Game Like A Statistician: Cave Story’s Stone Shower

For my own enjoyment, I’m going to take some (temporary) space out and talk about gaming, and how sports metrics changed it for me in the past couple of years.

Recently, I’ve jumped on the bandwagons of a football writer, Bill Barnwell, who works probabilities into coverage of a sport where teams typically used them incorrectly or not at all when not nicknamed Riverboat Ron. Since I tend to play video games a lot more than I play sports, I’ve absorbed a certain way of thinking prevalent throughout his work – though execution ultimately makes the difference, one’s chances of victory* can be increased by playing in unorthodox ways even if you’re not the best at them.

Inefficiencies as they are typically discussed in the game of football tend to rear their head when a coach takes the traditional, “safe” option and ends up slow cooking his team instead of taking a chance to actually dive through the fire and come out of the other side alive. After reading these articles for a while, and dealing with one particular hallway in Daisuke Amaya’s Cave Story, I realized I was leaving a good chunk of my time and lives on the table by being too afraid to take damage.

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A Pre-Wake Up Girls Defense of the Much-Maligned Yamamoto Yutaka

Right now, the NBA is divided up into two 15-team conferences. One of them, the Eastern Conference, is a garbage fire which contains a total of 4 teams without a win-loss rate under .500. The other, the Western Conference, is a den of monsters run by hypercompetent GMs that contains 9 teams with a win-loss rate over .500, and, by NBA’s own power rankings, 6 of the best 8 teams in the sport. You take one look at those statistics, and it’s painfully obvious that, since winning a playoff spot requires a team to be one of the best 8 in its conference, the situations of teams that want to earn a playoff spot in those two conferences are as different as night and day. The current number 8 team in the East, Brooklyn, has a record of 14-21, or .400. There are a grand total of 3 teams in the West that can’t beat that record. But of the season ended today, Brooklyn would be a playoff team while the above-.500 Denver Nuggets would be on  the outside looking in. It’s not a particularly fair system, but it is the system.

If my straw example worked the way it was supposed to, it should seem pretty obvious that simple playoff seeding shouldn’t be the only measure of success or failure for a team. Because it’s so dependent on the team’s surroundings and circumstances that  if it is the sole measure of success or failure, some teams without any legitimate talent are going to be labelled successes due to everyone else around them making their task easier, and some teams with plenty of legitimate talent are going to be labelled failures merely because they got stuck in the basketball version of the Ultimate Showdown of Ultimate Destiny at the exact wrong time.

The principle of judging something by circumstances, rather than simply by results, is a general one that extends well beyond playoff seeding. It’s even a problem that the advanced stats crowd in the NBA still struggles with to some degree. Just read Kirk Goldsberry’s take on how Monta Ellis went from being the league’s single worst shooter to an above-average shooter; the only real change that happened was Ellis switching teams to one where his teammates could actually play professional basketball and all of a sudden not being double-teamed on every play. When we judge people, their starting situation is always as important, if not more so, than the results.

But results are exactly how we judge the directors of anime. Part of this article is an uncomfortable level of #hottake that’s either going to look really stupid or really gutsy in about 3 hours. But the general sentiment is one I’d like to argue regardless, so here goes.

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Get Behind the Bandwagon: The Added Fun Value From Loving Shows Some People Hate

To some extent, I’ve always been cogniscent of the fact that I’ve gravitated towards of a variety of indicators for the success of anime, rather than just word of mouth, because I have idiosyncratic tastes and using said variety of indicators helps illustrate that the case for or against many shows isn’t as clear-cut as many narrative-spinners would have you believe.

For the record, If there’s a worse anime blogger than Rick Reilly is a sports columnist, I’ve never met them. But I’ve read too many terrible columns by sanctimonious 70-year-old baseball writers about how Yasiel Puig has zero class and too many terrible columns by sanctimonious anime bloggers about how Kill La Kill is somehow “saving” an anime* industry that isn’t actually dying or lacking for fresh content not to see a lot of similarities between the two groups. I’m not saying that all writers who take a critical perspective on anime are like this, but far too many of them are more interested in grinding an axe against a genre rather than actually having a serious discussion about it.

But something hit me after I read this recent Andrew Sharp piece (he’s also the writer of the #hotsportstake series that mocks the aforementioned type of writing) about the appeal of bandwagoning on playoff football teams. One of his criteria that jumped out at me; “Does this team piss off Phil Simms and Jim Nantz?” I hadn’t thought about it for a while, but the Rex Ryan Jets were some of my favorite bandwagons for that very reason (plus the fact that those Jets played a defense best described as a shower of linebacker-shaped meteors backed by Darelle Revis eclipsing the sun). While my appreciation of a show is maximum when a show is great, my enjoyment of a show in a holistic sense is more of a 60-20-20 combination of 3 factors:

1. How much I enjoy it.

2. How well it performs commercially, usually in disk sales but potentially in other categories. It has to at least be a lock argument for having had break even sales.

3. The presence of a persistent group of (for lack of a better word) haters. Not just people who sort-of dislike and avoid it, but people who can’t resist taking paragraph-long potshots at it any time it gets mentioned.

This means that, as good as Attack on Titan was, it’s not a max-entertainment bandwagon. No one of any consequence particularly hates the show, and it’s just done really well. By contrast, Girls und Panzer was a near-perfect bandwagon show, putting up megahit numbers in the face of a number of vocal and hilariously ineffectual critics (it would be on my shortlist already if I weren’t currently watching it). There is really nothing sweeter in fandom than watching a show pile up vocal critics and subsequently both be good and sell well in spite of them. This post contains my personal shortlist of series I’ve had the privilege of being a fan of long enough to watch them do the Shaq thing and dunk all over the place.

To clarify before I actually get to the list, I don’t believe it’s a bad thing to hold any particular set of opinions. I do believe it’s a bad thing to constantly spend time talking scrap about stuff you don’t enjoy, and more generally about the way things are, rather than actually doing something about it. If you’re so upset about the majority of anime that get made nowadays, put up and post links to the BDs of the series you do like on your blog, or just buy them yourself. It’s trivially easy to use amazon for that sort of thing in this day and age.

That said, here are my personal bandwagon favorites of the past several years:

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Manga Chapter of the Week: One Outs Chapter 141 (Fissure)

Shinobu Kaitani’s One Outs, the story of ace player/owner of the Saitama Lycaons, Tokuchi Toua, is without question the best in an increasingly long list of baseball series I have read to date. It’s set in a professional level, and much like Giant Killing, it features everything that makes pro sports so interesting; contract disputes, arcs of victory and defeat over a long season, and players who are all at least nominally in the top 5% talent-wise (even if the Central and Pacific Leagues are kind of a few miles below the AL and NL). The difference between the two is that where Giant Killing chooses to attack pro sports with realism, One Outs chooses  to fight with showmanship. Toua forgoes all the traditional principles of baseball, getting opponents out at a historic rate with only a slowball/slider and a heaping helping of quick wit in his arsenal. Eventually, a combination of his dominance on the plate and his harsh but performance-based contract makes him filthy rich, and puts him in position to buy out the team his contract bankrupted. And that’s where the real fun, him leading his lackluster team to the pennant, starts. The chapter in question is a part of the Lycaons’ quest for the pennant, as they duke it out with a hilariously top-heavy first-place Mariners team.

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Final Review: Giant Killing (9/10)

Giant Killing is an anime about professional-level soccer that aired in the run-up to the 2010 world cup, which should really be everything you need to know about the savvy IQ level of the ones making it. Being from America, I didn’t follow a particular professional team, and had a passing interest in the upcoming world cup. This anime changed that attitude, mainly by building a large-scale fun cast and integrating realism to a level I’d never before seen from a sports anime.

GK-1

My image of soccer, post-Giant Killing

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First Reactions: Space Brothers Episode 47

Episodes of Space Brothers generally fall into 3 categories. First, you have the ones detailing Mutta’s progress as an astronaut. Second, you have the ones dealing with Hibito’s career and missions. Lastly, you have the interlude episodes which serve to establish and build the series’ diverse, while introducing ideas that will become important later. This episode was of the latter variety, and raised some interesting specters lurking in the series’ future.

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Space Bros: Some Thoughts on Episodes 1-46

Before Space Brothers aired, I was kind of ambivalent on it. The director, Ayumu Watanabe, was new in the sense that his only other experience was a ton of Doraemon, and he was helming two shows that season (Mysterious Girlfriend X being the second one). Also, I knew from my research into what would later become my Manga Japanese Critics Love panel that the manga (winner of Kodansha and Shogakukan manga awards in 2011 and 2010, respectively) was over 18 volumes long, so it would be very difficult to cover that in what seemed destined for a one-season timeslot. So it was with more caution than optimism that I got on Crunchyroll in the aftermath of Ohio State’s 62-64 NCAA Tournament loss to Kansas to check out the first episode.

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