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

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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

Feminist Frequency – Damsels in Distress, Part II. This Time, it’s Dumb

Alright, I’ve been compiling my thoughts, and with her release of a third part of this video series, I am going to finally beat Anita Sarkeesian over the head with her stupidity and lack of giving ANY context into a problem that she sees in gaming.  Though this problem might stem from the fact that she is not playing these games herself.  She is merely taking other people’s Let’s Play videos and then using clips from them in her videos.  Oh yeah, good research there.

So, the point of these videos has been that the damsel in distress “trope” (this woman’s overuse of this term is getting on my nerves.  So we’re going to called it “plot device.”) is secretly part of a male conspiracy to make men believe that women are lesser to them and have no power and must always be protected and only exist in gaming to be attractive.  Oh yeah, this is going to be fun.

To go along with her MASSIVE hyperbole, she has clips from games.  Two-second clips.  For real, she shows tiny tidbits of games where a woman is in distress, never, and I do mean never, showing any of the context that goes along with it.  And there were a lot of examples that just flat-out annoyed me.

The first one that got under my skin was when she showed a split-second scene from the first Kingdom Hearts game.  In it, Kairi is in a kind of stasis unit in Hollow Bastion.  The implication being that she is a damsel in distress because she is in this situation, with Sora coming to save her.  First, she’s not a damsel in distress.  The reason is simple – she isn’t a full person.  The driving force that got Sora to this place was to get his friend back.  He finds out that she is missing a part of her heart, and without it, she has become an near-vegetative person.  When he finds out that the missing part of her heart is inside of him, he then realizes what he has to do.  The Dark Keyblade can unlock a person’s heart.  When the possessed Riku uses it, he shows how it can let darkness in.  But Sora figures out that it can let the trapped heart that she has out.  Which he does.  He stabs himself in the chest with the Dark Keyblade, releasing her captive heart and returning her to consciousness.  Sora collapses into nothingness in her arms when she runs to get him, and she is forced to leave the area when the place is coming apart.  You then see that Sora has become a Heartless.  He wanders down to where Kairi and the others are fighting some Heartless, and she sees through the Heartless face to who it is.  She goes to him, protecting him from other Heartless.  She is ready to lay down her life to protect her friend.  So in the end, it isn’t a damsel in distress story.  She was a very complex character who nearly makes the ultimate sacrifice to protect someone she loves.  And she saves him.  He is returned to human form, and the two share a genuinely powerful moment.

Another scene is from The Darkness.  Anita talks about how sometimes, female characters can be given small roles, so that they can “seem” to be more three-dimensional than they actually are.  As she puts it, they are still just part of this plot device.  It is all a clever ruse.  She shows the scene where Jackie and his girlfriend, Jenny are sitting there watching To Kill a Mockingbird on TV.  It is a moment that you get to share with her, seeing that she does care for him, and that this relationship is strong.  What makes the next scene she shows from that game, where Jackie is forced to watch Jenny get brutally murdered by the mob boss who raised him is that he is the one who is helpless.  The Darkness wraps its tentacles around him and forces him to watch his girlfriend die.  She isn’t a damsel in distress.  If anything, she is the strong one in this situation.  She tells Jackie that it isn’t his fault and that he shouldn’t blame himself.  She tells him that she loves him and that it will be okay.  He tries as hard as he can to break The Darkness’ hold on him, but in the end, he can’t.  His heart is ripped open in front of him because of this evil entity inside of him, controlling him.  It is a great introduction into what a cruel monster this possession is, and Jackie has no choice but to live with it.

Anita asserts that all women who are in games are made to “reinforce the patriarchal standard” that gaming seems to represent, and that all women who are in games exist as a foil for the male characters to love and to fight for.  I am going to beat the hell out of that with a series of games – the Mass Effect games.  Now, I’m not going to talk about Female Shepard, because she is an avatar of the player.  She is whatever the players wants her to be.  With my Female Shepard, she is a strong soldier who is cruel when she needs to be, fair when it is warranted and stands by her friends, no matter what.  Since I have grown up in this world of misogyny promoting (for real, with the amount of times she says that in this video, I am SERIOUSLY starting to question if she understand what the term means) video games, I seem to have made this character pretty damn strong, don’t you?  It helped that they got a woman who sounds strong to do the voice-work for Femshep (Jennifer Hale)

But now, let’s talk about the other women in that game.  First, let’s talk about Urdnot Bakara, also known as “Eve” by Mordin, because she originally wouldn’t give her name.  She is a fertile female immune to a plague that has made the Krogan infertile across the board, save for the precious few.  It has led to a violent society that fights over fertile females.  But the females are NO pushovers.  When you first reach her and get her out of the transport pod she was being carried in, Mordin offers to help her out.  Wrex pushes him out of the way and he offers to help her out.  She openly ignores him, and when two Cerberus soldiers land nearby, she grabs his shotgun and blows them both away, shoving it back into Wrex’s hand, saying that she doesn’t need his help.  Damn!  Krogan women are tough.  You talk to her and find out later that they have had to be tough.  The Genophage has forced them to make a lot of tough decisions about their future.  You also find out that in the ancient times, it was Krogan women who held the power in their society, and that once you cure the Genophage, she means to get women back the power they once had.  Good on you, girl.

Next up, there is Aria T’Loak.  She is the head of a mining asteroid colony called Omega.  This place, as Obi-Wan Kenobi would have put it, “you will never find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.”  Omega is a place where people go to find something better, but end up being crushed underneath the crime and violence there.  Aria is the unofficial leader and she is the toughest badass that has ever come to this place.  She has no choice but to be ruthless.  You can’t survive on Omega any other way.  Her ruthless mentality, coupled with her brilliant tactical mind and disregard for the cost of her victories has made her a powerful leader in a lawless place.  Neither of these women are damsels in distress.  Both of them are powerful, sure and strong, backing down to NOBODY.

Finally, as a great example, she shows a lot of clips from the game Ico.  But she never shows any clips from its sequel – Shadow of the Colossus.  Why is that?  Oh, right, because it beats the hell out of this – women are just a plot device to save narrative.  The love interest of the main character in that game isn’t a damsel in distress.  She’s dead.  You start off with her being dead and her lover taking her to a faraway place to try and bring her back to life.  Part of the power in that game is how much this man brutalizes himself to bring her back to life.  He has no obligation here.  He has no guarantee of success.  He is taking a leap of faith because this person is important to him.  This isn’t something that is just used to make people root for the hero.  This is a complex plot element that is given a lot of respect when you lay her dead body on an alter and then have to abandon it to go fight unbelievably massive monsters in the desperate hope to save the women you love.

Another thing that Sarkeesian says is attached to this plot device is the plot device of having women who are begging to die.  In situations where they are physically suffering and cannot be saved, they ask the protagonist to end their suffering.  She makes a REALLY forced causality chain to show how this mentality is attached to the actual domestic violence against women.  That seeing a character be merciful and grant them their final wish to not suffer anymore is going to make every man want to hurt a woman.  I’d call this grasping at straws, but hell, even that has more self-respect than this shit.

She concludes her video by saying that it is always the women being saved and that the characters in these games are not being noble by saving these women, but just following the trend that society gave them.  You know what I wish – I wish that there was a game where you had a gay guy lose his husband and have an emotional attachment to it which compels them to seek retribution and want to avenge that death…oh wait, we have that.  In Mass Effect 3, you find out that your shuttle pilot, Steve Cortez, had a husband.  He did in a Collector attack.  Cortez was talking to him as he was killed. You see him crying as he relives the painful memory, as he has done over and over.  I chose to tell him that we needed to keep going.  My female Shepard told him that we needed revenge.  And he certainly did like that idea.  So, how did that perpetuate a stereotype, Anita?  How was the patriarchy helped by a gay man wanting revenge for his lost husband?  How is the social norms helped by this?

The fact is that Anita Sarkeesian doesn’t understand the medium that she is trying to criticize.  She goes on with long sentences using big words, but if you actually look at what she is saying, she contradicts herself often, has a bad habit of talking in circles while saying nothing.

The fact is that the men who are saving these damsels are not happy that they are in danger.  They are emotionally distraught.  When Ellie is about to be killed by a surgical team that could cure the plague that has destroyed humanity in The Last of Us, he doesn’t see saving this little girl as his job.  He goes to save her, killing people who were his allies, because he loves her.  She is like a daughter to him.  She is his connection to the human condition again.  It is a tragic and beautiful look into how far he will go to save the only thing he cares about.  He kills all of the allies he had for this one life.  That isn’t the patriarchy, Anita.  That’s called “empathy.”  Apparently, you don’t know what that is.  You just want to reduce this medium into something that you can look down on and mock.  A pity that you don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.  After all, your “research” for this was a bunch of Let’s Play videos.

Why should I expect something more?

Until next time, a quote,

“Back in Boston, back when I was bitten, I wasn’t alone.  My best friend was there, and she got bit too.  We didn’t know what to do.  So, she says, ‘let’s just wait it out.  Y’know, we can be all poetic and just lose our minds together.’  I’m still waiting for my turn.”  -Ellie, The Last of Us

Peace out,

Maverick