Greetings! We’ve had a little break for the festive season, but now we’re back and in reflective mode. The end of the year is customarily a time to sum up and reconsider the events and happenings if the past 12 months and that’s doubly the case here on Addaltmode, since not only is it almost 2016, it’s also our one year blog anniversary. We set up the site just before Christmas last year and made our first proper post on New Year’s Day 2015, so we’ve just turned one!
In this post we’ll be reflecting on some on the highs and lows of the year gone by, both in on this blog, and in pop-culture more generally. We’d love to hear your highlights too, so do let us know in the comments or on our Twitter and Facebook pages.
2015 on this Blog:
R: Well, it’s great to be here, and – as starting projects is always so much easier than staying the distance – it’s great still to be here 12 months on. I’ve really enjoyed maintaining this blog in the past year. Let’s be honest, like any regular commitment it can feel a bit of a chore at times, but overall it’s a good kind of discipline and I appreciate not only having the chance to share my enthusiasms with those who stop by these pages, but also having a reason to unjumble and share my thoughts on various experiences I’ve had. There’s a lot of consumerism involved in being a geek, and particularly in being an adult toy collector. It’s an aspect of the hobby that does occasionally leave me feeling rather conflicted. But writing about these interests and sharing jokes and discussions at least makes it more of a two way thing: yes I’m consuming this cultural stuff but I hope sharing my views and a few jokes and insights here means I’m not just a consumer but part of a community.
We’ve had more than 11,000 views and almost 6,000 visitors in the past year. Not huge in blogging terms but it feels pretty huge for us. In terms of visitor locations, our main traffic comes from the US and UK, but we’ve had visitors from as far afield as Chile, Pakistan, Antigua and Kyrgyzstan! Thank you all!
Top 5 most viewed posts on Addaltmode in 2015:
Toy Review: Combiner Wars Optimus Prime (520 views)
Cosplay 2014: Transformers Prime Arcee (491 views)
R: I guess that little list shows that currency is important when it comes to blog views; it seems to be our thoughts on very recent things that get the views. Combiner Wars Optimus was a brand new release when I wrote about him and indeed, although we only shared our top 5, if we did the whole top 10 you’d see that our reviews of other new Transformers (Ultra Magnus, Megatron and Starscream) also score highly for views.
B: Well, people want reviews of new stuff to decide if it’s relevant to them: stuff that’s been in the public eye a while has already garnered masses of easily available opinions, maybe even something like a consensus.
R: It’s nice that some of the jointly penned posts we did (the Robots in Disguise cartoon ones) also made the list. I like it when we work on content together in that way and I guess the ‘his and hers geek thoughts’ thing is part of Addaltmode’s particular schtick. We should do more joint posts in the future as well as probably doing a follow up post on the new show now it’s settled into its groove.
B: What, like this post itself? I suspect that our more conversational tone in these posts is a pretty comfortable read. Maybe someone can enlighten us in the comments section?
R: Views are nice, of course they are, but honestly quality is more important than quality. I’d rather our posts reached a smaller number of people who truly connected with us than a huge number who never interacted in any way, so if I had to choose my own favourite posts from the past year I’d probably go for some of the slightly more personal ones which have had less views overall but did both prompt some interesting discussion and feedback on social media.
R’s Top Picks:
R: I found writing both of these a good mix of challenging and enjoyable. We tend to keep things fairly frivolous here on Addaltmode (except in my dystopian fiction reviews) and that’s the way we like it, because there’s enough to worry and fret about in the rest of our lives without bringing those fears it into our escapist geek space, but it is interesting to think about how geeky themes intersect with everyday experience; both of these posts do that and I was proud and gratified to discover my words struck a chord for quite a few people.
2015 General Reflections
R: Book reviews are hard! These posts always take twice as long to write as anything else I publish, surely a sign of me having spent too many years studying literature at University! Still I’ve been enjoying working my way through all the robot fiction I can find, and aim to continue the list in 2016. When it comes to top picks I think the best book I read in 2015 was Marge Piercy’s He, She and It, which was was just the right mix of history, feminism, cyberpunk dystopia, action and sexiness. Though new to me, that one wasn’t a new release in 2015, if I had to choose the best new book of the year it would probably be the lyrical and thought-provoking Speak by Louisa Hall.
B: I’ve been mostly reading Gene Wolfe, over the past year, I’ve re-read all of Book of the New Sun, read the Urth of the New Sun, and I’ve just started Litany of the Long Sun. I can’t get enough of this Jack Vance-esque dying-Earth stuff. Partially, I’ve been reawakened to that by Numenera. I love fantasy settings that are actually science-fictional when you scratch the surface.
R: Of course, 2015 was a sad one in the reading world with the death of Terry Pratchett, who has a true great and has been responsible for creating some of my best-loved books. I only met him the once, when I was quite young (he signed my copy of Truckers) but many the characters he created feel like friends for life: they develop and grow so much over the course of the Discworld bibliography, and no character progresses more than the city of Ankh Morpork itself. I’ve still got the last few Discworld books to read actually. Knowing there will be no more has made me more reluctant to start them.
B: We’ve got to get to them at some point. That would, of course, involve me finishing with Gene Wolfe.
R: That’s novels, anyway. When it comes to comics in 2015 my heart belonged utterly to IDW’s More Than Meets The Eye which continues to provide all the self-aware, hilarious, heart-wrenching, character-driven Transformers action that a girl could hope for.
R: It’s been a great year for me as a cosplayer, though I continue to be a tiny fish in a very big sea, I’ve really enjoyed getting out there with my costumes and meeting other fans and cosplayers who are often fun, inspiring and humbling in equal measure. I’ve felt a huge sense of achievement in finishing my Slipstream and Tannis costumes, and B’s Salvador costume.
My highlight as a cosplayer was definitely taking Slipstream to Auto Assembly, but I wore that costume to 5 events in total and had a blast at all of them. Stay tuned for our “Looking forward: Addaltmode’s plans for 2016” post coming soon to find out the 3 costumes I’m hoping to make — and blog about — next year!
R: 2015 was pretty good year for robot-movies in particular but solid B- year for films overall. We didn’t make it to the cinema that often but when we did the experience was usually enjoyable if rarely mind-blowing (with only 1 notable exception, which I’ll get to in a minute). I’m glad the Marvel Comic Universe exists and is still bringing characters we know and love to the big screen but — even with the presence of my much-loved Vision — Age of Ultron only entertained me, never blew me away like the previous Avengers movie nor left me grinning like a crazy woman like Guardians of the Galaxy did. The truth is, I’m feeling rather franchised-out when it comes to big-budget cinema-going. So it’s probably telling that the films that affected me most this year, were either original properties or extremely long-awaited revivals. If I had to select a top three I’d probably go with:
Ex Machina (Alex Garland): always good to see a robot movie that puts the intelligence into ”artificial intelligence.” With a high calibre cast, some stunning Nordic locations and a mounting sense of claustrophobia, this was a taut, character-driven robo-thriller which had plenty to say about the objectification of women as well as dealing with questions of machine sentience and the relationship between creator and creation.
Chappie (Neil Blomkamp): I am under no illusions, this is a muddled and deeply flawed film with plotholes more gaping than a Guatemalan sinkhole. And yet… this ultra-violent bubblegum robot fairlytale has a dark, quirky charm all of its own and for all its problems it’s one of the films that got my adrenalin pumping the most in the cinema and which has really stayed with me in subsequent days. Hans Zimmer’s soundtrack for this film also topped my most played albums for 2015.
Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller): I didn’t review it here because it took me a while to recover from seeing it and you all deserve a bit more from a review than me just going “buh, buh, OMG OMG” but Fury Road was hands down the best film of 2015, and possibly one of the best things of the year full stop. This movie had it all: pathos, style, women who genuinely breathed life into that tired, overused and too-often tokenistic phrase “strong female character” and action sequences to die for. I’d suspected for a while that I’d become quite inured to CGI and that big action sequences no longer impressed me like they once did. This film confirmed that, taking things right back to basics with stunts and chases that felt so much more real, because they were. My heart is pounding just recalling it. WITNESS! More like this please.
B: No argument from me here. Although I loved Guardians of the Galaxy (and indeed I love me some Marvel Cinematic Universe stuff), Mad Max was far and away the best film I’ve seen not just this year but in ages.
R: If I had to sum up my 2015 gaming experience in one word it would be this: Borderlands. Late to the party, as ever, B and I only started playing this franchise in 2015 but we made up for lost time good and proper by working our way through Borderlands, Borderlands 2, and Borderlands The Pre-Sequel together and then promptly embarking on our Tannis and Salvador cosplays. For me, this franchise really does offer the perfect mix of RPG and FPS action along with a uniquely stylish aesthetic, interesting characters in all shades of grey and black (but no white) and a wicked sense of humour.
B: Borderlands rules. I love the setting and the story, and I love the skill-tree based character development. In itself, it’s nothing new, but each character has enough unique things tucked away each of their three trees to make each single-tree and two-tree build completely different. Although most player characters in Borderlands 2, and Borderlands The Pre-Sequel essentially have a tanking or healing tree, an attacking tree and a “gimmick” tree, each character is unique enough that they don’t really converge and become redundant until really high levels where the character is good at everything. There’s some really stellar examples of game design there.
R: When it comes to games actually released this year…
Choice by Gaslight: A Study in Steampunk (Choice of Games): Choice of Games continued their conquest of Steam in 2015 and I was cheering them every step of the way. Though some people spurn these text-based interactive adventures for not being “proper games” I’ve been thoroughly enjoying games that test my brain and my sense of morality more than reflexes. While there have been quite a few enjoyable releases in this genre in the past year Heather Alabano’s Sherlock-inspired steampunk mystery pushed the most happy buttons for me offering a great mix of fun and “feels.”
Transformers Devastation (Platinum Games): two words (that just happen to rhyme) G1 & fun. When I reviewed this gorgeously nostalgic TF themed brawler shortly after release my only real criticism was that it was a little short. The story mode may be, but since I published that post I’ve gone on to complete the game with all of playable the characters and am now just a couple of Kremzeeks short of finding all the collectibles, so there’s no doubt I’ve had my money’s worth.
Tales from the Borderlands (Telltale Games): my top gaming experience of 2015 was this branching adventure set in the Borderlands universe. The fact that the setting of a looter-shooter could so successfully support a narrative-driven adventure like this is a testament both to the powerful aesthetics of the original franchise and to Telltale’s storytelling powers. This really was a superb experience from start to end. Telltale brought some shocking moments, some adorable new robots (this is important, guys), some truly unexpected deaths and a whole host of lovable and utterly thematically accurate new characters. If we ever do get a Borderlands 3 I will honestly cry if Fiona and Loaderbot aren’t playable new Vault Hunters.
B: My gaming this year has mostly been the Borderlands series. However, I’d be remiss if I failed to mention Binding of Isaac: Rebirth, Goat Simulator and Risk of Rain, and Endless Legend, all of which have entertained me greatly.
Risk of Rain is a Nintendo hard procedurally-generated platformer with Rogue-like elements. Expect a proper review if I ever beat the game, even once, even on the easiest difficulty (wish me luck). It’s a testament to the brilliance of it’s design that it’s that bastard hard and I haven’t got fed up with it.
Endless Legend is a Civilisation-esque strategy game set on a planet littered with ancient items of ultra-advanced technology, and inhabited by dozens of alien races who all align to fantasy tropes. It has a number of playable races, a number of win-conditions, some of which different races might excel at compared to others, and RPG-like development for your military units including a system of sidequests, some of which reveal otherwise-hidden bits of storyline. I’ll review it once I’ve played it as every faction, and explored the vast arrangement of stories and mysteries woven into it.
B: Endless Legend has some sort of storyline-based relationship with roguelike Dungeon of the Endless, and 4X game Endless Space. I suspect I’ll explore those some time in next year.
R: Musically this year ends on a downer with the recent passing of the legendary Lemmy Kilmister from Motörhead. Lemmy not only embraced the rock and roll lifestyle, he truly embodied it. He’s left behind some unforgettable songs, and if there is an afterlife I’d like to think he’s there continuing to swig Jack Daniels and piss off the neighbours.
B: Lemmy was taken from us all too soon, despite living to be about a million years old . He was one of the true Gods of Metal. Mind you, given the amount of alcohol, tobacco and drugs he consumed he probably should’ve died a long time ago.
R: We didn’t get to hundreds of gigs in 2015 but again quality counts over quantity and we certainly saw some greats: from Finnish horror-rockers Lordi (the only time AddaltmodeB would actually pay money to be in the vicinity of a Eurovision winner) to the legendary Alice Cooper himself. My top 2015 gigs were Swedish electronic artists Covenant, keeping the robotic dream alive at Bristol Fleece in March, and Portuguese goth Metallers Moonspell with their powerful performance at Wave Gotik Treffen in May. I actually cried when they played “The Future is Dark”: that is mostly a sign of my lack of emotional resilience, but it also indicates a bloody good gig.
B: I had a very different experience of Wave Gotik Treffen from you, seeing a lot more metal artists. Stand outs were Der Weg Einer Freiheit, Dark Funeral and God Seed. Dark Funeral absolutely kill live. One of the first things God Seed’s frontman said, when going on stage after them, was basically “Wow, we’re going to have to do a really good job tonight after that.” (Translated and paraphrased from a drunk Norwegian man’s German.)
Towards the end of the year we saw Slayer, Anthrax and Kvelertak at the Plymouth Pavilions. Slayer were on top form. It was great to see that they can still sound awesome without their legendary guitarist Jeff Hanneman. Anthrax’s live set was almost perfect, too. The only way it could have been improved would be if they’d added their Judge-Dredd inspired track I Am The Law.
R: My top new-release album of 2015 is a tie between the apocalyptic beauty of Moonspell’s Extinct and the Warhammer 40K-inspired cheese-laden power-metal insanity of Gloryhammer’s Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards. “The Hollywood Hootsman” is a track that will probably be in my head forever but, if so, at least I’ll die smiling.
B: Space 1992: Rise of the Chaos Wizards is my top album of the year: it brought a perfect combination of technicality, complexity, melody and downright silliness that no-one else came close to. Arcturus’ Arcturian was pretty good, too.
R: I, uh, bought more toys than I intended to in 2015, mostly at Auto Assembly. This has been the year when I’ve started to see myself as a toy collector and admit to being one, rather than just seeing myself as some one who’s slightly too fond of robots. Best new release toy of 2015? He was technically B’s purchase rather than mine but I think the Combiner Wars Ultra Magnus, in all his IDW-inspired beauty, really is a very fine figure. And of course, for all that she’s a shameless Windblade retool, I’m still thrilled finally to have a Slipstream of my own in the plastic, she is my Decepticon power animal. Thanks Takara, now more lady ‘cons next year please?
B: CW Ultra Magnus is to be adored. CW Mirage is a grower, and although I greatly dislike most of the RID2015 line, I like the Drift, and I obtained the Bumblebee very cheaply (1/3 RRP!), and I’m happy with him for that price, although I think his paint scheme is slightly disappointing, being a bit bland and too simple, so he needs reprolabels treatment…
B: … I really like his sword, though. I can’t put my figure on why it’s so pleasing.
R: Most disappointing toy of 2015? While the Combiner Wars Starscream didn’t quite live up to my expectations but I think the biggest let down was the whole Robots in Disguise line, but especially Strongarm. I was so excited at the prospect of a new main-character female Autobot but her toy is so bad I won’t waste my money on it. Those blocky hands are the worst. Poor old Strongarm.
B: Some of the RID molds are really ugly and lumpen. I guess that Hasbro are starting to emulate Takara and drawing a greater separation between the toyline for kids (RID2015) and the toyline for nerds (Combiner Wars).
Also, I kind-of hate Combiner Wars Starscream. He’s not a bad mold per se, but something just feels off about him. I actually saw him long before I saw the (older) Jetfire figure he was re-tooled from, and when I saw Jetfire, the pieces fell into place: I don’t like CW ‘scream because he doesn’t have Seeker-like proportions he’s a thin layer of Starscream over a Jetfire toy. Strangely, I actually quite like the Jetfire version of the mold, although he needs some customisation before I’m going to display him. I’ll post about that project when I’ve done it, but here’s a little spoiler; I’m going to copy the methods of a much-more-skilled customiser who makes Youtube videos describing his techniques. I’ll follow the method from the video, and tell you, loyal reader, how it comes out.
R: 2015 was a pretty good time to be a Transformers fan. This year has brought a decent mix of G1 nostalgia (Transformers Devastation, Combiner Wars) and new characters and developments. Since the end of Prime I’d been pining for a new character-driven show. Robots in Disguise (or “Zoo RiD” as we call it, given its penchant for
monster beast-bot of the week plots) is competent and fun enough to watch but it doesn’t excite me enough to fill the void. So the full force of my Transformers character affection now rests on MTMTE. James Roberts really plays the long game in this comic and it’s been so gratifying to see the scattered plot threads slowly pulling together. After the lull of the self-aware, pop-culture infused “Swearth” interlude, things really feel like they’re gathering pace and intensity again now. There’s nothing I like more in my pop-culture than properly rounded and interesting villains and in that respect The Decepticon Justice Division are everything I could ask for and more. Plus I never thought I could be a Rodimus fangirl but MTMTE has finally and fully converted me, there’s just something so appealing about that combination of arrogance and ineptitude.
B: Universal Time-Stream Primax 1005.19 Gamma (That’s the IDW G1 comic continuity) is getting to be a vast, sprawling place. There are enough IDW Transformers comics that you could never keep up with them all. I’m glad that we’ve found our Transformers-related
spirit spark-ual home in MTMTE. The series’ mix of sitcom with weightier themes particularly appeals to me.
R: 2015 has also been a pretty good year to be a female Transformers fan, with Windblade’s continuing rise to prominence. I’m really fond of the character, both her Japanese-inspired design and especially her character’s conflicted loyalty and the way she inspires a sense of gravitas without ever falling back on the tired stereotype of female characters needing to be maternal. It’s also been great to see female characters like Nautica and Velocity going from strength to strength in the comics. It’s not all good, though: from all the pictures I’ve seen so far, the fan built female combiner, Victorion, is a huge disappointment: garish colours and far too light a retooling from the other Combiner Wars figures. I guess at least my wallet will be safe there.
Of course no review of the year could be complete without mentioning some of the other high profile obituaries. As well as the aforementioned Terry Pratchett and Lemmy we also lost Leonard Nimoy and Christopher Lee (despite previous suspicions that Lee was actually Dracula and thus immortal). It truly was a year to pay our respects to many pop-cultural heroes. RIP. But the works they’ve created and performances they’ve given will at least live on, cultural creation beats blood sucking as a path to immortality any day
While mind-blowingly good new releases were rare in 2015, the overall quality was fairly high and having this blog has provided a welcome extra outlet for us to reflect on and enjoy the geek experiences and adventures we’ve had in the past year.
Thanks for sharing part of that journey with us, and stay tuned for the next post in which we’ll outline our plans and hopes for Addaltmode in 2016.
B & R