October 3, 2023

Why are puzzle video games most immune to the cult of ugliness & crappiness? And horror the most susceptible? And why are there puzzles in horror games?

There's a puzzle game that's trending among Japanese streamers, in the same rough family as Tetris, with very kawaii graphics (fruit pieces with emoji faces). It's currently only available in Japan, and was created there.

(I can't easily find pictures of it because "suika game" and "watermelon game" bring up older unrelated games of the same name. But search YouTube for "suika game" and you'll find not only pictures, but videos of how it's played.)

A cutesy-looking game being made and going viral in Japan is no surprise -- aside from the late '90s and early 2000s, they have largely been immune to the cult of ugliness and crappiness that is plaguing the West during the declining phase of the American Empire (torture porn movies of the 2000s, related video games of the 2010s, and so on).

Mumei and Mori have streamed the game on the English-speaking side of Hololive, but we'll have to see if it catches on as popularly as it has in Japan.

I was trying to think of an alternative game that *would* go viral in the empire-collapsing West, due to its ugly and crappy nature... but not only could I not think of anything recent, I don't think there is a single game in the entire history of the puzzle genre that is ugly, disgusting, off-putting, uncomfortable, debasing toward the player or toward a streamer's audience, deliberately made to look and play like crap.

They all look nice -- some are on the cutesy side (like today's suika game), some have a more refined look (like the Japanese-made Columns from 1990), but none of them look bad, ugly, crappy, let alone on purpose as part of some self-aware meme appeal.

The worst you can find is one that looks bland and clinical and bordering on a sensory-deprivation chamber, like Portal from 2007 (created in America). But it's still not ugly and crappily made. That game is not pure puzzle, though -- it's also in the "dark sci-fi" genre, and as we'll see, the closer to horror, the more susceptible it is to ugliness and crappiness.

It's not just the visuals that are pleasant in puzzle games, though -- they also have pleasing, sometimes catchy background music and sound-effects. While the arcade release of Lode Runner in 1984 did have primitive background music, the ancestors of the trend for background music in puzzle games are both from 1989 -- Tetris on the Game Boy and the Nintendo (created in Russia), and the Adventures of Lolo series for the Nintendo (created in Japan). Both of those remain some of my favorite games, and I occasionally play them despite hardly playing games at all after my 20s.

Speaking of the refined and glossy look of Columns, it reinforces this in its soundtrack, whose composer created not 1, not 2, but count 'em, 3 pieces to choose from, inspired by Baroque / Classical music.

Pretty much every puzzle game has a soundtrack, including today's suika game, which is light, inoffensive elevator music. To be a great puzzle game, it would need a musical update with something catchy and melodic like Tetris or Columns.

The only puzzle games without soundtracks were made for home computers, where the creators might have thought the user wouldn't have a sophisticated enough set-up to play melodic music, or not enough memory on the disk to hold a musical score (in the '80s). Or where the point was to create a mindless diversion -- respectful of office-space noise levels -- instead of a well-rounded aesthetic experience (like Minesweeper or Solitaire or Taipei / Mahjong from the '90s Windows days).

The sound effects and audio levels in puzzle games are also pleasing, not an anti-aesthetic "ear rape" that is rampant in horror games. That term is very appropriate, since it highlights the reliance on disgust, debasement, and humiliation rather than fear, danger, and violence as the basic emotion and tone in the horror genre across all media since the 2000s.

In fact, as many streams as I've seen from the series of Amnesia, Outlast, Dead by Daylight, and Phasmophobia, along with the lesser single-entry horror games of the 2010s and '20s, I can't remember the music at all. Their Wikipedia pages do list composers, but don't mention the music in the body of the article, unlike Tetris or Columns, which are games you can still remember from the music alone, without the graphics.

Horror movies also used to have memorable soundtracks, even in the West -- before the decline and collapse of the American Empire. Halloween, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Exorcist, The Omen, the Argento thrillers, you name it.

Horror video games used to as well, whether Western ones like Doom / Doom II or Japanese ones like Clock Tower (the 1995 JP-only game).

Portal is one of the few puzzle games without a true soundtrack, but vague non-musical atmospheric sounds instead, not very detectable at the time or memorable after. It has that dark sci-fi / horror influence, which resulted in the non-soundtrack that it has, compared to every other puzzle game.

* * *

So why are puzzle games so immune to the cult of ugliness? And why are horror and other dArK sPoOkY genres so susceptible to it? Puzzles appeal mostly to our sense of reason, not any of the various emotions.

And since the cult of ugliness relies so heavily on disgust, an emotion, it is completely at odds with the puzzle genre, which doesn't allow any of the emotions to enter into it. Well, other than the occasional bout of anger, but that is incidental, not fundamental -- puzzle games are not designed to piss you off throughout the game and elevate your rage levels as a necessary part of the experience.

Why horror among the non-puzzle genres? Because there is a natural entry-point for disgust in horror, namely gore. Horror is fundamentally about violence, danger, and fear, but the outcome of such threats may incidentally lead to gore and disgusting things. On the non-gory side are the thrillers, where disgust has little room to get its foot in the door. Thrillers can be slick, glamorous, seductive things, even if there is an occasional fleeting bit of gore, like the giallos from Italy in the '70s and '80s, or Basic Instinct from pre-collapse America.

But when horror gets ugly, gory, and disgusting, it prevents itself from becoming slick, glamorous, or seductive. It will also not have a great soundtrack, if gore is the main point. It is choosing to wallow in debasing crappiness, across all aspects of its production.

And if the horror genre becomes dominated by disgusting rather than frightening things, as it has since the 2000s, it will automatically become part of the cult of ugliness. Things that are dangerous and violent are not necessarily debasing, corrupting, and humiliating -- but things that are disgusting are. Ugly / crappy and disgusting / humiliating are a natural fit for each other.

* * *

There's a reason why horror is so over-represented among the B-movies, "worst movies ever made," etc., and why a more cerebral / rational genre like police-procedural or mystery are not. In fact, comedies and romances are not common among worst-ever movies either. They do have an emotional appeal, but it's to positive rather than negative emotions, so disgust has no way to worm its way into the work.

I don't just mean "movies that fall flat," but as in crappy and shoddy production values and technical processes. Rom-coms are never made that terribly, whether naively or on purpose for brown-nosing points with the irony crew. Their makers want to make something uplifting, and the audience wants to be lifted up -- the opposite of tolerating or preferring to wallow in shoddy ugliness.

I reject the claims by the cult of ugliness that one appeal of such garbage is feeling superior to the makers, the schadenfreude or point-and-laugh appeal. First of all, that would be admitting to being a midwit, having to punch down on a midget and thereby confessing to being tiny yourself. While some members of the cult may be midwits, others are not, and nobody would want to brag about being a midwit anyway.

The main reason is all of the fall-flat rom-coms out there that they could point and laugh at. They could sneer at the sappiness, make fun of the corny dialog, point out how illogical some of the plot devices are that put these two in the same place at the same time, ridicule the implausible mismatch between the homely looks of the female protag and the wealthy / desirable status of the male love interest, and so on and so forth.

Somehow, though, the cult of ugliness avoids the rom-com genre like the plague. It's because on a technical level, they're competently made, at worst bland and inoffensive. But they're never ugly, and never shoddily made.

Therefore, it's the ugliness and the crappiness that the cult members truly fixate on and demand -- not a sense of aesthetic superiority. If they enjoy pointing and laughing at ugly crap, it can only be because they see themselves in that, they do not like themselves, and they are externalizing their self-loathing by pointing and laughing at someone else's ugly crap. They are kindred spirits with the makers of ugly crap, not hostile enemies or disdainful superiors.

* * *

One of the most bizarre developments in video games that I've noticed from watching streams is the intrusion of "puzzles" into horror games. Puzzles are cerebral, horror is visceral and emotional -- they contradict each other, right?

Well, sometimes they can operate independently of each other, neither interfering with the other. This approach was used in Twin Peaks, where there is a standard by-the-book criminal investigation, along with a paralogical style like throwing rocks at bottles while reading out suspects' names or heeding the messages of characters from one's dreams. The two styles work in tandem, creating a richer and beyond-the-ordinary experience.

But in horror video games, typically the cerebral component interferes with the emotional horror component, e.g. the player cannot progress away from the villain without solving a math problem first. Forget tripping over your shoelaces while fleeing through the woods, or trying to start a car engine that doesn't want to turn over -- the main obstacle in today's horror is a balancing an equation!

This has been true at least since Amnesia: the Dark Descent in 2010, and the less influential Penumbra series by the same makers from 2007. It borrows directly from Myst (American, early '90s), but that was not supposed to be an emotional, let alone action or horror, kind of game, whose heart-racing pace a puzzle would have halted.

Amnesia is a stain on Sweden's cultural record, which has so much going for it due to Minecraft of the same time, but maybe it's cuz the former creators are from the low-trust / non-standard-dialect region of the country, Malmo. There's a ton of garbage horror games from Montreal (like Outlast and Dead by Daylight), in the low-trust, non-standard-dialect region of Canada.

Then there are the non-puzzle puzzles, which are really just arbitrary and cryptic passwords, which are not solved through reasoning of any kind. You need to use a certain item in a certain place, but discovering this match is done through trial-and-error, and finding the location of the item is also trial-and-error. Maybe another character tells you the info -- typically through a blogpost-long "note" that they conveniently left lying around for no reason other than to unknowingly help you out -- but finding this character / note is done through trial-and-error as well.

These are more like clues used in a mystery -- they narrow down the number of branches in the decision tree, which does reduce some of the uncertainty about whodunnit and what to do next. But that still makes you roam around randomly until you chance upon the crucial person or location or item. Unlike clues in a mystery, however, you don't use reasoning to start your hunt -- as opposed to interviewing the close associates of a murder victim, rather than people from the city at random, or people on the other side of the world. You just roam around at random until you chance upon it.

These cryptic, arbitrary, random searches do not counteract the emotional tone with a cerebral / rational tone, like the true puzzles do. But they still grind the action to a halt. If it were a thriller, such blind exploration could be used to build tension and instill fear in the player, if the killer could be waiting in the area you want to explore.

But when the point is disgust, gore, and humiliation, you are never given a way to attack the villain. It's all about hide-and-seek, because humiliation and debasement and corruption require a power imbalance, as in hide-and-seek, rather than two peers squaring off against each other (as in a generic FPS or fighting game). If horror is about violence, danger, and fear, it could very well involve two closely matched rivals.

When the gameplay becomes a hide-and-seek simulator, the tension comes from that power imbalance itself -- does the killer sense me nearby, is he already chasing me, can I manage to get away before he kills me? If he catches you, the tension ends when you're killed and have to re-start the level. If you escape his chase, the tension ends until the next time he senses you.

So, the point of the cryptic random search for a "puzzle"-solving item, is not really to solve the puzzle itself, as far as building tension goes. It is to give you some flimsy reason to have to wander near the killer, so that he can sense you and start chasing you, which is where the tension actually comes from.

This is why these games never feel realistic enough to be truly frightening -- in real life, you'd simply GTFO, and leave the killer behind. Why do you remain trapped in the same area as him? Because leaving the location requires an arbitrary item which is cryptically placed inside the location, so you can't just leave as usual. It's like a prison, and you need to find where the warden's office is, so you can get his keys or press a button or discover the password to open the gates, but there are enemies on the loose who can pick you off on your way to the warden's office.

Outside of a literal prison, though, these security obstacles and their cryptic solutions are unmotivated. So what actually plausible scenario does this resemble -- being trapped in a building with someone who far outclasses you, and your only choice is to play hide-and-seek long enough until you miraculously get out, but more likely are going to get gruesomely and repeatedly killed along the way?

It's really more like an ancient gladiator arena mixed with a Medieval torture dungeon. But in true humiliating fashion, you have no weapons -- not even David's slingshot. You have been placed there by the sadistic game creators, for their own warped amusement (and any viewing audience who identifies with them), and perhaps for your own warped enjoyment (or the part of the audience who identifies with you), if you masochisticly enjoy being humiliated and degraded by disgusting things with no way to stop it.

There is always a pervasive tone of creepy molestation in these games, rather than just some maniac being on the loose and wanting to kill everyone in his path, like a rabid dog. A rabid dog doesn't want to humiliate and degrade its victims. This kind of horror is specifically about disgust, and barely disguised S&M fetishes (without seductive sexuality, of course -- that would offend the Puritanical morality of self-appointed inquisitors torturing their victims, so it's sublimated into sexless violence and corporal punishment instead).

"Solving puzzles" in these games, then, is not like hunting for clues to solve a mystery, or using reasoning to solve a puzzle. It's like finding yourself in the torture dungeon, and your sadistic inquisitors telling you there's a safe-word you can use to get out -- but they won't tell you what it is, and you have to risk further degradation by groping around blindly for it, while an all-powerful disgusting monster lurks around the places it could be written down.

This is the same amoral, empathy-lacking, remorseless psychopathic mind that enjoys torturing animals. But in true Buffalo Bill fashion, they probably treat animals better than people anyway, in a uniquely anti-social and people-hating way.

It's no surprise that these "solve a cryptic puzzle or you'll be tortured to death by a sadistic inquisitor" elements began in the torture porn movies of the 2000s, beginning with Saw from 2004. Well, you need the key to escape, but you can't walk far enough to the key cuz your leg is shackled, but there's a hacksaw nearby you can use to cut off your foot and solve the puzzle! It's not cerebral or rational to solve, and it's not a "decipher the encryption" attack on passwords. It's just sadism and torture and disgusting humiliation.

Cube, a horror movie from 1997, is also about being kidnapped and locked in a dangerous place, with puzzles to solve in order to escape. But the environment is not ugly and disgusting like a torture dungeon. It does not have gritty low-budget cinematography. And the puzzles are genuine reasoning puzzles, along with what we'd call platforming skills in video games. But not cryptic blind searches with disgusting rape-y monsters waiting for you.

That movie never caught on like the torture porn movies did, because it naively thought "What if we took a nerdy approach to horror seriously?" Turns out, people don't want actual puzzles that are solved by reasoning, and tests of physical coordination to navigate. They just want to see sadists torture innocent people, and the puzzle thing is just window dressing. In the Cube movie, it was the "kidnapped by sadists" that was the window dressing.


  1. "There is always a pervasive tone of creepy molestation in these games, rather than just some maniac being on the loose and wanting to kill everyone in his path, like a rabid dog. "

    To be fair most maniacs are motivated by sadistic deviant sexuality not by bersek mindless rage.
    Good analysis of side and seek games - I played the Coma 2 some years ago and it is just as you say in this case the device to not gtfo is that you are trapped in another dimension.

  2. Katamari Damacy had a killer memorable theme song as well, and that game came out long after Tetris and Columns, in 2004. It was created in Japan, naturally -- kawaii and quirky, upbeat and carefree, not depressing and meta and ironic, which the West was becoming incapable of by that time. Soothing pastoral landscape on the cover art, to boot.


    Unlike other puzzle games' soundtracks, it was made in a contempo style -- Shibuya-kei, which was consciously retro '60s, but fusing it with drum & bass / techno from the late '90s and y2k.

    Anime-watchers may not be aware of this, but if you wanted to be cool in the '90s and y2k, you had to be familiar with at least some kind of Japanese music. Maybe it was alt-rock girl groups like Shonen Knife (who opened for Nirvana on tour, and were shown on MTV's 120 Minutes). Maybe it was ex-pats-in-America, art-pop duo Cibo Matto. Maybe it was Shibuya-kei standouts Pizzicato Five (who appeared on the soundtrack for Brain Candy, the Kids in the Hall movie).

    But as an American, you couldn't refuse to participate in Japanophilia, which gradually became part of American cultural identity after their inclusion into our sphere after we began occupying them post-WWII. They're the last piece of our westward-expanding frontier that we actually defeated in battle, the last W on our imperial scoreboard. Incorporating them culturally afterward, as part of our role as gracious winners, is part of our memory of the good ol' days.

    None of this Asia-meets-America fusion took place in South Korea, China, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands, etc. We didn't defeat them in battle, so they don't give us warm fuzzy memories of our once-great past.

    We were invited into South Korea, as they fought a civil war against North Korea -- that's not conquest. And we did try to conquer the North, but were forced out with our tails between our legs. To this day, South Korean culture barely influences American culture, notwithstanding one or two K-pop groups, Korean BBQ restaurants, and online skincare influencers. Nothing like the Japanese influence. Korean cars and motorcycles are still way less prestigious than Japanese ones, ditto for consumer electronics.

    We tried to conquer mainland Southeast Asia in the '60s and had to leave in humiliating, society-fragmenting defeat.

    We never bothered trying to conquer the Pacific Islands. We did win the Philippines after we defeated the moribund Spanish Empire in the Spanish-American War, but they declared independence in the late '40s and we did nothing to stop them from leaving.

    Indonesia was part of the Non-Aligned Movement during the Cold War, not a solid ally of America.

    China was Communist, and thankfully we never tried to conquer them -- that would've gone even worse than Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia. To this day, no American wants to learn Chinese like they want to learn a little Japanese. There's the occasional cinematic fad from China that crosses over, like the Hong Kong acrobatic martial arts movies of the '90s. None of their music has crossed over, whether in native or Western or fusion styles. TV, video games, clothing -- no influence. Really, only a poor adaptation of Cantonese food to American tastes ("Chinese food") is what has become part of our culture.

  3. I never knew what the singer from Pizzicato Five looked like, until catching up with their videos just now on YouTube. "Doesn't look very Korean or Chinese," I thought:


    Sure enough, she's from Hokkaido! A small village on the eastern shore (Onbetsu), which probably had 1,000 or fewer residents when she was born.

    Probably has more Jomon / Ainu-like DNA than the average Japanese person. The main instrumentalist of the band, Yasuharu Konishi, is also from Hokkaido (Sapporo). Only their other instrumentalist, Keitaro Takanami, is from the Yamato-heavy part of Japan (Nagasaki, way over in the southwest, just a hop skip and a jump from Korea).

    Maybe it takes one to know one, since my grandmother came from Hokkaido? IDK, but her face really stood out, mainly the large and expressive eyes (not the narrow slitty type that are more common in mainland Asia south of Siberia / Mongolia / Manchuria).

    If I ever feel desperate enough during America's collapse, and escape to the only other country where I have any ancestry, it would be to Hokkaido specifically, not just any ol' place in Japan. I doubt it will ever come to that in my lifetime, but the comforting thought remains there just in case...

    I also checked the mix-CD that my close Japanese friend from college sent me after we graduated, and there is indeed a Pizzicato Five song on there. A filler / interlude song, "Trailer Music", from their album Happy End of the World.

    She also included an oldie on there, "Kaze wo Atsumete", which had become popular again from its inclusion in the Lost in Translation karaoke scene (where an ojisan is singing it). She made this CD a year after the movie came out. And "Theme from 2046," by a Japanese artist (Shigeru Umebayashi) for a Cantonese movie of the time.

    Mainly it's Western indie music, but part of that American cultural scene is Japanophilia, so she got the chance to showcase a little of her own national culture as well. ^_^

  4. Speaking of Ainu, is Mumei's new bear outfit and Arctic setting a reveal that she's setting off for Japan's frontier island as well? Hehe.

    They're part of the bear cult of Northeast Asia -- which is mainly in Siberia, but also among the Ainu, and even part of the deep founding myth of Korea, in which a bear-woman, Ungnyeo, gives birth to the founder of Korea, the mythical god-king Dangun:


    Her husband, Hwanung, was part of the sky-god's realm.

    Supposedly, the foundation myth is about the fusing / assimilation of a local indigenous Siberian-like group, whose totem animal was the bear (as per yoozh in Siberia), and some other recent arrivals who worshipped a sky-god instead (shades of the Tengrists among fellow Altaic speakers, the Turkic and Mongolian peoples?). The tiger who is cast out in the myth may represent another group, with a different totem animal, that was not assimilated for whatever reason.

    Maybe without knowing it, she's trying to subtly activate Kronii's neurons. "What if we founded a mighty nation together... hahaha, jk... unless...? :fingers touching emoji:"

  5. Half-Life probably started the 'horror puzzler' craze in vidya, as the primary gameplay innovation was not only to shoot the monstrosities but to track down the one vent or door or side corridor that could get you out of the one fight and into the next.

    I'll give Valve plenty of credit on Portal, though-the horror elements were specifically meant as a moral lesson versus simple reveling in ugliness. Granted, they had the ugly 'broken down Eastern European core' Half-Life assets to work with, but the sterile environment and sadistic AI is consistently played as a direct consequence of the unlimited ambition/'scientific' autism of its creators. The horror is less about grisly imagery than caring about the characters lost/starving/scraping out a living in the midst of the corporate machine.

    In case there was any doubt, Portal 2 makes everything about that come into sharp relief, and while it still has some of the horror elements, the visuals are much less 'dirty' in the main test chambers. the hidden corners have some amazingly beautiful music and art to discover along with the occasional homeless 'rat man' encampments, and the narrative arc is a descent into hell->ascent into the final heaven of finally getting out of the place.

  6. Yeah, I'd say Portal looks more bland and sterile than outright ugly or off-putting. When it comes to dark or dystopian sci-fi, I'd still rather the environment look bright and lush and harmonious, as opposed to dark, bleak, and fractured, as I contrasted in this old post about the shift in portrayals of dystopia during the neoliberal era, beginning circa 1980:


    There were still a few late examples of the old style, like the normie overworld in Demolition Man from '93. That's what Portal's world should look like -- not so bland and "sterile laboratory sensory deprivation room".

    If the point is to highlight the overweening ambition and scientific autism of the creators, that's what we had at our peak as a society, and the result has to look impressive. Organized teams or institutions of such people don't produce bland ho-hum environments -- they aim for monuments to their greatness.

    Midcentury American greatness was more on the minimalist side, than on the maximalist highly ornamented side. Because geopolitically, we were in a "few empires" environment (only America, Russia, and the much smaller Saudi Arabia), rather than the "many empires" environment that fuels ornamental complexity in an arms race for status among imperial cultures.


    There *is* a way to do both "grand" and "minimalist", and that's what those dystopias of the Midcentury looked like. More like 2001: A Space Odyssey. The basic trick is putting in more geometric patterns, grouped or nested in higher levels of complexity.

    The Portal architecture is minimalist, but pretty featureless, and there are no large monumental sculptures or other elements like in Brutalism, let alone the lush red carpeting, terrazzo floors, and other sensual staples of Brutalism (on the interior, at any rate).

    1. I would say the neoliberal era began in 1975 NYC:


      And continued with Carter:


  7. Portal's hostile AI voice and ratman encampments could have been taken from Demolition Man, in fact, especially the latter.

    But the AI voice that spits out those fine tickets for swearing, has more of a callous tone -- just like HAL's voice in 2001.

    Giving AI a human-like stern voice is humanizing the AI too much. It sounds too much like a real human. It should sound like soulless computer code, which is all it is -- and that drives the frustration and hostility between man and machine better than "good man vs. bad man" when the AI voice is too human.

    The other way to suck the soul out of AI voices is the Philip K. Dick route, e.g. in Total Recall -- the Johnny Cab driver's speech is so caricatured, it could only be part of a primitive computer program, which could never be mistaken for real human speech.

    Or the "Sorry, folks -- the park's closed! Huh-huh!" from the Wally World mascot statue in Vacation. Too cartoony to sound human, monotonous non-reactive delivery -- saying the same message over and over, rather than engaging in a back-and-forth argument that Clark wants to have with it. So frustrating, just makes you wanna punch the damn thing right in the mouth! Hehe.

    The AI in Portal not only has a humanized tone, but a snarky emotion behind every sentence, part of the horrendous "fluent in sarcasm" girlboss trend of its time.

    AI is not supposed to have human-like emotions, in addition to human-like speech patterns. At that point, there is no real way to tell that it's AI, as opposed to human, from cues alone -- only from the game bluntly telling you, this is an AI, trust us. That bit of exposition is unmotivated in the game itself, and is only there because they made the AI sound too human for the player to tell that it's actually AI.

    "Humans vs. AI" has to be apparent from the speech alone, whether it's callous and bland like in Demolition Man and 2001, or ridiculously caricatured as in Total Recall. The machines are fundamentally a different species or tribe from us humans, and so they have to have some kind of shibboleth by which we recognize humans as humans and machines as machines.

    1. You REALLY should play through Portal 2 if you haven't already, the writers were extremely keen on explaining/retconning every one of those quirks of the AI in the sequel; there's a reason it's one of the most beloved/widely appealing titles in the series.

  8. It's cheating to give robots human-like voices by using human voice actors who affect what they interpret to be a robotic inflection and mannerisms, instead of using programmed computer code and speech synthesizers and speakers.

    The creators want to portray a world where the line between human and AI has become so blurred that the AI sound totally or nearly human. Maybe look totally human. Behave totally human.

    But if that's possible, why has it never been remotely approached in real life? Realistic robots always give themselves away as robots. They will never confuse us -- not at any time in the future.

    So, rather than the plausibility that sci-fi is supposed to have, it turns more into a fantasy-land where they're just making up the rules for how things work. There might as well be gods, angels, and demons intervening in mortal affairs -- which is the kind of divine miracle that is actually needed to bring an inanimate thing to life, whether a wooden doll like Pinocchio or computer code in an AI.

    Those fantasy stories can be interesting, but when they are supposed to reflect back on reality in some kind of cautionary tale way, it fails. That world will never be a danger for us to avoid in a concrete literal way (as opposed to figurative way), because it is pure fantasy.

    The only reason the robots in such fantasy-land stories convince us that they're human is because they are! Those are real people speaking and moving and behaving! That's no wonder of scientific engineering, they just took a human actor and demand that we suspend disbelief in impossible ways to suppose that it's really computer code and manufactured parts underneath.


  9. Ironically, a fantasy movie like Star Wars has better portrayals of robots than those that use human actors all the way through.

    C-3PO does have a human voice actor, but he uses the Johnny Cab level of caricatured speech to make it clear it's been programmed, and is not a natural human.

    The movements of the human actor inside the robot suit are also caricatured to look like what manufacturing and engineering are actually capable of.

    And the static look of the suit's exterior itself does not even attempt to look realistically human -- some of the geometry and proportions look human, but the texture looks obviously metallic, not human flesh, hair, etc.

    R2-D2 looks, moves, and communicates in an even less human way.

    Not to mention the other background droids throughout the movies.

    The frustration between man and machine comes across much more truthfully and convincingly in these movies. And Luke's droids have been programmed to be helpful, rather than hell-bent on AI domination of mankind. Even then, they're still clearly a different species or tribe, and getting through to them is a pain in the ass, the mannerisms, their behavior is still frustratingly opposed to what the human characters want from them.

    That's one credit I'll give to the otherwise garbaggio prequels -- the legions of battle droids are clearly robotic in look, motion, "speech", and behavior. Pretty clumsy, too, like robots will always be.

    And when they do need a monolithic army, they resort to genetic cloning to produce actual human beings. That is much more believable -- and they behave with a single-minded purpose because it was genetically engineered into their DNA. That's more plausible than computer-coding a robot. Take someone who is already the final form they want, and genetically clone him -- rather than write a bunch of code from scratch, which will always be clunky, buggy, and clumsy.

    Yes, I know that genetic clones are not really that robotic, they're just identical twins. But if you cloned them from a source individual who was genetically disposed to be autistic, lacking empathy, violent or aggressive, etc., then just imagine his twin brother -- by the thousands.

    Stretching the imagination, maybe, but still way more plausible than robots that have been computer-coded and manufactured from inanimate parts to be passably human.

  10. Carter was still New Deal, but disjunctive end-of-the-era. Neoliberalism was in its germinating, percolating, revolutionary, edgy phase -- not properly begun until Reagan, though.

    Just like Trump's term was still neoliberal, despite trying to shift gears. Immigration soared literally off the charts, they had to make the scale larger (except for 2020, when covid shut everyone's borders, lib and con alike, US and foreign alike). Trade deficit widened like crazy. We didn't leave any of our wars or occupations, put boots on the ground in Syria, and added a new member to NATO (Montenegro).

    Not to mention all the boring shit Congress passed, which was mainly the Paul Ryan tax cuts.

    The one thing that was actually different about Trump vs. Reagan-through-Obama was meeting with the leader of North Korea, stepping foot on their soil, and initiating some kind of diplomacy between us -- and encouraging the diplomacy between North and South Korea (Moon Jae-in).

    Some of the best Trumpian entertainment, and media pants-shitting the world as ever seen, as well. I remember staying up late for that press conference, after the Trump-Kim chat / summit / whatever. Hilarious how libtards lost their shit at an American leader trying to make peace.

  11. Another braless babe spotted in the wild today at the thrift store. Teenager, see-through thin white crop-top (also baring her tummy), nipples just standing straight out there. She was purposefully walking in a way that gave her boobs extra bounce. She knew, and she was proud. ^_^ B or C-cup.

    I'm not a boob man and don't fixate on them, but I do take note of shifting social and cultural trends.

    I first noticed this with one of the workers in this same store, last year. Then among an occasional customer, who were more 20-somethings. Now even the teens are into it!

    This is another sign that the cocooning phase of the outgoing-vs-cocooning cycle is over. Slowly but surely, crime rates are going up, and people are coming out of their shells -- mainly visible online, since that's where people socialize, but also IRL.

    I mentioned back in 2020 how the 2010s trend of always staring down at your phone in public was becoming less common, and by 2023, I hardly see anyone looking down at those damn things in public anymore. Now, it's notable when I *do* see someone like that. Very welcome turn of events.

    Why no bra? It's not a sexual advertisement, since they look pretty much the same with or without a bra, and if anything their appeal is enhanced by some degree of support and sculpting vs. hanging out au naturel.

    Rather, it's about social openness and trust -- and yes, this girl was wide-eyed and roaming around trying to lock eyes with someone, like Mr. Random Hot Guy who just strolled by and caught sight of her. She didn't look away quickly, or scurry the other direction, in fact she circled back to where I was several times for more eye-contact. Very friendly and approachable! No sulking anti-social woe-is-me bullshit.

    It helps if you're not a boob-man, and prefer to focus on their face in the first place. When I'm checking out her buns, she's not facing me directly anyway, and it doesn't interfere with eye-contact, the way that boob-men cringingly keep darting their eyes up and down when attempting to talk to a chick with her girls out.

    1. At my university recently, I came across a group of girls of several backgrounds giggling together at the EDI requirements.

      I wonder if that is a good sign.

  12. I did watch Mumei and Bijou play Portal 2 recently, but maybe that part of the story didn't come through in their co-op playthrough, or I was too bored / put off by the visual style and the obnoxious fluent-in-sarcasm-girlboss voice.

    1. Yes, the co-op missions are completely different from the story, they're mainly an excuse to help/troll your friends


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