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Thursday, July 2, 2015

Regressive Progressivism: Arkham Knight

I am vengeance. I am The Night. I am Spoilers.

I love the Batman: Arkham series. I have since I first played Arkham Asylum, the beginning of the series. I was wary of them at first, as licensed games have a long and storied history of being completely shit. Super-hero based titles in particular. One of my favourite super-hero films is Iron Man, and I was psyched when I found a clearance copy of Iron Man: The Game. Sadly, it was one of the worst games I've ever played.
Seriously how do you mess this up?
Not since Goldeneye 007 on the N64 had there been a good licensed game, and Asylum sparked the return of good licensed games, followed up with High Moon's Transformers: Cybertron titles and Deadpool. Even now, the genre hasn't recovered from the damage done, but at least there are good licensed games out there, and we owe it mainly to Arkham Asylum.

Arkham City, the sequel, may have been lacking the tightly focused narrative of the original, but it made up for it in scale of playable area and the mountains of sidequests, expanded roster of villains, and innovations in gameplay. The prequel game Arkham Origins (while not made by Rocksteady) is easily the worst of the series, but still an outstanding game. It innovated very little (expanding mainly on the Detective Mode in such a way that Rocksteady recognized and used in Arkham Knight), but it told a great story with mainly b-team villains. A mobile game, Arkham Origins: Blackgate wasn't necessarily a great game, but it wasn't terrible either, and was ported to PC and consoles later. 

It's previously been fashionable to bash the Arkham games for their treatment of women, primarily Catwoman. Despite being a playable character (both free-roam and story) and given her own motivations, agency, and the chance to rescue Batman, the game was still branded sexist because common street thugs called her 'bitch.' I'm honestly not sure how people who are locked up in a city-sized prison can be expected to treat one of the two women publicly making their residence known in said city-prison respectfully, but apparently the words of minor villains are the lesson the developers wanted us to take away from the game. Not that Catwoman is a badass capable going toe-to-toe with dozens of hardened criminals and Two-Face himself, but that she's a bitch. You've got me there.


For the most recent outrage, Arkham Knight is coming under fire for its treatment of Poison Ivy, mainly that she's a scantily clad damsel in distress. I'll grant you exactly one thing, she is scantily clad. But Ivy's so far mutated from baseline-human that her brain doesn't process human modesty the way the rest of us do. Is that an excuse? Maybe, but it's one that works in the context of the story. But that's as much leeway as I'll give those claims. 

My only assumption can be that the people writing these articles haven't played the game, but only seen a few short, selected clips. The claim is that she's kidnapped with a gun held to her head by a goon that she should be able to take out herself, Batman rescues her only to take her again and throw her in a cell, and use her when she's useful again, as a 'power-up.'

Let me tell you what really happens: Ivy is involved, as a party with agency, in a meeting of villains called to pool their resources to take out the Bat. Exercising that agency, she refuses, and is somehow rendered unconscious. It's not explained how, but she wakes up in a chamber with a gun to her head, at which point Batman enters the picture, beats up a dozen guys outside of said cell. Scarecrow gasses her and goon, but it only affects goon due to her natural immunity to toxins. She proceeds to smash his head into the glass of the chamber, and then walk out under her own power. She explains the situation to Batman before casually tossing him off of a building with her vines. Naturally, being Batman, he's waiting for her when she exits the elevator. Deciding the fight isn't worth the trouble, she allows herself to be arrested and taken to the GCPD. Batman later realizes he needs a way to purge Scarecrow's toxin and releases her from custody. She then takes control of a giant root system underneath Gotham and wreaks havoc on the Arkham Knight's tank division while Batman provides a modicum of covering fire. The game's mission objectives even reflect this by instructing you to "work with" Ivy, not "protect" Ivy. Finally, she sacrifices herself to purge Scarecrow's toxin from Gotham in a heroic redemption.

Reducing Ivy's role in the story of Arkham Knight to 'damsel in distress' is downright insulting. Insulting to the character, to her creators, the developers of the game, and her fans. She plays a major part, and Gotham would have been lost halfway through the game if it weren't for her.

Catwoman's part is being criticized as well, but that one's only partially valid. It's true, Riddler has her. She's got a bomb collar on, and Batman must complete challenges for keys to the bomb collar.. only some of those challenges involve taking direct control of Catwoman. And she's in this situation in the first place because of a character trait that's been present in Catwoman from day one: She's greedy. Riddler paid her to do a job, and double-crossed her by fitting the collar on her in the process. She even straight-up tells Batman that she doesn't want her situation to act as a motivation for him.

I'm only going to say this about Harley Quinn: She's wearing more clothes in every game and still you consider her sexualized.

Don't you go there, Kotaku.. don't you... you went there.
As for my favourite character in all of Batdom, Barbara Gordon... Kotaku, you go back and finish the goddamned game. And when you get to the part where Barbara Gordon looks Scarecrow in the eye and says “You don't scare me”, you come back and you apologize. And you replay those parts where you track her movement, where you hear about the soldiers that were taken out by a 'cripple in a wheelchair with ninja sticks.' Where you find the scene of the humvee she managed to crash by macing the driver, and how she crawled away until someone put a warning shot in the pavement a foot from her head, only to leave Batman a way of tracking her location without a trained and highly skilled villain noticing. And don't you ever call Barbara Gordon a 'professional victim' again. A professional victim is someone that milks a tragedy (real or imagined) for sympathy. Barbara Gordon took that tragedy and turned it into a legacy, becoming one of the most important characters not only in the Bat-titles, but in all of DC. 

The Ivy criticism made me sigh. The insult to Barbara Gordon made me genuinely angry. 

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

WNW: Sidekicks

(In proper comic-book fashion, I'm engaging in some time travel to make up for days I missed this week.)


This video doesn't need much introduction other than "Villainous Anne Hathaway vs. Heroic Joseph Gordon-Levitt."

Monday, June 29, 2015

Monday Gunday: LaserLyte Center Mass Laser

http://tinyurl.com/pjoxo7r
Earlier this month I mentioned taking my Center Mass laser to the an indoor range with quite devastating results. Having had the opportunity to go to a shotgun range and pattern my 12 gauge with said laser, I am now prepared to give it a product review.






($220 MSRP, but $185 at Amazon)

Installation
The Center Mass Laser (hereafter known as CML) mounts easily to any Weaver or Picatinny rail, and a hex wrench is conveniently included.

The laser is offset enough to mount behind iron sights, and a variety of activation options (tape switch momentary on/off, button momentary on/off, and double press for constant on) mean that it can be operated from essentially anywhere it can be mounted.

Sighting In
This is the pattern of the CML. It is essentially a single green laser that has a refractive lens which turns one beam into a ring of eight. This ring effectively illustrates the spread of shot (aka the pattern) from a cylinder bore barrel. Conveniently enough, that is the barrel I have on my shotgun.*

To sight in the CML, simply aim at the desired point of impact and then adjust the center dot until it is where you want it. I used a 12 gauge bore sight laser to get mine lined up before taking it to the range for patterning** and fine-tuning, but if you have a reflex sight, red dot or other optic already zeroed, simply adjust the CML to that optic's reticle.

Like most lasers, there is no definite feedback system or locking adjustment like a scope would have; adjustment is via set screws and is performed using the "Well, that feels about right, let me take another shot and see if it works or if I need to move it again." I'm not fond of this, but I have yet to see a laser that has adjustment screws similar to MOA clicks.

* This is because my shotgun is set up for home defense, where a shorter barrel and wider choke give optimal results. For hunting or shooting skeet or trap, I would use a longer barrel which gives a tighter pattern and longer ranges. For those wishing to learn more about choke and spread, visit these two pages and look at the diagrams, or watch this video for a simple compare & contrast.

**For people who are not familiar with the jargon, patterning a shotgun is where you take it to the range and shoot it to make sure that it's hitting where you're aiming. It's much like zeroing a scope, except for the fact that shot is nowhere near as accurate as a bullet. That's why it's called a "pattern". For more information, watch this video.

Target Acquisition
As mentioned previously, I used the CML at an indoor range using frangible slugs at 25 feet, and it put those slugs where I wanted them. This is proof that even though it is designed for a shotgun, it will work just as well on a rifle. (In fact, I have acquired a smaller version of this laser and mounted it to my mother's PMR-30. Mom has notoriously poor eyesight, but the ring of red laser light is easier for her to see, and makes target acquisition faster, than a single laser does.)

LaserLyte says that the pattern grows at one inch per yard, but I'd like to put that into terms that are a bit more helpful.

Using a sheet with one-inch squares on it, I put the muzzle of my shotfun against it. At that range, the circle was less than one inch across. Considering that 12 gauge equals .73 caliber, this is logical.

I then measured the distance between my front door and the wall closest to the kitchen door, i.e. where I would be standing if I needed to shoot someone breaking in. It was 20 feet, and the ring of green now measured roughly six inches across.

(Yes, math types, I know that 20 feet comes out to 6.7 yards. However, the laser wasn't mounted to the wall, it was mounted to the shotgun which is forward of the wall. The actual distance from laser to wall was likely 18.5 feet.)

Daylight Operation
After that, I took my shotgun to an outdoor range to see how the ring spread matched the patterning of the shotgun. I set up a sheet of white paper at a distance of nine yards, with the intention of moving the target further back once I had matched the pattern to the point of aim.

However, at that range, the green ring completely filled the sheet of paper! ("Negative, Ghost Rider, the pattern is full.") And yes, the shot pattern of both birdshot (used for testing) and buckshot (used to make certain it was where I wanted it, confirmed with larger holes) also filled the target sheet nicely.

Only one thing disappointed me: despite being a very bright green laser, the light was very hard to see in the bright Florida sun. I was able to see the center dot by sweeping the target and looking for movement, and after that I was able to see the rings, but it was by no means a quick target acquisition.

This is not a fault of the product itself, however. Lasers are famously hard to see in bright sunlight, and a red laser would have been completely washed out. My only solution for a situation like this would be to switch to a reflex sight or green dot optic. Given the small profile of the CML and its ability to be mounted nearly anywhere, mounting an additional optic if necessary shouldn't be a problem.

Other Things I Like
Not only does it operate from a reasonably easy to acquire CR123 battery, the battery cap is also tethered to the casing. This makes battery changes "in the field" much easier and with less worry of losing the cap. In addition, it comes with clear instructions, a hex wrench for immediate mounting, and an already charged battery.

My Rating: A+
I like this product very much. It has certain limitations, of course, but its usefulness outweighs those. It's not ideal for most sporting activities, but in home-defense situations it absolutely excels. As an inexperienced but enthusiastic shotgunner, I especially like being able to see at a glance what my shot pattern will be.

It's expensive, but if you can afford it and use a shotgun for home defense, I cannot recommend it highly enough.



Gun Blog Variety Podcast #45

http://tinyurl.com/nmwoenx
It's the .45 caliber episode!
  • There's no Adam this week, but returning for her second stint as co-host is that bratty kid sister of the gunblogosphere, Erin Palette! 
  • Erin also talks about what to do if your AC fails.
  • Nicki Kenyon answers the question "Are we pushing Russia too far?"
  • Our Special Guest Reverend Kenn Blanchard talks about guns in churches. It's a great interview so give it a listen!
  • Barron B. discusses data encryption and why you should do it.
  • and Weer'd, as a public service to all, reads the tools at Armed with Reason, so you don't have to.
Thanks for downloading, listening, and subscribing.
Listen to the podcast here.
Show notes may be found here
Special thanks to our sponsor, Law of Self Defense. If you use discount code "Variety" at checkout, you get 10% off anything you buy.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Regressive Progressivism and Fallout 4

There's a Bush and a Clinton fighting for the white house. Jurrasic Park is killing it at the box office. Mortal Kombat is being blamed for a massacre and DOOM is getting heat from cultural critics for its violence. I feel so very old and so very young at the same time.

The outrage du jour following E3 this year was accusations that Fallout 4 is 'transmisogynistic.' A word I don't understand (and that spellcheck doesn't recognize, but then spellcheck doesn't recognize spellcheck either), and I'll explain why later. All of this sparked over a second-long part of a clip of combat and features in Fallout 4, previewed at the pants-darkeningly exciting Bethesda event, their first ever major showing at the yearly trade show.


The clip, as you can see, features a man wearing a dress. This is big news for several reasons:
  1. Just taking into account the last couple of Fallout games, there were some really excellent outfits and armor sets that were gender-specific: The Merc Charmer outfit, for example, had a bulky steel collar and coat for male players, but placing it on a female character it had a miniskirt and leggings. Similarly, the Stylish Gambler's hat in New Vegas for men was a replica of Indiana Jones's fedora (found on a skeleton in a 50s-style refrigerator) for men, but for women it was an ugly veiled pillbox hat. 
  2. The appearance of a man in a dress in Fallout 4's trailer signifies that you are no longer restricted by gender as to what clothing you wish to wear. For immersion and gameplay, this should be a huge step forward. You would think progressive-minded folk with a penchant for gender activism would be celebrating this. You would even think they'd go so far as to realize that you can now play as one biological sex that identifies as another gender.
But no. The logic is that Bethesda was using the imagery to express 'lol man in a dress is funny.' Nearly the exact words.  Meanwhile, actual trans people are pretty happy about this. (For example, the editrix of this blog. -- Erin)

And even if we're looking at this as just 'man in a dress,' one of the more irritating aspects of this particular outrage is that activists have a habit of erasing the progress that the drag queen/transvestite community has had in making things like breaking gender roles, homosexuality, and transgender more acceptable to the mainstream. Back in my teenage and early 20s, I had friends in the drag community, both gay and straight, and I saw the shit they put up with from ignorant and bigoted people, and it seriously rubs me the wrong way when people claiming the moral high ground shit upon them from a very great height.

And transmisogynistic? To borrow a phrase of theirs, the word itself is problematic. I believe this should (theoretically) fall under 'transphobic', as the word transmisogynistic a) excludes female-to-male transition and b) smacks of one ideology co-opting another group's concerns for their own. That's right, hashtagtivists, I speak your language. Fluently. I'd tell you to check your privilege, if I were capable of doing it with a straight face.

But it comes down to this: Fallout did it first. Those same slacktivists throwing a ticker-tape parade over Fire Emblem having same-sex marriage? Fallout 2 had same-sex marriage. A gay character? Go talk to Arcade Gannon in New Vegas or Carol and Greta the Lesbian ghouls in Fallout 3. Or Flak (and possibly Shrapnel) in Rivet City. I'm only surprised it took so long to ditch gender-specific clothing, and I'm happy it has, as there are some snazzy suits that Justine will look totally badass wearing. 

Fallout has a long history of being open to new ideas, and attacking it for making progress in an area like this isn't progressive, it's regressive.

Also, as a sidenote: I'm sick of hearing about flags, too.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Traveller Tuesday: M202A1 66mm FLASH

A fellow on the Traveller Facebook group I frequent said this needed stats. I am happy to oblige.

My use of Traveller setting and dress falls under
fair use guidelines for both Mongoose and Far Future Enterprises.

Here is the 66mm FLASH (Flame Assault Shoulder Weapon):


Basically a 4-shot rocket pack that werfs flammen. This is easy to stat using the Central Supply Catalog.

First, we stat up the launcher. 
  • It was designed in the 1960s, so that gives us a Tech Level of 6.
  • Looking through the section on "Support & Artillery Weapons," I find something titled Reusable Launcher, Light (TL6). It is 60mm, which I decide is close enough. This will be our baseline. 
  • It is designated as a Light Artillery Weapon. 
  • Range is Rocket.
  • Damage depends on the rocket, and will be addressed later. 
  • Magazine is 4. 
  • Auto is No. 
  • Recoil is 0. 
  • Cost  is 8,000 Cr.
  • Mass is 12 kg when loaded (per Wikipedia). 

And now, the rocket.
This is a bit of a quandary for me; on the one hand, on same chart as the baseline launcher, there is another entry below it called Disposable Launcher, Medium, Incendiary. This sounds ideal... except for the fact that despite being a good 30mm larger than our baseline, it does less damage. (4d6 Flame vs 7d6). Perhaps incendiaries do less damage?

I check the table titled Artillery Weapon Payload Size Classes (CSC, p.109) and there I find "Extremely Light - 60mm - 7d6", which matches what's in the table for the Light Reusable Launcher. 

I then check p.112 for rules on incendiaries, and it says:
  • No effect on hardened structures
  • Damage is full for items in contact (I assume this means struck by the rocket)
  • 1/2 the weapon's base damage (flame) per round within the primary radius
  • 1/4 base damage per round within the secondary radius. 
So clearly the stats for the Medium Incendiary Launcher are incorrect, and its damage should be 8d6 Flame. 

On p.90 of the CSC, under Flame and Cryo Weapons, it states someone hit with a thermal weapon (which this is) takes additional damage each round (in agreement with the rules listed above), with the damage halved each round until it finally dies out. 

Therefore the damage for the 66mm FLASH is:
  • No effect on hardened structures
  • 7d6 flame damage for anything in contact/struck by rocket
  • 4d6 flame damage per round for anything within 5 meters of strike
  • 2d6 flame damage per round for anything between 5 and 10 meters of strike.
  • Damage is halved each round until 0d6 is reached. 
Curiously, no cost is listed. However, the cheapest rocket we have a price for is the TL9 Anti-Personnel Tac Missile at 1,800 Cr. which give us an upper boundary. The Grenades table on p.114 lists incendiary grenades at 30 Cr. which gives our lower bound. 

As grenades are listed as 30mm weapons and this is a 60mm rocket, I decide that doubling the price is a good enough approximation. 300 Cr. per rocket seems perfectly fine to me. 


Et voila, it is statted.


The Fine Print


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