Monday, July 18, 2016


(Days earlier; David scrolls through articles, stops. Clicks on article that reads)



No, no, no, NO! NO, I don't want to write about-, AGHHHH! GRRR. Okay, I- I've-, (Annoyed sigh) I guess I've avoided this shit long enough. (Sigh, deep breath) Alright, let's talk video games.

God, I'd do anything to not talk about this, but goddamn, Warner Brothers, what the hell!? Paying video game critics, no, no, what's the word they used, "Social Media "Influencers""?! They paid, social media influencers to give positive reviews to their game, "Middle Earth: Shadow of Mordor", which I'm assuming has something to do with "Lord of the Rings", but who cares, but-, ugh-, Okay, I have to tackle this subject, 'cause this-, this is an important thing, and it involves, my profession, I'm a reviewer, a critic, and it involves major players, in the entertainment industry trying to gain influence through the use of reviewers, or "Influencers", in social media for their products. This is essentially buying publicity, through not critics, "Influencers", so I guess I'm an "Influencer" now, technically, although if I was really influential, there'd be a helluva a lot less superhero and comic book movies and TV shows out there, but fine, my more successful competition, they're called influences, and apparently some of them, take money to do promotional videos from the likes of Warner Brothers. So, I have to talk about this, there's,- this is arguably the most egregious misuse of the critical media by a major Hollywood production studio since Sony and Columbia Pictures invented the film critic, David Manning, to give positive review to their films such as "A Knight's Tale" and "The Animal". (Remember that, anyone?)

So, yeah, this is a subject I talk about; it's right in my wheelhouse; it's a piece of the entertainment culture that's worthy of analysis and criticism. But-, it's about the world of video games. You may have noticed that 600+ blogposts or so on this page, and I've rarely if ever made that many video game references. Well, yeah, I have avoided this, and no, I'm not really a video game guy. Or a "Gamer" as they have taken to calling themselves. Now, that's not to say, that I'm not familiar with video games, I've played more than my fair share, plenty of arcades growing up and I had my first Nintendo, back in, I don't know 1990, I guess, maybe it was earlier. I had many NES systems before I eventually got a Sega Genesis, but then I took a long break and didn't start playing games again until I got a Playstation one day, like in 2003 or 4 or something, and I played with that for awhile, but eventually I ending up pawning it and the few games I had, and honestly I haven't played anything since, other than a few small games online, usually on Facebook. And I think I have a Monopoly game in my CD drive right now. I did have a few computer games as well, and I do love games, in all forms. I'm a game enthusiast. I've talked about sports and the sportsworld on more than one occasion here, I've talked extensively about game shows, which is definitely genre/parts of television, and I'm quite extensively knowledgeable on that subject. I also and born-and-raised in Las Vegas, so I happen to have quite an extensive knowledge about gambling and casinos. In fact, one of my pet peeves about video gaming, is that, people too often say that they're "Into 'Gaming'"; now anywhere else in the country, you can probably get away with that, but in Vegas, "Gaming" usually means, gaming in the casino, and has terms like "Gaming revenue" or "Gaming industry" or "Gaming Commission" associated with them; when someone tells me their "into gaming" I immediately think things, "How much money did we make at the baccarat tables last month, not "Halo". So, if you don't mind, I call it "Video Gaming", which is a more apt name anyway.

Now, where do I go from here. (Long pause, deep breath) Okay, one of my very earliest blogs was a post I wrote about Comic Books, where I detail my lack of connection with the medium, to the point I literally didn't realize they existed for a disturbingly long period of my life, like, until college, I thought comic books weren't real. Here's that old article:

It's not my favorite article by any means, but I bring it up, 'cause one of the reasons I wrote that was, not to only establish my perspective on the genre/medium, which was, and is, overly popular and influential, but also because there were aspects of the comic book subculture that legitimately intrigued me. Not necessarily all positively, but you know, I felt there were definitely aspects about the genre and about the culture that's surrounded and associated with them, they had aspects that I thought were worth bringing up and discussing, and I did in many, many cases in the future, and probably will bring up other aspects of that culture at some point as well. This article, and the aforementioned scandal is basically, my long, long delayed video game version of that article, and to be fair, the same way that I've spent much of the recent years trying to learn about comic book culture, I have also been looking into many aspects of video gaming and where that culture has gone, but that said, to be completely honest, I find a lot less interesting aspects to it than I do comic books subculture.

Well, that's-, that's not exactly right, I'm trying to use the correct phrasing, but, what I tend to think of and gravitate towards, when I think of video games, is by most accounts that I can tell, are not the same aspects that people in the Video Gaming Community tend towards, and it's-, while comic books, I can kinda come in looking at them with a fresh-eyed outsider perspective, video games, I gotta be honest, this feels like a medium, that maybe one time I was apart of, or thought I was apart but it's passed me by. Maybe I was never apart of it to begin with,

Like, let me give you a few examples here, um, I don't normally like to namedrop, but one of my college professors was Amy Green, and she's a wonderful person and a great teacher, I took her world literature class at UNLV, which she is a scholar at, but I reconnected with her recently, and to my surprise what I didn't know about her was that she is one of the foremost experts in analyzing video game storytelling; basically she's one of the most scholarly people out there who has written, promoted and she's even teaching, video games, as pieces of literature to be studied. She's actually working on an experimental program and classes at UNLV, which includes video games in the syllabus, for study. Here's her, well, she'd want me to share with you her TED talk on the subject, so here she is, doing her TED talk on video games storytelling and analyzing games as literature, it's actually quite fascinating:

Yes, if you're interested in a literature class where you can play video games, she's the girl you're looking for.

So, it's really fascinating, and is a very forward-thinking approach to both video gaming and literature. However, if I'm being completely honest, my initial reaction to this was, "Wait, video games have stories?!"

And to be honest, I'm still kinda befuddled at this concept right at the beginning, 'cause, like-, on some level this just doesn't compute with me, the idea that people play video games, in order to have a story told through them. That's-, I mean, yes, I guess after I thought about it, many video games have stories, even some of my favorites, "Super Mario Bros." has a story technically, but that's not-at-all something I ever consciously thought about. I mean, "Okay, Princess captured, save princess, got it," and everything else to me, was nothing more than, "The shit in the way", which, is basically all it is. Like, I don't know, what the hell a goomba, is, all I know is step on them, or avoid them, or else they can kill me. I never look at video games that way, to me, like I said, I focused on the "game", aspect, like what's my objective, how do I beat it, how do I achieve it? Right now, as I'm writing, I'm playing Candy Crush Saga, or trying to, it's loading really slowly on Facebook. Yes, there's an ongoing story technically going on, and it's totally fucking stupid. Yes, I keep going up levels, but I don't care about the story, I care about, trying to get the damn candies in a row, that's the fascinating aspect to me. It's a puzzle, it's something you solve, I get that. I don't get, "Doom".

No, seriously, I never cared for "Doom" or "Wolfenstein", like I remember when I first saw those games on my Uncle's computer, and to be honest, I didn't get them, even at the time. They seem really violent and way too elaborate. Yes, I was a kid who hated violent video games, so that's another aspects. Like, I liked "Street Fighter", hated "Mortal Kombat". Did not get why that was popular. "What the hell, we have a fighting, game, it's much more focused on the fighting aspects, a lot less magical moves and shit, plus it's not even full of blood, why would I play the other game?!" I'm serious, that's my seven-year-old or 15-year-old, however old I was, thinking. And it wasn't an anti-violence in video games thing, it just seemed to pointless to me. I got it, if it made sense, or was necessary to the game, but you know there were plenty of games that were just as violent that you didn't need all that extra gore at the time, so I gravitated more towards those games. And, mostly puzzle games and sports games; I'm still trying to win at Tecmo Basketball, that's where I'm at. And those few games I owned when I had a Playstation, sports games, all of them. I don't play the games that other gamers play(ed). It's not that, I couldn't see the appeal, but they certainly didn't appeal to me, and if I'm quite frank, I wasn't particularly enthralled with the people who were fascinated by those games. I mean, I'm not Jack Thompson or anything, but yeah, a lot of those supposed cool games, they were played by people who I thought were much more disturbed personality-wise at the time, and to some extent still do.

It's an aspect to it, personalities certainly does influences what aspects of a culture you gravitate towards and I really didn't like to see those violent long, elaborate games that, were a little complex. Hell, I don't like the fact that there's anything more complex than "Keep going right" to be honest, and many of those were violent, and a lot of those later games, I seem to be walking around with nothing happening and nowhere to go whenever I tried to play them, so that pissed me off. But, yeah, I can't imagine obsessively playing games for hours or days on end like that, especially ones with such violent and elaborate stories. Now, that said, part of the reason for that, is probably because, I'm probably a video game addict.

Yeah, that's-, addicted isn't the right-, but, look it wasn't by accident that's I've often stayed away from video games, there's a reason I'm actively outside of this medium, and it's because once I'm in it, I really don't get out easily, or comfortably I should say. If I didn't get into film or something or did this blog, and basically had the same options I do now, but a working video game system and a Madden game or something like that, there's a distinct chance that I wouldn't get anything else done. Which, is fine for that, a bit obsessive, fine, but to do that, with some of those other games, um... yeah. I mean, I wouldn't shoot up a school or anything, at least not without careful planning, an escape route, a way to frame one of my arch-rivals, and a loads of planning making sure only to attack the specific people who deserve to be killed....- anyway, I wouldn't do that, but I'm a solitary guy to begin with, and there's already a few triggers of mine that I can't avoid, and the wrong kind of video game, for me, could at some wrong points in my life, have triggered a lot more of them, and honestly I don't like myself when I'm in that state of mind, so, I usually have found it best to not have video games as accessible to me as they could've been. That's me, I don't begrudge others who are like that and find it encouraging, I don't particularly, but.... (Sigh)

So, I don't have a healthy relationship or appreciation with video games, don't really have much of an appreciation for the same games/aspects of games that other games do and I am probably more prone to addiction to them than others. Also, most controversially of all to gamers, Roger Ebert was completely right about games. I know, the stories of video games have become more elaborate, but I fail to see how anybody does not take his side in that argument. It's not a greater art because you can participate, it's a lesser art than movies and television and painting and novels and other similar arts, because you can participate. Even if I was a gamer, I would easily have to agree with him on that. Sure there's art to video games, some of it is even high art, but the fact that we as players are able to participate and alter as we journey through them, makes it is a lesser art. First of all, if we're going through the game correctly, then it's definitely the creator's who allowed us to go through the game, so it's his vision, not ours, and if we're changing the game in some way, now we're altering somebody's art, and even if that's built into the game, I find things wrong with that too, (not the least of which, is if we have to change it, then it probably that great to begin with)  if we did that with any other art form it's be graffiti-ing and/or ruining a piece of art, and even if that's true, you're telling me that, even on the players, all aspects of how the player views and experiences the game are and equal part of the art itself? BULLSHIT! That'd be like if the guy playing Mario Bros, who just runs right into the first goomba every time and dying, and he saying, "But that's how I play the game, it's my vision, my artistic statement!" Bullshit! Not even in the most dadaist description is that art. It's not like it's performance art, where it's about the reaction that we get from what the artists is doing and it's therefore our experience of the art, that's just trying to extend one's own place in the world.  (Mocking voice) "We're the player of the game, and we have our own way of expressing ourselves, through your game, and each one is unique and different." Yeah, I'll put up with a lot of modern art naval gazing, but ab-so-fucking-lutely NOT! You want to talk about the fact that you participate in the way by being a player, eh, yeah, that's like, saying you participated in the Presidential Election by voting on election day, it might be true, but so did a few other millions of people, it's not that special. Yeah, some video games are probably great pieces of literature and deserve to be studied as such as Ms. Green has shown, but yeah, the idea of arbitrarily putting it up on an equal or higher level as more established art forms, because the viewer of that art, can interact with that art, yeah, to me that makes it a less viable art than a complete expression of art from a particular exact vision, and it baffles me that people think otherwise. (Also of note: I've panned every movie I've ever seen that has, what I call a "Video Game Plot Structure", where the movie's story is basically something that's lifted straight from a video game, and all of those movies I've panned, have been criticized by others, including my hatred of "Scott Pilgrim vs. the World", both "The Raid" movies and that, eh, oh that piece-of-shit Zach Snyder did, what was that called? Um, oh, "Sucker Punch", ugh, horrible.)

That said, after all that, I'm really trying. I am, I honestly am. I don't have the money or desire to buy a game system or games at the moment, but I am trying. No, I'm not putting video games as a higher art form, but I'm still trying to understand it as an art form, and more than that, I am trying to understand the culture of the Gaming community and some of the tendencies of gamers and what really to look at when analyzing a video game. And yes, I will concede, that despite the fact that video games are basically, toys more than anything else, and yeah, that's basically how most of the game manufacturers began, in the toy world, that they've evolved into some really elaborate and thoughtful pieces of art and the community of gamers has heavily evolved to the point where, well, they basically run Youtube and most streaming sites. Hell, there's a streaming site just for Gamers, Twitch, and I'm sure there's other streaming sites just for them. Yes, much of the internet, is devoted to people playing video games, and wow, does this not make any sense to me. Yeah, this, trend, I don't get it. This is the lowest of the lowest, watching others play video games. I know there's "Let's Play", and I-, I kinda understand stuff like this if you're using them as a tutorial or to look something up, but yeah, this is stupid. Either, A. It's a boring game and somebody else is playing it, so I'm annoyed for two reasons, or B. It's a good game, and I want to play, but somebody else is playing it, so I'm annoyed. How is this popular?! Maybe in the right setting, like a major tournament to determine the best player, or something along those lines, okay, but for fun, regulary, watching this? What the hell is wrong with some of you?

Like I said, I'm trying, but god you're not making it easy. And then, the above story broke last week. And you know, it's not even the aspect that some of these star Youtubers are being paid,-, actually it completely is, but it's what represents. It's basically gives validity to, online reviewers and Youtubers. They are influencers now, and the fact is, that the studios have noticed and for years now have been paying these influencers to use their influence to peddle their games. I mean, this is payola, basically only it's the first time it's been brought into the world of Gaming, at least that I know of. The first major time anyway. So, what about this? Well, that word is "Influencer", is, it's definitely, creative, 'cause I guess you can make an argument that what they're doing isn't actually criticism. Now the most famous name that showed up on that list was this guy I've heard of before named, PewDiePie, Pew, as in church pews, Die, which is pronounce, de, and Pie. so I guess it's pronounced, Pe-yoo-ty Pie? Putty Pie, I fell like it's supposed to be the name that Grannie from Looney Tunes called Tweety Bird, but it doesn't look or sound like that. I've heard about this guy, and I knew eventually I would have to sit through one or his things; like I've said, I've tried to watch some of these online gaming things, there was a time a while back I watched a bunch of clips from one of the "Grand Theft Auto", 'cause I was looking into Lindsay Lohan's case where she was suing them for using her image, supposedly; honestly I thought she had an argument, but most disagreed with me, but I watched some of her character in question, where I could find them, for research; I thought I might've had a potential blog there, but it didn't lead anywhere, but yeah, I- I can't understand watching this for fun? I mean, I've got one of PewDiePie's clips on now as I write, I guess he's a little funny, but, yeah, I definitely prefer somebody like the Angry Video Game Nerd and people who are a little more elaborate than simply people who talk over their footage as their playing a video game. (I did like Nostalgia Critic's "Let's Play" of "Bart's Nightmare", but yeah, that was a parody of the genre, and I can see why it's worth parodying.

Anyway, PewDiePie, by most standards is the most of popular of these Youtube Video Gamers, his videos, constantly get millions of hits and he has for years, and he's big enough in pop culture than he sometimes shows up on Facebook news thread when he says or does something outside of the norm, so he's big, and because he's the biggest name that's shown up on this list of Youtubers that Warner Brothers paid off, and he's come under fire. Now-, the internet and Youtube in particular, they've really reinterpreted what we think of as entertainment and also what we think of as a review and in many ways this is just another sign that this is becoming a very legitimate different approach to analysis and criticisms. There was another one very recently when "Honest Trailers" got an Emmy nomination in the Short-Form Variety Series category; I'm honestly not that big on "Honest Trailers" but essentially, they're another, satirical admittedly, but a visual and edited form of a critical review, and you can hypothetically argue that someone like PewDiePie, by placing himself in the position he is, is essentially also a reviewer. This is why this subject gets tricky, 'cause even though he's not saying, "Go Play This" or "Don't Go Play This" or something along those lines, I can see why this is a thin line that, probably both sides are at fault for blurring. Now that said, he's claimed that he's being used as clickbait for the article and that, he, if you go on his Youtube page for the review in question, which is the first video clip I posted above, he'll note that he, in fact did mention that he was paid for the video, in the notes underneath the video, which he did, although what he doesn't point out, is that according to the FTC, the Federal Trade Commission, that's not enough, just a simple disclosure in the Youtube description. In his, defense, and I'll post his defense video below here, but he says that the video was in 2014, he's the only one of the Youtuber who disclosed they were paid, others did not, and that the guidelines weren't set until 2015, and since then, he usually discloses in the video when he is paid to make, essentially a promotional video.

Anyway, from what I can tell, from what few videos of his I've seen now, I don't think I'd call him a critic or a reviewer, but he is essentially putting himself in that position, and his material is in competition for your views with those who are actually criticizing and/or reviewing games, so I can't particularly tell if the show fits or not, but I'd definitely say it's close to fitting if nothing else. I do know that I often have to review things where there's a likely possibility that I may know somebody directly or tangentially that might've been involved in the film I'm reviewing, and I try to admit any Conflict of Interests before hand, and it's certainly never tainted my personal reviews themselves; I even gave a negative review to a film that was directed by a former professor of mine, in which many people who worked on the film are friends of mine, and/or friends of friends of mine, or something along those lines. (There's others but basically any movie that might've at some point shot in Las Vegas, it's pretty likely I'm six Kevin Bacon degrees from somebody working on the set, in fact, I know I know some people who worked on that latest "Jason Bourne" film for instance, but, it's not gonna effect any future review, and I think for the most part, most everybody is aware that, that's my job and not to take any review or any criticism I say personally)

So what are we talking about now, is this more like, paying off a disreputable critic, or is this, more like getting a major celebrity to be in a commercial for a product? Yes, this is why I wanted to bring this up, and this blurry line, is centered around Youtube Video Gamers. It's really a microcosm of the entertainment media as a whole and our relationship with the industry. Now, I've never been asked or paid for a review, and I can't say for certain I'd say "No", if asked, either for a review or a promotional piece, which I've also never done. I have advertising on my blog, which you should all click so I make some change on this, please, so I'm okay with advertising, but, yeah, this screams of attempted misleadings all around however, and I don't rightly know how I feel about that, or how prevalent it's going on around Youtube, or the Internet in general. Gaming is, not fully considered an above-the-line art, yet, by all, so this story is a bit underground and squashed, but if this a movie studio asking a movie reviewer, to write a positive review, we'd all pretty much flip. Now, what would happen if it was a movie reviewer asked to do a promotional piece about a movie, well, that I'm not 100% sure of, although I do seem to remember "At the Movies" during the Ben Mankiewicz and Ben Lyons era, making a huge buzz showing and reviewing a trailer for the independent film "Wendy and Lucy" weeks before it opened in theaters, but if I also remember that correctly, they both eventually panned the film despite, across the board promotion of it, not even during the commercials for the show, but woven into the show via a trailer review. (And if you remember my stance on trailers in general, you definitely know I was not in favor of that kind of focus on it during the movie critique show)

Is this a legitimizing of streaming critics, a de-legitimizing of them, a legitimizing of online video gaming critics, or a scolding of Youtube Video Gaming critic, or players, or influencers, or just PewDiePie? I don't know; for all I know, it's nothing more than a changing sign of the modern era of the entertainment world, and that world include video games as a prolific enough art form that celebrities within the journalistic/critical sphere are now susceptible to, being paid to promote or even review games by the studios. I'll say that, one more thing that proves film is a higher art form than video games, they had to makeup a reviewer for positive reviews, 'cause they couldn't pay one off.

Still though, video games are a young art form, and criticism of it is a much younger one than that and with new media like Youtube, the guidelines are all new if they're not all over the place. This is, basically a transition era; in the relationship between Video Games and the video game media. You know, it's constantly mentioned on "Angry Video Game Nerd" how, there weren't critical reviews or analysis of video games back in the old days and video gamers had to actually rent/buy the games in order to find out if they were any good, and yeah, he's right about that, even I did that a lot, and the worst part being a kid was that, you didn't know about glitches or, well I didn't know about codes, 'cause again, most of the games other played I didn't care about, or stuff like that, and if it was a bad game, half the time you just figured that you weren't good enough to play it well. I think that's probably the role that all these Video Gamers actually play, confirmation about the games and whether or not they're, any good, and in that sense, yeah, I think PewDiePie, and many of these other Let's Play people and whatnot, they are essentially critics, and yeah, I'm not crazy about how that can be compromised to some extent like this, even if it's under the guise of a promotion. They may be watching or promoting something other than the game they're playing, often it's usually themselves, which I get, I promote myself all the time, but you're still getting a review and analysis, and essentially a play-through of a game most of the time, so we really get a sense of the game by watching them play it and comment on it, it's-, it's essentially a review, and it's giving us information about the gameplay itself, so it's also essentially journalism. I'm not saying they shouldn't be bought to do a promotional video once in a while, but they might not realize the power and influence that Youtube Video Gamers might have and quite what it means to be in that position. Don't be too hard on them at the time though, like I said, it's a young art form their reviewing and there's not that many books about video game reviewing, so, it's all new. Well see where they're at in a few years after this, and then we'll see.

Okay, now, to finally figure out how to get out of Marble Zone. Yeah, I suck at the first "Sonic the Hedgehog" game, I never got out of Marble Zone; I don't know why, I just kept getting stuck. I'm really good at "Sonic the Hedgehog 2", I-, (Shrugs) I don't get it either.

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