From Marvel's diverse new comics to the "Mystery Science Theater 3000" reboot, a look back at the best of 2015's geeky pop culture.
Last year I took a look at all the reasons it was good to be a geek in 2014, and I'm back at it this year with massive video games, a TV cult classic's return, kickass superheroines, and more. Isn't it a classic nerd cliche that we geeks like to waste our time with toys and ephemera? Well, fine, I'll buy into it: Here's a year's worth of cool, geeky stuff that occupied, distracted, and delighted me during the planet's latest trip around the sun.
MAGIC: THE GATHERING, COMMANDER 2015
Magic: The Gathering is a collectible card game where you cast spells, fight monsters, and try to destroy your opponent before they destroy you. It's often looked on as an intense, competitive, complicated card game... but it doesn't have to be so complex. Sure, you can slug it out in tournaments and spend a small fortune on ultra-rare cards, but there's a more casual way to play the game, too. It's called Commander, and the variant is meant to for people who don't want to dive straight into a card game that can be intimidating for newcomers. This year's release of Commander 2015 introduced new cards and pre-built Magic decks to ease people into the casual side of the game better than ever before.
EVERYTHING STAR WARS
"Yeah, no shit, Giaco." When I wrote this, The Force Awakens hasn't come out yet. But hopes are so... damn... high....
Whether or not the movie lives up to the hype, it's been a damn good year for geeky Star Wars stuff. Say what you will about new Battlefront video game (the VICE Gaming review wasn't too positive) it's got all the right visuals and sounds. Gaming company Fantasy Flight has the market cornered on good SW tabletop games, releasing the intense Imperial Assault board game in the last few days of 2014 and the Force and Destiny roleplaying game this year. There's never been a better time to roll dice and pretend you're a Jedi.
MEGA-LONG VIDEO GAMES
When I sit down to play a video game, I want to know I'm sitting down to a 60-hour-plus investment. I don't want a quick run-and-gun game I can breeze right through, I'm looking for an in-depth, story-heavy, interactive experience that knocks me back in my chair. Luckily, this year's been so jam-packed with long-ass video games I haven't had much time to do anything else. Hideo Kojima's time-sinker Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain had my character creeping around Afghanistan for hours. The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt brought heavy, heavy story to a game about killing monsters. And my favorite of the year, Fallout 4, engrossed me in its post-apocalyptic retro futurism to the point that I'm playing again so that I can make different decisions. If you're setting an alarm at 6 AM so you can creep out of bed and play a video game while your partner's still asleep... well, either you have a serious problem or it's a seriously good game. For an exhaustive list of all the good games that came out this year, check out VICE Gaming's rundown of the 20 best.
'Mad Max: Fury Road'
Even though Avengers 2 and Jurassic World didn't really do it for me, the year wasn't a complete waste for geeky movies. Mad Max: Fury Road came out swinging, starring Charlize Theron as the impossibly badass Imperator Furiosa. With some pretty progressive gender politics for a big-budget car smasher, Fury Road went above and beyond what's expected of a geeky action flick.
For more on the movie, you can check out VICE's interview with the director here.
'Mystery Science Theater 3000' Returns!
It's been over 16 years since Mystery Science Theater 3000 was on the air, but that didn't keep a fervent fan base from demanding more. The show, in case you don't know, featured a hapless human host and his robot sidekicks as they were forced to watch cheesy movies. Known for its classic silhouette at the bottom of the films, MST3K was a certified nerd classic. Now the show's original creator Joel Hodgson is bringing it back, thanks to a Kickstarter campaign that raised an incredible $5.7 million (and $600,000 from outside Kickstarter).
I used to trade old VHS tapes of this show in the mail, back when the internet was a laborious and terrible thing, and I've been a diehard MST3K fan ever since. So clearly, I'm freaking out over the prospect of 14 new episodes.
I wrote earlier this year about what Marvel's push for diversity among their superheroes could mean for the comic book world. But social progress aside, were the comics any good? Hell yes! From the devastatingly charming Unbeatable Squirrel Girl to the powerful, emotionally realized A-Force ladies, Marvel's making good on a lot of their promises from earlier in the year. Want to read a good Marvel comic? Just pick up an issue that doesn't feature a character you've recently seen on the big screen.
'Signal to Noise' by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Set in Mexico City in 1988, this novel follows the life of Meche, an awkward teen who learns she can cast spells. She and her friends stumble through adolescence, and then the book jumps 20 years into the future, when an adult Meche returns to Mexico City to piece together what went wrong in her youth. This book tows that wonderful line between nerdy and hip, balancing good music, cool magic, and fumbling teenagers.
'Jessica Jones' and 'Supergirl'
Two of the best additions to comic-inspired television came out this fall, each giving the angsty The Flash and the routine Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. a run for their money. Jessica Jones, which was released on Netflix, follows the titular hero as she attempts to solve crimes in Hell's Kitchen. The show takes a hard look at abuse and gives viewers a startlingly realistic portrait of a flawed superhero. Supergirl, on the other hand, is a bright, cheerful, girl-power-centric CBS action series starring Superman's cousin. Both different, both great, both filling a gap in superhero TV.
My favorite movie of the year was essentially a three-act play starring Michael Fassbender as an asshole. The cast, especially Kate Winslet and Michael Stuhlbarg, crash through this movie, barely keeping it on the rails. And the script by Aaron Sorkin was tight and frantic at the same time. I wasn't expecting to be moved by movie about Steve Jobs as he launched three major products over the span of his career, but here I am. It didn't make much at the box office, but I think it'll be one of those films that stays with us for a long time.
Board Games Galore
I'm finishing off this list of great geeky 2015 arrivals with a total cheat. I couldn't pick just one board game to showcase as the best because there have been tons of them. From the "mafia"-style party game One Night Ultimate Werewolf Daybreak (what a name, huh?), to the resource-management title Gold West, from the massive, strategic, horrifying, stressful-in-a-good-way $400 Kingdom Death: Monster, to the mythic greek set collection game Elysium, it's been a damn good year for board games. And that made 2015 a damn good year.
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