Sunday, March 29, 2015

Libertarians (pt. 1)

I was actually composing a larger post about the subject of libertarianism when this thought occurred.  At some point in the future, I'll flesh my thoughts on the whole subject out.  In the meantime, I've got the McGuffin and conflict sorted out for the "Drummerboy" series, too, so I don't know when I'll get sufficiently angry again to talk politics.

Libertarians, then.  In fairness to them, my perspective on the philosophy is very much shaped by those I've known over the years who've claimed the title, so overall accuracy may suffer.  However, when I was thinking about those people a common thread started to emerge.  Each of these 7 people I'd known extensively had really odd relationships with authority figures.  3 had done ROTC in high school (the guy was a cop wannabe and the two women were Badge Bunnies).  They smoked pot, were very "bohemian" and talked shit about "The Man" but you could see hearts floating around their heads when they saw an authority.  Three of the others had unspectacular military "careers" and they and another still were heavily into Dominance/submission (with they being Dominant, of course).

I'm still working on this thought but I was nevertheless bemused as to how into authority figures these supposedly anti-authoritarian people (and before you say it, leaving this stuff aside, "anti-authoritarian" is putting it mildly) had such an attraction to authority symbols.

Friday, March 20, 2015

And Then Came Barney

Again, there's a controversy over pop culture - this time it's comic books instead of video games, though, so now it's even more insanely trivial.  But it speaks about a larger problem in the cultural milieu of Generation X.  Namely, that the picture-books and toys we had as children grow up with us rather than growing up ourselves.   As Gen-X moved into the 90's there was a greater demand for comic books and video games to be more graphic - both in violence and erotic imagery - and that always kind of puzzled me.  There were plenty of genres for those things that we really didn't need them from media for pre-adolescents.  Okay, there could be a few outliers but the entire genres didn't need to transform, right?

Then, it occurred to me.  Barney.  Easily the most despised cultural icon for the X-ers.  I never understood the problem until GamerGate blew up.  Why hate a silly foam-rubber dinosaur?  GamerGate showed me.  Barney was a huge phenomenon that wasn't for us.  A generation raised by pop culture couldn't stomach something not aimed at us!  We could look at the 80's Motown nostalgia as a bunch of old fogies trying to impress us and we could see the emerging choices in entertainment as a sort of predestined entitlement that would always cater to us.  So it was only natural to expect a culture of latchkey kids to assume the things we liked would always cater to our wants -  and that those wants didn't need to develop and change.

Then, along came Barney.  Along with it came Barney Derangement Syndrome.  Like a older child feeling betrayed that Mommy pays attention to the new baby, Generation-X poured derision on a cultural phenomenon that betrayed us by not catering to us.  And, since then, we Xers have doubled and redoubled our Peter Pan demands that all toys have our tastes at the forefront and don't ever change.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Sunday, March 8, 2015

Unreal Realism

I've been playing a lot of "Metro 2033/Last Light".  While, overall, it's worth the money there are a few things which are on my "Video Game Original Sin" list.  Firstly, the game's idea of challenge is to throw ammo-sink mobs, where all finesse and skill are lost in favor of blasting wildly away at mobs swarming you and you have to piss through all your bullets and just pray you're left with enough.  In 2033 especially, there's a curious reliance on the "supposed to lose" fight.  That's a fight which is just for show, usually with an unbeatable enemy, in order to further the game's story.  What that means in practice is that you waste precious time (and lose precious patience) trying to figure out if you should spray-and-pray and use up your ammo, run or prepare for a QTE or just wait for the cutscene.  Obviously, there's no way to figure out which until it's far too late.  Also, the cutscene-heavy nature of the story itself is a problem.  In this case, it's likely due to being based on an established novel and the creators could only think of this to meld the story and gameplay.  Leaving, unfortunately, very little gameplay.  Metro is also absolutely horrible at explaining objectives and level design is, to put it nicely, a complete mess.

The last criticism is one which I have more with the fascination with "realism" in games that with Metro Redux in particular.  It's realism.  The trouble is that realism can often be very unchallenging.  In games, challenge is why you're there.  Reality on the other hand...

Well, here's what happens in those "realistic" games.  "Okay.  We are sending you on a mission to save the entire human race.  Indeed, to save the Earth and everything on it.  We know exactly where you need to go but we're only giving you vague directions and nothing to help you find where you're going.  And, even though this is an organization with thousands of trained and experienced soldiers, we're sending you alone.  And we're going to give you the crappiest equipment we can find for this all important mission.  For this mission we're giving you 3 bullets, a pistol made from Balsa wood and string cheese, a comb with most of the teeth missing and half a pack of chewing gum.".

For me, it's the cognitive dissonance which sets in someone tries to go for high realism and suddenly remembers it's a game and tries then to throw up some challenges.  But they're almost always challenges that would be the result of stupidity or insanity in the real world.  Just give me back my health meters and HUD directions and just make a game that's fun, okay?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Mental Fluff

Still chewing over the conflict in "The Drummer Boy".  Not sure whether I want to go with "Ian Fleming James Bond", "Tom Clancy Technobabble" or "X-Files Weirdness".  I'm also considering whether I want to add another character before the next act begins.

In the meantime, I had this bit.  I was toying with the idea of doing an homage (aka ripoff) of the classic TV series "F-Troop".  I liked the idea but, apart from the following, I really couldn't form a good story around it.  So I'll drop the orphaned plot point here.  The setup is that war is brewing between the Indian tribes and the Army.  O'Rourke and Chief Wild Eagle meet to discuss the situation:

O'Rourke:  So, that's it?  We just pack it in?  There's gotta be a way around this fight.

Wild Eagle:  That may be, but I think it is beyond our means to stop it.  The tribes will not accept the changes your settlers bring - they would rather die, I think.

Agarn:  Why?  Heck, if it started rainin' puppies tomorrow you have to change, right?  Anyway what's so bad about our ways?

Wild Eagle:  If the earth changes, then we must change with it.  It is the way of things.  If change comes from men with guns it is a bad thing regardless of what good it may bring.  So we must pack up our tents and join the war council.  With great sorrow for what may come.

O'Rourke:  Hell of a thing when the only people who want to stop a war are two greedy and selfish people like us, huh?

Wild Eagle:  [laughs]  We are not the greedy and selfish people.  They are the ones preying on fear and hatred to get the things they could never get honestly.  We deal with one another as equals seeking value from one another.  We have used persuasion and reason in our dealings, not weapons. 

Agarn:  Well...

Wild Eagle:  You have cheated us and we have cheated you.  It evens out.  [beat] The war council starts at sunrise and will last for three days.  Your army's preparations will take about as long yes?

O'Rourke:  About that, yeah.

Wild Eagle:  Leave a trusted sentry at Bear creek.  I will leave a scout at Bear pass.  If you or I find a way to stop the madness in time  we must be able to talk. 

O'Rourke: and if we can't? 

Wild Eagle:  Then we will do what we must and not what we want.