Tropers: Trick Dirt
Male, age 22, graduate student in chemistry. Hobbies: Skiing, golf, hiking, drawing, video games. Interests: Art, astronomy, chemistry, geology, history, meteorology, politics. Discovered TV Tropes in 2009, haven't really left since. Been told my brain is an odd mix of 'right' and 'left;' a combination of creative and scientific/analytical aspects. Charged with having a bone-dry sense of humor by...just about everyone, at least, everyone for whom my sense of humor doesn't sail right over their heads. Native of upstate New York. Yes, there's more to the state than the Big Applesauce, though I have visited many times. If you ask what borough I live in, I'll reply "It's the one about 6 hours north of Queens." In a broad sense, I like science fiction, but do not particularly care for medieval-era fantasy. There are obviously exceptions, but a lot of kings and princes throughout history were inept egomaniacs who periodically plunged half a continent into savage warfare. Not always for particularly good reasons, either. I also don't like anime, for reasons outlined below. This WILL get long-winded, but then again, I'm only writing this for me. I don't really care if anyone else reads it.Error 482: Somebody shot the server with a 12-gauge. Please contact your administrator.
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Describe Trick Dirt
- Caustic Critic: When I don't like something, you'll know it.
- Deadpan Snarker: Everyone on this site seems to think of themselves as one. I wouldn't mention it if not for the fact that people have gone out of their way to tell me what a dry sense of humor I have.
- Dying Town: Subverted. Yes, most young people who go on to college leave my hometown for good due to a lack of decent jobs. And the only major industry we've seen was logging, prior to The Great Depression. However, we are also in the middle of the Adirondack Mountains and on a fairly pristine lake. It turns out, according to the US census at least, that we're doing better than most rural areas because we actually have a tourist draw, unlike the endless farmland characteristic of most rural areas.
- Knight in Sour Armor: Despite trending towards the cynical end of the scale most of the time real life, I do have a bit of an idealistic streak. Tends to be more pragmatic, but it's there. I'm hoping to make a career in researching alternative energy, not just because I think it will probably be a big field, but because of the damage caused to the environment by burning fossil fuels and the fact that our entire economy is cripplingly dependent on oil, which is going to run out some day. The way I see it, I was born in the richest country on the planet, with advantages others would kill for. I'd better make sure I make the most of that. I would like to do my part to the leave the world a better place than I found it.
- Neutral Good/Neutral/Evil: Whether I'm attempting to do some good, feeling mean, or moderating between two sides, I'll do it by the most expedient means. That means working within the system or saying Screw the Rules, I'm Doing What's Right, depending on the situation. That goes for being a jerk and staying impartial as well.
- The Spock: The more I read what I'm writing on this page, the more I realize I've been ruthlessly dissecting various works of fiction in a regimental, analytical fashion. DAMN YOU TVTROPES!
Thoughts on Tropes
- Anti-Hero: Not bad in and of itself, but can be overused and done very badly. Look, I know that unflappable, rebellious, pretty-boys devoid of all personality are supposedly "cool," but they come off as stuck-up and cocky. There's nothing I find more obnoxious than arrogance, and sometimes (provided I'm not paying for the media) I keep watching in the hopes that I'll see someone cave in his smug, brooding, perfectly sculpted face. You gotta at least give me a reason not to Root for the Empire.
- Anti-Intellectualism: A personal Berserk Button. At my high school, "smart" was practically an insult, even though the subject matter wasn't that hard if they'd actually bother to stay awake in class or read a few pages of the books. The fact that my high school's art program was dropped recently, but the football team which goes entire seasons without winning a game still gets new uniforms every year is indicative of the prevailing attitudes. The ideas that learning is uncool, intelligent people are all maladjusted freaks (or even supervillains), scientists working on huge global issues are "wasting their time", and that brute force is better than thinking things through are all stupid, disturbingly prevalent, and are contributing to the stagnation of Western society.
- Combat Pragmatist: There's no such thing as a fair fight. Sure, there can be even matches for dramatic purposes in a narrative or competitive balance in games, but neither side should be expected to play "fair" or hold back without some serious justification (pre-established overwhelming arrogance, hangups about violence, fighting a fallen friend, fighting in some cosmic tournament, etc.).
- Combat Pragmatist to-do list:
- Complaining about Shows You Don't Watch: If you've made it this far, you'll notice I take issue with quite a few things. However, if nothing else, I do my damn homework. If I haven't watched it, read it, played it, or at least seen a summary of it, I won't trash it. All too often however, you get people trashing things they have never even seen, much less analyzed. I may rant endlessly about and overthink things I find irritating, but I'll at least have the common courtesy to be informed!
- Deus ex Machina: Whenever I see a villain lose to a random Ass Pull, I am left utterly unsatisfied. The Hero showed up unprepared, got his ass handed to him accordingly, and...then the Author's Saving Throw comes to the rescue, giving the hero New Powers as the Plot Demands, ignoring previously established rules, and showing there are no negative consequences to charging through life Leeroy Jenkins style.
- Exercise: To simulate how I feel, pick some kind of confrontation where the villain wins except for a deus ex machina. Then, close the book or turn off the screen before he loses at the last second.
- Draco in Leather Pants: "That guy just burned down a town for no reason, carved several characters up with a sword so big it has to be compensating for something, mind-controlled The Hero before disposing of him, and just kicked off The End of the World as We Know It." "But he has flowing hair and looks good without a shirt on!" Right. Next you'll tell me guys only care about looks while women are much deeper and can fall in love with anyone as long as they have a good personality. Or that All Girls Want Bad Boys is a dirty stereotype...that just happens to be true in your case.
- Good Is Not Dumb: There needs to be more of this. Idiot Heroes have been done to death. In a serious work, I'd rather see a protagonist genuinely outsmart the enemy through hard work, preparation, and planning than with some Deus ex Machina through The Power of Friendship or a random power up that no one mentioned or thought to use before.
- Good Is Not Soft: In a similar vein, good guys shouldn't put Honor Before Reason. Keep your eye on the ball, heroes, the objective is to do the most good for the highest number of people. Ideally, your activities should serve as a deterrent to further mayhem. If the villains know you'll just knock them out and throw them back in the Cardboard Prison, then you haven't solved anything.
- Corollary: On the other end of the scale, don't go Knight Templar on them. Desperation could force multiple villains to team up and become a bigger threat by compensating for weaknesses you used to exploit. Alternatively, your brutality might make them look better or give them a case for legal recourse.
- Magic and Powers: Fridge Logic kicks in whenever I see what I refer to as "Easy Magic." Easy Magic is when you have a setting where anyone can use magic, with few apparent drawbacks or limitations. If you have Easy Magic, there is no reason why anyone wouldn't use magic, and I can't help but wonder why such a society is not seemingly based on said magic or why everyone and their dog isn't a mage.
- Example: Final Fantasy VII, materia is so ridiculously common and cheap you can buy basic forms in the most run-down slums in the world. One of these materia is the Thunder materia, which generates arcs of lightning. Why bother with the huge Mako reactors for power generation when you can set up a few of these Green Rocks and get essentially free energy without the controversy, huge startup costs, and draining the life out of the planet?
- How to avoid Easy Magic:
- Show that magic really is omnipresent at all levels of society.
- Make magic hard. At least with enough significant drawbacks that there is justification for everyone not knowing "Explode Level 3." Maybe knowing magic drives you insane, or requires that you become the thrall of a particular god. Using magic could be painful/dangerous/involuntary. Others may view you or your particular brand of magic as an abomination. Magic without drawbacks needs to be especially hard, requiring either being born with the ability, a lifetime of training that impedes the development of other skills, or an incredibly rare artifact or ritual.
- Real Estate Scam: Spent a good chunk of high school and all of college with my hometown tearing itself apart over one. The scam is a speculative development taking place in my hometown. Our privately-run local ski area closed down in 2000, much to the dismay of the community. In 2006, the owner was approached by a developer to buy the ski area and get it up and running again. Sounds good, right?
- It turns out the "developer" has never developed real estate before, really only wants to build mansions while wiggling his way out of fixing the ski area, and was a banker in the Savings and Loan industry in the 1980s. His partners all did jail time for that, and if not for the statute of limitations running out, he would have as well.
- The plan turned out to be the largest real estate development in the Adirondack Park, with prices similar to those found in Aspen. He has since sold off the snowmaking equipment at the ski area, which was in perfect working order. Any improvements to the mountain (which is by now in disrepair) will not be made until several years after he starts building giant spec houses. He has not paid his property taxes. In 2010, we found out he raised his prices from 2006.
- Finally, he's planning to use public tax dollars to pay for his infrastructure. Not getting too involved, it's a PILOT program. Most of the tax revenue from the people who buy into this project will be diverted to pay off a bond. Basically, the developer is trying to minimize his costs. The kicker is that all those new homes will still need services, but won't be paying for them. Money for that will come from raising taxes on the existing taxpayers.
- Tsundere: Huge turnoff, I really can't stand this overdone cliche. Why? Let me answer that question with another question. Ever lived with a woman who has PMS? Didn't think so. So bring it on, you damn fanboys.
- I should note that for some reason, anime tends to break my suspension of disbelief. I do not like it. Maybe it's the formulaic plots. You know the ones, harem, fighting shows, magic schoolgirls, giant robots, and so on and so forth. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about shows I've never seen, because I think that's stupid. I was an avid watcher of Toonami back in its heyday. I watched all of Gundam Wing, Dragon Ball Z (well, lost interest after Cell, but close enough), Outlaw Star, and Tenchi Muyo!. I thought these were all original concepts. Then came YuYu Hakusho, and InuYasha, and Naruto, and Bleach, which were all to me "like Dragon Ball Z only with ________." Fill in the blank with 'ninjas,' 'demons,' or 'ghosts.' There were 3 more Tenchi series alone, and an entire genre based on a plot I thought was only good for one story. There were a million giant robot shows out there as well, including about 10 different Gundam franchises alone. As for the magic schoolgirls...well, wasn't my demographic anyway.
- My current thoughts. Harem anime is pure, unadulterated Wish Fulfillment, for obvious reasons. The mecha genre is just as guilty, but for different ones. Perhaps it's the thought of becoming a giant and grinding those schoolyard bullies into a thin red paste. Even worse, it could be a case of War Is Glorious (which it most assuredly is NOT). Personally I'm wrapped up in the countless engineering and visibility problems that a mech would pose. Give me a main battle tank with equivalent technology on the mech, and I'll show you a lot of dead mechs. As far as fighting shows go, well, Team Four Star put it best:
Vegeta: I liked that show better when it was called Yu Yu Hakusho. And I liked that show better when it was called Dragon Ball Z!
- No, for the last time, I haven't seen "Obscure Anime Title Only Released in Japan #39465." If I don't like anime in the first place, why would I actively seek out more? I will not watch subtitled cartoons. Translation issues aside, there is simply no way you can pick up on certain things like tone, innuendo, sarcasm, expressions, and other nuances of a language if you don't speak it. Live action movies are better, because you can at least see subtle facial expressions and body language. Animators run on a budget though, so you're not going to get that in a cartoon.
- Humongous Mecha: All right, here goes. I can appreciate that the mecha genre's grand unifying theory is the Rule of Cool. From a military standpoint however...they just don't work. If not for the Fan Dumb convinced that humanoid mechs are Serious Business, it wouldn't bother me. Here are some of the mech's problems:
- Visibility: Mechs stick out like a sore thumb. They are basically giant towers jutting up out of the landscape. Pasted on the back of every mech is a giant sign that says "shell me."
- Limited field of fire: Tanks have their main gun mounted on a turret with a 360 degree field of fire. They can fire at any angle while moving in any direction. Mechs tend to have chest- or arm-mounted guns. A mecha driver would have to turn his entire vehicle around to fire.
- Vulnerable drive system: Those 10-foot legs make nice, big targets. Mobility kills are especially nasty for mechs, because they are left defenseless, unable to orient their guns. You don't even have to destroy the leg. Can you say "harpoon and tow cables"? A tank with a disabled tread, on the other hand, can still fire its gun to defend itself.
- Cost: For the same price as a mech, you could have at least two main battle tanks or a squad of powered infantry. Both of these could do whatever the mech was designed for more effectively.
- Engineering problems that literally make mechs impossible:
- Balance issues: Your average mech would be incredibly top-heavy. If it tried to take a single step, it would topple over. Running, jumping, climbing, or firing antitank cannons are out of the question.
- Ground pressure: You would need an insanely hard surface to keep a mecha from sinking into the ground just while walking. Forget landing upright from flight or climbing anything.
- Square/Cube Law: Why the handwave "they're not metal, they're organic/biological," doesn't work to explain balance or flexibility.
- So, don't try to say your mech beats my tank, assuming you can even get a mech to walk under its own power. I'll see you first, shoot you first, out-produce you, and in return I'll be harder to hit and carry larger guns.
- Star Wars: Splitting this in two parts, for the original trilogy and the prequels. I grew up watching the original trilogy, reading the books, humming any songs off the soundtrack, and drawing all kinds of space battles largely inspired by the Battle of Endor. Even as a kid I could grasp the themes of the good vs. evil conflict of the Galactic Civil War, and the final redemption of Darth Vader. The setting seemed more believable than Star Trek, where everything was shiny and uniform. The idea of backwater planets using second-rate technology to scrape by just seemed to work better for a huge, galaxy-spanning civilization.
- Now for the prequels. When the prequels came out, I was still a Star Wars fanboy. I liked the prequels when they came out because it was "MOAR STAR WARS" and I was about...10, with no sense of what makes a good story. A while later post-fanboy stage, I rewatched the whole series. It was at this point I realized something was...off about the prequels when compared to the originals. Certain actions don't really make sense except to give us something to look at, the characters weren't particularly likable, the romance in Episode 2 was...well, the romance in Episode 2, the Clone Wars were summed up in eight words, and Vader's fall to the dark side involved a lot of lubricant. Now...well, let's say I agree with Red Letter Media's reviews of the prequels.
- The Lord of the Rings: Bear in mind that, as mentioned before, medieval fantasy doesn't normally do it for me. I read The Hobbit in 4th grade, and breezed through it in about 2 days. The Lord of the Rings trilogy however, took me about 5 years, although I did get through each one before its respective movie came out. Now, keeping in mind I don't normally like swords n' magic stuff, I loved the movies. A friend of mine put it best: the books are so full of imagery that a faithful adaptation to film could only improve how the story is told.
- Dawn of War: Introduced me to the wonderful world of Warhammer 40,000. Lots of fun LAN games. Personally, I like how the game focused on combat instead of micromanaging the peons harvesting mineral pile #1. Your economy is based entirely on map control via strategic points. This makes it nearly impossible to turtle and forces players to expand, bringing them into contact with the enemy. Properly balancing 7 races (Soulstorm doesn't count since its two races weren't balanced) was no small feat either.
- Fallout: Sadly, I had not heard of the Fallout series until Fallout 3 was on deck. After spending untold hours with 3, I got my hands on a copy of Fallout 2. Both styles, I believe, make great games in different ways. I think it's the 50's music and SCIENCE! that does it for me.
- Half-Life: Guess it's time to lather on the praise. Valve's approach to game design may take forever, but damn if the finished product isn't worth it. Great level designs, impressive AI, and fun weapons all get rolled up into one great, headcrab infested, bullet-ridden, decaying, yet still somewhat believable and moving Crapsack World. I still go back and play some of the more fun segments from time to time. Now if only Episode 3 would come out...
- Halo: Almost exclusively for system link games in college. I played 2 and 3. Good times, but I no longer talk about my attempts at XBox LIVE.
- Jedi Outcast: My first foray into online multiplayer gaming. One of the only good communities I've seen, but time marches on, and so do gamers.
- Mass Effect: "I'm Commander Shepard, and this is my favorite game on the Citadel." The first well-executed shooter-RPG I've played, with a good story and a more believable Karma Meter (most give you two choices: Messiah or MAIM! KILL! BURN!). I played both games in the series for far too long.
- The universe deconstructs and plays with a lot of Space Opera tropes.
- The asari are revealed to be technologically stagnant and militarily weak because they are too focused on art, philosophy, politics, and culture.
- The krogan have exactly the diplomatic relations you would expect for a nation of Blood Knights, to the point where they can't even organize themselves into curing the genophage.
- The turians represent a different aspect of the Proud Warrior Race Guy, the disciplined soldier. Not only does every turian get military training, but all of turian society is organized into a hierarchy of merit-based ranks. However, their sense of duty makes them lousy merchants, so they let the volus take care of all that financial stuff.
- The protheans...well, let's just say all is not as it seems. It's worse.
- My main Shepard is a Paragon Soldier, alternate is a Renegade Adept. For some reason both of these felt right, the Soldier's professional training and spacer background makes him more likely to take a diplomatic approach when possible, but he still kills everything in his way. The Adept lets those biotic abilities go to his head, leading to a superiority complex.
- The universe deconstructs and plays with a lot of Space Opera tropes.
- Team Fortress 2: Crazy Awesome wrapped up in a team-based shooter. It takes getting used to; unlike other first-person shooters, you are not a One-Man Army. By yourself, short of a rare Crowning Moment of Awesome, you can accomplish very little. Each class has plenty of counters, and with the large team sizes lone wolves quickly find themselves outgunned. What newbs, myself included once upon a time, fail to grasp is that the only way to really get anywhere in Team Fortress 2 is to work closely with your team. Steep learning curve, but it can be a real blast. Even if you're not playing a Demoman.
- Final Fantasy
- Final Fantasy IV: One of the few games in the series that forces you to use certain characters a specific way. It also mixes up your party, forcing you to adapt. Challenging, but satisfying when you get the hang of it. The SNES version makes you wonder if anyone had ever heard of "proof reading" before release though.
- Final Fantasy V: Fun job system, and Gilgamesh.
- Final Fantasy VI: The best installment I've played so far, in terms of a combination of story and gameplay. Unless you do some serious grinding, each character plays different, and they will still have unique abilities. The story is probably where Final Fantasy's storytelling and world-building abilities peaked, and Kefka is the best villain in the series.
- To elaborate on Kefka, he's not some ambiguous shadowy presence, he's marching at the head of the army to wipe your sorry ass out. It takes him maybe an hour of playing to cross the Moral Event Horizon. He gets progressively stronger throughout the game and ultimately, he wins. He kills his Emperor without a second thought, becomes the God of Magic, causes so much chaos that it rearranges the surface of the goddamned planet, and scatters your party to the winds for a year before you can recover. When you confront him, he hasn't changed. He's an unrepentant lunatic who mocks your pathetic reasons for living and prepares to create a monument to nonexistence. He even pulls one over on you in death. Kefka, by the end of the game, is the source of all magic, so once you kill him off, bye bye magic. Maybe it's for the best, seeing how things turned out twice already.
- Final Fantasy VII: Did not like it. Not. One. Bit. I played it in 2009, so the "Hail, 3D graphics, our lord and savior!!" thing was not in effect.
- The whole world felt like a cheap rehash of 6. Instead of the Empire, it's Shinra. Instead of Kefka going rogue and wanting to kill everything, it's Sephiroth. Instead of magic threatening to disrupt the global balance of power, it's Mako energy. Materia was a re-tooled Esper system.
- The gameplay things it did differently from 6, I didn't like. All of the characters were roughly interchangeable with materia, except for the limit breaks. At least with 6 you'd have to grind for 30 hours before it reached that point. Cloud was specifically made better than everyone else at both magic and hitting stuff because he's the "main character." I hated the Gold Saucer minigames, and hated even more that some were mandatory to get a weapon, or limit break, or whatever. It wouldn't be so bad, but guess what? These things became staples of most of the Final Fantasy games that followed.
- Obnoxious characters. Cloud's an arrogant idiot. Sephiroth was the first White-Haired Pretty Boy and is just not a very effective villain. He's a vague, amorphous threat that appears out of nowhere and starts rambling. BOOOOORING.
- Final Fantasy X: This was the second game I played in the series. Surprisingly, I still like it better than 7. The shortage of Wangst helps, and, at least when I played it the first time, I wasn't burnt out on minigames yet. Voice acting could've used work in a couple of spots though.
- Various Mario games: Super Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. 3, Super Mario World, Yoshi's Island, Super Mario RPG, Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart, Super Mario 64
- Three Legend of Zelda games: Link's Awakening, A Link to the Past, and Ocarina of Time
- The 3 Donkey Kong Country games for the SNES.
- Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series: When I first heard about it, I'll admit, I immediately dismissed it because it had the name "Yu-Gi-Oh!" in it. Eventually word of mouth got back to me years later and I finally sat down and watched it. It is still probably the best written Abridged series out there, and as the original is mandatory viewing for anyone new to the style.
- Dragon Ball Abridged: A collaboration between all of the Abridged series creators, now featuring the original as well. Seems to have surpassed the original in popularity, possibly because more people watched Dragon Ball Z, like me. Made me realize Abridged series are that much funnier if you've actually seen the non-abridged versions.
- Freeman's Mind: Gordon Freeman as a neurotic, paranoid, Jerk Ass Heroic Comedic Sociopath. And it works. Can't wait to see if it lasts into Half Life 2.