Rundown (5/09-5/15) Get Some X Up In Your Ears

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Wherein I discuss a great book I listened to, a perplexing re-release, and a continued consolidation conundrum!

One of the biggest downsides of working either from my family home or at a rinky dink office is that I am severely limiting the amount of people I see and interact with in a meaningful way. And while that alone does not bother me, I am more than a bit miffed that all the people I interact with nowadays are white people. I’m not around oodles of POC like I was in school, I’m not working with a gaggle of Desi people like I was back at the doctor’s office. Now it’s pretty much all white people, all the time. 

As I realized this, and realized how this arrangement could lead me to develop a nasty bit of subconscious racism, I decided to combat it somehow… and for whatever reason, I thought the best way to do this would be to read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. By which I mean I listened to the audiobook that came out last year, because it’s easier for me to justify listening to something while doing other things, such as doing tax returns, organizing files, or doing dailies.

Now, I could fill a whole essay about my thoughts on this book, and the innumerous things I liked about it, but I have a tax deadline coming up, and this is not a Ramble, so I’ll just hit the core takeaways. 

One, this book did a better job of illustrating what it was like to be black in early-to-mid 20th century America than anything I ever learned in public school. What I find most interesting about history, about looking into and studying the past, is the ground level history. Seeing how life was different back before I was born, in places I’ve never been, and for people who lead vastly different lives than myself. It makes the world relatable, understandable, and more personal than hearing about how nations rose, fell, and warred against one another for both ideologies and resources. 

However, The Autobiography of Malcolm X is a case where it not only succeeds as the story of an individual, but manages to bridge and build this into a grander narrative about someone fighting to make the world a better place. The book both humanizes and makes it clear that Malcolm X is just a person, while also endearing the reader to his goals and aspirations, precisely because the reader learns his life story, how he formed his perspective, and why he is so adamant in his pursuits.

Secondly, even when this work is divorced from a historical context, I still consider it a richly detailed and enthralling narrative. One that tells the story of a young man born into nothing who, as his childhood went on, lost what little he had. His father was killed in his own home. His mother was driven to madness by prying peons who viewed her as something less than a person. And he was even taken away from his own siblings, thrust into the foster care system. However, even as he faced these hardships, this broken childhood, he still remained steadfast and ambitious, excelling in whatever was presented before him, and shining with promise.

Promise that led him to enter the adult world early and eager, equipped with the skills and cunning needed to succeed in just about anything he put his mind to. However, due to his race-deemed class, the only true avenue available to him was that of a seedy underworld crafted and contained by the white man. A world where this boy’s mind expanded and grew as he too grew into a man. But as he did so, as he immersed himself in a world of drugs, pimping, and burglary, he began to fall from grace, and lose his own sense of self, turning into the exact type of person that society wanted him, a black man, to be. A person who speaks in mangled slang, can barely write or read, and is locked in a vicious cycle of addiction where he has no true escape. 

It is here, at his lowest, 21 years of age and locked behind bars, where Mr. Malcolm finally decides that enough is enough, and reclaims his former ambition, and spends every passing day educating himself, bettering himself, and distancing himself from the man who he once was. Becoming a  genuinely brilliant and truly courageous figure. One primed for greatness and, through much sweat of his brow and a restless determination, became a renowned figure, respected by royalty. One whose name carried clout across the globe and who, in the realm of reality, deserves at least some credit for the racial progress seen both during and after his life. For he drove and inspired people to demand change, demand progress, demand rights, demand respect, and to have the courage to back these demands, no matter how much resistance they were met with. 

And thirdly, I found this book to be an intellectually stimulating experience that had me pausing regularly to let Mr. Malcolm’s words sink in, asking me to reassess my values and consider issues or perspectives that I had never heard of before. It made me feel like I was genuinely learning something and exercising my reasoning skills as I followed along with this story.

Though, I have to admit that I was voicing criticisms a bit more than I would have liked during the middle chapters, when Mr. Malcolm was a devout supporter of The Nation of Islam. It is hard for me to nod along to anybody who preaches racist fables in the same way he describes injustices happening before his eyes. And when he was going on about how black people should seperate themselves from the whites and form their own nation, or be granted their own state by the American government, I started getting a bit… upset about where this ideology could go. Especially after reaching the sections where he stated that there is nothing any white person can do to combat the racism dominating America.

However, during the latter quarter of this book, Mr. Malcolm makes a pilgrimage to Mecca and as he is immersed in this foreign land with foreign tongues, and foreign customs, he begins to rethink his views on myriad things. He sheds way his resolute nationalist philosophy as he sees his beliefs disproved before his very eyes. As he meets white people, brown people, and Asian people who all view and treat him with a sense of brotherhood, viewing him not as a black man, but a fellow human.

This experience urges him to rethink his views, and while his core beliefs remain unchanged, he speaks with more hope, with a belief that things can improve, knowledge that there exists societies where racism is a relative non-issue, and a desire to help strengthen the black American community into something greater. A proud community. A community of great political influence. And a community that demands to be treated with human rights.

I love seeing characters, and people, broaden their views and refine their ideologies even after holding onto them oh so dearly. It shows a true intelligence, a true desire to better oneself as a person, and in this modern era, I think that a lot of people could learn from this. That no matter how harshly you hold onto your ideologies, you should always be open to a new interpretation or experience. You should never stop growing or learning.

But my biggest takeaway from this story is that… I’m glad that I had the childhood I did. I’m glad that, from a very young age, I was put in the same class as people of various colors and national backgrounds. Back when I was 6 and until I was… maybe 12, I did not have a true understanding of what race was. I knew that some people had different skin colors, but that’s all I really knew. I thought it was no different than someone being taller or having a different hair color. Hell, I didn’t even see any distinction between black or Desi children, or Latino or lighter-skinned Asian children, because their skins had a similar pigmentation. The colors looked close enough.

You could say I was profoundly ignorant as a child— and I was— but… I’m glad that I thought this way. That my first experiences with people of different races were ones where I viewed them as just other people. They were the kids who I shared a classroom with, who I played with during recess, who I invited into my home on play dates, and whose homes I visited myself on occasion.

I took all of this for granted growing up, and assumed that my quant little 65% white suburb was like any place in America. But… it wasn’t. Many people lacked the experience I did, were taught to be racist from a young age, and were encouraged to look at people of different pigmentation and facial features as ‘others.’ As ‘lessers.’ And that… that’s just terrible. 

Anyways, now that I have spun discussions of broader racial issues down to my personal experience, and pathetically reassured myself that I am indeed “one of the good ones,” I guess it’s time to talk about video game news. 

Disney is continuing their trend of bare-bones re-releases of their classic video game line up with Lucasfilm Classic Games: Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Ghoul Patrol. A two-part emulation-based no-frills re-release of two horror-themed exploration-driven overhead shooters that… I have not seriously thought about in nearly a decade

1993’s Zombies Ate My Neighbors achieved something of a cult status back in the late 2000s, when 16-bit era nostalgia was at its height. However, the game was notoriously difficult in its later levels, and while it is enjoyed by a certain generation, that is mostly due to its theming, personality, and humor. It is a game I seldom recall being celebrated for its gameplay, and I think the truest testament of its impact is how, whenever I caught wind of an in-depth discussion of this game, the speaker would almost always end their thoughts by  stating that they wanted somebody to do the same concept again, but better. 

As for 1994’s Ghoul Patrol… barely anybody ever talked about this game, and I seriously forgot it ever existed. According to a Hardcore Gaming article, it was a title developed without any significant involvement from the original ZAMN developers, and production was almost entirely handled by a Malaysian studio by the name of Motion Pixel. Who, admittedly, did a decent job of copying what LucasArts was doing, and tried some new things. However, they ultimately did not pick up on many of the little things people liked about the original.

Overall, this is a somewhat odd choice for a re-release, and I cannot say that I am fond of these more ROM-dump style affairs, when games of this era are notoriously lacking when it comes to quality of life features. However, I will never scoff at any re-release, as they help games retain relevance and make them accessible for a new generation. Lucasfilm Classic Games: Zombies Ate My Neighbors and Ghoul Patrol will release for PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC on June 29th.

Next on the list, we have news of more acquisitions, as THQ Nordic, or more specifically their parent company, Embracer Group, have acquired four more small-time game developers

Their recent purchasing spree includes Appeal Studios S.A. A Belgium studio that operated from 1995 to 2002 before being revived back in 2017. They are best known for the 1999 open world sci-fi adventure game, Outcast, its sequel, and its modern remakes. I actually never heard of this series before now, and the 1999 original looks like one of those crazy ambitious and interesting PC games that got lost in the rapidly evolving technology of the era. 

KAIKO GmbH, a developer responsible for dishing out several remasters from THQ Nordic’s luscious catalog, including Legend of Kay Anniversary Edition, Darksiders Warmastered Edition, Red Faction Guerrilla Re-MARS-tered, and Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning. Considering how the two companies have been exclusively working together since 2015, I’m surprised that it took Embracer this long to outright buy them.

Massive Miniteam GmbH, a 21-person Germany company that has mostly worked as a support studio for smaller projects. Which makes them a versatile sort who could either bolster up an existing studio, or support any number of future projects THQ Nordic has in the production pipeline. 

And lastly, they also picked up FRAME BREAK AB. A newly formed 5-person Swedish studio currently developing a mech farming game… which is the most European indie game concept that I can possibly think of.

Overall, none of these are big or shocking acquisitions, and I’m sure many of the 90+ developers are happy to be working for such a large and secure publisher who, as far as I am aware, has yet to conduct any significant layoffs. However, as I see THQ Nordic growing into more and more of a juggernaut, I get more concerned about where they will be a few years from now. If they will continue to be a AA studio with a crazy diverse output, or if they will turn things in a different direction, cast aside the IP they’ve acquired, and start mimicking the likes of EA, Activision Blizzard, and Ubisoft. Dishing out homogenized and heavily monetized titles while putting profitability above creativity.

…But they haven’t succumbed to that yet, and seem fully content with their current operations, so I guess I’m worrying for nothing.

…Okay, I’m clocking out for today. I’m busy immersing myself in tax hell, so even writing this much was a commitment for me. Things will (hopefully) become more productive soon, but again, I cannot promise anything at the moment, so I won’t!

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