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The NekoCon Diaries 2018: Pre-Convention Thoughts and what happened to The NekoCon Diaries 2017!

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We are just a week away from the start of NekoCon 21 which is my fourth NekoCon and will therefore be referred to as Live Free or NekoCon; and if I go next year it will be A Good Day to NekoCon. It’s the one convention I go to every year to recap for the site, except… I didn’t write anything about last year’s con, i.e. NekoCon with a Vengeance. It’s not like I didn’t have any material as I had two notebooks full of details (they’re around here somewhere!) and I even got a few quotes from some of the panelists that go a bit more in depth with the topic that they were discussing! So what happened? Where are these BRILLIANT pieces that should have been written!? Well… nothing really happened. Despite how much effort I expended taking those notes and getting information (I even had an hour long meltdown when I lost the damn notebooks), I just couldn’t bring myself to put it all together and post it to the site. I guess there are a few reasons for that. I had already been there twice and despite the panels being different and a few improvements here and there, it still felt very much the same the third time around. Maybe people want a certain sense of continuity from year to year or maybe me being a socially awkward SOB in a sea of strangers meant I couldn’t truly appreciate what was there, but in the end it felt very much like a trip to a mall or something along those lines that I’ve been to before rather than a yearly celebration with like-minded people. Maybe to a certain extent I’ve just drifted away from “fandom” in general; especially when it comes to anime which is the primary subculture on display there. Aside from nostalgia bait like Dragon Ball Super or Sailor Moon Crystal, nothing has caught my eye or felt like an evolution away from the worst aspects of the genre; i.e. more video game adaptations, more shows with increasingly esoteric naming schemes and comic book levels of confusing continuity, and an adherence to gendered stereotypes that have been set in the hardest stone imaginable. Heck, the last non-nineties anime I fell in love with was Princess Jellyfish and that was eight years ago! I’m sure stuff like One Punch Man and Little Witch Academia are just fine (not Fate though, which is terrible), but I just find that my interests have drifted elsewhere whether it’s western animation (have you seen that Barbie Life in the Dreamhouse show!?) or just movies over twelve episode story arcs. At some point I should probably just stump up the money to go to one of those fancy film festivals, and I’m certainly gonna try looking at other fan conventions in 2019, but for now I’m still committed to NekoCon as well as to my DUTY as it were to cover the convention to the best of my abilities. Will it be better this year? Well it certainly helps that I’m AWARE of my ambivalence now instead of being blindsided by utter apathy once the dang thing is over and I can also now be more proactive in finding ways to report on the convention that will hold my interest all the way through. However, there are other factors specific to this year that are undercutting my efforts to stay optimistic. On a personal level, I’ve had a few setbacks this month as well as a nasty cold that’s persisted for about two weeks now; neither of which are really things are all that serious but have still drained me a fair bit and are leaving me not in the best headspace with just one week left to go. On top of that, the convention itself has made some decisions this year that have left me less than enthused with the programming compared to previous years. One of the things that I look forward to each year (and seems to be a major draw for many others) is THE GAME ROOM where they have consoles set up on side and an assortment of arcade machines on the other. This year however, they’ve announced that the arcade section was going to be replaced by… pachinko and slot machines.

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HalloWWEen: DOOM

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DOOM and all the images you see in this review are owned by Universal Pictures

Directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak

Welcome one and all to this most SPOOKY time of the year!  For this Halloween, I’ll be reviewing horror movies as I’ve been known to do on occasion, only this time we’ll be doing something a LITTLE bit different!  With my recent fascination in the WWE and wrestling in general, I thought it’d be interesting to check out a few horror movies from some of the company’s most iconic stars, starting with the often maligned DOOM movie from 2005!  DOOM was one of the biggest attempts to bring a video game to the big screen but ended up bombing at the box office which kind of put the whole idea of adaptation these properties on hold for a while there; leaving the genre to be dominated by Resident Evil sequels and Uwe Boll until around 2016 when studios started getting confident once again and movies OTHER than Resident Evil could start making money.  Is it as bad people say it is, or is this Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson vehicle just a diamond in the rough looking for the right critic to give it the polish it needs?  Let’s find out!!

Before the opening credits we get a bit of narration which tells us that humans discovered a portal on Earth that led to Mars, and now that I think about it… isn’t that the plot of John Carter of Mars?  Why haven’t they run with that yet!?  Maybe that’s the surprise twist in DOOM: Eternal.  Now obviously with this being a DOOM movie, nothing can go well once you get your ass to Mars which these unlucky scientists are currently learning as the prologue picks up right as things are going to hell; literally I’m sure.  They are RUNNING their asses off to try and get away from some unseen (presumably demonic) threat, and the situation is SO critical that the fastest sprinter locks the sliding doors behind him; leaving the slower ones to die in very gory fashion!

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This is what happens when you don’t hold the elevator door.

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Cinema Dispatch: Ready Player One

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Ready Player One and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros Pictures

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Oh!  Do I finally get a chance to see this darn movie!?  I swear; it feels like EVERY OTHER CRITIC IN THE WORLD got an invite to an early premiere of this while I’m sitting over here waiting for its ACTUAL release date like a total chump!  Now I haven’t read the book so I won’t be going into this with much in terms of expectations, but the premise is on that could really get out of hand quickly if it’s not in the hands of the right director.  Just imagine how bad Scott Pilgrim would have been if it wasn’t in the hands of Edgar Wright, or if say Adam Sandler somehow managed to make a movie about classic video games attacking us in the real world.  GOOD THING THAT NEVER HAPPENED, AM I RIGHT!?  Was Steven Spielberg the right one to adapt this material, or will this be a larger misstep for the venerable director than The Lost World: Jurassic Park?  Let’s find out!!

The movie takes place in the year 2045 where society hasn’t really COLLAPSED, so much as it’s gotten really apathetic and there’s a whole bunch of trash everywhere.  For most people, they’re way of dealing with it is to go into the most EXPANSIVE AND BAD ASS online video game ever made (right after Second Life) called THE OASIS!  One such denizen of this virtual world is Wade Watts (Tye Sheridan) who lives in one of the slums of Columbus Ohio (they literally just started stacking trailer homes on top of each other) but he has big dreams for the future that will get him out of his boring miserable life!  Okay, it mostly involves playing games in THE OASIS as his in-game character Parzival, but that’s proving to be more and more of a viable career path; provided he doesn’t start shouting racial slurs.  Like in real life though, he’s kind of stuck at the lower tier of THE OASIS hierarchy and spends most of his time either hanging out with his friend Aech (Lena Waithe) or re-reading the history of the inventor of THE OASIS James Halliday (Mark Rylance) who died about a decade ago.  Said creator by the way has stuck three hidden keys within the game that if found will get TOTAL control of his Chocolate Factory… I mean software company, but no one has been able to find even one of them so far; not even the EVIL corporation called Innovative Online Industries (IOI) which is head up by the EVIL Nolan Sorrento (Ben Mendelsohn) that plan to do EVIL things if they get control of the company!  So Wade/Parzival is just going along his day to day routine… that is until he meets Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) who is one of the top players in the game, and their chance encounter ALSO leads to him figuring out the first clue that James Halliday left behind which leads him directly to the first key!  Now the guy is on EVERYONE’S radar!  Art3mis is trying to find the keys for herself and wants Parzival’s help doing it, Aech is stoked that they get all the cool gear that comes with finding that first key, and of course the EVIL IOI is after him to either convince him to join them or DESTROY HIM UTTERLY!  Will Wade be able to resist the allures of corporate culture and embark on this noble quest to honor the memory of the greatest game developer of all time?  What reasons could Art3mis have for needing to find the keys, and does it have anything to do with IOI’s EVIL schemes?  Will Wade get the validation in the virtual world that he so desperate craves in his own life!?  THAT’S HOW THIS WORKS, RIGHT!?

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“You are the one!”     “YEAH!!“     “Now just pay $4.99 to see the TRUE ending.”     “WHAT!?”

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Cinema Dispatch: Tomb Raider

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Tomb Raider and all the images you see in this review are owned by Warner Bros. Pictures

Directed by Roar Uthaug

ANOTHER video game movie!?  Haven’t we tried that like forty times already!?  Well that’s a bit unfair.  I’ve always maintained that a good chunk of them are actually pretty good for their respective genres such as the first Mortal Kombat, and we’ve rebooted the video game franchise since the LAST time we were making films off of this series, so an updated interpretation with brand new Lara Croft could really be something if they get the right people behind it!  Does this manage to be the first video game movie to be one that EVERYONE thinks is good instead of just me?  Let’s find out!!

Lara Croft (Alicia Vikander) is the daughter of a world renowned… business man I guess (Dominic West) considering her family is renting that building from Iron Fist, but she doesn’t hang around much anymore since her father disappeared several years ago.  Instead, she spends most of her time MMA training and working in the Gig Industry; riding her bike for fun AND profit!  However, an associate of her father (Kristin Scott Thomas) has to bail her out of trouble due to a situation that REALLY wasn’t her fault (how do you get arrested for getting hit by a car!?) and she insists that Lara give up this lifestyle to finally claim her birthright and the millions of dollars that go with it.  All she has to do is sign the documents confirming once and for all that her father is dead (is that a thing?  Does a family member have to sign those in order for a missing person to be declared dead?) which she’s been reluctant to do as she still thinks he’s out there somewhere.  She might just be right about that when she finds her father’s secret laboratory where he left a final message for Lara; telling her to burn all his research to the ground and to not look for him.  Naturally she doesn’t do that because who WOULD just give up after getting some pretty solid evidence that could lead to where he is, and so she enlists the help of a fisherman (Daniel Wu) whose father was connected to Lara’s and the two set off to some MYSTERIOUS ISLAND!  The good news is that it’s not Skull Island and teeming with giant monsters.  The bad news?  Well there are a bunch of dudes with guns looking for something on the island, and the head dude named Vogel (Walton Goggins) thinks that Lara might hold the key to finding it.  Will Lara be able to find what these men are looking for as well as finding her father in the process?  What are the sinister plans that Vogel has in store once he locates this mysterious artifact?  You know, we keep going on about her dad, but are we SURE that her mother is dead too?  All I’m saying is that if Angelina Jolie doesn’t show up in the sequel, I’m going to be VERY disappointed!

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“The Colonel’s secret recipe is right behind this door.  Once I unlock it, those eleven herbs and spices will be MINE!!”

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Jumping the Soapbox: Games of 2017 (Part 2)

Are you ready to close the book on 2017 once and for all?  I certainly am, and with this last look back at the games I played for the first time that year, I can not only close that book but toss into a fire and then kick it a few times for good measure!  But hey, I guess not EVERYTHING was bad that year; even if half the games I’m referencing in this list are from different years altogether!  Heck, even the bad ones managed to distract me from the nonsense going on in the world every freaking agonizing day, so why not take one last look at them to see what we can learn from them?  Let’s get started!!

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Sonic 06

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Developed by Sonic Team

Here’s the thing about this game which I played for the very first time in 2017.  As much as it has the reputation of being THE WORST GAME EVER, it honestly isn’t THAT bad of a time.  It’s not GOOD by any stretch, but I never found it to be flawed enough to be more than just boring which is STILL better than offensive garbage like Hatred or Call of Juarez: The Cartel.  Heck, on a fundamental functional level, I actually found it to be sounder than something like The Evil Within which ALWAYS felt extremely uncomfortable to play; like it was some sort of facsimile of a video game made by people who had only ever heard of such a thing.  Sonic 06 is absolutely terrible, but in the pantheon of bad games I find it to be more amusing than painful which I GUESS is an achievement of sorts; just ask Tommy Wiseau!  Sonic is always a fascinating character to think about as there’s something… engrossing about him and the myriad of stuff that has built up around him, and maybe it’s this weirdly unique identity that has allowed it to preserver despite numerous setbacks like this game, Sonic Boom, and even the rather poorly received Sonic Forces.  The fact that ANY character survived the monstrosity that this game ended up being (even if I don’t think it’s THE WORST thing ever) is a testament to the longevity of Sonic’s success and the way he managed to connect with fans.  It’d be impressive if it weren’t for the fact that it basically let Sega get away with releasing such terrible games with impunity.

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Jumping the Soapbox: Games of 2017 (Part 1)

I tend to play a lot of video games whenever I’m procrastinating on whatever movie review I desperately need to get finished, or whenever I need to settle the existential panic of the world collapsing around us in some horrifying slow motion train wreck that many of us have been cheering on for terrible reasons and everyone else is trying desperately to prevent.  Needless to say that this was a VERY good year for constant escapism, but that’s not all that video games are good for considering how many great can be just as life changing and inspiring as any movie, television show, book, or other creative work!  Some games I enjoyed this year, others I hated, and most of them didn’t actually come out in 2017, but I’m gonna talk about all of them anyway because it’s the start of a new year and we ALWAYS have to take just a few looks back before we can head into the future!  Let’s get started!!

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Cuphead

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Developed by StudioMDHR Entertainment

I don’t get it.  I don’t get how THIS game, which truthfully is pretty good, managed to be yet another hill for the ETHICS IN BULLSHIT crowd to rally around for whatever perceived grievances that supposed haters had with the game.  I’ll tell you right now that, while I love the art direction and think the game play is solid (if not OVERLY inspired), the difficulty is a legitimate detriment to the game.  Never in my life have I heard people defend so vociferously the idea that a game being overly frustrating isn’t an actual flaw in the experience; especially since that’s basically been the consensus  for over a decade now when it comes to critiquing retro games.  Just look at any given AVGN video and chances are you’ll find that one of the major breaking points for the guy is an unforgiving difficulty!  Maybe this is a conversation that NEEDED to happen regarding accessibility (especially for those with disabilities) and how much a potential lack of inclusivity should impact how we evaluate and rate games which will hopefully be one positive outcome of this whole fiasco.  To me, the problem could have been sidestepped entirely if they bothered to have an ACTUAL easy mode instead of the fake one in the game right now where you CANNOT PROGRESS IF YOU USE THAT MODE!  I would have been annoyed if the game just had the one level of difficulty (which is extremely hard), but the fact that they put in a mode that the developers clearly have no respect for (why else would they gate keep progression?) is what got my blood to boil and made the whole experience that much more miserable.  This is a really solid run and gun game with amazing bosses and a very cool art style (which in and of itself is a conversation worth having that the gamer babies were up in arms about), but I can say with absolute confidence and certainty that the game is worse for not having difficulty levels so that players of all skill can enjoy it.

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Jumping the Soapbox: Angry Joe’s Baadasssss Vlog and the Realities of Producing Content Online

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The images you see in this editorial are the property of their respective owners

With a video game media landscape full of ANGRY YOUNG MENTM screaming about women trying to take their toys and Ethics in Bullshit, Joe Vargas, (AKA Angry Joe) is one of the few voices out there I genuinely respect that positions themselves in the TRUE GAMER archetype; one that is filled to the brim with toxicity to which he’s somewhat of an anathema to.  Sure, I can’t say that I’ve agreed with EVERYTHING he’s said and done (and being THE LEAST AWFUL in that field is a pretty low bar to clear), but for all his faults he’s never come off as a bad guy or a hateful reactionary like so many of his peers; not even when he gets into ANGRY RANT MODETM.  What I’m here to talk about though, whether you like the guy or not, is bigger than this specific case and it’s an important conversation we need to have  regarding the drastic shift in the last few years of how we consume content and interact with their creators.  Okay, I PROBABLY won’t be breaking a lot of new ground here, but considering how bad Joe has gotten it in the last few months, it’s clearly a lesson that many of us could use a refresher course on.  Before we can get into that though…

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WHERE’S MY REVIEW!? – The hiatus that broke the internet

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So Angry Joe has been making videos on YouTube pretty much non-stop for a decade now, but in the last two years his channel has blown up significantly as has the content he’s producing; uploading Let’s Plays, first impressions, and (GASP!) movie reviews, to go alongside the Angry Reviews he’s known for.  Now while the production of Angry Reviews hasn’t slowed down in any significant way (2014 had thirteen reviews, 2015 had fourteen, 2016 had thirteen, and 2017 has had ten so far with the only real outlier being the twenty three reviews done in 2012), he was getting quite a bit of backlash from his subscribers about the rate at which he was releasing them and eventually he had to take a break for his own mental well-being so he can recharge his batteries and come back stronger than ever.  Now I don’t know the dude personally and really only have his own videos to go by, but considering how many reviews he’s made and the way he describes his work hours, the dude has been living on a Crunch Time schedule for the last decade and we’ve been reaping the benefits of that endless grind, so the idea that people will get upset that he’d go on vacation for a bit (even though he’s STILL producing content during it) seems ludicrous… but here we are.  He’s published four videos since December of 2016 about the growing frustration coming from this segment of his fanbase1, but none of them have done much to mollify the situation; one in particular seemingly making it worse.

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