An Ode to SomecallmeJohnny

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It’s been a full week since I’ve written for the blog. I haven’t done that since… December of 2017, so I’ve definitely had a good streak going. With the school year winding down, I’ve had a ton of papers/exams pop up in quick succession. Thankfully (appropriate phrasing), Thanksgiving is around the corner and I have a week-long break from school. With that, I decided to do something else I haven’t done in quite a while: an ode. Today, we will talk about a man who has more than some refer to as Johnny. (more…)

An Ode to shoe0nhead

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lowercase letters because a e s t h e t i c.

some history:

i first discovered shoe upon reading an encyclopedia dramatica article on boxxy, with whom shoe has been compared to heavily upon establishing herself within the internet world. (there is no longer any connection to shoe on boxxy’s article.) at that point she only had a few youtube videos up, the latest (from what i recall) being “the social justice league vs. gamers.” “oppression olympics,” which would become her rise to internet stardom, along with the aforementioned video, were poignant among the then rise of the gamergate controversy, which caused an internet shitstorm decrying journalist corruption on one side and misogyny on the other. seeing as i was passionately for the side of journalistic reform, it was nice to have someone to latch onto to reaffirm my own opinion, as the only place that did otherwise (from my list of follows at the time) was the aforementioned encyclopedia dramatica (but its hard to take them seriously in most cases). (more…)

An Ode to Vinesauce

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For those unaware: no, that is not the 1-Up Mushroom.

This is the Vinesauce mushroom, the icon for a team of video game streamers since somewhere back in 2012. Founded by a lone jabroni by the name of Vinny, it eventually took off with the rise of Twitch as a collective online pastime. Of course, Vinesauce isn’t just a team of video game streamers. The group is most notable for their variety of game-breaking shenanigans, corruptions, and highlighting of fan-made games which, inadvertent or not, capitalized on the meme-y nature of online interactions. Vinesauce, as a whole, is more of a collection of normal people trying to make ends meet, surrounded by fans wanting to see shit hit the ceiling.

While some members have come and gone, the current team consists of its founder, Vinny; Joel, Mentaljen, Rev, KY, Limes, Imakuni, Direboar, Potato (or Darren), Hootey, and Fred. Some are more popular with viewers than others (some garner three to six-thousand viewers a night while most others barely top a thousand), but all play a part in making the Vinesauce community what it is—a friendly, albeit obnoxiously chaotic collection of dedicated fans. This becomes more prominent once a year, during the annual Vinesauce Charity Stream.

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Depending on the individual streamer, the selection of games vary dramatically, as every streamer is interested in different things and have their own schedules to adhere to. Vinny, Fred, Direboar, and Limes tend to stream most days in the week, while the rest are prone to sporadic absences. Aside from Vinny, who tries to keep a balance of serious and non-serious games, the rest of the aforementioned named are pretty apt to sticking with one game, usually serious, from beginning to end. Debatably, this type of streaming is likely why they aren’t as prominently known, but their dedication to their schedules and their personalities are the tools which help them succeed. Those who have yet to be mentioned in this paragraph are those who stream only semi-often (or rarely), with Joel being the one singled out for his tendency to create new memes with every stream (some of which are featured on channels such as SiIvaGunner).

Description overload out of the way, my personal experience with Vinesauce dates back to early 2014(?) when my brother introduced me to a certain video. Marathoning a number of related videos later, I was officially “onboard” the Vinesauce hype train. At that time, I was only aware of Vinny and Joel, completely unaware of the collection of other streamers which stream under the Vinesauce name. When I finally found out that it was more than just two people, and that they had their own functioning website dedicated to them, I was quick to peruse the merchandise.

I have experience with every single streamer on the site, but to absurdly different degrees. Vinny is far and away the streamer I watch most often, even now when my schedule is much tighter than before, while I’ve only spent a single stream with MentalJen, Rev, and KY; none of those lasted more than ten minutes or so. This isn’t to say I don’t like the streamers themselves, but their selection of games and infrequent streaming isn’t of huge interest to invest my time into. Some streamers can carry through an uninteresting game through character alone (Joel, Hootey, Imakuni), although the perfect blend of interesting games and enthusiasm is what makes for an effective and immersive streaming experience. Vinny is normally very good at this, as well as Joel and Limes. Frequency is the issue at hand for every streamer, too, as like any aspect of life, people can have off days.

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Vinesauce is also to thank for a variety of different purchases—and to some extent, revival of interest—of video games in my lifetime. I first learned of Axiom Verge during a Vinny stream. I bought Rollercoaster Tycoon 2 on a whim after seeing Joel fuck it up on-stream. Similarly with Fred and Megaman & Bass (except he was just losing a lot). These are but a few examples after years of watching the Vinesauce team. Who would have thought that all one needed to regain their interest in video games was to see one having fun with video games? And the creativity (and memeness) that goes into a variety of fan-made projects is so tempting to do for myself (except I have no motivation or time). It would make sense that my favorite streams of all time were both from Vinny, playing Sonic Dreams Collection and the Super Mario Bros. X Contest.

Yet the memeness of the team isn’t necessarily the only enjoyable aspect. The manner at which streamers continue through a game one at a time can be gratifying in and of itself, to be able to experience the journey with them. I recall being bored one night sometime in 2015, when I saw Darren streaming Dragon Quest VIII(?). I popped in there and spent the next few hours talking with members of the chat, with the occasional comment to Darren, and watching as he ground for experience and struggled with some casino game. To this day, it was one of the most enjoyable streams I’ve ever been a part of, simply because the chat was quiet (which is a rare feat, let me tell you!), the content was interesting, Darren was charming, and I felt I was part of the collective experience. That sort of ultimate immersiveness is what I live for when watching someone stream. It’s always fun to watch someone react wildly to crazy things onscreen, but it’s the little things, like a streamer acknowledging your question/comment, the passive lethargy of video game intake, and being able to be a part of the streaming process without being lost in the sea of “LOL’s” after a funny incident that lead to truly memorable pastimes. I really enjoyed Vinny’s recent playthrough of Final Fantasy VII and Darren’s playthrough of Final Fantasy IX because of this.

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Due to my former job requiring me to turn in early, I didn’t end up watching many streams during the latter part of 2016 and early parts of 2017. For a time, I thought my interest in watching the members stream live had passed, that was until just a couple weeks ago, when Vinny and Imakuni joined forces to play Sonic 3 & Knuckles, which was such a wonderful stream that I’m kicking myself for not being able to watch the entire thing. Their chemistry was fantastic, and Imakuni’s knowledge of the franchise compared to Vinny’s complete ignorance was such a treat to watch play out as the stages continued. Once again, my interest in the Vinesauce brand was reignited with the aid of a single stream; how mystifying that it can happen that way. As a side note, I would absolutely recommend one watch the highlight video of their collaboration.

I don’t watch many people stream, at least not anymore, but Vinesauce has been a constant in the last three to four years of my life. Should I be privileged with riches beyond my imagination, I would gladly support every member without a second thought. The team has brought such a wide array of fond memories that I feel almost indebted to them, yet I do not have the means to compensate them. All I can do is continue to watch, share, and write giant “Ode” posts such as this one, singing praise and sharing personal stories. Vinesauce means a lot to me, not just because it pertains to a major interest of mine, but because the people who inhabit it seem like good people capable of good things. For that alone, I would recommend it to any fan of video games in general.

An Ode to Chester Bennington

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On July 20th, 2017, lead singer Chester Bennington of Linkin Park was found in a private location with a noose around his neck. The news hit the internet immediately, and it didn’t take long before Twitter was abuzz. I recall browsing the world wide web when my sister ran down, phone in hand, simply saying, “Y’see this? This is not okay.” Chester Bennington; Born: March 20th, 1976. Died: July 20th, 2017. It took me a moment to register what I was seeing, then took another moment to remember that Google isn’t Wikipedia, where anyone can edit it. After hearing my brother utter a “Holy shit,” it finally hit me that the voice that had been embedded into my soul since childhood was gone.

I won’t pretend like I knew Bennington personally, or knew him outside of his music. I didn’t follow him through interviews, on social media, or make any effort to humanize the voice that sang the songs that gave me constant entertainment. He was simply Chester Bennington, lead vocalist of Linkin Park and abundant internet meme. Still, knowing how large a part Linkin Park was to me as a child, I couldn’t help but be saddened not just for him and his family, but for myself and my family and anyone else who was impacted by their music. It also inspired me to write this post, though this is the least I could do.

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Linkin Park was the first band I ever really “got into.” The first band whose albums I would blast on repeat and want to know more about outside of individual singles. I recall as a kid only being interested in what played on the radio, never making any effort to explore more of an individual person or group’s work, but Linkin Park was a different scenario. The moment Minutes to Midnight released, I was begging my mother for it. I hadn’t asked my mother for anything but video games up to that point… possibly ever. Well, candy perhaps, but that’s a short-term luxury. While a so-called musical renaissance for me didn’t really flourish until my addiction to Guitar Hero years later, Linkin Park remains a testament to my first musical crush of sorts.

The love wouldn’t last, as upon hearing the first single from A Thousand SunsThe Catalyst, I found myself coming down to Earth. What was this? It’s so… electronic.So artificial. Where was the “rock”? Where was the traditional instrumentation? The band was heading in a direction I wasn’t fond of, and after getting the album and listening to its entirety, I was disappointed. Linkin Park was no longer the band I loved. It changed. I didn’t. I didn’t want to accept change and I didn’t for years. I’ve made peace with it since then, and while I’m not huge on that particular album, there are a few songs (sure enough, that don’t feature a lot of electronica) that not only sound good, but take advantage of Bennington’s voice. Still, it set the precedent for my eventual indifference to Linkin Park’s newer music. I’ve only heard one track from The Hunting Party.

In hindsight, accepting Linkin Park’s desire to experiment with new sound was something I wasn’t mature enough to handle. Now, I find that desire respectable, even if their output no longer interested me. I’m sure Bennington had a hand in some of that creative direction, though perhaps it caused some dismay seeing as he had a side-band and filled in for Stone Temple Pilots for a couple years.

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I recall the day Bennington hung himself, I read in a Yahoo! article that he dealt with drug/alcohol addiction and was sexually abused as a child. It made me recall Vincent Van Gogh and his perilous life of having to balance his desire to paint and the tragedy of supporting himself through it. It’s almost a sad truth to accept that tragedy and creativity make an emotionally-riveting pair. To know and understand the lyrics that typically accompany Linkin Park tracks, it almost comes as no surprise that Bennington was carrying a lot of emotional baggage. He likely put his soul into his work, and not to speculate, but that may have mounted even more pressure on him to establish himself. It rings eerily familiar of another popular lead vocalist that committed suicide twenty-three-years before, and I’m sure many others.

And so I say to thee, cherish what life you have and make the best of any situation. If you ever have the darkness that clouds your judgment, please go and talk to someone about it. Get help. There is certainly much that life has to offer (even if it doesn’t seem like it) and the experiences that follow. And to any who would be affected by this, know that I feel the same. A great mind and voice was lost, and a part of my childhood died, as well. I’ve been listening to Linkin Park nearly non-stop since it happened.

Rest in peace.

An Ode to Yoshi

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This is a somewhat odd subject to write about, as as strange as it sounds, Yoshi was kind of my identity for a while in my early video game experiences.

Let me explain, Yoshi is a character I related to a lot when I was young. As someone who’s fond of reptiles and the like, his design immediately stuck out. His character is almost never in the limelight, always sitting in the second chair to other more prominent characters such as Mario. I’m the type of person who enjoys being second-in-command; not having to take on all the responsibilities alone, but being confident enough and power hungry to be able to lead on a sparse basis. Yoshi, as Mario’s sidekick, had this similar, strangely psychological connection with me. I can’t help but love the character, despite typically being the world’s best sacrificial character.

What’s most notable within my experience with this green dinosaur is how often I would play as him in Mario spin-off games. If I’m playing Mario Party (particularly the older versions), Mario Golf, or Mario Kart, Yoshi was my character. Always. I played through the game as Yoshi and Yoshi alone. He was my guy.

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I recall playing Mario Party 4, going through the “Story Mode” of the game, getting gifts for Yoshi’s house after defeating each party host in specific, unique mini-games. That meant so much to me, thinking I was getting a more in-depth look at Yoshi’s personality and priorities. I don’t remember anything he got now, but back then, it was my duty as Yoshi’s human counterpart to give him the best little house possible. It remains my favorite Story Mode-esque feature in a Mario Party game to this day.

When Yoshi does get a main series game, it’s always packed with colorful, almost serene artistic exaggeration. There’s a good atmosphere whenever he’s involved, though the easy choice for the best example of this is in Yoshi’s Island. That game is a fantastic example of what Yoshi can do in center stage. Much like the rare occasion where I take charge, Yoshi splendidly holds his own compared to greats such as Super Mario World and Super Mario Bros. 3. I really need to replay Yoshi’s Island. Real soon.

Not too long of a post this time, as there’s not much one can say about a single side-character that doesn’t receive a lot of attention towards his development. He, like most others from the Mario series, serves his role to the best of his abilities. That’s all one can really ask for with Mario characters, until the day comes when Mario becomes an RPG. Hehehe… Oh, wait…

An Ode to Super Mario World

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It’s intriguing to me that it’s taken me this long to look at one of the games that made up my very early childhood. Comprised of this, each Donkey Kong CountryMega Man 7, and Super Ghouls & Ghosts (with various others), my first experience with the world of video games came in the form of the Super Nintendo, with Super Mario World heading the charge.

One of the first questions that comes to mind when looking back at this game is how it’s held up, if the game has become dated with time, seeing as it was released over twenty-five years ago. The most dated thing that can be applied to the game is its presentation, which all things considered, is excusable due to limited hardware. I don’t mean its spritework, by the way, which is fantastic to this day. I’m referring to narrative presentation, the sort of linear perspective of level-to-level, world-to-world process that would be somewhat dull to new age players. Looking at gameplay alone, the game is polished, innovative, and a shining example of Nintendo in their prime.

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Nostalgic gauges pumping their pistons within my inner mind go into a systematic overload whenever the colorful images or catchy tunes of Super Mario World invade my imagination. A wave of happiness overtakes my usual resolve and reminds me of a time when video games were my reason to get up everyday, looking forward to getting further and further into the colorful crusade. It was my first taste of the Italian plumber and his Goomba-stomping adventures through the worlds that embody or surround the Mushroom Kingdom. Better this than Mario Is Missing!, I’d say.

As a kid, I would never get past the third area in the game, the Vanilla Dome, as I would lose the motivation to trudge through the rising difficulty with the game. Something about the levels involving flying Cheep-Cheeps always got to me. I’ve beaten this game before as a small child, I know I have. The brazen image of Bowser flying off and Princess Peach floating gently to the roof below her is a moment I will never forget. Remembering the joy I felt as I screamed to whoever would listen that I finally beat the game. Thinking about it logically, I likely hopped onto my father’s file and just went through the final castle until I could figure out how to beat Bowser. That, or I used the Star World to my advantage and warped all the way to the final world. Nice of the game to let the player exploit it like that.

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Something that wasn’t as noticeable to me as a kid when playing it now is how slippery Mario handles as a character. Controls are tight to some extent, but Mario is human, and he needs time to steady himself. The biggest difference between this and the original Super Mario Bros. is that Mario looks like a normal human being. The butter underneath his signature brown shoes is just as prevalent here as in games prior. While annoying, it’s nice that a player has to take his somewhat wobbly movement into consideration when timing jumps, running, and platforming. The emphasis of making the game a tad more challenging makes the platforming all the more rewarding for elite players, who dedicate themselves to things such as speedrunning. Extra stipulations to various levels also give a nice spin to the variety of possibilities within.

For me, Super Mario World was an excellent platform into the world of Nintendo’s flagship franchise. I would absolutely recommend anyone (roughly six people on Earth) who hasn’t played any Mario games to start with this title, as its the perfect creation of accessibility and challenge that Nintendo used to master effortlessly with their games. It still looks great, it still plays great, and if one can overlook the incredibly limited fashion of linearity, it can provide a lasting impression, one that’s touched millions of people worldwide. Regarded as a timeless classic by many gaming veterans, Super Mario World is one of many games from Nintendo’s heyday that made them the gaming empire they are today.

(All gameplay screenshots courtesy of SaikyoMog.)

An Ode to The Original Star Wars Trilogy

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Genuine question: how many thought of John Williams’s score upon seeing the title of this post?

Like many others, I grew up with a heavy dose of Star Wars in my life. Even before the release of Episode I back in 1999, I had spent the first six years of my life being exposed to all things Star Wars, as my father was a huge fan of it. (My mother, as well!) I don’t remember a lot from my experience with the original trilogy as a kid, but Star Wars as a whole shaped up to be one of the most engrossing and exciting film franchises of my lifetime. I remember individual scenes, such as Luke’s descent into Dagobah, The AT-AT attack, the Death Star trench run, and more, but never smoothed seemly into a complete package back then. I was more enamored with the cool action and special effects. Weren’t we all?

With a recent rewatch, my fondness for Star Wars began with a bit of a tumble. A New Hope was actually fairly average in most respects, though I enjoyed the intrigue of things to come and the subtle character quirks through interaction with others. It wasn’t until Empire Strikes Back that I was able to rekindle that passion for the franchise. The scenes held more weight, the characters had pizzazz, and it all felt like a bigger-than-life adventure. A truly captivating movie experience. While not quite as good, Return of the Jedi still had a lot of what made Empire so dazzling to watch. Though it also had a number of things that would foreshadow the state of the franchise for when George Lucas decided to develop the prequel trilogy. The Ewoks, in hindsight, were kind of a stupid plot device. Nothing more than glorified teddy bears.

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Even after the rewatch, I still love all of these films. A New Hope somewhat leveled my expectations, which surprised me, as it’s typically more beloved than Return of the Jedi. There’s this sense of walking on eggshells in the first film that I don’t really like. It was definitely within those introductory stages that made everything feel little more than “Getting to the good part.” Not to mention, everything felt clumsily pieced together as if one were directing the scenes to occur one-by-one straight off of a storyboard. This may not have been such a problem had the characters been charismatic. Only few characters felt as though they shined in the spotlight, but given some props, they tried their best. The most disappointing character was Darth Vader, who played like a second dog to a mightier hound in the grand scheme of things. One could use the argument that he always has been a la Emperor Palpatine, but in A New Hope, he takes orders from a mere senior representative. Hardly the figure someone as destructive as Darth Vader should be taking orders from. This feels even more silly when in Empire Strikes Back, the first scene featuring him has him giving orders to troops in a triumphant tone and getting the plot moving. “He does so in A New Hope, as well,” you may say. My response would be to compare the tone and the mood of each scene and see how menacing Darth Vader seems in both of them.

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Of course, these are purely the negatives. A New Hope gets a passing grade despite the flaws as a means of being entertaining with its sequence of events and characters. While not as free as they could, Luke, Han, and Leia all showcase their signature bravado whenever given the chance. With signature lines such as “Aren’t you a little short to be a Stormtrooper?” to “Use the force, Luke,” it paints a picture of who these people are and what they’ve been through, along with how their influence changes those around them—Luke particularly, as the young and rising Jedi. Young Skywalker has the least personality of the bunch, but in the role as observer and “fish out of water,” he doesn’t necessarily need to have much. His role, such as the entire film, is a symbol of things to come, leading to bigger and more grander events that will shape the galaxy. And this presence, with which the movie coats itself with with every change of setting, makes the movie not only devoid of dullness, but amorously  foreboding.

This aura of bigger things pays off tremendously with The Empire Strikes Back. Things move along and the Rebel Alliance has set up a defensive against the Empire’s rebuttal. Immediately, the audience is shown something new—a distant planet full of danger. The scenes swap back and forth between good and evil, developing a story that provides insight on both sides, giving more emphasis on character than story, though the narrative progresses smoothly enough. The enthusiasm needed to care for the things happening to the characters, something that required work in the first film, is beautifully handled. Mixed with the now dark and serious transition of the story, showing the power the Empire is capable of, makes for an unpredictable outcome with every new scenario. It’s far more entertaining, far more insightful, and far more within the reach of its unreachable grasp. The only real problem? The scenes still feel a little clumsy, the characters a little one-dimensional, despite how nice it all feels at first glance.

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It all accumulates into the final film in the trilogy, Return of the Jedi. Debatably, this is the most problem-filled film, with the entire Empire being defeated by a bunch of primitive teddy bears and Jabba’s Palace being… not that important at all, outside of saving Han Solo. Despite the questionable decisions, the last film harbors some of the most emotionally satisfying scenes in the entire franchise. Luke facing off against Darth Vader for the final time. Luke’s final visit with Yoda. Leia is told of her relation to Luke. Star Wars decided to let it all out, with fantastic results. I would describe the fight scene between Luke and Vader as my favorite scene in the entire trilogy. So fulfilling after building up from the very first movie, and the fulfilling of destinies described from the prior film makes every fan of prophecies incredibly satisfied. Characters still have their charm from Empire, if only they had a story to really develop upon more of it. Luke and Vader are the big subject here, with everyone else in the background. It retains that fun and fantasy epic that the series is known for, just at a lesser expense. With teddy bears.

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It has the charm, the fantasy, and the heart to remain strong even now. The emphasis on story, character, and subtle development of both makes for a surprisingly emotional ride. I was quite surprised by how emotionally respondent I was to the film, as many would say that the series is more pragmatically satisfying than anything else. There’s a genuine spirit of adventure, and the bond between characters shows through without warning. One roots for these characters, and stay for the immersive plot developments. Despite its unnaturally futuristic setting and identity, Star Wars is a more human endeavor than anything else, showing that no matter how out-of-reality a movie can be, it’s the aspect of humanity that carries the legacy forward.

The rating for these titles and all others can be found on my IMDb account.