Author Archives: BC_Animus

About BC_Animus

I spend all of my non-work time pretty much on games, movies, and listening to music and podcasts. Gadget lover and gamer - own several major consoles, but mainly play MMOs on the PC nowadays. I am quiet & shy but hell of a nice guy. Consider my childhood days to be the golden age of gaming, with companies like Origin with their Ultimas and Privateers. For me MMOs are all about the people, and not about gear or loot.

Skeptical Watches: Our Little Sister [2015]

Based on a manga, 2015’s Umimachi Diary (aka Our Little Sister), is the latest film from Japanese writer/director Hirokazu Koreeda.

Described as a diary of how four sisters became family, the story of the film is a classic one – family coming together after the death of an estranged family member.

Like a lot of films of this genre, the strength and focus was not on the plot, but rather on the interactions between the characters.  It was fascinating for me, peering into another culture somewhat alien to my own, but yet so familiar; seeing them express the same joys and sorrows that we do, over the same simple, everyday acts of eating, living, and being.

Check out the trailer and I am sure you would agree –  Hirokazu Koreeda has yet another festival hit on his hands.


Skeptical Watches: Alice Cares [2015]

Ik ben Alice (aka Alice Cares) is a Dutch documentary released in 2015, directed by Sander Burger.  The film loosely chronicles the testing and development of Alice, a 60-centimetre tall robot with advanced AI, currently being programmed by a research group over at Amsterdam’s Free University, designed to provide companionship and assistance to elderly people living alone.

Being a fan of personal AIs like Google Now and Siri, it was interesting seeing onscreen some of what actually goes on in the development of Alice.  However the real charm and content of this doco came from the interactions between Alice and her three elderly test subjects, and the observation of the different relationships that developed as Alice talked and smiled its way into their (and the audience’s) hearts.

Check out the trailer to see why I was so charmed by this diminutive doll-faced robot, and why it gave me the hope perhaps that one day, I might finally have a friend of my own to talk to…


Skeptical Watches: Parked [2011]

Drawn by Colm Meaney’s face on the film’s poster, I went into this film blind, not knowing what to expect except- hey, it’s Chief O’Brien!

Written by Ciaran Creagh, and directed by Darragh Byrne, this relatively unknown little film from 2011 is your classic unlikely-friendship-leading-to-self-discovery-and-personal-growth story, centered around the middle-aged Fred and the dope-smoking 21-year-old Cathal, two homeless people living in their cars, in a carpark, by a beach, in Ireland.

If you are looking for a small, personal tale with funny accents, you can’t go wrong with this film.  Though the plot is perhaps somewhat cliché, it does have a rather charming premise, backed I must add, by solid performances from its two amazing leads, including- hey, it’s Chief O’Brien!


Skeptical Watches: Good Dick [2008]

Written, directed, and starring Marianna Palka, and released in 2008.  Good Dick focuses on a clerk at a video rental store, who falls in love and begins stalking one of his customers, a reclusive young woman with a strange obsession for soft core porn.

Granted, my summary makes this sound like one of those creepy sex-filled torture thrillers you might find on some (probably best forgotten) late night TV channel, but the film is actually a kinda sweet quirky romantic comedy of sorts – almost cliché really, the classic story of two broken people, falling in love.

Unfortunately the film falls flat on many levels, and most viewers would probably find the characters to quirky (and creepy) to relate to.  However, if you are a socially awkward hopeless romantic like myself, with a disposition for the weird, then chances are you might end up loving this film as much as I do.


Skeptical Plays: World of Warcraft [PC]

Earlier last year, I found myself returning to the World of Warcraft, a game which I had walked away from in disgust nearly five years ago.  I had not planned on staying, and in fact, nine months on, despite my currently active subscription and daily play time… I kind of still haven’t.

Despite being a socially awkward misanthrope with zero people skills, MMOs for me have always been about the people, and most of my enjoyment had come from being able to meet and interact with like-minded fans of the genre. However relating to (and fitting in with) the rest of the community has always been one of my biggest issues, and even after years of my clumsy attempts at socialising, I still have not managed to find myself a static group of friends to play with, nor a guild where I felt truly welcomed or at ease.

Part of this comes down to my hatred for the game’s focus on loot and gear levels, and this ugly, obsessive, all-consuming greed that seems to bring out the darkest side of its community.  I despise how elitist and excluding its players can be; how groups and guilds pick people for content and memberships based on their characters’ item levels, with no consideration at all for the personalities behind the gear on-screen.

This, is further enhanced by my hatred of the modern day’s approach to end game, with its singular focus on repetitive, short, fast paced raids.

Part of me miss the old Vanilla days, back when dungeons and raids were long and gruelling experiences.  Random groups were much harder to come by, and as such they were taken more seriously by the players.  Folks were more likely to play nice, since failure due to a lack of teamwork (or being kicked due to assholeary) would usually mean another three plus hours of shouting “Looking for Group!” on the chat channels.

Many older players would look back on those days with disdain, but me?  I loved them.

It is an obsolete style of game-play which is no longer plausible today, with the modern day fast paced dungeon designs and the advent of randomised queues. However back then random Pick-Up-Groups were where players liked myself went to bond with like-minded folks, sharing common goals.

We did not have the cross-realm features back then, so it meant we would repeatedly encounter and group up with the same set of players over and over. It was how people build up their reputation within the community; how folks developed mutual trust and respect; and how strangers, became brothers.

Wanting to become more connected to the game and its community, I have gotten in touch with an old contact from my list in-game, and have been for the past month grouping with her and her guild, chatting and levelling, and helping with raids.

Unfortunately I am sad to report that my time spent with them only served to further highlight my frustrations with the game.  I miss the olden days, where entire guilds would get together in-game regularly for social events (cross-guild events even), and groups would run around laughing, joking, questing, and exploring the lands together.  It is a stark contrast to the game I see today, where it is filled with people who would only log on for raids or loot.

I find myself surrounded by friends who are reluctant to help out with content just because they already have the loot or the achievements they needed, and their participation would not benefit them in some way.  This self-serving nature is a common trend I am seeing, and it is particularly heartbreaking for me.

Furthermore,  I find myself once again in the position of being excluded for content for one reason for another. Being excluded by random strangers is frustrating enough, but it is decidedly worst to find yourself on the outside looking in when supposed friends are involved.

Not sure if it is the skeptical or the misanthrope side of me speaking here, but I am starting to feel that perhaps all people are inherently greedy and self-serving, and that perhaps I have been wasting my time all these years, trying to find true camaraderie and friendships in these online games.  That perhaps I should just become a vegan, and go hug a tree (or a dolphin)… or something.

I just don’t know any more.

Anyways I am mainly writing this post as an excuse to post some old screenshots.  But who knows, I MIGHT come back at a later stage and do a proper blogging thing where I report on what I have been doing in-game.  As always, I guess, only time will tell.


NOT A Review: Serena [PC]

Clocking in at around maybe 30 minutes of game time, Serena is a short explorational point-and-click adventure title from the developer Senscape. Released as a free title, this is effectively a glorified tech demo, created to show off the engine used in their upcoming crowd-funded game, Asylum.

The premise is simple.  “A man sits in a distant getaway cabin waiting for his wife Serena.  How long has it been?  Where is she?  Things in the cabin evoke memories, and the husband comes to a disturbing realization…”

With over 40 contributors providing their wit and talents, and described by the developers as a (twisted) love letter to the adventure gaming community, this is certainly an impressive sounding title.  Unfortunately, the game itself – while not necessarily a bad game per say – failed to live up to the supposed pedigree of the developers, and I walked away feeling unimpressed by the experience.

To be fair, I was originally quite positive about the title despite its faults – if not for the actual game itself, then at the very least for the premise, and for what they have tried to achieve.  However, having had some time to reflect (and me being the skeptical bastard that I am), I am sad to report that the game have left me with a rather sour taste in my mouth.  The whole project just felt too much to me like one big collaborative marketing campaign, designed to provide opportunistic self-promotion for a bunch of small unknown and unproven indie companies, fronted by talents with dubious track records.

Serena is currently available as a free download on Steam for PC, Mac, and Linux, with iOS and Android versions still to come at a later date.

S +

  • Attention to details.  A lot of seemingly unrelated little details have been added to the environment, giving the game and its characters an air of mystery.
  • Ambiguous ending.  While it did feel to me like lazy pretentious writing on the developer’s part, it does open the game up for interesting player interpretations.  In fact, I can go as far to say I had more fun reading forum discussions than I had playing the actual game itself.

S –

  • Ambiguous writing.  The predictably vague story I felt gave the game an illusion of depth which perhaps really wasn’t there.
  • Uninspired gameplay and story that seeks to emulate recent titles of the genre, but fails to the strike the same emotional impact.
  • Does not live up to the promise of “an extremely depressive haunting story that will challenge the players’ intellect (and temerity)”.  This game provided zero challenge – a completely linear title with the only gameplay consisted of literally clicking on every single clickable item multiple times.


Skeptical Watches: Cutie and The Boxer [2013]

Cutie and The Boxer from director Zachary Heinzerling, is a charming little documentary from 2013 which explores the lives and marriage of two New York-based Japanese artists, 80-year old famed boxing painter Ushio Shinohara and his wife, Noriko.

Part art documentary and part love story, it was immensely fascinating, peering into the lives of these two struggling artists and seeing their unique interactions, both as artists and as a couple, as they prepare for their latest joint gallery showing.  Prepared to be charmed by the child-like Ushio, the former alcoholic with an alcohol allergy, as he punch large canvases with paint-soaked sponges, and by the ever youthful Noriko, as she dryly recall the past 40 years of their marriage through her distinctively simplistic arts.

Despite not being a fan of either Ushio or Noriko’s art works, I was quickly won over by their quirky lives and charming personalities.  This documentary is just so… well, adorable.  The whole experience is like seeing an old married couple in the park, holding hands and staring lovingly into each other’s eyes – you can’t help but to say “awwww”, and cheer them on with a smile.

 


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