My girlfriend started Dragon Age: Origins over the weekend. I was hovering in the living room and noticed that she opted to name her female human noble 'Cherrie'. Before she could finalise her choices are stopped her.
'You know that Cherrie is the French spelling of Sherry? Well, the in-game analogue of France, Orlais, invaded and occupied Ferelden for 100 years. There is no way a member of the Ferelden nobility would take such a name for his daughter. I think you should reconsider.'
This seemed to annoy her, and she sarcastically asked why the name i used for my Warden was any better. Even though she didn't want me to answer, i did anyway, because i'm quite proud of it.
Many human characters in Dragon Age have names taken from Celtic mythology. Morrigan being a prime example. In legend, she is a goddess of war, strife and sovereignty, and is said to take the form of a crow.
In the game, she is shown to have had a very tough upbringing (strife) and her position as an apostate and general hater of the Chantry demonstrates how much she values her independence. Sovereignty. Also, notice the black feathers on her shoulder.
So knowing this, i gave my male human noble the name 'Taranis', who was the Celtic god of Thunder.
I made sure to always equip his primary weapon with a lightning rune, and as the god is usually depicted as holding a wheel, i went with a 'sword and board' build, to emulate the look.
Also, and this is what i was most proud of, a lot of old Celtic coins had wheels on one side. And nobility tend to have quite a lot of money.
She concluded that i was insane to put so much thought into it, but it made me realise just how much i enjoy really thinking about the game world and choosing a name that not just fits it, but also the type of character i want to build and role-play as.
I'm about to start Divinity II and am currently racking my brain in an effort to come up with something. It has become a big part of the rpg experience for me. Even though the game will always refer to me as 'the Warden' or 'Shepard' or 'Vault Dweller', i always get a kick out of seeing my perfectly devised name on the character screens.
I guess i'm wondering if anyone else takes it this seriously.
I read an article on Eurogamer today, claiming that a head writer at BioWare finds the company's forum to be 'increasingly toxic' and that as a result he largely ignores it these days. My first thought was fair enough - Mass Effect has the worst fan-base in all of gaming - but now that i think about it, i believe that BioWare only have themselves to blame.
I think back to that femshep polling fiasco, where we were asked to vote upon a face for the female version of our favourite space marine. As most will remember, a blonde model prevailed and that should have been that. BioWare gave no indication that more votes would be held to refine Shepard's visage.
Yet large numbers of fans took the BSN and Twitter to complain. Apparently the blonde looked as though she was more concerned with her nails than the state of the galaxy, or as though she should be carrying a small dog around in a designer handbag. And BioWare caved.
Imagine the storm such a change to the terms would have caused if the black Shepard character model had won the vote. No doubt BioWare would have had to stick to their guns, but prejudice against blonde women is largely accepted and somewhat institutionalised, i have learned.
Quite rightly, many blonde female players were left feeling a bit let down that BioWare would crack under such pressure, and let prejudiced, borderline-misogynistic whining dictate design policy. BW can claim that more people wanted a non-blonde Shepard (which isn't true - less than half as many people who took part in the first vote did in the second) but when you do such an injustice to a small portion of the fan-base to please the masses you send a message.
It's just not possible to be blonde, attractive, female, and a strong leader.
It's little wonder that any bigot with a keyboard and an interest in their games takes their narrow mind to the BioWare Social Network. It has a toxic atmosphere because BioWare enabled it, and to a certain extent rewarded it in quite a big way.
Forget the recycled environments of DAII, and the ending of ME3 (which i quite liked). This was the moment when BioWare really screwed up, in terms of maintaining some semblance of rationality and decency in its community.
On a lighter note, i'd like to thank them providing me with confirmation that i'll probably end up marrying my current girlfriend. She was looking at some celebrity column a few days ago and saw that Tricia Helfer had posed nude for some calendar.
I said that i don't really like her as a brunette. She agreed, adding that Tricia looks better with her hair as a flexible, bio-mimetic nano-material, cohered into a solid piece.
I've just read an article about how a small Connecticut town has set up a voluntary video game return program, seemingly aimed at collecting violent games. On the surface this seems like a dumb, reactionary response to a recent atrocity... but considering that the School superintendant behind the idea is quoted as saying
'We're suggesting that for parents who have a child or children who play violent video games, to first of all view the games. We're asking parents to better understand what their child is doing. Have a conversation about next steps. If parents are comfortable (with their child's gaming habits), we're comfortable.'
ignoring the fact that the donated games are likely to be burnt, it doesn't actually seem too bad. It does seem to imply that many people see a link between video games and real-life crazy and violent people though. So i've had a little think about how games with an emphasis on violence affected my development.
And the truth is that i have always found that games with really visceral and involved combat often leave me looking for less bloody ways through a quest.
Like in Dragon Age: Origins. I firmly believe that in order to get the most out of any RPG you need to play on a difficulty level that is slightly outside of your comfort zone, because this makes certain choices far more harrowing and important. Like in DA, when you have the option of sacrificing some elven slaves in order to receive a big buff to your health. On easy, it's barely a decision. If i'm playing as a good guy, i don't do it. But on Nightmare, because combat is that much more difficult, even though i was playing as a good guy, i had to consider it. The Wardens say to do whatever is necessary to battle the Blight, after all.
Anyway, there are some really combat-intensive parts of the game, such as in Orzammar and the Deep Roads. Because of this, i ended up letting a lot of petty criminals flee with their lives.
Of course the Darkspawn scum can never be given that option, but i can honestly say that a lot of violent games leave me looking for more peaceful means to resolve an issue. You need to pick your battles and be more discerning when it comes to deciding who really needs to die or be beaten to within an inch of their lives.
To that end, video games echo and enforce real life realities.
When i was at school, unbelievably other children would sometimes make fun of me. I knew that fighting was hard and mana potions were scarce, so wasn't about to engage every hoodlum that mocked me.
I saved my stamina for the big issues, like when some bastard-child nicked my yo-yo. And even then, i knew it was best to not get my hands dirty and instead paid the Cannon brothers two weeks worth of pocket money to beat him up and get it back for me.
After my associates were done with the young rapscallion, he was laying on the grass crying and i was presented with an opportunity to kick him in the head. But i didn't. I not only taught him a lesson about not taking things that don't belong to you, but i also taught him a lesson about mercy. Because as games told me, often you need to take the paragon/light side/way of the open palm path if you want to unlock the best ending.
It really is like games taught me. There is always a better way to solve an issue than with your own fists. And i am happy to report that games like Dragon Age are teaching my 13 year old brother similar lessons.
Also, as there have been a lot of 'top games of 2012 lists' i'd just like to add that my absolute favourite game of the year was Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, which just did an amazing job of bringing back the G1 characteristics of my favourite robots. Risen 2 and Mass Effect 3 run it close.
I went into GAME yesterday to get some Microsoft points so that i could download the Sleeping Dogs DLC, and because as yesterday was obviously Halloween, the employees there were dressed up.
I was browsing the xbox games and some guy who was in a devil costume came over and asked if i needed any help. I told him that i was just looking, but that i kind of wanted to buy Medal of Honour but have been making an effort recently to not buy so many games, and with two that i'm really looking forward to coming over the next fortnight i should probably try to be more responsible and wait.
He basically said that i should ignore all that and just buy the bloody game, but then somebody else told me that i should probably just wait. I recognised the voice as belonging to a girl named Sarah. This is the shop my girlfriend works at too and they're friends, so i said 'maybe' and went to put the game back.
The displays have this sort of reflective surface towards the top, and i never pass up an opportunity to look at myself, so as i was putting the game back i looked up and noticed that Sarah was dressed up as one of those Lynx angels.
It was so bizarre. I had a devil on my right shoulder telling me to ignore my doubts and act irresponsibly, and an angel on my left shoulder telling me to do the good thing.
This kind of made my mind up fully on the matter, and i left the game on the shelf before walking to the checkout to get my Microsoft points. Sarah isn't divine, but because of the occasion the imagery was quite powerful.
I've posted a few blogs already, but as i'm probably going to be sticking around i would like to introduce myself properly. To help do this i'd like to share a story from my day.
I went to see Skyfall today (don't worry; there are no spoilers) and it was fantastic.
Not quite as good as Casino Royale, and the action scenes were a little bit lacking… but it showed a more clever side to James Bond and re-introduced some of the traditional elements associated with 007 films before the reboot. It was very funny too… though one scene included for laughs left me a little confused in regards to continuity.
Also funny is that i went to the first screening of the film, which was in the morning of a weekday, so you can imagine that the other people there were pretty big fans too. While we were waiting for the theatre doors to be opened my girlfriend was reading from a ‘50 years of Bond’ trivia panthlete.
I got every question right, naturally, but as i looked around i could see the other people were answering them in their heads. One guy in particular - a hairy man with a comb-over - had a ‘i answered that quicker’ look in his eye, and eventually he joined in.
I had just been asked ‘which actor played 007 in the most films’ and answered Roger Moore. The guy then said ‘actually, Connery also portrayed Bond 7 times… once in the non-eon Never Say Never Again’, and then gave a smile that seemed a bit menacing like Jaws’.
My girlfriend then pointed out that these only pertained to the official films, and declared me the victor, so i gave a smile very much like the one Moore replied to Jaws with in the Spy Who Loved Me.
Moments like that stay with you. I will never forget the day i beat a jumped up ape at Bond trivia on a technicality in front of at least four other fanatics and their embarrassed-looking wives on the day Skyfall opened to the public.
Some of you may have read my blog about how i read the Drell prayer from Mass Effect 3 at my uncle's funeral, or how i used a Dragon Age analogy to offer some relationship advice to a friend. The point i'm attempting to illustrate is that when something captures my imagination it really pulls me in, and to an almost pathetic degree. Words like 'saddo' and 'anorak' are often used to describe me... but given the amount of enjoyment my passions bring me and how much i can glean from the world through them, i can't say i care.
In addition to James Bond and video games, my big passion is the Moon, and i would like to pose a question if i may.
Have you ever seen a total solar eclipse? And if so, have you ever wondered as to the mathematics that allow this celestial miracle to occur?
Do you not find it weird that the sun and the moon and the earth are just the right size and just the right distance apart to allow this to happen? Because i do find it weird. I also find the fact that none of the major accepted theories on the Moon's origin sufficiently account for the fact that every tested sample of Moon rock has had an identical oxygen isotope signature to that of Earth rock... a fact which demonstrates that both bodies originated at the same distance from the sun, and completely discredits both 'big whack theory' and the idea that the Moon was somehow captured by the Earth's gravity.
This, in conjunction to the complex mathematical message encoded within the Moon and its relationship with the sun and the Earth, has led me to believe that it is an artificial object, built with the intention of acting as an incubator with which to promote intelligent life on Earth.
This is the closest thing i have to a religious belief, and have been writing a 'space ballet' to tell the story. It's like a regular ballet, only instead of traditional instrumentation, i'm using synthesisers, electric guitars, drum machines and the space-age equivalent of a cannon (sort of an ode to Tchaikovsky - my musical idol).
As far as gaming goes, i have been doing it for a long time. My first console was a Sega Master System II (the one that had Alex Kidd in Miracle World built in) and i remember loving Psycho Fox especially, though i would have been very young at the time. My household remained loyal to Sega all the way to the Dreamcast, and games i enjoyed from this time are Fantastic Dizzy, Cosmic Spacehead, Road Avenger, Chu Chu Rocket and Shen Mue.
I had an original xbox, but didn't play it very much. I kind of lost interest in gaming for a while, but was sucked back in 2008 when i bought Mass Effect with a 360. Now some might say i'm a little too into it.
Not least of all my girlfriend, who sometimes dresses up as video game characters and enacts elaborate roleplays. She often makes requests in return though, so we both enjoy it... although the time i was dressed as Samwise Gamgee and got clipped around the ear for not saying 'oooh Miss Frodo' in a convincing enough West Country accent is definitely one of the weirder moments of my life.
A good online friend of mine, who i met on BioWare's Dragon Age forums, confided in me last night. He has been married for ten years, but the relationship has slowly turned cold and he has found himself falling in love with another woman. He's a good man, and doesn't want to hurt his wife but admits that he just isn't in love with her any more. This is what i told him:
The first time i played Dragon Age: Origins, i took an immediate liking to Morrigan. She was hot and wore a cool outfit and as she was the first female to join my party, and the only human member aside from that whiny bitch Alistair, i really got to know her on the way to Lothering. A relationship was forged.
But then, in the Lothering tavern, i saw her. A dual wielding red-headed vixen with an adorable French accent. After butting into a fight and talking me into allowing my foe to flee with his life, she introduced herself as Leliana and joined my party.
The adventure progressed and i continued chatting up both Morrigan and Leliana, and with each 20 point increase in our relationship i was awarded a new ability bonus. Extra cunning for getting on with Leliana and extra magic for getting on with Morrigan.
Things were great. I had Leliana to tell me what a good boy i am and Morrigan on the other side of camp for when i wanted something a little more physical… and because of the ability bonuses, i was kicking more Darkspawn arse than i ever thought possible.
But then Leliana confronted me and said i had to make a choice. Her or Morrigan. The bard or the witch… i wasn't sure who to choose.
I preferred Leliana’s personality, but Morrigan had the looks. I knew that i would lose, like, 50 relationship points with whoever i dumped, and decided that Leliana’s additional cunning would serve me best as i was playing as a warrior. Plus she had the personality. So i decided i’d choose her. I went to Morrigan’s tent to break the bad news, but i just couldn't do it. I’d learned about her tragic upbringing, and how her mother intended to steal her body, and i just couldn't hurt her like that.
So i changed my mind, thinking that Leliana would be just fine without me.
And it was the biggest mistake of my Grey Warden’s life. Not only did Morrigan stop putting out, but as a result of my lost cunning i was getting hit more frequently and taking more damage. I started to resent Morrigan and stopped taking her with me into dungeons.
The moral of this story is that you have to decide what is best for you, and not your partner. Of course you should minimise the hurt you cause her, but you only have one life with which to slay the archdemon and stop the blight, so should choose the love interest that you like more.
I doubt that his decision was based solely on my analogy, but i received an email today thanking me for the talk and letting me know that he has decided to make a go of it with the other woman.