No Zelda Wii U Game until 2016?

All right, I will never forget that post that I did where I suggested that Nintendo’s days were numbered. This was back when the biggest thing they announced was the 2DS, which was shortly after the release of the Wii U. So far, things have not been looking good for the Wii U, but it helps to have Super Smash Brothers and Mario Kart.

Of course, I think we all know what Wii U users really want. I’m talking about a sweet, sweet experience with The Legend of Zelda, a game that is not only one of the sweetest games ever made, but it has a series of sweet games. As you can see by the attached video, there will be no Zelda game released in 2015.

Okay, I can’t begin to express how disappointed that I am with this. You know why, because I just bought a Wii U so that I could play the new Zelda game for the holiday season. Now the producer Eiji Aonuma has announced that he won’t make the 2015 a deadline. This doesn’t mean that we won’t have one by the holidays, but I would not be surprised if we didn’t see this by 2016.

I suppose that I could play that redone version of Windwaker, but dude, that was for the GameCube. Oh man, what in the world will Nintendo do next? Clearly, the big N is going to have to do something big to compete in a world of console gaming.

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Review of Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, coming soon to a theater near you by Steven Spielberg

Ready Player OneLast week, I decided to break down and read Ready Player One, by Ernest Cline. If you have never heard of him, don’t feel too bad. He wrote a movie called Fanboys which celebrates geek culture, kind of like I do. His first book celebrates it just as well.

I will have to say that I first heard of Ready Player One while reading about it in Time Magazine. At first I thought that it was Time Magazine hyping one of their own books from Warner publishing, but this book was published by Random House. I have heard that Steven Spielberg is attached to direct the film, which will be released from Warner Brothers. Yeah, I don’t like it when I see things get hyped up that might not deserve it.

I will have to say that Ready Player One is an interesting work, and it is certainly very creative. The book takes place in a future world where the Internet is now known as OASIS, a huge interface that is kind of like Second Life meets everything else on the Internet. Users put on VR goggles and haptic gloves and enter into a worlds a plenty, and since the real world is not a pleasant place, most people spend their time online.

The book spends very little time discussing what the outside world is like, but apparently the world is in both an environmental and economic crisis. The main character, Wade, lives in a trailer court where the trailers are stacked up many stories high. Wade is a young man who wants to win a contest that is the last will and testament of James Halliday, creator of OASIS.

Halliday’s contest involves three keys and three gates left in his virtual worlds, and he has left clues for them as well. Whoever finds the three keys and opens the three gates wins Halliday’s fortune, which is easily in the billions. If Wade wins it, he will be set for life, and he doesn’t seem to have any other prospects. This does not mean that Wade is following his dream with all his ambition, as he can be kind of a slacker sometime.

The villain of the book is Nolan Sorrento, who runs a company known as IOI, a competitor of OASIS. If and his associates the sixers (known because of the six digits in their IDs) win the contest, then OASIS will become a corporate entity and make the world even poorer as they would charge for the use of OASIS.

So what you have is a typical treasure hunt story, but in an MMO atmosphere. This book has more references to the eighties than…Earthman Jack and the Ghost Planet. Seriously, Wade goes to virtual worlds based on WarGames, Zork, Black Tiger, and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, just to name a few. The book is really just pulling awesome things from all kinds of places and mashing them into this virtual world that will be easy movie inspiration, and I wonder if Cline wrote this book just so he could get someone to make a movie. I guess he got his wish.

This book kept me going with its constant 80’s references, which is odd because Steven Spielberg is making the movie, so I guess he’ll be referencing himself in the movie that he makes about it. Yeah, that’s pretty meta, all right. Some of the references are explained, and some, like Wade’s alias of Bryce Lynch, are a little more obscure. (Bryce Lynch was a teenage hacker from television’s Max Headroom, who appears as a virtual character in this book as well.) At least it is much better than Super 8, that J.J. Abrams film that looks like 8 Steven Spielberg films blended together (man, I hated that film).

At least Ready Player One feels creative, and I honestly think the world of OASIS could easily be the Internet of the future. I look forward to seeing Spielberg’s vision of it, and if it is as good as Minority Report, then Ready Player One will be the director’s next big hit.

“Village Idiots” spark selfie outrage

Village IdiotsSome of you might remember when we reported on that girl in a bikini who was taking a selfie, and I didn’t just report that because I thought some bikini girl would get more hits. Today, there is another issue with selfie that I would like to write about.

This one took place in New York City after what looks like a gas explosion in the East Village destroyed three buildings, injuring 22 people and left two people missing. I’m sure the police surrounded that area and told people to “move along”, but this group of women got themselves a selfie stick and shot a picture.

Yeah, it is no wonder that the New York Post had the headline of “Village Idiots”. It is a play on of the fact that this took place in the East Village, and these people are…I don’t want to insult anyone. Seriously, this is not a time to take a selfie, and do I really have to explain why?

Meanwhile, the two missing men, 23-year-old Nicholas Figueroa and 27-year-old Moises Locon remain missing. My source also said that some other Instagram user took a shot of herself with a “peace” sign, but at least this one was taken down. As for the group of women, I’m just going to say that these people are probably going to get a lot of negative Internet feedback. I don’t think I’m going to add to it.

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Christians in the Arts Issue 5: Can the arts really change the world?

I’ll go ahead and summarize what I have said before: 1) Christians should not flinch away from putting violence, sexuality, and profanity provided it serves the story. 2) A theme of a Christian work should not come off as preachy, as it only comes off as propaganda. 3) Avoid usage of the Deus Ex Machina, as it makes the writing come off as lazy, even though the Christian faith itself has Deus Ex Machina elements. 4) Then I talked about how Christians should get what they can out of the arts. Today, I want to summarize something about the arts: how they can change the world, or not.

I suppose that one of the fears of Christians about the arts is that works with violence, sexuality, and profanity could influence people to actually do them in real life. Perhaps Christians can create art that will make people do things, and believe that I have already discussed why that is propaganda. This leads me to wonder how certain works of art have led to some serious revolutions.

Works like Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin opened people up to the issue of slavery. Another work that opened people up to the issue of racism was To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, and I think these works of fiction really made a difference that benefits society today. I honestly don’t know if these authors ever intended to influence society like this, but it has worked.

Here’s the reason why I believe works like these have affected history. Personally, I think Stowe and Lee had works that spotlighted something that human nature didn’t like, and so humanity decided to change…slowly. I really doubt that anyone can create some work that can overrule someone’s freewill entirely, unless hypnosis really works. Then again, perhaps all works of art are hypnotizing us, and we are all just doing exactly what they tell us to do…sorry, I just cracked up there.

So can the arts change us or not? Well, they can, but we have to want to be changed. This is why I can’t tolerate using the arts as an evangelical tool, because it will not stick unless a person wants to be changed.

I suppose that this is the best end of this series is to encourage Christians to look at as much art as possible. Chances are, you are not going to find everything good, but you might find something worth saving from it.

Speculative Fiction Saturday: Bojack Horseman

Bojack HorsemanOkay, I’m going to conclude this month of modern Speculative Fiction series with a series that isn’t really speculative fiction, but I have watched it twice. In all honesty, I’m just writing about it because I like thinking about it.

Bojack Horseman crosses a line, and this is not because it is an adult-oriented animated show. Yes, this has been done before as South Park and Family Guy have been doing them for years. The Cartoon Network also has their Adult Swim programming, but I have found that these shows are often filled with really gross and sexual humor. For this reason, I have been avoiding it, but as I have just written in a now five-part series about the arts, I don’t just avoid a work because there is violence, sexuality, and profanity in it.

About the only speculative element of Bojack Horseman is that it takes place in this anthropomorphic world where some people are half human and half animal. There is no explanation on why, and there really shouldn’t be. I suppose I could ask how these hybrids reproduce, but I’m kind of glad the show doesn’t address this even though the humans seem to pair up with these animal people from time to time.

This doesn’t mean that the world finds these half-human hybrids are normal. Bojack Horseman is a half-man, half-horse, who was in this 90’s comedy called “Horsin’ Around”, which is about a half-horse person who raises three orphaned kids. When the show was cancelled, Bojack essentially had no follow-up acting career. He must have invested is money wisely, because he has a big house in Hollywood and doesn’t seem to do anything.

The show is essentially about Bojack and the relationship with his friends and co-workers. There is kind of a romance that Bojack is having with Diane Nguyen, who has been assigned by Penguin Publishing (which is ran by a penguin) to write Bojack’s biography. Bojack wants to commit to Diane, but she is committed to a half-man, half-dog named Mr. Peanut Butter. Mr. Peanut Butter was on a show with the exact same premise as “Horsin’ Around”. Bojack also has an agent that he works with name Princess Caroline, a half-cat who had a fairly decent episode about her. Then there is Todd, Bojack’s roommate who moved in but probably should move out.

What makes Bojack Horseman work is that it is an animated show that can be taken quite seriously. The show has funny elements like a lot of animals acting human, but it really has a very serious premise. It is clear that Bojack is in the midst of an existential crisis, wondering if he will only be remembered for his 15 minutes of fame.

There is one episode where Bojack goes to see a friend of his who has cancer, and I won’t spoil it at all. It is interesting to see how Bojack deals with the guilt of what he did to is friend, and it feels pretty genuine.

The show can be watched on Netflix, and it has a Christmas Special. What is funny is the special is nothing more than Bojack watching a Christmas Special of “Horsin’ Around”. Bojack and Todd make fun of it, but in the end, they actually like the schmaltz. I suppose this is a commentary on our society, because I have been watching Alf, and even though the jokes, plots, and overall premise is dumb, I still enjoyed it. In the case of Bojack Horseman, it is smarter that it seems to be, and this is why it works.

Christians in the Arts Issue 4: What are you getting out of it?

Today, I want to talk about a reason why some Christians avoid the arts: most stories are not doctrinally or biblically accurate. As I have mentioned in my last section, an author or creator of a work is essentially playing God, and therefore can do different things that God doesn’t do. So if you want to make a world full of dragons, you had better have a decent reason.

I’ve heard a lot of criticisms about certain films like What Dreams May Come and Constantine. These are films that address the issues of heaven and hell, but don’t do a very biblical job of presenting them. Personally, I admire films that address these things, whether they are accurate or not. If anything, films like these make me think of the real life equivalents of these things, and of the two films that I have mentioned, I felt the spirit of these films were true.

Then there are films like the recent Noah and Exodus: Gods and Kings. These films were sourced completely in the bible, but at some point, they go off the rails. I won’t bother going into details, but some of the spirit of it was correct.

Is it possible that Christians can just take in a work of art and get something out of it? Most Christians would agree that people should read the bible every year, and it is full of stuff that is quite negative. However, there is so much positive message in the bible, there has to be some kind of filter to take in the bad and get out the good. Surely this type of thinking can be used on any work of art.

In other words, I think it is important to take something out of just about anything. This is why I don’t recommend pornography or anything else that is gratuitous. What can be learned from that other than sex is fun? I mean, you don’t already know that?

In short, there is a lot to get out of arts these days, otherwise, why do secular people study them?

Sony planning a live-action Robotech film series

RobotechIt has been a while since we reported on Robotech, and the last time was when it wanted a crowdfunding. Since then, that crowdfunding project has been cancelled, but Sony is planning to make a live-action movie, and more than one of them.

If you are not familiar with Robotech, it was an animated series from Japan that was imported to America around the mid-80’s. It was actually a three-part story within its eighty-or-so episodes, but the gag is that these were actually three separate series. Yeah, the editors managed to cut-and-paste three different stories into one. I just learned from one of my sources that the three series were The Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross and Genesis Climber MOSPEADA.

There was Robotech, The Macross Saga, about a young tyro pilot named Rick Hunter and a city-sized starship called The Macross. Then there was Robotech Masters, a show about a group of mech warriors trying to stop an alien invasion. Then there was Robotech: The Next Generation, which took place after the aliens invaded, with a small band of survivors.

As you can see, there is a lot of material to make a film franchise, several of them. Maybe there is a long-term plan like Marvel is doing with its films. It will be produced by Gianni Nunnari and Mark Canton, who did the film Immortals and 300. Michael Gordon also is working on the screenplay. By the way, I remember hearing a rumor that Tobey Maguire was planning on working on a Robotech movie, but that obviously didn’t work.

Source 1 and Source 2

Christians in the Arts Issue 3: Deus Ex Machina

I’ve heard several different pronunciations of this term, but I believe that it translates to “god from the machine”. This is a term used to describe a plot device when gods, supernatural events, or characters suddenly show up with little buildup within a story and resolve the main characters’ problems, instead of the characters solving their problems themselves.

If you are looking for examples, look no further than the sudden appearance of the Eagles at the end of The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King. I’m sure you’ve heard the argument saying that if Frodo, Gandalf, and his friends had access to eagles that could fly them away from Mount Doom, then why did they not use these eagles to fly them there and drop off the ring from on high? The website How It Should Have Ended shows this ending, and all the Internet has made fun of this type of ending as well.

The reason why I bring this up is many Christians look to their own faith for inspiration for the arts. The problem is that the entire precept of Christian faith is Deus Ex Machina. After all, humanity is a fallen creation that is unable to achieve salvation on their own, which is why Jesus had to die for all of humanity.

There are a lot of Christian works where characters have many problems, often from their own doing, and then get receive the gospel at the end. This is a Deus Ex Machina as the main character’s problems seem to go away in a happy ending.

Personally, I appreciate adding elements of the Christian faith to any work, and I honestly don’t care if they are done correctly. I’ll explain what I mean in another entry, but I believe that what makes a good story is believable characters. Real people have to face their problems on their own, and they have to solve certain problems on their own. Although the salvation one cannot be one without Jesus, that still leaves life.

I’ve seen good examples of shows where characters who have Christian values and still have to deal with real life problems. Tyler Perry has been doing films about this for years, and even though his Madea series might be underused, the other characters in his films deal with struggles. Personally, I wish more Christian people would address Tyler Perry’s films as Christian works, but I get the feeling that they don’t like his addressing of unwanted pregnancy and broken homes that are a real part of life.

When a writer creates a story, they are essentially declaring themselves the god of the universe that they have created. I highly recommend not using anything in that universe that the real God does not use. You might think that Jesus being raised from the dead is a Deus Ex Machina, but this does not “come out of nowhere”, but it is everything that the Old Testament was leading up to. Even the Bible showed the consequences of that, and showed how it affected people. At no point did any miracle solve any problems, but often created more. This is why I support any work that can handle the intervention of God realistically.

My Review of Slender: The Arrival

Slender the ArrivalOkay, something that I am going to talk about in my Christians and the Arts serious is spirits, and how Christians will detect a “bad spirit” about something and avoid it completely. I can honestly say that I could use this judgment on Slender: The Arrival, but I really think it is worth looking at.

In case you are wondering where the title comes from, the game has nothing to do with getting yourself into a slender shape. Slender refers to the legend of the Slender Man, which began on forums of Something Awful. I am assuming that these forums are still around, but a user named Gerogerigegege started this myth in 2009. This “Slender Man” was some creature with a blurred face that stalks children, and it eventually became a game known as Slender: The Eight Pages.

The sad part is this Slender Man phenomenon is associated with a stabbing by two Wisconsin girls ages 12 and 13 years old. That part is real, and kind of makes me question why I should play a video game associated with this. I’m pretty certain that the friends and family of the victim would not approve.

Slender The ArrivalStill, I have to evaluate the game on what I felt while playing it, and I will say it is fear. I actually could not play this game in the dark at night, and certainly not alone. The game begins with very little backstory, and you play some character who is constantly filming the game’s first-person point-of-view. The end result has the horror of The Blair Witch Project, and the first part has no monster either.

In fact, the game’s creepy minimalistic soundtrack and sound effects just created an oddly uncomfortable atmosphere of jump-scare fear. I started out by walking a path, only to find that the credits rolled. Kudos to the game’s creators for making a unique opening that made me feel like I had walked into a horror film.

It starts out in the bright of day, but oddly shifts into darkest night as I approached a house that looked abandoned. You know that feeling in a horror film where you want to tell the main character “don’t go in there”? Well, you have stifle that if you want to progress in the game, and so in I went.

The house was dark and foreboding, and I kept expecting a jump-scare or dead body, or something that would require a music sting. I was disappointed that I never got one, but this actually made me even more scared. Searching the house revealed clues for Kate, who is inexplicably missing. Of course, I had to do it with a flashlight. It took me a while to walk upstairs, because I didn’t want to get trapped by…I don’t know, the Slender Man.

Seriously, this game had me shook, and after exploring the house, I wandered on a path. I didn’t see the Slenderman, but I did see a tall man on a hillside, as a shadow. Nothing has happened, yet, but I am only on the first part.

This game scares me, but this is the point. I was more supportive of the horror game Neverending Nightmares than this one, as that game was supposed to demonstrate what it is like to live with emotional instability. Slender: The Arrival is more about facing fear, which in my opinion is the most realistic foe that you can dominate in a video game. Therefore, I am going to recommend this game to players, but I wish it did not have a real murder linked to it, even if it is only indirectly. It is available now on Steam for $9.99.

Christians in the Arts Issue 2: Themes vs. Propaganda

One of the saddest legacies of Christians in the arts is Left Behind, a title very descriptive of Christians in the arts today. The book series certainly made a lot of money in the mainstream and Christian market, so it was only a matter of time before someone decided to make it a movie.

The problem is that the film is essentially a cash-grab, a way of making money based on source material that has already proven a success. I won’t bother going into detail why I don’t like that practice. I have heard that the original writers of the book series were upset with the low-budget quality of the film, and their names do not appear on the credits. I get the feeling that the budget was the reason why the original movie version of Left Behind was available on video before it hit the theaters.

I remember watching the VHS version with the warning to “stay tuned for a special message from Kirk Cameron”. I’m just going to take one sentence to say that Kirk Cameron is considered a joke in Hollywood, but I admire his choice to adhere to Christian movies, even if he could have had a better acting career in the secular market. Anyway, the special message at the end of the Left Behind movie shows Cameron explaining that Left Behind was intended to be released on video first, so Christians can bring their unsaved friends to see it in the theater.

It is clear that Left Behind was intended to be an evangelical device, but this is not the reason that the arts were created. To assume so will turn all art into nothing more than simply propaganda.

This is an easy trap to fall into, and I believed this one. Two decades ago, I wrote a paper about the arts for a course that I took at my church called Christian World View. In this essay, I wrote that the arts should be theme-based rather than story-based. I have since reversed my opinion on this.

There is something about using some book or film to convey a message that just makes it way too preachy, no matter what message you are trying to preach. I used to write skits for my church to convey a message, but I always attempted to balance that with an engaging story. The problem is if story serves theme, then the enjoyment of the story can be easily sacrificed.

I have recently written a book called The Labyrinth House that I began ten years ago, with the idea of a story: a man is trapped in a house where he cannot leave. Without going into too much detail, I didn’t really have any idea of a theme when I was writing it, but when I had finished it, I have figured out what it is about. I believe that the theme of my book makes it worth reading, but I went out of my way not to be preachy about it.

The most difficult part of writing a fictional story is keeping a balance between theme and story, but most Christians will err by emphasizing the message. Worse yet, the message gets so elevated that anything interesting about the story elements is not properly developed.

About ten years ago, I wrote an Easter play for my church that had a pretty complicated story with both backwards and forward chronology. The director, who I respect a lot, decided to put a scrolling effect before the play began. I can understand the director’s decision, as the scrolling effect has been done in a lot of good films. I still hold to my opinion that the scrolling just wasn’t needed. In fact, it spoiled the ending, but I suppose that we didn’t want visitors to our church missing the message.

This is the problem. If one were to relate the arts to life, then I would have to say that the “message” or “theme” isn’t exactly obvious. None of us had an angel who greeted us at our birth and told us that Jesus is the answer. Much of this stuff we found out later, and sometimes we missed the message, often deliberately. What I am trying to say is that if life isn’t obvious in its message, why do Christians make art with such a glaringly obvious message? How can it come across as anything but unrealistic?

As much as I respect Kirk Cameron, I will have to say that the Left Behind film or any other Christian media form shouldn’t be deliberately written to give a Christian message. It would be far easier to just deliver a Christian message, and to use the arts as a candy-coating for the gospel message assumes that people are drones who can be changed with the right book or TV show.