2017 has been a hell of a year for video games. One could argue it has been the best year in quite a while! We’ve seemingly had at least one Game of the Year contender every month, with no sign of that stopping as we approach the end of the year. We’ve had new franchises crop up such as Horizon: Zero Dawn, older franchises getting rejuvenated such as Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and the continuous drip of indie games such as Night in the Woods and the upcoming Cuphead. Quite honestly, many avid game players are overwhelmed with options in a good way. Nostalgia trips haven’t been left out either. As I said, Zelda has come back into play and pixel based indie games are as popular as ever. The perfect crossover here, for me, was the release of Sonic Mania.
Being the resident Sonic fan here at Lady Geek Girl & Friends, I feel like it’s my duty to do as much justice to the franchise as I can. Since my last look at Sonic’s escapades was the original trilogy, I’d like to remember the series that brought a lot of millennials into the mix: Sonic Adventure 1 & 2. These two games (and their subsequent remakes) set the foundation for where the gameplay and story of the franchise would go for the next 18 years. The Sonic Adventure games were the proper introduction of the Blue Blur and his friends to the 3D world. Although there were Sonic games that were 3D or had 3D elements before, these two were the first to feel like a proper continuation of the original trilogy.
It’s been a wild year in politics these past few months, and there are no signs that this will change anytime soon. As with most cultural events, this tends to bleed into the media we consume. As such, there are both people who celebrate the addition of politics into media, and those who abhor it. This commonly manifests in the meme-level response “keep politics out of x”. With the controversies and subsequent blowback over whitewashing (and lack of starring Asian roles) in Doctor Strange, Ghost in The Shell, Marvel’s Iron Fist, and Death Note, a large portion of people seem to want to consume media in a vacuum and ignore these issues. My personal experience tends to be more rooted in the video game space, considering the rise of progressive themes in games. Especially after the storm that was Gamergate, some people hate the idea of political themes in video games. I’d like to delve into why that claim is disingenuous, and why it’s never been possible.
When talking about politics in video games, a good place to start might be the Grand Theft Auto series. A lightning rod for controversy, GTA has never been shy about including political topics in their settings. GTA, with all its warts, does have a basis in satire, even if it is mostly present in the side content. In the worlds of Liberty City and San Andreas, for example, there are television programs parodying both “liberal social justice warriors” and “right-wing conservative firebrands” as uninformed, misguided, and wrong. It’s the classic South Park approach where “caring in one way or another is the ultimate sin”. Regardless, politics are incredibly present in these games. So, how could anyone ever claim that they don’t want politics in games?
Happy Black History Month, dear readers! This month has always meant a lot to me on a personal level. Being a Black person, I’ve witnessed erasure of our achievements, dismissal of our problems, and omissions of us from opportunities. These types of slights often expand into nerd media, where representation is already scant. In that spirit, I want to discuss an issue that makes the existing representation troubling. We need to stop giving non-human characters Black traits to code them as “other”, as alien from the protagonist and audience. These characters, rather than just being another character in a group, are specifically different or strange.
Living in the internet age is pretty weird. We’ve gone through a paradigm shift from being afraid to meet people from online in real life to having the possibility of meeting many friends and significant others in and outside of cyberspace. It’s been quite the change. With this openness, increasing ubiquity of access, and wider spread of ideas, the internet has sort of developed its own culture. This has happened to the degree that even specific social networks and sites have their own flavor or subculture; people have a mindset about Reddit, Tumblr, etc., and those sites tend to have self-identified traits. Perhaps more than traits, each of these subcultures perpetuate their own style of memes, and each amplifies their frequency of use to a different degree. Even though they existed long before the internet, memes have seemed to really pick up a lot more steam in the past few years. One area really affected by the memetic culture of the internet is advertising. In particular, social media profiles for products have adapted more humorous approaches to gathering support and fan attention. Nerdy properties were quick to jump on the meme bandwagon, and less geeky products were equally as quick to add memes and other genre references to their plans. I want to talk about both a bit more, since not only do they both show the proliferation of nerd sensibilities to the greater public consciousness, but this usage also shows how companies are making an effort to cater to what people want a bit more.
This week’s Throwback Thursday is the original Sonic the Hedgehog trilogy. Widely considered an old-school favorite, the series had a lot going on: colorful visuals, tight gameplay, a jamming soundtrack, and an overall goal of coolness. If you couldn’t tell, Sonic is definitely one of my favorite series of all time (I use it for examples all the time). I hope to highlight a few aspects of it to tell you all why.
I’m a huge fan of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise, if that wasn’t clear to anyone who has read my work. For the most part, I enjoy the games, the comics, the movies, pretty much anything they produce. But, admittedly, time hasn’t been good to the franchise. Given that the series has gone on as long as it has, there is no shortage of criticism towards the blue hedgehog and his pals. However, most of these arguments take place in the space of the games, and I think the comics deserve some place in the discussion.
For the millionth time, representation matters! But unfortunately, we don’t always get to see ourselves quite so directly in human characters for various negative reasons. Maybe diverse characters were taboo at the time, maybe the author didn’t think a varied cast was necessary, or maybe the characters don’t necessarily have a racial or gender identity. But in this case, many tropes are still used to create characters that people of color can identify with.
This is sort of a personal issue for me: growing up, there weren’t a lot of Black characters outside of family sitcoms and token Black teammates. So to have a Black character who was uniquely their own person would have been a monumental thing. However, even though there weren’t very many Black characters I could identify with, there were still several racially ambiguous characters that I often thought of as Black.
It’s my birthday next week and it’s got me thinking about time lapses in our favorite media. As I’ve referenced before, I believe that worldbuilding is very important to story maintenance. Continuity supports this, especially when managing time. Proper care of the chronology of a series can have a heavy effect on the viewer’s perception and that consistency is important when dealing with it.
In regards to activism or any situation regarding the spread of information and ideals, it often feels like we’re preaching to the choir. It feels like everyone listening to our message already agrees with it. The question then becomes: how can we get this message to people who don’t care or aren’t aware? One solution may be subtlety!
This is a concept I’ve been intrigued by for a while. I think this is what edutainment (the mix of education and entertainment) shows and games are aiming for—trying to have children learn through play. It’s not a perfect execution, though, as children are often savvy enough to know when someone is trying to teach them something. Well, usually. This is where subtlety comes in. Easing learning into an otherwise fun situation is a tricky move, but will reduce resistance from the participant and make it easier for them to come to the idea themselves. I want to cite a few examples to prove this point.