30 November, 2016



Whoever decided to make Call of Duty into an annual franchise is a madman.

The most interesting thing is how Activision-- in conjunction with three different studios-- has persistantly forced themselves into making the simple art of murder into a new and fresh experience year after year. Considering the rivals they seem to have left in their wake (and the rivals that seem to struggle to compete year after year), it's amazing that we're still here, in the year of our Lord 2016 still talking about these dumb games. Plus, Osama bin Laden has been dead for years, so trying to tap into whatever anxiety college-age males have about society is also an interesting endeavor in amatuer psychiatry.

With that said, I am a madman, as well. I've played through every single one of these games since Modern Warfare in 2007 (in fact, it's the primary reason that I bought an X-Box 360). As often as I say "I think I'm done with these games," November rolls around every year and I find myself with a six pack of Kirin Ichibans staring at a Red Box.

So here we are again. I played through Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. It's pretty good. Here are more thoughts about it-- Then again, maybe I'm not the guy to consult. After all, I'm the idiot that liked Ghosts.
In space there will be generic white dudes.


I didn't think that Battlestar Galactica would be the direction Call of Duty would head in, but I'm glad they did. Because Battlestar Galactica is dope as hell.

Instead of ripping off Tom Clancy or the exploits of Richard Marchinko, this time around, they've decided that late 2000's sci-fi is the way to go. It's a good fit. Space is an appropriately dangerous and grim place. It's an environment where a pin-prick hole can kill you just as quick as automatic gunfire. But also there's both. There's no room to fuck around. . .  But also space is a really fun place to fuck around in. While BSG was never about the joy of duking it out in space, Infinite Warfare does convey the high-stakes thrills of pulling off something as impossible as not dying from literally everything at once. . . in space.

Unlike BSG, Infinite Warfare actually has a strong ending. A poignant one. Maybe too poignant. I haven't felt this way about the ending of an FPS since Medal of Honor-- Again, that is a distinction that nobody else has probably drawn about this game or any other. There is a grimness to Infinite Warfare that goes beyond the previous CoD games. Yeah, they've nuked you and shot you and shot you and blown you up and shot you again, but there is a diminishing returns to all of that. Infinite Warfare is different. Like BSG, the horror of war in space isn't set dressing, it is a thesis. It says, in a way that needs to be restated, emphatically, ever so often, that war, war is a real son of a bitch.

So say we all.


Yeah, that's an Appleseed.

Good work, Infinity Ward.

Good work, Ethan.

Anyways, I mention this because the art design of these games has been all over the place. Specifically, Treyarch and their Black Ops series (especially II and III) seem to have all of the wit of a mid-90's CGI football commercial. Everything is all bulk and pads. The few robots that they had in BlOps II and III were ugly, boxy messes in the same vein (personally, I thought the robots in BlOps II looked like the juggernauts from the Warhammer universe, but without being some kind of hell-rhino, which, arguably, is the entire appeal of the Warhammer juggernauts).

Even the knives are needlessly complicated. Just look at how dumb these things look.

Who decided to complicate what knives look like?

I mean, besides the bad guy from Cobra.

Also, how come nobody had fucking sleeves in Black Ops II? Ugh . . .

Infinite Warfare* is a break away from that. They went whole hog into the future and they designed a world that both makes sense on an aesthetic level and makes sense on a mythological level. It's a consummate world that looks really neat. It's a world that fits in more alongside something like Deus Ex than it does Modern Warfare.

I'm also glad that I get to talk about Appleseed in public.

Next up: My opinions about Battle Angel Alita.


As I said earlier: I was the guy that liked Ghosts. If anybody ever asks you "What kind of an asshole liked that game" you can tell them "It was James Kislingbury. It was him. Let's go stop him."

I liked it. But, again, see above: I'm a madman. But, before you burn me at the stake, hear me out (I mean, you've come this far)--

There are two main things that I liked about Ghosts. The first is that it took place in Southern California and the American West.

Maybe it's a masochistic kind of narcissism, but it's cool to fight a bunch of enemy militia members in a location that's less than a mile from my work. It's also nice to see Santa Monica get blown up, because fuck Santa Monica. Also, that game had a dog. You had to drag that dog to a medevac. I loved that little guy.

What's interesting is that it presaged the direction that first person shooters. Games have moved on from the "modern warfare" end of things.  The market has been saturated for a good ten years and groups like ISIS are too real to have fun with (and, again, we shot UBL years ago and it was awesome). Less successful imitators like Spec Ops: The Line and the Medal of Honor reboot have also probably pushed developers into safer markets.

So, they've gone in two directions: The Future (see Titanfall 1 and 2, Destiny, DOOM) or The Past (Battlefield One, Verdun, Wolfenstein: The New Order) or both at the same time (see: Black Ops II). This isn't a perfect analysis, but you see my point?

Then there was Ghosts. Ghosts came out on current gen and previous gen systems. It was split. So were its themes. It couldn't break away from the series' previous trappings, having neither been futuristic enough or stripped down enough to really matter. It was a game that

Infinite Warfare completes this loop. We're finally in the future. Black Ops II and III didn't quite do it and Ghosts was too trapped in the past. Now here we are: Space ships. Space marines. Orks. Mars. Lasers. You know, the future-ass future. And it's kind of neat.


It's a really good title**.

Fight me.


Yeah, some ten years since the first Call of Duty, it's still fun to murder fools over the internet. It's also fun to murder robots. And robots pretending to be people. And people pretending to be robots. . . You get the picture. As a shooter, Infinite Warfare comes through and delivers the kind of top notch polish and shine that you expect out of a Call of Duty. While that sounds like damning with faint praise, consider how tight Modern Warfare felt when it first came out. It still feels good.

As much as I love Titanfall 2 (which is my go-to for multiplayer this season), that's a game that just doesn't quite have the fine sheen that this game does. Which doesn't so much ruin one game or make the other as it does make me appreciate just how much money Activision poured into this game. It's there. It looks like it. It feels like it.

If nothing else, the economics of Infinite Warfare should leave an impression.


What I think is going to be fun is seeing what the hell they're going to do with the next installment (which falls on Treyarch this time around). It isn't like they can go even farther (further?) into the future and any half-steps at this point better be well thought out, because nobody is going to go back to the farm after they've done a double-jump into a wall run.

Personally, I'm hoping for some kind of historical remix weirdness. Sending soldiers through quantum tunnels to fight in alternate historical time lines with modern weapons. Like William Gibson's The Peripheral, but vastly dumber. Or go back to Nam. I'd be okay with that. Or cyberpunk. You know, like those other William Gibson novels. All of this works. I'll even take a game with a difference engine in it.

Gimme that dumb stuff, Treyarch. I know you can do it.

Give me Space Reznov. And, for that matter, Infinity Ward needs to bring back Captain Price. Space Price. Thawed out to beat up the future, because they don't build MEN like they used to. Or mustaches. The aliens took our mustaches and we need 'em back Price.

At least somebody give me that dog from Ghosts back. Can't be that hard. . .

James Kislingbury writes, draws, and makes podcasts. He also hates updating his log line. That's what this is, right? Aw, who cares?

*The more I think about it, the more I realize how cool of a game Advance Warfare was. That game did a lot of really neat things that I don't think people appreciated. At least not that I noticed. I tend to stay off of the internet, because it's a freaking full-time nightmare zone.

**I mean, yeah, it's kind of a "Fuck you" to Sledgehammer and Advance Warfare, but what are you going to do? Infinity Ward was there first and it's a really good title.

08 November, 2016

An Addendum

The monster won.

Hate won. Ugliness won. Lying won. Spite won. Fear won. Desperation won. Revanchism won. The wrong person won. A lot of bad things are coming with him.

There's a lot of things that we could talk about now. Why such a man could get so many votes. How it came as a surprise. Why she didn't win. I don't know. A million other things. Frankly. I'm at a loss. Smarter people than myself are at a loss and I don't think they're as many beers into the evening as I am (I'm working on my third and it's Stella, so I think I'm good).

I am at a loss.

Still, I stand by what I said. Tomorrow is going to mark the beginning of a long project. It's not the project that's going to be about fucking up this man and his hostility towards basic human rights and democracy. That is only one aspect of what we have to do. We have to help out our fellow man. Not just the ones that vote like us, but all of them, because obviously they're hurting too. They're going to hurt worse by the time this thing has run its course. And it will run its course. We have to get to work building each other and our country back up as much as we have to tear down the things they're going to build to destroy us. And they will try to destroy us. We're going to survive and we're going to do it by being smarter, wiser, and better.

And I don't know.

We're all in this together. All of us. E plurbus unum. You know this.

Things will change. The anger will die off and his supporters will be left out in the cold again. Spurned, used, abandoned. It is what he does. When the tables turn and they learn what they have elected into office, we have to be there to bring them along with us. It's a long road and we're going to get there together. I believe that. I have to. Because if I don't, then I don't know what I stand for. I don't know why I am against this man. If we don't believe that we're together, only then does he really and truly win.

As I said before, they do not get to win.

Tomorrow, I am going to get up, hungover and with dread in my gut and a bitterness knowing that in the other room my dad is actively cheering on the destruction of the country he proports to care about. And I am going to get to work. I am going to find charities. I am going to find organizations. I am going to talk to people that need my help (or don't need my help or don't even want my help). I am going to get to work. That's just me. That's what I have to do.

I'll be looking, but I am all ears. I'm here to learn. I'm here to help.

I swear I'll get to

Upsidedown States of America

As of my writing this, neither side has lost. Neither Trump has lost, nor has America lost. Not yet. It isn't looking good.

I am tentatively holding on to the delusion of hope. I'm clinging to it. Not that Hillary will win. Even if she does, she still has to contend with 40% of America that are okay with a profoundly unstable and ignorant man in office (to say nothing of his more specific biases). I'm hopeful because this is still America.

And in America the bad guys do not get to win.

Even when this ends, and if it looks like it's over, nothing is over. Even if it's over, it isn't over. As Barack Obama said tonight, "The sun will rise in the morning." And it will. And it will again and again and again. There's a hope in that. There has to be. For as long as the decent people of the world, on every side of the political spectrum draw breath, we can still fight this cancer that has slowly spread across this country. Despair won't beat it. Despair is what built it.

And fuck that. To quote somebody else, long lost to the Internet's interlocking spheres of re-purposing, it isn't fair that Donald Trump can look in the mirror and feel good about himself and you look in the mirror and you feel terrible.

There's another quote, one we all cling to, one built into the myth of this country's fourth estate. Or at least, it is amongst the pantheon of liberal America. It's from Edward R Murrow. It's from a longer speech, which you can easily watch on your own. The line that sticks out to me, though is this:

We are not descended from fearful men.

It's a beautiful sentiment. It's also a fantasy. Of course we are. We are descended from Indian-killing, witch-burning, slave-driving, segregating, lynching men. We are also descended from men that stood by the wayside for centuries while these things went on.

We are also descended from heroes. Great men and women of all shades, all genders, all religions, all sexualities. People like Frederick Douglas and Harriet Tubman. Clifford Clinton and Abraham Lincoln. Audy Murphy and Joshua Chamberlain. Harvey Milk and Mary Harris Jones. There are victims, as well. Names and places and people that are too numerous to name. They do not deserve to be lumped in with the stains that cover our history. But the fearful men's blood is in our own. It's alive tonight. It's speaking to us.

Elections have always been carnivals of horrors. They rarely seem to be civil, they only ever seem to be less terrible. The past two elections were rather tame compared to 2004. Especially when compared to 2000. The fearful men were at work there, as well. It's always been this way. From LBJ back to Andrew Jackson. Fear and loathing is an intrinsic part of the American process.

Which is why the American experiment is so expectional. It is that despite the worst of the worst being allowed to live amongst us and occasionally rule over us, we prosper. What makes America exceptional is that despite

Donald Trump is not strong enough to break our Union. Neither is his lapdog Mike Pence. Nor are the cowards in congress or the criminals advising him. He does not get to do that. They do not get to do that. Neither do his supporters. To us liberals it might seem like the United States has been turned upside down. It hasn't. It's doing what it is always doing. It is carrying on. It is continuing an ugly, uneven legacy. Despite that, it will work.

Tomorrow the sun will rise. We will know the kind of men that live among us. And then we get to work.

We donate. We volunteer. We march. We picket. We demonstrate. We become allies. We vote. We fight. We act like decent human beings. We tell ourselves that we might be descended from fearful men, but we do not have to be.

Because this is America, damnit.

That means something.

It is up to us to determine what that means.