Rick, Morty, & Cronenberg

This is and will always be a gaming blog, but a few months back I declared that this would no longer be an exclusively gaming blog. I even took the time to change the title of the blog from ‘DJMMT’S Gaming Blog’ to ‘DJMMT’s Gaming (& More) Blog’. But to be honest I really haven’t been true to the “& More” part of the title up until now. So I wanted to take the time to write about something not gaming that is still very much important to many if not most of the members of the gaming community today. I’m talking about Rick & Morty.

I, like any sane human being, love Rick & Morty. It’s an amazing show that’s funny, relatable (in a weird way), somewhat educational in the fact that it gets people thinking about scientific concepts even if not being completely realistic about them, and most importantly, it’s expertly written. It’s one of the only shows I can remember watching and saying it has only gotten better over time. Just about every episode is better than the last one and I don’t think there’s been a single episode that I was genuinely displeased with. Really no other show can make that claim for me. Not even Game of Thrones. I recently re-watched the first three seasons and I was impressed to find that there are really no inconsistencies in the writing. Everything is tied up really nicely and even the continuity of the writing from episode to episode and between dimensions is all pretty much perfect . . . except for one episode, that I noticed.

jessica

In Season 1, Episode 6, named Rick Potion #9, Rick creates a special love potion for Morty that will make Jessica fall in love with him. It works but because she had the flu when the potion was applied, it mutated and spread turning everyone into violent, love crazed maniacs, all trying to pretty much rape Morty to death. This potion is based on vole DNA. To counter this potion, Rick creates another potion based on praying mantis DNA, which then turns everyone into giant praying mantises that still want to rape Morty to death. Then Rick makes a third potion that infuses the DNA of several things (koala, rattlesnake, chimpanzee, cactus, shark, golden retriever) including dinosaurs (which are expressed as a single species rather than naming a specific type of dinosaur) and turns everyone into what are referred to as Cronenbergs.

The name Cronenbergs, in my opinion but not verified by a confirmed source, is in reference to director David Cronenberg, specifically because of his film The Fly (1986) where Jeff Goldblum’s genes are accidentally spliced with a fly, mutating him into a fly man and eventually a giant humanoid fly and then in the end splicing in metal turning him into a monstrosity that Geena Davis ultimately shoots in the head. By the end of the film, Jeff Goldblum is a disgusting amalgamation of parts similar to the mutated people at the end of Rick Potion #9.

cronenbergs

If we assume that I’m right about why the writers chose to refer to these monstrous mutants as Cronenbergs then the assumption is that both Rick and Morty have seen The Fly, which is why they are both comfortable referring to them as Cronenbergs almost instantly. This all makes perfect sense. But at the very end of the episode in the post credits scene something odd happens. In the same way that Rick and Morty escape to a dimension where the world hasn’t been “Cronenberged” (and the Rick and Morty of that dimension have died for unrelated reasons), a Cronenberg version of Rick and Morty portal into the now Cronenberged world of our Rick and Morty. Cronenberg Rick refers to Morty as “Cronenberg Morty”. The two go on to say that they come from a world where everyone started off as Cronenbergs and then Rick accidentally turned them into normal people (but for some unmentioned reason didn’t use the process on themselves). The Cronenberg Rick and Morty decide to stay in the now Cronenberg world and take the place of Rick and Morty C-137 in that dimension.

Cronenberg_Rick

There are two problems I have with this ending. The first is that Cronenberg Rick and Morty use the term “Cronenberg” to refer to mutated people. This makes no sense. The term Cronenberg applies to people who have been mutated to look abnormal like in the film The Fly by David Cronenberg. That’s why the term makes sense. But in a world where everyone was born a mutant, there is no justification for the term. In a world where everyone is a freakish mutant, David Cronenberg would not have made a film about a normal looking man mutating into a monster. If anything the film would be about a freakish monster mutating into a normal looking person, and normal people would be referred to as Cronenbergs. But Cronenberg Rick and Morty ignore this logical conclusion and refer to mutants, including themselves, as Cronenbergs. How and why would this be the case?

the fly
The Fly (1986) by David Cronenberg

Now clearly from the outside, the writers did this for the purposes of reference language already used in the episode in order to keep the viewers comfortable. But as far as writing goes, which again is perfectly sensible and consistent throughout the rest of the show, this is a travesty. It breaks an otherwise perfect show. I even tried to think of a justification for it occurring. The only way I could see Cronenberg Rick and Morty using the term Croneneberg to identify people that look like them is that they may have watched The Fly on interdimensional cable, which doesn’t actually get shown until two episodes after Rick Potion #9 in Rixty Minutes. They still would have had to decide to use the director’s name as an inside joke to refer to themselves, but that almost seems like creating a slur to refer to yourself and others with your mutated condition. They also could have traveled to a dimension with regular looking people, saw the film, and then did the same thing, but it still assumes they would decide to make a slur of sorts to refer to themselves. This seems out of character for Rick and certainly for Morty.

Paper Mario Color Splash Screenshot 2017-10-03 21-30-17

 

My other issue, which falls into the same episode, is that on multiple occasions, both at the end of Rick Potion #9 and in Season 3 Episode 1, The Rickshank Rickdemption, Morty’s original family from dimension C-137 are shown to have survived the Cronenberg outbreak and continued living their lives as post-apocalyptic scavengers. In both of these episodes Beth, Jerry, and Summer have survived but Cronenberg Rick & Morty are nowhere to be seen with them. It seems odd, considering Morty’s temperament, that they never tried to meet up with their alternate dimension family. Now this isn’t an inconsistency like them using the term Cronenberg as much as a peeve because if the creators took the time to show them enter that dimension it seems only logical that they would have referenced them in some way later, especially after taking the time to revisit that version of Earth two seasons later.

Now of course neither of these issues detracts from the show as a whole. It has and I hope will continue to be of the highest caliber of quality comedic writing. But I wanted to point out these two continuity issues, see if anyone else noticed them and has any theories about them, as well as see if anyone else has noticed any other inconsistencies throughout the show. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

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As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.
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Game of Groans (The Telltale GoT Experience)

I’m a fairly big fan of TellTale Games. They make excellent games and more importantly they make games that play differently than just about everything else on the mainstream market today. I don’t own all their games, but I own quite a few. Currently I have all the Sam & Max titles, Tales of Monkey Island, Back to the Future: The Game, Jurassic Park: The Game, The Walking Dead Season One, Poker Night 2, The Wolf Among Us, Batman: The TellTale Series, Guardians of the Galaxy: The TellTale Series, and currently I’m playing Game of Thrones. Now I have to admit that I have not yet completed all these games. In fact I’ve only completed a few of them. But I purchased them because I really like the studio and I enjoy their work, for the most part.

The first Telltale Games title I ever played to completion was The Wolf Among Us (TWAU). This is also the game that made this studio memorable to me. Before then it was just a name I may have heard from time to time but never took to heart. TWAU changed all that. That game is spectacular. It’s one of the most memorable point and clicks, if it can be called that, I’ve ever played. In my opinion, it is perfect in every way except for the inconclusive ending, which was intentional according to the studio. I am so glad they are finally making a season two and I will absolutely be buying it.

TWAU

Currently I’m playing Game of Thrones for the first time. I’m only past Episode 3. A few things to note right away are that I don’t love the art style but I’m ok with it. I love the writing, as per usual with modern TellTale Games titles. The story is weaved into the canon of Game of Thrones, the TV show, perfectly. But I am not happy with the way things seem to be playing out overall. There’s always a question of agency in games that let you make decisions. Whether it’s something epic like Mass Effect or Fable or something smaller like titles by TellTale Games, the ability to make choices must be executed properly or the whole experience is destroyed. In fact, I think that’s why so few games let you make decisions. It’s hard to manage the experience when the player gets to take the reins.

With all the TellTale titles I’ve played in the past that offered plot contingent choices, it always felt real. The decisions and their repercussions were executed correctly. Here correctly shall be defined as giving you an outcome that makes sense to the player based on the decisions they made that doesn’t appear to be the only possible outcome. That last bit is extremely important. Many games that have decisions are actually on rails. This is common knowledge. You make decisions and things branch out but ultimately they weave right back into the same path as everyone else’s choices. But the true art of making a game with decisions is making it seem like your choices actually mattered and led to the outcome you got. Mass Effect does this very well. TWAU does an equally good job considering the scale of the game. That’s one of the reasons I like it so much and why I took the time to platinum it, which required multiple (at least two) playthroughs. Game of Thrones however does not have this same effect when it comes to making decisions.

Let's Play Rise of the Tomb Raider Screenshot 2017-09-08 22-36-17

I like playing Game of Thrones but I rarely feel like my choices matter that much in the grand scheme of things. I noticed this at the end of Episode 1. If you haven’t played the game please be aware of spoilers ahead. The game centers on House Forrester. This is a house loyal to the Starks that have been plunged into turmoil after the Red Wedding, which is where the game starts. You play as multiple characters who are all members of House Forrester. One of them is the young Lord Ethon. He becomes Lord of the House after his father and oldest brother die at the Red Wedding. When playing as him you are tasked with making serious decisions about the future of the House and its struggles with House Whitehill, a rival house that been in conflict with House Forrester for generations. The Whitehills have the support of the Boltons so they now get to walk all over House Forrester. You make a number of choices and at the end of the episode Ramsay Bolton murders Ethon with no warning. It’s a shocking moment and was perfectly placed for that classic Game of Thrones shock value. But what I didn’t like was that I felt like I didn’t deserve that outcome. I made very conservative and politically minded decisions. Not the decisions I wanted to make but the ones I believed were the best way to prevent violence from breaking out and House Forrester being driven into a war they couldn’t win at that moment. Even with all my eggshell walking, Ethon still got stabbed in the neck.

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I usually don’t look these sorts of things up because I do replay TellTale Games titles when I feel like I could get vastly different outcomes. But in this case, the death felt so undeserved that I had to look it up. To my surprise and disappointment, it turns out you can’t save Ethon. No matter what you do he will be murdered by Ramsay Bolton at that meeting. For a TellTale title that’s a load of crap, and it feels like it. When you play TWAU everything feels authentic. You always feel like bad outcomes are your fault. Even when I played it a second time, making all different decisions, things felt authentic and different. That’s the way it should feel. With each episode of Game of Thrones I have continued to feel like I was trapped within a locked narrative and that my decisions were of little consequence. That’s not how these games are supposed to feel.

Sadly this seems to have become par for the course for TellTale Games in recent years. Upon doing more research, I found out that you get a platinum trophy on PS3/4 just for completing all the episodes in Game of Thrones. The same is apparently true for Batman: The TellTale Series, The Walking Dead: A New Frontier, Tales From the Borderlands, and Guardians of the Galaxy: The Telltale Series. In all these games you get a platinum just for reaching the end of the game no matter what you do. This is not the case for TWAU and it leads me to believe that not much difference occurs from playthrough to playthrough. Why else would it be so easy to get a platinum? The only logical explanation is that you won’t gain much or possibly any additional plotlines if you replay these games. That’s a shame and goes directly against why I originally became a TellTale Games fan.

platinum

Now I can understand why things like this might occur. All these titles are based on currently existing film and/or game properties. This means that the story has to follow certain paths in order to stay within the canon of the work. For instance, they could never have a scenario in Game of Thrones where Ramsay Bolton dies at the hands of House Forrester because he dies at the hands of Sansa Stark after the Battle of the Bastards. This is show canon. Now that might excuse the more set in stone plot(s), but it doesn’t excuse the execution of them. Even if my choices don’t really matter, they still need to make me feel like they do. Otherwise this is just an ugly, fairly uneventful as far as gameplay is concerned, rails story game. While that might be fine in a game with great gameplay, it’s not ok in what is for the most part a glorified point and click.

I am very much saddened by what seems to be the current and future state of TellTale Games titles. This is especially disappointing if it ends up ruining The Wolf Among Us Season Two. If this change in style is the result of all these big franchise adaptations then that’s terrible news because that’s basically all the studio is doing these days. I’d like to see a return to true form and I hope that one day in the near future they make authentic stories that don’t feel hollow once again.

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Too Many Lives to Live

For the last few weeks I’ve been playing Xenoblade Chronicles X on the Wii U. This is a game I purchased in 2015 at the behest of basically everyone I knew/know who has a Wii U. I had no previous experience or serious knowledge of the Xenoblade franchise but everyone just kept praising the game so I bought it during a Black Friday sale. I have to admit that it’s a great game. It’s by no means perfect and there are a number of issues I have with it, but overall I’m happy I bought it and that I’m finally getting to play it. This is actually the second to last game I still need to beat before I retire my Wii U and move on to the Nintendo Switch. I may still end up buying Star Fox Zero against my better judgement, but only if Nintendo drops it to a fair price.

RIP-WiiU

I’m more than 60 hours into Xenoblade Chronicles X and while the game is quite good, it drags on a lot. Mostly because of the slow grinding system and terrible money acquisition to item cost ratio. I was promised 100 hours to beat this game and I honestly think that will be the case. I can’t remember the last time I played a serious triple digit RPG. I play RPGs all the time but I’m not the type to replay games or buy DLC so games like Dark Souls usually take me under 50 hours. I couldn’t even tell you the last JRPG I completed. But I’m going to complete this one.

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Xenoblade Chronicles X

In the midst of playing this second to last Wii U game I realized that my next/last planned Wii U game, Super Mario Color Splash, is also an RPG. Then I looked at my PS4 library and among my serious considerations backlog are Final Fantasy VII, Final Fantasy XV, World of Final Fantasy, Dark Souls III, Digimon: Cyber Sleuth, and I started but haven’t finished Bloodborne and Atelier Firis – The Alchemist and the Mysterious Journey. Then I looked at my Steam and GOG libraries only to discover that I need to beat Lord of the Fallen, The Witcher 2 (yes that’s 2), and ideally I’ll take the time to go old school and actually play Jade Empire. Plus I’m already committed to buying Nioh and The Surge for PS4. That’s 13 RPGs plus the one I’m currently playing. And it’s not even counting all the non-RPG games in my backlog.

ff periodic 2

Suddenly I find myself asking why do I keep buying RPGs? I don’t even have time to finish the ones I have. Who does? How can an adult with a full time job, a girlfriend, not to mention a blog and YouTube channel, possibly find the time to beat all these super long games? My gaming goals for 2017 included 7 RPGs. It’s basically September and I’m on only the second one. What’s a gamer to do in this situation? It’s not like I can just pass on all these highly acclaimed epic games I purchased.

Am I alone in this situation? Is anyone buried in RPGs with no time to play them? Have I been an irresponsible gamer? Let me know how your backlog and 2017 gaming goals are going in the comments.

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As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

Daughters and Sons (God of War IV)

If you’ve been reading my blog for a long time then you know that I’m a huge God of War fan. At one point it would have been accurate to even call me a fanboy because I thought Santa Monica Studio could do no wrong with this franchise. That ended with God of War: Ascension. It was a game that didn’t need to be made, didn’t do anything particularly new or impressive, and cheated me on the season pass. Even though they promised future DLC they actually released no additional single player content and all the additional multiplayer content was released for free. That means I paid for a season pass that literally got me nothing, except some PSN avatars and a dynamic theme. Since then I have not ceased to be a fan of the franchise, but I’m also no longer a diehard fanboy. I now judge the series from a much more objective standpoint and have often been very critical of more recent decisions. A good example of this is that I have been avidly opposed to the upcoming God of War IV pretty much since the announcement.

god-of-war-kratos-norse-thor

I was highly against the idea of God of War IV not because I want the franchise to end. Quite the opposite actually. It’s one of my favorite franchises of all time. I still remember the first time I beat the hydra in the very first game. My uncle was watching and we were both blown away. This was in many ways the moment where I decided I wanted to work in the gaming industry. I wanted to be involved in something that would blow people away like that. The reality is that I want(ed) to see many more games in the franchise but I don’t think they need to make any more starring Kratos. In my opinion, God of War III ended perfectly.  We were led to believe that Kratos killed himself and that his story was over. Now it’s fine that he’s still alive in this upcoming installment because it’s canon that Kratos never stays dead for long. He died in both God of War I and II only to come back and whoop some more ass. But his story concluded perfectly at the end of III. I really see no reason why they felt the need to continue his story. I felt the same way with how they handled Ascension. It was a pointless game that just milked Kratos because he’s marketable. What I wanted was for a new character to be introduced that would take on a similar plot to destroy the gods of his culture that had nothing to do with Kratos or Hellenic beliefs. At most a Kratos Easter egg is all I would have wanted. But instead they chose to once again focus on Kratos but now he’s in the Norse world.

norse mythology
That fight better happen.

Let me be very clear and say that there is nothing wrong with setting a God of War game in Norse mythology. That’s one of the best cultures to do a God of War series of games in. But making Kratos the star takes so much away from the overall plot. What I like about God of War is that the franchise is not just mindless hack-n-slash battles and large breasted sex mini-games, though both of those things do add a lot to the experience. While some people won’t agree, I actually think the God of War franchise has a great story with a great main protagonist. Kratos is a man plagued by the fact that he was tricked into murdering his wife and daughter and then later his mother as well. His whole life is just one big shit show that was orchestrated by the gods. This motivation makes for a great adventure where a man takes his destiny into his own hands and literally kills all the gods, except Aphrodite, in vengeance. The story is powerful, visceral, cathartic, and most importantly, memorable. But one of the main reasons the story works so well is that Kratos is part of it on a cultural level. He’s not some visitor from another land like William in Nioh. And he’s not some random faceless, emotionless NPC turned playable character like the Dovahkiin in Skyrim. He’s actively a part of Greek culture and starts out as a true believer, actively serving the gods to make penance for his crimes. This is such an important part of the story.

Placing Kratos in Norse mythology makes no sense. There’s no real justification for it and he has no real connection to the culture and gods of that world. He’s just a stranger mindlessly toppling a religion like a conquering Spaniard taking over South America. It’s not personal to him. I think that’s the main reason they gave him a son in this game.

old kratos

I am so avidly opposed to the Dad of War concept. In fact, I even wrote an article about it on Gaming Rebellion. There are a number of reasons I don’t like it. Again, remember that this entire line of thinking follows my original opinion that Kratos should not be the main protagonist of any more games. The trailer makes Kratos seem like this caring father to a less than impressive son. If you’ve played all the other games then you too found his lack of a bad temper, patience, and calm demeanor to be very uncharacteristic of Kratos. His son literally shoots him at one point in the middle of a battle and Kratos pretty much shrugs it off. I’m sorry, but that’s just not Kratos.

Mechanically speaking, the concept doesn’t really fit a God of War game. Obviously having not played it yet, I can’t say for sure, but I imagine the game will have some similarities to Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. You’ll be responsible for protecting and commanding this boy. While this will be a new addition to the gameplay, which can be a good thing for longstanding franchises, it will most likely slow the game’s combat down noticeably. God of War is traditionally fast paced combat. To destroy that general concept essentially ruins Kratos’ legacy. This could have been easily avoided as a problem if they would have just changed main characters so we had no long established expectations of him as a main protagonist. But again, I think the lack of connection and thus emotion in reference to the Norse mythology from Kratos is the main reason they decided to add in a child. It automatically gives Kratos some emotional baggage to connect with the story.  That’s a lazy trick, but I understand it. My only real question is why did they choose a son instead of a daughter?

enslaved

Let me preface this part of the article by saying that this is not about to turn into an SJW argument about why female characters should be portrayed more in games. Not at all. The fact is that I genuinely believe that it would have suited this already questionable story better to have made the next God of War game to be about Kratos and his daughter instead of a son. There’s a logical, canon based reason for this opinion.

One of Kratos’ darkest moments and emotions comes from the fact that he murdered his own daughter, Calliope. And the theme of fathering a daughter comes up all throughout the franchise. It’s especially important in Chains of Olympus, III, and Ascension. And in all these instances Kratos never truly succeeds at saving his daughter, surrogate or actual. This is exactly why I think he should have a daughter in IV instead of a son.

calliope

The new story shouldn’t be about him trying to raise a boy who already seems to be weak and useless. It should be about him raising a daughter and gaining redemption for the daughter he lost. But this time he doesn’t just try to protect her. He raises her to protect herself. Suddenly his new found patience and affection would make perfect sense. And it would keep the tension extremely high because you would constantly be expecting something terrible to happen to the daughter, like so many times before. Also Nordic culture happens to be one of the only cultures American males, the main market for the franchise, are familiar with having female warriors so it wouldn’t even be out of place for Kratos to have a girl fighting alongside him. On all counts this just seems like a sorely missed opportunity that would have helped so much with continuity between the Greek games and this new series of Norse ones. I really don’t see how they missed this. I already don’t like the boy and much of the reason for that is because he displays characteristics that would make way more sense coming from a daughter of Kratos.

I’m certainly gonna buy God of War IV, but this will be the first main console title in the franchise that I don’t buy at release. This was an opportunity to tell a powerful story that would have altered the Kratos mythos noticeably without coming off as odd for the character. Instead we’re stuck with this daddy day care scenario where his whiny, useless son just gets in the way and cries about killing deer. I expect better from Santa Monica Studio.

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As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

What is a Beta in 2017?

This week I published an article on Gaming Rebellion about the current state of betas. I specifically focused on the recent Destiny 2 console beta. Here’s the introduction:

Recently, Bungie hosted a console beta for Destiny 2. Supposedly a PC beta will be hosted sometime in late August before the release on September 6th of this year. I have lived through multiple eras of beta practices, but today it seems like betas are hard to even really define.

Call-of-Duty-WW2-Beta

When I was a kid, there was no online gaming. Beta testing literally required you to be invited to go to a facility or development studio and try a pre-build of the game. This was such an honor to users and so hard to get into that even just knowing someone who had been in an actual beta was kind of a big deal. Developers valued this feedback and took it seriously. So much so that even though most true gamers would have done them for free, studios would actually pay people to take the time to go their offices and play beta builds. The ultimate purpose of these betas was to collect feedback to help improve the game. They were done well before a game was being released and required you to fill out a large questionnaire or take part in a group discussion after playing the beta, before leaving the studio. Sadly, I never got to take part in any of these personally.

You can read the rest right here. Please check out my Author’s Archive for other articles by me on Gaming Rebellion.

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As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

A Life Changing Experience

I was in the hospital last week. I was fine and suddenly I had pain in my gums. I’m one of those people who grew up without healthcare so I never go to the doctor for things unless absolutely necessary. The fact that I went to the dentist the next day shows just how painful it really was. But at no point was I genuinely worried about my safety. They told me I had a severe infection and that I had to have a tooth pulled, but that it could be replaced with an implant. At my age, this news didn’t trouble me because the tooth in question had a long history of troubles going all the way back to a skateboarding accident from my childhood. This wouldn’t even be the first time this tooth had left my mouth, if that tells you anything. Really I was just happy to know that the reason I was having pain was obvious and that it could be easily treated and that I could get a replacement tooth fairly easily. And since I no longer live in the United States, I could get this all fixed affordably as well. I was supposed to have the tooth removed a mere three days after that initial visit to the dentist. They gave me some pain killers and said just hold out till the surgery and then the pain will all be gone. I was happy with this situation. Less than 10 hours later I was in the hospital suffering from a high fever brought on by the infection.

I am alive

I’m ok now. I spent more than two days in the hospital and missed my appointment to remove the tooth, but by the time you read this I will have not only been released from the hospital but also had the tooth removed, returned to work, and be on the road to getting my implant. I’m very fortunate to have had such an easy hospitalization. That was my first and hopefully only time I’ll ever be hospitalized for an extended period of time. But this experience, however mild it was compared to the countless other people who have had the misfortune of being hospitalized, really gave me some perspective. Without trying to sound cliché, I realized that life is short. And more importantly, I realized just how much of it I’ve been wasting trying to please other people.

I started this blog and accompanying YouTube, Twitch, and Twitter channels/accounts almost four years ago. To date I have published a blog post, almost always multiple single spaced pages, every week. I’ve published more than 100 reviews for several platforms for multiple websites. I’ve tweeted every day, multiple times a day, for a grand total of more than 48K tweets. I’ve posted more than 300 videos, most of which are serious full length gameplay episodes. All that is to say that I’ve put a lot into gaming related content creation, and that’s not a bad thing. But as a man on the wrong side of 25, or even 27, I have spent way too much time doing things for the benefit of other people and as a consequence have taken away from my own personal enjoyment and goals. That’s gonna change immediately.

 

content overload

I take schedules and commitments very seriously. That’s why I’ve made sure to publish content on the schedule that I have since November of 2013 with a nearly flawless record. But to this day I gain no actual returns from all this content creation. I have no Patreon supporters, my following on my blog, YouTube, and Twitch channel are laughable considering the amount of time I’ve put in, and to this day I’ve never received a single donation of any kind as a direct result of my content creation, with the possible exception of Twitter and never in monetary form. This is fine. I’m fortunate enough to have a real job in this economy that allows me to still be able to purchase video games and create content without requiring any returns from my content creation. Do I wish I made money for all the hard work I put in? Of course. Can I live without it? I have for the last four years. While it’s sad to not be recognized for all my content with any form of monetary compensation, it also allows me a great deal of freedom compared to other content creators who do make money for their work. I can make whatever changes I want whenever I want and the repercussions are at best non-existent or at worst inconsequential. I may lose a few followers here and there, but I never had that many to begin with. So unlike content creators who are bound to their following for survival, I can literally do whatever I want. And my recent hospital experience showed me that what I want is less unpaid responsibilities and more time to pursue my own personal goals.

dream-deferred Big

It’s always been my dream to write a novel. I’ve done all the ground work for this project including writing a 200 page treatment and six page detailed chapter outline. I’m serious about this project but have never been able to make the time for it until now. I have so many unfinished and unplayed games in my backlog. I just built a new gaming PC and haven’t even loaded up a single game yet due to lack of time. I also have a stack of books I’ve bought in the last year that I have yet to read. These are just some of the things I’d like to do but haven’t been able to make time for. So effective immediately I’m shifting gears in my life. Content creation will no longer be treated like a job or responsibility. It will now be completely for fun. What this means is no more strictly adhered to schedule of content creation. If I want to write a blog post, I will. If I want to publish a video, I will. If I want to stream, I will. And if I’m not in the mood for whatever reason or just didn’t have the time or wasn’t inspired to make content in a particular week, then I won’t. No more guaranteed weekly posts. That doesn’t necessarily mean content won’t be published on a weekly basis. It simply means that I will no longer hold myself to that standard. If I genuinely want to create content at that frequency then I will. And if I’m not in the mood to publish something in a given week then I won’t.

 

time for me small

I want to be clear that this is not me declaring the end of this blog or any of my related content outlets. I have put too much time and effort into this project to just throw it all away and I’m also deeply entrenched into the gaming community. I literally could not stop creating content if I wanted to. Especially now that I have a beast of a rig that will allow me to record 1080p 60 FPS gameplay vids and a high quality microphone to capture commentary. If anything I’ll be making YouTube videos and streaming more than ever before. And honestly I can’t see the gaming industry and community just magically fixing all its current problems and never having any more, so there will always be a reason for me to post on this blog. Not to mention the fact that I genuinely love Twitter. I just want to make content solely from interest and desire rather than responsibility from here on out. Or at least until such time as content creation becomes a real paid job that warrants me taking it as seriously as I have for more than three and half years.

If any of this makes you unhappy, I’m genuinely sorry. It was not my intention to disappoint any of my loyal readers, subscribers, or followers. But I hope you can at least understand my position and support my desire to pursue my personal goals in order to live a more fulfilling life. Thank you for reading and for your support past, present, and/or future.

*Also, from now on I’m not just limiting this blog to gaming. Movies and TV are fair game from now on as well since the communities and my interests in those subjects are very much intertwined.

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As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels if you enjoyed what you read.

Character Creators Kill Characters

This is an awkward time in game development. It’s a moment where more people than ever before are playing video games. No longer is it realistic to claim that any one group, gender, race, religion, or country makes up the majority of gamers. The gaming community now contains people from all walks of life from just about every country in the world. There are arguments about which markets matter the most based on size, but as far as actual gaming audience is concerned, it’s pretty much everybody.

This diverse array of gamers is a good thing for many reasons. But because of the selfish narcissism of most people, especially gamers, we’re also seeing some terrible repercussions because of this diversity. Today, more than ever before, people (not just gamers) have gotten it into their head that they matter a majority of the time. Things like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube have given everyone a voice and for some reason that has led every asshole with a smartphone into believing that their opinions matter and that all works of entertainment should be tailor made for them specifically. And when it’s not made for them they whine, organize, riot, and literally destroy people’s careers and lives.

Your Opinion Big

I’m not talking about any one particular group here. Because so many groups are guilty of this new brand of arrogance. White men, homosexuals, racial minorities, women, and so on. All these groups and many more have on numerous recent occasions complained about a specific game or the industry as a whole simply because it did something they didn’t like or didn’t focus on their identifying group. Even not including a particular group in a game can cause an uproar. The problem with all this is that it has led many developers to try to work around the problem in ways that are easy and shown to be effective for basically all types of gamers. For me one of the worst ways this is being done today is with character creators.

Character creators are an interesting problem because they come from the best intentions. In many ways they’re the perfect form of escapism. When a game has a good character creator, you can literally put yourself in the game or be whoever you want to be. The problem is that this is mostly superficial. Let me clarify that moving forward, all mention of games in this post will refer to plot based campaigns. Multiplayer PVP scenarios are pretty much irrelevant to this particular discussion other than in the fact that they only add to the problem I’ll be addressing in a roundabout way. Multiplayer plot based campaigns are completely relevant though and definitely should be considered when thinking about this topic.

TLoU

Arguably the most important thing about a plot based campaign is the story. I said story there instead of plot because there is a difference. A game can have an amazing plot but if the story isn’t told right then the experience of the campaign will ultimately fail. The way a story is told, the way the characters interact, and the reasons behind why things happen in a story are all important parts of the experience. Think about any game with a good story and imagine if things where presented differently. Let’s use The Last of Us as an example. A game that’s often championed for having such an amazing story. Now imagine for a second if the game had done just a few things differently. All other things being equal, how would people have responded to the story if Joel had lost a son instead of a daughter, it’s revealed that Ellie will have to die to save the world at the beginning of the game, and/or Joel was Asian instead of Caucasian? I think most people would agree that while the gameplay would still be good and the plot would still be interesting, the overall experience of the story would be much less powerful if even just one of those three proposed changes had taken effect. The drama of the story comes from the fact that Joel and Ellie connect on a familial level because she reminds him of his deceased daughter. And the fact that he believes the world can be saved without her having to die from the beginning is what allows that connection to form by the end, literally sacrificing the rest of the world as a consequence of that connection. But in a scenario where you could create your own character, that story would be considerably less powerful.

Joels Daughter Dying

Joel and Ellie aren’t blood relatives. It would have been completely believable and possible for a Black, Asian, Latino or member of any other ethnic group, man or woman, heterosexual or homosexual to be put in the scenario of Joel. The story is that random survivor is tasked with escorting a random girl across the country. Either character could have been any mixture of identifiers and the story would still make perfect sense. But any significant change of profile could drastically reduce the impact of their relationship and by extension story. Therein lays the problem with character creators. They hurt the story in a game. Because no matter much effort a developer tries to make a character neutral story, it will never be as good as a targeted narrative. It’s literally impossible to do.

Modern Tomb Raider games are so powerful because of the vulnerability assumed by a young Lara Croft, a Caucasian female from a wealthy family whose biggest problem was losing her father at a young age. Imagine how much less impressive the character would be if she was a South American boy from Brazil who grew up in the slums of Rio de Janeiro. Now I’m not saying that a great story couldn’t be told starring a Brazilian male from humble beginnings. I’m just saying that the impact of the story in moments where men trapped on an island capture the character and threaten various physical abuses wouldn’t be nearly as powerful if he was the protagonist. That’s what storytelling is: Putting characters in situations that are impactful for them, not you. You as the audience are supposed to put yourself in the shoes of the character. Not the other way around.

Lara Captured

The problem with plot based games using character creators is that either the game is written for a specific character/audience, usually a heterosexual Caucasian male, and then blanket applied to all created characters regardless of important details like race, gender, and sexuality, or the game is written in such a way that nothing personal ever happens. Take Far Cry 5, which I can’t wait to play. The story of a deputy going into rural Montana to stop a predominantly, if not exclusively, White cult that is literally kidnapping and sacrificing people to their image of God. The game will have a character creator that will allow for male and female characters of any race. Now I don’t think it’s ridiculous to assume that if I, an African American male, walked into rural Montana today that I would probably be treated differently than either a Caucasian or Latino male and even more differently than a female of any race. And if that part of Montana was being run by a redneck cult, I believe that would be even more noticeable. Unless of course the cult genuinely has no preferences for their victims because their god told them that all people who aren’t in the cult need to be equally discriminated against and they were all pure and true believers/followers. But let’s be honest and admit that all people would not have the exact same experience walking into rural Montana. Having not yet played the game, I cannot say for sure if Ubisoft has done anything to differentiate the experiences of created avatars based on race and gender among other identifiers in this newest Far Cry. But I can say that in general most games don’t. Especially those from Ubisoft. I played The Division as a Black male. I didn’t experience anything that called attention to the race of my character. Sure the game is set in a post-apocalyptic virus state but it’s still New York City. Someone would say something about race at some point. They wrote the story as if all people are exactly the same. For the most part, that’s what happens in games with character creators. And it’s the least effective means of storytelling a majority of the time.

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Some companies do put in the time to at least try to differentiate characters you create in their games. BioWare, specifically with Dragon Age, is a good example of this. The ability to choose things like origin, species (which is different from race in reality), and sexual preference all help to differentiate the gameplay experience of each player and try to tailor an experience relevant to their avatar. And they do a decent job. But part of the reason they get away with it is that they create games with scenarios where human differentiation doesn’t really make sense. In both Dragon Age and Mass Effect, you have multiple species of people living among each other. There are prejudices. There are questions about species mixing and sexuality. There are ethical and moral issues that players are forced to make decisions about and then hear the opinions about these choices from various NPCs. But none of these moments take into account current real life human experiences, because they don’t really have to. People today may differentiate based on skin color, but I can guarantee you that if tomorrow five other sentient species of alien races started living on this planet basically all people would stop seeing human race as an issue. You’re not gonna think twice about the Black guy down the block endangering your neighborhood when your next door neighbor is a giant walking lizard that can lift you off the ground and rip you in half. Human racism makes no sense in these scenarios. Hell, it barely makes sense in current real life scenarios. The games still have racism, but it’s never between members of the same species.

DAI Character Creator

That’s how BioWare chose to deal with the problem of balancing out character creators and narrative. It works, but not every game has aliens and sentient non-human races. That trick won’t work in Far Cry 5. That game will most likely just suffer from bland character experiences and rely heavily on the enemies being so interesting that you ignore the fact that your own character is having a pretty much vanilla experience. What’s sad though is that people are happily championing the spread of character creators in games. All these minority groups are happily accepting White male characters with coats of paint rather than demanding games with plots written for their group. For me that’s a problem, not only because I do want to see more actual games starring Black protagonists but also because I play games for the story. And I don’t like bland plots that aren’t personal. In a PVP scenario I love creating my own character. In a game that pretty much has no real story like Dark Souls, character creators are fine because that’s pretty much all gameplay anyway. But when a company is trying to sell me a plot as the main selling point of the game, I expect a well written, personal, and realistic story. That story doesn’t have to be about someone I personally identify with, but it needs to be good. But there’s the rub. Most people today don’t seem to have my open minded tolerance for games that aren’t made for them specifically. They would prefer superficial experiences where they can take screenshots of their avatar looking the way they want so they can post them on Twitter rather than experiencing an Oscar worthy narrative. For me that’s a problem.

Dark Souls Character

The issue of diversity in video games is definitely an important one. But I would never agree that it’s so important that general quality of single player campaigns should go down as a result of trying to fix that issue. Instead I think this should be seen as an opportunity for developers of all sizes to make more games with more variation between them. Rather than try to make a game for everyone that no one will love. Make everyone their own game and everyone should be happy with their one game (a year). Not every game needs to be for everyone and not every group needs to be represented in every game. Instead when groups are represented in games it should be done to the highest possible quality and realism. That’s why for me the modern proliferation of character creators in games isn’t a good thing. I’ll take one well written game starring a Black guy over five empty games where I can pretend the character is a Black guy any day. Thoughts?

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As always, thanks for reading. Please take the time to follow my blog, leave a comment, and check out some of my other channels and Patreon if you enjoyed what you read.