9 Major Stories Everyone Got Wrong This Year

#4. Project Natal/XBox Kinect

The way we heard it:

Project Natal was announced late in 2009, and for most of the next year, the Internet creamed its collective jeans over it. This isn't a motion-sensing controller, like the Wii -- this is fucking body recognition! Facial recognition! Voice recognition! This is your Xbox coming to life, becoming best friends with you and then taking you on fantastic adventures! It's not going to be a toy or a novelty item; it's going to be the future of gaming itself!

Which happens to look exactly like the present of gaming.

Then, Project Natal was finally released as the Kinect, and we got exactly what we didn't want: Another Wii built around the cheapest, shallowest gimmick possible. Just look at each system's bestselling games:

Wii: Wii Sports, Wii Party, Just Dance, Wii Fit Plus, the Petz series

Kinect: Kinect Sports, Kinect Adventures, Dance Central, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, Kinectimals

Because there's nothing kids love more than dead-eyed animals.

Kiddie bullshit and housewife fodder, all of it. We wanted to lightsaber duel in a fully interactive digital environment -- perhaps a bar fight, so we could pick up in-game chairs and bash virtual Chewbaccas to death with them -- and instead we got to molest virtual tigers and go bowling. Again.

The scenario shouldn't have been a surprise: This is what nerds do. We get way too excited about the potential of something, then, when faced with the disappointing reality, we howl in impotent rage and set out to destroy it. We put these things up on a pedestal, then immediately stand at the bottom of that pedestal with an ax, just waiting for the moment we get to chop it down. And the Kinect definitely deserved it.

"What do you mean it can't make me coffee?"

But the truth is...

In the right hands, the Kinect actually does all it promised and more. You just have to head out to the fringes to see it:

For starters, it's effectively changing the future of graphic user interfaces. The medical field is making use of Kinect's software to enhance and tweak how technicians interact with radiological scans. Instead of awkwardly manipulating a 3D image with 2D tools like a mouse and keyboard, a Kinect-driven interface uses voice recognition, body position and hand gestures to attain an entirely new level of precise, intuitive control.

Above: Medicine.

And all without any sort of physical controller -- hell, even Minority Report had to use gloves to accomplish the same thing.

"Ha! Look how primitive! This shit's like watching somebody use a cell-phone in the '90s."

The current Kinect games mostly recognize only a few predetermined gestures and broad, sweeping movements, but it's not the software's fault. For example, this Japanese gamer built a full-body 1:1 motion recognition mod. Every single movement he makes, his avatar makes in kind. Of course the Japanese guy uses it to inhabit the body of a slutty anime schoolgirl -- that's the endgame of literally every technological development Japan's made in the last century -- but think of other potential uses for this: With some collision detection, this could easily bring about the aforementioned lightsaber fantasy that takes place in a fully interactive digital environment.

Kind of like this: A fully rendered (if glitchy and unintentionally hilarious) environment with two-way interaction. He lifts up, moves and repositions digital objects inside the space, and the space, in turn, renders the real objects he places in it -- his chair, for example, is present in both reality and the game. And that's just what the Swedish version of Kip from Napoleon Dynamite here can do; if you throw some real funds and a professional development team behind it, you've got the closest thing we've ever had to true virtual reality.

Oh, and what's this at the end? Yup: lightsaber duel. Fucking told you.

We have literally been waiting our entire lives for this.

Finally, as if that wasn't enough to foster painfully fierce nerd erections around the world, there is the inevitable end point: VR porn.

For now, all ThriXXX does is render a virtual hand that you can use to cavity-search dead-eyed whores in a shady motel, but again, these are the very early stages of a completely new technology. With the right amount of money and expertise behind this kind of software, you could be standing in an empty room that, at the touch of a button, fills with your virtual office. You could manipulate programs in the air in front of you. Come break time, you could play a few holes working on your actual, physical golf swing. Or, if the mood strikes, you could just lock the doors, turn the lights down and air-hump some digital poon until the shame overcomes your horniness.

Air sex will never be the same.

#3. Inception

The Way We Heard It:


Inception was entirely about characters not knowing the difference between dreams and real life. In the final scene, Leo DiCaprio is reunited with his long-lost children, and as he greets them, he spins a top (it's established earlier that if in a dream, the top spins forever, while in reality, it eventually topples). The camera hangs on the top for a few seconds and then ... cut to black. The audience groans. What happened?

Ever since, the Internet has been on fire with analyses to find out how the film "really" ended, picking apart every detail. Someone floated the theory that because DiCaprio's children are wearing the same clothes in every scene, it must all be in his head, so someone interviewed the goddamned costume guy to find out if they were wearing the same outfits (they weren't). The conclusion:

"That's huge. If the kids, clothing really is different, then Cobb, who always imagined them the same way when in a dream, is no longer in a dream and actually in reality. On my second viewing of the film ... the clothing looked identical. But Kurland dressed them, and ... I'm inclined to take his word for it."

There was also a bitchin' train crash, but for some reason no one wrote essays about it.

Someone else pointed out that the children don't age in the film. Immediately the Internet scrambled to find out who played the children and determined that different, older actors were cast for the later scene.

On our own forum, we actually had to moderate pages of discussion extensively analyzing the exact spin of the fucking top to determine whether the lean exceeded the amount allowed by gravity and thus whether, by the laws of physics, it was destined to topple after the final frame.

And on and on and on.

Tens of women went unsatisfied as the debate raged.

But the truth is ...

Christopher Nolan did not run out of film. It was scripted, and shot, to end exactly the way it did. It's an ambiguous ending. Lots of movies have them. Not an "encoded" ending or a "secret" ending or a "hidden" ending. Ambiguous. On purpose.

We're not trying to be dicks here, but to this day, fans act like we were watching a live news event when the feed to the camera just got cut, and we're just waiting to hear from somebody else who was on the scene with additional information. But the movie didn't cut to black because the power ran out, or the budget fell a hundred bucks short of what they needed to shoot the whole final scene. The ending wasn't left up in the air. What you saw was the ending.

"We wanted to shoot a more satisfying ending, but Leo wanted to play flag football instead."

Again, we are not mocking nerds for overanalyzing pop culture. We're professional nerds who overthink pop culture for a living. But we're kind of disappointed that even the hardest of the hardcore movie geeks seem totally unfamiliar with the concept of an ambiguous ending. Nobody has seen The Thing (where the credits run with it still unclear whether the main character is the shape-shifting monster)? Or Total Recall (was everything part of the virtual reality fantasy)?

Nobody had to read The Lady, or the Tiger in school?

Somebody has to remember Pat.

It's a common, age-old technique. The idea is to make you feel uncertainty, in the same way horror movies make you feel scared or pornos make you feel a boner. Asking what ending the director "really" intended is a total nonsense question, and it's kind of ruining your own enjoyment of the film. It's like refusing to accept the events of Lord of the Rings until somebody tells you exactly where Middle-earth is located. If Chris Nolan wanted you to leave the theater knowing it was a dream, he would have goddamned filmed that. He didn't. He wanted you to leave never knowing, because the main character himself doesn't know.

That's the point.


The whole thing is threatening to turn into another Blade Runner "is he a robot" debate, which continued for two decades. If only the filmmakers would just tell us!

Good news, gang -- they totally have! Harrison Ford and Michael Deeley (the film's producer) both have come forward and said Deckard is a human. There's your answer! Oh, wait. Ridley Scott, aka the director, aka the guy deciding every shot and edit and how the overall story is told, says he was a robot. Because even in the minds of the people who made it, there is no answer. Because it's an ambiguous ending, and that's exactly how they intended to tell the story.

#2. LeBron James

The way we heard it:

"LeBron James ditching Cleveland for Miami Heat is the worst thing that has ever happened to the NBA, he should be ashamed of himself."

Freakishly giant and impossibly talented basketball star, LeBron James, did what a lot of players do every single year: He went from one team to a different team with the hopes of winning more basketball games. But Cleveland was LeBron's first team, located in the same state where he grew up, and he intended to treat them with respect and fulfill his promise to bring a championship home ... right up until he ditched them in favor of a stellar team of superstars in Miami. Just as sports fans had been fearing all along, it wasn't about heart, or loyalty -- it's strictly about LeBron: The Brand. And LeBron's brand needed LeBron to win a ring for LeBron.

That one alone is just a little too subtle.

It didn't help that he drew the process out over months. He dodged direct questions and gave misleading answers about his upcoming free agency. He flew around the country, flirting with New York, Chicago and any other city hoping to win a title. Finally, he reserved an hour of time on ESPN to deliver his horrifying decision in the most douche-chill inducing sentence possible: "In this fall I'm going to take my talents to South Beach."

Seriously, who's writing this shit? Is it Disney?

When that wasn't enough, he came out with that irritatingly long Nike commercial wherein he implies, among other things, that he is in no way sorry for his behavior. Nike even includes a pretty damning visual bit where LeBron literally destroys a basketball court by driving a forklift through it.

And that's basically what he did to the game, if you listened to basketball purists shouting on ESPN about how Jordan, Magic and Bird never would have done this. It was like LeBron was an NBA manchuriancandidate, programmed to make everyone love him, only so he could tear their hearts out and make them abandon the sport he'd made interesting again.

But the truth is ...

LeBron's move, including and especially "The Decision," was the best thing to happen to the NBA since Michael Jordan retired (the first time) 14 years ago. Sports are entertaining, but not as entertaining as sports movies. Anyone who would tell you otherwise hasn't seen Rudy.

People love a good story. Sure, every team has an army of loyal fans that will watch and support no matter what, but if you want to get the rest of the world to pay attention, you need a story.

Above: A story.

It's why the New York Giants defeating the New England Patriots a few years ago was so exciting -- it could have easily been a sports movie. You had your undefeated yet morally bankrupt Patriots, with their smug quarterback, and their scrotum-faced coach. Meanwhile you had your quintessential underdogs, the wildcard Giants, featuring Eli "The Other Manning" Manning, and a coach that, swear to God, might be Mick from the Rocky movies.

Whose face, strangely, also appears to be made from scrotum skin.

The Patriots became every blond, strong-jawed, arrogant 80s movie bully to the Giants' scrawny, "aw shucks," wacky best friend who it turned out you were in love with the whole time. When the Giants beat the Patriots at the last minute, the world celebrated, not because America was suddenly a Giants fan, God no, but because America loves an underdog sports movie, and this one happened in real life.

But every such story needs a villain, and LeBron James created one for the NBA. Why else would anyone be paying attention to basketball way back in July? And not just paying attention, but actively thinking about it? Basketball fans and nonfans alike all had an opinion about LeBron's decision. Everyone had something to say. If it didn't work, you wouldn't be hearing so many of your coworkers say things like, "Can you believe that LeBron James fellow? I just think it's shameless, whatever it is that he did." If it didn't work, would Christmas Day's Lakers-Heat game have drawn a 45 percent ratings increase over last year?

For the first time since the early 90s Pistons, basketball had a villain, but not just any villain, the worst villain. He turned on the hardworking, blue collar people of Cleveland, lied to them and then rubbed their faces in his betrayal on national TV! The Heat staged an elaborate introduction ceremony so LeBron, Wade and Bosh could show off because they think they're so great. He only plays basketball for the money and fame, and not the love of the sport. What an asshole. LeBron James stole your girlfriend.

What sport is this again?

The entire ordeal could've been scripted by the WWE, and the NBA couldn't be luckier.

#1. The iPhone 4 and iPad Disasters

The way we heard it:

It was hard to find a beloved figure who got more bad press than Steve Jobs this year, which is pretty remarkable, since 2010 saw Michael Jordan try to bring back the Hitler mustache.

Yep. This happened.

The great unraveling of Jobs' mythos started almost immediately after the keynote address in which he unveiled the much-hyped iPad to a unanimous "Whaaaa?" Depending on which tech blog you read, it was either the least-powerful laptop released in years or it was a giant iPod Touch that didn't fit in your pocket unless you were a kangaroo. What was supposed to be yet another of Jobs' spellbinding magic shows created such bad buzz that Apple's stock price went down before it was even over.

With the stink of his last brain fart still hanging thick in the air, Jobs tried to reset the stage by releasing the iPhone 4 well ahead of schedule. The day it hit shelves, reports began pouring in that it was about as good at being a phone as the iPad. If you picked it up with your left hand, it dropped calls.

Rather than admitting he'd made a mistake and recalling the product, Jobs stuck his fingers in his ears and then his head in the sand. Tasting blood in the water, the tech blogs rushed in, forcing Jobs into one embarrassing news conference after another until he admitted he was wrong.


But the truth is ...

If you read only the headlines in the days before and immediately after the launch of the iPad and the iPhone 4, that's the story you got. It might still be what your brain pulls out of the filing cabinet when you hear either mentioned. Well, it turns out that both products did all right for themselves. And by all right, we mean that they were the most successful products in the history of Apple. They beat the shit out of the iPod and the original iPhone.

The real problem was something that social scientists, borrowing a phrase from movie theater racism, call the loud minority. The idea is that a small group's niche point of view is overrepresented simply because that's the group that's more likely to share it. In the case of the iPad, the loud minority were tech bloggers -- people who write and think about cutting-edge technology. The problem is that the more they know about technology, the less they're like most Americans.

"Why won't the Internet box let me Internet?"

If you trust census data over Whitney Houston lyrics, old people are the future of America, mostly thanks to the post-WWII baby boom. And according to an informal survey conducted in line at a Best Buy, not a single damn one of them knows the first thing about operating a computer. The iPad was a computer that finally made sense for people who didn't know how to use a mouse. It responded to your touch in exactly the way you, or even a marginally intelligent orangutan, would anticipate. Push the page you're reading left, and that's where it moved. If the link at the end of that gypsy-cursed email leads you to a scary page full of dicks, you just had to hit the only button on the machine to get back to your pretty, tiled home base.

But if the iPad launch showed that the loud minority had lost touch, the iPhone 4 was the point at which the loud minority found itself shaking a stranger by the neck while screaming "look what you make me do." As Jobs pointed out, they seemed to be willfully ignoring a few things: All smartphones have places you can touch that will make them lose a bar or two; it couldn't have been that big a problem, since Apple was selling more of the iPhone 4 than any iPhone ever and seeing fewer people return them.

Meanwhile, the iPad ushered in the greatest revolution in masturbation since the birth of Internet porn.

Of course, when you're arguing with someone who's already made up his mind to disagree with you, logic only makes him louder. This time, they got so loud that Apple's stock dropped nearly eight percent. For weeks, it was all the Internet was talking about, and then, with a suddenness that was almost startling, the Internet shut the fuck up about the iPhone 4. Jobs had agreed to waive the restocking fee if people wanted to return their phones, and nobody returned them.

They were too busy playing Plants vs. Zombies.

In a rare moment of candor, the blog CrunchGear, which had been one of the leaders of the scandal dubbed Antennagate posted an apology titled: "We have met Antennagate, and it is us" in which they admitted that they were "grasping at factual straws and thrusting them into the faces of everyone we encountered " because "controversy generates traffic." Of course, this was a marginally popular post on a site whose most popular iPhone 4-related post is still "The top four iPhone 4 hardware issues so far."

The rest of the silent majority, and even The New York Times just shuffled their feet around and avoided making eye contact by playing with their iPads and iPhone 4s.

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For more attempts to set the record straight, see The 10 Most Important Things They Didn't Teach You in School and 6 Ridiculous History Myths You Probably Think are True.

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