Friday, May 11, 2018

Fanvid Friday: The Greatest Teacher, Failure Is

Last year, I shared a bit about the history of fan videos and the culture and people who make them. Today I want to share an amazing fan video from Heroes Fan Productions titled "The Greatest Teacher Failure Is" that focuses on the legacies of both Yoda and Luke Skywalker. It's a great display of masterful editing and music choice that examines the ways that Luke Skywalker and Yoda both attempted to shape new Jedi for the Jedi Order and how they both failed, and what to learn from it. It's by turns bittersweet, reflective, and uplifiting.

You can watch it here:

A tip of the keyboard to user motherboxing for cluing me in to this video's existence.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Latest Steven Universe Episode Changes EVERYTHING

The most recent episode of the Carton Network series Steven Universe, entitled "A Pale Rose" dropped a stunning revelation that affects the entire series' backstory as well as existing relationships in the show.

I'm going to review the reveal, some of the hints that I think were dropped along the way, and what it means about the show's characters AND characterization.

Discussion in this post from here on out will be a gigantic spoiler, so I've put the rest of the post behind a "read more" link. Click below to read the rest of the post.

May '18 Thanks & How You Can Help The Code, Get Free Stuff!

Here's this month's Patron Thank Yous:
  • Cargo, who had nothing to link to, but is a great dude! Thanks, Cargo. 
  • Daphny Drucilla Delight David! Their Patreon is here
  • Fluffy! Check out their stuff at
  • Gabriel Gentile, on twitter at GabrielCGentile
This month's free Patron-exclusive download will be up next week.

What's The Patreon Stuff About, Anyhow?

The Code is helped by the patrons I just thanked. In addition to geek ephemera and the esoterically nerdy, I use this blog to focus on marginalized voices and perspectives, advocate for inclusiveness in media fandoms and sub-cultures, signal boost diverse creators and share stuff that can be food for thought.

I also create experimental electronic music and art prints & apparel under the name lowercase t, and perform improvisational readings with the Overly Dramatic Readers.

I also help people! Some of the ways I do that:
  • I co-host several charity fundraisers with The Munchausen Society every year
  • Advocate for strong anti-harassment policies and safe spaces at conventions
  • Organize public relations, media outreach, recorded an audio book & designed the website for a disabled dad's panel on disability for Bronycon; it was so successful he was invited back 2 more times!
  • And More!
I want to keep doing this work, and working with & helping people and also be compensated for my time and effort. My ultimate dream is to be able to offer a bi-monthly podcast along with a blog updated every day of the week. I know times are rough for a lot of people, so I've set this campaign to charge monthly-- no matter what, you'll only be charged the amount you chose to pledge once every month. 

I have rewards for every single support level I offer, too! Check it out:

$1 a month:

You'll get: 

  • My thanks & gratitude
  • Your name listed in a special "Thank You" post on The Code every month
  • Access to Patron-only posts and updates
  • One free Patron only exclusive download each month

$3 a month

You'll get:

  • Your name listed in a special Thank You post on The Code
  • Access to Patron-only updates
  • Free Patron only exclusive download every month
  • Monthly link/plug to whatever you want-- your website, a project, your YouTube channel-- you name it!

$5 a month

You'll get:

  • All rewards for previous tiers (named in the monthly thank you post, Patron-only update access, free monthly Patron only download, free plug on The Code)
  • free music download of a track of your choice from lowercase t every month!
  • Special Tiny Treasures envelope hand crafted & hand picked just for you, sealed with a wax seal and mailed directly to you!

$10 a month

You'll get:

  • All rewards for previous tiers, including the Tiny Treasures 
  • A special Mystery Surprise Care Package made just for you mailed to you EVERY MONTH. It'll be a CARE package stuffed to the brim with fun stuff like novelties, toys, magazines, surprises and a hand-made doodle from me.

$20 a month

You'll get:

  • All previous tier rewards (including the Monthly Mystery Surprise Package)
  • Every month you can request a post on The Code on a topic of your choosing or get a free music track made just for you based on a title you make up!
Click here to find out how you can become a Patron for as little as a dollar a month-- that's 3 cents a day.

If you don't want a monthly commitment but would still like to help out, you can send any amount you choose one time only by going through PayPal here, and you don't even need a paypal account.

Not a fan of PayPal? You can buy me a coffee via Ko-Fi!

NEW Reward Announcement: Tiny Treasures

I offer people who subscribe to my Patreon various rewards: shout-outs, link-backs, free downloads, and even large surprise packages. Today, I'm happy to announce a new reward perk: Tiny Treasures!

I take hand-crafted tiny envelopes, like these:

Description: A small brown envelope with a black &
white drawing of a fox in the lower right hand corner. A
single quarter is displayed at the bottom corner for size
comparison. The envelope is approximately 3 quarters
high and 3 quarters wide.

... fill them with cards and stickers like these:

Description: An assortment of stickers scattered
across a table and atop a tiny treasures envelope.
... and individually seal each envelope with a wax stamp seal.

I love sending surprises in the mail, I love cute tiny things, I love hand-picking and hand-crafting stuff. So if you like getting tiny treasure surprises in the mail, and want to help support The Code, the Tiny Treasures perk is available to anyone who becomes a patron at the $5/level or above!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Mass' Effect: Why Are Fat People Vilified In Video Games?

Description: Screenshot from Silent Hill 2. A fat, white man
with blond hair wearing a backwards baseball cap & striped shirt
points a finger towards the camera, with the subtitle "You've been
laughin' at me all along, haven't you?" displayed at the bottom.
As a fat guy, I've gotten a lot of strangers commenting on my right to exist in public space over the years (and I have it easier than a fat woman or person of color). The way fat people are pilloried as character in the virtual space of video games is pretty gross, too. Producer and essayist Anshuman Iddamsetty looks at the multi-billion dollar entertainment industry that is video gaming contributes to this in "How Video Games Demonize Fat People" for The Outline. Idamsetty's essay goes into a deep dive in speaking with professors, motion-capture actors, game players, game developers and others connected to the industry to take a long look at both the root causes and the effects, intended or otherwise, of demonizing fat bodies.

Here's an excerpt:
if the fear of alienating a player is so great that lazy tropes are somehow safer, this alone doesn’t account for their frequency — if a fat body appears at all.
Sunset Overdrive was released in 2014 by Insomniac Games. Part zombie shooter, part Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, the Xbox One exclusive boasted a robust customization system that let you be whatever you wanted — except fat. “We wanted to put our time into wild outfits instead of technology to bloat up people or bloat them down,” Sunset Overdrive director Drew Murray told Kotaku. (“Bloat” — what a word to describe my body. )
Later in the piece, a shape emerges. “You have so much other complexity in all the things you can wear, the hair, the animations,” said Insomniac CEO Ted Price. “We had to pick our battles, and that was kind of where we chose to draw the line.”
The essay is a bracing but necessary look at not just the history of video games as technical development, but also as popular entertainment, and how certain story telling and design decisions in video games as a medium seem baked into the process from the beginning. Please, give the whole essay a read.

I'm also interested in hearing from other gamers-- have any of these examples ever made you feel a certain way? Do you have any to add yourself? Sound off in the comments.

Monday, April 30, 2018

Video Game Subtitles: The Good & The Bad

Nowadays, most video games, from the tiniest independent title to the AAA blockbusters have subtitles. Subtitles are important not just for the Deaf and hard of hearing-- players with audio processing disorders need them too, as well as player who need the voices or sound lowered for whatever reason. Max Deryagin, an expert consultant on subtitles whose work has appeared in hundreds of videos, is also an avid video game player. His thoughst on what video game with subtitles often fail to do correctly is a well-thought-out article with plenty of examples from last year about what not do to. Here's an example of an irritating problem I ran into way too often: crappy contrast between the subtitle text and the actual game environment...

if the game is highly dynamic, you don't have much time to focus on the subs, so it can be really hard to keep up with them when the contrast is low. Let me demonstrate that in the video clip below. Try to pay attention both to the image and the text. (The clips are muted to imitate not hearing the dialogue well, when you'd want to enable subtitles.)

Subtitles in Star Wars Battlefront II from Max Deryagin on Vimeo.

Ridiculous, isn't it? I can't even read the text in time, let alone enjoy the scenery or concentrate on the action.

Max's post includes a lot more common subtitling implementation mistakes from last year, so whether you're a game player or a game developer, it's essential reading.

As with previous posts I've made on accessibility, these issues don't just affect gamers with disabilities. Making games-- or whatever content you're distributing-- accessible makes them available to a wider audience, and if just a little thought and consideration goes into these measures at the beginning, they can be both super easy and super cheap to include from the get-go.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Leveling the Playing Field: Video Games & Accessibility

Description: Close up of a pair of hands holding a Playstation
4 controller. The controller is a deep blue, and a light on the front
of the controller glows brightly.
Accessibility in video games is more than just creating specialized controllers. It's an issue that doesn't even have to be particularly time-consuming or expensive, as long as you make sure to think of it at the beginning instead of bolting it on at the end. So why are ways to make video games accessible still so sparsely implemented? Why does change keep happening so incrementally, if at all? How can this be fixed? Why is the video game industry so slow to adopt techniques that have made entertainment media accessible in other domains? In "How Games Can Better Accommodate Disabled Players", Waypoint's Mike Diver interviews Ian Hamilton, an game development consultant and advocate for increasing video game accessibility for game players with disabilities. An excerpt:
"Awareness, though, can be hard to come by directly—the circumstances in which games are made are not the same as those in which games are played. Console games are not played on a 27-inch monitor, 18 inches from your face; but that's often the environment in which day-to-day UI decisions are made... There's no reason why the system can't be designed and implemented before the content it's going to display is finalized. That's something I'd dearly love to see addressed at an engine level, as there's really no need for developers to keep reinventing the wheel every time—especially when it's so often reinvented as a square. Again, as with a great deal in accessibility, this isn't rocket science to solve, at all. It's just about actually getting it done."

The discussion of subtitles in video games was of particular interest to me. I always play with subtitles on, as I have an auditory processing disorder and there are times that I just can't focus on the dialogue any other way. Hamilton also talks about controller remapping, colorblind mode and more. The entire article's a great read, so do read the whole thing.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Wrestling With Depression: Gentleman Gervis Speaks On Mental Health

As most longtime readers of The Code know, I'm a huge fan of pro wrestling, especially independent pro wrestling. One of the appeals of smaller scale pro wrestling is that fans get the opportunity to be closer to the action. The indie wrestlers themselves are often much more accessible to fans than those in the big leagues of WWE. One of my favorite pro wrestlers is a grappler by the name of Gentleman Jervis, and meeting him 5 years ago was one of my highlights as a fan. Don't believe me? Here's a picture:

One of the qualities that sets Jervis apart from other pro wrestlers is his relentless gentleness and kindness. In the squared circle, Jervis is more likely to use grappling techniques that will make his opponent unable to move instead of fisticuffs. He employs a sleeper hold... in which he rocks the opponent to sleep instead of chocking them out. And he persona of "The World's Sweetest Man" extends to his presence online from Reddit to social media. In an interview last year with EPSN, Jervis said:
"I want to be a beacon of light on the internet, and I feel in order to do that, I must also navigate the dark crevices and bring out the light in the situation. I try to be nice with everything I do and say, and I think that's translated to my physical life, my real life. My digital life and my digital personas are very sweet and kind, and now my physical persona has assumed that form as well. You have to put out the niceness and create the light that you wish to see reflected upon you."
Which is why it might have been surprising to some when he recently announced he had grappled with depression, self-harm, and suicidal ideation. He recently wrote a blog post about it, entitled "On Sweetness And Suicide". An excerpt:
My mistake was believing that... I could face depression on my own with exercise, healthy eating and positivity. These things are extremely beneficial to one’s health, but sometimes these habits are just not enough. Some depression sufferers like me need medicated assistance as well and that’s okay! ... My outward appearance is a projection of sweetness, friendliness, and understanding. Sometimes, I am not so nice. Sometimes I am downright mean. My self-hate and anger boil over and I become a monster to those around me. A Rottenbelly. Though I am not proud of these moments, I am also not ashamed. Just like anyone else, I can be weak at times. But I can also be strong. Part of being strong is accepting your actions, forgiving yourself for them, apologizing to any parties who may be hurt or offended and correcting your behavior for the future.  
The entire entry is an honest account of the struggles he faced, the thoughts he had, his history with mental health, and the support he received and is an engaging read. Give it a look, won't you?

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Yakuza 6: The Song of Life PS4 Review

Does The Dragon of Dojima's Swan Song Strike The Right Notes?

Description: Screenshot of a close-up of of the back of Kiryu Kazama. He is shirtless,
showing off a muscular back adorned with an elaborately detailed dragon tattoo.
The Yakuza series has followed the life of Kiryu Kazama, a legendary yakuza who rose through the ranks of Japanese organized crime, only to try to leave it behind while trying to balance conflicted loyalties, family ties, and doing what's right. Billed as the first all-new Yakuza game for the PS4 and as the close to a chapter of a series lead, there's a lot riding on this PS4 game's shoulders. Yakuza 6 has to improve on the presentation of the series as a whole, bring a starring character's arc to a close, but not be so daunting that it alienates newcomers to the series. Does it succeed? Find out after the jump.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

New Archive of 30 Years' Classic Sci-Fi Available For Free recently added a gigantic collection of the influential science fiction magazine Galaxy Science Fiction to its site that is free for anyone to read, worldwide. While it's not a complete collection of the magazine's run, there are many pieces of sci-fi history in the collection. Get the details after the jump.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Muslim World's History of Sci-Fi & Fantasy Fiction

Writing for Aeon, Muhammad Aurangzeb Ahmad delves into the long, rich tradition of speculative fiction in Muslim culture, including some of the first examples of feminist fiction in the early 1900s. As he points out, it's not really all that surprising when you consider the background it came from:

Western readers often overlook the Muslim world’s speculative fiction... Some of the first forays into the genre were the utopias dreamt up during the cultural flowering of the Golden Age. As the Islamic empire expanded from the Arabian peninsula to capture territories spanning from Spain to India, literature addressed the problem of how to integrate such a vast array of cultures and people...We also have the Muslim world to thank for one of the first works of feminist science fiction. 

He draws a line from the high fantasy tales of the Golden Age to the early 1800s to today, and it's a pretty interesting journal. And if that whets your appetite, you can find more at .

Friday, August 11, 2017

Rare Recordings of Indigenous Language Saved By Today's Tech

This week, on International Indigenous Peoples Day, UC Berkley announced that efforts were underway to use new non-invasive scanning procedures to archive and preserve recordings of indigenous California languages.

UC Berkeley said in an announcement:
Berkeley researchers are using optical scan technology to transfer recordings from thousands of decaying wax cylinders, preserving audio of 78 indigenous California languages, most of which were recorded more than a century ago. Many of the recordings contain the only audio in the world of several of the languages, and others hold unknown stories and songs.
The collection will be made available to indigenous communities, as well as to scholars and the public.
The video above link has interviews with the linguistics and physics researchers, an archive specialist, and a descendant of a tribe that has no surviving "old-timer" speakers to teach the language.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

Listen Up: Rolling 12s

Rolling 12s theme is built around the world of tabletop gaming and looking at some of the more unique forms of storytelling that the format allows. In particular, Rolling 12s features audio drama content focused on black characters and black tabletop players. The main stories, "Monde Demasque" and "Hallows Eve" centers on a Vampiric court of black women fighting for survival in territory staked out (no pun intended) in Houston.

The podcast is currently on hiatus, so now's the time to get caught up on episodes! You can listen via Rolling 12s on stitcher, on Google Play or via iOS.

Listen Up is an ongoing series devoted to shining a spotlight on podcasts by diverse creators. You can check out all the podcasts previously featured here. If you have a podcast you'd like to recommend, post it in the comments or email me at shawnstruck at gmail dot com.

Little Red Wolf Looks Gorgeous

I recently discovered Amélie Fléchais’ illustration work. I was delighted to find out that her delightful "The Little Red Wolf", originally published in French in 2014, will be published by Lion Forge Comics/CubHouse in the United States in English this fall. The English edition of this story, which turns the classic “Little Red Riding Hood” tale on its head and features a wolf in a familiar red cape. The translation was done by Jeremy Melloul.

I’ve got some art from the book to showcase today but let me do my best to describe to you what this book offers. In a twist on LRRH that is both whimsical and haunting, it follows a little wolf tasked with visiting his grandmother’s house to give Grandmother a rabbit his mother has just hunted. I got a sneak peek at the book and permission to share 2 of the 80 full-color images with you. Bon appetit, and keep your eyes out for this book in the fall!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Listen Up: Fan Bros

The Fan Bros Show is a podcast that bills itself as the "Voice of the Urban Geek".  Hosted by Dj Benhameen, Tatiana King-Jones and Chico Leo, Fan Bros discusses the week in geek life and media fandom. The also have a weekly spinoff podcast called "Black Castle" that goes over the week in Game of Thrones. Lots of good stuff, and the guests they have on each week are super fun to listen to.

You can listen to the podcast on the Fan Bros  website, on iTunes via iOS (though the iTunes feed can sometimes lag behind the actual release date) or on soundcloud.

Listen Up is an ongoing series devoted to shining a spotlight on podcasts by diverse creators. You can check out all the podcasts previously featured here. If you have a podcast you'd like to recommend, post it in the comments or email me at shawnstruck at gmail dot com.

Shining Some Light On Solarpunk's Politics

Artwork courtesy of T.X. Watson
If you're a regular reader of this blog, you've probably heard of steampunk. I've also covered steamfunk and silkpunk. There's a cyberpunk off-shoot that started via artist tumblrs and has grown from aesthetic to a speculative near-future with some interesting political underpinnings: solarpunk.
It's been the prompt for at least one game jam, and has an oversize influence in visual domains: There's a seemingly endless scroll of solarpunk pinterest boards, and the concept has worked its way into webcomics and concept art for Black Panther.

Writing for Medium, Andrew Dana Hudson has an in-depth look at the vision behind this speculative future, and the politics behind the genre. An excerpt:
Let me say from the outset: the world of solarpunk is this world. The here, the now and the very soon. Burdened with all that that’s been slung across our backs. While you might set your solarpunk stories in far off futures or fantasy universes (I won’t stop you), great speculative fiction always reflects the fears and aspirations of the time and place it was written. This is what I’m interested in: what solarpunk can tell us about the civilization we have right now, where it’s going and what we’ll be living through.
I’ll also offer up my own ideas about what exactly we should be doing with this strange bloom we’ve found. Solarpunk feels like a cathartic uncorking of a pent up imagination, and that energy can be channeled in different directions. A genre explores ideas through motifs, variations on a theme. A movement provokes change through iterations of strategy and deed. I love the former, but we need the latter.
The entire article is fascinating reading, so I implore you to read the whole thing. Then, once you've done that, have a look at the impressive body of work from the late, great Solarpunk Press, where you can find art, podcasts and fiction that explore the genre.

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