What I’ve Been Watching in Quarantine

SyrmorOkay now follow me here for a moment, I swear I’m going somewhere. There’s this interview with Eduardo Coutinho, a Brazilian documentary maker and master of the interview, where he explains why, in his films, he doesn’t take the words of the interviewee and put them over other footage as a voiceover: “For me, ‘off’ [‘voz em off,’ voiceover] doesn’t interest me. If someone speaks ‘off’, they aren’t listened to, it’s worthless. If the guy that speaks and what they say is interesting and strong, what they say about their mother, their family, whatever—that’s enough for me. It’s in the voice, and someone may imagine what it is.”

When I first saw Syrmor’s VRchat interviews, I was reminded of Coutinho’s Edificio Master, a documentary consisting of interviews with residents of an apartment block in Copacabana—both because of the depth of emotion and vulnerability the interviewees displayed, and how they prove Coutinho’s point in that interview. When what the person is saying is interesting, cutaways are totally unnecessary, the raw footage of the interview is enough. The point is made even more dramatic in Syrmor’s interviews, because the raw footage is even more static than a talking head in a documentary, with simple, awkwardly articulated avatars standing in for the interviewees. And for all that, they’re still captivating, I still can’t tear my eyes away.

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Screenshot from “guy in vr talks about his last girlfriend.”

Okay now’s about the time I should actually explain what these videos are, huh? Syrmor is a youtuber. His channel is made up almost entirely of videos of VRChatVRChat is a free massively multiplayer online game similar to Second Life. Although it’s programmed to work with VR, you don’t need a VR setup to use it. There are games within it, but you can also just use it to socialize, which is a large part of Syrmor’s videos—just talking to people. Sometimes friends, sometimes complete strangers, sometimes complete strangers who become friends. I don’t think I need to spell out why videos of people making meaningful connections, groups of friends who live miles apart, are incredibly heartening to watch right now.Read More »

Game Review: Burrito Bison; Launcha Libre

Originally this was going to be part of a recommendation dump post, but as I wrote about this game, I realized I just have a lot to say about it. Enough to be a post in itself. So, here we go:

Burrito Bison: Launcha Libre is a launcher game from Juicy Beast. You play as a luchador who’s fighting various candy-people (primarily gummy bears) and trying to get a recipe book? I think? It’s been awhile since I’ve watched that opening cutscene, but it hasn’t been any time at all since I last played this game. I’ve been playing it, off and on, for about three months. It’s been my go-to game when I want to listen to music or a podcast or just totally zone-out.

The perfect, addictive core of this game is one that Juicy Beast had been doing a great job with since the first Burrito Bison game (Launcha Libre is the third in a series, and the first two are considerably smaller in scale, but still a lot of fun)—the balance between player input and the flow of the game. If the game relied too much on player input, or relied on more complex player input, it wouldn’t really be a launcher game, and it would be impossible to zone out to it. If the game eschewed player input too much, it would be a lot like most bad launcher games, with too much relying on variance and some lucky bounces to get you far. Some launcher games you can look away from and really not change the experience. Some launcher games it feels like you’re better off not using any of your power-ups or controls, and just hoping to land on a bomb or a bouncy mushroom or whatever it is that will keep you in the air. Burrito Bison is right at the crest of this wave, riding it perfectly, just between falling forward into boredom or falling backward into over-taxation of the brain.

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Burrito Bison riding a popped Prickly Pair

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