Rundown (9/20-9/26) Electrolysis is Not Fun

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Wherein I discuss genital electrocution, the consolidation of gamindustri, how propriety memory is always a mistake, the shift from Zero to the Future, a new challenger in this era of platform wars, and a curious compilation of classic titles.

I prepared last week’s Rundown minutes before leaving for electrolysis and seeing as how my life is boring, let’s talk about that in more detail. The actual genital electrolysis procedure was among the worst experiences in my life. Not because of the woman who did my electrolysis or the place I went to or (I went to one of the best clinics in my country), but because of the procedure itself.

Genital electrolysis is a multi-hour procedure where the patient lays down, is given an IV, a calming drug, and a numbing drug injected into their crotch region before somebody plucks hairs from their genital area using an electric needle that kills the hair-producing cells beneath the skin. It is a procedure where the patient is always conscious of what is going on and, at some level, can feel what the technician is doing despite the numbing, with the sensation growing more potent as the procedure goes on, necessitating the use of several other injections throughout the process.

Now, the actual electrolysis part of this, the plucking hair bit, that’s not a big deal. If the injection worked, then you should not feel it. If it didn’t or it wore off, then it hurts… but it’s tolerable, at least to the point where I would just power through it like a tough broad. But what truly made the experience so terrible was the whole genital touching bit.

I’m pretty sure that no sane individual enjoys having their floppy half-numbed genitals be pressed against and tossed around against their will, but when you have dysphoria about your genitals, and when you really really hate having your genitals seen, let alone touched, it makes for a deeply uncomfortable process. It was so uncomfortable that I spent a decent percentage of the procedure crying or repressing tears, especially after the numbing solution wore off prematurely, as it often does with patients with fair skin, like me.

So I only lasted 6 hours instead of 7 and was sent home to recover from my procedure. I expected the recovery to feel worse, but after about 16 hours and one dreadful night of sleep… I felt okay. I did as my post-treatment instructions said, applied the Neosporin twice, used Eucerin lotion every 3 hours, and iced my swollen genitals for 15 minutes every 2 hours. After 48 hours, there was only minor swelling and scabbing left, which has been slowly healing over the past week. I would say that now I’m done, but I need to go in for another treatment again in about 10 weeks, and another 10 weeks after that. It sucks, but if you want Gender Confirmation Surgery, a.k.a. Sexual Reassignment Surgery, you gotta do it.

After making a splash by acquiring so many studios in 2018, Xbox Game Studios have been none too subtle about their aspirations to gain a greater stake in the games industry, and have been eyeing various companies for acquisitions. They were, and presumably still are, shopping around for an Asian, specifically Japanese, studio to broaden their presence. They were interested in Warner Bros. Interactive back when WB was thinking about selling them. And while just about every mid-sized studio not acquired by THQ Nordic was a potential candidate, I doubt anybody truly thought Microsoft would aim to take hold of one of the few major AAA publishers in the industry… until this past week, where they did just that.

Microsoft has acquired ZeniMax Media, the parent company of Bethesda Softworks, in exchange for 7.5 billion dollars in cash. This is easily the biggest acquisition in gaming history and is massive even by the standards of major corporate acquisitions. Seriously. Marvel and Lucasfilm (Star Wars) were both acquired by Disney for only $4 billion. But regardless of the money involved in the deal, I have two major takeaways from this announcement.

One, this acquisition is one of many companies and intellectual properties. Overnight, Microsoft and Xbox Game Studios have become the owners of The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Wolfenstein, DOOM, Dishonored, Prey, Quake, The Evil Within, and every other IP under Bethesda’s umbrella. Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, ZeniMax Online Studios, Arkane Studios, MachineGames, and Tango Gameworks are now all first-party studios.

This is a massive consolidation of IP in the games industry and shows that even if a publisher is large and robust enough to have its own routine E3 press conferences, it can be consolidated into a mere tendril of a larger and growing console manufacturer. And while I see no reason to suspect Microsoft of ruining Bethesda (they were doing a fine enough job of that on their own), it is troubling to see media companies mesh into one, as it makes the industry smaller and makes it harder for new players to enter.

Two, what exactly does this mean regarding Bethesda games going forward? Well, like with all first-party studios, all future Bethesda titles will come to Game Pass, thus giving game-likers yet another reason to buy into Microsoft’s subscription service. But what about exclusivity? This question loomed in uncertainty for a while before it was clarified that Xbox and PC exclusivity will be handled on a “case by case basis”. This is likely for the best, as while exclusives are always a strong perk to any console, certain properties do not drive sales and could generate additional revenue if brought to additional platforms. See Minecraft, Cuphead, and Ori. But for those who enjoy any number of Bethesda’s series, then this is one more reason to veer into the PC gaming space… or buy a $300 Xbox with garbage-tier storage and no HDD support.

I keep bringing up the storage issues of the Xbox Series consoles because overpriced proprietary memory is something that can significantly cripple consoles and cause people to simply not use them. Anybody who owned a PSP or Vita can likely sympathize with this issue, as even though they were both great little game machines with wonderful digital libraries, the fact that it cost so much to purchase storage space really detracted many from investing as much into these systems as they would have liked to.

The PSP was gosh darn absurd, boasting a price tag of $280 for a 32GB memory stick, and while the Vita was far better, with its 64GB memory cards costing just over $100, they were both major detractors that anybody who wanted to get a system had to financially consider. And while I would hope that Microsoft would avoid repeating Sony’s mistake… they instead revealed that the 1TB Xbox Series Game Drive will run for $220… on a system that costs as low as $300.

I understand that this technology is new and it will get cheaper as time goes on, but as I previously said, this ALL could have been avoided if the Xbox Series systems supported HDD storage, and allowed players to move games from the HDD to the internal storage when they wanted to play them. You know, like the PS5 is doing. Instead, they are jerking people around and hoping that they don’t consider the cost of accessories when making purchasing decisions. Ugh.

In infinitely smaller news, over the past month, it came to light that Mike Zaimont, owner of Skullgirls and Indivisible developer Lab Zero, was an unsavory individual who effectively forced all the valuable employees of Lab Zero out the door. All because he would not keep his promises, improve his behavior, and work with his employees on pursuing a solution that benefitted them.

Or in simpler terms, he was a dirtbag, and now many former Lab Zero employees were without work, and rather than universally fanning out elsewhere, many key members have banded together once more to form Future Club. An employee-owned co-op game studio that will hopefully be what the former Lab Sero staffers wanted the company to be, but couldn’t on account of their toxic owner. While they lack any projects to announce at the moment, obviously, I am glad to see that they are working once again towards a new project, and hope that once they find all the success in the world as they carry on, putting their troubled pasts behind them and looking towards the bright and colorful future.

Speaking of endeavors that are aiming to result in something good upon the missteps of others, this past week Amazon has announced their own cloud gaming service, known as Luna. A concept that, at least for me, immediately brought back memories of Google’s Stadia service. A platform that promised high-quality game streaming, yet lacked a compelling library, affordable price point, was too technologically inconsistent to accomplish what it set out to do and was not available on all devices people would like to stream games on.

Luna, as it is being pitched, is a subscription-based service that will launch with a library of over 100 games, most of which are 1+-year-old current generation titles from select publishers. It is playable via PC, iOS, and Android platforms, with the ability for players to seamlessly shift between devices and resume their previous play session. It will use Amazon’s Web Service infrastructure, which should be beefy enough to support cloud gaming on a global scale. And base subscription will only cost $6 in the early access soft-launch period, with additional fees being incurred to gain access to a larger library of current and more recent games, such as Ubisoft’s upcoming AAA games (which were built on abusive practices). Also, the service is designed for a standard-looking $50 controller with reduced latency, and the service has Twitch integration.

Now, in asking whether or not this will succeed, there are two things that must be done. People need to sit down, test, and play this service in a wide variety of situations and at a number of different times across the world, or at least the United States. But in lieu of testing the service, I already answered how Luna is learning from Stadia’s failures by boasting a larger library, better infrastructure, and a superior monetization model because, seriously, who wants to buy games they don’t actually own?

Though, personally, I don’t really care if it does well or burns into flames like Amazon’s other game projects like Breakaway and Crucible. It would not hurt the console and PC sides of the industry, none of its titles are being boasted as exclusives, and it is just an option. I like options, I like competition, and while I prefer owning my games locally, I can see how somebody might enjoy this. Of course, it would probably be a better deal if somebody were to invest in Microsoft’s upcoming xCloud streaming platform and purchase Game Pass, which will most likely have a better library… but this is fine too.

To wrap this week up on a curious note, following a ratings leak from the Taiwan Digital Game Rating Committee, Konami has released a small sample of their backlog of older PC ports on GOG, thus making these titles available on modern systems. This includes 1987’s Metal Gear, which was actually ported to MS-DOS in 1990, much to my surprise. The 2000 PC port of Metal Gear Solid, which is arguably the definitive version of the seminal PS1 title. The 2003 PC port of Metal Gear Solid 2: Substance, which would be the best way to play MGS2 if Bluepoint had not given the title a full HD remaster for Xbox 360, PS3, and Vita. And finally Konami Collector’s Series: Castlevania and Contra. …Which is a 2002 PC compilation of Castlevania, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, Contra, and Super C. Titles that are all available via the Konami Anniversary Collections released for PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and Steam in 2019.

Looking over this list of titles that Konami has chosen to bring back, I cannot help but tilt my head in confusion. I love the fact that they are bringing these titles back to the forefront, but there is little rhyme or reason in this selection when Konami has plenty of other titles that could be brought to PC. Silent Hill 2, 3, and 4 all had PC ports that fans have been upgrading into the definitive versions of the games over the past few years. Cult classic Shadow of Memories (a.k.a. Shadow of Destiny) came to the platform in 2003. And by pushing the focus on Metal Gear, this only emphasizes how scattered this collection was, as neither Metal Gear 2: Solid Snake nor Metal Gear Solid 3 ever made their way to PC.

It’s a peculiar move that leaves me wanting for more, and as I dug into this story, I happened across a persistent rumor that has been gaining traction as of late from YouTube channel RedGamingTech posted a video where they claimed to have spoken to sources that confirmed that MGS2, 3, and 4 are coming to PC (likely in the form of the remasters), and that a remake of Metal Gear Solid is in development for PS5 and PC. While I am iffy about independent individuals with, as far as I am aware, no track record for this sort of thing… I can definitely see this happening, and would LOVE to re-experience the Metal Gear series in its prettiest form… or at least MGS 1, 2, and 3. 4 is a mess, and I really have little fondness for the original Metal Gear duology.

Header image comes from Quit Stirring Up My Meat Pot by Wakamiya Santa.

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