Who’s To Blame For High Expectations?

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The long-awaited Playstation 4 space exploration title No Man’s Sky finally released this month, and while some are enjoying the game, its overall reception hasn’t been pretty. In its current state, the game is a bit of a buggy mess, with many PS4 users (and even more PC users) reporting frequent game crashes and, occasionally, needing to restart the game from the beginning to get past issues. Bugs at launch alone wouldn’t be especially noteworthy in today’s release-first-patch-later publishing culture, but No Man’s Sky has also failed to meet most gamers’ expectations. Many were expecting a practically infinite world full of things to do, but found themselves repeating the same boring tasks over and over again for dozens of hours, until they reached the center of the galaxy and (mild spoilers) essentially got to do it all over again.

For many, it’s disappointing. For others (*cough*me*cough*) it was inevitable from the start. Hello Games, the independent development team that created No Man’s Sky, is made up of 15 employees. Sure, they may have created an algorithm that mixed and matched a number of elements and created 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 planets (allegedly), but that doesn’t mean that said planets are wholly unique, nor does it say how many different variables can go into the flora and fauna of the game. And even if they created hundreds of variables for the planets and lifeforms that inhabit them, after a dozen hours or so, you’re going to be looking at various mashups of things that you’ve already seen.

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Subjectivity in Storytelling: When It’s Okay To Lie To Your Audience

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(The following contains spoilers for Mr. Robot and The Walking Dead)

I’ve been very critical about how The Walking Dead has treated its audience over the last season. First, when the Glenn fakeout debacle occurred, I wrote about how such trickery betrayed the trust that the show had established with the viewer and weakened the stakes of the series. Then, when the show decided not to tell the audience who died at the end of the season, I called them out for cheaply manipulating the audience in hopes of increased ratings. I still stand by both criticisms: The Walking Dead had an unfortunate habit of being dishonest with its audience last year, and it soured a lot of the more positive aspects of the season.

However, since writing those articles, I’ve caught up with another show that is somewhat notorious for lying to its audience. The first season of USA’s Mr. Robot structured itself around the fact that there was more to the story than we were being told. While the viewer likely realizes that something is amiss, and may be able to predict a particular twist (especially if they’re familiar with Fight Club), the full scope of the show’s withholding isn’t revealed until late in the season.

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Hardcore Henry Review

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Hardcore Henry is a lot smarter than people are giving it credit for.

Perhaps that’s not surprising. The film is a representation (and arguably, a glorification) of all of the things that run rampant in modern video games. Shot entirely in first person, Hardcore Henry is gloriously over-the-top in its action, breathlessly paced, and one of the most violent films in recent memory. It’s also crude, short on character development, and far more interested in cool moments than a traditional plot arc.

But Hardcore Henry is absolutely aware of these things. They’re not so much flaws as intentional nods to the video game medium, both positive and negative. This becomes overtly apparent towards the end (more on that in my Spoiler Section below), and for better or for worse, Hardcore Henry shows a great understanding of the “language” of the gaming medium.

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Stranger Things Season 1 Review

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Of all of the Netflix Original Series so far, Stranger Things feels like the most attuned to the binge-watching model. Despite their serialized natures, series like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards are still relatively episodic, giving each hour some semblance of its own story. Stranger Things, though, feels like an 8 hour movie. The episodes give the viewer decent stopping points, but there’s never any suggestion that the show is meant to be consumed one episode at a time. The show’s creators, the Duffer Brothers, mean to hook you at the start and keep you attached until the very end.

They’re quite successful, too. It’s true that Stranger Things borrows from a whole host of 80s movies, especially those written and directed by Stephen King and Steven Spielberg: ET, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, It, The Goonies, The Shining, and more. The influence of other filmmakers can be felt as well; the teenage storyline feels like a direct engagement with the work of John Hughes, and the creature designs are inspired by the work of John Carpenter (this connection is even directly acknowledged when a couple characters are watching The Thing on TV). But just making a series of nostalgic references doesn’t make for good TV. The most impressive aspect of Stranger Things is how engaging its individual storylines are and how perfectly it weaves them together in its later chapters.

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Dueling Conventions of Love and Hate: Comic Con vs The Republican National Convention

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The best horror movie of the last week has been the Republican National Convention. The event pushed the narrative that we are all part of a huge battle between the “real” Americans and…well, everybody else. There are the Muslims who supposedly hate us, the immigrants and criminals who are more prevalent than ever (or at least it “feels” that way, which New Gingrich says is more important than facts), and the dastardly liberals and their Lucifer-following ways. It all painted a picture of a society on the brink of collapse, unless an orange, toupeed “blue-collar billionaire” can come to our rescue.

And yet, at the same time, another gathering suggested that maybe all of the above blustering is a crock of shit. The San Diego Comic Con kicked off on the night of July 20th, just as the Republican National Convention was winding down. The massive convention center south of San Diego’s Gaslamp District flooded with an irresponsibly large body of fans, all of whom had happily made their pilgrimage to the event.

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