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This is the transcript of the above video blog...

Hello. My name is Barry Scott Will and this is episode two of my video blog, “Go Game, Young Man.” Even though I won’t always talk about games. I don’t know, I might have to rethink that title.

I want to talk today about Star Wars: The Last Jedi, specifically about Luke Skywalker. I can’t discuss Luke or his actions in this movie without MASSIVE SPOILERS! I’m going to put a large “SPOILER” warning on the bottom of the screen. Right about there.

Before I talk about the “new” Luke, I want to revisit the original trilogy, i.e. Episodes four, five, and six. I was eleven (well, actually ten, almost eleven) when Star Wars was released in 1977. And in Star Wars, Luke was the hero, Leia was his love interest, and Han was the sidekick.

A few years later, Empire totally rewrote the script. HAN was the hero, Leia was his love interest, and Chewie was the sidekick. Luke was the B plot. Return (of the Jedi) kept the same basic scheme. If you think about it, it’s Han and Lando who save the galaxy, and Vader kills the Emperor. Luke does exactly bupkis.

And then the prequel trilogy came along and rewrote the entire thing into the anti-hero journey of Anakin freakin’ Vader. Suffice it to say I’ve been...disappointed in all the movies since Star Wars. That’s right, I’m not a big fan of Empire, even though that seems to be the favorite of most people. I identified with Luke as the hero, and I want him to be the hero again.

So, fast-forward to Episode seven. The Force Awakens. We get just a glimpse of Luke at the end of the film and it looks like he’s going to be called on to save the galaxy once more. And that’s really exciting. I was truly looking forward to seeing Luke SAVE THE DAY in The Last Jedi.

At the beginning of Last Jedi, Rey gives Luke his lightsaber in a wordless plea for help, he looks at it, then tosses it over his shoulder.

There has been some angst about that scene.

I LOVED IT. Maybe it’s because I’m most of the way toward being a grumpy old man myself, but I totally get Luke. Let’s rehash what we know from the original trilogy, the prequels, and flashbacks in Last Jedi.

The Jedi order takes force-sensitive children--YOUNG children--and trains them for DECADES. Why? So they can learn to control their emotions, especially anger and hate, and use the Force for good.

The exemplar of this is Qui-Gon Jin. If he had been played by anyone other than Liam Neeson, he would have been robotic. He’s just so cool, calm, and collected. He displays emotion, so he’s not Spock, but he’s always in control. This is what the Jedi want.

So, the Jedi council doesn’t want to train Anakin because, at nine, he’s too old. But Obi-Wan trains him anyway, for a decade. And he still turns to the dark side. Jump forward 20 years, and Luke gets, what, a week’s training with Yoda? I mean, you can’t even call him a half-trained Jedi.

But, he goes running off to save his friends (which he mostly completely fails to do). He discovers the truth about Anakin. He does manage to turn Anakin back to the light, but, then thinks he’s got what it takes to train other Jedi.

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This is a transcript of the above video blog...

Hello. My name is Barry Scott Will, also known as PapaGamer. Welcome to my inaugural video blog (I refuse to use the term vlog, even though blog itself it a weird abbreviation at least it rolls off the tongue a little better). Anyway, I haven’t decided what to call this, so no title or title music...yet. I may get there.

I was originally going to spend this first episode talking about “The Last Jedi,” but with the announcement on January 25th, I thought I would turn my attention to the NFL and the soon-to-be-reborn XFL.

But first, a peek into the future. Take a look at this picture. This is a screenshot from MarineTraffic.com. You’re looking at APL Turkey, a Liberian cargo ship. It is--as of January 25th--east of Japan heading for Panama (and, I assume, the Panama canal).

aplturkey

Onboard APL Turkey, are these cartons. These cartons contain Top Secret: New World Order box sets. One of which is mine. I’m guessing my set will reach me around the beginning of March, so my video that week will be an unboxing. You can learn more about the game at topsecretnwo.com

topsecretcartons     topsecretnwo

In the nearer future, I’ll have my thoughts on Black Panther in about three weeks, once I’ve had a chance to see the movie. Next week’s subject will be Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi, and, more specifically the character of Luke Skywalker. Spoiler alert: he really resonated with me.

Now, on to American football. I say “American” football to distinguish it from international football, which we Yanks call “soccer.” Anyway, I understand why Vince McMahon is going to try to resurrect the Extreme Football League, the XFL. Lots of people are criticising the NFL right now, and it looks like they are vulnerable to competition.

Not so fast. First, unless the XFL plans to play in the Fall, it won’t actually be competing with the NFL. It will most likely be played in the Spring and early Summer, so the competition is March Madness, the NBA finals, and “America’s pastime.” Baseball.

After 6 months of nonstop NFL, will fans want more football? Or will they turn their attention to other sports for a while. And let’s not forget the NFL’s offseason activities, like the NFL Draft. It’s a huge TV ratings draw. Not to mention the constant news cycle of free agent signings, trades, waivers, etc.

I mean, this year, unless the Redskins get a deal done, Kirk Cousins is going to be 24/7 sports news until he signs a contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. I’m counting on you Coughlin and Caldwell. Don’t waste that defense with a below-average QB.

Can the XFL compete with all of that? I think they can, and I’m going to offer five suggestions, some of which have already been mentioned by McMahon, though details are sketchy. I’m going to give details.

One: Speed up the games. Go to a running clock that does not stop for out-of-bounds or incomplete passes. This will totally change the dynamic of the two-minute offense. Teams trying to drain the clock can still heave passes down field, meaning defenses can’t press up to stop the run.

I mean, right now, teams that want to run clock go run, run, run, punt. (A tactic that backfired on the Jaguars in the AFC Championship, by the way.) Teams that want to preserve time will have to really hurry up and they’ll have to save timeouts. Oh, and give teams twice as many timeouts per half. So six, instead of three.

Two: Simplify the rules. What, exactly, is a catch? What is a touchdown? Make sure your refs know the rulebook. Be clear on what holding is, what pass interference is, etc.

Three: Go big on fantasy football. In conjunction with that, start out with a version of the NFL’s RedZone channel. It’s what everyone is watching anyway.

While I’m talking about what people are watching...much has been made of the NFL’s TV ratings dip this year. But…the NFL’s 11% drop is roughly the same as the overall 13% drop in “traditional” TV viewing this year. People just aren’t watching things in the same way.

Yes, live sports are still a draw and the NFL was a big draw during the year, but people are using other ways to get content, including RedZone channel, which just shows the best parts of each game (i.e. the scoring or big defensive plays). In the age of fantasy sports, that’s all most people want to see.

Which brings us to XFL suggestion four: Make games available for everyone and keep them compact in time. Monday & Thursday games are bad for the players and, really, kind of bad for ratings. If “your” team is playing Monday or Thursday, why would you watch games on Sunday?

And make sure everyone can see whatever game they want. Don’t restrict fans to only being able to watch the “local” game, however the XFL defines “local.” (Which is what happens with the NFL. I, a Jaguars fan living in Virginia, almost never get to see the Jags play.)

Five: Avoid “star” salaries. I think players ought to get paid, and, considering the risk of the job and the short career of most players, getting paid six or seven figures is reasonable.

Unfortunately, the pay scale in the NFL encourages good players to keep one-upping each others’ contracts, which then ups the contracts for average players and eventually a few star players on each team eat up the salary cap. And so most NFL coaching comes down to who can get the most out of the B-level players, not who can hire the most A-level players.

So, when I say the XFL should avoid star salaries, I mean they should avoid overpaying for one single position in what is, ultimately, a team sport. I don’t know how you structure your contracts, especially if they have a player’s union and associated agreement.

But I would think it is in the players’ interest that everyone get a slightly bigger slice of the pie than a few players get a lot and the rest get a little.

Can the XFL succeed? I think so. I would certainly like it to succeed. I don’t think quality of play is that big of a deal. College football in the Fall is a big draw and the quality of athletes overall is less than in the NFL. In fact, the XFL may want to look more at the college game, as well as Canadian football and the Arena league, for inspiration.

While the NFL has produced some exciting games, most NFL games are snoozefests. There’s more exciting football out there, I just don’t know if people will warm up to another league. Especially not against all the other sports options out there.

All right. That’s it for this week. Next week, The Last Jedi. You can sound off in the comments below, or track me down on Twitter (@PapaGamer), Facebook, and Instagram…links in the description.

Also, be sure to check out bettysterlingbooks.com to acquire either or both of the novels I have written. If you love fantasy fiction, you’ll love these books.

Until next time, go game, young man. Oh, you know what, that would be a pretty good title...

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My newest Betty Sterling novel, "The Long-Lost Troll," is now available!

longlosttrollcoverBetty Sterling is a common thug with a chip on his shoulder—not surprising since his name is “Beatrice.” When Betty is sent to shut down a potions ring, he ends up traveling to the Troll homeland and comes face-to-gaping maw with a dragon. And that's only the beginning! Join Betty, Lilahh, Jewels, Sam, and others as they get to the bottom of a hostile takeover unlike any that has been tried before.

You can purchase it in digital or print format from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Want a signed copy? Check out my list of upcoming events in central Virginia and central Florida!

Early reviews are a hit!

The world blends the rich tapestries of places imagined by the likes of Tolkien and Rowling into a whole new dimension. Even if you normally do not read sci-fi books about magic, and ogres, and men named Betty, the story draws you in from the very first.

Because the story just picks up and goes, it hooks you in and you once again become enthralled in the world Mr. Will has created.

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I know this comes too late for most of you. You’ve already had your Fantasy Football draft. But, the season is young. There will be trades. Free agent acquisitions. Waiver wire steals. So, herewith my mantra for all Fantasy sports, but, most especially, football:

It. Doesn’t. Matter.

Fantasy sports are, contrary to the “official” definition (which exists only so pro sports owners can make a mint off Daily Fantasy games while officially extolling the evils of gambling), pure luck. If there were any real skill involved, the same few people would dominate their leagues every year. The fantasy-sports-talking-heads would all retire and live off the money they make playing DFS.

Your “sure thing” wide receiver will blow out his knee in week 2 and you’ll be scrambling for points to replace him.

That running back that racked up 2,000 yards from scrimmage last year will struggle to hit 1,000 because a key offensive guard left in free agency.

The hot QB of the future regresses to below the mean. (I’m looking at you, Blake Bortles.)

You’ll win a league semi-final on a tie-breaker only to be declared the runner-up a few days later when a TD pass thrown by your QB is reclassified as a lateral. (I’m looking at you, Kurt Warner in 2009.)

Your top-5 QB throws 3 picks and no touchdowns the same week you’re playing the last-place team who’s bottom-feeder QB heaves 5 TDs and runs for another.

Your kicker misses a chip-shot field goal and the penalty score for that in your league costs you a win. (Has happened to me more than once.)

You win a league semi-final by one point, only to be declared the runner-up a few days later after yardage adjustments drop you into a tie and you lose the tie-breaker. (I’m looking at you, Ben Roethlisberger in 2015.)

It’s all luck. You play your best players and hope the other team’s players have a bad week. You can’t predict the future.

However…

I’m going to give you some basic tips anyway.

1) Never draft a skill player on a team unless you would be willing to draft the QB on that team. (Doesn’t mean you have to draft the QB, just be willing to.) Offense in the modern NFL runs through the QB. If he stinks, the WRs and TEs won’t get many catches or yards and the RBs will have no room to run as the defense stacks the box. Stay away from all offensive players on teams with a bad QB. (Are you listening, Jaguars?)

2) Avoid “handcuffing” (taking a starter’s backup in case the starter gets hurt). The backup is rarely anywhere near as good as the starter and there’s probably starters elsewhere that are available.

4) Know your scoring system and draft appropriately.

  • Is your league a PPR (point-per-reception) league? That changes the values of various W/R/Ts.
  • Do QBs earn fewer or as many points for a throwing TD as other positions earn for catching a TD? If the point value is the same, QB value skyrockets.
  • How many points are lost for missed kicks or interceptions? Higher penalties mean you need kickers with higher accuracy ratings and QBs who throw fewer interceptions.
  • Example: I play in a league where QBs earn a point per completed pass and equal points on thrown TDs. Obviously, having a top flight QB is an absolute necessity in that league, but it also needs to be a QB who throws 35+ times per game. You have to draft a QB in the late 1st or 2nd round and also need a viable, starter-quality backup.

5) Don’t play for money. It’s gambling.

Now, excuse me, I have to get ready for the draft...

sherekhan

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Spider-ManFirst, this post contains massive, I repeat, MASSIVE SPOILERS of Guardians of the Galaxy vol 2 (GotG2), Wonder Woman (WW), and Spider-Man: Homecoming (SMH). If you haven’t seen all three of those movies and don’t want to know specific plot points, stop reading now. Go read something else, like my novel A Fine Basket of Fish.

You have been warned.

Second, I am sharing my thoughts on the three most recent superhero movies released in 2017. I am excluding Logan because it is essentially not a superhero movie. It is a dystopian sci-fi story that features some super-powered people. It’s a different type of comic book movie (CBM) and, while I appreciate some people like that type of film, I do not. Logan is dark, depressing, excessively violent, and I don’t even want to think about it.

SPOILERS begin here…

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In which I present a few remarks about the “press briefings” of the 2017 E3, a snooze-fest of game trailers, most of which we have already seen.

EA

Does EA actually need to hold a media event? Don’t their games just sell themselves (new FIFA, new Madden, new NBA, new Need for Speed)? I tuned in specifically to see the new game from BioWare and got 10 seconds of nothing.

Please.

Microsoft

Sea of Thieves, a new pirate-y adventure from Rare, looked rather bad, and looks even worse after Ubisoft showed Skull & Bones. SoT wasn’t the only dud, Super Lucky’s Tale and a few others weren’t especially exciting, but Microsoft’s game lineup was mostly solid. I finally got to see Anthem from BioWare and…color me unimpressed. What has happened to BW? They made a name creating narrative-rich RPGs and now they’re making Destiny rip-offs. I want a new Dragon Age or, yes, even a new Mass Effect, or something in that vein.

The big takeaway from MS is the Xbox One X. (Horrible name. Won’t spend time on it.) What is the point of this console?

Is it just a graphical improvement? If so, existing XB1 owners have no real reason to upgrade and non-XB1 owners have no reason to plunk down $500 large for this console when they can get an XB1S for under $300. Two-hundred plus is a lot to spend on a fancier graphics card.

But, is the XB1X more than just better graphics? Will we start to see games that won’t run on an original XB1? If so, MS just declared the XB1 to be dead, in which case they just told ~25 million people, “Sucks to be you.”

There’s also the nagging issue that all “exclusive” games to the XB1 are also available for Windows. Instead of putting down $500 on a console, you can spend $750 on a gaming PC and play the same games and keep your rig updated to run all the latest games.

I’m not feeling you Microsoft. I don’t understand your strategy.

Bethesda

Sorry Fallout and Elder Scrolls fans. Bethesda has decided it can make more money making cheap mobile games and selling mods for Fallout 4 and Skyrim. That’s pretty much the sum total of Bethesda’s 30-minute video sizzle reel.

And we’re getting a new Wolfenstein. I like the alternate-history aesthetic, but not my cup o’ tea.

Ubisoft

I’m not the target market for most of what Ubisoft is selling, but they might have been the best show at the show. They had one big hit after another, all of which look great if that’s your type of game. The only one that I’ll be likely to look seriously at is Skull & Bones, though I may dip my toe in the waters of Assassin’s Creed again for Origins. Mario + Rabbids game looks pretty bad to me, but I know a lot of people are definitely picking that up. Beyond Good & Evil 2 was a solid closer.

Sony

Sony just did a victory lap by showing us all the games they showed us last year. True, almost everything they showed is on my watchlist. (Days Gone is a notable exception. Can we all agree zombie games jumped the shark with Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2?) Also, a lot of what they showed still has no firm release date. “2018” is code for “maybe next year, but probably not until 2019.”

Their most interesting information was in the pre-show, of which I saw about half. I liked Knack and will get Knack 2. Undertale is coming to PS4 and Vita. (Yes. Someone actually mentioned the Vita in a Sony presentation.) What really got me was PlayLink, a platform for making games that use smartphones as controllers. I think PlayLink has a lot of potential, and I’m surprised they didn’t include it in their official press briefing.

Or, maybe not so surprised. This was an hour-long video sizzle reel, not a press briefing. I enjoyed it, but it just didn’t have to punch of previous E3s.

That Spider-Man gameplay footage was LIT, though.’

Nintendo

To a certain extent, Nintendo is just doing a victory lap as well. The Switch is a smashing success, and Nintendo has figured out they just need to make Nintendo games using Nintendo IP and they will sell consoles and games. There wasn’t much new in the Spotlight, just solid Nintendo games. I find myself wanting a Switch to supplement my PS4. I really want Metroid Prime 4.

What was most interesting was the complete lack of anything related to the 3DS. I suspect Nintendo is going to phase out the “handheld” hardware and put everything on the Switch, which is both a home console and a handheld. The announcement of a “core Pokemon RPG” coming for the Switch seems to confirm my suspicion.

Summary

BioWare is deteriorating. (Sob) Microsoft is confused. (Hehehehehe) Bethesda is…I don’t know. Resting on their laurels, I think. (Sigh) Ubisoft, Sony, and Nintendo are still making great games. (Yay!) If all the games announced for 2018 actually release, it will be a great year for games. Fall 2017 doesn’t look that bad either.