Self-Indulgent and Overstated Nerdrage: Always-Online DRM

I was watching random videos, passing the time, when I came across one on one of my favorite gaming websites – Gametrailers.  Their reviews are some of the best I have seen, and I often agree with them.  However, I came across the latest episode of their show “Bonus Round.”  In it, we have Geoff Keighley, who has already proven himself to be nothing but a corporate shill.  The video of him in front of a thing of Doritos and Mountain Dew, with a totally blank stare, talking about the gaming media industry perfectly capsulized the view that people have of this guy, and always will.  For real, Keighley, you are never coming back from that.  You are a corporate shill, and always will be.

With him, he had a panel of three other people.  The first was David Jaffee.  He was the creator of the God of War series and is still a game designer.  Then there was Michael McWhertor, who is a gaming journalist for Polygon.com.  The final member was some guy named Jeff Cannata from a group called Newest Latest Best.

The first big panel question was – what’s the deal with the controversy behind always-online DRM?  And what I got to see what three guys who literally just did not get it and were quick to defend the corporations.  For real, only one guy got why people have a problem with this.  One panel member got pretty close to what people’s problem with this is.

The first major problem is that not everybody has internet.  I don’t know if Keighley and Jaffee (the two most outspoken critics of the critics) know this, but America is getting this HUGE divide between the lower and upper class.  There used to be this cozy place called the middle class, but that has now divided into the middle-upper and middle-lower classes, and the divide is growing every single day.  Money isn’t just raining out of the sky for us.  So there are a lot of gamers who have their systems never hooked up to the internet.  Myself among them.

The next big problem is that it isn’t just the internet connection itself.  Most internet plans in this country come with a data usage limit.  It’s one of the many reasons why America has the worst internet of the developed world.  We can thank the corporate overlords that this group of panelists are clearly shills for for that.  And guess what can just eat through a person’s data usage?  Online gaming.  If an internet connection is needed to play, then you bet your ass that there is a data transfers, which eats up data usage.  And the fees that one gets when one goes over their data limits are hardcore steep.

In the video, however, you hear these talking heads not only not getting why people may have a problem with this, but also mocking the complaints that gamers have with this issue.  Which, by the way, are very legitimate complaints.  Basically doing nothing but calling the people who buy these products whiny brats.  Yeah, that’s a great way to expand your customer base.

This sort of thing is yet-another reason why I am starting to think that the gaming companies don’t give a shit about their consumers.  And that is NOT a good way to play this.  For real, let’s look at the evidence.  The new SimCity releases, and when the always-online DRM leads to server problems, the game goes dark for the majority of players.  They can’t even play single player.  Previously, Blizzard has the exact same problem with Diablo III.  But whereas Blizzard quickly worked on patches for this problem, EA doubled-down.  They basically just told the consumers to shut up and go away.  This trend of always-online DRM has never once done any good.

More evidence of the lack of respect for their customers was with the handling of the Mass Effect 3 debacle.  EA held firm right until the point where consumer rage reached critical-mass.  Disney decided to close up Lucasarts after buying the Star Wars license.  When consumer backlash went critical mass, there was almost nothing heard from Disney.  Square Enix has shown nothing but contempt for their consumers, pandering to the fans of Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts to keep the capital still flowing in.  And how well is that working out?  Then Capcom had the brilliant idea to decide to make a bad joke in the new Devil May Cry which was mocking the previous games.  I’m not insulting the new DmC.  I love that game.  Ninja Theory did a damn good job.  But giving the finger to the fan base when you make a new game is NOT how you keep consumer loyalty.

The gaming companies need to stop abusing the loyalty of their customers.  This kind of thing needs to stop.  In an age when consumer backlash is so easily amalgamated, gaming companies need to stop spitting in the face of their consumers.  You can only insult the people who are being asked to buy your products so much before it comes back to bite you right in the ass.  It’s happening already.

The crowds who want a new Final Fantasy games are becoming nil in the US.  In Japan, there is still a lot of loyalty, but that market alone won’t save them, and they know it.  I could go on all day about how Capcom has fucked up and how people don’t like seeing their name on new games.  EA has been labeled the worst company in the US (a designation that is hyperbole, by the way) because of their business practices.

But the reason that this issue is as controversial as it is is because of the fact that it shows just how detached the corporate side of gaming is with the consumers and how little they care.  When the consumers point out the mistakes, they simply brush us off or worse, insult us.  This is a major issue, and the fact that people like Jaffee or Keighley just want to brush us off and tell us to just shut up is beyond insulting.  This is how you lose customer loyalty.

And for the major gaming companies, I want you to think LONG and HARD about this.  Because the Indie market is growing every day.  New and better ways are being made to reach consumers.  What side of this do you REALLY want to be on?

Until next time, a quote,

“We are all in the same boat, in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.” -G.K. Chesterton

Peace out,

Maverick

America Cares! You Know, Unless You Have an Actual Problem

Read a rather fascinating article in Mother Jones today.  It was a young woman telling the story of her cousin, who was schizophrenic and killed his father by brutally stabbing him.  She also talked about her aunt, who had problems of her own, but got treatment.  It was a rather cold look at the absolute failure of the current American mental health care systems.  The staggering statistics of people who need help and aren’t getting it in this country is almost terrifying.  The people who are ignoring this overwhelming statistic are so surprised when shootings like Newtown and Virginia Tech happen.  Why that is the case is genuinely beyond me.

As a journalism major, I hear much on the news.  So much gnashing of teeth after shootings like this.  “It’s because we don’t have strict enough regulations on guns!”  “It’s because the public doesn’t have enough guns!”  “It’s because of violent video games!”  Lots of talk, but the elephant in the room is becoming overwhelming.  America simply doesn’t care about people with actual problems.  Our country can cry the blues all day about how this is bad or that is bad, but when we are faced with a genuine dilemma, what do we do?  We start talking about budget problems, logistical problems, how it can’t be dealt with right now.  Reason after reason why we can’t handle this problem now, but will handle it later.  It’s almost kind of touching.

I read another fascinating article that was written about a new breed of people in this country – tunnel people.  See, it turns out that there are massive underground networks of people in this country.  Almost every major city has them.  Groups of people with nowhere to go and no help to be found, making a life for themselves however they can.  Some of these communities have actual camaraderie.  Most of them don’t.  The truly saddest part about that is that police who have found evidence of these communities (which is surprisingly harder than you’d think) have found something very tragic – diapers.  A lot of the trash in these places is diapers.  Babies and small children are being brought up in underground communities.  This is happening here, folks!  Right here in the good-ol’ USA.

And while we’re talking about things in the US, here’s a neat statistic – there are over a million children right now, in schools, who have no home.  There are children who lie to their friends about where they live, because they don’t want to tell them that they go home to their family’s car at night.  This is happening, right now, in America.  And how much do the pseudo-celebrity jackasses we put in Congress care?  Not at all.  Hell, even the President of this fucking country doesn’t care!  After all, he is embracing the austerity that has been destroying the EU.  Cutting massive chunks from our nation’s social safety net.  Our President has shown himself to be a turncoat for EVERY single thing that he said he stood for.  I hope that the blue-dog liberals are proud.  After all, they have yet to say that he is a bad guy about anything.  Same way that the Republicans sucked Bush’s cock.  Well, every side has a fanbase, doesn’t it?

The reality getting lost in all of this political bullshit is this – America doesn’t care about the people who have actual problems.  I wish that someday, somebody in the media would see that they are the single greatest contributor to all the mass shootings in this country.  When you have people who have nobody to help them, nobody who will listen and  who are having some severe mental issues, what do you think happens when they see the news?  They see some other mentally-unstable person who has done something horrible.  They see the news and the general public wanting to know everything about them.  Everything they said, wrote or may have been a part of.  The public is absolutely swarming with people who will listen, where nobody listened before.  You don’t think that that sort of coverage has an effect?  When we care more about the killers than their victims, you don’t think that that makes a difference?  If you honestly don’t, then please, leave the gene pool.  You aren’t worth the genetic material that made you.

If there is an afterlife, Mr. Rogers must be looking down right now and wanting to cry.  His entire message was about taking care of each other, because it makes the world a better place.  That people should care about one-another, because being hateful and divided just makes everybody hurt.  But what have I been hearing my entire adult life?  Something along the lines of – you gotta look after yourself!  Don’t help nobody because if you do, they will become losers!  On and on it goes, with everybody finding more and more ways to justify not helping people.  Because they really do seem not to care.

What hurts me most about this is that I keep wanting to believe that there is something redeemable about this species.  That we aren’t just wild and filthy animals that can occasionally aspire to something OTHER than pure evil.  But over and over again, humanity gets more opportunities to prove me wrong.  And they take advantage of all of them.

You know, if we are going to be the evil empire, could we please just drop the fucking pretense?  Could we just man-up and admit that we are evil?  If this country is going to give fuck-all about the fact that we are using drones to kill innocent people overseas and not care that over a million kids in this country go to school and have no home, could we just accept that premise?  For real, can we just fucking stop pretending to be so good, when we’re anything but.  See, here in America, we trample upon the people who can’t stand up and fight for themselves.  A pity that the people who did all these mass-killings didn’t get the memo about that.  If only they had known that, they could have done what they want with impunity!

Until next time, a quote,

“But we’re fucked.  Because it’s too easy, in nature, for evil to conquer good.  For force to conquer peace.  Because the tranquility of 20 people at a picnic can be destroyed by one maniac, wielding an automatic weapon.”  -TJ Kirk

Peace out,

Maverick

Self-Indulgent and Overstated Nerdlove: Journey’s Ending

*Warning!  There are going to be metric ton of spoilers!  If you have not played this game, don’t read further!*

JourneyFor those of you who don’t know, the Indie game Journey is my favorite game of all time.  The absolute brilliance with which it presents its atmosphere, the character development that occurs without a single word of spoken dialogue, the tapestries that paint their history, it is all brilliant.  The best part about the tapestries is that they are totally open to interpretation.  This game really was made to be seen through the player’s point of view.  That aspect alone makes it truly brilliant.  It’s something that not nearly enough game developers are doing these days.  It has a level of emotional intensity which makes its relatively short length feel like you really did go on a journey with the main character, who has no name, no identity and never speaks, yet you feel like you know this character and can bond with his struggle.

There has been a lot of debate about the final area of this game.  See, in the previous section, you have finally made it to the mountain that you are so desperate to climb.  Almost at the peak which is your destination.  The road has been long and hard.  This mountain is unbelievably brutal.  The cold is clearly chilling your character.  What makes it worse is that you seem to be at the mercy of the winds.  It is brutalizing him.  Finally, you get to the final ascent.  It is clear that no other has made it past this.  Gravestones mark so many that have fallen.  And there is a good reason why – the winds get even worse.  They throw you everywhere, brutalizing your entire body.  Your character is getting more and more frozen, desperate to make that final leg.  It is an incredibly intense moment when you see him barely able to move.  His body is freezing, and it is too much.  The final part of that segment, you see him crash to the ground, look up, as if to continue, but then flop down and die.  It is incredibly powerful.

But then, something happens.  A being who is implied to be a sagely creature, from a race that came before, appears.  It reaches down, breathing life back into you.  The character gets up, and takes off into the sky.  It is on a mission to overcome its own fears and to go to where it is called.  The moment you rise above the dark clouds, the monsters you were running from become companions, with you as you make your way to the top, the way home.

Here is where the debate is – did your character die and is his vision of reaching the top of the mountain merely their perception of going to the afterlife?  The reason that this has been debated is that this game doesn’t straight-up tell you anything.  That’s part of the reason that I love it.  It’s openness to interpretation makes it so that everybody’s perception is different.  That is something that the gaming industry DESPERATELY needs.  And I’m not talking the bullshit argument about how the ending to Mass Effect 3 was open to interpretation.  No, that was just people’s attempts to defend it.  Because this game plays on the fact that people don’t know the details, it is made to be given a lot of thought.  The emotional levels it reaches, through visuals and music is amazing.

So, you are probably wondering what my position is.  Did this character truly die and make his way to the afterlife, or is he reborn and makes it home?  Well, to be honest, I think people who are talking about this seriously are missing the point.  It isn’t about the fact that this character gets to the top of the mountain.  It is the journey that got them there, along with what they saw and experienced along the way.

That’s the other great thing about that final ascent – the music.  It builds and builds, as you get higher and higher.  All the pain, suffering and seeing loss, and you get to rise to where you were always trying to go.  The music truly is the best part of that final ascent.  Here, listen for yourself.

Journey does in two hours what most games can’t do with an entire series.  The Indie group thatgamecompany did an amazing job, with a small budget and a few dedicated people.  I will be watching closely for EVERY SINGLE game that they make from here on.  This is the single gaming studio that I watch with diligence, because they have yet to fail me.  They are taking risks, trying new things and trying to expand a medium with new ideas.  If you haven’t played Journey yet, you simply must.  It is an emotional experience.  It is a visual masterpiece.  It is a subtle telling of a beautiful and tragic story of growth, power, greed, decline and the hope for tomorrow.

And it is my favorite game, of all time.

Until next time, a quote,

“I Was Born For This”  -name of the track of the ending credits of Journey

Peace out,

Maverick

Rush Limbaugh: America’s Intellectual Trash Can (Part 3)

I was reading an article in today’s issue of The New York Times about the tragedy in Boston.  I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the photos from that event are nominated for the Pulitzer Prize this year.  There were some truly amazing displays of heroism as people who were exhausted from running a marathon went charging in to try and help people.  Truly, the very best of humanity was shown.

But then I came across a lovely little bit of horrible use of a tragedy to promote one’s ideology.  It should come as no surprise that this use of bloodshed for personal gain came from the king of tragedy-milking and drug-addiction himself, Rush Limbaugh.  This guy is such a piece of shit.  I’m going to do a kind of post that I haven’t done in a while – a response.  Here’s a link to the where he said this stupid shit, and I will respond back-to-back.  Here we go.

You know, this is how Bill Ayers got his start.  Bill Ayers was a principal for ‘educating’ American kids.  He got his start blowing up the pentagon.

From a mile away, I can see where this is going.  He’s going to do a guilt-by-association argument.  But wait, it gets worse.

Ditto his wife.

Because, you know, we totally needed to hear about how his wife is bad too.  That was pertinent information.

We just learned that Kathy Boden, or Bowden, who what, murdered a cop?  She’s now a professor at Columbia.

See where this is going?  So subtly, too.  I mean, if this were any more thoughtful and intellectually deep, I would to be totally lost.

So could we say that whoever did this has just helped their effort to get hired by a major university.

Okay, Limbaugh, fuck you!  For real, how do you feel good at night milking this tragedy for the express purpose of fueling your ideology?  You don’t have anything remotely intelligent to say, so you simply decide to pander to prejudice.  It’s not a big secret that most conservatives view colleges are just liberal recruiting stations.  Knowledge has always been the enemy of conservatism in this country.  The reason why is simple – probably a good 80-90% of conservatives are very religious.  Knowledge is the #1 enemy of religion.  But this is a profound new low, even for you, Rush!  Literally having a guilt-by-association argument in reference to a bomber.  You are a disgusting human being.  No, you aren’t a human being.  You’re less than that.  You’re a disease that we have to deal with, feeding neckbeard white guys fuel to make them think that they are just the most awesome thing ever.  But wait, there’s more.

But wait, that’s how Billy Ayers got his start!

Yeah, and the man who committed the worst school attack in history (with a bomb, not a gun), got his start as a labor worker.  You don’t know shit about shit.

That’s how Kathy Bowden got her start.  There are plenty of celebrated Americans today, former terrorists, Bill Ayers, Kathy Bowden.  Any number of them who began just this way.

And yet you can only think of two.  Doesn’t help your argument much.

And they are now herald.  They are exalted.  The left politicizes everything.

You got no fucking room to talk!  You’re using a tragedy, right now, to politicize that the left is evil, and the right is good.  How DARE you!  How dare you sit your fat ass on your high horse and tell the rest of us that you are so correct!  This is beyond offensive.  But you know what the best part is – if you go to his radio’s web page, here has plenty of idiots who are posting “I agree!” to his vacuous and exploitative bullshit.  His audience is too stupid to understand when he is belittling their intelligence and doing the exact same thing that he is claiming that his enemies do.

That’s the absolute worst thing about modern conservatives.  They are so hypocritical, and they don’t even know it.  Their audience doesn’t care.  They simply want to be told every single day that they are the greatest thing in the history of ever, so that they don’t have to actually wonder if that theory is wrong.  It’s the easiest thing in the world.

Underneath it all, I don’t think that Limbaugh actually buys into his bullshit.  This guy is a brilliant con artist.  He has found a mostly-ignorant audience who will follow whatever he says like it’s biblical.  He knows that if he keeps feeding them their self-indulgent rhetoric, they won’t ever question it.  This man has grown incredibly rich on the fact that he knows exactly what to say to make his audience get itself a big boner.  Since it’s all white men, yeah, it’s just boners.  This man’s rate of buying wives says that he can’t make women want him.  What’s more, he has this magical gift of being able to not lose credibility.  No matter what horribly racist, misogynistic or bigoted thing he says, his audience is loyal to the end.  So yeah, Rush doesn’t buy into his crap.  He knows that he doesn’t have to.  He’s going to make money either way.  And metric tons of it.

Until next time, a quote,

“I wore black because I liked it. I still do, and wearing it still means something to me. It’s still my symbol of rebellion — against a stagnant status quo, against our hypocritical houses of God, against people whose minds are closed to others’ ideas.” -Johnny Cash

Peace out,

Maverick

Musical Insanity: Jesus Christ Is My Nigga

And Christians don’t get why the rest of us tell them to stay as far away from music as possible. This is so funny. It’s so awful, so out of touch with what good music or even good rap is that it makes me smile. For real, I should hate how racist and stupid this song is, but I just can’t. It’s so bad that it’s awesome.

Did you enjoy that as much as I did? I hope so. But if you found it horrible racist and offensive, I totally get where you’re coming from. I apologize on behalf of all white people.

Peace out,

Maverick

The Westboro Baptist Church is Pure Evil!

Let me just get this out in the open – fuck these people.  For real, fuck them!  If there is a group of people in existence that is more evil or more determined to spread hatred, I have yet to meet them.  And don’t go saying that the Nazis or Stalin’s regime were worse.  They were.  But I am talking about in my lifetime.  In my current existence.  These people have no equal.  Every time a tragedy happens, these people are there.  Whenever innocent people die, this group of fucking bigots decides that they need to make themselves heard.  And now, in the wake of the tragedy in Boston, the WBC immediately took to Twitter, saying that they are going to go and protest at the funerals of the dead.

I feel bad for the cops who are going to have to probably hold back the violent masses of Bostonians who are going to want to wring the fucking necks of Fred Phelps and his little merry band of pieces of shit.  I have no doubt that this will get ugly, very quickly, if the WBC descend on this unbelievably tragic event to help spread their message that America deserved this and that gay people are making things like this happen.

It’s kind of ironic – this group of people is probably the only group in existence that is getting Christians, atheists and almost every other religious group to band together.  I mean, is there really no tragedy that these people won’t exploit?  Time after time, they have come out and shown the very worst of human nature, all for the express purpose of creating more bigotry toward a group they don’t like – the LGBT community.  But of course, it isn’t lesbians that they have a problem with.

Before I get too far into my lambasting of merciless piece-of-shit bigots, I feel that I should take some time out and point out that the people who hate the LGBT community don’t hate lesbians.  That is NEVER what it is about.  In modern society, two chicks making out his hot!  Hell, I bet half of Phelps “fag-bashers” spend a lot of their weekends jerking off to lesbian porn.  It is almost exclusively the man-on-man action that they are against. (counting down minutes until I get a comment about how gross two dudes doing it is…) I bring this up because I just wish that one of these pathetic Christards would man-up and accept their premise – I hate gay people because I find them icky.  It has nothing to do with the stupid bullshit in Leviticus.  That’s just what they draw on so as not to have to admit their own bigotry.  The reality is that 100% of why they don’t like gay men is because they find their act gross.  That’s it.  That’s the entire reason.  I know somebody who has pretty much admitted that that is why he doesn’t like the gay community.  I disagree with his position, but I do respect his honesty.  Rare quality, these days.  But yeah, if you bigots would just please accept your premise, that would make tuning out your stupidity SO much easier.

The Westboro Baptist Church is scum.  Not one person in their ranks is a good person.  I make a point of pardoning those who have left.  Phelps’ own kid ditched their ranks recently.  I respect that.  Kid even apologized for how awful the father is.  A lot nicer than I would have been.  I would have gone on about what a piece of shit he is.  And on the off-chance that there is a God, and a heaven and hell, I have no doubt that there is a special place in Hell reserved for people just like him.

But, with that said, I will now get off my soap box and admit say plainly that these pieces of shit have the right to be pieces of shit.  Don’t get me wrong – if there is a fight that is started because these fucking cowards want to make themselves heard, I won’t feel bad.  If Fred Phelps gets the ever-loving shit kicked out of him, I won’t shed any tears.  But I do NOT condone censoring them.  Believe me, I wish I could.  But I am a journalism major.  I am a student of history.  The moment that we censor out one opinion that we view as wrong, where does it stop?  Does it stop at just these people?  Does it stop with the people that the majority thinks is wrong next?  The First Amendment is there to protect the minority opinion.  It is there to protect the people who cannot stand up about this themselves.

After mentioning that, I now point out that it goes both ways.  It lets me stand here on my blogging soap box and say back them them – fuck you!  You people are a symbol of everything that is wrong with the human race!  You are the embodiment of hate and intolerance!  Your entire existence hinges on the fact that you are able to hate and want to spread that hate everywhere you go.  Every single thing that you do makes the rest of the human race want to just hide in shame.  Your tribalism mentality that says that every group who disagrees with you should be hated is part of what is going to drive humanity into the ground!  I couldn’t possibly hate you people more!  You milk tragedy to get attention.  Your desperate attempts at validation make me want to kick a small child.  I hope each and every one of you gets to suffer some kind of horrible tragedy in your lives, and then get a group just like you to tell you that it is all your fault for not being hateful enough toward the group they hate.

Fuck this religion-devoted horseshit, and fuck you!

Until next time, a quote,

“Religion easily has the greatest bullshit story ever told.  Think about it – religion has actually convinced people that there is an invisible man, living in the sky, who watches everything you do, every minute of every day.  And the invisible man has a special list of ten things he does not want you to do.  And if you do any of these ten things, he has a special place, full of fire and smoke and burning and torture and anguish.  Where he will send you to live and suffer and burn and choke and scream and cry, forever and ever until the end of time!  But he loves you!”  -George Carlin

Peace out,

Maverick

The Boston Bombing and My Thoughts

Today there was a bombing in the city of Boston.  At the time of this post, two people are confirmed dead, and dozens are injured.  From reports, there were two explosives.  This is an act of terrorism, and it saddens me that there are people in this world that would do things like this.  But I do have a few thoughts.

We Americans take for granted how safe we actually are.  In countries like Afghanistan or Iraq, they don’t have that luxury.  I will never for a second condone this tragic event, but the fact that Americans are so complacent is interesting to me.  After 9/11, the people were terrified.  American soil had been attacked.  Over 1,000 people died.  This sort of thing made our nation so scared that it immediately had people willing to throw away their freedoms to feel safer.  You can bet that the media had a field-day with this fear.  The reports that were coming out were about as gloom-and-doom as it gets.

Then you have the other side of this equation – the people who want to believe that danger is every single place.  They had absolutely no problem throwing away freedoms after 9/11.  I cannot tell you how many people in my immediate area were saying stupid hyperbole like, “people shouldn’t be worried if they’ve got nothing to hide!”  That sort of sentiment just drove me up the wall.  But hey, that’s America for ya.  And when the government decided to make some unbelievably stupid decisions following a tragic event, we all went along with it, because fear and sensationalism were rampant.  I am hoping that this tragedy is not another repeat of that, should it be found out that a terrorist organization was responsible.  If we are EVER going to get out of our species infancy, we have to start being able to talk about things.  Otherwise, this kind of tribalism is going to drive us into the ground.  That is, to be honest, how I think the human race will end.

Though all things being said and done, here’s what we need to remember – we need to be able to talk about this.  I am one of the people who thinks that when we are going overboard about these issues, we are basically just selling out our freedoms for not even close to what they are worth.  What’s more, these discussions need to be rational!  I cannot tell you how many people are already online saying that this is the Muslims.  Then there are the conspiracy whack-jobs who are saying that this was all one big government scheme.  I swear, those people must think that our government is the most well-oiled machine in the world to make every single national tragedy happen without a single open omission or confession from one of the people involved.  But the reality here is that we aren’t rational about this.  Battle lines are already being drawn and we are already starting to fight it out.

Another thing that I want to add, if this was a terrorist attack, is that I have a very galvanizing opinion about terrorist attacks (if that is indeed what this was).  See, here is my thought – I have a TON more respect for the tradition mob hitman than I do for a person who kills innocent people for what they believe is a cause.  There are a couple reasons why.

The first is that the mob hitman doesn’t do this because of some delusion of it being a for a good cause.  The hitman is doing it for money.  They are doing it to survive.  They do a job that they know they are good at (if they have been alive doing it for a long time, they know that) and that they know will earn them the money they need.  This person has an understandable reason for their work.  Whether you agree with it or not, that should make sense to you.

The second reason is that the mob hitman doesn’t kill innocent people to do their job.  Don’t go off on me before you think about it.  They have a target.  A professional enforcer for the mob will know to take out their target in the most efficient way possible.  Does gunning that person down in a large crowd sound efficient to you?  Absolutely not.  They do their work in a way that can maximize efficiency while minimizing risk.  That’s the smart way to do these things, and criminals are a lot smarter than people give them credit for.

Look, this is a tragedy.  We should take time to mourn the victims and try and help those who can be helped.  One of the refreshing reports I got after this was that people were running in to where the blasts were to help those who were hurt.  That’s the kind of attitude that we should have.  We should come together and work together, instead of taking to the internet to fight it out.

Consensus is possible.  Our species doesn’t have to follow its usual pattern of immediately finding ways to get mad at each other.  But maybe I am just being too hopeful.  Keep the people involved in this tragedy in your thoughts.  Pray for them, if you must.  But most of all, please, keep an open mind and try and think about this rationally.  Please?  I am tired of hearing reports about how another school shooting has devolved into an argument about gun rights, when it should be us looking at what the causes of people’s violence are (and please don’t insult my intelligence by saying violent movies and video games.  That’s ignorance at its worst).  I am sick of tragedy being a battle over which rights that we lose.  We need to be smarter than this.

Otherwise, the point that others have made countless times before me is true – the terrorists have won.

Until next time, a quote,

“But it’s pretty obvious that a lot of people, in the absence of any kind of definitive answers, are clamoring for someone to blame.  And, really, in my opinion, that shouldn’t be our first imperative.  We shouldn’t immediately say ‘who can we blame for this?’  We should be all about finding the truth.”  -TJ Kirk, THE BOSTON BOMBING – What happens now?

Peace out,

Maverick

Self-Indulgent and Oversaturated Nerdlove: Bioshock Infinite – Ending

*Warning!! There are a metric ton of spoilers ahead! If you have not played the game and seen the ending, stop reading!*

Bioshock Infinite.  An amazing game.  The art style, the questioning of reality, the idea of the past and future being totally immaterial.  There are a ton of things to love about this game.  But one thing that is being discussed with a lot of genuine interest is the ending.  I will say again that if you haven’t played to the end of this game, stop reading.  You need to see it for yourself.  Most of my friends have a problem with the ending to Bioshock Infinite.  I do not.  The most problem I have with the ending is the last two minutes, where Booker is being drowned.  But every single thing that led up to that, after I took a minute and thought about it, made sense to me.  In fact, I was kind of digging where it was going.

Now, for those who want to call foul, given my absolute hatred of the ending to Mass Effect 3, let’s do something – let’s compare the two endings side-by-side.  Because the reality is that I love where this game was going with the ending (up until the last two minutes) for the EXACT same reason that I loathe the ending to Mass Effect 3.  The reason is – pseudo-science.

Let me explain.  The Bioshock series is famous for playing around with and bending the living shit out of the rules of science.  It has been part of the brand and how it is defined.  In the first game, they introduce the concept of “Adam.”  A substance that is able to totally redefine the rules of genetics.  As Doctor Steinman said, “it turns the body into clay.”  Through this substance, the scientists of the city of Rapture are able to make substances called “Plasmids.”  These substances, can do incredible things.  But while they are incredible, they also bend the living shit out of what is possible with science.  I mean, you have wasps coming out of your skin, fire being able to be created out of thin air and being able to make a phantom existence be able to scout out your position.  It’s incredibly off-the-wall science.  But in the context of the game’s universe, it makes sense.  What’s more, they talk about it, in detail.  They want you to understand what this universe’s rules are, and why they are the way they are.  It indulges in some scientific quirkiness, but it still falls under the same rules.

In Bioshock 2, they introduce the concept of a kind of shared memory that comes from the Adam that is harvested from the dead.  These memories and the Adam can be siphoned into a living body, but it has to be special.  The Little Sisters are able to contain it.  I won’t break down the extensive reasons why, but suffice it to say, there is a reason.  And when a normal scientist tries to duplicate the process in himself, it mutates him beyond reason.  Again, this is totally absurd science in a lot of respects, but the rules are never clearly defined because of the potential of Adam.  This substance can do incredible things.  So we, the players, are accepting of these leaps in what we see as possible because this substance changes the rules.  And since the rules are never clearly defined (because the people in the universe of the game don’t know what they truly are, either), it is acceptable.

In Bioshock Infinite, there is a new concept that is given to us – the existence of alternate universes and the ability to go between them.  Two scientists (who you later find out are the same person, but in different universes) make a device that can go between them, and this introduces new realities to the various powers they are affecting.  I won’t lie, the totality of this game’s implications and how they explain it is INCREDIBLY complicated.  This is because they have to address something that exists in all stories about alternate dimensions – paradoxes.  If all choices have been made in all dimensions, then how can one truly change the past?  Because no matter what you do, in one dimension, you did the thing you were trying to prevent.  Booker discovers this very problem himself, as it turns out the man that he was trying to destroy was in fact himself. But from another dimension.  When the man from that dimension found out that he couldn’t have a kid, he had his scientists go to another, where Booker was a down-and-out loser with extensive debts, and get him to sell his child to him.

So, with the knowledge that no matter what he does, Booker is faced with the reality that he is Comstock, he decides to do the one thing that he can do – let himself be killed to save the world from the dimensional rifts that are becoming a nightmare to the rest of reality, which are a result of his actions.  A lot of people didn’t truly get this, and I know why – it is complicated.  For real, this kind of story-telling is just about the most complicated kind that there is.  And it can be incredibly hard to follow.  Even in the context of the game, the ways that these things happened isn’t explained too especially well.  But we are forgiving of this, if we are me.  Why?  Because in the Bioshock universe, this sort of thing is something we see all the time.

Now, let’s take a look at the ending to Mass Effect 3.  The Mass Effect series also has a ton of science that is totally outside the bounds of what we think is possible now.  But here is the difference – this science has rules.  Extensive, elaborate and very well-explained rules.  The Codex pages talk about the various applications of the Mass Effect in great detail, so the player knows what it is capable of, as well as its limitations.  The reason for this is simple – it makes it feel more real to us.  Despite the science-fiction and totally outside of reality existence that the series inhabits, it feels like something that we could grasp if we existed within it.  The reason for this is the same as why the Star Trek universe is something that we feel like we could exist in.  This was done on purpose, and to great effect.  I love both universes.  The goal of the Mass Effect series was to make the player feel like this world was one that they existed in, and had control over.  For the most part, this worked like a charm.  Then came the ending of Mass Effect 3.

Into this world of clearly-defined rules that we knew what to expect, we are then given something new – a weapon with three options.  Each of these options are unimaginably powerful, and those who made this machine had no knowledge of how it would work.  What’s more – each of these options is almost impossible.  The one that stands out the most to me is the Synthesis ending.  In that ending, this machine uses technology that has never been shown and is never explained to somehow merge all organic and synthetic life.  What?!  That makes no fucking sense!  This machine can do things that previous parts of the game said were impossible, with a hand-wave explanation and the player was supposed to accept this?  No!  Wrong!  That isn’t how good story-telling works.

I love the ending to Bioshock Infinite.  This game is already a VERY strong contender for the best game of this year.  It is at the top of the list now, and it will take a lot of work for a game to topple it.  The reason is simple – I’m still thinking about it.  Even having gotten through the ending a few days ago, I am still thinking about this.  It’s interesting, profound and different.  I will admit, the killing of Booker seems a little odd to me.  I mean, couldn’t have have gone back and stopped himself from going through on the deal?  But I forgive that indiscretion because the story still flows well.  Unlike the ending to Mass Effect 3, which brings the entire game to a grinding halt in a millisecond.  I hope you love the end of this game as much as I do.

But if you have some thoughts, send it to the comments section.  Discussion, people!

Until next time, a quote,

“Bring us the girl, and wipe away the debt;” that was the deal. The details elude me now, but the details wouldn’t change a goddamn thing.”  -Booker Dewitt  

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Bioshock: Infinite

Bioshock InfiniteSo…yeah, if you are wondering why I am only now posting my review, well, the reason isn’t all that interesting.  I had school work.  That’s it.  That’s the entire reason.  In fact, I have only recently been able to actually play.  And if you think that this review is late, there is a game that I am determined to wait until summer to play, because if I got into it now, my GPA would do a nose-dive off a cliff.  I’ll give you a hint, it involves Studio Ghibli.  Anyway, on to this game.

Up front – this game is fucking awesome!  I love every single minute of it.  It follows the well-trodden style of story-telling that this franchise is famous for, but at the same time gives the player a new place to learn about and explore.  A lot like the original, this game just throws you in to the setting and has you figure out where to go.  But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

First, the story.  Like I said, with little statement given to the back-story of the character, you are thrown in to a new setting, trying to survive.  The story goes that a man named Booker Dewitt has been given a deal – find a certain girl, and your debts go away.  It’s that easy.  Well, if only.  You arrive on an island with a lighthouse (in homage to the original, I assume), but instead of going down into the depths, as you did in the first game, this one has you ascend into the sky.  If you are like me and have a fear of heights, this will give you some really stomach-knot moments.  From there, you have to find the girl, stay alive and get her off the island.  But you very quickly find out that things in this new setting are not as they seem, and there are unlikely allies and enemies around every corner.  I won’t go much further than that, because I don’t want to spoil anything.  I will say that a big flaw of this game is that the story seems to end REALLY abruptly, and leaves you wanting more.  But that’s all I have to say about that.

So, the first thing I want to gush about is the visuals.  I got this game on console, and the visuals are breath-taking.  The city of Columbia comes alive in all of its majesty.  The streets have all the same detail and attention to the time period that its predecessor had.  It is like a step back in time, if they had a floating city back in the day.  One of the neatest things about it is how nice it looks.  This city looks like somewhere that one would almost want to live.  But once you peel the layers away, it is a place of madness and evil.  A lot like Rapture, in a sense, but this city hasn’t fallen into ruin.  Yet.  But trust me, it doesn’t have long.  A nice touch that is in this game is how Booker interacts with this world, often outside player control.  How he responds to other characters and to random people, outside of the player’s control, adds to the feeling of being trapped.  You, the player, are trapped in this madness with Booker, and trying just as hard to understand.

When it comes to the gameplay, the thing that can be said about this game is that it’s fast.  Everything happens quickly, which is something that will DEFINITELY keep you on your toes.  The enemies move fast, you are often having to make quick decisions and the pace is incredibly quick.  You never feel like you have a moment to truly breathe.  But that’s all the better, if you ask me.  The game does take time to develop characters and have intense moments, but there is a constant feeling of haste as your enemies are everywhere and you are never safe.  It makes all the moments of genuine safety in the game kind of off-putting, because it feels unnatural.  This game gets the feel of its namesake down-pat, and it is both scary and engaging.

That leads us to the voice-work.  Much like the previous Bioshock games, much of the back-story of the place is learned through audio logs that you find here and there.  I will say that there is very little introduction to these characters, and some of the voice-work for them isn’t especially compelling.  But it is engaging when it needs to be, and is fun to hear all the same.  Since the city hasn’t totally fallen apart, there are a lot more characters and NPCs to interact with.  The voice-work for them is top-notch.  While you never learn too especially much about Booker, they tell you enough to get to like the character.

The enemies are also pretty neat.  When you get the power that they never clearly define how it works, but they call it “Vigors,” there are certain enemies who you can’t use it against.  Fighting has a lot more strategy in this game.  And the various powers you get along the way are loads of fun.  My personal favorite was the Murder of Crows.  Something about watching people get ripped apart by crows took me back to the original, when I could watch swarms of bees terrorize Splicers.  Good times.

But the thing that truly captivates me about this game is that there is an underlying message that is both so cruel and so beautiful at the same time – there are no good people.  Without spoiling anything, I will say that there are a lot of times when you find characters in this game who appear to be the wholesome and decent types, but over time you find that they are no better than the people that they stand against.  It’s a cold-blooded look at humanity, in a lot of respects, and it never lets up.  This game and how brutal it is don’t stop for anything.  For the player, this makes it kind of harsh at points, but with purpose.  The mandate of this genre to have engaging plots with some heavy themes is there and it is done perfectly.

This is an awesome game.  The pace is great.  The story is engaging.  The characters are all interesting and likeable.  The plot has all the twists and turns of a Bioshock game.  While a new place and a new attitude, this game has the Bioshock mandate written all over it.  I couldn’t possibly recommend it more.

Final Verdict:
9 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick