The Matt Mercer Comparison

Depending on how you came to this piece, you may or may not be familiar with Critical Role. So, I’ll explain all this briefly. Dungeons and Dragons, let’s start there. Tabletop roleplaying game. Started in the 70s, big in the 80s, satanic panic, and so on. In 2013, Wizards of the Coast who own D&D released the 5th Edition of the game. Generally, editions are like sequels in games. They iterate in their own way with specific goals in mind. People still enjoy the previous entries and may prefer them. Based on comments by the design team of this edition it seems the purpose of this version of the game was to be welcoming enough for new players and robust enough for veterans. So, how does this relate to Critical Role?

Critical Role is a weekly live stream on Twitch where, as Matt Mercer explains, “a bunch of us nerdy-ass voice actors sit around and play Dungeons and Dragons”. The show started in 2015 and has been running ever since. Critical is perhaps the most popular live play of Dungeons and Dragons. Between the accessibility of 5th edition and the eminently watchable nature of Critical Role, many new people have been exposed to Dungeons and Dragons through this show and other shows like it, including me. Now, as part of this, some online discourse has held Matt Mercer up as the DM standard that people are compared to. So, let’s look at this comparison.

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H. Bomberguy

So, a couple of weeks ago this thing happened. The stream was this spontaneous outpouring of support for a community and a charity that was targeted by a cadre of journalists, concerned parents, and one culturally irrelevant comedy writer. To sum up, YouTuber H. Bomberguy streamed the game Donkey Kong 64 to completion while raising money for Mermaids, a UK-based charity which offers support systems to trans kids. What followed was a 54-hour stream which included appearances from folks like Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, John Romero, Grant Kirkhope and other notable folks from around the internet. Beyond being just this great weekend in support of those who need it, the stream also gave me hope. Full disclosure, I’m a cis straight white dude. I won the privilege game so I don’t want to make it all about me. There have been some excellent Twitter threads about the stream and what it meant to the charity it was for and the community it supported. (@CaseyExplosion on Twitter is a good source for these, as she was a moderator for the stream and shared some good stuff post-stream). When I say it gave me hope, I’ve never hidden my politics particularly well. As time goes by, I tend to be pulled further to the left. Anyway, the stream was 100 times the success that H. Bomberguy anticipated as success. The stream was a group of people coming together to support a cause over an old video game. A spontaneous outcry of positivity and love in the face of those who would have us go back in terms of rights. It gave me hope that we fight the darkness as the climate apocalypse approaches. What I did want to talk about was the fellow behind the stream. H. Bomberguy.

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Wreck-It Ralph 2: Art and Consumerism

Over the Christmas period, I went to go see Wreck-It Ralph 2 known as Ralph Breaks the Internet. Generally, I enjoyed the first film. The message about being constrained by society’s expectations of you is an interesting one and all the pieces fit together cohesively. The central theme of the second film is pretty solid too and one that spoke to me. It is, in essence, a story about not being possessive of your friends as they pursue their dreams. All in all, the film is pretty harmless. However, the representation of the Internet kept throwing me for a loop. Before the film, I generally expected the cringy adoption of internet culture by the film in a skin that would feel as hollow as the Emoji movie. While I watched the movie, I got a sense that there could be a darker, more caustic movie behind the movie. However, the fact that this was a big budget Disney affair meant that they had to play it safe. So, let’s take a look at the Internet. Before heading into this piece, obviously spoilers ahead.

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Re-examining the Women Society Destroys

We, as a society, tend to give women the short end of the stick. Right now, you might be thinking ‘duh’ or crying misandry right now. If you’re in that second group, I can’t help you with this piece. Sometime last year I was listening to the Slow Burn podcast about the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal. I had complicated thoughts about the whole thing. As someone who grew up in the 90s, I was distantly aware of the scandals. Bill Clinton mainly figured into my worldview via re-aired episodes of the Simpsons. Episodes were he appeared as a cool saxophone-playing guy, was replaced by an alien in their attempts to take over the Earth, and uh, flirted with Marge Simpson. Generally, as I learned more, there were a few conclusions I came to. What Clinton did was wrong, regardless of whether the relationship was consensual or not. The power imbalance between the middle-aged President and his twenty-year-old White House intern was always going to be fraught. Might we view Clinton in a different light in the wake of the #MeToo movement? Absolutely. However, at the time, it was clearly a partisan hack job. Those condemning the President weren’t about moral standards. You know why I think that? One of Clinton’s detractors was a fellow named Brett Kavanagh and we know what his track record with sexual assault is. There was only one person in the whole scandal who I thought was pretty blameless in all this. Monica Lewinsky herself.

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Content

I’m tired of modern life. It feels like being caught in a loop. I want to talk about the ever-present nature of content. Content is in effect, internet stuff. Online video, online writing, social media activity. It’s all branched under content. I might classify myself as a content creator. Of course, there’s a lot of content creators in our current era. Pewdiepie is a content creator. Some of my favourite YouTube personalities (influencers?) are content creators. I am a content creator. In that comparsion, I feel like a bit of phytoplankton as compared to the whale of an influencer that Pewdiepie is. Maybe even that is an ill-served metaphor. When whales shift, the ocean isn’t hugely affected. I am a content creator. Most of us are in the digital age. We have podcasts, or social media presence, or livestreams. I don’t think everyone gets into this game to be Pewdiepie. However, I think that we there is the hope that we can scratch out a middle class living this way. We are all content creators fighting over scraps.

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Best of YouTube 2018

2018 has been a hard year for me. I wasn’t initially going to write a retrospective for this year. I won’t get into all the details of why my year has been difficult but I’m sure everyone remembers the growing pains of leaving academia. There were bright spots. I might explain my feelings in a longer form piece when I feel I’m out of the woods. As usual, I enjoyed my fair share of media. I wrote a ton about media this year too. Usually I begin talking about my favourite song of 2018 but any songs I was drawn to this year were not released in 2018.

However, the sections of YouTube that I frequent had something of a renaissance this year. Picking the ‘best’ video was especially hard. Every channel below released some of their best work in 2018 and elevated the medium in their own way. So I’m going to explore a collection of what you might call honourable mentions but is more like a list of equal first place.

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Let’s Talk About Diablo Immortal

I realise I’m behind the times on this particular story. Surely all the hot takes have been said. So, if you’re not aware, I’ll update you quickly. Earlier this month, Blizzard who is known for games like World of Warcraft and Overwatch had their annual event known as BlizzCon. BlizzCon usually begins with an opening ceremony where new developments at the company are announced. At this year’s BlizzCon they had a couple things of note such as a new Overwatch hero and a remaster of Warcraft 3. However, they decided to end this press conference with an announcement of mobile game Diablo Immortal. There was a prompt backlash and I want to talk about it.

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