Monday, December 7, 2015

In defense of... The characters of Fire Emblem: Awakening.

...and in that moment I thought to myself, "That's a waifu."
Genwunner (JEN-wuhn-ner)
Noun - A term coined by the fanbase of the popular Pokemon franchise, typically used to describe long-time fans of the video games series who prefer the first group of games in the series and usually denounce any subsequent release as unoriginal or stupid compared to the originals. Typically used in a cynical or derogatory fashion towards this type of fan in response to their relatively narrow-minded viewpoint. The word is a corruption of "gen one", in reference to the original three games being part of the series' first generation.

I have no doubt that at least some of you like Pokemon enough to have heard of genwunners, especially given how surprisingly common they are in more casual parts of the fanbase, such as Facebook meme pages. You may or may not be surprised, however, to know that many other beloved game franchises have their own variation of these.

Sometimes, preference of an earlier installment is completely justified. Super Smash Bros Brawl and 4 overhauled the game mechanics in such a way that it alienated the competitive players that 64 and Melee had drawn in. Street Fighter 3: Third Strike has a smaller, yet largely superior character roster than 4 and 5, and in general had a more "fast and loose" gameplay style with more advanced techniques to learn.

 "New" doesn't always have to be synonymous with "bad", though. If you read my posts about the Smash games, I briefly mentioned that Melee, Brawl, and 4 were some of the main factors in boosting the popularity of the turn-based strategy series, Fire Emblem. If you didn't read the title for some reason, the subject of this post happens to be the 13th installment into the series, Awakening. Since its release in the states, this game in particular has been a target for nonstop hate and general disdain from long-time fans of the series. But why?

On the surface, this is explained rather simply; Awakening caused Fire Emblem to "go mainstream". No longer was it a niche strategy game with discussions about it being limited to smaller communities. No longer did you have to be "in on it". Before Awakening, most people just mained Marth or Ike in Smash without touching their actual home series.

Now, I'll be the first to admit that there is indeed some novelty in being the guy who could say he "liked it before it was cool". I fondly recall watching the now wildly famous let's player Chuggaaconroy when his subscriber count barely broke one thousand. However this does not merit the sheer amount of hate they harbor towards those who played Awakening first, as their "gateway game", if you will. And yes, this really is the main reason that these old-school Fire Emblem players dislike Awakening so much, and it's one of the many wrong reasons to dislike something.

I personally did not get Awakening until very late 2013. I found Robin and Lucina to be the only interesting newcomers in Super Smash Bros 4 (sorry, I wasn't exactly chomping at the bit to play as Rosalina), and I after deciding that Robin would be my main, I felt the need to do the character justice in a sense and play Awakening, and I honestly liked it a lot. The gameplay was questionable at times, and I will agree that the writing in the main story itself doesn't use as many original elements as it could, but one of the game's strongest points is its massive, yet diverse cast of playable characters.

Before I go any further, I want to state that I'm making this post partially in "response" (I use this term lightly because I don't think he'll see it and showing it to him directly would likely be a waste of time) to a prominent member of a Facebook group I'm active in, after he repeatedly stated that every character in the game is generic and bad. This person got many facts wrong and only really made general blanket statements without anything to back them up, even admitting that he never played the whole game for himself. He's one of those people who could, to quote Vegeta in DBZ Abridged, "give you an aneurysm from sheer stupidity".

Anyways, Awakening does have quite a large production value. Every playable character (and even some non-playable) is voiced. Despite this, one would think it near-impossible to fully flesh out over 40 characters, and you'd be very right to think that. Each character does have one or two very obvious character traits that they will likely show as early as their first appearance. This exact thing is one of the main things that Awakening's detractors love to point out. Although it's true that Fire Emblem's "genwunners" largely hate Awakening because it transitioned the series from niche to mainstream, it was actually that very reason that lead to them specifically looking for more reasons to hate the game. They ruin the experience by going into the game with a previously-formed negative opinion on it (exactly as I did with the first Dark Souls, shame on me).

I'd be here all day if I looked at every one of these characters, so I'm only going to look at three of them for this post, but I'll want to make an unexpected comparison here. Awakening's characters are Dark Souls characters. "What the fuck are you talking about?" you may ask as you edge closer in your seat. Well, what I mean is that these characters don't fully "reveal themselves" to you in a traditional sense. Characters who only have a short time to make a first impression on you. Characters with many hidden depths, and most importantly, characters that were meant to be speculated on. I don't work for Intelligent Systems, so I can't outright confirm if that was the writers' intentions, but I personally believe that this is the case.

The first character I want to look at is Cordelia, and not for the reasons you might think. I strongly feel that Cordelia is an example of a badly-written character, and by far the most overrated character in the franchise. Cordelia is what some might call a "Mary-sue". This is a term used by writers to describe a character with no flaws who has everyone bend to them and can typically accomplish any goal with little effort, and that's exactly what she is. She's beautiful (to everyone but me, apparently), athletic, smart, and does everything perfectly on the first try. They try to make her seem humble about her amazing feats, but I feel this only further serves as the makings for a generic character right out of a bad fan fiction.

dis is my OC her name iz cordelia nd she always beet teh enemie but doesnt liek 2 brag about ti
she got da long prety hairs nd all teh bois luv pls reed and reveiw my fic all h8er comments will be deleted thx

Let's take a quick look at her design. In most ways it resembles a standard "pretty anime girl" look. Long, free-flowing red hair, form-fitting "armor", thigh-high boots, and no real physical flaws. Now, I'm about the furthest thing from a Tumblrista, so I'm not going to rant on how she's some unrealistic image of female beauty or an anti-feminist or blah blah blah muh patriarchy. Looks aren't everything, and it's entirely possible for a beautiful woman to have flaws and other things that make for a realistic character. I just think she's kinda boring as a result of these traits. The other main thing she is known for is her unrequited love for the game's other main protag, Prince Chrom. It doesn't go much further than her inability to confess to him for... some reason, I guess.

She honestly comes off as desperate at times, such as when she mentions reading a book titled something along the lines of "How to Win His Heart in a Fortnight" in order to win over Chrom, and it was the one point where I actually felt sorry for her. Huh, I guess there is more to her than I thought. This still seems unrealistic given how she's basically perfect. Hell, even her ingame stats are ridiculously good, and her daughter is the best unit in the game. Personally I rarely use her and can't fathom how she's favored over certain other characters in the game. Anna. The second character I want to talk about. Anna was the first character to truly catch my interest and the first one I got married to ingame. Anna has actually been in every main series Fire Emblem game, or rather some incarnation of her has. Anna can be seen as a parallel to Nurse Joy in Pokemon; just a long line of identical girls who tend to have a similar profession. However, it was not until Awakening that one could finally recruit, play as, and even marry Anna if they chose to.

Anna's main character trait is her love of money and business, which makes sense as she is a saleswoman trying to earn a living in Ylisse. On the surface, she could be easily judged as a one-note moneywhore who only cares about her gold, and that's how many people view her. This is merely on the surface, though. Funny enough, two of her other character traits show themselves on the Shepherds' first meeting with her. You'll have to watch or play her chapters to fully understand what I'm talking about, but I'm referring to her confident, can-do attitude and her sarcastic, biting wit (though to be fair a lot of her quips are money-based puns).

Not pictured: Her almost implausibly thick thighs.

Maybe it's because I'm good at reading voice inflection (especially thanks to Karen Strassman's phenomenal performance as her), but it seems like she does a great job putting on a brave face even when she's shaking in her red-and-gold metal boots on the inside. Many of her quotes in battle are things like "We've got this!" or "I'm not worried!", and other things that don't relate to money at all. Her general pluckiness and positivity in the face of danger in a game where death is permanent calls to mind Kamina, the hero of Gurren Lagann who had a similar demeanor.

Beyond this, she potentially can show character development. The pre-marriage conversation between her and the player character is very endearing and realistic, and Anna comes to the realization that happiness doesn't have to be bought, even stating that she loves you more than money. This is further extended in the ending of the game as well as the support tiles. She even makes a direct sexual reference to you, which believe it or not is rare in these games and actually rather humorous.

In stark contrast to Cordelia, her design is quite unique and stands out. Her clothing could be considered a fusion of a jester and a traditional RPG thief, and the red/gold color combo is a lovely design choice. Hell, she even has a small teddy bear dangling from her sword. Her outfit is extremely modest (I'm saying this as a positive), although her pants seem designed to show off her thick, curvy thighs (another positive, considering most "pretty" girls in Japanese games have the same twig-like figure).

Overall, I haven't seen a lot of people outright hating Anna or anything of that nature, but she's definitely underrated compared to characters like Cordelia. If you were to ask me back in early 2014 who my favorite character in the game was, I would've told you it was Anna.

...were it not for Aversa. Aversa is the best kind of character because she took a very long time to even begin to grow on me. I played the game (and some DLC!) to completion twice before I ever had interest in her. Aversa serves as the story's secondary villain, so out of most of the characters, she's one of the most important to the story, yet can appear the least fleshed-out to someone who only looks at her with a passing glance. I completely ignored her during my first two playthroughs. It was not until my friend and I were watching videos of all the support conversations and marriages one day that I truly began to appreciate her as a character. This appreciation grew so much that Aversa has cemented her position as my favorite female character of all time.

The fiercely loyal type.
Looking at her design, she definitely exudes a lot of fan-service at first glance. For those not in the know, fan-service typically refers to characters, of both the male and female variety, that could be considered sexy. Fire Emblem turned up the fan-service considerably in Awakening, with the ability to marry any character of the opposite sex, complete with beautifully-rendered artwork of each character's confession scene. There was even a DLC featuring artwork of some characters in swimsuits. This is another point that the FE genwunners love to use against the modern games, and I can't do much except laugh at them and say "sucks for you", because I wholeheartedly enjoy fan-service in games like these. It's being ramped up even more in the next installment.

Anyways, aside from the outfit's risque design, which is backless, has thigh-high stockings, and shows off her "assets" well, it's also extremely unique and original in structure. You can't see it in that picture, but she even has some weird... cowl (?) thing that covers the back of her head and reaches her chin. I've never seen anything like it. She's also got these black metal spiky things on her hips, shoulders, and even a crown-like head piece. It almost appears to be wrought from an iron gate and, combined with her high collar made out of feathers, honestly looks like something Lady Gaga would wear. It's weird, but she pulls the look off rather well, and you can tell that a lot of time was put into it. Instead of just throwing her in a bikini or a short skirt, they made her look attractive in an original way that isn't seen in a lot of media.

Physically, she appears as a black woman (or whatever Ylisse's equivalent of African-American is) with some very eye-catching features. I want to mention that Awakening has possibly my favorite art style when it comes to faces. It deviates from the traditional anime style, with realistically-proportioned eyes, mouths, and even the noses. Aversa features magenta facial tattoos as one of her defining features; this isn't seen on any other character. Her long, straight, white hair is admittedly nothing new, but it does contrast well with her pitch-black outfit.

Even her body is something rarely seen in Japanese media. And yes, I know I will be nigh-impossible to take seriously when describing this, but hey, I do happen to have a girlfriend in real life, so I'm totally definitely allowed to have a waifu, right? Her breasts, though perky and prominently shown off every time she talks, aren't particularly large. For comparison, my girlfriend is a c-cup, and hers are larger. I bring this up because it's almost a requirement for a female character to have overwhelmingly large breasts to be considered attractive in Japanese media. She makes up for this with what is ironically almost never seen in games and anime: her massive, round butt. I'm being serious here; I genuinely appreciate Aversa's big booty. She adds variety to the game's characters, ensuring that there is someone for any taste, including my love for badonkadonks that could rival Space Dandy's desires.

Yes, this is her official in-game model. She could knock over a table with that thing!
As much as I've been playing her up in this fashion, surely she must be another one-note character who does nothing but show off her body, right? Well, maybe if you're of the simple-minded persuasion and love to judge books by their covers. Really, Aversa is perhaps the deepest character in the whole game, and a contender for that title within the entire franchise. She is established early on as one of the game's main villains. Her actions, such as holding one of your allies hostage and killing her own troops when they deliver bad news, build her up as an exceedingly cruel officer of the Plegian army. Every other line she utters in the early-mid phases of the game is a sexual innuendo or double entendre, which is why a lot of people are turned off of her. Each sultry line is delivered smoothly by voice actress Cindy Robinson, in such a way that I could never imagine her lines spoken by anyone else.

However, those who give her a chance and finish her entire story will see how brilliant she actually is. Originally, her story seemingly ended after her second defeat, where she was presumed dead. Not long after the game's release, Intelligent Systems released a pack of free DLC that made several previously non-playable characters able to be recruited, as well as properly continued their stories. In Aversa's, you find out through a series of weird messages that Aversa was actually from some obscure village and kidnapped as a child by Validar, one of the game's main villains. Validar not only raised her to believe he was her father (and did the same with the player character, making him/her think Aversa was actually her brother/sister), but also performed some BioShock-esque mental conditioning on her, resulting in her cruel nature and her spearheading of the war between Plegia and Ylisstol.

After breaking free of this conditioning and reluctantly joining the Shepherds, she begins to show amazing character development. Aversa's story is one not of the villain who turns out to be "not all that bad after all" as many less-educated fans seem to believe. Rather it is one of a woman who's preexisting personality traits were brought to the forefront by "her kindly master" (I love BioShock too much, sorry). To clarify, she's still plenty cruel even after joining your side, even coming off as borderline sadistic to her enemies. Still, she has a strong desire to atone for all the horrible things she did over the course of the story. You can really feel her immense guilt considering just the things you've seen her do up to this point.

This is perhaps shown best in the support conversations with the male player character. Starting off, you and Aversa are more or less at each others' throats, with Aversa resorting to teasing and insults to the player. Only through gradual progression does she seem to warm up to you, and your confession of love to one another is perhaps the most realistic in the game. Not only did I look at some of the lines and think to myself, "huh, that actually sounds like something I'd say", but the scene actually managed to come off as heartwarming to me. Considering romance scenes typically don't merit much beyond a scoff from me, this is another thing I have to applaud the game for.

From there on out, her development only continues. Subsequent conversations triggered through the game's support tiles show insight into your relationship with her, as does her quote during the game's ending, which she only says if you marry her. Her random lines even show less of the constant innuendos in favor of other things (though I consider her ability to constantly come up with them as a positive from a psychological viewpoint; it shows that she is witty and able to improv lines like these on the spot, which can be seen as a good social skill) and doesn't slip back into her old self too often, unlike many characters do in these types of games.

And no, this doesn't happen instantly. This is a scene from the game's ending.

Again, I can't refer to everything I've said in this post as confirmed canon, but after my time with the Dragon Ball fanbase, my days of canon-worshipping are long over. You could dismiss this as "over-analyzing" but anyone who truly appreciates a story should prefer over-analysis to under-analysis by a clear mile. And if you still have the same negative view on these characters after reading all this? So be it. I didn't write this to change anyone's firmly-held opinion. But honestly, if you're that much of a narrow-minded genwunner fuckwit, your best course of action is to stop forcing your flawed opinion down the throats of people like me who take the time to look at things on a broader scale. No matter how hard you try to look like a special snowflake defending your precious niche series, you'll always look as stupid as you objectively are. I'm probably better at the old Fire Emblem titles than you could ever hope to be, anyway. : )

Hahaha, you actually thought I was going to be nice for this whole post? I'm a fucking savage.

On a more serious note, it's like my friend said when I addressed him about this. "It's just an opinion, bro. All that really matters is that you like her." There are plenty of well-liked characters I think suck, and hey, if I can't take the heat, I've no business dishing it out.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

A history of my time and experiences with YouTube (2006 - 2015)

Nearly all the icons I used for my channel over the years. Not pictured: My first icon which was of my RuneScape character doing a special attack animation, an icon from fall of 2009 picturing the TF2 Medic
Another random post I felt like making.

I'm fairly certain that by this point in time, anyone who uses the internet to any degree knows of YouTube, the extremely popular video sharing site. Though it's seen a decline in recent years (in fact I predict this trend will continue, but I'll get to that), it's always been one of my main go-to websites. I've been active on-and-off on YT since 2006, and I'd like to share my experience and history up until now. So, let's get started.

Also, just a disclaimer, I'll be going into a lot of detail, so this will be a rather long post. Excuse me if I ramble a bit. I'll also be mentioning a lot of YouTubers you may or may not have heard of; they're definitely worth checking out!

My earliest memory of anything related to YouTube would have to be very early 2006. Now, YouTube had launched in April of 2005, so I'm quite surprised that it was incredibly popular even early on. I had recently started playing RuneScape and heard a lot of the community talking about "YouTube" or telling me to check out some video. I eventually tried to access it, but for some reason, videos wouldn't play. Oddly enough this didn't have anything to do with my PC (it was from 2001, but yeah), rather the ISP I had at the time. If you can believe it, I was still on dial-up internet in 2006. My family was pretty behind-the-times and thought anything related to computers or gaming was a waste of money, or whatever. I knew nothing about computers back then, so I still don't know all the technical stuff behind it, but my ISP, CompuServ, sort of had its own browser that you had to open and use. I could play Flash games and what have you, but any time I would go to a YouTube video, it told me to "Download Adobe Flash Player", so I did, and it would just keep telling me to download it. I got really frustrated that I couldn't watch videos and even put "I hate YouTube!" on one of my RS community profiles just because of how jealous I was that everyone else got to watch videos and I couldn't.

Anyways, in mid 2006, we finally switched to high-speed internet and behold, YouTube suddenly worked. I immediately started watching damn near every video I could find. I was 14 at the time and would get lost in YouTube for hours on end just watching random videos. Eventually I decided I wanted to start subscribing to users to see what they would make next, as well as add favorites and comment on videos, so I signed up for YouTube with my first ever account, "D00pliss". I was obsessed with Paper Mario 2 at the time, hence the name. I mostly watched Pokemon and other gaming related videos, and favorited a ton of them. Oh yeah, I should also note that YouTube was rather poorly moderated at the time and people would often upload porn and shock videos that would be up for months before they got removed. Lol.

Considering the fact that I was only 14 at the time and rather immature, I quickly learned that I enjoyed trolling on YouTube. The anonymity of the internet meant no one could really do anything to me, so oftentimes I would go on random videos and post comments insulting whoever made the video, saying "wow this vid sucks" or something like that. Other times I would post comments that had nothing to do with the vid. At this time, I would get tons of angry replies in the comments and even on my own channel, which only served to fuel my trolling further. A lot of the times, I would just play along and reply to the comments to keep it going. Eventually, a lot of people who owned the videos would end up blocking me because their comments section got so out of hand.

After early '07, I more or less stopped trolling or cut down on it at least, but I would still occasionally revisit videos to turn their comment sections into a warzone. I remember watching a lot of Arby n the Chief and other Halo-related stuff in early '08 when I finally fixed my PC that had been non-operational since October of 2007. After that, I mostly kept the account to subscribe and favorite vids. One day during the Summer of '08, I got on the account and saw that all my favorites were deleted and my account info was changed. Realizing I'd been hacked somehow, I had a small freakout. I remembered that I had logged in at the public library once and set my account to stay logged in, so someone must've gotten on it for shits and giggles. They didn't do too good of a job of hacking it though, because the password was still the same. At that point I pretty much said "fuck it" and deleted D00pliss.

Nothing interesting happened for the rest of 2008 in terms of YouTube. I made 2 accounts, "AvoidSpiltJuice" (an internet name I used pretty much everywhere back then), and "EliteBounc3r" (an account I planned on making into a let's play channel after being inspired by Spartan31590, Chuggaaconroy, and Cauchemar89), but I quickly forgot the password to those. Still, after becoming more mature and wanting to put my trolling days behind me, I swore off YouTube for the rest of the year. I used my mom's account to watch videos on for the rest of '08 and rarely left comments.

In early 2009, I'd moved to a new apartment with my dad and taken interest in RuneScape again. This was ultimately what lead to my decision to come back to YouTube. I had a good friend called Chiafriend12 who regularly made high-quality RuneScape Music Videos, or RSMVs. Seeing what he could produce made me want to do the same thing with my own songs of choice. Also, there was a user on YT who was flaming RS and criticizing its quality as a game. As defensive as I was back then, I had a strong desire to make an account just to flame him back. On February 20th, 2009, after getting home from school, I created Petey1Piranha, my current YouTube account.

I used this account pretty heavily from the get-go. Many people I knew from other communities had YT accounts, and I was quick to add them all. It quickly became tradition to look forward to checking my comments and messages every day when I got off of school, and I'd usually have plenty. YouTube became the primary method of communication between my friends and I, as we commonly used its private messaging feature, channel comments, and streams. I was still very new to making videos, and hardly had anything worth watching during my first year on the site. My earliest uploads were short RuneScape vids recorded with an unregistered Hypercam 2 and didn't have sound in them because I didn't know how to add it. After that, my good buddy Quinn directed me to a site called Animoto, which would make flashy-looking slideshows of whatever pictures you put in. You had to pay a fee for any videos longer than a minute, if I recall correctly. I pretty much only used that site for my videos in 2009.

A somewhat-accurate depiction of my channel, circa March of 2009, courtesy of the Internet Archive Wayback Machine. Seriously, what was wrong with this design? It was perfect!

YouTube remained my favorite go-to site for just about anything throughout 2009 and 2010. I made a ton of new friends there and got extremely involved in the community. YouTube was where I first discovered Lady Gaga. I found her Poker Face video a day after I signed up and I've been in love to this day. It was also where I got into competitive Pokemon. Watching let's plays of Pokemon games (particularly Chickenfajita12 and Battlexon's run of Pokemon Gold) got me back into the franchise and it didn't take me long to learn of the existence of the competitive scene and its mechanics. I quickly became skilled at competitive Pokemon, even winning an online tournament with a very unorthodox team.

But yeah, the good times were rolling, especially during Summer of '09 and even into the rest of that year. To elaborate, YouTube had a "Streams" feature for many years up until early 2010. It wasn't a stream in the sense of and the like, rather it was a "chat room" of sorts where you could queue up several videos to play in a desired order. Many of my days were spent waiting in a stream listening to Lady Gaga, Jennette McCurdy, hip hop, or VGM while I waited for Jack, Quinn, or somebody else to join. Sometimes my competitive Pokemon buddies would hop in to discuss strategy and teams or exchange friend codes, and we'd usually add the latest uploads from our favorite Pokemon-centric YouTubers like SuperSkarmory and Chickenfajita12 to the stream. If I wasn't private messaging someone, I could usually be found chatting in my stream or someone else's. Since I generally disliked IM services such as AIM and MSN and everything they stood for, YouTube's streams were essentially my substitute.

Even though I lacked the tools to make videos back in '09, I was extremely involved with the community itself. I commented on just about every video I watched, made somewhat of a name for myself in competitive Pokemon, and would often go around introducing myself to random YouTubers through comments. Though I wasn't incredibly popular, I definitely had at least some presence on the site. Every time I woke up or got home from high school, I could easily expect around five to ten new private messages and several new comments on my channel, not to mention people sharing videos with me, replies to my video comments, friend requests out the ass, and even the rare, occasional video response. One of the biggest things I would look forward to upon turning my computer on was that little red spark graphic greeting me in the top-right of my screen. By the end of '09, I had obtained around 150 subscribers before I'd ever made a "real" video.

Speaking of subscribing, I did a lot of that in my early months on the site, and it pretty much ensured that I always had something to entertain myself with if I was alone. Thinking about it now gives me such a warm, nostalgic feeling. During that Spring and Summer, and even well into the school year and holiday season, uploads from my favorite subscriptions were incredibly consistent. If there was ever another thing I looked forward to on YouTube, it was checking my subscription box, and that thing was always full. If it wasn't a new let's play episode from Chickenfajita12, Battlexon, Cauchemar89, Chuggaaconroy, gnrfan53404, yuyuhakushox or any of the other LP channels I was subscribed to, it was a new rant video from Muesproductions, an episode of the Angry Video Game Nerd, Lil' Flip's latest song, or some random video from Bigthecat69, let's plays included (yeah, I know, that's a lot of usernames and I even left a few out).

Things continued pretty much the same for the first few months of 2010. The biggest new change was that in February of that year, nearly a full year after my initial signup, I obtained a microphone and screen recording software. I was able to finally carry out my initial plan to produce let's plays. Though I had wanted to do Pokemon Gold back in '09, I chose Ruby for my first LP instead. It was decent for a first let's play but I couldn't record ingame sounds normally because I was on Windows Vista, so my only solution was to record game sounds by playing them through my speakers directly into my mic. It sounded okay unless I sped the game up. Still, I had tons of fun making this project and got lots of support from my YouTube friends during it. Sadly, just a day after I had uploaded the eleventh part, my old PC had its final bluescreen and died for good. I lost my Ruby save file and put that LP on hold indefinitely.

Unfortunately, those good times I mentioned before just weren't meant to last. I had the bad luck of joining the site right around when the internet tyrant known as Google began to tighten its proverbial grip on YouTube. This, at least in my opinion, spelled the beginning of the end for the site. The first noticeable change was that they were suddenly out for blood when it came to copyrighted material. While it was true that in past years, you couldn't upload, for instance, an entire song and outright claim it was yours or make money off of it, copyright claims were all over the place at this point. Having so much as five seconds of a licensed song in your video would often result in the entire thing being muted or blocked altogether. However, this was a minor inconvenience compared to what was coming up later. Let me just say this now: generally speaking, I hate updates, and nearly every site update that happened since I joined YouTube was a bad one.

Most of these horrible updates were a direct result of Google's takeover. Even during 2009, YouTube began experimenting with the infamous "beta channels", a complete overhaul of the channel design. It wasn't that bad compared to the absolute bastardization it would get replaced with later, but it was, in almost every facet, a downgrade from the old channel design. This design was originally optional, but late in the Summer, it was revealed that this new design would be forced in the coming months. This caused one of the biggest outrages within the YouTube community I've ever seen. People gathered in the thousands to voice their negative opinion on this change. Even though it was almost universally disliked, the change was still forced. I managed to keep my old channel until September of 2009. This essentially became the trend; a new update would be announced, to universal negative reception, and still be forced later on. Who the fuck makes these decisions?

Perhaps the biggest crushing blow was in early February 2010, right after I started my LP. The long-standing Streams feature was finally removed without any real reason other than YouTube feeling it was outdated and needed to go. Again, the community outraged, but nothing came of it. Admittedly I wasn't extremely pissed about this because I'd mostly moved onto Skype and iMesh for my chatting needs, but it was still basically destroying a great tradition. Thankfully, InstaSynch would later be created by dedicated users in an attempt to emulate what the streams were. But yeah, that's basically how the update cycle went for the rest of YouTube's lifespan so far. Rather than introduce anything new or innovative, the updates always centered around removing more and more features. The new homepage was also awful. My friend once even joked that they'd just outright remove videos one day.

All that aside, I ended up getting a new PC in April of 2010. Re-doing my Ruby file seemed like a big task at the time, so I decided to start a new LP. Inspired by the likes of Datai, I planned to do a run of Pokemon Crystal using only a Sneasel. I got one of my best friends, Oscar (the same guy I mentioned in that earlier post) along for the ride too. The project only lasted three episodes, half due to loss of interest, and the other half due to Oscar being banned from YouTube. After that, I made a few other random videos, but nothing too noteworthy. Overall 2010 was definitely a year of decline for me in regards to YouTube. I still made videos, but the depression I went through that year made me far less active within the community. I almost never received private messages anymore unless it was from some weird spammer. Even when I did return to finish Pokemon Ruby, it just wasn't the same. Even though the videos were of better quality, I was doing this during the absolute height of my depression and it showed. I tried a couple more LPs such as Mega Man X, but never finished those either. Since I was basically only known as "that guy who's obsessed with Jennette McCurdy" at that point, I largely kept to myself and often tried to change the subject when she was brought up.

I didn't do much in 2011 except finish Ruby. Early that year, multiple PC issues I won't even go into caused me to be absent from most of the internet until September of that year. I came back and started regularly making videos again, as well as catching up on all my subscriptions. Needless to say, I'd long since gotten over my depression after putting all that Jennette stuff in the past. I basically reinvented myself upon my return. All the Jennette videos that weren't deleted got unlisted. Anyways, I decided to start an LP of Pokemon Yellow to give myself something to do. To clarify, I had been promising a let's play of BioShock, my all-time favorite game, right after Ruby. I in fact did purchase a capture device, but using it on my old clunker of a PC proved difficult, with the editing software in particular running at a choppy rate beyond usability. But once again, at the end of the year, the atrocious updates reared their ugly heads.

YouTube revealed their new channel designs, and they were by far one of the ugliest, most unintuitive designs for a user page on any existing website. Customization was nonexistent. Everything was a range of boring slate-gray and blinding white, and the feature to add a description and profile info was removed altogether. Like the "beta channels", this was originally a toggle option (as it should've stayed), but one of the first things they did was remove the Friend List feature. One of YouTube's oldest, most integral features. It allowed users to communicate without subscribing and gave the site a social aspect. And it was gone in an instant. This infuriated me so much that the fourth (and ultimately final) part of the Yellow LP consisted entirely of me ranting on this awful design choice for about half an hour and barely paying attention to the game and playing like shit.

Just like all the other updates, users gathered in the thousands to voice their overwhelming universal negative feedback, but YouTube- sorry, I mean Google, didn't take any of this into account. Much to the surprise of no-one, it was announced in early 2012 that this ugly, user-unfriendly channel design (coined "Cosmic Panda") would be forced upon all users effective March 7th, 2012. This was the last straw. As such, I declared this to be "the day YouTube dies" and prepared to end my YouTube "career", as it were. In my final days on the site, I uploaded a few random videos, but nothing in the way of LPs or anything serious. At the time, I had a brilliant backup plan, however. Thanks to my long-time internet buddy, Trevor, I discovered an alternative video hosting site called Zippcast. Built from the ground up almost entirely by fed-up YouTube "veterans" like myself, ZC essentially emulated the "old" YouTube circa 2009 with several of its own unique features to boot. The rules were even a bit less strict than YouTube's thanks to some clever legal loopholes.

Though I would later learn that this was already the second or third launch of the site, ZC thrived during the early months. I created a video profile, uploaded a few humorous cut-together clips from Dragon Ball/Z, and even prepared some Let's Plays. Eventually though, ZC began to crumble. Its owners were using a very expensive hosting service that would often go down for maintenance, and they struggled to keep the bill paid, even turning to crowdfunding in its final month. To make matters worse, there was a group of YouTube loyalists who were gunning to bring ZC down, citing it as a "knockoff" YouTube and using the site's poor management as fuel to hurl insults toward it. They eventually resorted to DDoS attacks and hacking. After over a month of ambiguous updates, shaky support, and dormancy, Zippcast closed down in April of 2012.

The only other thing I was doing around this time was preparing to leave YT. When that dreaded date of March 7th arrived, I recorded, edited, and uploaded what was, for the time being, my "farewell address". I explained that although I was done with YouTube and had grown tired of fighting against their continual downgrades, I wanted to leave on a happy note and, though my subscriber base was fairly small, thank everyone for their support over the years. Fittingly, this was backed with Pokemon DPPt's Sunyshore City theme. I listed a few other places I could be contacted and stated that I would still visit the site to watch videos, but ceased all uploading, and that was the end of that.

You could draw some parallel with Rapture from BioShock here I guess

For over a year and a half, I stayed true to my word, only uploading videos that had been sitting on my hard drive previously, save for a RuneScape video in early 2013 that my friends coaxed me into doing. As I had predicted, traffic on YouTube slowed to a trickle compared to its heyday in the late 2000s. I was subscribed to over 200 people, and maybe 1/6th of them uploaded regularly anymore, with that number decreasing as the years passed. The rise of facecams made it harder and harder to find a watchable let's play, with genuine commentary over a variety of favorite games giving way to repetitive, view-hungry LPs of oversaturated games such as Slender, Minecraft, or whatever game had recently released to garner day-one views. The commentary had devolved into screaming, repetitive catch-phrases, unfunny memes, and obviously-staged reactions, especially when indie horror games were the subject. I don't want to sound too insensitive here, but I often refer to these as "cancer channels" due to their poor content quality and rapid spread over YouTube. It didn't help that YouTube became less of a hobby and more of a career choice, with the lure of riches gained from screaming into a camera over Minecraft bringing in these types of channels like some bizarre, twisted iteration of One Piece. Unless this is what you want to watch, good luck finding a reliable source of content on YT these days.

One morning on the exact five-year anniversary of the day I signed up for YouTube, I decided to return with a let's play of Pokemon Gold, the game I originally had slated as my first LP. This project continued until its conclusion in early Summer of 2014, and was my best work yet. I was able to give it the genuine feel of the let's plays of yesteryear that hadn't been seen for a long time. Despite this, its view count barely broke the double-digits per episode, and it was difficult to get any feedback on the project. Trevor, the guy I mentioned earlier, once wrote a lengthy twitter rant about how the oversaturation of top-ten YouTubers makes it almost impossible for up-and-coming "99%" users get any traffic on their videos. Think about it; ask a moderately popular content creator how they got so many views. The answer is always "Oh, (insert other popular/big-name YouTuber) gave me a shoutout/name dropped me/gave me a plug/etc" and never "Oh, I just kept making content and putting myself out there." A few years ago, that would've been different.

I guess I should also note that Zippcast made three more attempts at resurfacing after it tanked in spring of 2012. The first one was in early 2013, and was extremely short-lived because the site owner disappeared without a trace. The second turned out a bit more successful, but was "mysteriously" shut down after a few months. Many people including myself believed Google stepped in and silently shut it down, but nothing was ever proven. Lightning finally struck in early 2014, with ZC coming back in full force, where it has remained functional for almost two years as of this writing. With the current stability rate looking good, I plan to use ZC for videos as long as the site holds up.

As for YouTube, I will continue to upload "classic" style LPs despite my laughable view count for the foreseeable future. Updates have continued to happen, and while the current channel design is a step up from "Cosmic Panda", it's still pretty meh. YouTube as a whole is little more than a hollow, dried shell of what was once a user-friendly, community-driven video hosting site. Google tightened its grip so hard that all the life was squeezed out. Long gone are the days when YouTube would hold events like 2008's "YouTube Live" (Remember when that was supposed to be an annual event? Anybody) and interact with the community to gain feedback and show that they were human like everyone else, and so are the days when you could spend hours customizing your channel to your liking, letting everyone know who you were and what your Pokemon Platinum friend code was. Based on my observations, I predict that YouTube will only continue to decline until it eventually tanks hard. Slowly, the fad of screaming at overrated indie games will die off, and more and more people will realize that they can't be the next YouTube millionaire.

The rules have only gotten stricter with the years. YouTube has an unnecessarily sophisticated detection system that can identify copyrighted material in an instant, all without human input despite the fact that you're only breaking copyright laws if you use content without crediting the original creator/label or just outright claim you made it. I uploaded an obscure song from the anime "Space Dandy" and mere hours later I returned to find the video forcibly taken down (by the label of whoever performed the song, who was non-English speaking and probably didn't wanna translate the description) and my account with a six-month block on it. I wasn't even given a chance to remove the video, dispute the copyright, or contact the label manager. I'm now thoroughly convinced that YouTube has no idea how copyright laws work and barely has any humans running the show. Oh, I should also mention that they eventually removed the private messaging system because at this point their slogan might as well be "don't get used to these old features for too long, kiddos!" Thanks a lot for purging over two years' worth of treasured memories because the feature was "outdated". Whatever. It took a few years, but YouTube's constant stream of shit is finally starting to backfire on them.

Perhaps there is still hope, though. In 2014 and even in recent months, there has been speculation and even possible announcement that Google would be slowly-but-surely "backing off" of YouTube, loosening its proverbial grip and allowing it to be its own thing again. I have no idea when or if this will actually take place, but hey; I'll take any good news at this point. Whatever the case, YouTube will always serve as a source of endless fond memories for me. At the very least, it's stood the test of time - sort of - and outlasted the likes of Myspace and Viddler, so I guess it did something right. But it's also a good example of how NOT to run a website and could serve as such to future web designers. I guess it could go anywhere from here.

Bonus: Here's just a handful of YouTubers I either mentioned in this post, or just think are worth checking out!
Chickenfajita12 - My favorite let's player. Quality content, variety in game choice though he seems to heavily favor Pokemon. His upload schedule is sporadic due to his real-life career as a nurse.

BIGTHECAT69 - Banned due to a hacker in 2012, but deserves a mention here. His videos were all over the place but generally fun to watch. He's still a good friend of mine to this day.

MuesProductions - One of the many "rant" channels that used to flood YouTube. He made a lot of good, interesting points in his videos, which usually revolved around ranting on popular mainstream musicians of the time. Many, many of his videos were deleted due to his dissatisfaction with them, but he still uploads.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Gurren Lagann and an old friend.

So, yeah. This post might seem a bit out-of-nowhere, but I just feel the need to write about this.

I recently finished watching the wildly popular anime series, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, or just Gurren Lagann for short. I'm not going to give a full review of the show (maybe later), as that is not the focus of this post. Let me just say that this show really moved me emotionally and left quite the impression. It made me sad, but it also inspired and motivated me. One of the shows main themes is to keep moving forward, and I've always had that outlook on life. "Kick reason to the curb and do the impossible!"

Even if you're not a fan of anime in general or have a negative view of it, I would highly recommend this show. It'll hit home with your emotions and make you feel like you can accomplish damn near anything. The English dub, which I completely honestly recommend, contains an all-star voice cast including Kyle Hebert, Yuri Lowenthal, Michelle Ruff, Sam Riegel, Johnny Yong Bosch, and more.

The thing is, I would've never found or truly appreciated this show had it not been for someone who I consider one of my best friends.

His name was Oscar, known at the time as Dreamkiller383 or just Dream, and I met him during a game of Halo 3 on Xbox Live back when it was still new-ish in 2007 or 08. We immediately became friends over similar interests and pretty much talked or played a game every time we were both online, usually with our mutual friends. We spent hours doing all sorts of antics in Halo 3 and a few other games (I forget what else, but I think we played Soul Calibur IV and Marvel Vs. Capcom 3).

When I had the idea to make a Halo machinima at the end of 2007, he was interested in helping me with the project and over the course of a few months, he became one of my lead writers and helpers for pretty much the entire thing. He helped me with character names and designs, ideas for scenes and dialog, music, and map forging. Every time we got online, we would usually talk non-stop about our ideas for the machinima.

Later on in early 2009, I joined YouTube and Dream was one of the first people who added me. His channel at the time was Soulreaper393, and he mostly made AMVs and other anime-related things. He was what some might call an "otaku" and liked anime in general a lot more than I did. We conversed through YouTube's now-defunct private messaging system nearly every day and threw around ideas for the machinima, music to add to it, and just talked about whatever.

A month or two after I was on YouTube, he told me to check out Gurren Lagann. He said the show made him feel like he could do anything and that I would love it. At the time, I didn't have much interest in anime, but decided I'd give it a shot. Unfortunately, I couldn't find it anywhere online for free and I don't subscribe to Netflix. After that, I sort of just forgot about it until recent years when it aired on Toonami.

I didn't know much about the guy's real life other than that his name was Oscar Tejeda he lived somewhere close to Los Angeles. His life seemed overall okay and he didn't really complain about much, and usually kept an upbeat, positive attitude towards things. Usually his parents were in the room when he played Xbox, so he couldn't curse or anything like that.

Overall, Dream was one of the most consistent online friends I had in the late 2000s. We had a few minor falling outs, but it was mostly over me being an immature idiot and I regret them immensely. I don't think he had too much of a problem with me and would usually back me up or stand up for me. He was also one of those few friends I could tell any secret to and generally trust.

Starting in 2010, it became harder and harder to contact him. That year, he was banned from YouTube, a fate he probably had coming due to YouTube's strict copyright rules. He made a few more channels after that, but they also got banned and I can't find his "current" one if he even has one. He closed his Facebook some time in early 2013. His Xbox also broke that year and he hasn't replaced it since. Most other profiles he had got either abandoned, closed down, or banned.

The last medium I had for contacting him was Skype. We added each other in 2010 to do a let's play series on Pokemon Crystal, but that never got finished. Anyway, the last time I ever got to contact him was in September 2013. After that, his Skype contact list got wiped. Since then, I've made a few attempts to contact him, but to no avail.

So this is to you, Dream: If by some chance you get bored and Google your own name or one of your old online usernames or just see this randomly, you gotta hit me up. No homo, I just miss you like hell. You were a great and invaluable friend and I'd love to catch up with you, discuss TTGL, and game it up just like the old days. Before I forget, thank you immensely for introducing me to Gurren Lagann. I wish I'd searched harder and found it all those years ago. I feel like it's something I'll always take with me. Even though you're the same age as me and not dead, I sort of see you as the Kamina to my Simon. You were like a brother to me, you motivated me, and now you're gone in a sense.

Hope you don't find this post creepy or too serious, and here's some completely non-serious stuff just in case you do: Mexican-Americans don't like burritos! Do-do-doooo-dodo-do-do-doooo! Stand and fight, vermin! Oh yeah?! Shrivel up and DIE, ant!! Peanuts make me fart. (insert more inside jokes here)

Whether you're Dreamkiller383, Dreamkiller393, soulreaper393, Dr33mKiller, Dr33mEater, DreamSoul, YorozuyaSoul, SoulShensengumi, VesperiaSoul, or whoever. Stay gold, nigga.