Love, Victor reviewed

After finishing and reviewing the first season of Heartstopper (TV series), we were looking for another show to watch, and landed on Love, Victor, available on Disney+. This is a very different kind of show than Heartstopper, and I daresay I prefer it. Where Heartstopper is a well-done if formulaic series committed to low stakes, Love, Victor is basically a soap opera that had us constantly yelling at the screen.

Love, Victor is a spinoff of the movie Love, Simon (which I have seen but do not remember). Victor is a closeted gay kid at Simon’s old high school, and he writes Simon hate mail because he thinks Simon must have had it so much easier. Simon responds much more kindly than I would have, and serves as a remote mentor for the first season and a half. The show primarily focuses on Victor and his circle of friends, who are seemingly embroiled in an endless series of love triangles.

I wrote a series of reactions/complaints as we watched Love, Victor over the past two months, and I have attempted to organize them into something coherent. I won’t be going through the whole show episode by episode, but I will include incidental spoilers for all three seasons.

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It should have been a walking sim

Since getting into the habit of writing a bit about each of the games I play, I find myself using a catch phrase: It should’ve been a walking sim. It’s a way of praising the narrative and world design of a game, while playfully disparaging all the gamey obstacles they throw in your way. After all, these are human creations, the obstacles didn’t need to be there.  We could have just been enjoying the in-game rewards without having to work for them, only having to walk for them.

It’s also a slightly subversive thought experiment. What if we removed all the combat, the platforming, skill-based anything? What if we only had press w to move forward, mouse to look around, dialogue, environmental storytelling, audio logs, item descriptions, cinematics, choices that matter, and a dash of light puzzling to taste? Walking sims are so simple, surely it should be easy, right? We shall see.

Some of these hypothetical games may sound horrible.  That’s okay, just remember: they don’t really exist and can’t hurt you.

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Review: The Rift

The Rift is a short novel by fellow FTBer William Brinkman. It’s a fictionalized version of the feminist wars in skepticism, one where the skeptics work for the aliens. I was provided with a review copy.

The Rift book cover

I admit I’m not very familiar with Brinkman’s Bolingbrook Babbler, but I know Brinkman has been writing it since 1998, and that he has perfected a style of satirical fiction where real (often political) events are mixed with the fantastical. Like The Onion, you might say, but long form.  I also know that some of it is quite topical, covering issues in atheism and skepticism.

The specific focus on skepticism produces interesting results, where the skeptical movement is juxtaposed with the reality of the paranormal. It’s delightfully absurd, but also hints at deeper interpretations. It implies a dilemma: do you side with the skeptics, who conceal the truth even as they fight for it, or do you speak the unbelievable truth? It explores, in a metaphorical way, the faults of the skeptical movement—something that can be quite difficult to talk about in a non-fictional context, if I do say so myself!

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ywibaysfb and webcomic criticism

Your Webcomic Is Bad and You Should Feel Bad (YWIBaYSFB) was a blog active in the years 2007-2008. The title, based on a dated Futurama meme, is an accurate reflection of its content: insulting, mocking, and booing webcomics that the author, John Solomon, deemed bad.

I did not actively read YWIBaYSFB at the time, but one did not need to read the blog to be aware of it. It made a lot of waves in webcomic circles, and everyone came to watch the train wreck. Whether the train wreck was the blog itself or the webcomics it mocked was, I suppose, the subject of some disagreement.

For context, 2007 is the year I started blogging. I was feebly trying to attract readers, and making barely any headway at all. In contrast, YWISaYSFB instantly got huge amounts of attention, thousands of comments, and even a parody blog it inspired acquired some renown. Within a year it stopped, and its legacy is now inherited by the Bad Webcomics Wiki. I think this flash in the pan says something about the challenges of criticism.

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Not for Broadcast’s bizarre politics

Not for Broadcast is a comedy FMV game about managing a television broadcast. This essay is emphatically not a review, meaning that I have no intention of recommending one way or another whether you ought to play it. Rather, I’m interested in discussing its story about liberal fascists. I will also get into spoilers—warnings when I get there.

What is Not for Broadcast?

Not for Broadcast is at its core a multi-tasking game. You must divide your attention between cutting between multiple cameras, bleeping out swear words on a two second delay, adjusting for interference, and don’t forget to actually pay attention to the show that you’re editing, so you can follow the story.

There’s no mechanical benefit to following the story, so in my experience, it got lowest priority. The game delivers a unique experience where the narrative is delivered through a fog of distraction. This aligns with the narrative of the game, which is about a government that distracts from the real issues by filling broadcast news with fluff. Of course, to actually appreciate what the game was doing, I watched the archived footage afterwards. Paying attention would often cast segments in a whole new light.

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Re-reading Sword & Citadel

Remember back when I blogged about rereading Shadow and Claw, the first half of The Book of the New Sun, by Gene Wolfe? Of course you don’t, that was in 2019.  Well, I finally finished the second half, Sword and Citadel.  See, I used to read books on my commute and now I work remotely.

This post will contain spoilers for The Book of the New Sun, although for what it is worth, I don’t think this is the kind of book that you need to avoid spoilers for. It’s not that the book doesn’t have secrets. Rather, the secrets are so dense and obscure that it is not possible to spoil all of them, not even by literally reading the book.  I think knowing a few of the book’s secrets can teach you how to find even more for yourself. Also, some of the spoilers you’ll find out there are wrong, so you’ll still have the pleasure of trying to differentiate legend from canon.  Personally, I freely read spoilers.

Like the previous post from 2019, this post will take the form of a series of observations, mostly focusing on thematic analysis.

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Problematic fiction, and action

Lately, I’ve been seeing discussions of “anti-shipping” hit mainstream, for example in a Kotaku article trying to connect it to the latest video game controversies. I’m separated by two degrees from any anti-shipping arguments, but I’m aware it’s a clusterfuck, so I’m a bit apprehensive about this new attention. People who are involved in anti-shipping flame wars are notorious for pulling in complete strangers to the subject, and coercively classifying them on one side or the other. It’s a nasty flame war I prefer to keep at arms distance, although I find some of the underlying questions to be interesting.

Briefly, anti-shippers (or simply “antis” if you want to be enigmatic and ungoogleable) are people with moral objections to certain kinds of problematic ships. The precise content of anti-shipper or pro-shipper stances is slippery, but in my understanding anti-shippers commonly object to ships with characters that are canonically minors, and even label it pedophilia. If you’re familiar with the dominant culture in fanfic (AO3 in particular), and their habit of shipping basically every pair of characters, you can see how the disagreement is substantial and significant.

This raises several questions. What exactly counts as problematic or not? What does it mean to have a moral objection to problematic content, vs just not liking that content, or not wanting to be exposed to it? Once we’ve identified problematic content, what actions do we advocate taking in response? As a writer who has occasionally critiqued works of fiction from a social justice perspective, it is that last question that fascinates me.

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