Harley Quinn and Joker #RelationshipGoals? You Must Be Joking

wut

In light of the recently released and distressingly mediocre Suicide Squad, there’s been a lot of talk about Harley Quinn’s relationship to The Joker. (To, rather than with, I should note.) People have gone so far as to say that it’s some form of #RelationshipGoals because on the outside – it looks fun.

Suicide Squad has gone to great lengths to show this relationship as some kind of wild adrenaline ride where two people get to be nihilistically crazy with one another. They get to do bad things together. The Joker showers Harley with attention and gifts, while she on the other hand gives him her entire being – what a completely balanced and fair relationship that is!

The movie takes great pains to show the disparity in the ways that Harley and Joker view their relationship. Joker spends most of the movie behaving like someone’s taken his favourite toy and throws temper tantrums when anyone other than himself is playing with her. Meanwhile, Harley’s view is covered in a saccharine gloss as if to hide from the actual reality – she dearly wishes to be her Puddin’s housewife (complete with child) in a dream sequence after Enchantress promises her whatever her heart desires. She wears a choker with PUDDIN in heavy gold letters which she holds dear, and it is the same with her iconic harlequin suit, which was no doubt a gift from The Joker as well.

Harley Quinn

Image courtesy of Screenrant.com

This contrasts with the matter-of-fact way that their initial relationship is portrayed – with a very impressionable Dr. Harleen Quinzel jumping at the opportunity to break the Joker out of Arkham Asylum. He repays her, by subjecting her to electric shocks straight to her temples and making her jump into a vat of acid. Yet he’ll go and pick her up from said vat of acid, remove the chip implanted in her and break her out of prison.

This is the cycle of abuse that The Joker perpetuates to keep Harley in his grasp. He establishes their power imbalance off the bat, mistreats her and then shows her enough attention so that she will continue to seek it from him. Harley on the other hand, will willingly do anything for that attention and “love.”

This isn’t just some crazy love story, it’s downright manipulative behaviour from a scumbag.

I’m not asking anyone to rewrite The Joker or Harley because this is the essence of their characters: they’re both criminally insane, if decades of Batman media is to be believed. Their relationship is meant to be abusive and all sorts of wrong, because neither of them are capable of empathy or building meaningful relations with other people.

I am asking people to stop idolising this kind of relationship, because it is not #RelationshipGoals in the slightest. In fact, it should be #RelationshipWarningSigns. Being showered with attention and gifts from a psychopath is no substitution for a relationship built on trust and respect. If you want actual relationship goals from DC, it’s Batman and Catwoman. Equally as crazy as the thievery > capture > escape cycle is their form of foreplay in light of Bruce Wayne’s neuroses, but they both recognise each other as equals and respect each other’s skills.

It’s a shame that Suicide Squad has now set the standard for Harley Quinn in popular media because after the drama that was the Nu 52 DC Reboot, Harley Quinn has a pretty successful solo comic which takes her to a wholly different place. One of the goals of the new comic was to establish her character away from Batman and Joker – two male characters who have steadfastly defined her own. It had taken some great steps such as making her self sufficient as a landlord on Coney Island and her slowly easing back into psychiatry and her civilian identity as Harleen Quinzel, but nothing beats her emancipation from her previous relationship with The Joker.

In Harley Quinn Issue 25, Harley is tasked with breaking out her current boyfriend Mason Macabre. But just as luck has it, Mason is kept near a cell with You Know Who inside of it.

Harley Quinn
Here we have Harley recognising how messed up her relationship with The Joker was but also her acknowledging that her bad habits are hard to break because of how good he is at manipulating her.

The comic is a good read and completely worth picking up from your local comic book store or a download from Comixology. Jimmy Palmiotti and Amanda Conner navigate this thorny area with a deftness that doesn’t romanticise the abuse or flanderises anybody’s characters – least of all Harley’s and it brings out that yes, she’s ultimately better off without him.

Harley Quinn
And boy, is she really better off without him. Surrounded by an environment where she can put herself to good use, people who make her feel valued rather than simply using her and a lot of blood and violence on her own terms, Harley comes full circle into being herself and not simply The Joker’s Girlfriend. In fact, DC has gone so far to say that monogamy isn’t really Harley’s style.

Harley Quinn

Now that’s #RelationshipGoals.

Hopefully the movies catch up to the comics, because a Harley who recognises The Joker is a piece of shit is the kind of Harley I’d love to see Margot Robbie play. Jared Leto’s Joker has the world’s most punchable face, and it would mean the world to me if Harley were the one who got first dibs to punching it into the ground.

Five Things I Hope For Bruce Banner

bruce banner

I remember watching the 2003 Hulk movie with my cousins when it first came out. Back then, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was something that nobody could even fathom happening and superhero movies were nothing as grand as they are today.

Although I was only eleven years old at that point (and my memories of being eleven are now spotty at best) there are still scenes in my head that stick out. In a way, it was at that point where I first gained an interest in the character of Bruce Banner and his alter ego, though it wasn’t prominent and existed as more of an afterthought at the back of my mind.

Cut to 2008, when Edward Norton played the role and the MCU was becoming a plausible concept. I remember watching this movie more for entertainment purposes than anything else. It was a decent movie, no doubt, but as with other people I was more hyped up with the post-credits scene where Tony Stark appears and makes the MCU so much more tangible.

Then came 2012 and Marvel’s Avengers where Mark Ruffalo took the world by surprise with his fresh portrayal of Bruce Banner and the Hulk. Critics praised his performance and millions of people found themselves in love with the Hulk for the first time ever, including myself. Four years later, I remain an avid fan of Bruce Banner as I had been when the character truly clicked with me, due to Mark Ruffalo’s portrayal of him in the Avengers (even now I’m wearing a Bruce Banner/Hulk t-shirt as I write this piece).

Since the Avengers, Bruce Banner has taken a more prominent role in the MCU: a cameo in Iron Man 3, a return in Age of Ultron, and now taking on a bigger role in the upcoming Thor: Ragnarok.

It’s a testament to how much the fans love the character. I’m not ashamed to admit how much I really love this current version and portrayal of Bruce Banner. Like any fan, I have my own wishes on where he’ll go. That said, I’d like to take this time to talk about the Five Things I Hope For Bruce Banner in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
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Geek Word Wednesdays: Girls Got Game Defines “Feminism”

Art by Aeron Mundell

Trusting in Girl Gamers

TrustinginGG

You’ve probably already read headlines about a pro-player named Gegury. In case you haven’t, Gegury is the alias of a 17-year old Korean girl who happens to be really good at Overwatch. Rather than celebrate her prowess in tournament play, many instead accused her of cheating. Two pro players were so certain that they swore to leave the Overwatch scene altogether if they were proven wrong. Overwatch developer Blizzard looked into the issue, and now two less players compete in the tournament.

Some of you might give these skeptics the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they just thought a win-loss ratio of 4:1 was too good to be true. The problem with that thinking is that win-loss ratios like that aren’t unusual. No force in the universe dictates that a gamer should have a win-loss ratio closer to 50:50. There’s also the fact that the constantly-evolving meta will always favor certain characters and styles of play more than others. My point is that we have no reason to question this level of play, and in fact most people probably wouldn’t have thought twice had a male gamer achieved such a high win rate. That’s the problem: a lot of people still question the idea that a girl gamer can be this good.

The Girl Gamer Meta

This doubt remains one of the great paradoxes of our geek culture. We constantly insist that anyone can be a geek, that anyone can be gamer, yet at the same time reinforce a status quo. We have no problem with girls picking up the controller and playing some games; in fact we celebrate it. Yet we find it unthinkable that they can reach or even surpass the skill level of the tried-and-true guy gamer, as if there is a skill ceiling that girl gamers cannot surpass.

The truth of the matter is that if we allow girls to play a video game, they will eventually get good at it. There is nothing mystical about this. Skill in a video game requires brainpower and commitment, things that are not tied to gender. The more of both you commit, the better you’ll be at the game, simple.

girl gamers

The reason why guys have dominated the competitive scene for so long is because most competitive games target guys, and it’s mostly the guys who are willing to commit to the game to raise their skill level. This is slowly starting to change, however. Girls are starting to take interest in competitive games like LoL or DotA. There’s enough of them committing that there are now women’s leagues for these games. This is a welcome change from a few years back, but notice that we are still separating the girl gamers from the boys. Having two separate leagues for each gender reinforces the assumption that there is a difference in skill level between genders, an assumption that is shattered by girl gamers such as Gegury.

A Competition of Brains Rather Than Brawns

It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that girl gamers can compete with the best of their male counterparts. Since video games are more about mental skill, they are more similar to spelling bees or debates than sports. Notice that both genders compete in the same spelling bee or debate competition, and nobody raises an eyebrow when a girl wins. With these competitions we’ve learned to accept that male and female brains are equally competitive. The problem is gaming culture hasn’t caught up to this idea. That is why it’s so much of a culture shock when you get examples like Gegury.

girl gamers

What we have to realize as a gaming community is that gamers like Gegury aren’t the exception. They are inevitable. There is an incoming wave of girl gamers with mad gaming skills, and they will go toe-to-toe with the establishment. When that happens we shouldn’t be skeptical of them. Video game tournaments are becoming the spelling bees of the 21st century, so expect female presence there to become normal with time.

I do hope that we eventually come to a point when competitive games drop the idea of women’s leagues altogether. It reinforces a culture of difference and dominance, and that just isn’t the case anymore.

Heroes Above: A Promising Take on Squad Games

Heroes Above

Beyond doing reviews of whatever catches our attention, Girls Got Game is also open to reviewing your products! Contact us at girlsgotgame.media@gmail.com if you’re interested.


I was fortunate enough to be able to test Heroes Above, and I must say: it’s an interesting take on squad-based games. I believe that with the right advertising, this game can be a contender in this digital world.

 

Character Management

Heroes Above is set on a world where each player manages a floating island filled with heroes and flying ships. These heroes then engage in epic air battles against other players for supremacy of the skies. This is what every island looks like:

Heroes Above Screenshots - 1

Each player manages a group of characters with different abilities. Those familiar with role playing games will immediately recognize Barbarians being melee fighters, Archers are ranged fighters, and Clerics heal fighters. Characters can be improved via the island’s training facilities. They can increase their stats, and also be upgraded to more powerful forms during multiplayer battles. You can also build ships with different abilities that can give you a distinct advantage in every battle.

As with every squad management game, you need resources to upgrade your characters and structures. However, what makes upgrades interesting in Heroes Above is that you don’t just need to have specific resources. You need prestige, which is something that you can only earn by winning battles against other players. This adds a layer of challenge to the game, as it encourages players to keep fighting against other players. I personally think will get people to play more and will be treated to an interesting take on multiplayer battles.

 

Combat

Heroes Above Screenshots - 2

Multiplayer battles in Heroes Above are a combination of tower defense, real-time strategy, and resource management. The goal is to destroy the opponent’s crystal on their ship before they do the same to your crystal. Of course given that you have to use your ship to get to theirs you have to time when use your boosters to charge and start attacking.

All actions during battles are dependent on your management of mana. This is similar to Clash Royale where you ask yourself when to start deploying your characters and when to hold back. These game elements put together add a layer of complexity which should make for exciting battles for players.

Heroes Above is a solid game. I highly recommend it for anyone who is looking to play something new in the multitude of mobile games out there.


EDITOR’S NOTE: Heroes Above was developed by Unlibox Ltd. It’s available in the Apple Store.

You’re Sorry About Filipino Gamer Behavior? That’s Cute.

gamebehavior

 

Remembering Old Friends: Yoshi

Yoshi from Super Mario Bros

Welcome to “Remembering Old Friends,” a column where the writers of Girls Got Game do spotlights on video game characters that have rocked their worlds. Join us in our feelings!


Yoshi Super Mario Bros

Yoshi, quite possibly the most kick-ass dinosaur in video games. Also likely the reason why some of us look for lizard or dragon mounts in other titles. (I know I do.)

The question we should all be asking at this point is who DOESN’T love Yoshi? This funny little dinosaur (lizard… thing) is as iconic as the Mario Brothers themselves. He’s a fan favorite across several titles, and his own games were always a treat to play.

If the story of my relationship with Chun-Li is about finding a hero, my story with Yoshi is a family story. My younger brother and I were kids when we returned to the Philippines. Imagine two Canadian kids at 10 and 4 slugging it out in tropical heat, isolated from the rest because we spoke English. Most everything on TV was in Filipino or too boring to watch. Our parents were busy trying to settle our roots back into our ACTUAL home country; our brothers were grieving the loss of their “home.” We became each other’s playmates in order to feel less like strangers in a strange land.

Things got significantly better when our favorite cousins moved back to the Philippines. These brothers and their baby sister were like second family to us Punzalans. Back when we were still based in Vancouver, my family would make the occasional road trip down to Los Angeles. The Estebans were always the ones who hosted us. Our usual routine involved flopping around in the pool, spinning dumbass kid stories. It also included playing video games and watching movies.

This was the time of my huge thing for "The Little Mermaid". JP, if you're reading this, you might get why I had to plug this in the article.

That was the time of my huge thing for “The Little Mermaid”. JP, if you’re reading this, you might get why I had to plug this in the article. Yes, the reason is embarrassing.

This did not change once we were all stuck in Manila together. My brother spent most of his middle school and some of his high school years sleeping over at their place. Whenever life wasn’t so weird, I’d tag along. We’d all eat pizza (or their yaya’s grilled cheese and ham sandwiches), and I was going through my cousin’s Pokémon comics, they’d hit the consoles (and later: the computers) again.

Nearly all of my generation’s “classics” – Sonic the Hedgehog, Bomberman, Crash Bandicoot, Ragnarok Online, Starcraft, Battle Realms, Guild Wars – were games that my cousins introduced me to. We either played them together, watched each other do a run, or took turns on the controller. My strongest video game associations with them, however, is anything Bomberman and Super Mario.

While I love all three of my cousins very much, I’m the closest to JP, the eldest of the Esteban bunch. He’s only a few years younger than me, and we’ve always shared a lot of common interests. If I’m getting this right, Yoshi became his favorite character in the Marioverse the moment Super Mario World was out. He became mine too, both because my cousin showed me how cool he was, and because I’ve always had a thing for big lizards.

Many a Yoshi from Super Mario Bros

LOOK AT ALL OF THEM. THEY’RE SO CUTE.

Our next big trip was Mario Kart, where Yoshi was EVERYONE’s favorite. Mario Kart was our ultimate time sink, our quick friend in the midst of school stress and the sort of boredom that only kids could afford to have. It’s also the only racing game that I ever liked, and about 50% of the reason behind that is Yoshi.

Super Smash Brothers is the last big Nintendo franchise that we got into together, and of course it has Yoshi in it. I did not play the game much, but I REALLY enjoyed watching the craziness unfold. And Yoshi has been a badass in that game since the very start, rivaled only by Link and Kirby for me.

Yoshi is already one of Nintendo’s greatest creations. His awesomeness, in my eyes, is simply compounded by all the good memories. I still look for him whenever I see folks doing a round of Super Smash Brothers.


Do you guys have an all-time favorite from Nintendo on your own? Let us know in the comments!

Looking Towards MMFF 2016

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Welcome to Real Talk Tuesdays! We encourage contributors of Girls Got Game to share their feelings on issues in “the real world” through this column. They may or may not have to do with geeky things. If you stumble across something that you think we’d be interested in, drop us a line!

The views expressed in this article are personal views of the author. They do not necessarily represent the views of Girls Got Game! as a whole.


We might have just won our first victory in ages for Philippine cinema.

The Metro Manila Film Festival has announced some major changes for MMFF 2016. Case in point:

…”There is a value system shift from box office consideration” to the following criteria, doing away with the 50% given to commercial viability:

  • Story, audience appeal, overall impact (40%)
  • Cinematic attributes and technical excellence (40%)
  • Global appeal (10%)
  • Filipino sensibility (10%)

Previously, the other criteria – apart from commercial viability – included story, creativity, writing excellence, innovativeness and thematic value (40%) and Filipino cultural and historical value (10%), as reported by PEP.

Some of their other changes look pretty positive.

I had a lot of feelings over MMFF 2015. Last year was the year where pretty much everyone got fed up with the bullshit that perpetually surrounded the MMFF. In addition to the habitual shafting of excellent films in favor of the usual drivel, digging around deeper revealed how the MMFF was marred with scandal. As such, many of us rejoiced when Congress abolished all committees. Some of us were even hoping that we wouldn’t have to suffer through an MMFF 2016.

I’m cautiously optimistic now. I’ll explain why by looking at some of the highlights from the press release.

I have no idea what they mean.

The new vision statement says that MMFF 2016 envisions itself to be “a festival that celebrates Filipino artistic excellence, promotes audience development and champions the sustainability of the Philippine film industry.” It’s mission statement says that it “aims to develop audiences for and encourage the production of quality Filipino films, and to promote the welfare of its workers.”

What I’m weirded out by is this insistence on “excellent films that also do well in the box office”. I’m also side-eyeing the criterion for “Filipino sensibility”. Global appeal might just be a matter of execution, but their definition of Filipino sensibility is vague. Can we even have a unified sense of a Filipino sensibility that won’t alienate communities wholesale? In my experience, what tends to be championed as traditional Filipino values too often include justifications for sexism, homophobia, racism, and bigoted behavior.

They do better with their parameters for artistic excellence:

Story, audience appeal, and overall impact, which takes up 40% of the criteria, refers to the “overall excellence in storytelling, measured by how successfully a film transforms its artistic vision into a vital […] engagement with its audience,” as said in a press release.

…Until you take a close look at the rhetoric of MMFF 2016’s committee members. They have nice buzzwords like “engagement” and “connectivity”. There are also motherhood statements on “universal appeal”. All of that buys into the clunky separation between high and low culture. Such a dichotomy doesn’t help anyone. It intrinsically implies that smart, “serious”, “artistic” things don’t appeal to a larger audience, while light, non-serious, non-artistic things are for the masses. That’s kind of like saying that most people are stupid.

(Some of us – myself included – are occasionally inclined to believe that. I acknowledge, though, that thinking that way is NOT cool.)

So, yeah. Cautious optimism, it is a thing.

One might say that I ought to withhold judgment, and see how MMFF 2016 goes. I feel, though, that strong definitions are really important when it comes to evaluating art. We need to have a clear idea what our agenda is here. We also need to acknowledge that agendas define everything. For one, we all need to keep in mind that at the end of the day, recognizing a film with an award speaks volumes about what we consider to be important. Bringing titles to the forefront will always involve pushing other works to the fringes. Movies are powerful cultural artifacts because they’re capable of imparting messages about what matters to us. Their potential as educational tools is highly undervalued, especially since there also exists this strange idea that entertainment and instruction cannot go hand-in-hand.

The truth of the matter is, they’re intimately entwined. We shape our narratives, and our narratives shape us. Even the “dumbest” movie says something about a people, or about people in general – and its viewers take a part of that with them. I don’t think MMFF 2016 acknowledges that. I think it’s still more interested in what sells over what deserves to be noticed.

See you guys come Christmas. At the end of it all, I would like to see MMFF 2016 succeed.

There’s Gonna Be a World of Darkness Documentary!

World-of-Darkness

Attention, history and fandom nerds in tabletop! White Wolf has greenlit a two-part World of Darkness Documentary! MMORPG.com shared the press release late last week. It’s going to be a two-part film, covering “the history and evolution of one of the most prolific and genre defining Role-Playing franchises  in history”.

Does it sound a bit like they are tooting their own horn? Only if you’re not aware of just how important World of Darkness is for tabletop gaming history. The documentary will include interviews with the different people who put it all together, and have kept the faith. They also mentioned exclusive footage, but I don’t know what that’ll entail given the subject material.

“The tumultuous history of the World of Darkness, Vampire: The Masquerade, & White Wolf is something akin to a rock n’ roll soap opera mashed together with a Shakespearean tragedy.  It’s more than just a story about a game or a company, but also the fans and how this thing helped shape and affect their lives.  This is really their story and we believe that needs to be told,” said White Wolf CEO Tobias Sjögren.

“This is where the real story gets told: nothing is sacred, no one gets a pass, and all skeletons come out of the closet,” said Luckyday CEO Henrik Johansson.

Kevin Lee from Sweeden-based film agency Luckyday will be writing and producing the film. Award-winning director, actor and producer Giles Anderson is going to be directing it. He’s best known for his documentary 47 Cleveland.

Sjögren honestly isn’t kidding when he says that WoD’s history is “tumultuous.” Vampire: the Masquerade, the first book for the World of Darkness, was released in 1991. This was decades after the first release of Dungeons & Dragons in 1974. WoD went toe-to-toe with the franchise in spite of how established D&D was by then. Its storytelling systems met the huge demand for urban horror and gothic stories, so much so that it inspired its own fiction lines and a titular computer game for Vampire. Its dip in visibility can be attributed to several mishaps – the biggest being the ill-fated MMORPG project – and shifts within tabletop gaming itself. I’m a huge fan of World of Darkness everything, so I’d like to see what happened. There’s always been a lot of questions about it, but no real answers.

On another note, putting out a documentary is important for establishing a franchise’s legacy. Tabletop gaming is an important but often understated aspect of geek culture. D&D has books and features a plenty. It’s high time that WoD has some of its own. Sure, it’s probably only going to cover the Western end of the story, but that gives us all the more reason to see it.

The World of Darkness documentary does not have a release date yet. Here’s hoping that it’ll be out sooner than later!

References: MMORPG.com’s articlePress Release from Triplepoint

No Apologies from 12:01

12:01

The 2016 Philippine elections have come and gone, but the message in 12:01 by writer Russell Molina and artist Kajo Baldisimo (TRESE) is still of great importance.

Earlier this year, online debates popped up all over the Philippine end of Facebook. Friendships called it quits, comment threads turned nasty, and the entire thing got so toxic that I wasn’t sure if things would blow over even after the winners were announced.

(Spoilers: They did, but not entirely.)

What struck me however, was how much Martial Law was discussed, though I shouldn’t have been surprised. For one, Ferdinand Marcos’ son had decided to run for Vice Presidency and while doing so, used his father’s legacy to bolster his platform. For another, candidate Rodrigo Duterte drew heavy parallels to the late ex-president, since he advocated iron fist-like methods and was also running for the Presidential seat.

12:01

Left: President-elect Rodrigo Duterte, Right: Vice Presidential candidate, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Romualdez Marcos Jr.

This is where I think 12:01 comes in, as a way to educate the public in an accessible format. It tells the story of a group of friends who are stuck after curfew during the Martial Law Era, where arrest and other violent atrocities would follow if you were caught violating a government mandate. In 12:01, Russell Molina and Kajo Baldisimo are courageous in not omitting the cruel realities of this era, and it is also commendable that they do so in a non-violent telling.

A quick disclaimer: This article is NOT spoiler free. You should exit now if you want to read the comic first. Otherwise, read right on ahead!

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