Put it on my Gamercard

Also: wellness influencers, Tomb Mold, FaZe Clan stock advice, and more.

Put it on my Gamercard

EX is a research report about digital culture. You can learn more here. This week: lifestyle alchemy, Japan’s Angry Video Game Nerd fandom, and Soulsborne death metal.

1. "Conservativecore" gamers are not sending their best

via @duckyle2nd

Over the past couple of months or so, trans shitposters have been drafting up charts like this one that playfully claim to capture the "essential transcore" gaming canon. While some of the titles on the aforementioned post are genuinely notorious for having sizable trans followings (e.g. Celeste, ULTRAKILL, and the work of Toby Fox) there are a couple of clues that it's likely the work of a troll (e.g. Fallout: New Vegas appearing twice, as well as the inclusion of seemingly random outliers like Five Nights at Freddy's, the first Resident Evil, and Overwatch 2). This "conservativecore" response, however, appears to have been posted by a completely sincere account — making its esoteric choices all the more bizarre and logic-defying.

As many in the comments are quick to point out, games like Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance and Bioshock are notorious for their satirical — and sometimes heavy-handed — depictions of conservative politics, making these choices seem like naive misinterpretations of the source material. Some choices, however, are downright mind-boggling, like The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Dino Crisis, and Megaman Zero. While sure, one could make the case that the jingoistic undercurrents of Call of Duty games might warrant a "conservative," pro-military label (albeit still a stretch), it's difficult to imagine the OP playing enough hours of Fire Emblem: Three Houses — a game so gay that it forces you to attend tea party after tea party with your party members in order to develop your relationships with them — to discover (mild spoiler alert) Edelgard's treatment of prisoners of war.

2. The war between wellness influencers and their debunkers

via @this_is_mallory

Twitter user @this_is_mallory has spent the past week tussling with "lifestyle alchemist" Samantha Lotus after making a pretty damning case that the latter is an MLM shill and grifter. It all started when Mallory started a thread detailing Samantha's claims that the visually impaired "do not need glasses," suggesting that there are "mental, emotional, physical, and even spiritual" means for improving one's eyesight. After her initial thread went viral, Mallory live-tweeted Samantha's $11 "vision healing masterclass," a two-hour Zoom call that quickly devolved into a not-so-subtle ad for essential oils manufactured by Doterra (an MLM for which Samantha acts as a sales rep). The next day, Mallory took to Twitter to reveal that Samantha had begun harassing her across various social media platforms, threatening to sue Mallory for "intellectual property infringements and defamation" and going so far as to sic her husband "Lando Omega" on Mallory via Facebook.

It isn't difficult to make sense of the landscape of "wellness influencer" grifters that has spread across Instagram and TikTok over the past few years. The proliferation of fake news, the rise of the bloated influencer economy, and the pervasive post-COVID skepticism towards modern medicine are each to blame for the Samantha Lotuses of the world. But what's most interesting about this incident is that it highlights the movement of "debunker" accounts that have emerged to take such un-accredited "wellness influencers" to task for their outlandish claims. Aside from Mallory (who specializes in content about misinformation across the wellness industry), Samantha has drawn the attention of people like @DrSiyabMD and @RyanMarino, licensed medical professionals who leverage their expertise to combat fake news in the world of alternative medicine.

3. Soulsborne-inspired death metal band Tomb Mold returns

The Canadian death-metal trio Tomb Mold are possibly tired of being compared to the videogames of From Software. Named after an item from Bloodborne, with songs like “Valley Of Defilement” and “The Abysswalker” directly dramatizing deep lore from the games, the band pulls from the dark-fantasy masterpieces in the same way an older generation of metalheads pulled from Tolkien and Lovecraft. But refracted through Hidetaka Miyazaki’s cryptic sensibilities, Tomb Mold have channeled these influences to actively push the boundaries of their medium. Their last album, 2019’s sci-fi odyssey Planetary Clairvoyance, contained the fewest references to Soulsborne games in their discography, but felt the most like one yet, structuring each track like a serpentine gauntlet punctuated by mournful ambient interludes and moments of elegiac beauty.

Since then, guitarist Derrick Vella has produced two LPs with the “dream-doom” duo Dream Unending, both of which push high fantasy into the astral realm in a manner only comparable to what Fromsoft was doing concurrently with Elden Ring. Following this hiatus, the band has returned with a new LP available today — or, as they put it in a press release, “After three years spent spiraling in the cycle reincarnate necessity, a myriad of consciousness have now become one.” Here’s hoping it’s their Armored Core record.

4. Mascot horror buffets haunt YouTube Shorts

A house rule at EX is to always post about the things that we immediately want to click away from. This week that means an animated YouTube Short (289 million views) as dense with sinister creatures as a Hieronymus Bosch painting. Over the past few years, peddlers of kid-friendly YouTube gaming content have come to rely more and more on the platform's ecosystem of "mascot horror" video game characters. Following in the footsteps of Five Nights at Freddy's, horror games like Poppy Playtime, Hello Neighbor, and Scary Teacher 3D serve up jumpscares scary enough to entertain but tame enough to find a home on the iPad of your grade school-aged nephew.

Shorts made by channels like @ScaryTeacher3DGaming are designed to grab kids' attention by stuffing as many mascot horror references as possible into a sub-one minute timeframe. As a result, these videos serve as reliable windows into the constantly shifting world of mascot horror; as trends come and go, they accumulate horror mascots like balls of lint, which is how you end up with a video that pits Scary Teacher 3D's' titular teacher against Hello Neighbor's eponymous neighbor in a Squid Game-like competition as the googly-eyed, blue-skinned beast from Poppy Playtime waits in the wings. In a post-Elsagate world, children's media on YouTube is doomed to traffic in distorted reflections of viral IPs, grinding horror mascots into a nauseating slurry of Blender-born misery.

5. “Mr. Beyond the Ice Wall” goes dark

@ShabezJr on Twitter

In what has been called “the greatest last tweet of all time,” a flat-earther Twitter account promised to livestream his journey past Antarctica’s ice wall to the world waiting beyond, forever silencing all doubters and globeheads. He posted an irresistible high fantasy world map of the new lands locked behind the ice, which one imagines visiting on Discs 2 and 3. The fateful ANTARCTICA TOMORROW post was made on September 8 and promised video proof within 24 hours; the account has not been updated since.

Or is that just what “they” want you to believe? This account is almost certainly a troll. The profile pic is fuzzy and AI-looking. The ex-NASA man lists an unusual set of credentials. The account name @ShabezJr seems an unlikely match for the display name “Mike Buckner, MBA.” But for one shining moment, @ShabezJr made each of us believe that he believed he was going to sail across the Neptunian Ocean and reach the shores of Geminia. And isn’t that what insane conspiracies are all about?

6. Angry Video Game Nerd appreciators discovered abroad, at home

@poondonkus on Twitter

Twitter user @poondonkus recently unearthed an ancient Niconico account that subtitled videos from old-school YouTubers like the Angry Video Game Nerd for a Japanese audience. The waves of scrolling comments add a lot to the original clips; you have to wonder if James Rolfe’s rants about “assy games” gain some mystery in translation. The enthusiasm on Twitter also reflects a broader change in sentiment about AVGN and the Nostalgia Critic/Doug Walker. In their heyday (late 2000s-mid 2010s) these channels had a devoted audience of kids who found their low-budget sketches and shouty reviews hilarious; then they became the unfunny faces of “old YouTube” for other creators to parody or practice a newer style of video essay rage on; and now the tone seems to have shifted again as AVGN/NC themselves become sources of nostalgia and lore. (Other YouTubers like OneyPlays and Lady Emily are notable child fans turned Doug Walker historians.) When people talk about “No Nostalgia Critic November” or post clips of Walker or Rolfe, they’re still laughing at them, but increasingly in a sort of “laughing at my dumbass friend” way.

7. EX walks back our BUY rating of FaZe Clan stock

@JakeSucky on Twitter

From the beginning, EX has stood by our one core message: buy stock in FaZe Clan. FaZe Clan, a preteen lifestyle brand and esports org built around blue-chip gamers such as FaZe Rug and FaZe Banks, has nowhere to go but up. If you consult the investor deck, you’ll learn that the brand is the “Voice of a Generation” (p. 7) thanks to unparalleled social engagement from Gen Z, who are estimated to have a combined income of ~33tn by 2030. It is simply a no-brainer to foresee that this cohort will remain loyal to the personalities they have grown up buying crypto coins from.

However, FaZe Clan has faced headwinds in Q1, Q2, and Q3 of 2023. These included losing all of their money in esports, their streamers publicly hating each other, and their big star posting anti-LGBT propaganda. And now it seems that the voice of Gen Z may be silenced due to a financial rule dictating that a stock cannot be traded on the Nasdaq if it is worth equal to or less than zero dollars. For this reason we are, regretfully, downgrading our rating to HOLD.

Chum Box

  • The upcoming Pinocchio-inspired action game Lies Of P has removed in-game banners which read “APAB,” short for “All Puppets Are Bastards.” This recalls the controversy over Deus Ex: Mankind Divided’s extraordinarily ill-advised “Augs Lives Matter” signs.
  • Princess Jane, a low-rent AI creation introduced as the future of cinema and then ridiculed by the entire internet, will not go softly into that good night, and has now been joined in her adventure by the Dwarven Lord Durgon Forgesteel.
  • You’ll finally be able to say “put it on my Xbox Gamercard” at fine dining establishments thanks to a new Microsoft x Mastercard collab. Console war veterans will remember that Playstation did this in 2017; gamers have also resorted to various lesser promotions to express their console identity in the past.
  • The phenomenon of military personnel posting classified material to win arguments on the War Thunder forums is well documented. It happened again on September 12, leading to another round of “reset the clock” memes.
  • The Spotify playlist Yacht Rock: A Purist’s History is an epic 675-song chronological survey of the genre maintained by Hollywood Steve (Yacht Rock mockumentary, Beyond Yacht Rock podcast, Yacht or Nyacht?).
  • Game engine company Unity recently announced a “per-install fee” policy that has proven to be the company’s most wildly unpopular move yet, drawing passionate criticisms from many different developers. It’s a sad way for the company to destroy years of goodwill and a rep as a more accessible and artist-friendly alternative to platforms like Epic’s Unreal Engine.
  • Pipefitters excoriated the shoddy work on display across Starfield’s galaxy; normal players have been too busy staring into money-filled puddles to notice. The latter is an ancient glitch that appears in many of Bethesda’s games.

That’s it for this week. Prepare for a wave of Mortal Kombat kontent next week.