To play the first, oh, ten minutes of Dragon Age II: Mark of the Assassin is to gaze into the abyss, to confront everything weird about videogames and the culture that surrounds them.
The scene: protagonist Hawke is enlisted to help an exiled assassin, Tallis, break into the estate of an Orlesian nobleman to pilfer some jewels. Playing Hawke as an intrepid dagger-for-hire made sense when he/she was a hardscrabble immigrant; it's less convincing now that (my female) Hawke lives in a mansion and wields considerable social capital, having saved Kirkwall from imminent destruction and all.
Hawke is eventually convinced to follow a complete stranger to a foreign country to steal from a powerful oligarch when Tallis, voiced by Felicia Day, coos, "That's just what you do, isn't it?" The corollary goes unsaid, but here it is: "It is when you're the hero in a videogame."
That Day -- perhaps the most well-known ambassador of nerd culture -- is involved is equally distracting, serving as an umbilical link to real world and reinforcing how arbitrary and contrived the endeavor of videogaming can be.... read more