Something Old, Something New

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No real spoilers, we haven’t played that far yet

Butch:

Dear GOD I hate swimming.

Ok, ok, that wasn’t a fair way to start talking about this game. But dear GOD I hate swimming.

So I played up until the swimming bit where you had to hit square a billion times to get through rocks and not drown. More on that in a second.

But first, a stream of thoughts:

This is the first honest to god 4K, HDR GORGEOUS game I’ve ever played and I’m not sure I ever want to go back ever ever. Yes, I have a pro, but everything I’ve been playing has been upscaled, older games that have had a coat of paint slapped on to look better. And they do look better. But this game was MADE to be all 4K gorgeous and HOLY SHIT.

You put that with the fact this game has…wait for it…PHOTO MODE and I’m gonna waste a lot of time getting the perfect screenshot that I will then send to you to show off even knowing you’ll be all “Yeah, yeah, nice. Knock it off.”

Starting with day of the dead is cool cuz anything with day of the dead is cool. I have a feeling that’ll be a metaphor or something later.

I couldn’t help but smile thinking that, once again, my friend Femmy had to play a long sequence of game where everyone was dressed for day of the dead and she couldn’t sprint. (Even though you COULD have sprinted in Grim Fandango.)

The feature where you can choose to have all the NPCs talk in their native language is amazing and every game should do it. Did you turn that on?

The feature where the aiming crosshair turns red when it’s a guaranteed head shot is less cool and I may turn it off. Too hand holdy. Did you turn that off?

One knock on this game was that the controls, at times, were a tad mushy. The only time I felt that way was swinging from a rope. Took me forever to get to that cave entrance. Died maybe five times. Just couldn’t figure out where to aim when I jumped. Hopefully I’ll get used to it.

But mostly:

Swimming sucks. It just sucks. I hate it and I always will. I will especially hate it when it comes early in games, when you’re not used to the controls, and you aren’t told what exactly the fuck to do. Like this.

First, the eel. I guess you didn’t have to do anything with that eel. But I didn’t know that.

But the worst? The rocks. Did I have to push up? Towards the light? I DON’T KNOW! So I just pushed up. And got stuck a couple of times and died. And then it had a flashing square! And I mashed and I mashed and I died. So. Many. Times. So many times that I started to thing that it wasn’t a button mash. Cuz I was mashing! So I tried wiggling sticks, holding the button, EVERYTHING. I had to check the internet to make sure it was a button mash.

I was so mad.

And then, eventually, it worked and I don’t know why cuz I really just did the same thing I had been doing.

And THEN I was mad because I have no idea if I did something differently that I’ll have to do again and I don’t know what it is that I did.

So I stopped cuz I was mad.

Which is too bad, because it was good until then. I shouldn’t have had my last experience with the playing session be mad, cuz it was good.

But swimming sucks.

Feminina:

I was thinking of you, during that swimming. Thinking how much you were going to not love that.

I didn’t actually die under the rocks in the water. I don’t know why not. I just pushed square a lot. And that makes it, in a way, even more maddening–that we both did exactly the same thing and the results were so much different.

And like you I totally, totally hate it when you do the same thing over and over and eventually, randomly, it works. I mean, at that point you’re just glad it worked, but also, it’s infuriating not to know WHY it worked. What is the logic that made that time different? Presumably some very picky matter of timing, like you have to hit square exactly on the flashes, or something, but when you don’t understand what’s happening, there’s no possibility of satisfaction at getting it ‘right.’ Whatever ‘right’ is.

I regret to tell you, but there is probably more swimming to come–there are a couple of skills related to swimming, so you know there will be ‘opportunities’ to use them. Hopefully at least they won’t all involve hitting square.

If only you could set the difficulty on swimming separately!

And I don’t know if it was the same rope-swingy bit, but I also had a rope-swingy bit where I just. could. not. get the aim right. It was really stupid and annoying and I started to question whether that was even the right way to get where I was going, but it was just a ‘not aiming quite right while swinging’ issue. I died many times.

And eventually when you get fire arrows, dear GOD I could not figure out how to use fire arrows. It tells you how to CRAFT them, but it does not tell you how to select them so that you can actually shoot them at things. I wasted many arrows.

(Tip: hold down the same button you use to craft them WHILE shooting. That was…not obvious to me. I even went to the menu to look for instructions! And you know I never do that, even if sprinting isn’t involved. Nothing. Had to consult the internet. It will probably seem perfectly obvious to you when you see the text about fire arrows, just like the swimming was not a big deal to me. I found it maddening.)

So some minor knocks in terms of motion/aiming mechanics and tutorials. But those are fairly small, though extremely frustrating in the moment.

Even without the Pro, it looks gorgeous. The lighting in the Day of the Dead scenes was amazing.

And I do like the way people speak their native language, although it’s a little weird when Lara just speaks English in response, so you have a conversation in two languages where both people apparently understand each other perfectly well but don’t pick a language (like, say, the one predominantly spoken in the area). Which I guess could certainly happen, but it seems odd for that to be the default. “I’ll assume you understand me, and you’ll assume I understand you, and we’ll both just chat!”

I would kind of love it if Lara would speak Spanish (or whatever other languages we encounter, perhaps with varying degrees of fluency) too, but of course that’s a lot of additional dialogue recording.

As it is, I’m just imagining she’s actually speaking Spanish, which is what I’d be doing if all the dialogue were presented in English…it’s just a bit more distracting when the two sides of the conversation don’t match. You know?

I don’t know about the headshot thing, I’ve actually only shot one person so far…mostly I sneak up on them. I kind of like that you can hide against vine-covered walls now.

And of course there’s the handy feature where you know there’s danger when you start to sneak, and know the danger’s over when Lara stands up. “I don’t see anyone else, but there must still be a dude alive around here, because I’m still hiding…”

For the most part, I’m into it. The story seems a bit over the top to me, but hey, it’s adventure melodrama, we eat that sort of thing right up.

Butch:

Ah, lovely when we have a playing session where we both have something where we have terrible memories and experiences.

I did not love that. Your thoughts were spot on.

Dude, I was pushing square so much that after about nine deaths, I started pushing square as fast as possible before I even got the prompt to make sure I wasn’t wasting a moment and I STILL died. Was it, like, you had to get the speed of the pushing right? Or something? 

Even the internet was very casual about it, just “hit square, surface” blah blah blah. Shit, some walkthroughs didn’t even mention it. “Swim towards the light and you’ll find yourself in a place.” Like, you’re missing a KEY STEP walkthrough. But they must have thought it so trivial that they didn’t feel the need to tell me what to do.

That’s fucking terrifying, because if everyone else is just doing it, and you’re doing what they’re doing and dying, you eventually think “bug.” And this sort of bug is a game breaking bug.

And one fears game breaking bugs.

More swimming. Oh fantastic. But not a surprise. I sort of figured that when they put this shit in the tutorial before, like, COMBAT, that it was something they really wanted me to learn.

Well, one thing I learned from my internet rage panic was that there is a setting where you can change “mash button” (I think they called it “button tapping”) to “hold button,” so you could just hold square. That’s good to know.

Yeah, the aim. And it kept taking me back to before you learned “wall walking,” which I got on the first try. So there was much “Yeah, yeah, I KNOW aaaaaand I’m dead.”

Grumble.

So you have to push three buttons at once? Aim, pull, choose fire arrows? I have two hands. This is some Heavy Rain contortion shit?

And I knew HOW to swim. The text made sense in terms of diving/breathing/etc. I just could’t get past the damn rocks.

But oh, dude. Gorgeous. And, as I have HDR color, SO much pop on the details. The people are still kinda video gamey (teeth. No one has nailed teeth), but the environments? All the carvings on all the walls? Look real. The shadows IN the carvings. Like, shit. And that’s not even cutscenes!  

I’ll say a lot of additional dialogue. Impressive enough they did the NPCs twice. And, apparently, there’s gonna be times when NPCs speak shit like ancient Mayan or something, so it isn’t just, like, Spanish. (Actually, the Spanish isn’t all that impressive, as there are whole translations into Spanish and Japanese and other stuff. But I don’t think they did a dub into ancient Mayan, so props.)

You can hide against walls? Haven’t learned that.

I, too, have only shot one person (that dude who was going to execute the other dude, who waited very patiently to execute the dude so I could get that red crosshair). It’s a little cheaty.

Haven’t sneaked, either. Hasn’t been much combat. Been a lot of dying underwater.

We do eat this up. And hey? What did we expect? You sorta know what you’re getting into with Tomb Raider.

Feminina:

Oh, man, I hate it when I’m stuck on something and the internet doesn’t even know it’s a problem.

“Just go over there and do the thing: here’s how the thing works!” it says merrily.

I know how to do the thing, I just CAN’T GET OVER THERE, what are you talking about, HOW do I go over there???!!!!!

Fury.

With the fire arrows, it’s not that you need three hands, it’s…great, now I’m forgetting exactly which button it was so I’ll probably have to look it up again, but I think it’s that you loose the arrow with R1 instead of R2. Yeah…because you hold R1 to craft the fire arrows, so I did that, and then I kept trying to shoot things (normally R2!) but only shooting regular arrows. So you just aim the arrow as usual, but press R1 instead of R2 to loose it. I think. Maybe.

You may find that the text explains this, but I did not. At least the internet had my back on the question, so apparently some other people were also confused.

I think it was extra confusing because rope arrows, which you get earlier, are also Special Arrows, but you shoot them EXACTLY the same as regular arrows, except that you shoot them at coils of rope that someone helpfully left around the jungle (same as in the last game). So I was kind of primed to expect that the action of shooting would be the same with the next kind of Special Arrow.

But I was wrong.

Don’t be wrong like I was. (Be wrong some completely different way! For the blog!)

It was very nice of that dude to wait so patiently for you to kill him before he could execute the other dude. Considerate villains are the best. I’ll send his family a fruit basket as a show of my appreciation.

Butch:

Fury and fear. Fear of the bug.

The game breaking bug is almost as scary as the lost save. Maybe worse.

I already was wrong in a different way! I think.

And yes, the rope thing not being special and, therefore, confusing happened in the earlier games, too.

But also we didn’t GET rope arrows for a while, right? There were things that were roped off that we had to go back to, later. Last night I felt like “Already? Really?” But maybe I remembered wrong.

Feminina:

I think the rope arrows came later in previous games, yeah. But that’s OK, really…”she already knows this trick, so here, we won’t make you wait around.”

The game-breaking bug is indeed the most crushing fear. I’ve never actually had it happen, but we still live in terror. I think the closest I’ve been was one game (I can’t remember which one now, which I suppose is a mercy) that was basically broken in one particular aspect, but the internet kept saying “they’re working on it!” and then eventually they did in fact release a patch and I was able to finish whatever it was.

I distinctly recall checking on the discussion boards for updates, and seeing that they patched for the Xbox first…I just don’t remember what game it was. Now this barely related tangent will occupy my mind all day.

I can’t find it in the blog archives…might have been before then.

Butch:

Makes sense. But it makes me wonder how they’re going to keep us out of places we are not meant to go yet.

No! Don’t get distracted! We NEVER get distracted!

Ha.

It’s just like saves. Thanks to my kids and minecraft, my backups in the cloud are getting to the limit allowed by PS+. I still have AC4 saves in there. This would clean up a lot of memory. But I can’t bring myself to do it.

To put this into perspective, I gave the disc to the library. But I can’t delete the saves.

Can I? Help.

Was anything before the blog?

Feminina:

There was Fallout New Vegas, mostly. And Dragon Age: Origins. That’s all I remember.

So we have something to revive if we ever enter a long dry spell and need to fill the blog with “blast from the past” commentary or something.

So far they’re keeping us out of places the same old ways, with barriers we need a rope arrow or shotgun or whatever for, only it’s “you lost your equipment and have to find this thing you used to have.”

At least it’s not “you somehow forgot how to do stuff you used to be great at.”

Unless that thing is “shooting fire arrows,” anyway.

Deleting saves from the cloud…that’s rough, man. Maybe buy a backup hard drive to store them all on first. Only sort of joking.

Butch:

Ah, yes. Those. Makes sense. And you had the Assassin’s Creeds I didn’t play.

Ah. Got it, lost equipment. But they have to do it somehow, right? Only fair.

Feminina:

Yes, I’m totally willing to accept “lost all my gear” as an explanation for why I’m not as powerful as I was at the end of the last game. It’s plausible (stuff gets lost!–and without certain stuff, certain things are harder!), and it doesn’t require that “I was a superhero now starting again at 1st level” suspension of disbelief.

And even though we ARE going back to first level in terms of skills, they at least gave all the skills new, region-specific names, so we can imagine that OK, we got really good at stealth-killing people in the particular environment of the last game, but this is a new place and maybe we have to learn how to operate effectively in it.

I mean, it’s still a suspension of disbelief, but at least it’s something, and it didn’t involve us dying and coming back from the dead (which takes care of a lot of discontinuities very nicely, but which a series can really only get away with, say, one time).

Butch:

Witcher 2 was the first game I played that really did the gear thing. In the first scenes, you lose your silver sword, which effectively says “You can’t kill any monsters at all” until you get it back. Nicely done. And you lose it in a moment of triumph. You have to fight this dragon, and you drive your sword into it’s mouth and you’re so happy….and then it gets stuck and the dragon flies away.

The idea of “new place” is a pretty good one. Fighting in the snow would be different than fighting in the jungle. I’m cool with that.

Feminina:

Yeah, plus we’re hunting different animals and plants now, so we need different skills for that…even climbing and movement can be a little different with different types of rocks and trees…I’ll accept it.

Butch:

Ah, yes. Panthers and shit. SO different from the…what…panthers and shit in the winter.

Feminina:

These are jaguars, dude. And a different kind of wild pig. COMPLETELY DIFFERENT.

There is an interesting new addition to the ‘healing herbs’ mechanic, which is that you can now gather different types of herbs, and one of them heals you like we’re used to, but one of them sort of turns on your ‘survival instincts’ or whatever they call it (otherwise known as the “making important things glow” trick we use every 5 steps) for a period of time.

It only works on plants and animals, not mission objectives and so forth, but you can basically use this herb and then walk around and all the useful plants and huntable/predatory animals will glow. I’m not sure if it works on humans, actually, I only practiced it out in the jungle when no one was around, but assuming it does highlight enemy humans, that could come in pretty handy in combat. And it’s kind of a nice thought, and again fits in with the general theme of a new place: new plants, new tricks, relearning some old tricks to work better in the new environment.

 

Butch:

Totally. Totally.

OOOOO!!!! I like that! Cuz I always forget I can’t walk and instinct. It’s embarrassing. I keep forgetting to survive.

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Common Ground: Within Reach?

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64  

No spoilers. Not totally loving this new WordPress posting interface.

Butch:



I got nothing. Home for a day and a half and my soul is already crushed. I was gonna play last night, really I was, but Junior lost an important assignment and I had to drive back to school (I mention that’s far away?) to NOT find it, then had to talk forever about what to do next, etc. Cuz parenting.

And I have a cold.

But it’s cool. Cuz today I have nothing but time oh who am I kidding I have to go to the dentist to have something done that will most certainly be awful.

I miss Vermont.

And games. I miss those, too.

Try not to finish TR. Is it good?

Feminina:



The dentist will be practically instantaneous! You’ll be home in no time, feeling great and ready to play!

Positive thinking. I’m doing my best to put it to work for you.

The game is pretty good so far. I’m still not VERY far into it, as I haven’t been playing every day either, but there’s some fun climbing, some rather intense dramatic scenes, some hints at larger plot (Trinity, etc.).

If only the hair were more lifelike, it would be really great…

Butch:



Ok, finally home, and numb as anything so nothing to do but play.

Never mind. Not playing. Loaded it up, did all the graphic stuff, and the glare from the window is such that it’s just wrecking it.

Cuz it looks so good!

Gotta wait until sunset.

I’ll play tonight.

But DAMN man, you gotta get the whole 4K deal. It’s NIIIIIICE.

Feminina:



Oh, man! Curse you, daylight!

Butch:

Hey, if it’s gonna start all dramatic on a black screen, I want it to be the way it’s supposed to be.

Feminina:



Indeed, indeed.

Blackout curtains! Install them now!

Butch:



Tell me about it.

Played Mafia with the shades up. Playboys and all. Mrs. McP was thrilled.

Feminina:



I’ll bet she was. She wants to be sure passersby are aware of the breadth of your literary and journalistic explorations.

For science. She’s into science.

Butch:



I do often forget that it’s really easy to see my TV from the street.

Really easy.

Ah, well. What do you expect from weird gamers?

Feminina:



Pretty much exactly this, I would think. But then, what do I know? I don’t pretend to understand the mysterious minds of people who don’t play video games.

Butch:



Why would we want to understand such weirdos?

Feminina:



It’s hard to imagine we’d have much to talk about. I mean, unless they like booze and burlap lingerie.

So come to think of it, perhaps the gulf is not so wide after all!

There IS hope for communication!

Butch:



Well, yes. EVERYONE likes burlap lingerie.

Feminina:



Or if they don’t, all hope of cordial relations between us are truly lost.

Unless the pear brandy can save us!

Butch:



And the nudity.

I’m so sorry I didn’t play.

Ok, here’s a game thing.

So what difficulty level are you playing TR on? I heard it’s a better game on hard, or, at least, if you set “Exploration” and “Puzzles” to hard. But you know how I feel about hard.

(It is VERY cool that you can set difficulty levels for different things differently. Nice when you can say something is very cool before you even start.)

Feminina:



I thought about those options! But in the end I just left them all on the middle setting, because I didn’t feel confident that I would enjoy it more on ‘hard.’ Although we’ve played enough of these games that ‘hard’ would probably be workable for us.

But I do like that you can adjust the difficulty of the different aspects independently, that’s a very nice feature. Maybe I like combat to be difficult, but don’t really feel like bashing my head on puzzles, or vice versa! Cool to have the option to change one without automatically setting the other to the same level.

Butch:



Yeah, when I read that the game is better when you’re exploring on hard, or doing puzzles on hard, my thought was “Yes, but dying all the time would suck.” And now I don’t have to!

I’ll probably start on all things normal. One can always change it later. I checked.

So there ya go! I don’t need to play! I can comment positively on the options!

And the very nice graphics on the load screen.

HDR. 4K. A pro.

It’s amazing.

It s Hard to Come Back

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

No spoilers.

Butch:

More later as I am at the track.

Fitness tip: don’t vacation. If you do, certainly don’t visit a winery, a cider mill and a chocolate factory.

Cuz then you have to go to the track.

Feminina:

But…but what else is even worth DOING on vacation?

Maybe the track is a fair price to pay.

Butch:

It was. It was.

Certain wonderful conversations:

“Do you want a wine tasting? We’ll pour our whole line [like, 14 wines].”
“How much?”
“Two dollars.”
“Why yes.”

“We just made a fresh batch of donuts.”

“Macadamia salted caramel chocolate clusters.”

“Local cheese plate with apple butter, maple crackers and caramelized hazelnuts.”

I mean, I could go on.

Track’s not THAT bad.

Feminina:

No…no…I can see how the track is a minor inconvenience by comparison. All those beautiful, delicious conversations…

So it was an OK break, then.

Butch:

Dude, I haven’t been that relaxed and happy in a long, LONG time. Even the beach vacation had a) kids and b) heart worries (not to mention, disappointing food. Good rum, disappointing food. Vermont did not disappoint food wise. Not one bit). This had none of those things. Weather was perfect….just great. Don’t want to be back.

You’d love it up there. Just “city” enough to have all the things you want, intellectual as hell, gorgeous, great food….

Maybe the home where we’ll share the PS9 will be in Vermont.

Feminina:

Ooh, I could get behind that. Vermont is nice. Even nicer than I thought, based on your description. I’m in!

The maple syrup alone is a major selling point.

Butch:

Here it is in a nutshell: Tried to stop at a rest stop in New Hampshire. Place was all a mess, the bathrooms were broken, nothing but porta potties, a bunch of bikers in the lot. We were all “Yeah….moving on.” Got to Vermont. There’s a rest stop. It’s all open, glassy, there are gardens and….get this…an indoor tropical garden. But it gets better! The tropical garden’s purpose? It takes the wastewater from the bathrooms, does something to it, feeds the garden, and purifies the water to be used again in the bathroom. (They do dye it so you know it’s not drinkable.)

This is in a highway rest stop. A tropical garden made of restroom waste, with water recycled countless times.

You certainly know when you’ve crossed the state line.

Feminina:

A tropical garden rest stop!? I’m in love.

Definitely going to the top of the list for the home.

Butch:

See? AND chocolate. And wine.

It’s my happy place.

Shit, I gotta play some games. Gonna install TR here after I fold this laundry.

Feminina:

Oh, I knew there was going to be laundry.

In the home, they’ll do our laundry for us. Either that, or our PS implants will allow us to play WHILE folding it, with carefully calibrated eyeball flickers.

The future is going to be great.

I mean, probably an apocalyptic hellscape, but also great. Vermont will still be great, at least.

Butch:

It’s in the mountains. We’re cool. Indeed, I read a thing where they asked climate scientists where the best places to be after the apocalypse happens, and Burlington was, like, number one! That and, I think, Tulsa, but fuck that noise.

Shit, I gotta play. DON’T MAKE MY HAPPY PLACE DEPRESSING!!!!

Laundry. And bills. And, apparently, a HUGE fucking update file which is currently downloading.

Feminina:

Burlington is preferable in every way to Tulsa. I’m there!

Not that I’ve ever been to either one of them, but sweeping generalizations are how we do. (I’m sure Tulsa is very nice.)

We should probably start looking into the home now…putting down deposits to save our places and such.

That isn’t the update file that said “you can play while it’s downloading but online functionality won’t work”? Because I had that one and needless to say I went ahead and played while it downloaded, given that I have slightly less than zero interest in online functionality.

Butch:

Dunno, man. I did the update just in case it was about the hair.

And now it’s done. But I have to make kid dinner cuz life sucks.

I miss Vermont.

Feminina:

I miss Vermont and I wasn’t even there.

Butch:

Very niche T SHIRT!!!!!!

I did bring home some wine. And some hard cider.

The chocolate didn’t make it home.

Counting Down the Hours

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

No spoilers

Butch:

Still nothing. We’re stuck with home repair and fitness. I gotta go kill some shit.

But I am going to the track! Vacation tonight. Must be ready.

For some reason, these pants I got for the track don’t make me feel any more modest than the shorts. They’re…weird. And with the Bruins hoodie I look like a weird, middle aged ninja gnome.

Why do people do this?

Feminina:

Weird, middle-aged ninja gnome would be a totally kickass D&D character. Rock it!

I loaded Shadow of the Tomb Raider! It’s very pretty. Lush colors, moody shadows. They do seem to have backed off on the super high-tech, individually animated strands of hair (or maybe it only shows on the Pro).

Some nice intro climbing and scavenging. I’ve missed the way she always kind of smacks baskets when she’s looting them. “Whack! Gimme your contents!” Always entertaining.

I’ve only murdered two dudes so far, though.

Butch:

What really made it was the Pandora station I rocked was “Rainbow Kitten Surprise.”

Seriously!

Says more about you than it does about me. Me am what me am. You CHOOSE to blog with me.

It better. No hair, no deal! Why’d I buy this thing, anyway?

Oh, well, you’re barely into it.

Don’t get too far.

I might not boot it today. The Mrs. and I are off in less than 10 hours (who’s counting?) and I have things to do to get ready, like make sure Junior does his homework, not kill Junior when he gives me shit about doing his homework, that sort of thing.

Ooo! And I have a free energy audit today! FREE STUFF!

Exciting.

I need a vacation.

Feminina:

FREE STUFF!

VACATION!

Those are both critically important. Maybe they’ll give you 50 free LED light bulbs! We got all ours replaced when we had an energy audit. The previous owners still had all incandescents, so we probably saved $200 on that alone.

Butch:

Oh they’re doing that. And sealing up some drafty windows, and putting a water saver thingy in the kid’s shower, which will save me, like 45375 gallons of water a day, and, if we need new insulation, they’ll cover 75% of the price. 75%!!!!

Not too shabby.

Feminina:

Nice! Yeah, we got packed insulation in the floor for the entire attic (so, the ceiling for the second floor, specifically over our bedroom which was the coldest room in the house) and it cost us 300 bucks or something ridiculous. Totally worth it. They were easy to work with, too, although there was kind of a long lag between when we signed up for the work and when someone was actually available to do it–but that’s any contractor doing anything, pretty much.

I mean, the light bulbs alone would have cost us at least $50.

Bring on the energy efficiency audit!

Butch:

Nice!

I’ll settle for sealing up the drafty assed window which is right by the TV, and, thus, the PS4. Let me game in comfort, MassSave man!

See? We’re still a gaming blog.

Rainbow Kitten Surprise. Check ’em out.

I’m very tired.

Feminina:

But you’re going to be oh-so-relaxed in 6 hours by a blissful weekend with NO CHILDREN.

Focus on the good stuff.

No children, and draftless comfort in your game space after you return.

Butch:

Now it’s more like 5 hours. But who’s counting?

I wonder what will be better. Two evenings with my wife, two nice dinners at lovely restaurants (already have reservations), nice evenings out, us time….

Or mornings without kids.

Sometimes, most times, it’s the mornings.

“Lovely dinner last night, dear, enjoyed your company, but hey, we slept in, there’s no waffles to make, no one’s fighting….WIN!”

It’s amazing how stuff that’s easy gets so annoying just cuz you do it every day. Junior eats the same breakfast every day: Two waffles with peanut butter. This is hardly eggs Benedict. This is easy. Pop ’em in the toaster, spread on peanut butter. And yet, some days I’m just like “I don’t want to make these fucking waffles.” Just on principle. Makes no sense, but, as a parent, I bet you know exactly what I mean.

(See also: Packing snacks for school.)

Feminina:

MAKE YOUR OWN DAMN WAFFLES!!!!! you sometimes want to yell.

I mean, no, I have no idea what you mean. I cherish every precious moment in which I can assist my precious angel children in any way.

Someday they’ll be able to make their own damn breakfast. That’s the dream.

Butch:

Damn, man. That’s some serious straight faced parenting bullshit.

There are some bright assed light bulbs right here. Good thing I switched out the dimmer so it can handle it just last week.

Handy, me.

I want to play. Though really, I want to go to Vermont. Without the kids.

Three hours. Three hours until soul restoring vacation.

But who’s counting?

And I need cuz holy shit I have no soul left. I have laundry to do and a yard to mow and an insane middle child and a dramatic older child who needs help with math homework I don’t understand (he’s doing stats. STATS! The FUCK is an IQR???) and I need a vacation.

No, no I did not have time to play. Or energy. One of those nights where the only effort you have is to mix cider with rum. Which I heartily recommend.

Feminina:

I don’t look forward to helping with math homework. I figure I’ll basically just have to plan to relearn math myself. Khan Academy or whatever gets good reviews! I’ll brush up the night before he needs help! It’s gonna be great.

Butch:

Dude, fucking college level stats. And he isn’t even in the most advanced math!

I mean, the fuck. What, winning a Nobel is a graduation requirement?

Cider and black spiced rum. Dude. Get on that shit.

I wish vacation planning didn’t involve so much laundry.

Feminina:

I never even TOOK college level stats, I’m not going to be able to help with that.

I can give him a little help with SAS if he wants to analyze his own data, but don’t ask me to explain what the various functions mean.

Everything in life involves laundry.

Butch:

I didn’t take stats either! The fuck is an IQR? Mrs. McP knew. But jeez. We’re fucked.

Laundry. Laundry is simple. You know where you stand with laundry.

Feminina:

I’ll just send O’Jr. over to talk to Mrs. McP. That’s my plan.

I’ll tell him I’m busy with the laundry, which will be true.

Butch:

My skills, I should stick with ABC Mouse.

We’re totally screwed.

Feminina:

WE’RE not screwed, our KIDS are screwed. We’ll be fine, as long as the mortgage bill comes in whole dollars.

And as we know, they’ll eventually get their chance to repay us as we deserve, by impaling us on stakes after the fungus apocalypse. It’s all going to work out great.

Butch:

True.

I suppose if I’m gonna get impaled someday, why waste what time I have doing math?

T SHIRT!!!!!!!!!

We’re so screwed.

Feminina:

Right?

Death is coming for us! Don’t waste a moment of the indefinite but certainly limited time you have on math!

I mean, unless you like doing math. I’m not trying to nerd-shame people who enjoy that sort of thing. Rock on you, math people.

But then, if you enjoy it it’s not wasted time.

Butch:

Yes it is.

Probably more so.

Feminina:

Now now, that’s judgy. We don’t want math nerds judging OUR hobby.

Although they almost certainly do.

Butch:

Doesn’t everyone?

I blame us.

Feminina:

No argument here.

Enjoy your blissful vacation weekend! It’s going to be great.

You’re gonna love it.

(And for once, this is true!)

It Could Have Been Worse

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

No spoilers. Extremely profound discussion of the definition of ‘art,’ devolving into advice on home repairs. You’re gonna love it. 

Butch:

Well, I guess election night wasn’t a total disaster, right? That’s what passes for good news these days.

Didn’t play. A friend was supposed to come over, but bailed, and then Mrs. McP wanted to watch the news so I got drunk as a defense mechanism because what else can you do?

I’ll play today. Everyone’s back at school.

Feminina:

Indeed, this is our good news. Not a complete disaster! Yay!

I was home yesterday because Grigio was throwing up. Good times.

But hey, that night could have been a lot worse. Small joys.

Butch:

Remember when we hoped for better news than “Not a complete disaster?” Those were the days.

Well, at least I’m not doing pukey laundry.

I think I’ll go cheer myself up by going to check out that new liquor store out in Burlington. Gotta do something.

Feminina:

Those were the days. How young and naive we were!

But hey, new liquor store! Definitely worth checking out. There could be valuable loot. And you need something with which to drink to the not-total-disaster.

Pick me up something that goes with pukey laundry.

On second thought, never mind. Whatever that is, I don’t actually want to drink it. Not unless I get really desperate, anyway.

Butch:

We’ve all been that desperate. And, if any place was gonna have something to pair with it, this was the place. A little overwhelming, really. But hey! Booze! Hooray, booze!

Well, still didn’t play, but we’re on a roll here, so we can keep rolling, right?

So while I was at stop and shop wondering where the brita filters were, I started thinking about this game in terms of art in general, and decided to get all esoteric. You’re cool with esoteric. It’s how we do.

So I mentioned yesterday about how complicated it gets, analyzing art, when something has such highs and such lows. And we agree Mafia three has very high highs and some low lows, right?

Usually, I would say, “Ok, still a work of art. Art, by definition, is something that makes you think, and, if you are thinking about something’s flaws, then fine. You’re thinking, it’s art. We think on the flaws of art on these pages all the time.”

But the wrinkle in this game wasn’t that there were bad parts, per se, it’s that there were BORING parts. We played parts of this game that were very thought provoking, and then we’d play stretches where all we could say was “Killed Kevin.” That isn’t criticism. It’s a void.

So when we do things like talk about how the shift to third person in Rise of the Tomb Raider was jarring, we’re still thinking hard about the art form, and Rise of the Tomb Raider’s place in it, good or bad. But when you have NOTHING to say about something, good or bad, it stops being art. Right?

But that would mean that it is possible for something, one thing, in this case Mafia 3, to be a work of art that has parts of it that AREN’T works of art. IS that possible? If it is, is THAT something that, like so many other weirdnesses, can only exist in a game?

Then I found the Brita filters.

Feminina:

I didn’t play either. Esoterica ahoy!

And…weeelllll…I don’t think it can be partly art and partly not art. Unless we’re going to say that a movie with a lot of boring parts is partly not art, or a book with a lot of pages where nothing really important happens is partly not art.

It’s partly art you appreciate and partly art you don’t appreciate, sure. Partly good art and partly bad art, if you want to make a value judgment (though, art being subject, there were probably people who preferred the exciting, murdery combat in this game to the boring, overly serious conversation bits).

But unless it literally turns into another thing in some places, like it switches to a video tutorial on how to use WordPress or something and then goes back to the game–it’s all part of the same thing. If the thing it is, is a piece of art, then I say it’s all art. Again–maybe not all successful art, maybe not all good art, but it’s all art.

I mean, if the entire game were nothing but hunting Kevin, we would say it was a boring game we didn’t care about and probably wouldn’t finish playing, but it’s still a game, right? And a game is art, in the sense that it serves no practical purpose.

I’m using art broadly here, obviously, to encompass pretty much any human endeavor that doesn’t have some specific practical purpose. We could argue that, say, a drugstore greeting card with a bad drawing of a kitten and a terrible poem on it isn’t really art, and if we’re going with that, then sure, we can talk about whether or not specific pieces of other artworks (movies, books) are also not really art. However, I’m not sure I really want to get into drawing the boundaries of what is and is not art, so broadly speaking…I’m going with yes, even the Kevin-hunting was art.

DISCUSS.

Butch:

Huzzah! Pull up the wing back chairs and put on your smoking jackets. We’re gonna go full PBS.

Except games have a fundamental difference from books or movies. Books and movies ARE one thing. A linear thing. You start and one cover, read until the other. You plop down and start watching when the lights go off, get up and leave when the credits roll. So you can say “Man, some of that was boring” because you couldn’t leave.

But non linear games aren’t like that. We talked just the other day about how reviewers might have played very different games before writing their reviews based on what parts they played.

So are games like movies? Or are they more like collections of short stories? Because if they are the latter, then I think you can very much judge them piecemeal. You wouldn’t sit down with an anthology of short stories, even by the same author, and say “I shall judge the second story based on how I felt about the first.” You’d approach them independently.

See, we’re used to judging games like that: the short story model. We do it all the time. Even games we adore, the main story is usually pretty lame. We love games for the side quests. Witcher 3? Yeah, yeah, wild hunt, save world, yeah got it. The magic of that game was the Bloody Baron and the queen of Skelege. Anything by bioware? Save the world, yeah yeah yeah. It’s the companion quest and whatnot we love. We’re willing to forgive the big picture because of all the episodic things along the way.

The reason we’re struggling so much with this game is it’s exactly the opposite. The MAIN story is great, everything else isn’t. Or, at the very least, the episodes on the main story’s arc are great and everything else isn’t. That’s almost never true. At best, we can say “The main story missions were AS GOOD as the side quests.” And we’re confused.

And I think that confusion begs the question: Have we been thinking about our own thinking about games all wrong? (Told you we’d go full PBS). When we’ve been all judgy of games as whole things, were we a) wrong to do that or b) wrong that that’s what we were doing in the first place? Have we been judging games as episodic shorts all along?

And oh, I’ll define art. I think art is any creative effort that inspires thought or reflection, or, at least, some visceral emotional response. There can be bad art, or offensive art, or flawed art, but I’m going with that as the discussion.

I would say your Kevin hunter game would be entertainment, which is fine, but entertainment isn’t art. The process of making it may well be the same, but art? No.

I think that art and entertainment are a Venn diagram, really. We’ve played games that are, without a doubt, art but not entertaining at all (Looking at you, TLOU), and games that are entertaining as hell without being really thought provoking (Uncharted 3, say). And we’ve played things in that overlap. And it doesn’t have to be in that overlap to be “good.” Both TLOU and UC are “good.” For what they are trying to do.

Which is my segue to how to judge them. If a game (or movie, or book, or whatever) isn’t really TRYING to be thought provoking, but is just trying to be entertainment, then fine. We take it for what it is. If a game (or movie, or book, or whatever) is aiming for that art part of the Venn diagram and misses, then we are going to skewer it, both in how we think about it and how much we like it. Nothing’s more eye rolling than something that takes itself WAAAAAY too seriously. Intent of the artist matters.

Which is why I think we’ve been intentionally or unintentionally judging games as anthologies all along. Take TW3, a game we both think is excellent. There were times when it took itself very seriously, and tried to say serious things. But then there were bits where you got drunk and stole Yen’s clothes, or played a lot of Gwent. And that’s fine, because in the gwent bits or funny bits, it wasn’t trying to say anything of substance. It would be like having a funny short story thrown into the anthology. That’s a lot easier to take than if all of a sudden, there was a musical number in Schindler’s List and we had to judge that as one, whole, monolithic artwork.

NO, YOU DISCUSS!!!

Feminina:

I WILL DISCUSS.

I like the anthology analogy, but…I think it’s not completely accurate. I mean, you can ONLY read certain stories in an anthology. “I bought this for Author X and ignored all the other stories” would work just fine.

Whereas you can’t, often, play only parts of a game. I mean, you can to a limited extent. I didn’t do any of the car racing in Mafia 3, and we both skipped some of the racket missions once we did enough damage to call out the boss. We skipped most of the boxing in TW3. Etc. But in this case, the very complaint is that we can’t skip a lot of the fighting and driving. You HAVE to do it. I think if you HAVE to do it, it can’t reasonably be separated out as “one story in the anthology.”

I can certainly see a game is like “one main story with a lot of smaller stories” and some of the smaller stories can be skipped (and some can’t), but unless we imagine a book with one main through-story and bunch of skippable side stories, it’s not exactly the same.

Maybe more than an anthology, a game is like a TV series…a lot of episodes in an ongoing sequence, featuring a lot of the same characters, but with potentially very different tones and emphases from both one episode, and one season, to the next. And some episodes, or some seasons, are a lot better than others. I would still argue they’re all art, but according to your definition, this may not be so.

And then, I guess, it’s far to ask whether or not we judge TV series as monolithic artworks, or as individual episodes/seasons. And the answer is probably “yes.” We do talk about them in both senses. (This could also apply for long-running book series, where you have a lot of different ‘episodes’ in which to explore different characters and stories and tones.)

Maybe we love some characters but hate certain seasons or story arcs or books. Maybe the first few seasons/books were great and the last one was terrible. Maybe it was all good except for that one story arc about so-and-so.

Butch:

YOU DO THAT!

True. Anthology is an imperfect analogy. Even in games that didn’t have so much unskippable stuff, you’re going to have to do the same beginning, say. Do the tutorials. We all had the same opening scene in the Witcher 3. You cannot skip to page 187 as soon as you open a game up, that you can’t. But it’s the best analogy I got. We’re talking about a new art form, here.

I think we do tend to judge TV series as monolithic pieces of art. Even if we don’t judge them as one unit (yes, we say that season was better than that season all the time), we expect a certain thing, with limited deviation, from each episode/season/whatever.

It goes to “what are they aiming for,” again. But, with TV, we allow them to aim once. Usually. A comedy? We can say “that episode is funnier than that,” some episodes become rather iconic while some are forgotten, but it has to stay FUNNY. Seinfeld’s horrendously misunderstood finale, which ended with them sitting in a prison cell quoting “No Exit” pissed EVERYONE off because what was Seinfeld DOING? They CAN’T do that! We could say that a popular show breaking the fourth wall and pointing out you’ve been laughing at awful, AWFUL people for years is quite an artistic endeavor. But it’s not acceptable for a show that hadn’t been doing that.

For some reason, the opposite seems to be more acceptable. We’re ok with a serious show letting its guard down every once in a while. An episode, say. Not a whole season.

Ok. But to go back to our initial question regarding how to judge something that’s sometimes so good and sometimes so bad, how many episodes/books/whatever in the series have to be good to couteract the duds? Or how many duds drag the whole thing down? There’s gotta be a line somewhere.

Feminina:

I’m sure there’s a line, in terms of how many boring episodes one can tolerate while still judging the overall work to be good, but I’m not sure it can be precisely calculated since it will probably vary from person to person.

Also, I’m not sure it’s always necessary to pronounce a final judgment on things. “Is this good, or bad?” Sometimes, things can in fact be both. “There were parts I liked, and parts I didn’t like” is a perfectly reasonable (and extremely common) response to…a lot of things.

But where any given person draws the line between “good with flaws” and “bad with some good bits”, I don’t know. I suppose it would make sense to just say it’s about the proportions, and if 51% was good, it’s good with flaws…but then, it also depends on the specific flaws.

If it was 51% good with flaws, but the flaws were really, incredibly, horrifyingly bad (in this case, I don’t know, say if you not only had to hunt all those Kevins but the game inevitably glitched and shut down halfway through each fight so you had to spend 5 minutes reloading every single combat), then maybe that outweighs the good. I might just no longer have the patience to sit through those flaws to get to the good parts, even if the good parts were technically a larger percentage of the game.

Like I said, I’m not sure we’re going to be able to devise a precise formula here.

Butch:

Well, that’s fine. We’re not good with precise. But at least we have encouraged thought. Thus, we are art.

That we are.

Man, I’m tired. And broke. Paid the junk people, the electrician and got new gutters and soffits this week. How are your soffits? You have soffits, you know.

Feminina:

Do not speak to me of soffits! We had to have a plumber to fix the toilet last week. Someone has to come back to fix the stove again, because the last time, it didn’t take. The sliding doors in the upstairs shower are out of their tracks and cannot be convinced to go back in, so you basically just can’t get in.

I do not wish to hear tell of soffits. Even though you totally made that up.

Butch:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soffit

There. Wikipedia says it’s real.

Ok, tip on appliances:

There is no bigger waste of money than repairing an appliance. By the time the fucking thing gets fixed, you’ve paid, like, 80% of what it would cost to just get a new one.

Just get a new one.

As for shower doors, I’ve been there. Rip ’em out, get a curtain.

Carefully, rip them out.

And fixing toilets is easy. The fuck you calling a plumber for? Even I can fix toilets.

But here’s the real “Why’d we buy houses?” tale of the week:

So I went to replace my outside light fixtures. I can do this. You unscrew the old one, take it off, attach the white wire to the black wire, screw it back up. Easy. Done it a lot. So I go to unscrew the fixture, only to find it is nailed there. Nailed. “Odd,” thought I. So I took out the nails only to find that the man I bought my house from had simply sawed a rather uneven hole in the outside of the house, reached in, pulled two interior wires through the wall, attached them to a fixture without anything else, like a junction box, and then nailed the whole thing to the outside of the house.

So for all these years, our outside lights are really just…what’s the word….fire hazards.

The electrician took a look and said “Well…that’s….crafty….”

Why’d we do this?

Buy a new stove. Get a shower curtain.

But dude, fix your own toilet.

Feminina:

The toilet was leaking water all over the bathroom floor AND through the pipes into the basement! We were afraid to mess with it. Next time.

You’re probably right about the shower doors and the stove. Unless the steel tariffs have driven up the price of appliances.

We should actually probably get one immediately, just in case that’s going to happen next month.

I don’t know why we got houses. You did try to warn me.

Also, everyone knows Wikipedia can’t be trusted. You probably wrote that article yourself just now.

Butch:

Ah, see, “all through the pipes” isn’t “toilet” so much as “complete clusterfuck.” Be specific.

Go get a stove.

Feminina:

Sorry, my bad. I’m new at complaining about houses. I might not even have realized what a terrifying fire hazard your outside lights were!

“Crafty?” I might have said. “That sounds like a compliment! I will now skip away humming a merry tune.”

Small joys.

Music to End Games By

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for the end of Mafia 3

Butch:

There’s more to say about this game! For example…

Ok, that drive to “hold on I’m coming,” “paint it black” and the metal, slow cover of “bad moon rising,” which was the song they played at the beginning when Lincoln is “becoming Lincoln” was the best use of music in game history up to that point.

Feminina:

That was a great cover of Bad Moon Rising. I sat in the car for a minute to hear the end of it. Did they make that just for the game, or have I just never heard it before?

How confident are we that Donovan didn’t just kill Remy Duvall’s cousin and feed him to the alligators? Given that we know only that he can’t be found later.

There was that moment, there, too, where we got to see Olivia being genuinely bad, in case we were going to be sympathetic. “Take one of his hands.” That lady was not messing around. Although the cousin was surprisingly uncooperative, for reasons that were never made clear. Why did he care so much about that land?

Lincoln seemed vaguely sympathetic towards him, as much as Lincoln is to anyone, but we don’t have any reason to believe he’s not as bad as Remy, other than that he wouldn’t cooperate with the mob. Ah well. No need to plunge too deep into the background of a minor character, I suppose.

Butch:

I think we’ve just never heard it before.

But it quickly got supplanted as the best use of music in a game by the fact that the ending there had “Sympathy for the Devil” slowly building behind it.

Especially as I was thinking, at the time, “This game sure does try to humanize a lot of very bad people, and, in so doing, points the finger at the player.”

More on that in a bit.

Ok, after some googling, turns out the cover was by a band called “Mourning Ritual” and it came out in 2014, making it a bit of an anachronism, but I’ll forgive it cuz it was so cool.

Feminina:

Yeah, I didn’t think it really sounded like the 1960s, but you never know. And yeah, we’ll forgive because it worked so well.

It represents the spooky, futuristic version of the song in Lincoln’s head while he ponders the ultimate fate of his own soul.

Butch:

Sometimes really fucking cool is enough.

T SHIRT!!!!!!

So what’s our final verdict on this? I certainly liked it more than the 62 or something it’s sitting on at metacritic. Lots of good stuff, from story to acting to the mechanics of XP and skills. And a bitchin’ level on a riverboat. But, on the other hand, weird ending, WAY too much unskippable busy work, WAY too many obstacles to getting to know interesting characters.

Some games you think are 7/10 ish cuz your reaction is “Meh.” There’s very little I felt “meh” about in this game. I had feelings. Strong feelings. But strong mixed feelings, and I never know how to judge a piece of art when it does so much so right and so much so wrong. See: any other art form as well.

And, as you said some time ago, I liked it more than I thought I would. So that’s something.

Whatchu think?

Feminina:

I liked it quite a bit. There was a LOT of interesting stuff here, serious stuff you don’t usually get in games and certainly not at this level of forthrightness–yes, we’re talking about race. Yes, we’re talking about class. Yes, we’re talking about systemic racism in society. Yes, we’re talking about whether or not violent revolution is a good answer. (Speaking of violent revolution, how about the Voice getting shot in the last radio bit? Is that part of the backlash to Lincoln’s moves against the white power structure, as threatened by that police officer on the news after Remy Duvall’s death? Or is it just that the police have probably been looking for the Voice for a long time, given what might be described as his inflammatory rhetoric?)

And honestly, I didn’t even mind the repetition and the driving all that much. I don’t know why, I can certainly see why people complained, but it didn’t particularly bother me for the most part. (I did get to a point where rather than obsessively complete every mission related to a racket, I would just do enough damage to bring out the boss, and then move on. So it got old for me to enough of a point that I gave up my usual complete-ist tendencies.)

I will certainly remember the characters and the story bits more than the racket missions, of course. (But all the driving in the bayou, that will live in my heart forever.)

I definitely glad I played it. Thanks, PS+!

Butch:

Wait, WHAT? The Voice is dead? I didn’t get that, or I got out of the car too soon.

Oh, I gave up that level of completeness early. Shit, I decided I was going to stay on track and keep the story going so much I skipped about 20 playboys. PLAYBOYS! If it gets to that, the story needs a lot of help maintaining momentum.

Certainly worth the price though!

As for getting back to games we paid for: You start TR? Cuz I haven’t yet.

Feminina:

Yeah, he was talking about how the promise of America, to be an example, and learn from mistakes, and provide opportunities for people, isn’t borne out because the same kind of people always end up in power, and won’t live up to the ideals and the laws of the land. Politicians suck, basically, and things never get better. And while he’s talking you’re hearing banging and crashing, and then some other voices yelling, and gunshots.

He could also be talking about Lincoln, as a potential person in power who doesn’t do real work to change things. Or, in our playthrough, a person who has the option to take power and try to change things, but doesn’t do it.

Because that’s something we also have to think about. It was better for Lincoln’s soul, probably, that he left town, but was it better for the city and the people in the city? As he said, “somebody’s going to do it, and if not me, probably somebody worse.”

James didn’t accept that argument, and so neither did we when we played that choice, but it’s actually not a bad argument. Lincoln didn’t do it, so in fact someone else did. Maybe they did it worse.

One could argue it’s a sign of weakness, of personal selfishness, to say “I’m worried about my soul and/or my relationship with this one dude (and/or I’m just bored with all this murdering)–I’ve done all this damage and now I’m running off.”

Sure, man. We wrecked the power structure and then walked away. Good for us, I guess. A bunch of people still have to live here, though. It might have served them better if we’d sucked it up and stayed to deal with the aftermath of our own destructive actions.

I mean, since when is breaking everything and walking off a sign of strength and character? Staying to deal with the consequences, that would have shown commitment. Or else it would have shown that we were no different from every other person who takes power.

Man, we SHOULD have stayed. Ah well. Life and video games are filled with regrets.

As for TR, I haven’t started yet. Soon! In mourning or celebration of the brave new post-election era of whatever!

Butch:

Damn, man. So both Remy and the Voice die. Interesting.

And pessimistic. This was a pessimistic game, wasn’t it?

Well, my city sure as hell wound up a mess.

What’s interesting is that Lincoln’s city ended up pretty good. There was crime, sure, but still. Wound up better than Cassandra.

What’s VERY interesting is that the “betray” ending, where you kill everyone and then get killed by James, we don’t really know how shit turned out. We know that things were some degree of bad to awful if Lincoln leaves, things are good but still crime ridden if he stays, but if he dies, we don’t know if someone does, and, if so, if it’s someone worse.

Hmm.

But also see that a) Lincoln says to the mob guy “I got no quarrel with you,” which is true and b) even FBI admits that Lincoln did what the FBI couldn’t: got Marcano out of power.

We’re on the same game schedule? Still? What?

WHO ARE WE?????

Feminina:

WHO ARE WE?! This game has changed us. Made us more thoughtful and cautious.

Or something.

Interesting, indeed, that the best ending overall for people who aren’t you (and even arguably for Lincoln, since living on the run probably gets old), is if you stay and share power. So maybe what ruined Sal–I mean, aside from Lincoln–was not his actions, but his inability to work well with others? After all, if he’d left Sammy and Ellis alone, NONE OF THIS WOULD HAVE HAPPENED. (Or if he’d made sure Lincoln was dead. So…work well with others OR make sure you definitely, absolutely kill them. Whichever works!)

If the game was about taking down the Man, maybe the only way to ‘win’ was to keep the man out, by staying in his place, but to refuse to become the Man, by not trying to take all the power.

Maybe the point is that you can’t listen too much to either the angel OR the devil on your shoulders–you have to ignore James’ advice, and seize the power, but ignore Donovan’s advice and don’t try to seize ALL the power. They’re both steering you wrong, there (though both, possibly, with good intentions as they see it: James is certainly genuinely concerned for Lincoln’s soul, and Donovan…maybe doesn’t trust other people and actually is giving what he thinks is good advice, although it’s also possible he is intentionally trying to stir things up.)

You can’t let any specific character tell you what to do, you have to steer between the extremes and compromise.

That’s…actually kind of inspirational.

We should have stayed.

Butch:

Oh no. He took MORE power. It makes it clear that he EXPANDED into Florida, the Carolinas, the whole south.

I like the whole “balance” idea you have. Lincoln does well for people by doing terrible things. People get schools and hospitals, but they get them because Lincoln is awful. Little of both. Lot of both.

But…..

The last thing you see in that ending is a) the FBI guy saying he wants to shed light on the real Lincoln Clay, even if people won’t believe him or care because of his public image and then b) James lamenting the path Lincoln took and sobbing.

So the game is hardly cheering you. Often, when you get the “good” ending, the game, at some level, pats you on the back. Here, the game rewards you by having the best guy in the game, James, sobbing over what you did.

Sigh. Here we go again. So many complexities. So much good stuff. So much thought.

In a game with so much tedium.

Feminina:

I didn’t mean “not taking all the power Sal had,” or expanding on that, I just meant “not trying to have all the power in his own hands”–instead, he was sharing it with his underbosses, if I understand your description correctly.

I would feel bad about making James cry. I would. But then, it’s not like he was ecstatic if you leave town, either. All alone there in the church in the city that had returned to lawlessness.

I did like his line there with Lincoln at the end: “there’s only so much a soul can bear,” and you think he’s talking to Lincoln about how this is his last chance to save himself or whatever, but then he goes on with “and mine has had all it can carry” or something. He’s going to cut Lincoln off not because Lincoln would have crossed a line into irredeemable badness, but because HE would have.

He’s done so much for Lincoln, taken on some of the badness himself along the way by tolerating all kinds of crime and sin, but he can’t do anymore. And again, it’s such a priest’s line–he’s not telling Lincoln he’s damned, just that he can’t help anymore.

“God could still help you, but I can’t.”

James is a good, earnest character.

Butch:

Ah. True. That he was, sharing power. Though it certainly still seemed he was in charge.

Ooo, good point about James. He has reached a breaking point. All he can do.

Lots of good characters in this game.

And props to acting. Acting is an underrated thing in games. Good acting is SO important, and there really wasn’t a weak performance in the whole thing.

Feminina:

The acting really was excellent. Props to all the actors! Lincoln was great. Whether it was chatting casually, or making violent death threats, or saying “how you doin’?” to a passerby on the street, the lines always sounded right.

And you’re right, I can’t think of any characters where the voices didn’t work. Maybe Santangelo, but as you say, he was just weirdly stereotypical and fit oddly into the narrative in general. His voice wasn’t the problem–that actor did a fine job with a role that just didn’t quite make sense (to us, anyway).

The facial animations were not always as good as the voices–I found that Nicki in particular often looked kind of creepy. But her voice was always good! So I’d just kind of glance at something else while listening to her. And Lincoln’s animations were generally good.

And Donovan’s animation was good, and the actor managed an interesting level of possible craziness (you start to think there’s a little something off with him pretty early on) balanced with extreme competence in his particular skill set.

So yeah. They should make another game with similarly intense characters and good acting and heavy story, with maybe slightly less driving in the bayou.

Although man, even when you were tired of driving in it, the scenery was also excellent.

Butch:

That shit was great. As was the lighting and weather. How the sun hit the car differently at different times of day? Wonderful.

Of course, I’m about to do a true 4K game here (cuz I got a PS Pro. BOOM!) so maybe I’ll be like “Uh…never mind. THIS game is awesome.”

And, as I looked on imdb, as one does, the actors were all rather inexperienced. Here’s hoping they get more gigs.

They didn’t do well with the weird full body, cutscene but not conversations when it came to animations. All of those were kinda weird. Cutscenes themselves? Great. Those? Weird.

That said, the game is almost three years old. We gotta remember that.

Slightly less driving. And killing enforcers. And running down informants.

Feminina:

Hey, hey, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. We should give this game at least a full day for wrap-up.

More, if we don’t start raiding tombs right away.

So yeah, the light on the car–good stuff. And the reflections in the car hood, as you were driving over bridges! And the way the car would respond as you progressively wrecked it more and more until it had no windshield or mirrors and the hood wouldn’t stay closed–I kind of enjoyed that.

And the brief blindness when you’d go from a dark area to a bright one, or vice versa–games in general are pretty good with that these days, but I frequently noticed that this one did a nice job.

“So bright, I can’t see! Oh, now so dark I can’t see!”

The world in general was mostly very nicely done. And the richness and variety of the supporting characters, we’ve given the game props for that before but they remain well deserved. If it had been easier to get at that richness and variety without having to wade through an unending sea of racket missions, that might have been cool.

I was going to muse that maybe we should have just played it on ‘easy’ if what we really wanted was the story bits, but I don’t think that would really solve the problem. It would just be wading through a bunch of trivially easy combats, as opposed to a bunch of somewhat challenging ones–having to put in the time on all those very similar little missions was really the issue. (Though, again, not really as big as issue for me as for some. I guess I have a high tolerance for straightforward, minimal-nonsense jobs that involve murdering dudes.)

If there had been a difficulty setting that reduced the number of missions, but not the actual difficulty? That might have been interesting.

Butch:

Yes. That car damage.

Though there were times I lost my front tires and was all “Uh…why is the car…oh right.”

That is a nice touch, with the light shifts. And, as you know from my gushing over TW3, I am a sucker for in game sunsets.

Though it’s funny. You look at a game like Beyond, which came out at a similar time, that game didn’t have great lighting or sunsets or times of day or anything. But it DID have much better facial capture. Maybe folks had to pick and choose where to spend their CPU power. Lighting must take up a whole shitload of processor power. Gotta give up something to get that.

I must admit, I did lower it to easy a few times for that very reason. It was for the times when I had just done a bunch of racket bits the night before, and I just didn’t want to waste a whole night’s playing doing nothing but those and looking at load screens. And yes, it was wading through a bunch of trivially easy combats. But sometimes you have to make the choice to just quickly wade. If you’re gonna wade, wade through shallower water. And it was late in the game. I had already DONE so much. I figured, I proved I could do it. So there.

Reducing number but not difficulty would be interesting, but I don’t think I’d dig it. Even wading through combats, you get a sense of what the developers wanted. I generally don’t like too many customization options in games. It’s like going to a nice restaurant, ordering something, and then telling them to omit four ingredients and change five more. What are you at the restaurant for? You have a great, trained chef in there.

I figure, if developers think you should be able to skip certain missions, then they will make them skippable. Our legitimate beef was that a lot of missions that would be skippable in other games weren’t. What a game makes mandatory or not is a decision that should be left to the artists, even if they’re going to fuck it up sometimes. Like this time.

Feminina:

Well, certainly in terms of reviewing games, you kind of have to play it the way it was designed. Too much room to fiddle around, and it gets to the point that two people aren’t really even talking about the same game anymore.

“What do you mean you loved X part, I never even met that character or visited that area!”

Which I guess is fine if you really do want to make an “everyone gets their own story!” game, but difficult to pull off while maintaining any kind of stable narrative.

Butch:

True, but it’s a problem reviews have anyway. You get a game, you have two weeks to do whatever the hell you can and get the thing written. I imagine a lot of reviewers play on easy just to get through it, which means they don’t get how hard it’s supposed to be. Or, as you say, they miss so much that they’re not playing the same game as other folks that review it. You think anyone played 100 percent of Skyrim or Fallout 4, or even MEA or TW3? Shit, you think anyone played 50%? So if I play, say, 30% of a game to review it, and you play 30%, the amount of overlap might be quite small. And that’s even without fiddling around.

No reviewer on earth plays a game an hour a night then writes about it like we do. It’s just not how shit works.

Feminina:

Plus, no one looking for actual game reviews wants all our spoilers and fine detail.

“Considering whether or not to play this game? Here’s 11 weeks of daily, 20,000-word posts about every aspect of it, including the plot, characters, and our thoughts about exactly what happens at every stage!”

If that doesn’t help you decide, I don’t know what will, honestly. WE’VE TALKED IT TO DEATH WHAT MORE DO YOU WANT.

You Have One Choice

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for the end(s) of Mafia 3

Butch:

Ok, done.

What was your ending?

Feminina:

I left town. I expect you did too, because we always do the same thing.

So we finally found out what Donovan’s deal was…

Butch:

I did leave town. And Cassandra took over, and I immediately regretted leaving town, which didn’t surprise me, as the whole time I was leaving I was thinking “I am going to regret this.”

I just watched the “other” endings, and the only one that makes sense for the FBI guy to even be there, and for James to be so sad, is staying and running it with everyone. But whatever.

Did you kill Sal? That’s a better question.

Because I think, in the end, this game was REALLY about games themselves. It was about making game players wonder why they’re ok with some things, not ok with others. I think it’s why they tried so hard to humanize bad people: it’s what WE do every time we step into a “hero’s” shoes.

Cuz there’s Giorgi. He’s easy to hate. He’s there all bragging about killing Olivia with a knife. Eww, right? And then he’s all “But I did it for my father.” Whatever, right? He’s evil. But how many people did we kill with knives? And how many trophies did we get for it? Why? For our in game father. Right? We are him, he is us. And yet, we instinctively hate him, and we choose to spend hours BEING Lincoln Clay.

And then Sal pretty much giving up because he’s lost Giorgi. Did you kill him?

As for Donovan……I still don’t know WHAT the fuck is with that.

I COULD say that it, too, was an indictment of both “well meaning” white folk and the player, especially players who are well meaning white folk. After all, Donovan is nuts. We spent many a word here, on the worst fitness blog on the internet, trying to read between lines trying to figure out what rational reason he had for helping Lincoln: Politics? Money? It had to be SOMETHING that made sense because he was a “good” guy, right? But nope. He was just as crazy and deluded and zealous about something so WRONG as all the other white folk. Everyone, really.

So is this “Even the good black folk are puppets of crazy white people no matter what?” Is it that pessimistic?

But when I think on that, it falls apart. Lincoln called Donovan. Not the other way around. What was Donovan’s master plan? “I will befriend this soldier I met in Vietnam who I know is into some sketchy shit in New Orleans. Why? Because I am mad that, three years ago, JFK was shot, and I am so obsessed with it, and there is a chance that this man will someday take on the mob in New Orleans who might be involved with JFK, and, if, by chance, he takes on the mob, his priest friend might call me and I’ll get to the bottom of everything.”

That is one hell of a plan.

So I don’t get it. It was a weird last image of the game.

And what makes even less sense is that, in none of the possible endings, does ANYONE in the present acknowledge it at all. You’d think the FBI guy, at least, would have SOME interest in the fact that Lincoln’s close friend was the guy who went batshit and shot a sitting Senator. Even if that was “classified,” one would think that a sitting Senator being killed was news, and relevant news to the narrative of the documentary.

Some people think that the scene was setting up a Mafia 4, but I doubt it. This game took a knock for not having a lot of, you know, MAFIA in it, so what would a game with Donovan be like? “Take the role of a batshit conspiracy theorist as he does…something mafia like in furtherance of his batshit ideas….who knows? There’ll be Italian food? Close enough? MAFIA 4! Pre-order now!”

So, good job really challenging why we, as players, have so much sympathy for some devils and so little for others. That’s a cool thing to make me think on. But this Donovan stuff? Oooookaaaay.

Oh, and did your Cassandra take over? Cuz we can talk on that.

Feminina:

I partly left town because Donovan as he’s leaving said “you’d better take out the people who’ve been working with you before they come after you,” and I was afraid that if I went to the plantation I’d wind up having to kill Cassandra, Burke and Vito. Which I kind of didn’t want to do because…I mean, we weren’t exactly friends, but they were the closest thing I had.

And James saying “if you do anything but leave, we’re through,” I figured James IS the only person Lincoln has left who’s family, in a sense, and maybe he doesn’t want to lose that. Doesn’t want to trade that for the mob ‘family,’ anyway.

I did kill Sal. Killed everybody, man. It was interesting, that scene where you sit and have a drink with him and tell each other about your nightmares. It really was a moment where Lincoln basically becomes Sal…or doesn’t, quite, if we wind up leaving town instead of taking over.

I didn’t feel BAD for Sal, but I kind of respected him at that point. “I’m not going to say I’m sorry for any of the bad stuff I did.”

Lincoln also never says he’s sorry for any of the bad stuff he did. It was a perfect set up, really, for the logical narrative next step of Lincoln taking over. Lincoln was MEANT to take over!

So it’s actually a little weird that you even have the option to refuse, and perhaps even weirder that, given that option, all the players we know (us) will take it. A desperate last-minute grasp for redemption?

If so, it wasn’t a very successful one given that we spend the rest of our life on the run, can’t maintain a relationship, etc. But perhaps that’s all we deserve, given the many, many bad things we’ve done.

My Burke took over…I wonder how it decided which one wins? The FBI guy said that he wasn’t even supposed to live more than six months because of liver cancer, but he took the money Lincoln left and went to South America for a black market transplant, and lived another dozen years or so selling cocaine and stuff until the Colombians (I think) moved in and he died in a shoot-out. I didn’t hear anything about what happened to Vito or Cassandra.

“And to this day, New Bordeaux is a lawless hell-hole,” FBI-guy said, or words to that effect.

As for Donovan–I don’t know if we’re meant to think that he originally befriended Lincoln because of some long-range plan that culminated in a senate hearing. He tells the senator that he found his name in Sal Marcano’s papers after Sal was dead, so it’s not as if he was actually targeting that guy to start with.

I think maybe they did just meet in the army doing black ops or whatever, and then Lincoln thought of him when he needed some help with this revenge thing, because who better than a guy who cheerfully dismembers old women, and Donovan leaped at the chance to help because he thought the mob was involved with JFK’s death and this was a chance to learn more. He probably met a lot of people in the army, and maybe just never bothered to help any of them with their death plots because there wasn’t a mob tie-in. (Or maybe he DID help more of them, and we just don’t know about it because it wasn’t in this game!)

And then he did learn more, helping Lincoln, and he went with it in his own head until he’d built up a satisfactory conclusion. It’s…honestly not the MOST satisfying explanation, but it’s OK.

As for what that means, and whether it makes Lincoln the puppet of a crazy white man…meh. I think Lincoln did what Lincoln wanted to do, and Donovan helped him. Did he also help Donovan? Sure. Did Donovan prompt him on occasions when he might have felt like just giving up? Maybe. We don’t know how serious any of his thoughts about giving up were. He never actually vocalized any such ideas, we just read into it because he’d take a break for a minute and then go talk to Donovan again, or stop to close some guy’s eyes. We could also read it that Lincoln was going to get himself psyched back up and carry right on with the quest no matter what, and all Donovan did was cheer him on and give him information he would have had to work harder for otherwise.

I don’t know.

Butch:

Apparently, if you go back, you have a choice to either kill everyone or rule together. Certainly, the best thing for everyone is ruling together. You set up a massive criminal empire, everyone gets rich, you reopen the amusement park, build hospitals, sell drugs, that sort of thing. You get so powerful the FBI can’t touch you and the FBI guy is all “I did this documentary to shine a light on the real Lincoln Clay” and James cries and stuff. Somehow Katrina doesn’t happen, etc.

If you kill everyone, you get in your car, which blows up, and the documentary cuts to James confessing that he planted the bomb to save the city.

But yeah, figured James’ approval would matter to Lincoln.

If you watch the endings, certainly the one where he takes over a) makes the most sense and b) is probably the canon ending as it sets up a sequel in which there is an actual mafia.

As for redemption…Yes and no. I did not kill Sal. Well, I did, because if you put a square in front of me I will press square. Then it occurred to me that the quest wasn’t “Kill Marcano,” so I reloaded and just walked away. He sat there screaming “You COWARD” and “DO IT!” and shit until he shot himself. Which wasn’t redemption, per se. He WANTED us to kill him. He wanted to go out like a mobster, I guess. So denying him that wasn’t exactly nice.

Huh. My Cassandra got it. And things went BADLY. She was never respected by the other gangs, so se had to, basically, kill the fuck out of, like, everyone, including the old guy we see at the end. No 20% option for her. So the Governor cut all sorts of aid to the city, so she had the governor killed, which was basically the end of any aid as the white folks left New Orleans to rot. It’s schools, roads, everything went to shit. Then “In the last big storm, that some people think of as Hurricane Cassandra” (seriously), when thousands died, she disappeared. “Some think she drowned, but she’s more likely out in the bayou, running the underworld still.” Last thing is her, on a bridge, in silhouette, a truck diving by and she’s gone.

Ok, I’ll go with your theory for Donovan. He might not have been targeting the Senator, but he certainly wanted the MOB for his own bullshit.

Or, really, do you think we’re supposed to think he’s nuts? Yes, we hear conspiracy theorists and think “nuts.” But we also hear people think they saw aliens, and yet we happily play games with aliens all the time. Fiction. So do you think the game was wanting us to buy this? That there really was a conspiracy in the game world and Donovan is right? And onto it?

And remember the Pagani bit where Lincoln WAS having doubts.

Hmm.

Feminina:

Oh man! We should have taken it over and ruled with our people as an unstoppable force. Siiiiigh.

Interesting that Cassandra went that hard core. Killing the governor! Burke just let the city go to cocaine. I wonder what Vito did?

I thought about that, with Donovan. Are we really meant to think he’s a crazy conspiracy theorist, or are we meant to think he actually HAS uncovered the truth (or some truth), considering that weirder truths have been uncovered in video games we’ve played before? Or are we meant to not really know, because who knows what the truth is?

And yeah, the Pagani bit had doubts, but was Lincoln seriously contemplating calling the whole thing off? Would he, at that point, having already taken over all those territories and killed all those guys, have really said “you know what, this quest for vengeance is destroying my soul and turning me into the very thing I hate. I’m out.”

I don’t think there was any indication that he was actually pondering that. “I don’t know, it doesn’t seem quite right” or whatever he said is not exactly “I’m not doing this anymore.” Maybe he was just pondering whether or not he was really a “good man,” as James stated (almost accusingly).

I mean, yeah, we made much of how James is the conscience and Donovan is the tempter, or whatever (and I think that was legitimate analysis!), but in that read, they’re both only giving voice to things Lincoln already knows/feels/wants. Did Donovan’s encouragement really keep Lincoln on the quest at a moment when he was about to give it up, or just cheer him on at a moment when he was feeling a bit less than pumped about the whole thing?

I still think in the end, Lincoln did what he wanted to do, and like Sal, I think he accepted what that made him and didn’t apologize for it. Did it make him a monster? Kind of. Was he, as you pointed out, no better than Giorgi, killing people for a father figure? Indeed. Did he, in the end, get any long-term peace or satisfaction out of the fact that he’d succeeded? We don’t know. Maybe not. Maybe those nightmares he and Sal talked about still haunt him.

Maybe there’s not a ‘good’ ending because it’s a game about bad people doing bad things.

Maybe that works.

Butch:

I watched Vito’s ending, too!

He “spat on Marcano’s grave one last time” by actually completing the casino. This led to revenue, and stadiums and that sort of thing, and New Orleans became the “Vegas of the South.” It didn’t have any of the “good stuff” that Lincoln did if he took over, like rebuilding the Hollow and having hospitals named after him, but it thrived as a casino/Vegas kind of place. He’s still alive, living in Marcano’s penthouse, looking out at the city he owns. Final shot: him standing in front of huge windows, smoking, in the lap of luxury, looking just like the old gangster you meet when you kill Marcano.

But Donovan…Yup. We’ve done weirder things than “Unravel the real truth about JFK!” But he sure seemed unhinged at the end there. And the total lack of an epilogue for him would make one think he’s the sequel. But MAN that would be a weird game, even more so if he IS unhinged. He sure seemed nuts. Turning back all “Whaa! Made you flinch!” as he was exiting, that’s not something you do if you’re being all business, CIA style. That’s just nuts.

And James certainly thought that there was an off ramp for Lincoln, no matter what. So….

But I think it does work at the end. And it certainly makes you think as a player. We enjoyed being the same as the very baddies we had visceral reactions to. You just HATE Giorgi in the game, or I did. Yes, Olivia tortured dudes. But so did Vito (while we stood idly by) and Donovan sure did. We talked on how we liked Conti, but he dissolved bodies. This game really did give you characters who were all the same in terms of their inherent goodness, but we both had varying feelings towards them, and it’s up to us to look in the mirror and wonder why.

We even had varying feelings about Lincoln. One thing that I was pondering was his name: Clay. Clay is, after all, something that you take and mold into whatever you want, and that, I think, was something the player was encouraged to do, and then wonder why they made what they did.

On the Bright Side [Something Something Booze]

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

No spoilers, except possibly of your cheery mood. Readers in the U.S. should probably vote.

Butch:

Ok, while the kids are gone I’m gonna play. Cuz I didn’t play. I don’t even know WHY I didn’t play. I was GOING to play. Maybe it’s the crushed soul thing. The kids are SOOO tired, they are SOOO needy. They’re in that “I’m going to talk all the time cuz I need attention despite the fact your whole fucking JOB is paying attention to me I don’t get enough attention.”

Fucking kids. Screwing up your game time even when they’re not there.

Feminina:

Yeah, that’s kids all right.

Mine are still goofy with candy and grandpa, but he’s away now. We’ll try to get them calmed down and back to normal over the weekend.

For a couple of weeks, until the holiday madness.

Oh, wait, next week isn’t normal, it’s the election (I SO want it to be over, and yet I’m kind of terrified of the potential results, so…maybe we should just linger here in this period of doubt and possibility) and there’s no school so O’Jr.’s spending the day with the grandparents and the cousins. He’ll be all wired up for days.

Butch:

Oh right. Election. I already voted, so it’s not in my head, cuz I did what I could do then tried to hide in a cocoon of video games and booze. Only the second one seems to be coming to pass.

I WANT TO PLAY!

That day IS parent teacher conferences though. That’ll be a damn blast. And Nugget and Meatball have the day off (cuz it’s elementary conferences) and Junior doesn’t, what not being in elementary school and all, and getting his ass out the door on Tuesday will be SOOOOOOO much fun.

“WHY CAN’T I STAY HOME, TOO??????”

Why’d we do this?

Feminina:

Oh, that’s going to be a morning to remember. At least Grigio, who still has daycare, is small enough not to completely understand that he’s missing out on a fun day with the grands THAT HE IS OWED BECAUSE HIS BROTHER GETS IT.

I voted already too, a week and a half ago, and also wanted to immediately forget about it, except all the news keeps talking about it. MAKE IT STOP!

Unless the way it stops is like in 2016. In retrospect, I could have dealt with another few years of not knowing that outcome.

It’s like living in Schrodinger’s Democracy, man.

Butch:

Ain’t it just? Ain’t it just.

I’m getting depressed.

Only way out of this is to go spend too much money on food and make myself a nice, wine accompanied dinner tonight, then come home and murder some dudes. Or something.

Feminina:

That sounds like the way to go, all right. Booze and video games. The opiate of the masses, when they really need some opiates.

Well, I suppose the current addiction crisis suggests that opiates are the real opiate of the masses. But the ones who haven’t quite gotten there yet are really working the booze and video games.

Butch:

This is depressing. It’s Friday damn it!

Drinking coffee while the nice meat man custom cuts me some Icelandic lamb. Dudes been doing right by me since I wore a fallout shirt and we talked on games. Always goes out back for the good stuff.

Small joys.

Feminina:

We must cherish these small joys. Their memory may well be all we have to sustain us through the long, bleak years of doom ahead.

OK, that was a bit much.

You’re right, it’s Friday! I have a desk drawer full of Halloween candy! It’s weirdly nice out (probably a symptom of the approaching climate apocalypse, but never mind)!

Time to party.

Or play games. You should play games so we have something to talk about besides real life. Real life is much too grim.

Butch:

Games. Anything to cheer you up.

Feminina:

Yeah, see? It’s your duty, as a good and caring friend, to play some games.

If anyone asks, you’re just trying to pull me out of a depressive spiral.

I’d do the same for you!

Oh, and as an aside, a moderately interesting review of Fallout 76 from a beta player: https://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2018/11/02/wouldnt-it-be-nice-fallout-76-beta-review/

I’m probably certainly not going to get into it.

Butch:

Doesn’t sound like my/our thing. That it does not. That’s an excellent point of rewarding hours NOW instead of WHEN IT SUITS YOU, which sums up my second biggest bother about games like this (the first, of course, being I hate other people).

I wish it luck. I do. But I’ll stick to good ol’ single player.

Feminina:

Agreed. I thought also an interesting point that it could turn out to be like some Minecraft servers where people plug away at their own stuff on their own time–but then she also says that you can’t build very much.

Because we know that some people (not us) really liked building and maintaining and improving settlements, and that’s one of the most Minecraft-y things imaginable, and yet apparently you can’t just go wild with it. Hm. We’ll pass. Wish it luck and I hope people who play it find it fun, but it doesn’t sound like something I care about.

Butch:

Yeah, it did sound like “Hey! Make settlements and invite your friends!” which were two things I did not want to do. But, as the article attests, Minecraft has built an empire on people wanting to do those things. I am just not one of those people.

I just hope this doesn’t lead to the blurring of single player and multi player. Bioware’s Anthem has me nervous enough. I’m not talking about single player games with a multiplayer mode that can be cheerfully ignored (TLOU and ME3 both boasted those, and we didn’t care). I mean when the WHOLE GAME blurs lines, like Anthem promises to do. Cuz here we are again: You CAN play single player….I guess….but…..

That ain’t good.

Feminina:

I agree. I mean, fine, do what you’re going to do with multiplayer online etc. in some specific game I’ll then avoid playing, but don’t make that the new standard so all the good games wind up there, OK?

Butch:

Agreed. And one does worry.

Of course, they’ve written the obituary for single player games every year since World of Warcraft came out and they’ve always been wrong.

Feminina:

We must take comfort in the repeated wrongness of people who spend a lot of time wildly speculating about video games on the internet.

People like us!

Hopefully we’ll also be wrong about the pending apocalypse.

Butch:

Damn you’re cheerful.

At least I have the good Icelandic lamb chops.

And wine. Lots of wine.

Feminina:

Sorry. Sorry. These are dark times.

Or not! It’s Shrodinger’s Apocalypse!

Maybe I should cut back on the Halloween candy. Subsisting primarily on sugar may lead to a certain jumpiness.

Butch:

See? You should eat some lamb chops. Especially the Icelandic ones.

Though tonight it’s fish. Gotta stay some sort of fit. And the track is less fun when it’s cold. Which is saying something.

Feminina:

Lamb is healthy! Probably. Sort of. I don’t know, it’s up to you to keep track of the nutrient values of meat.

I shall have grains, beans, and fresh vegetables! And cheese. Lots of cheese.

Butch:

All I know is the Icelandic stuff really is better. I thought it was a gimmick for sure, but I tried it and damn, it’s the best. So I thought “No, that MUST be a gimmick. Maybe the recipe was just good and I nailed it,” so I got more HOPING it wasn’t good because I’ll hope something isn’t as good just to prove to myself I’m not a sucker for gimmicks. But no, it was amazing.

Maybe I really am a sucker for gimmicks. But fuck it. I’ll be a sucker for gimmicks who’s gonna enjoy me some lamb chops.

Tomorrow. Cuz I need to be healthy tonight.

But I’m still eating something more interesting than “grains.”

Feminina:

I’m going to challenge you on two points there, because this is the level of our discourse today:

First, I’m skeptical of the assumption that Icelandic lamb is inherently more interesting than Icelandic grains. For all you know, it could be heritage longleaf red barley with a unique smokey flavor profile from being grown on volcanic hillsides in the long northern summer nights. Or something.

Second, I’m also skeptical of the assumption that ‘more interesting’ is necessarily a good thing. All I really know about Icelandic cuisine is the fermented shark I had once, long ago. It was EXTREMELY interesting, but I think we’d both be fine with passing on that.

Butch:

Dude, I’m not making Icelandic CUISINE. Even I know that’s fermented shark and pickled gnomes. I’m making lamb FROM Iceland into a lovely Greek inspired dish with tomatoes and feta and oregano.

You can have that smoky barley. I’m not really a fan of barley until it becomes whiskey.

I’m skeptical of your preference for pre-whiskey to lamb.

Feminina:

There’s nothing like a nice pre-whiskey pilaf! You have to admit that.

Butch:

I’m having some grains with my fish tonight! Right up your alley! Basmati with sesame and cilan-

Shit. We were so close to being on the same page.

Feminina:

Damn you, cilantro! The demon herb rears its head to ruin yet another perfectly cromulent dish.

Butch:

Uh…I’m also having a salad? Salad. We can agree on salad.

And wine. We can sure as hell agree on wine.

Feminina:

OH HELL YES.

So Much to Say, So Little Daylight

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for plot points in Mafia 3

Butch:

Glad Halloween’s over.

And Olivia’s dead. And, what do you know? I didn’t kill her! Of course.

Mrs. McP is home today and I have to take Junior to a thing tonight so I won’t have much time to play. So we can save the drug stuff and the party and what THAT was all about for some other time. Today, we’re talking about gender, because of course we are.

Now….here we go.

On one hand, I was impressed (if that’s the right word) that they had the guts to toy with the whole “And now she dies quietly” thing when Lincoln puts his hand on her wound to wake her up, chokes her all “Oh no…where is the guy?” That was more than I thought they’d do. But, again, someone else, offscreen. And then, THEN the whole diatribe from Donovan about how Lincoln would NEVER kill a woman complete with a story saying “Really, REALLY he wouldn’t.”

I am of two minds. On one hand, violence against women is a terrible scourge of society today. Society is, of course, grappling with such issues daily, in public, and graphically. Violence against women is bad. And, as someone who is staunchly in the corner of the good guys in the MeToo movement, glorification and encouragement of violence against women is something that makes me uncomfortable.

HOWEVER, these are games and, in games, violence happens. By insulating women from violence, by saying “It’s ok to kill big, bad, MANLY Kevin but not a delicate, pretty woman,” that’s playing into the “weaker sex” bullshit that, one could argue, is at the root of a lot of the very problems that MeToo is addressing today. Safely wrapping the pretty (white) woman in bubble wrap and protecting her from the big bad (but not that bad) black man is EXACTLY WHAT THE SOUTHERN UNION WANTS TO DO.

But then I go back around and I’m all “But do I want to see a big, strong man kill the hell out of a wounded woman while I’m supposed to be cheering him on? Cuz……no.”

So I don’t know. I think they certainly tried to thread the needle. It was more violent than I thought it was gonna be, but they ALSO protected her.

Indeed, after you told me I could shoot Tommy, I tried to shoot Olivia there. I did. Not because I’m a monster, but because you were all “I showed Tommy some mercy.” Ok, she was suffering, etc.

You can’t kill her. She won’t die. Nope.

So I don’t know. I’m gonna plop all this in your lap, as you are a woman, and you have a better perspective on this. The last thing I want is to mansplain. I feel ooky enough already.

Feminina:

Yup. She is dead, and we didn’t kill her. As you predicted.

And dude, I tried to shoot her too! Because she was in pain, sure, but also because I didn’t trust her not to spring back to life and find a gun of her own. I’ve seen a movie before, man.

And…yeah. All the stuff you said. Having him jabbing at her bullet wound to get more information is farther than you kind of thought they’d go: they didn’t have him completely tiptoe around her like “oh, I could never do harm to a LADY.” (And then we have Donovan coming in and saying essentially just that…though I guess all Donovan really said was he wouldn’t KILL a woman, which leaves completely open the option of torturing one.)

And it was odd that Lincoln’s explanation was “you ain’t worth the time.” Uh…it doesn’t take that much time to shoot someone in the head, dude. Even if we figure he means she’s not worth the time it would take to set up a dramatic scene like burning Remy Duvall on a cross or hanging Doucet from a Ferris wheel–he could still just kill her quickly like he did with the lesser bosses, or the guy running the Southern Union slave racket.

So I don’t buy that it was about time, suggesting that Donovan’s explanation is semi-true, and Lincoln does actually have a philosophical objection to killing women (though not to rubbing salt in their open wounds–which he would totally have done if he’d had salt handy).

And then we’re left with, why does he want to pretend it’s about time, then? Is it not manly to just state that you don’t want to kill women? Or is this in fact a cold burn on the entire female gender, like “women aren’t worth the time it takes to kill them”–you’re so pathetic and meaningless a threat that even the three seconds it would take to stab you would be time better spent looking for a manly Kevin to stab instead? Or maybe he thinks if anyone finds out, they’ll exploit this weakness by sending only women assassins from now on?

Though, also interesting was the way she found the mob stuff “so EXCITING!” She’s lying there dying and reminiscing about how thrilling and (basically) sexy it all was–Donovan also mentions this–and maybe it’s just refusing to play along, when Lincoln walks away instead of giving her an exciting mob death. As he said, “there’s nothing exciting about the mob,” or however he phrased it. He’s not going to prop up her fantasy. (Though he was happy to indulge Remy Duvall’s desire for racist martyrdom.)

And then, as you say, Olivia does wind up violently dead, but he/we didn’t do it. And, as you say and as we’ve talked about before, would we really WANT to have done it? Do we WANT to play a game where we cheerfully kill women?

Generally…no. Unless–and I bring up this every time we have this conversation–it’s a Bethesda game, because nobody does gender equality in Kevins like Bethesda. (Horizon Zero Dawn was also pretty good that way.) If half your randits are women, I will cheerfully murder them all day long, because when you have enough women, your treatment of any particular one becomes less of a Giant Statement About Gender and more about what happened to one character.

Who was trying to kill me, so I killed the hell out of her instead and probably carried her crappy armor around hoping to sell it until I got overencumbered and abandoned it in the road in a giant pile of other crappy loot. That’s Bethesda for you.

This game, I give props for having a fair number of women characters, and for giving those women jobs that are relevant to the action. Cassandra is a good character, and I like Nicki, although not her animations which tended to be creepy (did you have the conversation with Nicki where she says she’s dating a woman? guess that thing with her and Lincoln was just friendship), and Alma was cool, and Gina Kowalski the car thief lady was pretty badass. But they don’t have so many women that they can casually kill them off without it seeming like “hey, this was the part of the story that was about killing a woman.”

Olivia Marcano was the only woman villain, so they can’t avoid that being the story. Hell, we’ve been talking about that story since we learned Olivia existed. Is she going to die? How is she going to die? I bet she dies offscreen! There’s BAGGAGE around this.

Anyway. I thought they threaded the needle reasonably well considering the tricky territory they had to walk through. Olivia was bad, she was part of the Marcano family we’re sworn to destroy, it would seem weird if she just walked away from the whole thing. And making it be the Marcanos themselves turning on her was an interesting symbol of how the family empire is collapsing, as well as a tidy way to say “here, she’s dead but you didn’t have to kill her.”

I personally would also have been OK with Lincoln just shooting her (as I said, I tried), or even making some dramatic statement with her corpse as long as it didn’t involve any grotesque sexual overtones (hello Lara Croft impaled on things). Wrapping her in a Confederate flag and smothering her in a pile of money or something could have worked. But as we know, he didn’t have the time.

I think they would have been able to pull off “this guy kills his enemies and she’s his enemy and there’s no special gender-based antipathy going on,” because in that regard, Lincoln seems like an OK dude. I mean, he treats the women he works with politely, doesn’t hit on them or treat them like his servants or anything. He doesn’t come across like a misogynist, so he could get a pass for equal-opportunity enemy-murdering. Sometimes your enemies are women! It happens!

On the other hand, I understand why they went the other way, and in general I guess I would vote for erring on the side of caution, because…there’s just so much potential for the “haha, I finally got to kill that bitch” or whatever gender-based nastiness, and I’m not into it. So it’s maybe a bit of a cop-out, but it’s one that I understand and don’t really hold against them.

Hm.

Side excursion into the drugs, though, how about that orchestral version of “White Rabbit” playing while everyone’s tripping on LSD? That was awesome.

Butch:

You noticed the music! I’m so proud. That was amazing.

Excellent point about reaching a critical mass of women characters. I guess we’re still hung up on violence against women in video games because we don’t have a lot of games with a critical mass of women in them. Which is also a problem.

As for Lincoln not treating women as servants or not being a misogynist, how do you reconcile all this with the fact he runs prostitution and porn rings? That’s kinda treating women as servants, dude.

Oh, and did you think that Donovan killed her? Who did? Marcano had no reason to. Lincoln didn’t. Leaves Donovan.

Feminina:

Those women are…uh…independent contractors.

But yeah, the prostitution and porn rackets are tough to see as beacons of gender equality. I think the best you can do is “hey, these women need jobs. These jobs pay money. Women will take these jobs. Better our people run them than someone else.”

Because we can optimistically imagine that under Lincoln’s leadership everyone working in the rackets in whatever context is paid a fair wage and treated decently, right? I like to imagine that. So basically, someone’s going to do it, better us than someone with even less interest in little topics like equality and justice.

Also, when I said “not treating women like servants” I was specifically thinking about the stories of men in business settings who assume all the women they see are there to make them coffee or whatever, rather than actually contributing to the work–I just meant that Lincoln treats the women he talks to about business as if they’re contributing to the business. “How’s the racket going, how many stills should I smash up now,” etc., not “fetch me a drink, and let me speak to the man in charge!” or whatever. When we SEE him interacting with women, he treats them fairly.

Does that let him off the hook if, under his direction even if not his immediate supervision, women are suffering ill treatment in the brothels and on the porn sets? No. But like I said…I optimistically assume the prostitutes and porn actors of New Bordeaux make decent money and are treated like human beings doing a job.

The game doesn’t tell us otherwise, after all!

As for Olivia…I gather you didn’t get a certain scene yet that features a person saying “yeah, I killed her.” So it’s a mystery! But one that will be revealed.

Butch:

Oh. No, no I did not get that scene.

I bet it’s Donovan. Why’d he keep that guy around? He wants the land.

Feminina:

All will be revealed.

It’s gonna be great.

Well, I won’t say “all.” There are a number of things that have yet to be made clear.

But at least THAT will be revealed.

Butch:

Yet to be? Still not finished?

We gotta talk about the LSD party, that we do.

And go more into depth about Olivia sexualizing violence and how often women in games are there to sexualize violence and why did she have to do that?

And also, what did you make of the scene where James is all “There won’t be another Bobby Kennedy…another Dr. King. But there will always be another Sal Marcano (Long pause) Another Lincoln Clay” and he turns his back to the camera, and, thus, the player.

I’m not sure I’ve ever played another game that wants you to really, REALLY not like the hero. Or yourself.

Feminina:

Yeah, Olivia’s fondness for the sexy thrilling mob violence was an interesting touch. I mean, she’s not alone–pop culture kind of glamorizes the mob. I don’t know to what extent that was true in 1968 (looks like The Godfather wasn’t published until ’69, but there were James Cagney movies and so forth before that), but assuming they did some research for the game, and that this was the case even then…she’s not alone.

She is, though, sort of weirdly buying into/living out a fantasy instead of approaching it like a business. Sal’s all about the money, but it’s implied Olivia was just in it for the drama.

Hm.

Father James’ assessment was bleak, all right. “The good people who might have changed things are gone, and we’re left with the violent ones who are just battling it out for territory”?

He REALLY doesn’t think much of Lincoln’s motivations (or, perhaps, the ultimate results of Lincoln’s quest, which he’s in a better position to evaluate than we are).

Which suggests that violence is not the answer, and also kind of says to the player “all your efforts were wasted. Things still suck.”

Which…is a fair criticism considering all we’ve been doing is sitting there playing a game.

Fair, James. Harsh, but fair.

Butch:

But that’s also a little sexist. If Sal is in it for the money, and Remy’s in it for devotion to a cause, a crazy cause, mind you, but a cause, that means that the woman is only in it for selfish and emotional reasons, not something that “matters.” The game also established that anybody who has any kind of slightly abnormal sexual preferences must be evil and we’re seeing more of that here. Not to mention the trope of the sexual woman being flawed. She’s the only woman in the game who seems to have any interest in sex, and she’s evil. Hell, it’s the REASON she’s evil.

That’s a tad judgy.

By the way, are you finished?

Feminina:

Yeah, it is. As you say, the entire game is kind of judgy about sex that isn’t Playboy centerfolds and Vargas pinups (which is a REALLY airbrushed and vanilla approach), and if non-vanilla men are all murderous perverts, there’s no way they’d let a woman get away with any kind of unorthodox inclinations.

To the game’s credit, it’s not filled with titillating visits to strip clubs and stuff (as we discussed, when you do see naked women in-game, as opposed to the collectibles, it tends to be pretty unsexy). So many opportunities to dramatize women dancing and acting out sexuality for porn sets, and they didn’t take them!

And no, I haven’t finished, but this close to the end I think it’s probably safe to say that there will be no in-game nudity on the part of any of the major characters. It’s true that aside from Olivia (and possibly Nicki, dating a woman) none of the female characters seem to have any interest in sex, but it’s also true that none of the male characters do either (aside from the “VIP” perverts and the nameless NPCs who frequent the brothel and buy stag films).

Lincoln? Vito? Burke? Emmanuel? Heck, even the villains…we never see Georgi or Sal or Lou or Tommy with half-naked women draped over them, or hanging out in strip bars, or any of the standard tropes for “these are just manly men chilling, and also an excuse to show you some nudity!”

This GAME doesn’t seem to be that interested in sex. Which is funny considering its rating for nudity, and all the nude collectibles, but honestly, when do any actual characters do anything? Never. They don’t even look at the magazines!

Really, it’s a plain-vanilla, teenage-boy-in-the-’50s idea of sex: let’s look at some pretty pictures of naked women and have done with it. Everything else is a criminal enterprise and/or a perversion.

Butch:

Hmm. Good point about the bad guys. And Lincoln! Both, in other games, WOULD have sexy women draped all over them.

This game, so often, was a game of extremes. Good gameplay innovations, then stock shooting mechanics. Excellent levels, then tedium. And, really, its themes. In some ways, it’s incredibly progressive, maybe the most progressive game I’ve ever played in how it goes there on race and politics. And then, as you say, when it comes to sex it’s stuck in the fifties. And gender? It makes SOME waves at it (Cassandra and Nicki are good characters), but then falls back on tropes late (My predictions of Olivia dying off screen by someone else’s hand were serious all along, and I’m not at all surprised I’m right).

I always like to hold out final judgments on games until they’re over and done with, but man, I don’t think I’ve ever had a game that whipsawed between extremes of how I feel about it week to week, day to day, even hour to hour.

Even with the themes.

Have it Your Way

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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Spoilers for some major plot points in Mafia 3

Butch:

You coy devil, you.

Being all “Oh yeah, the slave auction was the Capital S Something” when you knew I was going to burn Remy Duvall on a cross.

On a damn cross.

Now THAT’S a Capital S Something, isn’t it?

Olivia got a reprieve cuz I had to ponder that Capital S Something.

A lynching from a Ferris Wheel? One thing. But DAMN talk about a whole lot of symbolism… DAMN.

You first. I’m still pondering.

Oh, and I’m worried. Why? Cuz in the news reports, there’s the cop being all “We’re at WAR! We have to round ’em all up and shoot ’em!” And I was thinking “Hmm…maybe I should’ve stolen that police truck for Cassandra…she might want to have some guns about now….”

Is this the time of the game where your laziness comes back to haunt you?

If it is, well, sorry Cassandra. I mean, I DO have to start TR sometime….

Feminina:

Ha. The funny thing is, I hadn’t burned Remy Duvall on the cross yet when I first got all worked up about this bit, so I genuinely was only referring to the slave auctions at the time, and TECHNICALLY Remy Duvall is not part of taking over the racket…so I was telling the truth.

In a coy and devilish manner.

But yeah, that was something. The logical end point, I suppose, of using the tools of the oppressor against him. Interesting how Duvall sort of curses at Lincoln, who says “have it your way” before we cut to the burning cross…suggesting that he was actually planning to just stab him, but if you’re going to insist, fine, let’s make a dramatic statement out of it.

Which is a bit odd, because no one’s ever needed to convince him to make dramatic statements before. I mean, since we did the Pagani/Cuba/Tommy part before this, it could maybe be seen as Lincoln starting to think about maybe possibly just a little bit toning it down in the wake of the bit of reflection he seemed to do in that district, only Duvall egged him on with his determined racism (just when I think I’m out!)…but what if we’d done this first? That was certainly an option.

I suppose in that case it could read as “he was already kind of getting tired of the bloody drama, but Duvall egged him on to one final big gesture, and then in the Pagani part he really started to reflect”…I dunno.

As for your question about the cops, I don’t actually know. Nothing more came of it in my game (so far, anyway) — I haven’t had any radio news updates with “cops descend on the Hollow, are repelled by gunfire from a mysteriously heavily armed populace” or anything. That police declaration of war certainly seems like the kind of thing that would matter, but…I don’t know if it does.

Some other things I thought were interesting about this bit:

When you take over the racket, there’s no option to recruit the boss (and this was not about wiretapping, I had all the junction boxes). You just kill him. So this was an unforgivable crime, to Lincoln–he’s not interested in working with this guy. (Fair! I wouldn’t want to work with him either.)

And then when he calls someone to take over the racket, he says “just so you know, we’re not going to be selling people. Find some other way to make money off it.”

And as I said, I did this right after the riverboat, so it was an interesting contrast with me thinking “man, all these civilians and boat workers, he really doesn’t care who gets in his way, he IS kind of a monster” (as we discussed), and then coming here and seeing that OK, there is a line he won’t cross, he’s not COMPLETELY a monster. There are things he’s not willing to do.

Hm.

Also, did you hear that conversation between the two guys as you’re first sneaking up on the Southern Union meeting? About how the only thing worse than a [black person], is a rich white man in a robe? How they always talk a big game, but when it comes to someone getting their hands dirty, it’s always going to be the little guys (the working class pamphlet distributors, as we talked about yesterday).

An interesting recognition of class divisions, which, since they’re all there working on the same thing despite these complaints, hints at the way racism can be useful to a ruling class: hatred of one group (uniformly defined by skin color) keeps another group (uniformly defined by skin color) from turning on people with whom they’d otherwise have nothing in common, and whom they’d perhaps have considerable reason to resent.

“Even though I’m rich and you’re poor and you work for me, it’s not my fault! It’s those OTHER people! It’s all their fault!”

A classic line that never gets old.

Butch:

Well, I think that part of it comes down to the other metaphor here, the person tied to a cross. Martyrdom.

I found it telling that the first thing you hear when you get to the place is Kevin complaining about rich white people. “Only thing worse than a black person is a white person putting on airs” or something. Pointing out that they talk big, but when it’s actually time to go out and actually be all violently racist, they retreat to their country clubs.

Which one would think would apply to Duvall. The only time we saw him before he died he was in a suit, in a luxury place, hardly getting his hands dirty. He “fights” from behind a microphone. Shit, he even denied BEING in the Southern Union.

So really, for all his talk, we have every reason to side with Kevin here, that he’s all talk and bluster and is happy to rile up the mob but not to join it.

And yet, here he is, prattling on about his ancestors and their sacrifice (see where I’m going?) and how “we all” must be part of the fight and all that. Even when everyone really knows that when he says “we all” he means “Kevin.”

So I think Lincoln’s “Have it your way” might be him saying “Hey, you want to be a martyr for your cause? He ya go, pal. You say suffering for the white race is important? Have it your way.” Duvall talked a big game about being part of the struggle. He’s not drawing Lincoln in. Lincoln is making sure that he doesn’t go back to the country club. Lincoln’s giving Duvall what he SAYS he’s always wanted: to be a racial martyr, just like granddaddy.

On cops, Ok, but you still got that bit with the chief being all “THIS IS WAR!!!!” even though you did all Cassandra’s stuff? Cuz then I’d feel a little better.

Yeah, I did notice that you couldn’t recruit the guy. I can’t tell if they’re doing all that because they want to make sure we know that there are things that Lincoln won’t do cuz hero or whatever, or if they knew that this game was going to be played by people who are not criminals, who would have the reaction I had (“Dude…I don’t want to take over that racket…”) and this was less a narrative decision as a “placate the player” decision. Even if, narratively, there’s places a protagonist will go, games often realized that we, the players, might refuse to go there with him (or her). This might’ve just been that.

Ironically, here, when you have a heart, I called Burke and, in the cutscene when the cars drive up, his guys ran over and killed not one, but two pedestrians.

“Innocent people can’t be harmed, so run over dudes on the way, ok, Burke?”

And yes, a classic line, but is it Duvall’s way of thinking? The argument he had with Olivia before this was an interesting thing. He is sitting there all “THIS ISN’T ABOUT A CASINO!” which could be read as “There’s more to life than money, there’s zealous belief in stuff (something that could be said about Lincoln, too)” or it could be read as “Fool! You think a casino will keep you rich? Not when the whole order of everything is being challenged. Look at the big picture or we’re doomed! (Which would be harder to say about Lincoln….Donovan, maybe.)”

Feminina:

Very good point about the martyr aspect, and how Lincoln is maybe just giving Duvall what he says he wants. Hey, now he’s a fallen hero in the eyes of all those working class jerks who were sneering at him half an hour ago! It’s the best possible outcome for him!

There’ll be a statue of Remy Duvall in Downtown 20 years from now, mark my words. Because of heritage.

Well, maybe not if the Haitian mob is still running the place.

I did think about that–whether or not the game is just cutting the player some slack figuring WE don’t want to go there. Because I’m so automatic on recruiting, I probably WOULD have recruited the guy, just out of habit, and then felt icky about it. Maybe the game is doing me a favor by not having that be a choice.

I also idly considered how maybe Lincoln could have kept the racket but started selling white people instead, if they wanted to reverse the whole thing. He’s got this endless supply of Kevins, after all…just knock them out instead of killing them and that’s a great labor pool! And we could argue it serves them right for trying to kill us! And hey, at least they’d be alive! But, you know, it would also be monstrous.

Plus, you’d probably have to work that through the prison system, since that’s how we mostly manage forced labor these days (bribe some prison officials, get these dudes into the system, rent them out for chain gangs, easy as pie!), and the prison system is a whole other piece of the huge, crushingly unjust story of the black experience in the US, and one that’s pretty much untouched in this game. Maybe they didn’t want to get into it.

Also, it would be a lot harder to think of Lincoln as not a monster. It works more smoothly in a lot of ways, I think, if we just say that no, this is the line he won’t cross. And I can buy that. It’s a pretty good line to not cross, so it works.

Butch:

Though watch: The irony will be that they aren’t, that we just made everything worse by bringing the cops and the rich and the whites rage down on the Haitians, they’ll all be dead and in jail, and there WILL be a statue of him downtown. Cuz that’s the kind of shit that actually happens.

But you’re done, so you know that, so don’t spoil.

Right…the game is kind of doing us a favor. Plus, a big part of a game is being able to connect with your character in some way. We have to WANT to be the character. Players are able to forgive a lot in a character, but if things cross a certain line, we might not want to be that character anymore. Once that happens, poof, the game suffers. There has to be that link. So even if we choose not to recruit the boss or something, if we “know” that it’s something that “crossed Lincoln’s mind,” that might turn us off Lincoln for good.

Yes, yes, yes, he, and, like, every game character ever, does bad things. But players, including us, have things we overlook and things we don’t.

It is telling that Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang” came on during this particular racket, and I don’t recall hearing it before.

Prison would have been tough. There’s only so much one game can get into. And this game got into a lot.

It does.

I do wonder what they ARE doing there. It just says “A safehouse to lie low and keep an eye on the rich.” But what’s the earn?

Groceries. They went straight.

Feminina:

I did think that was kind of awesome. “Yup, this is a grocery store. We, uh…we sell groceries.”

And keep an eye on the rich. In case the revolution comes and we rise up against them, or they want to buy some groceries in the meantime.

Good point about “Chain Gang” coming on here! I heard that as well, but forgot about it. I did notice them doing a few interesting things with the music around this part of the game.

You’ll hear it. You always hear more than I do.

Also, I have not finished, as I did not play last night. Kid lunches, kid laundry, Halloween prep, etc. So I don’t know how it ends, and whether or not there’s a statue of Remy Duvall in Downtown (though you’re right, that’s totally the kind of thing that would actually happen).

Butch:

Even the rich occasionally need to pop in for a snack cake.

I have to say, even though it was in one of my rackets, I didn’t take the cash that was sitting there on the register. Didn’t feel right. The nice cashier lady was right there.

They do seem to have certain songs queued up for certain things. I heard White Rabbit a lot more when I was doing the drug bits.

Wait….there’s a chance we’d finish a game….at the SAME TIME? Even CLOSE to the same time?

I don’t know how to cope with that.

That statue of Remy would actually happen, and kind of has. When a family member got married, I had some free time to wander around Charleston, South Carolina. Lovely city. Lots of nice shops, great restaurants, you’d like it. And, by southern standards anyway, rather liberal (like, not New England liberal, but certainly more hipster chic than other parts of the South).

And near the center of downtown they have a rather lovely holocaust memorial. Small, but rather moving. It’s a block away from the famous black church (that recently got shot up by that white nationalist). It’s all in and near a lovely park. Serene. Respectful. Full of the history of triumph over suffering, of resistance, of progress.

And all of it under the shadow of a three story tall column and statue of John C. Calhoun.

And there you have it.

Feminina:

There you have it, indeed.

I often didn’t take the cash from my rackets either! I felt bad about possibly making it harder for people to do their jobs. It was like, “well, this is technically mine anyway, but hey, I want you to be able to make change if a customer comes in.”

I often didn’t rob the cash register at small stores in general, actually. Lincoln Clay isn’t out to hurt the little guy! Not specifically, that is. Not unless the little guy’s in a racket he’s trying to take down.

OK, there are a lot of qualifications on that statement, but basically, Lincoln Clay’s beef is with the Man, not with the local shopkeeper.

Keep your money, my good man! The med pack in your restroom, on the other hand, that’s mine.

Butch:

I, too, have not stolen from local businesses. Even the racist segregated ones!

I have pillaged their nudie mags, but they can keep their money. And their Hot Rods. And their album covers.

Ahem.

Feminina:

Shopkeeper coming into work in the morning:

“Oh no, the lock is broken! I’ve been robbed! …Well, it looks like the cash is all here…that’s not so ba—OH MY GOD the Playboy is gone!!!!! Why, WHY couldn’t he have just taken the money! That was my retirement magazine! There was only $12 in the register and he had to take the ONE THING I cherished!”

Oh well, you tried.

Butch:

You may be right. These dudes MUST cherish them. I mean, shit, some of them are five years old.

“Five years, and the only thing of value I have is taken from me….”

I’m a monster.

Feminina:

“That centerfold was the only reason I managed to drag myself out of bed every morning…might as well just go overdose on adrenaline now—WHAT???? The med pack is empty too????!!!”

[Goes outside and steps into traffic: is instantly run over by reckless driver who may or may not be Lincoln Clay or one of his many associates.]

Butch:

Nah. Decides to cheer up by getting a snack cake at the local grocery store. Is run over by Irishmen.

Twice.

Seriously. Cut to green cars, first one just takes OUT a woman. Then the next car runs her over AND her friend.

Dudes.

Yet another reason to stay inside with your five year old Playboy. Much safer than snack cakes.

Feminina:

Much, much safer. It’s what I would do every single day, if I didn’t have to go out to find Pokemon.