A Plea For Balance: Hey Bioware, Maybe Think About Chilling on Cullen a Bit

Like fish in an enthusiastic aquarium, fans are gobbling up the small flakes of information on Dragon Age 4 showing up on the surface of the internet. While most things remain, understandably, under metaphorical lock and key, one of these claims disrupted the community more than others. According to Daily Sun Knoxville, one of the most integral playable characters in DA4 would be none other than the templar Cullen. It’s important to note that Daily Sun Knoxville may not be an entirely reputable source—I mean, if this was a typical leak, it’s weird that no other news outlets appear to have the same information, especially big gaming outlets like Polygon or Kotaku. The legitimacy of the rumor aside, it did spark a discussion worth having within the community. From where I stand, it only makes sense that Cullen found his way from minor NPC to party member over the course of the four games. However, like many other fans, I find the emphasis on Cullen to be worrisome, especially given the narrative’s unsympathetic treatment of the fantastical minorities in Inquisition

Dragon Age Inquisition Cullen

Please… please no. (via Giphy)

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Everything is going to be OK Is Okay With Things Being Not OK, And That’s Okay

It doesn’t take much for me to be intrigued by any piece of media. If a book has a nice cover, I’m probably going to want to at least read the description on the back of it. If a movie has a good soundtrack, I may be convinced to watch it. And if a game has interesting graphics or some gameplay gimmick that stands out, I’ll be more inclined to try it on my own time. The latter is where I found myself a couple days ago. One of the streamers I watch more regularly plays a lot of weird games from all corners of the internet, and in this particular video he happened to be playing one simply titled Everything is going to be OK. With a title like that, accompanied by distorted graphics that look like they could come from a horror story, it’s easy to jump to the conclusion that no, everything was not going to be okay. Yet though I expected a creepypasta-esque game in which there’s a cult and everything is terrible forever, the game itself had none of the horror trappings that I had grown so used to from staples like “Ben drowned” or even the Silent Hill series. Upon downloading and playing the early access version of the game myself–I stopped watching the stream so I wouldn’t completely ruin the experience–I found I was completely wrong altogether. Everything is going to be OK isn’t a horror game. It’s more like slice-of-life, and its message is ultimately positive.

Everything is going to be OK Void

No, I promise. (screenshot taken by me)

TW for cartoon gore and discussions of depression and anxiety beneath the cut. Continue reading

Beauty and the Beast’s “Day in the Sun” Was Almost More Than It Deserved

There were two things I knew when I went into this movie a couple days ago. For one, Beauty and the Beast is a classic among classic Disney animated films. More pertinently, though, is that I am way behind on any sort of analysis I could offer on this movie. Beauty and the Beast’s 2017 remake came out back in March and despite me kind of wanting to see it, I never got around to it while it was in theaters. For the sake of full disclosure I’ve never watched any of the previous Beauty and the Beast animated films in their entirety, so I don’t really have any of that childhood attachment or nostalgia for the film that the remake was trying to desperately to cash in on. When the 2017 version was originally announced, I wanted to watch it mostly because of the darker aesthetics–I wanted to see if Disney had learned anything from their Alice In Wonderland mess. As fate would have it, though, I jumped into the film with the aesthetics’ unwanted friend tagging alongside it: the painfully laughable characterization of Le Fou that Disney (or Le Fou’s actor, Josh Gad, at least) tried so hard to call “gay representation”. I’ll admit, that may have colored my viewing more than a little bit. Still, that alone didn’t make it a bad movie. What made it a bad movie—maybe bad’s a little harsh. Exhausting?—was how hard it tried to convince me that it was better than the sum of its parts.

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A Few Steps Forward, a Few Steps Back: E3 Stumbles at Reclaiming Connection with Non-Industry Audience

Rin: Maybe it’s something that comes with age, but going into E3 no longer has the hype it used to. In the years before, there was at least one game I was interested in hearing about. This year, though, I came in at a hard neutral: what I knew was going to be shown I wasn’t interested in, and I had no hope about the things I didn’t know about. Yet, maybe it was this neutral stance that led to me being pleasantly surprised in some cases, and saved me the disappointment in others.

As industry veterans struggled to remember what they should even do on the E3 stages, the year’s themes of inclusion and the importance of the gamer community were surprisingly not entirely off-base. I’d even hazard to say that companies may even be starting to care about diversity, likely in no small part due to the success of other diverse titles like Overwatch. And overall, the presence of non-male, non-white people on stage and in the games shown was much higher than I was anticipating. There’s a lot to cover, so thankfully this year I’m joined once again by BrothaDom. You ready to jump in?

Dom: Yep! I was feeling a little bored and jaded going into the conference, but it definitely had some pleasant surprises sprinkled in. Let’s do this.

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Far Cry 5: Hopefully a “Far Cry” from Past Games

With E3 just around the corner, it’s difficult not to get hyped up about the video game industry!

…No, I lied. Given the last couple of years, on the whole E3 has kind of been lacking on what the emerging, diverse gaming populace want to see in their games. Some game companies are trying, like Guerrilla Games and their game Horizon Zero Dawn, but still end up missing the mark; for example, with Horizon, many Native players and onlookers found that their culture was appropriated and misrepresented because there were no actual Native people serving as consultants or even on the writing team. With game companies being so strangely reluctant to actually collaborate with people from the culture their game is going to represent, I found myself keeping away from one game series in particular: Far Cry.

The Far Cry series has been around for more than a decade and the gameplay within its more recent installments (FPS with both action and RPG elements) always attracts praise from critics and players alike. However, what put me off the series is the way it seems to embody the idea that cultures not our own are in some way barbaric and in need of liberation. For instance, 2012’s Far Cry 3 stars Jason Brody—like, seriously, have you heard a more “white guy from Orange County” name in your life?—who is captured by a pirate crew during a party along with his friends and brother on an island in the Indian Ocean, and gets caught up in some slavery ring/drug cartel business because of course that’s what’s happening. 2014’s Far Cry 4 feels like it takes a step in the right direction, having its (still male) protagonist Ajay actually have ties to the Nepalese-inspired culture of Kryat, where the game takes place. However, I can’t find anything that leads me to believe that Ubisoft actually consulted anyone from the Nepal area to help with their worldbuilding, and instead simply sent their team to Nepal to draw their own conclusions. Yet with the upcoming Far Cry 5 I can’t help but be excited because for once, the protagonist won’t be restricted to being a dude. Additionally, there’s no uncomfortable feeling of going overseas and bringing American justice to foreign people. Far Cry 5 takes a controversial–or perhaps just controversial given the political climate—look at a villainous group that’s been avoided for far too long in the series: white people.

Far Cry 5 Cover

(via Polygon)

Trigger warning for mentions of suicide.

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I Will Face God and Walk Backwards into Hell: Bioware Games and Their Unfortunate Relationship with Mainstream Religion

As someone who isn’t very religious and who’s had very few positive interactions with religion, I always get a little bit worried when it takes a significant role in the media I consume. That same worry filled me in Mass Effect: Andromeda when I began speaking with one of my crewmates, namely the science officer aboard the Tempest, Dr. Suvi Anwar. As I continued interacting with her, I was pleased to find that her character wasn’t limited to being “the religious one”, and that she found joy in the fact that she and my Ryder both had differing opinions on spirituality and the prevalence of religion—a mindset that is often sadly lacking in real life. I left my first Andromeda experience feeling like Bioware really stepped up the nuance in their conversations concerning religion and spirituality, but as the game’s plot twists ruminated in my mind, I came to the conclusion that Bioware and their stories still have a huge problem with avoiding exploring and accepting other religions outside of the Christianity “norm”.

Spoilers for Mass Effect: Andromeda and Dragon Age: Inquisition beneath the cut.

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Londinium Calling? Let It Go to Voicemail: a Legend of the Sword Review

Legend of the Sword Poster

From nothing comes a plot… j/k there’s still “nothing”. (via Art of VFX)

As soon as I read the title for Alyssa Rosenberg’s movie review in The Washington Post, I knew I had to watch King Arthur: Legend of the Sword as soon as I could. Rosenberg’s title is “It took awhile, but I found a movie worse than Batman v. Superman: like, come on, how could I not be pulled in by that? Now, I may not have seen Batman v. Superman unlike some unfortunate souls on this blog, but I still know a bad movie when I see it, and hoo boy, is Legend of the Sword some shit. Unlike Rosenberg, I’m not willing to write the entire movie off as being not worth anyone’s time—though I do agree with her on many of her points. Parts of Legend of the Sword are exactly the schlocky “thinks of itself too highly” moments that make a lot of popular movies great and fun to watch. Still, the rest of it is a convoluted mess that “thinks of itself too highly” in the worst possible pompous British way imaginable; both sides are constantly duking it out in a street brawl that never quite gets a definitive victor.

Spoilers below.

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