Tag: humor

Ballad of the Doomguy

I’ve been playing a lot of 2016’s DOOM lately. It hearkens back to the shooters of my youth. There’s a lot of catharsis in blasting demons with cool weapons and punching them in the face. The levels are large and they reward exploration with opportunities to customize your preferred blasting methods and adorable figurines. Perhaps most of all, for me, it showcases some fantastic storytelling and a wonderful way to leverage a silent protagonist.

The data logs you find on everything from the UAC’s methodology to data on the demonic minions you’re exterminating are very well-written. They, like the upgrade tokens, are fun bonuses. You can get all of the story you need, though, just from the brief in-game interactions and the Doomguy’s emoting. From the start, you get a sense of your avatar’s personality, without him uttering a single line of dialog.

In brief: explorers discovered an odd geological rift on Mars that was spewing a fascinating form of energy. The Union Aerospace Corporation’s CEO, Samuel Hayden — imagine the love child of Scott Pruitt and Elon Musk who downloaded himself into a cybernetic body — went into leveraging this resource to solve an energy crisis back on Earth. The EPA can’t file lawsuits if you’re exploiting a natural resource on another planet, right? Right. And Argent Energy rendered nuclear power and fossil fuels obsolete overnight. Hayden didn’t count on his head researcher being a covert cultist who discovered the energy was coming from Hell, and talked to demons about some sort of shady deal. Next thing you know, the UAC facility is getting worked over in the style of the colony from Aliens, and Hayden is trying to figure out how to maintain profits when all of his workers are dying horribly.

Enter the Doomguy.

Our hero hates demons with a fiery passion, and was put on ice after the last time he somehow made Hell worse, at least for its demonic denizens. He wakes up in one of the UAC’s isolated labs, find his iconic armor after smashing some zombified UAC folks with his bare hands, and realizes there’s a demonic invasion afoot. Hayden contacts him right away, figuring the Doomguy can clean the place up and get the energy production back on track.

It takes about 5 seconds for the Doomguy to communicate he’s not down for being a corporate stooge.

The monitor with which Hayden contacts our hero gets smashed to the floor. Moments later, in the elevator to Mars’s surface, Hayden tries again, giving some spiel through another monitor about “the greater good”. That monitor gets a solid, indignant punch.

I can’t tell you how much I love this.

Characterization in video games can be difficult, especially in shooters. Halo’s Master Chief is your stereotypically stoic one-man army in power armor. Most of the Call of Duty protagonists tend to be walking talking recruitment campaigns for modern military organizations. Other bullet-dispensing avatars whoop and wisecrack their way through the bad guys, kicking ass and looking for a fresh pack of bubble gum.

Doomguy’s just here to smash demons and give middle fingers to corporate America while he’s at it.

On top of the pretty obvious disdain he has for the UAC, the Doomguy’s got a sense of humor. When you find the collectibles, there’s a fantastic little sting of classic DOOM music as the hero looks the figurine over. But when you find one that’s the same coloration as your current incarnation, the Doomguy gives it a fistbump. The scion of anti-demon violence and masculine badassery fistbumps a figurine.

And then there’s this little Terminator 2 Easter Egg, when the Doomguy takes a bad step and falls into molten metal:

The developers could have easily just left the Doomguy as an angry psychopathic killing machine. But they didn’t. He has a sense of humor. There are glimmers of knowing self-awareness. And when confronted with the notion that smashing all of the UAC’s work will plunge the Earth into a new energy crisis, the Doomguy shows himself to be a person with conviction, weighing that reality with the fact that demonic invasions are literally the worst thing. Hayden doesn’t agree; the Doomguy doesn’t care. Demons are bad. Sure, making life difficult on Earth is bad, but it’s still life. Better to worry about the prices of your utilities than an Imp eating your face, right? Right.

Video games are mediums of visual storytelling. They’re made for showing, rather than telling. And 2016’s DOOM does this beautifully. I think that these moments, and the data logs, keep me playing just as much as the action and exploration. Fast-paced shooting is one thing; being compelled to see the next bit of story is icing on the cake. It’s a glorious storytelling experience on top of a visceral exercise in catharsis.

I love story-based games. My next solo gaming project is Witcher 3, which will be very different but, from what I understand, rich in its own storytelling. I’m just as invested in the lore of Overwatch as I am its game balance and being a better Reinhardt. But I’ll probably be coming back to DOOM now and again. There are harder difficulties, arcade modes, classic maps, challenges… there’s a lot there, and not just in terms of ammunition and well-designed enemies.

The ballad of the Doomguy is a work of pulse-pounding death metal punctuated by shotgun blasts and breaking bones, but its melody is one of those sprawling lyrical epics about one man standing against a tide of darkness. It’s Beowulf with a BFG.

And I am, as the kids say, so here for it.

Movies as Meta-Humor

Courtesy 20th Century Fox

I love mixing things up, in a literary sense. Fairy tales with superhero flavor? That’s my jam. Greek myths in space? Been there, wrote it. Norse gods in the Wild West? Saddle up. But what I haven’t quite gotten into yet is the meta-humor powering such novels as Pride & Prejudice & Zombies, and the movies that seem to be emerging from such things. Yes, they’re humorous storytelling endeavors. But rather than being straight-up joke-fests, the joke is that the joke behaves like something that isn’t remotely funny.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with absurdism or surrealist takes on the classics, and as I said, mixing things up can be both fun and interesting. However, I feel the mix should result in some tangible changes other than simply having additional elements tacked on. This is why the aforementioned PPZ never quite “clicked” for me: I got the gag, but the gag really only served itself, rather than fundamentally changing the story. Elizabeth was a pretty kickass slayer of the undead but that didn’t seem to alter her relationship with Darcy in any meaningful way.

On the other hand, consider Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. The fact that Abe sought revenge for the death of his mother isn’t just an anecdote in his life. We learn that the real motivation behind the entire Civil War was to prevent the creation of a vampire nation, where slaves are used as food supply. It’s just as much a gag as the aforementioned zombies, but the way it alters the inner nature of the character and informs his motivations throughout his life makes it more effective both as meta-humor and as a readable or watchable story.

That said, it is entirely possibly to go too far in the other direction. As much as I like Jeremy Renner and Gemma Atherton, the upcoming Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters feels like the sort of fundamental change to characters aimed at increasing their broad appeal but likely to leave the characters bland and ultimately uninteresting. Van Helsing in a good example of this. There is so much just from the trailer of this new H&G that feels similar to that older, rather bland movie, and I’m not sure if it’s going to work the way it seemed to for Abe.

As with many things in writing, it’s all about balance. You can’t have the joke be too blatant and unrelated, and you can’t make the narrative all about the somewhat amusing change in character motivations or genre. Go too far one way or the other and the endeavor just falls apart. Strike the right balance, though, and as much as we’ll laugh at the concept, we’ll also be interested enough to see the narrative through to the end.

Guest Post: Zen and the Art of Writing

Aron Anthony is a freelance Graphic Designer, writer, and yoga instructor. He has written several short stories and two books, which received a number of impressive rejection letters. His third book, it on it’s second editing for publication. Lost Gods is a dark humorous sci-fi/fantasy adventure. A re-telling of Olympian mythology, Lost Gods is the story of two brothers, separated at birth who must come together to overthrow their tyrannical father, Don Cronus, a notorious CEO, Mafia Boss and possibly a God.

Interested readers and critiques should contact the author for a free manuscript.
Taonow@gmail.com


Today’s Blue Ink Alchemy guest topic is Zen and the art of writing.

It is said that Zen is unknowable, it cannot be defined. Yet oddly enough Webster’s has managed to define it.

Zen (noun): An approach to religion, arising from Buddhism, that seeks religious enlightenment by meditation in which there is no consciousness of self.

Note : Deliberately irrational statements are sometimes used in Zen to jar persons into realizing the limits of the common uses of the intellect. One well-known example is, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?”

Sounds like a pretty good definition to me. Did those monks I lived with at the Zen monastery lie to me? I wouldn’t put it past them, a bunch of grumpy bath-robe wearing bald Asians. No sense of humor whatsoever.

Zen

The first part, I’m sure you have all heard before; no consciousness of self. I know it sounds like some kind of new age hippy thing; drop off your ego, expand your mind. But if you’re to succeed in any creative endeavor this is pretty important. Trust me, if you’re a professional artist and you still have an ego, it will quickly get crushed. That’s because art is subjective. This is one of the key principals of Zen. Every point of view is extremely narrow, and the same thing that one person thinks is brilliant another will see as utter crap.

The point is that the only way to stay sane is to not be attached to one view point or one particular idea. I once read a book when I was seventeen called Staying Sane in the Arts.
Honestly I have no idea what the book was about and the fact that I was reading something about trying to stay sane at seventeen probably says it all. However the implication is that it’s hard to stay sane in the arts. Most of the time you have no external validation or structure and one thing that seems brilliant, can quickly seem like drivel when you wake up, hung over, in Tijuana, and the only fan of your writing is a 300 peso prostitute named Jose.
This is the heart of Zen. You need the awareness and flexibility to adapt to the strangest situations that life and your art will inevitably take you.

This brings us to the second part of the equation. Using seemingly irrational devices to jar a person into realizing the limits of the intellect. What does that mean? Again I have no idea. Fortunately Webster’s gives the example of a Koan, or Zen riddle; what is the sound of one hand clapping. I don’t know what that means either and even if I did I’d have to kill you. Those monks are pretty uptight about that kind of thing.

Essentially the idea is to take seemingly unrelated ideas and turn them into a tool to enlighten. If this sounds familiar, that’s a common technique of writers. Take some random ideas and try to make a story from them. Let’s try this, shall we? I thought of the first three articles I came across today.

While I was waiting for a video to load I had to watch this horrible commercial from AT&T. Perhaps I’m the only one that finds it disturbing but a video depicting the world becoming covered by a shining bronze colored substance may not the best idea when we have an oil spill in the gulf threatening to do the same thing. But I digress. Now we have our problem.
The second item of interest was the androgynous person Justin Bieber, apparently a pop-idol among both twelve year old girls and lesbians. He unwisely had a contest to see where his fans would send him on his world tour date.

Justin Bieber

Those savvy fans have decided his first stop should be North Korea. http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-31749_162-20009827-10391698.html Since North Korea doesn’t have internet access I would presume that the dictator Kim Jong-il is behind this nefarious scheme to lure Bieber to North Korea and keep him as his lesbian slave. One can only hope. Now we have our antagonist and protagonist, though for the life of me I can’t figure out which is which. A certain amount of ambiguity is always best when developing your characters.

Kim Jong Il

The final element is a story about Paul the Psychic Octopuss, who is now an impressive 7-1 with his predictions of World Cup Soccer outcomes.

Paul the Psychic Octopuss

Paul can act as the side kick to Bieber, and a wise advisor.

I don’t know about you but I’d read that story. Anything could happen, who knows maybe you will write it. Feel free to use my idea and post your stories! I can’t tell you where to go with this, but i do know how the story should end. So I will leave you this Koan, a Zen story if you will. I’m sure you will agree, this says it all.

Justin looked over the dark waters covered with oil. The cities burned across the horizon and walls of black smoke reached into the sky, blotting out the sun. He had escaped, but at what price? Kim Jong had been true to his word, he’d spared no living thing in his mad war to return Justin to his loving embrace. Justin knew what Helen of Troy must of felt like as she looked at the smoking ruins of the armies that had fought for her release. History repeats itself.

He felt Paul move a golden lock of hair from his eyes and wipe a smoke streaked tear from his face with a gentle caress of his tentacle. Justin reached up and patted the Octopus, perched on his head.

“You were right Paul,” Justin sniffed. “You were right about everything. But then, you always are.”

Not-so-new Rules

George Carlin gave us some new rules to follow back in 2006. To make sure you have all been doing your due diligence, here they are again. Enjoy.

EDIT: I have been informed that these rules actually belong to Bill Maher, but since I like George more and miss him terribly, I’m not changing the picture associated with this post. It would require an act of God for me to do so, and since Bill doesn’t believe in God, he’s kinda screwed.

George Carlin

New Rule: Stop giving me that pop-up ad for Classmates.com! There’s reason you don’t talk to people for 25 years. Because you don’t particularly like them! Besides, I already know what the captain of the football team is doing these days: mowing my lawn.

New Rule: Don’t eat anything that’s served to you out a window unless you’re a seagull. People are acting all shocked that a human finger was (suspected to be) found in a bowl of Wendy’s chili. Hey, it cost less than a dollar. What did you expect it to contain? Trout?

New Rule: Stop saying that teenage boys who have sex with their hot, blonde teachers are permanently damaged. I have a better description for these kids: lucky bastards.

New Rule: If you need to shave and you still collect baseball cards, you’re gay. If you’re a kid, the cards are keepsakes of your idols. If you’re a grown man, they’re pictures of men.

New Rule: Ladies, leave your eyebrows alone. Here’s how much men care about your eyebrows: do you have two of them? Okay, we’re done.

New Rule: There’s no such thing as flavored water. There’s a whole aisle of this crap at the supermarket – water, but without that watery taste. Sorry, but flavored water is called a soft drink. You want flavored water? Pour some scotch over ice and let it melt. That’s your flavored water.

New Rule: Stop fucking with old people. Target is introducing a redesigned pill bottle that’s square, with a bigger label. And the top is now the bottom. And by the time grandpa figures out how to open it, his ass will be in the morgue. Congratulations, Target, you just solved the Social Security crisis.

New Rule: The more complicated the Starbucks order, the bigger the asshole. If you walk into a Starbucks and order a “decaf grande half-soy, half-low fat, iced vanilla, double-shot, gingerbread cappuccino, extra dry, light ice, with one Sweet-n’-Low and one NutraSweet,” ….ooh, you’re a huge asshole.

New Rule: I’m not the cashier! By the time I look up from sliding my card, entering my PIN number, pressing “Enter,” verifying the amount, deciding, no, I don’t want cash back, and pressing “Enter” again, the kid who is supposed to be ringing me up is standing there eating my Almond Joy.

New Rule: Just because your tattoo has Chinese characters in it doesn’t make you spiritual. It’s right above the crack of your ass. And it actually translates to “beef with broccoli.” The last time you did anything spiritual, you were praying to God you weren’t pregnant. You’re not spiritual. You’re just high.

New Rule: Competitive eating isn’t a sport. It’s one of the seven deadly sins. ESPN recently televised the US Open of Competitive Eating, because watching those athletes at the poker table was just too damned exciting. What’s next, competitive farting? Oh wait. They’re already doing that. It’s called “The Howard Stern Show.”

New Rule: I don’t need a bigger mega M&M. If I’m extra hungry for M&Ms, I’ll go nuts and eat two.

New Rule: If you’re going to insist on making movies based on crappy, old television shows, then you have to give everyone in the Cineplex a remote so we can see what’s playing on the other screens. Let’s remember the reason something was a television show in the first place is that the idea wasn’t good enough to be a movie.

New Rule: No more gift registries. You know, it used to be just for weddings. Now it’s for babies and new homes and graduations from rehab. Picking out the stuff you want and having other people buy it for you isn’t gift giving, it’s the white people version of looting.

New Rule (and this one is long overdue): No more bathroom attendants! After I zip up, some guy is offering me a towel and a mint like I just had sex with George Michael. I can’t even tell if he’s supposed to be there, or just some freak with a fetish. I don’t want to be on your webcam, Dude. I just want to wash my hands.

New Rule: When I ask how old your toddler is, I don’t need to know in months. Not “27 Months.” “He’s two,” will do just fine. He’s not a cheese. And I didn’t really care in the first place.

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