Random Mass Effect 3 Thoughts

 Earthborn, Sole Survivor, Infiltrator. Blonde. Enjoys long walks on the beach and Gold Plated Armor.
 Earthborn, Sole Survivor, Infiltrator. Blonde. Enjoys long walks on the beach and Gold Plated Armor.

1)My Shepard looks so much more badass than Default Shepard.   I just thought I should mention that. I can’t post a pic or his face code right now, but… just trust me.

Anyhoo, I was really glad the Infiltrator class could actually use it’s sniper rifle in ME2, but… the abilities sucked. Full disclosure: I didn’t understand what my abilities were in ME1 until 2/3 of the way through the game, so I only used my pistol. Once I figured out what they were for, the game got roughly 30x better. But in ME2, I went back to not using them, but this time it was because they were total shit. And now I had to rely on the sniper rifle (which is hella fun, to be honest) because the pistols were shit too! If they can balance the usable sniper rifle from ME2 with the usable pistol and powers from ME1, I think Infiltrator will finally be the class it was meant to be. (remember it for what it was meant to be…)


 Will probably make this dude a lady, just to keep things balanced. Also to see if I can make both playable characters bone.
 Will probably make this dude a lady, just to keep things balanced. Also to see if I can make both playable characters bone.

2) So, the British guy is the alt character, right? If your Shepard is dead you only get to play as him? I wonder how much time is actually devoted to playing him as compared to regular Shepard, if he’s is still alive (I dunno why he wouldn’t be alive. I actually don’t know why anyone in your party would be dead; If you didn’t screw anything up the ‘suicide mission’ went fine. They should have made it a lot harder to save your peeps, honestly). Mass Effect has always been very much Shepard’s story, so playing as someone else is gonna feel a little weird. I assume he gets a party too? That’d let them introduce new part members without removing the dudes from 2.




  3) They really need to add in more party dialogue on the Normandy. I get that it’s not as much an RPG as Dragon Age, but, really. I’d like to actually talk with my peeps. At least in ME1 there was dialogue after every mission. There were only 5 missions, but there was dialogue! ME2 party members talk like 3 times over a 30 hour game (unless you’re boning them, which adds on a few extra dialogues). Which, in a party based game, is kind of a shitty thing to do.


 4) Seeing as how my Shepard went all of the second game without ever mentioning the connection between Cerberus and his traumatizing experience on Akuze, they better let me talk about that. Right before I put a bullet between the Ilusive Man’s glowing pretties. And then I take over his job, like Liara did with the Shadow Broker. After all he’s been through, Shepard deserves a kick ass office and suit. 


5) Speaking of Liara, If she is not a party member I will CUT A BITCH.   Transfer her Shadow Broker supercomputer to the Normandy, blow it up, I don’t care. She is my wingman… wingwoman…wing.. hermaphrodite? Whatever. Point is, I needs my Blue.

 The only party member in either game that was worth a damn in a fight. Besides Wrex, of course, but you couldn't sleep with him.
 The only party member in either game that was worth a damn in a fight. Besides Wrex, of course, but you couldn't sleep with him.

Symbolism in Gaming: An Exercise in Overthinking

Started school this week, so I thought I’d stretch my academic muscles on something utterly useless.   



Video games are a visual medium. Obviously. But one unique aspect of that is the importance of transmitting important information visually so that the player has a strong grasp of what is going on. One of the things I’ve noticed lately is that certain images from certain games eventually garner a sort of universal recognition; there might not be any meaning in particular to the image, but there is a certain significance to the viewer, even if it is only nostalgia. 1 Up shrooms, the Triforce, Pac Man; we all know what these things are on sight, even if there usually isn’t much actual meaning to them.

 Dear God I hated reading this book. Ugh...     
 Dear God I hated reading this book. Ugh...     

So that got me thinking. In English class, the teachers would always go on and on about SYMBOLISM. Anyone who’s studied the Lord of the Flies or The Great Gatsby knows what I’m talking about. The ‘true’ meaning of the book you were reading was supposedly explained by these little things, these images that would keep popping up throughout the book, be it a conch shell or a creepy-assed billboard. 

But those were books. Wouldn’t video games, which rely much more on actual visual representations, also have symbols? Sure, game designers might not be as arrogant and pretentious as some writers, but they’re telling stories too, aren't they? And aren’t they almost required to create some sort of symbol for one reason or another, just to make playing the game more intuitive? If we're going to be staring at this stuff for hours on end, it might be a good idea to think about what we're looking at.  So, mostly out of sheer boredom one night, I started thinking about the images and objects that have special significances in games. This is what I came up with.



The Legend of Zelda’s Triforce

 Anyone know why Ganondorf is a were-pig? I always thought that was weird.
 Anyone know why Ganondorf is a were-pig? I always thought that was weird.

The Triforce in the Legend of Zelda series is perhaps one of the most easily recognizable and most obvious examples of symbolism in gaming. That the games themselves usually address the meaning of the symbol in the Zelda universe makes it pretty easy to grasp. Outside of any ‘in-game’ significance, though, is that this is example # 14,546 of the connotation between magic and the number 3.   Found in all cultures across the globe, hammered home every lecture by my Viking History professor, 3 pops up again and again in magical stories. I won’t bother going into any real depth with this, but it’s worth pointing out. And yes, the “Rule of 3” in boss fights is no coincidence.


The Myst Books

 I don't care what Jeff says, these games were the bomb-shiggidy.
 I don't care what Jeff says, these games were the bomb-shiggidy.

I don’t expect that many of you have ever played the Myst games. Your loss, really. The central premise of the games is that a society called the D’ni have the ability to create actual worlds by writing crazy magic books. Contact with the pages of these books transports a person to that world. Which is kind of awesome. Now, the obvious interpretation is that “Reading Books is Like Going to Another World!”, as the posters in the local library like to say. But that’s too easy.

Actually writing a World Book requires a great deal of knowledge of how to balance all the necessary details to make it function properly; failure to do so makes a broken, unmanageable hellhole. Sound familiar? That’s right: the books aren’t books, they’re video games. A working physics engine and functional environmental AI are the signs of a well-designed world; the broken mess that is a botched job slowly falls apart under the players eyes. Throw in the fact that the D’ni love putting puzzles into their worlds and what we have is a society whose highest art form - and the basis for it's existence -  is fully interactive video games; their most treasured artisans are game designers. Myst isn’t just a bunch of hard-ass puzzles; it’s a video game about video games. 

Halo’s Halos

This is sort of a stretch (and kind of a dumb one) but whatever. Basically, the Halos in Halo are the inverse, both literally and metaphorically, of planets. The livable areas on a Halo are on the inside, rather than the outside; planets represent life, but as weapons, the Halos represent death. Sort of a Yin-Yang kinda deal. 

Half Life’s Crowbar

 Noted authorities on the subject claim this man smells like your grandfather.
 Noted authorities on the subject claim this man smells like your grandfather.

I think this is the most interesting use of symbolism that I came up with.  In Half Life 2,  you play as Gordon "The One Free Man" Freeman, a lone scientist saving the world from the Combine. Throughout the game, you manage to consistently be right were you are needed most, turning the tide against the fascist aliens. Freeman’s initial weapon, the tool that best represents him, is the crowbar. Although it is used in the game mostly for whacking shit, crowbars in real life are useful for providing leverage with certain objects. All well and good, but what’s the significance? Well, the G-Man himself provides a very interesting hint with his infamous quote at the beginning of the game: "The right man in the wrong place can make all the difference in the world." Dramatic, sure, look at the crowbar again. If we focus on its use for leverage, the G-Man’s comment recalls an even more famous quote by a man called Archimedes, which is usually translated as: Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world.”  The crowbar isn’t just a stick for whacking Headcrabs; it’s a symbol for everything that Freeman is doing. It is the guiding principle for how ‘just one man’ can turn the tide against an occupying army – how he can ‘move’ a world taken over by aliens.

 Wise words, if technically non-canon.
 Wise words, if technically non-canon.

And then we can take it a step further! At the end of the original Half Life (which I haven’t actually played, but that’s what wikis are for), we are left with the impression that Freeman agreed to work for the G-Man in some capacity. It is fairly clear that he is handling Freeman throughout the course of the sequel, making sure that he is exactly where he needs him to be and using him to further his agenda. In other words, for the G-Man, Gordon Freeman is the crowbar. Which is kinda weird if you ascribe to the theory that the G-Man is actually an alternate reality/ future version of Gordon, but that’s neither here nor there.



Well, that’s about it. l realize that, as with most interpretations, I'm giving this way too much thought, but whatever. I doubt anyone’s actually going to read all of this, but if you do, feel free to talk about how I just blew your minds. Or give your own crazy interpretations of things. Or tell me again how bad The Happening was. No, really, it’s fine! Like Steve Carell said, it never gets old.


Sexual Bread

So, I just realized that we’re ending the decade in a couple weeks. That makes me feel old. Also, it makes me wonder how this decade will look to people 30 years from now. Like, is it gonna be one of those "the 00's had cool music, but man their clothes were wack"  type things? Or more of a "They had good clothes but everybody was sorta crazy" thing? Will they even listen to our music? 

Guessing how things are going to age is hard. I mean, seriously. Look at the 80’s. Sure, some of music was good, they did a few good action movies, but… Well, this video here sort of summarizes that decade perfectly, for me. 


Actually, you know what? I take it back. The 80’s were awesome. And I think it's fair to say at this point, so were the 2000's.


Fucking Trees

 “We had actually had the luxury of having lunch before to talk about another movie and it was a bad movie that I did. She [Amy Adams] dodged the bullet. And then I was still able to … I don’t want to tell you what movie … all right, The Happening. Fuck it. It is what it is. Fucking trees, man. The plants. Fuck it. You can’t blame me for not wanting to try to play a science teacher. At least I wasn’t playing a cop or a crook.”     
               - Mark Wahlberg, on The Happening


On Dickwolves

On Wednesday, the Fine Gentlemen over at Penny Arcade put forth the following comic strip as part of their ongoing, tri-weekly efforts to entertain the masses:

No Caption Provided

While the humor is, as always, not limited to one specific line, there is only one that really grabs the attention above the rest: The part concerning the nightly raping of slaves at the hands of beasts known as ‘dickwolves’. The Dickwolves themselves are not shown, so we are left only to imagine the appearance of such a beast. This mystery allows our imaginations to run wild with fear, for if we do not know what a Dickwolf looks like, how can we hope to defend ourselves against it? For now, we will assume that they resemble Taylor Lautner, but with a Penis nose. Not that it is necessary to this article, but because it is fun.

Anyhoo, you are probably either laughing at the thought of mass rape by Dickwolves, or you are, made at the very least, uncomfortable by the thought (Or you are like me, a third party, wondering if dickwolves are either too powerful for the hero to consider getting a little extra xp from killing them, or if they provide too little to be worth it).Apparently, enough people vocalized their discomfort with the abuse that poor man suffered, to the extent that the following comic was released today:

No Caption Provided

So what can we learn from this? That Dickwolves are, in fact, Taylor Lautners with not only penis noses, but also penis hands and penis feet? That walking, or handling objects, is most likely extremely uncomfortable for these creatures, and that their only release from the unending torment of walking on their dicks is the raping of unwilling bystanders? Or is there another lesson to be found here? I think there is.

The Penny Arcaders, in their article accompanying the above comic, sounded somewhat surprised at the negative reaction. Where did they go wrong? These are, after all, the men who invented the Fruit Fucker, Raper extraordinaire of unsuspecting fruit. How can the Fruit Fucker succeed where Dickwolves cannot? The answer is simple: Rape (and for that matter, torture, murder, and other weekend activities) can only be funny – to some – if only mentioned in the abstract, or perpetrated against that which is not actually alive. George Carlin, I believe, once famously attempted at making a rape joke, and was met with boos of derision. Granted, the idea of a ‘Dickwolf’, chiseled abs and all, is so hilarious that the raping done by one is almost passable in terms of tastefulness. Still, the expression on the face of the slave is so pitiable, and the fate he is condemned to so horrifying, that the humor in leaving him to said fate is, unfortunately, significantly negated. If the Dickwolves had only threatened to rape the slaves – had they been boogie monsters, the threat of which used to deter the slaves from escaping – or had theytheir rape attempts proved unsuccessful, then the joke would have been more palatable. To wit: "We would sleep, but for the unending cries of the Dickwolves, howling dreadfully as they rape other fell creatures of the night."  The rape remains, but the pity does not, for evil done upon evil is a natural thing.
Still, rape is a touchy subject for many, and in a world such as ours, in which the dead bodies of our foes are teabagged as their spirits pass into Oblivion, the line between what is acceptable and what is not becomes rather blurry. So long as rape remains in the realm of the imaginary, whether at the hands of Dickwolves or armored space marines, then we need not fear. It is only when rape is not taken seriously, especially by men, that real problems arise. Rape is, for many women (and, let’s face it, men) a frighteningly real thing, and we need to recognize that. Once that is done, we can make up all the Penis monsters we desire.    

I Think I Broke My Déjà Vu...

Ok, so this thing has been happening to me kind of frequently, and I’m wondering if it’s an actual thing or if I’m just a dumbass. I’m also terrible at explaining things, so bear with me.


Some sort of event will happen – anything, really, like dropping a candy bar off a roof, having a  conversation, etc. – and when it happens I won’t necessarily think much of it. But later, maybe after 5 minutes have passed, maybe a couple hours, I’ll think about that event happening, and I’ll feel like that wasn’t the first time that had happened. Like, I get Déjà vu, but not until the event I’m getting it from has passed. 

Now first off, I do realize that when I’m thinking about dropping the candy bar, it did already happen, and that’s what I’m thinking about. But there’s like a weird… memory echo, or something, and when it happens it bugs the hell out of me. Of course, I can never actually remember the ‘first’ time I seem to feel took place, and after a couple minutes I just say 'fuck it' and move on. And there’s no pattern to what kind of events cause this, either, it’s totally random, but it usually happens at least... once a month, maybe? I should also mention that sometimes, when the event is in progress, it’ll occur to me that this is something new and unique... Which all sounds kinda like normal Deja vu, but I never get that!   


 Does anyone else have this problem? Is my memory just fucked up? How does your  Déjà vu  usually work? The Google isn’t giving me anything on ‘ex post facto’ déjà vu, so I’m inclined to think I’m just being ridiculous, but if any of this sounds familiar, or at least makes any sense to anybody, I’d feel a little better about it (I’m looking at you, psych majors).


Brad Sucks

Brad Shoemaker is a wonderful human being and this post has absolutely nothing to do with him. Well, it does a little bit, but we’ll deal with that at the end.

Brad Sucks is the name of a band. A one man band. The man? Brad Turcotte. A Canadian, I believe. Fuckineh. And, surprisingly enough, he does not suck. In fact, he is the opposite of suck. Let us qualify his lack of suck: if we rate his degree of Suck on a scale of 1 to 10, he ranks a solid “Fucking Awesome”.  He is the Mozart of chill rock. 

Brad Sucks makes music that is excellent on at least 3 specific levels:

- The 1st is that it is hella fun to listen to, musically. That is the obvious one.

-The 2nd, that you can listen to it without being distracted by it, i.e. it’s fucking perfect when you’re studying or grinding out an essay or the like and need good background shit. The importance of this kind of music cannot be stressed enough.

-The 3rd is that the lyrics are pretty darn good, and I usually don’t care at all about lyrics. Like, at ALL....That is possibly the worst way to state why a band is good that I have ever seen. God fucking dammit. Please ignore the above segment, and just listen to a song so hopefully you understand what I’m talking about. 


These songs are basically perfect for when you’re depressed, because they’re about being depressed without actually being depressing. A lot of them are pretty upbeat, in a weird sort of way. Anyways, I just thought I should share this with you fine people, because this guy fucking deserves the attention. I honestly am not quite sure what it is about his songs, but I never get tired of them, and they just get better every time I listen to them. They're just.... really, really good. I'm bad at explaining shit, I know, I'm sorry.


OH WAIT I FORGOT THE BEST PART: HIS MUSIC IS FREE. As in, $0.00 for like, 2 CD’s of Fucking Awesome. At least, it’s free if you want it to be. They’re all available for download on his website. I would ask that you pay for it if you can, if only to support this fine artist. Also, the more people buy it this way, the more likely other people are to start doing this kind of ‘copyleft’ stuff. Here’s another song for your listening pleasure, and thanks for reading. 


Oh yeah, the Brad Shoemaker thing. It’s nothing really, it’s just that Brad Sucks has a song called ‘Certain Death’, which is kind of funny in that it reminded me of ‘Pulling a Brad’. Except I think the song is about suicide, so it doesn’t quite work. Unless all these Quick Look deaths are actually cries for help…. This just got incredibly morbid, so I think I’ll just stop now.


Sean Connery in Space and The Most Insane Movie of All Time

So, I watched 2 movies this weekend: Outland, and Battle Royale. I highly recommend both of them, but....

What the shit.


Ok, I’ll start with Outland. Outland is High Noon set in space, starring Sean Connery, Which sounds like one of my wet dreams,   so I was pretty psyched to see it. And honestly, I think I liked it more than High Noon. There was a lot more tension to the story, and the motivations of the characters made more sense, and the characters themselves had much deeper personalities. Connery’s federal marshal is a broken, lonely man who is trying to prove that his life has some meaning. He’s sent to work in a mining colony on Io (Jupiter’s moon), where everyone just wants their next paycheck and couldn’t care less what happens to anyone else. So yes, this is totally about space truckers, and honestly they’re a much more interesting bunch than the cowardly townsfolk in the ‘classic’ High Noon. The movie goes along at a much better pace than the original, and the visuals hold up very well, considering how long ago it was made. The director is the same guy that did 2010, and the special effects here are basically just as good as in that beauty. Connery does a wonderful job, and is much more subdued than in most other movies; no quips or winks to be seen here. The supporting cast does a great job too.   I don’t want to talk about this too much because it’s fun to see what happens differently, but although the basic plot here is the same as High Noon, it really is a much better version of the story, and one that makes a lot more sense.

 Sean Connery: Space Cop.
 Sean Connery: Space Cop.





 Now, about Battle Royale

What the shit.

Battle Royale is, in a nutshell, Lord of the Flies meets the Most Dangerous Game. That description also manages to leave out everything that’s relevant about this movie. It is one of the most insane movies I’ve ever seen. It’s incredibly violent, and almost all the violence is against kids around 15 years old. But at the same time, this isn’t really violent in an exploitative sort of way. Or maybe it is. I can’t really tell, which makes me think it isn’t. The whole movie is very sad, but it’s so fucking crazy you forget to cry (not that I would. Being a man and all). 


Basically, the story is that in the near future, Japan sucks, and so all the adults decide to blame everything on the younger generation, and they make them fight each other. Apparently it’s based on a book, but I haven’t read it so I dunno whether that’s worth checking out. I will say that this movie is a must see, if only to have your mind blown. I still don’t know what I really think about it. I think it’s really fucking good, but it’s just so damn weird I… I just don’t know anymore. Who knows, I might start drinking because of this movie.   I mean, I get what was going on, the plot isn’t hard to understand. I just don’t know how to describe it. If you think at all about this happening to you, it really fucks with your head. I’ll just say that if you watch it, and think the fight scenes are ‘awesome’, you’re missing the whole fucking point.  I think.  The only thing I can say with any certainty is that this is probably the most attractive group of high schoolers I've ever seen. 

Has anyone else seen these movies, or read the BR book? What did you think?

That Whole 'Games and Art' Thing: A Rant

Video Games are not art, nor should they be.

I say this in response to the whole stupid shenanigans Roger Ebert started a little while ago. Both ‘sides’ in this debate have been pissing the hell out of me, and I want to explain why.

Video Games are not art because they are more than art. I don’t mean that they’re ‘better’; they contain art, but the art itself is not the purpose of the game. And when I say they contain art, I mean the images we see, the music we hear, and the stories we experience could in one way or another be construed as artistic, but those are just segments of the game. Video games as a medium are entirely different from anything else in so many ways, and the requirements for them to be considered ‘good’ are totally different.

A good story for a game has to be told in a way that couldn’t usually work in a book or a play. Games can make a whole lot of story out of very little (Call of Duty 4, Braid, Myst), or out of a LOT (Dragon Age); stories that would fall on their face if told in any other format. Or at least, a lot of what makes those stories unique would be lost in the translation. Perhaps even more importantly, games do not necessarily need a good story to be good in themselves.

Music is art; that is something everyone can agree on. Games can have some pretty kick-ass songs in them. Does this make the games themselves art? Of course not, because the game is not the music.

Games are visual, which means that images must be created for them. Could these images be construed as art? Why wouldn’t they be? The backgrounds alone in some games, like Assassin’s Creed, could be paintings in a museum.   Does that make the game art? No, because you didn’t shell out $60 bucks to look at pretty pictures. You bought that game to experience everything it had to offer, and to enjoy every damn minute of it, art be damned.

What you want out of a game isn’t the same as what you want out of the standard art forms, so why should they be lumped together? A lot of art is meant to be enjoyed, sure, but you enjoy food, and that’s not art (well, not usually). Sex is art when I do it, but that’s the exception that proves the rule. My point is, games can’t be called art just because they contain it; any one of the things I have mentioned could be totally absent from the game, and it could still be worth your time. More importantly, games don’t need to be called art to justify their existence. They’re a whole different kind of beast, and we need to remember that.


Pardon My 'Lost' Blog, Part Deux: Digimon was SO last season



This isn't Lost unless Sawyer's pissed about something. 
This isn't Lost unless Sawyer's pissed about something. 

   Well, you gotta hand it to the writers. It’s the last season, there’s only like, what, 15 episodes left? And they found the time for a character episode with barely any plot development. And you know what? That’s totally cool. It’s not really clear where events are headed, Sawyer’s a brooding loner again, and Jack has remembered that the best way to deal with a mysterious leader giving out instructions is a hearty ‘fuck you’. Life is good. 




 What I’m really loving is the way they’ve been mirroring the first season, in terms of  themes and characters, and answering questions that people had totally forgotten about. Remember wondering what the hell really happened to Rousseau to make her so crazy? Well, we’re totally gonna find out. I’d never even realized the parallels between Claire and Rousseau, so I’m really psyched to see what’s gonna happen there.

This is not the person you go asking questions.
This is not the person you go asking questions.

 Over the years, as the plot changed, so did the questions we had, and to have all the old stuff like the Smoke Monster and the ‘disease’ still be the impetus behind everything is refreshing in a really awesome sort of way. However, last season was kind of plot heavy, and it got hard to tell what some people’s motivations were at times, which made it nice to have everyone step back to an extent and just react emotionally to what’s been going down. These are the same people we started with, and it’s nice to see them being themselves rather than trying to accomplish insane missions and such. 

Still, I feel kind of bad for the actor playing Ethan. He becomes the single best villain in the history of TV, and now he's stuck in lame flashback/alternate reality bit parts. I mean, really, who's been able to top him? Ben? Widmore? The Locke Monster? Gimme a break. Ethan still scares the fuck out of me, even when he's a  'good' version of himself. Although the parallels between him doctoring Claire here and back on the island are pretty cool, even if they're totally obvious and not exactly relevant to anything.



  But there’s one thing that has changed. And that is the similarity between this show and Digimon. Not many people realized it, but key aspects of the show directly correlated to one of my favorite childhood cartoons. Some brief examples:

1.      Group of people in a strange, disturbing place, no idea of what’s happening and no clear way of getting home. Initially, the group in Digimon lands on an island, but they go off elsewhere pretty soon.

2.      Love triangle between a spunky brown haired girl, the darker haired, occasionally douchy leader, and the blonde loner.

Totally the same show. Totally.
Totally the same show. Totally.

3.       Behind every bad guy is another, stronger bad guy who’s more in control of what’s happening. This happens in a lot of shows, but still.

4.      Increasing amount of insanity in the shit that’s going down.

5.       Events in the real world affecting the crazy place, and vice versa. AND the eventual return to the real world by some of the group, followed by the need to return to the crazy place.  

6.      Children who are somehow better connected to the crazy place than the older folks in the group are.

 A lot of this is still true, but the path the shows followed is no longer quite as similar. Lost  has kind of circled back on itself (in a good way), where Digimon just went as far as it could go (and then made semi- related spinoffs). Anyway, just thought I’d point that out. Feel free to ask me about anything, I think I've got a good grip on what's going on. Questions can be directed to askmeanything@fuckyoulostiscool.net.
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