Video Games Still Have A Lot of Growing Up to Do

So, I’m still upset. March, 2012, I’m waiting desperately for the grand finale of my all time greatest video game series to date: Mass Effect 3. I love Mass Effect. The immersive story telling, choices that effect a galaxy, intense character interactions. This was literally the game that let you decide the fate of the galaxy based on your actions. The first game was phenomenal. The second game very actiony but took the story down to a more personal level with an epic conclusion where your character might not even survive! And then came ME3. So much anticipation. Yet, as soon as the action starts I’m already losing some of the story. Where was the trial of Shepard? Where was the Batarian/Human war? Eh that was miniscule. I dived in and enjoyed the game immensely. Right up until the final fifteen minutes of the game where suddenly the narrative took a turn for the worse. Suddenly, we get this starchild who has all the answers in the galaxy (and all those answers were asinine and ridiculous to boot), the Reapers –the ultimate baddies we’ve been gearing up to do battle with–were nothing more than pawns to the starbrat, and none of our choices we made over the course of three games mattered one iota!  It was a slap in the face and I couldn’t help but stare at the screen in dismay and hatred and depression and regret. How could this have happened? I was justifiably outraged and wen to the internet looking for answers. Maybe there was a secret ending? Nope. This was the final ‘artistic’ vision of Bioware. So I gave my own two cents worth to the growing backlash to the ending of ME3 which was starting to look like Mass Effect-gate. But the developers stood behind the ending and decided to give dlc that would answer burning questions to the fans eyes, ears, minds, souls, and whatever. Only those answers didn’t really answer anything and the narrative of Mass Effect remained destroyed.

I still like Mass Effect, mind you, but something got lost in the translation of fan outrage that I think developers are still ignoring to this day. I heard a lot of ire being cast out by the development community: entitled fans, vocal minority, people who just didn’t ‘get it’. But this confuses the issue. It wasn’t entitlement that created the backlash. It was the failure of actually writing a decent story in the end. Looking back on ME3 I see now so many issues that plagued this game. Lore was ignored, characters did dumb things, the Reapers weren’t the real threat–Cerberus was (a terrorist organization in the fiction that somehow got a hold of an army that must have been cloned on a private world because damn that was a lot of them) and the Illusive Man was now completely evil and idiotic. The developers didn’t understand one crucial thing: we weren’t pissed Shepard died, we were pissed that you didn’t finish the story! It just…ended! And then we get a bunch of nonsensical scenes to wrap up the very last narrative in Shepard’s story and this iteration of Mass Effect. Nothing was explained! We’re not dummies. We can infer. But we’d much rather you just finished the story and not give us lazy cinematics! If you wrote a book and then in the end the lead character just died and everything that happened just went into limbo you’d expect the readers to stop reading that author’s books. Period. 

But apparently video games have a different idea of story telling. The problem lies in how the narrative unfolds. We have a game. You play a game. And oft times the story is secondary to the gameplay which means oft times more you get really ridiculous stories with piss poor climaxes that don’t serve the narrative at all. This is what I felt about Mass Effect 3. But that game isn’t the only perpetrator of bad narrative in the end game (or even in the game itself.) Over the years gamers have been given all sorts of lunkers that fail to deliver a logical narrative that delivers the impact that we’re looking for. Assassin’s Creed III took a similar avenue in not delivering the goods by just completely ignoring the narrative’s direction and decided to just call it quits with the lead character’s story. Granted the lead character had gone stale because the writers didn’t know what to do with him. But I’ve seen this lazy execution before: Deux Ex, Final Fantasy, Xenosaga, Assassin’s Creed, a slew of RPG’s…hell the list can go on indefinitely.

Here’s a thought, perhaps the writers should have an end game in mind BEFORE they start making the game. Especially where you have a multi-game narrative spanning over so many titles. Mass Effect seems to exist purely for the choices players can make and exploring cool worlds. But with the end of that the choice angle disappeared as did world exploration. So what happened? They didn’t have a plan. They didn’t have a total story outline. Same thing with Assassin’s Creed. It got so sloppy that they didn’t know what else to do with it other than just end the story.

It seems to me game developers are only concerned with the action a game develops. But, games have come quite far in terms of narrative storytelling. So you can’t just ignore story like the old days with the Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. Those games were just about the fun. Nowadays the medium has to tell a compelling story as well. Just look at the phenomenal Last of Us. Naughty Dog game us a superb game with fun gameplay mechanics, intense scenarios, and guess what? an awesome end game! The narrative was complete! Did bad things happen? Yes! But it was an excellent experience that puts it at the top of my list of all time great games, even beating out Mass Effect in my opinion.

Story story story, guys! Lay it out first then bring it to us! And if you fail own up to it. Don’t insist we just feel ‘entitled’ because you are way out of the ballpark on that. We want the complete package. If Shepard has to die, so be it. But you’d better do it in a compelling logical fashion not give us some Star child that makes our character choose one of three pretty colors where the character then jumps into a beam and desintegrates leaving a galaxy in turmoil, our teammates abandoned, and the economy in tatters. Oh and then try to suggest no our teammates were evacuated while being fired at by a massive two kilometer tall instrument of death and somehow leaving the solar system just when all hell is breaking loose! That is illogical and unacceptable! You can write better than that!


What Is the State of This Nation?

What the hell is wrong with this country? In the last few years, I’ve asked this question so many times I’ve lost count. It seems like, for me, that over the last decade and a half, our values of decency and commitment to justice have taken a plunge as our need to be right and to feel ideological fulfilled have taken over. In this last year alone, women’s rights are under assault, the voters rights act has had a significant marker in it ruled unconstitutional, a beautiful city has been bombed, gun ownership activism has exploded, and now one George Zimmerman has been ruled innocent of murdering a young man. I’m beginning to wonder if there is any compassion left in this nation.

You can’t even comment on comment boards without a steady stream of hate laced profanities (cursing or not, the things these people say are profane) labeling you an idiot for expressing your views. I remember how we were on the way to a global community back in the ’90’s and everyone seemed so accepting of everyone else. Then 2001 comes along where a group of right wing lunatics attacks us where we’re most vulnerable and suddenly we take on the attitude that everyone is horrible and we shouldn’t have anything more to do with them. Ideological divides worsen, we keep electing tyrants into office who have only their own interests, and those of their richest constituents, at heart.

What happened to scientific advancement? Apparently it’s dead because NASA keeps getting the most important scientific missions scrapped due to budget restrictions from Washington. Who needs science, right? It didn’t give us cell phones, or better battery lifespans for our vehicles or fun little gadgets. It didn’t provide us with ways to make our food safer to consume or give us better defenses from new and unusual diseases. When did space science ever enrich our nation? Certainly not with satellite technology or improved synthetic materials for clothing or enhance our communications networks. Nah, none of that. No, here’s what we really need to do: give more money to our armed forces because they obviously need more toys to play with. OH WAIT! The pentagon specifically said that they DON”T WANT more expensive ships and equipment because they already have a surplus! Ah, but what do they know. They’re just a bunch of grunts who don’t think.

And while we’re on defending our country, let’s make MORE guns MORE easily accessible to the public! Because THAT will solve our ongoing violence problem. Let’s make sure everyone and their nanny are packin’ heat as we never know when we’re going to have to make a last stand against a school shooter or a zombie horde. In case you haven’t realized yet, I’m being rather flippant about the whole state of our nation.

I do believe in a second amendment right to bear arms. But I also recognize that the amendment was drafted as a concession to states who were weary of being federalized under the umbrella of a strong central government. They keep their militias, and the government doesn’t form a standing army. But then they did and the amendment lost its necessity. Yet we kept it around so that people could defend themselves. But apparently that means the public has a right to military grade hardware as well. Sigh.  I’m rambling now. I’m just furious at how this nation is turning out. Furious at how states are fighting to prevent women from having access to proper medical care all because of some far right wing ideal that abortions are immoral. It’s none of their business! How about cramming your beliefs down my throat?! Isn’t that immoral? Or is it because it’s your morals and not mine that therefore you’re more correct because it’s YOU!?

Remember the whole ‘pursuit of happiness’ ideal that we used to expunge so much years ago? Well right now it seems like the only people allowed to pursue their happiness are those on the fringe elements of our society. And guess what? They’re winning. They’re winning because the vast majority of America is fed up with our political institutions. We have no more faith that congress can pass a law that isn’t asinine or even do something useful. We’re fed up with the presidency being the choice between two turds. We’re tired of the ideological arguments continually being waged and have taken a step back to let them fight it out. But whoever wins that war, we all lose. Because our voices are not being heard over the hyperbole and the hate speech. The same nonsense that is being spewed all across the web. The same nonsense we hear from our supposed leaders. The same nonsense we hear even when we go to the damned store!

There’s at least one good thing that came about this year: same sex marriage. For every two steps back, I guess we take one step forward. But even that good thing is being met by a wave of hate and prejudice. I hate to break it to the haters, no wait–I don’t hate to, so I will, same sex marriage will NOT void traditional marriage. It just opens the gates to more people having the option to be married. It’s not the end of the world. So haters, stop trying to disenfranchise voters, stop hatin on the gay community just because they want to love someone, stop trying to turn this nation back to the wild wild west (because that didn’t work out so well the first time), and for the love of GOD stop saying this is a CHRISTIAN country and THEN turning around and saying poor people are leeches that don’t need to be protected! Because, news flash, that’s what Christianity is all about: protecting the needy! Good Christians don’t give all their money to rich people who will turn around and screw the nation. 

Seriously, what is going on in this nation?

This Is My Blog

My oh my, I haven’t been on here i a while. Mostly because I keep forgetting I have it. I’m not much of a blogger. Though I do get fed up with so much in the news these days. Sometimes I have this desire to get online and vent out all my frustrations but then don’t even though I have a place to do it. Sigh. I signed up for this because I wanted to lock in a dot com addy for my company name but it takes so much of my time up just trying to get my original works done that I just don’t get around to utilizing the site much. I will have to change that I think. Hopefully anyway.

So what am I doing with my time? Well, when I’m not working at the devil’s corporation (I’m not naming names here because, let’s face it, all the corporations are devilish and care only for themselves and I have a family to feed), I steadily chug along on the two novels I’m writing and working on my animations. I do stop motion and write fantasy/fiction. These are hobbies right now and I hope one day to actually accomplish something with them. With my writing, I’m not approaching a publisher until I feel it is publishable and even then I will likely have so much reworking to do because of their needs at the time. With my animation, it’s so time consuming and novice looking that I don’t know what to do with it. Well, asides from posting it on youtube and here, of course.

I’m currently working on a new animation to post up to youtube. It is a sister series to my Star Cloud series called Silent Cloud. I’m trying to make it more original using characters I’ve developed specifically to lambast other well known video game and movie properties. Mostly video games and the RPG genre in general. It’s going to take me a while.

Elsewise, I recently got married so that’s slowing my progress down a bit. Just got back from our honeymoon in Boston. Awesome experience and so wish I could move there. Maybe in time. 

Anyhow, I’ll try doing this blogging thing more and see what I come up with. I’ll be posting links to my new videos periodically so stay tuned and if you’re actually reading this, thanks.

Cosmic Fantasies on youtube:

Star Cloud/Silent Cloud on youtube: