Yet Another Sunshine Blogger Award from AK of Everything is Bad for You

And now I’ve been tagged by frequent Extra Life tagger AK of Everything is Bad for you! You all know the routine by now, so here we go.

1 How do you feel about content warnings and rating systems (like the MPAA and ESRB rating systems and the famous RIAA Explicit Content sticker?) Are they effective, or is the point of these ratings the same as it was when they were created?

In all honesty, I don’t really have much of an opinion on the matter. I think parents should be aware of the media their children consume, but a “Parental Advisory Sticker” isn’t going to stop them from getting their hands on those works. I think parents should try to understand their children’s interest regardless of how vulgar it may be. If nothing else, I think it’s handy in order to determine if something is age-appropriate or not because it’s not always obvious. Then again, it’s foolish to assume anything animated or drawn is for kids.

2 Do you have hard limits as far how short or long a game should be?  Or a book, movie, or album — whichever you have a strong opinion on.

Honestly, I think this is on a case-by-case basis. I can definitely accept an RPG being 50+ hours long due to the sheer amount of story that goes into them, but action games should generally be between 15 and 20 hours. Any longer, and you’re basically just doing the same things over and over again. However, the caveat assumes that you have enough material to actually justify a game of that length. To wit, the Uncharted series is what happens when you write enough material for what is, at most, a two-and-a-half-hour-long film and try to stretch it out over fifteen hours or so.

Not pictured: Plot relevancy

The Last of Us had its own problems, but one of the very few things I give it credit for over Uncharted is that it felt more like a miniseries than a film that’s 80% filler. Indeed, The Lost Legacy, which I consider to be the second-best game in the series, is also the shortest, knowing how much mileage to get out of its story beats before they grow stale.

No, I’m still not over the lack of L7 or Babes in Toyland representation in this collection.

The same basic principle applies to short games as well. I realize it could be considered a little hypocritical from a superficial standpoint to lambast Gone Home for being three hours long when Mega Man 2, one of the best games of the 1980s isn’t that much longer. However, that’s because Gone Home has very little substance to speak of. Meanwhile, Mega Man 2 is as pure of a game as it gets, so without story factoring into the experience, the gameplay is neatly compact.

I feel this should apply to other mediums as well. Your work should be as long as it needs to be. Be pensive, be daring, be impactful, but whatever you do, don’t overstay your welcome.

3 How do you keep yourself occupied during your commute or while on a long trip?

With whatever Nintendo’s newest handheld console happens to be, natch. As of today, that would be either the 3DS or the Switch, though the former is slowly fading away.

4 Is there a certain character in a work that you strongly identify with? What is it about that character that you identify with?

As strange as it may sound, I find one character I identify with is Adol from the Ys series. He’s a character who likes to go on adventures, which is something I can totally get behind. I haven’t traveled that much, but whenever the opportunity presents itself, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it every time.

5 Have you ever read/watched/played a work with a protagonist who you ended up hating, even though you were meant to like them? Who was it and what put you off about them?

My answer to this question has been the same for quite some time: Joel from The Last of Us. He’s an example of how one shouldn’t develop their protagonist. The narrative drew me in with how sympathetic he came across as, having lost his daughter due to tragic circumstances. Fast forward twenty years and now he has become a degenerate that one would usually gun down by the boatload in a normal action game. His interactions with Ellie seemed to bring out a different side to him, but the ending ultimately failed to do justice to either character.

I maintain that Naughty Dog’s biggest problems as writers were magnified when they switched a more serious tone, and their abject refusal to allow anything bad happen to their leads and insistence on dehumanizing anyone who doesn’t matter to the narrative really worked against them. Admittedly, a lot of what I don’t like about Joel can be attributed to bad writing, but an odious character is an odious character. And this isn’t even mentioning the severe disconnect between the story and gameplay that goes on in the final act.

For films, I’d say that I didn’t particularly like the title character in Lady Bird. At best, she came across as a bland self-insert. At worst, she was a disrespectful twerp who made a joke that caused me to lose all sympathy for her. Long story short, a conservative teacher was making a pro-life speech, pointing out that had her mother gotten an abortion, she wouldn’t be standing before them. Lady Bird tactlessly replies that if the teacher’s mother had gotten the abortion, they wouldn’t have to listen to her boring speech. What I dislike about this exchange is that I know if a lead character made a joke like that at the expense of the liberal values commonly held by today’s critics, they would have hung the film out to dry. Because it was a shot at the other side, they let it off the hook (or worse, found it charming).

[DISCLAIMER: The preceding observation comes from someone who is, and always has been, an adamantly pro-choice liberal, so don’t bother going there.]

It’s a very poorly written piece of dialogue that comes across as a middle-aged person writing dialogue for a teenager, so they exaggerate the supposed tactlessness of the younger generation. Either way, it really made it impossible to connect with her. Sadly, she wasn’t even the worst character in the film – that would be her mother, Marion. I guess what I’m trying to say is that, between these two works, you shouldn’t assume characters are sympathetic just because you say so. Also, watch The Edge of Seventeen; it’s way better than Lady Bird.

6 Do you prefer to listen to studio or live albums?  Or does it just depend on the band/artist you’re listening to?

Generally speaking, I prefer studio albums over live albums. There is just so much more you can do in the studio compared to on the stage, and it gives producers a chance to shine. Indeed, I can imagine recreating the intricate sounds of Trout Mask Replica would be quite difficult on the stage (if not impossible). There are a few exceptions, however, because some bands just had an energy on the stage they just didn’t have in the studio with the MC5 being the prime example.

7 Is there a series (of games, films, novels, whatever) that you used to enjoy but that eventually lost you?  If so, what do you think happened to cause that?

I think the most obvious example I can think of would be The Simpsons. There really wasn’t an episode that made me swear off the show for good; I just kind of stopped watching organically around the sixteenth season or so. I heard the show got worse after I stopped, so it’s for the best I got out when I did.

And I’ll leave it at that – no tags this time, either. Thanks for reading and thank you AK for the tag again!

18 thoughts on “Yet Another Sunshine Blogger Award from AK of Everything is Bad for You

  1. I don’t care much about content rating systems either, I just find the ideas behind them interesting. I mainly like how that “PARENTAL ADVISORY: EXPLICIT CONTENT” sticker so quickly became like a badge of pride or quality rather than something to avoid (may as well have made it say “HEY KIDS: BUY ME” or something similar.) I agree that parents should try to take an interest in their kids’ interests — my parents always thought and still think that video games are for kids and have always been dismissive of them, which creates a bit of separation between us. Not a whole lot, but still, it’s there.

    Agreed also on game length. It’s the depth of content that’s important, much more than the length itself, and a lot depends on the genre.

    This reminds me that I still need to get a Switch at some point. Though I don’t know if I’d take it on the train to work. I usually read on my phone or watch something to and from work and put on music or audiobooks in the car.

    Adol sounds like an interesting guy. I haven’t played the Ys games, but I get that impression from your reviews. Your point about adventuring makes me think of Vyse from Skies of Arcadia, who has that “I need to go beyond the horizon” romantic explorer kind of attitude along with his drive to help others. A great role model. Though if I identify with a character from a JRPG, it’s probably Dojima from Persona 4. Not that I’ve gone through the sort of tragedy he has — I hope I never do — but more for the fact that he’s an adult busting his ass at work constantly while you and your magical persona-user high school friends fight shadows in the TV world and have adventures. Dojima has adult concerns, and now that I’m a bitter overworked professional too, I can completely appreciate those concerns. His love for his daughter also feels very real and led to a few of the game’s really moving scenes (though how that was ultimately dealt with was a bit weird. I won’t spoil anything here for anyone else who might be reading.)

    I haven’t played The Last of Us, and I’m sure I never will, but I understand the sort of protagonist you’re talking about there. I also know exactly what you mean about that exchange from Lady Bird. I’m also a pro-choice liberal, but bits like that are intellectually dishonest. If you want to make a real argument in favor of allowing abortion, there are plenty to be made, and made with respect for your opponent. I liked Saoirse Ronan in the one movie I’ve seen her in, but I don’t feel the need to see this one. Sounds like it’s more the writer’s fault anyway that the character fell flat.

    That’s a good point about studio vs. live albums. Some of the best studio albums just can’t be replicated live or even come close. I certainly couldn’t imagine Trout Mask Replica being performed live. Even some of the live albums I own are a little frustrating in the sense that I wish I could have been there for the show myself. Genesis Live is a good example: it’s great, but Peter Gabriel’s weird theatrics and costumes were supposed to be a big part of the show along with the music.

    And yeah, I completely agree with you about The Simpsons. I dropped it a little earlier than you did, around season 12 or 13 I think. There was still some good in there, but the show just didn’t feel special anymore. I think the writing went from consistently great to just decent at best. I also haven’t watched The Simpsons since dropping it, so for all I know the quality of the writing has dropped even further. I haven’t heard good things, anyway.

    Thanks for the insightful answers as always! I promise I’ll give you a break now.

    Liked by 1 person

    • That may have been before the term Streisand Effect was coined, but they any sociologist could’ve told you that the parental advisory sticker would create a “forbidden fruit” effect. And that’s a shame that your own parents don’t really grasp that video games are for everyone. Do they think comics are for kids too? If so, I can only imagine how they’d react to something like Berserk.

      And yes, a work should only be as long as it needs to be.

      If you intend to get a Switch, I recommend getting a case for it because that will help in bringing it along for trips.

      I think it’s interesting how much character Adol exudes without having visible dialogue in most of his games. Interestingly in the few games he does speak, he comes across as fairly intelligent, which he would have to be to get out of half of the situations he regularly finds himself in alive. Even without dialogue, he has a true adventurer’s spirit I find intriguing. And I’ve really heard good things about Skies of Arcadia. I should try to look into it at some point. And I think I know what you mean about Dojima. I actually intend to review Persona 4 soon, so I’ll save my thoughts for then, but I’ll say now that I agree that one scene of his near the end of the game is weird. I like the actual story beats, but how the narrative gets there is bizarre (if not, nonsensical).

      If we’re only talking about their writing, the Naughty Dog team has quite a few weaknesses, but their biggest by far is that they automatically assume the player will identify with the protagonist regardless of what they do (as mentioned before, their second-biggest weakness is that they are incapable of letting anything bad happen to their leads). If I heard anyone talking the way Lady Bird did, I would want nothing to do with them. It especially doesn’t help that she cast the first stone. I haven’t seen Saoirse Ronan in anything else, but I know that her charisma-free performance was entirely A24’s doing. Something about that company seems to suck the soul out of anyone who works for them – unless they have plenty to spare as was the case with Lulu Wang and company. Actually, which film did you see Ronan in?

      Theoretically it would be possible to recreate the Trout Mask Replica sound on a stage, though it would probably require every single star in the entire universe to align just to have an infinitesimal chance of it occurring. If it happens, it will be a statistical anomaly. And yeah, I think that’s how I feel about most live albums; it really makes me wish I’d seen the performance myself. Not to mention that many old-school live albums have musicians perform four-minute songs for eighteen minutes, which gets really tedious really fast.

      I honestly think the show was good for a bit longer than most people think. Indeed, Trilogy of Error, which was in the twelfth season, remains one of my absolute favorite episodes of the show. Nonetheless, the show did deteriorate in quality – that I will not contest.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I was never into comics as a kid, but I bet they think they’re for kids as well. I imagine they wouldn’t care for Berserk. None of my family knows too much about my hobbies or interests just because I don’t want to deal with all that, but it would have been nice if things had been different.

        Looking forward to your Persona 4 review. There’s a whole lot to get into with that game. As for that weird/nonsensical scene, I think I know which one you’re talking about, but I’ll wait to see your assessment.

        I saw Ronan in The Grand Budapest Hotel. I’m not usually a fan of “quirky” indie-style stuff, but I’ve liked every Wes Anderson movie I’ve seen including that one. I remember Ronan being good in it, but Anderson’s movies are so stylized and weird that I don’t know how much I can judge her as an actress based on that alone.

        Speaking of ultra-lengthy old-school live albums, I need to challenge myself to sit through all of ELP’s “Welcome Back My Friends” triple live album.

        And I think you’re right about The Simpsons; it wasn’t just a sheer drop off a cliff in quality but felt like more of a gradual decline. I don’t remember Trilogy of Error; it might have been one of the episodes I missed right around the time I dropped the show. If it’s that good, I should check it out. I’m morbidly curious about season 31 (the premiere aired tonight according to Google) but I don’t think I’ll ever get around to caring enough to see it. I have my hands full with my game and anime backlogs right now anyway.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Yeah, strangely enough, I only got into comics as an adult; I imagine for most people, the opposite would be true, though it helps that comics began expanding their fanbase and told good self-contained stories as I got older (indeed, I actually find myself gravitating towards the non-superhero graphic novels more often than not).

          Okay, I take that back; I did see Ronan in The Grand Budapest Hotel, which I consider one of the greatest films of the decade. Now I know her charisma-free performance wasn’t her fault. I know some people can use it as proof that the medium hasn’t run out of steam, but I think it’s pretty telling that the greatest films of this decade were made by auteurs who established themselves in the 1990s or earlier (the other film I would consider one of the best of the decade is Mad Max: Fury Road).

          Hope you post the results! Somehow, it doesn’t surprise me that ELP issued a triple live LP.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I think most people are in your boat when it comes to The Simpsons. A once exceptional cartoon that has overstayed its welcome. Sometimes I think they only make new seasons because the series generates tons of cash from merchandise sales. With respect to age ratings, I don’t mind them on video games but they don’t seem to be effective. People always moan about kids playing games with unsuitable content, even if said games are rated for adults only. Doesn’t seem like anyone pays heed to the certificate on the box.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Overstaying its welcome is right; it looks like the only way the network will drop the show is if it becomes unprofitable. And I think age ratings are necessary, though whether they’re effective is another question entirely. As I said, I think the best thing is for parents to take an interest in their children’s hobbies, though not to the point of intruding on them.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Pingback: September 2019 in Summary: Tags Aplenty! | Extra Life

  4. Congrats on another nomination! 🙂 Haha, I’m old… I remember when there were no ESRB ratings! And when they first came out my mom didn’t really pay much attention. I think I was around 9 or 10 when I first saw one on a game, though I might be off by a couple years.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I’m really glad the content ratings are there, I think they’re really important especially in a medium like video games that are rather exclusionary to those who don’t spend a significant amount of time in them and many parents don’t really understand or pay attention to them as a result. I can’t remember the last time I actually paid attention to them, though. Then again, most people tell me that I’m an adult, so the rating wouldn’t matter to me. I’m all for keeping the parents better informed of what dumb things their kids are doing, however.

    And yeah, I agree, games should be as long as they’ve got the content for. I’ve played 80 hour games that were fantastic the whole way through, and 80 hour games that were absolute slogs. I’ve got some indie RPGs in my library that only last a few hours, but they’re still phenomenal for that. And I’ve got a great deal of respect for games like Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time, that are shorter than their genre contemporaries but keep bringing interesting content the whole way through and don’t overstay their welcome. I reaaaaaaaally hate games like, as you mentioned, Uncharted, that really streeeeetch the well-designed moments out and waste a lot of your time in between.

    And I agree, I always prefer studio albums. Live music can carry it’s own energy that’s great when you’re there, but it’s hard to carry that over into other formats. I really prefer the precision and polish that comes from the studio, at least when I can’t get there live.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, even if they’re not useful for me personally, I do think they are necessary. I’d also say they have a lot of use in comic books or manga given that the West still really hasn’t grasped that they aren’t just for kids. I can only imagine what would happen if a daft parent bought their kid a copy of Berserk.

      I think a game has to be good at changing things up if it’s going to be 80+ hours long. That’s why Persona 4 is my favorite game of all time – it does such a great job switching between its slice-of-life and action segments. I have a copy of Prince of Persia: the Sands of Time lying around that I really ought to get around to playing at some point. And yeah, even if I do give Naughty Dog credit for making succinct games, they still really get obnoxious with filler. Getting accosted by an enemy waiting behind that door and losing all my weapons doesn’t get any more exciting the twentieth time it happens.

      There are a few good live albums out there, but studio albums tend to be the way to go – I think even hardcore music fans can agree. Really, the only time I lean towards live albums is if they provide mostly original material.

      Liked by 1 person

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