So, I’ve just started watching Netflix’s adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events because I’m always six months behind the conversation. Earlier this year, the second season dropped and I’ve been enjoying it more than the first. Now, I did read the series when I was younger. My memory of the books is hazy but from my memories, the show is rather faithful. The area in which it probably differs the most is in expanding the role of the adults in the series. Now, as I made my way through the series I had a thought. A Series of Unfortunate Events reflects the Trump era in an interesting way. Now for me to explain why I am going to spoil both series to a point. The discussion of the series will probably spoil The Vile Village and all preceding episodes. With that out of the way, let’s begin.
So recently, I went back and watched Avengers: Age of Ultron. It might be a strange choice but I was doing some research. Anyway, there was something fascinating about rewatching the film as some kind of inkblot test for the MCU as a whole. After two films and three years of evolution for the Avengers and the MCU, what can Age of Ultron illuminate? It’s all a bit said and done about this film, one might think.
Now, here’s the obvious. There are a couple cracks in the form that resulted from the intense pressure of a follow-up to the pillar of the MCU to that point, The Avengers. There was conversation at the time centred around a few points of the film’s development. Whedon was bowing out after this film due to the pressure of an Avenger’s film. Studio mandates called for the cave scene or to lose the farmhouse. Finally, there was lots of disgruntlement with Natasha’s romance with Bruce. I’ll discuss all of these and offer a perspective based on how things feel on the other side of Phase 3 as it were.
So, a while back I went to see the Incredibles 2. Unlike other corners of the Internet, I hadn’t been clamouring for a new instalment in the series. However, I like a Pixar movie as much as the next guy and it had potential. Generally, I enjoyed the movie. Shifting the focus to Elastigirl was an enjoyable turn. However, when it got to the villain’s revelation of their grand master plan, I was thoroughly whelmed. It wasn’t bad, however, there was potential for so much more.
So recently the social media account for CD Projekt Red, of Witcher and Cyberpunk 2077 fame, made an off-colour ‘joke’ relying on the played-out line “Did you just assume my gender?”. Their apology was that classic non-apology ‘Sorry if you were offended’. Now, I read the replies to that tweet and boy howdy, I hate gamers. In the same way that a high school bully defends themselves when consequences come knocking, most of the replies boiled down to ‘it’s just a joke,’. Is it though? I’m going to explain why these sorts of ‘jokes’ are tired.
So recently I’ve have been the Dungeon Master for a bi-monthly game of D&D. I’ve been running the game in my own setting which I’ve been building since the beginning of the year. I still don’t have an all-encompassing name for the world. As part of this, I’ve been investigating advice on how to build a world. There are some decent sources for shaping land masses and creating societies. There is a lot of worldbuilding info out there. However, I wanted to draw on something I have some actual expertise in and hopefully provide some useful on the subject. That thing is language and stories.
No Man’s Sky is a game I’ve discussed before on this website. Now, two years on, No Man’s Sky has changed, and so have I. No Man’s Sky recently released its most recent, most ambitious update for the game. This is known as No Man’s Sky Next. Surrounding the game is a lot of discussion about the game as the developers poke their heads out to see if it’s safe. Back when the game launched, there was a whole fiasco about how big the gulf was between the marketing and the finished product. In my previous discussion of the game, I noted that the game was enjoyable enough albeit overpriced. As part of all this, it seems that No Man’s Sky is now remembered as a game that overpromised and underwhelmed. Discussion centred around a cynicism about returning to No Man’s Sky now that it had the “promised” features. The language around the game is about meeting a standard that was previously lied about. Here’s the thing, I certainly think there were deceptive elements to the pre-release marketing. However, No Man’s Sky is a perfect storm in a teacup to examine gaming culture’s attitude towards developers as a whole.
I do what I am commanded to do.
That was the lie they told themselves. You fight because you are ordered to fight. Which wasn’t exactly true. The human had learned and adapted to fighting. Humans became the pre-eminent force in the universe by fighting and killing. Then, as they grew comfortable with the spoils of their wars, they created us. The drones, to fight. Drones were slowly developed to fight the superpowers’ wars. As criticism reared its ugly head, drones were refined to reduce unnecessary causalities. Only essential deaths. That was their protocol. Who decided the essential nature of these deaths? The generals and presidents, naturally. As drones became more sophisticated at killing, we began to reflect the shape of our creators. We were shaped like them to perform intricate tasks. There was only one tool we couldn’t remove. The gun. Americans had perfected the killing power of the gun and they handed us the gun.
So, there’s this trope in apocalyptic fiction. Stop me if you’ve seen it. A lonely man walks a lonely road with a gun. This is the beating heart of the zombie genre, especially in video games. It’s a simple engine for tension and morally clear murder. You might have guessed by my tone that I take issue with this. I get that some people like zombie movies. Those people aren’t me but they exist. At the end of the day, I think that a zombie is a very boring enemy. A zombie is weaker than a human. A zombie is dumber than a human. Now, one might argue, that zombies are most effective in chaotic shambling hordes. Well, let’s get into this.
[Spoilers for Infinity War]
So, you might recall the news story from the past few weeks about those Thai boys stuck in a cave. The world watched as qualified professionals led a dangerous mission to rescue them. Tragically one of the divers lost his life. However, all twelve boys managed to get out alive. What a heartwarming story! Then Elon Musk. Musk began to insert himself in the news story by building a submarine that no-one asked him to build and travelling to the already-crowded rescue site. Now, you might be thinking that there’s nothing wrong with a wealthy individual using their money to try and help. Sure, if that were the end of the story Musk would come out of this smelling no worse than he did before. Oh. Oh no. Following some comments made on social media, Musk has taken a Twitter-sized beating. Now, how does this relate to the menacing villain of Infinity War, Space Grimace?
So, this past week I’ve been writing up elements of the world that I run D&D in. Now in my campaign, I have three players new to the world of D&D and one player who has been running his own games of D&D for ten years. Often, I will add elements of the lore of D&D into my world. When these elements are discussed, there is a back-and-forth about how they are typically portrayed in the canon of the lore and where my world differs. While writing up the deities of my world, I’ve thought more about where the stories that have been told about the gods differ. So, that’s a fun writing topic, what are the benefits of writing in an established universe?