Oxford undergraduate reading English Language & Literature. Likes anime more than books, but there isn't a degree in that here (yet).

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Latest Topics


Hardcore Gamers and Hard-Nosed Gaming

‘Hardcore’ gamers often separate themselves from other gamers because they play for more than just completion, or the standard definition of ‘fun’. Dark Souls may be a tough-as-nails RPG, but some players have completed it never levelling up, or naked (the character, not the player), or with only shields as weapons. The most popular levels on Super Mario Maker are usually the hardest, with players like PangaeaPanga making diabolical levels like Skyzo and Bomb Voyage (youtube them!). Pretty much any single-player game can become highly competitive once you decide to play it ‘hardcore’, especially if you want to speedrun it.

The charity speedrunning event Awesome Games Done Quick for instance, in progress at the time of writing, is a showcase of the hardest of hardcore gamers. The entertainment those runners provide, also including races between runners and gimmicky events like ‘2 Players 1 Controller’ for Dark Souls II and blindfolded runs of Super Punch Out!!, is a powerful force for fundraising. The last event of this kind, Summer Games Done Quick in 2015, raised $1,215,601.49 for Doctors Without Borders.

This article would explore the benefits of playing ‘hardcore’ in consideration of the above and other aspects such as, potentially, the impacts of challenging yourself with video games using research on the psychology/sociology of the issue. Why is hardcore gaming popular, to watch and to do yourself? What does it take to be a speedrunner, to spend weeks or months playing the same game daily before you beat your last Personal Best? How can this relate to the science and psychology behind competitive sports in general, and are hardcore gamers really playing with or against each other?

For balance, however, some drawbacks should also be considered. The general focus of the article could be on how the risk/reward system of game design extends into how one chooses to play games in the first place. If research however outweigh the positives of such gaming, the article could suggest that hardcore gaming, while ‘hard-nosed’, may be harmful to the gamer when pushed too far. The subject can be taken in many, many more ways.

  • When I read this I thought of the Nuzlocke challenge in the Pokemon games where people impose upon themselves restrictions of number of pokemon to be caught, where they may be caught and that they are considered dead and to be released should they faint etc. Pokemon is not a hard game and is highly forgiving so it's interesting that people adhering to the challenge want to heighten the difficulty. – Slaidey 8 years ago
  • Perhaps completionists could be talked about here? For the record, completionsists aren't just people who beat the whole game, but who get all of the Achievements (Xbox) or Trophies (PlayStation). There could be some interesting psychology behind the idea of Achievements too, and how your worth as a gamer can be measured by your Gamerscore. – ericg 8 years ago
  • Competitive game communities could be talked about as well. In the smash bros (particularly melee) community, there is often drama and legitimate hate between the players, but also many of the top players have found their best friends through it. Also, there's the idea of what part of a game is lost when you play it 'hardcore,' as well as what parts you discover. It seems like it often changes the way we play them. – Null 8 years ago
  • I instantly thought of Super Smash Bros. Melee as well, and its growing competitive scene. Personally, it's the only game I've learned to play on a competitive level. What I like about it is the range of options for the player. You don't have to play competitively if you don't want to. The game is still just as fun for a casual, party style multiplayer experience. If anything, in addition to joining a community, competitive play opens up entirely new ways to play the game that even the developers may not have considered (ex. wave-dashing in Melee as a major aspect of the competitive scene). – Filippo 8 years ago
  • I suggest reading Alasdair MacIntyre and his thoughts on intrinsic/extrinsic motivation. – Rael64 8 years ago

The Mask and the Machine in 'The Force Awakens'

"Take off that mask," Solo said to Ren, venturing further onto the bridge. "You don’t need it."*

But what would Star Wars be without them? An analysis of The Force Awakens centred around this symbol offers the viewer many windows into aspects of character and theme, particularly when contrasted to A New Hope, which Episode Seven so blatantly sets itself in juxtaposition to. What roles do masks in Star Wars create, and how are these challenged and manipulated by characters? How does Finn’s acting before he takes off his helmet – effectively mime – create his character? How is Ren’s mask, aesthetically and symbolically, different from Vader’s, and what is significant about Vader’s memorial being his mask (which he discarded at the end of Episode 6)? Comparing the use and implications of masks in the film and franchise to the historical purposes of masks that are also echoed in the movies – for instance, the samurai helmets of the Sith – could yield further insights, though there are many other options for enquiry.

The second focus of the article would be on machines, another key symbolic feature of the Star Wars series. The Force Awakens introduced us to new droids, from scrap to practically sentient. Comparing major characters like BB-8 to the junk droids we see on Jakku (and maybe comparing that comparison to a comparison of R2-D2/C-3PO against the junk droids on Tatooine) is just one path into the topic. Investigating the nature of the technology used by the ‘goodies’ and ‘baddies’ of the movie also promises a lot of depth of discussion – why does the Dark Side always go for massive industrial weapons, contrasting to how the Light Side is saved by small, humble droids and the small pieces of data they carry – and why should those tiny things be threats against these massive feats of power?

A strong conclusion would find an insightful way to bring these two together; this can, and perhaps should, govern the entire focus of the article. The writer could use research into the traditions and developments of the theatre to discuss masks and machines (while the former’s link to theatre is obvious, one could consider how the latter were used in, say, Victorian melodrama, which Star Wars could be seen to parallel).

The article could consider just one of these symbols, but a controlled comparison should be more exciting.

edit: now considering writing this myself, unless anyone else gets a burning desire to (in which case I can offer

  • One of the most amazing things about the original Star Wars film, "A New Hope," was that the production and costume design was so iconic in its approach. Rather than decking out the villains in colorful, over-the-top "villain-like" apparel--as may be seen in dozens of sci-fi and fantasy anime series and other 1960s/1970s sci-fi--the villains here are more military, but also much more simple and straight-forward. Darth Vader is a dark figure, tall and imposing, but his mask denotes a sense of inner Death. His former self died long ago, and so he wears the death of his former self as an outward shell. The storm-trooper might also be metaphors for skeletons of sorts, but much less human-like, and far more like flimsy shells that are easily shot through: whereas Darth Vader's shell is hard to penetrate and disrupt. Kylo Ren is not nearly as iconic right off the bat as a dark skeletal man with a Samurai styled head-piece, but he forges his own identity none-the-less, by trying to impersonate the look of Vader, and yet not verbatim. – Jonathan Leiter 8 years ago
  • It's supposed to say 'offer my thoughts' at the end; the text box let me put in in but it cut it off once it got published... – JekoJeko 8 years ago

Latest Tides


Brevity is Power: Why Another Cour Won't Make It better

From communities on MyAnimeList and Reddit to self-hosted blogs, anime viewers often turn to a number of stock phrases and judgements when ‘reviewing’ the shows they watch. It has too much ‘forced drama’. It’s too ‘edgy’. Or, perhaps most frequent of all, it should have had another cour.

But when it comes to the desire for a show to have had its story stretched over twice as many episodes – to give the characters ‘more time to grow’, for instance (which implies that no movie character grows enough) – can we really argue that we would have enjoyed twice as much of a show that didn’t impress us with just one cour? And, alongside that, shouldn’t we rather be asking the show to be shorter, cutting out its unfulfilling content so that the story focuses on what the writer and studio have been competent with? Perhaps then we would end up with stories as cleverly paced as Eve no Jikan’s original ONA run (which kept viewers hooked within the massive gaps between the release of the show’s mostly smaller-than-average episodes), or comedies as instantly fulfilling as the currently-airing short Ojisan to Marshmallow.

Drawing on a number of philosophies that clash with the thinking behind the ‘it should have been 24 episodes’ bandwagon, it becomes clear that asking for double the length – expecting a canvas twice the size to cater to the artist’s needs and treating a single cour as a canvas too small – is an escape from criticism, not an exercise in it.

  • I think this is an interesting topic, however one thing in which I strongly recommend are examples of series that support the information given here. – Kevin Mohammed 8 years ago
  • I've given many examples; Eve no Jikan and Ojisan to Marshmallow are mentioned above and in the article, and also in the article are notes on the significance of Sword Art Online and Sushi Police. The article doesn't deeply analyse any of these shows as it aims to avoid concerning the discussion about one show and instead tries to keep it on the nature of criticising anime as a whole. The main issue is that we're dealing with hypotheticals, and it's hard to find an example of a desired second cour that doesn't actually exist. – JekoJeko 8 years ago
  • I'm of the opinion that the longer a series runs, the more time and opportunity it has to steer off-course. Short and sweet is the best way to go. – CoffeeHipster 8 years ago
  • I think it would make it accessible if it was explained in a sentence what cour means. I can infer something but I'm still confused a bit. – wolfkin 8 years ago

Latest Comments


I have a number of writing commitments at the moment, so I’m slowly getting around to writing for here.

While it isn’t possible to get the idea of ‘filler’ down to an exact science, it always needs a convincing explanation. Try telling someone who felt like they were following a plot through every episode that they were just watching ‘filler’, and they’re not really going to be on board with what you have to say about the show. All artistic deductions are opinions, and they all need evidence to be convincing; an appreciation of the specifics of the material. Then the reader has something specific to dispute, rather than only a vague understanding of your viewpoint. I could, for instance, catalogue how every episode of Chuunibyo develops a character in some way, and then compare that to how the OVA /doesn’t/, in order to make a convincing case for what it filler and why the first season does not contain it. It would not take long.

Likewise, my note about K-On! was drawing attention to the fact that standards for a premise were never explored before or after one was called ‘thin’. It’s like if I said a show was ‘thematically challenged’ and left it at that, not making any discussion about what constitutes a good or bad theme, expecting the reader to share my standards when they aren’t at all expounded upon. It creates a viewpoint that merely floats in the air above the material rather than being grounded in it.

Ten Years of Kyoto Animation: Missed Tricks and Lasting Hits

I loved Chuunibyou, and have refused to watch the second season because the first is such a single, well-contained plot with an ending I don’t need to go beyond – an ‘invisible boundary line’ for my interest to fall behind – added to the fact that everyone seems to hate the second season. With the second season having an addition to the title, ‘Ren’, it’s suitable to consider it as a separate work to the first, like it’s suitable to separate different renditions of Star Trek.

I agree with SpectreWriter above; the characters certainly evolve satisfyingly in the first season, with the climax of Dekomori’s character development being an unexpected tear-jerker for me. You never expand on why the show has a ‘thin premise’ (how is K-On!’s any fatter?) or what ideas are ‘recycled without improving on them’, or what exactly in the first season is filler (when the second season is the one constantly criticised for almost always feeling like filler – doesn’t each episode in the first season develop a character in some direction, preventing the tag of ‘filler’ from being applied?).

The article also falters on its research here; Chuunibyo was so heavily adapted from its source material that many actually noted (in protest or praise) that KyoAni didn’t want to be rooted by the LN’s publication at all. Things were /added/ to the LN to make it adaptable, as the Director, Tatsuya Ishihara, once noted in a NewType article:

‘Shinka Nibutani appeared in the novel, but Kumin Tsuyuri and Sanae Dekomori are anime original characters. The reason they were created was that there wouldn’t be enough characters for a TV series. Similarly, the story has been /arranged/ to have many new elements added.

The amount of novel material we had was insufficient even though it was published via Kyoto Animation’s KA Esuma label. In short, it feels more like /an original series/ from our company.’

Note at this point that the Director considers it ‘an original series’, singular. It wasn’t split into two; it was their own finished story that got a sequel that, according to reviews, disappointed many fans. Once you consider it under that light, many criticisms in this article drift away from it; perhaps new ones can be found, but they aren’t to be found here, where the two very separate seasons are wrongly mashed together.

Also, Eighth Grader Syndrome is not specifically associated with the occult; it encompasses many other delusions of fantasy and grandeur.

As much as it’s welcome to see a suggestion to shorten anime rather than lengthen it, it’s not evidenced enough here. The article assumes wrongly that the two seasons comprise one story and makes a number of vague accusations that, really, have probably been written about every anime by someone on the internet so far. Evidence is what matters, and the opportunity to delve into specifics has been missed.

Long comment again, but I guess it’s what I do.

Ten Years of Kyoto Animation: Missed Tricks and Lasting Hits

I’m a born again Christian, Tyson. I see little chance of you being a priest, however, if you are calling one of your brethren a ‘loser’. You have made a terrible witness in this comment section.

Thinking about or noticing sex outside of marriage is not of sin; else, the word ‘prostitute’ in the bible would cause us to sin. Lusting after a woman outside of marriage, for sex, however, is. The battle is for the mind. We do not place ‘sin’ in the existence of something outside of us. Christ was tempted in every way known to man, and he succeeded. We can too; the strong Christian can be in incredible proximity to sexual immorality and pull through. How else do Christians provide guidance and the gospel to people in the prostitution industry?

And again, did you look at Fernand Léger’s ‘Le Grand Déjeuner’? Can you tell that they’re naked? Yes. Can you lust after them? I don’t think so.

If it’s okay to put links here, I think it’s worth adding that I’ve encountered, fought with and paid penalties from sexual media as a Christian; I once wrote about it at length here: What I learnt the most is that as much as I try to avoid sexual media, it’ll come looking for me. The enemy want sto pick a fight. Fleeing from sexual immorality, first, means fleeing to God, and we flee to him in our hearts and minds. If we do that when we are hit by sexual immorality in what we watch, we can stop ourselves from committing it ourselves, defuse the temptation and perhaps even find that we were deceived, and that this isn’t actually sexual immorality in the first place; it was just our temptations making it appear so.

Attitudes to sex in media like yours are why there are /more/ Christians committing sexually immoral acts; they try to blind themselves to the enemy rather than put on the full armour of God and fight him, and win.

Sex in Cinema: Poetry vs. Pornography (Explicit Content)

Tyson, the Bible has sex in it. Song of Solomon is one of the oldest and best examples of erotica. God made sex to be a beautiful thing; it’s human beings that corrupt it with their minds. Thus, you can see sex in a film and not sin. You do not have to lust. Sex and nudity even can be portrayed in ways to never incite erotic feeling. Observe Fernand Léger’s ‘Le Grand Déjeuner’. Is that porn?

Also, putting sex in a movie will not make you burn in hell. That’s not how sin and salvation work, biblically. We are not saved or damned by our works; only our belief in Christ. But that’s a different issue to the topic at hand, so I’l leave it at that.

Sex in Cinema: Poetry vs. Pornography (Explicit Content)

An incredible article, well-research and wide-reaching, in order to leave no sexual cinematic stone unturned. The introduction was particularly effective, as it very quickly and convincing encouraged a debate on ‘sex’ and ‘art’ and the cohesion of the two without immediately forcing a voice or opinion into the topic.

Thanks for taking all the time to put this together.

Sex in Cinema: Poetry vs. Pornography (Explicit Content)

I’m disappointed with this article.

The definition of ‘literature’ at the start of here is very shaky. It relies on authorial – or the publisher’s/producer’s/curator’s -/intent/ to display something as art. Hasn’t New Criticism done away with this thought that we can only consider something as art if someone smarter than us has said it’s art?

Rather, we consider something art because we choose to put it into that position ourselves, because we see artistic qualities. A turd on the pavement is rarely going to be seen as art. Take a photo of it, however, next to a crumpled flier for someone running for presidency, and a bunch of footprints of people stepping around both, and we’re making something of it that’s going to make most people view it as art, for a number of reasons that are mostly self-evident.

A screenplay is /always/ literature, however, because it is a ‘written work’ (working from the OED definition, the bedrock this article has ignored); glamorising the definition only obfuscates the discussion. A ‘written work’ is all we need to say. It’s defined. It’s done. It comes from the Latin for ‘letter of the alphabet’, ‘littera’ and was formed into the Middle English for ‘knowledge of books’ – /books/; /written works/. A note/book/ is therefore also part of an artist’s literature. Debating the meaning of ‘literature’ without researching the origin of the words is just lazy. It took me a minute to Google it, check it, and undermine the entire focus of this article.

Likewise, a sketchbook is a work of visual art. Have you seen Ruskin’s sketches in the Ashmolean archives? I have. They are rough, protean little genius-marked conceptions of creativity. They have artistic qualities. They are art. If you don’t want to call them that, you’d sound like an idiot, but that’s fine – they simply won’t then be art /to you/. The rest of us will be able to work on different /levels/ of art, as one works on different /levels/ of literature, not trying to equate sketches to statues, but instead working out where they fall in a hierarchy of artistic accomplishment

Film on screen is categorically /not/ literature and can never be, as while it has signifiers, they are not and never can be /written/, ‘littera’ signifiers. Parallels can be drawn, but you cannot say Film is written – you can say it is /close/ to literature, and it indeed is in many ways, but you cannot say it /is/ literature. Both a film and its script are however forms of art, like a playscript and its respective play on stage are two versions – transformations, even – of one core work, the story the playwright has created or transformed themselves.

To say ‘even Shakespeare is not literature until it arrives on the stage’ is simply daft. Simply daft. It is literature off the stage, theatre on it. The use of the word literature here and throughout this article is, frankly, what academics would call ‘bullshitting’.

This idea that a /script/ as a weakened as a piece of work also fails to consider a script on its own merits. Was Wilde’s Salome weaker before it could be performed? How can we, as critics, say the very words on the page have less ‘merit’ because they have yet to be given life?

Your thinking is backwards, being heavily countered by the work of Shakespeare. As Ian McKellen notes in his reading of Macbeth, Shakespeare puts into his playscripts – into the poetry and the prose – all the instructions an actor needs to perform the part well. The value of the play performed is dependant on the value of the script. Likewise, no film will have good dialogue unless it is written well in the script to begin with; you can’t give an actor bad lines and expect him to go the work to make them shine. The mental image, the film, both of which are not literature, spawns from the text, the screenplay, which is written and hence literature.

You say to ‘Now imagine reading that line with no image or context attached other than the prior lines.’ You say that ‘There is no scene description on the script to create the world seen in the film, as would happen in a novel – a paragraph to describe the surroundings.’ But if there is no world created, how did the director create the world in his head for the movie to be visualised in the end? Perhaps other elements influenced what we get on screen, but then we just have to consider the screenplay as a component part of a whole – a whole that may not be entirely literature, as it may not be entirely written (concept art, for instance), but will contain bodies of literature such a screenplays, write-ups of scenarios, et cetera.

By your argument, ‘may i feel said he’ is not a piece of literature either – perhaps all of Cumming’s corpus is just a bunch of sketchbook scrawlings that don’t have enough ‘merit’ in order to reach your overly-glamorised definition of ‘literature’. How can we accept your argument and consider that poem literature? It has only dialogue. It has no setting. It could be staged as a play – it is staged as one in the theatre of one’s mind – and so might as well be a playscript. That it wasn’t written as one makes no difference to the poem’s formalistic qualities.

I find this article and its argument to be vapid. The lack of citations and wide critical reading, for such a wide topic, makes every subjective statement about the forms being discussed incredibly weak. Discussion is made within the article by ignoring definitions, not by challenging them; personal definitions in contrast with established ones are preferred without critical reasoning. It’s academic fantasy to want films to be considered ‘literature’; scholars around the world are comparing film /to/ literature, but none will ever mesh the two together under the latter term’s umbrella. A far more insightful discussion can be made on the ‘literariness’ of film, but that is nowhere to be found, even though it was expected from the title. ‘Literary’ is the quality of being /like/ literature, not being literature itself. This article has tried to mash the round peg of film into a very square hole, with as much grace as one would expect.

This is not what I come to The Artifice to read. But thank you for giving my the impetus to exercise all that my degree has taught me about this issue through this extensive criticism.

The Literary Merit of Film Scripts

I think all the male actors were just insulted for not looking ‘good looking’ enough.

How A Feminist Watches Game of Thrones: Power Is Power

I think, when people read ‘of all time’, they can infer that the article is only sufficient up to its publication date. The ‘so far’ might absolutely clarify that, but it also implies that the writer didn’t think the reader was competent enough to work that out for themselves. All publications I’ve read (so far) with lists like these leave it out.

The note that there are great war films yet to come has nothing to do with the article, which is reviewing war films that have already come out. This is emphasised by the opening line of the article being able to stand without ‘so far’, as the title also ought to. Any positive effect of the addition in parentheses is forgotten due to irrelevancy.

The 10 Greatest War Films of All Time (So Far)