Once upon a time I was one of the many people trying to catch up with Critical Role. During this fantastical, entertaining slog (and it was a slog at times) fellow fan Noodle suggested to me that I take a different route with my catch up plans: instead of watching each 3+ hour episode, I read the summaries of the episodes instead. “What a perfectly logical solution!” I thought. While my stubbornness eventually saw me through the 20-some episodes I was behind on, I ended up enjoying the site Noodle linked me to, Project Derailed, for its other nerdy content and reviews.
I finally had a chance to sit down and watch Season 4 of RWBY—something I was really looking forward to after how much I enjoyed the previous season. With everything seemingly in ruins, Season 3 left me wondering how Team RWBY and their friends would be left to pick up the pieces and Season 4 did not disappoint. Though not as action-packed as the season before it, Season 4 finally took some time to give both the main characters and the side characters some much needed development. However, some of these developments left me feeling a little confused and questioning why the writers took that path (and not in a good way). And while RWBY’s world continues to improve in terms of diversity, at times it felt like a mirror of the name of one of the season’s episodes: one step forward, two steps back.
Finally having caught up with Critical Role, I found myself with a hole in my schedule that I didn’t quite know how to fill. Luckily enough the internet was there in my time of need, and while several other D&D streams and podcasts failed to grab me, I managed to find one that did. The Adventure Zone is a D&D podcast put out by the McElroy brothers (also known for My Brother, My Brother, And Me and their various other podcasts on the Maximum Fun network) that follows three quirky characters—Magnus the warrior, Merle the cleric, and Taako the wizard—as they do everything in their power to derail all that Griffin, the DM, creates for them. Despite the fact that I’m nowhere near caught up with TAZ, I decided that this was a perfect time to look for fic. The obvious choice would have been to look for AU fic where I wouldn’t necessarily need to worry about spoilers. What ended up grabbing me, though, was the complete opposite: a post-canon fic that explores the struggles, tragedies, and joys that come with being an adventurer.
Warning for potential spoilers—not like I would know—and discussions of depression and self-harm.
Back in 2015, the internet got itself into a bit of a tizzy over the news that an important Star Wars novel called Aftermath had been released, and that one of the main characters was gay. Since I have an ear tilted eternally to both queer news and Star Wars news, I was immediately intrigued, but also completely prepared for the barrage of vitriol the Star Wars fandom started spewing as soon as the book was published. Most of the criticism didn’t lead in with homophobia, and some didn’t mention the gay characters at all, but it felt like a very peculiar coincidence that after decades of shrugging off plenty of resoundingly mediocre Star Wars books with a “meh”, the fandom chose this one in particular to shred to pieces for its (allegedly) atrocious writing style, boring characters, and sloppy story. I read several Star Wars books as a child and have recently started poking around in the EU again, so I decided to find out for myself if Aftermath genuinely deserved the gruesome skewering it got online.
Over the past few months, I’ve gotten really into Dungeons & Dragons, a role-playing and story-telling game that relies on improvisation and dice. A game of D&D is led by a Dungeon Master who provides a fantasy world for the players to interact with, and together, they build a story. I discovered D&D through Critical Role, which is a weekly livestream showing a group of people playing the game. It’s quite unlike any other media content I consume, as it doesn’t have a team of writers and is largely improvised. Moreover, it started as a private home game, so it wasn’t even initially created with an audience in mind (although the players did make the decision to continue their game instead of starting a new one for the broadcast).
However, since it started streaming two years ago, it has become quite a phenomenon, inspiring people to play D&D and to create. I wrote about the show several weeks ago while I was still frantically trying to catch up and as such didn’t really stop to think much about anything. I was very excited, for instance, about the mere fact that the show includes LGBTQ+ representation. Since then, I’ve finished catching up and had time to reflect on and look at this representation a little more critically. While Critical Role does have characters of differing gender identities and sexualities who are portrayed with care and respect, some of the actions of the players show a lack of consideration towards the LGBTQ+ characters and the people they represent.
Some spoilers below.
We live in strange times, my friends. Some people have dubbed this the “worst of all timelines”, and while that has yet to be proven (unless you’re a time traveler, I don’t know how it would be proven), it’s true that shit keeps piling on shit and it’s exhausting. However, this is the world we live in. One of these more recent offenses has brought people from all walks of internet life into a debate on free speech and if “political correctness” has gone too far. Spoilers: it hasn’t.
For those who don’t follow YouTube news or have managed to avoid all mentions of the popular YouTube gamer PewDiePie (real name Felix Kjellberg), ripples went through the internet earlier this week when Kjellberg was dropped from his contract with Disney’s Maker Studios and subsequently had the second season of his YouTube Red series, Scare PewDiePie, cancelled by YouTube itself. Kjellberg, who has more than 50 million subscribers on YouTube, was dropped/cancelled due to comments on several on his past videos, most notably two that were released earlier this year. On January 11th, he released a video where he ventured onto the freelance site Fiverr trying to see just how ridiculous his requests could get before people would refuse doing them. This unfortunately ended in a group of Indian men dancing around with a sign that read “Death to all Jews”; later, the Indian men explained they had no idea what the sign even meant. Later on January 22nd, Kjellberg released a similar video in which he had someone dressed as Jesus say “Hitler did nothing wrong.”
The comedy scene on YouTube, perhaps especially the gaming comedy scene, is no stranger to attempts at humor in this vein, and presumably Disney wasn’t ignorant to this when they hopped into the YouTube game, but these two offenses were the final straw when it came to Kjellberg. It’s really no surprise that other YouTubers began to jump to Kjellberg’s defense, claiming YouTube could do the same thing to them if they “spoke out of line”—having a smaller audience could mean financial death to some channels should this happen—and working themselves up about free speech being “under attack” by the mysterious, oversensitive “SJWs”. But honestly, the real worry here is: why do y’all wanna be racist/anti-Semitic/whatever so badly? Kjellberg being dropped was a necessary response, and an incredibly important one at that.
I won’t lie to you, readers: I’ve been excited to write this Web Crush for a while now. Strong as my love is for dating sims, I’ll be the first to admit that the setups usually draw from the same pool. School romances with various magical trappings; the new woman in a business where all her other co-workers are men: the tropes are familiar and comfortable, but sometimes we all need a little spice in our lives. A little something to shake things up. So today I present to you a dating sim that breaks out of the more typical shoujo romance mold and thrusts you into a world of corporate intrigue where romance may be the last thing on your mind.