The Real Reason Blade Runner 2049 “Failed” at the Box Office

The day this movie was released I saw it at the Ridge Cinema in New Berlin, WI. While outside waiting for my friend these three (very nice, for the record) old ladies came around the corner to wait for their ride. They were chit-chatting about the movie they’d just seen and I overheard, “what I don’t understand, is why the movie was called ‘Blade Runner’?” I then jumped in to briefly and poorly explain that it was the name “used by the police in the first movie” (this was before I knew the movie explained it perfectly well in the very beginning). All three went “ohhh!”. They then explained how they didn’t like the movie at all, and from the name they thought the movie was going to be about ice skating. I went back to stand by myself and tuned them out because, spoilers.

After thinking about it a bit I realized, from the context of someone familiar-ish with the film, that their perspective was freaking hilarious. I texted my friend, who showed up before he read the text, then just explained what I just witnessed. After that it was the joke of the evening. When we got popcorn, I tried my best to tell the employees, “did you know Blade Runner isn’t about ice skating?”, with a straight face and failed. While waiting for the movie my friend and I kept spotting other elderly people and couldn’t help but think they were going to be very disappointed too (yes, childish, but we as grown men are professional children). After the movie I summoned a concerned look and said to the girl thanking everyone for coming “did you know that movie isn’t about ice skating?” and made it about 2 seconds before I started laughing again.

Once home I found myself inspired to make a movie poster for those three old ladies. Weeks later reading how it is a box office failure, now we all know why: no ice skating. My rush job “movie poster” is below.

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Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

I don’t think I can say much that hasn’t been said about this game.  I beat it maybe 3-4 weeks ago, and quite enjoyed the story as well as the the open world.  I did, however, notice that it has something that most games only rarely have for me. 

Fuckaroundability.

I booted up my save file a few times since beating it,  and every time I found myself awake until the early morning hours while screwing around with this and that.  I climbed to the tip of Hyrule Castle, explored some areas I hadn’t been to (I had yet to discover any overworld shrine challenges), and did more side quests. I was still mindlessly enjoying myself. 

There are very few games I bother with playing after I beat them (and even less that I start over from the beginning) so this was a pleasant surprise.  Even games like Skyrim, with which many seem to enjoy multiple playthroughs,  hasn’t pulled me back in.   I think that in all of Skyrim’s beauty, there is still a sense of cookie-cutter genericness about everything you’re tasked with outside of the story.  It’s still a great game,  but like 16-bit games of yore where the encounter grind became repetitive later in the game, I began to dread having to go through yet another dungeon.  I haven’t even gone back for DLC content.

So if you enjoyed things like Grand Theft Auto without engaging in the story,  you’ll probably like Zelda: BotW too.

Record Store Day

Record Store Day, commonly abbreviated as RSD, the premise of a record store version of Free Comic Book Day, is a wonderful idea.  However, it falls flat on execution.

Free Comic Book Day promises a free comic, in participating stores, to anyone who walks in,  while supplies last .   This is meant to encourage those with budding interest in comics to get a foot in the door.  It works, and works well.  Yes, you may have a long line/wait ahead, but you (usually) get a free comic, and sales abound.  Then you get to read comics at your leisure.

Record Store Day, if you are to believe the accounts of the “ambassadors”,  is meant to recreate that magical feeling/experience many older folks had with their local record store when they were first discovering music.  A person used to go in, peruse music albums at their leisure (potentially for hours) and/or chat up the employees who may have suggestions, then go home to (hopefully) enjoy the new music.  It was a relatively relaxing experience even if it wasn’t magical.

Record Store Day is far from magical.   Take the same experience above, and replace hours of perusing with hours of waiting in line,  replace employee suggestions with employees being outnumbered at least 10 to 1 and too busy to help most people, replace any relaxation with stress of getting what you want before someone else. This was my experience, though I’m sure it’s different for everyone. 

People don’t go to Record Store Day events to discover music.   They mainly go to try and get the exclusive limited-edition RSD releases before other local people interested in the same thing get there first.  Sorry to say, when you are one in thousands competing for copies of a product that a particular local store may only have 3-5 of, it doesn’t work. 

When people discover music nowadays, I would guess Google is the crown champion.   You can type in almost any song paired with any genre and find a unique take on an old favorite.  I have seen/heard quite a few good bluegrass covers of popular songs this way.   You can also type something like,  “list of songs about ______” and maybe find a song for whatever you need at the time.  The potential is endless discovery. 

What can be done to “fix” Record Store Day?  It’s hard to say.  Free Comic Book Day offers something free, but, these “free” comics actually cost the store money.   If a record store gave away “free” vinyl, which costs them maybe $10-20 each, they would not survive.  If there was a free offering it would likely have to be digital,  which doesn’t necessarily encourage people to go to the physical stores. 

Record stores might not want to change a thing.   As it is,  they make lots of money from RSD sales.  Those who do brave the crowds are usually hardcore collectors willing to shell out relatively high prices for these forced-rare releases. 

Some day I hope they figure out how to do things better, and truly encourage customers to visit their store to discover music.  Unfortunately we don’t need record stores to do so anymore.   Releasing rare, expensive, and only-to-be-sold-that-day-vinyl-records is mostly just a dick move that happens to help record stores make money for a day. 

“Not Enough” Isn’t Someone Else’s To Decide

In the months leading up the the launch of the Nintendo Switch I noticed a severe lack of original thoughts between pretty much any person/webpage reporting on anything.  One of the most common I found was the notion that there weren’t enough launch titles.   

I cry foul.

To say that there is “enough” of something suggests that there are set standards or limits for such a thing to be based on.  What would be “enough”?   Will a person implode because they don’t have “enough” options?  What is the time frame for enough?   If a person beats or otherwise masters nine games in a week, do they suddenly have nothing to do at all?  Did people’s hands atrophy and fall off once they beat the two N64 games at their (US) launch?   Did the rest of gaming history suddenly vanish in a black hole causing the launch titles of the switch to become the gamer’s sole sustenance?   None of these questions were addressed.

A game console’s launch titles are not like food that you get “enough” of then stop eating.  Sure, an individual can have enough of a game just like they can have enough of a hot dog.   Sometimes it only takes a few bites to be full, or realize it’s something you’re not all that interested in.  Individually everyone is different.  I personally don’t need some review site to tell me if something is enough or not.  Only I can decide that,  for me.   Only I know when I’m full.  That gaming hunger burns eternally whether I’m full or not. 

When I bought my PS2, I had prepurchased most of the launch titles, yet only really played one or two that stuck out to me. Some of these, like Oni and Orphen: Scion of Sorcery, I played for all of the first hour of the game at most.   Others,  like Summoner and TimeSplitters, received a lot more of my attention.   Poor Armored Core 2 I don’t recall ever actually playing (I still hadn’t finished the predecessor on PS1).   Did I enjoy what I played?  Aside from the awful out-of-tune music present in Evergrace, I did.   Was it “enough”?  I was bored pretty quickly,  so no.  Of all the launch titles, there were none that held my attention through the end of the game.  They were just mindless filler until something better came along. 

This is what we do with most things in life.   Find something to pass the time.   If the Switch was the only thing in existence that allowed us to tolerate time spent at home,  alone,  between work, sleep, and eating,  then yes it wouldn’t be “enough”.

Farming the Weekend Away – Stardew Valley

I spent the whole weekend in a small town working on a farm.  At least, that’s what I like to tell people before I reveal the actuality of the situation.  Really I was just playing a recent Steam purchase: Stardew Valley.

As you probably know, it’s a modern take on the original Harvest Moon with something the SNES game didn’t have: fun.   It borrows just enough from other (mainly newer Harvest Moon) games to elevate it to a level above what Marvelous Entertainment or Natsume have been able to achieve.  

I recall playing the original game and thinking,  “this feels more like work than a game” (just like Farmville, but without teasing you with greatness that never materializes unless you harass your friends).   I filled out the entire field with crops and it took most of every game day (with the help of the hot spring and endless midnight) to take care of things. That didn’t change when I purchased the Game Boy Color version.   In fact it felt like it was less of a game because you couldn’t interact with NPCs/love interests as you could previously.  Thankfully it turned out things were improving when I tried out Harvest Moon: Animal Parade on the Wii.  There was more of a story and I felt myself getting into it a little.  

Stardew Valley actually fixes the linearity at the beginning in some of (if not all) the Harvest Moon games.  You are often forced to talk to everyone in town before certain things start to happen.  Stardew Valley incorporates a quest log feature that allows multiple things to be happening at once.   I didn’t finish talking to everyone until halfway through the first month.  I didn’t even care!  

It has all the standard fare you would expect from a clone of Harvest Moon.  You can get married,  spelunk in the mine,  fish,  raise crops and animals,  decorate your house,  etc etc.  I never found myself bored or feeling braindead from repetitive tasks.  It even has a crafting element akin to Terraria and Starbound except you don’t make a workbench first (blasphemy??).

No its not all sunshine and rainbows.   The game was a 4-year-long love letter to Harvest Moon fans created by a one-person-team,  which in itself is an impressive feat.   However I found two glaring issues in the execution.  One was the inability to push NPCs out of the way.   I got stuck once because a character walked up behind me at a shop checkout.  I couldn’t move until they moved away as part of their scripted routine.   Another time I couldn’t smelt some ore because my cat was sleeping in front of the furnace (you find out, and get used to, early on you have to be humping distance from most things to interact with them). The other issue was the summer “ambience”.  It sounded like someone set up professional recording equipment around a rotting animal carcass that attracted all the neighborhood flys.  Then as you’re hearing this a familiar Window’s ‘ba-dunk!’ sound comes through as though someone plugged in a usb drive.  It made me think something was wrong with my computer at first, but it kept happening at about the same interval.

In between family things, like taking care of my daughter and figuring out what to make for dinner, I somehow managed to get over 20 hours, 90 mine-levels, and 2 1/2 seasons into the game.   I even have two of the bundle quest books (extra tasks from their version of the obligatory magical creatures) nearly complete.  All in all it felt like a pretty good weekend, and I’m looking forward to more.

For the sake of disclosure: I paid full price out of pocket for the game.

Edit: I had intended to add pictures, but really, the internet is full of them. My farm is nothing special or unique.

Update 6/9/16:
I have officially “finished” the main story as of a couple weeks ago and only have achievement-like things to accomplish. I still feel glad to have entered Stardew Valley after 160+ hours of playtime, but won’t visit often until I’m curious enough as to what an update holds.

Under Construction

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This is the obligatory “under construction” post and editorial. 

Back in the early days of the internet everyone who was anyone with a interest in computer things dabbled in their own webpage of sorts.  This brought out the bottom-feeding animation and clip art people who tried to sell their poor collection of imagery in an all new manner.  The amount of pixelated 3D renderings being tossed around the world wide web of the 90’s might have put into question the abilities of people to use computers to make anything that looked good.  Thankfully by the end of the 90’s most webpages actually had polish to them, (though some have survived with a 90’s look, for example: Bob Denver’s webpage at http://www.bobdenver.com).  This will be my webpage with hopefully better-than- 90’s content.  I hope some will find it entertaining or useful.