Archive for category Gamiary
There are women living in the ramshackle settlements of Metro: Last Light‘s post-apocalyptic subway system. There may not be quite as many of them as there are men, but they are there. Unfortunately, they are characterized in a drastically different manner than the male population of the Moscow ruins. Aside from the stray soldier, developer 4A Games portrays the women and girls of their world as either mothers or whores — or some combination of both.
Guacamelee! is, from top to bottom, a pastiche. A truly postmodern game, it is in love with the kind of cultural shorthands that have long since replaced first-hand interpretations of real people, places and even game design principles. Nothing in it seems like it comes from a place of total originality. Instead, the various elements of Guacamelee! come from both archetypal videogames and depictions of the game’s Mexican setting.
Why, then, does it somehow feel like its own worthwhile creation?
Please finish playing Bioshock Infinite before reading. This article contains plot details.
“Our only safety depends upon the total extermination of the Indians. Having wronged them for centuries, we had better, in order to protect our civilizations, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth.”
- L. Frank Baum, Editor of The Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer/author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz on January 3, 1891
In the last days of the year 1890 the 7th Cavalry Regiment of the United States Army massacred approximately 300 unarmed Lakota Natives (including some 200 women and children) in what would be one of the last in a long line of violent encounters between colonial and Native Americans. The Wounded Knee Massacre, in its encapsulation of the nascent U.S’ historic racism and unchecked brutality toward the land’s Native population, is one of the most indelible stains on the complicated tapestry of American identity.
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that Irrational Games, after exploring the inevitable horrors of unregulated capitalism in Bioshock, would come to another such instrumental aspect of the American psyche in their latest release, Bioshock Infinite.
The view shifts to “instinct mode” and everything is rendered in slow motion. As I was trained to do in an instinct mode tutorial, I make Agent 47 line up a series of careful head shots that include the assassination target. Two seconds later the game jumps to a pre-rendered cinematic. Agent 47, scowling like someone on the toilet who has only ever eaten cheese, loses sight of the girl he means to rescue. He punches his victim and takes his car keys. The wounded man, having just been shot through the skull a second ago, is bleeding from a chest wound. The game has had me tracking this man for quite a while and, despite the setback of the kidnapping, I might be about to receive some valuable information about 47 and the story as a whole. I am meant to feel like all of this is part of an important moment in the game’s grand tale of redemption.
“I’ve got wood,” the target coughs out.
47 turns away and as the screen fades to black the dying man finishes the last sentences he will ever speak before shuffling free this mortal coil.
“Why do I have wood?”
Jesus fucking Christ, IO Interactive. What are you doing?
I was really getting baffled for a while there. I had started things up again with a strong dose of GODHAND and Arkham City. I was gettin’ my Crazy Taxi on. Shit, I was unwrapping myself some Dark Souls, downloading DmC3, re-acquainting myself with some Dead Rising. And the whole damn time I was wondering why I had ever left this glorious land, wondering why I would abandon such bountiful harvest. Everywhere I looked, I saw crunchy, tight gameplay. And so I got sloppy. I starting reading some IGN. I skimmed some Joystiq. Yea, I walked from the path of Action Button. I mean come on, it had been almost 4 years! Things have come far right? And then this turd falls into my fucking lap.
Like a lot of little kids I spent a good amount of my little kid money (miniscule) and little kid time (enormous) on buying and reading comic books. My favourites were always Spider-Man and X-Men with the latter holding the bigger part of the timeshare in my pre-teen imagination. Looking back on this period of time, it’s hard to figure out what it was about those comics that exerted such a pull. Now, in lieu of any clearer explanation, I suspect that the hours I poured into thinking about the characters and convoluted timelines of the X-Men had a lot to do with — bear with me — the bright colour palette used in the design of the comic’s cast.
Over time, though, the visual appeal of the X-Men couldn’t compensate for the futility of the insipid, repetitive storylines of the superhero comics and the vast amount of mental real estate that their hamster wheel narratives/character “progression” were taking up. Simply enough, like many other kids, I found myself caring a lot less about these kinds of comics as I got older and found other ways to entertain myself.
I hadn’t thought much about any of this until, very recently, I found myself turning ten years old again for several hours a day. This was because I began playing Darksiders, a videogame that, just like those comic books, was able to cover up its cotton candy fluffiness with a whole lot of flair.
I’ve been playing fighting games competitively for about 3 years now+; I started with Street Fighter 4, and have moved on into Skullgirls. I’ve played hours and hours of the SF4 series. I’ve gone to local tournaments, and even a major. I’ve gone on forums, argued about tiers and techniques, and spent still more time in practice mode refining and discovering my technique.
I’m not a very big fan of the Street Fighter 4 series.
Killzone 2 exists in a strange place where the Michael Bay inspired bombast of Modern Warfare shares space with the gore-soaked dialectics of The Iliad. For all of its surface problems (and there are many), it is a game about shooting dudes that frequently attempts to impart something far different than the mindless jingoism of its brethren. Killzone 2 has a generic science-fiction plot — the “good guys” of the Interplanatary Strategic Alliance (ISA) are fighting a war against the “bad” Helghast army — but it is also a story about the futility of assigning values to combat fuelled by nationalism and historical injustice.
War is hell, it says, and not just for our team.
I’ve spent the last five Christmas Eves having dinner with a table full of people speaking a language I don’t understand. My partner was born and raised in Canada, but her parents were born and raised in Warsaw, Poland, leaving several decades ago when the country was still under the thumb of the USSR. She, her brother and her cousins are (frustratingly, perfectly) multilingual while I only speak English fluently and can somewhat passably read and understand spoken French. At Christmas family gatherings with only two or three others who can’t speak/understand Polish it’s only natural that conversations eventually shift away from English. The older members of the family are most comfortable speaking in their first language after all and, especially after several bottles of wine and vodka have been emptied, their usual consideration for including everyone in every conversation starts to dissipate. The first year I came to the big Christmas Eve dinner I felt extremely awkward because of this. I imagine a lot of people surrounded by a language they don’t understand get to wondering what the hell is being said and, most anxiety-inducing of all, if they’re being talked about without understanding it.
The next year it seemed a bit better. I knew these people, had grown more comfortable drinking my wine and sort of drifting out when the conversations turned to Polish. The Christmas after that I barely noticed a thing and now, all these years and several failed attempts to learn the language (it is goddamned impenetrable, but I’ll keep trying until I die) later, I find that I can follow the gist of my in-laws’ Polish dialogue despite only recognizing a handful of words. It is possible to intuit the rhythm of a sentence, to understand how changes in tone and volume communicate a joke or sarcastic remark without a proper understanding of the complexities of the language. This is, I think, a common phenomenon. In lieu of properly interpreting a language, those regularly surrounded by it will at least learn to “feel” how it works.
By the end of two hours with Journey a similar thing had happened.
My first experience with a Bioware game was Dragon Age: Origins. At the time I didn’t know much of anything about the studio, what their “return to roots” project meant to people or, really, what I was getting into at all. I just read a lot of really good things about a game — namely, the amount of narrative choice it offered players — and thought it would be worth trying out. Now, having played two Mass Effects, two Fallouts and Skyrim, I’ve gone back into the first Dragon Age with, maybe, a bit more of an understanding of how to approach these kind of massively customizable RPGs (MCRPG?) and a better grasp on how to play off their shortcomings.
In short, I’ve learned how to communicate with a videogame by speaking its own language.