Tag Archives: politics

FGC #546 Jet Set Radio

Let's skateAre all videogames naturally authoritarian?

To begin, let us consider the concept of authority. Most of us encounter authority first through parents, who are generally adverse to a child’s natural predisposition to licking delicious wall outlets. From there, childhood is a virtual gauntlet of different authority figures. And some of those so-called “authorities” can’t even get their act together long enough to present the same messaging! Which homework am I supposed to focus on for “three hours of studying” a night, teaching staff? You all claimed every subject was the most important I’d ever encounter, and me not even believe that English class could ever be helpful! And coach says I’m supposed to be working on my gluts during that time, anyway! I’m going to just give up and lick some more outlets until mom yells at me again.

But, to be clear, authorities do not stop just because you finally graduate past the school system. In our daily lives as adults, we frequently encounter men and women that have authority over us, whether that authority be real, imagined, or distant. A boss may control whether or not you have a weekend to yourself, and a politician that was elected in Kentucky may for some reason have authority over whether or not you can control the functions of your own body. And, since this is a videogame blog, let’s go ahead and claim some of those “imagined” authorities don’t even know they are authorities. Nintendo says its latest retro release will not be available after March: does that mean they have commanded you to make a purchase now, because you are terrified of missing out? Authority comes in all shapes and sizes, and sometimes from the most unlikely of sources. Or, sometimes, there are super likely sources, like the police.

Run!The police are… a bit of a thing of late. Or maybe they always have been a thing? This is a difficult topic to broach, as this is a very public blog, and I hesitate to make any statements that could be interpreted as overtly political. Ha ha ha. Just kidding. The truth is I hesitate to make any statements that could get me fired, politically ostracized, or outright jailed. Do I think all cops are bastards? I can say, with complete confidence, that I know one retired police officer that I would not describe as a bastard. I also know one not-retired, not-fired police officer who, when my house was robbed, immediately accused my neighbor that was literally across the street because “you know, we get a lot of calls about that mixed family,” despite the fact that actual evidence proved this to be a completely baseless accusation. So, ya know, there are people on both sides (“Aren’t you missing a word in that quote?” “No.”). And, regardless of my feelings on individual police officers, I am all for defunding the police, as even the smallest PD seems to account for enormous chunks of city budgets. I have absolutely no qualms about stating that our teachers should have more funding than our police officers. But maybe this thinking is influenced by my love of videogames? I have only played a handful of games where high school teachers have been villains (and they mostly involved anime teens), but I have played a lot of videogames where the opponents were the police. I wonder why that is…

Today’s featured title, Jet Set Radio, is one such game. Technically, the real, “final” enemy of JSR is a billionaire mogul who thinks that reassembling a magical record is going to kick off a thousand years of Shin Megami Tensei, but, if you’re looking at the street level villains of Jet Set Radio, it’s only rival gangs (that eventually become friendly) and cops (who are never friendly). The plot of Jet Set Radio is (initially) simple: sweet ass magical rollerblades have been invented, sweet ass music has always been invented, and now the kids with their blades and their hip hop are skating around town and spraypainting their logos all over the place. You are one of these kids, and, since you’re actively breaking the law at all times (being this radical is illegal), the police are your constant enemy. Some are anonymous storm troopers, some are very well-defined enemies of Lupin III, and some are using friggin missile-launching helicopters to take down teenagers; but they all work together to stop the kids from having a fun time. I just want to shred and tag, man, don’t be all The Man about it.

RUN AWAY!And, if you’re just following the plot of Jet Set Radio, it is extremely anti-authoritarian. The police are a problem from the first level, but they are, more or less, little more than a nuisance. JSR distinctly portrays the police as incompetent, and, in a game that technically doesn’t have any offensive options (the “bosses” of this game are defeated by spraypainting and then becoming too embarrassed to be a threat), they are easily thwarted by simply skating around. They’ll never catch those wily kids! And, similarly, when the “real” big bad surfaces with a plan that could obliterate the city and potentially all life on the planet, it is eventually revealed that… it wouldn’t have worked. Magical demon summoning isn’t real, silly, and Evil CEO Goji was always going to be just as unsuccessful as Police Captain Onishima. The message here is clear: not only are known authorities ineffective, they’re downright goofy. The hip teenagers were always going to succeed, and these squares never had a damn clue.

And this is very common in media aimed at teenagers. Hell, you could claim that the very concept of a “teenager” is the result of identifying that at a certain point a “child” reaches an age where they object to authority (and maybe we should be able to market directly to that demographic). As such, in many videogames, you continually see teenagers save the world from evil organizations (or occasionally religions) that are run by fussy old men. Videogames don’t really have a “punk” genre, but it does have any number of teens that pathologically battle the very concept of authority. Is there that much of a difference between Beat and friends battling against the authority of a corrupt company and Cloud and friends combating another, slightly different corrupt company (and don’t claim Cloud isn’t a teenager: coma years don’t count). Tifa might not be shredding around on rollerblades (and we’re worse for it), but she’s fighting for personal freedom just as much as Gum.

Anti-wallBut, while many videogames focus on the freedom that their protagonists are fighting for, these heroes, in actuality, have absolutely zero autonomy. Final Fantasy 7 is practically a game all about how there’s no getting off the train your controller is on, but Jet Set Radio is a lot more similar than it cares to admit. Yes, there’s the obvious overarching plot that requires a playthrough, so Beat is always going to go from “new kid” with a new gang to ultimately the savior of the city (and Coin is always going to be nebulously having a bad time). But the more important thing is that, like it or not, you are locked into this game where Jet Set Radio happens to happen. Want to just cruise around on your wicked blades? Well, too bad, there are malevolent cops and/or assassins in every level. Want to escape those cops in new and interesting ways? That’s great, but there are only one or two pre-approved “escape routes” per level. And do you just want to skip a level, maybe because skating around the sewers tagging moving targets 30 times has never been fun? That’s another negative, kiddo, because you absolutely have to progress in JSR linearly. You want to play this game in a manner not prescribed by Sega? Not on my dime, pal.

Jet Set Radio is about being an anti-authority radical teen, but playing Jet Set Radio means submitting wholly to the authority of its directors. Jet Set Radio, in its most popular form, is wholly authoritarian.

But all is not lost! There is still freedom out there for Beat, Gum, and whatever that third guy was named (uh…. Beanie?). While the console versions of JSR must languish in a world without change, mods are available if you’ve decided to start skating on PC. And let us consider how much the gang from JSR has moved past their initial medium, and now frequently appear through fanart, fan videos, and enough cosplay to keep its admirers hating any conventions involving stairs for years. In short, whether it is in the digital world or the real one, the fans have wrested control of Jet Set Radio away from its authorities, and now the humble player has more than a few options on how they want to play around in that anti-authoritarian world. The system works!

Keep on rockin'And what’s the moral there? Well, there is hope. Videogames are, by their nature, authoritarian, because, more than in any other medium, a videogame can be programmed to force the player to either play the game how directed, or walk away. A book or movie is always going to include a fastforward feature, but videogames can allow for so much as a “chapter skip” to be outlawed. However, given enough time and effort, fans can reclaim practically anything, and, before you know it, Tab (that’s his name!) has been replaced by C.J., and authority has been reclaimed. It’s not easy to make such mods, and it’s not necessarily easy for a player to simply install such a thing, but it is possible. It is worth the effort.

Authority can be overthrown. Whether it be in Jet Set Radio or in our real world, things can change. Things will change. We just need to work together.

FGC #546 Jet Set Radio

  • System: Originally Sega Dreamcast, and then all over the place as of about the Playstation 3/Xbox 360. It’s currently Xbox One backwards compatible, which I think means it will work with the XboxxobX or whatever the next system is called.
  • Number of players: You’ve got a full gang, but you skate alone.
  • WeeeeeeSo, does this entire article exist because apparently your old Dreamcast VMU crapped out, and you never made any progress in the PS3 version, so, in order to capture gameplay from Jet Set Radio, you had to start completely from scratch despite beating/unlocking everything about twenty years ago? Maybe.
  • Urge to continually call this game “Jet Grind Radio”: High.
  • Favorite GG: Yo-Yo always looks like he is going to start some #$&!, so I see that lime-green hoodie a lot. He also says “yo” a lot, which, as someone who used such a word roughly 40,000,000 times in my school days, seems relatable.
  • Do you hold a grudge against Jet Set Radio because you always blamed it for the continual usage of grinding in Sonic Adventure 2 and later Sonic games, which you have always hated? Yes.
  • For the Future: I’ve never actually played Jet Set Radio Future. This is because… uh… um… I guess because the robot never told me to play it. Is it any good? It’s weird, I just never thought we needed more JSR than OG JSR.
  • Did you know? The logo of Goji and the Rokkaku Group is meant to be a hexagon (which is a pun on “Rokkaku” in Japanese), but it looks an awful lot like the Nintendo Gamecube logo. Granted, this is somehow before the Gamecube even existed, but it still seems rather fascinating.
  • Would I play again: Hell, why not? It would be nice if I could play it in a new, unique way, though…

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… Super Mario Bros. 2! Wait, didn’t we already do that one? I’m sorry? I’m receiving word that there are two Super Mario Bros. 2s. Oh, well that works. Please look forward to that!

Grinding right along
Authority or not, this is pretty fun

FGC #419 Super Alfred Chicken

Here comes a chicken!Let’s talk about Alfred Chicken, and what he means to the current state of our democracy.

The Alfred Chicken franchise, on its own, is not much to write home about. It’s one of those “weird European platformers” that seemed to pop up since the creation of DOS and carried on into the 32-bit days. Alfred Chicken (damn, I’m going to have to pick up some chicken alfredo before this article is over) runs and jumps around a number of levels that were maybe assembled in seventeen seconds through randomly smoothing graphical assets together until, I don’t know, I guess this collection of alphabet blocks looks like something passable. Alfred’s moveset includes both jumping and pecking, as he must to retain his chicken status. Eventually, the game ends, or maybe it doesn’t, and, look, I bounce off European platformers like a quick boomerang off a leaf shield, okay? I’m too used to my Marios and Castlevanias to waste too much time on some damn game where poultry has to peck at balloons.

And, really, that’s just fine in this case, because America, land of the free (chicken nugget deal), only ever saw one Alfred Chicken title. On my corner of the Atlantic, Super Alfred Chicken was only ever available for the Super Nintendo. But in the fabulous land of lifts and roundabouts, Alfred Chicken dominated (loosely) the NES, Gameboy, Playstation, and whatever the hell an Amiga happens to be. Some platforms had different versions, some featured 3-D, but they all had Alfred Chicken to spare. Oh, and speaking of platforms, there was that whole Alfred Chicken political party, too.

Yes, if you lived in the Christchurch, Dorset constituency in 1993, you could have voted for Karl Fitzhugh of the Alfred Chicken Party.

Blah blah blahNow, before you go thinking that the Alfred Chicken Party had anything useful to contribute to political discourse at the time, consider that Karl Fitzhugh was absolutely just the marketing arm for Alfred Chicken’s Amiga (amigo? Were you trying to say amigo? How about amiibo?) debut. The Alfred Chicken Party was rightly pegged as a publicity stunt, and wound up placing second from last in the election (and, to be clear for my American readers, this is not a situation where “placed last” also means “won the popular vote”). In fact, the Alfred Chicken Party was such a flagrant and obvious publicity stunt, it rapidly inspired new legislation that would require a candidate to acquire many more signatures to actually appear on a ballot. Democracy works! Through Alfred Chicken!

And, 25 years later, it would be nice to believe we had learned a single blessed thing.

Alfred Chicken, in his time, was immediately identified as a spurious, frivolous candidate. This was just a random animal mascot character (arguably before they were cool) attempting to use general politics as a springboard to some free(ish) advertising. No one would legitimately elect a member of the Alfred Chicken Party, because you’d have to be some kind of moron to actually think there is anything more to that “political party” than a naked cash-grab.

But how many people reading this article would vote for a candidate from the Nintendo Party? Hell, how many people writing this article would vote for the party of Mario, Link, and Pikachu? The answer to that question is a firm “all of them”.

UglyIt has come up again and again in recent months, but people show a surprising amount of loyalty to faceless corporations that don’t care if the average consumer lives or dies. Toys Я Us recently went out of business, firing every last employee while its board of directors skipped town with giant bags adorned with dollar signs. But it’s been determined that “the brand” is still viable, so Geoffrey the Giraffe will be back in our faces soon enough. And a huge portion of the population is going to eat it up with a multicolored spoon! Toys Я Us? I love that place! That’s where toys come from! And videogames! Just like Gamestop! And who cares if one single company has been selling me $60 games for years, and then buying them back at 60¢, I’ve got brand loyalty! I’m a Powerup Rewards Member! Sometimes I earn a free pen! I will follow these companies straight into Hell, so please show me your viable political candidates! Who is the leader of the Think Geek Party? Does he need a donation!?

And, at first blush, this all sounds insane. After all, there is no Wal-Mart party, and, while we vote with our wallets every day, no company is brazen enough to actively run a candidate. Except… that’s completely wrong.

Okay, already uttered their name, let’s take Wal-Mart as an example. Right off the bat, apparently Wal-Mart has made $2,192,327 in political contributions in 2018. And, if you’re curious, about half of that money went to candidates, and the majority of the rest of that went to PACs or political parties. In addition to all of that, fifteen senators own Wal-Mart stock, so there might be a bit of an interest in our government keeping that poor company afloat. And if that wasn’t enough, in 2017, Wal-Mart spent $6,880,000 lobbying for various causes. And the kicker? Wal-Mart isn’t even in the top 50 for purchasing government support.

In 1998, $1.45 billion was being spent on lobbying. In 2018, that has become $2.59 billion. And how much is that? Well, to revisit Wal-Mart, that’s a company that makes $14.7 billion in profit a year.

So, to be clear, the US government can be purchased for a little under a fifth of one company’s total profits.

SliceyAnd the most unfortunate thing about all of this is that there is literally nothing you can do about it. You can vote for your favorite party, you can vote for the candidate that is going to save the world, and you can canvas your neighborhood and drum up support in every way you know how. But, end of the day, Wal-Mart is still going to make literally billions of dollars, and whoever is in charge of those billions of dollars is going to make just a smidge more of an impact on the political landscape than anything you could hope to achieve with a “grassroots” campaign. And do you think you’re ever going to compete with Wal-Mart? Fat chance, little voter.

Except…

I always look to Blockbuster Video in times of hardship.

When “video rental stores” (ask your parents) first became popular, there was one in every shopping center (ask your parents, again), and they were all local mom & pop shops with names like “Microplay” or “No Name Video”. Then Blockbuster Video hit the scene with inventories that would be completely impossible for any given neighborhood shop to ever procure, and, almost overnight, Blockbuster Video was literally the only game in town. And, by about the late 90’s/early 00’s, Blockbuster Video was the only way to rent anything. The chain had eliminated all competition, and there was no way to borrow a copy of Leprechaun 3 (that’s the one in Vegas) without your trusty Blockbuster membership card. Had overdue fees on your account? Sorry, you’re stuck in DVD-less purgatory for the rest of your days.

No, it is notBut a funny thing happened. Netflix came along, and, in a few short years, Blockbuster was dead in the ground. Netflix was cheaper, more convenient, and less overtly evil than Blockbuster, so people took their business elsewhere in droves. And it didn’t matter that many areas still have terrible internet connections. It didn’t matter that Netflix and its ilk could never support the historical selection of a well-stocked Blockbuster. It didn’t matter that streaming services would doom us forever to a fragmented system wherein you just kind of hoped your favorite new release would drop on a subscription you already own. No, none of that mattered, because Blockbuster simply could not compete with the new monolith that was streaming, and, in practically no time at all, Blockbuster was resigned to the same fate as the dinosaurs (mostly frozen in remote regions of Oregon). Blockbuster was once king of the hill, and now it is barely a footnote in history.

And if there’s any hope for the future, we could learn a thing or two about Blockbuster’s failure.

No company is too big to fall. Just within the last few decades, we’ve seen hundreds of once enormous companies fall to the inevitable march of the internet. Technology moves forward, and with it, new opportunities arise for those that will take risks (and get lucky). Fossil fuels are killing our planet as we speak, but they could become a thing of the past with cheap, effective alternatives. It sounds impossible, but if every new car with a new fuel system cost just a couple hundred less than the gas-guzzlers currently on the market, we’d have a healthier planet in no time. We just have to find the people willing to support these companies, and not those that foster the industries that should have died decades ago because God forbid Mickey Mouse fall into the public domain. We have to vote for people that are going to support forward progress. And not just in the voting booth! We need to be conscientious consumers, and support companies that in turn support good candidates and business practices. VroooomNo company is ever going to be perfect (they are, almost literally, money making machines. That has a tendency to step on a few ethical toes), but maybe you don’t need the latest make believe horsey game if it is also apparently responsible for 80% of all crunch misery in North America. Or maybe that company could just produce one god damn game with a female protagonist. That would be a step in the right direction…

My final thoughts on this subject are simple: absolutely vote on Election Day, but remember to vote every other day of the year, too. Support candidates that encourage progress, and support companies that do the same. It won’t happen all at once, and it might not even seem like it’s happening at all, but change is possible, and you can help it, every step of the way, every day.

And don’t vote for the Alfred Chicken Party.

FGC #419 Super Alfred Chicken

  • System: Super Nintendo. I understand the other versions/ports of Alfred Chicken are pretty similar to this version, but there is no way I am going to confirm this in any way.
  • Number of players: Start and options? Yep, looks like this is one of those single player platformers.
  • Chicken or the Egg: So the plot of this title is that eggs are being kidnapped, and Alfred Chicken has to venture forth to save the widdle eggies. Except… Alfred Chicken appears to hatch from an egg at the start of every stage… so why are eggs seen driving cars and being their own, autonomous creatures? Are eggs just, like, the unevolved forms of chickens in this universe? Is this U.S. Acres fanfic?
  • What is even happening?Other Questions: And Alfred collects eggs as one-ups, and hatches from a new egg after every death. Is there more than one Alfred Chicken? Does each collected egg start the cycle of life anew for our hero? The theological implications of this game alone…
  • So, did you beat it? No. Come on, this game gets repetitive by approximately the third level. And there are at least fifteen? No thank you.
  • Favorite… uh… Stuff: This is a very generic platformer. Alfred… barely does anything. He jumps! He pecks! He has some sort of weird power-up ball thing that doesn’t work quite right! There is barely anything that distinguishes this game from any other… so… uh… The colors are nice?
  • Did you know? The Alfred Chicken Party came in second-to-last in its election. The biggest loser was, apparently, the Rainbow Party. There is no force on Earth that would allow me to effectively google “The Rainbow Party” in 2018.
  • Would I play again: Nope! This chicken doesn’t have any meat on it.

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… SNK Heroines: Tag Team Frenzy for the Nintendo Switch! The prophecy has come to pass! Please look forward to it!

Happy Flower

FGC #386 Oscar’s Trash Race

Trash!And now for a peek behind the curtain at the many rejected ideas for how to approach Oscar’s Trash Race.

This is a counting game: Try to determine if readers can actually count.
Rejected: This site is based on numbers going up, readers obviously can deal with high numbers.

This is a game starring Oscar the Grouch, write an entire article while “grumpy”.
Rejected: That one cat has grumpy covered for the entire internet for years.

This is a game starring Oscar the Grouch, your favorite muppet, talk about that.
Rejected: The world doesn’t need to know about my various grouch-based fandoms.

This is a game based on Sesame Street, talk about Sesame Street, the children’s television show.
Rejected: Your humble author has incredibly vague memories of ever watching Sesame Street, predominantly because my recollection as a toddler is a bit sketchy. There is also a general feeling that any other writer on Earth could write a more loving and carefully researched article on Sesame Street, particularly in comparison to that love letter to Voltron.

Trash!This is a game based on Sesame Street, talk about your first beloved portable videogame system: The Cookie Counter.
Rejected: It was a basic calculator with a built in game of Juggler. I think I loved that device more than some of my childhood pets. And, God, I am never going to admit to that in public. It was a calculator! I don’t own enough pocket protectors to confess to that kind of embarrassment.

This is a game based on Sesame Street, talk about going to Sesame Place as a kid.
Rejected: Nobody ever wants to hear stories about other people’s vacations. Or day trips. Or whatever it was when I got my cousin to throw up in the water park, and it was the funniest thing a five year old had ever done.

This is a game based on Sesame Street, talk about the way public broadcasting allows for a universal, pre-school sharing of culture and ideas that allows for greater socialization for both kids and adults.
Rejected: Pretty sure I’ve covered the concept of shared experiences already by claiming we are a generation raised by the good lord Hasbro. Big Bird is nothing before The Primes.

This is a game based on Sesame Street, talk about another PBS star, Mr. Rogers, and reveal the secret about Mr. Rogers that no one must ever know.
Rejected: No one must ever know.

This is a game based on Sesame Street, talk about how Public Broadcasting is important for education across economical classes, and it is currently in danger thanks to our government.
Rejected: Again, there are those that can write so much more eloquently on the subject of PBS being important, and probably wouldn’t have their Ice Climbers fanfic thrown back in their face in an act of proving that all education is moot.

Hey, speaking of the current state of our government, this game is called Oscar’s Trash Race. Why not compare the current state of politics to a “trash race”?
Rejected: A little too “how about those clowns in congress”.

Oh, come on, you could easily compile a list of Trump’s actions since his campaign started, combine it with all those times he said and did the complete opposite while holding the position of president (but never did whatever is the opposite of “being a racist”), and end it all with a note on how the race is still going, and we’ll probably see something even worse in less than a few hours.
Rejected: That sounds way too depressing.

So much trashAnd the Democrats! They’re doing nothing to stop anything! Just roll over and show your bellies, minority party, God forbid you do a damn thing to actively support the people that voted for you. Senator Jeff Flake, a man who has never ever voted against Trump’s interests, has more public clout as “the resistance” than the milquetoast losers helming the Democratic Party. And Sanders and Biden are apparently top contenders for 2020! Has anyone learned anything!? Maybe we don’t run a bunch of rich white people that are old enough to have personally told Martin Luther King Jr. that he was being “uppity”! This is the greatest trash race of them all!
Rejected: What did I just say about things being way too depressing!

This is a game that uses a special controller, talk about how the glut of extra peripherals was likely another reason Atari nearly killed the entire industry.
Rejected: And how the hell is the Government shutting down every other week a thing that is happening now? I don’t care that it only shut down for a couple of hours, that’s a couple of hours too many! It’s not just because we should care about government workers, we should also care about the people that are supported by and rely on government assistance. People that just want to live without fear of their lives being effectively cancelled because some tyrant with significant ties to construction companies wants to build his damn impenetrable/invisible wall!

Take it offEr-hem, this is a game that uses a special controller, talk about how the glut of extra peripherals was likely another reason Atari nearly killed the entire industry.
Rejected: Oh, right. Yes, you need a special number pad controller for this counting adventure, and that probably wasn’t the easiest thing for parents of toddlers to understand back in 1983. Heck, people still barely understood the concept of the WiiU three decades later… and I don’t want to run in that trash race, either.

Just make a post about all the possible ways this article could go, and call it a day, because this is a game that was made for toddlers, and playing it as an adult is not exactly the most thrilling thing in the world.
Rejected: That… That actually works. Approved!

FGC #386 Oscar’s Trash Race

  • System: Atari 2600. I really doubt we’ll see a mobile rerelease of this one.
  • Number of players: Two? Weren’t all Atari games two player in some way? Don’t quote me on this, I’m not a trashologist.
  • Favorite Trash: About the only interesting thing in this game is what trash the trashman drops off to placate Oscar and his apparent need to count trash before waddling forward. One of the possible dumps is a series of TVs, which, considering this was at a time when Atari still had to accommodate for black and white sets, must have been horrifying for any parents in the room. Think of the expense!
  • All trashDid you know? Then and now, I’d rather be playing Big Bird’s Egg Catch.
  • Would I play again: Only if I forget how numbers work. Oh man, I hope this isn’t some kind of ironic wish situation, and I’m in a horrible accident later today. Please, God of Horror Comics, please don’t do this to me!

What’s next? Random ROB has chosen… The Death and Return of Superman! Geez, title, spoilers! Please look forward to an inevitable resurrection!

Vote 2017: Still Broken

I’ve been… creatively constipated recently, and if I don’t get this out of my system, I won’t be able to move on. So, sorry, we’re talking politics today. FGC and Pilotwings Resort will return on Friday.

Also, trigger warning, every damn thing that has happened in the last year.

UghI feel like the 2016 election fundamentally broke… everything.

First, to be clear, I’m not talking about the obvious here. President Trump has been in office for a solid ten months as of this writing, and, yes, the world has become… unmoored as a result. It is crazy what has been normalized: we are literally currently in a situation wherein people are begging Twitter to deactivate the president’s account so as to prevent nuclear armageddon. That, somehow, is not an exaggeration. We also have Nazis that have been empowered by recent political dealings, a nigh-weekly fight to keep healthcare for our most in need, and, gosh, can we find a “cute” third thing? Oh yeah, the Vice President’s two main traits seem to be significant homophobia/misogyny and a tendency to be immediately offended by public performances. And, through it all, President Donald Trump has never stopped campaigning.

And it’s that last part that scares me.

At this point, I’ve only really been “awake” for three presidents: Clinton, Bush Jr., and Obama. Before that, I was technically around for Bush Sr. and Reagan, but the concept of “president” was about as serious as “daddy’s boss” or “guy in the Big Bird costume” (note: I assume that any given president was not, at any point, my father’s boss or Big Bird). But I came to be politically aware in the midst of White Water and white stains on dresses, and I was most “involved” in politics during the Bush Jr. days, when I was pretty convinced the entire world had gone crazy. We were at war! With… some random country that was at least tangentially related to a terrorist sect that attacked us? That… still comes off as peculiar, and the fact that it was unanimously supported at the time made me feel like the country was beyond my understanding. Actually, no, I take that back. We were a country fueled by vengeance against anybody, and I can completely understand how a group of people reeling from a significant slight would rail against anyone they even perceived as a threat. I don’t condone it, but I fundamentally understand it. But then we had Obama, seemingly the answer to those war-torn times, who… okay, the war never ended, but at least it seemed like that wasn’t the focus of the administration. Sure, Obama won a Nobel Peace Prize for the accomplishment of not being W., but the important thing was that Obama was more intellectual than warmonger, and there was a very real feeling that he’d at least try to heal the world with words instead of bombs.

Still UghAnd you know who I don’t remember being mentioned at all during those administrations? Bob Dole. Al Gore. Mitt Romney. John McCain. … I just had to look up John Kerry because I forgot who even ran against Bush in 2004. Occasionally, you’ll still hear a name or two from the loser patrol because they’re promoting some crazy thing like abolishing healthcare or actual science, but, by and large, post election, the presidential loser was done, banished forever to the annals of Washington DC apocrypha, and that was that. End of story. Let’s move on with our lives.

So it’s vaguely disconcerting that Donald Trump is still talking about his “opponent” Hilary Clinton, a woman who lost the election nearly a full year ago. And, since Trump is talking about it, the media has to talk about it. And since the media is talking about it, we have to talk about it, and that means that somehow I still have to hear from neanderthals that her handling of Puerto Rico would be, “Just as bad.”

This frightens me.

We’re all 100% aware that the 2016 election was terrible. Full disclosure? I was planning on having an “election” themed video FGC article, with two well known games campaigning against each other for “best”. You know the drill: both games starting out with “here’s why you should vote for me” followed by a descent into mudslinging and maybe one game would be revealed to have been involved in some scandal. Hoary old clichés all around. I scripted out the early bits, but by the time it would have been relevant, I was… tired. I was tired of the mudslinging. I was tired of the press reporting on every time Donald insulted the handicapped or bragged about how rape was fun. I was tired of the Republican Party repeatedly denouncing Trump before lining up to kiss his ring. And, most of all, I was just plain tired of the ubiquitousness of it all; that it felt all-encompassing, from my radio to my television to my Facebook feed.

Though one of these things is not like the others: turns out my Facebook feed may have been compromised.

UGHIt’s becoming more and more obvious that Russia had a significant hand in the 2016 election. As has been confirmed by the big F itself, Facebook generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue from ads about the American election that just happened to have been submitted from Mother Яussia. What’s more, it now appears that these ads infiltrated other sites, such as Twitter, Google (Ads), and, for anybody that really cares about pictures of dogs, Instagram. And the ads weren’t simply “Vote Trump” or “Make America Great Again”, these were ads that were deliberately targeted to sway swing voters that may have voted for Clinton. The basic gist of it is pretty familiar: “they’re both just as bad” so may as well stay home and hope rural Pennsylvania makes the right choice. And the kicker is that it worked: statistically, more democrats stayed home than republicans, and, even though Trump got 3K less votes than Obama in 2012 (and, uh, 3k less votes than Clinton), he became president because he got more republican votes in more specific states. Gosh, sure would be significant if those states were intentionally targeted by foreign countries.

In fact, that’s the scary thing. I can’t fault Facebook, Google, or Twitter for taking money from foreign powers in order to distinctly influence our government, because we’ve created these monsters, it seems gauche to ask them to stop murdering the villagers now. It’s capitalism, baby, and if Russia wants to pay for Trump to gain power, let ‘em, their rubles are always good here. And, let’s be honest, there is nothing we can do to stop such a thing. Pumping cash into foreign governments and businesses is nothing new, just go ahead and ask Central America about North America’s policy on international interference.

No, what truly seems bothersome about this event is that we so completely fell for it.

Look, I know Russia didn’t invent bipartisan politics. And I know we’re all team players, so it is easy to fall into an “us against them” mentality that completely deadlocks discussion and useful debate. I know all of that is human behavior to a T, and stoking the flames of that already raging fire is about as difficult as getting racist Uncle Jerry to use the n-word (“… What did he just call his hash browns? Is that prejudiced?”). But the specific methods used, the specificity of “hate this woman that is running for president” has somehow lingered like the no doubt pungent odor of our current president in his soiled khakis. It might not have worked on everybody, but enough people took the bait, and now we still have to hear from a commander in chief that is begging for “equal time” a year after the election ended.

UGHAnd the kicker is that is that it’s going to keep happening. Facebook, Google, and all the rest have added one new thing to the formula: they’re global. No more can we count on radio or television ads to have at least been produced by America-based companies that have a vested interest in seeing our country not literally explode. No, now we have other countries that can group together a couple of part timers, crank out some memes, and, Goggle Bob’s your uncle, ~emails~ becomes the scariest word in the English language. This doesn’t take much, and the same budget and techniques that will get you to drink sugar water daily can now get you to elect a president that comes off as more senile than the last fetishized republican president that was also an actor. And we have no defense against this kind of advertising! If we think information is coming from a “trusted source”, we trust it implicitly. Think I’m crazy? Just go ahead and tell that to any McDonald’s employee that had to live through Szechwan Sauce Wars. Thousands of perfectly well adjusted nerds transformed into screaming lunatics because a funny cartoon man told them that a corn syrup package from twenty years back was somehow worthwhile. The nerds trusted the funny cartoon man! They drove hours to honor his luscious sugary juices! You better believe the same kind of thinking applies to real issues like gun control (“They’ll take away our guns!”), healthcare (“Obamacare is bad for some reason!”), and general race relations (“Uppitiness is happening on the football field!”). We are a nation of suckers, and Trump is living proof of such a fact.

And that’s why I feel like we’re just… broken. Nothing is going to change that. We can call our senators, we can protest in the streets, we can take a knee whenever possible, but it’s still going to pale to the sheer inertial force of an advertising campaign that stopped being relevant a year ago. They’re still chanting “lock her up”, they’re still talking about Clinton like she’s some kind of rival to the president, and they’re still posting every damn “wow shocking if true” story that comes down the pipe. A nation that basically lives by the philosophy “if I can’t be skinny, then please make my friends fat” did its best to sneak cookies into our nutritious boxed lunches, and now nobody wants to go to the gym anymore. We can still fight! We can absolutely fight! But… I don’t think this is going to get better. Our politics are national, our commerce is international, and now the overlap is biting us all in the ass. And “change” is such a three letter word, we can’t even get away from friggin’ coal, so our prospects look dim. And, oh yeah, an idiot is in charge, so that can’t really help anybody.

And… that’s it? I don’t know, I mean, I really want there to a moral here. I want to be able to say “go call your senators” and affect some meaningful change or… something. But, no, that honestly feels like a lie. What’s broken here is broken, and nothing that has happened in the last two years gives me any sort of hope that we could even identify the problem fast enough to solve it. A foreign power set us against each other, and we’re still continuing that same useless bickering to this very day. I guess… be better?

Yeah, that’s the ticket. Be better. Do better. Ask yourself why you’re doing something, and if the answer is a response to something you saw on Facebook, maybe don’t do it. Consider what you’re doing, consider why you’re doing it, and… just be considerate. Be better, and maybe things will get better.

And maybe, one day, what is broken can be fixed.