Brainscraps.net

Video games and other things.

Posts Tagged ‘fandom’

PAX Pix 2011, Part Four: Cosplay and Miscellany

One of my biggest regrets of PAX East 2010 was not taking very many pictures, especially of the cosplayers. Fortunately, and with the help of a few people at deviantART, I managed to find photos of many of my favorites. This time around, I did not want to repeat this mistake.

To start things out, here’s my favorite cosplay of the show, which I had teased in earlier posts: Gordon Freeman from Half-Life. Despite its simplicity (not to mention the somewhat slapdash application of the Black Mesa patch), it succeeds in two important areas: the cosplayer’s resemblance to the original character, and their creative approach. This Gordon went around PAX all weekend carrying a large display that humorously promoted Black Mesa; titled “Black Mesa Community Outreach and Hiring”, it included a special message from Dr. Breen, a list of civilian projects that involved upstanding partners such as Umbrella Corporation and Abstergo, a partially redacted hiring notice, and a section about famed curtain manufacturer Aperture Science. Overall, an inspired and funny cosplay.

   
   
   

Other cosplayers I saw over the weekend included Princess Zelda and Link, whom I sat next to during the marketing panel; a four-person Mortal Kombat II team consisting of Smoke, Scorpion, Reptile, and Sub-Zero; a White Mage, a Black Mage, and Aeris; two of Quote from Cave Story (the second of which is pictured here); and a Draenei from World of WarCraft.

   

Aside from the expected video game cosplays, there were a few distintively non-game ones. For example, over the weekend I saw The Tick and Arthur, as well as the Bimbettes from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (pictured). Crossplay, or cross-dressing cosplay, was also present at the show. There was a female Quote (the first Quote I had seen), a male Chell, and most memorably, a male Misty, shown here.

Of course, there were a few people dressed in costume who were not cosplayers, but actually on the job. Aside from the Halo: Reach characters at Halo Fest (see Part Three), there was a female Shepard at the Mass Effect 3 booth and a Plants vs. Zombies group made up of Disco Zombie and his backup dancers.

Still, even though I had managed to take many more photos this time around, there were some cosplays that I missed out on. Aside from those I’ve already shown and/or mentioned, I also saw Cirno (Touhou series); Bayonetta; an Enforcer dressed as Chun-Li; a yellow and black Heartless and other Kingdom Hearts series characters; Vanille (FFXIII); Frank West (Dead Rising) in boxers and a Servbot head; Catherine and one or two Vincents (Catherine); Princess Peach; at least a couple of Marios, another Link, and a Dark Link; and what I believe may have been an Alchemist from Torchlight. There were others besides, but I can’t think of them all right now.

   

Cosplay aside, there are several other, smaller things to mention about the weekend. As at PAX East, the longer lines were made more interesting by the Cookie Brigade and what entertainment the Enforcers had on hand. Across the street from the Paramount Theater (aka the “Main Theater”), a tank was parked in a vacant lot as a part of the promotion for World of Tanks. The Paramount itself is gorgeous inside, with high ceilings, fancy gilded detailing, and an overall feeling of grandeur.

We didn’t spend any time in the Queue Room this go round—save for a brief trip in and out to get the official swag bags, we didn’t have to. At this PAX, they experimented with letting people queue up wherever they wanted before the doors opened; this approach, while not perfect, worked out okay.

While in line, we would sometimes chat with people; at the Friday concert, it was with a couple who we had been in line with earlier that day. I also managed to meet up with some fellow Cheap Ass Gamers during PAX, and we all went out to dinner at a nearby Gordon Biersch on the Sunday night after the final round of the Omegathon (and a brief Child of Eden session in the Console Freeplay room), where the topics of discussion included cars and corpses, import figures, multiplayer gaming, and CAG itself.

What else is left to mention? We hit up the Gameworks across the street the night before PAX started and checked out (but didn’t play) the wide variety of arcade machines there, including some recent Japanese imports, such as a motion-activated rhythm game by Konami (not sure if it’s a Bemani game, technically) and a ride-on version of Initial D Version 3. On the first day of the show, I noticed a shrinkwrapped Jim Darkmagic portrait prominently displayed at the official PAX/Penny Arcade store. One of the stores in the Expo Hall (which I wish I could remember the name of) had these cool Portal 2 rubber keychains that I have not seen since. Another store sold anime merchandise, many of which were bootlegs. In the Tabletop areas, one of the card games really stood out from the rest: the anime-styled, maid-heavy Tanto Cuore. And, as you may have heard elsewhere, PAX scalping was taken to a whole new level with the presence of counterfeit passes.

So, in conclusion, it was an incredibly fun weekend, and we’re looking forward to doing it again next year. To all the people who made this event so awesome: thank you. Finally, if your cosplay is posted here, please let me know! I’d love to give you credit.

ETA (09/10/11): Cosplay credits! Please help me add to the list if possible.
– “Community Outreach” Gordon Freeman: Peter Jung


The Pitfalls of Overanalysis

I’ve been wanting to write about a couple different things for awhile now, but this post isn’t about them.

I’m playing Cave Story again. This marks the sixth time I’ve started a new game, and if I beat it, it will be my third time doing so on Normal difficulty. Technically, I’ve already beaten it this go-round with the “bad” ending, but I digress; it’s still a helluva lot of fun.

I’ve also recently been reminded of the existence of a certain segment of the Final Fantasy VII fanbase that is obsessed with analysis. It’s a segment I take with a grain of salt since, having dealt directly with them before, I’m aware that they can be blind to inaccuracy and sometimes prone to outright bias. It is a segment that exists to prove and argue, the type of group reminiscent of my early days at the FFVII Citadel: lots of debating, theories being tossed around, and so on. FFVII itself is a magnet for theory tossing—not only because of its shoddy translation, but also due to its haphazard production history and its familiar yet fantastical globalist, capitalist, biotech cyberpunk world.

Other, more recent favorites of mine—especially Cave Story and Halo—also have interesting worlds and behind-the-scenes stories, but aside from doing some bits of fanart, I’ve managed to avoid getting involved with the fandoms. I’m sick of debates and analyzing the deeper meaning of what are really inconsequential things. When I get a certain item in Bushlands/Grasstown in Cave Story, it has amusing implications, but I’m not about to write a lengthy diatribe about why it wound up in the protagonist’s pocket. Similarly, I don’t care so much about the true purpose behind, say, the Super Sweeper in Final Fantasy VII. A little speculation every now and again is fine, and can even be fun, but that’s as far as I’m willing to take things.

Say I’m getting old or whatever, but in the more than ten years that I’ve been in online fandom circles (mainly video game-related ones), I’ve found that overanalysis can get in the way of enjoyment, and that the franchise owners are more than willing to give fans too much of a good thing, if only they ask loudly enough. When a game’s obscurities become “clearer” through books and interviews, even when handled well, the loss of what was previously left unsaid can be disquieting if you’ve given such obscurities any thought at all, and outright infuriating if you’ve obsessed over it. This is especially true of sequels and spinoffs, such as StarCraft II, in which the deliciously vague became cold hard fact. Amongst its other crimes, Dirge of Cerberus: Final Fantasy VII pulled a similar stunt, in large part by giving ample screen time to Lucrecia, a minor character in the original game. Portal 2 did right by Chell and GLaDOS, but altered the DNA of its single most important character: Aperture Laboratories itself.

Don’t get me started on Chrono Cross.

If this is what the fans want, it can only mean that they refuse to embrace their own imaginations, wanting absolute answers. The problem is that all this does is settle some arguments on the internet. Those of us who happen to like imagining the unseen in our games lose something in the process. Not everything has to be concrete.

So to the obsessed fans: dig and analyze and argue all you want, but once that long-awaited sequel or interview comes out, don’t be surprised if you find yourself underwhelmed. Nowadays, I prefer to enjoy my games (and manga, and so on) at face value and not sweat over a heavily researched dissertation on the canon. They’re more fun that way, be they a fresh experience or one which I’ve loved for over a decade.


Devil May Sigh

My lazy ass has taken up fanart again, hardcore. I haven’t drawn much in awhile, and needed to get back into it, so I dove into some pieces that I’d left hanging months ago. The three that I’m currently working on are coming along well, so far, and I hope that I can shake off the last remnants of rust from my skills by the end of the month. What are they? Well, all I’ll say at the moment is that they involve Final Fantasy VII (of course) and two games I beat this year.

Having an account (and running a decently-sized group) at deviantART, I see a lot of others’ fanart on a regular basis. However, my favorite bit of recent fanart I saw on a forum; it’s the one to your right, which, via the “Reaction Guys” meme, is an accurate description of what many Devil May Cry fans felt when the Ninja Theory-developed reboot DmC was unveiled at the Tokyo Game Show last month. To whoever drew this very true reaction, I salute you.

Yeah, I don’t like Dante’s new look either. I’m also a bit wary about Ninja Theory taking the helm of this game, which will be the latest in a series which is traditionally action-packed, combo-heavy, and charmingly cheesy. From what I’ve heard about Heavenly Sword, it wasn’t all that, and early impressions of Enslaved have me suspecting that although DmC might have the Hollywood associations that Ninja Theory likes to include in their games, it probably won’t have the Devil May Cry series’ tricky controller gymnastics. So far, the funniest, weirdest, and scariest thing about DmC is how much the “new” Dante resembles the lead developer. Egad.

While DmC makes me sad, the blog Opposable Thumbs makes me happy. It’s one of a very few number of sites sites I’ve added to my daily games-related internet reading this year. I haven’t liked everything I’ve read there so far, but in general, it’s quality. Some recent pieces I would like to recommend are their history of the Civilization series, the much-discussed article on elaborate press goodies, the review of text adventure documentary Get Lamp, and, my favorite of these, a hands-on look at the latest Cabela’s hunting game.

To round things out, here’s some other recent articles, blog posts, etc. that I’ve found interesting. First off, it seems that Stephen Totilo and N’Gai Croal were at it again, asking developers to play their game “Canon Fodder”, the aim of which is to list the ten greatest games of all time. You might recall that I attended the first season panel at PAX East. It seems that PAX Prime 2010’s Season Two brought a lot of its own drama, especially since that stubborn Ocarina of Time was completely removed from the list. Good stuff, and I’m looking forward to Season Three come PAX East 2011 (hopefully). And speaking of PAX East 2011, registration is now open! Unfortunately, the hotel info isn’t up yet, but you can bet we’re booking as soon as it is.

Ian Bogost’s article Persuasive Games: Free Speech is Not a Marketing Plan looks at the recent controversy surrounding the Taliban’s role in the upcoming Medal of Honor game and laments on how easy it was for EA to deal with it. The most relevant bits were quoted in this GameLife post, if you just want a summary. On a lighter, and totally unrelated, note, Gabe’s promo art for Comic Jumper (second post down) is a hilarious—and well drawn!—homage to the horrible but distinctive comic book work of Rob Liefeld.

Finally, some JRPG-related stuff. RPGamer posted a “retroview” of Final Fantasy VII that is honest and fair, though I don’t agree with the reviewer’s take on the field navigation. Meanwhile, Andriasang has posted some interesting and wonderful pics from Japan, namely a comparison between old-style Disgaea sprites and the new Disgaea 4 ones, and a drop-dead-adorable plush of Final Fantasy XIV moogle Kuplu Kopo.

I’m probably never going to play FFXIV, but I must have that moogle.


The Game Remains the Same… and That’s Okay

Recently-returned oldbie Keefy has started a thread at the Citadel’s Forums titled Your Top Ten Games – Ever. My post is here, mainly pulled from the top of my head. This being a Final Fantasy-related forum, I imagine I’ll get a lot of flak for not including any games from that series in the list.

Afterwards, I got to thinking about why hardcore gamers like the Final Fantasy series so much while dismissing the far more accessible likes of Pokemon. The latter’s “kiddy” trappings aside, the main complaint I hear leveled against Pokemon is that each new installment in the main series is too similar to what has come before. I won’t argue with that; as I said in my Pokemon Ruby impressions post, one Pokemon title should be enough for most people. However, can you imagine the backlash that would occur amongst Pokemon’s dedicated fanbase if the series did take a radical turn?

I would imagine that it would be huge. Mario and Zelda fans, among others, cry out for innovation and often get it, but also complain about new things that they don’t like. Most recently, Dragon Quest IX—the first mainline Dragon Quest to debut on a handheld—has encountered some backlash from dedicated fans. And of course, the Final Fantasy series is not exempt from this, despite its reputation for drastic change from installment to installment; the black sheep of that family include FFVIII with its Junction system, FFXII with its MMO-like trappings, and FFXI and FFXIV, which are MMOs.

Many hardcore gamers seem to crave innovation, but this doesn’t always translate to big hits, or even enjoyable games. Familiarity is a staple that many game series rely on—not just big hits like Pokemon, but also those with smaller yet dedicated fanbases. In any other medium, this same demand for innovation would be silly. Long-running TV shows like Wheel of Fortune may change some over time, and authors like Stephen King hone their craft over several years, but for the most part, people tend to follow specific entertainments (and entertainers) because they continually provide things that they like. I understand that video games, being a technology-dependent medium, are a little different, but there’s nothing wrong with following a series that doesn’t change very much. Innovation is all well and good, but so are high-quality stalwarts, and I hope that they’ll continue to stick around.


Final Fantasy VII, E3 2009, and the Love of the Old

It’s been a busy week. In between real-life obligations, there’s also been livestreams (and liveblogs) of press conferences to watch, previews to read, and games to drool over. As the news editor for the Final Fantasy VII Citadel, however, one little line uttered by Jack Tretton during Sony’s press conference kept me particularly busy; something about FFVII being available on the PlayStation Network’s store that same day. I was not done, though, as Europe is also getting FFVII this week.

Those of you who have known me, even for a short while, are aware that Final Fantasy VII is my all-time favorite game. There are many reasons why this is, not least of which is the game itself. The last time I played it was last summer, my first full playthrough in years; not only did I love every second of it, but I even noticed certain things which hadn’t caught my attention before. When the final FMVs played and the credits rolled, I felt a surge of emotion, a mix of satisfaction and sadness that it was all over, yet again. It’s no joke when I say that Final Fantasy VII is very near and dear to my heart.

Unfortunately, us FFVII fans get a bad rap these days. Thanks to the overall mediocrity of the Compilation of Final Fantasy VII (though I hear Crisis Core’s gameplay is okay and Advent Children Complete is supposed to be decent), along the original game’s own popularity, there are a lot of haters. I don’t think there would be nearly so many these days if the Compilation hadn’t come about and added to the fanbase—and to the number of people clamoring for a “next-gen” remake, a potentially expensive and disastrous proposition. I’m not one of the remake-wanters and am in fact very much against the idea; I did advocate a remake several years ago, but that was long before the Compilation came along and made the FFVII canon into lacy swiss. That said, I am very happy that the original FFVII is now available through PlayStation Stores worldwide, both for the old fans as well as the newbies who (understandably) don’t want to pay astronomical prices on eBay.

Although FFVII was the only old game that commanded a great amount of attention this E3 thanks to its rerelease, nostalgia is hardly in short supply. This week has seen game announcements for storied franchises (Metroid: Other M, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, and a smattering of Metal Gears, to name a few), upcoming franchise entries that also share an old-school feel (New Super Mario Bros. Wii), wholly new games that are decidedly old school in their approach (CliffyB’s 2.5D Metroidvania titled Shadow Complex), at least one remake (Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition), and at least one game—an entry in a younger series—which employs nostalgia in a different way (The Beatles: Rock Band).

It’s no secret that game developers are shying away from big-budget new IP; times have changed and game development costs for next-gen titles can get into the astronomical. I don’t think gamers mind much, though. For all the demands for innovation and all-around general newness from the hardcores, new sequels and spinoffs for old favorites generally seem to be met with welcome arms, provided developers don’t deviate from the familiar too much. Add an extra dash of “awesome”, as Nintendo did when it revealed that its new Metroid was a collaboration with Team Ninja, and a receptive audience is guaranteed.

There’s no shame in sequels and spinoffs as long as they’re done well and with obvious care, and while the sheer number of them at the Big Three’s press conferences was a little disheartening, at the same time, I’m really anticipating the latest Mario & Luigi game and think God of War III looks great. I know I’m hardly alone in that respect.

Now to fight back the urge to play FFVII again…

Special Stage: Here’s some of my favorite E3 videos. By no means are these the only games shown at E3 that I’m interested in:
The Beatles: Rock Band – Opening cinematic from the game. Much of the crowd animation ranges from stiff to nonexistent, but overall, it’s fantastic.
Super Mario Galaxy 2 – Sure, it’s more of the same, but rarely has “more of the same” looked so awesome. Plus, there’s Yoshi!
Final Fantasy VII – How often does one see a new trailer for a twelve year old game?
Bayonetta – Oh my. Now that I’ve seen this in action, it has moved from my “might want” category to my “DO WANT” one.