Griefing: Gaming Scourge or Performance Art?

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There’s probably one in your life right now: a griefer. One of those people who bases their enjoyment of a given activity on wrecking someone else’s good time.

A griefer is the guy who logs into a shooter immediately after attending the midnight launch and spends the rest of the night in multiplayer deliberately getting in front of their teammates so that they can’t shoot at the opposing team.

He plays racing games by driving the wrong way trying to ram other players head on, or perhaps he chooses the largest vehicle and then parks it across the last turn before the finish line just to mess people up on the home stretch. A griefer is someone who will dedicate their entire day to hunting you down in an MMORPG and killing you over and over again until you log out.

But a true griefer will not stop there. They will sit and wait and wait and wait. They will wait as many hours as necessary until you log back just so they can kill you at least one more time and complete their epic vision of online douchebaggery. The angrier you get, the more a griefer laughs. Your hatred is their fuel. Your lack of fun is their fun.

So who are these especial bastards within gaming communities that are already known for their general unpleasantness? What kind of jerk plays video games just to stop other people from being able to play them? Griefers, damn it! Have you not been listening?

Now that we’ve established what a griefer is and does, the question at hand is what to do about them. Most games and services have the option to report such people and after enough reports, they will be banned, but some games have become such a haven for it that it becomes a part of the entire experience, and can even be viewed as essential to it. In fact, some of my fondest online gaming memories have been made possible by people acting like complete tools.

Seeing a lopsided Halo 2 match turn ugly between teammates and end up with one player attempting to help the opposing team of one player win a game of Assault by carrying the bomb to our own base and verbally calling for the enemy to come set it off and the resulting abuse made an otherwise boring match into something hilarious and dramatic.

And, of course, with the endless possibilities and massive popularity of Minecraft and Second Life, it would seem almost a waste to not deliberately incite anarchy on occasion.

Anything that can be built can be destroyed, after all, and is any reaction more priceless than an extremely negative one? Second Life in particular is so full of ridiculousness that it’d almost be bad form not to troll these people.

Mel Brooks once said “Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you fall into an open sewer and die”. In other words, as long as it’s not happening to you, misfortune and pain is the definitive source of comedy.

As much as the concept of ruining other peoples’ good times seems wrong, I have to admit I’ve spent a whole lot of time laughing my ass off at videos of people doing it, and I even feel a bit privileged at times when I witness it in-game.

In a sense, griefing is another player expressing their sense of humor and using other players as their improv props, making it an art unto itself. They take the tools given to them in the game and use them in ways other than was intended to create an entirely different kind of game where the object is to incite rage in their fellow humans.

The advent of multiplayer gaming made this kind of behavior inevitable, and the ubiquity of the internet had made it possible for people to record these spontaneous moments of online madness for all the world to see.

Griefing in Minecraft has become an essential part of the community. The game gives you countless tools to be used in creative ways practically limited only by your imagination.

And given that all of the content is built and manipulated by the players, it is natural that people would take to other players’ establishments to set their homes on fire and steal their stuff. And that’s the just the beginning of the possibilities.

You don’t even need to mess up your team or other players in-game to make people lose their minds.

Sometimes, it’s just the little things that really set people off. I’m particularly fond of this video of a player named after a famous post-apocalyptic comic book judge who begins trolling a particularly annoying kid by declaring that he is, in fact, The Law each time he kills somebody.

The best part is when the other players start to join in like saying “amen” in a church service to drive him completely over the edge.

All good harmless fun, right? Maybe; but sometimes maybe not. World of Warcraft, being the world’s most popular MMORPG for a decade or so, is naturally a haven for people who may not have their fellow gamers’ best interests at heart.

In fact, there was an entire episode of South Park dedicated to the game in which the story revolved around a griefer who grew so powerful that not even the game’s moderators could stop him.

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Pictured: ultimate swag.

MMO’s are a natural habitat for breeding those kinds of people due to the endless hours spent on them and the social aspect.  All of the leveling up and gear acquired from rare drops makes less experienced players easy targets for veterans, and these games can often bring out the nihilist in people due to sheer boredom and spite.

I mean, once you’ve done all there is to do, what else is there to do but mess with people who haven’t? And on occasion, such instances can go viral and make a player part of the game’s lore. Hence, Leroy Jenkins.

Then there’s the fact that a lot of people who are most invested in MMO’s are often…how to say…considered less than the pinnacle of human sociability. In a sense, the online fantasy world can become their world.

This opens up some of the more serious and sincere players to abuse from the more savage sensibilities of the general online population.

In what’s possibly the most legendary moment in WoW history that doesn’t involve a player jumping the gun on a raid and shouting his own name as he leads his party to the slaughter, a Horde guild crashed an in-game funeral for a player who died in real life.

This definitely begs a legitimate questioning of how far is too far and whether digital rituals should be treated with the same respect as their in real life counterparts.

On one hand, there is definitely a satirical aspect to Serenity Now’s contempt for the concept of a video game funeral service, but on the other there is the matter of respect and common decency.

One could say that the instant you post on the internet that you “would appreciate it if nobody comes to mess things up” you are pretty much begging somebody to do exactly that, but does that excuse the behavior of the ones who do?

While I definitely derive enjoyment from watching the exploits of game-ruiners as I see anti-social behavior as a natural reaction to its more positive counterpart, I can hardly condone something as extreme as starting a fight at an in-game funeral service.

It’s easy to mock it, but at the same time, it is the digital age and this allows us to know people who we may never actually lay eyes on in ways that even our own friends and family in real life can’t relate to.

An in-game memorial may be the only option for gamers to pay their respects to a person who was as much their friend as their co-workers or classmates; just in a different way. In that sense, it’s hard to justify that level of sadism. Even in a video game.

So while a little bit of griefing can make a tired game fun and spontaneous again or provide a great video to entertain us and satirize the occasionally excessive sincerity and bad behavior of gamer culture, there is also a counterproductivity to disrespecting your own community to that extent.

It’s as if you’re saying that the way you choose to spend most of your time is not worth it. And if a game isn’t worth taking seriously, is it worth griefing? And what does that say about the griefer?

Anyways, griefers gotta grief, and grief they will. It’s an inevitable function of people getting together to anonymously interact in a virtual medium.

I’ve cheered on more than a few in my days although I’ve never really felt the need to contribute my own efforts to that end. I respect the need to shake things up on occasion, but hopefully as gaming becomes more sophisticated and gamers grow up a little, we can exercise a little restraint when it’s called for too.

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And My 2013 Game of the Year Winner Is…

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As the year has gone on, the tide has turned again and again as new games were released. Now that the dust has settled there are three clear contenders for the coveted title of 2013’s Game of the Year. Let’s start off by reviewing the chronology of 2013’s three best releases to establish the contenders.

March 26: Irrational Games unleashes the oft-delayed BioShock Infinite after years of waiting and months of hype, breathtaking trailers, and even changes to a core character model based on community feedback.

It not only lives up to the legendary standards of the original game, it exceeds them. Many accolades follow and it seems as though the path to the title is clear and unobstructed. But it is not so.

After a spring spent pondering the epicness of it all, the summer gaming doldrums are smashed to pieces on June 14 when PlayStation development heavyweights Naughty Dog hit a home run with the post-apocalyptic zombieness that is The Last of Us, proving once again that there are no tired concepts, only tired executions of those concepts.

The game is declared by many the best game ever released on the PS3, and the debates begin about which game will hold up and be crowned at the end of the year. But a modern classic series still had something to say on the matter.

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Rockstar brought Grand Theft Auto V to the party on September 17, and fans of the series began the argument anew. The latest game had three protagonists to explore the sandbox insanity, awesome heists to beef up the action in the story, and one of the best-realized worlds in a video game to date.  Game on.

So here’s how we are going to do this. I’m going to rate each title’s attributes on a 1-10 scale according to the six most important traits a modern Game of the Year should possess and, for the sake of objectivity, I’m going to award the title mathematically based on the average score of those ratings.

Then you are going to abuse me in the comments section. I am basing the scores according to the single player narrative on normal difficulty. Let’s do this.

Setting

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This is the most hotly contested category for me as all three games featured absolutely amazing locales. Let’s look at what our contenders had to offer.

BioShock Infinite:

The game was set primarily in the alternate history utopia of Columbia; an airborne city suspended over the United States. The moment you arrive is one of the most visually arresting moments of this generation. Absolutely breathtaking.

From the giant angel statue overlooking the city to the hummingbirds buzzing around the lush flower gardens and the overall steampunk/classic Americana atmosphere, it doesn’t really get any better. Add to it the seedy underbelly of classism, racism, and religion gone bad, and you’ve got powerful allegory to back the visuals.

Score: 10

 

The Last of Us:

Most post-apocalyptic landscapes are bleak and barren. Well, screw that. The Last of Us gives us a world where the crumbling of civilization led to Mother Nature taking her planet back.

Overgrown vegetation creeps over every structure and pools of water flood our formerly irrigated communities where plumbing used to be. It’s just as bleak in its own way, but it’s also refreshingly beautiful to look at.

Score: 9

Grand Theft Auto V:

Say whatever you want about the wanton senseless violence, the abusive swearing, and the general sleaziness that the series is known for; there is no denying that Rockstar made Los Santos an amazing place to be and one of the best-realized open worlds ever.

In addition to hours of original television, radio, and internet sites dripping with satirical venom and myriad activities ranging from jet-skiing, mountain biking, and parachuting to golf, tennis, and even interactive lap dances, this was the first game I can think of that made digital site-seeing an art unto itself.

Players could take and share selfies of their exploits and there were a ton of amazing locations to do so.

Score: 10

Music

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Music is an underrated aspect of the gaming experience in that it can take a good scene and make it unforgettable. These three games had wildly different approaches to their use of it in-game.

BioShock Infinite:

In terms of sheer creativity, it’s hard to top this one. While exploring Columbia, the player happens upon many familiar tunes presented in very unfamiliar ways.

Whether a barbershop quartet channeling the Beach Boys, a resistance freedom fighter transforming a Creedence classic into a slave spiritual, or a mysterious portal emitting the strains of Girls Just Want to Have Fun, the music featured in the game adds to the story and the setting and adds to the story’s themes in ways that you don’t realize until later.

The game’s most arrestingly poignant moment comes as an impromptu partial performance of traditional folk song, Can the Circle Be Unbroken, between the leads. The chorus sounds like it was literally written about this game. Just amazing.

Score: 10

The Last of Us:

This one goes for a minimalist approach, utilizing the classic stoic depression of good ol’ Hank Williams to excellent effect a few times and sparsely scoring the rest of the game to add to the effect of a dead world, only occasionally kicking key scenes into emotional overdrive. It’s an effective approach from a storytelling standpoint, but it doesn’t give me much to rate either.

Score: 7

Grand Theft Auto V:

GTA always rocks the house in this area. The game, as always, gives the player a massive choice of radio stations covering many genres and fills them with an eclectic parade of awesomeness. Taking place in this fictional Southern California stand-in, the choices accordingly range from gangsta rap, hardcore punk, classic country, reggae, and pop music to name a few.

Select songs are occasionally playing as part of the story at opportune moments, which is pretty humorous. As always, GTA’s army of licensed classics impresses, although it doesn’t necessarily have the emotional punch of a proper score.

Score: 9

Graphics

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Like it or not, gaming is often relegated to a beauty contest. If you want to get people’s attention right off the bat, you’ve got to look gooooood. None of these games had a big problem in that area.

BioShock Infinite:

This is easily the cartooniest of the three. This allowed the game to stylize itself far beyond games that are trying for photorealism and as a result the look is very unique, but at the same time it’s hard to show it side-by-side with those games and say the graphics are superior. It all comes down to personal preference. I personally think it looks glorious, but I won’t say it’s a graphical revolution either.

Score: 8

The Last of Us:

If you are looking for graphics that serve both as eye candy and allow for emotional nuance in the characters, than this is one of the best games of this generation in terms of visuals.

In addition to the impressive landscapes, the motion-capped actors definitely paid dividends as Joel and Ellie are impressively rendered with faces that convey a great depth of emotion.

Score: 10

Grand Theft Auto V:

To be fair, it is an amazing feat to have built a world as massive and detailed as Los Santos. It looks incredible, and there are so many amazing little things that you may not even notice that make the world feel authentic.

That said, the character models could be better. I’m chalking this up to the massive amount of work put into keeping the persistent map rolling, but any way you look at it, GTA V wasn’t the prettiest game of the year.      

Score: 8

Characters

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If there’s one thing that all three of these games have in common, it’s memorable characters. But whose protagonists are the best?

Bioshock Infinite:

The player takes on the role of Booker DeWitt, tasked with bringing them the girl to wipe away his debt. Booker is the badass mercenary type, but it is “the girl”, Elizabeth, who carries this game.

All formal charm and innocence at first when you free her from her tower prison, Elizabeth becomes an indispensable asset as an ally and has her own coming of age arc, reflected in her changes of attire as the game progresses.

As the climax approaches, it becomes increasingly apparent who is really in charge of this story. Elizabeth is the best non-playable protagonist in a game since Half-Life’s Alyx Vance, and Alyx can’t open interdimensional portals.

Score: 9

The Last of Us:

Another gruff badass/young girl two-person show, Ellie and Joel mirror Booker and Elizabeth pretty well; but while the latter two are in a figurative Heaven, these two dwell in Hell. Their adoptive father/daughter dynamic drives the entire story and is the emotional center, and once again, it’s the girl who steals the show.

While Elizabeth is all sheltered sweetness and sunshine, Ellie reflects the world she grew up in as a swearing, angry young woman who won’t hesitate to throw herself onto a threat and stab it until it stops moving.

But in the absence of stabable baddies, her endearing habits of teaching herself to whistle and telling terrible jokes make her downright adorable in spite of her capacity for violence. Again: product of her world.

Score: 9

Grand Theft Auto V:

This game features not one nor two, but three protagonists with the bonus of switching between them at will. Given Rockstar’s ability to write excellent characters and their huge success with the story in the last installment, you’d think this would be an instant victory.

But there’s a catch. GTA V has been accused of misogyny for its multitude of negative portrayals of female characters. But that’s only half the story. The male characters are also universally shitheads, so the word they are looking for is actually misanthropy.

Franklyn is the gangsta from the hood trying to move up in the world, Michael is the wretched family man with anger issues and a midlife crisis looming, and Trevor is…..well, Trevor is Trevor. While Frank is pretty cool but nondescript and Michael is kind of miserable son of a bitch, Trevor makes the narrative sing with his bizarre anti-social antics.

What’s he doing right now? Maybe he’s riding a scooter down the highway following a stranger (also on a scooter) and shouting “scooter brother” at him. Maybe he’s sleeping in a dumpster in his underwear. Or maybe he’s massacring hipsters in front of a coffee shop. You never know.

Score: 9

Gameplay

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Now this is where it’s at.  How a game handles and how fun it is to play is arguably the single most important aspect of any game. Many a game has been made or broken based on this alone. No slouches here, though.

BioShock Infinite:

Well, if you’ve played one first person shooter, you’ve played them all. Okay not really, but the most frequent complaint with this one was that the combat detracted from the story.

I disagree with that assertion strongly as I feel that the combat in BioShock Infinite is as good as it gets in the genre and was brilliantly handled and varied from its predecessors. The use of the Sky Hook was really great, the guns had a nice feel to them, and the vigors were awesome to use. Murder of Crows for the goddamn win.

Score: 9

The Last of Us:

Stealth-based survival horror? It actually seems odd that this hasn’t been done before. Or maybe it was; just not as well. Sporting some of the best stealth mechanics ever and pretty damn great combat to boot while leaving the options of which to use and when in the hands of the player, The Last of Us was absolutely built for success.

My only major complaint is the linear nature and the annoyingly clear distinctions between danger and non-danger zones. It would have been a lot more intense if the game didn’t warn you every time enemies were nearby, but in terms of mechanics this game is almost perfect.

Score: 10

Grand Theft Auto V:

The gameplay of the series is tried and true if it’s anything. Players can run, jump, and shoot their way through Los Santos to take part in dozens of activities, most of which have their own mechanics; all of which function pretty damn well.

I am, however, going to take exception to the driving in the game with its weightless cars spinning out left and right and flipping at the slightest provocation. It’s an old GTA complaint, but it hasn’t been addressed yet, either. Some really cool features seem to have been diminished or cut in this installment as well, which was an issue for me.

Score: 8

Story

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In the past console generation, stories have made the biggest jump in quality. The argument about whether games can be art has been rendered obsolete by the quality of storytelling we’ve been blessed with these last several years. Here’s how the heavyweights stack up.

BioShock Infinite:

When I think of definitive conceptual science fiction narratives I think of works like Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell or Fahrenheit 451. I can safely add BioShock Infinite to that list of stories that literally changed the way I look at the possibilities of the world around me. This story is stunning in its construction yet emotional and filled to the brim with socially conscious allegory.

By the time you reach the end it is utterly mind-blowing in the truest sense of the expression. Simply one of the greatest games I’ve ever played with an elegant and sophisticated story that oozes originality from every pore.  I like.

Score: 10

The Last of Us:

While not attempting anything on BioShock’s level, The Last of Us is easily the most cinematic of the three and the easiest to follow. The narrative draws from sources like 28 Days Later and The Road to craft a definitive post-apocalyptic journey to save mankind from the plague that destroyed civilization.

It pulls no punches in presenting the ugliness of the struggle for survival and you happen upon grotesque corpses everywhere you go and create quite a few yourself.

But the real core of the story is the relationship between Joel and Ellie, which has a very natural feel to it that fuels the game’s delightfully controversial climax and ending. I imagine several message boards are hosting virtual screaming matches complete with hair pulling and name calling about it as you read this.

Score: 9

Grand Theft Auto V:

While the themes of the three divergent characters all struggling to get the things they desire in life are good ones, I can’t help but feel that GTA V let me down on the story front. GTA IV’s narrative was an excellent departure from previous entries and the theme of disillusionment and death of the American dream was extremely well-executed from top to bottom.

This latest entry kind of lagged at times, repeated itself often, and relied heavily on Trevor’s insane antics to carry it through. A great supporting cast helped out a lot, but the main narrative was just too shallow to make it a true contender.

Score: 7

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So who wins? Let’s add up the scores.

BioShock Infinite:

Setting- 10

Music – 10

Graphics- 8

Characters- 9

Gameplay- 9

Story- 10

Average- 9.33

The Last of Us:

Setting- 9

Music – 7

Graphics- 10

Characters- 9

Gameplay- 10

Story- 9

Average- 9

Grand Theft Auto V:

Setting- 10

Music – 9

Graphics- 8

Characters- 9

Gameplay- 8

Story- 7

Average- 8.5

And the winner is….

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GTA V’s lack of a truly compelling narrative and the absence of memorable music during most of The Last of Us put them behind BioShock Infinite so there you have it: my favorite game of 2013 from a single-player perspective.

It makes sense because honestly that video game affected me not only more than any other game of its type that I’ve ever played, but more than any other work of fiction released this past year.

Video games have officially proven themselves as a viable art form that can stand next to literature and film as expressions of human thoughts and emotions and BioShock Infinite is one of the best examples of how this has been accomplished. See you next year and feel free to drop your two cents in.

We should all have a healthy respect for UK television by now. Sure, their seasons are like six episodes tops, but they often get more done is those six episodes than some American shows do in sixty. On top of that, they are occasionally willing to go where our shows simply won’t. Some of them find an audience like Orphan Black, some of them get remade like Being Human, some get lost in the shuffle like Hex, and some of them are just too awesome and confrontational to ever swim in the mainstream as they are like Dead Set or Black Mirror. But more often than not, you can count on UK horror/fantasy/sci-fi to deliver the goods in spades.

Utopia, I think, is a show that could fall in between all of the above categories. It’s got most of the elements that make for a successful modern series, and chief among those elements is shadowy conspiracies complete with betrayal, grey morality debates, and distrust of authority in favor of individual rights. This one is a bit too hardcore to lump with Orphan Black, nor is it as brilliantly satirical as Black Mirror. It could end up being forgotten on this end, but it’s a definite contender for an Americanized remake provided they tone down the violence.

Okay, the premise: a group of online friends who bonded over their appreciation of a rare comic book named The Utopia Experiments decide to meet in real life. The comic turns out to be the key to a horrific conspiracy and our heroes end up being hunted relentlessly for their copy by an organization called The Network that has zero qualms about torturing and killing anyone who has seen it. And god help you if you don’t know where Jessica Hyde is.
Read more at http://unrealitymag.com/index.php/2014/01/02/utopia-has-your-uk-sci-fi-conspiracy-thriller-television-fix/#7CsIbf6

Five Essential Films to Prepare You for Godzilla’s Return to the Big Screen

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It has been nearly ten years since the last Godzilla film was released. That is the longest drought in the history of a character that has been a worldwide icon since the 1950’s. Next May that drought is going to end with America’s second attempt at bringing the King of Monsters to the big screen our way. We do not speak of the first attempt by less-subtle Michael Bay clone, Roland Emmerich, aside from the occasional use of the acronym G.I.N.O. (Godzilla In Name Only).

The week before last saw the release of the trailer for the new Godzilla, and to celebrate and perhaps help some of those who don’t have history with the character at the same time, I’m going to take you on a walk through memory lane and show you my picks for the best of the best from the nearly 30 films that Godzilla has starred in.

Growing up there were four cinematic establishments that would shape my tastes in entertainment forever. One was Universal Studios’ classic monsters. Star Wars and Ray Harryhausen were two more. The fourth was Toho Studios’ kaiju films, especially the Godzilla series. I watched and rewatched these things in a constant rotation during the heyday of VHS. Any money I could scrape together doing chores for a quarter each was spent at K-Mart on any Godzilla tape I could find. My dog was named after the monster King Seeser from Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla. Suffice to say I was a fan. And judging by my collection of bootlegs and imports that I got from Ebay in the 90’s and 00’s because I refused to wait for American releases, I still am.

I am really glad that I viewed the new trailer for Godzilla online before I saw it before at the midnight release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. I say that because I think there is a distinct possibility that if I did not know what was coming I might have soiled myself in the theater, and that would have just been embarrassing. As I’m sure you’ve seen; it’s pretty striking.

Having seen director Gareth Edwards’ previous film, Monsters, I can say without reservation that there is no better choice to bring Godzilla back to an artistic legitimacy that the character hasn’t seen since his feature film debut in 1954. There have been a lot of different versions since then, ranging from pro-wrestling superhero to vengeful demon. Here are the five Godzilla films that packed the biggest punch for me.

 

1. Godzilla vs The Sea Monster

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A lot of fans don’t rate this 1966 offering highly, citing the one-sided beatdown of the title confrontation, but I’m judging these films based on overall quality, not just the fights, and for me this is a definitive kaiju flick.

The premise is that a group of people are marooned on an island with a terrorist organization whose watchdog is a gigantic crustacean known as Ebirah. Unable to escape by boat due to the monster patrolling the ocean, and hunted by the terrorists, the protagonists happen upon a hibernating Godzilla. Meanwhile, the island natives -enslaved by the terrorists- are praying to the monster Mothra for deliverance, setting up an epic smackdown on the island.

Godzilla vs The Sea Monster is key film in the series and gives a lot of bang for the buck. It lacks the excessive corniness of later films, has a cohesive plot and a solid concept, and features Godzilla at his badass best; not as a superhero out to save the children, but as something you simply do not want to get in the way of. The epic shot of him jumping off of a cliff into the sea is one of the most iconic of any kaiju film, and was reused so often it became a joke in later films. But in this one, it was awesome.

 

2. Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster

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You’ve seen The Avengers right? The very first time a group of characters from different films got together to battle a common menace. Or was it? Toho broke that concept in back in 1964 when they took solo film stars Godzilla, Mothra, and Rodan and brought them all together to battle what would become the definitive villain of kaiju cinema.

Even though Mothra and Godzilla had faced off before in a classic encounter which I’ll get flak for not including on this list (I only excluded it to be different), this was the first instance of Toho creating their own consolidated monsterverse where all of their creatures could interact with one another.

Most casual observers will point at Destroy All Monsters as the definitive team-up film and choose to ignore the fact that as a film it’s sort of garbage. Throwing more guys in more suits and pointing a camera at them does not a true classic make in and of itself.

Ghidorah is an exceptional giant monster film, and also one of the first to portray them as sentient, social creatures. In a particularly humorous scene, our titanic heroes discuss the possibility of putting aside their differences with each other and humanity to defeat the unstoppable alien invader in their native tongues with Mothra’s fairy handlers translating for us humanfolk. Turns out that Godzilla has a potty mouth on top of his radioactive breath, which made me love him that much more.

 

3. Godzilla vs MechaGodzilla II

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After a kiddie phase in the 70’s and a lengthy hiatus, Godzilla made his comeback in The Return of Godzilla, which was released theatrically in America as Godzilla 1985 and served as a rare direct sequel to the original film. Somehow it remains unreleased on DVD here so it’s only getting an honorable mention. The series that followed it put the monster back into his old role as a destructive force of nature and many very entertaining movies followed.

My favorite from that run was 1993’s Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II, which reimagined the definitive villain that was originally built by aliens to conquer Earth as a human creation used to deter a certain giant lizard from leveling Japan, as he’s wont to do. This is another bang for your buck pick that brings in Rodan as a bonus.

This MechaGodzilla was more like a really stylish tank than a monster unto itself, and the concept was frankly done better in 2002 with the excellent Godzilla X MechaGodzilla, but this one is a key film because it features the best version of Rodan and introduces Baby Godzilla to continuity making it the lynchpin for the 90’s series.

 

4. GMK:  Giant Monster All-Out Attack

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If somebody asked me to show them only one kickass Godzilla film to make them a fan, Godzilla, Mothra, Ghidorah: Giant Monster All-Out Attack is the one. And now you see why most American releases of Japanese films completely change the title. So they don’t sound like that.

Easily the finest film of the series since the original, this 2001 entry was the first time I ever watched a kaiju film and thought “those special effects look great”. It seamlessly combines classic suitmation with CG to get the best of both worlds, has likable human characters, and is just an excellent example of everything a modern giant monster movie should be while capturing everything great about the old school. It also features the coolest version of Mothra ever.

Godzilla himself is reinvented not as a defender of Earth or a consequence of mankind playing god with atomic energy, but as a vacant-eyed demon possessed by the souls of those who lost their lives as a result of Japan’s actions during WWII. He’s here for vengeance on Japan, forcing a trio of monsters to rise up and try to stop him. But they are really big lambs to the slaughter. This Godzilla is savage, merciless, and utterly unstoppable. I love it.

 

5. Gojira

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The rest of these picks are really great monster movies. Not true cinema classics by any stretch, but entertaining for what they are. This one is different. This is not just a great creature feature, this is a great film. I used the Japanese title for good reason. It’s a crying shame that this original cut wasn’t available in the West before a few years ago.

All sci-fi fans have seen the Americanized Godzilla: King of Monsters. But when I tell you that you have not seen the real film until you’ve watched Gojira, I am not exaggerating even a little bit. Picture any film you love stripped of its original dialogue and performances, replacing them with and shots of a random actor and voiceover cribnotes explaining the plot they cut out. In this case it took an amazing film and made it into a mere genre classic; still great, but not on the same level.

The original Japanese film has a thematic, emotional, and metaphorical depth that when placed in historical context makes it one of the most powerful pieces of film ever to come out of that country, which is a huge achievement for a film of the type considering Japan’s history of compelling and artistic cinema. It also represents a cultural turning point for a nation formerly known for its aggressive militancy and savagery in conquest towards becoming proponents of peace and humanism in the post-war era.

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The last time I had new Godzilla on my television screen was the insanity of Godzilla: Final Wars in 2004, which took the title premise of Destroy All Monsters to its logical extreme. After stomping flat nearly every classic monster who has stood against him –plus his worthless, tuna-eating American counterpart- the king of monsters has rested in the decade since.

Next summer, I’ll not only get to see him raid again, I’ll see him on the big screen for the first time since Godzilla 2000 and for only the second time since Godzilla 1985 (still not counting GINO). The whole approach to marketing this monumental project has got me extremely excited. For the first time since that original 1954 Japanese film, this classic monster is going to be treated the same way he was then: as a walking atrocity brought on my mankind’s own combination of ambition and fear. I can’t f**king wait.