Lasombra Files Episode 24: Oration Undercover
Welcome to the Lasombra Files, PSU’s weekly hit program. Follow the story of Lasombra and V as they try to stay alive in Shadow City, unraveling its secrets, while at the same time shining the spotlight on gamers around the world and in our community.
“So how do I become him? Get some red contacts lens, gel up the hair, and get an expensive jacket?” They are not impressed at my wit and The Boss points at the folder. “You read the file didn’t you?” he asks me, prompting me to shrug and reopen the folder. “Yeah, as best as I could while under intensive care. Your girlfriend didn’t give me a starting point, you know” I say to the man as I flip through the pages. One of the pages shows a weird chamber device, some kind of technical schematic in episode 24: Oration Undercover. “Wait, I’ve seen this idea on Star Trek. You know that episode was the final one, right? It wasn’t exactly the best send off for a series.” The Boss picks up the phone to make a call for the car service. “Great, this isn’t shady at all. I’m just being kidnapped by my own boss into doing an undercover op.”
Name: TJ Kirk AKA The Amazing Atheist
Gender: Not Important
Occupation: YouTuber, Author
Country: The United States of America
Disclaimer: This interview is reproduced as written by the interviewee. Pictures copyright of their artist/photographer/owner. All likenesses used are for parody and/or satirical purposes.
Lasombra: What got you started making videos on YouTube? What was the catalyst?
AA: In the early to mid-2000s I was a bit of a forum troll, getting into arguments on the internet with various factions of people over politics, religion, culture, and whatever. I amassed enough of a following on the forums I frequented that people began pushing me to do YouTube videos, because vlogging was just taking off as a concept at the time. My dad happened to have some high-end camera equipment, which I stole at night to record videos in his garage. I was 21 or 22 at the time, still living at home with no real ambition beyond winning imaginary internet points. It has since evolved into a job, perhaps even a career. Only time will tell.
Lasombra: For the people who don’t know you, can you give a brief bio of who you are and what you do?
AA: I'm a fat, angry man who yells at a camera for money. I mostly yell about current events, politics, pop culture, media, anything that I can work up some anger or passion about.
Lasombra: Are you a gamer, whether it is video games, board games, D&D, etc? What are your favourite kinds of games to play?
AA: I don't have a lot of time to game recreationally, but because the gaming market on YouTube is so large and because so much of the content is, in my opinion, lackluster, I've started playing a lot more games to prepare for the launch of a new “Let's Play” show. I'm excited because I was a very big gamer as a kid. I grew up on RPGs like Earthbound and Chrono Trigger and the early Zelda titles, but over the years other things in my life just distracted me and took up so much of my time that playing games got put on the backburner. It's been great to start reconnecting to my inner gamer and rediscovering gaming culture. Hopefully my commentary will be interesting to people. Hopefully launching that a little later this month on a new channel we'll be announcing soon.
Lasombra: You’ve amassed a very big catalog of videos but you’ve not tackled games. Why is that?
AA: Because I was so disconnected from the culture and I really never felt qualified to comment on it very much.
Lasombra: In some of your videos you discuss some of the more colourful and hateful comments you’ve gotten. But what have been the best positive comments you’ve received from your video series?
AA: I think that the internet has always been a place where you can state any opinion as long as you're willing to deal with some backlash. If you can survive the haters for long enough, many people will come to love you. I have definitely experienced love and support from my fans, including being told that I've made people's lives better. That makes me glad, because the fans have made my life better too.
Lasombra: What are your plans in the future for the show? World domination?
AA: Keep growing. Keep evolving.
Lasombra: You tackle the issue of gender equality a lot, and you are not shy about your opinions towards feminism. With the exception of pornography, video games get the most vocal press in the entertainment industry about gender issues. Why do you think that is?
AA: Comic books too. But yeah, video games do come under a lot of fire for being sophomoric male fantasies of strength and sexually prowess and of course, many are just that. But is it harmful? Does fantasy effect reality? Human beings love to fantasize, boys, girls, men, women, whoever. There's nothing wrong with a fantasy, so long as we understand it to be a fantasy. I don't think a sweet, sensitive guy plays 'God Of War' and then decides he's gonna go beat some people up and treat women like dirt. I don't think anyone plays GTA and decides to go steal cars and pick-up hookers.
I think what really pisses a lot of feminists off is that no one is catering to their fantasies, but they're just not a big enough share of the market. Don't get me wrong, I think that strong females in gaming are a good thing. It gives girls and women someone to look up to that's more like them. Just like a black person might identify more with a black character.
The question of how does art effect perception has been around for a long time. It's not going to be settled in this generation. It probably won't be settled 100 years from now. Everyone's got an opinion, but until we understand more about cognitive neuroscience and how our brains actually interpret the art and entertainment we enjoy, that's all anyone's got, opinions. Everyone, including me, should be ready to accept that their opinion could very well be wrong.
Lasombra: How do you decide on what to discuss on your videos? Do you have some kind of schedule or do you just wake up and say ‘I think I want to go on a rant about gun violence’?
AA: I just keep my eyes glued to every source of opinion and information that I can until an idea starts forming. When one does, I embrace it, develop it and shoot it.
Lasombra: What is the day in the life of a video shoot for you? Can you explain to the viewers your style for filming and producing your videos, to help those who would be interested in making their own?
AA: It's very simple. I stand in front of a backdrop and yell into a camera. There are really not too many bells and whistles. It's all very basic. I occasionally deviate from that simple formula, but not often.
Lasombra: You mentioned launching a Let’s Play channel. What can you tell us about it now? What will it be about?
AA: I will be playing through and offering commentary on games, probably starting with the somewhat recent Fallout: New Vegas and then going more retro into titles like the original Doom and Super Mario Bros. 2 (The American Version). I think it should be a lot of fun.
Lasombra: Why don't feminists that have a problem with the video game industry make their own companies to produce 'feminist-sensitive' or 'female empowering' games?
AA: Well, the primary factor is cost. Even an independent studio would be an expensive venture, and I suspect that it would be difficult for them to get into an industry like gaming for purely ideological motives. Even games that do have a message, The 'BioShock' titles, for instance, put gameplay and the fun-factor first. No one says, "I want to get a political message across to people--I'll learn to make video games." It's just a prohibitively expensive and difficult field to do that in. It's much easier and cheaper for them to pressure existing companies to change how women are portrayed in games. I take no sides on this issue. It's always going to be up to the developers what sort of titles they want to develop and up to the consumers what titles they want to buy. Could you get gamers to buy a title featuring a strong woman who's not sexualized? Sure, if it's a good game, they'll buy it. But that's what gamers are looking for above any message, solid gameplay.
Lasombra: Do you have any inspirations or role models that you base your show off of, or was it an original concept?
AA: My performance style borrows pretty heavily from George Carlin. He's really the gold standard of talking performers in my view.
“So are you going to ever tell me why? My broken bones might not agree with your methods of toughening me up for an undercover gig but why me? Why not Mr. Doom and Gloom?” He doesn’t pay any attention to my verbal jabs while The Boss only shakes his head. “You’re a pain in the ass to handle but you’re our best reporter. He got you into the organization that has been killing off our reporters. If it was a simple hit he’d have continued the job but he is not one for the more subtle approaches you have at extracting information.” He still doesn’t pay any attention as if he were some doll like figure, held up by The Boss’s puppet mastery. “Who am I infiltrating? The Americans? Russians? Chinese? It’s the Chinese right? It’s always the Chinese this decade.” “Us” he says in episode 25: Darkly, In a Mirror. Speechlessness is not a word usually associated with me but I’ve heard of plot twists and this is definitely one not even Kojima could think of. “Us? You want me to spy on me. You’ve been sharing Max’s energy drinks, haven’t you? You know he has a lot of problems, right?” The car stops in an area that looks eerily familiar. “Well, that explains what those people were doing now” I say, looking out the window to see the abandoned car park that seemed like a life time ago. A secret entrance reveals itself as we are cloaked by the dead of night, entering into the abyss.
Check out AA's established YouTube page and his new Let's Play page for some entertaining, if not informative, rants about a myriad of topics.
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