Hero


This comic was drawn by Valeria M. (@lunaartgallery on Tumblr) and written by me, Kathryn Hemmann (@kathrynthehuman on Twitter).

Listen, I’m not saying Ganondorf is a good person, I’m just saying that the Legend of Zelda games suddenly become a whole lot more interesting as soon as you stop thinking of him as being mindlessly evil. The way I see it, Ganondorf is an intelligent man who may have started out with good intentions but who was twisted by his experience with the horror lurking underneath the bucolic surface of Hyrule. To me at least, this interpretation makes the stories of the games much richer and more nuanced.

Comrade Nook Says ZERO INTEREST

From Isolated to Island-Hopping: China Embraces Animal Crossing
http://www.sixthtone.com/news/1005411

A unique feature of the game is the ability to import user-generated digital graphics into one’s personalized island. Within days, some gamers in China had painted their islands a figurative shade of red, adding portraits of communist icons like Karl Marx and Chairman Mao, as well as loud propaganda posters. Consistent with the current zeitgeist, some players have added disease control checkpoints and decontamination areas, or signs in Chinese instructing characters to “please wash your hands.”

Players have outfitted their virtual residences with traditional Chinese decor and furniture, and dressed their in-game characters with hanfu and fancy outfits from China’s most popular period dramas. Widely shared screenshots show one island with huge QR codes printed across them for sending the player money via Alipay or WeChat, while another island featured realistic-looking fruit business advertisements.

I’m not sure how I feel about the idea of people engaging in currency farming for Animal Crossing, but this article has some wild screenshots, and it was interesting to learn about regional subcultures in a game that has managed to become a global phenomenon during the past two weeks.

Twitch Studies

The Twitch streamers who spend years broadcasting to no one
https://www.theverge.com/2018/7/16/17569520/twitch-streamers-zero-viewers-motivation-community

The rise of popular (and profitable) influencers on platforms like YouTube and Twitch has also made the idea of being an online influencer aspirational. Some parents note that their children pretend to unbox toys to a nonexistent audience, and teachers report that their students often say they want to pursue YouTubing as a career. But when seemingly everyone wants to record footage or live stream, who ends up watching the content?

Starting a career on platforms like Twitch often means spending some time broadcasting to absolutely no one. Discoverability is an issue: when you log into Twitch, the most visible people are those who already have a large following. While there are tools to find lesser-known streamers, most people starting out without built-in audiences from other platforms or supportive friends and family end up staring at a big, fat zero on their viewership counter. This lonely live stream purgatory can last anywhere from a few days, weeks, months, sometimes even years, depending on your luck. According to people who have gone through it, lacking an audience is one of the most demoralizing things you can experience online.

I found this article by searching for the title, which I saw in a screencap photo in a Kotaku article about a professor who taught a session of his class about Twitch on Twitch.

Although I sometimes fantasize that I’m recording myself when I do 100% completion speedruns of Zelda games, I have to admit that I never got into Twitch. I understand the appeal, but like… Okay, how do I put this.

So much of being considered cool in high school and college is about sharing communal experiences. You don’t just watch a movie and talk about it, you have to watch it with your friends and share inside jokes that mainly take the form of repeating the lines from the movie that everyone in your friend group laughed at. I enjoy spending time with people, but I have trouble relaxing enough to passively consume content in the company of a group, so doing something like quietly watching a television show or sports game has always felt like having to sit through some sort of awful and boring lecture.

What I’m trying to say is that Twitch isn’t for me. I’m not suggesting that Twitch isn’t worth reading about and writing about and teaching an entire college class about; but, to me, it’s really nothing more than how teenagers and people in their early twenties have always spent time with their peer groups.

The primary difference, I guess, is that people aspire to do this professionally. In fact, some of my own students are already well on their way to making a career out of streaming or Let’s Play videos.

Anyway, I was thinking about teaching a class through Twitch (or possibly Discord) myself, but I ultimately decided against it. I understand the drive to hold class sessions via videoconferencing, but I also don’t think it’s entirely fair to assume that everyone will have access both to a good internet connection and to a quiet space where they can be alone, especially not during an arbitrarily set time, and not while they’re back with their families. See also:

‘Zoombombing’: When Video Conferences Go Wrong

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/20/style/zoombombing-zoom-trolling.html

Yahaha!

This comic was drawn by Frankiesbugs (@frankiesbugs on Tumblr) and written by me, Kathryn Hemmann (@kathrynthehuman on Twitter).

After three years of playing Breath of the Wild, I now see Korok hiding places everywhere… and I mean everywhere. (ಠ_ಠ)

Pokémon Sword and Shield

I started playing Pokémon Sword on December 4, and I beat the game last night. It took a little more than 42 hours, which is the result of me playing about half an hour a day for the past two and a half months.

I feel like I spent most of my time with Pokémon Sword goofing off in the Wild Area, dressing my character in ridiculous outfits, and figuring out to make truly bizarre unique league cards. I really enjoyed myself.

What I appreciate about this generation of Pokémon games is that, partially thanks to the open-world style Wild Area, the player can create a diverse and balanced team from the start, which means that you can set up your team within two or three hours and then not have to worry about level grinding or otherwise catching up under-leveled pokémon. All the creatures on my team were at level 70 at the end of the game, and they’d all been with me since the first gym battle. I caught 225 species of pokémon without really trying, but it was just for fun.

Compared to previous generations, Pokémon Sword and Shield don’t have much of an overarching story, but I love the location and the characters. I played about half of the game in handheld mode and the other half on my television. I’ve always wanted to play a Pokémon game in widescreen high definition, and this was everything I ever dreamed of. Each of the towns and cities is gorgeous, and the big stadium battles are phenomenal. The major characters have all sorts of interesting microexpressions and small animation flourishes that help you get a sense of their personalities, and their designs are attractive and eye-catching.

It will probably not surprise anyone that I have a crush on Chairman Rose, who tries very hard to be evil but comes off as goofy and adorable. Early on in the game, Rose shows up “incognito” to have lunch with your character at a fancy restaurant in one of the most fantastically Eurotrash outfits I have ever had the pleasure to behold. I was so inspired by his ridiculous combination of sportswear and beachwear that I spent the entire game hyper-focused on earning money so that I could buy clothes and achieve the same glorious antithesis of style.

By the time the player has their final showdown against Rose in the creepy ambient glow of shattered test tubes with a “One-Winged Angel” style choral piece as the BGM, my character was a complete and utter eyesore. I hope Rose was proud of me.

I had a lot of fun with Pokémon Sword. I recently saw – on Twitter, I think? – someone say that there are three main genres of video games: Men With Guns, It’s About Depression, and Nintendo. I totally get that, and I appreciate that Pokémon Sword and Shield are strong “Nintendo” games in the sense that they don’t take themselves too seriously and allow you to play them in whatever way you like. I’m not super-invested in the DLC, but I think it might be nice to return to the Galar region when new content is available this summer.

VOTE BARRET WALLACE 2020

20 Years Later, the Hardest Losses in ‘Final Fantasy VII’ Have Changed
https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/a3kgv5/20-years-later-the-hardest-losses-in-final-fantasy-vii-have-changed

This is a game that is fundamentally about economic and environmental justice.

The world of Final Fantasy VII is entirely dominated by corporations who have polluted the world to such an extent that humanity has become cloistered in corporate-controlled nightmare cities where they’re bottled up to rot in slums beneath metal plates. Their entertainment is provided by a mega corporation that runs a theme park that contains all of the hopes, dreams, and physical activities denied the average person. The world is dying, and it is the fault of those in power.

There is definitely a sense in the final battles of Chrono Cross that yes, these avatars of sea and earth and sky have a point. As Serge and his companions, you’ve witnessed first-hand that the humans of the world have put their own interests above that of the planet — sometimes violently. When the great Dragon God — the planet’s ultimate weapon against its violent oppressors — asks you “Must one kill other living things in order to survive? Must one destroy another world in order to allow one’s own world to continue?”, it’s easy to read it as the typical pseudo-philosophical posturing of a villain before the final battle commences. But as forests continue to be clear-cut, the ocean becomes increasingly acidic, and dry lands become deserts, these questions start to sound less philosophical and more practical. If we destroy another world, can our own world continue?

I have to admit that I was never able to get more than a few hours into Chrono Cross – it’s one of the PS1/PS2 crossover era RPGs in which each random battle takes at least five minutes – but I’m always intrigued when gameplay reinforces a game’s central premise, especially when that premise is “maybe we should spend more time thinking about what it means to save the world.”

I’m looking forward to the PS4 release of Final Fantasy VII, and my one hope and dream for whatever new culture springs up surrounding the game is that people start taking Barret seriously.

Tamagotchi On

I killed my Tamagotchi last night.

Or rather, I took the batteries out of the device. I’m not sure what effect that will have, but I’d rather not know. After playing with it for two weeks, it was time to stop, but I loved that stupid little thing.

One of the students in my Media Studies course in the fall semester did her class project on Tamagotchi. She did a lot of research, and I was so interested in her work that I tracked down all of the articles, blog posts, and videos she referenced. I also ended up buying the newest Tamagotchi model, Tamagotchi On, which was released last summer and retails for about $50 to $60 (depending on which color you want).

Like a lot of other 1990s children, I had a Tamagotchi back in the day, and the game was as basic as it gets – keep the creature in the plastic egg alive as long as you can by feeding it when it gets hungry and cleaning its poo. It beeped at you when it needed attention, and it needed attention about once every ten minutes or so. It would die if you left it alone for more than an hour or two, but I was a devoted Tamagotchi parent and managed to keep mine alive until the batteries ran out, at which point I put the device back in its box and promptly forgot about it.

According to my student, who gave a fantastic presentation of her work, the current “Tamagotchi On” generation is both more interactive and more forgiving. I spent a lot of December being very conflicted and unhappy, so I decided to take advantage of a holiday sale and get myself a new Tamagotchi. I put the box on my desk and let it sit for two weeks before finally starting the game on January 2. I needed to make sure I had enough free time, because the creature demands attention.

Your job is still to keep your Tamagotchi alive by feeding it and cleaning its poo. You also have to give it baths, help it vacuum its little house, and give it medicine if it gets sick. The most time-consuming aspect of the game, however, is making sure your Tamagotchi is happy, which you do by playing with it and taking it on (virtual) trips. You can earn in-game currency by playing minigames, and you spend this currency on toys and fancy food and snacks. Aside from your hometown, you can also visit other areas, which you unlock by meeting various conditions that you more or less have to learn about from a fan-written walkthrough. You can have simple interactions with other Tamagotchi characters outside your town; and, if you romance them properly (for which you might also need a walkthrough), you can create a baby that you raise using all the resources you acquired from the previous generation. In addition to breeding Tamagotchi children, you can breed pets for them, which serves no purpose aside from being cute. There’s also an app that will connect the Tamagotchi device to your smartphone via Bluetooth, but I didn’t want to mess around with that.

This generation of Tamagotchi seems to be programmed to pick up on the patterns of its user’s activity, meaning that it will leave you alone during the hours you tend not to interact with it and demand attention at times when you’ve given it attention before, which I appreciate. You can also turn the sound off entirely and pause the game by leaving your creature at its parents’ house, which I appreciate even more. I think that, if I wanted to, it would probably be possible for me to keep playing the game indefinitely.

The pixel graphics are wonderful, and the art direction and animation are lovely. The character design is a bit odd, but I think that’s probably part of its appeal. The physical design of the egg-shaped device is aesthetically pleasing, and it’s sturdy and sophisticated enough to warrant… maybe not $50 to $60, but the $40 I paid when it was on sale.

I quit playing for the same reason I quit playing Pokémon Go, which is that I passed my peak balance of time invested vs. emotional engagement. Basically, I realized that I was going to have to put in a lot more effort if I wanted to get more out of the game, and I wasn’t willing to do that. It’s not that I wasn’t having fun, but rather that I had no desire to be anything more than a casual player.

All things considered, I enjoyed my two weeks my with tiny little virtual pet…

…but I have to admit that I was also embarrassed to take it out of the house. Tamagotchi On is a neat little toy, but it’s designed for eight-year-old girls, and it’s so cute that it’s obscene. I accidentally left it in my laptop bag one afternoon, and it beeped when I happened to be riding an elevator with someone. They were like, “That’s such a cute text alert ringtone,” and I was like, “Yes… I receive text messages… like a fellow adult.” The downside of the game having its own device is that you can’t pretend to be checking your messages while you play it. I suspect that it’s intended to train children too young to have their own phones in the sort of behavioral patterns involved in constantly checking messages, which is somewhat disturbing. Still, I got some good serotonin out of the experience, so I’m not complaining.