So that happened today.
So that happened today.
So this past weekend, I had the chance to participate in the Street Fighter V beta testing, reliving my passions for fighting-based video games born in my youth going to Atlanta arcades. I had a lot of fun with it, learned a few things about myself, and had my share of success and loss. It’s competition. That happens. No one wins every game! However, it also let me experience (something I have seen before but never really pondered) one of the most unique phenomenon to competitive online video games: the rage quit.
Jotun, from Thunder Lotus Games, is an amazing game, at least in my estimation. Now, I’ve mentioned before that I believe that video games are great and everyone should play them, but that doesn’t mean that all video games, even great ones, are of value to analyze to help a writer on their way. Jotun is not like most games though, so we are going to take a look at what it can teach us as writers today. We’ll take a look at the characters, plot, pacing, and style.
You should play video games, especially if you’re in a creative profession or indulge in creative past times!
Why would I say that? Aren’t games just, well, games?
Not so much anymore. You could argue that video games haven’t been just games for sometime, especially since the first true RPGs were created. It comes down to the simple fact that video games have moved forward from simple games to deep interactive entertainment.
Let me elaborate. Yes, many games are still, at their heart, games. Diversions for pure entertainment, but even that makes them far closer to something like popcorn genre books and can aspire to be just as good. More and more video games in the modern era go deeper than that, as they reach towards something more: true interactive storytelling.
It’s hard to discount the joy of interactive storytelling. If you’ve ever say around a campfire making up stories with friends or sat at a pen-and-paper roleplaying table with a gaming group, you already know this. The best video games add on to this with immersive graphics and sound design, creating a truly wonderful interactive entertainment experience.
Will video games replace books and film? No, never. However, they will rapidly become just as important as those other forms of media. Video games can tell stories in completely different ways than a book or a film. Each form of media have their strengths and weaknesses and each form has its place in our media consumption.
So what this means is that, if you don’t currently do so, you should pay attention to video games and try to play some of the best!
Until next time, good reading, good writing, and good luck!
Before I put up a post about the existential panic of being so close to a funded Kickstarter but running out of time, I want to take a moment to tell a weird little tale that might show, in a quirky way, some of the deep-seated issues of misogyny ingrained into both parts of the comic book culture and the video game culture. In fact, the arena for this little tale is none other than one of those nexus points of the two cultures, one of my favorite video games, Marvel Heroes.
Marvel Heroes is a fun, free-to-play action game using the Marvel IP. They make their money primarily by selling cosmetic costumes for the characters in the game … a pretty smart way to go, as visuals can mean everything to people and comic book characters often have quite a wardrobe that can be sold. Early in the game’s history, they also introduced the notion of Enhanced Costumes: Costumes that had more than a basic visual change. Altered special effects, new voice overs, new animation sets, that kind of thing.
One use of Enhanced costumes was for cross-gendered counterparts of characters. As you may know, many comic book characters had Distaff Counterparts created, female versions of male heroes, both as cheap fixes for the female demographic or, more recently, trying to bring some equality in the male-imbalanced comic book world by putting a woman in a legacy hero role. Rarely, you can see the reverse, the Spear Counterpart, but considering the massive imbalance already between male and female representation in comic books, this has been exceedingly rare.
Here’s where things start to get creepy. From the start, there have been sections of the game’s player base to keep shouting about the ‘unfairness’ that there were multiple male-to-female swaps (Lady Loki, Kate Bishop (a modern female Hawkeye), Lady Deadpool, etc.) and no female-to-male swaps. Any argument about gender imbalance in the existing cast (which these costumes helped to even out) or the tremendous lack of Spear Counterparts in comics period were met with deaf ears. The developers opened a feedback thread for suggestions for such female-to-male costumes and 99% of the suggestions were extreme stretches, often trying to stick totally different characters into totally incompatible character slots.
Eventually, two female-to-male costumes were announced. A lot of people were unhappy about them, because they were, by the eyes of any fan of comic books, stretches. The developers original policy was that Enhanced Costumes had to have near identical powers as the base character and be strongly linked. Both of these new ideas were on-point with the second idea, but stretched the first one considerably. Still, they continued on.
Cut to the now, as the first of these is to be released. There are now creepy and strange little nitpicks about it. Why isn’t the character name changed, it looks weird to see a feminine name (despite the fact that no other Enhanced costume has had a name change)? Why do the power icons still show the original character, it looks weird to see a woman’s face on them (despite the fact that, you guessed it, power icons have never changed on other Enhanced costumes)? Why did this costume take so long to come out, all the other female enhanced costumes came out so much faster (even though they took just as long, one even being released incomplete after a long delay)? To contrast, none of these questions were brought up by the female gamers who were getting male-to-female costumes; they just expressed relief and thanks for getting more female playable options.
This may seem a little thing, but it’s very eye-opening about the casual misogyny that men (and some women) can show. There’s an expectation that there are different rules and that what applied to women doesn’t apply to them. Their needs are more important and things that weren’t previously an issue are now big issues that need to be addressed for their comfort. The one positive I can take away from this is that the Marvel Heroes dev team have not indulged in any of this chicanery. Still, the whole deal colors portions of the game’s community in a pretty negative light … thankfully it’s no one I hang around with!
Reading the news is always something of a roller-coaster. There are high points and low points. Maybe I should say, though, that the news is more like riding a rickety roller-coaster, because at the end, I usually wind up feeling off-balance, confused, and a tad sick to the stomach, with little of the rush riding a good coaster gives me. Today is sadly no different in that regard.
Maybe, if you’re a past reader, you will notice that I am something of a feminist. I feel strongly about women’s issues and am not afraid to have my voice counted among others who share my beliefs. Naturally, for whatever reason, I am a life-long fan of some things that do not normally fit into the feminist toolbox: comic books, video games, and pro wrestling. All of those things have had more than a few problems in the realm of women’s issues, especially in the realm of sexist depictions and attitudes towards women in the industry.
So suffice it to say I’m pretty damn appalled at the actions of those who think that ‘Social Justice Warriors’ (which as a name is really quite awesome … please call me a Social Justice Warrior!) are ‘ruining’ video games and that they have to ‘fight back’ against their ‘oppressors’, which amounts of petty death threats, ruining reputations with false information, theft and distribution of personal information, and a host of other disgusting acts, quite a few of which are actual, you know, CRIMES. ‘Gamebros’, grow up. Seriously.
Whether you realize it or not, you are doing a fine job not at saving video games, but ruining them. Gaming has the potential to be an incredible new media, at least as highly regarded as film and theatre, and the interactive elements present an unparallelled chance to bridge cultures and give people a glimpse into the life of others. It should be PROMOTING equality and unity, not causing greater division. If you knuckle-dragging fools would wake up and realize that, you wouldn’t be doing these horrible acts. Instead, you’d be doing everything in your power to welcome the people that make up over 50% of the audience of the media you purport to love.
Instead … well … we get what we currently have going on.
So, in essence, what the hell, ‘gamebros’? What will make you wake up and join the 21st century?