My real name is Max and I'm a diehard Browncoat. I also have an encyclopedic knowledge of the Star Wars universe left over from a childhood obsession, as well as an actual Star Wars encyclopedia, but that's another matter.
I like to sleep, but keep odd hours, I like food A LOT, I like TV on occasion, I'm not a huge fan of any music except symphonic, and apparently I have bad music taste, even at 20 I can barely grow enough facial hair to justify shaving more than twice a week, I love to write, I kinda read, I hate a couple of the people in my J-school program, HBO is perfect, LOST is actually alright, I'm a total gearhead, Avatar was a terrible movie but an incredible experience, How to Train Your Dragon was very, VERY awesome, and all I want at this moment is a 1:1 stuffed Appa.
Guess what this last paragraph used to be for? My two cents on the games/art debate. Guess what's here now? NOTHING, and that's the way I likes it.
I'm just gonna come out and say it, this blog contains some mention of games. As well as some mention of art. And it may combine those ideas. I know, I hate me too. But I think this is a little tidbit of insight I've gained that I'd like to share. Now, if you're like every other rational person who keeps up with gaming news or is part of a community in any capacity, you are sick to your very soul of hearing pompous analytical assholes talking about "the state of the industry" and how it's reached a state of art, or the Ebert haters, or the people who think games should be "more than just fun," I will warn you that this post does contain some of the aforementioned heinous and forbade topics, and I won't at all blame you if you turn now and run. Fast.
Now it's not that I particularly disagree with these people, because I don't really. It's just that I'm really tired of hearing people talk of something we can't really affect, as well as the amount of self-righteousness that more than normally accompanies such discussions (of which, for the record, I was once very much a part).
So yes, this delicious little tidbit of insight.
What I want for the industry (I really hate that word), and what I think all the pro art people actually want, is not what intrinsically comes with "art" status. It's the extrinsic value, we want games taken seriously. The whole art status is something I could frankly care less about. Basically, I want games to be conceived of and analyzed in the same way as movies (no, not film. That is also an insipid word) and books.
Now don't read too much into this. I don't want games too lose their individuality or their nature, I don't want them to become movies or books, I simply want them to be considered as valuable as those other forms of media. The art shit doesn't really matter at that point.
This really isn't news. Though I haven't witnessed it myself, I'm sure this sentiment has been expressed countless times, indeed as many as the games/art debate has flared up, but what I believe I can provide that's new is an example is how this is an attainable goal.
Around the mid-late nineties, with the birth of the internet, a form of writing emerged called hypertext narrative. This is basically an arted-up form of old text adventures, though I'm not sure which was the chicken and which was the egg, or if they're even so related. The point is that hypertext narratives shared - and although less popular, still share - many characteristics with games.
In hypertext, readers navigate paragraphs of text, "lexia," with hyperlinks. The lexia are often very disjointed, and it is intended that the reader create much if not most of the story themselves, creating their own intervening events which lead from paragraph to paragraph. There is also a good deal of choice, with usually more than one link leading out of a given lexia.
Obviously there is a lot here that one could find in a game. The lexia are the scripted events that define the story that the author, or in our case developer, wants to tell. The different links represent the same thing as in hypertext, choice, and the parts in between that the reader fills in are clearly the parts between the scripted events of a game in which the player is given control of how they conduct themselves.
The reason I make this comparison is that when hypertext narrative was in its prime, many considered it to be basically the second coming. People predicted the end of books, and heralded hypertext as the up and coming standard for narrative and text presentation on the whole. Of course there were critics, and the flame eventually died out, as it does in all things. But the point is that for some time at least, a media extremely comparable to our own was considered the absolute new standard for presentation.
The advantage is that where hypertext failed, games can thrive. Hypertext, in and of itself, isn't really that... well, entertaining. One of the strongest examples of the media is barely comprehensible, let alone what anyone might call fun. I spent an hour and a half finding every single freaking lexia in Michael Joyce's "Twelve Blue" and I would, like many you may read about, have a hard time telling you exactly who the main character is.
Unfortunately, the very thing that allows us to conquer hypertext in both fun and longevity is the very thing that keeps us from being taken seriously. Most mainstream games seek primarily to deliver an emotional response, with a message or stand taking the back seat. They seek mainly fun, and so we are seen as little more than emotional pornography.
The ultimate problem though is that we shouldn't need to change. I truly believe that there is value in what games already provide, and it's no more superficial than what hypertext provided. We are almost identical in form, and it's only function where we differ. The ability to give someone a genuine emotional experience that would normally be completely foreign and inaccessible is a power that I find simply astounding, same with the ability to transport them seamlessly to another world with nothing more than a pound and a half of plastic and silicon in hand.
This is our dilemma. We have been shown that with what we have, with what we are, we can be taken seriously. People like Anthony Burch prove time and again that there are worthwhile gains to treating games intelligently and analytically, but for some reason, the masses see fit to see us as nothing more than child's play. Then again, as hypertext proves, it's possible for what we are, the form that makes games what they are, has been seen as the future iron standard for record and reading, and that's certainly a start.
~Om nom nom nom...
PS This was not meant to become as sappy inspirationally lovey-dovey wishy-washy "we" this and "can be" that, but there you go.
Way to start things off right, this week's Thoughts is already 2 days late. Shit. Oh well, to battle, with NOOOO regrets (anyone who can name that quotee wins a hero cookie)
First a shoutout to Handsome beast for being handsome (and coming up with the new name for this loosely labeled "series")
Anyone who lives in Toronto had the utter privilege of attending Nuit Blanche last night. While walking untold kilometers to all the breathtaking modern art installations that dotted the city was great, the real pleasure was the free pair of 3D glasses I got with my free piece of React gum. Seriously, now I can play Minecraft in 3D. Oh and there was a hipsteramic Dubstep parade that went through the main downtown intersection. I feel like someone should have been naked on that float, I guess the paraders didn't share that opinion. Maybe because they were dressed like pirates, I'll never know.
I just pre-reserved my collector's edition copy of Fable III. It should be worth the money provided the collector bonuses are halfway decent and Peter Molyneux is the perfect opposite of the person I know he is.
You ever get that thing where someone you kinda dislike leaves the store room, then you criticize his professionalism to Colin, but don't actually insult him personally, then the guy walks by the store room door and you fully realize he heard the whole thing but don't feel guilty because you made objective criticisms about his work behavior but then you feel guilty because you think you should feel guilty but you don't? Still with me? Yeah, that happened to me today.
I just started playing Oblivion again for like the 756 thousandth time. I'm a wood elf. I hate being shorter than... who was it again? Oh yeah, EVERYONE. They also talk down to me. Bitches.
Crouching at the end of an eight hour shift is actually the best feeling in the world. Unfortunately the only way to experience such relief is to work eight hours straight while standing basically the whole time. Hmmmmm...
The little pretentious sketching mannequin on my desk that I bought to motivate me to keep learning to draw because I'd spent the money on is standing with way too much tude for her own good right now.
I'm going to a D&D session tomorrow. It's been a full month since my last one and withdrawal is a cruel mistress. I hope Tim Flamenethers has his staff ready, cuz we bout to rock some hopefully orc-like bitches. I have this weird thing against fighting elves.
Speaking of elves, they are like THE most pretentious species out there. I hate that they keep drawing me back in with their badassness, and their ridiculously filling bread. That's how they get me, they must know I'm a complete sucker for good bread. Oh and leaf or curvy bladed swords, those rock too.
I think the most incredible action figure accessory is right now sitting over the shoulders of my Boba Fett. To anyone who had this figure in the nineties, it's the little, like, one eighth cloak that he has that's got some string on it too, and it even makes room for his jetpack. It's freakin awesome. Also none of the other 10 Star Wars action figures I have addorning my desk have their accessories, maybe I'm just grabbing at what I have. Oh, except stormtrooper Luke, he's got his helmet still. Sweet.
~Om nom nom nom...
PS that D&D session I talked about is at 401 games at yonge and gerrard if anyone's down for some quality narping tomorrow (Monday). It's at 6, anyone living near downtown Toronto should come. It's free, too. All you need to bring is a legal character. Not sure what level, but I'm sure if enough show up with level ones, that'll be cool. I'll be wearing a brown Firefly-themed (but serenity labeled - sigh) shirt, feel free to say high if you wanna show up.
I love cheevos. Achievements, I love achievements. And I hate that I love them.
Achievements are a goal. They're something to accomplish, to strive for. They're a milestone that proves you've been where you've been, a way to log you're history. Achievements are something you can show off, something you can track, and something you can be proud of.
They're also a huge crutch. I've pushed through parts of a game just for some achievements. Mind you there not a big push; I don't think a game has ever said, well, we don't need to make it all interesting, we'll just put some big achievements in there and we'll be fine, but they've given me motivation that otherwise wouldn't be there
The thing is, achievements are not intrinsically evil. In and of themselves they're actually quite useful. They're a great at-a-glance tool to compare yourself to your xbl friends.
But they spoil me. They are the ultimate iteration of games' task/reward system. You do something, and you're handed down a sense of accomplishment from on high. And without them, for some reason, I feel slightly unfulfilled. Not unfulfilled enough to ruin an experience, mind you, but certainly enough to notice.
I think the reason I feel this way is because I've come to associate Achievements with, well, achievement. It's like Facebook; if it didn't happen in pictures on facebook, it didn't really happen. If I don't have an achievement for it, I didn't really do it. And this sucks because of course i did it. I was there, I did beat the fucking water temple, I did kill Krauser, and I did (Grim Fandango spoilers) find Meche and get her on the Number 9.
I was playing Twilight Princess the other day and it felt a little bit hollow. I missed the little *do* *doo* when I transformed into badass Link for the first time, it should have been there, but it wasn't. And this disappointment based on expectation shouldn't really be there, because at the end of the day, it's just a number.
And if you really think about that, the number's not really for you, is it? How valuable would your gamer score be if it weren't displayed to all your friends? Nothing. It would just be another stat. And the worst thing about this is that it's turned gaming into a performative act. I'm no longer proud to get a second gold star in Bad Company 2 because I got it, I'm proud because others can see it.
I realize that I could be completely alone on this, and it's an argument based completely on principal, but I honestly wish that I could get rid of cheevos, simply so that I could enjoy my in-game achievements (accomplishments) intrinsically, and not as a number. I want to feel proud for myself, not because the game told me I'd reached a point where it would allow me to.
I haven't really been keeping up with this blog as of late, and that really makes me sad. Though I'm not exactly certain of why, my guess is that between school and the site I got a job at (which shall remain nameless), my creative writing juices are in short supply when it comes to the DToid department. And that depresses me, because honestly, I enjoy writing here more than anywhere else. So here we are, at a crossroads in the path that this here little blog may well end up takin' for a spell.
Basically, the old 1000+ word articles I used to write will be few and far between for the foreseeable future. In their place will be little Occam's Thoughts style posts, basically compilations of what are essentially flushed out tweets that I'll do my best to post at least once a week. Let's try it, and pray with me that it doesn't suck. And honestly, pray hard.
Halo: Reach came out. I feel like it's this super exclusive club that I want to but don't really want to be a part of, but do just 'cause of the sense of belonging. Kind of like that treehouse you weren't allowed into as a kid because your beyblade wasn't good enough or because you were still playing with Yu-Gi-Oh cards when all the cool kids had moved on to MtG. Or because they all had grown that single facial hair that for some reason saw fit to avoid your face, instantly labeling your "man"hood as inferior to that of the other 10-year-olds.
My Xbox doesn't support 720i, the only HD input my $80, 32", 9 year old, CRT TV will support. Blarg. I am frustrate. Now I'm simply unable to read the names of the 13 year olds who, on a regular basis, hand to me my sufficiently whooped posterior. And my pride.
I'm back playing Grim Fandango and frankly couldn't be happier. It took a bit of finagling to get it working, but it seems to play just fine. I've also decided that I'm attending next year's PAX at Manny Calavera, who wants to be Glottis?
This minecraft business somehow has laid the groundwork for a 3rd personal return to Second Life, since I don't have the requisite $15 to buy Minecraft itself. This is a very precarious time for Om Nom, because just like crack, a mere 15 minutes in the SL 3D modellor and I'll be spending all my free time and lots of time that really shouldn't be free building spaceships next to socially inept furries.
I actually forgot that I owned a Wii until I got that TV that has multiple inputs and had an opportunity to hook it up. And you know what? It's fucking awesome. I don't care what anyone says, the Wii has awesome game support. Look at all the awesome gamecube games it can play! /Sarcasm
But honestly, glad to have the Wii back in action.
Privates is too talked about. I don't care if it's set in a vagina, I don't care if it's set in an asshole, and I don't care if you battle STDs as a condom hattet microscopic marine, it tried to impart knowledge. It tried to teach me, and that, I cannot abide.
I know I'm on the cusp of cutting edge criticism here, but the fact that I have to buy the DLC to get full 'cheevos (the new it word for achievements) is bullshit. No I'm not going to work in a joke here. It just flat out sucks.
NVGR Nommin' Thought #1: That song that's like "can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky are like shooting stars, cuz I could really use a wish right now..." makes no sense. That's like saying "hey man, can we pretend these shorts are a burger? I'm really hungry right now." No.
Oh, and in class today, I spilled coffee on the girl I'm into. Her coffee. On her two, count 'em, TWO white shirts. Right before her internship at MTV. Yeah, that was fun.
~Om nom nom nom...
PS Occam's is it cool if I call the next one Nommin' thoughts? sounds better than what I got there, just don't wanna be all up in yo plagiarism victimized grill
PPS I just saw that in the unedited post is said "in there place..." I actually felt physical pain when I caught that shit. I HATE that mistake. Anyway...
I'm sorry. I'm sorry I'm sorry I'm sorry. It's been two long weeks since I last posted here, hope no one thought I was gone. I was, in fact, moving across the country; just last week my second year of journalism school uprooted my life for the second time from a little BC town called Vancouver and moved to the hustle and bustle of the pretty-much-hated-by-everyone-that-doesn't-live-there Toronto, and my very first apartment. Let me tell you, being completely responsible for one's self is pretty god-damn terrifying. Anyway the point is that the delay was caused in the first week by househunting, followed by a mountainous pile of recycling brought upon by a certain Swedish budget furniture/everything you could possibly need store, and the second week by a complete lack of internet in said newly furnished home. Needless to say alan keys are abundant. Oh yeah, and that entire week without internet? Don't try that. Ever.
So if you've read any of my previous blogs, you'll know that I always kinda feel the need to be a bit of a shit disturber. Not in a flame bait kind of way, but if there's ever a monthly musing, I tend to make sure that my two cents are not made of copper, but lead, or unumquadium (no, that's not a made up word. I know, holy shit)
Behold, ununquadium, in all its electrony splendor
What that basically means is that usually I'm not really creative enough to work within the confines of the given topic, so I take the opposite of it, spin that around a couple thousand times, and then manhandle the discordant beast of a post back to the original monthly musing subject matter in a contrived and rather ham-fisted way. Today will be no exception.
So we all know that sound and music play a huge part in creating emotion or atmosphere in games; Dead Space's deftly composed sound was responsible for basically 50% of the horror in that game. Oblivion and Morrowind had breathtaking scores that accompanied their scenery and made it that much more sensational. Just like movies, music and sound are some of the easiest ways to grip a viewer emotionally and lead them exactly where they're wanted. And just like in movies, the absence of sound or music is similarly jarring.
The strongest example of such an absence is undoubtedly in GTA IV, right after the Darko Brevic choice. Let's start with the choice, because it really sets up the haunting atmosphere of the following silence. Nico finally tracks down Darko Brevic, one of the men who Nico came to America to kill. Nico has Darko completely at his mercy; the man who needlessly slaughtered many of Nico's closest friends for a paltry sum of money. The man has been broken, his life is nothing, and he has nothing left to live for. And in your hand you hold the means to choose whether to kill him or not.
Like all good choices, both sides present clear positives and negatives. Kill Darko, and Nico has his catharsis. He has an end to his months of searching and he can give closure to one of the darker chapters of his life. He has avenged his friends and killed a man who truly deserved it. The negatives here are that in killing Darko, Nico goes against the morally higher man he's become over the course of the game. He's letting his more primal instincts overwhelm him, and he's killing a man who's life isn't worth anything anyway. Roman even says it himself, it would be more torture to let him live.
If you do let him live, you continue on your lighter path. Nico lets go of his anger and hate and puts the past in the past. He lets this man keep his worthless life and is morally better for it. On the other hand, his journey's end result is then forfeit. He gets no vengeance for his dead friends and this slime of the Earth gets to go free.
By any definition a truly impossible choice. I personally sat for a solid fifteen minutes weighing my options. The best part of this choice is that in the scope of the entire game, it's really benign; it's just your morals and Nico's, and the player must somehow reconcile those and come to a decision that, no matter which way it goes, will leave them feeling dissatisfied.
But yes, the eponymous (fancy pants word for titular) silence. Let me preface this with the fact that up until the moments following your decision, Liberty City is quite literally alive. There is always hustle and bustle, always sound, always music by way of the radio, and always something going on. You grow accustomed to the sounds of the city and the people who inhabit her. So after you've made this choice that's actually more reflective of you then Nico, you're accordingly left with a silence that is truly deafening, more so than any gunshot or explosion you've heard thus far. Liberty City seems as empty as you feel. Gone are the noises of the crowds, the honks and sirens usually heard from a distance, and the constant companionship provided by the radio.
The player is left in complete silence to reflect on their choice. What was gained, what was lost. They chose wrong. No matter what you chose, you chose wrong. And more so than any music possibly could, the silence that follows that choice perfectly conveys the emotion of the scene. Absence. Arrested development. Emptiness.
First, I apologize for the sensationalistic title; the journalist in me broke free of his little cage and somehow made his way to my fingertips. It's also kind of exactly what the article is about.
Anyway, to business. I'll warn you now this is basically another one of those I ask you a thought provoking question and you think it's just profound enough to ignore the fact that it was a short blog and not a fully thought out article because my creativity is being leeched by other projects at this moment, most prominent of which I've sworn not to mention except for one more time, and I have big plans for that one more time, so I'm not gonna mention it here.
You know, one of those things.
So here's my question: do you see nerd as a racist* term?
Of course, your answer is no. I like to think most if not all of you see your nerdhood as a positive, and are comfortable sharing that with other people. Obviously this is all very good. Mike Krahulik can even be quoted as saying we as a culture have reclaimed the word nerd, that it's no longer an insult but a statement of fact.
But I think he was a little ambitious, I think he was a bit premature. Sure, calling another nerd a nerd is no problem. Between us it's a word of encouragement, a badge of honour, kind of a little nod that we're part of a club where each member shares a least one fundamental quality that others can connect with on a personal level.
But when I hear the word spoken by people who are quite clearly not part of our little community, I feel like it carries some negative connotation. I feel like the facial expression that comes with the word nerd is quite different when spoken by someone who isn't than someone who is.
Maybe this is just my own insecurity, but I feel like when the normies use the word 'nerd,' even today, it's still meant, if not as an insult, at least in a negative connotation. It's actually comparable to the n word, but obviously to a much much MUCH lesser degree. I realize I'm treading some pretty perilous racial waters here, so realize that I in no way equate the connotations of the word nerd with those of the n word, but it is kind of a similar idea, at least in my view; it's cool to call another nerd a nerd, but I've notice more and more recently that I find it increasingly less okay when the normies call me a nerd.
That's not to say that I personally don't like it, I enjoy it, but the negativity comes from the other end, like it's meant in a negative way, even if I don't take it like that.
I would love to get your opinions on this; when you're called a nerd by someone who pretty clearly isn't, do you feel like it's meant in a negative way, even if you don't take it like that?
~Om nom nom nom...
*I use racist for it's loose meaning, I don't actually consider we nerds a race unto ourselves.
Although that would be pretty sweet if we were. like, with lightsabers in our fingertips. And Chief helmets as heads