What Are You Playing Wednesday

A map of The Fade from Dragon Age.

A map of The Fade from Dragon Age.

Welcome back to the weekly question session:

  • What games are you playing this week?
  • Would you recommend those games to other Border House readers?
  • What games have you ranting?
  • Are any of those games listed ones that you want to see covered on the site?

I have still been continuing my replay Dragon Age: Origins. I adore this whole series. I am in Denerim and it is hard for me to roleplay this character and her reactions because I, as the player, know more about the situation than she does right now. That has been my current struggle.

So, what have you been playing this week?

What Are You Playing Thursday

LEGO: Marvel Super Heroes featuring Iron Man and the Hulk in an early stage of the game.

LEGO: Marvel Super Heroes featuring Iron Man and the Hulk in an early stage of the game.

A migraine prevented me from posting yesterday so we have a delayed weekly question post:

  • What games are you playing this week?
  • Would you recommend those games to other Border House readers?
  • What games have you ranting?
  • Are any of those games listed ones that you want to see covered on the site?

I have been playing LEGO: Marvel Super Heroes, which is just a lot of fun! I really enjoy all of the LEGO games.

But, most of my gaming time has been spent with Dragon Age: Origins. I had some friends that started playing the series for the first time which reminded me that I had lost my Dragon Age save files when my PS3 hard drive died. So I am restarting my game and am loving it as much as I did the first time around.

So, what have you been playing?

What Are You Playing Wednesday

Concept art for Rita from Tales of Vesperia: a girl with short brown hair, goggles, and a red outfit.

Concept art for Rita from Tales of Vesperia: a girl with short brown hair, wearing goggles and a mostly red outfit.

It is Wednesday question time again:

  • Would you recommend those games to other Border House readers?
  • What games have you ranting?
  • Are any of those games listed ones that you want to see covered on the site?

I have been playing a lot of Dragon Age: Origins this past week. I lost my Dragon Age saves when my PS3 hard drive died so I am finally going back and restarting the games. I am actually changing the play through from my original canon.

I also started Broken Age from the Double Fine Kickstarter campaign. So far the art style is wonderful and it has already elicited a few laughs from me.

Finally, I went back to Tales of Vesperia to try to clear out some of my backlog.

So, what have you been playing?

What Are You Playing Wednesday

Hermione, Hagrid, and Ron in LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4

Hermione, Hagrid, and Ron in LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4

It is Wednesday question time –>

  • What games are you playing this week?
  • Would you recommend those games to other Border House readers?
  • What games have you ranting?
  • Are any of those games listed ones that you want to see covered on the site?

This last week I have been playing all LEGO games. I finished LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4 and then started the sequel (which covers the last few books/movies).

So, what have you been playing?

 

Diary of a Western Videogame Protagonist

Joel, the protagonist of The Last of Us. He has a scruffy beard and a furrowed brow.
Day 1 – I got a haircut today. It’s a lot shorter now but not working class short, not army short. Back at home, Sarah said that she liked it, that she could see herself playfully gripping tufts of my hair during sex. I said, “Why don’t we test that hypothesis?” and she obliged. God, I love her so much. If anything were to happen to her, I swear…

Day 2 - Sarah’s dead. And just one day after our scene of mildly erotic domestic bliss, too. To mark my loss, I refused to shave today. Shaving would somehow cheapen her passing. And besides, revenge is a dish best served scruffy.

Day 3 - I know who did it and they’re going to pay. Before they took Sarah, my rage was just barely contained, like the infinitely dense point of matter that gave birth to this whole goddamn universe. It’s not that I didn’t have access to a wellspring of manly anger before her death, it’s just that there was no need to unleash it on an unprepared world. But now that she’s gone, there’s nothing standing in my way. Get ready for my big bang.

Day 4 - Killed my first enemy today. Afterward, I looked down at the blood on my hands and thought some deep thoughts about the consequences of my actions, about the effects that this act of violence might have on my character. Would I become just like them? Would revenge fill the void of Sarah’s absence or would it leave me feeling hollow? I didn’t have answers to these questions but I felt in my gut that the only way to resolve them was to pick up a gun and press onward.

Day 5 - My enemies speak with an accent I can’t identify. I’ve been puzzling over it since the start of this whole affair. It’s really starting to bother me. Where are they from? Central America? Eastern Europe? South Asia? Should I ask one of them? I mean, I can’t exactly engage in conversation during the middle of a gunfight but maybe if I carefully incapacitate one of them with a non-mortal wound, I can ask him about his ethnic background before delivering the death blow.

Day 6 - Thought a lot about Sarah’s death today. It was snowing when I found her. I stared in horror at the ground where her body lay, at the painful contrast of blood red and snow white. Something about it made me think about the purity of femininity, about that ineffable, unattainable, effortless quality that Sarah had about her, an aura that seemed irrevocably tied to her downy white breasts and her long, flowing hair. Sarah was my redemption, my one chance to soften the rough edges of my life with something soft, sweet, aromatic. And now she’s gone forever, the most precious woman in the world unceremoniously slain by a group of vaguely ethnic mercenaries.

A gravestone from Max Payne 3.

Day 7 - It’s getting easier to kill people. The first person I killed presented a staggering moral and physical challenge; the most recent person I killed was like an ant beneath my boot. The more people I kill, the better I get at killing people. The quantity of people I have killed and my skill at killing them are positively correlated variables. Killing people is like riding a bike: once you learn how to do it, you’ll never unlearn it. Killing people? It’s like having sex: you never forget your first time and, once you’you’ve tried it, you’ll want to do it over and over.

Day 8 - Thought about giving up today. Sarah’s dead. I’ve killed six dozen people which seems like a lot, come to think of it. And I haven’t changed my clothes all week. But then I looked at the folded picture of Sarah that I store in my wallet. She would want me to keep going. She wouldn’t want me to stop until they’re all dead. I can hear her whispering to me now from beyond the veil: “If I have to be in heaven without you, I want you to send them all to hell.”

Day 9 - I lost track of how many people I’ve killed. Sobering. But I also got my first headshot today! Excuse my exuberance. Killing is wrong, of course, and it’s only justified in my case because of Sarah’s death. Sure, the explosion of viscera that accompanies a perfectly precise pistol shot has a certain aesthetic appeal. The way in which that single perfunctory bullet triggers such a sudden display of grotesque bodily excess is, I’ll admit, nothing short of remarkable. If I have to shoulder the unpleasant burden of vengeance, is it really so bad if I take a little pride in my necessary labor?

Day 10 - Food is starting to get caught in my scruff. Sometimes it’s gross, other times it’s tasty. I’ve been thinking that even after I avenge Sarah, I might keep the beard. More on that later.

Day 11 - I remember reading some Walt Whitman in high school. I had to memorize one of his poems once, the really famous one: “I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable, I sound my barbaric YAWP over the roofs of the world.” I think I’m starting to understand how Whitman felt when he wrote that. Sarah’s death has defined me or, rather, it’s unrefined me, putting me in touch with a part of myself that is wild, independent, even triumphant. In a funny way, this quest for revenge might be the best thing that’s ever happened to me.

Day 12 - Passed the fifty headshot mark today and rewarded myself with a stiff drink. I have the strangest notion that something good will happen when I reach one hundred. I don’t know why, I don’t know what, but somehow I just know that when I pass one hundred headshots, I’ll be able to feel like I’ve achieved something concrete and real.

Lazarevic from Uncharted 2.
Day 13 - Finally avenged Sarah’s death today. As the leader of my enemies lay dying, sputtering bright red blood with each syllable of accented English, he assured me that I was just like him, that I too had murdered hundreds of people without remorse and without purpose. Whatever.

Day 14 - Wasn’t expecting this. My victory didn’t bring Sarah back. What’s more is that I’m starting to feel a little guilty about what I’ve done. Now that I’ve had some time to catch my breath, I’m beginning to think that I should not have spent the last two weeks systematically eliminating hundreds of people to no practical effect. I just got so carried away when they killed her, you know? I’ve got to be honest, diary. I’m pretty down. I even thought about shaving once, going so far as to lather up my face. But I had used my last razor to stealth kill someone last week so I just sat down and cried, my tears softly rinsing away the shaving cream.

Day 15 - Feeling a lot better today. Sure, Sarah’s gone. But I’ve learned a lot about myself these past couple of weeks. I’ve learned a lot about the futility of revenge, the hollowness of violence, the depth of loss. There was no other way for me to learn these lessons, was there? It had to happen just like this.

Day 16 - Yup. Keeping the beard. It looks awesome.

What Are You Playing Wednesday

Another World - the character approaching a set of deadly slugs.

Another World – the character approaching a set of deadly slugs.

It is the first Wednesday of 2014 so let’s start off the year with the usual weekly question session –>

  • What games are you playing this week?
  • Would you recommend those games to other Border House readers?
  • What games have you ranting?
  • Are any of those games listed ones that you want to see covered on the site?

I have been finishing games recently. I started and finished Another World, Ratchet and Clank: Quest for Booty, and LEGO: The Lord of the Rings this past week. I’ve also been playing more Skylanders: SWAP Force, and Ratchet and Clank (the first game of the series). I also started Long Live the Queen and in my first attempt my would-be queen died of an arrow wound.

What have you been playing?

What Are You Playing Wednesday

Neftin and a hired thug in <i>Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus.</i>

Neftin and a hired thug in Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus.

Welcome to Wednesday question time –>

  • What games are you playing this week?
  • Would you recommend those games to other Border House readers?
  • What games have you ranting?
  • Are any of these games ones that you would want to see covered on the site?

I started both Ratchet and Clank: Into the Nexus and LEGO: The Lord of the Rings this week. Both of them are a lot of fun.

What have you been playing?

Love is Just a Game: A Review of Your Friends Close

A red-haired woman in a red dress is seated upright in bed, cradling the head of her boyfriend in her lap.

Becca (Jocelyn Kelvin) and Jason (Brock Wilbur) in a rare moment of calm.

Your Friends Close might be termed a “video game movie,” a dubious taxonomizing term if ever there was one. “Video game movie” is not a genre, it’s a crude descriptor that sloppily groups films together based on the simple presence of video game content; it describes films as diverse as Doom (2005), a truly abysmal and unnecessary adaptation of a mindless first-person shooter, and Ben X (2007), a sensitive portrait of a boy with autism who immerses himself in an MMORPG universe.

To call Your Friends Close a “video game movie” would be a disservice. It is one of the first video game movies I have seen that rewards prior knowledge of the gaming world without requiring it, that strikes the fine line between using games as a plot element without losing itself in their details. This is not a video game movie; this is a tale of ambition, greed, and codependency set against a backdrop of video game development culture.

The film tells the story of a programming couple named Jason and Becca (played by writer-director team Brock Wilbur and Jocelyn Kelvin) who invite their colleagues (“friends” would be too strong of a word) to a house party celebrating the success of their new game. The game—also called “Your Friends Close”—is a massively multiplayer online Turing test in which players compete to guess whether or not their fellow players are human. Two rules: one wrong guess and you’re out of the game, last player standing takes all. Continue reading

What Are You Playing Wednesday

The city in Solstice.

The city in Solstice.

It is mid-week question time once again –>

  • What games are you playing this week?
  • Would you recommend those games to other Border House readers?
  • What games have you ranting?
  • Are any of these games ones that you would want to see covered on the site?

I spent a bit of time playing a preview build of Solstice, the latest interactive novel by MoaCube. The art style is phenomenal but I don’t want to say anything about the game itself until I finish it.

Otherwise, I finished Skylanders: Spryo’s Adventure and Skylanders: Giants so that I could start Skylanders: SWAP Force. Yes, I have completely bought into these games. They are so much fun. They are a money sink, because of the figures, but I really enjoy them.

Finally, I restarted Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation. I had a problem with a previous save. I had unlocked all of the dressing rooms early on in the game and the save left it with only a few unlocked and the rest would freeze up the game if I tried to use them. So, I am restarting because I really want to know more about Aveline’s story.

So, what have you all been playing?

Please Stop: The Trans Joke at the Spike Video Game Awards

A stylized logo that says VGX.

[TW: Discussion of transphobic joke, real-life experiences of transphobia.]

Like many graduate students, I was still finishing up last week’s work at 6 PM on a Saturday. I put on Spike TV’s annual Video Game Awards (re-branded this year as VGX) to have some background noise while I put the finishing touches on a paper.

I expected the usual: some Michael Bay-esque graphics packages, some puerile pandering to their core demographic of adolescent boys, some Mountain Dew, some Doritos, some trailers. I can stomach that, even laugh at it. Less than five minutes into the program, however, co-host Joel McHale jokingly put the rumors to rest that Wario had “undergone sex reassignment surgery.”

If you’re reading this, you might know that a joke like that is politically ill-advised. It violates the comedic wisdom that one should punch up rather than punch down. It not only repeats the exoticizing focus on transgender people’s genitals, it also casts transgender identity itself as something scandalous and laughable.

What you might not know is what it feels like to hear a joke like this, what it’s like to be triggered. To that end, let me tell you a story about a period of my life that I don’t often discuss. Seven years ago (prior to my transition), I was still in a place where I could only present female occasionally. I hadn’t yet had the earth-shattering realization that I needed to transition but I still needed space to explore crucial aspects of my identity. I was fortunate enough to be dating someone who supported me in that endeavor.

We were in New York one night while I was presenting female. The night was warm, the sky was clear; we decided to be tacky tourists and go to the top of the Empire State Building. In line, some boys approached us and tried to talk to us. At the time—without the benefits and, indeed, the privileges of experience and hormones that I have now—my appearance did not hold up under close scrutiny and they “read” me, they recognized that I was not cisgender.

They laughed and laughed and laughed. They howled. They followed us all the way through the line and into the elevator where the laughter continued in our faces. My very existence was hilarious to them. The fact that there was a human underneath the sloppy eye makeup and the tattered dress either did not occur to them or, worse, it didn’t matter to them. I realized for the first time that night that, were I to transition, I would be a living, walking joke. It’s experiences like this that keep people from transitioning for years.

I am lucky to have had just one experience this emotionally brutal and I’m immensely privileged to have been safeguarded from the acts of physical violence that predominantly effect transgender women of color. Over the course of my transition, the smirks of passersby have faded, misgenderings have all but stopped, and that howling laughter has faded into that long-ago New York night.

When I hear a trans joke in a venue as public as a nationally broadcast television show, I’m instantly back in that elevator. I’m no longer the confident woman that I’ve become over the last couple of years; I’m a scared little girl cowering in the corner, reeling from the ridicule, wondering if they’ll follow me all the way home.

Spike, do you realize what you do to people outside your target demographic when they try to engage with your work? If you realized, would you still do it? Do I want to know the answer to that question?

I could write you an angry polemic about video game culture right now. I could undertake educational efforts to help video game commentators understand transgender identity. I’ve done that. I keep doing it and nothing happens. Nothing changes. There’s always another gaffe, another joke, another game.

So tonight, Geoff Keighley, producers, journalists, if this note manages to make it to your desk, all I’m asking is that you stop. Please stop. Please stop.

Update: Immediately after this article went live, Joel McHale introduced a reader comment by saying, “He, she or he-she says…”