Monday, October 30, 2023

Terror Season

I'm already back! Time to make up for lost time.

Usually for Halloween, people tend to talk about corny goofball movies or real life terror to try and get themselves into the holiday mood. For myself, I prefer to refresh myself of some of the darker parts of the world we live in, a reminder of how bad it could get and how grateful I should be that I do not share such a terrible fate. There is much value in a horror story.

Instead of posting about the usual outlandish Halloween fare, or overly frothy products that have been recommended so many times, I instead want to share films that hit in a different way. These are movies you might not have seen or heard about (or maybe you never even thought of them as horror movies) that will have you pondering a bit on your own choices between the chills. It's nothing all that heavy, but it does work to keep you on your toes--as all the best horror does.

It also goes without saying that none of these films are appropriate for younger audiences. Do not watch them with any young ones. A guarantee these will give them nightmares.

Before I get started, I also want to mentioned that the 2024 lineup for Cirsova Magazine was just announced, and I'm in it! They are also near the end of their current Kickstarter, so please check it out before it's done.

Without any further ado, here is my list of my favorite lesser known Horror movies worth checking out this season:

1. Society (1989)

There is very little I can say about this movie without spoiling it or diluting its impact, but this might be the most effective horror movie I've seen. It plays off of stereotypes that were tired even then, morphing them into an unsettling look at the border between humanity and artificiality and what being real actually means. And it does this without any ambiguity at all. The title itself is a play between the general setting of High Society and the umbrella term, showing what society actually is--and what it's not.

The paranoia, horror, and mind games, are not quite what you would expect of a movie from this era, but it's also not much like anything else regardless of the time it was made. You definitely won't see where it's going until the credits roll.

Now, this is no art film, it can actually get quite graphic, but that is all in the service of the general theme of alienation, dehumanization, and entropy, a bit of an early look at where we were already heading as a society even then. It all culminates in an ending that might be one of the most disturbing and horrific ever put to film. The pacing might be a little deliberate, but it all sets an effective mood that makes what happens later all the more unsettling. It works better to slowly slide you into this world instead of just throwing you in the deep end.

Warning: Do not watch this one if you have a weak stomach. I mean it.

2. Alone in the Dark (1982)

No, this has nothing to do with the video game franchise from the 1990s or its remakes. This is instead one of the many films that came out during the Halloween (1978) slasher craze, an attempt to cash in on a craze. In fact, it was one of the last from that era--and possibly the best of them all. This one has aged surprisingly well.

Alone in the Dark is about the compartmentalization of evil to keep it apart and secluded from the good. It is a rejection of then-popular hippie-inspired therapeutic reform trend. When the lights go out, you will very quickly find that they can't be put on quite so easy again. There is much Alone in the Dark covers from that insane period of the criminal reform industry, where evil didn't actually exist--it could be fixed with enough pills and pretty speeches. Remember, no one is ever truly evil. We are all the same, in the end!

Donald Pleasance plays the exact flipside of his famous character of Dr. Loomis in Halloween, showing exactly what kind of warped delusion it is that allows true evil room to flourish in a world that has little reason to do so. In fact, the entire cast is incredible, with an a knockout ending that presents its thesis of what happens to a society that thinks good and evil is a whim, a mere fancy with nothing to define their borders. In many ways, this is just as great a watch as the original Halloween, and is highly overlooked to this day.

3. The Stuff (1985)

I've already posted about this before, so there isn't much to add here. I can only say that this is not your typical monster movie, given that the monster, while tangible, is really more of an idea--a concept that is allowed to roam free by a world that just wants comfort and ease above truth and love. In a lot of ways, it is combination of the previous two movies mentioned so far.

Though inspired on classic creature features, The Stuff is interested in the concept of subversion, twisting the natural law for unnatural gains, and shows exactly how that ends up--how it eats you from the inside out. The effects are also surprisingly solid for such a low budget flick. Really sells how otherworldly this thing is.

Many incorrectly believe this is a film about consumerism, but that is missing the core message: The Stuff itself is delicious and addictive and those in control of it will do anything to make sure to justify consuming it, including pushing it onto you and making you accept it as normal. Shouldn't everyone experience bliss, after all? Everything is used as a means to an end to justify pleasure at the expense of everything else. And we know where such a mentality eventually ends up, especially in the Current Year we now live in.

4. Assault on Precinct 13 (1974)

The first thing you might be wondering is why a John Carpenter movie of all things is on a list like this? The answer is simple, this movie is incredibly overlooked to this day and is not recognized for what it is--Carpenter's most supernaturally focused film.

The first thing that should be clarified, Assault on Precinct 13 is a siege movie, possibly the best ever made, detailing a sparse world bordering on apocalyptic (as the 1970s were frequently portrayed) with an enemy force that is more demonic and terrifying than any actual demon he ever tried to put to film after this. The film is instead about the remaining vestiges of civilization in a dying city fighting with what they have left, including a mysterious criminal whose crime we never fully learned, as they must put their differences to combat an evil far darker than they've ever known.

For the type of movie this is, little is outright explained to the viewer, including just who the enemy actually is (as they have no real lines), but with pure visual mastery we are given the stakes, the set up, and the pieces on the game board--and a question of how anyone will actually survive. Just how do you fight an evil that comes and goes without rhyme or reason?

There is a lot to this movie that can't be appreciated if one only goes into it expecting the usual Carpenter mastery of special and practical effects--it is what you don't see in this movie that makes it work. And it is still one of his best films.

5. The Hidden (1987)

From the director of Alone in the Dark, and starring Kyle MacLachlan from Twin Peaks and Blue Velvet, comes a movie that could only have been made when it was and by the people who made it. Think part invasion of the body snatchers, part buddy cop movie, and part 1980s weird horror, and you end up with a movie far more enticing and exciting than you might expect. It is a blockbuster that somehow never ended up a blockbuster.

The film explores relationships inside and out as it also tackles an invasion by those who think little of what makes humans what they are. In the end, we are more than the sum of our parts. What we are cannot be replicated quite so easily, and our protagonists learn this quite well by the end. There is more to us than what can be seen on the outside.

The weird aspect of The Hidden is that it feels like a lost 1980s blockbuster with tremendous set pieces and characters, and a memorable ending that will stick with you. It feels like this should have been huge, but it wasn't at all. In fact, it bombed. It is kind of amazing this one has been under the radar as long as it has been despite how good it truly is. This is a movie more than do for a second wind of popularity.

I'm also not unconvinced it doesn't take place in David Lynch's head. It just has that whole feel to it that's hard to nail down. (As an aside, I also recommend Blue Velvet as a film that fits the season and has a similar idea about expunging evil so that the good can flourish.)

6. Altered (2006)

This one is a bit further apart from the rest in release date, coming out in an era when the genre was more or less in hyper irony mode and falling apart at the seams, something it had been doing since Scream. This movie is a horrific tale of friendship pulled apart by interior and exterior evil, of relationships run through the wringer of paranoia, and a supernatural presence that smashed them like a hammer through thin glass. Some things should be left in the dark.

Altered explores the survivors of an abduction years later as they attempt to hold their lives together and use what little sanity they have left to capture the thing that took one of their own. However, the creature they catch ends up being a lot more than they bargained for. Sometimes the past should be left to the past.

This is a dark film, in a lot of ways. It doesn't revel in postmodern irony and tongue in cheek humor the way a lot of flicks around this time did. This is a serious horror tale of the dark and what it does to the soul, and it's quite an unsettling watch.

Despite all that, the entire thing is engaging from start to finish. Unfortunately, it's quite nearly unknown these days. Hence why I've mentioned it here.

7. Maniac Cop 1 & 2 (1988-1990)

You might be wondering why I included not just one, but two movies in this entry. That's partially because I consider the two of these one long story, split into two parts. You might also be wondering why I would be putting a slasher movie on a list like this--aren't those nothing but excuses for mindless carnage? Well, the Maniac Cop movies (the original two, the only ones that matter) are not quite what you think they are.

The first film starts off as a simple noir-inspired film of a cop serial killer that has to be stopped. However, as the film goes on, you soon realize there is more to this murderer than you first realized, the escalation leading to some crazy places. This spills over into the sequel, which does exactly what something like, say, Halloween II does not, and raises the stakes, turns the heat up to max, and soon enough everything boils over in a chaotic ending where justice is finally served and everything is wrapped up perfectly. It becomes a lot more than a slasher by the end. The entire experience is one you will not soon forget.

Maniac Cop has a bit of a noir tinge at times, leaning a little on old detective movies for menace in its tone along with peak 1980s practical effects to really emphasize the unknown nature of the threat. Because what that ends up being is tied up in the theme of the perversion of true justice and the evil it brings out on the innocent and guilty alike. Only by setting things as they should be can order be brought back again.

These two movies are a strange experience and better than you would think, being that they came out during the slasher movie mascot craze. This isn't really like any of them, though. Thankfully, there is much more to these movies than an excuse of mayhem, and watching them back to back remains quite the experience.

8. House 1 & 2 (1985-1987)

Unlike the last entry I'm only including two here because they are totally different despite sharing the same writer and yet billed as sequels. The original House is a horror movie about a missing son and a mad house while the second is more of a strange surreal comedy about family. You can watch either on their own, but both are very much worth seeing, even if unrelated plot-wise.

For those unaware, the writer of both was involved in 1980s cult horror favorites Monster Squad and Night of the Creeps, two movies much more well known than these are. That said, they are every bit as good, despite how different they are tonally from his other films. You won't watch anything else like them.

That said, they're both good movies that center on the importance of family and home, a surprising thematic overlap between them that helps each of them stand out. It also helps that the special effects are incredible, even for their time. There it little chance you'll see anything like them from their time or even now.

9. Just Before Dawn (1981)

As I alluded to earlier, I am not very big into slasher movies. For the most part, I don't get a joy out of watching unlikeable people get murdered. Unless there is an intense atmosphere (the original Halloween), a twist on the framework (A Nightmare on Elm Street), or a compelling dive into the themes (Alone in the Dark), they mostly end up falling flat for me.

That said, 1981's Just Before Dawn is a strange beast, even for the genre. It leans more on the survival movie aspect but also lends itself to a surreal nightmare quality of unaware normal folk stumbling into an eerie reflection of what they know, much like people unused to nature would feel like if they were stranded on a nature trail. There is a supernatural bent that is hard to put into words, despite nothing about it being explicit. It's the atmosphere and the tone as well as the nature survival story aspect that makes it stand out from the pack.

All that and the final reveal at the end is a nice bow on a film that is better and more unique than you might think. It also contrasts the harsh unforgiving natural world with the world man made for himself quite beautifully in a harsh finale that will make you consider thinking twice about where you choose to wander and lay down your head. Perhaps the world isn't our playground? It is surprisingly effective at what it does.

10. VFW (2019)

This is quite the jump forward, but VFW from 2019 is a hidden gem that deserves to be better known. Essentially a modern take on a John Carpenter movie starring old genre favorite actors, VFW manages to sidestep a lot of the bad trends of modern cinema to deliver an engaging experience. You probably wouldn't have known this came out in 2019 if I didn't say so.

Much like Assault on Precinct 13, this movie is a siege film. However, unlike that classic, this film keeps the apocalyptic 1970s feel but transports it to the modern day with a slightly different focus and concern. The theme is around aging veterans, those in their final days, as they live on the edge of a world that passed them by and one those who came after them let crumble. There are two sets of characters, divided by age. The first are the elderly veterans backed into a corner and the other are the youthful anarchists driven by additions and bloodlust to crush whatever is in their way. It takes a young woman fleeing from them and begging for help among the elders that sets the entire conflict off. By the end of it, who will be left standing?

That is the horror of this movie. When it seems like the world is already over and your life is already near its end, should you keep fighting? Was it all for nothing? The answer is not what you would expect from a movie released in 2019.

VFW probably wouldn't work as well as it does if it wasn't a deliberate 180 on all the bad trends of modern filmmaking. The practical effects, the camera work, the lighting and clear sound, the focus on masculine themes, the clear dialogue, and the ending, are all the sort of things one does not see too much in the modern era of movie making. Given that the whole story is about the aged and the forgotten fighting against the crushing tide of progress, one that cares nothing for them at all, the older film techniques serve the whole experience exceedingly well. It is a movie out of time. And that's where we should end this list.

That's all for this time. Enjoy the season, and remember to think about higher things while you do. We are quite lucky to be alive.

Only two months left in the year to go--we're almost at the finish line. Keep your eyes on the road and we'll make it through.

Have a good holiday, and I will see you next time!

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Weekend Lounge ~ The Fourth Wall Crumbles

(Video is very NSFW)

In addition to the recent post on Gen Y's detonation over the previous decade, I wanted to share this video which centers on an old era of the internet, the one before Gen Y really imploded into itself. Nonetheless, it ended up being a warning of things to come.

Few really remember the angry internet reviewer trend of the mid-00s, the time when YouTube took off and its early creators mostly got by on deconstructing and burying their youth and traditions (while also profiting clout off of them), aside from the more extreme examples. This is mostly because the trend ended up influencing the following generation of video creators which either went all in on the snark and bitterness (much of which then spilled over into the Skeptic sphere and then into modern identity politics) or pushed beyond it and mastered the form of video review and analysis with a more genuine take and better executed humor. Either way, it's a very quaint era looking back on now. It's very much a foreign country today.

The one group that really epitomized this brief era of the late '00s to early '10s was Channel Awesome, home of That Guy With the Glasses AKA the Nostalgia Critic and his not-so-merry band of followers. Spinning off the success of the Angry Video Game Nerd, the man who started as the Angry Nintendo Nerd and kicked off the trend near YouTube's beginning, this wave of similar creators were blowing up the then-burgeoning platform and suffering copyright strikes wiping out their channels in the process. I'm not sure how to explain this to younger audiences except that if someone like Red Letter Media put up even one of their videos back then, it would have been deleted and their channel terminated within the day. That is how harsh YouTube's early system was. Even the AVGN barely squeaked by, his channel barely slipping through the cracks because the video game industry, at the time, was not as malicious as Hollywood.

So this period saw a struggling band of video makers desperate for a platform to continue their schtick on. The only problem is that no such site existed at the time. The obvious thing to do was create a website people could go to find them, safe from the horrors of early YouTube's moronic copyright system. That is what the original That Guy With the Glasses website was, and there really wasn't anything like it at the time.

One could say a lot about what happened to that site after it took off, but there were many reviewers on Channel Awesome that achieved different levels of success and infamy. In some circles this stuff was huge, especially among both Gen Y nostalgics and irreverent snark machines. As said, it led to an explosion in this sort of content, much of which flooded every single one of the limited amount of video sites. It looked as if they were going to be the kings and queens of the internet.

And then it all blew up.

The video above talks about this snarky movie reviewer trend and how absolutely strange this whole era was, detached from its time and place, and showing just how that generation saw itself, its peers, and the entertainment it grew up with and shaped them. It's a very odd video talking about a very odd time, but I do recommend watching it. I can't even imagine what the whole thing looks like if you weren't around at the time. The video topic is centered on one of the awful movie projects from back then (spoiler: they were all awful) which really shows you just how strange the scene got by the time it all died off in the mid-'10s.

If you want more on this odd topic, the same video creator as the above video talked about many of Channel Awesome's stumbles and ambitions through a massive review of all three of their movies, highlighting the group's formation, rise, and implosion. This one is twice as long as the above video, but still shorter than the movies themselves, so be warned. Nonetheless, it is a good piece of internet history that will fade away in the years to come, especially as Gen Y continually chooses to turn into themselves and away from the world, so it is worth watching for that.

When you have the time, you can watch that one here:

(This video is also very NSFW)

As someone who lived through that time, I have to say that I remember getting sick of this stuff before the first Channel Awesome movie even fully released in 2010. This whole snarky scene gave me the same feeling as Scott Pilgrim: a Frankenstein monster of stolen parts to build a sub-optimal engine that just doesn't run as well as the original. Nothing new was actually being made. In fact, it was merely a collection of half-tropes glued together by cynicism and a lack of identity. There is a reason few of these creators survived past the trend. There was really nothing else to it.

You can see this for yourself in the above videos. There just isn't really anything there under the surface, and it is hard to understand really why such a thing was ever that big to begin with. But it was, and it is pure uncut Gen Y in a time before that bitter irony warped into despair. I don't know if I'd call it a hard watch, but it's difficult to keep that out of mind while watching.

The scene on YouTube a little better now, for the most part. There's much more of a sense of self-awareness and less ego to what is being created, but it's still a bit strange to look back on what it used to be. You can't even help but wonder: what would these people be like now if the internet had not been around to prop up their negative traits? Where would they have gone without an outlet for this specific niche and interests to tarnish? How different would they be today? Would they even be the same people? We'll never really know, but it is interesting to think about and consider. You never really know what curveball life will throw you next.

Regardless, that era is over and not coming back. We've lived through it and made our choices that have set us on the road we are now on. There is no turning the ship around and doing it over again. We can only learn from our mistakes and apply the lessons learned moving on.

There's nothing else to be done. The fourth wall is long gone, and we can only see the mirror staring us back from where it used to stand. Time to act accordingly.

Anyway, have a good weekend. I will see you again soon enough.

Thursday, October 26, 2023

Ten Years Gone

It's been a while, huh?

I apologize for the lack of posts recently. Trying to wrap up the Kickstarter campaign is taking a lot of writing and thinking time. However, we are rapidly reaching the finish line. I've sent out all the digital files, now I am busy formatting the physical editions and trying to get the author test copies out. I'll try to pick up activity more around here when that is finally done.

But that's not why we're here today.

I started Wasteland & Sky nearly a decade ago for a few reasons. The main one was that I thought I should have some sort of online presence if I wanted to write for an audience. You can't communicate with others through your work if you don't have a way to connect with them in the first place, after all. This blog you are currently reading is older than my twitter account or any other social media account I currently flirt with, and it remains my main base of operation. In other words, I do have a soft spot for this old place.

But one thing should be highlighted, and something I need to share, especially towards younger creatives who may be reading this, is how much has changed in the short time since I started this place up back then. It's a subject I've been pondering on a lot recently, because this year it has really struck me how much has shifted without any of us really noticing it.

Normally we speak on cultural events, or how the arts and entertainment scenes have devolved since the end of the 20th century, not really for nostalgia trumpeting, but to understand what it was we lost along the way. What I wanted to do was have a bit of a reflection on a different sort of thing--who we used to be and who we are becoming. That wasn't exactly how this site started, but its definitely what it became. No one could have foreseen the madness the 2010s was struck with, to the point that just about everything still alive at the start of it is on its last legs now. We might rightly call it the decade of death. The downhill slide we went through was enough to reclassify the slippery slope as reality instead of fallacy. Things changed that much.

But what exactly did we start out as back then? It is hard for younger people to really conceptualize the downward spiral culture really went through. To be fair, many in my own generation don't even seem to notice the destruction themselves, even though they live through its effects. The 2010s are over, and now it is time to survey the damage as we leave it behind.

I wanted to share this Substack post that went up a few days back. The subject of the previous decade is the main topic and it is a very sobering read. Yes, it is somewhat political in its reflections and conclusions, but look past that into the attitudes, expectations, and the entropy portrayed. All of that is real. It happened.

What needs to be highlighted is the change all the participants in the story go through from the time the decade started to where they are now. How their identity and purpose became rotted away and replaced with a bitter rage at the world and their former friends and peers who they now only seen as slapped together parts of an evolutionary stew to be tossed away as if spoiled by the wrong chef. If you are too young you might only see these broken people as they are now and not realize that they used to be someone else before the media and subversive cultural figures told them to be something different. The 2010s was when the TV generation finally became the social media generation, and all the damage that entails.

It was the logical end of a generation of people whose concept of identity is Hollywood movie clich├ęs and whatever their favorite celebrity tells them their beliefs are. What this ends in, is what you see in the above post. It's a spiritually dead cohort lost to the wilds, and their own minds. Truly, a new lost generation.

I must admit, I felt a profound sadness reading that piece, seeing all the potential and zeal for life squandered for a mass cultural schizophrenia and obsession with the material life that has led so many to a life of pills, anti-psychotics, psychiatry, or death. That these same people grabbed the reins of the art and entertainment world and the institutions, such as OldPub and Hollywood, which are currently dying, was inevitable. They are already killing themselves.

And they do not want to stop.

The old world is gone, and they seem to want to disappear with it. This is a sick mentality, but its a very real one.

They're all gone. Now they're something worse . . .

One thing that is a good indication of not only how far things have fallen, but also where these people used to be, is the Gen Y property of Scott Pilgrim. I will not speak of its quality, but what it says as an IP and from an artist's perspective about the generation it represents. I'm sure many won't like what I have to say, but I will have to say it to make my point. Art is more than just its craft and tropes--it also shows what we have to say about ourselves, and what this piece says about us is profoundly depressing and the most obvious signs of the cultural dead end we are in now.

As a general concept, Scott Pilgrim represents the nadir of Gen Y thought and creativity. It is insular, selfish, and lives off a Frankenstein hodgepodge of others' creations in order to craft its shallow imagery and references for another (and far better, though its never acknowledged in story) time and place. The characters are 2000-era tropes of young urbanite hipsters that spout lazy pop culture references, warmed over '80s Gen X sarcasm, Homer Simpson '90s stupidity, and '00s urbanite hipster values on relationships (all failed and proven tremendously damaging), and has absolutely no interest in anything aside from itself or beyond this frame. Before any reader mistakes me or my intentions here, this is all done well. On a quality level, Scott Pilgrim is a well done series. This is how it was able to take off, at least in niche circles for niche audiences. The problem comes with its moral framework as a piece of art. It is busted. I do not mean the main character's moral framework--I mean the entire worldview of the story.

A while back I spoke of the film SLC Punk and how that movie details the concept of Gen X's search for identity and finds solace for it in meaningless cliques based on nonsense rules. It is about a generation stranded in a desert with no sign post out of it. Scott Pilgrim is a lot like that, except it pretends there are no groups--everyone is a mystery meat concoction of neuroses and appetites with tired sitcom quirks as a replacement for personality. It's actually shown how much worse things have gotten since the events portrayed in SLC Punk, and that's saying something.

If the characters in SLC Punk were trapped in the desert and raging about it, the character's of Scott Pilgrim are in the Library of Alexandria smirking as it burns down around them but somehow not even seeing the flames or noticing it catch fire at all. Things burning is just business as usual for them and isn't that quirky and weird? In fact, let's call the fire Fryguy, imagine it has a silly Rocky Balboa accent (remember Rocky?!), and let it go on its way. After all, its not hurting anyone--just old buildings. And who cares about old things? None of that matters at all.

As a consequence of this irreverent worldview, the moral underpinning of the story is very much tied to its place and time. The people who believe those things are no longer like that, if they're even still alive at all. That world is over, and we can never go back to it.

And sure enough, the creator has confirmed its upcoming Netflix adaption was being tweaked for modern sensibilities and the current spiritually ill zeitgeist. This is how fast that era is being overwritten by the same people who fell prey to it. Forget creating honest reflections of the 1990s from these people, you will not even get one for the 2010s. They cannot face the world as it exists now, never mind when it was a little bit brighter in their own lives.

Now, go back to the Substack post referenced above and compare it to the world of Scott Pilgrim. These are the same people. Just like we know the ending to SLC Punk and what became of the characters better than the people who made it did, we can also infer what happened to every character in Scott Pilgrim much the same way. And a lot of people instinctively know this, which is why the property exists in this vague nostalgic state for a terrible era that represents all its worst parts but is somehow above what it foretold for the people in portrays. Injecting reality into where this group ended up would make it dark rather quickly.

The truth is that every character in Scott Pilgrim would either be dead, fried out, or a mental patient today, and that is a hard circle to square for a generation that never wanted a higher purpose beyond political slogans and passing fashions, and just wanted to be left alone to consume sugar, alcohol, and pills, while the world spun on without them. All they ever wanted was to be left alone to die, and that is exactly what has happened.

There was never a future vision portrayed back in that era, and that is what is being lived out right now. It is no wonder this cohort looks back fondly on Scott Pilgrim instead of seeing it as a warped mirror of who they were and what they would eventually become. There is a reason the property never had more than niche appeal among one generation, after all. The movie had line around the blocks when it came out, but it was of a single group of hipsters--the actual flick bombed and bombed hard. It was never meant to connect to any wider culture. The property was just meant to be a special club, an irreverent in-joke, for a group that never wanted anything other than a reflection of themselves to smile at while that library continues to burn around them.

However, this also does explain the Current Year insistence of historically revising everything, including the overreaction to those using words that had been in use for decades before Gen Y decided they were taboo and anyone who uses them should have their lives destroyed. This just continues their streak of disrespect for those outside the clique--the difference is that the clique has become a vague political force that tells them how one has to act to be labeled Good and those who fall outside of it are Bad and no longer considered a human. Only the in-group matters, remember: the out-group is little more than cattle that can be slaughtered on a whim.

They simply can't handle that no paradise ever magically came and ever will, so it is their job to enforce political policies that they only know from one sentence pop culture jokes given to them by burnt out Hollywood writers and sex pest journalists. This is the way that people who run their bloated and tired brand cults and Geek™ leaders say the world should be run, so of course they're right. Who else are they going to listen to? Everyone else is stupid, after all. 

These people made Star War, after all! Star War! This means they're smarter than everyone else in the room, and you need to listen to them. Well, they didn't make it, but they bought it, and that makes them the new secular Pope. Don't you understand the ritual of our religion? They couldn't possibly make a bad movie, after all. It has Star War in the title! That means it is automatically a masterpiece without flaw, and everyone involved in it is a sage with important advice you need to consume or be cast to the out-group. Who are you to say otherwise? No one has made a Funko Pop of you.

With an attitude like that, it's easy to see how far things have devolved in one single decade, and why there is a whole generation of frothing mad people who refuse to put their pride aside for their own betterment or general well being. It is no wonder why a property from that time period like Scott Pilgrim would need to already have revision to be made today. We need to always be updated, after all. If your scripture isn't built on eternal truths, it must be the opposite--that truths change with the wind and you need to constantly update your programming accordingly. Now we know why suicide and pill popping has become a crutch for this cohort.

But maybe that's for the best, as remembering their old memories and failed dreams might be too much to bear for those who have succumbed to the social entropy of the times. We already have enough death, both spiritual and physical, going around. We don't need to revel in it any more than we already have. If anything, we need less bitterness and spite towards others, and those who have different ideals and beliefs, than we currently do. We won't get that worshiping the time before we collapsed.

Unfortunately, the road ahead doesn't look any less rocky. However, it is also the only way out of our current predicament.

This article can be found here. Even then they knew what was coming.

The hipster as an invention is pure Gen Y, a devolution of the Gen X coffee shop black turtleneck wearing intellectual who incessantly quoted George Carlin and the nu atheist cult. As they aged out themselves by the 2010s, they were replaced with a new group. Millennials became Culture Warriors, seeing the decline of everything and either thinking the solution came in going back or plowing forward, their rage and bitterness their hallmark. To be fair to them, regardless of their proposed solutions, at least they acknowledged there was a problem at all. Gen Y to this day has issues admitting even that. all they want to do is consume and let the corporate product tell them what to think and what slogans to repeat to other cult members. (For a better explanation of Generational Theory, I suggest reading the free Generation Y: The New Lost Generation)

It is no wonder their suicide rate are so high.

Gen Y is really the only group that could be hipsters. A generation raised on some of the best entertainment ever created, but no religion, they instead turned their worship towards postmodern irony and an inability to understand seriousness as their coping mechanism. As the world rotted away post-Cultural Ground Zero, so, too, did they, their gods turning out to be little more than half-thought out ideas and concepts they swiped from online message boards and news sites. This combined with their disinterest of anything that didn't provide a dose of the dopamine they were raised on to turn them into the broken pop culture founts they are today. Those hipsters, however, are all but gone now, replaced with something far worse, but it all started here--a sarcastic winking stereotype meant to shield them from reality. Until it failed.

As mentioned above, the harsh decline of the 2010s cannot be exaggerated. We talk about the arts and entertainment bottoming out then, but not of the great marker--how the people in it died a spiritual death and keep themselves alive with little more than prescribed (and sometimes not) medicine in an attempt to avoid seeing the truth of what has happened to them. How did the world get so bad? I don't know, how did you?

Of course this is not meant to put myself on a pedestal. I am still a Gen Y kid at heart, and I probably always will be. Materialism was a very real vice, and still one I am prone to, and it requires a lot of energy to keep the self-awareness going to keep me from falling down into bad habits again. My generation has many faults that I also suffer from. It is difficult to truly get over the habits learned in a world that no longer exists, but it must be done.

As an aside, I do remember a very strange epiphany I had a long time ago before the Scott Pilgrim movie even came out. It was as if someone had flicked a switch in my brain. The property wasn't really about anything, didn't have any sort of interest in connecting with the wider world (How was grandma supposed to understand a pointless River City Ransom coin reference? She wasn't, it wasn't meant for her), and was just slapping parts of things other generations did in an irreverent and shallow way to build a shrine to themselves out of. There was nothing there except chuckling over meaningless and worshiping unthinking hedonism--a product as intentionally disposable as life itself was to us back then. It is a product that could only have been made by my generation. This was the first real marker that told me something was very wrong here.

As for what hipsters have become today, you sadly already know. They have aged out into a different stereotype, one still carried by empty irony and values copy-pasted from the correct mainstream news sources where disagreement means dehumanization of the opponent is okay because they have been declared Bad. It is no wonder such people live with so many complexes. These are wear hipsters have ended up. Their simplistic worldview never expanded beyond dead pop culture and constantly updated morals spoon-fed into them by a media complex that doesn't care if they off themselves. They truly are the Pop Cult, and it is no wonder they were so easily funneled into the Death Cult.

Of course, I'm speaking of this:

The Nu-male/Soy Jack meme comes entirely out of Gen Y, sadly

Years ago the above sort of assertion would have been met with much sarcasm and masked anger from behind a keyboard. They would have to tell you how mad they truly aren't. However, the big difference is that no one is really joking about it anymore. It's not really funny, it's sad. This devolution is real, it's serious, and it is very depressing. It's the final stage of self-destruction brought about by the lives my generation has chosen to lead away from humanity. Stereotypes exist for a reason, and that is because certain people decide to live them.

Where we go from here, I can only speculate. It's not too late to turn it around. It never truly is. We already know there is a problem. We just need to finally address it.

When we were growing up, we were told a lot of lies. Every end of the world prediction was wrong, every campaign slogan turned out to be a grift, every classroom lied, every pop cult leader turned out to be be a shyster, and every cultural fad you were told to hype up ended up being full of hot air and faded away. This still happens now--even modern political organizations celebrated years ago as important by the news complex and social media activists are now getting guff for supporting uncouth positions and parties in Current Year. And still we are meant to ping-pong between them unthinkingly towards the next fad. We still do just that, unfortunately.

Back in the day, Captain Planet & the Planeteers was a punchline, and now there are people who unironically praise that sort of trash in modern projects because they agree with the propaganda, artistry be damned. All they care about is controlling thought, not communicating. Portraying a bad guy as a large orange guy with a big mouth is considered high art from a group who all repeat the same political points in lockstep and change their views, coincidentally, on a dime when someone they deem a leader tells them to do so. To paraphrase a hoary saying, this is not the future I was promised or signed up for. This is not a climate that fosters healthy art or thought, and it is poisoning those exposed to it. We are killing ourselves, physically and spiritually. It's been long enough that we can know this for sure, and we need to finally face it.

We need a big change, and I can only hope that as reality reasserts itself in the madness of modernity that my generation is forced to face it instead of hiding behind their clown mask of sarcasm and winking nihilism. I can only hope they will turn away before it is too late: before they end up another statistic of a new Lost Generation. My generation doesn't need any more dead before their time. We need builders, survivors.

We need to shed the skin we've long since outgrown. We need to be people, not living stereotypes cast aside when their expiration date is hit.

All I'm saying is that I hope in ten years that if, God willing, I'm still around, we can look back on all of this with a real laugh. How ridiculous were we back then? Haha, glad we moved on from that. Wouldn't it be nice? 

Hopefully by then this will all have been put behind us and we will have already been well on our way to building something new. Perhaps we can finally reach the potential we've so purposefully snuffed out in ourselves.

I can only hope that is the case. As already said, we can still turn it around. So let us finally do so. Better late than never.

Friday, October 6, 2023

Quake Begets Quake

It's been a while, so lets talk vidya!

If you know anything about video games, you almost assuredly know about the original DOOM, from 1993. The revolutionary game that more or less invented the first person shooter as we know it (Wolfenstein 3D laid the groundwork, but it was DOOM that set the standard) was quite the wonder when it released. The game was fast paced, immaculately designed, simplistic and yet deep, and contained nearly limitless possibilities. Needless to say, it was a phenomenon. To this day it is still thought of as one of the greatest games of all time.

It didn't stop there, though. 1994's DOOM II added the super shotgun to the already impressive arsenal and a handful more enemy types, going all out with the level design and showing all the potential possibilities it had, but there was little else to build on beyond that. They more or less nailed it the first time, and this was a victory lap for developers id Software. DOOM remains one of the greatest games of all time, and there was little way to improve on those first two games. This was proven when 2004's DOOM 3 instead changed focus to be more of a survival horror experience instead. What more could one really do to improve the rock solid formula, after all?

But back in the mid '90s, developer id Software had to do just that. Not only did they have to follow up one of the best and most revolutionary games of all time (It was easily as popular as Mortal Kombat, Sonic the Hedgehog, or Super Mario Bros. back then) but they also had to jump into the third dimension. Yes, DOOM is infamously a 2.5D game, one that pushed the second dimension to its limit in what could be achieved. Aside from Build Engine games like Duke Nukem 3D, Blood, and Shadow Warrior, the three genre classics that pushed 2D graphics as far as they could at the time, the industry was screaming for 3D.

So id Software had to oblige.

I'm not going to go into the total cluster fudge that was the development of their follow-up to DOOM, but I'm sure you can guess how much pressure there was for them at the time. Think about it: How in the world do you follow-up something like DOOM, a game that completely changed the entire industry?

Suffice to say there were a lot of discussions and arguments around what their follow-up game should be. Everything from a full-on RPG with a protagonist named Quake to a third person adventure game inspired by Virtua Fighter, of all things. However, since there was so much pressure on them to deliver, and do it quickly, they decided on making another first person shooter. But this one ended up being quite a bit different than expected, even for the time.

It also ended up being the last game the famous id Software dream team would make together as a group. Thus there is quite a lot of mystique around this title, and almost as much hate from those who hated the shift. Needless to say, the final product is an interesting thing to talk about, because it actually does represent the end of an era, but not quite the start of a new one.

I will get into what that means, but let us first go into the game in question. Yes, the topic of today's post is Quake.

The infamous Quake released in 1996, the year 3D completely overtook gaming as a whole, and it was a revolution for both id Software and the industry. John Carmack created one of the most important engines for game creation and John Romero was allowed to let his hair down and finally use all three dimensions to torment players as he had in DOOM. This was quite a unique and special occasion. The end result is one of the few early examples of a full jump to 3D that still manages to hold up to this day. There are a few reasons for that.

The first question you might have is if Quake is merely just DOOM in 3D. After all, surely all the creative interference and paring down of ideas in production must have led to a safe, bland product for mass consumption. Would it not have made sense to play it safe then? Safe is not what I would describe Quake as being. In fact, it is not at all. While DOOM is one of the most influential games in the entire industry, Quake also ranks up there, as well. That is quite a hard trick to pull, but id Software managed to weave through development issues and create a classic in its own right.

The main difference with Quake is that while it is a shooter, it is not a fast paced run n gun like DOOM. Because it was early 3D and they could not yet afford the speed or enemy count of 2D, id Software played it smart and changed focus to that of a horror game. There were horror aspects to DOOM, obviously, but the feeling of helplessness and dangerous exploration through eerie territory took a backseat to the frantic action. In Quake, it is about quick thinking and exploring the towering 3D labyrinths filled with traps and dodging the incredibly dangerous enemy horde in claustrophobic spaces. There is still a focus on combat, but it is chunkier and the player is at a disadvantage due to the level design and enemy behavior tied to it. The shooting is still satisfying and powerful, but you will find yourself counting bullets and learning to manage them well. Quake is more environmentally involved than DOOM is, and that ends up changing the entire focus.

One of the best things about Quake is its HP Lovecraft influence it is swimming in. It isn't the typical "Lovecraftian" copy paste job most such products went for (though there are some name drops, it isn't obnoxious) but for the crushing terror of the unknown and cold, choking atmosphere where insanity is a hair's breadth away. The enemies are almost as disturbing as the creatures in DOOM, but all of them have far different roles and ways of dealing with them. On top of it is the foreboding soundtrack by Nine Inch Nails that really sets the tone that you are roaming where you should not be. The entire game oozes atmosphere of the kind few ever had before, or have had since.

You play as a nameless ranger, much like in DOOM, sent out into portals to worlds of gothic terror, gutted military bases, and abandoned dig sites where horrid creatures were found long ago. You are just a normal soldier who must use your wits to survive and stop these impossible creatures from getting to Earth and wreaking havoc there. It's really that simple, as it should be, but like DOOM it offers much in the way of gameplay possibilities.

The fascinating aspect of Quake is that while the core game at times might feel like the concept isn't quite as fleshed out as you would like (there is no Use key, for example), the expansion packs actually do exactly that--they really expand just how deep Quake can go and how many possibilities it has in such a primitive 3D space. It turns out there is much under the surface here, much like the world of Quake itself. This is what has helped it maintain its level of popularity over the decades. Quake's modding scene is still one of the biggest in the genre.

That alone should make Quake one of the greatest games of all time. It might feel dated today, but that is part of its appeal. The creaking old corners of the world matches the gameplay and adds to the impression that you are being thrown into a place that simply isn't right.

In essence, Quake feels like a sequel to DOOM, emphasizing different elements of the formula and striking out on its own. The story itself also still has those references to satanic interference, implying the creatures you are fighting might have higher allegiances than originally thought by what the plot description tells you. The portal technology now instead of opening a portal to Hell has been mastered for man to invade his enemy's territory instead. Although, much like DOOM, this is probably something that would have been better left untouched as it opens paths to places where man should most definitely never roam.

All this contributes to create a stone cold classic, one whose stature has only improved with the passage of time. To this day, there is still nothing like Quake.

But we are not ending today's entry here. 1996's Quake is only half of today's subject. We have a bit more to cover.

Needless to say, Quake was a revolution in the industry and became one of the highest rated games of the year, a huge seller, and quickly made many gamers' top game lists. It was exactly the follow-up to DOOM that was needed, and did as well as it needed to, solidifying id Software's stature as kings of the genre and the industry itself. Despite everything working against them, the team managed to pull off a grand slam.

But the cost was huge. Developer id Software was almost destroyed by making Quake and the majority of the Dream Team that made them one of the best in the industry more or less left the company after the game was finally released. In essence, as said earlier, Quake is more of the end of an era instead of the start of a new one. This game, in many ways, was their swansong. The change that the company would go through happened much faster than you would think.

So the game came out and was a big success, okay, but what about afterwards? How did id Software capitalize on the massive success of Quake while also recovering the heavy losses occurred when developing a whole new game engine and losing so many key members?

That's easy, they put out a new game a year later. Much like DOOM II came out one year after DOOM, id Software did the same again. The main difference here is . . . well, we'll get to it. Suffice to say, it wasn't the first time they've made a sequel directly after the massive success of the previous game. Where it differs here is in execution.

The remaining members of the dev team worked on a new game while Carmack also put out a new engine, the legendary Quake II Engine, and used it to make one of the biggest and most popular games of the 1990s.

This would of course be the famous Quake II.

It is impossible today to really go into what made Quake II so huge at the time. If Quake I was a huge hit, then Quake II was a megahit. It was almost instantly praised as being a quantum leap forward from the first, was given as the reason many got into PC gaming for the first time, topped countless GOTY and best game ever lists, and more or less set the standard for what shooters have become today. In the 1990s, Quake II was one of the most popular games period.

And yet nowadays most people who like it will tell you it is underrated. You will hear about how it is forgotten and needlessly spat upon by the general public, if it is remembered at all. Where did this mindset shift come from, and why does it seem to prevail even to this day? Was Quake II overhyped, or is it just mindless hate?

As usual, the truth is a fair bit more complicated than that.

What I said earlier still applies. Quake II almost instantly pushed the original Quake out of the spotlight when it released in 1997 and overtook it in popularity pretty much instantly. How did it do this after everything I had just described of the original? Well, you have to put your mind back in 1997 and see what it is that Quake II actually did.

The first thing that should be said is that Quake II is not a sequel to Quake I. It is a completely original FPS that merely bears the same name. And the games are so different that one could hardly ever confuse the two. That aside, there are plenty of design decisions that change the game entirely, even aside from the tone.

Quake II's missions changed the structure of all FPS games going forward. Each mission, instead of being one map a player goes through to find all secrets and items before moving on to the next one, was instead a set of around 3 to 4 maps where players had to go between them to solve objectives and battle enemies along the way. The total game length was still about the same length, but the levels became more complex than they had been before simply due to this.

Another change is that Quake II is slower than Quake I, but so are the enemies, which allows for more reaction time. There are more wide open spaces compared to Quake I, more enemies in the levels themselves, and the enemy types don't hit as hard as the ones in the last game . . . for the most part. In essence it does feel like a deliberate step towards DOOM and away from the original Quake as far as general combat goes. Quake II in a lot of ways is a bit of an anti-Quake, a reaction to what they think went wrong with the first game.

Lastly, the setting was made far more straightforward. In Quake II you play as a space marine sent to a planet of body horror aliens who wish to dissect humanity for themselves. The game portrays their final assault on the home planet. Your mission is to complete objectives like shutting down satellite arrays and destroying space lasers and the like on your way to finally conquering the big boss alien at the end. It's typical Space Opera stuff, but that wasn't common in games then, never mind in FPS games. Even Blake Stone was more James Bond than Captain Future.

All of this was new in 1997, it had never been done before in a video game, and this explains why it was huge when it released. Quake II became a template for the genre going forward, and they didn't really look back.

However, this also explains why the game isn't as highly regarded today as it once was. The biggest problem with Quake II is that the next twenty years of FPS games would be trying to outdo Quake II, and many of them have beaten that horse deep into the ground. Oddly enough, it's success is why it isn't as highly thought of as it once was, despite the fact it is designed very well. Quake II is a victim of its own success.

So what exactly is the problem? Let's try to dig into it a bit.

Unlike the original Quake, Quake II actually does feel like a new era in the genre, one that would eventually be cribbed from with games like Halo and the millions of other space marine games over the years to come to the point that anything unique it might have had was buried in the context of the time it released. There really isn't any way to express how much of a change it was when its changes have been so ubiquitous in its genre over the years.

Does this new reception mean it was overrated at release? Were gamers blinded by hype? Is there anything fundamentally wrong with Quake II that holds it back?

No, not really. Quake II is a good game. It can even be very good at times. The bigger problem is that it is not particularly great. There isn't anything particularly unique about it to recommend playing it, unlike most other classics of the genre. Quake II feels like a game going through the motions, doing what id Software was expected to do--turning them into "the FPS guys" instead of a developer with wild ideas that could do anything. There is a reason the team fractured after making the first Quake. Compared to DOOM or Quake I, Quake II is just kind of there--a product for the market. shaking that impression is very difficult playing it outside of its original context.

It should also be mentioned that the changes from the original game, thought to have been revolutionary (and actually were) at the time, turned out to be a double edged sword. A lot of this might be the reason it isn't as well thought of as the original these days.

There isn't anything truly terrible in Quake II, but nothing I would call outstanding.

The level design is solid, but because of the concept of maps basically duct-taped together, there is a lot of dead space and repeatedly wandering over areas where enemies had already been cleared out earlier. This makes the levels drag on and not feel as snappy or player friendly as older games. Because of this there are no real memorable levels, and most of the aesthetic consists of colorless military bases of the kind the genre would be mocked for in the era ahead. The entire experience bleeds into one long level, which was the point, but it takes away from the pick up and play nature of the genre.

The weapons are fine, but this is the game where the FPS standard loadout was more or less solidified. Pistol, shotgun, machine gun, grenade launcher etc., none of the weapons are all that interesting. At least DOOM set the bar and also had the Super Shotgun and BFG, and Quake had things like nail and lightning guns. The weapons in Quake II do the job, but they don't feel that satisfying to use a lot of the time. The original release of Quake II did not even have muzzle flashes which lessens the impact even more.

The enemy types are okay, but after fighting demons in DOOM, and disturbing Lovecraftian mutants, living knight armor and swords, and shambling behemoths in Quake, fighting body horror machine aliens is a step down in creepiness. The Strogg are just not that interesting to fight, overall. This doesn't even mention the annoying feature that EVERY basic enemy you kill has an annoying habit of shooting shots off at you after they're already dead unless you either wait patiently for them to fall and die or waste more ammo to blow up their still-standing corpse so they can't do that. This slows the game's combat to a crawl and at times makes exploration tedious.

All of this could have been looked past when the game was new, but the passage of time reveals a base that simply isn't as fantastic as originally thought. The developers made a good game, one worthy of success, but it is easy to see why it no longer wows after a look back to the era and where the industry went not long afterwards. There just isn't much there that you can't find somewhere else, not something id Software was known for doing.

The game deliberately being an anti-Quake is what hurt it, because those aspects are what the game is more remembered for today. It is not known for what it did otherwise.

And it wasn't as if id Software didn't know their own goals going in:

It was a conscious decision [to change Quake II's direction] and controversial inside the company. We weren't happy with the [original] Quake story. [John] Romero was gone, so there was no one left to defend it. Kevin Cloud headed up Quake II and he wanted to make it story-driven.

— Todd Hollenshead

This is all well and good, but it is the Quake I story people remember and still influences today because it is unique enough to still stand out both in atmosphere and simplistic execution. The Quake II story was completely outdone by Halo a mere handful of years later. Not a single person plays Quake II today for the story.

The harsh truth is that the only reason to play Quake II today is if you want to play another good '90s shooter, you have nostalgia for it, or you want to play through all the id Software games. It is absolutely worth playing today, though. Just don't be shocked when you find out DOOM 3 is considerably more interesting and unique, and that game has a surprisingly large hate base. There just isn't much there to recommend over their other efforts.

Quake II is a game defeated by its own success.

It is truly interesting how the passage of time changes perception. Now Quake II is considered underrated when it was once thought of as the greatest game of all time at release. Not bad for a game where critics said that Quake II was "the only first-person shooter to render the original Quake entirely obsolete."

And yet nowadays most would rather play the original.

The thing that made me write this piece you are reading was, oddly enough, the recent 25th anniversary remaster Bethesda gave Quake II. Now is the best time to play it and revisit just what made it tick, making it more relevant than ever. I had never really clicked well with Quake II, so I decided to give it a go and play through the whole thing to see if I was missing something.

My general impressions of my playthrough, however, remained unchanged from the last time I went through it. Quake II is a good shooter. It's fun. It's worth playing. You'll have a good time. But it's not a great game. It's definitely not one of the best games of all time. It's missing the spark of id Software's best work--the intense pace of DOOM, the creeping terror of Quake . . . it's just a solid game for fans of the genre.

The expansion packs are terrible, too. I played them hoping for some sort of revelation like I had when playing the Quake I expansions that showed how much was really under the hood of this whole concept. The first game's expansions are legitimately great and well worth playing. The second game's expansions, however, were worse than the main game by a considerable margin. There wasn't anything to see except bullet sponge respawning enemies and more taped-together maps in very similar environments. It was actually quite a downer playing them.

However, there is an exception.

The brand new episode made for the new remaster, Call of the Machine, changes the entire game. This expansion has you play as different space marines dropping on different worlds and digging into the Strogg's true plans for galactic conquest. This simple set up allows the developers to make each mission a stand out experience from the rest, and inject a lot of life into the game. Just about every change it makes improves on the original game in every way.

The developers found a way to make back tracking less boring, constantly add new sights and sounds and ideas, and even managed to inject some of the horror atmosphere back in again, though said horror is a bit closer to DOOM than Quake, at least for the most part.

Each mission feels like a standalone episode of its own, bringing back the better pacing from the older games, and allowing far more variety than the same three repeated locations from the original game. The entire thing is never really boring (aside from one of the early missions with rising water levels feeling a bit sluggish) and almost all of them vary from run n gun to slower horror at varying degrees, always keeping you on your toes and mastering enemy placement in a way that utilizes their attacks instead of stonewalling the player into an endless circle strafing battle. The expansion is actually quite invigorating to go through, and breathes new life into Quake II, thereby making it the game I wish the original was..

The elephant in the room is that the new expansion ties Quake I in with Quake II, and in the process breathes a lot of life into Quake II's more flat atmosphere, also returning a lot of the tricks and traps from the original game as a more important part of the level design, including an ending that makes it all feel like it came full circle. Honestly, I think Call of the Machine is far better than Quake II proper, and would actually call it great and very much worth playing.

After beating Quake II's remaster and playing these expansions, I decided to actually go back through Quake I the same way, and there really is no contest. The original Quake is simply the better overall experience.

The truth is that Quake I's particular datedness has helped it age better than Quake II's has. Playing Quake felt like playing Quake, a feeling you won't get from anything else. Quake II never really gives me any comparable feeling, aside from the excellent new expansion that, in my mind, is a huge leap over II's campaign. Even without the Quake I references, it's just a much more fun and engaging adventure to go through, and gives an experience you simply won't get anywhere else. And that's what really counts.

Again, it's really fascinating going through the two games. Their design philosophies just come across so different from each other that it makes comparing them interesting. It also helps that neither of them are intolerable to play, either.

So in my final judgement I would obviously say the original is the better of the two games, though they really show how much the industry changed in such a short time. Looking back at the two Quake games is like looking at the first real fissure in the gaming industry.

As time passed, the genre became little more than highly scripted hallways punctuated by cutscenes, the atmosphere and player input becoming more and more limited, until all that was left was reskinned version of Call of Duty and little else. The industry that allowed games like Quake to flourish was basically gone.

Then, in the middle of the 2010s came that Boomer Shooter wave, gamers who grew up in a much different industry ready to fold their influences into new games. This is how you get games inspired by the original Quake like DUSK. who build their own brand new experience on the shoulders of giants. No one could have foreseen such a change coming, until it did. As a result, the way we look back on the past has changed and we can see it from a refreshed perspective. The entire landscape and history of the genre has been recontextualized, and it will never be the same again.

It really goes to show you how strange the world of art and entertainment is. I highly doubt anyone who made Quake thought it was anything but a disappointment compared to what they could have made. Half the team left and the other half instantly began on another game intentionally ejecting everything the original even was. And yet those who played Quake at the time, and even now, see it as a genre classic and one of the best games ever made, it's influence living on to this day. You never know just what the influence you might have will become years later and detached from your own thoughts and intentions.

Perhaps it is better to keep a clear head when assessing what works and what doesn't, but that doesn't stop the passage of time from making those decisions for you. No one could have foreseen where the industry would go, after all. 1997 was a different country; 1996 even more alien. We are looking back at a whole other world.

All this going on to say, just be honest with what you want and make it the best you can. There is nothing else to be done. At least we can say id Software never chased trends and made their own way, for better or for worse. Maybe that's the key.

Regardless, thanks for reading. I have a few levels of a Quake expansion left to wrap up. I've got a universe to save.