The Consulting Analyst – Silent Hill: Shattered Memories

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Released a mere year after Homecoming’s severe critical lashing, Shattered Memories was working from a pretty notable deficit of fan enthusiasm. Perhaps partly because of this, many of the decisions surrounding the game’s identity and presentation feel reactionary, tied to the knowledge of its existence in a franchise that by then had firmly entered the headspace of being called “once prestigious.” Its awareness of its audience is constant, from the major marketing hook of “the game plays you as much as you play it” on down. And while on the surface level this ends up being a bit groan-worthy (the NPC changes are largely cosmetic and the psych evaluation is pretty simplistic fortune cookie stuff), it manages to sneak its way into being the Smart Meta Entry in the series.

A quick plot summary: the game splits time between first-person therapy sequences that scream This is Not a Twist in Dr. Michael “that drug-pushing dickbag side mission” Kaufmann’s office and a 3rd person POV retelling of the events of the first Silent Hill (novelist Harry Mason gets in a car crash, runs out into Silent Hill to find his daughter) that turns sour and odd very quickly. And as you might suspect there’s no way to talk about this game without knowledge of its ending, so you can do a Let’s Play catch up here.

Good? Okay, we’re moving on.

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More Podcasts for the Uninitiated; or Free Things Made by Talented People

A few months ago I wrote a starter’s guide for those interested in the wonderful, portable world of podcasts. Today we revisit that fertile field, where dozens of shows live and die by the day, to bring you half a dozen more shows that are worth your time post-haste. Whether you’re already up to date on the last set or just looking for a new set of options (that you’re sure is going to last more than three episodes), I think I’ve got something for you here.

But, I mean, you’re already listening to Night Vale, right?

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Five Forgotten Gems – Brilliant Lady Leads

Despite the fact that “post-apocalyptic feminist action flick” might as well have been shaped and addressed to my heart with a fetching bow on top, I did not get a chance to see Mad Max: Fury Road this past weekend. But in the spirit of the thing, I thought today might be a great opportunity to offer up some other stories about women: triumphant and struggling, witty and monstrous, mundane and adventurous. But most of all, something with a little variety for our heroines. Because hey, romance is all fine and well and often part of the human experience, but it’s agonizingly frustrating how often that type of story automatically defaults to the domain of the “token chick character.” Certainly it would be tragic if such a mindset were to hold true even to creators known for loudly and self satisfiedly declaring themselves exemplary models of feminist ideologies.

I think I blacked out there for a second, what was I saying?

Right, great stories starring women.

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Endearing Awful People: Or, How I Accidentally Fell in Love With Rick and Morty

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Comedic sociopathy – the effect produced when a show’s prioritization of jokes over relationships ends up giving off the feeling that no one involved has the capacity to feel for other human beings – is generally the furthest thing from my cup of tea. While shedding emotion for punchlines can work beautifully in short standalone works (one need look no further than classic Looney Tunes shorts to prove that), it tends to clash badly with anything requiring continuity.

You’ll find this as one of the foremost reasons people give for checking out on Family Guy and later seasons of The Simpsons, for example. And yet it’s far more rarely an accusation laid against British comedy, whose most famous works (Black Adder, Fawlty Towers, Father Ted, the Monty Python canon to an extent) pretty much run on flippant cruelty. The crucial difference is the format: the latter shows tend very much toward absurdity, asking nothing of the audience but to point and laugh at the hypocritical jackassery before them; while American comedy born from that sitcom mold finds itself married to the emotional resolution, often building the shape of what should be an emotional dynamic only to discard it when inconvenient. The disconnect between familiar beats relying on the audience’s emotions and the cruelty required to sell the jokes (comedy, after all, is pretty much always seeded in some kind of pain) becomes jarring over time, and has a way of breeding resentment in the audience. At the very least, yours truly has little use for them.

All of which is an extremely long-winded way of saying that Rick and Morty is, eight times in ten, a black-hearted grotesquery with more interest in its odd, world-hopping scenarios than building any kind of warm and fuzzy feelings. And after 11 episodes I am more invested in its world and characters than any adult comedy of the last few years. In fact, it might be Adult Swim’s best program since the indomitable Venture Bros. Continue reading