Tonight on VS: internet phenomenon Egoraptor vs the great destructor known as Advanced Placement English courses!
One thing I’ve noticed over the past two and a half years of being in college is that my grades are better than they’ve been since middle school. Wait, what? I haven’t gotten below a B+ in a college course, yet I got Bs like they were candy in high school. It’s a pretty well known fact that my high school was, in general, kind of psychotic. Things were hard dude, and we were offered more AP classes than we knew what to do with. I literally took more college credits in my last year of high school than I have in most college semesters, and yet the results turned out worse than they would in the future.
These classes were frustrating. It was hard to get into a groove and tell if you were doing it right. All of them led up to a corresponding AP Exam, which, just like in real college, all had a different format depending on the class. This meant that naturally, you had to learn how to do five different versions of the same thing. A five paragraph essay was way different in AP Economics than it was in AP History, and don’t even get me started on AP English. Well, you don’t have to since I’m about to tackle that one.
See, AP English was amongst the most annoying and frustrating of these courses, particularly because, since about the third grade, I’d never run into any issues with my writing. Hell, I considered writing one of my strong suits. And then came AP English’s style of essays and analysis, where my abilities seem to fluctuate more wildly than opinions about The Trilogy. Sometimes I got really good scores, other times I got really bad scores. It’s a few years later now and my gained wisdom can still give me no insight as to how my shortcomings in those classes were my fault beyond not memorizing the novel I was writing about in its entirety.
The prompts were always highfalutin and specific. It looked for answers while telling you that there wasn’t a right one. The questions tended to make you want to shoehorn ideas and concepts into novels that weren’t really there. Plus they were only five paragraphs long and you only had 25 minutes to write them…which is complete and utter bullshit because when the hell else are you EVER going to have to write something in that short amount of time? Are they PREPARING you to procrastinate in college? I mean, in that case, useful.
At the end of the day, you hated whatever novel or topic you were writing about because the questions didn’t allow you to say what you wanted to about it. Your limited knowledge of literature may have prevented you from giving as much personal insight as you thought you could. I always just found those things really limiting and forced, even though you could talk about any book you wanted within the realm of appropriateness. That was another thing that bugged me and everyone else about the class. We were always writing about books written by dead or old people. They were stories we couldn’t relate to, and things we may have only come to like by chance. It always seemed stuck up to me that what we read and wrote about had to be meritorious in some way. That was the quintessential student complaint back then.
Fast forward like three years. Revdrfunk now has a blog where he pulls apart various movies, games, and songs in his spare time. Wait, what? I thought he HATED arbitrarily analyzing shit. Well, it’s probably the case that that was never the case. I always liked to write, and I always liked to think about things. There are a few noticeable differences between what I do now and what I did then. I’m not constrained by time or length, and I can choose my topic, so it eliminates all of those student gripes I had before then. Lately I’ve been noticing that, in spirit, my analyses aren’t so different from the ones I was asked to do in AP English. So how does that work?
Well, about this time last year I came across a video by Egoraptor, a well known internent Flash animator with a penchant for video game parody. The video was Sequelitis: Mega Man vs Mega Man X, and it broke down, point by point, the things that made Mega Man X such a good video game. The crazy thing about it is that it makes you laugh the whole way through. Egoraptor’s over the top voice overs and blazing pace made the whole thing entertaining and fun, all the while bringing up concepts of game design, and how everything in the industry has changed over time. I ate that video up, watching and quoting it endlessly, and that zany style has become something I emulate constantly here on my blog.
What took me a very long time to notice, however, was that there was something vaguely familiar about this whole thing. Egoraptor’s video had an introduction, three points, and a conclusion. He used words like “theming,” and “conveyance,” and talked about how the player was made to feel. Somehow, despite being a high school dropout, Egoraptor had managed to write something that was scarily similar to an AP essay about a 16 bit video game.
I digress, I pretty much made this connection TODAY, and it blows my mind. It answers a lot of questions about why I started doing things Egoraptor-style. I can definitively say that I’ve learned more about analyzing things and expressing myself than I ever did in an AP English class. In fact, I’m pretty convinced that Sequelitis should be SHOWN in AP English classes as an example of how analysis doesn’t have to be boring and forced, and to the AP curriculum writers to show that ANYTHING has merit to be analyzed, not just things you’ve read. Mega Man X isn’t even a story heavy game, and yet Egoraptor shows expertise in picking apart how the designers used certain techniques and tropes to make a certain effect on the player (by the way, TV Tropes is something else they should teach in English classes). It was just awesome to be how he was able to take something like that and present it in a way I hadn’t thought of before. Sequelitis isn’t a review that’s bent on labeling the game with some number, it’s an analysis of the elements of the game that makes it successful as an object of its medium.
Sequelitis taught me that the idea that ANYTHING can be analyzed in any way was absolutely correct, almost down to the time and format. Sure, you’ll probably never see me finish an essay in less than 25 minutes or five paragraphs, but oddly enough a lot of them turn out like those essays except I actually enjoy writing things like that, and I think a lot of the time they’re more entertaining, poignant, and far more successful than any of the things I wrote in those college-level courses. We also get the added bonus of supporting the idea that everything has merit. Every story, every presentation, every medium can be broken down into its parts and give us insight into storytelling as a whole.
While I don’t always agree with Egoraptor and sometimes find him a little too negative (especially on Game Grumps), I can’t deny that his Sequelitis videos are expertly crafted, and deserve all of the views, comments, and praise they get. It’s not that they’re actually that mind-blowing or intellectually profound, it’s just that they extend this arcane analysis into the world of everyday thinking about something that isn’t spared that kind of thought. They both teach and manage to be fun. They have that special kind of flow where you’re learning little things or being encouraged to think in new ways without actually knowing that it’s going on. So while some of his logic is indeed flawed by personal opinion and negativity (the ending bit in his Castlevania video comes to mind), it’s important to note what he brings to the table.
I love that this high class construct that is AP English can be foiled by some independent video on the internet. I really do like that idea. It backs up all of those high school level complaints and gripes by showing us it CAN be done. Sequelitis has spawned many imitators, and I’m always bringing up how I try to emulate that style in my writing. It only seldom works because I can’t force you to read this in his voice, but the idea of the style is always there, and for good reason. Egoraptor not only writes a piece that effectively conveys his points and views, he manages to make it massively entertaining, and that is what truly makes it a cut above.