The Infinite 1-Up Cheat Code

In a relatively unsurprising move, Nintendo has slashed its financial forecast into taking a loss for the fiscal year ending in March of 2014. Until 2012, Nintendo was considered an evergreen company: it had not posted an annual loss in over thirty years. However, this year’s forecast will mark the third consecutive year of monetary bleeding for the company, and most analysts are pointing the finger at the Wii U.

From a consumer’s standpoint, the blame is understandable: Nintendo’s latest console has more or less done nothing in its year and change on the market, and third-party developers have fled from the system en masse, leaving only two heavyweights (Activision and Ubi Soft). The latest entry in the Mario series, Super Mario 3D World, barely registered in retail against the one-two punch of the Xbox One and Playstation 4 being released, and the horizon looks grim for any first-party titles, as few have been announced. There have even been rumors circulating that Nintendo has internally given up on the system and is focusing on its successor, after several developers have (anonymously) blasted the machine for being woefully underpowered.

It’s actually kind of amusing to me to hear these reports of doom and gloom come in, because they’re for the most part identical to the ones that came in about the Wii, and the 3DS, and the GameCube, and the Nintendo 64. In a fit of irony, most of the complaints about Nintendo “only releasing rehashes and more of the same Mario baloney” are in fact copy-and-pasted from the last console generation’s whining. What makes things different this time isn’t necessarily that the consumer moaning is omnipresent, but that the fiscal success isn’t there anymore to put the lie to it.

I own a Wii U, I’ll say that much. And I enjoy the machine for what it does, which is at the moment streaming videos and playing Wii discs. I’m not going to pretend that there aren’t some serious problems with the hardware, because there are: the lack of internally-upgradable storage, the lack of quality games for the system, the criminal underuse of the GamePad by other developers, and so on. But do I think that Nintendo is going to fold because of the machine’s lack of adoption and enthusiasm? Not in a million years.

And that is because of the other piece of Nintendo kit that I own, and that I’d wager a lot of people own: the 3DS, or one of its ilk. People tend to forget that during the dark days of the mid-to-late 90’s, Nintendo was kept afloat solely by the sales of its handheld division after its biggest third-party developer of the time, Square, jumped ship for the Playstation. Pokemon is literally the only thing that kept them going through the N64 and GameCube eras, and that’s not a bad thing. But the introduction of smartphones, and the ability for high-quality gaming experiences to be had on those devices, put a serious dent in the forecasts for the 3DS.

Again, it’s easy to think that Pokemon was the sole savior of the 3DS, but Pokemon X and Y only came out this past October. The system gained traction through the support of some very dedicated third-party developers like Atlus, Sega, and even Square-Enix. The handheld has made strides on both sides of the Pacific, and because of this Nintendo’s future looks relatively bright in that arena.

But that still leaves the question of the three consecutive annual losses. On the bright side, the amount of each loss has been dwindling: from a half-billion US dollars in 2012 to just over 300 million USD reported today. Some of this could be attributed to the lousy exchange rate of yen to USD in ’12 and ’13, but certainly not all of it; the rate has hovered around 100 to 1 for about a year now. If I had to guess (from an outsider’s perspective), I would say that the fault lies in the development and rollout of the ill-fated 2DS device, released alongside the Pokemon games in October of 2013. Exactly nobody was excited for the device, Nintendo failed to make a compelling case for its existence, and it honestly should have just been scuttled before they could blow millions on production and distribution on something which stores are having a hard time justifying shelf space for.

Three straight years in the red obviously looks bad for Nintendo, especially after three straight decades of profitability. Things look especially dismal for company president Satoru Iwata, who after last year’s losses made a public commitment to a 1 billion dollar profit for the coming year. To say he has egg on his face is a bit of an understatement at this point, and while there were rumors that he would resign in 2013 as punishment for the previous losses, I imagine several investors will be calling for blood this week. As exits go, Iwata’s would be bittersweet: while he’s run the company into some choppy waters, he also ushered in an era of unprecedented showmanship with the company’s marketing tactics, eschewing big trade events like E3 and CES in favor of more frequent, understated Nintendo Direct events. The company has also moved towards day-and-date global releases and pushed its digital infrastructure (somewhat) into the 21st century through the use of the eShop and full digital releases.

But Nintendo has been dead-last before, and they will be after their next resurgence. This is a company that will not die, no matter how badly their consoles sell, simply because they know how to make good games. Nintendo has always maintained that they will not make the switch to third-party development, and I imagine that’s a promise that their next CEO intends to keep. If that means that they continue to throw money down the “goofy unnecessary project” black hole, it just means that they have to work that much harder with their games. The company has never been one to rest on its laurels nor to wallow in defeat after a few bad steps. We may see a true next-gen system from them make its announcement this year, or we may see an “Ambassador” program similar to that which stimulated 3DS adoption. The form of the recovery is, by and large, irrelevant. What matters is that it’s a good bet that it will happen.

I mean, come on, this is the company that invented the 1-Up Mushroom; do you honestly think that they don’t have a few in reserve for themselves?

The Virtue of Being Snobbish

               We had been discussing the movie for its entire ninety minute run time.  As the credits rolled, we all sat back for a moment and collected our thoughts.  For some of us, the process didn’t take long at all.    In the wake of a chorus of, “What the hell did I just watch?” and “That’s time I’m never getting back.” I finally spoke.

“It wasn’t that bad.”

               Heads swiveled.  I was suddenly the center of attention, and not the sort of attention I relish either.  Of course, with opinions like mine, being in the center of a group of people who think I’ve lost my mind is sadly an all too common occurrence, and in this case, I can’t say that the initial impression of my friends was totally unjustified.

The movie was called “Hentai Kamen”. (The ‘masked pervert’ for those who, like me speak little to no Japanese.)  When westerners see the word hentai, there is a very specific image that gets conjured.  Hentai is almost always synonymous with porn and more specifically animated porn.  People familiar with the word expect to see things like carefully hand drawn (Or digitally blurred for reasons that only make sense to the Japanese.) pieces of anatomy locked in some variety of coitus for reasons often both well-established and totally spurious.  “Hentai Kamen” was different.  It was rated at the Japanese equivalent of PG13, and it lived up to the rating.  It was a parody of Sam Raimi’s 2002 “Spider-Man” and while Hentai Kamen didn’t swing around the city as much as Tobey McGuire’s Peter Parker, but he was as apparently an analogue of the web-slinging wall-crawler as a guy wearing panties on his head could be.

Maybe it’s because I’m constitutionally incapable of resisting getting into an argument when I don’t agree with someone, but I realized that my friends who were calling the movie “stupid” and “pointless” were missing the point themselves.  So, in a move that is all-too familiar to the people who know me, I leapt to the movie’s defense.  After arguing the merits of “Hentai Kamen” in relation to movies like the “Naked Gun” Series for the better part of an hour, my friend Ben asked, “John, why do you care about this movie enough to argue over it?”

The rejoinder, blurted out with no thought whatsoever caught me totally by surprise.  “Because I’m a snob.”

The truth is that I am a snob when it comes to the media I consume.  I don’t make value judgments about the fan-ish habits of others for the most part and I can respect the tastes of others even without comprehending the merits of a particular show, band, game or whatever; however, I am still a snob and I think that’s a good thing despite the social stigma attached to the word.

I believe that there is a sort of nobility to snobbery.  Unlike other behaviors that center on the discernment of quality, I feel that the snob not only knows what constitutes “good” in their minds, but can usually articulate their viewpoint in a way that leaves little to no grey area.  If you spend even a little time around a snob, you should know what they like and have a fairly good idea of why they like it. And that’s the essential point, the snob has a framework of what constitutes quality to them and the framework described by that idea matters.

I argued that the mere fact that the movie’s title had the word pervert in it didn’t mean it was actually perverted.  There was a lot of penis-centric humor, but a lot of juvenile comedies have the same sort of jokes.  In the grand scheme I posited, most of the objections to the movie centered on cultural mores that American audiences and Japanese audiences just don’t share.  People like Ben, an inveterate nerd with an obsession for robots of almost any type, might think that the movie went too far with the theme of being a pervert.  While he couldn’t deny the quality of the dialogue, acting or special effects he nonetheless found the subject matter off-putting.  He watches as much or more foreign media than I do, mostly Anime and sci-fi action films.  However, I don’t view media with the same sort of cultural filters.

What would Ben and people like him think of other foreign films?  Would he ever really understand something like “The City of Lost Children” Or “Pan’s Labyrinth”?  Would his notions of cultural normalcy force him to hate those films as well, while I might see the ideas depicted as part of a larger framework that I just wasn’t raised to necessarily agree with?  Was I the actual problem here?

Am I the problem?  Honestly, this question still nags at me.

When it comes to the definition of the word snob, Miriam Webster disagrees with me.  They define a snob as “a person who has an offensive air of superiority and tends to ignore or disdain anyone regarded as inferior”. They synonymize snob with words like “Snot” or “Snoot”.  The OED has the same verdict on the word; however, Urbandictionary.com, whom I wouldn’t even treat as a source normally, seems to understand the word in its more vulgar form in a way that the formal dictionaries just don’t.  “A snob is someone who thinks they’ve got better taste than others in most things; especially in music, film and books.”  While I still don’t quite agree with the definition, I find this view, complete with the lack of class stratification definitions more palatable.  “Snobs of this kind, frown upon bestsellers, blockbusters, and pop music. They regard themselves intellectuals and think of people who follow the crowd as philistines.”

Here’s the rub.  I absolutely disdain bestsellers, pop music (Especially modern pop) and most blockbusters, which absolutely makes me a snob by the standards set by that definition; however I don’t dislike them for no, or worse yet spurious reasons.  I have reasons for disliking these products, and few if any of those reasons have to do with the fact that I’m smarter than anyone.  It is my long held belief that snobs are often maligned, mostly because people don’t understand what real snobbery is.

Snobs care. And because of that caring, snobs will do their due diligence.  Everyone has a favorite soda, however that does not make them a soda snob.  The snob will typically have tried many of the common and even some of the more rarefied brands and can usually explain their relative merits.  They may not be able to create a magnum opus on Coke Black or whatever else particularly tickles their fancy, but, their opinion will typically be more nuanced than a mere, “It’s so good!” or “That sucks, you liking it makes you less of a person!”  The fact that this behavior gets labeled as snobbery frequently makes me reconsider labeling myself as such.  Perhaps calling myself a connoisseur would be more accurate, however in the common parlance, calling myself a connoisseur would probably get me labeled as a snob anyway, since the word is so frequently considered a code word for snob.  So, I am at a bit of an impasse.

When I consider the definition of snob that I am working with, my mind goes to other fellow snobs.  In one of his spoken word performances, Henry Rollins talked about buying a couch.  He described a long, almost painful process of trial and error going to several furniture stores before settling on the couch that, at that time sat in the living room of his house.  In the process, he tried what sounded like dozens of candidates having issues with each one at which point his assistant called him a snob.  He seemed to wear this badge proudly.  Rollins has never struck me as a person that holds to hard and fast classist superiority, and yet he calls himself a snob unabashedly.

Similarly, Alton Brown is widely considered to be one of the kings of food snobbery.  He talks passionately about food in a variety of formats, from the web to books and television.  His research and commentary on food spans the gamut from the love letter to heat that was his book, “I’m Just Here for the Food” to, “Good Eats” his show about cooking and food science.  While he makes his distaste for certain foods and more specifically the sources for certain foods clearly and unequivocally known, he never seems to take an elitist tone about people who do like those foods.  His objections usually tend to stem from the nutritional value of foods or the specific difficulties in working with what he feels to be inferior product.  It seems like there’s nothing unjustified, mean or unfair about Brown’s snobbery and yet, he is labeled as a snob.

There are other issues I have with people being judgmental with snobbishness, like the fact that I usually argue that snobbishness is sort of genetic.  I know that my mom still occasionally tells the story of when I was about four years old and in an effort to teach myself to read, I asked her what a sign on the side of the road meant.  She claims that she told me that it said that the bridge we were about to cross may be icy.  To which I said that wasn’t possible since it was summer and perhaps they should mount the signs on pneumatic lifts so that the signs would appear only when the roads might actually be icy.  She finds the story amusing, and I see why she would.  When I heard the story again, I saw the underpinnings of pedantry that would end up with me considering myself snobbish.

Maybe that’s what snobbery is to me, pedantry coupled with a keen interest in the way things work.  Most of the snobs I know tend to deep-dive into their favorite subjects, much like Alton Brown; finding the good and bad in things, complaining about the bad, ostensibly in the hopes that those flaws can be somehow corrected.  As far as I can tell, these tendencies are labeled as snobbery and, far from being lauded as having concern for quality, get railed upon for being pretentiously over critical of a product’s flaws. Personally, I feel that once again, nuance is lacking here, not only in defining the criticism as snobbish but in questioning the critic’s motives.

This is an issue that almost never fails to get my goat, the lack of nuance in the English language.  Calling myself a snob or even a connoisseur lumps me in with the oft-wrong-headed rage-balls in society that have some arbitrary bone to pick with whatever’s popular at the moment, and I think that does a disservice to discerning palates everywhere; however, there is no real word for a person with discerning tastes that doesn’t end up being synonymous with the term snob, and thus, the cycle of finding the discerning to be terrible people continues.  Is it possible to clearly define snob in the colloquial sense and distance it from the traditional definition?  Can we just do the world a solid favor and re-define terms here?  I’d like to think so.  I even have a suggestion.  Perhaps we should call the more thoughtlessly critical amongst us what they really are…

Jerks.

I think that there are many attitudes that get painted with the oft-too-broad brush of snobbery.  However there is usually no question about what a jerk is.  The word is a sort-of visceral thing.  It’s simple and incredibly evocative.  It’s not a word with connotations that could ever really be thought to have redeeming value.  That specificity matters to me.  Of course it might not merely be the specificity that I find appealing.  While it may not be terribly erudite, being rude is cathartic.   When we are at our most frustrated (And who wouldn’t be frustrated by people being mindlessly critical of things you like?) few things can make you feel better than merely being rude to the person that is frustrating you.

I called myself a snob.  I said it loudly, clearly and maybe even with a bit of pride.  My friends were stunned into silence for an instant and then, from the group came a flood of “Yes, and?” and even more sarcastic “No!”  My friends could have reacted poorly to that declaration, they didn’t.  They took my snobbishness in stride, much like every other controversial position that defines the person I am.   I am a snob and, people accept and maybe even like me for it.  To my friends, snob isn’t necessarily a dirty word, so why should it be treated as such by the rest of society?  Believe it or not, there is virtue in being snobbish and I think more people being able to see that virtue is valuable.

The Choices We Make

2013 is the 15th anniversary of the Pokemon games in North America, and it also heralds the release of the sixth-generation set Pokemon X and Pokemon Y. The two games are important not just because of their novelty, nor for their immense profitability to Nintendo and Game Freak, nor even for the fact that they are the first primary-series Pokemon games on the 3DS. There is a much deeper reason for why the Pokemon games are important, and it relates to something I spoke about in Episode 7 of OTDT.

When we recorded that episode, X and Y were still a week and a half out, and we expected to have the episode up prior to the release. A family emergency prevented this, and so it might seem like a little bit of paranoid hysteria when I was so fervently afraid that people were going to spew forth spoiler upon spoiler for the games prior to their release (the games were widely leaked in advance of the October 12th launch date). I do sort of regret being so worried, because it shows off my tendency to overanalyze things, but then again, something miraculous happened: absolutely nothing.

There was no coordinated effort to spoil the game for unsuspecting people. The people who were posting spoilers marked them clearly, so that fellow trainers could choose for themselves whether or not they wanted everything revealed to them. And while Nintendo did come down hard on people who were posting screenshots and revealing information, they only did so as absolutely necessary, and only within their previous patterns of behavior (stores who broke street date deliberately were informed that they would no longer be getting new titles on time for an unspecified penalty period, which is standard industry practice for such an act; the players themselves were not told to return their games). In short, the doom and gloom I predicted didn’t come to pass. And you have no idea how glorious it feels to be wrong about this.

Let’s face it: video gamers have a bad reputation. We’re often seen as whiny, entitled brats who do nothing but complain to the companies who sell us entertainment, if not about the lack of content, then about the quality of it. The free-floating hostility of video game culture is so ingrained that when I worked at a video game store in the early 2000s, I was baffled to learn that parents deliberately avoided bringing kids into the shop because they thought that all of us, to a man, were going to turn their kids into monsters. To be fair, given the predominance of lurid content in games these days, it’s not an unfair assumption: think back to what the last video game advertisement you saw was, and what its ESRB rating was; the odds are good that it wasn’t E.

Over the last few weeks, as I’ve watched the release of Pokemon X and Y develop and kept a browser window open on Reddit, I’ve noticed something really astonishing about how the games have affected the people who play them. Most notably, a thread emerged discussing how people who played the original Game Boy versions, Red and Blue (in North America at any rate), found that their choice of starter offered by Professor Oak fifteen years ago affected them when Professor Sycamore presented them the same choice once again today. A significant majority of people chose the same starter as they did back then, with many citing sentimental reasons as their primary motivator. One person even mentioned that, in the original games, players were cautioned to choose wisely, as the companion they picked “would be with [them] for a very long time”. Prof. Oak wasn’t kidding around.

Pokemon have been a part of our world for fifteen years now. It’s important to stress this: there are people starting high school who have never known a time in their life where there weren’t Pokemon. For many gamers my age, we’re seeing our own children take an interest in the classic game of adventuring through a world full of friends to be made. And, for its part, the original purpose of the game– to strengthen bonds of friendship by collecting, trading, and competing with the people around you– has been continually reinforced with every advancement in the series. Players can today have a battle with someone on the other side of the world just as if they were sitting next to them. They may not speak the same language or have the same physical characteristics, but they are united by a common goal: to win against their new friend.

To think that making digital friends could lead to making friends in the real world is not an unusual thing; we do it all the time through tools like social media. But the thought that a simple game with a four-word pitch– “Gotta catch ’em all”– could bring together millions of people across the world and help them see their commonalities instead of their differences is itself not unique, either. It’s just so vanishingly rare that any time it actually happens, it’s in danger of being subsumed under the deluge of horrific news about the world. We see in Pokemon a better world, one where we can work through our conflicts without resorting to the kind of atrocities that make headlines, and we wonder why we can’t live there instead of here. Maybe that’s the other true purpose of the games: to teach us that we have the responsibility, and the power, to make our choices so that world of peace and adventure becomes a reality in our own.

Choose wisely.

The Three Rules of Fandom

There are many types of fans for many types of fandoms, but they aren’t as different as you think. After a little bit of pondering, I present to you the Three Rules of Fandom. These 3 commandments are meant to be broad-strokes guidelines for every person to follow in order to better their fan community.

 

Read more

Welcome Aboard and Enjoy the Ride!

Welcome to Otaku Drive Time (OTDT).
When we began this project a number of months ago we set out with a simple idea: Promote the anime, tokusatsu, manga, j-pop, j-rock, and video game communities. As it turned out the idea was a lot more difficult than expected. It seems that in todays fandom the lines between the Japanese fandoms and American nerddom have become very blurred.
So, how do we stay true to what we want to be, attract new readers and listeners, and cover everything we want to? What we created was OTDT.net.
The modern anime fan is no longer just a die hard anime fan (Otaku). The modern Otaku in the United States is a fan of anime, j-pop, j-rock, manga, tokusatsu, but also Star Wars, Star Trek, My Little Pony, Transformers, Dr. Who, Marvel Comics, DC Comics, Homestuck, and more. The fans themselves have transformed the term Japanese term Otaku from being something to be ashamed of to a term taken in pride in the United States Nerd Culture. So, when anyone on this site writes of an Otaku, it should be assumed that we are referring to the “American Otaku.”

1 5 6 7