490. TMTF’s Top Ten Ways Autumn Isn’t Horrible

I don’t like the fall season. It’s cold, dark, and flavored like pumpkin spice. Leaves fall. Flowers die. Everything turns brown. Worst of all, here in the American Midwest, autumn happens every single year. It just ain’t fair.

However, autumn isn’t all bad—mostly bad, yes, but not quite all bad. It has its charms. Here are ten reasons why the fall season isn’t totally awful.

Bundle up, ladies and gentlemen, as TMTF presents…

The TMTF List of Top Ten Ways Autumn Isn’t Horrible!

10. Daylight Saving Time Ends

On the first Sunday in November, the time is set back one hour at two o’clock in the morning. In practical terms, I gain an hour, provided I remember to set back my clocks. An extra hour of sleep? Yes please.

I happen to be a big fan of sleep.

Of course, the time is set forward one hour when Daylight Saving Time begins in spring, costing me a precious hour of sleep, but I’ll not worry about that until March!

9. Snowfalls Are Gentle, Gorgeous, and Mercifully Brief

Snow is beautiful when it’s falling or freshly fallen. It softens everything and gleams with an infinity of tiny sparkles. Then it quickly becomes a nuisance. Heavy snow becomes slushy, crusty, or muddy, and always wet and cold. Autumn sometimes brings light snowfalls, but they never overstay their welcome. They last just long enough to be pretty, and no longer.

8. Winter Blockbusters Begin to Arrive in Movie Theaters

After the October wave of horror films, end-of-year blockbusters start to trickle into movie theaters.

Aw, yeah.

We have Marvel’s Doctor Strange and Disney’s Moana this fall. Last autumn brought The Peanuts Movie, which surpassed my cynical expectations, and the one before gave us Disney’s Big Hero 6. I may not like the fall season, but it brings some great movies.

7. Triple-A Video Games Are Released

The final months of each year often bring not only good movies, but also great video games.

Aw, yeah.

Triple-A is the classification given to games with big budgets, which is often (but not always) an indication of high quality. Game developers often save their triple-A releases for the holiday season. I play mostly older games these days, but still enjoy watching trailers and reading reviews for brand new ones.

6. Leaves Turn Bright, Beautiful Colors

As summer fades, leaves change from green to brilliant shades of red, orange, and yellow. Clusters of leaves become clouds of fire.

Colors like these are the only warm things about autumn, I’m afraid.

Apart from the trees, autumn is a season of drab grays and murky browns, so the fiery colors of leaves are a welcome change… until they die, turn brown, and fall to the ground, of course. Ah, well. Beauty is often a fleeting and fragile thing.

5. Thanksgiving Day Arrives

I poke fun at the Thanksgiving holiday, but it’s actually one of my favorites. I love the idea of setting aside a day for family, food, fellowship, and… well… thanksgiving. Unlike Halloween or Christmas, Thanksgiving demands no elaborate customs or decorations: no costumes, no trick-or-treating, no carols, no presents. It represents not the busyness of Martha, but the peace of Mary. (It’s just a shame about Black Friday.)

4. The Christmas Season Approaches

It’s against my religion to listen to Christmas music until after Thanksgiving. (It isn’t really, but seriously, guys, wait until after Thanksgiving Day.)

Christmas is coming!

I’m a little cynical about the Christmas season, but only a little, and colder weather is a reminder that Christmas is coming. Autumn is a dreary season, but it promises brighter things. I appreciate that.

3. Fresh Apple Cider Becomes Available for Purchase

I like apples. really like apples.

How ’bout them apples?

For just a few glorious weeks every year, a local Amish market sells fresh apple cider: unpasteurized, unadulterated, with no preservatives or additional ingredients of any kind. It is glorious, and available only in early autumn.

2. Colder Weather Enhances Enjoyment of Warm Things

I hate cold weather, but appreciate how it increases my enjoyment of warmth. Hot food warms as well as satisfies. My sleeping bag becomes a haven of perfect warmth and comfort. (I don’t own a bed, because beds are for sensible, well-adjusted people.) However deeply the cold may settle in my bones, a hot shower always drives it out. Coffee, which is a refuge and strength at all times, keeps away the cold. Heck, even washing dishes becomes kind of a treat.

1. Autumn Brings Duster Weather

I actually like cool weather; it reminds me of Quito, where I was born, and where I spent many years. Even when the air turns painfully cold, I don’t despair, for lo! I have a duster overcoat.

I couldn’t find a photo of myself wearing my duster—selfies, like Christmas music before Thanksgiving, are against my religion—but my overcoat looks just a bit like the Tenth Doctor’s, minus the sparkles.

Since it appeared mysteriously in my closet a few years ago, I’ve taken a geeky satisfaction in wearing it when the autumn air turns chilly. My duster makes me look a bit like a khaki canvas tent, but it makes me feel awesome, and also warm.

What do you like most about the final months of the year? Let us know in the comments!

454. Adam’s Story: Introduction

A new series of posts begins today. As this blog stumbles doggedly toward its final post, I’m planning my next big personal project. I want to rewrite a story. I speak, of course, of the Lance Eliot saga: a trilogy of fantasies, and a dream I’ve chased for more than a decade. At this point, I have no delusions of grandeur, fame, or literary excellence. I just want to get the damned thing written.

Sooner or later, every creative person reaches a point at which he just wants to scream and shake things—preferably sharp, pointy things. (Art by JK Riki.)

A while back, when I wondered whether to discuss my story here, nobody raised any objections, so here we are. I’m not sure how often I’ll publish posts about the Lance Eliot saga, but they won’t take over TMTF or anything. This blog’s regularly scheduled nonsense shall continue!

I’ve decided to title this series Adam’s Story. I considered longer titles, like Adam’s Story Project, and more specific ones, like The Lance Eliot Saga, but settled on a title that’s short, sweet, and personal. After all, Adam’s Story refers to more than a story I want to write. It is also my story, the story of Adam, who has spent (or misspent; the jury’s still out) an alarming number of hours making up stories about a guy named Lance Eliot.

I’m actually really excited to write about the Lance Eliot saga, for at least five reasons.

  1. It will let me work on two things—this blog and story planning—at the same time, and with the same effort. How efficient!
  2. It will provide, I hope, a smooth transition from writing a blog to writing the story itself.
  3. It will force me to be a bit more disciplined. I can’t write about an aspect of the story until I’ve made sufficient progress in planning it, so I won’t be able to skip steps or cut corners!
  4. It will allow me to express my enthusiasm for the Lance Eliot saga, and to spread awareness of it. Every bit helps!
  5. It will allow me to share some of my ideas. Even if I’m not able to finish the Lance Eliot saga, at least I will have gotten some of its details out of my head.

I’m currently rereading the latest version of the story’s first part, the one I published a few years ago, and it… needs a lot of work. Heck, it needs a lot of work.

This is a picture of me throwing away the torn-up pieces of my story’s published version. Hold on, my mistake, it’s actually that version’s cover. How… apropos.

The new version won’t be anything special, but I hope to make it much better than previous ones.

Will I publish my story? I don’t know. I haven’t planned that far ahead. I’ve stopped calling the Lance Eliot saga “my book project,” and begun referring to it as “my story project.” I should probably write it before I think about publication, and I should probably plan it before I start writing.

As I plan the Lance Eliot saga, each post in the Adam’s Story series shall focus on an aspect of it. Relax, there won’t be any huge spoilers here. That said, there will be small spoilers, but nothing past the story’s earlier chapters.

Here are some of my ideas for posts about my fantasy and its world.


I have to lay out the basics at some point, right? There won’t be any massive reveals here: just the early stuff!


There’s obviously a character named Lance Eliot. This post shall share a few more.


The setting is changing from previous versions of the story. I hope to make it more unique, with more details from personal experiences, and fewer generic fantasy elements. (There shall still be dragons, though. I can’t bring myself to leave them out.) The geography is changing a bit, too.

Goodbye, old setting. We hardly knew ye.

I guess this means my dad and I will need to make a new map. It’s a good thing he’s a patient man.


Earlier versions of the story didn’t really delve into politics. I want to change that. The simplistic political scene of earlier drafts shall be replaced with a tenser situation, finding such diverse inspirations as the Cold War, The Chronicles of Narnia, and Final Fantasy XII. Lance Eliot’s story shall be an adventure, not a political thriller, but I’m excited to give it some political background.


Like the story’s politics, its lore shall be more nuanced this time around. In The Lord of the Rings and his other fantasies, J.R.R. Tolkien imagined the God of Christianity in a fantastical context. I plan to do the same, taking cues from the later Old Testament, and borrowing ideas from Greco-Roman mythology and the Legend of Zelda series.


I really struggled with the concept of magic as I wrote earlier versions of the Lance Eliot saga. At first, I fought to reconcile magic with a Christian worldview, and I think I’ve figured out that part. Now my struggle is to invent a kind of magic that isn’t too vague, generic, or unbelievable. The magic in my story isn’t actually called by that name; for now, I’m calling it aer. What is it? Why aer? You’ll just have to wait and see.

Literary criticism

Yep, this is a theme of my story… but not really. Literary criticism, for all its usefulness, can be a bit silly. Nah, its purpose in my story is to lead to something else… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Dante’s Divine Comedy

I plan for my story’s three parts to parallel, however loosely, the three parts of the Divine Comedy. The first part of my story shall borrow from Dante’s Inferno, and it’s going to be a hell of a ride. (Alternatively: It’s going to be a damned good time. I can’t resist these puns, guys. I’m so sorry.)

I may cover more aspects of the story; I don’t know. Today’s post covers pretty much everything I have planned for now.

That said, this story won’t plan itself, so I’d better get back to it.

440. Christianity in Video Games

In my last post, I wondered whether video games can be art. They’re fun, sure, but can they be anything more?

My own belief is that video games have artistic potential. Whether they actually fulfill that potential is an entirely separate question. For the most part, they favor fun over artistic expression, leaving weighty subjects to other media.

Religion is an especially weighty subject, and its effect on art is incalculably great. Christianity in particular has inspired art for two thousand years, and some of it isn’t particularly religious.

Of course, much of the art informed by Christianity is overtly religious in nature: works by Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, classics like The Pilgrim’s Progress and Dante’s Divine Comedy, music like Handel’s Messiah, and countless more. However, Christianity has also influenced many secular works—watch nearly any movie by Quentin Tarantino or the Coen brothers and you’ll see what I mean.

Pulp Fiction

The book of Ezekiel is apparently a bit more vengeful than I remembered.

Yes, the influence of Christianity has reached some unlikely places. It begs the question: If video games have artistic potential, have they used any of it to explore the subject of Christianity?

The answer is… hardly.

Christianity has informed many video games, but its influence is mostly superficial. Many games draw upon Christianity for its cultural or symbolic flair—or, if I may put it another way, its flavor.

The Legend of Zelda, one of the most important games ever made, uses Christian iconography not to make a point, but rather to convey an impression. For example, the game’s protagonist has the symbol of a cross on his shield.

Zelda NES screenshot

Is it just me, or does the hero of The Legend of Zelda look like he’s going from door to door with a Gospel tract?

I don’t know why the game’s developers put a Christian cross on the shield. Perhaps it was inspired by the cross designs on shields in medieval Europe. Maybe it was supposed to represent nobility, righteousness, or heroism. Either way, this symbol of Christianity is literally front and center in one of the greatest games of all time.

Incidentally, the game features another Christian symbol: the Bible, whose title was translated for Western versions as the Book of Magic. In the game, the Bible empowers the protagonist to throw fireballs, which isn’t something Bibles generally do. (At any rate, mine doesn’t.)

I’m going to discuss a few more games in this post, but for full disclosure, I should admit that I haven’t played most of them. I know them mostly by reputation, by reading about them, or in one case by following the game’s story on YouTube.

Christian imagery shows up occasionally in video games, many of which avoid association with the religion itself in order to avoid controversy. This has led to fictional religions that bear outward resemblance to Christianity—particularly to Roman Catholicism.

Video games such as the Final Fantasy series sometimes feature Christian (especially Roman Catholic) elements such as priests, churches, cathedrals, holy water, and baptisms.

Final Fantasy VII church

Can we take up an offering to repair the church in Final Fantasy VII? It could use a new floor. And some more pews. And a table in the back for coffee and doughnuts.

A few games even tackle the subject of religious corruption, but always within fictional religions whose resemblance to Christianity is only superficial.

Of course, some video games take a more direct approach, depicting Christianity itself (instead of a fictional religion) for its imagery, culture, or history.

The Hitman series—which, as its name suggests, is all about assassinations—uses “Ave Maria,” a song based on a Christian prayer, as its theme. It may be meant to evoke a somber mood, or perhaps to suggest an ironic parallel between the Church and the syndicate that employs the eponymous hitman. Either way, the series doesn’t have anything meaningful to say about Christianity; the games merely borrow from it.

The Assassin’s Creed series uses religion as a backdrop to its fictional history. The first game takes place in the Holy Land during the Crusades, and the second in Italy during the Renaissance. That second game apparently ends with the player beating up Pope Alexander VI, which seems weird to me. What developer, when given the limitless possibilities of game design, decided to make a game that climaxed in a fight against a fifteenth-century Pope? Did that developer just assume that all Christians are evil? Should I be offended?

There are a few games—just a few—that try to say something meaningful, whether good or bad, about Christianity.

The Binding of Isaac is an indie game named for the biblical account of Abraham nearly sacrificing his own son. It follows a young boy through an underworld of twisted imagery: much of it Christian. The game seems almost blasphemous with its lurid imagery and grotesque monsters.

The Binding of Isaac

This is, um, not a game for children.

I’m not sure what point The Binding of Isaac is trying to make. The game definitely has something to say. It may be an exploration of how religion can be abused, or maybe an outright censure of Christianity. I’m in no hurry to find out; I prefer my video games not hopelessly gloomy, thank you.

The most interesting treatment of Christianity I’ve seen in a video game comes from Bioshock Infinite, a story-driven first-person shooter. (For the uninitiated: a first-person shooter is a game in which the player shoots things from a first-person perspective, simply enough.) The game doesn’t focus on religion itself as much as on what it brings out in people.

The original Bioshock game is set in Rapture: a ruined underwater dystopia. It was built by an atheist who was convinced he could harness the potential of humankind in an enlightened society. The city fell apart, its remaining inhabitants fighting for the survival of the fittest.

No gods or kings

Welcome to Rapture?

By contrast, Bioshock Infinite is set in Columbia: an airborne city bustling with religious folks and overseen by Father Comstock, a self-proclaimed prophet. Despite its bright exterior, Columbia is also a dystopia. It reflects not a Darwinian struggle for survival, however, but the ugliest blunders of American Christianity.

The religion in Bioshock Infinite is the Christianity that excused slavery, oppressed Native Americans, reviled foreigners, and mistook love of country for love of God. It’s an exaggerated picture, but also one based on history.

Bioshock Infinite mural

Welcome to Columbia?

I appreciate that Bioshock Infinite doesn’t blame Christianity for Columbia’s problems, but acknowledges how it has, throughout history, sometimes brought out the worst in people. The game suggests the problem is not with faith, but with human beings.

Fortunately, Christianity also brings out the best in people. The game’s debt-ridden protagonist, Booker, is hired to rescue a woman from Columbia on the promise that his employer will “wipe away the debt.” As the game unfolds, it becomes clear that Booker’s debt isn’t just a matter of money. He needs to be forgiven.

Besides forgiveness, Christian themes in the game include baptism and longing. The latter is beautifully expressed in the hymn “Will the Circle Be Unbroken,” which is part of the game’s soundtrack.

Bioshock Infinite isn’t a perfect game, and its depiction of Christianity is definitely upsetting. However, it’s a more ambitious and nuanced take than I’ve seen from any other video game, and I respect it for that.

While a few games offer thoughtful explorations of Christian themes, others exist simply to appeal to a religious market. They’re the worst. They often steal their ideas from other games, and they’re nearly always terrible.

What are your thoughts on Christianity in video games? Let us know in the comments!

The Best History Lesson in the History of History

Never before has video game history been so awesome… or so darn catchy.

Fun Fact: Nintendo existed for nearly a century before it began producing video games. It dabbled in everything from card games to cab services before striking gold with franchises like Donkey Kong, Super Mario Bros. and Legend of Zelda in the eighties.

This post was originally published on September 18, 2013. TMTF shall return with new content on November 30, 2015!

The Ability to Pull Stuff from Nowhere

Art by iangoudelock on deviantART.

Art by iangoudelock on deviantART.

I’m sure you’ve seen it. As you watch a movie or play a video game, a character pulls out something from nowhere. Bugs Bunny and Wakko Warner reach behind their backs and bring out anvils or sledgehammers. Solid Snake and Link produce an endless assortment of gear and weapons from thin air. As Link demonstrates in the clever picture above, actually carrying around all that stuff is a physical impossibility.

The ability to pull stuff from nowhere is sometimes called the back pocket, a wry suggestion that the things characters pull from behind their backs were in their pants pockets the whole time. (This concept is particularly amusing in the case of characters that don’t wear pants.) In anime, the concept is called hammerspace. A comedic trope in Japanese animation is for characters to express anger by hitting something (or someone) with a large hammer produced from nowhere, making hammerspace the hypothetical place where all those hammers are kept.

The back pocket concept is usually played for comic effect in animation. Pinkie Pie, an exuberant character from a surprisingly awesome show about ponies, produces a wide assortment of items (including freaking cannons) from nowhere. Other characters know better than to question Pinkie’s defiance of physics.

In fact, when back pockets are used in any show or film, no one ever seems surprised.

In video games, back pockets are utilitarian rather than comedic in nature. The fact of the matter is that Link from the Legend of Zelda games needs his gear—all of it. Limiting his inventory would be a hindrance to the player, who would have to backtrack every time she needed something Link didn’t happen to be carrying at the moment. Constantly retrieving items, or plodding slowly under their weight, would be horribly annoying.

Thus Link carts around enormous shields and heavy explosives and iron-shod boots without any trouble. (Humorously enough, the iron boots only weigh down Link when he’s actually wearing them.) Solid Snake somehow sneaks through enemy territory burdened with cardboard boxes, sensor equipment and an entire arsenal of weapons (including massive rocket launchers). Every Final Fantasy character carries up to ninety-nine of every kind of weapon, armor and potion.

Where is all that stuff kept? Where does it come from?

Some questions, dear reader, are simply beyond answering.

This post was originally published on April 2, 2014. TMTF shall return with new content on November 30, 2015!

375. Why Video Game Movies Suck

Name three good video game movies.

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

You see, video game movies suck.

Granted, movies about games as a medium are sometimes good, like Disney’s superb Wreck-It Ralph. I love that movie.

Wreck-It Ralph coverMovies adapted from games, however, are another story: a sad, depressing story. I’ve seen a number of video game movies, and most of them are awful.

Why is this? There are many excellent films based on books; why not on video games? There are at least three reasons.

First, many games have either no story or only the barest semblance of one.

The plot of nearly every Super Mario Bros. game, for example, consists of a monster (Bowser) kidnapping a princess (Peach) and a brave man (Mario) setting out to rescue her. That’s it. This story (and minor variations thereupon) appears in game after game after game.

For a video game, such a simplistic story is perfectly fine—after all, the story is just an excuse to play the game. What matters in the Super Mario Bros. games is the what of the adventure; the why is a minor afterthought. It’s such fun to guide Mario through challenging levels that his reason for facing them in in the first place is hardly more than a footnote.

Unlike a game, which can be fun for its own sake, a film needs a story. The what is not enough; it also needs the why. Many video games don’t offer a strong enough why to be adapted into compelling movies.

The second reason video game movies often fail is that too many filmmakers, assuming their film has a guaranteed audience in fans of its source material, make it inaccessible to broader audiences: people who don’t play video games.

Final Fantasy VII - Advent ChildrenThe clearest example of this is my all-time favorite action movie, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children. This computer-animated movie’s action scenes are ridiculous—this movie has a sword fight on motorcycles, guys. The animation looks great nearly a decade after the film’s release, the music is excellent, the characterization is compelling, and the ending is genuinely touching.

However, Advent Children has one damning flaw: it’s practically incomprehensible to anyone has hasn’t played an old PlayStation game called Final Fantasy VII. Even for those of us who have played the game, the movie can be a little tough to follow. This is a shame. In every other respect, Advent Children is an excellent film—but that excellence is locked away from most audiences.

The third reason games hardly ever make good movies is in the medium itself. Most video games are a repeating pattern of stages; many are nothing more than a series of levels. That’s hard to adapt to film.

Other games offer a more subtle take on this structure. Role-playing games, for example, generally feature a robust story, yet follow the same pattern: the player progresses from a town, to the open world, to a dungeon, and then back to a town, there to begin the cycle anew.

This approach works well for video games as a medium. It even works for television, in which a set of episodes allows for repeated rising and falling action. A film, however, is too short for this structure. The repeating pattern of a video game doesn’t fit in a movie. A game’s cyclical narrative can’t be compressed into a two-hour film.

Every now and then, however, there comes a game whose narrative isn’t a repeating cycle, but a focused story that could be brilliantly adapted to film. I can think of at least one video game movie that absolutely needs to be made… but I’ll save that for next time.

Are there any good video game movies?

Vide game movies that don't suckOf those I’ve seen, I can think of a few good ones. Professor Layton and the Eternal Diva, an animated film spin-off of the Professor Layton games, is accessible and charming, though it drags a bit. The aforementioned Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children boasts phenomenal action, epic music, and stunning visuals for viewers who don’t mind having no idea what the heck is going on. For those who like foreign films, Takashi Miike’s live-action Ace Attorney is really good, despite its absurd hairstyles.

Um, that’s it. Flipping heck, someone needs to make a good video game movie.

Question: Have you seen any video game movie that you would recommend? Let us know in the comments!

371. Ladies in Fantasy Fiction Need Better Armor

I’m no expert, but I’ve noticed a difference between armor for men and women in fantasy fiction: men wear more of it.

I’m no feminist, but I do believe in treating people with decency and respect. I’m also fairly pragmatic. Most female armor in fantasy fiction isn’t respectful or decent, and pragmatic it most certainly is not.

Here, for example, are male and female warriors from one of the Dragon Quest video games. In the game, they have exactly the same role on the battlefield. Is unreasonable to expect them to wear roughly the same armor?

Amor differencesIn the picture above, the male warrior gets a padded tunic over mail hauberk, along with leather gauntlets, a sturdy helm, a kite shield, and articulated armor plating for his legs. The female warrior, by contrast, gets a tiny mail blouse, half a mail skirt, and random bits of plate armor on her arms and legs.

There are several problems here.

The most glaring issue is sexism, of course. It just ain’t fair for male characters to be fully armored while female characters wear swimsuits. (I’ve touched upon this before.) It exemplifies the concept known as the male gaze: the way visual arts often assume the viewer is male. The male gaze ogles female characters or puts them in revealing clothes, like the chain mail swimsuit above. It’s insulting to women.

(For those ready with the “fantasy fiction is not supposed to be realistic” arguments, I believe at least a small amount of realism makes fiction more believable. If a woman wears dangerously revealing armor, there had better be a good reason for it! For those ready with the “you should stop taking everything so seriously” arguments, I don’t believe fiction is a valid excuse for sexism or double standards.)

This is not, however, a blog post about sexism. Nah, today’s post provides a more pragmatic rationale for giving female characters better armor: the kinds of armor worn by most female characters in fantasy fiction would get them killed.

Let’s take armor styles one at a time.

The chain mail bikini

Chain mail bikiniIt was challenging to find a picture illustrating this style of armor that wasn’t NSFTMTF. (For those who don’t know, NSFTMTF stands for Not Safe For Typewriter Monkey Task Force: a designation covering vulgar language, extreme violence, sexually explicit material, and any media related to Kristen Stewart or Justin Beiber.) Even the picture above pushes the boundaries of good taste.

The chain mail bikini describes any style of armor that (sometimes barely) covers only the naughty bits of a lady’s anatomy. I need hardly describe the practical difficulties of such armor. It exposes vital organs such as the stomach and lungs, providing practically no protection whatsoever. More often than not, what little armor is worn looks like it could fall off at any moment. High heels, which are often worn with chain mail bikinis, don’t allow for quick movement or proper balance.

Are there benefits to chain mail bikinis? I’m really reaching here, but I suppose they could offer good mobility, and might prove distracting to enemies.

Nah. Who am I kidding? Chain mail bikinis are completely useless.

The boob plate

Boob plate armorAs the name suggests, the boob plate is a breastplate with breasts.

Opinions are divided on the usefulness of the boob plate, but the most logical view is that it would probably kill you.

You see, armor doesn’t merely shield the body from sharp or spiky things. It also deflects the force of blows from weapons. A blow from, say, a club will do far less damage if it glances off a breastplate than if it strikes it squarely. In other words, armor is meant to deflect blows, not to absorb them.

The problem with boob plates is that they wouldn’t necessarily deflect blows away from the chest. They could also deflect them inward, funneling them into the cleavage between the breasts—and right into the wearer’s breastbone. Even if a weapon didn’t penetrate the armor, it could fracture the wearer’s sternum. Flipping heck, even falling forward could slam the ridge of metal separating the breasts into the breastbone, breaking it.

As it happens, people who wore armor usually wore padding beneath it, so a woman’s chest would probably be wrapped or padded and wouldn’t require a form-fitting breastplate in the first place.

The battle dress


A battle dress is a dress worn into battle. Like the boob plate, it’s fairly self-explanatory.

I applaud the battle dress for being less blatantly sexist than other styles of female armor… but it still gets low marks for practicality. Long skirts and dresses have the same problem as capes in The Incredibles: they get caught on stuff. A woman can hardly run, ride a horse, or vault over bushes in a dress. Sooner or later, it will snag on something.

Besides, dresses offer no protection… unless they have chain mail or plate armor sewn into them. Then, unless the armored sections are kept close to the body, such weighted dresses are even more likely to snag on stuff. Besides, any heavy part of the dress left hanging, such as a skirt or long sleeve, impedes movement by swinging awkwardly.

The sensible armor

Sensible lady's amorThe armor in the picture above isn’t perfectly practical—it should lose the flowing skirt, and the breastplate really ought to cover more of the abdomen—but it isn’t bad. (I would cut off the braid and add a helmet, but what do I know?) The shoulders, chest, and legs are protected, leaving the arms free and allowing bend at the waist for wielding so large an axe. The armor also looks awesome as all heck.

Women can wear more or less the same styles of armor as men, with minor adjustments for shoulder width. Even adding a slight outward bulge for breasts is fine, provided it doesn’t include the sternum-shattering cleavage mentioned above; a gentle convex curve can deflect blows as well as anything. Designing sensible female armor doesn’t have to be that difficult.

Is impractical lady armor ever appropriate in fiction? I suppose it has its place, such as in comedic tales and parodies of fantasy fiction. In more serious stories, styles of lady armor which would be useless in battle could be used for ceremonial purposes: parades, coronations, etc.

In the end, however, I think practical armor is definitely the best way to go.

TMTF’s Top Ten Hats in Video Games

I recently learned of an indie game titled Fez. The game’s protagonist wears a fez, presumably because fezzes are cool. (We all know this.) This game reminded me that characters in video games have some pretty sweet hats.

As a gamer, blogger and proud owner of several hats, I believe it’s my solemn duty to decide which video game hats are the best.

The following rules apply: I’ll choose hats only from games I’ve played, and I’ll select no more than one hat from any game series. Only original video game hats are permitted: no hats from licensed characters like Indiana Jones or Donald Duck. Hoods, helmets, headbands, ribbons and all headgear except hats and caps are disqualified from this list.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, hats off as TMTF proudly presents…

The TMTF List of Top Ten Hats in Video Games!

10. Quote’s Baseball Cap (Cave Story)

Quote's Baseball Cap

Quote, the amnesiac hero of indie classic Cave Story, manages to look quite heroic in a simple baseball cap. The hat isn’t particularly fancy or elegant, but its bright white and red design helps Quote’s pixelated figure stand out against the muted blacks and browns of Cave Story‘s subterranean locales. On an entirely different note, do the buttons on Quote’s hat remind anyone else of Mickey Mouse’s shorts?

9. Cormano’s Sombrero (Sunset Riders)

Cormano's Sombrero

This Mexican gunslinger, who has been described as “either groundbreakingly inclusive or an offensive stereotype, take your pick,” is a playable character from Sunset Riders for the SNES. The game consists mostly of shooting stuff. Cormano’s skill with a rifle is belied by his sombrero, which is colored bright magenta and shaped like a taco. Never has the Old West been so fabulous!

8. Shadi Smith’s Pork Pie Hat (Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney)

Shadi Smith's Pork Pie Hat

Not since Buster Keaton has anyone looked so good in a pork pie. Despite being a shifty character with questionable ethics, Shadi Smith is a really sharp dresser. There are many fantastic hats in the Ace Attorney series, from magician’s top hats to policewomen’s berets, but none seems more stylish or elegant than Shadi Smith’s classy pork pie hat.

7. Carmen Sandiego’s Fedora (Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?)

Carmen Sandiego's Fedora

As a child, I played Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego? on my family’s ancient black-and-white Apple Macintosh. (I’m pretty sure the above picture of Ms. Sandiego comes from another game in the series, but it’s the best I could find.) It was educational gaming at its finest: besides learning about geography and national flags, I got a taste of fashion from Carmen Sandiego’s criminally fabulous fedora.

6. Red’s Baseball Cap (Pokémon FireRed)

Red's Baseball Cap

This one was a toss-up between the hats worn by Red from Pokémon and Ness from Earthbound. Red won because his baseball cap is quite a bit cooler. (Besides, Red’s cap in the original Pokémon Red was the inspiration for Ash Ketchum’s iconic hat in the Pokémon anime.) Like Quote, Red takes a common item of casual apparel and makes it seem dashing and even heroic.

5. Agent Chieftain’s Stetson (Elite Beat Agents)

Agent Chieftan's Stetson

Elite Beat Agents is a wonderful rhythm game for the Nintendo DS in which government secret agents assist people in desperate need by invoking the inspirational power of song and dance. (Yes, the game is every bit as weird—and awesome—as it sounds.) Agent Chieftain, a senior agent of the Elite Beat Agency, flaunts a flashy Stetson that adds a dash of cowboy flair to his plain suit and tie.

4. Red Mage’s Wizard Hat (Final Fantasy III)

Red Mage's Wizard Hat

Although the Black Mages from the Final Fantasy series have neat hats, the Red Mages earn this place on the list with their gorgeous crimson hats adorned with snowy feathers. Other Final Fantasy characters have clunky helmets, dull hats or plain hoods. Red Mages alone uphold the lofty standards of fashion while defending their worlds from demons, dragons and other monsters.

3. Mario’s Flat Cap (Super Mario 64)

Mario's Flat Cap

How could I not include Mario’s cap? It’s indisputably the most famous video game hat in the world, and definitely one of the neatest. Mario’s cap from Super Mario 64 deserves special mention for giving Mario superpowers, including flight. Few things in video games have been more fun for me than soaring around the game’s locales with Mario’s winged cap. Like its owner, this hat is remarkable.

2. Professor Layton’s Top Hat (Professor Layton and the Curious Village)


I have absolutely nothing to add.

1. Link’s… Cap? (The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap)

Link's... Cap

Link’s cap is one of the most iconic elements of the Legend of Zelda series. It’s instantly recognizable—seriously, how many legendary heroes wear green pointed caps? Link achieves an incredible feat in every Zelda game by looking cool in a hat that wouldn’t seem out of place on one of Santa’s elves. As much as I like it, I wouldn’t give Link’s cap the number one spot on this list if it weren’t for one detail: it talks. In The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap, Link is joined on his quest by Ezlo, an enchanted hat who gives advice, grumbles, cracks jokes and turns out to be one of the most engaging characters in the entire Zelda series. For its iconic status, surprisingly cool appearance and amusing dialogue—I can’t believe I’m saying this about a hat—Link’s cap is TMTF’s pick for the best hat in a video game.

O people of the Internet, what great video game hats would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments!

This post was originally published on April 8, 2013. TMTF shall return with new content on April 20, 2015!

A Collection of Fabulous Video Game Mustaches

Stache Stash

Clockwise, beginning at the top right: Yang (Final Fantasy), Mario (Super Mario Bros.), Dr. Eggman (Sonic the Hedgehog), Dr. Wily (Mega Man), Wario (Super Mario Bros.), Naked Snake (Metal Gear Solid), Don Paolo (Professor Layton) and Marvin Grossberg (Ace Attorney).

This is a collection of magnificent video game mustaches: a stache stash, if you will. Which is best? My money is on Mario’s mustache. It lacks the extravagant flair and staggering size of the competition, yet it boasts an understated charm.

This post was originally published on May 8, 2013. TMTF shall return with new content on April 20, 2015!