Magical Mondays: Sirens and Pandora

There are many, many things I love to see in literature and narrative universes of any form of media. One of the things I’m particularly fond of is taking ancient mythology and giving it a fresh twist. To the detriment of Western media consumers, most of this mythology is largely coming from the Greek/Roman pantheon. While I would really love to see more influence from, say, African and Indian mythos, for example, because knowledge of the Greek and Roman pantheon is so prevalent, this mythology is easier to market. (Again, a flaw of over-saturation in the market.) Due to this, when Borderlands gives me a group of people called “sirens”, I automatically start filling in some of the blanks. But, thinking about it a little more closely, how similar are the sirens in the Borderlands universe to the songstresses from ye olde legends and myths?  Spoiler warning for both Borderlands games under the cut.

--via Giphy

—Via Giphy

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Trailer Tuesdays: Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

You might be saying to yourself, “wait, this isn’t a trailer,” and you’re right. But given my love for the Borderlands series, I wanted to hop on this as soon as I could. So, yeah. A new Borderlands game.

…This is hard for me to get into because feel like I should be excited for this—a new game so soon and with world-expanding elements? It sounds so perfect, like everything I ever wanted. I’m just not excited, though. The only feelings I can muster are ones of acceptance and moderate disapproval—not feelings I want to associate with this series. Looking at the consensus of the fandom, I hate to say it, but I’m far from alone in feeling this way.

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Trailer Tuesdays: Tales From the Borderlands

If there’s one good thing that spawned from the travesty that is the VGAs (Spike’s Video Game Awards), it’s the opportunity for different companies to interact with each other. And while Spike themselves seems like a channel that has absolutely no clue how to handle their demographic, this last year—in between the terrible hosting and the inept jokes—the audience was finally rewarded with a trailer to a game that could be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

Tales From the Borderlands combines two of my current favorites of the video game industry, Gearbox’s Borderlands IP and Telltale Games, into one delectable game series a la The Walking Dead. Expanding upon the huge, multi-planet universe, the game is focusing on two new characters: Fiona, who’s wanted for fraud, and a mystery dude who’s decked out in Hyperion gear—I don’t know if he’s half robot/loader or what, but he looks cool.

As with the theme of Borderlands, the obvious thing to think is that the pair is after one of the many treasures that’s said to lay hidden in Pandora’s wastelands. However,  I can’t see Telltale taking that route. Especially with the appearance of Handsome Jack, the big bad of Borderlands 2 who is also currently very dead, it seems like there’s much more to this side-project than meets the eye. Continue reading

Rin Plays: T.K. Baha’s Bloody Harvest

I love it when games release content for the holidays, and when the heads behind Borderlands 2 announced the release of a Halloween-themed DLC, I knew I had to get it. Even though Halloween proper is still a week off, I snapped it up on its release date back on Tuesday.

I know I didn't review the Tiny Tina DLC. I'm getting to it

I know I didn’t review the Tiny Tina DLC. I’m getting to it.

In addition to being something special for this time of year, T.K. Baha’s Bloody Harvest also gives way to a new type of DLC: head hunts. As the name implies, the goal of the quest line is to eventually win a special head—it’s what it sounds like: a facial customization for your character that changes most, if not all, parts of the head. Whereas I will agree that releasing so many ‘pay-to-get’ DLC customization options is a bit money grubbing—there have been fifteen in total—what I like about the head hunts is that it gives you an entirely new environment to run around in and new enemies to fend off. At least that’s what it seems like given the contents of this DLC. The question is: is it worth the three dollars? Spoilers under the cut.

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Fanfiction Fridays: Becoming Pandora

[Spoilers for Borderlands 2 Below]

When playing a game, there’s nothing more satisfying to me then when I can start to sympathize with the main antagonist. And there’s no character in the past couple of years that I can think of that has encapsulated this as perfectly as Borderlands’ Handsome Jack. When I began my new journey on Pandora, I hated him. I hated him so much, him and his stupid crystal pony and stupid surveyors. (GAH! Could there even be a more annoying enemy?!) I loved to hate him. Then I made it to the BNK3R and it all went to shit. And after going to the Arid Nexus it went even more to shit and I actually began to like him.

The shift from over-the-top despicable to 3-dimensional character who is still awful, but has motives that one can empathize with was amazing. One aspect that really helped propel Jack’s character was his relationship with his daughter, Angel. Fraught with power struggles on both sides and a general feeling of helplessness, it was something that so strongly motivated the now Hyperion CEO, but in ways that weren’t, and still aren’t fully known to the audience.There just wasn’t enough on their past together for me to be satiated. More. I wanted more. Luckily, Cybertronic Purgatory has taken up the slack with their fic, Becoming Pandora.

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Rin Plays: Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Disappointment

Borderlands 2 Sir Hammerlocks Big Game HuntOoooh, Gearbox. Why this?  I am just so… disappointed. I don’t think there’s any other way to describe my feelings upon finishing the newest DLC, ‘Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt’.  It was supposed to be the brosiest hunting trip in the history of hunting trips—until it was interrupted by a mad scientist trying to destroy my character—but it just felt so rushed. So unloved in comparison to the other two DLCs that were previously released and even the DLCs for the previous game (not counting the Underdome DLC, ‘cause that shit just didn’t have a story). Spoilers below the cut.

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White House Calls for Research on Links Between Video Games and Violence

Yesterday, the White House unveiled “Now is the Time: The President’s plan to protect our children and our communities by reducing gun violence.” Super good! I don’t intend to attack the the President, his plan, or even the fact that he calls for more research into any possible relationships between video games and violence. With the trauma of gun violence being so severe in American culture, encouraging research into what many citizens believe to have a causative relationship with violence, i.e. that violent video games lead to violent crime, is the right call. While it is politically unfortunate that the President seemed unable to find a place for video games in his plan than under the section to “End the Freeze on Gun Violence Research,” (page 8), I don’t think that we have much to worry about regarding any lasting effects on public opinion. We know that all good research into the topic, assuming fair distribution and reporting of research results and data, is going to show that video games and their place in society are nothing to be afraid of.

Here is my point; how do we already know that we have nothing to fear? Hasn’t research already shown that violence in video games has a lasting effect on gamers, causing them to be desensitized to violence and therefore less likely to check impulses toward violent behavior? Since video games are more immersive than other forms of media, doesn’t it stand to reason that they affect a greater ability to impact and change the human psyche? Let’s look into why not. Continue reading

Hammerlock: A Gentleman and a Scholar

Sir Hammerlock's Big Game Hunt Borderlands 2Today is the day, my fellow vault hunters. Today we travel to the uncivilized continent of Aegrus to traverse swamp and mountain in search of harder enemies, better loot, and… Handsome Jack? Well, maybe we’re not searching for him. I dare say in Borderlands’ newest DLC, Sir Hammerlock’s Big Game Hunt, the person I’m going to be most interested in is the titular character himself. So, allow me this time to gush about how much I absolutely adore this monocle’d zoologist: it is his big day, after all.

I think the first thing that’s obvious is that Sir Hammerlock is the classiest badass to roam the lands of Pandora. He’s got that Victorian gentleman vibe going on (in all the best ways, especially the accent) but he starts the relationship between your character and himself by electrocuting your robot guide, then shoving its eye back into its socket.

Okay, it may not be as badass as Ellie’s introduction, but he’s been living completely alone—except maybe for visits from Claptrap—in the bandit-infested village of Liar’s Burg for who knows how long and he’s managed to stay alive. I’m sure there’ve been nights where he’s sniped bandits from the top of his roof just to lure them into that electrical fence. You may have also noticed that his right arm is missing completely? Yeah, it was ripped off by quite possibly the largest thresher on Pandora, no big deal. Hammerlock lives for his work and, if past trends continue, it’s quite possible he may end up dying for his work someday.

However, besides being a character with such a frustrating lack of backstory, Hammerlock also plays an important role in one of the most understated initiatives in a game I’ve experienced. If you do side-quests (if you don’t, I don’t want to talk to you), he’ll eventually ask your character to find the lost manuscripts of a rough and tumble kind-of-scientist-but-not-really, Taggart, who also happens to be his old boyfriend. Borderlands 2 was the game that really made it apparent that the developers wanted their universe of Pandora and vault hunters to allow for equal opportunity in both treasure looting and getting killed by literally everything and as such many of the characters, whether they be in the backstory or available for interaction, were discussed as being of a non-heteronormative sexuality. Of course, there were complaints about characters being made so explicitly “gay”, but it was so much more nuanced than that. Characters were not defined by their sexuality; rather their sexuality was just another aspect of their character which is how it should be done. Hammerlock didn’t constantly gush about all that hot yaoi sex he was having with his boyfriend, it was something he mentioned while reminiscing about his past relationship with the most-likely dead Taggart. Even if he did constantly gush about it, it would still be amazing to see such a nuanced homosexual character, especially in a genre where these things are usually shied away from.

So come on, give this scholar and his creators some love and join him on his expedition. See him in his natural habitat—‘he’s’ been giving you weapons all weekend so show at least a little respect—and download Big Game Hunt. If we’re lucky, we’ll get to see some more of that badassery that we’ve all come to love (who am I kidding? We definitely will).

Fanfiction Fridays: A Reason for the Season

Tis the season of giving and all through the interwebs everyone is celebrating. Secret Santas, Big Bangs, giveaways: the list as bountiful as the creativity and charity required to participate in such things. In the fanfiction circuit though, the event that best encapsulates this is the tradition of the kink meme. Although not constrained to Christmas, the premise of these writing events is very similar to that of a secret Santa. All one has to do is leave a request about any couple, any type of fic and wait for someone to fill it. It’s all done anonymously so there’s little chance for being harassed for one’s preferences—if you want to ship Sailor Moon with Artemis, go right ahead—and despite anonymity usually being a calling card for being terrible to each other, I have never seen a more accepting group of people than those on kink memes. In fact, you’re more likely to find people that share your same ships and kinks than anything.

Today I come baring a kink meme from one of my favorite video game series, Borderlands. I don’t know about you guys, but I came out of that game shipping so many things it wasn’t even funny, but it’s literally impossible to find some of those ships online especially when there are a select few that get much of the screen time, so to speak. It was really by luck that I managed to run across this godsend of a literary gathering, but I had to take the plunge. I made my request.

In waiting for my request to get filled, I was pleased to find a bunch of other prompts already having been filled, and guess what? They’re all good. There’s a really adorable one that stars Axton and Maya, two of the main playable characters, where Maya is dressed up as another playable character, Zer0, trying to play a prank on Axton only to find him drunkenly confessing his love for her to the dude he thinks is his buddy. And there’s awkward haiku in that one too, so that’s a plus.

While there are many excellent fills, there are still many more prompts that need to be taken up. This post is not only a call for you, dear readers, to go read these amazing ficlets, but also to spur you into action. If you have any interest in Borderlands (or in any series because I’m sure there’s a kink meme for just about everything under the sun), consider filling someone’s request. It’ll make the original requester’s day and there’s no doubt you’ll please many more people as well. However, as it is a kink meme I feel like I must put the warning that many of the requests and fills are NSFW. However, it is possible that there will be fluffy, gen fills/requests as well. The kink memes are truly a gift in the fanfic world that keep on giving far past the holiday season, and who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?

Strong Female Characters: Gearbox, You’re Doing it Right

In all the hubbub of Borderlands 2, what with its delightful new and old cast and (roughly) kajillion side-quests, I think it’s important to step back and appreciate the timeless things. The simple things.

But mostly that Ellie is the best character in the game.

I’ve already given my partial opinion about larger people in the media, so when I saw her concept art I was seriously worried what would come of such a character, especially when every other female in Borderlands is thin as a whistle. Would she be played off for jokes?  …The bad kind, that is, not the kind that Borderlands is revered for. I should have had more faith in Gearbox because this lady is faboo.

From her introduction I loved her—seriously? Smashing a bandit in a car compactor? Bad. Ass.— because it was such a great example of what was to come. She doesn’t take shit, she’s clever and resourceful as hell, and she’s fun. She’s an actual 3-dimensional character. Gasp, be still my beating heart.

Playing along her questline further also reveals an intricacy that not many other Borderlands characters have in my opinion. She has motivations beyond “wow, I better not die” and she has something to prove, but not to herself. Being Scooter’s sister, that also means that she’s Mad Moxxi’s, the voluptuous vixen manager of the Ring O’ Death’s, daughter. By doing Ellie’s quests, Ellie ends up venting about how her mom wants her to lose weight and essentially be like Moxxi. In fact, her mother doesn’t believe that Ellie can even take care of herself on her own out in the Dust. Ha! Allow Ellie to prove her wrong. The great thing about Ellie is that she’s completely okay with her life and her choices. She knows smart enough to survive and that she’s damn  sexy to boot. Her confidence in her skills and in her body isn’t played for laughs, so the player is able to come to respect this unlikely paragon of beauty. And gosh, it’s just great.

I could gush more, but why don’t you take a look at what the designers at Gearbox have to say on the mechanic yourself?