Benny's Adventures

Gunslinger Girl, Season One Anime Review

Gunslinger Girl, Season One Anime Review [1]

Final Verdict: 100/100

I first watched Gunslinger Girl many moons ago. I’ve yet to take a look at the manga but honestly, I’m afraid to. Not because I would dislike it but because I don’t think I could put it down.

At first blush the anime seems like a pretty average, action-packed anime. Within the first ten minutes though all misconceptions are lost. Gunslinger Girl is a dark, touching show that chokes you with the thickness of its mournful melancholy.

The premise of the show revolves around an agency that “rescues” girls broken by terrible circumstance and puts them to work as assassins. While much like the title the premise is seemingly shallow, the creators of the anime masterfully weave together the forlorn tales of these girls and their agency partners. Each episode reveals enough to entice you into watching the next episode. I will do my best not to say any more revealing points because part of the draw to the show is slowly piecing together the background of the characters, the organization, and the world.

Intermixed with the sadness that permeates through the entire show is a warmth that can only come from well-conceived and well-written characters and interactions. By the end of the first season (by now there is a second season, entitled Il Teatrino, and if I’m not mistaken two extra episodes as well) I was full of emotions spanning the entire set of human feeling, my soul satiated unlike anything I’ve ever felt. Keep in mind though I enjoy the somber nature of this anime. If you prefer something more light-hearted, you might be better off elsewhere. Personally, I relished the way Gunslinger Girl brought me face to face with my humanity questioning relationships, love, kindness, and right and wrong.

Try it out, at least. I mean, c’mon, how can you say no to these girls?

Gunslinger Girl, Season One Anime Review [2]

27 June 2012 Posted by | Anime, Reviews, Television | , , , | 4 Comments

Using an Old Android Phone as a Musician’s Sidekick

With the popularity of smart phones with the Android Operating system it’s not uncommon for people to end up with an old phone sitting around collecting dust. Should you not care to donate the phone, sell it back, or otherwise relinquish ownership some people have come up with things you can do with your old phone:

Personally I have not found any of that very useful but as a musician I’ve used my phones for tuning and a metronome which has come in handy. My contribution to this list of uses for old smartphones is the following apps as ideas to turn your phone into a sidekick for your musical ambitions:

These are all for Android but I’m sure with a brief search iPhones can also find similar apps.

I’m a wind player but I can see a guitar player having an app that shows them unfamiliar chords (such as Chord! – this particular app’s free version is pretty restricted but at least you can see that apps like this exist). I even found one for ukulele! With a bit of searching you can customize your old phone into the perfect helper for your music.

26 June 2012 Posted by | Technology | , , , | Leave a comment

Free2Play is the Future (If People Weren’t Idiots)

Free2Play games get a lot of hate. Sometimes it is for good reason and sometimes not. Personally, I think that Free2Play with micro-transactions for content is the way games should be in the future.

Before you respond, let me explain.

There used to be a time when I could find a demo for a game and try it to see if I wanted to get the full game. This practice is becoming rarer by the day. Now, even if I wait for a price drop, getting a game is a significant risk of not recouping the monetary value in some other way (enjoyment of the game, in particular). If you’re going to tell me to pirate the game and then buy it if I like it, I tell you this: I do not condone piracy in any way. In fact, I think my vision of the future will eliminate piracy quite a bit! (Just a hunch, so take it with skepticism – I’m not an expert)

Furthermore, microtransactions can possibly provide just as much influx of cash as a full priced game according to a study.

Here’s the hypothesis:

I want a game. I see that Game A looks good and want to play it. At this point, I should be able to download a Free2Play version. I can play this fully fledged game that’s not compromised in any way and if I like it, I can then spend my money to expand my experience. If I do not enjoy the game, then I can move on to Game B, and try that out as well.

The ground rules:

1. Free2Play DOES NOT MEAN Pay2Win

If Game A wants me to enjoy it, I should not be at a disadvantage because I have not purchased anything for it. If it’s a single player game, the experience should not be more difficult than intended or somehow limited because I did not buy some pack for the game. If it is multiplayer, I shouldn’t be handicapped because I didn’t buy a weapon set.

A limited inventory/skill set/whatever is fine as long as it is balanced with purchaseable content. I should be able to play just as effectively and have just as much fun in the free version as with any paid content.

Don’t get me wrong – the new content should be fun too, but the goal should be to extend the length of time I have fun. Playing with the same set of options, no matter how fun, gets boring eventually, and this is where the paid content comes in. If I enjoyed the game, I can extend the length of time I enjoy the game by purchasing more options (that are balanced) and thus the increased diversity lends itself to a longer period of enjoyment.

In no way should paid content break the balance, however.

2. The Free2Play game should be complete. Paid content should expand on the content, not fill in gaps.

You’re careening down the roads running from the bad guys. The car chase is chaotic and there are explosions everywhere, just like you want it. You decide to make a hard right when suddenly, “For access to this area, please purchase DLC Pack A.”

THAT’S BULLSHIT.

It can be argued that this area expansion is adding to the game, but let me specify further: a single game experience should not be broken at any point by paid content. If I am in a city to explore, I should be able to explore that entire city as that character. Here are ways developers can work with this:

1. Create a new city to explore that is entirely separate from the original city, with references but no hard links to the original (I.E. – don’t make me do a fetch quest in City 1 from City 2)

2. Recreate the content from the perspective of a different character or role. A great example would be a GTA-type game where you first play as the traditional protagonist of these games, while the developers have a paid pack that lets you play the role of the law enforcement trying to stop this madman. Same city, mostly same content, but entirely different perspective and one is not limited by not having the other.

3. Paid content should be reasonably priced.

Remember Oblivion’s horse armor? The pack did nothing functionally for the game and as a result the price for it was way, way too high. It’s even been called, “the most useless, over-priced piece of DLC in video game history.” Pricing appropriately is not that difficult and furthermore low-balling might even work out better! Remember how Valve discounted games by 75% and saw an increase in total gross revenue by a FACTOR OF 40? There is a lot of evidence that decreasing the barrier for entry increases profits. (Want another example?) Applying the same philosophy to Free2Play games with micro-transactions is a no-brainer.

 

Do I think that these rules are reasonable? Yes. Do I think they’ll be followed? No. So what’s the answer? I have no idea.

I think that at least for now and the foreseeable future the gaming industry – both the makers and the consumers – are far too immature to handle such a thing. Publishers will want to charge too much and the under-educated (about games) masses will still buy it.

For a true gamer, I think that is the saddest truth of all – what used to be relegated to a niche by obscurity and novelty has grown to popularity and is suffering for it.

21 June 2012 Posted by | Gaming, Technology | , , , , | Leave a comment

What’s the deal with alcohol?

Recently I went to a beer tasting festival, the Big Lick Beertopia, and had a good time hanging out with friends. The two friends each obtained some number of tastes while I chose to be the designated driver.

That set off this strange statement from a new acquaintance I met at the festival:

“Man, I could never do it. You’re a good man.”

What?

I was a bit taken aback mostly because I don’t feel it’s some grand sacrifice on my part (I dislike the taste of alcohol) and I’m not any different simply because I choose not to drink alcohol.

There are two main approaches to alcohol, I think:

1. It tastes good.

People like to drink what they find tastes good. For me, I gravitate toward chocolate milk while some prefer the taste of some alcoholic beverage. If someone told me I couldn’t drink chocolate milk I would be upset. On another note, I don’t find someone to be different for not liking chocolate milk or choosing to not drink it at any given instant makes someone better or worse. Consider this situation:

Person A is at the supermarket. A grabs some 1% milk.

Person B notices this and says, “Man, I could never do that. I can’t not drink chocolate milk. You’re a good man, my friend, you’re a good man.”

That seems ridiculous to me. In any case, there is a difference – consumption of alcohol has more obvious effects than chocolate milk. This leads me to my next point:

2. People drink alcohol for its effects.

Don’t misunderstand. I am not a blind templar for alcohol prohibition. Rather, I acknowledge that alcohol has its benefits and drawbacks. Just read through the Wikipedia section and you’ll find some positive and negative effects with the negative mostly dealing with consumption of too much alcohol. I’ve seen people drink responsibly and people drink irresponsibly. Responsible use of anything is acceptable, I would claim, because that implies an understanding of the risks and effects on close people and a calculated decision with the big picture in mind. That’s a stricter criteria than it may sound like – I find a lot of people can’t drink responsibly, mainly for the following point:

The idea that not drinking is not possible is immature and irresponsible. I was certainly not a fan of being unable to try different drinks to perhaps find some I can tolerate or maybe even like but I felt I had a social responsibility to ensure my friends would have zero chance of driving under the influence and furthermore I wanted to be a good friend and ensure their good time. I of course derived satisfaction from this so I don’t claim to be altruistic but rather I made a deliberate choice after analyzing the situation.

Let me reiterate that I have no problem with drinking alcoholic beverages. I DO have a problem with the idea that some people feel like they cannot live without it. It’s not necessarily a judgment of character as alcohol can modify the brain and its behavior not to mention the brain inherently having great variability in will power and obsessive personality. What I most take issue with is the idea that I am different in some way or the exception for choosing not to drink. I believe it ignores the core of the issue – that people drink what tastes good for them – and instead latches on to a culture that I am not a part of. I do not buy beer, wine, or other alcoholic beverages at home but I am not superior or inferior to my friends who live downstairs because of that.

It’s just different. And that needs to be okay.

21 June 2012 Posted by | Life, Thinking | , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: