Wednesday, August 26, 2015

*Cue the whistling* The Andy Griffith Show!

I was flipping through Netflix the other day as I usually am when I'm bored and in between video game sessions, when I came across a childhood favorite: The Andy Griffith Show. After explaining to my wife what it was since she hadn't seen it, we watched the pilot episode and found ourselves laughing harder than we had at anything made in the last 10 years in a while.

Plot wise there's barely anything to describe: We follow the adventures of a small town Southern sheriff as he polices Mayberry, the ideal American suburb, and the wacky characters he interacts with on a daily basis. That's it, seriously, if you haven't watched this show that's the main concept. There was no big drama, no wacky mismatch of lifestyles like the Munsters or the usual 50's  style dig at show-business like I Love Lucy, it was just a show about a small town.

I realized as I went back to the Netflix menu that the show seemed so out of place next to my usual viewing habits. The Andy Griffith Show just isn't like BoJack Horseman, Family Guy, Supernatural, or that one weird alien show I turned on the day I wanted to take a nap and wanted some noise in the background. Here we have a show made 60+ years ago, has no sexual innuendo and the closest thing to violence is when the deputy's gun goes off accidentally, and yet it's better written than most anything else on TV.

Why?

I have a theory: As TV evolved more complex storylines and deeper characters were demanded. This demand just kept growing and growing until we reached the point where if you miss one episode of any given show you may as well just give up because without that one piece of context you're going to be lost for the rest of the season. I feel the same concept happened with violence and sexual content, to where we have simultaneously reached a point where most shows have to have one character like Quagmire who's entire purpose in life is to be as inappropriate as possible.

Funnily enough, the Andy Griffith Show reminds me a lot of one modern show, The Walking Dead, mostly because both main characters are soft spoken Southern police officers, but also because for the most part the plots are about how different people get along, albeit one in a far more extreme circumstance (I wonder what Aunt Bea would do during a zombie apocalypse? Probably make them fried chicken...). Why can't we have more shows like that? More shows where it's just about a place and how the people in it interact, but without the sex and violence that give even a jaded childless adult the urge to cover the nearest minor's eyes?

In the end I'm probably part of the real problem. Several paragraphs ago I admitted to having the same trash TV I'm now railing against prominently on my "Recently Watched By Joe" Netflix list, with a long list stacking up behind that. The networks will duplicate what sells, and if that's cartoons made by Seth McFarland


or zombie apocalypse slaughterfests it's because we watch them.

Meh, enough complaining, I'm turning on Andy.

-JOE

What's your favorite classic TV show?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Guest Post: Doctor Who Companions by Spencer Ficiur

Guest Blogger Spencer is back talking about Doctor Who.

 
 SPOILER ALERT: Up to and including "The Time of the Doctor" (2013 Christmas special)

Having seen all of the modern Doctor Who (9th Doctor onward) and bits and pieces of the classic series, I have a lot of respect for the original series (yes, the special effects suck, but for the 60s, 70s, and 80s it's pretty good). I love the little nods to the classic series as well (like the 11th Doctor having the Seal of Rassilon in "The Time of the Doctor" after having taken it from the Master in the Death Zone as the 3rd Doctor in "The Five Doctors"). I loved seeing Sarah Jane Smith in the 10th Doctor era, linking old Who and new Who together. In fact I'd love to see more of that, old companions returning. So here are my top 7 Classic Companions I would like to see again (Note: I've only included companions that it would be viable to see again, which would exclude most companions whose actor is deceased).

1. My number one choice is Romana. In the 4th Doctor era we saw two different versions of the Time Lady Romana. A third Romana and another known as Trey (some people believe this is the same incarnation) appeared in prose and audio adventures of the 8th Doctor. Especially with the expected return of Gallifrey in the next few years, we could easily see a new regeneration of Romana, perhaps a return of the 2nd Romana before her regeneration into the 3rd Romana, who the 8th Doctor meets.





2.    I would love to see more of K-9. The mechanical dog appeared alongside the 4th Doctor in the classic series, later returning alongside Sarah Jane Smith in "School Reunion" and appearing regularly in the Sarah Jane Adventures. In my opinion, this could also be a good opportunity to have Luke, Sarah Jane's son from her spinoff, return and tie up any loose ends from the spinoff, since the show abruptly ended as a result of the death of Elizabeth Sladen.




3.    Having recently watched a few episodes of the 7th Doctor with Ace, I would love to see Sophie Allred reprise her role as the sassy, explosive-loving woman that she was (only older now). In addition to simply enjoying her personality, I think this would be a great way to tie up some loose ends from the last episode of the classic series "Survival" and the 7th Doctor's return in the TV movie. Somewhere along the way Ace left the Doctor and I'd be interested to learn why. Russell T. Davies stated that Ace would have appeared in the Sarah Jane Adventures, but due to the unfortunate death of Elizabeth Sladen, that didnt happen.

4.    Seeing as the actor is still alive, I would love to see Ian Chesterton return. Ian traveled with the 1st Doctor and was, in a way, the original hero of the story, since the Doctor didn't get into a lot of physical action. It was referenced (if you were paying attention) in the 50th anniversary special "The Day of the Doctor" that he still works at Coal Hill. However, I might think it better to set an episode with him in the future, seeing as Sarah Jane references a rumor in "The Death of the Doctor" that as of 2010 Ian and Barbara hadn't aged since the 1960s.




5.    Similar to Romana, I would like to see the return of Susan Foreman, the Doctor's granddaughter, who traveled alongside the 1st Doctor and her teachers. We last saw her in "The Five Doctors" (though I believe she appeared in some audio works). If the Doctor truly believed his whole family to be dead, prior to saving Gallifrey in "The Day of the Doctor" I think it could be possible for Susan to return when Gallifrey returns.


6.  Though arguably not part of the classic series, I would love to see more of Dr. Grace Holloway, from the 8th Doctor's TV movie.  
      The TV movie has a bad reputation, but I enjoyed it. Taking into account that Grace apparently had some other adventures with the 8th Doctor in the comics, I think featuring Grace would add some depth to the 8th Doctor that I wish we had.




  7.    Admittedly I haven't seen many classic episodes of her, but I would love to see more of Jo Grant (married name Jo Jones). She worked with the 3rd Doctor and later reappeared at his supposed funeral in "The Death of the Doctor" of the Sarah Jane Adventures. It was revealed that she has traveled the world and that she has a family of her own (including grandchildren). I think it would be cool to see Jo interact with the 12th Doctor, who reminds me a lot of the 3rd Doctor.


There you have it. Those are my seven returns that I wish Moffat would make happen. Which classic companions would you like to (realistically) make a return? Why?

Monday, August 17, 2015

Obsession: DC Deck Building Game

Sorry it's been a while since I've posted. Summer is just that busy time of the year that sucks all my time up in a vortex. But we're nearing the end of that and Salt Lake Comic Con is only about a month away. What is also almost a month away is Doctor Who Series 9. Let's not forget October when Arrow Season 4 and The Flash Season 2 will begin. (And yes, I am excited for League of Legends starting mid-season). Supergirl will also be starting this fall, but I'm more excited for The Muppets' return to TV. And then there's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Gotham for those who are fans of them. Let's be honest, it's a great time for Geek TV.

On to the real post, though.

Thanks to Joe, I'm addicted to the DC Deck Building Game. Thanks to my bank account, I do not own this game. So all I can go off of is the few times I've played against Joe. But honestly, I can't get enough of this game at the moment.

Now Joe has the original game. And most of the expansions (I'm guessing, because the box he carries them all in is almost out of room.) Because of that, we've seen a bunch of random stuff pop up in the game...speaking of, let me tell you what's in it.
 
First, you have a hero you play as/with, I'm never quite sure. It's possible to have a villain actually depending on the expansion/set/what-have-you. And they give you a power. (Unless it's Green Arrow, I never could figure out what to do with him other than say "yay, I'm Green Arrow...")


After that you have your starter cards and try to buy other cards (similarly to Dominion). With the right combination of cards, you can defeat the villains. Woohoo. And when all the villains are defeated, game over. Most points on the cards you have wins.

Of course, there's weakness cards that deduct from your points. And it's even more awesome when Joe gives you 20 weaknesses because he has the right card for it along with a card that copies it. I'm not bitter...whatever.

In that game, Joe and I were playing with the additional Arrow expansion (not to be confused with the Green Arrow hero I was playing with.) I gotta say, the Arrow expansion added some nice dynamics to it. Except Laurel, I wasn't happy with a card concerning her, just like her place on Team Arrow. Of course, defeating Malcolm Merlyn (meaning I've "bought" the card and it goes into my deck) was the highlight of the game. Because...well...Captain Jack Harkness.

So on a scale of Fantastic 4 movies to Doctor Who, this hits my obsession level of Batman, which is appropriate since we are discussing a DC game whose base is the Justice League of America. This is a great game that mixes strategy and luck, which I always like. Now to convince my wife I need to buy them all...hmm...

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Gamescon SLC 2015: So Many Cool Things, So Little Time!

So I went to Gamescon in Salt Lake City last weekend. Sadly, the week was so busy, I was only able to go on Saturday. Let me tell you, 4 hours is not nearly enough to experience everything the Con had to offer! Let me share with you a brief overview of some of the things I did and experienced. I've decided to do two different posts on the Con: one about everything in general, and one about the Utah Indie Games Guild (I spent a lot of time with them).

So, I walked into the convention center with my usually feeling of dread I feel toward conventions. Perhaps memories of ComicCon being over capacity last year were tainting my feelings toward this convention. It was already Saturday afternoon, and there was only a few people waiting to buy tickets. 

After some questions, I went to the VIG/Press pass booth and picked up my press pass. The man at the booth took my name and said to me "You know the rules, right?". Honestly, I felt the pit of my stomach drop out. He then said "You're supposed to have fun!". I'm surprised I didn't laugh with relief. He did mention a few places where I could and couldn't take pictures. Still feeling nervous, I decided to wonder around outside of the main hall for awhile.

Insert anxiety selfie here!
I glanced into one of the rooms and saw some people playing some sort of MOBA game (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena). After awhile, I realized it looked a lot like Defense of the Ancients. There were even commentators speaking about what was going on! I didn't realize that DotA was still a thing! I got a little bored so I wondered a bit more.

That's when I saw him. Jon Bailey. He's the epic voice behind Honest Game Trailers and Honest Trailers. I'm a really big fan of his, so I only looked at him from way across the giant lobby area. I'm really sad that shyness overtook me. I heard his voice a number of times during the convention. That was the only time I saw him.

Jon Bailey is awesome!
Next I stepped into the convention hall, and immediately saw the Utah Indie Games Guild. I was immediately intrigued. I had only recently heard about them from another Mormon Geeks author, Stephen. I didn't talk with them immediately, but instead decided just to walk through and look at what they had to offer. There were loads and loads of really cool indie games. I'll save my adventures with them for a second blog post!

I wondered the convention hall and saw lots of interesting things. There was a showing from XBox and Playstation 4. There were multiple consoles set up for people to play Mortal Combat X and other fighting games. There was even a Guitar Hero 4 game set up (they wouldn't let us take pictures or videos near there). I saw some booths with various computer accessories and graphics cards. Other booths sold geeky T-shirts, clothing that would go well with fantasy cos-plays, weapons, beautiful artwork, and even some that sold food. None of the food seemed all that geeky/nerdy though. There were tables dedicated to games of Dungeons and Dragons, Yu-Gi-Oh, and countless other games I didn't recognize.

I noticed that there was a Hearthstone tournament going on. Hearthstone is an online trading card game published by Blizzard Entertainment. They also had a Heroes of the Storm tournament going on! I didn't investigate too closely into that.

As a fun aside, I saw a co-worker of mine sitting down and playing with a game at the Utah Indie Games Guild. I lurked until I saw he was done. He looked at me, but didn't act like he recognized me. After wondering near him for awhile, he finally came up to me and said hello. That's when he told me I probably knew his twin. I laughed quite a bit about that. I never realized the guy had a twin! 

Shortly afterward, a woman pointed at my shirt, laughed a bit and said "I love your shirt!" I'm wasn't quite sure how to take it, but I smiled and said "Thanks!"

Some people fighting with fake weapons!
Did I mention all the awesome cosplays I saw? 

  • I saw a Lord Zed dressed up as the red power ranger (confusing that one).
  • I warily eyed someone in a hockey mask with some kind of bloody blade. The fact the guy was 3 times my size made me super nervous.
  • I saw 4 people with sims' diamonds above their heads. Two were green, one was yellow, one was red. I nearly ran up to the person in red and said "This person needs food, Stat!"
  • There was a guy dressed up as Axel from Kingdom Hearts, complete with Axel's weapons
  • I saw someone who had painted their skin purple and was wearing an Ursala costume!
  • There was also an Ariel that was being pulled around in a cart.
Traditional convention soft pretzel!
Well, I didn't exactly see the Ariel cosplay being pulled around in the cart. Near the end of my visit to the convention, I went into the VIG/Press pass lounge. I was just about to ask the guy at the front desk what was going on when I was distracted by something on the table. There was a giant lizard there. I blinked at it totally confused. I thought it was a bearded dragon but someone from Creature Encounters came up and said it was a Tegu to someone else. It was an incredibly laid back lizard. It spent most of the time walking back and forth on the table and flicking out it's tongue. Creatures Encounters also had a few different boa constrictors there, slinking along different people. I actually held one of the snakes for awhile (and got some pictures with it). They also had some tarantulas they were letting people hold. I was terrified at first, but after awhile, they started to look cute. I didn't hold a tarantula.

Excuse me sir, there's a big lizard on your table
It's tongue tickled!

Stay tuned next week for some of the fun indie games I saw at the convention!

Monday, July 13, 2015

Patrick Stewart's 75th Birthday!

Today, July 13, is the birthday of two of Geekdom's biggest celebrities: Patrick Stewart and Harrison Ford.

That's right, it's Captain Picard's birthday today! (Make it so.) It's Han Solo's birthday! (I know.) It's Professor X's birthday! It's Indiana Jones' birthday! And then there are the characters we don't talk about as much. (Side note: It's also Colton Haynes' birthday. Arsenal from Arrow.)

Personally, I've always been a bigger Star Trek fan than Star Wars fan. I'm not gonna go into the whole "Why Star Trek is better than Star Wars". For starters, I could just as easily list reasons why the opposite is true and not feel like I'm betraying my fandom.

However, out of the four iconic pop culture characters represented by actors with today's birthday, I gotta say Captain Picard is the best out of the four.



Han Solo is a cavalier man who got women on and off screen to fall for him. Indiana Jones is a cavalier man who got women on and off screen to fall for him. (That sentence sounds familiar.) Professor X is a great character for people to look up to as he fought his former best friend and longtime nemesis, but no one really fell for him.

However, Captain Jean-Luc Picard is an authoritative man with a big heart hidden under the thickest skin possible who to this day probably has one of the biggest group of people with a mancrush on him.

Now let's be fair. Star Trek: The Next Generation had 7 years on the small screen, a decent movie, a great movie, a movie that should have been an after-school special, and a movie that should have been rewritten so that it didn't exist. But still, there was far more time for Captain Picard's character (and his awesomeness) to be fleshed out.

There are so many classic episodes (and even ones that aren't defined as classic but are still noteworthy) that I think it's worth giving them a look.

Season 1: Episodes 1/2: Encounter at Farpoint: This episode is quite noteworthy as it is what brought Star Trek back to the small screen. If "mon capitain" wasn't nearly as awesome as he was, this show would've certainly flopped. Picard showed us who was boss as he commanded his limited crew in court against Q. He stood up for what he knew was right and played the game well enough to prove how good of a mediator he is.

Season 1: Episode 12: The Big Goodbye: Picard's first holodeck attempt. This "story" will show up again and again. But it was a great episode to give us the question of sentience and intelligence.

Season 2: Episode 9: The Measure of a Man: Going back to this sentience and intelligence question, Data is on trial. But Picard is forced to defend him with Riker forced (yeah, cause it'd happen that way) to prosecute his friend. Picard and Guinan have a great discussion on what Data's rights are. And rights for a race are in general.

Season 3: Episode 19: Captain's Holiday: Like The Big Goodbye, Picard is taking a break, this time on Risa. Besides our first look at Risa and a pre-Deep Space Nine Rom, it's also our first meeting of Vash. The "romance" between an archaeologist and a thief builds here. And it's enjoyable to see Picard on something besides a command mission.

Season 3: Episode 26/Season 4: Episode 1: The Best of Both Worlds: Arguably the best episode of all time for this series, Picard is turned into a Borg, one of his greatest enemies. He loses all of himself into a different creature and when it is all removed and he recovers, Picard is no longer the same man.

Season 5: Episode 2: Darmok: Words are interesting. Especially when they don't make all the sense in the world. Communication between two people who don't speak in the same format is almost as difficult as of that for two people who don't even speak the same language.

Season 5: Episode 25: The Inner Light: What many writers deem the best written episode of all time. It is one of the most beautiful episodes in my opinion as well as one of the saddest. But still, no one can deny it won a Hugo and it'd be hard to argue against it. This is an episode where Picard lives out the life of another man and watch as his world prepares for extinction.

Season 6: Episode 15: Tapestry: There are 3 episodes to feature Q that do not contain the character's name. This is one of them. And it is probably the best of all Q episodes. A what-if this didn't happen to Picard episode. And the whole episode teaches Picard a valuable lesson of who he is.

Season 7: Episodes 25/26: All Good Things...: Let's look at the past, the present, and the future. A crazy-seeming Picard goes through a whole ordeal and ends up resetting time so that nothing that happened actually happened. But Picard showing what he's learned in his 7 years as Captain of the Enterprise is a great close to the show. And more amazing is him not shutting up about what the future looked like.

Star Trek: First Contact: One of the best Star Trek movies of all time. Easily arguably the best TNG film. Picard's fight for humanity's future harking back to The Best of Both Worlds is well-told. He refers to justice vs revenge in a way that shows how easy it is to cloud the two.

Well, that's that. My homage to Captain Picard for Patrick Stewart's birthday.

Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Post-Steam Summer Sale-retrospect

Bastion-a game I heard was fun
I don't even want to know how much I spent this summer on the Steam Summer Sale, where half the games on my wishlist drop down to $1. All I know is that I have a pile of new games and like a kid after Christmas I don't know what to play with first.

When the sale started, I noticed that I had nearly 50 games on my wishlist (modest compared to some I know), but about half of those were games that I had no idea why they were on there in the first place. I'm sure more than a couple came from watching "Games you might not have tried" videos those nice folks over at Extra Credits like to make, but as I watched the sales my wishlist started dropping down both from buying things AND kicking them off.

I kinda learned how to play D&D 3.0 from this game. 
Fast forward to Monday when the sale was over and I looked over my games library and found five or six games I flat out didn't recognize, as well as several games I had once upon a time spent a lot of money on but never played past the intro. I honestly felt bad, sitting here with a massive pile of games I never play but just sit there on my Steam list.

So why on Earth did I spend an embarrassing amount of money last week?

Talking to friends I've found I'm not the only one with a back catalog of unplayed or underplayed games. I'm starting to wonder if Steam has become the new toy box for adults, we scream and we beg and we budget to get the shiniest newest game, or in Steam's case, early access to what will hopefully become a shiny toy, then we forget about it three hours later, letting it sit forever on our Steam library gathering digital dust.

Looking at the old Seam library now I can count at least 20 of my 71 games I haven't put more than ten hours in, which ten hours may seem like much for any normal activity but for gaming these days it'll barely get you to the main story. All of them I want to play with, almost desperately, but sadly with a full schedule of school, work, writing musings for this blog, and cooking Costco meatballs, finding time for these guys is becoming harder and harder.

Just for a lark, here are some games I have spent less than an hour with:

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic

Small World 2

Jurassic Park: The Game

Breath of Death VII

Bastion

Half Minute Hero

Icewind Dale

The Ship

Space Farmers
I complain a lot about Star Wars but this may be my favorite
part of the extended universe, and occasionally trumps the
original films when I'm in a bad enough mood. 

Now granted, some of these I've played before just not on Steam, but then why do I have them?

Okay let's do something interesting besides listen to me whine about having too many games and be a complete first world gravy balloon. Have you ever played any of these? In the comments below tell me a game from this list that you've played and tell me weather or not it should become my new obsession. If anything turns my fancy I'll do an entire Mormon Geeks post on that game.

Also, what's on your Steam list you've yet to get around to playing?

-JOE



Monday, June 22, 2015

Podcast Episode 16: Spelled and the Wizard of Oz with Betsy Schow


T.J. finally gets to sit and discuss Spelled with Betsy Schow along with the many variations/stories within The Wizard of Oz universe. It's hilarious. Also, shout outs to Jessica Guernsey and Karen Pellett who let us use critique group time for this.




Alien abductions are involuntary, but probings are scheduled.