The Dilemma of Casting an Esports Grand Finals

No matter the game, whenever an esports grand finals rolls around, there’s contention as to the best approach for commentary. What is the best style of casting for the later stages of a tournament, when the audience tends to be the largest and the matches themselves tend to be the most high-level?

I don’t think there’s one true answer, because it really depends on the objective of a given tournament. Rather, I want to highlight to the esports-viewing audience what makes this such a difficult balancing act, and why commentary that does not cater to their own tastes is not necessarily bad or inferior.

The Top 8 and above matches of tournaments tend to get the highest amount of viewers. This means there are more non-experts watching. They might still be fans, but there’s a good chance that they’re not going to know the nitty gritty of the game. Things that a more experienced player and ardent viewer might recognize with little effort might fly completely over their heads. In this case, one sensible solution would be to cater to a relatively more casual audience. You might have to explain some of the more complex aspects of the game, or perhaps ignore or simplify them so that these viewers aren’t overwhelmed with information they can’t understand.

However, those final matches are also typically where the highest amount of skill is displayed between competitors. While earlier rounds might be filled with one-sided victories or lesser players making mistakes, by the time it hits grand finals there is a strong chance that the play will be on another level. If the accompanying commentary aims more for the larger, more casual part of the audience, it potentially alienates the more hardcore fans who want to know the small details. If a tournament wants to show the full depth of their game, it might be necessary for commentary to be more complex and high-level.

If going by a pure numbers game, the “obvious” solution is to aim for the larger, more casual audience, but there are a few monkey wrenches that need to be taken into account. The casual-hardcore dichotomy can be rather nebulous. Some fans who are casual might want to feel like they’re part of the hardcore audience, and the best way to give them that impression is through commentary. A “true expert” at a game probably does not need a commentator to tell them what’s going on, so they might find technical explanations tedious for the opposite reason that the casual viewer might dislike them. In that case, the dry delivery of top-level knowledge of a player like Mew2King can be more appealing, especially to fans of those players.

Depending on the game, there might be no such thing as a “casual fan.” After all, esports has a general issue with not being as obvious in terms of goals and objectives as traditional sports—compare looking at the score in basketball vs. trying to interpret who’s ahead in League of Legends without having any prior knowledge of either.

Professionalism is another factor. As esports scenes grow, a lack of professionalism might drive away new viewers, but at the same time a slick, polished product might come across as too sterile to maintain interest. Suffice it to say, different people want different things from commentary. There are so many conflicting values that some tournaments have even tried having alternative streams to cater to casual audiences, but that potentially leads to an inconsistent presentation for a tournament.

Any tournament, big or small, wants to put its best foot forward. The problem with reconciling all of these different factors is that no one commentary can possibly cover them all, not even a team where each commentator specializes in something different. Some consider play-by-play to be the most important. Others believe that emphasizing the human drama between the players is key. Others want deep analysis of every situation. Ultimately, it requires some sort of compromise, and I think it’s important to see it not as a concession or a loss of quality. Criticism of commentary is justified and should even be encouraged, but it should come with the awareness that one’s own perspective exists among many.

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Spirit vs. Letter in Social Media Harassment Policies

Social media platforms have been under fire by critics recently due to the way they’ve let radical groups take advantage of their platforms to attack and discredit others. People on Twitter are harassed, receiving death threats and worse, yet their harassers remain unbanned. Facebook has suffered from the inundation of fake news created by Russian propagandists, as well as racist advertising using their own ad system. A recent article by Sarah Wachter-Boettcher, titled “Facebook treats its ethical failures like software bugs, and that’s why they keep happening,” argues that Facebooks’s approach lacks a true human dimension, and fails to account for the subtle and nuanced ways that people end up using social media. In other words, using a wack-a-mole method to deal with this ignores, unintentionally or otherwise, the underlying issue of people being attacked online.

I concur with this sentiment, but would like to add something. It’s not just that treating problems like racist ad targeting as bugs or glitches is the wrong way to go, but that trying to govern social media platforms with hard and fast rules creates a rigid system that inevitably lends itself to loopholes that can be exploited.

I recently had a few discussions with friends and acquaintances, all programmers and software engineers. In one discussion, I had a small debate with a friend, who argued that laws should not be open to interpretation—what says, goes, ideally. Having “wiggle room” makes things messy. In another, the subject of self-driving cars came up. Among many of the programmers (but not all, mind), there was a shared stance that giving humans more control than self-driving cars would be to open up the efficient and organized traffic of the future to the unpredictable and poor decision-making of the average driver. Additionally, any problems that occur due to the incompleteness of the self-driving AI could be solved after they arise.

I don’t mean to stereotype programmers as all having a certain way of thinking or a certain set of beliefs (you’ll find them on all sides of the political spectrum, for example), but there’s a certain desire for the human-created mechanics of the world to make consistent, logical sense that I find common to programmers—i.e. the main people driving social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter behind the scenes. A faith (or perhaps desire) in these systems, and the idea that they can just increase the granularity of their rules, instead of trying to take a more humanistic direction, leads to holes that can be exploited.

No matter what parameters Twitter puts in for defining harassment, people will always find ways to attack others without “technically” breaking the rules. This, I believe, is the reason so many people appear to be unjustly banned while other accounts that spew hate and encourage online attacks can manage to stay active. One side is likely ignorant of rules X, Y, and Z, while the other deftly skirts them. Intent, something that requires a closer analysis, is left by the wayside.

Krang T. Nelson, a Twitter user named after a certain cartoon warlord from Dimension X, recently tested these limits. In a Vice article, Nelson describes how he decided to troll white supremacists by crafting the most intentionally absurd tweet possible, about “antifa supersoldiers” planning on beheading white parents and small business owners. Not only was it a clearly tongue-in-cheek call-out of alt-right talking points, it was also loaded with buzzwords that white nationalists actively look for. Nelson then discusses how the white nationalist movement understands the ways to take advantage of Twitter’s policies, and that they used this knowledge to get him (temporarily) banned over a facetious remark. Here, we see clear evidence that the groups known for Twitter harassment also know how to exploit its technicalities and parameters for their own ends.

Adhering to the letter and not the spirit of policies and laws is what fuels the abuse of online social platforms. Having actual people at all levels checking to see how Twitter, Facebook, etc. are being used, and relying not on hard and fast rules, is where things need to change. Granted, having “wiggle room” in rules means they can be exploited in a different way, but overly strict interpretations are also clearly not working.

 

“Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne” and the Transformation of Lies into Truth

One of my favorite moments in the anime Lagrange: The Flower of Rin-ne is when we find out the truth about the Jersey Club, the seemingly do-anything, help-anyone group that the main character Kyouno Madoka leads. What we find out is that, whether or not Madoka realizes it, the club was created from a lie. In a time when a young Madoka was suffering from a traumatic event in her life, a local high schooler who happened to be jogging at the time created the idea of the Jersey Club on the spot, facetiously claiming that her exercise sweats were some kind of uniform in order to cheer Madoka up. The story of the Jersey Club, then, is one about how lies became truth, as Madoka took the kindness and altruism shown to her, and actually transformed it into a life philosophy. By the end of the series, it’s become almost literally a universal philosophy.

This idea of lies transforming into the truth through honesty and determination feels to me like a recurring theme in Japanese visual media. Fate/Stay Night‘s “Unlimited Blade Works” arc famously makes the claim that there’s no reason a copy has to be inferior to the original. Even knowing the origins of something, even when aware that something is a sham, it’s as if sincerity is the key ingredient to bend reality and perception.

It reminds me also of something I heard recently, which is that a sequel to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was published, which reveals Atticus Finch, the noble lawyer who defends a black man in a racist town, is actually revealed to be quite racist himself. The main character of the original book, Scout, turns out to have been looking at her father from the perspective of a child, only to realize his limitation as she grows into adulthood. It’s a controversial sequel, which was actually the prototype for To Kill a Mockingbird, but here we see too a “lie” becoming beneficial. Scout takes the ideals she sees from Atticus’s message and way of life, and transforms it into something even greater than the person himself.

Granted, this “bending” of reality is not necessarily without its problems. This is evidenced by the manipulation created by “fake news,” and the skewing of television news audiences, where viewers will gravitate towards the channels that cater to their beliefs almost regardless of the veracity of their reporting. The vital factor in determining whether an action is “good” or “bad” comes from what we’re seeing as “reality.” Is reality a construction of assumed cultural standards that resist change because of inertia? Or is it the foundation of truth that risks being chipped away by inaccuracies meant to exploit biases? The transformation of lies into truth can be heartfelt or diabolical, a risky double-edged sword that needs conscious tempering by both audiences and creators alike.

Ten! Ten! Ten!: Ogiue Maniax Status Update for November 2017

This month is the tenth anniversary of Ogiue Maniax. I’ll have a special post for that occasion. In the meantime, I’d like to thank my Patreon sponsors, especially the following:

General:

Johnny Trovato

Ko Ransom

Alex

Diogo Prado

Viga

Sue Hopkins fans:

Serxeid

Yoshitake Rika fans:

Elliot Page

Hato Kenjirou fans:

Elizabeth

Yajima Mirei fans:

Machi-Kurada

My favorite posts from last month:

The Precarious Balance of Tradition and Progress: Sakura Quest

A review of the unique P.A. Works anime

Love Live! Sunshine!! and the Complexities of Anime Tourism

A follow-up post of sorts to the Sakura Quest review, this one looks at the relationship between anime and influencing the movement of populations

Gattai Girls 7: Shinkon Gattai Godannar and Aoi Anna

The latest Gattai Girls is actually one of my favorite anime ever. (It was also a somewhat subtle hint towards me getting married.)

Patreon-Sponsored

 

Halloween Means Precure!

I was asked to write about my favorite Halloween anime, only to realize that most of them are Precure episodes. Go figure.

Closing

I’d like to end this month on a more serious note.

This past Halloween, there was a terrorist attack in lower Manhattan. While I did not know any of the people who were hurt or injured, my condolences go out to their friends and families. I went to school in the same area back in 2001, when 9/11 occurred, and hearing about the attack brought me back to what I felt then: the confusion, the need to evacuate, the unsettling feeling that the world will never be the same. Circumstances were different this time around, but I know the fear and unease that can linger over New York City in the face of such a crime. At the same time, just as then, I’m always surprised by the resilience of New Yorkers to just get back up and go about their day. On some level, it’s a product of being accustomed to the hustle and bustle of such a crazy metropolis, but I also think that it’s a semi-conscious effort to not let fear cower us into submission, or make us doubt each other as human beings.

Hate does not defeat hate. Trust, education, and openness to new ideas are the key ingredients to a better tomorrow.

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Love Live! Sunshine!! and the Complexities of Anime Tourism

Love Live! Sunshine!! Real Escape Game in Numazu

Love Live! Sunshine!! is a media-mix property whose purpose, apart from pushing its stars and profiting from a match of anime fandom and idol fandom, is to promote tourism to the region around the city of Numazu in Japan. What I find fascinating about its approach, however, is that it not only encourages people to visit Numazu, but also reflects and tries to address many of the problems facing Japan in terms of the link between sustaining population, community, and business.

There are three main issues brought up in terms of population in Japan in recent years. First, and the one that gets the most attention, is declining birth rates. Whether it’s “herbivore males” or the difficult choice many women have to make between starting a family and having a career, theories abound as to why fewer Japanese people are having children. Second is the post-3.11 decline in tourism; a nuclear meltdown scares off not just international visitors, but those from within Japan as well. Third, and perhaps the most familiar to people around the world, is people moving out of rural areas into urban ones, leaving the old towns a shadow of their former selves with little new blood coming in.

Flying Witch

The ways in which anime have been used in response to these problems are myriad. Famously, the popularity of the anime Lucky Star led to people visiting the very shrine featured in the show, Washinomiya Shrine. The first Love Live! School Idol Project anime had a similar effect on Kanda Myoujin Shrine in Akihabara, where the character Nozomi works. But there are also anime which try to show the splendor of Japan whether directly or not. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Flying Witch was made into an anime a few years after 3.11 when Japan was trying to revive tourism to the affected Tohoku region. Taking place in Aomori (a prefecture in Tokyo), Flying Witch features lovingly crafted shots of picturesque landscapes as if to say, “This area is lush with life.” The studio P.A. Works used the series Hanasaku Iroha to create the fictional “Bonbori Festival” and then bring it into the real world. Their more recent work, Sakura Quest, is an anime explicitly about trying to deal with a declining population in a small town through tourism and promotion.

Official Love Live! Wish Board from Kanda Myoujin Shrine

Love Live! Sunshine!! takes place in the small town of Uchiura, near Numazu. Much like the first franchise, the main characters’ school is threatened with closure due to declining attendance rates. The girls, inspired by the group known as μ’s (from the original Love Live!) attempt to replicate the latter group’s success in saving their own school, and form their own idol group called “Aqours.” Already, it’s clear how Love Live! Sunshine!! touches upon issues of population movement and tourism, but it’s especially notable when comparing the series to its predecessor.

Consider where the two properties take place. The μ’s girls of the original Love Live! are centered around Akihabara, which is both the spiritual center of otaku in Japan and, as a result, already a popular tourist destination. The Aqours girls of Love Live! Sunshine!!, on the other hand, are situated near Numazu, which has a population of under 200,000 as well as a recent history of absorbing nearby towns—a major plot point in Sakura Quest and a potential future for Uchiura. Unlike Akihabara, Numazu is hardly world-famous. And yet, if Love Live! had started differently—if it had decided to go with Numazu from the start—then I don’t think it would’ve reached its original success. Much like AKB48, it relied on the notoriety of Akihabara to build itself up, and is now paying it forward, in a certain sense. Love Live! used tourism, and now tourism is using Love Live!

Love Live! Sunshine!! can be seen as another arm of the “Cool Japan” concept, which uses Japan’s fame as a symbol of cultures both traditional and popular to promote itself at home and abroad. It appears to be succeeding, at least in the short term. In fact, over at Apartment 507 where I also write, one of the most popular posts is a guide to visiting Numazu. But as Gundam director and Anime Tourism Association chairperson Tomino Yoshiyuki has warned, short term success is not enough; permanent change is necessary, even if it’s to come from anime. The fact that Love Live! went from being supported by pop culture to being a pop cultural influence that can potentially make a change is a big deal, and I’m curious to see if this experiment has any long-term impact that goes beyond the cute idols of Aqours.

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The World is My Canvas, and Competition is my Art: Splatoon 2 Thoughts

The video game that has most occupied my attention lately is Splatoon 2. This comes as no personal surprise, seeing as I loved the hell out of the first one. The gameplay is mostly similar to its predecessor. The changes are mostly about quality of life. But even though both games are so similar, for some reason I find myself experimenting with the different weapons more in Splatoon 2.

My preferred weapon hasn’t changed since the first game: the N-Zap, modeled after the classic Zapper light gun from the NES. For me, t’s gone from a tool for Hunting Ducks to a jack-of-all trades tool whose relative lack of power can be made up for with smart movement and positioning. It’s also just accurate enough for me to effectively focus my fire, while still being forgiving enough to compensate for the fact that my aim is not that great. In Splatoon 2, the ability for it to quickly ink the ground synergizes well with the Ink Armor special, which temporarily lets the entire team take a few extra hits and survive. The N-Zap lets me support allies up close and from afar, and it fits like a glove. Finding the right weapon is just plain satisfying.

But much like characters in a good fighting game, the variety of weapons available, many quite different from each other, is part of the allure of Splatoon 2. Even if some weapons feel counterintuitive, there’s a certain thrill to trying to get into the right mindset for any given tool. When you’re using the Sloshing Machine, a bucket that launches spiraling volleys of ink, the focus is on using its overwhelming power and arching property to quickly kill, er, “splat” your opponent in unexpected places. Dualies are relatively short-range John Woo pistols that allow for unique evasive maneuvers. The Splat Brella is like a shotgun with as defensive shield, allowing players to pick off opponents while guarding allies.

Even weapons of the same class can be wildly different. The Dynamo Roller is the equivalent of trying to Falcon Punch everyone all the time, while the Carbon Roller focuses on mobility and turf coverage at the expense of battle strength. Sometimes using a different weapon means almost playing a different game, and every time I turn My Splatoon 2 on, I think, “Do I stick with the familiar, or try to transform my mind with another item?” Both ways are fun, doubly so when patches try to make everything worth using.

One of the major changes between Splatoon and Splatoon 2 is that the new special weapons–super moves, in other words–are significantly weaker. Where once they could flip a game upside down due to their sheer power, now they influence games in subtler, less pronounced ways. I think this might end up putting more emphasis on the main and sub weapons themselves, which contributes to weapon experimentation also being more fun.

In the end, gameplay is great, and all the modes are worth playing. My only complaints are shoddy Wi-Fi on the Switch (a common problem for the console), and the lack of the Squid Girl promotional outfit from the first Splatoon shirt.

No, really, give me my Ika Musume threads.

Why the Term “Toxic Masculinity” is a Double-Edged Sword

“Toxic masculinity” is an extremely useful term. It describes a recurring problem with men and boys, which is that the societal pressure to appear and act “manly” can often harm not just others, but the guys themselves. Even the most naturally hyper-masculine individuals can benefit from awareness of this concept because they can at least know that crying, or not being confrontational all the time isn’t a sign that they’re not men. It’s also good for pointing out when media, be it films, video games, anime, etc., reinforce harmful notions of what being a “man” is. Unfortunately, the men who suffer most greatly from toxic masculinity, are likely least receptive to it. I believe the reason for this is that, ironically, the term “toxic masculinity” doesn’t sound masculine enough.

Many phrases that have come out of feminism, or have been embraced by feminists, take on a certain tinge that brings feminists to mind. This isn’t inherently a problem, but whether it’s due to association of just the word choice, it can come across as something concocted in a feminist lab (whatever that might be); perhaps it’s a little too clinical and, well, “feminine.” Part of coming  across as a “man’s  man” is one’s vocabulary, and I believe that the perceived feminist quality in “toxic masculinity” as a phrase prevents more men from using it.

On some level, I want to say, “Get over it and just embrace what the term is trying to say,” but I also understand that it’s not always so easy. Masculinity, toxic or otherwise, is tied to one’s identity. That being said, I think there already exists a phrase that embodies much of what “toxic masculinity” implies that is, for better or worse, more palatable to men concerned about maintaining their image of manliness: “When keeping it real goes wrong.”

Coming from an old Chappelle‘s Show skit, “When keeping it real goes wrong” is used to describe people who refuse to back down in even the most trivial or disadvantageous scenarios, which then leads to dire (and hilarious) consequences. Essentially, it communicates the idea that trying to be “real” 24/7 is a recipe for disaster because the need to have the world see oneself as a proper man who won’t take guff is going to, at some point, end in tragedy.

Do I think “When keeping it real goes wrong” should supplant “toxic masculinity” as the dominant phrase to describe the harmful aspects of male performance? Not really, as it’s kind of unwieldy and doesn’t match 1:1, but I think it has its place. The irony would be that using it could help more men understand the notion of toxic masculinity while also subtly reinforcing it.