My Black Panther Video Game Idea: Armchair Game Developer

 

 

Video games about superheroes have been around for as long as games have. Aaaaand they’ve widely been considered terrible for that entire time. I remember as a kid in the 80s playing Spider-Man for the Atari. It was basically vertical Frogger. All you could do was crawl up a building and avoid open windows and sometimes the Green Goblin randomly gliding back and forth in your way. I know… Fun.

Do anything a spider can? Like… climbing on a wall

Despite superheroes and video games seeming like a perfect marriage due to shared elements of living power fantasies, wielding fantastic abilities, and a laundry list of proven stories and characters, superhero games have generally failed to connect as seamlessly as they seem to. For years, the technology simply wasn’t good enough to capture the superhero magic, though even as it improved often times developers and publishers wouldn’t respect the source material enough or give it the time and budget to make something great.

These are corporate characters after all, and the bottom line reins supreme. As a result, it’s much easier to focus on tropes and popular genres of the day to make a game fans are going to buy anyway rather than try and build something revolutionary. Still, while even bad superhero games can be fun, they are still fail to take advantage of elements specific to the character, such as secret identities and interesting side characters. As a result, making a game for a character like Black Panther would require a great deal of vision, time, and money in order to bring out the elements that make the character so unique and endearing in the same vein as the comics and Ryan Coogler and company’s film. Luckily, this is armchair development, so we’ve got plenty of all that!

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The National Beer of Wakanda is Right Here In Cambodia

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Since it’s about all I can talk about since seeing it the other day, everybody knows I got Black Panther on the brain. Like… I may have screamed out “T’challa!” during love making this weekend.
Regardless, one of my favorite elements of the Cambodia experience is the fact that you can get Wakanda’s favorite international beer at almost any spot you go to. Just walk into an establishment, point and say. “Kyom chong BLACK PANTHER” and you’ll be sipping that vibranium flavored beverage in no time.
Admittedly, Cambodia hasn’t always been the easiest place to be a Black person, but damned if seeing a beer named after your favorite Black superhero isn’t enough to make a brotha feel welcome. So thank you Cambodia! And thank you, Black Panther! I may not like beer, but I’ll always pop open a top and pour some out for my people of Wakanda.

Has the Artist Been Killed and Replaced by the Artrepreneur?

There was an interesting piece in the Atlantic from two years ago that was about the relationship between art and commerce throughout the ages – what it means and where it is heading. The writer, William Deresiewicz, delved into the paradigm shift between the “hard-working artisan, solitary genius, credentialed professional,” and the birth of the creative entrepreneur. I could barely wrap my head around it because it’s so difficult to understand what exactly I’m trying to create while still clinging to the old ideas that art isn’t meant to be a pursuit of massive attention as much as a divine gift from beyond to be used for its own sake.

The Death of the Artist and Birth of the Creative Entrepreneur 

The Only Good Artist…

If there’s one thing that my tenure as an artist, entrepreneur, creative, or “dude who makes stuff”–I don’t even know anymore–has taught me, it’s that ideas mean nothing next to finished projects. However, what the craftsman believes that the artist doesn’t is that the only real work is the work that is finished. Conversely, the artist embraces the belief that their work is never truly finished. They will simply become tired, late, or broke, and be forced to do something with their project to pay the rent before the landlord comes with the police.

After reading the article, my friend, writer, and chef, Angela C. confessed that the article made her very sad, saying:

It’s basically just a different version of the gig economy. You can’t concentrate on a form or craft because you’re too busy trying to sell yourself. And you have to do everything in order to make enough money. Uber driver/Favor deliverer/Lyft driver is the same as blog writer/graphic designer/food critic.

Ouch… That struck a nerve. Is she right? Have we spent our lives honing our crafts only to be thrust into a market-foward world in which we have to be everything to everyone to make a living at anything?

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Remember When Sexual Assault Used to Be Funny?

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When I was around 8 years old, I remember learning a joke from my friend. He came over and started in:

“How do you make a hormone?”

“You hit her with a 2×4.”

Get it? Hormone, but like “whore”, “moan?” I know that certainly got it, and at the time thought it was hilarious. Plus, it was even funnier because my friend learned it from his mom.

There was another joke from that same time: First you’d make sure the person agreed to repeat the words, “ketchup, rubber buns, and liquor” after every question you asked. Then you’d begin by asking the questions rather quickly:

Q: What did you have for breakfast?”

A: Ketchup, rubber buns and liquor.

Q: What did you have for lunch?

A: Ketchup, rubber buns and liquor.

Q: What did you have for dinner?

A: Ketchup, rubber buns and liquor.

Q: What do you do when you see a pretty girl walking down the street?

A: Ketchup, rubber buns and liquor.

Get it? Of course you do! “Catch up! Rub her buns! Lick her!” It’s hilarious, right? Best of all, one could even consider it clean enough for Sunday school since it doesn’t have dirty words. After all, that’s where I learned it.

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How Netflix’s Dirty Money Ruptured My Faith in Humanity and Changed How I Do Business

Not that my faith in humanity was necessarily higher than anybody else’s, but I have a rather long standing reputation for being a pushover in business. I have taken bad deals, given over way too much of my time for free, and allowed far too many sob stories to cloud my judgement ultimately wresting money from my grasp. Put simply, the needs of others have often outweighed the needs of the self. While that may be helpful in dealing with family, it isn’t so helpful when others look to exploit such kindness. Still, though I remain reasonably educated on inequality, oppression, and corporate greed, something in the first episode of this documentary series hit me hard last night.

Looks like the title for a movie called “Gods of America.”

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The Birth of the Mike Dynamo the Website and the Secret Origin of Bikinis and Pancakes

To all my friends and lovers who have followed along this blog and it’s admittedly sparse amount of posting over the years, I’d like to thank you. Sincerely, from the bottom of my heart… THANK YOU! Also, I’d  like to invite you to my new digital space, the Mike Dynamo website and blog. Energize Honestly!

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I started this Bikinis and Pancakes thing back in 2009 as a chance to write about whatever I wanted and put it somewhere people might read it. Never one for plans or arcs, I was mostly just looking for a valve to release ideas that wouldn’t work for my earliest semi pro writing gigs. With that, I’d dabble here and there, writing about video games, comics, vacations and advice. I’d reveal a few personal truths and even write about writing. I posted about best friends passing on and moving forward. I put it all here, and along the way, some great people decided to follow along, and engage with me in addition to put me onto some great writing of their own. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

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Finally, it’s time to move on to doing things a little differently, and a whole lot more. It’s time for Mike Dynamo to go pro.

Going Pro

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Initial D: That Anime Street Racer Magic

I’ve always had friends that love cars. Going all the way back to high school in the 90s, My friend Johnny used to be all about the speed. Back then, he had this black, 96′ Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme that he used to drive like the entire world was trying to beat him in a race. It didn’t matter where you were going, you weren’t getting anywhere near there before Johnny was getting there. While not much of an anime head, Johnny had definitely made it around to watching Initial D, an animated show about Japanese street racers. Little did I know just how much this crazy, speed obsessed car racing show had an affect on my hard driving homeboy.

If you’ve seen Initial D, I had an attitude more like main character Takumi Fujiwara. At the start of the series Takumi didn’t care about the racing or know anything about cars himself, and during his first ride in the back seat of a street racer buddy, he screamed relentlessly on his way up the mountain for his first races. Little did anyone in Initial D know that Takumi had become an accomplished downhill drift driver delivering tofu for his family’s business. Naturally, the driving bit is where the similarities between Takumi and myself ended as I remain a pretty terrible driver to this day.

Johnny watched Initial D as soon as it came out. I remember seeing the tapes at his house. He tried to get me to watch it, but my disinterest in cars left me cold. Some cool box art with an old school flare despite being fairly new at the time. I just never was much of a speed demon and to this day find the going fast unnecessary and scary. Still, something clicked in my mind when I met my co-emcee here in Cambodia. A fellow speed demon in the same vein of Johnny only in actual Asia and on massive motorcycles as well, when the time came to create aliases for our band I called him Initial G. Even though I’d never seen a frame of it… Initial D had an effect on me. So finally, with some prodding I figured it was time to check it out first hand…

Boy… I wish I’d have gotten here sooner.

5 episodes in and Takumi has just stumbled into street racing. Despite being a driving prodigy from delivering tofu, Takumi has only recently gotten his license and sees driving as more of a way to help the family than as its own passionate pursuit. Still, he guns his dads old .86 through all the hairpin turns in order to make it through his run as fast as possible turning both the car and its mysterious, unknown driver into something of an urban legend in the area. With some prodding from his father, and the advances of an interested girl (that seems to have a much much older boyfrie….er…benefactor taking her around or something) Takumi turns up to race and begins building a legend of his own, igniting a passion for driving. Though he remains much more interested in getting a full tank of gas, than being the best driver out there, it’ll be interesting to see how this changes going forward.

Oh! The “D” is for Drift, isn’t it!?

Thanks to Initial D, I finally understand why Johnny later upgraded his Cutlass to the Prelude he had in college. He transitioned from reckless abandon in those early high school days to a much more calculated style of driving. I wasn’t particularly attentive about it, but now I can see it a bit better. After the first few years I was pretty used to the action. I was never around for any racing, but Houston, Texas seemed an awful lot smaller with Johnny behind the wheel. Little did I know how much of his fire for driving was stoked by magic of Initial D.

It’s a great watch and kind of reminds me of Scott Pilgrim in the way it takes  teen characters and ratchets up the drama giving them sort of super powers behind the wheels of a car. It’s all rooted in a fantastic realism as far as the drifting and driving is concerned, but the motivation is as clear as glass. Boys like cars. Boys race cars. And Boys reputations while racing cars are sacrosanct. Being the best is the most important thing in the world Unless you’re Takumi… If you’re Takumi you don’t care about any of that; you just want that gas money so you can take your girl to the beach.

I’m Going to Go See Black Panther Today and I Can Barely Believe It

It’s a big day for me. It’s the time that the black nerd from the United States gets to see his years of comic book fandom rewarded in a way and at a level that is literally everything we dreamed about but were afraid to ask for. “Dreamed about” because we always relished the chance to see characters that resembled us and our unique experience inside the worlds of super powers and pulp justice that we’d connected to. “Afraid to ask for,” because even at our most imaginative, there was a great deal of evidence that if given the chance, such an undertaking would be mishandled, poorly received, and completely tone deaf; a failure with a proper blockbuster budget would mean it could be a decade or more before someone would try again.

Because that’s the penalty for failure in Hollywood for those that attempt something that strays from the paradigm of white, straight, male hero. When it goes bad as it often does, it’s because they “strayed from the formula,” not because they didn’t make or promote the property. In other words, Matt Damon has star power even when shooting movies about dragons attacking the Great Wall of China, but Denzel Washington “won’t play well overseas because the world is racist” (as evidenced in the Sony leak).

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Retro Games Revival: Blast Chamber – Misery Loves Exploding

Imagine you’ve got a bomb strapped to your chest and the counter is set at 3 minutes. You try to remove it, but you can’t get it off. Suddenly, a door opens revealing a collection of treadmills, spikes, springs, and a large glowing crystal in the center of the room along with 3 other people with bombs strapped to their chests. A bell rings as your counter reads 2:59, 2:58, 2:57…

This is the premise behind the 1996 sleeper hit, Blast Chamber. Published by Activision, Blast Chamber is sometimes heralded as the first “non sports 4 player game” for the Sony PS1 and Sega Saturn. While I know what they mean by “sport,” that is exactly what Blast Chamber is and they may have had a better reception if they named it Futuristic Gladiator Murderball.

Press Start and your controller will explode.

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