ROLE PLAYGROUND | Does Persona 5 have too much to do?

Content is super important.

Most modern games boast lots and lots of content.
Assassin’s Creed Origins had 60 hours of it! People still play games like Skyrim and Fallout 4 and continue to rack up days and days and days worth of playtime. Unfortunately, a lot of times these games lack any real substance in all of this content. You’re stuck with useless fetch quests and annoying radiant quests that you repeat over and over again.

Up until I played
Persona 5, I could count on my hand how many content heavy games provided and complete experience. That’s not always the worst thing – after all, not everybody can be CD Projekt. But it does make games with real, in depth content a pleasant surprise. And that’s almost what I want to call Persona 5: A pleasant surprise. But, I’m not sure if it totally delivers – especially after playing through so many hours and still not being finished!

It’s crazy. This game is crazy.


The game’s title card!


Persona 5 is a huge game with a very long, linear story. You start as a new student at Shujin Academy in Tokyo. After a mysterious app appears on your phone, you enter a strange new world dominated by the twisted desires of the people around you. Throughout the game you meet various people who are being taken advantage of by oppressive, tyrannical adults – eventually forming The Phantom Thieves of the Heart. With you ever expanding team, you fight against these evil adults’ inner selves and change them for the better. But, you can’t get away with it forever, especially with nearly everyone from your principle to the police hot on your tail.


There’s a lot of good here – most of the game is practically perfect. The characters are well-written, dynamic, and fun to play with. The setting seems typical, until you get to the very first Palace (a mental manifestation of a person’s twisted desire). Honestly, you could fill a book with all the good, but I’m going to try and focus on some key points that I felt really stood out as I played through this monster.

It’s very rare for me to like every single main character in a game – and even rarer for me to want to play as all characters in said game. Persona 5 manages to create characters that have such personal, intimate problems and make the game about these characters finding strength in overcoming those problems. This forces the player to identify with them in a specific way, each time they are introduced.

The beautiful, the amazing Ann Takamaki


The best example of this is Ann Takamaki, a popular girl in school, who is a model and perceived as a well rounded girl on the outside. But, the more you get to know her, you find out about the dark secrets that haunt her, as well as Shujin Academy. These inner demons define her character, and the game makes sure that you see her struggles. I can’t reveal too much about what happens, but it’s dark, shocking, and very real.

This realness makes her eventual acceptance of herself and her act of rebellion all the more sweet. In the first Palace of the game, you find Ann. She has been captured and you don’t know if you’re going to save her. Then, she steps up to the plate. She yells at her aggressor – and unleashes her Persona, Carmen.

For those unfamiliar with the Persona franchise, Persona are manifestations of characters’ mental state at the time. Each Persona game’s Personas represent something different. In Persona 5, they represent the characters’ want to rebel against the oppressive outside forces that seek to control them. I haven’t spent too much time playing the other Persona games (for now), but I have been assured by forces that each one is pretty different.

Other than astounding characters, I really want to talk about the dynamic battle system. It’s turn-based, which usually turns me off, but the game devs really made a point to refresh the typical (and boring) staple of the genre. The battle menu is fun, the movement works, and there is a lot of variety in what the characters can do. They can do a regular melee attack, shoot a character-specific gun, and cast spells in the form of the various Persona that you collect as you play through the game. You also have a very interesting ability to “hold up” your opponents and hit them up for cash, do a massive attack, or command them to join your team.

It’s just really, really fun! I love it so much! I played this game for fifteen hours straight, and I never got tired of fighting – unless I kept on dying, which is just me not taking losing well.

Again, I can go on and on about all of the good in this game. So, I’m going to give you some bullet points really quick:

  • The setting is also primo – each Palace is different, and filled with new challenges.
  • The side characters are also mostly dynamic, and if you take the time to talk to them, you will be treated to a lot of great story and world building.
  • It does a really good job in showing what it’s like to be a teenager in a world that seems to be dominated by adults who don’t care about them. It’s beautiful to see these kids fighting back. Why? Because that’s the kind of world we live in now.


You, going through your day.


There’s a few things I have a problem with in this game. The main issue has to be with just how much you can do in this game. This sounds strange, but it’s definitely valid. Most of the time – takes people between 80-120 hours to complete this MONSTER. And, a lot of times, it felt excessive.

Persona 5 depends on social links and interaction on top of battle and leveling up. Through these social links, you can unlock different types of Peronas, perks for your party member, etc. Social interactions such as working and studying also increase the character’s statistics – which matters a lot depending on who you talk to. It’s intricate, and it plays a large part in the game. On most days, you won’t even fight. You’ll just go and talk to someone, and assist them in some way. Or you go shopping, or you study at a café.

It’s very interesting to see a game focus so much on the social aspect. In modern RPGs, we see a lot of this social side of things in regards to other characters – usually companions or important NPCs (faction leaders, etc). But Persona 5 takes it to a whole new level, to the point where most of the game is about improving your character’s social standing with various – often times random – people that he meets throughout Tokyo.

Now, why is this an issue? You see, there are nine playable characters in this game. And then there are numerous side characters – most of these side characters have specific arcana attached to them. This arcana is a way to identify monsters and persona that you catch. And you increase in these specific arcana, you get benefits and buffs inside the Palaces.

the calendar used in the game


If you want to get all of these social links, you have to work really hard to get Personas that have all of their corresponding arcana. Plus, there is a whole other Palace called Mementos that you explore and fight mini-bosses to boost your status with the people of Tokyo. There’s so much that it’s overwhelming, and often times it’s hard to keep track of what you need to do.

To make a truly great game, I feel like there needs to be a level balance in the content you’ve produced. And Persona 5 has a lot of astounding content, but it feels like it’s just packed way to full in this game. It pains me to say it, but sometimes there is such a thing as too much to do.


Now, my only real criticism with this game is the fact that it has too much content. That’s not the worst thing that a game could have going for it, and other people may not feel the same as I do. Some people like to have a game where they can get lost in it – and I do enjoy those games most of the time. But by the time you’re 60 hours into Persona 5, you definitely start to feel a little fatigue. I dare say you could even grow tired of it, because no matter how dynamic the game is – it can still get boring.

Everyone should play it, because it’s a beautiful, beautiful game. It’s story is intricate and fun, as are the characters. It just has A LOT going on.

Shann Smith is a lover of video games and has played games since he could hold a controller. He is a freelance writer, playwright, screenwriter, and also writes the Video Gay-Mer column on Popdust! If you have any games you’d like him to unpack, hit him up!


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Reflecting on the Life and Music of Shane MacGowan after turning 60 this Christmas

The bonds that his music has forged will only grow stronger with time.

Shane MacGowan will be honored at the National Concert Hall on January 15th, with a long line of celebrities eagerly anticipating this momentous event. On Monday night, the NCH rolls out the red carpet to celebrate MacGowan’s 60th birthday. He lived hard, but the songs he wrote hit home. Considering his life of excess, it is amazing he has lived as long as he has. An enigma. A God among men. Even if he doesn’t outlive Kieth Richards, it is clear his songs will continue to capture the hearts of music lovers long after Shane is gone.

Produced and curated in collaboration with Shane, this concert sees his collaborators, friends, artists who admire his work and those who have been influenced by him come together to sing these great songs. Joining them are a newly created band naturally featuring members of The Pogues led by Musical Director Terry Edwards. Hosted by John Kelly. Some of the big names to participate are Nick Cave, Johnny Depp, Bobby Gillespie of Primal Scream, Glen Hansard, Camille O’Sullivan, Cerys Matthews, Carl Barat of The Libertines, Lisa O’Neill, Finbar Furey, when young, Glen Matlock of The Sex Pistols, Clem Burke of Blondie with Cáit O’Riordan, Spider Stacy, Jem Finer and Terry Woods of The Pogues. MacGowan is recognized as much for the poetry of his lyrics as for the power in his songwriting.

MacGowan was born on Christmas Day in Pembury, Kent in 1957. His father worked at a department store, but he shared more in common with his mother. She was a singer and Irish dancer, having also worked as a model in Dublin. After MacGowan earned a literature scholarship to Westminster School, but he was caught with drugs and expelled after less than two years.

MacGowan got his first taste of fame in 1976 at a concert by British punk band The Clash, when his earlobe was damaged by Jane Crockford, later to be a member of Mo-dettes. A photo of him covered in blood made the papers, with the headline “Cannibalism at Clash Gig”. He then began “The Nipple Erectors”. In 1981 the post-punk band, now called “The Nips”, released a single called Gabrielle, its swagger and edgy romantic lyrics gave the first inkling of what was to come.

In 1982, The Pogues were formed! A Celtic punk band that was fronted by Shane MacGowan. Their politically tinged music was influenced by MacGowan and Stacy’s punk roots, but used traditional Irish instruments. Many of his songs are influenced by Irish nationalism, Irish history, and MacGowan’s experiences in London. He attributes 19th-century Irish poet James Clarence Mangan and playwright Brendan Behan as major influences.

Between 1985 and 1987, he co-wrote “Fairytale of New York“, which he performed with Kirsty MacColl. In the coming years MacGowan and The Pogues released several albums. The band was most active in the 1980s and early 1990s. As with many prolific song writers, his addiction got the better of him. MacGowan was forced to leave the band in 1991 due to his problems with drinking. The long years of indulgence had dulled both his songwriting skill and ability to perform.

In 1997, MacGowan appeared on Lou Reed‘s “Perfect Day“, covered by numerous artists in aid of Children in Need. It was the UK’s number one single for three weeks, in two separate spells.

On Monday evening, his miraculous powers of survival, will be recognized, as a host of fellow performers including Gillespie, Nick Cave and Cerys Matthews will grace the stage in Dublin to sing his songs backed by a band that will include a few ex-Pogues as well as the Hollywood actor Johnny Depp on guitar. Like Cave, Depp is a close friend of MacGowan’s who directed and appeared in the video for That Woman’s Got Me Drinking, and considers Shane “… a special being and one of the most important poets of the 20th century”.

“I regard Shane as easily the best lyric writer of our generation,” says Nick Cave. “He has a very natural, unadorned, crystalline way with language. There is a compassion in his words that is always tender, often brutal, and completely his own.”

“Shane always seems to be channelling something when he sings,” says Cave. “Some kind of energy that exists beyond himself. I saw him at a soundcheck at a festival in France, and he walked up to the mike and stood with his hands in his pockets and sang A Pair Of Brown Eyes, and for the few of us that were there time stood still. There was so much emotional power coming out of him, without him doing a fucking thing, that you had to question your ideas of divinity.” 5 hours later, though, MacGowan was unfit to perform. “That is the other side of him, of course,” says Cave. “But we love that too.”

It has been a long time since MacGowan played a live show. Partially due to the fact he is in a wheelchair most of the time, after a heavy fall damaged his back a few years ago. He is currently focused on his health, so he has given up alcohol …and is now committed to only drinking wine.

Listen to this classic album on Spotify and think of the poetic ‘Punk of Irish’ that just couldn’t help himself, and yet somehow he has survived.

Follow The Pouges & Shane MacGowan

Dan Victor is editor of Popdust and producer of Popdust Presents. He is also a music producer, bassist for Low Profile (live hip hop) & The Coldpress (indie rap) and front-man for Ductape Halo (indie rock). Follow on Youtube.

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Five of our most anticipated releases of 2018

It’s 2018. It’s a new year of blank slates, blank canvases, and eagerly awaiting the next round of fresh new sounds from artists who have been MIA, somewhere in recording studios.

That’s not to say 2017 didn’t bring us some serious artistry (and now overplayed loops), though. With a year that was made up of powerful political punches (DAMN. by Kendrick Lamar), understanding the times and trials of young women of color (CTRL by SZA), and getting to know the difference between being alone and being lonely (Flower Boy by Tyler the Creator), there was a lot of moving self-discovery, personal realizations, and the growing pains of growing another year wiser. That’s why, despite the troubled times, we’re looking into this year with hope and optimism, knowing that the music that is created out of a deeply political time is all what we need to keep moving forward.

We’ve compiled a list of some of our most anticipated releases, all due out sometime this year.

Arctic Monkeys – ‘TBA’

After years of anticipation, Arctic Monkeys just announced their first live gig in more than four years at this year’s Firefly Music Festival. The English band has been MIA, working on album no. 6, with resounding confirmations from varying sources (including the band’s own Nick O’Malley, with an article from For The Ride stating “Nick found time for the track day before recording began on the eagerly anticipated sixth album, started at a secret location in September. The new album will be out next year because ‘if it isn’t, we’ve got problems'”). Besides their confirmed appearance this June, it seems like we don’t know much else, but it also seems like it won’t stay that way for long.

MGMT – ‘Little Dark Age’

When psych duo MGMT released their first confirmed single “Little Dark Age” earlier this year, we were seriously impressed by it’s new direction – the goth grittiness, which features vocalist Andrew VanWynGarden lamenting “I grieve in stereo / the stereo sounds strange / I know that if you hide it doesn’t go away”, sounds just as new and refreshing with each loop. Since then, the band has released supporting singles “When You Die” and “Hand It Over”, with confirmations that the record will feature collaborations with Ariel Pink and Connan Mockasin. “We felt like we had reached a flow, it was the sort of chemistry, the kind of magic feeling we had when we started the band,” said Ben Goldwasser. Release date is still TBA, but the New Yorker suggests it will drop sometime in February.

Cardi B – ‘TBA’

Ever since the booming summer success of “Bodak Yellow”, Cardi B has become a household name. What everyone’s been wanting to know? What she’ll do next. Her upcoming debut LP has been topic of much conversation, with many questioning if it can live up to it’s own hype. However, with the recent release of “Bartier Cardi”, you can rest assured that Cardi still has a lot of bars to spit and just as much money to flex. In her cover story with Rolling Stone, she discussed in-depth what the process has been like. “I got six, seven solid songs that I like, but I wonder if a month from now, I’m going to change my mind. It’s not as fun to do music,” she says. “My mind doesn’t flow as free ’cause I have so much on my mind.”

My Bloody Valentine – ‘TBA’

My Bloody Valentine, having only three albums under their belt since 1988, still know how to keep us on our toes. While no exact details are confirmed, the band has been hard at work in the studio, having said that their next effort will likely be seven or eight tracks and expected to clock in around 40 minutes. “In some respects, some of it is a bit straightforward. The MBV album that we did in 2013 feels more meandery and not as concise. This one is like if somebody took that and dropped some acid on it or created a dimensional clash or something. It’s more all over the place… The record I am making now is not so much about death and change as freedom of the soul,” Kevin Shields told Rolling Stone.

Interpol – ‘TBA’

You’ve seen Interpol tour their debut album Turn On The Bright Lights for it’s 15th anniversary extensively. So what gives? While the release date is yet to be confirmed, it’s safe to say that a new record is underway, as they’ve been performing a new and shiny track by the name of “Real Life.” Interpol last delivered one of the most exciting albums of 2014 with El Pintor, so we’re eagerly awaiting what comes next.

Vanessa is a music and culture writer. Follow her on twitter.

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Kendrick Lamar and SZA drop a new banger “All the Stars”

Record label mates Kendrick Lamar and SZA have dropped a fresh take titled “All the Stars”, according to Top Dawg Entertainment.

The track is a part of the soundtrack for the upcoming and highly anticipated Marvel film Black Panther, which Lamar and Top Dawg Entertainment president Anthony Tiffith will be overseeing selection of songs for the film as well as other means of collaboration – “All the Stars” was created specifically for the film. Black Panther, which is set to be directed by Ryan Coogler (best known for his 2015 film Creed), is easily one of the most anticipated films of the year. “Marvel Studios’ Black Panther is amazing, from its cast to its director,” Lamar said in a press release. “The magnitude of this film showcases a great marriage of art and culture. I’m truly honored to contribute my knowledge of producing sound and writing music alongside Ryan [Coogler] and Marvel’s vision.”

All the Stars is quite a gift from the two Grammy-nominated artists. Lamar kicks off the adrenaline-pumping beat with a verse like, “”Tell me what you gon’ do to me / Confrontation ain’t nothin’ new to me / You can bring a bullet, bring a sword, bring a morgue / But you can’t bring the truth to me.” SZA adds to the flow by singing her own infectiously catchy chorus: “This may be the night that my dreams might let me know / All the stars are closer, all the stars are closer.” It’s a light and triumphant ode to love overcoming all, as per usual with major motion pictures. This is a notable move from the universe of Marvel, which isn’t usually known for it’s emphasis on music curation – however, who better to pick then Lamar and SZA themselves?

Other powerful artists who curated the soundtrack for a major picture, who have paved the way for how to do it successfully, include Jay-Z for Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby – which included a hauntingly eerie track, “Young and Beautiful” by Lana Del Rey, that was stuck in just about everyone’s head in 2013. Pharrell is also known for his work for 2015’s Dope, which had a focus on 90’s hiphop and gems from Nas and A Tribe Called Quest. Solange Knowles, who is not a newcomer to this ballpark whatsoever, was a consultant handpicked by Issa Rae for her highly successful show Insecure, which also broke some gems like “Just Sayin/I Tried” by the Internet onto the big screen. Not to mention – who can forget the highly successful – and highly marketed – star-studded soundtrack for the Hunger Games, which featured gems by Lorde, CHVRCHES, and Tinashe?

Black Panther: the Album will feature 14 songs and will be released on February 9. Until then, we’ll be keeping this song on loop.

courtesy of Movieweb

Vanessa is a music and culture writer. Follow her on twitter.

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Top 10 | Popdust’s Most Anticipated Video Games of 2018

2017 was a rough year for just about everything, but those are the perfect conditions for creating amazing art, and, yes, video games are art (even you, Call of Duty). Although it’s hard to predict the indie gems and breakout success stories that often come to define a year’s zeitgeist, like PUBG did for 2017, here are some of the best titles you can look forward to playing (and reading about on Popdust Gaming) in 2018.

While these games may have release dates that are touch-and-go, you can expect to find these in your gaming library soon enough.

Kingdom Hearts III

Playstation Exclusive

Back at it again with the keybladeDisney / Square Enix

Saying “Kingdom Hearts III is coming out in 2018″ can be a tricky statement. It’s not exactly the third installment in the series. We know very little beyond the limited trailers (which include some gameplay). And, because it’s a Kingdom Hearts game, we never really know if it’s coming out when they say it is. But that doesn’t mean you should be anything less than pumped for another voyage into the beautiful, collage-esque universe of KH.

The Last of Us Part 2

Playstation Exclusive

Naughty Dog

The next installment in the PS survival title will be anchored by the fan favorite sidekick from the first title, Ellie. State-of-the-art graphics, tight mechanics and that trademark storytelling from the studio that gave us the Uncharted series make for a game that’s basically impossible to disappoint.

Monster Hunter: World


The reason this game isn’t called Monster Hunter 5 is because it really doesn’t follow the same progression pattern as the other sequels. Based on the coverage and previews available now, it looks like Monster Hunter: World takes all the most lovable elements of the MF formula and adds about a hundred million quality-of-life tweaks, graphical improvements and stylistic changes that should make the game nearly perfect.

Red Dead Redemption 2


Another Rockstar game is not nothing to scoff that. The sequel to 2010’s “What if Grand Theft Auto but cowboys?” game will hopefully do for the series what the fifth installment did for GTA: bring it into the modern world with sprawling, open-world multiplayer, stellar graphics and a bit more moral nuance for a smarter time.

Untitled Yoshi Game

Nintendo Switch Exclusive


This standalone Yoshi title looks reminiscent of the GBA game Yoshi’s Island and should spell another success for the near-flawless first-party lineup of Switch games. Hopefully, Nintendo is about to give Yoshi the Super Mario Odyssey treatment.

Crackdown 3

Xbox One + Windows PC Exclusive

Microsoft Studios

Another game looking to expand its open-world madness to a more engaging multiplayer world, the ever-delayed Crackdown 3 should add plenty of depth to its formula of world-breaking, high-octane supercop formula.



The newest game from Mass Effect studio Bioware puts you in charge of a freelance mercenary/monster-hunter/hero who explores the post-apocalyptic world in a mechanical exoskeleton with a range of customizable powers. Overgrown jungles, dinosaur-like monsters and a sturdy support for multiplayer makes this a title to watch in 2018.

Escape from Tarkov

Battlestate Games

This Russian-developed and exclusively sold mil-sim, survival game will both capitalize on the momentum of games like Fortnite and PUBG while restoring some of the loot-hording, long-term intensity to the genre from its DayZ roots. This game is incredibly punishing and difficult, and that’s just the sort of thing that will make it perfect for online streamers and high-level competitors seeking something a bit more complicated than PUBG.

The game’s official release date isn’t available, but you can check it out right now, in beta.


Dumb and Fat // Greg Lobanov

Nintendo Switch Exclusive

This cute and colorful game combines a Night in the Woods art style with fantasy-musical adventure. You play as a bard who uses his music to do combat and complete puzzles in order to advance its story. Made exclusively for the Switch, this game is sure to utilize some of the console’s unique mechanical possibilities.

VIDEO GAY-MER | Honestly, Fallout is lowkey ahead of the game.

Oh Fallout…

I have so many opinions about you – and not all of them are totally positive. Hell, some of them are just
downright negative. But even I have to admit that you are an iconic franchise. You took the gaming world by storm, introduced the S.P.E.C.I.A.L. (strength, perception, endurance, charisma, agility, and luck) system, and provided a much needed escape from the fantastical fantasy worlds of other RPGs of the time (okay, Wasteland did it first). Your characters have always been interesting, your lore has always been a delightful mixture of zany and serious – you’re a great franchise.

I’ve already spoken in length about my experience with
Fallout. New Vegas played a very big part in how I feel about queerness in gaming. It shaped a lot of my very staunch opinions about the subject. After all, here was a reasonably large title that included some mostly-decent queer stuff. To this day, I can’t find one gay gamer who wasn’t pleasantly surprised to the see bespectacled Arcade Gannon was not only gay, but definitely interested. Not to mention every other character.

Look at him, isn’t he adorable?


And it doesn’t stop there!

A lot of the major Fallout titles have had some form of queer characters peppered throughout (except for Fallout 3, unless there’s someone I missed).

Probably the best example is in
Fallout 2, I only just purchased the game in my recent Steam Winter Sale haul – and getting through it has been a challenge. I usually don’t enjoy too many isometric games, mostly due to my relative newness with them. But, Patricia Hernandez talks in length about the game’s importance to her and her sexual identity. It’s beautifully written, and honestly, it’s the same thing I felt whenever I played New Vegas.

The newness of the queer option gave me that same sense of rebellion – the only difference being that I had already accepted that I was gay by the time I played
New Vegas. My awakening was definitely more of a “I want more characters like this,” and less of a “Okay, so this is what sexuality is.”

Although, the more I think about it, the more I feel almost cheated out of an experience. In
Fallout 2, you were forced in a marriage, and had to actively work to keep your wife alive. It added a level of stakes to the game, and if you cared to keep your spouse alive, made the game that much harder. Bethesda games are as Hernandez puts it, “by comparison, the modern Fallouts feel absurdly easy, like they start you off as a powerful character and the rest of the game is an adventure in becoming super duper overpowered.” Which isn’t a lie, if you aren’t specifically trying to play the game on maximum difficulty – the games are easy.

Fallout 3, all companions can die, but they aren’t totally important and as far as I know, none of them are queer. In New Vegas, companions can’t die, and you even get the option to travel with the queer companions! There is no actual romance, though, so that’s also a downside. Fallout 4 is the first Fallout game that allows you to seduce and have an overarching romance with not just one, but every single human companion in the game! That’s almost perfect! Your faves could never!

That is a huge deal, and made that awful game worth playing. The developers put care into developing their characters, and gave you actual bonuses when you seduced them. I’ll never forget the feeling of accomplishment and joy when I finally managed to become an item with the most beautiful boy in the Wasteland: Preston Garvey (yes, he’s annoying, I know, but he’s also adorable). I was a man, playing as a male character who was now in a committed relationship with another male character. And I could do this with all of the other main characters too! With no penalty!! I mean, who else gave him your wife’s old ring? Was that just me?

Of course, this bothered me a little bit.

I would have loved to have more narrative stakes. I wanted to see more of an incentive to be committed to your partner. Like Dragon Age: Inquisition, once you make the commitment to a character – that’s it! They also have characters with specific sexualities and interests. It adds a certain realism to the game that Fallout unfortunately lacks.

Still, despite its problems, Fallout has made leaps and bounds for queer people in their games. I can say negative things about them all I want, but I’d be a fool to try and deny it. It’s been changing the game since 1998, and not many other franchises can say that. It’s taken some steps forward and a couple of steps back (after all, Fallout 4 never gave me my gay wedding). I have hopes for the next game in the installment, and I hope I’m not disappointed.

Shann Smith is a lover of video games and writer of plays and screenplays, based in NYC. Do you guys have a game that you think is significant to the LGBTQ+ community? Email me, and I’ll give it a look!


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BOX OFFICE BREAKDOWN | What’s coming to theaters this weekend?

Bears breaking the law, teenagers finding solace in church, and a son who just wants a little love from his father round out our top picks for the movies this week.

In Popdust‘s column, Box Office Breakdown, we aim to inform you of the top flicks to check out every weekend depending on what you’re in the mood to enjoy. Looking to laugh? What about have your pants scared off? Maybe just need a little love? Whatever the case may be, we have it.

Take a peek at our top picks for this week…

The Commuter

The life of an insurance salesman is about to get a heck of a lot more interesting on his daily commute home. What starts out simple enough turns into an action-packed chase when ordinary Michael is informed by a curious stranger that he must uncover the identity of a hidden passenger on his daily train. As a time crunch gets underway, Michael learns that there is a deadly plot afoot. There’s a criminal case underway and he is wrapped up right in the middle of it. Will he be able to stop the plan before other passengers on the train are hurt or will something more sinister take place?

Purchase Tickets for The Commuter!

PG-13 | Running Time 1hr 44m | Lionsgate | Director: Jaume Collet-Serra

Starring: Liam Neeson, Vera Farmiga, Patrick Wilson, and more!

Proud Mary

Ever feel like you’re working for the man every night and day? That’s the story for Mary, who is involved in the shady business of being a hit woman for an organized crime family in Boston. Sounds exciting enough to see the lady wielding a gun in the way they’re so often assumed to only be able to wield a cooking utensil, but maybe Mary will find something even better to tempt her out of this world. At the very least, her path is redirected when she comes into contact with a young boy after one of her gigs goes quickly south.

Purchase Tickets for Proud Mary!

R | Running Time 1hr 29m | Sony Pictures | Director: Babak Najafi

Starring: Taraji P. Henson, Neal McDonough, Danny Glover, and more!

Saturday Church

What’s been described as Moonlight meets La La Land (so undoubtedly a Best Picture) will be heading to theatres to see what the public thinks of the mash-up tackling big issues in our current political climate. Following the death of his father, fourteen year-old Ulysses is forced to become the dominant male in his female-powered household. In the midst of this he is also questioning his gender identity. Support comes in the form of a group of transgender youth who expose him to the “Saturday Church” community, where young people are free to explore who they really are. Ulysses manages to keep his double life a secret from both ends, until he can’t. It takes courage and heart to handle his situation.

Purchase Tickets for Saturday Church!

Rating Not Available | Running Time 1hr 22m | Samuel Goldwyn Films | Director: Damon Cardasis

Starring: Margot Bingham, Regina Taylor, Peter Y. Kim, and more!

Humor Me

Fathers and sons have been struggling to connect for centuries. Here’s another go at that issue. Nate is a failed playwright whose massive mess of a career happens to fall at the same time that his wife has decided to leave him and take away custody of their son. He returns home as a last resort to get his life on track, where his emotionless father helps him find employment with an aging-Marine who runs community operations. What starts off as odd jobs turns into Nate’s supervision of a stage musical for the senior citizens, a role he reluctantly takes in hopes of sorting out his life. However, struggles with his father continue when an old video from one of Nate’s plays submerges, forcing them to deal with the old wounds that damaged their relationship from the beginning.

Purchase Tickets for Humor Me!

NR | Running Time 1hr 33m | Shout! Factory | Director: Sam Hoffman

Starring: Jemaine Clement, Elliott Gould, Ingrid Michaelson, and more!

And our ⭐️ TOP PICK ⭐️ …

Paddington 2

Ah, yes, the little bear who couldn’t stop winning over our hearts. Paddington is back and better than ever, bringing enough entertainment for everyone you still haven’t been able to find a good post-holiday present for. The lost bear from Peru returns and finds himself in a mess of trouble when he is mistaken for a thief at an antiques shop. Paddington is put behind bars, and the rest of the Brown family is struggling to find a way for him to get out before his Aunt Lucy’s birthday. Will Paddington make it out or be swept into the chaos of prison life? Is the criminal right under our nose? And how many marmalade sandwiches can one furry creature eat? All will be revealed in due time.

Purchase Tickets for Paddington 2!

PG | Running Time 1hr 43m | Warner Brothers Pictures | Director: Paul King

Starring: Ben Whishaw, Hugh Grant, Hugh Bonneville, and more!

Really like a film you see or know of one coming soon that we should check out? Shoot me an email and let me know!

Rachel A.G. Gilman is a writer, a radio producer, and probably the girl wearing the Kinks shirt. Visit her website for more.

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VIDEO | Da YoungFellaz Take Over “The Town”

If you were to Google “Da YoungFellaz”, you would find a resume that’s impressive, to say the least. From collaborations with the likes of Talib Kweli and Snoop Dogg to their appearance on “Sway In The Morning“, Jay Storm from The Bronx and Sho-Biz from Brooklyn have spent the last few years cultivating a name and a reputation that makes them not just one of the most sought-after acts in New York City, but in Hip-Hop period. They’ve successfully navigated their indie imprint New Rich Entertainment to new heights and only look to add on to their already stellar list of accolades in 2018.

YF’s blend of sharp, witty rhymes and their ear for pristine production has helped Da YoungFellaz craft a unique sound that embodies their New York upbringing and their ability to stay ahead of the curve. Throughout the years, Storm and Biz continued to put out bodies of work while performing both home and abroad. Their high work rate and their consistency continues to be the key assets to their success. They have been recognized by the pioneers as being worthy to carry the torch for Hip-Hop by being original and authentic.

Their latest visual for the Bravestarr produced track “The Town” is a subtle offering from YF to start off the new year. Whether it’s in a plush Lower Eastside apartment or riding through the streets with the top down, Storm and Biz let it be known that they’re more than at home in the space they’ve created for themselves with LVTRToinne behind the lens capturing it all.

Jay Storm (left) Sho-Biz (right) better known as Da YoungFellazMoritz Eisenschmidt

Though music has always been their primary focus, Da YoungFellaz have embarked on a new endeavor. Back in November, they created the party series 90s vs. Trap. An after-work industry mixer that features Hip-Hop and R&B from the 90s and music from the likes of artists such as 2 Chainz, Migos, etc. The event is hosted by YF themselves with music courtesy of Grammy Award winner and legendary Hip-Hop producer Rockwilder. 90 vs. Trap Part II will take place on January 18th at Katra in New York City. If you’re in the NYC area and would like to attend you can RSVP here.

“The Town” is now available on all download and streaming services.

Follow Da YoungFellaz: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

Deascent is a Hip Hop artist, music writer and on-air personality for “Popdust Presents“. He’s also the co-front man of The Cold Press. Follow him on Instagram.

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THE REAL REEL | SMILF: Single Mom I’d Like To Friend

What does Sexual abuse, Single motherhood, and a Sense of humor all have in common?

Correct, they are the backbones of Showtime’s “dramody” SMILF. Women of all backgrounds, mothers young and old, and people who know mothers young and old will watch this show with a hand-slap to the forehead. There will be times when you will see yourself in Frankie Shaw’s lead character Bridgette, and you will cringe. If you are currently a mother, you will sigh in relief because you will think…damn…I guess I’m doing pretty good…but I get her.

In a world overflowing with “How To Be The Best Parent in the World” articles, this show is a breath of fresh air as it’s more of a…”How To Get By Until Tomorrow” kind of thing. And yes, the lead character, single mama Bridgette, is a childhood sexual assault survivor just like 63,000 American children a year are, an adult sexual assault survivor, much like the 17.7 million American women are, and also struggles with disordered eating, just like 75% of American women currently do. And just like most of the women in the statistics above, Bridgette is much more than a victim. Much like many of the women reading this article (or women that you know and love) who may also suffer from any of the above challenges, Bridgette has a job, a family, friends, a kid, and a sense of humor.

This is the thing. In the same world and even the same timeframe that sexual assault happens, so do birthday parties, and average trips to the grocery store. Someone can be aggressively raped, and lovingly hugged in the same day. Just like in Bridgette’s case, the same father that molested her can also give her fatherly shoulder rides around the block. SMILF is such a great watch because it doesn’t define the characters as “girl with eating disorder” or “rape victim.” The characters in the show are just like the many female victims of sexual assault in real life; they are strong and complex. While the characters in SMILF are clearly affected by the traumas they suffered, they are not solely defined by them.

The #metoo and Times Up movements are so powerful because they are removing the “specialness” and rarity of sexual assault. In the past, assault victims were thought of as just that…victims. Now, women are saying, ‘of course we have experienced this,’ ‘wake up world, this is not rare’…sexual misconduct is something that sadly is woven into the fabric of the female experience. It doesn’t define us, it affects us. We still have jobs, we still parent, we still have friends, and we still laugh. SMILF shows us this…this ability to be both victim and victor.

It also shows us one version of working class single-motherhood, the unique challenges that only poor and working class single parents face and the realities of always needing to rely on other people. Bridgette can’t afford to not rely on other dysfunctional people; she needs their help. SMILF shows us what it’s like to have to rely on dysfunctional people and engage with those relationships long term.

As someone who’s parents were divorced in the early 80’s, wasn’t raised by grown-ups who had savings accounts, and spent most of her weekdays in one-bedroom apartments, there were parts of this show I appreciated. I didn’t find it shocking that she left her sleeping 3 year old at home in a locked apartment for 10 minutes while she ran to the corner store for snacks. I love that the father figure is in recovery and he is clearly trying…he is young, and wasn’t parented well himself…and he is trying. Often the dad characters are horrible or missing completely, rather than present, loving, and flawed.

I also love that women are at the center of this story. They are also flawed (because we all are), but they make the world go round. Whether they are mothers, girlfriends of the father, or grandmothers, it is the women that ensure that holidays are celebrated, hot meals are cooked in order to bring people together, and that babies are watched so that mamas can work. For better of worse, women in real life, and the women in SMILF have to be both simultaneously victims of abuse, and also hilarious resilient warriors with a sense of humor and grit. If you watch this show you will get to see how love can thrive in the tiny cracks, in the in-between places, like a fungus that keeps growing.

By Rachel Hall, Rachel has a Masters in Cultural Gender Studies, and a BA in Communication & Culture, is a Certified Life Coach, and can often be found hiding in her laundry room from her two children. More about her on her website.

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ROLE PLAYGROUND | West of Loathing is a whole new can of beans…

I honestly don’t know what this game is.

Asymmetric Production’s
West of Loathing is nothing if not unique – it’s world is fresh and vibrant despite the stick figured, black-and-white design. It’s characters manage to be simple, but real enough for you not to care. And it’s story is like the large desert with which it takes place: A huge mystery, just waiting to be solved.


A drunken horseman. (Giphy )

West of Loathing is an comedy adventure RPG that takes place in a Weird Western desert. You take control of the protagonist just as he leaves his family to venture out west to the town of Frisco. The only problem is that the train keeps getting blocked by different obstacles, and you’re the only one who can fix them! But, the farther you venture into the desert, the more dangerous it gets. You’ll have to fight through hellcows, skeletons, cultists, maybe even a clown or two – but it’s a small price for Frisco.


The world of
Loathing is a strange phenomenon – it manages to be both vibrant and colorful without having any vibrancy or color. The ground is nothing but a few dots against white – mimicking sand. The sky is white, with white clouds and a white sun – the only thing separating them is a simple black line. There are minor details, sure, the buildings are drawn well and so are some of the interactive elements throughout the world – but mostly they all stick to very simple line art.
Normally, this would be a bad thing, but not so in this game. In this game, the lack of detail adds to its intentionally surreal nature. You don’t need astounding, AAA-level graphics and design and to have it would be too much. There’s a lot in this game, and if it looked too realistic – it wouldn’t feel right. The world would be too defined, and you’d be asking yourself, “What the hell?”

The front of your house in the beginning of the game!Yours truly.

It would also distract from the game’s astounding branching narrative. It starts simple enough – you want to help a train clear a path so you can make it all the way to Frisco – a beautiful town in the west. That’s all well and good, and you can do it relatively quick if that’s how you want to play. But the more explore this world the more you get to experience game’s gleefully kooky side quests which involve: Hellcows (yes, cows from Hell), necromancers, aliens, and even clowns! Each of these quests has a lot of twists and turns that take you to some strange places throughout the map. You have to solve puzzles, quest for needles in haystacks, and even learn a whole new language.

And it’s never easy – none of these quests are ever easy. The creatures you fight are always balanced fairly well, and you have to think very carefully about what you’re going to do next. The battle-system isn’t the best, but it works well enough to make the game challenging in a fun way most of the time.

Aside from story elements, the game also manages to throw some of their own beans in the RPG soup – in the place of typical classes, you get Cow Puncher (Muscle), Beanslinger (Mysticality [magic]), and Snake Oiler (Moxie [speech/bartering]). Each affect how you’ll move through the story: For instance, if you pick Beanslinger – you’ll be able to use your bean magic to influence the random encounters you could get, while as a Snake Oiler you’d be able to negotiate with a trader to get some good loot! The classes all seem familiar, but the devs manage to make their lore and application in the world feel totally fresh.

Don’t you just hate when you have those weird character class dreams?Yours truly!

There’s a lot that makes this game great – it’s differences mostly work for this game, not against it. However, like all games, this one is far from perfect.


First, there’s the battle system. The tactical turnbased doesn’t work super well, mostly because it just gets old. Even as you get more and more abilities, the battles become more tedious than fun – it takes a while but it can happen. Difficulty isn’t the problem – as I’ve said, the difficulty mostly works – but its problem lies with the sameness. In a world that has something new around every corner, I expect the battle system to do the same.

A shot the protag fighting the evil Saint Beefus. (Giphy)

Another problem lies within the game’s sometimes punishing nature. For example, I was in a large bull-bone tower (you’ll have to play to really experience what I’m talking about), and I missed one thing and shut it off for the rest of the game. There’s no way for me to fix it, and that kind of thing really bothers me – especially since the whole game relies on exploration. It’d be fine if there was a way for me to reload my save – but you can’t do that, not in
West of Loathing.

It ruins a bit of the experience for me, even though I appreciate the dev’s focus on the consequences of choice.


West of Loathing is an odd, hilarious sight to behold. From the Lovecraftian aliens, hellish demon cows, and reanimated skeletons to the beanmagic and cactus-loving goblins – this world brims with strange, energetic life. Sure, the battle system leaves much to be desired and the lack of load-able save files can throw you for a loop, but that doesn’t distract from this incredibly fun title.

And it’s only $10.99 on Steam!

Shann Smith is a lover of video games and has played games since he could hold a controller. He is a freelance writer, playwright, screenwriter, and also writes the Video Gay-Mer column on Popdust! If you have any games you’d like him to unpack, hit him up!


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