The AVGN Movie Review: An Amazing Indie Accomplishment

Last night, my girlfriend and I had the unbelievable pleasure of going to a movie premier in New York City. Even better, we got the pleasure of going to see Angry Video Game Nerd: The Movie! I’m a huge AVGN fan; I even brought my Ghostbusters NES cartridge to get signed. I had to leave before I could get that, however; my dad had a medical procedure the following morning, but damn I wanted it! Why? Mainly because I am an independent author, AVGN’s company Cinemassacre is an independent studio, and in many ways he is an idol of mine. The bulk of the movie, after all, was crowd-funded by his fans through IndieGoGo!

For those who don’t know the Angry Video Game Nerd, well, it’s a self-explanatory name for a character. James Rolfe created a series of you-tube videos where he plays a video game nerd who is angry about bad video games. He reviews those games, or in some cases entire game consoles, demonstrating all of their bad design choices. He also curses them out, and often destroys their physical copies, frequently talking about either feces or bizarre anal sex acts. There, done! For those of you who are familiar with him, his style and the entire culture of internet reviewers (including, to a lesser extent, me!), well, you also already know what you’re getting! That is a great thing, overall, but it’s also a little lacking in some areas.

The Angry Video Game Nerd Movie.  Image courtesy of Cinemassacre.com

The Angry Video Game Nerd Movie. Image courtesy of Cinemassacre.com

The plot of the film is pretty basic: In all of his one-hundred-plus Youtube videos, The Nerd has never reviewed the game “ET” for Atari (called EeeTee in the film). Yes, it is based on the Steven Spielberg movie of the same name; no, it isn’t good. For years, now, fans have begged Rolfe to review it. In-character, he has refused, claiming the game is just too horrible. As you might imagine, by the end of the movie, the fans get their wish!

Of course, it isn’t so simple. The plot unravels around an evil corporation that descends like vultures upon the trend of gamers playing bad games, gamers such as The Nerd. They intend to use our favorite Nerd as a marketing ploy for an ET Sequel, namely by forcing their way into his life and annoying him until he cooperates. Said corporation (‘Cockburn,’ of course) also investigates a popular video game legend: That Atari buried millions of copies of ET in a New Mexico desert because it was such a bad game. Naturally, since this is in New Mexico, it attracts the military’s attention because they’re talking about “ET’s” and digging about in the desert, and, well, something-something-Area 51.

Coincidentally, at the same time the AVGN movie was nearing completion, it was revealed that this legend was – in fact – true! There are actually a bunch of old (and terribly designed) games buried in the desert!  But, by now, my own review is buried in the plot of the movie it’s about, so let’s get to some actual critiquing!

 

The Angry Video Game Nerd Makes Me Happy

I want to start with the good, both because I always do and because there’s a lot of good to be had. The comedy comes mostly from making fun of common tropes. The film takes situations frequently explored in other movies and “Nerdifies” them, complete with the vulgarity and excess that AVGN is famous for. Oh! Look! There’s the AVGN and his female gamer playing a game, but being misunderstood by the old man downstairs! We’ve seen this scene before, but Rolfe and his co-writer Kevin Finn make it funny by slipping in double-entendres that catch viewers off-guard. In a scene where two girl characters are fighting, there is a significant sense of sexual tension and a lead-up to some sort of cat fight that ultimately gets a brief acknowledgment before being thrown away. It was refreshing that they didn’t lean on girl-on-girl action to attract too much attention!

The visual effects are worthy of mention because so many of them are what Rolfe considers “practical.” He doesn’t just rely on fancy computer graphics; he actually built tremendous set-pieces just to have a guy in a suit destroy them on camera. It was a throw-back to old Kaiju films like Godzilla, another favorite topic of Rolfe’s. Some of them were deliberately-horribly done, such as one scene involving what appeared to be a micro-machine on fire. It earned a hearty chuckle and some crowd applause! One of his favorite tales of practical effects gone wrong involves the accidental triggering of a fire alarm by his set lighting. Go figure. The bottom line was that when the movie needed to look good, it did. When the humor called for it to look goofy, it didn’t stray too far into the absurd.

The characters were, for the most part, enjoyable. Even Cooper, played by Jeremy Suarez, was generally charming and funny! I have no idea where Cooper came from, since as a fan of the show I am stunned by the idea of AVGN having a side-kick, but that’s part of the point of the film. It’s a spoof on film expansions to TV series or video games (or vice-versa!) where new, seemingly-vital characters are shoehorned into the plot. Speaking of shoehorned, Mandi – seemingly the obligatory love interest for the Nerd, played by Sarah Glendening – actually comes off as fairly charming, and while she makes some of those “classic movie mistakes,” like leaving the safe-house to make a useless phone call, she succeeds in avoiding any one stereotype. By and large, every other actor was appropriately over-the-top for their character, had witty lines, and made themselves stand out.

I think the final note I want to hit is that, at times, I was impressed by how the movie really got its timing down. Many of its cameos (we’ll get to some of them) were timed perfectly, and made sense within the movie’s continuity. Getting the actual programmer of the ET game, Howard Scott Warshaw, to appear in the film? That was genius. One of my favorite AVGN characters, Shit Pickle (I know), is featured on a billboard on one of those incredibly detailed Las Vegas sets that Rolfe built and had destroyed. Pat Contri (Pat the NES Punk) does a fantastic job as an AVGN groupie.

 

The Shitty Side of the AVGN Film

Okay. It’s not shitty, but if I’m watching and talking about the AVGN, I’d better fucking swear.

My number one complaint with the film is that it leaned heavily on its audience’s knowledge of the series canon. Some of the jokes – invisible blocks obstructing a player’s progress – were obvious. Others were nothing more than a token appearance by The Nostalgia Critic, who has served as an internet video enemy of Rolfe’s and, well, doesn’t contribute much except to be a face on camera, briefly. Then again, I’m a hypocrite – the very next scene is a similar cameo from Lloyd Kaufman, creator of The Toxic Avenger and a guest in one of AVGN’s episodes, and I liked it very much. The difference, I think, was that Kaufman actually did something. He had a line. He had a role. Nostalgia Critic? I love you, but no.

Speaking of “having a role,” who the fuck is Cooper?! Look, no offense to Jeremy Suarez – again, he did a great job – but the AVGN already has back-up. In the real world, Rolfe is teamed up with his childhood friend Mike Matei to produce his videos. Why couldn’t Matei be the side-kick? Instead, he and Kyle Justin – the musical mastermind of the series – have little cameos at the AVGN convention. Kevin Finn, a frequent guest and also-friend of Rolfe’s, has made appearances in the series but seemed content to co-write on this ride. I know we’re all supposed to wonder where this Cooper guy came from, but it all feels like it stretches what we AVGN fans know a bit too thin.

Speaking of thin, the biggest serious critique I have of this film is that the movie’s last half hour feels like a complete mess. There were moments where I looked at my girlfriend and fought back the urge to ask, “did I miss a scene?” I had absolutely no idea why, at the end of the film, the soldiers are cheering for their general’s demise. I can extrapolate that the officer in question is a complete jerk, but I don’t get why his men have transformed their mission from “crowd control” to “insane mob.” This is the biggest and most severe weakness the film suffers from: A spasticity in its progression.

Overall Impression of The AVGN Movie

The aforementioned flaws aside, I’ve spent about 1,500 words talking about this movie. If it wasn’t worth watching, would I have? Now, you might be asking yourself, “Jesse, what if the movie isn’t in a theater near me?” It’s an indie film, after all, and it’s not in mainstream movie houses! Well, in the after-movie Q&A session (which I had to leave early, sadly), Rolfe was asked what his plans for a wider release were. He intends to do a digital distribution arrangement of some kind, mentioning a date in early September, but he hasn’t got a specific plan finished, yet.

So now let me talk just a little more about what this movie means.

Yes, it’s pretty insane. Yes, it’s got flaws. However, it’s the brain-child of a man who started off making nothing more substantial than home movies. Later, he went on to create a few Youtube videos, ones that became extremely popular. He helped make Lets Plays into a major thing. He managed to generate enough revenue from his internet show to quit his day job and produce content full-time! That’s pretty much the American Dream, here.

But most of all, he created something for his fans. Yes, Rolfe goes over-board on content that makes an avid AVGN fan say, “Well, you’d have to listen halfway through episode 37 to get this joke.” However, as an indie producer myself, all I can say is, “Congratulations, man. You did it.”

Overall: 8.7/10 (8.1 for non-AVGN fans; 2.1 for non-video game fans, but then WTF are you watching it for in the first place, exactly?)

Jesse Pohlman is a writer from Long Island, New York.  If you enjoy science-fiction novels, check out his Amazon Store and see if one of them sounds fun to read, to you!

James Rolfe, Kevin Finn, and some dude's big ass head.  @Symphony Space in New York City, 8/8/2014.

James Rolfe, Kevin Finn, and some dude’s big ass head. @Symphony Space in New York City, 8/8/2014.

 

 

 

 

A Cosmic Tale of Convenient Timing: B612 Foundation, Manley, and more!

As you may recall from some previous articles I’ve written about gaming, I’m a big fan of video games.  As you might know from reading my novel Protostar:  Memoirs Of The Messenger, I’m also invested heavily in dreaming about the stars.  To complete this repetitive trend, as you might remember from an article I wrote about Kerbal Space Program (and it’s reigning demi-god, Scott Manley), I happen to appreciate our reality when it comes to space exploration, especially when it’s explained through the context of little green men flying very human-designed rocket-ships.

Stay with me, here, there’s a point coming that’s connected to this article’s title!

In my ode to Scott Manley, I linked you, dear reader, to a video where Manley plays Kerbal with a gentleman named Ed Lu.  Ed Lu is an actual astronaut, the kind that fly around in the real rockets that are mimicked in Kerbal Space Program.  His days as a Space Shuttle pilot go so far beyond anything I’ve experienced outside of a dream, but his current efforts – promoted during his previous video with Manley – are focused on something called the B612 Foundation.  And this, dear reader, is where a subheading swoops in to make this article more search-able, as well as to create the obvious segue…

 

What Is The B612 Foundation?

I’m glad you asked!

The B612 Foundation is a not-for-profit organization co-founded by Ed Lu and Rusty Schweickart, of Apollo 9 fame.  Following a fortuitous meeting in which Ed Lu was met with the stunning proposal of, “why don’t you do it?,” the two started an organization dedicated to a rather noble goal:  Preventing, or at least mitigating the possibility of an asteroid or meteorite hitting a certain planet we all live on, called Earth.  I spoke via Twitter with B612 earlier today about something I’ll get into briefly, but they recommended I watch a video they produced.  I hope I’m not doing them an injustice by reposting it here (assuming Vimeo’s embed features work), but I think they explain it better than I could.

B612 Impact Video 4-20-14 H264 from Spine Films on Vimeo.

 

 

b612chebmeteor

I think the point is obvious.  I find myself amazed that I don’t have any articles, on any of the sites I’ve written for, about the Chelyabinsk Meteor mentioned in the B612 Impact Video, but I know I’ve talked about it with high school students and they were rather stunned at the video of the event.  It’s reminiscent of another (presumed) meteor impact, the Tunguska Event, which occurred in 1908 and had the estimated force of 1,000 Hiroshima bombs.  I guess Russia is both lucky and unlucky; they’re unfortunate enough to get all of the really big meteors in their airspace, but their two close calls both appear to have ended with air-bursts and minimal damage.  Still, what about the smaller ones?

Well, part of the title of this article implied a strange connection of events between Scott Manley’s Kerbal Space Program videos, meteors, and the B612 Foundation.  Let’s go to the goodies!

 

 

“Interstellar Quest” Rocks The Earth?

Scott Manley’s latest KSP video series is called “Interstellar Quest,” and it is something I look forward to on a daily basis.  Let’s be real for a second; my father isn’t in great health and my grandmother is 90, and I am already prone to bouts of depression.  My girlfriend and friends in general have been great to me, as has my day job, but one of the most satisfying forms of entertainment has been the twenty-minute-long videos put together by this true storytelling and gaming genius.  While I can call him out on continuing to drag the Sean Kerman Secrets story-line along, I genuinely look forward to every Interstellar release I see.

A month or so ago, Kerbal Space Program updated to Version .23.5.  KSP did this to introduce a NASA-sponsored feature into the game; asteroids.  Players can detect asteroids floating around the Kerbal homeworld of Kerbin, and can of course send rockets to interact with, move, and even design ridiculous toys out of these space-rocks!  From an educational standpoint (and my Masters’ degree in education agrees!), this is the definition of “immersion,” or bathing students in a subject.  Build a rocket-ship, fly out to an asteroid, and manipulate it?  These are projects NASA – and some billionaires – really believe will be profit-generating prospects!

But as to its relevance to “Interstellar Quest,” in his latest (and 60th!) episode, Manley deploys a version of the very tool that the B612 Foundation wants to develop in real life:  The Sentinel, a highly complicated project that breaks down to being a crowd-funded, orbiting camera in space dedicated solely to finding asteroids that might hit Earth.  Pretty cool, huh?

Here’s Episode 60 of my Scottish Science Idol’s incredible series, wherein he further explains how the B612 Foundation’s Sentinel will work (both in-game and in-reality).

By the end of his video, Manley has discovered that an asteroid is about ten days out from striking the planet Kerbin!  Oh no!  That’s, like, the stand in for planet Earth!  Well, it was released on May 3rd, so in the game world they have 10 in-game days, but even if they were real days we’d still have, what, eight?  And, anyway, it’s a game, right?  There’s no way that a stellar body could somehow hit us because of Scott’s video, right?  Surely he was just promoting the B612 Foundation because it had just released it’s Impact Video on April 20th…Which, in retrospect, is kind of cruel; talking about city-killer asteroids on 420 is just mean, man, and might have harshed one’s mellow, had one indulged in such things…

What was I saying?  Right.  Manley was talking about B612 because B612 was back in the news, and surely he planned for his Kerbals to deal with this threat from space in his next episode of Interstellar Quest…

 

…And Then A Real Meteor Hit Canada!

Yesterday, as I ate dinner with my girlfriend and her mother (my first dinner-with-the-mom, and it went well!), this news came across my eyes, courtesy of CTV News:  “Meteor Strike In Ontario?  Flash Of Blue Light, Loud Boom Reported On Social Media.”  Immediately, the fiction writer in me began to churn out story-lines:  Manley had used digital magic to summon this thing to strike Canada because, well, why not!?

Alright, so this is a complete-and-total coincidence.  The incident, which was later confirmed as a real event by Astronomy Professor Peter Brown, of the University of Western Ontario, arrived a day before Earth passed into the tail of Halley’s Comet, causing an easily-predicted-in-advance meteor shower called Eta Aquarid.  It was a minor impact, and while I’m sure it scared people witless, no serious damage seems to have been done.  It was solely a matter of convenient timing:  We fans of Scott Manley and the B612 Foundation were looking forward to meteor stories and we got one in real life!  Our eyes were on a game’s representation of a asteroid-discovery situation, eliciting laughter at the face of Edlu Kerman falling victim to a paralysis bug, all as the real source for our fear emerged and reminded us just how real it is.

We knew that the Eta Aquarid meteor shower was happening, and knew it would be relatively mild; we did not know it was going to produce a direct hit, with fragments found in some person’s back yard!  It reminds us that we did not know Chelyabinsk was on its way to get us.  Other news was even more upsetting:  As reported by Liz Kilmas of The Blaze, a 25-foot, bus-sized asteroid called 2014 HL129 came within 186,000 of hitting Earth – closer to us than our moon is!  But the scariest part?  It was only discovered three days before it was due to pass so close.  If the asteroid was on just a slightly different trajectory, it could have crashed right into us, doing who-knows-how-much damage.  Probably not terribly much, depending on its speed, impact site, and density.  However, we would much rather it not break down to a stereotypical “wake-up call” moment for us to start actively defending our cities.

 

Contributing to the B612 Foundation Sentinel

I literally just donated $25 bucks to the Sentinel Project.  It isn’t much, but I don’t have much right now.  (If you buy my books, perhaps I’ll have more!)  Everyone should step up and invest in this.  Assuming it all works, it may well give us enough warning so that Scott Manley, Billy Bob Thorton, Ben Affleck, Bruce Willis, and others can mount up and prevent an asteroid from hitting us.  They can be led by Ed Lu and Rusty Schweickart, who have some real space-travel experience.  Okay, so maybe SpaceX would end up picking the crew and handling the mission, and not the writers of a very bad space thriller!  However, by the time it’s all said and done, I put my money where my mouth is.

You can follow my lead and pitch in at this link.  Don’t forget, while you’re at it, to use our social networking buttons to “Share” and “Like” and “Tweet” this article.

Until then, if there’s news out of B612, Kerbal Space Program, Scott Manley, or just anything else cool in space, odds are you’ll see me write a (much shorter) article about it!  Until then, friends, remember:  We face dangerous times; no more dangerous than at any point in human history, perhaps, but certainly dangerous in that we lack the tools to glean knowledge of a world-ending asteroid headed our way, to say nothing of having a contingency plan ready to act.

That needs to change, and it’s our job to build the world we want!

 

Jesse Pohlman is an author from Freeport, New York.  He writes science-fiction novels where asteroids are definitely discussed, especially in Protostar:  Memoirs Of The Messenger, when Lahira Ocean, the chief navigator on the star-ship The George Washington helps her Captain make first contact with a new, dangerous species of alien.  Jesse has produced other sci-fi novels that deal with real physical phenomenon in the hands of reluctant superheroes and villains in the novels Physics Incarnate and Physics Reincarnate, starring the Master of Physics Itself, Emmett Eisenberg.

 Feel free to check this site out for more information and other interesting topics, like the educational value of Saturday-Morning Cartoons, a video-review of Margaret Atwood’s masterpiece Oryx and Crake, or how the Uintah School District in Utah took lunches from kids who “hadn’t paid for them” and threw the food out, instead.

Thank you for visiting!

For Love Of Kerbal Space Program and Scott Manley

A year ago, I wasn’t in the greatest shape.  Many things changed me over the last year, especially the arrival of a new, more genuine love as well as an addiction I’ve developed.  It’s an addiction to some little green men who fly around in rocket ships, and they exist in my computer’s hard drive.  I’m talking, of course, about Kerbal Space Program!  And KSP, well, KSP deserves all the attention it’s gotten in the media.  It is the brain-child of a company called Squad, and it is a master-piece.  As a game, it is both simple to learn and literally impossible to master – players make their own challenges, after all!  As an educational tool, it is incredible in how it captures the nauseatingly complicated nature of orbital physics and transforms it into an accessible adventure.  Most of all, however, KSP has a community behind it that wholly completes the game – and, while there are many names in its hallowed halls, today we’re going to talk about just one of them.

 

What is Kerbal Space Program?

You, the player, are the somewhat-omnipotent ruler of the ‘mighty’ people of the planet Kerbin!

Kerbal Space Program!  Image courtesy of Squad.

Kerbal Space Program! Image courtesy of Squad.

 

In particular, you control a bunch of these guys.  Never fear, though; for all of their crazy grins and scared expressions, to say nothing of their green (arguably photosynthetic) skin, you are the greatest threat they have ever faced.  You see, you serve three distinct roles:  You are the designer of their rockets, you are the planner of their missions, and – ultimately – you are the controlling force behind their actions.  In all three phases of the game, your decisions are the ones that matter.

Let’s start with rocket design.  There are some pre-made rockets, but in 99/100 cases you will be designing your own.  You will, as a beginner, make mistakes with staging them; you will forget to install solar panels; you will forget a strut that causes the entire thing to tip over and explode.  It will make you laugh, mainly because you will be able to hit the “revert flight” button and try again.  Well, most of the time.

Then there’s planning a mission:  You don’t want to just send your Kerbals up into space with no real agenda, do you?  Maybe you want to visit a moon?  For starters, there’s…Mun!  Yes, many of Kerbal Space Program’s many planets and moons are analogues to Earth and it’s sisters.  Duna, for example, is roughly equivalent to our Mars.  The Mun is our Moon, but on the other hand Kerbin has a second moon called Minmus.  What if you want to build a space-station?  How will you design it?  Will you try to launch it up in one piece?  (Tip:  This ain’t gonna work, well).  If not, you have to design both launchers, maneuver them into place, and make them work.  If you think this is easy, you’re going to be surprised.

Kerbal Space Program

My attempt at Kerbal Space Program!

This is a rocket I built.  It’s designed to perform basic scientific reconnaissance.  I took the collection of parts I was given and slapped it together, I launched it and steered it into Kerbin orbit, and I believe this mission made a successful return to the planet.  In the bottom-right hand corner you can see my little alien pilot.  He looks happy and safe, doesn’t he?  Well, I’m good enough to make a satellite network and to launch a rocket ship out to the Mun and back.  I cannot land on the moon, yet; I cannot reach Minmus.  I cannot even begin to seriously consider a jaunt to another planet.  For anyone who believes NASA is playing small-ball by launching rovers to Mars, and for everyone laughing at the failure of China’s latest mission to the Moon, I invite you to create a similar mission in Kerbal Space Program and pull it off.  You’ll find dozens of players duplicate the Apollo project’s method as one of their first milestones:  You don’t want to know how many launches end up failing and being written off a “simulations.”

The Kerbals themselves are fun.  While random name generators give you an endless supply of astronauts, the game’s development initially gave players three to command.  Bill and Bob are often viewed as navigators or technies, mainly because their names both start with B, but there is no mistaking who Jebediah Kerman is.  Jeb is the legendary ace pilot, and whenever a miraculous landing is accomplished (without, of course, a fatal dose of lithobraking), rest assured that it is Jeb’s spirit being channeled.

But, let’s skip ahead a bit.  Let’s think “end-game.”  What happens when you are good enough to build space stations in orbit around other planets?  Well…You add modifications to your game.  Some, like the Flight Engineer in the picture I posted, just give you more data and help you make better decisions.  They’re not “easy-mode,” they’re just better displays.  There are “easy-mode” mods, but there are also additions like Ferram Aerospace Research and the Interstellar Mod that add more realistic physics engines, or stitch on entirely new story arcs to the development of Kerbal-Kind.  From new parts to play with down to entire re-arrangements of the Kerbol star system (and the addition of other stars), KSP is almost infinitely expandable.  What’s more, sometimes the best mod-makers are hired by Squad as game developers, giving enthusiastic Kerbal fans a chance to really change their game’s development.

Ahhh, but where would I be if I discussed “enthusiasm,” but didn’t mention the Youtube, Let’s Play, and Twitch communities – and, in particular, one man stands out in my mind as the best – as the Jebediah Kerman of Kerbal Space Program Players.

 

Scott Manley Takes It To The House.

…The house he built.

…In space.

I originally found out about the game by watching a Scottish man, aptly named Scott Manley, play Kerbal Space Program on his Youtube Channel.  Bear in mind, I don’t usually sit back and watch other people play video games, but I was intrigued by two things having to do with KSP.  The first was that it was so damn realistic looking (green men aside), and second that Manley wasn’t just some talking head – he’s an actual scientist.  He studied astronomy, and he works in the field of computer programming.  He doesn’t just play a game, but he explains actual physics as he puts them into play.  He also plays on “hard mode,” using many of the mods I mentioned above and more to create a game which is incredibly difficult.  And, well, he sticks with the results – I watched him play live, for an hour and a half, as a single bug in the game destroyed a mission he’d spent hours developing.  But, you can chase the link to that video.  I’d rather embed something different!

Instead, here’s Scott Manley playing Kerbal Space Program with NASA veteran Ed Lu, a man who has been into outer space, himself, and who now heads the B612 Foundation, which is dedicated to no less a goal than protecting Planet Earth from, you guessed it, little green men!  asteroids!  Why this one?  Because it’s an important goal, investigating and preventing potential asteroid strikes.  In case you’ve forgotten, I’ve conveniently linked you to Humanity’s latest “holy shit this is a problem” wake-up call, Chelyabinsk.

The bottom line with Kerbal Space Program is this:  It is amazingly fun if you don’t take it too seriously, and if you are willing to accept failure.  To watch it played by a steady player, an expert, is incredible.  Overall, it’s a great time.  Give it a try, or at the very least watch a few videos by Scott and some others and you’ll get a much greater idea of just what our place in the universe is!

After The Super Bowl, the Truther Bowl – And it’s dumb!

After watching my football idol Peyton Manning smashed, I decided to get the same.  No, but I did decide to take a shower and get ready for bed.  As I was checking my various social media outlets, a friend of mine had posted a link to this Vine, by Timothy T Hoang.  I was not prepared.

A "Truther" crashes a press conferrence, via Timothy T Hoang's Vine

A “Truther” crashes a press conferrence, via Timothy T Hoang’s Vine

 

Here we see what I can only describe as a crazy person grabbing the microphone from, I believe, the game’s MVP winner Malcolm Smith.  Wilson just overcame a lot of doubters to win his first super bowl.  He he is, probably exhausted from his performance and the stress of the situation, and this crazy guy in a bad lumberjack coat grabs the microphone on him out of the blue.  Maniac-man here immediately demands that Americans investigate 9/11 because, he says, people within the government are responsible for it.

I like to link to Penn and Teller:  Bullshit episodes when I see such insane rants.  Here’s their episode on conspiracy theories in general, and they talk about 9/11 in specific.  It also features Phil Plait, an awesome scientist who writes Bad Astronomy.

Now, it’s not as if there have never been real conspiracies before, at least conspiracies within the early stages.  Take the Business Plot, where people maybe tried to contact a popular ex-military leader about leading a revolution.  Even this was a mild version of a conspiracy, one that just never got far.

 

Now, I’m going to eventually talk about the lunacy of trying to overthrow America.  I’m gonna talk about conspiracy theories, and – in particular – the fact that some people are loud and vocal about overthrowing America.  But, let us never forget that there are idiots out there who honestly believe that the U.S. government planned 9/11.  They’re insane at worst, deluded at best.  It’s good to be skeptical, and to demand evidence!  It’s bad to not allow one person’s evidence to persuade you, while the other side typically fails to present any of substance.  It’s even worse to crash an NFL event and start rambling about Truther bullshit.  I end this discussion by linking you to what happened when Truthers tried to crash “Real Time With Bill Maher.”  Hint:  It didn’t work, and it undermined their cause in the first place.

 

Ed.  Note:  I’d originally misidentified Smith as Russell Wilson, based on other pictures of Wilson.  After waking up this morning, I’d found that the Broncos had indeed played in the Super Bowl and lost.  It wasn’t a bad dream of Peyton’s, it was just a loss.  Next year, huh?

The Hidden Cost of Eve Online’s $300,000 Battle at B-R5BR!

On January 27th, a missed rent payment led to the seizure of corporate property.  This sort of thing happens every day; naturally, the landlords were quick to sell to a rival company, while the first lessees were left confused and ready to contest the eviction.  Such a contest involved each corporation dispatching their finest negotiation tools, “legislative” implements of the largest, most  titanic size. As news outlets like Fox News later reported, hundreds of thousands of American dollars were put into play.  The skies above this property seemingly erupted, reinforcements poured in, and chaos ruled for nearly a full day as these two corporations and their allies committed their resources to vaporizing their opponents with massive laser cannons and missiles.

That’s how business is done in Nullsec, anyway; a lawless region of space in the massively multiplayer game EVE Online.

EVE Online?  Three hundred grand?  Kind of…

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m pretty experienced with video games.  From Mario to Grand Theft Auto V, I know how they work.  More to the point, I’m very familiar with MMORPG’s like World of Warcraft, strategy games like Utopia and Tribal Wars, and – lately – Kerbal Space Program.  I’ve never played EVE Online myself, but here’s the gist of what happened in the fictional star system B-R5BR:

Eve Online

“Just another day in B-R5BR,” by Reddit user armycadetz.

Two alliances were at war.  The first, PL-N3 made a huge logistical mistake and didn’t pay rent, so their enemy, CFC, moved in to take over the unoccupied base.  The PL-N3 called in reinforcements to try and save the day; the CFC called in their own to win it.  The battle took roughly twenty two hours of real time to complete; to deal with technical issues, EVE actually prevents crashes by slowing game-play down to a pace that their servers can keep up with.  Tremendous numbers of Titan ships, often said to cost thousands of dollars each, laid waste to one another.  It was broadcast live to over ten thousand viewers via Twitch players such as Nick_fuzzeh, while I believe I was introduced to the mayhem by Dobbb’s.  The chaos was pretty much mind-blowing.  When all was told, some very fuzzy math generated the headline that three hundred thousand American dollars were lost.

The biggest problem with this narrative is that the value being thrown around, $300,000, is based on faulty math.  EVE’s subscription model is handled by players buying in-game items called Pilot License Extensions (PLEX).  These in-game items can then be bought and sold for in-game currency, ISK.  Also buy-and-sellable?  The mind-bogglingly huge starships used in the game?  This dollar value being kicked around is a result of converting real money into PLEX, then converting the PLEX into ISK.  PLEX and ISK do not convert back to real dollars, at least not within the realm of the game.  (Yes, nothing stops people from wiring real money into another players’ bank account in exchange for in-game items; this is probably a bad idea, though, and may violate the game’s terms of use).

 

The Real Cost of EVE Online:  Time

The only thing that harshes the mellow of gamers seeking to drop four grand and jump into EVE is, well, your character wouldn’t know what to do with one if they got it.  It takes months of training a character just to be able to use a Titan.  It takes months more to actually build one in the game world.  That underscores the investment that EVE players undertake – they spend years building characters up, gathering equipment, and waiting for the right time to use them.

Take a look at the video below:

 

While that video may be relatively short, you can never forget that it has been re-compressed after the time dilation mechanic extended the functional duration of the battle.  Remember, this thing took twenty-two hours.  People called in sick and took off of work to play.  They stayed awake for hours upon hours just to play this game that they have dedicated a huge portion of their lives to.  While the instigating event was probably unpredictable, preparation for something like it had been going on for weeks, at least, as one side or another invaded various star-systems and moved logistical resources across a galaxy.  Thousands of people coordinated for this one show-down.

Nerdy?  Absolutely.  Too much time spent in a game, and not the real world?  I’ve certainly heard that argument before!  But some people live for these kind of things, and if that’s their way of enjoyment, so be it.  Just remember that the media narrative here, suggesting that three hundred thousand dollars were pissed away, is completely wrong.  In December of 2013, EVE’s owners and players raised over $190,000 to send to the Philippines to help alleviate the damage from Typhoon Haiyan.  That’s a battle worth fighting to these players, too.