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More Fangames: A first look at Pokemon Sage (Demo 2.0)

Last year, I wrote about my experiences with some fan-made games, one of which was Pokemon Uranium. One of our commenters made us aware of Pokemon Sage then, and I thought it looked promising and would be well worth keeping an eye on. At the time, I got the impression it was still in a very early state, there was plenty of concept work to look through and a short playable demo but not enough to draw any firm conclusions one way or another.

I later stumbled across discussions of Pokemon Sage again, in reading discussions of Pokemon Uranium in a Let’s Play thread by Orange Fluffy Sheep on the Something Awful forums (the Let’s Play forum is a guilty pleasure of mine, I lurk but don’t participate). People there were much harsher on Uranium than I was (I think rightly so; I do still mostly like it, but I’ll readily admit most of the flaws they tore it apart for are real and deserve the mockery), and several of them kept bringing up Pokemon Sage as an example of a Pokemon fangame that gets right the things Uranium got wrong.

To make a long story short, they’re absolutely right. But we’ll get to that.

Anyway, I was in the mood to play some Pokemon recently, and remembered that earlier this year (late July, I don’t know the exact date) a more substantial demo of Pokemon Sage had been released. I don’t normally care for playing incomplete games – I can tolerate incomplete or abandonned serial fiction, but when it’s a video game and you add to that the possibility of getting psychologically invested in a save file (which may not be compatible with future versions of the game even if it does continue to update), the frustration level increases greatly. That said, Sage intrigued me enough and the new demo had enough of it implemented that I thought it was worth giving a try, so here’s my review of Pokemon Sage Demo 2.0.5 (this version released 10 August 2017, available here) after having played it to completion.

[I won’t be contributing much to this one, I haven’t played it yet – it looks really promising and I probably will, but I also want to try and wait for the full game.] Read the rest of this entry »

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Posted by on October 1, 2017 in mitchell

 

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Epilogue Day has come and gone

Last Friday came and went and I nearly didn’t notice. I had a niggling feeling in the back of my mind that I was missing something – I’d noticed that it was September 1 and something seemed significant about that, but didn’t quite put my finger on what it was until afterward. September 1, 2017 was, in fact, the date on which the awful ‘Nineteen Years Later’ epilogue would have taken place and I almost let it pass by without noticing (and without comment). I may well be less attuned to Potterverse things than I used to be, but then on top of that it’s also the bloody awful epilogue we’re talking about so it may not be as surprising it didn’t immediately come to mind, but even so, you’d think I’d have thought about this and prepared a post in advance. I feel rather guilty about not having done so.

Here’s a link to a relevant Twitter thread, the sentiments expressed amused me greatly.

Also, Tor.com had an article.

Apparently this was a big deal to some people. Loten tells me it was all over the news and people actually gathered at King’s Cross, among other things. I’ll admit a part of me likes that idea, and almost wishes I’d been able to go and/or had the inclination to do cosplay of some kind (in the back of my mind there are fantasies of mocking the epilogue via live-action subversive fanfic – I could probably pass for Harry, unfortunately – but I know I would never actually do something like that). Or, I don’t know, call in a satirical tip to the British police about Ron Weasley’s fraudulently obtained driver’s licence.

Then, too, on some level I wonder if it will change how people think about the series to realise that even the distant-future epilogue is now in the past (or if they will even notice that; thinking about it, I’m not actually sure any explicit dates are actually mentioned in the text). There’s always that hint of surreality when reading a text like Nineteen Eighty-Four or 2001: A Space Odyssey or the like which is clearly written as if set in the future, but given a date that we have now passed. And maybe it will aid the books’ fade into eventual cultural irrelevance, though that does not necessarily excite me as someone who is invested in criticising them.

So in ‘honour’ of this ‘significant’ moment, shall we utterly pick apart a bit of the text?

‘He’ll be all right,’ murmured Ginny.
As Harry looked at her, he lowered his hand absent-mindedly and touched the lightning scar on his forehead.
‘I know he will.’
The scar had not pained Harry for nineteen years. All was well.

“All was well” is the part that most people poke fun at here, and rightly so. I remember Rowling saying for years in interviews (before the final book) that she’d had the ending written from the beginning and the last word was going to be ‘scar’, but in the end she did this instead. Looking at it now, I actually think changing that was a mistake: I assume that means the final sentence was originally some reworked variant of the previous one (e.g. ‘It had been nineteen years since Harry last felt any pain in his scar’), which is a functional enough way of implying ‘Voldemort was gone for good and the core conflict on which these books focused has been resolved; rest easy, reader’. It becomes problematic when the next sentence comes along and says ‘all was well’, which even when charitably read falsely implies ‘all of the societal problems in these books have been fixed’ and that’s laughably not in evidence (and, frankly, factually contradicted) even just taking the epilogue in a vacuum. For fuck’s sake, the epilogue includes Ron confessing to having used illegal magic on a Muggle driving instructor, and nobody present notices or cares beyond a vague ‘ha ha isn’t he silly’.

What I also notice is that Harry’s behaviour here is bizarrely superstitious. He’s worried about his child, so he reassures himself that nothing bad could possibly happen to him because there’s no Voldemort? This really does not follow, Harry. There are lots of other things that can go wrong for a child at school; even plenty of Harry’s schoolboy misfortunes had nothing to do with Voldemort! (This is also pretty hilarious in light of Cursed Child being a thing, admittedly. We know quite well that all was not, in fact, well, even in the fictional universe of Harry Potter and ignoring how everything’s been going to shit in the actual 2017.)

In a way, I suppose it could be argued that all of this is ridiculously uncharitable and obviously ‘all was well’ is only being used as shorthand for ‘the story is over now’, much like ‘they lived happily ever after’ and such. But as I said earlier, the previous sentence already accomplished that, so I think we have to conclude it’s doing additional work. ‘All was well’ is not merely saying ‘the conflict has been resolved’, it is also saying ‘and what remains is a good and proper state of affairs’. The deviation from Status Quo has been corrected, Our Side Won, and everything is now the way it should be, there’s no more work to do! Oh wait, I’m not talking about Harry Potter any more, now am I? That sounds a lot like something else that’s awfully relevant in this year of 2017. (And in case you think I’m talking only about Twitler and his zombies, I’m not, though that does describe them: some of the responsibility for their movement’s virulent rise has to go back to leftist complacency after Obama was elected, and our failure to recognise the extent of the racist backlash and take it as seriously as we needed.)

It’s kind of interesting how that dovetails, isn’t it? Especially since I’ve barely begun to address the hilarity of the ‘all was well’ scene occurring in 2017 of all years. And that is because the problem is an underlying attitude and mode of thinking, moreso than any particular sequence of events (never mind that, again, 2016-2017 is especially egregious, that’s not the point). The epilogue’s attempt at a pat ending just lays bare the fact that, in reality, ‘all was well’ is a statement that can probably never be true and there will always be more issues that need addressing. What the person saying it inevitably means is ‘I’ve decided this is good enough’, or, more bluntly, ‘I’ve got mine so fuck you’: it is fundamentally a statement of willful ignorance or complacency.

And to be complacent in the face of systemic oppression and societal inequality is to be complicit in the harm it does.

I’m not always the best about this myself, I have to admit – if nothing else I have a tendency to just observe and try to be well-informed (and to call out bad behaviour when I see it around me), I’m not great at actually taking action on anything, and I’ve been overwhelmed enough that I’ve not managed to do much by way of writing either – but that’s something I’m aware of and something I’m trying to work on.

I’m not sure if I have a greater point here, but this is where my thoughts on that scene took me. Happy belated Epilogue Day.

[Loten here. I have no input. As far as I’m concerned the epilogue doesn’t exist, after all.]

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2017 in mitchell

 

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Some disorganised thoughts after the Women’s March(es)

So yesterday (21 January 2017), for anyone who doesn’t already know, the day after the tragic inauguration of Donald Trump as president of the (not-so-) United States (I will not give him the dignity of the office and refer to him as President Trump, he’s a loathsome despotic buffoon #notmypresident), was also the day of the Women’s March on Washington and its sister marches in major (and not-so-major!) cities throughout the US and beyond.

Here’s the official Women’s March site and the Sister Marches page.

Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2017 in mitchell

 

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Various Recent Developments in Potterland

I’m sorry, I can’t bring myself to talk about American politics, it’s too fucking depressing. I’ve been trying and failing to come out with anything coherent, in all honesty. So let’s talk about Harry Potter.


Firstly, sometime in September, Pottermore apparently added a feature where you can take a quiz to be assigned a Patronus animal (here’s an article about that). We knew about this at the time but never quite got round to writing about it; let’s just say we found it to be quite the mess.

I personally have not experimented with it at all, I can’t be bothered, but Loten did attempt it and apparently got assigned an osprey (which she wasn’t particularly pleased with, but I’ll leave it to her to complain about that if she wishes to).

[I don’t particularly object to ospreys, they’re nice birds. But there was no comment on what that’s supposed to mean about you, and I can’t see how the quiz led to that specific result – there seem to be a couple of dozen possibilities, but the quiz is just six or seven ‘here’s a few words, pick the one you like best and don’t take too long’. So I assume it randomly assigns you a set of possible animals before you even start.]

That said, we noticed quite a few things that irritated us about the apparent selection of animals. There are a lot of varieties where horses and dogs are concerned, but in many other cases you simply get a catchall term like ‘wolf’ or ‘dolphin’ where there are huge numbers of subspecies being ignored. And then, too, the type of variety provided is questionable: for instance, in many case it’s described as a certain colour of horse (not a breed or subspecies, a colour!). Patronuses don’t have colour. They’re ethereal silvery-looking things, how are you supposed to tell the difference between colours of horses? Somebody didn’t think this through (as if that’s a surprise at this point).

[To clarify – dogs have specific breeds, like huskies or Jack Russel terriers or whatever. The options for horses were ‘grey mare’ or ‘white stallion’ – which is a fail in itself; in equine circles all white horses are referred to as grey anyway. It’s not like there aren’t diverse horse breeds around – you could have, say, a Shire, an Arabian and a Shetland pony, or something. The weird gendering was odd as well – ignoring deer and apparently horses, nobody seems to be paying attention to the (apparently visible) genitalia of their Patronus.

There were also some really random animals as possible outcomes. The ones people seem most disappointed by were a mole and a salmon.]

The questions were also all extremely generic and we couldn’t tell how (if at all) they correspond to the results. You have to create an account to take the test, you can only do it once per account, and it moves through the questions rapidly enough that it would be difficult to record them; we certainly find it too impractical to experiment with and try to figure out how it works (not to mention we don’t care nearly enough, to be honest), and that difficulty is probably why we haven’t seen anyone else doing it either. Let us know if you do come across anyone gathering data about it, though.


Moving on. This thread is very much worth reading, more indigenous peoples’ reactions.

I didn’t feel comfortable contributing (or excerpting), but seriously, go read it.

[Agreed. Go read. We’ll wait.]


As we anticipate Fantastic Beasts, have some more history fail:

In short, it’s a reveal of some more details about magical society in America as fleshed-out for the setting of Fantastic Beasts. For a while, I honestly didn’t know what to say about it, and the article I’ve linked does a decent job pointing out the more obvious problems.

What it reads like is this. It reads like she’s gone down a list of buzzwords that sound American and thrown them together in a blender. As they pointed out at Tor, she has “MACUSA” existing before there was any such thing as the United States of America, under that name. This isn’t necessarily surprising, given the stew of anachronisms that she so often uses in her fictional history, but that doesn’t make it less nonsensical.

Hey, white Americans, maybe now you will understand what cultural appropriation feels like, and what marginalised populations have been trying to tell us? Even if you don’t find this particularly painful – I don’t – look at this amount of cluelessness about your culture, your polity, etc, see how ridiculous it looks and imagine that being nearly universal. Imagine that being the mainstream conception of what you are and what your society is.

If you can understand why MACUSA and Magical Congress and all of these other things are stupid and problematic, you can understand why Native Americans have been and continue to be so pissed off. That’s not nearly as bad as the bullshit they’re regularly expected to swallow.

[I don’t have anything to add here, though I almost want to apologise for Rowling. Almost. #NotAllBritons]


And in other news, there are apparently going to be five Fantastic Beasts films, because somehow this cash cow’s udders have not yet started bleeding or falling off. Fuck everything. I really haven’t the slightest clue how they’re going to get five films out of this when it seems to be primarily composed of history fail and cultural appropriation, and barely has any plot to speak of aside from ‘there are monsters. also there are conspiracies.’ It also sounds like she’s going to be trying to give us detail on the Grindelwald war, because taking history fail into the World Wars and possibly Nazi Germany is a brilliant idea that cannot possibly go wrong in any way. I am utterly atwitter with anticipation.

[Grindelwald is going to show up in the second film. Johnny Depp has been cast in the role, despite not looking remotely like the pretty blond we’ve been told to expect. I assume this means Rowling, Warner et al are fine with the fact that he abused his wife…]


And for the sake of proving I can be even-handed and don’t hate everything Rowling says on principle, I did think this was rather clever.


More to come this month from both of us – expect two film reviews, and hopefully the conclusion of Philosopher’s Stone, possibly more. Watch this space.

 
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Posted by on November 4, 2016 in loten, mitchell

 

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hypocrisy, thy name is rowling

It may be a bit late to discuss this; Loten brought it to my attention a week or so ago.

The article is titled “JK Rowling Goes Off on Homophobic Haters and Shares Theories on Stopping Internet Trolls.” Here is what she is quoted as saying on Twitter:

“Can’t decide which is more offensive in this tweet, the stupidity or the spite.”

“It’s an arguable point, but I think this focus on how the bigot/troll/bully feels is odd, I’m afraid. Not all ‘trolls’ air their views purely for attention. They want to hurt. They want to intimidate. And the victims get driven out of what should be safe spaces by their venom. If we all challenged hate, social media might feel a much nicer place for minorities, and women and gay people.”

Part of me wants to applaud her for saying this. This is a genuinely nice sentiment, and a needed one, and I don’t actually think there’s much if anything I disagree with in there. I’ve been observing the phenomenon of hateful trolling and harassment on the internet for a while (it’s hard not to if you’re involved in atheism, for instance, or anything remotely to do with feminism and gender; I haven’t personally gotten a lot of it aimed at me, but that’s because I’m a small-time blogger and don’t write much), and this is more or less accurate. Even if not entirely conscious (because the people doing this aren’t generally paragons of self-awareness), that does seem to be the motivation and certainly is the effect; if you’re not aware of how bad things get, go read We Hunted the Mammoth or one of countless other blogs that documents the worst of the internet. Anyone who can push back against harassers and bullies should do so, because the alternative is ceding our spaces to them.

That said, Rowling is saying this?

The same Rowling whose gay characters are closeted until she decides to out them years later (outside the text) for attention? (And which, taken in context, seems to imply that “love” makes you evil unless it’s heterosexual or parental love, in which case it’s powerful deus-ex-machina magic?) Or endorses a play which baits a homosexual relationship between its leads and decides to force them into heterosexuality (via sexual harassment apologism, no less) at the last possible moment?

The same Rowling who claims to be feminist but struggles to depict women outside of the roles of love interests, wives and mothers? Who, again, endorses a play which uses sexual assault for laughs? [And who depicted rape and its aftermath in The Casual Vacancy in such a disgusting way I literally threw the book across the room and have never forgiven her for it?]

The same Rowling who has no problem with bullying as long as the bullies were placed in the proper arbitrary categories, and repeated this pattern so often that an acronym (IOIAGDI, “it’s okay if a Gryffindor does it”) needed to be coined?

The same Rowling who essentially says that unless bigotry looks like Voldemort, it isn’t bigotry? (I present for your consideration Arthur Weasley, who considers muggles curiosities to gawk at and appropriate material culture from, or Ronald Weasley, who doesn’t hesitate to renege on his word and try to cheat goblins, who considers himself above muggle law and uses magic to cheat a driving test, amongst other things. And the “Harry Potter Prequel“, in which the loathsome James Potter and Sirius Black are shown abusing muggle police for fun.). Paternalistic racism is still racism, unintentional racism is still racism; not all racism looks like the Klan or the Nazis. Rowling’s universe desperately needs a Muggle Lives Matter movement.

[The Cormoran Strike books are also full of racism. And sexism. And ableism. And… It’s also worth pointing out the lack of anyone who isn’t white in most of her work. HP has, to my recollection, one explicitly black character and three explicitly Asian characters, and a couple more were later revealed offscreen to also be people of colour. The Casual Vacancy had one family of Indian stereotypes. And the less said about the Strike books, the better, particularly since they’re set somewhere as diverse as London. Not to mention the extremely poor handling of Native cultures more recently with all the Ilvermornay nonsense.]

The same person who wrote all of those things, and many more besides, expects to be taken seriously when spreading an anti-bullying, anti-bigotry message? Truthfully, I find it hard to believe the same person wrote her oeuvre and the quoted tweets. I suppose one could try to argue she could have learned since writing the Harry Potter books… except that, as we’ve learned from examining the Cursed Child play and the Cormoran Strike books, she’s still writing things that are problematic and insensitive at best. Loten speculated to me that Rowling could have outsourced her Twitter account to somebody else; I’m willing to be slightly more charitable, and say that maybe she’s a skilled parrot who repeats arguments without understanding them.

I’m going to make a horrible comparison here; I honestly think this might be like the respondents in Lisak and Miller, and similar studies. Plenty of men will admit to rape as long as you describe it using other words (“no I’ve never committed rape, but yes I have had sex with a woman by force when she didn’t want to”). Perhaps this is a similar case of not connecting a word to its definition – Rowling may know “bullying” and “hate” and “homophobia” are wrong but not necessarily what those words actually signify?

Plenty of us have internalised biases and bigotries, that’s inevitable when living in kyriarchy; it’s difficult to fight against those forces unless we’re able to identify and try to correct it in ourselves wherever possible. There’s an old saying (ironically, from an ancient book full of bigotry) that says to tend to the plank in your own eye before the speck in another’s. It’s good advice, and maybe Rowling should follow it.

I don’t necessarily want her to stop saying these things, because they’re good things and people do need to say them. But it might be nice to see a bit of self-awareness and reflection.

 
9 Comments

Posted by on August 30, 2016 in mitchell

 

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An important perspective on Rowling’s new rubbish

I became aware yesterday of this article by Adrienne K. at Native Appropriations (h/t Shakesville), and recommend you read it (these two earlier articles of hers she links to at the end are also well worth a look). She’s been writing about this since June 2015 so it’s probably negligent of me to only become aware of it now, but regardless.

I don’t think I’m really qualified to comment on how to respectfully handle writing about Native Americans in fictional milieu, so I don’t want to say much about it myself. She raises a lot of important issues I wouldn’t have thought of. My first thought was that it’s probably impossible to win, because the most likely alternative is to not include them at all and it’s probably better to acknowledge that indigenous peoples existed and mattered, but that’s an incredibly low bar to set and, as Adrienne points out, misrepresentation may well be equally problematic if not worse (e.g. let’s not forget what happened with Stephenie Meyer, and that now a lot of people only know about the Quileute tribe because of her bastardised werewolf mythology).

Likewise it’s not really fair to say “well, if you don’t want to be misrepresented, you’d better volunteer your time to explain everything to any author who decides they want to write about your culture”, that’s an undue burden to place on anybody… but what’s the alternative, encouraging them to do shoddy research and misrepresent you in problematic ways? Once again, marginalised people(s) just can’t win. I don’t know what the answer is.

But please don’t put too much stock in my whitesplaining of this, go read the original articles.

Quick edit to add: here’s another really good article on this, by Chris Lough at Tor.

 
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Posted by on March 10, 2016 in mitchell

 

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Yikes. Don’t be these people.

 

So, there’s a cool dude on the internet called Mark Oshiro, who runs a site or two where he reads books and watches shows that people recommend for him, and he fanboys adorably and films himself doing so. Like so many others, he got started shredding the abomination that is Twilight, but he’s loved pretty much everything else he’s done. (Including Harry Potter, where I have to disagree with him on most things but he’s just so cute about it…)

He’s also covered Tamora Pierce (who shows up in the comments on his posts about her books to cackle at him every so often, because she’s awesome like that), and at one point was commissioned to vlog part of one of my (quite old) fanfics; it’s linked on my FFN profile, so some of you might recognise his name from there.

Anyway, recently he posted something on Facebook about his experience at a particular convention, and I think it’s well worth reading. If only to make sure none of you ever do anything like this.

Here’s the link: https://www.facebook.com/markdoesstuff/posts/1055796457774855

I find it depressing that this sort of thing still happens, but there you are. Feel free to share his post around if you want.

 

 

[Edited this to add – apparently I forgot where I’d initally found the link, but I became aware of this via Pharyngula. This article by Rachel Caine he links to there is also well worth reading. ]

 
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Posted by on February 23, 2016 in loten, mitchell

 

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