Group Think: E3 2014

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Now that E3 2014, the biggest gaming press convention of the year is over, we here at Pop Modern have some opinions on it. It was an odd E3 for sure, with plenty of announcements from all parties, but a clear directional shift in the games industry.

Allen: I’ve always had a weird relationship with E3. The first one that I ever watched online was E3 2008, where Todd Howard shot teddy bears out of a makeshift cannon in the Fallout 3 demo, and Cliff (then still going by Cliffy B) sliced through the stage with a Gears of War chainsaw gun. So yeah…that’s where the industry was then. But it was an early period in the last generation of consoles, and developers were just starting to figure out how to maximize that hardware power.

However, my strong attachment to E3 didn’t come until 2009, when I began watching Giant Bomb cover it live from their hotel near the convention center. Their coverage felt more honest than the IGN videos and Gamespot interviews because they were always about the people. They had on guests, and many drunken stories have been told over the years into the E3 Giant Bombcast microphones. But these guests have come and gone, and even Ryan Davis, by far the best host and hype man at the website unfortunately passed away almost a year ago. Times have changed since I first tuned into the show, and it was only this year that I was finally able to stay up late into the night and watch every Giant Bomb E3 show late into the nights. That’s what E3 is to me; it’s staying up until 2:30 on their chat channel waiting for them to shift out guests. It’s Paul Barnett’s “And that was E3” joke from several years ago. It’s the faces behind the content, not the games. This was a boring E3, yes. And I came out of it only kind of wanting a new console, but mostly just happy that the video games industry really has progressed so far in the last few years, and I can reflect on where I was mentally at the time of each year’s conferences.

Magellan: Lemme sum up my E3 2014 thoughts in one sentence: I want a Wii U. I REALLY want a Wii U. (Okay, two sentences.) As the guy who got a Wii at the height of the XBox 360’s popularity and then promptly got an XBox and forgot all about that silly white box except for the occasional game ofMario Kart: Double Dash!, that’s something I never thought I would admit. Now, maybe it was just random chance that I heard about more quality announcements coming out of Nintendo than anyone else (I didn’t watch any E3 coverage this year save for Conan O’Brien’s: http://teamcoco.com/video/conan-visits-e3-2014). Still, I think what’s really going on here is that the Wii U has had time to figure itself out, to get to the critical-mass point where the next year will see the release of new games from MarioLegend of Zelda,Kirby, and Star Fox, not to mention Mario Kart 8 which just came out and the ever-looming hype-specter of Super Smash Bros. In my mind, the PS4 and XBox One have yet to fall into their grooves (understandable, as they’re not even a year old). You can’t possibly get me excited about new Halo or Call of Duty games, and even if there are great new IP’s headed our way, nothing has seemed earth-shattering enough to warrant buying a new console, as opposed to just waiting to get it used in a few years or waiting for a PC port. God knows I’m still playing through last-gen games on Steam (GTAIV, the Mass Effect series, Skyrim, the Bioshock series, etc.). Of course, you can’t get Super Smash Bros. on Steam. Which leads me to reiterate: I REALLY want a Wii U.

James: E3 this year was a bit of a disappointment to me. After all of the hype and expectation that came with the unveiling of two new consoles last year, the range of titles and the limited options available seemed to be little more than just filler for 2015. Take the new Star Wars: Battlefront. Last year, the announcement thrilled and shocked me. After years of waiting, another Star Wars: Battlefront was coming out! Come this year, I desperately wanted the title to get an in-depth look at one of the conferences. However, instead of in-game footage, there was a live action trailer describing how DICE is trying not to make everybody mad at them. No single announcement thrilled me, with either sequels to games or the beginning of new franchises dominating the show. E3 last year pushed through all of the creative ideas, leaving a paucity of any real excitement. The one thing that was remotely interesting to me was the fact that every game is receiving multiplayer. Formerly single player games like Assassin’s Creed and Far Cry are receiving new entries which show an increased emphasis on multiplayer, and  <shudder> co-op gaming. Trying to get together with friends to play games on the computer is hard enough, even with the lower prices that people pay on games. The increased push towards multiplayer games is no longer exciting to me, as I can’t bring myself to care about playing multiplayer games with people that I don’t know. In fact, when I see such an increased focus on multiplayer games, I tend to worry about the final quality of the finished product. While competitive multiplayer does not impair my experience, an environment meant to hold 2 people is going to feel radically different. As such, I wasn’t a huge fan of the last E3, and I look forwards to a better conference next year.

 

 

 

Group Think: Community Season 5 Premiere “Repilot”

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A new year means new columns, and one of said new columns is ‘Group Think’, where the three of us here at Pop Modern gather around and discuss a common, poignant event in contemporary pop culture. Think ‘Today in Pop Modern’, but with a common theme, and also even cooler.

The first installment of Group Think is going to be on the Community Season Five premiere, “Repilot”, which aired on January 2, 2014. All three of us have some level of connection to the show, so it felt appropriate to discuss what has been considered a return to form for the series. For a more critical review of the episode, look no further than The AV Club: http://www.avclub.com/review/repilotintroduction-to-teaching-106548

Allen: Community has been a fixture in my weekdays during the winter TV season for almost half a decade now. I was never particularly enamored with it, but it was the best sitcom on cable that I was watching at the time. To this day, it still holds a spot in my heart alongside Modern Family and How I Met Your Mother, but there’s something special about Community. It’s not just the meta humor or the constant callbacks and inside jokes; It’s the familiarity of the Greendale crew that kept me coming back. Even as their social positions shifted and relationships changed, there was always the same number of filled seats at the study table just about every week. Season Four was pretty depressing, but mostly because it put the characters in a position that didn’t lead to much comedy; away from each other. I can only remember individual scenes from Season Four, but episodes like the ones I mentioned in the Three By Three from earlier this week are ingrained in my mind. Season Five is a return to form, mainly in that the gang is back to doing what they do best. Troy is still getting a few jokes in before Donald Glover leaves the show, the school is returning to its usual levels of chaos, and it doesn’t feel any worse without Pierce. It’s not that I ever disliked Pierce as a character, but it became clear over time through reading about the show’s production that Chevy Chase was causing problems with the cast and writers. So I’m happy to see Community off this season or next as long as it keeps up this standard of quality, and I’m mostly just glad that Dan Harmon has finally returned to the series that he loves so much. It really shows in the heart and soul of the gang.

James: The reopening of Greendale was met with mixed reception. After the extremely disappointing season that last year produced, I thought that I had enough. Let it at least die with dignity, I thought to myself. The new episodes changed that. It wasn’t as though there was something particularly great about the episodes. They were standard fare. But the fact that the show showed its potential once more lifted my spirit. Once again, funny people cracked funny jokes, and even with an absent Chevy Chase, the humor goes on. Even in the face of Troy’s upcoming personal finale, the show still maintains an air of levity and wit, with self-referential quips intended to please fans who don’t mind breaking the fourth wall. True, the show could definitely have benefited from some script polishing, but I am willing to overlook some rough edges in the midst of an abrupt transition. Though the show is moving on in a different path with a different cast, I hope to enjoy walking through the halls of Greendale once again.

Magellan: I’m lucky to be among those who watched Community from the beginning, who grew and developed with the show. I remember, when I first started using Hulu, I stumbled upon a benign-looking sitcom about a group of community college students, and decided to give it a shot. The first couple episodes didn’t exactly thrill me, but hey, it was free and it had potential. So I stuck it out, and over the course of the next three years I enjoyed the show on a weekly basis, growing to love the characters and looking forward excitedly to what they would do next. I don’t want to rag too much on Season 4 (since, if you really want to criticize this show, you could say that many of its problems were rooted in Season 3), but there’s no denying that last season had a sense of emptiness to it. Really, the only stand-out moment was the episode where the Dean thought he and Jeff had switched bodies, but that’s not saying much. So, you can imagine my excitement at hearing that Season 5 had a chance at recapturing some of the show’s former glory. Having watched the first few episodes now, I must say, though I don’t care much for Dan Harmon as a person, he is clearly the one who understands Community best. These first two episodes were fairly straightforward sitcom fare, but they both buzzed with a kind of comfortable familiarity that was completely lacking last year. I was finally sold on this season by one of Troy’s one-liners: “If we sue Greendale, can I be a surprise witness? Wait…don’t tell me…” If they can keep churning out moments like that, then this season is going to be a lot of fun.

So there you go, everyone. We all enjoyed the pilot, and it’s only left us more excited to see where this crazy series is going in the future. What did YOU think about “Repilot”?