Why Tomb Raider fails to live up to its standards

Tomb Raider 1 - 3 had me enthralled as a kid. They were some of my first games because my mom thought Lara Croft was a good role model for me. Well, I suppose that's not the best way to phrase it, but she liked the idea that her daughter would be able to play as a strong, intelligent woman. Ever since 1996, I've been a Lara Croft fangirl. What couldn't the woman do? She knew how to jump and bound around, all the while shooting guys and taking shit from exactly 0.0000 people. In my world, that was the most awesome thing I'd seen a woman do in any media.

How many girls felt/feel the same way? How many are excited for this new "origin" story?

And now how many do you think are excited after these comments?

Once again, let's argue about women in games...

What fun.

Let me set something straight... I thought the outrage over her moaning last year was ridiculous. I actually found it worse that people (mostly men IMO) thought they were "sex noises." The moans themselves meant nothing to me and I wouldn't have noticed if certain people hadn't pointed them out. But I quickly got over that. Nothing was going to keep me from a new Tomb Raider.

Fast forward to the new outrage that is slowly dividing the gaming community down the center (at least those interested in the game). Sexism is never a great topic and can be debated until blue in the face, but I don't think it's very easy to make the argument that defends this bullshit. I'm not a feminist by any means, but what was said was completely batshit crazy.

"When people play Lara, they don't really project themselves into the character." Ron Rosenberg, you just lost a bit of your audience. As a woman, I project myself into the character much in the same way a man can project himself into pretty much any and every other character out there.

"They're more like 'I want to protect her.' There's this sort of dynamic of 'I'm going to this adventure with her and trying to protect her." Yes, Lara needs some help this time around as she's young and inexperienced. But I sure as shit don't need to protect her. I need to help her, the same way I helped John Marston or Commander Shepard.

"She's definitely the hero but— you're kind of like her helper... When you see her have to face these challenges, you start to root for her in a way that you might not root for a male character." Fair, he admits that we are helping her. Okay, but why am I rooting for her more than a male character? Because she's a woman and I have to suspend reality more to accept that she could overcome this? Because men do this every fucking day but hell freezes over before a woman shows strength?

[Referring to the "rape" scene] "She is literally turned into a cornered animal... It's a huge step in her evolution: she's forced to either fight back or die." Honestly, I get why there'd be a rape scene and I am not necessarily offended because realistically, that could happen if the circumstances were real. But when this is combined with the whole 'protect her because she's a woman thing,' it comes off as almost condescending. I can't really put it into words, but I'm not super offended, I just didn't like the sentiment.

Then this comes out denying the rape scene. I don't give a shit if there's a rape scene or not. Rosenberg says it's rape, the company says sexual assault is not covered in the game. What needs to be expressed more plainly is that the killing of another person is what changes her, not a fucking attempted rape.

If you ask me, rape is a lame attempt at character development. Have a female come close to getting raped and all of a sudden she's better able to protect herself. Wow, you guys are SO creative. Toss out the idea that she HAS TO SURVIVE IN THE WILD or that people are trying to kill her. No, that has nothing to do with characterization, it has to be something about a man's domination over a woman.

What I'm saying is, this is what I got from Rosenberg: Lara is not to be seen more than just a sympathetic sprite that men are supposed to shepherd through trials and danger so she can emerge in one piece and because of this, she as a person is now stronger. How can you give us such a shitty description of your Lara Croft origin story? Like any work of fiction, the audience (generally) is not a part of it. As an origin story, we should be watching this happen, not omnisciently protecting. I know, all games are technically the player omnisciently helping, but I don't like that it's pointed out so blatantly. Suspend reality for a second.

I will play the game and I will probably like it (barring shitty controls or something like that). Because I doubt the game is as sexist as Rosenberg made it seem. It's just one guy's (lame) take on it. The game itself won't address the idea that you're a protectorate or whatever the fuck they want you to be. The game will take you on a journey with Lara, same as the other games (except with way more quicktime events unfortunately). It will give you new insight into what makes Lara tick, and that's the most important thing to me.

TL;DR The comments made about Tomb Raider were wrong and pretty dumb, but the game hopefully isn't affected by it.


Why did I wait so long to play Mass Effect? Part Two

Part One

The Citadel: Arrival

Elephants have come a long way in a little over a century, but apparently they've lost their trunks

So here I am at the Citadel, some Prothean creation that was found by the Asari. Hey, can you tell I've read the Codex? When I first arrive, Udina (which is a very feminine sounding name) is fighting with the Citadel Council about something -- what happened on Eden Prime I suppose. Ms. Udina has a hissy fit and Neo tells me to meet him later at the Challenge Tower or as he calls is the "Citadel" Tower. Why name a building at the Citadel the Citadel Tower? It's much too repetitive... but I digress. I'm free to roam at this point and so I head off down the hallway and into another room in which I find two trunkless elephants and a masked ewok. I soon learn that the elephants are elcor and the ewok is a volcus. One of the elephants is behind a desk and I speak to him first because he seems official. I am correct for I find that he is the elephant ambassador. His speech is hilarious, so much so that I decide the elephants are going to be my favorite species. The other elephant is going through some emotional turmoil and I offer to help (although I neglect to listen to the actual complaint) and then the asshole ewok bitches about humanity. I leave with my head held high.

At the Citadel, a jellyfish can get a great job as a totally sketchy shopkeeper

I wonder around for a while in the Embassy section, coming across things like an Asari receptionist, a hologram, and assorted knowledgeable people. Will the Codex be up for the challenge, because my brain has already exploded from all the history and culture lessons. At some point I cross a bridge and wonder into a building with some more Asari inside. I'm told that I can't get an appointment with some Asari chick that frankly I don't even want to meet with because I don't believe I have reason to, but then this special Asari oracle calls me into her office. She asks me to track down some guy who's talking shit about her. At this point, I think I remember the elephant talking about her. Things are coming together I suppose. So I'm off again to wonder around looking at statues, listening to holograms, and eventually finding myself in the market district. I don't buy anything because I haven't been playing the game long enough to know what the hell to buy. So I cross another bridge a look around some before heading to the Challenge Tower.

After an elevator ride during which my team is babbling, I arrive in the Tower and walk into the middle of an argument with some guy I saw at the Embassy and some other guy. After they're done freaking out, I talk to one of them, a Mr. Garrus. I like Garrus and decide that he is a total badass but I leave him to go talk to Neo.

The Citadel: Meeting

What do you mean Saren's last name is McDickface?

The Council doesn't like Geth, that's for sure, but Saren McDickface is fucking awesome because he's a "Spectre." So Ms. Udina, Neo, and Rufus can go kill themselves right now because no one is gonna mess with McDickface on the Council's watch. Also, the court system in the future has gone to shit because apparently eyewitness accounts aren't allowed as evidence. But after that debacle, Ms. Udina, Neo, and Rufus all meet up and I learn that Neo and McDickface know each other. THE PLOT THICKENS. Because Saren is a Spectre, he's untouchable, but I'm told to see "Harkin" or "Barla Von" about getting after him. As both names sound equally dumb, I pick one at random and head to a place called the "wards" to track down this Harkin fellow.

The Citadel: Poorly-lit Wards and Garrus

When I reach the wards, I find a creepy place with lots of neon lights. You can tell unspeakable things have happened here. I'm looking for a place called Chora's Den, a place I'm imagining as a bar with very low lighting and very sketchy people. On my way there, I'm attacked by some random guys. My team is yelling things and everyone seems to know why we're being attacked except for me. After that skirmish, I enter Chora's Den -- a sort of weird strip club in which all of the patrons gruffly tell you to fuck off. I suppose I can't blame them... why was I trying to initiate conversation in this place anyway? I find Harkin, a drunk asshole, and I'm eventually told to talk to my badass buddy Garrus. As I'm leaving, some Jabba the Hutt looking guys argue about some guy named "Fist." I talk to the bouncer but I don't need anymore trouble, so I leave.

Total badass

I head to the Med Clinic because apparently that's where Garrus is. But of course instead of Garrus just sitting there having a nice chat with the Doctor, the Doctor is being threatened up by some thugs about a "quarian." The thugs take notice of me and Garrus proves his badassery by shooting a guy in the head. After a simple shoot out, I talk to the Doctor and she points me to this Fist guy, the guy I didn't want to get involved with. Then Garrus asks to join my posse and I'm ecstatic -- I've now got a certified badass with me. But now I've got to deal with Fist, so I'm off to Chora's Den. I bust in there and encounter a shit ton of fighting. I die at one point because it's all so hectic (I promise this isn't an excuse for just sucking). I finally get to Fist and he gives me some more information on the quarian. I decide to let Fist go, even though I see no reason to -- I'm just really stuck on being a good guy. I then leave and eventually run into the quarian and another fight.

The Citadel: Saren and the Normandy

After the fight, the quarian agrees to go see Ms. Udina with the information on McDickface. There is another Ms. Udina hissy fit before the quarian explains herself and plays some audio incriminating Saren. The clip also mentions reapers, which haven't been around for years and years. Neo thinks this will be enough to convince the Council that just because Saren smokes cigarettes and skips class, it doesn't mean he's the coolest kid in school. Then the quarian, Tali, joins the posse. I wasn't expecting that, but I think she'll be a great addition.

Welcome aboard, Jabba

Another trip to the Challenge Tower results in Saren losing his Spectre status and humanity getting its first Spectre in the form of a man named Rufus. After some cutscenes, I explore the Citadel some more, completing what seems like a million side missions and then head to C-Sec. It takes me forever to realize what C-Sec stands for despite an explanation, confirming just how stupid I am when it comes to this game. Then Wrex, the Jabba the Hutt guy who had some major issues with Fist, somehow manages to join my team before I even know what's going on. Jabba is part of the posse now, I guess I'm cool with that.

It's now time to leave the Citadel, but not before Neo loses command of the Normandy because Rufus needs a pimped-out ride if he's going to be a Spectre and all. I chat with Neo about how much that sucks for his career but he's pretty cool about it. Then I'm in the Normandy talking to Seth Green once again and feeling like an absolute boss. I choose not to make fun of Seth Green's brittle bone disease because WHY WOULD ANYONE BE THAT MUCH OF A JERK? After exploring the ship a bit, I suppose it's time to check out this galaxy map and head to Feros, Noveria, or Therum...


Why did I wait so long to play Mass Effect? Part One

For months, my roommate begged me to play Mass Effect. She watched as I played through Red Dead Redemption for a second time, saw the excitement in my eyes for Portal 2, and watched my geekout over Mortal Kombat. Therefore, she could not grasp why I had never attempted Mass Effect. After all, it is a video game and I obviously like video games. I listened to endless pitches about her brother playing through it countless times and how much she loved to read the Codex and learn about alien races. "It's a little like Star Trek," she said, attempting to win over the Trekker in me. But I wasn't convinced. "There is romance," she continued, "and choices to be made that impact the entire galaxy." Natalie is not a gamer, but the plot had drawn her in to the ME world. This is a series that appeals to such a wide audience, so why did I refuse to play?

The truth is, I didn't know anything about ME. I had just skipped over that game and in turn its sequel as if I had been in a coma, hardly acknowledging their existence. And now, with the third game shown at E3, I felt as though I would be unable to break into the series. I told myself, "It'll take me too long to get into and my completionist mindset will make the experience even longer." Plus, I've never been too good at RPGs. Was the frustration worth it? After a while, it didn't matter. I was tired of the constant nagging from Natalie -- finally I bought Mass Effect (for 360).

Commander Rufus and Eden Prime

"Ruuuufuuuuus!" as said by Bill and Ted

My first thought -- "I'm not going to sit around making a character, that's for sure." So I play as generic "John" Shepard, despite the fact that I'm female. I rename him Rufus, because I can't help but name my characters in games after George Carlin's character in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure -- it's a strange weakness. As far as difficulty goes, I set it to normal. Part of me wants to select casual just because I'm playing to humor a friend, but ultimately I want some challenge. Before I know what's up, the prologue starts up with a lot of talk about things I've never heard of and I feel sort of lost. But I remind myself that the game has started just minutes ago and I sit through it, taking an inquisitive approach with my dialogue. Eden Prime, Protheans, a beacon. Words are thrown at me; the vocabulary sticks, but not the definitions. Soon, I'm on Eden Prime and some guy who must be on my team is killed by something called "Geth." I look at his body (in the RDR mindset, thinking I'll get some loot) and come away with some morality points. So, it's one of those games... I have to choose my disposition (my blog before this one talks about my view on good guys). Well I can't pass up a chance to guilt others by taking the righteous path. So it's settled -- Rufus is a good guy.

Space zombies are just scientists who couldn't outrun their coworkers

Right away, it seems, I'm fighting these "Geth" and starting to hate them more every second. However, once I adjust to the aiming (it always take me a few minutes), I can say the controls feel good and the shooting comes with ease. Somewhere in between bits of fighting, I meet some chick named Ashley. She seems okay and I act accordingly, gaining some morality points. After some more fighting and cutscenes, I head out to meet up with Nihlus. But first I encounter husks and want to burn everything. The concept is similar to that of a zombie, but somehow space zombies are way creepier than earth zombies. But pulling me out of my concentration on how awful husks are is a cutscene and then loud gunshot marking the end of our dear Nihlus. And by "dear Nihlus," I mean the turian (or as I first thought "turanian") who I had just started recognizing. Countless cutscenes and Geth later, I'm rushing after some other turian named Saren who I'm pretty sure is a major dick. Then after some more Geth, I'm disabling bombs that Saren McDickface set up to destroy the colony of Eden Prime. Suddenly, things are starting to make sense... except for these special abilities the game keeps telling me to use. I'll figure those out later, thanks.

Finally, there are no more enemies. all the Geth and space zombies are out of the way and I've found the beacon. Before I can do anything, Ashley pulls a stupid move and gets too close to the beacon. Because Rufus is a man, I have to save her instead of letting natural selection take its course. But of course, the beacon does not kill Ashley nor Rufus, but rather shows me some crazy images and then throws me to the ground like trash. I'm not sure what the hell is going on at this point. I wake up on the ship in sickbay and engage Ashley in a conversation. I thank her for saving me because apparently she did that and all of a sudden I'm hitting on her because I can't just thank her, I have to flirt a little. Anderson -- Mr. Anderson -- Neo tells me to go up and talk to Seth Green about going to the Citadel. And that ends my adventure on Eden Prime.

And the point of all this?

I'm going to put up several blogs documenting my time playing Mass Effect. Some will be more detailed than others and I will omit most side missions unless they contain something that I really wanna talk about. I hope some of you will get some kind of enjoyment out of this. If not, you don't have to read. I'm just putting this here because it is a blog on a video game site after all. Part two will talk about the Citadel -- the most awesome space station in the history of Prothean space stations.


When he was bad, he was horrid. (first blog post)

Warning up front: L.A. NOIRE SPOILERS! Also, this is my first blog... make of this what you will.

 He's just so lovable.
I have a bad habit of getting attached to good characters. I'm not talking about well-written characters, mind you, but "morally" good characters. For example, John Marston from Red Dead Redemption. While you could play him as a bad guy (except not really, when you didn't have the chance to change his actions, he pretty much always did the "good" thing), I chose to play him as a good guy on my first play through. And as such, I became attached to him. He had a sordid past of course, but I found him to be a great guy and thus SPOILER WARNING: Click here to reveal hidden content. You could argue that my attachment was from a great plot or good characterization, but I'd just simplify that down to he's a good guy.

      My marriage may be falling apart, but don't call me a bad guy.
I guess in a way I was attached to Alan Wake as well. He's maybe not the best husband or friend, but he's not a complete asshat. Granted, this game is known for being story-driven, the plot the main selling point, so that probably factors in to my feelings. Perhaps a better explanation of my feelings is needed. Think of it as cheering these characters on. I want them to succeed not just to see the end of the game or because I'm a completionist, but because I somehow am invested in their (fictional) lives. Maybe it's because I'm a girl, although I don't think of myself as an emotional person. It's the same feeling you get in a really great film. You're involved with the characters and the events taking place, even though you're simply sitting in a theater or living room somewhere munching on some popcorn. In the same respect, I view video games (good ones, at least) as nearly cinematic pieces (this is not based on graphics but on emotionality). 

So on to the main point of this blog (sorry to take so long):

Another warning, leave now if you don't want L.A. Noire spoiled! Seriously, I'm not using many (if any) spoiler tags, so don't assume things not tagged are safe to read.

I just got demoted to Arson desk in L.A. Noire. I turned off the game and started to write this blog as soon as it happened. So keep in mind I have not finished the game yet and do not know what is coming, save for the spoiler I accidentally read last night about SPOILER WARNING: Click here to reveal hidden content. I thought Cole was going to go on that list of "good" characters. I was so happy with him. Jerk partner after jerk partner (especially Roy) and Cole was a stand up guy. Married with children, a war hero, fair in interrogation, not much more you could ask for. But then... fucking Elsa Lichtman. I was pleading with Cole when he followed her to the hotel, begging him not to knock on her door. I was literally talking to my television, "Cole, don't you knock on that goddamn door. Fucking don't do it.... AHHHH FUCK YOU COLE!" I can't get over this stupid move. My roommate used to sit and watch me play RDR and comment that John was having an affair with Bonnie. And even though there is a bit of sexual tension between the two, they manage to keep their fucking clothes on. In fact, John even turns down the hookers that are freaking everywhere in that game whether you're playing "with honor" or not. And yet Cole Phelps can't get over his schoolboy crush on Elsa? Fuck. You dumbass, you deserve to be demoted. Okay so that fucker Roy had a lot to do with it, but you could of saved your own ass by not tapping some ass. Yes, I'm mad that he cheated on his wife. No, it's not because I'm a girl. It's because it's against his characterization. This semester in college, I just changed my major to history... but originally it was English with a focus on creative writing. I tend to get really upset when characters do something they shouldn't because consistency is everything. Good guys do bad things on occasion, I'm not denying that. But somehow, this still isn't right. Let me break this down...

Roy takes him to the club and he meets Elsa. Roy hits Elsa and Cole feels sympathetic. So Cole develops some feelings towards Elsa right off the bat, completely understandable. But here's my problem... the next time we see Elsa, if I remember correctly, is a cut scene in which Cole is just chilling at the club watching Elsa for NO FUCKING REASON! Sure, as I said before, he probably developed some mild feelings for her out of sympathy... but why/when the hell does he just decide to become obsessed? This is not included in the plot, unless I'm missing something. I just don't get it. I suppose it's supposed to be some love at first sight bullshit, but that's not in his personality. It should go as follows: he sees her that first time with Roy, feels bad for her, then he thinks to himself about how scummy Roy is and poor Elsa. AND NOTHING ELSE. Because it is in his personality is think, "Sure, I think she's amazing blah blah blah but I have my wife and kids to think about." If he's so fucking hung up on justice and being fair, then why the hell is he getting off with Elsa? Basically Cole's characterization: when he is good, he is very good... but when he is bad, he's fucking horrid.

These are just my opinions and I must say that I'm loving this game and totally agreeing with Brad's review. It's just this little bit about Cole that has pissed me off. But overall everything about this game is amazing. Also, I really didn't mean for my first blog to be a fucking novel on characterization. What the hell is wrong with me?