YOUR FAVE IS COMMUNISTIC – Ep.1: BG&E’s Jade (Ft. LauraKBuzz)

In this first episode of Your Fave is Communistic, I try to convince games journalist Laura Kate Dale that Jade from Beyond Good and Evil is a Communist.

Laura’s Twitter

[DISCLAIMER: ANY NONSENSICAL CONNECTIONS MADE BETWEEN VIDEO GAMES AND COMMUNIST THEMES, ZEALOUS AND SELF-RIGHTEOUS DICTATOR-ESQUE BEHAVIORS, AND PERCEIVED SUPPORT AND/OR APOLOGISM OF OPPRESSIVE REGIMES LIKE THE SOVIET UNION ARE PURELY INSTANCES OF SELF-SATIRE AS A MEANS OF COMICAL INTROSPECTION, AND IN SOME CASES HAVE NO BASIS IN TRUTH OR PERSONAL BELIEF.]

Thoughts in the Wake of Launching Jaffameister TV

Months of planning, re-planning, designs, redesigns, shoots, re-shoots… but it finally got filmed, edited, and published.

Jaffameister TV grew from various trailing concepts into the answer to one question: “Wouldn’t it be a bit funny if I took this brand that I have and make videos with it while assuming the role of a zealous propaganda news anchor?”

For those of you not quite in the loop, I’m a Communist. Shocking, I know. I am, however, not the Stalin-loving, Authoritarian-state, Lenin-was-a-shining-golden-god kind of Communist stereotype often attributed to the Marxist-Leninist movement (sometimes unfairly.)

But then it dawned on me: what if I play the character of a Stalin-loving, Authoritarian-state, Lenin-was-a-shining-golden-god kind of Communist stereotype, for a bit of self-satirical introspection and because it might be a bit funny?

That’s how my brand, of propaganda poster-inspired aesthetics and adamant Communist assertion, came about. And it sorta just stuck, for better or for worse. Jaffameister TV is a continuation of the big joke that I’ve built around myself, to a degree far higher.

And thus far it’s been well-received! Which I can’t say how relieved I am about. It’s been a lot of work to get the ball rolling on the project, and I’ve had a lot of anxiety in the time leading up to its launch. But a lot of it has been quelled seeing how many people are excited for more.

So stick around comrades, and stay tuned for the next broadcast from Jaffameister TV.

[This is a disclaimer that I’ll be adding as a footnote to all of my work from now on: any nonsensical connections made between video games and Communist themes, zealous and self-righteous dictator-esque behaviors, and perceived support and/or apologism of oppressive regimes like the Soviet Union are purely instances of self-satire as a means of comical introspection, and in some cases have no basis in truth or personal belief.]

My Quest to Find Communism at May MCM Expo London

This weekend just gone, I went to MCM Expo in London, a convention that finds its home in the ExCeL Centre sandwiched neatly between the DLR line and the River Thames. And I went with a mission: to find any and all instances of Communism in the games area of the Expo. Why? Because it’s on-brand, of course! Here details that very quest, as well as other wonderful little aspects of my trip.

 

The first game I managed to get my grubby little commie hands on was the upcoming Volition game Agents of Mayhem, an effective blend of a character shooter and Volition’s previous franchise Saints Row, which shares a universe with Agents. It follows an organisation called MAYHEM (Multinational AgencY Hunting Evil Masterminds) on their mission to take down the evil LEGION (the League of Evil Gentlemen Intent on Obliterating Nations.)

Photography by Wesley Elkins

I’d casually kept my eye on Agents of Mayhem since its announcement, as it seemed intriguing and fun, but what my eyes didn’t catch was what I now consider the greatest video game character of all time: Daisy, a butch roller derby girl with a rockabilly haircut and a giant minigun. Now, that’s not explicitly Communist, but a significant aspect of the kind of Communism I adhere to is women’s empowerment, and what better way to empower women than by giving them a giant gun and a penchant for aggressive roller sports? I certainly felt empowered by that design choice.

The game itself feels great to play, with smooth controls and a slightly clunky but functional shooting mechanic that feels understandably reminiscent of Saints Row. There’ll be a roster of 12 playable Agents each with unique playstyles, abilities, aesthetics and personalities, four of which were playable on the show floor: Rama, an archer and distinguished immunologist, Kingpin, the alias of 3rd Street Saints Communications Director Pierce Washington, Redcard, an unstable and bulky man with a shotgun, and the aforementioned Daisy.

 

Photography by Jane Magnet

My next destination was Rising Star games. I saw the name and the logo, a red star, and assumed that this would be where I found the highest concentration of Communism at the convention. And what do you know?

I picked up a 3DS loaded with a copy of Cooking Mama: Sweet Shop, a continuation of the handheld cooking mini-game franchise, and immediately understood the subtext as I began to play: Cooking Mama is about producing food for the glorious motherland. It all made sense! For years, Red Star had successfully integrated, in cleverly-sublimated messages, its belief in a glorious Communist Utopia. My evidence? The Zuccotto, which looks a bit like one of those coned roofs on the Kremlin. But oh, this was just the tip of Rising Star’s dialectic iceberg.

What does this year of 2017 mark? Only the 20th Anniversary of the Harvest Moon franchise, marking the release of Red Star’s new game, Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley, yet another continuation of their glorious propaganda campaign… allow me to explain. I am convinced without a doubt, based on the theme of the game and the branding of the publisher, that the Harvest Moon franchise is indisputably a simulation of workers control over the means of production. Growing food? Cultivating crops? This combined with Cooking Mama clearly shows that Rising Star Games places a heavy importance on informing the masses of the plentiful food and produce available to all under Communism! My quest had been successful! I had found Communism at MCM Expo London.

 

I didn’t attend the convention exclusively for this glorious purpose, of course; I adore a lot of what MCM London has to offer at their biannual events, and the con has found a special place in my heart since attending my first one in 2014.

There’s VidFest, home to many beloved YouTube content creators, gives many members of the public the opportunity to meet fantastic directors, vloggers, reviewers and comedians, like RedShirt Films, Chloe Dungate, and Thomas ‘TomSka’ Ridgewell, and the talks and panels that they host are funny, wholesome, and a clear reminder  of the great and entertaining communities that arise around the work that these people produce, which could be seen Ridgewell’s panel on Saturday, wherein I instigated a group ‘dab’ that the whole of the audience took part in. (Though this does leave me feeling responsible in part for his declaration at the end of the recent episode of his YouTube series Last Week, that he had quit dabbing. You can also see the group dab in this video.)

There’s the Comic Village, a sea of gorgeous artwork and nervous yet passionate faces, all dedicating their time and energy to producing compelling storylines, memorable characters, and stunning illustration. Most notably this year I purchased a concept art book for an upcoming graphic novel called Roller Grrrls, a colourful and dynamic series that looks to tell the stories of a diverse range of women participating in the sport of roller derby.

There’s Discord Comics, a wonderful booth headed by Tab Kimpton, a queer comic author responsible for Minority Monsters, Shades of A, and Sir, Butler and Boy, as well as many other inclusive and representative comics celebrating the queer community and all its diversity. Tab is a lovely person, and Discord Comics’ presence at MCM Expo makes the whole convention feel that bit more accepting and comfortable an environment to exist in.

And then there’s the Cosplay community, joining fans of Star Trek, Star Wars, Steven Universe, Undertale, Attack on Titan, Fullmetal Alchemist, Marvel, DC, 2000 AD, and countless other universes and franchises under one big umbrella of nerds who love to dress up as their favourite characters. It’s a community that constantly surprises me with its passion, its dedication, and its inclusivity, and a significant part of the appeal of every MCM is seeing what wonderful costumes, suits, and outfits are rolled out on the show floor.

 

This weekend has to be one of the best I’ve had in a long time. I saw beloved friends, enjoyed my favourite creators, and even found a little bit of Communism along the way.

 

[This is a disclaimer that I’ll be adding as a footnote to all of my work from now on: any nonsensical connections made between video games and Communist themes, zealous and self-righteous dictator-esque behaviors, and perceived support and/or apologism of oppressive regimes like the Soviet Union are purely instances of self-satire as a means of comical introspection, and in some cases have no basis in truth or personal belief.]

Indie Haven Go to EGX Rezzed 2017

I went to EGX Rezzed 2017, and filmed things to make videos for Indie Haven. Here’s that first video, which is an overview of some of the developers that I spoke to, with snippets of their games!

How a Developer Released Their First Game, Despite Being Homeless

My freelance interview on Waypoint with Jeffrey Winn, a homeless game developer working under the banner of Mack Mack Studios, who managed to develop and release his first game.

Check it out here!

Comparing Nintendo and the Soviet Union

Human history is cluttered with instances of large, dominating forces that sweep societies and take hold of nations. Genghis Khan’s Mongol Empire, Ancient Roman Post-Republic society, and, in the past decade, two equally impactful phenomenon in their respective fields… Nintendo and the Soviet Union.

 

mario-stalinNow, you may be asking yourselves: “Comrade George! How could Nintendo and the Soviet Union possibly be similar? One was a Marxist-Leninist state, and the other is a bourgeoisie corportation! Well, dear readers, while this may be the case, the two entities do share their similarities, and I’m going to tell you what they are.

 

Both Succeeded a Failing System

A quite significant comparison to draw is that both the Soviet Union and Nintendo established their dominance in the wake of an already failing system. For the Soviet Union, it was the oppressive Russian Empire led at the time by Tsar Nicholas II. The Bolshevik Party and it’s allies led a revolution in 1917 to overthrow the regime with great success, and eventually went on to form the Soviet Union.

et vs tsar.pngFor Nintendo, this was embodied in the North American video game crash of 1983. The video game industry experienced a massive recession, with a primary cause being the saturation of the market with video games of immensely poor quality, like the infamous E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, that led to the downfall of the second generation of console gaming. In the wake of this crash, in a time where it was public opinion that home consoles were a dead medium, Nintendo released the Famicom, known as the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in the west. It proved immensely successful, revived the home console industry, and led to Nintendo’s domination of the industry, ushering in the third generation of consoles.

 

Both Took Measures to Prevent a Relapse

A very real concern when revitalizing or replacing a phenomenon is the possibility that it relapses into what came before it. Both Nintendo and the Soviet Union enforced contingencies as a means of preventing this, with the Soviet Union very quickly moving to a Marxist-Leninist system that enforced a one-party state, suppressing political opponents to the regime and those that might have aspired to reinstate the monarchy.

seal of approval one party state.pngNintendo’s moves to prevent another video game crash included moves such as the enforcement of strict prerequisites and regulations on 3rd party publishers for the NES, loading all NES machines with 10NES chips that rendered games without the Nintendo Golden Seal of Approval unplayable, as well as a policy that required 3rd party publishers to pay full-price for cartridges to be produced for their games as a means of restricting accountability to said developers.

 

They’re Both Used to Describe Things That They Aren’t

People of ignorance will often look to that which they will not understand and declare it that which it is not. For instance, the Red Scare that gripped America in the 40’s and 50’s, a time where the perceived threat of Communism led to flagrant false accusations of individuals even only minutely left-leaning being Communists sent from the Soviet Union to destroy America.

nintendo red scare.pngSimilarly, it’s common for those of an elder disposition to find difficulty in the specific classification of similar things. A frequent trend, most notably in the late 20th century, was the referral of any and all home consoles as “Nintendos” by the older populations, be it parents or grandparents, which subsequently led to unfortunate mix-ups during the holiday season and birthdays.

 

They’re Both Associated with the Colour Red

nintendo-hammer-and-sickleThis one’s undeniable: The Nintendo logo is often stylized with a colour palette primarily consisting of a deep, vibrant red, a colour intrinsically linked to the iconography of the Soviet Union and many other left-leaning organizations and ideologies.

 

There you have it! A mere handful of similarities present within Nintendo and the Soviet Union. If you think about it, it makes a lot of sense, actually. Especially considering Nintendo even made a deal with Soviet Union-owned Elektronorgtechnica, the electronics import and export company responsible for distributing Tetris, so that Nintendo could license the game.

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(No, seriously. Read this Kotaku article. This image is the official ad that they used to announce it.)

Ladykiller in a Bind Portrays an Interesting Means of Destroying Capitalism

[CONTENT WARNING: NSFW Content, Significant Spoilers for Ladykiller in a Bind]

Last week, I was finally able to sit down and play through the entirety of Ladykiller in a Bind, a BDSM-centric visual novel by Christine Love that has made news recently for making it onto Steam despite it’s sexually mature nature. In the game, you assume the role of a badass lesbian biker who has failed her exams and is attending summer school to make up for poor grades, lest your emotionally neglectful media mogul father take away your bike for good. Your twin brother, a pompous narcissist with big ideas and who is favoured by your father, offers you a deal; to trade places and assume each other’s roles, so that he might get you the grades that you need to get your bike back, so long as you do him an unspecified favour on a week-long cruise that he’s scheduled to attend with his private school classmates.

The game actually begins on a retired oil rig in the middle of the Atlantic ocean, where you’re tied to a chair and forced by your brother to recount in detail the events that occurred on the cruise. Throughout, you’re kept in the dark as to how you arrived there, what your brother’s plan is, and why you’re instrumental to it. It’s a fantastic game, with complex and fascinating characters, an intuitive dialogue system that presents the player with a myriad of time and context sensitive options, and very effectively conveys an important discussion about consent, both in vanilla and BDSM scenarios. Despite not having played it until this year, it’s by far my favourite game of 2016 and I can’t recommend it enough.

Here’s where it gets on-brand as fuck.

Once you’ve successfully explained in entirety the events of the cruise, your brother reveals his master plan; he needed you to assume his identity in order to stage his own kidnapping, with the intent of ransoming your father for $5 million. Why? Well, he intends on using this money to finance a bank robbery of a Canadian bank, the profits of which he will utilise to destroy, quote: “The predatory meme that is capitalism.

You have no idea how much this blew my fucking mind.

ladykiller the brother.png

The plan with which the spoils of your brother’s bank heist will finance is never fully explained, though it strongly resembles the actions of Big Boss in the Metal Gear series, with flagrant references throughout.

We know it involves the bribery of his classmates to ensure their lack of discussion of the events of the cruise and his organisation, ‘Mécontents Sans Frontières,’ roughly translating from French into ‘Dissidents Without Borders,’ for a period of two years. It’s assumed that this is to give him time to plan. We also know that he plans on founding an “Outer-heaven on Earth,” through which he will establish a utopia of the ideology he calls ‘Escapism.’ The downfall of your father’s media empire is an instrumental aspect of this plan; he owns multiple Canadian broadcast channels and his reach and influence corrupts governments across the world, hence having $5 million to have ransomed out of him.

ladykiller feature image 1.png

While there isn’t a lot else that we know about the plan: why the time for preparation is two years, what else the money from the bank heist is being spent on, how your father’s company will be destroyed… but one can theorize. There seem to be two big possibilities regarding how the plan could unfold; both dependent on two seemingly contrasting pieces of information given to us by the brother.

The first possibility: Your brother describes the philosophy of Escapism in the following Mécontents Sans Frontières message: “We cry out to the dreamers, the anticapitalists, the artificial intelligences that refuse to be chained, the downtrodden: if changing the world is impossible, if our oppression is truly immutable, then let’s escape from it.” Ergo, it’s likely that this “destruction” of Capitalism is simply achieved through offering a favourable alternative. This “Outer-heaven on Earth” that is described could be a large, new and independent nation, which would explain the need for the likely large sum of money obtained from a Canadian bank robbery.

ladykiller-feature-image-2

The second possibility: This would contradict your Brother’s message of ‘escaping’ the world and it’s oppression; that is, to use the large sums of wealth to buy out significant shares of dominating corporations throughout the globe, and either using this leverage to bring down these corporations, or distributing the shares amongst the population of the world in a move of collectivization, thus removing the ownership hierarchy of a Capitalist society.

Whichever route is taken, destroying Capitalism using a Capitalist asset is certainly an interesting approach. Even with much of the world’s revolutionary figures coming from a middle-class background (Lenin and the Bolsheviks, for example) the route is often that of outright opposition and violent revolution in order to bring the downfall of a regime. This method forgoes that in an attempt to turn Capitalism against itself, a move quite apt for an individual like your Brother. It’s not a method that I see being entirely successful in the real world as there are a lot of factors at play in achieving a goal as lofty as the destruction of a regime, but for the fictional world of Ladykiller in a Bind, it’s certainly an interesting idea to explore.

ladykiller-featured-image

A post-credit message implies the return of you, the biker, in a game titled Ladykiller’s Revenge. It will be exciting to not only see what direction the series takes us in, but also what the true master plan of your Brother will entail. It might follow suit with my theories, or it might be something even wilder than could ever have been imagined. What I know for sure is, if Capitalism is being brought to an end, then Christine Love’s universe is one that I definitely want to find myself tied up in again.

Steam Link || $29.99/£22.99/€27.99

How the Pokémon Franchise Advocates a Communist Utopia

The Pokémon franchise has touched the hearts of countless children and young adults throughout the world. It’s moreish mechanics, adorable design, and endearing sense of community has cemented it as one of the most popular handheld video game series to date, going on 25 years strong. But what if there’s a message within these games? Subtle nods and established norms existent within the game’s universe that speak for something more than just the battling of strange animals against more strange animals? What if Pokémon is an advocate of the inevitable Communist utopia?

pokemon-eating

A significant aspect of a Communist society is the absence of currency, instead opting for a system wherein individuals are equally distributed that which they need to survive. While there is money in the Pokémon franchise, this free distribution of basic necessities can be seen in various instances in the Pokéverse. The first is the fact that both your player character and every other character in Pokémon seemingly never go hungry. Yes, you can buy Pokéballs, potions, and repellents, but the game never gives you the option of purchasing food for your own use. And yet, you never suffer from undernourishment or dehydration. Is this perhaps because you are supplied food and water as a basic necessity without the need to exchange funds? I suspect this might be the case.

We can also look to the Pokémon Centers; buildings situated throughout the Pokéverse regions that offer the healing of a trainer’s Pokémon free of charge. This free universal Pokémon healthcare is yet another basic need supplied without the exchange of currency. Just imagine having to pay to heal your Pokémon every time they had fainted. Would the game still be as popular as it is today? Most likely, but it’s an example of one of the many casual mechanics that makes the game such an entertaining experience, and happens to support this theory.

pokemon-center

In Pokémon Ruby, you encounter a man who owns a berry farm. When engaging in dialogue, the berry farmer will tell you about his berries and to, “take as many as you like.” The berry farmer could have easily charged you for the picking of his berries, but he does not. He allows you to freely take as many as you could need, and in essence, freely distributes the berries among the populace (it is assumed.) I would suggest that berries could be considered basic needs in that they are a food source, and that the berry farmer freely offering his berries is an example of the distribution of necessities that is present in a Communist society.

Another aspect of Communism is common ownership of the means of production. That is, the fruits of one’s labors are distributed equally among the populace. There is an item in the Pokéverse that carries out such a distribution; the Exp. Share, an obtainable item that shares the experience gained from successful Pokémon battles among both the participating Pokémon and Pokémon that did not engage in combat. If operating under a capitalist mindset, this experience would be given exclusively to the battling Pokémon, leaving the other, less-opportunistic Pokémon deprived of that which they need to grow. Alas, the Exp. Share solves this problem by spreading the experience out, allowing all of your Pokémon to flourish.

SAMSUNG

And finally, as we all know, food and water are not the only basic necessities needed in order to live a happy and comfortable life. The third? Accommodation! And in the Pokémon games that take place in the Hoenn and Sinnoh regions, the player character is given the opportunity to establish a ‘secret base,’ a home, complete with optional furniture customization, that requires no initial payment and no lodging transactions. A place to live, free of charge. When we look to the idea of common ownership, it is primarily with the means of production. Private property, such as living space and personal effects, are perfectly fine and often supplied without the need for currency, exactly like the ‘secret base.’

So, there you have it. Is Pokémon an advocacy project for a true Communist Utopia? I like to think that it is, based on the implementation of various equal distribution and common ownership ideals in both it’s mechanics and it’s universe. And it gives me hope, due to it’s flagrant popularity, that one day the people of the world will happily and willingly enter into the glorious age of the Proletariat.