shame

November 29, 2012


I wasn’t sure if I was going to comment on this #1reasonwhy thing.   Still not sure, frankly; I might very well not publish this post.  To be honest, I’m just not sure what to say about it.  This should not be confused with me being apathetic or disinterested or complacent or anything of the sort, however.  I’ve got very strong feelings about it, actually, the strongest one being that it’s incredibly disheartening that this sort of protest needs to exist in the first place.

The behavior of “gamers” – not all of them, but the loudest of them – is one that’s incredibly tough to swallow.  The racist, sexist, misogynist crap that spews forth from Xbox Live multiplayer sessions and Youtube videos and website comment threads – for better or worse, this is how gamers are being defined by society.  This is why Fox News can continue to talk about violent videogames and the downfall of culture and still get away with it, while the good stuff like Child’s Play and other charitable and well-intended works get largely ignored in the mainstream media.

I don’t want to be identified with these assholes; I don’t want anything to do with them.  I don’t play multiplayer with randoms, I very rarely read comment threads.   What I love about videogames has absolutely nothing to do with what these idiots bring to the table.   I mean, I’m a gamer, one week away from turning 37, and you know what?  It’s still a little embarrassing to admit it out loud, for fear that I’ll be branded as one of these scumbags.  When my wife says that she’s done with the DVR and that I can have the living room to play games, there’s still a part of me that cringes a little, as if I’m about to do something infantile.   (This isn’t my wife’s fault – this is me just reflexively being embarrassed.)

I have this blog, I’m a member of some private forums, and I email a few friends to discuss what we’re playing.  The farther I wade into the cesspool that is general games discussion, the faster I want to back out.

That women have been treated like shit in and around the gaming community is not news; it’s always been this way.  Let’s leave aside the gratuitous character designs of female characters in games themselves and talk about real, actual women.  Remember when the dominant story in a lot of the legitimate gaming press around the first Assassin’s Creed game was, for the most part, how hot Jade Raymond was – not that she was the creative lead on a major new intellectual property?  Do we need to discuss Booth Babes?

Hell, it’s not just women – it’s anybody who isn’t a straight white male.  My friend Caro is a senior critic for Gamespot, who also happens to be transgender.  She loves and knows more about games than pretty much anybody I know, and she’s also a marvelous writer with a tremendous mind for analysis and critical thinking; she’s largely the reason why I want to get into this business, to be honest.  But any time she posts a review for her site, my heart breaks every time I see the comments – comments that have nothing to do with her words, or her insight, but about the sound of her voice.

I’m very tired of this shit, and I don’t know what to do about it.  I am neither a professional critic, nor a programmer, nor anything other than an avid consumer and enthusiast; I am a straight white male with a blog that is about to have its biggest month ever – at slightly over 400 hits.  While my reach is limited, my aim is true.  I very much look forward to a time when being a “gamer” isn’t something to be embarrassed about.  In the meantime, I guess, all I can do is support the people I respect, and try to drown out the idiots.

EDIT:  Here’s a fantastic post from Rock Paper Shotgun.  http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/11/29/1reasonwhy-we-are-all-responsible/

And here’s Patrick Klepek at Giant Bomb.  http://www.giantbomb.com/news/from-1reasonwhy-to-1reasontobe-and-1600-comments-in-between/4462/

And here’s Leigh Alexander, who’s been all over this for a long time:  http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/174145/Opinion_In_the_sexism_discussion_lets_look_at_game_culture.php#.ULehR-RWxI5

I’m currently re-reading Justin Cronin’s excellent “The Passage“, primarily to get reacquainted with the world and the characters and the story before diving into the sequel.  But I’m also just totally in love with the book itself, and I’m probably enjoying it even more the second time around.  Cronin is a masterful storyteller, to be …

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weekend recap – conquering fears, one drive at at time

November 26, 2012


Here’s hoping all of you (whoever you are) had a wonderful holiday break.  I can’t necessarily say that my break was relaxing, but I can say that I’ve come through the other side feeling almost like a changed man.

See, Thanksgiving is simultaneously the holiday I look forward to the most (since I get to see all of my family), and also the holiday I end up getting the most stressed out over.  There’s lots of travelling (which can stress me out), lots of food I can’t eat very much of (as I’ve got some annoying food allergies and a pretty sensitive GI system, generally speaking), the requisite family drama (which I’m sure everyone else has, too), and my day-to-day schedule is usually so busy that there’s hardly any time to chill out and relax and digest.   (I’ve got 3 different family units to visit, is the thing.)

This year’s edition was doubly stressful because I was also picking up my first car, a process that had already been stressing me out for the last 2 weeks as I dealt with epic DMV hassles and endless forms and insurance companies and such, and this car-acquiring process was going to end with me driving this car back to my apartment in Brooklyn, a process that necessarily involves driving through New York City.  I have lived in NYC since 1993, and the prospect of driving here has never ceased to freak me out.  (I have, in fact, driven in the city a few times, and even had a shitty moving van stall out and die – three times! – on a crowded, uphill onramp to the Queensborough Bridge, and I am still alive.)

And yet, even though the holiday was busy (as predicted) and there was drama (unfortunate), the food I did eat was quite delicious and didn’t kill me, and in general my stomach was quite cooperative, and it was wonderful to see everyone, and the drive back to the city on Saturday night was shockingly easy and stress-free, and we even had time to build a bureau for the baby’s room on Sunday AND go bowling in the afternoon with friends AND watch the first half of the Giants game before totally passing out from exhaustion.  This was a good weekend.

Conquering the drive, though; that was big.   That was the thing that was stressing me out more than anything else, and it turned out to be easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.   I’m already dealing with general anxiety disorder, which has made me somewhat of a recluse in recent years.*   Medications have helped drag me out of my apartment, but sometimes you just have to face your fears head-on if you’re ever going to conquer them.  And let me tell you, when I finally pulled into our parking space, a part of me really wanted to hear the Achievement Unlocked! sound.

In any event, I’m back in town.

Not a lot of gaming stuff to report.  I’ve been more or less successful in avoiding the Steam sale, though I did buy a few things last night on steep discount (including Hotline Miami).  (And, as I write this, I see that there’s a Flash Sale where Tropico 4 is 80% off.  I suck at strategy games, and yet I’m close to pulling the trigger on this.)

One other bit of non-gaming news to report:  the Kindle Paperwhite is fantastic.  My previous Kindle was old and losing its charge pretty quickly, and the Kindle iPad app can be hard on the eyes at night (and is also too full of distractions to be truly useful as a reading device).  The Paperwhite, though, is super-easy on the eyes, rests very easy in the hands, and has gotten me back into a heavy reading rotation.  (I may end up doing a little Books of 2012 post here, as a matter of fact; my personal blog, where I usually post stuff like this, is more or less defunct these days, and I’ve been thinking about expanding this blog’s topical range anyway.  Hope that’s OK with you!)

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* That being said, being a semi-agoraphobe has also meant that I play a lot of videogames, and is a large reason why this blog even exists in the first place.

pre-Thanksgiving status report

November 21, 2012


Just a quick status report:

1.  There will be little to no posting over the holiday weekend, as I’ll be away from my consoles and PC and there’s only so much I can say about Chip Chain, other than that I’d love it if they patched in an “Undo” button.

2.  Has that mega-patch for Assassin’s Creed 3 landed yet?  I thought it hit yesterday, but I didn’t get an update prompt when I fired it up last night.  That game is really starting to try my patience.  If there was only a way where I could turn off the meta-challenges, that might make it easier to deal with in the moment-to-moment gameplay.  But every single major historical event that I’ve run into has been downright farcical in its execution; this does not bode particularly well for the rest of the game.

3.  Downloaded the new Borderlands 2 DLC last night, also, but couldn’t seem to find how to start it.

4.  Downloaded the new Marvel Civil War table for Pinball FX2 this morning; my wife is a huge Marvel fan and an even bigger Civil War fan, and so this was a no-brainer.  It’s kind of a bland table, at least when compared to the Avengers table, but still:  it’s incredible how well they’ve supported that title.  When all is said and done, that might be my most-played game of this console generation.

5.  I sent Halo 4 and CODBLOPS2 back to Gamefly today.  I suppose I feel bad for not giving them more of a shot, but I just don’t think I’d ever see myself really digging in and getting into them; I just don’t have that kind of time anymore.  But I also feel obligated to at least try Hitman Absolution and Lego LOTR, too, as those are next in my queue.

6.  Speaking of not giving things a fair shot, I don’t see myself getting a WiiU any time soon, if ever.  If I were to suddenly get a job as a games critic (anyone?), I suppose I’d get a system and check it out, if only to fulfill my professional obligations.  But I’m not a games critic, and I have a baby on the way, and the WiiU seems like a waste of money right now.  (I’m not the most objective person when it comes to Nintendo, though.)

7.  Since the year is more or less over as far as compelling new releases go (Far Cry 3 notwithstanding), today I started doing the preliminary work on my GOTY post.  I used to have a bunch of zany categories in previous GOTY posts, but the first thing I noticed as I looked over everything I’ve played is that this was a pretty un-zany year.  No real risks, apart from some pretty amazing arcade stuff that surfaced on PSN in the 2nd half of the year, some of which I’ve yet to play (i.e., Tokyo Jungle and Unfinished Swan).  I’m not sure this was a bad year, but it certainly wasn’t great.

Here’s hoping you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving.

 

weekend recap: so many bullets

November 20, 2012


[This recap is a day late, and edited to reflect yesterday evening; my entire Monday was spent at the DMV, which was about as awesome as you might expect.  I’m just going to leave it at that, because I really don’t want to think about it any more.  It’s not like you need to hear about how miserable the DMV is, anyway; we’ve all been there, we’ve all experienced purgatory on earth.]

Here are some stray observations from a dissatisfied weekend:

  • I was a bit reluctant to get back into Assassin’s Creed 3 until that mega-patch landed (I think it lands today [Tuesday], as a matter of fact).  But when I got back from the hellish experience that was the DMV, I decided to give it a go and see what else was in store.  As it turns out, this may have been a bad decision.  I’d written the other day about how underwhelming the Boston Tea Party mission was; well, you also get to experience Paul Revere’s Ride, which very well might win my 2012 award for the Most Poorly Conceived and Poorly Executed Mission Of The Year.  Instead of a lengthy chase sequence on horseback, which is what I was expecting, Paul Revere sat behind me on a horse and yelled out directions in which I should turn, and we had to do this quite slowly so as not to attract attention (even though Paul Revere was still shouting “I THINK IT’S THIS WAY!” every 20 seconds), and we only ended up knocking on 3 or 4 houses (in which the same NPC answered the door).  I’m not really sure why I’m continuing to bother, to be honest.  This franchise started losing its way last year, when it started to confuse ambition for enjoyment.

 

  • I haven’t necessarily forgiven Halo 4 for its teleportation sins, but I’m still slowly forging through the campaign.  I’m impressed with the graphics – this is easily the best looking Halo game in the franchise – and I certainly appreciate 343’s attempts to mix up the action and pacing with vehicle and turret segments.  (Also, flying a pelican is pretty neat.)  Still, I think my biggest problem with the game now is that none of my objectives are particularly interesting; I’m clearing landing zones, I’m shutting down 2 or 3 towers to open up a new thing or whatever.  It’s grunt work, basically.  And a lot of the enemies are bullet sponges (or, at least, they are when I’m shooting), and that can get dull.  

 

  • I forgot to mention that I’m also playing Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.  Totally forgot I’d put it on the rental queue.  Shooter fatigue notwithstanding, it’s actually pretty fun, even if I don’t really care about these characters.  I think the biggest thing I’ve noticed is that there’s a huge difference in feel between Halo 4 and CODBLOPS2.  In Halo 4, enemies take lots of damage before going down; whereas in COD, everything is more or less a one-hit kill, and so you feel like you’re moving through the game a lot faster.  Similarly, in Halo 4 you run out of ammo pretty quick, so you’re constantly picking up and experimenting with new weapons.  In COD, your first gun will pretty much get you through the whole mission, and as such there’s no real need to experiment with found weaponry (unless it’s clearly given to you because you’re going to need it.)

CODBLOPS 2 is pretty fun, I guess, although I’m currently up to my first Strike Force mission, which is a weird not-quite-tower-defense / real time strategy sort of mission, where I’m defending 3 different points on a base, alternating between an eye-in-the-sky, a weird mech-tank-dog, and individual soldiers.  I have no idea what this has to do with the story; nor do I know why the designers thought that radically changing the action would be a good idea, especially since the friendly AI is incredibly stupid and useless, and the only way to really accomplish anything is simply to make yourself one of the soldiers and kill everyone, the way you’d normallyplay.   Still haven’t finished that mission, either; I was getting my ass kicked quite thoroughly and had retreated all the way so that I was defending the last point on the map, whereupon I got killed, and then the game crashed.   Haven’t felt compelled to give it another go since.

As much as I’d like to finish these three big games before the end of the year, I’m not sure I’m going to; all of them are driving me a bit crazy, and I can’t say I’m truly enjoying myself in any of them.  Nor am I sure there’s anything else coming out before the end of the year that I really need to get my hands on – I don’t care about Far Cry 3, and I’ve never been good at previous Hitman games, so Absolution doesn’t really sound all that appealing.  I do want to finish the last 2 episodes in The Walking Dead, and I must confess to wanting to give Lego Lord of the Rings a try, since the wife might enjoy playing that with me in co-op.  The second bit of DLC for Borderlands 2 came out today as well, although it’s getting somewhat weak reviews.  I suppose I could always go back and play some more XCOM

Still, expect a GOTY post sometime in December.

real talk, part two

November 16, 2012


Apologies for yesterday’s postus interruptus; as per usual around here, I tend to get very busy only when I’m working on blog stuff, and since the first half of yesterday’s post felt particularly good coming out of the fingers, you would be correct to  assume that I got absolutely buried in work bullshit before I was able to get to the second half.  Right now, none of my bosses are even in the office, so this is a perfect opportunity to start writing; of course, I didn’t end up playing anything last night except for my two current iOS obsessions, so I’m feeling a bit detached from the Assassin’s Creed 3 rant that I never ended up writing.

Let me start with the iOS stuff first, since I’m in a good mood.  I’m still playing the hell out of Chip Chain, and now I’ve gotten my wife into it as well.  Here’s how addicting and engrossing it is – I missed my subway stop yesterday morning because I forgot to look up from my iPhone.  I told my wife as much, and to be careful on the way home.  She then missed her subway stop coming home from work, even though I’d warned her, because she forgot to look up from her iPhone.  We are both fully obsessed with it; I’ve finally unlocked everything there is to unlock, and my scores have been getting better, but I’m still not quite the zen master that I feel I could be with just a few dozen more hours of play.

Ironically, the one thing that’s helped me curb my addiction to Chip Chain (besides my day job keeping me insanely busy) is another new iOS game called Dream of Pixels (itunes, $0.99).  The easiest way to describe DoP is that it’s Tetris in reverse; a solid wall of blocks slowly descends from the top of the screen, and you have to carve a given tetromino shape out of the wall before anything touches the bottom of the screen.  I’ve never been particularly good at Tetris, and I’m sure my scores in DoP are on the low side of things, but goddamn, it’s really well made – it’s got a really beautiful and soothing art style and sound design (For some reason, the art style reminds me a little bit of Braid, even though the only thing you see are block-shaped clouds), and even though things can get hairy, it never feels as chaotic as regular Tetris.  It even gives you a nice compliment after you lose, which is quite lovely.  I think the only knock I’d give it is that it doesn’t appear to let you listen to your own music/podcast/etc., but that’s certainly not enough to dissuade me from giving it a full-throated recommendation.  UPDATE:  Turns out my iPhone was just being weird; DoP certainly does let you listen to your own audio.  Fantastic!  No knocks to give!

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OK, so.  You may recall in yesterday’s post that I very much wanted to discuss what I’d just seen in Assassin’s Creed 3, but that I needed to get my Halo 4 rant out of the way first.  There are SLIGHT STORY SPOILERS ahead, but let’s also be pretty clear here – AC3 takes place during the years leading up to the American Revolution, and considering the events that the previous games let you be privy to, you have to assume that your character will be an active participant in certain notable events in American history.  Let me also state that even though I’ve been playing for a dozen hours or so, a lot of those hours have just been dicking around in exploration mode; I’ve not really advanced the story all that much, so what follows is still relatively early in the game.

The whole reason why I even bothered to put Halo 4 into my 360’s tray was because I’d just finished the Boston Tea Party mission, and I literally couldn’t believe what I’d just seen.

I’m not sure what the right word is to describe just that mission’s terribleness, especially considering just how all-encompassing that terribleness actually was.  It was downright farcical.  For a franchise that generally takes itself incredibly seriously (notwithstanding Ezio’s Uncle Mario, as well as everything about Leonardo da Vinci), the Boston Tea Party was a goddamned travesty.

My familiarity with the American Revolution is, admittedly, a bit rusty.  That’s partly why I was so interested in playing AC3 in the first place, though; I was really interested in seeing what these events might have looked like.

Wikipedia describes the Boston Tea Party as “a key event in the in the growth of the American Revolution.”  What the game presented, though, looked more like a frat party stunt gone awry, with just 3 dudes heaving boxes of tea off of a ship (or, at least, trying to heave boxes of tea off a ship – when I tried to do it, I was just as likely to throw a box into another box, or a ship’s mast, or even backwards), and also in a world where “awry” means the violent, acrobatic murdering of 20-30 British soldiers in front of a cheering (though utterly silent) throng of colonists.   And when it was over – when 100 boxes of tea (no more, no less) had been thrown into the murky depths of Boston Harbor, the cutscene that followed basically just showed 3 dudes walking, and the camera was actually drifting off of their faces – it looked like a bad take, frankly.

The whole thing could not have been more anti-climactic, which is the literal opposite of the intended effect, I would think.  I couldn’t believe that such an epic moment of American history could have been treated so sloppily.  And considering that this is but the first such moment I’ve come across, I shudder to think what else this game is going to have me do.  (I’ve already heard terrible things about Paul Revere’s Ride, which certainly doesn’t bode well.)

UPDATE:  not moments after I published this post, Kotaku revealed that Ubisoft is putting out an absolutely massive patch next week that should fix a lot of what’s broken.  That list can be found here, but I must also submit that there’s plenty about the game when it’s working properly that’s still a bit messed up.

a special episode of Real Talk

November 15, 2012


It’s time for REAL TALK.

I’ve been ignoring Halo 4 for the last few days, partly because I’ve been giving Assassin’s Creed 3 every possible benefit of the doubt I can muster (and I’ll get to that in a bit, believe me), but also because I’ve been diagnosed with Stage 4 Shooter Fatigue. Essentially, unless a shooter has amazing graphics, or has a really compelling narrative (or, barring that, at least some interesting characters), or at least is trying to do something different, it’s really hard for me to give a shit about shooting thousands of enemies in the face. In the immortal words of Jay Cutler: “DOOOONNNNTTTTTT CAAAAAARRRREEEEEEE.”

That being said, I listen to gaming podcasts and read all the major sites, and they all seem to really like Halo 4. And my friends seem to like Halo 4, even the ones who don’t really care about multiplayer. They assured me that the game is well paced, that it mixes up the action, that you’re never bored.

So, after finishing a major story mission in AC3 (which, really, I’ll get to, because WTF), I decided to give Halo 4 another shot. Maybe I was being too impatient; maybe I was too focused on my pre-conceived notions about shooters to allow myself to be truly objective. After all, I’d only played the first 2 missions of the campaign; I knew there was still a lot more to go.

So I started up Mission 3. I immediately got a bad feeling when I immediately recognized the form that the mission was going to take. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: a ship’s outgoing transmission is being jammed, and there are 2 relay stations on opposite sides of the planet that need to be un-jammed in order to clear up the signal. Right? Like we all haven’t done THE EXACT SAME THING IN EVERY GAME EVER MADE.

But wait! It gets “better”! We finally have new, non-Covenant enemies to shoot! And some of them teleport.

Oh sweet mercy. Oh sweet sassy molassy. Oh sweet fucking merciful crap. TELEPORTING ENEMIES.

Halo 4: fuck you. All future games that feature enemies that teleport: fuck you, too. I’m officially done with teleporting enemies, the single cheapest and most bullshit tactic in games. It doesn’t matter what genre, either – it pissed me off in Diablo 3, and it didn’t exactly sit well with me in Dishonored, even though I could teleport, too. As soon as I fire on an enemy and that enemy decides to warp out of the way of my bullets and land on my head, I am turning the game off, removing the disc from the tray, and setting it on fire.

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*sigh* The rest of this post will have to wait for another day.

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