Category Archives: Media

#10: Kojima’s Metal Gear Solid Was Inspired by Cronenberg’s Scanners

I just watched David Cronenberg’s classic 1981 sci-fi thriller Scanners for the first time the other day, and I noticed a whole slew of undeniable parallels between it and Hideo Kojima’s 1998 sci-fi action game, Metal Gear SolidI’ve never seen anyone else make these connections, so I believe I’m bringing you something that’s never been discussed or discovered before.

This essay will feature heavy spoilers for both Scanners and Metal Gear Solid, so if you haven’t seen the film or played the game, I highly recommend you do both before reading this. They’re both phenomenal works in their mediums that are best experienced without knowing the plots going in.

First, let’s break down the plot of Scanners.

Quiet, dark-haired, loner protagonist Cameron Vale, who claims to have no family, no past, no interests, and no lovers, is captured and taken into custody by a man named Dr. Paul Ruth, who founded a biochemicals and weapons company called ConSec. Ruth mentors Vale in how to use and control strange abilities he’s always had but never understood, discovers his abilities are very powerful, and sends him on a mission to infiltrate light-haired terrorist antagonist Darryl Revok’s renegade army and take out Revok himself. You see, both Vale and Revok are powerful psychics called scanners, Revok’s renegade army is made up of fellow, less powerful psychics, and Vale is told that he’s the only one who can stop Revok. Vale is cold, calculating, and unempathetic, and after mastering his abilities comes to fit the “quiet badass” role to a tee.

These psychic abilities allow the scanner to light people on fire and control their motor functions, but they come with a serious detriment: the wielder is completely helpless against the rush of mental feedback coming from the people around them, and they can’t stop their brains from reading people’s minds. The onslaught of thought-noise causes extreme anguish and can drive them crazy. Vale is a loner and social outcast because of his abilities, and Revok was institutionalized because of his, eventually drilling a hole into his own forehead in an attempt to relieve the pressure caused in his head by all the forceful thought-noise coming from other people.

Along the way, Vale goes undercover and stealthily infiltrates the ConSec biochemicals and weapons company’s facility, and by hacking into a computer and thus finding a classified cache of information, he discovers Revok’s true plan and that he and Revok, as well as Revok’s army of psychics, all got their abilities from in-utero experimentation while they were fetuses, specifically through the use of a drug that was administered to their mothers which was intended to sedate pregnant women and ease pregnancy pains and sickness. Revok’s plan is to continue to inject unwitting pregnant women with this drug to create a whole society of powerful scanners and lead that society of superior beings to take over the world so that scanners will never be abused and neglected by society the way he and Vale were. Dr. Ruth originally started this plan with the intention of creating a scanner utopia, where people with psychic powers would make the world a better place. This program is called RIPE. Revok has been slowly taking over ConSec from the inside over time, and somewhere along the way he has Dr. Ruth killed, with the goal of completely taking over the company for himself to take RIPE in his own ideological direction.

During Vale and Revok’s climactic confrontation, Revok then reveals that he and Vale are brothers and the most powerful of these artificially-created psychics, because their mother was the first woman this experimental drug was used on while she was pregnant and too much of the drug was administered. Revok also reveals that Dr. Ruth is their father, that he’s the one who administered the drug to their mother, and that Revok hated him for creating the two of them as freaks of nature, abandoning them, and leaving them to suffer in a world that doesn’t understand them with painful abilities they themselves didn’t understand.

However, Vale accuses Revok of becoming just like their father Dr. Ruth in his own selfishness and his lack of empathy for human life. Vale denounces both Revok and their father, and the brothers have a duel to the death using the very psychic abilities that made them into what they are. Vale overcomes Revok by leaving his own body and overtaking Revok’s body with his own voice and personality. Here, the film ends.

Now we’ll break down the relevant plot points of Metal Gear Solid, pointing out the identical ones and the differences between similar ones where Kojima took the basic idea and changed the details of it to fit his own narrative.

Quiet, dark-haired, loner protagonist Solid Snake, who claims to have no family, no past, no interests, and no lovers, is captured and taken into custody by government agents led by a man named Roy Campbell, Solid Snake’s commanding officer from his second mission. A man named Big Boss, founder of both a US elite special forces unit called FOXHOUND and a radical military nation called Outer Heaven (the latter of which he founded covertly and unbeknownst to the US government), Solid Snake’s former commanding officer who sent him on his first field mission against Outer Heaven itself (because Big Boss was the head of FOXHOUND, and the US government assigned FOXHOUND to stop Outer Heaven’s uprising, so Big Boss sent a rookie to do the job hoping he’d fail, but he didn’t), and whom Snake killed during his second mission which Campbell headed, was also his father and mentor who helped him to hone his incredible natural combat instincts and abilities. This time around, Campbell sends Solid Snake on a mission to infiltrate the Alaskan nuclear weapons disposal facility which light-haired terrorist antagonist Liquid Snake has taken control of along with his renegade army and FOXHOUND itself, which Liquid Snake has also taken command of, and take out Liquid Snake at the head of it all. You see, both Solid and Liquid Snake are super-soldiers who share the same code name, Liquid Snake’s renegade army is made up of fellow, less powerful super-soldiers, and Solid Snake is told that he’s the only one who can stop Liquid. Solid Snake is cold, calculating, and unempathetic, and fits the “quiet badass” role to a tee.

Among the ranks of Liquid Snake’s FOXHOUND is a psychic soldier called Psycho Mantis. His psychic abilities allows him to light things on fire and and control people’s motor functions, but they come with a serious detriment: he is completely helpless against the rush of mental feedback coming from the people around him, and he can’t stop his brain from reading people’s minds. The onslaught of thought-noise causes extreme anguish and drives him crazy, and as a boy he lashes out and lights his village on fire with his psychic abilities, killing his father whom he hated because his thoughts were consumed with bitterness and blame for his mother’s death in childbirth. Mantis is a loner and social outcast because of his abilities, and he wears a gas mask because it protects his head against all the forceful thought-noise coming from other people.

Along the way, Solid Snake stealthily infiltrates the Alaskan facility and rescues a scientist and master hacker who, by hacking into a computer and finding a classified cache of information from weapons company Armstech, discovers Liquid Snake’s true plan, which is to use a giant, walking battle tank called Metal Gear REX to launch a stealth nuclear missile at any target on Earth. It’s also revealed that Solid and Liquid Snake, as well as Liquid Snake’s army of super-soldiers, all got their abilities from in-utero experimentation while they were embryos and fetuses, specifically through the use of genetic modification aimed at removing weak genes and replacing them with genes connected with superior combat instincts and abilities. This program was called Les Enfants Terribles. Liquid Snake’s complete plan is to continue creating more of these genetically modified super-soldiers to create a whole society of them and lead that society of superior beings to take over the world, controlling the military-industrial complex and creating a never-ending war society where super-soldiers will always have value and won’t be abandoned and neglected by society the way veterans are after the military is finished making use of them. This was Big Boss’s plan for the Outer Heaven military nation before it was stopped by Solid Snake. Liquid Snake is turning this Alaskan nuclear weapons disposal facility into a new Outer Heaven to be the helm and centerpiece around which this new war society will revolve, and he wants to surpass Big Boss by succeeding with the Outer Heaven idea where Big Boss himself failed.

During Solid Snake and Liquid Snake’s climactic confrontation, Liquid then reveals that he and Solid are twin brothers, as well as the most powerful of these artificially-created super-soldiers because they were the first of these super-soldiers to be made. This was done by taking cells from Big Boss, known as the greatest soldier to ever live, and creating eight clones from his DNA, then killing six of the octuplets in-utero so the remaining two would become even stronger. This effectively makes Big Boss their father. Liquid Snake also reveals that he hates Big Boss for being responsible for creating the two of them as freaks of nature and supposedly giving Liquid Snake all the recessive genes, which he thinks makes him weaker and inferior to Solid Snake, who supposedly got all the dominant genes.

However, Solid Snake accuses Liquid Snake of becoming just like their father Big Boss in his own selfishness and his lack of empathy for human life. Solid Snake denounces both Liquid Snake and their father, and the brothers have a duel to the death using the very super-soldier abilities that made them into what they are. Solid Snake overcomes Liquid Snake, killing him, and after a tense escape, the game ends. In the sequel, Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty, Liquid Snake’s forearm has been removed from his body and reattached to Metal Gear Solid‘s secondary villain Revolver Ocelot, who lost his forearm during the events of that game. Liquid Snake overtakes Revolver Ocelot’s body with his own voice and personality, and he becomes a new “Liquid Ocelot” hybrid villain.

As you can see, the vast majority of Metal Gear Solid‘s main plot points are lifted directly from Scanners. Kojima also lifted ideas from a slew of other Western films, so I’m not insinuating that all of Metal Gear Solid was copied from Scanners or that this film was the only source of inspiration for the game, but I’m familiar with no other single work that has a greater number of direct plot points used in the game than this film. The uber-passionate film buff and fan of Western cinema that Kojima is, he’s known to take elements from many Western films and mix them all up into wholly new creations, and virtually all of his creative work follows this modus operandi. Although Hideo Kojima himself has never cited Scanners as an influence, as Terry Wolfe’s book The Kojima Code points out, there are many clear connections between Kojima’s work and Western films that Kojima himself has never officially stated as influences, but which are too coincidental to likely be mere coincidence. Sometimes, even without official confirmation, so many obvious connections can be made between two works that the inspiration can be safely assumed.

#9: Fact – Twilight Princess Is One of the Worst Zelda Games Ever Made

With the recent release of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess HD, everybody’s once again talking about this horrendous piece of shit of a Zelda title, bringing back to the surface all the pent-up rage I have against it and forcing me to compile my thoughts on it in one place after I’ve already ranted on it in numerous places around the internet, perhaps as much for my own therapeutic release as for the hope of waking others up to its true nature as a completely mediocre game with very few redeeming qualities. I’ve wanted to write this essay for a long time, but I’ve been putting it off because I knew it was going to be a lot of work. But here we are: my longest and most all-out essay yet.

Today I’m going to share my very unpopular view on Twilight Princess being by far the worst Zelda game I’ve ever personally played, and certainly one of the worst Zelda games ever made officially by Nintendo in general. However, due to my critique focusing on the basic principles of effective writing and game design, I am presenting this view as fact on the virtue of the game breaking so many of these basic principles. This review is going to spoil major plot details in Twilight Princess, so turn back now if you want to remain spoiler-free on the game.

I should probably start off by explaining what my history is with the series to prove that my opinion is valid as a general fan of the series as a whole so nobody can try to say “maybe Zelda games just aren’t for you.” I have played and finished the original The Legend of Zelda, Zelda II: The Adventure of Link, A Link to the Past, Ocarina of Time, Majora’s Mask, The Wind Waker, and Twilight Princess. I started Link’s Awakening many years ago only to find myself stuck at one point without knowing where to go or what to do next and gave up on it. Although I’m not much of a handheld gamer as it is, so make of that what you will.

My favorite Zelda game of all time is Majora’s Mask for many reasons (my favorite soundtrack, core concept, gameplay and design, sidequests, and story in the whole series), but the primary one is that it had the balls to break the traditional Zelda mold and do something incredibly fresh and original with the series at a pivotal point, directly after the series’ riskiest and most successful (financially and critically) game yet, Ocarina of TimeMajora saw a new director at the series’ helm, Eiji Aonuma, and where this man could have played it safe and rehashed the same tired old Zelda formula that had been working and selling millions of copies since the ’80’s, Aonuma boldly took the series in its most experimental direction ever, even to this day, by making a game that dropped staple characters Zelda and Ganon from the story altogether (with only one quick mention of Zelda herself to set up a particular gameplay feature with the Song of Time), took the darkest and most emotional tone of any Zelda game ever made (which holds true even today), packed in more sidequests and bonus items to find than any Zelda game ever made (again, still true today), and made a much deeper, more nonlinear gameplay experience than any other Zelda game ever made (you guessed it – still true today) that can be experienced differently each time you return to play it depending on when you choose to do what. Not only is The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask my favorite Zelda game of all time, it’s also one of my all-time favorite video games altogether, and the only Zelda game that stands within those ranks.

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Each core game in the series up to Twilight Princess innovated in some major way. The Legend of Zelda was the first adventure game of its kind and size; Zelda II: The Adventure of Link experimented with sidescrolling action segments and an experience-based level-up system; A Link to the Past brought us a dual-sided world, where we could explore the same places in two very different realities; Ocarina of Time brought the series into 3D for the first time and gave us the brilliant Z-targeting, which has influenced 3D action games since, and many Zelda fans and gamers in general consider Ocarina to be one of the greatest games ever made; Majora’s Mask gave us clever ways to manipulate time, NPC’s with their own set schedules, and full character transformations with legitimate ramifications on the gameplay, along with a completely original story devoid of the typical “Zelda, Ganon, Triforce” trappings of the core console series prior; The Wind Waker, even unfinished and imperfect as it was, brought us a completely open world on the open sea and revolved all of its design and gameplay around that idea, and completely reinvented the aesthetic of the series with a beautiful, eye-popping (and controversial) art style that still holds up well to this day.

Then we get to Twilight Princess, a game that not only doesn’t innovate in any way whatsoever (although it tried to and failed miserably by introducing great ideas that go to waste with awful implementation), but in fact takes numerous steps back in the quality of both its writing and its basic game design compared to previous entries. The game mostly attempts to imitate Ocarina‘s more “realistic” (for its N64-circa-1998 time frame anyway) aesthetic and allow the player to control an older, more “adult” version of Link for only the second time in series history at that point, again in imitation of Ocarina.

The reason for this was because Nintendo showcased the Gamecube’s graphical capabilities with a tech demo themed around The Legend of Zelda (titled The Legend of Zelda 128) at an event in 2000 called Nintendo Space World. The demo was a video showcasing Ganondorf and Link having a sword fight in a dark setting with realistic graphics (again, for the time), and everybody totally lost it with excitement, thinking that it must be what the next Zelda game would look like. Nintendo clarified that this wasn’t the case and that it was a simple tech demo, but people believed what they wanted regardless of Nintendo’s assurance to the contrary, and rumors persisted that the next Zelda game would be dark and realistic like the tech demo was.

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However, a year later at Nintendo Space World 2001, The Wind Waker was revealed to be the new project, with a highly stylized, cartoony, cel-shaded art style; quite a stark contrast to the dark realism of the previous year’s tech demo. The gaming world was outraged and offended by this drastic shift in art style. How dare Nintendo keep its word that the tech demo was indeed merely a tech demo and not a sign of things to come from its beloved series?! How dare they take a risky, artistic, original approach to the visuals of their game instead of doing what would be easy and just making an updated version of an old game’s art style?! How dare they make the game THEY want to make instead of selling out to fan demand?! Waker released to widespread critical acclaim, but there were still many whiny Zelda fans who resist change no matter how good it might be, didn’t buy the game, and continued to pester Nintendo to make a “dark, realistic” Zelda game. This eventually spread to the gaming media as well, and before long everyone was once again clamoring for the next game in the series to be “dark and realistic.”

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Nintendo finally caved in to popular demand and the game we got was Twilight Princess, a game with virtually no identity of its own, a game that was clearly not the labor of love OcarinaMajora, Waker, and all the 2D games before them had been, a game that solely existed to try and quell the massive and widespread crying for a “dark and realistic” entry in the franchise and finally get those whiners off Nintendo’s back. The lack of passion put into the game shows as I will detail at great length ahead, and although we ended up with a completely mediocre game at best, it still released to ridiculous critical acclaim and a swath of perfect 10/10 scores from professional review sources and claims of it being the best Zelda game ever. And, just as every core series game since Majora, Eiji Aonuma directed TP as well. I was actually furious when I played the game, because before I bought it I read the reviews and saw it getting universal praise. I thought, “Oh man, this is gonna be great!” and I went out in excitement and bought it. And the whole experience could only be described as incredibly boring, tedious, and frustrating. I couldn’t believe the vast majority of professional reviews failed to mention any of the serious things wrong with this game, and many of the few who did mention the problems STILL gave the game a perfect fucking score. How does that work? They found flaws in a game and still called it perfect. It’s as if they were all blinded so completely by their orgasmic Zelda fanboy euphoria that they couldn’t look at the game objectively and see it for what it was. So what is it about this game that’s so terrible? Where did Mr. Aonuma go wrong? Strap in, because there’s a lot to say about all that’s wrong with this game.

TP begins with a highly promising premise, giving us a very different Link from the kind of character these games always start us with. Instead of being a nobody without many friends or much family, we’re introduced to a Link who’s a respected and beloved member of his community, Ordon Village. All the little kids want to be him, all the adults appreciate him, and he’s even got a love interest. For the first time in Zelda history, Link is given a fleshed-out personality and history, turning him from the sort of “insert yourself here” player avatar we’re usually given in the series, into a legitimate, established character of his own. For once I was excited to be Link. I felt proud and heroic. Unfortunately, somewhere around a quarter or a third of the way through the game, Link loses all sense of established personality and individuality. When Midna comes into the picture, after his initial hesitation to trust her, he just starts doing everything she tells him to without question and becomes her yes-man. I personally didn’t trust Midna from the moment I met her, but it didn’t take long for Link to just start assuming she must be on the side of good and doing everything she says. She’s obviously mischievous and we know virtually nothing about her or who she is. For all we know she could be playing us for a long con and making us do things that would ultimately screw over either Link or the world, but he just goes along with it. He makes some heroic decisions and performs heroic deeds all of his own accord before she comes in, like saving the kids in Kakariko, but after Midna comes in he just starts mindlessly doing her bidding and never makes any decisions on his own the whole rest of the game. He loses all the interesting and unique characterization he had in the beginning of the game and becomes Midna’s puppet. That’s terrible writing and inconsistent characterization. Link had great potential to be an interesting character of his own for the first time in the series and they waste it by chucking it all out the window as soon as Midna shows up. To make matters worse, the clear distrust the game is trying to build between Midna and the audience never pays off and she ends up being completely trustworthy anyway. She’s clearly untrustworthy, Link trusts her almost right away like an idiot, we don’t, and all of that is for nothing in the end. They could have made her character and her presence in the game far more interesting than it was, and it was another case of wasted potential, just like Link.

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Speaking of saving the kids in Kakariko, that event happens around a quarter of the way through the game, and immediately after you save them they all tell you that you should take them home. But you can’t. The game never lets you. And it makes no sense. They keep telling you how bad they want to go home and you’re like “okay then fucking let me take you home what the fuck” and you just can’t. So you continue on your way. And what’s your big reward for finishing the game? A big congratulatory, thankful fanfare like all the previous 3D Zelda titles to make you feel like you really saved the world and to make you feel like a hero? Nope. Your big reward for beating the game is finally seeing those fucking kids go home. This should have been resolved ages ago and I’ve long since moved on from it and stopped giving a shit, and that’s my big closing credits scene. Thanks. Just kick me in the nuts while you’re at it.

Although since past games had a large cast of funny, interesting, and memorable characters, their big closing fanfare scenes felt warm and joyous and exciting and really made you reminisce on your journey and everyone you encountered along the way. It reminds you that all these people have you to thank for their lives. Yet Twilight Princess‘s cast is so bland and forgettable that I’m not even sure a fanfare would have been satisfying regardless. None of the characters in this game are funny, interesting, or memorable except for Midna and Zant, and Zant is memorable for all the wrong reasons (which I’ll get to in a minute). I didn’t care about anyone I was saving. Nobody charmed me. They were all just so bland. So I guess a fanfare wouldn’t have been much better anyway, but it certainly would have helped me feel SOME sense of accomplishment after torturing myself through the experience that was this game.

The story is also full of plot holes. There’s this big, emotional scene where Zelda gives her life to save Midna, and at the end of the game Zelda comes back out of nowhere, with no explanation whatsoever, and nobody asks any questions or bats an eye. They just accept it. …What the fuck? This is completely inexcusable. They didn’t even try to make it make sense, it just happens and you’re supposed to just go with it. Zelda had no business being in the game for any reason, and her only role in the entire story is to create a plot hole that didn’t need to exist if they had just left her out of the story altogether. But since TP is a game made solely to give Zelda fans what they think they want, it just gives them the most predictable, tired bullshit it can and chucks known characters in for no other reason than “well it’s Zelda right? so i guess we need to have Zelda in there cuz that’s what the fans want right?” Shameful. And then you’ve got the bizarre nightmare sequences with dark Links that never get explained or justified whatsoever, like they’re just there to be “dark” and “unsettling” and have no place in the story at all. I’ve seen fans try to justify these plot holes through their own conjecture and guesses, but the plain fact is that the game itself never explains these problems and leaves gaping holes in the plot. That is broken, terrible writing. Even if you can find a way to justify it through your own conjecture, the fact that the game itself never explains it means it’s poorly written.

Speaking of characters who had no business being in this game, we have Ganon(dorf). Zant was being built up to be the first interesting, original, and legitimately terrifying villain in the series since Majora‘s Skull Kid. Good villain writing builds up tension between a villain and the audience/hero, having the villain show up from time to time to thwart the hero and be very intimidating and terrifying. It makes the audience/hero simultaneously frightened and exhilarated to face him, to take him down in the climax of the story. He’s so scary and badass and yet that makes you want to see him fall that much more. You want that epic battle to go down, you want to face this terrifying force and conquer it. Zant is mysterious, cool, and very scary, and the whole game through we’re led to believe he’s going to be the most badass villain the series has ever seen. And then, in the final act of the game, all of that potential, all of that tension the game had spent building up between Zant and the audience/hero is thrown out the window. Zant is revealed to be a complete spaz (which flies in the face of all his previous appearances all throughout the game up to that point and makes no sense for his character whatsoever), a total idiot, a joke, only for the game to pull the “GANON WAS THE REAL VILLAIN ALL ALONG AREN’T YOU SURPRISED” fucking tired-out gimmick the series has done before. It spends so much time building up the tension for Zant and making the audience hate him and excited to bring him down for good, only to pull the rug out from under you at the last minute and swap him out for the most tiresome villain of the series. It’s like being teased for hours by a lover and you can’t wait for them to let you finally climax, and then right when you think they’re going to push you over the edge and give you the orgasm of your life, they punch you in the groin and run out the door making silly faces and crazy sounds and you’re left feeling hurt, confused, frustrated, and unsatisfied. Then an ex-lover of yours that you never wanted to look at or think about again comes in to finish you off. Twilight Princess‘s climax is the most bewildering ruined orgasm imaginable. Your lover who seemed so smooth and sexy all this time turns into a fucking sadistic circus clown right before you cum and your bitter ex comes in to finish up. That’s the Zant/Ganon switch of this game in a nutshell. This is HORRID writing. Just like Zelda, it feels as if they just threw Ganon into the game as an afterthought because “hey it’s Zelda so i guess we have to have Ganon right? it’s what the fans want right?” Again, just like Zelda’s nonsensical appearance in this game, it’s fucking shameful. And then, to add even WORSE insult to injury, the final fight against Ganon in the field turns out to be one of the easiest boss fights in the entire game. I’m talking LAUGHABLY easy. Your final epic hurrah, your final bit of gameplay in this game, is a boss “fight” that’s so easy it’s pathetic. They brought back Ganon and replaced (and ruined) a legitimately great villain with him, only to end the game in the most disappointing way I could have never imagined. It’s so bad it’s sadistic. Remember the lover analogy and imagine that when your ex walks in after you’re left hurt and bewildered, she gives you the most lazy, passionless, limp handjob/fingering you’ve ever experienced. That’s the final fight against Ganon in TP. Ganon did not need to be in this game and it would have been a much better game had Zant been carried through as the badass he was supposed to be right up to the end. Instead they pathetically had to pull the same switcheroo ALttP already used and ruin the awesome potential of a great new villain. I fucking hate it. Majora already proved a Zelda game could have a great story and villain without bringing back the same old tropes, and it’s widely beloved FOR that boldness. TP takes several steps backward in its writing quality compared to its predecessors.

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Since Ganon has just given us a segue bridging the writing problems of TP with its game design problems, let’s dive into those design issues further. In nearly every way the game’s design philosophy works against itself and serves to continuously frustrate and disappoint players at every opportunity.

The first design choice I’ll mention since it’s unrelated to gameplay is the visual design. Remember in the early years of the PS3 and Xbox 360 generation of gaming there became a trend to make everything look “gritty and realistic and dark” by coloring everything in earth tones and adding a weird, washed-out glow to everything? Uncharted even set out specifically to rise against this trend and made a conscious choice to be as colorful as nature and the world actually are, going so far as to include an unlockable filter called “Next Gen” to make fun of how shitty it looks. That’s exactly what Twilight Princess looks like to a T. It has that exact same washed-out, glowy, earth tone-heavy “next gen,” “gritty and realistic” look. Even the greens in this game aren’t vibrant, from Link’s tunic to the grass itself. It all has that same lack of color saturation. We went from Wind Waker‘s inspired, timeless visuals to this trash, all because people bitched so much about wanting it “gritty and realistic.” This is not how Nintendo wanted Zelda to look, and the artistically perceptive will notice and feel a clear lack of passion and soul in the game’s art direction. Everything about it is just so bland to look at. Character designs (except for Midna and Zant who once again stand out) are completely bland and boring, nobody has any kind of aesthetic presence or memorability to them. They didn’t make the game look this way because they were inspired or they felt moved to do so, they made it look this way because they caved in to pressure from demanding fans. Well, they got exactly what they asked for and it looks like shit.

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Moving on to the actual game design itself, the first problem is its long, painful tutorial at the very beginning. If it doesn’t put you to sleep, you’ve got incredible power of will, because I had to fight to stay awake and push through it myself. It’s horrifically slow and unnecessarily long. Ocarina of Time, a game that came out seven years prior and was the first game to introduce players to playing Zelda in 3D, handled tutorials better than this game, making them completely optional by allowing you to either skip mandatory tutorial dialogue, or relegating tutorial dialogue to optional signs or NPC’s you can read or speak with if you choose. So why is it that the FOURTH 3D Zelda game EIGHT years later is spending MORE time on tutorials and FORCING you to sit through them? This is HORRID game design. And what’s sad is that, despite some critics complaining about the awful, mandatory opening tutorial bullshit, Nintendo went ahead and made it even LONGER and WORSE and STILL MANDATORY with Skyward Sword. What the fuck? Why are they regressing their game design instead of progressing it? Why are they devolving instead of evolving? It’s completely inexcusable and makes repeat playthroughs of this game even more painful than the first. Zelda players already know how to play a 3D Zelda game, and new players who had never played a 3D Zelda before had no problem picking up and understanding how to play Ocarina when it came out. Why would you do this? It doesn’t benefit longtime fans OR new players in any way and only serves to hurt the player’s experience.

Then you’ve got the new gimmick of the wolf form, which the game is so proud of that it plasters it on the front cover of the game and dedicates space on the back cover to point out. This form is completely worthless and adds nothing beneficial at all to the game’s experience. You smell a scent here…dig a hole there…fight a couple enemies…and that’s literally all there is to this form. It does nothing even remotely innovative or fun, and if it didn’t run so fast and wasn’t mandatory to transform in certain areas in order to progress, I contest that nobody would even use it. Even Majora, six years prior, utilized a transforming Link far better than this piece of shit game did. In that game you had three different transformations which each offered unique skills that were actually fun to use and added to the game’s experience, gave the player a ton of extra dialogue to discover by talking to all the NPC’s in each form, and even gave players completely different instruments to play around with just for fun. TP‘s wolf form by comparison is a lazy, pathetic attempt at a transformation gimmick and adds nothing positive to the player’s experience. And remember, the wolf form is the game’s big selling point, which they were so proud of that they dedicated half the cover art to it. It’s a testament to a game’s horrible quality when a gimmick so boring, useless, and lazily implemented is proudly emblazoned on the cover of your game and is the game’s main selling point.

Speaking of how fast the wolf form is, for some reason you’re given a horse in this game, but it’s slower and more cumbersome to use than your wolf form. WHY? Why would they do this? Not only is Epona slower than your wolf form, but to call her you have to hunt down a very specific kind of plant to use as a horse call, then wait for her to come, then mount her, THEN start moving. Why would you do this when you can just turn into your wolf form at any given time and move faster doing it anyway? It’s completely fucking pointless and another perfect example of the game’s broken design working against itself. If the horse had been made easier to call upon and faster, the wolf form really WOULD have been utterly useless, because the only thing it’s good for is running fast across the massive overworld when the problem could have been solved much more gracefully by making the horse legitimately useful and faster-moving.

And speaking of the massive overworld, this game sports the biggest overworld of any Zelda game to date, yet also the most sparse. Even in Ocarina you had a much smaller overworld with many more things to find and hunt and collect in a space-to-secrets ratio. TP has FEWER things to do and find in the overworld, spread out across a MUCH bigger area. Why the fuck would you do this? Why would you make a massive overworld with barely anything to do in it in a series that was literally conceptualized around the idea of the fun of exploration? So many times I found myself running all over the overworld looking for something, ANYTHING, hidden to stumble across and almost never found anything. Good game design rewards a player for going off the beaten path to explore. Twilight Princess kicks you in the jewels for it. Especially since whenever you DO find something, it’s almost always rupees, which is another problem entirely.

This game has a serious money problem: there is WAY too much money to find everywhere and not nearly enough use for it. Unfortunately, TP adds a potentially useful new feature that doubles back on itself and ends up only being frustrating because it’s not implemented well. This feature is that whenever you find a chest full of rupees and can’t carry them because your wallet is full (which it nearly always is because there’s never any need to spend the money you have), Link will put the rupees back and leave the chest closed for you to come back to later when you do need them or have room for them: a helpful idea. But this becomes a serious problem in both the overworld and in dungeons for different but similar reasons. In the overworld, let’s say you spend a bunch of time wandering around exploring and looking for things to find. This takes a long time as it is because, as mentioned, the overworld is obnoxiously huge and depressingly empty, so you could spend fifteen minutes wandering around hoping to actually find something until you finally do. So you go for it, but it’s rupees you can’t carry, so Link puts them back. Then let’s say you happen across that part of the overworld again twenty hours later in the game and see a chest in the distance, but you’ve forgotten you already checked that chest. You go back out of your way to check it again, only to find rupees you can’t carry yet again, and you’ve just doubly wasted your time. In dungeons, where unopened chests are marked on the map and the layout is often purposely confusing in order to be challenging, you’ll find rupee chests you can’t use and put the rupees back. But the map still treats these chests as if you’ve never opened them. So as you wander around the dungeon looking at the map for reference, trying to find chests with keys you haven’t found yet as you’re trying to make progress, you often end up accidentally arriving back at chests you’ve already checked and closed again because the game doesn’t indicate the difference between checked chests and unchecked ones. So once again you end up doubly wasting your time. This is even more problematic if you only play the game for an hour or two at a time and don’t play it every day, as most adults do, so the chests you’ve already checked don’t stay in your memory as well. If you don’t want to choke on your own tongue in frustrated rage after the twentieth time going out of your way for a chest you already checked and didn’t remember (not the same chest twenty times of course, but that scenario happening twenty times), you have to mark down on your own sheet of paper which chests you’ve already checked that were rupees you couldn’t carry. This is what I’m talking about when I say a potentially useful feature ends up doubling back on itself and being worse than it would have been if you kept the formula the same as previous games, where you just lose the rupees you find that you can’t carry. If they had offered some way in-game to mark previously checked chests that have been re-closed, the feature would be pretty useful, although it would still be frustrating going out of your way to get to a chest only to discover it’s almost always rupees you can’t carry, but marking those chests differently on your map from unchecked chests would have at least eliminated half of the problem. Yet another example of great potential gone to waste through stupid design decisions.

rupee-link

(Image is from Twilight Princess HD, which is why it at least doesn’t look like total shit.)

Since I mentioned the dungeons, I want to point out that TP‘s dungeons are incredibly well designed and fun to play through. However, they become tiresome before too long due to the entire game being one long dungeon crawl. There are so many dungeons in this game and not nearly enough side content to balance it out. The game just expects you to slog through one dungeon after another after another and gives you very little to do outside of that. This is yet another example of the game’s design working against itself. You have great dungeons, but you tarnish their fun by giving the player almost nothing else to do when they want a break from constant dungeon crawling. I found myself bored to death of the game halfway through and only forced myself to continue to suffer through it because I thought, “Everyone’s raving about this game…so it’s got to get good SOMEtime, right? It has to get better…I can’t quit now. I’ll keep trucking. I have to see what all the fuss is about.” And it never changes or gets better; it’s just an endless string of dungeons. The pacing is exhausting and there’s no balance.

TP would have achieved much better balance if it had more sidequests, but there are only a pathetic few, and the biggest three are all flat-out broken in their design.

First is the shop-growing sidequest with the creepy, unnaturally mature-mannered baby-looking kid. This is a whole-game-spanning sidequest which you can only advance to each progressive stage by accomplishing other things first. Of these few sidequests, I actually had the most fun with this one. I enjoyed helping a fellow character chase and develop his dream. However, you can’t complete it until near the end of the game, and by the time you get the reward for finishing the quest, it’s practically useless. The reward in question is the “magic armor,” which isn’t magic at all; it eats your rupees in order to work. And to get it in the first place takes an utter shit-ton of rupees (really the only thing in the entire game that you’ll be using your rupees for, unless you skip this sidequest in which case there really is virtually no use for rupees in this game whatsoever), so you have to go broke in order to get it, and then it requires a ton of rupees to make any decent use of it. Broken. Again the game kicks you where it counts for putting so much time, money, and effort into something.

The second and third sidequests of the Big Three are the bug collecting quest and the poe hunting quest. The bugs are easier to find at night, and the poes ONLY show up at night, yet this game bafflingly gives you no way to change the time of day as you could in all previous 3D Zelda titles, which all had quests revolving around the time of day as well. You literally have to stand around and wait for nearly ten minutes for the cycle to change before you can continue your hunt. Now…why the fuck would you make two of the game’s biggest and longest sidequests revolve around the time of day and NOT OFFER THE PLAYER CONTROL OVER THE TIME OF DAY FOR THE FIRST TIME IN 3D ZELDA HISTORY? What kind of horrendous design is this? Why would you strip such a useful, staple feature of past games from your new game but still necessitate that feature? This is inarguably broken game design at its finest and most unforgiveable. And the cherry on top of this shit sundae? The rewards for the bug quest are bigger wallets to carry even MORE rupees you don’t need, and the ultimate reward for the poe quest, which is the longest and more broken quest of them all, is MORE RUPEES YOU DON’T NEED. …I give up.

The special items and weapons you get in this game are a further example of the game’s design working against itself and the player. There are so many very cool item concepts in this game that see virtually no use at all outside of the dungeons you find them within. It sets you up with excitement over your new find only to disappoint you as soon as you realize you’ll never need to use it again. “Oh man, I can use bombs underwater! How cool! …Oh…guess I’m never going to get to use that again…” “Oh shit, this spinner thing is awesome! I can’t wait to see what I can do with this! …Oh…well, guess I’m never using that again…” “Double claw shot?! WHAT?! THIS IS SO FUCKING COOL! Please tell me it’s not going to be useless outside of its dungeon…aaaand great…never using it again…fuck.” The game just can’t get anything right. Every time it has a good idea, it utterly squanders it with stupid implementation through bad design. So many great tools in this game are only used once, MAYBE twice if you’re lucky, outside of their respective dungeons. I can already hear the detractors crying foul and trying to say, “Yeah, well, Majora’s Mask is full of masks you only use once and never again! Hypocrite!” And I remind those people that the actual TOOLS in that game were all put to great use and were helpful in many situations across the entire span of the game, and that the non-transformative masks were all implemented very well for the purposes of both furthering one’s progress by leading the player to heart pieces and other gameplay-affecting rewards, but they also brought with their sidequests a ton of extra bits of story that added significantly to the living world in the game. Much of the game’s famed darkness and emotion comes from the mask sidequests. Thus, every one of those masks is more useful and adds more to Majora than all the tools of TP put together do for their game.

kafeianju

By all accountsThe Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess is a messy, sloppy game with absolutely atrocious writing and game design. It’s got a couple of solid aspects to it, such as its music and dungeon design, but everything else about it is an atrocious mess of disappointment and frustration. The entire game is nothing but a pandering, soulless piece of shitty fanservice with high production values, and a series of moments of potential greatness that only end in disappointment every time, from Link’s starting point as a legitimately interesting character, to Zant, to a boring and useless wolf form, to a gigantic but empty overworld, to rupees you can’t carry, to (broken) sidequests that pay off with horrible rewards, to great item concepts that are terribly implemented or are barely even made use of. It lacks an identity or soul of its own and merely tries to give fans another ALttP and Ocarina experience melded into one game with a forced and false “dark and gritty” tone.

It is an absolute journalistic crime that the game received such undeserved universal praise when it came out and is still widely considered to be a great game even today, and that nobody talks about all these horrendous problems that plague it. I contest that if TP didn’t have the franchise association, the name ZELDA plastered on the front, or any of the staple characters, replacing all these things with original names and characters in a new IP, it would have gone down in history as a mediocre game at best with a whole lot of huge flaws. But because it’s Zelda, and officially Nintendo-made at that, nobody can seem to see those gaping flaws or judge the game objectively. It is not merely my opinion that TP is a piece of shit, it’s a fact by the mere virtue that it manages to break so many basic rules of effective writing and game design and that it takes so many steps backward from all of its predecessors which did similar things with far better implementation.

Twilight Princess is the Zelda series’ Metal Gear Solid 4. It’s a total piece of shit with high production values and an enormous load of unforgivable writing and design issues that the creators clearly did not want to make and only did so to shut up bitter, demanding fans, but got an insane amount of praise merely on its name and associated series’ reputation alone. In both cases, both with Zelda and Metal Gear, if the game was a new IP and wasn’t part of its franchise, it would’ve been critically panned and forgotten. But because of their franchises, both games have a ton of dedicated fans who swear up and down that they’re great no matter how you break it down for them and prove to them on every conceivable level that it’s shit, and casual fans who don’t care enough to notice its problems and are pleased by anything with the franchise’s name on it.

I’ve been referring to Twilight Princess often throughout this article as “TP” for a reason. It’s not because it’s an abbreviation for the game’s title. It’s because using it to wipe your ass is just about the only thing it’s good for.

#8: GANTZ – The Greatest Manga I’ve Ever Read

I’ve just finished reading the Hiroya Oku’s GANTZ manga today, and what an insane and thrilling ride it was.

If you’ve never heard of GANTZ before, it’s a sci-fi action/horror manga (Japanese comic) that spans 37 books, a 26 episode anime, and two live-action, Japanese-made films. It’s a brilliantly visceral series that tackles a lot of issues with human emotion and hypocrisy, and offers as much intelligent social commentary as hardcore violence. It’s an intense thrill ride from beginning to end, and Oku is a total master of messing with his readers and their expectations. You never know what’s coming next with GANTZ, and it’s by far the most consistently entertaining series of Japanese media I’ve ever come across.

In my opinion, the order in which I was lucky enough to experience all of the various GANTZ media is the perfect way to experience it. My first experience with GANTZ was its anime, and its insane premise and razor-edged vulgarity, sexuality, and violence instantly drew me in and made me want to watch more and find out just what the fuck was going on. Unfortunately the anime ends partway through the seventh book and adds on its own finale, which Oku himself gave the anime’s director permission to come up with since the manga was nowhere near complete when the anime was nearing its end. It has incredible animation and music, and its English voice  cast did such a great job that they won awards for their work on the series. (Fun fact: practically the entire cast of GANTZ is also the cast of Cromartie High School, my favorite comedy anime!) GANTZ‘s anime merely gives you a taste of the story and what’s to come, and it instantly makes you salivate for more when it’s over. It’s a perfect introduction to the series. I give the anime a solid 8/10.

Next I watched the live-action GANTZ films, which essentially cover the same material as the anime (minus its anime-exclusive finale) and incorporate elements from books 14 and 15 as well while also adding in a whole bunch of original, exclusive story material not found in either the anime or manga. The production values on the films are really incredible, and although they skip over or barely touch on a lot of details (and in some cases even entire Gantz missions) and a lot of the strong characterization from the anime is gone (Kei Kurono, the main character, goes from being a perverted and selfish asshole in the anime to being a generic soft-spoken good guy in the films), they’re still very well made films and manage to feel like a completely different beast from the anime. Since they cover much of the same ground as the anime and even go a bit further into the manga while also leaving you with a lot of unanswered questions (yet answering more of your questions than the anime does) they’re the perfect next step after watching the anime. And like the anime, they too come up with their own original finale since once again the manga was nowhere near complete when they were made. The first film feels mostly like a rushed retelling of the anime, but the second film brings a lot of new material to the table and is much better written and paced than the first film is. It’s also much more emotional and tense, and some of its action scenes are truly spectacles to behold. The films also get a solid 8/10.

Then I read the manga, which is the perfect final step in experiencing the GANTZ story. I tried starting with its scanlations (scanned pages with fan translations), which start off very well done by the team that was originally doing it, but as soon as they stop their work on it and other translators take over, it becomes an absolute wreck: literal, robotic translations without emotion, typos left and right, inconsistent translations of names, and no localization to speak of. It completely takes you out of the story and atmosphere and ruins the experience. The only way to experience GANTZ as a manga is to buy the books from Dark Horse. I bought mine on Amazon, where they range from a few cents to $12 a piece, even brand new, and it’s absolutely worth it. The official translation is phenomenally done.

The manga is the best way to finish out your journey through the various GANTZ media, as it answers virtually every unanswered question the anime and films left you with, sometimes even within scenes the anime and films covered. For example, the anime and films never tell you why characters’ heads explode when they leave the allotted mission areas, and the manga answers that question very early on. Thus, reading the manga last, after watching the anime and then the films, is highly satisfying as you learn so many more things about the story, the characters, and how the world works, and why things are happening. The manga is absolutely top notch and by far the most amazing work of fiction I’ve ever had the pleasure to experience. The artwork is just unbelievably and STUNNINGLY detailed, the writing is legitimately perfect in both pacing and tone, the action scenes are thrilling and easy to follow, and even the sound effect onomatopoeias employed are amazingly realistic if you actually sound them out, especially if you use a hushed or whispered delivery while sounding them out. A story should only be as long as it’s able to continue introducing intriguing and exciting new developments and twists, and suffice to say, GANTZ never overstays its welcome. In fact, it’s such an addicting manga that you never want to put it down. There were instances where I had to put it down even though I didn’t want to simply because it’s such an emotionally exhausting work at times, but I enjoyed every single moment it took me to read it. My only complaint is that I would have liked a chapter after its finale to see how the characters go about living their lives after the events they just went through, but I fully understand why Oku ends it the way he does and appreciate his decision, especially when supplemented with the interview included at the end of the final book that explains what the final chapter was so heavily influenced by. The manga gets a stellar 10/10 and deserves it beyond any shadow of a doubt. I honestly couldn’t believe my eyes over some of the amazing artwork on display, and it still blows my mind that Oku was able to pull off some of the things he did, not because of fear of criticism or backlash, but because I’ve never seen such mindblowing detail in serialized illustration before.

I can’t possibly recommend GANTZ strongly enough, as long as you can handle raw and honest depictions of extreme violence, vulgarity, and sexuality. Hiroya Oku’s sheer imagination is unparalleled, and I’ve never seen such amazing creativity in monster or alien designs in my life. His writing is completely superb and is able to take his readers on intense roller coasters of emotion, from deep, sober solemnity, to high octane excitement and fear, to heartrending emotion, both sorrowful and joyous. He defies all expectation and delivers an experience unlike anything else out there. He’ll make you question your humanity, your understanding of how the universe works, and even your personal morality. All I ask is that you please, whatever you do, not read the fan translations online and instead buy the books for the official translation.

#4: Grain of Salt Vol. 2 – The Zombification of the Horror Genre

I wrote a five-part series of articles called “Grain of Salt” a few years ago on a website called NerdRepository.com. It used to be a mixed bag of gaming and film news and opinion editorials, but since then it’s made film news its primary focus and the gaming editorials have been removed. I want them to remain published somewhere on the internet, so I’m going to repost them here as blog entries for your reading pleasure. Originally published on September 5, 2011, this is Grain of Salt Volume 2: The Zombification of the Horror Genre.

[Note: since this was first written, zombie obsession has significantly dwindled. Thus, this doesn’t apply so much today as when it was first published, but at the time it was very relevant. That said, my thoughts here still do apply to the horror genre in general, and my challenge to people who make horror stories to be original in their monster designs still stands.]

 

Working on something scary, but it just lacks that “wow” factor? Making a video game or movie and it’s just not grabbing your testers by the testes? Put a zombie in it! Works every time, the masses eat it up like the walking dead on brains! It takes no thought and little effort! Originality is a thing of the past! Put zombies in it today! Sold all over the world in various media near you.

Zombies are everywhere. They’ve been a part of lore and pop culture for a long time, but they’re spreading. Like some kind of damned virus, they’re spreading across the world, infecting everything they come near with their rotten stench, dropping their decrepit body parts everywhere as their peeling skin wafts all over like a fine layer of dead snow. And I don’t take kindly to rotting flesh all up in my shit.

Zombies have permeated pop culture in nearly every facet. Within the last few years, video games, TV, movies, books, and comics have begun to cram zombies in everywhere they can, video games being the worst offenders. I feel hard pressed to name off 10 high end, big budget productions of games released within the last handful of years that haven’t incorporated zombies in some fashion. Zombie seems to have become the new mark of cool. If you don’t have zombies in your series/franchise, you’re square! At least, that’s the vibe I’m getting from current media.

Recent, major video games/series guilty of zombification I can name off the top of my head:

  • Red Dead Redemption
  • Call of Duty
  • Left 4 Dead
  • Dead Island
  • Dead Rising
  • Dead Space
  • Stupid Zombies
  • Plants vs Zombies
  • Scott Pilgrim vs The World
  • Postal 2 (the expansion pack centers on zombies)
  • Uncharted (technicality of them being “cursed but alive” notwithstanding, as they’re essentially zombies with quick feet)
  • Bioshock (again, though technically not “zombies,” they look just like zombies and they’re hardly human anymore).

Recent, major movies guilty of the same:

  • Zombieland
  • 28 Days/Weeks Later
  • Resident Evil (not counting the games because they’ve been around since the 90’s)
  • Pirates of the Caribbean
  • Quarantine
  • Shaun of the Dead
  • Planet Terror
  • Slither

Even TV, books, and comics are getting in on the hot zombie action with Walking Dead, World War Z, and The Zombie Survival Guide. I’m sure readers can name off a bunch more than what is named here.

I can’t be the only one noticing and growing annoyed with this trend. I may have a bias because I’ve never personally found zombies even remotely interesting, but even some people I’ve talked to who like zombies are growing tired of their overuse, most notoriously in major video games. I’ve talked to tattoo artists who are sick of so many people asking for zombie tattoos recently. My girlfriend met a couple who were seriously considering naming their soon-to-be-born daughter “Zombi”. People are falling over themselves for the zombie craze, and I simply don’t get it.

I understand the argument that there’s little to no moral questionability in killing zombies off by the numbers in media while killing just about anything else could have “foul” cried over it, but what’s ethical and what’s fun aren’t the same thing in my book. You can have ethical fun without stepping on anyone’s sensitive toes of course (Nintendo, I’m looking at you), but zombies can only be done so many ways before it all starts to look the same. There’s not much variety when you limit your ideas to things that can be zombified. It’s just the same as it was alive, but rotting instead. You might as well be killing regular people with a different skin texture in zombie games, it’s often purely aesthetic. Some accolades can be handed out for doing interesting and unique things with zombies, like some of the ideas implemented in the Left 4 Dead series, but for the most part, a zombie is a zombie. It’s a thing that’s dead and still walking. I’d rather be killing new and intriguing enemy types, original creations straight from the art team’s drawing table, than reaching into the old recyclable bin for more zombies to slaughter.

I’d personally like to see media get more creative with its shotgun fodder. Silent Hill is a series that takes this idea of original, monstrous creations to the extreme and produces fantastic results. The creatures are genuinely disturbing and frightening, not just gross, which seems to be the only uncomfortable feeling zombies can instill in an audience. I believe horror in general is more effective and more grabbing when it’s psychological and doesn’t resort to cheap shock value. I therefore challenge the horror genre to crank up the creativity in its monster department and quit zombifying old ideas; they’re dead, they don’t need to live again. I’m also not saying zombie stuff can’t be done well. For example, I really enjoyed Zombieland, but I’d rather see more originality not just in horror’s writing, but in its visual design.

And please don’t replace zombies with vampires for another route of quick cash-in, like so many people riding Twilight‘s coattails. Let dead ideas rest in peace.

If you don’t agree, if you like zombies, if you love the trend or even contribute to it by feeding the zombie fad yourself, I remind you…take this with a grain of salt.

#2: Art Never Expires

It’s a popular idea that spoilers “expire” within a certain time frame after a work’s release. This applies to all storytelling mediums: literature, film, interactive (video games primarily), and television shows. Ideas differ greatly on how long after a work’s release it should take to be able to discuss spoilers openly and without warning, from a few weeks to a few years. I’m here today to tell you that no story expires, ever, and why it’s so important to immortalize them, to preserve their twists and surprises for all time.

I’ve had this on my mind for a long time, but the particular inspiration for writing this now is the newly released Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. I saw someone share an image on Facebook that said something along the lines of, “Let’s give people two weeks to see Star Wars before we start openly discussing spoilers.” As someone who doesn’t care when I see a film in theaters, with no desire to have to see it as soon as it comes out (hell, I don’t even buy video game consoles until they’ve been out for a few years, when their libraries are vast, they’re getting upgraded revisions, and their prices are down), this frustrated me, because it meant I’d have to go see the film ASAP before discourteous, egotistical people who don’t care about anyone else’s experience with a work start spoiling it openly. So I’m seeing the film tomorrow, more to get it out of the way to appease the selfish masses than because I’m actually ready to see it. And that’s not right. I shouldn’t be forced to go see something I may not have a comfortable amount of money or time to do and squeeze it in just because I don’t want other people to ruin it for me.

Spoilers are incredibly important to me, and having a big plot point ruined for me can oftentimes completely destroy any desire I once had to experience the work for myself. I have a strong appreciation for good writing and for the great lengths an author will go to in order to set his audience through specific emotions at specific times and get the biggest reactions he can from them. After all, people are most drawn to things that affect them the deepest, and heavy emotions tie people very heavily to the work that brought those emotions out. Think of every one of your favorite works of fiction and why they mean so much to you. Think back to the first time you experienced a work and how heavily it impacted you through the power of its writing, whether it was a moment so inconceivably awesome that it blew you away with how you didn’t see it coming at all, or a moment so gut-wrenching or heartrending that it still pains you to think about it, or a moment that took your breath away or left you in tears, or a moment so absolutely hilarious because it was so out of left field and unexpected. These are the moments writers work so hard to build up to, so as to give their audience the utmost amount of entertainment they can possibly provide, with the hope that they’ll remember that work for the rest of their lives. That’s every writer’s aspiration.

Final Fantasy VII, for example, is a video game with a majorly emotional plot-twist that left its audiences literally crying over when they first played the game in 1997. That moment, a particular character’s death, is a very big reason why that game had such a huge impact on people and why so many gamers call it their favorite game of all time. Unfortunately, that plot twist had become so commonly known after the game’s release that it’s nearly impossible to play the game for the first time today and not know about that event in the plot. I’m one of those people who played the game after having been told about this big spoiler, and because I knew it was coming, it didn’t affect me whatsoever. And because the game’s biggest emotional moment didn’t affect me, the game itself as a whole didn’t affect me much. I recognized that it was a well-made RPG, but because such a big moment of the story was ruined for me before I played it, I’ll never be able to appreciate the game on such a deep, intense level as all the people who played it when it first came out. And that’s simply unfair.

To say that spoilers have an expiration date is to say that stories themselves have an expiration date. Storytelling is an art form. Art has no expiration date. Art is timeless. As long as we preserve a work, it will last forever. Spoiling a story is not only disrespectful to its author (who works so hard to find ways to surprise and affect his audience) and its audience (who want to get the utmost enjoyment out of the stories they’re devoting their time to experiencing), but it’s disrespectful to the story itself. If you think a story is so great, it’s likely because you didn’t see its twists coming and they surprised and affected you somehow. To spoil that for someone else is to deny them the same great experience with the work that you had, which in turn denies them the ability to be as affected by it as you were, which then means that they won’t be able to appreciate it as much as you did. Usually when someone loves a work so much, they want other people to love it as much as they do. By spoiling it for someone, you’re ensuring that they won’t be able to love it as much as you do, because you’re sullying their experience with it by deadening the impact the big moments have on them.

There are always going to be people who didn’t have the money or the time to experience something when it was new. There are always going to be people who had never heard of something until later and then want to experience it for themselves once they do hear about it. And there is always going to be a new generation of people who have never experienced a work before because they were either too young to experience it or not even born yet when it came out. To all those people, you are ruining their chance of ever experiencing a work blind and unspoiled. You are effectively saying that YOUR time to experience a work was the only time that mattered, and everyone else who comes after you can suck it. You’re saying their experience with that work isn’t as important as yours was. That’s about as narcissistic as it gets. How selfish, how egotistical it is of you to trash someone’s experience with a work of fiction simply because they didn’t get a chance to see, read, or play it within the small window of time YOU decided would be be allotted for everyone on the planet to do so. Your life is a mere blip in the expanse of human history. A work of fiction will last forever. It will go on to affect more people’s lives than you can possibly imagine, gain followings and wikis and fan sites, spur discussions and gatherings and conventions. On the other hand, you will one day die, and at your funeral there will only be the people who were closest to you throughout your life, then after a few generations people will forget about you and you won’t be talked about anymore. A work of art is bigger than you. It is more important than you. You don’t get to decide when it expires, because it doesn’t expire. You do.

It is never acceptable to discuss spoilers without warning. It isn’t asking a lot for you to simply warn people that you’re about to go into spoilers for a particular work before you dive into the details. If you’re posting online, all it takes is something along the lines of “Warning: Walking Dead spoilers” at the start of your post. If you’re discussing a work in person, just ask the people you’re talking to if they’ve seen/read/played the work before going into spoilers, and if they haven’t, warn them that you’re going to discuss some spoilers for that work. If you’re out in public, you can talk about spoilers in hushed tones so everyone around you doesn’t have to hear you blab about it. These simple displays of courtesy give people the option of not reading your post, or walking away or covering their ears for a minute while you discuss the work. Or, if spoilers don’t bother them, they also have the option to continue reading or listening. But always give people the chance to avoid spoilers for a work so that they may experience it as it was intended to be experienced. Stories old and new deserve equal respect, and so do their authors and audiences.