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Note: minimally-spoily DAI discussion

Butch:

Yesterday, GOT THE TREATY GUY who sells influence! You have to do an operation! I didn’t know you had to do an operation! Huzzah! No WONDER you had so much power. So. Much. Power.

I also did Vivienne’s heart of snow white bit, which took far longer than it should have cuz I kept getting lost.

I don’t know what to make of Vivienne theme wise. We’ve talked on both family and belief….she’s a tough one to ponder. Still pondering. You have thoughts?

Feminina:

Vivienne is interesting. As we noted at some previous point, I kind of like that she’s not into romance with you: she’s got her own life and not everyone is falling over themselves to sleep with the Inquisitor, which is fine.

In terms of her relationship to family themes…you’re right, we don’t have much. She seems emotionally disconnected from pretty much everything except her sick lover and her dedication to the ideal of the Mage’s Circle. Maybe the Circle is the stand-in for her family, and she represents the way we sometimes cling to questionable and/or outdated families/systems even in the face of drastic change (like civil war and a hole in the sky)?

Is she among the conservative/traditional voices here? The loyalists, those who value and want to preserve the past?

Butch:

Yes, her own life and romance…Apparently with a dying white dude.

AND she’s the one that likes the old ways, and the old divisions.

Which means, what? I find it interesting that she’s someone who not only doesn’t seem to want to join the Inquisition, she seems to want to burn whatever bridges there are. ALL of her banter is pretty much her putting down everyone else. She goes out of her way NOT to be part of the team, even hanging out up on her little balcony, far away, and hard to find.

Buuuuuuut she’s a romantic. She CARES about her lover. She met him when their eyes met across a crowded room. She DOES have a heart. (Her quest had heart IN it, of course, it involved cutting OUT a heart….a heart she could give away).

Preserving the past: that’s something, right?

Make her Divine.

Feminina:

Ah, the “dying white dude”…we should not ignore the obvious issue of race here, should we? Is it significant that Vivienne is black? Is it interesting that a black character is on the side of the status quo in a civil war? BioWare is Canadian, so we can’t put too much on some vague possible relationship to the U.S. civil war, but…just throwing it out there because it occurred to me.

From a less far-fetched perspective, does it matter that she’s basically the ONLY significant black character we see in the game, and she’s the one who has the fewest interpersonal connections with other characters? She can come to kind of like the Inquisitor, if you play it right (that is, so as not to offend her), but other than that, you’re right, she basically doesn’t LIKE anybody. Her mode of communication is snark and put-downs (some of them awesome! but not exactly friendly). Is she disconnected from everyone because she’s ‘alien’ in a sense, because she’s black in a world where most people aren’t black?

If so, it’s left really unspoken. It could have been part of a whole set of bits on feeling like an outsider: I, as a qunari, got a lot of this, and Varric talks about being a surface dwarf and not part of traditional dwarf culture, and Solas talks about being an elf (partly via snarking about whether or not Sera is a ‘true’ elf)…even Blackwall’s secret is kind of about passing as something that you’re not, being part of something but not really. Vivienne being black in a mainly white world could have said something about this as well, but they didn’t do anything with it other than leave us to wonder if it’s there.

As you say, she has a heart, she has a romantic life, she cares deeply for her lover (whom she loved immediately and therefore presumably without analysis…maybe if she’d had time to think about it she wouldn’t have loved him?), but all of this is offscreen to the player. Maybe that’s part of her character–she likes to keep her private life private, she doesn’t like any of the other characters enough to share these things with them. Which, in a way, I could respect, just as I respect that she doesn’t need a romance with the Inquisitor to feel like a whole and valid person!

I liked Vivienne as a character, but in some ways you could argue she’s a bit underdrawn. N.K Jemisin (an author with a blog I read) had an interesting post on her and race–basically arguing that her race isn’t made to matter in the game, but that it could have, and that could have been interesting.

Butch:

Hmm. We did touch on the vagueness of the elf/chantry history regarding the exalted march, and how that echoed Native American experiences in history. Perhaps. Race in games is always a tricky one. It’s even less obvious than women in games, really. Lots of tokenism, that sort of thing. Even bioware, as diverse re gender and sexuality as it is, has had it’s issues (remember the baldur’s gate stuff we did? And, really, Jacob was it in ME). Dunno. Vivienne leads to pondering.

It’s true, very few people are black. Especially in Orlais, where she STILL wasn’t all that accepted. She was the dude’s mistress, after all, not his wife. Maybe it’s coincidence cuz I was running with her, Sera and Bull last night, but she wouldn’t shut up at Sera, who is also the self styled outsider. She kept starting shit with Sera. Putting HER down. Oddly, she left Bull alone, and he is REALLY an outsider.

And Josephine is from a fallen family, Dorian is gay, Bull is bull, Cole is….shit…..Cole…. it’s a cast of outcasts. But you’re right: leaving her unspoken is something. I mean, we sort of blithely assumed that she was there for the purpose of being the one who supported the status quo, she was well dressed, etc., but maybe she’s more than that. She isn’t all that different, is she? But she thinks she is.

And she does care about things, though you only see that caring at the end, and she walls it off immediately. I offered to help with the funeral and all, and she shut me right down.

The Jemisin is an interesting article. Maybe they cut some race-related stuff on purpose?

Would be interesting to see this in relation to TW, which overtly deals with….racial, I’ll say racial, hatred. There’s just fucking racists there, and race is a part of everyone’s identity in much the way this author wants it to be. Even (if not especially) Geralt, is defined by his “race,” (culture, upbringing, physical appearance and all): he IS a witcher. Shit, that’s what the game is called.

Yet, they’re all white. All of them.

We’ll have to throw this in the back of our heads, but I think, maybe, if that comment from a noble got in there, that a lot of what this author wants was in there and got cut. As to why? That’s a whole other post.

Feminina:

Race is hard for well-meaning white people! (Weep for we poor well-meaning white people; surely ours is the heaviest burden to bear. Not that, you know, everyone at BioWare is white, because I don’t know that, but I would bet most of them are.) Maybe they had something but cut it because they were afraid it didn’t come across they way they wanted. And it is hard to be sure: is this thoughtful, complex and interesting, or is it just offensive in some way?

And it’s better to have some racial diversity then not, even if you don’t do anything with it (I’d probably rather have unexplained ‘meaningless’ diversity than unexplained ‘meaningless’ nothing-but-white-characters), but I think it’s legitimate to say that the next step is to actually address what it means in the fictional world, or, if doesn’t mean anything, to explain why not.

But it’s hard, because we’re all kinds of messed up about it as a culture, so duh, it’s hard to address well in a game setting. Still, fair to mention it.

Butch:

Well, David Gaider, the head writer, is white. That I know. As is the producer and creative director.

It is fair to mention it. And games are still taking baby steps towards “mattering.” I’m sure we’ll see more of it as the genre matures. I think.

Speaking of games, just met a new contractor who hopefully is good. Long beard, took one look at my PS4 and said “what do you play?”

Hired.

He likes shooters, so I said “You into battlefield?” He said “I played the beta and it was ok, not great.”

Hired.

Feminina:

Hired!

If I was looking for a contractor, I’d ask for his info.

I think you’re right, that as games do more and different they will address more and different social issues more and differently and better…gotta hope.

One of the characters in Valiant Hearts is black. An American soldier with a vengeance quest against a German baron. I guess if I were to analyze the presentation of race in the game, I’d say it’s not really addressed in depth (no one comments on it, although no one really talks, so…), but Freddie (the character) has family back home that he writes to, like the other characters, and is a smart, capable guy equal to the other characters you play, so his portrayal seems solid. I guess I won’t say more about a specific thing that could be mentioned, because you might play the game and I don’t want to spoil the story. It’s a fairly slight story, mainly puzzles and horrifying WWI facts, but no reason to spoil even so. Perhaps when you play, we’ll revisit the issue.

Butch:

Yeah, we gotta realize that games are still young as a genre. Hell, that’s one thing I find interesting. It’s still learning how do to what it can do. Or what it can do and what it can’t. It’ll improve. It has been for 30 years, after all.

Valiant Hearts…yeah, I’ll get on it. I’m pretty sure I’ll finish DAI with time for a small bite or two. I refuse to let my PS4 backlog get anything my Steam backlog. But at the rate I’m going…..

Feminina:

Games ARE young.

Of course, movies are comparatively quite old, novels ancient, and they still do tons of crappy portrayals of race and everything else…but also not so bad ones. Maybe it’s all about having a lot to choose from.

Butch:

Well, like any other medium, there’s always going to be crap games, and there’ll be games that pander to the action/see stuff blow up demographic, and those’ll make the most money (CoD 92 will do the same as The Avengers 72 that year). Shit, look at how old books are, and we have crap, and we have offensive, and we have fun mysteries that are good reads in the summer and we have the real art. Should be the same for games. We’re just trying to find out what fits where at this point.

What pleases me about games is that, unlike books and movies, the great ones do well. TLOU is pushing 10 million copies, as an exclusive! (Imagine if that was on Xbox/PC?) The witcher is getting hype. I mean, when was the last time a pulitzer prize winner outsold whatever crap people buy? Or a best picture nominee outgrossed iron man?

But then, gamers are, on average, older than movie goers and TV watchers. Upsetting, huh?

Feminina:

No, no, gamers being old is good! It means we’re mature and have discerning tastes and can appreciate quality. As well as crap. And coupons for eye drops.

Playing games takes more effort than watching TV or movies, though, so I suppose that’s always going to be a larger market.

Butch:

Maybe. Though the two fastest entertainment products to make a billion bucks are both games. Beat out Avatar. Financially, the games industry does better than movies or TV, for what that’s worth. Things follow the money.

So I’m actually playing. Toodling around the Emerald Graves mopping up quests before plunging onward. Got into a BITCH of a fight against this red templar last night. Much of the “Boom! you’re on fire, now I’m going to run away,” repeat, stuff. Got a smuggler letter (one more to go), that sort of thing.

I think I made a mistake in how I did the graves, and maybe this is part of the whole “maybe this is still too open a world” bit. I did a bunch of graves, then stopped to do other stuff. Like a lot of other stuff. I haven’t been back here in a long time. There seem to be a LOT of good side quests here, with the freemen, and the dude who might be a noble, etc., and I spent a good deal of play time last night going (super grover voice) “Ha ba wha?” Who are you? What did you…. Which is too bad, cuz these stories are cool enough to deserve better. It’s really the first time since I’ve been playing this game where I felt I lost the track of some good major stories. I think I got the track back, but still.

Still haven’t killed a dragon. Feel inferior.

Feminina:

And that’s the other thing about gamers being older–we’ve got money! Makes it worthwhile to pander to us with good stuff we want to buy.

There was a lot in the Emerald Graves…I also felt kind of lost there once or twice. Lots of interesting side stuff that was hard to keep track of if one went off to do other stuff (as of course one did).

Butch:

Whoo hoo! Take our money! Probably why good booze costs more than the shit we drank in college, too.

Re: Graves–I can’t decide: Is that good level design (as in, lots of neat stuff, keeps you guessing, thinking, etc, tells a good story or two) or bad level design (in that they should know we’re not going to do it all at once)?

Must ponder. Still not done with all I want to do there.

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