The Minimum Effort Ep.8: Spider-Man Homecoming

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In a rather belated review, Ben and Lewis swing headfirst off a skyscraper into the colourful, wonderful world of Spider-Man Homecoming… Oh, they also talk about Dr Who and some other stuff too…

 

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A New, New Doctor Who

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So… how wrong was I, buying into all that Kris Marshall stuff?

I guess I should really stop trying to predict things…

Anyway, Jodie Whittaker is going to be the next Doctor. Yeah, it isn’t going to be David Harewood or Maxine Peak, but I am going to explain why Whittaker’s casting is a good thing for Doctor Who.

Long term readers (and potentially podcast listeners?) know how I feel about the last few seasons of the show; it has been repetitive, boring, poorly written and, despite one or two highlights, has been pretty shite to be honest. I liked bits and pieces of Capaldi’s last season in the TARDIS but on the whole it and the other Moffat-run seasons have really started to tarnish the good name that Russel T. Davies battled to rebuild. The show has really needed freshening up for a while, which we should be getting through the teaming up of the critically acclaimed Chris Chibnall (new head writer) with the first female Doctor, Jodie Whittaker.  If I am being totally honest, I didn’t think the new show runners would have the balls to rock the boat during their first season in charge, but considering the declining ratings and increasing fan resentment to the show (fucking sonic sunglasses), I am really not surprised to see them roll the dice.

Whittaker has a solid film back catalogue including the very enjoyable Attack the Block (which you should go and watch if you haven’t), as well the critically acclaimed Black Mirror. Most importantly though, she worked with Chibnall on Broadchurch (which I haven’t watched, I was probably too busy being disappointed by Supergirl, but I have heard very good things about it).

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We really shouldn’t be surprised by the choice, I think I was too distracted by Olivia Coleman picking up the sonic screwdriver to consider Whittaker, but this choice means that both the actor and the writer knows what each other are about, hopefully avoiding any clashes like those between Moffat and Capaldi.

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I would like to see Chibnall write Whittaker a Peter Davison-style incarnation of the Doctor, and by that I mean I want the character to be relatable and enjoyable to be around, but stand-offish enough to avoid any romantic relationship like those seen with David Tennant. The traditionalist will be pissed enough already to see a female Doctor, let alone one that want to bone a human (Tactfully put, Ben- Lewis). If Supergirl has shown me one thing, putting a romantic interest in the show from episode one can undermine the strength of a female lead, leaving her a fawning mess rather than the badass we know she is.

To sum up, this is only a good thing for the show, taking a gamble on a Female doctor will give it the vital breath of fresh air it really needs. Besides, Whittaker has proven herself to be a strong and versatile actor, and her good working relationship with the new head writer promises to produce good things.

I am definitely looking forward to the next season.

-Ben

 

Mass Effect Andromeda: Before the Patch

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At the time of writing, version 1.05 of BioWare’s Mass Effect: Andromeda is sitting on an Xbox One, daring me to quit my productive university work and install it. Issues such as lifeless eyes, a transgender faux-pas, and the now infamous “noot noot” mouth animations are slated to be fixed, alongside some minor balancing tweaks and bug fixes. As a result, now feels like a good time to discuss some of the issues, and the surrounding criticism that has circled the otherwise perfectly enjoyable game since its release.

Before I start, I should probably preface this with a disclaimer- I am a Mass Effect fanboy; Andromeda could be an unplayable mess where nothing works and you have to manually brush your teeth on the Tempest every morning and I would still find myself at least somewhat compelled to defend the game. However, despite the claims of trolls and wildly overreacting members of the gaming community, Andromeda is no such travesty. It has issues, certainly, mostly regarding animation and the occasionally frustrating bug, but overall it is a very solid game, with BioWare delivering on its strongest suits once again, with good, three-dimensional characters, an engaging storyline and a universe that feels like it could be real.

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Unfortunately, while I could talk all day about the nuances of Jaal’s character, or just how ridiculously awesome the Memory Triggers quest was, the fanfare currently surrounding the game is regarding those aforementioned faults, and as such needs to be addressed. I think the upcoming patch is necessary for the game to achieve its true potential, which is sad. On the other hand, in an age of No Man’s Sky and that god-awful Batman game, these issues are, in my opinion, trivial. While it’s unfortunate that more and more developers are relying on post-Day One content to “fix” the problems with their games, context is required- Andromeda is still an excellent game even without the patch, and the willingness of BioWare to release this patch so quickly while dealing with all of the issues fans had with the game, shows that they genuinely care about the quality of their games.

To address the issues directly, I would now like to talk about the animations in the game. Problems with the Pathfinder’s “zig-zag” walk and whatever Foster “Pingu” Addison’s deal was are undoubtedly annoying and immersion breaking, and should not have been in the game at this point in development. Addison, especially, with her expressionless face and make-up that looked like it was applied by a child in the dark, was at times so poorly done that it made me laugh. At some other times as well, with mouth movements in particular, I felt like I was being taken out of the moment by some ropey animations. On the other hand, there are some truly excellent sequences within the game- I have yet to see any grossly unnatural body movements within the gameplay sections, for example, and Cora’s romance scene is flawlessly executed, if surprisingly explicit. And finally, while the default Sara Ryder has come in for criticism by some, I personally have no complaints regarding her animation or appearance.

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Another criticism levelled is regarding the eyes of some human and asari characters, as well as the identical model used for almost every asari within the game (Peebee being the only one with a different face). The default Scott at times looks like he is falling asleep, and the texturing makes some characters aimlessly stare into the middle-distance with lifeless eyes (cue Jaws quote). On the other hand, the more alien species have incredible detail placed on these areas, in particular the Angara and Krogan, who at times look genuinely lifelike. While this inconsistency is annoying, this is another problem fixed in the patch (and from the few screenshots I’ve seen, it makes a huge difference).

Finally, there has been minor controversy with Dr. Hainly Abrams, a relatively insignificant NPC at the Prodromos outpost on Eos. Through dialogue, she reveals that she used to be called “Stephan” and left the Milky Way for a new start. As such, this pretty strongly suggests that Hainly is transgendered (although it would not be unforgivable to not know Stephan isn’t also a girl’s name in the future, as some players assumed), making her the only such character in the game. The problem, to my understanding, is not with her inclusion (assuming you live in the real world), but with her off-handedly “deadnaming” herself- which is not something that people in that situation do, especially to complete strangers. Therefore, some members of the LGBT community were offended by this, and pointed out the mistake. Speaking as someone with little knowledge on the subject, this was not something I was aware of, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to have not known this before. In the same vein, I don’t think it is outlandish to assume that Andromeda’s writers, who probably included the detail in the name of inclusivity, also did not know this, and meant no offense. Therefore, considering that Dr. Abrams’ dialogue is listed in the patch notes as a change, they have admitted to their mistake, and corrected it at the first opportunity- again proving that they care about their audience’s enjoyment of the game.

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Overall, while I can accept that I perhaps view the game with Element Zero-tinted glasses, and what I look for in the game is not necessarily universal, I refuse to accept that Andromeda is an objectively bad game. For every wooden animation there is a stunning backdrop; for every doll-eyed stare there is a heartwarming character moment, and for every irritating bug there’s a boatload of great gaming experiences. So, for anyone who thinks the game is “literally unplayable” or any other unnecessary hyperbole, I suggest you put down your pitchfork and take the game at face value. Maybe you’ll actually enjoy yourself.

 

The views expressed in this article are purely my own, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Minimum Effort, who are probably sick and tired of Pete playing Mass Effect for the 5th time in 18 months.

Return of the Podcast- Ep.1: ‘Logan!’

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Hello all, I have some mildly exciting news to share today- the podcast is back!

We’ve decided to reboot the whole thing, which is why this is episode 1 and not episode 14 or whatever the old one got up to. We felt it needed a fresh start, and this time around, for now anyway, we’ll only be doing the podcast in audio form; it lightens the workload and therefore makes us more inclined to actually do it.

So yeah, here’s the first episode for your enjoyment.

Today Ben and Lewis are talking about feelings and stuff as they review Logan, and picking apart the best and worst trailers last week had to offer.

 

Do you have something to say about Logan? Or want to furiously defend Fast and Furious: The Fate of the Furious? Then leave a comment below!

And if you think we’re worthy then please like and/or follow us…

Procrastination: What is it Good For?

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imageAs I’m sitting here, writing this piece on procrastination, I should be writing a piece of coursework on “the figure of the wanderer or outsider in 19th century literature”. Instead, I’m procrastinating.

It’s the one thing that stops me from achieving my full potential (a lie I tell myself daily), but no matter what I do, no matter how disciplined I think I am, I always end up doing anything but what I should be. Everybody does it though, at one time or another. Some people are better at it than others, and some people spend their time doing nothing but jumping from one attention-grabbing thing to another, never circling back to that essay they’re supposed to be writing. I know I do it frequently, but I always drag my mind back to the task at hand, and I never allow it to stop me from doing a task entirely. However, that doesn’t change the fact that I still do it.

And I know you do too, Mr/s. Reader.

Yeah you do, don’t give me that look.

Don’t think I don’t know about that really important thing you’re supposed to be doing right now. Yeah that’s right, THAT thing. But instead you keep putting it off to watch another episode of (insert generic TV show here), or to watch those hilarious clips of (insert famously funny animals and objects here), or to read another pointless blog post about (insert common obstacle in people’s lives here).

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It’s obvious why we do it. We find more enjoyable activities to take up our time in order to avoid doing the one thing we should be, whether it’s an essay, revision, ringing the gas company, tidying the house etc. However, a couple of years back I decided to look into the subject (mainly because I was interested in the psychology of what makes us inclined to do it) and I read an interesting idea about why people tend to procrastinate more about tests and work than everyday things. The idea, basically, is that our subconscious says to itself-

“Hey, what if I just don’t try? That way, when I fail, on my intelligence can’t be blamed because I just didn’t try. So the reason for my failure will be my laziness, and not my intelligence”

I can really understand that- because pouring your heart and soul into a project and having it fail is not a great feeling. However, there’s obviously a paradox in that logic.

There’s no way you can succeed at something if you don’t try. By using that logic you’re being a defeatist. If you think that you’re guaranteed to fail, you end up asking yourself, why not do it on your own terms? Well, that’s fine I guess, but I personally think you should never accept defeat before it’s happened. There’s always a chance that you could win, but by procrastinating and blaming your laziness you’re throwing away any chance you have. There’s no harm in trying and failing, even if it’s one of the worst feelings you can have, because that’s how you learn in life. You’ll also have less regrets when you look back on your efforts, and everyone knows that regret really sucks.

When I look back at my school days and think about how little work I did for some of my exams and some of my coursework, I really do regret how lazy I became. Sure, there were plenty of other factors that resulted in me losing almost complete interest in a few areas of my school work, but I know that if I had tried more, I could’ve done so much better for myself. Then again, I’m happy where I am now, and so should I really regret the things I didn’t do? I think you should approach regret using the “forgive but never forget” philosophy. Forgive yourself for what you did and didn’t do, but never forget why those things did and didn’t happen (There you go, kids. You’re set for life now).

But before this becomes an article about my failings in life (which I’m sure you’re all really interested in…), I’ll quickly sum up my ramblings.

Basically, everyone procrastinates, so you should never beat yourself up about it too much. But if you begin to fall into the mindset of “If I don’t try that means my intelligence isn’t to blame”, just remember that if you don’t try you can’t win. As the old saying goes, “If you think you’re going to lose, you will”. So the next time you’re avoiding that essay or revision, or maybe you’re sitting at your desk at work and you ceaselessly find other things to do, just remember that you’re going to have to do it eventually, so it might as well be now.

But hey, what do I know?

-Lewis