I’ve somehow managed to do this every year since 2011, so why break the streak? Here are the ten bits of pop culture that disappointed me most in 2016.
10. The plot of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst had mostly excellent gameplay (as I stated in my review), but Lord did it have one the worst narratives ever inserted into a AAA game. With awful characters, irritating melodrama, a consistently dour tone at odds with the gameplay, and mediocre voice acting, this wasn’t the sequel we were hoping for. I’m totally over dystopian fiction. If you don’t have anything meaningful to say about dystopian society, then keep your fucking mouth shut.
9. Bethesda’s new review policies
This year, Bethesda/ZeniMax continued trying to compete with EA, Activision, and Ubisoft for the title of second-worst major publisher in video games. (As usual, Konami takes the crown, because fuck Konami.) In 2016, they revised their press policy to send out review copies only one day before release. That means gaming outlets can’t reasonably get reviews out before release, ensuring that consumers are kept in the dark about the quality of their games. A message to publishers: If you act like you have something to hide, then I’m going to think you have something to hide.
8. A boring E3
If you want to be reminded of the creative bankruptcy plaguing the video game industry, just tune into an E3 press conference. This year’s E3 was especially boring, with major publishers totally phoning it in, and Sony wasting most of their presser on samey-looking shooty-bang-bang games. There’s nothing wrong with a little shooty-bang-bang, but jeez, show off some variety. Nobody wants another fucking open-world sandbox with crafting.
7. Kanye West’s The Life of Pablo and the associated Taylor Swift scandal
Let’s switch gears from video games to music. This year, Kanye West’s ego finally caught up with him, and he released his first straight-up bad album, the messy, boring, and ultimately disposable The Life of Pablo. Remember when Kanye used to rap about important social issues? Dude doesn’t give a shit anymore. He’s obsessed with rapping about celebrity and how fucking great he is. In fact, one lyric caused a major stir. On “Famous,” Kanye says, “I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / I made that bitch famous.” Whatever you think of Taylor Swift, maybe lay off somebody whom you embarrassed at an awards show with your asshattery, eh?
6. The Counterstrike: Global Offensive betting scandal
I won’t explain the details here – if you want to know more, go here – but this year two prominent YouTubers were caught making promotional videos for a betting site they owned, without disclosing their ownership. Needless to say, this is grossly unethical and probably illegal too. The YouTubers are now in hot water, as they deserve. The bigger issue here is that this was a betting site for Counterstrike weapon skins, and publisher Valve Software has shown zero interest in cracking down on sites like it. As usual, Valve is content to print money with Steam while their laissez-faire attitude to everything does real damage.
5. Ryan Lochte’s Rio Olympics bullshit
Apparently this scandal now has a name: Lochtegate. (Jesus fucking Christ, do y’all have to put “gate” after everything, you shitheads?) In any case, U.S. Olympic swimmer and sex idiot Ryan Lochte claimed to have been robbed at gunpoint in Rio de Janeiro when in reality he was trying to bribe security guards who had caught him vandalizing a gas station. Lochte’s idiotic, selfish, and privileged behaviour caused a minor international incident, and frankly he deserves whatever punishment is coming his way. (Spoiler alert: Instead of a lifetime ban from the sport, he received just a ten-month suspension, because he’s a rich white asshole.)
4. Say Anything’s I Don’t Think It Is
With just this record, Will Yip may have ruined his reputation as the best producer in the punk/indie scene. From a production standpoint, there’s no two ways about it: I Don’t Think It Is is a disaster. Say Anything was probably attempting to go for a lo-fi DIY vibe, but instead the album sounds like it was recorded in a bathroom stall at a 24-hour Denny’s. The drums, in particular, sound like they were recorded with a cell phone camera. However, production aside, the album just isn’t as good as it should be. While there are many good melodic ideas, many of the songs are tuneless and lacking in direction. After the surprisingly awesome and experimental Hebrews, it’s disappointing to hear Max Bemis (let’s face it, Say Anything is whatever Max Bemis wants it to be) put out such a disappointing record.
I’m beyond sick of the trend of appending “gate” to words to make scandal names, but this is what people are calling it, so I guess I have to go with the flow. For those of you not in the know, early in 2016, Shane Newville, a former animator at Rooster Teeth who was fired from the company, posted a 35-page letter to the Internet outlining his grievances with Rooster Teeth and detailing how employees of the company were supposedly dishonouring the memory of deceased RWBY creator Monty Oum. He pointed out several ways in which the web series’ third volume differed from Oum’s original plans. The letter split the RWBY fanbase into two camps, with one side sympathizing with Newville, angry that Oum’s vision for his series was supposedly being disrespected, and the other side ridiculing Newville for his naïveté and ridiculous grievances, and for possibly opening himself to litigation for revealing production secrets after termination. (For the record, I agree more with the latter camp.) Whatever the reality, Rooster Teeth’s image as a friendly company has been ruined, people will forever wonder what RWBY would have been with Oum still at the helm, and Newville has probably made himself unemployable for the foreseeable future.
2. The endless march of celebrity deaths
The year kicked off with the deaths of beloved musician David Bowie and respected actor Alan Rickman, and after that Canadian singer Céline Dion lost both her husband and brother to cancer in the same week. The celebrity death train didn’t end there, with Glenn Frey, Prince, Phife Dawg, and Leonard Cohen all meeting their ends, among countless others. And then 2016 capped off with the deaths of actress Carrie Fisher (best known as Princess Leia) and her mother the next day. What a shitty year.
1. Donald Trump
This is political, you say. What does it have to do with pop culture? Well, Donald Trump wouldn’t be where he is today were it not for pop culture. Pop culture gave him a TV show, treated him like a celebrity worth of admiration, and turned him into a meme representing wealth and luxury. I’d even go as far as to say that pop culture created the myth of Donald Trump. And now an incompetent, childish, boorish idiot is set to occupy the White House in just a few days. Fuck Donald Trump, fuck everyone who gave him a platform to spew his bile, fuck his supporters, fuck the United States of America, and fuck you.
- The exploding Samsung Galaxy Note battery
- Dishonored 2
- Miss Hokusai
- The Game Awards webcast
- Local Natives’ Sunlit Youth
- Bloc Party’s Hymns
- Crunch Time
- Captain America: Civil War failing to deliver on hype
- The Persona 5 delay
That does it for 2016: the year in shit. Here’s to a slightly less shitty 2017!