By Pepsiman 14 Comments
Although my subject matter in this blog tends to jump from post to post to the point of being erratic, I have a tendency to be pretty single-minded in the actual content itself, not deviating from start to finish, save for natural writing progression. With the school year winding down, however, I have a lot of things both gaming and non-gaming related on my mind. It may thusly be nice to condense them all into one post for once and adapt the multi-subject style I've seen a lot of the more prominent bloggers adopt on here within the past year-ish, so without further ado, let the subject jumping commence.
Oh, and I apologize ahead of time, but I have no tl;dr this time. I have no idea how the hell I'd summarize this post so succinctly anyway, so my bad if I encourage a bit of literacy. Woops.
Year 2 of uni Japanese is done.
When I was in high school, we were given our choice of two languages. Practical people like myself picked Spanish because, hey, kinda large Mexican population in Colorado while other people went the more arguably flowery route and opted for French. I bring this up because my experiences in university Japanese sometimes have an odd knack for mirroring what happened while I was learning Mexican Spanish. In high school, for example, I really began to hit my stride in fluency toward the end of my second year and so, too, has the case been with Japanese. It's not to say that I was speaking or writing like a native then, nor that I am now with Japanese, but with two years under my belt, it's enough time to really get a good grip on the language and feel confident about experimenting with the grammatical mechanics and vocabulary. As a longtime writer, this is an extremely important thing, as more flexibility always equals better articulation of what's going in my mind. You could probably surmise as much from my generally rambling style.
It's not to say that it was all happy times studying Japanese for the entire year, though. The intermediate level is where you can start running into a lot of road blocks and have generally slower progress in getting from point A to point B, even if the things you accomplish along the way are of a linguistically more meaningful magnitude than before. I had my weeks where I was definitely frustrated more so than in love with the language. Anybody who's had to study humble and honorific verbs can probably attest to the sheer lack of intuitiveness that aspect of Japanese has. This is true even with native speakers, to put it even more so into perspective. Throw in the stresses of having to return to university life almost immediately after having breakneck classes at Sophia University and you can definitely say I had my ups and downs with Japanese this year.
But in the end, I came out more pleased than ever. I can start to carry on real, honest to god conversations that aren't just copy-pasted versions of skits in my textbooks, something which makes me really happy. I had little real experience with natives when learning Spanish, so even though my reading fluency eventually reached near-native levels, my speaking and listening were significantly more mediocre, so I'm glad to be preventing those same problems bit by bit this time around with Japanese. The fact that I've also started doing somewhat major translation work is also a step in the right direction, I'd like to think. With only the finals remaining before I'm completely done with year two Japanese, I'm looking forward to seeing what linguistic directions I end up taking next year, since apparently they really hammer class discussions completely in Japanese at my school for that level. The opportunity to also reapply to study in Japan next year for a much longer period of time should also prove to be exciting. Japan and Japanese society definitely has its issues, especially for foreigners, but it's hard to not miss living there anyway.
I don't know if I've stated it for the record on the blog, but anybody who's seriously studying Japanese is free to drop me a message and ask for tutoring help whenever. By serious, though, I actually do mean it. I don't care if you're doing it through school or through self-study, but so long as you're doing it for more serious reasons than wanting to be an uber-otaku so you can watch all the Gundam series in their native languages, then I'll be happy to help out. Promise.
I wasn't exactly expecting to wake up to that Bungie-Activision news, either.
Good timing is sometimes an elusive thing. I'll believe Bungie when they say that they've been having those discussions with Activision for the last nine months. Frankly, given that it had almost been three years since Bungie went independent, I'm kind of surprised that this sort of announcement didn't happen sooner. They must have been talking with quite a few people on the side to have gone this long without an announcement about the publishing prospects of their non-Halo work. That still doesn't take away the bitter irony of them announcing this decade-long deal in the very midst of the Infinity Ward exodus and lawsuit issues, though.
Regardless of all that, however, it's the little details in the deal that interest me the most, particularly the fact that Bungie is retaining IP rights for the franchise and that the Activision deal is only for games of that franchise, not anything else outside of it that Bungie also decides to make. While Bungie would have probably asked for both of those things anyway considering they broke away from Microsoft to regain that sort of control over their work again, I can't help but think that the Modern Warfare fiasco accented those desires all the more. It sucks losing money and executive rights over your own creations as Zampella and company learned the hard way. Even if that's the reality for a lot of developer-publisher relationships, those recent happenings just might have added a sense of urgency to ensure Bungie was really firm in getting their way. Considering their pedigree both before and after their work on Halo, they might have been among the few studios who could get away with having that despite the publisher doing their damndest to uphold the exact opposite elsewhere.
As someone who's always respected Bungie and their development methodologies, even if they're not perfect, I'm naturally interested in seeing what they have brewing. A lot of people seem to think it'll be another Halo rehash since that's all they've been doing for the past 11 years (13 if you count when it was still an RTS prototype), but their history is still diverse and they have enough of the really veteran members to still have the capability to try something different. Even if the Activision stuff still casts a dark shadow over the proceedings, it's hard to not be interested in seeing what they pull off. Personally, if they can just master their narrative technique so that they can make the game's story actually as interesting as its background information, I'll be content. It's my biggest gripe with the Halo universe and if they could figure out how to resolve that and still make the gameplay solid, I couldn't ask for anything more out of them. I'm not the easiest person to please, but still not the most demanding, so it could all work out well in the end, I suppose. Maybe. We'll see.
Call of Duty: Vietnam might as well be reality anyway, so let's talk about it like it's a fact.
Having read Le Ly Hayslip's memoir When Heaven and Earth Changed Places, my understanding of the Vietnam war has changed pretty dramatically and become a lot more concrete. As the kid of parents who grew up in that era, of course I've heard plenty about it and its associated protest movements, but after a while, the narrative starts to feel unfortunately same-y and cliche when it comes to people who weren't actually involved in the fighting. That's why Hayslip's book was such a fantastic read for me; it was a personal, humanistic take on a war from an unconventional perspective. Hayslip was hardly a dyed-in-the-wool propagandist and diehard fighter for the Viet Cong, but growing up in a village where she was forced to assist them and ultimately put up with their and the Republicans' (Americans' and South Vietnam's) brutality paints and even grimmer picture of the war than what we're already familiar with. For a lot of different reasons, especially religious, the war the Americans fought and the war the Viet Cong fought were completely different things, making the rampant ambiguities all the more profound when inspected in retrospect. The book presents a sense of humanity for all sides you just don't get from neutral, "unbiased" news reports and that honestly proved to be much more effective for me in the end.
I'm bringing up the book because it shaped how I'll always think about the war and its people involved, both civilian and combatant, so when I read the article on Kotaku that it was really, really likely now that the next Treyarch Call of Duty game would be set in Vietnam, I started to hope that the game will at least try to portray the ethical quandaries to be found a plenty in that war. As someone else pointed out, whereas WWII arguably has more archetypal enemies that make it easier to define who's "good" and who's "bad," the Vietnam War has a distinct lack of that. If Treyarch intends to do any justice to the era at all, it'll have to come to grips with that fact and make it a core part of the game's narrative. Framing it solely as a communist vs. capitalism fight just isn't going to cut it, even if the game is going to solely depict Americans and/or South Vietnamese.
Hopes and ideals are one thing, though, whereas the likely reality can be a completely different thing altogether. As much as I want this Call of Duty game to be the one to follow in Modern Warfare's footsteps and really use the Vietnamese backdrop as a way of being dramatically and ethically provocative, I have my doubts that this well come to fruition. Again, as other people pointed out, Treyarch's Call of Duty games are now famous for their use of historically humorous, but inaccurate zombies and while that cheekiness might work with WWII to an extent thanks to the precedence of other works like Hogan's Heroes, replicating that sort of mentality with Vietnam would just be insulting. It's a war that still has consequences and aftereffects to this day. Treyarch's first duty is naturally to make an entertaining game, but at the very least, I hope they recognize the gravity and scope of their subject, as the lack of that has prevented other Vietnam games from being received well, among other reasons.
Am I speaking implausible? Probably. But as somebody who'd like more humanism in games when it's appropriate, I'd just like to see Vietnam done right in the medium at least once. It has so much narrative potential if portrayed just right, but without the right chemistry, it's bound to flop. It's quite the gold standard Treyarch has potentially set up for themselves, but whether they achieve it is another matter in and of itself.