Heaven’s Gate is a film that originally had a profoundly negative response – critically panned for its excess, both in terms of the troubled shoot and the film’s length, it was considered everything wrong with “New Hollywood”, even before we get into the reports that horses were killed and maimed in the making of this film to enough of a degree above and beyond earlier westerns that this movie lead to the start of the American Humane Society sending monitors to film shoots to make sure this didn’t happen in the future. Since its initial release, the film built up something of a cult following, which ultimately lead to the film getting a re-edit and re-master to fit the director’s vision for its final release a few years ago from the Criterion Collection. Continue reading → Film Review: Heaven’s Gate (Director’s Cut)
I give a few possible candidates for another approach to adapting anime to live action.
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Fellini’s film 8 1/2 is considered his magnum opus, the defining film of his career, and a monumental work of Italian cinema. It’s also a film that, in my view, has been eclipsed by later works influenced by it, in particular Bob Fosse’s film All That Jazz. I’ll explain.
(There will be some spoilers for both films) Continue reading → Film Review: 8 1/2
I missed Spider-Man Homecoming when it was initially in theaters – due to a combination of lack of time when I had the money, and a lack of money when I had the time. When I had both, the movie was out of theaters entirely. Ultimately, the film became my one gap in the MCU – the one film I hadn’t seen. Until now. Continue reading → Movie Review: Spider-Man Homecoming
A while back I reviewed the documentary film The Ackermonster Chronicles – a documentary film telling the life story of Forrest J. Ackerman. The film conveyed Ackerman’s life in a way that I compared to people talking about Ackerman at a wake, telling stories about his life, and in my view it didn’t quite get across why, necessarily, Ackerman was historically important or significant. George Harrison: Living in the Material World, from director Martin Scorsese uses the same style of presentation, but gets that point across better. Continue reading → Movie Review: George Harrison – Living in the Material World
Metropolis is probably one of the most well known films by Fritz Lang, and most likely one of the most influential films in science fiction. It’s combines biblical imagery in interesting ways – and it’s also aged in an interesting manner.
For the past 30 years, the narrative and thematic conclusion of the One Year War arc of the Universal Century was Char’s Counterattack. The film is wonderfully animated, with intense action sequences, but in my view it felt less like a thematic conclusion of the themes of the first 3 Gundam series, and more of a return to the narrative of the original Mobile Suit Gundam anime series. As I mentioned in my review of Gundam ZZ – that worked for me when what I knew of the Universal Century was just the original series, but it became less and less resonant as I made my way through the story. Gundam Unicorn, on the other hand, feels much more resonant, and fits as a conclusion to this part of the Universal Century. Continue reading → Anime Review: Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn
There have been numerous anime about anime and anime fandom – from Otaku no Video and Genshiken on the fandom side, and Shirobako and Animation Runner Kuromi on the production side. This last year had Anime-Gataris, an anime series spun-off from a series of shorts that aired in a specific movie theater in Tokyo, a series that does a little bit of both – and then some. Continue reading → Anime Review: Anime-Gataris (2017)
Before Quentin Tarantino made Reservoir Dogs (or, for that matter, Kathryn Bigelow made Point Break), Ringo Lam made City on Fire. Continue reading → Film Review: City on Fire (1987)
Black Panther came out in the middle of last month (February 17th). I’ve waited a few weeks for people to talk about it, and now I’ll give my thoughts on the movie. Continue reading → Film (Vlog) Review – Black Panther
This time I take a look at an early Mind-F*** series from the 90s.
Key The Metal Idol property of Studio Pierrot.
Licensed by Discotek Media
Magnificent Warriors is another of the early films in Michelle Yeoh’s career – made a little before Royal Warriors. As with Royal Warriors – the film has Michelle Yeoh in the lead, along with another male co-lead in a similar action role, and the third male lead being a comic relief character. However, that’s pretty much where the similarities end. Continue reading → Film Review: Magnificent Warriors
In a few days (as of when this goes live) the second half of Fate/Apocrypha will come out on Netflix. This show was licensed as part of Netflix’s first really large anime licensing initiative, and was split into two chunks, one per “cour” (Japanese TV season) of the show. So, as we wait for the show’s second half, I might as well talk about the first half of the show. Continue reading → Anime Review: Fate/Apocrypha (First Half)
The Cat Returns is, to my knowledge, the only semi-sequel feature film that Studio Ghibli has ever put out (ignoring shorts made for museums). It’s also one of the small number of films put out by Studio Ghibli that aren’t directed by Isao Takahata or Hayao Miyazaki. The film was directed by Hiroyuki Morita, as part of an initiative at Ghibli introduced by Miyazaki as an attempt to groom new directors so the studio isn’t dependant on Takahata and Miyazaki, so when they retire, the studio could go on.
If your response to that last sentence is “Didn’t Ghibli shut down when Miyazaki retired?” then you know exactly what came of that initiative. I don’t know if this was due to internal politics where Miyazaki wasn’t happy with the directors who came out of this project, Miyazaki being a general curmudgeon, or what? Takahata, on the other hand, in spite of my general comments about him and his work in my article about Akira, seems to be okay with younger animators directing films at Ghibli – as the decision to shut down seems primarily driven by Miyazaki, without any feedback by Takahata.
Anyway, as far as the film itself goes – this is probably the most conventionally “anime” film that Ghibli has ever done. This isn’t a slight against the film, by any means. It’s just that most Ghibli films, especially those from Miyazaki, tend to be more pastoral in their settings while most anime (that is set in Japan) tends to be metropolitan (even historical pieces like Rurouni Kenshin). This film, is instead in modern Japan, and most likely in Tokyo.
Just to put an underline on how more conventional anime this film is, the opening of the film is our protagonist, ordinary high school girl Haru Yoshioka, waking up late, quickly getting getting ready for school, but not having enough time to leave breakfast. This leads to her racing downstairs, and seeing her mother eating breakfast of a fried egg on toast, with a similar dish waiting for her, setting up the archetypal anime shot of female protagonist running to school while trying to eat a piece of toast – before she decides to leave without the toast. While this is a subversion of that bit – the key is that Takahata or Miyazaki wouldn’t even go that far.
This goes on with most of the character designs as well – they have some of the slightly larger eyes you see in more conventional anime characters, as opposed to most of Miyazaki’s other films where the characters are less stylized (aside from Castle of Cagliostro, where aside from Fujiko Mine who is almost unrecognizable compared to her other appearances, the Lupin crew retained their conventional designs)
It reminds me a lot of Your Name., where that film lead to a lot of people lauding Makoto Shinkai for being “the next Miyazaki”, when all things considered, his film is a lot more conventionally anime in terms of style and settings.
Where the story kicks off is Haru sees a cat (carrying a parcel) while walking home with her friend. When said cat goes to cross the street and is nearly run over by a truck, Haru grabs her friend’s Lacrosse stick and runs in front of the truck, scooping up the cat, and evading either certain death or ending up in an isekai story. The cat then stands up, and thanks her for saving him, says that he’s a Really Big Deal back in the cat world, and she’ll be rewarded for this.
When the first attempt to reward her – by planting foxtales in her yard (which sets off her and her mothers pollen allergies), putting catnip in her pockets (which leads to cats following her to school and gets her in trouble), and live mice in her shoe locker (which is just freaky). While helping clean up after school, she complains about the gifts to the Assistant to the King of Cats, and complains about her relationship problems at the time. The Assistant offers to deal with that for her, and match her up with the Prince of Cats – without listening, she agrees.
However, once she realizes what she’s done, she’s directed to the “Cat Bureau” run by The Baron (who was introduced in Whisper of the Heart), who agrees to help get her out of this – and the remainder of the story ensues.
I really enjoyed this film – it’s a very well put together coming-of-age adventure romp, though it’s not without some faults. Haru has a lot less agency than most of Miyazaki’s other female protagonists – spending most of the film reacting rather than acting, and having to be rescued rather than rescuing herself. There are exceptions – she certainly makes choices on her own behalf, and she makes a few important observations that help lead to our protagonists extricating themselves from various situations.
However, when she gets into bad situations (whether situations that are perilous or negative), she generally has to be extricated by the actions of someone else (often The Baron, but not always). To the credit of writer Reiko Yoshida and the film’s director, there are legitimate textual and metatextual reasons for this. The textual reasons are that the means of escape are often related to information that Haru simply doesn’t have access to.
The metatextual reasons are related to the fact that the writer envisioned this story as being written by the protagonist of Whisper of the Heart about the character of The Baron. In other words, the story of The Cat Returns is as much about Haru as Big Trouble in Little China is about Jack Burton. While Jack and Haru are both one of the protagonists of their respective stories, they aren’t the main protagonist – they’re viewpoint characters. Their role is to give the audience perspective of the world’s they’re going into.
That said, I still would have preferred if Haru had more of an active role in the story – once she meets Yuki and she and the audience learn that Yuki works at the palace, I would have liked if Yuki had come onboard as an equal supporting character if not on par with The Baron, than on par with Muta, in terms of providing Haru assistance in her escape – like finding a way to provide her information about how to escape, so that Haru is looking for that opportunity when The Baron makes his appearance again.
Sadly, director Hiroyuki Morita has only directed one other work of anime – and it wasn’t for Ghibli. He directed the incredibly dark super robot anime Bokurano, before returning to working in Key Animation, most recently working with Polygon Pictures on Knights of Sidonia, Ajin, and the new Godzilla anime film series. He has worked with Studio Ghibli a few more times as an animator as well – working on Tales of Earthsea, and The Tale of Princess Kaguya.
On the other hand, writer Reiko Yoshida has a ton of other series and films under her belt, including Girls Und Panzer and its OVAs and films, the film version of A Silent Voice, and most recently the currently airing Violet Evergarden and Hakumei and Mikochi.
Back when I was getting actively into gaming again, I started reading Knights of the Dinner Magazine, and some issues of Dragon Magazine when I could. In those issues of the magazine, I encountered ads for Dwarven Forge, a company making miniature dungeon terrain out of really durable material, what I presume is plastic resin, called Dwarvenite. It was incredibly well sculpted, beautiful to look at, and as a high school and later college student, I couldn’t even begin to hope to afford it, never mind to have space for it. But I really wanted to be able to be in a game that used it.
Fast forward to a few years ago when I finally got in a long-running game again, and much to my delight, my GM owned pretty much all of the Dwarven Forge terrain that had come out to date – so I was able to play with it and experience using it first hand – and it was great. And then I learned about a documentary on Netflix about the guy who started Dwarven Forge, and I decided I had to check that out. I didn’t know exactly what it’s tone would be. However, thus far Netflix had not steered me wrong on the documentary front, so what the hell?
The Dwarvenaut is a interesting documentary – as both an character study of Stefan Pokorny, the founder of the company and one of the sculptors of the terrain the company puts out, and a brief snapshot of what draws people to Roleplaying games. That said, the film is tends strongly more towards the former than the latter. Stefan talks about what drew him to RPGs and we get some interviews with people, often industry luminaries, about what drew them to RPGs – but while the documentary goes to GenCon and other locations we don’t get much of an opportunity to talk to newer roleplayers about why they play, and what draws them to the products that Dwarven Forge makes.
The framing “narrative” as much as there is one, is based around the launching of Dwarven Forge’s third kickstarter, for their City Terrain set, after their earlier “Dungeon” and “Cave” sets. In particular, there are some concerns that due to overpromising on the kickstarter, if they don’t raise $2 million, they will end up going bankrupt. The “will they or won’t they make the goal” part of the
The profile of Stefan is far more engrossing – getting into not only what motivates him as a person who is into roleplaying (specifically designing a product that would motivate people to play in person instead of online), but also as an artist. There’s an scene in the film where Stefan goes back to Venice, where he spent some time after he graduated from art school, and he talks about the wear on the stones and about the stories those buildings must have scene – and that speaks volumes of the artistic motivations behind the Dwarven Forge terrain.
The film also does an amazing job of presenting Dwarven Forge’s terrain, visually. We get some really well shot closeups of the terrain, with lighting and dry-ice fog that makes it look like a miniature from a fantasy movie (and that’s not a bad thing – this is a product that you can buy after all). It kinda makes for a really strong advertisement for Dwarven Forge’s products, which is not what I expected from this documentary.
It’s an engrossing film. I don’t know if it’s one that I’d necessarily add to my collection, but it was definitely worth watching. The film is currently available for streaming on Netflix, and also on Amazon on DVD and Digital.
This week, in the spirit of this year seeing the release of Alita: Battle Angel, I give my thoughts on 5 anime that could work as western Live-Action films.
All footage property of their respective owners – used under Fair Use for purposes of criticism.
Probably the first anime I ever saw any of as a kid was Demon City Shinjuku. I saw the opening sequence of the anime on the Sci-Fi channel on Saturday mornings. The opening of the anime was exciting, and the conclusion of that opening (with the protagonist’s father failing and Shinjuku being transformed into the titular Demon City) hooked me in.
And then my parents got up and I had to turn the TV off because my dad didn’t like the TV on early in the morning.
I wasn’t able to watch the film again, and with it see the whole story, until I was in high school, and I was able to get the film from the library. Since then I’ve watched the film a few times, and while I still view the film with a degree of nostalgia, I’ve developed a bit of distance from that original viewing, so I have a degree of emotional distance from the film, and can see some of the flaws that I overlooked before.
Demon City Shinjuku is a film that makes a lot of assumptions, and expects you to just roll with them. There’s a Global President who has managed to craft a lasting peace agreement in the Middle East, because why not? He comes to Japan with his daughter by space shuttle because why not? Further, the force responsible for Shinjuku’s transformation, the sorcerer Rebi Ra, targets the Global President for attack, in spite of him not planning to launch a spiritual attack against Rebi Ra, because why not?
None of those points, among numerous others are explained. While the film is based on a novel by Hideyuki Kikuchi, creator of Vampire Hunter D, the first book is effectively a stand-alone story (though there are later sequels), so there’s prior reading you can bring with you into the story, to help explain things. It’s a story that asks you to take everything at face value, while leaving an undercurrent of mystery underneath everything, with no promise that the questions asked by those mysteries will be answered.
That said, the film is a visual feast. This is one of the films directed by Yoshiaki Kawajiri (who would go on to direct adaptations of some of Kikuchi’s other work), and Kawajiri has a profound sense of visual style. His action is incredibly fluid and dynamic, without causing the viewer to lose track of the scene. Kawajiri is undoubtedly one of the best directors of action in anime (and sword fights in particular), and this film is a great example of why he’s earned that reputation.
That said, because this film is an OVA from the ’90s, it does run into the problem that it feels visually restrained. By which I mean it was made with a 4:3 TV aspect ratio in mind, so we get numerous sequences where as a view I want to see a little more beyond the edge of the screen, but we don’t get that. It makes me wish, somewhat, that this film had gotten a remake that could take advantage of the fact that everyone has widescreen TV sets these days.
Also, the film has many of the other problems that adaptations of Kikuchi’s work have with female characters. Women are generally written as either predators or passive. Even if they’re somewhat active characters, they’re still weak and vulnerable in the face of larger threats in the way that male characters aren’t – and such is the case here.
I still liked the film, but I simply cannot recommend the film without reservation. Demon City Shinjuku isn’t as openly hostile as, say, Ninja Scroll is. However, it’s still harsh and oppressive, and the way that the film’s female lead is written is rather eye-roll inducing. However, I think it’s more newbie friendly than Ninja Scroll is.
Demon City Shinjuku was license-rescued by Discotek Media a few years ago and is currently available from RightStuf and Amazon. Amazon and Rightstuf also have the novel as well, in a physical edition, and Amazon has it through the Kindle store.
If the The 8-Bit Generation was a documentary that had the unpleasant habit of painting over the truth of Jack Tramiel’s run on Commodore in an appeal to fans of the Commodore 64, Viva Amiga is a documentary that makes a much more sincere attempt to appeal to fans of the Commodore Amiga, in terms of their love for the system. However, due to a runtime that goes over just one hour, it’s attempt to serve two masters – telling the story of the Amiga itself along with the story of the devotees who adopted the system and who are keeping it alive to this day – leaves the film under-serving both.
I understand that this is a documentary that was funded on Kickstarter, and you can only make as much documentary as you have money for. However, it tries to serve two masters and serves neither well. There are really interesting portions of the documentary with great development stories. There’s the story of how the Amiga almost didn’t come out, and they took out a loan from Atari – then headed by Jack Tramiel, with the Amiga Hardware and OS as collateral – and they got bought-out by Commodore at the last minute, with the CEO of Commodore personally delivering the loan payment to Tramiel just to twist the knife a little bit more (perhaps explaining why The 8-Bit Generation chose to downplay the Amiga, considering the film’s view on Jack Tramiel).
Further, the documentary bounces all over on the user side of things. There’s a few seconds discussion of modern Amiga user groups, and a few seconds of discussion of how it was used in video production back in the ’90s (with 2 seconds of footage from Babylon 5), and a couple minutes of discussion of use of the Amiga in electronic music, giving the implication that there’s room for, if not a much larger documentary, then at least more time in this documentary on the modern Amiga user scene – especially considering that part of the point of the film is that there is a modern Amiga user scene, and that the platform is still a living, breathing viable platform.
It feels like there was enough material here a 90 to 120 minute documentary, but for various reasons, possibly in part due to the amount of Kickstarter funds brought in, there was only enough room for the hour that we got. It’s a bummer, and, honestly, I wouldn’t mind seeing a Viva Amiga 2.
This week I’m taking a look at a Gundam series that I think is a little underrated.
Footage Property of Sunrise and Namco-Bandai
Gundam ZZ is available for legal streaming on the Gundam Official Channel
Gundam ZZ is also available on DVD or Blu-Ray from these referral links:
Collection 1 DVD: Amazon, RightStuf
Collection 1 Blu-Ray: Amazon, RightStuf
Collection 2 DVD: Amazon, RightStuf
Collection 2 Blu-Ray: Amazon, RightStuf
I like retro computing – I grew up on Apple II computers at my school and an Atari 800 computer at home, with a Commodore 84 & Atari ST at the houses of relatives so in addition to watching YouTube channels dedicated to old computers and games like PixelMusement and Lazy Game Reviews, I also love documentaries about the history of computing like Triumph of the Nerds and Revolution OS (which I think I reviewed on a previous blog, but which I am currently unable to find). When I found about about this particular documentary on the history of Commodore, I was very interested in checking it out.
The 8-Bit Generation focuses almost exclusively on Commodore computers, with a perspective from within the company, and in particular from the view of Jack Tramiel and his boosters within Commodore. From the view of this documentary, with Jack at the helm, Commodore can do no wrong, and their opponents could do no right. Apple never gained any real market share while Commodore dominated the market (Wrong – the Apple IIe was solid rival for Commodore), Atari had no 3rd party publishers and actively fought them for the PC (Wrong – their main opposition to 3rd party publishers was on the video game console front, they had plenty of 3rd party developers and publishers for PC), and once Jack was ousted from Commodore, they never accomplished anything ever again (Wrong – The Amiga says “Hi!”). Particularly damning is the claim that Atari didn’t get VisiCalc until a year after Commodore did, which is clearly false.
It’s really rather disappointing. While the documentary has interviews with Tramiel himself, I get the strong impression that the reason the director was able to get these interviews in the first place because they were already a booster of Tramiel. The majority of the interview footage comes from Commodore employees and Tramiel supporters, with the only exceptions from that being a brief interview with Howard Scott Warshaw about Atari Corporate culture (which appears to lean towards the 2600 and the home games division), and an tragically even more brief interview with Steve Wozniak.
For a documentary that bears the title of The 8-Bit Generation, and which does give a fair amount of time on the MOS Technologies 6510 processor architecture, it is a very strong disappointment that the film wears its slant on its sleeve, and I think it’s very much to the detriment of the film. I’d really have enjoyed a more even-handed take on the various systems from this computer generation, with a serious take given on, for example, the TRS-80 and the TI-99. Instead, we get a pep rally for the Commodore 64, with some flagrant mis-truths. I wanted to like this documentary, but I cannot recommend it in the slightest.
If you do decide to get this documentary in spite of my recommendation to the contrary, it is available from Amazon.com.
Dancouga (with the alternate full English titles of either Super Beast Machine God Dancouga or God Bless The Machine Dancouga – depending on who you ask) is a hybrid Super Robot/Real Robot anime, taking the serious tone of the Real Robot anime of the mid-to-late 80s, and combining it (har har) with a Super Robot anime of the Combiner variety.
The premise takes elements from some of the iconic premises for both sub-genres. Earth is attacked by alien invaders whose weapons outmatch those of humanity, lead by an evil Overlord and commanded by their Four Generals (Super Robot). The invaders steamroll Earth’s defenses and crush humanity before them, leaving Humanity fighting a guerilla war with whatever high-tech weapons they can get (Real Robot). Humanity’s secret weapon is a team of hot-blooded young pilots piloting a team of mecha that transform into beast machines, and then humanoid robots, and also into a larger humanoid robot – the titular Dancouga (Super Robot). However, there is a connection between one of the pilots of Dancouga and the Four Generals – one of the Four Generals is a Human traitor who is the fiancee of one of the Dancouga pilots (Real Robot).
Now, just mashing a bunch of concepts together will certainly get your foot in the door, but ultimately it comes to the execution to determine if the show is any good, and Dancouga is a mixed bag. Most of the the main characters – the Dancouga pilots, are archetypal. The show’s normative lead, Shinobu Fujiwara, is the Hot Blooded Impulsive Pilot, Masato Shikibu is the Jokester Youngster, and Ryo Shiba is The Spiritual Guy.
On the other hand, the team’s female member, Sara Yuki, has much more narrative depth. Her fiancee was the Human traitor who joined the Four Generals, which makes her role in the story much more personal, than just wanting to save the world. Most of the other characters – aside from their connections to the team – don’t have as much of an outside motivation. They want to save the world from the Alien Zorbados invaders because that’s their job. On top of this, Yuki often demonstrates a wider emotional range than her fellow pilots, and more proficiency than her fellow pilots (even beating opponents in martial arts combat that Ryo fail at). I get the feeling that while Shinobu Fujiwara is the Normative protagonist, from a narrative standpoint, Sara Yuki is the de-facto protagonist.
Unfortunately, there are a whole bunch of stumbles through the production. As with many other contemporaneous anime series, characters of color are very, very poorly written. Some of the Hispanic characters have very stereotypical names, and a depiction of some African American characters in Harlem later in the series could just as easily be taken from a minstrel show, with the clothing updated to the mid-’80s. Additionally, the quality of the animation is across the map – with some vehicle explosions being very well done, while a larger (and more narratively important) fight scene ending up very disappointing.
Finally, the pacing is rather poor. The titular Dancouga is not formed until the series 25th episode, which implies that they were shooting for a 52 episode runtime, but as with Mobile Suit Gundam, the series has a 35 episode length, which leads me to suspect that they got canceled early. The ending of the show goes along with this, giving a “Watch the OVA/Movie” ending, which is especially disappointing since, as of this writing, the Dancouga OVAs currently aren’t included on Discotek Media’s release of the TV series.
Speaking of which, the show has gotten a DVD release from Discotek Media and is available from Amazon.com & RightStuf. The story doesn’t get concluded until the OVA, but that hasn’t been licensed yet – hopefully Discotek will get the rights so we can get the end of this story, but I can’t otherwise recommend it.
It’s time for another RPG Roundup video. This time I’m making my recommendations based on Anime series!
13th Age: Amazon, DriveThruRPG
Maid: Amazon, DriveThruRPG
Champions: Amazon, DriveThruRPG
Icons: Amazon, DriveThruRPG
Mutants & Masterminds: Amazon, DriveThruRPG
Wild World Wrestling: DriveThruRPG
- Sailor Moon – Toei
- Serial Experiments Lain – Pioneer
- Neon Genesis Evangelion – Gainax/Studio Khara
- Armored Trooper VOTOMS – Sunrise
- Bubblegum Crisis – Pioneer
- Log Horizon (Season 1) – Satelite
- Hayate the Combat Butler – Manglobe
- Tiger & Bunny – Sunrise
- Goseiger – Bandai
- Tiger Mask W – Toei
When I read an analysis of a work of fiction – and the person doing that analysis looks at the world presented in this fiction, sees how it’s fleshed out, and because it’s fleshed out goes “This would be better/best as a video game!” I become kind of frustrated. In particular, I become frustrated because it would also work just as well for a tabletop RPG setting. A great example of this is the below installment of the “Mother’s Basement” video series, where host Geoff Thew discusses the narrative and worldbuilding of the excellent recent anime Made in Abyss, and determines that as good as it is, because of that worldbuilding it would be better as a video game:
My frustration isn’t because the opinion is objectively wrong, or because video games are somehow inferior as an medium. It’s frustrating because there’s this mindset I feel in video game fandom circles that tabletop RPGs don’t exist. They’re the thing that people used to day back before MMORPGs, and now nobody plays them anymore. I don’t mean “nobody” in the sense of nobody of consequence – that tabletop RPGs are viewed with the contempt that was/is shown to LARPers in geek circles. I mean that they just don’t exist – that the person who plays RPGs is like the Tasmanian Tiger, who occasionally emerges from the bush, and then runs back into hiding.
Even the gaming news sources that do talk about RPGs tend to focus on certain more niche sides of things. Austin Walker of Waypoint is way into the narrativist Indie game side of things (which is fine – I don’t believe in bad-wrong-fun). It’s also frustrating because there’s so much more to RPGs than that, and most game sites are only willing to do one of three takes.
- RPGs don’t exist anymore. People played them when I was in college, but nowadays tabletop RPGs don’t exist.
- The only tabletop RPG ever is Dungeons & Dragons. There was Shadowrun and Vampire once upon a time (and I know about those because of their video games), but they no longer exist. This isn’t helped by some forces within the game industry (like the new shepherds of White Wolf and the World of Darkness – and old White Wolf too for that matter)
- Dungeons & Dragons exists, but we’re only going to talk about more artistically minded small press RPGs, like some of the Powered by Apocalypse World games or Dogs in the Vineyard.
Quick note about #3: There is anything wrong in these games – it’s just that there’s an excluded middle – there are games that have gotten visibility among tabletop RPG fans, but nobody outside of that circle knows about that are worth discussing and considering – from Runequest, to 7th Sea, to Savage Worlds.
Anyway, my frustration is born out of the fact that these omissions very much come out of ignorance, whether because the people who made these statements have never had the opportunity to play an RPG, or their experience was a bad time at one game, and they dismissed the medium entirely.
I’ve tried to push back against this through videos of my own, giving recommendations based on existing video games and RPGs that are in print, but my audience is small, and there’s only so much I can do by myself, much as I love tilting at windmills. This also isn’t helped by the fact that, for very valid and understandable economic reasons, much of tabletop RPG publication is done online through PDFs instead of through brick and mortar stores, and any connection between big box booksellers and tabletop RPG publishers (in terms of trying to get their books there) is a thing of the past.
What this does mean is that tabletop RPG publishers need to take some cues from Wizards of the Coast (and then some) when it comes to promoting your stuff. There are a ton of livestreams on Twitch and videos on YouTube through the Dungeons & Dragons and Geek & Sundry YouTube channels showing people playing D&D.
Chaosium, Green Ronin, and other tabletop RPG publishers should be doing something similar for their own systems. Get people to stream Call of Cthulhu, Runequest, Blue Rose, and other games. This not only shows people having fun playing the game, but it also shows people who have never played an RPG before how to play the game.
Additionally, and this is a little thing, but whenever a new Bundle of Holding comes out, the new bundle should get tweeted at @Wario64 (or someone similar), to signal boost the bundle.
Finally, the tabletop RPG industry is kinda in a Crab bucket situation. Tabletop RPGs are surviving and enduring, and as long as the books exist it won’t go anywhere, but unless there’s growth in the player base, there’s no room for growth in the industry – especially for people to make money at this full time, for companies to hire the kind of staff that’s necessary to help maintain a necessary level of professionalism (HR departments and publicists to prevent stupid crap like what happened recently with Bill Webb of Frog God Games and TSR Alum Frank Mentzer.) To do that, the industry needs to stop this stupid undermining bullshit. Politely discourage fans on your boards from slagging and actively attacking other companies games (at least professionally published games – they can slag FATAL all they want), and don’t do that yourself. If we work together, we can get out. If we promote a culture of undermining and slagging each other, we promote the perception that all our games are crap, and not worth people’s time, attention, and money.
So, in short:
- Show people having fun playing your game.
- Use avenues people are already watching to look for game deals, to showcase deals for *your* game.
- Don’t run down other publishers – promote how you’re different, instead of “They suck, we’re better!”
There’s a new Star Wars movie – I take a look at it and (while avoiding spoilers for the rest of the film), takes a look at Luke’s teaching style in this movie.
Opening Credits: Star Wars Theme from Super Star Wars on the SNES.
Closing Credits: Chiptune Cantina Band from Chiptune Inc.