Saturday, July 9, 2011

Bill S.978 and My Message To Congress

As my friends and family know, I am not very politically active. At all. It goes over my head. “Swoosh!” You hear that? There goes politics. But this is something I couldn’t ignore. Bill S.978 has been proposed to make it a criminal offense to stream copyrighted content in any electronic form. This is primarily backed by the television and film industries, and rightfully so if I may add. But the way the bill is worded states “public performances by electronic means” which includes video game let’s plays, reviews and the like. People could face 5 years in jail for uploading simple karaoke videos of their friends singing on YouTube. That’s how poorly worded this bill is. I couldn’t sit around and do nothing, so like many others, I acted and sent a message to congress via Demand Progress. Please note, you need to be making money off of your streams. I am speaking out for video game streams. My message is as follows:

“Hello my name is Jared Cyhowski and I study video production at Fitchburg State University in Massachusetts. I have researched the S.978 bill for some time now, and I believe it to be too vague in its meaning. Most specifically, the majority of us understands that this bill is being supported by large television and film corporations. Streaming television and film is wrong, but this bill will affect so much more than that. What of people singing or instrumentally involving themselves with their favorite music? Can an artist now not replicate their favorite pieces into their own and express themselves?

And what of the video game industry and the massive number of people who utilize game footage in positive nature? Many people capture digital footage to provide personal commentary and then share it with their many followers. Game companies have realized that this can very much help sales in the long run. Each time a human being plays through a video game the experience will be there's only. This is why the most important genre in gaming today is first-person, where one can obtain their own experience and create a sense of individuality from other players' experiences. Video games offer choices, and everyone makes different decisions if they so choose to.

Uploading a movie or television episode for illegal streaming is different in that the experience is crafted to be set in stone. It is solid. Every viewer will see the same thing happen on screen. Their reactions may be different to the media at hand, but the presentation is identical to each individual.

The exact opposite can be applied to gaming, where each experience differs in the player's personal choice. I ask you to please reconsider bill S.978 and take a much needed, further in-depth look into what exactly the bill will affect.

Thank you.

-Jared Cyhowski"

Time will tell what will happen to online streaming of copyrighted content beyond what laws have already been set in place, but if this bill is passed in its current state, internet culture could change significantly.

-Jared C.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Final Fantasy VI: One of the Greats

Final Fantasy VI is one of the great JRPGs that came out on the Super Nintendo. For years I've heard how great this game is but I've never gotten very far. My first playthrough on the Final Fantasy Anthology version I reached the scenarios... yeah not so far in! My second playthrough I got to the point where Terra flies around and doesn't have control over her power. That's also not very far. Maybe it was the graphics, maybe it was because I got stuck, or maybe it was something else. Either way, just the other day, I beat Final Fantasy VI for the first time.

I'm not going to go into a full in-depth analysis because let's be honest, most have already played and beaten this game.

First things first, FFVI has an incredible cast of characters and each and every one of them has a unique story to tell. Okay well maybe not Gogo or Umaro, but the main characters do. Although there is no set of main characters I feel as if Locke, Terra, Edgar, and Celes have a tight connection. It can be looked at differently by people, but I feel these characters have the most engaging storylines.

I followed Djibriel's guide on gamefaq's and it's one of the best guides I've ever used. I didn't use the guide at first because I didn't want to spoil anything, but after the world was destroyed I wanted to get the most out of the non-linear gameplay that I could. I followed many of the scenarios and retrieved as many characters as I could. I didn't know Shadow could die so I didn't have him at the end. Poor guy... if I only waited. I know he's a fan favorite and I'm guessing it's because of his presence, attitude, and the ability he has to throw. He's powerful and mysterious, and he has his dog Interceptor. That dog would just run up in battle and bite monsters. More damage!

I really enjoyed Locke's story with Celes and the connection that they have. What would she do without him? Terra is unique and takes on the ability to love, but thankfully it's not quite General Leo that helps her with this. She learns to be a mother to children who've lost their parents to Kefka's cruel ways. When you approach her in the World of Ruin she won't join your party right away. She knows that she needs to protect the children, and that it's more important than getting everyone together.

With a note on Locke, I didn't mean to do this, but I completely skipped the first part of Rachel's story. I know it may sound funny, but the first time I went to Kohlingen I didn't have Locke in my party. Actually... I'm fairly sure I skipped Kohlingen on my first time through in the World of Balance. I think I may have walked right by it, which is very funny because the first time I actually went into that guy's basement he talked to me about Locke. It was very strange... and I had no clue what the hell was going on. Rachel? Locke? Dead body? Huh? In the end I did get Phoenix and tried to revive this woman that meant something to Locke. And then she died again. Woo hoo! It wasn't until after I beat the game that I looked up what Djibriel had to say about what I missed, and I was able to read the dialogue that was spoken when you first bring Locke into the man's house in the World of Balance. A sad story indeed.

The only things I didn't do in Final Fantasy VI were the Ancient Castle with Odin and Raiden, I didn't wait for Shadow, I didn't do everything at the Coliseum, defeat all the dragons, collect all of Gau's rages, obtain every summon, or play through Strago's extra storyline. I might be missing something here, but honestly I know that I've done almost everything the game has to offer.

When Final Fantasy VI enters the World of Ruin it guides your characters only so far. I think this is great, but it's sort of misleading. If that makes sense. What I'm trying to get at is I would have only known to go as far as Zozo but that's it. Yes I could run around looking for other characters but certain characters were ridiculous. Mog and Umaro weren't so bad but Locke and Relm are a bit ridiculous. How are we supposed to know that Locke is adventuring in the middle of a volcano... and why in the world is he doing that anyways? He was connected to the storyline before as a Returner and not quite a treasure hunter. And with Relm, first you need to get her to Thamasa. Then she stays in bed and disappears, but only if you leave the town walking over specific hit spaces. Then you need to walk back in and leave again on those hit spaces to trigger the event of her being abducted. What.

And then there's Kefka. He's certainly a very well constructed villain, or is he? It may just be his simplistic nature that leads fans to believe Kefka as one of the greatest villains in a Final Fantasy title, if not the best villain. He's a simple man... sort of... albeit he's more like Celes who's been fused with magicite but something went very wrong with him. He sort of obey's the emperor's orders but usually takes situations into his own hands. He poisoned an entire town and castle, messed with the creation of magic, and then ruled the world after destroying and rearranging its geography. Simply incredible. So is Kefka the greatest villain in all of Final Fantasy? Maybe. If anything, he's certainly one of the most memorable.

Final Fantasy VI is a game from the SNES era, thus its graphics aren't up to date in today's standards. But back then it was considered one of the most technically beautiful games ever made. Flying airships and riding chocobos never looked so magnificent, and the backgrounds were well done. Each character had a large number of sprite animations and the soundtrack was great as well. The graphics give just enough presentation to allow for gamers to fill in the blanks with their imagination. It's a fairly perfect balance.

And that music, man the music is fantastic. Uematsu does a wonderful job. Playing through FFVI for the first time and listening to the music, I could tell the soundtrack was very Uematsu. It has his tones, his feelings and emotions put into the work. The tunes are sometimes catchy, sometimes depressing, and sometimes moving. One such theme is the obvious Opera: Maria and Draco. It was absolutely incredible to listen to the opera and play along. Without the ability to use voices, listening to the words was awkward but loveable. It stands out as one of the best scenes in any Final Fantasy.

The world of Final Fantasy VI may have been destroyed, but the gamer has the ability to put things back together. Or at least initiate such a thing. You band your characters together to take out what was a man, now a God. It's the right thing to do and so you do it. We make choices and come to appreciate our characters and their stories. Its music gets stuck in our heads and the best moments stick out in our memories. Square really pushed themselves to create one of the best RPGs on the SNES. I suggest everyone to check this game out if they haven't already. Waiting this long to play FFVI is almost a shame, so don't be like me! Play it!

Title: Final Fantasy VI (Final Fantasy Anthology)

Developer: Squaresoft

Genre: Japanese Role-Playing Game

Year: 1994, 1999 (FF Anthology)

Platform: Super Nintendo, PlayStation

Completion: Played through as stated above. 85,000 steps taken in 41:26, with Terra (50), Celes (46), Edgar (50), and Setzer (45) at the end of the game.

-Jared C.

A Brief Look into Tekkonkinkreet

Tekkonkinkreet is strange. There's a lot that goes on in the anime adaptation of the original manga, but let me tell ya, it's strange. Art direction, art style, story, themes. It's all so very different from other anime and for that it's... different. But it was picked up by Sony to be published here in America, so it must have some great quality to it right? I do believe that is the case, but at the same time with two viewings under my belt I am left with the same questions.

Maybe I should read the manga. But I've never held an English copy of it in my hands. Right now I don't even know if there is indeed a localization. I've held the artbook in my hands twice now and both at anime conventions. I saw the film originally in my university's anime club 2 years ago and thought "hey, you should buy that someday" and so I did.

Good choice? Certainly.

Tekkonkinkreet follows two kids who live out on the streets without their parents. Their names are Black and White. Black is the older one of the two and seems to get into more trouble. He pickpockets and hangs out with the local gangs while White follows in example at times. They live on an island known as Treasure Town. I'm not sure if the gangs have named it this or what, but the first main conflict comes when some scaly businessmen decide to put a theme park on the island to change its image and make profit.

Black and White are known as "cats" around the town because they are orphans and have no home. A man named Mr. Snake is hired to get rid of them and see the theme park project to fruition. He sends his henchmen out to kill Black and White, effectively throwing things off balance and adding some action to the twist of things. Black and White get separated, and then Black goes through a huge change in thought and lets White go like he was nothing.

I don't quite understand this part of the plot, but hey, why should I ask? Black becomes even more dangerous and eventually begins to lose his mind. White reverts back to the small child that he is but doesn't forget Black. Then, when it's time for the henchmen to finally take Black out of the picture altogether, a Minotaur shows up. He is physical, he is a figure of the imagination, he is talked about. He saves Black and then tempts him to complete darkness.

I can't figure out if the Minotaur is actually Black or if it's actually a person. But I'm fairly positive it's Black's inner self coming out to save him. In the final battle White goes berserk in the room he's being held in, drawing pictures of a collage that creates a Minotaur. What is the ultimate connection between Black and White? It's hard to tell. In the end... it seems Black has suppressed his inner darkness and contains it within himself. White invites him back to reality.

This all happens with a yakuza backbone story. There are key figures in this part of the plot, but they serve as an interesting filler to round out Black and White's existence. I can't decide if I am supposed to care for them and their real world issues, but because Black is connected to the gangs on Treasure Island it seems I should try.

I comprehend maybe 80% of what Tekkonkinkreet has to offer. I am missing a chunk of understanding in the film's realm of consciousness and I wish I could fully wrap my mind around the plot. Like I said, it's both physical and mental. And the mix is so different from what I've witnessed in the past. Sony sure did publish an interesting one here now didn't they? Rock on Black and White. And Minotaur.

P.S. I have learned 3 things in doing some online research for Tekkonkinkreet.

1. The english adaptation of the manga has been released twice now in the United States.

2. Tekkonkinkreet is a mispronunciation of "Tekkin Konkurito", or steel-reinforced concrete. Maybe this reflects on the relationship between Black and White in the story. Maybe.

3. The film was directed by Michael Arias, an American who helped produce the Animatrix. He is one of the very few, if not the only, American to direct a Japanese animated film.

- Jared C.