People in fandom debate fiercely about numerous parts of the Mass Effect narrative and how “good” they are. Yet no one seems to argue about how great the series is at giving its players that found family goodness (and if there’s someone who does argue about it, they’re wrong). Much of this highly prized content come from the protagonist’s krogan squadmates—Wrex, Grunt, and now Drack—but on my way to find the “Shepard bails Grunt out of jail for partying too hard” fic that I wanted, I found another sort of fic which nevertheless embodied so much of what it meant to be part of Commander Shepard’s team on the Normandy. The only problem I had with it was that I read it too early in the day and my emotions weren’t steeled enough to keep me from bawling over my favorite characters.
Like many fanbases, the Bioware fanbase/playerbase is a trash fire at any given time. Said fanbase didn’t even let Mass Effect: Andromeda get off the ground before lambasting it for various graphical inadequacies and stilted line delivery. However, while there do exist some graphical glitches, weird bugs, and a disappointing character creator, ME: A is not that bad. Since I’m not even halfway through the game yet (no spoilers!) this isn’t going to be a full review, but rather a look at a troubling reaction by Mass Effect’s audience. After already being labeled as “SJW propaganda” by people who loathe anything that looks like a diverse cast, it’s absolutely no surprise that there’s such negativity surrounding a woman in charge; even less surprising when that woman is Black. While there’s absolutely fault on the fanbase for the unfair treatment surrounding her, in what I’ve seen and experienced I can only come up with one conclusion: Bioware set up Sloane Kelly to fail.
Spoilers beneath the cut. Continue reading
Fiction is a great source of escapism. And honestly, many of us have been in the mood for escapism lately. Politics have been more stressful than ever, turning on the news feels like an onslaught of depressing events, and grimdark fiction is still pretty popular. Cynicism in media just isn’t cutting it the way it has in years past. Movies like The Dark Knight, with its message that great people can turn to evil with a little push, just don’t feel the same anymore. Since so many things in the world are sketchy, I don’t want fiction telling me that it’s only going to get worse.
Luckily, optimism seems to be making a comeback. Although it comes in many forms — horror, fantasy, comedy, etc — a simple through-line no matter the genre is hope and optimism. I think that this is the commonality that brings us to escapist media. In horror, the chance of survival brings hope; in a fantasy, there’s the awe of the mystical and unknown, showing that unfamiliar things can be positive; comedy shows us that any situation can bring joy. This hopefulness is what creates the escapism, and I believe that there are some very good examples in our contemporary fiction in properties like Steven Universe and Overwatch.
Being the resident Sonic fan here at Lady Geek Girl & Friends, I feel like it’s my duty to do as much justice to the franchise as I can. Since my last look at Sonic’s escapades was the original trilogy, I’d like to remember the series that brought a lot of millennials into the mix: Sonic Adventure 1 & 2. These two games (and their subsequent remakes) set the foundation for where the gameplay and story of the franchise would go for the next 18 years. The Sonic Adventure games were the proper introduction of the Blue Blur and his friends to the 3D world. Although there were Sonic games that were 3D or had 3D elements before, these two were the first to feel like a proper continuation of the original trilogy.
Once upon a time I was one of the many people trying to catch up with Critical Role. During this fantastical, entertaining slog (and it was a slog at times) fellow fan Noodle suggested to me that I take a different route with my catch up plans: instead of watching each 3+ hour episode, I read the summaries of the episodes instead. “What a perfectly logical solution!” I thought. While my stubbornness eventually saw me through the 20-some episodes I was behind on, I ended up enjoying the site Noodle linked me to, Project Derailed, for its other nerdy content and reviews.
It’s been a wild year in politics these past few months, and there are no signs that this will change anytime soon. As with most cultural events, this tends to bleed into the media we consume. As such, there are both people who celebrate the addition of politics into media, and those who abhor it. This commonly manifests in the meme-level response “Keep politics out of x.” With the controversies and subsequent blowback over whitewashing (and lack of starring Asian roles) in Doctor Strange, Ghost in The Shell, Marvel’s Iron Fist, and Death Note, a large portion of people seem to want to consume media in a vacuum and ignore these issues. My personal experience tends to be more rooted in the video game space, considering the rise of progressive themes in games. Especially after the storm that was Gamergate, some people hate the idea of political themes in video games. I’d like to delve into why that claim is disingenuous, and why it’s never been possible.
When talking about politics in video games, a good place to start might be the Grand Theft Auto series. A lightning rod for controversy, GTA has never been shy about including political topics in their settings. GTA, with all its warts, does have a basis in satire, even if it is mostly present in the side content. In the worlds of Liberty City and San Andreas, for example, there are television programs parodying both “liberal social justice warriors” and “right-wing conservative firebrands” as uninformed, misguided, and wrong. It’s the classic South Park approach where “caring in one way or another is the ultimate sin.” Regardless, politics are incredibly present in these games. So, how could anyone ever claim that they don’t want politics in games?
Final Fantasy XV has been out for a while now, and I only just recently got around to playing it. The game is open-world, and while that is hardly a new concept for Final Fantasy, the current technology and graphics allowed for some really impressive visuals, as well as a large number of fun side quests and optional dungeons. And… that consists of the good things I have to say about this game. Final Fantasy XV was in production for a long time—I remember first seeing videos and articles for it back in 2009–10. In the past decade, the story definitely went through a number of weird changes, and it sure as hell shows. I was aware of some shitty things about FFXV even before it was released. The game writers decided not to include playable female characters because they thought having them would change the dynamic of the male characters as they take a road trip across the world. Literally every Final Fantasy game is about a bunch of characters traveling the world, but this time, there’s a car involved, so I guess it must be different.
But the problems in Final Fantasy XV go well beyond blatant sexism—although there’s plenty of that to go around too. I hardly thought the story would be perfect, but this game was a decade in production. I expected it to at least have some solid characterization and worldbuilding, but even that seems to be too much for FFXV to handle.
Spoilers up ahead.