It's May, and the Games are Good

With all the hyper-focussed pods we've been casting lately, we decided to go ahead and have a good, old-fashioned, Monday-style Waypoint Radio episode and talk about what we've been playing. Austin, Patrick and myself got together to chat about Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, Monster Prom, Into the Breach, Swords of Ditto, Far Cry 5 and much more!

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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Hey just want to reply to Patrick’s political podcast recommendation with some of my own!

The Weeds from Vox is an absolutely fantastic podcast about policy, where they get into the weeds of policy papers on capital hill as well as state proposals. It was a fantastic resource last years when there were multiple health care bills all headed to the floor for a vote, Sarah Kliff became my go-to healthcare reporter because of how well she explained the different proposals and their effects.

Also, in kind of a rebuttal to Citations Needed, I’d really recommend both Rational Security and the Lawfare Blog podcast (both from Brookings, which I have a ton of respect for and was kind of shocked to hear Citations Needed call them hawks).

I only listened to the most recent Citations Needed episode about North Korea, and was kind of offended about the lengths they went to downplay the attrocities the NK regime has placed upon their own people. I also really disliked the conspiracy/Alex Jones-esque snipes about how “mainstream media doesn’t want you to know this” and the “military industrial complex” running international diplomacy.

An example is their mention of how the Obama administration was shifting its strategic focus to Asia, and portraying that as being because they want to start a war with NK/China/Russia. They completely neglected to mention China’s creeping control and militarization of the South China Sea and the military threat that poses to our allies in the region (Indonesia, Vietnam, the Phillipines, etc.) as well as the threat to global trade (China will be able to control flow of freight through a region of the sea that up until now has not been part of their jurisdiction). They lost a WTO court case about the control of the region, and chose not to adhere to the ruling, and so the US at the end of the Obama administration was maneuvering to block China from seizing control of the South China Sea without starting a war (mainly increasing the flow of our Navy through the area).

Also their criticism of an article from a Brookings fellow about how a peace agreement between NK and SK could be a poor outcome completely misrepresented the reasons for that position. This argument is also made in the most recent episode on the Lawfare Blog podcast feed, but the summary is basically a poor result is a peace that would sacrifice the interests of our allies in the region for our own safety (particularly Japan, who has so far been excluded from these peace talks despite having NK threatening their country with missile tests several times over the past year). An example would be if NK merely froze their program so that no more nuclear warheads could be developed, or if they somehow agreed to give up their ICBMs while keeping their nuclear warheads. If their development was only frozen, the US would still be vulnerable to a nuclear attack from NK, and if they gave up their ICBMs but kept the rest of their nuclear arsenal, that would still leave Japan vulnerable to a nuclear attack from NK.

So yeah, I was really interested in the podcast after Patrick recommended it, but then it seemed like they were giving just bad-faith representations of positions contrary to their own, as well as being conspiracy minded, and offensively unchallenging of their guest’s bizarrely idyllic representation of the NK regime as totally good people who do bad things because the US makes them.

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I am very excited for the Waypoint 101 on Mad Max. I unabashedly loved that game, despite it being pretty monotonous at times—it was gorgeous, and the typical open-world emptiness actually worked for it, I think—but its ending made me angrier than even Battlestar Galactica’s.

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I was also interested to hear both Patrick and Austin enthuse about Citations Needed. I’ve been listening to that podcast since around the third episode, and I think it’s pretty great.

I’m certainly not surprised that the recent North Korea episode would be a bit of a shock to new listeners, but I don’t agree with the way that discussion was characterized above. I don’t think that the hosts downplay the atrocities of the regime at all. They just don’t focus on them, because that’s what everyone always does; it’s not new information. I believe that Nima and Adam’s stance (and they’ve talked about this explicitly before, though I don’t recall the details) is to take it as read that the NK regime is bad and move on to discussing things that most people don’t know, including the fact that NK’s antipathy toward the United States is understandable given the fact that American forces indiscriminately massacred civilians and leveled city after city during the war. To quote from notorious left-wing newspaper The Washington Post:

the U.S. Air Force, in response to the North Korean invasion that started the Korean War, bombed and napalmed cities, towns and villages across the North. … The bombing was long, leisurely and merciless, even by the assessment of America’s own leaders. “Over a period of three years or so, we killed off — what — 20 percent of the population,” Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, head of the Strategic Air Command during the Korean War, told the Office of Air Force History in 1984. Dean Rusk, a supporter of the war and later secretary of state, said the United States bombed “everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.” After running low on urban targets, U.S. bombers destroyed hydroelectric and irrigation dams in the later stages of the war, flooding farmland and destroying crops.

Pointing out important context that is absent from discussions of North Korea in most western media venues should hardly be seen as being pro-North Korea. YMMV, I guess.

I also think that referring to the Brookings Institution as “hawkish” is putting it mildly, to be honest, but I’m Canadian, so 🤷.


I mean I don’t think they mentioned the US’s actions in the Korean War at all though. They briefly mentioned peace talks falling apart in the 90’s and again in the early 2000’s, blamed the failure entirely on the US (the 90’s talks fell apart because NK was reneging on their agreements, the 2000’s talks were teed up during the Clinton admin and then the Bush admin hemmed and hawed and finally decided not to follow through because they believed NK to be unreliable after the 90’s talks), and kind of painted the idea of putting the country through terrible conditions in order to progress the development of their nuclear weapons technology as a totally rational and somewhat sympathetic decision, and also the US’s fault because they let the peace talks fail.

There were also a few other parts that really bugged me, like a heartbeat after mentioning the THAAD missile defense system they bring up the “military industrial complex profiting off the war” and “of course something that launches missiles defensively can also launch them offensively” (which is actually parroting the line both China and NK were using when they were being installed, but I don’t believe that was intentional). They didn’t at all mention that despite Moon’s vocal desires for peace with NK and initially refusing to accept the THAAD systems in spite of the US’s desire to have them installed, a few months after taking office he did a turnabout and asked for them, because NK was conducting aggressive missile tests and acting increasingly more threatening. Like, instead of believing in complex machinations of a military industrial complex controlling international politics, you can just slice that with Occam’s razor - when their neighbor started regularly launching missiles and issuing threats, something to protect them from an increasingly likely threat seems like not a bad idea. But they completely ignore that, say “Lockheed Martin and Boeing” the way the Right says “Nancy Pelosi and Clinton,” and move on.

I really disagree that they were not pro-NK. There was even one or two "Of course I’m not saying NK is great, BUT"s thrown in. What really got me was toward the end of the episode they spend a lot of time going into how the characterization of NK as a poor country that suffers under a brutal totalitarian regime is totally not an accurate portrayal and only exists because it’s what people want to hear. They even take a jab at Barbara Demick and her new book “Nothing to Envy”, kind of saying “Well earlier in her career when she was more sympathetic to the NK regime she was speaking the truth, but now that she’s portraying NK in a way we don’t like, she’s doing it for the money”. Not even mentioning what her “better” portrayal of NK actually was, just saying that they don’t like the current way she writes about them. There was no counterfactual of how portrayals focusing on NK’s poverty and brutality are inaccurate, or pointing to any outlier reports that might paint a different picture, just saying “Well that’s what sells, so the mainstream media (hiss) obviously is going to run with it”.

(and imo Barbara Demick’s new book seems pretty consistent with her past work, here’s longform article from 2005, so I really don’t know what they were talking about there)


It sounds like Austin needs to get on that hot, humid weather tech: cold showers and a lot of fans.

Dehumidifiers help too.

I thought they connected Donkey Kong with the humpty dance. Also I have a save game on DKC 2 that’s on the final fight with Kaptain K’rool but not in the special area just the regular game that has to be a decade old, and I still can’t beat it. Something about the looping canonballs is just too much for me. My brother also had to beat the boss in the bee hive. I can’t do that either. I’m afraid I’ll probably lose that save to a dead battery, and I’ll be sad.

Had to edit.
When they were talking about Monster Prom, I remembered Scooby Doo and the Ghoul School. I don’t know if it holds up, but damn I loved it.

Just a heads-up about Mad Max – the PC version is frequently on sale for sub-$10, either on Steam or one of the third-party Steam key sellers (Humble, GreenManGaming, Fanatical, etc.)

So if $20 seems too steep, chances are it’ll be in the $5-8 range in the next week or two.

I feel the need to link the best version of the best Donkey Kong song:

Anyway, I had the same reaction as the crew with the Monster Prom stream. The Yawhg is one of my favorite games just like Austin, and I got excited as soon as I saw the similar map interface in the Monster Prom trailer. The art and music both seemed so good too. But man that dialogue was just so disappointing. The lack of sincerity (and abundance of cocaine) both wore thin so quickly, especially with the characters. It felt like the worst parts of Danganronpa, where the ‘trope’ of the character becomes more important than actual personality (or outright becomes their personality) and they lose any sense of being a real decent person, much less one you want to get to know.

Also just design-wise, for a game about choosing a monster to take to prom, it seems annoying that the monsters you encounter in each area appear to be totally random (or worse, you get stuck in a shitty character rail-road situation like what happened to Natalie). I think if they had an indicator of which monster was in which area, and you got to choose who you sought out to spend time with, the flow of the game would be so much better. They even already do this with the shopkeeper, so I don’t know why it couldn’t extend to the full cast. Of course, with a cast of better characters you wouldn’t need to try to avoid people in the first place, but I digress…

But yeah I’m gonna completely endorse what Austin said at the end of the stream and say anyone interested/disappointed should check out Monsterhearts and The Yawhg instead. Both are way more earnest games that are excellent with a close group of friends.