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Nick Valdez's blog

11:09 AM on 06.12.2013

Everyone should be more excited for Dead Rising 3

Generic! Bland! Brown! Wait, what was that last one? Brown? Why yes, you're correct. It is brown, and in no way is that terrible. You see at the center of this hooplah is poor Nick Ramos, the Latino lead character of Dead Rising 3. It's rare that any game feature a Latino character that one, isn't a stereotype (or Luchadore) of some kind or two, is not a character who plays second fiddle to another.

So to the folks who are angry in Xbox One's general direction (and thus have shunned DR3 due to its exclusivity), and to those who are angry at the loss of Dead Rising's comedic tone (as far as we know, that push toward the Call of Duty crowd might mean the loss of humor), stop being so generally angry toward Dead Rising 3 and look at it for what it's doing. It's a game in an arguably popular franchise that publicly shouted, "Hey Latinos can be badass too!" and that's a great step forward. 

Let me get the semi-obvious of the way first. I was won over from the beginning just because the lead is a Latino named Nick as I am a simple man to please. I know not all of you will be as forgiving as I am to most things presented in this argument, but hear me out. As noted in the intro, it's rare that a Latino character (and don't even get me started on the lack of a well characterized Latina) is even in a videogame (that isn't Saints Row) let alone play the main character. Take the arguably biggest recent example of this with Dominic Santiago in the Gears of War franchise. Although Dom had the more emotionally investing story and greater character development, he still was not billed as the main character with Marcus Fenix's search for his father (and other things) receiving more prominence. Then there's the last Latino to get a main role, Rico Rodriguez from Just Cause 2. It's great that a Latino got a central role, but is it great when that Latino is a homicidal manic devoid of personality (beyond the need for quirky violence)? A negative portrayal is definitely worse than no portrayal at all. 

As an appeal to a broader (emphasis on "bro," I suppose) audience, Dead Rising has gone through a few changes. Sure the world is blander, sure it looks less kooky, but Nick wasn't washed out as part of that appeal. You can argue he's technically as bland as Latinos can get. But just because his last name is Ramos doesn't mean he has to spout Spanish at every opportunity or sport a cool stache (as we all come in different shapes, sizes, and dialects). Microsoft's E3 presser may not have gone off without a hitch, but the fact that a game starring a Latino was showcased in full force is a welcome change to this very close minded community. There's enough faith behind the character that Microsoft believed they had a game changer. Sure it's not perfect (why does Dead Rising 3 have the only promotional art in the series to not feature its lead charging forward through a horde of zombies?), but it's what I have to work with. At least it's a welcome change for Dead Rising, a series that started with a cartoonishly Latino villain. 

And I think you're looking at the tone of the game in the wrong way. I still hold out hope that Dead Rising 3 will be as kooky as the others. It's just hiding behind the grit. The trailer is reminiscent of Robert Rodriguez films of the 90s. It features a lead Latino in a typically sterotypical profession (a mechanic, complete with "tough Spanish" on his back), it features an outworldly premise (zombie apocalypse) much like From Dusk Till Dawn, and the entire thing is tinged in a grungy brownish yellow. And although DR3 may not end up as intelligent as Rodriguez's use of subtlety in his Mexploitative films, we should wait a bit longer until passing judgment. 

We've hit that point where it's perfectly acceptable for a Latino to lead a big franchise. Although part of me loves that the gaming community didn't acknowledge his race, it's a little disheartening when I'm the only one smiling at the announcement. Nick was just labeled as bland as the rest of the game. But he isn't there yet. It's just a damn shame that Dead Rising 3's big step toward a more diverse game space is going to be clouded by Microsoft's mistakes. Dead Rising 3 is a game few will play for various reasons. Some won't like its drastic change from the rest of the franchise, the wider audience Microsoft wants to appeal to will ignore it just as they ignored Dead Rising when it first hit the 360, and everyone else just won't get an Xbox One to play it on. 

Unfortunately when it goes unplayed and doesn't sell like a jillion copies, it's going to send the wrong message. It's going to say the public doesn't want a game like this, which of course will lead to retooling. Meaning that it's going to be a long time before I get a chance to play as a Latino lead character again. That's not okay with me, and by golly I hope that's not okay with you. So please, just be a little more excited for Dead Rising 3.    read

8:04 PM on 01.05.2013

My Persona and I

In my family we subscribe to the "ignore it and it goes away" philosophy. When my father struggled with lymphoma, I didn't react. When my mother nearly died due to a flesh eating virus, nothing. When my uncle died, nothing. When my sister lost her ability to have children, nothing. I struggled for years due to my lack of feelings. I "lived" day in day out with a fear that I might have been a sociopath. What the hell was wrong with me? Was I a monster?

Turns out, I wasn't completely right.

You see, I've never played a Persona (let alone an JRPG with a sizeable time investment other than Pokemon) game until a few weeks back when I finally experienced Persona 4 Golden. And...I'm so glad I took the plunge.

Persona 4 Golden introduced me to Shadows and Personas, or otherwise known as the Id and the Ego. A shadow is a physical manifestation of a person's inner struggles and desires. Their doubts, envy, rage, insecurity, every feeling that was cast aside and ignored. A Persona forms when all of those hidden struggles are subdued by the Ego, and that Persona becomes an entity that helps fight against the further development of those desires.

As I slogged through more and more dungeons, the very definition of those two entities swirled through my mind. As far as I've known, personas are guises. When someone adapts a persona, they are hiding themselves from others as they become someone else. I can go as far to say that every time I play a videogame, I am taking the life of another person for my own. That's especially true in Persona 4 when you become the super popular main character who every guy wants to be and every girl wants to be with. As much as I began enjoying Persona 4's story, I was scared to continue. Scared that the deeper I threw myself into the story and its main character, the more I would lose aspects of myself.

Persona 4 makes developing relationships with others the most important facet of the story. As the caricatures of the story slowly became fully fleshed out characters, I couldn't help but wish that life's relationships were that easy to develop. I wish there were a set amount of conversation options to choose from in order to fully develop a relationship. I wish there was an easier way to get closer to people. I wished I could ignore those relationships for days on end, yet start each conversation like I never left...and then I met Kanji

Kanji was a scared, confused child who threw himself wholeheartedly into his manhood. In order to avoid looking feminine, he performed his masculinity in a grandiose matter. His "persona" was of the tough punk who took no guff from nobody. wasn't enough to hide himself from everyone. As I formed a bond with him, I found out his "true self" was nothing more than a Shadows, an Id. Kanji was a bundle of confused sexuality, yet I couldn't save him. I merely helped him change his mask (as his Shadow "evolved" into a Persona). I was disappointed I couldn't help him more, I was ashamed of myself. I just couldn't figure out why.

And then it hit me. Kanji was just a version of myself. He was one of my personas. The more I spoke to Kanji, the more the sudden realization made sense. I've had problems with my sexuality in the past also. There was a time where I thought I was a homosexual, but soon discovered I was mistaken. I just grew up in an environment so damn obtuse that the things I loved could only be loved by a gay man. What made matters worse was that I had crippling self esteem issues. I'm not the most attractive of men, and it bothered the utter crap out of me. It was a terrible life experience. I had trouble talking to others, making friends, I thought I was gay and ugly, and I couldn't pull myself out of it. That's when I decided to fake it.

I created a new me and donned a persona that was like everyone else. I pretended to laugh at jokes that weren't funny, pretended to enjoy the things I despised, and ultimately pretended I didn't hate myself all the while. I wasn't happy, and it was hard faking happiness. Through the mutilation of my personality, I died on the inside. I was no longer able to process the right emotions at the right time. It was almost as if my heart died. This carried on for years until I eventually forgot about it. I guess that my guise became the real me. Then this magical, yet simple game forced me to look inside myself.

Immersing myself completely into the main character, meeting the children of Inaba and their struggles, and watching Kanji remove his false persona all brought those memories rushing back to me. I was forced to relive my past for a few brief moments. I had to accept my false guise, my Shadow, my true feelings. Except...I still don't know what those are. I've been away from them for so long, I have no idea where to even look for them. But I have a support system now. Through the years I had some friends see through my false guise and accept me for the confused individual I am.

Though I still have a ways to go on my journey, I have at least accepted the darker parts of myself. Does that mean I get a Persona also? Do I get that special guardian that helps keep my heart safe from the darker desires? If I do get a Persona, and it is a reflection of myself, what does it look like?

I hope it looks great.   read

3:48 PM on 11.09.2012

I wanted to do an introduction too you guies.

Hey everyone, I've been a semi-longtime reader (since about 09-10, whatever), but I've never really commented or involved myself with the community in any notable capacity. And that my friends (are we friends? I sure hope so), is just plain wrong. All of you are great and I internet love the lot of you. I think I commented once or something, and wrote a single blog a bit ago, but that's because I'm not entirely confident in my vidjagamez writing.

What I do know, very well I might add, is movies. I'm an Editor over at Flixist where I get to write about "chick flicks." I've been there officially since July (but lurked in that community for well longer), and at one point had erotic fanfiction written about me. I have to admit, it is pretty boss for realsies.

I'm in my final semester of collegio and getting my Bachelor's degree in English and Communications in December. As that part of my life comes to end, I feel like I'm stuck in an airport terminal like Tom Hanks was in that one movie. While I'm trying to figure all of that out, I want to try my hand at other writing topics. I've loved the videojuegos for the better part of my life, so I figured it was time to try and articulate my thoughts toward them.

So for starters, here's a bit about me and my gaming history (and a picture of a Surfing Pikachu I found):

-Until a few years ago, I've always been a system generation behind due to having to pawn, and then re-pawn, my games for food money. My game preferences might lean toward Nintendo because of this. A Game Boy (and then eventually Color because of the colors) and Super Nintendo got me through ten years of gaming.

-My favorite game is Pokemon Gold.

-I've only played a handful games all the way through due to losing them, losing time, or losing interest (this includes games like Super Mario Bros. 3 and Final Fantasy X)

-I work three jobs (not including Flixist), so I am utterly dependent on handheld gaming.

-I'm listening to Aqua's "Barbie Girl" as I write this.

-I only buy games I know I'll play for a long time because they're soooo damn expensive now. But I can't stop buying them because I love 'em.

-I totally use a lot of 90's Valley Girl slang.

-Gummi Bears are totes money.

-I once pooped myself on a bus. Used to be embarassed about it until I said it on a Flixist Show once. So now it's an icebreaker in business meetings (not really).

Now that I have more monies and a comfortable life, I can explore the greater world of gaming. When I blog in the future, I'm thinking I'll discuss "classic" games that I should have played but never have before (much like Flixist's Losing My Virginity series). If not, maybe I'll write about Pokemon (because if anything is cool it's Pokemon). I just wanted to be involved in this community more. You're all sooooo great. I'm always stuck reading the hilarious comments, the c-blogs are better and more involving than ever, and the Dtoid community looks like it's a very warm and welcoming place.

More reason than ever to jump in head first.   read

1:26 AM on 07.11.2012

Next-Gen: I'm Fine, Thanks Anyway

I'm not exactly made of gold bling and diamond rings. Each console generation, I struggle to maintain the large quantity of money needed to go out and purchase each console released. Rather than giving up an arm or a leg every five or so years, I end up deciding on a single console for its merits while eventually getting the rest.

At the very least, I'll scrounge up enough monies to secure a system...several years after the next one releases.

Well, I'm tired of that. I finally own every console within a generation and the very notion of a new one scares me. I don't want to restart my terrible, terrible cycle.

I mean, really. Do I even need a new game console?

The fun is still there, so a shake up isn't totally necessary.

Let me start at the beginning. My first console was a Super Nintendo Entertainment System. You know, the one that came bundled with Donkey Kong Country? It totally ruled. My father worked his butt off to get my sister and I the finer things after his illness, and when the fruits of his labor brought smiles to our faces, he could care less how much money he blew (I would have been fine with a Gamecast anyway).

Little did I know, the Nintendo 64 was already two years old and the Gamecube was on its way. You see, back then before the Internet and cellular telephones existed I was not aware that I was supposed to want better technology. There was no constant hunger for better graphical output and super mega hertz televisions. All I saw was the awesome way the Kongs collected bananas and how I kept dying every single cart level.

My point is, it's the software that makes or breaks a generation. All of these upgrades would be pointless if the games weren't fun to play at all. The SNES could have been terrible if no one supported it with amazing games. If we analyze what happened to the Wii, with its explosion of lackluster titles, the announcement of a Wii U seems like an attempt to make up for the Wii's "casual gamer" (read as sucker apparently) missteps. Nintendo wants us to buy the Wii U because of how it changes our gaming experience? Please. The Wii could have succeeded in that regard if I didn't have to wait so long after its release for a new Donkey Kong Country or Legend of Zelda.

I just got an HDTV, so why do I need more graphics?

When I first bought my Xbox 360 (when the new "slim" model released), a friend of mine told me I would have to buy a new console in a couple of years anyway. Besides the fact that he's a terrible friend, he had a point. I don't necessarily understand all of that Direct X247 mumbo jumbo, but it seems that visuals that cause brain aneurisms are all the rage now. That one tech demo from Square Enix? While others praised its beauty and looked forward to the next generation, I just watched it thinking "how much is this crap going to cost me?"

To stay in line with my tradition of workin' hard for the money, I finally got an HDTV a few months ago from a pawn shop (where I also bought a PSX for the first time, yay!) I'm starting to realize what all the negative hubub toward the "standard definition" Wii was. True it does look bad on my tele, but DKCR is still super cool, brah. Since I'm so behind, I don't necessarily get impressed with graphical marvels. I'm just not used to it.

I like my television, but a new console generation would diminish its quality and exile it to obsolescence. Sony tells me I need a 3DTV to better play its games, Microsoft tells me I need a bigger television and overall gaming space to better experience its motion control, and Nintendo tells me its Wii U will force me to play "together alone" and forgoes the television all together. When is what I have going to be enough? As long as the greater gamer mass hungers for better visuals and its Direct Xs, I'm going to have to be a multi-millionaire in order to keep up.

Above all, I'm happy with gaming's current form.

With all this talk of the future, I think we're all forgetting the more important present. As someone who has resided outside of previous console generations, I've learned to milk each experience for what it is worth. Right now, with the current generation not having a definitive end, I believe other gamers are finally doing the same. This generation can still provide great things without relying heavily on being for a shiny and new machine.

Saints Row: The Third had me jump out of a helicopter while Kanye West's "Power" played in the background, I gasped the first time I saw a Necromorph in Dead Space, I fell asleep during LA Noire, I tilted my head walking around planets in Super Mario Galaxy, I cried when I couldn't solve a single puzzle in Portal, I sighed the first time I was sniped in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, and I laughed with joy the day I bought my PS3 and finally owned each console within a generation.

I used to feel bad when a kid down the street owned either a Sega Genesis, Xbox, or Playstation 2, when I didn't. Although I appreciate the work needed to afford one of those fancy machines, I felt obsolete myself. I had to go to pawn shops and Funcoland to buy games since stores ceased to carry them. I love gaming and the wonderful things it can do, but I especially love being able to share my adventures with others on equal ground.

Please future, don't take that away from me.   read

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