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Bioshock Infinite and How to Deal with Religious Wonder

[Spoiler free, but intended for those who’ve played the game]

The thing about Bioshock Infinite, apparent to anyone, is the sky-shattering, apocalyptic, and transcendent existence of the city of Columbia. So often, we speak about incredible settings as being “characters in themselves”: if this is true, then Columbia has many of the properties of the god from the Old Testament: Here is a place vengeful and jealous of other living spaces, which watches you, demands your love, attention, adoration; it demands the slaughter of all who oppose or threaten its existence. It is omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent: it knows all, can do all, and is all.

An interview with Far Cry 3’s Vaas, Michael Mando

Glaring at you across the box of Far Cry 3’s cover, he sits in sand as if born from it. A human head – dead? Alive? Between? – is submerged next to him, as if he’s bored playing with it. The gaming world was in awe and fear of Vaas from the first time he narrated the definition of insanity. This madness and darkness and all-round Conradian horror pulsates out of every moment Vaas is on-screen. Delivered to us through the brilliance of Michael Mando, Vaas as a whole came into existence through Mando’s brilliance – not through original planning. As if he’d tapped into and did his summoning from some dark realm, Michael told me of his own journey into Far Cry 3’s background “insanity”, with the incredible clarity of focus that makes his performance in Far Cry 3 the best performance in any medium of 2012.

‘Bioshock’ and the Genius of Video Game Narration

[Spoilers for Bioshock follow]

Would you kindly think back to that moment in Bioshock? That wall – covered with data and details, when all your murdering and killing and bashing mutants with pipes makes you finally question your character’s motivations: Why have I been doing all this? Who exactly is this guy I’m playing? Why have I been obeying the commands of some guy I’ve never met?

Then all is revealed.

‘Dishonored’ and the Widespread Infection on Modern Plots

[Spoilers ahead]

I see it before it happens, not through any skill but because we’ve all reached saturation point: allies morphing into enemies, the knock to the head, the poison, the haziness and collapse, the convenient space and time where my new enemies outline their reasons for their changed morality (which you recognise has been the same morality): whether they monologue like some Saturday morning cartoon villain, or surround me, talking in whispers at my partially conscious form - they helpfully tell me “why”.

How First Person Shooters mistake stupidity for openness

Imagine Dante stumbled across this circle of Hell: You have a name, a history; your actions are reflected upon by enemies and friends, alike; the only limbs you see are from your upper body, and then only to hold objects and swing them. You have no chest, no feet, seemingly floating like an angry ghost who cries out sometimes when attacked, or lashing out to attack others.

Welcome to the life of the generic player character of modern first-person shooters.

Telltale Games’ ‘The Walking Dead’ and the Power of Storytelling

The Zombie Apocalypse has already happened, only not a way any of us really expected: It's spread from games to comics, from films to TV series.

[Obligatory spoiler warning]

The banality of killing, with Spec Ops: The Line

Spec Ops is a smart, but self-mutilating, teenager of a game. It hates every moment of its existence and, since you’ve decided to experience the game, makes certain you experience its pain, its self-hatred, its auto-loathing, too.

[Beware – here be spoilers]

The Dissenting Voice: I will not let Sleeping Dogs lie

OK. So Gushing Garth has done his usual “Ah Luffs It!” at Sleeping Dogs – and also as usual I’m here to sour up the environment. It is, they say, a talent (or not, I forget). Let’s get a few preliminaries out the way: I love the game. It’s beautiful, bold, innovative, engaging. It has excellent voice-acting – aside from one or two minor moments, where my brows were so furrowed it looked like they were duelling; the game puts GTA IV, Saints Row and others to shame in many respects but in other places, it is severely lacking.

Moosa’s Musings: Fighting Online Trolls

Greetings, weary traveller. Rest, by this here fire and drink with me. I see by your face that you’re one of those ignorant souls who foolishly – foolishly, I say! – decided to combine two powerful items, that upon their fusing, create such chaos and darkness and horror it’s any wonder our world still remains! Aye, you would combine the bizarre notion of “being informed” about a topic plus – by Odin’s beard! – expressing it to others on the Interwebs! Ah, what dangerous lands these are.

Moosa’s Musings: Appraisal of absence not absolute

One of the most reiterated problems with the pirate-RPG Risen 2: Dark Waters, was its lack of playable pirate sailing and battles. I found this interesting, since not many have voiced that same opinion about benign transport for, say, Mass Effect.

True: You did manage to control forms of transport in all three games, from the awful Mako to the Normandy itself. But the big space battles only occurred during cutscenes: there was no Joker versus Collectors or Shepard versus space-pirates. I am glad those didn’t occur, since I was more interested in the actual brilliant RPG than the method of transportation of my characters.

Moosa’s Musings: What’s the point of game reviews?

Gavin recently noted that games that receive almost universal dislike from professional reviewers still sometimes sell better than ones highly praised. For example, Sniper Elite V2 sold better at one point than Mass Effect 3. Ignoring for the moment that sales don’t indicate quality – Twilight, anyone? – it is still interesting to wonder about game reviews’ purpose, in general. After all, if reviews that universally hated a game do nothing to reduce a game’s sales, then what is the point of reviews? To be clear, the aim of a critical review is not to reduce the sales of a game (though I did hope to stop at least two purchases with my column on Skyrim): but reduced sales of a game is usually a sign that people aren’t going to invest time and money, because they know it’s crap. And obviously people discover crappiness through reviews.

Gavin’s point was that this data means either that people don’t care about reviews or that they simply ignore them. Both are good things, but it doesn’t negate reviews altogether. It just means in many instances, reviews are ignored – it doesn’t prove reviews are pointless.

Silent Hill: Downpour review – Who’ll stop the rain?

Silent Hill isn’t so much a game franchise as it is the most sophisticated, mature journey of terror for people who too easily see the fake blood, the bad make-up, the bad guy around the corner. It’s a series designed to creep beneath the skin, curl around your veins, stick a finger in your heart and play you like a meat puppet to the tune of its own sick design. You don’t play Silent Hill to kill zombies or fight monsters; you don’t play it because you enjoy solving puzzles or enjoying the pretty background. No, you play Silent Hill to discover the dark places we go as a species, as creatures who still retain a belief in astrology but are able to travel to the moon. What’s more terrifying than any monster are the horrid places real humans go and what they become when the world becomes a mirror of their own Hell.

The question though is whether Silent Hill: Downpour, the eighth instalment in the franchise, manages to sustain this. After the rather moderate release that was Silent Hill: Homecoming (which I actually loved), many fans have been sceptical about Konami bringing anything remotely horrific to the table.

I’m glad to say they have, with much squealing and bleeding.

The Witcher 2 – a second take from an unfamiliar

Like many playing The Witcher 2, I had no real understanding of the previous events in the first game. This fundamentally undermined the entire experience for me. I constantly tried to remember names, races, groups, places, people, and, more importantly, what the different spells do (not pull or fire but "aard" and "igni". Sigh, seriously?).

It is an incredibly unfriendly game to newcomers and even makes RPG vets like myself feel unwelcome.

Moosa’s Musings: Art or Product? – This Has Nothing And Everything To Do With The Mass Effect 3 Ending.

[Spolier free - please keep the comments the same.]

This is a long post. So bear with me. TL;DR’s will go ignored as they always do, since displaying proudly that you didn’t read something has never been and will never be something I respect you for.

A game – that shall not be named – had a crappy ending, according to a couple people. Notice when we say “crappy” we have to, by definition, say “crappy to who?” Certainly it wasn’t crappy to Casey Hud… I mean, whoever made this game. The ending would not have been written if said creator thought it was crap. Also, there are some gamers who do think the ending was appropriate and had some “right” parts.

Why this is interesting to me is because of a dilemma that has come to light: To what extent do we, as consumers, have a right to influence the creative aspects of our creative mediums?

Moosa’s Musings: Unenforceable – Should age restrictions even exist?

“Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy.” – HL Mencken

Australia is often mocked for its Puritanical views, regarding what and how games are portrayed and sold within its kangaroo-lined borders. Blood must be changed to green, bodies disappear quickly, and all that. At least in 2009, it was the case that games required a rating in order to be sold there; but there was no “Mature” rating, a R18+ for example, which meant violent games couldn’t get a rating and therefore be sold at all. Fallout 3, Left 4 Dead, Aliens vs. Predator were all victims of this idiotic view.

What’s more interesting to me, though, is why and how games are classified.