Death of the Critic

Superpowers and Storytelling

Written by: Tom Blaich

avengers_2


We love our superpowered heroes. Flight, strength, laser beams and more in the hands of people just like us. And the more powerful that they can be, the better. But as our heroes cross the limits of humanity, it adds more and more complications to how the story fits together, and how we, as an audience, can relate. When you start looking at superpowers, the very laws that govern our reality start to break down, and writers have to deal with the way in which this affects the plot. In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, there are multiple characters capable of warping all of reality to their whim, unkillable monsters, stones that embody pure power, literal gods, and extradimensional entities that rule over time itself. Yet so many of these reality breaking characters play by the rules of our normal universe.

Read More…
Comments

The Backlog - Devil Daggers

Written by: Tom Blaich

devil_daggers


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

When I talk about games, the idea of complexity frequently comes up. The complexity of a game’s systems or story or characters often directly correlates to the level of quality that we assign to that game. As consumers, we want a game that we can sink our teeth into, pour dozens of hours of our time into as we get to know the characters and slowly master the systems. Then we can just leave it by the wayside while we find the next open world RPG to obsess over for a few months. It is why we love games like
Dark Souls, ARMA, Counter-Strike, and DOTA.

Read More…
Comments

Music with a Message

Written by: Tom Blaich

Everybody_Album_Cover


If you read a lot of writing about music, you will start to notice a common criticism crop up over and over again: that the song or album is shallow. It is particularly relevant when that project has a message that it is trying to convey. So, what separates an album that communicates its message well versus one that is shallow, even if both of them are trying to deal with the same level of subject matter: racism, sexism, violence, or more.

Read More…
Comments

Why Did I Watch That? - The Three Musketeers

Written by: Tom Blaich

three_musketeers_poster


I watched a bad movie today. It is sort of a guilty pleasure of mine. Watching bad movies that is. I revel in the terrible plots, paper-thin characters, cheesy effects, and wooden acting. It fuels me. I love them in a way that I can’t quite describe, or feel about bad games or music. To me, bad films deserve to be recognized, talked about, and maybe occasionally ridiculed. This one is no exception.

Paul W.S. Anderson movies all kind of look the same at a certain point, no matter the subject matter. Lots of gratuitous slow-mo, lots of unnecessary and poorly implemented CGI, and lots of Mila Jovovich being unnecessarily sexy when it is completely uncalled for, and more than a little badass. So giving him
The Three Musketeers p[property to play with, an iconic story of the heroes of France, is more than a little disappointing to see. What’s more, giving the role of D’Artagnan to the baby-faced Logan Lerman is questionable.

Read More…
Comments

Tokenism

Written by: Tom Blaich

As a follow-up to our discussion on the Noble Savage, I wanted to take the time to talk about the delicate issue of tokenism in contemporary media or literature. Put simply, Tokenism is the idea of diversity being included for show, of including minority characters in minor roles such that a single minority character has to represent the entirety of their group.

In less malicious contexts, this can take the shape of something that you might see on a brochure, a “multicultural” group of people that are diverse in appearance only. These characters are not allowed to express themselves in a way that would significantly differentiate them from the norm (read: white and straight). It is a way for studios to brag about embracing diversity without actually doing anything of substance.
Read More…
Comments

Product Placement: Realism vs. Marketing

Written by: Tom Blaich

subway-hawaii-five-o.0


It is a familiar experience for anyone who has watched a movie or binged a TV show: the main character will be talking, walking down a busy street and in the background, we will see storefronts plastered with ads for the same few companies, Coke or Taco Bell or some other massive corporation. Often, these ads don’t even stick out, fading to the background much like they do in our everyday life (which might itself serve as some accidental commentary about the massive marketing pushes we are subjected to).

Read More…
Comments

The Backlog - Risk of Rain

Written by: Tom Blaich

miner_new


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my
backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

With the announcement of the now 3D sequel, there is no time like the present to jump back into Risk of Rain, Happo’s side-scrolling roguelike. You take control of one of a cast of high-powered characters, each with their own special attributes, from the simple Commando, to the quick and lethal Huntress, or the careful Sniper. And while it is technically a roguelike, the levels themselves follow a predictable format. Every one of the first four levels is a choice between two separate maps, each with two, slightly different, versions. So if you play half a dozen games or so, you’ve seen all of the level variety that there is to see.

Read More…
Comments

Anatomy of a Scene - Jarhead

Written by: Tom Blaich

Jarhead_Swofford


This is my rifle. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

My rifle is my best friend. It is my life. I must master it as I must master my life.

Without me, my rifle is useless. Without my rifle, I am useless.

Read More…
Comments

Why Did I Watch That? – DOOM

Written by: Tom Blaich

Doom-Gallery-10


I watched a bad movie today. It is sort of a guilty pleasure of mine. Watching bad movies that is. I revel in the terrible plots, paper-thin characters, cheesy effects, and wooden acting. It fuels me.
I love them in a way that I can’t quite describe, or feel about bad games or music. To me, bad films deserve to be recognized, talked about, and maybe occasionally ridiculed. This one is no exception.

DOOM is not a good movie by any means, and I’m not here to argue that fact. What I am here to argue is that you should definitely sit down and watch it, if only for one scene in the near two-hour long feature. Where we hop into the brain of Karl Urban for a first-person shooter-esque sequence that has us gunning down demons and tearing through the demented bowls of the Mars facility. It may look a little less than great, especially more than ten years after its release, but that doesn’t make it any less goddamn cool.

Read More…
Comments

Everybody - Review

Written by: Tom Blaich

Everybody_Album_Cover


I’ve always thought that
Logic had an incredible amount of talent in some aspects of his music. His technical ability is high, and his beats and production have always been top notch. But unfortunately, he has consistently been held back by his lyrics, and that is only emphasized in his newest release of Everybody. With this, his penultimate album, he is trying to become more conceptual, explore topics and areas that he thinks others have left ignored. It is an album about love and acceptance, about pride in oneself and in one’s people, about the way in which we all belong in this big world, and about the wrongs that we commit and how we shouldn’t.

Read More…
Comments

Prey - Review

Written by: Tom Blaich

kdn9mk9gsdtgzmaqqvhp


I loved the original
Prey, as there was something about the science-fiction shooter that just clicked with me. It was weird, wacky, and broke new ground with its gameplay mechanics while at the same time being something very familiar. And while the reboot is something completely different, separated entirely from the original title, it does evoke many of those same feelings within me.

Read More…
Comments

Male Gaze

Written by: Tom Blaich

When we talk about the depiction of sex and sexuality, frequently the idea of the “Male Gaze” comes up, mostly in regard to female characters and their depiction. At its heart, it’s a rather simple concept, but it can reveal a lot about the intended audience of a piece and of who made it. The Male Gaze is how a scene is portrayed specifically to be attractive to a heterosexual, male audience. It’s designed to appeal to men, and it is evidenced through the difference in depictions of straight male characters, straight female characters, and lesbian female characters and their relationships in media.
Read More…
Comments

Bethesda's Review Policy

Written by: Tom Blaich

Much has already been said about Bethesda’s decision last year to stop sending out early review copies of their games to let “everyone, including those in the media, experience our games at the same time.” It is bad for many people, like those behind large websites, but most importantly it affects the consumers and how much information they have when they go to the store to pick out a product. It does actually benefit one other group besides Bethesda: small sites like ours that would never receive these copies in the first place. I’m not a fan of this policy by any means, but it allows me to sit on the same playing field as a writer for IGN, Polygon, Kotaku, or others.

When
Dishonored 2 came out, I got it the same day that everyone else did. I was able to play through it twice that weekend, and four days later I published my review. I managed to beat a lot of major publications to press (due in part to my ability to focus on one review instead of many things at once), and while being able to do this did benefit our site, letting us see a tangible traffic boost from it, it had no way for me to help those people that wanted to buy the game on launch day.

We don’t get many pre-release copies of games at this point. Most of our reviews come one to two weeks after a game has launched, and are aimed at the smaller group of players who are waiting to buy a game. But a large portion of a game’s sales happen launch or in the week following, and we cannot help these people. Traditionally, this is where larger outlets have been able to come in with Day One or pre-release reviews based off of early copies provided by the publisher. This lets Day One purchasers make informed decisions about how to spend their money and if the new game is worth it.

The problem, as it was seen by Bethesda, was that sometimes these reviews would turn out to be negative. Instead of taking this like the criticism that it is and improving their games, they shut it down, only letting people who would talk positively about the game (read: YouTube and Twitch channels) have access to games before launch. It is deceptive, and it presents a very real concern about publishers being able to manipulate the message before and after launch. But what is actually strange is that some applaud Bethesda’s decision.

Over the last few years, games writers have caught a lot of flak, and some people see Bethesda’s decision as an affront to the side that they dislike and not to themselves as consumers. It helps that the titles that Bethesda has published since this policy has been put in place (
DOOM, Dishonored 2) have turned out to be really good titles. But even with this relative confidence in the overall quality of games that Bethesda has put out, we should be able to weigh our options before we spend money on a game.

With decisions like these, Bethesda has proven that they just want your money, and the fact that they actually make good games seem to be less of a concern for them. No matter how many free things they give to streamers, or cool videos they put out, this is the cold hard truth behind their decision-making process, and in a way, it feels scummier than the blatant money grabs of publishers like EA or Activision, who are at least completely honest about wanting all of your money.

_____________________________________________
Tommy_Tom

Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.



You Might Also Like:
Violence

The Uncanny Valley

Situation Invincibility and How it is Ruining Action Movies
_____________________________________________

Comments

The Backlog – S.T.A.L.K.E.R. : Clear Sky

Written by: Tom Blaich

b1kc5umsekcr848ympw8


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my
backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

There always been a big deal made out of hard games. To play and beat one was to somehow prove that you are better than more “normal” players, who somehow couldn’t handle the difficulty. The oft derided “casual” gamers speak to this phenomenon. Every time that someone picks up a copy of
Dark Souls, a forum user somewhere tells you to “git gud”. But often the games that we idolize for their difficulty really aren’t that hard. S.T.A.L.K.E.R is.

Read More…
Comments

Living Life Down the Barrel of a Gun

Written by: Tom Blaich

DOOM_Factory


For all of the broad range of experiences that games can offer to us, the actual ways in which we are allowed to interact with them is rather limited. Most game screens look remarkably similar from a UI point of view. There is some sort of health bar, possibly a map or objective indicator in one corner, maybe a crosshair in the center of the screen, but invariably, the bottom right corner of the screen is almost always taken up by a gun. There are a few games that don’t follow this, but in the mainstream, first-person games that don’t shove a gun into your hands are the vast minority. And if your hands are filled with a gun, they have a knife, or a sword, or a bow, your weapon is offscreen, waiting to be pulled up with a single button press, aching to strike out at someone.

Read More…
Comments

Why Did I Watch That - Punisher: War Zone

Written by: Tom Blaich

Punisher_Poster


I watched a bad movie today. It is sort of a guilty pleasure of mine. Watching bad movies that is. I revel in the terrible plots, paper-thin characters, cheesy effects, and wooden acting. It fuels me.
I love them in a way that I can’t quite describe, or feel about bad games or music. To me, bad films deserve to be recognized, talked about, and maybe occasionally ridiculed. This one is no exception.

Capturing the feel of a comic book accurately is really the goal of every comic book movie. The first
Punisher didn’t really do a good job at this, but they ended up making what is (in my opinion) a decent action movie. With Warzone, they did a much better job at capturing the dark, violent lunacy of the comic books, but it turns out that it looks really damn weird when translated to action on screen instead of stylized on the pages of a comic book.

Read More…
Comments

Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3 - Review

Written by: Tom Blaich

art horizontal


Sniper: Ghost Warrior 3
has one thing going for it. The world isn’t engaging, the characters are lackluster, the story is cookie cutter, but you have a rifle, and an uncanny ability to shoot people in the face from very far away. And that is what you do. Start a mission, mark targets, and snipe people. Wash, rinse, and repeat. It isn’t a bad system so much as it is a well-trodden and forgettable one, but luckily the novelty of shooting people in the face with high-powered rifles from hundreds of meters away lasted a while for me.

Read More…
Comments

Twitch, Youtube, and "New Media"

Written by: Tom Blaich

The online landscape has shifted drastically over the course of the last five years. Websites and blogs used to be king, with dedicated reader bases coming back day after day to read the newest posts. There was a golden period of growth where anyone could make a website, and if they were dedicated, it would probably do pretty well. Coverage of games was done extensively through written articles, blog posts, and reviews, and there was a stable, if slightly adversarial, relationship between these companies and the companies that made games. Sites would get early review copies of games, access to developers for interviews, or in-depth press kits to help prepare coverage. In return, websites agreed to not post coverage of these titles until an agreed upon date. An equilibrium was reached.

Then YouTube came along and changed things. By virtue of its audience, content creators on YouTube relied on heavily edited videos, showing only the most exciting moments of whatever they were talking about. The massive Let’s Play community grouped around different games, and audiences had truly immense amounts of content at their fingertips. Search the name of the game, and they can find dozens of highly edited, exciting videos making it look to be fun, or small communities of super fans religiously playing and dissecting the game for years afterwards. You can see it with
Counter Strike, or League of Legends, or DOTA, or Overwatch.

Companies noticed, and they took advantage of it. Many of these videos bordered on advertisements already in how they catered to audiences to draw them and in keep them interested. YouTube content creators live and die by audience retention, so they want to show viewers that they can come back day after day to consistently exciting and engaging content. Companies started reaching out to these channels, sending them free promotional materials or copies of the game, and any mention of this becomes positive advertising for the company. If someone receives a special
Skyrim hat from Bethesda and shows it off on their YouTube channel because they feel special, it alters the appearance of Bethesda in the mind of consumers, changing them from a faceless corporate entity into an attentive and caring company that looks after its fans. They don’t have to ask for positive press from the creators, because any mention of them is good.

Compare this to the way in which video game websites handle the same situation. People don’t want to read an article about a special
Skyrim hat that the author got from Bethesda, because it reads like an advertisement. Swag, or promotional materials, have been a part of the games industry, and indeed many others, for a long time. But unless the readers can get the exact same item, they don’t care. They view the pieces published by the website to be the statements of that website, regardless of who wrote them. There is less of a connection between the reader and the writer in most cases, and with this personal connection lost, appeals to the consumers work differently. Websites (outside of fan websites) don’t care about swag, because the audience doesn’t care about swag.

As YouTube has gotten larger, smaller content creators have slowly been getting crowded out. The platform enormously favors those with the time and the budget to produce consistent, daily, high quality, ten-minute plus videos, and the number of channels that can do this is low, in the grand scheme of things. Combine this with the too stringent DMCA policies that make it much too easy for a video to be taken down or removed from monetization, and many creators have been forced to diversify.

Twitch was there to pick up the pieces. Communities are only reinforced on Twitch, which shows categorizes livestreams by what games are being played while highlighting high profile streamers. However, on Twitch, channels did not have the benefit of editing to support their content, and personality reigned supreme. Tight knit communities form around streamers as they interact with their audience every single day to the point where a relationship is built. And companies have taken advantage of this. If a streamer is allowed to stream a game early, they are given a sense of exclusivity, and an implicit recommendation of the game from them to their fans. Anything that the company does for the streamer, from joining them on stream to sending them packages of promotional material, brings that company into the community.

There is nothing wrong with marketing or advertisement. It is how content creators can survive, and it is an integral part of the development and release of a game. It is a very necessary force. Print and online media have a whole host of ethical questions relating to companies that are being covered, ostensibly impartially, while these outlets are simultaneously running advertisements for these games. It’s a conflict of interest, and one that needs to be tackled and disclosed.

The issue with marketing comes when it stops appearing as marketing, when companies are manipulating fans and creators into giving them good press without revealing it, when content creators are being paid to create promotional videos without disclosing these facts, when the influence cannot be seen.

So where does that leave sites like ours, sites that don’t exactly fit into any of these molds? How do they survive? Do they attempt to extend their reach, diversify into different areas, start advertising the products that they are covering, or do they hunker down in their niche, trying to carve out a spot? The second is, without a doubt, more difficult. Staying truly independent is a challenge that all websites will face, and whether or not to stay that way is a question that every site will have to answer at some point during its lifespan. It is a question that we struggle with every day, and it is one that we eventually hope to answer.

____________________________________________
Tommy_Tom

Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.



You Might Also Like:
Situational Invincibility and How it is Ruining Action Movies

Expectations vs Reality

What is Death of the Critic?
_____________________________________________


Comments

The Backlog - NOT A HERO

Written by: Tom Blaich


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

Devolver Digital has had a pretty outstanding publishing record, at least in my opinion. They tend to attach themselves to some rather interesting titles, and that was what initially drew me towards
NOT A HERO. And I’m glad that I decided to check it out. Read More…
Comments

Anatomy of a Scene - It Follows

Written by: Tom Blaich

a96c04d7-edff-4da1-9927-fb3853dfaf1a


Something is following you. Hunting you. Heading in a straight line for you at every single moment of your life, awake or asleep. It can take the form of anyone, whether that be a stranger or someone you love. It wants to kill you, but it also wants to hurt you in the process, and this haunting presence is always lurking at the back of our minds, behind every corner or walking extra.

Read More…
Comments

Why Did I Watch That? - Roger Corman's Death Race 2050

Written by: Tom Blaich

DR2050_PosterArt


I watched a bad movie today. It is sort of a guilty pleasure of mine. Watching bad movies that is. I revel in the terrible plots, paper-thin characters, cheesy effects, and wooden acting. It fuels me. I love them in a way that I can’t quite describe, or feel about bad games or music. To me, bad films deserve to be recognized, talked about, and maybe occasionally ridiculed. This one is no exception.

Camp is a very interesting thing. It’s not something that you can actively seek out when making a movie. It has to come naturally, falling into your lap sometime during the process, with a certain level of self-awareness about what is being created. Unfortunately, too many movies try way too hard to be campy, and it normally leads to disastrous results and terrible movies.
Death Race 2000 managed to become a cult classic based partly around its camp, but also with a good deal of biting commentary and satire. But with the 2017 follow-up, the creators tried way too hard to capture lightning in a bottle a second time around. Instead of a cult classic, they just had a broken bottle, and a bad movie.

Read More…
Comments

The Noble Savage

Written by: Tom Blaich

As a follow-up to our discussion on “
The Other”, let’s look at a more idealized version of the same concept that is popular within literature, books, movies, and games to this day. The Noble Savage is the audience’s idea of an outsider. It is the romanticized depiction of a character untouched by the ills of modern society. They embody the traits that we idealize while at the same time being utterly foreign to us. Read More…
Comments

Sequels and Reviews

Written by: Tom Blaich

Earlier this week, we publish an article about sequels and how they are viewed in relation to their preceding works, and we wanted to take the time to clarify our position on how we address this concern when writing a review for a sequel. While we do our best to look at each work on its own merits, we cannot discount significant advances or steps back compared to other works within the same franchise.
Read More…
Comments

The Backlog - Homefront: The Revolution

Written by: Tom Blaich

Homefront_header


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

The first
Homefront was forgotten rather quickly, another in a long line of generic modern shooters that everyone forgot about. I, like many others, thought that it would be a forgotten piece of video game history, a curiosity that somehow got made. So, when it was revived as a semi-open world, first-person shooter, I was baffled, to say the least.

Read More…
Comments

Mass Effect: Andromeda - Review

Written by: Tom Blaich

Mass_Effect_Andromeda_Header


Mass Effect: Andromeda
put itself in a rather unfortunate position before it was even released. It is a follow-up to one of the best franchises of the last generation that tied everything up rather neatly. Bioware has fallen out of favor in recent years, and after a series of rocky previews, Andromeda finally came out. Plagued with issues at launch, Andromeda is not a great game. It isn’t bad, but in many ways, it highlights a lot of the issues that I have with contemporary video games, while taking massive steps backwards in the franchise. It is painfully average and fails to trigger those same emotions that the earlier titles were so good at tugging on.

Read More…
Comments

Expectations vs Reality

Written by: Tom Blaich

Kendrick_Lamar


In these times, sequels are the name of the game. Finding a franchise that can be used over and over again to draw people to stores and theaters. The same can be said of music alongside games and movies, as fans eagerly await the newest release by their favorite artist. The only difference is where the name recognition lies. For games it might be with a franchise or a studio, in movies with a lead actor or director, and in music it lies firmly with the artist.

Read More…
Comments

DAMN. - Review

Written by: Tom Blaich

DAMN_Cover


Kendrick Lamar is an artist that has always grown on me, and he has been remarkably consistent in putting out amazing records, even if it sometimes takes me a few listens to get into them. With this success has come a certain expectations, a bias towards greatness and groundbreaking tracks. His
B-sides collection was one of my favorite albums of last year. And I think that this expectation is somewhat unfair. DAMN is a great album, there are no doubts about that, but it isn’t of the same level as either To Pimp a Butterfly or Good Kid, M.A.A.D City. Would I think more highly of it if I didn’t have either of these albums to compare it to, or if it was from a different artist? Is it even fair to compare them to each other? It is hard to eliminate one’s biases in writing a(n) (inherently subjective) review, but at the very least we try to make it known.

Read More…
Comments

Why Did I Watch That? - Death Race: Inferno

Written by: Tom Blaich

Death_Race_3_Cover


I watched a bad movie today. It is sort of a guilty pleasure of mine. Watching bad movies that is. I revel in the terrible plots, paper-thin characters, cheesy effects, and wooden acting. It fuels me.
I love them in a way that I can’t quite describe, or feel about bad games or music. To me, bad films deserve to be recognized, talked about, and maybe occasionally ridiculed. This one is no exception.

When I watched
Death Race 2, I said it would be a better movie if it was worse. This is that movie.

Read More…
Comments

The Other

Written by: Tom Blaich

We’ve talked about the Other and bothering before, but it is a topic that deserves further examination. The Other is all about setting up the relationship within a story, about creating conflict and division. And it can be used in multiple different ways. It is a rather simple idea as well. The other is different. They don’t belong. They are strange and don’t fit in for some reason. It could be any number of things: their race, gender, sexuality, nationality, religion, class, species. Anything that differentiates them from the norm as defined by the story and it’s protagonists.
Read More…
Comments

Updates and Reviews

Written by: Tom Blaich

When we are reviewing a game, we have a unique issue that we don’t encounter with any other type of media. When a game launches, rarely will it stay in the exact same state over the coming days, weeks, months, or even years that it will be in the public. It will be updated and changed over time. Sometimes these updates are small: balance tweaks to multiplayer, text fixes, or subtle adjustments that no one will ever really see. But on the other hand, some alter graphics, story, gameplay, or more. At the root is this idea: patches are fixing something wrong with the game, no matter how big it may be. So how do we deal with this as reviewers.
Read More…
Comments

The Backlog - SUPERHOT

Written by: Tom Blaich

logo


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

Read More…
Comments

Anatomy of a Scene - The Matrix

Written by: Tom Blaich

Matrix_Lobby


It is harder than you might think to make a great action scene. But it isn’t that hard to make a good one. Just get an engaging actor, give them a big gun, and a crowd full of goons to let loose upon. A scene like this is entirely serviceable, but many directors try to make it more complex by incorporating too many characters, with too confusing of action, and all of a sudden, you don’t know what is going on anymore. What was once a good action scene has become terrible. A good scene needs to remain clear, no matter what. You should be able to identify the positions of characters and how they are moving through the world, without unnecessary establishing shots bogging it down, all while remaining compelling and heart pumping.

Read More…
Comments

Memories... Do Not Open - Review

Written by: Tom Blaich

Memories_Do_Not_Open_Cover


My opinion on The Chainsmokers is well documented, but somehow I had hoped that their first real album could somehow be different, break new ground and make good music. To say that didn’t happen is an understatement. There is nothing new here, just more of the same beats, more of the same subjects. More of the same everything. I’m not mad. I’m disappointed.

Read More…
Comments

Why Did I Watch That? – Death Race 2

Written by: Tom Blaich

Death Race 2


I watched a bad movie today. It is sort of a guilty pleasure of mine. Watching bad movies that is. I revel in the terrible plots, paper-thin characters, cheesy effects, and wooden acting. It fuels me.
I love them in a way that I can’t quite describe, or feel about bad games or music. To me, bad films deserve to be recognized, talked about, and maybe occasionally ridiculed. This one is no exception.

I’ve written before about the folly of trying to reboot franchises that Jason Statham has starred in, and Death Race is no exception, being one of the rare double reboots. In our continuing saga to see how far off the rails one franchise can get, we look this week at Death Race 2. This time around, Luke Goss assumes the role of Frankenstein as the producers continue to try to find ways to make this lineage more complicated. After he kills a police officer during a robbery, he goes to prison, where he competes in the “Death Match”, which isn’t a race, as fighters duke it out in an arena.

Read More…
Comments

The Tragic Hero

Written by: Tom Blaich

When we are looking at the construction of a character, it can help to understand some of the basic archetypes that many authors pull from. We recently talked about Shakespeare as a cultural touchstone, and if we look at many of his plays, we can find evidence of a “tragic hero”. The tragic hero is an age old character archetype describes by Aristotle as:

“A man not pre-eminently virtuous and just whose misfortune, however, is brought upon him not by vice and depravity but by some error of judgement, of the number of those in the enjoyment of great reputation and prosperity; e.g. Oedipus, Thyestes, and the men of similar families. The perfect Plot, accordingly, must have a single, and not (as some tell us) a double issue; the change in the hero’s fortunes must be not from misery to happiness, but on the contrary from happiness to misery; and the cause of it must lie not in any depravity, but in some great error on his part; the man himself being either such as we have described, or better, not worse, than that.” (The Aristotelian Concept of the Tragic Hero) Read More…
Comments

Humor in Games

Written by: Tom Blaich

Humor is really hard to nail in games. Its either hit or miss, and when it misses, it can be bad. There are a few games that manage to absolutely nail it (
Day of the Tentacle, I’m looking at you) but so many more just absolutely flop, and in doing so, manage to pull you out of the experience entirely.

In the last month I’ve played two big games that have been really bad about it.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands and Mass Effect: Andromeda, which both tried to work semi-edgy humor in alongside their more serious stories to varying levels of success. Every time I heard one of these bad jokes, it pulled me out, actively reminding me that I was playing games, poorly written ones at that. Read More…
Comments

The Backlog - Don't Starve

Written by: Tom Blaich

ds10


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.


Don’t Starve
is a deceptively simple game. At first it seems like you just need to gather food and survive, but the deeper that you get into the game, the more complex systems begin to reveal themselves. There is magic and technology, cultivation and crafting, fearsome enemies hiding in dark places. And in some ways, the game is better for obscuring these systems, letting you discover the systems on your own and adding entire other layers of depth to the systems.

Read More…
Comments

Future Unfolding – Review

Written by: Tom Blaich

futureunfolding_keyart_3840x1080-5a2e1cfc


Future Unfolding
is a hard game to describe. A philosophical, top down exploration of a gorgeous world as you try to figure out what exactly is going on. You are dropped in with basically nothing, and what story is there is confusing to say the least. But there is something magical about wandering through the world here, almost discovering new things and slowly inching your way forward on this quasi-vision quest that you’ve found yourself in the middle of.

Read More…
Comments

Why Did I Watch That? – Death Race

Written by: Tom Blaich

Death_Race


I watched a bad movie today. It is sort of a guilty pleasure of mine. Watching bad movies that is. I revel in the terrible plots, paper-thin characters, cheesy effects, and wooden acting. It fuels me. I love them in a way that I can’t quite describe, or feel about bad games or music. To me, bad films deserve to be recognized, talked about, and maybe occasionally ridiculed. This one is no exception.

Jason Statham is one of those actors whose judgement that you have to questions sometimes. His taste in movies tends to run towards whatever allows him to look the coolest while also punching and kicking as many people as possible during the limited runtime of the film. Which is sort of surprising given his roles like that in
Snatch, which was excellent. Many of his more contemporary films, however, are not so great.

Read More…
Comments

The Uncanny Valley

Written by: Tom Blaich

1200px-Mori_Uncanny_Valley.svg


Mass Effect: Andromeda
has been catching a lot of flak for its facial animations in the past few days, and by all rights it should be. They are off in a fundamental way that just makes them creepy. For the most part they are ok, but for a few characters (like lead Sarah Ryder) the animation quality is simply terrible. Any conversations about animations eventually drift into discussions about the uncanny valley. But what exactly is the uncanny valley and how does it affect animation, both in video games and otherwise?

Read More…
Comments

The Backlog – Tower of Guns

Written by: Tom Blaich

Tower_of_Guns_Boss


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

With a name like this, how could you not want to try this game.
Tower of Guns is a simple first-person shooter heavily inspired by Quake and other fast-paced, movement heavy, arcade shooters. Part bullet hell, part roguelike, it has a somewhat novel take on the genre that is unfortunately held back by its limited variety.

Read More…
Comments

Anatomy of a Scene - Dredd

Written by: Tom Blaich

Dredd


Violence can be abrupt, and horrible, and graphic, but at the same time, it can be oddly beautiful. 2012’s
Dredd adds its own take on the action genre through its highly-stylized depiction of violence that is at once horrific yet also strangely beautiful. The titular Dredd is taking along a new recruit onto a mission for her to prove herself before she is otherwise forced out of the judge’s academy. She is our surrogate throughout the film, the naïve lens through which we can start to interpret the horrors that we see.

Read More…
Comments

Ghost Recon: Wildlands – Review

Written by: Tom Blaich

Ghost_Recon_Wildlands_Header


There are so many things that should have been great about Ghost Recon: Wildlands. Having a four-player co-op game set in an absolutely massive open world with free-form mission structure and tactics based combat? It sounds like the perfect storm, a game to suck up all of your time. And while it can very much eat up your time, the way it does feels cheap and unearned. There was too much to do and no real reason to do any of it, and more than once I found myself questioning why I was even playing.

Read More…
Comments

Why Did I Watch That? - Monster Brawl

Written by: Tom Blaich

Monster_Brawl_Panel


I watched a bad movie today. It is sort of a guilty pleasure of mine. Watching bad movies that is. I revel in the terrible plots, paper-thin characters, cheesy effects, and wooden acting. It fuels me. I love them in a way that I can’t quite describe, or feel about bad games or music. To me, bad films deserve to be recognized, talked about, and maybe occasionally ridiculed. This one is no exception.

Sometimes you find a rare movie that transcends quality and becomes something fundamentally different. There is no question that
Monster Brawl is objectively a shitty movie, but it is unquestionably a magical experience, a bunch of movie monsters wrestling as commentators throw jokes back and forth, riffing over everything. It has comically bad acting, terrible effects, and a miserable script, but there is something here that makes it so much damned fun to watch.

Read More…
Comments

What is Death of the Critic?

Written by: Tom Blaich


It has been a long few months since we set out on this journey, and since late last fall, we have been discussing the fundamentals behind the usage of criticism and how we can apply it to different types of media. This raises an important question that we now need to answer? Why do we do what we do, and why is this site called
Death of the Critic? Read More…
Comments

The Captivating Simplicity of Idle Games

Written by: Tom Blaich

Cookie_Clicker_Screenshot


Games are built around feedback loops, obscured behind complex systems and mechanics, designed to draw us in and keep us there. We want to play the games so we can level up, become stronger, defeat new enemies, and get more and better loot. We play to get better and more efficient at playing, and in the last few years a new genre of games has stripped away this veneer and laid the inner workings bare for us to explore.

Read More…
Comments

The Backlog - Sleeping Dogs

Written by: Tom Blaich

Sleeping_Dogs


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my
backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

I’ve made my feelings known about open-world games before, but I just can’t stop playing them. It has been a few years since Sleeping Dogs came out, which still surprises me given the troubled lineage of the title. It was warmly received, finally giving a GTA-style open-world game a satisfying combat system. It made the game fun to play in a way that few open-world titles manage to be. By making combat fun, it made the inherent experience of playing the game better.

Read More…
Comments

Situational Invincibility and How it is Ruining Action Movies

Written by: Tom Blaich

John_Wick


We like our action movies to be big, to be brash, to be full of gunfights and cool explosions and scores of dead bodies littering the streets in the wake of our stalwart hero. But this same desire often raises a problem: our hero can’t die, or even barely be hurt at all, so all elements of tension, all suspension of disbelief go out of the window.We never wonder if our hero will rescue their friend or kill the bad guy, because you can be damned sure they will, with only an annoying flesh wound and a few smartass quips to speak to the “struggle” that they went through on the way.

Read More…
Comments

Why Did I Watch That? - The Last Survivors

Written by: Tom Blaich

The_Last_Survivors


I watched a bad movie today. It is sort of a guilty pleasure of mine. Watching bad movies that is. I revel in the terrible plots, paper-thin characters, cheesy effects, and wooden acting. It fuels me. I love them in a way that I can’t quite describe, or feel about bad games or music. To me, bad films deserve to be recognized, talked about, and maybe occasionally ridiculed. This one is no exception.

Sometimes movies are forgettable, mediocre even, and that is one of the worst things that I can say about a movie. When it fails to excel at anything or stand out in any way. The Last Survivors is such a movie, another in a long line of post-apocalyptic “action” films that have nothing to do or say to stand out. A group of settlers is trapped in a contemporary dust bowl, trying to survive against the land grabbing rich, and the overall lack of water.

Read More…
Comments

Explication – Holy Sonnet #10

Written by: Tom Blaich


Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou’art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy’or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Explication is one of the simplest ways that we can analyze a piece. Put simply, it is a close reading, a deep look into a text to see what surfaces. This can take on a number of different forms, depending on the media that is being analyzed, from a line by line reading of a poem or song (like the one that we are going to be looking at today), to detailed character analyses from a movie or book, to an examination of a particular chapter or section (like our ongoing
Anatomy of a Film) series. Today we are going to look at John Donne’s Holy Sonnet #10 and the themes of death and afterlife that it contains. Read More…
Comments

The Backlog - Uncharted 4: A Thief's End

Written By: CJ Streetman

Uncharted-4_drake-close-up


It’s way too easy to fall way too far behind on games. They simply ask for too much of your time and money to be able to keep up with all the ones that look interesting. Thankfully, almost entirely due to online sales, eventually you’re able to get most games for a five dollar bill and an afternoon of free time.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is the best entry in the already great Uncharted series.

In nearly every way,
Uncharted 4 improves upon the previous iterations; the combat feels better and makes you feel more like an action hero than ever, the “stealth” works, which is miles above the last few games, the puzzles are by and large very intuitive, almost never becoming frustrating, and the story is very compelling even though it misses the hint of the supernatural that all the previous games had.

Read More…
Comments

Anatomy of a Scene - Alien

Written by: Tom Blaich

Alien_Ripley


Alien has changed so much as a franchise since it was first made. It went from science fiction horror to action to crossover monster battles. But it all started with this, a few people trapped on a ship with their worst nightmare. When we talk about horror, we speak a lot to tension, that feeling of building unease that makes us worry about what is coming next. More importantly, it makes us almost beg for it to happen. Alien begins with almost an hour of it, moodily piling on the tension before taking it away all at once.

Read More…
Comments

Why Did I Watch That? - Leo the Lion

Written by: Tom Blaich

Leo_the_Lion


I watched a bad movie today. It is sort of a guilty pleasure of mine. Watching bad movies that is. I revel in the terrible plots, paper-thin characters, cheesy effects, and wooden acting. It fuels me. I love them in a way that I can’t quite describe, or feel about bad games or music. To me, bad films deserve to be recognized, talked about, and maybe occasionally ridiculed. This one is no exception.

It is hard to call a children’s movie bad in the same way that I do with a lot of the films that I watch or this series. I hold children’s movies to a different standards. I don’t expect depth of plot or complex characters or action. But no matter what, I don’t expect a movie like this. Leo the Lion confused me, left me scratching my head at many of the decisions that were made.

Read More…
Comments

American Teen - Review

Written by: Tom Blaich

2640f833069973cd0823c1f709b6353a.1000x1000x1


For a first effort,
American Teen is undeniably impressive. It is a simple, soulful music built on repetition that catches your ear and makes you want to keep listening. But by virtue of this style, it is restricted in some way. It is not deep, but it means something to the 19 year old who made it. It is music about being an American Teen. Finding your place in life, exploring the world and experiencing all of its ups and downs that come with it. He compares it to a rollercoaster in “Coasts” and while the metaphor is apt, it’s far from original.

Read More…
Comments

Critical Touchstones

Written by: Tom Blaich

When reading a text,
it is important to build out your toolkit, your set of references for how you look at a work. And while every person’s is different, there are a few tool that everyone should have in their arsenal. Texts reference ideas that they expect the reader to be at least partly familiar with, as the goal is to have the audience understand. There are a few broad cultural touchstones that we keep looking back to for our works: the Bible, and Shakespeare. Read More…
Comments

Logan - Review

Written by: Tom Blaich

logan


Logan
is a much different “superhero” movie than any we’ve seen before. In fact, it is hard to even call it a superhero movie. It is a movie about old, tired men trapped in a world in which they no longer belong. It is a movie about Logan, not about the Wolverine. It gained a lot from the R-rating, building a bleak world that Logan is trapped in. He’s wracked with pain, scarred and broken from hundreds of years of fighting and killing. He’s taking care of Charles Xavier as they live on the run, the world around them now devoid of mutants.

Read More…
Comments

The Backlog - Super Time Force

Written by: Tom Blaich

STF_Screenshot_4


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

Sometimes all a game has is a good idea, and the one behind Super Time Force is unquestionably good. It is a side scrolling, bullet hell shooter a la Contra, but they remixed classic concept by letting you rewind time and use previous versions of your character (think ghosts from a racing game) to help you progress. Admittedly, this concept is hard to comprehend without seeing it in action. It lets you rewind time to try a challenge over and over again, each time becoming easier by virtue of having additional help from your ghosts.

Read More…
Comments

Do the Right Thing

Written by: Tom Blaich

moralchoice3


Moral choices have long been a part of gaming. They offer the chance for a player to leave their mark on a game, affecting the outcome and changing the course of a game. These binary, good vs. evil choices are so often structured in the same way. Evil choices are flashy and violent, giving you a small amount of short term gain in return for a karmic hit. Good choices then should be the opposite, giving up personal gain in exchange for doing the right thing. But this isn’t how they manifest. You are almost always rewarded for doing the “good” thing, and frequently the long term gains outweigh the gains from evil. The only real difference ends up being different achievements, or possibly some different dialogue at the end of the game.

Read More…
Comments

Why Did I Watch That? - Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life

Written by: Tom Blaich

lara-croft-tomb-raider---the-cradle-of-life-5223cb81c3742


I watched a bad movie today. It is sort of a guilty pleasure of mine. Watching bad movies that is. I revel in the terrible plots, paper-thin characters, cheesy effects, and wooden acting. It fuels me. I love them in a way that I can’t quite describe, or feel about bad games or music. To me, bad films deserve to be recognized, talked about, and maybe occasionally ridiculed. This one is no exception.

Video game movies are almost universally terrible. They’ve attempted different franchises and actors in pursuit of finally making a good video game movie. And it just isn’t working. In the midst of this, somehow, a sequel to Lara Croft: Tomb Raider, a movie about finding a magical triangle that can control time that was almost universally critically panned, was greenlit. A franchise built almost entirely upon leering shots of Angelina Jolie being sexy.

Read More…
Comments

Psychoanalytic Theory

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.

Let’s talk about schools of theory. When we critique, frequently we do so through a specific lens. Works can have a lot of meaning hidden deep within them, and if we aimed to fully analyze a book, movie, or game, we could easily fill an entire book. So we use these schools of theory as a way to focus in on one particular area of a work. This helps us hone in on a specific idea and expand upon it more fully than if we had tried to do a very broad reading. By centering on one aspect, the analysis becomes more clear and focused.
Read More…
Comments

Logan and the R-Rated Superhero

Written by: Tom Blaich

Logan_Header


Deadpool
came out almost a year ago and somehow managed to be a huge commercial success. With Logan coming out today, many have predicted that this success will be repeated. But what does this mean for the comic book superhero? Comics can be dark, frequently being much more explicit than their on screen counterparts. Glossy pages splashed with blood and gore, provocatively dressed heroines, and sinister plots spanning decades. Movies aren’t afraid of violence, but blood and sex make them squeamish.

Read More…
Comments

The Backlog - Dead Rising 4

Written by: Tom Blaich

Smash


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my
backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

Zombies might be a bit overdone the days, but the Dead Rising series has always brought its own unique look and feel to the genre. They are dumb, but in the best sense of the word, and no other game quite matches the amount of action on screen at one time. When you boil them down, they are essentially Musou games, where you run around and slap zombies with increasingly ridiculous weapons. In this sense, Dead Rising 4 definitely delivers. While it does tone down the number of weapons from 3, it has a world that is big and fun to run around in, and the return of Frank West brings the franchise back to its roots, in more ways than one.

Read More…
Comments

Anatomy of a Scene - Chef

Written by: Tom Blaich

chef_header


Sensuality is a difficult thing to portray. Making a man like Jon Favreau sexy is only adds onto the challenge. He falls well outside the lines of “conventional” good looks, especially those of Hollywood’s masculine ideals. But the scene where he cooks for Scarlett Johansson in his apartment is as sexy as any we’ve seen. It combines light and playful shots with loving attention to detail to bring you a veritable feast for the senses: aural, visual, and more, as you can almost smell and taste the pasta that he makes for her. It is a scene about simplicity in many ways, in the midst of a turning point for his character, foreshadowing the rest of the film, and perfectly encapsulating his passion as a chef.

Read More…
Comments

Ghost Recon: Wildlands - First Impressions

Written by: Tom Blaich

ghost-recon-1


The beta has ended and in one short week
Ghost Recon: Wildlands will be in everyone’s hands. So we sat down this weekend and tore through all of the content that the beta had to offer, both solo, and together in co-op. There was a huge amountof content to be found, and more than a few baffling decisions made. I don’t know if it feels like a Ghost Recon game, but it was damn fun. You can clearly see the influence that other open world games have had on its design. It’s an amalgamation of different ideas and tones that come together surprisingly well.

Read More…
Comments

Why Did I Watch That? - Wolf Warriors

Written by: Tom Blaich

Wolf_Warriors


I watched a bad movie today. It is sort of a guilty pleasure of mine. Watching bad movies that is. I revel in the terrible plots, paper-thin characters, cheesy effects, and wooden acting. It fuels me. I love them in a way that I can’t quite describe, or feel about bad games or music. To me, bad films deserve to be recognized, talked about, and maybe occasionally ridiculed. This one is no exception.

One of the joys of this job is that I get to broaden my horizons. I’ve always loved action movies, from the amazing to the… well, markedly less so, and in the past year, I’ve gotten the chance to explore action cinema from all across the world.
Wolf Warriors is far from the best action movie I have ever seen, but it is remarkably competent for what it is, with a few cool visuals and laughs thrown in to complement the experience. It has got a few faces you’ll recognize, including the ever present, C-movie “star” Scott Adkins, who does a fairly good job at playing the bad guy instead of a generic, hunky hero.

Read More…
Comments

Postmodernist Theory

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.

Let’s talk about schools of theory. When we critique, frequently we do so through a specific lens. Works can have a lot of meaning hidden deep within them, and if we aimed to fully analyze a book, movie, or game, we could easily fill an entire book. So we use these schools of theory as a way to focus in on one particular area of a work. This helps us hone in on a specific idea and expand upon it more fully than if we had tried to do a very broad reading. By centering on one aspect, the analysis becomes more clear and focused.
Read More…
Comments

Loot Boxes

Written by: Tom Blaich

loot-boxes


It’s notable now when a game doesn’t try to incorporate some form of micro transactions into their multiplayer modes to extend their revenue streams out for as long as possible. This speaks to an attitude where companies are competing to be the single game that players buy, keeping them in their ecosystem from as long as possible, and they’ve taken many lessons from the massively popular free-to-play mobile games that dominate the handheld marketplace. But there is a juggernaut that many people ignore. Valve’s moves towards long-term monetization of their stable of multiplayer games has changed the video game industry tremendously, adding a virtual slot machine mechanic to most large multiplayer games that come out. While the gaming community has poked fun at the “hat simulators” for years, we have seemingly ignored the way the crate and key mechanics of Valve games has created this landscape.

Read More…
Comments

DROGAS Light - Review

Written by: Tom Blaich

DROGAS_Light_Cover


Lupe Fiasco has had his ups and downs. He has made some amazing rap music, but he keeps trying to break into the mainstream, and it’s resulted in a watered down version of his work.
DROGAS Light takes a step forward for him, mixing subversive rhymes with mass appeal in a way that finally clicks. The first run of tracks is fantastic, and the album somehow darts from dark trap beats to Daft Punk style electronic beats and Gambino-esque flows to slickly produced top 40 style hits. There is something for everyone here, an incredible range of sounds and style crammed into one package as he tries out every conceivable option.

Read More…
Comments

The Backlog - Child of Light

Written by: Tom Blaich

Child-of-Light-Header


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my
backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

Child of Light is a great idea trapped in a prison of its own mechanics. It has a compelling world, gorgeous art and character design, a great story, and an interesting gimmick. But it just is not fun to play. I felt like I was forcing myself through battle after repetitive battle until I was doing everything I could to avoid these encounters, which in turn made every subsequent fight that I was forced into more and more punishing. I love being in the world, exploring every nook and cranny that I could find and meeting new characters to rhyme with, but the actual core combat gameplay was boring, unbalanced, and generally not fun.

Read More…
Comments

The Gospel of Rap

Written by: Tom Blaich

I_Feel_Like_Pablo


Hip-hop and religion are intrinsically linked. Far from the all-too-common perception of hip-hop as being tied purely into drugs and violence, hip-hop has acted as a reflection of the culture and artists that create it since the first time a track was spun in the Bronx in the 70’s. In the four decades since, woven throughout hip-hop are religious threads that are becoming more and more evident each day.
We wrote about it in our article on preconceptions against religious rap last year, but we did not examine the root of it, where this new trend came from.

Read More…
Comments

Why Did I Watch That? - Navy SEALs: The Battle for New Orleans

Written by: Tom Blaich

Navy_Seals_Cover


I watched a bad movie today. It is sort of a guilty pleasure of mine. Watching bad movies that is. I revel in the terrible plots, paper-thin characters, cheesy effects, and wooden acting. It fuels me.
I love them in a way that I can’t quite describe, or feel about bad games or music. To me, bad films deserve to be recognized, talked about, and maybe occasionally ridiculed. This one is no exception.

I don’t know what exactly about zombies caught the attention of the world, but for the last few years, the shambling undead have filled our screens, becoming the lowest common denominator of antagonists. More than anyone else, the makers of bad movies love zombies. The makeup is cheap, there is plenty of action, and little moral dilemma in mowing down giant crowds of them in bright red splashes of blood and gore. To most of these zombie films, the more violence they can cram into the runtime, the better, and
Navy SEALs: The Battle for New Orleans is no exception. And for a movie titled as such, the action feels much smaller scale than the filmmakers would like us to believe.

Read More…
Comments

Post-Colonial Theory

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.

Let’s talk about schools of theory. When we critique, frequently we do so through a specific lens. Works can have a lot of meaning hidden deep within them, and if we aimed to fully analyze a book, movie, or game, we could easily fill an entire book. So we use these schools of theory as a way to focus in on one particular area of a work. This helps us hone in on a specific idea and expand upon it more fully than if we had tried to do a very broad reading. By centering on one aspect, the analysis becomes more clear and focused. Read More…
Comments

John Wick: Chapter 2 - Review

Written by: Tom Blaich

Teaser Poster


It is damn hard to do action well. Harder yet is to do it twice in a row.
John Wick crashed into the action scene and made an indelible mark with stylish and well-choreographed action, a highly stylized aesthetic, and an interesting world to back it all up. It took the old writer’s adage of “show, don’t tell” to heart in a way that few films do, and with it created a compelling story that dragged you in and made you want to learn more. Chapter 2 had the incredibly difficult task of following this up well. John flirts with the underworld in the first, and as he walked away with his new friend at the end, we were left to wonder if he was truly back, or if he was going to try to pick up the pieces of his shattered life.

Read More…
Comments

The Backlog - Crimson Dragon

Written by: Tom Blaich

Crimson_Dragon


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my
backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

The launch of the Xbox One was a rather forgettable one. Really the only title that has managed to stand the test of time was
Dead Rising 3, and everything else was left by the wayside. But that doesn’t mean that the other titles released then ceased to exist. Crimson Dragon is a simple game, and in that simplicity, there is some fun to be found. However, unlike more memorable downloadable titles, it fails to grab that crucial X factor that keeps you coming back for more.

Read More…
Comments

I Decided. - Review

Written by: Tom Blaich

I_Decided_Cover


Big Sean had ambition with I Decided. While it does sound a lot like the Big Sean we are used to hearing, it had another layer that I’ve been wanting out of his music for a long while. He tries to grasp at something, but it is as effusive as his lyrics as it slips from between his fingers. It is an album that I’ve heard before, that we’ve all heard before. Just never out of Big Sean.

Read More…
Comments

Anatomy of a Scene - Heat

Written by: Tom Blaich

Heat


Characterization through action is what defines film. “Show, don’t tell” is the mantra repeated to writers across the world, yet it is rare that we actually see it done well.
Heat takes this to heart, and the first time that we see our cast of ne’er-do-wells assembled together on screen, we instantly get a sense for who they are, the relationships they have with each other, and the direction the film is headed in. They do this with a combination of action and horror to create a sense of dark foreboding around the group of men.

Read More…
Comments

Get Out - Review

Written By: CJ Streetman

maxresdefault-3


Jordan Peele’s directorial debut shows incredible promise from someone that we all knew was a tremendous talent.
Get Out is a thrilling and unnerving horror movie where the horror monster is just white people.

Get Out
is the story of Chris going to spend the weekend at the family of his white girlfriend’s house. The weekend turns out to be the weekend of a massively Caucasian get together that the family throws every year.

Read More…
Comments

Return to the Sauce - Review

Written by: Tom Blaich

Pasted Graphic


Infected Mushroom is a staple in the psy-trance community, and with their latest effort, they take a different tactic to try to introduce people to the unique sound of the genre. This is one of my first experiences with the genre, and while I’m not quite sure what I expected, the strangely dark sound grew on me slowly. There are a few things that I appreciate about the album but, admittedly, my frame of reference is sadly lacking. For a first experience, you could do a whole hell of a lot worse and it piqued my interest in a way that I definitely didn’t expect.

Read More…
Comments

Why Did I Watch That? - Stolen

Written by: Tom Blaich

Stolen_Case


I watched a bad movie today. It is sort of a guilty pleasure of mine. Watching bad movies that is. I revel in the terrible plots, paper-thin characters, cheesy effects, and wooden acting. It fuels me.
I love them in a way that I can’t quite describe, or feel about bad games or music. To me, bad films deserve to be recognized, talked about, and maybe occasionally ridiculed. This one is no exception.

Nicolas Cage is a boon to bad movie fans. Once a serious, award-winning actor, he has come a long way to the point he is at now. But in some ways I have to admit that I admire the man, because no matter how awful the movie he was in, or how critically panned his performances are, he keeps on making movies. While I could be cynical and say that it is all about the money for him, I think that it is something more. He really does love making movies, and it shows in the absurd joy and energy that he brings into every role he plays.

Read More…
Comments

Marxist Theory

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.

Let’s talk about schools of theory. When we critique, frequently we do so through a specific lens. Works can have a lot of meaning hidden deep within them, and if we aimed to fully analyze a book, movie, or game, we could easily fill an entire book. So we use these schools of theory as a way to focus in on one particular area of a work. This helps us hone in on a specific idea and expand upon it more fully than if we had tried to do a very broad reading. By centering on one aspect, the analysis becomes more clear and focused. Read More…
Comments

Resident Evil 7 - Review

Written By: CJ Streetman

r03xsdmmrxyddimojni1


Despite having had more than my fair share of dumb fun in the last few
Resident Evil games, I had completely lost hope that the series would ever find its way back to atmospheric horror. Thankfully, however, it seems that the critical and commercial failure of Resident Evil 6 has led Capcom to return to the series’ roots.

That is, in all senses, what
Resident Evil 7 is: a returning home for the series.

Read More…
Comments

Super Mario Odyssey

Written by: Tom Blaich

<

Super Mario Odyssey
continues to baffle me. I don’t always fully understand the decisions that Nintendo makes, but somehow they generally work out for them. So when they released a trailer for the new Mario game for the next real generation of Nintendo consoles, I was actually excited in a way that I don’t usually get about Nintendo products. This is how we got Mario 64 and Galaxy, and the entirely-less-cool Sunshine. New Nintendo consoles ideally drive innovation in gameplay and graphics, so the first real new 3D Mario in years enticed me. Read More…
Comments

SweetSexySavage - Review

Written by: Tom Blaich

a67439798fa9f89613854e94f2ace14a.800x800x1


After the success of her mixtape,
You Should Be Here, overnight R&B hit Kehlani is back with her debut studio album SweetSexySavage (all one word of course) which luckily fixes many of the problems that I had with the mixtape, and manages to deliver a solid, if unimpressive set of tracks. It is a pop/R&B album, heavy on the pop, and it does a good job at being easy to listen to, but it doesn’t go anywhere special or break any new ground while it does it. I hate to call something generic, but as I coasted through song after song, I couldn’t help but think that I had heard this all before.

Read More…
Comments

The Backlog - Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions

Written by: Tom Blaich

qzvgjfbvfzr9jp9uq3fk


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my
backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

In many ways,
Geometry Wars 2 was a perfect game. Just enough content, quick and responsive gameplay, loads of challenge, and enough replayability to last a lifetime. So I was more than a little confused when they announced that they were making a sequel and adding a campaign. It seemed like a game that didn’t necessarily need to be made, a decision based purely off of marketing and predicted sales numbers on a graph over any real push from fans. I bought it when it was released, but after a few quick levels, I put it down and promptly forgot about it completely.

Read More…
Comments

Gun Porn - Our Fascination with the Firearm

Written by: Tom Blaich

Guns_Lots_of_Guns


We love guns. Big and small. As long as it goes bang, we want to be able to sit and watch. Guns are ingrained in the American culture and they fill our media to the brim. It is hard to play a game or go to the movie theater without seeing a few of them. It has gotten to the point where the depiction of guns in movie and games crosses the boundary into the real world. You can see it in gunstores across the country, where teenagers stare at racks of rifles and pistols, lusting after the high-tech weaponry like a dog with a bone.

Read More…
Comments

Why Did I Watch That? - Ninja Apocalypse

Written by: Tom Blaich

Ninja-Apocalypse


I watched a bad movie today. It is sort of a guilty pleasure of mine. Watching bad movies that is. I revel in the terrible plots, paper-thin characters, cheesy effects, and wooden acting. It fuels me.
I love them in a way that I can’t quite describe, or feel about bad games or music. To me, bad films deserve to be recognized, talked about, and maybe occasionally ridiculed. This one is no exception.

There are different kinds of bad movies. Incompetent student films, big budget pictures that miss their mark, the “purposefully” bad indie movies, or mainstay of schlock cinema: the bad action movie.
Ninja Apocalypse is just the latest in a long line of ninja movies that you probably shouldn’t even consider watching. As a rule, if a movie has the word ninja in its title, it is going to be pretty bad.

Read More…
Comments

The Last Text - Review

Written by: Tom Blaich

0b59d69da4b5766b1fd38ff208d3a7e3.1000x1000x1



I am always baffled when so-called “social media stars” cross the boundary from weird videos to trying to make music. Much like any celebrity that tries their hand at making an album, it invariably turns out terribly. Jacob Sartorious, teen “heartthrob” and former Vine “star” (RIP Vine) is one of the more famous examples, and his latest outing,
The Last Text, takes on junior high romance like only a 14 year old, pre-pubescent celebrity can - poorly.

Read More…
Comments

Gender Theory

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.

Let’s talk about schools of theory. When we critique, frequently we do so through a specific lens. Works can have a lot of meaning hidden deep within them, and if we aimed to fully analyze a book, movie, or game, we could easily fill an entire book. So we use these schools of theory as a way to focus in on one particular area of a work. This helps us hone in on a specific idea and expand upon it more fully than if we had tried to do a very broad reading. By centering on one aspect, the analysis becomes more clear and focused. Read More…
Comments

Scalebound and Platinum

Written by: Tom Blaich

Scalebound_1920x1080


As many of you already know, a few weeks ago, Microsoft cancelled
Scalebound, a title that at first had me united until its disastrous E3 showing this last year that made the game look like the worst kind of generic action, calling back unfortunate memories of Lost Planet as I watched. I had a moment after the announcement of the cancellation where I realized something. The Platinum Games name doesn’t really mean much to me anymore. And of course I’ll offer this disclaimer that we haven’t yet seen Nier: Automata and I truly hope that it blows me out of the water and makes this whole post worthless.

Read More…
Comments

The Backlog - Wolfenstein: The New Order

Written By: CJ Streetman

kmta1sv8rmkdm0rm3if8


It’s way too easy to fall way too far behind on games. They simply ask for too much of your time and money to be able to keep up with all the ones that look interesting. Thankfully, almost entirely due to online sales, eventually you’re able to get most games for a five dollar bill and an afternoon of free time.

Wolfenstein: The New Order is about 10 hours of ups and downs.

I’ve been wanting to play
Wolfenstein: The New Order since its initial release, and as many complaints as I’ve had about the experience, I genuinely enjoyed my time with the game.

Read More…
Comments

Anatomy of a Scene - The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

Written by: Tom Blaich

5cf7e964defb7ec18fbce2110e959ac4


When a movie tells you how it is going to end, you know as a member of the audience that the ending matters less than the journey to get there. And over the years it has become almost a trope, where a movie opens with the main character in a very bad situation, before flashing back to find out how they got there, then promptly letting them escape. But then there are movies like this one, where they don’t engage in the trope. Jesse James dies in this movie. We know it from the second we look at the cover or walk into the theater. He is going to die, and we are going to have to watch.

Read More…
Comments

Why Did I Watch That? - The Accountant

Written by: Tom Blaich

the-accountant-correct


I watched a bad movie today. It is sort of a guilty pleasure of mine. Watching bad movies that is. I revel in the terrible plots, paper-thin characters, cheesy effects, and wooden acting. It fuels me. I love them in a way that I can’t quite describe, or feel about bad games or music. To me, bad films deserve to be recognized, talked about, and maybe occasionally ridiculed. This one is no exception.

I wanted to step away from the norm here to talk a little bit about a movie that I watched this weekend.
The Accountant isn’t necessarily a bad movie, it is just a confused one, trying to make an autistic John Wick into a cartel accountant. In a lot of ways, the story doesn’t make sense, but the action is fairly well one, and I’m always a fan of Ben Affleck. I just had a hard time with a lot of this movie. It is funny, but it is rarely trying to be so.

Read More…
Comments

Dim Mak Greatest Hits 2016: Remixes - Review

Written by: Tom Blaich

Pasted Graphic


I spent a long ten hours in a car this weekend, and due in part to my own self-loathing, I decided that I would use that time to listen to some of the worst albums that I have in a long time. First up was
Dim Mak Greatest Hits 2016: Remixes which probably should have alerted me with its album art. Much like a brightly-colored poisonous animal, the album cover here is a garish collected of outdated memes slapped over a rip-off of the already terrible The Life of Pablo cover. It is, honestly speaking, the worst piece of product related art that I’ve ever seen, and it feels like a bad photoshop that someone put together to be as shitty as possible, but some memo got lost along the way and it was actually used.

Read More…
Comments

Queer Theory

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.

Let’s talk about schools of theory. When we critique, frequently we do so through a specific lens. Works can have a lot of meaning hidden deep within them, and if we aimed to fully analyze a book, movie, or game, we could easily fill an entire book. So we use these schools of theory as a way to focus in on one particular area of a work. This helps us hone in on a specific idea and expand upon it more fully than if we had tried to do a very broad reading. By centering on one aspect, the analysis becomes more clear and focused.
Read More…
Comments

A Series of Unfortunate Events - Review - Season One

Written by: Carmen Schwierking

a-series-of-unfortunate-events-neil-patrick-harris-slice-600x200


When the Netflix television show adaptation of
A Series of Unfortunate Events was announced, I was hesitant. Like many other fans I remembered the trainwreck that the movie adaptation became and I went into the show with trepidation. I’m so happy to say that the TV show has surpassed all of my expectations.

A Series of Unfortunate Events is a book series that follows the story of the Baudelaire children, three siblings that become orphans after a fire destroys their home and kills their parents. The novels follow their journey while they are passed between guardians and bleak circumstances. The Baudelaires have been left an enormous inheritance and because they are children, many villainous adults try to snatch the money with easy schemes. But the children are described as “unlikely, but clever,” and they find out there’s more than what is easily seen.

Read More…
Comments

Godfather - Review

Written by: Tom Blaich

Wiley_Godfather_Cover


I’m rather new to grime, so it has been an interesting ride to strap myself into. Wiley brings a good set of bangers to the table, and the heavy, dark, and industrial beats help set an amazing tone that is carried through the majority of the album. There are a few really fantastic tracks here and I always like hearing a callout to Skepta, who introduced me to grime last fall.

Read More…
Comments

The Backlog - Peggle 2

Written by: Tom Blaich

Peggle_2_Success


I have a confession to make. Like many of you reading this, I have a list of games that I’ve been meaning play for years. I have way too many games on Steam, and a stack of cases sitting next to my TV. Close to five hundred games now. Maybe more. It makes me feel guilty. I haven’t touched 90% of them in one way or another. I need to fix that. So this week, I dug deep into my
backlog and pulled out a game. I want to play all of them; I’ve just never had the chance. Now’s the time.

There is something about the
Peggle games that I have always loved. They are so simple, yet so amazingly satisfying and fun to play. The games have character in the purest sense of the word. And a few years back, I bought Peggle 2 on the day that it was launched. But somehow it quickly fell to the bottom of a very long stack of games that I’ve been trying to work through. It has been installed since then, just waiting for me to come back and finish what I started.

Read More…
Comments

When Black is not Black Enough - Drake and Coding in Hip-Hop

Written by: Tom Blaich

There is a really big problem with gatekeeping in the hip-hop industry. We like to draw a sharp divide between “real” fans and most listeners, and that attitude frequently extends to the way we treat artists. This discussion is so often highly racially code. It is why Eminem is treated like a marvel, because he is the “one good white rapper.” There is a high barrier to entry to the industry and it is all about how “black” an artist can present themselves as.
Read More…
Comments

Rogue One - Review

Written by: Tom Blaich

rogue-one-gallery05_57762399


Rogue One
is a very different Star Wars movie than we have ever seen before. It lives in a grittier, dirtier, more disheveled world that neither the original nor prequel trilogies got near. It is one of the best Star Wars movies and it takes the franchise to a place far from it’s almost cartoonish roots. But at the same time, it doesn’t do much. By virtue of its place within the franchise, it can’t change anything, and at some points, it felt like it was here purely as a way to tie up loose ends that fans have been desperately asking after for years.

Read More…
Comments

Why Did I Watch That? - 2012

Written by: Tom Blaich

2012


I watched a bad movie today. It is sort of a guilty pleasure of mine. Watching bad movies that is. I revel in the terrible plots, paper-thin characters, cheesy effects, and wooden acting. It fuels me. I love them in a way that I can’t quite describe, or feel about bad games or music. To me, bad films deserve to be recognized, talked about, and maybe occasionally ridiculed. This one is no exception.

There aren’t lot of disaster movies made every year. And that might be because, regardless of year. there aren’t really that many good ones. They are big, expensive, and prone to complete critical evisceration. However, that didn’t stop
2012 from being made. Although if it had, we would all probably be better off. It stars former heartthrob John Cusack as novelist turned chauffeur as he desperately tries to survive the oft-predicted apocalypse of 2012 while simultaneously saving his family from an improbable amount of falling objects.

Read More…
Comments