Saturday, August 31, 2019

My Experience With Racism On Twitter

I blocked out this person's username to protect their privacy.

A few days ago I witnessed firsthand just how racist this country can be. To give you the short version, this is how things went down: I replied to a Tweet written by UC Berkeley Professor Robert Reich advocating for the removal of the Electoral College. In my reply I agreed with Professor Reich, noting how the Electoral College works to the advantage of states with populations that lean towards a conservative political perspective. I also compared the Electoral College to the 3/5ths Compromise, in that the Electoral College serves to empower states with conservative views much to the same extent that the 3/5ths Compromise empowered slave states in the lead-up to the Civil War.

For about twelve hours nothing came of it besides a few likes and comments supporting what I said. Then it happened. A tidal wave of conservatives descended on my Tweet, and all of the sudden my notifications were flooded with people saying things like "you don't know the constitution, boy," or some variant of that. Other people made the ironic choice to laud the Electoral College as a symbol of freedom while simultaneously defending the 3/5ths Compromise and downplaying its effect on slave state's political power.

Perhaps the most racist reply I received is the one screenshotted above. In it the person does a few things. They first mock my intelligence by implying that I should know better as a "history phd candidate." They then claim that I said the Electoral College is racist, which I never did. Next they pat my head and tell me that, because I am of the "Philippines population" I must not comprehend "American" politics (implying Filipinos can't be true Americans). Then they question my legality, assuming that because I'm brown, Filipino, and have the last name Garcia, I must be undocumented, and thus, lesser than them.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Will Hayden Christensen Return in Rise of Skywalker?


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So I watched the new Star Wars trailer this week, as many of you did. But I think my main takeaway was probably different from most. The most shocking thing to me in that trailer was not the presence of "Dark Rey," which I'd figured might happen since the release of episode VII. No, what was surprising to me was the use of so many scenes from the prequels.

Why did that shock me? Well let's think back to episode VII and VIII for a moment. What kinds of references did we get to the prequels? Ewan McGregor's disembodied voice? A line of dialogue about Palpatine's rise to power? Meanwhile, those who grew up with the original trilogy were inundated with references and callbacks to episodes IV, V, and VI.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Is GreedFall the Bioware RPG We've Been Waiting For?

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If you think about it, this is the first time in a long time that Bioware has failed to provide us with an industry-defining roleplaying game within a given console generation. During the original Xbox era, Bioware provided us with two classics, Knights of the Old Republic and Jade Empire. For the Xbox 360 and PS3, Bioware crafted Mass Effect and Dragon Age: Origins, two games often hailed as the pinnacle of western RPGs.

For the PS4 and Xbox One, Bioware has largely flopped. Their one success was Dragon Age: Inquisition, though it's a cross-generation title as well as a sequel, so I'm not sure if it counts. It's also an "open world" game, which in my opinion went too far away from what Bioware's strengths are. The other two games they released were even more problematic. Mass Effect: Andromeda failed to capture one iota of the original trilogy's storytelling brilliance, and Anthem is already dead in the water six months after it launched as EA's flagship "live service" gaming experience.

But this isn't an article focused on critiquing Bioware. That's already been done to death, and I think at this point we can all agree that the Bioware we all knew and loved is gone forever. No, this article is about the game GreedFall, and whether it might serve as a proper heir to Bioware's masterpieces.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

YouTube's Charlatan Problem: Why Making Education Entertaining Doesn't Always Work

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I would be the first person to admit that I am a fan of educational videos on YouTube. From channels like Isaac Arthur, which explores outer space, to those like The Corridor Crew, which informs us about the art of visual effects, YouTube channels do a great job of presenting us with a wealth of supposedly-expert level knowledge.

But my faith in these kinds of channels was tarnished one day when I happened upon one designed to teach people about history. I won't name the channel here, but it's very popular. On that channel I found a video about Christopher Columbus and his intentions towards Native Americans. In it, the presenter, in traditional YouTube style, confidently presented an expertly cut and edited argument that stated that, because Columbus said he simply wanted to convert Indians to Christianity, he didn't really bear any ill-will towards them.

Normally, I listen to what YouTube presenters have to say, mainly because they have millions of views and receive loads of approval in the comments sections from their fans. But this time I immediately doubted what this person was arguing. What had changed? Well, as this blog advertises, history is my profession. It's what I received a Master's Degree in, and it's what I'm getting my PhD in.

So when I heard this person say that Columbus meant no harm to Native Americans because he "simply wanted to convert them," alarm bells went off in my head. Anyone who has read the hundreds of books you have to read to receive a graduate degree in history could tell you that missionization, as the process he described is normally called, was typically used by European colonizers as a front for treating Native Americans poorly. In the case of the Spanish colonizers, attempts to convert Native Americans to Christianity often involved subjecting them to forced labor systems, like the encomienda. 

It was then that a troubling thought crossed my mind: if this YouTube educator was getting things so drastically wrong, couldn't this be true of others as well?

Wednesday, August 21, 2019

You Will Hate World of Warcraft Classic

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I started playing World of Warcraft in August 2005, having received it as a birthday gift. At the time, it was the only game kids at my middle school would talk about. I remember sitting on the bus in 7th grade on my way home from school, and all around me everything I heard was World of Warcraft related. Literally everyone was playing it (or Halo 2, but by then the hype for that was dying down a bit).

When I first fired up World of Warcraft on a crappy hand-me-down Dell Latitude laptop, I was entranced. It was the first mmorpg I had played that made me feel like I was in an entirely different world. Sure, I had played Runescape before, but that was a browser-based game with a top-down perspective that gave you limited control over your player and your perspective.

World of Warcraft, by comparison, was a completely different animal. You could actually control your character, rather than pointing and clicking. Combat felt sensational; you could feel the power coursing through your character's veins as you launched firebolts at unsuspecting kobolds. Everywhere you went felt like it was fully-realized, with stories waiting to be told, friends to meet, quests to complete, and gear to obtain.

Friday, August 16, 2019

Can An Auto-Generated Superteam Beat Lonzo Ball and the Lakers?

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This is an accurate representation of how good Lonzo was for me in NBA 2K19.

Each year I buy the newest iteration of NBA 2K, probably against my better judgement. As most know, at this point it's pretty much just a cash-grab rushed out to take advantage of the hype surrounding the upcoming NBA season. Microtransactions have ruined most of its game modes, and each year more features seem to be taken out than they are put in.

Luckily, the sole reason I play NBA 2K is for its MyLeague mode, which allows you to run all aspects of an NBA team for multiple decades, if you so choose. And thankfully, MyLeague continues to be updated on a yearly basis, unlike other 2K game modes that have been allowed to wither and die.

One of the things that I like to do is to construct unrealistic scenarios in MyLeague, and see how they play out over a few decades. The scenario this time was as follows: bend the rules to create a super superteam, and wait to see how long it took for the league to develop a team capable of beating it.

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Corridor Crew Review

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From left to right: Wren, Sam, Niko, Jake, and David of The Corridor Crew. Credit to them for the graphic.

YouTube has a lot of problems. Namely, it's full of pseudo-intellectuals who fail at towing the line between entertainment and education. Facts and quality analysis matter less to these people than views and clicks do. Charlatans abound.

And yet, thankfully, The Corridor Crew manages to transcend that morass of misinformation in a way that often matches or exceeds the best of what YouTube has to offer. The quality of their videos is so good, in fact, that you almost feel bad about the fact that you don't have to pay to watch them. 

Yet, even so, The Corridor Crew has a big problem. Something that might even be called a fatal flaw.