TBT #14 – The Friend Zone; or, How to Stop Whining and Be a Man

So, this is a post that I made to Facebook on June 22, 2014.  It popped up on my feed yesterday, all as part of some sort of “Hey, remember the 80’s?!”-style initiative that Facebook is doing these days.  It was written shortly after I ended my engagement with an especially toxic cheater, and was single for a minute. 

The post tackles the mythical claptrap known as The Friendzone.  Some people (women) call The Friendzone a misogynist concept, but I personally feel that calling it such gives it too much credibility; the word “misogynist” implies a degree of manhood somewhere.

Feel free to disagree with me, but The Friendzone is a concept that only Millennials (sadly, my generation) could have conceived.  It’s whiny, entitled, and smacks of weakness and cowardice.  It’s really the other side to “ghosting”, which is a concept I will discuss later on at some point I’m sure.

Yes, I realize I call it the “friend zone” in the post. No, I don’t know which of these spellings of the word/concept/Atlantis-analog is correct, because I’m not a pansy.

And now this intro is longer than the post itself.

– Randall Malus, 06/23/2016


DEFINITION OF “THE FRIEND ZONE” (from Urban Dictionary):

When a girl decides that you’re her friend, you’re no longer a dating option. You become this complete non-sexual entity in her eyes, like her brother, or a lamp.

Friend1: Are you still with that girl?
You: We’re just friends.
Friend2: A moment of silence for our brother in the friend zone.

by rodjak October 11, 2012

To all those men who complain about being friend zoned:

Some companies send out mass mailings of free samples of a new product in order to drum up new customers. Typically, it’s only one sample. That one sample can only be used for a short period of time, because it’s a sample and samples run out eventually. If you like the product, chances are you’ll go out and pay for it once the sample runs out. If you don’t like the product, you’ll either stick with what you currently use or you’ll look elsewhere. Maybe what’s elsewhere or what you currently use are inferior products in the end to the sample you used, but that’s your problem; the company’s only sending out one free sample. If you want more, it won’t be free–because you won’t buy something that you can otherwise get for free.

In much the same way, let your patience, your kindness, your gentle nature, your understanding, your shoulder to cry on, your affection, your love–let those be nothing more than free samples. If a woman wants what you have to give, she will give you what you give her in equal measure, because the price of love is love in return. But if she places you in the “friend zone”, she’s not buying what you’re selling. So stop sending her free samples. Let her look elsewhere, or stick with an inferior product. Move onto other customers, and in doing so retain some of your dignity and self-esteem in the process.

Let no one take advantage of your better nature. Ever.

TBT #13 – Cleveland: Traitors to King James

Originally posted to my Facebook page on July 10, 2010.

This post was a ton of fun to write.

As can be expected, I am not someone you’d consider to be a “sports fan”.  That said, when basketball great LeBron James revealed live on ESPN that he was leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers and going to Miami to play for the Heat, not even I could avoid hearing about it.  Everyone in Cleveland went absolutely bonkers at the revelation, and a majority of people came to hate James for making what turned out to be a wise business decision.  Of course, that’s all water under the bridge–he came back to Cleveland after winning two championship titles with the Miami Heat, and as of this writing, looks poised to help bring such a title to his hometown, as well.  He’s the hero again, and all is well.

Still, I was shocked at how crazy people had become over the decision of a man (the right decision, again) whose achievements or failures would never truly impact their lives in any material or meaningful way–and so, I wrote this article as satire.

The comments as received on the original post are below.  In many ways, they are the best part.  Shout outs to Jeffrey Holloway of Fictosphere.com for back-up on this.

– Randall Malus, 12/17/2015


As probably everyone in the world knows by now, LeBron James is leaving the Cleveland Cavaliers to play for the Miami Heat. On Thursday night, King James announced on a nationally televised press conference that he will sign a five year contract with the Miami Heat, allowing him to join the ranks of rising NBA stars Dwayne Wade and Chris Bosh. Back in Cleveland, the King’s fans are burning his memorabilia in effigy while Cleveland news sources are covering the story, using titles such as “King’s Betrayal” and “Royal Scandal”.

All I can say is, “What an ungrateful city you are.” Before pointing out the imaginary speck in the eye of King James, let’s first examine the gigantic log in our own, Cleveland.

Though I won’t go so far as to say he’s infallible, for the last seven years, LeBron James has been a part of Cleveland’s landscape. Ranging from billboards and posters to magazine ads and television commercials, Cleveland’s king has brought his city unprecedented publicity. In addition to being named one of the most valuable players in the NBA two years in a row, King James, like the good and benevolent monarch that he is, has taken the Cavaliers to new heights by helping them win more games than any team roster in franchise history — a history dating back to the early 1970s. Why, this last year, the Cavaliers were, quite literally, one of the best teams in the NBA. This, likewise, is due in no small part to the efforts of Cleveland’s chosen one.

And his efforts didn’t stop with his team. Seven years ago, King James, Cleveland’s messiah, took upon his shoulders the heavy cross that is our economy. Single-handedly, he filled the bars of downtown Cleveland night after night, game after game. Through his great sense of charity, he has donated countless hours and a great deal of money to various charities around our city. Indeed, the king has been very good to his subjects.

And how did the citizens of Cleveland, the King’s subjects, repay Him? Though Cleveland’s Savior and King wanted only a crown to place on His head — a championship ring on His finger — the ungrateful peasants of Cleveland felt the need to instead crown Him with thorns. Why, one needs look no further than the last two games of the Cavaliers’ run in the 2010 playoffs for evidence of this. Though benevolent in countless ways and though struggling with an arm injury, when He “fell upon the court” by not performing up to Cleveland’s standards, our King, King James, the King of Cleveland, was booed by a greedy and merciless populace. The people of Cleveland might as well have cried out, “Bring us Barabbas! Bring us Barabbas!” Not since the assassination of the Romanovs has such a shameful display of civil disloyalty been seen — at least, not until after Thursday’s press conference.

As soon as His most sacred divinity announced His plans to ascend from our unworthy, dismal dystopia to the paradise that is Miami, Clevelanders, once again acting like peasants and court jesters rather than men and women of noble birth, jeered their King. Why, even Dan Gilbert has joined the King’s former subject in smearing the King’s reputation with mud. Indeed, Dan Gilbert, by posting his letter, has shown his lack of class — a lack of class not shared by the holy King James, who decided to treat both His fans and team owners as equals by revealing to the entire world all at once His decision. Like a true King, He sought to unify people up until the end of His career in Cleveland. Regardless of this fact, and no doubt angry that the King’s integrity could not be bought with lies, false hope, empty promises of love and devotion, and the mere pittance of $30 million dollars — hardly a meal fit for a King — Dan Gilbert and the people of Cleveland now wail and gnash their teeth at their own foolishness.

But it’s too late, Cleveland. King James has found a new, more worthy court. You practically handed King James to Miami. You had your chance, Cleveland, and you pushed both it and your savior away. Though you will no doubt look for another deity to worship, you know deep down that you will never find one as kind and as caring as Cleveland’s true savior, LeBron James.

Well, King James, if you are reading this, I want You to know that You have at lease one loyal subject remaining in Cleveland. When the apparel companies produce Miami Heat jerseys proudly displaying the emboldened number six, I will be the first in line to purchase one. I am not as ungrateful as the rest, and may You find favor with me, Chosen One.

Long live the King.


-COMMENTS-

JEFFREY HOLLOWAY

Read it and weep Gilbert.

ADAM

i can honestly say i didnt read this. his decision will not pay my bills, so why the hell should i care. ive said, and always will say, that ive hated lebron from the start. i couldnt care any less about his choice than i do now

MARK

I too have hated Lebron for seven years. And in fact I am ecstatic he has left. Now if only Bird’s Nest Johnson and Gun Toting Terminator Wannabe would leave.
The point is, I do not believe Lebron did anything for this city. I think his negative effects out weigh any possible positives.
Lebron is not any more responsible for filling bars than is anyone else on the team or Dan Gilbert.
You say he donated to charities. But who paid to see him and thus paid his salary? The fans. In essence he took out millions from poor Cleveland and paid back only a small portion of what he took.
He was a very poor figure to struggling Cleveland.
In a time where we should be telling every child to get a degree and work for your money, he skipped out on college and was paid merely for playing a sport well. He set the example to youth to forget about education and focus on sports. When the reality is less than 1% of all high school athletes will be professional. I would say that negative does more damage to our economy than any positive he could ever hope to do.
He wore Yankee and Cowboy attire to our Indian and Browns games. So yet, while he has never been loyal or part of NEO, you still claim loyalty to a man who made an hour long television special to lead you on and tell you he’s leaving for Miami.
Sounds like a stand up guy alright…

JEFFREY HOLLOWAY

There you have it Randy, you’re right, two ungrateful Clevelanders above who didn’t want King James to make Cleveland a heavenly Kingdom with a booming economy.

MARK

Our bad economy in Cleveland is due to manufacturing jobs lost, not our lack of a championship.

TERI

Great work Randy!!

JEFFREY HOLLOWAY

Did you ever think, follow me for a second, that Clevelanders don’t want to work without a Championship? Boom. I just blew your mind. Dan Gilbert and Cleveland pushed away our only chance to resurrect our economy, King James. The city now has nothing to stand on.

MARK

Hahaha Good point. I never thought people would rather be homeless than work in a city without a major sport championship. You schooled me.

TIM

LeBron James is entertainment. He did his job with entertaining us. Now he will only entertain Cleveland twice a year instead of 41+ times a year.

JEFFREY HOLLOWAY

I’m sorry you cynically think life and people are all about money and material possessions Mark. What about intangibles like the supreme glory of a Championship trophy?

MARK

Hey, we got a championship trophy in 1994. So technically we should be booming with economic prosperity.

JEFFREY HOLLOWAY

Cleveland Crunch? 15 years ago? Kidding right? Oh King James, we need you to straighten out Mark over here.

MARK

Yeah! Get him over here! I owe him a hard right to the face and a strong kick in the groin.

RANDALL MALUS

Okay, so Mark obviously doesn’t understand how this works. Quite simply, manufacturers aren’t interested in building their businesses in cities that don’t win championships. Why? Because championships bring national attention to a given city. That national attention brings new residents to that city, which in turn gives the manufacturers a better incentive to grow (or stay or return) their businesses in the thriving metropolis. Simple trickledown economics. I mean, we saw that in action when the Crunch won fifteen years ago…Cleveland was able to stave off its economic apocalypse for a least a couple more years while manufacturers chose to stay and see what the Indians might do. Of course, no additional championships over a fifteen year period would be enough to push any manufacturer away — and so Cleveland remains an economic ground zero.

For the reasons I stated above, Cleveland’s pushing away of King James will most certainly correspond with people’s failing quality of life here in Cleveland. To be so combative against the idea of LeBron staying is tantamount to saying that one doesn’t care about Clevelanders becoming homeless because they’ve gone bankrupt or their employers have closed and moved to Miami. Frankly, Mark, I find something sociopathically callous about that.

MARK

Ok, good point. So seeing as though Seattle hasn’t won a major championship since 1979… the city must be a ghost town as well. Oh wait….
Business decisions have absolutely nothing to do with championships won of the city and everything to do with profits. All the manufacturing jobs left because they can pay Chinese workers 50 cents a day. Not because Cleveland sports suck.

RANDALL MALUS

Seattle? Oh, yeah, THERE’S a manufacturing town.
What’s their main export? Suicidal crybabies? Shitty movies about people with insomnia? Come on.

TBT #12 – Kill your double in Nintendo’s Urban Champion

Originally published at Examiner.com on February 18, 2014.

This was the last article I wrote for Examiner.com.  Two more (at least) were planned, but never came to fruition.  Perhaps this is the place to bring them into existence.

Either way, I’m done with Examiner.com forevermore.

 – Randall Malus, 12/10/2015


There’s a terrible stigma that comes with a thing being called “classic”.  To many, the word is synonymous with “unwanted”.  Suggest a classic film, and all your friends will groan.  Suggest playing a classic game, and all your friends will look at you quizzically.  Suggest traveling to a classic event via bridge between the fourth and fifth dimensions, and your friends will have you committed–that is, they will if you don’t first put on your invisibility helmet made of cheese and fueled by grave dirt (as per leprechaun instruction), but even then the thing rarely works for more than a few moments so it’s not worth mentioning anyway.  Yes, the common belief is that “classic” is “unwanted”.  Somehow sub-par.

Urban Champion proves those beliefs to be 100% true.


urban01

It’s like Kitty Genevese, but with more testosterone.


It’s not that Urban Champion is a bad game, it’s just that it’s a confusing one.  Confusing, some might say, in its simplicity.  You play a gentleman whose whole point in life is, apparently, to meet other gentlemen (who look exactly like you) in front of buildings and beat them to a pulp.  With punches.  No kicks.  Once finished, a resident of said building who has been watching the action will rain confetti down on you–or, if you happened to lose, onto your opponent.  It apparently never occurs to the resident that police intervention might be required to handle the random outburst of violence that just broke out in front of their building, but I digress.

So, simple, right? Yes, but, as I said, confusing. Who are these people that the player fights? “Bullies”, states the manual, but that doesn’t explain their similarities to the player character. No, dear reader, they’re not mere bullies. They’re something more. What kind of “more” is the “something” that they “are”?

The answer is frightening, yet exciting in a boring sort of way:

They are all doppelgangers.

You see, I believe this game to be an NES adaptation of the classic (there’s that word again) German gothic novel by Hanns Heinz Ewers entitled The Student of Prague.  In the novel, the titular student Balduin (or “Urban Champion” as he’s never referred to) makes a deal with the devilish Scarpinelli whereby Balduin sells his reflection for riches.  The reflection steps out of the mirror and, over the course of the novel, harasses Balduin to no good end.

Of course, the major plot points of the story are lost on Urban Champion.  There are no cut scenes, the city looks really basic (nothing indicating the fact that it’s Prague at all), and there’s nothing said of the student (the titular Urban Champion) being a pretty good fencer.  That’s forgivable, though, since this is an early NES game–and they were a lot more basic back then.  Heck, there’s so little of King Kong’s story in the NES adaptation entitled Donkey Kong that I won’t even bother writing an article about it (article forthcoming).

In addition to the obscured plot, the title itself is somewhat confusing.  “Urban Champion”?  Are we to take from this title that everyone who survives a single day in the inner city is to be considered a “champion”?  While likely true, I have to wonder what being a “suburban champion” would entail.  Would it involve complaining to one’s spouse about the stifling rules instituted by the development association in order to keep the tulpa living under the gated community happy?  Can a person consider themselves a “suburban champion” if they leave a passive-aggressive note in their neighbor’s mail box because their neighbor’s driveway was poured too short and only has room for two cars but their neightbor owns three, and so one hangs out over the sidewalk slightly, forcing the person in question to–heaven forbid–step onto the apron and then back onto the sidewalk during said person’s morning jog (I know it was you, Cheryl, you tramp)?

Well, whatever is truly going on in the game, one thing is for sure: it is a classic in the purest sense of the word.  So, the next time your father wants to dust off his phonograph player and asks you to watch an ancient film like The Fast and the Furious with a very much alive Paul Walker, be sure to bring up Urban Champion.  He may just reconsider.

TBT #10 – Holy Thanksgiving, Batman!

Originally published at Examiner.com on November 26, 2009.

Wow.  That’s weird…six years to the day.  Anyway, by this point, I was thoroughly distraught with the idea that I would keep producing work for Examiner.com and yet never draw any sort of payment from the site, even under the new payment rules (which were not much different than the old, mind you).  After this article, I would plan three more, publish two (one several years after the other), and then move onto other opportunities.  It should be noted that, aside from Examiner.com’s new uppity attitude, nothing at all has changed in terms of compensation for creative contributions.

Thanks to all who have been checking out the blog, and may all who celebrate (and even those who don’t) have a wonderful and joyous Thanksgiving.

– Randall Malus, 11/26/2015


As we’re all aware, today is Thanksgiving.  On this day, it is customary to give thanks for all of life’s little joys: friends, family, health, wealth, happiness, Corps, country, Kris Kristofferson, Chuck Norris, the solar system, trans-dimensional travel, Norman Bates and his mother Kathy Bates, Hollywood, Bollywood, Dr. Abraham Van Helsing, ninjas, and everything else that makes life worth living.  This Thanksgiving, I, too, wish to give thanks–for my great family, my good friends, and–most of all–for Batman!


batman4Possibly the most intimidating title screen in the history of video games.


Yes, Batman.  Do I really need to explain myself?  Not only has Batman saved Gotham City from the evils that inhabit Arkham Asylum more times than can be counted (though DC Comics has tried), he’s also saved the earth from multiple alien threats during the 1950s and 1960s and, recently (within the last year or so), he made the ultimate sacrifice and gave his life to save the universe from the evil Fourth World god Darkseid during an event called Final Crisis (well, he’s not technically dead per se, only caught in prehistoric times with the ancient superhero known as Anthro, but everyone is supposed to think that Batman is dead).  So, on this, a day when we give thanks, I offer my thanks to and for the Dark Knight Detective.  And, because I’m the Cleveland Classic Games Examiner, I specifically offer my sincerest thanks for the NES game, simply titled Batman ™.  Based on the 1989 film directed by Tim Burton and starring Michael Keaton in the role of Gotham’s dark avenger and Jack Nicholson in the role of the dastardly Joker, the NES game is…unique, to say the least.

Allow me to explain.

During the festivities, the Joker released toxic nerve gas contained in parade balloons, which Batman promptly destroys in the prologue.  Though the deadly crisis has been averted, the Joker’s henchmen take to the Gotham streets, causing chaos and terrorizing citizens.  So, the first level places the player as Batman on the streets of Gotham, right in the middle of the riot.  Sounds close to the movie, right?  Give it time.


batman1(1)The mean streets of Gotham.  Damn, it feels good to be Batman.


The first thing that one will notice is that Danny Elfman’s brilliant Batman score is absent from the game.  Completely absent.  There aren’t even chords of it in any of the level themes or cutscenes.  That said, the soundtrack for the game is still very action-packed and fits the atmosphere of the game fairly well, especially that level themes for the first and third levels.  Also, the player will notice that the gameplay is very action-oriented, which is ideal for a side-scroller based on and Batman property.  The difficulty in the first level is quite the same throughout the game–that is, the game is difficult, but not unfair as long as you keep your wits about you.  Also, when Batman punches enemies, they burst into flame and explode.  While my memory isn’t what it used to be, I don’t think that happened in any of the comics (ever) or in the Burton film.  But I digress.

Back to the plot.  So, Batman fights his way through the Gotham streets to the bottom of Gotham Cathedral.  As in the 1989 movie, the Joker is hiding out in the cathedral (the subplot with Vicki Vale is almost completely removed from the game).  So, after beating the boss of the level (comic book Batman villain Killer Moth), another cutscene reveals that Batman jumps into his Batmobile, leaves the cathedral, and drives to Axis Chemical plant to stop the Joker’s production of deadly chemicals.  Now, anyone who has seen the film will note that this causes a continuity error, as Batman was supposed to have taken care of the chemical plant earlier in the film.  Not only that, but why would Batman leave the cathedral when he’s so close to catching the Joker, only to destroy a chemical plant and risk the Joker getting away?  And the third level makes even less sense.  In the first half of the third level, Batman is fighting his way through the sewers until he gets to a cave, which is the second half of the third level.  Now, one could rationalize that the second level takes place as a flashback, as does Batman’s escape from Axis Chemicals into the sewers and, eventually, back to his Batcave (which has now somehow been overrun with the Joker’s henchmen and the Electrocutioner, a Batman villain that appeared for about one page in one Batman comic in the late 1980s), but one would have to be more insane than the Joker to do so.


batman2(1)In the sewers, fighting what appears to be a Ninja Turtle.


After fighting his way through the most dangerous cave in existence, Batman heads to the television station for some unknown reason.  Though I love the level design in this game, I have to note that this is the creepiest television station I’ve ever seen.  The angles, cords, and freakish machinery are Lovecraftian in design and, beyond that, I can’t come up with a single reason as to why Batman would ever go to the television station in the first place.  It never happened in the film, so why would it happen in the game?


batman6(1)A television studio as designed by H.R. Giger.


After working through the television studio, Batman finally decides that he should return to the cathedral and take down the Joker–who now apparently has the ability to call forth lightning from the heavens.  A little weird, yes, but the Joker still carries his long-barrelled joke gun, so I can forgive the programmers for imbuing the Joker with the powers of God.  After defeating the Joker, Batman (as he does in the film, though perhaps a bit less directly than in the game) tosses aside his “no killing the bad guys” attitude from the comic books and throws the Joker over the railing and to his death, citing that now the Joker will “dance with the Devil in the pale moonlight.”  Batman is totally rad.


batman7The Joker, demonstrating a technique he learned from Maxie Zeus while in Arkham.


Normally I’m a stickler for accuracy, but honestly, the NES Batman game is so cool that I can’t help but love it.  Though the game was removed from the film (which was in turn removed from the comics), it remains a good, challenging side-scroller that stands up even today.  Plus, it stars Batman.  That’s something for which we can all be thankful.

With that, I hope that everyone has a safe and joyous Thanksgiving!

TBT #9 – Fiction vs. Reality: Farmville vs. SimCity

Originally published at Examiner.com on November 25, 2009.

This article was meant to be the start of a series I’d have called “Fiction vs. Reality”, where I would take a hyper-realistic game and compare it to a game with a similar theme but rife with fantasy elements.  Of course, that never came into being–but maybe I’ll resurrect the idea here, on this blog.

The best part hands-down was the comment I received about five years ago, at the bottom of the article by someone calling herself “some chick”:

you need to calm the eff down about farming. the point of the sim is that it ISN’T real, and i’m sure the people of facebook are aware of that. sheesh

Obviously, someone didn’t get the joke.

– Randall Malus, 11/19/2015


Facebook has recently suffered a boom of simulation games, or “sims“–and by “boom”, I mean “an atomic bomb just exploded in your house, sucked all the air out of it for ten minutes, and has left so much radiation behind that you, your family, and your descendants will suffer horrifically painful mutations that will put you at odds with the rest of humanity for what will likely be the rest of time”. And what do I mean by that? Well, whereas past simulation games were so realistic as to be almost hyper-realistic, these Facebook sims are unsettlingly unrealistic. To illustrate my point, I present you with the Facebook sim known as Farmville and the sim classic known as SimCity.

First, allow me to introduce you to Farmville. As you may have guessed by the title, this game allows you to farm. You plow land by clicking on it with your mouse, you buy seed for various vegetables with in-game coins, plant the seed by clicking on the freshly plowed plot of land, and wait for anywhere from three hours to several days. When the seed has grown into corn, eggplant, or whatever it is you may have purchased (it truly doesn’t matter), you harvest the vegetables by clicking on them, watch your character stand still as a green progress bar counts down until your harvesting is complete, and then watch as your in-game coin count grows because apparently “harvesting” also means “selling your produce at market”. Occasionally, you might earn enough coins to purchase an animal that will grow to maturity in about three years (real time), at which point you can click on the animal, watch another progress bar, and assume that the animal has, like the plants, been sold at market.  And that’s about it.


farmvillefinal(2)Actually, this is probably an accurate portrayal of how plowing happens in real farming–green progress bar included.


See what I mean?

The game doesn’t even come remotely close to resembling a real farming experience.  For one, there’s no actual animal slaughter! How does one become a farmer without slaughtering animals in the most grotesque and inhumane ways ever conceived by a human being? Also, there’s no suffocating fear of one’s family farm becoming the property of some soulless corporation, ultimately resulting in one’s inevitable (yet tragic) suicide! And where’s the “city folk’s” perception of farmers as nothing more than sexual deviants involved with incest and bestiality? The people who programmed this game obviously don’t understand what farming is all about. It’s about PETA’s accusations of animal cruelty, among which is cited a true farmer’s ability to stuff twenty-eight live chickens in a wooden crate that’s no bigger than one cubic foot. It’s about large government subsidies that allow true farmers to sit on their duffs and drink moonshine. It’s about “He Who Walks Behind the Rows” and the children of the sleepy little farm town who kill all of the adults (and any unwary outlanders) in the his name. It’s about a true farmer driving a lonely country road at night with his wife after they’ve tried in vain for years to conceive a child, only to witness a meteor crash in a nearby field which, upon investigation, contains a child whom they adopt and, sometime later, who the farmer hits accidentally with his tractor only to discover that, while the child was unharmed, the tractor has been decimated and, upon noticing this, also discovers that his son will one day fight for truth, justice, and the American Way. I mean, a game like this can’t be taken seriously if a mere city boy like me just schooled its programmers in what real farming is all about.

Well, now that we’ve seen the unrealistic end of the spectrum, let’s take a look at the realistic side of sims!

In the hyper-realistic SimCity for the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES), the player becomes the mayor of a nameless city.  Sounds boring, right? I bet you think that there’s nothing more to being a mayor than the ho-hum job of explaining to the public how a derelict coke fiend could kill eleven women and stuff them in every nook and cranny of his house without the police noticing until about five years after his spree had begun, or answering the District Attorney’s questions on how you’re related to the corruption charges levied against the County Administrator’s Office.

Well, you’re wrong. 

As SimCity teaches us, being a mayor is roughly synonymous with godhood.  Howso?  In SimCity, the mayor has the power to build cities, generate revenue, and, most shocking of all, create disasters. That’s right, folks, the mayor gets to decide who lives, who dies, and who is worthy to serve under him. According to SimCity, all of one’s megalomaniacal dreams can be achieved by becoming a mayor. Why, a mayor can create tornadoes and hurricanes, call upon fire and flood, cause numerous plane crashes and nuclear meltdowns, and summon UFOs and monsters (such as Bowser, the main antagonist of the Super Mario Bros. series) to level the city that once praised him.

See?  Being a mayor isn’t so boring, after all!


simcityfinalInteresting note: In the PC version of SimCity, it is Godzilla, not Bowser, who is summoned.


So, what have we learned today, dear reader? In addition to learning how to kill a few moments here-and-there, we’ve learned that SimCity is possibly the most realistic sim every created. As for Farmville, well, Farmville could stand to learn something about farming by watching Smallville–namely that farming is less about harvesting vegetables and more about freak-of-the-week super-villains attacking the local high school, only to be stopped by an old farmer’s adopted alien super-powered son. Now that’s what I call farming.


TBT #8 – “Rockman” becomes a rock opera thanks to the talented Protomen

Originally published at Examiner.com on October 21, 2009.

Sadly, it takes about 100 years for the Protomen to write, record, and release new music, so a third act (new album) hasn’t yet been released.  But, one is indeed on the horizon I hear, and should be coming soon.  As long as the quality is as high as it ever was, it will be well worth the wait in my humble opinion.

In terms of comments on the article itself, this one came from “Joe Doakes”, from about five years ago:

Kanye West is a total douche. You might want to write an article about that.
It’s a reference to a facebook “feud” I had with this kid I knew from high school about Kanye West’s now-infamous interruption of Taylor Swift at the Grammy’s.  I found the whole obsession with the event to be hilariously trivial, and so anytime this guy would bring it up, I’d talk about how Kanye’s a genius and, as a genius, he’s exempt from the rules of etiquette.  This made him extremely angry and he blocked me.  Apparently, he felt the need to get the last word as Joe Doakes, an alias he used often.  Which is fine.  I’m still better at life in general, and I’m sure this guy will be eating his words when Kanye and Taylor take the White House in 2020 (not serious about that, but we’ll see how well President Trump does during his first term in office).

– Randall Malus, 11/12/2015


Pop quiz, hotshot:  What do Jesus and Mega Man have in common?

Aside from both being robots from a distant future, Mega Man now joins Jesus in the prestigious honor known as the rock opera.  And the Protomen have made it all possible.

Honestly, words cannot express how awesome the music is.  The Protomen have released two albums thus far and already it’s obvious that these folks are going to go far.


TheProtomen_TheProtomen_jpgGet equipped with the Protomen.


The first album, simply entitled The Protomen, tells the story of Protoman a heroic android built by the benevolent Dr. Thomas Light (to save humanity from a dystopic robot-filled society ruled by the megalomaniacal Dr. Albert Wily) and Mega Man, Protoman’s android “brother”.

Protoman fights valiantly for the humans of the city, tearing through Dr. Wily’s forces with wreckless abandon, but ultimately Protoman is killed in battle while the humans he was charged to protect look on in indifference.  Wracked by frustration, guilt, sorrow, and rage, Dr. Light goes back to his workshop and builds Mega Man.  Though Dr. Light at first tries to convince Mega Man not to fight for the uncaring populace, Mega Man disobeys Light and rushes into battle, determined to avenge his fallen brother.  What Mega Man finds near the end of his journey, however, is a bit more than he bargained for.

The second album, entitled Act II: The Father of Death, is a prequel.  Taking place more than twelve years before the events of the first album, it chronicles the events that lead to Dr. Light’s tarnished reputation and Dr. Wily’s rise to power.

Though obviously not the strictest adherents to accepted Mega Man continuity, the Protomen paint the Mega Man story as an epic with heart, soul, and a message.  The music itself seamlessly blends hard rock with bursts of synth reminiscent of the electronic beats found in the Mega Man series as a whole.  If you love rock, love Mega Man, or just love quality, the Protomen will fill you with so much awesome that your heart will burst from your chest and attack your friends like a xenomorph from a Ridley Scott film.  But, enough talk.  Below are a few selected tracks and the usual obligatory links.  Do yourself a favor and give them a listen.  Even better, buy the albums and support this incredible band.  You won’t be sorry.


-LINKS-

Selected tracks from Act One: The Will of One, Vengeance 
Selected tracks from Act Two: The Hounds, Light Up the Night

TBT #7 – Offensive Stereotypes? In my classic games?! It’s more likely than you think!

Originally published at Examiner.com on September 8, 2009.

The story that starts this article is 100% true.  At the time, I thought the guy was insane for placing Italians above…well, above every other “minority” currently competing in the Oppression Olympics.  Little has changed over the last six years (thirteen if I consider the time since I truly attended that lecture).

I won’t even attempt to comment on racism and how to fix it.  Unlike so many SJWs out there, I won’t pretend that I have the answers.

Instead, I offer my own sarcastic take on the list fad that has infected so many websites as of late.  I guess I was ahead of my time.  Also, I literally just noticed the link at the bottom of the page.  After every Examiner.com article, we were encouraged to provide a link to one or more outside sources, so that folks could learn more about the subjects talked of in our articles.  I followed the instructions, but…apparently I’m just a dick.

Again, the pictures are approximations of the originals.

 – Randall Malus, 11/05/2015


About five years ago (“five” being an arbitrary number I‘m throwing out there since I have absolutely no concept of time and, as such, the point in time of which I speak could have realistically been anytime from “before I was born” up until “yesterday“), I attended a college lecture by some guy who said some stuff about how Italians are the most downtrodden victims of stereotyping in modern America.  During his spiel about how he, as an Italian-American, did not want to be associated with the romanticized, noble, anti-heroic criminals known as “mobsters”, I realized that my professor would give me credit just for showing up and that I could leave at any moment.  And so I pulled my half-asleep carcass from the chair and left.

But was he right–not just concerning Italian-Americans, but other ethnicities and social groups as well?  Does offensive stereotyping, anachronistic as it may seem, still happen in modern America?  And how does this stereotyping relate to video games?  Real-life lawyer Jack Thompson seems to be more than a little irked by video games in general, so is there something to this “offensive stereotype” thing?  To examine this, I’ve taken a look at five (there’s that arbitrary number again) classic video games, picked intentionally at random, and have found undeniable and shocking proof that, yes, offensive stereotypes still exist–and have since at least 1982 AD (sadly, Google didn’t exist before 1982, so I couldn’t find any instances prior to that year).  Observe, but be warned: these are not for the faint of heart.


offensive01Mama mia!


Super Mario Bros.: Perhaps the most vile instance of an Italian-American stereotype I’ve ever had the displeasure of crossing, Super Mario Bros. portrays Italian-Americans as honest, hard-working, blue-collar individuals who will put their own lives and sanity at risk by traveling to alien dimensions and facing hordes of monsters led by malicious fire-breathing reptiles in order to save a woman in distress or bring peace, prosperity, and happiness to the known world.  Absolutely scandalous!


NinGaiEven ninjas find the strangest women in bars.


Ninja Gaiden: What ignorant sod created this game?  I mean, am I truly to believe that the Japanese are noble, family-oriented people who place honor and justice before anything else?  Am I supposed to accept at face-value that they would selflessly travel the world and put their lives on the line in order to stop a dastardly demon cult from bringing forth a vengeful, destructive eldritch god that would only lay waste to our planet?  Nice try, Harry S. Truman, but I’m not buying into your racist agenda.


Mega“Beep boop beep”, indeed.


Mega Man: If this game is to be believed, all super fighting robots are heroic doers of good who fight the evil creations of malevolent scientists bent on world domination.  I often wonder what the robots employed at CERN would think (CERN being that Swedish science place in Switzerland which has tried to blow up the world no less than three times now).  If you asked them, I’m sure they’d reply with something witty like “please insert girder” or “beep boop beep”, but behind every flashing light and whimsical, silly “beep“, their tin robotic hearts would break at the pain caused by such an offensive portrayal.


PacI’m stereotyping those cherries as looking 100% delicious.  Mmm, mm!


Pac-Man: I once got punched in the face by a drunken, disgruntled Pac-Man because I made a snide comment about how all Pac-Men are good for is “running around fluorescent mazes whilst being chased by ghosts and gobbling balls”.  I learned the hard way that Pac-Men find this stereotype to be highly offensive and completely false.  The “wakka wakka” sound they’re said to make while they walk, though?  Totally true.

Well, there you have it.  Five games that prove my point on offensive stereotypes in modern America’s classic games–as well as display my inability to count.

-LINKS-

TBT# 6 – Folklore: King Lycaon of Arcadia and the Lykaia

Originally posted to my Facebook page on November 18, 2009.

Since Halloween is literally a couple of days away, I felt it appropriate to take a break from the Examiner articles for a week and post something I wrote concerning the mythical origins of werewolves. 

Now, obviously, the Greek origin isn’t the only one that exists.  Like vampires, werewolf and shape-shifter myths exist in cultures from virtually all over the world.  However, being of Greek (and, specifically, Arcadian) descent myself, and having a first name that means “wolf with a shield,” and having been born in the year of the dog under the Chinese zodiac and under Sagittarius the Hunter under the Western zodiac, and being a dog person…well, I felt it more than a bit neat to communicate this particular myth to my Facebook friends.  And now, I’d like to share this myth with you.

Maybe this will become a series.  I don’t yet know.  We’ll see what the response is like.

The photo below is the cover of a book from the White Wolf Publishing RPG called “Werewolf: The Forsaken”, entitled Night Terrors: Wolfsbane.  I felt it apt.

May everyone reading (and those who are not) have a safe and happy Halloween.

– Randall Malus, 10/29/2015


werewolfAww, look at the puppy!


When it comes to werewolves in folklore, the vast majority of the horror-loving population doesn’t know much.  Hollywood artistic license has polluted the well of good ol’ myth and legend, and so a lot of what people think they know is less tradition and more someone pounding out a script at a typewriter during a drunken afternoon back in the 1940s.

The best place to begin one‘s schooling on true werewolf folklore is at the beginning, so here are two werewolf entries (under one heading, because I cheated) coming at you from ancient Greece.

King Lycaon (also referred to as Lycaeus) was the mythical first king of the Greek city-state Arcadia. A tyrant and sociopath, King Lycaon ruled his people with sadistic cruelty. One day, Lycaon thought it might be fun to piss off Zeus, the king of the gods, by playing a little joke on the divine monarch.

So, Lycaon called Zeus down from Mount Olympus and invited him to a feast at the Arcadian palace. Zeus naturally accepted. If you know anything about Greek myth, Zeus usually just invited himself over whenever he felt like it, so it must have surprised him when he actually received an honest-to-God invitation.

Anyway, the time of the feast arrived and everything was ready. Zeus was pleased with what he saw and everything was going great for Lycaon until dinner itself was served. During the meal, Lycaon served Zeus a heaping helping of dead child–and if that wasn’t bad enough, the dead child was none other than the youngest of Lycaon’s fifty sons (yes, ladies, you read correctly: I said fifty). Outraged at Lycaon‘s barbarism and disrespect, Zeus slaughtered Lycaon’s remaining forty-nine sons with lightning bolts, resurrected Lycaon’s dead youngest son, and transformed Lycaon himself into a wolf, damning Lycaon to eat the flesh of animals and humans alike for the rest of his days.

This ancient Greek myth as well as the name Lycaon is, as you may have guessed, the origin of the word “lycanthropy”. The myth also gave rise to a festival observed by the ancient Arcadians and referred to as the Lykaia.

The festival called the Lykaia took place on the side of Mount Lykaion (the tallest peak in Arcadia at the time) and occurred annually, probably sometime in the month of May. This, like many festivals, was actually one giant ritual meant to keep the gods happy (in this particular case, it was Zeus). Plato claims in his work The Republic that every nine years, a different Arcadian clan would sacrifice an animal on the altar of Zeus during the festival. After the sacrifice, the clan would then prepare what remained of the animal and everyone would eat. There was just one catch: part of the meal preparation involved a required human sacrifice.

From that human sacrifice, one small piece of human entrails would be placed in the animal meat and served randomly to the patrons. The lucky patron who ate the human entrails was believed to become a wolf, which supposedly kept Zeus from turning any and all Arcadian adolescents into wolves like Lycaon (though why the Arcadians thought that Zeus would turn the youths in the city to wolves is beyond me–but the expected heavy-handed punishment speaks to the perceived relationship between the divine and mankind back in those days). Now, if the afflicted patron could keep himself from eating human flesh for nine years, the patron would be returned to human form by the time of the next sacrifice at the end of that nine year cycle.

TBT #5 – Classic Gaming 101: Where can I buy classic games in Cleveland?

Originally published to the Examiner.com on August 16, 2009.

This article came about after I received an email (a form email sent to all writers, not a personalized email indicating that anyone on staff had any actual notion or knowledge of my work) mentioning that I might get more readers if I did something with a bit of a local flavor.  It was to be sort of a beginner’s guide to the city in which I live as it relates to my area of “expertise” (i.e. the title of “Classic Games Examiner”). Taking the form email to heart, I decided to put my own spin on the idea.

I like how the article turned out, but it’s a litter bittersweet for me looking back.  Borders Books (mentioned briefly in the article) is now closed, as are a number of BuyBack$ locations.  Thankfully, Examiner.com (for whatever reason) kept the BuyBack$ picture–but the others are replicas.

– Randall Malus, 10/22/2015


Cleveland’s truly an awesome city.  Anyone who’s seen Mike Polk’s “Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Video” on Youtube can attest to this.  Sure, I admit that we did have a bit of a vampire problem that once prevented those but the most courageous of us from venturing out of doors after sundown in the late 1980s, but a rise in violent gang activity during recent years has alleviated that problem and made the streets safe for our gun-toting youths.  With Cleveland’s revival as a city has come a revival in secondhand mercantilism, especially where classic video games are concerned.  Whether you want to start a collection of classic video games or you’re looking to add a few new pieces to an already existing collection, there are a number of stores in Cleveland that are suited to your needs.  I recently investigated three such stores in the surrounding area, though allow me to offer one piece of advice: do not visit any of these stores after they’ve closed.  Take it from me, the selection is nowhere near as great as when each store is open.  Also, peering into darkened store windows whilst holding a crowbar bought from Home Depot only moments before is…not advisable.  Anyway, here’s what I found!


cg01Cheap, rare movies are also a huge draw of BuyBack$.


BuyBack$ is one of those stores that has made me feel like I’ve been living under a rock for most of my life.  Within the past year or so, a number of them have popped up in the area (with little to no fanfare until after they’ve arrived), though I’m certainly not complaining.  BuyBack$ offers a fairly sizable selection of NES, SNES, Genesis, PlayStation, and GameBoy games at (typically) eBay prices.  Some system peripherals are also offered, though the selection is variable.  Please note that these items are often loose, so mint-in-box collectors may be better off looking in our next store.


1021151959aIt’s not just for records anymore.  Actually, it’s not at all for records anymore, not since the invention of the 8-track.  Wait, that’s not right…


I’m sure plenty of people reading this article already know about the Exchange, but for those who don’t, it’s a lot like BuyBack$–but with a greater selection.  There are also more store locations, since the Exchange (formerly Record Exchange) as a chain has been around for awhile.  If you’re looking for games from the NES, SNES, N64, PlayStation, Atari, Genesis, Master System, GameBoy, GameBoy Color, or Game Gear, I’d advise checking out the Exchange.  Each store has an adequate selection of loose and mint-in-box items, as well as a good number of peripherals at reasonable prices.  Pay them a visit.  You won’t be disappointed.


1021151959I once found a copy of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale for $1.00 in here.  Of course, it was after paying, like, $15.00 for a new copy at Borders.  Yes, I’m aware you don’t actually care.


Now, some of you are probably puzzled.  Why Half-Price Books?  Well, while it’s true that they mostly deal in secondhand games from the last two generations (N64, PlayStation and onward), one platform that the other two stores fail to cover almost completely is the PC.  Half-Price Books, oddly enough, picks up the slack like some sort of slack-picking-up champion.  When I checked their North Olmsted location, I found some old Star Wars CD-ROM PC games (Dark Forces, Rebel Assault) for under $10.00 each, all mint-in-box; Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards (1987 floppy disk version) for around $30.00 mint-in-box; and various other video game adventures from PC antiquity.  PC game collectors should check their local Half-Price Books for similar gems.  Yeah, it doesn’t make sense to me, either.

While this is by no means a complete list of secondhand classic game stores in the Cleveland area, the three stores on this list are a good starting point for new collectors and veterans alike.  In my experience, these stores certainly offer the most reasonable prices for the most diverse product, and, since they’re chain stores, they’re accessible everyone in the Cleveland area (suburbs included).  Good luck, and happy hunting.

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TBT #4 – Gobble some balls with Namco’s Pac-Man

Originally published at Examiner.com on July 22, 2009.

This is the beginning of the end in two significant ways. 

First, after posting weekly (consistently) for a month, I realized that Examiner.com did little to drive viewership for anything that wasn’t an article about reality show television stars who now have “the clap”–and so this was my last consistent post.  They would eventually start to taper off into monthly, then into less than that…

Second, I became really comfortable really quickly when I realized that no one (on staff, such as it was) cared about what I wrote.  Thus, some of my best work at the Examiner began with this post.

– Randall Malus, 10/15/2015


pacman1
Namco originally wanted to call the game Puck-Man, but wisely decided against it after considering that the name may be altered by vandals to something not so kid-friendly: Fire Truck-Man.


Now, I know what you’re all saying after reading that title: “Why on earth would he review Pac-Man? It’s the single most famous video game on the face of the earth!” You’re right. Namco’s Pac-Man is the most recognizable title in the history of video games. It’s been copied, emulated, compiled, and remade, with few changes (if any) to the old formula of a character being chased in a maze. It’s been on virtually every system known to man (and probably plenty of systems that are unknown to man). What, then, could I have to say about the game that hasn’t already been said? Admittedly, not much. But I can point out a few things that some may have forgotten (or, perhaps, ignored) about the game‘s finer points. First, I shall talk about the storyline, as it’s the easiest and fastest to explain. Ahem. There is none. Next!


pacman2I’ve always wanted to eat a ghost, but I could never justify consuming the empty calories.


Wait…that can’t be right. No story? Even in Japan? Come on! When you really step back and take a look at how bizarre Pac-Man actually is, there must be some story. Any story. Well, sorry, folks, but there’s none. Pac-Man’s just a round thing with a mouth in an incandescent maze who eats yummy balls and gets chased by ghosts. When Pac-Man eats big, shiny balls, the ghosts turn blue and Pac-Man can now chase and eat them (Note: I could make several comments about that last sentence but, in the interest of maintaining at least some semblance of maturity, I won’t say a word). But, yes, there’s no deep storyline to Pac-Man. No rampaging minotaur threw Pac-Man into an endless labyrinth where the ghosts of those previously felled by the monster haunt the current hero. Nope. Just a circle. Eating balls. With ghosts. In a maze. And people have loved it for about three decades.


pacman3I sometimes wonder, “What kind of evil, vengeful god would trap Pac-Man in an endless maze of horror and death?” But then I wonder, “Meh, who am I to judge?”


And, while we‘re not on the subject, what is the deal with Ms. Pac-Man? Are we to believe that the only gender-identifying organ on the Pac-Man race happens to be a bow? Scientists would have quite a hard time explaining the evolutionary importance of that. Or, is it possible that Ms. Pac-Man is really just Pac-Man in drag, as the word “man” is still very prominent in her name? It would certainly explain why J. Edgar Hoover loved playing this game (for those who don’t know, J. Edgar Hoover was the inventor of the vacuum cleaner–and a cross-dresser). And let’s talk for a moment about the character known as Jr. Pac-Man. It’s Pac-Man…in a beanie. Is Jr. Pac-Man really a game starring Pac-Man’s offspring, or is Pac-Man just reliving the childhood he never had in some Freudian delusion of ghost-tainted fear and ball-munching madness? Oh, well. Some of these questions may never be answered, but for gamers, that’s okay. Namco’s classic has stood the test of time, and still remains an incredibly addictive game. There’s a reason why it’s been copied, ported, and cloned for all this time. I mean, really, the game is literally everywhere. And it rarely ever changes. Here’s hoping it never will.


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For more info: Pac-Man Wiki