North Korea’s president Kim Jong Un is enjoying surprisingly high approval rating in a recent survey. Seoul National University interviewed people who had recently fled North Korea and found that they gave Mr. Kim an approval rating of over 50%, well over many other world leaders. This ratings is still slightly lower than that of Kim’s father, Kim Jong Il, who routinely enjoyed approval ratings of 110%-5000%.
Zack Snyder’s upcoming Man of Steel sequel continues to create buzz this week. Snyder, the film’s director, has revealed the Batman/Superman blockbuster-to-be will shoot in Detroit and throughout Michigan. Rumors swirl that by contributing to Snyder’s Kickstarter campaign, fans can enjoy an exclusive first look at the teaser trailer – Gotham in Da Moonlight.
Snyder would not answer questions at the press event announcement, citing that he was “too busy putting together the rest of the movie by filling in this Mad Libs. Hey, who’s got a really good ‘villainous noun’ they could share?”
A study in the journal Nature reports that scientists in Austria have successfully grown miniature ‘human brains’ with which they hope to gain insight into neurological disorders. The brains are the size of a pea and are incapable of thought, making them the perfect test subject to help scientists understand the popularity of MTV’s Video Music Awards.
The end of August marks the end of the football’s 4-game, Unnecessary Injury Season. League reps report a highly-successful ‘Un-In’ season this year with sprains, strains and tears consistent with last year, but an impressive increase in the quality and quantity of knee and hamstring injuries.
The start of the September also means the return of Fantasy Football, the tabletop roleplaying game beloved by self-professed football ‘geeks’. Often, players are introduced to the game in middle and high school. When they find they don’t share their popular classmates’ love for science, technology and comic books, they bond by imagining themselves as competitive athletes, playing in an arena built for sporting exhibitions, and the occasional monster truck rally.
Gameplay is as follows – players create their characters and assigned them Ability Scores for Strength, Dexterity, Gatorade, Second Effort and Intangibles and choose their character’s class – Offense, Defense, or Special Teams. Then they’re led through the gameplay by the “Gridiron Master.” The GM acts as a storyteller and referee, offering game-deciding judgements based on rules and precedents, or for no logical reason whatsoever.
In a bit of Greek-style storytelling, one character in the game has the power to overrule even the GM. In certain situations, the game’s actions are altered by The Goodell, a Deus Ex Machina who descends from above to affect permanent rule changes that characters are powerless to oppose.
During gameplay, players roll polyhedral dice to determine the outcome of complex or risky actions, like a long-yardage Field Goals, or casting spells like Tim Tebow or Michael Vick. While there is a timer during games, it’s largely ceremonial, given the GM’s ability to freeze time at his or her discretion. Gameplay is divided into quartered sections, with a possible bonus section at the game’s end, where the GM allows the game to transcend chronology and go Over Time. In Over Time, the characters abilities remain the same, but the game stakes are increased with the addition of Sudden Death.
The point of the game is to use individual skills for the success of the team, building a higher Point Total than other teams in the local League of Fantasy. As the series of adventures (known as a campaign) goes on, their characters can gain valuable Experience Points that can improve in-game social standing from Rookie to Starter to ProBowler. At the same time, players must be careful to avoid injury and not amass too many Hit Points which can push a character’s status beyond Seasoned Veteran to Journeyman or the undesirable Good Locker Room Guy. Players must also be aware of their characters’ “off-board behavior,” which can have an impact on Ability Scores and, in some cases, allow the GM to enforce a Suspension Spell on one or multiple characters. Suspension Spells vary in severity from the Manziel Suspension (half of one quartered section) to the Von Miller (one third of an entire campaign).
Players can often become very involved in Fantasy Football gameplay, researching and cataloging information before the season starts through specialty books, magazines and websites. Some players even go so far as to create elaborate fictional backstories for each character (although this practice is much more widespread in Fantasy Baseball). After that week’s adventure (most often played on Sundays), players can’t wait to gather on Monday morning to rehash the weekend’s events, reviewing strategies and starting to plan the following weekend’s adventure.
The history of Fantasy Football can be traced back to one of its original and most popular innovators, Gary Lombardax. Gary is largely credited with pushing the gameplay into the realms of magic and fantasy. A 1964 film clip shows him demonstrating how to cast a then-revolutionary Aquatic Mammal Spell, transporting “a seal here, and a seal here” allowing characters to safely “run the ball …through the alley.” Lombardax showed an uncanny ability to create imaginative adventures and challenging campaigns for Fantasy players. Although his Championship series has been out of print for decades, his SuperBowl series grows in popularity every year, even as it approaches its 50th anniversary. After a brief bankruptcy scare in the 90’s, Lombardax’s business was purchased and revitalized by Bill Walsh and Wizards of the West Coast. Walsh revised and rewrote the game’s official rulebook, The Power Sweep, while making the gameplay faster and flashier. He also allowed two characters (usually a Passer and a Receiver) to combine their powers and create a more potent Offensive Threat that, if maintained correctly, could be sustained not just through multiple adventures, but throughout multiple campaigns.
The effect of Fantasy Football on pop culture has risen in recent years, with players creating specialty Character Jerseys to wear in real life, along with game accessories and weapons like helmets, gloves, armored padding, and cleats. Avid players even gather with friends for live-action role-playing (LARPing) in parks on the weekend or after Thanksgiving dinner. And in some parts of the country, parents are starting to organize LARPing leagues for their children. Some hard-core fans wonder whether these could someday translate into Professional Adult Football LARPing leagues, but admit that the spectacle of grown men smashing into one another, risking traumatic physical and neurological injuries just to see who can get a ball across a line more times isn’t really a pastime that they could endorse in good conscience.