New Futurama episodes have lost a step

I think I’m enough of a nerd that I can concede that I have a certain affection for animated fare. In its original run on FOX, Matt Groening’s Futurama was as captivating as one could hope from a mainstream adult-oriented animated comedy. While it utilized a zany, slapstick kind of humor not dissimilar to the ever-popular Family Guy, the real heart of the show were the little sight gags or plays on words that referenced complex scientific principles or sophisticated philosophical or scientific concepts. For crying out loud, this was a network show that referenced the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle!

Speaker: “And the winner is … Number 3, in a quantum finish.”
Farnsworth: “No fair! You changed the outcome by measuring it!”

So I was understandably excited that Comedy Central had decided to bring the show back due in large part to the success it has seen in syndication for both themselves and Cartoon Network. It’s not often that a show, much less an animated one, much less an intelligent one, gets a second chance, albeit on cable.

I have to say though, after watching seven episodes of the new season, I am gravely disappointed with the product being turned out. They’ve retained much of the zany quality of the old run (Bender needing to party to prevent from exploding), but what seems to have disappeared from the scripts are the bounty of little in-jokes that often required a second viewing.

Instead, the new run seems to rely heavily on showing off the illustrated curves of its female characters as well as making incredibly obvious jabs at current events tripe like the iPhone or the evolution debate. I’m all for lampooning creationists, but do you really need a full half hour to accomplish that? Animation doesn’t really seem like the venue for current events jokes anyway, unless you can generate the turnaround time for which South Park is known.

Of course, my fellow nerds are just so delighted to have the show back that none has deigned to see my point about the decline in the quality of writing. I wonder how far into this new season before they finally see the (lack of) programming language on the wall?  

Mainstream gaming: regression or evolution?

Having treaded in online gaming communities for much of my young life, I know there exists a certain innate contempt for what is commonly deemed the “mainstream gamer.” Such an individual tends not only to be less engaged in the culture that surrounds gaming, but also eschews the traditional genres for more formulaic fare – best typified by the sports genre and the first-person shooter.

It lately occurred to me, most recently when I found myself putting off work to indulge in the demo for NHL 11, the latest hockey game du jour on the Xbox 360,that I had lately regressed in certain key areas into something very much resembling the reviled “mainstream gamer.” What would my fifteen year old doppelganger think of me, with a paltry four video game purchases this year, two of which are sports game that consume the majority of my gaming time?

The more I thought about it though, the more I realized what was happening was less a regression into lower forms of gaming and more an evolution both in the micro and macro level. What has happened is that games like NHL 11 take the love I’ve always had for hockey going back to Ice Hockey on the NES, and infused it with a flavor injection from other genres that captivated me growing up: the role-playing game and the team-based multiplayer game.

Why would I play Final Fantasy XIII, a new multiplayer simulation, and a sports game separately when I can play a game that tickles my urge for stats-based character building, camaraderie with fellow players over the Internet, and lets me indulge in the on-ice fantasies that I was never able to have as a kid with a heart problem?

It’s a no-brainer. That EA has neutralized my need to purchase more of their games in the process is really just gravy.