Rundown (8/07-8/13) Natalie Neumann is a Crypto Scumlord

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Wherein I discuss a moral conundrum, an unremarkable acquisition, the hatching of one of the… ten(?) trans characters in games circa 2013, and the OG survival horror series.

I’ve mentioned before that I’m a tax accountant who specializes in cryptocurrency. This means that I need to stay up-to-date with the crypto market, on the regulatory front, and learn how to use a new reporting platform every few months. However, despite crypto being a core part of my job, I have never owned any cryptocurrency… until this past week. 

I opened up a Coinbase account, bought $50 worth of ETH, and opened a MetaMask. Not so that I could invest in some ‘promising’ new crypto or anything, but because I wanted to buy a bunch of worthless alt coins from a client so they can realize a long-term capital loss. 

I am doing this because part of my job as a tax accountant is helping clients minimize their tax liability. And, considering the dollar-value of this loss, I consider this to be a good deed that will help the client, potentially for years to come. However, there is a reason why I never bought any crypto prior to now. …Well, two reasons. 

One, I have seen how volatile the market is and I dislike the idea of actively monitoring an investment that I need to check in on roughly every day. It breeds obsessive behaviors, and I’m obsessive enough, thank you very much.

Two, I am very much aware of how environmentally destructive most cryptocurrencies are. While I am generally fine with POS crypto that does not necessitate the use of mining, POW crypto, such as Ethereum, is terrible for the environment. So terrible that I felt the need to combat my action by giving a $50 donation to a charity that plants trees.

Did I need to do this? No, not really. Am I bringing this up for bragging purposes? Um… no? I’m bringing this up mostly because I know that many people involved in crypto do not give an iota of a crap about the consequences of their actions. Which I find to be… curious. I have done tax returns for maybe two dozen crypto clients over the years, and I don’t think any of them have ever reported a single environmental charitable contribution. 

These people know the environmental impact of their actions, but instead of giving back to the world, they spend their money on more crypto, travel, and real estate. I understand that their goal is to amass wealth, but I’d like to see some of them throw a few hundred dollars to an environmental charity every year. That might not offset their actions completely (finding universal figures for this stuff is hard), but it would help.

I suppose I have a… simplistic moral framework. I believe that those with resources have a responsibility to be generous with their resources. That those who do wrong should try to make right on their actions. And that generosity and charity are two of the highest virtues. I know that these are more idyllic morals that relatively few people follow, and as someone who gave away $15,000 to someone last year, I can wholeheartedly say that sometimes… I wish I didn’t have them. Because they will be the death of me in this dark world of gray and black.

Also, apparently morals like this are not uncommon among people with autism. Huh.

Time for another ‘that’s fine, I guess’ acquisition! This past week, Soedesco acquired Superlumen. For those who have never heard of either company before, such as myself, Soedesco is a fairly obscure Dutch publisher who has been taking on the publishing duties for a litany of smaller titles. While Superlumen is a developer who worked on dozens(?) of VR titles that… are not listed on their website. Instead, they only talk about how they are currently working on a first-person Lovecraftian graphic adventure game named Desolatium

As for why this acquisition happened, the answer’s pretty simple. Soedesco is publishing Desolatium, the working relationship between the studios was presumably good, and as part of Soedesco’s plans to expand their reach as a publisher, they bought Superlumen. Thereby giving Superlumen an influx of capital they can use to expand their studio and take on larger-scale projects. Whereas larger acquisitions are where the industry shrinks, these ones are essential to its growth. Acquisitions like this help small publishers become medium-sized publishers, and we could always use more of those.

This weekend was largely dominated by news centering around various fighting games. Some new trailers, some project announcements, and a lot of new character reveals. As someone who lacks a single competitive bone in her body, and can barely do a quarter circle motion, I paid little mind to these announcements. …At least until my feed was frothing with people talking about the returning character added to Guilty Gear Strive, Bridget.

Okay, how to talk about this subject to people unfamiliar with it… Back in the early 2010s and mid-2000s, the gaming landscape was starved for any sort of LGBT representation of any sort, and what was there… wasn’t great. This was the era where characters like Kanji from Persona 4 were considered among the best representations of a gay character that people could find. …A character who is never explicitly stated as being homosexual, and whose dungeon was a ‘steamy bathhouse.’

…Yeah, Persona 4 was progressive at the time, but if they tried to do what they did back in 2008 in *CURRENT_YEAR*, it would not fly.

Anyway, this barren climate left LGBT video game fans desperate for whatever scrap of representation they could find, and one of the dozen-or-so examples they went back to was Bridget from the Guilty Gear series. They debuted in Guilty Gear XX (2002) where they were presented as a crossdressing effeminate boy. However, there was a level of ambiguity around their gender, and certain people, especially trans women, considered Bridget to be a transgender woman. 

This interpretation carried forward, largely unchanging, as Bridget hadn’t been in a Guilty Gear game since the updated releases of Guilty Gear XX. But this past weekend, Bridget was announced for Guilty Gear Strive as a season pass 2 character. This sparked some curiosity over how they would be handled in a more progressive world and, after some initial digging, people found out that the game, pretty explicitly, presents Bridget as a transgender woman.

This could be seen in Bridget’s bio, which uses she/her pronouns. Bridget’s theme, which features the excerpt: “I’m out of patience. My body is a lie. Let’s paint the gray haze into sky blue.” But if that is not good enough, there’s Bridget’s arcade mode. A 6-minute-long story that sees her come to terms with her gender identity in a way that, as a trans woman, I found to be both direct and relatable.

I have to give Arc System Works major props for doing this with a classic character like this, when they could have stuck to their roots and emphasized tradition in keeping their characters stagnant. Instead, they allowed Bridget to progress her life’s story and explore her identity. Yes, it does not feature a more nuanced look at gender, but I was impressed with how classily the writers handled the subject.

So… good on you, Arc System Works. You took a character that a small number of people have wanted to come out as trans for 20 years and had them come out as trans.

…Okay, but that’s not the end of the story, because some people think that Bridget coming out as trans is somehow ‘out of character’ for her. I like to think that most of these people are merely ignorant of how this stuff works, so let me break this down in detail.

Here’s the thing about ‘coming out’ in media: it’s actually never out of character. There are plenty of LGBT folks who presented as straight and cis for large portions of their lives, getting into romantic relationships, starting families, and acting in a societally accepted way. If and when they came out, that was not them doing something ‘out of character’ it was their character, their identity, their orientation, developing.

People change over time, and the same is true for characters. Just because they behaved a certain way in the past or have a certain backstory does not necessarily mean they need to behave a certain way. You, whoever you are reading this, probably changed considerably at some point in your life or, at the very least, refined or adjusted the idea of who you are and who you want to be. 

As for Bridget in particular, I was not familiar with her backstory prior to this announcement, so let me just paraphrase the Guilty Gear wiki. Bridget was a twin born into a community where twins of the same gender were considered bad luck, and the local customs dictated that one of the twins be exiled or sacrificed. This led Bridget’s parents to raise her as a girl and, despite continuing to dress like a nun, she was insistent that she was male throughout Guilty Gear XX. This changes in Guilty Gear Strive however, where she encounters someone who urges her to question her identity, determine what makes her happy, and live life as she wants.

The way I read her character is that Bridget was effectively raised as female, but started resisting against this notion as she grew older into adulthood, insisting that she is ‘actually a boy.’ Someone forced her to live a certain way, she rebelled against this notion by pursuing ‘the truth’ even if ‘the truth’ never felt right to her. But as she continued on her journey, becoming a top class bounty hunter, and achieving her goal of making loads of money, she realized that it didn’t matter what society thought of her. That she should do whatever feels right to her. 

To me, that’s a pretty sensible character background. Something was originally forced upon a character, but they resist it at first, but learn to turn it into something positive and use it to help redefine their sense of self.

Hell, Bridget’s backstory really isn’t all that different from the backstory of trans people who realized they were trans after they were forced to crossdress for one reason or another. Which is definitely in the top 50 trans origin stories. She has an eggy-as-heck backstory, so her cracking out of her shell is fitting.

Moving onto more corporate dealings, THQ Nordic tried their hand at a games showcase… that I did not bother watching, as I was busy re-doing a complex crypto partnership return. However, the main announcement from this showcase was for a reboot of the classic horror series, Alone in the Dark. A series that has seen… its share of highs and lows. Mostly lows.

1992’s Alone in the Dark is commonly cited as a quintessential part of survival horror history, due to its revolutionary 3D character models, fixed camera angles, and effective atmosphere. The series continued on with two iterative sequels in 1993 and 1994, neither of which I’ve heard anybody talk about. To correct this, I skimmed through some longplays… and I can see why. They lack the same sense of atmosphere and seem more like action adventure romps set in the same universe, but in zanier environments and with cheerier music. In 2, you wear a santa outfit for a while, and in 3… you control a big cat of some variety? Ish got weird.

The series attempted to reboot itself with 2001’s Alone in the Dark: The New Nightmare, another game I have never heard anybody talk about. Looking at some gameplay footage, again, I can see why! It seems a tad derivative of the first wave of Resident Evil games, which were a bit oversaturated after the release of many RE-like games… and Code Veronica. Despite that, it still seems like a solid survival horror title with high quality environments, a good sense of mood, some clear passion behind it, and… three significantly different versions. 

However, the Alone in the Dark game that I think most are familiar with is the 2008 reboot, which was less of a survival horror title and more of a story-driven action game. In many ways, it was an ambitious and innovative title, trying things like a jacket-based inventory system, a real-time damage system, next gen fire tech, and even some open world environments. Unfortunately, the game was home to a litany of technical issues that were never patched and its edgy story was… emblematic of the era. It was actually given an updated release on PS3 5 months later, but the game had been memed to death at that point, and the economy went to crap. So nobody was going to buy a slightly updated version of a Eurojank kusoge. Though, the game did sell 1.2 million units, so the series was not fully dead… but that was not necessarily a good thing.

Back in the mid-2010s, Atari was downright abusive to many of its IPs, and Alone in the Dark: Illumination was no exception. 2015’s Alone in the Dark: Illumination is one of those few titles that earned a sub-20 Metacritic score, and there’s almost no point in saying anything more beyond that. It was a co-op shooter about staying in the light and buddying up with three friends, so it kind of missed the point from minute one. And during minute two, everybody realized that the game was just a bad Left 4 Dead rip-off. 

After treating this IP so poorly, the rightsholder, Atari S.A. sold the IP to THQ Nordic back in 2018, where they gave it to Pieces Interactive (Magicka, Titan Quest), who decided to reboot this series… for the fourth time. 

Despite its name, Alone in the Dark is not a remake of the original title, as much as it is loosely inspired by the original trilogy, taking characters and concepts and using them as a foundation for something new. Well, I say something new, but based on the announcement trailer, it’s pretty clear that the developers want to make something akin to the recent Resident Evil games. Something with grotesque monsters, eccentric antagonists, and more action-oriented combat. 

All of which… seems to be the way that people would want the series to continue. The title inspired Resident Evil, so it makes sense for the inspiration to go the other way. Details are a bit sparse, as they are going to demo the game at Gamescom next week. However, it was announced that the game is being written/directed by Mikael Hedberg of Amnesia: The Dark Descent and SOMA fame. So chances are the story will at least be good. 

Alone in the Dark (202X) is coming to PlayStation 5, Xbox Series, and PC, but no release window was given

Anyway, that’s it for this week. Personally, I spent most of this week making the 20 header images and cover for The Dominance of Abigale Quinlan, which is coming out on August 15th. Some of them were more elaborate ‘artistic’ endeavors that I went back and forth on… while others are just a bunch of copy-pasted characters against recycled backgrounds, because I dunno what else to do
Normally, the completion of a project of this magnitude would be followed by a break.

Fortunately, I need to pretty much immediately jump into writing two short stories. One of which will probably be a 5k-10k word quickie (TSF Series #004-3), and the other will be part of a project that will wind up being a novella in and of itself (Verde’s Doohickey – Session Extra). Only then I will get around to my promised Mice Tea review. I would apologize for the delay, but I think it might have been a blessing in disguise, as Mice Tea is planning on having an early access retail release around the end of August. Meaning that my review will be (somewhat) topical!

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