Since it’s Halloween week, let’s have a horror-based column and poll in today’s Coffee Talk. I want to know which horror series you like best. In the red corner, it’s Freddy Krueger and A Nightmare on Elm Street. In the blue corner, it’s Jason Voohees and Friday the 13th. Both series have scared millions of moviegoers and have earned millions of dollars. Both have had frightful high points and unfortunate sequels that are best forgotten. Come to think of it, both series have gotten the reboot treatment as well. While A Nightmare on Elm Street and Friday the 13th certainly have a lot in common, I’m certain that you guys and gals prefer one over the other. Kindly vote in the poll below and explain your choice in the comments section.
As for me, I’m going with A Nightmare on Elm Street. There are so many things that I love about the movies and, especially, its villain. The movies had several moments that were legitimately scary. The movies also had some of the earliest instances of “meta” jokes that made sense to me in my youth. I love that Freddy Krueger was portrayed by the guy that played the goofy alien in V and later by the guy that played Kelly Leak in The Bad News Bears. In addition to being a fun movie, A Nightmare on Elm Street III exposed Dokken to a mainstream audience.
Most of all, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund’s version) was a charming villain. He was funny and had a warped sense of humor. There were several times when I was rooting for him to kill the Elm Street kids, which felt all kinds of wrong but is a testament to the character’s actor and writers. While Jason Voorhees certainly had a more physical and intimidating presence, he was slow and stupid. If I wanted to be entertained by slow and stupid, I’d just watch a Batista match on WWE Network (zing!).
Anyway, that’s my vote and explanation. Now let’s hear yours! Kindly take the poll and expand on your choice.
Earlier in the week, The Late Show With Stephen Colbertfeatured music from The Legend of Zelda played by The Symphony of the Goddesses. Colbert has had several nerdy guests on his show, including Apple CEO Tim Cook, Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick, and Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky. As a nerd, I absolutely love that The Late Show With Stephen Colbert has had tech and gaming segments. Considering that many of his viewers grew up as gamers and technology is more mainstream than ever, it makes sense for his audience. Still, I was surprised (pleasantly) that his show’s guests have been so nerd-friendly.
Changing the channel to NBC, The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon has been a disappointment in terms of nerd content. When the comedian hosted Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, guests from gaming and tech were common. Off the top of my head, I recall Kudo Tsunodo giving a demo of Xbox Kinect, Cliff Bleszinski showing off Gears of War 3, and journalist Josh Topolsky talking tech gear on the show. For whatever reason, these types of guests have largely been absent from The Tonight Show. Perhaps the producers felt that gaming and tech content weren’t appropriate for the “big” show. Perhaps some hack executive mandated that Fallon go with traditional guests that have movies, music, and TV shows to promote. Whatever the reason, it’s disappointing that Fallon has mostly abandoned nerdy programming.
The unfortunate programming choices on The Tonight Show, have made me appreciate the guests on The Late Show. Hearing the wonderful music from Zelda on a late night talk show was brilliant. Watching CEOs of the companies that make products and offer services that I love (or in Tesla’s case, dream about) was outstanding. It’s fantastic that these types of segments are mixed in with the overly polished “artists” promoting their latest movie, album, tour, TV show season, etc. When Colbert debuted on Comedy Central, I was delightfully surprised by his mix of comedy, intelligence, and satire. With The Late Show, he has delightfully surprised me with his nerdy guests. Keep ’em coming, Mr. Colbert!
I recently received my first Amazon Prime Now order and was mostly delighted by the experience. For those of you not familiar with the service (only available in select cities), Prime Now is a mobile shopping service that offers delivery in two hours or less. The company claims that tens of thousands of goods are available though the service, including groceries, electronics, media, household supplies, and more. The products in my initial order were priced comparably to what they’d cost at Target or my local grocery store. With a stellar combination of speed and convenience, Amazon Prime Now is the future of shopping.
The Prime Now experience starts with an app, available for Android and iOS. Shopping with the app is okay — easily the weakest part of the Prime Now experience. The search features and grouping weren’t the best. The challenge of making thousands of items easy to find in an elegant app is tough and Amazon hasn’t quite figured it out. I would have preferred being able to shop on a full-featured site on my laptop and have my order sync with the app.
My first Prime Now order was for five six-packs of Zevia soda, three boxes of protein bars, and two large containers of yogurt. As I mentioned earlier, the prices were inline with local brick-and-mortar stores. In addition to the price of the goods, you have the option to tip the driver.The cool and nerdy part about Prime Now is that you’re able to track the progress of your order via GPS. The app notifies you when your order has left and you can see the driver’s progress on the in-app map. It’s similar to tracking an Uber driver or a friend that has given you an ETA via Waze.
As expected, Amazon’s packaging was very good. The soda and protein bars arrived in brown paper bags, while the driver kept the yogurt in an insulated bag while the order was en route. Everything arrived in great condition and the driver was very cheerful (he was geeking out about Prime Now too).
While the pricing was great for the products I ordered, it does pay to do some comparison shopping. Coupon cutters and shoppers that revere weekly grocery circulars will, of course, still want to hit up the local market to take advantage of sales. That said, I hate most brick-and-mortar retail experiences and love the convenience of Prime Now.
Hopefully the service continues to grow. I remember being enamored with online grocery services like Kozmo and Webvan when I was living in San Francisco…and having my heart broken when those companies went out of business. Amazon, of course, has much more money than those two companies and can afford to ride out any growing pains. Amazon also offers a much wider variety of goods, which should help Prime Now appeal to more shoppers.
I was very, very impressed by my first Prime Now experience. After some minor annoyances with the app’s search functions and sorting, it was a smooth experience. The speed and convenience were fantastic for me personally, while I love the disruptive nature of the service on a macro level. Certainly there are things that I still have to go to a proper grocery for (though Amazon is working with grocery chains in select regions), but Amazon Prime Now has everything else, as well as thousands of products that the grocery doesn’t have. I am absolutely sold on Prime Now.
Have any of you tried Amazon Prime Now? I’d love to hear about your experience with the service. If it’s not available to you yet, do you see yourself shopping this way when it does arrive to your area? Leave a comment and let me know (please!).
Earlier this year, several Bay Area friends tried to get me to buy into coffee naps. They swore that coffee naps are the most efficient way to refresh and recharge during the workday. To me, the practice sounded like the latest Silicon Valley trend — the kind of thing that employers love because it gets their underlings to work more and employees use to justify their overzealous efforts. I’m still unsure if coffee naps are truly effective or if they’re a placebo, so I thought I’d use today’s Coffee Talk to think out loud and get your opinion on the practice.
If you’re not familiar with coffee naps, the idea is to quickly drink a cup of coffee before taking a short rest. While you’re napping, the coffee is working its way through your system. By the time you’re done resting, the stimulants will have kicked in and you won’t feel sluggish when you awake.
Initially, I thought that coffee naps sounded ridiculous, but after reading about the relationship between caffeine and adenosine, I wondered if there might be something to the practice. While they’re hardly a proper substitute for getting a full night of sleep, there’s a chance that coffee naps could be effective for some people.
Unfortunately, I am not one of those people. I tried coffee naps and completely failed at them. My problem is that I’m slow (mentally, physically, etc.). With coffee naps, you want to drink your coffee quickly so that the caffeine doesn’t have time to kick in. As a slow person and a coffee nerd that enjoys the flavor of the beverage, it usually takes me 30 minutes to finish a 16-ounce cup of coffee. It just doesn’t feel right to down a good cup of Ethiopian Yirgacheffe because I want to nap more efficiently. The handful of times I attempted a coffee nap, the caffeine was already playing around in my brain and I couldn’t sleep.
Anyway, I wanted to get your opinion on coffee naps. Do you think that they’re useful or are they another silly Silicon Valley trend? Do you see yourself trying them out? Leave a comment and let me know (please!).
Ah, Hearthstone Heroes of Warcraft…. I have such a love/hate relationship with this game. In many ways, it feels like being in a broken relationship. There are times when I love Hearthstone — when playing it leaves me utterly fulfilled and satisfied. There are times when I hate Hearthstone — when playing it pisses me the f*ck off. And like being in a broken relationship, a lot of it is my fault and I knew exactly what I was getting into.
While I messed around with Hearthstone during the beta period, I only really got into it last year. My friend Marcus and I were goofing around with the game when we had downtime during Blizzcon 2014. We had a lot of fun and it kind of steamrolled from there. Hearthstone is pretty much a daily habit for me, while Marcus…he actually plays on the pro circuit now (follow him on Twitter, please).
What I love about Hearthstone is its marvelous blend of complexity and simplicity. It’s just an extremely well executed card game. It’s easy to get into and difficult to master. It’s also extremely addictive and I tend to gravitate towards addictive things. Hearthstone has kept me completely entertained for dozens, if not hundreds, of hours.
What I hate about Hearthstone is that it’s blatantly pay-to-win. Out of sheer stubbornness, I refuse to buy card packs. This leaves me at a severe disadvantage in many games. As you can imagine, my card collection is modest, ergo it absolutely sucks going against players with stacked decks. I’ll think I’m in the middle of a good game when all of the sudden some trust-fund kid busts out five legendary cards in a row. Hearthstone has angered and frustrated me for dozens, if not hundreds, of hours.
With the release of The Grand Tournament expansion, the pay-to-win aspect of the game has become even more pronounced. The first couple of days after the expansion was released, I played several players that had tons of new cards. It’s safe to assume that most of those players spent money to get those cards and didn’t grind 24/7 for freebies. It was frustrating coming across new cards — especially new legendaries — that I had no counters for. It made me feel helpless, which isn’t a feeling that I want to have while playing a game.
Like many people in dead-end relationships, I’m not going to do anything to change my situation. I’m going to stick to playing Hearthstone as a free-to-play guy. Yeah, it’s going to suck and be frustrating a lot of the time, but there will also be moments when the game gives me sheer joy. Or perhaps I should seek out a Hearthstone therapist. If you know a good one, please let me know.
Canon is a touchy subject for nerds. Fundamentalists loathe when their beloved sci-fi and fantasy properties are taken in different directions by creators of non-canonical works. Others appreciate when established properties are taken in all-new, all-different directions. Today I want to talk about a few nerd-specific cases of canon and hear your feelings on the matter.
Star Wars: Let’s kick things of with one of the hugest nerd properties in existence. Many Star Wars fans were delighted by tales of the Expanded Universe (EU). The EU had several excellent Star Wars books written by several great authors. When Disney purchased Lucasfilm, it wiped out the existing EU and rebranded it as Star Wars Legends. Shortly after that decision was made, Disney created its own EU.
Many Star Wars fans were outraged by the move. They loved the books and felt robbed that they were no longer part of the proper Star Wars universe. While I empathize with that point of view, killing the previous EU didn’t bother me. I enjoyed the many Star Wars books I read and nothing can take that away. It doesn’t matter that these stories are no longer “official.” They entertained me and that hasn’t changed.
Gotham: Yesterday in the RPadTV Google Hangout, the Gotham television show was briefly discussed. This reimagining of a pre-Batman Gotham is controversial among nerds. Some people hate that Batman’s rogues gallery was up and operating well before the Dark Knight arrived to Gotham. I believe it was RPadholic Smartguy that said that having Joker without Batman doesn’t make any sense.
I definitely agree with the sentiment that having most of Batman’s villains in pre-Batman Gotham is silly. Like many comic-book fanboys, I am of the opinion that superheroes and villains fit into a nerdy chicken-and-egg scenario. Gotham is full of weird villains because some rich guy in a bat costume started being a vigilante there. Having these colorful criminals established in Gotham before his arrival doesn’t make sense to me.
At the end of the day, it doesn’t bother me that Gotham isn’t canon. What bothers me is that it’s a crappy show. The writing is trite and the acting is mediocre to poor. Bruce Wayne once said that criminals are a superstitious and cowardly lot. Apparently they’re middling television actors too.
Marvel Secret Wars: Closing things out is Marvel’s Secret Wars crossover series. Due to a confluence of ridiculous events, the Marvel multiverse has become a singular mashup. The past few months of Marvel stories featured reimagined worlds and reimagined characters. All of this will lead up to the all-new, all-different Marvel Universe.
I have a few problems with the Secret Wars. The obvious one is that most of the stories aren’t very good. The secondary problem is that the crossover event interrupted several books that I was enjoying. Lastly, none of these stories matter in a canonical sense. The Marvel Universe is going to reboot and my time has been wasted with months of filler stories. While part of my problem with Secret Wars has to do with canon, most of it is that the damn thing is taking too long and most of the writing has been forgettable.
Your Take: Looking back at what I just wrote, I suppose canon doesn’t matter much to me. A good story is a good story, whether it’s official or not. Naturally, I want to hear your thoughts on nerd canon. Feel free to use the examples above or bring up any of your own. Do you place a high value on canon? Or is something entertaining simply entertaining?
Yesterday was a good day, mostly because my friend Andy told me that Jeff Smisek resigned as CEO of United Airlines. As many of you know, I loathe that man. He holds the distinction of being the only executive in corporate America that I actively, physically hate. Early in his United career, he promised customers that many changes were coming and labeled them as “changes I think you’ll like.” While he certainly made many changes, most of them sucked. Whether you were a United employee or a United customer, most agree that Jeff Smisek changed the airline for the worse.
Earlier in the year, Bloomberg reported that United was being investigated for a scandal involving Port Authority chairman David Samson. The rumor was that United would be given favorable options by the Port Authority in exchange for reestablishing a route between Newark, New Jersey and Columbia, South Carolina. Samson has a weekend home in nearby Aiken, South Carolina. While the route was initially cancelled due poor revenue, United reinstated the route…which mysteriously disappeared three days after Samson resigned from the Port Authority. The recent resignations by Jeff Smisek and other executives are believed to be related.
That’s a helluva a story, but I only have superficial knowledge of the situation. What I know firsthand is that I used to love flying United. The service was very good (though still behind top Asian airlines) and the frequent flyer benefits were excellent. Jeff Smisek cut numerous benefits to frequent flyers, made several benefits available to credit card holders, implemented a disgraceful upgrade system, made miles harder to earn, and made mileage awards more difficult to obtain. United’s service has declined, both in terms of operations and politeness. The company has cancelled service to BKK airport in Thailand and will cancel service to JFK in New York — two destinations that I frequent. In the past, I loved flying United. Now it feels like a burden that I pay for. Here’s a nice article that contains a list of the many things Smisek and his regime did wrong.
The good news is that Jeff Smisek is out. The bad news is that the damage he did to the airline could be irreparable. Certainly new United CEO Oscar Munoz has a chance to make things better, but I doubt he can return United to its glory days. Oh well, I’ll just dream of Jeff Smisek getting sentenced to 15-20 years in Federal Pound-Jeff-in-the-Ass Prison (as seen in Office Space).
You’ve been thrilled by the adventures of African-American Captain America. You’ve journeyed into mystery with the mysterious female Thor. In December, you’ll be getting a Korean-American Hulk when Totally Awesome Hulk hits shelves. Ethnic and sexual diversification in Marvel Comics is an ongoing process — one that Marvel seems to be keen on pursuing. It also seems to be a process that some readers are against. How do you feel about diversification in the Marvel Universe? Is it necessary? Is it being forced? Let’s examine the issue and discuss (please).
There are many longtime Marvel Comics readers that don’t like their icons being altered. They want Steve Rogers as Captain America, not Sam Wilson. They want the son of Odin to be Thor, not a women with a secret identity (for seven issues, anyway). Lastly, they want Bruce Banner as the Hulk, not Amadeus Cho. These readers are traditionalists that prefer stories about characters they’ve known and loved for decades. Changing the identity, ethnicity, or sex of an iconic character is jarring to these readers. Staying true to years of material is more important than diversification to these guys and gals, which is completely understandable since this is entertainment.
There’s a subsection of the readers mentioned in the last paragraph that claim they want to see a more diverse Marvel Universe, but would prefer diversification through new characters. They want their icons to stay as they are, but wouldn’t mind if they were joined by all-new, all-different characters that represent various ethnicities, genders, religions, sexual orientations, etc.
For reasons that escape me, there are some readers that are fine with the majority of superheroes in the Marvel Universe being white males. For my part, I feel that diversity is overdue, but shouldn’t be forced. That said, diversity in the Marvel Universe has been silly for decades. Most of the action takes place in Manhattan, arguably the most diverse city in the world. Similar to how Friends — a show about six white people that only have white friends — was a ridiculous representation of New York life, Marvel has done a poor job depicting the diversity of New York through its heroes.
At the end of the day, I don’t care that Sam Wilson is Captain America. I care that his costume sucks and his stories have been boring. I don’t care that the new Thor is a woman. I care that she’s being written by Jason Aaron, one of my favorite comics writers of the last ten years. I’m not particularly enthused that the Hulk will be Korean-American. I’m terribly excited that Greg Pak will be writing the stories and that they’ll feature Amadeus Cho, a character that I love.
Would I like to see more diversity in the Marvel Universe? Of course I would, but I understand that it’s a process and things are moving in the right direction. For the most part, I enjoy comics that entertain me with writing. It doesn’t matter if they’re about Filipino-American heroines with cosmic powers or homosexual ice mutants that have arrived from the past. If the writing is great, make mine Marvel.
Naturally, I want to hear your thoughts on the matter. How do you feel about diversification in the Marvel Universe? Leave a comment and let me know (please!).
Another E3 Expo is in the books! Since we’re a few years removed from console launches, E3 2015 was gloriously software heavy. That said, virtual reality hardware was huge at this year’s show and generated lots of excitement. There were tons of great games on the show floor and behind closed doors. Special thanks to old friends and new friends that let me cut lines and sneak into demos that I didn’t have appointments for. Now here are some random thoughts on E3 2015.
Console Press Conferences: Sony crushed it. The company had lots of great original content and showed off juicy timed exclusives. The Shenmue 3 and Final Fantasy VII announcements won the hearts of millions of old-school gamers. Sony has come a long way with presentation too (remember those old Kaz Hirai PowerPoint slides?), largely because Microsoft raised the bar for E3 press conference theatricality. Microsoft put on a good show, but I found Sony’s press conference far more exciting. As for Nintendo’s latest direct-to-video presentation, the company had lots of games that I’m excited for…but the Nintendo executive muppets will haunt my dreams for the next few months (the Satoru Iwata muppet is terrifying).
Publisher Press Conferences: I’m probably in the minority here, but I was more impressed with Square Enix’s presser than EA’s or Ubisoft’s. While Square Enix’s presentation was flat and the company didn’t have the celebrity star power its competitors flaunted, the games were excellent. Square Enix simply had more games that I wanted to play. While many of my friends loved Ubisoft’s lineup, it didn’t do much for me, save for South Park: The Fractured But Whole. Ubisoft gets bonus points for Aisha Tyler hosting and for Angela Bassett’s appearance. As for EA, it had frickin’ Pele — one of the coolest and most legendary single-name celebrities ever. EA’s Star Wars Battlefront, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, and Mirror’s Edge Catalyst had me amped, but not as much Kingdom Hearts 3, World of Final Fantasy, Life is Strange, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Final Fantasy VII (more on that in a bit).
Virtual Reality: I played a bunch of VR games/demos and totally understand why so many people are excited about this type of gaming. It feels fresh and exciting. When VR works, it’s amazing and makes you feel like you’re playing a game from the future. When the frame rates are clunky, VR games give you a headache. What I’m unsure about is the business model. From what several people told me, making a VR game is very expensive. Gamers will need expensive hardware for the best VR experience. From the (admittedly limited) information I gathered, Valve has the best plans for making VR accessible for developers and consumers. I’m curious to see what the other VR companies will do to help make VR affordable for creators and gamers alike.
Wattam: Going into the show, I was certain that I’d be charmed by Funomena’sWattam. The creation of Keita Takahashi (Katamari Damacy) and Robin Hunicke (Journey), Wattam is wonderfully creative — a game that’s simple, but with complexity that makes it difficult to describe. Some people are calling it a puzzle game, while others feel it’s adventure, and some are calling it a platformer. Check out the trailer below and see for yourself. Whatever category you think Wattam fits in, there’s no denying that the graphics are cute, the gameplay is creative, and the sound design is adorable. I love that Sony publishes atypically delightful games like Wattam.
Final Fantasy VII: Some gamers feel that FFVII is the best game in the series. Others feel that it’s the most overrated. Either way, it’s a huge deal that the game is being remade and coming to PlayStation 4 (initially). While I enjoyed the original game, it’s not in my top five for the Final Fantasy series. Having said that, I’m a big fan of FFVII world, since Crisis Core and Advent Children helped make sense of everything. I’m going to dedicate a full topic to this column next week. No matter how good or bad the FFVII remake ends up being, I’m excited to watch the process and listen to the debates. I expect full fanboy fury over FFVII and gamers better not disappoint me.
Mario Tennis: I “accidentally” spent more than hour playing Mario Tennis Ultra Smash at Nintendo’s booth. I’m a longtime fan of the Mario Tennis games, both on home and handheld consoles. Even though the game is early and there were only two playable characters, I had a blast with Mario Tennis Ultra Smash. The core gameplay is tight, while the addition of power-ups gives it a wackier feel that make sense in the context of the Mario universe. I’ll give this one a full preview in a bit.
Sword Coast Legends: As a huge fan of the Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale games, I was really looking forward to learning more about Sword Coast Legends. After getting a demo and playing the game, my expectations were exceeded. It will surely satisfy fans of the isometric PC RPGs that I mentioned, but should also satisfy fans of pen-and-paper RPGs. The dungeon master features look awesome, powerful, and fun. While most of the game will have professional voice acting, I was delighted to learn that there will be opportunities for live action role-playing. I vow to make a character based on Azrael Abyss from Saturday Night Live and annoy the hell out of anyone foolish enough to let me be a dungeon master. I’ll be giving Sword Coast Legends a full preview too.
Your Take: Naturally, I didn’t get to play or see everything I wanted to. This is where you come in! I’d love to get your take on E3 2015. How did it play from home? What games are you excited for? Who do you think “won” the press conferences? Kindly share your thoughts in the comments section.
E3 2015 is next week! It kind of crept on me there — totally forgot it was this close. As always, I’m excited to see lots of great games, watch the console manufacturers try to outdo each other, and catch up with longtime videogame industry friends. This year, I’ll have a bunch more “me” time at the show. At E3 2014 I made the mistake of working for two companies that wanted full-time efforts out of one person. While I enjoyed the show, it was tiring and I didn’t have the exploration time that I love (I also missed my annual Hooter’s lunch with my dear friend, AIAS Debby). E3 2015 will be different! I have some light freelance work and a bunch of meetings, but will certainly have lots of time to check out games.
I tried to load up as many E3 2015 meetings as I could on Tuesday (day one of the show). In years past, some of the best games I’ve seen were ones that I looked at because friends and respected colleagues told me to check them out. Bumping into someone between appointments and asking, “So what have you seen that’s cool?” has lead to some amazing revelations. I’ll rely heavily on that technique at E3 2015.
Some of my industry friends have been making fun of me and asking, “So? What indie game are you going to fall in love with this year?” Yeah, yeah, yeah — that’s totally deserved after being smitten with games like Journey, The Unfinished Swan and Sound Shapes during previous E3 shows. While I’m looking forward to the spectacle of big-budget games and the unique charm of indies, the game I’m looking forward to the most doesn’t fit into either category — Sword Coast Legends. As a huge mark for the Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale games, I can’t wait to learn more about this one.
As longtime RPadholics, I want to know what you want me to check out on your behalf. If I have access to the game and time allows, you’ll get your own personal preview. Please leave a comment below and let me know what you’d like me to check out at E3 2015.