The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page – June 4, 2021

The Rice Digital Friday Letters Page

Welcome, dear reader, once again, to the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page, where we gather up all the things you’ve been just dying to say and then respond to them with (usually) care, courtesy and consideration.

Just to remind you, if you want to be a part of the next week’s Rice Digital Friday Letters Page (which is typically published in the mid-afternoon UK time every Friday) then click the widget over on the right of the screen.

See this?

You click that. Then you leave your name (or a pseudonym if you want to be all Internet Cool) and a message to us, then the gremlin who runs the virtual mail room does the rest. His real name is unpronounceable by human tongues, but he answers to “Colin”.

Letters page

Got all that? Good. I expect a bulging sack each and every week from hereon. And so to the letters we have received this week!

Getting Sam-wise

Dear Rice,

What do you think of Samsung’s new mascot Sam? There’s a lot of porn of her already.

Deedz


Hello, Deedz, and thanks for your contribution to the Rice Digital Friday Letters Page. Firstly, for the benefit of those who don’t know what we’re talking about, this is “Sam” — supposedly an anthropormorphised “virtual assistant” that Samsung is working on, perhaps as a replacement to their faceless Bixby system.

Letters page: Samsung Sam

At the time of writing, it doesn’t seem to be 100% clear if the seemingly leaked images and video released of Sam are “official” or not, or if the studio apparently behind them — Lightfarm Studios — put the whole thing together of their own volition. Samsung certainly hasn’t commented on the matter as yet.

Sam is obviously designed to be “hot” and “sassy” — look at those facial expressions. I assume she’s also intended to have a “relatable” edge to her, too, hence her rather normal-looking attire; she looks like she works in your local Currys. I can definitely see the appeal, but I feel like the Internet’s willingness to go absolutely bonkers over an inanimate object personified as a vaguely attractive female humanoid is coming to the fore here. Sam looks like a Pixar or Dreamworks character, and there’s nothing wrong with that — but for me personally, she doesn’t really stand out as especially memorable.

I might feel differently if she actually “lived” in my device and interacted with me — but then at the same time, I tend not to use “assistant” services that much anyway, so I suspect for my purposes she might end up being more of an annoyance than anything.

As for the porn… yes, there certainly is a lot of it, isn’t there? It’s nice to know that isn’t the only beauty mark she has.

It’s good to talk

Dear Rice,

I’ve enjoyed visual novels and Japanese games for a few years at this point, but I still find it quite difficult to talk about some of them to my family and friends. I know at least a few of my friends have joked about some of this stuff being “pervy” or “porn” or whatever and I don’t want them to be dicks about it if I try and set them straight.

Do you have any suggestions as to how I can get the people I know into the things I like?

KatsuragiBestGirl


Thanks for your contribution to the Letters Page, KatsuragiBestGirl. Katsuragi most certainly is one of the best girls in Senran Kagura, for sure, though I think I’m more of an Ikaruga man, myself. Asami Imai’s voice does things to me.

I think your situation is not an altogether uncommon one, sadly, and it stems from a long period of anything outside of cultural “norms” being regarded as strange and uncomfortable. For a long time, the way people dealt with that sense of discomfort or unease at unfamiliar things was to laugh at it — hence why if you look back at old games magazines there’s a lot of “oh, those crazy Japanese” type articles whenever something like, say, dating sims are mentioned.

These days, however, people in general are a lot more willing to accommodate a broad range of interests and tastes. You just have to look on social media to see how that works; for all the hellishness that Twitter provides, you certainly can’t deny the fact that it’s empowered a lot of people to speak a lot more frankly about things they enjoy. Even if those things are something you would speak of in “polite company”, as it were — like all things sexual.

Letters Page
Tiddies

So far as your friends and family go, I think you need to consider your viewpoint on this a little. Think of it as less “getting the people I know into the things I like” — which they might resent — and instead of “making the people I know understand why the things I like are important to me”. There are lots of ways you can go about this: you can write things on a blog, you can make YouTube videos, you can stream — or you can just talk!

If you’re uneasy about talking about these things face-to-face, try using something like Discord or WhatsApp to talk about them in text form — those platforms also make it easy to share images and videos that can help show what you’re on about.

Probably the most important thing to remember, though, is that not everyone is into everything; the games and other media we enjoy are often referred to as “niche-interest” for a reason, after all! Just as you might not be into some of the things the family members and friends you mention enjoy, so too might they not be interested in the things you’re most passionate about. That can suck, but all you can really do in that situation is ensure the conversation stays respectful — and that everyone comes away understanding that different tastes doesn’t mean you can’t be friends!

Shooting your mouth

Dear Rice,

I used to like shoot ’em ups on older consoles but I find today’s “bullet hell” games much too difficult and overwhelming, and they put me off exploring the genre further. Are there any good modern shoot ’em ups that are a bit more like 16-bit games in terms of how they play?

Parallax


Hi Parallax, thanks for your great question for this week’s Letters Page. There are actually quite a few great modern shoot ’em ups that play in the way you describe — a common mistake that people who aren’t actively involved with the genre make is assuming that all of the new ones are “bullet hell” in style.

Some particular favourites of mine include Astebreed, which is a cinematic mech shooter with awesome visuals and sound and exactly the sort of weird-ass trippy plot you’d expect from a mecha anime; Raiden IV, which is getting a new Nintendo Switch release very soon; Satazius by Astro Port, which you can get as part of the excellent Shmup Collection on Nintendo Switch; and Eschatos by Qute, which you can either import an Xbox 360 copy of — it’s region-free, but pricy — or nab on Steam. The two Psikyo Shooting Stars collections NIS America localised a while back are great fun, too.

Don’t be too hasty to write off bullet hell, though; I thought I’d never get anywhere with it either until I sat down and spent a little time with a few games. If you have access to a large-screen phone or tablet, it’s worth trying some of the mobile versions of Cave’s classics if you can get hold of them; these are some of the few games I’ve played where touch controls are actually a huge benefit, because you can steer through those bullet patterns way more accurately than you can with a joypad or arcade stick!

Some shoot ’em up fans even sniff at these versions because this control scheme makes them “too easy”, but don’t listen to jackasses like that; if you want to get into a genre but you’ve been struggling to, every bit of help is welcome! The downside is that a lot of these versions didn’t get updated for new versions of iOS and Android, so a number of them are no longer available via legitimate, official means. Make of that what you will.

Anyway, give some of the stuff I’ve recommended above a go and see how you get on — perhaps write us another note in a few weeks and let us know your progress!

Failed arithmetic

Dear Rice,

Aad me [sic – Ed.]

Monu


Err… what? Add you to what? A list of people who I think may have missed the point of the “Write to Rice!” widget? Sure. You’re the first member, congratulations. I hope you find what (or who) you’re looking for.


That’s your lot for this week. Don’t forget you can write to us at any time with the widget over on the right — you don’t need to share any personal information and you can ask or tell us absolutely anything, so get those letters in ready for next week’s Letters Page, and we look forward to hearing from you!

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Pete Davison
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