Thursday, October 23, 2014

What is Power?

So I recently saw both Sin City and it's new sequel, and the esteemed Powers Boothe is excellent in both films (though only briefly in the first). His most wondrous line was "Power is is Power does." Because who knows more about Power than a man named Powers? Well, as much as Powers Boothe knows to most of us power is a nebulous thing. However the easiest way to describe it is one's ability to influence another human being, whether voluntary or involuntary. Power translates fairly evenly to natural resources, military strength, the sheer number of humans under one's control, and one's skill at manipulation through fear, deception, and even positive reinforcement.

Power does not however, automatically translate to money itself. Sure money can theoretically equal power but money itself is a nebulous, flowing thing that doesn't actually signify something in and of itself; it is a simple stand-in for a barter system. A marker as it were. To have enough money to achieve something appreciable as an individual (i.e. be the sole financier of a major military conflict or revolution) is functionally impossible; as that figure is in the trillions of dollars; thus these vast fortunes that people accumulate are functionally more or less useless. You can have billions of dollars, sure, but you can't actually effect change with that sum due simply to the sheer preponderance of wealth in the world (JD Rockefeller may have had some capacity in his era, however) and the logistics of controlling millions and, indeed, billions of people.

Thus wealth itself is largely meaningless beyond a certain point, the most expensive sum of things an individual can buy that is actually useful is maybe ~$30 million, anything beyond that does nothing beyond slightly influence election campaigns (for which there are major restrictions) or give to a charity and help a few people in the short term. So, if it isn't wealth you should strive for in the pursuit of power, what is there to pursue? Well in America it's very difficult to say, much of the elements that would make one powerful are simultaneously divided and institutionalized in such a way as to benefit those that already have power (which is the nature of humanity); in broad terms to pursue power you need to be able to influence people rapidly and effectively.

For one: Have a message, it doesn't necessarily matter what that message is as long as you're able to make it resonate with others through speaking, motioning, or demonstrating en masse (not in small numbers mind, in vast and broad numbers sweeping across the entire society). Power can be created with eloquence, however more often the best messages are simple and easy to understand; these messages largely focus on single human emotions, anger, hate, fear, love, and reconciliation being amongst them. Anger is most common and generally the easiest to utilize.

What makes a seemingly small and archaic organization such as ISIS powerful? Well they seem to be competently organized for one; structured effectively with a zealous devotion to their cause; however that zealousness is organic rather than a symptom of the systemic design. You can not create that kind of passion in people through training, you have to produce it from some other means; generally with some kind of emotional resonance. Thus Iraq's military fails even with a vast superiority in numbers and materials; the smaller, more aggressive force is functionally more useful than this country-wide organization. Obviously a larger force from the US or Canada (wouldn't that be something?) or whomever could easily repel and hold basically all of the territory ISIS has, naturally they wouldn't be able to eliminate them due to the nature of Guerilla warfare and invading an opponent's homeland; but that sort of feverish devotion to a cause is one of the symptoms of power.

Power is situational, fleeting even; it doesn't hold in one place for long. Some men have borne the mantle for their entire lives, but once they die the message rarely gets passed on effectively to the proceeding generations. To make an organization sustain extraordinarily levels of influence for more than 20 years is an extremely difficult task, but it is one that can happen through communication and faith in the particular cause. While some small handful of men have had the term "powerful" applied to them in a non-erroneous fashion, we need some way to translate this down to a lower level so that the followers of such men can still maintain that power in their passing. So what is ultimately the answer here? Who really wields that kind of power? Why, God of course! Religions are the only organizations in human history that sustain power throughout time; and the reason is simple, there is a Nietszche-identified trait in humans to pursue some sort of belief about the end of their existence; it is universal, even in those that deny it. Powerful groups must embrace some sort of over arching faith or belief in a cause beyond themselves and all such causes are founded not on logic or reasoning but in simple emotional resonance.

Monday, October 13, 2014

What Would it Take for Me to Buy a Wii U?

In the long long ago of 2007, a time amidst shitty new consoles there was one smart buy left for me. And so was the Gamecube purchased, alongside its finest efforts, some excellent games overall and 2 of the best games ever made. While it's no Vagrant Story on a whim or Valkyrie Profile 2 and Final Fantasy XII on the same day this was perhaps my third best video game related purchase of all time. So what would it take for the Wii U to accomplish such a feat? Let's look back and see what made the first purchase good in these considerations.

1. Resident E-vil 4

Once upon a time I was dumb and I liked Resident Evil 2, what can you do. It's still an "okay" game in retrospect but man those controls were atrocious. Really the main redeeming thing about the series is the comedy from the awful story; so what better way to capitalize on that than to make one of the most fun games period and basically treat it like a B movie. RE4 is an awesome, awesome game and one of the few "infinite replay value" games in existence; the game just never stops being fun. So what could come out on the Wii U to be as good as this? Probably nothing realistically, but hey get some solid third party support from struggling companies and maybe you'll find something similar.

2. Metroid Prime

Ah Metroid Prime, what a gorgeous, wonderful game. Likely the best presentation ever alongside fun, almost totally unique combat systems and a genuinely interesting, if entirely predictable, storyline. People say Mass Effect was a good series and Metroid Prime just totally annihilates it, as far as Sci Fi series go this is the pristine peak. Super Metroid is a little better, sure, but that doesn't stop Metroid Prime from also being in the top 5 games ever. So yeah, don't make a shitty fucking Metroid game and there you go Nintendo.

Retro is making good/excellent DKC games but while DKC is a fine series it's still not even close to Metroid, likely the best franchise in existence. You don't have to make a game as good as Prime or Super to have an extremely good game in this day and age; just make something that's pretty good relative to those and you're probably set. It could be an old school platformer, a first person shooter, or hell even an FTL with Velocity-esque platforming sections. Just get us out there murdering those poor, defenseless space pirates one way or another.

Metroid Prime 2 is also quite a good game and supplements the main issue I have with the first in that there's a ton of boss fights and the vast majority of them are quite good. Obviously the last last boss (the first last boss was awesome) is not great but aside from that the game was superb; even with the ubiquitous light/dark mechanics of the time.

3. Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door

Paper Mario has always been awesome, in concept and execution; and this game is no exception. With each dungeon you have a completely different exploration mechanic and the combat is easy to get into but somewhat difficult to master, with an extremely addictive leveling system. It's a good traditional RPG and those are precious few these days. What I want on the Wii U is mainly just a shitload of Xenoblade type games; one of those you can get out of the way quite easily by simply rereleasing Xenoblade on it and after that just make 2-3 more over the course of the system's lifetime. Square has some of the best talent out there as well so why not get them to make a non Final Fantasy game again, because basically all of those are amazing, including but not limited to: Vagrant Story, Chrono Trigger, Valkyrie Profile 2, Dragon Quest VIII, and Chrono Cross. Look, Final Fantasy is good and all but what really made Square impressive was the B team stuff that often exceeded the main product.

4. The Price

50 bucks, that's how much the Gamecube was in 2007. Now you can get one for like 35. Every so often there's a forum thread about whether they should buy Metroid Prime; and the answer will always be: it's cheaper to buy Metroid Prime and a Gamecube than it is to buy a new console game. Maybe 50 bucks is a pipedream in the immediate future (though likely not at the end of this console cycle); but just have a really nice Black Friday sale and maybe I'll even get one before the end. Right now the Wii U has a lot more good games on it than the other new consoles, but that will ultimately change at least in terms of volume (though perhaps not by that much at this rate); but it just doesn't feel like an upgrade over older systems. However I have more faith that Nintendo will put out an RE4/Metroid Prime caliber game (of which the last console generation was sorely absent, apologies to Dark Souls II and the Last of Us which barely miss the cut) than the other companies so I wouldn't be too displeased in buying one early. So, what price? I'm going to say 150 bucks, but I might spontaneously have a PS4 from an oft trucking brother of mine for at least a few months and that would drive the acceptable price range up to 200 bucks.

5. Uh... Zelda?

Full disclosure: while I own both Windwaker and Twilight Princess I've never actually beaten either of them. The reason is simple: A Link to the Past is better at doing the same exact thing. But random spatterings of Zelda in games such as Hyrule Warriors and Bayonetta 2 will have to suffice. Really I just want a lot of good third party games, I mean if Zelda or Mario were miraculously amazing then sure I'd go for those but chances are they'll just be the same as always (3D World giving a somewhat different spin). What I ultimately want from a console is 10 great games, doesn't matter what genre they are though in the case of racing or rhythm games they'd have to be particularly good.