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Puncherson_64LadyBrain_64

Some location and content spoilers for Rise of the Tomb Raider. Plot spoilers for an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In case you missed that.

Butch:

Raided. Nice tomb. Interesting they end with the gates of hell. Statement? I kinda love greek fire.

Then I toodled. Found some documents, that last survivor sure stuck around a while. Relics, a crypt that was underwater and gave me a bow I didn’t need. Got to “Seize the Trebuchet” and decided I did not have the energy, so I stopped.

Nice tomb. And it is solved by raising a person up….then sending them to hell. Metaphor?

I’m gonna talk about music now.

Now, “combat music” is pretty common. Bad guys show up, music changes. Fast, adrenaline music. Then, when it’s all good, music stops, goes back to normal sounds. This has been a trope in games forever. Even you must notice that.

This, it starts soft, and gets louder the nearer the threat gets. That is SO COOL. Instead of “FIGHT! ADRENALINE!” it raises tension. “They’re close…where are they…..getting closer…..”

Phenomenal sound design.

Trust me.

Also, I don’t want to move on from that much cuz the more I think on that tomb and the metaphor therein the more I like it and want to talk about it, but….

I was reading this (which I’m putting here to cite, not to read the whole thing, though you can if you want to): The Best Video Game Surprises of 2016

and noted this particular bit:

One of the biggest fall TV shows is basically about video games.

The best video game movies and TV shows aren’t direct adaptations, but rather stories that creatively adapt video game mechanics to a different medium. How nice, then, that HBO’s Westworld managed to become one of the biggest and most interesting shows of the fall by embracing video games at every turn—asking questions about emergent vs. scripted narrative design, the nature of power fantasies, open world gaming, and the secret lives of NPCs. It’s definitely going to be interesting playing Red Dead Redemption 2 after watching this show.

This interests me. I’ve never really considered applying all this erudite shit we’ve been dishing on for the past forever to other media. Sure, power fantasies, ok, and the overall construction of narrative and metaphor…sure. But emergent vs. scripted narrative? Open world gaming? What Kevin’s up to? In other media?

Have we been missing something?

I wasn’t interested in Westworld until now….

Feminina:

It’s true. Even I notice the fight music. And I did sometimes notice the ominous non-fight music here, too, so there. “Music! Something must be happening! But nothing is happening! I’m so freaked out right now!” Nice tension. So there.

Greek fire is awesome, although it did tend to backfire on me a little more than regular fire. You have to be a little careful not to be standing too close to what you’re shooting at when you shoot at, say, a banner on a wall or something. (“Take that, banner! Ow!”)

The gates of hell was interesting. Interesting metaphor and interesting further reminder that this was not actually a perfect Utopian society. They may have had an immortal prophet, but they were just as mistaken about mental illness as the next ancient society. (Though there was that more modern and slightly implausible self-awareness in that one document: “I can tell it isn’t a demon, it’s just an illness they don’t know how to fix.”)

And that last survivor in the city–OK, let’s talk supernatural. Are we agreed that there is, in fact, something supernatural going on here? Not just a prospector in a sheet?

Because if we trust this lone survivor’s documents (which we have no real reason to, but then, no real reason not to, and the game has not so far encouraged us to suspect unreliable narrators), he killed a specific Deathless Warrior, who then collapsed into smoldering ash (we’ve seen the smoldering ash ourselves, so that’s one point for his story), and then reformed and came back to life (we haven’t seen this, but the guy made it sound like it takes quite a while).

And man, that’s some weird, genuinely supernatural stuff there. You can make some vague semi-sciencey explanation for Jacob being immortal. Maybe he’s a random mutation, his telomeres don’t fray like a normal person’s, blah blah handwave handwave science.

But there is not a semi-sciencey explanation (unless we want to go with alien nanobots, which, OK, we could do) for how a guy can be reduced to smoldering ashes, which then reform themselves into a body, which then comes back to life. With, if the lone survivor’s account is to be believed, his memories (though not his soul or personality? the mention of how dead their eyes seem?) intact.

This is not a sheeted prospector! This is a genuine ghost! I love it!

Or else it’s alien nanobots. But you know what they say: a sufficiently advanced prospector in a sheet is indistinguishable from magic. Or whatever.

As for your TV point, I have been kind of interested in Westworld because I heard about these themes, but not to the point that I’ve actually tried to watch it. Although I could, given that Mr. O’ purchased HBO Go or whatever, because of Game of Thrones. So I don’t know, maybe I will, it’s just really hard to find any time when the TV is free but I don’t have a game to play.

Butch:

Well done noticing sound! Tag it!

It does do well with tension. That it does.

Spilling Greek fire on yourself…HA! I did that the very first time I used it! “I have to get out of this tomb…ok….get rid of that green gas and OH SHIT I HOPE I’M NOT DEAD phew.”

Re: the tomb and mental illness/self-awareness, Ok, but isn’t it interesting that they end on this, tombwise? Trying to cure mental illness? And the self aware message you have was a young woman’s voice. A young woman who knows she’s nuts and can’t be fixed. They didn’t have to do that. Could’ve been a dude, or whatever. Indeed, if we assume the body in the cage is that young woman, the last tomb we do here is raising a young woman up, then blasting her to metaphorical hell. Game one here started with us raising up a young Lara from little weakling to superhero. So if we go with the metaphor here….. and I do think it was intentional metaphor.

Lara’s really crazy in this game. I half expect it to end with her waking up in a padded cell. Don’t spoil.

And yup. Agreed. Genuine supernatural here. At least for me, at this point.

Add to the survivor’s spooky reports, the creepiness of said survivor seeing a man HE HIMSELF KILLED walking among the deathless army.

I do respect this game for not going all sciencey bullshit. The first one, too. They don’t try to explain. It is. It’s weird. Deal.

Or, and I wouldn’t put it past this game, or the next one: She’s crazy. People told Lord Croft he was crazy. We saw in the Baba Yaga bits (which came out AFTER the first game, I checked) that, when she got all pollened and we saw her delusions, it came back to her dad being a donkey, an ass, himself.

Remember in game one, the weird shit didn’t start happening until Lara had been THROUGH SOME SHIT. The kind of shit that might make one a bit strange in the head. Indeed, the very first image we see of Lara when shit got weird in game one was her rising up out of that weird blood pool, all blank eyed and, well, looking batshit crazy.

We like to take games at face value: what we’re seeing is actually happening to the PC unless the edges of the screen are all blurry. But there’s no rule that that has to be the case. We could be, very easily, sharing a delusion. We are, after all, escaping into a world where we’re sort of deluding ourselves. Why can’t Lara?

Westworld:
You have HBO, which I do not. My parents do. I could go all “steal their login like a college kid,” but then my plan would fall short.

Either way, we have had tunnel vision in thinking game shit is only game shit. I think. Interesting to think about.

Feminina:

It’s true–speaking of unreliable narrators, there is always the possibility that we have an unreliable PC viewpoint, and that Lara is completely delusional.

You’re right that we don’t see this often in games, and I think there’s some interesting potential there: remember how we were both so intrigued by the way that the “Sam’s escape from prison” bit in Uncharted 4 turned out to be a lie, because we had PLAYED that, so it messed with us in an interesting way to learn that something we experienced had never happened.

It would certainly mess with us in a VERY interesting way if we come to the end of the Tomb Raider series and find out the it was all (or in significant part) Lara being completely delusional. I don’t know that I see that being a very likely way for them to go, but I would kind of give them props for trying something different.

Although also consider how irritated people tend to be by “it was all a dream!” endings in other media (to bring the discussion back around to games and other media!). We might like it the first time because it seemed new and different, but we might also hate it because it felt like a cheap cop-out, which is often how it feels in other media. (Obviously, it can be done well or done poorly, and there are times when it’s acceptable, but as a general rule I’m not a huge fan.)

They could certainly do it in a thoughtful, intentional way that specifically said something about delusions of grandeur, adventurers, obsession, etc., and I could see it working, but it would take some finesse.

We shall see! You called it, if it turns out Lara has imagined all these adventures from the comfort of a padded cell.

Butch:

I mean, unreliable PC makes sense. We talk about how unbelievable games are all the time. What better way to explain that than “They were completely made up?”

YES! Good point about Sam’s escape scene. Though that was an intentional lie. But yes! We thought “of course it’s REAL, we were THERE.”

Which also speaks to our own delusions when we turn the PS4 on. We weren’t THERE. We’re never THERE. But we go to this fun world where we feel powerful. We form “attachments” to characters. We feel fear and excitement, despite the fact we’re sitting on the couch.

If we can create a delusional world where we’re powerful heroes, why can’t Lara?

I’m not a huge fan of “all a dream” either, but planting a seed would be great.

You watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer? There’s a bit in that, a couple of SEASONS before the end, that strongly suggests, but doesn’t actually SAY that the whole series is a hallucination. It’s easy to miss, and it’s ambiguous, but it’s there, and it sets you wondering.

But what’s so damn great about it is that it challenges you to ponder whether it MATTERS that it’s a dream or not. I mean, it’s a story about a teenage hottie that kills vampires, and we’re gonna sit here arguing or caring about whether or not it’s “real?” Of COURSE it isn’t real! It’s fiction either way! So why do we care? “Enjoy it,” says the series, “it’s a story whether Joss Whedon is telling it or Buffy is, or both.”

HA! Look at me! Involving other media! Take THAT Kotaku!

Feminina:

Oh yeah, I remember that Buffy episode. It was a good one. Very thoughtful. Kind of heart-breaking (her still-together mom and dad in the possible real world, so hopeful and then losing her again), kind of a kiss off (as you say, of course it’s not REAL! look away from the TV if you want real! but…within the story…). And one of the final scenes was her parents sobbing as she retreated into her head for, one presumes, the last time. I don’t think that was the LAST thing you saw in the episode, suggesting that we’re reassured of the ‘reality’ of the main story at the end, but of course the reassurance could just as easily be false: Buffy/us sinking back into the comfort of the colorful fantasy.

Is she making all this up? Are we all making all this up?

I would respect a video game that could pull that kind of thing off. Make us think! We appreciate it.

Sort of. Then sometimes we just want to set things on fire.

Butch:

Ah, see, that’s what so great about games. When else can you have deep thoughts while setting things on fire?

(I mean, other than Hanukkah.)

(But that doesn’t count.)

Feminina:

Burning Man?

Not that I’ve ever been.

I should celebrate Hanukkah. Either that or more fully embrace the pagan traditions of my ancestors and get all Yule-loggy. Isn’t it all about setting things on fire, in the end?

Good times.

We wasted the recent holiday season. I burned nothing.

Butch:

I do enjoy the in demand HD Yule log they have in cable. Put that on, plays some carols, crackles away no mess.

Holy SHIT it looked grand in 4K. Spectacular.

Feminina:

Oh. My. God.

I’m sure you had to stop yourself from flinging a bucket of water at it to keep it from setting the wall on fire.

Butch:

Dude, I should’ve sprung for the 3D one JUST to be able to get the 3D yule log.

This is a thing. Seriously.

That would be the life. Glasses on, starting at a fire floating in the middle of my living room, trancing out to Christmas Monkey.

What? That’s not tradition in your family?

We came so close to not derailing from that thoughtful discussion…..

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