Friday, February 22, 2013

Are We What We Play? May 03, 2008 9:51PM PST

is the name of a cool article on 1up's Home page right now. For those of you too lazy to read the full thing, here's a basic breakdown: They started this essay writing initiation based on this discussion initiating essay My take on the four essays are as follows: Shawn Elliot: essentially notes the unbelievable worlds and characters of most modern videogames and from that deduces that no, games do not say all that much about his true persona. I found this the most relatable argument for my tastes, perhaps because the two of us don't seem to be interested in "Second Life" type games. It might be the fact that I despise the leveling up systems in RPGs (if I'm going to look at that much freaking text and think that much about technical specs, someone's paying me to do it, not vice versa) or that as a Nintendo fan many of my avatars have been mutes but I have never had an emotional connection with any in-game characters. Not even in the I'm a hero, yay for me sense. I love playing games where I play the hero, but given the lack of any real character development therein (see: Zelda series) I fail to see how that's a comment on my personality. Take Sonic Adventure 2 for example. While I'm aware Shadow isn't much of a "bad guy" when you really think about it, it's the only game I've played where you play good and evil. Did I feel like a dick picking Shadow? No, I felt like his gliding shoes were a neat touch and thought nothing further. The only sense of "evil" the game alloted me was the chill through my very soul every time I played the hatefully and diabollically concocted piles of shit that were Knuckles' collectathon stages. However, I do wonder how I would respond to Bioshock, a game that actually looks appealing to me and reportedly conducts its narrative with actual use of either pathos, ethos, or logos (in other words it has something for the emotional or intellectual grey matter). But until I play a game so designed, like Shawn, my involvement with my videogame counterparts is purely mechanical. Jeff Green: acknowledges much of the 'purely mechanical' response to avatars in games, noting that Half-Life 2 essentially provides the player with a gun and not much else to use, thus the only reasonable response it's to shoot some shit with the crisis stoppers. However, unlike Shawn or myself, he's played games like Bioshock which actually toy with your moral compass. He can't kill the Little Sisters, too damn innocent. In Grand Theft Auto, he feels guilty for disrupting the peace of the city police. Having played only the ladder of these games myself, my opinion still lies perfectly in harmony with and echoing Shawn's. My response to those police? Boredom. I never understood what was so special about "sandbox" gameplay because if I want to do something "just for fun" I'll choose a productive real life activity like getting outside or playing some guitar recreationally. In my games however, I need some form of a risk/reward system for what I'm doing which means whenever the cops were after me in Rockstar's blockbuster it was simply an annoyance that would inevitably make the mission either that much harder or that much longer. I felt pangs of disgust or guilt rearding the sordid characters and what was portrayed in cutscenes, but I never once thought after a fun chase mission in the game "I wonder if I could steal my neighbor's Caddy, that'd be sweet". And I definitely feel guilty for even things that simply cause other people inconvenience in real life, so I'm not sure what the missions in this game are supposed to say about me. Jennifer Tsao: again notes the purely mechanical side of games, that whenever some game affects her life it's more a note on her lack of sleep and the physical consequences brought about through such detrimental activity. But then she references a bunch of crap that for the first time in this series provokes some dissent from me. She cites the fact that it's hard for most in modern times not to at least admit that something's culturally unsettling about the black zombies in RE5. Fair enough and a valid opinion whether or not I personally would prefer that we be far enough past the racial discussion hurdle that we can look at any race and not think a zombie game about them is an attack. Then she mentions Taki's grotesquely oversized breasts and their negative connotations for female gamers. I don't think male videogame characters are exactly sensitive models either, but at least they could achieve their fugures naturally and in the real world, so again a fair point. But then she notes Princess Peach's "dysfunctional" relationship with Mario as another factor in the distance between females and videogames. That's where I have to take issue and say her mind is far deeper in the gutter than Nintendo's on that one: whether or not it has undertones of "every female is helpless, and needs them a plumber man giiiiirl" I'm sure the daddy-issue abuse-by-turtle sexual phantasy she asserts is the reason for her continual capture by Bowser never crossed even the most immature shroom-influenced minds working on the game. Of course, this sounds like an entirely seperate issue but it does reveal something about Jennifer: she reads a bit far into the context of things, at least in my opinion. This leads me to her conclusion: that it's the discussion about videogames that needs to change, not the content. I'm not entirely savvy with the idea of making Peach anything more than a damsel in distress not because I hate women, but because 1) it's a tradition in Mario games and 2) it's not as if I think it makes Peach weak to be overpowered by something at least three times her bodyweight and twice as tall. Through discussing my take on this I feel as though me and Jennifer could easily reach common ground on what is offensive and what simply doesn't necessiatate that much analysm. Perhaps if we take both her suggestion and the suggestion of the essayist that wrote the piece that inspired this feature in discussing videogames more thoroughly we could indeed lead the debate on them.... and the uninformed media wouldn't have to. With that in mind, I do think some of the stuff on HBO's Real Sex is quite amoral and more appealing to the mammalian and unemotional side of human sex which I think is just trash, despite that it's a primal desire in all of us. ... Don't ask how I know what comes on that program... and don't look at me like you weren't just as curious in your early teens you filthy muggles. Shawn Molly: ends the series of small essays with an unconventional tale of lovers, one which I read thinking only his Sim was gay and it would all conclude in an immature joke regarding the possibilities of avatar life. In hindsight I'm not sure how he could have viewed the Phantom Menace in the world in The Sims and must have not been paying enough attention, but whatever my initial reaction, Shawn is gay in real life and his Sim was a mirror of himself. He did so because the game didn't judge this behavior. Will Wright apparently wasn't going to call the Old Testament police to beat this potential sodomizer senseless with ironically shaped night sticks. I've never personally escaped through videogames this way, but I've heard this "it doesn't judge you" talk before: from Marylin Manson decribing the escapism he used music CDs for as a youngster while defending his own profession in Michael Moore's Bowling for Columbine. As someone who's emotional escape has been music since I first heard Metallica's "Fade to Black" suicide ballad in Freshman year of high school, I'm going to try my best to relate this with Shawn's videogame escapism. Videogames and metal have some very interesting social stigmas in common: they're both enjoyed by two vastly different groups, many violent while many others have complete and utter disdain for violence; many who truly are dicks and many others who simply are not agreeable with the people around them despite intelligence and friendliness. Thing is, while these medias are used for escape by vastly different people, they provide communities for people who don't entirely fit in theirs. Shawn can live an entirely productive life and have the soothing therapy of at least a virtual community accepting of him, any random teen who can't relate to his immediate community's interests can sign onto Xbox Live and find a world of people like him (ok probably more dicks in this gene pool than any other area being mentioned, metal people are actually very nice and accepting for the most part) and I can get into a shouting match of obscure Megadeth lineups with a black t-shirt clad father of two with a well-to-do job who like the rest of us in attendance has turned 18 for the night. Are We What We Play? It doesn't matter. Not to me at least. What matters is that we can escape with these things, and potentially ingrain into society's minds through intellectual debate that these games are not valueless form of entertainment and expression, or at least have the potential not to be. .... I'm going to reread this and think I could have ended much more strongly and coherently but screw it, I'm hitting "Submit" out of pure tiredness.

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