Typer Reviews – THUMPER

I should preface this entire review with two things: I don’t think Dark Souls games are hard. And I love rhythm games.

I know that’s an odd thing to mention but I think it’s important that in video games we distinguish the difference between “hard” and “challenging”. Dark Souls is a game that you most certainly will die to many times but not because the game is some super-fast hard to master experience. While the early entries had a horrible learning system in place for players, and Dark Souls 2 did include some rather poorly designed encounters, the Souls series has always been a group of games mostly about players finding the way to overcome obstacles and find the sense of hope in accomplishment. Typically those ways can include some simple workarounds. Lots of bosses have a gimmick that lets you beat them quickly or with ease (BUTTS ARE A COMMON WEAKNESS). It’s only with the exceptional character action-based boss fights like Artorias and Gwyn from Dark Souls 1, The Pursuer and The Fume Knight in Dark Souls 2,  or Maria and Orphan of Kos from Bloodborne that you get the sense of a boss fight that is actually technically hard as there is a lot to learn, a lot of depth, and a challenge that stretches players to their technical limits. That’s when those games actually get hard and you feel like you’re playing a boss fight at the end of Sonic 2 and you’re analyzing pixels that you can attack safely and when you’re able to do so.

I discuss all of this because THUMPER is by all definitions a hard game. The demands placed on the player to win and keep their points and rank up get more and more complex. This all happens rather fast. By about stage 4 of 9 I started ranking at my lowest every first time through a stage. The player gets less and less time to learn the deeper tricks and abilities being thrown at them that they can perform as the game gets faster and faster with more congestion on the game’s audio highway. It’s a hard game by no stretch of my imagination. And it’s a phenomenal experience very quickly placing this as one of the best games I’ve touched all year.

First though I should talk more about my affinity for rhythm games. Because ever since my brother got Dance Dance Revolution Ultramix for the Xbox back in 2001 or so I realized there’s an incredible untapped experience in music with video games. I played DDR: Ultramix more than the horrible Medal of Honor: Rising Sun I got that holiday season because it’s just fun and it’s exciting to hit your notes on time and music is its own fuel for engagement. We get into the music we enjoy so engaging in our music through mechanical actions adds a layer of kinetic connection that air-guitar never really gives us. I even credit DDR: Ultramix with actually introducing me to trance music alongside The Bourne Identity long before my best friend got me into it. The game had Castles in the Sky and Ready Steady Go, two trance classics. Half a decade later the frenzy of Guitar Hero and Rock Band took these connections to a closer-to-literal state and I don’t know that I’ll ever forget the first time I played “Lazy Eye” by Silversun Pickups in Rock Band (having already been familiar with the song). I did a nearly perfect run on it on Normal, but the experience was something transcendental as it was no longer difficult and I could simply feel the next note coming to me. As many people could describe it before: You could close your eyes and you were one with the music and the small plastic guitar in your hands, there was no TV or game anymore. And then in 2008 or so I bought Audiosurf. And jeez if you need any more a ringing endorsement for rhythm games from me its this one.

I’ve played a lot of games over the years and while Steam doesn’t have my pre-Steam experienced hours playing Knights of the Old Republic 1, 2, and Half-Life 2 to death, I can’t say for certain that I played either of those games more than I have played Audiosurf. I mean, just look at this:

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The only game I’ve racked up more hours on Steam than playing Audiosurf is Team Fortress 2; my go-to-social-shooter experience. And this isn’t a surprise either: Audiosurf is a game that lets you play virtually any music in your library meaning the game’s replay value is theoretically endless as you just find a new way to experience all of the new music you buy. Audiosurf is a king of creating a sense of “ride” and creating an experience to your music that wasn’t quite there before, bring in a whole new way to listen to it.

And Thumper is a game that has instantly placed itself on the rhythm game trophy shelf. Like Guitar Hero and Audiosurf before it, Thumper is a game that (in a very different way) removes all other distractions from your life and engrosses you in the experience of music. What first attracted me to the game wasn’t actually the gameplay as many previews showed what the game looks like. Those trailers didn’t quite deliver how things work from moment to moment because gameplay segments were too short  to show how it all linked to music. Instead I got interested when I heard Thumper wasn’t another game using licensed music. Audiosurf and Guitar Hero are incredible games but those same games and their close relatives (Beat Hazard, Rock Band, any other rhythm game on Steam) have a vital flaw that you notice if you play enough of the type: The algorithms used to generate or create the gameplay experience typically relate to some sort of an “intensity” read as well as note-detection tools. Notes create blocks or items to “hit” and loudness or BPM determines speed and intensity. This is why Audiosurf sometimes reads 175 BPM drumstep tracks (fast!) get read at half their time signature (and so exist as 87.5 BPM…not so fast) and are a very slow uphill slope in-game. And so while the mechanics are simple and the variety wide, the gameplay has a limitation of depth.

And this is what hooked my interest in Thumper: The game is built off its own soundtrack. This isn’t some generated track based off music. This is a game constructed with the music. The music serves as the sheet rock on which the nine 20+ minute stages are built and allow the gameplay to follow the design of “Simple but deep”, which is the type of hook that gets players coming back for more (like Minecraft does). This changes the very principle in which we approach Thumper and the music in it, which is fitting since the gameplay is approached in a similar fashion.

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Simple but deep. You’re a lone beetle on a track and various geographic obstacles show up on the track. Lights are bass notes you “thump” on by pressing the action button in time with your beetle running over it. Rods block your way on the track and you have to hold the action button while driving through them. If you don’t, you’ll take damage or die. Two hits in this game and you have to start over from the last checkpoint. Turns require the player to hold their action button and move (thumbstick or keyboard arrows) in the direction of the turn. If you turn too late or not at all, you’ll take damage or die. And that’s it. As the game progresses players learn they can fly short distances, smash the ground and create shockwaves, extend their flight with PERFECT turns, turn their beetle and hop between small lanes without losing their vulnerability. The tricks and actions the player is expected to learn are a part of the experience and actually are a part to beating the game’s very hard stages. The other part is learning how your tricks and patterns you are executing play into the music.

And that is just something I can’t explain to you. I can only tell you that when you play Thumper, put on headphones, turn up your volume, and listen to the music while you play. It’s imperative that you do this during Thumper as you’ll soon learn the whole transcendental music experience that breaks boundaries here is in what the developers (Drool) coin “Rhythm Violence”. You’ll bob your head, you’ll pound your feet on the ground, you’ll raise and lower your head as you fly up for bursts of time before slamming down on a beat, all to an engrossing heavy soundtrack that was built for the experience, and the experience was built on the soundtrack. These two elements of the game go hand-in-hand and play so much into the gameplay, into you. You will not understand Thumper until you let the game consume your audio-visual focus and you find yourself timing things perfectly, creating counter-sounds with your perfect timing because perfectly timed actions in-game have a slightly higher pitch, contrasting against the darkly toned soundtrack. In the second stage things got so intense and exciting while I was simultaneously trying to learn a pattern the game was forcing on me that I needed a breather.

And then the game gave me one. It was so unexpected that the soundtrack had built in moments of relief from the intense, tightly composed drum and synthy music but it did. I was so taken back by the moment that I almost wondered if the beautiful fractal landscape the game takes place in was going to morph and swallow me whole (it didn’t feel far off from that to begin with honestly). Things are closed in in this game even though many spaces are open and lead you into and out of tunnels. Thumper’s environment covers a range of dark colors sprawled against a large open environment. However Drool have worked hard to ensure that even the intense neons work to funnel the player’s vision and feel closed in. As you reach new sections you’ll see upcoming tunnels and the geography will sort of feel impossible as the tunnels are displayed as shapes against the large wall of the world surrounding you. Yet as you enter the tunnel it doesn’t really look like you ever hit the wall (and maybe you don’t). This game will feel reminiscent of Tron to many. It’s a wonder to gaze at and I’m dying to get my hands on someone’s PSVR. I’m ready to find someone I know and pay them $20 just to let me buy the game on their account and play it in VR mode because this has to be something of wonder to experience that way. With the bassy design, and the spaces of the game where you play a tiny beetle in a world full of cthulhu monster faces and weird shapely enemies, this must be a visceral game to play with a headset strapped on.

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But the game’s not perfect, far from it. I think this circles us back to our discussion about being hard and as I got to stages 5 or 6 in the game I started wondering if this game was too hard. The concepts and tricks you’re expected to learn start ramping up fast and I was finding myself failing a lot, frustratingly so. And so I checked myself thoroughly, it’s why I’m reviewing this so much later than I expected to. I would play 2 new stages of the game and then go play all the stages prior before moving onwards. Not only did I increase my rank on the first 4 stages, I surpassed my high score on every stage 1-7 (I didn’t replay 8 or 9 yet). And so I felt reassured that while this game is difficult, you can beat it. I’m 24 and supposedly I’m right at the apex of my best hearing and response time before my reflexes are just going to start fading on me. And I can proudly say I ranked “A” (rank goes from S to A to B to C) on stages 1 and 2, and “B” on stages 3, 4, and 5. I can only imagine how much easier those stages are now that I’m done with the game.

I also think there’s some rather lengthy flaws I should talk about here too. The game’s rhythmic patterns and “enemies” are almost deconstructed during the boss battles. It breaks down and avoids the established patterns during the stage leading up to the moment while still reinforcing the thing you’ve learned. (again, another positive thing there) Each boss has 4 phases of patterns that you must hit each “thump” in to receive a glowing “thump” that you can send back to the boss and damage them. Land each “thump” the first time through a phase, and you’ll receive a point bonus and health refill. One moment in a final boss battle wasn’t even a danger to my precious beetle, instead the game was trying to teach me something I could’ve been doing all this time. And yes, those moments where you learn that technique is game changing, and will easily up your rank or high score on a previous stage. However in stage 6 (I THINK) an early boss battle in that stage cheats. The game’s stages are all scripted except this one moment in the game. It was so offsetting and immediately noticeable, it’s quite an unfair moment because you literally can’t learn or predict anything and your ability to perfectly re-do a phase if you fail is lost here. Speaking of stage 6, around the later half of the game we’re introduced to more and more dangerous hazards or enemies. These are things that actually require you to perfectly play out the boss fight or you take damage. So if you took damage but still hit the thumps perfectly, you get a full health. But hazards in later boss fights take away your health WHEN you miss a thump, making it impossible to get your health back. I almost wanted the game to give players a leveled-up health amount in stage 6 or 7 onwards just because of these increased pressures for perfection. The game gets more aggressive with you but gives you nothing to fight it besides your own resolve and built-in learned effect. Luckily the game doesn’t keep doing this for final bosses.

Also stage 7 onwards is…odd. The developers weren’t running out of ideas but their ways of ramping up difficulty becomes crazy. Up to that point every stage had new techniques to learn that were taking me by surprise and I was loving it. Stage 3 involves teaching the player how to slam the track and switch between flying and grinding. Stage 4 involves small lane shifts and your first encounter with small snake enemies. I think stage 5 was the first one to point the tracks downwards and I found myself pausing the game in a surprised glee, getting up to refill on water, and giddily talking to myself that this is a game of the year contender for me. But stage 7 reels back on track congestion, leading to less focus on the strong rhythms and more on a trick players can learn to do if their timing is PERFECT for longer stretches of time. It’s not easy to master (at least for me) and not something very rewarding in my opinion. It feels like maybe a bit of a calmer chapter at times and it just feels oddly placed because stage 8 goes so fast in such a dimly lit chapter that your sense of timing is out of whack when you start it. The small level recaps at the top left of your screen don’t even have time to fade away and tell you what level you’re on next before you’re already missing turns on the next level taking damage. It’s almost going too fast for its own good. The music also seems to get quieter and harder to place your beat in these stages before we reach stage 9. At this point I was just holding it together to get through the tracks, I could barely perform the complex crazy mechanical controller button mashes I was expected to do here. It was intense through and through though, sticking to the game’s “rhythm violent” focus the whole way. And every once in a while when I did do the crazy hard thing the game wanted me to, I felt ecstatic. Times when I’d nail those level endings I’d double fist the air in joy and then I’d not see the approaching rods and take damage again or die.

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The point I’m getting at is that Thumper overcomes its weak points. And for people wondering if there’s any story to this…well…no. Not exactly. But the developers had an understanding that the recurring things we see across the game (the weird shapes spitting stuff at us to hurt us, the beetle, the Cthulhu head boss fights, that weird triangle in the sky we see before every Cthulhu head boss fight, and even the swirly dark horizon itself) are something the players fixate on to a degree. And so as you reach the 9th level final boss and behold THAT monstrosity (I’m so glad you don’t find it with an easy Google Image search) players will get a good sense that this game is delivering on its own setups. And then you’ll beat the boss and the game will go on for a little while longer. Trust me, the way this game ends is fitting, abrupt, and serves its purpose. There’s no giant revelation or tiny details to work out. There’s just the feeling you’ve…escaped.

And with that I can say with confidence Thumper is a game you absolutely should experience. This game sticks with you thanks to its simple-but-deep designs, you’ll find the music playing in your head later, you’ll find yourself tapping to its rhythm violence. I’m so glad I bought the soundtrack and can listen to it at work. You’ll even catch the tiny queues in the music for impending turns and thumps coming at you. This is one game where turning your head with your little vehicle won’t be frowned upon, it’s a part of your timing. This is the game that will remind you what its like for a video game to give you cramps like Guitar Hero did. PS4/Xbox controllers were no help for me, I got a thump thumb cramp trying to master these neon tricks. The keyboard wound up suiting me better here. The last game to leave a mark on me like this was Audiosurf. And that’s saying something.

Thumper is available on Steam and the PS4 digital store. I highly recommend you give it a try and let the game’s dark neon world swallow you hole. You’ll break through the other side a changed person.

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Typer Tyme – Episode 10

It’s Monday, Halloween, and I feel slightly obligated to share some music with everyone. In this case, I share Typer Tyme’s newest episode chock full of amazing tracks by Harold-Alexis from his Shadows EP and stuff from BT’s new album. Yes, it’s not enough that I ranted about him last week, I now am finding ways to use his non-DJ-esque music as interesting pieces of music to help set or fill tone in my mixes. And tomorrow you’ll get a release of a Typer Tyme: After Hours episode filled to the brim with my darker-toned tech house, drum & bass, and some more stuff from BT’s new album.

Typer Tyme is a club-music radio show exploring a growing library of music and sharing the hope found in it.

In October, Typer attempts to move forward after his father’s passing. Unfortunately the experiences of his dad’s demise stick with Typer, creating a divided state. And so to express this mixed reality, Typer builds two mixes. The first comes out as a full Typer Tyme episode and the other comes out the next day as an After Hours entry.

BT’s New Album – “_”

So within a week musician, composer, technologist, producer, and shark lover BT hinted at, announced, released a promotional video for, did two live interviews for, and released a promotional EP for his next album. Due out this December as a box set of art work, 9 “compositions”, 2.5 hours long, accompanied with 4K Drone footage to accompany each composition for your viewing pleasure neatly bundled on a flash drive, this is one of the “biggest” albums BT has released since These Hopeful Machines in terms of sheer depth of content to explore.

And he doesn’t even have a name for it. BT has in the past been rather public with how he intentionally names his works and writes a thesis before creating the work ahead of time. With his new EP and album, BT is giving us practically something the opposite, once again sticking to his credo of giving us something he’s never tried before and something we’ve never heard before. Here we’re introduced to an album that has no name which would suggest BT’s work here is unfinished. But many artists before have released multiple albums under just their name and a picture, leaving fans to adopt unique names based on what they see. With this experience I’m less inclined to calling the album “particles” and more towards calling the EP and the album “Underscore”, relating to the space filler used to name the album since BT had to put something down in the name space across music services. Underscore feels like such a fitting name for an album that’s so insanely grand and filled to burst with unique compositions and explorations (2.5 hours, longer than any studio album he’s released yet) and yet humbly brings to the table something (so far) running the gamut from beatless modular experiments to snappy drum kicks at a fun 4/4. It shows his humble side and the peaceful, positive movements he wishes to create in people but also how very excited he and his faithful fans are to hear something so mind-blowing and new as always.

Did I mention BT thinks about his albums far in advance? It’s something you pick up from many of his interviews but in this case BT is touting the fact that much of this album was created across the past 3 years or so. He hasn’t mentioned if he had a thesis in mind for building this album but the message we’re being sold is one of a more experimental and less predetermined experience. Music certainly doesn’t develop from a storyboard but BT’s promotional EP wonderfully sets the understanding for what’s in store in the full release in terms of how this all came about. The three publicly released compositions (Artifacture, Indivism, Ω [Ohm]) are subdivided into 25 tracks, each track a micromovement of the full composition. And it’s at the start of Artifacture (on part 2: Nostra Luna di Miele) that we get this glimpse of something growing and becoming a part of something larger, akin to what BT is talking about when he discusses how this album works and came about: Compositions developed during specific pieces or parts or moments of the past 3 years of his life, sometimes intimately related or sometimes just experiments he worked on. It’s only fitting then that “Nostra Luna di Miele” translates: “Our honeymoon.” It’s a heart-warming 3 minutes of music with gentle piano or wind sounds textured across crickets, granulated breathing elements, and…strings? Warm wind instruments? I can’t quite place it because like many of BT’s works the creation of his sounds is oftentimes just simple things given a lot of careful work. The opening slow rugged stutter sounds for Artifacture started as recording samples of BT and his wife’s breathers when they were diving on their honeymoon.

You get a sense of the stories or experiences being told here at times. “Daring in a Night City”, for example, is this mixture of light dulcimer like string plucks providing a skylight against a breakbeat ground texture, with short scenes in the mind created by fast momentary glitchy scratchy interruptions in the “process”. At other times these experiences are entirely functional but, for people who just really like sounds and music, will find depth every time they listen. Stuff like “Ohm III. Da meta tempo a Tempo Pieno” (From Part time to Full Time) come to mind as BT establishes a 4/4 pattern with clicky beats before a big flash of static invades the soundscape, and the 4/4 beat has transformed into heavier kicks that quite literally lose their weight as they swirl around your head from left to right all the while…lifting. The kicks get lighter, losing bass, while the music itself literally sounds like it is going above your head, or up your headphones. Sometimes the tracks on the EP are filled with wonderful golden nuggets like this. One fan deciphered that the key and fundamental sound of the bass got deeper across the three compositions. BT confirmed this in a response to the fan, I like the concept of “getting deeper” as we get more into the work too.

The crazy thought is that the full album will not feature such minute detailed looks into each composition. The micromovements will not be listed in the other compositions from what we’re told and that’s almost a shame. If there’s ever a time for fans and people who haven’t yet divulged into BT’s work to understand just how complex and deep his rabbit hole of music goes, the Underscore EP is that opportunity. Translating track names that are written in Latin prompt listeners to look up the name meanings or gain an understanding of what it exactly is they are actually hearing or to simply learn something new. The start of the Indivism composition lead me to Wikipedia trying to understand what a Fast Fourier Transform in mathematical terms is. Other searches were simply to help me understand some musical terms. Useless info? One might think.

But the trick in BT’s music is in full effect with the micromovements because of their naming schemes. This isn’t just about listening to something, it’s about becoming engaged with your music in multiple levels. People will assign or attach meaning to names or tracks that BT will ultimately not fully explain to people for that very same purpose. And so I feel like something might be lost if we’re not allowed the same level of deep digging and personal engagement in the rest of the album. That being said, it’s 2.5 hours long. We’d be searching for answers forever. What’s currently out there is  still great.

There’s also the matter of the compositional endings of Indivism and Ohm. During the development of this album, BT spent a lot of time with modular sound developed from a nice chunk of Euroracks. The music he’s created from them at times serves as a “goodbye” to the two aforementioned compositions and they’re lovely 5+ minutes of music developed in a wonderful form. The fading noise on Ohm is something you don’t realize lingers until you pause the track somewhere in its last 60 seconds or so and suddenly you notice your room is a lot quieter and that wasn’t the hum of your PC in the background you heard. Instead, you were hearing the recorded output hums that remained from the modular synths BT had spent days pouring over to create these sounds lingering on to add a nice little nugget of sound for you to appreciate (you can even hear the sound rev up somewhere in the last 15 seconds before it all goes silent and the machines must have been turned off). These final micromovements are awesome but unlike Artifacture (which is wonderfully divided the whole way through and feels perfectly designed, paced, and finished) they are very different from the actual composition in terms of theme. Maybe the focus of the composition is actually present and I’m just missing it. Indivism could be about two states not being divided (so the final micromovement isn’t split from the rest of the composition) and Ohm most likely being a number of experiments regarding the measurement itself. But in many ways they feel like they take away from the experience one was having just seconds ago.

I’ve touted Ohm a lot so far in this discussion so I’ll talk about Indivism too. It’s this interesting weird middle ground of wide bass “slices” working with and against beats while playing with melody and time distortion. Motion, time, and presentation of the sound seem to be the focus as two micromovements are “Slices of Basso Ostinato” and “Variant of Fragments of Basso” while another is “The Properties of Motion”. In 6 (and 7) minutes Indivism and Ohm both take you on a ride that would work as a wild single release in the club music industry. I don’t know about successful but definitely wild. And then those 6 or 7 minute journeys are more or less interrupted as they reach a big conclusion and almost without transition blast their way into a free open modular synth space that is almost unrelated in totality to the composition being played with (at least it feels so in execution). Maybe I just don’t understand the music enough…probably. Anyways the point I’m getting at is that I just hope the whole album doesn’t do that over and over. Artifacture doesn’t do this so I have some good hopes. And regardless that modular music is still a wonderful listen. It just feels like those creations could be compositions of their own perhaps.

As I said earlier though, music creation doesn’t work like this set storyboard of ideas. It’s something that develops and you can tell from your digging that this is an album that is very developed across time as its inspiration. BT may put down a thesis of “I’m going to share music that I just kind of freely develop for 3+ years” but that doesn’t mean he knows what it’s going to sound like that very moment in time from start to finish. He’s letting life inspire him in one of the most unguided ways.  And if that means some wild modular creations that he made at the end of building some of these compositions are a part of the journey then that’s in effect what he’s trying to share with us and what we’re supposed to be experiencing. Stark, wild, and even unexpected contrasts are something BT’s done in the past. He did it with Tomahawk (chaos vs. uplifting). He did it with Dynamic Symmetry (jazz vs. break beats). And he did it back in the late 90s with Solar Plexus (rock in the middle of a dance album, actually he does that a LOT in his albums). The point is that BT is taking us on the journey of discovering and creating his own music in this album. And while I’m a little bummed we won’t know the micromovements of the rest of Underscore’s compositions, and the sudden modular pieces might be a little odd for pace purposes, this album is still gonna be so cool I won’t shut up about it for like a year.

Political Spirits with Typer (Part 3) – Debates

Such a refreshing read. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lincoln%E2%80%93Douglas_debates

I get sick of seeing short videos of the debates on Facebook and videos showcasing that we have a corrupt political system, or that our political candidates lie. Tell us something we don’t know. Mudslinging has been a thing for a long time as well. What really disgusts me scrolling the feed, seeing the videos, and hearing anything remotely related to the election has nothing to do with which politician is corrupt or which one is horrible. What bugs me is that it’s all we talk about, it’s all we see, it’s all that gets spat out in front of us.

And please, civil comments or none. Not looking to make a discussion here, just looking to make a statement. I’ll remove the post if it gets out of hand, just trying to expand some minds (including my own) here into thinking about why we have those debates. There are far more important things going behind your vote than whether or not you think Trump or Hilary (or whoever else you might be voting for) can’t be trusted in office.

Political Spirits with Typer (02): Why You Should Stop Sharing (political) Videos

Political spirits is an unscheduled free space for Justin/Typer to talk about how he feels regarding certain controversial or delicate matters. These typically have to do with politics, religion, or some weird mix in between them. He writes about these things because he thinks the world is a bit too immediately hostile or too quick to share their own opinion instead of take the time to let other people talk. It’s the best way he feels he can share his thoughts on certain matters.

Look, I don’t post much on Facebook to begin with but I scroll it once or twice a day and I crawl across Twitter several times a day seeing what’s out there. Unfortunately, what’s out there is sometimes filth. I think the epitome of the filth out there that you see on your local feed is either horrible things people are doing, or worse, horrible summations of things happening out there in video form.

You know exactly what I’m talking about too I’m sure but just to make sure we are all on the same page, I’m just going to take a recent example I saw on my feed. No name dropping here of WHO I saw post it because that’s irrelevant. Someone on my friends list reposted/shared a video showcasing how Hilary Clinton said Trump supporters are irredeemable and deplorable, while at the same time Hilary Clinton supporters are also at times physically attacking Trump supporters. The video showcases essentially…actually I’m not quite sure what it’s showcasing: That politics in the US has turned into a nasty machine now and that there are many vile deplorable people out there? I don’t see how it could be an anti-Hilary video so much as it is an anti-Hilary-supporter video, which sounds cruel and hostile in its own way if you think about it for a few seconds. Regardless, these videos typically have some form of bias to some degree and lean towards supporting one political figure or making another political figure look bad. How well those arguments are constructed vary but let’s say for the sake of argument half the time those arguments are poorly constructed and are actually feeding out bad information to persuade people into thinking something that might not be true.

Just…think about that for a moment. A video that has a 50% chance of sourcing out information that is only partially true or designed hopefully to make you be persuaded towards a certain way of thinking over the other. Maybe it won’t though. But you share the video out anyways on your feed. The risk of posting these videos comes in the text that tends to be displayed on these videos. This part is very important and leads into everything else I’m discussing here tonight so don’t miss this:

If the video does not clearly state or express an opinion (Trump is evil, Hilary is evil, whatever), then when you share it anyone can consider it means anything and that you believe anything.

And that’s a horrible thing for people to misunderstand when we’re putting up videos typically covering political, religious, domestic violent, or race controversies. How does this work? Well, let’s look at that supposed video again.

If I share that video up on my Facebook feed, with no added comments or anything, the people I’m not close with but see me on like a weekly basis might see that video and think I’m a Trump supporter. Or they might think I’m anti-Trump AND Clinton. Or they might think that I liked a video showing Clinton be cruel to a Sanders supporter. Consider some other videos you’ve seen on YOUR Facebook feed. Maybe I even added a comment with the video like, “Horrible!” and the video is a group of people rioting in response to someone of a certain race or color being shot and killed by police officers, or the video is armed security being aggressive to peaceful protesters.

What will you think my opinion of the topic in the video is? If I don’t have a clear answer to that question I’m dealing with people taking my words to mean something else entirely.

Sharing videos designed to persuade towards a certain way of thinking can express that you support the video when in reality your stance on the video might be something different entirely. And since these videos are few in words and may not clearly show how they stand, people could take your sharing of a video to mean so many things you do not want to express.

See, in reality, maybe I wanted people to see that Clinton was being cruel politically, or I wanted to share that I’m just tired of America’s heated political state during election season, or that it’s horrible that peaceful protesters are being attacked by armed security, or that I don’t like it when people riot because aggression solves so little from where I sit. I’m sure many of you are thinking the following:

“Man forget what other people think of you, they don’t matter if they don’t get you.”

But that’s where I think this becomes an even bigger problem. Constantly sharing slanderous or potentially persuasive videos instead of your own original thoughts (or maybe for once: Not saying anything when you have nothing new to bring to the table) just creates a false representation of your character and being. People won’t care to get you and while many think that won’t matter, I think in today’s internet-speed-society even the minute things we share, post, and take the time to re-post onto our feed is a new or expanded way of communicating who we are to people. People who visit my Twitter feed know that I tweet out some daily experiences, share my mixes (which means I like electronic music), and try to converse with some friends on it and talk about video games. They also probably pick up on the fact that I like BT’s music and We Bare Bears (who doesn’t?). And that’s just my feed and the general things I like. If I posted political summary videos (because let’s face it: People are quick to wonder) people would feel uncertain on whether or not I’m slightly racist, a Trump supporter who doesn’t think about what he does, or blind to the fact that Hilary Clinton has political corruption that the whole world seems to know about. To lose out to some genuine cool friends or to sell myself as someone I’m not at all because I shared some videos and people don’t have time to sit down and chat with me for an hour to discuss what I believe is quite an unfortunate thing.

And before you say you’re not victim to acting this way, I’ll be the first to step out and say I also do this. I think everyone does it just because we have less time to spend getting to know people and instead are driving social interactions typically on a micro-level now. I should preface this all this by saying I’m a 24-year old person who more or less follows Baptist religious practices and believes

Jesus is my spiritual savior. Following me? I hope so because it’s vital for what is next.

One of the most vile, disgusting, and personally offensive things I’ve seen on the internet in my life is a video of someone (seemingly) urinating on the Quran, placing it on a pile of wood blocks in a barrel, and then shooting the Quran with a loaded weapon. And this offended stance doesn’t just come from a “Oh jeez, burning books, return of Hitler” defense mechanism. This is a religious person horribly offended by the repeating of intolerance, even when the very thing not being tolerated is the thing I’ve been raised and taught that it is the wrong thing to believe growing up and that it can lead to some pretty awful things (when the reality is that religion in the hands of bad people is just a bad thing).

And here’s where I’ve fallen victim to acting the very way I say people might treat you: That person who had that video shared out on Facebook, they’ve been defriended. They’ve tried to add me back but it’s not going to happen. Unless I meet with that person face to face and am forced into a scenario where I have to sit down and listen to this person’s stance on things, I’m not going to give that person another chance to be known by me. I don’t care and I don’t have time to go out of my way and see where this person sits on things unless God and universe and fate decides i should.

If I were to later hear from that same person and they told me that the video was shared out to show how horrible people can act, I’d be hard pressed to believe it. When we don’t make the message clear, the damage is done. Yes it’s horrible that we as people are quick to judge and so often hard to persuade into thinking that someone has changed. What people think of us actually matters a lot. We have to work with people to get jobs typically, we care about what our significant others think of us once we’re close enough, we care about what our friends think of us to some extent, and unless you’ve disowned your family or have been disowned, you probably care what your family thinks of you. So why does that mindset stop when we regurgitate the videos to our social feeds?

If the video does not clearly state or express an opinion (Trump is evil, Hilary is evil, whatever), then when you share it anyone can consider it means anything and that you believe anything.

And that’s just something I aim to avoid.

Typer Tyme – Episode 9

Typer Tyme is a club-music radio show exploring a growing library of music and sharing the hope found in it.

This episode Typer brings a mix resorted and redesigned 3 times in September while taking care of his Dad passing away from cancer.

Twitter: www.twitter.com/TyperTyme
Tumblr: typertyme.tumblr.com
Subscribe to the Spotify playlist for listening when and how you want: www.tinyurl.com/typertymespotify

 

Elite: Dangerous – Take Me Away

New posts on Wednesdays if I can muster up enough desire to write about video games on Wednesdays. The Mass Effect schedule will resume soon, life was a bit weird the past two weeks.

A week ago today (Sunday the 25th) I was supposed to be at a work meeting and then I had a rarely-planned work party later in the day. It was supposed to be a thing where for just 3 or 4 hours I’d go be with my coworkers and relax at my boss’ house. The team I work with rarely gets to spend time outside of work having fun all together so I was really excited at the chance to get out of the house for the first time in about a week and go hang out with my coworkers.

That unfortunately didn’t happen. My dad had a breathing incident that morning, no one could be over here to take care of him, and to be honest I was little too worried about someone else not being able to take care of my dad the way me or the other primary caretaker typically could. In the following days I’d spend more time at home barely able to take time out for myself than ever before and then Tuesday morning my dad’s final turns towards the afterlife started. Simply put: I barely touched my computer from Sunday through Thursday night when Dad passed away. I played some games when I could but was too wrapped up in worrying about what needed to be done or getting things done to focus on what was uploaded to YouTube that day. And so after five days I had accumulated quite a backlog of videos to watch.

This past Fridaymy best friend Micael and his partner Kaden bought me Elite: Dangerous, a game I had in my wishlist mainly because my other friend rane0 had often played it as a game to enjoy while watching YouTube or Netflix. Little did I know the wonderful space sim world I was going to be diving into across my weekend and in the coming week. See my brother took it upon himself to do most of the funeral arrangements. And with the paid week off I have from work right now due to Dad’s passing, I decided to take the opportunity to rest. I sought the best ways I know myself to unwind: Hang with friends for the first time in a while, catch up on YouTube, do chores, take care of myself, and play some video games, oh and work on my mixes of course. It’s not an easy thing to forget the images and experiences taking care of a loved one on hospice, it all flies by even though it feels like forever. Regardless, shifting from the ugly picture of a loved one slowly dying to thinking on memories of your loved one just brings into focus the reality that your loved one is gone. That too isn’t the best feeling in the world. And while I’ve mostly accepted that feeling I don’t want to spend all the time off I have sitting in my house staring at pictures and losing my mind either. So…Elite: Dangerous.

It’s a space sim played by many people online. It’s not as grand scale as EVE Online but you basically live life as a “space trucker”, a “space miner”, or a “space fighter”. With my YouTube backlog and the ordeal I’ve just been through I thought “space trucker” would be a fantastic mini vacation for myself as I caught up on YouTube and took some time for myself without sitting in sorrow over my dad’s departure. Fly from system to system, deliver packages (whatever they be), fly around, you know, the fun stuff. To be honest I added this game to my wishlist just off of screenshots and Rane’s insane number of hours spent playing it. I really didn’t know it was this deeper space sim. Growing up I had spent plenty of hours playing TIE Fighter and X-Wing Alliance (two games that practically REQUIRED a joystick AND keyboard combination of controls to manage your ship effectively). Imagine the glee I found when hitting up the training missions and realizing that I could use boosters to push myself in any direction but wouldn’t have perpetual forward motion until I carefully adjusted the throttle on my spaceship. I do recommend the training though, even though it’s not clear and you’re just pushing buttons thrown up on your screen (or not) until you figure out how to actually play the game it’s a safe place to mess up, start over, try again without any consequence. Even the training can be a challenge as you train yourself to dogfight, where to look, how to find your enemy or properly use your weapons or approach the enemy force (hint: Pick the small ships first). It was in the last combat training mission where I found myself doing close pass byes to a larger cargo frigate after taking out a 2-ship escort just barely missing physical contact with the enemy and flying right over their front end. At that moment I said, “Okay! I’ve definitely got the hang of this.” What better way to focus the training of the game: What you need to know to survive the most unexpected danger of space: Other people.

But I didn’t have the hang of it actually. See with training out of the way it was now my turn to learn the system-to-system mechanics of the game. And boy are there a lot. See with the Star Wars X-Wing series the space simulator never got past the “jumping between systems” scale of things, which basically meant that you’d be returning to the same base most of the time by the end of the mission, landing was done with the push of a space bar as long as you were flying slow enough, communication was contextual and simple, and multiplayer was dogfighting. And this is where I, among probably many other people, think that Elite: Dangerous might actually be a game that (given more time, adjustments made to certain features, etc.) could be at least 50% more of the game that people wanted No Man’s Sky to be and even contain the features the lead directors talk about. Because Elite: Dangerous is a big and (maybe even accurate) replication of our milky way galaxy. And that’s just crazy talk to me but well just spend a few minutes in the game’s galaxy map (which you will do when first looking for missions to take on) and you’ll just notice the sheer density of how many systems there are to visit, explore, and traverse in this game. No the game doesn’t have that space-to-earth transitionary element to it but it already had the gigantic spcae thing done and apparently expansion packs DO let you go to planet surfaces for mining and resource gathering or missions. To be honest as much as this realization slowly creeped into my brain about the amount of work that has gone into building this universe for an MMO of sorts to exist, the more blown-back I am that I haven’t seen millions of No Man’s Sky haters all carrying Elite: Dangerous on their shoulders with memes and clickbait articles telling me 10 reasons why E:D did it better before it was cool.

Regardless, the game’s huge. The most wonderful kind of huge: Space huge. And so I started picking up missions and getting the ropes of how to accomplish them or what missions I wanted to do. As a space delivery guy I wanted to be the most boring version of the Firefly, no space pirate stuff, no trouble, just floating on between the stars taking packages from one place to another and getting paid for it. I tried doing missions involving finding lost things but it seems to require that you go to a star system and float around each planet and its orbiting moons/space rocks/random lost space debris and see if you can find the item. This may seem menial but it’s also confusing and makes you feel like it’s not worth the effort when sometimes a star system can have 15-20 asteroid formations, 5-10 planets with their own orbital moons or space debris to search through. I’ve heard bounty hunting is really cool and I’ve heard space-mining is more boring than space-delivery so I chose the road less pulse-pounding. I just wanted that YouTube catch-up tool, or that “just got home from a long day of funeral service stuff, don’t feel like getting wrapped up in exploring Wikis just to find out where to go next in Mass Effect”. It’s almost contradictory of me though since navigating so much of this game (being a sim) is not straightforward.

Your ship can dock at various stations and orbital platforms and cool hexagonal hubs in many systems across the galaxy. You start off docked at one and at any station there’s an available mission board where you can choose to accept missions and go get them done. Of course this is built as an MMO of sorts (internet needed but you can play without actual people if you want) so the grind missions all have a realistic timer on them. The factions or industries you accept jobs from need stuff done within 24 hours typically. So I typically loaded up three deliveries at a time, turned left in my space interface and pulled up the galaxy map to pick a destination and try to plot out my path. I learned a little later you can have the game plot your course for you (but only if the servers cooperate and before you get the good tech: Only close enough systems). So you lift off from your current “truck stop”, leave the area, raise your landing gear, speed up enough to get some distance from the station at which point they’ll release their mass lock on you so you can jump to inter-system-travel mode or just make an immediate jump to lightspeed/hyperspace and hop over to the next system over on your journey. Destination arrived, you go to the small planet system where the station you’re delivering the goods resides, slow down enough for you to enter the system safely (or you’ll just ZOOM on by using the force of gravity and centrifugal force if I know my science right….I don’t), and once you’re close enough you can enter the “tiny area of where you are” and fly towards your next orbital platform/space station/destination. Then you turn over to your panel on the left of your cool spaceship interior and tab over to nearby ships, and send a request to land (that’s right: You gotta ask permission before you waltz in). If you’re close enough to the place they’ll grant you a bay, tell you where to land and ask that you don’t speed on your way in. You will, you’ll also forget to put your landing gear down sometimes or land in the wrong bay for a moment or accidentally hit the button to discharge your turrets thinking for some reason it’s your landing gear or throttle and suddenly an entire space station blows you to smithereens.

And that’s just the basics of a delivery. As you upgrade your ship at stations for unique utilities or simply better gear to do the job and protect yourself (or if you’re BUYING a better ship) you have to make sure the stuff that needs to be equipped in inventory slots are set correctly. You have to make sure to refuel when at a station so you have enough fuel to make the next big star system jump until you find out what a fuel scooper is and how to get one, then you can fly close to the sun like Icarus (EXCEPT SNOW COLORED SUNS: AVOID THEM LIKE THE PLAGUE JEEZ THEY’RE HOT) and turn that energy into fuel like Wall-E. You’ll upgrade your weaponry to try and hold your own a bit more whenever invasions happen (happens more around busy hubs), find the much better efficient way to navigate star systems without using the galaxy or system map and look for nearby stations to fuel up on gas like the time Han was looking around for help and noticed Lando’s name come up. It has happened horribly to me at times too. Ship kept overheating, my recent additions to my ship created a power problem and I could only fly to another system by draining my shields and so I flicked my display over to my left panel and looked for the closest station where I could land, re-sort my ship parts and find a better setup that wouldn’t drain power on me. Last thing you want in space is to be out of fuel, unable to jump to another system where there is fuel, or be losing power while on your own. It was after a good chunk of doing delivery missions that I realized not only was I getting really comfortable flicking back and forth between my ship’s wonderful HUD and just going from mission to mission but I also getting a little bored of it. Like any giant world / MMO / big game: Pad the stuff to do to get more time out of it, but make the stuff you do so much less significant.

It was around this time that I was playing with the galaxy map, crazily zooming in and out of the milky way’s center and saying, “Man I hope my missions take me from this end, through the middle where there’s TONS of systems nearby to the other end and maybe throws me at earth along the way.” Then I laughed, looked at how much money I had already accumulated by flying by planets and mapping out systems by scanning each unknown planet in a system and selling the map data to the public, and said, “Why don’t I make this a trip?” And so I am. I picked out a few well known documented nebula, bookmarked them, made a 2-day journey over to the nearest giant “city center” in the game where factions do stuff or something and then mapped out my path to a “dark nebula”. I’m so excited to head through these things, see what they look like in game. The game’s pretty, though a bit oversold by its own store pictures, it’s beautiful watching a tiny star on the horizon grow into a giant ball of fire as you sit back and watch the distance counter run down, gracefully nudging your joystick to keep the course straight while catching up on YouTube. I’m going to have some wonderful journeys traversing our galaxy and watching daily videos.

I’m only about 15 hours in and there’s plenty more I could talk about. The sheer lack of direction for newcomers, the way the game fails to engage the players in its world’s ongoing story (like WoW does) or create a functional system that allows players to craft the world’s story on their way (like EVE does), the intensity of being pulled out of frame-shift (system travel) mode by an enemy looking to blow you to smithereens for your stuff, the rush of scaring them off, or the frantic feeling as you divert power to your systems or your engines, mash the booster button and look to escape to a nearby system instead. I could talk about how those mediocre training elements reminded me of Dark Souls 1’s flawed “too hard” moments that only made players who sit around to figure out what to do in the game love it. I definitely should talk about how beautiful this game is (but not all the time) and how you should actually avoid looking up pictures of the game because the developer images don’t show gameplay too much and gameplay images are only capturing the beautiful moments instead of the beauty you’ll realize in just sort of spacing out staring at a tiny star in the distance actually slowly growing on you across 10 or 20 minutes or how you start to notice the spatial orientation of the special locations of the galaxy. I can see the density of the stars increasing but it’s mostly horizontally aligned but I can also see the nebulas afar off that I know are going to get bigger and bigger in view as I get closer and closer to them with each jump along the way. I could go on and on about the wonder I found in games like Homeworld and X-Wing Alliance where universes were crafted and space backdrops were the body of water to traverse and navigate carefully while simultaneously the very thing you just wanted to stare at for hours and just go…a little farther to see what things will look like if you went deeper into the wondrous and vast sea. But now I don’t need to look to worlds like Homeworld or X-Wing Alliance. I can just play Elite: Dangerous and go to those places I saw growing up or when I look up at the sky at night these days.

For that alone it’s won me over.

Maybe it’ll win you over too. It’s available on PC and XBone.