Another Day, Another Brain-Blast
Saw this on the mobile version of Eurogamer.  You know how sometimes you read a headline and wonder how we got to this point?

That “a mission or two where we don’t tell you where to go” is considered progress makes me so very sad.

Accessibility to a wider audience is all well and good, but can we maybe have big-budget games where I am not treated like a rat in a maze?  Yes, God forbid anyone has the temerity to think laterally at all ever.  That would be antithetical to the “EVERYONE MUST HAVE CAREFULLY MODULATED FUN AT ALL TIMES OR THEY WILL TRADE THE GAME IN AND THEN WE WILL ALL BE EATEN BY WOLVERINES” ethos of the modern AAA game industry.

I don’t buy into the “dumbing games down for the filthy casuals” narrative, either, of course, but there is something to be said for the idea that the main exponents of a medium teach people how to read it.  Can we not be taught to follow the shouty man who is shouting “Follow me!” at us while also having the word “FOLLOW” glued to the top of his head?  Is that possible?  Could my level of mental engagement with a game go just a little deeper than “I will do what those patronizing words on a screen just told me to do,” maybe?

I’m absolutely for getting more people into games, and anything that’s a gateway game is good.  I even like Call of Duty!  But you teach reading by having a range of options for students of all grade levels and letting them go up through the levels as they grow more experienced. You don’t do it by making ninety percent of books kindergartener-friendly, then occasionally putting out a book or two for twelfth-graders.  Nobody will make that leap easily.

Yes, there are games in the middle, but many of them are indies, and may not have the reach of a CoD.  Why aren’t we producing games for a wider range of player skill levels?  And, for that matter, why are the games easiest for less literate players all rated T and M?  Why do they all involve shooting people and shouty-sweary expository dialogue and the curious inability of anyone but a senior officer to open a door?  Why do they all involve being told to kill people of different ethnicities by a voice inside your head?  How messed up is that?

Not only are you killing brown dudes, but you’re killing them at the behest of someone else, for reasons that are not clear, in the hope that you may perhaps contribute to saving the world.  That’s the modern power fantasy?  Having a racist, sexist boss who screams at you tell you to do things for no clear reason and punish you when you refuse to do them exactly as he likes?  Is that where we’re at now?

To be clear, it’s not the content of these things that bugs me, really.  Indulging in violent, puerile fantasy from time to time is natural, and the Army Man fantasy is one among many.  What I fear is the way the fantasy is presented.  Say what you will about John Wayne, but the power fantasy his work presented was at least one in which he was the author of his own destiny, in which he effected change through his violence.

The message of what TotalBiscuit has called the “modern military shooter” is, by accident or design (and I suspect it is by accident), exactly the opposite.  The message conveyed through the systems is, “Do not think.  Do not act on instinct.  Do not concieve of your own solutions to problems.  Follow orders.  Your superiors know better than you.  Obey them unquestioningly or die.”

That, friends, is scary.  The unpleasant crypto-fascist undertones and blind patriotism are nothing new.  GI Joe and The Green Berets promoted a similar sort of thing.  What is new, and altogether more dangerous, is the lack of ambition and imagination and daring and intuition being inculcated in players.

We are not bold action heroes in modern military shooters.  We are not Bruce Willis in Die Hard, nor John Wayne in The Green Berets.  We are not Batman or Superman, nor any of the pulp heroes that preceded them.  We are not even part of the Dirty Dozen.  We are one of the dudes who gets killed in Saving Private Ryan around the middle of the movie and has a sum total of two lines.  We are the redshirts, the no-name grunts.  This is, in the world of the modern military shooter, the height of our ambition.  And although we are rewarded with a smorgasbord of very impressive visual effects for our compliance, they cannot replace genuine agency.

You might say that people only buy CoD for the multiplayer, which is more or less an entirely different game with a great deal more agency.  You would not necessarily be wrong; some people definitely do buy it only for the multiplayer.  But I bet you would be shocked to learn how many of them cleared the campaigns, and how satisfied they were by them.  I would wager many people buy CoD and its ilk just for the campaigns.  They’re all I hear about whenever a new one is released.

More to the point, it’s not like the multiplayer is the portion of the game that plays into the power fantasy.  Hacking, trash-talking, and generally awful matchmaking conspire to make you feel like you’re powerless, in my experience.

But perhaps I’m wrong.  I certainly hope so.  There is little sadder than a power fantasy where you are impotent and expendable.

Bit of an anticlimax, ending my rant here, but I’ve never been good at putting a button on my thoughts.  Oh well, at least it was cathartic.

The increasingly inaccurately named Film Friday will go up tomorrow, methinks.  Didn’t intend for this to get out of control the way it did, but there’s nothing for it now.

(Oh, and sorry for the lack of italics on titles.  Been typing this in the Tumblr app on the iPhone, and I cannot figure out how to italicize a damn thing in it.  Oh well.)

See you tomorrow, folks!

Saw this on the mobile version of Eurogamer. You know how sometimes you read a headline and wonder how we got to this point?

That “a mission or two where we don’t tell you where to go” is considered progress makes me so very sad.

Accessibility to a wider audience is all well and good, but can we maybe have big-budget games where I am not treated like a rat in a maze? Yes, God forbid anyone has the temerity to think laterally at all ever. That would be antithetical to the “EVERYONE MUST HAVE CAREFULLY MODULATED FUN AT ALL TIMES OR THEY WILL TRADE THE GAME IN AND THEN WE WILL ALL BE EATEN BY WOLVERINES” ethos of the modern AAA game industry.

I don’t buy into the “dumbing games down for the filthy casuals” narrative, either, of course, but there is something to be said for the idea that the main exponents of a medium teach people how to read it. Can we not be taught to follow the shouty man who is shouting “Follow me!” at us while also having the word “FOLLOW” glued to the top of his head? Is that possible? Could my level of mental engagement with a game go just a little deeper than “I will do what those patronizing words on a screen just told me to do,” maybe?

I’m absolutely for getting more people into games, and anything that’s a gateway game is good. I even like Call of Duty! But you teach reading by having a range of options for students of all grade levels and letting them go up through the levels as they grow more experienced. You don’t do it by making ninety percent of books kindergartener-friendly, then occasionally putting out a book or two for twelfth-graders. Nobody will make that leap easily.

Yes, there are games in the middle, but many of them are indies, and may not have the reach of a CoD. Why aren’t we producing games for a wider range of player skill levels? And, for that matter, why are the games easiest for less literate players all rated T and M? Why do they all involve shooting people and shouty-sweary expository dialogue and the curious inability of anyone but a senior officer to open a door? Why do they all involve being told to kill people of different ethnicities by a voice inside your head? How messed up is that?

Not only are you killing brown dudes, but you’re killing them at the behest of someone else, for reasons that are not clear, in the hope that you may perhaps contribute to saving the world. That’s the modern power fantasy? Having a racist, sexist boss who screams at you tell you to do things for no clear reason and punish you when you refuse to do them exactly as he likes? Is that where we’re at now?

To be clear, it’s not the content of these things that bugs me, really. Indulging in violent, puerile fantasy from time to time is natural, and the Army Man fantasy is one among many. What I fear is the way the fantasy is presented. Say what you will about John Wayne, but the power fantasy his work presented was at least one in which he was the author of his own destiny, in which he effected change through his violence.

The message of what TotalBiscuit has called the “modern military shooter” is, by accident or design (and I suspect it is by accident), exactly the opposite. The message conveyed through the systems is, “Do not think. Do not act on instinct. Do not concieve of your own solutions to problems. Follow orders. Your superiors know better than you. Obey them unquestioningly or die.”

That, friends, is scary. The unpleasant crypto-fascist undertones and blind patriotism are nothing new. GI Joe and The Green Berets promoted a similar sort of thing. What is new, and altogether more dangerous, is the lack of ambition and imagination and daring and intuition being inculcated in players.

We are not bold action heroes in modern military shooters. We are not Bruce Willis in Die Hard, nor John Wayne in The Green Berets. We are not Batman or Superman, nor any of the pulp heroes that preceded them. We are not even part of the Dirty Dozen. We are one of the dudes who gets killed in Saving Private Ryan around the middle of the movie and has a sum total of two lines. We are the redshirts, the no-name grunts. This is, in the world of the modern military shooter, the height of our ambition. And although we are rewarded with a smorgasbord of very impressive visual effects for our compliance, they cannot replace genuine agency.

You might say that people only buy CoD for the multiplayer, which is more or less an entirely different game with a great deal more agency. You would not necessarily be wrong; some people definitely do buy it only for the multiplayer. But I bet you would be shocked to learn how many of them cleared the campaigns, and how satisfied they were by them. I would wager many people buy CoD and its ilk just for the campaigns. They’re all I hear about whenever a new one is released.

More to the point, it’s not like the multiplayer is the portion of the game that plays into the power fantasy. Hacking, trash-talking, and generally awful matchmaking conspire to make you feel like you’re powerless, in my experience.

But perhaps I’m wrong. I certainly hope so. There is little sadder than a power fantasy where you are impotent and expendable.

Bit of an anticlimax, ending my rant here, but I’ve never been good at putting a button on my thoughts. Oh well, at least it was cathartic.

The increasingly inaccurately named Film Friday will go up tomorrow, methinks. Didn’t intend for this to get out of control the way it did, but there’s nothing for it now.

(Oh, and sorry for the lack of italics on titles. Been typing this in the Tumblr app on the iPhone, and I cannot figure out how to italicize a damn thing in it. Oh well.)

See you tomorrow, folks!

99 Luftballoons - Nena


I was going to put something a little less well-known up today, but then I remembered that Grand Theft Auto V is coming out tomorrow.  Now seems like the perfect time to ask what it is about music from the 1980s that makes it the perfect accompaniment to open-world mayhem.

I think that’s why people look at Vice City as the pinnacle of the series, even though San Andreas and IV both surpass it in numerous ways.  They’re technically better games, but neither is quite as… coherent, I suppose?  There is a purity of intent to Vice City that its more diffuse, eclectic successors lack, and that’s reflected in the wonderfully evocative soundtrack.

Cresting a hill in Broker to David Axelrod’s “Holy Thursday" was lovely, but it couldn’t hold a candle to the shock of stupid plastic joy that handbraking into a 180-degree powerslide with a candy-colored sports car while listening to "Tempted" by Squeeze elicited.  

Similarly, puttering up Mount Chiliad on a scooter to “Eminence Front" in the PC version of San Andreas is one of my favorite gaming memories, but I can count the number of times I experienced a similar thrill in that game on one hand.

Any time the song at the top of this post played in VC, though, I immediately knew what I was going to do: cruise around slowly for a little bit, floor it when the tempo shifts up at 1:12, careen into virtual pedestrians on the sidewalk until the tempo shifted back down again, repeat.  It was a perfect emergent thrill of the sort no other game at the time could provide, and which even now is rare.

What’s weird to me, though, is that Eighties pop doesn’t just fit into a game tailor-made for it like Vice City, but works as background music for open-world antics in general.  My absolute favorite thing to do in Saints Row 2 is to fly a helicopter high above the city and fire missiles at things while listening to “(Don’t You) Forget About Me.”  All the Saints Row games have a station largely dedicated to Eighties hits, in fact.  I haven’t tested this theory, but I’d imagine that games like Prototype and Infamous would benefit from the healing touch of disposable Eighties pop.  Even something as mundane and gentle as Euro Truck Simulator 2 becomes an infinitely better game when you turn the internet radio the game uses to an Eighties station.

Well, I think so, anyway.  It could be, of course, that I’m showing my own confirmation bias.  ”I like disposable Eighties tunes and video games, ergo video games are better with Eighties tunes.”  But I swear to God it’s true.  Some of the songs in Vice City are terrible, and yet they somehow fit perfectly with the onscreen action.

I’d link to iTunes and Amazon if I thought anyone didn’t have this song tucked away on their iPod somewhere, but I’m not deluded enough to believe that, so I won’t.

Thanks for joining me on this little discursive ramble!
A Tough One

I have a longer piece about Bioshock Infinite in the works, and I feel bad that my first published post about the game is one which could theoretically be construed as critical of it, because I loved it to bits, and I say as much in the longer piece.  But I felt the following question - one I just thought of - was too intriguing not to post.

Bioshock Infinite, like many games made by alumni of the dearly departed Looking Glass Software, is a game which principally tells its story through its environment.  There are no prerendered cutscenes, and although there are short scripted moments, the player is never taken out of the first-person view.  This is by design.  As with prose fiction written in the first person, this self-imposed limitation creates a lot of problems exclusive to it - and the problem is far, far more difficult to solve in games than it is in prose, because when you introduce interactivity into the mix, you’re basically giving a complete stranger the keys to a car you designed and telling them to follow the exact route you programmed into the GPS.  They might follow your orders, or they might ignore them, and you have to plan for both outcomes years before the car’s done being built.

Infinite is also a game that attempts - mostly successfully, in my view - to talk about the deleterious effects of racial prejudice in a serious, adult manner.  The game’s treatment of the issues it raises has been criticized in some quarters as - at the least - irresponsible.  I don’t ultimately agree with that assessment, but I do understand it.  Certainly, at least one of the plot points is indisputably problematic.

But it is also a game which tells its story through its environment, and there is an inherent difficulty there unique to the video game medium.

To wit: if the environment which tells the player a story is inherently one in which certain voices are mercilessly silenced, and the player can only infer meaning from what the environment presents to her, how do you present the narrative of the silenced voices to the player in an understandable, nuanced, balanced way without resorting to cutscenes or other tools of third-person omniscient narrative?

I ask because I honestly don’t know the answer to that question.  It applies to real life, too; the dominant ideological narrative is always the most easily accepted one, because society is built around that narrative.

Your thoughts?

tinycartridge:

Arino lobbies for a Luigi cameo in Retro Game Challenge

I’ll leave it so someone else to tell us which episode this is from (the GIFs are from Goomba Shoe). If you also want to update us on the status of Game Center CX 2’s fan translation, feel free to chime in :o)

BUY Retro Game Challenge, Retro Game Master DVD set

I want to marry the zoom in that last shot.

By the way, Retro Game Challenge was amazing and screw all of you for not buying it you should own a copy.

On The Violence In Bioshock Infinite

This was originally a comment I left on this article, but I liked it enough that I felt it deserved its own space.  So:

Have not completed the game, don’t spoil it for me.  May not even visit this comment thread again, in fact.

That being said, I’d argue that if the violence in Infinite bothered you, it did exactly what it was supposed to do.  As with the racism, the oppression, the religious zealotry, and all the rest of it, the violence is there to reinforce not just that Columbia is a false paradise, but that there is no real paradise anywhere as long as humans are who they are.  Paradise never comes of denying one’s nature, and yet Columbia is a city full of excuses.

Where I think the disconnect comes in is that most violent games are just, well, violent.  There are almost no moments where you “stop to smell the roses” in Halo or Half-Life 2, because there’s no point to that.  You get the narrative moments in between the violent moments, but they’re always about justifying the next violent moment.

The narrative portions of Infinite, by contrast, are all about the false promise of escape from violence and its consequences.  Columbia itself is a monument to that principle; “If we live in the sky, away from the Sodom Below, we can live in peace.”  That’s the dream Comstock sells his flock on, even as he himself floated up into the sky to escape the consequences of razing Peking.  Booker’s the same way; he’s running from himself and his past, but he can’t deny his nature.

Elizabeth is the lynchpin of the game because she’s something of a tabula rasa.  Things have been done TO her by people following their natures, but she has no nature she’s aware of.  All she has is a “nurture,” if you like.  She’s innocent.  I don’t know what happens to her over the course of the game; I’ve only just gotten her.  But it seems to me as though the reason everyone covets her so is because her powers represent escape to them.  If she can tear open reality, they can escape theirs.  So, paradoxically, she is denied escape from their desire for escape.

But just as everywhere Booker goes, violence follows, so too does violence follow us as players.  And we enjoy it, because it is in our nature to enjoy it.  We claim over and over again to want to escape it, but we whine and say something “isn’t a game” if we can’t do violence to something, because we want challenges.  What’s being detected by players who want less violence is, to me, not ludonarrative dissonance within Bioshock Infinite, but our cognitive dissonance when we play other games.  We write it off as, “Well, I can’t do anything else.”  But put a gun in our hand, give us melee assassination prompts, whatever, and we will become the monsters we say we aren’t simply to overcome the latest obstacle.

By putting players in the shoes of a violent man who denies his nature, Irrational has said, “Recognize him?”  And we do, and we don’t like what we see, so we complain that Bioshock Infinite has too much violence, because that’s easier than admitting that we have become too accustomed to it.

That’s what I think, anyway.

BTW, I do want to say one other thing: whether or not you agree with me or anyone else on this page, doesn’t it feel great to have a genuine adult discussion about a video game for once?  The reactions to Infinite’s violence that I’ve seen, whether I’ve agreed with them or not, have all felt to me like reactions to a great and provocative film or book.  And I don’t mean that in a bad way; I’m not saying we’re looking at it as a movie with game bits grafted on, or whatever.  I’m saying that we’re not comparing it to other media at all, but using the developing vocabulary of the medium to talk about the game’s place in that medium.

Compare that to just a few years ago, when reviews of GTA IV unabashedly praised or damned the game in filmic terms.  For all the growing the medium still needs to do, it’s lovely to be talking about games as an equivalent to films or books rather than a descendent of them, you know?

Chris Tilton - 1up Show Theme Orchestra
1,157 plays

tinycartridge:

♫ Wanna stay home and play all my video games ♫

More than a few of us — peeps that came up in the game blogging scene during the late aughties — modeled our voices, our steez if you will, after the cats putting in work at 1UP and its trendsetting shows.

Even as layoffs and game companies picked its staff clean, Jeremy Parish and his skeleton crew managed to make great things with barebones resources. Plus, they called Tiny Cartridge one of the 101 Best Video Game Sites, and invited JC to take part in an episode of Retronauts!

So, it’s awful to hear that Ziff Davis/1UP is shutting down 1UP and laying off most of its team. :o( I’ll be spending the rest of this afternoon listening to these old 1UP Show theme arrangements I downloaded years ago and kept for some reason.

Just posted this recommendation of Proteus on my Steam account:

I’m not a big fan of artgames. I’m glad they exist, and I would never deny that they’re games, but so many of them are tedious twaddle. The Path, Passage, Blueberry Garden, Dear Esther… They’re all games I’m glad exist, and they’re all games I find unbearably dull to varying degrees. I’ve played some good artgames in the past, but there aren’t many I like, and even fewer I would recommend to others.

Proteus may or may not fit the definition of an art game. I don’t know, and I don’t care. What I do know is that it is a great game, and that it is great art. It’s a game in which you walk around a procedurally generated island and stuff happens.

That is all you do. That is enough.

Because it’s therapy. You give yourself to the game for forty-five minutes, and you come out of it - and I know how absurdly pretentious this sounds - healed. That is the only word for it. Proteus heals you. You come out of it thinking that everything will be alright.

Some people won’t get it. They’ll play it, be bored, and wonder what the point was. They will wonder how you win. That’s fine. But for anyone who’s ever suffered a panic attack or a depressive episode or whatever else, or for anyone who’s just feeling a bit down, Proteus will be a revelation. Many games promise escapism. This one delivers an escape. It’s important. Buy it.

So, y’know, get on that.  Link’s up there.  You get a Steam key and a soundtrack in addition to a DRM-free download for ten bucks.  

For What It’s Worth

Far Cry 3 is a great game.


It is also really, really, really confusing as a narrative.  I’m not entirely sure that’s intentional, despite having read the lead writer’s many comments on the thing.

(MAJOR SPOILARZ, by the way, although the game makes way more sense after you’ve read it, which is kind of the big problem with it.  I’d recommend reading it even if you haven’t played the game.)

I appreciate his intent, but for every flash of satirical brilliance, there are five moments that just…  I mean, they’re not even necessarily bad.  It’s just that they completely obfuscate whatever point the dude was trying to make.

But there are so many great moments, and the villain is an astonishingly excellent character, and the game itself, removed from the story, is kind of a masterpiece.

And yet, I find myself squirming when I say that, because something about the game keeps me from being completely OMFG about it.  There’s just this tickling sensation in the back of my head making me go, “Are you sure?  There’s something off here, and not on purpose.”

Also, I don’t care what the dude says, the use of racist and sexist iconogrophy does not work here.  The intent seems to have been pure, if a little confused, but the satire is ultimately too timid.  It’s worth contrasting with somethimg like Django Unchained, which deliberately moves out of the realm of “good taste” in order to slap you upside the head with the brutal reality of slavery.  It works wonderfully, because it uses its own entertainment value to lull the viewer into a false sense of security, then suddenly twists the knife.  FC3 doesn’t pull off anything similar.

As John Walker points out in the linked article, there’s also the fact that it’s a lot harder to tell at the moment whether a game is being satirical, because very few AAA game narratives aren’t ludicrous exercises in rationalizing mass murder.  To a certain extent, Tarantino has it easier, because most films don’t do what his do.  That’s not the case with AAA games, AAA shooters especially.

It’s a mess, is FC3's story, but I do recommend playing it.  One, because the game's so astonishingly great, and two, because despite the fact that (two “the fact thats” in a single piece; William Strunk is rolling in his grave) it doesn't succeed at its satirical goals, there's a lot in it that's worth considering.

Also, shooting open a tiger’s cage and watching it kill the hell out of everybody in an enemy camp will never, ever get old.

I immediately came up with two ways to do co-op horror right as a result of reading this piece, and sent the following to a friend before I decided it would be fun to put on the blog as well:


1) A short multiplayer slasher game. Six players are high school kids inside a creepy old mansion. One player is also the slasher, and they have to slash all the others without getting caught. Dead players can watch other players get chopped, but they’re muted until the end of the session. Random start point, random trap doors, random secret rooms, etc. Players have to work with each other to catch the killer, but any one of them could be the killer. Meanwhile, the killer has to find places in the mansion to hide in order to change into his or her slasher costume. The slasher can attack people without his or her costume, but a player killed by an uncostumed slasher can leave a taped message saying who it was for other players to pick up, so it’s a risk. Also, there’s a one percent chance that a killed player will come back as a vengeful ghost, at which point they’re still muted, but they can do things to identify their killer. Players win if they successfully identify and subdue the killer, but they can easily identify the wrong person and incapacitate them too.

2) Single-player exploration of a creepy old mansion said to be haunted. What players don’t know is that there’s a multiplayer element; previous players’ routes through the mansion are recorded, and whenever a new player starts a game, a few of those recordings are selected at random and pieced together to become the ghost’s route through the mansion. Touching the ghost is instant death.

I feel like there should maybe be more to the second one, but there you go.

If anyone in a position to make either of these games is reading this right now, TAKE THEM AND MAKE THEM.  All I want is to play these games.

Well, and an “inspiration” credit in the finished product, and for you to maybe drop me a line and tell me you’re making these things. And I’d be interested in being a tester for anything you come up with.  I’m giving good ideas to you for no dough, but you aren’t lucky enough to be reading the blog of a complete idiot.

And when it comes to the idea that today’s audiences don’t like to read text, or that communicating a story through prose rather than through gameplay automatically represents some kind of narrative failure, Sawyer isn’t sold. The idea that all players should like the same things, or that players can be segregated into “ones that like story” and “ones that like combat” seem equally fallacious to him.

"This has been bugging me a lot lately," he says. "In the past few years there’s been a trend toward designing games with mechanics for people who don’t like those mechanics, and it blows my mind… I look at a lot of mechanics, like ‘hey, let’s write dialog for people who don’t like to read!’ You were writing with the assumption that they do want to read some of it, right? If people don’t want to read, why are we writing? And if people don’t like combat, why do you have combat in it?"

Obsidian Entertainment’s Josh Sawyer, talking to Gamasutra about Project Eternity, Obsidian’s successfully Kickstarted attempt to create a deep, mature, long, tactical, intellectually rewarding fantasy RPG in the vein of the classic Infinity Engine games Planescape: Torment, Baldur’s Gate and its sequel, and Icewind Dale and its sequel.

Which Obsidian is in a good position to do, given that most of the people worked on those games at Black Isle Studios.  You know, the company that also made the first two Fallout games and generally set the standard for RPG design at the turn of the century, a standard that I’d argue has yet to be surpassed in many ways?

Not to mention that Obsidian (Black Isle?  Obsidian?  Geddit?) has made games like Fallout: New Vegas and the very underappreciated Alpha Protocol, about which I have ranted before.  Oh, and KOTOR II, which managed to be a better game than KOTOR by a wide margin despite having been shoved out the door by the publisher six months before it was ready and consequently lacking a real ending?

Oh, and they have Tim Cain (Project Lead on Fallout 1) and assorted other Troika staffers there.  You may remember Troika being the creators of a little game called Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines.  Or perhaps Arcanum?

I’m saying you should back their Kickstarter now, yes.  And if you want to call me a blinkered Obsidian fanboy, go right ahead, because I am one, and have been ever since I first played KOTOR II, which is essentially a postmodern deconstruction of every tenet of the Star Wars universe that somehow got approved by LucasArts and is canon, and which you should totally buy on Steam and play using the Restored Content mod that gives the game more content and a proper ending.

Oh, and to anyone about to go “lol Obsidian makes buggy games lol”, play Dungeon Siege III.  Granted, it’s a fairly perfunctory game in a lot of ways, but it’s pleasant enough, and bug-free.

BUT ANYWAY

GO

GO AND BACK IT YOU BASTARDS

Sleeping Dogs Is Really Good

Just, y’know, FYI.  Sharp PC port, too, though gamepad control is the smart thing.

Surprisingly good writing and acting, too, and characters switch from English to Cantonese on the fly in a way that feels natural.  It’s nice to also hear some characters only speak in Cantonese; it bugs the crap out of me when a Western-made faux-HK film or game has everybody speak English.

Points as well for actually, you know, getting HK actors to play HK roles.  No racebending or “HARRO BERRY PREASE TO MET YOU NAME MISHTA WONG” stereotyping here.  Haven’t been to HK, but I’ve watched a lot of HK films and been to Taiwan for my brother’s wedding, and the way people act and speak feels authentic to my (admittedly untrained) ear.  More importantly, it feels authentic to the HK action films that obviously inspired it; there’s none of that patronizing Western “Hong Kong’s just Triads and dragon statues, right?  And gongs on the soundtrack?” feeling you see in most Western films that attempt to mimic HK cinema.  Study went into this thing, and it shows.

More when I’ve spent more time with it.

Just sent this link to a friend, and I thought y’all might dig it as well.

For the record, I have Spec Ops: The Line, and it’s a weird, creepy game about weird, creepy things.  I’ve only played the beginning of the game, but even there, when all the standard rah-rah America F**k Yeah stuff is still in place and not being questioned, something feels… wrong.  Refreshingly so.  War should be spooky.

Like Binary Domain, it’s not a great game, exactly.  The shooting is completely average, though it is refreshing to again play a game where two or three shots will drop a mofo.

But man, the feeling of the thing.  You’re doing crap you’d do in any military shooter, but the rah-rah feeling is curiously absent.  Your squadmates seem like standard-issue ones; there’s Black Man With An American President’s Name And A Tendency To Tell The Blunt Truth And An Ill-Defined Role Within The Squad, and there’s Oddly Named John Leguizamo/Sam Rockwell Comic Relief Character Of Perhaps Mixed Ethnicity Who Is Also “Tech Guy” Because That Is Who That Character Always Is.  But even though they hit all the beats, they feel strangely off as well.  This is compounded by the fact that there’s no comforting voice in your Handsomely Grizzled White Man’s earpiece telling him what to do next.  The only thing you hear is creepy radio broadcasts off in the distance, and you’re in Dubai, which feels like Mars.  It’s an eerily quiet game for a narrative shooter.

I dunno, I don’t wanna oversell it, but I think you all might really dig it.

Anyway, check out the article.  Tom Bissell is someone I don’t always agree with, but who always makes interesting points and backs them up with smart reasoning.  If I were to make a list of the Top Ten Best Writers Of Video Game Criticism (I know the “writers of” is clunky, but so-called “games journalism” is rarely actual sources-and-leads journalism, and nobody in that business is simply a “game critic” in the way Roger Ebert is a “film critic” - though Bissell comes close), Bissell would be on it.

EDIT: Ah, wonky spacing, you are my most hated enemy.  Let me see if I can fix this.

twentypercentcooler:

Today at Grantland, I’ve written a review of Lollipop Chainsaw. Instead of talking about gameplay mechanics, though, I’ve limited myself to the story and its subtle themes of gender roles and sexuality.
No, really. 

I was thinking about posting a piece on this that said much the same thing, actually.

The only thing I would add is that Juliet is a much stronger character than a surface reading of the game would suggest.  She absolutely is the “strong female character = female who fights bad guys” exploitation cliche taken to its absurd extreme, but she’s also much more proactive, capable, and independent than ninety-nine percent of those characters.  Yes, she’s bubbly, naïve, and concerned about stereotypically “female” things like her physical appearance, and yes, she’s clearly been created on one level simply to be ogled, but she also always holds the power and the intellectual advantage in the relationship with her doofy but sweet boyfriend, and she’s utterly fearless.

And even if all of that weren’t true, the game would still be less sexist than a lot of games simply because it’s honest about what it’s doing.  I’d rather see a one-dimensional pinup portrayed as a one-dimensional pinup than see another female “knight” who cries at the first sign of trouble, requires a man to function, and wears butt-floss “armor”.

twentypercentcooler:

Today at Grantland, I’ve written a review of Lollipop Chainsaw. Instead of talking about gameplay mechanics, though, I’ve limited myself to the story and its subtle themes of gender roles and sexuality.

No, really.

I was thinking about posting a piece on this that said much the same thing, actually.

The only thing I would add is that Juliet is a much stronger character than a surface reading of the game would suggest. She absolutely is the “strong female character = female who fights bad guys” exploitation cliche taken to its absurd extreme, but she’s also much more proactive, capable, and independent than ninety-nine percent of those characters. Yes, she’s bubbly, naïve, and concerned about stereotypically “female” things like her physical appearance, and yes, she’s clearly been created on one level simply to be ogled, but she also always holds the power and the intellectual advantage in the relationship with her doofy but sweet boyfriend, and she’s utterly fearless.

And even if all of that weren’t true, the game would still be less sexist than a lot of games simply because it’s honest about what it’s doing. I’d rather see a one-dimensional pinup portrayed as a one-dimensional pinup than see another female “knight” who cries at the first sign of trouble, requires a man to function, and wears butt-floss “armor”.

Hideo Kojima

While the Crystal Palace of videogames we call E3 lumbers onward, I feel it wise to take a step back and reflect on the wit and wisdom of some of our greatest game-makers.

Today, we ponder a quote from 2008, in which Hideo Kojima attempts to clarify that he is not disappointed in the PS3, and ends up in a flying car that is not also a space car, or something.

I hate to say this myself, but I am a Japanese man, so I try to be modest, or even more. I don’t wish to brag about it to say ‘Oh I am the MGS4 guy’ or to say ‘This is the best one’, just like how Americans brag stuff like this I do enjoy myself, but in my mind I still think insufficient of myself.

… Let’s say this developer is making a new kind of a car. He claims that this can fly. Now there is no stop when you say ‘There is a car that can fly.' When you claim that it can fly, the speculation grows from 'Oh so it can fly?' and the developer would set his goals higher. The speculation is that if the car flies, then it should reach a MACH speed…but it doesn't stop there…it'd go beyond the speculation of then 'it should go into space!' with all the excitement around, the developer would go deeply into making the car going into space…however, he'll come up to the public and say the car reaches the MACH speed, but it fails to go into the space. But he shouldn't give up, because for a car to even reach a mach speed and go into air is revolutionary.

I wished to transfer my thoughts like such, but I guess it didn’t work very well.

I guess not, Kojima-san.  I guess not.

Tumblrcab Confessions

Dear other ME3 players,

I’m sorry I fell asleep while we were playing. I didn’t mean to hide behind a wall for ten minutes and make us lose, but I was very very tired. Sorry.