Thursday, February 28, 2013

Glass houses

This metaphor isn't very good and is bound to get confused, but it's the best I've been able to come up with.

"Privilege" is like a window. It protects you from the harshness outside, but its glass also distorts your view. There are lots of different kinds of privilege - being male, being white, being rich, being healthy, being smart - and they stack up. Each one gives you a little more protection from the world, and each one distorts your view a little more. But from inside, you can't see the window, and you get so used to the distorted view that you don't realise it's there most of the time.

(I don't like the word "privilege" for this next bit because it's loaded with other connotations than the point I'm trying to make. It's a privilege when it affects your thinking, but in terms of how they affect your day-to-day activity they're more like advantages - stuff that makes it easier to overcome different challenges.)

There's an assumption however that because you have more advantages than someone else, that automatically means you can't suffer any hardship - and moreover, you're not in a position to have an opinion on the hardships suffered by others. You can't understand it, and you certainly can't talk about it.

This is, in my experience, usually delivered in an aggressive, dismissive or condescending way; a rock thrown at the window. I know, logically, that the rock was thrown at the window of my privilege, to remind me that the window's there. But from where I was standing at that moment, it looked an awful lot like it was being aimed at me.

My point, in the argument that started this train of thought, was that the root of a person's misogyny (even though it's ultimately unjustified because of the privilege they stand behind) isn't going to go away if it's only met with that hostility. To that person, their insecurities are real and valid and frightening, and being dismissed as oversensitive because they haven't had it as hard as someone else is only going to make them feel more threatened - which isn't going to defuse the situation. It's going to make them more angry, feel more threatened - it's going to validate their fears.

Snark might win the battle, by shutting out sexists and misogynists1 in the short term. But it's not going to win the war because that exclusion, real or imagined, is what's driving them in the first place.

1 And me, as it turns out. I thought, as I said yesterday, that I was being reasonable - I was trying to be, at least. But I'm tired of this argument, so I'm going to leave it to the extremists on both sides.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

I'm fatigued

I was having what I thought was a reasonable and spirited discussion with someone online last night and today, but apparently they disagree and their last message in the conversation has left me so dispirited and sad and shocked that I can barely think straight.

I thought I was being polite and I thought I was explaining my position and my point clearly, and to be all but accused of condescension and misogyny after trying to just illustrate a different perspective - not even my own, and repeatedly stated as not my own - has ruined me.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


I'm just watching this episode while waiting for the new Shin Sekai Yori episode to come online. Honest. Ahem.

Every character in this show - the full title is Ore no Kanojo to Osananajimi ga Shuraba Sugiru, or My Girlfriend and Childhood Friend Fight Too Much - is a fucking idiot, with the exception of the female lead. She's a compulsive liar with a talent for manipulation and a borderline sociopath. Everybody else, though, is an essentially well-meaning fucking idiot.

The basic plot is actually kind of interesting for a harem show; the male lead, Eita, is a cynic who doesn't believe in love and has no interest in pursuing (or being pursued by) girls. He is oblivious to the interest shown by his childhood friend and neighbour Chiwa, focusing entirely on his studies instead. When transfer student Masuzu arrives, with a similarly nihilistic view of romance, she blackmails him into posing as her boyfriend in order to deflect the amorous attention of other students.

This, to me, seems like a no-brainer for Eita - he's not interested in romance and the proposed arrangement from Masuzu doesn't exactly come with strings attached - if shoujo manga and anime have taught me anything, high school students who are "going out" don't even have to actually go out. Declare your love, boom - you're "dating", and off the menu. I can't figure out why he'd be so resistant, but that would deprive the show of demonstrating his incredible discomfort when Masuzu reads from his secret diary (written three years ago, so hardly a commentary on his current behaviour - especially since he's totally turned his academic career around) in front of Eita's friends.

All of whom, as the aforementioned Fucking Idiot Brigade, totally fail to notice his discomfort and draw the obvious conclusion that it's his diary, you morons. Literally every scene and conversation has at least one exchange that has me staring in disbelief not just that the characters are so monumentally stupid, but that the audience is expected to buy into their stupidity.

I can't stop watching, though - there are just enough interesting character moments in each episode to hook me back in. And as much as I wish I didn't care what the outcome is going to be (let's be realistic - there isn't going to be a definite decision anytime soon, if at all; harem shows are sold on the fact that viewers can 'ship the main character with whoever they want, whether (s)he's a canon option or not), I do actually have a headcanon for it already.

It's not a clever show - quite the opposite. It's predictable, it's quite embarrassing in a lot of places and it looks dreadful, but I have a horrible feeling that I'm going to be watching it 'til the end.

Oh, hey - Shin Sekai Yori is up. I'mma go watch that and feel better about myself.

Monday, February 25, 2013

On The Onion and offence

Update: The Onion has posted an apology, which I believe is genuine. I still think the original tweet was brilliant satire, but there's no doubt they'd have had a much stronger position if the tweet had used the name of an actor who's definitely old enough to understand the joke that's being told with their name in it.

Original post:

There's not much way I'm going to get through this without quoting, and using, some pretty strong language - so if that's a problem for you, turn away now.

The facts: during the Oscar broadcast last night, the following Tweet was posted by The Onion.

I didn't know who Quvenzhané Wallis is, so for anyone interested here's her Wikipedia article; the short version is that she's a nine-year-old nominated for Best Actress for her role in Beasts of the Southern Wild.

Now, some people have taken issue with The Onion's tweet. Personally I think it's top-tier satire, biting and uncomfortable and hilarious, but a lot of reaction on Twitter seems to be centred around the fact that people have forgotten that The Onion is a comedy site. The root of the problem is that people have assumed that The Onion means everything it ever says.

Remember how hard we all collectively laughed when North Korea made that mistake? Do they believe The Onion's other Oscar night coverage, that Kathryn Bigelow really wore Osama bin Laden's blood-stained clothes to the ceremony and Daniel Day Lewis really thinks that Abraham Lincoln deserved to die?

The offensive nature of this tweet seems to be in three parts: firstly that it's criticism levelled at someone who doesn't deserve it; secondly that it's directed at a child; and finally that it's used the word "cunt". The problem with those first two points is twofold, but recognising that also requires you to understand who, exactly, the Onion was actually satirizing with their tweet. It seems pretty clear to me that the tweet was a response to the kind of snide, spiteful gossip that goes on whenever there's a red-carpet event; reporters and style columnists ganging up on people more famous and rich than themselves to pick apart their every flaw by way of slagging off their miscalculated eveningwear. The entertainment press is built on a foundation of criticising people who don't deserve it, and also focuses uncomfortable attention on children (a lot of whom aren't famous in their own right, but are stalked because of their association with a famous parent).

The Onion, in response to this fairly widely accepted practice, tweeted a similarly unfounded and non-specific but excessively profane complaint about someone that nobody in their right mind could believe. It's so over the top and baseless that surely anybody with two brain cells to rub together can see that there is no way it could be a genuine opinion. Apparently not.

But that brings us to point 3 on the "reasons to get pissy about a website calling someone a cunt" - the word "cunt" itself. If they'd called her a bitch or a skank or any one of a dozen other baseless profanities, it's much more likely that it could be read as a genuine opinion. But the heart of a lot of The Onion's satire is taking things to the extreme, being deliberately provocative. By calling this nine-year-old the worst thing they could possibly think of, they were trying to point out the broader undercurrent of aggressive jealousy and baseless judgement that makes up a depressingly high percentage of Oscar coverage.

Could they have made their point with a less offensive word, or directed at an older actor? Possibly, but it's hard to imagine it would have had the same impact as the one they did make. My only concern at the content of the tweet is that it would get back to Quvenzhané, she's not old enough to understand the satirical meaning and it affects her negatively. Making a child the subject of the tweet this way is uncomfortably close to the celebrity-child fixation of the media outlets being satirized.

The Onion has removed the original tweet and, as far as I know, have not followed up with an explanation or apology, so I'm ascribing intent to their original post based on my own perspective. I'm hoping that they do provide the reasoning behind it, because the worst thing that could come from this is a shut-down of the conversation.

Whoever had control of The Onion's Twitter account last night could genuinely have some kind of vendetta against a nine-year-old. But I doubt it.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sleeping Dogs, reprise

Didn't get around to writing anything big today, but I did finish Sleeping Dogs. Final review: pretty good, 8/10.

The story's pretty great, and I like the way the game portrays the conflict between Wei's police duty and his loyalty to the gang. The cops are doing "the right thing" but don't seem to care about Wei's emotional wellbeing so long as he gets the job done, but for all the terrible things he's required to do as part of his cover within the Sun On Yee, they have much more interest in his safety and his life. The lack of player control over the story makes the descent into violence and revenge at the end a bit less dramatic than it could have been, and some character relationships aren't given enough development before they hit their dramatic high points, but overall I found it pretty successful.

My primary complaint is the dating stuff - I know it was left over from an entire minigame that had to be cut, but what's there just feels off. Wei comes across as a bit of a creep (not to mention how easy the women are throughout the game, which is another conversation entirely), and it honestly hurt my perception of his character and how much I could empathise with him. I wanted him to be a good guy in a bad situation, but there's altogether too much sleaze in there for my liking.

The undercover cop angle did have an interesting effect on the way I played the game, though - killing civilians was a much bigger deal than it ever was in Grand Theft Auto, and when I completed the game and unlocked a gun in my (various) apartments the resultant cop-killing spree was an altogether more fraught affair than I'd expected.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

You've had a break-in, Mr. Sykes.

Warning: minor spoilers for The Fugitive - although it's 20 years old this year, so it's close to the statute of limitations.

My favourite film changes pretty regularly depending on what I've (re-)watched most recently, or even what I've been reading or talking about - if I've seen a lot of anime recently then I'm liable to say Perfect Blue or some Ghibli or other, if I've been reading scifi then Alien is going to be high on the list. Tonight, my favourite film is The Fugitive.

I saw The Fugitive in the cinema. I would have only been ten, and watching it earlier tonight it struck me how much of it must have gone over my head. Not just the (overly-complicated) pharmaceutical conspiracy stuff, which I can't imagine myself having context for; even now there are bits of the dialogue I'm catching properly for the first time.

The best lines and scenes are all Tommy Lee Jones', but that's almost certainly just because he's got other characters to talk to. Harrison Ford spends most of the film looking tired, worried and angry (apart from the end where he looks tired, worried and relieved), and for the most part doesn't exchange more than a few words with anybody.

The exchanges between Kimble and Gerard, though - the tunnel at the dam and a phone conversation from the one-armed man's house - are brief but great, and actually do a lot to cement the characters' motivations. Gerard's "I don't care" line is an important one because it'd be easy to forget that his job isn't to solve a crime - it's just to catch the fugitive. It tells Kimble, and the audience, that his innocence or guilt is irrelevant and that Gerard won't be put off by any new evidence Kimble can find.

I don't think I have words or the time to praise Tommy Lee Jones' performance in this film enough, but the US Marshalls altogether are so natural, their back-and-forth jokes so easy, that I'm not sure how much of it was actually scripted. Given the seriousness of the story as a whole and the role of the Marshalls in it, they actually bring most of the levity that's present in the film.

There's not much I don't love about the film: the music's great, the dialogue is mostly pretty snappy (there are a couple of exposition-y flashbacks that creak a little), and I lost count of the number of times watching tonight where I said "this next bit's great!". Even though the pacing is odd, ramping up the tension in bursts - Kimble nearly gets caught and narrowly escapes at least three times - it flows remarkably well, with the stakes getting higher the closer he gets to the truth. The final explanation for the murder of Kimble's wife is a bit weak, but it's hard to imagine a random home invasion would have made for as compelling a search for the one-armed man.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Lorem ipsum

Earlier tonight I started (re)writing something that's been rattling around my head for a while, and it's turned into an utter monster that'll need to be re-read, edited and possibly thrown away, never to be seen, before it goes in front of anybody else. It's all a bit personal and I'm still not sure this is the place for that kind of stuff, but I feel then need to get it down.

So instead I'm going to post a link to this Empire videogame music quiz and express my disappointment in myself that I only managed to get three of the Hard ones (5, 8 and 9).

I'll try to watch a movie or something tomorrow and write about that.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

PS4, part 2

A day after the press conference, things are settling down around the PS4 announcement. The trailers and speeches have been pored over in excruciating detail by more games news outlets than I can count, and endless lists drawn up of the system's successes and failings.

At the time, the biggest shock to come from the presentation was the jaw-dropping Killzone demo, which I'm still pretty certain is an in-engine, if heavily massaged and tightly scripted, demonstration of the graphical oomph Sony's new machine is capable of. But having had time to mull over the evening, the biggest surprise isn't actually anything Sony announced, or that they left out - it's my reaction to the back compatibility situation.

The PlayStation 3's Cell architecture was notoriously difficult for developers to get to grips with, and it's also likely to be very difficult to emulate in software any time soon. Sony could, in theory, include the Cell processor in the PS4 too enable backwards compatibility - that's the route they took with the PS2 for PSOne games, and with 60GB launch model PS3s for PS2 games. That's likely to drive the cost of the console higher than consumers would be willing to pay though, even if Sony did eat some of that additional cost to sell the machine at a loss1.

The surprise, for me, was the discovery that I don't care that the PS4 isn't going to be back compatible. Maybe it's because I don't have a particularly large library of PS3 or PS2 games that I'd have to "abandon", but I can't think of any reason I wouldn't keep the PS3 around for a while anyway. I still have my Dreamcast, Saturn and N64 after all - although hardware isn't built like it used to be, as the 360's RRoD can attest.

I don't know how it'll affect the machine's perception, though. It'll probably depend how Microsoft approach it; if the next-generation Xbox is backwards-compatible, that'll be a big advantage in Stuff You Can Play At Launch (and also allows you to trade in your 360 to offset the cost of new hardware). But Microsoft's announcement is going to be weakened by cross-platform titles that were shown on PS4 first - a lot of it will be "we've got it too!" rather than "check out our brilliant lineup".

But the PS4 announcement's strongest card was probably the focus on games - not social tools, not video and music and apps, but games. I'm sure Sony will have a lot to talk about on those other fronts too before the PS4 hits shelves, not least at E3 in June, but given the perception among some enthusiast gamers that Microsoft are turning away from games to embrace a more general-purpose home media strategy, coming out for this announcement showing games as the priority is going to have piqued a lot of interest.

1 I know that it was pretty standard, for a while, for game hardware sales to be a loss leader for the manufacturer - except, famously, for Nintendo - but I'm not certain that's still the case. If Sony're desperate for market share, they might be willing to sell at a loss, like Microsoft did with the 360.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

PlayStation 4

I wouldn't say I was blown away, but Sony's PS4 conference certainly surprised and impressed me much more than I expected.

There's some cool stuff coming, but also some bad - the lack of built-in back compatiblity is an obvious disappointment, and there wasn't any talk about how the PS+ stuff I've accumulated will move across, if it does. Not the end of the world, but I don't have space for both a PS3 and PS4 under my TV so if it comes down to a new machine versus the current-gen box with all those games, I know which one I'll choose.

I wasn't expecting to be blown away by the graphics in any of the games, and certainly not by Killzone of all things. But that demo - as scripted smoke-and-mirrors as I know, in my heart, it was - was stunning. There's enough minor things - LoD pop-in, jaggy shadows and textures - to convince me it was running in-engine and the camera movement strongly suggests it was captured from gameplay.

The hands-down winner though, for me, was Media Molecule's sculpting/puppetry game. The creation aspect, as with Little Big Planet, doesn't appeal to me much (I'm not very good at that stuff), but the puppet show musical at the end was so unexpected and fun that I couldn't stop myself laughing.

It's going to be tough for Microsoft to follow up, but not necessarily because Sony's machine has any innate advantages - the big issue they're going to facing is that any of the multiformat stuff they've got to show as well isn't going to be new.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Urgh. Fansubbers.

Part of the problem with getting back into anime is that I've started reading online discussions again. Rather than joining a forum or anything, though, I've been reading /r/anime on Reddit, which has an unusually high quality of discussion for anime fans (in my experience, they're largely obsessive narcissists desperate for simultaneous acceptance and distinction).

It's also reintroduced me to the immense facepalming and eye-rolling that makes up my half of the "fansubbing/piracy is helping the industry" argument.

Here's the deal: If you are taking copyrighted material and redistributing it without the permission of the copyright owner, you are breaking the law. End of discussion. I don't like copyright law for a lot of reasons, but none of those reasons is "but I'd have to wait for the DVDs otherwise". The staggering selfishness and suspect logic used to excuse this behaviour is, somehow, still a constant surprise to me.

It's not even like you don't have any legal options anymore - which used to be the primary rallying cry of fansub apologists. Give us a legal way to watch stuff as it airs in Japan, they claimed, and we'll even pay for it! But there seems to be a contingent of anti-streaming fervour on /r/anime, who constantly complain that the services don't pay the Japanese creators enough - while these same stalwarts are simultaneously torrenting everything they can get their hands on. One spectacular specimen claimed that he'd rather donate to support a fansub group than pay for a legal streaming service, but he didn't have the money to buy anime - despite boasting a couple of posts later that he's spent hundreds of dollars on merchandise, some of which I'd be pretty certain is counterfeit or unlicenced anyway.

At the end of the day, the anime industry doesn't seem to have been killed off by fansubbing (yet, anyway). Maybe the additional exposure that shows get by being distributed has a net positive effect, but I find it difficult to believe that a significant percentage of the fansub audience buys a significant percentage of the stuff they torrent. Maybe it's not hurting the industry, but if there was a more conscious effort to support legal alternatives, how much would that help it?

Monday, February 18, 2013

No ideas

I have no idea what to write about today. I don't know why I feel the need for every entry to have a single "theme" - maybe it's a defence mechanism (I don't know who's reading this, after all) but I don't want to put anything too personal on here. Even a simple "here's what I did today" seems like I'm being at best boring and at worst self-involved and narcissistic. Then again, why else would I be writing stuff on the internet, if not narcissism?

I think part of the problem is the lack of new stuff I've been doing recently - when I started this endeavour, I'd just watched all or most of several new shows on Crunchyroll; I was blasting through XCOM and had just signed up for PlayStation Plus so had what seemed like an endless supply of new games. It turns out, though, that I've caught up to all the anime I'm still watching (and writing about it episode by episode is kind of pointless) and the PS+ games I've got either didn't keep my interest (Vanquish) or are ridiculously long (Sleeping Dogs, which I've written about already anyway - an update post seems like a really dull use of the internet).

Need to get more new stuff. There's enough of a backlog on Crunchyroll that I'm bound to find somthing to stick around for, and there are plenty of games on my Steam list that I should be playing more of if PS+ gets slow - but again, Knights of the Old Republic II isn't exactly a quick completion.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

DVD Obligation

On The Society, the forum that came up with the idea of trying to survive 2013 with as few gaming purchases as possible (ideally none, but in my case I'm allowing myself The Last of Us), the impetus for a lot of the participants was a backlog of games they'd bought previously but never managed to play. Some of the worst offenders include people who've yet to play BioShock or Grand Theft Auto IV.

I don't have much of a "stack"; while there are a few Dreamcast games that I've never gotten around to finishing, I'm pretty sure that ship has sailed. (I should probably get rid of a few of those, to be honest; I still have every Dreamcast game I ever bought.) I've been pretty good, this generation, about trading in titles that I've either not played or lost interest in rather than keeping them around, and have also been making a conscious effort to limit the amount of stuff I actually buy for a while - having a LoveFilm subscription that included games helped immensely on that front.

At the moment, I have more unwatched Blu-rays and DVDs than unplayed games; stuff I got for Christmas or my birthday, or just picked up at release. Most of them - Looper, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and Lockout - I saw in the cinema so it's not like I'm missing out completely on any big-hitters among them, but it seems like we're never in the mood for any of them.

Watching a film that happens to come on TV is one thing; there's no sense of commitment when you start watching and even less when you find one partway through. If I pick out a disc, though, I'm essentially agreeing to dedicate the next two hours (or more, in many cases) to that choice. It feels like weakness to have to pause or, worse, abandon it; you've got to have everything in place so you don't leave the sofa until the credits roll. Or is that just me?

I don't know why, but even watching a DVD of a TV series is different. I don't have the same sense of obligation when I've put in a disc of Futurama or Red Dwarf - and I'll often watch that for at least as long as a film would take. The episodic nature probably helps; thinking "I'll watch one more" is different to "I have another 30 minutes of this film to go before I can move".

I don't think I have a point in this, except I need to stop being such a wuss about watching films at home - or at least, about having to watch it all. Maybe just deciding to watch as much as I can would be the nudge I need to get into the story. There are a lot of films I'll hang around for once I get into them on TV - I should take that same approach to home media.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


Shortly before Zack Snyder's adaptation of 300 came out in cinemas, I was having a conversation with someone about the film and, more broadly, the battle of Thermopylae. During the course of the discussion, I mentioned that the battle ends with most of the Spartans dying, which the other party got rather annoyed about. He seemed to think that I'd ruined the ending; I'm still of the opinion that - 2,500 years after the event - the statute of limitations had long since expired on that particular spoiler.

I mean, the whole point of the story - and the reason the battle is still talked about - is the nobility of sacrifice, doing what's right at the cost of your own life. I couldn't understand why someone would be interested in a film based (however loosely) on the real event but not have even a passing familiarity with it. They obviously hadn't read the comic either.

TCM are showing 300 at the moment, but I've had enough of it. The film bugs me in a dozen different ways, although most of those boil down the way Spartan society is presented - mostly the injection (by Miller, I assume) of some pretty aggressive misogyny - and the explanation by Leonidas of the phalanx, which his soldiers effectively abandon two minutes after the battle starts. I mean, if you're going to discount someone from fighting because they can't use a technique that you're not particularly bothered about anyway, I can see why Ephialtes takes the hump1.

I suppose at the end of the day I can't hold too much of that against the film, though - if his Watchmen adaptation is anything to go by, I'm assuming 300 is an almost note-for-note retelling of the comic, which I haven't read and frankly don't have much compulsion to. I assume the only historical research done by Miller before writing the original was into the battle itself; I know that there are liberties taken with Spartan culture and can only wonder where the hell half the Persian stuff came from.

There are some tremendous lines in it though - even if the best ("then we shall fight in the shade") is apparently a genuine quote from one of the Spartans at the battle2. But for every badass taunt and cool shot, there's just so much facepalming that I can't get past.

I remember reading up about Thermopylae a lot when the movie was first announced; maybe if I hadn't, the film wouldn't annoy me quite so much. I don't think it's even disappointment - I didn't know what to expect from the film - but it somehow feels disrespectful to the real thing to turn it into such a freak show. I'm sure the battle wasn't as honorable and glorious as the Greek historians of the time would have us believe, but it would have been pretty awesome without taking such massive liberties with the source material.

1 I am so, so sorry. I couldn't resist, and then couldn't bring myself to edit it out.

2 Probably my favourite line from the real thing didn't make it into the film; when Leonidas was leaving Sparta to fight, his wife - the unfortunately-named Queen Gordo - asked him what she should do if he didn't return. He replied, "marry a good man and bear good children". While it does seem to imply that her only purpose should be to produce more Spartans, I like the sense that he didn't feel like he had any ownership of her. I don't think he was giving her an order; he was telling her not to give up her own life just because he might lose his.

Friday, February 15, 2013


I don't read a lot of comics. In my heavy anime days I read a ton of (mostly shoujo) manga, but American (and, I suppose, British) comics never held much appeal for me. I did collect Wolverine for a while, when Marvel brought out a kind of best-of collection around 1999, but all that really did was emphasise the ridiculously complicated history and backstory that I had no hope of unravelling.

Really, the first comic I read and was a proper fan of was Watchmen, which means I undoubtedly missed - and continue to miss - a lot of the references and significance. It's as famous for its deconstruction of comics as a medium, the tropes and characters of the comics that came before it as it is for its own tone and storyline. Everything that's come since seems to have been massively influenced by the moral ambiguity and "dark gritty realism" of Watchmen to some extent, so it's probably difficult for me to appreciate the impact it had - even if I'm intellectually aware of it.

Long story short, I haven't been keeping up with comics and haven't had much interest in doing so. I've got the first four volumes of Y - The Last Man sitting on a shelf next to me, but the order I got them from Amazon1 did as much to kill my enthusiasm and interest for the series as much as its heavy-handed plotting and awkward dialogue did.

The big hitter in comics these days seems to be The Walking Dead, but I couldn't get into the art, story or characters for one reason or another2. I've got the first TPB of The Sixth Gun, but its pacing is all over the place and I can't see how they're going to stretch it out much longer so haven't bothered picking up any more yet. I've also read Scott Pilgrim, but it's a self-contained and relatively short (for comics) story.

Despite its shortcomings, I kind of liked Y - it's clumsy but at least it's a different take on the apocalypse. The ideas were interesting enough that when I was told about Saga and I saw Vaughn's name attached to it I added the first TPB to my Amazon wishlist. A few days and recommendations later my resolve broke - it was less than £7 delivered, so I figured it was worth the risk.

Short version: I really like it. The writing's much more natural than the clunky dialogue I'm used to in comics (even Watchmen is horribly exposition-heavy), the pacing's brilliant and Fiona Staples' art is astonishing. The characters are interesting, and the ease with which the universe is built up and explained really surprised me. The amount of sex and nudity probably isn't strictly necessary for the story, but it oddly doesn't feel like titillation.

It's one of those rare reading experiences for me where I can see the movement from panel to panel. It's not fair to say that I imagine it as a film, because I honestly don't think Saga would survive the transition with its brilliance intact - but it feels almost like I'm watching something that's really happening. This has occurred so rarely to me that I (obviously) can't really explain it.

It arrived today, and the aforementioned filth is the only reason I didn't finish it in a single sitting at work. I got through the second half of the volume when I got home, and have reread it twice since then. I honestly can't get enough of it, which is going to make the wait for volume 2 - due out in early July, for f--k sake - pretty unbearable.

1 I ordered volumes 1-4 (the trade paperbacks), but volume 3 was out of stock and I only got 1, 2 and 4. Read the first two while waiting for the third to get delivered, but it took so long to come back into stock that I ended up cancelling it. I only got around to picking up #3 when I spotted it at London Expo the year before last.

2 It maybe doesn't help that I saw the TV show first and preferred its slower, more deliberate pacing to the comic group's breakneck migration. Both pale in comparison to Telltale's episodic adventure game, though.

Thursday, February 14, 2013


It's been far too long since I've learned anything new on the guitar. I blame the music I've been listening to recently; I don't know where the hell to start learning to play jazz, and an acoustic guitar really isn't that suitable for thrashing out punk power chords.

I've been playing since before I went to uni (I finally picked up my dad's with the proper intention of learning to play around 1999, at a guess). I got the hang of basic chords quite fast, but I've always been pretty content to stay where I am. I'm pretty good at playing rhythm, but I never put the effort in to learn lead or picking properly. I have improved a little over the years, but I'm still not especially good; my fingers aren't accurate or fast enough1.

I think everyone who has ever picked up a guitar has had daydreams about playing in a band (however briefly), but I don't think I could actually play in front of people2. Frankly it took a long time to get comfortable playing in front of my wife.

Of course there's nothing wrong with playing just for me, but not learning new stuff and not being capable of writing my own sometimes gets frustrating. I need to feel like I'm getting somewhere with it, but recently I've been feeling pretty uninspired.

That said, I did work out most of something new tonight. Some of the chords are still a bit out of reach, but I'm unreasonably pleased with myself for pinning down a couple of the changes.

1 That's what she said.

2 I played guitar in the folk choir at our chapel, but I was neither visible nor central to the effort so I think I got away with it. I did, however, get to play on a CD that we recorded in 2003; I've still got it but can't bring myself to listen to it - the only bit I can identify as my own playing is a horrible mistake I made.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Bechdel Test

I don't like the Bechdel Test. This irritates my wife quite a bit, but I don't think it's a particularly useful metric for anything meaningful.

For anybody unfamiliar with it, the test has three criteria for a film (or TV show, videogame, or whatever media is at issue) to meet:

  • It has to have at least two [named] women in it
  • Who talk to each other
  • About something besides a man

It's usually brought out to indicate the number of relevant female characters in a film, but my main problem with it is that it doesn't matter what they're talking about, so long as it isn't a man. They can talk about any number of cliche "girl" topics and still pass the test. Shopping? Shoes? Fashion? Cooking? All fine.

At the same time - depending on your interpretation of the third point, but based on the wording - if they mention a man in their conversation at all, then it's an instant failure. Again, the content and context of the interaction appears to be irrelevant. I'm not sure what happens if they're talking about a fictional character, or a real historical figure, or someone whose gender is unspecified.

And the test doesn't care if a woman's talking to a man as an equal or superior, if she's running rings around him in an argument. Her ability to hold her own against someone doesn't count unless it's another woman.

It doesn't measure the quality of characters. It doesn't care whether the characters are rounded individuals or stereotypes. It's a simple box-checking exercise, that almost deliberately gives media the easiest possible set of criteria to meet. To pass, you don't need to rewrite entire characters - just make sure they refer to each other by name and have at least one random dialogue about the weather.

Easy, right?.

So why the hell doesn't everything pass? What the f--k is wrong with our media that we can't even have that stupid conversation in everything?

It strikes me as weird and kind of wrong that so many fanservice-heavy and moe anime shows - which do genuinely just objectify girls and women as their entire point - actually pass this test when "smart" TV shows just stick women around the edges to emphasise the importance of the men to the point that they can't talk about anything else.

I'll be honest: I don't think about this stuff 90% of the time when I'm watching TV or movies. I don't like the test, if for no reason other than there are better measures of a character's worth than how many times she talks to another woman rather than a man.

But Jesus, it's not exactly setting a high bar, and we still can't manage it.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


Was there ever a time when pancakes were a regularly-scheduled event? I don't mean drop scones, which are an essential part of a complete (read: excessive) fry-up. Crêpes only seem to have been for Shrove Tuesday, or, as heathen secularists like myself refer to it, Pancake Day - except for the few weeks immediately after discovering the French bloke in the St George's Market every Friday.

I'm pretty sure, despite the one-day-a-year tradition of making extremely thin yorkshire puddings and drowning them in golden syrup, that pancake batter was always made from kitchen staples when we were growing up; flour, eggs and milk would have always been in the cupboards (which makes it seem even more unusual that it was such a rare occurrence, given the convenience of pancakes). Nowadays, it seems like there's a panic-buying rush on batter ingredients one week a year, and the other fifty-one nobody even thinks about pancakes.

On the run-up to pancake day I usually spend at least a few minutes imagining a delirious world where every day would have pancakes, but usually by my fourth crêpe on the day, the delirium is caused by an imminent diabetic coma.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Now entering decade four; next stop, the zoo

I'm 30 years old today. No existential crisis yet, although I am starting to get concerned that I haven't had an existential crisis yet. Should I have had some kind of epiphany about life at the stroke of midnight? I was asleep (I'm getting on in years, can't be staying up all night any more), so perhaps I just missed it.

To celebrate my advancing decrepitude, we went to the zoo. I don't know why zoos are always built on hills, but I've never visited one that didn't require hiking boots to reach at least one attraction. I should have expected the same in Edinburgh; no matter where you are in that city or where your destination is, you've got to go uphill to get there. Turn around to go back, and you've got to go uphill again. Edinburgh is the only non-Euclidean city I'm aware of - Escher would be confounded by its geography.

Also, it was baltic in Edinburgh today - and the zoo's hillside location left the whole place rather exposed to the wind, which didn't help.

This was the first time we'd been to Edinburgh zoo, so the main attractions were the pandas - although one was asleep and not especially impressive as a result, we did manage to see the other one outside as he... sat on his arse and ate sticks. Majestic creatures.

I've always liked pandas, although my increasing cynicism realises that if we really wanted to save the species we should start eating them. Create a demand, basically.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Droid Rights

I've been playing Knights of the Old Republic II, on and off, for about six months. I'm still embarrassingly early in the story, having just arrived at Telos, but a few of the conversations I've had in the game so far made me curious about the way droids are treated in the Star Wars universe.

Droids appear to have some form of artificial intelligence; although some are clearly designed for specific tasks (and are therefore unlikely to have any form of sentience), protocol droids and R2 units (or T3 units in KotORII are capable of dialogue, reasoning, and appear to have strong self-preservation instincts. In the original Star Wars trilogy there's some indication that droids can feel emotions - C3P0 alone shows fear, guilt and happiness in one scene of Episode IV.

It seems a little offputting, then, the speed at which organic characters recommend just reprogramming any personality defects out of droids1. It reminds me of the hospital scene in the Futurama episode "Bendin' In The Wind": faced with a horribly disfigured robot, the doctor's advice to the Professor is simply "I'm sorry, you'll have to get a new one".

And that's not to mention the constant barrage of derogatory language used about droids. Referred to as tin cans, snide remarks about their colour and appearance - I can't think of any species in Star Wars that's as essential to the smooth functioning of the entire galaxy2 that's dismissed as mere equipment.

Is there any expanded universe stuff about droid rights? Have they ever demanded fairer treatment, and have they ever received it?

1 We're obviously supposed to react to their treatment, though; when C-3P0 is blown apart on Cloud City, the music at least implies that a dramatic, terrible thing is happening.

2 Can an X-Wing fly without an R2 unit to perform astronav calculations? During your journey from Peragus to Telos in KotORII, T3 is the only thing keeping your ship on course - after he saved the ship and everyone on it - but he's still belittled and insulted at every turn by your companions.

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Sleeping Dogs

I'm not very far into Sleeping Dogs yet - I've completed a few more than a half-dozen missions - but it feels like I've been playing for quite a long time considering the game hasn't seen fit to give me a gun yet.

Normally by the one-hour mark in an open-world crime game I'd expect to be letting off steam with at least a semi-automatic pistol in a public place, but with United Front's offering I'm still to unlock the firearms tutorial, let alone have an arsenal of my own. I haven't even got a second car for my garage yet1.

The story's pretty good so far, though. Unlike recent Grand Theft Autos, you're not playing a conflicted criminal but an undercover cop. Even if Niko's primary motivation in GTAIV was to escape his previous life of mayhem and crime, it didn't place the same moral obligation on me as a player as knowing that I'm supposed to be the good guy. Beating up rival gangsters as savagely and inventively as Wei does is to be expected in the shady world of undercover investigations, but in Sleeping Dogs' less satirical setting a GTA-style rampage in the night markets is likely to be as frowned-upon by your triad superiors as your police handler.

The game's presentation of undercover policework seems to be taking a lot of its cues from Scorcese's The Departed - which is really strange, considering it was adapted from the Hong Kong-based Infernal Affairs. I'm not sure why it feels so American; it could be because the majority of the dialogue is in English, or the copious swearing - which I don't remember being so frequent in IA. It's been a few years since I last watched Infernal Affairs, but I also remember it taking place in more pristine locations than the seedy markets and back alleys of Sleeping Dogs.

The game plays pretty well but I've not had an entirely smooth route up the triad ladder so far; hand-to-hand fighting flows smoothly for the most part, although I've had trouble with counters. Sometimes the window for pressing the button seems really long, other times I'll hit it twice and still fail to block an attack. Driving is a bit floatier than I'd like, but I can't tell yet if it's the handling or camera that's the source of the disconnect. I've not had an opportunity to try the gunplay so far, but I remember it being pretty slick from the demo. Escaping the police, in my experiences up to this point, is primarily about finding a narrow place to double-back on yourself, causing the AI cops to slow down enough that you can slip out of their awareness area.

The side missions, or the ones I've discovered so far, aren't especially compelling, which could be a problem as the game progresses - if the plot stumbles or I hit a tough mission and need a break, I'm not sure I'd have enough else to do around the game's Hong Kong. There are only so many simultaneous "collect [X] items" subquests that I can keep enthusiastic about, and Sleeping Dogs has introduced three so far. There do seem to be a lot of leaderboard challenges however - driving without crashing or leading the police on a chase for as long as possible - so more "emergent" distractions do exist.

I have my fingers crossed that I'll be able to see this one through. The two previous games I'd downloaded from PlayStation Plus - Arkham City and Vanquish - failed to hold my interest enough to complete even the main story, let alone any side content. I had, however, previously finished both of their campaigns on the Xbox, so an all-new experience should provide more compelling entertainment.

1 I did buy a car - it cost me $63,000HKD - but after starting the next mission it despawned and has disappeared from the vehicle selection screen. There's been no clear indication of how to permanently add a new vehicle to your fleet.

Friday, February 08, 2013

Under the wire

Not even really sure what I did today. A lot of server wrangling, for one - although I did discover getting an NFS mount to work is much easier when you remember to add the new machine's IP address to the hosts.allow file on the server.

I'm tempted to write something about the rumours swirling around the next iterations of the Xbox and PlayStation but that seems premature; while a lot of the pre-launch rumours about the Vita and WiiU ended up to be pretty close to the mark, part of me thinks that less reliable sources might try and use that precedent to their advantage when spreading nonsense. I will say this, though: if the whisperings about second-hand games being effectively locked out on the next Xbox are true, I'll not be buying one of those unless the prices for new software are as cheap as Steam's.

If the PS4 somehow manages to keep backwards compatibility with this generation's games - unlikely given Sony's admission that it won't have a Cell processor and the nightmare it'd be to emulate one - at least for the stuff I've downloaded from PSN and through PlayStation Plus, it'll have a massive advantage over Microsoft's next machine. It's questionable, though, if that's a worthwhile investment when there could be HD re-releases to be flogged eighteen months post-launch.

Thursday, February 07, 2013


Most of my day at work was spent setting up a new server. The rest was spent adjusting the generation of financial reports. As a result, I don't have much beyond half-baked (and possibly ill-advised, not-for-public-consumption) ideas for what to write about. I daren't go a day without posting something, though; once that starts I'll end up making excuses all over the place.

My evening was spent watching more Blue Gender - I'm up to episode 12 now, and while the good bits are still good, the character development is definitely not as strong as I remember it being. The two main characters seem to fall into their relationship as much because it's expected as because they genuinely get along. Some of the artwork and animation is really f--king ugly, too.

New stuff is up on PlayStation Plus as of today (maybe yesterday?) - Sleeping Dogs which I'm looking forward to getting stuck into, and F1 Race Stars which I downloaded mostly out of forum-based peer pressure. I like a good karting game though, and this has had a few strong recommendations.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

He who conquers the left side conquers the world, chief.

I could spend forever trying to work out exactly what's going on in FLCL, or even just trying to explain my own interpretations. There are more layers to this show than it has any right to have, although the broad strokes are fairly straightforward. I think.

Underneath the slapstick, fanservice and toilet humour, there's a fairly serious story about growing up. The main character, Naota, is trying to figure out how he fits into all the relationships he's been taking for granted in the vacuum left by his older brother's departure. Hell, there's an entire thesis to be written just about the interactions between Naota and his older brother's ex-girlfriend.

Or about Haruko, and why she treats Naota the way she does. The audience gets the distinct impression that she's just using him to get what she wants, but the way she goes about it seems awfully personal. Although when she finally does get what she wants, she's literally trampling him.

In addition to the half dozen metaphors the show has for maturity, it's also elbows deep in pop culture references, parody and has little regard for the fourth wall. It'll switch between seriousness, all-out action, emotional earnestness and really stupid humour at breakneck pace, and as a result does feel kind of fractured.

The last couple of times I've watched it, I've been a bit frustrated by the comedy elements; the subtext is much more interesting to me than the surface-level stuff. But then, that almost feels like a part of its maturity-versus-childishness setup: being an adult means accepting the sour stuff along with the sweet. I don't know if wishing for a totally serious version of FLCL is a sign of being, or just pretending to be, an adult.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Marriage (Same Sex Couples) Bill

Anybody following my Twitter account today will be in little doubt of my position on the issue of same sex marriage, but on the off-chance you're not familiar with my opinion, here it is: gay people should be allowed to marry each other.

I didn't watch the parliamentary debate on the bill, though. I knew I'd get too angry at the old white men speaking out against love. Frankly, even thinking about it now has me making fists.

There are a few reasons frequently trotted out why gay marriage is a bad idea, but none of them has ever made sense. Let's be honest, if you're wanting to protect the sanctity of marriage, you should probably be looking somewhere else than the Church of England, which was set up specifically so Henry VIII could get divorced. For a second time.

If you think two people getting married could possibly weaken your marriage, then I'd wager your marriage isn't very strong to begin with. If you think marriage is just a vehicle for procreation then do you recommend divorce for couples who don't want or can't have children?

If you think it's an affront against God then I hope you're not wearing blended polyester, have no tattoos, don't cut your hair or shave your beard, haven't eaten a rare steak, and haven't defrauded or lied to anyone - and given their expenses shenanigans, I'd wager that last one's a tough ask for most MPs.

There's no nice way to say this: if you oppose gay marriage, you are wrong. You are a bigot, and no amount of weasel words is going to disguise or excuse your vile discrimination of fellow human beings.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Welcome to the party, pal

Die Hard is the best action film ever made.

Hopefully that isn't a controversial statement. Certainly most people will consider it one of the best, but for me the are no other action movies that come close to John McClane's first outing. Except maybe his third1.

There are probably a dozen reasons why Die Hard is so great. Chief among them is Alan Rickman's exceptional thief Hans Gruber; smart, witty and impeccably dressed, he's always looking at the bigger picture, at the end goal - any frustration with McClane's cowboy heroics is quickly dismissed as a distraction.

If the film was made today, I have a feeling Hans' true motives - which are openly stated in his conversation with Takagi right at the beginning of the Nakatomi incident - would be hidden even from the audience until much later2. That might be a way to build tension, but the deliberate way that Hans manipulates the expectations of the LAPD and FBI elevates him from someone with unclear motives into a proper mastermind. He's got all these plates spinning, and we know it right from the beginning.

In fact, that's my favourite thing about Die Hard - all the major characters have a very clear goal that's motivating them. The overall story might not be the cleverest, but it doesn't assume that the audience is a bunch of gawping simpletons only interested in the next explosion. We know who John McClane is, what he does for a living and what his relationship with his wife is like. We like him before the shooting starts, and even if you're not actively rooting for him to get back together with Holly, you understand what his goal is and why it keeps him going when any sane person would try and escape.

I think the setting is a big fantasy fulfillment, too - unlike, say, Casey Ryback in Under Siege, John McClane doesn't have any special forces training or expert skills. He's not even especially fit or well-built. It's easy to leave the cinema thinking, "yeah, if that happened in my office I could totally take out the terrorists".

The overall message of the film - if you'll permit me to get a bit philosophical for a moment - is about facing a difficult situation head-on, rather than running or leaving it to someone else. It's why Al shoots Karl, even though he never wanted to touch a gun again: he's put in a situation where he has to protect himself and something he loves3, and he does it in the only way permissible in Die Hard.

By shooting the closest German.

1 I actually think Die Hard With A Vengeance is my favourite of the series, but have to admit that the first film is objectively better.

2 Like, for instance, in Die Hard With A Vengeance where - spoiler alert - Simon's entire bomb plot is a distraction from the bullion heist.

3 If you don't believe Die Hard's main love story is between Al Powell and John McClane, I suggest you watch their first scene together at the end of the film again.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Tiny Tina

This morning on Twitter I saw a link to this Kotaku article, which says that the writer of Borderlands 2, Anthony Burch, has gotten some criticism on Twitter for one of the characters in the game. Specifically, people are accusing him of writing a character whose use of language appears to be racist.

The character in quesiton is Tiny Tina, the "world's deadliest thirteen-year-old", and you can listen to a selection of her dialogue on YouTube. The primary issue for most of the complaints is her use of "urban" slang, which has been characterised by at least one person as amounting to "verbal blackface".

This strikes me as a bit of a stretch. Is it because Tina's white? Would it be more racist or less, if the character was black? Why can't a white person use "ghetto" slang? Surely there are lower-class white people in ghettos who have as much exposure to that culture as the black kids in those areas - is their use of local dialects somehow less authentic or less genuine?

What if it wasn't "black" slang, but sticking Japanese words into her sentences, like some otaku are known to? Is that level of cultural appropriation more, or less acceptable? What about yiddish words - would those be better? At what point does a colloquialism stop being associated with a particular ethnic or social group and become acceptable for use by people outside that direct culture?

I don't know the answer to any of those questions, but I don't believe for a second that Burch or anybody at Gearbox did anything deliberately offensive with Tina's dialogue. Of course when you're tackling issues with racial connotations there's a responsibility to make sure you're not doing anything inappropriate and it's possible this should have been looked at more closely.

But the language used by Tiny Tina isn't used in a racial context, so I can see why nobody would have thought of it as a problem. She's just using slang. I don't see why the origin of slang needs to come into the equation unless it's being used pejoratively, or to mock or belittle the culture that introduced it.

Disclaimer: I'm a white, middle-class male, so I'm willing to admit that I'm going to have overlooked some kind of cultural-sensitivity issue with this as a result of my built-in privilege. I'm genuinely open to someone explaining why Tiny Tina is a problem, other than "I'm uncomfortable with a white girl saying 'badonkadonk', so you should change it".

Saturday, February 02, 2013

Revisiting favourites: Blue Gender

It occurred to me today that I've only seen most of my "favourite" anime shows once. Or once the whole way through at least; I've restarted some a few times, but have never managed to get more than a few episodes in without getting distracted and leaving it unfinished1.

Now that I've discovered a few new shows through Crunchyroll, and either finished or caught up to them, I've finally got the interest to try and rewatch some of the stuff that I've been meaning to get back to. The main reason I'm keen to revisit stuff - especially the shows that I watched very early on - is that I'm curious how much my enjoyment will have been affected by the additional stuff I've seen since. I have very fond memories of some of this stuff, and would like to know if it holds up.

I'm going to start with Blue Gender; the impressions below are based on a single watch-through around ten years ago and a rewatch of the first episode that I've just finished.

In addition to the slightly dodgy title, Blue Gender also has one of the more questionable ending animations I've seen, while the the episodes themselves contain more gore and sexual content (both implied and overt) than is probably necessary for the story. It's an unrelentingly bleak series, with absolutely no comic relief and the constant threat posed by the Blue is, frankly, kind of exhausting.

The Blue themselves - the possibly-alien insectoid creatures that have pushed humans to the brink of extinction - have much more interesting and varied designs than I remembered, but their generally impressive size and armoured appearance is let down by the "core", an uncomfortably-vaginal opening (usually on the face) that acts as a one-hit-kill weak point. The pulsing animation and sound effect used for the core is pretty gross - which I assume was intentional - but only really serves to draw attention to this hugely convenient visible weak point. It's not as though the humans' weapons have a whole lot of trouble penetrating the Blue exoskeleton anyway, and since the show takes such delight in showing the bloodspray from every bullet impact it seems redundant from a story perspective as well.

There's a lot to like though; as far as I remember the overall series arc, while padded in places, is compelling - even if the ending did leave me scratching my head. The Blue designs are great, and I really love the aggressive lines of the Armored Shrike mecha. The wheels built into their feet is an especially nice touch, which allows them to move around more quickly and quietly than by running. The character designs are generally not great, but I've always liked Marlene's hairstyle (and she's a great character generally, from memory - hopefully she isn't ruined for me by new things I notice this time through).

I've already got some vague memories of storylines and character arc creeping in after that first episode and I'm worried that the show's sexual politics, especially later on, are going to blow a hole in my enjoyment. Fingers crossed it's not as Neanderthal as I'm convincing myself.

1 The only series' I've definitely been through more than once are Neon Genesis Evangelion, Cowboy Bebop, Princess Nine and FLCL. They're all amazing.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Assassin's Creed III, part 2

Yeah, I definitely hate this.

It's like the people who made it didn't want me to enjoy it. Every time I get into some element of the game - the free-running, the fighting, the ship sailing (which I really liked, actually) - they throw something in my way to break it up. The ship stuff is a good example: pretty much at the exact moment I thought to myself, "hey, this is pretty awesome," it threw stupid side-winds at me. When I got back into the fun bit, then it starts the cannon tutorial. Would it be too much to ask for just some sailing around first, let me get used to that?

Running through the city, I'll cut a corner and smack into guards before the camera has a chance to catch up; there's twenty minutes gone for combat, escape and tearing down Wanted posters. I'm in a good flow with a fight and suddenly the musket line across the street is ready to fire, right when I'm too far to grab one of the other enemies to shield me. It's like there's an AI watching me, making sure that I never get to enjoy too much at once, in case my blood pressure drops to a reasonable level.

I'm still annoyed by the story, too, although I really should know better than to expect coherence from Assassin's Creed at this point. It's not even so much the plot - which was never going to be any good, if I'm honest with myself - as the non-existent characters. I don't give a shit about anybody in this game. I didn't like Ezio, but Jesus at least I had an opinion of him. I could understand why he was doing this stuff. Connor's been told he has this great destiny and seeks out the Assassins, but he doesn't really know who they are or why it's important. Even the story's feeble attempts early on to justify his eagerness to murder these particular Templars doesn't really figure into his actual motivation when he comes down to it1.

I don't know how much longer I can keep playing. There's undoubtedly a lot of stuff in there that's executed better than the original Assassin's Creed, which I've never gone back to since the second was released, and I can tell there's a good game in there somewhere under all the tedium and awkwardness. But while I was willing to forgive a lot in the first game because of that buried kernel of potential, by this installment - the fifth in the main console Assassin's Creed series, they should have figured all this crap out.

1 Spoiler: I was incredibly disappointed that Connor knew who his father was right from the start. They missed out on a potentially very interesting "I am your father" revelation - for both Connor and Haytham - when they finally meet. Even though the audience knows, that "twist" could have been something worth sticking around for.