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Some spoilers for events at the Museum of Witchcraft, the Sandy Coves Rehabilitation Center, and the Egret Tours Marina

Butch:

Didn’t do a whole lot. Went on through the witch museum, which was wonderfully creepy. So creepy that I managed to shoot two mannequins and MacCready that one time. What? Don’t come around a corner in a creepy museum. The mannequin displays kinda made it. That museum IS creepy in real life. And you’re right: nice sound design. Not too themey, I don’t think, but maybe later. A choice to give a baby back or not? Hmm…..foreshadowing?

Then I went over to that Sandy Cove Nursing home you mentioned, and yeah, had the synths killing the poor, hapless robots. But I’m not so sure we didn’t have something to do with that.

Two thoughts:

One: They were looking for us. The “You must be destroyed” might not have been about the robots.

Two: (Bear with this one): they were looking for Gladys. The room we were given was obviously being used by a survivalist. Pristine stuff, weapons, flags, the lot. The robots said “She left,” and there was no body. Now, sure, right, the assumption was that she was pre war (or at least at the time of the war), but so were we. Also, the Institute might have a very, very long memory. It’s telling that the synths didn’t appear until I went IN that room, then came OUT.

But I ain’t got much on the theme front. I did those things then went and putzed around Sanctuary. I’m up to 81 and rising. I built a “clothing Emporium” then, rather cheekily, assigned Danse to it.

Feminina:

Wasn’t the witch museum nicely creepy? And I thought the scary-movie music touches were great. A bit over the top, slightly making fun of the whole “creepy museum” thing, but at the same time it was still creepy. Mannequins made the scene, I agree.

That was the red-skull Chameleon Deathclaw that I had to use six bottlecap mines to defeat–don’t know if it was quite so horrifying for you. Either way, wounding combat shotgun for the win. (Ooh, I found a wounding missile launcher the other day, which I love in theory, but which like all missile launchers weighs too damn much, so I will never actually use it.)

I thought about returning the egg/baby to the nest, I did, but then I thought “deathclaws invariably try to kill me. Deathclaws from this very location (Lynn Woods) tried to kill me not two weeks ago. Deathclaws do not appear to be an endangered species in this area. WHY would I take the egg back to grow into another deathclaw?”

So I took it to the buyer instead, and got 500 caps and a recipe for a deathclaw meal that I will never make because I will never have another deathclaw egg.

Sandy Coves…weird, right? Interesting thought that the synths might have been looking for Gladys. She seemed like a badass, all right. I was looking around her room thinking “I want to meet this lady!” I’m psyched that’s my room now, should I ever want to establish myself there.

I also didn’t do much. I was in the general area of the Glowing Sea, out by Vault 95, but then there were ever so many locations I hadn’t been to, so I wandered around checking those out instead. Went to the Egret Tours Marina and talked to the woman, Phyllis, who thought she was (and who maybe is) a synth. You were there, right? You wanted to talk about it before, but I hadn’t been there.

So let’s talk now! (And if I’m wrong and you weren’t there, skip this next section because spoilers.)

I had Danse with me (STILL trying to get that perk!), so I was like “this isn’t going to go well,” but actually he liked me talking to her, although he didn’t like it when I said she should join the Minutemen.

Interesting bit, that. Phyllis fits right into the “all synths have a kill-all-humans switch that can make them instantly turn into murderers” narrative that people are so worried about, but is that really what happened, or is that just the most plausible explanation to her? More plausible than that it was just a horrible human error?

Because we know this kind of horrible human error happens all the time in real life, and probably even more often in a world where every person has a loaded gun or two on them at all times, so honestly, that explanation seems kind of plausible to me. And if she was a synth whose kill-all-humans switch was activated, why did she only kill her grandson? Not that he couldn’t have been the only one who was a threat to the Institute, therefore the only one they bothered to make her kill…so it’s also plausible that she IS a synth, but it’s far from clear-cut.

Her description on the computer of her nightmares was pretty vivid and potentially damning, but then, it could also simply be her mind trying to convince her that she’s a synth, because that slightly removes her sense of responsibility for what happened. She’s clearly tormented (as one would be), and does blame herself (“there was no one else there but me, I did it”), but she also uses her supposed synthness to absolve herself in a way (“I suppose he wasn’t really my grandson, they only planted those memories”).

All in all, a fairly moving and effective bit of character-drawing. I basically told her that even though what happened was terrible, and maybe she IS a synth, that doesn’t mean she can’t try to do some good in the future, and told her she should join the Minutemen, and she kind of said “well, maybe I should try to go on…one day at a time” or something. She didn’t join the Minutemen, she’s still hanging around that marina, but I made a little settlement there so she’ll have some company.

And later if I go back and everyone’s been mysteriously murdered except her…well, maybe we’ll find out whether or not she’s actually a synth. Ha.

Butch:

The staged scenes of mannequins were great. The hanging one with the creepy smile? Classic.

Man, here we are again with this strain of quest being tougher for you. You had two nasty ones in Lynn, I had one ordinary one. You had a Chameleon (what IS that). Mine was “Savage” Deathclaw, and it wasn’t all that bad. Didn’t die once. Took a couple of stimpacks, but that’s it. But yes, good ol’ Wounding. Combat. Shotgun.

As for the missile launcher, can’t you take mods off and put them on other things? Make a wounding sniper rifle with it? I haven’t tried, cuz no way I’m taking apart the wounding combat shotgun for fear I won’t be able to put it back together. But since you have an extra thing, try it.

And OK, I was leaning towards returning the egg, and now I will just for variety. You know, mother empathy.

As for the rehab center, I’m assuming Gladys is likely dead, but there was certainly something going on. She certainly didn’t seem like someone who would like the institute, and there was no body. The other rooms had skeletons.

The marina: Yes! Good. That’s the place I was thinking of with the lady who thinks she’s a synth. Who may be a synth…

Or she’s batshit crazy. Did you read the entries in her terminal? They have things in them that would SEEM like there’s a kill switch, like “I was there, my arm around him, looking at my reflection in the water, when my eyes turned red and sparks came out of my mouth,” and then stuff that’s REALLY weird, which calls ALL of her stories into question. Or do they? Is that what a synth “sees?” And, for that matter, if she IS a synth, how does she even HAVE a grandson?

And maybe she is just a troubled human, but if we stick with the metaphor of synths being “other,” especially “dangerous other,” then….what? She thinks she’s crazy and therefore “other?” I mean, we’ve talked on the whole synth kill switch as a metaphor for the erroneous belief that some people have that all Muslims are just sitting around waiting for a jihadist to tell them to do bad things. I’ve never heard of a Muslim shouting “Hey…stay away…I’m a terrorist and I don’t want to hurt you!” So what to make of this within the larger metaphor?

She wants to blame some dark “other” force to absolve her guilt? She’s nuts and it’s a statement on how we treat mentally ill people as other (and how they treat themselves)? I’ve been turning this one over in my head for a while….it’s a strange outlier, and, once again, a way that this game has taken what seems like an obvious dichotomy (us/them) and turned it all complicated.

She stayed put but she’s all alone in mine. I think. I’ll check. See what she does.

Feminina:

Yes! And the other mannequins just standing around expressionlessly, as mannequins do, looking at the hanging one. Good creepiness.

I guess my monsters are tougher because I’m higher level. Also, the difficulty may still be on ‘very hard’ from when Mr. O’ moved it up a while ago. I should check.

I think the chameleon deathclaw is supposed to be able to use stealth to turn invisible, like when you wear the chameleon armor, but I didn’t actually witness that because Curie and I and six bottlecap mines were able to kill it off too quickly. (And the first couple of times, it was able to kill me off too quickly.)

Good thought about removing mods and putting them on other things…it seems like usually when you take them off, they stay tied to the type of weapon they came from (like I have a “pipe pistol improved sights” mod or whatever, and could only add it back to another weapon of the same type), but I should check. Wounding is so great. I’d put it on everything!

Yay for variety! Definitely return the egg and tell me what happens. I was tempted, just because it was an option and I wondered if maybe I could wind up with a friendly deathclaw on my side or something (man, I’m going to be sad if I missed out on that), but like I said, it just didn’t make sense to me. But mother empathy works! Go get that friendly deathclaw!

That’s true, in addition to the synth/not-synth question, Phyllis also raises the issue of mental illness. Is she insane? Certainly she’s deeply traumatized, and that’s understandable. It wasn’t clear to me whether she’d been having these sorts of dreams before, or whether they were only in the aftermath of her grandson’s death…I kind of thought that they were only since, in which case, they may be horrendous nightmares that come from her sense of guilt and her deep belief that “no human could have done a thing like that” so the explanation HAS to be that she’s not human, she’s a synth. Maybe her nightmares are her way of presenting evidence to herself that yes, she’s a synth. (Or maybe they represent that fact that her true, synth identity is horrifying to her false human identity–we don’t know.)

But in fact, we don’t know what actually happened since she says she doesn’t remember actually shooting her grandson, and no one else was around to see it.

So “no human could have done a thing like”…what, exactly? Cold-bloodedly murder their own grandson out of the blue for no apparent reason? Well, actually, humans can and do do things like that, but let’s grant that it’s certainly not normal behavior.

Fall asleep with a gun on their lap and accidentally pull the trigger (possibly while in the grip of a vivid nightmare, if she’s been prone to these in the past) and shoot their grandson without meaning to or even realizing they’re doing it? This seems entirely within the realm of possibility for a human.

Clearly she has mental health issues, because she’s consumed by guilt over her grandson’s death if she’s human, and consumed by the conflict between her human identity and her synth programming if she’s a synth (and also, still, by guilt and the desire not to hurt anyone else), and we can’t be sure that what she’s told us about her past is totally true, but she does complicate the us/other boundary.

In many ways, it seems most likely to me that she’s simply a human (one of us) who did something terrible and feels as a result that she no longer qualifies as human, and therefore must be other–and since the go-to ‘other’ in this culture is synths, she naturally assumes she must be one of them.

She claims the identity of other, but without any attempt to ‘humanize’ it or understand it: indeed, the only reason she thinks she is other is that she believes the other is completely evil and is naturally opposed to the good that is us. Where the actual, known synths we’ve met have all complicated the notion that “synths=evil,” Phyllis uses her claim of being a synth to uphold that notion. “Synths=evil: I did something evil: therefore I=synth.” It’s almost too simplistic.

On the other hand, you never know! As a person, she’s certainly more complicated than her own assumption gives her credit for (she tries to warn people away so she won’t hurt them, she’s tormented by guilt which presumably an evil synth wouldn’t feel), so maybe she’s actually a synth who’s just having trouble coming to terms with her synthness.

OR…maybe she’s a synth, but killing her grandson was STILL a horrible accident, and part of her guilt is the subconscious sense that, as a synth, she should have been immune from making such errors. Maybe she’s a synth buying into the notion of synth=evil because she made a mistake that she feels her programming should have prevented her from being able to make.

We could psychoanalyze this poor woman all day.

Butch:

Yeah. I must admit, I DID do the “come around the corner, see a figure go AAAAAA and shoot it” thing a couple of times. Not as bad as the first time I saw a houdini splicer in Bioshock and just shot at absolutely nothing cuz I didn’t know what/where it was, but still.

Don’t judge.

Yeah, go check difficulty. Also, saw Mr. O’ started on AC Syndicate. How’s he liking it?

If I give back the egg and wind up with a deathclaw NPC, you are SO going to reload. Progress be damned.

Another nice touch with the marina is that there weren’t any chems around. Usually, a place has some chems, but there was no indication that she was a junkie. She’s either a synth, a masterful liar, or insane. Or some combination.

But you raise an interesting possibility: conflict between her programs. We just, and people in the game just, assume that there’s this “kill switch,” but what if it really is some internal conflict? What if when the institute (or, worse, the RR) tries to do the right thing by making synths “human” (a la H2R2), they’re really laying the groundwork for confusing, troubling, ultimately fatal insanity? Maybe that mayor in DC wasn’t being controlled. He just couldn’t handle the internal conflict. Maybe it’s saying “You cannot be both us AND them. If you try, you’re going to go insane.”

Cuz in the FO3 synth quest, the RR agent you meet urges you, pleads with you, NOT to tell the synth that thinks he’s human the truth. She does NOT want him to know he is not human. She says it’s dangerous and he can’t handle it.

We could psychoanalyze all day, which is why you see I wanted you to go down there.

But I think that a lot of this is a bit of an indictment of the RR. I mean, they’re blurring the lines of what is human. We hippie liberals seem to like that. Why discriminate? Why be scared? We’re all cool, man! We’re all the same! But are we? Is it really healthy for everyone to think they’re just like everyone else? When we say “We’re all the same” are we really just saying “you’re like US,” which diminishes what they are?

I gotta go wiki something, hold on….

Ok. In that quest, if the synth gets told he’s a synth, he kills the institute guy if you don’t. Violence. ALSO, the institute guy has a code that can “reset” synths to some default, like reloading a computer. Interesting.

So there ya are. Evidence that conflicting mental states CAN lead an otherwise peaceful synth to violence.

Feminina:

Oh, BioShock was all about shooting wildly at nothing. “Fill the air with bullets! One of them is bound to hit something!”

Very interesting that there’s historical in-game basis for the idea that conflict between ‘human’ and synth identities can trigger mental instability in synths. Which makes sense, I suppose…I mean, if it were easy to integrate the two things, why the necessity to completely wipe the memories of escaped synths and implant false new ones? Under the assumption that knowledge is power, if it were possible to do so, you’d think it would make sense to give synths enough false memories to convincingly act human, but leave them the underlying awareness of their synth nature, the better to keep an eye out for people trying to trip them up.

By human standards, someone who truly believes themselves to be something (human) will make the most convincing argument that that’s what they are, but they’re also necessarily left in the dark about some aspect of themselves, which could be a point of vulnerability. In theory a synth is only ever going to be as convincing as it can be programmed to be, so why not just give it the most convincing program we have and still leave it important background knowledge about itself that may be useful at some point?

But if the convincing act-like-a-human program inherently conflicts with synth-identity programming, then it might be that the only way to give them a good human cover is to erase the background knowledge…and if that separation between identities is breached, perhaps the program starts to break down in dangerous ways. Is Curie going to flip out on us at some point because she’s trying to maintain robot-turned-human-acting-synth programs?

All the more reason to conclude that we really don’t know what the heck is up with poor Phyllis.

Butch:

And if possible with the programming, it would make sense to NOT have to give them a wrenching choice. Poor H2 didn’t seem all that thrilled. His goodbye was pretty sad.

Ah, shit, I never thought of Curie having a conflict.

Once again, I am reminded of something we’ve discussed: changing NPCs. I mean, one NPC who changed who she is who WILL always struggle is Cait. She’s an addict. A clean one, sure, but one with a darkness in her past and a craving she’ll always struggle with. Can you really change? Is it a good idea to try?

We’ve already worried about Nick. I mean, talk about a mess in HIS head. He’s got, like, three people in there already.

And we were worried this game had nothing to say.

Fucking Bethesda. They either have some of the most thought provoking stuff ever, or they have Skyrim.

Feminina:

Also a good point–surely it would be easier for synths to choose the act-like-a-human path if it didn’t involve eliminating their entire past. I mean, even if your life has been pretty boring, maintaining tunnels all day long or whatever, it’s been YOUR LIFE. Someone saying “let us erase everything you know about who you are and everything you’ve ever done, and replace it with fiction” is not a simple “sounds great, sign me up!” proposition.

There must be a reason the process has to be so extreme.

Maybe synths are just terrible, terrible liars (I could certainly believe that of H2), and so expecting them to “pretend to be” something, however much helpful programming you could give them about human gestures and facial expressions and so forth, is hopeless. Maybe the only way they can “pretend” is if they actually believe it. Machines are notoriously literal, after all.

And just as it’s not an easy choice to have your entire life erased and replaced with a fiction, it must also be highly disorienting to learn that your entire life IS a fiction. Yeah, that would mess with your head.

I do worry about Nick! Although it does occur to me that maybe he’s in a slightly different position, because he isn’t really trying to pass as human, and as far as we know he never did. His backstory involves waking up in the garbage heap with a bunch of human memories, but he seems always to have known that these were implanted, rather than being HIS memories, and that he was a synth.

If the problem is specific to synths who had their synth awareness erased and then got it back again (like the FO3 guy and possibly Phyllis), then Nick and Curie are probably OK. They never thought they were actually human, and they never had a whole fictional life they believed was theirs, and then found out that wasn’t true.

Oh, and Mr. O’ did start AC Syndicate, and said it looks really nice and he likes the idea of being able to switch between the two characters. But he hasn’t bothered to go back to it lately, so I think it’s not an instant hit with him.

Butch:

Indeed. I mean, poor H2. First he’s all ripped out of the only thing he knows, then he’s told everyone wants him dead and/or hates him, then he’s told he has to erase everything he is. That….is tough.

Maybe that’s the trick of Covenant. Maybe they’ve figured out that there’s a glitch in the process, like they accidentally forgot to change what position their “humanness” program makes the synths want to play, and “catcher” gets programmed into each one. And it has to be so ingrained that they can’t “lie” even when they’re getting electric shocks. The programming says “catcher,” and that’s that.

But it’s tough. Poor guy in Rivet City had a wife and everything!

Indeed, Curie a) refers to herself as a synth from time to time and b) seems to remember being a robot. Her past wasn’t erased. Nick, on the other hand, DOES seem to have most of his past erased. He IS Nick Valentine, yet knows he is NOT Nick Valentine.

I gotta do his quest, don’t I? It’s cool, isn’t it?

Mr. O’ has to have some AC fatigue, what after all 68 games he’s played….

Feminina:

Nick’s quest is interesting, and very relevant to the discussion of how he is Nick (all his memories are Nick’s) but knows he really isn’t. Must be weird to be Nick, too. Go get Nick right now! Collect holotapes!

Assassin’s Creed provides certain reliable things that you can count on to be fun. Great looking environments, fun moves, nice views from the tall things you can climb up, piles of leaves or straw you can leap off tall things into. These things will provide some measurable level of enjoyment. But is that on its own enough? Perhaps not.

Butch:

I would get Nick if he’d give me his damn quest!!! He won’t! Maybe after the Glowing Sea. Ha.

I mean, that isn’t the endgame, right? We still have months of magpie after the Glowing Sea, right?

Feminina:

Ha–the question about the Glowing Sea reminded me that I recently DREAMED I went to the Glowing Sea (seriously the closest I’ve been), and that the game ended right there with a final confrontation, and I was thinking “I’d better tell Butch to do everything else first!” because there was no way to continue.

But in real life, this is not true: Mr. O’ did a ton of stuff afterwards, and there are factions to choose between, and he said there’s another potential companion in there somewhere…so I’m pretty sure we have plenty more to do.

Nick didn’t tell you he’s looking for holotapes at police stations yet? That sucks. For me, I had that quest since forever, and once I finally collected them all the next part of the quest just followed directly from that.

If he hasn’t told you that, just travel around with him for a while. Hack some terminals, he likes that.

Butch:

Dude, you’re eating dinner too close to bed time. But I’m glad you thought to warn me. What was your hallucinogenic boss fight? Now I’m intrigued.

Today on PFTL, psychoanalysis of everyone!

But no, with Nick I got the “I’m implanted with old memories” bit when he “admired” me, but that’s it. That’s pretty much the last bit I did with him, cuz I was trying to pick up women. And trying to crack MacCready.

So many people to get to know…..

Feminina:

I don’t remember what the final battle was, but I remember thinking it was surprisingly perfunctory. I think it was more like I went to the Glowing Sea, found Virgil, and he explained everything and there was some sort of fight, and the game was over. I had this sense of “hm, I guess this game wasn’t quite as big as I thought.”

So many people to get to know, it’s true.

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