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Higher Learning. A publication from Medium for the interested man.


In LEVEL. More on Medium.

It’s bigger than drow elves and trolls. The cult classic board game’s recent shakeup evokes how oppressors retain the status quo.

Photo Source: Getty Images

When I was around 10 years old, on an otherwise unremarkable Saturday afternoon at the Main Library in Downtown Columbus, Ohio, I had my life changed.

I was walking through the children’s area when I saw a large group of kids seated around two tables that had been pushed together. Sheets of paper covered every surface and everyone had their own set of weird candy-like dice. A young man older than the rest of the group sat at the head of the table with a cardstock screen standing in front of him, hiding hand-drawn maps on graph paper and several…

Just Rankin’ Sh!t


Photo Illustration: Save As/Medium; Source: Mortal Kombat / WB Games

7. Johnny Cage’s decapitation

Always the cocky asshole, Cage winds up and lands an uppercut so devastating it knocks his opponent’s domepiece clean off — then reaches behind him and whips out a pair of stunna shades, David Caruso-style. “Guess the perp… lost their head,” you can almost hear him say.

When you’ve got your enemy teetering on the brink of unconsciousness, are you gonna help them out of the ring — or are you gonna rip your mask off to expose a grinning skull, then spit fire at their feet until they go up in a gout of flame? The first one, we…

While the real world is stalled out and spiraling, we’re busy leveling up

Original illustration by Oakland School for the Arts student, Vinh Truong

Whiteness, it seems, has a monopoly on all things.

It’s no surprise in the real world, but Whiteness is also in the distant reaches of our most imaginative galaxies. And that’s frightening.

In too many fictional worlds, the idea of being a Black space pioneer or Brown wizard is inconceivable — even when we’re able to suspend our disbelief around intergalactic travel or riding bareback on dragons.

We’ve all seen a White man with a gray beard as a sorcerer. But when’s the last time you saw an Indigenous spell caster in a U.S. fiction context? I’d have to go…


Deal or no deal?

Photo illustration; source: Hannah Yelverton/Getty Images

6. Go Fish

This is, like, one of the first games you learn. If you don’t know this one, we’re sincerely sorry that you were robbed of your childhood.

This loner classic moves up three slots on this list if you were an only child. How the hell else did you entertain yourself?

If there’s gonna be some Earth, Wind & Fire playing at the kickback, best believe there will also be a table set up for Tonk. (This especially applies to Southern functions.) …

Just Rankin’ Sh!t

No, YOU’RE salty and bitter that you couldn’t get your hands on the new console!

Photo: Hello I’m Nik/Unsplash

5. ‘MTV Music Generator’

This 1998 classic — a music maker that had nothing to do with the cable network MTV — was the coldest idea game studio Jester Interactive ever came up with. Legends like TDE’s Sounwave cut their teeth on it, and budding producers everywhere got to try new ideas for a low cost.

A needle dropping on a vinyl record. Sliding a tape into a VCR. And pulling a game disc out of the package knowing without a shadow of a doubt that it was a finished experience. No patches, no constantly refreshing calendar of downloadable content. Just… the game. …

Who needs a weapon when you are a weapon?

Balrog (left) and TJ Combo (right) from ‘Street Fighter’ and ‘Killer Instinct.’ Photo: Capcom

When I was young, I was a big fan of the original Killer Instinct games.

My favorite character was Glacius, a powerful being made of ice. You could turn his hands into weapons or melt down to a puddle, reemerging with an uppercut to opponents. Other characters in the game were the sword-wielding warrior monk Jago; Sabrewulf and Riptor, a werewolf and fighting raptor; Spinal, a skeletal soldier; and a brutal cybernetic soldier named Fulgore.

There was also TJ Combo. Though this boxing champion has one of the illest Ultra combos in fighting game history, he seemed a bit mundane…

Just Rankin’ Sh!t


Image: Capcom

6. Birdie

The British punk brawler started off life as a (nonplayable) White dude in the original Street Fighter, but later chalked up his pale skin to having been sick — because, in the spinoff Alpha series, he’s been a cockney-accent-having bruv partial to headbutts and chain attacks. But since we can’t have nice things, Street Fighter V then turned him into an obese Caucasian who eats during fights. What part of the game is that?

5. Sean Matsuda

Okay, so lil homie has a Japanese father and his Brazilian mom is light-skinned — but between his locs and his skin, it’s all too clear…

The therapeutic effects of post-pandemic meal-prepping

Still from ‘Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.‘ Source: Nintendo

The TV plays a live recording of existential dread; 24-hour coronavirus coverage plays as my partner and I take part in what we call our “doom-scroll” of Twitter. It’s an angsty routine. There are only a few moments of the day when our anxiety ebbs — when we cook and eat, and when we play The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. We bought the video game three weeks before France went under lockdown to slow the spread of coronavirus infections. …

The popular game is a balm for my depression. It couldn’t have come at a better time.

A photo of a Nintendo Switch menu. “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” is highlighted.
A photo of a Nintendo Switch menu. “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” is highlighted.
Photo: Felipe Vieira via Unsplash

This morning I woke up and left my house.

I gleefully checked my mailbox and found that I had received some packages I ordered, some letters of kindness from my neighbors, and a few unexpected presents from friends far away. I took in the morning sun as I left my house and walked the path to the middle of town; there were things I needed to buy, errands to run. New flowers bloomed from the day before, and the sound of morning crickets greeted me. …


Higher Learning. A publication from Medium for the interested man.

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