Monday, February 17, 2020

The Best Line from Every Hamilton Song, Act 1

This week marks the 5th anniversary of Hamilton's opening! And it's President's Day, to boot! To celebrate, here are the best lines from every single song from Hamilton. (For Act 2, see here.)

“Alexander Hamilton”
And me, I'm the damn fool that shot him.

It's a gut punch right from the beginning. The villain narrator is a fun twist that goes back to Pippin, Into the Woods, Evita, and Jesus Christ Superstar.

“Aaron Burr, Sir”
I may have punched him. It’s a blur, sir. He handles the financials?
You punched the bursar?

Great use of rhyme and humor.

“My Shot”
I’m past patiently waitin’. I’m passionately smashin’ every expectation, Every action’s an act of creation! I’m laughin’ in the face of casualties and sorrow. For the first time, I’m thinkin’ past tomorrow!
The whole song is a masterpiece, so it's hard to choose one line. But I love singing this particular section.

“The Story of Tonight”
Tomorrow there'll be more of us!
The whole song is great, and there's not much variety to the lyrics. But this particular line is just so full of hope and faith.

The Schuyler Sisters
And Peggy!
This just makes me laugh. And I love the gif! (See above.)

“Farmer Refuted”
Is he in Jersey?
I'm a New Jersey native. I approve of this.

“You’ll Be Back”
I will send a fully armed battalion to remind you of my love.
First, Lin-Manuel Miranda is a genius. Second, Jonathan Groff is a genius. Third, this whole song is genius. Fourth, this line is genius.

“Right Hand Man”
Hamilton, come in, have you met Burr?
Yes, sir. We keep meeting.
Solid characterization + Humor = Good entertainment

“A Winter’s Ball”
Martha Washington named her feral tomcat after him. (That's true!)
What a fun and obscure piece of trivia to include! But more importantly, it still serves to build Hamilton's character as a tomcat, who prowls after ladies.

I’m just sayin’, if you really loved me, you would share him. (Ha!)
Funny. Cute. And it's a funny way of showing Angelica's love for Hamilton.

Peach fuzz, and he can't even grow it.
I just really like this line. 🍑

“The Story of Tonight (Reprise)”
You are the worst, Burr.
I would have chosen Hamilton's curse, but I didn't think that would be appropriate here. So I'm settling for this second best line.

“Wait For It”
I am inimitable. I am an original.
What a great line. I want a shirt with this lyric on it.

“Stay Alive”
I’m a General. Whee!!!
A funny way to characterize General Charles Lee. And fun to sing!

“Ten Duel Commandments”
You pay him in advance, you treat him with civility.
You have him turn around so he can have deniability!
I don't know, I just really like Leslie Odom Jr.'s delivery on this. It's funny, but it's also a practical part of dueling (I guess).

“Meet Me Inside”
Call me son one more time—
This is an intense line with an intense delivery by Miranda. He said it to the General, to Washington himself, to his mentor and the future First President. Hamilton always spoke his mind. Plus, the line is filled with Hamilton's backstory of being an orphan and growing up buckwild.

“That Would Be Enough”
And if this child shares a fraction of your smile or a fragment of your mind, look out world! That would be enough.
This is just a beautifully written lyric. It definitely captures the essence of a parent's love for their unborn child, as well as for their spouse.

“Guns and Ships”
No one has more resilience or matches my practical tactical brilliance!
Daveed Diggs is an extremely talented actor, singer, and rapper. This song (along with "Washington on Your Side") lets him shine. He just makes the lyrics bounce!

“History Has Its Eyes on You”
History has its eyes on you!
If you're just reading this, you need to listen to the audio clip. This line is repeated a lot, but the particular one I've chosen is the one that ends the song. The lyric is nice, but it's the closing harmonies that make this one shine.

“Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)”
Immigrants, we get the job done!
I mean, this is a bold and inspiring lyric. It was so popular and got such applause that Lin-Manuel Miranda had to add a few extra notes after the line to account for the applause literally stopping the show.

“What Comes Next?”
Awesome. Wow.
Deadpan delivery. Anachronistic lyric. Instantly meme-able.

“Dear Theodosia”
My father wasn't around.
My father wasn't around.
The echoing sadness of this line is both haunting and reassuring. It's one of the first times we see an actual emotional connection between Hamilton and Burr. They both grew up without a father, and that spurred them to make a better life for their children. Plus it just sounds beautiful.

Hamilton wrote the other fifty-one!
There are lots of great lines in the Act I closer: “I practiced the law, I practic’ly perfected it.” “Yo, who the F is this?” Burr's soaring “I’ll keep all my plans close to my chest!” along with Washington's soaring “History has its eyes on you!” Or Hamilton's pompously earned interruptions of “Treasury or State?” But we will go with the frustrated line from Burr, intensely delivered by Odom.

For the best lines from Act 2, see here.

The Best Line from Every Hamilton Song, Act 2

Here are the best lines from every song in Act 2 of Hamilton! (For Act 1, see here.)

“What’d I Miss”
Where have you been?
Uh, France?

Daveed Diggs is a master at line delivery. And a silly question from Madison deserves a silly answer from Jefferson.

“Cabinet Battle #1”
Hey, turn around, bend over, I’ll show you where my shoe fits.

It's fun to think that Lin-Manuel Miranda created the setup for this line ("Ooh, if the shoe fits, wear it") and this delicious payoff.

“Take a Break”
How cool is it to hear Renée Elise Goldsberry and Phillipa Soo just squeal with delight like little girls.

“Say No to This”
I wish I could say that was the last time. I said that last time. It became a pastime.
I would have chosen Hamilton's almost-curse. But maybe that wasn't appropriate for this blog. Instead, we're going with this tight rhyme.

“The Room Where It Happens”
Talk less. Smile more.
This is one of Burr's first lines, and sets up his character so perfectly. It's enjoyable hearing Hamilton make fun of Burr for it.

“Schuyler Defeated”
They don’t need to know me. They don’t like you.
I have heard this same sentiment said many times in our current political climate. Heck, I've even heard this said during the Super Bowl. "I don't care who wins, as long as it's not the Patriots!"

“Cabinet Battle #2”
“Should we honor our treaty, King Louis’s head?”
“Uh, do whatever you want, I’m super dead.”
This line is funny, plain and simple. But to see Miranda perform it, while imitating the severed head of King Louis? That's comic genius.

“Washington on Your Side”
I’m in the cabinet. I am complicit in watching him grabbin’ at power and kissin' it. If Washington isn’t gon’ listen to disciplined dissidents, this is the difference: This kid is out!
These are some tight internal rhymes. But it's also just another chance for Daveed Diggs to shine, and to show off his unmatched rap skills.

“One Last Time”
I’m stepping down. I’m not running for President.
I’m sorry, what?
Hamilton's shock and surprise is palpable.

“I Know Him”
<crazy laugh>
I would have gone with the King George's "This will be fun" line, but I thought better of encouraging him to use the Lord's name in vain. Instead we are going with this crazy laugh, hinting at King George's eventual demise into insanity. Clever.

“The Adams Administration”
Protean creator of the Coast Guard. Founder of the New York Post.
Inside Lin-Manuel Miranda's mind while writing: "I have all these great facts and pieces of trivia about Hamilton. How can I include them? Oh, maybe I'll just throw something random in here and there..."

“We Know”
Ya best g'wan run back where ya come from!
The better line is probably when Jefferson cuts off Reynolds's letter (to protect young ears, right?), but we will go with this awesome Caribbean-flavored line, reminding us that Hamilton is an immigrant from the Caribbean and was never really fully accepted as a citizen of the country he helped build. Sounds familiar.

I picked up a pen, I wrote my own deliverance.
This line simultaneously shows Hamilton as "a lot smarter ... a self-starter", as well as his incredible hubris. Plus, it's just well delivered.

“The Reynolds Pamphlet”
I’m not here for you.
Ouch! Want some ice for that burn? Ooh, speaking of burns...

How they perceive you. You! You! You!
This is an amazing song. And Phillipa Soo's frustrated anger as she points out Hamilton's self-centeredness is heartbreaking.

“Blow Us All Away”
Everything is legal in New Jersey...
This is the second time New Jersey is the butt of the joke. And as a New Jersey native, I love it!

“Stay Alive (Reprise)”
Is he breathing? Is he going to survive this? Who did this, Alexander, did you know?
A mother's desperation. Gut-wrenching.

“It’s Quiet Uptown”
She takes his hand. It's quiet uptown.
The lyrics aren't anything special. The delivery is excellent. But the truly powerful part of this is the very act of forgiveness, the small gestures we take to forgive others, like simply taking somebody's hand. And if you're watching the show and not crying like a baby, what is wrong with you?!

“The Election of 1800”
Can we get back to politics? Please?!
After the one-two emotional punch of Phillip's death and the Hamiltons' reconciliation, this is a welcome comedic moment. And who would have thought that politics would be a much needed break?

“Your Obedient Servant”
Here’s an itemized list of thirty years of disagreements.
I edited out Burr's next line, but his reaction to Hamilton's detailed exhaustiveness is relatable.

“Best of Wives and Best of Women”
Hey. Best of wives and best of women.
How sweet. And how sad.

“The World Was Wide Enough”
This man will not make an orphan of my daughter.
This is an orphan determined to not let another orphan turn his daughter into an orphan. And Odom's delivery is perfectly tear-jerking.

“Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story”
Oh. Can I show you what I’m proudest of? (The orphanage!) I established the first private orphanage in New York City. (The orphanage!)
Why does this hit so close to home? We are reminded many times of Hamilton's status as an orphan. References to him growing up without parents are sprinkled throughout the entire show. Burr, too. So we have an emotional connection to Hamilton as an orphan, but it has been created subtly throughout the entire show. So when Eliza says that she is most proud of the orphanage (which yes, still exists today), it really hits us in all the feels.

For the best lines from Act 1, see here.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Father/Daughter Valentine's Day

Happy Valentine’s Day! I could spend this post talking about more awesome TV couples, but I’m gonna take a twist on it. While growing up, my wife loved that her parents made Valentine’s Day about more than just romantic love. This continued through college and then into her professional life, as her elementary school students give her cute little Valentines. And now that we have our little girl Lucy, I definitely have more on my mind than just my wife (make no mistake, I’m still getting my wife something for Valentine’s Day). So with Valentine’s Day today and Lucy’s baby blessing this Sunday at church, I’ve got father/daughter relationships on my mind. So in no specific order, here are some of my favorite father/daughter relationships in fandom.

Pete and Rose Tyler (Doctor Who)
The original Pete died when Rose was just a baby, as seen in Father’s Day. When the Ninth Doctor and Rose traveled back in time to see him, she ended up saving him and messing up the timeline. But then Pete made the greatest sacrifice a father can, literally giving his life for his daughter’s life. Later on when an AU Pete arrived, he saved Rose from oblivion and basically adopted her as his daughter in his universe.

Alan and Maria Jackson (Sarah Jane Adventures)
This Doctor Who spin-off had an interesting take on a father/daughter relationship. In the first episode, Maria and her dad moved in across from Sara Jane Smith after an interesting divorce. Throughout Season 1, Maria dealt with her mom, who is a bit of a narcissist. Her dad supports her and loves her throughout the whole ordeal, even after he discovers that Maria has been running around with Sarah Jane fighting aliens. He even helped a bit, all the way up until they moved to America. It was refreshing to see a good dad during a messy divorce, just trying to do his best.

Noah and Claire Bennet (Heroes)
“The Company” may have coerced Noah into the adoption in the first place, but Noah became an ideal father for Claire over the years. There were definitely times that their relationship was strained, usually when Noah started lying to his family again and again. But Claire and Noah always reconciled. When it came down to it, Noah’s priority was definitely his family, even to the point of going on the run from “The Company” to keep Claire safe.

Emma and Charming (Once Upon a Time)
Being the same age post-curse, Charming didn’t exactly have a lot of opportunities for traditional parenting. That being said, he definitely made those moments happen still. Typically it came out when it pertained to Emma’s romantic life (especially with Hook) and her grief (losing Henry or Neal’s death, but some of my favorite father/daughter moments with Charming and Emma were when she was hurting and her father was the one who rushed to comfort her. Also, let’s just talk for a second about how awesome it was to see Charming fight to save newborn Emma.

Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyme (Ant-Man)
After the death of her mother, Hope’s relationship with her father was immediately strained and it never really recovered until after he told her the truth during the events of Ant-Man. Between the events of that film and its sequel, Hank and Hope obviously reconciled and pooled their intelligence to rescue Janet from the Quantum Realm. Seeing them work together so flawlessly in Ant-Man and the Wasp was a beautiful sight. I love that movie in general, but the father/daughter relationship was definitely a highlight among the rest of it.

Phil Coulson and Daisy Johnson (Agents of SHIELD)
From the very beginning, Coulson had a special relationship with Skye/Daisy. As things progressed, especially in Season 2 as Daisy met her parents, Coulson definitely became a pseudo-father to her. With how Jekyll/Hyde her birth father was, it only made Daisy cling harder to Coulson. After letting her father go, she didn’t have a father anymore per se, except for Coulson. So it was natural that when Daisy needed guidance, she ran to Coulson. Unfortunately, that also meant that Daisy was the most heartbroken (except maybe for Agent May) when Coulson was dying.

Wilf Mott and Donna Noble (Doctor Who)
Donna had a great father growing up, from what we know. However, after her father, Geoff Noble, died, her grandfather Wilf really stepped up and became the prime father figure to her. Despite her mother’s taunting and criticism, Grandpa Wilf never ceased to encourage Donna to follow her dreams and her passions, even when it meant that she traveled with the Doctor to potentially life-threatening worlds. It was also Wilf who was there for her after the Doctor wiped her memory, watching out for her since the Doctor couldn’t.

Quentin Lance and Laurel Lance-2 (Arrow)
Two years after the death of his daughter Laurel on Earth-1, Quentin was “reunited” with a version of her from Earth-2. This alternate-universe Laurel was a villainous lackey when we first met her. However, over time with her new “father” she changed. Even after Quentin’s death, Laurel-2 continued to honor his memory by fighting the bad guys and continuing to change, even when the world thought she was a lost cause. Her new father’s encouragement changed her for the better and made her into a new hero Laurel.

Shawn Hunter and Maya Hart (Girl Meets World)
When we left off Shawn Hunter at the end of Boy Meets World, he was single and living life. When Girl Meets World picked up, Shawn was nowhere to be seen, but when he came back into Cory and Topanga’s life, she quickly took a liking for their daughter Riley’s best friend Maya. At first it was just a matter of affection, as Maya’s family life reminded Shawn of his own. Later on, as Shawn got to know Maya and her mom, it became about family, as Shawn married Maya’s mom. As a pseudo-father or a step-father, Shawn was amazing with Maya, treating her as though she were his daughter. Eventually that happened, as he adopted Maya in the series finale.

Honorable Mentions:
There are so many other father/daughter combos that I wish I could include. This post would be forever long if I included them all. But here are a few honorable mentions. Cory and Riley, Rory and River, Joe and Iris, Jack and Monica, Tony and Morgan, Scott and Cassie

I hope you have a great Valentine's Day, however you spend it. Personally, I have an 8-week old date that I can't wait to snuggle.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

How to make a fandom toxic

Ever wonder how so many fandoms get their toxic fan bases? Ever want to feel the rush of superiority knowing you've destroyed beloved characters and stories for someone else? Are you tired of always ending every discussion on a positive note that strengthens your relationships with others and makes you a better person overall? Then here's how to turn your favorite franchise completely toxic for yourself and everyone around you!

For today's example I will be using The Andy Griffith Show

1: Always Take Time to Flaunt Your Superior Knowledge

Did someone just misquote Aunt Bee's description of the Nazi tripwires in episode 16: "Barney's Sidecar"? Now is a great opportunity to correct the perpetrator immediately. Make sure they know they're wrong, even if you need to pull out your phone and show them the scene at full volume wherever you are. Remember that as a true fan your duty is to snuff out ignorance wherever it may rear its ugly head. 

2: Seek Out and Destroy Any Fan Art, Fanfiction, and Cosplays that Are Not 100% Accurate to the Source Material

Remember that The Andy Griffith Show's 249 episodes and subsequent spin-offs and movie are all sacred text, and cannot be altered or reinterpreted in any way. The Barney Fife cosplayer doesn't have one bullet in his front shirt pocket? Shame him! That portrait of Opie is missing several freckles? Make sure to dislike their post! Someone wrote a story about how Andy's wife died as a way to express their own grief over the loss of their own parent? Destroy them! Make sure they never want to write anything in public again! How dare they take your fandom and warp it to their own ideals. They have no right to destroy something you love! 

3: Never Let Anyone Have a Different Opinion Than You

Of course Gomer Pyle is the Jar Jar Binks of Mayberry. How could he be anyone's favorite character? The fact that he got his own spin-off means nothing, he's the worst character ever and anyone who disagrees needs to be proven wrong outright. Compile a list of reasons you can pull out that you can go over in detail whenever someone brings up Gomer. If need be have it written down somewhere on your person for reference. Remember you're not being rude or obnoxious, you're educating them on how wrong they are so they can change their favorite character to a more appropriate one. They'll thank you later. 

4: Use Hate Speech When Others Won't Listen

So no matter how hard you've tried, your friend simply will not agree that hands down Otis Campbell is a Shakespearean level tragic figure. He keeps arguing that he is an alcoholic that was sending the wrong message to kids when you know for a fact that he only drank to mask his inner pain. There's only one solution: Start using racial slurs against him. Mock his religion, his family dynamic, sexuality, ethnicity, whatever you can do to make him listen and acknowledge that you're right. If you only know the person by their internet profile, then even better! After all there are no repercussions from internet bullying. People who have their feelings hurt are just weak and shouldn't have played with the big boys in the first place. 

5: Let No Others Enjoy the Fandom Except by the Approved Methods

Anyone who does not own a complete box set of The Andy Griffith Show with audio commentary and interviews from the actors cannot call themselves a true fan. Some filthy casual who only watched the show when they were at home sick or when they hung out with their grandparents can't truly understand the subtle relationships and brilliant humor the show offers. Casuals have no rights to call themselves fans and should feel ashamed for trying to compare their love to your obvious superiority. 


**Also Gomer Pyle is a total gangster and I love him and everything he was in**

Monday, February 10, 2020

My First Comic Con Experience!

I had never been to a comic convention before. When I used to work for NBC, I was offered tickets every year to the San Diego Comic Con ... but when you're a poor teacher with a family of 6, a plane ticket to the other side of the country so you could dress up and buy comic books didn't sound like the most practical idea. (And yes, I know there's a lot more to a comic con than buying comics  they also sell Funko Pop figures!) So when I read about my buddy Spencer's many trips to FanX in Salt Lake City, I was inspired to go to my own comic con.

Meeting Ja'Siah Young
On February 8, I went to the Lehigh Valley Comic Convention in Allentown, PA, about an hour from my home. They hold four conventions a year, and next year will be their 20th anniversary. It's a small operation compared to the conventions held in San Diego, or New York, or even Philadelphia. But smaller means more intimate, and more opportunities for innovations and intimate connections with people.

There were five panels at this con, and we attended four:
  • Name That Tune Deluxe: Every song was either from an anime or video game. And my interests are not anime or video games. Yet somehow we came in third place, winning some candy, a Star Wars poster, and some Star Trek coasters! (Thank goodness I remembered that one anime episode of South Park!)
  • Meet the Mandalorians: This was just so awesome, to see two guys from the local chapter of the Mandalorian Mercs Costume Club (that exists?) talk devotedly about what they love. They brought all their gear and told us how they made their cosplay. Hearing people talk about things they're passionate about is MY passion. 
  • Raising Dion Panel: We watched Raising Dion as a family, and we loved it. And it was really enjoyable to hear Ja’Siah Young talk about his life since starting as Dion. He's a pretty chill 8-year-old. My kids really enjoyed hanging out with him, doing backflips together, dancing, and exchanging phone numbers. Yup, really. 
  • Creating Voices for Cartoons: My kids enjoyed meeting Ja’Siah the most, but I was most taken with Erica Schroeder, a voice actress who worked on Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh!, Sonic the Hedgehog, and a ton of other fun shows. Erica just had this really incredible energy and spirit about her. It was refreshing. 
  • Transformers: In the Beginning: This just wasn't our thing, so we walked around instead and acquainted ourselves with the weird and wonderful world of comic cons. 
Cosplay Dating Game
The after party was by far the best part of the evening. Held at a nearby hotel, there was delicious food (complimentary), karaoke, an elaborate Dungeons and Dragons game, a cosplay dating game, and a pool party. I'm learning that this is pretty standard fare for the Lehigh Valley Comic Con, but a little unusual for other conventions. That's fine by me, I'll keep going to Lehigh Valley, where I can sing my heart out in a rousing karaoke rendition of “Let It Go”, my boys can feel included and accepted playing the best game of D&D of their lives, and they can take a dip in the pool with the star of a Netflix original sci fi show!

So this geek is now sold on comic conventions, and my family can't wait for the next one. Until then, we will keep calm and comic con.
Cosplay Aang meets Funko Aang
Doc Ock was incredible!

Aang and Black Panther
Dion and Aang, just being kids
D&D was epic!

Meeting Mystery Science Theater 3000
Water Bender
Mega Man and the gang

Friday, February 7, 2020

Heroes are ordinary people who make themselves extraordinary

In October 2006, I discovered a show called Heroes on NBC, along with about 17 million other people. I was a little late to the game: there were five episodes that were released, and I voraciously watched all five. I liked it from the beginning, but I was totally hooked when Future Hiro showed up and delivered that famous message, “Save the Cheerleader, Save the World”. Simple and direct, but cryptic and confusing. And ultimately exciting!

I quickly searched for information about Heroes online, and I came across Heroes Wiki, a fan-based encyclopedia modeled after the successful Lostpedia. Editing the wiki quickly became an obsession for me to chronicle every detail of an amazing show. I became an admin on the site, and Heroes Wiki became the go-to source for fans of Heroes, averaging about 60 million hits a month at its peak. Even NBC started to take notice. They wanted to recreate our success and so NBC started their own wiki, but it never reached the success that the original Heroes Wiki reached. So instead, NBC decided to partner with our site, giving us a small amount of money to pay for the servers, and the rest of which we donated to worthy charities.

In chronicling information for the wiki, I decided it would be a good idea to reach out to some of the writers, crew, comic book artists, and even actors to get insights. I conducted 27 interviews over the years, sometimes getting good insight into show, sometimes understanding an actor’s motivations, always geeking out on a show I’m passionate about. One of the comic book artists, the incredibly talented Jason Badower, really appreciated my geekiness, and would throw Easter eggs in some of the Heroes comics for me, like naming nightclubs and hotels after me, or naming a character after me. What an awesome guy Jason is!

I got a call one day from a producer I had interviewed, and they wanted me to appear as a guest host on a new show they were starting on G4 called “The Post Show”. It was basically a recap of Heroes that aired after each episode. I was on four times, usually talking about what I predicted would happen next, or debating topics and conspiracy theories. What a trip that was, to set up a little studio in my living room, with a backdrop of original prints that Jason Badower made for me, and wearing my Heroes Wiki shirt! Total geekdom!

The producer wanted to hire me to do some digital writing for some of the online content on NBC, to help expand their expanded universe. I wrote texts that would go out furthering the story, online messages that helped guide fans, and content on some of the ability choosers that NBC created (kind of like the Sorting Hat at Pottermore). I did a ton of research for NBC, which was easy since I was drowning in information I had collected over the years. NBC asked me to write a choose your own adventure type story, which I did. I may or may not have named a character after my daughter! As a 6th grade teacher, it was fun to see the writing process in action, to watch all the drafts get passed back and forth, and to see how decisions were made for clarity, for creative content, and for legal reasons.

Heroes starts with Peter Petrelli asking the question that guides the entire series, “You ever get the feeling like you're meant to do something extraordinary?” I love this question, and I think it’s one that most people have asked at some point in their lives. I know doing research for NBC and writing about obscure characters in an extended universe might not be everybody’s idea of a super fun time, but for me it was! I didn’t save the cheerleader or save the world, but I was lucky enough to be hired to do something extraordinary.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

The Long-Lost Multiplayer Dungeon Crawler

Adults of a certain age can remember going over to a friend's sleepover and playing split screen shooters. Games such as Halo, Perfect Dark and Goldeneye were the toast of the town for most high school aged kids in the 90's, but for a small group those games just didn't scratch the itch right. Guns are all well and good for some, but for others they're be dragons afoot, goblins to slay, and treasure to loot.

I'm talking about the multiplayer dungeon crawler.

The Original Loot and Shoot 

The concept of these games was that you and a buddy (or little brother) could each pick up a controller and be fighting monsters in minutes. Loot and shoot games include, but are not are not limited to

Balder's Gate: Dark Alliance 1 and 2

Champions of Norrath 1 and 2

Marvel Ultimate Alliance 1 and 2

X-Men Legends 1 and 2

Justice League Heroes

The main game play was smack bad guys and collect the stuff that falls out of them to either equip or sell to buy more stuff to equip, repeat till victory music plays. The games were all co-op, requiring everyone to play nice (though some did feature friendly fire, much to the hysterics of all involved) loot would occasionally have to be negotiated for with a friendly shouting match.

Appeal of the Crawl

The appeal of these games were the obvious hits to the serotonin the games produced. Every monster dead, every boss defeated, every dragon slain meant more chances for loot and for your character to grow. These were the kinds of games where you looked at the talent tree and thought "I need to get to bed, but I'm just one more level away from unlocking that new ability". Adding another player meant water cooler talk, meaning you could discuss endlessly new strategies and loot combos to maybe get that boss you've been stuck on. Interaction was imperative to get the best results, and while it wasn't intricate discourses on Shakespeare, parents were glad to see their children not ripping each other's faces off.

The Superhero Angle

Among the titles were a few contributions from Marvel and DC, which changed the formula somewhat but hit the same notes. Instead of loot it was improvements to abilities you were after, and the appeal was playing as your favorite superheroes and building your own teams. Marvel allowed customization of teams of four to run around with, and bonuses for teams from the comic books.

Death of a Genre

As the internet became more widely used the need to have split-screen multiplayer dried up. Gamers could now play with others from across the street, across town, or across the world with just the click of a button. Shooters held the bigger appeal and overtook the role-playing genre in the multiplayer realm and so the multiplayer dungeon crawlers were reduced to a trickle with split-screen going all but extinct. The few that managed to survive, such as Diablo 3, did so through brand recognition and exceptional innovations to the games.

A Resurgence? 

RPG's for years have stayed in the realm of single player, focusing on the individual experience rather than the group. The popularity of Skyrim and The Witcher have demonstrated that there's still a place for hunting monsters, but lately a small resurgence has started. Starting with 2014's Divinity: Original Sin, the split-screen co-op RPG was shown to still have a fan base. Following its sequel, several games started resurfacing following the old slay and loot rules. The Nintendo Switch helped this tremendously, which has continued to emphasize the need for local multiplayer as a viable option for friends and family to game together without much hassle. While Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 came out to less than ideal reviews (Okay but honestly I have fun with it), anticipation is high for Balder's Gate 3 coming out sometime this year, which will be the first of the original dungeon crawlers to resurface since their departure.

Anyone game?


Monday, February 3, 2020

Redemption and The Good Place

This week we said goodbye to The Good Place. But as they say, "everything is fine." I didn't get into it until last summer when my wife and I needed a new show to watch (she'd seen it before) after catching up on Agents of SHIELD. I was immediately hooked and regretting that I hadn't gotten into it early. So obviously spoilers for the whole series are up ahead, so read at your own risk.

The show may have started with four clueless humans being tricked into thinking the Bad Place neighborhood was the Good Place, but as Season 2 and especially Season 3 progressed, the show became less about the afterlife and more about redemption. For a show that talked so much about ethics and morality, they did an exceptional job avoiding critiques on any specific religion or sect.

One thing I love about how The Good Place developed and how it ended is the assertion that no one is beyond redemption. Even in Season 4 when Brent the idiot came into play, it was shown that even he could improve and be redeemed. Isn't that what we believe anyway? So many of our favorite stories have to do with redemption. Whether we're talking about Loki, Queen Regina, King Edmund, or even Darth Vader, some of the most compelling stories in Fandom are about our ability to change and become better.

So next time you're feeling hopeless, remember there's always hope. After all, if an Arizona dirt-bag like Eleanor can grow and improve, so can the rest of us.

Thursday, January 30, 2020

The Top Recurring Characters on Friends

#10 Ben
Played by 4 different actors (including Jughead himself!), Ben Geller was Ross and Carol’s son, raised by Carol and Susan. Ross never really got to see Ben much, and only watched him occasionally (read: when the plot dictated).

Most memorable moment: When Ross taught Ben about Hanukkah (The One With The Holiday Armadillo)

#9 Alice
Alice Knight Buffay (Debra Jo Rupp) was Frank Jr.’s wife, and his former home ec teacher. She always put on a happy face no matter what, even when she talked about her infertility. She and Frank had insatiable lust for each other, making out uncomfortably whenever (and wherever) they could!

Most memorable moment: When Alice got to hold the triplets that Phoebe carried for her (The One Hundredth)

#8 Carol
Carol was Ross’s ex-wife, and a 6th grade teacher (which everybody knows is the best grade to teach!). When she realized she was a lesbian, she divorced Ross. She and Ross began the series with a rocky start (and frankly, Carol and Susan were a kind of lesbian punchline at first), but Carol eventually became tolerable and downright kind as time went on.

Most memorable moment: When Carol got married to Susan, and Ross walked her down the aisle (The One With The Lesbian Wedding)

#7 and #6 Jack & Judy
Who better to play Ross’s dad than Elliott Gould?! Jack was ever loving and kind, though often made faux pas. (“I’m just saying!”) And Christina Pickles is a punchline genius! Passive-aggressive, sometimes mean, and always loving, Judy was the coolest uncool mom on TV.

Most memorable moment: The way they interacted with and reacted to their children in the prom video (The One With the Prom Video)

#5 Estelle
Let’s face it, Estelle was a cartoon character. But a darn funny one! She was never bothered by anything, smoked like a chimney, and had an obnoxious voice that rivaled Janice’s. But it’s probably a good thing she was brash and incompetent: she was probably the only female that Joey would never say “How you doin’?” to!

Most memorable moment: Her pitch-perfect introduction: "Just a moment, let me see if she's in...Hello." (The One With Russ)

#4 Mike
What other character could be introduced 9 seasons in (9 seasons!) and still be one of the best recurring characters? Mike was the first person Phoebe fully committed herself to, and that’s in large part because of Paul Rudd’s effortless charm. Mike was at the center of some of the most heartwarming and hilarious moments on Friends.

Most memorable moment: “First name: Crap. Last name: Bag.” (The One With Princess Consuela)

#3 Frank Jr.
Yes, Giovanni Ribisi appeared as two different characters in Friends. (He dropped a condom in Phoebe’s guitar case in TOW the Baby on the Bus.) But Frank Jr. was a really special character. The yin to Phoebe’s … yin (or are they both yang?), Frank was a perfect complement to the sweet, quirky, oddball Phoebe. Frank was his own special brand of bizarre. And he was the reason for the best Friends storyline of all time: Phoebe having Frank’s babies! That storyline was as equally sweet, quirky, and totally oddball as the Buffays were.

Most memorable moment: “My sister’s going to have my baby!” (The One With Phoebe's Uterus)

#2 Gunther
Gunther appeared in 160 episodes. Holy cow! (The next most recurring was Jack, with only 21 episodes.) But Gunther doesn’t get the penultimate spot because of how many episodes he was in, but because he was awesome and underrated. He had the best eye roll, he had great comebacks, and ultimately he was always there -- as much a part of the scenery as Central Perk itself.

Most memorable moment: When Phoebe kissed him … so she could get sick (The One With Joey’s New Girlfriend)

#1 Janice
Oh. My. GAWD! With a wicked laugh that sounded like an air raid siren riding shotgun on a lawnmower, Janice is by far the most memorable non-Friend. Like that one can of green beans in your pantry, Janice just does not go away! But huge props to Maggie Wheeler for taking what was originally just a middling character (annoying girlfriend), and making her into something lovable, memorable, and SUPER annoying! Let’s all move to Yemen. 

And as a special treat, we will leave you this compilation of all of Janice’s laughs.

Most memorable moment: Rachel gives birth and has to share a room … with Janice! (The One Where Rachel Has a Baby)

Honorable Mention: Chick and Duck
Chandler and Joey were never married, but they sure acted like a married couple! And to complete the picture, they had two (fowl) children! But they almost had to give up Chick and Duck, if it weren’t for the contest where Rachel missed the infamous “Ms. Chanandler Bong”!

Most memorable moment: “Hey, wouldn't it be cool if our duck and our chick had a little baby? We could call it Chuck. … Or Dick.” (The One With Ross’s Thing)