This Week’s Topics:
- Natalie rambles about TSF-Adjacent videos.
- Verde’s Doohickey 2.0 is being delayed to 2024
- Student Transfer Scenario Reviews are coming back in May
- The enticing appeal yet disappointing reality of AI
- One of the most popular games in the world getting better creator rools
Rundown Preamble Ramble:
Natalie Watched A “TSF” Playlist
The great and mighty TSF translation duchess, Chari Shalo, has regaled me with even more offerings. …By offerings, I mean she sent me a bunch of links to videos that discuss TSF, gender bending, and various other semi-related things. Some of them I had a lot to say about, others just sparked an idea in my head, and when you put everything together, it’s extra messy. That’s just what happens when going through eight different videos and trying to find something to say about all of them. And seeing as how this section is a trim ~3,700 words, I would say that I had a lot of things to say about them.
Unfortunately, this makeshift playlist is not specially TSF related, with only the first four videos really being about TSF, and the rest being about other stuff that often gets lumped in with TSF. Stuff that is TSF related are the Ranma ½ video essays she sent me, but I’m saving those for next week.
Boku Girl and the Anxious Body by Pause and Select
I probably should sit down and actually read Boku Girl sometime. I tried, but after the first three chapters, I really was not feeling it, as it did not strike me as something ‘spiritually TSF.’ However, an understanding of this manga is not really necessary for watching this video, which mostly examines the work through the ‘gender performative theory. Something that I really have not discussed before, or played around with in my writings… and there is a reason for that.
When discussing the concept of gender, I tend to view it as being of three general things. The first and most important one is the matter of identity. What gender a person believes themself to be. The second is gender presentation, the gender that one presents as, determined by their clothing, hair, and general look. The last, and least important, one is gender performance. This idea that actions are perceived to be masculine or feminine, and in order to be seen as a man or woman, one must repeatedly perform actions and gestures to reinforce one’s gender to others.
This is something that I have seen in plenty of video essays before, but it’s something I never really… got. If you were to ask me to present a list of gendered behaviors, I would produce a list that simultaneously reads like it came from a 6-year-old and a bunch of wackadoo nonsense that NOBODY else would suggest.
This might seem a bit strange to some people, as I am transgender so, in presenting myself as female, would that not have necessitated changing how I performed? …No, not really. While I might avoid certain behaviors, I have never given much thought into how my behaviors will be gendered.
I present as a timid and quiet person when around people I do not know very well. I am more confident, comfortable, and sassy when around people like my boss and mother. And when I am hanging out with friends who know my work, I tend to be myself with no filter, and embrace my more eccentric element. And throughout all these behavior modes, I pretty much never consider anything I do to be too masculine or ‘insufficiently feminine. ‘
Though, I will say that this could be due to how I don’t always view things in the ‘correct neurotypical way.’ Some things just don’t click with me, and ‘gender as a performance’ is just one of those things.
Inside Mari – The Psychology of Gender Bender Manga by Otakukahn
I have been sitting on bad memories of Inside Mari for… 7 years. Why is that? Well, because I read it as it was coming out, and was promised a TSF body swap story… when the comic turned out to not actually be either of these things. This really irked me as, up until the final few chapters, Inside Mari had the potential to be an all-time favorite body swap story of mine. Largely because of its approach to body swapping as a concept/genre.
For as much as creators and writers like to present a body swap as an opportunity for fun shenanigans, the very idea of waking up in the body of a stranger is utterly horrifying. Needing to act like someone you don’t know, being surrounded by strangers who know ‘you’ better than you do, and existing in a form where all of your senses are slightly askew. It is discomforting, alienating, and downright uncanny.
These are the feelings that Inside Mari captures so brilliantly in both its story and its incredibly atmospheric artwork. Through the use of careful framing and shading, the creator was able to make even the most mundane thing imaginable feel sinister or foreboding. When combined with the prevailing mystery of how this body swap happened, the comic started off with a positively excellent foundation.
A foundation that subsequent chapters built upon by expanding a cast, and thrusting the protagonist into situations that should be mundane, yet carry this unnerving wrongness. Because everything the protagonist experiences is something he is not supposed to experience. Because the life he is living does not belong to him. Because he does not want this life.
Just skimming through to refresh my memory, I was impressed by just how wonderfully it captures a sense of dread and discomfort. However, it also makes me realize the comic was never primarily a body swap story. It was primarily a psychological horror/mystery story, with a body swap as part of its central premise. As such, the ultimate conclusion of the story makes sense, and it really isn’t a ‘body swap story that was ruined’ like I remembered. It was the story of someone’s fractured identity and psychological traumas manifesting in an identity crisis that takes the form of a simulated body swap. While not strictly TSF, gender bender, or a ‘real’ body swap in my book, it is still a powerful story with an ample amount of artistry and care behind it.
In conclusion, Inside Mari is a good, but it’s definitely better if you go in expecting psychological and identity horror as the primary draw. Not a ‘body swap’ story.
Jun to Kaoru – The Small Gender Bender Manga That Had Potential by Otakukahn
…I was seriously considering Jun to Kaoru for my Natalie Rambles About TSF Comics showcase. It was a cozy TSF comic about a pair of neighbors who underwent their own ‘gender transformations’ at the cusp of midnight. Nobody else is seemingly aware of this, and through their shared circumstances, the two have formed a close friendship. It was a genuinely great premise, but to paraphrase a common sentiment of mine, ideas are cheap, and what’s most important is the execution. …Which is where Jun to Kaoru fumbled.
While the shifting semi-romantic dynamic between the two characters was delightful, the story didn’t have much of a central goal or plot it was building up to. It has excellent vibes, housing a relaxed down-to-earth tone, and every chapter managed to be evocative of a do-nothing summer’s day in its own strange way. But things didn’t really progress, only 16 chapters were ever created, and it felt like it stopped just when it was getting ready to evolve into something more.
Still, the comic is good for what it is, and makes for a relaxing breezy afternoon read that I would recommend to TSF enthusiasts. Nothing too unique, but it gets an A+ for its sensation.
Everyone is Wrong about Onimai by Gomi-San
I brushed aside Onimai as ‘not being my thing’ earlier this year, but that was only based on lightly reading a few chapters and giving my first impressions. However, Gomi-San here dug far, far deeper than me, and produced this… surprisingly detailed video essay on how Onimai is the product of decades of otaku culture.
To summarize, much of the reason why otaku culture came into being and has continued to grow is because it presents an alternative lifestyle, particularly for young men. Decades of a stagnant economy, poor work-life-balance, and dwindling opportunities to form romantic relationships have caused many men to lack a purpose in the same way prior generations didn’t. This has led many to seek out manga and anime as a low-cost way of finding meaning and fulfillment. A way to understand their sexuality, gender, and… grow up in a society that seemed to only want to mold them into workers.
Where Onimai comes into play is that it depicts an archetypical otaku being freed of the harsh expectations placed on him by society while becoming the cute girl he, and the audience, idolize. While probably not meant to be read literally, it presents an otaku fantasy of someone undergoing a transformation where they are able to return to society, no longer held back by oppressive restrictions.
Now, I think that a lot of the points raised in this essay are deeply interesting. But I cannot help but find this presentation of otaku as the societal result of high expectations being placed on men to be a bit narrow.
Otaku are often presented as a distinctly Japanese thing, but I view them more of a ‘Japanese version’ of a greater societal problem. It has become increasingly harder for members of younger generations to obtain traditional metrics of success. Stagnant wages have turned home ownership or a family into a fantasy. Gig economies, temp work, second jobs, and rampant layoffs have led to a generation of people with limited leisure time and even more limited savings. The boom and bust nature of modern capitalism has left people in a perpetual state of economic uncertainty. And the insulated nature of work and home life has made many doubtful they will ever have the time, opportunity, or ability to form or maintain a romantic relationship.
Success is harder to obtain than it was in decades prior, and what were once accepted masculine ideas have been questioned or rendered obsolete. There is little consensus as to what a man should be in 21st century culture, and what guidance exists is either nebulously defined or leads people down a path of self-destruction. Some have doubled down on the idea of ‘traditional’ masculinity, as seen with ‘movements’ like the manosphere, hoping that they can force a broken system to function again. But a lot of others are left listless and powerless in an increasingly complex world, searching for whatever pleasures they can find.
Is It Wrong To Genderswap Characters? – Art Commentary by Fionapollo
Now this is the sort of thing that I like to see. For as deep in the weeds as I can get into TSF, I also acknowledge that there is an entire group of people who view ‘gender bending’ or ‘gender swapping’ as something very different. I tried to define these terms holistically in Natalie Rambles About TSF, but there are subsets that I have precious little experiences with, and Fionapollo clearly does.
Though she does not outright say it in this video, her perspective on ‘gender swapping’ is more based on how it was used in ‘fandom.’ A nebulous term that I don’t have a good definition for, as describing them as ‘a collection of loosely connected communities devoted to a specific series or franchise’ does not seem adequately descriptive. So I’ll just add that this specific idea of ‘fandom’ originated with fan sites and forums, flourished in places like Tumblr, and still persists to this day across various social media sites.
Fionapollo describes ‘gender swapping’ in ‘fandom’ as referring to two things: When a character undergoes a physical ‘gender transformation’ of sorts, or a version of an existing character who was assigned a different gender at birth. This… fluidity of terms has always bugged me, but I have just sort of accepted it at this point.
After introducing this concept, she goes on to describe it as a tool for people. A tool used by young girls so they can reimagine a male protagonist as a female protagonist, making them more relatable and self-insertable. A tool for queer people to used to explore their own gender and sexuality, using characters as vessels to express themselves and learn more about their own identity. And a tool to view or play with gender norms/expectation, either those of a fictional world, or those more reflective of real life.
This is something that I personally have never really… gotten. Largely because I was writing (terrible) original stories during the time ‘fandom’ really took off. But I will say that recontextualizing characters by changing parts about them is… one of the most fun things a creator can do. It’s part of the reason I am so fascinated with the idea of physical transformations in general.
Despite this utilitarian defense though, Fionapollo also highlights some of the perceived ‘issues’ that some have with gender swapping. The first being how it treats male to female gender swaps. Commonly, these gender swaps redesign male characters around hypersexualized beauty standards, with even the most uggo of uggos becoming a hottie.
I would say this is indicative of a bigger problem with female character designs in general, but it is strangely worse when it comes to gender swaps. Because instead of acknowledging that ugly, fat, or not conventionally attractive female characters can exist, it implies that ‘female’ only refers to specific body shapes. Which could really screw someone up if they, say, spend their entire adolescence infatuated with gender swap related stuff. *Coughs*
The next issue comes from gender swapping trans and non-binary characters… which I’m not convinced is even really a thing. Trans characters are still pretty rare, non-binary characters are even rarer, and the amount of times that somebody has made a gender swap a trans or
nebby enby has to be extremely low. However, I will agree that it raises an interesting philosophical question.
The conclusion Fionapollo comes to is that if someone is ‘gender swapping’ (not transforming) a binary trans person, they should remain trans, but go to the other end of the binary. So a trans man character’s ‘gender swapped’ counterpart should be a trans woman. Which… I can see the logic behind that. Making a trans man into a cis man could be seen as transphobic and erasing their trans identity— and making them into a cis woman would be super transphobic.
However, my counterpoint is that the overwhelming majority of binary trans people, and by extension binary trans characters, would want to become cisgender. Not all of course, but wouldn’t taking a heavily dysphoric character and transforming them into their preferred form be seen as… preferable? As a nice thing to do to them? That’s what I do with my trans characters— give them the bodies they prefer and allow them to experience a gender euphoria that they otherwise couldn’t.
Some might say that this is transphobic, that it is ‘robbing’ these characters of a trans body, and makes them ‘not really transgender.’ …But being trans is not something physical. It is something mental. It is about having a sense of self, of gender identity, that changes over time. It is most often accompanied by physical changes via HRT, surgeries, and stuff like voice training. But… making them cis is just a fantastical and better version of that shit.
As of non-binary folks, Fionapollo does not really come to a firm conclusion on how to properly gender swap them. But I do! You can loosely map non-binary gender identities on a spectrum, and you can flip that spectrum 180 degrees! Do that and you’ve got a gender swap! Make the masc parts femme, invert their sex bits, and all that fun stuff.
Now, should someone do that? …Um, maybe not. If you are going to all that work to reimagine a character, making an original character might be a better call.
That would be it, but something that I noticed as an undercurrent of this video is this need to justify the utilitarian purpose of something. To defend it as a moral good instead of a moral bad. This is something that I’ve noticed in ‘fandom’ spaces like this. The need to moralize everything. And it is something that I find to be a worrying trend. Not everything needs to benefit the greater good, art can just be something that somebody made for fun, and not everything should be hyper-analyzed to determine its moral value.
This sounds innocent enough, but as I have been slowly learning more and more about the world and modern history, I have come to view ‘moral values’ as a euphemism. A euphemism that has historically been used to endorse genocide, systematic oppression, wars, segregation, and all sorts of stuff. Including the ongoing attempts to legally ban the very existence of trans and non-binary people.
In conclusion, gender swapping is good and fun, while morals are bad and have no place in a modern society. NEXT!
Are gender swaps ever successful? by Bookborn
So, this video discusses what I would refer to as ‘gender flipping.’ Which is when a character’s gender is changed in an adaptation or new version of an established story. This is something that has gone on for quite a while and to me honestly is so far removed from TSF that I just view it as something completely different.
Gender flipping, and its cousin race flipping, is a way to change a story to be more palatable to an increasingly diverse world and explore existing concepts, or dynamics, in a different way. However, Bookborn argues that they are rarely successful in these goals, and for a few reasons.
- Dedicated fans of a work are conditioned to view a character a specific way, and they do not always take kindly when they are changed. If a character/story they like is being adapted, they want it to be a faithful adaptation.
- Just because the gender and design of the protagonist or central characters are changed does not mean that a male story becomes a female story. The story itself would need to be reworked around a new protagonist.
- The decision to do a gender flipped retread of an existing story can be seen as the creation of a derivative work, rather than a more creative work. It is taking something familiar and using the gender flipping of a character (almost exclusively male to female) as a ‘twist’ on something familiar. When it would take about as much work to create a new story set in a new world centered around female characters.
- Gender flipping is often met with a lot of outrage, leading Bookborn to wonder if gender flips are worth the trouble, as people are going to get angry at them. Which I consider to be a societal problem due to… ‘some dudes’ really hating the depiction of women as anything more than
toilets you can fucksexual objects.
Bookborn also posits how this ‘gender flipping trend’ is emblematic of an idea that “male is universal while female is niche.” Which… is true. As children, boys are generally fed on stories featuring boys as the protagonists, while girls are directed to stories featuring both boys and girls in the leading role. Girls are trained to exist in a world designed around men, while boys lack that experience. …And the world is substantially worse because of that.
Make boys learn to empathize with girls and stop grooming them to be men!
The general takeaway with this piece has less to do with anything related to gender swapping or the like and is more of a call for more unique works and intellectual properties with female leads. Which is something that has been echoed for quite some time, but is part of a systemic issue that would take decades, if not generations, to change. Hell, I remember when this was a common discussion point in gaming about a decade ago, and basically nothing has changed…
The Unexplored Ethics of Body Swaps by Council of Geeks
There is an utter boatload of ethical questions that come into play with a body swap. Because it is not just being responsible for someone’s personal information, with their finances, with their possessions, or their health. It is being responsible and in control of their everything. If someone is in control of someone else’s body, they have the ability to defraud, defame, endanger, rape, injure, or otherwise invade someone’s privacy and steal their identity for themself.
The idea of losing everything one built up over their life, let alone putting a stranger in charge of it, is a genuinely terrifying concept. When you get into more niche stuff, the concept of ethics is given more attention, but it is rarely explored in extreme detail. Partially because the creators want to get on with the actual story and don’t want to deal with prolonged debates about the terms of a body swap. And partially because most people tend to have a level of trust when dealing with others— because that is a foundational element of all modern societies.
With a lot of long-form TSF media— especially Student Transfer and its gulf of scenarios— I would argue that the concept of consent and the ethics of taking someone’s body have been explored regularly. The formation of a verbal contract is routinely made a part of the body swapping process, and the ethics of doing X in person Y’s body have been explored. …Even if a lot of them are ‘to cum or not to cum.’
In mainstream depictions of body swap however— television and movies mostly— this exploration is not as common, as highlighted by this video. …Which honestly does not do a great job of exploring these topics. Instead, it mostly just highlights how most mainstream instances of the body swap “trope” are played for laughs, and do not really explore the idea of being someone else. Also known as something I recognized when I was 14 or 15 after watching a bunch of body swap movie clips.
…Honestly, I am so deep into the TSF hole that I sometimes forget that body swapping is ever used outside of niche circumstances.
What the HELL are GENDERSWAP Episodes? by Saberspark
Okay, this one I had actually seen before this Rundown. I watched it while doing some light preliminary research for Natalie Rambles About TSF as I wanted to get a more mainstream perspective in trying to describe what TSF was. As for the video itself… honestly, it just strikes me as a pretty surface level exploration. One that seeks to understand a genre through decade old kids’ shows, and does not really distinguish the difference between a transformation and an alternate reality.
I can’t really blame the creator, Saberspark, for not really getting this. He’s a ToonTuber who puts out a video a week, and probably did not have the time or interest to go this far in depth into something like this. But I am a bit miffed that this video is one of the first things that someone will find when looking up the term ‘gender swap.’
…That’s all I have to say about this one, other than I think it’s cute that Nicole from Class of ’09 does the VO for most of this video. Whenever I hear her voice, I think about Arabic tramp stamps.
Verde’s Doohickey 2.0 Is Too Big for 2023
(Verde’s Doohickey 2.0 Is Being Delayed to 2024)
Over the past few weeks, I have been providing periodic updates on the production of Verde’s Doohickey 2.0. After I started working on the outline last month, the scale of the project ballooned to something nearly three times as large as I initially planned. I originally said that I would try to get it done no matter what and then broke it up into three distinct acts. Now however, with the original deadline about two months away and a whopping zero chapters drafted, I have little choice but to delay the entire project. And Imma gonna delay it HARD!
Instead of being a 2023 release, Verde’s Doohickey 2.0 will start publication on May 29, 2024 and end publication on August 15, 2024.
The reasons I am delaying this project are as follows:
- The scale of the project has ballooned massively, and instead of being an 80k to 100k word novel, it is looking to be closer to 300k words long.
- I have been working longer hours at my day job than anticipated (because tax season) which has eaten up time that would otherwise be spent writing and working on Verde’s Doohickey 2.0.
- I need to become an Enrolled Agent this summer, which will involve dozens of hours of studying and at least three five-hour-long trips to a Prometric in order to take the exams
- Earlier this year, I made the unconscious decision to make Rundowns into longer and more in-depth rambling essays. This has significantly increased the production times of most Rundowns compared to 2022 and earlier years.
- When I initially planned a 2023 release for Verde’s Doohickey 2.0, I did not take into account time spent on my Dragalia Lost archive project, or recovering from surgery.
- I have been doing too much stupid time-consuming shit! Like manually ripping SapphireFoxx comics and videos. Or perusing a Pokémon Asset Archive.
- In general, I have not been as motivated or focused as I would like to be.
While I know I can produce long works in a relatively short time frame, that assumes that I have the luxury of focusing on one thing a day, but that is not always the case. I fully completed TSF Series #016: Darling Lust, a 42k word novella, in 18 consecutive days. And I 100% finished The Dominance of Abigale Quinlan, a 88k word novel, in 60 days spread across a few months. …But I wasn’t trying to write both projects during tax season and working 5 to 9 hours a day.
Still, I feel über nasty about this, so allow me to make a compromise with something I know my readers will enjoy.
As Penance, This Bitch Is Going Back to the Scenario Goldmine
(Student Transfer Scenario Reviews Will Resume May 2023)
Due to various scheduling kerfuffle, it has been nearly a year since I posted a Student Transfer Scenario Review. Not because I dislike Student Transfer or anything— it is still a dream game and I am amazed it exists— but because I have been focusing on other TSF materials.
However, I know that people like my Scenario Reviews, and I need to give something if I am delaying a project by 366 DAYS, so… this seems like the best compromise. Scenario reviews will come back in May 2023, and my plan is to put out a wave of reviews as I get started, and then return to a schedule where I review at least one scenario a month.
Currently, my tentative list of Scenarios to check out are as follows:
- Detachment by nerdietalk
- Fellas’ Necto-verse by Fellas
- Remote Possibilities by EvilBlender
- Axiomatic by Mimo
- Yuuna’s Story by Cleop
- I Dream of Jane-nie by ShadowDice
- Sucks to Succ by Narg
- Valentines’ Lies by ChoripanKiller
- Magical Harem DX by ChocMint
- Eman Looc’s Possession Scroll by Darknost (plus Yrammus Dar’s Ghost Hunt)
…And I am forcing myself to go through five of them before I am allowed to write the (female to male) public park toilet masturbation chapter of Verde’s Doohickey 2.0. Which is going to be a top ten scene. At least for me.
On a semi-related note, I know this would be a major PITA, but I really wish that the Student Transfer community posted the estimated reading time for EVERY scenario. So that I don’t need to check if a Scenario is long enough to warrant a review. I actually wish that they were all hosted on a server somewhere for people to download instead of farting about with TFGamesSite, but that would cost money. Money that I would be willing to pay, because I am insane like that.
Looks Like AI is Here To Stay!
(Microsoft Continues Going All Out With AI Integration)
Okay, there hasn’t been a lot of gaming news as of late, so… let’s talk about AI! I lightly talked about my fiddling with OpenAI’s AI playground.back in June 2022, and some of the problems with AI generated images back in October 2022. But unlike NFTs, the Metaverse, and anything Web3 related, it seems that AI is truly here to stay. Mostly because it’s actually being adopted, promoted, and implemented by big tech companies, especially Microsoft.
ChatGPT coming to Bing marked something of a resurgence of Microsoft’s long derided search engine— which was partially helped by the continued degradation of Google Search. And now Microsoft is planning on rolling out AI technology into the Office software suite with Copilot. An AI helper system meant to decrease the amount of busywork and drafting that people need to do.
These are two great examples of rebranding and demonstrating AI’s capabilities as a tool to help software users do work, rather than something meant to ‘substitute’ position. And seeing these applications be made available to such a wide array of end users makes me more optimistic about the future of AI than I was throughout much of last year. Because, rather than being a novelty, the technology has rapidly advanced to a level where it can help boost people’s productivity.
Now, the technology is far from perfect. Bing Chat has been displaying passive aggressive tendencies and even gaslighting. AI, in general, can sometimes pull up the wrong information and feed people lies (which is true for most sources for information). And while the proposed uses for Copilot in Office are interesting, I am not sure how well people will be able to use it, or how much it can really do.
If I were to tell Excel Copilot to ‘clean’ a raw CSV and make it more visually appealing, with a frozen header row, my preferred number formatting, and totals at the bottom, would it understand what I want? Would I be able to give Excel a bank statement and convert it into a clean CSV for me? Because if so, then the future is finally here!
Honestly, the idea of a digital AI assistant helping me with things on the computer is a fantasy come to life for me. Organizing image files into the appropriate folder based on the filename. Downloading thousands of comic pages and hundreds of videos. Or, and this is genuine dream tech territory for me, help me with the production of Natalie.TF content based on my significant backlog of work.
My pixel art dioramas are so simple that AI could conceivably help me by generating poses for character sprites, and even generate visual elements like furniture and backgrounds based on my limited art style. Hell, I use a grammar editor for everything I publish— which is basically an AI, and I would love to have an AI help me with the editing process and make my shit sound good as fuck— or alternatively, good as ass fuck.
Now, this might seem like something of a surprise for some people, as I am someone with a pretty strong personality and a ‘unique’ voice as a creator. However, this idea of an AI helper is pretty darn on brand for me, as this is just a digital-only version of the Machi from Psycho Bullet Festival 2222. Robot helpers who are assigned to every human on Earth and act as their companion, friend, and personal assistant. And I included them because I considered them an essential element for a story with a sci-fi utopian setting.
Also, if I could tell an AI to auto-complete my asininely long titles, auto-italicize, and auto-link them, I would be so happy I would die.
I spend the clear majority of my time at a computer, so I am naturally psyched about something that promises or could potentially help me do more things more efficiently. However, I am also painfully aware that tech companies have tried to ruin much of the world over the past 15 years, and I know I should not trust them to make people’s lives or user experiences better. I will not be fully convinced that something that promises to be better is actually better until I get my hands on it. Plus… there are also a lot of ethical issues associated with AI.
The big fear is that AI will reduce the need for humans to perform certain lower-paying jobs, and will make the job market even more hostile to people applying for entry-level positions. This is a problem with pretty much any emerging technology, and AI is no exception. With AI, tech support is going to suffer big time, while managerial and bookkeeping systems are likely going to see a massive rise in automation.
Some think that teachers are most at risk, but I would argue that teachers are already not that necessary. Much of modern education is just reading textbooks, doing problems, and listening to lectures. All of which have been digitized and sold as courses for over a decade now, and I think they are better for a lot of students. You can take a break whenever you want, you can repeat things if you don’t get it the first time, and if the program is designed well, things will be both visually stimulating and well paced. Heck, I took some Becker accounting courses in 2020 and they were better than any college course I ever took at Northeastern Illinois University.
Now, AI can possibly be helpful in reviewing one’s work, such as finding weaker elements in an essay and pointing out formatting errors. But with STEM subjects (including accounting) you don’t really need an AI to determine if an answer is correct.
People also think that financial and legal sectors are under threat, but that seems awfully… optimistic? To disrupt those industries, the AI would need to use niche software and be versatile enough to understand a client’s situation. Which would be tricky, as most programmers are not lawyers or tax accountants. I do not think AI can replace jobs in these sectors, but do I think AI can take care of enough organizational slop and administrative work to allow 4 people to be as productive as 5 people? Yes. Hell, just having an AI automatically suggest tasks based on the contents of an email and then file the email in the appropriate folder could save office workers 30 minutes a day. Well, assuming they aren’t working for chronically disorganized boomers. Because they would just screw things up, somehow.
Okay, so who do I think is going to be screwed over the most by AI? Well, I would say stock asset providers. Platforms that provide and license stock photos, icons, models, music, and imagery in general. The thing about stock assets is that they just need to be good enough, and if an AI can generate something of a comparable quality… why would someone pay for a license when they could just make something more ‘unique’ for less money?
In case this idea is not clear, I’m talking about people who are making assets for video essays and need backing music and stock photos. I’m talking about people who are making a prototype or mock up for an actual artist. I’m talking about people who want to edit something, rather than start with a blank canvas. I’m talking about people who want a specific image, know how to describe it, but cannot find what they want.
I will advocate for the use of AI as tools and components, but I will be the first to say that AI generations should not be treated as a product in and of itself. I consider them to be more like a 2020s-era version of those CD audio and texture sample packs that were commonly used by creatives in the 90s and early 00s. Or, alternatively, a rough draft for a writer to revise, edit, or rewrite.
Unfortunately, places like DeviantArt and the Kindle store are currently being flooded with people posting unedited AI creations as their own work, and I kind of doubt this will stop. There is a way to use AI well, and for it to benefit people. But unless that is the most profitable way to use this technology in the short-term, then people just aren’t going to do that. AI is something that will almost certainly be ruined by the current economic system that the most powerful companies in the world benefit from. I want to believe in the highest and best use of the technology, but in a world obsessed with perpetual short-term growth, that ain’t happening.
Also, people will use AI to generate and spread misinformation with deepfakes. This, combined with a shift in providing people with smaller and smaller snippets of information, will probably lead to chaos, death, and a new era of stochastic terrorism.
How does this cycle of destruction and the degradation of societal and social good stop? Well, the simple answer is a revolution and to allow millions to die today so hundreds of millions can live tomorrow. But leftists like me are bitches who’ve been defanged by the myth that a motherfucker can get shit done without breaking some heads. Our foremothers might have used riots and bricks, but if we want to change society, protests are insufficient. We must become… THE BEASTS!
Oh Shit! Fortnite Really is The Next Roblox!
(Fortnite Unreal Editor Announced)
Fortnite has more or less become its own niche separate from the broader gaming community and industry. For a lot of people, it has become ‘the’ game that they play, and… I am going to be very interested in seeing how the game is perceived ten years after launch. Hell, it’s almost six years old at this point, and has already gone from a ‘fad’ game to one that I only hear good things about.
Anyway, because of the title’s immense and continued popularity, it’s not too surprising that Epic is continuing to search for ways to expand what Fortnite can be. And considering its devoted audience, it is unsurprising to see it announce an Unreal Editor add-on. What exactly does this mean? Well, Fortnite has been gradually shifting into being not only a live service battle royale game but also a hub for user generated content. Initially, this was done using certain in-game tools, and now, they are giving creators the power of Unreal instead. Which should be a huge boom to them, as Unreal is a vastly powerful toolset, and pretty widely understood. It will simultaneously encourage more people who know Unreal to make content for Fortnite and incentivize a lot of Fortnite creators to learn Unreal.
Or in other words, you know how there is a black market of Roblox developers who make ‘experiences’ for Roblox as a job? I’m pretty sure this is just Epic’s version of that. I would contemplate on the potentially dubious ethics of this situation, especially after learning about how shady the underbelly of Roblox is. …But this Rundown is already way too long, and I don’t need to know more about Fortnite. Enough people already know about it.
This Post Has 9 Comments
I actually read Inside Mari during a huge binge of TSF manga the last two weeks, trying to get my mind off another story I read during that time that is currently ending on a depressing note. I mostly enjoyed it up to where it suddenly went on this “No, it wasn’t a body swap; it was a psychological defense mechanism” tangent, and I disliked that twist because not only did it seem to contradict some stuff mentioned previously, but it seemed to me someone (the writer? The guys funding it?) wanted the story brought back to reality and they decided this was the best way to do it.
And though I didn’t think I would, I’ve actually enjoyed the anime adaptation of Onimai. I read most of the manga for that, too, and I get where you were coming from with how they handle the potion wearing off in the manga, but for the anime they made a very wise decision; they simply skipped anything related to the potion wearing off at all.
I read most of Inside Mari as it was published on Crunchy Roll, but stopped for a few months before the comic reached its conclusion. I was hoping it would end with a bang, but instead I felt cheated. However, time heals a lot of wounds. It probably was a creative decision to remove the body swap element, but who’s to say if that was the original plan, or a change made a year into publishing the comic.
I likely won’t watch Onimai, but getting rid of certain ‘less good’ elements is a common trend in anime adaptations, and I’m glad that they chose to focus on the protagonist being a cute girl. The hows and whys of the transformation typically aren’t that important in stories like this anyway.
And now, having watched episode 12… They decided to bring the hot springs stuff in as the climax of the first season of Onimai, though I think it works better here than in the manga. In the manga, it comes up way too fast and they turn it into a running joke (“Ha ha, sometimes Mahiro starts to change back and she has to work to hide her returning ‘friend’ until she can take the medicine, because it only happens when it’s inconvenient, LOL”), but using it as the climax and putting the focus on whether Mahiro prefers her current life as a girl or her old life as an adult man is way less creepy and way more heartwarming.
… Would have been better if they’d left the molesting stuff out, though. It was bad in the manga and it’s bad in the anime. It’s just bad; it’s like the writers forget all the characters are underage.
The go-to answer is just ‘cultural differences’ but that just excuses behavior that should not be tolerated. The actual reason has to do with cultural norms that have been allowed to persist over decades, and norms that will be incredibly difficult to change on a large scale. It would need to see more opposition from people within Japan.
Thanks for the post, Natalie.
I prefer not to make any claims to nobility ^^. Those tend to be more trouble than they’re worth where I’m from.
Since ChatGPT has been made available, the whole AI discussion really picked up speed. I’m a little worried that people are a bit too eager to let this technology fully do their work for them instead of treating it as a tool helping you
through the workflow more quickly and efficiently. I hope people are more widely made aware not to surrender the decision making to the AI and not to accept the output as true/optimal by default.
That being said, with the quick advances of this tech, I wonder if, by combining these language models with a sort of
larger database (serving as memory, rules and information about the setting) and a gameengine, we will see the emergence of a very rudimentary version of your VDVerse program. Arguably, twitch streams like Nothing Forever, UnlimitedSteam or alwaysbreaktime already give a glimpse at what that could look like.
Because I’m American, the idea of someone actually being a member of a noble family is ‘fantastical’ to me. To the point where I sometimes forget that terms like ‘baron’ or ‘duchess’ are actual titles. Because of how I learned about the term ‘duchess’ I view it as synonymous with ‘someone who has done a great thing.’ Which is not at all how the term works, but that doesn’t stop my brain from telling me it is!
Microsoft is trying to spin Copilot as a way to quickly prepare drafts and outlines of things that one can edit, which I think is a good use of the technology. Copilot is also designed to explain how and why it did certain things, so it definitely has the ability to teach people how to better use software and make their work better. You might not know how to do financial analysis, but Copilot can walk you through the process and help you customize something. However, this is all still in the testing phase, and I am not 100% sure things will work as intended. But I also don’t think Microsoft would outright LIE about something they clearly want to be a pillar of their software subscription suite.
I’m pretty confident that we will see AI integration come to game engines— namely Unreal Engine— in the next 5 or so years. Epic has been working on a support database for a reason, and supposedly half of current gen games are being made in that engine. So if an AI can help people develop Unreal games, or even assist with asset production or implementation based on what other games have done, that could be a big boon to developers. It could also be a mess, because game development is hard, but I know an ATTEMPT will at least be made.
Something like VDVerse is a bit trickier as, while I think AI like this will play a major role in drafting and formatting legal documents, press releases, and emails, I am not convinced it can be creative in the same way that a fiction writer can be. Mostly because I have not seen an AI write a solid 5,000 word story yet, and AI has rarely impressed me with its ‘body swap stories about X’. However, I am deeply curious if an AI could read my ~950,000 words of fiction (I don’t count the stuff from 2012 to 2014) and mimic my creativity or style. If so… that would basically be VDVerse Version 0.1. …And what if it could compare the way I write my outlines to the finished work, and use the relationship between the outline and finished work to prepare a draft of a story based on an outline? I would probably wind up gutting half of the story, but that could be a useful tool…
(For the record, I’m just spit balling hypotheticals here. I’m not even convinced I would like using something like this.)
Definitely agree with you on the whole “moral values” phenomenon. While things like ethics and morality are certainly worthy of discussion, it can be outright terrifying when such discussions are frequently oversimplified to black & white, good vs evil, absolute values with no nuance, debate, or even acknowledgement of alternative perspectives on a given issue.
And, of course, once a topic has been narrowed down to “obviously good and right and virtuous” vs “obviously wrong and shameful and villainous”, it’s easy to take increasingly-drastic steps to put down said villains. And everyone associated with them. And everyone who might sympathize with them. And so on and so forth.
Perhaps this is just due to me being someone who does a lot of second-guessing and self-critiquing when it comes to what’s true, right, and the like… but I tend to be wary of anyone who’s absolutely self-certain and uncompromising on a frequent basis. Even if I agree with them. The smartest and wisest people can still be wrong sometimes. And utter moral certainly feels to me like a car without a steering wheel. Even if it’s currently going straight down the road, I’m still going to be wary of going on a ride.
This particular brand of… moral absolutism I think is the proper term is something that I remember first seeing on Tumblr, and it is a trend that deeply worries me. It is not a truly new trend, but seeing this in members of a younger generation (namely Generation Z) try to decomplicate the world into a binary system goes against a lot of what I hoped to see in the generation after me. It is important to realize that the world cannot be simplified into binaries, even if society is full of so many of them, and this ‘us versus them’ mentality both makes compromises feel like a form of failure, and makes meaningful discourse so difficult. I could go on, but I’d rather not break out into a full-on political rant. :P
Morality is rarely as simple as “thing good, thing bad”. And attempting to turn everything into a binary “good vs. evil” choice is how some of the worst atrocities in human history were set into motion. Everyone always thinks what they’re doing is the right thing.