The Humor of Barkley’s Shut Up and Jam Gaiden and JRPG Structure

Today’s article was commissioned by a regular reader. If you’d like to have me write about something of your choosing, consider commissioning me! Details here, willing to discuss subjects not covered on that page. Use the e-mail listed there.

Warning: The article you are about to read is canon.


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The Kitsch of Samurai Jack

Genndy Tartakovsky is a treasure to the world of animation. The Russian born kid turned giant American nerd and animation legend in the making has been involved in some of Cartoon Network’s greatest shows, and gave Adam Sandler good movies to be in, which has become a bizarre, alien concept these days. While Dexter’s Lab was his big hit, it was Samurai Jack that stands out as his masterwork. It’s a truly strange series that combines all sorts of kitsch elements together into a surprisingly mature framework that allowed for tons of experimentation in narrative and tone, using an episodic format to build up to all sorts of wild endings with constantly shifting genres and premises. With the series Adult Swim season finished, I felt it was a good time to take a look back and examine what makes the series stand out so much. Ultimately, it comes back to that use of kitsch I mentioned, in how the show defines itself by making it impossible to actually define it in any concrete way.


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Steven Universe and Emotional Logic Storytelling

Since I had so much fun talking you all about the eldrich comedy that is Gumball, I decided going over a few other CN shows would be worth a go. I put a vote up on a few ideas I had, and Clarance ended up losing to Steven Universe, which I really should have seen coming the moment I made that poll. Steven Universe is one of the most popular shows Cartoon Network has, and it’s SUUUUUUUUPER GAY. Like, a yuri magazine in the middle of a trans pride parade on Halloween gay (lets be real, Halloween is the gayest of all the major holidays). But that’s not what I wanted to talk about, because that horse is deader than a meme sniffed out by Comedy Central marketing firms. Instead, I want to talk about the biggest key to the show’s success, the focus on emotional logic.


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Steam Sifter: Hell Girls

As they say, Hell is repetition.

Steam Sifter Hell Girls

Steam Sifter is back, and it’s undergoing some significant changes. See, while I was gone, I realized that the Steam community is actually worse than my thought, and with a mixture of Steam’s idiotic practices on how to treat reviews and the general nature of the average gamer, I found that stuff that should have never gotten a strong positive feedback were getting just that for bizarre reasons (like the presence of anime titty). So, I decided to toss out the rating requirement and just look at strange budget stuff, alongside poorly rated games.

I’m going to go a bit easy on today’s game because the developers, SakuraGame, appear to be Chinese and still cutting their teeth, and because their next game, Dragon Knight, actually looks promising for a budget effort. But it’s also hard to ignore when a bad game is a bad game, and this is definitely a bad game. This is Hell Girls, and its a new type of bad I haven’t covered here yet – bare bones bad.

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Full Course: Dragon Age: Origins

Okay, before I get heavy into this, let me address the elephant in the room.


How the fuck is Morrigan straight?

No really, how? She’s a swamp witch who dresses like a goth, practices forbidden magic, and constantly makes snarky, emasculating comments. She couldn’t be coded more queer unless you had her express an interest in Sailor Moon. Now I will give Bioware points for giving her a femdom fetish and giving an ending where she fucks your boyfriend to save your life, but come on. You have two bi characters in the cast! Why can’t I have my girl kiss the Satanist goth girl!?

This article took 130 hours of play to prepare for. I am taking this one indulgence.



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The Existential World of Gumball

I am a person with very varied tastes, but there’s always a few elements in any story that can hook me in for a good while. One of those things is existentialism applied to the state of being fictional, and that one thing is what has kept me from casting off Grant Morrison’s declining output for a good while now. I’m not just solely interested in a work that breaks and plays with the forth wall, I’m interested in a work that makes this awareness thematically central. What I mean by this is that I love works that expose and explore the absurdity that is existence, and especially when its done to fictional characters within the context of being fictional. The wealth of stories and ideas that could be explored are limitless, but few can seem to nail it down. Enter Cartoon Network’s The Amazing World of Gumball, both one of the most technically inventive pieces of animation ever put to television, and also one of the best written series they’ve ever had. While the show lacks the emotional complexity of Adventure Time or Steven Universe, it more than makes up for it in how it plays with its medium – and what happens when the character themselves start becoming aware.


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Full Course: Alpha Protocol

Full Course is a new series I’m trying out where I go really in depth on a given game, show, or whatever. If you have any thoughts on how this article came out, feel free to leave a comment! I’d love feedback on this one.

Western RPGs are rarely my thing. If they’re fantasy, it’s incredibly tired fantasy cliches (dragons, elves, orcs, ect), and when they’re something else, something about the mechanics rarely click with me (though I do hope that will change as I try getting into Deus Ex, which I’ve only toyed with in the past). But I ended up playing eighty hours of Alpha Protocol for two weeks straight, four plays finished. So clearly, it’s doing something right. Alpha Protocol taps into a lot of common western RPG tropes and design styles, especially from Deus Ex, but there’s more going on there, and the context to its systems changes everything.


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We Know The Devil and the Queer Struggle

Today’s article was commissioned by a regular reader. If you’d like to have me write about something of your choosing, consider commissioning me! Details here, willing to discuss subjects not covered on that page. Use the e-mail listed there.

2015’s We Know The Devil is a very gay game. It’s got magical girls, it’s got lesbians, it’s got anime art styles, it’s got a vague sense of nostalgia, heck, it even has angst! So much angst! Queer stories have a habit of going deep in angst, and for good reason. In case you’ve been watching nothing but Fox News and Info Wars for years, queer people don’t have it so good in, well, any country. But while the whole having equal rights as human beings thing is a significant issue, We Know The Devil is way more interested in more mundane situations and how they have a habit of causing emotional problems for queer people dealing with hardships, and how those issues tend to intertwine and become something horrific.


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Hope Lake, Black Rainbow, and the Need of Substance in Design

Ever hear of the hidden object genre? It’s a strange little point and click subgenre that really came into being through smart phones, a more simple version of the graphic adventure with less moon logic madness and more puzzle minigames and finding the object. The idea is that they’re an easily played casual genre you can enjoy with your brain on low, relaxing games requiring little effort to play, but catch your interest just enough that you can block out the world around you for a bit. It’s also one of the most creative genres out there, I find, especially in terms of presentation and content. You only need to look at Backstreets of the Mind for a good example of this. Mechanically, though, they all tend to fall into the same territory.


This is where Hope Lake and Black Rainbow come into play. The second one doesn’t have the usual hidden object elements included, but it falls roughly in the same category through its simplistic puzzles and focus on presentation above most else. But Hope Lake? Oh, that is some pure hidden object right there. It’s also the game that inspired this article, because I thought it was a perfect summation of the worst aspects of the hidden object genre …until I played Black Rainbow. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

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Games I Played in 2016 Worth Mentioning

2017 is finally here, and we can only pray it’s not as terrible as 2016 was. I’m personally expecting the real shit in 2018 or 2019 myself. But life goes on, we got rent to pay and stuff to enjoy between the moments of realization of the very real possibility of the end of the world crashing down on us. Before I move on, though, I’d like to take a step back and look at a few games I played in 2016 that I feel need some more attention that missed my favorites list. Some of these were released recently, and others were older titles I just got around to. A few have HG101 articles coming, but not yet published, and others I simply never got around to talking about. They’re all well worth a look for different reasons, most for being good games, and others for …well, you’ll see. With that in mind, here are the games I played in 2016 that deserve some more attention, with no real order.

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