About Lucien

I am a writer. I am a dreamer. Humanity may be its own worst enemy, but I believe in something better. Maybe I am naive. Maybe I am delusional. Maybe Carlin was right, and we are just playing out the string. But I believe that something greater is still within our grasp. And it is for that that I am working to make this world a better place, even if all I will ever be able to do is spit in the wind.

Ubisoft, 343 Industries, and the Passive-Progressive Companies

By now it’s no secret, the word has gotten out about what has been going on in some of gaming’s biggest AAA juggernauts.  It has lent credence to something that I know for a fact I am not alone in saying for quite some time.  It makes for quite a story, and doesn’t make them look good, but I expect that the only thing that will come from this is a TON of people getting fired.  After all, it’s easier to just fire people than to affect real change to a company at large.  That’s just the world we live in.

It seems we now have proof that all the big companies who talk up a lot of big bluster about how progressive and whatnot they are really are just pulling a fast one.  The two big examples I have, and how they relate to gaming are Ubisoft and 343 Industries.  First, we will talk about the former.  In a series of allegations made by employees of the company, it seems that sexual misconduct was nothing new to the AAA gaming giant.  For a company who has touted how inclusive they are, the hypocrisy of it all wasn’t lost on people.  However, it all went deeper than that.

Part of what has been released about the company’s impropriety and how they treat their employees is that apparently, sexually harassing female employees isn’t the only thing that’s especially sexist about Ubisoft.  There are also their ideas about female characters in video games.  It seems, according to Ubisoft executives, that women in video games don’t sell.  It’s the reason why Evie Frye’s character in Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate was really toned down.  It’s also why there were two character options in Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, because they didn’t think a chick alone would sell it.

This perspective just baffles me.  When you see the numbers of games like Horizon: Zero Dawn, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, and…you know what, I’m going to make a list of fantastic games with female protagonists that were well-reviewed and sold well.  This list is in no particular order, other than when they came to mind.

Horizon: Zero Dawn
Bayonetta
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Life is Strange (spawned a sequel and prequel)
The Last of Us (fuck the sequel)
A Plague Tale: Innocence
Final Fantasy X-2
Tomb Raider (pretty much any of them, even the really mediocre sequels to the fantastic reboot)
Mass Effect 1, 2, and 3 (kind of cheating, as Femshep is a female option, but given how she is the vastly more memorable character because of Jennifer Hale’s voice acting, I would argue that it is more her series anyway)
Atelier Ryza

It is impossible to argue that the people running this company couldn’t see that video games with female protagonists can sell well, so long as the games are good.  This wasn’t them being blind.  Or rather, this wasn’t them being unintentionally blind.  They were deliberately not seeing the trees on this, because as we have seen from the sexual misconduct allegations, it seems sexism goes hand in hand with this company.

Next up, we have 343 Industries.  It seems the company decided to do one of those things where they reach out and ask employees what they think of the company and what could be improved.  Well that was a smart idea.  It seems a whole bunch of employees took to Reddit and decided to post what feedback they had given the company to the Internet.  And oh boy was it revealing of what kind of atmosphere is at that company.

Seems that this company, another who has talked up how inclusive and whatnot they are, has a habit of treating their employees like disposable trash.  The crunch culture there is absolutely out of control, but that’s happening with a vast majority of AAA companies.  It is heartening to see the public pushing back on behalf of developers and seeing some AAA companies taking the feedback seriously.  CD Projekt Red swore that they would not be engaging in that kind of activity again and that for the development of Cyberpunk 2077, they would give the devs as much time as they need to avoid crunch culture.  It shows a lot of integrity on their part.  Wish Naughty Dog and 343 Industries would get the message.

In addition, the company continually hires contractors, who they can pay less, work to the bone, and then get rid of.  All while they treat the people who actually are full-time employees of the company like horse manure.  Amazing to watch big corporations who talk a big talk about how much they care about people, and then you realize that it’s all just PR.  Stuff written by lawyers in support of social movements.  But then you realize it’s all lies.  Big, fancy, corporate lies.

These companies are part of a special group that Red Letter Media loving coined: passive-progressive.  Companies that wear the mantle of how progressive they are, but will never, ever commit to it.  It’s why Disney can get their media shills to talk about how amazing it is that two chicks kissed at the end of Rise of Skywalker, but make sure not to mention how it was edited out for China and the Middle East theaters.  Never will the day come that a character in a Disney film will be central to the plot and gay.  Gay characters must be gay in such a way that it can be edited out easily, so as not to upset the all-powerful Chinese film market.  Because if you can’t show the film in China, why bother?

Thankfully, the Internet saw right through the Rise of Skywalker kiss for what it was and called Disney out, accordingly.  I’m glad that the LGBT community is finally realizing that being pandered to, in such a way that they can be edited out of serious work is more than a little disgusting.  I will say that with gaming, at least part of it is people putting their money where their mouths are.  As much as I hated the story of The Last of Us: Part II, at least Neil Druckmann is a believer in his cause of promoting women and LGBT in his games.  The story still sucked, but at least it took that risk and made the jump.  For that I give respect.

For the rest of these companies who talk a nice talk, but then we find out secretly are a bunch of sexist pigs, I hope that the public will realize that this pandering is more than a little disgusting and will push past it.  But that’s just a little hope of mine.  None of these companies care about X group.  The only care about money.  Everything else is lies, written by lawyers and PR reps.

Until next time, a quote,

“Son, there is no truth.  Just good or bad fiction.” – Denny Crane, Boston Legal

Peace out,

Maverick

Final Thoughts on Ghost of Tsushima

So, I have finally gotten through the entire campaign and gotten through as many of the collectibles as I could stand.  Not gonna lie, the endless fox dens got tedious.  Don’t get me wrong, they are cute little buggers, but after a while, you start to wonder what you’re doing finding all these shrines.  Ironically enough, the most interesting collectibles I was able to find in the game were the haiku spots.  Not only did that offer some gorgeous vistas, but it was peaceful.  Kind of a little zen moment in the game.  They should have nixed some fox dens and put in a few more of those.  There were also the shrine segments, which felt a bit Tomb Raider to me, doing some platforming to get to a specific point.  Kind of surprised there weren’t some actual tombs for me to raid in this game.

After experiencing everything from this game, I stand by my review score of 8 out of 10.  This is a very good game.  It isn’t perfect, it has its flaws, but it is incredibly fun to play and I don’t regret my purchase at all.  I didn’t get into the flaws all that much in my review.  One of the biggest was having to unlock the stances.  They should have had that right from the start, and then let you upgrade abilities.  It just got tedious early on having to be constantly dodging on enemies when I could see from the Techniques screen what the various stances offered.  I know, it’s a nit-pick, but so sue me.  It would have made the early parts of the game less of a slog.

My final thoughts on this are many.  First, I’m desperately hoping that this game doesn’t get sucked into the endless sequel machine that is gaming these days.  I would honestly be happy if this game never gets a sequel.  That being said, I wouldn’t mind a couple pieces of DLC.  Maybe something to go into Japanese history or something.  Like I said, I was shocked that there wasn’t more tomb raiding.  Given the amount of history and personality in this island, some secret areas to find and explore would be nice.  Or maybe a mission off the island, where Jin has to hunt one last target on a part of the mainland.  Just something to bookend the saga.

That being said, since I do see the potential here for a sequel, considering that Jin becomes a legend to his people and unintentionally builds a following who is like an army, it would be kind of interesting for a story about him ending up having the Shogunate after him, and him having to use his wits and combat skills to find a solution to avoid a civil war.  Still, I honestly hope that there isn’t one.  Let this game be its own story and stand on its own.  It would be kind of cool if Sucker Punch did some more historical fiction games.  I read this article a few years back about how historical fiction was one of the great treasure troves of gaming that hadn’t been tapped yet, and with this game I can definitely see where that’s coming from.  There is a lot of potential.  For a while, the Assassin’s Creed games where doing that, but then the whole concept got sucked up by the Ubisoft yearly sequel machine that ruins interesting ideas to make for cookie-cutter games.  One of the things that made Ghost of Tsushima stand out from its contemporaries was that it bucked some of the trends in big open world games.

This was a fantastic game, and definitely made for a good summer experience.  With my medical education stuff happening this fall, maybe it’s for the best that there are no big gaming experiences that I am down for until Cyberpunk 2077.  Need all my focus.  I have a goal – to finish my education, and then pursue a new career away from the land of ice and snow and unending winter darkness.  If nothing else, this proves that while Hollywood is out of ideas, games like Ghost of Tsushima are showing that creativity is not dead yet in entertainment.

Until next time, a quote,

“That’s all I have to say.” – Lyrics, Look to the Future

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s Review: Ghost of Tsushima

Thus far, 2020 has been one hell of a year.  There’s a certain feeling of finality to it, if you ask me.  It feels like everything is coming to an end.  We have social media collapsing as it shows its true colors of being pro-rich and anti-public.  We have the Trump administration falling apart.  At this juncture, it’s going to take Trump absolutely demolishing Biden for him to even have a chance in November.  His cult can’t salvage him from the trash fire that is how he handled COVID-19.  Speaking of, that’s another thing.  It feels like the end of the world as we knew it, thanks in large part to this plague.

For gaming, this has been an interesting year.  For me, it started off great, with an expanded version of my favorite game of 2017.  Then a game I was hoping would be great turned out to be a narrative disaster, shitting on characters I loved from one of my favorite games.  Now we get to a summer release that really is outshining its contemporaries right now.  After the bitter taste in a lot of people’s mouths that was The Last of Us: Part II, in comes a game that is a love letter to samurai films from back in the day, and in my opinion does it so much justice.  I love this game so much, and now we’re going to talk about it.

The story of Ghost of Tsushima goes that the Mongol horde invades the Japanese island of Tsushima.  Jin Sakai is one of 88 samurai who ride out to meet them, in a battle that is a massacre.  Jin survives, thanks to the help of a thief named Yuna.  When he tries to maintain his Samurai honor, going to face the Khan again, he is brutally defeated, thrown off a bridge, and left for dead.  Realizing that the way of the samurai isn’t going to give him victory in this conflict, Jin decides to take another route.  He becomes the infamous Ghost, a warrior of shadows, a knife in the dark.  With this new way of battling, he begins his mission to get revenge on the Mongols, and save his people from them.  Along the way, he learns that to become the hero he needs to be, he may end up becoming an even more dangerous monster.

The first thing to talk about with this game is the visuals.  This game is gorgeous!  I cannot even begin to explain how beautiful the visuals are.  Sucker Punch really went all out on the visuals, and it pays off dividends.  I can’t think of a single area of this game that isn’t gorgeous.  The thing that really strikes me is the usage of color, and the way they are able to make it pop.  The first time I went to the Golden Temple, I was in awe of the dappled yellow from the trees there.  Or the foggy moonlight in the swamps.  Even the bitter cold northern regions are still beautiful, in their way.  Each section of this game has its own unique look, and the way they bring that to life is fantastic.  You even have haiku minigames that you participate in that seem to be done just to make the world come to life, with the soothing score of this game in the background.

Another thing I wanna mention is the narrative.  One of the things I like about this game is how mature it feels.  There are some serious subjects at play.  One of the biggest is the contrast between the man that Jin was raised to be, and the man he is becoming as the Ghost, along with what that is doing to him as a person.  You also have some dark and gripping story-lines that you partake in.  Then there was one that I won’t spoil, but it involved a caretaker of his, and how that concluded actually had me crying.  Not joking, I teared up.  The way they ended that, with no resolution, it felt so heartfelt.  There is a certain amount of restraint with the characters and the narrative.  One that feels fitting for the tone.  Samurai in this game are about restraint and keeping one’s emotions in check.  So Jin exercises that, wherever possible.  It makes the scenes where his composure breaks that much more intense, because you get used to how reserved he is.

The thing that makes this game, though, is the combat.  A lot of the reviews I am seeing point out that there are two major ways to play.  The first is as a Samurai, which involves good sword-play, parrying, dodging, and as you level up, you gain new Stances.  Each one helps you fight a different kind of enemy.  Each of these stances can be changed in real time, so you don’t have to interrupt the flow of battle when you are taking on a lot of enemies, or participating in a big set-piece battle.  You can also play as the Ghost, which involves stealth and using the tools of your ninja trade.  One thing people have commented on is that the AI in this game is dumb as dirt, so cheesing enemies with stealth isn’t exactly hard, and I would be lying if I didn’t agree.  Still, that being said, I love it.  Stealth is my major way to play, and it never stops being fun.

However, one thing I don’t see is that the game gives you the freedom to mix and match skills to craft a battle style you want.  You can have a little bit of everything, and it feels good.  To be in the middle of a big set-piece battle, throwing kunai and using black powder bombs.  Just like the stances, these weapons can be changed in real time, so you have access to all the tools you unlock.  That really lets me craft the Ghost that I want to be.

I want to take a little moment to comment on some of the controversy that seems to be surrounding this game.  Seems that the western games media has decided to white knight for a community of which they are not a part, and lament that a game about samurai was made by western developers.  At first, the coverage was how offensive it is to Japanese people.  However, this game is selling so hot in Japan that they have run out of copies for sale there.  All their press are in love with it.  Then the commentary turned to how this game supports “Japanese imperialism,” which sounds a touch bit racist.  Not to mention how Asian Americans are offended by this.  Do these people not know that the world is not America?  Not to mention, not all Asian Americans have Japanese heritage, and I have seen that the various Asian groups here tend to take their heritage seriously and don’t like to be lumped in with others.  Overall, this controversy is stupid.  This game is a love letter to a style of film, and it is absolutely clear that there was nothing but respect for the culture they were looking at and a desire to make the best game they could.  I commend Sucker Punch for how hard they worked to make this game.

There is a part of me that thinks that some of the controversy with this game is due to salt about how The Last of Us: Part II was received.  I keep seeing that game mentioned in articles condemning Ghost of Tsushima, to the point that it is now very noticeable.  A game that is pro-progressive in all the ways big games media likes is divisive in all the wrong ways by the fans of the original, while a game that doesn’t play politics and just strives to show affection for a culture and a style of filmmaking that it emulates perfectly is a smash hit in all ways.  I can see why some outlets would be salty.

Overall, while this game isn’t perfect, and the early sections of the game before you gain new skills and level up can be tedious, the narrative is gripping, the characters are interesting, the setting is glorious, the combat is slick, and I cannot recommend this game enough.  If you love samurai films of yore the way that I do, then you owe it to yourself to pick up this game.

Final Verdict
8 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

A Tale of Two Gates: Book One (Excerpt)

Hey everybody.  Got this new novel I’m working on.  I think it’s coming along smoothly, and I decided to share a decidedly-romantic scene with you all.  I suppose this is a bit of a spoiler for it, but since I do hope to make a series out of it, and the relationship between the characters in this is complicated, I don’t think it will tell you that much.  Hope you all enjoy.

It was a cool evening.  A breeze was coming in from the north.  The city was quiet as fishermen came in and the other ships were coming in for dock.  The hava airship was still anchored outside the city.  It made for an imposing sight against the amber skyline.  Smells of food from the various stalls and bars was carrying on the breeze, along with the occasional waft from the pleasure houses in the green light district.
Sitting on the roof of the building she lived in, Aima had a bottle of Everline in her hand.  Next her was her hume companion.  Both were enjoying the cold air after a hot day and all the chaos on Deo’s ship.  The ginger xylo had bandages on her arms, though it wasn’t necessary.  Using blood magic, she had stopped the bleeding and the healer at the corner clinic had given her a quick patch-up.  This was more for sun exposure.  Her pink button-up shirt was open, with her white undershirt and all the stains associated with it exposed.  Some would see it as macabre, wearing a shirt covered in old bloodstains.  For her, this was part of the day.
The bottle was being passed back and forth.  The hume was still wearing the Navy uniform pants but had the white undershirt on underneath.  It was mostly tucked into the pants, with part hanging out.  This shirt was also getting stained, though after today, the reason why was clear.  Her long brown hair was hanging down, poofed out about the roof tiles that the two were leaning against.
“I can’t believe you did that,” Jean said, breaking the hanging silence.
“It was them or me,” Aima replied.
“Still, that was nuts.  All that blood.  You could have been killed.  Blood loss is no joke.”
Nodding, she took a drink from the bottle.  “Trust me, I know.  This isn’t even the furthest I’ve gone on this.”
Looking over, the hume was concerned.  “Don’t tell me that.  I worry about you.”
She chuckled.  “Chari, Jean.  That means a lot.”  Her hand came to rest on the hume’s.
Jean turned her hand around, locking fingers.  The quiet intimacy of the act struck both of them.  Each found their heart beating quicker.  Then their hands separated, going back to staring at the vast ocean of stars and the shimmers of nether streams in the sky.
Very soon, the bottle was empty.  Aima set it beside her, then went back to staring at the stars.  There was a long pause, with just the cacophony of the life of the city around them.  Families having meals, restaurants and open bars having dinner, various groups out and about, it was a gentle symphony.
“You looked pretty badass out there,” Jean said.
“I did?”
The hume looked over with incredulity.  “Oh don’t act like you don’t know it.  Nobody who can do that stuff doesn’t know how cool they look doing it.”
“Den ita tinata.”
“Meaning?”
“It was ordinary.”
“Fuck that!  That was crazy!  Watching your blood becoming blades, cutting those dudes open and then having their blood make the blades bigger!  That was fucking awesome!”  There was such sincerity in her voice.
Aima smiled, resting her head closer to her companion’s.  “I guess, when you have trained the way I have, done this sort of thing for so long, and seen mages and sorceresses who can do some crazy things, you start to forget that you can also do cilin things.”
The hume’s expression soured.  “Wish I could do cool stuff like that.”
Seeing the dour look on her face, Aima gave her a smile.  “You have analyzed data which tells Omirals how to move fleets to make war!  That’s amazing!  I could never do that.  Being in a room filled with powerful people like that, I wouldn’t be able to talk without stammering.”
A slight smile came to her face.  “Isn’t as cool as being able to control blood.”
The xylo shook her head.  “It is.  Having your words help guide the actions of legions in potential wars with millions of lives on the line.  You might not see it, but that’s incredible.”
“I guess.  Definitely don’t look as good as you doing it.  You are in such good shape.”  Looking down, she frowned at the fat around her waist.
“You are pannefori, Jean.  Don’t you ever believe otherwise.”
“Pannefori?”
She looked right at her.  “Beautiful.”
The hume’s face suddenly went beet red, looking away.  “You don’t mean that.”
Aima’s face got very serious.  “Koitaxe ma, Jean.”
“What?”
A slight pause.  “Look at me.”
It was hard to turn and meet her companion’s gaze.  Finally, she did.  The xylo’s face was very close.
“You are beautiful, Jean.”
The closeness between the two lasted for just a moment, until Aima’s hand was around her head, bringing their lips together.  The kiss was passionate, as if a ton of restrained energy had finally exploded outward.  She pulled herself into the young hume’s arms, holding her close.  Her companion’s mind was swirling.  For so long, she had been wondering about it.  The little glances, the closeness, the butterflies anytime Aima smiled at her.  Now it was happening, and she was both terrified and joyful at the same time.
Her elven companion got in closer, climbing on top of her.  It was clear she was wanting to elevate the level of intimacy.  For her, this was something she had been aching to do for a long time.  Among her people, intimacy between genders wasn’t nearly the social issue it was to the humes.  Love should be free and expressed in all the ways it can be, with those who are able and do consent.  The connection that she had immediately felt since the young woman opened her eyes in her bed was being fully realized.  She wanted more.
Right as things were getting heavier, Jean pulled back.  “Wait!  Please, wait.”
Not wanting to push things and make the situation awkward, Aima did as bidden, releasing hold and climbing off.
“I’m sorry.”
The hume’s hand touched hers.  “No.  You didn’t do anything wrong.  Just, not here.  It’s too open, too public.  Can we go back inside?”
Aima smiled from ear to ear.  “Tu echai!”

A cool breeze was still blowing in through the window of Aima’s bedroom.  Gentle music was playing from the teliz.  A woman was singing in Alder.  A gentle tune, which the ginger xylo had told her was of love.  Reminded her of jazz singers, back in the day.
The two women were laying in bed, gently kissing and holding one-another.  Passion had erupted in this place, and there was a lingering scent to match, though the candles were gradually replacing it, and the breeze was airing the room out.  Now it was calmer, with the two enjoying the closeness and tender afterglow.  Aima’s hands were running over the soft flesh of her hume companion’s breasts.  The amount of attention they were being paid had gotten Jean’s attention.
“You are really into my boobs.”
Aima nodded, grinning.  “You have no idea.  Women of the alder don’t have memlars like this.  Ever.  Even when we are nursing children, they don’t get this big.  I love them…”
Jean’s expression soured.  “They’re only big like that because I’m fat.”
The xylo sighed.  “Why are you so hard on yourself?  You have such a small amount of fat.  If what you’ve told me about your people is true, then you are in such vastly better condition than most.  Why do you berate yourself so hard?”
She turned around.  “Because of this.  Ever since puberty, I have this giant butt and super wide hips.  I hate how I look.  The only pants that fit me assume that I’m unbelievably fat.  Last time I went shopping for…sexy underwear I was crying because there was nothing at the lingerie store that fit me.  I feel so fat because of this.”
Aima shuffled down the bed.  The hume let out a squeak as a big kiss was planted right on one of the cheeks of her butt.
“I think it’s pannefori, and you won’t find any such problems here.  If you cannot find clothing, it can be tailored for you.  Trust me, the tailors love a challenge, and you would present a fantastic one.  Whatever clothing you want.”  She shuffled her way back up the bed.  “Your world sounds so judgmental and awful.  Everyone always hating how they look, constantly fearing what others think about it.  It sounds exhausting.”
Turning back around, Jean smiled and kissed her elven lover.  “It is.  Doesn’t help that in the Navy, they make me feel worse.  I didn’t make the weight last time and the tape measure was too much.  So they run me ragged to lose more weight, but then I’m gaining muscle.  And it feels like my fluffy is never going down.”
Aima looked confused.  “Your what?”
Getting ashamed again.  “It’s a term where I come from for…fatness.”
The xylo gave her a cold look.  “Stop being so mean to yourself!  You are not fat!”
She pointed down at her stomach.  “There’s fat there!”
The ginger elven woman chuckled and slithered down her body and started kissing her tummy.
“There is sexy female there.  How can you not love every ounce of this body?!  You are perrafora omori kelm!”
Closing her eyes, she suddenly felt very intimate.  “What does that mean?”
“Beautiful beyond words,” Aima replied, kissing back up her body.
Then the young hume burst into tears.  A sudden painful, loving feeling came over her and she couldn’t help but cry.
It was enough to get the ginger xylo’s attention.  “What’s wrong?!”
“I’m sorry.  You didn’t do anything.  I just…I always feel so gross, like this body is something I am stuck in and that it’s hideous and no one could ever think I’m attractive.  Doesn’t help that I can’t flirt or be sexy.  It always just looks awkward.  Even now I feel so unsure what to do.  I’m a hot fucking mess and I feel so bad because my brain doesn’t want to believe what you’re saying, even now.  There’s this niggling thought that you’re just being nice and don’t want to hurt my feelings.  I feel like such a jerk.”
Aima had a big smile and moved back up to look at her lover face-to-face.
“Look at me, Jean.”
The hume was indeed a hot mess, puffy and red with tear-streaks on her face, but she did as bidden.
“I don’t want you for some idea of you.  I want you for you.  So you are exceptionally awkward.  That’s alright.  You’re you, and that’s all I want.  It’s okay if you have trouble believing what I’m saying.  I’ll keep saying it until it gets through that thick hume skull.  And I bet we could find a way to make you feel attractive.  Give me a tailor, some makinia, and some pins for your hair, and I bet I can make you feel like you are the most attractive hume who’s ever lived.”  Looking down, a smirk came to her face.  “Starting now. Veni merun!”

Sitting naked on the edge of the tub, with a towel hanging over her leg, Jean couldn’t have looked more awkward.
“You sure you know what you’re doing?”
Aima gave her a caring look.  “Do you trust me?”
“Of course.  It’s just…”
“I won’t hurt you.  I promise.”
After a few deep breaths, she nodded.  “Okay, let’s get started.”

“There we are!  Not a nick on the kolos!” Aima said.  “You can open your eyes now.”
With much apprehension, the hume looked down, then was in awe.  Her pubic region was shaved perfectly clean.  The towel was covered in shaving cream mixed with hair.  Through the whole ordeal, she had had her eyes closed.  Having never done this herself, the whole prospect seemed very frightening.  As clumsy as she was, she never would have taken such a risk with her womanhood.  Running her hands over things was so different now.
“Wow.  It’s so smooth.”
“Yes indeed,” the ginger xylo replied, regarding it approvingly.  “Let’s see how you look in the mirror.”
The two women stood together, Aima’s arm around her lover’s waist.
“Not gonna lie, I feel kinda hot right now.”
“I assume hot means attractive?”
“Oh yeah.”
“Very good!  You most certainly are.  Now all we need is a cute open shirt that shows off those glorious memlars, a long skirt to accentuate the vasel, some dark makinia that goes with how pale you are, and some shimmers for your hair.  Then you will be turning heads everywhere!”
Now it was Jean who pulled her companion into her arms and was kissing her with passion.  A fire had been lit, and now there was no going back.  The night was almost over, but for these two, it had only just begun.

Until next time, a quote,

“Real love is wild and passionate and dangerous.  It burns and consumes.” – Spike, Buffy the Vampire Slayer

Peace out,

Maverick

How I Would Have Done The Last of Us: Part II

Having finally watched through an entire playthrough to know the story of the game that hurts me because of how it shits on a game that I love from the bottom of my little black heart, I got to thinking about something.  See, I think that Neil Druckmann wants to be seen as a visionary creator.  He wants his name to go down in history as a writer who creates stories that will stand the test of time and be heralded for years to come.  And we have seen that he can write some amazing and mature stuff.  I really loved the story in Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.  The story of the last mission of Nathan Drake, where he finally is able to leave behind the warrior is both mature and touching.  The scenes where he is talking to Elena or where he talks to Sam about how they aren’t the boys in the orphanage anymore were great.  My favorite scene in the game is at the table where the pirate captains all died, where he is marveling at the history and how amazing it is that he can see this for himself, only to look at Elena and realize what got him here.  That’s great stuff!

I also love every second of the narrative of The Last of Us.  The story of Joel, losing his daughter, being hardened into a cold and cynical killer, only to rediscover his humanity and find someone worth selling humanity up the river for because he reasoned that she would die for nothing, was touching and beautiful.  My favorite scene in the game is at the very end.  When Ellie finally unloads all the emotional baggage she’s been carrying around, and Joel realizes that Marlene was right, and she would have wanted to die to save the world.  Then, when she confronts him about the story he told, and you can see she knows he is lying when he swears it was the truth but accepts his lie.  To me, the title The Last of Us means that last part of yourself who is willing to accept the darkness and live with it.  She accepted his life as the truth and chose to move forward.

The problem with the sequel is that the Neil seems to forget that part of gaming is finding characters to care about, and seeing what happens with them in a narrative.  You can’t create a great franchise if you make a game where we love two characters, and then making them out to be monsters in the sequel.  It leaves a bitter taste in people’s mouths.  Neil wanted to leave a legacy of pushing boundaries, and I shall give him this much – he succeeded.  But at the cost of good story-telling and shitting on characters we all love.  But it didn’t have to be this way, and could just as easily been a fantastic narrative about the ugliness of retribution and how it begets more violence.  I’ve been thinking this over, and I really do like what I’ve come up with in how to make the kind of game Neil wanted, while making it great, and making it a game that everyone would have been talking about.

First, I would have totally reworked the premise of this game.  See, I would have a campaign of two characters, Ellie or Abby.  At the beginning, there is an intro sequence with Ellie, so fans are feeling comfortable, but after the inciting incident, I would introduce Abby into the game.  I was thinking they would get captured by a gang of violent people.  Maybe have her moved to a camp and spend a long period of time being horribly beaten and tortured.  Do some darker stuff and maybe hint that Ellie’s body was used.  There, she meets another young woman who has been captured, named Abby.  The two quickly bond, and find a way to get out of their predicament.

At that point, you have to pick who you are going to play the rest of the campaign with.  To keep things interesting from a gameplay standpoint, I would have picking one or the other to each have its own perks.  Maybe Ellie would be more technically minded and so she would be able to upgrade weapons and stuff in unique ways, while Abby being much more physically capable, she would be able to buff her person.  Like maybe getting iron knuckles or something so she could be a more physical warrior.  I want to give players a reason to pick one or the other, not being aware that whoever they pick would change things.

The concept of the game is the price of vengeance, and I think it would be fantastic if Ellie decided to be out for blood with the people who kidnapped them.  Make it some religious cult or something.  They were kept there as brood mares, and maybe hint that both of them might be with child.  I got no problem with the darker elements that Neil wanted to address, just that they shit on the characters from the previous game.

Over the course of the narrative, Ellie and Abby would develop a very close relationship.  There would be this fantastic chemistry where they are able to make jokes and try and find the best in the situation.  What’s more, as the narrative goes on, both start to realize that their quest to hurt the people who hurt them is starting to damage who they are, because they end up having to kill people who are just as desperate and broken as they are.  The two would eventually become lovers, more as an escape from the reality they live in as much as a real relationship based on love.

Now, I don’t want to blindside players with some hard twist at the end.  There would always be this question about what Abby’s story is.  She would tell these stories about how she was hurt, and her father was killed, and how she has been searching for the person who killed him.  You could have dream sequences showing scenes of her and her father as a child, which are touching, then a scene where clever players could realize is the hospital from the first game, but it would have to be subtle  Then, we’d have some scene where the two are in a building and Abby realizes that Ellie is immune to the plague that has wiped out humanity, and there could be this great scene where their relationship is suddenly changed.  There is some sudden distance, and with the psychological toll that this is taking, it’s the last thing that Ellie needs.

After a not nearly as long game (seriously, the plot goes on forever!), the two finally wipe out the last of the people who imprisoned and tortured them, preparing to head home.  Maybe have the game take place over a series of months, and both women are now noticing that they are pregnant.  There are so many concerns with this, but Ellie just wants to get home.

I would also have a few segments where you play as Joel, so fans of the original can get some familiarity and see a character they like back in action.  With age having caught up with him in a big way, he would be a very different character who one would have to play carefully as he wouldn’t have the stamina that the female characters do.  My thinking was that he would find Ellie and Abby, in a scene much like the one at the restaurant.  It could make for a great mirror scene for Ellie, seeing him come in to save her at that moment, while for Abby it would be a scene showing that he is a loyal father and a man who would do anything to find the girl who has given him a reason to live.

This leads to the big 180.  On their way back, they find out Joel has been searching for Ellie, but Tommy knows where, so he will go out and get him.  When he is gone, Abby decides she cannot hide the truth from her lover anymore.  With everything done, the critical part of Ellie is back, and she can tell that she is hiding something from her.  That’s when she tells her the truth.  That she is the child of the doctor Joel killed to save Ellie, and she is out for his blood.  That the mission to kill the man who killed her father is all that has kept her from killing herself for all this time.

What follows would be a very visceral and tragic boss fight.  Both of them are weakened by the physical toll that pregnancy is taking on their bodies, but Ellie isn’t about to let her kill the man who is a father to her.  Both would battle to get hold of a gun.  Eventually, after beating the shit out of one-another, each would find a weapon, and point it at the other.  Here come the best part – a choice.  If you are playing as Ellie, you can either kill Abby and save Joel’s life.  She essentially has to choose between her lover or the man who has given her a reason to live as well.  If you play as Abby, you have to choose to either kill Ellie and then finish your revenge on Joel, or lower your weapon and choose forgiveness.  A neat twist would be, if Ellie lowers her weapon, Abby will choose forgiveness, because she doesn’t want to ruin the relationship she has made.

In other words, if the player chooses not to kill, their diligence would be rewarded, and if either one kills the other, it would have an ending where they are psychologically broken for the rest of their lives, having to raise a child.  In Ellie’s case it would be in Tommy’s compound, but in Abby’s case it would be in the wilds, on her own.

Plus, this opens the game up for a co-op mode, where players take on the role of both characters and they would see things that their character would.  It wouldn’t be couch co-op, that way each character could have their own thoughts and stuff.  And the choice at the end would be even more prescient because then both characters have to choose to lower their weapons.

So what do you think?  I know, it’s not perfect, but I think with this idea, we would have had a game where everyone would have been talking about it, for years.  Sure, the anti-SJW types would bitch about gay chicks, but whatever.  That narrative doesn’t disrespect the fans of the originals and their love of the characters, while also painting a grim look at the cost of vengeance.  In my eyes, this game would have been the one Neil Druckmann was hoping to make.  A game that would have challenged conventions, and had people talking, without all the visceral hate.

Until next time, a quote,

“Swear to me!  Swear to me that everything you told me about the Fireflies is true.” – Ellie, The Last of Us

Peace out,

Maverick

Weird Defense of Rey: Shitting on Anakin

One of the rules of the Internet is that every time you think you’ve seen the stupidest thing ever, you’ll be proven wrong.  It never fails.  I cannot count the number of times when I have seen something so dumb that my brain is like, “this can’t get any dumber.  Humanity has finally reached the bottom of the stupidity hole.”  Then some mother-fucker says, “hold my beer!” and I am giving a shovel all over again.  It’s a rule that goes all the way back to 2006 when YouTube came onto the scene.  Once humanity possessed the ability to upload videos of what it does, we realized that the well of human stupidity really reaches no bottom.  It’s an endless void where it almost appears that people are trying to one-up each other on the stupidity scale.

With that in mind, I just saw a meme with Steven (the moron) Crowder at the table and it has the sign “Rey isn’t a Mary Sue, Anakin from the Phantom Menace is.”  I read that, and my brain had this thought – do people just not remember anymore that the prequel trilogy was hated?  Has the corporate nerd media campaign to make the prequels out to be good actually convinced people that they aren’t still remembered by a vast majority of the community as trash?  Especially The Phantom Menace?  I guess it has, because people are spewing this nonsense about Anakin now, as some weird defense of Rey.  I am so confused.

I mean, I guess the reason they are doing this is because you can’t do with Luke Skywalker.  When we first meet him, he’s getting his ass kicked by Sand People and having this little laser droid blasting him.  His ability to use the Force is incredibly limited, and over the course of the series, we see him train and his abilities grow.  Plus, they take the time in the original film to show that he knows how to pilot, and that his abilities run in the family.  So there is just no opening to make the Mary Sue argument for him the way that it is WIDE OPEN for Rey.

It’s just baffling to me that they decide to go after Anakin.  Yeah, he was a Mary Sue.  A poorly written, poorly acted little altruistic angel.  At least in The Phantom Menace, which is what the meme I saw was alluding to.  He was amazing at stuff that he had never done, and everyone just thought that he was the messiah.  Here’s the thing – people called that out.  People called out how awful that character was 1,000 ways from Sunday all over the Internet, way back in the day.  Still got warm feelings in my heart for Red Letter Media’s takedown of the entire prequel trilogy.  It was savage, to say the least.  Ironically enough, they address the fact that so much nerd media is trying to be nice to the prequels in their takedown of The Force Awakens, where they savage the articles praising them.

Neat fact – people say that no one from the prequels got as much hate as Daisy Ridley did for Rey.  That is just wrong.  That’s ignorant of what happened.  Jake Lloyd, who played Anakin in The Phantom Menace, got so much hate for that film that he now hates the Star Wars franchise and refuses to see anything associated with it ever again.  If Twitter had been a thing back in 1999, I can’t even imagine how ugly his page would have been.  The hate found him all the same.  He won’t talk about Star Wars or anything associated with it.  So yeah, Daisy Ridley has received some ugly stuff online, but she’s not alone in this.  Not by a long-shot.

Something else that’s kinda neat – pretty much everyone who has associated themselves with this franchise now hates it.  Harrison Ford hated doing it so much that part of the reason they had his character frozen at the end of Empire Strikes Back is because they didn’t know if they would be able to get him back for the sequel.  Carrie Fisher has said she wishes she had never done any of those movies.  Alec Guinness, who played the original Obi-Wan Kenobi said that this film was the low point of his career and he could not begin to understand why people liked these movies.  John Boyega has said that Disney will never be able to get him into anything associated with this franchise again.  Daisy Ridley has said that she never wants to do this again.  Hayden Christiansen’s career nose-dived after the prequel trilogy.  This franchise seems to cause a lot of hate.  Funny how that works.

It’s interesting to me how this franchise has become a noose around Disney’s neck.  You almost have to give Kathleen Kennedy a nod to how she could take a franchise that has been printing George Lucas money for the last 30 years and make it a financial black hole.  Disney has outright-lied about how much money they lost on Solo: A Star War Story.  They say roughly $77 million loss, but I don’t buy that for a minute.  Red Letter Media also did a great breakdown of how much Disney had to have lost with that, and I don’t buy that they didn’t lose anything less than $100 million.  The Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge was drastically underperforming pretty hard last year.  This year nothing is performing, due to COVID.  The toy sales for the new films are in the tank.  It seems even the cuteness of Baby Yoda couldn’t save the sales where the numbers are losing money and they have stopped trying to make toys of the newer films.

You have to be impressed that the leadership of Kathleen Kennedy was able to take something that printed money and have it losing money.  It’s gotten so bad that there are elements within Lucasfilm who, if the rumors are to be believed, are trying to find ways to underhandedly remove the sequel trilogy from canon.  With Kennedy’s contract up in 2021, and it almost being certain that she will be gone once it is, part of me wonders how Disney is looking to make up lost revenue.  They spent $4.4 billion to buy this franchise, thinking they would get their money back with tons of friends.  Part of me wonders if they actually have even gotten back what they spent.

What was all this about again?  Oh right, the meme I saw.  Trying to cover for Rey by bringing up a universally-despised character from the previous films is just such a fail.  Someone should have told them that.  Everyone hates both those characters.

Until next time, a quote,

“We interrupt this film to apologize for this unwarranted attack by the supporting features.  Luckily, we have been prepared for this eventuality, and are now taking steps to remedy it.” – Narrator, Monty Python and the Meaning of Life

Peace out,

Maverick

The Tragedy of Capt. Brett Crozier, a True American Hero

Eventually the story of COVID-19 will end.  One way, or another, this story will conclude.  The moron in charge of this country wants to believe that it’s done now.  If we stop testing, it will just go away.  It’s been made abundantly clear that Donald Trump was not the right leader for this crisis.  A man who gets bored when something goes on too long and gets frustrated when it’s something complicated that he can’t just yell at or call it fake news and it goes away.  Insiders in the Trump White House have said that he spends each day wanting to believe he’s beaten an enemy.  For a man who thinks this way, you would think that a viral enemy to take on would be perfect.  Alas, it seems that something too small to see with the naked eye has utterly defeated a man who says that the reason people don’t like him is because of how manly he is.  The irony in that is palpable.

Once all is said and done, and historians start to look at the beginnings and the fight against COVID-19, there will be those who are remembered as heroes, and those who are not.  The doctor in China who leaked the story to the world about how awful things were, telling people the truth that couldn’t be stifled by his government.  Such a tragedy that this man who had so much bravery in the face of a powerful authoritarian government, doing the right thing no matter the cost, was a victim of the very virus he worked to make the world aware of.  I’m sure China doesn’t see him as that, but history will remember him differently.

I honestly wonder how history will remember Donald Trump’s presidency.  History hasn’t been kind to Obama, for good reason.  He ran on this platform of change and transparency.  However, once he got in office, he was more guarded than even his predecessor, even less transparent.  The change he wrought was passing a healthcare bill written by a conservative think tank, the Heritage Foundation, which was called Romneycare when Mitt Romney passed it in Massachusetts.  However, this great revolution to the broken healthcare system proved to be little more than a birthday present to the private insurance system.  The utter scam that is American healthcare.  Meanwhile, with only one major accomplishment under his belt, he expanded the Bush Doctrine of surveillance, expanded the wars in the Middle East, which continues to this day.

There is another character who history will remember very differently than the powers that be would like.  His name is Capt. Brett Crozier, the former captain of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt.  As the infection was spreading and America’s piss-poor attempt at “containment” failed, Capt. Crozier began to have crew getting ill.  It didn’t take long for them to test the sick crew and it was positive for coronavirus.  Anyone who has been on a Navy ship knows that social distancing is literally impossible.  Not at the tight quarters that they have to function in.  Not with a full crew of over 5,000 sailors.  Being a good captain who feared for the safety of those under his command, and with the outbreak on the ship worsening, Capt. Crozier did what any good commanding officer would do – he reached out for help.  He begged Naval Command to send aid, or at least let them dock to get the infected quarantined.

However, in what I have come to understand is pretty standard Navy fashion, given how they have treated someone near and dear to my heart who is equally dedicated to her military service, Command saw fit to deny Capt. Crozier’s request.  It’s around this time that the document he sent to Command got leaked to the press.  Immediately the man was hailed as a dutiful and dedicated commanding officer, and military command looked like some of the biggest pricks there have ever been.  As you might imagine, they didn’t take kindly to this.

An investigation was begun almost immediately, as it was deemed a breech of national security to have a document that had NO operational information and was just a man trying to get help for the men and women under his command to make its way to the press.  Of course, that’s assuming that they actually have proof that he leaked it to them.  We have no proof that they were.  The Pentagon is being extraordinarily tight-lipped about what their investigation found.  Odd.  If the evidence was so clear that he was the source, why aren’t they heralding that over him?  From where I’m sitting, it’s because they don’t have proof.  He’s just the scapegoat.

Capt. Crozier was relieved of command of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, and the ceremony as he was disembarking from the ship was one of the most touching things I’ve ever seen.  You know who is a commanding officer who has earned the respect of those under their command pretty quick, and the cheer they let out for him I’m sure made the man emotional.  Can’t see how it wouldn’t.  But this was not the end of the tarring and feathering that Crozier would endure from military command.  See, at first it looked like the Navy was walking back some of what they were doing to this man.  But then, a couple weeks back, the investigation was finished, and they defamed this great man to such a degree that it would be insulting, if it wasn’t expected.  And not just him, but the Rear Admiral he served under.

The Navy has effectively tried to hang everything that happened on the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt around his neck, make him out to be an incompetent commanding officer, and say that he was an utter failure in this situation.  My favorite thing in what they said was that he didn’t adhere to social distancing policies among the crew, needlessly risking more infection.  What else was he supposed to do?!  You do realize that Navy vessels have the tightest quarters imaginable, right?  They pack the crew in there.  There is no way, with as many people who were on that ship, that they could have reasonably been able contain the infection.  Crozier spoke of that in the document he sent.  I guess they never read it.

I cannot imagine how awful this must make Capt. Crozier feel.  I really can’t.  This man served with honor and distinction, in the face of a crisis that is unprecedented in this generation.  He pleaded for help, not for himself, but for the men and women who look to him for leadership.  And they basically make him out to be incompetent and worthless.  That everything that happened on that ship is his fault, and his CO’s as well for hiring such a moron and doing nothing to stop him.  This man had a career as an officer where he did everything he could, and the Navy gives him the finger in the worst way possible.  His career effectively ends with him being defamed.  That must leave such a burning pit in one’s stomach.

The Navy threw an unfathomable amount of shade at a man whose actions speak for themselves.  A true American hero.  While the guy in charge of this monkey farm was trying to pretend that it was no problem at all, Crozier did everything he could to address it and protect as many lives as possible.  Even more tragic is that one of the members of his crew died from COVID-19.  A pointless waste of life and service.  But history will remember Capt. Crozier differently.  After all the crap the military has tried to throw at him, history will remember him as one of the most dedicated officers in the modern age.  Officially, his career will end in disgrace, but I know that once all of this is over and Ken Burns is making some big documentary about the whole thing, Capt. Brett Crozier will have a special place in it.

Until next time, a quote,

“We shall carry on the watch.” – Navy Solemn Tradition

Peace out,

Maverick

Russian Bounties on Soldiers and Trump Derangement Syndrome

One of the things I will always find fascinating is how people can get so worked up about things.  Anything Trump does is mainstream fodder, no matter how innocuous.  I mean, we have him treating a pandemic as if it will just go away if he closes his eyes and says “not there, not there, not there, not there!”  You’d think his utter failure in dealing with a disease that is going to be a generation-marking event which could reshape all of America would be all that people need to think this guy is a moron and treat him as such.  But nope!  People have to take something else and blow it up to such a degree that part of me thinks everyone is literally insane.

For those who live under the same rock that I reference every other time I bring up current events, it was leaked that there was an intelligence briefing about Russia paying Afghani rebels to kill American soldiers.  That would definitely get my attention, were it not for the fact that I am a student of history, and I remember this little thing called the Cold War.  During it, not only did we give the Afghani rebels money, but we also gave them guns and CIA training to fight the Soviets.  Neat fact – one of the rebels we gave CIA training to was a man you might have heard of.  A slightly influential, now dead, terrorist named Osama Bin Laden!  That’s right, we gave CIA training to the guy who led the terrorist organization that carried out the attacks on 9/11.  He took the training we gave him and used it on us.  Oops!  So, forgive me if don’t see the Russians paying rebels to kill American soldiers as the be-all, end-all thing.  America really has no room to talk.

America has such an ugly history in the Middle East.  We put the Ayatollah into power by helping them with their coup in Iran, now we are trying to provoke them into attacking us.  We destabilize the Middle East, enabling ISIS to rise to power.  We help the Taliban get into power when they were fighting the Soviets, then destroy them later.  It shocks me that people are completely unaware as to why the Middle East hates us.  Between American and Russia using their countries in proxy wars against one-another (a practice that continues to this day!  That’s what all the nonsense in Syria was about), it shocks me that they don’t just want to kill every foreigner who even walks into their country.

Still, as the news about Russia paying for rebels to attack American troops, everyone was yelling about why Trump didn’t do anything.  He vehemently denies any knowledge of this, to the surprise of no one.  Bush still denies being told that terrorists were planning an attack on September 11th.  Leaders in America having actionable intel and doing fuck-all about it is nothing new.  That’s how it goes in this country.  But the big question that really gets me is – what exactly do people wish he had done?

Let’s look at this from the point an analytical point of view.  What are the options open to Trump in a response to this?  Sanctions against Russia?  We do that, they declare war.  Should we pay people to kill them back?  As I said, America is still engaged in proxy war with Russia in the Middle East.  So, we’re technically doing that.  Should Trump have gone to Putin and yelled at him?  Assuming there was a video of it, would make for great visual.  Is America supposed to attack Russia?  Again, that would be war.  Is everyone actually angry that we aren’t picking a fight with a nuclear-equipped superpower?!  That question, more than any other, is what keeps me sitting there with a glum expression, pondering the madness of our species.

How is it that we are now at a point that the biggest thing people are angry at Trump about is not declaring war on a nuclear-equipped superpower?  From where I’m sitting, this is Trump Derangement Syndrome.  I fully acknowledge that that is a real thing, and it is often completely ridiculous.  It’s ironic that we can’t just call the dude on his insane, blatantly stupid ideas about COVID-19 just going away if we stop testing for it.  That’s the most insane thing I’ve ever heard.  Instead, we have decided that the biggest affront to decency is the fact that we’re not trying to start a nuclear war.  Maybe it’s just because one of the nearest and dearest people to my heart is in the Navy, and if we go to war with Russia, there’s a real chance that I will never speak to her again, but how’s about we not make a big production about us not sending our military to die?

That’s not even talking about the civilian casualties.  After all, a nuclear war means two nuclear powers dropping nuclear weapons on cities and killing the populace.  Or on military bases that just so happen to be by cities filled with people.  I live in one such city.  So that means my dear friend may actually live, and I get to be the one she never sees again.  A thought that also hurts me.  This is madness, absolute fucking madness.

My point is – America is not blameless in this.  Not only have we done EXACTLY what Russia is doing, but we still are.  We aren’t heroes.  The sooner people get that, the happier everyone will be.

Until next time, a quote,

“Doesn’t anyone notice this?  I feel like I’m taking crazy pills!” – Jacobim Mugatu, Zoolander

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s First Take: Cyberpunk 2077: The Gig Trailer (and why patience isn’t a virtue)

Well, last week there was the Night City: Wire, a promo event for CD Projekt Red’s latest game, Cyberpunk 2077.  When I first heard about it, part of me was desperately hoping that it would be like the State of Play demo for Ghost of Tsushima.  That the studio would take us into the game and show us an in-depth look at it.  Except…it wasn’t.  It wasn’t that at all.  Instead, it was a new trailer and a chick talking to some people with brief glimpses of gameplay interspliced in it.  The whole thing was scripted as fuck, and to be honest I was feeling really let down.

Especially since it was also revealed that a TON of gaming news outlets got a review copy of the game!  Or at least of the prologue.  So they are already giving out candy to reviewers, and no demos for us.  This right after another fucking delay in the game’s release that I am DEAD CERTAIN (and no one can convince me otherwise) was to be able to market this game onto new consoles.  The whole “delaying to get it right” thing is bullshit.  This was a marketing decision.  One that I am not at all happy with, but now it’s done and there’s naught to be done about it.  Maybe it’s for the best, all things considered.  After all, I’m pursuing my medical education, and my semester would be fucked if this game came out in September.  Doesn’t mean I like it.

Anyway, the Night City: Wire event happened and a new trailer dropped.  Let’s take a look at it.

Easily the most frustrating thing about CDPR and this game in-particular is that they can delay a game for a reason that I am certain beyond any shadow of a doubt is bullshit, make the wait that much longer all for greed, and it does not a thing to slow down my utter need to have this game and be playing it.  It genuinely pisses me off how a company can do this.  Having finally gotten all the way through The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, especially the Blood and Wine DLC (which is almost better than the base game), this company can create a gripping narrative and write engaging characters in a way that I haven’t seen in so long.

It takes me back, to the old days of Bioware, or Naughty Dog before Neil Druckmann fell in love with himself and his writing ability.  For those who don’t know, the games that I love most, especially these days, are the ones who get me invested in the characters.  For a very long time, I’ve not made a secret about my debilitating depression and how hard it has been for me.  Winters are awful where I am, hence why I am looking to finish my medical education and get out of here.  To move to place without the ugly winters and to have a career that is more than me just paying the bills to get by.  So games with characters that I can latch onto and who feel like people I would like to get to know are the ones that stick with me the most.  Gameplay is great, don’t get me wrong, but if the characters are boring, then it doesn’t matter how interesting the gameplay is or how fascinating the lore is.  Sure, all the stuff about witchers and their universe is fascinating, but getting to meet Regis the vampire and hear his incredibly-written dialogue is what sets the game apart, for me.  Or play through the hilarious and poignant wedding mission in the Hearts of Stone DLC.  You only have a little time to get to know Vlodimir Von Everec, but he leaves a mark.

Depression is hard.  Most people will never really get how hard it is.  Waking up each day feeling empty inside, like there’s nothing in there and you don’t even get why you bother.  It’s exceptionally difficult.  Fiction, and especially gaming of late (because Hollywood is so utterly out of creative energy now), has been such a wonderful escape from a mental condition that, if it wasn’t for this hobby and the dedication of the people who stick by me even when I am at my most gloom and doom, I don’t know if I would be here right now.

Man, that was a dour digression, wasn’t it?  The point is – when I see the trailer above, and how cool it is, hearing Jackie talk about Night City and what a captivating place it is, I am with him!  That looks awesome!  Everything I’m hearing from the lucky shit game review places that got to play the prologue has me desperately wishing that time could be spend up.  Where’s Gaunter O’Dimm when you need him?!  The visuals are amazing, and they seem to be marketing on the violent side of this game, but whatever.  I know that there is the stealthy and clever side, and that’s how I mean to play.  I want to be a tactical player who assesses a place before making a move and silently dispatching my foes with my cyberpunk katana.

This game looks amazing.  That much is clear.  So while CDPR may have delayed it for bullshit reasons, at least I can see that what is coming in the final title is going to be crazy and ambitious and almost certainly unlike anything I’ve seen before.  I cannot wait.

Initial Verdict
Give me this fucking game! out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Neil Druckmann, The Last of Us: Part II, and the Modern Love of Nihilism

Just recently, The Last of Us: Part II came out.  I said before that I was not giving that game my money.  After I saw the leaks laying out the plot, I said “fuck this!” and refused to buy the game.  I don’t want to play a game where it puts me in the pilot seat of some character I don’t know on a mission to murder the characters I do know from the first game and care about deeply.  However, after it came out, I got curious about if the leaks gave the full context or if there really was something more to it.  Turns out, there was something more, and what was more was just so frustrating.

The game is essentially nihilism fetish porn.  If you have a fetish for nothing in life meaning anything and all things being shit, then this is the game for you.  Neil Druckmann clearly does.  Hence why he has created a game with a narrative that is not fulfilling in any way, not that the professional reviews would reflect that. There isn’t a single one of those that says a bad word one.  Comment on the fact that Abby is a boring character and that she has ZERO character growth through the events of the story, while Ellie (who the game goes so far out of its way to make out to be a bad person) is left psychologically destroyed by the events of the game?  Nope.  Then you can’t pat yourself on the back for endorsing a game that wore it’s “woke” nature on its sleeve.  Then you might be accused of being sexist or homophobic or transphobic or whatever by the outlets like IGN, who rally in being super tolerant, but we have just recently found out is super sexist.  That doesn’t surprise me one bit, by the way.

Seeing the YouTube personalities who aren’t bound by the need to praise things that are “woke” and were willing to comment on the piss-poor nature of the writing and how utterly insulting it is to take a character we love from the original game and essentially make her into a monster that we are supposed to hate, it got me thinking.  Nihilism is something that a LOT of media these days is trading on, and some of it with so much more grace and skill than others.

One of my favorite shows right now is Rick and Morty.  It is a show where nihilism is one of the central themes at play.  Rick is a horrifically jaded and nihilistic character.  He has seen the nature of reality and all the alternate realities, and has realized that nothing truly matters.  But it’s more than just the nature of reality.  You find out at the last episode of season 2 that Rick fought in a war against the Gromflomites.  It was a war that they lost, and it changed him as a person.  Part of me is curious to see if Beth proves that she is Rick’s daughter in future seasons, following that path and then seeing how she is changing just like her father did as his nihilistic worldview of nothing mattering because you lose in the end anyway comes into focus.  Rick’s contention in Season 3 was that Beth is just like him, and I think he’s right.  To see his mentality come full circle would be kind of poignant.

Why does hardcore nihilism work in Rick and Morty but is total shit in The Last of Us: Part II?  Because in Rick and Morty, the nihilism isn’t thrust on you.  It’s a central part of Rick’s character, but there are other characters around him that bounce off his way of being.  You have Morty, who is quickly becoming very jaded himself about the nature of reality thanks to Rick’s adventures.  There’s Summer, who is a lost teenager that is pretty vapid and doesn’t really appreciate the seriousness of what Rick’s world entails.  Then you have Jerry who is just the perfect foil for Rick because of his utter contempt for Jerry’s existence.  Lastly there’s Beth, who seems to be following Rick’s path to a fault, and I hope they keep to that, because it makes for an interesting story about how we all end up becoming our parents.

These characters take the nihilism of one character and contrast it.  They bring new perspective, even if in the end it is often proven that the way Rick thinks of the world is correct.  It gives us as an audience a chance to come to our own conclusions as well.  Plus, the adventures are usually fun and engaging.  There’s pitch black humor that people like myself can appreciate.  It isn’t just constantly bombarding me with how ugly the world is and how ugly everyone in it is.  It doesn’t just frame the entire experience as one long treatise on how humanity is awful and needs to die.  And it doesn’t take the nihilism that it leans on and shit on the characters I like.  Because even when Rick is a terrible person, and if the end of Season 4 was any indication, he can have some TERRIBLE moments, you do know that he isn’t so horrible that there’s nothing good in him.  He does try, often, to be a good grandfather to his family.

I’m noticing though that more and more big productions are leaning on the same kind of nihilism that Neil Druckmann does.  The kind where everything is shit and the things you like are bad.  Let’s talk about Star Trek: Picard.  I fucking despise this show.  Let’s not talk about the fact that the plot rips off Mass Effect and the worst aspects of it.  Let’s not talk about how it is making a big statement about how the white person is evil and the minorities are good.  My biggest issue is it takes the universe of Star Trek and turned it into something ugly and hateful.  It took a galaxy that one could aspire to and want to emulate and turned it into something contemporary and loathing.  Almost like Alex Kurtzman (the biggest fucking hack writer in history) has some kind of ax to grind.  It made a beloved character a broken old man who is defeated.  It took an interesting woman who escaped the Borg collective and was rediscovering her humanity and turned her into a ruthless bounty hunter who wants to kill everyone in her way.  The Federation in this series isn’t something I look up to.  It’s something I see in the world today and that takes away everything that was beautiful about it.

The tragic irony is that this series has shown that they can do dark and macabre storylines with perfect grace and skill.  Probably the best example is from the DS9 episode “In the Pale Moonlight.”  There, we see Sisko having cooked up a plan with Garak to try and get the Romulans into the war with the Dominion.  They create a forged piece of evidence that shows the Dominion plotting to attack the romulans, but because they are so untrusting and skeptical, the Romulan Senator quickly figures out it is a fake.  As he is going to take this back to his people to prove that it is a forgery, his shuttle is destroyed.  Sisko figures out quickly that this was orchestrated by Garak, who hired a criminal to plant a bomb, while he made sure that the proof the Senator was going to expose as a fraud would survive the explosion.

Sisko confronts Garak about this in one of the greatest scenes in Star Trek history.  It goes to show the old adage that the best actors in this series are people who come from a stage background, because watching as Garak takes the moralizing of Sisko and utterly destroys it is fantastic.  If you haven’t seen it, you absolutely must.  The scene itself is on YouTube.  The episode ends with the Romulans joining the war, and Sisko talking to his daily log recorder, but looking right at the camera.  Where he says, over and over that he will be alright with this, and that he will get past it.

Nihilism doesn’t make a good story, nor does it make a bad one.  Let’s talk about video games that have used it well.  One of Geralt of Rivia’s defining characteristics is that he sees the world as broken and believes that nothing will change that.  He sees human nature of fundamentally flawed and that hate is a part of the human condition.  But surrounding him are a whole cadre of characters that have a ton of personality who can play off that.  The stick in the mud nature of Geralt is a common foil to some of my favorite characters.  And he isn’t totally macabre.  In my playthrough, I had him bonding with Ciri in some of the most touching scenes, like when they have a snowball fight and when they trash Avallac’h’s place together.

Hell, let’s talk about how it worked in the original The Last of Us.  That game had a severe sense of nihilism with Joel and how he saw the world, contrasted by the youthful innocence and wonder of Ellie.  Part of what made that story so great was how Ellie was being broken down by that world, but at the very end there was a fantastic moment where she confronts Joel, and chooses to accept his reality.  It was a brilliant ending to a fantastic game.

Dark nihilism can easily be used for great effect.  But for whatever reason, we live in an age where hack writers are using it to try and make a setting dark and gritty.  They think that if they pump enough ugliness and existential dread into something, that makes it high art.  The nihilism needs to have purpose.  The existential dread has to be building to something.  There is a TON of it in one of my favorite films – Blade Runner.  That movie is about power relationships and what it means to be a slave.  Yet it builds to Roy Batty realizing that he can be better than what he was made to be, and he tells Deckard a story.  You can’t just have a game where everything is shit for everyone, except super butch chick who suffers no emotional ill effects from the journey.

Not regretting not getting this game.  Neil Druckmann clearly has become too in love with himself to see his work objectively and there are too many yes-men/women at Naughty Dog that don’t rein him in.  A shame, because there actually is a talented writer in there.  I loved and still love Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.

Until next time, a quote,

“You realize we’re not a pack of wolves who you can just swing your sword at whenever the need arises.” – Phillipa
“Yes you are, and yes I can.” – Geralt of Rivia, The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt

Peace out,

Maverick