Delete all after crazy
I've been told that I take games too seriously--a statement that I wont deny. I guess Breen Malmberg takes games pretty seriously too, because the gamer wrote Valve asking for a refund on the purchase of Bioshock Infinite. Apparently, Breen couldn't play past the baptism sequence in the opening stage of the game due to religious conflicts. It appears that Valve has refunded the money. It never ceases to amaze me what a person can accomplish through a polite email, Please and Thank You go a long way too. Personally, I choose to avoid Infinite for the time being due to issues I have with the game's recombinant take on history (a topic that I shall not discuss here).
Breen's actions remind me of a few times that I was so offended by the content of a game that I either quit playing, or begrudgingly continued playing while cursing under my breath. Although I've never asked for my money back because of these matters, I have returned games for a full refund on three separate occasions. The first game I ever returned was Metal Gear Solid for the Gamecube. The managment told me it was against company policy to allow refunds for opened new games, but I convinced them--very politely--that the salesman had mislead me by saying the game was all-new when it was really just a port of the original, which I had already played. I got all my money back.
The second game I returned was Just Cause 1 for the PC. The instruction manual clearly stated that you could crouch, however, the ability to crouch was completely absent in the controls. The merchant told me it is was against company policy to accept returns on new items, but once again I was able to express my point and they refunded all my money.
A few years ago I purchased Red Alert 3 for the PS3. The sound in the game was completely broken and I must have spent 4-hours alternating settings and the sound still never worked. As it turned out, this was a well documented problem for many players. Same story, I made my point politely and they refunded my money despite company policy. It never ceases to amaze me what a polite Please and Thank You can accomplish.
On rare occasion the content of a game has offended me. The treatment of the Boston Tea Party in AC3 comes to mind. I have deep seeded conflicts with the way that event was portrayed because the Boston Tea Party is one of the most well known non-violent protests in the world. The crowd calmly assembled, dumped the tea, and then quietly dispersed--AC3 turned it into a bloodbath. That didn't stop me from finishing the game, but it will stop me from purchasing future installments of the series.
The only time I've outright quit a game was in Dragon Age: Origins. In the early stages of the game there's a bloodletting ritual and human sacrifice. These are satanic practices and I didn't want any involvement. It has nothing to do with religion--there was no choice in the matter other than quiting and I'm just not that character. Fortunately, the game was a rental.
I don't like that Valve refunded Breen's money, it sets a bad precedent. I do like that at least one gamer is playing with a conscience, even if for self-promotion. It reminds me that one Irrational team member threatened to quit the game because of similar conflicts. Although Irrational reported that changes were made to the game and this person did not leave the project, I still wonder why any company would ever admit that their game was so offensive that an employee threatened to quit. Perhaps for free press.
I don't know if it's wrong or right, but my conscience inhibited me to return those games. I will never play Dragon Age again, but who knows. I may never touch AC or Infinite even though I'm curious. The main point to take away from this is: One man can make a difference Michael Knight.
With all the controversy over violence and sexism in the industry, This Happened and We All Let it Happen.
I'm practically speechlesss, if you don't want to watch the vid, you can read the article here.
When the Fun Stops--the Shame Starts
In 2009, the journal of Henry David Thoreau was released as a single bound copy. Clocking in at over two-million words, or seven-thousand pages, Thoreau's journal provides deep insight to the daily observations of a classic American writer. His journal may have never existed if not for some influential advice from friend and fellow writer Ralph Waldo Emerson. Emerson asked the aspiring young writer in the Fall of 1837, "Do you keep a journal?" Thoreau's first journal entry is dated October 22, 1837. Emerson's own journal clocks in at over three-million words and is considered by some to be his master work. For both men, journaling was an important practice of their daily lives and inspirational for developing their greatest literary works.
The practice of journaling is not just for writers, many professionals maintain a journal for the purpose of documenting ideas, inferences, and feelings related to the projects theyre working on. While functioning as a record of sequential information the journal also acts as a forum for complex ideas, a charrette of self-integrated consultation. There are many benefits to maintaining a journal including tracking personal progress over time. Journal entries are more than just ideas and feelings, they are reference points that can be used to gauge how much real progress has been made.
Journaling has seen a revival in popularity over the past decade. Although largely due to internet blogging, traditional forms of journaling are also reemerging. And some not so traditional. Its no surprise that journaling has crept into the videogame market relatively unnoticed. Developers are using journaling as a way to deliver additional background information within the context of the games characters. The Limited edition of Assassins Creed III includes George Washington's journal. The notebook reveals the truths and secrets about the Templars and Assassins during the American Revolution. Dr. Halsey's personal journal from Halo Reach is available with purchase of the Limited or Legendary copies of the game. The journal provides a unique glimpse into her personal relationships and includes several revelations from the Halo universe. This is just one method developers are using to provide a personal touch and to expand the gaming experience beyond the digital realm.
Digital journals have made appearances in several games over the past few years. I suspect they will have a strong presence in future games as the desire to convey background information continues and the need to track large amounts of data persists. Access to this data has pretty much always been available under different menu sub-headings like Stats, or Mission Objectives. But more recent games have taken the notion an extra step to include this information within the chronological, geospatial, and social perspective of the character.
The use of digital journals have become a mainstay in large adventure games, and are essential in managing vast quantities of game data. The Journal menu in games like SW: Knights of the Old Republic, or the Mass Effect series, are invaluable sources of information that insure the player can proceed from any save point with a clear vantage of progression and objectives. No matter where you are in the game, or how long it's been since your last play, the journal maintains a reference point and always answers the question: What are you doing now?
Games have established progressively more uses for digital journals, which provide a summary of where players have been, active missions, and recent accomplishments. The appropriately name War Journal in Gears of War fills this function. The War Journal mostly serves to track achievement progress, but it's also where Marcus Fenix stores all the collectables and photographs taken during his mission. The Journal sub menu in Red Dead Redemption is an invaluable tool that summarizes everything John Marston has done in the game including his recent conversations. The Journal is important because it displays in-game challenges and what needs to be done to complete them. The digital journal in the Witcher 2 functions the same way. Data and information regarding quests, monsters, weapons, characters, and locations are documented in the journal in additional to a summary of previous accomplishments.
In-game journals are extremely valuable to players in the medium and they function in a very similar way to traditional journals. Any stranger can read my hand-written journal and get a pretty good idea about my recent accomplishments, current position, and future objectives. Similarly, a complete stranger can load my saved game and obtain relatively the same information about my game progress from the in-game journal. In a sense, the player is writing a journal for their prospective character, and each journal will vary slightly from player to player depending on what course of action was taken
Occasionally, we actually get to see videogame characters use a journal. During the opening sequence of AC3 we listen to Haytham Kenway narrate his thoughts as he writes in his journal while traveling across the Atlantic Ocean. In Uncharted, Nathan Drake is guided by a series of clues found in the journal of Sir Frances Drake. The journal not only helps Nathan successfully navigate the puzzles he encounters, it's also pivotal in development of the plot. Drake's journal, in essence, manifests a personality of its own and maintains a crucial presence within the game.
Not to often the journal writings of real people are examined in order to develop a videogame experience. Development of Henry David Thoreau: Walden Woods [the videogame] began in 2012 and is currently still in production. Thoreau's book Walden and excerpts from his journal were used to replicate the geography of Walden Pond within an appropriate temporal context. The gameplay will attempt introduce a new genre in which reflection and insight play an important role in the player experience. If you're wondering how the experience of a man who thrusts himself into a habitat experiment can be replicated in a digital environment, you're not alone. What is clear: Thoreau's journal is the backbone of this game and it's being used in ways he never imagined possible.
Journaling has become a prevailing theme in videogames today. If Emerson had never encouraged Thoreau to start writing a journal--Who knows what videogames would never have been created. The importance of the practice is timeless and priceless. Does taking a quit walk through the woods sound like a fun game to you?
2012 is over. I've crossed off another resolution on my queue. I've been everywhere.
No more twists and turns for me until next year. Ive decided to take a break form wandering. I'm not settleing down, but I'm no longer homeless and unemployed.
New house and new job, but the same old games. 2012 was a massive dissapointment. I went out of my way to play AC3 and XCOM, and both missed the mark. Every game that could have been made has been made in duplicate. GOTY for 2012? Free To Play
My 2013 Resolution? Not to buy any new release in 2013 unless it retails below $30. Not that I can't afford to, it's because I've lost my respect. It's up to the industry to earn my dollars back. This will be fun, and really really bad. I'm not looking forward to 2013.
I don't watch much television, I think it's all pretty bad. Sitcoms aren't funny, reality TV is completely fake, sporting events are predictable, and commercial breaks are all contrived. It's called programming for a reason, and the viewer is the one being programed.
I know that attendance at sporting events is forged for TV, I know that reality TV is scripted, I know that the CIA plants scripts on major sitcoms, I know that the DoD supports major motion pictures, and I know that the Gangnam style marches to the beat of a war drum. The Gangnam spiral is a cultural contrivance. It's a professionally produced massive distraction, designed to make the programing seem cool.
I know that a youtube video has over 1 billion veiws, I know that a youtube video has made over $250K, I know that Barack Obama dances gangnam style around the WhiteHouse, I know that the UN Secretary General dances the gangnam style for world peace, and I know that the militray teaches the gangnam style at the US Naval Academy in Annapolis Maryland. I know that right before pulling the rug out from under your feet, they bring the circus and bread.
The world has entered a downward spiral. We're being programed for a reason, we're being set up, and the programming is working. Wuppa!
Asking for a final product is too unrealistic these days. I can no longer expect that my $65 purchase of a new game will actually buy me a product thats complete, or even worth it. Maybe Im too ambitious, maybe Im too pretentious, or maybe I just had it too good for too long. Someone once asked me what an act of good faith means. An act of good faith is knowing that you care regardless of the outcome. I fear that my faith in videogame is lost. I no longer care about new releases. I no longer believe in pre-orders. I've just decided my New Year's resolution.
All things considered, the truth is I hate AC3, and I no longer believe in the franchise. The glitchfest is old news, but am I the only one who thinks that releasing a game with a day one patch that fixes every mission in the game is BS? Oh yeah, the next patch also fixes every mission in the game. I was hoping the ending was a glitch too, but no, that **** happens. Several people have told me, "just download the patch, whats the big deal?" So, tell me--when should I start playing the game? After the first patch, the second patch, third? What kind of deal is that? Does my $65 dollar purchase also include the price internet access? No. First impressions matter!
Glitching aside, the game is playable without the patches. The controls have been simplified from previous AC games, and the combat has been dumbed down to a point where anyone can win without upgrades. The game is really, really easy. I never bought any weapons and didn't bother with any side missions because I didnt need to. I finished the game using just the hidden blade. Then I started thinking, what other games have I played where I didn't need to upgrade my character, and didn't care?
I really don't want to do a spoilers blog for Templar's Cree.... umm I mean Assassin's Creed 3, but I might have to write one at some point even if I never publish it. Actually, I really want to do a spoilers blog for the entire series, but I fear that it will be ten pages long and nobody will read it. Assassin's Creed is one of my favorite franchises and I've always admired it's counter-factual historiography. In ACII, the writers creatively adapted the Pazzi Conspiracy, the Bonfire of the Vanities, and other conspiracies into Ezio's story. In AC3, history is bastardized for the sake of entertainment. I've been told verbatum--"video games are not meant to be history lessons!" Wow, I'm enlightened, guess what--History is not meant to be entertainment... Samuel Adams was not an entertainer, Paul Revere was not an entertainer, [and Abraham Lincoln was not a vampire hunter]. Granted, my opinion on this matter is what sets me aside from other gamers. But, to understand this point is to understand why ACII is considered ground-breaking.
AC3 introduces a shameful reproduction of the Boston Tea party. The departure form reality is so sad that I've lost all faith in the franchise. The Tea Party game trailer looks good, but the actual game play is a steaming pile. The attention to detail is poor and the writing is aweful. Its not creative and barely entertaining. I turned off my consoleand hung my head in spite. I realized that videogames dont have good writing because good writers are not going to waste there talent on a videogame. Then I paused and seriously thought about how this game got such high reviews. Oh yeah, the review embargo.
Why does this game have such positive reviews? It's nowhere close to GOTY. However, a product reviewer (Evaluation Publicist) once told me--"I get it for free, before everyone else, and I get free shwag... of course I'm going to give it a good review." If I got to play this game for free, then I wouldn't be posting this blog. Have you ever wondered how game journaists can review the multiplayer component of a game before the game is even released? It's a tailored experiece.
I've spent the past month contemplating AC3 and a few other games. Dishonored is good, but it looks like other games I've played. Walking Dead is interesting but zombies, yeah another zombie game. XCOM is excellent, my favorite game of the year, but it has game ending glitches. There are some other notable sequels that are good, but they're just expansions. Binary Domain is the only promising new IP I've seen all year but it's not great. Did I fail to mention Assassin's Greed 3 is crap.
This leads me to my final point and the just of this rant.
I recently read Extra Lives by Tom Bissell (2010). I was enjoying his critical approach to a variety of games until he started talking about Epic Games and the Gears of War franchise. Don't get me wrong, I like GoW, but he doesnt say one critical thing about the game, and offers only praise for his experience at Epic. If I got to cruse around LA with Cliff Bleszinski in a Lamborghini Spyder, get taken out to dinner, and play a game that hasnt been released yet, I'd probably have a great experience too.
What bothers me is that Tom never mentions that he was working for Epic Games while writing the book, and his relationship was friendly enough that GoW2 features a character named Bissell. He wrote a book for GoW3 (Epic Edition) in 2011, and is also the lead writer for the next installment--GoW Judgment (2013). If you read the book, and I cannot honestly recommend you do, it should be very obvious why Bissell currently works for Epic instead of Blizzard or Infinity Ward, for example.
This is the state of game journalism. Im paying the money, and theyre playing for free. I'm paying for consoles and games, and they're giving away games and PS3s to journaists at the GMA. Meanwhile they're telling me the difference between 9 vs 6 metascore.
I expect a certain degree of intellectual honesty. Bad journalism is not illegal, nor should it be, but theres a level of moral divisiveness that should distress any gamer. I've come to learn this is the nature of game journalism, it's something that needs to unravel. An act of good faith is knowing that you care regardless of the outcome. Some journalists are playing off this conviction, and not just in the game industry. A journalist should disclose that they're playing games for free, that they're under PR contract to write the reviews, or that they're on the payroll for a studio while simultainiously providing a positive testimoanial. I know what game journalists I like and trust; I'll support them, follow them, and promote them. But as soon as they betray my trust, I'll abandon them. (!Natural Selection 2--cough!)
My New Year's resolution... All my 2013 pre-orders are crossed off the list and I've cut my annual game budget in half. I will not adopt a new console, and I will not buy any game over $30. Reviews mean nothing, scores mean nothing, metacritic means nothing. I do not fear intellectual dishonesty, but I fear that my good faith in videogames is betrayed.
Magnificent Mr. Auditore
Since you have inspired a strong desire in me to revisit the archives of the past, and created a whelming yearn for me to write in doing so, I fear you may become weary of my letters. If my words become exhausted in duration, or verbose in detail, you may think best not to reply despite my good will. I am pleased that you have finished gallivanting around the Mediterranean and reside humbly with your family along the Tuscan countryside. Many astonishing works have been accomplished by your hands, and by your hands, shaped the future of humanity, and as such have stirred the affection in my heart.
I understand you and the compass by which you navigate, and if your actions could be condemned, which they cannot, I would not condemn them. I see the end these deeds have taken you and with what hope they nourish you. However, I cannot see with your mirror, where nothing is seen but prudence, but I see with the eyes of a player, who is obliged to judge the result of the affairs when they are finished. Each man according to his own imagination guides himself. And I see various kinds of conduct bringing about the same thing in the future, as by various roads one comes to the same place, and many who work differently attain the same goal. With that goal in mind, one must travel the road that best suits his ambition, and if that purpose is cruel or unmerciful, then the end must be justified. I offer commendation for your actions, and beseech you to view them with approval.
What sort of life have I been living you ask, I shall tell you. Although I pretend to work and do the biding of my employer, in reality I access the world wide consortium, there I ask about the recent news, learn of various new games, and compel myself with the interests of friends. Within the course of the hours I partake in the days events. Play immediately sinks into vulgarities, bringing upon a thousand insults with offensive profanities between those who have common interests. These disputes trifle over measly scores and paltry achievements. It is a wondrous thing to consider how blind players are to the things which they fail, and what sharp persecutors they are to vices they do not have. So trivial are these discussions that I must keep my mind from growing moldy and gladly return home.
Once I arrive home I fasten the door and confide to my game room. There, I delve into the great adventures that have endeared my inherent interests over the years. I am received with grand affection, I feed on those adventures which are only mine, and which I was born to play. For several hours I will not feel boredom, I forget every trouble, I do not dread solitude, and I am not frightened by death; I give myself entirely to play. There must be a beginning of any great matter, but continuing unto the end, until it be thoroughly finished yields the true glory. The games speak to me.
I do not wish to omit giving you notice of our dearest friend Niccolo. He demonstrated such fine qualities in life, and great love for his city of Florence. What better place and time for the birth of a man who looked into the hearts of men, saw much love and mire, and spoke of it to the ages to follow. He left behind many brilliant writings, the anthology of which I shall not make you suffer except for one. It is a short book, dedicated to a man who acts boldly and acts alone, a man who is tightfisted and generous, loved and feared, a true friend, and a true enemy. He is strong like a lion, and cunning like a fox. Ezio, you are the man Niccolo wrote about, you are the Armed Prophet--the prince. I feel certain that your virtue and fortune were posthumous inspirations.
Ezio, will it be, after a thousand years, a reprehensible thing to write something else than stories of your life? Will it be that the reputation of the past is overwritten by the esteem of the present? Are those who cannot remember the past condemned to repeat it? I lay aside every irrational hesitation and beg you to help me straighten out the confusion in my head. I say, let players be the victor by the means they see fit, and you shall attend to your affairs in your own way, I shall miss you.
Honourable Mr. Drake
I have joined you on your adventures throughout the years, and diligently played them over and over, with utmost eagerness. I have learned with great pleasure that you are hard at work, and quietly carrying on your adventures despite the critique of others. I certainly encourage you to continue on your expeditions, because he who gives up his own convenience for the convenience of others only losses his own and from there on gets no gratitude. My life at present is not so dreary, but your life is much more tantalizing. Nathan, you have been an excellent guide and a well-known companion to myself and others. You have proven yourself a clever student of the past and a harbinger of greatness from small beginnings. These flatteries may give us delight, but it is now your turn to be the listener.
You are the magnificent traveler whose path illuminates inspiration, but some followers of your course have fallen miserably into wasteful strife. They sink within a deluge of games, and become lost in the thirst for the waters of life. While you venture more boldly, beyond the scope of the horizon, they navigate safely to the shoreline. They are too pleased with themselves, that their dreams have become true because they dream too little, they attain pleasure too harmlessly because they risk so modestly. The honorable name of your ancestor circumnavigated the world, now you are more well known than the man you once lauded. This greatly disturbs me.
Heed the enmity of your admirers, lest we acknowledge your work belongs to the commons rather than just ourselves. I cannot carp the position of ordinary players who are unenlightened when I find greater faults with those who call themselves educated and are more serious in their complaints. They add to their ignorance and disgusting pride when they evoke even the most fragmentary citations that were once proud sayings to comprehend and are now trivial passages. Modern times are so unforgiving, they scorn antiquity to whom they owe every form of art, and they dare to declare themselves not only equal but superior to the glorious past. They have little skill, much indolence, and rely entirely upon accident and chance to secure their victories. They play for pure entertainment and gratification, and they do not blush when proclaiming their perfection upon certain triumph. There is no doubt that these games have ruined them. But these indignities may be excused in the utter ignorance and need for instruction on the part of those who hold them.
Such are the times upon which we have fallen. Such are the critics of today, they lament and complain about the knowledge and virtue of play, harbor the most exalted opinion of themselves, yet fail to give heed to their own instruction. If it is read, I should complain of myself, that I have been studying the art of play for quiet some time, and perhaps best to take my own advice. Unto this end I write to you, to seek guidance on these matters, and give you my regards. Be happy.
"Man is the measure of all things"... The ancient Greek philosopher Protagoras is credited as the author of this saying. He is recognized by scholars in the school of male virtue and renowned for teaching the benefits of patriarchal status among ancient Greek society. An Athenian once asked a Spartan whether he thought the walls around Athens were beautiful, the Spartans replied "yes, if the city is full of women." The Greeks bestowed the means of protection and security of their cities on the personal virtue of the men who defended them. City walls were built to protect those who inherently were not capable of defending themselves. So much does a city wall stand to protect the women inside as the women can injure and ruin a city from within.
Aristotle commits the ruin of cities to women through deception, seduction, violence, or corruption of marriages. According to Aristotle, women and their haughtiness are the first cause among the ruin of cities and their leaders (Treatise on Government). This regard was so widely held throughout the past that Machiavelli devoted an entire chapter of his book titled How a State is Ruined Because of Women (Discourses on Livy). This view has largely persisted in western culture and only recently declined within the past 100-years.
**Possible Spoilers** Bayonetta!
There is no better example of the destruction of a city from within than Bayonetta. Her assault against the patriarchal hierarchy inside the fictional city of Vigrid is worthy of legend. Bayonetta is probably the most interesting female protagonist to grace the videogame world. She not only transgresses the traditional gender boundaries by assuming a character typically reserved for men, but also crosses physical boundaries through a circular portal and shape-shifting. Looking at the story from outside--it's completely absurd. It's important to understand that Bayonetta destroys the patriarchy established by the Lumen Sages and instates a matriarchal structure of Umbra Witches.
Bayonetta borrows themes from Dante's The Devine Comedy. The work follows Dante as he transgresses the physical boundaries of heaven, hell, and purgatory in search of religious and spiritual enlightenment. Bayonetta represents a satire of Dante, but there are some noteworthy comparisons. Three major themes presented in the Divine Comedy are theology, sin, and virtue. These themes are structured around the four Cardinal Virtues: Fortitude, Temperance, Justice, and Prudence. Historically the four Cardinal Virtues are depicted as female allegorical figures, however, in Bayonetta the virtues are depicted as male allegorical figures. Unlike Dante, Bayonetta overthrows the established patriarchy by attacking and killing the four Cardinal Virtues (Fortitudo, Temperantia, Lustitia, and Sapientia). As Bayonetta rages through the city of Vigrid she battles multiple Angels who are represented in the masculine form. Obviously, the game foils the patriarchal religious organization and invalidates the male dominated structure in humorous, violent, and inappropriate ways.
Bayonetta operates within this domain seamlessly because she herself is a physical transgression. She is a child of an Umbra Witch and a Lumen Sage, something that's apparently forbidden according to the narrative. In a sense her physical presence violates an established natural boundary. Her struggle further revolves around the fact that Balder, the top Lumen Sage, is also her father. The story ensues with a Daughter vs. Daddy battle as a metaphor for the struggles between the matriarchy and patriarchy. The game ends with the patriarchal establishment almost completely destroyed and the Umbra Witches restored.
"I would much rather stand three-times in the front of battle than birth one child." [Medea]
The mythic archetype is almost always male, he travels on an epic journey, slays certain monsters, and reinforces the virtues of patriarchal society. Bayonetta is a reversal and satire of the patriarchal society established in antiquity. The archetypal men of Vigrid are incapable of defending themselves against the haughty female protagonist. The male virtues of Vigrid and its wall, which stand to preserve the patriarchal leader Balder, are insufficient to protect them against Bayonetta. 'Man is the measure of all things?' I think Bayonetta disagrees.
The axiom more accurately reads: Moral beliefs are true for the community in which they are held. A virtue cannot be learned if its moral basis is absent within the community. Bayonetta acts as the anti-mythic-archetype by asserting the relationship of gender interactions within modern communities. Perhaps Bayonetta shows us that there are literally no boundaries when pertaining to female protagonists. She exemplifies both the desirable and less desirable virtues of male protagonists while carving out a distinctly feminine persona. She establishes herself as a unique archetypal heroine in an industry dominated by heroes.
**POSSIBLE SPOILERS** Spec-Ops: the Line, Red Dead Redemption, CoD: Black-Ops. I tried really hard not to completely spoil these games. So be warned.
There's an old saying that art imitates life, or is it life imitates art? I guess it's both. Human beings are both very loving and very violent life forms, and we express these traits in our art. Through art we can explore a full spectrum of emotions in a safe and comfortable environment if we choose to. Violence is an especially difficult emotion to understand because it's often irrational and even perverse. Even though videogames are largely underappreciated within the art community they are currently the most unique medium we have to explore the topic of violence because the player is not only viewing the hostility but also participates in how it unfolds. Videogame violence can be used as a symbol to draw attention to larger social issues and the moral consequences of human endeavor.
Over the past few years several games have sparked controversy about violence in games. Do they glorify violence? Are the depictions of violence too graphic? Are they appropriate for children? Videogame violence can be studied from many angles, but I intened to only focus on games that express gun violence and its related culture. Specifically games that are contemporary with gun violence in the modern era. Violence in mythological settings, such as God of War, or science fictional settings like Halo, are worthy of their own blogs respectively.
Gun violence in videogames has been a constant companion in the industry since the release of Castle Wolfinstien. It's become perverted in games like GTA, and pimped-out in games like Army of Two. Combat is at the core of gun violence. Whether we approve of it or not, videogames are placing an increasingly greater value on gun violence and gun combat. Violence and the participation in combat is often the defining characteristic of a charaters worth within the narrative. Some recent games attempt to demonstrate the emotional side of this type of violence, the culture that surrounds it, and how it wares the facets of the human mind.
I recently finished playing Spec-Ops: The Line. The game attempts to characterize the morality of violence and the effects those choices have on the human mind. The story draws heavily from Heart of Darkness (Joseph Conrad) and does an excellent job of reinventing narrative themes outlined in the book, and iterating the classic tragic formula of mistaken identity, recognition, and reversal. The protagonist, Capt Walker, discovers three types of adversaries: the insurgents, the environment, and the mind. Often times the latter is rarely important enough to evoke an emotional response from the player. Current global conflicts have demonstrated the emotional pressures faced by fighting forces and the struggle that soldiers have managing post-tramatic-stress disorder (PTSD). In Spec-Ops the player occupies the mind of a man whilst the stress disorder manifests. Too often in videogames players see the graphic art of violence and the gun modifications as being "cool." Spec-Ops attemps to avoid those motifs by adding a face to the violence that's typically not seen in other shooters. It's easy to forget that this form of art is designed in such a way to draw attention to real problems faced by real people who engage in these conflicts. Through the fictional setting of Spec-Ops we can expience the horrible face of war and the effects this type of violence has on the totality of the human mind. I can't think of any other art form [aside from literature] that can express this issue better than this videogame can.
John Marston, the protagonist in Red Dead Redemption, offers a wonderful character study on the mind of a man surrounded by a culture of violence. The game establishes John as a semi-reformed outlaw who's caught in a conflict between his family, the government, and his earlier life. Throughout the game the player is given the option of pursuing heroic or outlaw status, of which, both sides involve epic levels of violence. Additionally, one particularly perverse form of violence involves hog-tying a woman, placing her on the train tracks, and watching the train kill her. Although this is completely optional it's also an achievement or trophy (Dastardly) required for 100% completion of the game. These types of achievements remind players that killing is not only required but that John is good at it and may actually enjoy it.
As RDR draws to a close we learn that the culture of violence that John desperately wished to escape is inherited by his son Jack. This is not limited only to physical appearance, Jack most literally inherits the behavior displayed by his father and the world of violence that is systemic within his DNA. Jack becomes a spitting image of his father. He even inherits his father's "dead eye" abilities, which make him especially leathal with a firearm. This biological structure is currently studied in the field of behavior genetics at several universities around the world. RDR illustrates that human behavior can be reproduce in successive generations. Shooting skills such as "dead eye," and the indiffernce in which it's used is also inherited.
CoD : Black-Ops is the best selling game of all-time in the USA, breaking over 13.7 million copies. The game focuses on CIA "black-ops" programs by loosely tying them to real historical events such as the Bay of Pigs and the Tet Offensive. Gun violence in the game goes without question, its a military shooter, but underlying themes within the game may have gone unnoticed as they attempt to explore the culture of violence surrounding secret military programs. Players who paid attention to the story may have noticed the reference to MKUltra and its importance to the overall plot. MKUltra was a real CIA operation directed at modifying human behavior to achieve clandestine goals, perhaps to create sleeper assassins. These experiments often involved drugging patients and subjecting them to torture. Black-Ops explores the psychological toll and related consequences this programming has on the protagonist Alex Mason. Alex is brainwashed and trained to kill, however, the game never clarifies if he followed through with his programming or if he was able to break it. These themes elude to the broader moral consequences of real-life CIA programs and the disasterous effects psychological manipulation has on the human mind. In 2001 declassfied documents from the 1960s revealed that one of the original volunteers for the MKUltra program was none other than Theodore Kaczensky, aka the Unabomber. The culture of violence that is portrayed in Black-Ops extends beyond the fictional realm and asks the question: Is this right?
If people want to play these games just for fun, or because they're graphicly violent, they are certainly free to do so. I simply encourage people to give deeper consideration to the narrative, the violence within them, and the choices you have as a player. Those choices may draw their inspiration from real life. Some viewers may ask if the industry is going to far with depictions of violence, or if it's violence for the sake of violence. I say the industry isnt going far enough. Violence in videogames can be controversial, but they rarely capture the utmost level of brutality found on the battlefields of human history and the choices that real people had to make.
To give you an idea what I'm talking about I'll share some perspectives from the Battle of Little Big Horn, or Custer's Last Stand. We all know that Custer and all his men were killed, but let me provided a better picture of what the fighting must have been like at the very end. Custer and his remaining cavalry rallied to the highest point on the land form--"Last Stand Hill." Their situation was so dire that the men executed their horses in a last ditch effort to provide cover. Sioux warriors pillaged the bodies of his fallen comrades--exchanging their bows and clubs for rifles and pistols, and approached the hill from the prone position. Ammunition was scarce on both sides so everyone had to choose their shots wisely. Surely, Custer and his men must have known the end was near as one man shouted, "save the last bullet for yourself."
What goes through the mind of a man as he sticks to the cover of his dead horse, his comrades are killed or commit suicide around him, and he only has one bullet left? The only form of art I can think of in which an audience could alleviate this choice is a videogame. There's no better medium where that choice can be left to the viewer other than videogames. Violence in games can be gratuitous, but it can also convy a message in a safe environment if we choose to engage it. Videogames are works of art and the violence within them need to be viewed as art too.
[Once again, I've gone off into tangents... I would have like to include more game examples, but you get my point. This issue deserves more exploration, especially when it pertains to how these games are advertised and marketed. I think we should be more critical of the way violent games are advertised, and how they can be marketed to children. I was at the toy store the other day and saw Halo brand toys for ages 8 and up. Isn't Halo rated M? Of course any child who plays with the toys is going to want to play the game. Wow--there's even GTA toys!]
We are all travelers in this world. From cradle to grave we journey through life to an unknown destination. Upon this expedition are universal truths--everyone needs food to eat, a place to sleep, and occasionally someone to talk to. I am no exception.
Over the past two months I've been on sabbatical--traveling, once again, across the US. My current journey is significantly different than previous voyages. This time Im traveling for myself, without the confines of schedules and deadlines, in other words I'm homeless and unemployed. To avoid sounding brusque I'm actually doing research for a personal endeavor, which I shall not explain here. I just finished Act I: Part I. Tomorrow I start Part II on Isle Royale in Lake Superior, then I head to the east coast--PA and NY--south after that. It will probably take me one-year to finish this project.
I'm without games. Even though I purchased the GAEMS system before I left it was an easy decision to travel without videogames because there are so few opportunities to play since I've been camping essentially every night. Prior to my departure I finally finished Batman Arkham City. To be honest with you, I didn't really like the game and that's why it took me 9+ months to beat it. Don't get me wrong--it's a well developed and well produced game--but it reminded my why I dont like open world "sandbox" games. As choices increase viable strategies do not increase accordingly. That is to say--as more choices are offered the more difficult it becomes to choose a successful strategy. I specifically noticed this in video reviews. Usually, the reviewer becomes attached to one specific strategy that almost always works even though the game attempts to offer multiple choices. In Batman, I constantly found myself trying to perform moves that either failed to be effective, didn't work the way I planned them, or simply didn't work at all. Through exhaustive trial and error I noticed that I had to resort to the same tired tricks and gadgets each and every time. Although I had the illusion of choice--only a handful of predictable strategies were actually effective. This truth is painfully obvious during the boss fights.
I also started playing Future Soldier Ghost Recon because a friend recommended it to me. One area of my professional focus is firearms and ammunition analysis this game was recommended to me for the "gun porn." I found the weapons customization to be consistent with real firearms modification, however I think the game itself is pretty boring. The shooting is good and the cover system is well done but the story is--yawn! I didn't beat the game. I guess I value a good story more than rediculus and often pointless weapons modifications.
That's my update for now... I know I haven't been active at all for the past two months, but I'll try and keep in touch every now and then when I have internet access.
Folie a un is typically found when one person is isolated from other people in their own culture. It may also be known as anthropos polytropos, of which there is no translation. To be anthropos polytropos means to be utterly alone. The literal meaning is "man of twists and turns." I'll explain this later...
We are wanders on a prehistoric earth, on an earth that wares the aspect of an unknown planet. Ugly? Yes ugly--and if you're man enough to admit to yourself the nightmare that dwells ahead, the fright that cannot be silenced--then surrender in shame before the sun blasted face of the sand. Rivers of sand flood the ground, the mystery of an unknown earth waits on the turn of the wind. The sand seems to grow beneath a lurking death, a hidden evil, the profound darkness of it's heart. The road to Dubai....
The dreams of empires, the seed of commonwealths are lost in the desert of wild men. They died in horror--it was very clear. They were not enemies, they were not criminals, they were nothing earthly now--nothing but dark shadows of starvation lying confused in a sandy loam. What is there after all? Joy, fear, sorrow, devotion, valor, rage--who can tell? But the truth knows a man--a deliberate belief, a belief loyal to the nightmare of his choice. What saves us is the devotion to efficiency. What redeems us is an idea, an unselfish idea, something to offer sacrifice to. The fascination of abomination--the growing regrets, the longing to escape, the powerless disgust, the surrender, the hate. The powers of faithfulness are dull to the powers of darkness--a deluge of sand. Utter silence, no warning voice by the way of solitude--how could you understand? The sound is mad, being alone in the storm--it looks within itself. I think it whispers things about which I do not know. The voice of pleasure is like the speech of a brother. It's something natural that has meaning--there you can look upon the shackled form of a conquered monster, all that mysterious life that stirs in the hearts of wild men. The tranquil road leads to the end of the earth, burning sober under a dim sky, into the heart of an immense darkness.
Archaeologists in La Corona Guatemala have discovered a second reference to the Mayan calendar end-date on December 21, 2012. Prior to this discovery the only evidence of an end-date exists at the Tortuguero site near Tobasco, Mexico. The find doesn't necessarily validate an actual 'end-date' for humanity, rather it confirms that the ancient Mayans were master astronomers and astute at predicting celestial alignments. Using modern technology astronomers have determined that on Dec. 21, 2012 our solar system will be in exact alignment with the galactic equator. If you've ever looked at the Milky Way, the dense band of stars that spans the night horizon, you may notice a rift. That rift is the galactic equator and our solar system aligns with that rift only once every 26,000 years. Modern science has validated ancient technology. Somehow the Mayans were able to determine this using sticks and stones.
I shall neglect to mention all the detailed scientific data that confirms what the Mayans already knew thousands of years ago, you can do that research on your own. Some scientists claim this alignment already took place in 1999. But let's not discard the amazing feats of technology that humans have accomplished in the past. If anything this discovery should celebrate the hereditary genius that's been passed down to to us by our ancestors.
I personally do not subscribe to the end-of-the-world rubbish. I want to make this clear: The World is Not Going to End! It seems to me that the Mayans were superior farmers, and all farmers follow an almanac. December 21 2012 represents a very significant date in Earth's astronomical history and it's something they wanted future people to recognize. It's our solar systems birthday and we shall all be proud to wittness it.
I neglected to mention in my first bog about words that I plan on making this a series. The first blog dealt with game mechanics and devices, however, it's much to long and lacks focus. I've decided that it's better to keep these short, to the point, and attentive to one word at a time. On a side note; I tend to delete old blogs because I'm selfish. If anyone thinks that's a bad idea then please let me know. I shall not delete any of the following "Blog About Words."
Tantalize: To offer something that is unobtainable, or temptation without satisfaction. To suffer by forever teasing, or to endorse change for something (someone) that can never change.
Tantalus is a mythological figure who may have actually existed almost 3,000 years ago. His obsession with divinity caused him to reject humanity in pursuit immortality. There are several origin myths for Tantalus, but I'll simply focus on the two most popular. 1) Tantalus was invited to dinner at Mt. Olympus. He attempted to steal nectar and ambrosia, the sustenance of the gods and the source of their prolonged divinity. 2) Tantalus invited the gods to banquet. He sacrificed his own son, cooked him, and served his flesh as the main course. The gods in their infinite wisdom, recognized the hoax and refused to eat.
Either way, Tantalus was punished by the gods for his actions. He forever stands in a river of water with fruit trees looming overhead. Every time he grasps for fruit the wind blows it out of reach. Every time he bows to drink the water it recedes below his mouth. Tantalus tried to disobey the boundaries of mortality and immortality through inappropriate eating, therefore he is punished with everlasting hunger and everlasting thirst. He was granted immortality in hell where he is eternally tantalized by what he desires but cannot have.
Classical drama was perfected by early Greek playwrights who introduced production and stagecraft into public performances. Scholars consider Aeschylus one of the leading progenitors of the theatrical form of art known as cinema. The great tragedian wrote about 90 plays during his lifetime, however only 7 have survived toady including Prometheus Bound. [It's worth mentioning that Prometheus Bound may not have been written by Aeschylus, scholars are uncertain.]
Greek tragedy is regaining new interest in the current century mostly due to the rising importance of classical mythology. Mythological plots have a profound influence in the ritual of tragedy and cinema. Some of the most important screen writers and directors in the past century have used traditional Greek mythos as a spring-board for modern inspirations. One of the most striking of these modern retellings is Ridley Scott's Prometheus.
Mistaken identity, Recognition, and Reversal
Science fiction fans and admirers of the original film Alien will find Prometheus a bold and thought provoking film that surpasses its predecessor in its devotion to an art form. The story is a complex journey through Interstellar Anthropology that combines familiar narrative devices from previous Alien movies and explores new ground on the origins of xenomorphs and humanity in general. Prometheus doesn't offer many answers, but it does ask questions. Most importantly--what does it mean to be human? What happens when mankind transgresses natural boundaries in the desire for immorality?
The cast of Prometheus is outstanding, most notable among them is Michael Fassbender as David the android. His remarkable performance is intelligent, funny and very creepy. David represents the pinnacle of human ingenuity, however he's also a physical transgression, the narrative builds tension by bringing these two ideas into conflict. I expect Fassbender will be nominated for some awards.
The heart of the story revolves around two female protagonists Elizabeth and Merideth, played by Noomi Rapace and Charlize Theron. These fine actresses are pivitol in developing the plot by exploiting the tension between irrational vs rational ideas. Elizabeth is an anthropologist who truly believes in the beneficent ascension of mankind, vs. the corporate undertaker Merideth who's primary goal is to fulfill the obligation of her employer. Both give strong performances and remind audiences why female protagonists are so crucial to the subject matter.
The additional cast is good, and yes Guy Pierce is actually in the movie. I would have liked to see a bit more character development, but the survival horror genre isn't known for having characters linger for too long. Ridley Scott is known for his director's cut and I anticipate Prometheus will be revisited with more detail on DVD/BluRay.
Although Prometheus fell short of scaring me out of my seat, it offers spectacular visuals, riveting story, and the reintroduction of important narrative themes that span thousands of years of human history--past and future. Ridley Scott hasn't really created anything new here, rather he has perfected a method of story telling that pays homage to the cinematic art form. The scope of the movie is remarkable, bridging the gap between the Alien genre and incorparting themes from Blade Runner through charaters like David. In the tradition of Aeschylus, Scott has proven why he's one of the most influential and memorable directors in Hollywood today.
My favorite words in the English language are conjunctions that combine three or more words to form one compound word. Compound words are very powerful when used correctly, however, they must also be used cautiously. Here's a short list, you can lookup more of them on your own: albeit, inasmuch, insofar, heretofore, notwithstanding, nevertheless, whosoever, and so on and so forth. Bifurcated words like these cannot be forced, and are best when used naturally. If the word sounds right use it, but it's difficult to force words like these into a sentence without sounding awkward. Being verbose isn't always good, being a giant pile of interlard is worse.
Yet, I have better words, more favorite words, words that pertain to videogame mechanics, and narrative devices. They are just as powerful as compound words in their use, but far more influential through their understanding. This is a partial list of words I find interesting, perhaps difficult to translate. These are words I like the most right now.
SPOILERS: I like to spoil the following videogames: Mass Effect 3, Assassins Creed II, InFamous, and MGS4 Patriots. Movies and books don't count.
Brinkmanship is in every game, every story, even your day-to-day life. The goal is everyone survives. It's designed within the narrative to be a combination of intimidating commitments, valid threats, and rewarding promises. The device assumes that all players pursue equilibrium, the idea being everyone gets something they desire, even if it isn't preferred. No player wants to lose control, and in maintaining control every player is offered something they want and something they don't want, therefore no strategy is better or worse than the other. The loss of control in brinkmanship is escalated by the probability that certain threats are credible and too costly if valid. If one player gains total control or another player loses all control, it mostly likely spells an endgame scenario for all players involved.
Simply put, brinkmanship is Escalation: intense show-of-force, passionate saber rattling, ect.., but there's also another definition of the word. It can also mean the complete destruction of the game for the mutual benefit of all players. Rather than one winner or one looser, the entire game can be destroyed and nobody gets what they want except for the benefit of starting over. The only way for brinkmanship to function is if all threats are credible, and all threats must be legitimate. This equilibrium is cruel, no tactic is better or worse because there's no preferred strategy, and the only payoff is starting over. Imagine what happens before pressing the restart button? I haven't played the Mass Effect series yet, but the ending to ME3 almost sounds like this. Brinkmanship is by far the most difficult to explain, but understanding it could mean the difference between winning or losing the game.
Hubris is similar to the way that many videogame protagonists behave irrationally. Gamers themselves tend to revel in the illogic and frenzied nature of their characters. What am I doing when I play videogames? I'm disassociating with reality in order to assert my character in a position of power even though their skill and competence far surpasses my own personal capabilities. Hubris is amplified in games where the protagonist shames, humiliates, or even murders in order to progress the story, level-up, or receive special accolades like achievements and trophies. Hubris is generally considered bad, but sometimes it may be required. The first games that come to mind are GTA and Saints Row.
Retribution for hubris is called Nemesis.
Deus ex Machina is originally used at the end of the Odyssey when the goddess Athena descends from the sky to end 20-years of war and free Odysseus from the story. We all know that sounds too convenient. The term is a narrative device and a physical device that work like a special-effect in the ancient Greek tradition. "God from the Machine" is a popular device used to dodge narrative obstacles, and introduce new characters (or end them), but it typically refers to the actual ending and is most successful when the story is finale! It's not difficult to understand, and easy to recognize. Assassins Creed II ends with a literal deus ex machina when the goddess Minerva speaks to Desmond and Ezio via holographic projection. InFamous does ex machina when the protagonist uses a time machine to travel to the past and create his own superpowers.
Trembling Hand Perfection: I have it all planned out, I have all the answers, then I decide to play the game. One slip of the hand changes my entire course of action, so I abruptly switch to a strategy that I never intended to play. Other players are forced to change their strategy due to my mistake, and immediately other hands begin to "tremble." Bluffing doesn't work with trembling hands, so things may spiral out of control rather quickly. Divergence is unexpected--roll with it--I might end up winning the game. Have I made a mistake only to cash in success? The chance that every contender can play a perfect game is infinitesimal; it would mean there's zero probability of trembling hands.
Grim trigger: I really hate it when this happens. Playing co-op, maybe team deathmatch, then I accidentally shot or grenade my teammate. I don't commit mutiny, or defect to the other team, I simply make a mistake. My teammate replies with an endless series of decisive attacks against me. Either quit the game or respond with an iterated dominant strategy. My friend is now my enemy... so unforgiving.
Tragic flaw is another word that comes from the ancient Greek. "Hamartia" means missing the mark, its definition has become lost in translation over the years and typically refers to a tragic flaw. A more precise definition may be "moral error," "ethical deficiency," or perhaps guilty pleasure. These are mistakes that occur due to certain limitations inherited by the character. The exact meaning is still up for grabs. Solid Snake is injected with his tragic flaw, Foxdie, a retro-virus designed to rid the world of specific enemies but has mutated to become a mega-virus that could kill indiscriminately. Foxdie also causes premature aging and erodes Snake's life. At the end of MGS4 the real Big Boss appears deus ex machina, absolves Snake of his tragic flaw, and explains that Foxdie is no longer a threat and will not kill him.
A Paradox is impossible, it cannot happen. If it were to happen then all rules of the game have been void, the world ceases to exist, and therefore destroys the universe. It's not that difficult to explain, a paradox can't happen. Doc Brown in Back to the Future [also a game] eludes to a classic paradox whereby Marty travels back in time, prevents his parents from forming a romantic relationship, and threatens his own birth. Doc and Marty try to prevent a paradox, since they're technically impossible and cannot occur, the space-time continuum may collapse if one is "allowed" to happen. Time travel scenarios demonstrate how the paradox device works best. InFamous exploits the paradox by having the future protagonist Cole travel back in time and create himself into a superhero. If I travel back in time 10-years to date and give myself superpowers, then why would I need to travel back in time today to give myself superpowers? Impossible isn't it..?
I'm really not this serious all the time, I just don't have fun on accident. So that's enough words for now. I'm sure you have words of your own. Thanks for inspiring this blog! I owe you at least one more.