We have some exciting news to share! In an effort to help make fundraising more fun, more accessible and ultimately easier, we’ve added two new applications to the Extra Life experience. Now you can fundraise through Facebook or on the go from your phone!
Extra Life Facebook App
Fundraising has never been quicker or easier than with the new Extra Life Facebook App. It installs in just a few seconds and allows you to opt-in to automatic status updates, upload Extra Life profile and cover pictures and ask your entire Facebook network for donations in just a few clicks. To start fundraising through the Extra Life Facebook App, login to to your Extra Life account, and click "Fundraise with Facebook" in the participant dashboard.
Extra Life Mobile App
Manage and share your Extra Life experience on the go with our new Extra Life mobile app. This free app lets you fundraise and connect with others through SMS, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn & Email. You can update your Extra Life page and check your fundraising progress all from the palm of your hand.
Download the app here: iPhone | Android
We’ve also spent the last couple of months improving the mobile experience on the Extra Life website so give the new apps a try. We want to hear what you think so send any feedback and ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below and let us know!
For The Kids,
Team Extra Life
Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals
Fans and critics of Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children alike have commonly perceived it as lacking a compelling story, complex characters, and purposeful fight scenes. When I decided I wanted to understand why I still loved the film in 2013, I didn’t expect the answer I found. Parts one and two in this series debunked these major criticisms of the film by examining what story Advent Children tells and how it tells that story through action. This leaves the question, why did it take twelve years to notice that this film portrays the opposite of what everyone says about it? If these criticisms don’t have merit, or are at most over-exaggerated, how did they originate? The dominantly negative reviews about Advent Children appear to spawn from its subtle and unconventional storytelling combined with misconceptions that it doesn’t have a meaningful story to begin with.
Advent Children frequently uses visual language, thematic imagery, and minimalist storytelling to convey its story and ideas. Movies communicate their stories visually through shot composition, lighting, costuming, video editing, and positioning of props and actors. These elements are called the film’s mise-en-scène. While films can also use verbal, written, and musical language to convey meaning, film theorists claim that as a visual medium, movies should tell their stories visually. Characters should speak less and do more. As a subscriber to this theory, Advent Children doesn’t always tell the audience what’s happening and what it means through dialog; it shows them through its mise-en-scène.
Sometimes Advent Children’s scenes seem more representative of the film’s themes and ideas than of what is actually happening. For example, the final scene in the movie where we see Cloud surrounded by orphans, townspeople, and friends, both dead and alive, after crashing through the roof of a church is ridiculous even in the world of Advent Children. This scene, however, represents Cloud’s reunion with his friends, his family, and the world. He has found happiness and is ready to accept life over his memories and thoughts of death. In an earlier scene, Cloud also finds himself in an equally ridiculous scenario. Menacing orphans surround him while Kadaj taunts him. It doesn’t make sense that orphans pose a threat to a super human like Cloud, but they represent his separation from the world and heighten the tone of helplessness in the scene. By isolating himself, Cloud’s made enemies out of the people he cares about in addition to having to fight his actual enemies and demons.
In general, Advent Children takes a minimalist approach to storytelling. It doesn’t repeat spoken information often. The film explains Jenova, Sephiroth, and materia only once, for example. It encourages viewing the film multiple times as opposed to spoon feeding an obvious tale that viewers can see once and completely understand. While the film shows us all the information we need to understand the story, it doesn’t always put it together. The characters don’t have extensive conversations to analyze the pieces and find meaning in the outcomes.
These storytelling methods as used by Advent Children and other artworks rely to some degree on the viewer’s analytic skills and personal experiences, which has strengths and weaknesses. Advent Children gives the audience the respect and space to put its clues together themselves and incorporate their own experiences with Final Fantasy VII and real life into the film. This allows viewers to create their own powerful connections to the work either because it reminds them of personal experiences or because finding meaning in it takes effort and feels rewarding. Minimal storytelling, however, also opens the possibility that viewers will interpret the work in unintended ways. For example, audiences can interpret Advent Children’s narrative as meaningless nonsense. Viewers also may not be able to find intended meanings in the work because they don’t have the required experiences. Someone who’s never played Final Fantasy VII, for example, won’t see the similarity between Kadaj’s relationship with Cloud and Cloud’s relationship with Sephiroth. Someone unfamiliar with mental illness might not see it in Advent Children or might interpret Cloud’s character as clichéd. This doesn’t mean, however, that they can’t find meaning in the work through other experiences and clues from the film. Telling a story in this way can also make it impenetrable for casual viewers. Advent Children has plenty of action and fan service at it surface, but it takes work to see that it’s not just mindless entertainment.
Advent Children also has some specific problems that make recognizing that it has meaning difficult. Its purely thematic imagery, for example, creates plot holes that can’t be filled so easily. The director’s cut Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete attempts to explain why the children and townspeople gather at the church at the end of the movie with an event even more ridiculous than the scene itself. Aerith, a dead woman, calls everyone on their cellphones, even the orphans, and tells them to go to the church… Similarly, Cloud’s apparent isolation in the final fight scene continues one of the film’s visual themes but doesn’t make sense in the story’s world, considering that his friends would never leave him to fight a worldwide threat on his own. Sometimes Advent Children withholds too much information as well. To a point, the director’s cut better explains Denzel and how he befriended Cloud, a character that struggles to display and accept affection.
Viewers can easily miss this visual and minimalist storytelling, especially if they have preconceptions that the work doesn’t contain meaning. Unfortunately, Advent Children has an association with three types of movies known for poor storytelling: fan service films, photorealistic CGI, and video game movies. Reviewers say that Advent Children is obviously a “fan service film.” This term has two meanings, depending on the reviewer using it. First, these films tell a story that only fans will understand and appreciate. Second, fan service films have a bad story that exists only to show fans what they want to see, most often battles between characters from the base material. This labeling suggests that people who haven’t played Final Fantasy VII before shouldn’t even attempt to find meaning in Advent Children. At the same time, fans of the game claim that Advent Children can’t contain a good story because it sequels an already complete one. It doesn’t have any more story to tell. They also claim that it exists only to sell Final Fantasy VII merchandise such as the Crisis Core and Dirge of Cerberus video games, which came out at about the same time. Therefore, it’s meaningless fan service and merchandising.
Critics don’t provide enough evidence that Advent Children is any of these things though, and it’s really not obvious. Some people, like myself, watch the film with little to no experience with Final Fantasy VII or even Final Fantasy and find it enjoyable and understandable. A majority of this review examines a story that has little to do with the game and exists entirely within the film. Fans have as much difficulty decoding the superficial geostigma-Jenova-Sephiroth story as non-fans do, and anyone can understand the parallel story about a guy struggling with his past. In fact, many Final Fantasy VII fans complain that the movie doesn’t contain enough fan service. The film spends more time on Denzel and Kadaj, characters that don’t exist in the game, than it does on the game’s playable characters. Additionally, the short battle with Sephiroth ends rather suddenly for a film that supposedly exists solely to create an excuse for the fight to happen. The film also doesn’t add anything new to the Final Fantasy VII universe. It opens with the message, “To those who loved this world and knew friendly company therein: this Reunion is for you,” but it simultaneously provides evidence that it’s not for fans only.
Advent Children seems more like a film that uses Final Fantasy VII as a medium to tell a story than a fan service film. It has elements that only fans can understand, but that doesn’t mean that everything else is incomprehensible. We don’t need Barret, Yuffie, and Cid’s backstory to understand that they’re Cloud’s friends and helped save the world two years ago, for example. The backstories clearly exist because these characters have distinguishing personalities. The movie simply chooses not to present the stories of its side characters and peripheral details like a lot of other movies choose to do.
“Fan service” can also mean gratuitous sex and violence. Advent Children features a cast of male characters that fit the pretty, sexy man stereotype found in many Japanese anime and relentless, sword-swinging action. When an anime doesn’t have anything interesting to say, it can resort to large-breasted women and effeminate men with partially open jackets and large swords to find an audience. Movies with these elements, however, can still have great stories and ideas to share. Hollywood has many pretty faces, but we don’t condemn all its movies as bad simply because the actors aren’t hideous. Fight Club isn’t critically acclaimed because it features Brad Pitt and two hours of men punching each other in the face. It tells an excellent story with an interesting commentary about life. Advent Children’s creators made the characters aesthetically pleasing (Who wants to look at butt ugly artwork?) but not radically different from their basic designs in the game. The film has a story and messages applicable to real life told through the action, pretty men, and Final Fantasy VII elements at its surface.
Reviewers have also classified Advent Children as photorealistic despite no one in the film looking like a real person. In the wake of Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within and The Polar Express, critics labeled Advent Children as yet another attempt at photorealism with a poor story. Unsurprisingly, critics complained that it didn’t look realistic enough. Characters don’t follow the real-world laws of physics, they don’t bleed, and the movie never tricks the audience into thinking that it’s live-action. No evidence suggests that Advent Children is or ever was meant to be photorealistic. The anime-influenced characters look too perfect and alien to be real. Like cutscenes in Final Fantasy games, Advent Children only presents the illusion of realism. The creators even state in The Making Of featurette that they didn’t want to make a photorealistic film. As co-director Takeshi Nozue says, “If it looked too real, then we might as well shoot it live.” Ignoring the laws of physics and not showing blood are stylistic and thematic choices that don’t affect the quality of the story. If we don’t expect Pixar films or video games to trick us into thinking that we’re watching real people, then we shouldn’t hold Advent Children to this standard either.
Finally, critics make claims about Advent Children simply because of its association with a video game. Video game movies generally don’t have great stories, but they can break this stereotype. Reviewers describe Advent Children as one long cutscene, which suggests that it doesn’t contain enough information on its own to tell a story. Everything about its story, its themes, and its characters except a few details in this analysis comes from the movie. Other reviewers have called Advent Children a series of cutscenes. This description just applies a video game term, cutscenes, to the elements that make up all movies, scenes. This metaphor doesn’t contain any information about whether the movie is good or bad. Some argue that the film can’t engage the audience because it’s not a video game. Depending on the gamer, cutscenes in games are either a reward or an annoyance, and Advent Children shows an hour and a half of beautiful visuals without requiring the player/viewer to do anything. It’s true, movies don’t reward strategic button pressing. The reward lies in finding meaning in their visuals and audio.
Advent Children defies all these descriptions and criticisms because it’s unlike anything ever created. Beowulf defines technology porn, a photorealistic spectacle brimming with graphic sex, gore, and violence. A series of cutscenes accurately describes .hack//G.U. Trilogy, a film obviously missing crucial explanation and character development that would usually occur during gameplay. Similarly, a long cutscene describes Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, a film that doesn’t even explain what problem its characters must solve because it’s in the game. Tekken: Blood Vengeance, a film that contains a ridiculous plot that ties together apparently pointless fight scenes between characters from the game, is one type of fan service film. .hack//Beyond the World, a film that loses itself in .hack lore without explaining why it matters to the protagonist, demonstrates another. Elysium (2003) shows what terrible but brief dialog combined with a terrible story looks like. Want to know what Advent Children would sound like had it explained everything in excruciating detail? Watch Ark (2005). Kaena: The Prophecy makes a sincere but novice attempt at using a video game world to tell a story, what Advent Children near perfects.
While Advent Children takes inspiration from Japanese anime and live-action films, it uses CGI to its full potential to tell a story in its own way. It doesn’t use cell shading to mimic hand-drawn 2D animation like Appleseed, nor does it try to mimic live-action like The Polar Express. It avoids the uncanny valley without severely deforming its heroes like A Christmas Carol does. It retains the illusion of realism and humanity even when the characters defy the laws of physics. It entertains without resorting to excessive sex or violence like Starship Troopers: Invasion or Sausage Party do. It’s an art film and drama disguised as an action movie. It tells a thoughtful and universal story through elements from a video game. It uses CGI’s strengths to create choreography, characters, environments, and camera work that would be extremely difficult to recreate in any other medium, but it doesn’t discard basic filmmaking and narrative techniques. It creates a visual spectacle but never forgets that first and foremost it must tell a story. In a fledgling art form that struggles to tell any kind of meaningful story outside of children’s entertainment, Advent Children is one of the most important CGI movies ever made.
Even with its uniqueness, Advent Children can still be judged and analyzed as a movie. It contains a story with characters, conflicts, and themes. It has spectacular battles as an action movie should, but it also conveys a meaningful narrative through its mise-en-scène both inside and outside the action scenes. While it has flaws, they don’t immediately discredit the film as a pointless visual spectacle.
Advent Children has never been treated as a work of art or even as a movie though. It’s viewed through the lens of fan service, visual spectacle, and video game bonus material. It’s judged as a bad movie because it doesn’t contain enough fan service, isn’t realistic enough, and is based on a video game. None of these complaints address whether Advent Children tells a thoughtful story that connects with viewers, uses filmmaking techniques effectively to convey meaning, or doesn’t do either. And that’s a shame. From what I’ve seen, Advent Children makes the best use of known filmmaking, storytelling, and animation techniques to tell a fantastic, mature, and human story through CGI out of all films in its class.
That’s why people love this movie. That’s why it never fails to make me smile. I no longer ask, “Why do I like Advent Children?” Now I ask, “Why shouldn’t I like it?” I hope you’ll ask these questions, too. The film could mean something different to you as a Final Fantasy VII fan or as a person than it does to me. If you don’t like Advent Children, I hope you, too, will ask yourself why. Is it genuinely a terrible movie, or does it just defy the expectations of some Final Fantasy VII fans and moviegoers? And, of course, if you’ve never seen it, watch it. Playing the game first is optional. Advent Children isn’t perfect, but it’s worthy of criticism and analysis. It has so much to say, and filmmakers have so much to learn from it.
What does Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children mean to you?
Back in November of last year there were murmurs of a partnership between Square Enix and Machine Zone Inc. (now MZ) to create an MMO mobile game within the Final Fantasy XV universe. In March, there was a soft launch for players in New Zealand. At that point, we learned the title of the game: Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire.
Without clear guidance from Square, fans were left a little confused about the game. For one thing, it looks like another team (possibly within the MZ family), Epic Action LLC, is working on the empire building game. Epic Action only has A New Empire in their Google Play and App Store catalog and it at least appears that a trademark for the company was filed for on March 31. And then there's that timeframe. March 31 and shortly after isn't really the prime time to announce new video games.
All of that being said, the game appears to be legit with pre-registration open now. There does appear to be at least two official links to pre-register though...
To cement the legitimacy of the game, a tweet from the Final Fantasy XV Twitter page was sent out on today. The "introduction" tweet is below and is accompanied by a link to the Twitter page for the game, and the official webpage for the game which is in Japanese. Square Enix did indeed retweet the message in question.
Speaking of the game itself, its description in the mobile stores describes it as the "largest open-world MMO in the series." Also, "Final Fantasy XV: A New Empire is a mobile adventure that lets you rewrite a favorite classic to fulfill your unique destiny."
What do you think of A New Empire? How do you think Square Enix is handling its expansion of the FFXV universe?
Today, it was announced that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered will be released as a standalone game. The wait will be short, as it comes out on June 27 for digital download and physical retail.
However, this date only pertains to the PlayStation 4. PC and Xbox One releases aren't off the table–the end of the launch trailer states "first on PS4" suggesting a release to more platforms in the future. The remaster will be in "true high-definition, featuring enhanced textures, rendering, [and] high-dynamic range lighting." Its price tag will be $39.99.
Originally, Call of Duty 4 released in 2007 to PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3. This is not the first release for the remaster, as it arrived last fall with a small caveat: players had to have Inifinite Warfare to run it. Simply put, in Activision's words, "you must own Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare in order to get Call of Duty: Modern Warfare Remastered."
What do you think about the remaster being released as a standalone? Should it have been released as such last year?
What if I told you that the developers who reintroduced “hella” back into modern lexicon were tackling a 20th century vampire action epic for their next game? You’d be forgiven for refusing to believe me, but it’s true. Dontnod, the same team behind the 2015 hit narrative adventure Life Is Strange, are taking to the streets of 1918’s vampire-infested London, complete with all the stabbing and bloodsucking that entails.
Developers from Dontnod gave a media-exclusive hands-off demo of Vampyr at E3 this year, showing off just how expansive their incarnation of London is and how its citizens will play a vital role in determining your fate as well as the city’s. You play as Jonathan Reid, a brooding doctor who quite literally moonlights as a recently-turned vampire. London is currently under siege from all ends, including a deadly flu virus and ravenous undead humans called the “Skal". Reid must work to find solutions to end both threats. Fixated on him, however, are an order of cutthroat vampire hunters nipping at his every step.
Our E3 demo began with Reid confronting his superior at his place of work, a London hospital. Reid is attempting to determine what caused a number of grisly deaths, only to stumble upon another vampire speaking with his boss. Reid’s boss is quick to remind them both that the hospital is sacred ground among London’s vampire clans, suggesting the game’s dialogue and action choices will carry consequences far and wide.
While searching for clues in the streets and alleys, Reid finds himself chatting with a suspiciously hostile man by the docks. It’s here that Dontnod shows off how his vampiric needs will twist each of London’s several districts and the people who reside there. The man is unwilling to cooperate with Reid’s investigation unless he can help him find his mother’s missing ring. It seems that she’s the only person this miserable grump loves, so in the interest of digging up clues, Reid searches the nearby dock.
Unfortunately, the misplaced ring isn’t the only thing we find underneath a tunnel entrance. There’s also a nice pile of dead bodies. Turns out our reluctant informant is a serial killer, and after meeting mother dearest, it’s clear the poor old lady has made peace with her son’s vicious ways by covering up for him.
Since you’re a vampire, you’ll need to feed off of at least a few of London’s residents to grow in power so you can defend yourself from the hunters. While the obvious choice might be to take out our murdering friend, it’s actually his mother’s blood that’s much higher in quality, and thus grants more experience points to channel into abilities. Dontnod makes the call to end the woman’s existence and reap the rewards. After assimilating her blood by sleeping the day away, we get a chance to see the results of our handiwork, and it isn’t pretty. Mr. serial killer’s home is trashed, with the man in question brooding in the bedroom about all the revenge he’s going to exact on the city. Dontnod informs us that other effects of our actions will include different market prices for items, more undead in the underground and dark corners of the city, increased crime, and a higher murder rate for NPCs.
Dontnod also took some time to show off combat, and how you’ll mix traditional fisticuffs and bladework with vampiric bloodsucking. On a more surface level, it mirror’s Batman: Arkham’s third-person punching and dodging, with a bit of teleportation ala Dishonored’s blink ability. Enemies have health bars above their heads, so you’ll know exactly how close they are to death, but if you’re feeling a little aggressive, you can also magically sap blood straight from their skin to recharge your abilities and health. It’s inventive enough, especially once your blood bar is filled to allow some gory finishing moves. Reid eventually performed a finisher that teleported his form into the body of an enemy, tearing him apart from the inside before teleporting back to watch the ensuing explosion. I just hope it doesn’t feel like a weightless mash-a-thon in the final product. Part of Batman’s thrill was feeling every bone crunch. It only makes sense that actual bloodsuckers have as much force behind their punches, too.
Vampyr won’t be the first action game Dontnod tackles (2013’s Remember Me saw to that), but their proclivity for taking risks, along with excellent characters and world-building give the game a solid foundation to move forward on. It remains to be seen if the experience will translate to a full open world with side quests and other minutia to tackle, but this will definitely be one shadow to watch over your shoulder for in the future.
Vampyr is available this November for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.
Noclip, a YouTube channel focusing on crowd-funded video game documentaries, has produced an in-depth series looking at the development history Final Fantasy XIV.
This first of three installments gives a great look at the MMORPG's early history, particularly development on the 1.0 version of the game. Interviews with key designers speak about how Final Fantasy XI's design served as a blueprint, and how the development team responded to Final Fantasy XIV's initial backlash, leading to a new team coming in to completely overhaul the game into A Realm Reborn.
In the past, Noclip has produced fascinating videos detailing the development of titles such as the new Doom, Rocket League, and The Witness. If you're interested in learning not just how games are made, but the personal stories behind the designers who craft them, the channel is well worth checking out.
In Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, players must not only confront worldly adversaries but the trials of the mind. Senua suffers from schizophrenia, and during her journey to Hell to save her lover, her psychotic episodes manifest into surreal, sometimes terrifying forms that blur the line between dream and reality.
Developer Ninja Theory released a new trailer highlighting such a scenario. Is the horrific entity in the trailer real or another fabrication of Senua's psychosis? Check out the video and decide for yourself.
Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice arrives digitally to PlayStation 4 and PC on August 8.
The potential for the Hololens was recently showcased by a fan creation. Abhishek Singh recreated the infamous World 1-1 from Super Mario Bros. using the Unity 3 engine and then tried it out in a very public location: Central Park in New York City.
Singh donned the very famous plumber's iconic outfit and a headset to walk the level in real life.
Goombas and green pipes sprawled out on the trail. Although Singh walked around some of the articles, he still jumped for mushrooms, stomped Goombas and leaped over trippy looking gaps. When consuming the mushrooms, the world shrank in reaction.
People in the area didn't seem too concerned about a real-life Mario hopping around. This could be viewed as a small experiment in augmented reality's impact in real life perhaps?
What retro games should be made in augmented reality? Would you play the Hololens in public?
Who would've thought that Quake was a millennial? The seminal first-person shooter celebrates its 21st birthday today as its official release date was June 22, 1996.
Quake has seen many games in the franchise since that initial release date. Nowadays, Bethesda is in charge and 2017 will even see a new game, Quake Champions. The last core game released under the Quake banner before Champions was Quake 4 which came out in 2005.
Quake Champions was announced at E3 2017 and will feature multiplayer combat. During E3 2017, it got a new gameplay trailer that highlighted the competitive esports aspect of the game as well as the upcoming QuakeCon which will run from August 24-27.
Did you play Quake back in the day? Will you play it today to celebrate?
Beyond Good and Evil 2 made a comeback during the Ubisoft E3 2017 conference with a trailer confirming its continued development. On June 22 we got a behind-the-scenes look at the demo that ran at E3.
The just under 15-minute video shows early in-engine footage as it's being described by Creative Director Michel Ancel.
Ancel shows off some mechanics as well as the scale of a couple of ships in comparison to the size of one of the new main characters, a chimpanzee named Knox. Scale was a huge focus (pun intended) in the demo. Ancel took Knox to the 700-meter tall statue next to the already enormous space ships and then zoomed out to give the viewer a different vantage point. He then zoomed out to the atmosphere and then to space to showcase the enormity of the world the team is building.
There isn't a release date for the game, but there is a community called the Space Monkey Program that fans can join to get info on the game as it comes out.
Sales can get any gamer excited, but Steam Sales are of a whole different caliber. The Steam Summer Sale is officially underway and will last until July 5. Prices for everything indie as well as AAA get significant cuts as high as 85 percent off.
Perennial best-seller Grand Theft Auto V is 50 percent off at $29.99, Nier: Automata is 30 percent off at $41.99. What appears to be the best deal is Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor Game of the Year Edition–$3.99 after an 80 percent price cut.
Franchise-wide sales are also taking place with Call of Duty titles being 0 to 50 percent off, the same goes for Final Fantasy titles.
With the sales come the crowds and some users are experiencing issues with Steam itself. "Sorry, the Steam Store is experiencing some heavy load right now. Please try again later," one such error states.
The hashtag #SteamSummerSale is ahem, picking up steam on Twitter. It's highly recommended (maybe when you encounter an error page) to peruse the various memes the tag has to offer.
On August 29th, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One owners can experience the spiritual successor to Baldur's Gate, Pillars of Eternity.
Pillars of Eternity: Complete Edition will include all released patches and DLC. That includes the two-part expansion The White March, which launched earlier this year. Obsidian has updated the game for controller play, including a revamped, TV-friendly user interface and menus.
Check out the trailer for the Complete Edition below.
Did you miss out on Pillars of Eternity on PC? Let us know if you'll pick up the console version in the comments below.