Natalie Rambles About 2019

Because 2019 is dead… or close enough to warrant a retrospective.

The sky has been painted a persistent white from constant clouds, the ground has become caked with snow and ice (or at least it should be), and everybody’s school and work schedules are thrown out of whack as the year comes to a close.  It’s the much terrified year end, the point in time when people are expected to look back on the year that passed us by, highlighting the highs and the lows, and hopefully re-centering oneself during a period comprised of both frantic activity and mellow relaxation around loved ones.  Or at least that’s my skewed perspective on the matter.  

2019 is over, dead, and ready to have a fork rammed up its butt, ‘cos this genderless entity is done, son.  And what better way to celebrate that then to go through a list of events that defined this year, both personally, with regards to Nigma Box, with regards to the game industry, and with regards to the sliver of society that I can see and comprehend.  It’s time for the annual Nigma Box year-end spectacular!

Part 1: Natalie’s Accomplishments of 2019

2019 was the year where I decided to take this whole Nigma Box thing a bit more seriously.  I secured myself a domain name, NigmaBox.com. I began a number of new segments, between prolonged, often novella-length deep dives into a topic of my choosing, known as Rambles.  Short one-off stories that explored a bizarre idea that I took a fancy to, known as Randoms.  Extensive overviews into various fan created spin-offs of the most popular topic on this site, also known as my Student Transfer Scenario Reviews.  And I finally, after so many years, began posting my own novels onto this site in full, starting with my latest work, Psycho Shatter 1985: Black Vice Re;Birth.

How successful were these exploits?  I mean, I don’t receive any form of monetary compensation for my work, as I don’t run ads on my website, but my overall viewership rose by 50% over my numbers from 2018, amounting to an average daily viewership just under 400.  It might not sound impressive to some, but I remember what it was like to get maybe 10 views a day, so it means a lot to me… even if over 70% of my viewership comes from people visiting my home page and various posts about Student Transfer.

Creatively, I am pretty happy with what I accomplished this year, having done a lot, learned a fair bit, and further developed my skills as a writer by pursuing a more diverse catalog of content, while turning this quaint little website into something more akin to a proper personal blog and hub for content.  As opposed to the uber niche games site it was for the first few years of its inception. And I hope to continue this throughout 2020… even if I am going to need to revise my schedule a bit, make the site discernibly less about games, and more about weird TG nonsense. As I am moving further away from the weekly game review format I ran with from 2016 to 2018, and am only planning on putting out a paltry 28 game reviews next year.  For reasons I previously explained in detail two weeks ago.

…Oh, right, I should be talking about the year that just passed.  Yeah, I finished school after 18.5 years, and was able to walk away with a Masters degree in Accounting.  That is quite an accomplishment, especially for a 25-year-old like myself, but beyond that, the only other highlights of my year personally were maintaining what I had already established.  My second year of presenting myself as female was basically just like the first, but with less accidental misgenderings from my co-workers, and a greater degree of personal confidence in my appearance, as I fully recovered from my surgery, and acclimated to my new normal, as it were.

I have been continuing down the path I set for my life, achieved a professional milestone, and overall the outlook for my future is looking a lot brighter than it did a few years ago, when I was deeply depressed and dissatisfied with my existence.  I mean, I still have fits where I become consumed with the idea that I am a terrible person, that I should bash my head in with a hammer, and that I am worth notably less than the assets I hold to my name, including my life insurance policy. Seriously, life insurance policies are an immensely easy way for one to justify suicide.  But I always get over it after being given the opportunity to simmer down, play some video games, have some dark chocolate, and listen to one of my favorite albums or personal playlists.

I’m a trans autistic weirdo with anxiety problems, bizarre fixations, and numerous deficiencies regarding my social skills and ability to manage many situations.  But those were the cards I’ve been dealt, and all that I can do is play them as best I could.

Part 2: Gamindustri 2019 Highlights

In 2019… quite a few things happened.  As people were easing into the new year, Bungie abruptly ended their relationship with Activision Blizzard, taking full ownership of the Destiny IP and relaunching Destiny 2 as a free-to-play title months later.  A move that has brought a significant amount of buzz to the game, and likely did a great deal to help the workflow and overall environment at Bungee, who is now free from corporate Activision Blizzard buzzards and their insatiable demands.  And while this may not be remembered as a massive shift, I seriously cannot recall many instances where a developer and IP as big as Bungie and Destiny managed to regain independence like this, so this sticks out to me as a remarkable feat.

A few weeks later, Metroid Prime 4 completely restarted development after Bandai Namco allegedly could not live up to the expectations of Retro Studios circa 2007, and as such the project was offloaded to Retro Studios circa 2019.  A studio that we don’t know much about publicly, but that has not stopped a myriad of claims from surfacing, and mingling together to form an unclear, yet nevertheless unpleasant picture. 

Catherine: Full Body made waves shortly after its Japanese release back in February, where it was subjected to a lot of finicky translations and misunderstandings of the game’s content, which many people blew out of proportions into being something worse than what it actually was.  Something that in turn led some to voice criticisms about the treatment of LGBT characters in Atlus’s games, which has never been super great.  All because the game, an updated version of 2011’s Catherine, added an ending that featured a transgender character, Erica Anderson, before her gender transition, and introduced the character of Rin.  

Rin is a effeminate character with a color scheme consisting of pink, light blue, and white, three colors commonly associated with transgender people, who is deliberately depicted as dainty and cute.  But in actuality, they are a male crossdressing alien who Vincent may choose to pursue romantically, despite initially reacting to the fact that Rin has a penis with a degree of panic and unrest. Reading through the details months after the official western release, which happened back in September, I don’t think the game did anything blatantly phobic or problematic, and that people simply misinterpreted what was happening, panicked, and wound up getting angry at something that really isn’t that bad.  Just bizarre and… dumb. Like, pants on head levels of stupid.

Anthem also came out in February, where it earned its place among the worst launches in recent memory.  With the game being subjected to absurd load times, massive system breaking bugs, a slew of design oversights, and a general lack of quality that was immensely unbecoming of its developer, Bioware.  A studio who went from one of the most revered in the industry to one that was plagued with managerial issues, stress casualties, and horrific crunch, as the game did not have a cohesive vision or identity until… it was less than a year away from launch.  Its numerous issues behind the scenes were widely publicized, and after EA did some preliminary damage control, put out some patches, and allowed an event to be squirted out, this much lauded multi-year liver service petered out from the public consciousness, and whatever faith or renown that was associated with its developer effectively dried up into nothingness.  

Oh, but February was not quite done yet, as right before the month ended THQ Nordic went and aligned itself with white supremacists and child rapists for a hot minute.  All because, for some absurd and rock-stupid, the company decided to host an AMA on 8Chan, which is like 4chan, but exclusively for white supremacists and supporters of child sexual slavery.  THQ Nordic quickly apologized after this story started doing the rounds, and tried to bury it, clearly recognizing this as a mistake, and possibly being as part of an elaborate ploy for some repugnant individual whom they employ and empower.  

As I said in the past, I honestly don’t care too much about this transgression, and actively want to support many of the developers they partner with, so I’m willing to accept this apology, move on, and only occasionally make passing jokes about this bizarre and, in retrospect, rather surreal matter.  Also, as a brief follow-up, 8chan was removed from clearnet a few months ago after serving as the planning grounds for one of America’s more successful domestic terrorists.

Speaking of sullied Golden Boys, throughout 2019 the Epic Games Store went from something that writers were praising as the revolution the PC gaming space needed, to a storefront that engaged in predatory business practices by securing timed exclusives for immense sums of money, while simultaneously devoting insufficient resources into their storefront, which took months to implement basic features like proper regional pricing, a shopping cart, and held a site-wide sale that they wisely did not inform anyone about.  Which is either the result of baffling incompetence, or people being pulled away from the storefront, giving it only a skeleton crew, while every other human is being thrown into the Fortnite crunch machine.  Combine this Epic’s affiliation with Chinese media giant Tencent, who owns a minority stake in Epic, and the Epic’s desire to keep their storefront this bizarre walled garden, and you have a nasty little mess.

A mess so immense that it caused any and every discussion on the storefront to devolve into people whining about the storefront and harassing developers who opt to take advantageous deals that offer them a degree of financial security, in a market where it is not unheard of for games to fail to break even.  I mean, Remedy Entertainment’s Control snagged $10 million for a one year exclusivity deal.  You’d have to be an anti-capitalist knucklehead to not take up an offer that good.  I still don’t like what they’re doing, I find their tactics very aggressive, and aside from picking up Journey for $5, I don’t plan on supporting the store beyond snagging my weekly free games.  Games that, in all likelihood, I’ll probably never play, simply because they don’t show up in my Steam library.

Though, some debatable good can be cited to have come from the Epic Games Store, in that Valve has finally been putting out significant improvements to Steam, and has been releasing periodic experiments to help test ways to improve automated storefront curation.  While this can be cited as a positive, I personally do not consider this to be because of the Epic Games Store, but rather because Steam faced meaningful competition for the first time… ever, basically. Or, alternatively, Valve just had a lot in the cards for this year, and could have been planning this even if the Epic Games Store never existed.  You can’t really say for sure.

As for a more wholly good consumer friendly practice, Microsoft revised their gaming business model heavily by putting far more stake and weight into their proprietary gaming subscription service, Xbox Game Pass.  A service launched back in 2017, but did not garner much acclaim or attention initially due to a limited library, which Microsoft promptly fixed by adding more promising titles, including every current and future first party offering.  It took a while to build up, and some incredibly convincing deals for people to take the plunge, but the response to the service has been universally positive, and provided many people with a vast library of over 200 Xbox games and 100 PC games, all for a very reasonable monthly fee.  I personally would love to jump onto the service and play through titles like Darksiders III, Recore, Steamworld Dig 2, Sunset Overdrive, The Messenger, and The Outer Worlds.  Unfortunately, the Windows Store is a tempermental mistress, and it hates my PC.  So there goes that dream.

Following a fairly mellow summer, news broke that Nicalis is a bad video game publisher run by an unsavory individual who takes on far too many projects for his studio to handle, frequently ghosts potential clients, and regularly engages in racially charged comments, places undue pressure on employees, and is generally not a good person.  This individual in question, Tyrone Rodriguez, claimed that his actions were indefensible and unacceptable, but at the same time defended himself by claiming that this was not an indication of who he was currently, and asked for forgiveness without technically apologizing to those whom he hurt.  

On one hand, I am very open to forgiveness, and greatly dislike holding grudges against other people.  On the other, the acquisitions in the original article were rather extreme, and existed in an openly professional context, which negatively impacted people both personally and professionally.  Rodriguez did make a statement, but basically nothing was shared after that. He and Nicalis went quiet on the matter, likely hoping that this would be forgotten, without making any indication that things were improving or the criticism voiced at them was being heard.  It is precisely because of how this has been handled that I say, yeah, screw Nicalis and its dirtbag owner.

And also screw Activision Blizzard, and most especially their subsidiary Blizzard Entertainment, who made worldwide news after one fateful day in October when they banned competitive Hearthstone player Blitzchung and rescinded his prize winnings for having the audacity to voice his support of a human rights movement going on in Hong Kong.  This bull-headed move drew an insane amount of ire and disdain from the gaming community at large, Blizzard fans, and even American politicians.  They attempted to skirt around this by reducing Blitzhung’s punishment, and giving him back his prize winnings, but the damage was done, Activision Blizzard refused to actually apologize for their behavior, and instead attempted to rub alcohol into the wounds by announcing Diablo IV and Overwatch 2.  Two games that are still multiple years away… so everybody will forget about this by the time they come out anyways.

Google Stadia began its life as a promising idea, the ability to stream games from any device, without needing to worry about the expenses associated with consoles.  It’s an idea that honestly spurred concern and worry in people who jumped to the possible future where gaming is just streaming, preservation is impossible, and local hardware becomes a dated concept.  Yet reality came knocking, and reminded people that streaming is inherently limited by infrastructure and various laws of physics. Latency, connection errors, and general technical hurdles all plagued Stadia when it launched in November, and while there were instances of the service working as intended, the service was widely panned upon its release.  Indicating that many bold claims about the service’s death may not have been too outlandish, or that Google will need to revise their approach and strategy in order to salvage this massive project that they established entirely new studios for.

From June to November, Pokémon Sword and Shield were subjected to one of the most incredible and prolonged fits of outrage and frustration that I have ever witnessed, with the sheer level of vile on display and disdain levied towards Game Freak was spectacular, disgusting, and flushed with ignorance towards how game development works.  However, such outrage was initially sparked by genuine concerns and a desire for the game to be good, as I tried to explain in a very dated Ramble that I released back in July.  Upon release, the games were met with a slightly less glowing critical reception than the series had been known for, but they still sold considerably well, showing both the futility of fan outrage, and also the immense brand power of Pokémon.  

The Nintendo 3DS definitively died shortly after the total sales failure of Mario & Luigi: Bowser’s Inside Story + Bowser Jr.’s Journey scared Nintendo away from supporting the admirable little handheld, and sent shockwaves that eventually led to the closure of Mario & Luigi RPG developer AlphaDream back in October.  A story that still sounds surreal as, well, when was the last time a Nintendo affiliated developer, let alone one that made Mario games, went under in such a sudden and dramatic manner?  The answer is never.

And speaking of surreal happensings, Phantasy Star Online 2 was announced for the west, ending what has been a nearly decade long wait for the localization of a sequel to one of the most beloved ‘first generation’ MMORPGs.  Cult classic, and personal all-time favorite of mine, Deadly Premonition, had a sequel announced, and as a Nintendo Switch exclusive no less.  Oh, and Shenmue 3 came out, where it was met with a tepid critical reception, and low sales on account of people barely even noticing that the game came out in the first place.

Part 3: Natalie’s Favorite Games Played In 2019

That covers the industry, but what about the games themselves?  Well, the list of games I went through in 2019 wound up being somehow more eclectic and random than it usually is, coming across as a sort of grab bag of titles, and while I enjoyed the bulk of them a fair bit, I frequently felt the need to temper my praise with criticism, or simply wound up releasing a middling review.  But as is customary, I feel the need to shine a light on my favorite games that I played in 2019.

Sonic Adventure DX and Sonic Adventure 2 Battle: While not the most polished or refined titles, these two games were foundational for me, introducing me to 3D gaming, and endearing me with their extravagant presentations comprised of winding and exciting stages, fantastic soundtracks, endearingly silly stories, and and awkward charm that I simply adore.  After going through every mainline Sonic game over the past few years, I was genuinely worried that I would dislike or simply be disappointed in the two Adventure titles.  But while I can certainly see their flaws more clearly now than ever before, I can also better appreciate everything these titles did, see how they strived with their designs, evolved the series forward from something I genuinely did not enjoy into something that I genuinely cherish.

Student Transfer: I love TG, I love body swapping, I love all sorts of weird manners of transformation, and over the years I have come to utterly adore Student Transfer for taking these things that I love, and using them as the creative cornerstone of a detailed and intricate visual novel.  The plotlines, creative implementation of the subject matter, and endearing cast of characters have made the base game one of my favorite things in the world, but this past year I have expanded my horizons well beyond that and into the realm of fan created Scenarios.  

A realm flushed with a vast spectrum of quality, ranging from Scenarios that I downright disliked playing through, Scenarios with promising concepts that simply lacked the focus to execute on their intriguing ideas, to immensely impressive narrative accomplishments like Connie Offshoot by kinuyasha2, Remote Possibilities by EvilBlender, Osmosis: The Story of a Mistake by Westinghouse, The Festival by ChoripanKiller, Playing With the Devil by Gweddry, and Yui Spellbook by Applemelon.  I cannot think of a single game I have played that has offered me so much quality entertainment through the continued work of the dev team, who releases a new build flushed with content on an annual basis, and the seemingly infinite stream of Scenarios that continue to be released regularly.  Student Transfer is the gift that keeps on giving, and I hope that it’s life as an actively developed game is both long and prosperous.

Press-Switch v0.5c: That being said, my heart is big enough for more than one title, and as I said last year, Press-Switch is the culmination of just about everything I like about body swapping, TG, and all that malarkey, executed by a man with a sense of drive and passion for this subject matter, and whose work leaves me positively giddy with excitement following every update.  V0.5c was no exception, showing off an extensive foray into the world and characters, doing a few things that I simply would have never fathomed with the subject matter… and also making sure to include one of the greatest gag endings I have ever had the privilege of experiencing.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate: Considering that I extensively started this website so that I would have the opportunity to talk about video games on the internet, it should be pretty obvious that I am a great big dork who is infatuated with the medium, and its elongated history, having been a kid who would feverishly eat up video game facts and trivia.  And it is precisely because of that established adoration that I found myself having such a grand time with Smash Ultimate, whose single player campaigns are designed around titillating people like me by showing off a vast spectrum of characters familiar and obscure, and presenting them in the context of a rock solid and intuitive fighting game.  While I cannot appreciate the game on a deeper mechanical level, mostly on account of my strong distaste for competitive multiplayer, Ultimate still offered an enthralling and tightly designed foray into video game history and memorabilia, and helped me gain a whole new appreciation for the series beyond its function as a hype machine. 

Muv-Luv Alternative: The more distanced I become from the Muv-Luv trilogy, the more impressed I am by the fact that it exists and all came together into something so gosh darn amazing.  From the sprawling and detailed multiverse-spanning narrative, the emotional depth and development of its cast of characters, the way it mingles despair and joy, and the immaculate presentation that it boasts… resolution notwithstanding.  It’s easy to understand why Alternative specifically cemented the series as a staple for its developer, as it certainly provided an incredibly strong foundation for other works to build upon, but it also manages to feel like one of the most definitive and complete trilogies that I have ever had the privilege to experience. 

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night: Back in 2015, when I was considerably more impulsive and flippant with my finances, on account of still being new to the idea of having my own regular income, I would up backing this proposed revival of the Castlevania series for $150, and boy was that a terrible investment decision, but at least the game that came from all of this was pretty great.  While a tad rough in spots, Bloodstained deeply scratched the long unattended desire of mine to experience a prim and traditional metroidvania experience from the person largely responsible for that term existing in the first place.  And as somebody who openly adores those games, being able to play a wholly new one after a decade was more than enough to make this one of my favorite games of the past year.

Dragalia Lost: I can’t say that I ever expected a game like this to appear on my favorites list, but goldarn have I been enjoying my time with Dragalia Lost.  When I tried going through a number of free-to-play mobile live service gacha games earlier this year, I expected to walk away tired and disgusted from the genre, but instead I found myself appreciating how Dragalia Lost differed from its contemporaries.  It is a generous and bubbly experience that boasts a sense of charisma not seen in many other titles, and while the game does eventually transform into a daily grind where players steadily increase in power, I have found the process of running my dailies and seeing numbers steadily rise to be a very compelling one, punctuated with periodic events that further inject the game with personality… most of the time anyways.

Pokémon Platinum and Shield: Do you have a friend or family member who you care about immensely, but they struggled to do certain things that you think are obvious, and haven’t been able to reach their potential even as they have been steadily growing into adulthood?  Well, that’s kind of how I feel about the Pokémon games, as I know that they have been and are doing quite well, and routinely offer quality experiences that I have enjoyed for dozens of hours on a near annual basis.  The worlds, the characters, and most especially the creatures themselves. There is so much to love about Pokémon… but it’s consistently paired with assorted grievances that, as I realized in playing two games developed a decade apart within a two month window, really haven’t been addressed as well as they should have been.  But aside from that, both of these games were pretty good, and I liked them a lot.

Higurashi: When They Cry Chapter 7 – Minagoroshi: The Higurashi series has routinely impressed me with its elaborate narrative and compelling characters, resulting in a series that I appreciate every time I go through it.  Chapter 7 mostly continues this trend of quality consent, finally piecing together the scraps laid out in prior entries, and doing a rather impressive job of taking so many elements and not turn them into an incomprehensible mass of happenstance and multi-universal chaos-driven tomfoolery.  But when it is not tying up loose ends, it still offers an enthralling story about the pursuit for justice, and trying to strong-arm a resilient system in the right way, rather than resorting to vigilantism…and murder.

Dead Cells: As I said in my review two weeks ago, Dead Cells is an often brilliant game, both as a roguelike and as a metroidvania, offering an immensely rewarding game loop paired with positively stellar game feel.  It is the type of game that I want to turn on after a stressful day of work, and just progress as best I can, delighting in the progress I make, revised sights indicative to each playthrough, and the immensely detailed distinct visual style belonging to this game.  I just wish that hard mode wasn’t so… hard.

Part 4: SOCIETY!!!

In prior years, I have kept these sorts of year end posts very much fixated on video games, what happened in the industry, and what I played.  But even though I could call it quits right here, a year should not just be defined by video games, so forgive me for this self-indulgent diatribe into my own personal politically-charged views on the world, or as I’m phrasing it, society.  

What defined 2019 for me, in my own personal bubble, which is in no way an accurate representation of the world at large because of how unworldly and sheltered I am, is what I refer to as a rise in radicalization.  Where there is a lot of unrest, a lot of outspoken anger, and a lot of opposition levied towards groups. Whether they be a political affiliation, a loosely defined term that means very little, or users of an online forum.  None of this is really new, and has been going on for quite a while, but this is the year where it finally started to click towards me how often I observe complaints about the alt-right, liberals, leftists, progressives, SJWs, incels, pedophiles, racists, sexists, cis-het-white-males, and whatever terms I am forgetting.  Seeing so much vitriol and opposition towards others has steadily made the process of perceiving discourse to be… exhaustive, as it only highlights the sheer quantity and complexity of problems that fill this world.

The global society established by humans is an infinitely fascinating, complex, and deep series of intertwining systems that are ever changing, expanding, and being revised at a rapid rate.  This is nothing new, but people’s exposure to it has. In the westernized first world, also known as the core cultural reference point for most English language discourse, the establishment of the internet as a necessity of daily life, the advent of social media, and ease for individuals to become inundated into disconnected online communities has changed the information people are exposed to and how they react to it.

People are overly inundated with information, making it very easy for them to accept things as they first see them and jump to reactive conclusions, rather than spending the time to do adequate research on a subject, or think about it for more than a few seconds before reacting to it on their media outlet of choice.  Whether it be accepting misinformation as the truth, drawing conclusions from synopses or headlines, or completely misinterpreting something based on the discourse of others.  

The latter of which is alarmingly easy for people to do, as misinformation spreads just as well as information, and once it breaks out in an isolated community of like minded individuals, it very well could be accepted as fact by these people.  People who have a tendency to claim that their beliefs have a foundation in research, facts, rationale, science, and reason… when they really don’t. They frequently use buzzwords to dismiss others, encourage debates in order to crush opposition, expand one’s sphere of influence, and generally make an impact on society that… I honestly cannot construed as anything other than harmful, given my issues and grievances with this loosely defined strawman.  

In a world as complicated as this, it is… nice to keep things simple.  To have very clearly defined goods and bads, for a name and face to be assigned to opposition, for the other to be vilified, and for one’s views to remain unchallenged.  But this mentality is inherently close minded, and while being close minded has it comforts, it’s also destructive.  It limits one’s growth, understanding, and ability to better contribute to the world. Having one’s worldview challenged is… scary.  Being told to question things you have taken for granted is not a very fun time. And being told that you are wrong— that your views must or should change— that can be very disconcerting.

People generally were never made for a world this complicated, but it’s the world everybody must live in.  It is a world with a cavalcade of problem. Whether they be poor continental infrastructure. Inevitable and likely catastrophic environmental issues.  Growing political unrest. Nations pouring out streams of refugees desperate for a life of liberty and prosperity. Underserved civil rights propagated by centuries of racial tensions.  The bountiful negatives of late-stage capitalism. Unchecked corporate avarice that is being rewarded through inadequate taxation practices. Or, my favorite, the second generation of American internment camps.  I mean… fucking fuckidity fucker-nutters, this fuckaround reali-fuck is un-fucking-believifuck.

I always thought that politics were an amazing gateway into depression, nihilism, and beliefs that genocide is an exceptional problem solver, but after futzing around and dabbling my toes deeper into my little curated pool of… leftist-center socially progressive pragmatic content, I am left thinking that, yes, they are.  But it’s =YEAR(TODAY()), and the only sources of true bliss is ignorance, lies, or accepting that there is realistically little the individual can do other than vote in periodic elections, thus making one’s concern pointless. Which is also why I spend so much of my life playing and reviewing video games, writing stories chock full of child cannibalism and fetishistic exotica, and listening to 90s rap music.

Sorry that I got a bit deep and serious there, but I needed to get that off my chest and put it out there because… lord is it getting hard to even propagate cynical optimism given how dire things are seemingly getting around the world.  This is an era or radicalization, unrest, and general confusion, where huddled masses seek answers and forms of salvation against a world that is becoming increasingly more dire, or at least it appears to be, and people are arguing about whether or not change needs to be propagated.  It all seems fairly clear cut to me, but such simplicity does not exist in the cold stilted and fragmented confines of reality, which I feel only fractures and malforms as each day passes and society mutates into something new, revealing an ugly shade and color that many would not have even known existed even a few decades ago.  

If things were obviously getting better, and a sense of improvement was felt, I would not be too bothered by the cavalcade of problems plaguing the world, but new problems seem to keep popping up while old ones go unsolved, if not worsening as time goes on.  It is a mentality that goes against how I thought the world worked throughout the bulk of my life, the idea that things were constantly improving. But ever since… 2017 basically, it has felt as if things have started dreading down a dark path that society will be unable to recover from, with even minor improvements to the world and the quality of life of the average person feeling less attainable now than they ever did before.  

Part of this is just me growing up, seeing darker shades of the world while having greater context to understand them, and the fact that everybody in the world is ultimately little more than a child who got sacked with a bunch of responsibilities and a slowly dilapidating body.  As for the rest of it… it’s just due to a series of fundamental flaws with human society, spurred on by shortsightedness and greed that has harmed the lives of billions who have lived, and will harm humanity as a whole unless things change, and society begins undergoing an unprecedented change into something more altruistic 

Unfortunately, the unseen and wide reaching group of people who truly control mankind and its destiny, the group best equipped to change society, chooses not to engage in such acts of generosity, and instead has mankind blame the beast, the other, their friends, their neighbors, those with asthma that are contributing to climate change by daring to live.  So I guess that all we can do is hope that everybody else who is a part of mankind stops with this blazing bullshit that is hatred and starts acknowledging the beauty of these beasts, which will cause this entire structure of fear mongering and manufactured hatred to end.  But that’s some idealistic blazing bullshit, so I guess the only thing people can do it hope, vote, and whine until your voice is echoed by billions.

Part 5: The Problematic Paradigms

When reviewing my Rundowns in advance of this Ramble, I was reminded of something of a persistent trend with a lot of the radicalization that I saw throughout this year, namely people’s views towards unsolicited sexual activity, and a rise in cancel culture.  The idea of highlighting somebody and effectively destroying them professionally and personally by exposing negative things about them. While this type of thing happened with Tyrone Rodriguez of Nicalis, as I previously discussed, a similar outrage was expressed towards many others throughout this year.

Popular YouTube creator, Jared “ProJared” Knabenbauer, came under fire back in May as two individuals began to speak out about his private and not-so-well-kept secret nudes sharing Tumblr page, where he invited and chat with a number of fans of his content, and shared penis pics with them.  Which is enough to set off certain more prudish people, and is generally not a good look to begin with, but then it came out that these two individuals were underaged. Knabenbauer was also having publicized marital issues at this point, his partner at the time voiced that she was unaware of these habits of her then husband, and… well, the snowball was sent rolling down a 200 meter hill.  

Knabenbauer remained quiet after things went crazy, offered a statement that did not fully address the matters people were concerned about, and did not prepare a proper response until three months later.  Long enough for many people to come to terms with their decisions of labeling him as a seuxal deviant and a generally toxic other to be avoided.  But as it turns out, there was evidence to support that one of the two people who spoke out to Knabenbauer had not actually interacted with him, or been invited into his nudes-sharing-circle, while the other one lied about their age when immediately asked by Knabenbauer. 

So, yes, he did have a weird sexually open relationships with strangers, and enjoyed sending naked pictures of himself to others, which is… pretty vanilla by sexual kinks go, but he did not knowingly share this content with children. Also, based on some tangential evidence he showed, Knabenbauer and his former partner had a rather poor relationship even before this PR disaster broke out, so perhaps her words should be discredited as well.

Because of the delay in this response, I doubt there is much Knabenbauer can do to change the minds of others, who already looked into the story, and made their conclusions based on the information they saw.  But assuming that everything in his response video was accurate then… yeah, I think this guy has been through more than enough and deserves at least some forgiveness, as his only real misaction was sharing nudes with what he thought were consensual adults.

But other’s actions are not quite so dismissable, as seen with a game developer partially behind the creation of contemporary cult hit, Night in the Woods, Alec Holowka.  Earlier this year Zoe Quinn, who probably deserves a medal as one of the most abused persons of the 21st century, as she was at the epicenter of that GamerGate nonsense a few years ago, spoke out about her abusive relationship with Holowka.  By outing him, she inspired a number of other people, mostly other women, to speak out about his abusive tendencies, while much anger was thrown his way from the peanut gallery.  This all undoubtedly caused Holowka a great deal of personal stress as he saw so many people suddenly turn against him, and had people openly cut ties with him at a rapid rate.  Then, days later, Holowka passed away, having committed suicide.

This unlikely and abrupt end was later followed up by Scott Benson, co-developer of Night in the Woods, who went in great detail recounting his relationship with Holowka, describing how they came into contact with one another, and the very… messy process of working with him on a creative project.  In short, Holowka had several personal issues that resulted in him failing to understand the emotional strain and pain he was putting onto others, and led a long history of abusing those whom he lived with, had relationships with, and worked with professionally.  

These issues persisted throughout the development of Night in the Woods, and after reaching this success Holowka attempted to get his life in order, visiting specialists to help with his assorted chemical imbalances, and being a far more personable and well adjusted individual.  But personal issues like these are a lifelong battle, and can resurface even after years, especially if they go largely untreated until adulthood, and it is largely accepted that this controversy likely tipped him over the edge.

It all makes for an overall just shitty situation where no party is really to blame.  Holowka’s personal mental state, combined with his well-off background effectively allowed these issues to subsist until after he already hurt a significant number of people, and once you hurt somebody like that… the only thing you can really do is apologize, atone, and try to seek forgiveness.  Things Holowka evidently did not do due to how much of a mess he caused, allowing these issues to subsist for years. He was apparently never able to make it to the state where he was able to seek such forgiveness, being so overwhelmed by the negativity around him that he took his own life, with the only thing of him remaining in this world being the impact he had on others, and that which he created.  

A similar, yet thankfully less tragic, thing happened with a person whose work I cherish quite deeply, that being the voice actor, animator, and game developer Christopher “Kirbopher” Niosi.  This is a bit of a messier situation, in that it is a bit harder to keep things straight, but the basic is that Niosi had not been very kind to those whom he worked or interacted with in the past 15 years, lashing out against them, saying discouraging things, being abusive, or general misconduct, while also routinely breaking non-disclosure agreements when discussing things in private.

As things started to broil, Niosi issued numerous apologies, both in general and to those whom he hurt, admitted these were insufficient, and began seeking out professional help in order to atone for his misdeeds.  Which is about as well as you can handle a situation like this without having not done anything to apologize for in the first place. But there is naturally some lingering salt in the air, especially after the story did the rounds, on account of Niosi’s role as the male protagonist in Fire Emblem: Three Houses being replaced with a different voice actor after launch.  But as things were left to linger, Niosi seems to have regained a sense of normalcy, even if he is considerably less active online than he was before.  However, I am unsure as to how this affected his professional career as a voice actor, and whether or not he has been put on a sort of blacklist as his violations became well known.

These transgressions run a rather intriguing spectrum of how outrage and cancel culture can damage people’s professional and personal life.  And the very idea of trying to cancel or destroy someone through outrage is a rather disturbing idea to me the more I think of it. I do believe that misdeeds and abuse should be voiced out and addressed, but I often consider the backlash to these actions to be a form of abuse in and of itself.  Everybody is a person. People are fickle. People fuck up constantly, make mistakes on a daily basis, and do bad things even to those who they care about deeply. I personally believe people should be forgiven if they acknowledge, accept, and attempt to atone for their misactions, which is a far more daunting process than many people realize.  Instead, save the malice for the multitude of people who, when faced with opposition for their views, phobias, and hateful rhetoric, choose to double down on them.

Like the lead developer of the enticing and adorable looking RPG HEARTBEAT, who went full-on transobe after being influenced by her girlfriend, and decided to make a cheeky reference to trans suicide rates when putting the game on sale.  A move that caused several members of this small development team to part ways, and rightfully soured many people who were avid fans and supporters of this quality niche game.  A game that I bought before this outrage, and promptly hid from my library once I saw this story make the rounds. Oh, and if you want to learn more of the specifics about this story, I would recommend this article by Luka Étoile.

To guide this rambly mess to a conclusion of sorts, the lesson I got from watching all of this outrage and later dredging it up for this article is that people should try to be open minded about people, hear them out, and generally be accepting of others unless they are beings who immerse themselves in hateful mindsets.  …Or are sexually attracted to children in any way, because then they are lifeforms of excessive social deviance, and ought to be removed from our society and placed into the society for the bad people. Also known as jail.

Part 6: The One Evil Fetish

So back in April I published Natalie Rambles About the Sexualization of Minors in Media, an elongated musing where I discussed the idea of all sexualization of minors in media is vile, toxic, and generally reprehensible.  My conclusion was that there is nothing wrong with sexualizing anyone, or really anything for that matter. Unless the sexualization is a sexually explicit act, and involves a life action real, and actual child under the age of 18.  In that case, then what you’ve got there is genuine child pornography, an industry that is entirely built off of the mental and physical abuse of minors, and partially built off of child trafficking. Which is, naturally, immensely, horrifically, and demonstrably bad.

But anything aside from that?  I spent so much time in online spaces where the idea of sexualizing minors was normal that I just view it as another fetish, and one that lacks a direct real world equivalent.  In more abstract media like comics, video games, and animation, the line between a child and adult is hard to parse unless a mostly meaningless age is attached to it, but even then… they’re not real, and nobody is harmed if they are involved in a sexually explcit situation where they get sexed on something fierce..  

Is it fucked up and weird for somebody to jack it to a hentai where a 16-year-old girl has five eggs and one penis rammed up her anus?  Absolutely, even by hentai standards. How comparable is it to abducting a child and raping their anus and then uploading that shit onto the darkweb for people to jerk off to it, imagining their penises being in that abducted child’s butthole?  I say not even remotely, and that these two things are an ocean apart, but for some reason, a lot of forward thinking people don’t think so.

There is such an omnipresent hatred for those with a sexual attraction to minors in any form that I genuinely feel bad for trying to have a more mixed opinion about the matter, and like I am missing something abundantly obvious.  Yet, no matter how much I think of it, the only conclusion I really come to is that people just hate it because they find the very concept to be so inherently disgusting that it should never be explored, and that anybody with these desires should be lumped together with those who sexually abuse children.

Going back to the tweet at the top of this segment, Nomap is an acronym for Non-Offending Minor Attracted Person, which is basically a way for somebody who is sexually attracted to children, a pedophile, to denote that they are aware of their desires, the destructive ramifications that would come from enacting them, and consciously do not act on them.  And like most sexual preferences, this desire comes from a mixture of formative stimuli, a lifetime of experience, and innate dispositions.  

Or in other words, for the bulk of people with these desires, I operate under the mindset that… they just can’t help it.  And so long as they aren’t a criminal, and keep these desires in check, I see no reason to bare ill will towards these people.  They’re just people going through life with their own personal baggage that they, in many cases I’m sure, feel the need to keep it a secret, to unhealthily repress their desires, in order to avoid being ostracized for their problematic preferences.  And I just find that to be immensely saddening in a world where so many people are being encouraged to embrace themselves, to be open about their desires, and to come out about their identities. Even if somebody does have inner-demons regarding deeply seated phobias and miscellaneous hatred, so long as they are willing to work on that, and to hear others out, it can be accepted, tolerated, and forgiven..  But if you have a deep desire to be sexually involved with a minor, apparently you are just cursed and have no place in the world.

I dunno.  I just think that’s kinda messed up.


Anyways, that does it for my incessant ramblings about 2019… which themselves devolved into something even less focused and coherent than most of my other posts, largely due to the broadness of this topic.  But I shall be back in 2020 with a continuous stream of content between my reposted novels, frequent game Reviews, monthly Randoms, monthly Rambles, and weekly Rundowns… assuming that real life does not whoop my ass something fierce.  Until then, I’m Natalie, and… I need to edit a novel I wrote over 4 years ago… I’m sure that’ll be fun.

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