The climate surrounding video games today is characterized socially by the “Tropes vs Women in Video Games” series, which is digging ever more uncomfortably deep into the unsatisfying state of women in games. This leaves us all increasingly more aware of the universality of the problem. Part one of “Tropes vs Women in Video Games” is devoted to the Damsel in Distress, which is a theme investigated in a unique way by the new game Hope: The other side of adventure, developed by Mr. Roboto Game Studio (english translation.) By giving the player control of the princess locked in the tower, you are effectively locked in the tower with her. Continue reading
Sean Connery once said that “there is nothing like a challenge to bring out the best in a man.” Of course this is just as true for women as it is for men, but the statement contains a certain subtext about masculinity. Failure to thrive under pressure is the trait of a boy, not a man. There are these calls to action that are supposed to define us as men. Defeating a challenge is one; capability for violence is another. Men are generally well aware of the cultural pressures on us to be violent. Even though most of us are not violent people, we still sometimes feel the need to respond to the pressure by asserting that we would be very dangerous if we wanted to. The two ideas are at odds: societal norms that say men are violent while violence actually has nothing to do with masculinity. It can certainly be argued that a male’s inclination toward violence coupled with the ability to back it up has served both males and the human species as a whole quite well in the past. However, what was a virtue in the past is not necessarily a virtue today. And even if violence were hardwired into men, we’re still much more than just blood-thirsty beasts. And the reason we play violent games is more than our own bloodlust. So why, then, do so many games portray violence and masculinity as being so closely intertwined? Let’s take a look at some of these games. In particular, we’ll look at: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare; The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion; and a lot of God of War. Just a warning, this whole article is going to be chock-full of spoilers, so read cautiously. What these games all have in common is that they make a statement about the connection between masculinity and violence. They deal with issues like “is violence rewarding,” “can violence defeat evil,” and “is violence just how men deal with their emotions?” What lies beneath all of those statements are these facts: men are not very free from cultural norms, men are not empowered or nurtured properly as men, and society seems to have no idea of what masculinity is at all.
If you haven’t played The Walking Dead video game yet, you’re missing out on one of the best video game stories in recent memory. The game follows the story of Lee Everett, a convicted murderer freed because of the onset of the Zombie Apocalypse. Over the course of the game, broken down into five chapters, Lee forms a group of survivors, beginning with a young girl named Clementine.
Despite Lee being the playable character of the game, I was more interested in the developing story about Clementine. Yes, her relationship with Lee is in a huge driving force of the story. However, the concept of gain and loss in Clementine’s character just floors me.
Spoilers below the jump. Continue reading
What makes a great game? It certainly takes a degree of technical excellence. Although the graphics and sound have to be of a high enough quality to be appealing, what is truly important is a cohesive aesthetic. A great game needs to be absent of game-breaking bugs, too. However, there are two things that really separate certain game from others: is the game enjoyable, and is the game meaningful? These are two very different things, so let us give them both a close look.
The time has come for me to talk about Dark Souls. It has been on the market for consoles for months, but the PC version only just dropped. Also, it became my new favorite game ever after several hours of play-time back in late April. Dark Souls is an action role-playing game developed by From Software as the spiritual successor to Demon’s Souls, 2009 Game of the Year. I believe Dark Souls is, more than just another great game, a significant and special game which all gaming fans should appreciate even if they don’t play it. It is aptly described as a massively multiplayer, online, single-player game. It is so challenging that its website is preparetodie.com, yet many fans impose progressively more constricting restrictions on themselves to make it harder. Although its Wikipedia page calls the plot minimalistic, Dark Souls features a highly complex and deeply developed plot which continues to generate spirited discussion. It’s a dark fantasy RPG that often feels like survival horror, yet it’s not trendy (maybe that one won’t make sense to anybody else, but I’m so sick of the topical dark fantasy and crappy survival horror that’s been everywhere recently). Because it is easy to describe it in such contradictory and complicated ways, what may be most surprising about Dark Souls is how simple and approachable it really is.
A few weeks ago, The PA Report posted an editorial about Artemis, a game which places you and your friends on the bridge of an interstellar spacecraft. Check out the article HERE. If you’re a fan of Star Trek, cooperative games, or role-playing, you really need to check this out; trust me.
The game in action:
It’s strange, but I find that I discover my most favorite fics while looking for horrendous ones. More-over than any anime or manga series, I take my video game characters seriously. Maybe it’s because I spend time actively watching them grow, getting annoyed at them, alchemizing their stupid weapons that take forever because that one item that it takes is incredibly rare so I have to grind for hours on end. Whatever the reason, if there’s one aspect of the character I find wrong, I will blast the shit out of that fic (this is why I’ve been trying to stay away from video game fics in ‘Fanfiction Follies’).
In my time, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no series—other than the Bioware RPGs—that I love more than the Tales series and the atrocities I’ve seen against some of them make me cry. Most recently, I’ve finished a run through of Tales of Vesperia. There are several things I really like about this game, such as there being no explicit love interest and the enemies (though I’ll be the first to admit that the big bad is pretty lame), but what I love most are the characters. Each and every one of these characters ended up becoming my babies. Even the enemies. Even the thirty-five year old man.
Especially the thirty-five year old man.
The character of Raven is exceedingly complex as you never know what he’s thinking, and even once you think you have it he changes it on you. He’s a lackadaisical “old man”, then he’s a clever spy. Never once is his allegiance crystal clear. He’s a hard character to get down and most people just set him in the comic relief department and confine him to jokingly hitting on every girl he runs across with no real purpose.
This fic doesn’t do that. This fic is, dare I say it, perfect.
Even as a one shot, Cherry chain manages to delve into Raven so perfectly that I actually shed a tear for the tragic soldier. Okay, I shed more than one. The entire story is Raven struggling with his impending death after him and his guild—the guild is actually owned by a 10 year old boy and Raven’s not actually a member, but semantics—save the world from impending doom. In ridding the world of the objects imprisoning the spirits of their world, they also have destroyed the one thing keeping him alive. Of course, his friends aren’t exactly happy that he kept this from them and expend the length of the fic trying to find a way to keep him alive. However, the fic focuses on Raven reflecting on his past and coming to terms with what is, in the end, inevitable.
It’s sad, heartbreaking, but just so wonderful. I loved this fic so much that I actually left the author a comment. That’s saying something. What’s obvious from the moment you open the page is that not only does Cherry have just an amazing amount of respect for the characters, but that they also spent a lot of time researching every facet to make this story have that much more of an impact.
The story occurs post-game and assumes that you’ve played the game, so it may (aka: it will) be confusing if you know nothing of the verse. But the writing is amazing and if you ever feel the need to cry, just skim through this. Find it here at Fanfiction.net.
So I far too often find myself in the quandary of trying to explain all of Matt Smith’s plot to my friends. I’ve gotten pretty good at it, but it can take a while. Ask my bff Nakura, to whom I once regaled an entire hour’s worth of info over crepes. Little did I know I could just as easily give them this:
(I tried really hard to embed this, but it will only show the link. Rawr).
This is sadly not a real game, just a clever animation by the folks at CollegeHumor. But BBC take note: I would play this game. I would play the shit out of this game, and I never play video games.
But anyway, watch and enjoy (or despair?) as Eleven’s shenanigans are summarized far better than you could hope to do, and in a format you wish you could play. What other shows would you kill to see an RPG for?
It’s a game without any definition of your character’s gender. It’s a game without any clarification of your character’s race. One of the most appealing aspects of games is the prospect of experiencing one of the epic adventures we read about or watch onscreen. Many times this experience is diluted in games and we never get attain that catharsis we seek. You should care about this game because it fulfills the promise of experience right down to the sensory and emotional levels. It’s a significant step forward for the medium because it is art; it is literature. It’s an interesting game, to say the least. Journey feels like, well, a journey.
Journey begins with you taking control of a character, apparently meditating or resting in a vast desert. My first impression left me feeling as though I was looking at a woman, but after playing for a small while I identified with the character so directly that she became a he, just like me. All you can see is a mountain in the distance and vast, desolate desert. You instinctively move towards the mountain, the correct direction, thanks to the perfect visual design. There is no instruction manual, no overt tutorial, and no explanation of what is going on. Indeed, the only facts you know are that you are alone, and you don’t know what is going on. This leaves you feeling uneasy about your environment, anxious for direction, and eager for help – just like you were wandering alone in a desert. The sand glistens in the bright sun. Things happen in this world that you don’t understand, and you only come to understand the rules that govern you in terms of what you can use to your advantage. As you become confident in your own abilities, anxiety about your survival disappears, and you journey on.
Since there is no explanation about what is going on, the short cut-scenes you view are welcome treasures, almost as though they are prophetic dreams giving you purpose while you rest. Eventually you see another wanderer just like you. This is another human playing the game online. Journey’s multiplayer, you see, works under the assumption that every player is connected to the internet. So, it pairs you with another individual when you are both at the same point in the game. You cannot interact with this individual; in fact you can’t speak or communicate with any language. Whether you join up or go your separate ways, your journey continues. I was so relieved to see someone else during my first play-through that I instinctively clung to my new, anonymous partner. Just as I had come to relate to my character as myself, I related to the other wanderer as another human being. The game can be played solo if you so desire, but, since the multiplayer component is additive and nonrestrictive, doing so limits your experience.
The visual presentation is done to perfection, and not just to the purpose of establishing setting, but even to narrative significance. The brazen sun and shimmering sand don’t make you feel hot sand in your toes and dry air in your lungs. Instead, the bright light from the sun makes everything blend together, and the sparkles in the sand give you reference. It all leaves you feeling very uneasy and confused. You loath the sun’s brightness and the endless ocean of sand, yet it is what you know best. This is how the setting and presentation become narrative, how you become the wanderer, and how you seamlessly acquire instincts befitting of yourself, the wanderer. Making cut-scenes a positive experience is no small feat, making you see a character on screen as a real human being is even greater, still. The journey is authentic. After completing a play-through, you contemplate your experience as though it were real. You search for meaning and context. What you don’t need to search for is satisfaction. Each journey feels complete, yet leaves you hungry to journey again. Oftentimes there is a real emotional connection with the other people you play with, and so the game graciously gives you an opportunity to communicate with your partners after the conclusion. The experience engrossed me so fully that my heart broke at the end when I realized I had in fact played with half a dozen separate people, and I began anew in the hopes of finding a partner to travel with from start to finish. Craving a relationship, I turned to a game.
Subtlety is perhaps the most aptly wielded tool by Journey. Without realizing it, I made emotional connections. Without realizing it, I searched for true meaning and found it. Without realizing it, I forgot about all boundaries of culture, race, gender, or otherwise. Devoid of even the slightest hint of any pretentiousness or presence of a soapbox, this game makes a powerful social statement. If you ask me, it achieves this by allowing the consumer to find the message within him or herself as opposed to scripting a lesson. This is why Journey matters; it is a significant mile-marker not only for games, but for narrative itself.
With a score of “Universal Acclaim” on Metacritic, it has been very well received. Journey was developed by ThatGameCompany and is the third and final game in fulfillment of a contract with Sony. As such, it is a Playstation 3 exclusive title. It comes after Flow and Flower, respectively, and is a wonderful capstone to this otherwise unrelated set of games. Feeling wholly natural, making profound statements, and expanding games’ possibilities, Journey fulfills that promise of games, to allow us to experience in ways impossible for any other medium.