Thursday, August 28, 2014

What I'm Trying to Say: A response to Anita Sarkeesian, Zoe Quinn and all the Crazy happening out there

I wrote this for a post in a Facebook group I was a part of.  We were having a discussion about the recent events in the gaming world, and admittedly I was getting a little flustered in my discussion.  the comments were coming at a mile a minute, and it was hard to keep up, plus I am absolutely livid about the subject.  Eventually, a member of the group told me to stop, take a deep breath and told me to type out what I wanted to say.  This is my response.

I'm saying that none of this should be happening.

I'm saying that Anita should be allowed to express her poorly researched opinion without fearing to sleep in her own house.

I'm saying that despite the poorly researched videos, there is rampart sexism in the gaming industry.  I'm saying that even with her poorly researched points, she makes me want to see video games do better.  I watch her videos and I wanna see games that refuse to rely on the tired tropes that she brings up (poorly researched or not, these tropes exist).  And I'm saying that even if I found absolutely NOTHING of value in Anita's criticism, she should be able to exist in the same world as ANY shitty gaming critic without idiots harassing her on a nigh constant basis.

I'm saying that I'm angry that this whole thing is making the video game community look like a bunch of immature brats who are acting like they're being forced to let a girl into their clubhouse.  I'm angry that people constantly bring up how Sarkeesian's videos suck, that's supposed to be some sort of magical excuse that suddenly makes all this abuse seem fine.  I'm angry that an indie dev's slut shaming is being exposed as 'corruption' when actual corruption is happening in the game industry at a corporate level.  I'm angry that Phil Fish can take up a stance in defense of someone like Zoe Quinn, and then gets his entire website hacked in response.  I'm angry that Phil Fish (a developer I really enjoy despite his questionable antics) is not only completely giving up on video games, but is telling people who WANT to get into video games to completely give up because it's not worth the legions of neckbeards spewing constant bile.  A talented, successful indie developer has gotten to the point where he said that despite all his game's success, it's NOT WORTH IT.  That is absolutely heartbreaking.

But most of all, I'm angry about people like me.  People who WANT to try their hands at video games, but are scared because of the vocal minority scaring them off.  Can you imagine how many Phil Fish's, Tim Schafers, or hell, Shigeru Miyamotos we've lost because they, like Fish, think that it's not worth all the hate?  I firmly believe that video games are an art, and every person has their own artistic vision no matter what the medium.  Because of this awful awful ordeal, there could be dozens (maybe hundreds) of artistic visions we will never see.  Because a bunch of assholes didn't like someone criticizing their hobby.

Sarkeesian may have issues with her web series, but I'd rather stand up for a sub-par video about feminism than ANYWHERE NEAR the assholes standing against her.  Because if the trolls/neckbeards/MRAs win, then more talented people will think like Phil Fish and decide "It's not worth it".  And we could lose the next generation of great game devs and artists, both male and female.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Movie Review: God's Not Dead

Thus far on my blog, I have been pretty kind to the films, video games and tabletop RPGs I have reviewed.  This is mainly because I'd rather tell you about the things I like over ranting about something I don't.  I feel it's more important to make sure you learn about the things that I think are  awesome, so you can go out and experience the same things.  However, occasionally something passes by me that I feel deep in my heart of hearts must be criticized, even if I probably will not like it.  And given the popularity of the film God's Not Dead, I felt I owed it to myself to watch the polarized movie.

I will be doing this blog entry a bit differently.  Rather than writing it after I watch a film, I will be typing it free form as I watch the film, edit it for the viewers and then post it.  For the sake of being far, I will try to remain as neutral as possible in the ultimate theological discussion of Christianity/Atheism or whatever.  I have not mentioned my religious beliefs on this blog, nor do I plan to.  Though I will start by saying that my opinion on 90% of Christian media is rather negative.  This isn't because I hate religion, mind you.  It's mainly because 90% of Christian media sucks.  Religion has inspired many art, plays, literature and other great things, but the nauseatingly repetitive genre of Christian Rock isn't one of them.  However, I promise I will give this movie a chance.

So here we go.  Here's your SPOILER ALERT!!!


00:00-00:28: The film opens up introducing Josh Wheaton, a college freshman starting his first semester, which he appears to be attending with his girlfriend.  It also introduces an exchange student from China, a Muslim girl whose father makes her wear a hijab which she takes off when he's not looking, a reporter dating/married to a big businessman (played by Dean Cain), and another woman who's mother has Alzheimer.  You'll notice that I don't name the other characters, it's because honestly at this point I don't know their names.  The movie introduces all these characters so fast that you barely have any time to learn anything about them.  The Chinese kid and the Muslim girl thus far have only had two scenes each.  I don't mind movies that have multiple stories that somehow interconnect, but so far I feel like it would have better served the film to just focus on Josh Wheaton's story (which is what I'll be doing right now).

Josh is taking a philosophy class being taught by a professor played by Kevin Sorbo (of Hercules fame).  At this point in the film, Sorbo's character only has two defining traits: he's an atheist and an asshole.  He begins the first class by making all his students sign a paper which says that God is Dead in an attempt not to waste time on theological discussions,.  A bit unrealistic for a man who specializes in teaching the study of great thinkers to write off numerous Theist philosophers, but whatever.  Josh, being a Christian, refuses to sign the paper.  Which leads to Prof. Hercules saying that he must prove that God's Not Dead (see what they did there?) in their next three classes, giving him twenty minutes at the end of each class to speak to the class about it.  If he cannot, he fails the class.  Josh accepts the challenge, despite the fact that his girlfriend doesn't want him to (saying that failing the class could keep him from getting into law school).

That's where I am when I decided to start writing.  Moving on.

00:28:  Ms. Ryan, the reporter (who appears to be atheist due to her interview with one of the Duck Dynasty guys) is receiving news from her doctor that she has cancer, but keeps stopping him when her phone rings.  I'm starting to see a pattern here with how the movie portrays atheists, and there's a big problem there.  Thus far I have met two atheists, and they both seem to be rude assholes.  I know plenty of atheists who are rude assholes, but I also know many Christians who are rude assholes.  My assumption was that this movie was trying to establish a dialogue between Atheists and Theists, but demonizing one group is not the correct way to do it.

Oh, apparently Ms. Ryan is too busy for cancer.  Chasing down Duck Dynasty stars and snidely insulting them seems to take up a lot of her time, apparently.  Seriously, who wrote this....

00:32:  Josh's girlfriend of six years is upset that he is 'wasting time' proving his faith, saying that it could cause him to lose focus on other classes and ruin their future together.  I already hate Girlfriend.  She seems clingy, controlling and manipulative.  They're most likely going to break up at some point in this film, but here's hoping they don't get back together.  For Josh's sake.  He seems like a good guy (meaning he hasn't given me a reason not to like him).

Cut to Prof. Hercules teaching his class, ending his lecture by declaring God a celestial dictator and calling Theists 'flat earthers' in his smarmy sarcastic tone. Josh begins Day 1 of this crazy assignment by stating that the Bible was right about the Big Bang Theory, while before scientists believed in a constant universe.  Not exactly hard evidence in the existence of God, but I like Josh so I'll let it slide.  Professor Hercules does not though, and is smirking and shaking his head through the whole lecture.  He then proceeds to name drop Stephen Hawking, talking down to this poor kid that he plans to fail, then threatens him after class to destroy any hope he may have of a law degree.  This isn't common behavior of an atheist.  This isn't common behavior of a professor. This is what Dick Dastardly would be if the other Wacky Racers were deities.

00:43:  Girlfriend is angry about Josh defending his faith and breaks up with Josh.  Josh proceeds to tell her off for being selfish.  Good for you, Josh.  She's no good for you anyway.

And Muslim Girl comes home and her little brother catches her listening to (GASP) the Bible on her iPod!!!!  This movie is starting to seem extremely mean spirited now.

Ms. Ryan tells her boyfriend (Business Superman, played by Dean Cain) that she has cancer.  He proceeds to be an asshole about it, saying that love doesn't really exist and getting mad at her and breaking up with her.  Right now I'm imagining a supervillain team up between Business Superman and Prof. Hercules.  So many thrown buses.....

00:53:  Ohhhhhhh, so the girl with the mom with dementia is Business Superman's sister.  *GASP* and she's dating Prof. Hercules!!!  M. Night Shayamalan has nothing on this twist!!   Again, all the atheist characters in this movie are missing are mustaches to twirl.  It's getting quite ridiculous.  Now he's got a bunch of professors over for a dinner party, all sipping wine and laughing at the stupid student who DARES believe in God!!!!

1:03:  Day 2 of Josh's scientific fight to prove God exists!  At this point I'd like to point out that any professor who's as big an asshole as Kevin Sorbo is portraying at this point would never have made tenure.  Josh refutes the Hawkings quote that Hercules gave on Day 1, quoting John Lennox.  He also claims that Darwinism was started and controlled by God.  He seems to be avoiding Creationist logic, which is good since Hercules would tear him apart like.....well, Hercules.

And in another after-class smug-off, Kevin Sorbo reveals that he knows the Bible as well, and supposedly gave up on his faith when his mother died of cancer when he was 12.  So.....he's not an atheist, but a Christian who's mad at God.

1:12:  Muslim Girl (named Aisha, I could swear this is the first time we've heard her name)'s secret Bible readings are found out by her father, who proceeds to beat her and kick her out of the house.  Again, this is a VERY mean spirited movie, and I would probably be offended if I was Muslim.  I'm kinda offended as a non-Muslim.

This is a pretty slow point in the film, so I'm going to point out how ridiculous it is to try and prove God exists.  Not because he doesn't, but because the very definition of faith is to believe something to be true despite having no evidence.  To quote God in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy "Proof denies faith.  And without faith I am nothing."  Christians don't need to prove god exists or doesn't exist, that's the whole point of faith.

Anyway, Kevin Sorbo's girlfriend broke up with him.

1:20:  Hercules claims to be changing things up for Day 3, which begins with Josh talking about how evil exists because God allows free will.  Oh jeez, now he's saying that without God, morality is unnecessary. I don't know if all Christians believe that, but it's a very scary thought if they truly do...

Hercules, after a 'heated' discussion, admits he hates God, which ends Josh's three class report.  Now the class must decide for themselves if he fails or not.

And the winner is.......JOSH!  BY A LANDSLIDE!!!!

*Wild Cheers*

1:30:  Buisness Superman is revealing that he's angry at God too for giving his mother dementia.  This movie has no atheists, just people angry at God!!!  Just a bunch of people who are assholes because something terrible happened in their lives!  You are not representing this group of people well, movie!!

Now Amy Ryans is sarcastically interviewing a Christian band (Because atheists can only speak in sarcasm, apparently).  She admits to the band she's dying of cancer, and reveals that she is actually hoping that God is real.

So we have THREE atheists in this movie who don't actually end up being atheists, just spiteful and angry.  I cannot express how terrible and ignorant a message like that is.  There are people out there who are aren't perpetually angry and sarcastic and don't believe in God.  I'm good friends with a few of them, and they do NOT think like this.  This is propaganda, and harmful propaganda at that.

1:40:  Holy Shit!  Kevin Sorbo just got hit by a car and is dying!!  A priest (who had his own sideplot involving a trip to Disneyworld through the whole movie, but I ignored talking about it cause it's the weakest part.  And that's saying a lot.) gives him a deathbed conversion.

So should the movie be called "God's not Dead.....but Hercules is"?

1:43: the Duck Dynasty guy is telling the people at this Christian Rock concert (where everyone is right now.....except Kevin Sorbo) to text everyone that "God's Not Dead".  Cause that's not going to annoy everyone on your contact list.  It looks like Josh might start a relationship with Aisha (Muslim Girl), although where she is now living I couldn't tell you.  Her storyline doesn't really have an ending besides "I listened to terrible Christian Rock, now it's better."

Everyone in the movie is getting the "God's Not Dead" text, including Kevin Sorbo (who let me remind you is DEAD!) and Dean Cain.

End of Film: .....That's it?  Does Aisha resolve things with her dad?  Does Dean Cain have a conversion too??  DOES THE PRIEST MAKE IT TO DISNEYWORLD OR WHAT?!?!?  This movie started five different plots and only ended one!!  God, I'm done with this....

Final Thoughts:  This movie is terrible on way too many levels.  Kevin Sorbo is kind of ok, but everyone else's acting is extremely wooden.  The dialogue couldn't be more cheesy if you sprinkled with parmesean, and most of the characters are either complete unlikable assholes or victims.  The only character I really liked was Josh, and that's because he was neither.  Only one of the many stories they start really has any sort of satisfying conclusion, and it involves the antagonist dying horribly in a random car accident and the protagonists unknowingly celebrating!

More importantly though, this movie is mean spirited propaganda.  I can't understand how this movie is enjoyable to so many people.  It's offensive to atheists, it's offensive to Muslims.....Heck, it's offensive to Christians!  It doesn't understand the people it's trying to demonize, and it perpetuates the myth that one of the largest organized religions in the world is being persecuted.  Hopefully in a decade or two (hopefully less) this will be put aside as offensive entertainment we're trying to forget right beside the racists caricatures that plagued early 20th century cartoons.

Don't see this.  It doesn't deserve your attention, and I'm sorry I gave it mine.

Final Final Thought:  Is it ironic that a man known for playing the greatest hero of a Pagan religion is starring in a film about Christianity?  Or is that just funny?

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Movie Review: Guardians of the Galaxy

If anything, the fact that this movie even exists shows how invincible Marvel feels they are now.  Here we have a film made up of superheroes who even hardcore comic book fans are unfamiliar with, built to be a colorful comedic affair over the grim n' gritty stylings of Man of Steel or The Dark Knight Rises, and given a budget rivaling some of the most expensive summer blockbusters.  While Warner Bros. is too terrified to come out of their shell and make a solo Wonder Woman movie, Marvel Studios is giving us a movie about a gun-wielding talking raccoon and his living tree sidekick going on adventures in space.  Let me repeat that:  Warner Bros. won't give one of their Holy Trinity of superheroes her own solo film while at the same time Marvel is making a film that, in concept, sounds like something a kindergartner would draw.  This.  Is.  Insane.
Ranting aside, Guardians of the Galaxy tells the story of  a ragtag group of space-faring rogues who come together after they're thrown in prison.  The main character is Peter Quill, a man who was abducted by aliens as a boy and has been trying to be a legendary space outlaw (dubbed Star Lord by himself) ever since.  While in prison, he meets a beautiful 'living weapon' named Gamora, a super strong tattooed alien named Drax, a talking gun-crazy talking raccoon named Rocket and his walking tree sidekick Groot.  The group at first wishes to obtain a mysterious sphere and sell it for an insanely large bounty, but quickly decide against it when they find out that it is actually a super weapon planned to be used by an alien zealot to destroy a populated planet.

Let's get the problems out of the way right away.  The plot is pretty bare bones.  It's not bad, but it's not going to be winning any awards for originality any time soon. Ronan the Accuser, the main villain, just seems like a generic lackey to Thanos and his motivations (while clearly explained) for destroying the planet Xandar could easily be mistaken for "evil for the sake of evil".

However, despite these flaws, I found the film to be better than The Avengers.  Yeah, I said it.

The bare-bones plot is almost entirely hidden by hilarious characters.  Rocket and Groot are hilarious right off the bat and Peter Quill truly feels like .  However, the show stealer is Drax, who comes from an alien race that takes everything literally.  This leads to numerous confusions involving metaphors and figures of speech, which would be lame in the hands of a lesser writer, but come off quite funny here.  Another show stealer in this movie is Doctor Who's own Karen Gillam, who plays Thanos's daughter Nebula.  Playing a dangerous alien warrior (essentially the mini-boss to Ronan the Accuser's end boss),  Karen shows an acting talent that surprised me (having only really seen her in Doctor Who) and I look forward to anything else she might be in after this film.

The visuals are also fantastic, using a wonderful combination of CGI and special effects makeup.  Rocket Raccoon and Groot both fit in amongst the 'real' actors and actresses almost seamlessly, and both major and minor aliens have gorgeous makeup effects.  The sets are also very well done, being very distinct and interesting in design.  My favorite area was Knowhere, a space colony built inside the skull of a long dead Celestial.  It all just looked cool and colorful, which is a wonderful change from a lot of summer blockbusters (such as the upcoming Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles film or last year's Man of Steel.)

Guardians of the Galaxy is what a summer movie should feel like:  loud, colorful and fun.  While it is certainly not perfect (no film truly is), it is highly enjoyable and easily one of my favorite films I've seen this year.  It understands that these characters are relatively unknown and manages to make them as unforgettable and lovable as any one of the Avengers.  Topped off with great special effects, awesome fight scenes and a post-credits scene that will blow the minds of even the most hardened of Marvel fans, Guardians is a movie that would be foolish for you to miss.