Let’s Bitch About Games Not Being Happy for LGBT People! (A response to Kotaku)

I am genuinely not surprised what a giant pile of shit Kotaku is.  It was started under Gawker, so it should have surprised no one.  But every time I see their articles I am reminded of all the bad things about modern “games journalism.”  It’s a joke, and the punch like is that someone, somewhere, takes this shit seriously.  Who this person is and why is a complete mystery to me.  So when I saw an article with the title “Let Queer Characters Be Happy,” my groaning senses immediately were blaring.  I thought for a while I’d just let this stupid shit lie, because it’s more click-bait for SJWs so they can be reaffirmed why video games are awful.  Even though I guarantee that almost nobody who reads this shit and takes it seriously has ever actually played on.  Here’s a link to this bullshit article, now let’s get started.

When The Last Of Us Part II’s new trailer debuted at this year’s E3, protagonist Ellie enjoyed a slow dance and kiss with another woman. My queer friends and I confessed to one another that we were assuming the worst. That happy girl will probably die, because while games allow us to be many things—space marines, mages, and tenacious heroes—they rarely allow queer people to be happy.

Assuming the worst was a safe assumption.  That was mine as well.  I figure that the motivation behind Ellie being willing to go down the violent path that I get the feeling she has tried to escape is the death of India lesbian.

Oh, and boo-fucking-hoo about “they rarely allow queer people to be happy.”  Yeah, because Joel was SO happy in the last game.  Seeing his daughter die in front of him, scared and crying, which broke him inside to the point that he locked his humanity away for fear of being hurt like that again.  Yeah, he had a great time.  Life was all buttercups and rainbows for that mother-fucker.  If I didn’t know that all of this crap was just to get SJW brownie points for how “woke” you are, I’d think you are idiots.

Queer people struggle, as do our intersectional allies. The news is full of horrible daily reminders to all marginalized people that their lives and comfort exist largely at the whim of the privileged. That means bakeries refusing to make your wedding cake or laws meant to keep you out of restrooms.

That struggle has been fetishized by media and is one of the defining traits for queer characters in media. Video games have included more queer characters in recent years—Dorian in Dragon Age: Inquisition, Ellie in The Last of Us, Veronica Santangelo in Fallout: New Vegas and countless others—but all of their stories are tragic. Their partners and lovers are killed. Their families disown or shun them. They seem to be magnets for catastrophe. Rarely do their stories end in comfort, either from others or the larger world in which they live. We have more gays, trans-people, bisexuals, and others games than ever before. Yet we, comparatively, also have more of their corpses.

Fetishized?  What bullshit.  In all of those games that you list, the death or tragedy of their lives is painted as a bad thing.  When it it ever meant to be literal or emotional wank-material?  I hated the death of Riley in the DLC to The Last of Us, but that’s because when you listen to Ellie explain it, it wasn’t some big uplifting speech.  It was two girls who didn’t know what to do.  Ironically enough, I liked the original game’s portrayal of her dying better.  Because it felt like a real kid.  These girls are 13-14 years old.  They are NOT some big uplifting heroes.  The game painted Ellie as a normal teenage girl stuck in incredibly difficult circumstances.  It’s part of why I like her.

In that DLC, Riley is this amazing MLK-esque character who turns what should have been the tragedy that set Ellie on the path of self-destruction and watching the people she cares for die into a big “it’s gonna be okay” moment.  I hated that.  Meanwhile, in the actual game, Ellie paints the story as two girls in a place confused, scared, resigned to their fate.  They were going to “just lose our minds together.”  It’s tragic and depressing.  So yeah, Riley died, but if you go off the DLC, it was a magical and uplifting moment.  What are you bitching about?

It’s interesting that you complain about real life having reminders of things being difficult for LGBT people.  I don’t know if you were aware of this, but art mimics life, despite what Anita Sarkeesian likes to believe about it being the other way around.  So, since the real world has hurdles for them to overcome, so it is in the gaming world.  What a shock!

Not to mention that, once-again, this is another instance of me saying that if you want a game that is buttercups and rainbows for gay people, what’s stopping you from making it?  Do tell, what is preventing you from doing it?  Don’t know how to make games?  Learn.  Don’t know how to publish games?  Learn that Steam exists.  You all were able to get a house-cleaning simulator out to market, so one of you SJW fucks should be able to do this.  You want a game where it’s a magical utopia where Sarkeesian is on a pedestal and LGBT people are treated like they are princes among men?  Go out and make it, you complaining fuck!

They go on and on with example of how sad stories are represented with LGBT characters, so I’m going to jump back to where they make a point.  If you want to go through every example, you can read the article.  I have the same refutation for all of them, so it will make this simple for you here.

Tragedy often serves as a backstory for straight characters in role playing games, too. Party members of all backgrounds hide hidden pasts and personal struggles that the player can learn about and solve. But where the mighty Krogan warrior Wrex might rise to lead his species, and the dwarf Varric Thetras ascend to nobility, queer characters’ happy endings often end up being as romance options for the player. We are, more often than not, unsaveable unless we are fuckable, and even that is up to the player.

Wow.  So much to talk about here.  For starters, you talk about the shuttle pilot Cortez and how his story is focused around the death of his husband.  I actually despise the romance option for male Shepherd because he goes form grieving husband to immediately wanting to jump your bones.  Instead, let’s take a look at the story with Femshep.  There, you have a diligent Commander (which I most-assuredly am) working to help an ally and new friend get through his grief for his lost spouse.  In the end, it solidifies their relationship, both as commander and subordinate, and friends.  Plus, you helping him get through his personal issues saves his life on the final mission.  And my hatred of everything after the Victory Fleet goes to Earth aside, that seems like a damn good end to a story where they are “unsaveable unless we are fuckable”.  Fuck this smug hipster who wrote this shit.

What are you looking for?  A character who is an idyllic monarch of gay pride who leads the gay people on a gay as fuck revolution to glory?  It’s ironic that you list Wrex from Mass Effect on there, since him rising to glory is also something that depends entirely on the player!  You could have killed him when you have a standoff during the Virmire mission.  You could have destroyed the data on the Genophage cure in Mordin’s loyalty mission, which would lead to Eve’s death, which is crucial to him becoming a savior as she helps to rally the other clans under Wrex’s banner.  You also could kill Mordin, sabotaging the Genophage cure that is what saves the Krogan people from destruction.  All of his rise to glory is on you!  The player!  So what’s that bitching about all of this being at the mercy of the player?!  Pure bullshit?  That’s what I thought.

Games that include queer romance sometimes even place the success of that romance in competition with the success of society as a whole. In Life is Strange, teenager Max Caulfield saves her childhood friend Chloe after unlocking the ability to manipulate time. Throughout the rest of the game’s episodes, the two women get closer and closer, and the budding seeds of romance bloom between them. But Chloe already has lost one lover before the game even begins. Life Is Strange revolves around the search for Chloe’s missing girlfriend Rachel Amber. That search uncovers a string of sexual abuse and murder in the town of Arcadia Bay, with Rachel as one of the victims. After uncovering her body, Chloe gets killed by the culprit. That’s two dead gays for the price of one.

Oh fuck off!  Leaving aside that Max’s ENTIRE GOAL for the latter portion of Episode 5 is to save Chloe’s life (they ignore context like it’s the plague.  The Kotaku formula), this is just like that fucking “Dead Lesbian Syndrome” video that BuzzFeed made.  Yeah, Rachel Amber was dead.  It is tragic.  But you ignore several crucial facts leading up to this.  First, we never definitively know that the two of them were a thing.  It’s implied, heavily, but you never know.  Not to mention, we find out in Episode 3 that if they were a thing, Rachel Amber was cheating on her with the drug dealer, Frank.  And lying to her about it.  Oh wait, can’t talk about that.  Then you have a character who has flaws and shouldn’t be put on a pedestal.  My bad.

Yet, even when Max alters reality to save her friend or bring her happiness, Chloe suffers. In an alternate timeline where Max prevents Chloe’s father from dying, Chloe ends up in a car crash and is paraplegic. In this timeline, Chloe begs Max to euthanize her; the story shuts down both disabled and queer people’s right to happiness in one fell swoop.

Fuck this stupid article.  What a way to miss the fucking point!  The point of what made the death of Chloe in the alternate timeline Max created tragic.  This wasn’t about LGBT romance, you fuckers!  It was about Max fucking up her friend’s life again and again.  It’s talked about in Episode 5.  See, Max has fucked up Chloe’s life a lot.  She watches her die at the very beginning of Episode 1.  It’s what sets off her powers.  In Episode 2, you can have her shoot the bumper of a car, which causes her to shoot herself, forcing you to go back in time to save her again.  In that same episode, you have to stop a train from hitting her.  Which leads us to Episode 4, where she has created an entirely new timeline, specifically to make Chloe happy by not having her dad die, and finds out that this fucked up either her friend or her budding romantic partner’s life even more!  The tragedy in having to help Chloe die is in Max realizing that she has destroyed this girl’s life over and over again, only to go back to try and fix it.  In the end, she realizes that she can’t save keep doing this.  That all of these trips back through time are destroying her.

Just once, I wish that Kotaku would actually pay attention.  But no.  They have to get their talking points down so that they can stand in judgement over us EVIL gamers and the games we play.  I just know they’re going to talk about the ending, so let’s get to it.  Here I might find at least SOME common ground with them.

In a timeline in which Max prevents Chloe’s murder, a massive hurricane barrels down on Arcadia Bay instead. The pair conclude that the storm is an anomaly created in response to Max’s time-traveling. The final choice is to either sacrifice the town or to travel back in time and allow Chloe to die.

Narratively, the choice feels empty. Max’s personal growth up to this point revolved around a growing understanding of her place in society and learning to accept consequences for her actions.

I could not agree more!  I do hate the ending to Episode 5.  It is worse than the ending to Mass Effect 3.  None of your choices matter in the slightest, because either you negate ALL of them by having Chloe die, or they don’t matter because everyone is dead.  It was the laziest fucking way to end a choice-based game since Mass Effect 3.  Hell, it was lazier than that.  At least that game gave you 3 nonsensical choices that throw all your choices in the trash.  This game gave you two.  I wrote an entire post about how I would have ended things (link here), and while it isn’t perfect, at least I included SOME kind of choice-based resolution to the game.

The Last of Us focuses on the frailty of society and individuals, both morally and in the flesh. It makes sense that the characters would endure loss. Joel copes with the death of his daughter and his grief over his inability to protect her; he gravitates to Ellie, who serves as a surrogate child and a bittersweet balm for his prior loss. In the end, he gets what he wants — to serve the Hero Dad role — although it comes at the expense of many lives and lies.

What a way to miss the point.  Miss EVERYTHING that made the ending to The Last of Us so powerful.  The ending to that game isn’t some happy ending for him.  It’s bittersweet as fuck.  If you can’t see why, I shall explain.  Joel sold humanity up the river to save the only person left who matters to him.  His connection to the human condition.  You saw how his own brother and him are so estranged.  This one life, this one little life who has become his connection to the human condition, is worth selling all of humanity up the river to maintain.

In the end, he had to lie to Ellie about why he left the Fireflies base, because he knew that Marlene was right.  Ellie would want to give her life to save humanity.  What made their final conversation so powerful was in him accepting his cost, that last of his vestige of humanity, to preserve this relationship.  But it was also about Ellie accepting her cost.  She chose to accept his lie, knowing that it was a lie.  She could see all over his face that he was lying to her, but chose to accept that because she wasn’t just his surrogate daughter.  He is her surrogate father.  The one relationship that will last.  Because she found what Joel had back in the diner.  When she hacked David to pieces, she found that darkness that Joel had embraced, and since now she couldn’t give her life to escape it, she had to live with it.

I love the end of that game so much because of the moral and philosophical implications, and you just sweep it under the fucking rug as a story of Joel being the “hero dad.”  Fuck you, you single-digit IQ hipster.

I want these queer characters to have happy endings, or at least different ones. Hell, I’d settle for kisses that don’t portend death. And I still love the stories that I have, imperfect and tragic though they may be. BioWare’s cast of heroes provide examples of bravery and humility that I strive to emulate. Life is Strange’s tender romance captures a sense of early sexual awakening. The Last of Us’ Ellie is a goddamn survivor. All of that is fantastic, but it comes at a price. That price, often, is the agency and happiness of queer characters.

Does the writer of this article not know that these people aren’t real?  This is why I said that this feels like the video from BuzzFeed.  Because it reads like this person can’t separate fiction from reality in her mind.  Want these characters to have a happy ending?  Fantastic, there’s millions of fan-fiction sites that I’m sure have some happy endings for them.  Hell, read my post about how I would have ended Life is Strange.  There’s a happy ending for ya!  Instead of respecting the artistic integrity of those who create fiction, you have to bitch about it not being happy enough for you.  Well guess what, sugar-tits, you can go and find your happy ending or make it yourself on you Fanfiction.net or your Deviant Art page.

But why do we have to pay that price, and so often? I’m not suggesting that the queers should always get to dance in a field of gumdrops at the end of every game in which they appears, but considering the real world’s continued eagerness to trample the marginalized, one of the most radical things art could do right now would be to show us a world in which we are more than our suffering.

“More than our suffering”?!  Are you fucking kidding me?!  Is that all you see them as?!  You only see Chloe Price as suffering because her *potential* girlfriend died?  You only see Ellie as sad because of her dead girlfriend?  Wow.  What an insult to all the character traits that they had.  If that is all you see them as, that’s on you, honey.  I see Chloe Price as a tragic character, to be sure, but that’s because she’s had a rough life.  Her father died.  Her best friend deserted her.  The girl that she cared for more than any other and saved her potentially from suicide disappeared.  It’s what makes the dynamic better and her and Max reconnect and awaken new feelings into each other.  It’s why I hate the bullshit ending to the game so much because the choices make no difference.

But all of this comes right back to what I said before – if you want gay happy endings for characters, then go out and make it.  Make a game with a Star Trek utopia where gay people are treated as absolutely perfect because of their gayness.  I don’t fucking care.  But STOP bitching about things that you clearly only see as “there’s dead characters in the group I like!”  There is NOTHING stopping you from making the games you want to see.  How about you quit bitching on this SJW rag and get to work?

Until next time, a quote,

“Those who can’t do teach, and those who can’t teach teach gym.” – Dewey Finn, School of Rock

Peace out,

Maverick

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Critical Examination: When Choice-Based Games Fail

I made no secret of the fact that I didn’t like the end of Life is Strange.  I made a post talking about why I didn’t like it.  I made a post where I did my own self-indulgent corrected version of the ending.  But as I look through that post, I realize something that I didn’t before – I am guilty of the same thing that the people who made the game are.  The reason that the ending is something I despise as much as I do isn’t because it’s a giant plot-hole or ridiculously sad for NO reason.  The problem with the ending is deeper than that.  It’s a problem that in this game is actually worse than the last game with the EXACT same problem.  Most of you might see where I’m going with this.  But to really address this problem, we have to look at games that get it right.  Then we can talk about the games that get it wrong.  I am, of course, talking about when the endings of choice-based games fail.  Let’s talk first about a game that gets it right.

Until Dawn

This was one of the most unexpected survival horror games I have ever played.  It was a send-up to so much of the nostalgia that I loved growing up.  From the campy story-line to the tank-controls, this was a game made with all kinds of love for the craft that it worked with.  But this game also did something else right.  Something done so well that I was legitimately shocked when I got to the end.  It got the choice aspect down the best that I have ever seen.  How?  That will take some explaining.

It helped that the narrative of this game played over the course of one night.  In one night, you had to develop characters and make choices that had real consequences.  The consequences were visceral and right in front of you.  I’m talking, of course, about who lives and dies.  That was the biggest consequence of your choices.  Depending on the actions you take, some characters will live, and some will die.  There is no reset button.  Once you make that choice, it’s done.  What’s more, your choices actively shape the relationships of the characters that you are controlling.  You get to see this play out in their interactions.  If you chose to sacrifice Josh instead of Ashley, then you foster a relationship between her and Chris.  If you chose to shoot yourself instead of her, that relationship is cemented.  You see her kissing him when he goes out to save Josh later on.

This game had real consequences with your choices.  Ones that were clear-cut and shown to you.  But this game has a trick – it was all done in one night.  A game with a larger narrative can’t be so simple.  When this game ended, you got to see the ultimate fate of the choices you make.  Instead of some stupid ending choice, the ending to this game was just the culmination of all the choices.  Everything came together, and the ending cutscene was seeing the characters who survived the night being interviewed.  That’s smart!  None of the stupid final choices.  Just the ending to the game.  This game did it flawlessly.

Now, let’s look at a game that did it wrong.

Mass Effect 3

I know, everyone saw this coming.  This game is famous for an ending that is so terrible that it ruined this game for most people.  Were it not for how unfathomably good EVERYTHING else about this game was (up to when the Victory Fleet went to Earth), it would have done the same for me.  But it was all so good.  However, it’s no joke that the game’s ending is bad.  Video after video after video was made explaining why.  It’s pretty simple – the three final choices you make are bullshit.  What’s more, they are ALL plotholes.  Each and every one.

Why does shooting a tube trigger an explosion that destroys the Reapers?  Why does it also destroy the Geth?  How does this technology work?  Why are you walking toward the tube as you shoot it, with it being abundantly clear that it will kill you?  How does grabbing two do-dads make it so you can control the Reapers?  Why not have them all go pile into the nearest star after having control?  How does Shepard maintain his/her conscious mind after doing so?  Without a body, how does Shepard exist?  How on Earth does jumping into a beam of light merge organic and synthetic life?  That is literally impossible.  How does no one realize what absolute hell it would be to force sentience on the husks that were created by the Reapers?  Am I the only one who sees this ending as the most nightmare scenario of all?

These are just a scant few of the endless series of plot holes that were wrong with this ending.  And the truth is that so much of why this ending sucks comes down to having to make this final choice.  There was a fan-cut to the ending of this game where they cut out all the god-kid stuff, and instead had it be where Shepard and Anderson are both bleeding out.  When the Crucible docks with the Citadel, it goes off and triggers the Destroy ending.  That was so much better.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s still stupid, but at least that makes some sense.  This game actually had the balls to introduce a character in the last scene and create a stupid ending that ignores every single thing you did throughout the series.

Here’s another game that got it right.

The Wolf Among Us

Unlike the previous Telltale title, this game had it where the choices you made didn’t just affect who lived and died.  It also affected the relationships that developed over the course of the series.  As Bigby Wolf, you are having to keep the peace in a part of the world where there are a lot of unpleasant people.  Every choice you make affects those relationships.  But the real thing that makes the end of this game works isn’t how there is some final choice.  Instead, there is a final confrontation that culminates in all your choices mattering.

Did you kill the villain of the game earlier?  That was something you could do.  Did you save the life of the club owner who knows the truth about how the girls who work there are kept enslaved?  Did you allow the woman who gave him the enslaving tool the right to kill herself?  Did you foster positive relationships with the various characters, which other characters can then exploit?  Did you solve the various mysteries that were in front of you?  Everything you did affects the final confrontation where the crowd is judging the villain of the story.  That is genius!  One final test, to show how well or poorly you played the game.  Very smart.  It is also cathartic because, if you are like me and want to immerse yourself in a game’s world, getting to play the politics of a world can make you feel like you are a part of it.  The growth of relationships is a good way to have choice mean something.  After all is said and done, and Bigby is continuing his life, you get to see even more results of your choices.  That’s brilliant!

Which brings is back to Life is Strange

Conclusion

The thing that Mass Effect 3 did wrong is the exact same one that Life is Strange did.  Instead of having some big moment of culmination of your choices, all of them get immediately obliterated and turned to ash.  We have seen two examples to games doing it right.  Another example would be The Witcher 3.  In that game, your choices and how they shape things isn’t always clear.  The politics of that world are pretty interesting.  But it makes how things play out that much more appealing.  The thing is, when we play a game that involves choices, we want to feel like they matter.  It’s the whole reason that we were so eager to get further in.  When a game chooses not to follow through on this, it’s more than a little upsetting.  Then you get the assholes like the ones at the now-defunct Kotaku who say that gamers are entitled because we want a game to stick to its conventions.  They have the right to their opinions, I guess.  But they’re still stupid.

Hopefully I get to see more games like the ones that got it right.  I loves me some choice in a game.  It makes things interesting.  Let me know what you think down in the comments.

Until next time, a quote,

“Freedom of choice is more to be treasured than any other possession Earth can give.”  – David McKay

Peace out,

Maverick

Lucien’s First Take: Mass Effect: Andromeda Debut Trailer

It’s E3 time of year, and I’m going to be a complete whore and cash in.  But I do also mean to talk about stuff that I care about.  Because I am a story-seeker.  Gaming brings stories to life better than any other medium.  Plus, right now, I need something to get my mind off the SWELTERING heat in my part of the world.  It’s over 90 degrees in my apartment right now.  I shit you not.  Climate change is cool, until it isn’t.  Sigh.

I make no secret of how much I hated the ending to Mass Effect 3.  It was terrible!  All of my choices amounted to nothing.  All that time and energy I spent raising the perfect army of every single species in the galaxy, including the Geth, amounted to what?  That’s right – nothing!  It was the biggest slap in the face I’ve ever had while gaming.  No joke, it is still raw thinking about it now.  Ugh.  In any case, I knew that a trailer for a new Mass Effect game was going to have to wow me.  I mean big time!  This game was going to have to blow my expectations sky high.  They released a trailer, and…

This is kind of dumb.  Like, it’s really dumb.  So, you have this person, who has an N7 logo on their armor.  Is it Shepherd?  That’s kind of weird.  Especially since, if you actually played the last game, Shepherd is almost certainly dead.  He/she can only survive if they did the Destroy ending.  That’s the only chance they have.  So who is this person?  Which reminds me – when does this story take place?  After the events of Mass Effect 3?  I hope not.  Because then I have to live with those retarded ending choices in the last game.  Is it before?  When is it?

So, you’re on this world.  Why?  Is there something bad there?  What is it?  Mercs?  Reapers?  They show laser beams, and some pillars rising out of the ground.  But that’s it.  That doesn’t tell me much.  They have this overused track, “Ghost Riders in the Sky” playing in the background.  Is the implication that this game is lawless?  Was that track even intentional for smart reasons, and not just for something that some Bioware jackass thought would look cool?  But yeah, that song has been used to DEATH in other things.  It’s almost as overused as Lorde’s version of “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.”  It’s like songs are nothing but advertising tools now.  It’s really kind of annoying.

Well, after a minute and a half of nothing, this nameless Shepherd character jumps into the air and their omni-tool blade appears.  Because we have to remind you about that!  Weren’t those cool?!  Aren’t you excited to see that again?  Call me a pretentious hipster if you want, but part of me is getting really annoyed at just how pathetic this pandering is.  Same with the shot of the pistol.  Oh yeah, that means that it’s a Mass Effect game!  Wasn’t that just awesome?!

All in all, I was hoping that this trailer might at least get my attention enough to put me in the frame of mind to be willing to give this game a chance.  But it doesn’t.  I feel no desire to play this game at all.  I’ve had SO many people saying, “you’re so full of shit, Lu!  The moment you see the trailer, you’re going to be psyched!  You don’t just NOT play a Mass Effect game!”  Time was, I might have believed that.  Time was, I also was in love with Assassin’s Creed.  Times change.  Bioware hasn’t been very good for a while.  Maybe this game will dig them out of a hole, but I doubt it.  As for me, I’m not shelling out my bucks for this.  Neither should you.

Initial Verdict –
5 out of 10

Peace out,

Maverick

Being a Story-Seeker Gamer

So, I am playing the Citadel DLC on Mass Effect 3.  I love it.  Just wrote a post talking about how much I love it.  But as I play this, it got me thinking about something.  See, I don’t fit in.  Anywhere.  If there is a group of people, I don’t fit in there.  Even if I like what they like, I don’t like it for the reasons that they do.  It has always been the case.  No matter what I am into, I am into it for reasons all my own.  Not sure what that says about me, but still.  In all avenues of my life, the reasons why like things is all our own.

To that end, being a story-seeker gamer is hard, these days.  Why?  Because everyone seems to make everything about the components of games.  What’s the framerate on this game?  What’s the camera system like?  Does it have the same minute detail mechanics that other games have?  Here’s my question – who the fuck cares?!  For real, all that stuff is window dressing, to me.  For me, it’s story first.  Granted, if the controls are broken, then that’s a problem, but I just don’t get how people can get so worked up about minutia.  That’s what it is.

For example – I like The Evil Within.  A ton of people took a giant shit on that game, and I just don’t get it.  Like, it makes no sense, to me.  Sure, the side characters are kind of dull.  Did you know that the female cop is voiced by Jennifer Carpenter?  Yeah, I was surprised too.  Especially given the dull performance that the character gave.  But the levels were awesome.  The horror elements were old-school and worked.  The villain got more interesting as you learned his story.  I thought the game was quite something.  So you can imagine my surprise when I saw how many people were ripping it a new one.  What more do you people want?!

We live in an age where a lot of the big games are becoming dull as shit.  After Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, I had such high hopes for the franchise.  But those were dashed against the wall.  I see so many diamonds in the rough in gaming, but they get shit on by people who say, “it has mechanics just like every other game in the genre.”  I am all for innovation, but isn’t there something to be said for an engrossing story?  Am I just behind the times?

So many people gave Gone Home a lot of shit.  People said it wasn’t a real game, that it was stupid and didn’t follow genre conventions.  That there was no difficulty.  I happened to like it.  It was a story about coming home.  Hence the name.  A lot of the nostalgia that came with that sunk in with me, and you know what – that was nice.  One of my favorite games of all time is Journey, a mesmerizing and beautiful game where you can’t die, you can’t fail a mission.  It’s all about visuals and telling a tragic story without a word of spoken dialogue.  Are we going to just condemn things like that, because they don’t involve running and gunning?  Really?

There are days, growing in number, where I feel like me and me are just not meant to fit in with the rest.  Like we are just condemned to be an outsider, to all groups.  I love a good story, no matter what genre it is.  Books, movies, TV shows, anime, video games.  I just want a good story.  Why does that not mesh with people?  I don’t know, and you know what – I don’t want to know.  I’m going to be kicking 30 in the ass soon, and it’s time we admitted something – we aren’t that exciting of a person.  When the highlight of your life is a good meal, good company and a good movie (or a bad movie that you can make fun of and laugh at), then you aren’t the most exciting guy in the world.

Fuck it.  We’re happy with that.  After all, we get one shot at this.  Let’s not waste it.

Until next time, a quote,

“If you had told me this morning that Traynor’s toothbrush would have helped me rescue to Normandy, I would have been very skeptical.”  -Commander Shepard, Mass Effect 3: Citadel DLC

Peace out,

Maverick

SIONL: Why I Love the Citadel DLC

I’ve talked about this before.  I did a review of the Citadel DLC in Mass Effect 3.  It was the ultimate culmination of the series.  It was a proper send-off that had so much heart.  It made me think – if only the rest of this game had even a third of the heart that that DLC did.  Part of me kind of hates that the thing that ME3 will be remembered for is the terrible ending.  Don’t get me wrong, I viscerally hate it too.  I hate everything that happens after the Victory Fleet returns to Earth.  I spent a whole game making that army!  Let me fight with them!  What the hell?!  Still, this DLC was amazing, and it was everything I could have ever wanted.

I wrote a post on how I would have done this DLC.  Brief summary – I would have had it happen after the end of the game.  If the game had had a better ending, that is.  I would have had this be a comedic way to wrap everything up.  It would have been with Shepard and the surviving crew of the Normandy going back to the Citadel, having beaten the Reapers and looking forward to some R&R.  Anderson would give his old place to Shepard, and now they get to finally chill.  But just as things are going well, in drops a new problem.  If you’ve played the DLC, you know what I mean.  Wouldn’t that have been perfect?  Then the series would end with that party.  It would have involved everybody in the game.  It would have been the culmination of three games of relationship-building and character development.  Granted, that would have made the DLC huge, but admit it – it would have been amazing.

Why did this DLC work?  I think the answer is simple – because it felt good.  Through the course of three games, we came to know and care about the characters in the story.  We had fought beside them, gotten to care for their problems.  Some of them we watched sacrifice their lives, in a way that felt important.  All of these characters mattered to us.  Now, we got to have a moment with them that was stupid, silly and overall pointless.  But that’s fine.  Because we still wanted to do it all the same.  They were our friends.

You know what it reminded me of?  That episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender where they watch the play about themselves.  It was like a comedic roast, with each of the characters getting burned in their own special way,  But we still liked it.  It was willing to poke fun at itself.  The characters gave each other shit.  We got to see them not as comrades, but friends.  Friends who came to know about each other and care deeply for one-another.  The same happened in the Citadel DLC.  And you know what – it is something that I think needs to happen more often.  There is nothing wrong with a pointless episode of a show or a pointless add-on to a game, if it is meant to be stupid and fun.  This works best with a series of games like Mass Effect.  Where you have choices, and those choices matter.  It allows you to get invested in the game, and that makes things so much better.

And it doesn’t have to be all pointless.  I remember actually getting a little choked up when you saw the funeral for Thane.  For real, that was hard stuff!  He was a good ally and a friend to Shepard.  Watching the tribute for him was a powerful moment.  Then there are the messages that he left Shepard, and oh my god!  That was so sad!  So yeah, it can have serious bits.  The aforementioned episode of Avatar had a couple of serious moments.  Like when Aang confronted Katara about them sharing a kiss, which had never been addressed before then, or when Zuko has to confront the guilt he has been feeling regarding his uncle Iroh and how he had turned his back on him.  Serious moments can be a part of something silly.  When you care about the characters, it makes the moments that much more poignant.

A lot of people gave the game Gone Home a lot of shit.  I’m not among them.  I kind of like a game that is exploring emotions or playing to nostalgia.  Truth be told, I knew how that character felt.  I still have my collection of Pogs, somewhere.  Not sure where, but they exist.  My old cassette tapes are around my parents place somewhere, too.  A game that allowed you to explore the emotional depths of a character is a good thing.  So long as you get the emotions right.  I also liked Dear Esther for that same reason.  Both of them explored emotions.  Same with one of my favorite games of all time – Journey.  All of those games explored emotions that we could attach to, and all of them got a reaction.

My only regret about the Citadel DLC is that the actual end to the game didn’t have half the heart that this did.  That was a real shame.  But hey, we got the Citadel, and that is where I truly believe the game ends.  Screw what happens back on Earth.  That’s all bullshit that I redconned from my life.  Also the reason why I am never playing Mass Effect 4, but whatever.

There is a lesson to be learned in letting players bond with characters and be able to see where that would go outside of the serious story missions.  With gaming becoming as complex as it is, it is time we see more of this kind of stuff.  At least, that’s what I think.  Let me know your opinions in the comments section.

Until next time, a quote,

“Wait, job?  You mean the rest of you are getting paid?”  -Garrus Vakarian, Mass Effect 3: Citadel DLC

Peace out,

Maverick

SIONR/L: Mass Effect 3: Citadel DLC – How it Should Have Been Used

Before you go off on me, I love the Citadel DLC.  I did a review of it, praising how it played to nostalgia and was fun.  But a friend of mine pointed out – I only loved it because I was in love with the series, and was able to see it through nostalgia.  Without that, if someone played it, it would take them out of the mood.  But then, a friend of mine and I got to talking about how it should have been used.  And I think I’ve come up with something.

If Mass Effect 3 had had a far better ending, then this DLC would have been just awesome after the end.  For real, think about it – you are just through beating the Reapers.  You’ve saved the galaxy.  Assuming you’ve survived, you’re a hero in the eyes of everyone.  Now, after all that, you get back to the Citadel and what happens – you end up fighting your clone.  Just think about how amazingly ridiculous that is!  For real, can you imagine the face-palming at this.  You have your crew together, looking forward to some shore leave while the Normandy is being repaired, and now they have to fight Shepard’s clone.  The humor levels in that are off the chart.  Then, playing to nostalgia would be even more fun, because the jokes about character’s actions through the rest of the series would be that much more fun.

But there’s another thing to point out – the party at the end.  If the final act of this game had been better, more like Mass Effect 2, and all of your choices mattered and affected who lived and who died, then the party at Shepard’s new digs would have been that much more fun.  Because then, you could invite more than just your crew.  You could have Anderson, Bailey, Aria, Kolyat, Padok and a dozen other people whose survival could be affected by what happened.  So much nostalgia!  For real, the conversation options, the chances to get new perspectives on the characters, getting to see Anderson and Sanders get back together again, Jack getting drunk with her students.  So many amazing possibilities, that would have made the ending to this game that much better.  It would have been an awesome epilogue to what could have been one the defining series’ in all of gaming history.

Alas, EA and Bioware made this game.  Neither of them have had a good track record, lately.

Until next time, a quote,

“Wait, job?  You mean that you are all getting paid for this?”  -Garrus Vakarian, Mass Effect 3: Citadel DLC

Peace out,

Maverick

SIONR: Tales of Xillia Ending

Just so you know, there are going to be spoilers in this post, so if this is a game that interests you, I recommend that you play it first.  It is a good game.  But we have some ISSUES with the ending to this game.  Real issues.  This post is going to have some rage.  Get ready.

So, the ending to Tales of Xillia bugs me.  It bugs the living shit out of me.  It bugs me for a lot of reasons.  But all the reasons that it bugs me are merely part of an overall problem with this ending that helped me figure something out about a game that I genuinely love and why I hate the ending to it.  Anyone who has read my Self-Indulgent and Overstated Nerdrage posts before might know where this is going.

This game has some AWESOME build-up.  It goes out of its way to make these great characters who are all believable and likeable.  Well, with the exception of Elize and Leia.  Those two bug the hell out of me.  Mostly because they are the typical “we love friendship!” characters who are in almost all JRPGs.  And in most anime too, unfortunately.

But yeah, this game has a LONG time and a bunch of side-missions for you to get to know and care about these characters and their personal struggles.  My personal favorite was Alvin.  He is a character who has relate-able problems and reactions.  He seemed the most human out of them, to be honest.  It is kind of fitting that he didn’t like how this all came together either.

Anyway, you get to the final battle with Gaius.  The conflict is that your group and him have differing ideals on how to fix the problem between the two worlds, Reiza Maxia and Elympios.  An understandable and good conflict that is shown well.  You get to the final battle, kick his ass (which feels so cool and on the higher difficulties is beyond nerve-inducing) and confront him.  But, instead of it being realistic, with Gaius fighting to the death because the truth is that both sides can’t reconcile, it devolves into ANOTHER talk about love and friendship and how they don’t have to fight.  Then, Maxwell tells Milla that she can now take his place and become the new Maxwell.

What’s more infuriating is that this whole time, Jude and Milla have been dancing around how they feel about one-another.  All of this build-up and you expect SOME payoff, right?  You expect them to finally admit their feelings for one-another.  I mean, you find out that the two of them can NEVER be together because of her becoming a spirit and leaving the world.  So, you’d think that they would say something, anything, about how they feel, right?  Wrong!  They say nothing.  No words are ever uttered between these two characters.  They almost get there, then stop and just be happy.

WHAT?!  So anti-climactic!  For real, this annoys the hell out of me because it isn’t realistic!  You get one chance, just one, to tell someone that you love that you care about them.  You both know what has to happen, so why not have a genuine moment between the two?!  I can already hear somebody saying, “he didn’t want to guilt her into staying!”  But that doesn’t hold water.  Milla was shown to be a character who stuck to her guns to the extreme.  Even to the point of abandoning her allies if they didn’t fall in line.  She wouldn’t change that just because she found out that someone she had feelings for cared for her too.  In fact, it would have made the scene better, because there would have been a sense of sacrifice between them.  Again, I can hear somebody saying, “it was left unsaid.”  I say again, screw that!  A good narrative flows from when there is a sense of weight behind something.  Neither of them looks sad or even acknowledges how hard this is.  They both just put on a happy face and look at the future.

This kind of anti-climactic BS bugs the hell out of me, and it has helped me realize why I hate the ending to Mass Effect 3 so much.  I have talked about this extensively in the past (to the point that I probably am starting to sound like a broken record), but it just now clicked with me – it’s anti-climactic!

I was bored on the mission to retake Earth.  Totally and utterly bored.  Sure, the fight was hard in a lot of places, but it wasn’t different.  It wasn’t anything else.  I was expecting the final battle to retake Earth to be a complicated and drawn-out battle employing all the War Assets you accrued during the rest of the game.  You would strategically use your assets and get to victory.  Instead, it was a by-the-numbers get from Point A to Point B mission.  It was beyond dull.  Even the final showdown with The Illusive Man was boring, because it was disconnected.  I give them credit for trying, and it was the first time I got invested in the ending, but they then end it with three utterly meaningless choices that boil down to which color you like best.  That is it.

This kind of bad story-telling just bugs the living shit out of me.  With Tales of Xillia, I get the bad feeling that this kind of ending is sequel-bait.  I could have swore that I heard something about a sequel already in the works, and if so, this annoys me more.  Sequel-bait, especially bad sequel bait, is the worst kind of let-down, because it is arrogant enough to assume that you are going to stick it out long enough to have the story come to a genuine resolution.

And for those of you who want to call foul because the ending to Mass Effect 2 was sequel-bait.  But there, it was used well.  Because in the first game, they had a very good resolution.  See, that’s the trick.  The first game had a good resolution that they knew would have us coming back without having to bait us.  All the plots were resolved, all the personal conflicts were settled (what few personal missions there were), it ended well.  You knew that there would be a sequel, but it wasn’t baiting.  It was part of the plot.  It wasn’t like it needed to get us on a hook to keep us coming back.

Now, as much as I do hate this game and the cash-grab sequels to it, another game that did well with an ending that had sequels was Final Fantasy XIII.  That game was an underwhelming disaster, but its ending did feel wrapped up, but open for a sequel.

The Tales series has been a mix of games that either own or suck.  The ones that I like are Tales of Symphonia, Tales of Vesperia and Tales of the Abyss.  All three of those games had great story-telling and great endings.  This game is an example of something I hate, and has given me a new appreciation for the games I love.  With all of this said, I will say again that this is a good game.  But this bad ending, which is bad sequel-bait, diminishes how much I like the game overall.

Alright, got all my rage out into the open.  Food for thought.

Until next time, a quote,

“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”  -Frank Herbert

Peace out,

Maverick