Forget the Cause! Support Your Local Artist, Entertainer, or Stripper Instead!

I’m writing this article from a really strange and bitter place.  I grew up in a household where not only giving money to charities was normal, but also our time and effort.  My mother was a chair of the Atlanta Women’s Resource Center, and our house was a safehouse for abused women and children.  Once I was able to drive, I donated my time to campaigns on various levels.  To this day, since I don’t have the time volunteer, I donate to various causes when I can, as well as strangers and friends in need when I encounter them.  However, in my older age, I have experienced encounters that discourage giving.My company was a sponsor for an anime club at a local library, for which I had to run and pay for my own background check.  I bought food, refreshments, and planned outings for the future.  None of it happened.  In the end, I think the librarians that oversaw the group were weirded out that I wanted to help.  When I tried to find other groups in libraries to sponsor, I received what I perceived resistance.

Who’s that Cosplayer: Can you spot Free Safari?

Rango the Merc wrote an article about video game heroes that fought oppression.  He felt it was a way that he could show support for Black Lives Matter.  He also charged me with finding charitable groups to partner with in order to raise money for them.  I immediately set to this, contacting organisations such as the Know Your Rights Camp, HFC, and Minnesota Freedom Fund.  Most did not respond.  One of them did and basically told me that their cause started out small, but was now too large to partner with me.  They they gave me smaller causes that my money might be able to help.  Fuck them.

Free Safari and some other #BLM Protestors

Well, at least that’s what I felt in my heart.  Since when did it become so hard to help?  Since when was my money, or my company’s money not good enough.  I’m not wealthy, and it’s not like I was going to donate thousands, but I was considering in the triple digits at least.  It’s a lot for me and my company, but that shouldn’t even be a factor, should it?  Shouldn’t the correct response for all of them been something to the effect of, “Hey, thanks!  We appreciate it!  We are very busy right now with the protests and COVID-19, but we would heartily accept whatever efforts and donation you have to give.”

Well, I’ll keep this article short and sweet.  There’s a lot of talented folks out there hurting because of The Quarantine; artists, entertainers, business owners…strippers..?  Yes, that last one might be funny, but hey, everyone has to eat, and that’s about as intimate a job as I can think of that is probably being killed by COVID-19.  So, the next time you think about donating to a Black Lives Matter cause, think about how much of that donation will actually go to helping, once all the salaries, meals for volunteers, cuts from funding companies, and whatever various miscellaneous fees that middle men and bureaucrats can think of get paid for.  Keep your support local.

Whitney Tai and Band

Go to the local comic shoppe or pub.  Purchase something from an Etsy.  Become a patron to your local artist.  Send a PayPal to your favourite musician.  Of course, you can go down to your local strip club that reopened, and place some dollar bills on the ground for your favourite dancer. (Remember social distancing..!)

I think that the one good thing about The Quarantine is that we are all beginning to appreciate the potential for closeness we all took for granted.  A lot of us are hurting financially as well as socially.  Supporting your local artist, entertainer, or business help solve both of those problems.

Down below are some of my favourite folks to support.  As for us, yeah, we still sell stuff, and we appreciate your business as well, but you can also help by Liking, Following, and Sharing everything and anything associated with All Cool Things™.  Not only does it help us, but it helps the people whoms’ content we share.

 

Whitney Tai:  a very talented singer, entertainer, and performer

 

Alphawolf:  model both conventional and fetish, as well as dominatrix of all kinds

 

Gingersnap Pixie: model, cosplayer, graphic designer, illustrator, writer

Fighting Game Online Renaissance: How COVID-19 Has Affected the Fighting Game Community.

With COVID-19 forcing the closure of fighting game tournaments, many players have turned to online play. As we’ve covered previously, Smash Bros. players have begun participating in online tournaments as an alternative. However, these were met with less-than-stellar results largely stemming from Smash Ultimate’s poor netcode.

For other fighting games, many of them are played on PC, PS4, and Xbox One. The latter two feature monthly subscriptions that cost more than Nintendo’s yearly $20 online service. However, they’re also far more functional choices for online play given the wider array of resources, such as messaging, profiles, matchmaking options, and more. However, much as with the Smash community, fighting game players also feel disillusioned due to many of their games suffering from similar netcode issues.

Fighting games, particularly those developed in Japan, use a delay-based netcode. This causes input delay which may force players to rely on anticipation over reaction when playing against opponents, largely depending on the connection. Even with an ethernet cable, this only tends to mitigate some of the worst connection experience.

In the end, while fighting games online are plenty playable, some have worse netcode than others. As such, it becomes difficult to pick which ones to play online, even among the most popular titles. This goes especially true during a time when we can’t play online with friends or at tournaments. Yet players will persist in their love-hate relationship to play an enjoyable game despite its major drawbacks.

Which games have the worst netcode?

For starters, the most popular known fighting game, Street Fighter V, is unfortunately the most infamous case of poor netcode. Capcom’s flagship fighting game series has seen significant criticism regarding its netcode since the game’s release in 2016. When Capcom released Street Fighter V: Champion Edition earlier this year, a fan took it upon themselves to patch the netcode. Capcom later updated the game removing the patch, once again causing netcode issues and also locking out players who downloaded the patch.

From personal experience, I dove into an SNK kick after the release of Terry in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate late last year. In doing so, I decided to buy The King of Fighters XIV for PS4 while also playing Samurai Shodown. I may have gotten only one random match in KOF XIV before never finding another one again. Meanwhile, in SamSho, I could not find a single random match. The difference here is that KOF XIV was notably unpopular due to its first impression character models being deemed ugly. As a result, many KOF fans jumped ship back to KOF XIII and earlier titles which are available on Steam.

SamSho, on the other hand, has only been out for roughly a year and has already died online. For players who live far away from prevalent fighting game scenes, this means they are unable to practice and play the game with others unless they’re in a dedicated online community, such as Discord or Reddit. Once again, players cite the netcode issues as why the online scene died early.

Which games are most playable online?

Keep in mind that many fighting games follow suit. Bandai Namco titles, like Tekken and SoulCalibur, also use delay-based netcode. The same goes for any of Arc Systems Works games, such as Guilty Gear Xrd, BlazBlue Cross-Tag, and Dragon Ball FighterZ.

However, one mainstream game in mind gets it right. In particular, Mortal Kombat 11 is known for having solid netcode. Netherrealm Studios has also announced their latest update – Mortal Kombat 11: Aftermath – featuring new DLC characters.

Developers have been using rollback netcode dating back to the days of GGPO, an online client to play fighting games online, which was released in 2009. More recently, players have also begun using Fightcade, a platform based on using GGPO.

CodeMystics, a developer that ported several SNK fighting games across platforms, also implemented rollback netcode into their games. The developer explains the process below. Furthermore, you can find a list of games using rollback netcode here.

The Biggest Impact on Fighting Games Right Now

EVO recently announced EVO Online, an online tournament which will replace their annual offline fighting game tournament. As such, they’ve included a new lineup which excludes one of EVO 2020’s initially featured titles, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. In doing so, they chose to host some of the most popular fighting games on the market right now.

Perhaps one of the most notable parts of this announcement is the return of Killer Instinct. Originally released in 2013, the title was exclusive to the Xbox One console until 2016, when it was released for PC. Despite not being released for PlayStation 4, the title’s second lease on life gained major traction online.

While it was hosted as a major title at EVO and CEO for several years, Killer Instinct’s popularity began to wane as other titles came out and received timely updates. Killer Instinct is one of four games being featured in the open online tournament alongside Mortal Kombat, Skullgirls, and Them’s Fightin’ Herds.

Rollback: The Future of Online Fighting Games?

While western fighting titles have largely adopted rollback, however, Japanese developer Arc Systems Works will be using it for their upcoming title Guilty Gear Strive. Arc Systems Works has been one of the foremost fighting game developers, over the past decade, having released Persona 4 Arena, BlazBlue, Dragon Ball FighterZ, and Guilty Gear Xrd. Now their latest game will enter the current decade with the first Japanese-developed fighting game to use rollback.

Perhaps this will set a precedent inviting other fighting game developers to follow suit and develop a more consistent, quality online experience. The COVID era has proven one thing and it’s that players will continue playing fighting games despite poor netcode but suffer while doing so. With rollback netcode setting the standard, hopefully more developers will take note and the current decade will feature some of the best fighting game experiences online.

On that note, keep in mind that you may play any fighting game online you choose. Even despite some of the netcode issues, most of these games remain playable and functional online even without rollback. Many players will endure a few frames of input lag to just enjoy the feel of the game they love the most.

Which fighting game do you play or follow right now? Let us know in the comments below.

 

The Five Times That Video Games Stood Up Against Prejudice and Oppression.

Given the current events and following the #BlackLivesMatter movement, we want to dedicate this piece to the protesters fighting for human rights. We’ll feature five stories in video games where characters stood up against authority figures who spread nothing but lies, hatred, and ruled with an iron fist. These uplifting stories of rebellion will hopefully bring some peace of mind and a brighter outlook on the future.

Please keep in mind that the following game sections contain spoilers. If you see the game’s title and are even mildly curious, I strongly suggest buying them.

Final Fantasy X

The Al-Bhed people were shunned by the followers of Yu Yevon, the guardian deity of the world of Spira. However, throughout the game, you begin to notice corruption within the church of Yevon. As your team became branded enemies of Yevon, the Al Bhed came to your rescue. This aid came, in no small part thanks, to Rikku, the Al Bhed girl that you befriended early on in the game.

 

This connection bridges the party to the Al Bhed working together for a better cause. Even though the Yevon loyalists in the party, such as Wakka, initially reject such a radical change, they eventually warm up to the Al Bhed. Eventually, you join up with them in a united effort to save Spira, using their machina to destroy Sin, and set a new course for the world.

Tales of Symphonia

From the beginning of the game, you befriend Genis and Raine, your elf friends. Only later do you learn that they were half-elves, a being repressed throughout Sylvarant and Tethe’alla due to their mixed heritage.

While their secret comes out later in the game, the protagonist, Lloyd, still unites his friends and continues his journey to save both worlds. Genis, despite saying he hates humans, reassures Lloyd he’s still his best friend. Even when the mayor of the town, Iselia, preaches his racism towards your half-elven party members, the people stand against him.

Regarding the overarching storyline, you later learn that the Sylvarant’s folk hero and eventual antagonist, Mithos, began his entire crusade because of the half-elven oppression and the death of his sister, Martel.

Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance

“Sub-humans.” That was the word used to describe the laguz, or beastkin people, in Tellius. The country of Gallia waged battles with the beorc, or humans, and faced discrimination simply due to their appearance. When Ike fought against the Daein army, he traveled to Gallia, which he later learned was his birthplace. Throughout his travels, he encountered new laguz friends, united them for the cause of liberating the country of Crimea, and took down the Mad King Ashnard.

The story comes full-circle when Ike would unite the Tellius continent once more to defeat the Begnion Senate and their army. Near the end of the game, Ike’s forces, the Greil Mercenaries, defeat Senator Lekain and the Begnion Senate, ending a decades-long struggle between Begnion’s iron grip and the laguz who fought against their oppression.

Persona 5

Persona 5’s story tackles sensitive social issues. Authority figures who bully, exploit, and even murder become the victim of the Phantom Thieves’ vengeance. The whole point of the story is to help your friends rebel against oppressive authority figures and, as they join you, take the fight against other horrible people in Tokyo.

You’ll enter their cognitive Palaces, fight their Shadows, and change their conscience. Doing so will change their heart, forcing them to own up, confess their crimes, and relinquish their positions of power.

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Three Houses marked the third Fire Emblem game where racial injustice became a major focal point of the plot. Claude, one of the House leaders, wants to unite Fodlan. He does so due to his Almyran background. The people of Almyra, dark-skinned warriors, faced oppression from the Fodlan continent for decades.

When joining the Golden Deer route, you’ll fight alongside Claude and his quest to reform Fodlan’s government. This includes allying with the church, the enemy of the Black Eagles route, and uniting your forces against the Adrestian Empire and Those Who Slither in the Dark.

 

Final Thoughts

For anyone keeping up with the protests, we’ve all gone through a tough time. Supporting our fellow human beings, including those who are different from ourselves, becomes an important cause in these times. Hopefully, this list helps inspire you with these courageous stories of people fighting alongside friends and make the world a better place.

Be sure to follow our social media channels listed below for the latest in gaming culture!

Interested in Donating?

Know Your Rights Camp – Started by Colin Kaepernick, this camp helps empower teens and meets three cities, at the moment:  Atlanta, Baltimore, and Miami.

 

Want to Donate, but Not for the Cause?

HFC (Hilarity for Charity) – Founded by Seth Rogen and Laura Miller Rogen, this non-profit helps spread awareness about Alzheimers, as well as funding research.

 

Mother Monster’s First Collaboration with Ariana Grande “Rain On Me” Is a Beauty of a Banger!

“I’d rather be dry, but at least I’m alive, rain on me.”

Fewer statements better encompass the overall sentiment of 2020 better than this one. 

“This is about an analog of tears being the rain. And you know what it’s also a metaphor for, is the amount of drinking that I was doing to numb myself. I’d rather be dry.” Lady Gaga explained via Vulture

In Lady Gaga’s second single from her sixth studio album Chromatica, she gifts us with her first ever collaboration with pop princess Ariana Grande. The team up, in their twinsies fetish wear, elicit a sentiment that while they both share powerhouse pipes in the same genre of music, that is where their similarities end as they each have unique expressions of their musical personas. Together they demonstrate through their complimentary/contrasting vocalizations and personal style attributes that not only is there room for more than one fierce femme in the pop game, they would rather be pop sisters rather than rivals. 

Musically the song is soft and upbeat, a contrast to the stormy lighting and set design of the music video. Yet Gaga/Grande conjure color in naughty neon pinks, lusty pastel lavenders, combining a sexy fusion of leather and latex punk with “pretty girl” fashion. By the end of the video Gaga/Grande appear as doppelgängers reminiscent of characters from the HBO series Euphoria, cool gals from the neighborhood that know how to get into dance clubs with fake ids, sexy outfits, lots of eyeliner and molly.

While many fans have been long awaiting a return to the avante garde Gaga we saw in the Fame Monster and Born This Way era (especially after the stripped down rawness of Joanne) Rain On Me is probably a bit more “mainstream music for the masses” than some would prefer. However considering Chromatica comes after a four year long hiatus between albums, returning with easy to digest, feel good tracks -is a smart move towards a sustainable comeback.

One must always remember when it comes to Gaga that while her sound passes as mainstream her intentions have always been to subvert the industry from within. Lady Gaga is a Queer, hard femme and judging by the esthetic choices in Stupid Love and Rain On Me she clearly doesn’t want you to forget it. Punk, leather and fetishwear all have their intersections in the queer community’s efforts to subvert gender norms and Gaga/Grande standing side by side as the hard and soft sides of the same femininity coin, owning their sexuality while defying expectations, certainly deliver subversion successfully. Futuristic fun was a fabulous choice in regards to makeup and hair styling, as Gaga/Grande’s flawless faces were BEAT to the gawds while they flipped and swished inches upon inches of rain slicked, gorgeous hair, stylishly serving dirty pop glamour. 

Despite the somberness within the song’s message, the video invokes jubilation in its choreography, laden with some of Gaga’s (a former gogo dancer) signature moves. From arms waving over head and jumping up and down, to pelvic thrusting and hip grinding, watching Grande dance á la Gaga, was more adorable than any of us could have imagined. Clearly Chromatica is a place of great diversity as we see a broad spectrum of back up dancers in Rain on Me, just as we did in Stupid Love. It is almost as if the storyline of Chromatica is that of a planet within the universe Gaga presented us with in the Born This Way video, as a continuation of the narrative (pertaining to unconditional acceptance and radical self love despite societal hardships) she started with it nearly a decade ago.

Back to the song itself, while some might find the repetition basic and blatantly reminiscent of Stupid Love, it gives both tracks a “song stuck in your head” quality that all hit songs have. In the case of Rain On Me, that repetition represents a mantra, a thought for meditation to recenter yourself and breathe. That’s what this song is, a reminder that no matter how difficult life is right now -if you are alive to learn and grow through it- you are winning.

This makes a truly powerful statement alongside a few others that resonate deeply to a millennial (born the same year as Gaga) like myself. In the  opening verse: 

“I didn’t ask for a free ride

I only asked you to show me a real good time

I never asked for the rainfall

At least I showed up, you showed me nothing at all”

There is a sense that the stereotype of the ‘entitled millennial’ is being confronted here with the sentiment of our generation’s reality; we were told we could accomplish anything if we just pulled ourselves up by the bootstraps and worked hard enough (while being held to the highest expectations) regardless of being abandoned to fix a broken world left behind by our predecessors with no support. While Gaga has been able to break through using the Boomer method, this feels like an acknowledgement of how challenging it is for the rest of us to do so as well.

Then we get to Ariana Grande’s verse which brings up some intriguing implications:

“Livin’ in a world where no one’s innocent

Oh, but at least we try, mmm

Gotta live my truth, not keep it bottled in

So I don’t lose my mind, baby, yeah

These words really evoke an admission of being complicit in the systems of oppression that we are all guilty of perpetuating and the struggle to freely express yourself in a world of “cancel culture”. What makes this verse especially poignant being sung by Grande is the fact that the singer’s career has endured ongoing contention since her striking transformation after the cancellation of her Nickelodeon series “Sam & Cat” and the debut of her first studio album “Yours Truly”. Many critics of Grande have accused her of being a “Blackfish”, or a white woman profiting off her racial ambiguity, exploiting  the “exotic” appearance of minorities who regularly face discrimination. Though Grande has repeatedly refuted these claims, not all fans have been swayed by her responses. Perhaps this verse is meant to serve as a reminder to leave room for her humanity along with our own as we all make mistakes on the path to finding our identity.

Regardless of how one might feel about the controversial careers both artists have held, ultimately this song with its accompanying music video is a showcase of the endurance these two women have acquired to maintain successful careers while navigating the pain of heartbreak, tragedy and loss in both of their lives along with the beauty that comes from releasing those tears while dancing joyously in the cleansing rain. 

About the author

Momocon Officially Canceled.

Momocon 2020

Earlier today, Momocon’s officials have canceled this year’s event. The annual cosplay convention, which celebrates gaming, anime, and other nerd culture, will miss its first event since its conception in 2005. Held in Atlanta, GA, Momocon takes place every year at the Georgia World Congress Center and the Omni Hotel.

Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 crisis, the convention will be canceled until next year. While Momocon previously announced the event would be postponed, this update outlines the full cancellation. If you signed up for the event or registered for anything, please refer to it for any refunds.

Momocon has brought forth a wide-variety of events, including panels and gaming tournaments. The convention also hosts a massive game room. Among its tournaments include various competitive titles, like fighting games, but perhaps its most prominent claim to fame is its series of Super Smash Bros. tournaments. Beginning in 2015, the Super Smash Bros. Wii U tournament, won by Fatality, would eventually bring in more players. Each year, Momocon would pay out pot bonuses for the Top 8 players. From 2016 onward, Momocon would be attended regularly by top players, such as Nairo. This year, Momocon would have hosted a $10k pot bonus.

Smash Tournaments

In particular, Momocon has a history of hosting iconic moments in the Smash community. In 2017, Nairo faced Fatality in grand finals as both players won in 2016 and 2015, respectively. Nairo would win and become double-champion. Fatality, prior to the match, also defeated ranked #1 player ZeRo in bracket.

Nairo and Fatality would face each other once more at Momocon 2018.

Momocon 2019 also became the first S-Tier tournament in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate. With over 1,000 entrants, Momocon would receive the largest turnout in their own Smash history as well. The tournament would be won by MKLeo, the currently ranked #1 player, showcasing his Joker and continuing his reign of dominance.

Known as a Smash major tournament and Georgia’s largest Smash tournament, Momocon adds to a growing list of canceled tournaments. Due to its handling of multiple events, Momocon’s cancellation deals a blow to competitive gamers as well as anime fans and cosplayers looking forward to panels. Its unique focus on esports, anime, and cosplay focus brought in a record attendance of nearly 40,000 people last year. Unfortunately, as with many others, Momocon followed suit and canceled this year’s event.

Please make sure you follow procedures, stay indoors, and stay safe from possible contagions. In the meantime, continue following our news for updates on upcoming Smash tournaments, southeast cons, and updates on the Coronavirus. We’ll update you once gaming events are up and running again. We look forward to returning to conventions as much as all of you.

We’d like to hear your thoughts. If you’ve attended Momocon in the past, when did you start going? What brings you to Momocon and did you have plans to attend this year?

Rango’s Smash Column – Everyone Plays Wi-Fi Tournaments Now.

Wi-Fi Replaces Real Life Tournaments

Notice: We will be moving to a biweekly format after this edition of Rango’s Smash Column. Stay tuned for more tips and Smash news on AllCoolThings and be sure to follow our social media channels!

Hello and welcome to our weekly Smash column. This week, we’ll discuss the growing surge of online tournaments in the Super Smash Bros. Ultimate community. While the last offline tournament, CEO Dreamland, brought in over 600 competitors, it left many players wanting more. Unfortunately, due to the Coronavirus, many quarantines line the nation. As a result, these regions have all canceled their offline tournaments to avoid spreading the disease. This also includes major events, such as Momocon, which notably brought over 1,000 players to register at last year’s Super Smash Bros. Ultimate tournament.

Thus, the seeming “bane” of Smash – online play – now receives a second lease on life. Despite its notorious lag and netcode issues, competitive players still want to play Smash Bros. While online ladders and tournaments have always maintained a presence in the Smash community, only now have top competitive players garnered interest in the scene.

Nairo, noted player and streamer, has hosted the “Naifu Wars” WiFi series since Ultimate’s release. With the prevalence of online play, his latest tournament has already capped its maximum entrants. Notable commentators, such as EE and Hazmatt, will participate in the event as well.

The tournament begins on March 28th. You can check out the details here.

Local Scenes

Additionally, local tournament scenes have also begun hosting online tournaments. Some of them require players, of the tournament’s respective state, to enter. 4o4 Esports will continue hosting online tournaments in Georgia. Until the Coronavirus begins to clear up around the world, expect more online tournaments to appear over the next few weeks. In the meantime, we will keep you posted with news regarding the Coronavirus and its impact on gaming events. Stay up to date on AllCoolThings for more news every week in Rango’s Smash Column!

What does the future hold?

As it stands, there are no plans to host offline tournaments in the U.S. With the nation under quarantine, players will continue using online as a means to enter tournaments and win money. Most recently, YouTube star Alpharad hosted the Quarantine Series. This appears to be the first of a series of Smash tournaments. Note that Kola, who won Soaked Series and placed 2nd at CEO Dreamland, won this inaugural event.

Perhaps this serves as a successor to the Smash World Tour, which was put on hold due to the Coronavirus. However, please note the names in the chart. All of these players are currently on the fall PGR. With offline tournaments on hiatus, the top stars of Smash’s tournaments now use online to continue building their resume. Until the quarantine lifts for Coronavirus, expect to see more top talent rise up to online play while we see more online tournaments hosting big names and big prizes. As always, remember to check smash.gg to see the list of upcoming online tournaments which you can enter!

Do you plan on entering online tournaments? If you’re entering or watching, let us know if you see any worth checking out!

How Animal Crossing: New Horizons Affects the Gaming Community During the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Animal Crossing and the Coronavirus

With the COVID-19 affecting many public gatherings and gaming events, people in the U.S. have been instructed to stay at home to avoid spreading the disease. While much of the internet has shown the most serious effects and repercussions of the Coronavirus, others have tried to lighten up the severity a little. In fact, some gaming websites have already taken their jab at the virus.

However, with Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ release on Nintendo Switch this past week, one can’t deny the impact it’s had across the country. While players are cooped up in their houses playing games, one of Nintendo’s single-most anticipated titles have swept the globe’s attention. Already reaching the #1 Best Seller status on Amazon, Twitter has also added several hashtags featuring emotes to celebrate the game’s release. Meanwhile, top gaming personalities have begun streaming the game. Among these include top competitive Super Smash Bros. Ultimate players who have been unable to attend tournaments due to multiple events being canceled.

Perhaps the most fitting thing about Animal Crossing: New Horizons’ release is its  timing. For those quarantined in their house during this pandemic, many consider it to be a silver lining to the crisis.

All in all, this might be one of the single-most unifying events in gaming culture since the release of Pokemon Go. For anyone who remembers Pokemon Go’s release in 2016, the phenomenon involved bringing players together to venture outside, attend public events, and catch Pokemon together. In a similar vein, Animal Crossing unifies the gaming community, inviting players to join each other’s islands.

Online Features

One primary feature of online play allows you to visit other people’s islands and vice-versa. You can set up online codes or invite friends to play together, on your island, as well as visit theirs. You can also use text chat to send each other messages.

New to the series is NookLink. While used as an in-game smartphone app, you can use NookLink on your own smartphone as well. Download the Nintendo Switch App and you’ll find connectivity to Animal Crossing: New Horizons within the app! Once you connect, you can check your friends’ statuses, access voice chat, and even download outfits and designs online! This features scannable QR codes where you can share outfits you designed or download those from others. You can find social media groups where you can share designs.

Be sure to check out Animal Crossing: New Horizons which is now available for Nintendo Switch!

Guilty Pleasures: Van Life

Image from The Indie Projects YouTube Channel
It’s been a while since I did a Guilty Pleasures article because a lot of the cool stuff I’ve found lately hasn’t given me that mix of pleasure and shame from watching it. Lately, however, I’ve found a group of individuals that appeals to my respect of survivalists, practical engineers, and independent spirit, yet also shames me because most time it is found in some of the hippiest folks you will find in this great country of ours. (Yeah, the fake hippie dudes of the 70’s that just wanted to grift and get laid ruined the image of the hippie for me.) What is this Guilty Pleasure, you ask? it is the the lifestyle known as Van Life. Van Life is a phenomenon that is sweeping the country due to the high cost of living and a reaction to the other complications of capitalism gone rampant in this country. People seeking a more minimalist and less alienated lifestyle are modifying vans, buses, trucks, and RVs to make them true mobile homes. Many of these vehicles are equipped with fully functional kitchens, bathrooms, and living spaces with Wi-Fi, computers, and televisions.
Image from FLORB YouTube Channel
If I had to guess, I would say that Van Life is the hybrid love child of tiny house enthusiasm and nomadic/hobo lifestyle, which are also two crazes that hit YouTube and television a few years ago. Marrying the need to live off grid, and free of bills, with the ingenuity and desire to maximise living and quality of life with meager living space, Van Life is attractive in the promise of both freedom and the challenge of survival. One thing that I did find surprising about Van Life was that it is a booming lifestyle amongst women of all ages. While some publications will tell you that it is a phenomenon with Millenials, I see no evidence that it is limited to generation.
Image of Steve Wallis from his YouTube Channel
There are many YouTube channels out there, but my gateway channel was that of Steve Wallis. I don’t know too much about the man. I know from his videos that he was married at one point, and actually traveled with his wife in many of his videos. I think that he chose Van Life for a time to cut costs from his life. Oh, he loves his beer and whiskey. In fact, he uses beer as the unit of currency that you can support him, and he uses whiskey as a personal reward when he completes tasks on his videos. I find Steve Wallis very typical in his love of Van Life, but not so in his set ups.

The Set Up

As mentioned before, a big part of Van Life is the modification of regular vehicles into functional RVs and modification of RVs into true mobile homes with all of the amenities of the modern home. However, this also includes the upgrading of tents, sheds, and shacks that Van Lifers camp out in, sometimes. This includes portable wood-burning stoves, propane stoves, cots, and computers and video game systems with power supplies. (When I referred to Steve Wallis and his set ups, what I meant was that he tends to have very simple vehicle setups with little or no hard modifications done to his vehicles. He does go all out in pimping his tent and shack setups.)  
Image from Eamon & Bec YouTube Channel

The Activities

It should come as no surprise that many Van Lifers enjoy nature, and living within a stone’s throw from it. However, it is what some of them consider more “adventurous” that might surprise you. Boondocking is camping out in modified vehicles, not in the wild, but in private properties like department store or hotel parking lots. Many Van Lifers consider boondocking a big thrill to see how long they can camp out in a private parking lot before they get “the knock” telling them to leave. Stealth Parking is basically boondocking, but not limited to private parking lots. Stealth Parking can be done in neighbourhoods, side streets, and abandoned properties. I guess the added danger in stealth parking over boondocking is that it is more likely that police will give “the knock” rather than an employee of the private property. (Steve Wallis loves boondocking and stealth parking. In fact, Steve loves all of the nomadic aspects of the lifestyle, sometimes even camping in abandoned towns, subdivisions, hobo sites.)
Image from Susi Cruz YouTube Channel
Yeah, I know. This doesn’t sound like a cool enough thrill for me to try, either, but at least nobody gets hurt, and it doesn’t cost anything, except maybe a parking ticket? I think that we all have that part of us that wants to go out and see the country while leaving our ties to civilisation to the wind, and this lifestyle is the embodiment of that. Perhaps this is the way that many people will be able to taste this lifestyle. How bad can it be if you have Wi-Fi, a stove, and a flat screen?

An Introduction to the Modern-Day Masterpiece Quality Transformers Collectibles Line

Official Hasbro G1 Ressiue of Optimus Prime

 

‘Chances are if you are in your late 30’s to 40’s then you recognise the above picture above as G1 (Generation One) Optimus Prime, one of the most sought after and treasured toy a kid could have. (Well, it’s actually a re-issued G1 Optimus Prime, but it’s very close.) I’m not going to go into who Optimus Prime is. (By now, you should be used to how much time and energy we put into providing hyperlinks to help.)  I’ll just say that Optimus Prime is a pretty big deal in the Transformers universe.  I never had him, and he is but one of many Transformers that I wanted as a child.

Much to my delight, being an adult gives me the spending money and right to buy many things that I could not have as a little boy.  This is something that many geeks enjoy as adults.  It has turned many of us into collectors to correct what we saw as mistakes of the past by fulfilling decades old wishlists.  Saying this, you can possibly imagine my surprise and joy in finding out that not only had old Transformers been rereleased nearly identical to their previious editions, but Hasbro and Tomy/Takara (the Japanese company that owns the rights to the original molds and toys that Transformers were based on) also released re-engineered Masterpiece Transformers that were superior in every way to the old G1 Transformers.

 

Official Hasbro Masterpiece MP-01 (Version 1.0)

I have been curious about Hasbro/Tomy/Takara’s Masterpiece line of Transformers for several year now. Back then it was a line of huge versions of Transformers that were not only model accurate when in machine mode, but engineered to be extremely accurate to the robot forms in the cartoons. The idea was not only better than the best of both worlds, but a level of realism and surrealism that neither machine modes or bot modes had ever reached. There was one problem: price. Back then, Masterpiece Transformers could cost anywhere from $100-300, which was too much for me.

But…many things have changed since then. Third parties started making their own Masterpiece quality versions of Transformers, that were at tiimes better engineered for more realistic bot modes, but also much cheaper than the first party Hasbro/Tomy/Takara Transformers. Also compainies started making knockoff (KO) that were for the most part perhaps slightly less well made, but much less expensive. Basically, more choices meant more competition so that even official Hasbro/Tomy/Takara Transformers had to not only sell for cheaper, but revise how they were made.

 

Official Hasbro Masterpiece MP-10 (Version 2.0)

Not only did revised Hasbro/Tomy/Takara Transformers get made better than their first versions, but they were made to a new uniform standard of size that even the third party manufacterers conformed to. They went down on price, which also made the thrid parties go down on their prices. All of this activity also attracted more thrid parties to make even more high quality options, as well as lesser quality marginally Masterpiece lines that would cost anywhere from $25-80.

Along with the price decreace of recent years, KO companies started their own innovations such as making their own more “official” KOs by making replicas of official pieces, but giving them their own names and making slight differences. Sometimes those changes even made the KOs better than the offical Masterpieces.

Unofficial Transform Element TE-01

The end result nowadays is a highly competitve and low priced market of Masterpiece Transformers of varying degrees of qualities of collectibles for any level collector.  Finally the average geek could might be abe to find some sort of Masterpiece Transformer for a reasonable price if he/she really wanted one to put on her/his shelf, or to fulfill a decades-long childhood desire.

“Okay, great.  Thanks for the…history lesson,” you might say.  Why did I choose to say all of this in an article?  The reason is that I intend to make review articles for different Masterpiece Transformer collectibles, but it won’t be like most others.  In fact, they probably won’t be like any others.

 

Unofficial Transform Element TE-01 / Unofficial Magic Square MS-01 / Official Hasbro MP-44 / Official Hasbro MP-10

When I decided that I wanted to review Masterpiece Transformers, I found that there are many people that were not only doing it for a long time, but possibly doing it better than I could.  That’s when I decided to fall back on this site’s greatest strength:  finding cool culture and picking it apart for easy consumption.  I decided that we would sift through all of the reviews, good and bad, and provide you with the “Cliffs Notes.”  The end result is a review with all of the high points and pictures so that you not only get our well thought out opinion of the version of the Masterpiece for you to buy, but giving enough refined information for you to come to your own opposing decision if we don’t share the same aestheitcs.

Thank you for reading our Masterpiece Transformers primer article.  I hope to write many more articles for you about specific Transformers in the future. 

-HERETICPRIME