2020 might be here, but so much negativity happened in the past that a dementor would see 2019 as an all you can eat smorgasbord. With the internet becoming more of an everyday necessity there seems to be a yin and yang for whenever any news breaks out. On one hand catering to your audience can be very rewarding if done correctly, but slip off that tight rope and they go Gremlins on you. So take this as a cautionary reminder on how NOT to proceed in the new decade. It’s great to remember the good times, but sometimes you need that small reminder of how bad things can really get to appreciate what you have. These are the top 22 embarrassing entertainment moments of 2019.
As we exit the eighth generation of gaming, there’s a huge push towards subscriptions and live services as physical media is sadly viewed as the new dodo. Name any company and they’ve all got their plans for some sort of streaming service: Disney Plus, NBC’s Peacock, EA Access, and Google Stadia. If only all the big companies put their best ideas into “the future”.
The Nintendo Switch Online Service
Despite the Switch outselling both the Wii U and its predecessor, many gamers finally accepted the unfortunate reality that Nintendo’s paid online service leaves a lot to be desired. The cloud system could only hold save files for a limited time should you secede your subscription, and your phone was the only way to chat with your friends while gaming. But the straw that broke the camel’s back was the painful drip feeding of promised NES games. Triple A titles took forever to port to the system and while it was nice to get Japan exclusive content worldwide, it wasn’t enough to justify hiding behind a pay wall when many games these days make more money from ransoming digital currency. Compared to the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate that offers an empire state building worth of titles old and new, the Nintendo Switch Online Service is barely a dog house worth of content. Then again, this is the same company that released Pokémon Snap on the Wii U just as it received its euthanasia shot. Glad they have their priorities in check (sarcasm).
The only reason why it’s at the bottom of the list is, A, the price won’t break your wallet in half, and B, the introduction of the SNES catalog. Specifically Star Fox 2, which is a pioneer in cancelled games coming back from the dead. NES games are fun, but they’re not as replay-able as their 16 bit siblings like A Link to the Past, Super Mario World, and Super Metroid. Still, compared to the now defunct virtual console, this still has a long way to go before reaching it’s former glory. Many more gamers would subscribe to this potential goldmine if the same variety of console offerings from Neo Geo, Genesis, Gamecube, and the N64 would jump aboard the portable bandwagon. But at least this had dignity compared to all the up coming entries. It’s all downhill from here.
For all the branding and reboots saturating Hollywood, we are witnessing a resurgence of the horror genre. There was a time when most of them were regulated to the month of October, as if it were an insane asylum. But now there’s more scary stories like Jordan Peele’s Us, 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, Crawl, and the insane Midsommar. They can come out any month of the year and still make a profit. One would assume these aren’t for kids and they’d only see them with parent supervision. That’s why for the sake of argument, one of them isn’t a horror story. However the events surrounding it might as well be. Ironically, both involve individuals who wear make up and only sought to entertain when society started to go off the deep end.
Parents verses It: Chapter Two’s Marketing + Joker Pre-Release Hysteria
Right around the release of Pennywise’s second adventure, the marketing for IT: Chapter Two was as relentless as Illumination: In your face and always around the corner. For parents, this went too far as they demanded the posters be taken down because it was scaring their children. What’s odd is the poster that caused all the uproar only shows a picture of the clown. That’s it. No child beheadings, no giant monsters, and no raunchy outfits that would make Family Guy’s Quagmire go giggity. Just a creepy clown with a tiny bit of blood. Absolutely nothing about it warrants the FBI to step in and take action.
If it was something like Finding Dory where the Sausage Party trailer was snuck into the advertising, then it would be justifiable. There are worse things to regulate than a poster, and don’t worry we’ll get to that down the line. But the thing to take away from this is if horror posters are scaring people, isn’t the marketing doing their job? And what do you set out to accomplish by taking down one advertisement? It’s not holding you in the Clockwork Orange chair with eyelids forcibly opened for three hours. You have a choice to not pay attention to it.
Joker on the other hand faired much worse with the pre-release hysteria. Memories of the Dark Knight Rises incident in Colorado were popping up despite the universal acclaim. And while that was a very tragic incident, it felt like the negative attention on the likes of Twitter was just begging for any violence to occur in order to blame the movie. Even though Jon Wick: Chapter 3 had a body count that was more than double of what was seen in Todd Phillips’ close to reality take on the clown prince of crime. For some reason people have forgotten that villains aren’t supposed to be care bears even with sympathetic backstories. You can make them relatable, but at the end of the day their actions are what separates them from common civilians, hence the phrase cautionary tale. In the end, there was barely any incidents aside from one or two theaters clearing out from some randomized individual that wanted attention, but it felt like the media wanted another theater shooting just to prove a point. It’s like if catholic schools were too sensitive to Harry Potter books, despite the fanbase knowing that witchcraft doesn’t exist. Who’s stupid enough to believe that?
In an ironic twist of fate, Frozen 2 actually has more blood on its hands thanks to a teenager machete fight at a theater in Birmingham, England. Yet no one was calling for a boycott over the latest adventure with Anna and Elsa. Remind me again who needs to take a chill pill.
Matt Groening’s latest cartoon Disenchantment didn’t exactly win everyone over like The Simpsons or Futurama, but to be fair those are some big shoes to fill, and it had a fun first season. Sure they didn’t always go beyond the boring castle, but at the end of they day there was still some great adventures on the few episodes where it had genuine world building and more importantly it was funny. Besides there’s always the opportunity for improvement come the second season, right? Right?
Disenchantment Season 2
Wrong. While the whole season did feel more fleshed out compared to its very restrained predecessor, the second season of Disenchantment ultimately failed to improve upon everything that wasn’t accomplished in the first season. Most of the comedy fell completely flat save a few moments here and there (BITE MY SHINY METAL AXE!!!!), which is sad because there were more memorable character moments. Specifically Bean’s father and how he’s handling life’s many changes. And there are more locations to explore in the kingdom. But the whole season is bogged down by humor that’s more miss than hit, and a storyline that ends important arcs as soon as they’re introduced. The journey to rescue Elfo from Hell is over in a finger snap. Then it wastes so much time on unrelated material. By the time the cliffhanger ending makes a comeback, it feels like we went around in circles. It’s clear that without writers like Conan O’Brien (Yes, that Conan O’Brien) and Rich Moore, that any series created by Matt Groening isn’t going to have the same wholesome quality as what came before. If anything it means there will be more Simpson clones that become zombies before they have a chance to become a cultural phenomenon. Speaking of zombies…
It’s one thing to have a series not learn from its mistakes during the second run. But it’s another to have a sequel to a beloved installment come out and ruin the goodwill of the original. Banjo-Kazooie has Nuts and Bolts, Indiana Jones has Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, and Dexter has the series finale. I don’t know about you, but Scooby Doo on Zombie Island has been a traditional October classic for TheCinematicBandicoot. With its bleak animation, strong voice acting, and twisting take on the formula, it definitely injected new life into the franchise when it was starting to run on fumes. What could possibly go wrong-
Scooby Doo! Return To Zombie Island
Yes, 21 years after turning the tables on the bad guys in masks, Scooby Doo! Return to Zombie Island comes out of the mountain of direct to home movie waste bin. And to say it does a 180 on what made it work in the first place would be the understatement of the year. The brighter color pallet highlights how out of place it feels for an iconic horror location. And events from the past are brushed off as an unsolved case with inconsistent continuity. Nothing about it apart from past references caters to fans of the original because every minute is spent pissing them off with rewritten lore. The cat people are fake, but the giant panther creature might be real? The zombies are people in makeup, but Morgan Moonscar’s treasure still exists? Everything we knew is a lie, but somehow The Reluctant Werewolf counts as canon? What has Velma been taking? And where can I get some?
While Scooby Doo and the 13th Ghost is just as bad, the series it’s based on wasn’t nearly as beloved as the movie where Fred Jones unintentionally separates a person’s head from their neck. If this wasn’t set on zombie island, it would’ve been more tolerable because there are decent jokes involving Fred, Daphne, and especially Velma trying NOT to solve a mystery while taking time off with Shaggy and Scooby. It’s when they start to deconstruct the serious tone and foreboding nature of said classic that it starts to take a nose dive. Especially with the franchise celebrating its 50th anniversary. Weirdest birthday party ever. Hopefully with the passage of time, this rotten apple will be forgotten by the general public for the greater good. And let’s hope something similar doesn’t happen for the 60th anniversary. Wouldn’t be surprised if it was the cancelled live-action threequel.
It feels like only yesterday when we were all stunned by the post credit scene in Iron Man. Yet everyone brushed it off as a throwaway wink. Oh how much has happened in 10 years. Avengers Endgame has cemented itself as one of the biggest pay-offs in nerd culture. Can you imagine if the culmination of a decade worth of films failed to live up to expectations? Who says there isn’t a reality where it happen? And it came right off the heals of a tear-jerking predecessor.
The Captain Marvel Toxicity
Before audiences cheered when portals opened to challenge Thanos, there was Brie Larson verses the general public. Fresh off her best actress Oscar from 2015’s Room, she had more than her fair share of comments directed against movie critics who disliked 2018’s A Wrinkle in Time. If you didn’t like it, you were obviously a white critic who doesn’t want diversity in films. Even though the Rotten Tomatoes audience score was just as sour and popular YouTube channel Double Toasted gave it one of their lowest ratings of that year.
Putting that aside, race-bending (not to be confused with white washing) has become more common in media over the years. The likes of Creed, Stephen Universe, and even Nick Fury himself in the Marvel Cinematic Universe have shown growing representation moving into 2020. Sure we might still have a ways to go before there’s genuine equality, but compared to 20 years ago, there’s a lot more stories with characters representing different backgrounds and ethnicities. Even The Mandalorian was criticized for not having female characters shortly before introducing the more engaging Cara Dune. What matters is if it’s done right. Yet like her movie counterpart, Larson pretended her actions were an exception in society and not the status quo. Must be the curse that comes with winning that coveted award.
In spite of all the flame wars, Captain Marvel still laughed all the way to the bank by turning the toxic news into a clever marketing tactic. Turns out converting comments from both sides into a cause can get people in to seats. And thankfully the character was handled much better in Avengers: Endgame compared to her own movie, acting as part of a team when we’re just getting to know her. Rhodey made a comment about how everyone in the Avengers is about that superhero life. It would feel unfair to have her immediately take leadership of earth’s mightiest heroes over those who’ve had longer tenure. Fingers crossed that Black Widow doesn’t go through the same publicity. She deserved a movie WAY before this.
Say, who else is anticipating Illumination’s take on Super Mario Brothers? It’s no monumental task to outsmart the original that almost sent John Leguizamo and the late Bob Hoskins to an insane asylum for all the crap they endured on set. If it means turning Goombas into minion clones in the same vein as The Lorax, that’s not too many eggs to break for this omelet. If you think otherwise, check out what Sega’s business decisions have led to. And this time, don’t take the fan reaction with a grain of salt.
Sonic the Hedgehog Movie Trailer + Moving Picture Studios Vancouver Closure
Finding common ground with the hardcore Sonic fans is a challenge in itself, but it took a creation straight out of Freddy Fazzbear’s brothel to get everyone to see eye to eye. In his debut for the 2019 film adaptation, the initial design of Sonic the Hedgehog was so hated across social media for implementing an uncanny humanoid structure that was neither man nor beast. It was something not made for the world of the living. The backlash was so bad that director Jeff Fowler and Paramount delayed the film to February 2020 so they could give Sonic a much needed makeover. This led to even more backlash from other fans who assumed the animators would be subjected to crunch time a la Sausage Party. Animation is a lengthy process. The difference between that snafu and this muck up is many of the studios working on Sonic are unionized, so there’s no chance of abusive lightning striking twice. And if anything it shows a step in the right direction when it comes to studio communication with fans. If this was made in the 90’s, all the complaints would fall on oblivious ears, and we’d finally have something as bad as Sonic 2006. That in of itself would’ve been quite the accomplishment.
Unfortunately, it turns out the director lied to the media about not using crunch tactics in order to complete the Sonic redesign. News broke out that Moving Picture Studios’ Vancouver location was shut down shortly after the redesign work was complete. And according to sources that posted on Reddit, crunch tactics were implemented because Canada doesn’t have unions for animation studios like the United States. Guess Sega does what Nintendon’t. And that’s not a good thing in this case.
Good old social media. It’s a new platform for celebrities and companies to connect with their fans. But it can kill your career in one fell swoop if you’re not careful. Might as well be playing with gasoline and a match when on the likes of twitter. Lord know’s it’s much safer than playing devil’s advocate with the forbidden nose sugar.
Sega’s Judgment Day
In recent years Sega has been on a creative hiatus, pumping out one Sonic game after another with varying results. A far cry from their massive IP library during the Genesis days that experimented with many genres. But one of their original games Judgement, a spin-off of the Yakuza series, finally broke the mold of sequel saturation by exceeding sales expectations. For a while things were looking good. Until Japan composer turned actor, Pierre Taki, was arrested for possessing cocaine. This might not seem blasphemous by U.S. standards, but Japan takes their drug control laws very seriously. In the game, Taki played the character Kyohei Hamura, but following his arrest, Sega distanced themselves from the actor and halted further sales of Judgment in Japan. However unlike the now retired and innocent Masayoshi Tanimura, Taki pleaded guilty for drug possession and was eventually bailed on April 4, 2019. But at a bigger cost than money. During the localization for the western release of Judgement, Sega opted to replace Taki’s voice and likeness with another actor and thus there’s now a huge demand for the unaltered Japanese game. It will have its fair share of hardships when it comes to preservation, but you could seek your fortune if you have a copy.
If there was a silver lining in this, its that Judgement was given more publicity after Sega distanced themselves from the actor. And it still managed to sell enough copies to be considered successful. It proves that sometimes bad publicity can help in the long run. Hopefully this will convince Sega to bring back a few more IPs that focus on more than just speed and detective work. Sometimes you need to take a break from the fast lane.
The animation industry is in a time where crunch tactics are starting to take center stage in the news, and for justifiable reason. The art itself can take weeks to months for only a few seconds of movement. And that’s not including later touches like backgrounds, coloring, textures, and shading. So forcing that deadline mentality on talented artists who spend much time refining a delicate process is a very toxic practice. And this moment isn’t doing the medium any favors.
John Kricfalusi’s Cans Without Labels
Back in 2012, famed Ren and Stimpy creator John Kricfalusi launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund his short film Cans Without Labels, based on his childhood memories. It focused on George Liquor American and his two nephews as they spent lunchtime eating food inside cans without labels, hence the title. By the time the campaign ended, it had 3,562 backers pledge 136,723 dollars. Originally slated for February 2013, it took six whole years for John K to both produce the short and reward his backers for their patience. During those six years, a lot of allegations came to light surrounding the creator. They won’t be touched upon as everyone who backed the campaign were unaware of the situation. The problem is the fact that an animation veteran took six years to produce one short. In those six years, Youtube has seen the rise of independent animators who make better quality animation with less than half the budget and only a fraction of said time. One could make the argument that 130,000 dollars is still chump change for an expensive medium, except Kricfalusi has been in the industry for a long time. How does 30 years in this profession lead to such a delay?
John K has been described as a perfectionist to a fault by many former employees. He’ll throw out animation if the same frame is drawn twice, and will generally create a toxic work environment just to produce animation to his high standards. It was that kind of mentality that eventually led to Nickelodeon firing him as his show took off. Want more evidence? Look no further than the 2019 animated short Hair Love. It took only two years to make and was kickstarted by an equally large group of backers and passionate animators. In the end, Hair love scored many award nominations while John K’s cartoon was dumped on YouTube. The DVD copy meanwhile is priced at 25 dollars on the creator’s website. That’s some weird extortion.
Over the years, the gaming convention has seen a drastic decline in attendance. With cost of living becoming an ever increasing problem, it becomes very difficult to afford travel, food, and a hotel for the sake of one press conference. Sometimes it’s not worth risking your rent and grocery bill. You’d most likely spend most of the event waiting hours in line anyway. One could point to the likes of Nintendo Direct as the inception of this change because competition like Sony’s State of Play are starting to replace their presence at what used to be the go to place for new game announcements. We might see gaming conventions become a thing of the past sooner or later. And probably for good reason after this year:
E3 2019 Journalist Leaks
E3 used to be the gaming gala for anyone who wanted to get a peak at some exciting new titles. However nothing could prepare anyone for the massive screw up that this year’s event committed by leaking the private information of 2,000 journalists and content creators from the likes of the Washington Post, Vice, Polygon, The Verge, PC Gamer, Game Informer, IGN, YouTube, Gamespot, Gizmodo, and Twitch. Including, but not limited to, real names, phone numbers, and home addresses. All this after following a very lackluster event. This comes courtesy of the Entertainment Software Association who was informed by one Sophia Narwitz about the leak. To their credit, they did apologize for the disaster and took steps to ensure that it wouldn’t happen again, but it might take more than a simple apology with multiple attendees now filing lawsuits against the ESA. People nowadays are encouraged to subscribe to Express VPN when it should be the standard for internet security. Another bill to file away in the cost of living folder.
The leak of this important document could be an omen that ends gaming conventions in the near future. After all, why would companies shell out so much money when they can just have cheaper publicity on Twitch and YouTube? But it’s going to take more than financial compensation and the opportunity to take part in an exclusive event in person or online to persuade people to cooperate. There needs to be certainty that their personal information won’t end up in the wrong hands. Maybe even safer on a physical sheet of paper rather than on a computer. As we say in the digital age, once it’s on the internet, it never goes away.
The life of a youtuber is a very curious case. They have many fans who will support them and yet like social media, one little slip can bring everything crashing down. And not just by the broken copyright system. They walk the tightrope between professionalism and personal time. And sometimes unexpected events can happen like meeting someone who you’ll share a future with. But does it ever last when it starts in the workplace?
The Projared Scandal
Ask youtuber Projared who was at the center of one of the most talked about scandals of 2019. He built his channel from the ground up and eventually met Heidi O’Ferrall, the owner of Forest Girl Clothing. Eventually wedding bells were ringing and it felt like something out of a fairy tale. But something felt out of place when Projared stopped uploading new videos. A few months later, he announced via twitter that he and his wife were filing for a divorce and that he’d appreciate the privacy. If only the updates stopped there.
In response to the tweet, Heidi posted that Jared had cheated on her with another person and that was the spark that started months of crossfire. Numerous back and forth claims of soliciting underaged photos and hinting at a polyamerous relationship developed down the line, but the fans were quick to stand with Heidi. The jokes at Projared’s expense went on for months and it felt like his YouTube career was coming to an end. It’s either this or the YouTube Algorithm.
Projared eventually made a video telling his side of the story after the endless ridicule. And to his credit, he was able to clear many of the serious allegations leveled against him. His channel bounced back afterwards and he returned to making more videos. So this is one of those celebrity marriages that can act as a warning for finding love in the workplace. One wonders how other falsely accused handle the mob mentality? We’ll get to that later.
This decade has seen so many franchises hit the big screen compared to original ideas. And it all goes back to Disney who started the trend with their tentpole strategy: purchasing many well known studios like Pixar, Marvel, 20th Century Fox, and Lucasfilm in order to milk their IPs to their hearts content. And in doing so, became the single most powerful company in the history of humankind. Naturally this affected smaller studios that wanted to break away from the special effect blockbuster that’s a dime a dozen these days. Every theatrically released smaller movie has been overshadowed by the Marvel superheroes and their jedi siblings. Now distribution rights are sold to streaming services to reach a bigger audience. And it’s even worse for animation that can double your budget.
Missing Link’s Box-Office
What a shock (sarcasm). Another good film from Laika that’s see’s an ever decreasing box office performance. Only this time, it’s an explosive outcome. For those who don’t know, Laika is the stop-motion studio in Oregon that’s created modern animated classics like Kubo and the Two Strings, Coraline, Boxtrolls, and Paranorman. For a while, they were on a hot streak with both critics and audiences. And while their returns saw a somewhat decline in revenue after striking gold with Coraline, it didn’t affect their business until Kubo and the Two Strings barely made its budget back. And that’s not including marketing numbers. Then Missing Link came along, said hold my beer, and became Laika’s first box office bomb, grossing 26.2 million dollars against a 100 million dollar budget. It was such a disaster that the studio cut ties with its CFO, Brad Wald, who was brought in to help commercialize the company following the diminishing returns. This is why we can’t have original ideas.
Missing Link’s box-office performance isn’t just an omen for Laika, but also for the future of stop-motion. Compared to 2009 which hosted a variety of animation domestically and internationally, there’s been an oversaturation with interchangeable CGI clones. True, Missing Link ended up winning the golden globe for best animated feature, but Aardman recently sold the distribution rights of Farmageddon: A Shaun the Sheep Movie to Netflix before the American theatrical release. No doubt a last minute decision with 2018’s Early Man licking its wounds after going toe to toe with Black Panther. It could well mean that stop-motion has a limited future in the animation industry with its increasingly negative perception with people. Some are calling the art very creepy and uncanny because it doesn’t have that digital polish. But that’s what makes it interesting. Seeing a real life figurine with the power of free will. We might end up seeing the hand drawn style compete with stop-motion over who gets another chance on the big screen. A divided community never lasts.
From one box-office bomb to another:
Terminator Dark Fate’s Box Office
Despite franchises making more money than original ideas, Terminator lived to see the final nail in its coffin permanently jackhammered after the release of Dark Fate. Since Rise of the Machines, there have been multiple attempts to branch the series in a new direction starting with 2009’s Salvation. However legal problems kept a sequel out of reach until it was rebooted again with 2015’s Genisys. While raking in more money than Salvation, the negative reaction prompted Paramount to scrap the cliffhanger ending. Enter series creator, James Cameron, who reacquired the rights to make his own trilogy starting with Dark Fate. Directed by Tim Miller (Deadpool) bringing back Linda Hamilton, and utilizing all the tools of today’s technology, the stars were aligned to finally tell something different. Many praised it for being the best film in the series since Judgment Day, and yet, it failed to recoup both it’s budget and marketing costs. That history lesson alone could make an interesting documentary as many felt this superior new film was just a tired repeat of the original with some very controversial story decisions. And it took less than 5 minutes to get to the most infamous one.
The high budget of Dark Fate plus the mixed critical response cost Paramount 120 million dollars after opening weekend. Afterwards they announced there were no more plans for future installments, essentially negating the entire decade they spent trying to keep the series relevant. And now the saga that pioneered the modern blockbuster has tested audience patience for the last time. No walking off into the sunset and no fulfilling closure. Just a series that will be stuck in the same time loop for all eternity. Some things are worse than death.
Every year sees a good number of legends pass on from the world of the living. Some of the most notable years include 2016 and 2018 highlighting many well known singers, actors, writers, and other entertainment icons that left their mark on the industry in one way or another. And thankfully there are plenty of ways to offer tributes in their memory. That is, unless you negotiate with the NFL. They’ll stab you in the back and run off with the football.
The 2019 Super Bowl Half-Time Show
Let’s go back in time to November 27th, 2018. The world wakes to the incredibly sad news surrounding the passing of Spongebob SquarePants creator, Stephen Hillenburg. Diagnosed with ALS in March 2017, he stayed on the show for a year and a half before succumbing to his illness. Shortly after the news broke out, a petition was started to ask the NFL to play Sweet Victory at the Super Bowl halftime show as a tribute to the late creator/marine biologist. It got over one million signatures and the attention of many media outlets to the point where the Super Bowl trailer teased the possibility of turning that petition into a reality. The whole celebration was blown when fans were instead treated to a small flash animation that, after briefly referencing the introduction to the song, led to the entrance of one Scott Travis singing Sicko Mode. Needless to say, many were enraged by a snubbing that even the Oscars would shake their head at in shame.
This wasn’t about cartoon fans not getting to see their cartoon, this was about honoring someone who created one of the most recognizable entertainment icons in history, and yet was a mortal that had his life cut short by a very serious neurological disease. For some reason the NFL saw no problem in trolling their audience if it meant boosting their viewership for the big game. Can you imagine if Justin Timberlake’s tribute to Prince was replaced with the rick rolling song? Whatever side you’re on concerning that 2018 can of worms, there were resources and serious talks around that dedication, and not some half-assed promotional snare that would make the worst Kickstarter scam look like a Black Friday deal. None of the blame is on Nickelodeon for having extra animation to work on in addition to the show itself. Nor is it on Maroon 5, who responded on twitter to the situation for the lack of communication. It’s solely on the NFL for taking a tribute to a dead person and turning it into a disgusting ratings trap. The Mercedes stadium tried to save face by playing the clip of Sweet Victory to an empty, vacant, soulless building. It didn’t work. There was no fanfare, no cheers, no smiles, and no tears of joy. Just a dead, concrete atmosphere that didn’t clean up any of the disappointment. Effectively highlighting the NFL’s failure to connect with sports fans in recent years.
If it weren’t for the NHL’s Dallas Stars game coming in at the last second to give everyone the tribute they petitioned for, the NFL would still be drowning in its own negative publicity. Last minute color changes aside, it was a loving dedication that deserved to shake up expectations of halftimes shows on all sports fronts. But that doesn’t excuse the NFL from pulling such a disrespectful stunt. When a reanimated collaboration of Band Geeks on YouTube does a better job at honoring its creator than a multi-million dollar sports corporation, that’s a sign to go sit in a corner and rethink your business strategies. And no, there won’t be any hotdogs or beer with that.
No beating around the bush here. Or should I say the lack of human communication.
YouTube Destroying Itself…Again
Over the years, YouTube has garnered a reputation for being both a dream job and a living nightmare. Between the content creators that made the site popular to begin with, and the corporations that are now pulling the strings on fair use, YouTube has allowed the community to make the rules up as they go. If not, they themselves will pull another set of “rules” out of their ass without warning. Some of the most idiotic practices implemented this year include the ability to punish content creators for the comments below their videos. Something that’s just as abusive as their other mechanics. And if that doesn’t happen, taking down hundreds of channels without warning will be the final solution. Unlike other companies that stray away from bad publicity, they’re able to shrug it off because they hold a monopoly around the online video market, beating out the likes of Vimeo and the now defunct Blip. That and it’s run by more machines that humans.
There’s their constant failure of not refining their copyright system when it comes to fair use, leading to unearned strikes against well known channels as extortion. The prime example involves Kenzo and ObbyRaidz who were blackmailed into paying a third party under the name Gina Beth Paul/Vengeful Flame. Vengeful Flame wanted 75 to 400 dollars in exchange for not sending three strikes on their Minecraft videos. As any Youtuber knows, three strikes on your videos leads to your channel being deleted. Good thing Vengeful Flame was blissfully unaware that many content creators take to twitter with evidence in hand. The abusers then get a taste of their own medicine. If only this was the status quo for all other incidents thrown under the bus.
Finally there’s the end of the year bombshell that’s got everyone up in arms: the COPPA incident. Near the end of 2019, YouTube was fined 170 million dollars by the FTC for violating COPPA, or the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, founded in 1998. For those not in the loop, the following italic sentence describes the basic law behind COPPA:
For a site as big as YouTube, they’ve been collecting data on every user of every age. Even when parent permission is required for the likes of Youtube Kids. It leaves them with no one to blame but itself for allowing this predatory practice up until now. There are channels that target children as their audience and will most likely be affected the most. But if anything, COPPA was the comeuppance YouTube (not its content creators) deserved for all the years of copyright abuse and negligence to the law. There’s a ton of details to go over, but the likes of Jim Sterling and TheMysteriousMrEnter cover the subject in greater depth on their channels. All of which will be linked down below. To make a long story short, YouTube got what was coming to them for a long time. While that financial loss might be chump change in their eyes, it hopefully hit them hard enough to think twice before messing with the people that made it popular in the first place. Makes Lewis Carol books look life the scientific method.
Television nowadays is a risky investment for viewers. Especially when more shows favor episodes that last half the length of a two hour feature. At some point the time sacrifice becomes too demanding. Hours are invested in so many seasons, but there’s always that gloomy chance of it getting cancelled, turning the experience into a gigantic waste of time. But people generally flock to television because there’s more originality, better production quality, and more time to flesh out stories and characters unlike theaters that focus on selling recognizable brands. Then there are special cases like this:
Game of Thrones’ Final Season
Once held as the spiritual successor to Lord of the Rings, the final season to Game of Thrones witnessed a golden dragon crash and burn when trying to stick the landing on an eight year long journey. Having run out of book material, two stories were crunched into six episodes when they should’ve had their own seasons. Plots that were built up for so many years ended on insultingly simplistic resolutions, and previous character development was cast aside for the spectacle when the show could juggle both clever writing and expensive set pieces. Not even the longer running time helped the pacing that seemed to leapfrog off the narrative at any chance it got.
If any good came out of this, it was the first two episodes that knew how to encompass seven seasons of anticipation in two hours. For all the grim deaths and loud destruction, it was the quiet moments between allies and frenemies that left the biggest impact on the heartstrings. Even the worst episodes had tense action, lush cinematography, and a talented cast that worked with whatever half baked ideas were thrown their way. Some of them like Peter Dinklage rightfully earned his Emmy compared to the entire season. But it’s clear that the book was the guiding star that kept the series in check. Without it, the show lost its way at the most crucial part of its life, and went out on a polarizing note that only The Rise of Skywalker could rival. That’s some wicked deja vu.
Puberty was inordinately unkind to comic book movies after Batman Returns. Studios wanted films that were aimed towards kids for the sake of marketability after the happy meal fiasco at McDonalds.
This resulted in titles like The Phantom, Steel, and Batman and Robin further enforcing the stereotype that comics were for kids. Followed by a very angsty damage control phase of Daredevil, Spawn, Hulk, and Catwoman. All that was missing was their own goth group. Only Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man seemed to put the filmmakers in control of creativity that reached a wider audience. Then X-Men came along and said, let’s grow old together through reboots. It was love at first sight. While it’s debatable on whether or not the early installments hold up, the X-Men film series found a home in the minds of fans for almost 20 years. With side stories like Logan being praised as one of their best. Too bad that quality didn’t last till the very end.
X-Men: Dark Phoenix
Once a franchise that paved the way for the likes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the X-Men film series experienced just as many reboots as it’s Sony cousin Spider-Man. Each trilogy started out promising, but ended up wasting their potential one way or another. The Last Stand had genuinely epic moments, but the story was unfocused in delivering a satisfying conclusion about the comic’s main theme: prejudice. Apocalypse tarnished both First Class and the amazing Days of Future Past by not standing out from the oversaturation of comic book movies. Fast forward to 2019 when Dark Phoenix is only a week away from premiering. When it did, it felt like half a story missing it’s second act. Granted Sophie Turner and the rest of the cast did everything to salvage a messy script. But negative word of mouth spread so fast that it ended up being the lowest grossing film in the 19 year lifespan. At this point, Thanos is salvation.
Director Simon Kinberg was hoping to follow-up Dark Phoenix with a sequel focusing on a younger version of the original team. But with the Disney-Fox merger finalized, Bob Iger made it clear that this would be the end of the Fox era before integrating the mutants into the MCU. So why is this worse than Terminator: Dark Fate’s eulogy? Because Dark Phoenix was one of the many casualties of corporate restructuring. Many movies that were in development before the buyout were quietly killed off if they didn’t attract money like a magnet. Mouse Guard was a very ambitious animated feature that suffered the same fate. Almost like a sick act of cannibalism. Had the buyout been delayed or Fox sold to another studio, the X-Men film franchise could’ve had it’s proper fulfilling conclusion before moving into the next decade under a new banner. Guess we’ll find out in another 19 years. Can’t imagine what retirement homes will be like then.
I realize this list is repeating so much by constantly bringing up Disney. But how can you change the subject when they own 40 percent of the market? Two decades ago, it was every enterprise for themselves. Now multiple companies have merged with one another in an effort to stay afloat in the current entertainment industry. AT&T bought Time Warner while Viacom and CBS kissed and made up. But even the biggest names are secretly planning to fit their corporate partners with cement shoes. And with complimentary mouse ears.
The Sony/Disney Debacle
Back when the second Avengers sequel was on the horizon, Disney negotiated a deal with Sony to allow Spider-Man to stand alongside Iron Man and Captain America. A process that the Russo Brothers described as hell on earth. Tobey Maguire and Andrew Garfield might’ve pulled in similar box-office numbers, but everyone and their mother would’ve signed their soul to Satan to see Peter Parker join the ever growing superhero family. Sony allowed their piggy bank to join the MCU on the grounds that they get the profits from his solo films. Disney agreed, but couldn’t help itself when it came to renewing their contract. Around the release of Spider-Man: Far From Home, the higher ups demanded 50 percent of the profits from an IP they didn’t own. Naturally Sony wasn’t happy with these new conditions and without common ground, Spider-Man was set to exit the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Cue the divorce papers.
Fans were reduced to children watching their parents bicker as the news developed. And filmmakers were disappointed that all the hard work in acquiring the character would go to waste. Spider-Man has some of the most memorable moments in both Infinity War and Endgame, including an improvised scene near the end of the former that massacred everyone’s heartstrings. Far From Home meanwhile went out of its way to re-cast J.K. Simmons as J. Jonah Jameson. And to only NOW have him exit would be more catastrophic than the last two reboots because there’s been so much development in an ever expanding world on top of yet another cliffhanger. Even if Disney was responsible for the creativity, asking for half the profits on something they don’t own is a poor move. True, Sony has a history of screwing up a good thing, but at the end of the day they still own the character. Which reveals the true colors of 2018’s Venom as a back-up plan. Should Disney forget their place again, Sony will be able to incorporate the web slinger in their own cinematic universe. And that won’t be the only turd in the wind.
Eventually the two studios came to an agreement and Spider-Man: Far From Home made a billion dollars like both companies wanted. There’s still one more movie left in the contract, but after that it’s impossible to predict what’ll happen next. Not even Mr. Marvel himself, Kevin Feige has a clear vision on this, between the MCU and his new dedication to Star Wars. One would assume the mature route to take would be for Sony to sell Spider-Man to Disney, thus giving the fans a better sense of security. If only our reality wasn’t so cruel. Sony is busy announcing projects building up their Spider-Verse, from a Venom sequel to Morbius. The latter of which shocked everyone with a cameo of Michael Keaton in an unspecified role, though many suspect him to be Adrian Toomes’ Vulture. All the while Tom Holland remains in the middle unsure of whether or not his incarnation will be in Sony’s universe. It’s going to be one ugly custody battle.
The evolution of video games has drastically changed since rising from the crash of 1983. Tough gameplay was always top priority in order to get customers to spend quarters on arcade cabinets. But as gaming moved closer to home and graphics became more realistic, so did the desire to tell stories with more challenging themes and characters. Metal Gear Solid pioneered this practice during the days of the PlayStation. And ever since then, the line between video games and movies became more blurred as every new generation of gaming saw story take center stage. Now the question is can gameplay still be the deciding factor between critical acclaim and disappointment?
Death Stranding’s Gameplay
One of the most highly anticipated games of 2019 turned into one of the most polarizing receptions upon release. Following the events of Konami-gate, many former employees, including Hideo Kojima, escaped their corporate prison to save their careers from being tossed into a janitor’s closet. The Metal Gear Solid creator formed Kojima Productions and began work on a new game called Death Stranding, enlisting colleagues Norman Reedus and Guillermo Del Toro from the now cancelled Silent Hills. No one knew anything about it as details were kept under wraps. When it finally released, nobody knew how to react. Many praised the story, graphics, performances, and strangeness from its auteur. But when it came to the gameplay, many were underwhelmed that it basically boiled down to an extremely tedious task of walking hundreds of miles to deliver packages. With every bit of realism coming into play and grinding the pacing to a halt: stamina, balancing, and weight management. Rinse and repeat for nine hours. And that’s only the prologue.
What makes Death Stranding’s gameplay hard to stomach is that it was supposed to hit Konami where it hurts after suffering under their iron fist. The company made news near the end of Phantom Pain’s development by treating its employees like dirt before heavily investing in the gambling market. To have this as a counterstrike seems a little embarrassing, almost on the level of Mighty Number 9. And in the same year, Koji Igarashi accomplished this goal with the kickstarted Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night. A spiritual successor to Castlevania that evoked the spirit of slaying the supernatural better than the discontinued Lords of Shadow reboot. Even going so far as to include an unsubtle jab at his former employer with a slot machine boss. And we all had a good laugh.
If made into a movie, Death Stranding could’ve been a new path for Hideo Kojima. Over the years, he’s expressed interest in breaking into the film industry, which compared to modern video games isn’t too far off in terms of the business. He’s obviously a film buff with influences from the likes of Escape From New York and 2001: A Space Odyssey. And when Death Stranding focuses on the bizarre yet complex story, it really works. But when the gameplay comes up, it’s a chore to get through in order to see what’s going to happen next. Did I mention the prologue takes 10 hours to complete?
Ah Bethesda. Look how far you’ve fallen. It was only yesterday when everyone was praising you with the release of Skyrim. It might have sparked a few glitchy memes, but it also captured the imagination of traveling through a land with dangerous mythology. Now you’re just remembered as the company that releases buggy games and are more than happy to let the fans patch them for you at no cost. You’ll also do anything to get people to stop complaining about a nylon bag. Even if it means leaving products untested for safety reasons.
Fallout 76 Helmet Recall + Fallout First
In its endless quest to tick off its customers at every opportunity, Fallout 76 went on another tangent of asinine decisions. Starting with a recall on a Nuka Cola themed helmet that cost players 150 dollars at GameStop (not to be confused with the grey helmet included in the power armor edition. Unless any updates follow). The reason? A high risk of growing mold. According to the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission, mold can be present on the fabric insert inside the helmet, posing a risk of respiratory or other infections in individuals with compromised immune systems, damaged lungs, or an allergy to mold. The number of helmets sold were around 20,000 units, cost GameStop a fortune in refunds, and did little to save Bethesda’s failing image. Unless they’re going into the cheese business with that mold.
If that’s not enough salt in the wound, then consider signing up for a game that’s undergoing patchwork to this day. For some reason, Bethesda decided to re-release one of the worst games of all time under a new title: Fallout First. Is it a game of the year edition that fixes all the bugs and glitches unleashed upon the unsuspecting public? Nope! It’s an annual 100 dollar subscription service to Fallout 76 that was broken on release day. It’ll only set you back by one house loan and any patience you had left. The servers were anything but private thanks to the evidence of looted areas and players joining groups at random. The scrap storage chewed up resources and didn’t even spit out the bones. Did we mention no refunds?
It’s been over a year since Fallout 76’s initial thrashing, and yet Bethesda still can’t seem to grasp how to handle the situation. Instead looking for other ways to swindle people’s money in exchange for less than the bare minimum of a working video game. That and delaying tasks like adding human NPCs. Didn’t that garner applause for Todd Howard at E3? Fool us ten times, shame on everybody. Even the website domain wasn’t patented leading to someone taking it and turning it into a parody of itself. Isn’t that Bethesda’s job?
As we near the end of this countdown, these last three entries will deal with hot button topics that might not be for the faint of heart. On a normal day they could turn twitter into a forest fire, but how’s that different from routine? We do not condone any of the harassment covered in this particular topic from either party and only look to present the full story regardless of innocence or guilt. Keep in mind the research process on these last three entries led to some dark and extremely complex conclusions. You have been warned.
Night in the Woods Allegations
Night in the Woods might’ve been a very fun indie game, but behind the scenes were events that led to a very grim outcome. The game had been out for two years when accusations against programmer Alec Holowka began to surface. This came courtesy of Zoe Quinn five years after Gamergate as she took to twitter with a lengthy thread detailing her supposed relationship with Holowka. Specifically on how he held her captive when they were working together. At this point, the #MeToo movement was being praised for bringing forward a very serious issue in entertainment concerning sexual assault. So much so that it was nicknamed the Weinstein effect after a notorious scandal involving Harvey Weinstein. However some were worried that anyone could be accused by a single thread without any kind of evidence in order to destroy careers and personal lives, regardless if accusations were true or not. Today it’s known as cancel culture. That’s exactly what happened as developer Infinite Fall cut ties with Alec right before working on a physical edition of the game. Even his own sister sided with Quinn. Adding fuel to the fire was social media icon and Crash Override founder, Anita Sarkeesian with her own twitter thread. 48 hours after losing everything in his life, Alex Holowka committed suicide on August 31st, 2019.
The aftermath of the affair is just as sour. Sarkeesian tried to save face with a post about suicide awareness after constantly cheering for Quinn. However Quinn deleted her twitter account after news broke out which feels very suspicious for someone who claims her statements to be true. In the days after the incident, reports began to surface that Quinn might have fabricated her story. Which can really damage an important movement like #MeToo. One article on the post millennial completely breaks down all her tweets that go against almost everything in her claim (Link in the description below). And there seems to be a lack of communication on her side following these reports. She hasn’t answered any questions that are emailed to her, which some have claimed is very unprofessional and on the same level as her management skills on her Kickstarter project. Even John Kricfalusi’s accusers had photographic evidence when going forward with their stories. Seeing how Projared was able to prove his case, it feels like a lot of the blanks have been unanswered by both parties. We’ll never know about this since dead people can’t tweet.
A general rule of thumb for this website is to stray away from politics. That might sound impossible in these times, but with so much going on in the world of entertainment, there’s always something to cover as an alternative. Hence why movies, television, and video games are the primary sources of reviews and news coverage. The only exception is when the politicians start pointing fingers.
The El Paso Scapegoating
If the 90’s are making a comeback with video game remakes, then the government represents the worst part of the decade where acts of terrorism were scapegoated on interactive media. That’s exactly what happened after one Patrick Wood Crusius went to a Wal-Mart Supercenter in El Paso, Texas and open fired on everyone around him, killing 22 people and injuring 26. Essentially becoming the next Caucasian terrorist in the growing attacks stemming from white nationalism.
And yet with all the evidence pointing to motivations, somehow the entire Republican party led by their dictator in chief, Donald Trump, still found a way to pin the blame on something besides themselves. And this time it’s not the Mexicans, it’s video games. Never mind the fact that video games are now a part of every day society, or that Trump loosened gun control ever since taking office, or how republicans offer nothing but empty thoughts and prayers to the victims while accepting NRA blood money, or that most of his followers are the ones committing more hate crimes than ever before. No, it’s on the likes of Mario, Kirby, and Crash Bandicoot (sarcasm). Needless to say, Twitter responded with a nuclear reaction toward the Republicans. The viral phrase #VideoGamesAreNotToBlame united gamers from all over the world and from different gaming consoles: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, and PC. It was a miracle in how differences were cast aside for the greater good. Many were quick to point out that video games are everywhere in the world, but the U.S. is the only country to have a spike in mass shootings.
Up until this point, scapegoating video games was dying down when people like Jack Thompson were losing traction. The art form has seen a rise in popularity and is now a part of everyday life. And many are aware of the ESRB rating system that specifically outlines which games aren’t for a certain age group. So where in the mountain of evidence does anyone get the idea that a copy of Donkey Kong Country is more fatal than any kind of assault rifle in American history? Must be a lot of people allergic to fun (sarcasm).
Turns out big businesses don’t have as much common sense about the issue. In response to the incident and the politicians, Walmart removed violent video game ads and demos while still allowing the sales of guns and ammo in their stores. They were quick to point out that it was in respect of the victims, but people saw their argument as flimsy and pathetic. Even its own employees staged a walk out in protest of both the ban and failure to enforce gun control. It wasn’t until after another mass shooting in Odessa, Texas that the company halted sales of certain ammunition. Not a huge leap in safety precautions, but still more responsible than the politicians.
But things didn’t stop there. ESPN postponed an E-Sports event of Apex Legends to October only two days before it’s weekend premiere in August. The initial reasoning was Out of respect of the victims, but yet again, many people saw it as a poor excuse further feeding into the propaganda that the government was spewing in order to steer away from the real world problem of domestic terrorism.
Finally a film title The Hunt was scheduled to release in September 2019. But after the incident, Universal pulled its release date and shelved the feature indefinitely, with a slight possibility of an international release. That’s a lot of nails in one coffin.
For all the controversy and embarrassing moments covered in this countdown, there’s at least one silver lining to take away from each moment. Whether it’s lessons learned or even small compensation to anyone’s benefit. The El Paso scapegoating has none of that. Everything was affected in a negative manner, nothing was done on the government’s end to reassure people’s safety, and all that was left were cowardly politicians hiding beneath the buckets of blood that’s now on their hands. Video games are now a part of everyday society. Scapegoating them for the sake of not taking responsibility for failing to protect the country against domestic terrorists is living proof that the United States is crumbling under an orange dictatorship. After all, people bought more copies of George Orwell’s 1984 following Trump’s inauguration. They’re not stupid, they know when a government is lying to them. If these same lawmakers were sent to New Zealand, they wouldn’t last 12 hours under their gun laws. If you can’t take the same bullets you dish out, leave the white house to the future.
At the beginning of writing this countdown, it started with only 10 spots. As time went on, the numbers increased ten fold because this world just loves to showcase the worst of humanity. This list had a lot of embarrassing moments without the El Paso scapegoating, yet here we are defending the art form while simultaneously presenting the worst 2019 had to offer. Video games don’t cause violence, but the gaming industry CEOs cause misery.
The 2019 Gaming Industry
The gaming industry has seen its fair share of controversies over the years, but nothing could prepare anyone for the shear amount of garbage it got away with in 2019 from a number of companies. These stories range from laying off hundreds of employees after increasing profits, to normalizing in-game payments, to this year’s running gag of crunch time: working employees to their breaking point until they’ve worn out their usefulness. And this big a story isn’t going to fit in this small corner.