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12:27 AM on 07.11.2014

A Case for the Apologetic Hero

Imagine with me right now, you are the ultimate, killing-machine (unless of course you are such, in which case carry on,) and you're mowing through a small army. The army is "evil", but lacking any other description besides that they are your enemy. They were put in your pathway to kill, and you're going to do just that. You kill countless hordes of soldiers...of men and women, and you save the day; but for who? For the faceless voice commanding you daftly through the game? The unrepresented, and faceless home country? For the millions of people who are never shown to you, but you assume are now in better hands, because the person/government/self-motivated solider that just killed millions of people have "got it from here?" Where is the sense in all of this, and where is the reasoning that drives a story?

There isn't any-- all of this was rhetoric.

You see, what many story lines have gotten away with over the years is making the main characters "Unapologetic Soldiers." People who are morally free to gun down the masses; who don't question the orders or objectives of what is happening around them, simply because that's what they're there for. It makes for boring stories, because the character may not ask why, but you or I will, hopefully. I'm not just talking about first-person shooters either. Even games like Assassin's Creed and RPGs, like Skyrim, have got my goat on this one.

Sure, in AC's case it's usually the loss or emotional struggle backing the revenge killing of the Templar, but what of the soldiers? Am I to believe every Spanish navy-man is inducted into this top secret order, with the aim to remove self-control from the common man? Are the soldiers not who I'm supposed to be protecting, as I'm pretty sure most of them are in fact, common folk being used as means to an end. After killing armadas of them, where is the result, the progress, and why am I not the villain here?

In a game like Skryim, it isn't the morality or logic behind killing the unarmed, as that mostly comes from the players perspective, but instead the lack of reaction from it. There is no affliction it causes besides beatable hostility. No effect on the game's economy, and in the end, you are still the world-saving Dragonborn. The game just ends up feeling empty, and lonely.

One Skyrim player, rips through the Solitude country-side with ease, massacring everyone in her way.

While we're at it, lets also make sure not to confuse choices that inspire reflection on the matter at hand, with ones that just alter the play-through and force you to replay it just to see what the greener (or not) grass is like. Simple, yes-or-no, questions that really don't affect ones' perspective aren't really choices. Those are predetermined paths that flavor curiosity with time consumption, as you check out the other side of the fence in a second play-through. When something really presses you as a person, you end up not wanting to go back because the choice was so terrifying, and outcome so uncertain, it makes you put down the controller to study-up on zen and meditation to find who you really are. Sure, that was a bit extreme, but games with different outcomes should make you feel obligated to experience all of them, not that they're a chore or an ending achievement.

Many games, however, have perfected this medium. In the first Bioshock, the opportunity to harvest or purify children from their atom-based parasites was presented to the player. One with an immediate reward that killed them, and another with a long-term one that reverted them to normalcy, respectively; however, both had an affect on the game's ending and the player's interaction with other characters, and in my opinion, the Big Daddy. In a play-through where I planned to save the children, killing the Big Daddy protecting them felt wrong. We both shared the goal of protection, and seeing them so hurt after the death of their "Mr.Bubbles," had me feeling like a bad guy. Sometimes, it even drove me to avoid interaction with any Little Girls until it was necessary. Protecting them all to the end also lead to one of the most heart wrenching endings to a game(Spoilers,) I've ever played, and it's because it left me emotionally satisfied. Everything was met with justification.

In the end, that's what I ache for. I want my money, my time, and my passion for these games to feel justified. I don't want an army with a label and a grudge, I want to feel like I'm doing something even if it feels like something wrong. I don't want to just loot ammo off a dead solider's corpse. I want to stumble across a family photo, a wedding band, a love note, or diary dripping with personality and emotion. Make these NPCs feel like people and give me choices. Don't present me with cannon-fodder and a singular path to follow and call it a, "player-driven narrative," because it's not. It's a book with graphics, and games have more potential than that. They should be more than just a story with a character to walk across it.   read

2:45 AM on 07.06.2014

The "High-Def Package"

Look at all them pixels, baby.

HD re-mastered packages are now coming in troves, as more gaming studios are cuing in on the nostalgia effect that seeing your favorite protagonists (or for some, antagonists) re-textured brings to the player. Plus, I'm sure the ability of being able to bring forward an old game and give it new light, while simultaneously doing little work and raking in some extra dough, puts a gleam in the eyes of a few developers with a dusty trilogy sitting around.
Looking at you BioWare. Let's see Shepard in some HD-HD.

The re-mastered concept helps bring-about the look and feel of a new era, while giving the game some gameplay with new-age controls. It also provides developers an opportunity that allows new fans to flock to the game with a tidied-up touch for any who are finicky about graphics, or spotty controls that may have plagued the series originally. This window to bring about new cult members has been most often expressed through the Steam-sales of classics (or for some, their 8-Bit childhood), that make it affordable to try older games that you missed the mark on.

However, I've come to the question of: When is a HD re-make just too much? 
Before we get into pointing fingers, we have to go back to the beginning of the re-mastering fad. Surely, it's nothing new to the film industry, or to nerdy fans who want to see Spock's frown in 1080p; but when did it become common ground in the gaming industry?

Now, before the age of man when the internet was an "oh-gee-wilikers," moment to everyone in the 80s; as was the introduction of 16 and 64-bit systems were to children, there were the classics we know of today. Pitfall, Super-Mario Bros, and the original Pokemon. Each of the titles have something in common, however.
Each got an "HD" remake, which essentially was a step up from their more basic graphic designs to more colorful and complex landscapes. Some of them got sequel tittles attached to them, even though they were (more-or-less) the same game, just on new consoles. So, "HD-ing" is nothing new, but packaging trilogies together is…sorta'.

In 2009, Sony would go on to do something never done before, by releasing stuff they already had done before…except better. That's right, the God of War Collections, which was actually critically acclaimed for making a bald man with a scowl-- prettier. I've played it and have to agree, he looks better and the game plays great; but is it worth it to buy another disk if you already have the originals on a dusty shelf in the corner? Are we all collectively beating the dead horse labeled nostalgia, simply because we're too well adjusted to pretty stuff? Kinda', but who cares if it's giving old games a new breath and developers room to breath?

I'm personally super excited for the 2.5 HD Remix of Kingdom Hearts, (and Kingdom Hearts 3, be still my aching heart) simply because it is not only bringing one of my favorite series new life, it's allowing me to play the handheld versions of the games I never had the opportunity of playing. Square-Enix is going above-and-beyond by making the DS and Vita versions playable on console controls, and I think that level of dedication to provide the opportunity to it's entire fan base is amazing. 

That entire paragraph is super biased, and I really don't care because it's true.

The game looks beautiful, it plays better, and it's giving me chances I've never had before and that's perfect.
We see the same thing in the new Master Chief Edition, which is every Master Chief-based Halo game in one package, with online multiplayer and achievements. That is spectacular and such a mind-blowing testament to the capabilities of the now current, next-gen consoles. I can't fathom what someone who gamed on the original Xbox would say to that besides, "Wait, woah…what do you mean there's 4 other games and 2 on the way?" They'd look like a jittery, and horrified parent of sextuplets. Not counting the four spin-offs and back-pack load of novels and graphic works.

This is all spectacular, and whether you have the money to deny it or not, it's true. 

It's out there. It's unstoppable.

We're living the future people, and it has a lot more pixels.

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