Crytek v. Star Citizen – Motion Decisions and What they Mean The Legal Saga Continues

Crytek v. Star Citizen – Motion Decisions and What they Mean

On August 14, after months of everybody watching the case waiting with bated breath, Judge Dolly Gee rendered a decision on Cloud Imperium’s motion to dismiss: a firm “Denied!”…except where it was granted.

Read moreCrytek v. Star Citizen – Motion Decisions and What they Mean The Legal Saga Continues

Crytek v. Star Citizen: A Closer Look

Crytek v. Star Citizen: A Closer Look 5

It may prove to be a shot heard around the video gaming world. On December 12, 2017, Crytek GMBH filed a copyright and breach of contract suit against Cloud Imperium Games (CIG) and Roberts Space Industries (RSI), the maker of Star Citizen, in California Central District Court, part of the American federal court system.

Read moreCrytek v. Star Citizen: A Closer Look

Desert Bus for Hope Charity Kicks Off Today

Desert Bus for Hope Charity Kicks Off Today 1

Desert Bus for Hope is an annual charity telethon on Twitch that raises money for Child’s Play. It kicks off on Friday, November 17 at 10:00 AM PST, and runs for about a week. A group of comics and volunteers headed by Victoria’s Loading Ready Run plays Desert Bus for as long as viewers keep donating money. Last year, they raised $695,242.57, and this year, they might break $700,000.

Desert Bus is a game created by Penn and Teller to show what a realistic video game would look like, and it competes with Daikatana for the title of the worst video game ever made. The player drives a bus from Tucson, Arizona, to Las Vegas, Nevada…in real time. It takes eight hours. If they get there, they get a point, and have to drive back. And, the bus lists to the right. If the bus crashes, it gets towed back…in real time.

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(photo credit to Andrew Ferguson www.goldengod.net

They also perform improv, turn themselves into the puppets of the Twitch chat by doing challenges, carry out giveaways, silent auctions, and live auctions, and have celebrity call-ins. This year, for example, the writer of Rogue One, Gary Whitta is calling in at 4:00 PM PST on Saturday, November 18th.

All of the donations are handled through the Desert Bus homepage, with the money going directly to Child’s Play. If you want to participate in the live auctions, you’re going to need to link your Desert Bus account to your Twitch account, as they’re all done in chat.

The live auctions can be insane—items rarely go for under $1,000, and a packet of silica gel once sold to Notch (the creator of Minecraft) for $10,000. So, if you want to stand a chance at winning one of the live auctions, you’re going to need a budget of at least $5,000, if not more. The silent auctions are a bit more affordable—they tend to stay under $1,500.

The team driving the bus picks a figure for the donation drive (like $7.01), and everybody who donates a multiple of that amount gets entered into a draw (with one entry for every multiple – so if you donate $14.02, you get two entries, and if you donate $21.03, you get three, etc.). At the end of that donation drive, they draw the winning entry using a computer. If you win, they ship it to you using the address you provided when you created your Desert Bus account. And they ship them out FAST—prizes have been known to arrive before the telethon is over.

With the setup they’ve got right now, Child’s Play can outfit a hospital room with a complete video game system for under $20. Think about that—for less than the cost of an indie game on Steam, you can help not only a sick child and their family, but every single child and family who use that room after them. That’s a really low barrier to making a huge difference for the better in a lot of lives.


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The “Seven Deadly Words” of Star Trek Discovery

The "Seven Deadly Worlds" of Star Trek Discovery 3

In 1991, Dorothy Jones Heydt formulated what she called the “Eight Deadly Words” that strike a death knell to any story: “I don’t care what happens to these people.” While the “eight deadly words” do not apply to Star Trek Discovery, there is a seven word phrase that does: “I don’t care who wins this war.”

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Jason Isaacs and Sonequa Martin-Green in Star Trek: Discovery (2017) – image via CBS

The more episodes of Star Trek Discovery that I watch, the more I become convinced that the writers do not understand how a war works. With the exception of a single mining outpost in “The Butcher’s Knife Cares Not for the Lamb’s Cry,” the entire war is presented as starships cruising around looking for fights, after which, for all intents and purposes, they go home or cruise around looking for more fights.

One can already imagine Futurama’s Morbo shouting, “WARS DO NOT WORK THAT WAY!”

As Clausewitz famously wrote, war is the continuation of policy by other means. When any political entity fights a war, they are working towards set victory conditions. In an interstellar war, the starships may be designed to destroy other starships, but they are used as tools to achieve strategic goals, such as taking colonies and outposts by the border to establish a beachhead, interdicting interstellar shipping, protecting territory, or protecting the flanks of a general advance. When skirmishing or pitched battles occur, they happen in the context of carrying out a mission towards these goals.

Star Trek Discovery does not seem to understand this. Over the course of the first half of the season we are informed at various times that the Federation is winning or losing the war—but what does this actually mean? Star Trek Discovery has not told us.

And this is a problem. For an audience to care about what happens in a story, there have to be stakes worth caring about. And so far, there aren’t any in Star Trek Discovery.

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Mary Woronov and Andreas Katsulas in Babylon 5 (1994) – image via Warner Bros.

Other science fiction shows have used the events of a war to clarify the stakes and raise tension. In Babylon 5, when the Narns are losing the Narn-Centauri War, it is mentioned on screen that their colonies are being occupied by the Centauri, with the population being oppressed. When the Shadow War is in full swing, a Shadow planet-killer is used to annihilate entire planets, killing hundreds of millions of people. In the Earth civil war, Mars is occupied and Proxima put under siege, with civilians attempting to leave the conflict zone being shot down.

Battlestar Galactica presented even higher stakes. The show begins with all but approximately 50,000 members of the human race annihilated in a single surprise attack and the Twelve Colonies captured by the Cylons. Later in the show, the New Caprica colony where the survivors have settled comes under a brutal Cylon occupation. The standalone prequel Blood and Chrome begins with a visual of a Cylon Basestar over a human city, Cylon ground forces marching through its streets, and of a human city in ruins. There can be no question that any war against the Cylons is a war for basic survival fought on human soil.

The "Seven Deadly Worlds" of Star Trek Discovery
Michael Ansara and Susan Howard in Star Trek (1966) – image via Paramount

The original Star Trek series also took great pains to ensure that the viewer understood the stakes. “Balance of Terror,” the episode that introduced the Romulans, begins with the destruction of several Neutral Zone outposts. Later dialogue informs us that if the Romulan ship returns home from its raid, it will be the beginning of a merciless war of expansion against the Federation. In “Errand of Mercy,” the episode that established the Klingons as a major antagonist, the planet Organia comes under Klingon occupation. The Klingons impose a brutal repression in which they execute hundreds of civilians to maintain control. A twist in the episode later undoes all of this, but there is never any doubt of what it means to lose your planet to the Klingon Empire.

In all of these examples, there is good reason to care about whether the war is won. There are devastating consequences when the tide turns against one side or the other. This in turn gives the audience something to care about. And to this end, Discovery gives us nothing—there are no news reports of colonies falling under Klingon occupation and oppression, or of a Klingon advance that must be halted before a major world is captured or destroyed. We are provided with no evidence that a Klingon victory would mean anything different to the galaxy than a Federation victory. Because we have been shown no stakes worth caring about, we have been given no reason to care about who wins. This is turn disengages us from the events of the series.

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Kenneth Mitchell in Star Trek: Discovery (2017) – image via CBS

With luck, through the fall season finale and the second half of the season, Star Trek Discovery will give us something—some news of a colony being occupied or destroyed, or some stake beyond “spaceships are blown up.” Until Discovery can give us that and make us care who wins the war it is about, it cannot meet its full storytelling potential.


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Will there be a priest in Star Trek: Discovery?

Will there be a priest in Star Trek: Discovery? 3

Science fiction, particularly in television and the movies, has a tendency to sidestep religion. There are franchises that deal with religion directlysuch as Star Wars with the Forcebut more often than not, religion tends to be ignored, at least in the human characters. Star Trek is a good example of this: we see a chapel in the Enterprise in the original series episode “Balance of Terror,” but we never see a chaplain. The Enterprise-D has a ship’s counsellor, but not a priest or a rabbi. Religion appears in a number of alien culturesmost often treated with great respectbut while we come away with an understanding of Worf’s Klingon culture and religion, we would be hard pressed to deduce anything about the spirituality of Captain Picard or Commander Riker. Whether or not the new series, Star Trek: Discovery, will continue this trend remains to be seen.

This is, however, an understandable omission. Most of the action in any given Star Trek episode occurs while the characters are engaged in their professional lives, and one of the bridge crew being a Catholic, Anglican or Muslim is not something that would come up in the middle of setting a course, firing phasers, or serving on an away mission. The lack of religion certainly does not make the ideas the show explores any less interesting or the action any less gripping.

But while dealing with the religion of its characters is not something that any given science fiction show needs to do, those shows that have dealt directly with religion tended to be better for it. Unlike Star Trek, shows like Babylon 5, Firefly, and the 2003 Battlestar Galactica not only dealt directly with religion, but also used it to deepen the story and our understanding of the characters.

One of the most nuanced explorations of religion in science fiction television occurred not in Star Trek, but in Babylon 5, which presented a number of different alien and human religions. One of the key charactersand a moral compass for the showis Delenn, a member of the Minbari religious caste who serves not only as the ambassador to Babylon 5, but on her world’s ruling council. But while she uses her faith to inform her morality, she is also well aware of the danger of combining religion and politicsas the series progresses, we learn that she cast the deciding vote that started a holy war of genocide against humanity after a misunderstanding ended in the death of her mentor, the Minbari leader Dukhat, and she carries the guilt for that throughout her life.

Will there be a priest in Star Trek: Discovery? 1

Religion was also used to illuminate and fill out the inner lives of some of its human characters. A plotline of the first season episode “TKO” centred on Lt. Commander Susan Ivanova’s unwillingness to sit Shivaa Jewish mourning ritualafter the death of her estranged father. Through the actions of Ivanova and Rabbi Koslov, we see the degree to which Ivanova is unable to work through her feelings and her grief, and how she finally does so, providing a window into her psyche that deepens our understanding of her as a person.

While religion can provide a window into a character’s soul, it can also create conflict between two sympathetic characters. This played out in Firefly between Captain Malcolm Reynolds and Shepherd Book. Captain Reynolds was a good man who fought on the losing side of a civil war, and as a result lost his faith and now lives in a state of moral ambiguity. This leaves him openly antagonistic to Shepherd Book, who left his old life behind to become a man of faith. Each is very much the antithesis of the otherwe never really learn who Book was over the course of the series, but it is heavily implied that his religious life is a refuge from and a way of atoning for being the type of absolute pragmatist embodied by Captain Reynolds.

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Between them, Captain Reynolds and Shepherd Book provide two opposing moral compasses throughout each episode, with Reynolds representing the pragmatic and Book representing the altruistic. Neither one is entirely comfortable dealing with the otherCaptain Reynolds is challenged to set aside his pragmatism to do and be better by Shepherd Book, while Book’s altruism is challenged by Reynolds’ understanding that what is necessary must come first. At the same time, there is a mutual respect between them; a recognition that both approaches have value. This creates a character interaction that would otherwise be absent, or at least more difficult to make believable or resonate with the viewer.

Both Babylon 5 and Firefly have a very modern approach to how they handle religion and the spirituality of their main charactersit is a matter of personal belief or faith, without the appearance of a divine force or higher power to justify it. The 2003 Battlestar Galactica took a different approachby the end of the first season, it had been explicitly established that there is a higher power or divine being of some sort manipulating events towards an unknown agenda.

We never discover just what or who this divine power is, or the true nature of its plan. We learn that it exists, that the Cylons call it “God,” that it has two supernatural or angelic agents (head-Baltar and head-Six) who are openly manipulative, and that it is using its agents to influence events. We do not know if the deities worshipped by the survivors in the fleetwho appear to have their own power and agency revealed through prophecyare separate entities, or just the Cylon’s divine being under different names. The only solid information we ever receive is at the end of the series finale, where it is revealed that it does not like the name “God.” The characters’ reactions to the existence and presence of this divine power drive the plot of the show.

This begins with the Cylons, who, attempting to understand and carry out their god’s plan, commit genocide against humanity. But the humanoid Cylon models’ reactions to the question of faith are far from uniform. The Number Ones make a show of religious devotion while in reality being atheists, the Twos are fanatically religious, and most are in between. By the end of the second season, many of the Cylons have come to believe that they were wrong about what their god wanted, and that their attack on humanity was a horrific mistakethis in turn leads to a Cylon civil war. Likewise, the human characters in the show have their own reactions as matters escalatethe otherwise secular Laura Roslin takes the role of a prophet after seeing visions, many characters (such as Commander Adama) shrug their shoulders and attempt to get on with business as usual, and the atheist Gaius Baltar undergoes a religious conversion to the Cylon god. The show presents all of these approaches to spiritual matters as inadequate, unable to encompass the experience or lead to true understanding. Baltar’s character arc encompasses this, with the character alternating between basking in his newfound faith, struggling against it, and slipping into full denial of it. This allows the show to explore the experience of religion under pressure to great effect.

Based on the track record of its predecessors, it is unlikely that Star Trek: Discovery will delve into the spirituality of its human characters. Further, whether the show is good, great, or bad will not be determined by the presence of religion or lack thereof. But religion and spirituality is part of our basic humanityfrom the fundamentalists who allow religion to subsume them to the atheists who reject it. Star Trek: Discovery may very well not elect to include this facet of our nature, but, if it did, it would have a plethora of new character interactions, motivations, and reactions to explore, in turn providing a better look into the psyche and humanity of its cast.