Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Cover Up: Canonical Conundrums

How do you even begin to quantify what is and isn't "canon" in fan fiction, I wonder?

Don't worry friends, I'm not talking about 50 Shades of Gray - if I ever want to go down that road, we damn well know I have far more interesting BDSM themed films to talk about. No, I'm talking about The Protomen and the decade or so they've been pouring into what could be the most impressive piece of edgelord fan fiction since Dante wrote L'Inferno.

Back in 2005 the nine-piece group release The Protomen: Act I, a "classically" styled rock-opera depicting an alternate vision based, somewhat loosely, on the 200X continuity as featured in Capcom's classic 8-bit Mega Man franchise, particularly the events of the first three games, ending with Mega Man (Rock) and Proto Man (Blues) - two "sibling" machines - facing each other in combat. The new twist was that the whole thing was interpreted through a lens of an Orwellian Dystopia, with the villainous Dr. Wily playing the role of Big Brother, and the heroic Dr. Light playing out the role of a fallen social pariah - vilified by Wily's propaganda and playing the role of an honest to God terrorists who's second mechanical son walks through the flames of the unnamed city, unsure why the people refuse to take up arms and liberate themselves. It's not until he comes face to face with Wily's most dangerous machine - Light's first wayward son, and the martyred brother he always saw as his inspiration - that the reality of his eternal struggle is made clear, forcing Mega to kill Proto, and leaving the hero unconvinced that humanity is even worth saving as a result.

The whole thing is, as you can guess, just a bit silly. But it's delivered with such sincerity and a carefully measured mix of lyrical narrative, liner notes painting poetic vistas of the INGSOC interpretation of Wily's Robot City, distorted freedom rock and almost pained, bitter soliloquies from one of the NES' early attempts at moral ambiguities, it all hangs together in a way that it probably shouldn't. The Protomen: Act I may be fan fiction, but it's goddamn good fan fiction, experimenting with familiar pieces in ways that I simply couldn't have fathomed possible until I saw it for myself. The first album has some pretty basic continuity issues (is Dr. Light a southerner or isn't he?!), lacks enough context that it may not make a lot of sense to anyone who doesn't already know something about Capcom's all ages original franchise, and buries the finely tuned vocals and snarling guitars under so much faux-analogue distortion that, honestly, the 2013 remix of The Will of One is a dramatic improvement for simply letting the individual elements play out as they were recorded, without any additional "robotic" choppiness laid on top. It's a damn good tune, if you can forgive wearing its youthful heart on its sleeve. Being an unrepentant manchild with a fascination for games nearly as old as I am, this may as well have been crack for my soul.

But they weren't content just to be "that band that's like The Megas, but better". They spun the concept out into The Protomen Act II: The Father of Death, which is an ironically named album because the events actually take place before "Act I", serving as both an expanded foundation for the grim and violent reality they extrapolated from an all-ages game franchise, and allowing them to mash up a more or less original version of "Tom" and "Al", playing the story out as equal parts 1984 and Streets of Fire with the heroes being terrorized by what's best described as HAL from 2001 in a leather jacket. It also burrows deeper into the idea of heroes and triumph being relative, with Tom -unable to avenge the death of his lover Emily at the hands of the machines Albert himself corrupted - becoming a dangerous recluse in the forbidden areas outside of the town, who eventually lures a young man out to join in his fight to take down The Man, and the tower that controls the machines that have enslaved the world without anyone fully realizing how it had happened in the first place. In short, they turned him into two parts Nikola Tesla and one part Osama Bin Laden. It's fucking incredible as a concept and was produced by the guy who convinced the world that Meatloaf was a rock star, jettisoning the grungy mixes of Act I for a largely genuine-sounding fusion of Spanish inspired analogue rock and synth-powered adolescent fury, with each tune building closer and closer in tone to the inevitable sound of Act I until the closing track serves as a prophetic bridge into even the narrative itself.

Basically, The Protomen are to Fan Fiction what Passion of the Christ is to Snuff Films. It perhaps isn't quite the same thing, but goddamn, does it show how badly most other people are doing what they've always been trying to do.

With Act 1 having been released in 2005 and Act 2 having come out in 2009, that means faithfuls have been officially waiting a decade to see the grand finale. They've teased a few tracks, and we've even had a few spinoffs - like the positively decadent, 70s stage-musical level Built to Last on the MM25: Mega Man Rocks Anniversary Album - but their last two full albums have been nothing but cover tracks. 2012's A Night of Queen is, in and of itself, a lovely little tribute to one of the most iconic and influential artists of the 20th century. I like it, but as a friend who's been a die hard Freddie Mercury fan than I have pointed out, the arrangements are actually a little too close to the originals in most cases to be considered all that notable. They're quite good actually, but goddamn few artists out there are Queen level good, which makes very close approximations - no matter how impressive or sincere in their love for the material - seem ever so slightly redundant.

Their latest album - which is now available exclusively on cassette, vinyl or digital-only (no CD, goddamn them) - is one we've known was in the cards for some time. Called THE COVER UP: THE MOTION PICTURE SOUNDTRACK, it too is a fine of covers - though only one was from Queen's collection this time out. The goal was an admirable one - to take the sounds of the mid-1980s and compose the single most amazing movie soundtrack licensing would never have allowed - and to that end, it does a damn good job. One could argue that using songs already associated with intensely 80s films - Princes of the Universe, No Easy Way Out, and Danger Zone may as well be "the theme from..." their respective cinematic vehicles - was a bit of a cheap move, but I'd argue the substantially reworked nature of two of them more than make up for their somewhat shameless inclusion on the list. Hell, the Spicy Tex-Mex version of Rob Tepper's ultimate montage tune was what convinced me to nut up and buy the vinyl in the first place.

What was less expected what the question of exactly what the album means to the broader scope of The Protomen's decade long fusion of Mega Man and insanity. Four dialogue heavy tracks with seamless transitions from the music, as well as a distorted message at the end of the final tune all paint a curious picture that seems like it's part of the larger narrative... but it doesn't quite add up. Tom sounds like Michael Biehn instead of a young Johnny Cash, and there's a romantic subplot with a "fearless reporter" who's never given a name. There's also a question of what "it" was that Albert was so desperate to get back that it eclipsed whether or not Tom survived. So what the hell?

First, let's look at the cover:

Even if you despise these tunes,
I defy you to hate this album cover.

"The Soundtrack to the Motion Picture ." In other words, in the universe that The Protomen have crafted, there was a film detailing Tom being framed as Emily's killer, and that makes the title of "The Cover Up" all the more delicious, as it's basically telling us outright that Al had it banned. But is that all there is? Did the movie just make up some crazy reporter who fell in love with Tom, and moved beyond the Danger Zone to broadcast the truth to those who wander outside the reach of The Arm? Well, maybe - and some unspecified members of the band have reportedly said that the soundtrack is being released on cassette specifically under the notion that Joe, the ill-fated hero of Act II, found this tape in his father's belongings, and that the romanticized vision of what the world was like before Wily's totalitarian regime is what spurned him to rebellion in the first place. It's a really cute idea, to be honest, and if that's as far as it goes - a distorted, romanticized alternate take on the grim underbelly that formed The Father of Death - I'm pretty okay with that.

But it's just as possible that this stretch of Tom's life - the 18 years that occur in the musical interlude How The World Fell Unto Darkness - holds mysteries that have yet to be explored in full. It would be difficult for Act III to work in flashbacks to previous events and keep a forward momentum of any sort, but if the groundwork has already been explored in subtle, clever ways here, that means they can mention "The Reporter" and "The Truth" being revealed without it feeling like a dramatic ass-pull. To that end, the tracks themselves even work in subtle nods to when in the canon they're taking place:

- The end of track 6, "Last Stop", features the sound of sirens blaring and dogs barking in the distance as Tom pays his respects at Emily's grave. This is in direct reference to the track in Act II, 'The Hounds', in which Al confirms that he has no choice now but to betray light and continue on his own path to victory.

- At the end to "Calling in the Air Tonight", the song changes briefly to a progression of notes that marks the shift in Act II's 'When the World Fell Unto Darkness', signifying both Tom being run out of town, and Al rebuilding it in his image. This more or less confirms that the track is playing concurrently with Act II.

- Track 15, 'Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)', is significant for two reasons. The first is that traditionally The Protomen would play their reworked piano intro as an introduction to 'Breaking Out', which occurs when Joe finally gets fed up of Wily's society and leaves to the forbidden areas outside the city's walls.

- No less important is the garbled message that the reporter gives, stating that "He saw it coming" - and "He's been gone for nearly 18 years and yet his dream is still alive". Could this be a pirate radio broadcast that our mysterious reporter has been making for some time, now that she knows the truth about Tom and Al? And could that distorted, intercepted message be the very static on the radio that brought Joe to Tom in the first place?

Even if we ignore what look to me to be blatant instances of drawing parallels between the two albums, the track list as it's organized would make some sense as a retelling of the events of Act II as-is, starting roughly with 'The Good Doctor' and ending shortly before 'Keep Quiet'. Let's examine the evidence, and by that, I mean let's sperg the fuck out over it for a few minutes:

- (Track 1) Pick Up - Emily is startled from her silence by an unexpected call that never answers. Clearly, eyes are on her, and she knows she has no choice but to run or risk her life by staying.

- (Track 2) Because Tonight - Tom surprises Emily with a romantic evening, prompting her to stay by her lover's side a while longer before she flees town. They've previously discussed where their souls promised to meet should they ever lose one another, so shit is about to go down and they know it. They're just trying to ignore it as long as they can.

- (Track 3) Princes of the Universe - An explicit, alternate take on 'The Good Doctor' in which Al convinces Tom that they hold the ultimate power in the universe; the power to change the world with the power of machines.

- (Track 4) Mr Roboto - Tom and Al give "birth" to the first artificially intelligent life form in their laboratory. 'Kilroy' breaking down could easily be Emily's death as described in 'The Father of Death'.

- (Track 5) No Easy Way Out - Tom, on the run from the cops and with no friends left to turn, grips with whether or not "giving in" to thoughts of suicide and allowing Al's sins to go unpunished is best for everyone.

- (Track 6/7) Last Stop/Calling In The Air Tonight - Tom visits Emily's grave, knowing he doesn't have it in him to join Emily yet. Knowing he has no further low to reach, he carries on...

At this point, it gets a little fuzzy, but let's assume this is still canon...

- (Track 8/9) I Drove All Night/Total Eclipse of the Heart - After knowing that something big has been discovered, Tom returns to the outskirts of the city to meet up with the unnamed reporter... and gets lucky. I'm flatly unable to find any reading of this track combo that isn't this. Which'll be really, really weird if my theory pans out in the long run.

- (Track 10/11) Hunted/The Trooper - After coming clean about Emily and confirming feelings for The Reporter, the two are attacked by The Trooper, likely the same "Mr. Roboto" twisted by Al's manipulation to be a violent servant.

- (Track 12) I Still Believe - After surviving their run-in with The Trooper, Tom realizes that it's never too late to change his own fate.

- (Track 13) Results - Revolver Ocelot Albert Wily is furious that The Trooper was unable to secure "it" during his last mission. Exactly what "It" might be, well...

- (Track 14) Danger Zone - Far from the prying eyes of Wily's City, Tom continues to experiment and perfect the design for weapons capable of undoing and destroying the sins he himself released.

- (Track 15) Silent Running (On Dangerous Grounds) - The Reporter continues to speak the truth to those who will listen, spreading propoganda among the people in the hopes that they will see Light as an inspiration and rise up against the corrupt, literal-iron fist of their Robot Masters.

This is all to be treated as conjecture - personal theory, no more and no less. But there's two very interesting questions that have so far gone unanswered, and likely either won't ever be clarified, or will be the basis for the twists that propel Act III, when - and perhaps if - that ever comes out.

The first question is who is this reporter risking her life by uncovering the truth of the violence, censorship and manipulation that put Wily in control of the city? The most obvious answer is that, in one form or another, this is The Protomen's version of Roll.

"Who is Roll?" - someone who stumbled onto this page expecting pornography or bootleg mix tapes by mistake must surely be asking themselves.  Well, the short(ish) version is that in Capcom's original "200X" continuity, Proto Man (aka Blues) was the first machine Dr. Light built that was capable of independent thought and reason - in short, an autonomous, mechanical human possessing human reasoning. Having created a working prototype, Dr. Light built two additional siblings - Mega Man ("Rock" in Nipponese-go) and Roll (...just, Roll) - as his lab assistant and his house keeper, respectively. Yes, Dr. Light supports keeping skirts in the kitchen and sweeping floors. Make of that what you will. The reason Proto defected was because there was a design flaw in which Proto's core would eventually expire, and trying to rebuild him would inevitably erase his consciousness - effectively, Proto was mortal, and went out to live his own life while he still could. Wily found him near expiration and modified the mechanical man to survive past his due date, at which point Proto swore allegiance to Wily for his help. The Protomen expanded on this idea and made it more a matter of Wily breaking and rebuilding Proto, letting his own doubt in humanity be the reason for his allegiance, but the broad strokes are more or less the same.

Roll is the third sibling to Light's mechanical family. With "Act I" centered around the feelings of betrayal over Light never having told Mega the truth behind what happened to Proto - much less the angst that "breaks" Mega once he's forced to kill the brother he never knew and always looked up to as a legend - the total lack of their mutual sister is a suspicious one, to say the least. Proto Man was actually introduced into the canon after Roll,

The second question raised is "What was Wily trying to recover?" The dialogue between Light and maybe-Roll imply that the two don't know each other, and it's entirely possible that in this interpretation of the story, Roll is actually Wilys creation - not Lights. If this guess is even remotely true, it brings up the possibility of Roll being in a replicant-esque existence, unaware that she herself is a machine, perhaps built to such a high standard that most people would never know to begin with - Roll by way of Maria, minus the fact that Maria was kind of an evil robotic psycho.

But again, at least some members of the band swear that The Cover Up is the "Hollywood" retelling of the real story as presented in Father of Death. With that in mind, it's possible that track 8 marks a break in continuity - that rather than Tom being arrested at Emily's grave, he got back in his car and escaped Wily's police entirely, going on the run with The Reporter. This would place everything that takes place up until the last track in a separate non-canonical timeline in which The State vs Thomas Light never happened, though more or less everything else that occurs through the album does. We all know that motion pictures "based on a true story" tend to take the headlines and fuck up everything in between, so could this be a clever meta-commentary on Hollywood's usual methods? Considering everything that's gone into this album existing in the first place, I wouldn't put it past them.

Regardless of what this record "means", I'm satisfied by its existence. I'd recommend to anyone out there who can appreciate just how gloriously silly and occasionally beautiful post-MTV movie soundtracks could be, and doesn't mind a badass cover of The Trooper replacing every instance of "The Russians" with "The Robots". That's how The Protomen Roll, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

The dog is named after Geddy Lee and pals.
Just in case you were still wondering.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

How Hard Did Viz Screw Up The Original SAILOR MOON?

Hard enough that the upcoming Japanese re-run of the original 1994 TV series are going to be from Toei's own HD Remaster. To the best of my knowledge Toei hasn't done an HD master for a vintage TV show since the Dragon Ball Kai project, and have been content to release legitimate classics like Slam Dunk and Saint Seiya on hastily upscaled Blu-ray, so this really is a surprise. Not to mention hopefully a sign of things to come, but I refuse to get my hopes up, since I have a sneaking suspicion that this was largely done at the behest of a certain international licensor who's had egg on their face for some time now over this particular series...

The fact that Viz has only ruined released the first 40 episodes of the original series fucked upscaled means that there's now a very real possibility that North America will get their hands on this same HD master, as well. They'll have to eat a big ol' pile of crow in the process, and probably have to spin their lies about the original film elements no longer existing like a goddamn PR centrifuge, but the potential for schadenfreude here could be so delectable that even people who don't care about the video quality could find something to love.

To every fan who called bullshit, to ANN's interview where Zac tried so hard to let them admit fault it hurt, and to every fan who was willing to support this show no matter what happens: Thank you. This existing gives Mrs. Kentai hope, and that's worth its weight in any precious metal you like.

Gamer Gators vs Social Justice Warlords: The Final Post

Pls Marvel don't sue

WARNING: Yup, it's another one of these posts.
Next time, we'll do something more fun. I promise!

Months ago, I promised an anonymous reader that I'd write a proper addendum to my stance on the ever-present internet controversy known as #gamergate. I haven't done that yet. Mostly because trying to simply explain what Gamer Gate is - or at least, what it's become - over the last 6 months is an exhausting process. But we've reached that all important moment of mainstream saturation - as I write this, LAW AND ORDER: SPECIAL VICTIMS UNIT is set to air an episode dedicated to the scandal under the title "Intimidation Game" tonight, forcing  Ice T to not only explain what "SWATing" is, but do so with a straight face as he describes it as something that men only do to women - so I figure it's time to make myself clear, and wash my hands of ever talking about "gaming culture" on the Kentai Blog so I can actually talk about "Games" from time to time.

Plus, I've got a 102 fever, my ankle's sprained so hard it's double its usual size, and I'm packing to move across town so this is something I can do without pulling shit out of boxes to take screencaps. I may get back to writing video comparisons in March, then. Sorry friends, but trust me, I wish I had the strength to do that stuff right now...

The argument that Gamer Gate - sorry, but I refuse to type in #hashtag #bullshit whenever I can help it - is a misogynistic hate movement dedicated to running women out of gaming is, to be frank, ridiculous. For one thing, the only person supposedly "run out" of anything was Samantha Allen, who... came back a month later after complaining that nobody wanted to buy her articles on Anita Sarkeesian anyway. So if the goal here was to get those pesky women out of our many video games, we've clearly done a really, really bad job of it.

A wild Gamer Gator in their natural habitat.

Despite all the media coverage being about women in gaming as developers and critics being harassed, threatened and so on, it's curious that recognizable women in the actual game industry - writers like Rihanna Pratchet (Square Enix's Tomb Raider), recently retired producer Jade Raymond (Ubisoft's Assassins Creed), and company executives like Bonnie Ross (343's Halo) - have seemingly never been the target of abuse, despite them having a profoundly more direct impact than a handful of independent developers that are - to be blunt - friggin' nobodies, even in their own tiny corner of the industry they inhabit.

It's also odd that a group supposedly dedicated to hating women would have so many female supporters - or any female supporters, really - such as Jennie Bharaj, CameraLady and LizzyF620 - the last of whom only withdrew any ongoing support because she was doxxed to the point of having the names of her children and the floor plan of her house publicized. This is to say nothing of female voices - such as feminist scholar Christina H. Sommers, and games journalist Liana K - who don't have anything to do with Gamer Gate themselves, but acknowledge that the root cause of the ongoing internet struggle comes from a place of frustration against an industry that's turned a blind eye to numerous problems for years now.

So yeah, that whole "Gamer Gate is a 4chan conspiracy to remove women from gaming" thing? A huge pile of bullshit. That said, It was easier for outsiders to buy than the truth - that a hundred thousand neckbearded manbaby /v/irgins would rise up against soft hobbyist news sites like Kotaku and Polygon - because the only people not willing to hold Zoe Quinn and Anita Sarkeesian up as martyrs for the advancement of video games were known right wing advocates, like the proudly pro-military Adam Baldwin  and unashamedly right-leaning journalist Milo Yiannpolous, neither of whim ever claimed to be gamers themselves and were interested in the story solely for the fallout it could otherwise cause the "Feminazi Menace", should the ugly truth behind their shenanigans get pulled into the daylight for all to see.

Pictured: A survey of the political leanings of actual
Gamer Gate supporters as submitted on The Escapist.

That said, gamers never asked for our representation to be people who had shrugged off gay marriage as a new tax fraud loophole, or had written at length about how transgenderism is a mental disease; they came to gamers when they smelled a chance to point out the grotesque hypocrisy present in "Third Wave" feminism, and having found that they were actually listening, gamers responded. The notion that Gamer Gate was some inherently Right Wing organization is about as laughable as its supposed Misogynist focus, but again, it's something I see crop up now and again, and I can't understand how people can do so little research that it's a myth that persists to this day.

The horrible irony being that most people - myself included - fall under the umbrella of believing in the tenants of Second Wave Equality Feminism - that is, believing that women should have the same basic rights as men. But because of the crazy bullshit that comes with the Third Wave, most people (again, myself included) don't see themselves as feminists, because that opens yourself to being compared to straight up psychos like Valerie Solanas. (Look her up if you don't already know who shot Andy Warhol.) "Egalitarian" means the same thing, and it doesn't have the baggage of too many crazy people attached to it. It's a semantics game, I know, but it's an important one, because to argue that any egalitarian isn't technically a feminist seems... disingenuous. They're certainly not a misogynist, at any rate.

Meanwhile, Joss Whedon, Will Weaton, Graham Linehan, Tim Schafer, Stephen Colbert, Patton Oswald - all the nerd icons you'd expect to be in your corner when this shit hit the proverbial fan and painted consumers sick and tired of being dicked around by the people in charge of trying to keep them informed of the very stuff these guys make a living producing! - swallowed the left leaning media's take without questioning it. I'll spare the individual point-by-point summary of who's said what, suffice to say that while I still love some of the work these guys produce, this whole experience has reminded me that meeting your heroes is always a terrible idea. (Unless your hero is Toshio MAEDA. That guy kicks ass!)

The saddest part is I almost don't blame them for making one statement decrying any related misogyny and moving on; it'd be commercial suicide to do anything else. Even if they had spent the necessary time reading up on this shit (which I doubt), it wouldn't help their bottom line. What really bothers me is seeing guys like Linehan - the guy who created Jen and Roy on The IT Crowd, a manipulative, hysterical female stereotype and a selfish, woman objectifying pig, respectively - talking like he actually cares about this sort of thing, instead of realizing that this is the next big moral panic and not wanting to be left behind when every sitcom is pushing positivity and he's still making fun of nerds (though the way things are going, we nerds have already peaked in the public eye). Seriously, Linehan? Next time you want to insult people over slut shaming, make sure the person in question didn't do it to themselves as a joke about all the shit people have been flinging at them. You, of all people, should know what self-deprecating humor is.

Backers for this... project were locked out of the forum - one of the rewards
they literally paid money for - just for being open Gamer Gate supporters. 
Too disgusted by bog-easy game footage to check if that ever got resolved.

Gamer Gate is, and has always been in some capacity, an asymmetrical consumer revolt and a culture divide between the Authoritarian and the Libertarian - not the left and the right. The focus has been on questionable practices in the strictly insular industry of video game journalism, which is intertwined with game criticism as a default. For all the eye-rolling this honesty tends to get, those who have been keeping tabs have seen many websites update their ethics policies, clarify connections between writers and their subjects, disclosing affiliate links in "reviews" that serve largely as advertising, and in at least one particular case, apologize for grossly misrepresenting private matters. In short, there's a long way to go, but Gamer Gate has pushed for transparency and honesty with the websites its members read, and by and large these websites have been left with little choice but to acknowledge that there were issues to fix.

No, Gamer Gate hasn't instantly solved publishers fixing scores or developer bonuses being tied to Metacritic averages, but it has established that alternate voices in the industry exist, and now that the problems are laid bare they're finally getting heared: Tech Raptor, Games Nosh and Niche Gamer aren't as big and polished as the competition, but they have their place in this discussion, and the fact that they've done so without any major reader-shaming and censorship of controversial titles keeps them a positive force in my eyes. Niche Gamer in particular has a boner for what /v/ affectionately calls "Weeb Shit" - Japanese RPGs and games focusing on cute girls, in other words - and Tech Raptor has provided several exclusive interviews with various game developers on a wide variety of topics, as opposed to the usual canned press-release info most of the larger sites like to deal with. Don't spend enough time at Games Nosh to really get what they're about - but hey, I've only got so many hours in a day.

I'm also thrilled to see EuroGamer's recent change in policy abolishing scores in favor for a broader "Essential / Recommended / Avoid" award as needed, which means one of the most respected English language sites on the subject isn't contributing to the Metacritic bullshit that serves only to support publishers and fuck developers. And thank God for that, because I'd read Digital Foundry even if the rest of the site was recipes for fried baby. The Escapist continues to sit somewhere in the middle - full of minor ethical breaches itself and trying to distance itself from their own Bob Chipman's violent rants on the subject ("There are no bad tactics, only bad targets." - The man who defended Other M.) but they've allowed discussions to happen of their own accord, and that's something that probably would have nipped a lot of this insanity in the bud. Meanwhile, PC Gamer continues to trim any comments regarding the Anita Sarkeesian skin in Towerfall Ascension.

They just sorta'... stuck the plaid and hoops on a finished character, didn't they?
Wow, it's almost like this is a totally arbitrary and pointless distinction to make!
(Also, is this white washing a Punjabi, or the opposite? I honestly can't tell anymore.)

And what of the old guard? Joystiq is already confirmed to be jettisoned by AOL as dead weight, though some of their subsidiaries may come back via crowdfunding as independants, if all goes well for them. According to a piece by Clocked Gamingz, despite the Alexa traffic looking higher for Kotaku, Polygon and Gamasutra, the kick-rate has gone up dramatically with no long-term growth since September or so, when these sites would expect a massive uptick as reviews on the Christmas season's new hot titles trickle out anyway. Coupled with the fact that many of these sites have either lost advertisers, or are using less lucrative solutions - such as Google AdSense - that means they are, in no uncertain terms, making less money than they were before Gamer Gate, regardless of whatever higher total volume they may have on individual articles being linked from third parties. I'm of two minds on the "Burn It All Down" mindset we've seen up to this point; it's clear that most of these websites are comfortable with their business model, and I'm not comfortable supporting them. So in effect, I'm boycotting them - and even have to do a double take when I realize that Fan Gamer's awesome shirts are likely made by Polygon corporate... but, we all have to pick our own battles, I suppose.

Unfortunately, because of the perception that it was an anti-female movement, it's largest detractors are not game journalists themselves, but feminist activists. Anti-GG detractors, often noted by supports as "aGGros", often have curiously little to do with gaming. The majority of Gamer Gate's opposition are, curiously enough, non-gaming related websites and individuals who want to see the revolt stamped out. Why? Because the origins of the revolt - a sex scandal over a female developer sleeping with a journalist who covered her game, to say nothing of the mass censorship over the details which in turn led to the Streisand Effect kicking in - left a pretty foul taste in a lot of people's mouths. And I'm willing to bet the overwhelming majority who have written "gamers" off as dangerous sociopathic losers did so based on one or two articles published by the mainstream media, which have been horrible at covering this with any of the background or nuance that show a years-long tension between gamers and the media that literally profit off of the indentity they now want to shrug off in favor of a "new" market which, as far as I can tell, simply does not exist. Or, if it did, I imagine Brianna Wu wouldn't have so much trouble trying to sell Revolution 60 on Steam.

This abomination got $100,000 more on Kickstarter than Shovel Knight.
There is no God and we're all going to die alone. Proof, right here.

I can actually understand the skepticism that hung over the initial #burgersandfries controversy for a lot of people, and when the mass of the discussion is happening on 4chan, it's not going to be pretty. But kicking it off of /v/ was perhaps the worst thing they could have done to keep it quiet, as forcing anonymous to find new avenues of discussion only brought the controversy to a dramatically wider audience. And, yes, some of the people who are supporting it do so to spite the proponents of "Social Justice" insofar as they see it as an outside force trying to domesticate a very specific subculture to the whims and expectations of an audience that doesn't much care for the medium they claim to want to "improve".

That's basically the core issue I take with both the gaming media, and the "Social Justice" brigade that champion them: They claim to want inclusivity, to want games to reach the next level as an art form, but the reality is they want games to match what they think meet those criteria, regardless of the consumers and creators already in the industry believe already has merit. When Grand Theft Auto V was pulled from store shelves in Australia over literal complains of misogyny, plenty of people defended the move as a sign of positively towards women in gaming. This is despite the fact that the game in no way encourages you to kill women - it's just an option a player can take part in if they so choose, the same as killing a hot dog vendor or a mime. If you play GTAV and only kill black guys, then yeah, the game could be a racism simulator... but that says more about the player than the actual game, doesn't it?

By the same token, while games like Killer Is Dead and Hyperdimension Neptunia are routinely scoffed at and derided for appealing to blatant heterosexual pandering, games like Mass Effect 3 and Dragon Age Inquisition are lauded for including homosexual scenes that are... pretty much the same goddamn thing. Pandering fanservice that doesn't actually affect the game's mechanics or story in any dramatic way. To be clear, I'm all for publishers serving fish and sausage for those who have their own preferences, but to argue that heterosexuality is inherently bad while homosexuality is inherently good only proves they're hypocrites uncomfortable with the thought of sex unless it's pushing a specific agenda. If you want to see just how willing to explore within the medium they are, try and find any positive articles about the dating-simulator/puzzle hybrid Hunie Pop that aren't from Tech Raptor or Niche Gamer. The Steam version doesn't even have any sex scenes, but the fact that the publishers themselves offer a patch to put them back in left plenty of familiar faces less than thrilled at the thought.

Hey, be grateful I didn't grab a screenshot of the horse vagina mods.

And so, all we have left to discuss the elephant in the room: Did Gamer Gate threaten, doxx and harass a handful of vocal critics including Zoe Quinn, Anita Sarkeesian and Brianna Wu? Well, the answer is "possibly". That's as far as it can go, because so far as I'm aware the actual people who have sent things that extend beyond typical online trolling - people who doxx, people who send death and rape threats, people who send child pornography and so on - are pretty small in number, since I can only think of a few people to get any such treatment. There's also no way to know if one prick was doing it to multiple people, since again, it's all anonymous burner accounts anyway. Heck, a Gamer Gate supporter found one of the guys who's been known to threaten Anita Sarkeesian - a South American game journalist named Guy Celebrando, who was literally making news stories for himself - but without Sarkeesian being willing to press charges and involve international police agencies, that's as far as it'll ever go. It's also difficult to keep track of this shit in part because, more often than not, those doxxes were done via eMail, which are impossible to verify from a third party position the way message boards and social media are. A truly deranged person could send themselves a threatening eMail, and short of the feds tracing the IP to the source, how would anyone know?

So would someone who truly despises Sarkeesian, Quinn and Wu also be a Gamer Gate member? I could see that. To argue that those people aren't members of Gamer Gate gets dangerously close to the No True Scotsman Fallacy, after all. But they could , just as easily, be third party trolls with no interest in gaming at all. It's already been confirmed that both the Gay Nigger Association of America and the Billy Waggoner Crew were paid by someone to stoke the fires on both sides, and when Sarkeesian's death threats were treated as front page news, it seems that Something Awful goons were patting each other on the back over the whole thing... not that anyone ever discusses this. Because people are fucking retarded.

False Flags? In your Gamer Gate?
It's more likely than you think!

And how do we know for sure that False Flags were going on? Because Camera Lady - one of the most important investigative members in this mess - is, herself, a GNAA member. She uses those connections to confirm information before giving it to the public, but that doesn't mean she isn't associated with a pack of professional scumbags. Take that knowledge for what it's worth. Also, Anonymous recently took down ISIS online recruitment system. That's not relevant, I just think it's really funny for some reason.

To try and put this into perspective,  one of the most recent pro-GG doxxes to happen - Lizzie - was on 8chan's Baphomet (/baph/) board. For those who don't want to literally trudge through Darkweb Troll Territory, something you may not know is that while Gamer Gate and Baphomet both have a home in 8chan, the demographics that visit them generally can't stand each other; Baphomet calls them moralfags, and GamerGate calls them loose canons (and also faggots - because y'know, 8chan).

So it makes sense for Baphomet to doxx Lizzie, right? Well... actually no, it doesn't. Baphomet hates Gamer Gate, but they've also more or less agreed to ignore GG as a means to avoid the mutually-assured destruction of 8chan, be it from outside sources of from within. What Baphomet does do is cause trouble to have fun. Doxxing and dogpiling people with a history of internet drama and "lolsuits"? They're fair game. Lizzie has nothing to offer to Baphomet, and as such her doxx was deleted as a False Flag - in other words, someone trying to make it look like the usual /baph/ crew, when it obviously was not. But much like the hashtag, anyone who posts on /baph/ is technically a member of Baphomet, so we're back to that No True Scotsman thing again...

But hey, fuck it, whatever: Let's just play Devil's Advocate and assume that all of those assholes doxxing and threatening and whatever really are hardcore dyed-in-the-wool Goober Gapers, or whatever dumbass thing the opposition wants to call them now. To that, let me direct you to Chris von  Csefalvay - an actual scientist who graduated Harvard, and typically uses his Super Power level brain to catalog white collar crime - has estimated that Gamer Gate has had no less than 150,000 unique, individual users discussing the hashtag between December 1st and 6th. Yes, that'll include trolls, people who disagree with it and a different mix of people than you'd have seen earlier on, but this isn't even the busiest period the tag has had, and it doesn't include those who are involved at the eMail campaign or 8chan/Reddit level who may not use Twitter. In other words it ain't perfect, but it's the metric we've got, so I'll take it.

Even if we round the actual numbers up, the dangerous sociopaths - the threats, the doxxes, the really ugly shit everyone is so upset about it on both sides - are an estimated less than one in ten-thousand. Meanwhile, most people in the mental health field assume that sociopaths make up roughly 1% of the population. In other words, by their behavior alone, Gamer Gate has proven themselves to be less crazy than humanity as a whole. Mr. Csefalvay also points out that while he's experienced death threats before, this is the first time he's ever has his wife threatened for the heinous crime of being tangentally related to a guy who did some research - and none of the people doing that are doing so in support of Gamer Gate. So hey, the guy who's doing hard science is being berated and threatened not by the supposed violent hate group, but by the people who's antagonism towards it would look like shitty behavior if it was proven not to be one. Imagine that!

Pictured: Shit people who dislike Gamer Gate actually say.

But go ahead, ask Will Weaton about that. He'll tell you that nobody has been threatened, doxxed or harassed by Anti-Gamer Gate people. That just doesn't hold up under scrutiny, he said, before he had to withdraw his comment on the matter. I guess THIS is just one massive, elaborate hoax, then? I won't deny that 90% of that is harmless shitposting stupidity - which is true of anything on the internet - but it's amazing how the opposition to Gamer Gate, who are upset at what they see as a tribalist mentality against women, immediately drop all of that "inclusivity" talk and start talking shit to strangers they have no actual knowledge of, other than they want to talk about Gamer Gate in some capacity. One of the most beautiful ideas they've floated to point out this blatant hypocrisy was Operation Lonely Hearts, in which someone who made a heart-shaped twitter icon claimed to be for equality in gaming. Gamer Gate supporters said hey, so are we - so, they started using the icon to prove they were on the same side. The creator was furious, and those who disliked Gamer Gate abandoned the symbol, which they felt had been tainted. So you see? The opposition to Gamer Gate is about including everybody... unless they don't like you.

It's not like our opposition are composed of saints, either. Sarah Butts*. Randi Harper. Ian Miles Cheong. Google that shit and come back, if you like. Short version: Dog molester, meth addict and literal Nazi, respectively. The last one especially gets me because, dude, you're fucking Chinese, how does that even work? I try not to judge people on shitty personal behavior alone - we all have our vices, we all make mistakes, people can change and whatever - but... no. Fuck these people. I'm sorry, but you do not get to play moral guardian when you're fucking your family pets, blowing dudes for meth in a Burger King bathroom, and telling some Jewish kid he wished his grandparents died in the Holocaust. That's not including the countless anons who sent weapons to streamers telling them to kill themselves, SWATing attempts, and a laundry list of additional bullshit that's fallen far more heavily on Gamer Gate supports than it has its detractors by raw numbers. But who cares about those gross nerds, right? Fuck'n Goober Gapers, always hating anything with a vagina...

* No, that's clearly not Sarah's real name. But Zoe Quinn's real name isn't Zoe Quinn, either, so when in Rome?

This is the thing that's struck me as absurd for quite some time. Yes, the Holy Trinity of Professional Victims - Zoe Quinn, Brianna Wu, and Anita Sarkeesian - have had some pretty terrible things said about them. No, they didn't "deserve" to have their lives threatened. That's sick, regardless of how you feel about them as people or professionals. That said, they're the ultimate benefactors of this nonsense, and it amazes me that so few people outside of Gamer Gate seem to realize it. Every death threat may as well be a signed check lobbed a their heads - not that any of these San Francisco based trust fund babies actually need the cash getting dumped their way. Look, I'm a white male raised by two women and I'm currently living in California and an obsession with Asian film and food culture - I can certainly deal with a little expected societal guilt here and there. But good lord, the second I hear the words "privilege" coming from people who make five times as much as I do, it makes me want to puke into their freshly punched faces.

Sums up her main talking points nicely.

Do you guys at home realize that Feminist Frequency - the company (now a non-profit "educational" organization) for which Anita Sarkeesian is the figurehead - made over $440,000 last year? Or that out of that money, over $397,000 was strictly in donations? And that if their Tropes vs Women in Video Games budget is anything to go by, over 40% of that money goes back into Feminist Frequency's collective bank account as salary? And that every convert she creates leads to more converts wanting to throw money at a nice, smart lady who 4chan said mean things about?

This actually explains why after 3 years of shitty half-hour videos detailing the horrors of sexism in video games, there's extremely little in the ways of examples of female characters done right, or even examples as to how to "fix" these commonly used stereotypes while keeping the player engaged: She makes a fortune complaining, while acknowledging that things are better would put her out of a job.

...oh fuck me. This actually reminds me of an amazing quote from Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake...

"You saw those children, didn't you? Every one is a victim of a war somewhere of the world.

And they'll make fine soldiers in the next war.  Start a war, for its flames, create victims...
Then save them, train them... And feed them back onto the battlefield.

It's a perfectly logical system. In this world of ours, conflict never ends.
And neither does our purpose... our raison d'etre."

- Big Boss,  1999

And yet, this would imply that Anita Sarkeesian is capable of taking out The Boss in CQC - and I flatly reject that notion... unless, of course, The Phantom Pain pulls some crazy bullshit and solidifies my pet theory that "John" from Snake Eater, Portable Ops and Peace Walker is not the same man who was foiled at Outer Heaven, and later killed at Zanzibar Land. HOLY SHIT-- Could Sarkeesian be The Fake Big Boss?! Wait, wait, that's the fever talking. Big Boss is a fictional character. Anita Sarkeesian is an actual Social Justice Warlord. Goddamn it.

There's also the growing anecdotes to suggest that Jonathan McIntosh is actually writing all of that garbage and Sarkeesian is literally the flesh and blood sock puppet - but that'll either come to full, or won't. Whatever. Did I mention that Intel gave these jerkoffs $60,000 a year, for the next 5 years, just to wash away the association of being Gamer Gate's first major "victory" against GamaSutra? Because I'm still pretty fucking salty over that. Not that I'd ever buy an AMD these days, screw that, but... still. Goddamn it!

It isn't just Sarkeesian, either - though she's by far the most successful at it. Zoe Quinn talks about "hiding from Adam Baldwin" in Europe like some modern day Anne Frank, despite the fact that she was talking about that vacation months before Gamer Gate was a thing. I won't deny that some shitty people said some shitty things about her, but make no mistake, she's proven herself to be a compulsive liar willing to throw her close friends under the bus at the earliest opportunity, and the fact that anyone would support her knowing about The Fine Young Capitalists is still mind-boggling to be. She's since formed the Crash Override Network, an anti-harassment support group. What support did she give Lizzy when she was doxxed and her children were put in danger? Oh, right - she asked people to stop spamming her twitter and send eMails, instead, and seemed to do nothing else with that particular case. Stay classy, Quinn, and remember, online trolls are the real danger. How are you treating that boyfriend who's rich off of selling weapons to Israel, by the way? Better than the one you cheated on and psychologically tortured for months on end, I hope?

If you can't tell, I have a pretty low tolerance for self-made victims. I'd talk about how Brianna Wu clearly never left her home when she was in a "safe place" during her Gamer Gate threat-propelled exodus, but she's such a nothing at this point I don't even want to talk about her. I don't want to talk about any of this. It's such a glorious, depressing mess - like a tire fire made out of dreams... all I can do is remind myself that we beat back Jack Thompson, and he came back with a new name and the same tricks. And now here we are, convincing people that not all games are bad, and gamers aren't bad people, all over again.

I've always said the 90s sucked, and goddamn, the bullshit I had to listen to even when I was too young to understand half of it over how "video games = violence" pissed me off to no end. To see it resurrected with "video games = sexism" now is not only stupid, but it's infuriating watching those same dumbass tactics stick, in part because the industry that's supposed to support the consumer - the gamers - decided that they agreed with it. They cultivated it, they supported it, they never questioned it, and now it's set to backfire on them in the best way possible.

You notice how Polygon, Kotaku and pals haven't mentioned the SVU episode? Yeah. I think they finally realized that maybe pushing a bullshit snapshot of your audience as literal ISIS level cyber criminals wasn't such a good idea after all. Public perception of gamers has always been pretty fucking appalling. So now on top of fat, skill obsessed, socially inept virgins, we'll be jealous misogynists and SWATing, kidnapping criminal masterminds. I'm not one to take too much stock into that sort of thing - personally, I'd rather just play games - but watching this degrade over the last several months, watching them not only let it happen, but force it to, has been pretty goddamn sickening all the same.,

The subculture that gamers created rejected them, and the mainstream will only see us as subhumans, perhaps even worse than they always have been. What choice do we have? You want a culture war, corrupt journalists and Social Justice Warlords? You've taken 4chan. You've broken the trust we had in Tim Schafer. You've forced the hand of the great Nerd Monoculture - something that lumps film, comics, games, toys, and a dozen largely unrelated things into a way that makes branding and marketing simpler - to call us all sexist scum just to keep their careers safe. All you had to do was be honest and this would go away, and instead you looked down from your ivory towers and laughed at the petty gaming peasants wanting "transparency" and "unbiased criticism". To paraphrase The Great Humongous - all this killing, all this bloodshed, could have been avoided. You could have just walked away.

Look around you. The children are going to be taught that games are sexist patriarchal propaganda, your mom is going to assume that anyone who owns Call of Duty is a goddamn serial killer, and the industry itself has become such a bloated carnival of wasted opportunity and mismanaged budgets that the only thing that can happen is a market crash on par with Atari's heyday. This is not the end... this is just the end of the beginning, for the dark times that emulate that grotesque little spot where Doom and Night Trap were somehow considered controversial are coming back, and with the fresh mask of "feminism" being an excuse to remove the violence, dumb fucks might actually listen this time.

Honestly, what did you think would happen? And who do you think will be left standing when all we want are the products that enrich our lives to be better, and all you have to gain from it are ad revenue and minor celebrity?

"I won't scatter your sorrow to the heartless sea.
I will always be with you." - Big Boss, 1984

Ugh, whatever. So long as The Phantom Pain still comes out this year, this industry can burn around me for all I care. The beauty of gaming is that there's such a vast and fascinating array of games from different decades, on different platforms, catering to new and emerging markets that you could spend the rest of your life just playing stuff that came out in the 1980s - and a lot of that is still good stuff, damn it.

But then something happened a few days ago. Something I can no longer ignore, and fills me with fury and dread over the mere thought:

What you can read HERE is a proposed lesson plan from the Anti Defamation League - "Is Gaming A Boys Club?" Women, Video Games and Sexism -  meant for Common Core curriculum use for 11th and 12th graders. It uses interviews with Anita Sarkeesian as sources without any further input from actual educators - or people who weren't literally hand writing analysts before jumping on to the Feminist Education. This is quite literally anti-gaming propaganda, and just to put a strawberry on the cake, it's literally an organization run by wealthy Jews. Odd that they would side with Feminist Frequency - producer and "co-writer" Jonathan McIntosh hasn't been subtle about how he feels about Israel, and Sarkeesian herself is Armenian, if I'm not mistaken - but whatever. The important thing is that the ADL actually wants Sarkeesian's harassment - and with it, the narrative that Gamer Gate was a direct response to her, as opposed to years of journalists supporting personal friends and agendas over transparency and the very consumers that made them professional bloggers for toys in the first place - and that pisses me right the fuck off. Like, shaking and sweating bullets pissed... or maybe that's just the fever talking. Probably a little of both.

I can't stress enough how crazy the following true statement is: There is a pro-Jewish organization that wants to force high school kids to write video game publishers about a stick-figure concept of feminism for school credit. This sounds like the punchline you'd find in some crappy Paint comic about the Happy Merchant, and yet it's actually happened. Fuck my life!

The only silver lining here is that the ADL is offering the material to whatever school is so far up its own crack it'd take it; it's not actually a part of Common Core, and with any luck the standards of public education are just barely good enough that they decide one woman's feels just isn't tangible enough to base an entire lesson plan around. But I don't really know what standards for Common Core is, being neither a student nor a parent myself, so for all I know Gamer Gate will be discussed in anthropology courses next to Suffrage and the Civil Rights Movement decades from now as major breaks in the political landscape.

So, what is the answer? How do we take back everything we've lost? I don't fuckin' know anymore. I think the best thing to do will be to get some sleep, watch Law and Order, have a few cheap laughs at my own expense from the end of a bottle of soju, and then decide what I should do. I've written a few eMails, kicked a few bucks to charity, but I'm not a Twitter Trench kind of guy and I only eMail advertisers when I think there's something specific that needs to be addressed. Am I a Gamer Gate supporter, insofar as I see their goals as a positive thing? You bet your ass. Am I the Leader of Gamer Gate, sending eMails and propoganda daily? Eh, not so much. But if I'm going to watch an honest to god Feminist-Jewish Propaganda piece convince children who never played video games to try and change them for a world view based on a manipulative opportunists ideal of what games could be in her own hands, you can bet your ass I need to spend more time doing something...

Sadly, that can wait until I move. Apartment hunting is like bureaucratic torture