also an actor, known for the web series The Further Adventures of Cupid and Eros. The show premiered on Caffeine’s streaming site, with episodes being ported later to YouTube.

So, as someone familiar with D&D, what did I think of the show, and what can people familiar with the game expect from it? What makes The Dungeon Run fun to watch for veteran DM’s and players?

Honest, short answer: the same thing that makes every D&D game enjoyable.

To be clear, the show isn’t going to be for everyone, just like there’s no one true method to playing the game that’s for everyone. Some people will think the rules are too lax, or too strict. Some people will dislike the story, or the characters, or the player’s decisions. And that, too, is a part of D&D as a whole. It attracts such a diverse array of people, such that there are so many opinions and beliefs and ways to play the game that there’s no ‘right’ way to do it anymore. It’s amazing, really, especially when you consider that it came out in the 70’s, and people old and new from different backgrounds and experiences STILL play it.

Some people will point out how interactive The Dungeon Run is, how the audience can affect the outcome of the story, and while to a degree that makes it interesting to watch, it’s not an entirely novel idea. There’s an early episode of Critical Role where they have an encounter that was stated to have been provided by the chatroom. While it may help draw in people who have never played before or are relatively new to the game, the interactivity of the game isn’t going to be the main point that brings in veteran players, at least not entirely.

What about the quirky cast? An orc, a tabaxi, a fire genasi… heck, there’s even a subrace of gnome that doesn’t appear in the player’s handbook! For new players, seeing such variety before them is entrancing, and it certainly is interesting to see such a wide array of uncommon races being played. But again, having people playing something other than the bog-standard races found in the player’s handbook isn’t necessarily what makes a good campaign. While playing as a race you’ve never played before may enhance the roleplay somewhat, it’s not the only factor that makes a character interesting.

 So what does it? The miniatures? The maps? The mind flayer puppet at the start the show? What’s the main draw of the Dungeon Run that will make veterans of the game want to watch?

The same thing that makes people want to play the game in their living room with crudely-drawn maps and toys bought for their kid. You don’t really need anything fancy to have fun playing D&D, or even just watching it. If the DM can spin a story that draws the players and the audience in, if the characters work well together or bounce off in ways that are hysterically funny, if everyone is having a good time… then that’s all you really need.

There’s a reason Dungeons & Dragons is lauded as one of the best roleplaying games out there. It taps into the magic of storytelling and invites the players to become a part of it, and the audience to watch it unfold. Sure, you can have the audience tweak it by having them set up encounters or provide magic items, and that makes it more interactive and fun for people who want to be a part of the action. But even without that, if for some reason you don’t want to spend money or you can’t get in on the fun of throwing monsters at the players, The Dungeon Run still holds promise for fans of D&D, new and old, for the same reason any home campaign does: the promise of a story yet to be told.

Steven Universe Season 1 Episode 4 Analysis

Episode 4 of Steven Universe really highlighted the importance of being together and taking the time to bother with your friends. We start the episode with Steven trying to have “together breakfast” with everyone but they’re all busy with one thing or another. When he finally convinces one of them to try, they become greedy and try to eat the entire breakfast themselves. However, this nor any other obstacle stops Steven from trying to bring himself and his friends closer together and eating the “together breakfast” well… Together.

After fighting monsters, swimming through oceans and many more obstacles they finally all eat together but not in the way we thought. The current together breakfast gets destroyed so they all make a new one together. Only to end up ordering pizza because they can’t eat it all even with all of them there which was a great comedic touch to the already hilarious aspect of Steven going through leaps and bounds just to have breakfast together.

However, what if we as people tried with as much effort as Steven did to be together and interact with each other? Human beings were created to commune and be together, to deprive someone of that is no greater pain. What if we set aside our differences and just said: “Hey, let’s stop fighting and try to understand each other”?

What if we tried solving problems through dialogue instead of with violence and cruelty? This is just one man’s opinion but I think the world would be much happier if we all had a together breakfast. Let this episode be a reminder of unity and interaction, something we at AAOG stand for above almost all else. Unlike Pearl, Amethyst and the others, strive to carve out time for your friends and loved ones. Not only they but you will be much happier.

A New Challenger Approaches: New Super Smash Bros Character in This Week’s Nintendo Direct!

A New Foe Has Appeared!

Smash Bros. Ultimate fans rejoice! For those who have been waiting to find out who the fifth and final fighter is this season’s DLC, you don’t have to wait much longer!

Nintendo has announced that they will be unveiling a new fighter to the roster of Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on January 16 this Thursday. That’s right, this Thursday at 6AM PT/ 9AM ET. The Nintendo Direct will run for about 35 minutes so we’ll most likely get a hefty in-depth look at the character and how they will fare against the rest. Maybe even some additional announcements alongside the character reveal.

Obviously, this won’t be the final character that Nintendo will be adding. Nintendo has confirmed last September that more DLC characters are in development. After last year’s latest Nintendo Direct, game director Masahiro Sakurai stated, “To me, it feels like the finish line is sliding farther away,” Sakurai said. “You may wonder, ‘How much longer can he be involved in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate?’ But I’m also excited. Adding more characters into the game will mean that more worlds will be added to the series. And ultimately, that will mean that there will be an even greater opportunity to delight the fans.” So, if it turns out the character you’re hoping for is not the one, fear not there is still hope!

Speculation

As the Internet eagerly waits for the announcement on Thursday, the Internet is doing what it does best in these trying times of waiting, overreading. The Internet is currently speculating on the promotional image of Sakurai in Nintendo’s latest tweet about the livestream announcement. The image shows Sakurai in what looks like a peace sign but with three fingers up. This could simply be a cute image of Sakurai throwing up a clumsy peace sign, but in the hands of the Internet it is something more.

Many have dissected what the three numbered peace sign means. Is it a pose similar to another character like Crash Bandicoot or Sonic? Or is it representative of a game title like Devil May Cry 3 or Kingdom Hearts 3? The possibilities are endless. It’s most likely that the promo image means nothing but it’s still fun nonetheless to see theories even the most ridiculous.

Sakurai has created a game with such a wide variety of characters that it could easily triumph Avengers End Game as the most ambitious crossover ever. It’s just so exciting to see the world of Smash Bros get bigger by the day.

Could it be Waluigi will finally have his spot? Or will it be Goku? Smash Bros. has the tendency to cast a wide net when it comes to characters for their roster. I have really high hopes for Sora from Kingdom Hearts. We’ll just have to wait until then to see what Nintendo has in store for us!

In the meantime, while I wait for Sora, be sure to check out our Kingdom Hearts live streams! Our Kingdom Hearts Livestreams are every Tuesday and Thursday on Twitch!

You can also catch our previous VOD’s over at The Geek Game Room on our website!

Steven Universe Season 1 Episode 3 Analysis

In episode 3 of Steven Universe, both Steven and the audience learn the important lesson of being able to help despite not having the same abilities as everyone else. Many of us now the pain of not being able to help or just not being able to do something in general because of something that seems to set us back. We see in episode 3 that Steven knows this pain all too well and yet he still strives to help out however he can with what he has. Even if he can’t use his gem yet and help in a more grand way like the others his role is still vital.

Steven helps by providing inspiration, doing smaller things such as carrying vital items to their mission and even finding his own unique ways to fulfill bigger duties. Our limits don’t may interfere with our ability to do certain things but they don’t have to stop us. We just need to think on our feet and find ways to work with and around our limits. This also serves to highlight the fact that smaller acts can be and often are just as vital as the larger acts.

You can’t light a fire without rubbing 2 sticks together or pressing the button on a lighter, you can’t cook food for the hungry without doing the seemingly menial task of gathering the ingredients. Regardless of your limits, there is always some way to contribute and in a way, only you can.

There are things that only Steven can do that the other gems can’t and without him, they wouldn’t be able to complete their mission in the grand scheme. Our limits present a unique opportunity to offer help in ways only we know how and remember that any limit can be surpassed. However, while surpassing our limits is always possible we also need to learn to work with our current limits until then? Will you learn to do this like Steven or will you wait for a change that isn’t going to come unless you make it?

Feedback on the All Ages of Geek Website

Hey guys! Kat here with another update. Now that you’ve experienced the website we want YOU to add some suggestions and let us know what you would like to see here. This isn’t concerning videos or content but more about:

  • Website Navigation
  • Sections added to the website
  • What you like and don’t like so far
  • Ideas for making this more interactive and fun for you to use (as a user)
  • Future expectations

As of right now we are building the Community section on All Ages of Geek and want to know what you’d like to see there given the fact that it’s your section of the website and where you will be interacting with each other. All suggestions are taken into consideration and appreciated. Our goal as a company is to listen to your suggestions first and foremost.

Once a month we would also like to take a survey from you to hear how you are enjoying All Ages of Geek, what we can improve upon and what you enjoy. Honesty is the best policy here and so is mindfulness. In order to grow, we have to hear what our audience has to say always.

So let us know what you would like to see for the future of the website. This isn’t about content but it’s so you can have the best possible experience here while tuning into that content and socializing with online friends and community members. Thanks, guys!