Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Rant: On Gaming and "Growing Up"

I've written a few versions of this post but I can't make it work without feeling clumsy or "about me". So this is the best I can do.

There has been a lot of press recently about the levels of casual misogyny prevalent in areas of internet "culture", both on the gaming front - for example this horror - but also the in the bear-pits that appear "below the line" or articles wherever they are posted, especially if its a female writer "daring" to question the status quo. And there is a lot of rubbish spouted that it shouldn't be taken seriously, or its free speech, or that its a legitimate "gamer culture" position to expect boobs in all your computer games and if they're attached to a character with say, dialogue, then we should be grateful a developer has gone the extra mile.

What makes it worse is that a lot of this gets characterised as "women vs trolls", and it shouldn't be. It should be "decent people vs Trolls". Because I'm a straight, white, middle class man, and I have all the privilege, and I'm bloody sick of the dreadful way women are generally presented - and treated - in games and around gamer culture, and I'm certainly tired about how the debate around this is conducted.

It's not censorship to expect civility in debate with people you disagree with. It's not puritanism to object to the ludicrous character designs that most female characters have in games. Its not "political correctness" to expect female characters to have roles other than Princess to be Rescued or (even more shockingly) actually be playable in their own. We shouldn't have to applaud the few examples where strong, fully clothed characters exist because they shouldn't be such a stark exception.

And ultimately, and most importantly, this isn't womens battle - this is everyones battle. Because this is the tip of the iceberg, and underneath the churning waters are battles about racism, homophobia, transphobia, and all  those other bitter prejudices that are on display in the insults thrown around in online chat. Gaming as a hobby moving into the mainstream, demanding acceptance, demanding to be treated like a grown up. Well it has got to act like a grown up, and it's everyone's responsibility to shape what sort of grown up it will be. 

Monday, January 28, 2013

DVD of the Week: A Dangerous Method

I've always liked David Cronenberg, in part because I generally like his films, and in part because his film choices have got varied and interesting over the years. He tends to work with interesting actors and do interesting things with them, and he's become of those directors that I'll generally watch just because its him. A Dangerous Method is an adaptation of a stage play about the relationship between Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung, and patient-turned-doctor Sabina Speilrein, and is another odd departure; a talk-heavy period piece. So that's different.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

TV Review: Fringe, Series 5

So, farewell to Fringe. Commissioned amongst the wave of post-Lost mystery/science shows, a curious mix of procedural detective show and X-Files like strangeness, it quickly became one of Network Televisions underdogs, a viewership that became more passionate as it became smaller, and one of those rare Science Fiction shows that wants to be about stuff, as much as it wants to be Flying Porcupine Men. Somehow, it got a fifth series to say goodbye, and last week, it signed off forever.

Monday, January 21, 2013

DVD of the Week: Dredd

Anticipation is a dangerous thing. It sets you up for dissappointment half the time, when whatever you're watching or reading doesn't live up to that expectation. The Phantom Menace is a bad film, but to hear some people talk it's a hate-crime against their collective childhoods, over and above any merits it may not have. That is anticipation, turned to ashes. On the other hand, it can make you overlook the flaws in something, see a film you want to see, not that a film that is. This is the logic that makes The Return of the King the 9th best film ever made, according to IMDb's Top 250, and really? No, I don't think so. Which brings us to Dredd, which may be one of the biggest Fan Films ever made, and a hotly anticipated one at that. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Book Review: Embassytown

So, finished my first book of the year - China Mieville's Embassytown. I've not read a lot of SF in the last few years, despite my self-identification as an SF fan. A few books, yes, but with inroads to Fantasy and Horror, as well as the usual diet of history and science books, I've not really made the time to stay "in" the genre and I'm not really sure I've missed it. I do like Mieville though, I own several of his books and I've seen him on a couple of convention panels, where he comes across pretty much as you'd expect; a smart and erudite writer who is very aware of how smart and erudite he is, and so Embassytown would probably have been on my "to read" list for this year even if I didn't get bought it for christmas!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

DVD of the Week: Cabin in the Woods

I am not a Horror Fan. I don't dislike Horror, as a genre, and in fact spent a good chunk of last year reading Horror novels, but its not a "go to" genre in our house. I've seen a lot of the classics of the genre, some even at the cinema, but far from a comprehensive list, and the current direction of the genre into overly gruesome stalker/slasher flicks - regardless of any merit they may or may not have - just doesn't appeal. But I've always felt that a good film is a good film regardless of genre, and given the warm reception given to Cabin in the Woods, we had to give it a go.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

TV Review: Doctor Who: The Snowmen

One of the big Xmas fixtures for our household in the last few years has been the Doctor Who Christmas Special. Full of food, and a bottle of wine down, its time to curl up on the sofa with the kids and watch a bit of festive light Sci-fi. The last couple of years have played with particularly festive feels, firstly with great success in "A Christmas Carol" and then less so with last years' Narnia themed offering, and this year we have "The Snowmen", presumably inspired by the perennial Raymond Briggs cartoon. Even better, we get a proper look at the new companion...sort of. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

DVD of the Week: The Grey

So with the New Year a sort of order returns to our household, and our saturday evenings once again become subject to the whims of what DVD lovefilm has sent us this week. Our rule is that we stick something on the list if it looks even vaguely interesting, and we have to watch it when it turns up. That way we often end up seeing things you'd pass over in favour of safer bets if picking from a list, and unearths the occasional gem. It's safe to say that The Grey isn't one of them. Sold in much of it's advertising as "Liam Neeson was in Taken. Now he Punches Wolves!", The Grey came with a certain expectation  of man vs wolf brawling action, and an undercurrent of being a moderately high-budget B-movie. I was totally onboard for that.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

TV Review: Merlin, Series 5

So Farewell, Merlin, that staple of early Saturday evenings for the last few autumns. You were pretty good overall, in the end. Since the return of Dr Who, the fantasy/SF family drama has undergone a little bit of a renaissance, and a number of shows have attempted to bottle the lightning of Britain's favourite Time Lord with only patchy success. It turns out that appealing to a wide, popular audience whilst retaining a devoted fanbase is hard, who'd have thought it? But out of them all, Primevals and the Robin Hoods alike, the winner is Merlin, which not only prospered, but in the end got to go out on its own terms.

And it died as it lived - slightly patchily.